With the devastating disclosures of the Tim Donaghy scandal unfolding, this has turned into the NBA's summer of crises. Across the league, everything else is tempered with the pall of a federal probe into possible point shaving looming of the league.
Still, the business of basketball rolls through the fog. Here is a quick study of the winners and losers this offseason.
Boston Celtics. For those bemoaning the fact that the Celtics mortgaged the future for Kevin Garnett, just understand: Yes, Danny Ainge should've tried harder to keep Ryan Gomes out of the Timberwolves' package, but there isn't a lottery team in the sport that wouldn't have traded a non-All-Star core for Garnett at 31 years old. If there was ever a time for Boston to make a calculated gamble to go for it, this was the time.
Ownership needs to swallow hard and dip deeper into the luxury tax to support Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen with championship-caliber role players. Yet, watch how the past investment into forward Brian Scalabrine comes closer to justifying itself for the Celtics. Just as Scalabrine did on those contending New Jersey Nets teams, his ability to make open shots and make subtle, winning plays on the floor will show.
When the maximum contract was instituted a decade ago, it wasn't designed for the likes of Lewis. Especially for a small market team that'll never allow itself to wade into the luxury tax, Magic general manager Otis Smith spent tens of millions more than the market dictated him to do. For a terrific shooter who isn't considered one of the sport's elite players, Lewis has to consider his contract the sport's biggest steal since Denver gave Kenyon Martin's $93 million in 2004.
Grant Hill. After all those disappointing years with the Magic, Hill goes to the Phoenix Suns for a chance at a championship. His playmaker's passing and mid-range shooting fits the Suns' system perfectly. What's more, he can still finish on the break. Best of all, too, the Suns kept Hill from signing his economical deal with the champion San Antonio Spurs.
Mikki Moore. As one G.M. said, he would've wanted Mikki Moore when he was trying to earn himself a guaranteed contract – not after being given the security of a three-year, $18 million contract. Moore, a 7-foot journeyman, made the most out of gobbling up Nenad Krstic's minutes with the Nets, but like so many others, his inflated field-goal percentage was a product of playing with Jason Kidd.
Odds are, his breakout season with New Jersey was an aberration and Moore will revert back to his drifter's game.
Kevin McHale. He's turned into the Matt Millen of the NBA. Across the past two years, McHale has inexplicably brought back nine Boston players to the Wolves. It's nice and all that Minnesota is clearing cap space, but here's the problem: The guy who banked on Joe Smith, Marko Jaric and Eddie Griffin farmed out No. 1 picks for no return?
Well, he'll still be picking the players.
Again and again, McHale failed to make Garnett the cornerstone of a contender. Now, he has gutted a lottery team in the Eastern Conference and made it his own. Despite his stature as a beloved son of Minnesota, it's hard to believe Wolves fans have much patience left with him.
Miami Heat. Mo Williams completely used Pat Riley to make the Milwaukee Bucks overpay for him at $52 million. All Riley's visions of upgrading the point guard spot on Jason Williams disintegrated, and the Heat had to settle for signing Los Angeles Lakers castoff Smush Parker. Everyone understood when Riley left his team alone after winning a title two years ago, but he's done little to surround Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade for one more run.
Kobe Bryant. Indiana Pacers All-Star Jermaine O'Neal has taken to publicly begging for a trade to the Lakers, but so far L.A. management is still reluctant to part with Andrew Bynum. And seriously, who thinks that adding O'Neal at the expense of Lamar Odom and/or Bynum transforms the Lakers into a contender. With or without O'Neal, Kobe will be miserable.
Andray Blatche. Just after the Washington Wizards offered their restricted free agent a five-year, $12.5 million contract, this beauty gets busted for soliciting sex from an undercover cop. After averaging 3.7 points and 4.6 rebounds, G.M. Ernie Grunfeld still believed there was a chance for this immature kid to grow into a player.
The Washington Post's Ivan Carter wrote of a telling locker room exchange between consummate pro Antawn Jamison and Blatche. The scene illustrates the knucklehead disposition of a 21-year-old threatening to blow it all.
- Rashard Lewis
- Mikki Moore