7/17 Re-sign Matt Carroll
7/19 Re-sign Gerald Wallace
Both returnees got six years contracts, Carroll for about $27 million and Wallace at $57 million. I guess Bobcat fans can’t complaint about failing to spend but, to me, the returns are mixed. Carroll is a pretty good player but do you need to have him through age 33? The team is already committed to Jason Richardson, and Wallace at two guard and small forward and Carroll is not a point guard (1.9 assists per 40 minutes in 2006-07). Raymond Felton is also due a pay raise and a very high pick was invested in Adam Morrison (not to mention Walter Herrmann). I know Morrison stunk for the most part last year but his top comps as a rookie are not terrible (Glen Rice, Dennis Scott, and Terry Teagle). It might’ve been better to keep the salary slot open rather than commit to a decent player like Carroll. For posterity, Carroll’s top comps are Gordan Giricek and Kevin Gamble, neither of whom retained much value after age 26.
Wallace’s deal is bit more sensible. He’s only 24 and is playing quite well so signing him through 31 isn’t unreasonable and the price is below the current market. There is a chance that Wallace won’t develop further or he could even regress but the factors indicate that this is a pretty good risk.
1. Donaghy Problems: The Tim Donaghy situation is clearly the NBA’s biggest nightmare on many levels. But what do we really know about this whole thing yet? We know that Donaghy had a gambling problem, that he owed the wrong people money, and that there was a possibility that he was calling games in such a way to affect point spreads. It is not clear how this will all play out. David Stern has been very sensitive to any accusations of anything that implied that his product was anything less than 100% pure honest. So, to have an NBA embroiled in a heavy duty scandal is going to have repercussions. NBA refs are so heavily scrutinized by the NBA already that it’s hard to know how much more the NBA can do but I’m sure something will be done. Indeed, Stern already has had a press conference and the matter is on the NBA’s front page right now. In the end, so long as Donaghy is a lone bad actor, this scandal will blow over leaving a wound but the NBA is not in peril as a whole. Still, anything that even potentially threatens the value of a billion dollar industry has to be taken very seriously.
2. FIBA Games: In playing news, the FIBA games will start soon and this will be a welcome break from the Donaghy affair. In this case, the Western Hemisphere countries will all be converging on Las Vegas to for this Olympic qualifying tournament. As usual, the United States is the prohibitive favorite. Here’s a look at some of the recognizable player on each roster…
Argentina: The usual suspects are here. Former Temple point guard Pepe Sanchez, Luis Scola (who just signed with Houston), Ruben Wolkowisky (former Sonic/Celtic), Carlos Delfino (Toronto), and Federic Kammerichs (former Portland draft pick). Notably missing are Manu Ginobili, Fabricio Oberto, and Walter Herrmann all opted out of playing. Both Manu and Oberto were reportedly dissuaded by Gregg Popovich, who felt that the Spurs’ long season meant that they need rest. Herrmann is also looking to establish himself in the NBA (he finished pretty strong but the Bobcats are now loaded at the small forward slot) and probably does not want to risk injury.
Brazil: Brazil’s roster is a little touch-and-go. The official roster lists a bunch of NBA heavyweights, Nene Hilario, Leandro Barbosa, and Anderson Varejao. Barbosa, however, is reportedly going to beg out with elbow pain. Nene and Varejao are supposedly committed but Varejao doesn’t have a contract yet and Nene has had knee issues so I could see either being pressured out by their agents and or teams. Rafael Araujo (free agent last with Utah) and Alex Garcia (played with the Hornets in 2003-04) are also on the roster. For those who remember, Oscar Schmidt is finally gone for good, having retired in 2003 (he’ll be 50 next year!).
Canada: No Steve Nash…no chance. The current roster does have some quasi-known names: Andy Rautins (Syracuse) and Sheray Thomas (Kentucky). We also don’t see Jamaal Magloire, who was mentioned as a potential Team Canada player for years. Here is my All-Time Canadian team:
PG: Steve Nash
SG: Ernie Vandeweghe
SF: Rick Fox
PF: Jamaal Magloire
C: Bill Wennington (Todd Macculloch’s injuries knock him off the list and Bob Houbregs has an argument as an early player)
Virgin Islands: Since Tim Duncan is only eligible as an American (he’s bound to the first team he chose to play for internationally), Raja Bell and form NBAer David Vanterpool (played with the Bullets back in 2000-01) are the only recognizable names.
Mexico: Again, we don’t expect to the see the NBA guys to play. In this case, the NBA guy is Ed Najera, who I don’t really remember ever playing for the Mexico in the Olympics. Horacio Llamas played briefly for Phoenix in the late 1990s. He was quite big if not graceful.
Panama: Absolutely no big names here. Ruben Garces played 13 games for Phoenix and Golden State in 2000-01 and Ed Cota (UNC) is eligible to play but that’s about it.
Puerto Rico: They are always a tough in these types of competitions and relish trying to go toe-to-toe with the U.S.. The usual suspects are around: Carlos Arroyo and Daniel Santiago are the only NBA regulars but Rick Apodoca and Elias Ayuso have hit a ton of threes. Big Peter John Ramos (Washington) has had some NBDL time. Mainstay Jose Ortiz finally retired this year and is reportedly looking to run for the Puerto Rican senate.
Uruguay: Always near the bottom of the tournament and the only name you might recognize is Esteban Batista who was near the back of the bench for a bad Atlanta team.
Venezuela: The only name of note is Oscar Torres who had some decent moments with the Rockets as a three-point shooter. Otherwise, the best they got is the memory of Carl Herrera, who is now 40 years old.
1. What’re Yi Doing?: The least shocking news of the day was the announcement of Yi Jianlian’s Chinese team the Beijing Tigers that it would not permit him to sign with the Bucks. According to Beijing’s owner Chen Haitao: “This is not — as media reports have said – because Milwaukee, as a city with very few Chinese people, is not good for Yi’s commercial development. Rather we want to find a team suitable for Yi’s growth. That’s the root of the problem.” It’s not quite clear what that means. Chen supposedly is concerned that Yi won’t play with Andrew Bogut and Charlie Villanueva in tow.
So now we have heard three different rationales of Yi’s refusal to play in Milwaukee:
(1) Not enough of an Asian population
(2) Too small a market
(3) Not enough room for Yi to develop
Do any of these reasons reflect Yi’s camp’s reluctance to come to Milwaukee? It’s hard to really know but lets play with them and see what at least sounds most plausible.
(1) Not enough of an Asian population
(2) Too small a market
I suppose reasons one and two could theoretically be intertwined. The fact that the Asian population is smaller seems could imply (a) that Yi might not comfortable being in a small minority or (b) that Yi’s arrival wouldn’t energize the fan base (and, in turn, advertising and marketing opportunities) the way it might elsewhere. In fact the 2000 Census found that over half of all Asian or Asian Americans in the United States lived in California, New York, and Hawaii, with California leading the way with 19% of this demographic. Wisconsin, on the other hand, is in the middle of the low end as 1.1% of Wisconsin’s population was Asian (52,000 out of 4.9 million people). So, the jury is out on both these rationales.
(3) Not enough room for Yi to develop
This seems a little silly. Larry Harris and the Bucks have gone out of their way to guarantee Yi playing time that few other draft picks have ever gotten. It is theoretically possible that Yi’s people have questioned that coaching staff and management will not nurture in develop Yi and that some other coach/team might do better. Larry Krsytkowiak doesn’t have a reputation either way for developing players and the Bucks have gone through coaches frequently but there are no glaring problems either.
I’m a tad cynical about the whole process. To get into my thinking you have to accept the premise that Yi is probably being totally controlled by Chinese basketball officials and that they will have an interest in his earnings on some level or are owed some kind of buyout. I have seen little evidence at all of Chinese concerns for its player’s adjustment or team prior to Yi. What do we learn for the other three other Chinese NBA players and how they were dealt with?
-Yao Ming: Yao ended up in a pretty large Asian market in Houston. Interestingly, Chicago and Golden State had the next two picks and probably would’ve been even more ideal destinations. Memphis had the fourth pick and that could’ve caused some issues.
-Mengke Bateer: I didn’t know this until looking at his Wikipedia page but, the big Mongolian actually had a very interesting career. Bateer was frequently suspended in the early 1990s for leaving the Chinese National Team to be with his family. Bateer ended up briefly in Denver, San Antonio, and Toronto and there really was no public concern about his NBA career.
-Wang Zhizhi: Wang did end up on in a large market of Dallas. But Wang was drafted by Dallas without his even having him declared eligible to be drafted. This was more a result of Don Nelson ingenuity. Wang’s Chinese team was unhappy and it took two years of negotiations to get Wang stateside. Once he was in the NBA, Wang was expected to make the Chinese National Team his priority. Wang declined to return to China to prepare for the Olympics after the 2001-02 season, instead stating that he wanted to work on improving his NBA prospects. As a result, Wang was ostracized and wasn’t allowed to play in China for the next four years. It wasn’t until Wang’s NBA career wound down that he reconciled with the Chinese officials in 2006.
To get a sense of the emotions and or control involved in this whole situation, here are the direct quotes attributed to the Chinese officials and Wang upon reconciliation. First the Chinese league:
“We have always placed importance on and cherished talent. The door of the national team has always been open to those excellent athletes willing to pay back the motherland.”
Now Wang’s perspective:
“At the time I was young and immature. Because of this, I made a very wrong decision. Through these years of painful reflection and with the help of leaders of the army and the [Chinese Basketball Association], I have deeper recognition of the mistakes I’ve made in the past.”
There is no word as to whether Wang was fitted with some sort electronic monitoring device in conjunction with this deal.
What does this all mean for Yi? Well we don’t know for sure if the guys handling Yi are the same that handled Wang or Yao but it seems reasonably fair to assume that the Chinese owners view their prospects as chattel to control. It is possible that Yi has complete autonomy and just truly doesn’t like Milwaukee. But it is hard for me to view any negotiation with the Chinese league at this point as anything but difficult and that the stances they’ve taken on Yi are probably not related to his best interests–except to the extent that it suits their interests. In this case, all signs point to the officials wanting Yi in a major market and the census data would seem to back them up on that point too.
2. China Ball: While were on the subject of Chinese basketball, I thought we’d take a look at the current Chinese League. This year, Wang’s Chinese team Bayi Army won the title over Yi’s Guandong Southern Tigers. The league has 16 teams and plays a 30 game schedule. There are very few imports in the league and it is clear that the international competition trumps the professional leagues. Despite the 16 teams, there were only a total of about 22 imports by my count, 19 of whom were Americans.
The stats that leaders that I could find were broken down into overall stat leaders and “domestic player” leaders, which probably also reflects the reluctance to import players. But imports dominated the stats, with the top two scorers (Anthony Myles and Gabe Muoneke) and top five rebounders from the West (Brandon Crump, Babakar Camara, Soumaila Samake, Chris Porter, and Herve Lamizana). As for locals, 7′1 big man Tang Zhengdong led the league in scoring and Yi was tops in boarding.
Here’s the rundown of familiar names in the league:
-Herve Lamizana: :Lamizana was a potential draft prospect in 2004 and was in camp with the Sixers in 2005.
-Soumalia Samake: Samake is remembered for his time with the Nets, where he was a tall, thin shot blocker with no discernable offensive skills. He also had a brief stint with the Lakers were he was surprisingly suspended for using perfomance enhancers (insert punch line).
-Chris Porter: Porter was a star for Auburn, as a low budget Charles Barkley. Porter was fairly good as a rookie for Golden State in 2000-01 but he had legal and personality issues in the summer of 2001 (he was late to camp and had an arrest) and never stuck in the NBA. As you can imagine, his power style works pretty well internationally.
-Gabe Muoneke: Muoneke never played a game in the NBA but he is remembered for being a monster dunker out of Texas in the late-1990s. I’m not sure he still has the old hops but his style of play, like Porter, translates well to foreign leagues. He’s since left China and moved over to Iran of all places.
7/12 Re-sign Devean George
7/13 Re-sign Jerry Stackhouse
The Stackhouse re-signing was an interest decision. Stack is not young (33) and has had knee issues but he was a key player for the Mavs off the bench last year. The extension is reported at three years and $18 million. It’s hard to know where Stackhouse will be in three years. Last year is difficult for predictive value because it was so uncharacteristic of his career. Previously, Stack was a high volume shooter and logged a ton of minutes. The trend now has totally reversed. Stack played his few minutes (24 per game) but had his highest three-point shooting and also effective shooting percentages. Stackhouse’s most similar comp at age-32 was Blue Edwards, who totally fell apart at age 33. The number two comp to Stack was John Starks, who seems much more familiar. Starks also had just turned into a sixth man and adjusted pretty well. Starks declined slightly at ages 33 and 34 and was totally unable to contribute by age-35. I expect Stack to follow a similar pattern. So, year-three of Stack’s deal is a bit rich but its the price the Mavs are willing to pay for continuity on a team that looked pretty good most of the year and that seems pretty rationale to me. Continue reading Transactions: 7/2-7/13…
6/28 Draft Al Horford and Acie Law IV
Horford looks like a nice pick. He should develop into the power rebounder that the Hawks don’t quite have. The only question is whether he develops into a solid pro (a la Otis Thorpe) or whether Horford will do some scoring. The pick renders last year’s high power forward pick, Shelden Williams, as nothing more than a reserve. Of course, Williams does not look like he was ever as talented as Horford to begin with.
As an aside, Horford’s father was Tito Horford, who came out early from Miami 19 years ago. Tito, a 7′1 center, was bigger than Al but not nearly the player. Tito ended up playing mostly internationally for 15 years (he only recently retired). In 63 games, mostly with the Bucks, Tito blocked some shots but was inept offensively (he shot 33-110 from the field for his career). For kicks here’s how Al and Tito compared as 21-year old collegiate players: