One thing we’ve learned from the Dwight Howard sweepstakes is that no deal is a sure thing until it’s done.  Signed, sealed, delivered. 

First it was the Nets.  Then it was the Rockets.  Then it was the Lakers.  Now it’s the Nets.  Again.

In the last 24 hours, Yahoo! Sports hoops gurus Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc Spears have reported a proposed deal revolving around the Magic center that would involve movement of more than 10 players between four teams. 

While the Lakers are still interested in a trade that would send Andrew Bynum to Orlando in exchange for Howard, Bynum’s hesitation to sign a long-term contract with the Magic has significantly hampered L.A.’s ability to strike a deal, according to a source (as well as several previously published reports).

As a result, Bynum’s reluctance left the door wide open for the Brooklyn Nets, who along with the Magic, would lead the way in this four-team deal, according to Y! Sports.  When doing a deal with so many moving parts, its only natural that there will be a few hiccups in the process. 

One piece of this gigantic puzzle, as reported by Marc Spears of Y! Sports, would send Kris Humphries (sign-and-trade) to the Cavaliers with a one-year contract.  Problem is, the Hump is interested in a four-year deal, which is understandable.  Who doesn’t want some job security?


One guy who has a LOT of power in this situation is agent Dan Fegan, who represents both Howard and Humphries.

Awwwwkwaaaard. 

How do you convince Humphries to go against his own best interest, basically for the sake of another one of your clients?  Humphries (along with several other players said to be on the trading block) would have to agree to a sign-and-trade for the deal to happen. 

As an agent, a multi-year deal for Humphries would certainly be in Fegan’s best interest as more years equals more money (and mo’problems, no doubt).  But it seems like this is quite a predicament for Fegan and his clients, Humphries in particular. 

Plus, if TMZ’s reports of Humphries’ impending fatherhood are accurate (http://tinyurl.com/cevmfze), the financial security of multi-year contract will be of even more importance. 

Moving forward, it will be interesting to watch how this part of the deal plays out.  If Humphries refuses to do a sign-and-trade to the Cavs for a measly one-year contract, can the teams involved get creative and find a way around the Hump?

As if we weren’t already glued to this damn story, the Howard-Humphries connection just adds one more element to this so-called Dwightmare. 


To read the Yahoo! Sports’ story on the proposed mega-deal involving the Magic, Nets, Cavs and Clippers, click this link:  http://sports.yahoo.com/news/nba—nets-emerge-again-as-strong-contender-to-land-dwight-howard.html 

If you’ve watched even one NBA playoff game this year, you’ve probably heard “the end of an era” used in reference to (insert any old team here).  The cliche might be warranted, depending on the team. 

Should the Celtics big three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen dissolve in any fraction during the offseason (win or lose against Miami, or Oklahoma City), “end of an era” would seem appropriate considering the impact those men had on the franchise. 

Then we have Boston’s western counterpart in the Lakers, who were there every step of the way as the Celtics established their long-awaited reemergence as a league power.

After a failed attempt at trading Pau Gasol in the offseason, the likelihood of seeing the Lakers nucleus of the Spaniard, Andrew Bynum and Kobe Bryant remain in tact for 2012-2013 is slim.   Dismantling the L.A. trio would certainly signify the end of the Lakers latest championship era.

But we’ve seen this act before.  When Shaquille O’Neal and Phil Jackson left L.A., the Lakers were doomed.  That was the end of an era.  That is, of course until the Lakers acquired Gasol from Memphis for peanuts (thanks again, Jerry West).  Then a new era of winning began as the Lakers made three straight NBA Finals appearances bringing home two Championships. 

L.A.’s second title in the latest era came against the Celtics, who, after January 1, 2010, were a .500 team.  The Big Three was too old and too injured.  They weren’t even expected to win a first-round playoff series, much less make it to a Game 7 of the Finals and come within minutes of title No. 18.  No, that era had ended with a regular season loss to the 12-win New Jersey Nets. 

How ‘about the San Antonio Spurs?  How many times have they been “done?”  Who would’ve imagined a 36-year-old Tim Duncan would average more than 15 points per game and 9 rebounds per game while the 30-year-old Tony Parker would have the best statistical season of his career?  This “old” team was the fastest and most entertaining Spurs team I’ve seen in the last five years.  The Thunder are the only team with comparable ball movement and quickness. Who’s to say with good health and a few minor adjustments that the Spurs can’t get right back in the saddle next season?

"Out with the old, in with the new," is inevitable for any dynasty or successful NBA team.  The Chicago Bulls spent plenty of time in the toilet after the Jordan era and have just recently returned to glory in the last few years, thanks to Derrick Rose.  After one magical run led by Shaq and Dwayne Wade back in 2006, the Heat needed LeBron James and Chris Bosh to get back to the Championship ranks. 

Neither the Bulls nor Heat are that “young,” as the average player’s ages are 27.9 and 28.6, respectively.  In fact, when you look at the last ten NBA champions (Mavs, Lakers, Celtics, Spurs, Heat and Pistons), most of those teams were comprised of “mature” players with a sprinkle of youth and veteran savvy mixed in.

That’s where the Oklahoma City Thunder enter the equation.  The Thunder are the seventh youngest team in the NBA with players on the roster averaging 25.8 years of age. OKC’s nucleus of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden is barely old enough to get into the club as KD & Westbrook are 23 years old and Harden, a mere 22.  That said, we’ve watched this team get to the top the old fashioned way, by working hard and improving every single year, climbing its way up up the mountain.

When a team this young makes it this far (which is extremely rare in general in the NBA), I would usually peg it as an anomaly with few expectations for the future.  But the Thunder seem to be the real deal after disposing of the Mavs, Lakers and Spurs -three of the last four NBA championship teams- in one postseason. 

Just because the Thunder are legit and likely to stay atop the NBA standings for the foreseeable future doesn’t mean that the torch has been passed for good.  I look at it like a game of tug of war.  The Celtics, Lakers and Spurs are all on one side of the rope while the Heat and Thunder are pulling from the other end with neither side able to force the other into the mud pit. 

Does that mean there is room at the top for all five teams?  Nope!  Somebody has to give, it’s just a matter of who gets pulled down first.

If two of the Celtics’ Big Three remain on the roster next year and Boston makes it back to the Finals, clearly, they still won’t officially be over the hill, despite our best efforts to put them there.   The Lakers can trade Gasol and still end up with a team in title contention.  Should Gregg Popovich rest the Spurs elders from time to time throughout next season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see San Antonio win it all.

For now, we’ve got the Thunder in it to win it, and the possibility of the new Big Three or the old Big Three trying to show those young bucks from OKC how its done. 


WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

It’s a battle of old school versus new school in the Western Conference Finals as the good ol’ San Antonio Spurs look for a fifth championship while the young Seattle Super Sonics….errr, Oklahoma City Thunder strive to make their first-ever trip to the NBA Finals.

Both teams have only ONE loss between them through the first two rounds of the playoffs, a stat which really boggles the mind.  The Thunder swept the Dallas Mavericks before losing just one game to the L.A. Lakers in the second round while the Spurs swept both the Utah Jazz and the L.A. Clippers.  The Spurs won the regular season series between the two 2-1.

The Spurs have won 18 straight games dating back to early April, making this a run for the ages if they make it past the Thunder in any number of games. 

What makes San Antonio so good?  The Spurs run a quick offense with superb ball movement led by point guard Tony Parker who is having the season of his life.  with Russell Westbrook running the point, the Thunder are even faster, especially in transition (especially on the fastbreak) and have been successful shooting jumpers from all over the floor.  Just as important, OKC is averaging a league-low 10.7 turnovers in the playoffs while often capitalizing on opponents’ mistakes instead.

During the regular season Westbrook, NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant and James Harden were the top scoring trio in the league combining for 68.4 points per game.  That is FIERCE.  Sure, we’ve watched each guy go through shooting slumps are various points throughout the playoffs, but they were short in duration and clearly, didn’t cost the team wins at the end of the day. 

The Spurs aren’t exactly slouches on the other end.  He might be on the older side, but Tim Duncan is having an outstanding year.  The big man up’d his 28.8 ppg in the regular season to a fierce 32 points even in these playoffs.  Duncan also boosts a small hike in rebounding, now averaging 17.6 per game.  The guy is 36 years old.   Seriously.  It’s beyond impressive. 

Might OKC’s Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins limit him down low?  Yes.  The Thunder defense stifled L.A.’s bigs Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol at times, forcing the Lakers to settle for bricks, errrr, jump shots and three-pointers.   Luckily for the Spurs, who, along with its own trio of stars (Manu Ginobili being the third), also have legitimate depth as NINE guys on the roster averaged 8.9 points per game during the regular season.  Rookie Kawhi Leonard has come up big for the Spurs in these playoffs.  San Antonio will need all of the help it can get in dealing with a tough Thunder team.

The Thunder definitely took the tougher road in getting to the Conference Finals while getting nearly the same amount of rest as the Spurs.  My heart says the Spurs will win this series because of their experience level and coaching, but my eyes have seen the Thunder and the fury they play with.  I see this series going seven games and boy, would it be tough to send San Antonio packing on their own home court.  You guys will have to decide your own winner on this one since I can’t!

EASTERN CONFERENCE

I hate to say it, but I don’t think the Boston Celtics matter all that much in this series.  What I mean by that is the winner of the series depends on which Miami Heat team shows up at the arena.  Is it the confused, Bosh-less Heat?  The secure, pink-pants-wearing DWade, Bosh-less Heat?  The Heat, with Bosh? 

Surprisingly, the Celtics won the season series 3-1 against the Heat and even with players out due to injury, looked their best against Miami.  The old Big Three definitely get inspired taking on the new Big Three and it shows.  The great thing about Boston is the palpable emotion that drips from the pores of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, lifting not only their teammates but firing up the crowd as well, at home or on the road.  Aside from the Lakers, no other team enthuses the Celtics the way Miami does.

I would give the playoff edge to the team with a true center, but neither the Celtics or Heat has one, which is pretty interesting considering the value of the position historically.  I was looking forward to a Bosh vs. Garnett match up down low, but that is unlikely given Bosh’s abdominal injury.

The season-ending injury to Boston’s Avery Bradley could really hurt the Celtics as he has been integral to Boston’s defense, which has carried the team through the playoffs.  Boston is holding teams to a mere 83.9 ppg in the playoffs, good for the best team defense in the postseason.  It should be fascinating to watch that defense go up against the ever-potent Heat offense which is averaging 95.5 ppg.  The highest score against the Celtics this postseason has been 92 points while the Heat have scored over 100 points in six of 11 games. 

What makes the Heat machine run so well?  LeBron James and Dwayne Wade.  When they are on and feelin it, back up or else! Despite having issues at times, check out the overall playoff performances of these two.  James: 29.0ppg, 8.7 rpg, 5.9apg.  Wade: 23.8ppg, 4.5rpg, 3.6apg.  Of course, various Heat role players step up to the plate each night which is great, although not fabulous for the sake of consistency.

Interestingly, the Celtics Big Three has been offensively inconsistent throughout the playoffs while Rajon Rondo has done most of the heavy lifting averaging 15.0ppg, 12.5apg, 6.4rpg and 2.6 steals.  If Miami’s defense heats up and the Big 3 are off the mark offensively, it will make life tough on Rondo.  Sure he can sore and be a one man show, but his job is to distribute the ball.  Rondo alone can’t beat the Heat.

If Miami plays the way they did closing out the series against Indiana, they’ll beat the Celtics with the youth, speed and strength of LeBron and DWade along with the shot of Mario Chalmers (ok, shots…many shots… should they make it in the net).  I say Miami in 7.