Tag:Free Agency
Posted on: November 2, 2010 2:46 am
Edited on: November 2, 2010 9:41 am

Grizzlies commit franchise suicide, extend Conley

Grizzlies point guard granted 5-year, $45-million extension for mediocrity, continued inconsistency.Posted by Matt Moore

In the long history of terrible moves by the Memphis Grizzlies, mark my words, this one will reign supreme.

Worse than drafting Hasheem Thabeet.

Worse than trading Pau Gasol for Marc Gasol, Kwame Brown, and cash.

Worse than re-signing Rudy Gay for $80 million.

This, this right here, is not just the worst move in the history of the Grizzlies, but it is the shining golden cap on the mountain of terrible moves made by NBA owners over the past 2 years. It is this, exact move, that nullifies any argument the owners can possibly make that they spend their money responsibly inside the current CBA. It is this contract that overshadows Joe Johnson's contract, Amir Johnson's contract, Darko Milicic's contract as the single worst contract handed out in 2010.

ESPN's Chris Broussard and the Memphis Commercial-Appeal reports that the Memphis Grizzlies have agreed to a 5-year, $40-million-plus extension for Mike Conley.

There is really nothing more to say. But here's something anyway.

Mike Conley is the worst starting point guard in the NBA. That's including Derek Fisher, who is at this point both a defensive signpost and a superior point guard. People often wonder why it is I consider this to be so. The reasons are numerous. It's not that Mike Conley is not a good basketball player. He is. He's a career 44% shooter, and 38% from the arc, which isn't bad at all. As a spot-up back-up combo guard, he wouldn't be bad at all. Mike Conley is not a bad NBA player. But there are three things this contract supposes that he is not. He is not a starting caliber point guard. He is not worth $45 million dollars over 5 years. And he is not worth the longterm damage this contract does to the Memphis Grizzlies franchise.

Conley's biggest problems involve things which are extremely hard to identify in the box score. His turnover margin is acceptable, if not stellar. He was 24th in the league last year in assist rate among point guards who played 25 minutes or more. That's not good, at all, but it's not horrific. But if you watched as many Grizzlies games as I have, you'd know certain things. Like, for instance, his dribble probe ability.

Every point guard in the National Basketball Association is able to probe the defense. It involves stepping inside the arc, towards defenders, and maintaining your dribble to see how the defense reacts to penetration. It allows the point guard to evaluate spacing and set up the correct set of decisions. Mike Conley cannot. He will routinely turn his back to a post maneuver, just to avoid losing the ball. This is because he has tremendous difficulty in splitting defenders. This is just one example. He struggles in the pick and roll according to Synergy Sports, averaging just a .79 PPP in the pick and roll and shooting 44% which is a great Field Goal %, but not in pick and roll. Defensively? It's even worse.

Conley surrenders a .96 PPP in Isolation, giving up free throws over 16% of the time. In pick and roll, a .82. It's not horrific. It's just miserably average-to-subpar. This at the most important position on the floor. Bear in mind that Conley plays in a high-octane, weapon-loaded offense that allows him to get out in transition and get easy buckets. Yet he turned the ball over in transition 16.7% of the time.

Advanced stats don't look much better. Conley has never posted a +15 PER, the benchmark of an average player in the league. Conley is only 23, but it would require a monumental improvement in several categories for him to reach the point of actually deserving this kind of contract.

As a comparison? Rajon Rondo makes only $10 million more for his extension than Mike Conley. Rajon Rondo. The guy that just dropped 24 assists in one game for a title contender. That guy makes $2 million more per year, that's it.

But the real problem with this contract?

The damage it does to the future.

Alongside Conley, the Grizzlies needed to extend Marc Gasol, the only real asset they acquired in the Pau Gasol trade. Marc Gasol is arguably the most important player on the team. He is an excellent passer out of both the high and low post. He has a reliable mid-range jumper, is tremendous on the offensive glass, and works his face off on the defensive end. He shows hard and recovers on the pick and roll, maintains low-post position and is active, and continually makes hustle plays. This in a league that is painfully thin on centers. And the Grizzlies have just opened the door for Gasol to walk away in restricted free agency. Zach Randolph has to be re-signed after his contract expires this year, and given the affection the Grizzlies organization has shown Randolph, there's no sign they won't overpay for Z-Bo as well. Which would mean making room for Marc Gasol would be incredibly difficult.

Then next season, you have O.J. Mayo in a similar boat. Looking for an extension. But after the owners' hardline CBA renegotiations get through, how much cap space will they have left? Plus they'll have Hasheem Thabeet coming up soon and a need to justify their drafting of him by waiting for him to develop over the next decade.

So what you're looking at with this extension is the rare combination of a move that's bad in and of itself, and mortgages your ability to win later by most likely expending two of your three best players. You now have $120 million committed to Rudy Gay and Mike Conley over the next six years. That's bad enough, but you'll most likely be losing better players in order to form around that core. It damages you in the short term. This is a player who you have tried to improve upon with Jamal Tinsley, moving O.J. Mayo to point, Greivis Vasquez, Allen Iverson, and I'm pretty sure a clone of John Stockton. But this is the player you have chosen to give $40 million-plus to.

The owners have held the high ground in negotiations regarding the CBA. Even with moves like Darko, Johnson, and the stellar history of Isiah Thomas, the ownership has been able to justify the moves they've made. But this is more damaging than others. This is a clearly B-Level player getting close to $9 million a year.

The Commercial-Appeal reports the decision was largely made upon Conley's strong start to this season. Three games. In a contract year. Featuring a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. This, apparently, is what sets the market in Memphis.

When Ken Berger reported last month that the NBA was considering contraction as a possible solution to its economic woes, I spoke out passionately against it. Small-market fans shouldn't be punished and the overall health of the league nationwide shouldn't be harmed in an attempt by larger market teams to make life easier on them. But after this deal, the question must be raised. Would the Grizzlies be better off if they were simply erased from existence? Is a fan base better off existing in a constant and continual cycle of disappointment and failure, or simply not existing at all?

Mike Conley made $45 million without a single impressive season. And the bizarre, cruel, laughable reign of Michael Heisley continues.

Posted on: October 29, 2010 1:22 am
Edited on: October 29, 2010 2:52 pm

Report: Dampier to Rockets

Report says Dampier will sign with Rockets. Posted by Matt Moore

Our long national ... apathy may finally be over. Hoopsworld is reporting that Erick Dampier has made his decision, many moons after "The Decision", and will join the Houston Rockets as a backup center. The Rockets are at 15 players, so there will have to be cut to make room for him, likely Ishmael Smith. Smith may wind up in the Rockets' D-League affiliate Rio Grande Valley Vipers who they use quite a bit.

Dampier makes for a valuable addition to the Rockets. Against the Lakers, when they had a center with size in, they flourished. Those players went out due to minute restrictions or endurance, and production dropped. They need that size, despite having an absolute plethora of bigs. Dampier gives them elite size to combat their opponents' bigger lineups. He's slow, old, and never been a great scorer, but he does his job and does it well. In limited minutes, he could pack a big punch for Houston, who has struggled in rebounding through their first two games.

Dampier had been pursued by Toronto, Portland, Phoenix and Milwaukee, with heavy talks of him signing with all three. But Dampier took his time, or those teams pursued other options, and so now Houston will bring him in and slide Chuck Hayes to backup power forward. The race for size in the Western Conference continues.

Posted on: October 14, 2010 6:00 pm

Cleveland staying Comic, sans LeBron

Cavs employ worst font in history of world for new floor. Posted by Matt Moore

Come on, Cleveland. You're kidding, right? This is some sort of inside joke? You're not really going to...

Let me back up. Let's say you, like most of America, are not into fonts. Typography isn't exactly riveting stuff. I'm no expert myself. But one that's pretty apparent from every graphic designer, copy editor, and artist I know is that Comic Sans is the single worst font to ever be created. It was part of what garnered Cavs owner Dan Gilbert such mockery when he dropped his letter about LeBron. Sure, you can go over the top and make James out to be the worst villain since the Joker, but you need to do it with a grown man font. Not Comic Sans. And yet, that was his option.

But ha ha, remember that time Gilbert used Comic Sans to drop a tirade on the King? Nice piece of trivia.

It's back. Like a bad batch of spinach, Comic Sans is being regurgitated in Cleveland. Via Ball Don't Lie , the Cavs unveiled their new court today and in one of the images, you'll notice the following:

Jeez, Cleveland. Is that really necessary? I get the "If you've got it, flaunt it" but really? The fans are already suffering enough having watched you fail to surround the best player in the league with the talent to win a championship, and then fail to secure his services for the future, now you're going to punish them with this font being burned into their eyes on a nightly basis? Cruel, Cleveland. Cruel. Cleveland Masochists might make a better name.
Posted on: September 28, 2010 2:31 pm
Edited on: September 28, 2010 2:41 pm

Magic will do what it takes to extend Howard

Magic will do whatever it takes to re-sign Howard, but All-Star Center follows the LeBron formula for keeping leverage.
Posted by Matt Moore

This summer is going to have long-lasting effects on the NBA that go well beyond the careers of the players who actually switched teams. It's going to affect how teams treat their expiring stars, increasing the amount of panic they experience and allowing players to extract every ounce of leverage in the negotiations. Sure, the money is going to be the same. The max is the max (barring some massive changes in the CBA this summer). But there are things that have to do with personnel, direction, and perks that players can squeeze out with the threat of "LeBroning" their team.

Such is the problem the Orlando Magic face. The Orlando Sentinel reports today that Magic General Manager Otis Smith said he has every intention of locking up Howard before he hits free agency , by signing him this summer before his expiring year. In regards to giving Howard the kind of contract he wants?

"Of course we will," said Smith, when asked if he'll approach Howard with a contract of his choosing. "We want Dwight to be in a Magic uniform for as long as he plays basketball."

But Howard, naturally, followed the script for free agents with a contract expiratioin in sight (outside of Derrick Rose, who's apparently just a sweetheart). He said he loved Orlando and that he planned on being there forever. But of course, wouldn't say he'll sign. That one little step short, where you keep the fans happy but let the organization know you expect to be treated the way you want to. That goes for everything from coaching to personnel to team policies. These are the kinds of things Howard can control. He's also giving himself an out if the next two years don't go so well.

Imagine that Vince Carter falls off the production cliff as age catches up with him and Rashard Lewis has another slight downturn. SVG starts to lose the locker room and all of a sudden the Magic have a disappointing season. Howard is going to keep that free agency possibility in his pocket as long as he has to to make sure the Magic continue to put him in a position to contend. Now, sure, the more likely scenario is the Magic have an Eastern Conference Finals run or better in them this season and everything looks up, he may commit. He genuinely loves the team, the city, and the organization. Being that kind of hero probably appeals to his temperament. But he's going to maintain his position, the same position LeBron James and Chris Bosh held at this point in their career. Always saying the right things without saying the thing that locks you in. This summer was all about players getting what they want how they want, when they want. And it sounds like Dwight Howard will be following that formula to a T.
Posted on: September 20, 2010 10:11 pm
Edited on: September 20, 2010 10:12 pm

Mo Williams nearly retired after LeBron left

Lonely Cav captain left to ponder career by LeBron James nearly calls it quits.
Posted by Matt Moore

When LeBron James took his talents to Miami, he left a trail of disappointed and devastated people in his wake. Dan Gilbert, the Cavs' organization, Cavalier fans, sporting good store owners in Ohio, the city of Cleveland, Knicks fans, Bulls fans, Nets fans, Clipper fa... you get the picture. But in general, you have to believe most of the Cavs players treated it as NBA players treat these kinds of things. Business. Players come, players go. The checks keep coming, so what't the concern?

For one player, apparently it wasn't just business, and life didn't just go on. Mo Williams, James' running mate in Cleveland told Yahoo! Sports Monday that he was so distraught following "The Decision" that he considered retirement. From Mo Gotti's conversation with Marc Spears :

"I contemplated it. I really sat down and envisioned life after basketball. …I really saw myself not playing.

“It just didn’t make sense to me. …It doesn’t make sense to me.”

Williams goes on to say that he lost a lot of his love for the game, and it took him a while to be able to get back into the game. He doesn't sound wholly convinced, either. The whole conversation comes across the way someone sounds after a particularly tough breakup, the kind where you don't know what happened and he/she just moved out one day.

Is Williams a sympathetic figure? He certainly took a huge load of the blame for the playoff failures of the Cavaliers during his time there. Williams always seemed to be trying to prove a point, that he could score too, instead of being the all-around player most wanted him to be in support of James. This is the gap between a point guard and a Scottie Pippen-type forward. That's the problem. James was the all-around type player as well as the massive scoring force. And Williams also wasn't exactly on target with a lot of those shots. It's much easier to feel sorry for him if he wasn't campaigning to be an All-Star and clanging up a house for the third little pig every May.

But that's contextual based on our knowledge of him. At his root, Mo Williams is a player that felt like he was part of something special in Cleveland, who loved the opportunity to compete at the highest level with what he felt was the greatest player in the game, and someone who now faces a reality where the person that he was trying so hard to support is gone. Vanished in the night, on national television. He's got to continue his career, knowing that windows for players like himself are small and delicate, and the odds are not good that he'll hear his name in the Conference Finals again. The whole NBA world's changed since LeBron James left Cleveland.

And we're still trying to figure out all the career implications and casualties of "The Decision."

Posted on: September 16, 2010 4:01 pm
Edited on: September 23, 2010 4:29 pm

Tim Thomas leaves Mavericks again

 Mavericks journeyman forward will miss 2010-2011 season to support wife through illness for second consecutive season.
Posted by Matt Moore

Less than a month after a feel-good reunion , the Tim Thomas-Dallas Mavericks reunion is over. Jeff Caplan of ESPN Dallas reports that Thomas has informed the Mavericks he'll miss the 2010-2011 to continue supporting his wife with an undisclosed illness, the same situation that forced him to miss almost the entirey of the 2009-2010 season.

The Mavericks are working with the league to void the $1.35 million contract they agreed to with Thomas for this season. The Mavericks now have a month and a half and two roster spots available. It's deeply regrettable, and there is a lot of discussion that this might be the end of Thomas' career. Life gets in the way. Hopefully, Thomas' wife will recover from whatever she's facing. The Mavericks' season is important to them and their fans. But not nearly as this reminder that athletes have lives with serious complications and struggles to overcome that have nothing to do with conditioning or jump shots.

F&R wishes the best for the Thomas family.

Posted on: September 13, 2010 11:29 am
Edited on: September 13, 2010 11:41 am

Lou Amundson signs with Golden State Warriors

Suns free-agent forward signs two year deal with Warriors, Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports.
Posted by Matt Moore

Lou Amundson's long journey of free agency is finally, thankfully over. Ken Berger of CBSSports.com confirms that Amundson has signed with the Golden State Warriors for a two-year deal for $4.7 million. Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports and Marc Stein of ESPN both had reports earlier confirming the signing. Berger confirms that the second year of the deal is a player option, leaving both Amundson and the Warriors flexibility down the line if the marriage doesn't work, so to speak.

Amundson has been on the vine since free agency started, despite being a huge part of the Suns' run to the Western Conference Finals. At 27 years old, he's not a spring chicken, but he's not getting fit for a walker, either. He finished with a 16.7% rebounding rate , that's right behind Kendrick Perkins among centers. He's not the caliber of Perkins, but he does provide solid rebounding production and defensive effort off the bench. In Don Nelson's system, it'll be interesting to see if he's able to keep up that kind of work in a system that neither rewards, nor facillitates good rebounding or good defense.

But Amundson deserved a job, and it's good for the Warriors that they nabbed him this late for a good price.
Posted on: August 19, 2010 12:05 pm

Tim Thomas back with the Mavericks

Forward signs with Mavericks after half-season away on personal reasons.
Posted by Matt Moore

I'm not sure at what point Tim Thomas became the veteran forward you root for and stopped being "the lazy dude that cashed in on one good playoff season" but it happened. Thomas was a phenomenal disappointment in Philadelphia, Milwaukee, New York, and Chicago, wound up being a huge part of the Suns' playoff run in 2006, then reverted back to form with the Clippers. But with the Mavericks last season, he was experiencing a bit of a career rennaissance. He shot better than he had in nearly a decade, was playing solid defense, and was a good veteran option off the bench.

Then, a personal situation that has as yet not been reported developed with his wife, and Thomas was forced to leave the team after only 18 games to be with her. But with that situation resolved, he's back with the Mavs . It's kind of a feel-good story when you look at all the factos, and if Thomas can return to his production last season, he could help the Mavs challenge again in the West. His services were certainly needed against San Antonio, whose depth caused major issues for the Mavs.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com