Wednesday, July 11

Chauncey Billups: A Conflict of Interests

What's on your mind, Chauncey?

Everybody and anybody keeping track of the free agency pool this year has got to be already heads up with Chauncey Billups resigning with the Detroit Pistons. Now, it seems that Chauncey Billups will indeed be the face of the Pistons franchise of 2000; will he be one of the most beloved players the franchise has ever had, enough to have his jersey recognized and lifted up into the rafters a decade from now? Only time can spell that answer.

However, it is definitely mind-bending to try and understand the hidden agendas that the general managers and the players themselves try to impose on, no matter how unhidden they are. The resigning of Chauncey Billups follows two brilliant theories, which are also two theories that very well contradict each other. One theory is the 'Make More Money Theory', which was brought to light by none other than Agent Zero (Gilbert Arenas) himself; while the other theory, 'Joe Dumars is a Mad Genius', is generated by both Chris McCosky of The Detroit News and Tom Ziller of The Fanhouse. Both of which seem very brilliant, realistic, and feasible; which is the problem because if that is so: then Chauncey Billups will become a very unhappy fellow.

Dwelling on Gilbert Arenas' contractual lingering, here are some of the highlights of his rant:
What is hard for anybody else to understand besides people in the NBA industry to understand that, on my contract, it’s basically the same thing that Ben Wallace did but without the trade and the same thing that Chauncey is doing.

Now, if you don’t make the max money but you become a max player during the time frame of your original contract, you have to opt out to get the max money.

This has nothing to do with me leaving or trying to look for other teams. I have to do it:

1. To get more years and
2. To increase my pay.

It’s the same thing Chauncey was doing. Chauncey was getting paid four to five million dollars in his contract, and if he extends he’s only going to make 12.5 percent on that amount, which will put him at six million or so. But, if he opts out of that contract, he could possibly start at 10.

In simpler terms: Gilbert Arenas wants to opt out of the last year of his contract to make more money. If he gets a contract extension, he will only receive a 12.5% increase on his salary; on the flip note, if he opts out of his contract and then gets resigned instead, he could start with a much higher increase on his salary. Brilliant? Could be. Arenas claims that Chauncey Billups is doing the same thing this year, as Chauncey suggested "testing the market" regarding his contract option, but that's not where the story ends.

Coming over to the side of Joe Dumars' tactics, here's what the Fanhouse, with the help of McCosky, had to say about the situation of Billups:
Just two weeks ago, people were using Amir's name and the full midlevel in the same sentence. But no one has made Johnson an offer (as far as the known world knows, at least). Why? McCosky explains:
Joe Dumars has made it clear across the league that he was matching any offer for Johnson, so teams have pretty much stayed away.
Sound familiar? This is exactly what happened with Chauncey Billups, and Dumars locked him up with the most reasonable contract imaginable. So Dumars -- by using the media to insist he won't let his free agents get away at any cost -- gets his free agents at reduced costs.
Amir Johnson is close to being locked up by the Detroit Pistons. Despite his tremendous play in the summer leagues and undying potential for the future, no team has yet to offer Johnson a contract save for Joe Dumars. McCoscy explains that it's because Dumars has scared away all suitors by putting his foot down on the signing issue. Tom Ziller of The Fanhouse claims that this is the same strategy that Dumars used on resigning Chauncey Billups. Joe Dumars is going to match any offer that opposing teams make on Chauncey, so why bother right? Thus, the Pistons resign Chauncey at a much cheaper cost as opposed to trying to match offers with other suitors.

Here's where the story twists: If what Gilbert Arenas said is true and Chauncey DOES want more money by opting out, and if the strategy of Joe Dumars in reacquiring free agents is also true; then where does that leave Chauncey Billups? Chauncey Billups wants more money, but Joe Dumars blueprinted a way to lock up multi-million star Chauncey Billups for a price much lower than what Billups could have gotten from other teams given his intangibles and skills as a player. Do we have an unhappy Chauncey Billups?

Love and passion for the game and the team should always come first over money and contracts in moral terms, and maybe that's the real reason why Billups resigned with the Pistons; but why did he have to test the market other than the reason for acquiring a large contract? A possible reason would be the search for a championship contender better than the wailing Detroit Pistons; but with Dumars' antics, didn't that also stifle possible offers from championship contenders such as the Dallas Mavericks? Do we have an unhappier Chauncey Billups?

A major conflict of interests? Indeed, a big one. Once Billups inks the deal, it all becomes official. Only then will the world be certain regarding the outcome of the decision of Chauncey Billups as his years begin to unfold.

Thursday, July 5

Defibrillating The Career of Steve Francis

Poor guy...

Balloons were popped and champaign was poured. It was a night when dreams were made and hearts were broken. It was a day which saw a handful of youngsters hoping to be given the opportunity to embark on a journey towards basketball supremacy, and some for even more. As the doors closed and the telephones fell silent, one man felt a sudden resurgence in his basketball career that he had not felt in a very long time. Through all the draft picks and draft day trades, this man was given a second chance; a second shot to revive his career out of the slums of mediocrity. This man is "Steve-O". No, not the dude from Jackass, but he can be considered one as well. It is a shame to see careers that lift off and go the distance in a vertical horizon only to suddenly plummet to the ground in one swift instance. Welcome to the career of Steve Francis.

Steve Francis was a walking condition-bomb; wherein he had to be kept under a certain condition to prevent him from going off. Everyone knew it, but there was little to be done and so many willing to take the risk and hone this potential superstar. He was selected as the 2nd overall pick in the 1999 draft by the Vancouver Grizzlies, and blatantly detested playing in Canada. Seriously, why does everyone hate Canada? He then swore to make the Chicago Bulls regret selecting Elton Brand ahead of him in the 1st overall pick. Without a choice, the Grizzlies traded Francis to the Houston Rockets where Francis made an ass, err.. a career out of himself and earned the name Steve Franchise. The catalyst to containing the potentially-mercurial point guard? Cuttino Mobley. Francis and Mobley not only created an explosive back court, but a lasting friendship as well; even as they were traded together to the Orlando Magic.

A strand of hair was holding the composure of Steve Francis, and that strand of hair was suddenly blown by a gust of wind; and before anyone knew it, Steve Francis broke down. The Orlando Magic traded away the best friend of Steve Francis, and he slowly deteriorated until he was never the same again. Francis fell into a deep slump in the following season which had everyone scratching their heads wondering what went wrong with the league's best point guard. He had lost the love and passion for the game. When it finally came down to it, Steve Francis got himself thrown off the team. He was shipped off to the New York Knicks in hopes of creating one of the most feared back courts in the league at the side of Stephon Marbury; which never materialized as his entire tenure with the New York Knicks was hobbled by recurring injuries. Now, nobody really knows of Steve Francis anymore and he'll only be referred to as "Oh yeah! Him!" when his name is mentioned. One of the best point guards of his time has become an unknown shadow with a single Wink (pun intended). The Chicago Bulls won't be regretting selecting Elton Brand over Steve Francis anymore, so it seems.

The resurrection: On June 28, draft day, The New York Knicks sent Steve Francis packing to the Portland Trailblazers. This is where the resurrection of Steve Francis' career begins. After his sudden plummet from the sky, Steve Francis has finally received the ultimate opportunity to start anew. His career is on the orange zone leaving him with only a few years left if he does indeed remain healthy, but it's a new start nonetheless to try and salvage a few remaining squeezes out of his supposed-superstar career. He has a great opportunity to start and lead his new team with the draft-of-the-decade's ultimate prize at his disposal at the post, and a new back court partner to try and rekindle the burned out flames in his heart after it was broken by the Orlando Magic separation. The only question remaining, other than the health of Steve Francis, is if he still believes that he has an opportunity: Does the man that possesses the killer crossovers and the lethal ankle breakers along with the thunderous slam dunks still exist, or is he now a dead log sitting alone beside the swamp without even the company of the frogs or the flies? He has the support of the world behind his back, especially the ones who used to idolize and look up to the great point guard that he was, but when it all comes down to it, it will be his decision and his will to revive his career. It takes a lifetime to build a career but a few wrong turns can send it tumbling down quickly with much regards to Steve Francis, but that's not the hard part; is he going to have the confidence to climb back up or waste away like Isaiah Rider did?

Pull yourself together Steve, you're not out of it yet.

Wednesday, July 4

Off-Season Review Part 2/30: The Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics: 24-58

Key player performance

Paul Pierce: Last season, Paul Pierce became one of the greatest examples of futility and a burn-out by a basketball player in a season. Pierce is playing in the prime of his career, and displayed one of the best regular seasons of his days last season; unfortunately, his team was going the opposite direction. Pierce sat out half the season, with majority of the games coming as the season was coming to an end. Either Pierce was really hampered by injuries, or he gave up on the season completely. Pierce is an overall great guy: basketball player, business man, and family man, and people can attest to that; but Paul Pierce looks TIRED. Tired of playing? Maybe. Tired of losing? Probably. His eye bags have grown and he slouches on the bench in his designer clothes looking on as the score runs up against his team. What an incredible waste of talent, especially with the outcome of last season. It is an amazement that Pierce has yet to cry foul and demand a trade. Somebody get this guy some wins, please!

Al Jefferson: Al is one of the few bright spots in a plane of dark apathy of failure that is the Boston Celtics of the present; and he carries one major goal for himself and for all the other million Celtics-fans across the globe: spread the brightness and carry Boston back up to the peak. Al Jefferson, coming out of his 3rd season, showed tremendous improvements in his game during the past season. The season was an overall failure for the Celtics, including the off-season, but Al Jefferson gave hope for the franchise after surprising everyone with his dominance in the low-post. From an underachieving sophomore, to one of the most powerful post presences in the league, defensively and offensively. It's a surprise Jefferson did not win the Most Improved Player Award; only because a number of other players vastly improved as well. He has a streak of Zach Randolph on him, so look for him to break out next season the same way Randolph did a few years ago.

Delonte West: A decent guard that has flourished in some clutch situations. The most notable moment would be a game-winning shot against the Charlotte Bobcats early on in the season from a kick-out pass by Paul Pierce. Delonte is a young player, and has already shown toughness in his career through a number of breakout games last season; although his minutes were moved back late in the season. It was a valiant effort by Delonte to try and lead the Celtics to a respectable regular season showing, but never really got to that point. Expect him to further improve his game... Seattle.

Team review:

The Boston Celtics continued their dismal display of basketball yet again this season winning only 24 games out of a possible 82. Their awful campaign came to its climax with a lengthy 18-game losing streak stemming from January 7 all the way to February 14; with the streak-breaking win coming at the expense of the Milwaukee Bucks. The 6th longest losing streak in the history of the NBA tarnished the reputation of what was once the proudest franchise in all of basketball. After the fallout, everyone knew that the Celtics were done for the season. The best thing left to do was to skip futile efforts, sit Paul Pierce, and let the young guns play the garbage games and try to develop their games. It is still questionable as of the moment whether Pierce really did decide to sit it out and disguise it with a "season-ending injury", but the weariness in his face was evident. After the incident, the media along with a bucketful of fans, watchers, and such, accused the Boston Celtics of tanking to try and get the worst record in the league for the best chance to acquire one of the top 2 picks in the draft. Nobody really knows for sure whether it was a purposeful disgrace of the game or the Celtics just couldn't win, but Doc Rivers still got his contract extension nonetheless for his efforts in coaching the team to the 2nd worst record in the league. Unfortunately, luck was never on the Celtics' side as the draft that was 19-years in the making fell towards the favor of Portland and Seattle. The disappointed Celtics, which acquired a "low" pick at #5, decided to trade their pick for Ray Allen. An act of desperation? Or a subtly genius trade? Although all signs point to the former, check it out next season.

Player transactions:

An obviously disgruntled Celtics front-office drafted G-Town forward Jeff Green with the 5th overall pick and shortly after traded the rights to Green, along with Wally Sczerbiak and Delonte West, to the Seattle Supersonics for Ray Allen. It seems like an act of desperation, and the world is asking how the hell will Ray Allen fit in with the Boston Celtics? Ray Allen did fine with the Sonics considering Rashard Lewis dwells more on the post area and Ray Allen controls the perimeter, but can the same combination work with the Celtics? Well, why not? It looks good on paper, but it can turn out to be bad on the court itself if the two can't find a way to coexist; much like Steve Francis and Stephon Marbury. On the flip note, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are both good citizens and good people who have developed their service and humility; in other words, they're old and don't belong to the new generation of luxury and thuganomix. They will indeed find a way to coexist without hogging the ball from each other; given the fact that Paul Pierce is versatile enough to play through anywhere on the floor. It's an exciting wait for the outcome, unfortunately it will be short-lived as both Allen and Pierce are approaching wear and tear within the next give-or-take 5 years. Shame.

Let's expect:

The total productivity of the Boston Celtics will rely heavily on the coexistence of Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. However, it is already quite a guarantee that the Celtics will improve next season as compared to the last one. Unfortunately, there's an eerie foreboding from out of nowhere that's whispering that both Allen and Pierce will be out for long periods of time during the season due to injuries. If the two stay healthy though, along with Al Jefferson, the playoffs is not an impossibility.

Potential starting line-up:

C - Kendrick Perkins
PF - Al Jefferson
SF - Paul Pierce
SG - Ray Allen
PG - Rajon Rondo

Injury-riddled? or surprisingly blended? Watch out for the Boston Celtics next season..

Full Court NBA Blog will be reviewing the teams of the NBA, how they fared last season, and what is expected of them next season with the current off-season moves that have taken place. Feel free to e-mail your thoughts and suggestions regarding any team at any time.

Tuesday, July 3

Off-Season Review Part 1/30: The Atlanta Hawks

Atlanta Hawks: 30-52

Key player performance

Joe Johnson: Joe played the best regular season performance in his career as of the moment, and history points to him only getting better next year; much like he has each year in an increasing rate. He averaged over 30 points in the first few games of the season leading the Hawks to a 9-4 start. Supposedly one of the elite scorers as of the present, Joe was sidelined midway through the season and played in only 57 games.

Josh Smith: "Growing up before our very eyes" was the phrase most commonly used to describe the young Josh Smith last season, and why wouldn't it be? Smith showed flashes of dominance by scoring over 20 points and grabbing over 15 rebounds and swatting some 5 shots in some games late in the season. Although he is erratic in game concentration (fumbling inbound passes) and good decision making (shot selection), and he can't hit long-range shots to save his life; it was nonetheless an overall improvement for Josh. Although he is referred to by some as a "jerk".

Marvin Williams: Although Marvin Williams is a "bust", considering the fact of how high he was selected in the draft and as compared to the others who were selected after him (namely Deron Williams and Chris Paul), Marvin Williams is OK. Come on, that draft class was weak as hell save for picks #3 and #4. As a consolation for selecting a "bust", the Hawks found themselves a solid forward like any other solid forward in the league. Score some, rebound some, and puts up a decent 1-on-1 defense, and nothing more; although his turnovers were a killer.

Team review:

The Hawks started out pretty fast going 9-4 in their first 13 games, highlighted by a 4-game winning streak that had everybody jumping out of their seats in surprise of the young Atlanta Hawks. However, it was a landslide from there and the Hawks found themselves way down low once again. The Hawks were too young, and they lacked a few pieces. Of course, a season-ending injury in the middle of the season to their rising-star Joe Johnson didn't help at all, although they were pretty much deep in the hole anyway by that time. The Hawks found it difficult to actually get anything done, relying heavily on plays that began at the perimeter; mainly because they worked with a "point guard" in Speedy Claxton and a much referred to as a "poor-man's Brad Miller" in Zaza Pachulia. Tyronn Lue is available, but he's only as much as a kick-in-the-nuts from the bench. The Hawks have had a void in the PG and C positions for quite some time now, and it's about time that it has been addressed after a continuous roll of poor player transactions (Pau Gasol for Shareef Abdur-Rahim, nice going). Overall, the core of the Atlanta Hawks team is very young but don't count them out as they showed vast improvement this year compared to the preceding seasons.

Player transactions:

The Atlanta Hawks are FINALLY draft winners. The higher gamble would have been to take Conley with the 3rd pick and a second-rate center with the 11th, but the Atlanta Hawks decided to take the safe route: Taking the "dominant big man" route by selecting Al Horford at 3rd, and selecting the second best point guard in the draft, Acie Law, at 11th (mainly because there aren't really many good point guards in the draft). However, the "best point guard" in the draft is still debatable between Law and Conley, with Conley receiving the edge for going further in the NCAA Tournament and playing with nuts of steel. The Atlanta Hawks have finally addressed the two main voids in their roster: A center and a point guard. Although time may be the only one that can tell if Al Horford can indeed bang bodies with the biggest of them, Acie Law could be a shoo-in for boosting the Atlanta Hawks. Acie Law is often compared to the "awesome" Sam Cassell, and his play in the NCAA Tournament shows he is a proven scorer.

Let's expect:

Atlanta is entering a new era of Hawks basketball, symbolized by the new Atlanta Hawks jerseys. With the Atlanta Hawks' lineup finally intact, look for them to boost their regular season performance. Making the playoffs is still questionable with two of their potential-starters still rookies, but improvement nonetheless is an expectation. The Atlanta Hawks are a very very young team, being led by 26-year old Joe Johnson, so look for them to make their mark as one of the East's elite within the next 2 or 3 years. The future of the Hawks franchise is bright.

Potential starting line-up:

C - Al Horford
PF - Marvin Williams
SF - Josh Smith
SG - Joe Johnson
PG - Acie Law

Next season will be like testing the waters, but the playoffs is not an impossibility.

Full Court NBA Blog will be reviewing the teams of the NBA, how they fared last season, and what is expected of them next season with the current off-season moves that have taken place. Feel free to e-mail your thoughts and suggestions regarding any team at any time.