By Vince Thomas, for NBA.com
Posted Jul 7 2009 12:53PM
I can't tell you how many times I read on Twitter, Facebook and in my Blackberry inbox the same sentiment: Next season needs to start right now! NBA-jonesing rarely starts this early in the offseason. It usually takes me until around August to notice the thirst, about a month of nothing but mid-summer baseball and network reruns will do that.
Not this summer.
It's only July -- not even a month after Kobe copped his fourth, Phil his 10th -- and we already want the '09-'10 season to tipoff. Why? Because this offseason has seen the most concentrated, high-impact activity in recent memory. When is the last time that almost all of the good teams got better? Even snub-moves, like Hedo Turkoglu's Toronto-for-Portland U-Turn, makes the Raptors an intriguing darkhorse. But we still have more than three months before next season's first game. In fact, we haven't even arrived at the day when Ron Artest or Trevor Ariza can officially sign their contracts. In the meantime, chew on these eight semi-random thoughts...
1) Charlie V. chose Detroit. Trevor Ariza chose Houston. Ron Artest chose L.A. The Cavs went after all of 'em. Playing with LeBron was supposed to be one of the pen-ultimate recruiting tools and that's exactly why every wing player the Cavs truly coveted said "deuces" and signed elsewhere. You can only read that one way: None of LeBron's peers think that LeBron is staying in Cleveland past this season, so why would they get locked into a three- to five-year deal that will render them meaningless, invisible and irrelevant once the king moves his throne to another kingdom.
Early Tuesday, ESPN's Chris Broussard broke word that the clandestine visit that GM Danny Ferry and coach Mike Brown made to L.A. was to try to persuade Ariza to renig on his verbal agreement with the Rockets and sign with Cleveland. LeBron upped the ante and reportedly told Ariza that he was staying in with Cavs past next season. The source told Broussard, "Trevor asked LeBron if he would be in Cleveland after next season and LeBron said, 'I'll be there. Of course, I'll be there.'" Ariza didn't bite. So that's where Cleveland is at -- hamstrung by the uncertainty of LeBron's future in Ohio. Problem is, how do you get LeBron the kind of squad that will make him stay, if no one wants to come because they don't believe he'll stay? Shaky times in Cleveland.
2) Count me as a dude that can't wait for Ron Artest to "hoodalize" the Los Angeles Lakers. He not only makes L.A. tougher, he finally gives them an intimidating presence. The Lakers outskilled everyone on their way to a championship, something that probably wouldn't have been enough had they met Boston again. The fact is that, other than Kobe (a maniac) and Uncle Fish (who plays like a hard-hacking uncle in a backyard pickup game), the Lakers featured a slate of finesse Euros and subdued Americans. Not anymore. We all know Ron-Ron is bat-crap crazy (like a fox, albeit). There's also the possibility that some of that Queensbridge swag can rub off on Kobe who, in addition to being the greatest basketball player of his generation, is also right up there with Tiger and A-Rod as one of the three most robotic and corny athletes of the 21st century.
3) There was nothing mercenary about Trevor Ariza's decision to take the extra dough and years from Houston. For one, he's only made about $10M, so far, which, contextually speaking, is peanuts. Second, and most important, the Lakers made it clear that they didn't want him once they realized that Artest was an option. So Ariza goes from being a homegrown Angeleno playing in front of rabid fans that adored him (and one of the seven most impactful players in the '09 Playoffs), to a Laker castaway signed to a squad that is some "bad foot-news" away from the perennial lottery-pack. Those steals and dunks won't mean nearly as much in Houston for the next five years. And $33M or not, that's gotta be mildly depressing for Ariza.
4) Yeah, Boston will be a geriatric squad, if/when they sign both Sheed and Grant Hill. But who cares? That seven-man rotation (Rondo, Pierce, Ray Allen, KG, Perk, Hill and Sheed) is the best in the league, even if it would probably degenerate at rapid levels in the subsequent years. Boston knows what it's doing. They see the window and they're acting accordingly. They recognize they probably have one more year to get some rings with this current group. And before you wrongly suspect that Sheed will bust up the Ubuntu, remember that Doc is a player's coach and that the Cs not only have KG to keep Sheed motivated, but Allen, who might be the most paternal player in the league. This is gonna work.
5) The Greg Popovich/R.C. Buford tandem is easily the best management team of the decade. The way they've kept San Antonio in constant contention is a marvel. This summer is yet another example of a typical Spurs move. Other trades/signings have made bigger splashes, but my guess is that few will have the impact of the Richard Jefferson trade. By trading for a fringe All-Star the Spurs went from being an aging, middle-of-the-pack squad to a younger, more versatile and athletic club that is now, arguably, the second best team in the still-stacked Western Conference. It's just such an efficient organization. If they can lure Big Baby over to the Alamo then it'll really be on.
6) I hope Hedo's decision to go to Toronto over Portland finally impresses upon this ethnocentric country that there are very few American cities (less than 10) that offer the kind of diverse, cosmopolitan experience that Toronto can give you. Portland may be second only to Brooklyn when it comes to the American hipster scene, but when it comes to ethnic diversity, it's a wasteland no different than Salt Lake City. Turkoglu and his wife said, "Thanks, but we'll pass."
7) We all collectively flipped out over the Shaq trade like it was 2004 and not 2009. The 2004 Shaq was still one of the five best players in the league when he went to Miami and his presence, even on a lottery team, meant contention. That's not the case anymore. It wasn't Dwight Howard that killed the Cavs as much as it was the Hedo-'Shard tandem. I'd have been more impressed with a 'Sheed or Jefferson addition. Here's what the Shaq addition does for Cleveland: it keeps them in neutral when it comes to moving closer to a 2010 'ship, which ensures that LeBron will likely bolt next summer.
8) Does anyone care about Allen Iverson, anymore? I don't. It hurts me to say that about one of my five favorite athletes of all-time. But the fact is that he's irrelevant. He's not good enough to lead a contender any longer (and the sad thing is that, a serious critique reveals that maybe he never was) and his disaster-stint in Detroit reinforced that he's not the type of veteran "mesher" that can tilt the scales for a contender. Nobody of any leaguewide import wants anything to do with him. That's sad, really sad. If I have to see Iverson in a Grizzlies jersey balling in "Fat Elvis mode", then I probably just won't watch any Memphis games all season.
Vincent Thomas writes "The Commish" column for SLAM Magazine and is a contributing commentator for ESPN. His "From The Floor" column appears weekly on NBA.com. Vince invites you to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/VinceCAThomas.
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