You may or may not have noticed that I’ve been on a rampage against the relative value of VETERAN EXPERIENCE lately. It’s a commodity in the NBA, and some people in and around the league value it very highly. Well, I’m not one of those people. Luckily, my main man Amin Vafa let me rant about it for a while, and our conversation eventually touched on a whole score of other topics, including the Knicks, Nets, Cavaliers, Wizards, #NBARank, team construction, politics, a Portman not named Natalie, and that little snake of a man who runs the Heat. Enjoy.
Amin: So you seem pretty steamed that “Veteran Experience” is applied to some players and not others, while both sets of players are *technically* veterans. To quote a lunatic: Why so serious?
Jared: Well… the Knicks did a lot of VETERAN EXPERIENCE adding to their roster this offseason, so I’ve kind of been hellbent on an obsession with it since then.
But what got me on tilt about it today was #NBARank. I was wondering how much people factored that into their rankings of players. I basically don’t factor it into my evaluations at all, because to me, it’s mostly an off-court contribution, and #NBARank is an on-court value project. Like, why is Kenyon Martin ranked ahead of Tristan Thompson? Kenyon was pretty bad last season, and he’s old. Thompson is, ya know, not. Kenyon’s likely to get worse, not better. Other way around for Tristan. But VETERAN EXPERIENCE. And this is just one example.
What I really want to know is, when (like, at what point in a player’s career) do people start factoring VETERAN EXPERIENCE into their evaluations of that player? Why some guys and not others? (Ex: Chauncey Billups and T-Mac were in the same draft. Chauncey is a VETERAN EXPERIENCE guy. T-Mac’s not.) How heavily is it weighed? All else equal, do you take a VETERAN EXPERIENCE guy over a younger player? I’d personally lean the other way, because the younger player has a chance to improve. Basically, I want to know why this happens so often. Why are people so seduced and comforted by the fact that a guy has been in the league for a long time? Isn’t his production more likely to tail off? A 19th-year Jason Kidd who can barely move is really a better basketball player at this point than a 5th-year Jerryd Bayless?
Now I’m just going off the deep end, so please, please explain this obsession to me.
Amin: I really think it’s an added value thing. At what point does your team need a better on-court player than a personality manager? The former tend to be younger than the latter.
Let’s go with the best example I can think of: the 2008 Celtics picked Sam Cassell off waivers. Here was the Celtics guard rotation that season: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Tony Allen, Eddie House, James Posey, and Gabe Pruitt. Cassell wasn’t brought in because they needed to beef up that rotation. He was brought in because he had played with Ray and KG, and because they needed a guy who could provide a motivational presence on the court and in the locker room.
In context of #NBArank, I think it has a lot more to do with cognitive recall and response bias in the rankers (of which I am one). How many times last season did you hear Tristan Thompson’s name on a national scale? Probably like 20, and all of them were in the context of “I can’t believe the Cavs reached with that 4th pick!” or “Hey fellow Canadians, let’s get behind this Canadian!” He didn’t have many breakout games. He was a solid young rotation player on a team that wasn’t good and had no national games (though the team did have the Rookie of the Year).
By contrast, how many times did you hear Kenyon Martin’s name? A lot (this is a scientific number). And you heard his name later in the season (around the trade deadline). He was one of the most coveted Free Agents coming back from China, and lots of teams needed someone of quality to bolster their front lines against other contenders. Not many young names floating around then, right? When contenders want you, your name has higher value. Plus more contenders want guys that can win now, not guys that can win when they’ve got some more experience under their belts.
For the #NBArank squad and for the average fan, I think resume-length goes a long way, too. It’s not just that people prefer to have someone on board with a little more experience. I think it’s very much a “devil-you-know vs. devil-you-don’t” feeling. I don’t think it’s the best way to progress in sports (or really any profession), but I think it’s a reality.
In that sense, for the Knicks, I get the Kidd acquisition. Still don’t get the Felton thing. But wasn’t Kidd acquired at the time when it was assumed Lin would be back? I think that’s why they didn’t go after a guy like Bayless. (I think? Please don’t ever tell anyone I accused the Knicks of making rational decisions, OK?)
Jared: I see what you’re saying with Cassell, but that seems like a different situation to me. That was a mid-season pickup for a team that was humming along with – I believe – the best record in the league and they just wanted a locker room guy. They didn’t really expect him to have to contribute much. When he did, it was gravy.
Yes, Kidd was picked up when it looked like the Knicks were still going to bring Lin back. And in that regard, it made sense. The things he’s seen and learned in his 18 years were things he could tell and teach Lin and help him eventually become a better player. That’s a mentor-mentee relationship and you hope you see some on-court benefit this year, but you mostly expect it to just help Lin grow and mature as a player so eventually what Kidd taught him is just innate. The real benefits are presumably down the road. He doesn’t all of a sudden become a battle-tested veteran point guard just because Kidd is on the team.
Where it falls off the rails for me is that they – and many Knicks fans – expect(ed) the VETERAN EXPERIENCE to be meaningful in terms of on-court contribution. Kidd has things he can contribute on the court – he’s still a terrific passer, and a very smart player – but VETERAN EXPERIENCE doesn’t magically make you a better shooter or defender, and it doesn’t give you upside in your 19th year in the league. In all likelihood, last season’s performance is probably the ceiling for Kidd now and for the next three seasons, which is scary, and why I wanted to sign a younger player with upside for the same price, like Bayless.
Your Martin/Thompson comparison does make sense. I give on that. Martin, by virtue of being a VETERAN EXPERIENCE guy, was one of the most wanted names last year around the deadline. And he played for the Clippers, in a lot of national TV games, and in the playoffs. But we all remember he wasn’t very good, right? He wasn’t even good on defense, which is supposed to be his calling card. So why do people still value him as if he’s the Kenyon Martin from a few years ago? I guess because it takes a while for name recognition to wear off, but I hate that. We should be able to recognize a significant drop-off as it happens. Let’s be smarter and MORE reactive.. *thinks* Wait, maybe that’s not such a good idea.
Anyway, I want to make it clear that it’s not as if I think VETERAN EXPERIENCE is completely meaningless. I know it matters, especially in a mentor-mentee situation like I described with Kidd and Lin above. My whole thing is, how much does it matter, and is it determinative? Also, what’s the critera? Why is Jared Jeffries, from the 2002 Draft, a VETERAN EXPERIENCE guy, but Antawn Jamison, from the 1998 Draft, is not? Does it have more to do with the roles these guys played at the height of their powers? Is it perception? Chauncey’s a VETERAN EXPERIENCE guy, but Sheed, by all accounts a great teammate according to most guys who played with him (we’re discounting his Celtics teammates because he mailed in that entire season), is not. Is it an attitude thing? Like I said, I don’t factor this in much, so I don’t really know how and why it’s decided who gets hit with that label and who doesn’t.
Amin: I think it completely depends on roster makeup. If a team is contending, and they don’t need to add anyone to their rotation, they might want to pick up a guy whose off-court value is high even if his on-court value is low. If a team is rebuilding, it probably makes more sense to pick up a young guy who can fight his way into the rotation. HOWEVER, you don’t want to have a roster that has only non-veterans. Case in point, the Wizards. After they turned over the roster, it was great to see all those young guys. But they were rudderless. They had no direction. They didn’t know what it felt like to win. Throw in Nene, Okafor, Ariza, and AJ Price, and you’ve got some guys who have dabbled in winning and self-control. Who’s to say JaVale McGee won’t be a 25-15 guy with Denver? But it doesn’t matter, because the environment in DC wouldn’t have turned him into that guy because he didn’t have anyone to ground him. And by putting him in another location where he could be grounded, it created room for the Wizards to add another player (Nene) who could ground the rest of the team.
This is basically a nature/nurture argument for players more than it’s a mentor-protege (hat tip: Kenny Banya) argument. Vets are parents who have to make way for their growing children to blossom into basketball machines. This is how parenting works, right?
I think you can also assume that you’ll have some VETERAN LEADERSHIP, but it can be disproven. Look at Rashard Lewis. He had it in Orlando. They thought he had it in Washington, then everyone slowly realized he didn’t have it. Now he’s on Miami, as a veteran, but not a veteran leader. Maybe in his particular case, role-size and salary-level are taken into account. Michael Finley is a great VETERAN LEADERSHIP guy because he’s making the minimum. Rashard Lewis was not, because he was making $20 million.
Back to the Knicks. I think part of the issue there is there’s some sort of assumption that this team is ready to compete now. I don’t think most NBA fans think that. I don’t think most front offices think that. But I do think lots of Knicks fans think that (even if not the majority), and I think the Knicks players think it, and I think parts of the Knicks front office think it, too. They brought in Kidd because you don’t want a player who’ll grow into being a great piece someday. You want a guy with a proven track record of winning (counttheringz=1) who can make an on-court and locker-room contribution to guarantee the Knicks win a title. In this alternate reality of Knicks supremacy, that makes sense, right?
Jared: “Who’s to say JaVale McGee won’t be a 25-15 guy with Denver?”
Me! That’s who! You know all about my “I’m on a mission to obliterate the blogosphere’s love affair with JaVale McGee” mission, right? You do read my emails on the email thread, right? RIGHT? RIGHT?!?!?!? That’s for another day.
Anyway… Yes. In this alternate reality you’ve constructed where the Knicks are a bona fide title contender, I guess it makes sense to go for some VETERAN EXPERIENCE/locker room type guys, which the Knicks now have in spades. Seriously, does anyone have more locker room guys than the Knicks right now? Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas, J.R. Smith. Wait, one of those is not like the others. We are winning the 1999 Finals with that team. What’s that? It’s 2012? Oh.
I think we’re both misinterpreting each other a little bit though. I’m insinuating that Bayless brings as much or more on-court value as Kidd THIS SEASON (and especially in the future, when he’s likely to get better while Kidd is likely to continue declining), especially if his 3-point shooting from last year holds, not that he could potentially grow into a better contributor than Kidd down the road. That’s a big part of why I thought he would have been a better signing than Kidd. (And because I keep making this comparison, somehow this whole thing will turn into, “Dubin thinks Bayless is better than Kidd. What an idiot.” on Knicks Twitter. Sigh. I’m soooo stupid. Really, I’m just using that comparison to illustrate my larger, “VETERAN EXPERIENCE vs. on-court contribution/potential” point. I swear. Please don’t hate me, Knicks Twitter. Raymond Felton is a BULLDOG. Melo is the best. WOODY WOODY WOODSON. There. That’s better. /end digression) But Kidd got the nod because of VETERAN EXPERIENCE, mostly. Which, again, has merit. But should it be determinative? If we assume Kidd and Bayless (or any two players, really) are exactly equally talented, do you want the VETERAN EXPERIENCE guy or the young guy with the potential to get even better than that year’s contribution?
I guess, as you say, it depends on your team’s makeup, but I’d almost always lean to the younger guy, because his on-court production means more to me than the intangible VETERAN EXPERIENCE. I know this probably places me in a fairly significant miniority, but that’s really just how I feel.
I’m rambling now, but I want to go back to the Wizards for a second. Yes, last season, they were rudderless. And this season they’ll be better, probably significantly so. But at what cost? They lost a lot of future flexibility to become more of a win-now team. Are they really going to win anything significant this season or in the next few? They’re pretty much a fringe playoff team, right? What happens when Wall’s deal is up, Nene and Emeka are on the wrong side of 30, Ariza’s gone, and he’s on a team with a mediocre supporting cast and Brad Beal is the only other guy there with any upside? Isn’t he all, “Get me outta here,” at that point? Isn’t that what the Cavs did with LeBron? (Surround him with older players to WIN NOW while neglecting the fact that there needed to be a younger nucleus in place with a chance to improve so he’d actually want to, ya know, STAY there.)
Would it have been better to stay young and relatively rudderless for another year with Wall and Beal, and plan to continue to grow the nucleus around them, picking up lottery picks and cap space than pay Okafor and Nene like $25 million combined to be my centers on an 8 or 9-seed?
I liked the idea of moving on from JaVale. I agree that wasn’t the place he was going to succeed. But picking up a lot of money in the process wasn’t the way I would have gone. Then again, there’s a reason I’m not a general manager. Maybe I’m just one of those guys who’s seduced by youth and potential too much and doesn’t value other things highly enough. Maybe I’m just going crazy waiting for my Bar results. I don’t know. Do you? Man, I am SURE this email is running too long, and is probably going to make me sound pretty dumb.
Amin: YOU ARE TEH DUMB.
Not really, but I want to address 2 quick points before I go into the longer answer.
1) You’re right. I think the Wizards became too “win-now.” While I like Okafor and Ariza, I think adding Nene was enough (to fill the VETERAN LEADERSHIP quota). They should have bought out Rashard Lewis and held onto the cap space for flexibility for this year’s trade deadline or next offseason. But the original desire to get veterans on the team to right the ship still has merit.
2) The LeBron situation was different for a few reasons, but I don’t think surrounding LeBron with veterans was wrong. Danny Ferry was already playing with a short stack, and he did all he could to get the team to be championship-caliber. Vets were added now (ie: then) because the team was in “win-now” mode with LeBron’s prime and his free agency clock ticking. You could have won a championship with 2008-2010 LeBron, but not with that exact roster, and not against teams that were specifically designed to exploit the Cavs’ weakness(es). Point being: the pre-Gilbert/Ferry Cavs screwed up a lot. The Gilbert/Ferry Cavs now in hindsight probably screwed up the Hickson pick (the only first round pick they got in the era), seeing as the following (quality) players were drafted after him:
Luc Mbah a Moute
HOWEVER, the counterfactual of LeBron being able to win a championship with a Cavs roster that had any of those players is impossible to prove, especially if you decide to factor in the fact that a season and a half of pure hatred from non-Miami fanbases hardened LeBron’s soul so that he could win a championship with a heart made of coal. #Logic
Onto your thing:
“If we assume Kidd and Bayless (or any two players, really) are exactly equally talented, do you want the VETERAN EXPERIENCE guy or the young guy with the potential to get even better than that year’s contribution?”
Like you said, it depends on what the team needs. Is the team a championship team with a deep rotation that doesn’t have room for another guy BUT needs a guy with a “winning attitude?” Kidd. Is the team a piece or two away and need someone who can give on court contribution and can stick around for a while, even if he hasn’t been out of the 1st round of the playoffs before? Bayless.
It all depends. Is that a good enough answer?
Jared: We could argue the LeBron/Cavs team-building thing until we’re blue in the face, but I think the main flaw in Cleveland’s management’s reasoning was the presupposition that if they won a championship, LeBron had to stay there. Sure, it might have made it more difficult to leave, but it was always going to be difficult to leave. I really think the key was building a team that could have contended with LeBron for years to come while also contending in the near term. They built a team that was specifically geared to win right then and there, almost without regard for the future.
As for this:”Like you said, it depends on what the team needs. Is the team a championship team with a deep rotation that doesn’t have room for another guy BUT needs a guy with a “winning attitude?” Kidd. Is the team a piece or two away and need someone who can give on court contribution and can stick around for a while, even if he hasn’t been out of the 1st round of the playoffs before? Bayless. It all depends. Is that a good enough answer?”
Yes. I think it’s a good enough answer. It’s basically saying, with respect to this Knicks team, “We needed to bring in Jason Kidd (and to a lesser extent, Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas) because our best player is Carmelo Anthony, who is no one’s idea of a championship-caliber leader, and our second best player is Amar’e Stoudemire, who most people consider in the same light, and our coach is Mike Woodson, who leaves a lot to be desired, and we have J.R. Smith, and CAA is pulling so many strings they might as well be on a Godfather poster, and our owner is absolutely batshit off-the-walls insane.” Right?
So I see why Kidd (or a player like him) would be comforting to fans in that regard. And I was fully on board with that when they planned to go get Steve Nash for that role, because he can still contribute at an extremely high level. But when a player’smain contribution is leadership and intangibles rather than on-court production, I just find it really hard to get behind that idea. I see the value of it, but it doesn’t outweigh the value of things that other players can bring, at least not for me. That type of player – one whose main contribution is in the locker room – is someone you bring in for the veteran’s minimum, someone you ask to carry a severely decreased number of minutes (bringing this full circle now) like the Celtics did with Sam Cassell in their championship run. That’s not the caliber of player that you ask to play a large role on your team.
Amin: /holds breath while face turns blue
The Cavs went all in on LeBron. They knew if he left, they wouldn’t have a future. They figured “well, if he leaves, we better win a title while he’s here, and maybe then he won’t leave!” I believe that’s what’s called “mortgaging your future to finance your present.” No one knows what the key to this team was. Getting more first round picks so you could piece together a young team with whom LeBron would grow? Getting young-ish free agents to join (even if there was no guarantee that LeBron would stay, which is what drove a lot of young FAs away)? DAMMIT JARED WE WERE TALKING ABOUT YOUR CRAPPY TEAM, NOT MY CRAPPY TEAM!
The Knicks roster is comprised of guys who think they are a championship-caliber team. And they were assembled by a group of people who thought that name recognition was a proxy for talent and chemistry. Unfortunately, neither of these reflect reality. I do, however, think that many of these decisions (especially in regard to NYK’s guard rotation) were made with the thought that Lin would be returning and Shump would slip back into the rotation to absorb big minutes after injury. Bayless would have been a good pick up regardless, but with Lin there and Kidd there to mentor him (as was the original intent), Bayless would have been the odd man out, right? Things didn’t go that way, and that’s why he wasn’t picked up. Maybe they went and got a bunch of other old dudes because they felt like Lin–and by proxy all young guys–would spurn them for money they didn’t have. Speculation! Oh my God, I’m making crazy conspiracy theories based on nothing. What have you done to me, Jared?
Jared: This chain has gone on so long that you’ve turned into me. And now that I see where this conversation has gone, I’ve realized it’s insane that I never thought of it this way in the first place. It’s all about name recognition. That’s what the Cavs were going for when they brought in guys to play with LeBron. That’s what the Knicks are going for now. Different kinds of name recognition, but the same idea nonetheless.
The Cavs kept bringing in guys that were very… “of the moment.” Larry Hughes has a good contract year? Come on down. Donyell Marshall has his best season at age 30? New contract. Let’s get Ben Wallace. Let’s get Shaq. Let’s get Jamison.
The Knicks are doing it a little differently, they’re bringing in guys that are very… “of the past.” Kidd, Camby, Thomas. 90’s guys. Prigioni is 35. Even Felton fits the “past” theme because he played in New York before.
But those guys are here because they’re names. If you bring in Jerryd Bayless and Danny Green (not that that scenario was ever plausibly happening, just using it for example), it doesn’t carry the same cache as if you sign JASON KIDD and RAYMOND FELTON. And cache is all James Dolan’s ever really cared about. Name value. Names to go up on the Garden marquee. Names to sell to fans. Names that will get you back page covers of the Post and the News.
Why are names so valuable? (ANSWER: Ticket sales, but roll with me.) Why is there seemingly mandate to pay a premium based on what a player has done in the past, when contracts should really be about presumed production over the life of the deal being extended? Shouldn’t that be the way we judge contracts? I guess it’s hard because we don’t know how the player will produce over the life of a given contract, but it seems like that’s a better way to value players than past production, doesn’t it?
Amin: It sounds like the Knicks are trying to be Cache-Money millionaires. (See what I did there?)
Here’s me spouting off some political philosophy from college: In Aristotle’s Politics, he describes the six ideal and worst forms of government: Benevolent Monarchy, Aristocracy, Polity, Democracy, Oligarchy, and Tyranny. The first three are the best, the last three are the worst, and their opposite pairs are their alternate places the list (Monarchy + Tyranny = 1 leader, Aristocracy + Oligarchy = an handful of leaders, Polity + Democracy = many leaders). In picking the best form of government, Aristotle reveals that there are actually two best forms of government. The first-best is Benevolent Monarchy: One king who makes all the decisions and is awesome to everyone all the time and everyone is happy. The other-best is a Polity, where lots of people are running the show, but voices are heard, even if it’s a bit inefficient (this is essentially a representative government that functions like a modern-day advanced democracy, despite having a different name). Aristotle believes you should ideally have the monarchy, HOWEVER, you’re shit out of luck if that guy winds up being a tyrant. That’s why you should also shoot for a Polity because its counterpoint is democracy, which is just a rabble of unsatisfied people, which is way less worse than a tyrant. Two bests, ya see?
Anyway what I’m trying to say is, for owners (and to a lesser extent, fans): A championship is a monarchy. But if you cant have that, settle for the polity of butts-in-seats. How do you get a championship? Bring in great and usually well-known/well-liked players. How do you get butts-in-seats? Bring in well-known/well-liked players.
Jared: You’re a lot smarter than me. You’re all reading high-minded political books written ages ago and becoming more worldly, while I’m fiddling with NBA.com’s stats tool.
Also, that’s a really good analogy/metaphor/thing to describe what owners will strive – or sometimes settle – for, particularly Mr. Dolan. He’s all about the butts-in-seats, and the name on the marquee, and the name on the back of the jersey.
When does that name recognition wear off, though? At what point do we as basketball fans and writers stop thinking of players as the guy they used to be (which is largely the reason they are able to put butts in seats) and more as the player they are now?
Some players have such strong name recognition that it stays with them throughout their entire career, even as they start to slip (see: Bryant, Kobe; who has indeed slipped some, even if he remains very, very good, but there are those that somehow still consider him the best player in the league, likely because that’s what he was at the height of his powers, and it’s difficult for them to see him any other way). For others, that name recognition that erodes fairly quickly (see: Marbury, Stephon; Arenas, Gilbert; and countless others). Obviously there are reasons for both situations – Kobe’s peak was higher and lasted longer; Steph and Gilbert are crazy. But for the players in the middle, the Antawn Jamisons of the world for instance, when does that name recognition wear off?
Anyway, ideally, shouldn’t the two goals – championship and butts-in-seats – be more connected? Winning teams will generally put butts in seats, but do teams with high profile names that aren’t real contenders do the same? ANSWER, at least in New York: Yes. Even those early 2000’s teams that were terrible but had guys like Marbury, Penny Hardaway, Eddy Curry, Jalen Rose, etc. were still drawing capacity crowds. I doubt it would be the same in a different market, though. If the Cavs were paying all those guys $100 million combined to go 23-59, would fans still show up in droves at the Q? I can’t pretend to know for sure, but I don’t think they would, and I think the Cavs generally have a solid fanbase.
I guess what I’m saying is, why settle for butts-in-seats and pseudo-contention with recognizable names (herein lies the problem for the Knicks; their owner thinks that having recognizable names automatically makes you a real contender, even if the real ceiling of the team lies slightly below that level) when you can continue to build a real contender, which will put butts in seats anyway?
That’s the same reason I didn’t totally love the Wizards trade, even if it undoubtedly makes them better in the short term. They’ll be pseudo-contenders, a fringe playoff squad, for the next few years, and John Wall will be happier for it – for now. But when it’s time to talk extension, he’ll be like, “We’re not contenders. I’m out.” Or am I off base there? Maybe pseudo-contention is a stop along the way to real contendership. Aaaaand I’m rambling yet again.
Amin: Dude. We were talking about the Knicks being crazy, OK? Will you stop bringing up my two poor and misguided franchises? Also, if I were a lot smarter than you, why would I be a Cavs and Wizards fan? Think about that before you go patting sadists on the back, OK?
There’s a simple answer to the name recognition question: it never wears off. The only exception I can think of is Allen Iverson, and even he was voted an All-Star in his second-last season in the league. I’d also say that Gilbert Arenas could be included here, but he has so many injury- and fingagunz-related asterisks in his career that his peak was basically an aberration at this point. And I guess Steph like you said, too. But even so, people still revel in his potential, don’t they?
For every team–not just the Knicks–their scales always weigh short-term success against long-term success. And for the Knicks specifically, they were a team that was perennially entertaining (if you can call Rileyball that) during the 90s, then they were embarrassing during the 00s, and now that they’re not embarrassing anymore, they have to make a decision: We finallyhave stars that want to play here, but they’re not going to win us a championship. Should we trade some of these guys away while we’re remaking our entertainment image so we can slowly build a championship contender? Or should we fill these stars with celebrity and hubris so that they keep talking about a championship so we can guarantee that basketball is relevant in New York again? Oh what’s that? There is another team in New York that’s filled with stars that won’t win a title either but with whom we can devise a bloody rivalry in an effort to sell more and more tickets and merchandise? I think we can wait a few years after these stars are old and rotten to reboot for our championship.
I don’t think pseudo-contention is about contention. I think it’s about entertainment. New York basketball wasn’t entertaining for a long time. Maybe that’s all they want right now.
Oh, and billions of dollars.
Jared: 1. How DARE you mention Pat Riley to me. (Seriously, f*ck Pat Riley, man.)
2. I will keep bringing up the Wizards, damn it! I need to deflect attention from my crazy team. I will now bring them up in relation to pseudo-contention yet again: they’re more entertaining this year than when they had JaVale last year? I’m just about the least-big (is that a thing?) JaVale fan on the planet, and even I would deny that one. But just to brighten up your Wizards fan day a bit: JOHN WALL BRAD BEAL JOHN WALL BRAD BEAL JOHN WALL BRAD BEAL
3. And to brighten your Cavs fan day: KYRIE FREAKING IRVING. Also, Tyler Zeller (Rockets article but whatever, I really like his game). But hahaha Dion Waiters. KYRIE IRVING THO.
4. I think you just nailed the next 3-4 years of New York basketball right on the head. With the Nets’ impending move to Brooklyn looming, – and now finally, mercifully, here – Dolan and the front office have spent the last few years trying to acquire whatever high-powered names (and basketball players) they could. They knew there was an opening for the Nets to steal some of the luster away if they came into Brooklyn with more marquee talent and a better basketball team, so they focused on building a media juggernaut/basketball team to keep the attention, and hopefully, win some games along the way.
CAA has obviously been a big partner in this. Carmelo Anthony was acquired as much for his cache and name recognition (and to keep him away from the Nets; Dolan swooped in at the end of the negotiations and offered more than Donnie Walsh wanted to because he was afraid the Nets would beat him to a marquee star) as his basketball skills, if not more so, considering how poor a stylistic fit he is with the guy the Knicks signed first – Amar’e Stoudemire. They signed Tyson Chandler coming off a championship when his name value had never been higher, and it didn’t hurt that he seemed to be the antidote to Anthony and Stoudemire’s defensive shortcomings. He’s probably fulfilled more of his promise since coming to New York than either of the two other superstars that preceded him.
This offseason was more and more about names. Kidd, Camby, Felton, Thomas. All good (relatively) players. All well-known names. Were there under-the-radar signings that would have been better? I think so, but I doubt that they were ever even a consideration. The criteria for signing players in New York is now two-fold: 1. Can you contribute? 2. Can we sell you?
The Nets are apparently making the same calculus. Obviously they really wanted to bring Deron Williams back (smartly), and in their effort to do so they went hard after Dwight Howard, which made a lot of sense since he’s the best center in the league. When they were unable to pry him away from Orlando’s cold, dead fingers with the Brook Lopez and picks platterm, though, they went out and got Joe Johnson. He’s certainly got the cache, the name recognition, and he’s still a good player, but he’s a shooting guard on the wrong side of 30, his contract pays him a gazillion dollars and it cost them any further shot at Howard. It got Williams to re-sign though, which was the endgame anyway, and now the Proky can sell Deron, Joe, Crash, Brook, a Brooklyn renaissance, a Knicks rivalry and lots of cool-looking gear with Jay-Z’s designs.
The New York basketball rivalry, which has never really actually existed, is just shaping up to be as much of an off-court war as an on-court one, if not more. It’s really quite something.
Amin: I’ve heard it’s a concrete jungle where dreams are made of. Can you corroborate that?
I think we just figured it out. Veteran leadership for a team that needs a seasoned-if-not-that-effective vet (Derek Fisher going to OKC) is important so the other players can kind of use that person as their guiding star in a situation with which they’re unfamiliar. Swag osmosis, if you will.
Veteran leadership for teams like the Knicks and Nets? That’s just what they call it to sell it to fans. Would you rather have a has-been/also-ran or a Veteran Leader? I know I’d rather have the latter. Semantics means money. And as we were reminded last summer during the lockout, money is really damn important.
Jared: We need to come up with a (what’s the word for when you combine two words to make another word? Is it portmanteau? By the way, I LOVE the word “portmanteau.” It’s great. It always makes me think of Dean Portman, one half of the Bash Brothers. Shoutout to Fulton Reed.) for swag osmosis. Swosmosis? Osmag? (Not Osmag. Osmag sucks.) This kind of thing should be someone’s full time job. I’ll volunteer myself. That would really put my law degree to good use and make my parents proud.
Amin: It’s definitely Swagmosis. And I didn’t even need a BarBri book to figure it out.