In the last NBA offseason, the Washington Wizards made news with a blockbuster trade. John Wall went to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Russell Westbrook. The repercussions of that swap were pretty feeble; Wall was injured yet again, and the Rockets finished with the worst record in the league at 17-55; Westbrook played just well enough to get the Wizards to the play-in round of the playoffs before being unceremoniously escorted to the sidelines in the first round. That is exactly the worst place to be in the NBA:
- Not nearly good enough to have any meaningful shot at “making a playoff run” with a regular season record of 34-38 – – and – –
- Not nearly bad enough to have a realistic chance to get a “Top 3” pick in the Draft.
I do not like the Wizards/Lakers trade from the standpoint of the Wizards. They traded a “star player” and got back three “players”. Supposedly, the trade gives them “financial flexibility” to sign another “star player”; but if I were a “star player” looking for a place to land, the current Wizards’ roster is not exerting any sort of gravitational pull on my body to get me to sign on there. Another aspect of the trade that leaves me cold from a Wizards’ perspective is that the Wizards are a bad – not mediocre, bad – defensive team. Let me be polite and say simply that none of the guys they got from the Lakers is a threat to get votes for the NBA All-Defensive Team at any time down the road.
For me, the most interesting aspect of this trade is the effect that Russell Westbrook is going to have on the Lakers – – and I do not mean his obvious on-court talent. Russell Westbrook’s history is that he shows up to play every night. Last year, he missed 7 games; the year before that, he missed 3 games. Last year, Anthony Davis missed 36 games. In addition, Russell Westbrook does not merely show up for a game; when he plays, he plays at full speed for the entirety of his time on the court. And if history is to be a judge, he will play about 36 minutes per game for the Lakers at full speed. I will find it interesting to watch the Lakers to see if Davis and/or LeBron James will be able to keep up with Russell Westbrook…
I was a bit surprised to see that the Sixers did not trade Ben Simmons as part of the NBA Draft process where teams are focused on re-engineering their rosters. Simmons is a special talent in an overall basketball sense; but he has never been a good shooter and despite the protestations of the Sixers’ PR staff, I doubt that he has ever worked hard to develop a shooting stroke. His offensive disappearance in the playoffs this year have been well displayed and I think he cannot be part of the Sixers going forward. Fans in Philly are not kind and gentle; this is not Washington where if an athlete puts on the jersey of a local team, he/she is just wonderful. Fans in Philly are going to eat him for lunch if he is back next year; the Sixers need to move him, and I think the rest of the league knows that very well.
The other major local “trade news” is that the Washington Nationals cleared out the established players on their roster and set about a total rebuild. Gone in a whirlwind of activity are:
- Max Scherzer
- Trea Turner
- Kyle Schwarber
- Brad Hand
In addition, reports say that Daniel Hudson, Josh Harrison and Yan Gomes could be moved prior to the trade deadline later today. What did the Nationals get in return? Well, if you are a minor league baseball maven or junkie, some of the names here might mean something to you, but I believe that Riley Adams coming to town from the Blue Jays in the Brad Hand deal is the only player coming with real – albeit meager – MLB credentials. Adams is 25 years old and has appeared in 12 games for the Jays this year. He is 3-for-28 at the plate with an OPS of .345.
There is one other MLB trade rumor that bears watching. Various reports say that the Colorado Rockies are in negotiations with the Blue Jays, the Mets and the Rays regarding shortstop, Trevor Story. Story is 28 years old and has been an All-Star twice in his career. Last year, the Rockies had Story and Nolan Arenado as anchors on the left side of the infield; Arenado was traded over the winter to the Cardinals and now, maybe, Story will be gone too.
About 50 years ago, the A’s owner, Charlie Finley, tried to trade off/sell off all his star players because he realized he would not be willing to pay them what they were going to command in free agency. The Commissioner at the time was Bowie Kuhn; let me be polite and say that Kuhn was hardly a force majeure in the history of baseball. Nonetheless, Kuhn stood up on his hind legs and negated all this nonsense saying that he was acting “in the best interest of baseball” which he correctly identified as the premiere objective on his job description.
The Nats sold off assets that brought a World Series victory and several years of serious contention to Washington. They are trying to rebuild. The Rockies appear to be selling off players who simply would cost too much to retain in Colorado – – but I will be gobsmacked if I found out that Rob Manfred was even aware of the optic presented here.
And … Terry Francona is “stepping away from managerial duties” with the Cleveland Indians for the rest of the season. Francona has had health-related issues over the past year or so and this move is to allow him to focus on health issues. Last year, Francona missed a good part of the season with blood clots that had him in the ICU for a period of time. Asked about the possibility of his coming back in 2022, Francona refreshingly and intelligently responded:
“I’ve got to get healthy, or I can’t do this job. So, one step at a time.”
Finally, let me close today with an observation by H. L. Mencken:
“It is impossible to imagine the universe run by a wise, just and omnipotent God, but it is quite easy to imagine it run by a board of gods. If such a board actually exists it operates precisely like the board of a corporation that is losing money.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………