Shaq and Iverson's days being relevant are done, but how about their days getting NBA paychecks?The big name, big money free agents are all signed, a few serviceable role players are still floating around the free agency pool (Shannon Brown, Josh Boone, Roger Mason, Brian Scalabrine, etc.), but fans are still left wondering if three of the biggest stars of the 00’s are even going to play next year. Shaquille O’Neal, Allen Iverson, and Tracy McGrady—three probable Hall of Famers—not only don’t have teams to play on in 2010-11 yet, they don’t appear to have any suitors.
Considering each is relatively old for his position (SF McGrady is 31, G Iverson is 35, and C O’Neal is 38) and their skills and physical abilities are faded, some teams are wondering if any of them has something to offer to their squads next year. Here is a brief breakdown of what clubs are thinking about while (if?) considering any of these three once-greats.
TMac’s size, smooth moves, and devastating aerial act once brought fear into the eyes of defenders, but no longer. His scoring has taken a severe header into the pavement the past three seasons (25 ppg in 06-07, 8 ppg last year), his shooting percentages were never good but they’re now atrocious (39% each of the past two abbreviated seasons), and his first-step quickness to the hole is a thing of the past (3.4 free throw attempts per 36 minutes last year - that’s slow white shooter territory – what’s that? Danilo Gallinari averaged 4.0 per 36 last year. ouch). He’s still a decent passer for his size, but that was never exactly his calling card.
So everything he ever had skill-wise is gone, plus he’s injured all the time, but should teams consider him for his veteran intangibles? In a word, no. He screwed around with the Rockets for the past two years, has never been a student of the game, could be called “selfish” and “lacking heart” without much argument, and he’s never gotten past the first round of the playoffs. Hopefully you didn’t forget this important piece of information. As intimidating as his offense once was with a couple different teams, McGrady has never played in the second round of the playoffs. You’d think a future Hall of Famer who was never dealt quite the turd sandwich Iverson was in Philly would win a series just by dumb luck (or by teaming up with Yao Ming), but he can’t even offer post-season experience to an aspiring club.
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No veteran team looking to get over the hump needs him, no young team looking for leadership would want him, and his skills aren’t really skills anymore. The Bulls looked like his last chance, and it appears they’re going to pass. McGrady should retire, which seems kind of silly considering he was the highest paid player in the league last year at $25 million, but this is the mess you get yourself into when you rely on your athleticism to make every play you’ve ever made and you never add those intangibles that would make you desirable after the age of 30. Are you listening O.J. Mayo?
AI was once the fastest player in the league and the undisputed champion of burying floaters in traffic, not to mention that he consistently hit the most important shots at the end of any close game. Recently, his speed has left him, his bad shooting percentage is still pretty bad (42% over the past two seasons). He was a one-trick pony (obscene quickness) and that’s gone. Everything you’d want from him playing-wise is gone, and he seems to have a pretty big problem not being a starter. He’s talked the good talk the past two years (that would cover four teams) about being a team player, but the headaches he’s caused by not starting in 8 of the games he’s played in during that short stretch make you wonder. Not really wonder as much as confirm that we all know he still expects to be a major contributor, which he isn’t.
From a veteran leadership standpoint, Iverson is not who you’d want steering your team’s youngsters; if he doesn’t get his way, he complains. Loudly and publicly. His biggest contribution would have to be off-the-court, like in practice…uh oh. At this point, only two types of teams would sign a player like Iverson: one that’s run by idiots or one that’s bad but wants to capitalize off nostalgia. He already burned through the Grizzlies and Sixers last year, so Minnesota might be the only team left. I haven’t heard their name attached to The Answer, so this really may be the end of the road for AI after three terrible endings in a row (Pistons, Grizzlies, Sixers).
Shaq is the most compelling of the three because he can still be a solid contributor on the court. In limited minutes and while battling injuries, the big guy still put up 12 ppg and 7 rpg last year, plus he shot 57% and had 1.2 blocks per. And he’s still large and skilled enough to contend with Dwight Howard, but Howard did smartly point out recently that “you match up for the league, not just one team.” The major issue with picking up the giant center is that Shaq the distraction is starting to become a bigger part of his presence than Shaq the contributor. He couldn’t keep his mouth shut to save his life, and what spills out is getting to be embarrassing, and if he was anyone else, it would often seem offensive. It’s no longer cute, so a lot of teams don’t want to put up with his childish ways.
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A veteran squad that “plays the right way” wouldn’t need someone like that around, especially since he is a bit of a defensive liability at this point, and rebuilding teams probably don’t want his attitude becoming the attitude of the club. It’s becoming clearer that no team really wants the distraction he’d bring to them, especially since the only times we hear about a possible destination (Atlanta, Boston), it seems to always come from his camp. Shaq is forever the self-promoter, so it’s entirely possible that exactly zero teams would even consider picking him up for the mid-level exception, which is around $6 million.
And what if someone was willing to take on his mouth for a year, would Shaq just go anywhere? He’s said he wants to go to a contender, but everyone says that, and it’s now come out that he’d like one more big paycheck, even if it’s in Europe. Notice the European teams aren’t seeking him out; he’s seeking out a deal with them. It seems safe to say his motivation won’t be real high with whatever NBA club he might end up on next year, no matter what their contender status is. That’s problematic because his motivation was never one of his strong suits.
So there it is, all three players might be done and it doesn’t appear any team really cares, or should. There are plenty of franchises out there who have money they saved up for the LeBron-a-thon, but still the players’ phones aren’t ringing. I’m not saying all three are definitely done, but if any of them signs, I can’t imagine fans will be marking their calendars for when they come to town. Hopefully each takes the high road and simply retires because dragging out the painful-to-watch end is a sure-fire way to tarnish their reputations.