The competition for LeBron James and the rest of the free agent class in 2010 has teams across the NBA discounting the present and investing everything into their respective futures. The best players in the NBA want to play together by design. There are going to be a couple big winners in 2010 and a whole lot of losers.
Whether or not a player in the NBA earns their money, no one is safe from the wrath of LeBron. The teams courting LeBron are more than likely going to be relying on young talent that outperforms their contracts. In this way, Lebron's future has landed like a boulder in the pond of the present. Its ripples, or waves I should say, have impacted the league from coast to coast.
Everyone knows that the Knicks and a gaggle of other teams are all working madly to clear cap space with the hope of landing James. To this extent James' effects have been obvious, but there are far more subtle happenings around the league that result from his impending freedom.
For instance, it was recently rumored that Golden State Warriors' general manager, Chris Mullin, was going to assume GM duties with the New York Knicks after his contract in the Bay Area expires. Given the dynamic of recent hirings and firings in the front office at Oracle, the impression is that team president Robert Rowell is showing Mullin the door.
Then there is the trade of Harrington to the Knicks for Jamal Crawford. Even though this creates a logjam of guards for the Warriors, the fact that they were able to get anything for the cranky Al Harrington (and Dr. Fegan as baggage) is highly commendable.
The trade gives the Warriors yet another offensive option for this year, but more importantly it sets them up for the future in a way that lets them experiment in the present.
Allow me to clarify that. The addition of Crawford grants coach Don Nelson the luxury of experimenting with a variety of high-volume scorers. The Warriors have already invested in Andris Biedrins and Ronny Turiaf. The understanding is that Anthony Randolph and Brandan Wright are supposed to blossom in, around, over, and under them in any way possible.
The fans already know who the tall guys will be for the next few years, but Nelson has this season to decide which shooters he wants in the next two years—the years that matter.
Once Nelson has decided which players to keep, it is a simple matter of packaging one of the highly-coveted guards with Marco Belinelli or Marcus Williams (or both) as trade bait to try and snag the next piece of the puzzle. Granted I am reading into the situation, but it seems like a straightforward plan that relies on certainties to dictate the next decision (as opposed to a crap shoot in 2010).
So Harrington is dealt to the Knicks, and it is rumored that Mullin is going to be working under Donnie Walsh as his partner in crime at the Knicks' front office. The Knicks are without a GM, but there is most certainly a plan to fill all the holes in the now porous organization. The Knicks need to rebuild on a budget, and that happens to be Mullin's specialty.
Would it be surprising if Mullin used intimate knowledge of two teams heading in opposite directions to engineer a deal that benefits both? No. If Walsh already has a plan, is it in his best interests to privately consult the major players that will be involved? Yes.
Now consider that an outright denial of a contract offer to Mullin would not sit well with most Warriors fans. In addition, competition for Mullin provides the opportunity for a graceful exit. The fact that Harrington is a "Mully Guy" is just the sprinkles on the cupcake.
I would love to keep Mullin in the Bay, but there are bigger and better things awaiting him in New York; like bosses with pockets stuffed full of cash. Going to the Knicks would let Mullin go back to being "wheeling-and-dealing" Mully instead of "Let me check with my power broker" Mully. That is ultimately what is best for him.
The lure of the Knicks essentially gives owner Chris Cohan and Rowell a base amount of damage control in the fallout that will result from letting Mullin go. Something for which Cohan and Rowell should, ironically enough, thank Mullin. After all, Mullin can't help that he is such a popular guy.
The mouthpieces will tell you that the Warriors are making a run at the playoffs this year. I wouldn't run to the polls in belief of the hype just yet, but that doesn't mean the Warriors don't have the skill and potential to get there. Arguably they do have that ability if Crawford can fluidly transition back and forth between the point and shooting guard positions.
Experimenting with guards and growing his forwards appears to be the game that Nelson gets to play for the next two months.
The Warriors are now undeniably entering the final stages of the rebuilding process. There will probably be a couple more trades to pick up the final pieces and trade away the slack, but most of the Warriors will be sticking around for a while.
Golden State may not be very successful this year. At times your eyes may bleed. Like mine did during the game against the 76ers where they had less than 40 first half points, but the Warriors certainly have their sights set on the real prize—a better team in the long run.
The bottom line is that Crawford gives the Warriors significant depth on the court and on the trade table. Both of which the Warriors needed desperately, and got thanks to Mully and King James. Here's to a Finals featuring two teams that are headed in opposite directions to get to the same place, and the GM that could get them both there.
New York Knicks vs. Golden State Warriors in 2010!