Thursday, July 03, 2003

The NBA free agent season has begun. The Lakers are looking at a number of them, though they can dangle less money than championship potential in front of those available. Karl Malone was the first to visit L.A. He would add a third scorer when he played power forward, and even at 40 he can still play. But how much would he play? He can't play Laker defense, and the Lakers defense is crucial in the playoffs. Now that Robert Horry's option hasn't been picked up, they don't have a gifted defender at that position. And I wonder how Malone would fit in with this team, and whether he's coachable anymore.

The Lakers apparently want Gary Payton the most, for their starting point guard presumably. The b-ball savants say they probably won't get him--that somebody will offer him too much more money so the prospect of winning a ring won't override it. I hope so. I don't think Payton would fit into this team. He's always seemed to me to be kind of a jerk.

So Scotty Pippen is beginning to look better and better---a scoring forward who can play intense defense. But the word is that the Chicago Bulls, of all the teams in the universe, are trying hard to get him, and may offer a front office job when he retires as part of the package.

There are a couple of younger mature players---P.J. Brown and Juwan Howard among them---the Lakers would like to look at, but it will depend on the bucks other teams offer. San Antonio has so much room under the salary cap that they can pursue a big name, like Jason Kidd, and still have the bucks to buy off somebody just so the Lakers won't get him. If they get Kidd the question for next year will be how well that team jells---I think it's fifty-fifty that it will improve that much. Sacramento may have peaked as well. I think (and Phil, I know you're waiting for my words of wisdom here) that with the pretty cool draft picks they got, if they get Ty Lue as a free agent, make Medvedenko a starter and re-sign Mark Madsen and Byron Scott, they may not need one of these name free agents. They need a steadying veteran like Scott or Horace Grant, and they could sure use another scorer, but they mostly need the speed and enthusiasm that Lue, Medvedenko, Madsen and the draft picks (including the young Walton) might supply.

Though I still think, Phil, you ought to give Michael a call. One more championship together. Could be irresistable. And he's always made more on endorsements than salary anyway. The league would be ecstatic. Ratings will not be a problem.

But no reason to listen to me. Just because I predicted that San Antonio would win games 5 and 6 and the championship.

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