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Thursday, January 26, 2006 

Ricky Don't Lose that Flight Number (And Other NBA Happenings)

The NBA season is starting to get interesting.

The Ron Artest deal might have started a domino effect, as another big deal was announced Thursday night. The Boston Celtics will receive Wally Szczerbiak, Michael Olowakandi, Dwayne Jones, and a conditional first round pick while Ricky Davis, Mark Blount, Marcus Banks, Justin Reed, and two conditional second round picks are headed to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

First off, let me be honest: Tyree Ricardo Davis IV is a Noobsports favorite. You've gotta love a guy who throws down 360 degree dunks with regularity, who first dunked in a game as 6-foot tall 8th grader, who jumped almost completely over Steve Nash during one thunderdunk, and who once missed a shot at his own basket on purpose at the end of a blowout victory while attempting to complete a triple-double. However, two memories from his days in Cleveland stand out above and beyond even those great moments. On a fast break, Tyree tomahawked, was fouled, and turned to the TV camera and loudly screamed "OH, SHIT!!!" several times. It was absolutely perfect, almost as if he were as amazed by his athletic gifts as the crowd was. But perhaps his greatest moment came during a timeout when Davis told then-teammate Tyrone Hill that he looked like a shark (funny because it's true). Plus, the man is a fourth generation Tyree, which is pretty outstanding.

Having said that, the critics of Davis' game have a point. He can play thoughtless basketball and he admits that he "can get caught up sometimes, in (his) own world." Despite good scoring totals, he has been traded several times and has never played winning basketball at the NBA level. Still, the Boston Celtics were able to net a 20 point per game scorer, an expiring contract, and a first round pick in exchange for him. So which team does the trade favor: Boston or Minnesota?

Everyone knows Tyree is dynamic and that Wally can shoot, so let's go to the stats. This season Tyree IV is averaging 19.7 points, 5.3 assists, and 4.7 rebounds in 41.7 minutes per game while Wally World averages 20.1 points, 2.8 assists, and 4.8 rebounds in 39.0 minutes. Both players are enjoying very good years and the stats do not drastically favor either player. And while Mark Blount might be able to score a bit, the other players in the deal are secondary and I won't waste any of your time examining them.

This trade slightly favors the Timberwolves for a couple of a reasons. First off, Danny Ainge has now made the Celtics the worst defensive team in the NBA, outside of Seattle. Wally is a complete liability on defense; he ranks somewhere between Toni Kukoc and Cedric Ceballos. Plus, Szczerbiak's contract is a monster, larger even than that of Mark Blount, and Tyree IV is far more durable. However, the main reason I like this deal is that I expect the trade to please Kevin Garnett. He never got along with Sczcerbiak and has been rumored to be unhappy in Minny. Tyree Ricardo Davis IV's energy and defense might prove to be contagious, as long as the Big Ticket is on board. As Kevin McHale said Thursday night, "Chemistry's a strange thing. When you've got it, everybody plays a little better. When you don't have it, everybody plays a little worse." True enough. Because of KG's attitude alone, this trade was a worthy gamble for the 'Wolves.

(By the way, why is it that NBA owners find former NBA players to be the best candidates to run their franchises? There are cases where this works out, with Jerry West, Larry Bird and Joe Dumars as prime examples, but what business do Danny Ainge, Kevin McHale, Elgin Baylor, Isaiah Thomas, and Kobe Bryant have running a pro team? Pro baseball and football teams rarely have former players in the front office. Are NBA players typically smarter than other pro athletes? Is it a ploy by David Stern to keep NBA legends around the game???)

Former Hawks Finding Their Way
- The backcourt of the 2003-2004 St. Joseph's team that made it to the Elite 8 is now finding success in the NBA. Jameer Nelson and Delonte West were selected in the first round of the 2004 NBA draft, 20th and 24th respectively, and both are now contributing as second year players. Over the last month West has put up 14.1 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 4.8 assists while starting at the point for Boston. Fantasy basketball players love that he is shooting 52% from the field, 84.5% from the line, and 42.9% from three-point land on the year. In Disney World, Nelson emerged as an important part of the Magic's future before spraining his foot on January 21. Over the past month Nelson checks in with 20.7 points, 6.7 assists, and 1.7 steals per game while shooting an impressive 51.7% from the field. If Jameer makes it back quickly from his injury, I should be well on my way to a fantasy basketball title.

Pacers Lose O'Neal
-Jermaine O'Neal will be out at least 8 weeks after he tore his left groin. Although the injury will probably not require surgery, it is a huge blow for Indiana. At a time when they should be invigorated by the addition of Peja Stojakovic, the Pacers are once again reeling. There is no truth to the rumor that Rick Carlisle was found wandering the streets of Indianapolis with an empty bottle of Cisco Red, wondering aloud if he would ever be able to coach a team at full strength.