Oh, brother. This NBA lockout gag order is ultimately going to cause a mess for somebody. Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle might have innocently stepped in it Thursday while doing a telephone interview on a Portland sports talk radio station.
Carlisle went on the air with show host and Oregonian columnist John Canzano, who at first joked how he wouldn't try to bait Carlisle into a $1 million fine, the hefty amount commissioner David Stern has allegedly threatened could come down if ownership/management/coaching staff or anyone else on an NBA payroll talks about the lockout or current NBA players or apparently anything that assumes NBA players exist at all (just peek at NBA.com).
It is a bit surprising that the normally cautious Carlisle would even grant an interview under such tense and trying times, but he did serve three seasons as an assistant coach with the Trail Blazers and he has a history with Canzano.
So the interview gets started and Canzano acknowledges that Carlisle can't talk about the lockout, so he asks the coach what can they talk about.
"We can talk about the women's [World Cup] soccer team," Carlisle says.
Canzano follows up with, "What do you think about women's soccer?"
Carlisle, as dry as ever, says, "I like it." Then he adds, "They're a kick-ass bunch of chicks; it's fun to watch."
The interview then touches on expected topics like, "Did you sense non-Mavs fans were pulling for you guys against the Heat?"
Carlisle was later asked what the Blazers can do to become a better team. Carlisle naturally said it's not his place to tell coach Nate McMillan or Blazers management how to run their club, and then in the natural flow of the conversation, Carlisle went here:
"[LaMarcus] Aldridge took a quantum leap this year. I voted for him for All-Stars; I have no idea how he didn't make the All-Star team, and he's a great player."
Carlisle also mentioned Blazers guards Brandon Roy and Wesley Matthews, and how the draft-night trade with Portland to acquire Rudy Fernandez was a good move for the Mavs. Carlisle said he liked getting a veteran player instead of a rookie.
The interview continues with neither party thinking gag-order violation flags were being thrown in New York. And so the conversation meandered on and at about 11 minutes in, as Carlisle is talking about how changes to NBA rules over the last decade have enhanced the game, he finishes a rambling thought by suddenly detouring to, "John, I'm sorry, I've got to run. I've got something I've got to do here."
And that was that.
Carlisle's abrupt exit spawned a new conversation about why he bailed so quickly. Was NBA Big Brother listening?
Soon after, Canzano reports that he received a text message from "an NBA executive who is listening to the show" and said, "You better believe that Carlisle got a call immediately from somebody at the NBA office or the Dallas Mavericks."
Could commissioner Stern really drop the piggy bank on Carlisle and the Mavs over comments that had nothing to do with the lockout and, in fact, actually kept the game in the forefront? If a fine of any size is coming, shame on the NBA.
An NBA spokesman essentially had no comment Thursday night, saying it is impossible to comment every time a coach or team exec may or may not say or do something. Just Wednesday night, Mavs owner Mark Cuban had special permission from Stern to attend the ESPYs in Los Angeles with half his team. It's not known if Cuban's praise of his players on national television was frowned upon.
"If [Carlisle] gets fined a million dollars for that," Canzano told his listening audience, "I know that we're not going to be able to raise enough money to pay for that fine, but we can get people like in Albany and Salem and everywhere else to come up and help him with the fine. Stupidest thing ever."
About 20 minutes after Carlisle hung up, Canzano caught up with him via text message. Canzano said Carlisle told him that somebody reminded him he's not supposed to talk about current players. Carlisle also said he's not in trouble.
For the love of free speech -- nah, for the love of sanity -- let's hope so.