Executive of the Year

Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey

Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey

Genius.

That’s the best way I can describe Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey.

What else can you say for an executive who transformed a team from coming off a 3rd straight respectable but mediocre-ceiling to championship calibre season in less than 2 years?

Daryl Morey could have done the safe thing. He could have stuck it out with the roster that he had. Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and Kyle Lowry as the core to go along with some nice young talent in Chandler Parsons, Patrick Patterson and Chase Budinger. The sky was by no means the limit but this team had playoff potential.

As he should have, Daryl Morey said “screw that”.

The NBA, or professional sports in general, are not about making the playoffs. It’s about winning championships. Even though the NBA offers very little in the way of competitive balance, being content with making the playoffs is like settling for ground beef when you can have filet mignon.

In the immortal words of Herm Edwards, “you play to win the game!”

When so many teams are hell-bent on sneaking their way into the playoffs, Daryl Morey wasn’t having any of it. His job would have been secure if he was able to finish a 7th or 8th seed. The Western Conference is almost as tough as the MLB’s AL East division, almost.

Yet, he still decided to blow it up.

Daryl Morey was going to do it his way and he didn’t care what anyone thought of his plan.

That’s the crux of being a general manager. If you’re going to be terrible, you might as well be terrible on your own terms. Don’t be terrible by bowing down to media, fans and other voices in the front office. It’s hard enough being a GM, but it must be even more difficult if you’re not going with your instinct.

What Morey did took guts.

He didn’t blow up the team conventionally though. This wasn’t going into full tank mode as so many fans and media types (including myself) would recommend for situations such as the one the Rockets were in. He went pushed the reset button and made it work.

First, he traded an inconsistent Kyle Lowry to polar opposite GM Bryan Colangelo and the Toronto Raptors. He got a pretty much guaranteed lottery pick in return. Then, he boldly went after a questionable commodity in Jeremy Lin, stealing him away from the Toronto Raptors and the New York Knicks. He gambled on Omer Asik. He amnestied another solid player in Luis Scola, while trading away Courtney Lee, Chase Budinger and Marcus Camby to stash away a bunch of draft picks.

Most incredibly, Morey found the star player that every franchise needs. He traded some players, picks (the ones he stashed) and Kevin Martin for James Harden. Another questionable commodity, Harden was acquired to be a franchise cornerstone even though no one had any idea if he could actually be one.

Daryl Morey didn’t let that phase him. He knew he needed to make bold moves, despite the fact that every one of those decisions could have blown up in his face.

Jeremy Lin could have been more Sebastian Telfair than Mike Conley. Omer Asik could have been more Kwame Brown than Emeka Okafor. James Harden could have been more Rudy Gay than Kevin Durant.

That didn’t happen though. Daryl Morey is a genius with a rabbit’s foot and four-leaf clover in his pocket.

Whatever. You gotta be good to be lucky and lucky to be good, right?

Lucky and plucky.

He deconstructed and reconstructed an average team into a championship contender in less than 2 years. No matter what you think of Dwight Howard, he makes Houston a legitimate threat in the Western Conference.

Without D-12, the Rockets made the playoffs and didn’t have a Milwaukee Bucks type exit from the first round. With Dwight Howard, the Rockets will be picked by some to win an NBA championship. Just like the Lakers!!!

Nevertheless, Morey tried something that very few GM’s would have ever even thought of, much less attempted. Although he could have very easily been kicked to the curb of the Houston Rockets training facility for a failed retool, Morey is now reaping the rewards of a sequence of events that deserves to be immortalized in a New York Times bestseller.

Whether the Rockets go the way of the Lakers or the Heat doesn’t matter because what Daryl Morey has been able to accomplish is something special. He is the real story of this never-ending Dwightmare.

All he needs now is for someone to put a ring on it.

Agree? Disagree? Reply in the comments section below or e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com

Also, you can follow me on twitter @chrisrossPTB and I will happily return the favour.

Hating on Howard Will Stop

It’s a match made in heaven that even eHarmony could have figured out. The Hollywood personality finally getting a taste of what Hollywood life is.

Dwight Howard and Brooklyn never really seemed right.

Now it’s time for the public to stop hating on Dwight Howard. I’m not telling them to stop hating. Rather, I’m saying it’s only a matter of time before Howard starts to feel the love again.

People are already starting to forget about the whole ‘indecision’ saga and are envisioning the Lakers sexy starting 5 of Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta Word Peace, Pau Gasol and Superman himself. They are talking about whether the Lakers have the depth to match up against the likes of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat. They are dreaming of alley-hoops and comedy sketches between one of the all-time great point guards and one of the most athletic 7-footers to ever step foot on an NBA floor.

I said all the way back in March that Dwight Howard will only be booed by the Orlando fans. Heck, that might not even be the case anymore by the time the Lakers take the court in Orlando next season.

The sports world is a very forgiving one.

A lot of guys would now rather have a beer with Tiger Woods, for reasons you can imagine, than condemn him like so many did only a couple of years ago. Michael Vick has gone from dog fighter back to NFL fan favourite, you know, when he’s not injured. Lebron James is no longer a villain simply because he won a championship and, apparently, winning cures all that ails.

People were appalled when Tiger Woods was caught cheating with 896 women. They were disgusted when Michael Vick was found to be cruel and unusual to man’s best friend. Clevelanders and non-Clevelanders burned jerseys and tore down posters when Lebron somewhat predictably spurned the Cavs.

However, people seem genuinely excited about the possibilities with Dwight Howard in a Lakers uniform.

Dwight Howard’s situation is not nearly as shocking as the others because his events were dragged out over the course of the past year. Nevertheless, hate is not the word that would define the reaction to Superman’s relocation.

Now that it is all over, Dwight Howard will probably get nothing more than a slap on the wrist in comparison to Lebron James. The NBA world will forget about Dwight Howard as fast as they will forget about 95% of the athletes in the 2012 Olympics. His immaturity will soon turn back to lovability.

D-12 is no longer the focal point either. He is the 3rd superstar on one of Los Angeles’s many prominent professional sports teams.

Dwight Howard toyed with a fan base that isn’t close to a championship with or without him. The rest of the NBA was just annoyed. Unlike Lebron James, who’s decision felt like a Mike Tyson punch to the noggin, all Dwight Howard kept doing was poking us in the arm like an infuriating little brother would.

The indecision wasn’t the worst thing in the world. It only felt like that in the moment.

The NBA world jumped on the hate Howard bandwagon. Most of them aren’t real Dwight Howard haters though. They have already jumped off and are running after the LA Lakers wagon.

Dwight Howard and all.

Also, please vote for me to become Canada’s Next Sportscaster! I am one of the 24 finalists and I need your votes. It only takes a few seconds. Just follow the link: http://www.drafted.ca/finalists/chris-ross/

You can follow me on Twitter @paintstheblack and subscribe to Painting the Black to get the latest posts. Agree? Disagree? You can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com or reply in the comments section below.

Head Over…Head for Steve Nash

Even if it isn’t always for the best, “the heart wants what it wants.”

The hearts of Raptors fans were longing for Steve Nash in Toronto. For a 38-year-old aging point guard, this was a longing that had classic heart over head feeling written all over it. A mere month ago, you would have been crazy to say that it was possible that the Canadian-born superstar could play for his homeland’s team. However, Nash to Toronto became a real possibility in recent days and fans didn’t mind pulling out every stop to lure him back up north.

Unlike Raptors fans, Bryan Colangelo’s heart wasn’t in on this one. On paper, it looks and sounds good that their general manager’s heart is not playing a part in this decision. I mean, it is his job to use his head to make the best decision for the sake of the Toronto Raptors.

Unfortunately, it was only a small part of Bryan Colangelo’s head that was making the decision to go all-in on Steve Nash. The business side of his head overrode every other region of his head.

Colangelo’s noggin understood that Raptors fans hearts were all-in on Steve Nash. He felt that he could do no wrong by doing everything humanly possible to bring Nash to the NBA’s lone Canadian team. Nash is still playing at a high level and his arrival in Canada would fulfill the pipe dreams of a nation of basketball fans. Fans would be happy he was doing something rather than nothing.

He figured, what’s the harm?

For many Canadians, including myself, Steve Nash will forever be their favourite basketball player. My heart was in on this Steve Nash deal a little while ago. It was difficult not to get on board the possibility of Nash to Toronto. I mean, it seemed close to impossible anyways.

What a difference a few days makes.

On Tuesday, the Raptors and Landry Fields verbally agreed to a back loaded 3 year $20 million offer sheet, which supposedly prevented the New York Knicks from acquiring Nash. Fields is a guy the Raptors apparently are fond of but probably not at that price. Early Wednesday morning, the Knicks became the frontrunners but then lost out on Nash to the Los Angeles Lakers in the evening. Toronto was left in the dust.

Bryan Colangelo went all-in with a pair of 10’s for Steve Nash. The Lakers, they somehow managed a straight flush.

Colangelo’s all or nothing move for Nash via Fields failed big time. The Raptors are going to be stuck with another inconsistent shooting wing player. Fields has potential but he’s not worth what the Raptors are going to pay him. Colangelo gave Steve Nash his best pitch but he knew it wasn’t enough. He decided to risk even more of the future, supposedly leaving Nash no choice.

The Landry Fields move shows that Bryan Colangelo has lost sight of the big picture, well, not that he really had any idea of it to start with.

It has been almost 2 years since Bosh has left for Miami. He was forced to finally rebuild after his retool to impress Chris Bosh didn’t exactly impress. Apparently, 2 years on the rebuild is 2 years too many for the other Bryan GM in Toronto. Colangelo appears to have no issue with compromising the long-term rebuild of the franchise. It’s because he is only looking out for number 1 – himself.

Colangelo knew that Nash was going to buy him some more time.

When Colangelo went all-in for Nash, his eyes lit up like cartoon dollar signs and his blinders only let him see the extra years of job security Nash would provide him. The Canadian icon would have filled the seats, sold merchandise and brought a buzz to the Toronto Raptors not seen since the Vin-sanity days. It was simply business for Bryan Colangelo but this type of business isn’t what the Toronto Raptors need right now.

My heart told me I would have enjoyed the coming years if Steve Nash had joined the Raptors. It would have been a once in a lifetime opportunity to witness a situation as unique as Nash in Toronto.

Bryan Colangelo played off those types of feelings. His business head knew that he could take advantage of Canada’s national love for Steve.

Bryan Colangelo was being completely selfish.

The job security of a professional sports GM depends on him making the best decision for the team, except for those times when he is coming close to his expiry date. Once again, Colangelo proved he is unwilling to trust a rebuild. His selfish motives got in the way of his franchises best interests.

The Raptors are lucky to avoid getting Steve Nash. Fields and Nash would have been $55 million on the books for the next 3 years. It would have killed their rebuild. They’re still stuck with Fields but things could be worse.

With the extra revenue Nash would have brought to the team, Bryan Colangelo knew that he would have no trouble compensating for that overpriced tag of $12 million per. However, compensating for those 3 years of lost rebuilding would have been a tad trickier.

For Bryan Colangelo, bringing in Steve Nash wasn’t about helping grow the sport of basketball in Canada. It wasn’t about pleasing the fans. And most importantly, it wasn’t about making the Toronto Raptors the finest team they possibly could be.

BC has been feeling the heat and the Nash sweepstakes were all about what was best for Bryan Colangelo.

His heart may not be in it but, by chasing Steve Nash as relentlessly as he did, Colangelo has clearly shown that his business head has taken over his general managing head.

That’s just bad news for the Toronto Raptors.

You can follow me on Twitter @paintstheblack and subscribe to Painting the Black to get the latest posts.

Agree? Disagree? You can also e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com or reply in the comments section below.

Can’t Build Around Bynum

Andrew Bynum isn’t even 25 years old yet.

The Los Angeles Lakers have been waiting for Andrew Bynum to mature for the past 5 seasons. He finally broke out this year as the 2nd best center in the NBA, putting up 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per game during the regular season. Dominating numbers from a dominating physical presence. But don’t let his physical stature and the numbers fool you, Bynum still possesses the mind of a child.

That mind is not going to change.

Andrew Bynum has been somewhat of an enigma all season for the Lakers. The infamous 3-point shot that sent him straight to the pine encapsulates most everything that Bynum is and has been for Los Angeles. After the benching, Bynum sulked for much of the game, refusing to join the huddle in team timeouts and subsequently played some uninspired 4th quarter basketball. He reacted to the situation like a petulant child.

Immaturity is a good excuse for only so long.

The young ancient Roman emperor Nero passed off his failings and cruelty to the public as youthful mistakes but it was said that this was more a fault of his character and not his age. The same could be said of Andrew Bynum, you know, minus the cruelty.

Last night, after another uninspired 10 point, 4 rebound performance from Bynum, he was questioned by the media about his expectations of a possible contract extension with the Lakers. Bynum would give an answer once again suggesting his inexperience got the better of him. He said that “I’m not sure,” and “It really doesn’t matter to me. I’ll play anywhere. I think for the most part I had a pretty decent season and then an OK postseason. Obviously this last game was the worst game I’ve probably played. It sucks, obviously, we’re going fishing. My focus is next year and coming back stronger, adding things to my game”

Inexperienced words from an inexperienced man.
This whole immaturity thing, ironically, is getting a little old for Andrew Bynum though. There has been no maturation for Bynum and it doesn’t appear as though there ever will be. His comments exhibit the signs of a kid who doesn’t learn. All he had to do was fake his undying devotion to the Lakers but he couldn’t do that.

As much as Orlando fans, or any fans for that matter really, would love to see Andrew Bynum in their teams’ jersey, he is not a player anyone should be building a franchise around.

Bynum is not a centrepiece. His game would indicate otherwise but his mind won’t ever catch up to his skills on the court. He insisted that he would continue to shoot 3’s after getting benched for the very act. He said that it doesn’t really matter where he’ll play. Most importantly, he continues to expose his lack of passion and concern for winning.

Despite playing with Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum doesn’t show up to work every day. It is more than a little distressing that with their playoff lives at stake, Bynum came up with 10 points, 4 rebounds and 0 blocks. The 10 points are not the issue because sometimes you don’t score, especially with Kobe taking 33 shots. The 4 rebounds and 0 blocks are what pop off the page.

When everything was on the line, the Lakers center came up with a Terrell Owens when he is mad at his quarterback type performance. Apathetic.

Don’t chalk up his poor play to immaturity that will mature sooner or later. Bynum has a body of work as evidence to the contrary. Immature is what Andrew Bynum is.

Until recently, Dwight Howard was applauded for his boyish charm and his juvenile attitude was seen as something that he would grow out of. I think it’s safe to say that ship has sailed. D-12’s infantile behaviour has already cost his franchise one of the best coaches in the NBA and in due time he will force the Magic to rebuild completely from scratch.

When you talk about championship material, Andrew Bynum is one of the last guys you would think of. Sometimes the light turns on for certain players like a flip has just been switched. For the past few years, it seemed as though the light just needed to be switched on for Andrew Bynum. Now it’s clear that the light in Bynum’s head is forever broken, never to be turned on.

Barring injuries, Andrew Bynum will carry on being one of the most productive centers in the NBA for years to come. He has been given too many gifts from the big man upstairs. A championship is by no means out of the question for whichever team Bynum ends up playing for as long as he is not the one leading the charge.

Some team will expect Andrew Bynum to eventually be the future of their franchise. But how can anyone expect Bynum to lead a group of players when he can’t even lead himself in the right direction?

Andrew Bynum’s true colours were revealed again last night and those colours aren’t piloting any team to an NBA championship.

You can follow me on Twitter @paintstheblack and subscribe to Painting the Black to get the latest posts.

Agree? Disagree? You can also E-mail Chris at cross_can15@hotmail.com or reply in the comments section below.

Super Teams are Super Bad for NBA

Competitive balance. That might be a phrase NBA fans will want to keep in mind for the future.

The media, fans and probably even David Stern love the idea of more super teams. Big players in big markets on big teams means big ratings, right? I mean, how crazy would a Heat-Laker final be with Chris Paul and Dwight Howard playing for LA?

Miami, Boston, New York, Los Angeles. The latest, most likely false, rumours speculate a move of disgruntled stars Chris Paul and Dwight Howard suiting up alongside Kobe Bryant in the purple and gold. A dream team of the best center, best point guard and best(?) shooting guard in the league is more than a little intriguing for even the most casual of NBA fans.

The idea of another “dream” team is no doubt intriguing but it is quite possibly the worst thing that could happen for the NBA.

It’s one of those slippery slope situations. Boston started it all with their OG big 3 followed by LBJ’s chosen destination and New York’s almost predictable failure in their attempt to create a super team dynasty.

The problem is, where’s the talent for the rest of the league?

Top tier talent comes at a premium but when that talent is concentrated in a few very select cities the premium becomes the non-existent. There won’t be any players left for the 25 or 26 other teams if this kind of ridiculousness persists.

It may be as much fun for you to keep up with super teams as it is for your girlfriend to keep up with the Kardashians but the obvious reality of the matter is that there is no NBA without the smaller market franchises. Competitive balance is already an issue in the NBA, especially in the Eastern Conference where a below .500 record can earn teams a lot more than a participant ribbon. Imagine what it would be like with a few more celebrity filled teams.

Amidst all the excitement, no one seems to be worrying about how the possibility of more super teams could severely affect the majority of NBA franchises. The league can’t work with 5, 6 or 7 teams carrying 3 or, dare I say, 4 superstars. The NBA is moving towards a league where glory driven superstars’ only hope of competing will be to put their egos aside and form a star-studded force of their own. It will become a classic case of ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.’

Oh yeah, the NBA will also feature 24 teams playing 82 meaningless games. 80% of fan bases won’t have anything more to cheer for than ‘fast to last!’ Sure, you can have your odd struggling franchises here and there, but a league full of them isn’t going to fly.

Chris Paul and Dwight Howard probably won’t end up in LA when it is all said and done but you can bet your bottom dollar that they will be offering their services to a contending team with other stars. Creating a legacy of your own is quickly becoming as popular as pogs have been in the last decade.

Too many fan bases without a star player to root for is a scary thought. The draft won’t be enough to compensate 20 plus teams’ inability to contend for a title. Hope is the one consolation for struggling teams but if the NBA continues to steer in this direction there won’t be enough hope to go around.

The occupy protestors should get where I’m coming from. The NBA will be the professional sports’ model of class stratification. Those franchises left out of the NBA’s super team exclusive country club won’t know what hit them. Soon enough they will be sleeping in tents outside David Stern’s office protesting the NBA’s 1% elite.

The NFL thrives on competitive balance and a constant influx of new playoff teams from year-to-year. Granted, football is much a much more team oriented sport than basketball and if you don’t believe me then you might want to look at the Philadelphia Eagles. Nevertheless, competitive balance, more than anything, ensures unwavering interest from fan bases from teams 1 to 30. Competitive balance is a big part of what increases the NFL’s already massive pool of money seasons after season.

NBA fans should stop supporting the prospect of more star-studded teams because in the long run it might just be the thing that kills the sport. A league of super team normality won’t spark the same interest that the Miami Heat have and still are generating. Individually the smaller market teams don’t mean much to the league but as a collective unit they are everything.

Competitive balance?

I wouldn’t mind a little more of that in the coming years.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will happily return the favour.

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