Rich getting richer in free agency
The fluid properties associated with NBA success often dictate that being good may not be good enough in a few months.
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Even if you've been very good.
So, now that the league's top teams are reloading through free agency and deals provoked by salary-cap alarm, let's begin our review of the rich getting richer with a retreat to the 2008 Finals.
That series was won in convincing fashion by the Boston Celtics, who — due to the familiar theme of luxury-tax peril — were unable to re-sign key bench contributor James Posey. The Cs also had to absorb the retirements of big-man sub P.J. Brown and sage reserve point-guard Sam Cassell. It also should be noted that picking at the end of Round 1 in the June draft produced nothing more in the way of replacement than J.R. Giddens.
Even so, the title-defense season still was moving along reasonably well until the balking of Kevin Garnett's knee. But despite the skills of Glen "Big Baby" Davis began moving toward puberty, the near-star launching of point guard Rajon Rondo and two late-season additions (Stephon Marbury and Mikki Moore), Boston barely made it to Round 2 in 2009.
To fortify their bench for a run in 2010, the Celtics were thrilled that the ring-hungry motivations of Rasheed Wallace made their mid-level exception seem like satisfactory recompense. Wallace was paid nearly $14 million on the final year of his last contract by the Detroit Pistons, who helped turn the Denver Nuggets into a powerhouse. More on those teams later.
Wallace figures to give the Celtics tremendous baseline flexibility — not to mention veteran, championship-level experience — at both ends of the floor.
Anyway, reports also credited Boston with attempting to acquire Pistons guards Rip Hamilton and Rodney Stuckey by offering the rising Rondo and the big contract of twilight-approaching jump shooter Ray Allen. Making that deal seemed a bit farfetched, so the Cs reportedly are zeroing on veteran free agent small forward Grant Hill.
After the 2008 Finals pole-axing from the Celtics, the Los Angeles Lakers did little to shake up their roster last summer. But shaking really was unnecessary, because they had rapidly evolving 7-foot center Andrew Bynum returning to health and bouncy wing hotshot Trevor Ariza bouncing back from injury.
Even though Bynum was hurt again during the ensuing regular season and provided only fleeting glimpses of his potential during the postseason, the Lakers were able to seize the O'Brien trophy. Ariza played a major supporting role.
To take a big swing at more hardware, the Lakers have been fighting with their backs against the anticipated 2009 tax threshold. Ariza, an unrestricted free agent, seemed insulted by what the champions were offering in the way of a pay raise and has since agreed to similar terms with the Houston Rockets.
The Rockets happened to have an opening at small forward because the always entertaining Ron Artest had agreed to a possibly less-than-market-value deal with the Lakers.
In the meantime, Kobe Bryant was skipping his option to kill the final two (and extremely lucrative) years on his current Lakers deal and re-upping for three more. This did little to help the franchise scrape up the cash necessary to re-sign super sixth man Lamar Odom, an unrestricted asset who realizes his best days have occurred in purple and gold.