NBA Transactions 12/21-1/4

Atlanta Hawks


12/28    Sign Stanislav Medvedenko

1/3        Waive Cedric Bozeman


Medvedenko hasn’t really played since 2004-05 because of a herniated disk in his back.  He wasn’t really the most athletic player before the back injury so I’m not sure what he has to offer.  At best, he’s nice jump shooter (a talent he isn’t shy to exhibit).  Of course, he’s an extreme non-entity defensively (40 blocks in 248 career games).  Still, the Hawks could use a live body (assuming Medvedenko is healthy) up front after Zaza Pachulia because the reserves (Lorenzen Wright and Esteban Batsta) don’t have much.


Charlotte Bobcats


1/3    Acquire Jeff McInnis from New Jersey for Bernard Robinson


There was a degree of desperation to this for the Bobcats.  They’ve had some nice wins but, in all, they are still clearly an expansion time.  This shouldn’t be surprising but with Michael Jordan coming into the fold and the general sense that fans and observers want results fast, the team felt pressure to have a replacement for Brevin Knight (torn abdominal muscle) over the next month. McInnis has been under the deep freeze since the middle of last year, when the Nets tired of him and sent him home, claiming that he was not diligently working on his rehab.  This was preceded by a similar circumstance occurring to McInnis in Cleveland in 2004-05 and before that with Portland (who had a ton of guards in early 2000s).


McInnis claims that he has had a bum rap, telling Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer that “[d]amn, I don’t get how I get that reputation. Most guys wouldn’t take the roles I have taken. I’ve always been a shadow guy. I wouldn’t go to UNC to get attention and let Stack and Rasheed get all the props. I would’ve gone somewhere where I could get noticed more. Man, I just wanna know who says all this stuff about me?”


Well, it doesn’t take much to find crazy McInnis quotes:


-When the Nets tried to buy him out this past off-season McInnis refused to accept a dime less than his full deal, opting to sit out and then dragged his own name through the mud: “Not playing me is one thing, but having a personal grudge against me is another thing….If I have to [sit out the whole season], I will.  But it ain’t going to be that simple. There are going to be other steps taken and all that.”


-At the end of his tenure with the Cavs, McInnis was also benched and it was also acrimonious.  MSNBC described the situation:

“McInnis blamed stomach cramps, not a ‘viral syndrome’ as the team called it, for him not traveling to the season finale in Toronto. However, McInnis’ excuse seemed shaky after the soon-to-be free agent sulked over playing time and his benching by both Silas and Malone.  During Tuesday night’s final home game, McInnis didn’t join his teammates on the bench for long stretches of the second half. And when he was there, he sat with a towel wrapped around his head.  ‘I thought I was a true professional during all of this,’ he said. ‘I think they wanted me to blow up and do something crazy.’” quoted a scout on McInnis prior to the 2001-02 season: “It isn’t going to get any easier for Mo Cheeks. I saw McInnis hollering at [his coach with the Clippers] Alvin Gentry a lot last season.”


For what it’s worth, you can’t really find any silly quotes from McInnis prior to his time in Cleveland, just innuendo from the press that he could be difficult to deal with.  So what do we really know?  It’s clear that McInnis is not easy to deal with and that he can score but doesn’t defend.  It’s a bad combination and probably gets him in to trouble that other players with a similar skill-set might not.  McInnis can marginally help the Bobcats and all he’ll cost is a little bit of extra money.  As McInnis enters his 30s, however, it might behoove to be a quiet because the good soldiers usually last long after their talent disappears and the prima donnas usually leave the court before their playable years are truly up (see Sprewell, Latrell).


Denver Nuggets


12/22    Waive Ivan McFarlin

1/2        Recall Julius Hodge from Colorado of the D-League


I’m not sure if McFarlin actually traveled to Denver, but life in the NBA involves players offering more as salary slots than players.  As for Hodge, even if he played well in the NBDL, things are looking bad.  Adding Allen Iverson to the mix blocks out even the slightest possibility of breaking into the rotation, as he now has four other guards ahead of him on the depth chart.  Still, it’s better to sit on the bench in the NBA then to take the bus to Albuquerque.


Golden State Warriors


1/2    Sign Kelenna Azubuike from Ft. Worth of the D-League


Azubuike had been playing very well in the NBDL (26.2 ppg, .514 FG%, .485 3-FG%) and he’ll be slotted in with Jason Richardson out with the broken finger.  It’s unlikely that Azubuike will stick but this is a great spot to possibly play because Don Nelson style of play is guard-oriented, as Matt Barnes can attest.


Memphis Grizzlies


12/29    Fire head coach Mike Fratello and name Tony Barone as interim coach


On pure performance, Fratello probably got a raw deal.  The team played it’s best ball under him but Fratello-fatigue seems to always set with all his teams.  I know Jerry West was not happy that the Grizz were unable to win a single playoff game in each of Fratello’s two playoff appearances.  But let’s be honest, the Grizz played the 2004-05 Suns and the 2005-06 Mavs in the playoffs, two teams that are supposed to sweep the Grizzlies.  This year’s poor start was also somewhat excusable.  This season effectively ended with Pau Gasol’s broken foot during the summer.


On the other hand, there were good reasons to cut bait with Fratello.  The team was not exciting to watch and he did not play the rookies much even when it was clear that this was a rebuilding year.  The tight play calling might make sense with a less-talented team but neither fans nor the players like the style and when the style gets you from 25 wins to 30, as opposed to the playoffs before losing.  West noted as much, stating that Fratello had run his course with the team.


Fratello’s termination with Cleveland in 1999 had a similar feel to it.  Wayne Embry, the GM who was fired along with Fratello, noted in his biography “The Inside Game” that “I think [Fratello] was in the wrong place at the wrong time after the composition of the team changed.  Some coaches are better coaching veteran teams. In today’s NBA, I questioned whether Mike had the patience to build a young team and let the youngsters work through their mistakes.”


Finally as to the question of whether Fratello is truly a slowdown coach, here’s a year-by-year comparison of Fratello-coached teams to NBA average:


(With Memphis)

Year        Fratello Team PPG    NBA Average Difference

2005-06               92.2                        97.0               -4.8

2004-05               93.4                        97.2               -3.8  


(With Cleveland)

1998-99               86.4                        91.6               -5.2

1997-98               92.5                        95.6               -3.1

1996-97               87.5                        96.9               -9.4

1995-96               91.1                        99.5               -8.4

1994-95               90.5                      101.4              -10.9

1993-94              101.2                     101.5               -0.3


(With Atlanta)

1989-90              108.5                     107.0              +1.5

1988-89              111.0                     109.2              +1.8

1987-88              107.9                     108.2               -1.3           

1986-87              110.0                     109.9               +0.1

1985-86              108.6                     110.2               -1.6

1984-85              106.6                     110.8               -4.2

1983-84              101.4                     110.1               -8.7


Miami Heat


1/3    Announce that head coach Pat Riley will take a leave of absence and name Ron Rothstein as interim coach


The cynics will note that Riley’s timing to enter the fray and leave it coincide remarkably with the points where the Heat were expected to ascend or crumble.  We can’t know that Riley needs surgery ASAP just like we’re not sure that Stan Van Gundy had to re-sign to spend more time with his family in the middle of 2005-06 season.  If you assume that Riley may have pulled some strings I still can’t condemn him too much for either move.  The Heat ended up with a title from the flipping.  Besides, Riley has equity in the team, he can do whatever ownership permits.  Hell, most really good coaches aren’t actually that nice anyway.  It’s possible Riley could be spending karma points, as some argue, but that’s his prerogative.


As for Rothstein, he was Miami’s original coach back in 1988-89.  Rothstein has been a defensive specialist and assisted Chuck Daly during the Detroit title days.  In his three years in Miami, Rothstein’s teams improved from 15-67 to 18-64 to 24-58.  After the 1990-91 season, however, the team thought his intense style was too much for the young players and he was bounced in favor of the more easy going Kevin Loughery.  Rothstein, got another shot, this time replacing Chuck Daly in Detroit.  It was an impossible spot because Daly was great and the Pistons were devolving from dynasty to rebuilding.  Rothstein had a headache in Detroit as Dennis Rodman started to go more overtly nuts and Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer had less than picturesque ends to their careers.  The team went 40-42 in1992-93 and missed the playoffs and followed it up with a  miserable 20-62 record in 1993-94, after which Rothstein was replaced with Don Chaney.  Rothstein hasn’t been a head coach since.  Rothstein probably isn’t really an option to coach the team at full strength because Shaquille O’Neal hasn’t taken well to coaching from the less well-known coaches.


Milwaukee Bucks


1/4    Waive Chris McCray


It was a brief cup of coffee for the rookie.  His stat line has no positives so far (0-3 from the field) and his only other stats are 2 turnovers and a personal foul.  Hopefully, he’ll make a better impression next time.


New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets


12/22    Sign Devin Brown


The team has been so decimated by injuries (Chris Paul, Peja Stojakovic, and David West) that they needed some warm bodies.  Brown has his limitations, he’s not a great shooter, but he’s NBA-quality at finishing and defending and has some value.  He won’t win the team many games but he can help the team be semi-respectable while also getting his name back in the consciousness of NBA GMs.


New Jersey Nets


1/3    Acquire Bernard Robinson from Charlotte for Jeff McInnis


Robinson’s strongest point is that he is not McInnis.  The trade removes a very unhappy player and gets the Nets some salary relief.  I’m not sure if Robinson will play much.  Robinson is really a small forward and he’ll have to take minutes from Hassan Adams (not likely) or Antoine Wright (possible) or he’ll have to show he can be an undersized power forward on those days when Bostjan Nachbar picks up his six fouls in less then 10 minutes (very possible).


Philadelphia 76ers


1/4    Waive Steven Smith


Besides a 12-minute stretch against Indiana, Smith didn’t really play.  I assume the NBDL is the next step.


Portland Trailblazers


1/2    Waive Stephen Graham


Not a great player but Graham definitely showed that he can be useful spot player.  Last year, Graham played with three different teams and I expect he’ll get another shot with someone else this year.


Seattle SuperSonics


1/4    Waive Desmon Farmer and Andreas Glyniadakis


Glyniadakis got a chance to play (he started four games) but he is just very raw at this point.  He was a fouling machine and had a ton of turnovers.  At 25, you have to wonder if he can even be worth spot duty.  Still, he’s 7’1 so someone else may take a shot.

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