A certain well-known head coach from the collegiate ranks found his hide slightly more tanned yesterday following Part 1 of our interview with best-selling author and Yahoo! Sports columnist Adrian Wojnarowski. In the second part of our virtual fireside chat with this titan of NBA writers, it’s certain recycled–and unnamed–league GMs taking a few jabs to the chin.
Of course, that’s just our juicy, gossipy hook: these interviews with Wojnarowski have mostly focused on the positive aspects and developments in this league we all love so dearly. As with all of the interviewees we’ve featured in our ongoing Scribes of the NBA Series, we owe a hearty thank you to Adrian for taking time out of his busy schedule to talk hoops with us.
Alright, let’s get to it: Part 2 of ETB’s interview with Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski.
ETB: There’s been lots of moving and shaking going on this summer. Between the draft, free agency, and trades what are your favorite moves on paper so far?
Wojnarowski: Elton Brand changes so much for the Sixers. Ed Stefanski did a great job to exploit that wedge between David Falk and the Clippers, create more cap space, and get that deal done. Philly adds Brand to such an intriguing, young nucleus in Philly.
Obviously I love New Orleans’ signing of James Posey. They had to overpay a little, but that’s the only way they were going to get him out of Boston. He’s exactly the winning, veteran presence that they needed on those two long off days between the Hornets’ Games 6 and 7 against the Spurs. And while he didn’t play much a year ago, the talent and growth of Julian Wright in New Orleans will be dramatic. He was a great pick late in the lottery for GM Jeff Bower and his assistant, Brian Hagen, a year ago. Once Wright blossoms this year to bolster that Hornets bench they are going to have a frightening array of weapons.
With a motivated Jermaine O’Neal, Toronto will return to the elite in the East. This was a good gamble by Bryan Colangelo. He is getting O’Neal at the right time in his career and the fact that he can play off Chris Bosh—and no longer needs to be the star—is a huge benefit for him.
A couple of smaller pickups that are underrated:
– The Spurs grabbed Roger Mason, who can score the ball off the bench.
– Marc Gasol is going to be a good NBA player for Memphis. I really was surprised by his versatility at the Olympics. I had thought he was just a bruiser, but he has some ‘stuff’ in his offensive game.
– Also, I think Darius Miles has done a lot of maturing. His knee appears better. Danny Ainge had nothing to lose bringing him into Boston. Finally, Miles will have some real peer mentoring around him. He had spent most of his career with knucklehead crews with the Clippers, Blazers, and Cavaliers. That said, Darius was one of the leading knuckleheads, so we’ll see.
– The move that DIDN’T happen that still blows me away: Why didn’t the Knicks give Zach Randolph’s contract to the Clippers when the Clips were far enough under the cap to not have to return any salary to New York? Donnie Walsh had a chance to shed that deal, take back no money, and he didn’t do it.
More good stuff in Part 2 of ETB’s interview with Adrian Wojnarowski after the break…
ETB: A lot of casual fans see today’s trades as more financial and salary cap games than actual exchanges of talent. Then, of course, there’s this summer’s mid-tier free agent exodus to Europe. Is the system broken, and if so how can it be addressed?
Wojnarowski: I actually think it’s good for the NBA to lose a few guys to Europe, Russia, etc. I don’t think it’s harmful. The NBA will import some and it’ll export some.
Here’s the bigger issue the NBA is facing: They have franchises like Memphis and Atlanta that are such nickel-dime operations, so dysfunctional, that players feel leaving for Europe might give them a better, more professional environment. That’s a sad statement on the bottom-feeding franchises in the NBA.
To me, that’s a big part of why Josh Childress left for Greece. He could’ve stayed for more money in Atlanta, but understandably had had it with that organization. Juan Carlos Navarro left Memphis to go home to Spain, too. In a lot of cases, it’s just restricted free agents getting low-balled by NBA teams who are finding an appetite for the burgeoning international dollar. There’s no chance the NBA is going to make this a more player-friendly free agent system. They’ll take their hits, let guys go, and wait to see if this ever costs them a Kobe or a Wade.
ETB: In your estimation, who is the most savvy personnel man in the NBA today and why?
Wojnarowski: I can’t pick one, but I’ll say this: The best GM’s are those who pick the right players for their coaches and their systems. Here are five consistently good ones:
1. Joe Dumars, Detroit Pistons
2. R.C. Buford, San Antonio Spurs
3. Bryan Colangelo, Toronto Raptors
4.. Jeff Bower, New Orleans Hornets
5. Kevin O’Connor, Utah Jazz
I’ll say this, too: I wish the same guys would stop getting recycled so often for GM jobs. Tommy Sheppard (Washington), Chris Grant (Cleveland), and David Griffin (Phoenix) are assistant GM’s ready to make the leap.
ETB: The Tim Donaghy Scandal was in the news again, with referee Scott Foster also revealed earlier this summer as a possible accomplice. As a writer you have to cover it, but as a fan do you care? Does it affect the way you watch or think about the NBA?
Wojnarowski: I care deeply. Everyone should. Nothing in the NBA matters unless not only is the officiating above board, but the perception is that the officiating is above board. For years, the NBA insisted that it just had a perception problem; only it had a real problem. They need to keep doing a better job of developing young officials, monitoring them, and giving teams and fans a real sense of transparency about the operation.
ETB: Philly, Atlanta, New Orleans, Portland: there are a number of exciting young teams in the NBA right now. Which is your favorite and which is most likely to bring home an NBA title first?
Wojnarowski: That’s easy—the Hornets. They have a chance to win a title this year. They are a wildly entertaining team to watch play, and they do it on both ends, too. The others would be happy to win a playoff series this year.
ETB: Where do you feel the D-League has the biggest room for improvement? Do you agree with the approach as far as in which markets (read: small) many teams have been placed in so far?
Wojnarowski: You know, I love the D-League and had a blast covering the D-League Showcase in Idaho last year. It’s a great event to connect with front-office guys from the league, but there’s so much good development going on there. There are coaches in the D-League, like Bryan Gates in Idaho, who belong in the NBA… and will get there. Jeff Ruland left Albuquerque for the 76ers, where he will be a great resource for Philly’s big guys.
You are starting to see franchises like the Spurs use their affiliate (Austin) team as a true extension of their own organization, a place to teach “The Spurs Way.” (Much to the dismay of the commissioner’s office, of course.) To me, San Antonio has built a model of how to do things with Austin. They will reap benefits there.
ETB: A lot can and will change between now and opening day, but if you had to pick the 2008-09 NBA Champ right now, who would it be and why?
Wojnarowski: I wonder if Boston can stay injury-free this year. They’ll miss Posey. As much as everyone is waiting for the return of Andrew Bynum, he still needs to prove he can be a consistent and motivated player through 82 games… never mind a long playoff chase. That said, I think he’ll get there. I’ll take the Lakers.
Recommended Columns by Adrian Wojnarowski:
– Europe Offers More Than Vacation to Players
– Landing Davis No Laughing Matter for Clippers
– Long Wait Finally Over for Garnett
– D.J.’s Greatness Extended to His Final Team
– Big Apple Could Take Big Bite Out of D’Antoni
More ETB’s Scribes of the NBA Interview Series:
– J.E. Skeets of Yahoo!’s Ball Don’t Lie
– David Friedman of 20 Second Timeout
– Ron Hitley of Hornets 24/7
– Ryne “Odenized” Nelson of SLAMonline
– Tom Ziller of Sactown Royalty and FanHouse
– Brett Hainline of Queen City Hoops
– Dave Deckard of Blazer’s Edge
– Kurt of Forum Blue and Gold
– Brian Powell of Awful Announcing
– Lee Grammier of The Dream Shake
– Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead
– Scott Carefoot of Raptor Blog
– Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Part 1
– Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Part 2
– Matt Watson of AOL FanHouse and Detroit Bad Boys
– Natalie Sitto of Need4Sheed.com
NBA Basketball and David Stern Photos Credit: Icon SMI