Basketball

When money talks, logic seemingly walks

Monday of last week, I heard Pistons general manager Joe Dumars say it made perfect sense to blow up his team to acquire Allen Iverson.

Wednesday of last week, I heard Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni say it made perfect sense to leave Stephon Marbury in street clothes, no matter how bad this team gets.

Whenever the smart guys in the NBA make little sense, you can assume money explains things.

Iverson's contract expires at the end of June, which leaves the Pistons with the option to re-sign him or continue traveling light toward the Summer of LeBron. That's what NBA front-office types call July 2010, when James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade can all be unrestricted free agents.

Marbury's contract expires in July and unless he's willing to accept a buyout, there's little sense in setting him free before the February trade deadline. D'Antoni is fine with Marbury's presence on the Knicks' salary cap, just not his presence in the rotation.

It's kind of sad how NBA teams no longer trade talent for talent, but more contract for contract. Simple, close-to-home example: The Golden State Warriors were in luxury-tax jail when they dealt Jason Richardson to the Bobcats.

The Bobcats' lottery pick, Brandan Wright, fell short of real compensation for Richardson's skill set, but eliminating his long-term contract (and the onerous luxury-tax implications) made it a great deal for both teams.

Two good examples of how the elite teams function differently:

As of Thursday, the Celtics had yet to play guard Sam Cassell, either in the preseason or regular season. Yet it's obvious why they'd use a roster spot on a 39-year-old guard.

“I'm here for the postseason,” Cassell told the Boston Globe. “Doc (Rivers is) getting me ready; he'll give me enough time, then activate me. I'm in good shape. I'm in better shape than last year, and when my number is called, I'll be ready.''

Then there's San Antonio, where the Spurs opened 0-3 before beating the Minnesota Timberwolves. In classically dry Tim Duncan humor, he told new teammate Roger Mason, “Don't worry, sometimes we actually win around here.''

Translation: Panic isn't a factor when you've won the way the Spurs have.

Speaking of the Spurs, coach Gregg Popovich finds it silly that teams winning the NBA championship continue calling themselves “World Champions,'' when basketball has gone so global:

“Did any of us who won a championship play anybody in Spain or Russia or Italy, or any other country, other than the United States?'' Popovich reminded. “I don't know why it's the ‘World' Series, and I don't know why they call it the ‘World' Championship.''

Nuggets coach George Karl acknowledged that trading Iverson was about the difficulty playing Iverson and J.R. Smith together and the need for a true point guard ( Chauncey Billups, a willing passer.) Iverson was going to play fewer minutes on a weaker team (no Marcus Camby) and that portended trouble.

The Lakers made center Andrew Bynum rich ($57 million), but it's still a reasonable contract – three years guaranteed, plus a fourth year at the Lakers' option for the best young center west of Dwight Howard.

At 34, Jerry Stackhouse is slowing down with injuries catching up. Most of those injuries are the small-but-nagging sort, but you can see his minutes going down.

Kevin Love is moving into the starting lineup for the Timberwolves, following a 14-point, nine-rebound, three-block game, mostly paired against Duncan. Had he been available when the Bobcats picked at No. 9, I have no doubt he would have been their guy.

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