Everybody’s ranked their winners and losers coming out of the trade deadline. We can agree to disagree on any and all of those, and the proof won’t be available for two or three years anyway.
What is fairly indisputable is which team came out of the 2010 cap-clearing frenzy as the biggest loser. That team, according to me and team executives who are closely monitoring the impending free-agent signing period, is the New Jersey Nets.
As if the Nets didn’t have enough problems; their 5-52 record has them two games ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers’ NBA-worst 9-73 mark in 1972-73. On the bright side, the Nets will move to a new arena next season. Unfortunately, that arena is in Newark, N.J., because the Nets’ move to Brooklyn won’t be consummated until 2012. This month, the Nets agreed to play the next two seasons at Newark’s Prudential Center – a vast improvement over the Meadowlands, but perhaps not what a certain marquee free agent or two had in mind.
But think about this: Heading into the trade deadline, the Nets were on equal footing with Miami in the chase for a max free agent on July 1. New Jersey had upwards of $26 million in cap space – depending on exactly where the 2010-11 cap comes in. Miami already had Dwyane Wade and was one trade away from clearing enough space to pair him with another superstar in the league’s most desirable locale – something that, presumably, would entice Wade to stay.
After the deadline, the Knicks and Bulls nudged the Nets out of the way – and even the Clippers joined the cap-clearing party. By trading Jared Jeffries to the Rockets, Knicks president Donnie Walsh put the finishing touches on clearing more than $30 million in space – meaning New York is within striking distance of the $33 million needed for two max players. By divesting themselves of John Salmons, the Bulls have comfortably more than the $16.6 million it will take to sign one max free agent. Oh, by the way, the Bulls have Derrick Rose, a key drawing card for any top free agent. Plus, like the Heat, they play in one of the league’s most desirable markets. (Hey, Chicago was good enough for Michael Jordan. And it ain’t Newark.)
The end result is that the Nets, who’ve endured potentially the worst season in NBA history simply for the chance to sign a major free agent, now will have to get in line behind other teams that have more to offer.
“What New York and Chicago did,” one rival executive said, “didn’t help the Nets at all.”
And if the Nets don’t wind up with the No. 1 pick (a.k.a. John Wall)?
“They’re screwed,” the executive said.
With that, here are the rest of this week’s Post-Ups:
• Speaking of Rose, a quote from him about his free-agent recruiting efforts during All-Star weekend caught my eye. The first word that came to mind: tampering. Rose told ESPNChicago.com that he spoke with potential free agents LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh during All-Star weekend about joining him in the Windy City. “I told them Chicago is a great place, and if they want to come, we’ll be more than happy to take them,” Rose said. “It would be huge if one of them comes here; either LeBron, Wade or Bosh. We’ll take all of them if we can get them, but we can only get one. So hopefully they just come on. ... We definitely have a real good chance to get them. The Chicago market is unbelievable, and I don’t see anyone really passing Chicago up if they can come here. Just give me a basketball player, just like we have now, and I’ll be good.” Players are rarely, if ever, prosecuted under the league’s tampering guidelines, which are generally reserved for those with the authority to sign players or negotiate for them (i.e. GMs, coaches, agents). But just for the record, Section 35(e) of the NBA Constitution says the following:
Any Player who, directly or indirectly, entices, induces, persuades or attempts to entice, induce, or persuade any Player, Coach, Trainer, General Manager or any other person who is under contract to any other Member of the Association to enter into negotiations for or relating to his services or negotiates or contracts for such services shall, on being charged with such tampering, be given an opportunity to answer such charges after due notice and the Commissioner shall have the power to decide whether or not the charges have been sustained; in the event his decision is that the charges have been sustained, then the Commissioner shall have the power to suspend such Player for a definite or indefinite period, or to impose a fine not exceeding $50,000, or inflict both such suspension and fine upon any such Player.
• It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the Spurs (in general) or Manu Ginobili (in particular) play with the kind of fire they exhibited Wednesday night against Oklahoma City. (See Manu’s chase-down swat of Kevin Durant here, if you haven’t already.) It was an impressive showing in San Antonio’s first game back at home after their annual rodeo road trip, during which the Spurs were 4-4. The Spurs were 32-29 heading into Friday night’s game in Houston, sitting precariously in the seventh playoff spot. But only five games separate the teams positioned 6-11 in the West. On Sunday against the Suns, the Spurs begin a crucial five-game stretch against teams that currently have winning records – matchups they’ve struggled with all season.
• Just as there should be a rule against a team trading a player and re-signing him 30 days later, there should be a rule against owners who have no shot at signing such a player deceiving his team’s fans into thinking he can. Michael Gearon Jr., one of many co-owners of the Atlanta Hawks, did just that Friday when he said the Hawks will be “very competitive” in their pursuit of Ilgauskas, who is expected to return to Cleveland as soon as the 30-day waiting period expires.
• Billy Hunter, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, said during All-Star weekend that he’s instructed players to start saving money for a potential lockout after the 2010-11 season. Celtics guard Marquis Daniels apparently didn’t get the memo. Via Hoopshype.com, I came across this item on how Daniels enlisted a Beverly Hills jeweler to produce a diamond-encrusted replica of his head. The price for the piece, which contained 1,300 grams of 14-karat gold and may or may not be hollow, wasn’t disclosed. But given Friday’s closing price of $1,118.30 for an ounce of gold, the bust set Daniels back $51,063.81 for the gold alone. If there’s a lockout, I suppose Daniels could sell it. To himself.