Friday, June 29, 2007

The Hawks usually do dumb things

A friend of mine was outraged this morning that the Atlanta Hawks had killed talks about acquiring Amare Stoudemire from the Phoenix Suns for their third and eleventh overall draft picks. If they could do that deal, why not go through with it, he pleaded? Given, the Hawks are traditionally a dumb, disorganized franchise, so something stupid happening isn't totally out of the question with them.

Then, he and I discussed who they might potentially draft. Conventional wisdom had them taking Al Horford at the third overall selection. After some discussion, my friend settled on something that sounded like a move the Hawks would pull.

Yi Jianlian is a Chinese forward, who is roundly recognized as a good prospect with little assurance on how he will adjust to the NBA game. But, having (here comes the imminent draft-day buzzword) upside, he will go high. My friend basically landed on the idea that the Hawks were going to draft him since the Hawks didn't want to deal either of their picks. His justification (which, one again sounds like something the Hawks would do) was that the Hawks would select Yi to cash in on all the Chinese dollars that would come their way as a result of selecting him. Basketball skills be damned, this guy was a potential cash cow.

My friend was offended that a team would draft a player based upon potential revenue from afar and throwing team needs and basketball sense to the wind. He was offended, I found that I really wasn't. If a team wanted to take that risk player-wise, then why not? It's a business, they have every right to run it like they want to. If Yi turned out to be good, they would look like geniuses, both basketball-wise and business-wise.

Well, the Hawks didn't go that route, instead opting for the more basketball-sense route, which I believe, in the end will help to re-establish a better fan base in Atlanta by putting a higher quality product on the court. By selecting Horford, a great rebounder with athleticism, and Acie Law, a point guard with a winning pedigree and developed skills, they will hopefully develop something more permanent than a potential three-year project/cash machine in Yi. Plus, they wouldn't be stabbing the few fans they have left in Atlanta in the back.

Of course, Yi's desire was the be drafted to a team in a metropolitan city with a high Chinese population. Yi was drafted by Milwaukee. Umm, good luck there chief. More on that tomorrow.

Reasonably yours,

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Time to revive Pacific Northwest basketball fandom

I must admit, I am salivating at the thought of the combined futures of the Pacific Northwest's two new superstars. With little distance between Greg Oden (who will assuredly be selected by the Portland Trail Blazers) and Kevin Durant (who will be taken by the Seattle Supersonics), the future for these two is obviously very bright.

It's obviously too early to call the rivalry they will likely have on par with some of the great rivalries in the past. Howeverm the greatest part is that their potential rivalry will be unique for several reasons.

1) Durant is competitive enough to see his draft position slipping below Oden by one spot as a major slight. Having put together the ridiculous season Durant did, he probably sees himself as the rightful owner as the top draft pick. Given, Oden had a good season with Ohio State, but honestly, it's not like his play was that impressive. It's obvious to the rest of us why the Blazers will take Oden at the No. 1 slot, he's one of a dying breed of skilled big men who actually want to be big men and dominate the post. But, in Durant's mind, a certain amount of bitterness has to be manifesting itself that will surely drive him to hungrily pursue Oden's team for the rest of his career.

2) Unlike some of the rivalries of old, such as Bird vs. Magic and Russell vs. Chamberlain, Durant and Oden will enter the league at the exact same time at the same age only one pick apart as a consensus No. 1 and 2. With everyone after them in the draft being toss-ups, the two of them from this draft class will constantly be compared, and their career paths will be analyzed in the same breath until one or both of them retires. Media exposure and the eventual commercial tie-ins will never let this die.

3) Unlike many of the rivalries throughout the years (namely Bird vs. Magic, Hakeem vs. Robinson, Jordan vs. Malone/Stockton) most of the more interesting ones haven't been intra-divisional, and if they were, they weren't as close in proximity as Portland and Seattle. With Nate McMillan defecting from the Sonics almost two years ago, the embers of a geographical rivalry have already been stoked between the two cities, and it's something neither will likely just forget about. Add all that to them playing each other four times every year and many inevitable face-offs in the playoffs, and it really looks like this could turn into a strong rivalry.

4) The two cities have embraced players such as these for their championships past. Seattle won with a dynamic scorer and Portland won with a dominant center. These guys match their respective city's formula of the past, it's just too perfect.

Now, just to play devil's advocate on myself for a bit, let's consider the things that could really screw this thing up. The first one is pretty obvious.

1) Both of them have to be damn good. If both of them don't live up to the hype or one suffers major injuries, this derails the whole plan. But, come on, they're both really good, so let's just assume they're both going to turn out to be badasses.

2) The Sonics move out of Seattle. OK, this is one is a good possibility. However, with the Sonics landing Durant, and basically overhauling their entire front office, the city of Seattle may come around to funding a new stadium if they see the product as up and coming that will boost the city's economy, and in turn, the owner may be inclined to keep the team in Seattle. It should be noted that if the Sonics do move out of Seattle, it will be the longest that an NBA team has been in one city before being moved to another.

But, even if the Sonics leave Seattle, I can still see the rivalry running strong despite the distance.

Here's hoping things go as planned, I am really dying for an interesting rivalry with some solid bases.

Oh, who am I kidding? The Sonics are leaving Seattle. Dammit.

Reasonably yours,

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