Stephen A. Smith Apologizes for Calling Michael Jordan's Draft Day Trade "Stupid"After receiving phone calls from Michael Jordan and other Charlotte Bobcats' officials, ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith apologized on the Sunday morning SportsCenter for his comments during ESPN's coverage of the NBA Draft, when he described the Bobcats' Brandan Wright for Jason Richardson trade as "stupid." Smith now says that he was engaging in excessive hyperbole but he stands by his assessment that the deal will not turn out well for Charlotte. It is always better to engage one's brain before activating one's mouth and/or keyboard; then you don't have to apologize. As for the substance of Smith's contention, it is not at all clear that he is right nor is it clear why he feels so strongly about the subject--well, the latter is just part of the shtick that got him the ESPN job in the first place, but purely from a talent evaluation perspective how can Smith know for sure that Wright, who averaged 14.7 ppg and 6.2 ppg in one college season, will turn out to be a better player and/or better fit for Charlotte than Richardson? Richardson's scoring averages went up each season of his career until last year, when some injuries held him back. Richardson is only 26, though, and if he is healthy then he will likely score 22-plus ppg and average about 6 rpg from the shooting guard position. Smith declared that Richardson is not worth what he is getting paid but Richardson is not even a max contract player, so if he puts up those kind of numbers Charlotte will be most pleased.
Meanwhile, free agent season in the NBA began at midnight on Saturday but there is hardly any earth-shattering news to report. Although players and teams can reach agreements in principle, according to league rules no official announcements can be made until July 11 (this allows time for the NBA and the Players Association to determine, based on the collective bargaining agreement and the league's total revenues, what next year's salary cap will be). Of course, that does not stop team officials and/or agents from leaking information to trusted media sources. Here is what has been reported so far:
1) Vince Carter will re-sign with the Nets.
2) Jason Kapono will leave the Heat to sign with the Raptors.
3) Luke Walton will re-sign with the Lakers.
4) Perhaps as many as 20 teams are interested in signing Rashard Lewis, who may still elect to stay in Seattle.
5) Perhaps as many as 8 teams are interested in signing Gerald Wallace, including his current employer, the Bobcats; during his Thursday rant and Sunday apology, Smith neglected to mention that if Wallace leaves then Richardson's scoring punch becomes even more vital and that is something that Wright would be unlikely to supply as a rookie. If Wallace re-signs, then the Bobcats have a one-two punch with Wallace at small forward and Richardson at shooting guard.
Here is a list (in alphabetical order, with current team in parentheses) of this year's unrestricted free agents (players who can sign with any team regardless of what kind of offer their current team makes):
Malik Allen (CHI), Derek Anderson (CHA), Rafael Araujo (UTA), Chucky Atkins (MEM), Matt Barnes (GS), Chauncey Billups (DET), Steve Blake (DEN), Calvin Booth (WAS), Earl Boykins (MIL), Devin Brown (NO), P.J. Brown (CHI), Matt Carroll (GS), Vince Carter (NJ), Kelvin Cato (NY), Austin Croshere (DAL), Dale Davis (DET), Melvin Ely (SA), Danny Fortson (SEA), Junior Harrington (MEM), Jason Hart (LAC), Alan Henderson (PHIL), Grant Hill (ORL), Eddie House (NJ), Marc Jackson (NO), DerMarr Johnson (DEN), Linton Johnson (NO), Eddie Jones (MIA), Jumaine Jones (PHX), Jason Kapono (MIA), Yaroslav Korolev (LAC), Randy Livingston (SEA), Jamaal Magloire (POR), Sean Marks (PHX), Darrick Martin (TOR), Desmond Mason (NO), Jeff McInnis (CHA), Aaron McKie (LAL), Keith McLeod (IND), Slava Medvedenko (ATL), Chris Mihm (LAL), Mikki Moore (NJ), Dikembe Mutombo (HOU), Andres Nocioni (CHI), Michael Olowokandi (BOS), Bo Outlaw (ORL), Smush Parker (LAL), Ruben Patterson (MIL), Gary Payton (MIA), Morris Peterson (Tor), Scot Pollard (CLE), James Posey (MIA), Vitaly Potapenko (SAC), Jalen Rose (PHX), Michael Ruffin (WAS), Jamal Sampson (DEN), Joe Smith (PHIL), Jerry Stackhouse (DAL), Jake Tsakalidis (HOU), Ime Udoka (POR), Jacque Vaughn (SA), Gerald Wallace (CHA), Luke Walton (LAL), Chris Webber (DET), Mike Wilks (SEA), Mo Williams (MIL), Shammond Williams (LAL), Corliss Williamson (SAC) and Kevin Willis (DAL).
That group of players includes All-Stars, players who are dependable starters, valuable reserve players, some guys who might retire, some guys who should retire and a few guys who many fans might not have even realized are still in the league. Vince Carter is perhaps the headliner but New Jersey appears to have him locked up. Chauncey Billups could certainly weaken Detroit and strengthen someone else if he elects to leave the Pistons. Rashard Lewis is perhaps the most sought after commodity because of his youth, size and scoring ability. Grant Hill supposedly wants to start and to play for a championship contending team; he may have to settle for one or the other. Mo Williams could really help the Cavaliers but would probably have to accept less than his market value to sign there due to Cleveland's salary cap situation. One third of Miami's active roster is on the list, so Pat Riley may do yet another roster overhaul as the Heat try to make perhaps their last run with the Wade-Shaq duo.
posted by David Friedman @ 5:25 AM