It would be difficult to call it anything more for the teams that settled for the rest of the best during 2010 free agency.
While LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh play on for the Miami Heat, the consolation prizes from the July 2010 free-agency free-for-all hardly provided any consolation at all this past week.
Amare Stoudemire was fouling out of win-or-go-home Game 5 for the New York Knicks against the Heat, his left hand pieced together by mesh and staples.
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Carlos Boozer was shooting 1 for 11 and watching from the bench at the finish as the Chicago Bulls’ season slipped away against the Philadelphia 76ers.
And Joe Johnson, who somehow secured the largest contract of all that 2010 offseason, shot 7 of 17 with just two assists and one rebound as the Atlanta Hawks’ season came to an end against the Boston Celtics.
It would be difficult to say otherwise, considering an argument could be made that Stoudemire, Boozer and Johnson now stand in the way of their teams taking the next step.
Stoudemire, whose knee issues left him with an uninsurable contract in 2010, simply does not fit with Carmelo Anthony, no matter what the two say otherwise. While a quality point guard might be able to repair that fracture, all the Knicks have left cap-wise are the funds to bring back Jeremy Lin.
Boozer, as has been the case the past two postseasons, has been reduced to late-game playoff spectator behind Taj Gibson, who outscored Boozer 14-3 in equivalent minutes in Thursday’s season finale in Philadelphia.
As for Johnson, he hardly has the feel of a leading man in Atlanta, with Josh Smith desperately attempting to secure that role but the reality being that Al Horford is undeniably the most valuable Hawk.
For those who recall that whirlwind first week of 2010 free agency, teams were hedging their bets with Stoudemire and Boozer, with the Heat among the first to court Amare after making a run at him during that season’s trading deadline.
Boozer, by contrast, was chasing the dollars from the teams that came up short on Bosh and Stoudemire, as soulless then as his finagled departure from the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Johnson ultimately proved to be like Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, Rudy Gay, Ray Allen and Luis Scola that summer, players who retreated to the comfort (and cash) of their incumbent teams.
The problem that summer, and even with the new collective-bargaining agreement, is that once you establish a maximum salary, everyone wants it, with no way to separate the best of the best — the Kobes, LeBrons, Durants — from the rest of the league’s stars.
The lesson from this past week is that there are superstars, stars, players who fancy themselves as stars and then players fortunate enough to have cashed in in July 2010.
That’s not to say the Heat nearly didn’t get caught, as well, flying from their meetings with James, Wade and Bosh to Charlotte for a pitch to Brendan Haywood, who instead now appears to become the