I know that by now I should probably be burnt out on NBA free agency. But I’m not. I’m just as enticed as ever, with no hint of the rumors and signings losing any luster. And I’m betting many of you feel the same way. Part of it of course, is that I have a dog in the hunt (Clippers), but my interest is also due to the insanity of some of these deals.
Darko, Gay and Amir Johnson all signing for huge contracts? PINCH ME! Please NBA GMs, PLEASE continue the madness. It’s intoxicating.
Sounds to me like it’s time to open the inbox and answer some reader mail…
Alex, Los Angeles
Why do I feel so embarrassed right now? I feel like the Clippers totally blew it with LeBron James. Sure it was a long shot at best, but still! Why are they so disappointing in every way?
Ben: I received a few of these comments and have read several fans, who on various social networking sites, have expressed similar sentiments. But though Clips fans have endless scarring to blame for their typical Eeyore-syndrome blues, I don’t see any reason to fault their one-hour pitch to the King in Cleveland.
Do we REALLY think LBJ needs or wants to sit through a three-hour pitch, like he had to endure when the Knicks came to town? Why? LeBron is an enormous star, he doesn’t need to talk to four celebrities, go through a 90-minute Power Point presentation AND hear the owner, GM, coach and former home team hero, all sell their cases for signing with them. It’s the same reason why he showed up for the first round of meetings – with New Jersey and New York – in sweatpants. LBJ has already done his homework and knows what each team brings to the table. He isn’t looking to be wooed right now. Giving him what he wants is a total given. Saying a team is expected to cater to him is like saying guys like buffalo wings, beer and boobs. Totally unnecessary. Likely, LeBron just wants affirmation that once his name is on the dotted line, owners and GMs won’t suddenly cease the pursuit of championship caliber talent.
The Clippers sent the illustrious tag-team of acting general manager Neil Olshey and team executive Andy Roeser, to make a simple one-hour pitch, centered around their young, talented roster, a video from the team to James, a list of LeBron’s favorite L.A. places to visit/ dine at and likely, this letter to potential free agent acquisitions from point guard, Baron Davis. And if they didn’t include that Baron Davis letter in their presentation, they should have.
But I’m positive LBJ has seen it. And it’s the right message to send. Winning is key. Money is secondary. A great city, full of bright lights and business potential is third. The Clips have the young and GOOD pieces in place to compete right now and for the foreseeable future, can offer roughly the same amount of money as the other suitors, and is home to Hollywood.
Check, check and CHECK.
Tim, North Hollywood
The dream is dead. It’s all over Twitter that LeBron and Wade are in deep with the Bulls. Clippers fail again.
Ben: This last Clippers e-mail and then I’ll move on. I swear.
I’ve heard the LeBron and Wade potential tandem in Chi-Town rumors. I’ve heard the rumors of those two in Chicago, with Bosh joining the party via a sign-and-trade for Luol Deng and a blown alternator. But the rumor that I BELIEVE in the most, is Wade and Bosh signing on to run with Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and company.
Look, before the madness began, I guessed that LeBron and Bosh would end up playing for the Bulls. But that prediction was like throwing darts in the dark. You may have a general idea of where the board is, but hitting your target blind is going to take a ton of luck. The reason Wade is likely so suddenly interested in his home town’s team, is one that we’ve ignored all along. Yes D-Wade has preferred to stay in Miami, but only on the condition of Pat Riley luring significant upgrades along with him.
So if Joe Johnson re-signs with Atlanta, Amar’e Stoudamire goes to New York and LeBron is leaning towards staying in Cleveland or moving onto Chicago, New Jersey or Los Angeles; why WOULDN’T Wade attempt to commit to the Bulls early and snake Bosh from LBJ in the process?
It makes too much sense.
Strangely, if you happen to root for L.A.’s other team, you should absolutely be foaming at the mouth over Wade and Bosh’s Chicago flirting. Because if that happens, the Clippers suddenly shoot up LeBron’s wish list, possibly becoming the favorites. Chicago would be out for obvious cap room reasons but Miami would also be out, because there is no chance LBJ signs on in South Beach without Wade or Bosh. It’s just not happening. Cleveland’s roster won’t have magically gotten better, nor will New Jersey’s. And the Knicks may then have Amar’e, but I think LeBron would rather play in L.A. with Griffin/Davis/Gordon/Kaman than New York with Amar’e/Gallinari/Curry.
I’m willing to bet if you didn’t take that rhetorically, than the first three words out of your mouth were, “But Donald Sterling…” and the next five were, “is the spawn of Satan.”
While no one will confuse Sterling with a missionary, he has spent the last half-decade attempting to shed his penny-pinching image. With his players anyway.
By making a serious run at Kobe in ’04, extending Chris Kaman’s expensive contract in ’06, spending on Baron Davis in ’08 and trying to bring back Elton Brand the same year, Sterling has proven he is willing to spend to put a winner on the court. Trust me, LeBron has been paying attention.
Does that mean he will sign with an owner who is accused of running businesses with hints of racism and has more than once, balked on paying the salaries of fired coaches? No, it doesn’t. In fact, I would still be surprised – and completely giddy – if the dominoes fall perfectly and LBJ actually picks the Clippers. It is a long-shot.
But I also don’t think LeBron is quite as down on Sterling as most everyone else, and if Wade and Bosh steal Chicago from him, Los Angeles then becomes a real option.
(Furiously fanning myself with a four-leaf clover…)
Will I be the worst signing of the year?
Ben: At four years/$20-million? God yes. You might be the worst signing EVER.
No ‘overpaid’ conversation would be complete without me.
Ben: Duly noted.
I would have yanked off my “this little piggy went wee-wee-wee all the way home” toe with a set of needle-nosed pliers, if the Clippers had wasted $80-million on Rudy Gay.
What a comical contract.
Paul Pierce, Location Unknown
Where do I end up?
Ben: Back in Boston. But I’m not convinced Ray Allen will be joining you.
Not sure I buy Warrick, but good riddance to Amare all the same. In your opinion, who signed the best deal so far?
Ben: Best deal? As in, best deal for the player or team? Rudy Gay would be my answer to the former, anytime you swindle your employer for more than three times your actual worth, you’re a winner in my book.
But best VALUE signing to this point would probably have to be Steve Blake and his four-year, $16-million contract with the Lakers. For these five reasons…
1.) They now get to wave goodbye to Jordan Farmar.
And by, “wave goodbye” I clearly mean, “collectively moon as he speeds away in a taxi.”
(Possibly setting off a fart-bomb in his suitcase, for a farewell surprise to be discovered later.)
2.) No more relying on Derek Fisher.
3.) Blake is a great three point shooter. He shot over 39 percent from the arc last year.
4.) Age and contract wise, Blake fits right in with the current, Kobe/Gasol/Artest/Odom time-line.
5.) He won’t clog the lane, allowing the triangle to run correctly.
(Or something like that.)
And if I were to add a sixth reason, it would be that they snagged Blake for less than the mid-level exception. Sure four years is a sizable commitment for a guy like Blake, but the Lakers will deal with the tail-end of his contract later. They have laser-locked the next two years straight in their sights and will figure out the more distant future when they get there.
So sick of the NBA. It’s baseball season and I’m getting desperate with all the lame injuries. What first half stud do you see flaming out or what dud do you see lighting up the second half? Thanks.
Ben: Totally fair. Let’s talk some baseball.
Let me fire a few names your way, for sizzles about to fizzle…
Alex Rios (.312-AVG, 13-HR, 22-SB): Either you believe in Alex Rios, or you don’t. And I don’t. In six seasons, Rios has had only two that could even be considered very good. He has hit over 17 homers exactly once (24 in 2007), so that leads me to believe he’s pretty much maxed out his power.
Scott Rolen (.302-AVG, 17-HR, 56-RBI): I would love to buy-in, but I just can’t do it. The 35-year-old hasn’t played in 145 games since 2003. I smell an injury coming. If not an injury than a slump.
Jamie Garcia (8-4, 2.10-ERA, 1.22-WHIP): The St. Louis rookie is talented but not THIS talented. Since May 31st he has given up 15 of his 22 total earned runs. If you can get something good for him, I say deal him.
Also, while I wouldn’t quite prognosticate a “fizzle” in his second half forecast, let’s just say that I would be cautiously optimistic with Ubaldo Jimenez. I know, I know, the guy has been absolutely FILTHY. Just sick good. But he can’t keep up this pace… CAN HE?
As for current duds who will have studly finishes? Let’s go with Zach Greinke, Dan Haren (will get traded), Chone Figgins (already in process, only you probably didn’t know due to his .232 average) and Jason Heyward (whose thumb will have healed).
What shocks you more; that Heyward is on my current list of duds, or that you kinda sorta forgot that he was alive?
The Stealth is the kind of player who doesn’t use injuries as an excuse and keeps on chugging through them. It took him about a month (sustained the injury in May, but wasn’t placed on the DL until June 27) to acknowledge the thumb was bad enough to sit him down. His play suffered the entire time, as a direct result from having to alter his grip on the bat and change his swing slightly. Once Heyward comes back healthy, expect him to resume his reign of terror on the NL East.
How do you feel about waiting around for your stars on the DL right now? Should I pick up a crappy free agent replacement? Should I make a trade? Or should I wait around for them? How long is too long to give an injured dude a pass, waiting out his DL stint?
Ben: Depends who you are talking about. If you are talking about guys like Heyward, Utley, Pedroia or V-Mart, I would likely wait out the injury and just plug in a free agent replacement player in the meantime. Depending on your lineup needs of course. I know waiting two months for Utley sounds like Chinese water torture, but his thumb surgery went well and he should be pain free upon his return. I have also heard rumblings that many believe that his hip might not have been totally healthy. If those rumblings have any validity, than eight weeks worth of rest should help him there too. Utley is the type of player that I’d actually be looking to trade FOR, stash on the DL for a couple of months, and then bust out as a late-season ringer.
Why does France’s president feel the need to get involved with their soccer team? Ours is of no national concern to the White House.
Ben: I don’t know, but it makes me giggle like a school girl. Then again, France would probably point out that for half a decade, our Congress has been involved in the steroid mess. So we do have that gigantic meddling strike against us.
Give us one guy who wasn’t on your preseason top 30 keepers list, who would be now. And who would you take off the list to include him?
Ben: Chris, because I’d feel dirty just saying I’d add Jiminez to my Most Untradeable Fantasy Keepers list and bumping Tommy Hanson or Pablo Sandoval, here are three guys who deserve to be in the most untradeable keepers conversation:
Jimenez: Because his stuff has been beyond filthy. And yes I said I’d only be cautiously optimistic about his second half potential, but as good as he has been, with even a moderate dip in production, he’d still be excellent and worth hanging onto.
Andre Ethier: Put it this way, I’d rather have Ethier than Dodgers teammate Matt Kemp right now or for the foreseeable future. No player has taken as big of a hit in his fantasy value as Matt Kemp has. At least in the top tiers anyway.
Josh Hamilton: Is Hamilton a gamble? Yes. Is he a gamble worth taking? Probably so. Does the thought of investing in him make me wet my pants a little? Most definitely. But the guy has been a machine and he hit nearly .500 in June.
Thanks for the great questions everyone and as always, if you’d like to crack the next mailbag, send questions or comments here.