January 17, 2008
It's the sort of trade that NBA junkies drool over, pitched and processed in the midst of the dog-days of the season, well before the trade deadline madness and done with just enough time to get a handle on who won and who lost by season's end.
One year ago today, the Golden State Warriors sent Mike
Dunleavy Jr., Troy Murphy, and Ike Diogu and Keith McLeod to the Indiana Pacers
for Al Harrington, Stephen Jackson, Sarunus Jazzy Cabbages, and Josh Powell. Yee-haw.
It was the first trade of any note between the teams for a decade, the last
coming in the summer of 1997 when the Pacers - fresh off of signing Larry Bird
to coach the team, sent Erick Dampier to the Warriors for Chris Mullin.
By this time last season, both Bird and Mullin were in charge of actually running the day-to-day operations of the Pacers and Warriors, and were collectively looking to cover their own bee-hives. Bird did well in dumping Ron Artest onto the Sacramento Kings a year before for Peja Stojakovic, but things went downhill from there. If Peja played well as a Pacer, the free agent to-be could re-sign with Indiana in the offseason. If he faltered, which he did, Bird should have used his expiring contract to start off the rebuilding process.
Instead, Bird tried to sustain Indiana's run of mediocrity, trading for Al Harrington, further sullying Indiana's cap situation, and watching with concern as incumbents Stephen Jackson, Jamaal Tinsley, and Marquis Daniels all took part in various sundry activities on the late night Indianapolis "scene." He had to dump some of this mess.
Meanwhile, in spite of the much-ballyhooed return of Don Nelson to the Golden State sidelines, the Warriors were 19-20 on the day of the trade and 19-21 on the night of the trade. Mullin had bid against himself to extend Dunleavy Jr., Murphy, and Jason Richardson (who would be gone five months later)'s contracts, he had a well-paid team that wasn't exactly playing well, and even with the additions the Warriors would still bottom out at 26-35 before getting it together and capturing America's tattoo-lovin' heart that spring.
So, a year later, who won?
The Warriors. I guess. If you're into that thing.
Look, the Warriors are fun, the Warriors can play, Stephen Jackson does have some ridiculously entertaining tattoos, and enjoys scaring the crap out of kids on Halloween. Not unlike the Geto Boys (NSFW, or kids).
The team's prime, Jackson and Davis, is in its prime, their space be done capped out, and the team is on pace for 48 wins. But Golden State is still the West's 8th seed, a year later, and that's with Utah and Houston nipping at their heels. It's a win for Golden State, but not as much as the great minds at Golden State of Mind would like you to believe.
The trade basically made a below-average team above-average, and while that's worth a lot, it's enough to make the Warriors solid enough to hold off a team like Indiana even after the Pacers spotted Golden State 11 points last night. But it should be made clear, GSoM doesn't regard this deal as a panacea. In fact, like an Adonal Foyle that'd been dunked on too much, their original reaction was that of dread. They couldn't help it:
"Having been burned annually by my high hopes for Warriors' moves, I immediately took my overwhelmingly positive gut feeling as a clear sign that things were about to get much worse. Even as I was typing about how well Al and Jax would run with this team, part of me expected Harrington's knee to explode in the lay-up line and Jackson to combine Chris Webber's maturity with Latrell Sprewell's anger management. But here's where the Warriors ended up with such a steal. For the first time in over a decade, the Warriors made a move that ended up far, far better than even their most optimistic fans imagined. The Pacers may have upgraded their team. We upgraded our worldview. Whatever chemical reaction sparked up when Baron, Stephen, Jason, Al, Monta, Andris and Matt finally took the court together, it was far more potent that our loss-numbed senses could handle."
What's the worst, to me? The player with the most potential amongst the lot that was dealt, TV's Ike Diogu, hasn't been able to stay in shape, and is frittering his career away.
(Man, I didn't mean to bring things down, again ... let's try to turn this one around.)
The deal gave Baron Davis purpose, was Stephen Jackson's final wake-up call, allowed Dunleavy Jr. a chance to develop away from the Bay Area boo-birds, allowed Troy Murphy a chance to settle into a comfortable role, and gave Al Harrington the sort of no-reboundin', take-whatever-shot-you-want gig that he'd been dreaming of.
It was a gutsy, "I'll give you my junk for your junk" deal that actually made a difference; and every time I refresh the NBA wire I'm dying for a new one of these to pop up. Good deal, I reckon. More, please.