Finally, the last issue of the summer is upon us, which will also close the chapter on another summer of player movement in the NBA. There are moves still to be done, questions to be answered and contracts worth talking about. All this, and the NBA season doesn’t start until the end of October. Either way, it was another exciting week.
Ruben Patterson. As I said last week, Patterson is a very good player for the Trail Blazers. For a team who lacked intensity and heart last season, Patterson gives them just that. He’s young and athletic, and he gives the Blazers a very tough defender for the likes of Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter and other versatile players who gave the team fits last season.
Patterson is known as the Kobe-stopper, judging by the head-to-head statistics with Bryant where Kobe has been 10 points below his average when the two meet. Patterson won’t dazzle you with a jumper or mid-range game, but his hustle and all-out effort make him a similar match to Jerome Kersey. He says the off-court trouble is behind him. His wife said she supports her husband 100 percent. I’m not condoning what Patterson did in any way or form, but the man made a mistake. He has paid deeply for it, and will continue to pay deeply for it. It’s time to move on, and I believe Patterson has.
Gary Payton. Is the rumor about Payton coming to Portland true, or is it just that; a rumor? It’s hard to say, but I believe one thing holds up a Payton trade: Vin Baker. No team wants any part of Baker and the remaining $66 million on his contract, and the Sonics are including Baker in any package with Payton.
Baker, another casualty of the lockout three years ago, gained weight and never was the same player he was five years ago when the Sonics traded for him. Payton on the other hand, has already said his goodbyes to Seattle. He and his agent Aaron Goodwin, sent out a thank you letter to all of Seattle from Payton, thanking them for his time as a Sonic. Think he wants out? The deal people keep hearing about is Bonzi Wells, Dale Davis, Damon Stoudamire and Zach Randolph for Payton and Baker: won’t happen people.
That’s the most ludicrous thing I’ve ever heard. I guarantee you Bob Whitsitt won’t pull the trigger on that. In fact, it’s been said that new Blazer coach Maurice Cheeks likes Stoudamire and will make him a better player. Prediction: will Payton be headed to Portland? I don’t see it.
Hakeem Olajuwon. Not that I’m surprised or anything, but Hakeem has decided to move on from Houston and take his chances with the Toronto Raptors. It has to be hard to fathom if you’re a Rocket fan, but some people need a change I guess. What does this do for the Raptors? I think it makes them even more of a contender than I thought they already were. With the addition of Hakeem, Antonio Davis can now move to his best position at power forward, and Vince Carter can take a load off every now and then by dumping it down to Hakeem and letting him go. Injuries have been a magnet for Olajuwon in the last four or five years, but a healthy Hakeem during playoff time gives the Raptors a leg up on most of the Eastern Conference.
For Houston, it’s hard to say what this does for them. It just seemed like Olajuwon was lost in the system once Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley were drafted. Now Francis can finally run his own team, and rookie sensation Eddie Griffin can get some big minutes at either power forward or center. The Rockets have always been known for in and out basketball, but with the subtraction of Hakeem, who will they throw it in to?
News and notes for the week. Am I surprised to see Philadelphia tell Todd MacCulloch they can’t match the $34 million deal New Jersey offered him? What do you think? How about the Cleveland Cavaliers? New coach John Lucas has already assembled a pretty good group to work with through trades and the draft, and with the addition of Tyrone Hill from Philly, they now have a legit center with Zydrunas Illgauskis still recovering from foot problems. Remember, Hill had his only All-Star year while he was in Cleveland? Sad for Hill though, this was the guy who said he wouldn’t opt out of his contract because he loved the Sixers so much. So how does Philadelphia repay him, they send him to Cleveland. Ouch. Is Bonzi Wells really unhappy with the Blazers’ addition of Derek Anderson? Sounds true. That’s life in the NBA though, especially when you tear up a knee.
Can things get any worse for the Seattle Supersonics? They’ve signed and drafted more European players than most European teams, and they get nothing in return for Ruben Patterson. Payton wants out, Baker is un-tradeable, at least they have the Mariners. Are the Jazz finally breaking up? Jacque Vaughn signs with Atlanta, Danny Manning signs with Dallas and Olden Polynice opts out of his contract? Maybe Olden will take up police work now. With that said, enjoy the summer people. The NBA season is just around the corner.