The frenzy that accompanied the onset of NBA free agency has slowed to a waltz of mid-level signings and veteran-minimum deals. That gives us a chance to catch our breath and take the temperature of some of the deals that have already closed. And though it appears many teams have adopted a more prudent approach in throwing dollars after talent, a few teams have made some curious deals.
Rashard Lewis, Orlando Magic: There's little doubt Lewis and his outside range will help open the middle up for Dwight Howard and provide an offensive boost to a team desperate for scoring. But the Magic likely outbid themselves in handing the 6-10 forward $110 million over the next six years. Not only was that $15 million more than what Chauncey Billups (a free agent who could have helped the Magic even more) agreed to from Detroit, but it forced Orlando to cut ties to their own free agent, Darko Milicic. The former No. 2 pick in the 2003 draft may never live up to his pre-draft hype, but at age 22, he has shown signs of developing into a versatile big man, one that could have kept the paint relatively clean for Howard to patrol while Lewis hoisted jumpers. In overpaying for Lewis, the Magic tied up their hands this year and beyond, and for a team that was swept out of the first round of the playoffs last year, will Lewis translate into even a second-round appearance? He had better.
Jason Kapono, Toronto Raptors: This smells like Damon Jones to Cleveland, doesn't it? Kapono had a career year last season, converting 51 percent of his 3-point attempts for the Heat while defenses collapsed on Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade. The Raptors obviously feel he can pull off a similar feat with Chris Bosh down low; why else would they have agreed to expand Kapono's bank account by $24 million over the next five years? But Bosh is no Shaq and Anthony Parker is no Wade. That's not a knock, just an acknowledgment that Toronto plays a different style than Miami. That doesn't mean they can't use Kapono's range, but if they think they'll be getting the production Kapono found in the shadow of one of the game's most dominant big men, they will be scrambling to unload his contract as hard as the Cavs are now trying to unload Jones.
Steve Blake, Portland Trail Blazers: Something isn't adding up in Portland? Jarrett Jack started at point guard last season as an NBA sophomore. Spanish sensation Sergio Rodriguez is a backup many teams would love to have as their starter. And now you go out and get Blake? We can't imagine Blake left a starting gig for a playoff team in Denver to ride the pine for a lottery team. So what is the next step? Luckily, expectations will be such in Portland that coach Nate McMillan will have the chance to weed out his point guard rotation and decide who sees the floor and who the front office gets to play with as a trade asset.
Derek Fisher, L.A. Lakers: Sure, we're happy Fisher's child will receive the medical treatment she needs in L.A. easier than she would have in Salt Lake City. But for as much as the Lakers needed to strengthen themselves in the paint, GM Mitch Kupchak chooses to boost the backcourt with a $14 million deal for a soon-to-be 33-year-old tweener point guard? Sure he will play better D than Smush parker and his familiarity and the respect he carries may keep Kobe's dissension in check at times, but his inability to offer much relief to Kobe from opposing defenses likely won't help the Lakers' playoff prospects.
That's what has been puzzling us a bit. What do you think of these deals? Or is something even more ridiculous gnawing at your conscience?