One final Mengke Bateer note – while I called him Mongolian earlier, he’s actually from Inner Mongolia, which is considered part of China, in much the same way Vermont is considered part of the USA. I didn’t realise that there was a difference between Mongolia and Inner Mongolia, but there is, and so I will bring that difference to you now. Always learning.
Hardaway last played in December 2007 with the Miami Heat. Finding anything that he’s done since then has not been easy. His website is just a shade out of date, and if he has business interests then I don’t know what they are. What we know for sure is that two years ago he gave a million dollars to the University of Memphis two years ago, because John Calipari has a way of making things like that happen.
Thunder draft pick Hardin played in Greece last year, but now he’s back where they can keep an eye on him. Hardin is with the Thunder’s D-League affiliate, the Tulsa 66ers, but he’s not doing very well there. In 27 games with 20 starts and 20.5 minutes per game, Hardin is averaging only 5.2 points and 4.7 rebounds per game, with 155 points on 122 shots and a foul every eight minutes. It should be somewhat simple for an NBA-calibre big man to put up near-double-double stats in the D-League; even Chris Richard managed to do it, when his 9/8 for the 66ers was deemed sufficient to be signed three times by the Chicago Bulls. But Hardin hasn’t done it, nor has he come close to it. His minutes have affected somewhat by the Thunder’s assortment of assigned players, including big men D.J. White and B.J. Mullens at various times, as well as injury. Yet it’s not heading the right way.
Harpring was a member of the Thunder’s roster until just after the trade deadline, when the Thunder quietly waived him. Before that time, Harpring was doing TV work for the Utah Jazz; after that time, he still is.
Dallas’ deadline deal for Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood was proof, to an extent, of what I said at the time about the deal that first brought Harpring and Eric Maynor to Oklahoma City. Had OKC held on to that cap space longer, I believe they could have gotten more for it; by offering some long-term salary relief (which OKC could do), as well as short-term salary relief (which OKC could do even better than Dallas), OKC could have received the package that Dallas did instead. The Thunder are already very good, but put Brendan Haywood on this team, and they become amongst the West’s very best. This was doable. And so while Maynor is a nice player for them, I still think it was premature, and a misappropriation of their unrivalled resources. (Of course, this can never be proven. But the Dallas deal suggests it was the case.)
Also, by not getting under the luxury tax despite trimming so much salary, Utah fails. Close, but close wasn’t enough. Since it’s the kind of thing I like to wonder about, I wonder if there were avenues available to them to do so that they just deemed to be too far. For example, OKC and Presti were the ones who gave C.J. Miles that contract in the first place; is there no conceivable way in which Utah could have palmed him off there, even if it’s only for Kyle Weaver? Just thinking out loud here. Maybe they decided dumping three rotation players just to save money was too much to justify. But whatever the reason they had for not getting under the tax – be it by choice, or because they couldn’t get it done – Utah know that it’s possible to dump a good player on an average salary and pick up a comparable player for the minimum. They know this because they’ve done it, and so if they could have done it one more time with this Miles to OKC deal, then perhaps they should have.
The counter argument to that says that, if C.J. Miles is so readily replaceable with a cheaper player, then OKC could just pick up the cheaper player instead should they need to. That counter argument makes a valid point. And so perhaps that answers my own question as to the viability of a Miles-to-OKC deal. (The fact that the Thunder have acquired Thabo Sefolosha and James Harden since that offer sheet was signed is also not insignificant. Oklahoma City no longer have a place for Miles.)
But the larger, general point remains. You see it a lot, when D-League players come in and contribute at least 85% of what the multi-year veteran they’re replacing can give, to a watching audience shocked by their competence. This happens every year, and this year has been no different, with players such as Sundiata Gaines, Reggie Williams, Anthony Tolliver, Chris Hunter and others readily contributing to NBA teams. Utah themselves kind of did this when they brought in Wesley Matthews in the offseason, a man so beautifully competent that he made Ronnie Brewer expendable. About 40 or so NBA rotation players are entirely replaceable by players outside of the NBA, who would be deemed to have NBA talent had they had the opportunity/fortune of those in front of them. This is particularly the case with wing players, but also applies to all positions, and it’s not just something that’s been the case since the D-League existed. For example, for all these years Calvin Booth has been bringing in pay checks and signing multi-year contracts, how much worse than him has Zendon Hamilton been? Pretty much no worse at all, really. But Booth had opportunity and fortune, and Hamilton did not. So Hamilton grafted for whatever money and employment he could get, while Booth got a prolonged career based off one timely summer. It’s somewhat unfair, but it’s just how it is. (And despite how it may appear, that’s not meant pejoratively towards Booth. Take what you can get, Calvin, and God bless you for that.)
The NBA prefers familiarity, and familiarity breeds the opposite of contempt. Some players get more than they deserve, while their comparable peers run up the air miles just trying to find the right situation. There is nothing especially wrong or flawed about this circumstance, and it sure as hell applies to all works of life in some way. Yet it perhaps should be less of a surprise when a D-Leaguer or undrafted free agent is brought in and is able to be a consistent distributor in an NBA rotation. It’s normal, it’s sensible, and it’s worth considering when you start giving average players MLE money. Any team that does its homework can find minimum salary talent. Utah are one such team – they’ve since done it again with Othyus Jeffers – and it’s a shame they didn’t have one more left in the gun.
Every year, I mean to keep a list of players who were bought out of their D-League contracts midseason to go and play somewhere else around the world. And every year, I forget. I do keep a list of NBA call-ups and assignments, but that’s not the same thing. I’m talking about moves such as Carlos Powell to Liaoning, Courtney Sims to Puerto Rico, Zabian Dowdell to Unicaja Malaga, etc. But I never remember.
One such move that was entirely overlooked was that of Adam Harrington, who started the season with the Springfield Armor before being bought and moving to Poland to join SKK Kotwica Kolobrzeg. (The very same.) Harrington averaged 8.7 points and 4.0 rebounds for the Armor, compared to 11.2 points and 2.0 rebounds for Kolobrzeg.
Junior Harrington is also in Poland, playing for Asseco Prokom Gdynia. Gdynia are still in the EuroLeague, preparing for a quarter-final matchup against the mighty Olympiacos. So despite how much they’ve achieved just to get this far, they’re in trouble now. Harrington is a small part of this run, averaging 3.5 points and 1.7 assists in the Polish league, alongside 1.8 ppg, 1.4 apg and 1.3 spg in the EuroLeague.
Othella played three games in the D-League last year, after taking a long time to recover from knee surgery. He did not play very well in them, yet they were his only games all season. And this year, Othella has played three fewer games than that. He tried out for a spot with Petrochimi in Iran back in December, but did not make the team. He remains unsigned.
After many years of trying, we might have found something.
Harris has had three stints in the NBA this year. He started with the Thunder, with whom he signed for training camp before being waived in favour of Ryan Bowen, and later returned to the Rockets for a couple of weeks, for whom he appeared in 2 games. Later on came a ten day contract with the Wizards, for whom he played 13 minutes and scored 4 points. And in between those gigs has been the D-League, where Harris once again finds himself. For the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, Harris is averaging 27.0 points and 10.3 rebounds, leading the league in scoring and ranking third in rebounds per game.
Syracuse grad Harris started the season in training camp with the Utah Jazz, but that earlier rant should give you an inclination of how that worked out. Harris got injured in camp and never appeared in a preseason game, and even though he was later taken eighth overall in the 2009 D-League Draft by the Maine Red Claws, he hasn’t played in the D-League this season either due to the injury. Harris declared after his junior year, and could be on the #1-ranked Orange right now, but as it is, he sits unsigned in the D-League player pool rehabbing an ankle injury. This isn’t the ideal way to start a professional career, but bad luck can’t be helped.
Paul Harris looks pretty freaking similar to Mike Harris in that picture, does he not?
Harris started the year in France, but it didn’t go too well. Upon being released, he returned to America and joined the D-League, being acquired by the Maine Red Claws. In inconsistent playing time over a few months, Harris has averaged 6.0 points and 2.5 rebounds per game, yet shot only 32% from three-point range.
Harrison was covered in the 2010 CBA Season Round-up from last week. The CBA regular season just finished, and Guangdong won with a 30-2 record. Seasons are finishing and yet I’m only up to H in the alphabet. Eep.