Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Because this is what the offseason has dwindled to. Josh Howard's(notes) new contract with the Washington Wizards, in a year that will see him play possibly 60 games. Possibly.

Howard's 30, his production has declined for the last three seasons, and he's had run-ins with the law and league over things that could be career (his admitted use of marijuana) and life (street racing) threatening. On top of that, he tore his ACL last February. A more, say, motivated player tears his ACL, and you'd be enthused about his progress. With Howard? The guy hasn't added much to his game since 2003, and we're to believe that he's going to be ultra-motivated to work his way back? Especially after being handed $4 million to play this year?

Here's the rub, though. Washington appears to want to stay semi-competitive this year, possibly as a way to keep rookie John Wall(notes) from developing bad habits, possibly as a way to pump up Gilbert Arenas'(notes) trade value, or possibly because general manager Ernie Grunfeld just wants to shoot for 42 wins, playoff revenue, and keep his job. And for them to succeed in that manner, they need to find a replacement for Al Thornton(notes) at starting small forward. Because just because you've heard of Al Thornton, it doesn't mean he's good. Thornton's a hard worker, but he's one of the worst, if not the worst, starting small forwards in the NBA right now.

Howard might not be much better. If guesswork regarding his career arc, his role in Flip Saunders' offense, and the time it'll take to get back to NBA speed are correct, he'll just be a little bit better than Thornton next season, and only for three-quarters of the season.

But he fits Washington's plans, he's not hurting the team payroll-wise, he can still play at this level, and he's only in for one year. So while I'm not really keen on what Washington is doing overall, this is a fine deal.

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Steve Francis(notes) wanting to come back to play for the Miami Heat is laughable. So instead of making jokes, let's just point out that Francis never learned to play productively in a style that didn't see him continuously dominating the ball, he was never a lights-out shooter, his defense was terrible three years ago (when he last played), and his body probably can't hold up to the rigors of the job.

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Jannero Pargo(notes) with the Golden State Warriors makes no sense. Jannero tries hard, but his game is a worst-case scenario version of Monta Ellis(notes), a player that Golden State already has under contract. And even if the Warriors dump Ellis, as has been rumored, they have the similarly-styled Stephen Curry(notes) and Charlie Bell(notes) in back of him. Stephen wants to pass and Bell tries to defend, but these are all the same player.

We're looking at a two-year contract at $2.4 million, which is very little by NBA standards, but how many times does it have to be beaten over teams' heads that NBA squads are worse off when Pargo sees minutes? Even if it's for only a few minutes. I don't mean to sound so cold, there, but Pargo is just a type of player that doesn't really help things, even if he's just there for spot duty, or a guy to fill out the practice roster.

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With the luxury tax hanging over their heads, the Los Angeles Lakers are paying well over $10 million for Sasha Vujacic(notes) to play ball for them next season (his over $5 million salary, doubled by the dollar-for-dollar tax), so they're actively trying to shop the guy in the hopes that some team with cap space or a trade exception will get desperate for shooting, and send Los Angeles a first-round pick for him.

To utilize my best Chris Webber(notes) tone, "good luck." Sasha's a dogged competitor, but his 3-point shooting has declined over the last two years, and if you can't make more than 31 percent of your threes with Kobe Bryant(notes) and Pau Gasol(notes) passing you the ball, then life is going to be far more tougher on the outside with another team.

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If Eddie House(notes) stays quick enough to get his shot off against quicker defenders, even with all the spacing that Miami's All-Stars will provide, he'll help the Heat.

The trick is quickness. Eddie's a career 39 percent shooter from long range, but that dropped to 35 percent last year as those bombs became more and more contested. But it's a good chance and a cheap price (two years, $2.8 million) for the Heat.

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I like Rasual Butler(notes) because it never looks like he knows the play. He's always being pointed in another direction by a teammate, and while I might just seem to catch him at the worst times while flipping around, it cracks me up.

He can score, finish well, and score on the break. He's got a good offensive game, he really shouldn't be anything more than a 10th man on a good team, but on a Clipper team desperate for wing depth, he'll be needed. Trey would also like to point out that he started the season wearing two arm bands, and ended the season wearing none.

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David Andersen(notes) can't defend, can't rebound, and won't wow you with his scoring exploits. But he's a 7-footer that can handle playing a few minutes here and there without destroying your rotation. And because the Houston Rockets sent so much money to the Toronto Raptors while trading Andersen there in a tax-saving maneuver, he's a bargain.

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Teams looking for a way to get easier shots for their players might want to look into signing Damien Wilkins(notes). Wilkins isn't the great wing option to behold, but he's one of the better passing forwards around, and can help a team that's rife with good finishers but lacking in creativity.

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