NEW YORK — Opening week in the NBA has been fraught with trade gossip concerning Jason Kidd, TV talk about Mike Woodson and Marc Iavaroni (to name two head coaches) beginning the season in grave job jeopardy;by the end of the telecasts both Atlanta and Memphis upset Orlando, picked by at least one ESPN expert to reach the Finals), and indispensable perishables, notably Greg Oden, again listed as damaged goods.
“Oden couldn’t get through one game,” column contributor Rasheid McCorvey sorrowfully notes. “He’s making Bill Walton and Sam Bowie look indestructible.”
Days before Oden hurt his right foot, shelving him for at least two weeks, the Frail Blazers (Martell Webster sustained a preseason stress fracture, while Brandon Roy and Channing Frye experienced injury issues during the offseason) had begun hunting for elite leadership.
A perceived (from my observation deck) lack of confidence in Steve Blake, Sergio Rodriguez and Jerryd Bayless impaired visions of playoff sugarplums, thus the upgrade buzz specifically implicating Kidd.
However, it’s factually flawed as well as logically unsound.
According to a Mavericks’ source the Blazers have not inquired about Kidd’s availability; the Knicks certainly did, though, offering Stephon Marbury.
At the same time, had GM Kevin Pritchard made an overture it would have been summarily rebuffed for two overriding reasons.
First, Mavs owner Mark Cuban is all about competing for titles, not just for playoff entry; surrendering Kidd (five months removed from his 36th birthday) for say, the expiring contract of Raef LaFrentz ($12.722 million), Blake ($4.25 million), a talented project and a first-rounder presumably terminates that objective.
Second, Rick Carlisle has adopted a radically dissimilar offensive system than the one the confirmed conservative coach employed with the Pistons and Pacers. No longer is he calling the majority of the plays.
His Mavs have become a heated rush, looking to surge at every opportunity, the West’s most hyperactive band-on-the-run, if you can believe it.
Guess who the trigger man is in that scheme for almost everything?
Carlisle’s fresh approach is based on Kidd playing 35 minutes per game and pretty much being the show on the break and in the half court; 12 assists in an opening loss to Houston.
In the final and fatal analysis, how can the Mavs possibly expect to be as good as they think they can be minus Kidd’s direction?
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Contrary to a report, the Bulls have expressed zero interest to the Knicks in acquiring Zach Randolph to fill their low-post cavity. At least one insider believes Pistons’ boss Joe Dumars will come after Randolph at the trade deadline (the way he did for Rasheed Wallace) should it become evident his team can’t win a championship without some added punch. I’m informed that won’t happen.
Recent trade talk involving Al Harrington broke off when the Nets wouldn’t give the Warriors the package they demanded. While there’s no way Harrington’s latest demand to be distanced from Don Nelson prompts out-going GM Chris Mullin to lower his price appreciably, I’ve got to believe the subject matter was revived when Golden State visited New Jersey last night.
Late last season, his fifth as Suns coach, Mike D’Antoni took on fans who had turned on his team when it struggled following Shaq’s acquisition . . . “Let them jump off the bandwagon,” he said defiantly, “we’ve got plenty of fans who want to jump on.”
People within the organization and numerous season ticket-holders (many whom I’ve known for decades) were deeply offended by his condescension. It was a clear first sign the pressure of unfilled great expectations had gotten to D’Antoni.
For someone so brutally honest and caustically amusing — pick a player, name a subject, nothing and no one is taboo — it’s startling that D’Antoni was so thin-skinned regarding the “We want Steph” chants with his team comfortably ahead in the Knicks’ opening game, for crying out tears.
Seemingly reproaching a negligible contingent of fans — as unsophisticated as they proved themselves to be — exposed D’Antoni to be disappointedly skinless.
Surely someone must have told him there’s way worse yet to come.
Nevertheless, far it be from me to suggest D’Antoni’s decision to banish Marbury (“Are you getting on the inactive list or what?”) is without intrinsic merit. When you get two coaches fired, the next coach, if shrewd, will make sure you don’t do the same thing to him.
As Isiah Thomas discovered, the last thing you want is having Marbury close enough to learn your secrets.
Peter Vecsey covers the NBAfor the New York Post.
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