Much has been made of the Seattle Sonics imminent move to Oklahoma City and how David Stern is the Devil. I have thought for a while that Stern is holding the NBA back, from his proposed 5-team expansion into Europe to the overall watering down of the NBA, I think Stern has benefited way too much from MJ and the NBA Jordan's Bulls created. Now we have an NBA where guys like Sam Cassell and PJ Brown get BOUGHT OUT (as in, they receive all the money) and then are allowed to sign with playoff contenders, Cassell and Brown both joining the Celtics for a cheap shot at a ring. You have lottery teams like Miami this year with Dwyane Wade, the Bucks last year with Mike Redd, I mean, there are too many examples of teams holding out their best players and playing scrubs so they can lose and increase their chances of a lottery pick. There is no integrity in the NBA's product, and that is sad. I give Stern a boatload of credit for his influence in spreading the NBA to Europe, South America, and Asia. The League is in a great place today, but it is way too top heavy. A handful of teams tanking, there will be a 50-win team in the Western Conference who doesn't make the playoffs while an under-500 team makes the playoffs in the Eastern Conference (as if enough teams don't already make it, the NBA is the only legit league where MORE than half of the League makes the playoffs). Fans in Seattle are now going to get screwed, why, because they don't want to shell out more taxes after building the Seahawks and Mariners beautiful new stadiums so they can in return pay HIGHER prices and make the owners MORE money. To Clay Allen, the Seattle owner and OK City native who wants to move the team, Sack up and do what Steinbrenner is doing in the Mecca, build your own goddamn stadium, paying for it yourself.
My response to all of this -- first off, too many teams make the NBA playoffs anyway. Make the six division winners all guaranteed playoff spots, and then give the next 10 spots away regardless of conference. It is ridiculous that the Nuggets, Warriors, or Mavs will not make the playoffs and a sub-500 team like the Nets will make it in the East. Also, if a player wants to sign with a playoff team (ie Sam Cassell, PJ Brown, soon to be Bones Barry), let the guy pay his way out of the contract. Why make these guys even richer? It is absolutely embarassing. I also have been in favor of contracting two teams (which will never happen), imagine if the Grizzlies and Bobcats were just contracted and their players were drafted by the rest of the NBA. Almost instantly every team in the NBA would be deeper. Imagine Rudy Gay going to Miami, Minnesota getting Emeka Okafor, Seattle getting Mike Conley, Mike Miller going to the Clippers, etc. Enough getting the owners more and more money, give the customer what they want for a change.
--As I type this, the Nuggets and Spurs are about to go to battle in the 4th quarter. I will say this: The Nuggets will not make the playoffs this year because of their lack of cojones in failing to get Ron Artest. Absolutely should've made that trade given how bad they are defensively, I don't give a shit about how good Kleiza and Eddy Najera are as "glue" guys, Artest is an absolute maniac who would've played his heart out for AI and Melo. This has George Karl's finger prints all over it, which isn't surprising as he will certainly be fired when they don't make the playoffs. Golden State has WAY more team S.W.A.G. (starting with Nellie-ball creator, Don Nelson and going through Boom Dizzle and S-Jax) and Dallas has too much vet savvy and guile to not make the playoffs. Denver missing the playoffs will be a good thing, though, get Karl the fuck outta there. I've said it once, I'll say it again, get Jeff Van Gundy and play some defense (either that or an insane, all out assault on offense like the Dallas teams with Dirk, Nash, and Finley). Get Artest to opt out, sign him to an MLE. You can win with AI and Melo playing ISO and the rest of the team playing D. JVG made a run to the Finals with Camby doing what he's doing now in Denver and Sprewell and Allan Houston doing what AI/Melo would be, scoring in ISO sets. Either way, anyone is better than George Karl. Check out www.FireGeorgeKarl.com if you don't believe me.
--I have come across a lot of scorn for this, but I will say it: I think Hasheem Thabeet from UCONN is going to be a top-5 pick in the Draft in June. He just BROKE ZO Mourning's Big East single-season blocks record as a SOPHOMORE. This guy has 4 and a half years of organized ball under his belt, just turned 20 in February, and he broke ZO's blocks record in the Big East (more than Ewing, Dikembe, Okafor, etc. had, VERY impressive). At the very least, Thabeet is a game-changer on the defensive end. He is 7'3" and 265, so he obviously still has to fill out, but this is a Camby/Oden-esque presensce on the defensive end. The guy should be the next Dikembe Mutumbo, who is 54 years old and still playing in the League (starting for the red-hot Rockets, just capped the Nets and now have won an absurd 19 games in a row, could this be the year T-MAC proves people wrong and finally gets to the second round?)
--The Bulls are absolutely pathetic. Chris Duhon was suspended for yesterday's game because he showed up at the Duke/UNC game at Cameron Indoor without the team's consent. He was shown laughing and joking around on the bench at the end of the game. Ty Thomas was suspended TWO games for similar shenanigans. Zero leadership on this team, their failure to get KG two summers ago will haunt them forever, they need to rebuild AGAIN. Ben Gordon could be the League's best 6th man (he was 9-9 to start the game yesterday), dude has swag and a killer instinct, but he can't be the go-to scorer as a 6'2" Guard. Hinrich is gritty, Deng is overhyped, Hughes is a conundrum, that team is just no good and leader-less. Their interim coach should be gone after this year. I'd start it all over, even though I know Young POV was on record this week as saying he thinks Jo Noah will win at least one CHIP in the NBA.
--A healthy WizKids could make serious noise in the Eastern Conference. Agent Zero and Caron are both coming back, Caron starting to practice again today and Agent Zero eyeing a return at the end of March. Gilbert and Tough Juice have the most SWAG of any duo in the East, and the end of their bench (guys like Roger Mason, Nick Young, Andray "32 Ways to Make em Pay" Blatche) have really had time to blossom with all of these injuries. I know AO got my back on this one. Plus Gilbert still owes LeBron a few daggers from that tomfoolery two seasons ago.
--Beno Udrih could get a full Mid Level Exception this offseason. He's playing well for a Sacramento Kings team that is stuck in No Man's Land, not good enough to compete yet still with some good players (the aforementioned Artest and Kevin Martin, one of the top scorers in the NBA, absolutely lights out as a shooter from anywhere, very hard to guard with only one man). Sacramento and Portland are two places I think OJ Mayo could thrive in if he falls to the end of the lottery. Imagine a Mayo/Martin or Mayo/Roy backcourt in either of those places. I've always been a huge critic of Mayo, and will remain one until he proves me wrong in the NBA, but I think he is a classic instance of a guy needing to go to a team with a stable environment. If he goes to a directionless team like the Bulls or Clippers who knows what will happen.
--Speaking of Portland, my goodness, they are going to have a lottery pick PLUS Greg Oden AND Rudy Fernandez. Thus, they will be adding a top-15 player in the draft, arguably the best player not playing in the NBA this year (Oden) and arguably the best player in Europe (Fernandez).
--Danny Green outta Long Island, NY is the best player on UNC.
--Jonny Flynn is the best point GOD in the Big East.
--Lou Williams on Philly is the Eastern Conference's version of Monta Ellis. Williams was a high school kid drafted in the 2nd round out of the Deep South with tons of athleticism and finally coming into his own on a running team. People don't know what to make of Philly but with Williams, Dre Miller holding down the 1, Andre Igoudala doing everything (literally), they will be a team to be reckoned with down the line.
--Derrick Rose going to Minnesota would be sweet justice for the franchise that missed out on the Stef/KG pairing. Rose/Jefferson would be sick-nasty.
--Utah will be a tough out in the playoffs. Best home team in the League, and since they added Korver they have become damn near unstoppable.
-- The biggest trade made -- other than Pau to the Lakers -- was Krazy Kurt Thomas to the Spurs. His mid-range jumper, defense, toughness on the boards, and team attitude will mesh perfectly in San Antonio. After watching Kurt for years with the Knicks, I look forward/wait in fear for KT spotting up as the 5th option on the Spurs offense draining his open J's. Stop Tony, stop Manu, stop Timmay, stop FinDawg and you're left wi that sinking feeling when KT squares up and drains one from 15'. As my good friend Miz Deech would say, fear it!
-- None of this shit matters much. Mark Stein of the Worldwide Leader reported today that King James has grown an inch and gained 20 pounds in the last year. He is now 6'9" and 260 pounds. We are all just witnesses.