Joe Johnson Commits to Atlanta Hawks

July 5, 2010

by Jack Maidment

The Atlanta Hawks offered Joe Johnson a six-year, $119 million deal on July 1 and he has agreed to sign, making him the first of this year’s premier free agents to commit to their future.

A cynic would say that any meetings the 29-year-old had with other teams in the past four days were a highly visible way of compelling the Hawks to offer Johnson the money that he wanted.

Or perhaps he just loves Atlanta and was glad to make the deal.

Either way the Hawks kept the man that matters most to their franchise. Regardless of any playoff exits in the past few years the fact is that Johnson has led a team long a basement dweller into the light of the post season.

A Championship is far from realistic but number 2’s signature means the Hawks can carry on being relevant at least.

If Johnson can start to thrive in the playoff atmosphere, something he has not done up to this point, the Hawks could yet surprise someone in the Conference semis in the next few years.

Or the deal could turn out to be a crippling financial burden; too much money for an ageing shooting guard who has never shown he is capable of carrying a team when it needs him too.

As for Amare Stoudemire and the Knicks it seems that regardless of how convinced he is that he will be playing in New York for the next 5 years he will have to wait for LeBron to say no before he can say yes, or wait for an invite from James.

It is understood that the Knicks have given LeBron the chance to pick his own big man as part of their pitch.


LeBron to NY? Now that is an easy decision.

April 5, 2010

by Jack Maidment

As you might expect, there is a lot of conjecture surrounding LeBron James and the choice he will make this coming summer.

Stay or go. That is the question.

From what you read and what you here there are apparently only two options: remain in Cleveland or head to New York.

Fair enough. I am in agreement with almost everybody else in thinking these are the only two realistic and viable options, barring some sort of mythical agreement between Wade, Bosh and James to take less money and start a super team someplace.

Ian O’Connor wrote a piece for ESPN this past week in which he suggests that LeBron simply must go and play for the Knicks because, according to Mr O’Connor New York is much better than every where else.

Or something along those lines.

Apparently winning a championship in NY City is more of a big deal than anywhere else.

Ok.

I’m going to disagree with that.

And here is why.

Imagine you are the captain of the English football team and through some freak occurrence you end up winning the World Cup in South Africa.

But the team you are playing for isn’t your homeland but Brazil, or Italy, a country to which you have little affinity.

Would lifting the World Cup be special?

Of course.

But how much better would it be lifting it while representing the country, the people and the communities that run through your veins and make up who you are?

Is the same not transposable to LeBron?

He is after all a young man born and raised in the state of Ohio.

The city he calls his own, Akron, is a matter of minutes from the arena he plays every other night.

Anyone who has seen More Than a Game will know just how much the area means to LeBron.

And yet, all of this seems to be superseded in the minds of writers when they have anything to say on the matter.

Its all about New York being the biggest market and how great Knicks’ fans are and how much fun LeBron would have in the city.

Some of that may be true.

But he already plays for his hometown team and the admiration Cleveland Cavalier fans show him can not be matched anywhere.

Go to New York and he will be loved but not in the same way.

He will be a mercenary waging war for a team and a city with which he has no bond, no connection, except for a liking for one of the baseball teams.

You can forget your bigger market, your smaller amount of money, your great fans, your ‘unsurpassable’ victory parades and everything else that goes with The Big Apple.

All of that pales into insignificance with bringing a title to the place you hold dearest.

Some things cannot be bought.

He will stay.


Tracy McGrady: Comebacks and Breakdowns

February 22, 2010

by Jack Maidment

Tracy McGrady scored 26 points in his New York Knicks debut, once again bating people into discussing not only his legacy but also whether or not he is still able to contribute or even star in the NBA.

Was his outstanding performance a false dawn or does it signal the re-emergence of one of the best scorers of the last 10 years?

When boiled down to its absolute essence, the issue really revolves around one thing: does McGrady have the legs?

The two-time former NBA scoring champion has missed more than half of his team’s games in the past two seasons, but receiving the cold shoulder from the Houston Rockets, the franchise who once called McGrady its favourite son, could potentially have saved his career.

Simply, the Rockets had had enough.

Enough of the comebacks and the subsequent breakdowns.

Enough of the ‘next year’ longing.

The deal that sent McGrady to New York allowed the Rockets to gain one of the League’s least appreciated scorers in Kevin Martin.

Young and already potent, Martin is well positioned to be the second or third option on a future Championship team.

He can score the ball and Houston will build around him as one of their main offensive punches.

The Rockets have moved an irritation in McGrady and gained a future star in Martin, who will undoubtedly flourish in a new team where he doesn’t have to fight Tyreke Evans for the ball.

As for McGrady he now finds himself in a market long starved of a legitimate star.

The Knicks have been woeful for so long that any sort of player who used to burn bright now playing in the orange and white will have the support of the whole of New York.

If he fails then, he becomes a role player on an already bad team. His already diminished star power will wane still further but he will be a valuable piece for the Knicks moving forward.

If he succeeds, he catapults himself back into the games’ elite and into a position where teams’ will actively seek his services and throw major money his way.

One team who won’t be doing this is Houston.

They know all about McGrady and his broken body.


NBA Sophomores: Why Joe Alexander, Anthony Randolph and Danilo Gallinari Are All Poised To Succeed.

October 5, 2009

gallinariby Jack Maidment

Anthony Randolph, Joe Alexander and Danilo Gallinari were all top 15 picks in the 2008 NBA Draft and after a year in which a certain number of their peers have made an impact to be proud of these three have done everything but over achieve.

Each of these individuals’ situation is different; each one one with different reasons why they have not necessarily grabbed the headlines they may have envisioned on draft night.

For Randolph, taken 14th overall by the Golden State Warriors, his relative mediocrity can be assigned to age and lack of experience: heading into his sophomore NBA season he will be a sprightly 20 years old.

He played his first year as a Warrior while still a teenager. This may well account for his solid but not explosive numbers, but it also highlights the reason why he got drafted early in the first round despite only one year of college at LSU: potential.

6 ft 10 in. with all of the athleticism and quickness to play any of the front court positions. Raw was the word that described Randolph last year. He was unpolished. But hell he was a 19 year old kid.

Drafting on potential has long been viewed critically especially when players who could have contributed more immediately may have still been on the board. But Randolph’s performances in the Summer League just gone caused a collective light bulb moment for hoop heads and NBA personnel alike: this young man can play.

The much vaunted potential of a draft pick which so often comes to nothing appears to be more than hype, Randolph is becoming absolutely real.

Detractors will tell you that Summer League is Summer League and that performances in Las Vegas are impossible to translate or project onto the regular season. The past has provided enough evidence that this is a warranted theory yet disposing of pessismism for a second, couldn’t Randolph’s numbers this past off season be the signal that more is to come? The past cannot predict the future after all. Perhaps Randolph will be the exception that breaks the rule.

The situation in Golden State will certainly provide Randolph with the opportunity to make noise this coming season with little competition in the front court: most of the Warrior’s problems will be in trying to accommodate Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis and Stephen Jackson in the same back court.

As for Alexander, the 8th overall pick by the Milwaukee Bucks, his quiet debut year is similar to so many rookies who are drafted to teams regardless of what they already have at each position.

Praised as the best overall athlete of his class (second most bench reps, second highest reach, second fastest ¾ sprint time) the West Virginia product arrived at the Bucks knowing full well that playing time would be scarce with Richard Jefferson at starting forward.

You only need look at the top performing rookies to know that there is an undeniable correlation between playing time and improvement: it is a rare rookie indeed who can warrant his draft pick status coming off the bench for a few minutes every game.

With that in mind Alexander should have every chance to build upon last year’s limited experience after the Bucks dumped Jefferson and his contract on a grateful San Antonio, thus freeing up valuable playing time and in all likelihood placing the starting small forward position in the hands of the second year man.

With more minutes comes more responsibility and Alexander will be relied upon to shoulder a large proportion of the offensive load. Playing with rookie point guard Brandon Jennings at a high tempo should guarantee many fast break points for a forward who few will beat down the floor.

Danilo Gallinari meanwhile will enter his second year in much the same was as Greg Oden did last year with injuries ensuring that the Italian will be the least experienced of any sophomore.

The back injury that kept Gallinari sidelined all last year has apparently been banished and the man drafted #6 overall by the New York Knicks last year will finally have the opportunity to warrant his lofty selection.

Getting drafted ahead of first year standouts Brook Lopez and Eric Gordon should be enough to make Gallinari feel a little pressure and comments from his coach have assured that scrutiny will be high on the man labelled ‘the best shooter’ that Mike D’Antoni has ever worked with.

Playing in a front court rotation that includes David Lee, Al Harrington, Darko Milicic and Jordan Hill, Gallinari should experience enough playing time at the small forward position to make an impact on a squad that will do well to do anything other than tread water the year before the 2010 sweepstakes.

3 forwards, 3 similarly underwhelming rookie campaigns. The cruel world of revisionist history will use the coming 2010 season as a barometer as to whether or not these players will be remembered as wise investments or busts. So let us for once give potential and positivity a chance and believe that Gallinari, Randolph and Alexander will all be sophomore successes.

After all, we can all just jump on the bust bandwagon next year instead.


NBA Trade Rumors: Boston, Houston and New York all interested in #2 Pick

June 9, 2009
ricky-rubio2 
 
by Jack Maidment
 
Despite the perceived weakness of the 2009 Draft Class, many teams are still keen to get their hands on the top picks for a shot at taking the player can usher in a new era of success for their franchise.

For some this means finding the building block on which to add other pieces, looking ahead at least 2 or 3 years before really contemplating playoff success.

For others, a top 5 pick represents the opportunity to add ‘the last piece’ to a team that is ‘almost there’.

It appears that the Los Angeles Clippers are dead set on Blake Griffin with relatively little chance of a trade taking him away from Clipperville.

However, the same certainty cannot be applied to the Memphis Grizzlies who hold the rights to pick #2.

News is beginning to circulate that at least three other teams are keen to trade for their chance to pick second overall when Ricky Rubio, Hasheem Thabeet, James Harden, Tyreke Evans and Stephen Curry will all be available.

The Boston Celtics and the Houston Rockets are two of the three teams apparently interested but with neither team possessing a first round pick this year they will have to rely on a personnel switch to persuade Memphis to part with their valuables.

The third team, which does have picks to play with and is rumoured to be interested, is the New York Knicks. Rumour or no rumour, it makes sense for the Knicks to trade up with the franchise desperate for a player to build around.

Ricky Rubio will undoubtedly be the Knicks’ target: a player capable of boosting the team’s performance and popularity as well as providing the player the perfect market in which his management want him placed.

If these rumours materialise into something more concrete it will be interesting to see what the #2 is worth:

The Celtics will be the team with the least options given the liklihood that they will want to preserve the Big 4. That leaves Kendrick Perkins, Eddie House and other bench players as Boston’s bargaining chips?

The Rockets could try and offload Tracy McGrady’s salary for the pick plus player(s) from Memphis?

As for the Knicks? Well they could offer just about anyone from their roster.

I like Rubio in New York


NBA Trade Rumors: David Lee to Detroit Pistons, Ron Artest to Greece

June 8, 2009

DavidLee_300_061220by Jack Maidment

Ah, the Knicks.

If Boston and LA is where Championships happen, and Cleveland is where becoming a witness happens, then New York is surely where confusure happens.

Nothing is beyond the realm of sanity for the New York Knicks. Nothing too silly to actually happen.

With this in mind it is with little surprise that David Lee is rumoured to be on the next flight to Detroit.

Their best player of the current season looks likely to vacate the Big Apple in a management bid to lower economic commitments.

Cash First, Talent Second? Maybe for next season, but every penny may count when NYC try and lure LeBron to the Big Apple in 2010.

The trade makes sense for the Detroit Pistons who have a distinct need to bolster their front court with the almost certain departure of Rasheed Wallace and in all likelihood Antonio McDyess too.

Even if ’Dyess stays, the Pistons need some youthful, talented big men to plug the holes and who better than the double-double machine Lee?

The 15th pick in this year’s draft coupled with Amir Johnson could be enough to steal him away.

The Knick’s bid to cut their League high payroll does not stop there, with the grapevine suggesting that they are interested in Orlando’s reserve center Marcin Gortat.

Gortat has impressed on his outings as Dwight Howard’s understudy with the Magic apparently conceding that they will be unable to hold on to him if a team comes in offering starter money.

The Knicks are alleged to be eyeing the 7 footer as the recipient of their $5 mid-level exception.

If New York are the acid trip of the League then Ron Artest is arguably the player’s equivalent.

This year’s free agent is rumoured to be commanding admirers from afar with Greek powerhouses Olympiakos and Panithinaikos rumoured to be legitimate contenders for his signature.

His services will undoubtedly be in demand around the NBA. It remains to be seen whose money will talk louder.