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Uncontested Shots: The Latest on Delonte, KG, Rondo, Oden, & Monta

In case you haven’t noticed the unofficial start of the basketball season is finally upon us. An off-season that saw a shotgun wedding, a shotgun arrest, and the Big Diesel now sitting shotgun in Cleveland, is finally over.

If you clothes your eyes you can almost smell the full grain leather.

Expect the content here at SCIC to increase dramatically both in quality and quantity. There’s finally stuff to write about. No more speculating about whether Shaq and LeBron can coexist, no more guesses on whether Kevin Garnett is healthy, no more wondering how Trevor Ariza will look in the Rockets new alternative jerseys.

The wait is over.

So without any further hesitation, I bring you my latest round of Uncontested Shots, or should I say, things I was thinking about while wondering if the Angels dousing the late Nick Adenhart’s uniform in beer and champagne was one of the greatest celebrations I’ve ever seen in sports.

Reason For Concern In Cleveland Already

Less than a month ago the Cavs’ Delonte West was arrested for carrying three loaded weapons while riding his motorcycle. While West’s history with depression has been well-chronicled, the latest out of the Cavs training camp in Independence, Ohio is that West didn’t show up for the team’s first practice on Tuesday—and his absence was unexcused.

I won’t try to sit here and say that his mental health isn’t more important than a game because it is. But this can’t be the type of start the Cavs were hoping for going into LeBron’s contract year. With the Celtics, Wizards, and Magic all better teams on paper, the team that comes out with the top spot in the Eastern Conference could end up being the team that gets off to the best start.

Did you know the last 16 games between the Cavs and Celtics were won by the home team? The Cavs can still win without West but there’s no denying they are a better team when he’s in their lineup.

Don’t be surprised if the next thing we hear out of Independence is that West is going to take a leave of absence from the team. Let’s all hope that whatever he’s dealing with gets resolved—regardless of what team you root for.

KG Says He’s OK

The good news out of the Celtics’ camp in Waltham, Mass. is that Kevin Garnett claims he’s close to 100 percent recovered from the knee surgery he underwent last season to remove bone spurs from his right knee. The only concern now is whether the ultra-competitive Garnett is exaggerating his progress because he’s itching to get back on the court. With most knee injuries there’s always the risk that Garnett injures the left knee while overcompensating for the surgically repaired one.

The Celtics are saying they’ve also turned their attention to trying to reach an agreement on an extension with Rajon Rondo before the Oct. 31 deadline.

I’ve mentioned before that the Rondo situation is worth monitoring since he would become a restricted free agent next summer should the two sides fail to reach an agreement.

With so many teams having cap space next summer, it’s in the Celtics best interest to sign Rondo now since he’ll be plan B or plan C for a lot of teams should they strike out on one of the top-tier free agents like LeBron, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, or possibly Amare Stoudemire (if he decides to opt out).

The Celtics would most likely match any offer sheet that Rondo signs but there’s the risk that a team with ample cap space would overpay Rondo—forcing the Celtics to match. The Celtics already have about $55 million committed to just Garnett, Paul Pierce, Kendrick Perkins, Rasheed Wallace, and Glen Davis.

With Ray Allen, Eddie House, and Marquis Daniels also entering the final year of their respective contracts there’s a chance that the Celtics might have to choose between keeping either Rondo or Allen or risk chartering into $100 million range with the luxury tax.

Whether or not the Celtics are willing to bring back both Rondo and Allen might depend on how far the team goes this season. If they were forced to choose I’d guess they’d go with Rondo since point guards are much more difficult to replace and Rondo, Davis, and Perkins are the only on the team who play major minutes and have yet to enter their respective primes.

Eddy Curry Ready to Contribute

The New York Times’ Howard Beck has a story today about the new and improved Eddy Curry. After a forgettable season filled with lawsuits, personal tragedy, and injury, the Knicks’ center has shed 40 pounds and is on his way to getting back into basketball shape and getting his once-promising career back on track.

This has to come as good news for Knicks fans since any hope the Knicks have of being able to recruit more than one impact free agent next summer hinges on the front office’s ability to trade either Curry or Jared Jeffries—both of whom have two years remaining on their respective deals.

Even if the Knicks are unable to move Curry it would bode well for them in free agency just by having a serviceable big man. While so much of the Knicks promise is based on recent draft picks Wilson Chandler, Danilo Ganillari, Jordan Hill, and Toney Douglas, having a couple veterans like Curry and David Lee would definitely make the Knicks a more attractive destination for free agents hoping to compete for championships immediately rather than being part of a rebuilding plan.

If Curry can get anywhere close to the 19.5 points and seven rebounds per game he averaged in 2006-07 (when he only missed one game) then Al Harrington might be right in saying that a healthy Curry and Gallinari could be the difference between the 32 games the Knicks won last season and winning 40-plus this season.

Will the Real Greg Oden Please Stand Up?

Joe Freeman has a piece in Monday’s Oregonian about Greg Oden’s improvements both physically and mentally heading into camp after two seasons beset by injury.

Oden seems like a great kid and I really hope that he can finally prove that he’s a player deserving of being the first player picked in the draft.

But Freeman’s article felt like something I’ve read ten times before. Maybe it’s time for the Blazers and the beat writers who cover the team to stop setting this kid up for failure by raising expectations. Instead of telling us who everybody thinks Oden will be why not just let him play and prove it to us on the court?

Freeman has another story about LaMarcus Aldridge and the Blazers slow movement on reaching an agreement on an extension after the team and Brandon Roy were able to do so earlier this summer.

Aldridge is understandably disappointed but he’s also being unrealistic about what he feels he’s worth. While many around the league think highly of him the Blazers know that Aldridge, unlike Roy, would never receive a max-type offer on the open market. He’s a small forward with power forward height who hasn’t proven he’s much more than a guy who can knock down open jump shots. Aldridge finished 28th in the league last season in rebounding, averaging 7.5 per game—below Brad Miller, Mehmet Okur, and Gerald Wallace.

The Blazers, unlike the Celtics with Rondo, would be wise not to sign Aldridge to an extension before the Oct. 31 deadline and allow him to become a restricted free agent next summer. In declining to extend him they’d not only let the market prove to Aldridge what he’s really worth but it would also light a fire under Aldridge for all of next season that would probably get him playing the best basketball of his life.

If he proves that he is, in fact, a max-type player then they would still have the ability to match any offer thrown his way and would have no problem matching it.

Big Trouble in Golden St.

It wasn’t bad enough for the Warriors that captain Stephen Jackson went public with a trade request just a couple weeks before training camp started. Now The New York Times’ Jonathan Abrams is reporting (via Twitter) that Monta Ellis will be the next to ask to be traded.

Tim Kawakami of the The San Jose Mercury News has an interesting article on his blog today about Jackson and Ellis. While Warriors fans should be upset that two of their favorites have picked the worst possible time to ask for trades, this might be the best possible scenario for the long-term future of the franchise.

This could end with Chris Cohan (aka “Donald Sterling North”) selling the team.

While I don’t have a problem with Ellis wanting out I do take issue with Jackson’s request. It was Jackson who cried about his extension last season despite the fact that he still had two remaining years on it. He got his extension and now, not only does he want to be traded, but he thinks he can dictate to which teams he can be traded to.

What happened between when you asked for the extension and now that led you believe that anything would change with that joke of a franchise? Jackson used the threat of his unhappiness as a tool to get his extension and now he wants out. What Jackson probably doesn’t realize is that it’s that same extension that will make him virtually impossible to trade.

He made his bed. Now he needs to lie in it.

As for Ellis, if he proves he’s healthy, he should have no problem finding suitors. The Warriors, with rookie Stephen Curry, should have no problem trying to move Ellis for an expiring contract and a young prospect.

Don’t be surprised if things get so ugly with Jackson that the Warriors go “Jamaal Tinsley” on him and ban him from the team indefinitely while continuing to pay him.

HoopsHype summed it up best on their Twitter page: “Somewhere, Chris Mullin is smiling.”

Uncontested Shots will debut every Tuesday and Friday from now until at least the start of the season. For up to the minute updates on all free agent happenings and random brilliant thoughts and observations follow Andrew Ungvari on Twitter.

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