There’s not a ton of NBA news being made in early September, but on Tuesday night we got a brief flurry of free agency signings as Danny Green inked a deal to return to Philadelphia, while the Lakers finally nabbed Christian Wood off of the open market.
Wood was unable to land a long-term deal in free agency, as he has earned a reputation as a bit of a malcontent and despite strong production (16.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in Dallas) has never been a favorite of coaching staffs over his time in the league. That is usually telling, but as often happens when the Lakers make a signing, some can’t help but overlook potential red flags and get maybe a bit too excited about a talented player joining the team.
That happened on Wednesday, when Richard Sherman decided to compare Wood’s stats (over the last three years) to those of Hall of Famer and two-time champion Pau Gasol.
Sherman probably lost a lot of Laker fans with this comparison, as Pau is about as beloved a figure as the Lakers have had in the last two decades outside of Kobe Bryant. He also was a terrific two-way player who impacted winning in a way Wood never has, and it’s honestly wildly unfair to Wood to even trot out a comparison to Gasol.
Wood is a fascinating litmus test for how you view basketball. If you are like Sherman, you can’t help but be blinded by his raw numbers on offense, where he’s a highly effective stretch big. Wood posted the aforementioned strong averages in scoring and rebounding in his one season in Dallas, shooting 51.5 percent from the field and 37.6 percent from three. However, he has long been a tantalizing talent boasting similar numbers in most every stop, but one who has never been able to stick in a single place. The Lakers will be his eighth NBA team entering his 10th year in the league, which isn’t something that just happens with someone capable of Wood’s production. From attitude to a lack of defensive impact has often kept him from getting the minutes he craves — which was particularly the case for a defensive-minded coach like Jason Kidd — Wood has never found a long-term home in the NBA.
Now he heads to L.A. on a minimum deal with a stated goal of playing a big role alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but it will require a commitment from him to embracing a secondary role and playing hard on both ends of the floor in a way we simply haven’t seen from him yet. Maybe the Lakers are finally the team that will get through to him, and there’s an optimists view that could happen if you want to try and find one. Dallas was supposed to be that place coming off of a conference finals trip, but the team as a whole fell flat and there were plenty of reasons to be frustrated in that locker room. LeBron James commands a level of respect in the locker room that tends to get guys to buy in, but it still requires the humility to fall in line and James won’t suffer a fool for long. However, all of that is to say, you’re asking someone who’s been in the league a decade to do something they never has, albeit now in a situation they’ve never been in. Wood has become the NBA’s version of the Arrested Development marriage counseling joke, where teams recognize it never worked for anyone else…but it just might work for us.