Mark Deeks

markdeeks

Mark Deeks owns and operates ShamSports, and doesn’t do much else with his time. He is even more not-Canadian than Trey Kerby, being born, raised and stuck in England. When not writing about basketball, he can be found either appearing on game shows, inventing character names for non-existent sitcoms, or Googling his own name.

Recent Posts

The Portland Trail Blazers’ 2011-12 season started terribly when Brandon Roy announced his retirement, and then it got worse. It got worse and worse and worse and worse and worse, to the point that they fell behind by 43 points in a recent loss to the Celtics, and damn near surpassed that with a 42-point loss Wednesday night to a team whose coach quit earlier that morning. And then yesterday, it got worse.

Or, if you like, better.

With two deals, and the firing of coach Nate McMillan, Portland didn’t so much press the reset button today as park a bus on top of it. They dealt Gerald Wallace to New Jersey for an expiring salary, a dead salary, and a potentially lucrative pick, and followed that with a second deal that sent Marcus Camby to Houston for Jonny Flynn, Hasheem Thabeet and a second round draft pick. They’ve enjoyed and suffered through the busiest day of anyone since Ray Liotta in “Goodfellas,” but in doing so, they may have stopped the rot.

What they didn’t do was what we most expected them to do — trade their backcourt. But it wasn’t for a lack of wanting to. Raymond Felton is in the midst of an absolutely terrible year on the court, turning it over too often, having more field goal attempts than points, demonstrating scant little understanding of time and score and yet seemingly not being too bothered about the whole thing. Off the court, he has one-upped that by leading a “revolt” against head coach Nate McMillan. In between his poor play and toxic behavior, Felton has made himself thoroughly undesirable, even (it seems) as an expiring $7.6 million contract.

The Blazers searched “desperately” for a taker for Felton, and the only option with traction was a swap with the Lakers centered around Steve Blake. But Blake has two guaranteed years of salary after this one, whereas Felton expires this summer. Felton may have been a mistake, but compounding it with another one solved nothing. So, for now at least, Felton stays.

Similarly, prized offseason acquisition Jamal Crawford was shopped all over the show, and no one offered enough. The L.A. Clippers offered Ryan Gomes, but the Blazers balked at it on account of Gomes’ guaranteed salary for next year. The same is true of the Lakers’ offer of Derek Fisher. The Timberwolves talked about a swap for Michael Beasley, but changed their minds, and the teams who competed with Portland for Crawford this summer — Chicago and Sacramento — no longer seemed interested. In between shooting 40 percent and selling out his coach, it appeared that like Felton, Crawford ruined his own trade value. And rather than committing to unwanted salary, the Blazers preferred to gamble on him opting out.

While those two survived the cull, a third supposed problem child did not. Not so long ago, whilst making known to the public the depth of the problems with Felton and Crawford, John Canzano also openly cited Camby and his “lethargy” as part of the problem with the team. Combined with the almost 350 career games that the near-38 year old has missed in his career, his declined athleticism, and almost total lack of contribution as an offensive player these days, Camby’s trade value has diminished to this point, a point where he’s dealt for nothing more than two emphatic draft busts and a pick in the 50′s.

The Blazers hope for addition by subtraction. The Rockets hope to score a cheap starter. Both might be right. For whatever reason, Houston thrives on rejects and misfits. Channeling the 1999 Spurs, they actively seek them out, which is why they had Flynn and Thabeet in the first place. It cost them a first rounder to get Flynn, and it cost them a second to move him; in light of what has transpired this season, Camby can be considered a reject, thereby continuing this trend.

Nevertheless, this is nothing but a short rental. All salaries involved in the deal were expiring. Houston had previously declined the team options on both Flynn and Thabeet, two former top six picks not even making it to the end of their rookie scale contracts. This is not the answer to Houston’s center search. This a rental for a second round pick. And Portland knows this too.

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The biggest deal of deadline day thus far sees the New Jersey Nets trade Mehmet Okur, his expiring $10.89 million salary, Shawne Williams, his not-expiring $3 million salary, and a 2012 first round pick to Portland, in exchange for Gerald Wallace.

Wallace, a one time All-Star and long-time quality player, averages nearly 13 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists on the year, in addition to quality, versatile defense. He dramatically improves New Jersey’s weakest position, small forward, where a whole host of players have been rotated through. After deciding Stephen Graham probably wasn’t the answer, the Nets turned to Damion James. When he got hurt, Keith Bogans, Larry Owens, Andre Emmett, Gerald Green and Dennis Horner all took turns. The longest runs have been given to Williams and DeShawn Stevenson, who are shooting 29 percent and 25 percent from the field respectively. Given that they had absolutely nothing at that position, and traded absolutely no production to get it, getting a fringe All-Star is a significant upgrade to the collective nothing that went before.

But let’s not lose sight of the issue. In spite of how good he is, and how bad D-Steve has been, New Jersey are not really trading for Gerald Wallace. They are really trading for Deron Williams, again.

And inevitably, it’s all for Dwight Howard.

The entire plan, the whole thing, the whole shaboodle, everything the Nets have thrown away the last two years for, is based around Dwight. Prokhorov didn’t buy the team to get Dwight, the team isn’t moving to Brooklyn because of Dwight and they didn’t trade their only semblance of a long term plan for Deron because, at the time, they expected to get Dwight. But it did become the expectation, and it did become the plan.

It became a very good plan, too. The future looked good. Deron Williams, the impressive rookie MarShon Brooks, the probably impressive rookie Harrison Barnes, Kris Humphries, Dwight. That’s some front five. New city, new arena, new fan base, plenty of money in reserve, Jay-Z adding some luster. No depth, but that doesn’t matter. That was the plan. It was beautiful. And when Howard declined a move to the Chicago Bulls, the best team in the league, because Derrick Rose was too famous or the weather was too windy or whatever the hell reason he used, the Nets’ plan looked almost consummated. You don’t disregard Chicago and consider joining the Nets unless you really, really want to join the Nets. Up until this week, it was all-consuming.

But it didn’t work. Dwight opted in. It seems now that he didn’t really, really want to join the Nets after all.

Not yet, at least. The pipe dream still exists. Dwight didn’t sign an extension with Orlando, commit his adult life to them, or declare an undying love that would only have looked facetious by this time; instead, he merely opted in. He opted in for only one year. In 12 months time, therefore, it is more than likely to be the case that Howard — who has trolled the entire NBA media and tormented his own team’s fans for a whole year — is going to be doing it all again. And so what is a stay of execution for Orlando is essentially an adjournment for New Jersey. The plan is still to get Dwight. By this time, it rather has to be.

However, in the time in between the two, one big variable exists. While Dwight Howard opted in, Deron Williams didn’t. The whole Dwight plan was, and is, dependent upon Deron. Concurrently, keeping Deron was, and is, dependent on getting Dwight.

New Jersey knows Dwight only joins them if Deron Williams is here. It’s why they traded for him in the first place. And it’s still the case. This year, they didn’t get Dwight, even with Deron. Now, to get Dwight next year, they need to keep Deron.

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In a predictable, logical and thoroughly underwhelming move, the Memphis Grizzlies made the second trade of deadline week, sending reserve forward Sam Young to the Philadelphia 76ers in return for nothing more than the draft rights to Ricky Sanchez, whom you’ve probably never heard of.

Memphis had two things to do this deadline: buy some players, and sell some players. Their good but not elite team needed to acquire an extra ball handler, and much improve its three point shooting, while also somehow dodging the luxury tax threshold they currently reside just over.

This trade only alleviates one of those three needs. Apparently, Gilbert Arenas will fix the others.

Sanchez is a 6-foot-11 Puerto Rican international, drafted initially by the Blazers on the Nuggets behalf in 2005 and whose rights were later traded to the Sixers. He has spent his career in Latin America, and plays in the Puerto Rican BSN every season, although it hasn’t always been without incident. Sanchez is a big athletic forward with a good jumpshot, who was drafted on the pretense that he might go on to develop his game outside of his athleticism and jumpshot combination. He was pretty sure that he could do this. This, however, has not really happened. Playing for Bahia in the weak Argentinian league, he averages 13.0 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.0 fouls in 30 minutes per game, taking over five threes per game. Near 7-foot three point specialists are intriguing, but the Grizzlies would be better served just bringing the recently waived Josh Davis back. Sanchez’s inclusion in the deal, therefore, is merely arbitrary.

The Sixers were able to assume Young’s post-incentives $1,184,750 salary on account of the Marreese Speights trade exception, which had been created in an earlier trade with Memphis. Essentially, therefore, this trade amends and concludes that one, the Grizzlies trading Young and Xavier Henry for a rental of Speights.

This is an odd way to conclude the Sam Young era in Memphis. This time last year, in light of the injury to Rudy Gay, Young was a valuable starter and a key, if flawed, cog in their Cinderella playoff victory over the Spurs. His jumpshot lacked three-point range, he broke plays, played with his head down, and his team defense was atrocious, yet the combination of his humiliatingly effective shot fake and sheer determination gave the Grizzlies a much needed offensive option. When nothing else was going on, Young would put his head down and go for it, like a much older looking Corey Maggette, which worked better than it may sound. And he always played hard.

This year, however, with Gay’s return to health, Young’s lack of improvement to his game, and the acquisition of Quincy Pondexter (who provides the defense and intangibles that Young just doesn’t), Sam wasn’t in the rotation, playing only 21 games all season, 13 of which were in January. He likely won’t be in the Sixers rotation, either.

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When the Warriors signed Kwame Brown to a one year, $6.75 million deal this offseason, we laughed for a bit, and then looked at the logic for why they did it.

This logic was threefold. Firstly, it helped the Warriors shore up their and the league’s weakest position with a capable veteran, vital for a team like the Wariors that genuinely thinks it can (and should) make the playoffs, and gave the team its first starting center-who-is-actually-a-center-not-Anthony-Tolliver since Andris Biedrins went into the tank. Secondly, the one year nature of the deal kept alive cap space aspirations for next summer, which, in light of the unsuccesful cap space aspirations this summer, was going to give Golden State yet another chance at that elusive center. And thirdly, they could use his expiring contract to trade for Dwight Howard! Or someone like that.

The latter actually happened. There’ll be no cap space now, nor any more Dwight pipe dreams; apparently, Andrew Bogut will be the answer to the profound, endless, big man problems.

There’s a case to be made for that. When healthy, he is the answer. When healthy, Bogut is the second-best defensive big in the game, a shot-blocking, charge-taking, rebounding, rotating, always-in-the-right-placing anchor in the middle who, notwithstanding lacking any sort of shot from outside the paint, helps on the offensive end too with passing vision and strong left-handed finishing. When healthy, he’s also one of the better offensive centers, and all this for a highly competitive $12 million (pre-trade kicker) per season. When healthy.

But Bogut isn’t healthy. Not now, not for any of the last four full seasons, and not ever truly healthy again.

Because of this, the Warriors take an unashamedly massive gamble. They have invested heavily in the idea that a healthy David Lee/Andrew Bogut frontcourt is a very, very good frontcourt around which to build a playoff caliber team. And they’re right. It would be. But “would” is a highly speculative word. Much to all of our loss, Bogut has not been the player he was. While most of it has been sheer bad luck, that bad luck has compounded to create a wounded body that will never be quite right ever again, ever more susceptible to further injury. And it just keeps on coming. Andrew Bogut gets hurt a lot. Some guys just do.

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“They” say to expect a quiet trade deadline. “They” might be right.

Only one superstar is available, and he will only consent to certain teams. Most of the teams with summer time cap space ambitions are holding on to them, in the faint hope that Dwight Howard and/or Deron Williams want a piece of that sweet free agent money. Only 15 trade exceptions exist in the entire league, disabled player exceptions for Darrell Arthur and Eric Maynor expired yesterday unused, and with the offseason amnesty clause claiming seven bad contract casualties, less dead salary exists than usual, Stephen Jackson excepted.

A couple of biggish, non-superstarry names are being talked about — Rajon Rondo as ever, Pau Gasol as ever, Monta Ellis as ever, and Andrew Bogut for a change — but each wears some significant handicap to the likelihood of their being traded, be it injuries, their contract, or it being illogical to do so. Some teams can spend more, some are still sitting on plenty of cap space, and some teams might wish to further cut costs. In general, however, the NBA’s hard line towards leveling up payroll parity has had its way, and uniform payroll balance is getting closer.

As of today, seven teams are projected to be luxury tax payers. Of those seven, only two (Atlanta and Memphis) can or will realistically be able to dodge it. However, they must also do so while improving their teams. Capped out, these are two playoff teams who nonetheless have big holes, without readily available means of filling them.

Atlanta’s bizarre insistence on keeping Jerry Stackhouse all year has pushed them into the tax territory, despite sorely needing better point guard play and size to offset the loss of/compliment a healthy Al Horford. Meanwhile, Memphis also has on-court needs to fill as Jeremy Pargo has struggled mightily at backup point guard and the team also ranks amongst the league’s worst in three point shooting percentage.

The Grizzlies are good, but they are built weirdly. Huge amounts of money are invested in a frontcourt that is not up for sale, point guard Mike Conley also pulls in an entirely justified $8 million a year, and his backcourt teammate Tony Allen is too valuable to be expendable (while also being a large part of why the team has shooting problems). In terms of contracts for trade assets, they have scant little, particularly when they also need to be concurrently dumping salary. The perennially available O.J. Mayo is perennially available, and perennially sought over, but he’s also the team’s only shooter, even if he is also their only significant trade asset. The formerly valuable Sam Young is now out of the rotation due to his defensive rotations. A salary dump of him would sort out the luxury tax issue, but Memphis needs to be buying as well.

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The All-Star weekend of 2003 featured one of the better slam dunk contests ever. Save for a tame effort by Richard Jefferson — in which he managed the rare feat of doing an elbow dunk that didn’t involve use of an elbow — it was a high caliber affair that culminated in a showdown between 2001 champion Desmond Mason and 2002 champion Jason Richardson, both pushing the other to produce their A-games, crescendoing beautifully with J-Rich’s final clincher:

The All-Star game itself was not half bad, either. The first and thus far only All-Star game to go to double overtime, it saw 300 total points scored, an in-his-prime Allen Iverson doing what an in-his-prime Allen Iverson did at All-Star games, and an in-his-prime Kevin Garnett dominate proceedings on his way to the MVP trophy. Shaq faced off with Brad Miller for the first significant time since Shaq tried to kill him, an amusing in-game report spoke of Antoine Walker and Paul Pierce’s outrages at playing so few minutes, Yao Ming looked woefully out of place on his way to two points and two rebounds, and the close finish saw the game’s very best turn up the intensity and play at something resembling their very hardest. It was good fun to watch, right down to the Zydrunas Ilgauskas experience. Even the 52 turnovers were aesthetically pleasing.

However, this was all secondary. The weekend wasn’t about Iverson, nor Garnett, nor Richardson, nor the surprise appearance by Kool and the Gang. This whole night was about a player who, on talent alone, barely deserved to be there. (And no, that person wasn’t Yao.)

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As a paranoid man, I am well read in the ways of male pattern baldness. I’m not bald, but I will be, and it is not a comfortable admission. As a result, for some strange reason, I have taken to spotting the development of male pattern baldness in others, as something of a really horrible habit. This habit has been a particular magnetic draw in the case of Bulls forward Carlos Boozer, whose hair has had quite the week.

Boozer’s hair has had intrigue since the latter half of the 2010-11 season, when he started to grow it out somewhat. (And by “a bit,” I mean, it went from being balder than a baby’s arse to a normal buzz cut.) It seemed obvious that Booz, having shaved his head more thoroughly for the previous few years when the thinness started to creep in, wanted a second crack at having hair. As would any man in his situation.

As a rookie, Carlos had consistent density and a solid line. The very, very minor beginnings of temple recession can be seen, but they were indeed most minor; his hair was fine as it was. However, over the first few years of his NBA career, the hair on the temples bid him adieu. The temples recede somewhat on the vast majority of men in their twenties, as many of us are probably aware, due to the simple science of your face changing shape as you age. Boozer’s, however, went a bit more than that, leaving something of a peninsula at the front. It wasn’t exactly the full Phil Collins, but it was noticeable. And so he started buzzing.

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