Saturday , Oct , 25 , 2003 C.Y. Ellis

6th Edition – 10/27/03

The life…Restless days, sleepless nights, intense pressure, and endless anxiety; each are symptoms of…The life, where the only thing that matters is winning, nothing more, and nothing less. That’s the bottom line. No one wants hear any excuses as to why this can’t be accomplished, and patience is only a temporary pacifier, so in the end–it’s either get it done–or get going.

6th Edition - 10/27/03

Tough, but those are the rules and the people who choose this… this life… are not oblivious to the expectations or the backlash that accompanies them when they are not met. But as I stated, it’s what they chose and the decisions they continue to make down the road are going to be the determining factors on whether they fail or succeed in this life of…an NBA general manager.

Take for instance last week’s trade between the Boston Celtics and the Dallas Mavericks. The Celtics traded All-Star forward Antoine Walker and guard Tony Delk to the Mavs for center Raef LaFrentz, guard Jiri Welsch, forward Chris Mills and a 2004 1st round draft pick.

When I think about this trade, I’m baffled.

What were Mavericks’ General Manager Donnie Walsh and owner Mark Cuban thinking? Why trade Nick Van Exel for Antawn Jamison and then trade their only serviceable center for Antoine Walker–a guy who plays the same position as Jamison? Surdiculous (absurd + ridiculous)!

I’ll go out on a limb and say they probably wouldn’t have traded Van Exel a few months ago if they knew Walker would be available, but hindsight is 20/20 so as a result you act accordingly. And they acted foolishly. Now they’re left with the frail and limber Shawn Bradley as their lone center in a conference where Shaquille O’Neal reigns and a defensive mentality that’s even more nonexistent. I’m not saying LaFrentz can guard Shaq, but at least he can draw Shaq from the lane on offense with his perimeter game.

Now whom do they have? Two small forwards who are accustomed to starting and being either primary or secondary scoring options on a squad that already has a primary, secondary and third scoring option.

From a financial standpoint, the Mavs got rid of LaFrentz’s albatross of a contract, and if the Walker trade doesn’t work out, they can let him walk away after the season (free agency), but either way they lose because they sacrificed their best center (which are hard to come by), their best clutch player in Van Exel and most likely their best chance to win a title.

Maybe the Mavs have me fooled and are gearing up for another trade that will make their previous transactions make sense, but for now I’m baffled and I’m willing to wager a few bucks that some people in Dallas are feeling the same way. At least they still have the Cowboys.

Danny Ainge, the Celtic’s new director of basketball operations (fancy synonym for general manager) got rid of an established star in Antoine Walker who was looking for a maximum contract once the season concluded. Ainge is not a fan of Walker’s game so the maximum was not an option. So rather than risk losing Walker for nothing, Ainge shipped him west.

I can understand Ainge’s thinking, but this move also indicates that he believes that Vin Baker has addressed his issues and is ready to step in and help Paul Pierce lead that team. But if Baker relapses and leaves LaFrentz as Pierce’s only real battle partner, the Celtics are in trouble. And Danny Ainge will be vilified in Boston for getting rid of their second best player in Walker and strapping the franchise with LaFrentz’s huge contract.

Granted the Celtics were not going to get any better if they stood pat with the Pierce and Walker combination, but they were a playoff team and fans would rather have that than nothing at all.

The challenge of dictating the fate of an entire franchise is something I don’t think I could handle. One decision can either make or break you. Yet the scary thing is even if you assemble a richly talented team, it’s not guaranteed they’ll succeed. Essentially the determining factor of whether a GM is doing well or not is based on the performances of others. Scary. And even if you win, the pressure to keep winning can be as tough to handle as building a contender.

Why do you think Jerry West left the Lakers?

I seriously doubt Pat Riley can take a breather now that he’s relinquished his head coaching duties and is strictly the Heat’s team president.

Does anyone think Head Coach/GM Flip Saunders and VP Kevin McHale are sleeping any better now that T-Wolves have improved? If they don’t get out of the first round this year, there maybe a witch hunt in Minnesota.

It’s quite simple, being an NBA general manager is not fun. So being the fun guy that I am I’m going to pose a question to all my fellow basketball fans.

If you were building a team and you had first pick in the NBA Draft which included every great player–past and present–who has and currently plays in the league, who would you choose? Sorry, but Michael Jordan is not available–if he was–that would be TOO easy. Aiight, now pick!

Decisions, decisions.