B ad deals are inescapable in sports and pop culture. Endless, exorbitant, ridiculous contracts can destroy a team’s future, ensnare a rising young star, or cripple a major studio. Also, they’re hilarious. In honor of these horrible agreements, we present a look at some of the most egregious in their respective fields. Welcome to Worst Contracts Week.
In December, I gave my kids $20 for a toy store trip and they picked out $90 worth of stuff. They had no concept of money. They didn’t know if our house cost $2,000 or $2 billion. So I started making them pay for small things — Starbucks, Jamba Juice, pizza, whatever — hoping they’d slowly understand the concept of worth. I think it’s working. When we attended Monday-night Raw in L.A. last week, I gave them a $100 salary cap on whatever they wanted. They spent $60 on two T-shirts,1 $13.50 on pretzels and popcorn, and $9 on two Icee Cokes, leaving me $17.50.
Here’s the point: THIS ISN’T HARD. But had I brought Joe Dumars along as a spending adviser, they would have ended up with a $50 Rey Mysterio mask that my son already has, two T-shirts that were the wrong size … and then, they would have had to borrow an extra $30 for food and drinks. In last year’s Worst Contracts column, I wrote about Joe Dumars Cap Space Cologne (“You only have to spray it once, and then you can’t get away from the smell for three to five years!”) and made the following warning:
“One thing we’ve definitely learned: You don’t want to give Dumars cap space. And he has it this summer. So look out, Pistons fans.”
What happened? Well …
Door A: Brandon Knight; Trey Burke or Michael Carter-Williams; $15 million in 2013 cap space. Seems pretty enticing, right? You’d probably want to open that door, correct?
Door B: $80.5 million worth of Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings and Washed-Up Chauncey Billups; Kentavious Caldwell-Pope; no cap space whatsoever. That door has a “BEWARE: DO NOT OPEN!” sign on it … right?
What happened? Dumars busted down Door B like McConaughey during the incredible six-minute, continuously shot drug heist scene that single-handedly flipped my opinion on True Detective.2 Naturally, this was all Mo Cheeks’s fault, so poor Mo got canned recently; he’s the eighth coach jettisoned by Dumars in 14 years. Dumars remains employed because he caught fire from 2000 through 2004 and won a title.3 That magical stretch ended 10 YEARS AGO. Since 2008 alone, Dumars traded Billups for a washed-up Allen Iverson; gave away Arron Afflalo; famously over-over-over-overpaid Ben Gordon and Charlie Villaneuva; handed out way-too-lavish extensions to Hamilton and Prince; overpaid Jonas Jerebko, Rodney Stuckey and Jason Maxiell; then excreted 2014’s Smith-Jennings-Billups cap poop bisque. He remains employed because we’ve become desensitized to NBA teams shelling out dumb contracts.
So, why can’t certain GMs spend money correctly? Many are ex-players getting routinely outwitted by shrewd negotiators with law degrees and MBAs, bulldogs who were basically created by God to take advantage of overmatched former athletes. If your life depended on ONE contract negotiation, would you rather have Dan Fegan (Yale Law School, two decades of experience as a sports agent) … or Ernie Grunfeld? Would you rather have Arn Tellem (Michigan Law, former partner in a law firm, 32 years of experience as a sports agent) … or Joe Dumars? Come on.
That’s not the only problem, of course. Franchises can be handcuffed by a lack of organizational cohesion, owners pushing to win or be relevant “RIGHT NOW!!!,” executives rolling the dice with panic moves as a Hail Mary to avoid getting fired, and just sheer, staggering incompetence. For God’s sake, look at what happened to the poor Pelicans last summer:
Door A: 2013’s no. 6 pick (Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore, Burke and Carter-Williams all on the table); their 2014 first-rounder (top-five protected); the Greivis Vasquez/Robin Lopez expirings ($7.2 million combined); more than $10 million in cap space. I like it!
Door B: Jrue Holiday; $44 million of Tyreke Evans; no cap space; no 2014 first-rounder unless it falls in the top five. BEWARE: DO NOT OPEN! I AM SERIOUS! DO NOT OPEN THIS DOOR!
Did the Pellies pick Door B? Of course they did! At least when Detroit spent $54 million on Josh Smith, they were getting one of the NBA’s 10 best forwards … even if every Hawks fan within a 125-mile radius would have happily driven Josh to the airport. But wasting picks AND assets to lock down the NBA’s most expensive non-Lakers three-guard rotation (Holiday, Evans and Eric Gordon), then eschewing better protection on that 2014 pick when you’re in the fiercely competitive West? Amazing. Truly amazing. It’s been eight years since I wrote the Atrocious GM Summit column — I could throw another summit right now. And next year. And every year. Don’t ever stop being you, NBA GMs.
Before we tackle 2014’s “30 Worst NBA Contracts,” let’s plow through the players who missed the cut but deserved to be recognized in some way.
Category 1: Expiring Atrocities
Could you make a 12-man roster of expiring deals that cost nine figures and would absolutely lose 70-plus games? Let’s see … Gordon (one year, $13.2 million); Villaneuva (one year, $8.58 million); Caron Butler (one year, $8 million); John Salmons (one year, $7.58 million); Emeka Okafor (one year, $14.49 million); Danny Granger (one year, $14 million); Kris Humphries (one year, $12 million); Andrichard Biedrefferson (one year, $20.05 million);4 Keith Bogans (one year, $5.06 million); Marvin Williams (one year, $7.5 million); and Jameer Nelson (one year, $8.6 million). We did it! Every year, this paragraph costs more than $100 million.
Category 2: Amnestied Contracts or Bought-Out Deals5
I love the spirit behind the amnesty. We’re so collectively terrible at this, let’s create a one-time spending mulligan … and then, we’ll have even more chances to make mistakes! Every week or so, a reader e-mails me asking if I wished teams could trade their amnesties. My short answer: YES! Imagine the Knicks trading Tim Hardaway Jr. and their 2018 no. 1 pick for Boston’s amnesty just to dump Amar’e. Yes, we should trade amnesties.
Some quick amnesty/buyout stuff …
• Of the 10 teams that kept their amnesties, reasons range from “Billy King saved our ass from using it” (Atlanta) to “we never needed the help” (Boston, San Antonio, Chicago) to “we wish some of our current guys were eligible” (Sacramento, New Orleans, Memphis) to “we’re generally confused and probably misunderstood how it worked” (Detroit) to “we’re too freaking cheap” (Utah, Oklahoma City).
• Eight other amnesties already came and went: Philly (Elton Brand), New York (Chauncey Billups), Minnesota (Darko Milicic),6 Indiana (James Posey), Golden State (Charlie Bell), Cleveland (Baron Davis) and the Clippers (Ryan Gomes).
• Our greatest amnesty: Cleveland’s then-GM Chris Grant dumped Mo Williams on the Clippers for Baron Davis’s much-worse contract and an unprotected first-rounder, won the lottery with that pick (Kyrie Irving), and then — six months later, after the lockout ended — used his new fresh-out-of-the-box amnesty on Baron. You can’t play that any better. And yes, that’s the last time anyone said those words about Chris Grant. At least the man gave great amnesty.
• Amnesties still going: Portland (Brandon Roy: down to two years, $32.2 million remaining); Orlando (Gilbert Arenas: $22.35 million stretched over three years); Phoenix (Josh Childress: two years, $13.5 million), Dallas (Brendan Haywood: two years, $14.8 million); Houston (Luis Scola: two years, $11.9 million); Brooklyn (Travis Outlaw: two years, $8 million); Denver (Chris Andersen: one year, $4.82 million); and Washington (Andray Blatche: two years, $16.3 million). Shout-out to Arenas for getting overpaid through both Obama terms. He’s the GOAT of the Keep Getting Dem Checks All-Stars.
• Our newest amnesty/buyout guys since last season ended: Hedo “Somehow I’m The NBA’s Second-Most Famous Failed PED Test!” Turkoglu (Orlando: one year, $6 million buyout); Al “Somehow I’m Only 34 Years Old” Harrington (Orlando: $7.3 million buyout over two years); Metta World Amnesty (Lakers: one year, $7.7 million); Mike “Thank God For ‘The Decision’” Miller (Miami: two years, $12.8 million); Drew “Thanks, John Hammond!” Gooden (Milwaukee: two years, $13.4 million); Linas “Thanks, Bryan Colangelo!” Kleiza (Toronto: one year, $4.6 million); Royce “I Couldn’t Even Play One Minute And Earn My Own Basketball-Reference.com Page” White (Philly: one year, $1.7 million buyout); Tyrus “Thanks, MJ!” Thomas (Charlotte: two years, $18.1 million); and Mike “There Was Never One Minute When This Contract Was A Good Idea” Beasley (Phoenix: $7.1 million buyout stretched over two years).
So, in the past 12 months, another nine NBA players were paid nearly $79 million combined to go away — not including Andrew Bynum, who was acquired by Chicago specifically so they could tell him, “Go away.” If you add up all the amnesty/buyout money from the previous two paragraphs, it’s nearly as much money as Vivek Ranadive paid for the Kings. I love the NBA.
Category 3: Overpaid Role Players
Can I intrigue you with one more ridiculous 12-man roster? Fine, I’ll twist your arm. (Twisting.) Here we go: Zaza Pachulia (three years, $15.6 million); Jonas Jerebko (two years, $9 million); Jason Terry (two years, $11.48 million); Lou Williams (two years, $10.7 million); Jose Juan Barea (two years, $9.2 million); Carlson Landrompson (four years, $50.9 million);7 Tayshaun Prince (two years, $14.94 million); Marcus Thornton (two years, $16.6 million); Udonis Haslem (two years, $8.96 million); Chuck Hayes (two years, $11.7 million); and Glen Davis (two years, $13 million). And yes, I left Davis out of the Worst 30 because I didn’t want to star in the sequel to this video.
Back to that roster: more than $175 million for 12 bench guys???? Would you have rather watched Saturday night’s Confusing Mess Of A Slam Dunk Contest … or a pickup game between the Bud Light Overpaid Role Players and the State Farm Expiring Atrocities?8 I’m on the fence.
Quick tangent: I hope the NBA learned three valuable lessons on Saturday night. First, when every dunk contestant, announcer and viewer assumes there’s one more final round, only there’s not a final round, something went horribly wrong. Second, when you make your main event so complicated that only Nick Cannon’s rambling, monotone, teleprompter-driven monologues can clear things up, you might be in trouble. And third, you can’t have Nick Cannon leading a panel of Julius Erving, Magic Johnson and Dominique Wilkins on live television … not unless the topic is, “If You 3 Guys Were In The Same Disco In 1989 And Paula Abdul Showed Up, What Happens Next?”
(My quick fix for 2015: Remodel it into a “Dunk of the Year” contest. Twelve contestants, 12 dunks, America votes on the winner. Your 12 contestants: nine NBA players, two D-leaguers, one street baller. Name it the “Bud Light 12-Pack Contest.” Oh, and if they want to raise the rim to 12 feet or higher for their one dunk, they can do that, too. Anything goes. I’d like to meet the one person who wouldn’t watch this. Back to the column.)
Category 4: Injured Stars
These contracts seemed fine until the Injury Gods derailed their seasons: Danilo Gallinari (three years, $32.56 million); Derrick Rose (four years, $77.9 million); Brook Lopez (three years, $47.2 million); Al Horford (three years, $36 million); and Deron Williams (four years, $81.59 million). Wait, Deron Williams isn’t hurt? He’s just aging in dog years and doesn’t totally care? My bad.
Category 5: People Named “Dwyane Wade”
Wade can opt out of next season ($20.2 million) or 2015-16 ($21.66 million), but he won’t because it’s hard to imagine anyone paying $80 million for an aging 2-guard with bad knees who misses 20-25 games per year and recently entered the “I’m playing only 12 minutes in the All-Star Game” stage of his career. (Thinking.) You’re right, Mikhail Prokhorov would totally do it. But check this out.
2011: 25.5 PPG, 25.6 PER, 50.0% FG, 8.6 FTA, 2.7 3FGA, 31.6% usage, 6 missed games
2012: 22.1 PPG, 26.3 PER, 49.7% FG, 6.1 FTA, 1.1 3FGA, 31.3% usage, 17 missed games
2013: 21.2 PPG, 24.0 PER, 52.1% FG, 6.2 FTA, 1.0 3FGA, 29.5% usage, 13 missed games
2014: 18.7 PPG, 21.3 PER, 54.8% FG, 4.3 FTA, 0.6 3FGA, 27.0% usage, 15 missed games9
From those numbers, I see a 32-year-old jump-shooter who can’t get to the line and never learned to shoot 3s, only he’s remained efficient because of three things: continuity (Miami’s on Year 4 with the same group), LeBron (gets everyone easier shots) and a smart coach (who’s been spotting him all season). The good news for Wade: The shot chart data paints a different picture.
As Grantland’s Kirk Goldsberry points out, “He’s still the best 2-guard in the league around the hoop. Strong midrange pull-up game.10” Yes … WHEN HE PLAYS. Wade’s up-and-down status puts an incredible burden on LeBron. That’s just a fact. If you’re looking for reasons why LeBron might jump to the Clippers this summer (a legitimate possibility), the list starts here. Wade isn’t totally Wade anymore, and he’s not going anywhere. He’s also not one of the 30 worst contracts. Next year? Maybe.
(One silver lining for Miami fans, courtesy of Joe in Jerusalem: “Is everyone forgetting that 24 comes back in May!!?!? It’s time for the return of your Jack Bauer/Dwyane Wade corollary! Dwyane Wade is coming back!”)
Category 6: “WHOA!”
Had I written this column in January, we would have made history by including the no. 1 overall pick in last year’s draft (Anthony Bennett: five years, $24 million). But Bennett shed Worst 30 status against Sacramento last week, somehow playing 33 minutes and double-doubling without keeling over, hyperventilating or sweating pizza sauce. He’s two years younger than Michael Carter-Williams. Two! I can’t give up on the Notorious DNP yet.
Category 7: Possibly Overpaid Brazilian Centers With One Name
I spent more time wondering if Nene was “Worst 30” eligible than everyone else on the list combined. Would you want to pay $39 million over three years for a half-decent center who scores 14 points a night, makes less than 50 percent of his shots, makes less than two-thirds of his free throws, has a lower PER than more than 50 centers and power forwards (including Ed Davis, one of the Plumlees and someone named Miroslav Raduljica), and grabs 1.5 rebounds per quarter? It’s a great question. Fortunately, I somehow know not one but two Wizards fans — my buddy House, and Grantland’s own Andrew Sharp — so I asked if they believed Nene was worth $13 million per year. Their responses …
Sharp: “YES. The best Wizards big man of the past 15 years was Antawn Jamison, for God’s sake. Nene is an upgrade. I don’t care what he costs or what his numbers are, he makes the whole team so much better. All big men are overpaid anyway. If Nene stays mostly healthy the next two years, that contract is fine. (But this is the Wizards, so, sure, 98 percent chance he gets hurt and I regret all this within the next 18 months.)”
House: “When Nene plays, his teams win. Only ONE player for the Washington Professional Basketball Almost Bullets in the past five years has had a tenure that features more winning games than losing games (minimum of 40 games played)?!?11 Same was true in Denver. He’s. Worth. Every. Penny. Also, don’t trot out your Neanderthal sports-page stats to try to make the case against my guy — the advanced stats love the Nene!!! If there were assisted-rebounds, he would lead the league 10 times over!!! LONG LIVE THE NENE!!!”
What’s the Portuguese phrase for “probably misguided enthusiasm”? Neneismo? Now I’m even more confused. My conclusion: We’re making Nene’s contract our Mendoza Line for this year’s Top 30. If your deal makes me feel worse than Nene’s deal, you’re on the list. Call it the Nendoza Line. Without further ado …
The 30 Worst Contracts
30. Rudy Gay: two years, $37.2 million
Just two months ago, he was earning e-mails from Canada like this one (from Monty in Winnipeg) …
“Hey Raps fans/victims! Here’s a game you can play with all of your fellow hostages! Every time Rudy Gay catches the ball and sees two perfectly open teammates in the post or in the corner for a three, but instead, opts to dribble in two extra feet and hoist a contested two pointer which invariably clanks out, take a shot! Soon enough, you’ll be drunk enough to find the 4-22 shooting nights HILARIOUS as opposed to soul crushingly unbearable! Or … you’ll be dead. Please save us Masai. Rudy is LITERALLY killing us.”
You know what happened next — Rudy made history by getting straight-out salary-dumped twice in one year, giving basketball’s Dorkapalooza community its single biggest victory over the Eye Test/Old-School Crew. Rudy Gay’s 2013 is like the Battle of Gettysburg — it swung the war and there’s no going back. Two fascinating (and unexpected) subplots:
Subplot No. 1: He’s played much smarter basketball in Sacramento, almost as if he studied the criticisms (too much ball-stopping, too many low-percentage long 2s, not enough low-post play) and altered his game accordingly. It’s just too bad they didn’t have advanced metrics when George McGinnis played.12
Subplot No. 2: Now, any team that trades for Rudy knows it can flip him just a few months later and immediately improve. As Mohit in Oakland explains, “Rudy Gay is gluten. No one knows why, but things just get more efficient when you take it away.” Ladies and gentlemen, your sibling of the Ewing Theory … it’s the Rudy Gay Gluten Theory!
29. Jason Richardson: two years, $12.8 million
The lingering cold sore from Philly’s catastrophic Bynum trade. Not the way you want to go out. Just for fun, let’s redo the top eight of the 2001 draft.
New 1: Pau Gasol (went third)
New 2: Tony Parker (went 28th)
New 3: Joe Johnson (went 10th)
New 4: Zach Randolph (went 19th)
New 5: Gilbert Arenas (went 30th)
New 6: Tyson Chandler (went second)
New 7: Jason Richardson (went fifth)
New 8: Shane Battier (went sixth)
New 9: Richard Jefferson (went 13th)
New 10: Gerald Wallace (went 25th)
Guys who actually got drafted in the top 10: Kwame Brown (first), Eddy Curry (fourth), Eddie Griffin (seventh), Desagana Diop (eighth), Rodney White (ninth).
(As the great William Goldman always says: Nobody knows anything.)
28. Andrichard Biedrefferson: one year, $20.05 million combined
I hate including expirings … but when your team feels obligated to use TWO future unprotected first-rounders just to dump your deals, you’re on the list. Thanks to Jefferson and Biedrins for inspiring this e-mail from Oakland reader David Chernicoff:
“On TV recently, you ALMOST invented an awesome term, but at the last second you missed it. You described Kendrick Perkins as a ‘salary albatross.’ Obviously the right word for this is ‘Salbatross.’ Try it, it’s fun! You can say things like ‘Last summer, the Warriors had to get two Salbatrosses off their backs in order to sign Andre Iguodala,” or even ‘All hail Theo Ratliff — the Founding Father of the Salbatross Mount Rushmore.’” I love it. SALBATROSS!13
27. Larry Sanders: five years, $47.05 million
Larry just accomplished a fairly rare feat, jumping directly from the top 35 of my NBA Trade Value column to my 30 Worst Contracts column in less than 10 months. HEY NOW! Of course, nobody blinked in October when Milwaukee signed Sanders to a $44 million extension that doesn’t start until next season. Totally fair numbers … well, until Larry landed the rarely seen “Bar Fight Injury/Wildly Embarrassing Viral Video/Locker-Room Shouting Match/Incident That Enraged PETA” quadruple axel, which hasn’t happened since Tonya Harding did it 20 years ago.
No NBA team has ever regretted signing someone to an extension before that extension actually sta— whoops, I forgot about the Wizards and Andray Blatche. My bad, Chocolate City. Can Larry turn this Season From Hell around? Did he consider it a wake-up call when a sobbing Zach Lowe decided to stop spelling Larry’s full name with ALL CAPS and an exclamation point? Would the Bucks trade him in the right deal? (They claim they wouldn’t.) And if you were Mark Cuban or Danny Ainge, would you think about hiring four Milwaukee natives to start another bar fight with Larry, just so you could swoop in and steal a now-disgraced Sanders from a disgusted Herb Kohl for 30 cents on the dollar?
26. Steve Nash: two years, $19 million
Play yourself off this list, Steve Nash! NORTH AMERICA HAS RALLIED BEHIND YOU! YOU CAN DO THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
25. Steve Novak: three years, $10.95 million
24. Landry Fields: two years, $12.5 million
Did you ever notice the Knicks and Raptors have been embroiled in a Fatal Attraction–type relationship since the 1990s? Somehow they’re both Michael Douglas and Glenn Close at the same time. New York won the Oakley-Camby trade and “won” when Toronto “strategically” signed Fields away (an all-time Atrocious GM moment by Bryan Colangelo). But Toronto won the Bargnani-Novak-Camby Bad Contract Tornado fiasco by scoring New York’s unprotected 2016 first-round pick. And when Toronto acquired Antonio Davis from New York for future Grantland Network star Jalen Rose and a 2006 first-rounder, that inadvertently became a tragic Knicks moment when they took Renaldo Balkman over Rajon Rondo. Also, when last December’s “Lowry-Felton-Shumpert–2018 no. 1” deal fell through, that sent Toronto on a winning tear while ruining New York’s season. And if you want to dig deeper, the Knicks were mortally wounded by two failed Toronto execs (Isiah Thomas, and then Glen Grunwald). Keep an eye on this. Also, I’m not gonna be IGNORED, Dan.
23. Tiago Splitter: four years, $36 million
22. Jarrett Jack: three years, $18.9 million14
The current laws of the NBA include …
• All lingering NBA beefs start over women or cards.
• Don’t come off the bench during an altercation; you’ll lose money.
• Don’t wager on any road team playing an early-afternoon game in New York, Miami, Atlanta or New Orleans.
• Don’t undercut anyone going for a dunk or alley-oop … unless it’s Blake Griffin.
• Don’t allow anyone you met the previous night to Instagram or tweet an early-morning photo of you from your hotel room, for any reason.
• Don’t put J.R Smith, Metta World Amnesty and Kenyon Martin on the same team (whoops).
• Don’t let a family member “start my new sports representation agency” by becoming his first client.
• If one of your tweets goes horribly wrong, immediately claim you got hacked.
• Don’t swing your elbows as you’re grabbing a rebound … unless Blake Griffin is behind you.
• Don’t use the condoms she brought if you met her four hours ago.
• Don’t give money to any friend or family member with no business background who “has a good idea” for a record label, car wash, barbershop, bar, restaurant or car dealership.
• Don’t trust anyone holding a tape recorder or an iPhone who claims you’re off the record.
• Always act like you felt at least a little remorse about committing a flagrant foul … unless you did it to Blake Griffin.
You knew those rules, but I bet you didn’t know this new one: “Every four years, all NBA teams have to overpay a role player like he’s a valuable starter.”
Yup, that’s a rule. They all have to do it. And you wondered why San Antonio spent $36 million on Splitter (when it could have just stolen Robin Lopez for $5 million), or Cleveland lavished Jack with six times the money that Randy Foye would have cost. By the way, I always take it personally when San Antonio overpays someone. The Spurs are supposed to be the smartest team! Come on, R.C. Buford! You’re a role model!!! You gave $36 million to someone who couldn’t stay on the court in the 2013 Finals???? Not you, too! Why??????
21. Brook Lopez: three years, $47.2 million
Total bummer. I don’t feel good about this. But when you’re a big guy coming off multiple foot breaks and you just underwent a risky foot surgery that saved Zydrunas Ilguaskas’s career but failed to save Yao Ming’s career … you’re on the list. Sorry.
20. Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin: two years, $33.5 million combined
We’re including them as a pairing because their quirky contracts make them just about impossible to trade, as we discovered last December when this happened.
To: The Other 29 GMs (email group)
Date: 12/19/2013, 9:59:00 AM CST
Subject: One last time … Asik???
Hey, guys – only six hours until my deadline to deal Asik expires. He counts for $8.3 million on the cap this year and next, but earns $5 million this season and $15 million next. It’s not as bad as it sounds! LOL. Ask your token stats guy in your front office that you hired only because your owner badgered you about hiring an advanced metrics guy — Asik’s value transcends statistics because of his interior defense and his rebounding. He’s also a terrific teammate, please don’t read anything into what happened recently when Omer quit on our team. Totally overblown! Who doesn’t get frustrated at work from time to time? Plus, you know how those guys from Turkey get — they take stuff personally! Just pay-per-view Taken 2 if you don’t believe me. I still believe Omer is an asset. Anyway, none of you emailed me back yet — we’re only looking for multiple first-rounders and a quality starter for him, that’s it. Lemme know, thanks!
Fine, that e-mail didn’t happen. You got me. But let’s just say the Asik-Lin market never materialized. Semi-related: Kyle Lowry has been the East’s best point guard this season, and Goran Dragic has been one of the West’s three best point guards (along with Steph Curry and Chris Paul). Um, the Rockets had both guys! They flipped Lowry for a lottery pick used for the Harden trade (totally defensible), then signed Lin over keeping Dragic in 2012 (whoops). Imagine Dragic and Harden together starring in the Slashing Southpaws right now. Yeeeessh.
19. J.J. Hickson: three years, $16.1 million
One of those signings that you read about on ESPN.com and immediately said, “Oh no!” J.J. Hickson might be the captain of the “NBA Players Who Play Defense With The Same Intensity Of Someone Guarding Stan Verrett In The Celebrity Game” All-Stars.
And no, I’m not ready to discuss my celeb team losing to Jalen’s team on Friday yet. Six missed free throws down the stretch plus Kevin Hart hogging the ball for four quarters, only I couldn’t take him out because he was the most famous guy in the game by far?? Now I know why NBA head coaches always look constipated. Brutal. Coaching is BRUTAL. Although this first-quarter exchange made up for just about everything.
Me: “Snoop, I’m taking you out, we need to put the subs in.”
Snoop: “I ain’t comin’ out.”
Me: “OK! Got it.”
(At least I can tell that story to my grandkids someday, right?)
18. Ersan Ilyasova: four years, $32.1 million15
Every Bucks fan right now: “Jesus, how many more Bucks are on here? Should I stop reading? I should stop reading, right?”
Every Seattle fan right now: “How many more Bucks are on here? I hope it’s the whole team! The worse this gets, the better it is for us! It’s the Year of Seattle! We finally got rid of Stern on on February 1 and won the Super Bowl one day later! This is our year, baby! BRING US THE BUCKS! MAMA NEEDS A NEW PAIR OF SHOES!!!!!”
17. Martell Webster: four years, $22 million
16. Tyreke Evans: four years, $44 million
Covered this last summer, covering it again. Last July, Dan Fegan represented the brittle Webster and teammate John Wall. Arn Tellem represented the overrated Evans and soon-to-be-new teammate Anthony Davis. Both Webster and Evans were overpaid as down payments for Wall’s max extension (already happened: five years, $80 million) and Davis’s max extension (we’re two years away). You know how you have “handcuff” guys in fantasy football — like taking Toby Gerhart in the late rounds as your Adrian Peterson insurance? In professional basketball, we have handcuff free agents. And there’s real money involved. It’s kind of staggering.
By the way, I’d love Tyreke as my Heat Check Guy off the bench if he made Jamal Crawford money ($5 million to $6 million per year). But nearly twice as much? Incomprehensible. He reminds me of Corey Maggette — for 10 years, Corey made too much money, never made anyone better, never played for good teams and always left you frustrated because he’d unleash those occasional monster Maggette games (35 points, 15 of 17 free throws) to remind you how talented he was. That’s Tyreke. He’s Maggette 2.0. Explains Grantland’s Kirk Goldsberry, “Out of 203 players who attempted at least 75 midrange shots, Evans ranks dead last in FG% at 22 percent. The next lowest guy is Cody Zeller at 27 percent — that’s a big gap. He’s also making 14 percent of his 3s.” Other than that, he’s been on fire.
15. O.J. Mayo: three years, $24 million
Every Bucks fan right now: “That’s it. Eff this, I’m out of here.”
Every Seattle fan right now …
(Last Mayo note: From now on, anytime an overrated free agent begrudgingly signs with an unappealing franchise just because it offered him the most money, then shows up for his first season uninterested and woefully out of shape, let’s call it “Pulling a Mayo.” You should be ashamed, O.J. Seriously. You stole money this season. Where’s your pride? Shame on you. We’ll be back on the “Middle-Aged Sportswriters Riding Their High Horses” show right after this.)
14. Jarl Thompandry: four years, $50.9 million combined
Possible reasons why new Kings owner Vivek Ranadive gave backup power forward Carl Landry a four-year, $26 million deal just 12 months after the old Kings owners gave backup power forward Jason Thompson a five-year, $30.1 million extension …
Possibility No. 1: Didn’t know about the salary cap yet. Thought his front office was kidding when they kept mentioning it.
Possibility No. 2: Needed $50.9 million of misguided backup power forward insurance in case Sacramento’s $60 million extension for Boogie Cousins turned out to be misguided.
Possibility No. 3: Drunk-signed Landry at 2:30 a.m. the same way people drunk-order stuff on eBay or Amazon.
Possibility No. 4: Cared more about hurting the Warriors (Landry’s old team) than helping the Kings. (My favorite scenario, by the way. Total spite signing!)
Possibility No. 5: Wanted to see if I’d go with “Carlson Landrompson” or “Jarl Thompandry” when I combined them for my 30 Worst Contracts column.
Possibilty No. 6: All of the above.
A hint for future owners and GMs: If you have $40 million or more committed to someone who could be one of the three best players on a Finals team, or you have $50 million or more committed to two backups who play the same position, well … (hold on, I gotta figure out how to say this delicately) … (just give me one more second) … YOU ARE DOING SOMETHING WRONG!!!! WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?????
13. JaVale McGee: four years, $44 million
I forgot about Possibility No. 7 for Vivek: Maybe he hoped to flip Landry and Thompson for Javale McGee’s salbatross so he could explode the Internet with the never-ending comedy of a Boogie-JaVale tag team. FYI: There’s still time! They’d be the Chest Rockwell and Brock Landers of professional basketball. I am rooting for this.
By the way, one of my favorite dumb conversation games is “Are We Sure … ?” For instance, it’s Year 6 for Kevin Love and he’s never played on one team that even went 42-40. Are we sure he’s THAT good? Are we sure he’s worth throwing away two seasons (I’m looking at you, Lakers) because you want to rebuild around him? Or, Kyrie Irving’s career winning percentage is under .400 … are we sure he’s a franchise point guard and not just “someone talented enough offensively to win an All-Star MVP but that’s about it”? Whether the answer is yes or no for either of those questions, it’s always fun to bring them up. And if someone is eligible for “Are We Sure … ?” status, odds are they’re maybe a tad overrated.
Here’s another one: Are we sure Masai Ujiri is that good?
I love the way he thinks. But if you throw away the superb Carmelo trade (really a James Dolan panic trade more than anything), let the record show that he flipped Arron Afflalo (one of 2014’s best bargains) and a probable 2014 lottery pick16 for a one-and-done Iguodala; overpaid Nene and flipped him for the even-more-overpaid McGee; splurged more than $70 million on two small forwards (Wilson Chandler and Gallinari); then fled for Canada. And now, Denver is a lottery team. These are the facts. He kinda sorta maybe left behind a Dumpster fire, right? Then in Toronto, he dumped Andrea Bargnani’s deal for a first-rounder, made the savvy Rudy Gay trade and smartly held on to Kyle Lowr— oh yeah, Masai is definitely good! What was I thinking? My bad.
12. Kendrick Perkins: two years, $18.1 million
Poor Perk. It’s not his fault that (a) OKC overpaid him, (b) Scotty Brooks uses him too much, (c) advanced metrics are his mortal enemy, (d) he’s an 11th man making $8.7 million this season, and (e) OKC was too freaking cheap to amnesty him already. Kudos to OKC’s owners for brainwashing their fans and the local media into believing they aren’t cheap. It’s practically a Jedi mind trick. I wish I knew how to do that. This column is only 3,000 words. It’s much shorter than you think it is.
Speaking of Perkins, I enjoyed this e-mail from Kyle Leonard in OKC: “Every day when I get home from work and look at my DVR, there it still sits — four hours straight of ‘Grammys Live from the Red Carpet’ that my girlfriend is not ready to delete in case she needs to ‘go back and look at someone’s outfit’ (unreal). It drives me crazy every time I look at it. But then I realized something. Having that recording on my DVR is actually a possible asset. Just think of all the space I will have once I amnesty it off my DVR queue. So I just renamed it ‘Kendrick Perkins’ and now it’s not quite as bad when I look at it.”
11. Marcin Gortat’s Next Contract
I’m jumping the gun and throwing this on here now. It’s the perfect storm: You have an up-and-down big man playing for a new deal (Gortat); a bumbling front office with a track record of overpaying dudes; the “we already lost our 2014 pick to get this guy” anvil hanging over everything; the probability of the Wiz energizing Chocolate City just by winning ONE playoff series; and if that’s not enough, a 35-year track record of irresponsible Washington moves. My prediction: Gortat re-signs with the Wizards in July for somewhere between $60 million and $360 million.
11. Marcus Thornton: two years, $16.63 million
The Kings paid him to be a Heat Check Guy since he doesn’t pass or play defense. Well, he’s literally a Heat Check Guy — you keep checking to see if the heat is on. Take away his 42-point explosion against Indiana and he’s averaging less than 16 points per 48 minutes this season. FREEZER CHECK! How do we know his contract is awful? Reportedly, the Nets are trying to trade for Thornton right now. That’s like the Awful Contract Stamp of Approval. Gee, I wonder who signed Thornton to that dumb deal.
10. Carlos Boozer: two years, $32.1 million
The single dumbest basketball conversation you can have right now …
Bulls Fan (excited): “We’re gonna be fine this summer — we’re amnestying Boozer and trading Taj so we have enough cap space to sign Melo.”
Non-Bulls Fan: “Why would Melo go from one shaky situation to another one?”
Bulls Fan: “What? To play with Rose and Noah! And Thibs!”
Non-Bulls Fan: “You really think Thibs is staying there? They fired his lead assistant last summer, then they traded Deng for nothing. Literally, they got nothing.”
Bulls Fan: “Yeah, but it’s gonna be fine — we’re getting Melo!”
Non-Bulls Fan: “Melo wants to win a title — why would he roll the dice with Rose’s knees? Rose is coming off two major knee injuries. By next October, he wouldn’t have been 100 percent in two and a half years. There’s a long history of guys missing that much time with repeated injuries and never being totally the same.
Bulls Fan: (Silent.)
Non-Bulls Fan: “Look, I’m not saying Rose can’t make it back. But why would Melo risk it? Wouldn’t he want a more stable situation? Especially after what he just went through in New York? He’s going to tie the rest of his prime to Derrick Rose’s knees?”
Bulls Fan (finally): “Yeah but still.”
9. Josh Smith: four years, $54 million
Lessons from Detroit’s Josh signing include: Don’t put Josh and Brandon Jennings on the same team unless you’re trying to win a sulking contest; don’t put Josh with a new coach on a two-year contract; don’t play Josh at the 3; don’t assume you’ll be good defensively if you play two big guys with Josh; don’t sign Josh to a contract that doesn’t include a mandatory $10,000 fine every time he takes a 3; and don’t overpay someone whose departure from his previous team inspired fans to react as if you shot $100 bills out of a T-shirt cannon at them.
And after saying all of that … you know what? I spent 30 minutes on YouTube recently watching old Oak Hill highlights with Josh and best buddy Rajon Rondo while wondering if the Celtics should deal Jeff Green and Keith Bogans’s expiring deal for him. You know what frightens me? I think I’d be excited if this happened! My God, Josh Smith is my Atrocious GM Kryptonite!
8. J.R. Smith: three years, $17.95 million
And J.R. Smith is everyone’s Kryptonite. Get ready for the run of Knicks and Nets salaries. It’s coming. As Brooklyn reader Adam Pisco writes, “I’m loving this Knicks vs. Nets rivalry for the title of ‘Kings of New York.’ I haven’t been this excited since the hype for Dan & Dave in Barcelona ’92.”
7. Eric Gordon: three years, $44.7 million
The original Chris Paul trade: CP3 to the Lakers; Pau Gasol to the Rockets; Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Lamar Odom’s expiring, Goran Dragic and a 2012 first-rounder to New Orleans.
What New Orleans got for Chris Paul after The Veto: Eric Gordon, Al Farouq-Aminu, Chris Kaman’s Expiring, the no. 10 pick in 2012 (Austin Rivers).
To be fair, the second trade allowed New Orleans to bottom out and land the 2012 no. 1 overall pick (Anthony Davis) — which was hilarious because the NBA owned the team and all. Bring this up anytime an NBA official whines about tanking. But did you ever think Dragic would be the prize of those two trades? Goran Dragic??? And how bad was the ultimate haul for CP3? Gordon, Aminu, Rivers and one year of Kaman? Was that even 15 cents on the dollar?
In general, “What if the original Chris Paul trade went through?” turned into a splendid NBA “What If?”: Had the deal been approved, then there’s no Lob City with Blake/DeAndre/Chris; no Harden trade for Houston (and who knows where Houston would be?); no Anthony Davis for New Orleans (it would have been too good to get that pick); maybe no 2014 Suns renaissance with Dragic; maybe Dwight Howard stays with the Lakers; maybe Odom’s career doesn’t fall apart; maybe we don’t remember this as David Stern’s last abysmal moment; and maybe we don’t remember New Orleans’s ultimate haul for CP3 as the “Pupu Platter: Gumbo Edition.” What the heck happened to you, Eric Gordon? How did you turn into a legitimate salbatross? I will never figure that one out.
6. Kobe Bryant: three years, $78.95 million
You can’t pay Kobe $78.95 million through 2016 if you’re trying to win the title. But maybe that’s the point. Maybe the Lakers didn’t care about winning a title. Maybe they needed a holdover superstar to sell season tickets, push their cable package, carry billboard covers and deflect everyone from the real issues here.
What are the issues? Well, they lost Dwight Howard for nothing; they don’t have any real trade assets; they’re stuck in the brutally competitive West; 2014’s free-agency class wasn’t changing any of this; and by the way, people aren’t exactly running stoplights to arrive in L.A. so they can play basketball with Kobe Bryant right now. So with that ridiculously unnecessary Kobe extension, they bought two extra years of … um … relevance? It’s a stopgap move, that’s it. They’re already thinking about 2015 (Kevin Love), 2016 (Durant) and 2017 (Westbrook). If they bottom out for some top-five picks while Kobe takes 25 shots a game and goes for Kareem’s scoring record, even better. Even if the other 29 teams would run from this contract, I’m sure the Lakers are fine with it.
(Of course, that’s the benevolent interpretation of what happened. You could also talk me into, “HOLY CRAP, WHAT THE HELL WERE THEY THINKING???? THEY TRIPLED THE MARKET VALUE OF AN AGING SUPERSTAR WITH A TON OF MILES ON HIM WHO WAS BREAKING DOWN FOR NO REASON WHATSOEVER, AND THEY DID SO WITHOUT MAKING SURE HE COULD STAY HEALTHY FOR EVEN ONE MONTH … AND BY THE WAY, HE COULDN’T! AND EVEN IF THEY’D NEVER TRADE HIM, NOBODY IS TAKING THAT CONTRACT ANYWAY! MY GOD, THIS IS A CATASTROPHE! I CAN’T TURN MY CAPS LOCK OFF! CALL ESPN I.T., I THINK MY LAPTOP IS FALLING APART LIKE THE LAKERS JUST DID!”)
5. Deron Williams: four years, $81.59 million
4. Joe Johnson: three years, $69.54 million
The combined points-per-game, PER, salaries and ages of two different backcourt tandems from these past three seasons.
2011-12: 39.8 PPG … 38.7 PER … $34.4 million … 57 years old
2012-13: 35.2 PPG … 34.4 PER … $36.9 million … 59 years old
2013-14: 28.3 PPG … 30.7 PER … $39.9 million … 61 years old
2011-12: 27.2 PPG … 28.9 PER … $4.6 million … 45 years old
2012-13: 33.2 PPG … 35.2 PER … $5.6 million … 47 years old
2013-14: 33.2 PPG … 30.6 PER … $8.6 million … 49 years old
Backcourt A? Deron and Joe.
Backcourt B? Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson.
How do you say “Holy schnikes!” in Russian? For the 2015-16 season, Brooklyn already has $62.68 million committed to Johnson, Williams and a might-never-be-the-same Lopez. And Boston has its unprotected first-rounders in 2016 and 2018, with a right to swap in 2017.17 I’m starting to think you can’t run an NBA team while living in Russia. As Mark Felten from Sterling Heights wonders, “At what point do you stop calling Mikhail Prokhorov ‘Mutant Russian Mark Cuban’ and start calling him ‘Mutant Russian Ted Stepien?’”
3. Andrea Bargnani: two years, $23.36 million
This is the funniest 145 seconds I’ve spent in 2014.
2. Gerald Wallace: three years, $30.3 million
I received the following Wallace-related e-mails just in the past month …
Isaac in Mesquite, Texas: “As a Brooklyn Nets fan, I’m at the point where I can’t even look at Damian Lillard without getting pissed off.”
Frank in Oswego: “When Adam Silver takes over, my biggest fear is that he’s going to belatedly overrule the Wallace/Lillard trade and declare it was unfairly one-sided. That can’t happen, correct?”
Eric in Springfield, Massachusetts: “Instead of a jersey number, could the Celtics convince Wallace to wear all the first-rounders we got in that trade on his jersey? I want to be constantly reminded that we have those picks every time I’m forced to watch him play basketball.”
Jared in Boston: “My roommate is a huge Celtics fan. He just realized that he turns 21 on the day Gerald Wallace’s contract expires and said, ‘That’s definitely the day I die of alcohol poisoning.’”
1. Amar’e Stoudamire: two years, $45.09 million
For Knicks fans, he’s simply The Broken-Down Guy We Got That Summer When We Thought We Were Getting LeBron. Which is somewhat of a shame. You can’t blame Amar’e for being overpaid by the Knicks (five years, $100 million); you can’t blame him for being untradable because his contract isn’t insured (at least until it morphs into an expiring next season); you can’t blame his body for breaking down; and you can’t blame him because the Knicks stupidly wasted their amnesty on Chauncey Billups (to sign Tyson Chandler). But those four story lines shadow him everywhere.
Overpaid, uninsured, washed up, can’t amnesty him.
You know what got lost there? Once upon a time, Amar’e Stoudemire was REALLY good. Before he turned 30, he’d already made one first-team All-NBA, four second-team All-NBAs and six All-Star Games. He absolutely gave it to Tim Duncan (in his prime, no less) in the 2005 Western finals, averaging 37 and 10 for five playoff games. His high screens with Nash had to rank among the most unstoppable two-man plays in basketball history. Even that splendid 33-game run (28.2 PPG, 8.9 RPG) during his first Knicks season — starting right after Thanksgiving, as Mike D’Antoni was slowly running him into the ground — had MSG hopping with “M-V-P!” chants. You don’t think of him belonging to that Penny/Walton/Yao/Hill/Webber “What If?” group, but he totally, absolutely, unequivocally belongs. I’m not sure he could have crept into that Barkley/Malone/Dirk/Pettit group of all-time power forwards (the cluster right below Bird and Elgin), but at the very least, he could have circled that neighborhood. Who knows?
Instead, he’s been the NBA’s Worst Contract for two straight years. Next year, he becomes Amar’e Stoudemire’s Expiring Contract. It’s not the way someone that talented should have gone out. Just remember, he didn’t sign himself.