The Boston Celtics bought themselves an NBA Championship in 2007-08. The Los Angeles Lakers nearly stole one by snookering away the rights to All-Star forward Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies last February 1 for the NBA equivalent of nothing.
Oh, Memphis Coach Marc Iavaroni, a former Suns assistant, called Marc Gasol (pictured), Pau's younger brother, the key to the trade. Whatever you say, Marc.
Phoenix Suns fans spent the remainder of the season gnashing their teeth and hatching conspiracy theories - Lakers and Celtics in the NBA Finals? Can you say "power ratings"? Uh-huh. Told ya so - until Suns GM Steve Kerr did a little snookering of his own last month (at the expense of his former teammate Michael Jordan, no less) by sending a boatload of hooey to the Charlotte Bobcats for shooting guard/three-point champ Jason Richardson.
Heading east were the mouthy tandem of Raja Bell and Boris Diaw. And the Bobcats even threw in the promising Jared Dudley and a second-round pick. Hell, we would've sent them a second-rounder just to take Diaw and his bloated contract off our hands.
In the aftermath, the folks at thehoopdoctors.com had this to say about the trade: "For the Bobcats, this move makes a lot of sense as they have an abundance of scoring wing players, a weak perimeter defense which Raja Bell will help to steady, and could use a versatile player like Boris Diaw to help with interior scoring and ball movement from the inside out."
Whatever you say, dudes. We say "snookering."
Still, the jury's out until about mid-May about whether the addition of J-Rich (and subtraction of Diaw) will get the Suns to the next level.
We're not even to 2009, and the verdict's nearly unanimous about the Suns' next opponents, the woeful Grizzlies.
Sure, they got out from under the weight of Gasol's $50 million contract, but in the process, they gifted the Lakers the keys to the Western Conference for years to come and snagged themselves Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie, the rights to Marc Gasol, and a couple of probable late-first-round draft picks. Blah.
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"We wouldn't have made the deal if we couldn't get Marc," Iavaroni said. "But the trade was always viewed as if he wasn't part of it. I thought that should have been the most interesting part of the national discussion."
Uh, why? The hairy 7-1 center, who played all his professional career in Spain 'til this year, is a decent low-post presence, but if the trade boils down to Pau for Marc, you lose, buddy.
Ah, the Grizzlies' trademark.
The Suns head to Bluff City's FedExForum tonight to take on Iavaroni and the Griz. Tip time's 6 p.m. See www.nba.com/suns. TV: Channel 45 (cable 9). Radio: KTAR-AM 620. -- Clay McNear