NBA

Rating the Summers of NBA Stars

| by Hoops Karma

If you have any school-age children or are a teacher, you probably recognize HAGS as the yearbook abbreviation for “Have A Great Summer.” Just like teenagers who are looking forward to lazy afternoons at the pool and to jobs to earn gas money, NBA players are also trying to have good summers, whether it’s by signing a bigger contract, joining a team that provides a better fit, or by simply putting last year behind them.

A few months in, some players have been successful in their quest to have a great summer, while others have mucked it up. Take a look.

Good Summer

Rudy Gay

Rudy Gay got a max contract to remain with Memphis this summer. This was so shocking to everyone with half a brain, even Rudy Gay was shocked. He’s never been named an All-Star. He was never an All-Defense performer. His stats have been pretty static the past three years, so you can expect five more years of numbers that usually approach but don’t exceed 20 ppg, 6 rpg, 2 apg, and 46% FG shooting – all at a max-level deal. Gay is getting paid over $80 million ($30 million more than he rationally expected to be offered) to be a nice #2 option on a squad that was never good even with him in that very capacity. There’s a reason Rick Majerus said he’s “not a big Gay guy.” But getting that kinda dough to be a second fiddle for a franchise with low expectations is a pretty sweet gig.

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Steve Blake

Blake joins the Lakers after stints with the Wizards, Trail Blazers (twice), Nuggets, and Clippers. Suddenly finding yourself on the most loaded, best paid team in the league isn’t bad, especially when you’ve never seen the second round of the playoffs. Not only that, his skills (3-point shooting, great perimeter passing, lack of athletic drives) are the blueprint for triangle offense PG’s. There are plenty of Lakers who are talented scorers to ensure easy assist opportunities, and he’ll be open all day on the perimeter due to Kobe’s double teams and a super-dominant set of bigs. With Derek Fisher slowing down, Blake could actually end up starting for this Finals-bound club as early as now, causing about a million percent increase in his visibility and popularity across the nation. And he’ll be making $16 million for the opportunity to do this for the next four seasons. Not too shabby considering what Juan Dixon, his old running mate at Maryland, is up to.

Brook Lopez

He finished up a 12-70 season and had to leave Team USA because of the kissing disease, so you’d think this wasn’t Lopez’s summer. Wrong! New Jersey got a new owner who’s willing to spend money, and the squad picked up a tremendous 3-point shooter in Anthony Morrow who should really help open things up inside for Lopez this upcoming season. The team also traded a back-up guard for a starting PF who likes to bang people around and grab boards (Troy Murphy), which takes tremendous pressure off of Lopez, who was the only big man opposing teams needed to focus on last year. And NJ also picked up Derrick Favors in the draft, a defense-first PF known for busting his butt in the paint. Lopez’s team is much better now, and his overwhelming responsibilities down low have been lowered to a manageable level. Not too bad.

Al Jefferson

Jefferson was stuck on a Minnesota franchise that’s run by monkeys, which I’m hesitant to say because some monkeys might take offense to being compared to David Kahn and Glen Taylor. This summer brought good news to the big man: he was traded to Utah. The Jazz needed a starting PF after Carlos Boozer left – check. Jefferson probably wants to play on a team that’s much better than the Timberwolves – check. He’s slated to be a starter on a very good team with an elite point guard who will get him the ball. The dude will score and the team will win. Jefferson is now one full season removed from ACL surgery, so expect his pers of 17 points and 9 rebounds to increase.

Bad Summer

LeBron James

It’s tough to forget what this guy does because he’s so into the spotlight and acting like we all appreciate the crap he pulls. So he left Cleveland, big deal. Here’s why it’s been a bad summer for James. He did an hour-long TV special to announce his going-to-Miami decision, a special that was so predictably overkill it was panned before it even aired. It was then panned by David Stern who kisses James’ butt on the regular. Then everyone in America turned on him because they started to realize he’s a narcissist on the level of J-Lo, plus he’s looking for an easy way to a title by joining a team that already has a top-5 superstar. And his hometown now hates him – his hometown! He got booed at Carmelo Anthony’s wedding (awk-ward). Don’t forget all those “rumors” about his mom sleeping with ex-teammate Delonte West.

Lance Stephenson

This guy was the top prep player in the nation for most of his high school career until scouts started noticing how nuts he was by the end of his senior year. He went to Cincinnati to do the one-and-done thing, and then his 2010 summer got rolling. Once considered the next OJ Mayo (athletic SG who hogs the ball enough so we’ll pretend he’s also a PG), Stephenson’s at-times sluggish play and questions about his mental state dropped his stock to the point he was a second round selection, going to the lowly Pacers with the #40 pick. If the end of the story was him doing well at the Orlando Summer League and getting a contract, fine. But he goes and allegedly pushes his girlfriend down a flight of stairs in front of her friends, and then it comes out he may have followed that up by slamming her head into the bottom step of said stairs as she laid there in pain. He’s now facing multiple charges including criminal possession of a weapon (the step). Stephenson was also in trouble in 2008 for groping a female student at his Brooklyn high school. If only someone had known that he was such a headcase.

Rudy Fernandez

After coming to the NBA as one of the most-hyped European players since Dirk Nowitzki, Rudy has settled into a pretty clear role for the Blazers: 3-point shooter and fancy alley-oop-from-the-right-wing maker. Unfortunately, he was used to being treated like royalty back in Spain and he wanted a bigger role with the club, something along the lines of featured play maker. Due to Portland’s youthful talent and depth on the wing, this never happened. So this summer, he his agent talked and talked and talked to the media. Rudy should be used like this, the Blazers don’t do this for him, he should play more minutes, he should be traded, we demand he’s traded, he won’t show up this year, he doesn’t want to play in the league anymore, we demand you release him from his contract. Unfortunately for the Blazers, the more his agent talks, the less other teams are willing to trade for him. Unfortunately for Rudy, the less other teams are willing to trade for him, the more likely it is the Blazers will simply play hardball and watch Rudy squirm as he doesn’t get paid for the next two years (FIBA honors all NBA contracts, so he can’t just go back to Spain and start playing unless the Blazers release him from the last two seasons of his contract). No matter what happens from this point forward, Rudy looks bad.

Tracy McGrady

Last year McGrady was pulling the largest salary in the league ($25 million) while catching some sun in Houston and playing a little bit of ball in Madison Square Gardens, the most legendary hoops arena in the world. Then his contract expired and, well, let’s just say no one wanted him on their club because he’s 31, no longer good, and he has none of the intangibles no-longer-good vets are supposed to have. But McGrady did find a job…barely. The super crappy and falling apart Detroit Pistons signed him. At the veteran’s minimum. And he plays the same position as five other players on the team, four of whom were the team’s four highest scorers last year. And most fans think he didn’t even deserve that.