Thursday, February 18, 2010

BallHype: hype it up!

Deadline: USA

It's NBA Trade Deadline Day. Somewhere in the Floridian wilderness, Isiah Thomas is furiously working a bank of phones whose chords dangle unattached off the end of his desk.

It's the day that has brought us such blockbuster transactions as Steve Francis for Trevor Ariza and Penny Hardaway. At this mid-February trade deadline in recent years, we've acquired Tim Thomas. We've traded Tim Thomas. We've acquired Nazr Mohammed. We've traded Nazr Mohammed. We've given up draft picks for overpriced role players. We've also surrendered draft picks for role players with bloated contracts. The moves have been legion. Yet nothing has really happened.

Until today. Until today? Well, maybe.

Knicks GM Donnie Walsh may trade away large swaths of the team's roster by 3 p.m. this afternoon, cleaning out the cupboard in order to free up enough money to sign two free-agent All-Stars during the upcoming offseason. All of today's moves are should be aimed at that goal. Not only will the lives of the players being traded by affected by what agreements are made today by the league's power brokers but the lives of those who stay behind will likely be altered as well. If the Knicks move Jared Jeffries - the team's best defender - then David Lee - the team's best offensive player - probably doesn't come back next season. At least not by design. And he knows that.

Coo Coo Ca-Choo, Mr. Robinson
Heaving hangs the head the wears the crown. Just days after bringing home his historic third Slam Dunk Title, Nate Robinson appears to be shipping up to Boston. The deal was widely reported on Wednesday and seems fated to be complete today. The iteration of the trade most frequently bandied about yesterday had the Knicks sending Robinson to a division rival in exchange for reserve guard Eddie House, a second round draft pick in 2011 or 2012. This transaction is mildly complicated due to Nate's contract status: He's what is called a base-year compensation player, which means that the Knicks do not, or actually cannot, take back equal money. They can only take back a little more than half of Nate's $4 million salary. This means that additional players could be thrown into the deal until the math works out. No player of consequence will be added as it appears that both clubs see this primarily as a Nate-for-House swap.

As much as, I'm willing, perhaps even eager, to get behind the Don's all-in mentality vis a vis free agency, I'm not sold on this particular move. Because I see this as being personal rather than business. It's no secret that a D'Antoni doesn't like Robinson. He berates him on the sidelines after miscues. And, that's obviously only when Robinson is in the lineup. He was benched for a long stretch at the end of 2009.

Robinson is more talented in every facet of the game save one. House is a catch-and-shoot player. He's a born role player whereas Robinson's freakish dynamism make him more than that. Which is a problem. Coach D'Antoni wants Robinson to be a back-up point guard or a catch-and-shoot two guard. He wants him to man a wing at the top of the team's zone. But Robinson is a playmaker who can create his own shot and an athletic wonder with the ability and desire to crash the boards and as well as go for the steal. He's a more well-rounded basketball player than House. Hands down. But House's limitations may be his strong suit as far as D'Antoni is concerned.

Readers of Seven Seconds or Less will remember that House played for Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni in Phoenix and was that club's resident motor-mouth, streak shooter. He found House's high jinks cheeky and fun whereas he apparently sees Nate's as destructive and sad.

The saving grace for this deal is the inclusion of a draft pick. With the Knicks having already moved this year's selection to Utah and likely to send the new few picks to Houston, it is crucial that the team finds a reason to show up at Radio City on draft day.

A Boy Named Tracy
The Knicks just acquired a seven-time All-Star in exchange for ... well ... for a lot of pieces. "A King's Ransom" is what some would and will call what the Knicks gave up in order to acquire former All-Star and current exile Tracy McGrady from Houston and European point guard Sergio Rodriguez from Sacramento. And, in this case, they would be correct. Except Tracy is not the King in question. Nope. And, neither is Rodriguez. McGrady is window dressing. He's the lipstick on this pig of a season. He may even play exceedingly well once he shakes off the rust of his injuries and subsequent banishment from Houston. There was a time when McGrady was perhaps the most physically gifted ballplayer in the Association. But his talents are beside the point here. Just like the rest of this season is besides the point.

Thanks to this deal, the Knicks will likely have the ability to offer maximum contracts to two marquee free agents during the upcoming offseason. If players were groceries and general managers like Donnie Walsh could just place them in a cart then he'd be in the 10 Items Or Less line with Lebron James and Chris Bosh in his basket come July. That's the point of this trade. Not the boy named Tracy.

Walsh came to New York with a mandate to make them players in the Summer of 2010. He did it. At an extremely high cost? Surely. But he got this team farther under the salary cap then most would have thought possible. If he lures LBJ +1 to the Big Apple this summer then it was a coup. If he doesn't then he will rue the day he met Rockets GM Daryl Morey.