NEW YORK — On a day it might have been easier for the NBA to relocate franchises rather than move the multitude of traded players, Isiah Thomas almost did exactly the opposite of what he’s been saying over the last couple weeks he wouldn’t do.
There’s nothing more damning than giving conflicting testimony or spewing irreconcilable philosophy.
Once again the Knicks have exchanged two bad players with undesirable contracts, plus their one and only pro center, for a pair of fringe starters with longer and higher salaries.
In the opaque opinion of the team’s patronizing president, anybody who can’t see the above deals are perfectly reasonable deserves to be demeaned.
In his murky mind Thomas believes he’s justified swapping Nazr Mohammed ($5.5 million this year) and Jamison Brewer to the Spurs for Malik Rose ($6 million, $6.55 million, $7.1 million, $7.64 million) as well as Moochie Norris ($4.2 million) and Vin Baker ($3.85 million) to the Rockets for Maurice Taylor ($9.1 million and $9.7 million).
Because the Knicks got two first round picks pre-owned by Phoenix and San Antonio as part of the package.
According to Thomas’ shadowy genius their mutual irrelevancy is worth more than competing with a halfway competent center. His lame logic is biting and sweeping:
“Who did I have playing center for me now?” Thomas submarined.
“Come on, Mohammed was that bad?” I replied.
“No, not that bad,” Thomas qualified. “But everyone in the Eastern Conference is playing without a pure center except the Heat (Shaq), the Cavaliers (Zydrunas Ilgauskas) and now the Bulls (Eddy Curry).”
I could have sworn I heard Thomas repeatedly defend the Keith Van Horn-Tim Thomas transaction back when by claiming his sole motive for making it was to get Mohammed in the three-way deal.
In Thomas’ jumbled judgment he thinks compiling immaterial draft picks (two No. 1s this June and two the year after, he gleefully notes) is vital to rebuilding.
“Look how many quality players were drafted low in the first round and early in the second,” he stresses. “We drafted (traded for, actually) Jamaal Tinsley at No. 27 at Indiana and my other choice was Gilbert Arenas (taken No. 31 by the Warriors).”
Fine, we all know the league’s elite talent scouts make their fair share of mistakes every draft.
Tony Parker went No. 28, Josh Howard went No. 29, while Auburn’s Marquis Daniels went undrafted, for crying out tears despite winning player of the year in the Southeast Conference.
Rashard Lewis (No. 32), Manu Ginobili (No. 57) and Arenas are ideal examples of players who were criminally overlooked. But just because Thomas uncovered Trevor Ariza at No. 43 last June it doesn’t mean he’s assured of a superior being (on the scale of the above three reigning All-Stars) slipping through the cracks, nor has he proved he can identify it if it’s there for the plucking.
In this salary cap restrictive age, I don’t care how much a team is on the books for luxury tax; hindsight and some sideline experience have taught me it’s unnecessary to tear a team apart in order to rebuild it a championship contender/conqueror.
Rebuilding with high draft picks obviously works as long as management doesn’t panic. See Bulls; Jerry Krause wasn’t nearly as whacked out as all of us thought and John Paxson picked up where he left off.
Still, from where I’m second guessing, shrewd trades and clever or opportunistic free agent forays succeed truer and quicker. See Lakers (Shaq and Kobe), Pistons (Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace, Rip Hamilton and Chauncey Billups) and Pacers (Jermaine O’Neal, Ron Artest).
All three rebuilt in that manner (draft picks were added to provide fresh legs and enthusiasm) with only a rare failure crashing the playoff party.
The Wizards are the latest to renovate their roster and recapture respectability using that approach vs. relying almost exclusively on the draft.
Thomas, on the other hand, did precisely what?
Instead of figuring out how to obtain someone like Chris Webber he engineered the acquisition of Taylor, a fake macho forward who may be a worse rebounder than Tim Thomas, if that’s possible, and Rose, a favorite of mine, but conspicuously undersized at power forward and center, his two deployable positions.
In Webber, at least the 76ers got marquee value and triple threat numbers (that somewhat validate his preposterous $62 million salary over the next three seasons, suspect health and engorged ego) to parlay alongside Allen Iverson and a very strong youth corps.
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