1. Mad Marion: As we wait for training camp to begin, the latest story is that Shawn Marion has demanded a trade. The origin of the trade seems to be twofold, recognition and money:
-Marion was put off by being shopped. The Suns had dangled both Marion and Amare Stoudemire in possible trades this summer. This in and of itself shouldn’t be too big a deal in the big business NBA but Marion seems to have a sensitive constitution. This side to Marion was extensively, if gently, detailed by Jack McCallum in his great “:07 Seconds or Less” which detailed the 2005-06 Suns season (McCallum has also thoughtfully chimed in on the recent controversy). Indeed, the tension was palpable even back in 2005:
“During the season, Marion was angry that his likeness didn’t appear among the huge bobblehead dolls in the Suns’ team store in the arena–the featured ones, of course, were of Nash and Stoudemire. No Marion. He noticed. It sounds trivial to be complaining about that kind of stuff, particularly when you’re compensated as a maximum player, but Marion had a point. There is Stoudemire, not even active, clowning around on the bench, and there is Marion trying to defend Lamar Odom, and yet Stoudermire gets all the love from the drum line.”
But Marion is not totally a glory hound with a strong agenda. His feelings seem to genuinely stem from his true personality. McCallum lays it out thusly:
“There is also a charming naiveté about Marion. He chows down on Hamburger Helper and doesn’t care who knows about it. He’s an avid cartoon watcher. He’s a little, well, thrifty….One day last year, one of the trainers was thumbing through a luxury car magazine and musing about making a six-figure auto purchase. ‘Why don’t you just buy it?’ asked Marion. ‘Shawn, how much money you think I make?’ ‘I don’t know,’ said Marion. ‘Two, three hundred thousand?’”
-Marion wants a big contract extension. He has a player option for 2008-09 at $17.2 million and wants a three-year extension for $60 million, the same extension that Paul Pierce snagged from the Celts a few years back. It seems pretty clear that the Suns don’t want to go over the luxury tax based upon their maneuverings the last two seasons (dumping three draft picks and Kurt Thomas to knock off salary). Marion is still at the top of his game but it would take a real leap of faith to commit to ages 30-33 at max money, two years before the team has to.
Usually, teams will call a player’s bluff and making him gut through it. The Nets made Vince Carter play through his contract year and it worked out fine but the Raptors felt that they had to trade VC when he was unhappy. Bulls ignored Scottie Pippen’s trade demands years ago but he was such a disruption that the Rockets quickly acceded to his trade demand. Does Marion fall into “grin and deal with it” crowd? Not according to McCallum:
“Feeling dissed is a common malady in the NBA; the issue is, how does a player react to it? Marion, when feeling undervalued, sometimes gets inspired and sometimes goes into a funk….”
Well, that doesn’t really settle matters. My sense is that Marion does not go into the funk, provided the team tries to “good cop” his trade demands while, at the same time, denying them. Ultimately, Marion’s huge 2007-08 option year is too big to make any threats. Trading Marion doesn’t make too much sense either because the Suns are looking to contend while Steve Nash is still in his prime (this should last the next two years or so). There are three viable trade options for Marion right now: Andrei Kirilenko, Lamar Odom, and Jermaine O’Neal. None of these matches are perfect…AK has a long-term deal that is cheaper but (two more years than Marion) and could probably fill that role pretty well, if not quite as well as Marion. Odom is probably the weakest of the three players and is more of a power forward and has had knee issues. But the Suns would have to take another player to match salaries for Marion. O’Neal is probably the best option because he gives the Suns a defensive presence on big men but he makes a ton of cash (even more than Marion) of the next three seasons and he has not been healthy for a couple of years now.
In the end, I see Marion staying put short-term but clearly this is an issue the Suns will have to deal with, particularly if the Suns don’t play quite as well as expected.
2. Bye Corliss: In other news, Corliss Williamson retired yesterday to become a college basketball assistant coach. Williamson was only 34 and probably could’ve squeezed a few more years out of his career but stated that he wanted to get to the next stage of his life. People tend forget this but Corliss was a huge college star, leading the Arkansas Razorbacks to a title in 1993-94 and to the another title game in 1994-95 (where they lost to UCLA). Williamson was the dominant low post player for the team, despite the fact that he was not quite 6′7. His college numbers weren’t huge (19 ppg and 7 rpg in college) and they wondered whether he could adjust to the pro game being so short.
In the end, Williamson was a mid-first round pick in the 1995 Draft for the Kings. Sacramento scout Jerry Reynolds told Sports Illustrated back in 1995 that “[w]e asked ourselves: At the end of the day, how many players in college basketball have been more dominant than Corliss? And the answer was zero. He’s been the best player on the best team for the last three years.” As a pro, Williamson ranged from decent scorer (18 ppg in 1997-98) to solid bench player. After five years, the Kings traded him to Toronto in 2000 for Doug Christie. Corliss spent half of 2000-01 in Toronto before being dealt to Detroit, where he was a very good bench player, winning Sixth Man of the Year in 2001-02. He bounced back to Sacramento the last few years before his retirement yesterday. Williamson is also a demonstration of the rising NBA salaries. In fact, he made a very healthy $43 million in salary over his 12-year career. In short, Williamson had a pretty respectable career in every respect.
As for his college days, for some reason, Williamson was the only Razorback to really make an impression as a pro. Co-star Scotty Thurman and corpulent starting center Dwight Stewart never played a single pro game. Corey Beck and Clint McDaniel had token NBA careers (88 career games for Beck and only 12 for McDaniel). Here’s an update on where Corliss’ teammates are now:
-Scotty Thurman played all over Europe and Asia before retiring after the 2005-06 season.
-Corey Beck also went to Europe after he was cut from the NBA but stopped playing in the early 2000s. Just last Wednesday, he was shot in an attempted carjacking in Memphis. He is currently recovering in good condition.
-Dwight Stewart is still playing all over the globe. Last year, he was with the Arkansas Rivercatz of the ABA.
-Clint McDaniel went the Europe route too, last playing in Hungary in 2003-04.
1. Oden Ouch: The Blazers have recently gotten the tough news that Greg Oden, their number one pick and the ballyhooed number one overall pick, will miss the entire season with micro facture knee surgery. The immediate reaction was to talk about how the Blazers are in serious trouble and that Oden may carry the curse of previous high picked Blazer centers Bill Walton and Sam Bowie, whose careers were both seriously curtailed by chronic problems. The injury to Oden, while certainly not ideal, doesn’t matter too much to the 2007-08 Blazers as they really weren’t a contender anyway. Hell, a couple of teams have used the absence of potential stars to amass a couple of high picks. Notably, the Spurs had to wait two years for David Robinson to fulfill his Navy duties and were able to accrue two pretty good players in Willie Anderson and Sean Elliott and were ready to do some damage when Robinson did show up. The Blazers are in a similar situation and one more bad year could land an O.J. Mayo or a Derrick Rose, which would could really round out the bakcourt.
The real issue is whether Oden will be able to comeback healthy and have a nice career. I honestly have no clue on that one. After Chris Webber and Jason Kidd had the same surgery a few years ago, we took a look at the procedure and found that their wasn’t really enough data to figure out the results. Of the four players we examined, the results weren’t great. Karl Malone never played again (this seemed to be of his own accord) and Allan Houston’s career was essentially over too. Chris Webber came back but was never the same player (though he wasn’t terrible). Other players offer more hope. Jason Kidd certainly didn’t miss a beat. More recently, Zach Randolph and Amare Stoudemire (two younger players) have returned to form. Every case is different but Oden’s youth has to give Portland fans some hope.
2. Top Pick Games: It has been pretty much assured that Oden will miss the entire 2007-08. That got me wondering how often the top overall pick missed most of his rookie season. We went through the list to see how many top picks missed more than 20 games their rookie year. I thought it’d be interesting to take a look at these top picks and to see (a) how they followed up that rookie and (b) how many career games they ultimately played. Here’s the list:
It’s a pretty short list but here are some the notes:
-Gene Melchiorre was a star guard out of Bradley who got caught up in the college gambling scandals, admitting taking money to to shave points. He was kind of like the original Connie Hawkins, except Melchiorre never got the chance to ever play in the NBA. I suggest you catch up on this great 2001 article about Melchiorre, who stayed in Illinois and made a pretty nice life for himself outside of the world of sports.
-Sihugo Green is somewhat well known for being drafted by the Hawks ahead of Bill Russell. Green was a 6′3 leaper who played forward in college for Duquesne and led the team to the NIT title in 1955. Green was so athletic that at 6′3 he even guarded seven-footers in college. As a pro, Green missed most of his rookie season and all of his second season with knee problems. He eventually went on to have a decent nine season career but was never a featured player.
-Austin Carr and Patrick Ewing both had knee surgery shorten their rookies but would be relatively healthy the rest of their long careers.
-We all remember Bill Walton’s foot problems that dogged him his whole career but Doug Collins also was plagued by injuries (knee issues). Collins score 18 ppg for his career but was only truly healthy for three of his eight seasons and was out of the NBA by 1981.
-Mark Aguirre had a fluke broken foot his rookie year but came back strong. Fred Hetzel also stayed healthy after his rookie season.
-It might be hard to remember now but Danny Manning came into the pros as the closest thing in hype and skill-set to Magic Johnson–a big point guard with the knack to win. He blew his knee out shortly into his rookie season but came back as essentially the same player the next year. He would have several other injuries through his career but Manning was still an All-Star when healthy, if not Magic Johnson.
-Pervis Ellison was also a well-known college player, leading Louisville to a title as a freshman in 1985-86. He was not a consensus number one pick when the Kings took him in 1989 (Glen Rice and Danny Ferry were the hotter properties at the time). It got even wackier when Ellison showed up to his first training camp with a previously undisclosed heel injury. This brought out word that Sacramento’s GM Bill Russell never actually brought Ellison in for a workout prior to drafting him. He missed most of that first season and wasn’t so good when played. Ellison’s injuries concerned the team enough to trade him after one season for a relatively weak package of journeyman Bobby Hansen, Eric Leckner (fring big man), a later first-round pick (ended up being Anthony Bonner), and two second-rounders that never made the team. Ellison was actually okay for a few years for Washington ( put up 19 ppg and 10 rpg from 1991 through 1993) but could never stay healthy and ended up as a bit player.
-Finally, Kwame Brown was probably the healthiest guy on the list. His problem was that he was a raw rookie and was not loved by Michael Jordan and the coaching staff. Brown sat a lot and felt so nervous that at one point was put on the injured list with stress-related acne.
With the FIBA championships ending and the transaction wire grinding to a halt, the only show in the NBA is happening in downtown Manhattan, where Isiah Thomas and the Knicks are in a dogfight with former employee Anucha Browne Sanders over an employment discrimination claim. Usually, any trial will grab interest because of the potentially all-or-nothing nature of the proceeding. In this case, the matter takes on added dimensions because Isiah and the Knicks both are being very publicly excoriated by Sanders, which could create collateral problems for the Knicks and Thomas and reveals all sorts of sordid claims. This particularly true since the defendants haven’t exactly excelled in building a team and now they are accused of bad acts as well. One would think that given these performance issues, both Isiah and the Knicks would’ve wanted to settle this matter but, apparently, that’s not the case. The trial has been rolling along for several days now. For those who are curious, here is some background on the trial:
What is Browne Sanders suing for?
Browne Sanders is suing Isiah and the Knicks for violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the New York State and City Human Rights Laws for discrimination based upon gender, sexual harassment, and retaliatory termination.
The Southwest is one of the newer divisions but it’s comprised of some interesting teams, a couple of which have quite a few big time rooks….
-Dallas Mavericks: The history of the Dallas franchise has very little middle ground. The Mavs came into existence in 1980 and almost immediately accrued tons of good young players until the late 1980s when the Mavs proceeded to be the worst franchise in the NBA for most of the 1990s. Things have turned again recently and Dallas has been quite good for several years now. Through that whole time, tons of rookies have come and gone but only one Rookie of the Year, Jason Kidd (he was co-Rookie of the Year in 1994-95).
As for putting together a starting lineup of rookies, Kidd clearly takes the point guard slot with Devin Harris as the only viable back up. At shooting guard, the Mavs have several decent candidates: Rolando Blackman, Dale Ellis, Jim Jackson, and even Marquis Daniels. While Daniels’ per minute numbers were the best, you have to factor in playing time which makes Blackman the best of the lot. At small forward, 1981 was a great year. The Mavs took Mark Aguirre first overall and Jay Vincent with the first pick of the second round. While Aguirre ended up being the better player, Vincent was actually better as a rookie (21.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg)so he earns the slot. Josh Howard also gets an honorable mention for his solid rookie year while Jamal Mashburn also scored a bunch as a rookie (19 ppg) on poor shooting (.406 FG%).
1. Dream Team?: Well the FIBA Americas tourney has come and went and, as anticipated, the United States dominated the proceedings. Of course, the margin of error is so slim in these international proceedings that you can’t assume a win in the 2008 Olympics. Still, the team did seem to have a nice balance to it. As to whether this team could take the original 1992 squad, I’m agnostic on the subject. What I am more interested in is how a coach sorts out these types of All-Star teams and allots playing time, shots, etc. So here’s a look at the some of leaders from each pro international team since 1992:
1992 Olympics (8-0, won gold medal)
Leading Scorer: Charles Barkley, 18.0 ppg
Leading Rebounder: Patrick Ewing and Karl Malone, 5.3 rpg
Leading Assister: Scottie Pippen, 5.9 apg
Leading Blocker: Patrick Ewing, 1.9 bpg
No-Points Guy: John Stockton, 2.8 ppg
1994 FIBA Tourney (8-0, won gold medal)
Leading Scorer: Shaquille O’Neal, 18.0 ppg
Leading Rebounder: Shaquille O’Neal, 8.5 rpg
Leading Assister: Kevin Johnson, 3.9 apg
Leading Blocker: Shaquille O’Neal, 1.9 bpg
No-Points Guy: Steve Smith, 3.0 ppg
1996 Olympics (8-0, won gold medal)
Leading Scorer: Charles Barkley, 12.4 ppg
Leading Rebounder: Charles Barkley, 6.6 rpg
Leading Assister: Gary Payton, 4.5 apg
Leading Blocker: Shaquille O’Neal, 1.0 bpg
No-Points Guy: John Stockton, 3.8 ppg
1999 FIBA Americas Qualifier (10-0, won gold medal)
Leading Scorer: Gary Payton 16.0 ppg
Leading Rebounder: Tim Duncan, 9.1 rpg
Leading Assister: Jason Kidd, 6.8 apg
Leading Blocker: Tim Duncan, 2.4 bpg
No-Points Guy: Elton Brand, 3.0 ppg
2000 Olympics (8-0, won gold medal)
Leading Scorer: Vince Carter, 14.8 ppg
Leading Rebounder: Kevin Garnett, 9.1 rpg
Leading Assister: Jason Kidd, 4.4 apg
Leading Blocker: Alonzo Mourning, 2.3 bpg
No-Points Guy: Anfernee Hardaway and Gary Payton, 5.5 ppg
2002 FIBA Tourney (6-3, sixth place)
Leading Scorer: Paul Pierce, 19.8 ppg
Leading Rebounder: Ben Wallace, 6.8 rpg
Leading Assister: Andre Miller, 4.1 apg
Leading Blocker: Ben Wallace, 1.7 bpg
No-Points Guy: Jay Williams, 3.9 ppg
2003 FIBA Americas Qualifier (10-0, won gold medal)
Leading Scorer: Tim Duncan, 15.6 ppg
Leading Rebounder: Tim Duncan, 8.0 rpg
Leading Assister: Jason Kidd, 5.0 apg
Leading Blocker: Tim Duncan, 1.4 bpg
No-Points Guy: Jason Kidd, 3.4 ppg
2004 Olympics (5-3, won bronze medal)
Leading Scorer: Allen Iverson, 13.8 ppg
Leading Rebounder: Tim Duncan, 9.1 rpg
Leading Assister: Stephon Marbury, 3.4 apg
Leading Blocker: Tim Duncan, 1.3 bpg
No-Points Guy: Emeka Okafor 0.0 ppg in 2 games (honorable mention to Carmelo Anthony at 2.4 ppg).
2006 FIBA Tourney (8-1, won bronze medal)
Leading Scorer: Carmelo Anthony, 19.9 ppg
Leading Rebounder: LeBron James, 4.8 rpg
Leading Assister: Chris Paul, 4.9 apg
Leading Blocker: Dwight Howard, 1.3 bpg
No-Points Guy: Antawn Jamison, 3.6 ppg
2007 FIBA Americas Qualifier (10-0, won gold medal)
Leading Scorer: Carmelo Anthony, 21.2 ppg
Leading Rebounder: Dwight Howard, 5.3 rpg
Leading Assister: LeBron James, 4.7 apg
Leading Blocker: Dwight Howard, 1.8 bpg
No-Points Guy: Jason Kidd, 1.8 ppg