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Josh Childress - For Less than the MLE? I Did Not See That Coming

There's a lot I don't understand.  I freely admit that.  For instance, how can light be both a particle and a wave?  Or fried ice cream.  How can you fry ice cream?

When free agency started, the early contract signings were all through the roof.  Drew Gooden 5/$32M, Amir Johnson 5/$34M, Rudy Gay and Joe Johnson maxed out, Paul Pierce 4/$61M, etc.  For the Clippers, the fact that they needed a quality small forward, and that the top names in that category were being paid these un-FSM-ly sums, the implication was that it was unlikely they would be able to fill the position on the cheap.

With LeBron James never a realistic option and Gay thankfully off the market, many in Clips Nation turned their attention to a sleeper candidate, who wasn't really that much of a sleeper at all:  Josh Childress.  Childress was a restricted free agent who had left the Hawks to play in Europe two summers ago.  The original concern that the Hawks would match any reasonable offer went away when Johnson signed his mega-deal - no way the Hawks could actually afford to pay Childress at that point.  But the fact remained that if Travis Outlaw was worth 5/$35M to the Nets and Wes Matthews was worth 5/$33M to the Trailblazers, then Childress was bound to get a LOT more than that.  Right?

Clips Nation cap watchers were doing the math on the Ryan Gomes, Randy Foye and Brian Cook deals, trying to figure out if the team still had enough money to sign Sofoklis Schortsanitis AND make a competitive offer to Childress.  Would $8M per year be enough?  Or would it take $9M or $10M? 

So the 5/$30M contract that Childress reportedly is signing with the Phoenix Suns is DEFINITELY another thing that I don't understand.

What happened?  Did I overvalue Josh Childress?  If so, I wasn't the only one.  On Tom Ziller's original list of the top 50 free agents this summer, he listed Childress 11th, after 10 guys who each signed for at least $75M.  That's also about where Chad Ford of ESPN (insider requierd) had Childress ranked.  Now, I'll admit that there was a drop off after the top ten guys, but there are also many players who got more money (both per year and total) than Childress at the end of the day. 

It's entirely possible that NBA GM's are just as dumb as they've always been.  Childress' game is not flashy - for instance, he scores fewer points than Travis Outlaw.  But he does it in a much more efficient manner than Trout, while also being a better rebounder, defender, passer...  well, pretty much everything.  Nonetheless, points per game has always been the stat that seems to get the attention and the money, and while I thought that was changing, maybe the change is coming more slowly than I believed.

Or maybe it's a case of "out of sight, out of mind".  Childress has been playing for Greek team Olympiakos the last two seasons.  Did his absence from the NBA depress his market value?  When JChill opted for Greece two summers ago, it was because he couldn't get a contract higher than the 5/$36M that the Hawks had offered.  That was in a market where very few teams had money to spend.  Two years later, with teams across the NBA awash in cap space and wielding huge trade exceptions, Childress actually takes LESS?  Sure, he's two years older, but simple economics would seem to indicate that he'd get more, and certainly everything else we've seen this summer has indicated a signficant inflationary trend (Hakim Warrick, 1/$3M 7/09 vs. 4/$18M 7/10; Drew Gooden, 1/$45.M 7/09 vs. 5/$32M 7/10). 

So, no, I don't get it.  Were the Clippers in there, offering more for Childress?  I don't know, but it seems to me they should have been.  Unfortunately, I know very little about the players the Clippers may have targeted this summer.  It's also possible that JChill took less to play in Phoenix than he might have gotten elsewhere.  It wouldn't be the first time, as Phoenix has a player-friendly rep from way back (think Danny Manning).  I'm not sure the Robert Sarver Suns deserve that same rep, but these impressions can be long-lasting (which is why Donald Sterling will never rehab his image, no matter if or how much he changes). 

So it all seems strange and mysterious that Childress could end up in Phoenix at such a seeming discout.  What gives?  What are we missing?

Enter Lon Babby conspiracy theory.  Tom Ziller (the same guy that ranked Childress 11th among free agents) gives a nice, high level account of how Babby, the agent for Hedo Turkoglu and until recently for Childress, seems to have had a massive conflict of interest in the recent Suns transactions.  You see, Babby is the likely successor to Steve Kerr as GM in Phoenix. 

While Sarver chooses his GM -- a search in which Babby, Hedo's agent, is said to be the favorite -- coach Alvin Gentry is making these major, impactful decisions for the Suns. Babby surely sees a grand opportunity to set Hedo up well, with a competitive team who boasts a superlative point guard (Steve Nash) and a breezy, personable coach (Gentry). Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo doesn't have to be asked twice to sign off on such an agreeable deal. So the only folks to convince are Gentry and -- one would assume -- Sarver.

In other words, one man who could soon be answering to the agent pitching the trade and another who wants to hire the agent.

That may explain the Hedo angle, but I don't quite follow the Childress involvement - though Ziller did tweet this a little later:

Rejected headline for that Babby piece: "Did Hedo eat Josh Childress' big payday?"

It's all very intriguing, but I'm not sure I see a smoking gun here.  Something doesn't quite fit.  For one thing, if Babby is Childress' former agent, where is his current agent in all of this?  Talk about a guy with an interest in JChill getting the biggest possible payday.  As with the Brand/Falk situation in 2008, I find it hard to believe that these players can be so completely manipulated by their agents (who I readily accept as pure evil) that they lose sight completely of their own interests.  Childress went to Stanford (Brand to Duke) - he's not Lon Babby's puppet.

Just put the whole affair on the very long list of "Things I don't understand."