Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
From Hello Brooklyn to Goodbye Magic, this was a very, very odd NBA summer. We review it from top to bottom.
The NBA offseason officially ends on Monday when the majority of teams hold media day to tip off training camp for the 2012-13 season. A few teams will be headed overseas, but soon enough we'll be bombarded with clichés, claims that every single team plans to run a fast break offense and assertions that this player or that player put on 20 pounds of muscle in the summer. It's fall tradition!
Before we get there, we need to review the offseason. Specifically, The Hook is going to review the best, worst and weirdest from a strange little summer in the NBA. Why was it strange? You'll see.
BEST EXAMPLE OF QUIETLY BECOMING A JUDAS: STEVE NASH
Steve Nash had the shocker of the offseason by turning down the Toronto Raptors and New York Knicks to join the L.A. Lakers. There should be record levels of distaste from this incident. During Nash's reign in Phoenix, the Lakers were probably the Suns' No. 1 foil. The Spurs and Mavericks are up there, but Kobe Bryant tortured the Suns and vice versa for much of Nash's eight seasons in Phoenix.
But Nash received inordinately low levels of blowback for the move. Phoenix knew this day was coming; frankly, we should all be stunned Nash waited until 2012 to exit the slowly sinking ship. So Suns fans could hardly be mad about Nash's decision not to re-sign. Toronto wouldn't have had a shot at a free agent of Nash's
caliber calibre were he not the greatest Canadian player of all time; surely, the kindly neighbors neighbours felt glad to be included in the conversation. Nash also flirted heavily with the Knicks, but New York is used to teases. Remember LeBron and Dwight?
But the decision to sign with the Lakers -- that should have launched some protests. LeBron got killed for joining a superteam -- Nash joined a superteam that also happened to be his old team's rival. If you are the type to get upset about free agents exercising their rights, you should be furious with Nash. (I should note that there are some videos of fans burning Steve Nash's jersey. But I'm pretty sure it was all accidental -- in Arizona's dry heat, things tend to combust randomly.)
Maybe the American sports fan community has grown in maturity since The Decision. Or maybe there's another explanation for the difference in reaction between Nash and LeBron. I can't imagine what that would possibly be, though.
PROFESSIONAL TROLL OF THE YEAR: DARYL MOREY
I mean that in the nicest way possible: Daryl Morey used his detailed knowledge of the minutiae of the new collective bargaining agreement to troll the snot out of the Knicks and Bulls. Two prized free agents in 2012 were Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik. Both happened to fit in the loophole that allowed teams to extend poison pill offer sheets. Both came from teams who did want to keep them ... but who have high payrolls and concerns about the coming punitive luxury tax system. Morey took advantage by giving both of them poison pill offer sheets. And he won: New York lost its surprise superstar in Lin, and the Bulls waved goodbye to their best big man defender.
Whether Lin and Asik earn out their contracts in Houston is a question mark: they'll both be opening day starters, but don't have a ton of help beyond Kevin Martin and a whole lot of youth. Regardless, Morey showed how the art of trolling is done.
WORST START SINCE THE 0-18 NETS: ROB HENNIGAN
Rob Hennigan has an impeccable C.V.: he spent four years in the Spurs' front office, then another four with the Thunder. These are the GMs you want your team to hire. But the young man had a little trial by fire after winning the Magic job. There was a lot of fire. Hennigan was parachuted into the Dwight Howard stand-off, and he began by trying to convince Dwight Howard to stay in Orlando. Unfortunately the Magic had already played that card, resulting in a bizarre little ESPN story claiming that Howard felt the franchise had blackmailed him into postponing free agency. After attempts to get Dwight to sign long-term failed (shocking!), Hennigan opened up bidding and quickly seemed to close in on the Brooklyn Nets' offer. But things didn't move as planned, and the Nets decided to lock up Brook Lopez on a max deal, essentially preventing a Dwight deal before midseason.
Hennigan eventually found a deal -- a four-teamer that resulted in Howard joining the Lakers. Two other All-Stars were included in the trade: Andrew Bynum (maybe the league's No. 2 center behind Dwight) and Andre Iguodala (a superstar defender paid a superstar wage). Somehow, Orlando ended up with neither. Hennigan showed his allegiance by going full Presti Plan in Orlando: he took back Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington and basically no other meaningful salary. The problem is he didn't really get a bumper crop of picks or great prospects and didn't lose the most onerous salary on Orlando's books, Hedo Turkoglu. (He did get rid of Jason Richardson.) The Magic's first-round picks will come in 2014, 2015 and 2017, in all likelihood, and the best prospect the team picked up (other than Afflalo, who is making really good money) is either Moe Harkless or Nikola Vucevic.
On the one hand, that's an awful trade. On the other hand ... that's an awful trade. You can exonerate Hennigan because he came into a complete mess. But he knew he was coming into a complete mess. This is the best he could come up with? We're deducting 10 points from Emerson.
BIGGEST CREDIBILITY BOOST: KYRIE IRVING
Irving won Rookie of the Year pretty handily ... but definitely made his legend more powerful in the summer, primarily through two avenues: a sneaker ad (of course), served as a foil for Kobe's old man swag act and a nasty set of crossovers in a scrimmage (of COURSE of course). Kyrie's Uncle Drew spots were both hilarious and smooth, adding some personality around a kid we actually don't know a whole lot about -- he's always seemed inordinately professional, but not quite in the choir-boy Grant Hill way. Then Kyrie did something really, really nasty to Kobe Bryant and Team USA during pre-Olympic training.
ROOKIE OF THE OFFSEASON: ROYCE WHITE
In case you went into a summer hibernation without basketball, here's the excellent Royce White draft documentary Grantland produced. You can't go into the season without seeing this.
To lay your insecurity and anxiety so bare not only helps us basketball fans understand White's challenge, but helps all viewers understand anxiety disorder a lot better. Kudos to Royce, Christopher Hock and everyone involved.
BEST ADMISSION OF DEFEAT: DAVID KAHN
David Kahn is a repeat winner of this award: He traded 2009's No. 6 pick, Jonny Flynn, for basically nothing last summer. This year, he exiled 2010 No. 4 pick Wesley Johnson plus a protected first to Phoenix for three second-round picks. Kahn took Johnson over DeMarcus Cousins, Greg Monroe, Gordon Hayward and Paul George, plus any number of others who weren't rated too highly but have outperformed Johnson. So, well done, Kahn! When the Timberwolves make the playoffs this season, it will largely be in spite of Kahn, not because of him.
SADDEST BACK-UP PLAN: THE NEW YORK KNICKS
First the Knicks lost out on Steve Nash. Then they decided that they couldn't afford to match the Jeremy Lin offer sheet. So what did they end up with? Raymond Felton (who ate his way out of Portland), Jason Kidd (age 216) and Pablo Prigioni (a 35-year-old NBA rookie). It makes one long for the days of Chris Duhon.
MOST COMPELLING RETOOLING: THE DALLAS MAVERICKS
I'm not saying that the Mavs are going to be particularly good -- 45-win season, first-round exit sounds right -- but this is a really, really different team. Neither the Deron Williams Prayer or the Dwight Howard Gambit worked, so Donnie Nelson and crew traded for Darren Collison, signed O.J. Mayo to an entirely reasonable and short deal and plucked up Chris Kaman and Elton Brand. I mean ... I'm gonna watch. That's a weird little possibly boring but possibly not collection of talent.
MOST HATEABLE OFFSEASON: THE LOS ANGELES LAKERS
They never disappoint. Nabbing Steve Nash was enough of a wound. Swapping Bynum for Dwight was a big ol' heap of salt. The only thing that can make the Lakers more hateable at this point is if Reeves Nelson actually makes the team.
HATER OF THE OFFSEASON: KEVIN LOVE
TRUEST JUDAS MOMENT: RAY ALLEN
If Steve Nash largely got away with becoming a turncoat, Ray Allen did not. (Fancy that. #WEAREBOSTON.) Shuttlesworth left the Celtics to take less money to join the
rival hated Heat. He didn't blame anyone or anything publicly, but reports that Rajon Rondo had been on Ray's last nerve surfaced immediately. Even if those didn't secretly come from Ray, they came from someone who knew Ray's thinking well.
'SCREW IT, WE'RE GOING LONG' AWARD: THE BROOKLYN NETS
Welcome to the Mikhail Prokhorov Era. The Russian oligarch has owned the team for a few years now, but he clearly held his ammo for the Brooklyn move. This summer, Prok, general manager Billy King and the crew gave Deron Williams $100 million, handed Brook Lopez a max, paid eight figures to keep each of Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries and absorbed the rest of Joe Johnson's fantastic contract. Mark Cuban on Ecstasy stuff.
OFFSEASON CHAMPION: LEBRON JAMES
LeBron James capped off his greatest season ever -- one itself capped by the league MVP award, an NBA championship and the NBA Finals MVP award -- with a gold medal and, even more importantly (for jerks) no major PR stumbles. He wanted to be a global icon. He is a Global Icon. No one disputes this. All hail LeBron, master of his domain and several other domains as well. It's really been his league for a long time, but now the question of whether it is or is not his league is incredibly silly. Of course, it's LeBron's league. His summer of adoration just emphasizes that.
The Hook is a daily NBA column by Tom Ziller. See the archives.