by Jack Maidment
Talent. The single most important commodity in sports.
Hustle can help your cause. Team spirit the same. But without the Big T you likely are not winning much.
The extent to which sports has become dominated by corporate America dictates that without a talented team, and preferably an exceptionally talented individual, your commercial and therefore economic viability are slimmer than slim.
It is with that simple fact in mind that the NBA’s GM’s sit conspiring and salivating over the prospective Free Agent Class of 2010, arguably the most talented selection of individuals to ever become ‘available’ at the same time in the history of sports.
The potential to turn around a long time meandering franchise is shouted from a list of players, anyone of which would immediately impact your team and your market for positive gains.
It is worth remembering that 2010 is not spelt L-E-B-R-O-N as media coverage would have you believe.
The question of Mr James’ residence come 2010 has been hot topic number one for sometime, eclipsing the fact that he is far from alone in terms of his desirability to teams around the league in the 2010 class.
However, that is more than one year away and in all of the excitement it would appear that the merits of this year’s free agents have been forgotten altogether.
Kinda weird when you consider the classes valedictorian is a certain Kobe Bryant.
I know, I know. Unlikely that he will move considering that he plays for the NBA’s most popular team and that the team is built entirely around him. But, until he signs, it remains a possibility.
2009 is not just about Kobe for the LA Lakers but also two key members of his supporting cast, the supporting cast that has helped him to the Finals for the second successive year: Trevor Ariza and Lamar Odom.
Both men will be unrestricted free agents this summer and both are highly coveted around the L.
Ariza has used this post season to build himself a reputation as a big time hustle player with springs in his shoes. The type of player that every Championship team needs, a la James Posey.
While Ariza’s loss could be covered, the departure of Lamar Odom would seriously set the Lakeshow back. He brings so many different things to an already immensely talented team that his work often does not receive the plaudits it deserves.
He will likely only be appreciated once he is gone. To some other team willing to pay him second option money.
The Lakers are not alone in having decisions to make this summer. The Toronto Raptors, Detroit Pistons and Utah Jazz all have a number of contracts coming off their books.
The Raptors must decide whether or not to offer a no doubt huge contract to an unsettled Shawn Marion.
If they decide to abandon Marion to pursue his quest for respect/money/star status elsewhere, they simply must look to sign another superstar. Why? If they don’t Chris Bosh is leaving in 2010.
Another losing season like the one that Toronto has just experienced will all but secure his departure to greener pastures.
In all likelihood the Raptors will need to sign more than one ‘big’ player to help assuage Bosh‘s feelings. Luckily they do have options, if the money is available.
They could make a run at Carlos Boozer whose time as a member of the Utah Jazz could well be over. A Boozer/Bosh front court? Ummm. The Jazz, who also have Mehmet Okur, Kyle Korver and Paul Millsap to re-sign, will struggle to make an offer to Boozer which will satisfy his $100 million contract rumours.
Certainly the Jazz have much to ponder, as do the Detroit Pistons. Rasheed Wallace, Antonio McDyess and Allen Iverson are all unrestricted frees this summer and Iverson is almost certainly looking for a new home.
Wallace’s contract demands could force him away from the franchise, leaving Detroit to wait for the opportunity to offer LeBron or Dwayne Wade a shed load of money in a years time.
The Jazz, Pistons, Raptors and Lakers are just four teams who have to consider their immediate futures, and with players like Hedo Turkoglu, Ron Artest, Jason Kidd as well as Carlos Boozer, Shawn Marion and Kobe Bryant available, there is enough talent out there to tempt teams into making big decisions to try and improve their teams.
2010 may be the main event, but 2009 is certainly a worthy appetiser.