"To thine own self be true; and it must follow, as the night the day, thou can'st not then be false to any man"
Hamlet, Act i, Sc.3
Those of you who read my blog know the disdain that I have for Charles Barkley--as a player, though, he was one of my favorites. It is his work as an 'studio analyst-cum-culture critic' that makes we want to challenge him to a duel. But I can't fault Mr. Barkely's basketball insight-- he's near the top of my list for the former players who haven't coached (Mr. Walton, of course, being preeminent.)
Mr. Barkely selected the New Jersey Nets to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals. "Damn," I thought. "That is a smart, insightful pick." Let's face it, Cleveland's appearance in the NBA finals was due to Rasheed Wallace's unfortunate technical foul. I thought the Pistons simply 'gave up' during that 'otherworldly' performance by Mr. James in the Conference Finals. The coach part of me is still haunted by the Pistons allowing him to continually 'get into the paint' with such little defensive rotation and help. Detroit - San Antonio would have been a much more competitive series in the finals--possibly, even, seven games.
But, back to the Nets. I would like to advance a solution to the Lakers situation based on my three-pronged belief about trades:
1. Every team gets better because of the trade
2. No team gets fleeced-- (yes, I know NBA basketball is a business but 'what goes around comes around.') You can't make a living 'fleecing' other teams--even when you can.
3. Matters of team chemistry must be given priority of the highest order (I coached high school varsity for ten seasons-- the five most talented players aren't necessarily the five players who are the most productive: Coaches create team chemistry--therefore, they must be given inputs on matters of trades.
I don't believe the Kobe Bryant deal can get done without three teams. So, here is my solution:
Los Angeles sends Mr. Bryant and Mr. Brown to Chicago.
Chicago sends Mr. Gordon and Mr. Wallace to New Jersey.
New Jersey sends Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Nachbar to Los Angeles.
Chicago or New Jersey send a first round draft pick to Los Angeles.
Here is why this can work.
1. Clearly, Mr. Deng is the 'jewel in the crown.' The trade isn't going to happen unless he remains in Chicago. Mr. Bryant wants to play alongside him (can you blame him?) And, Mr. Bryant has veto power on any deal.
2. Last year, the Nets were dead last amongst Eastern Conference teams in scoring (93.8 PPG). I know it's the East--but you still have to 'score the basketball. Mr. Gordon, playing alongside Mr. Kidd, will upgrade the Nets offensively.
3. Mr. Jefferson is already a 'poor man's Carmelo Anthony.' His is fundamentally sound offensively with a solid mid-range game and a career field goal percentage of .478. He's an L.A. native and product of the Lute Olson school of tough, hard-nosed offensive players. Mr. Nachbar, a native of Slovenia and a product of Benneton Treviso's excellent basketball development program, has one obstacle preventing him from being a NBA All-Star: minutes. Mr. Nachbar, at 14 to 17 minutes per game, can be a productive player for the Lakers on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor. Certainly, offering more than Mr. Brown.
4. Mr Bryant's stated goal is compete NOW for an NBA championship-- well, by acquiescing to this three-way deal, Chicago (excluding injury) is a veritable lock for the #1 or #2 seed in the Eastern Conference. What Mr. Bryant does for Chicago is to give them a 'shot-maker' who can create (or get to the foul line) late in games--on the road. (Who among us doesn't salivate at the idea of Mr. Bryant (in a Bulls uniform) facing the Miami Heat in a close-out game.) This will be the kind of ratings sweep that Mr. Stern and ABC are longing for. This, my friends, is drama--bringing energy to the TNT on-air promo slogans of '40 games in 40 nights.'
5. Don't sleep on the Pistons -- Hamilton, Billups, Prince and Wallace are seasoned and dangerous. Chicago will need Bryant if they find themselves in a seven game 'semi-final' series against Detroit.
6. Mr. Bryant's style will actually make him more effective in the Eastern Conference. Why? Because despite the signature dunks, his ability to 'slash,' "engage two defenders and dish," are his true strengths. The problem with the Lakers is that those on the receiving end of these passes have difficulty finishing consistently. This won't be a problem with the likes of Nocioni, Deng and Hinrich. Mr. Bryant could average six to seven assists per game on the Bulls. And, you know his penchant for going on scoring runs where he gets 12 or 13 points in a quarter. He will make the Bulls near unstoppable.