Bynum’s contract becomes fully guaranteed Tuesday afternoon at 5:00pm EST, so there is still time to complete a deal, but all parties involved would like such a transaction to happen sooner rather than later to allow time for everything to clear. Sometimes that process can take up to 48 hours.
I know a guy who used to work for the Houston Rockets back in the 1990s, when Hakeem Olajuwon was leading the team to back to-back titles and the team played at The Summit — a rickety bandbox that has been converted into a church in the years since the team moved to the Toyota Center.
The guy tells a great story about a different era in the NBA, when money flowed as though it was wine at a toga party. Max contracts in those days lasted seven years, and the raises were 12.5 percent annually.
(When the 1998 lockout came, one of David Stern’s talking points was that NO establish business grows at a 12.5 percent annual rate, which is one of the reasons why that 12.5 percent number has basically been halved.)
In those days, in an effort to increase scoring, the NBA moved the 3-point line from 23 feet, 9 inches to a uniform 22 feet. The change lasted two years before the NBA came to its senses and moved it back where it belongs. But during those two years, there were a heck of a lot of players who could drain it from 22 feet.
One of them was Matt Maloney, the point guard who took over after Kenny Smith hung his kicks up.
When Maloney’s rookie deal expired, he signed a new contract. My friend walked up to Maloney and congratulated him on his new three-year deal.
“Three?” Maloney said. “I got seven.”
The friend took this information inside and brought it to Carroll Dawson, who was the team’s GM. “Did Matt Maloney really get a seven-year deal?” “I don’t want to talk about it,” was Dawson’s reply. Two years later, the Rockets cut Maloney — and ate the rest of the money they owed him.
These days, a new frugality has taken over in the NBA, and with max contracts now at four years (five if a player becomes an unrestricted free agent), we have entered a new phase both financially and journalistically. (Cases in point: The obsession in New York with Carmelo Anthony opting out of his contract at the end of this season; the hand-wringing in Miami over whether LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh will opt out of their contracts; the school of thought in Cleveland that James might return to his old team).
Nobody writes about the games anymore, until the playoffs. They write about trade speculation, contract extension speculation, and anything else that makes for a good rumor.
This is the dead era in basketball journalism — but we are going to breathe some life into it today by filling you in on how much dead money is still floating around the league — and we won’t even include the players who have been amnestied and are now double-dipping — being paid by two teams.
So without further ado, the 2013-14 NBA All-Overpaid Team. As Dire Straits sang … “Money for nothing.”
C – Andris Biedrins — Utah Jazz. ($9 million). This will be the big Latvian’s 10th season in the NBA, and probably his last. Then he can retire to his native Latvia and enjoy the benefits of living in a country where the female-to-male ratio is ridiculously skewed toward the female gender. In Biedrins’ nine seasons, he has played all 82 games just once. In 2011-12, he attempted nine free throws all season and made just one. Last season, he went 4-for-13 from the line in 53 games. He has shot above 60 percent from the field in three seasons, and he is 7 feet tall — two pieces of the formula for getting rich in the NBA. But this season, after the Warriors dumped him on the Jazz to clear the salary cap space to sign Andre Iguodala, he will be spending an awful lot of time watching Enes Kanter hone his game.
F- Richard Jefferson — Utah Jazz. ($11.046 million). Back when I was working for ESPN and covering Team USA, we were in Macao when I struck up a conversation with the American dance team that the NBA had sent along on the trip to help enhance the “NBA experience.”Thank goodness this was prior to the age of t-shirt guns, which now are one of the few things that can prompt well-heeled fans to get out of their seats. One of the dancers told me she was engaged to Jefferson, and I envied her. She was looking at a life of luxury and largess, the type of lifestyle so many women who birddog NBA players aspire to. Then RJ left her at the altar. Whatever your opinion of leaving a bride at the altar, Jefferson saved himself a ton of money. He will make $11.046 million this season to wave a towel.
F- Amar’e Stoudemire — New York Knicks. ($21.68 million) He will be on a minutes restriction this season, coming off the bench along with Andrea Bargnani as coach Mike Woodson uses Carmelo Anthony as his power forward. The days when he combined with Steve Nash as one of the best pick-and-roll tandems in the league are ancient history now, and the Knicks’ efforts to trade him have been (unsurprisingly) fruitless. He was the consolation prize in the summer of 2010 when the Knicks lost out in their pursuit of LeBron James, and it is now fair to say he was a booby prize. The talent is still there, but the knees are not. And Stoudemire’s contract is NOT insured against knee injuries.
G – Joe Johnson, Brooklyn Nets. ($21.47 million) Some guys just continue to get paid ridiculous amounts of money, and Joe Johnson is Exhibit A. The deal that brought him to Atlanta from Phoenix led to the breakup of the Hawks’ ownership group, and he was considered one of the most untradeable players in the league until the Nets signed him in an effort to keep Deron Williams from bolting for the Dallas Mavericks two summers ago. We shall see what kind of money he is worth this season, as Jason Kidd has already said Joe J. will be his go-to guy when the team needs a late bucket in close games. Kidd says the analytics show Johnson is one of the best in the league at hitting game-winners. Folks in Atlanta can stop laughing at that statement whenever they choose — but it might take a while.
G – Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers. ($30.453 million) The only $30 million player in the league, he makes almost $8 million more than the second-highest paid player, Dirk Nowitzki. Next summer, he will be an unrestricted free agent, and he will want something resembling Kobe money — even if it prevents the Lakers from rebuilding with high-quality free agents. Danny Schayes goes so far as to say he expects Bryant to play elsewhere in 2014-15 in an effort to get that elusive sixth ring, which would match Michael Jordan’s total. But for now, he is recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, no one can say with any certainty when he will be back, and his team is now an outlayer in the Western Conference playoff picture. It is not implausible that they will finish with the second-worst record in the West (no one is touching the Suns).
Chris Sheridan is publisher and editor-in-chief of SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter.
Generations of fans know the Utah Jazz as a model of stability. They were raised on Hall of Famers John Stockton and Karl Malone, coach Jerry Sloan and super significant owner Larry H. Miller, the rock of the franchise. Miller kept the team together, mended issues with coaches and players and even took financial risks to purchase the team.
When Miller died in 2009, the franchise slowly lost all the stability he imparted to it as the sole owner.
It truly fell apart in 2011, when All-NBA point guard Deron Williams and Sloan could no longer co-exist. Sloan resigned as coach, and Williams was traded for “the future.”
Under power-behind-the-throne GM Kevin O’Connor, the Jazz reached for marginal veterans in hope of maintaining the illusion of being a playoff team. Instead, mercenaries came to Salt Lake City, were rewarded with playing time they would not have received elsewhere, then left for greener pastures or larger paydays. There was a playoff berth in 2012, but that model was unsustainable.
Most of the star players in free agency are now off the board, but there are still plenty of impact players to discuss in this updated version of the Free Agency Breakdown with unique analytic angles. We here at Sheridan Hoops will break everything down for you into bite sized Winners & Losers style pieces.
The Houston Rockets, GM Daryl Morey and Dwight Howard were WINNERS after agreeing to a four-year deal worth $88 million to finally, mercifully, ending the Dwight Howard sweepstakes. Morey set out a year ago to acquire two stars to legitimately compete in this SuperTeam Era that currently rules the NBA and got them in Howard and Harden.
Houston also signed Francisco Garcia to a team-friendly contract worth $1.3 million over two years. Garcia could probably replace Carlos Delfino in a spacer-type role for Houston after shooting 37.4 percent from three last season. Houston then picked up another spacer in Reggie Williams, who needs to greatly improve from his 30.6 shooting percentage from three last season with Charlotte.
Of course, the Howard deal makes the Los Angeles Lakers the big losers of the offseason for getting nothing out of Howard and looking ridiculous in doing so. They will now try to delude themselves into thinking players like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony will come next offseason. Good. Freaking. Luck.
But if there is any consolation for Laker fans, I do like their signing of Chris Kaman a lot. Despite a sharp decrease in minutes with the Mavericks last season, from 29.2 to 20.7 per game, Kaman shot 50.7 percent from the field (his best percentage in a season in which he played over 40 games since the 2005-2006 season) and averaged 10.5 points with 5.6 rebounds. His Win Shares per 48 minutes was his best mark since the 2007-2008 campaign. Expect better production in LA with a slightly increased workload. And Jordan Farmar won’t be a bad player either for the veteran’s minimum.
Dwight Howard’s good friend, Josh Smith, ended up with Detroit for four-years and $56 million and Al Jefferson cashed in for three years and $41 million with Charlotte. This brings us a really interesting philosophical question: Can these players be the highest paid, and best, players for playoff teams? The answer is likely no. But does that mean the teams shouldn’t try?
Despite a subpar year by his standards Smith is still a really good player, so the jury is still out on this signing for the Pistons. Smith will make a really good frontcourt with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, but do the Pistons have the backcourt to compete? Not right now, even with the Chauncey Billups signing (two years, $5 million).
Billups will add veteran leadership and a fan favorite to the Detroit roster, but he’s only played 42 total games over the last two seasons. But when he’s played he’s been good, shooting 36.7 percent from three last season with a Win Share/48 number that’s well above average. It’s just hard to envision Billups being healthy all season. Billups will join Will Bynum, who Detroit re-signed to an affordable two-year deal worth $5.75 million. Bynum shot a career best 46.9 percent from the field and averaged nearly 10 points per game for the Pistons in 2012-2013.
It’ll also be interesting to see how the team uses reigning Italian League MVP Gigi Datome, who inked a two-year deal worth $3.5 million. Our resident Euro expert A.J. Mitnick told me that he’ll need to adjust to the NBA game, but the potential is there for Datome to become a nice NBA player. I’ll take his word for it…
On the Charlotte side of things, there’s no doubt that Jefferson is a really, really good player. Anyone who shoots nearly 50 percent from the field and averages nearly 18 points and over nine boards per game is really good. His defense will certainly help an inept Bobcats team in that department, but his offensive rating of 109 last season leaves something to be desired.
Can Jefferson, Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo coexist in the frontcourt? Can Jefferson be the best player on a playoff team? Jefferson has made the playoffs just twice in his nine-season career, losing in the first round on both occasions. Golden State signed David Lee to an enormous contract, and Golden State ended up okay by hitting it big by drafting Stephen Curry, Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson. Charlotte will have to do that in order to not look foolish with this Jefferson signing, so, again, the jury is still out.
StatBox Free Agency Breakdown: Houston and Golden State among the weekend’s big winners, Lakers, Mavs and Bucks lose out
While you were barbecuing, partying, working, relaxing or otherwise enjoying your extended July 4 weekend, a total of 14 teams made notable moves ranging from The Dwecision down to the smart or foolish signings of role players. And since we live in a country where instant gratification rules the day and short attention spans allows games like Candy Crush to reap $633,000 a day in revenue, we here at Sheridan Hoops will break everything down for you into bite sized Winners & Losers style pieces.
The Houston Rockets, GM Daryl Morey and Dwight Howard were WINNERS after agreeing to a four-year deal worth $88 million to finally, mercifully, ending the Dwight Howard sweepstakes. It will be interesting to see how Howard’s addition impacts the Rockets’ NBA-best pace numbers from last season. Will they try to slow things down with Howard in the half-court and change things up from their James Harden-led playoff run from last season? How will Howard perform along with Jeremy Lin in the pick-and-roll? How will Howard coexist with Omer Asik, who now reportedly wants out?
At this point, all these questions don’t really matter. Morey set out a year ago to acquire two stars to legitimately compete in this SuperTeam Era that currently rules the NBA and got them in Howard and Harden. Howard can settle down and finally concentrate on, we hope, playing basketball. And as an added bonus, Houston signed Francisco Garcia to a team-friendly contract worth $1.3 million over two years. Garcia could probably replace Carlos Delfino in a spacer-type role for Houston after shooting 37.4 percent from three last season.
Of course, this makes the Los Angeles Lakers the big losers of the weekend for getting nothing out of Howard and looking ridiculous in doing so. They will now try to delude themselves into thinking players like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony will come next offseason. Good. Freaking. Luck.