Quick thoughts on the NBA trades this week ...
ANTOINE TO THE CELTS
Here's my question: Why not? What did they have to lose? This was a .500 team that seemed to be getting worse by the week. After Philly fleeced Sacramento for Webber, there was about a 100-percent chance that the Sixers were taking the Atlantic. So why not roll the dice? Keep in mind the following things:
1. They gave up three expiring contracts and a lottery-protected first-rounder -- in other words, pretty much nothing. GP had been subpar since the holidays -- his FG% was down, he seemed disinterested at times, and he couldn't have stopped Red Auerbach off the dribble. Whether his mother's health problems had anything to do with this, only he knows. But you couldn't have done much worse at the 1-spot. So why not play the kids (West and Banks), get them some minutes and hope you get lucky? Again, this team was missing the playoffs with Wednesday night's roster. If GP ends up coming back after an Atlanta buyout, so be it. But I think they can survive without someone who couldn't guard anyone and gave them a 12-6 every night.
2. Antoine will be taking the minutes of Mark Blount, Jiri Welsch and Tom Gugliotta -- in other words, that's an ENORMOUS upgrade for 30 minutes a game. Now they get to play SmallBall -- which is something that should have happened three months ago, anyway.
3. Basically, they're taking a flier on the guy -- his contract is up in April. Like a two-month test drive. Here's what they're hoping he gives them: Leadership on and off the court (someone who can say, "Hey, Ricky, maybe you shouldn't stay out until 7AM tonight"); someone who can guard athletic 4's (like Lamar Odom, who murdered the Celtics on Tuesday night); a little swagger (which they were sorely missing since GP went into the tank); a little more rebounding; some creativity in the half-court offense (he was always an underrated passer, and this was one of the worst passing teams in the league); a little excitement (believe me, this team was as fun to watch as prostate surgery); and someone who can take Al Jefferson under his wing on and off the court.
The weird thing about this trade? Antoine has been in the league for nine seasons ... and he hasn't been in the right situation once. During the Carr-Pitino years, he always carried too big of a burden for what he was. During the O'Brien Years, he logged more minutes than anyone in the league -- the second-best player on a team that came within two wins of the Finals -- yet his teammates were never good enough. In Dallas, they yanked him around for eight months, as he eventually lost time to two All-Stars who played his position (Jamison and Nowitzki). In Atlanta, he was the only above-average player on a horrendous team, yet he still carried them some nights.
Now he gets to play on a run-and-gun team with players who compliment him -- Pierce, Davis, the rookies, even LaFrentz -- and need his creativity and swagger. And yeah, he has his faults -- terrible shot selection at times, thinks he's better than he is, can't score down low against anyone good -- but the plusses always outweighed the minuses with him. At least he's interesting. And that's more you could say about the 2005 Celtics on Wednesday night. Count me in as being excited for the return of Employee No. 8.
(Or in this case, since he can't get his old number back, Employee No. 88.)
WEBBER TO THE SIXERS
When my buddy Gus called from ESPN to tell me that Webber was headed to Philly, I said, "Lemme guess, Kenny Thomas, Dalembert and Big Dog?"
Nope. Way off. And that's the thing that amazes me about the deal -- how could the Kings not get some cap flexibility with this trade? Sixty million worth of Thomas, Skinner and Corliss ... that's the best you could do? You're telling me Isiah wouldn't have traded Kurt Thomas and Penny Hardaway (done in 2006) for him? Just an awful trade for them. I know that the Ewing Theory potential with the Kings is off the chart -- remember, they still have Miller, Bibby and Peja, all of whom always looked better whenever C-Webb was hurt -- and I know they needed to make a 3-for-1 since they had no bench. But this trade was horrendous. If it happened in my roto league, I would have protested it.
Watching Webber in person against the Clippers last month, I couldn't believe how he was dragging that bum leg around -- it was actually sad to watch. No lift, no explosiveness, nothing. I thought it looked like he had a giant fork in his back. And then he kept getting to the line and grabbing rebounds, and he made a couple of threes, and then he took over the game down the stretch. He ended up with a 23-14-6. On one leg. Basically, because of his knee problems, he's turned into That Annoying Guy from pickup hoops -- the guy with the ugly game and the giant knee brace, the one who doesn't seem even remotely threatening, the one who looks laughably bad at least five or six times over the course of an hour, and somehow, he ends up killing you in the end. That's Chris Webber. And yeah, he was never quite good enough to carry a team to the title as the best guy, and the C-Webb Crunch-Time Face goes down in the Pantheon of Faces. But as the Tubbs to Iverson's Crockett? I think he's going to be fantastic.
MIKE JAMES TO THE ROCKETS
My other favorite deadline deal -- everyone forgets how much he helped the Pistons last season with his defense and three-point shooting. I like what the Rockets have done this season -- they needed shooters to spread the floor and ended up with David Wesley, Jon Barry and James. Excellent job. If only they could get Yao to start rebounding.
BARON DAVIS TO THE WARRIORS
I'm deferring to my Dad on this one: When I told him that the Celts were sniffing around about acquiring Davis this week, Dad said simply, "He's one of those guys who's always hurt."
"Yeah, but when he's healthy, he's one of the best points in the league, and he's a warrior-."
"What's his contract like?"
"Four years left at the max."
Silence on the other end. And then ...
"How old is he?"
"What were his injuries?"
"Blew out his knee in college, keeps having back problems."
"He's 25 and he has a bad knee AND a bad back? I think I'll pass."
(Throw in the fact that the Warriors are involved and I'm guessing this is going to end badly.)
JIRI WELSCH TO CLEVELAND
An absolute abomination on the Celtics. I can't use that word strongly enough. He stunk. Whether he can turn his career around in Cleveland remains to be seen ... but on the Celtics, he was hideously terrible. By Tuesday night, even rookie Al Jefferson was snapping at him on the court -- nobody respected him.
So when my man Chad Ford wrote that column that Welsch "was a good, solid player" and that he'll "help them in the short run," it made me laugh. Out loud. Let's see Jiri play two good games in a row, then we can talk.
VAN HORN TO THE MAVS
Liked this move for Dallas -- they desperately needed another forward with some size. Every time I clicked on a Mavs game and saw Alan Henderson waddling around there, I couldn't believe it. More important, have you noticed that Cuban is on a mission to acquire every white guy who was ever a high lottery pick? LaFrentz, Bradley, Van Horn ... why haven't they made a run at Googs yet? What about Steve Stipanovich?
NAJERA TO THE NUGGETS
K-Mart, Najera AND Nene on the same floor? Let's get ready to rummmmmmmmblllllllllllle!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
NOBODY GOES FROM THE BLAZERS
Here's what they had last February: A playoff team with Rasheed and Miles expiring in 2004; Stoudamire and Dale Davis expiring in 2005; Randolph becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2005.
Here's what they have now: A lottery team with Ratliff signed for $45 million through 2008; Miles signed for six years, $48 million; Randolph signed for an $86 million extension that doesn't kick in until next season; $35 million in contracts (Stoudamire, Van Exel and Shareef) getting wiped off after this summer; and no cap space to sign a marquee guy. They should have to pay reparations to Blazers fans for everything that's happened over the past five years.
NOBODY TO THE T-WOLVES
Yesterday afternoon, this amazed me. They had $20 million in expiring contracts (Spree and Ervin Johnson) and as a disgruntled point guard (Cassell), they haven't looked good all season ... and they didn't do anything? What's going on with this team?
Well, I got my answer last night at the Clippers-Wolves game: KG's knee isn't just screwed up, it's REALLY screwed up. He looked terrible. If I had to guess, I'd say he's playing at 40% right now. I think they're hiding something, I think the injury is worse than they're letting on, and I think that's the real reason they didn't do anything this month. What's the point? They're only going so far as KG ... and he's damaged goods this season.
KNICKS GET TWO MORE UNDERSIZED POWER FORWARDS
I have a couple of thoughts here ...
1. When Isiah called the Spurs and said, "We'll give you Nazr Mohammed, you give us Malik Rose and a crap No. 1, and we don't care about the $20 million difference in salaries," do you think Gregg Popovich said, "Lemme call you right back," then pretended he was deliberating about it for 30 secondsw before speed-dialing Isiah back? Was there laughter in the Spurs offices? High-fiving? Was Popovich the guy who called Isiah under the "Maybe Isiah will be dumb enough to give us a center" premise? How did this go down?
2. Am I crazy or do the Knicks have a 10-man rotation made up of 3 shooting guards, 5 power forwards and 2 small forwards?
3. Could Isiah make a trade that surprised you anymore at this point? For instance, if you read that he traded Stephon Marbury to the Lakers for Brian Grant, Tierre Brown, a lottery-protected first-rounder and the rights to Magic Johnson's next comeback, would you even bat an eyelash? Me neither.
Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His Sports Guy's World site is updated every day Monday through Friday.