Coast To Coast – 02.26.2009

Coast to Coast
Coast To Coast is your bi-weekly (as in, twice a week, not every other week…or does that mean it’s semi-weekly?) look at the NBA outside of Cleveland through the perspective of the Cavaliers. Because when Stephon Marbury joins a playoff rival, we notice.

After a longer-than-I-wanted-it-to-be break, Coast to Coast is back. I initially put this feature on hiatus due to the All Star Break, and then illness kept me from posting last week. So for those of you who enjoy this feature, my apologies for the break. For those of you who don’t like it, my apologies for bringing it back….

The expected signing of Starbury by the Boston Celtics is generating a flurry of comments and opinions. I was curious, though, to see how Celtics fans would react to the signing. CelticsBlog’s Steve Weinman gives us some great insight into the psych of the Celtics fans as they try to force themselves to embrace the train wreck that is Stephon Marbury:

Stephon Marbury comes to the Celtics seeking redemption, seeking a chance to win and to prove people wrong about him.  They come to him seeking someone possessing the skills enumerated above.

I’ll be honest: I don’t like the idea of rooting for the guy.  I know it isn’t always fair to play character police when we know so little about these “TV heroes” of ours.  Heck, my beloved James Posey got a DUI before last season.  There are countless NBA players who have committed more egregious off-the-court acts than Marbury and plenty who haven’t done the good for the community that he has.  I get all of that, and I’m not claiming rationality here.  But for the on-and-off-court reasons listed above and my proximity to and hate-hate relationship with the team he played for last, this has always been a guy near the top of the list of players I simply wanted no part of.

It’s really unfair to pull out such a short quote from an otherwise quite lengthy piece. It’s a great read and I would highly recommend reading the whole thing to get the full perspective. What this clip does show us, though, is that there is likely to be some serious trepidation amongst the Celtic faithful as they try to digest this newest addition in Boston. As they say, though, winning cures all, and that’s why Steve ends his piece with, “I’m more concerned with being happy come June than being right for the sake of being right about a guy I’ve never liked.  So no matter whose name is on the back of that jersey, I’ll be rooting for him as long as the front says “Celtics.” So, as tough as it is for me to say it, If you’re coming after all, Stephon, welcome aboard.”
[Facing The Starbury Fear]   

Stephon Marbury, for his part, has given us plenty of things to talk about throughout his career. TrueHoop’s Henry Abbott gives us a handful of Marbury’s talking points:

As we embrace the notion of Stephon Marbury in Celtic Green, some reference points for your Marbury conversations:

  • Ray Allen and Stephon Marbury were traded for each other on draft day 1996. Marbury was drafted fourth, by Milwaukee. Allen was drafted fifth, by Minnesota. The Timberwolves gave the Bucks a future first-round pick (it became Danny Fortson) to switch.
  • Ray Allen played Jesus Shuttlesworth — a point guard from Coney Island’s Lincoln High, apparently modeled on Marbury — in the Spike Lee movie “He Got Game.”
  • Stephon Marbury’s early career was a fruitful partnership with Kevin Garnett in Minnesota. As youngsters they made the playoffs twice. Little did Marbury know those seasons would be among the highlights of his career.
  • Marbury asked for, and received, a trade. He then became famous as a high-scoring loser in New Jersey (they headed for the Finals when he left in exchange for Jason Kidd), missed the fun in Phoenix (the magical D’Antoni and Nash era was born upon Marbury’s departure), and New York (the team that has kindled hope by signing a mid-level free agent to play in his place).

I wonder if, in Boston, Marbury will become a low-scoring winner or if his unique brand of poison will infect yet another team with high aspirations.
[Stephon Marbury Talking Points]

Sometimes NBA teams send a lot of mixed signals. The Miami Heat are no exception in this case. The Sun Sentinel’s Ira Winderman explains:

So in the wake of the Heat enforcing its ludicrous headband ban with Jermaine O’Neal because the focus should be on the team, not the player, the Heat throws Dwyane Wade back onto the court in a blowout loss to get his 50 points.

Oh well, Dwyane’s the king and there is plenty to be said about goodwill heading into 2010 free agency, even if this is the same team that called timeout with 30.9 seconds left in a blowout victory over Chicago to get its starters off the court.

No, the 50 was not the number that mattered most in Sunday’s loss in Orlando. It was the “2” next to O’Neal’s name in the rebounding column.

I have a couple thoughts about this. First of all, this rings a familiar-by-association bell with Cavs fans as Ben Wallace complained about not being able to wear a headband when he signed with the Bulls, and he blamed his drop in performance on it. Now we have another big man not allowed to wear a headband and is subsequently experience a drop in production. Are the two related? Is this like Samson’s hair giving him strength? Whatever it is, even if it is purely coincidental, I will never understand why teams want to go out of their way to make their own players feel uncomfortable in any way on the court. Furthermore, Winderman brings up an excellent point about the conflicting points about team unity the franchise is making. I guess it’s just more reason to be glad we follow a team who doesn’t need to resort to counter-productive gimmicks to find unity, but instead relies on a singular identity in their game play on court, starting with the front office and coaching staff, and trickling down to the team through a leader who not only buys into the unity, but is instrumental in demanding his teammates fall in line.
[Debate The 50, but the “2” is the Issue]

The Cavaliers are the safest bet against the spread in the NBA. It’s not surprising, I suppose, when you consider their Association-high point differential, but to illustrate the point, Cuzoogle gives us the NBA’s top 10 ATS:

Here are the Top 10 ATS teams in the NBA as of Feb. 23.

1. Cleveland 36-18-0
2. Orlando 35-19-1
3. Oklahoma City 34-21-0
4. New York 32-23-0
5. Milwaukee 33-24-2
6. Charlotte 32-24-0
7. Denver 31-24-1
8. Boston 32-25-0
9 Indiana 31-25-2
10 Utah 30-26-0

Surprised? Well Cleveland and Orlando make sense since they win a lot of games by a decent number of points. Boston wins with defense so they will fail to cover the spread now and then despite piling up the SU wins. But Oklahoma City? That just shows you they are in more games than you might think. They are a few years away from being a playoff team but if you know what you are doing, you are making a lot of coin off the Thunder this year.

It’s definitely interesting that the Thunder and the Knicks are so high on this list, but I was also surprised to not see the Lakers anywhere on this list. The Lakers have the 3rd highest differential in the NBA, after all. I’m not really sure why the Lakers aren’t on this list, but it makes you wonder if Vegas has been showing a little bit too much confidence in the Lakers. I wonder what their average spread is. Does anyone know how to look up such things?
[Top 10 Money Teams in the NBA to Date]

There’s been some debate around here as to whether or not the Cavaliers should have tried harder to get Mikki Moore to sign in Cleveland. Not everyone thinks Moore is worth picking up. As Rob Mahoney writes for Hardwood Paroxysm:

Mikki Moore, by all indications, sounds like an incredible man.  But as we all know, men don’t play basketball.  Playas do.  Ya dig?  I remember a day when it was cool to make fun of the fact that Mikki Moore could only make dunks.  I remember a day when Mikki Moore vowed to become Jason Kidd’s bodyguard for life because he made him millions of dollars.  And I foresee a day when we, brothers and sisters of the basketball world, join hands in giggling whenever Moore’s name is mentioned as a vital cog of the Celtic bench.

Great in the locker room, great in the psyches of younger players, and not so great in the paint.  This, ladies and gentlemen, is Mikki Moore, savior of the Boston Celtics.

I get where Rob is coming from, and he’s probably right, but if the Cavaliers are unable to find another veteran big to sign, and someone for the Cavs gets hurt in the playoffs, it’s entirely possible we may wish the Cavaliers had signed Moore anyway.
[If Mikki Moore Is The Belle Of The Ball, You Probably Shouldn’t Go]

I Wish Dirk Nowitzki would be a little more honest and tell us how he really feels. In an interview with Five Magazine, Nowitzki opened up in a brutally honest assertion of the Dallas Mavericks:

I know I’m not in an individual sport. If I were in track and field maybe I would have won something big by now. But I am not. I decided for a team sport and I always had more fun in a team. I tried the other way with tennis. That’s what makes it a challenge, playing away from your weaknesses or attacking those of your opponents. That’s what makes a team sport attractive. Finding a way to win despite your own weaknesses is important. But, sure it’s bitter sometimes when a teammate doesn’t invest the necessary time. The best example was Shawn Bradley. He would some times come to training camp and not had a ball in his hands for four months. But what can you do? There is no rule. Everyone needs to figure out for themselves how to stay fit.

I’m somewhat torn on whether this is a player being refreshingly upfront with an interviewer, or if this is an example of poor leadership and perhaps some insight into why the Mavericks have not been able to win a title with Nowitzki. How would I feel if LeBron made similar comments in public about his teammates? It’s a fascinating interview to read and is highly entertaining as it doesn’t pertain to my team, but I think I would feel a lot different about it if I were a Mavs fan.
[Dirk Nowitzki Talked To Us (Part I)]

Drew Gooden has much to offer a team. But does he also take away a lot from a team? Upon being traded to the Sacramento Kings, there’s been some talk that Gooden could be released, while other sources say the Kings want to see what he has to offer them. Sactown Royalty’s Ziller had a great take on this subject. He writes:

But there are some problems with the presence of Gooden.

* If you’re cutting into playing time for Thompson or Spencer Hawes, you’re a problem. Gooden will likely cut into playing time for Thompson (though Shock has been doing a fine job of that with foul trouble). Gooden’s not old — he’s 27 — but developing Shock & Hawes is a key priority for the rest of 2008-09. Benching them to watch a known quantity try to make himself money would be a mistake.

* If he plays, there’s a chance the Kings sign him. I’m prejudging here in assuming I will not want the Kings to sign Gooden this summer. He could be a great fit. We don’t know yet. But with limited free agent dollars, spending on an older far-from-elite power forward would be a mistake, I think. If Gooden doesn’t play due to injury, the Kings wouldn’t have any reason to re-sign him. If he plays and offers a minor spark, there’s a chance they’ll lock him up a la Bonzi Wells.

I’m of the opinion that it speaks poorly to Gooden’s worth when followers of even a 12-46 team think that Gooden’s presence might do more harm than foul. I still think Gooden’s best role is probably coming off the bench and providing depth to an already good team (like, say, Cleveland perhaps?), but I wouldn’t expect Gooden to be bought out in Sacramento. It makes far too much sense for the Kings to just kick his tires a bit and see what he all has to potentially offer them.
[What Drew Gooden Brings And Takes Away]

2010 was supposed to be the year everyone made runs at spending huge sums of money on mega-star free agents. Now, with crumbling economic forecasts for the Association in 2010, the strategy for 2010 might be changing. NetIncome, of the NetsDaily blog, writes:

As time goes on, the free-for-all over the 2010 class is going to look more like a mirage, mainly because of the deteriorating economy. Players are increasingly likely to stay home, where they can make more money. The top two members of that class—Lebron James and Dwyane Wade—have already hinted they might be willing to sign extensions with the home team before 2010. That would be the smart thing to do since they’ll almost certainly be able to get better deals this summer than next. Chris Bosh has yet to be heard from, but if he turns out to be the big catch in 2010, we’re not talking about a millennial event.

Here’s the math as SLAM Online reports today…

“The salary cap is going down—perhaps as fast as it shot up.
A conservative estimate might peg the ‘09-10 salary cap at $50 million, a drop of 15 percent. If all things economic aren’t righted by miracle cure, it’s reasonable to think the recovery might not be underway by 2011, so expect the cap to take another plunge from there.

When the dust settles on the storied Class of 2010, teams could be squeezing players into a salary cap that’s rolled back to $45 million or less.”

So what is the alternative strategy? How about loading up your payroll with players on their rookie contracts…draft smart and trade older, higher-priced players for younger players on rookie contracts? Stockpile first round picks? Cast about for young players with long term, low-cost contracts and acquire them?

In a word, yes, yes, and yes.

We’ll see about LeBron signing an extension early. I still do not believe it will happen. But the point about teams shifting their goals for 2010 is an important one. So many teams who were expecting 2010 to be a free-for-all are now primarily just worried about making sure they can compete under a salary cap that could be as much as almost $14 million less than it currently is at today. Teams who do not have a somewhat young core in place by 2010 could be in for some big time problems putting a competitive team together on the court.
[The New 2010 Strategy]

I always thought LeBron signing elsewhere was the biggest threat to the Cavaliers building a perennial Championship-contending team. Well, that still is, but could there be another threat to Cavalier dominance? What if there’s an extended lockout? KnickerBlogger’s Caleb writes:

Not to overload the forum with new topics, but I thought today’s New York Times piece is juicy reading. Semi-retired superagent David Falk predicts an imminent clash between players and owners in which the players union will be trampled, with a good chance of an extended lockout.

Key points, plucked from Falk’s new book. “The Bald Truth”:

– The salary cap, already reported to be inching down this summer, will be down significantly for 2010-2011 (he predicts)

– When the current collective bargaining agreement expires in 2011, David Stern will push for a hard cap, shorter contracts, a higher age limit and an end to the mid-level exception — and will get his wishes.

– Owners are prepared to stem operating losses by locking out players for two years if they resist stricter cap rules.

– Falk thinks run of the mill players are paid too much and superstars are paid too little. He thinks the cap should (and might be) abolished for stars.

Can you imagine a 2 year lockout right in the middle of LeBron James’ prime? What would a 2 year lockout do to the Cavaliers’ team chemistry. Heck, what it would it do to the chemistry of any NBA team? How would it affect all the great young players we currently have in the game? It’s still a little way off in the future, but when the current CBA expires, it’s going to be a nervous tension filled affair for Cavaliers fans if LeBron is still in Cleveland. The last thing we would want to see happen is be denied even one year of LeBron’s prime, let alone multiple years.
[David Falk Warns Of Two-Year Lockout]

  • Swig

    For the spread, popular opinion also comes into play. Vegas doesn’t set the lines so it’s a 50/50 proposition, they set the line so that the money gets placed 50/50 on the event. Their money comes from the juice, not from winning a larger % of the bets.

    So one possibility is the OKC, and NY have people betting against them (because they have a perception of being bad) thus dragging the line in a favorable direction. Similarly, the Lakers prob have a ton of fanboys (who have more $$) that are betting on them, thus getting unfavorable lines.

    Or it could all be variance. Interesting anyways.

    P.S. I noticed the lack of updates, glad you’re feeling better.

  • MacNip

    great post Rock…always enjoy reading this

  • Scott

    That lockout would be detrimental to the city as well. Europe wouldn’t exactly be out of the question then, eh?

  • DocZeus

    I’m more concerned with the prospect of Rasheed Wallace being released and thus going on the market. If he gets inexplicably released, I think the Cavs need to make a move on him just so he doesn’t end up in the Celtics/Orlando’s hands.

    Sheed can push a team over the top. Crazy or not, the man can still ball.

  • EZ

    I don’t want any part of Sheed. He’s on the downside of his career. The only stat that will go up from here on out is number of technical fouls.

  • Harv 21

    Great stuff, Rock. A confession: I always thought Drew Gooden had the physical talent to be an elite power forward, with his size, strength, and coordination. Not thinking of just the nights his jumper was on, but those times he decided to rebound and would just grab everything. Makes you wonder what separates a guy like him fom, let’s say, Garnett, who is not that different physically. But what a two-cent head Gooden has. I was at a game a few years ago in the Silas era when, just before halftime, Tractor Traylor was upset with a foul call, took off his jersey (not a pretty picture) and threw it. Automatic ejection. Gooden was nearby and was so upset by the Traylor’s ejection that he took off something (his headband, maybe) and threw it. Ejection. Just an Einstein, that guy, but there was something else missing. Maybe intensity.

  • Scott

    Sheed would be perfect for a stretch run. Especially on a team with LeBron where he could play away from the hoop.

  • Nicko

    @6. I remember that. That was hilarious.

    I have a friend who works with the Cavaliers. Tells me Drew Gooden road stories all the time. I am constantly laughing and shaking my head.

  • Nicko

    And yeah it was the headband…

  • Glaumdawg

    Still my favorite posting on this site. Glad you’re feeling better!

  • kevin

    So the Heat won’t let JO wear a headband because that goes against the “team first” concept but they will let D. Wade wear a sticker on his cheek with his own name on it. priceless.

  • Matt in Lyndhurst

    Speaking of a possible NBA lockout, how ironic would it be that if it happened, it would be the 2nd time that a Cleveland sports team would be effected during a Championship contending year. Remember 1994? The Indians would’ve surely competed that year had their not been a strike.

    If this happens, it would surely be another kick to the groin of Cleveland.

  • RockKing

    @Kevin: I can’t believe I didn’t think of that. Classic!

  • Steve Weinman

    hey Rock,

    I know I’m late to the party here but just noticed this and wanted to thank you for the link love and the kind words.

    Good luck down the stretch this season. But hopefully not too good.