Lakers, Clippers are on winning side in NBA free-agency dealings
The moratorium on NBA free-agent signings ends Wednesday, freeing team executives to comment on their moves.
A quick rundown of what select general managers ought to say:
Brooklyn’s Billy King: “Two down, one to go!”
Houston’s Daryl Morey: “Just kidding! We’re really not going from Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic to Courtney Fortson and Shaun Livingston at point guard … are we?”
The Lakers’ Mitch Kupchak: “Sacre bleu! All these fans who groused that our biggest off-season move would involve Robert Sacre need to get a clue.”
The Clippers’ decision-making troika of Vinny Del Negro, Andy Roeser and Gary Sacks: “With moves like these, who needs a general manager?”
Of course, with free agency still in flux, it remains to be seen who will have the last word.
Given the caveat that Orlando’s Dwight Howard remains in play — the Magic reportedly is seeking to find out if primordial life forms on Pluto might help them consummate a trade — here are the five biggest winners and losers in free agency so far:
Lakers: Steve Nash will make a three-year stopover at Staples Center on the way to the Hall of Fame, furnishing the Lakers with the league’s best starting lineup. Nash gives Kobe Bryant a dynamic, highly intelligent sidekick who will help his new team pick-and-roll opponents into submission.
It may be all for naught in the playoffs unless the Lakers significantly upgrade the league’s worst bench or somehow end up with Howard.
Clippers: Fears that Clipper Darrell would be left to run things once General Manager Neil Olshey departed for Portland have been unfounded. The organization has a coach (Del Negro), a president (Roeser) and a director of player personnel (Sacks) who have fortified a strong core with the additions of Lamar Odom and Jamal Crawford, plus the re-signing of savvy veteran Chauncey Billups.
These are strange times in Clipper Nation. The Clippers are virtual locks to make the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1992-93, and they will probably make more than a cameo appearance.
Brooklyn: The Nets were already winners merely by leaving New Jersey. Getting Joe Johnson while keeping Deron Williams makes them playoff contenders, and landing Howard would thrust them into Miami Heat territory as challengers to win the Eastern Conference.
Now if only the Magic and the legion of players possibly involved in a Howard trade will cooperate.
Phoenix: The Suns may have pulled off the impossible: Getting better while losing Nash. Well, at least in the long term, considering the haul of draft picks that came from the Lakers in the trade.
In the meantime, Dragic should be a serviceable replacement at point guard and Michael Beasley is poised to shed his label as a massive underachiever. Phoenix also continues to dream about Eric Gordon, though the star shooting guard probably is headed back to New Orleans.
New York: Maybe Jason Kidd and Marcus Camby can help salvage the Team of Misfit Parts. Having a recent NBA champion and a defense-minded big man around the clueless tandem of Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire can’t hurt.
And if the Knicks re-sign Jeremy Lin as expected, the pubescent point guard can be mentored by a Kidd.
Dallas: There is a plan, right? The Mavericks face the possibility of going from NBA champions to missing the playoffs within two years unless they quickly reverse course. Kidd is gone, Williams isn’t coming and Howard remains a longshot.
That leaves … Ramon Sessions?
Houston: Trading Lowry to Toronto and losing Dragic to Phoenix has left many Rockets fans wondering, “What’s the point?” Or, more precisely, “Who’s the point?”
The only ballhandlers left on the roster are Fortson, who recently spent time in the Development League, Livingston and Scott Machado, an undrafted prospect from Iona. Luring Sessions could be an option, though not a great one.
New Orleans: The Hornets got Ryan Anderson to go alongside top draft pick Anthony Davis, so there’s that.
But the rapidly deteriorating Gordon situation threatens to topple the rebuilding efforts. The former Clipper was unhappy that New Orleans wasn’t the first team to extend a maximum contract and said he would be disappointed if it matched Phoenix’s offer.
The Hornets’ first order of business after re-signing Gordon should be to enroll him in NBA Free Agency 101.
Toronto: The team’s pitch to Nash reportedly included a heartfelt video narrated by Wayne Gretzky that nearly brought the point guard to tears. Nash opted for the Lakers, leaving Raptors executives bawling.
Their problems hardly end there. With Lowry in the fold, Toronto has an overpaid backup in Jose Calderon and probably will end up stuck with the underwhelming Landry Fields after offering him a three-year, $20-million contract that New York is unlikely to match.
Chicago: Any time you have to replace your franchise player with a point guard signed through the so-called mini-mid-level exception, big trouble lies ahead. That’s the situation the Bulls find themselves in after Derrick Rose’s torn knee ligament forced them to bring back Kirk Hinrich.
On the plus side, rookie Marquis Teague could be ready … by 2015.
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