Monday, October 28, 2002

CLIPPERS WATCH: In the comments in one of those posts down there Bill Barnwell directed me to John Hollinger's basketball page for thinking fans--which has Hollinger's previews for the East and a fascinating defense of The (Other) Donald:

Now let's get back to the media. They blew it on the Rashard Lewis saga in Seattle, and they're blowing it here too. The thing to understand about Brand and Miller not getting extensions, which the press has been so slow to realize, is that the teams are holding all the cards here. Rashard Lewis found it out the hard way -- Seattle offered $60 million, and it was written that the Sonics were making a huge mistake by underpaying when Lewis wanted the max. But under the new collective bargaining agreement, the Sonics were the smart ones -- they kept their guy for less money, and knew darn well that he wasn't going anywhere.

Look forward to next summer. Brand, Miller, Odom and Maggette will all be restricted free agents, which means the Clippers can tell each of them "get an offer and we'll match it; otherwise you're this year's Rashard Lewis." It might sound mean or draconian, but the fact is agents are still making demands based on the old agreement, and smart teams are realizing the rules have changed. Meanwhile, if Brand or Miller gets hurt, the Clips will have saved themselves a ton of cap room by not committing the dough ahead of time.

Finally, there's one other reason to think The Donald has changed his stripes, at least somewhat: Wang Zhizhi. Would The Donald of old have signed this guy to an offer sheet when a minimum wage guy could do the job just as effectively? Conspiracy theorists think he wants Zhizhi so they can have a cheaper guy at center when Olowokandi walks (for his maximum contract, guffaw, guffaw); to me, I would want Zhizhi for the more simple reason that he's better than Olowokandi.

As I said at the top, maybe The Donald will prove his stripes after the season, letting all his best players walk and cementing his place among the all-time worst owners. But when I consider the collective bargaining agreement, the fact that the teams are holding all of the cards in free agency, and how wildly overrated Olowokandi has become, I have to ask: isn't The Donald doing everything exactly right so far?

Hollinger's team previews are worth checking out too.

UPDATE: These previews rule. Here is the Kings' weakest link:

Nothing -- The only two weaknesses on the Kings' roster are "third-string point guard" and "Rick Adelman's beard."

The Kings are so strong at so many spots that they can suffer an injury to their second-best player and still nearly beat the world champions in a seven-game series. They can lose their best player for 20 games and go 15-5 without him, as they did to start last season. They have three quality centers in a league where most teams don't have any. None of their top nine players are below average defensively, and only Doug Christie, their best perimeter defender, is below average offensively. They have four players on their bench who would start for at least half the teams in the league. Their big men handle the ball better than most guys who are six inches shorter, and everyone on the team can shoot.

Summing it up, this team has only one weakness: Shaquille O'Neal. That's all that stopped them last year and is probably all that stands in their way again.

I love this game. Say that in Dikembe Mutombo's voice in your head for additional comedic effect.

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