View Full Version : NBA Insider...Nov 20: Should Brent Barry be traded? Was it Doc Rivers fault?

11-20-2003, 05:06 PM
Sorry about the late posting, was busy all day until now...

NBA Insider...Nov 20: Should Brent Barry be traded? Was it Doc Rivers fault?

Should the Sonics trade Brent Barry?

One month ago, when Ray Allen injured his ankle, the team didn't know where to turn. Allen's backup, Brent Barry, had moved into the starting lineup to take over the Sonics' point guard duties. Their only other option was an unknown second-round pick from Shaw University, Ronald Murray.

As Sonics president Wally Walker and I sat inside the Furtado Center and watched Murray scrimmage with the rest of the team during training camp six weeks ago, Walker watched Murray in amazement.

"He's got so much confidence," Walker said at the time. "I don't know if he's a point guard or a two guard or whatever, but I do know that this kid thinks he can play with and score on anyone. You've got to have that to be successful in the league. The kid thinks he's an All-Star and ... who knows."

Ronald Murray
Shooting Guard
Seattle SuperSonics

9 24.0 4.3 4.2 .485 .672

Fast forward six weeks in time. With Allen out and Murray playing 36 minutes a game, Flip ranks fifth in the league in scoring at 24 ppg. He's shooting an impressive 48 percent from the field, grabbing 4.2 rpg and handing out 4.3 apg.

Three weeks into the season, the Sonics still don't know exactly what they have in Murray. Is he a point guard? Shooting guard? Combo guard?

"I don't know," Sund told Insider. "I think this debate about what position a player is has a lot more to do with the media hype. I know he's a guard. I know he can score. I know he can distribute. Is he a pure point guard? No. But I say that only because he clearly has the versatility to play multiple positions."

Sund goes on to compare Murray to Joe Dumars, Vinnie Johnson and Andrew Toney.

"No one really knows what position they played," Sund said. "They just were great basketball players."

OK. So let's cut to the chase, then. When Allen returns from his ankle injury in mid December, is Murray or Brent Barry going to be running the point for the Sonics?

"We'll deal with that when it happens," Sund told Insider diplomatically.

Sund then goes onto a number of topics that hint at what is going on in Seattle right now.

Brent Barry
Seattle SuperSonics

9 11.9 3.9 5.4 .493 .783

Sund talked at great length about the value of having Barry as the starter. "He's a purist," Sund told Insider. "He's got the mentality of a coach on the floor. Our team has the third-least playing experience of any team in the league. Having a guy like Barry on the floor really helps with the chemistry of our team."

But Sund is equally effusive of what Murray has brought to the table.

Sund told Murray the story of Wally Pipp and Lou Gehrig when Allen went down and coach Nate McMillan decided to use Murray in the starting lineup.

"I told him to take advantage of the opportunity, and he has. He's done a helluva job filling in for Ray," Sund said. "I think he could bring us a lot of energy off the bench spelling both Ray and Brent. But it's tough to sit someone who has such a hot hand right now."

Sund even envisions a lineup that has Murray and Allen in the backcourt, Barry at the three, Rashard Lewis at the four and Vladimir Radmanovic playing center. That would be the best-shooting starting five in the league, but like the Mavericks, they'd be a serious liability defensively.

While all of that may work on paper, and may even work in real life, perhaps the Sonics should take the opportunity to make a bolder move. The thing about the Pipp-Gehrig analogy is that Pipp, a pretty good player in his own right, was traded to Cincinnati after Gehrig took over. Perhaps the Sonics should trade Barry now while his value is sky high and his contract (he's in the last year of a deal that pays him $5.4 million) is very moveable.

Sund knows the question is coming and chuckles when I ask it. "I know a lot of people are thinking the same thing," Sund said. "I said at the beginning of the season that we were going to use this year to evaluate the talent that we have. We wanted to see whether Rashard could get his game to an All-Star level. Whether Vlade could be a starting power forward in the league. And whether Flip was going to be something more than a prospect."

"So far the answers to those questions have all been very positive. But the season is far from over. I think we still need more time to evaluate what we have. We're going to have a lot of patience."

That makes a lot of sense, but it's becoming pretty apparent the Sonics' backcourt of the future is Allen and Murray. The Sonics could still use a more traditional, low-post scorer. Doesn't it make some sense to move Barry now and bring in another young, talented player to do some of the dirty work in the paint? Those dead-eye shooters the Sonics have on their roster would be even deadlier if the team could get a player who commanded a double team in the post.

There are deals out there that make sense.

The Pacers are still searching for help in the backcourt. Pacers president Donnie Walsh tried to pry Barry away from the Sonics this summer. The Pacers still have a logjam at forward. With Jonathan Bender coming back any day and the Pacers promising to get him consistent minutes, a Barry-for-Al Harrington swap makes a lot of sense for both teams. Harrington is exactly the type of young, athletic low-post player the Sonics need.

Shareef Abdur-Rahim
Power Forward
Atlanta Hawks

12 16.8 9.3 2.5 .459 .844

The other scenario, rumored since the Sonics almost pulled off a Gary Payton-for-Shareef Abdur-Rahim trade several years ago, would have the Sonics sending Barry, Jerome James and Radmanovic to the Hawks for Abdur-Rahim. While this trade would be much harder for the Sonics to swallow, because they don't want to give up Radmanovic, Abdur-Rahim is the type of low-post rebounder and scorer who could catapult the Sonics into the playoffs. And at 26, Abdur-Rahim still fits into the Sonics youth movement.

Sund patiently listens to the scenarios, but still, for now anyway, is sticking to his guns.

"The hardest thing to do right now is to stay conservative," Sund said. "We've been very aggressive over the past few seasons rebuilding this roster. Of course you still have to listen to what's out there. But I think this team has the same type of potential that Dallas did a few years ago, when Nowitzki, Finley and Nash started to gel together. We're young, and it's going to take time, but I think we're all committed to patiently seeing this through."

Around the League

-As much as the Sonics have been surprised by the play of Murray, Sund claims that Radmanovic has been the key to their early start. "He's the X-factor," Sund told Insider. "He's come out and done a great job this year. He spreads the court creating some serious match-up problems for the opposing team."
The key for Radmanovic is an improvement on the boards. He's averaging 6.6 rpg this year up from a career high of 4.5 last season. Radmanovic is also a pretty decent post defender. While many scouts in the league still believe that Radmanovic is playing out of position at the four offensively, defensively he's a much more comfortable fit there. He just doesn't quite have the quickness to guard most of the threes in the league.

With Rashard Lewis continuing to improve his low-post game, the two players actually fit pretty well together on the floor.

-Grizzlies forward Stromile Swift has completely fallen out of Hubie Brown's rotation in Memphis. Swift began the season with a bang, scoring 18 points and grabbing nine boards on opening night. But his minutes quickly began to dwindle after that and he's gotten DNP's in three of his last four games.
Stromile Swift
Memphis Grizzlies

7 8.9 4.9 0.7 .524 .818

Swift has been replaced by center Jake Tsakalids, who's averaged 8.3 ppg and 5.3 apg since getting into the starting lineup. Why the change?

"He's [Tsakalidis] not just a big guy, he's a physical man," Brown told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. "And he has better athleticism than you first think. Now the familiarity with what we're doing helps. You can see he's playing with tons of more confidence. He makes the job easier in the paint because he takes so many guys out when the shot goes up. He may not get the rebound, but he takes guys out of there. We haven't had that."

Given the Grizzlies' depth, is it finally time for the Grizzlies to part ways with Swift? Since we're on a Sonic bent today, wouldn't a Swift-for-Jerome James swap make some sense for the Grizz and Sonics? West went after James in free agency two summers ago, and while James hasn't lived up the hype, he's a much more mobile, athletic center than Tsakalidis. Pairing James and Tsakalidis at the five and Pau Gasol and Lorenzen Wright at the four should give the Grizzlies plenty of depth in the frontcourt. If James ever lives up to his potential, the Grizzlies could finally have the answer they're looking for in the middle.

Swift just needs a change of scenery. Even though Radmanovic is playing well, Swift could help the Sonics. His ability to rebound and block shots would give the Sonics a boost. Because Swift can play some center, certainly Radmanovic and Swift could play together. Given that Swift is a restricted free agent this year, the Sonics don't risk much for taking a shot.

-Blazers coach Maurice Cheeks has had it with Bonzi Wells. He told reporters Wednesday night that even when Wells returns from his two-game suspension he will not be re-inserted into the starting lineup. Right now Jeff McInnis and Qyntel Woods are seeing an increase in minutes because of Wells' demotion. Woods made the most of his opportunity Wednesday night, hitting the game-winning free throws with 0.4 seconds left.

What's Byron Scott's assessment of the Nets so far this season?
"Shaky," Scott told reporters. "Our foundation right now is a little shaky. We're not doing all the things that we're capable of doing. I don't know if that's because we're taking it for granted. I don't know if it's complacency, effort, energy."

-Maybe we should add the Nets to the Doc Rivers' short list. With Scott in the last year of his deal and with his already strained relationship with his players, perhaps Rod Thorn should try to make a move now while a good coach is still on the board.

Rivers given a flawed roster

With the firing this week of Doc Rivers, the Orlando Magic close the coaching chapter on the worst start in franchise history. There's no question Doc's departure was inevitable. Anyone in that position would be out on his backside, especially without his star pupil coming to his defense.
I spoke to Doc on Tuesday, and you could hear the strain in his voice from that 10-game losing streak. Yet he still felt that with the return of Gordon Giricek, the team would respond and potentially right a ship that had drifted aimlessly off course. Unfortunately, the coach won't be along to steer that new direction, and management seems fit to make Rivers the scapegoat for a team mired a level or two below mediocrity.

But where should the blame for this organization's shortcomings really be placed? I think with management.

Let's look at the deconstruction of the Magic. It started with the sign-and-trade for Grant Hill, the fact he was in a cast and the Pistons were all too happy to let him go should tell you that possibly all was not right with him, physically. He certainly wasn't a problem child whom Joe Dumars felt could no longer exist on that team. The speculation is the injury was far more serious than anyone was led to believe. But injuries are a part of the game, and once they happen, the real test of your GM begins. Management has to reassess the team and find ways to improve it while knowing free agency is not going to be as viable an option.

The best way to do it is through the draft, and this is where management has failed miserably. When you look at where this team has drafted the last three years and who they have -- as opposed to who they don't -- you start to get a better feel for their inability to evaluate talent.

This is a team that needs a point guard. In 2001, when they drafted Omar Cook in the second round, they could have had the likes of Gilbert Arenas, Tony Parker or at the very least Jamal Tinsley with one of their two first-round picks. It's never fair to single out one particular player in a draft, because this is such an imperfect science. But to pick Jeryl Sasser with the 22nd pick -- and then wind up releasing him -- when that type of talent is available has to raise some eyebrows.

Think of any of the players on that roster and you start to get the feeling that this team has regressed over the years. Remember, they had the 15th, 22nd and 32nd picks and have absolutely nothing to show for it. Also keep in mind that they took Steven Hunter at 15 when guys like Jason Collins, Zack Randolph and Brendan Haywood were available (those three went 18th, 19th and 20th).

I point this out because the draft is crucial to a team with salary-cap issues. But you also have to question some other moves. How about signing Jacque Vaughn instead of re-signing Troy Hudson, another move that significantly impacted the talent level of that roster? In a league where long-term contracts are guaranteed and free-agent opportunities are rare in terms of having a positive impact, you better make sure your peripheral moves improve your standing rather than diminish it.

This is a prime example of a team being mismanaged from a personnel standpoint, and while Doc Rivers' firing is understood, it should be followed by those in the front office having their positions reassessed sooner rather than later. As great as Tracy McGrady is, he wouldn't be the first dominant player to wonder if Orlando really is the best place to play, and this is a franchise that can ill afford to lose another superstar without anything in return.

Peep Show
By Terry Brown
NBA Insider
Thursday, November 20
Updated: November 20
9:47 AM ET

Detroit Pistons: If the sprained left knee didn't stop Ben Wallace last year, then neither will the twisted left ankle or sprained left wrist this year. "It's been a little rough, but it ain't nothing I can't live with," Wallace said in the Detroit News. And that was before he ran into Shaq and had to have his collarbone X-rayed before having his back wrenched later in the game. "This kid is just incredible," coach Larry Brown said. "He scored with his left hand, he made a couple of jump shots. I am just so proud of him. Karl Malone is a pretty darn good defender, and Ben gets 15 boards, five blocks and 12 points. He keeps getting better and better."

Dallas Mavericks: Tim Duncan may have all the hardware that goes with all of his accolades, but there's one thing Mavs owner Marc Cuban believes he doesn't have on Dirk Nowitzki. "We forget that Dirk is 25," Cuban said in the Dallas Morning News. "There's nobody that young who is set to carry his team for the next 10 years. Tim's got upside. But I think Dirk has even more upside." Spurs coach Gregg Popovich says that we shouldn't even be trying to compare the two, though. "Other people put categories on people," Pop said. "I just think he's a heck of a player. What they've accomplished in Dallas is in large part due to Dirk's development. You look at when he really started playing well, they have significantly improved their wins since then. That doesn't happen without Dirk being a very, very good performer."

Boston Celtics: Has Antoine Walker cursed the Celtics? "You play with a guy so long and then all of a sudden you're not with your right-hand man," Paul Pierce said in the Boston Herald. "It's like everything seemed like it turned into a 360-degree twirl. A lot of the focus is definitely on me. I'm going through my growing pains, just learning how can I make this team better. That's just something I'm still learning. I haven't quite figured it out yet, but I think in time it'll come." And it doesn't help when your team starts the season 5-6. "Teams are pretty much saying they're not going to let me beat them," Pierce continued. "They're saying if they lose, it's not going to be because of me. They're going to try to make other guys beat (them). I just have to start giving the other guys confidence to step up. The only way I'm going to be able to have big offensive nights is when I get other guys involved and open myself up. Teams understand that Antoine's not out there, so teams are coming at us like, `Paul's the only major threat,' when that's not true. But until the other guys earn that type of respect, it's going to be difficult for me night in and night out to try to have big scoring games."

Indiana Pacers: The Pacers didn't need Jermaine O'Neal, day to day with tendinitis in his right knee, in Wednesday night's victory, but then again, it was against the Clippers. "I'm confident we have guys who can step up," Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said in the Indianapolis Star. "Jermaine O'Neal is hard to replace. I have a lot of confidence in our other guys, but I also know that we need him." Speculation is that three consecutive summers of international play are taking their toll on O'Neal's body.

Portland Trail Blazers: Maurice Cheeks has had enough of Bonzi Wells, and if it means he has to lose a game to prove his point, then so be it. "This time I'm fed up with it," Cheeks said in the Oregonian. "I'm just tired of it." At the time, Cheeks had just taken Wells out of the game, which caused the swingman to direct a series of expletives at his coach who then benched him for the rest of the game and suspended him for the next two. "When I addressed the team today, I told them I could have possibly put him back in the game and we could have won," Cheeks said. "But I think this goes deeper than trying to win a basketball game."

Orlando Magic: Just when the Magic thought it couldn't get any worse, this happens. "[Tuesday], I was really hurting," Tracy McGrady said of his chronic back problems in the Orlando Sentinel. "I don't know what I did. It just started when I got on the plane [from Salt Lake City]. I just have to take it easy. I'll play, no doubt, but it's going to be a problem until I retire." The Magic play the Suns tonight in Phoenix and are expected to have McGrady in the lineup.

Golden State Warriors: Nick Van Exel has already missed five of the Warriors first 11 games and he's just about to shut it down for another 10 days. "I need to use my quickness, get into the lane and make some floaters, make some easy shots," he said in the Oakland Tribune. "Right now I can't -- I can't accelerate."

11-20-2003, 06:47 PM
quite a long post....i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif