Free Agency Breeze-Shootin’: Armadillo Special

Texas-sized beefcake. (Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Sports)

Patrick Redford (@patrickredford) and Miles Wray (@mileswray) examine the special brand of lunacy that has descended upon the league’s Texas teams thus far this summer.

PR: I want to talk about Texas. It’s basically its own country, is (probably?) full of armadillos, and there are some good, compelling basketball teams there. The Spurs should be the favorite for next year, but we haven’t spoken their name since the Finals ended.

Miles: As NBA fans we’re like dogs surprised to see their own tails. Less than a month after winning the whole darn tootin’ NBA championship, the Spurs are already less exciting than perhaps dozens of intriguing Summer League prospects. This is the dog forgetting that his tail is connected to his body. Then it will be February and the Spurs will be 37-12 and we’ll see all these holes in the Rockets and Thunder and Warriors and we’ll all be like “WOWZA!! Where did this thing come from?!”

PR: We’re seduced by the siren song of potential and the fun of old players in new formations more than improvement. Kawhi raising his FG% by 3 or 4 isn’t as sexy as imagining Kevin Love in a Celtics uni but it’s almost as important.

The only Spurs news has been the Party Mills injury, which, ironically, I think will help them this season. More time for Joseph to develop, incentivized Party to re-sign in San Antonio. Am I sipping that Kool-Aid too hard?

Miles: Oh snap, had totally forgotten about Joseph. Keg-standing on this Kool-Aid probably isn’t even drinking it hard enough: the Spurs have been incubating Joseph for three years — during which he has incrementally improved every year — for this moment. Much like Party, Joseph will enter into free agency July 2015 with rumors all abuzz, before resigning with the Spurs for 3Y/$9M.

PR: I think we both are anti-GM worship, but the organization is damn impressive. Also, I have inside information that David Robinson could wear a 28 waist.

Miles: Boy do I have a hard time refraining from the GM worship when it comes to this team. Has there ever been another team throughout the annals of NBA history capable of producing a video like this? This is from 2014 and the Admiral is getting shout-outs for his championship contributions:

Saying that they’re a team who plays with mechanical non-emotion is crazy. They’re a family that just prefers to keep to themselves.

PR: Which contrasts heavily with their neighbors to the north whose owner just signed their marquee free agent at a club in Orlando. Is there anything more Cuban? Making the sponsor patch on their jerseys his own face? Getting a reality show with David Stern?

Miles: No, this is absolutely peak Cuban. The best part is is that the player in question is perhaps the only player o’er the entire NBA landscape who is not just willing but so transparently eager to do things like be a beefcake in a fashion shoot.

If it was, say, Orlando native Marquis Daniels who was signed in an Orlando club, then any owner in said scenario would be christened with so much well-deserved street cred. Since this is Parsons, though, the operation quite thoroughly stinks with disingenuous photo-op-ness. I imagine that Parsons and the Mavs had struck an agreement over the actual offer sheet via teleconference at 10 AM that morning, which then commenced negotiations between Parsons’ marketing lackeys and Cuban’s marketing lackeys over the location, vibe, and framing of the eventual in-club picture.

PR: I can’t tell is Parsons is sort of obliviously bro-ing his way through the offseason or is doing a sort of “Florida Man in the NBA” performance art. He went on a Grantland podcast and talked about how handsome he was for like 3 full minutes.

Either way, I love him on the Mavs. They are ostentatious enough for him to thrive but not too claustrophobic (looking at you, NYC) that he can’t be his weird self. I am going to set up all manner of google alerts for the inevitable photos of he and Dirk pogoing in a Berlin club.

Miles: Yes, Parsons in a great player, 3-point shooting, drives to the rim, shots at the basket, analytics, blahbadeeblah.

So I really liked it when Lowe and Simmons did their League Pass Rankings last October. I dug reading that article even though, or maybe because, I realized how vastly different my criteria for intrigue is from theirs. Namely, they assigned “Stylistic/Systemic Appeal” equal weight as “Relevancy to the Playoff Picture.”

No. Relevancy to the Playoff Picture has zero bearing, for me, on the watchability of a given team. Stylistic/Systemic Appeal? Why, I would call that “the whole kit n’ kaboodle.” They had last year’s Houston Rockets tenth on their rankings. Not that I compiled a complete rankings of my own, but if I did the Rockets would easily be thirtieth for me, a joyless wasteland of obsessive hairdos, fist-pumping after drawing entitled fouls, and pointing at teammates in blame for not helping on their blown defensive assignment.

Last year’s Rockets were legitimate contenders in a stacked conference, and next year’s Rockets and Mavericks are sure to be the same. But, eh, not too interested in watching that. I’ll be far more interested in watching Omer Asik in New Orleans, graciously once more playing for a team that actually values him.

So tell me, is my palette refined or just too sensitive?

PR: Perhaps too sensitive? I really enjoyed watching the Mavs last year because they were so harmonious. They played like a Snowpiercer sans class tensions: everyone had their place and they clicked in together to produce this wonderfully efficient whole. I don’t know anything about numbers and I have never touched a calculator, but I admired the economy of that team.

Houston, I agree with you on. They probably won’t be any better to watch this year either, unless they turn the keys over to Beverly and Terrence Jones and say “Have it back by 1, don’t crash it too hard.” $8 million/year for Trevor Ariza baffles me. That smacks of the classic Panic Signing, where you think you have to have something to show for your failed efforts.

Miles: I’ll have to look at next year’s Mavs with new eyes, even though Parsons’ immaculately mussed hair will be a part of the team. I guess, to play word association, when I hear “Mavs” I say, “season-ticket holder who sits on the sideline with the pink clappy hands.”

Is there literally any precedent for Houston’s wholly bizarre offseason? The team made one smart move after another, but eventually the smart moves were so complicated that they ended up twisting in on themselves and became, well not dumb moves, but not great ones either. Their team is not as good as it was when they exited the playoffs. I don’t recall ever seeing anything like this.

PR: I guess one of the risks of going all in is that you’ll get burned if plans fall through. And plans inevitably always fall through, so the important thing to be flexible rather than have the best plan. Houston is good at planning things, but it would be rad had they chilled a bit after whiffing on Bosh. Who do you see having a better 2014, Mavs or Rockets?

Miles: Tyson Chandler moved worlds as of so doggone recently that I have to believe he is still capable of doing the same. Plus, is Ivan Johnson going to be a thing for Dallas? With the Zhejiang Chouzhou Golden Bulls last year, dude averaged 26 points in 32.8 minutes a game. I mean, shoot, Sebastian Telfair had the same scoring average over three more minutes a game in the same league last year, and that dude got an NBA contract.

Also, the Harden-Howard alliance is clearly a time bomb with beeping LCD read-out, and no MacGyver in sight. Whom do you feel is superior?

PR: I feel Mavs, I like them more and I want them to succeed, but I think Rockets. Dwight will be another year healthier, and if they can guarantee competent point guard play, I think they still have a lot of firepower. I’d love to see Donatas get a larger role, if only because it will make them more fun. I still associate him with this old joke about how you pronounce his name (Do-not-draft-us Motiejunas) and he deserves better.

Miles: Oh my goodness does D-Mo deserve better. What other team in the NBA would marginalize a 23-year-old stretch-five?

Allow this fact to softly detonate in your mind: signed days before Terrence Jones in the summer of 2012, Motiejunas is the longest-tenured Rocket.

Patrick Redford