Wednesday, January 17, 2007

He Who Laughs Last...

First of all, now that the unexpected shock of this trade has receded, I’m still not excited about the players coming in but I can’t get myself riled up about any perceived imbalance with the deal either. Let’s face it, looking at the black and white numbers of a stat sheet, Golden State should feel very good about this trade and it appears their fans do. You have to check out the greatest trade analysis post in the history of the NBA blogosphere by Atma Brother #1 over at Golden State of Mind.

After reading AB #1’s hyped analysis, I had to go back and check the trade details. (Using Allen Iverson “Practice” tone of voice) We’re talking about Al Harrington and Stephen Jackson, man. We’re talking about Al Harrington and Stephen Jackson. I mean, I’ve seen about 35 Pacer games this year and I have no idea who they think they’re getting. Ironically, Al had one of his best performances at Golden State in a game the Pacers stole on a buzzer beating 3-ball by Stephen Jackson. Maybe they think that’s how those guys bring it every night.

I was planning to do a pro and con look at the players leaving, but GSOM covered all of the pros (and don’t get me wrong, these guys have value) I was thinking about and a few others even Al and Jack don’t realize they have. So to provide a little reality check for the Warrior faithful, I thought I’d point out a few areas of concern that may have led to Larry Joe Legend and Donnie Walsh saying, “Deal!”:

Josh Powell is a nice player to have on the bench. He played his way onto the roster in preseason with plenty of praise and comparison to Udonis Haslem of the Heat. Powell was a non-factor in the regular season, so there's nothing negative to say other than he's all potential at this point.

Saras (a bonus for me is not having to write around the word Jasikevicius) never seemed like the player we saw running around in the 2004 Olympics draining unconscious 3-balls. One problem that was exposed this year is that Cabages is more comfortable shooting from inside the arc in the NBA. He's only shooting .372 from 3-land this year (which is an improvment over last year). Another problem area is a serious lack of quickness. He is a well known defensive liability, which actually may not be a problem with Nellie Ball. Saras loves to dazzle with the pass and can on occasion. He also burps up turnovers that look pretty silly with the attempted dazzle. So you have a slow, two guard in a PG body who doesn't light it up from behind the arc. The freedom of Nellie Ball may just save his career, we'll see...

Al "The Big Thirst" Harrington served two tours of duty in Indy. He intitially arrived on a veteran team and was dubbed Baby Al. He even lived with Antonio Davis' family and had AD's wife pinning reminders to his shirt like her other kids. All that was expected of Al in his first few years was to work on his game and be the face of the future for the Pacers. Well, with all of that work and no play, Baby Al was a little too excited when he got his chance. He had so much to prove, his mind would race ahead of his body. He wanted (actuall still wants) to be an All-Star level player but just couldn't put it all together and with Artest in the lineup, Al's chance to start wasn't going to happen.

Al went to Atlanta and played well, which I think was due to the fact that all of those people back in Indy that he wanted to impress weren't around. He had a fresh start and was able to show what he could do. Then he returns to Indy with the confidence from his play in Atlanta. Now he can prove he's the player everyone expected to eventually develop. The problem is, he's not quite as good as he thinks he is. Al's shooting an incredible percentage from behind the arc this year, but he still gets ahead of himself and out of control when he's trying to finish. His overall FG% matches his 3 pt% and I guarantee you most of the misses inside the arc are on bunnies within 3-4 feet of the bucket.

So, there is a lot to like about Al's game but he's inconsistent. Some nights he plays like the Big Thirst and other nights he plays like Baby Al. Obviously, the change of scenery will help him the most, but don't expect him to accept a straight play defense and rebound role. He wants to be the man and will go into a funk when he's not getting his touches. We just went through this act a couple of weeks ago when he told us he'd go "Artest" which, in the context he was using it, meant to force the action when the had the ball in order to get off some shots. Great smile, great guy and for that will be missed.

Stephen Jackson, like Al, is high maintenance. He plays on an emotional edge which is anything but steady. This also leads to inconsistent production when you sometimes have to ask, "What is Jack doing out there?" He has been on his best behavior this year, so the stop in his tracks complaining has been minimized (which is tough because the guy gets absolutely no calls). But with the new emphasis on complaining and the little issue of TWO PENDING COURT DATES, you can tell he's making an effort to project a positive image. Give him credit, he's done pretty well, only getting suspended once for insubordination. Not bad. The off the court image issue with the Pacers and fans is blatant so there's not much else to say. One final point of concern is that there are far more opportunities for trouble in Oaktown than in Indy.

On the court, Jack is a 6'8" shooting guard but he rarely plays that big. In fact, Carlisle recently lamented the fact that Al and Jack don't impose the physical size mismatch against their opponents often enough. Post play just is not their forte. Jack is a classic streaky shooter which works if you can get him to stop shooting when he's cold, although that's not an easy task.

Bottom line with Jack is, his play couldn't make up for the poor light he cast on the franchise during training camp. I see negotiations playing out like this:

Mully said, "OK, how about Powell, Saras, Harrington and...Stephen Jackson."

Bird replied, "Excuse me, did you say Jackson?"

Mully, "Yes."

Bird, "Deal! Now who are we getting?"

Good luck to all of the former Pacers and good luck to all Warrior fans. I hope you make the playoffs.

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