Around the League #1

Welcome to a new, hopefully semi-regular end-of-week feature we're trying called "Around the League".  Things being what they are, I get so caught up in talking Blazers that I seldom have a chance to address things that go on beyond our confines.  In these posts we'll do exactly that, plus mop up some Blazer topics that we didn't have time to treat in earlier conversation.  My intention is not to play the expert here as much to share opinions which could lead to interesting discussion.  So away we go!

Get Well Paul Allen

The most important real-life news out of the league this week came from our own franchise, as Blazers owner Paul Allen was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.  There's nothing revolutionary we can say about this other than facing any kind of cancer makes for a tough fight but we know Paul Allen is a tough fighter.  However I'd like to add my personal well-wishes, however humble they may be compared to what is needed. 

Things like this transcend our normal relationships.  We know you because you're the owner of the Blazers, Mr. Allen.  We appreciate you because of what you've done for (and with) the team over the last two decades.  But even though a life is measured by one's accomplishments it cannot be wholly defined by them.  It's time to show support for Paul Allen the human being...not the billionaire, the final decision-maker, but the person.  No matter what happens with the team, the season, or anything basketball-related we support you, Mr. Allen.  We are with you, sending our hopes and prayers in your direction, and if ever you doubt that you need but ask.  I'm pretty sure thousands of pick-me-ups are at your fingertips anytime, day or night.  Thank you for being who you are.  Strength and peace be with you in this struggle.

Thoughts and prayers also go out to others in our Blazersedge and greater Blazers community who are also fighting this fight.

Click through for a bunch more topics.

Whither Allen Iverson?

Everybody outside of Tennessee knew that signing Allen Iverson to the Grizzlies ranked right up there with clamping your tongue to live jumper cables on the Good Idea Scale.  Few anticipated his tenure in Memphis would be this short.  He's just cleared waivers and is available to anyone who wants him.  Should anyone bite?

I don't believe Iverson is a wholly toxic player, even now.  He has some game left and could be an asset in the right situation.  You just have to realize that he's going to be super-mega-nuclear toxic if both of these situations are true:

1.  You don't plan to play him 38 minutes per game.  And...

2.  You're not going to win 50+ games.

Memphis acquiring him was three-O's stooopid because they're developing young scorers and ball-handlers already and they were going to be on the low end of mediocre no matter what Iverson did for them.  The amount of ball-handling time he requires when unchecked would have killed them.  The amount of losing they were going to do didn't give them any leverage to say him nay.  However this does not apply to every team equally.

If you're a lousy team that just wants to run the AI Show, complete with caustic interviews and 32 shots per game from him, by all means go ahead.  You might at least sell some tickets.  You'll certainly generate some national media attention.  But that avenue is pretty much a waste of everyone's time.  The more intriguing possibility would be a team with a strong identity, perhaps a firmly-ensconced superstar already, who could legitimately tell Iverson to play along or take a hike.  The team would also have to be on a straight road to the deep playoffs even without Iverson.  Obviously it would also require 30-ish minutes to play him.  He's not going to play along entirely, of course, but if his runaway self-absorption could be kept even halfway in check he could give you something.  He might be willing to pick up an oar for a year in order to get back to the Finals and have his name associated with winning again.

Keep in mind that at this point he's a relatively cheap experiment as well.  You can probably have him for the minimum required.  At that rate there's no reason to rue cutting him if things don't work out.  I'll be interested to see if anybody, even one decent team, takes a chance.  The hot rumor is the Knicks but were I them I really wouldn't bother.  It's a total Isiah move.  The only way it could be more so is if they immediately offered him a multi-year, eight-figure deal.  They don't have the infrastructure to withstand Hurricane Allen.  We'll see what happens.

Meanwhile, Back at the Hall of Justice

Having booted The Flash out of the Superfriends for being not-so-friendly the Grizzlies took a chance on The Green Lantern, a.k.a. Jamaal Tinsley.  Tinsley is more of a true point guard than Iverson was.  But he's had off-court problems, injury problems, attitude problems, and last I heard wanted to be more of a scorer, except he lacks any visible capacity to score.  One of the things that made him special in his prime was his defense.  Defense equals effort.  Effort is often hard to eke out of guys with attitude problems when they're not being featured in as prominent of a role as they'd like.  So you can probably strike that off of the list even if Tinsley gets and stays in playing shape.  So what did we end up with?  Half of a point guard with all of the potential problems.  My only conclusion is that Memphis management hates Lionel Hollins.  With a passion.

Speaking of Attitude Problems

The trade of the week was the Stephen Jackson-Raja Bell swap between Golden State and Charlotte.  (Plus players to be named later.  Ooops!  My bad.  They were named already.  Vladimir Radmanovic and Acie Law.  Neither of those players is going to be named much later.)  Color me underwhelmed by the deal.  On the surface it makes sense, as the Bobcats desperately need more offense and the Warriors haven't even heard of defense.  But Bell is injured and even if he weren't it's pretty hard to champion an entire defense from the shooting guard position when you're the only one playing defense at all.  A center might do it.  Maybe even a power forward.  But Bell is going to be sticking his finger into a hole the size of Crater Lake.  He's probably just going to get wet.  And the fact that the Warriors were willing to part with Jackson for damaged goods should tell you something about where he is right now.  The wrong-est move in all of this was signing him to a secure contract.  You got some pretty good play out of him when his deal got short.  Then you went and gave him four years of license to Jax you up.  Smart.

LeBron Changes Numbers

I know it's old news but I never weighed in officially.  This Jordan #23 thing is silly.  Michael was a great player for one team.  He should be honored to the moon by one team.  The rest of us can remember him every time we play that one team.  Michael changed the marketing and coverage of the NBA and the change in marketing and coverage led to a whole raft of new hoop dreams for a new generation.  I understand that fully.  But that's not why you retire jerseys even in one town, let alone in all of them simultaneously.  You could make a stronger argument if he were the all-time scoring leader by a huge margin but he's third on the list.  You could make a stronger argument if he was the most prolific stat guy ever but there was Wilt.  You could make a stronger argument if nobody in history won nearly as many championships as he but you have vintage Celtics waving seven blinging fingers at you.  Besides if you're going to count championships you better retire Pippen's number league-wide alongside Michael's.  They never won without each other.  The fact that LeBron is changing his number to that of Dr. J and Bill Russell only makes the fallacy more evident.  They each had a pretty big impact on and off the floor.  This is just like somebody saying that U2 should be forever enshrined above all bands because they were the defining group of a generation and more.  That may be true but the impulse is also, by definition, generational.  People from an earlier era are going to start asking about the Stones and the Beatles then.  People before them will latch onto Elvis.  Who was really the greatest?  Each generation has its argument and its claim and that's the way it should be.  There might not be another Michael, but there will be somebody else who impacts the league as strongly in a different way.  Let them be compared and debated without attempting to freeze our moment in time and labeling it the greatest of all conceivable times.

AROUND THE SITE...

Part of this feature will be addressing topics that have gotten some play in the comments and sidebar.  To wit:

Is Marc Stein DOH!  Bill Simmons a Tool?  (Sorry, Marc.)

Maybe, but he probably doesn't care.  In the old days of professional wrestling people cheered the good guys and booed the bad.  This is how each made their money.  Then people smartened up to how the game worked.  Nowadays a great bad guy is as likely to get cheered as booed, simply because people appreciate how good he is at being bad.  We probably need to smarten up to the media circus as well.  Anybody who gets you riled up is making bank off of just that.  If Simmons is good at cheesing off Portland fans it's because he relishes it.  If you like that kind of thing then by all means get cheesed and have fun with it.  If you're really angry and want to take action, ignoring it is the best thing you can do.  Cheers are good.  Boos are good.  Silence is crushing.

Would Gerald Wallace Make a Good Blazer?

Yes and no.  He's definitely that kind of crazed, charging bull that this team lacks.  He's also the kind of crazed, charging bull that will want to start at small forward.  In the short term that's not a problem, but Nicolas Batum might be just as valuable in the long run.  Plus he'd be expensive to get.  On the other hand you wouldn't have to worry about rebounding anymore.  On the other hand he might have to moderate his game with age and as soon as he starts shooting jumpers instead of driving the lane he's much less of a player.  If the Blazers did get him I think they'd need to concentrate on two things at the point guard position:  distance shooting and the ability to run.  You'd depend heavily on the frontcourt to beat everyone up and reserve the backcourt for running and shooting.  Everything else would take second-fiddle.  I don't think that point guard is on this team right now.  I think Andre Miller and Jerryd Bayless specifically don't fit that mold.  So you'd need to plan another move sooner or later.  Given all of that, it's not likely to happen.

Any Chance the Blazers are Ready This Year?

This question was posed by jksnake in our live chat but he posed it at quarter-after-midnight when I was on my way out the door.  Specifically he wanted to know what I perceived the difference to be between this year and next, since I've opined that the window is still shut this season but it starts opening thereafter.  Is it just an experience difference?

Experience is part of it...not just experience in the league but experience playing together.  We haven't even got a regular lineup right now.  Even without injuries we'd still be juggling that.  Players are starting to trust each other and are learning to work together but it's still a work in progress.  Frankly when they get under stress things tend to break down still instead of the team stepping up.  One or two guys might bail us out of trouble but five together can't.  The playoffs bring a ton of stress.  It's more intense, sustained, and targeted directly at your weak points.  The team should be far more settled by the time they reach the post-season but in reality you have to learn your lessons all over again once you get there.  Teams that are learning might win a series or even two but they won't win four.  Next year we should enter the year knowing what we've got.  We may see a couple roster changes but they should be specific and hopefully only in one critical area instead of the three or four we're juggling now.  Next year we'll also have more playoff experience and a better idea of what going deep is like (knock on wood).

The other critical factor is Greg Oden.  You can already see what a monstrous difference he makes for this team.  But in basketball terms he's just taking his first steps right now.  He'll need to make more of a difference more consistently for the Blazers to march to a title.  It's too early to pin that much on him.  He's still getting in regular foul trouble, feeling his way around the offense, rushing shots, turning the ball over, and a ton of other little things that he'll need to work on throughout the year.  He'll be good come playoff time but he won't be great enough to make the difference we need.  Next season the expectations get higher for him.

Finally, as I always say when these things come up, you can tell we're not there by how we have to envision making it.  "We match up better than most against the L*kers.  We should be able to take San Antonio this year.   If we can get by or avoid the Nuggets we should have a chance."  You can switch around the names in those various sentences however you wish.  The fact remains that if you have to say those things you aren't the dominant team.  You don't want to be the team that plays the L*kers well.  You want to be the L*kers.  This kind of talk screams Minnesota '03-'04, not L.A. ‘08-'09.  Name me a team that's won it all recently that came into the season thinking they might have a chance instead of coming into the season knowing they were going to win.  The L*kers knew.  The Celtics knew.  The Spurs always knew.  Shaq and Wade's Heat, the Pistons, Shaq and Kobe's L*kers, both sets of Michael's Bulls...they all knew too.  This is NOT to say that there's one, predestined team each year.   It's perfectly possible for multiple teams to come into the season knowing that they're going to take the title.  Only one of them turns out to be right, but the others still had that confidence and attitude.  (Drexler's Blazers knew in '90-'91, for instance, as did the '99-'00 ‘Sheed-led squad.)  You probably have to go back to our own '89-‘90 Blazers in their first Finals before you can find a sneak-ish team.  But even they had an inkling what was going to happen when they got Buck Williams.  Plus their situation was much different, staffed as they were by veterans in their early, but legitimate, primes.  (Porter was in his 4th year and Duck his 3rd but Clyde was in his 6th, Kersey his 5th, and Williams his 8th.  Between them the starting five had 23 combined years of playoff experience.  The current Blazer starters have 11 combined and 5 of those are Miller's.  I'm not sure the entire squad put together has much more than 23.)  The Blazers aren't even at the point where they know themselves yet, let alone knowing that they can dominate the rest of the league no matter what comes.  That'll take time.  It's actually pretty bold to think that it has a chance of happening next year even.  But this team has always been a little ahead of the curve.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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