Ball Don't Lie - NBA



It's not imminent, we know that. Adrian Wojnarowski broke the story this morning, other outlets have reported as much — a deal sending Tyrus Thomas(notes) and Jerome James(notes) to the New York Knicks for Al Harrington(notes) probably won't be sneaking through the wire by the time you hit the ice rink Friday night after work.

But it has been discussed. Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni has long been smitten with Tyrus' potential, and in a year that has seen Knicks el jefe Donnie Walsh saddle D'Antoni with a series of parts he particular doesn't care for while the team rebuilds (though it isn't as if Mike didn't know what he was getting into), trading a chucker like Harrington for an athlete the coach thinks he can mold into something powerful could turn the frown under that mustache upside down.

On the surface, as most of the deals that make it past the sniff test (that is to say, second phone call and/or text) usually do, the trade makes sense for both sides. There are just as many reasons (if not more) why either side shouldn't work to make this deal a reality, but let's get into why it could work.

For Chicago, the plan is 2010. And in dealing Thomas and James to New York for Harrington, the team retains its potential salary-cap space for next summer, while eliminating the potential crux of Thomas' significant $13 million cap hold (more on this later).

And until Chicago can let Harrington loose this July, it will be able to take in a solid scorer and shooter who is capable of some big, big nights offensively. The Bulls, who enter Friday's action 27th in offense, haven't had a big night offensively since May. And they've played the Raptors since then.

New York's plan is also for this summer, and picking up Thomas and James won't do anything to hurt that plan should they decline to offer Tyrus the qualifying offer this offseason. This eliminates the cap hold.

Should the team decide to keep its options open, and should all the big stars decide to stay home, they can keep Thomas on for the QO at about $6.2 million next season, while still having (assuming the cap ends up where we've been told, with conservative leanings) about $17 million or $18 million to work with. Thomas is six years younger, and the Knicks want nothing to do with Harrington in the future, so why not take the chance?

The potential problem for the Knicks is Thomas' attitude. He was a late bloomer, and someone who obviously needed a guiding hand from a proper organization upon entering the NBA in 2006. The Bulls clearly were not that organization, jerking Thomas in and out of the rotation and lineup seemingly irrespective of the way he's played.

And, overwhelmingly, he hasn't played particularly well. There have been flashes, no doubt, and he does have the talent to be an all-world defender (even without the fancy blocks or steals) and all-around burner if is head is on straight. But when the adults' heads aren't on straight, what chance do you have?

I've been a Thomas backer for a while, but the only way this guy was going to even sniff his potential in the NBA was for him to get a solid foundation and instruction in the first two or three years of his career. Chicago frittered that chance away while dealing with coaching issues, the hope that Ben Wallace(notes) would grow into any sort of locker-room leader, and by involving him in trade rumors almost immediately after Thomas was ... um, traded to the Bulls in June of 2006.

So while Tyrus could have a beastly few weeks upon heading to his next team — whether that is sometime this year, next season or (shock horror) in 2011-12 after playing out the QO with Chicago (hey, it's Chinatown, this NBA; anything can happen) — it likely won't be anything that lasts. He's just been dogged around too much to want to trust anything. Too much of his great play was met with a benching. Too much of his dog play was meant with an indifferent shrug.

New York has to be ready for that, should the Knicks take the chance. What if those "beastly few weeks" carry out until April, and all the big boys stay in Cleveland, Miami, Toronto, Atlanta or Phoenix? What if they decide to keep Thomas, advance the runner, go to the opposite field with a single and score two in the inning instead of swinging for the fences for a LeBron grand slam? Not that this would be their choice — they want LeBron — but what if they have to manufacture runs around Thomas?

And what if Thomas shows up with a new contract in 2010-11, just as distracted as ever?

For Chicago ... why?

Remember a few years ago, when the Knicks traded for Steve Francis(notes) and Jalen Rose(notes) within a few weeks of each other? Prior to those trades, if you could pick any non-Knick in the NBA that felt like they were due to be a Knick within weeks, it would be Jalen Rose and Steve Francis. They just felt like Knicks, even in Toronto and Orlando. And sure enough, soon enough, there they were. Knicks.

Al Harrington? Feels like a Bull.

Doesn't rebound, takes long shots, sometimes they go in. You notice the makes, and forget about the rest. Other than Flip Murray(notes), this guy is the biggest Bull that isn't actually a Bull. He might never be a Bull, nothing is imminent and who knows what happens from here on out, but he's a Bull.

Make no mistake, he's scoring and performing offensively at a rate that far exceeds any other Bull. His floor spacing would help because players too often look at rep ("Al Harrington, he's a shooter, get out on him!") over performance (five 3-point attempts per game, making 1.5 of them). And his rebounding rate would be an improvement on Brad Miller's,(notes) provided Harrington takes up a good chunk of time playing alongside Joakim Noah(notes) as Miller has as the ostensible power forward.

But it's such a waste, isn't it? From the second pick in the draft to Al Harrington, 3 1/2 years later? You had a talent, such a significant talent in Thomas, and you just wasted him. Just wasted him. Allowed yourself the chance to go, "No, it's him. Not us. He doesn't rebound. He takes too many jumpers. He didn't run the floor there."

No, he didn't rebound like he should. He did take too many jumpers. He didn't run the floor there. There were lots of "there's."

But he was also 20, 21, 22 and 23 years of age. He'd also dominate for stretches, and then have to sit for Andres Nocioni(notes), who didn't rebound and took too many jumpers. Whether Thomas is traded tomorrow, or if he plays out the string, it hardly matters. His time as a Bull (and his NBA career, because players don't usually turn it around after such habits are drilled in) was wasted by this organization.

So, sure, trade for Big Al. Watch as the big TV media fawns ("I tell you what, trading for that John Salmons(notes) was the deal of the year"), even if Salmons will need two months to shoot himself above 40 percent a year later. Watch as you play off the "cap hold" thing as if that really matters — Chicago has no plans to offer Thomas the QO right now, so the cap hold question is absolutely a non-starter. There will be no cap hold.

Watch, as you make it all Bulls-y.

Just like the Knicks used to do. Remember them? The team you used to fleece? The team you got picks from? The team that traded for Jalen Rose and Steve Francis, right after it paid a king's ransom to take Eddy Curry(notes) off your hands?

Guess what? They have the coach you should have hired. They have way more cap space than you. They're pretty messed up, on a bunch of different levels, as it is. But do you know what else? People give Donnie Walsh the benefit of the doubt. Chicago hasn't earned that benefit since it dealt Will Perdue to San Antonio for Dennis Rodman.

Unless Isiah Thomas was a significant part of the equation, of course.

Once again, nothing's imminent. Doesn't make it unlikely or atypical, even if Chicago and New York don't talk again for the rest of the year. This is right up their respective alleys.

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