Monday, January 10, 2005
Acquired guard Doug Christie from the Sacramento Kings for guard
Cuttino Mobley and center Michael Bradley.
When I heard about this trade, I had to do a double take.
I don't know about the rest of you, but my first reaction was this: Magic GM John Weisbrod should be drawn and quartered for throwing away his young talent like this. Couldn't he get any more for Cuttino Mobley, a sharpshooting perimeter player with good hands on defense, surrounded by positive buz, who was just entering the prime of his career? Was 34-year-old Doug Christie really the best offer they could get? Did they have to add a promising young big man to the deal in order to make it happen? Did they even talk to anyone else?
In effect, I thought, didn't this mean that the Magic had traded Michael Bradley, Tyronn Lue and Tracy McGrady for Steve Francis, Doug Christie, and Kelvin Cato? Was I missing something?
My first reaction was that this deal was good for neither team.
After much chatter this offseason about trading either Webber or Stojakovic to improve clubhouse chemistry in Sacramento, I was shocked to see that the Kings would move one of the league's "good guys," a Pepperdine alum who liked Sacramento, liked his teammates, was liked by his teammates, and who had a long history of distributing the rock, stroking the three, playing league-best man-up D, and being an overall efficiency monster.
I wondered what the Kings stood to gain by adding an undersized SG, a low-percentage FG shooter at SG whose primary value was in shooting the spot up three and taking advantage of easy defensive assignments to get into passing lanes. With Bibby and Stojakovic--both outstanding outside shooters with limited abilities--on the perimeter, I didn't see what the Kings stood to gain by acquiring Cuttino, a primarily offensive player who plays a brand of basketball similar to Bibby and Stojakovic without being nearly as good at it.
That being the case, and knowing that Mobley was surely owned by someone one of league, my first practical reaction was to check my league's waiver wire to see if Doug Christie was available, expecting him to step into big-time starter's minutes as a defensive specialist in Orlando. Sure, he was showing symptoms of abrupt decline... but surely, I thought, 30+ minutes a night and a primary role would be enough to squeeze some more life out of those knees?
The trade started to make a little more sense when I read some of Weisbrod's commentary surrounding the trade. Apparently, the Magic had no intention of giving Doug Christie 30+ minutes a night, and that this was a move based ideas like "team chemistry" and "team concept" more than it was on pure talent. It's a bold move, to be sure, and arguably a foolish one, but at least it's a kind of logic that I can understand.
What I had forgotten about was the six year, $39 million deal that the Magic had given to one Hedo Turkoglu in the offseason, right after they pulled the trigger on the T-Mac trade. It would make sense to sign Hedo to this deal before the T-Mac deal, but it still baffles the mind to pay $6.5 million per to a guy who had never played more than 26 average minutes in a season and who, once, barely eked out a scoring average of 10, who you intend to sit on your bench. Presumably, the Mag intended to give the Mad Turk some run, but the acquisition of two must play guards in Francis and Mobley, to go along with a supposedly rejuvenated Grant Hill, made this an impossibility.
It seems to be an unfortunate rule of thumb in front offices everywhere (except maybe in Memphis, where Jerry West does whatever the hell he thinks is right at any given time, you can kiss his ass about his "mistakes" if you want) to stand by your well-paid mistakes, to talk them up, to play them silly, and to let overall team performance suffer in the meantime, in the hopes that the inexplicably bad performance of the product on the court will distract from the poor decision-making that produced it. Ricky Davis, Antoine Walker, Allan Houston, Adonal Foyle... the list goes on and on.
Appearances led us to believe that Weisbrod was not buying into that philosophy.
Yes, before the trade, the Magic were giving their $6.5 million man about 25 minutes per night, to which he was responding with about 12 points a game on 41% and nothing--I mean nothing--else. This is the kind of deal that, in layman's terms, makes a GM look like an asshole, not necessarily to the fans, but to the guy the writes the checks, including his own.
Did Weisbrod now believe that Hedo was a bust, a [bad] spot-up shooter with no vertical and no D, an unfortunate bad signing who probably wasn't worth $6.5 million in a tough-to-predict offseason free agent market? Was he not destined for major burn?
Weisbrod had ample reason to maintain the status quo, after all. Despite the naysaying, the Magic were 18-14 at the time of the trade, and were within three wins of their total from last season. Dwight Howard was developing nicely, Hedo was hitting his fill-in treys, Grand Hill was running, at full stride, for several games on end, and Francis and Mobley seemed to be enjoying--one another, of course--but career resurgences, as well. Mobley wasn't playing nearly the 40 minutes to which he had been accustomed, but hey, the results appeared to be there.
But for some reason, Weisbrod wanted to shake things up.
Was there a fly in the ointment here?
Cuttino Mobley--a major piece of the trade in which the Magic lost the [throat clear] best player in the NBA--would have to be relegated to the role of "bench player" in order to make time for Turkoglu. Not only could this have looked weak for Weisbrod, he would have to convince Coach Johnny Davis to actually do it--and it is more than believable that Davis preferred to play Mobley. Steve Francis liked Mobley; damn he enjoyed playing with that man... A lot. Some of you may get a kick out of the degree of man-love spouted by an angry Francis after hearing of the trade:
"I can't put it into words," he said. "Playing with a guy, living with a guy, just knowing that every day when I wake up that's something I can count on, that I'm going to be in practice or in a game with Cuttino.
Him not being here is going to be tough for me. I don't know what I'm going to wake up for." -AP
. He doesn't know what he's going to wake up
for? Seems like he's taking the loss of his "backcourt" partner a little to hard, wouldn't you say?
To which Weisbrod:
"We're trying to get Steve into a totally new way of playing basketball, a five-man outlook, and obviously that becomes difficult when you have someone there that you are so accustomed to and familiar with," Weisbrod said. "Sometimes Cuttino and his familiarity could be a crutch for Steve. It's hard to lose that, but I think (Francis) will be better for it."
, John, stop winking at me. I think... I get... the point.
Weisbrod wanted Mobley out of the mix for a number of reasons, none of which related to him not being good enough to play on this team. Unsurprisingly, Weisbrod suspected this wouldn't go over well with either coach or player. "There were storm clouds on the horizon," Weisbrod said. "Cuttino's minutes were going to go down and not up and I'm not sure he would have been happy with playing 20 to 24 minutes a night."
So not only was there reason to believe that Hedo wasn't getting the burn his contract demanded, management believed that Mobley was, in effect, a bad influence on Francis on the court (and maybe off the court?). So they got rid of Mobley. Because Francis passed the ball to him too much, apparently, instead of inside, to those beastly low post offensive madmen known as Kelvin Cato and Dwight Howard.
At the time of the trade, nobody seemed particularly happy. Even the notorious Christies shed a tear for Sacramento.
With Hill in the lineup, it becomes a natural move. Make Hedo a big 2 to go along with the newly fleet Hill, and everything's gravy. You've got Doug Christie to come in off the bench and play the tightest of D against front line starters who are getting tired. Right?
Happenings since the trade really have made it look like a success for both sides.
In The Cut
Cuttino has averaged 17.5, 4, and 4 to go along with 2.5 threes and 1.8 steals in Sacramento, and he's doing it at almost 44%. Playing his old 40 minutes again, both Cuttino and the Kings seem to be loving it. Offensive has always been their bag, baby, and Cuttino--accurate perimeter jump shooter, "pesky defender"--does look a lot like his fellow perimeter Kings. But so what? If you can keep up with that company, you're in good shape. Sacramento is an offense factory, and there's no reason why the whole starting five--Webber, Brad Miller, Mike Bibby, Peja Stojakovic and Cuttino Mobley--can't sustain or even improve their levels of productivity. Mobley's fantasy owners, feel free to rejoice: your man is going to get his minutes, once again, and it will be alongside much, much better passers and shooters than he had when he was playing 40 in Houston. By the way, it turns out Mobley's no spring chicken. He's 29, which isn't old--Doug Christie, he's a little old--but probably puts Mobley in his decline phase. Get those minutes while you can still run em, Cut.
HE SURE DO
Hedo Turkoglu is loving life right now.
News of the trade broke on January 10
. Hedo played his usual 25 minutes that night, backing up Cuttino Mobley. He went 0-9 from the field for 6 points, missed both his three attempts, one of his two free throws, grabbed 5 boards, threw in a dime and a couple of fouls, but basically, but basically, he stunk the place up.
The very next night, sans he played 43 minutes alongside Grant Hill, dropped 26 points on 8-16 from the field, 2-5 from three, made all eight of his fros, and threw in 6 boards, 4 assists, 2 steals, and two TOs, and the Mag beat the Wolves 87-80.
Since then, it's been off to the races for Hidayet, He's now played six games since the trade, and he's averaging 38.3 minutes a game. Hope he's dropped the smoking habit he picked up with Vlade and the Kings back in the day. It looks like he has. Over his past five games, Hedo's going for 20.8 points, 5.2 boards, 2.8 assists, .8 steals, only 1.8
turnovers, and 1.8 threes, all on .421 from the field--not good, but not crushing, compared to Mobley--and a whopping 91.2 from teh line on 6.8 attempts per game. Think that could help your FT?
Hedo's a keeper. He'll score from here on out, with a bunch of threes, a bad FG percentage, a great FT percentage, low turnovers, and no D.
This is Doug's only nickname, which is unsurprising, considering he's just about the whitest-bread guy you'll find
who has that many tattoos. Apparently his relationship with his wife bugs a lot of people out, and even I have to admit, it seems a little outrageous. She's been called a nutcase by more than one. Jackie Christie's mother lives with them. Jackie insists that their love is "boundless and free." You get the idea...
The point is, DC's on a leash, and the leash looked like it was going to follow him to Orlando, both on and off the court.
Since coming to ORL, his production has fallen off dramatically. His minutes have been cut from 32.1 to 24.0, and the rest of his stats--playable, before, are now killing you in every category except for steals, which is really the only place he's making his money in his new bench role.
Stop the presses!!!! Apparently, Grant Hill has a cyst in his wrist. This was revealed after the MRI supposedly came back "negative." Hmmm... This injury has also been referred to as a "bruised right wrist." Concealment happens around injuries all the time, and this seems no exception. It usually means they're hiding something worse. For what it's worth, Grant doesn't sound worried; he should be able play "as long as it's not this ankle right here." Yikes. Tap some wood, son.
I'm not joking and I'm not rooting against Grant Hill, but Doug Christie could very well be stepping into some serious minutes, seriously soon, and for a long time to come. Something about Grant Hill's joints does not inspire confidence in me. He might be a good speculative add to replace Hill's all-around game... you'll lose some scoring, but you'll gain some threes and steals.
In the end, it seems that everyone wins... Except for Grant Hill. That guy is cursed.
The Dime Dropper