Sorry for the long title, but there’s a decent bit to cover here.
The Edict Under Which Ernie Grunfeld Works
We already know Mark Cuban is a pretty smart dude. To get that rich, you gotta be. But we never figured he was smart enough to pull one over on Ernie Grunfeld, the man who spent years honing his trade in the Big Apple. Not only did Cuban (and Mavs GM Donnie Nelson I suppose) get everything they ever dreamed of in a trade with Washington, but they also got the Wizards to pay them “cash considerations,” and they didn’t have to send the Wizards their trade exception in exchange for Fabricio Oberto, as was supposedly discussed.
If you’re the Wizards ownership in limbo, guess you gotta spend money and give away value to save money, perhaps for the sale of the team. With part of potential majority owner Ted Leonsis’ ’10-Point Rebuilding Plan’ being to always seek a “pick and a prospect,” we now have some insight that, perhaps, Grunfeld was working under edict of the Abe Pollin estate to cut costs no matter how much it might set the franchise back in the future. Abe’s dream of his team winning another championship has been put to rest, now the Washington basketball patriarch’s squad could be being dismantled just to appease the financial gain of those he left behind.
Sorry Wizards fans, the legacy of Abe Pollin still haunts the franchise. Not until Leonsis takes over can you rest assured that the team you love will be firmly headed in a positive direction, or at least open with fans on that direction, which would likely sooth baffled impatience in these current trying times.
Mark Cuban, a brilliant cat he sure seems like right now. But he’s also a goober. You know, the type who hams it up beyond necessity while being unfunny and cutesy enough to make you roll your eyes and think, “this” guy. Some of this is evidenced in a video interview Cuban did with Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com. Sure, Cuban is probably a nice man, but he’s also annoying with a kitschy style of charm. Good for him, I suppose. He’s rich and most of us aren’t. He wins.
Mark Cuban On Brendan Haywood’s Media Knowledge
As you may be aware, Brendan Haywood has high aspirations for a career in the media after his playing days are over. He relishes radio appearances, he’s served as an analyst for WNBA games, and among other activities, he’s been a blogger, but is now retired. Blogging, however, has gotten Haywood into the most trouble. He wrote about the polarizing Michael Vick, and the team had a discussion with him about it. He wrote about and later spoke on the radio about Stephon Marbury and homosexuality, and the internet reacted. He wrote about the monetary motivations of Tiger Woods’ wife, and again received unwanted attention.
The night before a mid-December meeting with the Pacers, I informed Haywood that his teammate, JaVale McGee, had started a blog on the same YardBarker-sponsored platform as him. Brendan told me that if that was the case, he’d retire from blogging. The next day he did. Haywood’s retirement likely had more to do with him putting his foot in his mouth, but that still probably didn’t quell his ultimate media aspirations.
But what does billionaire Mark Cuban think of Haywood’s media knowledge? Needs work. In the clip below, Cuban recounts to NBA-TV’s Rick Kamla how Popeye Jones, currently a Mavs assistant and a teammate of Haywood during his first year with the Wizards, raved about Brendan’s work-ethic and how he took the rookie Haywood under his wing. Cuban then says, “And he’s a Twitter-er, and he gets out there. So we’ll educate him some on the media. But he’s a good kid with a good heart …”
Well, there you go Brendan. Cuban is going to learn you on all things media. Hope you’re ready. It’s worth noting that Haywood never has been on Twitter, he’s only blogged. So, perhaps Mark needs some sort of education on media matters himself, or at least he should be more knowledgeable of what his incoming players do and do not do.
The Dynamic Duo of Caron and Brendan
Bonus Clip: After Cuban, you’ll see an exchange between Kevin McHale and Chris Webber regarding Caron Butler.
“How happy is Caron to get out of Washington?,” says Webber.
“Oh … are you kidding me?,” says McHale while adjusting his sport coat in an equally uncomfortable way as the assumption of these two that Butler was a victim of his surroundings is uncomfortable to Wizards fans.
“He might be here now. He might have walked here,” retorts Webber.
“He’s on a bike. They said they saw him in Oklahoma City, he was peddling,” quips McHale, mimicking Caron pedaling a bike.
This trade continues to be drenched in irony. Butler’s poor play wasn’t the cause of all the Wizards’ problems, but it was a major contributor. Bet he checks his wanna-be-prime-time ego at the door and adjusts his game for Rick Carlisle, Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and title aspirations.
Butler and his trade buddy Brendan haven’t always been the best of friends, but for the most part, they kept it cordial when it came to basketball. But know this, Haywood is boys with Gilbert Arenas. NBC 4′s Lindsay Czarniak spoke with Haywood after the trade and reported that Brendan and Gilbert are “very good friends.” Czarniak also reported that the two spoke and that Gilbert congratulated Brendan … for being one of the first to escape the sinking ship I suppose.
It’s also worth nothing that the Washington Post’s Michael Lee recently wrote, “Arenas and Butler were never on the same page (And that’s sugarcoating it. As one person close to the team told me, “Those guys just flat out didn’t like each other”).”
This could be seen as supporting evidence that Haywood and Butler might not like each other either since Haywood and Arenas are such good friends. It also could mean nothing. Regardless, to get out of D.C., Brendan would probably gladly sit on the handlebars of Caron’s bike for the entire trip to Big D.
Let’s watch …
LINKS: The best of what was said from around the web about the Wizards-Mavericks trade
The first D.C. sports team that really captured my imagination after the creation of this blog in the fall of 2006 was the goofy, wacky and yet somehow successful Wizards. That fall, the Nats were still following The Plan, the Redskins were missing the playoffs, the Caps were more than a year away, and the Wizards were fun and interesting and on their way to the Eastern Conference’s best record..
Well, that team no longer exists. Regardless of whether Antawn Jamison stays or goes, the team has been completely disemboweled. It is no longer recognizable in any way. There’s nothing there for the rest of this season at least; nothing to root for, nothing to call your friends about. Whose jersey on this team would you currently buy? There isn’t any acceptable answer to that question that doesn’t involve irony.
It’s over. The last Wizard to call Michael Jordan his boss and teammate is gone. The Tuff Juice has been poured out on the corner. The swag has vanished. The Wizards as you once knew them are no more, and they haven’t been since before Gilbert Arenas was suspended for the rest of the season last month.
Arenas and Butler were never on the same page (And that’s sugarcoating it. As one person close to the team told me, “Those guys just flat out didn’t like each other”). The team was never unified this season. And, now it has been drastically altered.
To his credit, Ernie does throw a nod to “financial flexibility” in an interview with Mike Jones, but there’s also a need for “freshness” and how Josh Howard was an all-star three years ago. Then, there’s also the “retool on the fly” language from a couple weeks ago. I realize you don’t need to tell the truth with these things, but you also don’t need to outright lie. Emphasize the future, not the present. We’ll understand and appreciate your candor. Just note how young GMs like Kevin Pritchard in Portland and David Kahn in Minnesota have skillfully emphasized the future in their situations and have gone out of their way to connect with the fans. I know I’d feel better about our future if I heard more language from the horses mouth about it.
The Wizards have been pretty miserable this season. But they have been dramatically less miserable with Brendan Haywood on the court. Basketball Value pins his adjusted plus/minus at better than plus-eight points per 100 possessions. That’s one of the top 30 ratings in the NBA, ahead of the likes of Ray Allen, Tim Duncan and even Caron Butler. 82games.com says that Haywood is part of the Wizards’ nine most effective lineups. When a player has those kinds of plus/minus statistics, but is not an All-Star, if typically means he knows something about playing D.
[Mike Fisher: Saturday Mavs Donuts: Late-Night Nuts And Bolts And Q's And A's On Butler/Josh Deal - DallasBasketball.com]
In terms of lining up firepower, Butler opening as the sixth man makes sense. In terms of keeping egos from being bruised, it makes (at least temporary) sense, too.
Of course, this is why Rick Carlisle makes the big bucks. … and it’s also the sort of thing that results in those “tension-in-the-locker-room’’ stories of the past week. Carlisle simply could not reach J-Ho. He’ll need to keep Jet as an ally and be on the same page with Butler, too. That’s Rick’s challenge here.
Two, some mixed emotions about Josh Howard’s departure … and the way he’s departing. I’ll summarize one conversation [with a player on the Mavericks] thusly:
“Is Josh bad in the locker room?’’
“No, but that doesn’t mean he’s good in the locker room.’’
I recently wrote about Josh’s paranoia (which had him thinking – correctly, of course – that he was about to be dealt). J-Ho thinks everyone is out to get him, that the locals turned on him, that he’s not respected, that the public is too hard on him. That doesn’t make him a bad person or a bad player. But that is a problem, in so many ways.
But it’s somebody else’s problem now.
You may be wondering, as I am, why Washington chose this deal instead of another blockbuster that would’ve sent Jamison and Butler to Boston for a package including Ray Allen. According to sources, a handful of Eastern Conference GMs pressured Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld to shy away from the Boston deal for obvious reasons. “It would screw up the balance of power in the East for three years,” one executive said. One theory circulating in Dallas is that Grunfeld didn’t want to alienate other teams he might need to do business with as he continues dismantling the roster in the wake of the Gilbert Arenas firearms fiasco.
Projecting ahead remains tricky because the exact salary cap won’t be known until July 1 and the pick Washington gets in the lottery will affect their available salary, but assuming the Wizards pick No.4 (where they currently are), Quinton Ross exercises his player option for next season and the cap is set at $53 million (the projection cap guru Larry Coon is currently using), I have Washington with $7.2 million available for next summer. That might not sound like much, but it would allow the Wizards to offer a player more than the mid-level exception. That’s why adding Stevenson was the key to making this deal work from Washington’s perspective. His $4.2 million player option was sure to be exercised, and Stevenson is worthless to a rebuilding Wizards squad.
I didn’t cover the team when things were going right or when there was a good vibe in the locker room for more than one day in five or six. I guess I’ll never know how much fun the group was.
Washington needed to do this deal. It’s not the most creative expunging of contracts we’ve seen, but the Wizards badly need to rebuild, and they have no use for a player in his prime, working with an eight-figure contract in 2010-11. Losing Butler’s deal and Stevenson’s player option (which he will no doubt pick up) for next seasson opens up more and more cap space for this team. Especially if Gilbert Arenas’ deal is voided, and (more likely than the Arenas void) Antawn Jamison is sent to another team later this week.
Now Washington has effectively blown-up their roster. At the moment, the Wizards only have two above average players [Miller has a WP48 of 0.278 while Jamison’s mark is 0.108]. As noted, the Wizards will be able to add a very high draft choice. But it looks like Washington is going to need more help than what they will find in the draft. So although this move will save money, it looks like the Wizards have quite a distance to travel before playoff basketball once again returns to Washington.
No matter how many nice things the Dallas Mavericks say about Josh Howard, it wasn’t that hard to say goodbye.
It was simply a matter of maximizing his value on the trade market.
Give the Mavs credit for exercising extreme patience after Howard, a major asset to the franchise for most of his six-plus seasons in Dallas, took a significant turn for the worse a couple of seasons ago. They gave him as many chances as possible to revert to form while waiting until they got a great offer for him to pull the trigger.
[David Lord: For 'Now And Later': Mavs Trade Upgrades On-Court Chances And Off-Court Options - DallasBasketball.com]
Two twists: One, the deal does not include the Trade Exception. Dallas managed to hold onto it, and my impression is that the Mavs are glad they did, with anticipation of using it in the future. Two, Dallas got cash?! There’s a first!
Sum it up, and the logic appears more straightforward for Washington than for Dallas. The Wizards had a goal (cutting money) and accomplished it, though without the talent upside they might have wanted. The Mavs have committed to putting an extra $30 million toward their goal (winning a title), yet we’re not certain they’ve put themselves much closer to the promised land.
That said, we need a few more days before we can issue our final verdicts: The Mavs and Wizards still have until 3 p.m. ET on Thursday to make trades that cast a fresh light on Saturday’s big deal, and it’s those follow-up trades that might change the final score.
The Wizards may not be done dealing yet. League sources say that they are engaged in talks with several teams in regards to trading power forward Antawn Jamison before Thursday’s trade deadline. The Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat all have had discussions with the Wizards about trading for Jamison, who is making just more than $11 million this year and has two years and $28 million left on his deal. Seldom-used point guard Mike James, who is making $6.5 million this year also could be traded.
So yeah, the Wizards will probably be a worse basketball team after this trade. But, I don’t know, man — have you watched this team this year? It’s not like with Butler and Haywood, they were going to make the playoffs. That fateful game of bourre on the team plane was simply the first step toward preparations for next season, and this trade is simply the first big part of that long, painful transition.
The Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets and Miami Heat were interested in acquiring center Brendan Haywood(notes) from the Wizards, but couldn’t put together an adequate offer before the Mavericks landed him.
The Blazers offered Steve Blake(notes), rookie Jeff Pendergraph(notes) and a first-round pick for Haywood. When Washington countered by asking for swingman Rudy Fernandez(notes), the Blazers declined. Blazers owner Paul Allen is a big fan of Fernandez.
Haywood turned down a four-year, $35 million contract extension from Washington last summer, but a source said the Mavericks hope to re-sign him after the season.
It’s honestly a shame to see the Josh Howard era end under such depressing circumstances, but the Mavs’ brass made a beautiful move. This is more than you could ever hope for from a trade deadline deal, and if the Wizards cut Drew Gooden loose only to re-sign in Dallas some 30 days later? The Mavs get that much deeper, with a pretty fearsome 10-man rotation. If Butler and Haywood indeed find themselves in Maverick uniforms, it might be time to get excited — this team will be absolutely tremendous.
The bigger upgrade, frankly, is Haywood. Right now the Mavericks put the incredibly pedestrian game of Eric Dampier out at center every night to start. Then they run into good front lines like the Lakers or Nuggets and he gets dominated. Haywood is not the second coming, but he is playing slightly above average ball. He can do a better job defending the Lakers bigs in the playoffs, and now they bring another big body off the bench (even if it is to soak up fouls).
The Mavericks made out like bandits, getting two players in Butler and Haywood, that could help jump-start a team that’s played uneven basketball (10-11 in their last 21 games) and looking to make a move in the rugged Western Conference.
Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James said Saturday that he’s a big fan of new Dallas Maverick Caron Butler. James said he thought it was a good trade for the Mavericks to acquire Butler and others from the Wiz. James said Butler is “tough” and will be a good fit for the Mavericks.
“Love him. There’s one thing about this league, you can’t substitute toughness,” James said. “He’s very good everywhere he’s been, in LA, Miami and now Washington. He’s a very, very good player who complements a lot of good players. He was an All-Star last year, and he’s definitely one of those guys you have to key on when you play him.”