But first, what happens when you cross the Memphis Grizzlies with the Pentagon Papers?
Restricted Free Agency for Dummies
The dust has settled on Memphis, the franchise practically burying itself alive in new and inventive labor practices. And this latest, known simply as The Conley Contract (like a 70s thriller) takes thing to another level, as they say in the Halls of Dolan after a really hot episode of "Entourage." Luckily, the $45 million extension given to point guard Mike Conley by the Grizzlies sucks hard enough to take care of dust, coffee grounds and pet dandruff, just like a Dyson. Yes, that was a vacuum cleaner joke in the Year 2010. I know you were promised more. Blame Ray Kurzweil.
Curious as to how the Grizzlies botched yet another contract negotiation? Apparently, ever since the Xavier Henry saga, Grizzlies franchise owner Michael Heisley has been keen on learning the intricacies of the collective bargaining agreement. Heisley has leaned on CBA minutia to get that extra edge in the boardroom, and then resorted to the downright mystical when looking to shore up the Grizzlies' core for all time.
Unfortunately, there is golf to be played, and that CBA is pretty danged long and not available on book-on-tape. So GM Chris Wallace's team has devised a series of cheat sheets for the owner, to help get him up to speed. Courtesy of a mole deeply embedded in Memphis, here's the franchise's cheat sheet for restricted free agency.
Behold, the key to all that guides Michael Heisley:
Worked like a charm in the Rudy Gay, Ronnie Brewer and Mike Conley scenarios. We'll see how it applies to Marc Gasol next summer and O.J. Mayo in 2012. (TZ)
Of Mouses and Men
The occasion of Al Horford's extension -- identical to that of Joakim Noah -- presented the opportunity for some good old-fashioned debate. SBNation.com's thoughtful scribe Andrew Sharp and I argued the finer points of Horford-Noah, with Sharp picking the frizzy one for reasons outlined in this lengthy Tuesday post.
On that particular subject, I'll just reiterate the points I made on Twitter on Monday: Horford is the better defender and scorer, Noah the better rebounder. As such, I'd prefer Horford. That Horford is a bigger part of Atlanta's offense than Noah in Chicago is a feature, not (as Sharp argues) a bug, given that Horford is a highly efficient scorer in the pivot.
The ability to score at the basket is incredibly valuable, as argued by the Lakers' success since they acquired Pau Gasol, the poles of Vince Carter's career, Shaquille O'Neal's four championships, Tim Duncan's four championships, the young careers of Rajon Rondo and Tyreke Evans and, for good measure, Sharp's own column last week, in which he writes:
How many teams have a true low-post scoring option at this point? Orlando (Howard), Los Angeles (Gasol), Miami (Bosh), San Antonio (Duncan), Utah (Jefferson), New York (Amare) and Memphis (I don't buy Sharp's contention that Horford's ability to score in the pivot disrupts or has the potential to disrupt Atlanta's offense. My position is based on the fact that Atlanta's offense finished No. 2 in the ). Maybe Portland (Aldridge), Boston (KG), and Chicago (Boozer). What's the common thread there? Except for Memphis and New York, those are all playoff teams. And not just playoff teams, but real contenders.NBA last season as Horford took more shots than ever. Sharp calls a post scorer "as much a responsibility as a luxury." This position ignores a very simple reality: shots have to come from somewhere on the floor. Would you prefer they come from an efficient scorer close to the rim (such as Horford), or a less efficient scorer (such as every other player on the 2009-10 Atlanta Hawks)? The answer is simple.
You can prefer Noah because of his superlative rebounding and active defense; to do so, however, because Jo's offense is not as effective as that of Horford is just bizarre.
There's another strain of Sharp's column that needs to be addressed: the idea Chris Bosh cannot score in the post.
Before Bosh hit free agency, I wrote a glowing profile of the then-Raptor's career to date. This came in response to suggestions Bosh was not worthy of a maximum-value contract in July. Bosh, of course, received multiple max offers, eventually taking slightly less than the capped rate to join Dwyane Wade and LeBron James in Miami. When he did so, he clearly made himself the Heat's third banana. No one would dispute this.
Somehow, the fact that Bosh is not as powerful as James or Wade has emboldened the forward's critics; Sharp writes that Bosh is "still a power forward that plays like a small forward" and that he "can't score inside." More Sharp:
[A]ll year long, then especially in the playoffs, Chris Bosh will stick out like a sore thumb among the Heat's big three. He's a good player, but he's not striking fear into Boston and L.A.The reality is that Bosh can score in the post but can also score on the perimeter.
According to HoopData.com, last season Bosh took 5.9 shots a game from inside five feet, and converted 64 percent of them. He took 3.3 shots a game from 5-10 feet, and converted 50 percent of them. Last season, a certain Mr. Pau Gasol took 5.8 shots a game from inside five feet, and converted 64 percent of them. He took 3.7 shots a game from 5-10 feet, and converted 45 percent of them.
If, as Sharp argues, Bosh is too weak to beat Boston in the playoffs, Gasol is too weak to beat Boston in the playoffs. Except, err, Gasol beat Boston in the playoffs last year.
In the Finals last June, according, again, to HoopData, Gasol went 20 of 41 at the rim and 8 of 19 from 5-10 feet, for a total "inside" shooting percentage of 47 percent. In the Heat's opener against Boston, Bosh went 3-5 at the rim and 0-1 from 5-10 feet, for an inside shoot percentage of 50 percent. In three games against the Celtics last season, Bosh went a total of nine of 13 at the rim and eight of 11 from 5-10 feet. In those four games -- one this season, three last year -- Bosh went 20 of 30 (67 percent) against Boston inside of 10 feet.
So Bosh has shot almost as frequently and far more efficiently than Gasol in the post against the Celtics. Yet Bosh plays like a small forward and will not strike fear into elite opponents, while Pau is the second best player on the two-time defending champions? Consider me flummoxed. (TZ)
How Not to Stay on Top
Back to the matter of kooky front office strategy: Tuesday, the Detroit Free Press announced that not only would the Pistons be interested in acquiring Josh Smith, but the Hawks just might be willing to make a deal. The logic here is oh-so obvious: Joe Johnson and Al Horford are now locked in longterm. Smith makes a decent amount of money. Uh-oh. Time to panic and break up a core of young All-Stars (Smith was robbed last season).
This reasoning is the opposite of how Heisley does business. Conley is signed in hopes that paying him like an essential piece will turn him into one. In this hypothetical Hawks scenario, Atlanta realizes they now have three stars on the books, panic, and have to cut ties with someone. It's irrelevant that Smith, more than anyone else, allows this team to take the shape it does. If a team is spending money in these troubled times, and seems to have an embarrassment of riches, clearly they are in trouble and looking for a way out. Why don't you ask the Celtics, Heat, or Lakers about this -- in short, any time they're considered to have a good shot at a title? I know, the Magic, too. They pay Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter like they were Josh Smith and Joe Johnson. Seems like they're the team who should be talking to Detroit.
On-and-off Josh Smith trade rumors have been a staple of Hawks reporting, though usually from visiting reporters rolling through town who didn't bother to note that Smith is now indispensable to that team. Or those stuck on the notion, which is so 2008, that he's a puerile bad boy who ignores coaches and fights with teammates -- all charges that were subsequently debunked. But like a good political ad, or any of those times they get your name wrong in the local paper, this kind of rumor is always more powerful than the correction. However, the disconnect between "Smith for Sale" and the reality in Atlanta could not be further apart these days. (BS)
Sticks, Stones, and Skin
I come here not to speak lightly of cancer, or defend Kevin Garnett as a tough guy. Cancer is terrible, and Garnett has a long history of picking on small fries, or running his mouth on the court without looking to back it up. Sorry, it's true. I don't even really care about Charlie Villanueva, and how soft he might be -- and whether this has anything to do with how he carries himself outside of the arena. But the non-story of when CV met KG seems to be a case of (to crib a favorite "Chappelle Show" segment) when talking trash on the court goes wrong.
You could say that Garnett crossed the line with his comments about Villanueva's appearance, which is the result of a rare genetic condition. Or, as with the time some dude called the cops on J.R. Smith when they had an altercation during a pick-up game, maybe we should all just calm down and think of the court as a place where certain social norms don't apply. I don't think Garnett is ever really looking for a fight, and yet he's unable to play without running his mouth incessantly. Similarly, would you like a transcription of everything Michael Jordan, Gary Payton, or Sam Cassell ever said to an opponent? Do you think it was always within bounds?
Insensitive, maybe. But come on. This is sports. Sports is war. Racial slurs are probably off-limits, though probably because it would haunt a player (black or white) for the next decade, in both the media and on the court. This episode, though, just seems like poor taste. Inexcusable in the work place, but during a game? All in the game. Then again, it was Celtics-Pistons. Is that really anything more than a glorified scrimmage? (BS)
The Works is a daily column written by Bethlehem Shoals (@freedarko) and Tom Ziller (@teamziller). Their Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History is now available.