Free-agent frenzy alters NBA outlook, again

BY foxsports • July 11, 2012

Steve Nash is a Laker. Jason Terry is a Celtic.

Ray Allen is in Miami, and Dwight Howard really, really wants to go to Brooklyn.

Welcome to modern-day NBA free agency, where the money really is greener on the other side.

OK, maybe not entirely. Sometimes, players find out that joining the team of your choice isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. Anyone who follows the Knicks can tell you that.

Still, it doesn’t stop free agents and teams from treating early July like their own personal Disneyland. This summer has been no different.

A month ago, Nash told the world he could never envision leaving the Suns to join their most-despised rival.

A month ago, Allen was doing his best to bury the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals as a member of the Celtics.

A month ago, Howard was in the same position as he still was in Wednesday morning -- at the center of trade rumors fittingly referred to as a “Dwightmare.”

Regardless of the labels and overall player movement, there’s something followers of the NBA cannot deny: The landscape has changed, again.

Nash continues to be the ultimate point guard and team player, someone who always brings teammates together and finds the open man. Even at the age of 38, he appears to be everything Kobe Bryant and the Lakers were missing and more.

Terry is actually an upgrade over the fading Allen with the Celtics, who managed to re-sign Kevin Garnett and retain Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo despite plenty of rumors to the contrary.

Allen gives the Heat another sharpshooter, the type of player who can stand around and live off the Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

And Howard appears likely to join a Nets team that already features All-Stars in Deron Williams and Joe Johnson.

It’s not even August, and we already know who the top three teams in the East will be.

Same probably goes for the West -- although that picture isn’t quite as clear. Stick three guys from the local rec league next to Nash and Bryant, and the Lakers would still be pretty darn good.

Add Jamal Crawford to the Clippers, something the Clippers have done, and they’ll be up there, too.

Of course, let’s not forget the Spurs and Thunder, whose summer hasn’t consisted of anything more than re-signing their own guys (Spurs) or entering a team in the summer league (Thunder).

In fact, it’s organizations like the Spurs, Thunder and several others who give fans hope that their best players won’t always bail the minute their contract expires.

Eric Gordon signed a maximum deal with the Suns -- but the Hornets will match. Suddenly, one of the league’s worst teams is intriguing, with Gordon, No. 1 overall draft pick Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson, the NBA’s reigning Most Improved Player who was obtained in a trade with the Magic.

Or how about Roy Hibbert and the Pacers, or Jeremy Lin and the Knicks?

Like Gordon, each received big deals from elsewhere, but will return to their original teams. And who’s to say continuity doesn’t count for something? After all, both the Pacers and Knicks are coming off playoff seasons and considered squads on the up-and-up.

So here we are, wrapping up another summer where most of the league’s steak-and-jet set has landed, the remaining teams scrambling for everyone else’s scraps.

There could still be a major signing or trade or two, altering the course of each conference in a matter of minutes. Some teams believe that’s all it will take to experience a dream of a season.

Until then, all we can do is sit back, relax, and wait for the Dwightmare to end.

Follow Sam Amico on Twitter @SamAmicoFSO

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