Kevin Garnett and the T-Wolves visit the Sixers tonight and the Philadelphia Inquirer’s David Aldridge sneers that “every week, some writer or blogger bleats about Garnett’s plight and tries to figure out some way to team him up with Kobe Bryant, or the Bulls, or the Clippers, because he ‘deserves’ a chance at a championship.”
Nobody’s promised anything in life, or in sports.
Don’t you think Ernie Banks wanted to play in just one World Series?
What would Sonny Jurgensen have done to suit up in a Super Bowl?
Garnett doesn’t deserve a Finals berth any more than Mark Price’s Cavaliers did, or Reggie Miller’s Pacers, or Chris Webber’s Kings. You go out, you take your shot, you see what happens. Price got taken out by Michael Jordan; Miller got taken out by… Michael Jordan, and Webber got taken out by some ridiculous officiating in Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference finals.
Stuff happens, to quote the former secretary of defense. (No, not Bill Russell.)
But Garnett has never publicly demanded a trade, nor has he greased the skids privately for one, as the Wolves have tread water in the Western Conference. And there’s next to no chance that Minnesota is going to be a factor any time soon, despite giving big money to free agent Mike James this summer and acquiring Villanova’s Randy Foye on draft night.
Garnett isn’t the first superstar to be done in by woeful front-office decisions or selfish teammates. He and Stephon Marbury should have been the post-Jordan era answer to John Stockton and Karl Malone, but Marbury forced his way out of town via trade. And Latrell Sprewell’s decision not to take a $21 million extension offer two years ago blew a hole in the team that made the 2004 Western Conference finals.
Then there was the illegal, under-the-table contract for then-Wolves forward Joe Smith, which cost the franchise $3.5 million in fines and first-round picks in 2001, 2002 and 2004.
If Garnett wants his chance elsewhere, he can opt out of the final year of his contract after next season, leave $23 million on the table, and sign with a contender for the midlevel exception. There will only be a dozen or so teams interested in a then-31-year-old who’s always in great shape, never misses games, and will be motivated like he’s never been.
The Charlotte Observer’s Rick Bonnell has been trying to interview Bobcats owner Bob Johnson about published reports Charlotte is amongst 8 small market franchises pleading with the Association for financial help. Bonnell claims he’s being blown off.
If I’d asked Johnson about whether he thought referees gave the Bobcats enough calls or about the NBA’s marketing plan, I’d accept his no-comment. But this issue relates to the public-private partnership Johnson has with the city of Charlotte. And I wonder whether he respects his partnership with the average Charlottean.
The city gave up plenty in the arena deal with the NBA that Johnson inherited. Stripped down to its barest element, the city built it and the team gets to run it as if it owns the place.
If the NBA deck is so stacked against Johnson financially that he believes he can’t make a profit here, then that raises major questions:
Can this team ever afford greatness?
The Bobcats have plenty of complementary pieces and no star. The Atlanta Hawks had a similar circumstance and took the considerable risk of signing Joe Johnson to a $70 million contract. If you saw the Bobcats’ loss to the Hawks on Wednesday, you know what they’re missing in a player such as Johnson, who scored 36 points.
Basketball chief Michael Jordan says he believes Johnson will spend the money to build a winner. But until that happens, we just don’t know.
The New York Post’s Peter Vescey has a bead on a soon-to-be head coach…and it isn’t Larry Brown.
Marc (Iavaroni) my words, the Suns assistant will be a head coach next season after too many years as a treasured understudy. No disrespect to Sam Mitchell, who appears to have the Raptors in gear offensively and in synch defensively, but Iavaroni either will reunite with former boss, Toronto president Bryan Colangelo, replace Mike Fratello in Memphis when his contract expires, or take charge somewhere else.
Had the Grizzlies’ operations not been paralyzed by their everlasting ownership transition, I’m informed Jerry West would’ve substituted Iavaroni for Fratello last summer.