As I figured, none of the big three free agents made any decisions on the first day. There goes the theory that everything was planned weeks ago. Of course, there was some action the first day. The best news for the Raptors is that Amir Johnson re-signed. More on that later.
Joe Johnson was one of the players I thought had the least chance of going back to his home team. Now he’s re-signed with the Hawks, continuing them on their course to high level mediocrity. If anything was apparent during the playoffs, it’s that the Hawks are a team built to compete, not win. The smart thing for them to do would be to make some deals and change the structure of their team. The smart thing is not the likely thing, however. My money is on them thinking a new coach is going to be ails this team.
Memphis, who is apparently hemorrhaging money and didn’t even make the playoffs this past season, gave away the first ridiculous contract of the offseason, signing Rudy Gay to the maximum. Anyone who isn’t sure if Bosh is worth the maximum should agree that Memphis drastically overpaid a guy who has never even made the All-Star team before. Shouldn’t that pretty much be a prerequisite to making the maximum? Sure, I like Gay, but since he was a restricted free agent, couldn’t Memphis simply have waited and seen what he was being offered instead of throwing him everything on the first day of free agency? That probably would have been the smart move. Of course, when has anyone used “smart” and “Chris Wallace” in the same sentence?
Minnesota was also another surprise newsmaker, bidding against no one to offer Darko Milicic a 4 year $20 million contract. Now Darko did a fine job in Minnesota, and they should probably jump on any free agent that actually WANTS to go there, but I would have thought it would have been prudent to wait until after they deal Jefferson to sign Darko. Now it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion the T-Wolves have to make a deal. Not a good position to be in.
Milwaukee re-signed John Salmons, who I figured was on his way out after the acquisitions of Corey Maggette and Chris Douglas-Roberts, and added another jersey to the already full closet of Drew Gooden. Gooden is on his eighth team in 8 years and hasn’t played defense or passed the ball at any of his stops. Is he really worth the full MLE? No wonder Gooden jumped on it. Now I have liked what John Hammonds has been doing in Milwaukee, but neither Maggette nor Gooden have played defense since college, and the Bucks got to where they are on their defense. Adding talent is always nice, but I don’t know if I like where this team is headed.
This brings us back to Amir Johnson. I felt re-signing Amir was very important for the future of the franchise. Before the offseason started, I felt that a 3 year, $15 million contract offer to Amir might be enough to bring him back. Unfortunately, $5 million per season is what the inferior Darko Milicic signed for. Then Milwaukee signed Gooden for nearly $6.5 per season. Now, Gooden certainly is talented, but I think it’s ironic that he signed with the Bucks on the same day Amir re-signed with the Raptors. To me, Amir is exactly the type of player the Bucks need and the type of player that would thrive in their system. Instead, they traded him away and signed Drew Gooden. Personally, I’d much rather have Amir.
So, because of Gooden getting $32 million over 5 years, it was evident that Amir would have to get more than that. Apparently he had interest from Phoenix, Golden State and one other team, so Colangelo had to bid against others. I don’t know if Colangelo had to outbid, or simply match the other teams’ bids, but a 5 year, $34 million contract, while seemingly high for a player who only scores 12.7 ppg in 36 mpg, is probably not bad value. I read one comment that bothered me a little, and that’s that Amir is overpaid because his skills are so easily replaceable. Pat Riley has said that hustle is a skill, and in the NBA, it’s not a common skill. And that’s not even close to all Amir brings. He’s a 23 year old, highly athletic big man who rebounds, defends, hustles and is extremely efficient on the offensive end, despite not being much of a scorer. Basically everything Bargnani is not. Personally, I’d rather pay Amir $34 over 5 years than Bargnani $50 million over 5. While Bargnani is going to get you points, Amir is going to do the little things that actually help a team win.
In other Raptor news, Bosh met with Toronto, but there is apparently little hope among Raptor brass he will re-sign. I’d love to have been in on that meeting. You know what keeps going through my head? The show Entourage. In the middle of season 3 when Vincent Chase has fired his agent, Ari Gold, because of a couple of big screwups. Much like Bosh and the other free agents, Vince goes from agency to agency as they pitch him why he should sign with them. All the pitches end up being the same, including Ari’s, which Vince walks out of. It turns out all Vince wanted Ari to do was apologize. If only that was the case with Bosh. I don’t think a simple apology will be good enough in Colangelo’s.
So with one of the pieces for the summer in place, there are some questions about what it is that Colangelo is trying to do. One of the more disturbing bits of news I heard was that the Raptors had interest in Amare Stoudemire. Excuse me while I gag. The argument seems to be that Amare would be able to replace Bosh, although I’m at a loss of why you’d want to do that. With Bosh, the team missed the playoffs, were a disaster on the defensive end and proved that you need more than just scoring to win.
And now you want to replace Bosh with Amare, apparently believing that will improve the team.
This is the guy who the Laker big men basically humiliated, highlighting just how bad Amare’s defense is. And I won’t even mention how every single Phoenix player has mysteriously regressed upon leaving Steve Nash’s domain.
Chris Bosh leaving is a disappointment, but as the late Phil Hartman once said on the very funny show, NewsRadio, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, and then toss it in the face of the person who gave you the lemons until they give you the oranges you asked for in the first place?”
Colangelo needs to realize that retooling is not going to be the way to go. Sure, it will help reassure some of the ticketholders that only see one season ahead, and aren’t worried about the difference between competing and contending. Bringing in Amare, or some other move like it, will certainly make the Raptors more competitive, but it’s not going to make them contenders. They need to rebuild, not retool. One of the reasons I liked the drafting of Ed Davis was because he can be the symbol of the type of team the Raptors need to turn themselves into. He’s a smart, defensive player who does all the little things that you need to do to win. He’s San Antonio, not Phoenix. I don’t know about you, but I want San Antonio. San Antonio won three Championships and was one of the most dominant teams in the last ten years. Phoenix entertained and did well in the regular season, but never made it to the Finals.
Colangelo needs to rid the team of the lazy, underachieving players and focus on getting young, talented and hard working players that don’t mind doing the dirty work.
Speaking of which, I’ve decided to share what I hope are the types of deals I hope go down this summer. They’re certainly best case, but if all the stars align, these are the types of deals I’d like to see happen…
1. Bosh is sign-and-traded to the Nets for Derrick Favors and a $12 million trade exception.
2. Bargnani is traded to Minnesota for Ricky Rubio and Corey Brewer and a trade exception.
3. The Knicks, after striking out on the free agent front, agrees to trade for Turkoglu in exchange for Eddy Curry and his expiring contract. Eddy Curry is then bought out.
4. Trade Corey Brewer and part of the trade exception to Houston for the expiring contracts of Shane Battier and Jared Jeffries.
The Raptors go into the season with…
Jose Calderon (Jarret Jack, Marcus Banks)
DeMar DeRozan (Sonny Weems, Marco Belinelli)
Shane Battier (Jared Jeffries)
Derrick Favors (Ed Davis, Reggie Evans)
Amir Johnson (Solomon Alabi)
The team is most likely not a playoff team, but have the right type of players on the team, a few good, smart veterans, a very young core, the likelihood of a high lottery pick next season and a franchise point guard, in Rubio, on his way. If the team looks even remotely like that next year, I’ll be happy with how the offseason transpired.