Friday, February 29, 2008

Blue Print to a Championship (Part 2 of 2)

Now that we have defined and separated the IT player from the rest of the league, we are ready to define what team management needs to do to win a championship.

Step 1 – “Acquire at least 1 IT player, but I would recommend 2”

This step is easily the hardest because IT players don’t just fall into your lap. There are three ways to obtain an IT player – (1) through the draft (Jordan – Bulls), (2) through a trade or free agency (Shaq – Heat, Arenas - Wizards) or (3) through a trade or free agency before the player is an IT player and he blossoms into an IT player (Butler – Wizards). The one thing that derails the process almost immediately is when a team pays a non-IT player, IT player money. I could write an entire posting with examples of this “crime” to a franchise, but for your sake, I will stick with Warrior examples – Jamison, Richardson, and Dunleavy are the best and most recent examples.

Step 2 – “Build a team that fills the holes that your IT players cannot”

This can be much easier than step 1 if your GM has any understanding of his team. Let’s use the Bulls of the 90s as an example.

Besides Magic Johnson, Jordan could do more on the basketball court than anyone who has ever played the game. However, he could not guard a center or power forward, so the Bulls needed to find players to guard both of these positions. They didn’t need a superstar like Karl Malone who would demand the ball on the offensive end. They just needed players that would provide above-average defense with a little rebounding mixed in. Here are some examples of players they signed over the years to fill this need: Horace Grant, Bill Cartwright, Luc Longley, Bill Wennington, Dennis Rodman and Will Perdue.

Of course the Bulls had other problems. Jordan would frequently get double teamed and Scottie Pippen would rarely be left alone during these double teams. They needed guys who could knock down an open jump shot. Here are some examples of the players they had to fill this need: B.J. Armstrong, John Paxson, Steve Kerr, and Wennington (think this guy was valuable to the Bulls?).

The point is that Bill Wennington was worth 2 cents on the dollar to almost every other team in the NBA but the Bulls. He was, however, a perfect fit in Chicago. In addition, none of the players listed in this example got max money, but they were all worth every penny they were paid. The Bulls front office knew that and they have six rings to prove it.

Step 3 – “Get a head coach that doesn’t screw it all up”

The reason I put this as step 3 is, if you don’t have steps 1 and 2 completed, you have no chance of winning no matter how good your coach is (see Larry Brown with the ’05-’06 Knicks). Phil Jackson was a very important part of the Bulls and Lakers because he knew how to keep the IT players happy while convincing the “puzzle piece” players that they did not need 15 shots a night and were just that, pieces to the puzzle. Once given all the pieces, he made them work together and NBA Championships were the result.

(Of course, if you follow this blue print, it doesn’t guarantee you a championship (Jazz – Malone, Stockton and Sloan). However, if you do not follow it, you have little chance of winning one – I know there is an exception to the rule out there so I am not going to say NO chance)

So where does your team fit?

Trying to complete Step 1

“Worst Team” – Bobcats (It was too easy to pick the Knicks)

The Bobcats are in as bad a shape as any team in the NBA. They have nobody on their roster that even resembles an IT player and they are paying Gerald Wallace and Jason Richardson IT player money. In addition to their flawed roster, they are on the verge of not finishing in the bottom three of the league which would most likely prolong their NBDL level of basketball for the foreseeable future. Their only chance of acquiring an IT player over the next three years is through the draft and that is not very promising.

“Best Team(s)” – Bulls and Sonics

Let’s start with the Bulls. They are eerily similar to the 03-04 Warriors because their roster is full of non-IT players that think they deserve big money. Luol Deng has a nice mid-range game, but he plays little to no defense. Gordon has a better offensive game than Deng, but is a tweener that can get manhandled on the defensive end by most decent shooting guards in the league. Both of these guys think they should get big money just like Richardson and Murphy did. The Warriors ended up dishing out the cash and almost set the franchise back 5 more years (We all know that luck and savvy trades saved the Warriors from extending their playoff-less streak to 20 years). The Bulls have to stay strong and be willing to watch both Deng and Gordon walk if they continue demand too much money at the end of the year. The bottom line for the Bulls is that there are a lot of IT players who want to play in Chicago and their chance of picking up an IT player through free agency or a trade remains high.

The Sonics are probably in the best position of all the “trying to complete Step 1” teams. While many of you would argue that Durant is an IT player, I don’t think you can call him one of the elite players at this point. However, he has the highest ceiling of any of the players in his draft class, so it is safe to say the Sonics may not have to make any moves to complete step one. They are also positioned to have a top 4 pick in the draft, so they could have two potential IT players in their early 20s by next year. Finally, I have to give mad kudos to the Sonics front office for letting Rashard Lewis walk – is anybody listening in Chicago? The future looks bright for the Supes.

(Too bad nobody in Seattle will get to witness this potential dynasty)

Other teams in this category: Nets, Sixers, Knicks, Pacers, Bucks, Hawks, Kings, Grizzles

Trying to complete Step 2

“Worst Team” – LA Clippers

This team has Brand and Kaman down low, which is nice, but they have NOTHING on the outside. (I say nothing because Sam Cassel is either hurt or disinterested, which is the same thing in my book). I don’t think they could be farther away from completing step 2 if they tried. By March they are going to let one lucky fan start at point guard each night and he also gets to pick which cheerleader is going to play the 2. They need help badly and I just don’t think ownership has enough commitment to winning to get the job done.

“Best Team” – Nuggets and Cavs

I will start with the Nuggets. Iverson and Carmelo are everything you would ever want in a tandem of IT players. They play hard every night, can score the basketball at will and play above-average defense. I also like Camby as a nice “puzzle piece” player because he is unselfish and still blocks a decent amount of shots. The problem they have is at the point and interior defense. Losing Steve Blake has hurt them more than anyone could have predicted. Also, Carmelo and Camby are not a strong enough 4-5 combination and Najera is too small to guard an above average 4. Unfortunately for them, Nene could be the answer down low, but he is always sick or hurt, and K-mart is playing on one leg, which makes him ineffective. This team is good, but they still need one more impact role player.

The Cavs are the best team in this category because they have the best IT player in basketball, LeBron James. Unlike Kobe, Shaq and countless other IT players, LeBron almost single-handedly led his team to the finals. However, they had about zero chance to win the finals because LeBron had as bad a supporting cast as anyone in the NBA. I could write an entire article on their shortcomings, but I will keep it simple. They killed their chances of building anything with the Zydrunas Ilgauskas (sorry Dave) and Larry Hughes signings. Ilgauskas is too slow on both ends of the court in the “new” NBA and Hughes … well, Hughes is not very good at anything except stealing the basketball and getting tattoos. They need a lot of help, but I think the most paramount problem is having a dynamic big man down low. Ben Wallace helps on the defensive end, but someone who can put the ball in the basket and run the floor would really do the most for the Cavs.

Other teams in this category: Blazers, Wizards, T-wolves, Clippers, Rockets

Trying to complete Step 3

“Worst Team” – Raptors

I am not afraid to say it – I like the Raptors. I think they have a good team that could be very dangerous come playoff time. They have a nice nucleus of players that understand their roles. In my eyes, they are not quite ready to take the next step because (1) another IT player would not hurt and (2) I don’t think Sam Mitchell has proven he can take a good team and make them great. However, I will say I think he is a good coach. I would not be surprised to see the Raptors make a run in the playoffs.

“Best Team” – Hornets

It is no mystery that the Hornets are having a special year. They have the most underrated starting 5 in the game. They really have almost no holes. Chris Paul is an IT player and he makes everyone around him better. The Tyson Chandler signing looks like a steal at this point. My big concern is Byron Scott. While he did lead the Nets to the NBA Finals, that team could have gone to the Finals without Scott so long as Kidd was at the helm. In the end, I just can’t see Byron Scott out-coaching Gregg Popovich, Sloan, or Jackson in the playoffs.

(Two more things on the Hornets – (1) This team would be MUCH more interesting if they still played in Oklahoma City. Their home court advantage would match Oakland Arena and they are better than the Warriors. (2) Phil Jackson has to be the coach of this team in three years. He leaves the Lakers because he foresees the decline of Kobe and takes another “all they need is a good coach” team over the top by taking the control of the Hornets. The ultimate irony in this scenario is that Kobe kills the Hornets franchise in Charlotte by forcing a trade with the Lakers and then saves the Hornets franchise in New Orleans by breaking down and forcing Phil to leave. The big loser = Charlotte)

Other team in this category: Magic

Ready for a Championship

Here is the short list of who can win a championship this year:

“Least likely” – Jazz

The Jazz have EVERYTHING you need to win a championship - IT players (Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer), puzzle piece players (Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver, Mehmet Okur) and a good coach (Sloan). However, I think they are the least likely because they are streaky, and streaky teams don’t run hot for 6 weeks in the playoffs. If the playoffs started today, they would have to play Dallas in the first round and that would be followed by two rounds with Phoenix, San Antonio, New Orleans or the Lakers. To me, the best case scenario for the Jazz would be Dallas, then New Orleans and then Phoenix. I agree – I don’t realistically see them getting through that gauntlet. However, I would not be absolutely shocked to see them make it through and win it all, so they are a contender.

“My pick to win it all” – Lakers

I really want to pick Detroit, but I just can’t. The Lakers match up well with everybody, and an inspired Kobe is a scary-good Kobe. Gasol is playing like the Laker’s second city is Barcelona. He has mailed it in for the last three years with the Grizzlies and now he looks rejuvenated. Their key puzzle piece players are Derek Fisher (rock solid), Jordan Farmar (where did he come from??) and Ronny Turiaf (X-factor if Bynum does not come back). The only thing that keeps this team from winning is the Gary Sheffield curse aka Lamar Odom. (Lets all agree that the ’97 World Series never happened). Like Gary Sheffield, Odom is a freak as a player and strikes fear in the opposing team by just stepping onto the court. However, they bring nothing but trouble to their current franchises and bad karma only seems to follow them. In summation, the only hope I have as a Warrior fan is for Odom to kill the ’08 Lakers like Sheffield did the ’04 Yankees. I am not holding my breath.

Other teams in this category: Celtics, Pistons, Suns, Spurs, Mavs

You now know more than 2/3 of the GMs in the NBA. Please keep this two part series near you at all times when consulting any future personnel moves by the Warriors or other teams.

So what’s up with the Warriors, you ask?

They are trying to complete step 2. The supporting cast for Baron and Ellis, besides Captain Jack, is pathetic. Everyone keeps talking about saving money to sign Ellis and Biedrins. While I agree with the Ellis part, I have to defer to my Bulls comments when it comes to Biedrins. He is worth $8 mm a year and no more. If you think he is worth more, please think about this fact – Andrew Bynum will be the center for the Lakers for the next 12 years and he is going to eat Biedrins for lunch every time they play. Bottom line: I do not understand why we would want to pay a player close to max money who (1) is NEVER going to be an IT player and (2) will make the Lakers look really good over the next 12 years. Now that Cohan has proven he doesn’t want to spend extra money and assuming that is not going to change, we need to play Belinelli and Wright, because we need to understand what their value is. Belinelli has trade written all over his face because Ellis is going to fill the role of the 2 for the foreseeable future. Based on his recent play, Wright might just be a keeper and it is time to give him his chance.

My outside the box thought on the Warriors for this week is:

Play Wright and see how he does playing the 4. If he shows signs that he can handle the position in the future, the Warriors should do the following:

Sign and trade Biedrins to the Sixers for Dalembert straight up.

Lose a little offense to gain a little defense.

Until next time …

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Blueprint to a Championship – the “IT” player

Welcome to part 1 of a two-part NBA blog about what teams need to do in order to win an NBA championship.

The blueprint starts with acquiring elite player(s). You cannot win an NBA Championship without at least one “IT” player. The obvious question is “what is an ‘IT’ player? Well, welcome to part 1 of the “Blueprint to a Championship

Part 1
In part 1, I will:

define what it means to be an “IT” player,
break the hearts of many fans who think they are watching “IT” players when they really aren’t, (Nets fans should stop reading right now)
give you a list of players that are on the cusp of being “IT” players,
and provide you with a list of my favorite “IT” players.

Similar to great baseball hitters, the great NBA players are born with a talent that cannot be taught, learned, or acquired. Last year, Miguel Cabrera looked like a balloon in his pinstripe Marlins jersey (aren’t pinstripes supposed to make you look thinner?). I doubt he saw the inside of a weight room after spring training. As a result, his season stats were the following:

Avg. - .320
OBP - .401
HR – 34 (In the friendliest park to pitchers in the majors)
RBI – 119

So why was he so good even though it is obvious that he forgot to take his steroids? Because he has “IT.” No matter how hard Kevin Frandsen (SF Giants) works, he will never come close to producing numbers that match those. In the NBA, the concept of having “IT” is even more profound than in MLB. The reason is simple; unlike MLB, where the casual fan would have to go to a month of games to appreciate Miguel Cabrera’s true greatness, the most casual of NBA fans may only have to go to one game to pick out the “IT” players on the floor at any given time. The “IT” player looks different and plays differently than everybody else. He walks with a swagger that says, “I am that good and you are going to see it tonight.” He can, and more often than not does, decide the outcome of games from the opening tip to the final buzzer.

So what is the official “IT” player definition? Here you go: (in no particular order of importance because the “IT” player needs to have all of these attributes)

* When he has the ball with 5 seconds left in a tie game, the opposing team’s fans know they are in trouble.

* He is in at least his third year in the league.

* With 5 minutes left and his team down 4, he says. “get on my back because we are not losing tonight,” and everyone in the huddle believes they are going to win.

* On his best night of the year, his team would beat the 97-98 Bulls.

* He plays above-average defense.

* His numbers are consistent year to year, if they are not improving.

* The vast majority of teams in the league would trade a lottery pick for this player.

* He can create his own shot.

* He does not shy away from taking the ball to the rim and drawing contact.

Simply put, you cannot win an NBA Championship in this era without having at least one “IT” player on your team. (It could be argued that you need 2, but I’ll leave it at one for now).

A) “Close, but no Cigar”

(This list is in no particular order, and is far from comprehensive. It should be viewed as my “Fab Five” of getting paid “IT” money while not being an “IT” player. “IT” money can be defined as any contract that leads to a payout of more than $13 mm for any given year during the contract. The bottom three are my favorite future “IT” players who are not quite there yet)

* Rashard Lewis – Orlando Magic

No non-“IT” list is complete without Rashard Lewis. While I do think he does fulfill some of the requirements (he has been in the league for three years), I think the entire Magic team would fall over laughing if he said, “get on my back because we are not losing tonight.” He also plays WAY below average defense to the point where I would take Turkoglu over him in a one-on-one battle. The Magic have Dwight Howard (“IT” player) and they have a strong group of tough defenders (besides Lewis). But tying your title hopes on the one- two punch of Howard and Lewis is like trying to win the Heavyweight boxing title with Ali’s right hook and my left upper cut.

* Jason Richardson – Charlotte Bobcats

I am not sure if J-Rich is even close to “IT” status, but I had to include him because (1) his contract is awful and (2) he is the best example of a player who works really hard at his craft and will never have “IT”. His feet are stuck in concrete on both ends of the floor and it is hard to create your own shot when you cannot dribble. However, his numbers are very consistent (I mean that in a good way), and the Bobcats were willing to deal a lottery pick for him.

(Let’s all agree right now that the most bush league thing the Warriors front office has ever done, and yes, I remember when they took Todd Fuller, was combining the J-Rich tribute with the return of Webber. The fact that nobody in the Bay Area media ripped this is insulting and all the “professional” writers should be ashamed of themselves along with the entire organization!!! I could not feel more strongly about this sports atrocity).

* Michael Redd – Milwaukee Bucks

I think Michael Redd is as close to an “IT” player as you can get without being an “IT” player. He can shoot the lights out, he can create his own shot, he can carry his team for an entire game and I do think on his best night the Bucks could beat the 97-98 Bulls. However, he plays just average defense and the only time he shoots a lay-up is in warm-ups. It’s hard to blame him with his stroke, but if he is having on an off night, he will just keep shooting until they turn off the lights. The “IT” player (think Kobe) will, and can, change gears, if needed, in order to get his numbers. Redd’s lack of desire/ability to go to the rim keeps him off the “IT” list.

* Vince Carter – New Jersey Nets

We needed to include one former “IT” player who, because of injuries/age, can no longer be included on the “IT” list. Carter was an “IT” player for many years, but his run is over. He rarely sees the inside of the paint on the offensive end, and I am pretty sure he never bends his knees on defense anymore. If you have been to Continental/IZOD Arena over the past two years you know the phrase “VC for Three!” is mentioned infinitely more than “VC with the thunder dunk.” While many in Toronto would proclaim “Karma is a bitch,” I still miss the old VC because he was the best dunker I have ever seen.

(Other former “IT” players still in the league: Shaq, Ray Allen, Mike Bibby, Chris Webber, Grant Hill, Jermain O’Neal)

* Richard Jefferson – New Jersey Nets

Can someone please explain this contract to me? He is the ultimate “good at everything, great at nothing” player. While I appreciate his scoring is up this year, he has done nothing to make his team better and he has been lucky enough to play with Jason Kidd his entire career. I am not a genius, but I have to believe his game is going to be exposed as even more of a fraud after Kidd breaks out of jail (aka New Jersey).

(How bad is the Nets situation!? They have one “IT” player and he wants out and they are paying two non-“IT” players “IT” money. And those players bring nothing more than meaningless selfish play every night. Ouch!)

Other “Close but No Cigar” Players: Shawn Marion, Josh Howard, Tayshaun Prince, Rip Hamilton, Andrei Kirilenko

(Do you think you are going to lose if you’re going up against Marion when he has the ball down 1 with 5 seconds left? Neither do I.)

* Monta Ellis – Golden State Warriors

I am not sure how Monta is not an “IT” player starting next year, but I guess anything is possible. I would pay him the max if I could not get him for less. He is a cornerstone of a franchise and he puts butts in seats. With the appropriate supporting cast, he could lead a team to a championship

* Al Jefferson – Minnesota Timberwolves

Kevin McHale had to choose between Monta Ellis and Al Jefferson as the future “IT” player he could receive for KG. That, my friends, is called a win-win situation. Al Jefferson is going to make the All-Star team next year and he will make his final All-Star appearance (barring some unforeseeable event) in 2022. He has all the offensive moves you need to be an effective scorer in the low post. His defense is average, but I think that’s due to carrying the load on the offensive end and the energy-zapping burden of being the star on a losing team playing home games in the North Star State. Regardless of the T-wolves current shortcomings, they have a star and future league MVP in Al Jefferson.

* Josh Smith – Atlanta Hawks

Josh Smith is my “stretch” pick for a guy that will turn into an “IT” player. I have to admit that I have a soft spot for Josh Smith because he would have gone to IU had he not declared out of high school. His offensive skills are somewhat limited, (he does average 18.1 ppg, so they’re not that limited) but his defense is all-NBA right now. He is also a very well-rounded player, and he seems to get better with every game. Finally, he is proof that you do not need to average more than 20 points a game to be an “IT” player.

Other Notable Cusp “IT” players: Brandon Roy, Andre Iguodala, Al Horford, Kevin Durant, Rudy Gay, Andrew Bynum, Andray Blatche (you heard it here first)

B) The “IT” players in the NBA by team

Hawks: None
Celtics: KG, Pierce
Bobcats: None
Bulls: None
Cavs: LeBron
Pacers: None
Clippers: Elton Brand (Do you think the Clippers miss him?)
Lakers: Kobe
Grizzlies: None
Heat: Wade
Magic: Howard
Sixers: None
Suns: Nash, Stoudemire
Blazers: None
Kings: None
Mavs: Nowitzki
Nuggets: Anthony, AI
Pistons: Billups, Wallace
Warriors: The Baron
Rockets: Yao, McGrady
Bucks: None
T-wolves: None
Nets: Kidd
Hornets: Paul
Knicks: None
Spurs: Duncan, Parker, Ginobili
Sonics: None
Raptors: Bosh
Jazz: Williams, Boozer
Wizards: Butler, Arenas

Total # of “IT” players in the league: 27

Eastern Conference: 11
Western Conference: 16

C) The 4 guys that deserve extra attention:

The Last In – Rasheed Wallace

Some may contest that his “IT” days are behind him, but I have to disagree. He can still light it up on the offensive end, but he chooses not to because he is trying to win another championship. (I don’t think anybody saw this 180 degree attitude shift coming). In addition, he is the rock of Detroit’s defense and he always matches up with the most talented interior player on the other team. The only part of the “IT” criteria he might be missing is the deterioration of his numbers, but I think this can be over looked because of his much improved defense. Rasheed Wallace is an “IT” player and there are MANY teams that would benefit by having him on their team. (Example #1: The Warriors)

The Most Underappreciated – Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce should get extra credit for being “underappreciated” around the league while playing in Boston. He is the best three in the league (I am putting LeBron at the 2). The small forward position was invented for Paul Pierce. He is the perfect size (6’7, 200 lbs.) and his game is as effective outside as it is inside. He lives at the free throw line where he shoots 79.3% and, if teams decide to give him space, he shoots 37.7% from three-point land. Not to mention, he gives you a respectable 5.6 boards a night. The one knock on Pierce is his defense, but even that has improved as he has been in the league and I would consider his defense slightly above average. While he may get lost in the mix with KG and Ray Allen, it is obvious to those die-hard NBA fans that Pierce is the real deal.

The “IT” player I hate the most – Deron Williams

No Illinois basketball player is ever going to win a popularity contest on, but I have to admit that I love this guy’s game. He is quick, strong, and can shoot the lights out. While the biased, bitter IU/Warriors fan will refrain from giving Williams his just due, I will take the high road (take that Bruce Webber) and praise Williams for the true talent he possesses. Like Baron Davis, he provides his team with a mismatch every time he steps on the court. Most point guards cannot handle him down low, and the ones that can - cannot handle his quickness. He lets the game come to him, and often times tries to create shots for his teammates before he creates them for himself (almost to his and the team’s detriment). When he does shoot, he is a 40.5 % shooter from beyond the arc and he is a 79.5% shooter from the line. His defense is also well above average because he has surprisingly quick hands for a guy his size. Regardless of the fact that he went to U of I, I would want him on my team (so would Coach K).

(I would trade Baron for Deron Williams in a second – there I said it. Hold on, I think IU is calling me to revoke my degree)

The Best Player you have never watched – Caron Butler

For the record, the worst trade in modern NBA history was Kwame Brown for Chucky Atkins and Caron Butler. Since you have not seen him play in a Wizards uniform, I am not going to spoil you the wonderful surprise which is Caron Butler’s game. I will just give you his numbers:

21.4 ppg
6.8 rpg
4.5 apg
2.4 spg (third in the league behind Paul and The Baron)

91.3 ft%
47.6 fg%
36.5 3p%

Also for the record, he is better than these numbers in person. Anyone who does not think this guy is an “IT” player, has not watched a Wizards game this season.

And there you have “IT” – you now know more than 90% of the GMs in the league. This list of players will be revised annually, but the criteria will remain the same. This is Part 1 of a two part series. Part 2 will be posted in the next couple of days

Friday, February 8, 2008

Weird Days in the NBA

A wise man at Indiana University once told me “the only thing keeping college from being the best place on earth is class.” This slogan remains with me to this day and I feel like work is always getting in my way of writing more. If any of you know how to rid our lives of class and work, I am all ears. Anyways, on with the show.

I will get to the Warriors rumors in a minute because I am compelled to talk about the Suns.

Are the Suns of the 21st century an even more tragic story than the Buffalo Bills of the 90s?

Think about all the talent that has come and gone without even one NBA Finals to show for it. Here is a short and far from comprehensive list of players that have worn or currently wear a Suns uniform:

Jason Kidd
Joe Johnson
Stephon Marbury (he was actually pretty good at one point)
Shawn Marion
Steve Nash
Amare Stoudemire
Grant Hill
Leandro Barbosa
Boris Diaw
Sean Marks (if you don’t think the impossible is possible, look no further than Sean Marks)

Again, this list is far from complete and I know I am missing a few guys, but this list is filled with some pretty impressive players. However, they just cannot seem to get it together and there is always something keeping them from rising (Get it? Sun rising – never mind) to the next level. Here were just some of the road blocks:

* Kidd abuses his wife so they trade him (in hindsight – 15 cents on the dollar) to NJ for Marbury.

* Joe Johnson turns out to be a draft day steal and he decides he would rather lose and make millions than win and make a fewer millions. However, they get Boris Diaw in the deal, who turns out to be as motivated to get in shape as Oliver Miller was (who also played for the Suns).

* Robert Horry (who is more clutch than Jeter, Schilling and Armando Benitez) decides to get creative when trying to win an NBA series so he cheap-shots Nash. The Suns (who at the time had a lot of team chemistry) rise to his defense and, as a result, get handed the death penalty by David Stern and lose the series.

* Shawn Marion decides that Joe Johnson’s life is so much better than his that he decides to demand a trade. When the trade doesn’t come, he gives 80% for the first half of the season and forces the Suns to trade him for Shaq.

Now the Suns cannot run their fast break offense and they look far less intimidating to not only the Lakers, but also the Warriors. While I do think Shaq will help them in certain games, the Suns became a lot weaker this week and the rest of the West has to be excited.

(I am not even going to mention how much they owe him over the next two seasons (after the completion of this one. Just kidding - $40 mm!!)

To answer my original question, nothing is worse than going to the Super Bowl 4 straight years without winning one – NOTHING!

On to the Warriors

On the eve of the Chris Webber era, take 2, there are a lot of rumors swirling about potential moves the Warriors could or could not be making. Luckily, every move I have heard of makes little to no sense and all of them fail to solve the problem I discussed in my earlier post. Here are three players I have heard about specifically:

* Mike Miller
The one thing the Warriors don’t have is a player 6’6” to 6’9” that only shoots threes, rarely rebounds, and disappears at the defensive end. Sounds like a great way to throw a draft pick or young player away. You have to think Mullin will find a way to get this deal done. Bravo to all involved!

(This will be the last time I inform you that sometimes I am a little sarcastic)

* Ron Artest
This move would only be slightly better than a Mike Miller trade. He does play strong defense on 2s or 3s, which is nice, but I just cannot see where he fits in the rotation. Wouldn’t he have to play the 4? If he does play the 4, then our rebounding and interior defensive problems only get worse. If he doesn’t play the 4, does that mean Ellis and/or Jackson are sitting while he is on the floor? Regardless of his friendship with Jackson, I think an Artest trade is a recipe for disaster and creates an even bigger log jam at the 2/3 positions for the Warriors.

* Andrés Nocioni
See what I wrote about Artest. However, I do like him a little more because he doesn’t seem as volatile and is more of a slasher than Artest (which really isn’t saying much).

In the end, acquiring any of these guys doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.