By Christian Binder, WSOE Sports
Only three days ago did I write about the beginning of NBA free agency. I was actually surprised that nothing had happened on July 1st. Usually the first day of free agency in any sport is a big day. Nevertheless, before the week was out, there were some very significant moves.
The Pistons have made the biggest splash so far, signing guard Ben Gordon and forward Charlie Villanueva. Gordon brings a solid 21 PPG with him, while Villanueva adds 16 PPG and nearly 7 RPG. I like this move for the Pistons. They get a younger guy who can run the point, which allows Rick Hamilton to work more efficiently whether it’s off the bench or in the starting lineup. Villanueva is another veteran presence that will help a lot and he can fill a void should Antonio McDyess go elsewhere. If he winds up staying, the Pistons will be in good shape. If he leaves, though, the Pistons will have issues. Rasheed Wallace is being heavily pursued by the Celtics and he’s not somebody who is easily replaced. It’s critical now for the Pistons to resign McDyess.
The other big headline was the free agent “trade” between the Lakers and Rockets. Ron Artest signed a three-year deal with the Lakers and Trevor Ariza signed a multiyear deal with Rockets.
At first, I considered the Lakers the losers of this deal. With a closer look, though, I found out I was wrong. Ariza was the Lakers’ “x-factor” during their championship run, but Artest puts up better numbers consistently. He is part of a select group of players that includes Michael Jordan to put up 16+ PPG, 5+ RPG, and 2+ SPG over his entire career. Now we all know about Ron Artest’s attitude issues, but he’s really toned down since his Pacer days. Plus, he doesn’t have to be the vocal leader on the team – that’s why Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, and Derek Fisher are all there. Since there’s not much pressure on him to be that kind of leader, he can simply go out and play basketball and as long as he plays hard (like he usually does), this is a perfect fit. Ariza will fit in nicely with Rockets as well, but I feel like he’ll play a very similar role, namely flip-flopping between starting and coming off the bench.
The Blazers acquired Hedo Turkoglu on July 3. This is a great pickup. We all know the Blazers have talent. Brandon Roy puts up All-Star numbers every year and he’s only 24 years old. Then there’s Rudy Fernandez (also 24), the up-and-coming shooting guard, LaMarcus Aldridge (23), and Greg Oden (21), who has yet to live up to his number-one pick potential. Turkoglu, at 30 years old, provides some much-needed, playoff-tested veteran experience to help guide the team as it goes forward.
Just a few other notes…Jason Kidd has received three-year offers from the Mavericks and the Knicks. Allen Iverson has been in contact with the Miami Heat and Memphis Grizzlies. If the Cleveland Cavaliers are unsuccessful in signing Anderson Varejao, they may step up efforts to sign Antonio McDyess. Speaking of the Cavaliers, they introduced Shaquille O’Neal the other day and he said his motto was simple: “Win a ring for the King.” Well, he did it with Kobe and D-Wade, so don’t be surprised if Shaq can help LeBron garner his first title.