I put up this post yesterday just before the news about Blake Griffin's injury hit. Well... guess what? Elton Brand was scooped up off amnesty waivers today by... the Dallas Mavericks. You can read about that here or read my words from yesterday unedited below.
I know we've all moved on from the Clippers playoff team of 2005-06: the team with Sam Cassell in his last great year, the team with Corey Maggette and Quinton Ross fighting for minutes, the team with a suffocating defense that played a blistering and disappointing seven-game series against the Phoenix Suns. You remember. I remember. But we've moved on haven't we? We've rebuilt. We've got Chris Paul (for another year) and Blake Griffin and... and some other guys, right?
Only then, yesterday, stuff happened that indicated maybe I haven't entirely gotten over that team.
Late yesterday Chris Kaman tweeted that he was headed to the Dallas Mavericks to partner with his Team Germany comrade, Dirk Nowitski in a one year deal worth $8 million. So? Given that Kaman is a seven-footer who can rebound, play defense, and has a varieiy of nifty offensive moves, what's the big surprise? Well, given that Brooke Lopez just signed a four-year deal for sixty million, the Indian Pacers matched the Trail Blazers offer for Roy Hibbert at 4/58, and the Clippers are paying 42M over four for a center with significantly lesser abilities, Kaman's deal is extremely cheap. Because Chris Kaman is simply better than all those guys. Yes, he has a bad injury history and is significantly older than Lopez or Hibbert or Jordan, but these days, 8 million is short money for an NBA center.
Now, I'm not bitter about Chris Kaman... and I'm happy he's still around. He's always entertaining and sometimes a terrific basketball player. And I'm not bitter about Dallas either. They've had a disappointing offseason; after striking out hard on Deron Williams and Dwight Howard, after losing Jason Terry and Jason Kidd to free agency, they've seen some rough road. Suddenly Dallas has Dirk Nowitski and... and... nobody. A year after their NBA championship, four critical pieces of that team (including center Tyson Chandler) are gone.
Then, quickly, yesterday, they started rebuilding. First, they needed a point guard. They traded backup center Ian Mahimi to the Indiana Pacers for point guard Darren Collison and forward Dahntay Jones, a defensive-minded wing. I'm a little puzzled by the Indiana move: Collison was the starter there, right? And he played well, right? He's now been displaced and jettisoned in favor of George Hill... maybe not a drastic loss, but still a questionable move. But Collison's a good young point guard who backed up our own Chris Paul in New Orleans before moving to Indianapolis. And Jones is a solid rotation player on any team. Ian Mahinmi's a backup big... will spell the re-signed Hibbert. A starting point guard and a solid wing for a backup center?
Then Dallas signed Kaman and things are looking a little better again for the Mavs. Then the Mavs indicate that they're going to jettison the overpaid Brendan Haywood via amnesty. That's an expensive move but they have to dump Haywood's salary in order to make another move.
Late yesterday reports came out of Dallas that indicate that the Mavs are going to make an aggressive offer for Elton Brand. As we all know Brand was amnestied by the Philadelphia 76ers last week. Teams can now bid on his services. The reason the Mavs ducked under the cap was so they could bid on Brand.
And now the Mavs will (perhaps) field a team that features a big-man core of Elton Brand and Chris Kaman. And suddenly, for me, the whole world tilted. Not anything terrible, my stomach didn't turn over or anything, I'm just slightly bummed. It's like your old girlfriend, the special one, who, for a while anyway, seemed like everything. She was beautiful and cool and you guys lit it up. Only something went wrong... and the relationship came apart and slowly, inevitably crashed. Now it's years later and you've both moved on, you've both recovered. And you and the old girlfriend have reached a kind of distant rapprochement. You're even friends on Facebook. Then you find out she's getting married, and there's a pang of loss and regret and longing in your heart. And for a few minutes you feel a little lost. You get stuck in one of those "What if..." moments.
Of course Brand was never the player he was back in the '06. Kaman has barely played since his all star year. Sam Cassel lost his swagger and retired. And for the Mavs, Dirk is aging and wasn't nearly the player this past season that he was in his championship year. With Kaman, Nowitski, and Collison, the Mavs are an interesting team with big holes. With Brand they're flat out old. Can they challenge in the loaded west? Does a front-line of Brand-Kaman-Nowitzki even make sense?
But still... if it happens, it's going to be a bittersweet moment to see Elton Brand and Chris Kaman in the same uniform again... a uniform that's not Clipper red, white, and blue.