TrueHoop: Corey Maggette
Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsEven though he's not retiring just yet, Corey Maggette is getting a look at life after basketball.
It all started in early June, when Maggette traveled to Treviso, Italy, with Detroit Pistons assistant GM George David for the 11th annual adidas Eurocamp, a three-day showcase of Europe's best youth basketball players. While getting the rare opportunity to shadow David as he evaluated talent, Maggette also wanted to build relationships with the many other NBA GMs and team presidents in attendance.
"I gained different perspectives on how these guys think, and it kind of gives you an idea of things that you want to be about when you're finished," Maggette told ESPN.com.
"I was actually able to sit in on [David's] interview process with the players. It was kind of cool because as an active player those players actually knew who I was, and I kind of gave them a raw-deal speech of what the NBA is really about."
From there, Maggette traveled to Las Vegas in mid-July during the NBA Summer League, where the players' association hosted a leadership program. In addition to Maggette, a few other current players, including Caron Butler, Andre Iguodala, Andre Miller and Evan Turner, met with several former ballers to discuss personal development off the court.
A few weeks later, Maggette attended the NBA's newly launched Corporate Crossover program, where he, along with 14 former players, including Willie Burton, Ronald Dupree, Bo Kimble and Kerry Kittles, heard from many different NBA department heads about their roles and getting in the door to work for the league. Maggette was the only active player present.
Kevin Carr, NBA VP of player development, said potential salaries would not be inflated for any player regardless of how much they made in the league. Carr said the program doesn't put the players on a pedestal just because they have competed professionally, but rather it teaches them to be grounded and understand the real-life process of getting a 9-to-5 job.
"Access, fame and money is just the beginning," said former NBA player Rory Sparrow, who is also a VP of player development, during a panel discussion on what it's like to work for the league. "Players just want to invest and want to shake hands, and not do the back-end work. You need to understand the business side. Know how your skills can help the NBA business if you want to work here."
At one point during the Making the Transition class of the program, Maggette's résumé was shown on the projector and analyzed by a human resources representative.
"I was embarrassed," Maggette said, laughing. "But I appreciate the criticism; it's an opportunity to learn. ... You have to be able to take constructive criticism; that's a big key."
Reflecting on his time spent in New York City, Maggette credited three close NBA friends -- Michael Finley, Grant Hill and Juwan Howard -- for always encouraging him to prepare for a life beyond basketball. He was also very thankful for NBA commissioner David Stern's support to start Corporate Crossover.
"David Stern said, 'We want to have this program. We don't want to be in a situation where guys are going broke,'" Maggette said.
"You hear so many stories about guys going broke, but you never hear the stories about multimillion-dollar companies from Eddie Jones, Jamal Mashburn, who's killing it, or even Caron Butler, who has 14 [Burger Kings]. ... I think David Stern is taking a big step, and I think with that big step, the NBA is combining with the union to step up."
Maggette has also decided to get a degree in technology at Arizona State, where he's finishing up this fall. On the side, he's been helping to finalize development for a unique mobile-gifting app called Drinkboard, which is projected to launch on iPhone, Android and BlackBerry in September.
"Let's say you and your buddies are in Vegas or New York, and you can't make your friend's birthday," he said. "With this app that we're building, you can buy him a drink or dinner for his birthday at one of our New York chains that offers the mobile gifting. ... The redeem for whatever [gift] he received is directly on his phone. From that redeem, he takes that right to the hostess. We kind of found a way to monetize that process."
As for what Maggette will do next season, he's still in the middle of that process.
Maggette said his priority is to return to the Pistons, who have not made him an offer.
"Overall, I'm just waiting and being patient and see what opportunity comes," said Maggette, who's currently training with Olympic speed coach Benoit Duboscq in Southern California. "You always got to explore your options, but if the Pistons want me back, it's great, man. I would love to come back."
Whatever happens, Maggette knows he'll look back on this offseason as an unforgettable one.
"Overall, I think I had a pretty interesting summer," he said, "just trying to learn and kind of take your mind away from actually the pounding of basketball.
These two guys once occupied the Clippers' frontcourt, and the hopes of Clippers fans.
Those are luxuries afforded to younger men, but not a 33-year-old who ruptured his left Achilles tendon back in 2007. These days, when Brand wants a rebound, he has to outwit opposing centers, which often means letting them sky toward the glass while Brand squeezes his way through the throng of bodies to a spot, then times his modest jump for the ball precisely.
Brand was never much of a leaper and during his prime with the Los Angeles Clippers he was often referred to as an undersized power forward with average athleticism. Back in 2006, he was arguably one of the 10 best basketball players on the planet, before that Achilles injury downgraded him to serviceable 'n' scrappy.
His partner in the Clippers’ frontcourt was a young center named Chris Kaman, who looked like a Great Pyrenees after a bath, but had the footwork of Fred Astaire.
At 26 and 23 respectively, Brand and Kaman were penciled in as the Clippers’ tentpoles up front for years to come. Reliable frontcourt tandems are a rare commodity in the NBA, but the Clippers had a solid one. Brand and Kaman bullied opponents on the glass, could both play the pick-and-pop, and were the stalwarts of an eighth-ranked defensive unit that carried a below-average offense to within one game of the 2006 Western Conference finals.
On Wednesday night at Staples Center, Brand and Kaman return together as Dallas Mavericks to face the Clippers. Both are essential cogs in Dallas’ makeshift, but oddly effective, frontcourt rotation.
The effect will be surreal for longtime Clippers fans who remember that the current Chris Paul-Blake Griffin Administration wasn’t the franchise’s first foray into contention. The Brand Era Clippers showed all kinds of promise and were the kind of good Clippers fans pined for. While the Lakers were embroiled in high drama in 2006 with charges that Kobe Bryant tanked a Game 7 against Phoenix, the Clippers quietly went about their business.
At the time, I wrote, “For Clipper fans, 2006 is Year Zero in Los Angeles basketball, and the long shadows of the Lakers championship banners are receding. In fact, the Clippers' success this year is a direct result of not emulating the Lakers. In the summer of 2004, Kobe Bryant passed up Clippers owner Donald Sterling's huge contract offer to re-sign with the purple and gold. At that moment, the Clips cemented their image as a team of relatively uncharismatic, unselfish role players. It's a perfect match for a fan base that sees itself as middle class and not so gullible about Hollywood stardom.”
As it turns out, ditch-digging can get a team only so far without superstars. Brand lost his powers, Sam Cassell and Cuttino Mobley got old, Corey Maggette became disgruntled, Shaun Livingston went down and Kaman shuttled between the injury list and the court, where he faced stifling double-teams while Brand was on the mend. After their 2006 playoff run, the Clippers wouldn’t finish a season above .500 until Paul arrived more than five years later.
Brand and Kaman occupy a curious place in the collective memory of Clipper Nación. You won’t find a Clippers fan who isn’t giddy about the current state of things, but a warm nostalgia exists for those mid-aught Clippers teams. Those fans saw something of themselves in Brand’s anonymity and Kaman’s imperfections.
Still, some residual resentment lingers over the way Brand skipped town in the middle of the night to sign with Philadelphia. Kaman was part of the deal for Paul, but his flakiness had started to wear a little thin. Clippers fans miss Kaman the way you’d miss an eccentric housemate who moved out. The behavior you can gladly live without, but there was comfort in the familiarity. Kaman was a big dufus, but he was our big dufus, many would say.
Brand and Kaman haven’t shared the court together much for Dallas in recent games, but if they do find themselves on Wednesday night as a tandem patrolling the paint, taking turns on Griffin and working the side pick-and-roll with the Mavs’ guards, it will be a trippy sight for Clippers fans who have grown accustomed to a new way of seeing the game, but for many years saw these two below-the-rim blue-collar stiffs as the embodiment of their identity.
Jeff Gross/Getty Images Sport
Nine years after departing "basketball hell" in Los Angeles, Lamar Odom checks back in.
Lamar Odom's parting from the Los Angeles Clippers in August 2003 was a no-brainer, both financially and personally.
The Clippers had offered Odom a three-year, $24 million contract, but after losing out on Clippers restricted free agent Elton Brand, Pat Riley swooped in. The Heat laid an offer sheet of six years and $65 million at Odom's feet, and the then-23-year-old curio promptly switched coasts.
For most organizations, losing a talented fourth overall pick after only four seasons would have been devastating, but that wasn't really the case for the Clippers.
Summer 2003 was morning in ClipperLand.
Earlier that offseason, the team had matched $124 million worth of offer sheets for Brand and Corey Maggette, and brought on Mike Dunleavy to be the new coach. The team still had a stable of other promising youngsters age 23 or younger in Quentin Richardson, Chris Wilcox and Keyon Dooling, and had drafted a big man out of Central Michigan named Chris Kaman.
Out of nowhere, the Clippers looked like a serious NBA organization, and, from the perspective of then-general manager Elgin Baylor, Odom wasn't a serious person. Baylor described the rationale behind not matching Miami's offer for Odom as "based on issues of character and other risks involved." Although Dunleavy would have loved the opportunity to move a player of Odom's versatility around the chess board, Odom was the most expendable of the Clippers' young assets.
It didn't start that way for Odom with the Clippers. He displayed ball skills uncommon for a 20-year-old big man and was the first of the team's young stars to ignite some buzz around early-'00s Clippers. Odom posted a Player Efficiency Rating of 16.8 and 18.9 respectively in his first two seasons. In February 2002, he, Brand and Darius Miles posed on the cover of SLAM as the Clippers enjoyed a couple of seasons as one of the league's more likable baby squads. Had League Pass existed 10 years ago, the Clips would have been an attractive candidate to fill out your slate of "Choice" teams, and Odom was a big part of that.
Still, Odom was one of those young players for whom potential soon became a millstone. During his four-year tenure with the Clippers, Odom served two drug suspensions. After two productive seasons out of the gate, his efficiency dropped in his third and fourth seasons with the Clippers (13.7 and 14.6 PER), during which he played a combined 78 games as he battled a series of injuries.
When the Clippers didn't offer Brand, Maggette and Odom hefty extensions during the 2002 offseason, Brand and Maggette might have stewed quietly, but when the ball was tipped that fall, they killed and maimed for coach Alvin Gentry. In contrast, Odom's mood grew morose, and his shot selection was confounding. He loafed on defense and often appeared lost when the ball went into Brand on the left block. The injuries played a factor, but Odom's disengagement was more serious.
When Miami came knocking with the big offer sheet, Odom let it be known publicly that he wanted the Clippers to let him walk. On his way out the door, Odom referred to his time with the Clippers as "basketball hell."
Nine years is a lifetime in the NBA. Since leaving the Clippers as a callow talent brimming with potential, Odom established himself as the game's premier multiskilled big man, won two rings with the Los Angeles Lakers, used his celebrity as an adjunct Kardashian to cross over as a star on the shlock-ertainment circuit, consumed heaping amounts of refined sugar before games and, over time, emerged as one of the more interesting personalities in the league.
Odom was devastated in December when he was included in the post-lockout trade that would have sent him from the Lakers to New Orleans. He was so distraught that, when the deal wasn't consummated, the Lakers felt compelled to send him away to Dallas for nothing rather than deal with the emotional fallout. In Dallas, Odom found another basketball hell, one of his own creation. After a series of incidents, the Mavericks finally told him to take a walk a few weeks before the playoffs. Mark Cuban called it "addition by subtraction."
Thirteen years after the Clippers made him the cornerstone of their future, Odom returns to them for what will effectively be a nine-month stint. He was acquired by the team Friday in a four-way deal that shipped Mo Williams to Utah, the rights to second-round Clippers draft pick Furkan Aldemir to Houston and some cap relief to Dallas.
In both composition and reputation, the organization looks different than it did in the spring of 2003. Odom will join a team, anchored by Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, that's instilled a solid culture under Vinny Del Negro. Most of all, after decades of building for an uncertain future, the Clippers' only measure of success in 2012-13 will be present success.
What can Odom do for the Clippers? Running the numbers to project what he will contribute is an exercise in futility. Odom's 12th season in the NBA was statistically his best -- his 13th the worst. Season No. 14 likely will fall somewhere in between, a precarious balancing act between Odom's ingenuity and his temperament.
If Odom can revitalize his interest in the game, he can thrive as the Clippers' first big off the bench. If need be, he can play a handful of minutes at the small forward spot behind Caron Butler and operate as a distributor on a second unit that will need a player or two to keep the ball moving.
Odom can start, sub, pass, slash, score, facilitate and defend -- but we knew all that. In fact, the Clippers were the first to learn about Odom's range of skills. More than a decade later, they hope to finally profit from their original investment.
The Clippers would build around their future superstar (Blake Griffin) and his trusty perimeter sidekick (Eric Gordon), both of whom were on rookie-scale contracts. In the meantime, the team stockpiled intriguing assets, such as DeAndre Jordan, Eric Bledsoe and Al-Farouq Aminu. The Clippers managed to unload Baron Davis for the shorter, less-expensive contract of Mo Williams. Though the front office had meager offers for Chris Kaman, they held onto their All-Star center with the appreciation that he'd fetch more as his contract nudged closer to expiration.
There were a couple of hiccups along the way. The draft pick they sent to Cleveland along with Davis projected to be in the 8-12 range turned into a Kyrie Irving, a stroke of bad luck (the lottery pick had only a 2.8 percent chance of landing at No. 1). But for the most part, general manager Neil Olshey exercised discipline and foresight. Rather than overspend for middling talent in a dash for the No. 8 seed, the Clippers took a waiver on low-cost options such as Gomes and Randy Foye during the summer of 2010. Neither set the world on fire, but the Clippers' primary objective was keeping the balance sheet free of clutter as Griffin and Gordon approached their primes, even if it meant visiting Secaucus for a couple more years.
By agreeing to a three-year with Caron Butler, $24 million deal, the Clippers have taken a detour from their planned route. A franchise that's been protective of its cap flexibility will now pay $8 million to a small forward who is coming off a severe knee injury and has posted a player efficiency rating (PER) of 13.77 and 14.25 each of the past two seasons, respectively. Since the 2005-06, Butler hasn't played more than 67 games in a single season.
D.J. Foster of ClipperBlog took a look at where Butler stands, three months shy of his 32nd birthday:
Here’s the biggest problem with Butler -- [Butler] is a high usage scorer. Butler’s career usage rate (the percentage of offensive possessions used by a player during his time on the floor) is 22.7 percent. Last year in an injury-shortened season on a championship Dallas Mavericks team, it was at 25.1 percent. That ranked him seventh in the NBA for small forwards, ahead of guys like Paul Pierce and Rudy Gay. Short version: Caron Butler uses a lot of possessions.
... With Chris Kaman coming back healthy and demanding a big chunk of the looks (he hasn’t passed up an open 15-footer since, oh, 2005), and Gordon and Griffin demanding more possessions if anything, where are all these shots for Butler supposed to generate from? Who loses all those possessions?
... Let’s say, despite all that, you’re sold on Butler as the scorer the Clippers need. Sixteen points a game at 44 percent shooting is nice. He’s got a nice midrange game and can slash. OK. I’m with you.
But if the priority is placing shooters around Gordon and Griffin — and unless something has changed, it is — then why add Butler? Prior to what can probably be labeled as a statistical outlier (43 percent in 29 games last season), Caron Butler was a 31 percent career 3-point shooter. On his career, he’s attempted less than two 3-pointers a game. He’s not a deep threat or a spot-up shooter by any means, and he doesn’t really stretch the floor because all of his damage is done in iso situations, off his own jab steps. If you want to chase good 3-point shooting numbers in a small sample size, Al-Farouq Aminu’s start to last season works just as well.
The Clippers don't have a legitimate ball-mover on the floor to help jump-start their gummy 23rd-ranked offense. Now they'll have a player at the small forward position whose assist rate ranks below the likes of Kaman, Zach Randolph, Chris Wilcox and Corey Maggette.
Is Butler an upgrade over Ryan Gomes? Yes, so long as he's in uniform -- something he often isn't. The small forward market is dwindling by the hour, so it's likely the Clippers felt the urgency to do something at the 3 spot. But for a team that hopes to add a max player alongside Blake Griffin (who, himself will demand a max contract before the expiration of Butler's deal) and needs to find money to retain Eric Gordon and DeAndre Jordan in the next year, the cap hit for an aging small forward with a high injury risk and ball-stopping tendencies doesn't conform to a model of smart team-building that have made the Clippers relevant and potentially on the cusp of something bigger.
Years ago, Isiah Thomas acquired Steve Francis to pair with Stephon Marbury. It was supposed to be a small but dynamic backcourt that provided a lot of firepower. Many people around the NBA scoffed at this decision because it just wasn’t a traditional type of move. It had incredible drawbacks despite the talent of the two players in question.
Two years ago, David Kahn drafted Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn with back-to-back picks, claiming that he thought the two could play together in the same backcourt. The move was probably just an insurance policy for Rubio’s difficult buyout and reluctance to come to Minnesota. And yet, it was spun as a way to change the conventional thinking around the league and try to play a more up-tempo style with two point guards on the court for extended minutes together.
This potential strategy was also met with harsh criticism and laughter. Although we had seen it many times on NBA courts before, playing two small players in the backcourt just doesn’t match up with the idea and historic values of size dominating the NBA. We’re always enamored with the big man ruling the paint. Also, teams just typically don’t win championships with this style.
That is until a few months ago.
The Dallas Mavericks “got away” with playing three point guard-sized players on the court at the same time. Their best lineups included a backcourt pairing of JJ Barea and Jason Terry paired together or Jason Kidd paired with Terry. It worked for two reasons.
First, those three players are very productive offensively. Kidd is now a deadly outside shooter while also adept at setting up his teammates, Terry has been one of the best pick-and-roll and fourth-quarter scorers the last couple seasons, and Barea is great at getting into the paint and causing havoc for the opposing defense. The second reason is they usually had a lot of length behind them. Playing trios of interior players like Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler together allowed their overall team length to cover their smaller teammates defensively.
Also, we can’t forget that Nowitzki was just impossibly good.
But the small backcourts worked. The Mavericks used ball movement and shooting to be a suffocating form of offense for the opposing team. They also switched up their defensive looks quite often and were the best team at playing zone for key stretches.
Well, undoubtedly, this strategy is going to be copied at some point, as are most title contending teams. Instead of trying to be ahead of the next curve in basketball strategy, struggling franchises can also just choose to bring in players to copy what’s already worked in the NBA. It’s unimaginative, but that doesn’t mean it can’t work.
Count the Charlotte Bobcats as one of those teams.
As you probably saw in First Cup this morning, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer talked to Paul Silas about next season. Silas alluded to (without naming names) the idea of playing incumbent point guard D.J. Augustin and first-round pick Kemba Walker on the floor at the same time:
"I'm going to have two little guys out there who I really think can hopefully play together. But it's going to be hard for (either of) them to guard a 2-guard.
But they can play a zone ... out-front, I think.''
I’ve never been much of an Augustin fan in terms of being a starting point guard in the NBA. He had a pretty good year last season with 14.4 points, 6.1 assists, and 1.9 turnovers in 33.1 minutes per game. I just don’t know that his point-guard abilities are completely up to par with where you would want a full-time starter moving forward to be. However, as a scorer, he can be pretty deadly if surrounded by the right people.
The idea of playing him next to Walker while playing a zone is fairly intriguing. If Walker can be a legitimate starter in this league while giving a solid defensive effort, then playing him next to Augustin may be doable for extended stretches. I’d expect the Bobcats to toss out a lineup of Walker, Augustin, Corey Maggette, Tyrus Thomas and Bismack Biyombo when this happens.
The key to this lineup will be getting stellar defense from Thomas while playing alongside Biyombo, and having Maggette buy into something other than just worrying about his own scoring. Ideally, you’d like a much better shooter as the other wing or someone who has a lot of length and the ability to knock down open jumpers.
If Silas’ plan of running a lot more with his team next season is able to happen consistently, then two quick guards like Augustin and Walker could definitely wreak some havoc. Of course, all of this is a best-case scenario type of situation. Ideally, they’d have Gerald Wallace as one of these wing players instead of Maggette, and they would try to win a lot of ugly games in the 85-84 range.
The Mavericks winning with a small backcourt surrounding their star and one of the best defensive systems in the NBA may not just be a single season perfect storm. We may see teams trend this way, rather than trying to go out and compile their own version of the Big Three.
- Tracy McGrady isn't winning friends and influencing people during his job search. There's a certain irony to McGrady's behavior: Teams seem confident that McGrady is healthy enough to contribute as an important piece off the bench, but his off-putting, petulant comments during his workout tour are hurting his prospects. Zach Lowe of Celtics Hub picks apart the absurdity of McGrady's most recent comments.
- Amare Stoudemire is in Jerusalem, embracing the ancient language and, though reports can't be confirmed, has the vibe of a guy who might just orchestrate one of those adult Bar Mitzvah for himself at the Wailing Wall. Question: What would you get Stoudemire for his Bar Mitzvah?
- Neil Paine of Basketball Reference has been examining which NBA players perform best against elite (and the most porous) defenses. Today's results might surprise you. Guess who was more productive against the stingiest teams (using offensive rating), better than LeBron James, Chris Paul, Brandon Roy, Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki? None other than Corey Maggette.
- John Krolik explains what "Entourage" has to do with LeBron James, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard. If you e-mail with Brian Kamenetzky and me, we'll explain what "Mad Men" has to do with the Lakers.
- Everyone has an opinion about the Knicks' new big man, Timo Mozgov, but few have seen him play. NBA Playbook features a breakdown of his game.
- Here are the vitals on Emeka Okafor: A 16.53 Player Efficiency Rating. Four years and approximately $52 million remaining on his contract. Much of the discussion surrounding potential trades for Chris Paul operate under the premise that any team serious about obtaining Paul would have to take on Okafor's onerous deal. Tom Ziller of Fanhouse writes that Okafor's deal might not be a beaut, but it's hardly an albatross for an offensively productive, defensively solid big man in the NBA.
- Zach Harper, writing for A Wolf Among Wolves, offers some hope that Nikola Pekovic could be a solid addition to Minnesota's beleaguered frontcourt. Check out the guy's stats from Europe -- they look a whole lot like Marc Gasol's production overseas. Bottom line: "Nikola is impressively efficient in scoring the ball in the post. The fact that his lowest field goal percentage is 57.4% should tell you a lot about his patience and ability to get off quality shots inside. There’s not a lot of wasted movement. For the last couple of years, we’ve been used to watching Al Jefferson pump fake eight times before awkwardly getting his shot off. It went in more than it rimmed out for a rebound opportunity but it wasn’t the most efficient way to get a good flow in your halfcourt offense. But with Pekovic, you’re going to get direct movement that gets the ball into the basket in the quickest and most proficient way we’ve seen with this franchise."
- Who's been the biggest Phoenix Suns bust over the past 15 years? Wil Cantrell of Bright Side of the Sun takes inventory.
- In Chris Palmer's feature article on Rashad McCants in a recent issue of ESPN the Magazine, McCants insists that his reluctance to smile doesn't make him a bad guy. Ben Polk of A Wolves Among Wolves responds: "No dude, not smiling does not make you a bad person. But making an exasperated spectacle of sighing and rolling your eyes when you don’t get the ball, looking vacantly into the distance during team huddles, and audibly castigating other players for minor sins for which you yourself are also guilty (all of which were on full regular display during his time as a T-Wolf) does make you pretty rotten teammate."
- Rudy Fernandez wants out of Portland -- and that's old news. Dwight Jaynes writes that the Trail Blazers waited too long to grant Fernandez his wish: "A year ago this guy was thought to be a rising star and considered quite possibly to be one of the best young shooting guards in the world. Now? The Blazers will be lucky to get much for him."
- Former Florida Gator standout and new Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow has agreed to endorsement deal with Jockey. This puts him in direct competition with Michael Jordan, who has been a pitch man for Hanes forever.
- Hey, Wizznutzz! Darvin Ham has been named the head coach of the D-League's New Mexico Thunderbirds. (Hat Tip: Scott Schroeder)
- Apparently, Greg Monroe's grandma has yet to embrace the cordless phone movement.
- Lang Whitaker will be live-blogging the draft Thursday with Brandon Jennings at SLAMonline: "No player had a crazier Draft night last year than Brandon — remember him showing up late to shake David Stern’s hand? — and only one or two rookies had better first seasons than Brandon. Few of the Draft 'experts' you’ll hear from on Thursday night (including myself) actually played in the NBA. But none of them averaged 15.5 ppg and 5.7 apg and led their team to the Playoffs last season."
- The Mies van der Rohe Award for roster minimalism goes to ... the Miami Heat. After dealing away Daequan Cook to Oklahoma City on Wednesday, Miami has only two players under contract for the 2010-11 season -- Mario Chalmers and Michael Beasley. They also have a boatload of cap space to re-sign Dwyane Wade and add possibly two additional marquee names.
- Chalmers will be doing some important work in Lawrence, Kansas today: "The Mario V. Chalmers Foundation is donating $25,000 to LMH Endowment Association to establish the first 'Mario’s Closet.' Mario’s Closet will be a specialty shop for a variety of free or low cost accessories for cancer patients. Lawrence Memorial Hospital will operate Mario’s Closet and is anticipated to open in Winter 2010."
- Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus says the deal makes a lot of sense for the Thunder: "Cook is hardly a typical contract dump. His salary for next season ($2.2 million, per Sham Sports) is perfectly reasonable, and Cook brings to Oklahoma City a skill (perimeter shooting) that is still in relatively short supply there. The Thunder has a chance to look at Cook next season and see if he can return to usefulness as a reserve; if not, Oklahoma City can cut bait at the end of the year with no further obligation."
- Peter Keating revisits the D.R.A.F.T. Initiative developed by Jordan Brenner and Tom Haberstroh. Keating adds: "[K]eep an eye on Al-Farouq Aminu. He's from Wake Forest, the school whose players have most surpassed draft-day expectations. He's a sophomore, the best-producing class among early picks. And he's one of the top small forwards in a draft top-heavy guards and big men, so a team that grabs him around No. 7 or 8 could get great value."
- If you watched enough ACC basketball last winter, then you know big, savvy guard Greivis Vasquez is a prime candidate for 2010 draft sleeper. John Hollinger's Draft Rater projects Vasquez as the 10th best pro on the board. Vasquez worked out for the Magic on Monday. Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post broke down Vasquez's game, and enumerates why he'd be a particularly good fit in Orlando if he's still available.
- Lest we forget how well Evan Turner performed at Ohio State in 2009-10, Ed Weiland of Hoops Analyst spells it out nicely: "[T]his was almost a historic season by Evan Turner in how truly impressive it was. I can’t imagine how overboard the hype would have been if this season had been accomplished by a player from Duke or North Carolina. Turner scored like the best SGs, rebounded like a PF and passed like a PG. There wasn’t anything here not to like."
- Ted Leonsis, Homer, LeBron James, Aaron Rodgers and Gilbert Arenas all in one place.
- The salary cap and on-court implications of Corey Maggette's arrival in Milwaukee.
- Kansas Jayhawks Cole Aldrich and Xavier Henry are making the most of their time in New York City, which included a visit to Sean John: "So swanky was the experience that at one point, when Aldrich and his girlfriend, KU student Britt Claflin, were in the back picking out the suit’s particulars, a woman emerged from the suite and said, 'Mr. Aldrich would like a cranberry juice.' Within seconds, a bartender chipped the ice, popped the top and served up a refreshing beverage."
- Evan Turner in pleated khakis, Al-Farouq Aminu in Urkel eyewear and Luke Babbitt in Naomi Wolf-inspired earth tones.
- Roland Lazenby on the prospect of Phil Jackson's retirement: "All across the NBA you can hear coaches breathing a sigh of relief. If Jackson retires, there'll be no pressure to meditate and read books."
- If you see an impatient J.R. Smith or DeAndre Jordan in line at the Apple Store, today is your lucky day.
- NBA Elite 11 will have some new features that will improve upon NBA Live: "'That's why when we started this year, we addressed the two biggest problems people have with basketball games. Number one: losing control of your player. If you played the basketball games the past few years, you know that there are times when you get locked into these animations and you have no control over your player as these long animations play out.' With 'NBA Elite 11,' Littman and crew think they've solved that problem by separating the upper body from the lower body with the use of the two analog sticks."
Posted by Kevin Arnovitz
The Los Angeles Clippers probably don't deserve the top pick in the upcoming draft, not after piling up 61 losses in disreputable fashion, but they need the pick just the same. It's not that the Clippers lack talent -- they don't. Nor do they have a hole at power forward, not with the immovable human millstone, Zach Randolph, entrenched for another two seasons and $33.3 million. The pick isn't about need.
People who don't follow the team haven't sensed the inertia Clippers fans and the organization felt in the years following 2001, but it was real. Ownership was spending money to retain talent, something that didn't happen during the Clippers' first 19 years in Los Angeles. They built a sleek, sexy training facility in Playa Vista, a gym Lakers' playoff opponents have raved about after practicing there this spring. The seasons immediately following the 47-35 campaign in 2005-06 were setbacks, but there was still an impression that the team's culture had turned a corner and that the Clippers were capable of respectability.
Things deteriorated after Elton Brand jilted the Clippers for Philadelphia last summer. The team stumbled out of the gate 2-13, and Baron Davis seemed disinterested. Then Mike Dunleavy bet the farm and dealt for Randolph, and little by little, the franchise started to take on an entirely different complexion. Gone were the gritty competitors who, for their many failings, always put in the work. Corey Maggette wasn't the headiest forward to put on a Clippers' jersey, but he never dogged a single possession. Cuttino Mobley, aptly described by John Hollinger as "the Steve Trachsel of the NBA," still gave you 120 pitches a night and 220 innings a season. Shaun Livingston, before his injury, desperately wanted to fulfill expectations, even as he fell short of them. Elton Brand's persona before he slithered out in the middle of the night exuded professionalism and class.
By January, the 2008-09 Clippers were careless and obnoxious. The old bromides were released, as the Clippers again became a punch line -- only this time it wasn't just the losing that fueled the ridicule. The Clippers displayed incompetence off the floor, and laziness on it. Basic basketball tasks such as inbounding the ball beneath the opponent's basket after a made field goal couldn't be executed. Davis fell victim to a few injuries, and rather than compensate with extra effort and a determination to stay in top form, Davis sulked at the inconvenient reality that he couldn't perform the way he wanted to. Meanwhile, Randolph's behavior was predictable, with a series of distractions ranging from a sucker-punch to Lou Amundson's jaw, to being arrested for driving drunk. In March, owner Donald Sterling unleashed an ill-timed tirade in the locker room that quickly became a public embarrassment.
Blake Griffin can't possibly rehabilitate the franchise on his own, and his addition presents some complications, given the money and bodies the Clippers have tied up in the frontcourt. In addition to Randolph's contract, the Clippers are carrying Chris Kaman for another three years and $33.9 million. They also have Marcus Camby returning for the final year of his deal. Moving Randolph is an impossibility. The organization would like to move Kaman, but Camby's reasonable expiring contract is far more attractive to suitors (as it is to the Clippers).
I'm not entirely sold on Griffin's prospects as a superstar because there are too many holes in his game to offer any guarantees. The NBA is now a point guard's league, and idea of Ricky Rubio igniting the franchise is exciting. That he presents a greater risk than Griffin makes him even more alluring.
Even if Griffin has a ceiling, the Clippers took their first step back to respectability in nearly a year. Griffin is a charismatic, appealing jokester with a wide-ranging presence. The inside-out threat he and guard Eric Gordon could present could be devastating. Griffin, unlike the stoic Gordon, has the capacity to make the team his, a responsibility Baron came to realize he didn't want to endure. And someone -- anyone -- needs to translate capacity into desire for the Los Angeles Clippers.
Are the Rockets peaking too soon? The Bulls' peaks and valleys are frustrating for their faithful. And Seth Davis is at the peak of his game. Take a peek at the TrueHoop Network:
Anup Shah of Rockets Buzz: "Remember what was going on with the Rockets a year ago at this time? Yao Ming was riding the sidelines and TMac pranced around like a God while the Rockets were in the midst of a 22-game win streak. They were working their way to the top spot in the Western Conference. Life was good in Houston.
And then the Celtics beat the Rockets. Ended their streak. And the Rockets slowly dropped to 4th in the West. People started doubting whether the team (or the streak for that matter) was legitimate. And when they fell in the first round to Utah, all those questions seemed to be answered.
This year, I'm left wondering if its the same deal. Last night, the Rockets topped the Raptors 107-97 and won their 10th straight home game. Carl Landry led the way with a career high 22 points and Luis Scola had 20 points and 16 boards (yet another double double for him). With the win and the Nuggets loss to the Pistons, the Rockets moved up to 3rd in the Western Conference. That being said, this is all too reminiscent of how well the team gelled right BEFORE the playoffs.
Are the Rockets peaking too early? Will they have the same fire left for the first round where it looks like they'll face Utah, Portland or New Orleans? How much different is it being without TMac this year than being without Yao last year? And the million dollar question: Will they get out of the first round?
It just scares me to declare this team a good team until they actually prove it when it matters."
Matt McHale of By the Horns: "Beat the Nuggets at the United Center, fall to the Pacers at Conseco Field House. Defeat the Magic at home, lose to the Nets and Wizards on the road. Overcome the Rockets in Chicago, get overrun by the Bobcats in Charlotte.
See a pattern here?
The Bulls have developed a tendency to rock it at home and then play poorly when away, and they were truly terrible in last night's 96-80 road loss to the Bobcats. They couldn't shoot (39 percent), couldn't defend (the 'Cats connected about 49 percent of their field goals), couldn't hold onto the ball (18 turnovers), and couldn't seem to grasp that they were facing a team that's suddenly competing for the same playoff spot they're looking up at with hungry eyes. Hungry when they're playing at home, that is.
Young teams struggle on the road. I get that. The Atlanta Hawks pull the same Jekyll and Hyde routine. But Ben Gordon and Kirk Hinrich are veterans now, and John Salmons and Brad Miller are 29 and 32, respectively. So we have guys who should know when it's time to play with a sense of urgency."
Rob Mahoney of Hardwood Paroxysm: "Nelson has tapped into the unconscious and utilized its most prized weaponry. Maybe that makes him both a visionary and completely bonkers. But don't pretend that the thought hasn't crossed your mind. When you see a team with Anthony Randolph, Anthony Morrow, Brandan Wright, and Marco Belinelli sitting around twiddling their thumbs, the natural instinct is to find a way to get them some playing time. One problem: Stephen Jackson, Jamal Crawford, and Corey Maggette are pretty well-paid and proven, veteran roadblocks.
I wouldn't say that Nelson's plan is 'crazy enough to work,' because what 'works' in the conventional sense and what 'works' in this type of framework aren't exactly similar. Nellie is sitting at the control panel and pressing buttons just to see if one of them causes the planet to explode. Why would it matter if he accidentally turns the fan on?
I doubt very much that there is some grandiose, progressive goal in mind. Nelson's just trying to appraise the assets he has in front of them. But the uproar over these arbitrary benchings tells me two things: One, that no other coach would do this, and two, that it was something that was on all of our minds anyway. In Randolph we trust."
THE FINAL WORD
Hoopinion: An insightful review of Seth Davis' new book on the 1979 NCAA Championship game.
Celtics Hub: The Celtics roster, mythologically speaking.
Valley of the Suns: Tempo, Tempo, Tempo.
(Photos by Bill Baptist, Brock Williams-Smith, Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
Posted by Kevin Arnovitz
How much of Baron Davis' homecoming to Los Angeles was predicated on Elton Brand's presence on the left block remains a mystery. Davis has been politic when asked about whether Brand left him in the lurch by signing with the Sixers after Davis inked his deal with the Clippers. On the court, Davis has struggled. He's shooting below 37% from the field, and his rebounding and FTA numbers are down precipitously.
Now there's word from Davis' former teammate, Stephen Jackson, that the Clippers' point guard would love nothing more than to press rewind on the past six months and return to Oakland. From Marcus Thompson II at the San Jose Merc:
The Warriors came to Hollywood a day before Sunday's game, giving Stephen Jackson a chance Saturday to hang out with former teammate Baron Davis. And discuss the possibility of Davis rejoining the Warriors.
"That's all we talked about," Jackson said. "I went to his house, spent some time with his mom and his grandmother. He wants to come back. And if he wants to come back, I want him back." Davis opted out of the final year of his Warriors contract in July and signed a five-year, $65 million contract with the Los Angeles Clippers, who are 8-21.
It is feasible that the Warriors and the Clippers could pull off a deal. It would have to involve Warriors forward Corey Maggette (for salary-cap reasons) and/or guard Jamal Crawford (to make room in the backcourt).
Clippers owner Donald Sterling said last season that he had wanted Maggette around long term.
"I think that would be great for us," Jackson said. "Coach (Don Nelson) loves him. Him and (guard) Monta (Ellis) have good chemistry. If they could work that out, that would be great for the organization."
From Davis' body language, it's clear he's unhappy in Mike Dunleavy's system. But it's also clear that the Clippers have little interest in reacquiring Corey Maggette. Hypotheticals have a funny way of flourishing when you're visiting with old friends over the holidays. Once the soft lights come down and the world resumes its workaday rhythm, those conversations recede pretty quickly.
I can't decide what to make of that guy. At his best, he's very, very good.
He can do a lot of things that a lot of other players can not do. His PER is not bad. It's not hard to make a highlight reel of him. (And this I know: Corey Maggette has better peripheral vision than your Average Joe. But nobody's perfect.)
But is that stuff essential to winning a title? Thus far, you'd have to guess not, as things don't seem to work well for his team when he's playing.
And if ends up in San Antonio -- where he would play a role in a well-established system -- I assume his athleticism and shooting will be put to good use, and he would be a fantastic fourth or fifth best player. I would like to see that.
But if Maggette ends up somewhere like Golden State, where he will be expected to help define the team? Then I am crossing my fingers and hoping that he has been developing a lot as he has been aging. Because he has not been part of a winning system, and he's not about to get more athletic.
Matt Steinmetz of Examiner.com is all over this.
- First off, Maggette is injury prone. He's been in the league nine seasons and has played 70 or more games just four times in his career. Maggette's body says Iron Man; his stats say Tin Man.
- Maggette is a great sub, the kind of aggressive scorer you love coming off the bench. He has a shoot first mentality and is a mediocre defender at best. In other words, as a sixth man he's great, as a starter he's not.
- Maggette has made it clear he wants to start and be a primary offensive option. But he's the type of high-maintenance player who doesn't make teammates better. In fact, because he doesn't create much, there tends to be a lot of standing around when he's got the ball on the perimeter.
- Maggette has never played for a winner. His teams have missed the playoffs in eight of the nine seasons he's been in the league. The one year a Maggette team made the playoffs was in 2006, when the Clippers made it to the postseason. That year Maggette played 32 games.
Corey Maggette at three years, $16 or $17 million or so ... maybe. Corey Maggette at five years for $40 million? No way.
Also worth noting: The team that knows him best is apparently willing to let him go for cap space, while almost no team with big money to spend has made him their main target in free agency.
All that said, I would be very interested to hear from those who have watched him day in and day out in Clipperland. Do you think he's worth big money?