Fool's Gold: NBA GMs Should Beware of Inflated Stats

Gerald FlemmingCorrespondent IAugust 3, 2009

MIAMI - OCTOBER 31:  A championship ring made for Shaquille O'Neal of the Miami Heat is shown to the media before the ring presentation ceremony prior to the game against the Chicago Bulls on opening night on October 31, 2006 American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

Deadly daggers from beyond the arc.  Good hands in the lane with a baby hook that swishes the twine.  Ankle breaking dribble drives from a man that leaves the boy behind. Posterizing dunks that seem to come from the free throw line, stepping on the faces of the other team on the way to the basket.  The perfectly timed swat from the hands of a defensive Ninja, complete with the Mutumbo finger wag!!

Ah yes, contract year.  The year when most of the middling talents put it all together for one crazy run at the big check.  Getting Paid!!  Who knew money could make mere mortals TEMPORARY Gods. 

We've all heard the stories of the devoted mothers who are in a horrible car accident.  The only thing you can hear above the flames is the sound of her baby crying.  She instantly turns in to the She-Hulk and somehow flips the car over and gets her baby out. 

Except in the NBA the baby is an eight figure contract.  Enough money to set up their next 10 generations with diamond encrusted toilet seats and the latest TV laden Ferrari. 

As we all sit here and imagine the worst excesses of an episode of MTV's CRIBS, let's ponder for a few seconds what can make players themselves, fool's gold. The player who guilds our imagination with what could be but never will be.

Sometimes players are living off the benefits of being in the right system at the right time. 

There must be a secret hate for players like Steve Nash.  He's so good at making other players look good, (Quentin Richardson, Shawn Marion) that he sets other GM's up. Both of those players never came close to the stats they had in Phoenix, but they both got paid like they did. 

Other times a player is acutely aware of the contract year and puts in an incredible amount of work in that one offseason. 

Mike James when he played for the Raps put up 20 points and seven assists, the year he manned the point.  The Raps GM smelled the fool's gold, and let him sign big somewhere else. 

He never touched those numbers again, and has become arguably a mediocre second string point. Yeah, living in a beautiful mansion and set up for life. Did you see the episode of NANNY 911, with the James family?  Yeah, whatever.  My wife made me watch it!!

A lot of people are saying that Ariza could be that player this year.  The guy who looked so good in the post season that he parlayed it in to a sweet contract. 

Did he really give us a glimpse on the biggest stage in the world about the hidden potential that he possesses? Or did he just have a great few weeks, benefiting from being way open by playing next to the most dominant offensive force in the game today? What happens when defenses zone in a little tighter on his corner threes, or can body up on him better for those dribble drives?

Is Ariza moving to Houston right now, giggling to himself, acutely aware of the theft he pulled off?  Is he crapping his drawers afraid of being subjected to expectations that he has no hope in hell of fulfilling?  Or is he believing his own press and thinking, yeah I got this?  Maybe he does, but his future remains unwritten.

Every time a GM acquires a player, he's throwing himself at the mercy of the fates.  He's a professional high stakes gambler.  Just look at the Buss/Odom situation.  Each of them staring over their cards, cigar clenched tightly between their teeth.  Trash talking through the smoke.  Both of them bluffing each other over multi-million dollar pots. 

And you get a sense that when Buss went all in, he got up from the table and walked away because he knew that he had Odom right where he wanted him.

Could Odom be a bad bet?  Probably not. 

He's a proven, multi-dimensional player who has a rare collection of skills and athleticism.  No history of major injuries...but you know that Buss is still praying to whatever God he believes in, that when all the chips fall, and he throws it all on the table next fall, that he's not the ring-less guy left holding the bag of fool's gold.

Because the only shine that matters to real men, players and GMs alike, is from the gold in that trophy, and the gold in those rings.