Thursday, July 10, 2008

Brand New Day

Dr. J, Moses Malone, Barkley, AI and now Elton Brand. Am I giving number 42 too much credit? I don’t know, but although I like the two Andres (Miller, Iggy), Elton Brand is a different calibre in my opinion. When healthy, he is one of the best power forwards in the League, I think nobody can argue with that. But since I mentioned the word “healthy” already, Ed Stefanski is taking a huge gamble here by bringing in someone like Brand. But if he’s 100%, the East is screwed. The Sixers have played some really good games later in the ’08 season, and have a bright future ahead of them. Brand can make them a legitimate threat in the East. Maybe not yet good enough to call them contenders, but definitely good enough to go deep into the playoffs.

In the nineties everybody was a Bulls fan, at least the people I got in touch with after I picked up the rock in the early nineties. I became a fan too, and Scottie Pippen was my favorite player back then. But after all the internal power struggles that were going on throughout the dynasty years, the two Jerrys (Reinsdorf, Krause) dismantled the team. By the start of the ‘98/’99 season you knew the Jerrys made a huge mistake. Their egos were more important than the likes of Jordan, Pippen or Phil Jackson, so basically they made a choice to lose games. They probably named it “rebuilding”. Bad teams sometimes are very lucky in the Draft, so in the summer of 1999 the Bulls drafted Elton Brand, who played collegiate at Duke for two years. The rest of his team was atrocious (Artest not included, but Dickey Simpkins, Chris Carr, dinosaur Will Perdue, to name a few…. Damn), but Brand was Co-rookie of the Year, sharing the award with Steve Francis. From his first season on, Brand was a 20 and 10 guy, and continued to put the weight of the franchise on his broad shoulders in his second season. So what the Jerrys do? They traded their young and promising franchise player away to the Los Angeles Clippers. We all know what happened after that in Chicago, once again making a very dumb mistake, but let’s stay focused on Elton Brand’s career.

With him being a Clipper, he was traded from one doomed franchise to another. It must have been a burden to keep on playing for bad organizations, which don’t seem to be interested in winning a whole lot of games. Brand however, with his workhorse attitude, continued to do what he always did. His scoring dipped to 18.2 ppg, but he swatted away two shots every game, and continued to excel at both ends of the courts. And his rebounding numbers? They only went up. But still, even after his scoring improved, the Clippers did not. “Winning” hasn’t been high on the to-do list of owner Donald Sterling. At least that’s what I thought; until last week it came out of nowhere (to me) that Baron Davis would leave the Warriors to become a member of L.A.’s “other team”. Davis and Brand…. Could it really be true? I was looking forward to Clippers-Lakers games, because they finally would be relevant again. Clippers should’ve been proud and could start dreaming about the playoffs maybe? But on the night Davis signed his contract with the Clippers, Brand was moving to Philly.

When Brand opted out of his contract this summer, it would make you wonder why he did that. Maybe to see what the organization would do? Would they finally get him some help, or just be content with mediocrity? Then Brand sold some of his L.A. property, so what was that about? Moving? Or just doing business? A day after that it was reported by ESPN that the Sixers were still very much in the race for Brand’s services, but I figured he would just re-sign with the Clippers. Apparently I was wrong, and many others with me. And like The Killers said; for reasons unknown he left and signed with Philly, breaking hearts of some and being embraced by others. I read that Brand just wanted to go back East, some say his agent David Falk was behind all of this and screwed the Clippers. I don’t know why he left, but I would sure like to know it. I can’t picture Elton Brand as a bad guy, I just can’t. In all those years I never heard anything bad about him, or from him. So I ask you: what happened?

All I know is that one of the sweetest days of Baron Davis’ career turned sour fast.

Monday, July 7, 2008

No Breaks Allowed, Part Four

After July 1st I’ve been waiting a couple of days before I would write a new blog. I wanted to see what would happen (Baron Davis moving), and in some cases, what would not happen (Arenas moving). So in this version of No Breaks Allowed, let’s talk about this past week, and what might come up. And since I’m going to see Common this Wednesday for the first time ever (who knew that he would already bring out another album this September? Whoo-hoo!), let’s start off with the Chi:

-Paxson for 3! I’m sorry, having flashbacks, and I understand this is not Game 6 of the 1993 Finals. However, Paxson’s summer can be successful in only 3 steps: 1. Have a good draft. 2. Re-sign Deng. 3. Get bigger. Okay, so you could say that 1 and 3 could’ve been achieved by drafting Beasley. However, I do believe they might the right choice in drafting Derrick Rose. A good point guard almost guarantees you to some wins, and although he’s a rookie, in the long run the Bulls can stay competitive if they can keep Luol Deng, and find a big man who can score a little under the basket. And yes, I do believe Deng is a key player for this team. The ’08 season might not be his finest, but he can be an all-star soon if he keeps improving.

-Message to Mitch Kupchak: do not pay Andrew Bynum 80 mill. It’s okay if Mountain Drew believes that he should get that, or maybe his agent just whispered that sum in his ear, but it’s too much for a 13 and 10 guy. Sure, he might give you 20 and 14 in the future, but that’s what the Knicks thought too when they signed Jerome James to a 5-year, 30 million dollar contract in 2005. Just because a guy plays well for a couple of months, it doesn’t make him a superstar. Hell, my beloved Nets have power forward Josh Boone, and since he became a starter for them he averaged a double-double too. What’s next, he’s gonna ask for 80 million now? Let Mountain Drew come back next season, see in what shape he is, and find out what he’s really worth. It’s a gamble, but less of a gamble than paying the dude 80 million dollars.

-Wait, I was talking about Chicago right? The Bulls are looking to make some (cost-cutting, therefore being able to re-sign Deng) moves, so they are open to trade Andres Nocioni. One of the teams who are very interested in him are the Nets. For the love of basketball, do it! He’s a perfect fit for New Jersey, being a tough defender, good rebounder and a guy who knows how to score. He even can hit the 3, so after the horrendous trade of Richard Jefferson, Nocioni could be inserted into the starting line-up at the small forward spot immediately.

-His royal beardness is home again. Baron Davis is back in L.A., which is a huge surprise because I didn’t expect him to leave the Warriors. If Elton Brand decides to stay (which we will know sooner than later) they actually have a pretty competitive team out there. A healthy Kaman, Al Thornton who hopefully will be a little bit less trigger happy in his second season, along with draft pick Eric Gordon, and Clipper fans have an exciting team to cheer about.

-Leaves us with Agent Zero. He just did what he said he would do. He waited what Antawn Jamison would decide, he waited to see what the Wizards would offer him, and…. He remains in Washington. And not only that, he pulled a Duncan, leaving 16 million on the table so the organization can get him some more help. They offered him 127 million, he took 111, and now you have people saying: “Couldn’t he take 90 million?” I know it’s a whole lot of money, but that’s how the market works. For some people Arenas can’t do anything right. To me, he did a good thing. A lot of players want to get a max deal if they can get it, which leaves their organization battling against the cap year after year. If you’re complaining afterwards your GM didn’t get you enough help, it’s partly your own fault (I’m not talking about anyone specific, if you’re guessing). So Duncan took less and his Spurs are contenders every season. The Wizards aren’t contenders yet, but this is a step in the right direction, a step taken by Gilbert Arenas.