Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Life after All-Star

Hope everyone is well and had a nice All-Star weekend. As it turns out, a lot happened while I was gone. The main stories, as far as I can tell: (1) The Heat traded Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks to the Raptors for Jermaine O'neal and Jamario Moon, (2) The Suns fired Terry Porter, (3) The Hornets traded Tyson Chandler to the Thunder for Chris Wilcox, Joe Smith, and the rights to Devon Hardin, (4) Tracy McGrady is getting microfracture surgery and is out for the season (at least), (5) the New York Times Magazine published a basketball statistics story on Shane Battier. Also in the air is more and more talk about the economy and how it will affect various NBA teams over the next year or two. I don't have access to each team's financial statements so I can't reliably comment on who is desparately trying to cut payroll or which teams are most likely to relocate (it seems almost a given at this point that one current NBA city won't be on the NBA map next year), but I recommend this article on the possibility of the salary cap and the luxury tax level decreasing next year.

Heat-Raptors trade
This seems pretty straightforward, and it has been rumored for a while so it didn't come as a surprise. The Raptors save a bunch of money, and in the short term they potentially get the sort of athletic swingman they've wanted in Shawn Marion as well as make room for Andrea Bargnani, who has begun to live up to expectations recently, while the Heat fill a big hole at center. I say potentially because Kevin Pelton demonstrated that Marion is much better as a power forward, where the Raptors are already set with Chris Bosh, but in any case, Marion's contract comes off the books this summer. At that point, the Raptors will have a head start on rebuilding the team around Bosh before he becomes a free agent in 2010. 

Terry Porter
Farewell. What a rough year for coaches. Also -- the Suns are a mess. I realize I'm saying this about a team with three all-stars and is 6 games over .500. Still, they are a mess, and it's not a mess that started when Kerr arrived as GM. Years of thinning out the roster through free agency (Joe Johnson) and sold draft picks were upsetting, but following them with a complete financial reversal of course with the Shaq trade just revealed the franchise to be one with lots of talent but no organizational direction. Kerr's hiring Porter and emphasizing defense seemed like a joke given the personnel, and that's exactly what it's been, as Phoenix is worse defensively than they ever were under D'antoni. And I haven't even mentioned the Jason Richardson trade. This is by no means all Kerr's fault, but it really seems like the various levels of this organization (ownership, GM, coach, players) need to get on the same page about what they're trying to accomplish. I wish Alvin Gentry good luck going forward, but nothing about this team feels good right now. 

Tyson Chandler
This is so huge for the Thunder. They have in place now the groundwork for a phenomenal team, with lots of young talent already on the roster and plenty of draft picks coming up in the next couple of years. This is really a team on the rise. And in terms of having a direction -- Phoenix should maybe learn something from this team. From New Orleans' point of view, this is pure cost-cutting, which is disappointing since they are supposed to be title contenders this year. But, as I mentioned earlier, we don't know how dire the financial situation is for various teams this year, and it's easy to imagine that the Hornets are in a particularly bad situation given the state of New Orleans. Get well soon, New Orleans.

As I'm writing this, there's a story out that the trade is being held up because Chandler didn't pass the physical. More on this later . . ..

How depressing. Hopefully this procedure will help relieve some of his ongoing pain issues, but really this feels a bit like the official beginning of the end of his career. I really hope I'm wrong about that. It's too soon to have a eulogy, I guess, but I would like to remind you that not too long ago, earlier this decade, McGrady was easily the best perimeter player in the league, inspiring one of the better pieces ever published at ESPN. Here's hoping to a full recovery, and not a career story that includes the words "just like Penny Hardaway." As for the Rockets for this year: I have no idea what this means. 

Stats story in the NY Times Magazine
There shouldn't be anything new in that article for readers here, but it's nice to see some of the concepts of plus/minus and efficiency getting some attention. Most of this stuff was written about over a year ago in the Houston Press, and the Houston Chronicle has been running Morey stories all year, but I guess the New York Times magazine will be more widely seen, and it is well-written, so check it out. One worry is that with Morey's propaganda machine (I'm assuming) creating so many of these stories about the Rockets and Battier, that (a) advanced basketball statistics will become so closely tied to the Rockets that the perceived value of them will depend entirely on the Rockets' success, and (b) Shane Battier takes the trek from underrated to overrated while similar players on other teams continue to be ignored. 

And Finally: STARBURY!
This is random, but some dude ran into Stephon Marbury on the street and asked if he would co-star in some short skits. Marbury agreed. Here is the first of the resulting videos, via slamonline:

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