For years, Collins (R) served a designated Hack-a-Shaq (Associated Press)
Until someone finds the fountain of youth (or a new undetectable steroid), aging NBA players will be forced out of their job every offseason. Basketball is a young man’s game, and a failure to compensate for lost athleticism will guarantee an early retirement.
T̶r̶a̶c̶y̶ ̶M̶c̶G̶r̶a̶d̶y̶, Gilbert Arenas, and Michael Redd washed out of the NBA this year, despite none of the three being older than 33. General managers now prefer to run an untested body rather than play a has-been who commands a higher salary (veteran minimum deals for a 30-something are roughly $1.4 million, compared to $490,180 for an undrafted rookie, according to Hoopsworld). Injury histories and oversized egos are also major factors.
Whose NBA career will be cut short in the next six months? Excluding Grant Hill, Jerry Stackhouse, and Rasheed Wallace (all expected to retire), here are the most likely candidates:
Delonte West and LeBron James share a delicate moment (Associated Press)
“Did you have sex with my mom?”
A question no one deserves to say. But for LeBron James, the thought at least crossed his mind in 2010, as rumors swirled that teammate Delonte West shacked up with Gloria James. Many people still believe the story, using the logic there is no evidence to disprove it (or prove it otherwise).
Ricky Rubio (L) and Kyrie Irving (M) look set for a rematch (Gary Bogdon/EPA)
We mistimed the Mayan apocalypse, but it won’t prevent us from making new predictions. Houston will host the NBA Rising Stars Challenge which features the league’s most promising rookie and sophomore players (click here for rosters). To basketball enthusiasts, this is the most intriguing event in All Star weekend, so here is a guess of what to expect in the sloppy offensive showcase:
Green remains steady as ever (Erik Lesser)
Last Tuesday, Bessie Cooper died in a Georgia nursing home at age 116. Nearly as impressive as her longevity was Willie Green’s start on Saturday, his 16th of the season and the 242nd in his 10 year NBA career. Green was never expected to crack an NBA rotation or even seize a roster spot, but his determination was too much to ignore. A decade after his first professional basket, the shooting guard is filling a pivotal role for a contending Clippers team.
Livingston before the accident (NBA.com)
If you were born in the 20th century, you most likely witnessed an American tragedy. On February 26, 2007, NBA point guard Shaun Livingston collapsed from a layup attempt and obliterated his left knee in what was arguably the most grotesque sports injury in United States history. Prior to the disaster, Livingston was heralded as a basketball prodigy, drawing comparisons to the multifaceted Magic Johnson. Since his axle snapped, it’s been an uphill climb to remain relevant on the court.
Kidd’s tank is running on fumes (Daily Knicks)
In Titanic, Kate Winslet promised Leonardo DiCaprio she would never let go. Her assurance was meaningless. In New York, Jason Kidd believes he can play effective basketball until he’s 42. These are long odds, but the 18 year NBA veteran’s words hold more weight than his peers. Kidd signed a 3 year, $9 million contract in July, hoping the Knicks would serve as a retirement home.
While Kidd is slated to come off the bench, his ability to make plays and stops is a crucial factor to New York’s upcoming campaign, because starter and fellow import Raymond Felton’s effort is questionable. Their division features star point men Deron Williams, Kyle Lowry, Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday, so the 10 time NBA All Star will be eventually needed to slow them down.
After 14 appearances with the Heat, Curry is a free agent (Getty Images)
According to various studies, the US adult population will be nearly 50% obese in 2030. It would be safe to include Eddy Curry in the demographic. The 29 year old center is jobless, in part to a decade-long struggle with buffet addiction. Curry’s avidity for food helped him cope with personal tragedies throughout his career, but he faces a crossroads after playing only 24 NBA games since 2008. Following a failed tryout with Brooklyn in August, it’s now or never to contact Jenny Craig and resume filling buckets.
The Cleveland Cavaliers and the NBA lottery are well-acquainted (Getty Images)
Germany, November 10, 1938. To German and Austrian Jews who survived to see the morning, there was no imminent hope in the aftermath of Kristallnacht. Fast forward to today, and a majority of NBA general managers acknowledge the necessity of collective team suffrage, before great times return. For a handful of NBA clubs, bad times may equate to tweaking personnel and treading water on the cusp of the playoffs, but for others, it means tearing down the roster and establishing an indefinite presence in the NBA cellar. A GM’s recognition to hit the reset button on a stalling franchise requires maturity, patience, and a sparkly new vision.
Brand and Kaman are reunited (Getty Images)
I meet too many kids who despise used toys. My Hot Wheels showed damage, but they got the job done.
The same truth applies to NBA big men in their 30s. The mileage on athletes’ bodies can be offset by greater familiarity with NBA tricks and schemes. The accumulated wisdom of Elton Brand and Chris Kaman attracted the attention of the Dallas Mavericks, who have failed to replace Tyson Chandler’s towering presence. Brand and Kaman, 33 and 30 years old respectively, are slowing down in a young man’s sport, but they hold a wild card. The duo banged low together at an All-Star level with the Los Angeles Clippers for five seasons, and bring invaluable experience to the Mavericks. More importantly, their styles of play will mesh with the current roster, and ease the pressure off Dirk Nowitzki to carry the squad on another playoff run.
Thornton resides on the bench (Associated Press)
The Bayou Bomber is not familiar with mercy. His contested jump shot shanks opponents’ souls. In the basketball life, Marcus Thornton knows his offense can win games in dramatic fashion. Entering his third season in Sacramento, fans have fallen in love with his fearless fourth quarter demeanor.
While the Baton Rouge native can lay claim to be an exceptional scorer, his presence has muddled the future of 2009 lottery pick Tyreke Evans. The enormously talented but inconsistent Evans shares the same natural position as Thornton, so Kings management continues to speculate whether the two shooting guards can coexist.
The answer is yes, but to avoid the stagnation of ball movement, it would be wise for one player to accept a bench role. That man should be Thornton, because he plays with a chip on his shoulder. Thornton can redefine the sixth man role and reshape his legacy by finding the humility to start a game sitting down.