Mid September Hodge Podge

It has been a while since I have posted anything and I apologize. I guess the good news is I really have not missed anything. Still, there has not been a word on this blog about J.R. Smith slated to miss the first seven games of the season, former Nugget Allen Iverson signing with the Memphis Grizzlies, the potential referee lockout, heck, I never even finished my player by player recap of the 2008-09 season.

I have made it through another hectic week of work, pieced together two potentially dominant fantasy football teams and I finally have some time to discuss the Nuggets.

Where’s Wally?

Nuggets fans received some good news yesterday as it was announced Desmond Mason had agreed to sign with the Sacramento Kings (read about it at Cowbell Kingdom). The bad news for Nuggets fans is that it reduces their leverage with Wally Szczerbiak.

However, there are still several names on the list as the Nuggets have been linked with Rashard McCants, Flip Murray and now Keith Bogans, but I still think Wally is the guy who will end up in powder blue next season. With Chanucey Billups, J.R. Smith, Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo and Anthony Carter I do not see how McCants or Murray help this team. Chris Tomasson has an excellent article on Fanhouse outlining how J.R. Smith’s suspension (discussed below) is playing a role in who the Nuggets bring in to fill the 13th roster spot.

If the front office signs a player simply because the Nuggets will be short handed for the first seven games of the season, I think it is an overreaction. However, Tomasson reports that Denver offered Murray a minimum deal already. Murray is a nice player and I have no problem with Bogans either. Murray can score and Bogans is a very good defender, but what do you do with them once J.R. returns? Over the long haul Denver will be better off with a player like Szczerbiak who can really help for all 82 games than someone who will only provide a significant boost for seven.

Getting back to Wally, should Szczerbiak end up in Denver both he and the Nuggets are playing things cool. With the Nuggets’ commitment to saving every possible penny they are not about to toss Wally, or anyone else, a salary figure higher than they are willing to pay just to seal the deal. The Nuggets remain the best match for playing time and competitiveness. The only team who could I could see offering anything better than Denver would be the Lakers who have a couple of open roster spots and might not be planning on giving their spare minutes at small forward to Adam Morrison, plus it was announced today they will bring in.

I do believe Wally would be a very good fit in Denver, but if he ends up signing elsewhere, it is not the end of the world. It would actually clear up some playing time at small forward for Renaldo Balkman. I believe Balkman is at his best playing small forward as he struggles to defend many power forwards due to his slight stature.

Denver can also go small with J.R. or Afflalo sliding over to the three. Backing up Carmelo Anthony only assures you about 12 or 13 minutes of floor time anyway.

If the Nuggets sign Murray and Szczerbiak then I will be ecstatic, but they are serious about minimizing their tax payment and carrying more than 13 guaranteed contracts into the season is unlikely.

Training camp starts in less than a week and Denver has to sign someone. This cannot drag out much longer. Denver has options and the race may come down to which player will agree to play in Denver for the minimum.

The Least Popular Number 7 in Denver

For the third season in a row the Nuggets will be short a player to start the season due to suspension. J.R. will miss the first seven games of the 2009-10 season because of the reckless driving incident that resulted in the death of his friend and passenger Andre Bell. Smith was suspended by the Nuggets for three games to start the 2007-08 season because of the accident and last season Carmelo Anthony missed the first two games as punishment for his drunk driving arrest near the end of the 2007-08 season.

My initial reaction when I heard J.R. had been suspended for seven games was that it was far too severe. With the Nuggets likely locked in a tight battle for playoff position again those seven games could be very hurtful. Three of those seven games are back to back sets and the Nuggets will need all the fresh pairs of legs they can afford, even early in the season.

After reflecting on the situation I cannot argue that seven games is too severe. In fact, it is possible J.R. got off easy. I do not mean to keep dwelling on this, but a person lost his life because of J.R.’s actions. How can you say any amount of games is too steep a penalty?

I realize it is not the NBA’s job to punish J.R., after all he spent 24 days in jail isn’t that enough? On the other hand, who among us would still have a job, let alone a multimillion dollar paycheck waiting for us after incarceration?

Seven games is significant suspension, but is it excessive? I do not think so.

A Grizzly Outcome

I wrote a little last year about how interesting Allen Iverson’s free agency would be. I could not imagine him playing for a non contending team, but I could not imagine a contending team being interested in him.

Now he is a member of the Memphis Grizzlies.

What?

I think I am a pretty astute observer of the NBA, but the Grizzlies would not have been a team I would have pictured AI playing for and honestly with players like O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph all wanting the ball, especially Randolph he really wants the ball, I have a difficult time envisioning the partnership panning out.

Iverson signed a one year deal and I doubt AI expects to finish that deal in Memphis. I believe he plans on coming out and proving that what happened in Detroit was not his fault. It was the Pistons that made him look bad, not his declining abilities. If he can play at the level he expects he can, there should be playoff caliber teams banging down the Grizzlies’ door at the trade deadline to add a player that can give them a major boost at a low cost.

I never doubted Iverson’s ability to score, but we have all been waiting for the day when his body would betray his spirit. The Nuggets clearly decided that he had reached that point during training camp last year and what we saw from Iverson in Detroit certainly made Denver look prescient.

Now that his free agency has played out I think what happens from here will be more entertaining than the process that brought him to of all places Tennessee.

Check out the coverage of AI heading to Memphis over at 3 Shades of Blue.

What’s Black and White and Sweaty All Over?

I refereed a few intramural games in college. There were three leagues, A, B and C. I refereed C league games. As you probably figured out A was the top competitive league and C was the recreational league full of people who may or may not have played before. You would think that the C league would be pretty laid back and easy to ref. Some of the guys on my floor played on a team called “Wish There Was a D League.” I am pretty sure they never got on the refs.

On some nights you had teams like my floor mates who just wanted to run around and were happy to make fools of themselves, but on other nights the participants seemed to think they were battling it out for the Larry O’Brien trophy and as a result I took quite a bit of abuse. I remember being glared at days after a game when a guy from one of the games I worked passed me on the sidewalk.

The whole point of this is I do not know who on earth would want to be a referee.

Right now the NBA and the referees union are heading towards a lockout and we are facing the specter of replacement referees. David Stern reportedly pulled out of negotiations on September 8 because the referees backed out on an agreement for pension reductions. The league has agreed to a reduced two year contract instead of the regular five year deal, which means the refs can get a better deal sooner as long as the economy turns around by then, and the referees have agreed to $2.5 million of the $3.2 million in reductions requested by the NBA.

David Stern consistently refers to NBA officials as the best in professional sports and brags about their accuracy. If they are truly only a few hundred thousand dollars apart, how is this deal not done? The union is promoting the idea that Stern is trying to make an example of the referees to try to send a statement to the players heading into their upcoming negotiations.

The NBA is moving forward with bringing in replacement referees and things have the potential to get a little ugly.

Whether we are talking about NBA referees or C league referees, they are whipping boys (and girls). I honestly believe the NBA referees have been doing pretty well the past couple of years. Even so, I am willing to bet the majority of fans would disagree with me. If fans are upset with referees that are supposedly the best, how much more upset will they be watching lesser officials?

I doubt the NBA will let this drag out until the regular season, but when you start posturing, if that is indeed what Stern is doing, disagreements can take on a life of their own. How tough will Stern look if replacement referees are a disaster and he has to cave to the union’s demands?

  • pookeyguru

    Great column, really, Jeremy, but the interesting part to me is 2 parts.

    First AI: I think your point that AI is looking to boost his stock to be traded to a contender is what he is looking for. He knew just by the numbers that so few teams with limited cap room and resources that his options were limited. (Or, he should have known that.)

    On the other hand, this is Allen Iverson. It can work in Memphis if he takes a bench role. It can work if he doesn’t spend too much time worrying about how many points per game he puts up.

    Will he? That is obviously the question, and anybody looking at his track record will most likely assume a train wreck is coming.

    Me? I have no idea. I think it’s a 50-50 proposition depending on how much AI wants to hang on his career.

    ******

    The referee portion is just as interesting, though. Your point about how difficult the job as a referee is extremely on point. I’ve seen calls that literally pissed me off, and at the NBA level, that’s pretty hard for me to get angry at calls. As a Kings fan, I don’t normally obsess about ref’s for a lot of reason’s. Mostly, it’s because I’ve only felt a handful of times the Kings were genuinely screwed. None of them came in 2002 or 2003 when the Kings should have won a title in both years.

    That all being said, I think seeing replacement ref’s will get SOME fans to think about referee’s. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’m not interested to see whether this will hurt David Stern or not; I don’t think it matters. The difficulty of spinning the Sonics leaving Seattle as anything but bad has not worked for Stern. He is not 100% fireproof. He’s the best NBA commish, but he’s made many mistakes, too.

    On the other hand, where the fans sit on the regular ref’s after this little episode I think will help the NBA. If I were the players, I would not want to make a hasty CBA deal with the NBA when things are not looking up. The NBA will obviously counter-act that with things could get worse. Frankly, whatever happens, 13 players won’t probably be guaranteed with an average of 14 players on a roster again.

    The NBA and owners will just cry hogwash. Which is, naturally, my point. The deal with the referee’s and the players are entirely separate. Where the ref’s are an integral piece in maintaining the game’s integrity; the players in the NBA ARE THE NBA!

    As such, negotiations will be difficult for both sides.

    (Sorry for the long comment.)

  • Stumbleweed

    Well, another one bites the dust. Bogans signed with the Spurs (sigh.. probably the replacement Bruce Bowen): http://www.mysanantonio.com/sports/spurs/60116887.html

  • Othe33

    Bummer about Bogans. Would have been a real weapon for us off the bench.

    Anyone else dying to see what Ty Lawson is going to do with a floor full of NBA basketball players?!

  • king_couttsy

    James White from Houston??? Coming to Denver for the rights to Axel Hervelle…

    http://www.denverpost.com/nuggets/ci_13395883

    Not exactly a blockbuster move, but given the numbers he put up in the D-League, is there any chance this guy could give us some production as a back-up SF???

    I’ve never seen him play – anyone else?