Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Finley Chooses Spurs

And the rich get richer.

Michael Finley shared with on Wednesday night that he had agreed to sign with the NBA's version of the New England Patriots, the San Antonio Spurs. Terms of the deal, including both total money and length of conract, haven't been finalized yet but the one thing we do know is that Finley will recieve a starting salary of $2.5 million.

After annoncing that the Denver Nuggets were not candidates for his services (despite being the only team who could guarantee all of a starting spot, lots of minutes, and the full $5 million mid-level exception), Finley had narrowed his choices down to the Heat, Suns, Twolves, and Spurs. Clearly, the main factor for Finley was which team could give him the best opportunity to win a championship. The Spurs couldn't have asked for anything more; they were already the best team in the NBA and they've just gotten better.

Finley will come off the bench for San Antonio, playing both the "2" and the "3" wing spots, spelling both Manu Ginobili and Bruce Bowen. He'll provide a fantastic offensive threat off the bench and provide much needed three-point shooting to a team that was already short on weaknesses. Finley's ability to knock down jumpers will only make Tim Duncan better, if that's possible, exploiting his fantastic skils even further. Additionally, this puts an even bigger gap between San Antonio and Phoenix, keeping Finley out of Phoenix where he would have been a viable replacement for the departed Joe Johnson.

Three final points on this:

1. What does that mean for Brent Barry? He was rumored to be on the trading block already, and this acquisition pushes him to fourth on the depth chart. One might point out that he could be used as a backup point guard, but then why did the team just sign Nick Van Exel? My money says that Barry is traded before the season begins.

2. This has got to drive Dallas fans (and thier front office) crazy. They cut the guy who was with the team since it's bottom-feeder days, whom they watched blossom into a star and wanted to finish his career there, only to see him go to their biggest rival to most likely help them win another championship. Brutal. Now they'll know how Red Sox fans felt watching Roger Clemens win two championships with the Yankess.

3. I think it's worth noting that all of the "final four" teams who were in the mix for Finley's services were summoned to Chicago to make their pitches. The Suns sent Amare Stoudamire and a group of guys. The Heat sent Pat Riley and a group of guys. The Timberwolves sent Kevin Garnett and a group of guys. Who did the Spurs send? Gregg Popovic and ... um, well, just Gregg Popovic. The guy beat out all of those other big names to win Finley over. Incredible.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Catching Up

My apologies for the post-less week last week ... I've been out of the country. There hasn't been much Blazer news for us to talk about, but the leage has been relatively active. Catching up on other items around the league:
  • Michael Finley. The Nuggets are out, leaving the Suns, Spurs, Twolves, and Heat as the final three contenders for Big Mike's services. Many people thought that with the Nuggets being the only team who could offer Finley a guaranteed starting position that they'd have the upper-hand, but they were ultimately the farthest team away from a championship and that's what cost them. This isn't a big shock, as they weren't invited to Chicago to pitch to Finley and his agent (as the other four were). Phoenix is rumored to be the front-runner, which has got to have Mark Cuban wincing ... I imagine he's hoping that Mike lands in Miami. it will be very tough for Dallas fans to watch Finley playing for another western conference contender next year. Either way, he's expected to announce his decision today or tomorrow.
  • Latrell Sprewell. With the Nuggets missing out on Finley, they promptly moved over and signed Latrell Sprewell. Terms of te deal haven't been announced yet, but I imagine is a two-year MLE deal. I'm not convinced that this was a smart move by Denver; it smells a little bit of desperation. Sprewell is not a good guy, and an average-at-best player these days. Is it really worth tying up your MLE with a risky signing? One of few moves that Denver's made in the past two years that haven't made sense to me. We'll dive into this more once we find out the terms of the deal.
  • Derek Anderson. The NBA's first amnesty-victim, he's found a home in Houston. Fortunately for Rocket fans, the deal is only a two-year deal worth $1.67 million. To quote my man Bill Simmons, "there's comedy, there's high-comedy, and then there's this" ... Houston GM Carroll Dawson when talking about the signing:
    "We think we've added another top-line piece of the puzzle and a great talent. To get a guy like this I feel very blessed. There are many ways that this guy can help our team."
    Now that's quality. Do you think that Dawson refers to him as "guy" twice in a row is because he's afraid he'll throw up in his own mouth if he has to say his name out loud? Yes, there are many ways Derek Anderson can help your team. Let's count a few of them: 1. When he's on the bench, it doesn't drag down your offense. 2. When he's on the bench, he's not a liability on defense. 3. When he's playing, all of those missed jumpers create chances for your frontcourt players to pad their stats with offensive rebounds. 4. He'll give your trainer and team doctor something to do nearly every night with petty injuries such as aching toe and throbbing tooth.
  • Jalen Rose. Rumors have the Raptors and TWolves talking trade, with Jalen Rose reportedly headed to Minnesota. That's an interesting thought. It's well known that Michael Olowokandi is available. Then, the Raptors could have three crappy, overpaid centers on their roster, with Olowokandi, Rafael Araujo, and Charlie Villanueva. (alright, that's a bit early to label Villanueva, but does anyone really think he'll be an allstar?)

That's about it for today. Be on the lookout tomorrow for a possible guest-columnist ... and in the meatime, email with your thoughts. It's a slow time in the NBA and this is a great time to post your thinking.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Portland's Roster & The Michael Finley Sweepstakes

Nothing new out of Blazerland over the past couple of days, other than statements from the front office that the roster, as its set now, is likely the roster that the team will go into opening day with. Despite having only one power forward on the roster. Personally, I don't buy it -- I imagine they'll make an October deal to bring one in -- ideally, unloading one of the small forwards.

But, I digress. Many of you likely noticed that Brian Grant, a long time blazer fan-favorite, was amnesty'd by the LA Lakers. I received more than a couple emails from hopeful fans thinking that he'd be a great fit here: he's willing to sign a small deal (his agent has made it known that he'd be fine with a one-year, $1.1 million veteran's minimum contract), plays the only position we have a true need at right now, and would provide some much-needed veteran presence in the locker room. Yet, rumors have him all set to sign with Phoenix. So why didn't Portland sign him? It sounds like Grant had some issues with Portland's team. Observe:
“Would I like to come back to Portland? Yes. My home is here. We love it here. From my heart and my family, we want to be here. But it’s not going to happen under the current circumstances. I just had one request. Bring in another veteran or two, guys with experience who could be a locker-room presence but would also help make the team more competitive. (The Blazers) are very, very young, and everybody knows they’re going to struggle next season. They let (Nick) Van Exel, (Damon) Stoudamire and (Shareef) Abdur-Rahim go, and got nothing in return.“At this stage in my career, I can’t go through three years of a rebuilding program.”

Very interesting. It sounds like he's not necessarily excluding non-championship-caliber teams, but he doesn't want to play grandpa for a bunch of high school kids and be the only guy doing so. I'm a little suprirsed to read that coming from Grant, but I guess when you've got 20 teams coming after you, one can afford to be a little picky.

Mike Finley

I've always like Michael Finley ... seems like a classy guy, played hard, stuck with a terrible franchise and was their main building block in getting them to be one of the league's most successful franchises over the past five years. Yesterday, the Dallas Mavericks amnesty'd him as expected, and he's now a free agent. Mark Stein over at has a nice breakdown of the teams likely to sign him here, and it appears that Miami is the front runner. Yes, the same Miami who currently has on its roster Shaquille O'Neal, Dwayne Wade, Antoine Walker, Jason Williams, Udonis Haslem, and James Posey. That's a lot of players who need starter-type minutes, and a lot of players who expect to take 10-20 shots a night. If Miami does indeed sign Finley, might they run into the same issues that Portland ran into in the late 90's/early 2000's, with "too much talent" on a team and not enough basketballs to go around? Especially with volatile personalities like Jason Williams and Antoine Walker? I love Miami's team and think they're the favorite to win the East next season regardless of whether they sign Finley, but chemistry, playing time, and number of shot issues could certainly pop up on them next year.

Random side note ... did you know that Finley played for Stan Van Gundy at Wisconsin?

As for the other teams vying for his services, it apparently includes Phoenix, San Antonio, Detroit, and Denver. Finley and Steve Nash are very close friends, and San Antonio probably provides the best opportunity to win a championship, so watch those two situations closely as well.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

NBA Schedule Announced

This actually happened yesterday, but the NBA announced its schedule for the 2005-06 season. You can see the full schedule here, see the national TV schedule here, and see the Blazers' schedule here.

The first month of the season starts off tough. Portland opens the regular season on the road at Minnesota and Denver, then comes home for a five-game homestand versus Atlanta, New York, Detroit, Chicago, and Golden State. Not too bad, right? Following this, they go on their longest road-trip of the year, seven games on the east coast. They will be on national TV eight times this season:
  1. Friday Nov. 11th vs Detroit, 7:30 pm, ESPN
  2. Sunday Dec. 11th vs Houston, 6:00 pm, NBATV
  3. Wednesday Dec. 28th vs Philly, 7:00, NBATV
  4. Sunday Jan. 16th vs Cleveland, 6:00, NBATV
  5. Monday Jan. 30th @ Seattle, 7:00, NBATV
  6. Friday Feb. 3rd vs Minnesota, 7:30, ESPN
  7. Tuesday Feb 21st @ LA Lakers, 7:30, NBATV
  8. Wednesday Mar. 29th vs Sacramento, 7:00, ESPN

Clearly the networks aren't expecting a ton of success out of Portland this season. Can't blame them.

Update: Nets Rescind Offer to Abdur-Rahim

The New Jersey Nets this afternoon announced that they were rescinding their offer to Shareef Abdur-Rahim, and hence voiding the trade with the Blazers. This means that Portland won't be, after all, getting that lottery-protected first round pick from New Jersey next year and Rahim will be a free agent.

This is kind of a shame, and more than I'm disappointed that Portland isn't getting that pick, I'm shocked at New Jersey. If I were a Nets fan, I'd be awfully pissed off ... after all of the haggling, they kill the deal over a knee injury that Shareef suffered in high school, and one he's never missed an NBA game for? Between that and Shareef's comments over the weekend that he "didn't want to play there" anymore, it's a very bizarre turn of events. I imagine Shareef will land on his feet somewhere, likely for the full mid-level exception -- but it really makes you think that something else happened.

Catching Up on Several Blazer Items

Happy Anniversary!

You are probably saying to yourself, "what are you talking about?". Well, today is the one-week anniversary of Derek Anderson's ostracization from Portland's roster. He's been dead to me for a long time, and I know that I'm celebrating this past week as a watershed week; an epiphany; a movement away from past bad times and towards future good times; a "team-changing deciscion" if you will.

My apologies for the length between posts ... a tough week of work and a long weekend vacation combined to steal all my BlazersBlog time.

Not a whole lot of news out of the Blazers over the past week, but we do have several items to talk about. Without further ado ...

Derek Anderson

Good riddance. In case my post last week and the first two paragraphs above don't make clear what my thoughts on the team getting rid of DA are, let me spell it out: the man can't play basketball any more. As soon as the amnesty clause was made public, I wrote that he'd likely be the victim, and I couldn't be happeir that he's off the roster. He was a decent swing man for a couple of years with the Clippers and Spurs, but he's a terrible player now, and I personally hope that these rumors about the Lakers being interested in them are true. Some thoughts from long time BlazersBlog reader and correspondent Lochi on DA's "career" as a Blazer:
He played one year in San Antonio after being rescued from the purgatory that is Clipper-ville where he was actually a pretty darn good player. For the Spurs, DA averaged 15.5 points per game, played in all 82 games, shot 41.6% from the floor and 39.9% from beyond the arc. That is solid. Then he got his big deal with the Blazers, oh happy day. He’s been pretty much a steaming pile ever since and his only major contribution would be that he’s been able to get hurt and not play, hence not hurting the team with his tremendous brick laying. He’s played in 70, 76, 51, and 47 games in 4 years. Shot 40.4%, 42.7 % (actually pretty decent in 02/03), and then the amazing nose dive to 37.6% and 38.9% the last 2 years. Beyond the arc is where it gets really frightening, 37.3%, 35.0%, 30.5% (holy hell), and 38.4%. On the bright side, he did manage to take almost 1,000 three pointers in those 4 years while he was trying to injure people in the front row with the carom off the rim. I think for every black eye he caused he got a bonus in his contract or something.

That's ugly, folks. How appropriate is it that DA was the first player amnesty'd and that Portland was the first team to use it? Great stuff. Clearly, Travis Outlaw's play in the summer league has convinced management that he can play significant minutes at the "2", and you can make an argument that this development was what allowed Portland to waive DA. Thank you, Travis.

Nick Van Exel

I was disappointed to see that Portland wasn't able to get anything for NVE's contract. As most of you know, his contract is voidable this season (meaning you can waive him without penalty), and any team who wanted $12 million in salary cap relief could have easily traded for him, waived him, and immediately saved that money off of their cap. Portland's roster already has too many players on it, so I'll grant John Nash that there wasn't much he could get back -- but you'd think he could find some way to bring something back in return. We've got a glutton of small forwards, couldn't NVE's contract and one of those guys have brought something significant back in return?

The Shareef Deal

Honestly, this whole thing cracks me up. One day, Shareef is saying "I want to be a New Jersey Net, this is the best place for me, and I will sign there even if it is for the mid-level exception." Then Portland and New Jersey reach a trade agreement, Shareef gets more money, he flunks his physical and then says he doesn't want to be there after all. However, New Jersey still might accept him anyways, and he might still end up there anyways. It's been quality entertainment. As for the first-round pick that Portland will get from New Jersey, I suppose it would be a nice trade asset, but we have enough young guys and I'm really quite ambivalent about whether or not we get that pick. Not sure why. I wish Shareef luck in New Jersey if he does end up there (which I suspect he will).

Blazer Roster

Going by the position traditionally played, the squad currently looks like this:

PG: Telfair, Dixon, Jack
SG: Outlaw, Dixon, Webster, Monia
SF: Miles, Patterson, Outlaw, Khryapa
PF: Randolph, Ratliff
C: Pryzbilla, Ratliff, Ha

There are a couple of things that jump out:
  1. I'm convinced that Outlaw is the starting "2" right now.
  2. We have too many small forwards.
  3. We need a backup PF.
  4. Jack, Monia, Webster and Khryapa are going to get a lot of "DNP-Coach's Decision"'s.

You may also notice that that's fourteen players. It's a bizarre mix right now. My thinking is that Ratliff can get as many as 30 minutes per game backing up the PF and C spots, Dixon can get the same in the SG and PG spots, Patterson will be the third guy off the bench, and those three plus the starting five will likely get the bulk of the minutes. I'd love it if Portland sent Khryapa, Monia and Ha to the NBA Developmental League where they could get some real on-court minutes and we could start to figure out what we have in these guys.

And Finally, a Non-Blazer Note

Allow me to digress from basketball for a moment and get a bit sentimental about another sport -- baseball. My all-time favorite baseball player and childhood hero (he shared the duties with Terry Porter and Clyde the Glide), Ryne Sandberg, was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame two weekends ago and he gave a fantastic induction speech. Known as one of baseball's more conservative guy, I don't think he gave a controversial quote during his entire career. You can read the whole thing here, but I'd like to give a few particular portions some BlazersBlog love (I'm sure that Ryne-o can sleep at night now). Enjoy ...

"As I look behind me here, wow, at the greatest players in the history of the game, I am in awe. I know that if I had ever allowed myself to think this was possible, if I had ever taken one day in pro ball for granted, I’m sure I would not be here today. This will come as a shock I know, but I am almost speechless."

"The reason I am here, they tell me, is that I played the game a certain way, that I played the game the way it was supposed to be played. I don’t know about that, but I do know this: I had too much respect for the game to play it any other way, and if there was there was a single reason I am here today, it is because of one word, respect. I love to play baseball. I’m a baseball player. I’ve always been a baseball player. I’m still a baseball player. That’s who I am."

"Everything I am today, everything I have today, everything I will ever be is because of the game of baseball, not the game you see on TV or in movies, baseball, the one we all know, the one we played with whiffle ball bats pretending to be Yaz or Fisk or Rose, in dirt fields and in allies. We all know that game. The game fit me because it was right. It was all about doing things right. If you played the game the right way, played the game for the team, good things would happen. That’s what I loved most about the game, how a ground out to second with a man on second and nobody out was a great thing. Respect."

"The fourth major league game I ever saw in person, I was in uniform. Yes, I was in awe. I was in awe every time I walked on to the field. That’s respect. I was taught you never, ever disrespect your opponent or your teammates or your
organization or your manager and never, ever your uniform. Make a great play,
act like you’ve done it before, get a big hit, look for the third base coach and get ready to run the bases, hit a home run, put your head down, drop the bat, run round the bases, because the name on the front is a lot more important than the name on the back. That’s respect."

"People like Harry Caray and Don Zimmer used to compare me, they used to compare me to Jackie Robinson. Can you think of a better tribute than that? But Harry, who was a huge supporter of mine, used to say how nice it is that a guy who can hit 40 homers or steal 50 bases drive in a hundred runs is the best bunter on the team. Nice? That was my job. When did it become okay for someone to hit home runs and forget how to play the rest of the game? A lot of people say this honor validates my career, but I didn’t work hard for validation. I didn’t play the game right because I saw a reward at the end of the tunnel. I played it right because that’s what you’re supposed to do, play it right and with respect. If this validates anything, it’s that learning how to bunt and hit and run and turning two is more important than knowing where to find the little red light at the dug out camera."

"I believe it is because I had so much respect for the game and respect for getting the most out of my ability that I stand here today. I hope others in the future will know this feeling for the same reason: Respect for the game of baseball. When we all played it, it was mandatory. It’s something I hope we will one day see again. Thank you, and go Cubs."

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Derek Anderson's Rotting Corpse Has Been Amnesty'd

... and will no longer be a part of the Portland TrailBlazers. What we all anticipated has come to bear. Good riddance! More on this and other Blazer items tomorrow ... check back around noon PST for a plethora of BlazersBlog thoughts.