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Careful, these blockbusters can bomb
If the most recent past is any indication of what the future might bring, then, for several teams, the glorious summer of free-agent signings might easily turn into the winter of their discontent.
Let’s review some of the most disappointing deals in the last several years.
LeBron James is one of many free agents making important decisions.
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Shaq was a flop in Cleveland mainly because he was old and always in the way. He had limited defensive range and clogged the lane on offense. He was recruited by the Cavs primarily to negate Dwight Howard in the playoffs, but this desired pairing never happened.
By the time Rasheed Wallace inked a pact with Boston, his body was breaking down and he had no stomach for venturing into the low-post on offense.
Hedo Turkoglu’s success in Orlando had plenty to do with opponents having to double-team Howard in the low post. This necessary defensive tactic created the time and the space for Turkoglu to launch his three-pointers - which, in turn, allowed him to use a quick jab step to draw defenders and create driving lanes. Unfortunately, the Raptors had no pivot-scorer, so Turkoglu was on his own.
As the Bulls go-to scorer, Ben Gordon had a license to shoot in Chicago. But in Detroit, Rip Hamilton got first crack at the clutch shots.
Shawn Marion always had trouble creating his own shots and, besides, he'd lost at least one step - bad news for a player whose effectiveness depended so much on his speed and quickness. Perhaps the Mavs believed the Fountain of Youth was somewhere in downtown Dallas.
Andre Miller was a possession point-guard on a Blazers team that was built to run. Also, because of his special skills, Brandon Roy assumed much of the playmaking duties.
Elton Brand’s injuries had sapped his explosiveness long before he arrived in Philadelphia. In addition, he required a slug-it-out offense that centered on him. Too bad the Sixers were designed to run.
James Posey repeated his pattern of playing listlessly for bad teams and only being fully aggressive for good teams.
Going back to 2007, the only big move was Rashard Lewis getting $110 million from the Magic. While he hasn’t exactly been a bust, he’s certainly proved to be grossly overpaid.
Indeed, the only FA signing in recent memory that proved to be clearly beneficial was the Lakers signing of Ron Artest. It’s true the Lakers were a championship team before Ron-Ron arrived in town, but he was a definite improvement over Trevor Ariza on two critical counts: Being both a speed and finesse defender. Ariza could never had shut down either Kevin Durant or Paul Pierce as completely as Artest did.
Why have the vast majority of free agents flopped with their new teams?
* Poor scouting and talent evaluations result in matching the wrong players with the wrong teams. Although the FA in question is assuredly highly skilled, his specific strengths are at odds with his team’s game plan.
* His new coach is convinced that his ability to motivate, educate and connect with a top-shelf free agent is superior to any other coaches for whom that player's previously played.
* The highly paid FA feels a sense of entitlement. Since he makes the most money, he should take the most shots and have the most on and off-court influence.
* The newcomer simply can’t handle the enormous pressure of being the team’s savior.
* The FA’s psychological makeup is totally ignored. How his personality might or might not fit with the holdover players is likewise disregarded.
* A player’s statistics are usually the overwhelming consideration. The artificial and useless numbers accumulated by a guy playing on a losing team where nothing is at stake are taken much too seriously.
The pertinent point being that fans of the Heat, Knicks and Bulls should be concerned about this roll call of free agent disappointments.
Will LeBron’s well-documented delusional thinking destroy the necessary chemistry that could propel Miami to a championship? Can Chris Bosh handle being an afterthought on offense?
Will Carlos Boozer’s immobility jam up Chicago’s game plan at both ends of the court?
Is there any way Amar’e Stoudemire can become more disciplined under Mike D’Antoni? And will his shooting percentage shrink without being hand-fed by Steve Nash?
In New York, Chicago and Miami, passionate fans are advised to temper their rosy expectations with the sad lessons of history.