Transactions 12/6-12/28

Boston Celtics 

12/18    Waive Brandon Wallace 

Wallace made the opening night roster as a pet project of Danny Ainge and was then sent over to the NBDL, without ever playing a regular season game.  The Celts cited roster flexibility when they cut him, which has sent speculation that a trade may/free agent signing be in the offing (adding some veteran depth?).  Stay tuned… 

Charlotte Bobcats 

12/14    Waive Ronald Dupree

12/14    Acquire Nazr Mohammed from Detroit in exchange for Primoz Brezec and Walter Herrmann 

Considering that none of these guys played much, there was a decent amount of talent exchanged in this deal.  From the Bobcat’s perspective, they Herrmann was stuck behind Gerald Wallace, Jason Richardson, and Matt Carroll and they were sick of Brezec, whose numbers and playing time have really waned since his peak in 2004-05.  Nazr isn’t a great defensive player but he is much better than Brezec and has a more well-balanced game.  There is a price, however, for this adequate center play.  This is the salary situation for the traded parties: 

Mohammed (age 30): has about $20 million and three years left on his contract after this season.

Brezec (age 28):  his contract expires after this year (he makes $2.8 million this season)

Herrmann (age 27): his contract expires after this year (he makes $2 million this season) 

So, for a marginal talent upgrade at center, they have given up some salary cap maneuverability for an adequate starting center, who you have into his 30s.  This isn’t a great idea in the abstract but can be justified here where the Bobcats are trying to make their first playoff appearance and they need a center AND they aren’t over the cap yet.  I still don’t love the move.  Does anyone care that the expansion Heat made the playoffs in 1991-92 and got swamped by the Bulls?  I’m sure some Heat fans cared in 1992.  But any good vibes are short lived and usually aren’t sufficient to take on a bad contract.  I can’t say this is a bad move, the contract isn’t terrible and ownership probably does want to make some mark but I’m definitely ambivalent. 

Chicago Bulls 

12/7    Waive Thomas Gardner and sign Demetris Nichols

12/24   Relieve head coach Scott Skiles

12/27   Name Jim Boylan interim head coach 

I did not expect this.  The Bulls have underachieved big time but Skiles was always well-respected and his tenure coincided very nicely with the Bulls return to relevance after the post-MJ malaise.  So, when the Bulls have a bad 25 games to start a season, primarily because of awful shooting, did Skiles deserve the axe so quickly?  It’s hard to know what was going on behind the scenes but the Bulls haven’t been shy about making coaching changes on their own time table.  Most notably, of course, in 1989, when the Bulls canned Doug Collins, a young up-and-coming coach who had just taken the team to its first conference finals.  (Collins was reported to have been expecting a contract extension offer in the meeting where he was fired). 

So, the Bulls don’t go the conventional route or use the conventional timetables when hiring or firing coaches.  We are also left to speculate if there was any other factor that ate up Skiles’ goodwill with the franchise, for whom he coached pretty well.  The two games before the Bulls fired Skiles were blowout losses (at Boston and at home against Houston), which obviously didn’t help.  Sam Smith of the Chicago Tribune claimed that Ben Wallace told GM John Paxson that “[Skiles] quit on us, so we’ve quit on him.”  Still, all we have here is conjecture.  Skiles probably deserved more time but we’ll see if Jim Boylan can do any better in his first head coaching gig.  If not, it’d be interesting to see if Larry Brown made some sense in Chicago for next season.  

Denver Nuggets 

12/27    Waive Jelani McCoy 

Another cameo come and gone for McCoy.  He didn’t play much except his final game (on December 21 at Portland), where he had 2 pts, 4 rebs, 1 block in 18 minutes.  That should be enough to get someone interested in him somewhere. 
Detroit Pistons 

12/14    Acquire Primoz Brezec and Walter Herrmann from Charlotte for Nazr Mohammed 

As noted in the Bobcats’ perspective, the Pistons save a ton of future cash commitments by trading Mohammed.  Indeed, the Pistons are actually in decent cap shape the next few years, particularly with Mohammed out of the picture.  While they may not have the cash to sign a big free agent with this slot, it at least allows them some flexibility if they want to make another Chris Webber style pick up.  In addition, Herrmann and Brezec both have some uses on the court (Herrmann even more so), though neither will play much on the Pistons.  

The other question this begs is whether the Pistons ever should’ve signed Mohammed to begin with.  Mohammed was competent at center and was a quick move after the Pistons bailed out of the Ben Wallace signing.  Nazr’s number suffered last year because the Pistons were blessed with so many forwards, Webber, in particular, really ate into his numbers (Mohammed played only five minutes and two games in the playoffs).  Mohammed’s per-minute numbers were pretty consistent with past performance and his loss of time was probably earned.  So, this deal made sense, which is borne out by the fact that the Pistons were able to trade him pretty easily.  Sure it wasn’t a great deal for Detroit but the Pistons protected their contending team by grabbing a usable center and he was pretty fungible at the end of the day.  Let’s just say the Pistons are much happier with how this deal turned out than Chicago has with the deal it gave Ben Wallace.  

Los Angeles Clippers 

12/13    Waive Ruben Patterson

12/14    Sign Richie Frahm 

Cutting Patterson was interesting.  He was playing very poorly by his standards (he was down in almost every major category but rebounding) and the team was playing poorly.  The reported story was that the Clipps didn’t want pay him a guaranteed salary and they were close to a decision date on that issue.  The other issues were that (1) the team thought that it needed another point guard and (2) management thought rookie Al Thornton needed more minutes.  So, Patterson is cut and Frahm comes in as the back up point.  Frahm really isn’t a point guard but he can shoot, which can sort of help a middling three-point team.  None of this will affect the Clipps too much but is fair to say that Patterson is probably much better than he has shown this year (he’s been consistently solid his whole career).  So far, there has been little interest in Patterson but some team can get a nice cheap rental of Patterson at some point if they are paying attention. 

Memphis Grizzlies 

12/18    Waive Tarence Kinsey

12/20    Sign Jeremy Richardson 

Waiving Kinsey was somewhat of a surprise considering he played pretty well last year and was nice rookie find.  But new coach Marc Iavaroni didn’t see him as a regular player and kept him in on the bench most of the season.  Kinsey can score and should latch on somewhere.  He’s replaced by Richardson, who was leading the NBDL in scoring at almost 29 ppg.  Richardson played a few games with Atlanta and Portland last season and shot decently in very limited minutes. 

Miami Heat 

12/12    Sign Luke Jackson and waive Penny Hardaway 

While you have to admire Hardaway for working hard and trying to comeback, you do have to wonder what the hell he was supposed to offer an old, slow, unathletic team like the Heat.  Didn’t Pat Riley remember that he got so many wins out of finding hungry fringe players like Anthony Mason, John Starks, and Ike Austin?  Guess not.  Jackson doesn’t quite fit the diamond in the rough cache that Mase or Starks did but at least his ambulatory.  

In the larger scheme of things, the Heat are looking putrid and they may have to just write off 2007-08 and hope that they can retool around Dwyane Wade next season with a high draft pick.  The salary cap situation is not disgusting after this year because Ricky Davis ($6.8 million), Jason Williams ($8.9 million), and Alonzo Mourning ($2.8 million) all come of the books, so long as Pat Riley doesn’t get itchy or desperate and trades these expiring contract for bad new contracts a la Isiah Thomas with the Knicks. 

The interesting question is how likely was this total Heat collapse.  At this point the Heat are 8-23 and project to be 21-61.  If they continue this pace, that will be a 31-win swing from their title season versus 2007-08.  Would that be the biggest two-year swing for an NBA title contender?  Let’s take a look:

Year Team Wins 2 Years Later   Difference
2004-05 Spurs 59 58   -1
2003-04 Pistons 54 64   10
2002-03 Spurs 60 59 (won title) -1
2001-02 Lakers 58 56   -2
2000-01 Lakers 56 50   -6
1999-00 Lakers 67 58 (won title) -9
1998-99 Spurs 61 58   -3
1997-98 Bulls 62 17   -45
1996-97 Bulls 69 21   -48
1995-96 Bulls 72 62 (won title) -10
1994-95 Rockets 47 57   10
1993-94 Rockets 58 48   -10
1992-93 Bulls 57 47   -10
1991-92 Bulls 67 55   -12
1990-91 Bulls 61 57 (won title) -4
1989-90 Pistons 59 48   -11
1988-89 Pistons 63 50   -13
1987-88 Lakers 62 63   1
1986-87 Lakers 65 57   -8
1985-86 Celtics 67 57   -10
1984-85 Lakers 62 65 (won title) 3
1983-84 Celtics 62 67 (won title) 5
1982-83 Sixers 65 58   -7
1981-82 Lakers 57 54   -3
1980-81 Celtics 62 56   -6
1979-80 Lakers 60 57 (won title) -3
1978-79 Sonics 52 34   -18
1977-78 Bullets 44 39   -5
1976-77 Blazers 49 45   -4
1975-76 Celtics 54 32   -22
1974-75 Warriors 48 46   -2
1973-74 Celtics 56 54 (won title) -2
1972-73 Knicks 57 40   -17
1971-72 Lakers 69 47   -22
1970-71 Bucks 66 60   -6
1969-70 Knicks 60 48   -12
1968-69 Celtics 48 44   -4
1967-68 Celtics 54 34   -20
1966-67 Sixers 68 55   -13
1965-66 Celtics 54 54 (won title) 0
1964-65 Celtics 62 60   -2
1963-64 Celtics 59 54 (won title) -5
1962-63 Celtics 58 62 (won title) 4
1961-62 Celtics 60 59 (won title) -1
1960-61 Celtics 57 58 (won title) 1
1959-60 Celtics 59 60 (won title) 1
1958-59 Celtics 52 57 (won title) 5
1957-58 Hawks 41 46   5
1956-57 Celtics 44 52 (won title) 8
1955-56 Warriors 45 37   -8
1954-55 Nats 43 38   -5

So, the Heat’s fall wouldn’t be the worst but it would be up there. The obvious winner of the steep decline fall are from the post-MJ Bulls.  The 1996-97 Bulls lost 48 wins two years later (that is pro-rated because the 1998-99 squad played only 50 games) and the 1999-00 Bulls were 45 wins worse than the 1997-98 title team.  Of course we know that the Bulls’ implosion was somewhat self-inflicted and looked even worse because they went from two of the best teams of all-time to abysmal by choice. 

The winner in the non-Bulls division is the1975-76 Celtics and the 1971-72 Lakers.  The Celtics were 22 games worse in 1977-78.  This decline was not intentional or a result of gutting the lineup.  Much like the Heat, kept trying to make a run with an aging core (Havlicek and Cowens) and added a few vets who didn’t fit (Sidney Wicks, Curtis Rowe) or were just too old (Dave Bing).  The 1971-72 Lakers also aged a few years later but still tried to make a go off it.  The main issue was that Wilt Chamberlain had retired and Jerry West wasn’t healthy (but they still were good enough to make the playoffs). 

Overall, gravity is usually taking teams downs.  The average NBA title team loses 6.6 wins two year later as measure against the title year.  Even if you take the total outlier Bulls, the average is still -5 for the rest of title teams. 

New Jersey Nets 

12/12    Waive Eddie Gill

12/24    Sign Billy Thomas 

Thomas?  Really?  Thomas had a cameo with the Nets in 2004-05, coming in as a shooter but not quite living up to his reputation (he shot only 30% from three over 25 games).  Thomas had another appearance with the Wiz in 2005-06, where he also didn’t shoot well.  He was out of the NBA last year and was scoring 15 ppg for Colorado of the NBDL this season before he got the call. I’m not sure what Thomas gives the team that Gill or Robert Hite didn’t but we’ll see if Thomas offers a spark. 

Sacramento Kings 

12/10    Sign Dahntay Jones 

Jones will have a job for as long as Kevin Martin takes to recover (4-6 weeks was the initial estimate).  Jones has been exactly in line with previous performance so far.  Nothing spectacular but he can defend, jump, and play hard. 

San Antonio Spurs 

12/28    Waive Darius Washington and sign Keith Langford 

The Spurs had been using Washington fairly regularly (he played in 18 games) but with Brent Barry out, the Spurs decided to try to find more of a shooter in Langford.  Langford had been scoring 23 ppg in the NBDL and the hope is that he can score more than a raw point guard like Washington.

Leave a Reply