With the trade deadline complete, we can now turn our attention to the last stretch of the regular season, and what promises to be a historically close finish in the Western conference. How competitive, you ask? Well, if the Clips, who are currently in 4th place, lose a game, they'll drop to ninth. Yep. It's that competitive. Feeling the heat, Vinny of the Black?
But I don't feel like talking about the Clips (as much as I like the Nick Young acquisition and hating on Vinny Del Negro). Instead, on tap for this week: getting pumped about the Blazers, getting grumpy about Dwight, and getting weepy about the Hornets good fortune. Let's get to it!
1. The Darkest Day in Trailblazers History?
The trade deadline marked the offical end of the championship dream in Portland, Oregon. Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby, two starters, were shipped off for a mix of young players and draft picks. Greg Oden, the top pick in the 2007 draft, was waived, a move that had been predicted since the Blazers announced that his season would end (or, never begin) due to another microfracture surgery. And, most importantly, Nate McMillan, whose coaching and mentorship had transformed the team from inglorious Jailblazers to respectable players, was let go. The reins were handed to 34 year old Kaleb Canales, an assistant on McMillan's staff. The Blazers unstable front office is no longer focused on winning games to keep playing into April, but instead looking ahead to June, and securing the best position they can in the reportedly deep 2012 NBA draft.
Many eulogies have already been written about the Blazers. Too many, in fact. This is an undeniably sad story that has claimed many victims in its wake. But, those lamentations are growing stale. Yes, Brandon Roy and Greg Oden seemed like great players and people. Nate McMillan was an icon of northwest basketball, who fittingly coached both the Sonics and the Blazers. There could have been deep playoff runs. Championships, even. But that won't happen now. At least not immediately. But again, we've talked about this for a few years now. It's time to move on, like the Blazers did this past Thursday.
What does the future hold? The Blazers seemingly are blowing this operation up at the right time. They are still equipped with a quality players in LaMarcus Aldrige and Nic Batum that could be conceivably be built around. Their new coach, Kaleb Canales, has been praised for his work ethic, and is drawing early positive reviews, from his player. And perhaps most significantly, the Blazers now have a variety of options in terms of rebuilding their team. They picked up some young (though not terribly promising) players from Houston in Jonny Flynn and Hasheem Thabeet. And they did grab a second round pick from Houston and a top-three protected first round pick from New Jersey, which could be used, or packaged with current assets. For a front office that is reportedly lacking leadership, these were some gutsy moves.
So hard as it may be, it's time to bid farewell to the Blazers dynasty that never was, and look forward to whatever evolves over the next several years.
2. The Circus Never Ends.
So, after months of buildup and hype, nothing happened with Dwight Howard, the Magic, or anyone else. Dude decided to sign an early termination offer waiver, and offically opt-in to the final year of his deal. This, of course, means that we can look forward to the same empty analysis from our overlords at ESPN for the next 18 months. Dave D'Alessandro of the Newark Star-Ledger said it best earlier this weekend: "This is still the only league that makes its biggest news when absolutely nothing happens, which is a recurring hype-over-substance lesson that most of us never seem to tire from or even anticipate."
Well, D'Alessandro may be right about the anticipate part. While I didn't anticipate Dwight getting traded, I also didn't anticipate him opting in for another year. But I am certainly tired of the circus. I think most folks are, fans and pundits alike. In fact, of all of the Superstar-Drafting Franchise divorces I've witnessed over the past two seasons or so, I think Dwight's is, by far, the most obnoxious of them all. I've got a few baseless theories as to why this might be the case.
1. Dwight Howard is the best center in the league due to circumstance, not skill, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out. It is really hard to visualize Dwight dominating in the 1990s, when Shaq, Dream, Ewing, and even lesser guys like Rik Smits, Alonzo Mourning, and Dikembe Mutombo were more than holding their own. Dwight's post game still seems unimaginitve, and far less developed than most of the guys I listed above. He has developed no game outside of 10 feet, and does most of his work from the free throw line (and not terribly efficiently, either). Dwight Howard has ascended to the place of "Most Dominant Big Man" because his competition was weak.
2. This entire saga, which has already gone on too long, and now figures to go on even longer, has already had it's fair share of, "Are you fucking serious, Dwight?" moments. Like the time he said that he didn't want to play with Kobe because he wouldn't be the alpha dog. Are you fucking serious, Dwight? Or, the time that he basically said that his point guard wasn't good enough to win a championship. Are you fucking serious, Dwight? Or the time he said he wouldn't consider a trade to the already-great-and-likely-unstoppable-if-he-joined-them Chicago Bulls because it was already Derrick Rose's team, and he wouldn't get the fair share of the spotlight. Are you fucking serious, Dwight? Or, my new personal favorite, when he told each teammate individually what they needed to do to win a title, and then told the team he currently plays for to "roll the dice" on him leaving over the summer, and not trade him now. Are you fucking serious, Dwight?!?!
3. No one really likes Dwight Howard, or the Orlando Magic, anyways. Their superstar is an overgrown child, their coach is an occasionally hilarious but consistently negative bridge troll, and their GM seems to have little clue about how to do his job. Who the hell cares what happens to the Magic?
But I guess I should just shut up and get used to it. Are you fucking serious, Dwight?
3. Sorry, Seattle.
First, the Kings. Now, the Hornets. Seattle's chances of getting a team seem to be diminishing by the day.
This Friday, Louisiana Governor/Probable Anti-Christ Bobby Jindal announced a new lease agreement between the State of Louisiana and the New Orleans Hornets that will keep the team in New Orleans until at least 2024, provided the sale of the team goes forward as planned. According to the press release from Jindal's office, the agreement will "include funding for upgrades to the New Orleans Arena and eliminate all exit options, attendance benchmarks, and financial inducements." Jindal and the State of Louisiana project that the new lease agreement will "save the state at least $72 million in operating subsidies," and will not require any new taxes "to fund any aspect of the proposed agreement." It is thought that this agreement between Louisiana and the Hornets represents the final requirement for the NBA to approve the sale of the team to an out-of-state buyer -- the elimination of exit options and attendance benchmarks all but keeps the team in New Orleans, even if the owner lives and works out of state.
Well, what about the Grizzlies, who according to owner Michael Heisley, have always been for sale? Some interesting news about them came out over the weekend, but it's not looking too good for Seattle, either. Reportedly, Heisley and Larry Ellison, the third richest man in the USA, have been talking dollars and cents about the Grizzlies. Heisley has always preferred to sell the team to a Memphian, but no one has stepped up to the plate thus far. Problem is that if Ellison buys the team, he'd likely move them to San Jose, or another location in the South Bay. Heisley said that it was "a long shot" that the sale was completed, but if Ellison can meet Heisley's asking price of $350 million, who knows? But in any case, it doesn't seem likely that the Grizz will be coming to our brand new arena, whenever it gets built.
If you're hungry for gold and green basketball in the Emerald City, your sights should be on Charlotte, North Carolina, and the 7-36 Bobcats. If anyone's coming here, it's going to be them.