Monday, November 3, 2008

Iverson now; LeBron later?

I'm not a big NBA fan, but this deal involves some of the biggest names in the sport-- and some fascinating long-term thinking possibilities...

Here is Adrian Wojnarowski at

The trade with Denver to make an unhappy Iverson happier just further imbeds the Detroit franchise deeper into James’ agent, Leon Rose, and advisor, William Wesley. Just as they represent James, they rep Iverson....

Detroit can’t compete with New York as the global city to market James, but winning could take care of everything.

With Donnie Walsh and Mike D’Antoni as GM and coach, the Knicks can still get their act together. Yet, no one will ever need to ask that of Dumars. No one else can sell James on a winning culture as compellingly as Dumars. He had gone as far as he could with Billups, who has three years and $36 million left on his contract. Billups gave the Pistons a slight edge over Iverson to make another run this season, but Dumars had already gotten a final run out of him a year ago. Detroit won a title, reached a Game 7 of the NBA Finals and six straight Eastern Conference finals with Billups.

Now, Billups is 32 years old. He’s declining. This is a low-risk, short-term, high-reward, long-term play for Dumars.

The Pistons president believes that the young guard Rodney Stuckey, a brilliant pick out of Eastern Washington, can take over the Pistons next year. Iverson and Rasheed Wallace could leave the payroll this summer, and the Pistons will be $22 million under the salary cap in 2009. They will have a core of Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Stuckey, Jason Maxiell and Amir Johnson in 2010. No one else among James’ serious suitors with cap space has two All-Stars (Hamilton and Prince) and a potential third (Stuckey) for him to join.

Most of all, James knows he’d have Dumars to give him the right coach, the right teammates, the right atmosphere to chase championships for a long, long time. What makes this plan so ingenious is that the bridge from Iverson to Stuckey, from Wallace to Maxiell, makes it possible for the Pistons to reconstruct themselves without bottoming out. They’ll still be a 50-win team. Dumars hates the idea of rebuilding through the lottery, and that won’t need to happen here. He won’t be offering James a heap of ashes in 2010, but a good team needing him to complete its greatness.

For the flawed franchises falling over themselves to get under the salary cap for 2010, the most ingenious plan promises to start out of the NBA’s brightest executive mind. Joe Dumars is thinking big. He’s thinking bold....


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