March 1, 2011

Why Wilt Was Right (About Sex)

by npiller88

Numbers 11,289, 90 and 91

Wilt Chamberlain famously claimed to have had sex with 20,000 women.

What often gets lost in the cascade of awed reactions (dropped jaws, admiration of teenage boys, and repulsion from the more uptight among us) is the fact that Wilt the Stilt never got married. He was a lifelong bachelor. That’s not to say his philandering shouldn’t be critiqued, just that he was never legally beholden to another woman while he had his fun.

Pause. Just meditate for a second on the magnitude of this claim. Assuming honesty (humor me), lets take a look at the numbers. Now, I’m sure its possible that Wilt began his escapades at a tender age, but for the purposes of this examination, lets assume he started at 18, and continued at the same rate up until his death, at age 63. That’ s 45 years of sex, or 16,425 days ripe for getting down with a different woman. Of course, he would have had to double or triple up several times to make the 20,000. Given that this rate is probably unlikely, we shall assume that there were a few orgies in there (because Wilt would never lie).

But this isn’t about Wilt’s impressive virility. This is about the politics of marriage in pro sports.

Deadspin recently ran a story that published the unedited, anonymous testimony from some NBA player on the subject of marriage among pro athletes, and the power of temptation in arenas of privilege, access and glamor. ESPN runs a column called “Player X,” which features an anonymous pro athlete speaking candidly about a hot-button issue in his sport. The column tends to focus on the athlete experience: What escapes the media, and what goes on behind closed doors. In this instance, the topic at hand was the Tiger Woods sex scandal, perhaps unparalleled in magnitude among similar sex scandals in sports (and particularly upsetting to many, given the sterling image Tiger boasted before his downfall) This player’s anonymous status allowed him to wax sleazy about the realities of off-the-court flirtation (and more), but the finished version came with several tantalizing nuggets redacted. The unedited copy made it on to Deadspin.

Tiger’s 15? No big deal. I know NBA players who are, right at this moment, working 15 girls–Married guys and guys with girlfriends. Guys at the highest levels.

Ok, so maybe you are all saying “duh.” But it does beg the question, why did we crucify Tiger? Maybe he was just the one who got caught. Really badly. Or maybe it was just some good, old-fashioned, self-satisfied celeb-bashing fun. But there’s no doubt that more revelations could out lesser (but still hugely famous) star athletes for egregious infidelity, to the extent that if all were revealed, the stories would cease to be “stories.” We would all be desensitized.

In my mind, Woods fucked up in one way: he didn’t sign a pre-nuptial agreement. You may think your relationship will last, but it won’t. You may think you’re not going to cheat. But you will. If I had to guess, 85% of sports marriages fall apart.

The solution, given the maddening temptation, brutal schedule, and time away from home? According to player X, who indicates that the players who are “respectful of their wives” are the ones who ask for permission before they cheat, is to open up the marriage:

And just so you don’t think I’m a Chauvinist, guys, let your wives play too. Watch her get pounded. See how that makes you feel about her. Maybe you’ll learn some lessons, make some changes. Maybe your relationship will be stronger for it.

Ok, so maybe subtlety isn’t Player X’s strong suit. But you’ve gotta hand it to him. At least he’s offering SOMETHING up as a solution. He goes on to say this, which wasn’t redacted, for good reason:

And it’s not just us athletes. You’re all cheating. You’re all getting divorced.

But here’s where Wilt comes in. One of the few athletes historically who either realized ahead of time how impossible it would be remain loyal, or one of the few who cared enough NOT to enter into a marriage, Wilt is a throwback, in every sense of the word. Tiger isn’t in his twenties anymore. But he was still young enough to remain a perfectly acceptable bachelor before he wed Elin. The same goes for every young, married NBA player who thinks he’s found true love, or worse, who marries but plans to cheat. Sadly, I would bet that given the out-sized egos pervading every corner of the NBA, down to the last scrub at the end of the bench, that the latter is the more frequent case. In any major sport, there exists the caliber of self-inflation that makes husbands believe they have a right to cheat, given what a great catch they are, what with the talent and access, not to mention the parade of groupies reinforcing their greatness in their ears on a daily basis. But Player X is right. These days, marriages everywhere fail more rapidly than middle east dictatorships. Still, Wilt’s wisdom shouldn’t be discounted: Perhaps today’s NBA players don’t have to go their whole lives aiming for that 20,000th woman while remaining a bachelor for eternity, but if you know you want to play around, WAIT to get married. At least for a while.

But love is a strange thing. There are good ones who do cheat, but probably didn’t plan on it, and might regret it (or might not). For the rest, who planned to cheat before marriage, try waiting a bit. You’re still young!

February 28, 2011

The Motives of Free Agents

by Jeeves

After the formation of, for lack of a better name, (I’ll oblige them), the Heatles and now that Carmelo officially has become a Knick, it appears that the free agency landscape has changed drastically in the NBA. Throw in the impending (2012) free agencies of Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and Dwight Howard and it would be perfectly reasonable to assume that the (star) players now have all the leverage in terms of where they end up. The teams that these stars are leaving are desperate to get at least pennies on the dollar so they kowtow to the wishes of their star even as he orchestrates his departure. Inevitably, that star will leave for greener pastures in a larger market. That is, at least, the perception.

It is that perception that I want to take a look at. Do stars really leave their teams to sign larger contracts in a city they deem better? Plus, what qualities do these cities have that make them “better”?

So these are the rules, if you will, of the way I treated the data. I scoured the Internet for reliable lists of the highest paid players in their respective leagues. For the NBA, I used a HoopsHype list of the highest salaries of players for this season. This means that I wasn’t looking at the largest total salaries, just single season salaries from this current season. The site listed the top 30 players. For the MLB, I used the invaluable Cot’s Contracts. He had the top 33 total contracts in history listed, meaning the total value over the life of the contract. That means for the MLB, it’s more of a snap shot of the last 15-20 years rather than a single season snap shot. Finally, for the NHL, I used a listing from USA Today which had the top 25 salaries from LAST (2009-2010) season. (I ignored the NFL because things get hairy after including signing and roster bonuses).

So after choosing my lists, I parsed the names to find out which players either A) Signed with a different team as a free agent or B) Forced a trade/was traded and immediately signed an extension. Those in group B weren’t technically free agents, but things worked, to the same effect. It does, however, exclude players such as Matt Holliday who was traded to the Cardinals, played through the remainder of the season, hit free agency, and then resigned with the Cardinals.

Let’s take a look at the lists starting with the NBA since this is what set me on this line of inquiry:

NBA – 10/30 – 33%

Rashard Lewis (Magic)

Carmelo Anthony (Knicks)

Gilbert Arenas (first salary) (Wizards)

Amare Stoudemire (Knicks)

Kenyon Martin (Nuggets)

Elton Brand (76ers)

Peja Stojakovic (Hornets)

Lebron James (Heat)

Chris Bosh (Heat)

Carlos Boozer (Bulls)

Of the 30 highest paid players in the NBA, only 10 of them met my criteria. Bosh, Lebron, and Carmelo are all prominently on that list. They also, make up a sizable portion. The teams that the players signed with don’t seem to have any sort of correlation. For every Carmelo who wanted the big market you have a Peja who signed with the small market Hornets. For every Lebron James who headed for warm weather, there’s a Carlos Boozer who went to a cold weather city. I think what it comes down to is that the players went to the teams that could pay them the most. They also seem not to be (LBJ excluded) the premier talents of the league. Yes, Amare Stoudemire is a very good player but he wouldn’t be in your top 7 of players with whom to start a team with. Taking this all into account, it seems (recently) that star players usually sign extensions with teams that drafted them (2/3 of the listed 30). It means that the Heatles and Melo are breaking the mold, so to speak, with the way that they orchestrated their moves to their current teams. It’s impossible to say whether this is a trend or a blip, but if history says anything it is that you can expect some superstars to move about, but the vast majority will stay put.

After the jump we’ll take a look at the NHL and MLB.

Continue reading

February 25, 2011

Friday Photo: Starring Chris Bosh

by Jeeves

Each Friday we bring you funny/odd/offbeat photos from the week before. As always hover over the pics for bonus captions.

Let’s just title this, Call of Doody

The name on the jersey should really read “RuPaul”…or if you want to get technical “of Big Men”

Dunno what’s more impressive, 100 pts or 1-18…

especially considering his shot selection

Pictures courtesy of @bullsblogger (and his readers) writer of Blogabull.

February 25, 2011

Chris Bosh had a Rough Night

by Jeeves

The .5 in the Miami Heat’s Big 2.5 had himself a rough, rough night. Not only did his Miami Heat lose to the Bulls in Chicago falling to 1-6 against the top-5 teams in the league, but he was one of the main factors contributing to the loss. Bosh went a whopping 1-18 from the field. You read that correctly one for freakin’ eighteen. It was the worst shooting performance by a player since Tim Hardaway went 0-17 back in 1991. Bosh also had the most misses in a game since Mike Newlin went 1-22 in 1973. Bosh’s performance was, without exaggeration, historically bad. To add insult to injury, he was also outrebounded by Lebron James, Luol Deng, and Omer Asik (who played half the amount that Bosh did). To really put the cherry on top, there’s the horrendous flop you can see in the .gif above or the video below:

I really, really wish the league could retroactively fine him for that flop job. I’m a big soccer fan and that’s way worse than what you normally see...this video, notwithstanding.

I would love to be a fly in the wall in the Heat locker room tonight. It would be really interesting to see how Lebron treats Bosh after this performance, especially after Bosh dissed his teammate by saying he’d vote for Rose as MVP. It’s one thing to be honest and forthright to the media, it’s another thing to be honest at the expense of one of your teammates. Lebron did say he’s taking names of those that disrespect him; I guess we’ll have to wait and see if he puts Chris Bosh on his list.

Continue reading

February 24, 2011

Overrated: Rajon Rondo Claim to Best PG in the NBA

by Jeeves

Flowchart courtesy of Shamsports

After a 1 week hiatus, overrated/underrated is back. This week we’re looking at Rajon Rondo

As always, let’s get my biases out front and center. I’m a big Bulls fan, thus I love Derrick Rose.

There’s a definite rift between Rose and Rondo both on the court and amongst their proponents in the media. Even with my adoration of Rose, I’ve never fully understood the fawning over Rondo. It’s quite possible that I’m missing something, but to me he is merely a very good point guard. He doesn’t strike me as “in the conversation” for best point guard in the league.

The flow chart above sums up one of my main complaints about Rondo. I realize a point guard needs to initiate the offense, but it’s detrimental if that’s all the point guard can do. I like my point guard to control the offense while also maintaining the ability to create something on his own. Simply racking up assists isn’t enough for me and racking up assists seems to be Rondo’s greatest claim to fame.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s a good passer and has great vision, but he has three teammates that are perfect for amassing large assist totals. Pierce, Allen and KG are all great jump shooters and their games conflate to inflate Rondo’s stats. Large parts of the Celtics’ offense is predicated on Allen running off of screens catching the ball and shooting immediately or KG catching the ball at the elbow and firing an 18 footer. They do all the work to get open, and all Rondo has to do is hit the open man for the assist. Much as the D’Antoni offense is known for inflating offensive statistics, I think the (Real) Big Three in Boston have that affect on assist totals.

If inflated assist totals were my only issue with Rondo’s game, I’d put him up there with the best PG’s and I wouldn’t be writing this post, but that’s just my opening salvo. His lack of a reliable jump shot is another huge flaw in his game. Rondo is a great finisher at the rim. He makes 2/3 of his 4.2 shots a game at the rim; that’s really good. If you move him away from there, though, he becomes a sieve on offense. He shoots 34% from less than ten feet (excluding at the rim shots) and 28% from 10-15 feet. His 16-23 foot shooting is a bit better (41%), I assume, because defenses sag off of him. Rondo just has no mid range game at all. The large knock on Rose’s game, coming into the league, was that he didn’t have a jump shot; to this day announcers are still surprised at his ability to knock down a 12 footer. Despite this widely acknowledged flaw, he has never shot worse from <10 to 15 feet as Rondo is currently shooting in his 5th year in the league. Why isn’t Rondo’s lack of a jumper a bigger talking point?

Rondo’s lack of shooting ability means defenses can sag off of him. It means that he doesn’t get rushed with double teams to get the ball out of his hands. Even with this amount of space his usage is a low, 17.96, yet his turnover rate is a sky high 26.63 (Rose for comparison is at 31.75 and 13.3). Rondo has the 6th highest turnover rate in the league. He doesn’t face much defensive pressure, yet he still racks up 4 TO’s a game.

We haven’t even touched upon his free throw shooting yet. It’s kind of incredible; for as reluctant as he is to shoot, he is even more reluctant to step to the free throw line. His FTA per game have cratered 2.0 this season, and of those two, he usually splits the pair (55% from the line). He is in the bottom 20 (of players who get 15+ mpg) in terms of FT% behind such luminaries as Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard. Point guards need to be able to draw fouls. They need to be able to draw big men over while driving in order to free up passing lanes. Rondo, as his game is constructed, is completely missing this facet to his game. I’ll compare him, yet again, to Rose. Derrick saw some heat in the press for avoiding contact and selling out for the layup rather than accepting contact. Seeing all the articles chiding him for this, one would think he struggled to get to the line as well, yet he averages 6.2 free throws a game. He isn’t quite Lebron James in that department, but his 6.2 a game is good for 15th in the league and 2nd overall at the point guard position (behind Deron Williams).

Please don’t read this and think that I don’t see any value in Rondo. I think Rajon Rondo is a very good player. I think he’s a very good point guard and a pretty damn good match for the Boston Celtics. I also just happen to think that he is rather overrated for the amount of production he brings to the table. I think the one facet of his offensive game that is elite is his assists totals, and even those are inflated. And, hell, just for the sake of comparison,

Rondo’s 3rd season: 8.2 assists per game.

Rose’s 3rd season (to date): 8.2 assists per game.

I realize some of you would still choose Rondo as the PG to start your team, but for me, give me a point guard that can shoot. Give me a point guard that shoots free throws, hell, until Chris Paul proves his knee his healthy, just give me Derrick Rose.

February 23, 2011

NBA Turning into Love Fest for Glamor-Puss Major Markets

by npiller88

Ain't it sweet bein' elite

Ok, so maybe the NBA was always a shill for the LAs New Yorks, Chicagos and Bostons of the world. Remember the Showtime Lakers? (I don’t, I was born in 1988, but I have seen the highlights!) Or year after year of Boston Celtic domination throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s? (again, before my time). Or of course the Jordan-led Chicago Bulls dynasties of the 90s? (now we’re getting somewhere). Who knows. Maybe the Tim Donaghys of yesterday’s NBA had something to do with it. Or maybe it was David Stern. But no matter what, we know that the NBA loves it some big city success.

In light of the Collective Bargaining negotiations going on in the league right now (the culmination of which could change the rules surrounding player trades and max salaries), it isn’t too hard to see the glamor-whoring trend rearing its beautiful ugly head once again. It began with that fateful assembling of Boston’s “Big Three,” which led to much championship fanfare and the return to a classic Celtics-Lakers rivalry. And don’t forget the Lakers’ fleecing of Memphis when they plucked elite power forward Pau Gasol from the Grizzlies and laughed all the way to two titles. At that point, I was content. Ok, so Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen decided to sacrifice some personal glory to play alongside Paul Pierce in Boston and go for titles. The Lakers became championship worthy once again (thanks to a suspiciously lopsided trade that joined a superstar in Kobe with two dominant forwards, Lamar Odom and Gasol), and one of sports’ best rivalries returned to prominence. It was a little odd that Garnett and Allen (capable of being number 1 or 2 options on nearly any other team), would want to join forces in such a way that would create ungodly expectations and diminish their individual glory, but it was a fun story, and they’re fun to watch.

And then came “The Decision.” We all know how that went. After Lebron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade created the gluttonous triple strawberry chocolate sundae/cheesecake flambe (they are the heat!) of pure, abominable excess that is the Miami Heat, it was soon clear that Garnett and Allen’s “decision” was only the beginning. Elite players now seem to know that in an age when trios of megastars seem to have the most success and draw the most attention, it pays (in championships and overall swag) to try and latch onto one of those situations.

You might have guessed it, but it was Carmelo Anthony’s anticlimactic trade to New York that got me writing on this subject. And this morning I received another point in my argument’s favor, as Deron Williams was traded to the soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets, who will be poised to spend big on the next round of superstar free agents they can get their hands on. Before the new CBA is reached, we can safely say that players rule the league. This will still be the case, even if major changes are made in the owners’ favor. It’s the nature of a sport that features only 10 players on the floor at a time, and the nature of a league that knows who it’s daddies are: the superstars that put butts in the seats, sell jerseys and drum up media interest, if you were confused.

Now the NBA has candy-coated clusters of superstars in Boston, LA, Miami, and New York. My guess is that Chris Paul and Dwight Howard could find their respective ways onto either the Knicks or Nets by the time 2012 free-agency has run its course. It seems to be the new cool thing to do for players to team up on “superteams” in major markets, a far cry from they hyper-competitive 80s, when the thought of Magic and Bird, or Jordan and Barkley teaming up would be ludicrous. Maybe its a sign of changing times.

What we might end up seeing is the formation of two competing factions: 1. the players (especially the rich ones, who will want to protect their rights to make max salaries and demand trades whenever they want out), along with the owners of teams from major markets, vs. 2. all the league’s OTHER owners, who represent media markets outside of this elite fraternity of New York, LA, Boston, and Chicago.

There’s always a debate in sports over what generates more fan interest, a league with great parity that gives every fan some hope that their team might contend (the NFL has had immense success with this model), or a league with a top-heavy talent distribution that boasts compelling television events whenever the top teams meet, and spectacular traveling circuses, such as the Miami heat, which tend to sell out the lowly minor market arenas whenever they visit. Perhaps the NBA is better suited to the lopsided model. After all, it has always been a style-driven league with an enduring popularity sustained by its dynamic individual performers. I live in LA, and let me tell you there’s a reason why the NBA works here and the NFL doesn’t. People like to get dressed up and go to basketball games. It’s a glitzy event that happens indoors, often with celebrities lounging courtside. It may not be like that in Chicago, but its still a more fashionable outing than a football game, with much more bright lights and spectacle (see pre-game light shows for every team since the Chicago Bulls began the tradition during the Jordan era). The game of basketball is sublime, but for many Lakers fans, its just part of the event, which might end up in the entertainment complex LA Live right next to Staples Center, or Hollywood for that matter, long after the game’s conclusion. I’ve been to a Knicks game before, and I remember much of the same vibes. I’m not trying to mock this mentality, just explain why the league might trend more towards the uneven talent distribution that favors flash over even competition. What’s more likely to sell out a game in Milwaukee? The average Bucks vs. the average Pacers, or the weak Bucks vs. the spectacular Heat? I’ll take the latter.

Of course, the NBA can only have so many Heats, Lakers and Celtics. They want some parity. That’s part of why the league lets over half of its teams make the playoffs every year (only to let the weaklings get demolished in the first round). So we might see some things change to prevent teams like the Toronto Raptors from being denied any compensation for their star Chris Bosh’s departure (as was the case when they failed to trade him before last year’s free agency), or from teams like the small market Jazz feeling compelled to trade franchise cornerstone Deron Williams before his deal is up, in order to avoid Melo-esque shenanigans, or worse, getting nothing at all in return for their star.

In the meantime, enjoy the show!

February 23, 2011

Williams Trade Brings up Lots of Questions

by Jeeves

As I’m sure you’ve all heard, Deron Williams was traded to the Nets (or Nyets, if you prefer). I’m not going to break this one down like I did the ‘Melo trade (check our Zach Lowe for that), but I do want to address some of the questions this trade brings up.

1) Would the Nets really trade for Williams without a stipulation that he sign an extension?

At best, I would put Williams resigning with the Nets at 50-50. He has no personal ties to the area being, from Texas and playing college ball at Illinois, the Nets are a terrible team, and, well, for now, they’re in New Jersey. It doesn’t seem like there’s much to keep Deron there instead of bolting come 2012. There are two reasons he may stay. First, with the new CBA, it may be unpalatable for him to leave. The new CBA may heavily stack things in favor of teams resigning their own free agents. The second reason is also tied to the CBA. The Nyets and Williams may be able to lure a second free agent, ahem…Dwight Howard. Suddenly you have a way better version of the Kidd-Martin pairing of the Nets recent glory years.

2) So it’s possible the Nets could get nothing out of this deal come 2012?

It’s quite possible. The way in which the media has painted owner Mikhail Prokhorov is that of a risk taker. So, as far as I can tell, he took a risk. He knows its easier to retain players than to woo them on the open market. He knows his Nets team sucks. He knows that star players shape NBA teams. He didn’t have to make this move, but it does, at least, seem like a reasonable gamble. If Williams leaves, and they don’t sign a different 2012 free agent, they’ll be back to where they are now.

3) What does this say about Williams that the Jazz dropped him so quickly?

Well, clearly something went down that hasn’t been reported. We just had Sloan up and quit after 20+ years on the sidelines, due, we’re told, mostly to Williams. So did Williams do something so atrocious during the game against the Bulls that it made Sloan want to leave and force management to seek a trade or has he done something in the intervening days? Something is rotten in the state of Utah.

4) Will whatever baggage Williams bring play in New Jersey?

Your guess is as good as mine.

5) When was the last time we saw a huge NBA trade with no media buildup?

I’m having trouble comping up with a comparable trade. The Gasol trade was surprising, I suppose, but in a different way. He was clearly on the block, but I don’t recall (I may be wrong here) much buildup about him going to the Lakers. 3 years ago, though, is a loooong time in terms of the 24 hour news cycle that we now have. This one is pretty shocking, the Jazz traded a franchise player, under contract and I didn’t hear a peep about the possibility.

6) Does Sloan come back now?

I doubt it. He rode his tractor into the sunset and I think he’ll remain retired for at least this season. I read that he also felt undermined by management, so perhaps Williams wasn’t the only issue.

February 23, 2011

Great Quotes: Andy Roddick On Not Seeing His Wife’s Movie

by Jeeves

From his press conference after beating Milos Raonic in the Memphis. Check out the video after the jump for the best match point shot I’ve seen in my life.

“I don’t care if it seems insensitive to you. I realize Brooklyn shows up to a lot of my matches. But she also refuses to watch me play on clay. She says my performances are pretty shallow and derivative of a genuine baseliner.”

Continue reading

February 22, 2011

Brilliance of Communism Lost on Hank Steinbrenner

by npiller88

Hank lookin for some stress relief after the Royals got some of his millions

Hank Steinbrenner, the son of George, has gone political. No, he hasn’t joined a tea party ticket or chided the US Government for failing to come to the aid of Mubarak and other dictators. Instead, he’s taking a shot at the MLB’s revenue sharing and luxury tax policies that force major market teams with gargantuan payrolls to fork over some cash to smaller markets. Keep in mind, the Yankees spent about 130 million dollars on luxury tax and revenue sharing combined, for the 2010 season. So even for the cash flush New York Yankees, this isn’t a minor issue.

“We’ve got to do a little something about that, and I know Bud wants to correct it in some way,” Steinbrenner said. “Obviously, we’re very much allies with the Red Sox and the Mets, the Dodgers, the Cubs, whoever in that area.”

“At some point, if you don’t want to worry about teams in minor markets, don’t put teams in minor markets, or don’t leave teams in minor markets if they’re truly minor,” Steinbrenner said. “Socialism, communism, whatever you want to call it, is never the answer.”

Except, of course when it was the answer in the NFL. And in the NBA.

Steinbrenner seemed to suggest that a fraternity of major market teams in Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, and New York are allied on this issue. There’s one problem. If you eliminate all small market teams, who would the Yankees play? People go to games to see competition. Last time I checked, there weren’t 30 media markets in the united states the size of New York, LA or Chicago. Perhaps some of the most watched games are between the Yankees and Red Sox (especially in the playoffs), but how would the Yankees manage to schedule the 81 home games per year that generate the revenue they ultimately share, if the MLB was only a 5 team league (as Hank seems to desire). I somehow doubt that the owners of the Mets, Cubs and Dodgers are likely to endorse this call to abandon all “minor markets.”

The MLB has an interest in sustaining a high level of competition and trying to promote some parity. They want teams like the Kansas City Royals to be good, or at least competitive. Otherwise, most games during the season would be meaningless (many already are, because teams like the Royals always suck). This is not to say that their answer (luxury tax and revenue sharing) is somehow radical or “communist.” In fact, it’s the least radical mechanism meant to promote parity of any of major sports leagues. Look at the NFL: There’s a strict salary cap and lots of potential to rebuild bad teams through a draft structure that favors weaker teams. While there is a similar draft structure in baseball, the task of player development is such an inexact science that a parity-based draft often doesn’t do much to actually encourage parity. Couple that with the fact that the richest teams in the MLB tend to build their teams through free-agency rather than the farm system, and it becomes clear that the draft, and most other mechanisms of promoting parity are essentially meaningless. The small market teams that succeed do so by making shrewd trades and actually DEVELOPING players (something the Yankees are unfamiliar with) In the NBA, there’s also a strict salary cap, and trades can only be signed off on by the league if the salaries of the players being exchanged match up. Even though there is a trend of elite players in the NBA coming together through free agency, giving rise to a top-heavy talent structure, with a few major powerhouses in contention for a championship (like Boston, Miami, LA and now with the Carmelo signing, New York), teams can still get lucky and draft a superstar that could change the face of their team (see the Orlando Magic with Dwight Howard).

The reason guys like Hank are upset is that the policy is so ineffectual and lenient that it only affects literally the top two or three teams in terms of revenue (because there is such a high revenue ceiling before a team is considered rich enough to share). So in this sense, Hank is right. But his conclusion is wrong. What the MLB needs is more parity, not contraction and rule by the elite teams. The answer is to extend the influence of such revenue sharing measures to actually have some impact on parity, if you are going to do anything at all. Under such a scenario, maybe washed-up shortstops like Derek Jeter wouldn’t be making 17 million a year (or old closers like Mariano Rivera, for that matter–ok, he’s only making 15, my bad). Perhaps the players union wouldn’t be too happy about that. But the main reason why those guys got deals like that is they are icons that play for the Yankees, literally the ONLY team that would even come close to forking over that kind of money for either of those guys. So it seems that Hank sort of dug his own grave here.

If Bud Selig really wants to “correct” this in some way (as Hank would prefer), he either has to do away with the parity measures completely, or dramatically change the way business is done in baseball. Maybe he should take a page out of the NFL’s playbook, Das Kapital, and start enforcing a strict salary cap, even if it’s a pretty high one that would still allow for ridiculous player salaries like A-Rod’s or Pujols’ next deal. Whatever he does, he needs to move away from this logic that having small market teams is somehow bad for the league. In order for a small market to attract a fan base, it needs to start winning. When competing with teams like the Yankees and Red Sox, they better get those farm systems to crank out new superstars at an ungodly clip, or else they will be forever in the division cellar (like the Tampa Bay Rays were, before they followed the Oakland A’s lead and produced players through the farm system).

Maybe baseball is fine how it is, and we should just get rid of revenue sharing, since it’s often not even used by cash-strapped owners to actually improve the product on the field. But, Hank, even though we know Communism didn’t work in Russia, didn’t it work pretty well in the NFL?

February 22, 2011

Musings on Melo

by Jeeves

So Carmelo Anthony finally got traded to his dream locale, New York (not New Jersey). As of now the trade shakes out as follows:

New York Knicks get: Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams, Anthony Carter, Renaldo Balkman, and Corey Brewer

Denver Nuggets get: Timofey Mozgov, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, and Raymond Felton (plus draft picks)

Minnesota Timberwolves get: Eddy Curry and Anthony Randolph

So lets take a quick look at this trade from the viewpoint of the teams involved and then at the end I’ll have some random observations that you may or may not see elsewhere.

New York Knicks

This trade is a no-brainer, to me, for the Knicks. As the team was structured before the trade, they were a middling playoff team in the Eastern Conference and that’s it. It’s possible, though unlikely, they could have pulled off an upset in the first round, and such an event represented the best case scenario for their season. The Knicks are not the Bobcats; the franchise doesn’t need the money from a playoff run. If this trade represents 1 step back before 2 steps forward (and thus costing the Knicks a playoff trip) they’d still make large sums of money as they sell out MSG. Blowing up (most of) the core of low playoff seed will not cost the Knicks anything. If anything, by adding Melo and Billups, they made themselves a more dangerous playoff team. Bench play is less important in the playoffs and if those two plus Amare are healthy, I would be much more worried about playing the Knicks than when they had Gallinari, Chandler, and Felton.

In the short term, the Knicks will probably sacrifice a couple regular season wins, but will come out of this as a better team in the future. They have assured themselves the addition of a top 10-15 player (depending on your view of Melo) which is a far cry from merely positioning themselves with the cap room for a top 10-15 player. Anytime you can do that in exchange for non-sure thing prospects, you do it, and worry about how the pieces fit afterwards. In basketball trades, the big thing, unless you’re trying to round off a championship squad or shed salary, is to come away from a trade with the best player. The participants in the trade may have differing opinions on who the best player is, but in this instance, Carmelo is vastly superior to everyone else involved.

Denver Nuggets

Masai Ujiri can take a bow for this trade. He continually raised the price for Carmelo and ended up getting it all. He knew that the Knicks wouldn’t (Renaldo) balk(man) at the price, as they were desperate to add Melo. It took a lot of balls and it paid off. Not only does Denver pick up some really intriguing pieces, but they get loads of cap relief. In fact, the $14 million-ish coming off the cap is enough to bring them under the luxury tax threshhold which has a two fold monetary effect. First, they don’t have to pay dollar-for-dollar the amount that they are above the tax line and second, they receive money from the pool created by teams that do have to pay the tax.

As far as Gallo and Chandler are concerned, I think they picked up two really good complementary pieces. They aren’t good enough to lead you to a championship by themselves, but they certainly are good players. I’m actually a big fan of Gallinari. He shoots really well from outside and gets to the line a ridiculous amount, plus he’s super young. There’s a lot to like about him. Chandler is a bit of a wild card for the Nuggets. He’ll basically tryout with them for the rest of the season which gives them time to decide whether he’s worth bidding on over the summer (assuming there’s a season) as he is a restricted free agent.

Minnesota Timberwolves

They did okay for themselves. They get some nice financial relief in Eddy Curry’s expiring contract, as well as $3 million to cover the rest of his expiring contract. They gave up Brewer who didn’t figure into their long term plans and they took a Michael Beasley style shot on Anthony Randolph. The Fighting Kahns need talent and this gives them some. Whether Randolph cashes in on that talent it another story.

Quick Thoughts

– Anthony Carter has a no trade clause. I think it would be hilarious if he exercises it and blocks the trade.

– The Knicks could play a high priced game of chicken by not signing Anthony to an extension until after the new CBA. They own his Bird rights so if they don’t sign him now, under the current CBA, it’s likely no other team will be able to then trump a hypothetical Knicks offer under the new CBA. It would be way to savvy and risky of a move to happen, but it’s still a possibility.

-Along those lines, imagine if the Knicks try to trade Anthony or Amare in 2012 for a signed-and-traded Dwight Howard.

– The Knicks are probably out of the 2012 Free Agency Derby which is probably for the best. Who know with the new CBA how things would even work out. As they say, a bird in the hand is better than a better bird in the bush.

– Denver’s trade makes Bryan Coleangelo look even more incompetent. Do you think the Raptors would prefer a package like this rather than the 2 Miami draft picks and trade exception they got?

– The Nets are probably lucky that the Knicks didn’t have the balls to stick to the original asking price. Prokhorov was willing to give up a ton of assets for Melo.

-If Isiah returns, him and Renaldo Balkman will be reunited. I guess it really was true love at first sight.

-This probably will signal the beginning of open trading season. I think most GM’s were waiting for this domino to fall before proceeding.

– I guess this trade happened much like Melo’s offensive game…jab step, jab step, jab step, pull the trigger when everyone knows its coming.