A Basketball Decision – Familiar Faces and Free Agent Races

Clippers Owner Donald T. Sterling resisted a trade with Memphis on draft day. Sterling said a trade would only be made if it were a “basketball decision.”

Good morrow, Zach Randolph. The Clips need Blake Griffin, the first pick overall in last Thursday’s draft to put some minutes under his belt. Yes, trading you for Quentin Richardson was a steal. But if it weren’t you, it would have been Mr. Chris Kaman, leaving the Clips with an aging (35 years old) and injury prone Marcus Camby. If it weren’t Kaman, it would have been Mr. Camby, leaving the Clips with an undependable Kaman, something they’ve tried before, unsuccessfully.

Although Griffin will receive a crash course in the big leagues, the Clips can now run a little more. Randolph was a half-court player. Griffin is quick and strong; he loves to cut.

Clippers fans may be a little perturbed by the move. Randolph was a premier player (averaged 20.9 points a game in his short tenure with the Clippers.) However, Clippers Head Coach Mike Dunleavy will no longer have to worry about Randolph growing upset over splitting minutes with a budding player.

So, really, this move makes sense. And although Sterling will likely stand by his “basketball decision” explanation, the move does help the team fiscally. Randolph was under contract for two more seasons at just over $30 million. Richardson (who comes back to the Clippers after a short absence) was on the last year of his deal, worth $8.7 million. With their payroll below the salary cap after this season, the Clippers will be in a much better position in the 2010 free-agent market.

Another Run

The Lakers are well beyond celebratory hi-fives and bottle popping. It’s all business again over at Staples.

The Lakers front office is breathing a little easier as Kobe Bryant just recently decided to opt into the final season of his contract. According to the LA Times, Bryant will ink a three-year extension with the Lakers later this summer.

However, two question marks remain. Tighten those ties, management. What’s going to happen with forwards Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza? Both players are being heavily shopped and with the NBA trade season well underway, it is likely one or both players will bid Los Angeles adieu.

Odom has been criticized for taking games off. But he is still 6-10. He can still handle the ball decently. He can still hit a 3-pointer now and again. I don’t care how much candy he eats or how inconsistent he is, Odom sits atop this year’s list of free agents.

Still, there are a number of free agents that could quench GMs’ thirst for top talent at a low price. Odom does not fall into this category. It is more than likely Odom does not see an offer that pulls him from the Lakers bench.

Ariza, who sizzled in the playoffs, is coming off the best season of his career. He’s a good defender and a decent 3-point shooter. More than that, he’s young and athletic. Ariza is more likely to see a big offer and may see himself in the Eastern Conference next season.

So, what happens if one of these gentlemen leaves Los Angeles? Call me crazy, but Ron Artest is on the market. Yes, the mo-hawk wearing, foul mouthed having, recording studio wasting Artest is available. With Yao Ming out next season (broken foot), the Rockets are already looking to make some moves. Houston’s front office would be making a huge mistake if they deemed Artest their No. 1 player. They’re more likely to let Artest walk than trade guard Tracy McGrady.  Perhaps the player that made Staples Center groan in the playoffs will have Lakers fans cheering and shaving all but part of their heads. Perhaps.

The free agent market is a little bland overall, but with the moves teams are making; this next month or so is sure to be interesting.

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