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Deron Williams to Turkey? Is this the first of a mass exodus from the NBA?

The news that New Jersey Nets point guard Deron Williams could be set to join Turkey’s Besiktas came as a bit of a shock. Here’s a player, one of the best point guards in the NBA, who is jumping shores and leaving the NBA because of the lockout. Is Deron an exception, or are we set to see more All-Stars depart for Europe in the next few months?

The reports are that Williams is set to sign a 1-year, $5 million deal with Besiktas, that has an opt-out clause in it, where Deron can go back to the NBA when the lockout ends, whenever that may be. Williams will join Allen Iverson in Turkey, and possibly Atlanta Hawks center Zaza Pachulia, according to reports.

The reason that Williams, and other NBA players, could depart for Europe is because of the lockout. The owners and the players union are locked into discussions and have failed to agree on anything so far.

To sum it up, the owners want the players to accept a 33% pay cut (at least) and want the salary cap to come down, with the prospect of a hard cap coming to the NBA, as they are fed up with losing money. The players meanwhile, want it to stay like it is, as they get around 67% of the total revenue, and don’t want to take a massive pay cut.

Until they agree, it means no games, no practice, no trades, no one gets paid and no contact is allowed to be made between players and staff. Because of this, several players have expressed a desire to play in Europe for the next year, or at least until the lockout ends. The likes of Nenad Kristic have already moved (Kristic left the Boston Celtics to join Russian side CSKA Moscow), and I can see the fringe players – the ones without the multi-million dollar guaranteed contracts and the sponsorship deals – being the ones to bite and move to Europe.

It’s hard to predict how many NBA players will leave and go to Europe, without knowing how long the lockout will last. If it’s a year and a full season is missed, players may play elsewhere, but the Euroleague is not set up financially to encorporate NBA superstars and their huge wages. Deron Williams for $5 million is one thing, but European teams can’t afford to pay huge sums of money it would take to get the Kobe’s, Lebron’s, Dirk’s and Wade’s to go over, unless they play for next to nothing for a few months.

What do you think – could several NBA players follow Deron Williams’ lead?

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How will Donnie Walsh’s departure affect the Knicks?

The New York Knicks, awful for so long, have just begun on the path back to responsibility, and what do they do – get rid of Donnie Walsh. The man behind getting rid of all the bad contracts and dealing with the aftermath of the Isiah reign is gone. But what does this mean for the Knicks?

Donnie Walsh has gone because he reportedly couldn’t come to agreements over his future with the team. The president of basketball operations faced off with owner James Dolan and lost the battle. Walsh wanted total control over trades and team affairs, Dolan said no. Walsh wanted a shorter deal, Dolan wanted him to stay on for longer. The list goes on.

Donnie Walsh was the man responsible for reversing all the bad deals of the Isiah Thomas reign as Knicks president, and had to cut the bloated payroll of the team, with several players on “franchise-crippling” contracts – the likes of Jerome James, Jared Jeffries, Stephon Marbury and Zach Randolph were all traded. In two years, Walsh was able to clear cap space to sign free agent Amar’e Stoudemire to a max-$100m deal, add Carmelo Anthony this year and the Knicks have a future.

Part of the reason Walsh wanted more control was because he was upset over the Melo trade in February. Walsh wanted to wait until the summer when Carmelo was a free agent, Dolan didn’t – and sent basically the whole team over to Denver for Melo and Chauncey Billups.

After Walsh’s departure, what does the future hold for the Knicks? I’m not going to speculate on their next GM, but look at the Knicks’ potential over the next few years.

The Knicks have two superstars in Melo and Amar’e, Billups is a solid contributor and has one year left on his deal. The ultimate dream for the Knicks: get a top free agent in 2012 and pair either Dwight Howard or Chris Paul to create a New York Big Three.

The problem with the Knicks though, and one which will definitely hinder them in the playoffs against the likes of the Heat, Celtics, Magic, Bulls and even the Hawks, is their lack of defence. Mike D’Antoni is not a defensive coach, and it’s well known defence wins championships.

A Dwight Howard next to Stoudemire would work, to combat Amar’e’s complete lack of defense and allergy to rebounding, but sign a max-level free agent and the Knicks have no money to do anything else. What they need is a team, a center who can protect the paint and rebound, a PG to replace Billups in a year’s time, a few defensive wings would be a good addition. Basically, a whole team apart from Anthony and Stoudemire.

Tyson Chandler would be nice at center, but he’s going to cost quite a bit and would require a multi-year deal, which would upset the Knicks’ chances to get a premier free agent in 2012.

As long as the new GM of New York can follow in Walsh’s footsteps and continue to build a team around their two superstars, then the Knicks can challenge the Heat and Bulls for supremacy in the East. If Isiah comes back and signs the likes of Adam Morrison, Yi Jianlian and Mike Bibby to huge multi-year deals, then that’s three years completely wasted.

What do you think of Donnie Walsh’s departure from the Knicks? Let me know and comment below…

What should Orlando do about Dwight Howard?

What do you do when your franchise player has one year left on his deal and there is uncertainty surrounding whether he will sign a new deal or test the market in free agency. Would you trade him or look for a trade?

That’s the dilemma for the Orlando Magic and their franchise center Dwight Howard. Now I know the rumours are going to be continuing for months about the “will-he, won’t he go” situation, but I thought I might as well put my opinions out there.

The Orlando Sentinel is reporting that Howard has not agreed to sign an extension with the Magic, despite what was reported last week and Dwight told reporters:

“There’s no truth to that. The biggest thing right now is everybody understands I have one more year left. I’m keeping my options open, but there’s no other place I’d rather be than Orlando. I want them to understand that.

“But, at the same time, I do want to win, make sure everything is in line — our team, just everything from top to bottom — and everybody is reaching for a championship.”

Howard is the best center in the NBA and would undoubtedly make any team better, and there isn’t any team who wouldn’t want him. What I can see is that this saga will drag out until next year and next summer when Howard becomes a free agent, sees what the situation is like in Orlando and then makes a decision.

The part about winning a championship is something every player wants, but let’s face it, the Magic are not winning a title next year, and unless they can pull off some amazing trades, the next few years. Orlando are committed to huge salaries for the next few years, which severely limits the flexibility to make trades. They traded for Hedo Turkoglu, who’s got about $30m and 3 years left on his contract, and swapped a bad contract in Rashard Lewis for an even worse one in Gilbert Arenas, who still has about $60m owed for the next few years. If Hedo and Arenas rediscover their old form, the Magic could make some noise in the playoffs (I’m not saying win anything), and at least get past the first round, which is of course better than last year.

After that, you’ve got the likes of JJ Redick, Chris Duhon, Brandon Bass and Quentin Richardson, all with money owed and years left on their contracts – hardly the basis for a championship team. And with the Heat and Bulls better in the East (we’ll see what the Knicks do in the summer), Orlando won’t be competing for a title in the near future.

That’s the problem for the Magic though – they are in a Catch 22 situation. Trade Howard now and get worse, or wait for a year and then lose him for nothing, and Cleveland knows how that turned out. What I think will happen is they will wait till the February deadline, if Dwight hasn’t signed an extension by then, trade him and get something back in return, a la the Carmelo Anthony trade from Denver to New York in February.

I’m not blessed with the gift of foresight, but let’s have a look at some possible destinations for Howard if he does want out of Orlando. Obviously cap situations can change (with the new CBA) and a lot can happen in a year. Here’s a few ideas if Howard wants to win a ring (I’m ruling teams like Miami out, as there’s no way they can afford to turn the Big 3 of Lebron, Wade and Bosh into a Big 4, as Howard’s going to get max money):

Lakers:

Now I know Dwight has said he doesn’t want to follow in Shaq’s footsteps and leave Orlando for LA. And the only way the Lakers are going to be able to get Howard is via trade, as they have the huge contracts of Kobe and Gasol on the books. And that requires Andrew Bynum being traded (I know the Lakers have declared him “untouchable”, but for Dwight, you would trade him). A Howard-Gasol-Kobe trio would be deadly.

Bulls:

Again, this would have to be a trade, as Chicago owe big money to Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Joachim Noah over the next few years, and will have to pay max-money to Derrick Rose. But a Noah-Howard trade wouldn’t be that bad for Orlando, as Noah is a defensive force and one of the top centers in the league (unless Chicago can somehow persuade Orlando to take on Boozer’s contract).

Knicks:

Theoretically, the Knicks can afford to give Howard max-money next summer, and a trio of Howard-Anthony-Stoudemire would be exciting. But that’s all the Knicks would be able to afford, and with a thin roster, would have no quality at the guard spots. An interesting proposal, and you are bound to hear constant Howard to NY rumours until he makes up his mind, but wouldn’t it be better for New York to have a more well-rounded team with a quality PG and a couple of quality defensive wings in there?

Nets:

The Nets have the cash and an elite PG in Deron Williams. That’s it though, as they are rebuilding, have traded away their last lottery pick in Derrick Favors, and given this year’s pick (#3) to Utah. They would be able to give Howard max money and if they can convince Williams to stay, New Jersey is appealing, especially with the upcoming move to Brooklyn.

What do you think? Do you think Howard will stay or go?

 

Can Troy Murphy fill that Kendrick Perkins-shaped void for the Celtics?

Last week’s trade between the Boston Celtics and the Oklahoma City Thunder, which saw Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson go to OKC in exchange for Jeff Green and Nenad Kristic, was a big shock to everyone.

I’ll admit it, I wasn’t a fan of this trade. Perkins is one of the best big defenders in the NBA and can cope with the likes of Dwight Howard on his own. Especially at a time when the Celtics are leading the East and primed for a title run.

The Thunder definitely got better, there’s no doubt about that, as they got the big man they have coveted for so long in Perkins. The Celtics? Not so much.

I can understand that the Celtics and Danny Ainge didn’t want to have to pay Perkins in the summer, as he was going to become an unrestricted free agent (the Thunder signed Perkins to a four-year, $34.5 million deal this week), and if he had a good playoff series, Perkins could be looking at getting $10 million a year (which is a lot for a center with no offensive game) and have left for nothing anyway.

The Celtics got Jeff Green, who can fill in for Paul Pierce at small forward and will provide some scoring and energy off the bench. Green is averaging 18 minutes a night since the trade, getting you 6 ppg, and is a building block for the Celtics, along with Rondo, when the “Big Three” of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen retire.

The Celtics signed Troy Murphy yesterday after agreeing a buyout with Golden State Warriors, on a one year deal. The 6 foot 10’ forward will provide cover for KG and is another big body in the paint against the likes of the Lakers.

Is Murphy a good replacement for Perkins? He won’t provide the toughness and defence of Perkins, he’s basically a short-term rental for the Celtics. Murphy will be a good enough buy if the likes of Shaq can stay healthy and Jermaine O’Neal find form and remember he used to play at an All-Star level.

The Celtics are still strong and, if healthy, I can see them coming out of the East, I just think it would have been beneficial to keep the roster intact. Because if the Celtics don’t win it all in June, then the “What If’s” will certainly be coming.

Does Carmelo’s arrival make the Knicks a championship contender?

It’s finally happened, and about time! Carmelo Anthony has finally been granted his wish and been traded to the New York Knicks in a blockbuster three-team trade this week. But how could can it make the Knicks – are they know championship contenders?

Melo got his wish and was traded to the Knicks, along with team-mates Chauncey Billups, Renaldo Balkman, Anthony Carter and Shelden Williams. The Denver Nuggets get Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov in return, as well as a few draft picks and cash. Corey Brewer also moves to the Knicks from the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Eddy Curry’s expiring contract and Anthony Randolph.

I like this deal for both sides. Denver get something back for Melo in the form of Chandler (a good sixth man), three-point shooting in Gallinari, a good point guard and valuable trade chip in Felton and frontcourt depth in Mozgov.

The Knicks get their wish of a superstar next to Amar’e Stoudemire. Carmelo is one of the best offensive players in the NBA and Chauncey Billups is a veteran point guard that knows how to win and even though not as good as he once was, Billups is at least a good trade asset that the Knicks can use to bait the New Orleans Hornets for if they want to entice Chris Paul to the Big Apple in the summer.

Melo’s arrival is NYC gives the Knicks a buzz and a genuine hope in the city that they haven’t had since the Patrick Ewing days. But can the Knicks contend for a championship in the near future?

The answer is no. At least until they get a few more pieces. Carmelo and Stoudemire are nice, but they are not exactly the most defensive-minded players. And as you know, defence wins championships. A starting lineup of Billups, rookie Landry Fields, Carmelo, Amar’e and Ronny Turiaf is not good enough to get out of what is a stacked Eastern Conference, with the likes of Boston, Miami, Orlando, Chicago and Atlanta.

If the Knicks can add some decent pieces in free agency in the summer, a bit more frontcourt depth and a Tyson Chandler-type center to play next to Stoudemire, as well as a few decent role players, then they can challenge the East’s elite. For this season though, I see the Knicks’ ceiling as around fifth place in the East, at a Chicago Bulls/Atlanta Hawks level, in the second tier of the East.

But this trade has definitely got New York going in the right direction, and gives Knicks fans a sense of optimism after years of suffering.