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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Shareef Likes It and Other Moves Rocking the NBA Casbah

The Clash once famously sang "Shareef don't like it" in their classic '80s hit "Rock the Casbah," but Shareef Abdur-Rahim certainly likes leaving basketball purgatory in Portland to play alongside Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter in New Jersey. Look at that lineup again--three players with All-Star Game experience and a fourth (Jefferson) who has future All-Star written all over him. Abdur-Rahim is a proven 20 ppg scorer who is also good for 8-10 rebounds per game. He replaces the rebounding that the Nets lost when Kenyon Martin signed with Denver before last season; while Abdur-Rahim is not as good defensively as Martin he is bigger and more versatile (can score inside or outside, shoots a better free throw percentage, is a better passer).

Houston hopes to "swiftly" become a contender by signing alliteratively named Memphis Grizzlies power forward Stromile Swift to play alongside Yao Ming. Tracy McGrady lobbied hard for this move and perhaps the change in scenery--and the opportunity to play with All-Stars T-Mac and Yao--will unleash the untapped potential in the freakishly athletic Swift. Most dominant centers who lead teams to NBA titles have a good/great power forward watching their back defensively and on the boards--for instance, Mikan and Mikkelson, Russell and Heinsohn, Wilt and Luke Jackson, Reed and DeBusschere, Walton and Maurice Lucas, Parish and McHale. Swift is not nearly as good as any of those guys, but he is more athletic than any power forward on the Rocket roster and provides a nice one-two punch at that position with savvy veteran Juwan Howard.

One other NBA related move may have flown under the radar but deserves mention--John Weisbrod signed with the NHL Dallas Stars as a scout. Yes, this is the same Weisbrod who recently resigned as General Manager of the Orlando Magic. Read that again--he quit his job as an NBA executive because he admitted that winning a Stanley Cup is more important to him than winning an NBA championship (a revelation that must have thrilled Magic season ticket holders) and the job he had waiting in the wings was to become an NHL scout. Weisbrod's trade of McGrady for Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley, soon followed by dumping Mobley for a broken down Doug Christie, will not likely be supplanting Boston's acquisition of McHale and Parish on the list of great NBA trades of all-time.

posted by David Friedman @ 1:41 PM

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Will Brown's Ouster Lead to Brownout for Pistons?

Larry Brown, who led the Detroit Pistons to two Eastern Conference titles and one NBA championship, has been relieved of his coaching duties in a $6 million buyout. Presumably his next stop is the New York Knicks. Longtime Minnesota Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders is expected to be Brown's replacement in Detroit. It is often said that the NBA is a "players' game" and the NCAA is a "coaches' game." In reality, you cannot win at any level without having talented players, but the idea that at the NBA level coaching is superfluous is highly questionable. It seems that Detroit will basically have the same roster that made back to back NBA Finals appearances, so it will be interesting to see how well the team does next year with Saunders at the helm. Saunders is highly regarded as an "X's and O's" coach despite his conspicuous lack of postseason success in Minnesota; the only time he led the Timberwolves past the first round was 2003-04, but Minnesota followed up that season's Conference Finals appearance with such a debacle of a 2004-05 season that Vice President of Basketball Operations Kevin McHale fired Saunders and took over the coaching duties himself. It will be particularly intriguing to observe the Rasheed Wallace-Flip Saunders relationship; Sheed calls Brown "pound for pound," as in the best coach in the NBA pound for pound, and Brown returns the affection, saying that Sheed is one of the most underrated players in the league. I wonder if Sheed and Flip will be exchanging such pleasantries six months from now.

The other side of this transaction bears watching as well. If Brown does in fact land the Knicks coaching job he will be taking over a team that has been stuck in neutral (or worse) for several years--but that will not faze a reclamation artist like Brown, who led two of the league's most wayward franchises--the pre-Jason Kidd Nets and the "we have a seat permanently reserved at the draft lottery" Clippers--to playoff appearances during his coaching career. Knicks' point guard Stephon Marbury has proven to be a franchise player on numerous occasions--every team he leaves (Minnesota, New Jersey, Phoenix)--becomes a more successful franchise than it was while he was there. If Brown turns the Knicks into a playoff team with a shoot first, ask no questions later, play no defense backcourt of Marbury and Jamal Crawford he should get his own wing at the Hall of Fame. I would not bet against Brown pushing, pulling and dragging the Knicks into the postseason.

posted by David Friedman @ 12:59 PM

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