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The Scarlet & Black

Kramac the munificent divines NBA trades

I have to reveal something, dear readers. I have a secret ability—a power that few possess. Yes, like Encyclopedia Brown and Rasputin, I have a special mental faculty: the power to divine the response to a query from a sealed envelope. Johnny Carson had this power, and though he would joke about it on his show, Carnac the Magnificent’s abilities averted worldwide crises a number of times. You’re probably aware of his prediction about the role that Captain and Tennille’s hit “Do That to Me One More Time” played in securing the peaceful release of the American hostages from Iran in the ’80s, as depicted in the made-for-TV movie “Carson, the Captain, and the Ayatollah: Don’t Do That to Me Any More Times.” To share my ability, I have asked a made-up person to bring me some made-up sealed envelopes which contain a cosmic riddle that came to me after the second time I got tricked into huffing paint in the Kum & Go parking lot. Strangely enough, they’re all pretty lucid, and since they all have to do with NBA trades made before the league’s recent trade deadline, they’re perfect for this here sports column. I will divine the meaning of the riddle concealed in the envelope, then open it and transcribe its contents. The first envelope, please.

Kramac divines: An ant riot, a mime debate and a deaf mute poetry slam.

Riddle: Name three things that make more noise than the San Antonio Spurs did before the trade deadline.

(In a dark cemetery somewhere, muffled staccato guffaws emanate from Ed McMahon’s grave.)

The Spurs have one of the NBA’s oldest rosters. Tim Duncan is 33, Michael Finley is 36, Antonio McDyess is 35 and Manu Ginobili is 32. Though slightly younger, Tony Parker (27 and coming off hip surgery) Richard Jefferson (29) and Roger Mason (29) probably only have a few good years left. So while the Spurs are in good position to make the playoffs this year, they will most likely be one of the bottom three seeds in the West, pitting them against superior, younger teams that will easily out-gun them. If the Spurs were a young team looking to gain playoff experience like the Thunder or last year’s Hawks, it would make sense for them to sneak into the playoffs and lose in the first round to the Lakers or Nuggets. The reasoning for leaving their roster virtually untouched is, I imagine, that the Spurs’ front office is deluded enough to believe this year’s team can compete for a championship, despite sitting at 11th overall in the league standings. It seems the Spurs would rather be an average team now and a terrible team within a few seasons than be only kind-of bad now but with the chance to win a championship within a few seasons.

But with a team as old as this one, there’s little logic against dumping some of the over-29 section of the roster in trades for younger players or future draft picks. Plenty of teams that are actually contenders this year would love to add some of those veteran players to contribute immediately, and would probably trade away their recent draftees in exchange. Through trades, the Spurs might have even been able to trim enough fat from their payroll to compete in the 2010 free-agency sweepstakes, a contest for the services of some of the NBA’s most talented players. Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade, Carlos Boozer, Amar’e Stoudemire, Joe Johnson and The King himself, LeBron James. To quote Vizzini, it’s inconceivable for the Spurs not to try to ship out some of their older players to make room for a future star or possibly some of the above marquee names. Moving Ginobili and Jefferson, who, combined, earn around $25 million this season but score only 26 points per game, would bring enough cash to interest a top-tier free agent. Next envelope, please.

Kramac divines: James Cameron’s Avatar and the New York Knicks

Riddle: What has stars that are blue, seven feet tall, cost a ton of cash and exist in a harsh, unforgiving environment?

(More deep, obsequious laughter from McMahon. He is dead right? Or am I thinking of Wilford Brimley?)

The Knicks, currently owner of the league’s fifth-worst record, were part of this year’s blockbuster, multi-team deal that dealt Nate Robinson to the Celtics for Tracy McGrady, Sergio Rodriguez and Eddie House. On paper, the trade will have almost no positive repercussions for the Knicks this year. Their record will likely continue to fall—I wouldn’t be surprised if they have their second 50-loss season in a row. To make it all worse, the one bright spot for Knicks fans, McGrady, is so injured that he looks like John Grotberg ’09 trying to play in the NBA right now.

However, I really like the Knicks’ trade deadline moves this year. After they dump McGrady’s undeservedly generous contract, they will have the most salary cap room of any team in the league. They’re going all in on the free agent class of this summer, and they freed up much of that room by trading away frequent malcontent and fan-favorite (those two traits tend to combine in New York) Nate Robinson and adding Tracy McGrady’s astronomical, but very temporary deal. The Knicks are going to pay T-Mac about $23 million to do almost nothing this year, but it will be worth it when they have enough money to pay for TWO maximum-salary free agents. Imagine it: Coach Mike D’Antoni’s wide-open offense flying high with David Lee playing alongside LeBron and Chris Bosh, or Dwayne Wade and Carlos Boozer, or even Joe Johnson and Amar’e Stoudemire. With a successful summer from their front office, the Knicks can add the necessary pieces to become an elite team for years to come. They can transform almost overnight into a title contender. Oh, are we out of envelopes? Well, back to the Kum & Go.

– Kramer McLuckie ’12

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