Ah, January. The air is brisk, the sun is low, and I get to point and laugh while my brethren up north of the Mason-Dixon line actually have to shovel their driveways and such. Yes, I'm enjoying my 55 degree weather, thankyouverymuch.
But for the league as we know it, winter presents a trying time. The Great Coaching Purge of 2007 already took out nearly every likely coaching casualty imaginable, so we're left with players and coaches pointing fingers and no single, decisive move to send a message without a big name trade. The Lakers and the Cavs are sitting pretty, smug in their rockers next to the fire clad in Snuggies, but the rest of the teams in the association have been left punch-drunk, desperately trying to get their car started in the middle of a snow storm. They've all got their problems, and with almost half of the season behind us the true feelings and the struggling ball clubs that just reek of desperation are hustling together a laundry list of flaws and excuses. So while everyone is good and grumpy from all the red herrings, rumors become mushroom clouds and a throwaway line in a post-game interview suddently becomes a headline. Now that everyone's good and pissed, let's talk frustration.
Mark Cuban proves that even the league can get its panties in a bunch around this time of year, after his confrontation with J.R. Smith from Tuesday's Nuggets-Mavs game. An owner confronts an opposing player. On face value, that sure seems like a damn near inexcusable action. But that also assumes some sort of run-of-the-mill, standard owner. That Cuban is not. The man is more than a super fan because well, he pays for this gig. He foots the bill. That entitles him to certain privileges. Now, if you want him to self appoint himself an "assistant coach" or whatever so that he can sit on the bench, so be it. But frankly, I fail to see the alarm in Cuban talking to a player on another team. Yes, I am a Mavericks fan, and yes, I am somewhat of a fan of Cuban himself. But he didn't exactly rush J.R. ready to quarrel. Cubes is vigilant, but I'd hardly call him violent. So while the owner confronting the player on an opposing team is pretty unorthodox, I'd say that all the fuss over this is much ado about a non-incident that shouldn't even be mentioned. Cuban's mad because J.R. threw an elbow, J.R.'s probably mad because Cuban rejected his peace offering, and everybody else is mad because Cuban was being Cuban. Bah humbug.
Meanwhile, Yao might not exactly be opposed to Moore's central thesis regarding T-Mac. Trouble is certainly brewing in Houston. It's clear that something needs to be done and McGrady would be the most obvious domino to fall, but I only hope that his stands as independently as it seems. I'd hate to see that a team that "seems better" without McGrady only seems that way. Morey and Adelman are smart guys, and if a move is made I'm confident it will be a good, calculated one. Still, would it be all that surprising if the Rox stood pat with what they've got, and hoped for a better string of luck with injuries and on-court chemistry? That move (or, lack of a move, I guess) would seem pretty ridiculous to the lot of us, but as usual, we're not GMs. Yet.
I'm not sure who's more unhappy with the situation in Detroit: Rip Hamilton or me. Few things infuriate me more than the Pistons' fascination with the small ball style, especially because this move is neither born of previously determined plan of attack or desperation. They aren't the Warriors or the Knicks, teams that naturally run a bit small as part of their strategy. They're no longer overcoming a string of injuries to various rotation players. The troops are healthy and the big men are capable; it's time to get rid of this Tayshaun Prince as power forward sh*t. Although, I will gladly say that some good has come of it. Bet you didn't know Emily Dickinson was a Detroit fan, did you? (Apparently, Rip has conceded some ground and taken the "team first" approach. Now let's hope Curry actually listens. Hat tip to Watson at DBB.)
Keep your wits about you, NBA heads. The trade rumors are still a-flyin', and there's plenty of blame to go 'round, but it won't be too long until Spring will be upon us and we'll all be smitten with trade deadline acquisition puppy love. That Shawn Marion is so dreamy!