Rockets Grab Artest

The Houston Rockets acquired Ron Artest from the Kings for Donte Green, Bobby Jackson, and next year’s first round pick. So far the move is receiving positive reviews. Hollinger likes the move, as does the Dream Shake blog (who is extra sure the move is a winner, because Richard Justice hates it). Hell even King fans like the deal (“The Kings will do more than just survive — they will thrive without Ron-Ron… Wins for everybody.”)

{democracy:23}

Balkman Traded for Nothing?

According to ESPN:

The Denver Nuggets have traded Taurean Green, Bobby Jones and a 2010 second-round draft pick to the Knicks for Renaldo Balkman and cash considerations, an NBA front-office source tells ESPN.com’s John Hollinger.

Green and Jones are likely to be cut because they have non-guaranteed deals, the source told Hollinger. Their acquisitions would increase the Knicks’ roster to 17 players.

Interesting that Hollinger broke the story for ESPN, although he does cover the Knicks for the NY Sun. As for the Knicks, assuming that they’re going to cut Green and Jones, this is a bad trade. Balkman has value as a defender, rebounder, and transition player. If the only thing New York ends up with is the draft pick it’s a total loss. They’re not likely to get an NBA caliber with that 2nd round pick.

Until this is official I’m hoping that one of two things are true about this trade: either the draft pick is a conditional first or they are going to cut someone else and keep Green. He had nice numbers in 8 games in the NBDL and is only 21 years old. At least it would mean they got something out of the deal.

2008 Dog Days of Summer – The Rise of the East?

So it appears the dog days of the offseason are upon us. While there’s a possibility of some roster movement before the Knicks preseason starts, it’s likely that on most days there will be no changes. So until there’s serious NBA news, each week I’d like to come up with a topic for everyone to discuss. This week I’ll stick with the NBA, but as the summer moves on, I promise nothing.

The rise of the East?

It seems that since Jordan’s second retirement, the NBA has been dominated by the West. For years the NBA’s biggest matchups involved the Lakers, Spurs, Kings, Mavs, or Suns depending on the year. Although the two conferences have split the last 6 championships, it’s generally thought that the West has more teams of championship caliber. For instance if the West’s 6th best team by record, the Utah Jazz, won the title it would be more plausible than the East’s 6th best team (Toronto).

Eventually imbalances like this even out. For most of the 80s & early 90s, the NFL was dominated by the NFC as the AFC would go 14 years without winning a Super Bowl. But since then an NFC team has been crowned champion only 3 times in an 11 year span. So it’s not a question of if the East will catch up, it’s a question of when.

This NBA offseason seems to have benefited the East. Lost in the Baron Davis/Elton Brand/Clippers story was that the Sixers were the big winners. Between Dalembert, Iguodala, and Brand Philadelphia might have one of the league’s best defenses. If Brand is healthy, the Sixers go from a middle of the road team to an Eastern powerhouse. The Chicago Bulls were a 49 win team two seasons ago and ended up with the #1 overall pick this year. Derrick Rose should give them production at the point guard position where Kirk Hinrich regressed heavily. Similarly the Miami Heat added the #2 pick, and Michael Beasley combined with a full season from All Stars Dwayne Wade and Shawn Marion could make them a strong rebound candidate in 2009. Meanwhile there are a few Eastern teams led by young stars that could take a step forward next year, like Orlando, Cleveland, and Toronto.

Last year the league’s two best teams were in the East. The Celtics won 66 games and the Pistons won 59. Although Boston has already lost a key role player (Posey), Detroit’s roster remains largely unchanged. If one or two of the other Eastern teams can break the 55 win barrier, then it’s likely that the gap between conferences may no longer exist.

Afro-Samurai Goes to Greece

Sekou Smith, the excellent Hawks beat writer at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, is reporting that the man with the maddest ‘fro this side of the Afro-Samurai will sign with Olympiakos, and for more than the above-the-mid-level contract Atlanta was offering (rumored at $33 million). Atlanta retains his NBA rights for two years, and the contract contains opt outs at the end of each season.

Considering Childress’ deal alongside Brandon Jennings’ recent deal with Pallacanestro Virtus Roma raises the question of whether this is a trickle in what could become a steady stream of players leaving the NBA for other pro leagues under the FIBA umbrella. It is difficult to know, but any seasoned NBA fan can tell you that the path from the NBA to overseas leagues is already well-worn; but mostly by foreign-born and US-born fringe NBA players (e.g., Carlos Delfino and Anthony Parker respectively). Jennings and Childress represent a somewhat different (though perhaps not categorically different) kind of US-born Euroleague signee. They are highly-regarded talents who walked away from two entrenched institutional practices that have quasi-legal status: the NCAA’s virtual monopoly on entry to the NBA for US-born players and the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement (specifically restricted free agency). Although a direct comparison between Jennings and Childress to baseball’s Curt Flood would put too fine a point on it, their their willingness to move outside–way outside–the NCAA/NBA nexus could ultimately take on similar significance. (Rather than challenging a clear violation of the law as Flood did Jennings and Childress have exposed a clear point of vulnerability for both the NCAA and NBA: competition.)

Since KB has already written about Jennings I’ll limit my remaining comments to the Childress signing. First, globalization doesn’t just work for the US. Legitimate competition for US-born athletic talent is to my mind a good thing. In fact, sports may be one of the very few arenas where it’s possible for those who labor to gain enough leverage to negotiate salary and working conditions on a vaguely equal footing with management. When one of these guys wins at that game I can’t help but root for him. Second, at the risk of engaging in some Schadenfreude, this couldn’t have happened to a more deserving ownership group. The Atlanta ownership situation continues to be an embarrassment. Their players, to their everlasting credit and Mike Woodson’s, have developed in spite of the considerable obstacles created by ownership. As a Knicks fan I have complete empathy for Atlanta’s fans who think, “What did we ever do to deserve this?” Or, my personal favorite, “What else can go wrong?” Third, I hardly anticipate a mass exodus of US-born players to the various European leagues beyond what we currently see. The culture shock is considerable, and at the risk of stereotyping, many athletes are if nothing else creatures of familiarity and habit. If anything, I expect to see even fewer European stars jump across the pond to the NBA. The dollar is just too weak. If the structural weaknesses in the US economy aren’t the sort of thing you pay attention to, consider the Childress signing as yet another indication that the economy will probably get a lot worse before it gets better.

I eagerly anticipate the owners’ response to this and then Billy Hunter’s. This isn’t just about losing Childress, who may not be worth what he’s getting. (I’ll leave that to another post.) The bigger issue is that Childress and Olympiakos exploited the NBA’s failure to really consider that talent pipelines can travel in both directions. Olympiakos works without salary cap restriction and Atlanta has no “right” to match Childress’ offer (the essence of restricted free agency); a point of vulnerability that had up to this point only impacted foreign-born draftees and fringe players. Now you can bank it that the owners will use this issue to push for any number of unrelated concessions in the CBA under threat of lockout; it’s what they do. More to the point however, I expect that some teams will now look to place buyout clauses in player contracts where possible.

Who Do You Want Gone ? Who Do You Want Here?

Who Do I Want Gone?

Eddy Curry. Bold choice I know. He is the primary symbol what we have become and how we got here. And he is a really bad basketball player, worse than Zach Randolph by a mile.

Who Do I Want Here the Most?

Chris Paul. He was the best player in the league this year. And I would like to see the best player in the league take the court in a Knicks jersey. Amazing that it’s never happened before.

Knicks Sign Roberson

The Post is reporting that the Knicks have agreed in principle on a two-year deal with Anthony Roberson. (I always want to call him El Roberson, after the former Kansas State quarterback. Note: Anthony has nothing to do with El as far as I know.) What remains unclear is whether the second year of the league minimum deal will be a team option year. Since the signing puts the team one guaranteed contract over the limit other deals will be forthcoming, and this may spell the end for Marbury in NY. Certainly, one possible reading of Marbury’s interview on yesterday’s replay of the Knicks/Cavs game strongly suggests that he thinks he will be moved. “I just want to play, no matter where it is…” “It’s a business. I understand that…” Of course, even if Marbury thinks he’ll be moved that doesn’t mean he will be. The Knicks could clear a roster spot in any number of other ways. Donnie Walsh allegedly already passed up an offer from the Clippers; Zach Randolph for a second round pick in a straight salary dump. Presumably, he’s holding out for a bigger deal. (Interestingly, the Clips actually made that deal–only for Marcus Camby instead of Zeebo.) The Knicks are also widely thought to be entertaining buyouts for Jerome James (or perhaps an injury settlement) and potentially Mardy Collins (who incidentally looks a lot better–quicker–at the lighter weight). Malik Rose’s expiring contract could also potentially be a part of a pre-season deal. So, although this move does not absolutely spell the end of Marbury’s return to NY he may want to stop by the Post Office and pick up one of those “So, You’re Moving?” packets. They’re chock full of useful information, sometimes even coupons.

As for Roberson, it appears the Knicks see him as an end-of-the-bench shooter in the mold of an Eddie House. In that sense I have no specific issue with the signing on its own merits. As pointed out in a previous post, Roberson’s a shoot first (second and third) guard. His low assist rate (8%) and high usage rate (21.4%) make it a stretch to refer to him as a combo guard as the Post does (and as the MSG crew did during the telecast). Recalling his play at the University of Florida (on the same team as David Lee) I am reminded of the old Nike Basketball ad with Gary Payton and Jason Kidd where the pair show up at a boy’s house to confiscate his basketball because he refuses to share it. After dusting the ball for prints and finding only the boy’s, Payton says, “You ain’t even lettin’ the ground touch the ball!” That’s Roberson’s game–pure gunner. Fortunately, in his brief stints for Golden State and Memphis he has shot the ball reasonably well.

First Game Wrap Up

Gallinari:

He was downright awful in the first half. I went back to the play-by-play and compiled his stats at the half: 0-4, 3 TO, 1-1 REB, 3 PF, 1 AST, 0 BLK, 0 STL, 0 PTS

He had 2 turnovers and a foul in his first 3 minutes. He had two shots where he was forcing the action – wild up-and-unders that fooled no one. Gallo he didn’t really show any tenacity outside of the offense. There were a few occasions I felt he gave up on a ball that he might have dove for, and he didn’t do anything spectacular on defense. He made a couple of rookie mistakes, one being the cardinal sin of defense: fouling a player on a fast break and allowing him to make the shot.

Danilo showed positive signs in the second half, and ended with a decent line: 5-11, 4 TO, 4-2 REB, 5 PF, 2 AST, 1 BLK, 0 STL, 14 PTS

He gained confidence with a two handed dunk, and showed an accurate jumpshot. I have to give him credit for going to the hoop a couple of times as well. It’s hard to make assumptions of a player by one half of a summer league game, but I don’t think Gallo is going to be a regular contributor this year. And I’m fine with that, since the team drafted him for the future, not the present. There was enough to like about him, like how he came back from a dreadful first half. He showed ability and confidence. I think it’s going to take him a year before he learns the nuances of the NBA.

Wilson Chandler

Speaking of learning the nuances of the NBA, Wilson Chandler seems to have developed significantly from last year. Not only did he lead the team in scoring (11-21, 2 TO, 26 points) but he was seemingly omnipresent. Chandler had 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. When on the floor with Balkman the pair made the Knicks tough defensively, especially on the interior. They had a combined 4 blocks, about the number Zach Randolph would get in about 2 months. “Ill-Will” was certainly the Knicks best player on Monday.

Boxscore here: http://www.nba.com/summerleague2008/games/boxscore.jsp?gameId=1520800013

Renaldo Balkman

Balkman was his usual self, with not much change from last year. As always Balkman was great in pushing the ball up in transition, converted a few baskets around the rim, and played excellent defense. It didn’t bother me that he didn’t attempt a jump shot; what bothered me is that he didn’t make either of his free throws. Balkman would be fine without a mid-range game, but if he can’t hit free throws it really hurts his game.

Mardy Collins

The guy that I would cut in a second had a pretty good game yesterday. Unlike Balkman, Collins hit 8 of his 9 free throw attempts. And while I don’t expect him to go from 60% to 89% from the charity stripe, it’s nice to know that he probably has improved that aspect of his game. (Maybe he can show Balkman his technique.) Collins also hit his only three point attempt. Mardy’s game in the half court consisted of driving into the paint and trying to make things happen. It was a nice improvement, and if he can hit his free throws, an occasional three, and do a better job running the offense, there might be room on this team for him.

Anthony Roberson

Roberson was the surprise of the game. The 6-2 guard scored 22 points on 19 shots, but didn’t have a single assist. He reminded me a bit of Nate Robinson, minus the rebounding, passing, and childish demeanor. Roberson had two stints in the NBA for Memphis and Golden State, and his per minute stats show the same thing: decent scoring no passing. His efficiency (53.2 ts% and 52.6% efg) was good and his 1.5stl/36 was better than average. Quentin Richardson praised Anthony during the telecast saying the youngster was playing very well in practice. While a team could do much worse at the end of their bench, I’m not sure where he fits in on the Knicks’ roster. They have enough shoot first players at this point. On the other hand Roberson clearly has NBA talent, and the team roster might be very different in another year or two.