It's Anyone's Pattern

For starters, there's something cosmic about the Chandler-to-OKC trade. The Hornets hadn't quite had it this season, and I hate Byron Scott. Squelching Julian Wright is foolish. And now this, delivering a big man recently considered Olympic-ish material into the mitts of the most FD team since the '06-07 Warriors. If the word "FD" still means anything, or remotely the same thing, in this very different league we live in. So go ahead and type it with me, because I know you've been saying it in your head since yesterday:Kevin&Jeff&Russell&Tyson&Blake. That, my friends, is a monster.

However, as much as I'd (prophetically?) been down on New Orleans, you can't like what this says about the direction the league is headed. I already did a TSB post on it, coming to the conclusion that we're headed toward baseball. Combine that with the Morey/Battier revelations, and this week we're practically staring down the barrel of the future of front offices.

First, you've got the Thunder, a bandwagon you need to be finding if you haven't tracked it down already. All the payroll went to heaven, causing much controversy and embarrassment, or was of the walking corpse variety—save for the rookie contracts belonging to the team's nucleus. And now, even if Chandler improves them greatly, OKC's most likely landing a choice lottery pick. A once-in-a-generation phenom—LeBron is the exception that proves everything, which is why Durant can still be once-in-a-generation—combined with very astute use of high picks, and one big contract stolen off of team's not blessed with such meager payroll. Will this last? No. Does it take a mastermind to pull off? Probably. Does that mean, in the wartorn economic future of the NBA, it's not a viable model? Only if there's a cheaper alternative that promises such a strong chance of competing. Blow the team up before it takes your hand with you, then start all over again. It's not nihilistic, it's living each second like it's your last, and having the balls to believe your front office can repeat the process every five years.

The Hornets now become the consummate underdog, handicapped by forces beyond their control but expected. One superstar, surrounded by passable role players and guided by a coach determined to make up the difference. If that sounds like the 2000-01 Sixers, congraulations. They went to the Finals, and so we can imagine the post-Chandler Hornets making a similarly inspirational push—provided they change coaches in the off-season. That's when you end up with a peculiar merger of "this is a league of stars" with "this is a league of coaches," where these proclamations apply only to the most elite, who in secret compacts join forces to overcome the system's strictures. That's the real lesson of those Sixers—that when you have a single-minded MVP and a stubborn coach with a fully-formed basketball worldview, it's hard to tell exactly who is establishment, which means they must both be out in the cold, tossing flaming bottles at something else.

You're right, I've skimped on baseball comparisons, because I can't always make them. But I do know that, if Morey's research comes to anything, you could find another model in which incomplete or flawed players are brought together to complete each other. Not the flawed or incomplete the FD book so concerns itself with—not towering figures with great, bleeding holes in their sides. Instead, a team of guys who are at once, like Battier, useful and detrimental, but without any hierarchy. Such that no single individual, or his flaws, can overwhelm the balance of the whole. It's often said that D'Antoni's ideal team is comprised of 6'9" guys who can shoot, run, and pass. The Knicks may be one of the few teams that can do this, because as other teams look for efficient and affordable models, free agents will increasingly accumulate in one place willing to pay them an above average salary. Morey, though, could make due with a team of Battiers, provided one had just a little bit more scoring ability in place of a little less rebounding. But not too much. A team of multi-purpose yeoman immune to all yearning and glory, one that might eventually swallow up the likes of Marion and Odom.

Will we ever see this come to pass? That depends on how long the economic crisis lingers in basketball. Certainly, though, if teams suffer a major hit this year and the next, and the summer of 2010 finds the large market teams cashing in (sorry for the mixed, if not oppositional, metaphor), we might see contracts signed that extend a relatively brief window of disaster across the foreseeable. Who knows what will be discovered, or what will pan out? Front office philosophies could find themselves twisted into a grimace that, over time, becomes a sign of worldliness and thought most deep.

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At 2/17/2009 5:02 PM, Blogger jochbe said...

A minor point, but--I lived in Philly from 97-04 and have lived in New Orleans since 04--and your comparison is dead wrong. The better comparison would be to say that the Hornets pre-salary dump were like the 00-01 Sixers, though better because Paul, while not a better talent than AI, can do more to help a team win--and also because the current Hornets have the better Xavier-produced power forward.

The Sixers, pre-and-post-Ratliff/Mutombo trade had a strong defensive presence at center, much like the Hornets had with (a healthy) Ty. So the current Hornets would probably be like the 00-01 Sixers without Ratliff or Mutombo (though, to be honest, that comparison might be a little unfair to Matt Geiger). And that team would have sucked big time. Of course based on what I said above the Hornets would come out better because of the Paul/West to Iverson/Hill comparison, but that is surely nullified by the fact that the Hornets are in the Western Conference.

So the upshot of this is that the comparison you take to provide a glimmer of hope for the Hornets leaves me with nothing but dread...

At 2/17/2009 5:03 PM, Blogger Austin said...


Mike? Who is this Mike you speak of?

At 2/17/2009 5:28 PM, Blogger Robert said...

I truly hope that a bleak future of mathematically-constructed Voltron teams comes to pass. A paradigm of workhorse players with minimal flash, trudging desolately to their championships, set to a rhythm of chanting by fans trained in North Korea. And cloaked in his black robe, face pockmarked and scarred, will be Darth Popovich.

Any system of order like his can only bring an historic revolt from those who use the sport to express themselves. As ridiculous as it is to apply Moneyball to a sport like basketball, it would be an awful lot of fun to watch the backlash. Grand Moff Stern clutching a huddled JR Smith; "I grow tired of asking... WHERE is the the rebel base?"

"... Memphis. It's in Memphis."

But the forces of evil will arive to find only the remnants of a ragtag outlaw band, with the realization that the Prodigy kept the faith to his last. Because the Grizzlies evacuated in time to get to the NBA's Yavin 4: Seattle. And from that refuge OJ Mayo and his hopeless collection of misfits will strike a last-ditch effort against the Death Star of homogeneity. Leave it to the only man who made an exciting shot in HORSE to launch a 40-foot prayer against the Hornets, crumbling any attempt at some sort of governing dynamic in basketball and bringing the Emerald City back from obscurity and into the finals.

Rejoice at the thought of someone advocating the removal of personality from basketball. The harder you tighten your grip, Moff Stern, the more systems will slip through your fingers.

And Sebastian Telfair is a killer Lando Calrissian.

At 2/17/2009 5:31 PM, OpenID southernkeynes said...


I think he meant Russell - confusing him with that famous Westbrook from the NFL

At 2/17/2009 5:47 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Of course I meant "Russell." I must've been thinking of this guy.

Jochb: I lived in Philly then, too, and you're right that Ratliff/Mutombo makes my comparison faulty (though I'd argue that Chandler's better than either was one at that point). But Iverson/Brown is the part of the template I was most interested in, like if some new coach showed up in NOLA and got Hilton Armstrong to play well. I think the point was that Chandler was expensive and thought of as a key player, as opposed to part of a coach's scheme. I'll stop before I complete destroy any hope I had at salvaging this.

At 2/17/2009 6:01 PM, Blogger jochbe said...

Shoals: Fair enough. You have to understand, though, that right now it is hard for me to see the upside as a Hornets fan, so I felt horribly compelled to argue against what you wrote...

At 2/17/2009 6:16 PM, Blogger W2 said...

As a fan of the Ass. I love this trade. Hornets get Smith, keeping him out of the hands of Celts, Lakes, Cavs, Spurs. Which makes things way more interesting and might force one of those teams to do something more risky. Like Celts getting Starbury or Cavs getting Amare or Spurs getting VC.

Plus Ty to OK is fun and Wilcox will look a whole lot better playing with CP3. Kind of like a Shawn Marion Suns style.

The Hornets will mos def miss Ty come playoff time when the game slows down a bit.

Who is next?

At 2/17/2009 6:24 PM, Blogger R. Lobstah said...

I'd like to remind folks of the 2004 Lakers breakup with the two holdovers to today's team being Walton and Kobe. That team was blown up and rebuilt around a superstar (albeit a superstar already in place but there is no doubt that Kobe was an uber-high quality complementary player on a team build around Shaq) and the history of the Lakers seems to indicate some sort of trust put in the front office to rebuild and then rebuild contenders based on the superstar's basketball life-cycle.

Maybe it's the fascist in me but San Antonio has become likable this season. Rather then sense any "right way"ness to their play, I get a Spur's Way feel from them which isn't homogenizing but personalizing.

I happen to think that OKC's model is going to be much more appealing to teams then Houston's. You need to succeed for the League to really notice and success is not in any way on Houston's horizon where as OKC looks like it has a chance to be at least as good as the Blazers and much more entertaining.

At 2/17/2009 7:04 PM, Blogger Zeke said...

We don't even know which Tyson Chandler OKC is getting - the dude who looks like a legitimate NBA player with Chris Paul as his PG...or the scrub that he was in Chicago. How effective will he be without Paul to throw him lobs off the p'n'r?

At 2/17/2009 7:35 PM, Blogger Zydruuuunas said...

Tyson is a D-leaguer people, ever watch the guy shoot free throws or ever make an offensive move.

Paul made Tyson.

At 2/17/2009 8:51 PM, Blogger Robert said...

@ R. Lobstah

Much as I villianize their incredibly boring style of play, I don't think you're wrong. Spurs are gonna do what Spurs are gonna do. Plenty of imitators, and they've all self-destructed. Like HP said, there's only one Tim Duncan.

I still think it's pretty evil though. I'm sure Duncan is a great guy, but I don't think he looks at the court as a canvas in any way. But I'm a Denver fan.

At 2/17/2009 9:02 PM, Blogger goathair said...

Per 36, Tyson's numbers in Nola are pretty similar to his last two seasons on the Bulls. The slight bump can be attributed to both CP and playing 36 minutes instead of 23. Dude can play regardless of situation. Not to mention he's one of the best defensive centers in the League.

At 2/17/2009 11:17 PM, Blogger Bren said...


At 2/18/2009 8:24 AM, Blogger dizzle said...

he might not be a 7' former lithuanian point guard, but he is most definitely nba talent. goat already gave you the numbers. he changed the course of more than a few games those last seasons in chicago.

and: between nate and dwight and KD, its like all star weekend never ended, but now its 'serious'.

At 2/18/2009 10:23 AM, OpenID FreeWade said...

From ESPN "McGrady says he needs surgery, year over"

Sometimes you can't just make this shit. T-Mac's tragic career arc is almost comical at this point. I'm surprised Morey has not woken up to this reality and traded him for AI

At 2/18/2009 11:48 AM, Blogger wondahbap said...

Thank you for finally making me see the real point of Lewis' article. Stern's prediction of a lowered cap put it into perspective.

GM's will actually have to be smart.

LeBron is so going to NY now.

At 2/18/2009 12:25 PM, Blogger Logan said...

Holy crap you're right. Stern is maneuvering so Lebron will end up in a bigger market.

Conspiracies would be easier to deal with if they weren't so heartless.

At 2/18/2009 2:34 PM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

Wow, not just surgery for T-Mac, but microfracture. Which means he won't be back until the 2010-11 season. I believe the countdown to trading him just started for real. Hopefully, he'll move back to the Eastern Conference and leave his family in Houston so that he can get all of the sleep that he needs and return as something that at least resembles himself.

At 2/19/2009 1:01 AM, Blogger S said...

Well, now OKC is not getting any Tyson Chandler, and New Orleans is getting him as well as secret turf toe considerations.

At 2/19/2009 6:57 PM, Blogger O said...

What could have been...

i hope being rejected by two teams pisses off tyson chandler so much that he goes anarchist and fine tunes his unique and overlooked game to the maximum. Chris Paul didn't make him, just like scott skiles didn't get him.

It's easy to look at a stat sheet or a player efficiency rating or all that other madness associated with trying to mathematize the game of b-ball and give a high brow interpretation of why you think T-Chandler isn't worth his contract.

But once he heals and gets his inevitable release from the hornets (how's that peja signing working out?) some coach or gm with enough sense and nuts is going to turn this guy loose ala nash in phoenix or kemp in seattle.

It's just that he handles his business on the defensive side of the court.


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