By David Aldridge, TNT analyst
Posted Apr 8 2009 11:32AM
For months, we have heard about the economic issues facing the NBA, looming collective bargaining troubles, the decline of once-dominant franchises and other potential maladies. Things could be better, to be sure. But all isn't lost. The league has a heaping helping of great young talent and hope in important markets. It would further help the L, though, if the next few months brought the following developments:
1.) It would be good for the league if LeBron, Kobe, Carmelo and Dwyane stay right where they are. A league that isn't geographically competitive tends not to be very strong. Having four of the NBA's top eight players spread across the country, in different time zones, playing vastly different styles, and all being successful, means that fans across the country -- conceivably, at least -- can see some of the game's best players in person. Extensions for all would assure future viability in four very different markets.
2.) It would be good for the league if Blake Griffin goes to Oklahoma City. Obviously, having Griffin -- can I say his name now? -- play professionally 40 minutes from where he starred in college would be huge for the Thunder's bottom line. Oklahoma City's management team has astutely built a promising nucleus, and needs a space-eater inside. But Griffin to OKC would also benefit the league by assuring that Kevin Durant, a superstar in waiting, gets the kind of exposure he deserves as he enters the meat of his career. Durant's game is hellacious, but if the Thunder keep losing 50 games a year, nobody's going to notice.
3.) It would be good for the league if the Clippers trade Baron Davis back to the Warriors. Davis and Mike Dunleavy hate each other. It's not going to work. So send BD back to the bay for Jamal Crawford and Anthony Randolph, whom Nellie is trying to run off the reservation, anyway. The Warriors were one of the most exciting, surprising stories in recent years when they exploded in the '06 playoffs, and Davis was their catalyst. Their long-suffering, incredibly loyal fans deserve a break.
4.) It would be good for the league if Peja Stojakovic's back holds up. When he's right, and knocking down threes -- like he was Tuesday in Miami, in a Fan Night game on NBATV -- the Hornets are a factor in the Western Conference, and they win games, and fans keep filling New Orleans Arena, and Chris Paul doesn't start imagining greener pastures elsewhere. After all the work that thousands of folks have done since Hurricane Katrina to get basketball back to the Big Easy, it would be a shame to see that franchise return to its old bad days.
5.) It would be good for the league if Ricky Rubio comes over from Spain next year. The great wave of Euro-centric talent that helped the league grow in the last decade -- Dirk Nowitzki, Stojakovic, Pau Gasol, Tony Parker -- is collectively pushing 30. And there aren't a lot of international stars in the pipeline. Rubio, the 18-year-old guard playing for Joventut this season, has the entire package -- skills, smarts, looks -- that will make him a star for any of the Lottery teams (but especially Washington, L.A. or New York, with their large Latino populations). A big contract buyout is an issue, but Joventut, like a lot of clubs, is having financial issues, and NBA types are hoping Joventut will agree to a sale that would send Rubio to the States instead of to another Spanish rival.
6.) It would be good for the league if Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson stay out of coaching for another year. JVG and Jax have become a delightful duo on ABC's Sunday games, disagreeing without being disagreeable, obviously knowledgeable (still can't believe Van Gundy, last year, pre-called Kobe Bryant beating the Mavericks for an offensive rebound off a missed free throw that hadn't been missed yet). Unlike many ex-players, Jackson isn't afraid to call out former peers. They're a good team with play-by-play man Mike Breen.
7.) It would be good for the league to give serious consideration to moving the Grizzlies to Seattle for the 2011-12 season. I have nothing against the good people of Memphis, who are doing the best they can. But attendance is flagging. Michael Heisley isn't selling to local owners. John Calipari's departure is a big blow for the Grizzlies, who are financial partners with the University of Memphis. And it's likely the Washington state legislature will be more amenable to committing public funds for a new arena in Seattle to anyone not named Clay Bennett. It's not a perfect or fair solution (or easy, with the Grizz on the hook for $50 million in penalties to the city of Memphis if they try and break their lease at FedEx Forum), but Seattle is a deserving market, with 40 years of near-unflagging support for the Sonics as collateral.
8.) It would be good for the league if the players understand how desperate owners are to cut salaries. There are hard-liners among the owners who want to slash the players' share of revenues from its current 57 percent to less than 50. Draconian? Ridiculous? Maybe. But owners will burn a season if that's what it takes. Another lockout would be catastrophic. The union will not want to contemplate reductions, but in this economy, the give will almost certainly come from labor. Better it come sooner than later -- too late to save the 2011-12 season.
9.) It would be good for the league if more players Twitter during games. The Bucks' Charlie Villanueva got in hot water for sending a Twitter text to fans during halftime of a recent game. But Villanueva pointed out that the TV networks grab players for halftime interviews all the time; what's the difference? (He didn't add, and I will, that we TV people also often tape excerpts from coaches' halftime talks to their players.) Twitter messages are almost comical in their brevity (hot now, drink water); a quick communication from players to their fans during a break isn't going to kill anybody.
10.) It would be good for the league if Tracy McGrady and Allen Iverson return strong next season. They are two of the most popular and talented players in the game, but neither can seem to find the right fit. Here's hoping McGrady recovers from microfracture surgery next year for Houston and continues his career, and Iverson re-considers coming off the bench and re-surfaces next season for a contending team that could use his scoring in reserve.
And now, the masses speak:
So I am trying very hard to be optimistic about the Minnesota Timberwolves. I am a big Al Jefferson fan but I am scared that he will be another KG and leave for greener pastures if they don't get the talent to support him.
-- Jay Lambert, Chicago Heights, Ill.
First, KG didn't leave; Kevin McHale traded him to his good buddy Danny Ainge -- for Al Jefferson. Second, the Wolves are off to a good start, with Kevin Love and Randy Foye, in surrounding Jefferson with good players. Third, Jefferson's knee, from what I hear, is coming around nicely, and there's hope he'll be back strong next season. Fourth, he's under contract for four more years. They have some time. Solving their point guard dilemma is priority one.
You probably are aware that since obtaining Brandon Roy the Trail Blazers have improved by 9 games per season, and are about to do so again (or better) this year. The question I'm left with, though, is with so much young talent, what kind of offseason moves should the Blazers be making?
-- Eric Endsley, Gresham, Ore
I'll be writing about the Blazers and their future (along with some other teams) in the coming days. I know they think they need a veteran point guard, but I've come to the conclusion that that may not necessarily be the best thing. Stay tuned.
I just read your article on the possibility of Allen Iverson reuniting with Larry Brown next season in Charlotte, and I must say that although you make a very intriguing case, it just isn't sitting right with me ... believe me, all of us here in NC would love a piece of the national spotlight. But as much as I would love to see my favorite professional sports team on SportsCenter more often, I would much rather they quietly and methodically build a title contending team.
-- Jack Bedrosian, Boone, N.C.
Fair point, Jack. But I don't think Larry Brown or Michael Jordan is much interested in the slow, agonizing, process of drafting young players and watching them lose for two or three years as they learn how to play in the league. They're both notoriously impatient. You noticed, I'm sure, that Michael wasn't very visible the last two years. Now that the Bobcats are contending for the playoffs, he's almost on their bench. We'll see if they stick with Raymond Felton and/or D.J. Augustin at the point. I'm not so sure.
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