With no return date in sight for the 2011-12 NBA season, there are at least 10 current players that wake up every morning during this lockout and check their watch, clock or calendar to see what day it is. Because unless they can channel Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, each 24 hours means their internal NBA clock is ticking closer to the zero. Not everyone can be John Stockton or Karl Malone and play into their 40s. As we saw at the end of last season with Shaquille O’Neal‘s retirement, all good things must come to an end. With that, we evaluate the future of the NBA’s 10 oldest players:
10. Ben Wallace
Evaluation: There’s really not much left for Wallace to achieve. He was an NBA Champion in 2004, the NBA Defensive Player of the Year on four occasions and made the All-Star Game four times as well. At 37, Wallace would gladly play out the last year of his deal for about $2.25 million if a resolution can be reached. At the same time, it would be a lot for Wallace to return if the whole season is lost.
9. Antonio McDyess
Evaluation: McDyess’ contract would have paid him $5.2 million this season, although the Spurs extended the deadline of whether or not they were going to waive him to the first day of the next free agency period. With that date clearly uncertain, McDyess has time to think about whether or not he really wants to hang ’em up. All year he had made it clear that the 2010-11 season was going to be his last, but as we’ve seen before, it’s hard to walk away. Having never won a ring, he could still be holding out hope, while this lockout gives his body a chance to rest.
8. Derek Fisher
Evaluation: Of all the players on this list, Fisher has had the busiest offseason as the president of the NBPA. But while he’s been busy fighting for all the players in the league, no one has really asked him about his future. Perhaps because we all know that Fisher will keep playing until Kobe Bryant retires. (That’s just how it’s meant to be.) With a $3.4 million salary for the 2011-12 season, and a $3.4 million player option on the books for 2012-13, it doesn’t appear Fisher is in any hurry to retire.
7. Marcus Camby
Evaluation: Camby stands to lose a lot of money without a season. Try $9.3 million to be exact. And although he’s made over $100 million for his career, Camby has shown that he’s not ready to retire just yet. After arriving in Portland it was as if he was brought back to life. And the Blazers love him. Depending on how this season plays out, expect Camby back in Rip City once plays resumes.
6. Steve Nash
Evaluation: Slated to make $11.7 million this season, the rumors have been circulating about Nash’s next step for years. Is it a reunion with Mike D’Antoni and Amar’e Stoudemire in New York, or is it a one-year deal with a team like Dallas or Miami? Time will only tell. But as the two-time MVP patiently waits, know that he’ll be back on the court when the NBA says it’s time.
5. Theo Ratliff
Evaluation: After signing a one-year deal with the Lakers last summer, Ratliff proved that at least one team found his presence valuable. Currently a free agent waiting in limbo, he’s relatively too old to sign overseas, and having made over a $100 million for his career, probably doesn’t need to either. Although I’ve never really known the NBA without Ratliff, when play resumes, it’s very likely that his time has come to an end.
4. Jason Kidd
Evaluation: Thankfully, Kidd finally got his ring. But what happens if this season is a wash? Will he come back for more? Kidd was slated to make $8.5 million this season, and he was definitely ready to earn it in pursuit of back-to-back championships. Whether or not this season is completely lost, we can’t see Mark Cuban and the Mavs looking for No. 2 without him.
3. Juwan Howard
Evaluation: No one really thought Howard was going to get busy last year with the Heat, but he definitely earned his keep. Currently a free agent, if he’s been sleeping in Pat Riley‘s cryogenic freezer during the lockout, we could definitely see him land back in South Beach.
2. Grant Hill
Evaluation: Because the NBA is all about actual games played as opposed to age, Hill could play the longest out of anyone in this group. And he just turned 39. The love and passion is there, and he can definitely still produce. The question is what team will be interested in the current free agent once the lockout ends.
1. Kurt Thomas
Evaluation: Let’s get this out of the way: Thomas is old. Even though he’s just one day older than Hill, he looks about 20. But, after starting 37 of 52 games for the Bulls last year, he proved that he’s still got what it takes. Unlike Ratliff, I could see Thomas sticking around for a couple more seasons like Kevin Willis did. At the end of the day, it all depends on who wants to sign him.
What do you think about the future of the NBA’s 10 oldest players?
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