Kill the Headlights and Put It in Neutral

Whenever a star gets traded, any fan of a team not receiving him feels some sense of disappointment, if only because a superstar was available and the team failed to pick him up. Such is the case with Kevin Garnett, except this time it’s even worse because everyone has to listen to insufferable Celtics fans yapping about the inevitable resurgence of the greatest franchise in the history of organized basketball. (I kid, sorta. Like Billups said earlier today, the Celtics are now about three aging stars trying to win, not some return of the shillelagh.)

For a few teams, though, this trade stings more than for others. The Suns, Warriors, Lakers, and Bulls all had better-than-awful chances to deal for Garnett, but circumstances left them on the sidelines. Where do they go from here? Can they take any consolation in what transpired?

Phoenix Suns
I already submitted my thoughts on Phoenix’s offseason last week: they’ve only gotten worse, but this trade should make it even more clear that the Suns have had a dismal summer. Right around draft night, the Suns were close to landing KG in a three-team deal, with Amare as the main piece. That deal fell through due to numerous factors (including the Hawks deciding they didn’t want an All-NBA player), and after the draft the Suns quickly fell off the list of strong contenders for Garnett. After taking Amare off the table, it looked tough for Phoenix to get a third party involved.

Yet KG seemed to doom Boston’s hopes of landing him during the week of the draft, and he still ended up in green. Things clearly changed when Ainge acquired Ray Allen, but the Celtics still had to convince Garnett that he would enjoy being a Celtic. Where was that kind of perseverance from the Suns? Amare and Shawn Marion are tradeable pieces in spite of their big contracts, and it was Steve Kerr’s job to get creative and swing a deal. I realize that Sarver restricts Kerr’s ability to take on contracts, but he must have signed off on KG at some point if Kerr tried to get him in late June. I love Amare to death, but Garnett would have come as close to guaranteeing them a championship in the next two years as any trade could have. You have to make that leap.

This situation would probably be easier to take for Suns fans if Sarver ever gave any indication that he cared about winning a championship. When the news broke on Sunday night, though, I’m sure he was sleeping on a pile of money with many beautiful ladies.

Will the Suns do anything else of substance this summer? Of course not, because that would cost money.

Golden State Warriors
If we take Tim Kawakami’s sources at their words, the Warriors were a miscommunication between McHale and MJ away from getting Garnett for Monta, Richardson, and Al Harrington. That wouldn’t have been a bad trade; the KG/Andris combo inside would have stood toe-to-toe with any frontcourt in the league. But, alas, the geography major at UNC didn’t teach His Airness how to make phone calls, so no luck there. All evidence shows that Mullin tried to work something out with McHale after the trade. In the end, no Warriors package other than Andris, Monta, Harrington, and a lot more cap filler would have surpassed the quality of the Boston package, and I’ve never been a fan of putting Monta and Andris in the same deal.

GSW currently has the same major hole at power forward that they did at the beginning of the summer. Options approaching KG’s caliber are basically nonexistent now; fast power forwards who can rebound and defend don’t stay on the market for long. AK47 would be a tremendous fit, but I don’t see a wing on the roster who fits what Jerry Sloan wants to do.

Drew Gooden’s name has been mentioned in rumors, and he’s a strong enough rebounder to make him a decent option in spite of the fact that he doesn’t play much defense. The major issue with that trade involves money: the trade exception could be used on Gooden for this year, but the following year his salary would put the Warriors over the luxury tax should management do the right thing and reup Monta/Andris. At any rate, Gooden probably wouldn’t make a big difference in a playoff series. I’ve resigned myself to the Warriors not making another big move this offseason, which would be tougher to handle if I didn’t like every player on the team not named O’Bryant.

Los Angeles Lakers
I doubt the Lakers were ever serious contenders for Garnett; McHale never seemed to like the Bynum/Odom package much, and in today's press conference KG said he wasn't interested in the Lakers because of the uncertainty surrounding Kobe. The Lakers are on this list almost exclusively for what the trade does for Kobe’s emotional state. Logically, this thing would upset him, but I believe more and more everyday that Kobe is insane, so who knows what he’s thinking. It’s entirely possible that he’s devoting himself to finding rare Hakeem tapes for Andrew Bynum.

Here's the thing: Kobe’s desires shouldn’t affect the Lakers at all in this case, because he’s the best player in the NBA and anyone with a half a brain should do his best to give the best player in the NBA some help. The Lakers have no direction, though, so too bad for Mamba.

I adore Odom (so misused on this team) and sorta like Bynum (not as a perennial all-star like some Lakers fans seem to think, but he’ll be solid for years), but someone like Jermaine O’Neal would do wonders for this team. Carter (and most Lakers fans, it seems) thinks that it's not worth it if Odom has to be part of the deal. I disagree, citing Odom's poor fit on the roster and the two-star/role player game plan. Additionally, Carter often tells me how the Lakers don’t need to do anything except surround Kobe with decent role players if they want to be a middle seed. I think that’s right, but screw being a four seed. Get another star and challenge for a championship; that system works. The last name won’t fool anyone into thinking that Jermaine is Shaq, but at least LA will be real again. The front office needs to stop making this whole Kobe thing harder than it actually is.

Chicago Bulls
For my money, the biggest losers here. They have the most tradeable pieces on their roster, so enough players would have still been around to make them a legitimate contender in either conference. Adding to that point, all those players are young enough to make them attractive to the Minnesota rebuilding process. KG also played his high school ball in Chicago, so the geographical ties are there. Bill Simmons claims that Paxson rolling over PJ Brown’s contract one more year would have made it a sure thing; I’m not convinced they couldn’t have worked something out this summer anyway with some creative trading. Now KG’s playing for one of their traditional conference rivals. Oops.

The Bulls still need a reliable post scorer if they want to take the next step, and Pau Gasol seems like the best big-time option. Again, they have the pieces needed to make a deal, although it’s very possible that Memphis doesn’t want to trade Gasol now that they have the makings of a pretty solid team.

The best case scenario for Chicago would probably involve Kobe flipping out on the Lakers again and demanding a trade. The Bulls are the most obvious destination for him, so it would once again come down to Paxson having to pull the trigger. I wouldn’t hold my breath.

1 comment:

Mark Wall said...