Saturday, July 07, 2012

07/07 (Ray Allen) Quickie

Now, I'm no Heat fan, and the idea of a still-very-potent Ray Allen on that team -- destroying everyone with that beautiful 3-point-shot and helping the Heat to another title or two -- is brutal.

That said: Allen not only had every right to make the jump to the Heat, but good for him for snubbing the Celtics.

*The Celtics tried to trade him mid-season. The "Let's pry the window open for one more run!" was more of a function of Derrick Rose's injury and the temporary stand-off with the Heat -- in other words, a combination of luck and reductive hindsight -- than Grand Design. The reality is that Danny Ainge was willing to blow it up in March -- with Allen the first to be thrown overboard. Let's not listen to Boston sports fans talking about loyalty or "team." There is no moral high-ground there.

*Allen and Rondo had a terrible relationship, and it was clear to Allen (and everyone else) that the Celtics are fully committed to enabling Rondo's insanity -- however genius it may be. Why should Allen deal with that?

*Allen wants to win a championship. The Heat puts him in the best position to win one. I'm never going to begrudge a free agent for going to a team to help them win a title.

*He took less money to do it. I'm never going to begrudge a free agent for taking less money to join a winning team. (For what it's worth, LeBron and Wade did the same thing in Miami.)

I'm a huge Ray Allen fan -- somewhere in a moving box is a UConn shooting shirt I bought during Allen's magnificent junior year of college. His one-on-one with Allen Iverson in the Big East Tournament final in 1996 remains an indelible memory. I love that his skills are ageless, and I love that he has put himself in a position not just to contribute to a champ, but to be a major part -- he'll have more open looks in Miami than he ever did in the Big Three era in Boston.

Good for Ray. Bad for the rest of the league, but good for Ray.

-- D.S.

Friday, July 06, 2012

07/06 (Friday) Quickie

Still totally comfortable with Steve Nash on the Lakers...

Wimbledon: With a handful of exceptions (notably Tebow), I tend to underappreciate the truly awesome athletes until their careers are in twilight. That's why I am really paying attention to Serena at Wimbledon right now...

Knicks/Lin Watch: I like Jeremy Lin in New York -- although I'm not a Knicks fan and find their disregard of salary restraints to be competitively unfair. The Knicks are going to match the Rockets' offer sheet to Lin -- Lin is too good (and too marketable). I honestly wonder, though, whether Lin would rather be playing for Houston -- playing with Carmelo can't possibly be ideal for a point guard like Lin. (Also: How will Lin enjoy playing with future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd as his back-up? How does THAT work?)

Brandon Roy to the T'wolves? Sounds great. It's a good risk for Minnesota, which needs a shooting guard to go with Rubio and Love. (They aren't going to get Nicholas Batum, but it was worth a try, because they need a small forward, too.)

MLB Final Vote: I'm surprised that David Freese got more votes than Bryce Harper -- it's a testament to the vitality of Cardinals fans (versus Nats fans, who are still trying to figure this whole thing out). I think that a year from now, Harper is voted into the starting lineup anyway. (Yu winning the AL Final Vote wasn't a surprise. The entire vote-by-Twitter thing gets points for being innovative, but was really annoying for users.)

This NCAA-AAU scandal begs a simple but important question: Isn't AAU hoops, as a whole, assumed to be corrupt to the core? So four teams are nicked? How about all of them?

The solution isn't easy: Basically, AAU needs to be disrupted by a start-up grassroots league that is "clean" (or, maybe, cleaner). Then, college coaches need to say to recruits "I will not recruit you -- I don't care how good you are -- if you are playing AAU. You need to play in this league." I'm not saying the NCAA has to create a HS development pipeline, but it is absolutely in the NCAA's (and NBA's) best interest to fund a competitor to AAU that is nothing less than an existential threat.

Should be a fun weekend ahead. It's been a weird week, between the DC storms that knocked out our power from Friday through Wednesday and the mid-week holiday break. Enjoy your weekend, folks. More updates here each morning -- and on Quickish all weekend.

-- D.S.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

07/05 (Nash) Quickie

You can't begrudge Steve Nash. He wanted to be close to his kids. And he wanted to play for a good team -- a contender.

You can't begrudge the Suns. They were going to lose their franchise player with nothing in return.

You can't begrudge Suns fans for being a little bitter. It's not quite LeBron and "The Decision" with Cleveland fans, but they have a right to feel ticked.

You can't begrudge the Lakers. They have a small championship window -- which looked closed a few weeks ago when they were drummed out of the playoffs -- and this widens it just enough to make them much more interesting.

(OK: You can begrudge the Mavs for trading for Lamar Odom and freeing up a trade exception that the Lakers used to get Nash.)

I'm a huge Steve Nash fan, but I dislike the Lakers.  I feel like I can still do both.

Where does that net out? I'm excited to see what Nash can do side-by-side with Kobe and with post players like Gasol and Bynum to work with. It's fascinating. The NBA (and NBA fans) are better off for this deal, even if it stings Suns fans -- I hope they appreciate the good run they had with Nash.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

07/04 (July 4th) Quickie

Deron Williams re-signed with the Nets, bringing star power, legitimacy and a pretty decent chance to get to the NBA's playoff final eight (if not final four).

But the most interesting part about it for me is the Nets' original gamble -- that given a 17-month head-start and, not insubstantially, a franchise relocation to the hippest city in the NBA, they could convince a top-tier NBA player to stay with the team.

It is instructive, because it offers a new path to acquiring stars: Give up a huge package to get players while they are still under your control, then use that time to recruit them. It's a risk, but the expected value feels a hell of a lot safer than rolling the dice as part of the scrum of teams wooing free agents during the 48 hours a player actually is a free agent.

It helps understand why the Rockets are smart to try to put together a package for Dwight Howard, even if he insists he won't resign with them next summer. A year is a long time, and cap space is a fickle thing. Wouldn't you rather have a year, up close and personal, to try to close the deal than be one of 6 teams that will be wooing Dwight next summer?

Wizards owner Ted Leonsis wrote an interesting series of posts this week talking about how acquiring players with time left on their contracts via trade is much more stable (and often more economical) than trying to do battle in the free-agent market, which is only guaranteed to deliver two things: Unpredictability and the lock that you will overpay, probably not even for the A-tier target you wanted.

It's the new Moneyball: Trade for a star with some time left on his deal, then work like crazy to recruit them with the time and opportunity you have.

Not every team has the cachet of Brooklyn to throw around. Not every team has an owner with an unlimited willingness to pay (what luxury tax?) And this all makes sense because Williams picked the Nets; if he had picked the Mavs, we'd be killing the Nets right now.

But regardless of the outcome, the process seems to be a lot safer -- and smarter -- than most pundits were giving them credit for. If your goal is to be elite -- and not merely climb onto the Treadmill of Mediocrity -- then you have to take bold, smart approaches like this.

Good day for Brooklyn. Good day for the NBA. Happy July 4th. Be safe and eat plenty.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

07/03 (Hawks) Quickie

Working through some Quickish CMS issues. Apologies in advance for the lack of Quickish updates today.

Meanwhile, Danny Ferry won Monday: He offloaded Joe Johnson's monster contract and Marvin Williams' bloated contract to turn the Hawks into a lean, mean, we-have-tons-of-cap-room machine. If Dwight Howard and CP3 want to come to Atlanta next summer, the Hawks can accommodate. (I think the Magic would trade Howard for Horford -- it's unclear Howard wants a homecoming enough to sign long-term with the Hawks. I think it's worth the risk for Ferry.)

And the Nets are well-positioned, too: Joe Johnson is a good 2nd piece (and a great 3rd one). Deron Williams and Joe Johnson in a backcourt (with Jason Kidd off the bench?) is the gold standard in the NBA. Add in Gerald Wallace, and you probably have three players versatile enough to give the Heat a tough series in the playoffs. (Brook Lopez would be a bonus, as would this mysterious Bosnian stretch-4 that they plan on signing, and who could take the NBA by storm.) The question is: Can they pull off a deal for Dwight Howard? Even if they don't, the Nets are a formidable playoff team.

Olympics: What a waste that they didn't have that run-off last night. And what a shame Dara Torres fell .09 seconds short of making the Olympic team in the 50 free.

More later. But a fun day of offseason intrigue in the NBA.

-- D.S.

Monday, July 02, 2012

07/02 (Run-Off) Quickie

Busy weekend, busy week...

*Greatest. Side. Ever. -- Spain wins Euro 2012. And, in a way that gets "Quickie Instant History" approval, folks like SI's Grant Wahl and ESPN's Jeff Carlisle are already declaring this Spain side (which also won the Euro title in 2008 and the World Cup in 2010) as the "Greatest Side Ever."

*Olympics US Women's 100M Run-Off: It's the coolest idea ever (particularly on a quiet sports night like tonight), but neither Tarmoh nor Felix seem particularly enthusiastic about it, Tarmoh especially after she read the report that the initial ruling from the official judge of photo finishes that she won. She says she might not do the run-off. Prediction: They get to the starting line, then both back off, ostensibly due to fear of injury. (But from a fan perspective, it would be fun to see.)

*Olympics Name to Know: Gabby Douglas, who edged out Jordan Wieber to become USA gymnastics' No. 1. It's gold or failure for Team USA.

*MLB ASG: That was an impressive bit of ballot-stuffing by the Giants fans, particularly to get Pablo Sandoval into the starting lineup at 3B ahead of David Wright. It's not a reason to abolish fan voting for the spot -- it's a reason to ask your team (say, the Mets) why they didn't have a better strategy for bolstering their guy. In the Mets' case, they should have expanded their campaign beyond NY and Mets fans to all MLB fans with the argument: "Don't let Giants fans spoil your game. Vote Wright at 3B." Thinking that All-Star campaigns are limited to your own fan base -- particularly in the final week of the voting -- is a big mistake. Clearly.

*MLB Final Vote: I thought that Bryce Harper was a lock to win the popular vote for the NL's "Final" spot... right up until they put Chipper Jones on the ballot with him. Jones -- the future Hall of Famer in his final season before retirement -- represents the edge-case exception to the "Harper Rule," and should beat out the phenom for the spot. (Don't cry for Harper -- he is a near-lock to be an All-Star starter for the next decade or two.)

*Dwight Howard, cont'd: He insists he will only sign with Brooklyn next summer as a free agent, no matter who he is traded to (Lakers, Rockets, etc). If I was one of those teams, I would trade for him anyway, then spend the next year convincing him -- in person, with no restrictions -- to re-sign. Meanwhile, the Nets aren't waiting around and are apparently lining up a big trade to take the expensive Joe Johnson off the Hawks' hands, creating the potential for a Deron Williams-Joe Johnson backcourt, which would be the best in the league. (The Nets are also re-signing Gerald Wallace. If they can find a defensive stopper to at least try and guard LeBron, it's not a bad playoff team, given that the Heat has no big presence down low, aside from LeBron.)

*NBA Free Agency: Aside from the Nets' machinations, the big story is where Steve Nash will end up. The Raptors are offering the most money (by a wide margin) and the chance to finish his career in Canada, providing at least a little lift for Canada's only NBA team. It's unclear why Nash would want to play in New York if Lin is the star PG or the Nets if they have Deron Williams -- presumably, Nash is Plan B if Williams goes to Dallas -- and I love the idea of him in Toronto. Meanwhile, the Rockets are apparently going to pry Omer Asik -- great defensively, limited offensively -- from the Bulls, whose title window appears to have closed (before it even really opened) with Rose's knee injury and hamstrung finances.

More later. Check out Quickish for great takes on today's best topics!

-- D.S.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

07/01 (July) Quickie

Trying to write this while having no power in the house/neighborhood/city from the DC storms...

Penn State email revelations: The Jerry Sandusky "guilty" verdict might have made people forget that the Penn State administration was complicit in his horrifying crimes. This is a good reminder.

NBA Free Agency begins: But, first, Dwight Howard wants out of Orlando (for Brooklyn), claiming the Magic "blackmailed" him (ha) when he signed that one-year extension last spring.

Meanwhile, the Nets are trying to deal to get Joe Johnson and Luis Scola and OJ Mayo... and it feels like everyone else, in order to put some talent around Deron Williams (if not Dwight Howard).

The big winners? Eric Gordon is looking for a max deal (from the Hornets, or anyone else), and I suspect he'll get it (the Hornets are on the verge of a dramatic turnaround). And Nicholas Batum reportedly has a huge deal from the T'wolves, who are desperate for a good SF.

Kevin Garnett re-signs with Celtics for 3 years: Totally reasonable.
Steve Nash has huge 3-year deal on table from Toronto: Again, totally reasonable.

Both guys -- but Nash in particular -- are freaks who will out-perform their age (which they already have). I think Nash will be the most productive 40-year-old player in NBA history, and easily worth his contract.

Texas A&M and Missouri join the SEC: Enjoy the rough reception.
TCU and West Virginia join the Big 12: I actually think both will be very successful -- like among the Top 4 football teams in the league.

July already?

-- D.S.