While you were away, the NBA underwent a makeover. For starters, Shaquille O'Neal, the biggest, baddest, basketball-dunking dude on the planet, couldn't keep his throne with the...
While you were away, the NBA underwent a makeover.
For starters, Shaquille O’Neal, the biggest, baddest, basketball-dunking dude on the planet, couldn’t keep his throne with the Lakers and was toppled by the reigning prince of Los Angeles, Kobe Bryant.
Miami gave up nearly half of its starting lineup, a key reserve and first-round pick for the Big Whatever-He’s-Calling-Himself-These-Days.
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Just as one superstar arrived in Florida, another, Tracy McGrady, forced a trade that sent him to Houston and shipped Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley to Orlando.
Others attempted to adopt the deal-me-or-else demand.
But it didn’t work as well for Vince Carter, who whined about not being respected in Toronto.
Peja Stojakovic ripped Chris Webber, but Sacramento refused to part with its sharpshooter.
Baron Davis, a UCLA alumnus, envisioned a return to Los Angeles and wanted out of New Orleans so bad that he tried to orchestrate a trade to the Clippers.
The Clippers? Think about that for a second.
Even normally mild-mannered Shareef Abdur-Rahim went all Mount St. Helens and spouted choice words at Portland management.
He, too, is staying put.
Same for Minnesota’s Wally Szczerbiak, who’s pouting because he might not start.
Also on hold is Sonic Ray Allen, who had been the center of a gazillion trade rumors.
Carlos Boozer broke promises to Cleveland and eventually signed for a small fortune with Utah, which also anted up and gave a max deal to Andrei Kirilenko.
Memphis’ Pau Gasol also got paid, but Tony Parker declined San Antonio’s extension.
Kenyon Martin reaped in riches, but had to leave New Jersey for Denver.
His departure and the cost-cutting moves of new owner Bruce Rattner didn’t sit well with de facto GM/point guard Jason Kidd, who won’t play again until sometime around Thanksgiving because of left knee surgery.
The player shuffle continued all summer as owners spent nearly $1 billion on free agents.
Steve Nash in Phoenix. Gary Payton in Boston. Jamal Crawford in New York. Brent Barry in San Antonio.
That’s just a small sampling.
In all, nearly 70 players changed jerseys.
Then there’s the coaches on the move.
Mike Woodson and Sam Mitchell were elevated from NBA assistants to head coaches in Atlanta and Toronto, respectively.
Depending on your point of view, Mike Montgomery took a demotion from Stanford to Golden State.
There’s a new Doc in Boston, but will Rivers have any more success than Jim O’Brien, who quit on the Celtics before being hired in Philadelphia?
And Byron Scott, Rudy Tomjanovich and Bernie Bickerstaff were lured back from semi-retirement.
That’s eight new coaches, and there will be more before the season is over.
Sacramento’s Rick Adelman and Seattle’s Nate McMillan each have a year remaining on their contracts.
Adelman may need to win a championship to keep his job, while McMillan simply has to make the playoffs.
Guess whose job is more difficult?
Others feeling the heat include Dallas coach Don Nelson, who, like most of us, probably didn’t tune into Mark Cuban’s reality flop “The Benefactor,” and Denver coach Jeff Bzdelik, who waited nearly all summer before learning that he could keep his job.
Also receiving good news during the sweltering months was Bryant, who sidestepped a rape trial, re-upped with the Lakers and received new players and a new coach to do his bidding.
Bryant was among the many who declined an invitation to the Athens Olympics, which led to a third-rate Dream Team being waxed by Argentina, Lithuania and Puerto Rico.
But not all of the news from abroad was bad.
The league played an exhibition game in China, where it found 1.3 billion potential fans, like the legion of Yao Ming admirers who waited 40 hours outside an arena in Shanghai to watch their beloved countryman score 14 points.
The season begins Tuesday, but before it does, we need to remember the past.
Welcome back, Grant Hill.
Same to you, Alonzo Mourning.
Sorry you didn’t make it back, Dennis Rodman.
Same to you, Clyde Drexler.
Not to you, Jayson Williams.
And Shawn Kemp, are you ever coming back?
We should say hello (again) to the expansion Charlotte Bobcats. And bid farewell to Scottie Pippen and Rick Fox.
Be ready to say goodbye to Reggie Miller, who will likely end an amazing 18-year career with Indiana after the season. Pay your respects when he’s in your town.
Also give some dap to John Stockton. The folks in Utah are retiring his No. 12 jersey and erecting a statue of him outside the Delta Center.
And speaking of Stockton, what about Karl Malone?
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar can sleep easy now, knowing the Mailman can’t erase his career scoring record while on hiatus.
Also keep an eye on the rookies. Charlotte’s Emeka Okafor will win the rookie-of-the-year award, but Dallas’ Devin Harris will be the best in this draft class.
And let’s not forget the defending champions. All Detroit did was add Antonio McDyess to one of the NBA’s all-time best defenses.
Still, Detroit won’t have it easy. San Antonio, Minnesota and Indiana are serious contenders in a league where the West is as strong as ever and the East is still weak.
Apparently, some things never change.
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org