Tag Archives: Kobe Bryant

The Magic Shit The Bed: Dwight Howard To The Lakers

Tonight is the night that the Dwight Howard fiasco/quagmire/Dwightmare/Dwigh-ietnam has officially ended. In a four team trade, the Los Angeles Lakers got their man in Howard, the Denver Nuggets got Andre Iguodala, the Philadelphia 76ers got Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson, and the Magic got Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Nikola Vucevic, and three protected 1st round picks.

The Magic had the biggest asset of the trade and most to gain, and made out the worst of all three of the teams. How does that happen? To understand how bad this deal is, it’s important to remember the trades that the Magic passed up last month.

SCENARIO #1: The Brooklyn Nets
The Nets were Howard’s preferred destination all along. Although he changed his mind about a trillion-billion-million-billion times, it was well-known that Howard wanted to join Deron Williams and Joe Johnson in Brooklyn. The Nets offered an underwhelming package, feeling that they had enough leverage through Howard’s desire to join them to force the Magic’s hand and pull off the deal. There were multiple, very complex variations of a potential Nets deal, but here’s the final one the Magic passed up:

Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries, $3 million cash, and 4 future 1st round picks, plus another potential 1st rounder if the Nets could find a 3rd team to trade Anthony Morrow to. The Magic would send Howard, the contracts of (notice how the contracts are more valuable than the players themselves) Jason Richardson (3 years/$18.6 million), Chris Duhon (3 years/$11.25 million), and Earl Clark (1 year/$1 million). The Magic would be shedding over $47 million in salary, while only taking on Humphries (2 years/$24 million) and Lopez (something substantially less than the $61 million max contract the Nets ended up giving him). With some future maneuvering, the Magic could’ve traded Humphries and Lopez if they wanted. Best case, the Magic get substantial cap relief and a new long-term direction to work to.

SCENARIO #2: The Houston Rockets
The Rockets amnestied Luis Scola to make a Howard deal more likely. Straight-up, they’d be able to offer cap relief and 1st round picks, but no starting quality players. The Rockets could’ve taken on that $47 million of Howard, Duhon, and Richardson plus the remainder of Glen Davis’s 3 year/$19.6 million contract. Additionally, the Magic would’ve had their choice of the Rockets three 1st round picks this year (Jeremy Lamb, Terrence Jones and Royce White), plus future picks. It’s a bigger cap relief for the Magic than the Nets deal, but it returns no players to help win a few games now.

SCENARIO #3: Rockets+Lakers
All along, this was the deal that made the most sense for all teams involved. Howard would go to the Lakers, Bynum would go to the Rockets, and the Magic would be able to send the Richardon, Duhon, Davis cap flotilla while also possibly forcing the Lakers to take Hedo Turkoglu and the remaining 2 years/$23.8 million left on his deal. The Rockets would presumably give up one of their 2012 1st rounders too. This deal would provide the ultimate cap relief for the Magic, allowing them to completely hit “restart” with their franchise. They’d rip their team up and compete with interns and play for a high pick in a 2013 draft without a clear-cut franchise player, but this deal leaves the most options open for their future. They could now explore trades to take on contracts of franchise players or decide to build through the draft.

The Magic rejected all three of these trade scenarios, and for what? Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, a guy name Moe Harkless, some European no-name, and three protected 1st rounders, meaning three non-lottery picks. The only cap relief they got was shedding Jason Richardson’s contract. They were better standing pat until the trade deadline and getting a few months out of Howard than taking this deal. They’re taking on a combined $52 million in contracts in Affalo and Harrington for the next four years (Harrington’s $7 million per season contract comes off the books in three years). Where’s the cap restart that the Magic pursued for months there? Even worse, Pau Gasol was originally included in the deal, but the Magic didn’t want to take on his 2 year/$38 million contract. They were already shooting themselves in the foot with Afflalo and Harrington, so why not get Gasol too? To hell with it! The Magic had the best player in the deal and the most contracts to be wiped off the books, and they fucked up. None of the three other deals presented were particularly attractive, but this one was the ugly sister of the four.

In a league where you want to either be maxing out and “going for it” or shedding contracts and tanking games for a shot at landing a superstar or a high draft pick, this trade does not allow the Magic to pursue the desirable 2nd option. Acquiring Afflalo and Harrington still makes them bad, but not bad enough to top the Bobcats in the lottery next year. Taking on those contracts gives them less cap flexibility than they need. Being an average team with no lottery prospects and no cap flexibility (the Knicks the past decade), is not attractive, but that’s what the Magic are tonight.

On the other side of the trade, the Lakers got the dominant, athletic big-man they needed to clean up Steve Nash’s defensive mistakes and receive his alley-oops, the Nuggets got cap relief and a faux franchise player in Iguodala, and the 76ers got the inside presence and size they needed in Bynum, who might just sign an extension. After all, he’s now the best center in a wide-open East (wide-open 2 seed, that is), and his hometown is an hour outside of Philadelphia. Everyone won except for the Magic.

(I’m also disgusted with the Lakers ability to reload decade after decade despite all salary cap and financial restrictions imposed upon NBA teams today. Last decade they lured Shaq out of Orlando and fleeced the Bobcats into gifting them Kobe, and now this. At least we’ll get that LeBron-Kobe NBA Finals Stern we all wanted years ago.)

Somewhere in the NBA’s NYC offices, David Stern is removing a loaded colt .45 revolver from Magic GM Rob Hennigan’s temple and whispering “Good boy, good boy” while Hennigan whimpers and hangs up with the Lakers. Somewhere in London, Kobe is thanking Iguodala for being “a good sport” while also shitting on Durant, Harden and Westbrook. Literally climbing into their beds at 5 AM and pooping on each of them. Sorry for putting that image in your mind.

This leaked text message from Stern to Lakers owner Jerry Buss has also landed on the Internet:

This league will drive men crazy.

Follow Justin on Twitter @jblock49

1992 Dream Team Vs. 2012 USA Men’s Team: The Breakdown

“So I don’t know. It’d be a tough one, but I think we’d pull it out.”—Kobe Bryant on whether the 2012 Men’s team could beat the 1992 Dream Team

“I absolutely laughed.”—Michael Jordan on Kobe’s quote.

In any sport, it’s difficult to compare guys from different eras. Athletes today are healthier, more athletic, and smarter than they were twenty years ago. NBA rules have changed to make the game more open, allowing point guards to flourish. The league has gotten softer as players have become more physically gifted—the guys on the 1992 Dream Team were probably disgusted by how the playoffs were called this year. But if a hypothetical game between the Dream Team and the sequel to 2008’s “Redeem Team” happened, would the 2012 squad have a chance? Before we get into match-ups, here’s what we know:

The two greatest players of their generation are at the apex of their powers. At age 28 in 1992, Michael Jordan came off a 30-6-6 year, embarrassed Clyde Drexler in the 1992 Finals after a “Who’s Better: Jordan or Drexler?” debate was started during the playoffs, and promptly seized Finals MVP (the famous Shrug Game being the highlight). At age 27, LeBron James is coming off an MVP 27-6-8 campaign and a Finals MVP, settling a premature and unfair “Who’s Better: Durant or LeBron?” debate. Jordan at his peak versus LeBron at his peak? And if Gus Johnson is calling the game… Instant cumshot for every basketball fan.

Every player on the Dream Team is an NBA Hall of Famer except for Christian Laettner. If Isiah Thomas wasn’t hated so universally in 1992, he would’ve made it over Laettner (Chuck Daly, the Dream Team’s coach, and Thomas’s coach on the Pistons didn’t even pick him), giving the Dream Team 12 Hall of Famers in 12 roster spots. Alas, they’re 11 for 12 (unless Laettner’s College Basketball Hall of Fame spot counts. He’s enshrined in the same building as Jordan, since the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield covers all areas of basketball). It’s hard to project who will be a Hall of Famer on the 2012 team, but surely the likes of Andre Iguodala won’t make it to Springfield. For historical purposes, the Dream Team reigns supreme.

The 2012 team lacks size. Tyson Chandler is the lone 7-footer on that roster, and offers nothing offensively. The Dream Team had 7-footers Patrick Ewing and David Robinson. Dwight Howard is missed just for his size and post strength alone. Chandler can’t play the entire game though, leaving the likes of Kevin Love, LeBron, and Anthony Davis to protect the post against Ewing, Robinson, Charles Barkley, and Karl Malone.

The Dream Team is slow at point guard. Magic Johnson didn’t play in the NBA in 1992, but he proved in the Olympics that he was still the best point guard in basketball. At age 31, however, he was a huge liability defensively. His backup, John Stockton, was no burner either. Meanwhile, the 2012 team has the most explosive point guard available in Russell Westbrook, and Magic’s heir, Chris Paul.

The 2012 team is injured. Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, Dwayne Wade, and Blake Griffin are all out with injuries for Team USA. Howard’s size, Rose’s speed, Wade’s scoring, and Griffin’s power are all huge misses for the 2012 team. These guys would’ve made a real difference. Howard and Griffin would help patch a weak spot inside for the 2012 team, Rose could further exploit Magic and Stockton, and Wade is a huge upgrade at shooting guard over Kobe’s current backups.

Now that those facts have been hashed out, who wins the individual matchups at each position?

POINT GUARD
Magic in his prime was better than Chris Paul is now, but in 1992, Magic was at the end of his career. A Paul/Westbrook/Deron Williams combination would tear up Magic and Stockton (who got regularly got beat by the speedy Gary Payton throughout his career), beating them with pure speed and stealing ability. 2012 Team wins.

SHOOTING GUARD
Here, the two biggest alpha-dogs of their time would be paired up against each other. Nobody in basketball was more competitive than Jordan, although Kobe would definitely have something to say about that. Jordan and Kobe would kill each other out there. Although Jordan in his prime blows an aging Kobe away physically, Kobe wouldn’t make it easy—he’s too much of a competitive killer. Drexler wasn’t the same player after Jordan took his soul in the 1992 Finals (seriously, Drexler went from being a top 5 player to barely an All-Star after that), but he’s still superior to James Harden and Westbrook at the 2. Drexler was in his prime in 1992, while Harden, Gordon and Westbrook are still figuring themselves out. Dream Team wins.

SMALL FORWARD
Larry Bird, Chris Mullin, and Scottie Pippen (and maybe Barkley?) against LeBron, Kevin Durant, and Carmelo Anthony. While LeBron will play any position 1-5 and would probably guard Jordan, Durant and Anthony could hold their own. Larry Bird was still a maverick with the ball even when he retired, but his back was shot by this point. The uber-athletic speed, strength, and length of Durant and Anthony would cause too much trouble for Bird, Mullin, and Pippen to handle. Have LeBron actually play the 3, and this matchup is no contest. 2012 Team wins.

POWER FORWARD
Barkley in his prime was better than any forward not named LeBron that the 2012 team could offer against him. He’d make Love question his own abilities, as Love is hardly an apt defender. Barkley would remind Davis of his rookie status over and over again, as an undersized but thick Barkley would plow through Davis. Malone coming off of a world-beating 28-11 season only makes things worse for the 2012 team. Davis is the only one who could potentially defend Barkley and Malone—2015 Anthony Davis that is—not rookie Anthony Davis. Dream Team wins.

CENTER
A Pity Party is needed for Tyson Chandler here. He’s going to have to do the bulk of the interior defending with Davis against Ewing and Robinson in their primes. Chandler is the best defensive center in basketball today, but he couldn’t hold on against Robinson and Ewing rotating in and out. Too many big, fresh bodies for the Dream Team, and not nearly enough offense or size inside for the 2012 team. Dream Team wins.

The Dream Team wins 3-2 in the matchup battle. These are teams that will come bringing different styles of basketball though, and matchups aren’t everything. The Dream Team would have more emphasis on attacking the weak interior of the 2012 Team with their bigs, while having Jordan and Magic do everything they can on fast breaks. The 2012 team is going to try and win on speed and athleticism down the wings and in transition, with Chris Paul and LeBron in a power-point guard role spearheading attacks to Westbrook, Durant, and Davis down the court. If I’m Coach K, I go with a Paul, Kobe, Westbrook, Durant, LeBron, Chandler starting five, but eventually settling in with a Paul, Westbrook, Durant, LeBron, Davis lineup to make the game a track meet. It’s their only shot against the size of the Dream Team.

Who wins? The Dream Team. Never bet against Jordan. No way he lets this game get away.

Follow Justin on Twitter @jblock49