From the producers who brought you "The Basketball Blog," it's "The Basketball Bag" -- a pseudo-mailbag devoted entirely to NBA questions. Please don't confuse this with a real mailbag. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers:
Q: What are your thoughts on Sam Cassell (potentially) joining the Celtics? Does he have enough left in the tank? How will he mesh with the Ubuntu chemistry?
-- Pat D., Somerville, Mass.
SG: After watching Cassell up close for three years, I can report the following certainties: He's not washed up; he hasn't slipped so much defensively that he's a complete liability; he works the refs better than anyone in the league; he's a charismatic presence on and off the court; and he can still catch fire during games and carry a team for small stretches. It's hard to imagine a better fit for the Celtics, especially when you factor in his relationship with KG, the way he matches up against bigger, more physical guards like Chauncey Billups (the real reason the Celts passed on Damon Stoudamire), his knack for hitting big shots (which they need), and the fact Boston's big guys could protect him against quicker guards. And he would add one more super-competitive guy to an already super-competitive team.
So those are the good parts. On the bad side, Cassell's arrival could ruin Rajon Rondo's confidence, which is already in the process of being battered by Doc Rivers' penchant for yanking his minutes around. (The way Rondo was buried in Phoenix last week, when he was the only Celtic who could defend Steve Nash and make him work defensively, was an unequivocal disgrace.) By December, when it became established the Celtics were destined for a top-two seed, their only two goals should have been to keep Ray Allen, KG and Paul Pierce rested and healthy for the spring (somewhat of a failure so far) and building up Rondo's confidence even at the expense of a couple losses (a total failure so far). So the thought of bringing in Cassell scares the hell out of me. Can Rondo handle it? Hard to say.
And then there's this: Sam isn't a coach-killer, but he's a significant presence who could undermine a coach simply because his teammates respond more to him than anyone else. I've been to games in which a Clipper would run over to Sam for instructions as Mike Dunleavy was vainly trying to wave the same Clipper over. (You always hear the phrase "he's like a coach on the floor," but Sam really is a coach on the floor -- back in 2006, I devoted an entire column to Sam potentially becoming the first successful NBA player-coach since Lenny Wilkens.) So his coach needs to be secure enough to handle him ... and poor Doc is already wound up tighter than a kite string. By the time the playoffs roll around, he's going to look like he's passing a kidney stone while getting a colonoscopy at the same time. Could he handle Sam on and off the court? Would he feel threatened by him? Again, hard to say.
Finally, at this point of Cassell's career, his biggest strength doubles as his biggest weakness: His gigantic, absurdly large, gravity-defying balls in big moments. This is someone who would absolutely take the series-deciding jumper in a Game 7 against Detroit or Cleveland and not think twice. Do you really want a 38-year-old guy with a bad back deciding your season? The X-Factor is the Celtics don't have a money-in-the-bank crunch-time scorer -- Pierce is good but not great, Allen is pretty spotty at this stage of his career, and Garnett relies exclusively on turnarounds and fadeaways for whatever reason. That's my biggest fear about a potential Cleveland series, that no Celtic can match baskets with LeBron in the final two minutes of a close game. So Cassell fixes that problem a little, and I'd certainly rather have Sam shooting crucial 20-footers than Rondo.
The best-case scenario would be the Rondo-Cassell tandem working like Tony Parker and Speedy Claxton in the 2003 playoffs. Remember, the '03 Spurs were pretty flawed -- they had Duncan in his prime, Robinson at the end of his career, a not-quite-ready Manu Ginobili, a hit-or-miss second-year point guard (Parker) and a bunch of role players. If not for Claxton's ability to right the ship during Parker's off-nights, the Spurs wouldn't have won the title. (Don't forget, Parker was so up-and-down the Spurs pursued Jason Kidd right after the season.) Rondo's 2008 playoff experience will inevitably play out like Parker's did -- some good games, some stinkers -- and when he committed those two last-minute brain farts in Golden State last week, it was a grisly reminder that young point guards can self-destruct at any time, especially on the road in big moments. I like Rondo -- actually, I really like Rondo -- but you can't expect a 21-year-old point guard to play consistently well for two straight months in the playoffs. Over everything else, that's why the Celtics need Cassell and his gravity-defying testicles.
Q: I have noticed how often you "dog" Chris Wallace as the worst executive in the NBA. From now on, when you criticize Chris Wallace for some bonehead move, would you please add: "(not the Chris Wallace from Fox News)" or just "(NTCWFFN)." My family and I would be most grateful.
-- Chris Wallace, Fox News
SG: Consider it done. We'll call him "Chris Wallace (NTCWFFN)" from now. The Sports Guy Headquarters are nothing but fair and balanced.
Q: Yao Ming ... Ewing Theory? Please? Can you give it your stamp of approval? I feel like I just swallowed a balloon filled with rusty razors.
-- Ricky R., Houston
SG: You know what's crazy? On Tuesday, I was texting a friend who works for one of the Western contenders and arguing about which 50-win team would drop to the ninth spot. I punctuated my prediction (Rockets, Warriors or Nuggets) with the following text: "The team that falls to No. 9 will fall there because of an injury. And some atypical guys are on an 82-game pace right now -- Baron, Yao, Camby and Iverson."
That night, Yao went down. Bizarre. Anyway, I don't think the Rockets are done for two reasons -- they're better defensively without Yao, and there's a good chance the Nuggets could self-combust over the next two months because of injuries and/or the fact George Karl teams frequently self-combust. (Check out www.firegeorgekarl.com for all the details.) Either way, it looks like The Team That Nobody Wants To Play (G-State) is locked in at No. 7 or No. 8, barring an untimely injury.
That reminds me, here's my dream first-round scenario for the West that could actually happen. Feel free to play at home:
San Antonio (No. 1) vs. Denver (No. 8): Best possible matchup for the Nuggets because they can throw Camby and K-Mart at Duncan, and the Spurs don't have the ideal guys to defend Iverson and Melo. On the flip side, Parker and Ginobili would run amok. Every game would be in the 110s. It's kinda funny the Nuggets rebuilt in the same mold of their teams that failed in the '80s during the Alex English era -- they can light it up, and they can't get any stops.
L.A. Lakers (No. 2) vs. Dallas (No. 7): I would watch every second of every game of this series. What a beauty. Seriously, look at that matchup! By the way, Kobe can smell the title now. You can see it. After the Pau Gasol trade, his demeanor shifted from "Look, I'm glad we're winning, but I'm not totally happy yet" to "Holy s---, we can f------ win this thing!"
Phoenix (No. 3) vs. Golden State (No. 6): Quite possibly, the most entertaining first-round series of all-time ... unless you're Steve Kerr and Mike D'Antoni. Now here's a high seed the Warriors could absolutely take down. Poor Nash is basically playing Russian roulette against the Warriors -- he can't stop Davis, he can't stop Ellis -- and Nellie is creative enough to attack him for seven straight games. Ironically, do you know who the key guy for Phoenix would be in this series? Shaq.
New Orleans (No. 4) vs. Utah (No. 5): Chris Paul takes on Deron Williams for the title of "best under-30 point guard alive." I just wet myself. Speaking of Paul and Williams.
Q: Since you're the most vigilant with respect to spreading ways to improve the NBA All-Star Game, here's something they should have done this year in lieu of the celebrity game: The Hornets should have challenged the Jazz to a one-game playoff. If New Orleans won, it would claim the name "Jazz" as its own, and Utah would have to get a new name. If Utah won, then New Orleans would have to give up a lottery-protected No. 1 pick. How would that not have been must-see TV? CP3 taking on D-Will to determine not only who is the greatest young PG, but also to establish order and logic in their team names!
-- Brian, Brookline, Mass.
SG: Fantastic idea and it makes way too much sense. The real crime of the Jazz thing is the coolest team name in the entire league ("the New Orleans Jazz") suddenly became the dumbest and most inexplicable name in professional sports ("the Utah Jazz"), and nobody seems to care. What's the big deal about changing a name? If anything, it's a lucrative turn of events for the Utah franchise because it would get to come up with a new logo and new jerseys, right? So what's the problem here? They could be the Utah Snow, the Utah Salt, the Utah Blizzard, Utah Ski Lifts, the Utah Big Love. ... I mean, any name is better than the Utah Jazz! Somebody please explain to me why we can't work this out.
Q: Me and my friend Hoosh are amazed Mike D'Antoni somehow manages to keep his hand in his pocket while he explodes on the sideline. A talent like this needs a name, so we got to arguing. I think it should be called "The Pocket Rocket." Hoosh says "The Invisible Hand." You gotta settle this.
-- Nadeem M., New York
SG: Glad you brought this up. I think D'Antoni believes he can't get a T if he's arguing with one hand in his pants, because it makes him look somewhat dignified, so that's why he does it. Personally, I think the name should have a veiled "pocket pool" reference like "the Nine-Ball" or "The Scratch." But I'm willing to hear any other suggestions. By the way, "Nadeem and Hoosh Go To White Castle" is one of my favorite late-night cable movies.
Q: Since you were so fast to confirm your doubts about the Kidd trade after one game against New Orleans, have you changed your mind about the deal after the last three games, maybe just a little bit?
-- Corey G., Austin, Texas
SG: Wait, I never said the Mavs shouldn't have made the Kidd trade. Again (as I wrote last Friday), if you can acquire someone like Kidd without giving up one of your top-three guys and/or a lottery pick, and you can give your fans and your team a little boost in the process, you have to pull the trigger. I get the trade and I get the benefits of having someone as unselfish as Kidd on your team. Nobody has written more positively about Kidd than me over the past six years. I just don't understand how Kidd pushes the Mavs onto the short list of "Western teams that can actually win the title," a list that currently looks like this, in order: Los Angeles, Utah and San Antonio, with Phoenix as the darkhorse. If the Mavs had gotten the 2003 Jason Kidd? Then I'd be putting them on the short list.
Regardless, Dallas fans should see how their boys look in San Antonio (Thursday), Los Angeles (Saturday) and Utah (Monday) before they start sending "IN YOUR FACE!" e-mails to anyone who didn't love the Kidd trade. Just because the Mavs looked good against two dreadful teams (Memphis and Minnesota) and one messed-up team (Chicago) doesn't make it a roaring success. Let's see if they can match baskets against Kobe, or if they can defend Deron Williams, or if they can really defend low-post scorers like Tim Duncan and Shaq with Erick Dampier and Jamaal Magliore's rotting corpse. I am predicting "no" on all three counts. We will see.
Q: I enjoyed your analysis of the Kidd trade from Dallas' end, but us Nets fans would like your views on the trade from New Jersey's side. How do you see it affecting the Nets in the long run?
-- Eric, Tampa, Fla.
SG: I thought the Nets got 90 cents on the dollar for Kidd. Maybe Devin Harris isn't an elite point guard, but he's locked up in a reasonable contract (five years, $43 million) and there's an good chance he could thrive without Avery Johnson (the biggest control freak in the league) looking over his shoulder and nitpicking everything he's doing. I'm also a big DeSagana Diop fan -- if you don't think Dallas will miss him this spring, you're insane -- and if Jersey can re-sign him for a reasonable deal, that's a nice haul when you throw in the first-rounders and the cash. If Nenad Krstic ever bounces back from the longest recorded ACL tear on record, Jersey suddenly has a nice group of young big guys: Krstic, Diop, Sean Williams and Josh Boone. All of those guys can play.
One thing bugged me about the deal from Jersey's end: Kidd was being paid $20 million a year as Jersey's franchise player until he decided he didn't like his situation anymore -- a situation that, by the way, he could have altered five years ago by signing with San Antonio and playing with Duncan and Ginobili, only he stupidly stayed with the Nets when he was their only elite player -- so he made a stink and got himself traded because the union allows great players to sabotage their own situations to force trades. I get the whole "New Jersey respected Jason's contributions and wanted to do right by him" angle, but what about respecting the Nets' fans who bought season tickets to watch Jason Kidd this season? What about them? He mattered more than the entire fan base? Part of me wishes the Nets had told Kidd, "Go to hell" and kept him. Because that's always fun. But at least they got something back for him.
(Important note: I don't blame Kidd for throwing a hissy fit -- I would have done the same if I had to play with Vince Carter. I just hate when guys sign deals for franchise money, then don't feel obligated to carry the franchise through thick and thin. Yes, I'm talking to you, Jermaine O'Neal.)
Q: You're missing the point, OK? Jason Kidd is the fake French chick from the '80s classic "Better Off Dead," and Cusack plays the Mavs. The Finals vs. Miami were Lane Meyer getting dumped by his girlfriend, losing the drag race to the Asian Howard Cosells is the equivalent of getting upset by Golden State, and trading for Jason Kidd is the French girl moving in next door. Jason is gonna help the Mavs get that bitchin' Camaro fixed. It's not so much a personnel problem as a confidence problem with the Mavs. Yes, that are REALLY shallow at Center, but I've never seen Dampier play with more enthusiasm than he has with Kidd. I'm telling you, they'll be parking that Camaro on the infield and raising that trophy yet.
-- Rob B., Dallas
SG: Well, now that you put it that way, maybe I have to re-evaluate everything ...
Q: Is it just me or are the Miami Heat on national TV at least once a week? Has there ever been a crappier team (without its own broadcast deal) that got this much air time?
-- Chuck G., Provo, Utah
SG: No. Never. Back when the Boston Globe was still alive in the '80s and early '90s, there was something called "The Gammons Phenomenon" in which you'd look forward to his Sunday notes column every week -- after all, what was better to take to the crapper than a 6,000-word Gammons column -- only he'd take three or four Sundays off per year without warning, so you'd eagerly flip through the Globe's Sunday section to the baseball column, see someone else's byline and practically collapse in disappointment. Anyway, that's the same way I feel every time I flip to the national game on TNT or ESPN and see Miami. It's like the modern-day version of the non-Gammons byline.
Here's my question: Why wouldn't they work in some flexibility into the TNT and ABC/ESPN deals in which, after the 40-game mark, each network is allowed to switch 10 telecasts? Actually, isn't that already in there? Why the hell do we keep getting Miami? They need to come up with the Miami Rule to prevent this from ever happening again. WE SHOULD NEVER SEE THEM AGAIN ON NATIONAL TV THIS SEASON. IT SHOULD NEVER HAPPEN. IT SHOULDN'T EVEN BE AN OPTION. I mean, look at this Dwyane Wade e-mail I'm about to run. This team should be on national TV?
Q: Isn't it crazy for the Heat to continue to put a hobbled D-Wade into the inevitable loss every night? I was trying to think of the equivalent of forcing two or three years off a superstar's career in another realm. I think this is it: The Heat playing Wade every night is like taking the tip-top, highest grossing porn star and putting her in movie after movie with amputees, people with birth marks on half their bodies, and dudes with adult braces and back acne. She's smokin', but it's killing her career every minute she goes to work. Am I far off base?
-- Nick, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
SG: That's a team that should be on national TV? Help!!!!!!!!!!!!
Q: There's a porn video where Jenna Jameson has been eluding some schlub for the whole movie, and at the end he is pouring his heart out to her, and then she proceeds to, well, Jenna-size him. I feel like that poor schlub, post Jenna-sizing, right now. All the pieces that the Cavs got (with the exception of West, who I really think is the best pick up of all) look really really good at first, but then you start thinking about where they've been, and what's happened to their bodies, and you just know that things can't be as promising as the packaging suggests, right? Still, they had to do something, but if the players you pick up can logically be used in analogy to Jenna Jameson, you might have a problem. Bombed out and depleted.
-- Rob H., Columbus, Ohio
SG: Yup, we've entered the section of the Basketball Bag in which readers use convoluted porn references to describe things happening in the NBA. Let's switch gears before one of my editors kills himself.
Q: If David Lee was ever traded, that would be it for me as a Knicks fan. I would just give up, wait for the Nets to move to the BK and pretend my love for the Knicks was never more than a passing fancy. In all seriousness, you don't understand what David Lee means to the fans until you actually get into the Garden and see how the crowd snaps out of its funk when he gets off the bench and runs to the scorer's table. He's like the Fuzzy Britches poster in Andy's cell -- you look at the world around you and you're locked in a tiny cage, getting raped daily, eating bad food with no end in sight. But for a little while each day, you can look at that poster and remember what it was like when life had meaning, and it was all laid out before you. That's what David Lee means to Knicks fans. He's a rose growing in a crap pile.
-- Chris, New York
SG: Out of all the "Don't ever joke that the Knicks should trade David Lee again or I will fly to L.A. and kill you with my bare hands!" e-mails I received last week, this was the best one. By the way, the Knicks need to work that quote into Lee's bio in their media guide next season: "He's a rose growing in a crap pile."
Q: How many postgame press conferences does a coach have to say the phrase "We didn't compete" before he gets fired? The fans have quit on Isiah. I personally did when he traded away Keith Van Horn (the only healthy outside shooter on the team at the time, and the last one they had) for Tim Thomas, and the players obviously have as well. He has quit on the team, and his morose demeanor on the bench -- he spends most of the game sitting in his chair saying nothing to his coaches or players now -- is infuriating to fans such as myself.
-- Jonathan B., Boston
SG: We saw this happen to Rick Pitino in Boston. It's VERY easy to figure out when an NBA team has quit on its coach. You know right away. The players have no energy and no connection to each other. The coach sits there listlessly on the bench and looking like he's undergoing a chemo treatment every game. Guys are arguing in huddles and on the court. The team gets blown out at home a disproportionate amount of time. Everyone sitting in the stands is asking questions about their best guys like, "Wait, is he stoned?" and "You don't think he's shaving points, right?" The coach starts clinging to that "We didn't compete tonight" rhetoric, which sounds like a great excuse until you remember he's the guy who's supposed to get everyone competing. I mean, you know when the wheels come off with an NBA coach.
Here's the interesting thing: Once you pass the point of no return, there's no going back. You're done. On my old Web site, as the Pitino thing was unfolding and I was attending those games -- by the way, it's fantastic that I caught the entire M.L. Carr and Pitino eras and somehow missed the Garnett era -- I was writing that Pitino lost the team during the strike season in '99, nearly two full years before he actually resigned. NBA players are pretty easy to figure out. When they're happy and engaged, you can tell. When they're unhappy and disengaged, you can tell. It's that simple.
Q: When will LeBron reach the point that he will not need the headband anymore? I mean, he just doesn't strike me as a cold-blooded killer with that goofy thing at the top of his forehead. I thought he was going to shed this a few years ago in the Olympics, but unfortunately he went right back to it during the season. His physique is imposing, tattoos are menacing, and then he has this headband which makes him look like that annoying guy you see on the playground who is 37 and still thinks he has the skills of a 21-year-old. Lose the headband, I will be convinced.
-- Joe T., St. Louis SG: I think he's biding his time. He's like Viggo Mortensen in "History of Violence." As soon as the headband comes off, we'll know the dead bodies are about to start piling up.
Q: You called '07 LeBron and '07 Howard more untradeable than anyone in the seven-year history of the NBA Trade Value column. If you had somehow done the column since the start of your basketball viewing life, would anyone be more untradeable than Jordan in the early '90s?
--Derek, Amherst, Mass.
SG: Probably not. With the parameters being (A.) "my basketball viewing life," starting with the mid-'70s; (B.) the year counting as the summer right after that season; and (C.) you can only count each player once, the top 12 would look something like this:
- '91 Michael Jordan
- '77 Bill Walton
- '84 Larry Bird, '87 Magic Johnson (tie)
- '07 LeBron James
- '00 Shaquille O'Neal
- '03 Tim Duncan
- '81 Moses Malone
- '01 Kobe Bryant
- '07 Dwight Howard
- '87 Hakeem Olajuwon
- '89 Patrick Ewing
(Follow-up note: You'll notice I moved '03 Duncan ahead of the '07 Howard. Why? Because I forgot about how great Duncan was in '03 until a reader reminded me after that Trade Value column. No way the Spurs trade Duncan after the 2003 season for the '07 Dwight Howard. Not happening.)
Q: How in the world could you leave out J.J. Redick out of your Top 50 Trade Value column? Are you not aware that Better Basketball has named him "possibly the greatest shooter of all-time?" Just wanted to know if J.J. in his Better Basketball uniform has replaced the Crime Dog for the most ridiculous looking uniform on an athlete endorsing a video?
-- Scott, Huntsville, Ala.
SG: We'll work him in next year. By the way, can we form a support group for teenagers who spent their allowance on Adam Morrison and J.J. Redick rookie basketball cards before the 2006-07 season?
Q: I've watched the Blazers for 20-plus years and have never seen a more talented, enigmatic head case than Rasheed Wallace. He's the leader of the pack for the "Jail Blazers," yet in Detroit he's the greatest guy ever, which he might be, but we never saw it in Portland and nobody seems to remember this. We got the guy who led the league in T's (several times), refused to EVER talk to the press or fans, and led the league in games mailed in before Vince Carter made it an art form. In Portland, he held the franchise and its fans hostage with his potential, and now he has finally decided to play for Detroit. Terrific. All hail the Lunatic.
-- Doug N., Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
SG: That was this month's award for "most bitter e-mail from an NBA fan." And in the upset of the century, it didn't come from Seattle!
Q: Before Andrew Bynum got hurt, the biggest change with him was effort. He looked like he was out to prove himself every night. The interesting question is, without all the Mamba drama in the offseason, would Bynum be as good now? I really think the answer is no. While calling out Bynum that way was distasteful, it might be one of those clear moves Jordan would have made, deriding a young star until he responded or was reduced to a shell of his former self (Kwame Brown.) Am I giving Kobe too much credit?
-- David, San Jose, Calif.
SG: Not at all. You can't overstate how much one slight can change the course of someone's career. Does Dwyane Wade play like a man possessed if he didn't slip to No. 5 in 2003? Do Paul Pierce and Caron Butler have the same careers if they didn't fall to 10 in their drafts? Would Chris Paul be the 2008 MVP at the two-thirds mark if three teams didn't pass on him in 2005? Does Chauncey Billups turn into such a killer if Rick Pitino hadn't given up on him after 50 games? Does Baron Davis turn his career around if New Orleans never gave up on him? You could call it the first cousin of the "Nobody believed in us!" factor with team sports, in which an aggrieved player goes to another level partially because he's trying to shove it in somebody's face.
In Bynum's case, if he wasn't motivated by Kobe humiliating him in public last summer and demanding a trade, then you could have written him off for good. After all, if THAT can't get someone going, what can? The funny thing is that it probably wasn't Kobe's intent at all; it just worked out that way.
(Follow-up note: I can't believe I'm saying this, but there's a stunning new sleeper for the "Careers turned around by a slight" category ... that's right, Mr. Vince Carter! Think about what just happened with the Jason Kidd saga. Kidd made it clear he couldn't handle the situation in Jersey anymore, but if you read between the lines, he was really saying, "I can't handle playing with Vince anymore. I am going to pull a Kermit Washington on him soon." Well, Vince is many things, but he isn't an idiot. He knows that Kidd's Exit Stage Right was a direct repudiation of his character and his basketball ability. Anyway, if you watched him Tuesday night against Orlando -- playing with passion, diving for loose balls, trying to carry the Nets -- it's not inconceivable that he's about to start playing like he gives a crap again. We will see.)
Q: Are you watching the Celts right now? Tommy Heinsohn just reached a whole new level of homerism -- he just compared Leon Powe to Moses Malone.
-- Sean, Fremont, N.H.
SG: And last season, he compared Rajon Rondo to Bob Cousy. That's right, we have Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Moses and Cousy on our team! You can't stop the '08 Celtics!!!!
Q: I forget which GM it was, but when Sherm Douglas was running the show in Boston, this GM said of the Little General, "He's just good enough to get you into the playoffs, and just bad enough to get you knocked out." Who are the Sherms of today's NBA?
-- Tim, Asheville, N.C.
SG: Nice question. I'll give you a starting lineup and a sixth man ...
PG: Jose Calderon
SG: Anthony Parker
SF: Carlos Delfino
PF: Andrea Bargnani
C: Chris Bosh
6th: Jason Kapono
Q: You were one of the first people to recognize Al Jefferson's potential, but have you noticed his scoring/rebounding numbers are better than KG's numbers right now? Yeah, there are many intangibles that you can throw out there to swing it to KG, but Jefferson is eight years younger and costs $20 million less this season! Is it possible Boston could have been just as well off (if not better) by not doing the KG deal?
-- Matt B. San Francisco
SG: Don't be silly. They needed to do the KG deal, and it worked out as well as they ever could have hoped. By the way, I was just kidding with the answer to the previous question -- I wanted to get the Toronto fans all riled up. They're so easy. Here's my real answer to the Sherm Douglas question:
PG: Andre Miller
SG: Vince Carter
SF: Corey Maggette
PF: Antawn Jamison
C: Brad Miller
6th: Al Harrington
While we're here, let's unveil another one of my favorite teams: The Shareef Abdur-Rahim "Great Stats/Bad Team" All-Stars, dedicated to guys who can only reach their true potential statistically on a lousy team:
PG: Sebastian Telfair/Beno Udrih
SG: Jamal Crawford
SF: Gerald Wallace
PF: Drew Gooden
C: Emeka Okafor
6th: Al Harrington
Crucial follow-up note: After watching Michael Beasley carefully for the last few weeks, my biggest fear is he could end up on the Shareef All-Stars some day. I definitely like him, he can definitely average a 24-10 in the NBA ... but why can't I shake the feeling he'll be better off putting up big numbers on a series of 32-win teams over playing on a contender? I haven't made my official decision on Beasley because I need to watch him a few more times, and it's hard to judge someone accurately when they're playing for the most incompetent and unlikable coach in Division I (the woefully overmatched and possibly homicidal Frank Martin).
Still, the fact that he's the spitting image of a young Derrick Coleman scares the holy bejeezus out of me. I can't shake it. At least with Derrick Rose, you're definitely getting a future All-Star point guard who makes everyone better. With Beasley, you're getting the guy who does all the things we already wanted Derrick Coleman to do ... which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but still, you never want to have the words "our No. 1 pick overall" and "next Derrick Coleman" in the same sentence. You just don't. So I need to think about this some more. Give me three more weeks.
Q: When you get a chance, watch the end of one of Duke's games this year when the Blue Devils spread the floor and milk the clock for the last seven or eight minutes with a 10-point lead. All they do is spread their shooters, keep the ball around half-court for 20 seconds, and Coach K just stands on the sideline directing the entire play. This still shocks me as I watch it. He literally yells out to who he wants to set screens or go get the ball to create mismatches. Then they inevitably score with five seconds left on the shot clock and completely deflate the other team. How many NBA coaches could pull this off? I'm a Cleveland fan and would be the first to tell you Mike Brown's head would probably explode if he tried to do this. Even with your anti-Duke sentiment, you gotta admit it's pretty impressive.
-- Josh, Cleveland
Q: During ESPN's "Trade Deadline Special," as I was watching Billy King analyze trades, I kept waiting for the disclaimer that this was a Bizzaro World ESPN and the scroll on the bottom of the screen to read "Do the exact opposite of what Billy says." Watching Billy give NBA advice would be like Britney giving a chastity sermon on the Divinity Channel. What's next, a round-table discussion with Billy, Isiah, Chris Wallace and Kevin McHale? Bill, your Atrocious GM Summit might just happen on "SportsCenter"! They've already hired the main cog. In all seriousness, I look forward to learning how to decimate a once-proud basketball franchise from Billy King. I also hope he stays around long enough to discuss how Kenny Thomas, Samuel Dalembert and others are valuable trade commodoties because they're in the last years of huge, insane contracts that overpaid them, contracts he signed them to. This is the worst ESPN hire since Tim Hardaway.
-- Kieran L., Philly
SG: Hold on, we're not done ...
Q: I just tuned into the ESPN "Trade Deadline Special" to see what moves were going down and to my delight (horror?), I see Billy King. Really? Do we really need GM advice from the guy who paid Samuel Dalembert, Kenny Thomas and Willie Green $120 million dollars?!? When they asked his advice on the Grizzlies potentially trading Kyle Lowry, I fully expected his answer to be, "TRADE HIM? If it were me, I would sign him to a $50 million extension and while they are at it, isn't Hakim Warrick underpaid? He is worth at least $65 million, in my opinion!" Billy King is so unqualified to weigh in on good NBA moves, it got me thinking. Does this happen in other areas of life? Would this be similar to Paris Hilton teaching an acting class because she was in "The Hottie and the Nottie" or Travis Henry appearing on an after-school special talking about the merits of safe-sex?
-- Kyle, Tempe, Ariz.
SG: Ladies and gentleman, the Billy King era!
Q: Did you go to the Celtics-Clippers game? We were looking for you, but it was hard to find the Sports Guy in the sea of brand-new Kevin Garnett jerseys.
-- Kevin, Redondo Beach, Calif.
SG: Of course, I went! You're right, the entire arena had the "fresh car" smell, only it was the "fresh jersey from the Celtics Pro Shop" smell. There were more Boston fans there for that game than the last three Celtics-Clippers games combined. (My favorite sighting: Famed Hollywood producer Brian Grazer sitting courtside with his two sons, both of whom were wearing KG jerseys.) With that said, on the Bandwagon Jumping Scale, the Celtics jumpers can't come close to matching what happened with the New York Football Giants over the past four weeks. Three points here:
1. I have uttered or e-mailed the phrase, "Wow, I didn't know you were a Giants fan, congratulations!" at least 15 times since Feb. 3.
2. I can't remember seeing a single Giants hat or jersey in L.A. before Feb. 3. In the past four weeks, I've seen at least 20.
3. Back in Manhattan, one of my editors, Mike Philbrick, swears that dozens of New Yorkers have been hospitalized after passing out from the fumes of people walking around the city wearing brand-new Giants hats and replica jerseys.
(Let's just move on before I start sounding bitter.)
Q: What's the most lopsided trade you can make on the Trade Machine? I allowed the Mavericks to trade Juwan Howard and Eric Dampier to the Blazers for Greg Oden, Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. This is so fun, Im gonna keep trying!
-- Mitch, Hartford, Conn.
SG: I wish this question arrived two weeks ago, before the deadline passed and many of the bigger contracts became untradeable until the summer. Still, these were the four worst deals I could come up with:
Trade No. 1: Spurs trade Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili to the Knicks for Quentin Richardson, Malik Rose, Jared Jeffries, Jerome James and Eddy Curry.
Trade No. 2: Blazers trade Greg Oden, LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy, Martell Webster, Jarrett Jack and the rights to Rudy Fernandez to the Knicks for Quentin Richardson, Jared Jeffries and Jerome James.
Trade No. 3: Lakers trade Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom to Denver for Kenyon Martin, Nene, Steven Hunter and Chucky Atkins.
Trade No. 4: Cleveland trades LeBron James and Zydrunas Ilguaskas to Minnesota for Antoine Walker, Marko Jaric, Mark Madsen and Greg Buckner.
(By the way, that was really more fun than humans should be allowed. I spent a solid hour coming up with those four lopsided deals and, frankly, I might go back for another hour after I finish this column.)
Q: If you're at a blackjack table and John Paxson sits down with you, how fast do you get up and run to another table? The guy stayed on 16 last season by not acquiring Gasol when the East was wide open for the taking, and now that he's down a few grand, he's making wild moves like splitting 10s (trading for Larry Hughes).
-- Rich, Upper Darby, Pa.
SG: See, I think the Hughes deal was like splitting sixes against a 10 -- your hand was already going to lose, why make it worse? Poor Paxson. He's like the buddy in Vegas who went on a huge late-night run, had two grand in chips in front of him and everyone telling him, "Come on, cash in -- we'll get a late night breakfast and come back strong tomorrow," only he was saying, "Nah, I can double this," so everyone goes to eat ... then they come back 90 minutes later to find out that he's down to 200 bucks and getting worked over by a dealer who looks exactly like Bai Ling.
Q: Do you think we'll hear this at Key Arena this season? "Ladies and gentlemen, presenting, your Seattle Expiring Contracts!"
-- Peter, Seattle
SG: I love it! Now that we've lost Theo Ratliff's Expiring Contract for good, I vote that we pass the torch to Seattle and call them "The Seattle Expiring Contracts" instead of the "Seattle Sonics" from now on. Come on. It will be fun. Speaking of Seattle ...
Q: Dude, can we just have a mailbag full of Seattle fans releasing their collective anguish and hatred? An injustice like this should not go down quietly.
-- Erick, Los Angeles
SG: Absolutely. Send me the e-mails, make sure you put "Seattle" or "Seattle Raping" in the subject heading, and we'll run them next week.
Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. You can check out his "Sports Guy's World" site here.