The Balk-Cooper NBA Offseason Conferences: Part Two

Tim Balk and Danny Cooper continue their conversation about the NBA offseason below. Click here for a link to the first part of their discussion, and stay tuned to College Sports Town to see further Tim-Danny discussions.

Tim Balk: Let’s start things off by delving deeper into free agency. Dallas locked Dirk Nowitzki up for another three years. Dirk is 36 years old, but he’s still an elite weapon. His numbers have remained fairly constant over the past few seasons and he has to be the league’s best player over 35. Another guy over 35–Paul Pierce–is one of the hottest commodities in this year’s free agency. Pierce is coming off the worst season of his illustrious Hall of Fame career, but the wily wing still played staunch defense and provided efficient offensive production for the inconsistent Nets. Brooklyn surely wants Pierce back, but they’ll have to compete with a horde of other suitors including the Clippers, Trail Blazers, and Bulls. If Pierce does come back to BK, he’ll rejoin a nucleus of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and a now healthy Brook Lopez. Meanwhile, the Trail Blazers inked a deal with the oft-injured Chris Kaman and the Kings picked up Darren Collison.

Dirk Nowitzki will be a career Maverick (Photo Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

Dirk Nowitzki will be a career Maverick.

Danny Cooper: It’s certainly been a busy couple of days in the free agent market. Dirk has long been one of my favorite players, and I’m glad to see him basically commit to being a Maverick for life. He’s still got some gas left in the tank, and the Mavericks could only be a high-profile free agent signing away from real postseason success, being that they pushed the eventual world champions to 7 games this past spring. I’d also just like to point out the contrast between the hometown discount Dirk took to benefit his squad and the exorbitant $48.5 million 2 year extension Kobe signed last year.

The Clippers with Paul Pierce could be really dangerous next year. A reunion between The Truth and his old coach Doc Rivers could prove fruitful for the Clippers. A hard-nosed defender with a smooth jumper such as Pierce would fit in well in their sets, and he could provide valuable veteran leadership alongside Chris Paul. I know you are already emptying out your wallet to get a fresh #34 Lob City jersey, no? At this point, I’m just hoping I can wear my Carmelo Anthony Knicks jersey without it being a throwback.

TB: Los Angeles would be an interesting landing spot for Paul. Personally, I wouldn’t mind The Truth following me to Chitown. He’s not Melo, but Pierce would be an awfully solid add for Chicago…or any team really. I actually don’t see Pierce shipping off to his hometown; for #34 to land in LA a sign-and-trade deal between the Clips and Nets would likely need to go down and I have my doubts about how much interest Billy King has in a Jared Dudley or a Matt Barnes.

The hot new rumor is that the Lakers made a strong push for Carmelo Anthony, but I don’t see what the Lakers possibly can offer him beyond a 35 year old ballhog co-star whose knees are failing him, an uncertain coaching situation, and a spot in the hyper-competitive Western Conference. Not to rehash thoughts from our last post, but Chicago continues to be the clear basketball choice, and New York remains the comfortable, potentially more lucrative option. When it all shakes down, it’s probably still the best bet that Paul and Carmelo will be playing their basketball in the concrete jungle of New York in the fall.

In one of the stranger stories of the offseason, rookie Hornet P.J. Hairston punched someone in a pickup game. This is another in a line of bizarre off-court incidents for Hairston. The former Tar Heel is a fantastic talent–he’s a big, athletic, wing with an impossibly sweet stroke–but it’s getting harder to see him ever realizing his potential at the NBA level.

DC: Los Angeles is obviously an attractive location for any superstar athlete, but I agree with you. The strongest basketball decision for Melo is no doubt Chicago, and the stronger financial decision is clearly New York. I’m anxious over this decision as a Knicks fan, but I am looking forward to the drama being over.

I’m not so sure Hornets owner Michael Jordan is bothered by P.J’s behavior. Sure, he prefers that Hairston stay out of legal trouble, but MJ was no stranger to getting fired up in the heat of battle on the basketball court. If Hairston is throwing punches in the YMCA, I’d love to see his competitive fire in the NBA. Hopefully, the legal situation will blow over, and Hairston can focus his energy on improving his game and staying out of trouble.

P.J. will need to stay out of trouble as he attempts to make an impact in the NBA.

P.J. will need to stay out of trouble as he tries to break into the league.

I’m afraid we can’t complete this post without mentioning the ongoing LeBron saga. Misinformation is being fired at the general population from all sides, meaning no one really knows where the King is going. Zydrunas Ilgauskas reportedly flew to South Florida on Dan Gilbert’s private plane, supposedly in an attempt to lure LBJ back to Cleveland, a move that seems increasingly likely each passing day. Meanwhile, the Heat signed former LeBron opponents Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger, each giving their consent with the understanding LeBron would be returning, according to a tweet from Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Frankly, I’ll be happy when the entire ordeal is over, but, like the majority of basketball fans, I’d like to see LeBron go back home. Tim, where do you want to see the King end up?

TB: I’d like to see LeBron in Boston or Chicago. OK, maybe not THAAAAT realistic. A LeReturn (I know, I know, that’s terrible) to Cleveland would be loads of fun and they’d be quite good. At the same time, I’ll believe it when I see it. The media is clearly excited about the possibility, but as you note, it’s impossible to get a read on how legit Bron’s interest in taking his talents back to the Mistake by the Lake is. What I’m more confident about: the Heat’s championship window is closed up, barring a miracle. LeBron-Wade-Bosh is not the trio it once was and the King’s going to have a tough time chasing ‘ships in South Beach EVEN IF Chris Bosh spurns the outlandish offer the Rockets have presented him. A move to his hometown might be a win-win for the King, but it also would mean turning his back on Dwyane Wade and rest of the Heat organization.

DC: Although it would be difficult for LeBron to leave the organization he’s been to four straight Finals with, I agree that he’d have a better chance to win his third ring in most of the other potential destinations that have been listed over the past few days. Wade’s game was incomplete in the Finals, as the hobbled former superstar struggled to do what he once specialized in, finishing at the rim. If, and again, that’s a big if, Chris Bosh decides to stay in Miami, who knows how much longer he’ll be an elite big man. Bill Simmons asserted following the Finals that Bosh is already beginning to decline. LBJ would be wise to surround himself with young guns Kyrie Irving, Andrew Wiggins, and (dare I say) Anthony Bennett instead of his aging old crew. Not to mention the Nike executives already drooling over the prospect of “The Return of the King.”

TB: Anthony Bennett is terrible.

Bennett gets no love from Tim!

Bennett gets no love from Tim!

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