Friday, August 28, 2009

Was It An Excuse To Let Off Some Man-Hatred?

Been a while since I've blogged; life's gotten a bit busy, though naturally I haven't shut sports out. However, another couple of bad articles have spurned me back into blog-action. They come from the likes of a certain Yahoo! Sports blogger whose so maligned that the comments section of his posts are frequently littered with calls for his head and amazement at his employ. When I say frequent, I do mean frequent.

This first one was the one that truly made me shake my head, both for the rampant omissions and the focus on Isiah's Knicks. For the latter, look, we all know how shoddy the Isiah Thomas reign in New York was. But was it me or did the blogger, both in text and image, imply that Thomas signed Eddy Curry as a free agent? Does my memory deceive me, or did he not come to New York via a sign-and-trade? I mean, really, it was bad enough that he included contract extensions in the list; a sign and trade is really stretching the definition of the list past the breaking point.

But that's a small, probably pedantic, quibble. Any way you shake it, Curry hasn't exactly worked out for the best.

The bigger problem is some of the omissions; I will concentrate on one in particular, as it relates to the Isiah Thomas-pile-on the article ended with. Naturally these days, most people malign Thomas as the destroyer of all things Knickerbocker, as if the franchise had been rolling along like a well-oiled machine before he arrived. Those of us that know how to spell ginkoba know nothing is further from the truth; their mismanagement started long before he rolled up his sleeves in MSG.

As you scroll back to #10 on that list, you'll see Rashard Lewis' Magic contract being included, simply because the Magic overpaid for his services. Granted, that part in hardly debatable, but if Lewis makes the list by said qualification, how does the Allan Houston mega-max-contract not make the list? Are you serious? Let's turn our minds back to 2001 and look forward from there to remind ourselves how awful this contract was.

First of all, the Knicks -- much like the Magic with Lewis -- severely outbid themselves. I've seen people debate the actual numbers -- some say $30 million, some say mitigating factors place the number much smaller -- but I've yet to see anyone say the Knicks gave Houston his fair market value. As a result, the Knicks ended up severely handcuffing themselves, eliminating the ability to sign any more top talent, and setting themselves up for years of salary cap and luxury tax hell. I mean, do we need to recall that the 2005 collective bargaining agreement has a provision that is very commonly called the Allan-Houston-exception? How bad does a contract have to be that it gets a rule, designed to undo some of its damage, named after it? How does such a contract not end up as one of the top-10 in the decade? That 2005 CBA elevated the status of that contract from poor to legendary.

Two years after the Rashard Lewis signing, the Magic have still retained the financial flexibility to sign players like Mikael Pietrus, Matt Barnes, and Brandon Bass, and ummm oh yea they made the NBA finals. I know the latter happened so long ago it's hard to remember, but do try. It goes without saying: Rashard had more than a bit of a hand in getting the Magic to the big show this year.

In the years after the Houston signing, the Knicks posted records of 30-52, 37-45, 39-43, and 33-49. By that time, Houston was succumbing to a host of knee injuries, and would never be the same player again.

However, what much of a player was he even at the signing? Everyone and everyone knew right then and there that this was a humongous price for a dictionary-definition-1-way-player. Houston was a shooter, and nothing more. Never known for his defense, an ability to break down players off the dribble, nothing. Shooting he did, and did with the best. But that alone shouldn't get you an over-bloated max contract. You love watching one-way players shoot the ball, but they exactly pan out to have a long, illustrious NBA career.

I'll never, ever, forget the day when I heard the news of the Houston signing. I was at my desk at work, and my jaw dropped. "$100 million?" Then, when I heard Allan declare, at the press conference, that he was "the best player at my position" in qualifying the big check, I pushed back from my desk, doubled over with laughter, and nearly fell out of the chair. The best shooting guard in the league? I started scanning the league in my mind. Isn't Kobe Bryant a shooting guard? Isn't Allen Iverson a SG? Ray Allen? Best SG? He's not even the best 2-guard named Allen!!! (nitpick at the slightly-different spellings if you will; but you get the point).

I say all this to say, we knew it was a bad contract at the time, and then time certainly bared that out to be rock-solid truth. Foresight and hindsight rarely agree with such accuracy. There is no conceivable way that the $100 million contract doesn't make a list of worst signings of the 2000s. There is certainly no way Lewis' contract ranks higher. The Magic have already made the finals, are still wheeling and dealing, and Lewis, a borderline All-Star annually (he should've made the 2009 team, certainly over Mo Whinings), though limited, has many more facets to his game than Houston ever did.

Sorry Dwyer; as the folks say nowadays, your list was an epic fail.

* A small note about another top-10 column: while the placement of #3 and #1 (Kwame Brown and Darko Milicic) is more than debatable -- I certainly would've swapped the two, based on the simple fact that I think Darko would abuse Brown in a game of 1-on-1, the entry in between them is, at best, quite curious:
2. Entire 2000 NBA draft
You can't pick a single bust-worthy standout. Sure, Stromile Swift(notes) (taken second overall) has disappointed greatly, but what were the Grizzlies' options? Darius Miles(notes)? Marcus Fizer? Chris Mihm(notes)? DerMarr Johnson(notes)? Do you want me to go on? Or do you want me to just mention Jerome Moiso's name and move on with it? It nearly bears mentioning that any time I see a comment wondering how it was, exactly, that a dope like me got this job, I think back to this draft. And I think, "I live-blogged the 2000 NBA draft. I've paid my dues, dammit."
Now, I actually took him at his word -- I certainly can't recall draft results 10 years past without doing a little search -- until a poster pointed out some of the other names in that years' draft: Kenyon Martin, Mike Miller, Jamal Crawford, Hedo Turkoglu, Desmond Mason, Jamaal Magloire, Quentin Richardson, Morris Peterson, Eddie House, Michael Redd. Four finals appearances, a couple Team USA selections, several All-Star selections, Sixth-Man Awards, Most Improved Accolades, and oodles of playoff team experience.

Did he mean to say the first round was a bust? Picks 2 thru 7? 9 thru 15? How can he call the entire draft a bust? Did he moreso mean to imply that teams picked stupidly that year? Perhaps he did suffer while blogging the draft, but maybe we all should take the blame for overlooking Michael Redd for 42 selections as much as all the teams did.

I won't go overboard on the criticism to call this post a fail; but I'll simply say that calling the entire 2000 draft a "bust" is rather, umm, overreaching.