Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Special: Interview with Jared Wade

I had the chance to chat with Jared Wade of Both Teams Played Hard and Eight Points Nine Seconds. Enjoy the Q&A!

Celticsfanatic: After the departure of Rick Carlisle and the downfall of Jermaine O'Neal as an All-Star, the Pacers have shriveled up to be one of the bottom-feeders in the league. However, with an abundance of young stars and a mix of old veterans, the Pacers look to be in shape for either a draft pick or a big free agent pickup during the offseason. Assuming they won't make the playoffs -- or if they do, assuming that they'll be ousted pretty quickly -- which one do you think they'll be inclined to do? More specifically in terms of this offseason's market, which free agent do you see them beginning to keep an eye on as the season comes to a close?

Jared Wade: Unfortunately, Indiana's cap problems aren't going to allow them to be players in the 2010 free agent class. The front office more or less locked the team into the current core roster until 2011 when they decided that their ongoing PR nightmare (the off-court transgressions of Stephen Jackson, Jamaal Tinsley and Shawne Williams) had to be eradicated no matter what. They traded half of that problem (Cpt. Jack) for Golden State's salary problems (the long-term, overly generous contracts of Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy) and then took the cap hit that came along with banishing Jamaal Tinsley. MDJ and Murphy aren't albatrosses in an of themselves individually, but they are each overpaid by at least several million dollars (particularly considering Lil' Dun essentially missed all of last yaer). And when you combine that with TJ Ford (who is still under contract next year and was acquired for JO and his 2010-expiring deal) being similarly overpaid, the money they'll still be paying Tinsley to not play for them next year and Jeff Foster's ongoing contract extension, they're no money left over to do anything else but add guys like Dahntay Jones and Earl Watson — especially with the cap going down for 2010-2011. All that stuff comes off the books in the 2011 Summer, however, so they will be players in that free agent market. Not sure who they'll grab then since it's still like 140 games away, but Danny Granger sure does need some help here. (Although, in fairness to MDJ, he's been great whenever he's healthy.)

CF:  Jim O'Brien, at least considering the talent this team has, has done a relatively good job with the Indy squad. Are you hoping O'Brien is roaming the sidelines for years to come, or will he be dropped off too as change overtakes the organization?

JW: I think O'Brien is a fine coach, but he always struck me as a stop-gap solution. Given all the stuff mentioned above, the front office knew there wasn't going to be any major talent infusion any time soon. So I always saw Jim O'Brien and his spread, face-paced, three-point-happy offense as something that would at least keep a talent deficient roster exciting and competitive. To a degree, that has worked: the Pacers have finished 9th both of the last years. But a lot of Pacers fans have turned on him given all the mediocrity and a belief that he runs a gimmick offense. I doubt he's still there in 18 months.

CF: Dahntay Jones has been a diamond in the rough for Indiana, and is still rather young. However, a team can never ignore the option in including a player like him in a cash dump to get more of a wealthy bank for 2010. Do you hope he'll be stored away for next year's team? What lengths do you think the Pacers will go to keep him?

JW: He's under contract for cheap through 2012 (with a player option for 2013), so given his relative productivity and the Pacers need to simply fill out a roster with a payroll under the luxury tax, he'll probably be around for a few more years. I doubt they could really get anything for him anyway. His early season scoring has already started to disappear and I don't think there's a huge demand for him across the league.

CF: All of the Pacers point guards are unrestricted free agents in 2010. Do you think they'll shop the market and snag a couple of reliable PGs, or Indy be wheelin' and dealin' at the trade deadline, as well as in the early weeks of July and August?

JW: TJ Ford actually has a $8.5 million player option for next year and he is DEFINITELY picking that up. No way he gets any more than $5 million per in the free agent market, particularly since everyone will be going after all the big fish. So he'll be back most likely. And I think they'll draft a PG in the draft next summer to find a long-term solution.

CF: Let's talk Celtics for a bit -- I've been suggesting that Boston dumps Ray Allen after this season and pursues Joe Johnson for a while now. However, after the major signing of Rajon Rondo, the Celts seem to be left a bit dry with cash as well as the trouble of filling a roster (only six -- though major players -- returning to the team). What do you advise they do?

JW: Yeah, I'm not sure y'all can get the cap room for Joe unless Pierce for some reason opts out. (Not entirely out of the question given the uncertain future of the CBA, but seems pretty damn unlikely he's walking away from $22 million.) If I'm Danny, my first move next Summer would be to lock up Perk for the long-term. Boston desperately needs a succession plan for the post-Big Three era. Signing Rondo for a good number was Step 1. Step 2 should be Perk. PG and C are the hardest spots to fill, so that would be a good start. If you do that could add a lower level 2010 guy like Craig Smith or Amir Johnson — or pry away one of good, young, restricted guards (Anthony Morrow, Will Bynum Ronnie Brewer) — that would be a decent summer. Or maybe you move the Scalabrine/Eddie House/Tony Allen expiring contract package for something long-term before this year's deadline. There has to be a bunch of teams who would trade a decent, longer-term contract guy for $9 million in expirings.Troy Murphy is definitely available.

CF: How do you like Boston's addition of Rasheed Wallace?

JW:Looks pretty irrelevant right now. I imagine he'll hit some big shots in the Playoffs, but it sure does look like Los Angeles' Artest pick-up was the much bigger move.

CF: Going to the NBA again -- what has the acquisition of Vince Carter done for Orlando, and do you think the Magic are one of the leading contenders for the crown?

JW: I would have them as the third most likely. There's a huge drop off after LA though. And if you guys stay healthy, I definitely can't really see Orlando winning that series either. Still, Vince makes them a better team than last year — just not enough better to knock of a fully loaded Boston, I don't think.

CF: Cleveland still looks a bit shaky with Shaq... Will the trade eventually work out for them?

JW: Nope. Especially not when LeBron leaves to go hang out with Jay-Z in NJ/Brooklyn next year.

CF: And finally, the San Antonio Spurs that racked up enormous amounts of praise has been lacking the victories in the wins column to be worthy of that attention. Will they come through?

JW: think they'll be fine. Injuries to Manu and Tony have been tough, plus they don't really try until January anyway. I wasn't sure whether they would be better than Denver or not anyway. But I still put them among the four teams that matter out West with the Lakers, Nuggets and Mavs.

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