By Craig Kwasniewski
Why bother wasting time talking about the impacts of all the summer trades and free agent signings? After all LeBron, Wade and especially Bosh are all mortal locks for the next 6 NBA championships, a World Cup title in 2014, finding the cure for AIDS and solving the "Is the Hills real or not?" crises. There's no competition these three guys will win EVERYTHING. Pack it up fellas, you're either with the Heat or against mankind.
Okay let's keep the defense honest and pretend that there's actually a season to be played and actual competition out there. One week into the free agent signing period, here are my thoughts so far:
Drew Gooden and John Salmons signing 5-year contracts with Milwaukee: One guy's been on nine teams in nine years, the other is a ballhog. N-I-N-E! Maybe Drew's a great guy and maybe he finally gets it, but something tells me that if he's anything decent one of the other eight (E-I-G-H-T) teams would have kept him. John Salmons is your prototypical ball stopper. Yes he had a good run in the 2009 playoff with Chicago, but he wasn't good enough to stick around. People suddenly made Milwaukee an instant contender. Why? And why five years for these guys? F-I-V-E! Who's else wants them for even two? Grade: D
Steve Blake signs with the Lakers: Three words: I LOVE IT! The money's good at $16 mil over four years, he's a good defender, a good spot-up shooter (perfect for the Triangle) and a willing learner (he said he's coming off the bench behind Fisher). The Lakers were chasing several mid-level point guards and landed their number one option. His age is the only downfall but Jerry Buss is going all in on the Kobe Bryant era so why not. Grade: A
Randy Foye, Ryan Gomes & Brian Cook sign with the Clippers: First off, I like Gomes. He has a decent baseline jumper and plays hard every night. Foye? Ehhhh... DC took a chance on him after being a bust in Miny and he really hasn't panned out. His claim to fame is NOT being Brandon Roy. But as a backup not much will be expected and maybe he'll fit. BUT... Brian Cook for two years? T-W-O??? What the hell? This guy shouldn't be in the league and really he wouldn't be if the Clippers didn't sign him. But why the two years? Who else is offering more than a 10-day contract? Grade: F (sorry but the stink of Brian Cook knocks a B- down to a solid F... HE SUCKS!)
Golden State trades for David Lee: Turiaf, Randolph and Azubuike for Lee? The blogosphere LOVES Randolph! I keep hearing (for what feels like decades) that he's a sick talent waiting to break out. To me, the Dubs (BTW - are they still that? can you really have a cool nickname if your team is annually back in lottery-land?) gave up very little to get what is a slightly upgraded version of Andris Biedrins, an active offense-first C/F. He'll fit Nellie's No Defense, No Problem system perfectly and put up some sick offensive numbers. It's just that Golden State won't stop anyone on D.... EVER. Grade: B
Jermaine O'Neal signs with the Celtics: Make no mistake, this is a great deal for the Celtics! (And yes, I was just looking to utter my second most favorite ex-athlete-on-TV cliches.) People are knocking O'Neal's playoff numbers against the C's this year, but they're not acquiring him to put up #2 or #3 option numbers. His job is to fill in for Perkins until he returns and then play 10 to 15 minutes as the first C/F off the bench. Plus, the hope is that one last shot at a title and KG's leadership will be enough to motivate the guy. Mix this deal with Ray Allen returning and IN MY OPINION the Celtics are still the top team in the east. I know that's just crazy to think the defending Eastern Conference Champions actually have a shot despite having veteran leadership, a great defense, team chemistry and quality size up front. I feel guilty for actually thinking they're better than the Heat, should I go into hiding like Salmon Rushdie? Grade: A-
Phoenix trades for Hedo Turkoglu, Josh Childress and Hakim Warrick: Lose Amar'e to free agency and get back LENGTH. Not a bad deal for a team that lost their marquee players for absolutely nothing. Wait, who knocked out the Suns in the playoffs? The taller and longer Lakers. So the Suns counter with length and handles. Hedu has something to prove after the Toronto disaster and with Nash and co. he'll get a lot of healthy looks. Childress was a little overrated this summer, the Suns basically got Joe Smith 2.0. Still that's not a bad thing with this system. The best part about Hakim Warrick will be listening to Lakers PA guy Lawrence Tanter botch his name. Warrick is his albatross... It's unfair to compare these guys directly to Stat's impact in 2009-10, given the situation I think the Suns did a hell of a job here. Grade: B+
Dallas extends Brendan Haywood and trades for Tyson Chandler: I see what Dallas is doing here and it may work, but in reality they're probably going to end up like the 2000 Portland Trailblazers. They went for height to counter the Lakers but in the end they may have too many players to choose from. Kidd, Terry, Haywood, Chandler, Marion, Butler and Nowitzki... that's a talented top 7 but can Carlisle find the right rotation? He didn't last spring and they fell to the Spurs in the first round. Still, I like the effort by the Mavs and can't fault them for what I think might happen. Grade: B
Al Jefferson to the Jazz: Here's another blogoshpere favorite. The Jazz did what they needed to do, find a replacement for Boozer and continue on with the 50+ wins and second round elimination gameplan (which actually isn't bad for a small market team). Jefferson is a slight upgrade but not as dramatic an improvement as others claim. His overall winning percentage is LOW, he's injury prone and his defense is suspect. The low winning percentage is one that I can't let go. If he's as good as people claim, shouldn't he have some kind of impact on the overall team record? Is he possibly one of those good-guy-on-a-bad-team type of players? Anyway, Utah did EXACTLY what they needed to do and for that... Grade: A-
Bulls sign Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver: As of now, rumors are the Magic will match the offer sheet to JJ Redick, so we're only talking about the ex-Jazz guys. The Bulls were shooting for LeBron or Wade and ended up with Boozer. Funny how the joke was that the Knicks would probably end up with Rudy Gay and Boozer after missing out on LeBron. Now that the Bulls got Boozer, people forgot the joke and instantly made them a top 3 contender in the east. You gotta love July hype! I do think Boozer is a good signing and as long as he's not facing the Lakers he'll be fine. His health has been a concern the past few years, but maybe playing in the #3 market with a strong up-and-coming team will keep him on the floor. Redick would have been a better signing than Korver, who's clearly lost a step last year, but it never hurts to get a few quality outside shooters. Plus the REAL key acquisition for the Bulls was Tom Thibodeau. Grade: B-
Jordan Farmar to the Nets: Farmar asked for a starting role with an offence that caters to his talents. Instead he gets to back up Devin Harris for the Clippers East who just hired NBA retread Billy King as their GM. Have fun big guy! Two years ago the Lakers basically structured their roster for Farmar to take over and start after the 2010 season. Fisher's contract was expiring, Farmar needed an extension... the keys to a fine tuned Lamborghini were his. Instead he regressed and both parties went their own ways. Sad... Grade: D
Amar'e Stoudemire to the Knicks: Quite simply the NBA is a better league with the Knicks as playoff contenders. It's basketball mecca... nuff said. Mix in all the other pieces from the David Lee trade and the Raymond Felton signing and you might have enough for a playoff run. If anything Amar'e has created a buzz not felt since the Ewing era (they sold out season tickets for the 2010-11 season). God I hope the Isiah Thomas rumors are just BS, because there's actually hope for the Knicks, not band aid work with a bunch of overrated veterans but actual hope with potential down the rode hope. Grade A-
Did I miss anything?
LeBron, Wade, Bosh, Miller and Ilgauskus to the Heat: Message to the blogosphere: can't you just let things organically happen? Seriously... as soon as this deal went down all you talked about were multiple titles and legacy. Sprinkle in the anti-hate "unique" point of view (which wasn't unique at all)... you know, the whole, hey LeBron is NOT a bad guy here and I'm tired of the hate (BTW - all two hours of hate, because HOW DARE WE actually criticize THE KING!!!!) angle and I'm already tired of reading about this deal. Can't we just enjoy the experience before calling them the greatest ever? As Phil Jackson has always said, it's all about the journey not the destination. Before handing over the next 25 NBA titles, let's enjoy watching this team grow together, work together through tough situations and experience two superstars combining for one cause.
That said, Bosh is an All-Star not a superstar, Miller is on the downside of his career and Ilgauskus averaged less that 2 points and 2 rebounds in the 2010 playoffs. (That was the most disturbing thing of them all, Z was brought back to the Cavs after the Jamison trade as a final piece to an eventual NBA title. He was lost and didn't contribute a damn thing. So how is it now literally months later, he's back to becoming an All-Star?) There's still work to do roster-wise and even though everyone not named LeBron or Wade will get clean looks, they still have to ALL play defense. And they still have to get by the Celtics and Lakers. People completely forgot the concept of veteran experience, defensive continuity, team chemistry and in the case of both the Lakers and Celtics, quality size. You gotta stop KG, Perkins, Bynum, Gasol and Odom... and that won't happen in 2010. Grade A+ but they're not winning a title next year!