Wednesday , Nov , 29 , 2006 Oly Sandor

Oly Sandor’s Weekly NBA Take featuring the K-Marts, Big Ben, Memphis’ woes, Utah’s fast start and more

#8-Martin’s injury highlights bigger issues for the Nuggets.

There must have been mixed emotions in Denver when word broke that Kenyon Martin would miss the entire season with another serious knee injury.

Oly Sandor's Weekly NBA Take featuring the K-Marts, Big Ben, Memphis' woes, Utah's fast start and more

On the one hand, publicly, Denver’s players and coaching staff said the right things. They all rallied around the controversial power forward. Coach George Karl, despite falling out with Martin during last season’s playoffs, expressed his sympathy and support.

These feelings were legitimate. No doubt about it. Players and coaches never wish an injury upon anyone.

However, on the other hand, privately, Denver’s coaching staff and front office must feel some sense of relief. After all, Martin was suspended for last year’s playoffs and has struggled to fit in with the Nuggets since inking a maximum contract three seasons ago. Coming into this year uncertainty lingered about Martin’s role and attitude.

This situation raises a larger issue: Denver has and continues to be irresponsible with their payroll. Consider that Martin and teammate Nene are owed a combined 114 million dollars on their contracts. They play the same position and are both out with long-term knee injuries.

For now, Eduardo Najera, Reggie Evans, and Joe Smith are filling in for Martin and Nene at the four and five-spot. These three are capable replacements and they’re cheap, too. Smith makes half of Martin’s annual salary at 7 million dollars per season, while Evans and Najera each earn less than the mid level exception.

#7-As one K-Mart falls, another rises.

Sacramento has a star in Kevin Martin. A starting spot opened for Martin once Bonzi Wells turned down the Kings’ thirty six million dollar contract offer. So far he’s taken advantage of the opportunity.

Martin’s an efficient offensive player. He’s scoring 25 points per game, while connecting on 55 percent of his shots from the floor.

The lanky two-guard also contributes on the glass, pulling in five boards per contest and has the size to play solid defense. Opposing teams have taken notice, too. In a recent game versus San Antonio, Martin drew the Spurs’ best defender in Bruce Bowen.

Opposing GMs should also notice where Martin was drafted: twenty sixth overall in 2004. 


#6-Losing may be the least of Chicago’s worries.

The Bulls were supposed to become contenders after signing Ben Wallace to a sixty million dollar contract. Those predictions now seem unrealistic and this signing could come back to haunt them.

Chicago is a deep team that competes on defense. But post scoring has become an issue because the Bulls use Wallace and P.J. Brown, two defensive specialists, down low. Since Wallace and Brown don’t command double teams, defenses can limit the space and open looks they give to Chicago’s streaky perimeter players.

But the Bulls have bigger issues than their lackluster offense. Over the weekend, it was reported that Wallace has become unhappy with his new employer. Amazingly, the team’s poor start is not the source of his frustration. Wallace is angry with a couple of team rules that ban headbands and requires all players to get their ankles taped before games. And Wallace is also unhappy that Coach Scott Skiles doesn’t allow pre-game music in the locker room.

Say what? Losing games isn’t Big Ben’s issue. This petty, sandbox stuff is why he’s been pouting instead of grabbing rebounds and playing lock down defense. Wallace better be careful, his reputation has taken some hits over the last couple of seasons. And for sixty million dollars, he can deal with some very minor inconveniences.

Here’s a thought: can the Bulls ask Wallace for a refund?

#5-Webber’s trade demands will wait.

Reports have surfaced that C-Webb is unhappy with his minutes and met with 76ers’management to request a trade. Webber’s monster contract, he scheduled to earn 40 million dollars over the next two seasons, makes him to difficult to move-at least for now.

A trade is also complicated by the forward’s injury troubles. But next season, teams seeking salary cap relief will be interested in acquiring Webber for his expiring contract. Until then, he’ll split time with Steven Hunter and Samuel Dalembert.

#4-Wright a bright spot in Miami.

Since winning the NBA Title, Heat fans haven’t had much to cheer about. Shaquille O’Neal is on another regular season sabbatical because of a leg injury. Too often, the offense stagnates. Gary Payton and Alonzo Mourning are getting older. They need another point guard. And there are new rumors that Pat Riley will step down as coach.

But lost in the drama has been the play of Dorrell Wright. Don’t get it twisted. This kid’s raw and needs time to develop. But he’s athletic enough to warrant regular minutes in Riley’s rotation and could eventually develop into another Rashard Lewis.


#3-Forget Pau, where are Memphis’ vets?

Forget Gasol’s injury. The Grizzlies are struggling because they no longer get contributions from their veteran players.                                         

Last year, Shane Battier, Lorenzen Wright, Eddie Jones, and Damon Stoudemire were important players, who set a professional tone in Memphis’ locker room. Over the summer, Battier got dealt to Houston, Wright signed as a free agent with Atlanta, while Jones and Stoudamire are recovering from injuries and have been unable to play at their usual high level.

Memphis’ slow start on the basketball court will trigger other changes. Fratello will soon be coaching elsewhere and legendary GM Jerry West is near the end of his illustrious career. And, thankfully, new owners are about to buy the team from Michael Heisley.

The good news for Grizzly fans: rookie Rudy Gay is a hi-flyer with the potential to be an outstanding player.

#2-Fratello isn’t the only coach feeling heat.

A few nights ago, Celtic fans chanted “fire Rivers.” The Boston faithful were right to voice their frustration. But the chant should have been “fire Rivers and fire Ainge.”

Raptors’ Coach Sam Mitchell began the season on shaky ground because he was hired by Toronto’s old GM, Rob Babcock. The new GM, Bryan Colangelo, has been disappointed with the team’s slow start and the Metro News reported that the players have tuned their coach out. All the signs are there, Mitchell’s time will soon be up.

Minnesota Coach Dwayne Casey will get a pink slip once Wolves’ owner Glen Taylor finally realizes it’s time to end the Kevin Garnett era.


#1-Veteran bench players key to Utah’s strong start.

There are many reasons for the Jazz’s fast start. Carlos Boozer is healthy and playing great basketball. Mehmet Okur is having another strong season. And Deron Williams, the third overall pick from the 2005 draft, looks like an elite point guard.

Lost in the mix has been the fine play of Matt Harpring and Derek Fisher. These veterans are providing much more than consistent scoring off the bench. Harpring sets the tone with his physical play, while Fisher, having lived through the Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant wars in LA, brings a calm, experienced demeanor.  

Both could win the sixth man of the year award.

Oly Sandor is an NBA analyst and free-lance writer based out of Vancouver, Canada. He’s contributed to the best sports websites, magazines, and radio stations. His Daily NBA Drop, Weekly Thoughts, and Editorial Take can be found at Oly can be reached at [email protected]