Part One Of My Interview With Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski

I walked to the Louis Brown Athletic Center (also known as the RAC) with a million thoughts rushing through my head. What questions am I going to ask? Can I form something that will resemble an interview? Is this really happening? You see this wasn’t just any ordinary Monday on the campus of Rutgers University.

Earlier that morning I checked my twitter feed as I do every morning and noticed that Adrian Wojanrowski, the head NBA writer for Yahoo Sports and NBA insider for NBC Sports Talk, was at the RAC for Mike Rice’s basketball camp for kids. I took a shot in the dark and asked him for an interview, to my amazement he answered and told me to come over.

“I rarely check when I’m mentioned on Twitter, but I just happened to look and saw your tweet,” he said.

Kharma I now believe in your mysterious ways.

Me:  So what’s the situation with Dwight Howard? The trade has become like a spider web with Cleveland emerging as the third team, is there any other team besides the Cavs that would be willing to take on Kris Humphries with the chance of receiving draft picks as well?

Adrian: I think that Cleveland is the primary target right now. They want to be rewarded with a draft pick or picks. They really don’t want Humphries, but they’ll take him if they can get a pick out of it. Humphries wants a long term deal, but I don’t think Cleveland has any interest in giving him a deal past a year; I don’t know if Humphries is going to get a deal like that right now with the money that he wants.

There are other teams out there that have interest in Humphries, but at what price; how much are they going to be willing to pay him. What are they going to get compensated for by taking him? Teams know the Nets need him; they know that the Nets have to find a team for him in this deal, in order for the numbers to work. Orlando doesn’t want him, they won’t take him. Cleveland is the primary target, though I think there are still some other teams that Orlando is talking to that have yet to emerge.

UPDATE: In an example of the 24/7 news cycle, Cleveland pulled out as the third team in the Dwight Howard trade on Tuesday afternoon.

Me: Say Brooklyn is able to land Howard without dealing Gerald Wallace how are they going to be able to fill in the rest of the roster?

AW: They won’t get rid of Wallace. It would be Williams, Wallace, Howard, Johnson, Teletovic, and after that it’s going to all be veteran minimum contracts. They’ll fill the roster in the way the Heat did because there is no more money, but you have to hope that guys will want to come and play for a lesser amount.

Their roster will be gutted if they do this deal, but that’s the price you pay.

Me: Look what happened to the Heat last year, the bench didn’t fill out like they thought it would and subsequently they fell apart in the finals. This year the bench didn’t come into play besides game five of the Finals because Lebron played the best basketball that we’ve seen since Jordan. That had to have some type of influence on Ray Allen’s decision to go to Miami.

So having said that, how hard will it be to fill in the rest of the roster and is it worth it to put your franchise in that type of position for a player like Howard?

AW: I think to get a player of Howard’s magnitude (pause)…

Me: You do everything you can?

AW: Yeah, you figure it out as you go. You’re going to have two great players and two very good ones. You’re going to lose MarShon Brooks in this deal, if it happens.

You win with great players in the NBA, so I think the feeling is that they will figure it out. I just think that Howard is such a game changer, such a dominant force that he will compensate for all of the holes that they’ll have on the bench.

If you look at what he did in Orlando with the supporting cast that he had it showed just how much of an effect he has on the game. The Nets will do whatever they have to do in order to get him, even with the luxury tax that they’ll have to pay. They’re willing to spend whatever it takes to make the deal work.

Me: With Bynum not stating that he would resign if traded to Orlando, does that take LA out of the running for Dwight?

AW: Bynum won’t commit to them now, but he didn’t rule it out. Orlando isn’t going to do this deal unless they are pretty secure that he’ll resign there. They can’t do this deal and then have nothing to show for it in a year.

Orlando also wants picks and the Lakers traded those two first rounders away in the Nash deal, so I wouldn’t say that they’re out of it because these things can be fluid, but I think they’ve fallen behind. If the Magic knew that Bynum would commit, they could live without the picks, but they can’t live without both.

Me: What was the deciding factor in Deron Williams choosing to resign with the Nets?

AW: Joe Johnson. Williams said that he was on his way to Dallas before the Johnson deal took place, but with Johnson on board Deron felt that he had a better chance to win in Brooklyn. He was worried about what if something happened to Dirk, there’s no depth on that roster. Obviously they (DAL) could have paid him more, but once the Johnson deal happened Deron was locked in.

Me: If Brooklyn doesn’t get Dwight Howard, is that Joe Johnson deal a good move?

AW: Yes because they kept Deron Williams and now have a middle of the pack Eastern Conference playoff team. Think about the alternative: they don’t trade for Johnson; Williams leaves; Howard doesn’t come; what do you have? Gerald Wallace?

Me: (laughs) Humphries.

AW: (laughs) and Brook Lopez.

It’s at this point in the interview when I ran my Sixers theory by Woj. In my last column I proposed a fake trade: Jrue Holiday, Spencer Hawes, Thaddeus Young, and two first round picks for Howard and Jason Richardson. He ponders the idea for a couple seconds and then says…

AW: Orlando wants a lot of cap space and picks and why would Philly gut their team for a guy who isn’t going to resign with them.

Damnit he’s right.

Ok enough, back to the interview.

AW: If Howard doesn’t end up in Brooklyn and doesn’t resign with the team that he’s traded to, he could very well wind up in Dallas after this season with Chris Paul.

I excused myself for a second so I could pick up the pieces of my brain that were scattered across the RAC.

Me (Stunned): You really think Chris Paul would leave LA?

AW: (Nods) He had a chance to resign this offseason and he won’t do it. They have no GM in place, I think he’s going to wait and see how everything shakes out, but things are always tenuous with that organization. There’s no direction right now. He may stay, but he had a chance to re-up and he didn’t do it.

Me: I think a lot of people were blinded by the fact that the Clippers finally had a good season. They finally had an identity to differentiate themselves from the Lakers (Lob City), so it makes you think that everything is headed in the right direction, but that might not be the case?

AW: I think he [Paul] is keeping his options open for next summer whether it be Dallas or someone else.

After thinking about the super power that could be Dallas in two seasons with Dwight and CP3 on board it was time to ask Woj about the second coming of the “showtime” Lakers.

Me: With Steve Nash are the Lakers the favorite in the West?

AW: I don’t think so. I think the Thunder are still the best. The Spurs are still very good if they stay healthy.

Nash makes them better offensively there’s no question, if they get Grant Hill that helps as well, but defensively they need to improve. They need to bring in another defensive minded guard to slow down Russell Westbrook and the other quick Western Conference guards that Nash has never been able to defend.

Mike Brown builds his team around defense and the Lakers have to be better there before I can put them above the Thunder.

Me: Do you think they’ll amnesty World Peace?

AW: I don’t think so. It’s not like them to spend money that way. They’ll still be over the cap regardless, so by getting rid of him it’s not going to give LA a better chance to bring someone else in. Someone has to play small forward; Hill would help them a lot. The rest of their moves will be veteran minimum signings.

Me: How well do you think Kobe and Nash will play together?

AW: I think they’ll play very well together. Nash will help them space the floor a little better. The ball will be in his hands quite a bit. He’ll keep everybody involved. He’ll get Kobe the ball in the post, he’ll get Bynum the ball in the post. The older Kobe gets the better off he is playing in the post because of his ability to get to the free throw line. Kobe has tremendous footwork and a great back to the basket game. He’s not going to beat you off of the dribble as much anymore.

Nash is still a great shooter, he gives them another guy who can shoot from the perimeter. When Gasol, Bynum, or Kobe are double teamed they can kick the ball back out to Nash who will make shots. That will help them a lot.

Me: I think Nash is going to really help Gasol because Gasol can run the floor very well for a seven footer. When you look back at Pau last season he wasn’t used correctly. There weren’t enough instances where he was facilitating the ball down low with Bynum.

AW: Yeah, last year he spent a lot of the time away from the basket and stayed around the perimeter.

Me: Which is why he took so many 18-20 foot jumpers.

AW: Their frontline is so hard to matchup with. No one else in the league has two seven footers like that.

On the first Friday of July it was reported that free agent Ray Allen would be taking his talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat. The next day Mr. Wojnarowski wrote this fantastic column on why Allen decided to join the Celtics enemy.

Me: How much more dangerous are the Heat with Ray Allen on board?

AW: He’s coming off of the ankle surgery, so he just has to recover from that and he’ll be as close to 100% as he possibly can be. He’ll be in great shape though. He’ll play into his 40s because he keeps himself in such good condition. Miami won’t ask that much of him. He’s going to run to the corner and shoot the three. He’s going to trail in transition and shoot the three.

And not only have the Heat added some depth to the roster; by signing Ray they’ve injured their chief rival in the East.

I then mentioned that the Heat-Celtics are the only rivalry that has any kind of beef to it in the NBA (give the Lakers-Thunder a couple years and they’ll be in the discussion). Woj agrees and then mentions the Bulls as a rival to the Heat, but then says…

AW: With Rose out until somewhere during next season I don’t know if there is an expectation that Rose will be himself. He’ll play, but it will take him awhile to get back to being the player that he was before the injury.

These last couple of questions came at the end of a near 40 minute interview, so I was trying to hit as many different topics as possible.

Me: When Lebron retires, how will we look at him compared to Jordan?

AW: It depends on how many championships he wins. I think he’ll win more MVPs. It’ll depend on championships; on winning, that’s it.

Me: Is that a problem with the sports culture, the idea that championships have such an importance?

AW: I don’t think so; I think it’s the one separating aspect. If you want to be measured against Michael that’s what it takes. Kobe knows that he only needs one more and he knows how much that means.

Me: How would this Olympic team hold up against the dream team?

AW: I think with the injuries this year not as good as they could have. You know Magic and Bird were at the end of their careers, but you have Jordan in his prime, Pippen in his prime. It would be a very competitive game.

I had to ask one more question about the Sixers because after all I was talking to Adrian Wojnarowski.

Me: Simple question that doesn’t seem to have an answer, what is Philly doing?

AW: I think they felt that they had gone as far as they could go with that group. They didn’t want to pay Lou Williams what he wants. They got Nick Young at a pretty good price and can resign him with bird rights down the road. They might have one more big deal in them. They’ll continue to send feelers out on Iguodala and see what he might bring back, but they can’t afford to give him away. I think they’re open to shaking it up a bit.

Click over to part two and read about Adrian’s travel from local newspapers to the front page of the most popular sports website on the internet, his feelings on the state of journalism and how it has improved since he was in college and how Twitter has changed the landscape of journalism. It’s well worth your time.

Link to part 2.

Follow me on twitter @scottdargis.

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