On Tony Parker to the Pacers
Somewheres on the internets there is a humorous interview of Hunter S. Thompson conducted by, if memory serves, Dick Cavett. Cavett asks Thompson the back story on his campaign trail reporting that presidential candidate Edmund Muskie was addicted to ibogaine, a drug associated with morphine dependence. Thompson acknowledges that the rumors did surround Muskie, and that his reports of those rumors was completely factual. And he then he offers this confirmation [paraphrasing from memory], “I know people were talking about Muskie’s ibogaine addiction because I started the rumors.”
Sometimes I get the impression that sports chats are like following Dr. Gonzo on the campaign trail. It’s because of this that I’m increasingly slow to chase every rumor associated with Spurs personnel. No one is quite sure what is true, or who to believe. In recent weeks, Chad Ford added to the resilient will-the-Spurs-trade-Tony Parker conversation by suggesting the Spurs and Pacers were considering swapping Tony Parker for Troy Murphy, Brandon Rush, and the No. 10 pick in the 2010 draft. This is old hat to most Spurs and Pacers fans, but I just got around to discussing it with Jared Wade and Tim Donahue of the fantastic Pacers blog 8 Points, 9 Seconds.
(I’m not suggesting Chad Ford pulled a Gonzo and started the rumors. Rather, I’m saying that trade rumors are fun to discuss, but what is really being said behind the scenes, if anything, is impossible to know. But these rumors have hung in the air for several weeks, and there is probably something to them.)
Varner: So, what do you guys think? Tony Parker for Troy Murphy, Brandon Rush and the #10 pick?
Wade: Seems like something that isn’t completely nuts, but unless SA is simply in love with Rush (something I find insane), it feels like silliness. Murph is an expiring to make the salaries work who provides no “one last run at a title” incentive. Rush is cheap for two more years (and likely more) and while he does have some Bowen-like qualities, I’m not sure that plus the #10 pick is really enough.
Then again, if they’re cool with a cheaper-than-and-nearly-as-effective-as-Tony Hill then Manu, Timmy, Splitter, Blair, Rush and #10 could become a pretty damn good rotation. Obviously, Indy does it without thinking.
Dunno. Could see SA doing it now that I write all those names down. Not a “great” deal on paper yet and certainly not the cruddy, headline-for-headline-grabbing sake that bad teams usually make (“We got Shawn Marion…Championship”) but would probably turn out to be a perfectly seamless rebuild on the fly knowing RC Buford and Gregg Popovich.
They turn Rush into 1st Team All Defense, re-sign Murph for the BLE, get a Paul Pierce-level steal at #10, turn Splitter into Chris Bosh and win the 2012 title in Timmy’s last season.
Sounds about right.
Varner: Tony Parker to the Pacers for kitchen scraps…rumors like this make me crazy. Perhaps Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are the only two Spurs who have achieved apotheosis amongst the Spurs faithful, but I always feel like Tony Parker’s contribution to their championship runs is sold short. He was a Finals MVP at one point, and, when he’s on his game, is a Top 10 point guard–in a league that favors quick quards. The importance of postseason savoir-faire is perennially under-reported, but is almost always a critical NBA storyline in May and June. Take note of the Celtics recent run into the Finals or Derek Fisher’s presence in the Lakers’ rotation. Tony Parker provides consistent, solid numbers and postseason know-how. And he’s only 28.
The Parker to the Pacers proposal is not a complete laugher, but it certainly seems like the Spurs would be losing value. For me, it depends on who the Spurs are targeting at #10, and whether they can squeeze another decent draft pick out of the Pacers. Troy Murphy makes sense for the Spurs as a 5th big–he’s Matt Bonner plus rebounding. Plus, he’s an expiring contract.
If you asked me to isolate the two areas in which the Spurs need to improve next season, I would organize my response around ‘defense’ and ‘three point shooting’. In that sense, Brandon Rush makes sense for the Spurs. But he’s a fringe player on a good team and Tony Parker is core player on a great team.
Malik Hairston has looked decent in limited minutes for the Spurs, and Rush is equipped with some of the same skills but with the advantage of a rangy, reliable catch and shoot game.
Again, who do the Spurs get at 10? And are the Pacers willing to up the ante? What do you think, Tim?
Donahue: If Parker is healthy, it’s really a no-brainer for the Pacers. Parker’s a huge upgrade at a crucial position. If, at 28, he can return to form, then he is at least equal to, if not better than Danny Granger. (I have a hard time comparing players who play different positions.) If he can be extended at a reasonable amount, then the Pacers have added the star level player, and they’ll still have plenty of space to add assets. (For the sake perspective, I threw an estimate of $16,000 for first year extension – which I think is too high – and it still leaves the Pacers payroll between $36-$40mm, depending on our 2nd rounders this year and our 1st next year.)
However, there are two big worries from the Pacer side, and they both make me reluctant to “up the ante.” First, can he be extended at a reasonable amount (or at all)? Indy is not exactly a destination franchise, so would Parker re-sign? If so, what are those dollars going to look like? He’s only 28, but he has played 800 games (including the playoffs), and he’s coming off his worst, most injured season of his career. Personally, I’d be ok with a deal in the $13-14mm a year average, ideally for three years, but no more than four. Will that get it done? If not, and we can’t work out a deadline deal, then we just get a year older and lose two pieces (Rush & #10).
Second, will he be healthy again? He’s a smallish guard, and small guys age faster. They rely more on athleticism, and that’s what you lose if you get older. If he can stay healthy enough to play 2,300+ minutes per season for the next three years, then it’s a slam dunk. If, however, this year is an indication of what’s to come, then the Pacers are screwed (particularly if he signs an extension).
For the Spurs, I can’t really speak for their motivation.The #10 looks like it’s going to produce a good rotation player this year, but nothing exciting. Of the guys that I think will be there, I like Udoh and Bradley. I could see either working for SA, particularly a defensive PnR combo guard like Bradley.
Murphy is an expiring contract with some good skills. What Popovich will love about him is that he almost always gives you what you expect. He’ll get the defensive rebounds, he will drill the open jumpshots. He will definitely space the floor nicely for you. Defensively, he’s physically weak and slow, and he can be exploited (read: killed) one-on-one. However, he’s a smart guy, and he can play reasonably well within a team defensive scheme. Jared will probably choke on this, but hindsight to me says that Murph would have helped Cleveland more than Jamison did in the playoffs. He’s bigger, so you could play him at the 5 with Andy or Hickson, and he’s really a much more reliable shooter than – well, anyone Cleveland had. I also think he would have done a better job with Garnett, defensively, but that’s just speculation.
Rush is really the lynch pin here. How you view Rush, from both sides, really affects how you view the trade. On Pacers Digest (the most active Pacer Forum), there’s actually a lot of resistance to the trade. Some of that resistance is the typical overvaluing of draft picks and young guys. A lot of it centers around the widely held belief that Rush is a lockdown defender and starting quality shooting guard. A lot of people lay almost all of his shortcomings at Jim O’Brien’s feet, saying that he’s misusing him.
I can’t speak for Jared, but for me, I pretty much reject that. He does have talent, and he is a decent athlete. He does three things well – in this order – knock down open three’s, rebound from the guard position, defend. His core problem is that he’s just a passive cat. There doesn’t seem to be anything in particular that motivates him, but there do appear things that get in his head negatively. His offense and his rebounding wax and wane with his confidence. His man-to-man defense is pretty good, but I think he tends to drift when his guy doesn’t have the ball.
I’d be more likely to buy the thought that O’Brien was more culpable, if this wasn’t more or less the book on him coming out of Kansas. This is a guy with great size, shooting ability, and very good athleticism for a wing, yet never averaged more than 13-ish PPG in college.
It seems to me that he’d be nice in SA, as long as you aren’t counting on him. If you stick him in as the 5th/6th/7th best player, and his contributions aren’t relied upon heavily, then he may end up being a really, really nice player. He’s got the length and skills to be All Defense, but I’m not sure he’ll ever have the drive.
Getting back to what Jared said, my overwhelming sense is that you’re the Spurs, and we’re the Pacers, therefore it will work out fabulously for you and horribly for us…just because. (Which should tell you how far the Pacers have fallen as a franchise.)
Varner: I’m not sure who the Spurs are targeting in the draft, but I’d guess that a trade like this is not finalized until they see who is available at 10. If a player mocked in the top 5 slides, maybe the trade looks better to them. Or maybe the Spurs make a choice between Luke Babbit, Xavier Henry and Paul George at 10. Of course, that would make Brandon Rush somewhat redundant. Not to mention that the Spurs have fairly good odds on making a rotation quality player out of one or both of Malik Hairston and Alonzo Gee. What does that leave the Spurs? A glut of mediocre, bottom of the rotation wings and questionable depth at point guard?
Perhaps, the Spurs are trying to prepare themselves for their inevitable shopping of Richard Jefferson’s expiring contract that will begin in earnest January 2011, and this move merely represents the opening gambit in a more fully-realized plan.
If the Spurs’ strategy is to put a young, athletic core around a nucleus of Duncan-Ginobili-Hill, then Splitter, Blair, Rush, Gee/Hairston, #10 and #20, and a young player as part of a package for RJ’s expiring contract is a start. But gosh, is Duncan-Ginobili-Hill really the center of championship contender? Not from where I sit. If the Spurs pull the trigger on a deal like this, San Antonio fans should expect a team facelift (and perhaps a season-long faceplant) as the Spurs reshape the rest of their roster around subsequent moves.
More interesting to me are the rumors that San Antonio is trying to move into the top of the draft. The All-Star potential of players like DeMarcus Cousins (whom the Spurs attempted to interview at the pre-draft camp, but were rebuffed), Derrick Favors and Evan Turner all make the possibility of losing Tony Parker more palatable.