July 23, 2003

SHOPPING SPREE: Despite the widespread

SHOPPING SPREE: Despite the widespread belief that, due to their first-round playoff loss to the Lakers, the 2002-'03 season was a "failure" for the Minnesota Timberwolves, they did finish the season with the fourth-best record in the NBA, better than any team in the Eastern Conference. And even after that, the Wolves have dramatically improved themselves in the off-season so far- trading franchise embarrasment Joe Smith for Sam Cassell, signing the high-upside free agent Michael Olowokandi to instantly become the best center in franchise history, and now, if ESPN pretty-boy Ric Bucher is to be believed, they've brought in Latrell Sprewell.
Spree's move to the Wolves is part of an NBA mecha-trade, which may contain up to five teams. Assuming the deal doesn't all fall apart (which is possible; remember the six-team super-trade in 2000 that was supposed to send Allen Iverson to Detroit, kiboshed by some minor player exercising a no-trade clause?), the Wolves will acquire Sprewell from New York, giving up nothing but third-string center Marc Jackson and the contract of soon-to-retire point guard Terrell Brandon (Brandon's contract is going to Atlanta, who will get cap space; I'd like to see how the Hawks' new ownership explains to their fans why they traded their best player, Glenn Robinson, for a guy who will probably never play again). Robinson will head to the Sixers under the scenario, while Philly trades 6'10" laughingstock Keith Van Horn to the Knicks.
Sprewell would give the Wolves far and away their best lineup ever- with Kevin Garnett, Wally Szczerbiak, Sprewell, and 'Kandi, the Wolves would be strong candidates to lead the league in scoring, and a successful season will encourage KG to re-up when he hits free agency a year from now. I've never been a fan of Sprewell personally- and I've long said that thug-type players don't fare well in Minnesota (see Moss, Randy), but it's hard to beat getting something for nothing. And Spree, after all, is a Midwestern native (he grew up in Milwaukee).
Meanwhile, the trade has (predictably) gone over about as well in New York as Bloomberg's smoking ban. Spree was, after all, the most popular Knick of recent years, while Van Horn is absolutely reviled in New York due to his years of stinking up the joint with the Nets- as a local sportswriter once wrote about him, "the only thing uglier than Van Horn's haircut is his game." His uncanny resemblance to gay current Real Worlder Simon (as pointed out by Sports Guy) doesn't help either; on WFAN tonight calls ran about 25-1 against the trade, with the lone "pro" vote coming from a guy who likes Van Horn 'cause his name is also "Keith."
I give no predictions, other than a "Minny" headline in Wednesday's Post. (UPDATE: The Post resisted the temptation, but the Quickie says (emphasis mine) that "the Spree/Cassell [sic] brings more winning instinct than Minny frontcourt combined.")

AND SPEAKING OF MINNESOTA SPORTS: Welcome to those of you who clicked over from Aaron's Baseball Blog; Mr. Gleeman was kind enough to name me his "Link of the Day." If you came here from there, I should mention- in the post below in which I referred to sabermetrics as "bullshit," I was of course being facetious.

Posted by Stephen Silver at July 23, 2003 07:24 AM
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