Three for All
How one trade could change the 2010 free agent season.
by Adam Sweeney
If building a championship team is like playing chess, Wednesday’s trade of Antawn Jamison to the Cleveland Cavaliers should count as the first pawn move of what will soon be a great match in the summer of 2010. But the trade between the New York Knicks, Houston Rockets and Sacramento Kings may end up serving as a checkmate to Cleveland’s future with LeBron James.
On the surface, most fans and hoops experts seem to be placing the Knicks as the big winner in this trade. Much of this is strictly from the hysteria that comes with a true opportunity to grab LeBron James next summer. That’s like saying there’s a possibility that Scarlett Johannsen could do a nude scene in her next film. It’s not likely, but you never know. The Knicks finally have cap flexibility and only 4 players under contract for next season. Even if the Knicks don’t land their dream duo of LeBron James/Chris Bosh or LeBron/Dwyane Wade, Donnie Walsh should be congratulated for improbably removing the worst parts of a roster Isiah “Lil’ Luxury Tax” Thomas put together. I now believe in miracles. But it did cost a lot to make it happen. It’s also important to recognize that New York can not sign two big name players and keep David Lee.
Snagging Sergio Rodriguez from the Kings gives head coach Mike D’Antoni an up tempo point guard that fits into his system. He can’t D anyone up, which also unfortunately fits into D’Antoni’s formula. With that flaw and a broken jumper, don’t expect the second coming of Steve Nash (not that Nash’s name is synonymous with great D). Settle for an exciting player who has great court vision and you’ll be satisfied.
An intriguing part of the Knicks’ move is the acquisition of Tracy McGrady, a man who was more lost than Locke or Jack ever could be. T-Mac will have the chance to shine on the brightest stage, as he’s been asking for. He also is going to face an unforgiving fan base if he can’t come through. Welcome to NYC. McGrady is basically having a half-season audition to prove he shouldn’t be nicknamed “T-Contract.” If he shows he can still ball, he could be re-signed and serve as an interesting piece of bait to lure LeBron in. If he fails he will get dumped and have to test the market. Say hello to “Allen Iverson goes to Memphis: The Sequel.”
It’s a bit bizarre to see McGrady leave Houston. He is tied in Rockets history with Steve Francis as the player most likely to make you scream in joy one second and throw your remote at the TV the next. I’ve been hard on Mac the last couple of seasons, but I will never forget his offensive outburst against San Antonio in 2004, when he dropped 13 in 35 seconds to win the game. At his peak, he was a rival to Kobe for the No. 1 guard in the game. But that was a lifetime ago. As of now, he will be remembered as one of the most gifted players in NBA history who has been beaten time and again by his own body, his attitude and a number of teams who were just flat out better in the first round.
Out of the three teams in the trade, the Houston Rockets set themselves up best for the present and the future. In fact, the biggest player in the deal wasn’t even on the court. This just in: Daryl Morey is a genius. There should be a general manager’s training session where Morey teaches others how to get the most out of a team. The greatest piece of his fleecing of deal with the Knicks and Kings is grabbing Kevin Martin, a 2 guard who will relieve the pressure Aaron Brooks and Trevor Ariza felt to put up points. He can’t create his own shot but he’s an efficient scorer that will blend into Rick Adelman’s motion offense quite well. He will get 20 a night without slowing down the team. You know, what Rockets fans have been praying T-Mac would do for the last two seasons. Will he be able to avoid the injury bug that has recently bitten him? Let’s hope so, for Mini-Mart’s sake. Otherwise it’s a matter of time before the Houston Chronicle calls him “Mini-Mac.”
Getting Martin alone from Sac-town would have been enough to consider the move a success for the Rockets. But to swap a 2011 pick with New York and grab their 2012 conditional first round pick to go with Jordan Hill and Jared Jeffries is outrageous. No, it never feels good to give up a high energy guy like Carl Landry but with Yao coming back next season there were just too many bodies down low for next year. You’ll take a move of Landry for Martin straight up, which is what the Rockets pretty much did with Sacramento. By bringing New York along for the ride, Houston have the pieces to become a title contender.
What’s scary is that JA Adande claims that one source says the Rockets came close to getting Amar’e Stoudemire in the final hours before the trade deadline, offering Luis Scola, Shane Battier, Brian Cook, a Rockets draft pick and one of the picks the Rockets acquired from the Knicks. The Suns wanted to waive the physical examinations for the players involved since time was running out. The Rockets weren’t down with that, knowing Stoudemire has had two knee surgeries, so Phoenix kept him. Next season, we could have seen the Rockets run out a starting five of Yao, Amar’e, Trevor Ariza, Martin and Aaron Brooks. Damn.
The Kings sent out a message to the world that the team now belongs to Tyreke Evans. Evans and Martin just weren’t working together, so props to the Kings for recognizing it and not letting the fractured marriage go on for too long.
Swinging Carl Landry from Houston gives them a proven low post scorer, perhaps the 6th Man of the Year and a potential future All-Star. Landry is explosive, hungry and tireless. He also is a poor rebounder and less than adequate defender. Still, you have to love him if you’re a Kings fan.
Larry Hughes will bring a scor…who the hell am I kidding? He’s an expiring contract. Moving Martin and dropping Hughes in the summer suddenly makes them a sleeper in the transaction season. The Kings have the chance to be playoff contenders far quicker than we had imagined.
It’s rare that you see a two-team trade take place that benefits both sides. Seeing three teams get in the mix and all walk away smiling? You’re more likely to see T-Pain make an album without Auto-Tune. Sacramento is getting its groove back, the Rockets set up their franchise for the next two years in a single trade, and the Knicks have moved their pieces to officially become players in the 2010 Summer LeBron Games. Now they have to wait to see how the Cavs finish this season. A championship or deep series run in the NBA Finals would give LeBron reason to believe there are titles waiting for him in Cleveland. Anything less and James could take a bite out of The Big Apple. Simply put, it comes down to how well the Cavaliers can protect their “King.”