Category Archives: NBA

Beyond Seattle: NBA contracts have hurt players, not teams

Stephon Marbury (pictured left) seems to hate life these days. The part-time New York Knick has yet to play a single minute of basketball this season, yet still remains on the bench each game in street clothes. He’s not injured, and has more pure talent than most of his teammates. Starbury has even been offered the chance to play, which he politely refused.

Steph isn’t playing because Steph doesn’t want to play. He feels slighted by the organization and wants to move on to another team. The only problem is no other team wants Marbury’s services. Burdened with a bad attitude and a hefty contract, the one-time point guard is the equivalent of a tumor in anyone’s locker room. Partly to blame for the team’s recent misfortunes, Marbury is the only Knick to have been with the club throughout the entirety of their five-year demise.

Marbury is the perfect example of the fiscal irresponsibility of NBA teams over the past decade. During an era in which spending across America has increased every year prior to this one, NBA owners were reaching deep into their pockets to obtain any and every asset they possibly could to help win ballgames. The New York Knicks are perhaps the biggest culprits of all.

In addition to the Marbury flub, Knicks owner James Dolan also opted to shell out a four-year, $25-million deal to black hole Jerome James (pictured right); a four-year, $33-million deal to ill-advised shooter Quentin Richardson; a five-year, $43-million deal to me-first point guard Jamal Crawford; and a five-year, $52-million deal to the obese Eddy Curry. The Knicks also took on the contracts of such players as forwards Zach Randolph (five years, $73-million) and Malik Rose (seven years, $42-million), and guard Steve Francis (three years, $53-million). In absorbing such foolishly lucrative pacts, the Knicks are perhaps the only team to be severely crippled by bad decision-making. By contrast, most teams have been able to withstand one or two contractual miscues, while the players, instead, have been most likely to experience negative repercussions.

So how, exactly, have NBA teams been able to escape major setbacks when doling out such ridiculous contracts? Because of the league-imposed salary cap (which, by comparison, is not nearly as confining as the very stringent NFL salary cap), the term “expiring contract” has become the phrase du jour of the NBA, seemingly popping up in every single trade. Teams wishing to build towards the future no longer acquire draft picks or up-and-comers. Instead, they look to obtain veteran players with contracts set to expire in a short amount of time. In collecting such players, teams can free up an abundance of salary cap space all at once and use the extra money to pursue more attractive free agents in the offseason. Currently, a major push to clear cap space is being made for the summer of 2010, when a loaded free agent class will hit the market and draw interest from every club.

Because of the “expiring contract” phenomenon, the players themselves are now more than ever being viewed as financial assets. Rather than commit to younger players who can make an impact on the floor now, ownership and management are more apt to take on the short-term vet who will help increase the bottom line a year from now and thus set up the organization for future successes. Talented veteran players who haven’t lived up to their big contracts are only counted on to bring financial relief to a team rather than a championship. That’s why guys like Marbury, for all his inherent ability, will find it difficult to land another job in the NBA after so miserably failing to perform over the past three years.

To elaborate on this idea we can examine some of the other irrationally contracted NBA players. Knicks center Jerome James, whose contract won’t expire until 2011 when he turns 36 years of age, will be hard-pressed to land a new deal after appearing in just two games last season and carving out his own personal seat on the bench since signing in 2006. Eddy Curry, laden with heart and weight problems during his tenure, will witness his contract run out in the summer of 2010. At age 28, he, like James, will have a tough time finding work at that point. The big-contract era has priced out many players before this as well. Just ask the likes of Latrell Sprewell (pictured left) and Jim McIlvaine, among others.

Essentially, the Stephon Marburys, Jerome Jameses, and Eddy Currys of the world are victims of their own greed. They’ve priced themselves out of their own line of work by failing to live up to the monetary incentives presented to them. General managers and owners are partly to blame for paying athletes much more than they’re truly worth, but the desire and motivation to improve and give 100% at all times is likely lost on some of the players who are already guaranteed a contract regardless of performance. The current state of the NBA continues to favor teams, no matter how much they dish out to undeserving players. Owners will undoubtedly continue writing checks their players can’t cash, and players, in turn, will keep on handicapping themselves with an inability to live up to the incentives.

What’s up with the faux-hawk?

Former USC basketball player Nick Young deserves a lot of credit. He started a trend that no one in their right mind could have seen taking off. Two years ago, the Trojans star guard decided to grow a mohawk, or more appropriately a “faux-hawk.” Side note: A “faux-hawk,” for those not in the know, is like a mohawk in that longer hair is left to grow in the middle of one’s head, yet unlike a mohawk in that the hair on the sides is not completely shaven but is slightly shorter than the featured strip in the center of the scalp. Young’s faux-hawk was unique and unlike anything most basketball fans had ever seen before. The future NBA player endured good-natured taunts and abuse on the road, garnering national attention when he was labeled “Stegosaurus” by our very own University of Washington Dawg Pack. Needless to say, Young shed his cro-magnon coiff shortly thereafter.

Apparently, other athletes have banded together to bring back Young’s creation. Cincinnati Bengal wide receiver Chad Johnson was the first major athlete to don the ‘hawk, sporting a bleached-blonde landing strip last season. Chargers linebacker Shawne “Lights out” Merriman joined Ocho-Cinco in donning the hairdo in 2007 as well, though his was more of the traditional faux-hawk.

This year has brought metrosexuality to the forefront of the athletic world, with numerous athletes rocking the hairstyle once popular only amongst punk rockers and guys in Warren Miller videos. Take Seahawks running back Julius Jones (pictured left), for example, who began growing his ‘hawk before the ’08 season began. Unlike many of his constituents who have kept their hawks well-groomed and trim, Jones has opted to let his mane grow freely. After at least four months of bloom, Jones’ skull now houses what looks to be the ruins of a Mayan temple, or perhaps a budding chimney stack. It’s not the most beautiful mop in history, but the trapezoidal tuft atop Mount Julius is, at the very least, eye-catching.

While most athletes haven’t gone as far with their faux-hawks as Jones has, it certainly isn’t for lack of trying. Take Friday evening’s Miami-Phoenix NBA game, for instance. Three of the game’s biggest stars–Amare Stoudamire, Dwayne Wade, and Shawn Marion–could be seen with budding ‘hawks on display. A year ago, each of these guys was sporting some variation on the standard fade. Michael Jordan would be sorely disappointed.
A number of hairstyles have crossed the bridge between fashion and sports in recent history. The fade and the buzz have become standard, but we can’t forget about the Afro, dreadlocks, cornrows, and as Pete Rose will tell you, the bowl cut. The faux-hawk is just another rung on the ladder of fashionable hairstyles over the years. Will it last? Probably not, but who really knows for sure. Eventually, we’ll be able to look back at some of these athletes who have transcended pop-culture and laugh at what they’ve done to their domes. Julius Jones may be in style right now, but in the future we’ll likely only remember him as that Unicorn-headed guy. Sorry, Julius.

In your face, Seattle: PJ Carlesimo fired in OKC

PJ Carlesimo, head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder, was fired following the team’s 105-80 loss on Friday night to the New Orleans Hornets. The loss was the tenth straight for OKC, who is now 1-12 on the season.

Suffice it to say that Carlesimo choked as Sonics/Thunder coach. He can best be described as a fiery guy who hates everyone he works with. He never stops yelling, rarely lets up on the cussing, and has yet to make a friend out of any of his players in nearly two decades of NBA coaching. Carlesimo, like Nick Saban and Steve Spurrier in the NFL, is the epitome of a successful college coach that hasn’t been able to cut it in the pros.

When he wasn’t being choked out by one of his players, Carlesimo had created a Grand Canyon-sized divide between himself and the rest of the team with his intense personality. Arguably, he was hired as the coach of the Sonics in 2007 because management realized he would be dealing with a group of young, impressionable players who would be more susceptible to his teachings. Having had limited success with veteran players in the past, we now know that Carlesimo is incapable of coaching any professional players in a lead capacity and has likely headed up his last NBA team.

The only real bad thing about all this is that Seattle fans had to deal with Carlesimo throughout the Sonics turbulent final season. Who knows what a different coach would have been able to attain with a young, talented group like the neo-Thunder have. Now that Carlesimo’s out, the future looks bright for the one-time Sonics. In your face, Seattle.

Jamal Crawford traded to Golden State

The Warriors acquired Jamal Crawford from the New York Knicks in exchange for forward Al Harrington today, essentially swapping problems with one another. Harrington, a versatile big man with impressive athleticism, had expressed his desire to be traded after falling out of favor with head coach Don Nelson. The Knicks, meanwhile, were looking to rid themselves of Crawford’s large contract.

Crawford now has a chance to excel in a system suited for his style of play. As Baron Davis can attest, the offense-first mentality perpetuated by Don Nelson allows skilled scorers to flourish despite weaknesses in other areas (namely, defense). Crawford is likely to run the point for the Warriors until Monta Ellis can return from injury. At that point, Golden State may run into problems with a logjam at shooting guard, though an abundance of scorers in a quick-scoring offense shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

For those of you fantasy basketball players out there, this move should increase the value of both Crawford and Harrington in all formats. Harrington had been riding the pine in Oakland, but should see immediate PT in New York. Crawford will get a chance to improve his scoring and assist numbers in Golden State, at least for a few weeks. Those negatively affected by the move would have to be Warriors rookie Anthony Morrow, a shooting guard who has pieced together a couple amazing performances in the absence of scorers, and Zach Randolph in New York who will likely relinquish some of his rebounds and points to Harrington (*Note: Immediately following the posting of this article, Randolph was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers along with Mardy Collins in exchange for Tim Thomas and Cuttino Mobley).

Beyond Seattle: Individual Power Rankings

As part of our “Beyond Seattle” section, we will be featuring weekly Individual Power Rankings that take the five most powerful people in sports over the past week and rank them accordingly (in descending order, starting with #5). Unlike team power rankings, the IPR’s will feature only individuals. Enjoy.

5. Antonio McDyess. Continuing a trend becoming more and more popular amongst old guys in the NBA, McDyess told the Denver Nuggets he didn’t want to play for them despite being traded to the team along with Chauncey Billups and Cheikh Samb in exchange for Allen Iverson. Rather than force McDyess, a one-time Nugget, to join the team, Denver instead released him, thus allowing him to sign with whomever he wants. Should NBA teams really be encouraging players to act as insubordinate employees? I mean, in what other profession do we see such disobedience rewarded? It’s an unfortunate circumstance that won’t stop until NBA front offices just say no.

Continue reading Beyond Seattle: Individual Power Rankings

Friday’s notes

-From the good news department, the Oklahoma City Thunder have lost five straight games and are now 1-7 on the season. On a side note, the Thunder have dubbed their dance team the “Thunder Girls.” Really? You couldn’t come up with something more creative than that? How about “Thunder Bolts,” or maybe “Thunder Cats?” Maybe the “Claymates” would work or “PJ’s BJ’s,” even. How about the “Harlot Globetrotters?” There are just so many unexplored avenues here.

-In case you haven’t heard, Rick Neuheisel comes to town tomorrow with his 3-6 UCLA Bruins. Neuheisel, who was on with KJR’s Mitch Levy earlier in the week, expects to receive a mixed reaction from the crowd and issued a sincere apology to Husky fans for the circumstances surrounding his ouster five years ago. On a personal note, for those of us that have met Rick Neuheisel in person, it’s no surprise really that he’s returned to coaching this quickly after such a messy situation. Neuheisel has the charm and likability factor that colleges seek in head coaches. Given the opportunity, I have no doubt that you could put Slick Rick at a tiny rural outpost (like Washington State perhaps) and watch him turn it into a winner.

-The Husky Men’s Basketball team opens the season tomorrow at the University of Portland. Unlike last year when the Dawgs didn’t play a true road game until 13 games into the season (12 home games and 1 game on a neutral floor), this year they’ll be getting things underway away from Montlake. Portland is led by Bellevue native Luke Sikma, a 2007 Bellevue High School grad and the son of former NBA player Jack Sikma.

-Wide Receiver Courtney Taylor has been signed off the practice squad and will rejoin the Seahawks this Sunday when they take on the Arizona Cardinals at Qwest Field. Taylor was plagued by a bout with the dropsies when he was cut a few weeks back by the team. He was able to clear waivers and had been practicing with the team until the release of WR Keary Colbert earlier in the week.