Friday , Feb , 25 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

Fast-Breaking It Down -The Deadline Deals

By Paul Benedict

I scrapped my TNB on TNT piece this week to bring to you some quick thoughts on the trade deadline biz that went down today.

-I’m not as down on the CWebb trade for the Kings as everyone else. Doesn’t anyone else remember that the Kings had the best record last year heading into the All-Star Break without Webber playing a single game? Peja is clearly a better player without Webber and the two were reportedly butting heads both on and off the floor. When it comes down to it, Peja is a much better long-term investment for the Kings than Webber and while the team may have taken a step back in the short-term, they were not going to win a championship anyways and they didn’t take as big a step back as people seem to believe. Kenny Thomas I’ve never been huge on, but he’s solid, definitely a serviceable power forward that can give you 14 and 8 consistently. Corliss Williamson has proven himself to be a very solid bench commodity for any team, and anyone that has actually seen Brian Skinner play know that he’s severely underrated. I’m a little curious as to why the Kings brought in only frontcourt players: an undersized power forward (Thomas), an undersized center (Skinner), and a tweener (Williamson). I’m guessing Billy King wasn’t willing to include Willie Green in the deal, and that just tells you that Geoff Petrie must have been pretty desperate to rid himself of Webber. People can talk all they want about how the Sixers ripped off the Kings, and in the short-term that may ring true. But just remember that Webber’s knees are shot, he can barely even elevate off the floor anymore, and he’s seriously lacking the toughness that Allen Iverson brings to the table. I give Webber this year and next year to perform at an All-Star level, but then I’m predicting a serious decline. So if I’m a Sixers fan (which I partially am), I’m wishing Billy King could have gotten more for the Big Dog and that he makes the right moves this summer to ensure that the Sixers contend for a title next season. I just don’t think they have quite enough talent or experience to be considered real threats this year–in the East or the entire NBA for that matter.

-Houston’s acquistion of Mike James was just a timely, brash move by Rockets GM Carroll Dawson. I had the luxury of watching Rod Strickland give it a go as the Rocket’s point guard last night with Bob Sura sidelines, and to be blunt–it was almost painful to watch. ESPN play- by-play man Jim Durham, who’s about as generous an announcer as there is, even took to poking fun at Strickland for wheezing during his 5- minute run to start the game. James showed in Boston and Miami that he can capably play the 1 with a playmaker’s mentality, he proved last year in Detroit that he can be relied on heavily for defense, and this season he’s shined as a legitimate scoring threat off Milwaukee’s bench as more of a combo guard. James will settle in right away as Houston’s point guard until Sura returns, and then create a niche for himself off the bench that should really help this club come playoff time.

Fast-Breaking It Down -The Deadline Deals
-I talked with Anthony before about the Celtics’ trade of Jiri Welsch for a first round pick two years down the road from a team that will likely be drafting in the mid to upper 20’s for years to come. If you’ll all remember, Welsch was the kicker in that LaFraentz for Walker deal a couple years ago and some thought he had a chance to settle in as a fixture in the Celts’ future. Both Jim O’Brien and Doc Rivers gave this guy plenty of chances to prove himself, but all he’s shown is that he’s nothing more than a 15-20 mpg backup, and right now the Celtics don’t really need that. So Ainge went out and got a little something for what was essentially nothing to the team. Kudos. Most GMs have too much pride to trade away a guy that they themselves acquired in a deal, often fearing the backlash they might receive from the media for essentially admitting the mistake they made.

-Oh, Isiah. As if the Knicks weren’t overpaying enough guys, Isiah has now tacked on another $22 million to the team’s payroll and for what? An undersized, overpaid power forward (Rose) scarcely reminiscent of one he already has (Sweetney)? An average, injury-prone, overpaid power forward afraid of contact (Taylor)? 2 late-first round draft picks? So now the Knicks are left with 4 power forwards (Thomas, Sweetney, Rose, Taylor) and just one center– Bruno Sundov (does he even count? I’m serious.). Apparently Isiah wasn’t trying to free up time for Sweetney after all…

-The Dallas Mavericks acquired Keith Van Horn from the Bucks in a move which Milwaukee purely made to clear cap room this summer for Michael Redd and quite possibly another quality free agent. While Van Horn fits right into Nelson’s system, how many minutes is he going to play? With Dirk, Stack, Howard, and Finley all battling for minutes and playing similar offensive roles on the team, I’m just not sure Van Horn is going to be able earn what his contract is worth given that he can’t possibly log any more than 20-25 minutes a game. Although I suppose Mark Cuban basically writes blank checks as the Mavs’ owner, so it’s not like adding Van Horn will hurt the club.

-Rob Babcock ended up calling a 3 pm news conference to announce that he did not come to agreement on any trades before today’s deadline. This makes almost no sense to me. Donyell Marshall will be bouncing out of Toronto this summer quicker than the crap coming out of Stephen A. Smith’s mouth, so why not at least get something in return? Toronto has virtually no chance at making a playoff push now that Boston and Philly have beefed up their rosters, so Babcock really should have just taken the best offer he was presented with. I find it hard to believe that he could not have at least gotten a decent 1st round pick for Marshall.

-I’ve enjoyed watching Golden State all season long– Mike Montgomery has his guys playing hard every night out, they have a noticeable on- court chemistry that is a pleasure to watch, Jason Richardson is arguably the most underappreciated star in the NBA, and their fans actually come out to games and cheer them on– the excitement is a lot more contagious when you hear the crowd actually getting excited for a team that is an annual bottom-dweller. Baron Davis, a California native, has a chance to do wonders for this franchise. For starters, he will instantly become a fan favorite in Oakland and attract national attention with his pairing with JRich in the backcourt. It’s also on him to bring the team back to the playoffs for the first time since Run TMC in the early 90’s. Of course Baron has dealt with his share of injury problems over the years, but I firmly believe that his time off this season has a lot to do with the Hornets’ woes rather than his toughness as a player. People tend to forget that he carried the Hornets in the playoffs 2 years in a row while being hobbled by injuries. And just for the record, Chris Mullin may have pulled off the steal of the day when he grabbed Skita and Rodney White, two talented, yet underachieving forwards, for Eduardo Najera, his hefty contract, and a future #1 pick. If Skita and White can show a little something before the end of the season, then Mullin can offer to pay them this summer and keep them around. If not, then both are off the books and Mullin has freed up some quality cap room.