Money to Burn: The NBA's Five Worst Contracts in 2011
Who doesn't enjoy hearing about how upset billionaire owners are with players "taking their talents" to specific locations, and later arguing about how much they're paying out?
How are we to sympathize with owners screaming foul when they can't even trust themselves to keep from outdoing one another with ridiculous contract offers to marginal players?
And how does Utah pay out $73 million annually, after the Deron Williams trade, to yield a team that has dropped 14 of its last 18?
Now presenting: the five NBA contracts least worth paying.
How to Spend $20 Million
$20 million, in the real world, might buy you a small-sized school, renovate a medium-sized hospital, or provide large amounts of housing for the underprivileged.
In the NBA, this nets you one Rashard Lewis, per year.
If you combine his points, assists and rebounds per game, Lewis is paid one million dollars a year for each of these single stats he averages per game.
Yes, his knees are shot, and at one time he was a key ingredient of an Orlando team rising to prominence in the Eastern Conference, but when you consider that Lewis is second only to Kobe Bryant in salary and that he's getting a pay raise for the next three years, it's no small wonder the owners need to reconsider how their money is being spent.
Somehow, the Wizards managed to absorb a contract more absurdly gaudy than what they gave to Gilbert Arenas.
There is no more bloated or wasteful contract in the history of the NBA than this one, even when it was signed.
Gilbertology 101, Lesson 1: Gilbert Is Still Overpaid
Arenas, by signing through to the end of the 2013-2014 season, is scheduled to earn a total of $70 million.
The former second-round pick is earning his $17 million per year salary largely as a backup point guard, playing 21 minutes per game coming off the bench for Stan Van Gundy's Magic.
Granted, ever since Shaq left for L.A. the Magic have had an inferiority complex about keeping stars around, but surely Gilbert Arenas won't inspire Dwight Howard's confidence any more than keeping Vince Carter gainfully employed with the team or bringing back overweight, sluggish Hedo Turkoglu.
Short of putting a gun to his head, Dwight Howard will end up a Laker or a Mav even before this ignominious contract reaches its term.
Add Gilbert Arenas to the list of reasons why there will be a lockout next season.
AK-47 Firing Blanks
When Andrei Kirilenko was signed to a massive $80 million contract at the end of 2006, he was averaging 15 points, pulling in eight rebounds and swatting away over three shots per game.
Since then, he has averaged 10 points, 4.5 boards and 1.5 blocks per game.
A comparable player such as Josh Smith makes $5 million less annually than does the angular Russian and supplies his team with more in every category.
The only residual advantage to Kirilenko's signing was a boost in Baron Davis poster sales.
Other than that, Kirilenko's expiring $17 million a year is the biggest relief for a woeful season in Utah. He doesn't start as frequently as he did before the contract was signed, and he has never really taken the next step in his development as a player.
He will be signed next year, but perhaps not in Utah, where he currently consumes 25 percent of the Jazz's payroll and will make nowhere near as much as he has over the last six years.
Then again, maybe he will. This is the NBA, after all.
Eddy Curry's name came up recently as a trade was completed involving New York, not as a player involved but rather as the now-inveterate "expiring contract."
Curry is, ostensibly, still a player in the NBA judging by all the tattoos and his seven-foot frame, but this is the final season of the embarrassment that is his $11-million-per-year contract.
The Knicks have finally rid themselves of the dubious distinction of having the worst-controlled payroll in the league, a reputation which came about largely due to Curry's signing and the $20 million Stephon Marbury was stealing annually from New York for several seasons.
In actuality, all of this talk of big-market teams "stealing players" is somewhat unjustified, given that the two main "thieves," New York and Miami, are actually well down the list of team payrolls, sitting at 16th and 20th in the league, respectively.
Supposed "small-market" teams like Memphis, Portland, Atlanta and Toronto all pay out more than these big, bad "large-market" teams.
Anyway, Minnesota is now paying Eddy Curry the last money he will see from the NBA.
The next time we hear about the player once dubbed "Baby Shaq," it will be for something terrible, I'm afraid.
Only $100 Million Owed
Google "Joe Johnson contract" and the immediate returns will tell you that this contract was a harbinger of worse things to come in the NBA.
In fairness to Joe, he has lived up to his end of the bargain, being named to All-Star teams and giving Atlanta steady offense with his long-range shooting and athletic plays on both ends of the floor.
Considering some of the bums on and off this list, it hardly seems fair to place such a productive player among these dubious "elites."
The reason he ends up here, however, is because of what he began.
For every Joe Johnson, there is a Gilbert Arenas or a Rashard Lewis.
And even with his numbers in a slow decline, decline they will. The contract terms might be justified now, but will they be justifiable when Johnson isn't being selected for All-Star teams or putting up 14 points a game as a three-point specialist for a Hawks team whose time is now?
In 2016, when Johnson is still earning $26 million, let me know how the NBA is doing.
If there is an NBA.