View Full Version : 10/1 ESPN INSIDER - 14 players in the Twilight

10-01-2003, 11:55 AM
Divac's lifestyle, age catching up with him
By Chad Ford
NBA Insider
Send an Email to Chad Ford Wednesday, October 1
Updated: October 1
11:59 AM ET

The promise of youth and the provocativeness of potential is the stuff the fuels dreams in the preseason. It's a thrill to get a peek at unfinished art work and conjure up images of what it might someday become. Youth clings to the promise of hope. Age to the promise of decay. On Monday and Tuesday we looked at 13 young players who are brimming with promise. For every young player on summit of stardom, there's a proven veteran beginning a lonely descent. Last season we saw the ultimate decline of once-feared stars like Micheal Jordan, David Robinson, Arvydas Sabonis, Steve Smith and Charles Oakley. This season? Gravedigger. Get your shovel ready. The bell tolls for these 14 players in the twilight of their career.

Vlade Divac, C, Kings -- Chain smoking, questionable conditioning methods, brutal summers spent in the service of the motherland and a long, productive career are taking their toll. Last season, Divac (35) really began showing his age. At times, his play still bordered on brilliant because of his superb passing ability and his text book flopping. But far too often, his game slipped below the standard we've all come to enjoy, and the results left the Kings reeling. Now you understand their desperation and willingness to overpay Brad Miller. With Miller in the fold, Divac's minutes will dwindle. He'll still play a key role on the team in the fourth quarter and preseason, but after that? He'll be a 36-year-old free agent. His future in Sacramento will be questionable. If Divac wants a ring, this may be his last chance.

Reggie Miller's days of scoring 20 points a night are probably over.
Reggie Miller, G, Pacers -- An ankle injury reduced Miller to just a shadow of his former self last season. Pacers' brass claims that he's completely recovered and ready to reclaim his starting role on the team. But at 38, Miller's inability to create his own shot has severely reduced his ability to be effective. Plus, players like Ron Artest and second-year guard Fred Jones are pining for playing time. While his leadership on this young team is priceless, his days of dropping 20 points a night appear to be over.

Dikembe Mutombo, C, Nets -- He's 87 years old . . . what do you expect?

Karl Malone, F, Lakers -- It's almost blasphemy to put Malone in this group. We've been predicting his demise for years, but Malone's superior conditioning has kept him plugging away at a Hall of Fame pace. However, Father Time eventually will catch up. Malone turns 40 this year. With much less to do on a super stocked Lakers squad (Malone a fourth option?) this may be the year that he starts showing his age.

Eddie Jones, G, Heat -- Thirty-two doesn't sound too old to me, but given the Heat's new youth movement, you can go ahead and call Jones Miami's crypt keeper. Jones' offensive production, and, even more importantly, his defense has waned slightly the past two years. Dwyane Wade was drafted to ultimately take Jones' place. Wade is more athletic, a better defender and is a better fit in Pat Riley's game plan. Given that Jones is virtually impossible to trade because of the huge contract that pays him millions until the age of 65, Jones' production should start dropping off considerably -- if not this season, then next season for sure.

Antonio Davis, C, Raptors -- It's hard to believe that Davis is 34 years old, but it's true and the Raptors know it. They worked hard to shop him this summer, but too many teams were scared away from the three years, $37 million left on his contract. There aren't many teams willing to pay a 34-year-old center $12 million a season -- especially one who shoots just 40 percent from the field. There aren't any teams willing to pay a 37-year-old $13 million a year. Davis has tried to force the issue by moving his family back to Chicago. We think Sun City may have been a more appropriate resting place.

Nick Van Exel, G, Warriors -- What was Chris Mullin thinking? Van Exel may have been brilliant in the playoffs last season, but he was brilliant on 31-year-old shaky knees. The Mavs got that type of production out of him in the postseason by keeping his minutes low during the regular season. The Warriors don't have that luxury. What happens when you mix a bad attitude and bad knees with too many minutes playing in a losing cause? The Warriors of old.

Cliff Robinson, F, Warriors -- Speaking of Mullin, his deal for Robinson wasn't much better. While it still baffles me that the Pistons offered him an extension last season, at least they were smart enough to read the writing on the wall and move him before everything gives out. Robinson might end up being a good mentor to Mike Dunleavy . . . as long as they NEVER discuss how to step up in the playoffs. The older Uncle Cliffy gets, the longer nap he needs in April and May. Fortunately, with the playoffs looking way out reach for Golden State, the Warriors probably won't need to wake him up.

Glenn Robinson, F, 76ers -- The Big Dog is 30 years old, but in dog years, that's like 210. While it's clear he can still score at will, I foresee a Glen Rice-like downfall this season. We know for a fact that elderly people live longer when they keep feeding and dressing themselves as long as they can. With Allen Iverson doing most of the feeding and dressing for the Sixers, will Robinson's scoring skills start eroding?

Toni Kukoc, F, Bucks -- He played brilliantly for the Bucks last season and almost single handedly propelled them into the playoffs. Clearly the fire stills burns for Toni. Still, Kukoc (35) looks like Methuselah compared to the rest of the team. Can he muster the energy to bail out a young team with only slim chances of winning?

Vin Baker, F, Celtics -- It's great to see that Vin Baker has got his drinking under control. His life will be better for it, but I'm not so sure about his game. He just doesn't have the motor that he used to, and in Danny Ainge's new up-tempo system, Baker could easily become an anchor that drags the rest of the team down.

Derrick Coleman, F, Sixers -- He's 36-years-old and played 14 more years than he wanted to in the league.

Scottie Pippen, F, Bulls -- Everyone thought he would retire at the end of last season, but expect him to go out in style by leading his Bulls back to the playoffs for the first time since he left the team six years ago.

Grant Hill, F, Magic -- Even if Hill's ankle does start feeling better next summer, he'll be a 32-year-old player who hasn't played significantly for three-plus seasons. While a comeback may be inspiring, chances are his days of being even a second-tier player in the NBA are over. As the Magic brass continue to show, it's hard to just let go and say goodbye.

Around the League

The Jazz finally used some of that cap space to facilitate a trade, but in an unusual twist, the Glen Rice-for-John Amaechi swap will actually open up even more cap room for the Jazz next summer. Assuming for a second that Utah doesn't re-sign any of its free agents next summer (like Keon Clark, DeShawn Stevenson, Greg Ostertag or Jarron Collins) the Jazz are looking at about $15 million in guaranteed salaries next summer. That will give them, by far, the most cap room in the league. Of course, as they learned last season, that's no guarantee that free agents will come when you wave cash their direction. In fact, no is even sure whether Rice will come this season. The Jazz are rebuilding and Rice, from his early indications, sounds like he doesn't want to be there. "We're going to sit down with him and sit down with his agent and go from there," Kevin O'Connor, the Jazz's vice president of basketball operations, told the Salt Lake Tribune. "In 24 or 48 hours we'll have a better feel about a decision."

Chances are the Jazz will waive Rice, who is in the final year of his contract, and let him join the team of his choice. So why did the Jazz pull the trigger on the swap? In addition to the cap space they receive next year, the Rockets took one of the team's trouble makers off their hands and threw in a couple of first-round picks and a few million in cash to boot. In other words, the trade was really a slam dunk for Utah. The Jazz will potentially get the Rockets and Bulls' first-round pick next year. Both picks do have some protection. It is believed that the Rockets' pick is lottery protected for the next four years. The Bulls' pick is top-19 protected. Houston acquired the Bulls pick in the Bryce Drew trade a few years back. If the Bulls don't finish in the top 10 this year, the Jazz will get the Bulls second round pick '05 and '06.

O'Connor said he may not be done shifting things around. "Do we still have some more options before our first game? Yes," said O'Connor. "I've been fairly open in saying I don't think this is the end of the roster moves. We could still do something." The deal also helps the Rockets' bottom line. Before the trade the Rockets were about $1.7 million over the projected $57 million luxury-tax threshold. Moving Rice's $9.6 million deal for Amaechi's $2.3 million got them safely under it. It also allowed them to give Jim Jackson a three-year, $7.3 million contract to fill the void left by Rice at small forward. Jackson, who was a key contributor to the Kings last year, has to be breathing a sigh of relief. For the past few seasons, he's had to accept minimum deals just to play in the league. After trying, and failing, to land Michael Olowokandi, Erick Dampier and Nazr Mohammed this summer, Jerry West finally got his big man on Tuesday. Whether that big man has the chance to be a legit starter in the league remains to be seen. The deal sent fourth-year center Jake Tsakalidis and Bo Outlaw to Memphis for Brevin Knight, Robert Archibald and Cezary Trybanski.

Tsakalidis struggled his first three years in the league but he is huge (7-2, 290) and as strong as an ox. The Grizzlies really needed that in the middle. "We thought this was a chance to get someone big and strong with potential," Grizzlies president Jerry West told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. "He takes up so much space. He's a big guy. When we're playing these behemoths, he can play effectively against them." The move is yet another signal that West believes that his Grizzlies are ready to compete now for a playoff spot. Several people in the organization feel that grabbing the eighth playoff seed is a realistic goal. "There are five teams in the West safe for playoff contention in my opinion," West said. "There's positions to be had, and we're hopeful we can sneak up on some people and surprise some people. We're a deeper team and . . . we might be the most athletic team in the league."

They're also one of the deepest, sporting 16 players on their roster that could all, theoretically, contribute this year. However, the key to any deep playoff run in Memphis will be the emergence of Pau Gasol, Stromile Swift and Mike Miller as stars. West said he was already impressed with Gasol and Swift during the first day of camp. Gasol put on some much needed muscle this offseason and West claims Swift is finally focused. The Suns lost some talent in the Memphis trade, but they too picked up some cap flexibility down the road. Because Knight and Archibald are all in the last year of their contracts, the Suns can shave as much as $6.5 million off their payroll next summer.
That won't be enough to put them under the cap, but it will put them far enough under the luxury-tax threshold that they could go ahead and sign a free agent with their mid-level exception next summer. The question now is who will play center in Phoenix. Veteran Scott Williams and Jake Voshkuhl are the only centers left on the team ready to contribute now. Trybanski is still probably a year or two away.

10-01-2003, 12:11 PM
Van Exel, Van Exel, Van Exel....Im sure glad the Golden State trade went down. i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif

10-01-2003, 02:45 PM
Not that the author's opinion is wrong or anything, but I disagree that Glenn Robinson, Eddie Jones and Nick van Exel are in their twilight years - if players like Reggie Miller and Dikembe Mutombo are also in their twilight years according to the author. Also, Nick van Exel has creaky knees? Since when? It sounds like he is confusing Nick with Tim.

10-01-2003, 04:11 PM
Nick van Exel has creaky knees?

I think that was an idiomatic expression, talking about NVE's age, not about a particular problem...

10-01-2003, 04:15 PM
Ok, but I think the author really meant that Nick has bad knees.

10-01-2003, 04:54 PM
What happened to Glenn Robinson after the first 5 games last season? His career was declining since the last season he played for the Bucks. He's slow, not so good defender, and playing at arguably the toughest position in the Eastern Conference.

This season will be the beginning of the end for Vlade Divac. He's slow, not so good shooter, and the most important thing is officials are beginning to stop falling for his flops so much.

10-01-2003, 08:10 PM
I can't believe Kukoc is already 35!? I can still remember him as a rookie in Chicago.

10-01-2003, 10:27 PM
NVE still has some years left in him. His attitude will be the only thing that brings him down, besides a career ending injury.

And when will people realize that the Warriors traded for him as a rental? He'll be in Oakland a year at most. They did it for money reasons. They didn't make the trade from a talent standpoint.

10-01-2003, 10:52 PM
Doesn't he actually have knee problems? Didn't he get a scope last year? But it wasn't a recurring problem. I agree, I think he can still play a few more years.

Ah Divac. Watching him play is high entertainment.

10-01-2003, 11:03 PM
I think he had knee surgery when he was in Denver. I thought the surgery he had here in Dallas was on the elbow?

10-02-2003, 02:27 PM
i remember elbow surgery in Dallas.