The NBA just passed the mid-point of their season, with most teams having played 41 of their 82 games at this stage of the year. So, it’s time to assess, a la the Los Angeles Lakers’ head coach Phil Jackson, the state of the biggest rumors flying around the league here at mid-season.
We’ll start with some of the top rumors, the ones that dominate the headlines around all the sports websites.
The hype and attention borders insanity, with Carmelo Anthony leading the pack but Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and an assortment of other players coming up close behind.
So, who will be traded, when and where?
And, have you been on that merry-go-round? Have you been caught up in those rumors, waiting by your computer to see when the trade unfolds?
Well, step off for a moment because I have some new perspective for you to think about. We’ll hit the trade rumors in a second.
The other big talk is the impeding demise of the Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant. You know the recent storyline: He’s lost it, his knee is shot, he’s old. The Lakers won’t repeat. Pick your poison.
Whether you are a Lakers lover or hater, counting out the defending champs this early might not be wise. We’re talking January. I’ll say it again. We’re in January, just passed the mid-point in games mark. Do you really think anything going on with the Lakers matters right now?
If you do, you’re being fooled.
So, here are my take on the biggest rumors floating around in the NBA mid-season.
The out of control talk of a pending Carmelo Anthony trade from the Denver Nuggets to either the New Jersey Nets, or possibly the New York Knicks, is like the weather in the Pacific Northwest.
One day it looks like Melo is a lock to land in Jersey. The next, he’s off to Manhattan to join forces with Amar’e Stoudemire.
But what everyone is missing is that Melo’s best move is to wait until summer.
Here’s why: I call it the “push” theory. To make a trade happen, the Nets (or Knicks or any other Melo suitor) has to trade good players to Denver to get Melo. So, Melo goes from one good team to another. But not great. He depletes one to get there.
It’s a push. The addition method is to wait until summer and then sign as an unrestricted free agent.
This is the Shaq method from 1996. It is the game plan of LeBron James this past summer. Go to a team with some talent already there and cap space.
Melo could join the Knicks or the Nets. The move for both teams is to do the LBJ dance and free up cap space before this year’s trade deadline. They’ll then be primed to add Melo.
Seriously, why do you trade, say, the Nets Devin Harris to get Melo when you can simply have Melo join Harris next summer?
Melo has to see this. The only con to all of this is the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that could change cap amounts. But, like LeBron, is Melo interested in making more money or winning rings?
The other big name floating around in trades is New Orleans' Chris Paul. Again, his options are limited in a trade. He suffers my “push” as well, going to a team that gave up good pieces to get good pieces. He ends up on a team no better than the one he left.
But Paul is unrestricted next summer too. He could join forces with Melo in New York.
It all comes down to a smart owner and GM. If another team is as bold as the Heat’s Pat Riley, to see these scenarios and go for them, another magical summer can happen with Melo and Paul landing on the same team, creating another super team.
The Lakers have even been mentioned as wildcards in the Melo and Paul hunts. The thing about LA, is that they have so many pieces, they can trade a few, get one or both of these free agents and stay on top.
Not many teams can do that. Most suffer my “push” theory.
Not LA. But, I don’t see the Lakers making a move during the year for Melo or Paul. And, if they win the NBA title again next June, I doubt they even pull the trigger in summer free agency if Melo and Paul stick it out and wait until free agency.
But if the Lakers don’t three-peat and Melo/Paul are out there next summer, look for some strings to be pulled by the Lakers’ Dr. Jerry Buss and his GM, Mitch Kupchak.
These guys don’t stand pat and if this current team doesn’t get it done, they’ll make changes. They have all the pieces in place to do it. They can sign and trade deals to get Melo and Paul.
Or, they trade for cap release. Either way, the Lakers can make moves.
The last trade rumor floating around is the Dwight Howard to LA one. Not going to happen.
Orlando is not going to part with Howard, nor is Dwight ready to pull the trigger and leave Florida.
But if the Magic can’t get back to the NBA Finals this year, things change. He could get traded next season because the Magic could lose him the following summer of 2012 to free agency.
Or Howard could simply wait it out, like I would suggest to Melo and Paul, and then sign with the team of his choosing.
By that time, LA comes completely into focus. I actually feel that if the Magic don’t make the NBA Finals these next two seasons, Howard will be gone, pulling a Shaquille O’Neal bailout to LA circa 1996.
It is almost laughable all the naysayers saying how Kobe has slipped, how it is over. The people who say this know nothing about him. They think they do, but they don’t.
Kobe only uses doubt as more fuel. So this tank is pretty full at this point, with the assembly of the Miami Heat last summer to all the talk of him being old this year.
But people forget that he is recovering from his own knee surgery. That takes time. And he’s improved over the past month or so.
Sure, he’s got miles on his odometer but he keeps his body in top form.
And Kobe is only 32. Michael Jordan was winning rings at 36, so I’d say Kobe’s got some years left.
Kobe’s only now finding his groove and so are the Lakers. With the return of center Andrew Bynum to top form, LA has begun to fire on all cylinders.
This has allowed Kobe to trust his teammates more and be that willing passer that then creates more flow and efficiency for both his own game and the Lakers as a whole.
I’ll go with the Lakers’ Phil Jackson grade so far on Kobe and his Lakers: B.
But I see high grades as the second half of the NBA season looms.
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