On the heels of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh teaming up in Miami and just one day before LeBron James changes the course of American culture and redefines the human experience, I'd like to share some week-old thoughts on a far less relevant subject - Rudy Gay's 5-year, $82M deal to remain with the Memphis Grizzlies. Sure he's a very nice player and will be just 23 on opening night, but in what universe does Rudy Gay, parlay 19.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg and 1.9 apg (v. 1.1 TO/game) into max dollars? The ceiling for him had to be 30-40% below that, no? Apparently not! In the 9-10 months each year that they're not tirelessly pursuing free agents, NBA executives talk a great game, stressing points such as "fiscal responsibility" and looking for "cap-friendly contracts" - and then comes July, the one month every year that all NBA owners and GMs fling piles cash around like a bunch frat guys at a strip club with Dad's credit card. Despite massive financial downturn and near-inevitable work stoppage (or maybe because of it), not to mention the fact that serious NBA fans now have access to and knowledge of most of the information needed to make intelligent personnel decisions, evidently the era of teams "showing the fans a commitment to winning" by overvaluing and overpaying their own guys (Andre Iguodala, Luol Deng, Rip Hamilton, and more recently, Joe Johnson) is not only not behind us, it's still in full swing.
More shocking than that (because, let's be honest, do you even remember a world where NBA owners didn't spend like maniacs?) is the abrupt about-face done by the Grizzlies, who 2+ years ago decided that Pau Gasol, anchor of multiple 50-win playoff teams was too expensive, despite a contract paying him roughly the same annual salary as Rudy Gay’s deal will pay him? Sure, if they didn’t move without delay, someone else would overpay and lure away Rudy Gay (you like that?), but would that really have been the end of world? Had Gay received a max offer elsewhere, the Grizz would either have stood to benefit from a sign-and-trade with his acquirer (and maybe additional teams), or Memphis would then be ideally positioned - a young team, with several young assets to trade and all the cap room needed to absorb the contracts of really good players from salary-dumping teams. As it stands now, this is a small-market, low-revenue team that’s taken a big step toward locking in a relatively modest ceiling for the next half decade.