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02-27-2003, 08:56 AM
Mailbag: Will fans revolt on Darius Miles?
by Chad Ford
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Also Below: Nets, Kidd heading for a divorce? | Will the Mavs ever beat the Kings? | Sixers, Lakers looking at Hill and Coles

I found out that for Cavs fans, there's one thing worse than insulting their beloved Cavaliers -- complimenting them. After receiving hundreds of e-mails from Cavs fans over the course of the season complaining that I've been too hard on GM Jim Paxson and his young team, I thought the little love I gave Paxson on Tuesday would come as a welcome relief. Boy was I wrong . . . Here's just one of the angry e-mail messages I got from Cavs fans, most related to remarks about Darius Miles not fitting into the Cavs' offensive schemes.

Q: The Cavs' "one potential star"? Have you actually seen Miles play this year? Every time he dribbles he bounces the ball off of his foot. When the ball is not in his hands, he stands there. Watching. Praying the ball doesn't come to him from 15 feet out. I watch every Cavs game I possibly can. Diop has a smoother-looking jump shot than Darius. After he came off the IR, I was worried about the safety of the cheerleaders sitting under the hoop. You don't form an offense around someone who has no range beyond 1 inch. -- Michael Winchell, Kent, Ohio

FORD: I've got 25 e-mails in my inbox just like this. Most of them come from the same readers who, this summer, thought that the Andre Miller-for-Miles swap was the best move the Cavs had ever made. Six months later, Cavs fans are out of patience. It's pretty clear that Dajuan Wagner isn't a point guard, which means all three of the Paxson's "players of the future" -- Miles, Wagner and Davis -- essentially play the same position. While a few of you came to Ricky Davis' defense, more of you felt that he was too erratic and selfish to build around.

Of course, if the Cavs land LeBron James this summer, all will be forgiven. That was really my only point. If you committed to rebuilding, you might as well commit all the way. Clearly, the Cavs have done that. It makes no sense to keep injecting veterans into the mix so that the team is barely respectable. The Wizards keep making that mistake every year. All that it does is keep them from getting the top talent in the lottery. If the Cavs land James, the team wil be able to package Miles and Davis and land a legit small forward or star point guard in return. However, there's a 75 percent chance that the Cavs won't land James in the lottery. What happens then?

Paxson will have some tough decisions this summer. His decision not to move Miles by the trade deadline may come back to haunt him if Miles continues to struggle. I'd say about 50 percent of the GMs I talked to last summer when the Miles trade was made thought Miles had the potential to turn into a star. That number's slipped to about 10 percent. Of course, there are a few Cavs fans who still believe the Miles-for-Miller trade was still a good one given Miller's struggles in L.A. . .

Q: "Star point guard" Andre Miller? Who are you kidding? Didn't you run an article last month about the league's biggest disappointments that included Miller? I'm still awaiting an explanation from ANYONE why Miller is so highly regarded. I certainly would think a "star" player would at least be an all-star ONCE, or at the very least be the one of top 2 players on his own team. -- Charles Jannsohn, Cleveland

FORD: Miller has been a major disappointment. His stock has clearly slipped a notch or two. However, most scouts that I've talked to blame the Clippers, not Miller, for most of the problems. The team has had zero continuity this year because of a slew of injuries. The players who are healthy just aren't sharing the ball. I think that the contract situation of all the free agents was much more distracting than anyone thought.

The real test for Miller will come this summer. I read one national report that claimed that Miller wouldn't be able to get anything more than a mid-level exception offer now. I think that's ridiculous. Unless, for some bizarre reason, John Stockton and Karl Malone both return and demand huge contracts eating all of Utah's cap room, the Jazz will make Miller a big offer next summer. He's a perfect fit in a controlled half-court offense like the Jazz run. He'd also be great in Miami and San Antonio, two teams that also have cap room. Will it be the max? Probably not. But I think he'll end up with a starting salary of $7 or $8 million a year.

Given the Clippers' own cap woes, their depth at point guard and Miles' rapid decline, it won't be a huge loss for L.A. But it's a much bigger loss for Cleveland. I know Paxson didn't want to give Miller the max. But it's pretty clear now that no one else would give that to him. Since Miller is a restricted free agent this summer, they could've matched any offer for him. Had the Cavs not become enamored with the idea that Wagner was a more dynamic point guard than Miller (now they're not sure he's even a point guard), the Cavs could've kept Miller, re-signed Davis and then drafted either Amare Stoudemire or Caron Butler. They would've been a much better team this year with that lineup and they still wouldn't have sacrificed their youth movement by doing so.

Q: Someone wrote the other day that the most Golden State could pay Gilbert Arenas is $4.5 million next season. Then I heard Denver could offer him $6 or $7 million. How can Denver pay him more than Golden State? Couldn't the Warriors pay him more than $4.5 million if they wanted? -- Mark Delton, Scotsdale, Ariz.

FORD: No. A player has to play with a team for three years before it can exceed the salary cap to re-sign one of its own players for any amount. The problem is that Arenas has only played for two years. The Warriors have what are called "Early Bird" rights for Arenas. That means that if they're over the cap (the Warriors are), they can offer him up to the average player salary ($4.5 million this year). If a team under the cap (like Denver) offers Arenas more than that, the Warriors have 15 days to get under the cap and match the offer. Given that they're about $20 million over where they'd have to be to match an offer from Denver, it's almost impossible for the Warriors to re-sign Arenas if another team offers him a big contract this summer.

The Warriors aren't the first team to face this dilemma. The Hornets lost Brad Miller and Eddie Robinson to the Bulls under the same scenario. That's led some to call for an overhaul of the collective bargaining agreement. Why should a team that develops a player for two years have to lose him if he turns out to be good? The problem with that argument is that the CBA doesn't prohibit teams from signing second-round draft picks to longer deals. The Bucks signed second-round pick Dan Gadzuric to a three-year deal (with a team option for the third year) last summer. The Bulls did the same thing with Trenton Hassell last year. Hassell was taken just one pick ahead of Arenas.

In other words, you're going to love this Warriors fans, GM Garry St. Jean probably screwed up. I say probably because there's always the possibility that Arenas' agent, Dan Fegan, refused to sign a three-year deal with the Warriors. However, in 99 percent of the cases, second-round picks just don't have the leverage to refuse guaranteed money. Had the Warriors given him a two-year deal with a team option for year three, it wouldn't have cost them an extra penny had Arenas been a bust. However, if Arenas was a star, they could keep him for year three, get his Bird Rights, and then re-sign him for any amount after year three. Chew on that for a while.

Q: The NBA salary cap is so confusing. At the beginning of the season, we in Seattle heard that the Sonics might let Gary Payton leave so they would have a chance to sign Jason Kidd. Well, then later we heard that they would only be around $6 million under the cap so they have no chance to sign Kidd. Then, after the trade of Payton for Ray Allen, some local commentators say that NOW the Sonics DO have a chance of getting Kidd, because they could acquire him in a sign-and-trade for Allen. So, do the Sonics now have more flexibility or less in getting Kidd if they want him? -- Mark Bennett, Seattle

FORD: Interesting question. The first two parts of your question were true. At the start of the year, some believed that the Sonics could make a run at Payton with the cap room they'd get if they renounced Payton and Kenny Anderson. However, as the year went on it became clear that the salary cap wouldn't go up much and the the Sonics wouldn't have enough money under the cap to make a serious bid. The third part, about a Kidd sign-and-trade for Allen is interesting. Theoretically, it's possible. The salaries would match just about right. The bigger question is whether Kidd would agree to it. I think if the Nets felt they were losing Kidd for nothing, landing a player like Payton would be a nice consolation prize. And, I'm sure the Sonics would jump on the chance to land a player like Kidd, even though he's older than Allen.

But what's in it for Kidd? Playing with the Nets gives him a great shot at playing in the finals every season. There's much more parity in the East, he has a couple of young studs, Richard Jefferson and Kenyon Martin, around him and the Nets seems committed to bringing in additional players to help win a championship. If he leaves for San Antonio, he gets the chance to play with last season's MVP and one of the three or four dominant big men in NBA. But Seattle? Now that they gave up Desmond Mason, the only other young star the Sonics really have is Rashard Lewis. Vladimir Radmanovic may also be great, but he plays the same position as Lewis. The Sonics have no post players and don't have enough money to go out and add a dominant one. Of the three options Kidd has, it seems to make the least sense.

Q: I keep reading about all these "bad contracts" that virtually every team has. How many "good" contracts are there in the NBA? In fact, I'd like to see an article from you on the "best" contracts in the NBA right now vs. the "worst". -- Brad Fullmer, Salt Lake City

FORD: The contract situation is slowly getting under control. There were a few bad contracts signed last summer (Malik Rose, Raef LaFrentz, Greg Buckner) but most of them were much more reasonable than they've been. Who have the best contracts? Here's my top five.

1. Michael Jordan, Wizards. 1 year, $1,030,000. The biggest bargain in NBA history. Not only does he almost single handedly make the Wizards a playoff contender, but he sells out arenas where ever he goes.

2. Steve Nash, Mavericks. 3 years, $16.5 million left. Nash, an all-star point guard, is a huge bargain. He signed this deal before he really broke out. While Cuban can certainly afford to pay him more, it's still hard to find a player whot gives you more bang for your buck.

3. Bobby Jackson, Kings. 4 years, $12 million. He's the best back-up point guard in the league. When Mike Bibby was out, Jackson was playing at an All-Star level for the team. Come playoff time, he'll be as import as Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic or any other King.

4. Matt Harpring, Jazz. 4 years, $18 million. Harpring has been a revelation for the Jazz this year. He's been a perfect fit in Jerry Sloan's half-court offense and has helped keep the aging Jazz relevant. It's easy to see a long future between the two.

5. Michael Redd, Bucks. 4 years, $12 million. Not bad for a guy who looks like he'll inherit Ray Allen's starting two guard slot. Redd's deal was the main reason the team felt that Allen was expendable. Allen was costing the team $12 million a year. Redd was doing similar things for $3 million. You can do the math.

Nets, Kidd heading for a divorce?

The Nets broke a three-game losing streak and routed the Knicks on Wednesday night. But there wasn't much of a silver lining. A bigger story is starting to brew in New Jersey. A story that threatens to rip the Nets apart this summer. The Newark Star-Ledger's Dave D'Alessandro makes that case that Jason Kidd and coach Byron Scott aren't getting along. The ongoing friction between the two behind the scenes is threatening to cause a Kidd-Nets divorce this summer.

According to D'Alessandro's sources, Kidd has become increasingly frustrated with Scott's coaching, or lack thereof. "Let's put it this way," one Nets insider told the Star Ledger. "Jay just wishes that Byron would do more coaching than the other stuff he gets involved in. And that's a problem." How serious is this? Another person in the organization told D'Alessandro, "I used to think it's 80-20 that Jay would re-sign here. Now I think it's no better than 50-50."

The article details a number of small events, that when added up, seem to be pointing to a disturbing trend. Scott taking subtle shots at Kidd in postgame press conferences ("I didn't think the game was very interesting to him") and Kidd hinting that the coach isn't giving him an offense to run ("Guys enjoy structure"). The article said that many times, with the game winding down, Kidd looks to Scott on the sidelines for direction. Scott, however, has a habit of turning his back to Kidd.

The bottom line is that Kidd is exasperated that he's required to do so much this year. He already leads the team in scoring, assists, three-pointers and steals and ranks third in rebounds. Does he also have to coach the team too? This isn't the first hint we've had that Kidd's looking for a better situation this summer when he becomes a free agent. But it may be the most damning sign yet that the Nets may be in serious trouble of keeping him no matter what else is out there.

Will the Mavs ever beat the Kings?

The Mavs may have the best record in the NBA, but no one is ready to concede anything to them. Maybe that's because, during the season's biggest games, they keep coming up empty. The Mavs are 0-2 versus the Kings this season. They lost to the Lakers once Shaq came back. Even a recent victory against the Spurs hasn't quieted the critics. With a big home game tonight against the Kings, the Mavs are playing for more than the win. They're playing for respect.

"I think people who study us know that we probably have a little better record than we should have, for whatever reason," coach Don Nelson told Dallas Morning News. "I think they think we're a good team. But you hear the talk. Charles Barkley doesn't think we're anything. Nobody else does either - until we do something."

Point guard Steve Nash agrees. "In some ways we are overachievers," Nash told the Fort Worth Star Telegram. "We have a really competitive group that likes each other. That goes a long way. Hopefully, we can get it just tight enough that at the end of the year it can take us over the hump and we can beat everyone. Like Nellie keeps saying, we don't think we're the best team in the league. But the players in the locker room think we can beat everyone and we can win it. It's just a matter of doing it now and reinforcing that belief."

While everyone concedes that the Mavs have an insanely talented roster, everyone considers their physical and mental toughness suspect. "I think that's probably the biggest thing you have to get through," Kings coach Rick Adelman told the Morning News. "If a team beats you -- if you get beaten by them a couple of times -- you have to have the mental toughness that you're going to fight through that and not allow it to happen again. If you don't fight through it, then as soon as something negative happens, you give into it."

That's why a victory over the Kings tonight is so important for the Mavs. "We have to beat them eventually," guard Michael Finley said. "Just from a mental standpoint. . . Despite our record, we still have to go out and prove ourselves."

Sixers, Lakers looking at Hill and Coles

How desperate are the Lakers for an infusion of a little veteran talent?
The Cavs have agreed to waive veteran forward Tyrone Hill and point guard Bimbo Coles, Insider learned Wednesday. The Lakers have been circling like vultures for over a week. Hill, who was recently told he'd no longer play in order to give several young prospects a chance, has been pushing for a trade or release for several weeks.

Hill's agent, Mark Bartelstein, confirmed that the two sides had reached an agreement and said teams were already lining up for Hill's services."We haven't made a decision where Tyrone is going just yet," Bartelstein told Insider. "He's looking to join a championship contender. Tyrone really wants a ring. There are several teams out there who think he could really help them." Hill was averaging 6.3 ppg and 8.3 rpg for the Cavs in 26.7 minutes per game this season.

While Bartelstein refused to name the teams Hill was considering, a league source said the Lakers, 76ers, Nets and Mavericks all have serious interest. According to one source, the 76ers are believed to have the inside track. Hill played with the Sixers for two years before being traded to Cleveland. Coach Larry Brown sounds like he wants him back. "I love him," Brown told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "I never wanted to see him leave in the first place."

Coles, who averaged 4.9 ppg and 2.7 apg, was in a similar situation to Hill. He saw his playing time decrease so rookies Smush Parker and Dajuan Wagner could get more court time. Coles, however, owned a player option for next season. The two sides have been negotiating a buyout of the option over the last few days. Terms of the buyout weren't disclosed.Coles' agent, Sean Holley, told Insider that, like Hill, Coles was looking to join a contender for the rest of the season. The Nets, Pacers, Lakers and Suns reportedly have expressed interest in Coles.

Clearly the Lakers, who also showed interest in Chris Whitney, are looking to add a veteran to the mix. The question is whether they'll go big, with someone like Hill or Stanley Roberts, or small with someone like Coles. The Cavs will submit the official paperwork to the league this morning. Before Hill or Coles can be signed by another team, they must clear waivers, which takes 48 hours

LRB
02-27-2003, 10:31 AM
Thanks for the article OP. Interesting the fans response to Miles in Clevland. I bet he wouldn't get a better one here if he was a Mav.

jayC
03-04-2003, 05:32 PM
Looks like we have to wait until March 16.

Nash13
03-04-2003, 06:55 PM
Our lost to the Kings could be a positive thing later, and could backfire on the kings. If they sweep us in the season(which i doubt), they wouldn't take us seriously. And if we play them in the playoffs, they could be so overconfident that they won't even play us seriously. Maybe that's what happened to us last yr, cause we cremed them in the season, and didn't take them serious in the playoffs.