Thursday, July 27, 2006

Sporting News Again

"The summer of sticker shock." Dave D'Alessandro. Sporting News.

It is the nature of the basketball business that teams of a given era tend to sport a pea-pod congruence and appear sufficiently cloned that they cannot be distinguished from one another without the aid of tattoos.

Forget the horribly elongated opening sentence, this is a terrible clai m to make. I'm not sure about you, but I think I can easily tell the Detroit Pistons apart from the Seattle Supersonics without looking at Rasheed's tattoos. Amazing, I know.

Everyone needs a lights-out shooter nowadays, so the Hornets grabbed Peja Stojakovic -- who shot 43.7 percent last year. He will get $64 million over five seasons.


Everyone needs a defensive anchor, so the Bulls threw most of their available bankroll at Ben Wallace -- who was beginning to show age spots last spring. He will receive $60 million over four years.

Don't forget, they also got his tattoos.

Welcome to the cognitive dissonance portion of our program.

Main Entry: cognitive dissonance
Function: noun
psychological conflict resulting from simultaneously held incongruous beliefs and attitudes (as a fondness for smoking and a belief that it is harmful)

Stojakovic and Wallace are accomplished players who could be great again. But when in the past decade -- outside of the Suns-Steve Nash marriage of '04 -- has a team hit a grand slam by spending that kind of green on another team's player?

The more relevant question here would be when has a team spent that kind of green on another team's player in the past decade? Go look it up, it hasn't happened often.

It's just that when you spend that kind of money, you had better make damn sure it gets you over the top. And I'm not so sure it does for the Hornets or Bulls. They have improved, certainly, but how does an offensive albatross such as Wallace get $15 million a season? Or a nondefender like Stojakovic get $13 million per? Why are teams giving franchise money to guys who play only one side of the floor?

Here be the answers in order: (1) because he's one of the top three defenders in the game. (2) because he's one of the top three shooters in the game. (3) because a "franchise" player doesn't need to be the best in the game on both sides.

Then there are the role players. Matt Harpring, Speedy Claxton, Darius Songaila and Joel Przybilla got inflated deals when general managers fooled themselves into thinking that spending their salary cap exception money will make them not only more competitive but more profitable.


Reality check: More than half the teams lost money last season. A dozen teams paid the luxury tax. And the vast majority, it now seems, has to go at least two rounds into the playoffs to make back these salaries.

But, as you said, it's not my problem. I'm just here to add up the score.

Now comes the fun part.


Bulls. The thought doesn't go away that Wallace based his decision on one thing: He wanted to find a coach who could beat him in a stare down. A great defensive team (which fouled too much) has become better. It's a nice mix all around.

Wait, didn't you just bash the Bulls for making a deal that "won't put them over the top?" What of the offensive albatross?

Hornets. They loaded up on athletic bigs in the draft and added Tyson Chandler via trade. Stojakovic and Bobby Jackson figure to give them the veteran edge they need. Don't know how Peja at shooting guard will work, though.

Of course, the Hornets didn't get Stojakovic for his shooting or Bobby Jackson for his speed off the bench. They got them for their "veteran edge," which will surely created 10 additional wins this year. One more thing: didn't you just bash the Stojakovic signing as well? The Hornets, in your estimation, made a bad acquisition and that makes them... a winner?

Clippers. They basically swapped Vladimir Radmanovic for Tim Thomas, which is an upgrade because Thomas can play three positions. More important, they re-signed Sam Cassell, which gives Shaun Livingston one more year of needed apprenticeship. They're still on the rise.

This makes Shaun Livingston sound like a Padawan or something, with Sam Cassell as his Jedi Master. Let's just hope he doesn't turn to the Dark Side... or Darth Livingston may take over the NBA.


Nuggets. Nene got $60 million. For a guy who has averaged 10.7 points and 6.2 rebounds in his career, the Nuggets may not have been bidding against anybody but themselves.

No argument.

Lakers. They signed Radmanovic (for 31 large, yikes) and Shammond Williams, which means they're just one stooge short of a routine.

No argument again, but if this is supposed to be funny... I don't know what to say to you.

Timberwolves. This makes it seven teams in 38 months for Mike James. That doesn't make him a bad guy, but think about the tendencies that have made him the Peripatetic Point.

Seven teams in 38 months? Are you serious? Either way, if you watched him play even once this year in Toronto, you would know that he's definitely capable.

Knicks. Sorry, just a habit.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

Jury's out

Haha, I love that the description for this article reads "Don't feel bad if you can't believe some of the money that's been thrown around in the NBA this season — neither can Dave D'Alessandro. But he's not too shocked to pick his summer winners and losers," and that he ends it with a "Jury's Out" section. Hilarious.

Pistons. The knee-jerk chorus says losing Wallace is a death knell, but for the Pistons to go to $60 million would have been insane. He will turn 32 in September, his skills have declined and he was personally responsible for shrinking the Pistons' playbook by 50 percent. They needed a change. Nazr Mohammed and Flip Murray will be solid contributors, and Detroit will be formidable again.

That is absurd. Ben Wallace's offensive ineptness accounted for 50% of the Pistons' playbook?! 50%? Basically your claim is that had the Pistons had a better shooting center or whatever, they would have run 50% of their plays for him (or at least through him)? I thought claiming that David Stern wanted to "abolish defense" was the height of idiocy, but I'm forced to reconsider.

Nets. Last summer, after a bunch of doctors nixed the Shareef Abdur-Rahim idea, the Nets earmarked $11 million toward a new bench (Marc Jackson, Jeff McInnis, Scott Padgett, Lamond Murray). This summer, they decided to build a bench through the draft, and they expect to have three rookies in the rotation. Sitting out this market is logical for a tax-paying team, but the Nets still are one big away from contention.

So basically they know they're one "big" away, and yet they're still sitting around doing nothing. And all this after rejecting a "big" last summer. How this exempts them from qualifying as "losers" only Dave D'Alessandro would know.

Dave D'Alessandro is the NBA writer for The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J.

Dave D'Alessandro's got nothing on Bill Walton.