The Fundamentals

» July 2, 2009 10:21 AM | By Brandon Hoffman

Ken Berger of  “There must be more than meets the eye when it comes to the trade reported by the Los Angeles Times in which the Clippers send Zach Randolph to the Memphis Grizzlies for Quentin Richardson. Z-Bo makes $6.6 million more than Q-Rich and has two years left on his contract as opposed to Richardson’s one. Memphis is under the cap, so the trade doesn’t have to satisfy the 125 percent rule. Still, the Clippers should feel fortunate to have found such a willing taker. But let’s not let that get in the way of our euphoria — our flat-out ecstasy — over this trade. Quentin Richardson was one of the first bad contracts acquired by Isiah Thomas when he took over as president of the Knicks. Zach Randolph was another one. One of the worst. It was a miracle that Isiah was there to take Z-Bo from the Clippers on draft night a couple of years ago. Now we have one bad Knicks contract traded for another one. Eureka! Mike Dunleavy and Chris Wallace, the respective GMs, have found the holy grail. Next they will pay down the federal debt, cure cancer, and meet in the Western Conference Finals.”

Chip Crain of 3 Shades of Blue: “Michael Heisley has pulled off a remarkable feat.  The Pau Gasol deal made him a national laughingstock around the NBA when he traded 20 & 10 for nothing, yet now he has managed to again become a national laughingstock by trading nothing for 20 & 10. And to add insult to injury, Heisley got absolutely punked by Donald Sterling and Mike Dunleavy.  On draft night, Sterling turned down Z-Bo for Marko Jaric’s contract.  Sterling wouldn’t take the much cheaper second most untradeable contract in the NBA for the more expensive most untradeable one.  So Heisley gave Sterling a better deal – Richardson’s expiring instead of Jaric’s 2-year deal.  He didn’t even foist Greg Buckner’s Voidable Contract on the Clippers.  So not only did Heisley take on something that no one else in the NBA wanted – he overpaid for it. So the small market Grizzlies now have the 2 most most unmoveable contracts in the NBA (Randolph & Jaric) that will cost almost $50 million over the next 2 years representing about 50% of the team’s entire payroll over that time.”

Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer:  “Two players who didn’t seem like they were going to be available to the Cavaliers ended up in the team’s crosshairs at the end of day one of the NBA free-agency period. According to several league sources, the Cavs are attempting to land Houston Rockets free-agent forward Ron Artest, and the pitch included a meeting with LeBron James on Tuesday night in Los Angeles as both were in Southern California for various events. In addition, a league source indicated the team is trying to attract Los Angeles Lakers swingman Trevor Ariza, who appears to be disgruntled with the Lakers’ early attempts to re-sign him. Ariza’s agent, David Lee, told the Riverside, Calif., Press-Enterprise Wednesday, ‘I think I’m being optimistic when I say it’s not going anywhere.’ He added that Ariza might be ready to sign elsewhere.”

Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:  “In the debate about whether Dwyane Wade should even consider extending his contract this summer (and therefore fast-tracking the Heat’s rebuilding program), there is only one argument Pat Riley can offer. At 27 and coming off a career year, does Wade want to sacrifice a prime year for another season of slow-go? While there might never be another season like 2008-09 from a statistical standpoint for Wade, it is safe to say Dwyane is capable of about five or six seasons of such personal productivity. Is he willing to surrender one while waiting to see if there is a better 2010 situation during free agency? That, if I was Pat Riley, is what I would hammer home. Make it all about now. Now. Now. The one thing about Riley is that when given the go-ahead, things happen. Shaq extended, suddenly James Posey, Jason Williams, Antoine Walker, Gary Payton and a championship appeared. Yes, Dwyane has every right to watch and wait, just as LeBron and Bosh are prepared to do. But he’s never going to get 2009-10 back.”

Jeff Eisenberg of The Riverside Press-Enterprise:  “Less than 24 hours after free agency opened late Tuesday night, the Lakers’ chances of keeping their championship team intact went from hopeful to nearly hopeless. Trevor Ariza may be on the verge of leaving the team after his agent emerged from a lengthy phone conversation with Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak on Wednesday convinced that the team isn’t as interested in re-signing his client as it claims to be. Agent David Lee said Kupchak did not make a firm contract offer, nor were the Lakers willing to pay him more than the $5.6 million mid-level exception. ‘I think I’m being optimistic when I say it’s not going anywhere,’ Lee said. ‘Actions speak louder than words.’ Ariza already has firm offers from several other teams, according to Lee, and will begin speaking with opposing coaches today. Asked if he could envision Ariza accepting a deal from another team without speaking to the Lakers again, Lee said, ‘Yes, we have no choice. That’s the position they’ve put us in.’”

Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press:  “No other general manager in the NBA has done it. And here is Joe Dumars, trying to do it twice. Advertisement Dumars built the 2004 NBA champion Pistons without one sure Hall of Famer on the roster. How difficult is that? Those Pistons are the only team in the last 30 years to pull it off. Obviously, Dumars would love to have a Hall of Famer on his team. But they are hard to land. So instead, he is doing what he has done exceptionally well in the past: finding high-caliber, high-character, unappreciated talent that fits into a system, and — this is crucial — signing reasonable contracts to maintain flexibility. So Ben Gordon, the Chicago Bulls’ best player, has agreed to become a Piston. Charlie Villanueva, a rising talent, has done so as well. Their arrivals put the Pistons back in the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference, and they allow Dumars to keep maneuvering until he has all the right pieces. Remember, he didn’t add the final starter on the 2004 champs, Rasheed Wallace, until February of that season.”

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:  “The Bulls, opting to be reactive rather than proactive, didn’t call, content to use the assets acquired at February’s trade deadline. John Salmons will slide into Gordon’s shooting guard spot, forming a backcourt rotation with Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich. And the Bulls own roughly $25 million of expiring contracts for the stellar 2010 free-agent class. ‘I always said since the jump this was somewhere I would’ve liked to retire, have a 15-year career, get a couple of rings,’ Gordon said. ‘That was my idealistic thing the day I got drafted. But you never know in this business.’ Once presented with Dumars’ formal offer, Brothers contacted the Bulls. But management chose not to enter luxury-tax territory to re-sign someone who averaged 18.5 points per game, shot 41.5 percent on three-pointers and became the first player in NBA history to win Sixth Man of the Year Award as a rookie in 2005.”

Frank Dell’Apa of The Boston Globe:  “Danny Ainge was on the telephone at his HealthPoint office when the NBA free agent market opened at midnight yesterday. Among Ainge’s first calls was to Bill Strickland, agent for center-forward Rasheed Wallace. ‘I made some calls,’’ said Ainge, the Celtics’ president of basketball operations. ‘Rasheed is a guy we have interest in. We made calls with quite a few free agents’ representatives late last night from my office to let them know we have interest. We contacted 10 free agents and tried to get some feedback in what they are looking for and their interest long term. But that’s about it. Mostly for something down the road.’ The Celtics’ interest in Wallace is not for the long term, though. Wallace, 34, might be the most intriguing of free agent candidates, his relationship with Celtics forward Kevin Garnett a possible advantage.”

Jason Quick of The Oregonian:  “The ‘news’ that Rudy Fernandez is ‘infuriated’ with the Trail Blazers for their interest in Hedo Turkoglu comes as a surprise to coach Nate McMillan and general manager Kevin Pritchard, both of whom had separate conversations with the guard earlier this week on the phone. … Pritchard also noted that Casey Holdahl from is in Spain following Fernandez. Holdahl has also said that Fernandez has been in nothing but good spirits all week. There are some factions who are implying that Fernandez last season was unhappy with his playing time, which simply is not true. He averaged 25.6 minutes a game, which he felt was about right. There was a point in the season when he was simply tired and couldn’t take the minutes. And sure, there were some games he didn’t like being taken out – Game 3 against Houston comes to mind – but show me a player who hasn’t griped. Can Fernandez play long term here when he plays the same position as Roy? Considering how much Roy plays point guard, and even small forward at times, yeah, maybe. Maybe not. But right now, it is not a problem.”

Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle:  “Marcin Gortat told the Rockets he wanted playing time and to be part of a winning team. Welcome to the intersection of opportunity and availability. Now, if his agent will stop yapping about money long enough to let the young man sign the contract Daryl Morey offered, the Rockets will have taken a step in the right direction. ‘We really believe in this kid,’ a member of the Rockets’ brain trust said. ‘We see him as a draft pick.’ That’s because the 6-11, 245-pound Gortat has played just 825 NBA minutes, because he’s only 25 years old and because he has many of the skills the Rockets are looking for in a big man. The Rockets have been tracking him closely for the last 18 months and believe he has the size to be a presence in the low post. He has the mobility Rick Adelman wants in a center, and maybe best of all, he has gotten steadily better.”

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:  “In April, just after the Dallas Mavericks sent the Spurs to their earliest playoff exit in more than a decade, members of the Spurs braintrust gathered to compile a specific wish list for the offseason. ‘No. 2 on the list,’ Spurs general manager R.C. Buford said, ‘was ass-kicking forward.’ The Spurs just didn’t expect to find such a player in the second round of the NBA draft. On Wednesday, the 20-year-old who the Spurs hope can fill that bill walked through the doors at the team’s headquarters for the first time. DeJuan Blair says he will be all too happy to oblige. … Blair, a 6-foot-7 All-American from Pittsburgh, has no doubts as to why he is here. The Spurs ranked 18th in the league in rebounding last season. Blair hopes to help remedy that. ‘I’m going to rebound,’ Blair said. ‘I go get the ball. I don’t let it come to me. If I’ve got to knock you out of the way to go get it, that’s what I’ll go do.’”

Ross Siler of The Salt Lake Tribune:  “It’s taken 24 hours to collect my thoughts on the subject, but there is a very good reason why it’s so damaging for the Jazz to be luxury-tax payers. For every fan who says it’s the Millers’ money and who cares if they have to write a $12 million check in penalties next season, I think it has long-term implications for the very notion of what it means to be a small-market team in the NBA. The idea behind the NBA’s luxury tax system is to help level the playing field between small- and large-market teams. Were it not for the luxury tax, the Lakers and a handful of others could spend the rest of the league into oblivion. When the Jazz push their payroll past $70 million – - and maybe even $80 million – - it becomes much more difficult for Greg Miller to someday sit at a league meeting and advocate for more protections for small-market teams.”

Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:  “NBA fans and team officials often have July 1 circled. It’s the first day of free agency, when the opportunity to better a team is a pen stroke away. There are those who think free agency is the ticket to excellence, when in fact, it’s a voucher for mediocrity. Players who are average, at best, turn a season of production into lifetime security, courtesy of overzealous general managers looking for a quick fix. Don’t blame the players for maximizing their earning potential. The culpability lies with those who overbid for pedestrian production or flawed talent. … Still, the best way to acquire great players is through trades, or the draft. Free agency is better for plugging holes, and even that is a hit-or-miss proposition. But many fan bases aren’t patient enough to stick around through the process of rebuilding. So some general managers make panic moves to appease rabid supporters, which leads to their demise. Buyer beware.”

Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post:  “Moments after J.R. Smith was sentenced to 30 days in jail, the mother of the man he accidentally killed in an auto accident approached Smith with tears in her eyes. She hugged him. Squeezed him. ‘I told him I loved him,’ Wanda Bell said. ‘And then I walked away.’ The emotions have overwhelmed Bell ever since the Nuggets guard’s reckless driving killed her son, Andre, two summers ago. Andre Bell and Smith were tight. Naturally, Wanda Bell was devastated by the loss of her son. But her actions since have been amazing. She signed off for her son’s organs to be donated. The man who received Andre’s heart survived his near-death experience, and is now happy and healthy with his wife and three children. And even though her son died because of Smith’s actions, Bell told prosecutors she didn’t want Smith indicted for criminal charges.”

John Canzano of The Oregonian:  “The Chinese government turned him into a science project. They monitored Yao Ming’s birth. They gave him the best nutrition, training and instruction. He became the face of China’s national basketball team. He never missed a practice, or a tournament, and why should he? Yao represented the hopes of a billion-plus people. The Houston Rockets confirmed Tuesday that Yao’s recovery from a broken foot is behind schedule, and the team doctor raised the possibility that the 7-foot-6 center would miss the entire season. His career could be over, even. Think about that today, and also consider what Yao’s patriotism might have cost him. Because in an attempt to engineer the world’s greatest center, the Chinese sports machine broke him down and ran him into the ground.”

Fran Blinebury for  “If anyone was faithfully keeping a scorecard on Misery’s Team, it only stood to reason that the news on Yao Ming would eventually be bad. Now, after consulting with the Rockets’ medical staff and a handful of specialists on the East Coast, a decision has been made to have Yao undergo surgery once more to repair the stress fracture in the tarsal navicular bone of his left foot, according to several sources. What has not yet been determined is the exact method for the repair. By having the surgery soon, the hope is that Yao will be able to return to the basketball court by the second half of the 2009-10 season and possibly be at full strength for the playoffs. ‘What I do is stay positive as much as I can, waiting, waiting for the hope,’ Yao said. ‘Right now, just like everything else, my heart is hanging there.’”

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