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Kwame Brown’s Fourth Lease on NBA Life Might Be His Last One

July 31, 2008

Will Kwame Brown bring the 'fro back to Detroit?The Detroit Pistons and GM Joe Dumars have a long history of turning reclamation projects into success stories, but recent free-agent acquisition Kwame Brown might present the biggest challenge yet to the team’s voodoo magic.

Brown, indeed, had better hope he discovers the magical fountain of invigoration that has worked wonders on players like Chauncey Billups, Antonio McDyess, and Rasheed Wallace in recent years. This could very well be his last chance to not only collect a hefty NBA paycheck—he’ll make $8 million over the next two seasons, with the last being a player option—but to eradicate his name from the top of the all-time NBA draft busts list.

As the story goes, the 6-11 high-schooler Kwame Brown was taken first overall in the 2001 NBA Draft by then-Washington Wizards team president Michael Jordan with the expectations of becoming the franchise cornerstone and helping bring that moribund franchise back into the light of NBA success.

Kwame Brown Photo Credit: Icon SMI

It didn’t exactly work out. Kwame became more famous for his small, stone hands and stubby arms than for low-post dominance. He averaged just 4.5 points and 3.5 boards during his rookie season, succumbed to the pressures of being Jordan’s first hand-picked draftee, and was eventually traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in ’05 in a package that netted the Wiz current All-Star and ETB favorite Caron Butler. So, yeah… at least Washington was able to turn a dismal failure into a resounding success. Better late than never, right?

Brown spent a few years wallowing in sub-mediocrity for the Lake Show before being traded as part of The Great Pau Gasol Swindle last year with Memphis. To date, he has never played in all 82 regular-season games in any of seven seasons, and his best year came in 2003-04 when he averaged 10.9 points, 7.4 boards, and 49% FG. At 6-11, he has a career per-game average of 0.7 blocks. In other words, he’s a defensive force in the paint the likes of which is rarely seen.

More on Kwame Brown and how he might fit in with the Pistons after the break…

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3 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Jul. 31, 2008 at 12:38pm in NBA

ETB’s Scribes of the NBA Interview Series – David Friedman of 20 Second Timeout

July 30, 2008

ETB’s Scribes of the NBA Interview Series

For our next installment in the Scribes of the NBA Interview Series ETB is proud to present freelance hoops writer David Friedman. David’s work can be seen regularly on his blog 20 Second Timeout, a favorite here at Empty the Bench. It’s one of the most consistently well-written and researched blogs on the net that breaks down all of today’s NBA action while also taking time to break down the great players of yesteryear. Be sure to check it out.

As a freelance writer, David’s work has been featured in a number of publications and websites including Hoop, Lindy’s Pro Basketball, Basketball Times, Basketball Digest, NBCSports.com, HoopsHype.com, ProBasketballNews.com, Legends of Basketball (the official website of the NBRPA), The Biz of Basketball, 411Mania.com and The United States Chess Federation website.

He’s a prolific scribe to say the least, and we couldn’t be more pleased to have him on board.

Without further delay, ten questions from ETB and ten answers from Mr. Friedman ranging from the 2008 NBA Finals, the great Dr. J, the new basketball metrics, living the mustachioed life and more.

ETB: Did Kobe Bryant’s underwhelming performance in the NBA Finals change your opinion of him in any way?

David Friedman: That is an interesting question. Let’s begin by looking at the final numbers for two players from that series.

One player averaged 43.0 mpg, 25.7 ppg, 5.0 apg, 4.7 rpg, 2.67 spg and 3.83 tpg. He shot .405 from the field, .321 from three point range and .796 from the free throw line.

The other player averaged 38.8 mpg, 21.8 ppg, 6.3 apg, 4.5 rpg, 1.17 spg and 3.67 tpg. He shot .432 from the field, .393 from three point range and .830 from the free throw line.

Kobe Bryant PhotoWithout analyzing matchups and examining other contextual factors, which of these players had the better series statistically? The first player scored more, got slightly more rebounds and had a lot more steals. The second player shot somewhat better from the field–particularly on three pointers–and the free throw line. Turnovers were a wash. Of course, the second player’s team won the series and Paul Pierce was rightly selected as the Finals MVP; the first player in this example is Kobe Bryant.

The reason that I bring up these numbers is that I don’t think that most people really bothered to take the time to look at them. There is a perception that Kobe played terribly and that Pierce reached a new level. I covered the first Celtics-Pacers game of the year and this is what I wrote about Pierce:

“…he had an impact on what happened in the third quarter just by being on the court; the threat that he poses offensively means that in future games he can also have that kind of an impact even if he does not have a second quarter scoring outburst because if teams trap him from the start of the game to prevent a Pierce scoring run then Allen or someone else will be open. The only way to fully understand this kind of dynamic is to actually watch a team play and to really pay attention to what they are trying to do and how the other team is countering those things. Plus/minus can hint at some of these things, but Pierce’s impact–and the impact of any other player who must be double-teamed–is no less real even on occasions when his teammates do not make the open shots that his presence creates. Only a handful of players have that kind of effect on a game, guys like Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, LeBron James, and a few others; sometimes their teammates take advantage of playing four on three and sometimes they don’t but a player who commands that kind of coverage is more valuable than players who don’t, regardless of what their respective statistics might indicate.”

So, I was saying in November that Pierce can have an impact on a game rivaling that of Kobe, Duncan and LeBron. It does not surprise me that Pierce could have the kind of series that he did in the Finals, particularly when being guarded mostly by Vlad Rad, Luke Walton and Vujacic. Many of Pierce’s three pointers came in transition after bad Lakers’ offensive possessions and that was the aspect of the Finals that surprised me. I picked the Lakers to win because I thought that Boston would have trouble containing the Kobe Bryant-Pau Gasol screen/roll action. When the Lakers execute that action effectively it results in a dunk for Gasol, a wide open three on the weak side or an open shot for Kobe. The Lakers simply murdered San Antonio and Utah (last year’s champion and Western Conference finalist respectively) with that action so I thought that they could run it effectively against Boston as well.

What happened in the Finals is that Gasol played a lot more tentatively than he did in the previous series. He did not set his screens aggressively, he did not roll to the hoop with purpose and when he caught the ball in the post he often made soft moves that resulted in missed shots or steals. How many times did Rondo just drop down and take the ball from Gasol? There was one particular play when Gasol set a screen and halfheartedly rolled to the hoop while Kobe’s pass to where Gasol should have been sailed out of bounds (that’s a turnover for Kobe, by the way, even though Gasol made a bad play). Kobe made a gesture indicating “cut harder” and Gasol pointed to his chest acknowledging that this is exactly what he should have done. Of course, some people watching that interaction who don’t understand basketball think that it reflects Kobe being a bad teammate when in reality he was being a coach on the floor. You may recall Magic doing similar things with a young Vlade Divac, which is not to compare Kobe to Magic or Gasol to Divac from a skills standpoint but just a reminder of how a team’s best player must provide guidance to his teammates to help them perform the way that they should.

In the Finals, Kobe led the Lakers in minutes, scoring, assists and steals. Kobe received little help from his teammates, other than Vujacic in one game, Gasol sporadically and Odom even more sporadically. Also, much like the 2004 Finals, the Lakers had serious issues with guarding the one, two and three positions. Basically, whoever Kobe did not guard went off. The Lakers had some success putting Kobe on Rondo and having Kobe roam to help the players who were guarding Pierce and Allen but the Celtics adjusted well to that by game six. Kobe guarded Pierce better than any other Laker did and most of Pierce’s points when Kobe was assigned to him came in transition.

Kobe Bryant Photo Credit: Icon SMI

I consider LeBron James to be the second best player in the NBA. He averaged 26.7 ppg on .355 field goal shooting (including .231 from three point range) and committed 5.3 turnovers per game versus Boston in the 2008 playoffs. So why did the Cavs push Boston to seven games while the Lakers lost in six? The Cavs are a much better defensive team than the Lakers and the Lakers did not take advantage of the excellent offensive execution that helped them to defeat the Spurs, Jazz and Nuggets. By the way, Kobe averaged 29.2 ppg on .533 field goal shooting and committed just 2.4 turnovers per game when the Lakers beat the Spurs, a team that completely throttled James in the 2007 Finals (22.0 ppg, .356 field goal shooting, .200 three point shooting, 5.8 turnovers per game). The difference between Kobe and LeBron is that Kobe can consistently make midrange jumpers and three point shots. I said during last year’s Finals that the Spurs would not be able to guard Kobe the way that they guarded LeBron (i.e., sagging off of him, daring him to shoot jumpers while sealing off passing lanes) and this year’s playoffs proved that I was correct about that.

For the reasons listed above, the Finals did not change my opinion that Kobe Bryant–based on his skill set and work ethic–is the best all-around player in the NBA, nor did LeBron’s performance against Boston change my opinion that he is the second best all-around player in the NBA.

More Q & A with David ranging from Artis Gilmore to Jim Barnett after the jump…

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4 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Jul. 30, 2008 at 2:32pm in Interviews, NBA

Ronald “Snake Eggs” Artest Lands in Houston

July 30, 2008

Ron Artest: True WarriorThings are about to get a lot more interesting for Rockets Nation. According to the Houston Chronicle, the Rockets and Kings have a deal in place centered on extremely talented and extremely mercurial forward Ron Artest. Details of the swap are sketchy at this point, and nothing will be finalized for a few weeks, but here’s how it looks at the moment:

“The Rockets will give up guard Bobby Jackson, a No. 1 draft pick next season and another player that the individual with knowledge of the trade could not name. Rockets general manager Daryl Morey declined to comment.

Rookie forward Donte’ Greene, whom the Rockets acquired in a series of draft-night trades, will be included in the trade and is considered a key to the deal for the Kings. But because Greene signed July 14, he cannot be traded until Aug. 14 and the deal cannot be finalized or discussed publicly by team officials until Aug. 14.

The Rockets are also expected to acquire another player or players in the deal to make the money match, but Artest is the only player that the Rockets will acquire that will remain on the roster. The Rockets will also send the Kings roughly $1 million.”

Ron Artest Photo Credit: Icon SMI

Depending on which Ron Artest shows up in Texas this could be a steal or a colossal gaffe. When his head is on straight there are few players in the NBA that can have as significant an impact on both ends of the floor as Artest can. He’s one of the best defenders in the league and an absolute bull at 6-7 and 248 pounds.

Then again, this guy has never had his head screwed on straight for an entire season. From his controversial days in Chicago to the brawl at the Palace of Auburn Hills to the domestic abuse charges last summer to his bizarre handling of his contract with the Kings this summer, and everywhere in between, one thing has become undeniably clear: the guy is batshit crazy.

Ron Artest’s volatile chemistry, or lack thereof, is especially significant for the Rockets. Fighting through injuries to Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming last season this team got by as much on team chemistry as any squad in the league. It’s also a team with a clearly defined pecking order of McGrady first, Ming second and everybody else a distant third — something that may not sit well with Artest, who is known to have more confidence in his offensive game that he probably should.

Still, this deal gives Houston a top-flight defender and capable scorer: Artest was the 2004 NBA Defensive Player of the Year and averaged 20.5 points a game last season. He’s a gamer. Ron Ron is capable of guarding anyone from power forwards to shooting guards, though I do wonder how he’s going to fit into an established rotation with 6-8 small forward Shane Battier and 6-8 shooting guard Tracy McGrady. The Chronicle suggests that Houston could finish games with Artest at power forward and Battier at small forward, or go big and have McGrady play the point while Battier and Artest shift to off guard and small forward.

It’s been a quiet offseason for Houston, but this news comes on the heels of a positive report about franchise cornerstone Yao Ming. The 7-6 center scored 21 points in China’s 83-74 win over Angola Tuesday in the Diamond Tournament. Ming hit 8 of his 10 shots to go along with 5 rebounds and 2 blocked shots. That bodes well for a full recovery from a broken foot that sidelined the big man down the stretch last season.

The deal is far from finalized and it remains to be seen how these pieces will fit together, but you have to think a core of Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady, Shane Battier and Ron Artest will be a force to be reckoned with out West next season.

More on this one after it’s finalized.

Related: Ron Artest, Tracy McGrady, Houston Rockets, Shane Battier, Yao Ming

1 CommentPosted by Andrew Thell on Jul. 30, 2008 at 12:30am in NBA

Hustle, Gratuitous Nut Shots Make Nuggets Guard Bill Hanzlik the Best He Can Be

July 29, 2008

As they say, in the NBA no trait is more respected than hustle — which includes a willingness to slam a basketball off an opponent’s genitals in order to save a routine loose ball. It’s on full display in this U.S. Army advert as Hanzlik hits the deck to get a rebound and then delivers a vicious blow to the groin of this unsuspecting Celtic. You gotta love the way Bill excitedly pops back up, jabbing his finger towards his fallen adversary’s shorts and, if I can read lips, exclaims, “Money shot, money shot!”

Remember: giving that extra effort makes winners. Be all you can be.

No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Jul. 29, 2008 at 8:35pm in NBA

ETB’s Scribes of the NBA Interview Series – J.E. Skeets of Yahoo!’s Ball Don’t Lie

July 29, 2008

ETB's interview with J.E. Skeets

We have a real champ of the so-called “blogosphere” on board for the first of Empty the Bench’s ongoing series of interviews with some of the best and brightest NBA writers out there. Oh, who are we kidding: all of these interviews will feature some real heavyweights.

J.E. Skeets first made his name as co-chair of the wildly popular Basketball Jones blog and podcast. He’s since assumed lead duties at Yahoo!’s still relatively new Ball Don’t Lie, which under his expert direction has quickly developed into one of the most entertaining and informative NBA reads you’ll find on the Web.

Without further ado, ETB lobs 10 questions at Mr. J.E. Skeets.

ETB: You made your name, so to speak, with The Basketball Jones podcasts. Was the transition from podcast/radio to the written word a difficult one for you?

Skeets: Not really. I might be the worst writer in the NBA, ahem, “blogosphere,” but I was writing at the now-defunct jeskeets.com long before that Greek in the tucked-in Garbajosa jersey strolled into my basketball life.

ETB: Is the blogosphere supplementing or replacing traditional media for your gathering of NBA news and info?

Skeets: The traditional media is becoming the “blogosphere,” so, yes, most definitely. Minus actual NBA games and maybe the odd MacGyver rerun, I’d take a Ziller, Dwyer, Shoals, or Abbott post over just about anything you’d find exclusively on television or in print.

ETB: You’re NBA Commissioner for a day and have been given permission to permanently change one rule. Which would it be and why?

Skeets: Am I crowned NBA Commissioner around the All-Star Weekend? If so, I’d really like to make that one-on-one tournament a reality. Sixteen players, games to seven, and the winner takes home a cool million — with another million going to a charity of their choice.

ETB: What was your favorite or most memorable moment from the 2007-08 NBA season?

Skeets: It’s a tie between the Suns-Spurs double-overtime thriller, and unexpectedly running into Commissioner Stern in a washroom at the New Orleans Arena before the start of 2008 All-Star Game.

ETB: Which one NBA team do you feel has the most potential for significant growth next year, and why?

Skeets: The Heat. No doubt. A healthy D-Wade, Marion, Beasley, Superintendent Chalmers, and Haslem should be good for 40+ wins. What’d they win/forget to throw last year, like, six?

More Q & A with J.E. Skeets of Yahoo!’s Ball Don’t Lie after the jump…

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2 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Jul. 29, 2008 at 8:25am in Interviews, NBA

Meet Portland Trail Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard, the NBA’s Latest Mastermind

July 27, 2008

Kevin Pritchard, Savior of the Portland Trail BlazersSuccess is ultimately measured by the number of garish, diamond-encrusted NBA championship rings one triumphantly slips onto their finger(s). Finishing above .500 is a good thing, making the playoffs is even better, and winning a series or three once you get there is solid recognition that you’re doing something right.

Until you win that elusive title, however, all those big regular-season wins and all those personnel coups a NBA general manager pulled off to help make those big wins happen are just window-dressing. Tasty starters soon forgotten after the main course arrives. But boy, Portland Trail Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard sure has done a great job of cooking up one of the most alluring PuPu platters in the Western Conference, hasn’t he?

Kevin Pritchard Photo Credit: Icon SMI

They’ve yet to make the playoffs since the Jail Blazers of old were eradicated, but that should soon change under the direction of Pritchard, who’s latest moment of front-office clarity seems to have manifested itself in the recent draft-day trade that netted the Blazers their point guard of the present and future, 6-3 rookie and Las Vegas Summer League MVP Jerryd Bayless.

We’ve all learned not to put a great amount of stock into Summer League performances, but there’s no denying Bayless’ dominance. In four games, the soon-to-be 20 year old averaged 29.8 points, 4.8 boards, 1.3 assists, 1.2 steals, and 48% FG in 34 minutes/per. Next season he’ll join one of the most promising up-and-coming lineups in the league, one that includes 2007 NBA Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy, 2007 first-overall pick Greg Oden, LaMarcus Aldridge, Travis Outlaw, Martell Webster, and fellow rookie Rudy Fernandez, amongst others.

Blake Murphy over at Hoops Addict recently penned an excellent profile of GM Kevin Pritchard, the man responsible for bringing this talented young core together:

It should come as no surprise that Kevin Pritchard has revealed himself as one of the smartest general managers in basketball over the past few years. Since the 2006 offseason, Pritchard has made it no secret that he has a plan as he has traded aggressively, worked the draft masterfully, and changed the entire culture of a struggling franchise.

Some of the credit is owed to previous general managers John Nash and Steve Patterson, who set the wheels in motion for the culture change by listening to Pritchard and shedding a few poor character players. Pritchard, though, is largely to credit with the light-speed turnaround of the franchise.

Murphy also points out that Pritchard’s rebuilding process in Portland is far from finished, too. Raef Lafrentz’s $12 million and Steve Francis’ $17 million expiring contracts come off the books next summer, and the team still owns the rights to promising (overseas) prospects Petteri Koponen, Nicolas Batum, and Joel Freeland. The Darius Miles situation is still unresolved–that story is another post in itself.

Will this core bear championship fruit? Time will certainly tell, and until then the ultimate success of Pritchard’s past and future moves cannot be fully judged. One thing is for certain though: everything sure seems to be coming up Blazers these days.

Related:
- Updates from the 2008 NBA Draft
- The Portland Trail Blazers’ Return to Relevancy is Real
- Portland’s Sergio Rodriguez, Spanish Reggaeton Star by Night

2 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Jul. 27, 2008 at 6:03pm in NBA

The Running of the Free Agents Begins?

July 23, 2008

It’s David Stern’s Problem

David Stern Photo Credit: Icon SMI

The United States’ National Basketball Association has long been the world’s preeminent basketball league. This is the country that invented the sport, and its highest league is supposed to be where every basketball player the world over aspires to play.

United States basketball has lost some of its luster in recent years though. The embarrassment started with a sixth-place finish in the World Championships in 2002, was heightened with the poor bronze medal showing in Athens in the 2004 Olympics and then continued in the summer of 2006 when USA Basketball lost to the Greece in the FIBA semis. Prior to the bronze-medal performance in 2004 the US hadn’t failed to win gold since 1988, another bronze-medal showing that prompted the switch to professional athletes.

Oh, and then there was that whole Tim Donaghy deal last summer.

And the Scott Foster thing this summer.

So yeah, there have been a few bumps in the road. NBA pride has taken a hit in a lot of people’s eyes — and this is a league the sports community is all too eager to hate on already.

The latest blow to David Stern and the NBA’s fragile self esteem could come in the form of European defections — starting with Josh Childress. At the time of this writing no major news outlet in the United States had confirmed the former sixth-overall pick signing with the Greek team Olympiakos. But, according to Yahoo!’s Adrian Wojnarowski, at the very least he’s shown strong interest in a three-year, $20 million offer from the European powerhouse. According to BasketGround, it’s a done deal. I think. My Italian is a bit rusty.

[Ed. It's official now according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution]

And who can blame Childress?

He’s an intelligent 25-year-old guy with international curiosity and the ability to make a phenomenal living for himself in Greece. He can live in a beautiful country loaded with culture and nightlife, continue to play the game he loves at a competitive level and be a real star at it there. He can also escape from the clutches of that Mickey Mouse organization in Atlanta.

Childress hasn’t been anywhere near a star in his brief NBA career, but he’s a solid player who still has a lot of upside. He’s an asset to the Atlanta Hawks and to the NBA, and his departure would be an embarrassment to both. Teams like Atlanta can’t afford to have their lottery picks from just a few years prior bolting the continent. The league can’t afford to lose any more ground or face to international competition.

Unfortunately, as Mr. Wojnarowski points out, there ain’t a thing either can do about it: restricted free-agent rights don’t apply to FIBA contracts — and the Euro is very, very strong right now.

How this could be a big problem, after the jump…

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3 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Jul. 23, 2008 at 12:15am in ETB Articles, NBA

A Love Letter to Josh Smith from Your New Biggest Fan, Who Also Roots for the Pistons

July 22, 2008

Dear Josh,

They don’t appreciate you enough in Atlanta. You know it and I know it.

Come to Detroit, Josh Smith. Come to Detroit.They don’t appreciate your well-toned, both-ends-of-the-floor talents. And they don’t fully grasp the tremendous upside you still have as a four-yet veteran who’ll turn just 23 in December. Already ten times better than Carmelo Anthony defensively and ten times more durable than Tracy McGrady.

But those improbable three-pointers you hit from the corner against the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs? Crickets and tumbleweeds on a new contract. A career average of 2.6 blocks/per as a 6-9 tweener forward? Val Kilmer as the voice of K.I.T.T.

I’m scratching my head just as much as you are, Josh. I mean, you’re a restricted free agent and your options are limited, right? The Hawks front office has a chance to break their moribund streak of poor decision-making by bringing you back. If they wanted to lock you up, Josh, a guy with All-Star games in his future and at least a few Defensive Player of the Year awards, all they’d have to do is pay you what you rightfully deserve.

Is $12+ million/per over the next five or six years too much to ask for a man of your up-and-down skill set? No. I don’t think it is either, Josh.

And, yet… you wait. I wait. The NBA world waits for those unappreciative Atlanta Hawks to tender you an offer and lock you up before you’ve even hit your prime. It hasn’t come yet, Josh, and I think it’s time for you and I to face the cold, hard facts: they don’t want you anymore.

No.

They have other plans with other players. You’re too immature, too streaky, too inconsistent. You saw what they did to your former teammate Josh Childress–they’re pulling the same thing on you. Horseshit. Insult. They don’t want to pay you, Josh; they’re even spreading rumors. Mmhmm… my source reported that one key figure in the Hawks front office said you thought Chris O’Donnell was “dope” as Batman & Robin. You don’t want to play for them.

You’ve had enough. Hey, pay attention: you don’t want to play another game for the Atlanta Hawks. You won’t play another game for the Atlanta Hawks.

And you know why, Josh? Because you’re wanted elsewhere. Oh, yes, you’re wanted somewhere where all the team does is bathe in an enternal fountain of wins. Win, win, win. No funny games, no near-upsets, just wins. And when you pull that red, white, and blue jersey on next season as the latest and greatest member of the Detroit Pistons, the crowd will erupt as you are announced as the team’s new starting power forward, applause deafening like a million Donkey Kongs pounding the cement in triumph after a 1st place finish in the mirror Leaf Cup.

Josh Smith Photo Credit: Icon SMI

Yes, the crowd will roar. Rip will jab-punch your chest in the locker room before the game like he does every night to every teammate. ‘Sheed will invite you into his pregame dance circle as a special guest. Your new point guard (remember what those are like? I know the PG’s have been shaky in Atlanta) Rodney Stuckey will look you in the eye and you’ll know you’re in the right place And you’ll nod, and look into the TV camera, and mouth the words “You were right, Brian. You were right.”

And you’ll win games. And you’ll dunk on weaker opponents at one end and swat their weak shots on the other. You’ll continue to develop your jumper, become a better passer, become a better person, and eventually share dual duties with your new BFF Stuckey as the future faces of an entire franchise. You’ll be an All Star. You’ll be a champion.

You’ll be a goddamn beast.

All of this and more, Josh. It’s all waiting for you in Detroit. And all it’s going to take for you to make this all happen is four short words, five momentous syllables, delivered in haste to that sorry-sack of unappreciative losers in Atlanta: “Trade me to Detroit.”

It’s that easy, Josh. Your new GM, Hall of Famer and two-time NBA champion Joe Dumars, will take of all that legal mumbo-jumbo. Don’t you worry about a thing. It’s time to grow up, Josh, and be the man you were born to be: Josh Smith, F, Detroit Pistons.

See you soon.

Sincerely,

Brian Spencer

3 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Jul. 22, 2008 at 12:05am in NBA

The New-Look Los Angeles Clippers vs. the New-Look Golden State Warriors – Who Do You Like Better?

July 21, 2008

Baron Davis is now teammates with Al ThorntonIt is, admittedly, still a bit premature to take a step back and break down the revamped rosters of the Clippers and Warriors. Both teams still have plenty of business to take care of—especially the Warriors—and by the ball is jumped on opening day this fall there likely will have been additional player movement on both sides.

That said, the Warriors and Clippers as we last saw them have been rendered asunder, with the Clips pillaging their California rival of its big ticket (as well as one of its breakout role players) and netting a former Defensive Player of the Year in exchange for pocket lint and a stick of wax-pack gum.

For their part, the Warriors have been pithy in response, luring ex-Clipper and unrestricted free agent Corey Maggette to the Bay Area, signing former LA Laker Ronny Turiaf to a somewhat puzzling four-year, $17 million deal as a restricted free agent, and attempting to again return the favor to the Clippers after they “stole” Baron Davis by throwing a lucrative offer at Elton Brand. Brand ultimately said ‘thanks, but no thanks’ and latched on with the Philadelphia 76ers, but the Warriors are now rumored to be planning a spiteful kick-to-the-shin of the Sixers by signing their promising young PG Louis Williams to a generous offer sheet. As a restricted free agent the Sixers would have a week to match, but they still have to worry about resigning franchise cornerstone-ish G/F Andre Iguodala, so who knows. As I said, the dust has yet to fully settle.

Baron Davis Photo Credit: Icon SMI

As we move into the dog days of the NBA offseason, however, it’s clear that the Clippers and Warriors, two lottery teams in 2007-08 trying their damnedest to keep pace in the increasingly competitive Western Conference, will be dancing to a different drum next season. The question is, which team has better set themselves up for success in the short- and long-term, and which is just California dreamin’?

ETB takes an early look at the “new” LA Clippers and Golden State Warriors after the jump…

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2 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Jul. 21, 2008 at 8:22am in ETB Articles, NBA

The New Orleans Hornets Land Two-Time Champ and Defensive Specialist James Posey

July 17, 2008

James Posey Could Be a Big Factor

According to the Boston Globe former Celtic shooting guard James Posey has agreed to a four-year, $25 million contract with the New Orleans Hornets. He’ll bring athleticism, outside shooting, stellar defense and a championship swagger to a young Hornets squad that can use all of that — but it’s a steep price to pay for a 31-year-old who has averaged just 9.2 points per game over his nine-year NBA career.

James Posey Photo Credit: Icon SMI

I’ve been a fan of Posey’s since his days in Denver at the beginning of the decade when he was a much different player. Back then the Ohio native and Xavier product was a pesky defender, but he was also a big part of the offense and pretty decent dunker. In his last two seasons for the Nuggets Posey averaged double-digit scoring and just under 3 assists and 6 rebounds a game to go with his solid steals totals. Posey wasn’t what you would call efficient though, sporting around 2 TOs a game to go along with a field-goal shooting around 37%, including over three three-point attempts at under 30%.

He was shipped to Houston during the 2002-03 season where his offense took a back seat before he signed free agent in Memphis for the 2003-04 season. That was the last year Posey scored in double figures, but despite the decline in offensive production his game has aged well in recent years. Over the last five seasons he’s shot at least 37% from behind the arc and over 40% from the field four times. He’s also kept his turnovers at less than one per game in each of the last three seasons.

Posey always had fast hands and a nose for the passing lanes, which has led to 1.2 steals a game over his career. His good defensive instincts have only gotten better and his discipline is greatly improved, allowing him to be a strong defensive rebounder and one of the best in the league at taking charges in limited minutes.

That good footwork and discipline is why Posey has become renown for his ability to keep premier scorers off balance and out of the paint.

He’s honed his game in those respects over the years in addition to adding a mental edge, carving out a role for himself along the lines of a “young” Bruce Bowen. Posey focuses a bulk of his energy on being an incredibly scrappy, irritating and effective defensive presence on the wing. He gets under people’s skin with chippy defense and active hands and throws them off their game by refusing to stop just because the whistle has blown. And like Bowen, on offense he’s now content to just hover around the perimeter knocking down threes. Last season Posey attempted 3.8 of his 5.6 field goals from three-point range — burying 38% of those triples.

What to expect from Posey in The Big Easy, after the jump…

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3 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Jul. 17, 2008 at 12:06am in NBA

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