Two quick hoops thoughts while I wait for my gazpacho to finish heating up (see what I did there):
RIP Jerry Buss
The legendary Lakers owner passed away at the age of 80 on Monday after being hospitalized with cancer a short while ago. During his storied tenure as the at the top of the NBA’s glitziest franchise, he won 10 league championships and helped develop the signature “Showtime” basketball Los Angeles is now known for. He also consistently put together lineups that included such talent as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, which helped make the Lakers a destination team for many players.
It’s worth bearing in mind that, before Buss took over the franchise in 1979, the Boston Celtics (aka – my team) were the cream of the NBA crop, having won 13 championships and defeating the purple-and-gold in the Finals six times during that span. With his guidance, however, the Lakers managed to win titles in 1980, ’82, ’85, ’87, ’88, ’00, ’01, ’02, ’09 and 10. Not a bad return on your investment.
Buss also made the Lakers relevant as an entertainment commodity by attracting big-name celebrities to their home games at The Forum in Inglewood, California and, later on, at the downtown Staples Center venue. Without the presence of Jack Nicholson in his courtside seat, interacting with players and coaches as the Lakers’ highest-profile fan, do you have a Spike Lee in New York or a Bill Murray in Chicago? Never mind the star-studded scene that was last Sunday at the Toyota Center in Houston for the 62nd All-Star Game. Overall, Mr. Buss is to the NBA what George Steinbrenner was to Major League Baseball – a man whose commitment to winning helped dictate what the successful “big business” sports model should look like. His contributions cannot be overstated.
Trade Deadline Buzz
With the trade deadline only a few days away, there are bound to be some shakeups around the league as teams look to either load up for a long playoff run or load up on expiring contracts with eyes on a summer rebuild. With that in mind, here are five players that, while they may or may not actually be on the move come Thursday, could all definitely benefit from a change in scenery.
Andrea Bargnani (F, Toronto Raptors): The Raptors need more of a post-up presence, as well as some salary cap relief, and Bargnani may have worn out his welcome in T.O with his inconsistency. A move to a market with less media scrutiny, like perhaps the expiring contract of Samuel Dalembert in Milwaukee, would do both sides some long-term good.
Paul Millsap (F, Utah Jazz): The Jazz have a logjam at the forward spot and, of their big-name pieces, Millsap is more moveable than Al Jefferson. His deal expires at the end of the year, but if he’s traded to a contender, he could play his way to a big payday come May (that was a lot of alliteration right there). The current rumor out there is a package deal that would send him to the Clippers in exchange for, among other things, Eric Bledsoe, although I have a hard time that LA would give up their prize young asset so quickly.
DeAndre Jordan (C, Los Angeles Clippers): As high as everyone is on Lob City, I think they’ll have to shake some of their pieces up if they have any financial hope of retaining Chris Paul’s services come next season. Jordan, who has reportedly clashed with coach Vinny Del Negro over his playing time, would be a likely candidate, based on his hefty contract. Del Negro, for his part, has showed interest in Kevin Garnett, but Garnett has already said he’s unwilling to waive his no-trade clause to move to the West coast.
Josh Smith (F, Atlanta Hawks): It seems like every year for the past half-decade, Smith’s name comes up in annual trade deadline discussion; this year, however, may be the year he actually gets moved. Once again, we have a star player looking for a max deal that might be a better fit elsewhere. Danny Ferry is looking to blow the roster up in the summer and dealing Smith now may be a great opportunity to get some usable pieces in return for him, with Brooklyn perhaps being a possible destination despite their luxury tax status. If he doesn’t get traded this week, look for a sign-and-trade for him at the draft.
Marcin Gortat/the rest of the Suns roster (C, Phoenix Suns): Of all the teams in the NBA, the Suns are the most likely candidate to irreversibly gut their roster, or at least begin such a process, on Thursday. Veterans such as Gortat, who has value as a potential double-double machine, is a name on a lot of GM’s radars, but if they can find a way to rid themselves of baggage like Michael Beasley and Jared Dudley (both of whom the Knicks have reportedly shown interest in), they’d be in the clear for a wholesale rebuild. Plus there’s also the rumor of them making a blockbuster move for Utah’s Al Jefferson, which could make other NBA trade dominoes fall into intriguing places if this were to happen.