Cassell Has Landed

February 28, 2008

He’s here! 

In the beginning of the season I said the Celtics needed another defensive-minded big man and a backup point guard–preferably of the veteran/shooter mode. 

So did everyone else. 

But, I did predict it would happen, so that’s pretty cool (yes, I did also say that the Celtics probably wouldn’t be able to get Cassell, but you’ve got to give me a break for underestimating just how poorly run the Clippers are/how much of a tacaño Donald Sterling is). 

Anyways, the Celtics now boast an impressively deep line-up, one filled with superstars, promising youngsters, and wily vets willing to do anything for a title.  That sounds like a nice group, and the only thing regrettable is that the Boston Three Party is now at the fine wine stage of their careers rather than a few years ago when it would have rivaled and surpassed the Lakers for most likely to take up the role of dynasty from the Spurs within a year or two.

Now that Xenu has come to Boston, along with his less-alien-looking sidekick, P.J. Brown, the C’s can throw out a finishing five of Cassell, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and one of the following three depending on the situation: James Posey, Eddie House, or P.J. Brown.  That’s the type of savvy crew that NBA experts always talk about needing to win a championship (which is somewhat of a farce), but what gets me excited is the group of energetic and hard-working youths that supplement the old guys: Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, Glen Davis, Tony Allen, and Leon Powe.  Additionally, Scot Pollard’s name has only one “t” in it, Brian Scalabrine is nice because he’s white (which means he probably does and/or likes these things) and fans mock him when he does anything because of it, and Gabe Pruitt could actually be a nice long-term complement to Rondo at the point guard position.  Sounds like a pretty randy roster to me, if only Allan Ray were still in the Commonwealth (or the States for that matter) to act as special eye injury consultant/57th man.

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Shining Stars; Circling Sharks; Joyous Yinzers; Blue Bostonians

February 26, 2008

Despite the lovely ladies pictured above, there was no love for the B’s at the trade deadline as usual.

Brian Campbell, Brad Richards and Marian Hossa were the three best players traded before today’s NHL trade deadline.  Not surprisingly, the three teams that received their new stars, San Jose, Dallas, and Pittsburgh, were the day’s winners.

  • San Jose landed itself a stud two-way defenseman to help bolster its underachieving offense at a very reasonable cost.  Young forward Steve Bernier and the late first-round pick that heads to Buffalo will most likely not come close to matching the production that Campbell dolls out, so Sabres fans will have to hope that the lower cap hit and combined efforts of the two players acquired (or rather, the one acquired and the one to be acquired this summer) will help even out this trade. 
  • Dallas adds a very talented centerman to its already strong roster, and at the cost of only three lesser/younger players: netminder Mike Smith, center Jeff Halpern, and winger Jussi Jokinen.  In addition, the Stars sent a fourth-round draft pick to Tampa Bay, and goalie Johan Holmqvist heads to Dallas to back up Marty Turco.  The winner here is Dallas in the short-term, but could end up being the Lightning in the long-run if Richards slips again in the near future, making his absoritant cap hit a detriment.
  • Meanwhile the Penguins have added the premier scorer available for a first-round pick, last year’s first-rounder, and two decent young forwards who don’t figure to improve all that much in the coming years in Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen.  So long as Angelo Esposito, last year’s pick, and the outgoing draft pick don’t turn into first-line studs, yinzers will be very happy their favorite team pulled off this trade.  The Penguins now feature a tremendous group of six offensive forwards–Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Hossa, Petr Sykora, Ryan Malone, and Jordan Staal–to go with a solid group of defensemen headlined by Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney and the scorching-hot Ty Conklin and his .931 save percentage.  Add in depth on the third and fourth lines and some additonal support along the blue line and you’ve got yourself a very serious Cup contender.
  • Meanwhile, the Bruins didn’t do a damn thing.  Can’t say I’m surprised, though.  At least Patrice Bergeron can skate again.
  • Oh, and by the way, the Canadiens were so sure of promising 20-year-old ‘tender Carey Price that they traded their incumbent, Cristobal Huet, to the Washington Capitals for a future second-round pick.  Pretty ballsy.
  • Here’s a list of all the transactions that went down.

Inglish Iz Jard

February 26, 2008

Give this piece from the New York Times a read if you’d like all the details of the latest Roger Clemens saga, but first let me paraphrase a bit for you: Clemens has thrown his wife and best friend under the bus in order to save himself, and also tried and failed to throw his former nanny out from whatever yuppi SUV he was killing the environment with at the time onto the cold, harsh asphault.  Trying to paint his long-time employee as una extranjera ignorante who doesn’t know English and needs counsel on the damn thing from the great American linguist himself, he has been caught, and really doesn’t have any way of backtracking now.  I guess she had trouble with the word “misremember.”  Seriously though, give the article a read, it’s a sad story that involves Republicans aiding their loveable Texan in order to undermine the Democratic majority in Congress, or simply to express their support for their number one baseball man crush.  Amazing that Barry Bonds doesn’t get the same superstar treatment from our elected representatives, isn’t it?  Hmm, I wonder why?


Monday Morning Mindings

February 25, 2008

OK, well it’s actually not the morning anymore but whatever.

  • I think Brent Barry might be the best option for the Celtics at this point.  While not a true point guard, he can handle the position, is smart, will drill any shot he sees, and is big.  With Ray Allen and Paul Pierce initiating the offense from the perimeter Barry would be a nice addition.
  • Bartolo Colon might not ever pitch in the Majors again, but his recent signing with the Sox was a smart move.  He’s an insurance policy and since he signed a minor league deal  the Sox face zero risk.  If he works out and can give us 15 starts at the back end of the rotation, lessening the burden on Clay Buchholz’s young arm, great.  If not, no biggie.
  • The Lakers are on fire.  Houston is as well.  The West is absurd–the Cavs would be in 10th place in the West.  Portland would be in 6th in the East.  Wow.
  • The Bruins have been moving up in the standings lately.  If they manage to get the 6th seed (where they’re currently sitting) then they’ll play the winner of the Southeast division, and perhaps be the favorites.  If the B’s can somehow get Marian Hossa or another solid scorer who fits in the long-term picture, we might have ourselves a contender.  But, since they’re the Bruins they probably won’t so don’t get your hopes up.
  • Who do you think will win, McCain or Obama???

Incredible Trade Puts Cleveland in Position for Long-Term Run

February 23, 2008

Who knew this guy was actually sort of good at his job?  Oh, for some clarification, he’s the GM of the Cavs, not a premium lawn equipment salesman.

After the recent trade the Cavs made in which they netted Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West, Joe Smith, and Ben Wallace, the short-term ramifications were clear: Cleveland had gotten better, and certainly had thrown its hat into the ring with the two co-favorites of the Eastern Conference, Detroit and Boston.  The long-term picture was a little harder to digest given the 8675645 moving pieces.  But, now that the dust has settled, it’s time to take a look at what this trade means for the foreseeable future. 

Cleveland still has all its first-rounders after the trade and somehow just got Chicago’s second-rounder in their massive swap without having to give up a single pick.  The Chicago selection makes up for sending their own second-rounder in the 2008 draft to Phoenix, and in fact, the Bulls’ pick will be much higher than Cleveland’s. 

The beauty of this trade cap-wise is it delayed small cap relief this year (and that means relief to the owner, not in terms of transactions) and turned it into a large group of expiring contracts next year and the year after, giving GM Danny Ferry a chance to turn a bunch of mediocrity into a star or two, should the right opportunity arise.

The Cavs will have an amazing amount of expiring contracts next year, a total of nearly $34 million.  They can sit on this number or use it in any number of helpful ways, and the tidal wave will be felt across the NBA.  Adding Michael Redd or Mike Miller on LeBron’s wing would be incredible, and he doesn’t need much else other than capable shooters and solid front court teammates who can finish the easy dunk and lay-up opportunites he creates for them.  The following season, when King James himself has only one year remaining until his first taste of free agency, the team will have at least another roughly $30 million in expiring contracts (not counting LeBron, obviously). 

Thus the Cavs are set up to build a long-term dynasty if they follow up their most recent move with more intelligent trades that net the right sort of players to build a team around the game’s preeminent.  If you’re an Eastern Conference contender (I’m talking to you, Celtics and Pistons), you better get it done this year, because come next trade deadline, you might be looking at the future of basketball, a future that should remain in Cleveland for a long time.

So, with all their picks and a slew of expiring contracts coming off the books over the next two years, what can Danny Ferry do to avoid armageddon (the possible departure of the savior himself)? 

  • There have been talks about Mike Miller and Kyle Lowry jumping on the scene, but at the cost of their new team taking on Brian Cardinal’s pungent contract.  For the Cavs–why not?  They can simply use Cardinal as head cheerleader for another couple seasons and then pawn his contract off in another cap-oriented deal the following year.  This would give Cleveland a couple years to give Mike Miller a try-out as LeBron’s shot-maker, and I’ll go on record as saying I’m a Kyle Lowry fan.
  • How about Jermaine O’Neal?  Cleveland might have what it takes, as long as Indiana doesn’t find any better offers.  JO would be a nice defensive complement and catch-LeBron’s-amazing-pass-and-dunk-it candidate.
  • Perhaps Milwaukee is ready to trade Michael Redd; Cleveland could have what it takes to land the guy they wanted initially instead of Larry Hughes.  Not only does Ferry have his own picks and tons of cap room to deal with, he also could turn some of that cap room into additional picks, and in turn up his offer for a Michael Redd type.
  • Maybe the Cavaliers would like a more versatile big man?  How about something with Utah for Andrei Kirilenko or Mehmet Okur?  Okur is more of a possibility given his struggles this season, but don’t rule out Kirilenko, either.  With another couple first-rounders to sweeten the pot, expiring contracts and some youngsters might be enough to bring in AK47.  A three-team trade could help facilitate something of this nature as well, and as we’ve just seen, Danny Ferry can handle a more complicated scenario pretty well.

So there you have it, the Cavs are still far from NBA champs despite their well-documented deadline deal, but no team is in better position to improve itself over the next two years.  When you have the game’s best player already any improvement should put the rest of the league on notice.


Gargantuan Trade Shakes Eastern Conference; Sonics Tread Water Out West

February 21, 2008

 

While LeBron should sleep like a baby after watching his team acquire four new members of its rotation, the rest of the Eastern Conference will probably have to have a scotch or twelve to get some shut eye tonight.

This trade is so gigantic it’s hard to even get your head wrapped around it without a graphic portayal.  So, here’s the trade machine breakdown, with an additional second-round pick headed to Cleveland from Chicago.

Phew.

OK, so I’m going to breakdown the rosters of the three teams now, and try to give some insight into what all this means, but my head might start doing 360s The Exorcist style so hopefully it makes any sense whatsoever at the end:

Here’s the new Cleveland depth chart with players worthy of any thought listed at their possible positions:

  1. Daniel Gibson/Delonte West/Damon Jones
  2. Wally Szczerbiak/Delonte West/Sasha Pavlovic
  3. LeBron James/Wally Szczerbiak
  4. Joe Smith/Anderson Varejao
  5. Zydrunas Illgauskas/Anderson Varejao/Ben Wallace

I’ll discuss the impact of this deal on Cleveland’s long-term picture some time in the future, but as of now we’ll stick to current ramifications.  Cleveland now has a cast of shooters to surround LBJ with in the backcourt, as well as a solid foursome of rebounders and defenders on the blocks.  This puts the team firmly in line for the third spot in the conference, and given LeBron’s ability to handle entire teams by himself, the Cavs are now very serious contenders in the East.

On to Chicago:

  1. Kirk Hinrich/Chris Duhon/Larry Hughes
  2. Ben Gordon/Larry Hughes/Thabo Sefolosha
  3. Luol Deng/Andres Nocioni
  4. Drew Gooden/Andres Nocioni/Tyrus Thomas/Joakim Noah
  5. Joakim Noah/Aaron Gray/Tyrus Thomas

Chicago gets younger with the trade and creates a tiny bit more financial flexibility, although not much, by way of turning Ben Wallace’s behemoth contract into Larry Hughes’ marginally less mammoth deal ($15 million per year for Big Ben versus $12 AAV for Hughes).  However, Gooden and Hughes have a much greater chance of improving or maintaing their performances throughout the length of their contracts than do the players sent off, Wallace and Joe Smith.  In that sense this is a small victory for the Bulls. 

Although a modest improvement for Chicago, this trade changes nothing in the big picture.  The Bulls are still stacked with promising young guys and several underachievers.  They have contract extension issues looming over their heads, and the roster is still mediocre–you only play five guys at once and usually no more than eight guys can get real, meaningful minutes, so having 11 possible rotation members and not one star isn’t going to get this team past the first round of the play-offs no matter what.  Consequently, while the trade helps long-term, there isn’t a whole lot to be gained this season, and the Bulls remain a team with no real identity, no real leader.

Lastly, the SuperSonics:

Seattle doesn’t deserve a depth chart, because it clearly has no intention of building a team for the time being.  Other than Kevin Durant and Jeff Green, the Sonics don’t have anyone who I’d bet on being on the team more than a year or two more.  The trade nets Seattle some more cap space this summer as opposed to next, but given their ownership situation and their imminent departure from the Pacific Northwest, why would any major free agent want to sign with the Sonics?  

The SuperSonics have about 98 first-round draft picks (note that Kurt Thomas brought the Sonics three first-round picks in less than one season on the roster!) coming over the next several years, and GM Sam Presti will have a shot at building a dynamic young core, but this franchise is going to be bad for a long time.  Draft picks alone won’t get the Force Launching Durants back on track, and while this trade certainly didn’t hurt the franchise, I can’t say I think it did much to help it get back to winning basketball games.


Spurs and Hornets Beef Up for Post-Season

February 21, 2008

I found this picture when I googled “NBA Trade Deadline.”  How great a deadline must that year have been!  Vashon Lenard!  Vitaly Potopenko!

There have been only two deals reported prior to today’s 3:00 p.m. NBA trade deadline, but more could trickle in once paperwork is taken care of.  Here’s a quick anlysis of the two trades already consumated.  More thoughts later should other trades be announced.

The Spurs Acquire Kurt Thomas for Expiring Contracts and a First-Rounder

  • The Sonics managed to net only a late first-round pick from the Spurs in exchange for one of the most sought after low-post defenders available at this year’s deadline.  The two players heading to Seattle are nothing more than cap filler, as both Brent Barry (who is actually a pretty good player when healthy; unfortunately, healthy he’s not) and Francisco Elson come off the books at season’s end.  Landing a solid defender and rebounder to pair with Tim Duncan at such a low cost–especially considering Kurt Thomas’s contract expires this summer as well–was nothing short of a steal of a deal for San Antonio.  The Spurs seemed destined for an earlier-than-expected exit from the dogfight that has become the Western Conference play-offs this year, but their smart maneauvering has vaulted the ageing defending champs back into title contention.  This deal has many basketball fans and execs wondering if Sam Presti’s loyalty to his former employer caused him to accept a less-than-stellar package in return, a la Kevin McHale this summer.

Hornets, Rockets Tinker with Rotations

  • While this deal techincally involves the Memphis Grizzles and a whopping eight players and picks, there are really only three names to worry about: Mike James, Bonzi Wells, and Bobby Jackson.  Most importantly, James and Wells head to New Orleans, where they will supplement a weak bench for Chris Paul’s first-place sqaud.  Wells is the best player in the deal, and adding him to an already strong starting line-up while finding a mostly adequate short-term replacement for Jackson as well is a nice move for the Hornets.  On the other hand, Houston gets itself another mediocre option to throw against the wall along with its 87 other failed point guard options in Bobby Jackson.  While not a true point man, Jackson can still score a little bit, and could mesh well with the Rockets under former Sacramento coach, Rick Adelman.  While this deal helps New Orleans increase its rotation to a solid seven on most nights, it still leaves the team short on depth and experience for the post-season.  For Houston, Jackson should do a better job than James has, but he won’t propel them into legit contender status, and losing Bonzi Wells takes away another guy who can score–something the team needed to add instead of lose.