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Monday, 01 June 2020 14:54

Buzzards Re-Load for 2027 in Free Agency

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August 1, 2027 -- Boston, MA: The Boston Buzzards, coming off an improbable run to the OBWL Finals in 2026 as the fifth seed out of the National Conference, had been relatively quiet this offseason until the end of July when the team agreed to terms with veteran PF Richard Burke II and PG/SG Jose Lakes. 

The moves were hardly unexpected, as the team was unable to retain veteran backcourt defender Jerrold Dean and swing guard Abe Gutierrez. The staff had had also been vocal all season about making an upgrade at the power forward slot, where a serviceable but inconsistent young Ben Bonilla was stationed. Jerrold Dean, who fell out of favor with General Manager Jason Warnke throughout the 2026 campaign, was welcomed to come back, but sources close to the team indicated that the front office was only willing to offer a two-year deal, under $3.75 million a season. It was Dean's defense that the team prized, but it was obvious that Dean had difficulty grasping the offense that the Bean Birds were operating. Despite his 20+ minutes a night, Dean failed to shoot better than 40% from the floor and became a blackhole during the pay-offs, converting on only one out of every three shot attempt. This would not have been a big deal if he only put up a few shots a game. However, the coaches in Bean Town were often flabbergasted when JD would try to do more than he was capable.

"It was time to move on," an unconcerned Warnke commented. "We would have loved to have Jerrold back for another season, but the reality is -- and we were straight with him -- that his role would be much more limited. He would be getting less than 10 minutes a night, unless we experienced injuries -- and that was not something JD was interested in. We wish him well on his next adventure in Denver, although not when he faces us!"

The big surprise was the defection of Abe Gutierrez to his original team, the Kansas City Pioneers. What made this extra painful was that Baby Goot was being groomed to be starting PG/SG of the future. At just age 25, it seems like he has been in this league forever. However, the 6'3 swing guard was just coming in to his own and living up to his potential. The 4-year, $42 million deal that the Buzzards front office offered Abe was $15 million more and two years longer than what he ultimately signed for with his old GM, Ben Johnson on KC.

"I don't know what kind of voodoo operation they were running out of the Pioneers' office," Warnke commented, but we were all but certain that Goot was coming back to Boston. The last time we spoke face-to-face, the kid said as much, but wanted to pay Mr. Johnson 'some respect' for originally taking a chance on him when he was so young. The next thing I knew I am looking down at my phone at a text that says, "sorry Boss, but I ain't comin' back. I am signing with KC."

The treason was extra painful, as the Buzzards had given up a first round pick during the middle of the season to acquire what they hoped to be their "jack of all trades" point guard of the future. Low and beyond the move turned out to be an expensive rental. Despite Abe's instrumental play during the play-offs, and especially against the Minnesota Marauders and the Vancouver Highlands, Warnke could care less.

"That kid is dead to me," Warnke said half-joking with a smile. "If he wants to chill in the breadbasket of America playing with tumbleweeds while the team tries to rebuild instead of leading the charge to another deep play-off run -- well -- then maybe he wasn't as tough as we thought he was and Johnson's charm was enough to scare him away. Perhaps it is better this way.

Enter Richard Burke II and Jose Lakes. Both veterans will see significant playing time it would seem. RBII, who has been highly coveted by Warnke for many seasons, will compete for the starting job at power forward. Burke has been stuck behind a rising powerful frontcourt in Portland for the last two seasons. Prior to this, he was a consistent 17.5 point/8 rebound guy who played solid match-up defense, limited his fouling, and did not miss a shot from the charity stripe. He may be a few years older, but his per 36 minute production still appears to be on par with his numbers of yester-year. He could essentially become a third offensive cog in an already stacked and powerful offense.

Jose Lakes will likely see limited, but critical, defensive minutes off the bench at the PG and SG positions. His ability to shoot from anywhere on the court and play solid perimeter defense is what drew the front office toe Lakes. It may not even be out of the question to see him get a start from time-to-time at the PG or SG position depending on match-ups. Regardless, Jose adds additional depth should the Buzzards experience more injuries like they did last season when Jesse Yoshida, Darin Deans, and Sheldon Perkins were all sidelined for periods of time with varying injuries. In fact, it was injuries last season that could have cost either home court advantage in round one of the postseason or perhaps the National East Division altogether.

As we head toward the end of the offseason, it looks like the Buzzards should be back for another solid campaign. It is unclear whether they will make another run to the Finals -- that we will have to wait to see. However, one could argue that on paper the Bean Birds of this year look better than the team of last year. It will be exciting to see how this all shakes out over the next several months.

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