What a strange world we live in. Maybe this is the ‘Bizarro NBA’ finally taking its grasp on reality with Commissioner Tim Donaghy handling the most profitable and fair league in history. What, you do not believe me? Then you try and explain all the recent interest in signing Erick Dampier. Yes, you heard right. Teams (multiple) are legitimately interested in bringing Dampier into their locker rooms next season. This is the same Dampier that was lambasted over the past six years for inconsistent play, dismal production, being lazy, and overpaid. Those are just a few of the complaints leveled against him during his time with the Dallas Mavericks. Nonetheless, teams are knocking on his door. Bizarre indeed.
As of right now, Dampier is hammering out his finalized list of suitors that he plans to meet with in the near future. The major players in the Dampier sweepstakes so far are the Miami Heat, Houston Rockets, and the Atlanta Hawks (almost typed Falcons, wrong bird/sport). Utah had also been a rumored pursuer of all things Erick, with Mehmet Okur missing the majority of the season with a tentative return scheduled for December or January, but the signing of Francisco Elson will likely end the Jazz’s interest.
Miami being on the short list should surprise no one. They have scoured the league in their hunt to surround the Miami Thrice with mediocre and subpar talent. Why would Dampier not fall into this category? The last time Dampier did anything significant in South Beach he out played Shaquille O’Neal only to see the league and its officiating goons strip a title away from the Mavericks. #NeverForget (Yes, that last sentence deserves a Twitter hash tag. We are still bitter.) It seems like everybody wants to be a part of the Heat bandwagon as they have been prematurely crowned unbeatable. Rings for everyone! Just remember that the Titanic was unsinkable.
Many feel that Atlanta is a dark horse in the Dampier sweepstakes. It is well known that they would like to move Al Horford to power forward and Josh Smith to small forward more often this coming season. That would allow them to play their natural positions. However, the Hawks up-tempo style does not bode well for Dampier’s lumbering body. It is only by sheer luck that he ever finds himself on the fastbreak. Usually it is because he is still around halfcourt trying to get back on defense when a transition opportunity occurs. Atlanta must also deal with issues of cap room after signing Joe Johnson to a max contract this summer.
The most interesting prospect of the three teams at the forefront are the Houston Rockets. As we reported yesterday, the Rockets are limiting Yao Ming to 24 minutes a game no matter what. What Houston wants is for Dampier to step into the role as Yao’s backup and have Brad Miller, who they signed this summer, be the third string center. A frontcourt pairing with Luis Scola would also make for an interesting duo. Other than the possible Atlanta scenario, Dampier could see the most minutes in Houston. He could see 15-20 plus minutes a game. Plus he would get to play against in-state rivals and former team, the Dallas Mavericks. That alone could be incentive enough. However, are they on the same level as Miami is when it comes to title contention?
Other teams are likely to throw their hats and money into the ring so as of now nothing can be a certainty. What is certain is that this is the same Erick Dampier who averaged 7.6 rebounds, 6.6 points in 424 of a possible 492 games over the past six years. He is now 35 years old and only played in 55 games last season has he found himself battling lingering injuries.
The off season will begin even odder that it began for Dampier. He was traded to the Charlotte Bobcats by the Dallas Mavericks this summer, in what equates to a salary dump of his unguaranteed $13 million contract next season, in return for Tyson Chandler and Alexis Ajinca. Charlotte mulled around the option of trading him for a while before releasing him. Now, he finds himself one of the hottest free agent commodities on the market. Where once Dampier’s field was barren, he finds it is now fallow. Oh how free agency is truly bizarre. A new fan base will soon be giving “Daps of Damp” on the off occasion he does something right on the court. (We averaged 1.2 “Daps for Damp” per game over the last six years.) Enjoy the attention while you can, Dampier, it will not last for long.