Madonna and Mancub

Let me preface this by being straight and saying that I don't really understand money. I earn a meager stipend as a grad student, make a little more when I help teach, and pick up a tiny bit on the side for small freelance writing gigs. I never cook, so I spend the majority of my money on overpriced food and eating out...I buy a million plane tickets, rack up huge cell phone bills, and pay my rent in a moderately priced Chicago apartment. I feel like I'm always doing "fine," but am never really on the come-up. And I'm never really on a downslope. Like, this could go on for the rest of my life, and I think I'd be alright.

So, outside of my personal life, I obviously don't understand how money works either. NBA money, the obvious topic at hand, never seems to translate directly into wins. All the wrong people have too much of it. MLEs, LLEs, the "Allan Houston" rule...it doesn't seem to be helping anybody or providing any real sense of parity. NBA money at least makes more sense to me than NFL money, but the way the L is operating right now seems completely absurd. And whats more, money seems to be redefining the star system as we know it. Observe:

Yes, I am late to the party here, but I do not understand how Rashard Lewis pulled down $121 million or whatever. I don't understand where that money comes from. I do understand that in a weak Eastern Conference, a Dwight Howard-led team with any semblance of a legit second option could probably make the finals given the right seeding. But I do not understand how Rashard Lewis, a pretty good dude and a flashy player, is making more, than say, Ichiro Suzuki. Clearly cross-sports comparisons don't work for a host of reasons, but the fact that baseball lacks a salary cap means that Ichiro could have made even MORE than the approximate $90 million dollars he recently received. Ichiro is perhaps the best pure hitter of all-time, an MVP winner, a cultural icon. 'Shard is a cool guy with a solid, flashy game.

Max contracts do not become self-fulfilling prophecies. Keith Van Horn is the paradigm, and the concrete example is that Michael Finley will be making the second most cash in the league this year (sandwiched right between KG and Shaq). What 'Shard's contract does is that it degrades the definition of "star." Big-money guys like R.Lewis...Joe Johnson...Antawn Jamison are some of our favorite players, yes, but is that what the OJ Mayo's of tomorrow are aspiring to be?

Exhibit B: Mo Williams' new contract with Milwaukee. Bucks' fans as far as I know are extremely happy. Zo Mourning has expressed some vague disappointment that Williams did not choose the Heat. And at the end of the day, a guy who has topped 68 games played ONCE in his career is pulling down almost 9 million a year. I know how much he meant to the Bucks last year, and yet, the team finished with 28 wins. Williams was considered the top PG on the free agent market, so by all reasonable accounts, this is a good deal for the Bucks. Furthermore, I don't know what else they were supposed to do. Let Boykins lead them to glory? More than anything, I guess I am disgusted by the fact that given the current state of the league, this huge signing makes sense. Like, OVERspending is just expected of a team if it wants to stay competitive.

So the first problem is that neither Shard or Mo Williams are stars and both are being treated as such. But furthermore, Shard and Williams are not $60-70 million apart from each other. This obscures the very set of principles for who gets to become a star.

And then there is the sad story of Steve Francis. The most confounding case of all. First of all, I will stick by my guns and say that a Marbury/Francis-helmed team could very well have worked (just not a Marbury/Francis team that also requires Nate Robinson, Q-Rich, Channing Frye, Curry, and Crawford to get touches). But because it didn't work and because it wasnt quite working in Orlando, that is no reason that you pay him 30 fucking million dollars not to play. This is absurdity. I respect the Blazers for trying to change their image, and to cultivate a strong character amongst their young players, but are you kidding me? 30 MILLION DOLLARS is STILL on your payroll. At least try to shop the guy. This is still Steve Francis.
Call up Dallas, Indiana, Los Angeles...at least try to get some muscle in return. I mean, I'm sure Stevie is happy as shit to be let go for free, but you are disrespecting the very notion of what it means to be a star when you cut a guy loose like that.

Most people will say, Steve Francis was never a star. I say, he--like Baron Davis from 2005-January2007, Lamar Odom, like Kirilenko, and like Sam Cassell for so many years--is being misused. Bill Simmons a few months back thoughtfully wrote that the reason why the powerhouse Laimbeer-Isiah-Dumars-Rodman/Bird-Ainge-Parish-McHale/Abdul-Jabbar-Magic-Worthy-ByronScott teams have disappeared was due to expansion. Now all of the talent has spread too thin. Although there is some truth to this, ultimately I disagree. The bigger problem is that there is a star identity crisis throughout the league--that the misuse of money has contributed to--that must be resolved by clearly defining what constitutes a star once and for all. Whatever the resolution makes no matter to me, just as long as I know whether or not to be surprised when Caron Butler is named to the all-star team.

The GS Warriors of this past year's playoffs stood up, and said, WE ARE STARS. And on paper, J-Rich, B-Diddy, Al Harrington and Stephen Jackson look just as menacing as Nowitzki, J-Howard, Terry, and Dampier. Or nearly as menacing as Duncan, Oberto, Parker, Bowen, and Ginobili. We are in the midst of star anarchy, and whereas I once thought this system was refreshing, it cannot sustain itself for much longer.


At 7/17/2007 4:27 PM, Anonymous Sweat of Ewing said...

DLIC, the question about Stevie F. though is whether he can accept a role in which he is properly utilized. He hasn't really shown evidence of it before - I'd love to see him as a rebounding, defending point who is there to use when plays break down and to keep constant threat and pressure on a defense, but as a second option. Granted, he hasn't been put in a situation where that was viable (except in NY, where there were other issues at stake), but even when he was playing with Manimal Howard and the Ghost of Hill, he just couldn't defer to higher percentage options.

At 7/17/2007 5:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The thing about Francis is... yes they did a buyout because of their good character youth image. But they could not have done as you said and traded him to Dallas, or Indiana, or Los Angeles.

There are only a few players that could have matched his salary AND he is not even close to their production.

Steve Francis was untradeable. Gigantic contract with poor play.

As for the huge contracts... it's just a matter of supply and demand. I do agree it's ridiculous but the way I see it is that those teams just screwed themselves. Good for me seeing as I'm not a fan of either team :p

At 7/17/2007 5:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I imagine Erick Dampier and J.J. Barea/M. Ager could have been had for Francis, with the numbers worked out.

At 7/17/2007 6:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Holy shit, next time there's a brawl like the one in the Palace, I'm going to bring up this:


At 7/17/2007 9:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

alright is not a word

At 7/17/2007 9:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 5:34 - That is absurd. Dampier's a stiff, but him and Diop are at least solid defensively in the post. Who becomes the Mavs backup center if that trade is made? And Dallas already has somewhat of a logjam at SG/SF anyway.

At 7/17/2007 9:27 PM, Anonymous Cyanide said...

I just don't think Portland really cared to try and get anything of value for him. They have an idea of their young core and this will give them a few seasons to play with each other and develop chemistry, along with addition of other young talented (and I'm sure) lottery picks. And when Franchise's contract finally comes off the books, it'll be just in time to get the '06ers (Roy and Aldridge, most notably) their extensions without plunging them into the tax the following season.

There's the "Always get value for your assets" school of thought, but they chose to take advantage of Franchise's contract and eventual cap relief (along with freeing up another roster slot) over the asset of Franchise the player. They can eat the contract for now because of all their rookie-scale deals, and they'll be golden once it clears the books. Pretty smart.

But yeah, the cap/salaries some guys make/think they deserve is insane. Kapono is a $6 mil a year player? Charlotte felt the need to lock up Matt Carrol for 6 years?! Mase wanted a deal north of $8 mil a year?! And people wonder why teams can never pull off trades, because they've buried themselves in overpriced role-players and gargantuanly overpaid borderline All-Stars.

At 7/17/2007 9:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dallas has 3 African bigs with REAL potential:
DJ MBenga, who tore his ACL last year, but is still a freak.
Pops Mensah Bonsu, only 6' 9", but plays 7' 2".
And of course Diop, the shot-blocking machine.

They would be fine w/o Stampy Dampy. All he brings is basic post offense and good body up defense on post-playing bigs. Christ, who needs post-offense anyway? (joke)

At 7/17/2007 9:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not like Portland couldn't have thrown in a spare big (Przy could be the prize).

At 7/18/2007 12:16 AM, Anonymous Mortimer said...

Buying out Francis wasn't just to rid themselves of his attitude, it was to open a roster space and remove a player who wasn't going to play and wouldn't be happy about that fact, AND to save money.

The trade was mostly for money reasons, and to push Aldridge/Oden/Roy into the focal point of the offense. With Z-Bo on the team making bookoo bucks, you can't do that. Now the Blazers still gotta pay Francis for 2 more years, but the buyout is less than what they were gonna have to pay him (plus ya take off half of whatever he signs for with another team) and Francis' contract was 2 years shorter than Z-Bos.

So, in 2009, before Roy/Aldridge/Oden's rookie deals are up, the Blazers will have 20+ million in cap space. The core will have played together, they get the PG situation worked out, and the Blazers try for whoever the best free agent is. The core is already amazing, and the fact that they'll have that huge cap window BEFORE they gotta re-sign all the kids is awesometastic.

With Paul Allen owning the Blazers, if Roy/Aldridge/Oden are worth it they can make max money AND they could still afford another max dude from 2009.

I dunno if everyone will make max money, but the Blazers are situated for this to happen. That's why the Blazers signed Steve Blake and Travis Outlaw to 3 year deals with team options for year 3 (2009). Their deals aren't big enough to ruin our cap window, AND if it doesn't work out the team won't pick up the option.

Kevin Pritchard and his team are very smarty pies.

Waiving Francis was to get this cap space for the championship run, get a good backup in Channing Frye, turn the trade exception from the Z-Bo trade into James Jones and Spanish Sensation Rudy Fernandex from PHX (who is trying to cut costs), and hand the team over to the triumverant of Roy/Oden/Aldridge. Talent wise it isn't equal, but team wise it's awesome.

ESPECIALLY if Rudy Fernandez is as good as advertised. If he didn't have an annoying buyout he'd be a lottery pick, "they" say, and he is coming over to Portland next season.

If you KNOW you're gonna have to spend the money anyways, might as well not be stubborn and think you gotta get something in return for it. Waiving Francis and moving Z-Bo bought the future.

No one worth having makes Francis-level money and is available for Francis.


At 7/18/2007 2:17 AM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

What's particularly weird is that some teams are wildly inconsistent with how they hand out money. How does Charlotte sign Carroll for six years, trade for an overpaid J-Rich, and get Gerald below market in the same offseason? (I decided I liked this article just after seeing the first picture. Reading it was like biting into a citrus mountain.)

At 7/18/2007 3:14 AM, Anonymous Berts said...

Wonderful Mr. Show picture. "Kids, never take more than you can handle, and always know your dealer."

I'm hoping my Mavs end up with Francis, after some trepidation at first. I wish I could source this--I don't remember where I read it (probably these comments) but I read someone's theory recently that these huge-ass contracts handed to unworthy players become an unbearable albatross on them. A guy like Rashard is doomed to fail at this point; by no fault of his own he's constitutionally incapable of living up to a max contract, and the psychology of that, the psychology of your failure to live up to an organization's standards--even when they were the ones who made the deal--inevitably seep into a player's game.

That's what I have loved about having Cuban. Even when there is a player with a ridiculous contract playing a minimal role on the team, the wasted money is never brought up; a guy like Stack or Keith Van Horn can be bringing in the most cash on the team and still just be a role player, without any psychological baggage from the organization bringing down his game. If Francis comes to the Mavs, be ready for the return of Franchise, for real.

At 7/18/2007 9:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Berts, it's the Peter Principle. And it's been widely reported that Francis wouldn't accept the trade until PDX agreed to buy him out before it even went down. How players can force teams into trading/not trading them is a much more interesting question.


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