Quick Thoughts

1.    Kidd Stuff:    What initially seemed like a very interesting deal between the Nets and Mavericks now appears close to dead.  The deal as originally constituted looks like this: 

Nets Get:

Devin Harris (heart of the deal.  Harris is locked into a long-term extension and is only 25).

Jerry Stackhouse (reportedly would be bought out immediately and would re-sign with Dallas–though David Stern doesn’t like that plan).

DeSagana Diop: (not a bad backup center but is more in the deal to create cap room because his contract expires at the end of the season).

Devean George: (similar to Diop, George’s $2.4 million expires at the end of the year).

Maurice Ager (Dallas’ late-first rounder has another year left on his deal at $1 million.  He hasn’t played much and could be bench fodder or cut).

2008 and 2010 Maverick first-rounders

$3 million (presumably would cover the cost of buying out Stack’s contract, which has a pro-rated $6.75 million remaining this season).

A future Maverick second-rounder (just something in the future for Antoine Wright). 

Mavericks Get:

Jason Kidd (with $21 million left on his deal next year and reportedly due an extension for another two years)

Malik Allen (contract expires at the end of the year and will serve as filler.  Really, no worse than incumbent bench forward Juwan Howard)

Antoine Wright (contract expires at the end of the year and will also serve as filler because the Mavs’ bench would be depleted from the trade  He can’t shoot/score very well but is a nice defender.  See Buckner, Greg). 

So, the deal would give the Nets a young point guard, two late first-rounders, and a lot of cap space for 2008.  The Mavs get J-Kidd, who the hope will put them over the top.  I like the deal for the Nets, who get a young player and cap room.  As for the Mavs, I’m very skeptical that Kidd is the piece that puts them over the top but can understand the impulse. 

Now we get to the hold ups.  First, George has a veto right on the trade and won’t waive it because he doesn’t want to lost his “Larry Bird Rights”, which would allow him to re-sign with the Mavs for the mid-level exception amount (about $5 million) but would be waived if he was traded to the Nets.  It’s an odd stance to take because George is neither young (30) nor playing very well (3.8 ppg, .369 FG%, 1.9 rpg  in 15 mpg) and some other players have taken a trade and waived similar Bird rights (I think Vlad Radmanovic waived a similar right when he was traded to the Clipps in 2005-06).  So, George ain’t exactly looking at a mid-level deal next year (he’s played for about $2 million each of the past two seasons).  His agent, however, senses that publicity has made the Nets and Mavs desperate and is seeking to parlay this leverage into a new contract of some sort for George.  Of course, George’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, doesn’t come right and say that but his statements were telling: “[w]e’re not trying to block anything.  Devean has the right to say yes or not because he has to give up a valuable right.”  

Now, the dilemmas raised by George’s position on the trade aren’t done yet.  On February 4, George actually demanded a trade because he wasn’t getting enough time: “The reality is we have a lot of similar players, and there might be a win-win for both me and the team.  They might get another piece that can diversify the team a little more, but who knows?”  So, is it right for George to shift his position so dramatically? 

Sure we know that outside of the furthest margins, there are no rights and wrongs in business.  Certainly, George is entitled to change his position to seek cash where an opportunity presents itself and one could reasonably conclude that George wouldn’t have played that much on the Nets which kind of frustrates the basis for his trade demand in the first place.  But it’s not that simple.  George’s time in the NBA is limited at this point.  No one can reasonably conclude that he’ll be more than a eighth or ninth man on an NBA team going forward.  Sure, he could make a power play here to try to squeeze a one-year extension at the mid-level but at what cost?  George (and his agent) will have burned the bridge with Mark Cuban, the ultimate players’ owner, not to mention the rest of the owner.  If the deal falls through or is made without George, George is now in the ultimate scorched earth position.  Whereas before this whole situation, George might’ve been able to squeeze out a few more $1-2 million deals (he had a nice team reputation for being a cog on those Laker title teams), now, there is a significant chance that no one will want to do business with him.  

Now most are killing George for naked greed.  I’m actually offended by the inherent stupidity in his position.  Fringe players can earn plenty of cash by keeping good reputations and being friendly with those who hold the check books.  George’s current stance just seems like really bad business advice.  

As for the future of the Kidd deal, there are two other alternatives to re-spin the deal.  First, the Mavs could replace George with Juwan Howard and Eddie Jones.  The Mavs have refused to do this because they are worried about depth, though this seems silly given how poor both have played (Jones has 3.6 ppg on .356 FG% in 20.8 mpg and Howard is has 0.7 ppg on .250 FG% in 7.2 mpg).  But the Mavs are convinced that these two might pay some key dividend in the playoffs, which is possible but really unlikely.

Another option is that the Mavs could sign-and-trade Keith Van Horn, who last played with the Mavs in 2005-06 but never formally retired.  Thus, Van Horn can technically execute a sign-and-trade deal (he’d get a pro-rated $3 million or so) to get the deal done.  The downside is that the Mavs would have to pay luxury taxes on that signing (because he’s new money).  The other odd aspect of this deal is that the NBA has been insisting that these types of paper deals “feel” quasi-legit.  Van Horn would be required to report and play (or sit the injured list) in New Jersey, which would certainly would be a fun blast from the past for the Nets (you might recall that Kidd helped send Van Horn out of town after the 2001-02 playoffs by criticizing KVH’s effort–don’t you love symmetry?).  Indeed, Aaron McKie was also forced to report to the Grizz as part of the Pau Gasol trade last month. 

Given the Mavs unnatural love for Jones and Howard, a Van Horn deal is the most likely way to salvage the Kidd deal.  Still, another snag was hit in the deal.  Stackhouse was going to be cut by the Nets and had announced his intention to re-sign with the Mavs after waiting the requisite 30 days before being allowed to re-sign with one’s former club.  The NBA isn’t happy with such an arrangement (they think it’s collusion/tampering) and have implied that it’d bar Stack from coming back to Dallas this year. 

So, now the Mavs are shifting Stack out of the deal and might throw in Trenton Hassell instead.  Of course, the beauty of Stackhouse, from the Nets’ perspective, was that his deal ended after this year.  Hassell has two years and $8.6 million left on his deal, so he is a liability to the Nets’ rebuilding efforts.  Assuming the George/Van Horn snag is fixed we now have a stare down on the Hassell issue or they’ll have to find a third team to make the salaries fit.  Now, both the Mavs and Nets twist uncomfortably until the situation is resolved. 

2.    Rookie-Sophomore Bore:  In what has become an annual pre-All-Star Friday evening event, the Sophomores, once again, beat the Rookies.  The games are typically unremarkable (even less defense than the All-Star game usually).  The only moments I really remember from these games are (1) the Cleveland fans booing Allen Iverson for winning the MVP in 1996-97, (2) Andre Miller being booed in for not dunking on a breakaway in 2000, and (3) Jason Richardson bouncing the ball off of Carlos Boozer’s forehead in 2003.  Needless to say, I’m not really choked up by any of these moments.  

The game has actually improved from the original format, where rookies and sophomores were randomly assigned to teams such as “Phenoms,” “Sensations,” “White,” and “Green.”  After two totally theme-less games in 1993-94 and 1994-95, the players were assigned by conference for three years.  This was a little better but still it’s hard for fans to care  about which conference has better rookies/sophomores.  Rookie v. Sophomores was enacted in 1999-00, and it has mild intrigue, except for the fact that the rookies usually lose handily.  They won the first game in 2000 and again in 2002 but have lost the last six (and are 7-2 against the rooks overall).  To make matters worse, All-Stars are exempt from the game so it’s not quite the same true test of talent between the two groups when Tim Duncan or LeBron James misses the game [editor’s note– the rule was changed in the 2002 or 2003 and LeBron and others now can participate in both the rookie game and the All-Star game.  Still, even with LeBron or Brandon Roy this year, the game is devoid of intensity]. 

So, how can you jazz up Friday night?  There are all sorts of fun ideas people have had that will never happen for a variety of reasons but I would suggest an exhibition alumni game.  For example, one year Duke alumni could play UNC alumni  and the teams could feature pros and retired players (for better worse,  I’m sure the NBA would want to throw in some WNBAers too). It’s a little out there but it’d be interesting and players would want to play hard–can’t you see Grant Hill, Christian Laettner, or James Worthy wanting to play in something like this.  It probably won’t happen  but it’s an idea that grabs the imagination of fans and players and would break up some of the All-Star malaise.

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