TrueHoop: 2010 draft

Knicks' Fields at No. 4 on Thorpe's list

November, 10, 2010
11/10/10
6:44
PM ET
Sheridan By Chris Sheridan
ESPN.com
Archive
NEW YORK -- New York Knicks rookie shooting guard Landry Fields, who is No. 4 in David Thorpe's latest rookie rankings (Insider), is profiled today in a story I wrote about him and his dad, Steve Fields, a seventh-round pick of the Portland Trail Blazers, in 1975.

I had more material that I was able to fit in that story, so I'm using this blog to serve up some leftovers.

When Fields was in the 6th grade, his AAU coach, A.C. Diaz, gave him a chart to put on the back of his bedroom door listing everything he would need to accomplish academically to get into college. Fields kept the chart there for seven years, and credits it with helping him get into Stanford, one of the nation's most presigious academic institutions.

"I knew I wanted to play college ball, and I knew school was the first way to go," Fields said, who graduated with a degree in communications.

Fields' dad played at Miami of Ohio, and is mother, Janice, played college ball at Skyline Community College in Washington.

The elder Fields went on and on in a telephone interview speaking about his son, who had another turnover-free game in Tuesday night's loss at Milwaukee, giving him a total of just three through 172 minutes over seven games. Here's another excerpt of what the senior Fields had to say about his son:

"The thing about Landry, his game has continually slowed down from high school to college, and he’s adjusted to the pace of NBA, but he always has that tick, tick, tick mentality when he sees things and anticipates things developing. He just takes advantage of whatever the situation is around him, be it on offense of defense – a rebound, steal, taking a charge, a tip in, keeping it alive, saving it, that’s how he mentally plays. You look at his stats, he tries to put something in all the categories with the exception of turnovers, but he just does what he does and that puts something in all those columns. So that’s how he approaches it on both sides of the ball, that’s one thing I noticed. I mean he's a great kid. He works hard, stays home, stays humble, stays grounded. He could have gone a lot of different directions, but he continues to stay centered and come out and hustle, and he stays coachable."

Michael Heisley talking turkey

August, 23, 2010
8/23/10
6:35
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
Thank you, Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley, for going on Chris Vernon's radio show in Memphis.

There were all kinds of interesting little tidbits here and there -- insight into why he has not signed Xavier Henry yet, what the team was thinking signing Allen Iverson a year ago, why they didn't bring Hakim Warrick back and the like.

But more than any one piece of information, he demonstrated something that is often hard to get across meaningfully, and that's that we ought not assume that the people running your local NBA team are all that thoughtful or wise.

This point comes up a lot. When teams do things that no one understands, a lot of us tend to assume there is some good, if obscure, reason for it.

Players don't get that same leeway. It's not all that uncommon for people to suggest players are idiots.

I'm wondering how fair that set-up is.

Consider that Shane Battier used to play for Memphis. If Battier ran for office against Heisley, I suspect he'd crush him in a debate. And yet people tend to assume, because one's an owner and the other's a player, that the opposite would be true.

It's undeniable that owners are, like players, capable of poor judgment. I don't mean to imply that every team is run by somebody like Heisley.

I also don't mean to pick on Heisley. He happens to be the owner who just stuck his basketball knowledge on the line.

Heisley said, for instance, that he just learned NBA teams can negotiate performance clauses with first-round draft picks. I'd wager that 90+% of NBA beat writers know this. Ditto bloggers in the TrueHoop Network, and even the kinds of NBA fans who read this here blog TrueHoop.

It's our passion and in some cases profession, so we know that. But it's his business. The 20 percent he could have been negotiating above or below the scale with every first-round pick since he bought the team are his dollars.

That's neither here nor there. Personally, I think he has the right to negotiate as hard as he wants with whatever player he wants.

But I would encourage you to take note that the Grizzlies have clearly been operating in a manner whereby Heisley -- the decision maker -- was in the dark about the kinds of things avid fans know.

A favorite exchange:
Heisley: "I've never seen the Collective Bargaining Agreement."

Vernon: "What? How is that possible?"

Then Heisley went after Vernon for not reading the CBA himself. Shortly afterward he shouted things like "you must be hard a hearin'!" which was in keeping with the spirit of the half-hour talk. There were various other moments in the interview when he made little mistakes, for instance saying that the trade deadline was in December.

Now, does any of this matter to Heisley? Is he questioning himself in any way? Doubtful. "I will tell you point blank, son," he said to Vernon, "the press doesn't influence me one iota."

So be it. But if I were you I'd let Heisley's appearance in the press influence you just a little. Nobody has a monopoly on NBA smarts, and certainly not the owners.

The 20th best rookie in summer league

July, 23, 2010
7/23/10
2:59
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
According to David Thorpe's rankings (Insider) the 20th best rookie in summer league was the second overall pick, Evan Turner:
Turner was, at best, a poor player in Orlando compared to any reasonable expectation -- not locked in, bad body language and poor skills.

But don't get too alarmed. It's a testament to his talent that he still made plays on the glass and had some good offensive moments. I suspect that while almost every other player spent three to eight weeks before July working on their games and working out for teams, Turner did little on-court stuff. No doubt he'll look better in preseason and beyond.

Friday Bullets

July, 16, 2010
7/16/10
2:43
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive

Young Lakers of summer

July, 16, 2010
7/16/10
11:05
AM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
A fine look, with video analysis, of what Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter have been doing well in summer league.

Omar Samhan wants a little respect

July, 15, 2010
7/15/10
11:04
AM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
Rob Mahoney of The Two Man Game did something smart. He pinpointed just about the most entertaining guy at all of Summer League, undrafted St. Mary's big man Omar Samhan. Then he convinced the player with the legendarily entertaining mouth to spend a good chunk of a day with him horsing around in Las Vegas, playing pop-a-shot, riding the roller coaster at New York New York, and (no joke) demonstrating his active feet in D'ing up a baffled passing pedestrian.

Even smarter still, Mahoney had Kyle Weidie of Truth About It come along and video the whole thing.



But the truth is that for all the charisma on display, the real story of Samhan, right now, is that he's in desperate need of an NBA roster spot, and he's not laughing about that. Mahoney writes:
"After the first two rounds of the tournament, people were like 'He’s such a good interview,' he’s this, he’s that," Samhan said. "Hold on, hold on. I scored more in the first two rounds than anyone in the history of the tournament. I averaged 30 through two games. It was one of those deals where it was like, 'Are you kidding me?'" If only we were. Omar led the Gaels through an insane tournament run, but the national media’s spotlight seemed to focus more on one-liners than drop-steps, unaware that such disregard is a punch line in itself.

Samhan isn’t in Vegas as a sideshow. He’s not here to entertain, even though he does. He -- like so many other undrafted players and second round prospects -- is fighting for his NBA life in summer league, close enough to smell the hardwood but far enough from it to bow to uncertainty. "It’s tough to be in the middle ground, and it pisses me off to be honest that I am in the middle ground," Samhan said, unearthing a bit of the fire normally reserved for the court. "I feel like I’ve done enough to be over the hump at this stage in my career and I’m not. It’s frustrating. For sure. It’s just the reality."...

"It’s funny: Guys like [Kevin] McHale are doing our games and I got a chance to listen to some of the stuff he said after the game. He was impressed with my footwork, and he’s a guy I copy all the time because he had great footwork. A lot of these guys that have great footwork like that, they’re coaching now, and they’re recruiting guys that don’t have great footwork. I don’t understand. Why are you signing guys that don’t have great footwork when that’s how you made your money?"

Wednesday Bullets

July, 7, 2010
7/07/10
3:29
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Jared Dudley tweets that he's hearing LeBron James will announce he's going to the Knicks. If you go back through the flow of information surrounding LeBron James' free agency, it is clear that there is not some really good propaganda out there. Very hard to know who's lying, but somebody is, and hard, because you'll almost never see so many plugged in people saying so many different things. And I guess some reporters might be making it up, but I don't think Dudley is, do you? I'm certain reporters with great sources are saying all kinds of different things. Never happen, but in my dreams, 100 reporters would compare 100 sets of notes for some kind of killer post-mortem documentary one day.
  • John Krolik of Cavs: The Blog on Chris Bosh: "It may behoove us to take a look at Bosh’s NBA career to date. He was drafted in 2003, just like LeBron was. He has won a total of three playoff games in seven seasons. He has not played a playoff game since 2008. He has been named to the All-NBA second team once. He has fewer player of the month awards than LeBron has MVPs. He was the starting power forward for the worst defensive team in basketball last season. This dude is NOT a franchise player, but he’s become part of the 'LeBron-Wade-Bosh' trinity because he’s a very good young big man in the summer of 2010 and doesn’t have Amar’e Stoudemire’s baggage."
  • Michael Beasley is the ultimate high risk/high reward player. The stories about his time in the NBA have been fairly depressing. I'd just say, however, that he had his act together in college, and presumably could have it together again at some point. The Raptors will likely scoff at the idea of a sign-and-trade for him, but there is some percentage chance -- two percent? ten? -- that Beasley will one day prove to be a better player than Bosh.
  • 2010 TrueHoop Stat Geek Smackdown champion Jeff Ma has published a book . Believe it or not, Ma is not just famous for winning the Smackdown. Some people know him better as the real-life protagonist of the book "Bringing Down the House," about the MIT blackjack team, which became a major motion picture called "21." He also recently sold his company, Citizen Sports, to Yahoo, which made him something of a star in the business world, and he got some attention in Portland where he was an adviser to Kevin Pritchard as he had a very effective run of draft success. In any case, here Ma is talking about his new book "The House Advantage: Playing the Odds to Win in Big Business." He will explain why sometimes, in blackjack, it's good to split 10s, and how that knowledge can help your business.
  • The Thunder reportedly now have Kevin Durant under contract into 2016. That may matter more, in the long run, than the news about Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Everyone knew he was going to be a great player, but it's delightful to see what a dedicated NBA teammate and employee he is. Holy cow. I suspect Oklahoma City might melt with pride.
  • Nate Silver, the brilliant baseball stat geek who turned politics on its ear with his remarkable election forecasting site fivethirtyeight.com is making a foray into hoops, speculating about where LeBron James will go: "My hunch," he says "is that LeBron will either stay in Cleveland or join the Knicks."
  • Fat Joe tells the camera about the central role he played in getting Amare Stoudemire to the Knicks. (Thanks, Tzvi.)
  • Don't get too excited about Allen Iverson as a Celtic.
  • The Chris Duhon signing in Orlando has been ridiculed, but it's a little less crazy when you consider that he can hit the roll man on the pick-and-roll, and he's a good spot-up shooter. Both are key skills to play with Dwight Howard.
  • Just like to point out that the Clippers are holding their Vinny Del Negro introductory press conference in the middle of the craziest NBA media frenzy since Michael Jordan retired. There's a chance it might get drowned out a bit.
  • Looking to video to answer the question: Is Lance Stephenson a point guard?
  • Video analysis of Derrick Favors in summer league so far. Verdict: young.
  • Jeremy Schmidt of Bucksketball: "Moving [Ersan] Ilyasova or [Luc Richard] Mbah a Moute may be a big mistake. As fun as the NBA off season is (and I use the term fun very loosely, as this one has been equal parts excruciating and entertaining), it still amounts to gambling. While it seems like Milwaukee’s done a great deal to improve itself for next season by acquiring Drew Gooden and drafting Larry Sanders to help on the front line, it’s impossible to tell how either of them will fit in. And in the case of Sanders, while summer league may be an indicator, until he actually starts getting minutes in the NBA no one will know if he’s ready to make the impact a playoff team like Milwaukee will need. So as fun as it is to project, dream and hope, Milwaukee’s new acquisitions are still unknown commodities. But Ilyasova and Mbah a Moute are known and valuable."
  • Matt Moore on Pro Basketball Talk on LeBron James: "He wants to have a business empire that extends beyond the fans that buy his jerseys and cheer for him at games. He wants a place in the cultural and business atmosphere that is rarefied and extremely difficult to reach. It takes an inordinate amount of planning, expense, and effort to execute. Thursday night, LeBron James can put himself on the map in a way few athletes, few people, ever have. The world stops for him tomorrow night. We can turn our cheek or up our nose or whatever we'd like but this isn't about a handful of people, it's about the world. And right now, King James has it in the palm of his hand."
  • Was Kevin Pritchard's firing a watershed moment for Blazer fans?
  • When the owners tell us players are overpaid, remember what they gave Joe Johnson.

Tuesday Bullets

July, 6, 2010
7/06/10
3:53
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Michael Schwartz of Valley of the Suns on saying goodbye to big man Amare Stoudemire: "Phoenix Suns fans have seen the best and the worst of Amare. They’ve seen the 50-point game against Portland, the 49-point dominance against Indiana, the playoff series when he averaged 37 against Tim Duncan and the Spurs as well as the season-long greatness that has led to five All-Star appearances. But Suns fans have also seen him at his worst. Although he tried a bit more than usual this season, he’s still a minus defender, a guy who doesn’t figure to ever get much better because he just has poor basketball instincts. His rebounding has always left much to be desired (how does a 6-foot-10 force of nature like Amare never average double-digit boards?) and he never was quite able to get the Suns over the hump in the postseason. The Suns will miss Amare’s ability to suck in the defense, the way defenses often had to play 2-on-3 to defend the Nash/Amare pick and roll, which left countless shooters open from deep. But they won’t miss his propensity to say stupid things at the wrong time or how he always wanted to be “The Man” even though everybody knew he was best playing the superstar sidekick to Steve Nash."
  • Mike Kurylo of Knickerblogger: "Bosh is two years younger, and has advantages with regards to rebounding and passing. And it’s arguable that dollar for dollar Amar’e is not an upgrade from David Lee. But often perception trumps reality. For the Knicks this day isn’t necessarily about this signing, but the next one. And if grabbing Stoudemire, a five-time All Star, nets New York another big free agent then the extra cost is undoubtedly worth it."
  • LeBron James is on Twitter. His spokesperson and others have confirmed it's really him. Chris Paul says he was part of convincing James to join the cool kids, but the @KingJames name was booked in March 2009, and there could be no better time to build an audience for a potentially valuable Twitter account. This feels more strategic than spur-of-the-moment. UPDATE: James' first tweet also credits Paul with inspiring him.
  • Can Hakim Warrick replace Amare Stoudemire on offense in Phoenix?
  • The second-biggest deal of the summer -- after the free-agent signing of LeBron James -- may be the expected extension to keep Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City.
  • If some team uses up all of its cap space signing huge-name free agents, and needs a point guard to play for the minimum, who might be around? Kevin Pelton (Pacers' statistical consultant and all-around smart guy) digs in on Basketball Prospectus, and Derek Fisher's name pops up, but this one is most interesting: "I'd target Anthony Carter. Even in his mid-30s, Carter remains an excellent defender who can run an offense. If he made threes at a reasonable clip as he did during the 2007-08 season, Carter could play the Fisher role for a championship team. Eddie House could complement him as the offensive part of a platoon of sorts. House's three-point percentage should rebound from last year's 34.8 percent mark--the first time he's been below 39.0 percent since 2003-04--and he has relevant experience playing alongside Boston's Big Three."
  • Still confident in Cleveland.
  • Chris Bosh is seen as the bluest of blue-chippers among free-agent big men. Amare Stoudemire is a tad behind, in no small part because he is not as good at defense. But are we sure about that? The data does not paint a clear picture.
  • Joe Dumars throws cold water on the idea he'll be taking over the Nets.
  • John Krolik of Cavs: The Blog: "The James-D’Antoni-Amar’e pick-and-roll would have been perhaps the single most unstoppable offensive set in the history of the NBA. (According to Synergy, LeBron was a more efficient scorer as the pick-and-roll ballhandler than Steve Nash was last year. Consider this, and also think about who James’ roll partners were.)"
  • Rob Mahoney of the Two Man Game calls Dirk Nowitzki's sub-maximum deal the best of the summer to date. Is he wrong?
  • Zach Lowe of CelticsHub on Paul Pierce's new deal: "Sentimentality aside, this deal is not a no-brainer. The notion that some team with leftover cap space -- the Nets or Clippers -- would have thrown a pile of cash at Pierce is not on its own a justification for overpaying Pierce. And I’m not convinced that scenario would have happened, given Pierce’s age and declining numbers. The Celtics management is smart, so they know Pierce will be overpaid at the end of this contract. But the last year of any NBA contract always brings the possibility of a decent trade, and this contract brings the possibility of Pierce retiring in a way that helps the team financially. The greatest small forward in Boston history did that, so why wouldn’t the second-greatest?"
  • After considering candidates like Brad Miller, Tyrus Thomas and Lou Amundson, Jeremy of Roundball Mining Company is warming to the idea of Jermaine O'Neal as a big man for the Nuggets to target: "O’Neal is not perfect, but he is a center who can significantly boost the Nuggets defensive presence in the lane. A foursome of Nene, Kenyon, Birdman and O’Neal would be a step up from last season’s rotation. Would it bring Denver’s front line to the level of the Lakers’? No, but it would put them in a solid position to compete and that is a step in the right direction for next season."
  • Former Sun Paul Shirley seems to have reservations about Amare Stoudemire as a teammate.
  • Sherwood Strauss at WarriorsWorld on David Lee's bad defense: "Lee has been a comically bad defender despite all that brilliant guidance from Eddy Curry and Starbury. His brand of defense is the absence of it. David’s the napping security guard at the museum, wake me when he blocks a shot. To say a man sucks at defense is easier than figuring out why. One year, Kevin Durant is ushering foes to the hoop; the next he’s a rabid pterodactyl on the wing. Ray Allen was the Sonics’ sieve but Thibodeau gave him another life in a different paradigm. He turned stingy."
  • The evolving relationship between David Lee and the Timberwolves.
  • Danny Granger: Now officially a bargain at the five years and $60 million the Pacers were criticized for in 2008.
  • Digging deep into Yi Jianlian's statistical production.
  • A little summer league tussle.

Tuesday Bullets

June, 29, 2010
6/29/10
2:22
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
By Marc Stein

Mikhail Prokhorov tasted his first NBA disappointment almost as soon as he was formally introduced as the new owner in New Jersey … when his Nets greeted the Russian billionaire by coming away with only the third overall pick in the draft lottery after a 12-70 season.

Six weeks later?

Prokhorov faces his first round of real damage control.

Chris Broussard’s disclosure that Nets president Rod Thorn will leave his post July 15 was greeted with widespread surprise when the news began to circulate Friday night, given Thorn’s standing as one of the most respected figures anywhere on the NBA map.

Sources insisted that Thorn was not forced out, with one source telling ESPN The Magazine’s Broussard: “This is entirely his decision.” Newark Star-Ledger sage Dave D’Alessandro, furthermore, reported that Thorn’s wife, Peggy, has been urging the 69-year-old to walk away from the madness.

Yet there were also persistent rumblings among Thorn’s peers late Friday that a pay cut Prokhorov wanted him to take only encouraged him to step down. Although Thorn has pledged to stay on for the next two weeks to help the Nets follow up the hiring of Avery Johnson as coach with their free-agent pursuit of LeBron James, news of Thorn's imminent departure just before the most anticipated summer in league history -- amid whispers of a contract dispute – is a potential blow to the spare-no-expense image free agents have of Prokhorov.

Unless, of course, Prokhorov can soften the blow with a splashy replacement hire. The Bergen Record reported on its website Friday night that Team USA chief Jerry Colangelo – who already knows a little something about recruiting James, Chris Bosh and Amare Stoudemire -- is New Jersey’s top choice.

A source with knowledge of the Nets’ thinking, meanwhile, told ESPN.com that the team also intends to sound out retired legend Jerry West to see if he has any interest in a front-office comeback, with Thorn – West’s fellow West Virginian – apparently pledging to help Prokhorov find his replacement.

Thorn, though, didn’t want any of this to leak out, repeatedly swatting down questions about his future in fear that the subject could distract from or even damage the Nets’ dealings in free agency, which will begin in earnest Thursday when they are the first team to make a face-to-face pitch to LeBron James.

Questions are already being asked by colleagues and rivals, just as Thorn suspected, because folks around the league are struggling to believe that he’d really want to bow out now, with so much optimism about Prokhorov’s arrival and the Nets’ cap space after such a dreadful season. You’d think Thorn would want to be around for the good part, having watched the Nets flirt so seriously with the league’s all-time worst record, which only made his many early successes in New Jersey -- starting with the 2001 acquisition of Jason Kidd – seem like the most distant memory.

Yet it must be noted that there is something else Thorn is working on that could change the subject again. Sources say that the completion of the draft has not stopped New Jersey from continuing to shop forward Yi Jianlian, with Thorn still hopeful he can find a trade between now and July 8 that sheds Yi’s $4.1 million salary from next season’s payroll. Such a move would take New Jersey’s salary-cap space past the $30 million mark, which is why one source says that the Nets making third overall pick Derrick Favors available to increase the chances of moving Yi or Kris Humphries has not been ruled out.

Friday Bullets

June, 25, 2010
6/25/10
2:37
PM ET
  • Matt McHale of By the Horns: "Look, I was a big fan of Kirk Hinrich. I liked the utility he provided. I liked the way he could play in both guard spots, the way he could defend three positions, the way he never backed down and did what he was told with few complaints (the occasional sour look notwithstanding). But let’s face it: Expunging his salary opens up a lot of amazing possibilities for the Bulls. Many things will have to happen before it’s all said and done -- two big-namers must agree to sign, and management will have to fill out the roster with a couple shooters and a few capable backups -- but the Bull could become championship contenders by as early as … next season."
  • For Washington sports fans, believing isn't easy.
  • Ernie Grunfeld says now that in the room with the pingpong balls, when he heard his team had won the top overall pick, "I said 'wow, I can't believe the Wizards are going get John Wall.'" In point of fact, what he actually said, in that room that night, when asked if he'd pick Wall, was: "We're not going to talk about that. There are some good players out there." Who cares, though. Grunfeld's happy enough that he ended his press conference with a little John Wall dance of his own.
  • An amazing account of the bizarro night in Portland, where black shirts were taken not as team colors, but mourning for a fired general manager.
  • Important. Very important. How Craig Sager became such a snappy dresser. The Monkees are involved.
  • M. Haubs of the Painted Area did not like Minnesota's draft night: "Wes Johnson is the El Busto of the evening to me. Statistically, his closest similarity is J.R. Giddens. Have to take Cousins there, he's too talented. I know that that's a lot of defensively-challenged bigs, but make a deal for a better wing than Johnson. I do like Nemanja Bjelica's upside; maybe Tony Ronzone should make all the picks.
  • A sign of the times for the Bobcats.
  • Underwhelmed with Ekpe Udoh in Golden State.
  • Dominique Jones by the numbers: Fast as Monta Ellis, but 6-5. Think about that.
  • You don't use the top of your head to grab a rebound. So, when measuring height, what matters more -- the height of the top of your head, or the height of your hands when held straight up in the air? Length or height? My brain says length is far more important, but these fancy charts say my brain is wrong. (UPDATE: I have had far too little sleep, and misread this. In fact, it's a comparison of height compared to the highest point one can reach jumping. Not standing reach.)
  • In addition to the rights to Al-Farouq Aminu and Eric Bledsoe, the Clippers nabbed just enough cap space to sign a max player.
  • Hats off to Tim Donahue, on 8 points 9 seconds for an amazing headline about the Pacers' draft night: "A couple of wings and a prayer."
  • Basketbawful with tales of how basketball can be a great thing when your social life gets awkward. "I was a licensed driver with his own car, and damn it, I was rocking a kickass mullet. How could she say no?" Would you believe she said no?
  • Bodog odds favor John Wall over Blake Griffin for rookie of the year. Evan Turner is third. Not in their numbers is Tiago Splitter, who is 100% adult and ought to be at least a candidate.

The long goodbye to LeBron James

June, 25, 2010
6/25/10
1:33
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
John Krolik of Cavs: The Blog, digests the news of draft night:
So far this offseason, two LeBron-related realities have become clear. The first is that LeBron does not feel such a strong sense of loyalty towards Cleveland and the current Cavalier team that he has secretly planned on returning to the Cavs no matter what.

If that was how he felt, one assumes he would have talked to Tom Izzo.

LeBron refusing to assure Izzo he would return to the Cavs didn’t/doesn’t guarantee that he’s leaving, but it does strongly suggest that Cleveland would need to give him a better supporting cast than any other team, or at least one nearly as good. There is now a very high likelihood that the Chicago Bulls will be able to offer LeBron a far better supporting cast than the Cleveland Cavaliers will be able to offer him. If they can’t the Miami Heat will likely be able to offer James the chance to pair with Wade and at least one other big free agent.

In my heart, I can’t imagine LeBron playing for another team. But my head is telling me LeBron has likely played his last game as a Cavalier. ...

In the weeks before this does or doesn’t actually happen is that it’s nobody’s fault. The front office had two good chances to win a championship, and it went for them. In this league, there’s no excuse for not going all-out when the opportunity to win a title is there.

All the cap space and patience in the world wouldn’t have gotten them a Bosh/Rose/Noah combination, because they didn’t have the draft picks. The options available to the front office were to go for the good chance the Cavs could win a championship with a team thrown together around LeBron or go for the slim chance of building an NBA 2k team around LeBron.

The choice they made likely won’t pan out, but that doesn’t mean it was the wrong one. LeBron’s always made his priorities clear: He wants to be on the team that gives him the best chance of winning championships in the near future. The Cavs made those moves, or at least what they thought those moves were. Now they have few assets or ways to improve, and there are teams that can potentially give LeBron a better chance to win a championships ever did or could.

Powerbroker in action: Dan Fegan's draft day

June, 25, 2010
6/25/10
4:26
AM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
"Kentucky point guard" has been nearly an automatic prefix to the name "John Wall" for the last year.

Similarly, "Yale lawyer" is a phrase that tends to come before the name of his agent, Dan Fegan.

Is Wall really defined by that school, or that position? Maybe it's not so tidy. With a ton of athleticism and a nose for the rim, Wall isn't precisely a pure point, and he was only at that school for a year.

Fegan is also hard to pin down. Representing the likes of Wall, Dwight Howard, Joakim Noah, Anderson Varejao, Yi Jianlian and Shawn Marion, Fegan has long been among the NBA's most powerful agents. Yet he has never been all that tuned into the public, has made news only for incidents like a very public contract showdown with then-Cavaliers GM Danny Ferry over Varejao's contract and remains something of an enigma.

After letting TrueHoop trail him for draft day 2010, it's clear that Fegan is an intensely driven and calculating strategist, and associating him with the Ivy League (he is smarter than you) and the law (he does nitpick contracts line-by-line, and revel in outmaneuvering opponents) does not miss the mark by much.
Dan Fegan and Sonny Vaccaro
Photo courtesy: Kyle Gustafson
Dan Fegan and Sonny Vaccaro, pre-draft at the Four Seasons in New York.

For Fegan, draft day, like most days, is a dizzying series of in-person meetings -- with his staff, with sponsors, and with a string of visitors -- punctuated by phone meetings, via bluetooth, with people like Larry Bird, Danny Ainge, Rod Thorn, Mark Cuban and Sam Presti.

Legendary hoops power broker Sonny Vaccaro is one of the first draft-day visitors to the collection of tables Fegan's crew has commandeered just off the Four Seasons' I.M. Pei-designed entrance.

Fegan and Vaccaro first met through Chris Dudley. Dudley -- now a candidate for Oregon governor -- was an elite basketball player at Yale when Fegan was in law school there.

The agency Fegan runs was recently acquired by Arnaud Lagardère, a Frenchman with a passion for sports who runs one of the biggest businesses in the world, with holdings in global aerospace, broadcast media, publishing, sports and more. The new sports agency is called Lagardère Unlimited.

Vaccaro, who dedicates most of his time these days to a two-fronted assault on the NCAA, is particularly interested in Lagardère. Vaccaro stuck it to the NCAA by playing a lead role in Brandon Jennings' controversial decision to skip the NCAA to play professionally in Italy. Vaccaro says that figuring out how best to connect young American athletes to untapped European markets has become a major focal point of his life.

At the same time, Vaccaro spends a lot of time supporting Ed O'Bannon's effort to sue the NCAA.

Vaccaro and Fegan discuss ways Lagardère Unlimited may be able to bring life to some of Vaccaro's overseas ideas. "I did my Googling of him," says Vaccaro, of Fegan's deep-pocketed new boss. "He can do some things."
Dan Fegan and Mitchell Butler
Photo courtesy: Kyle Gustafson
Before boarding a plane for Seattle, Mitchell Butler details Avery Bradley's injury.

Former NBA player Mitchell Butler, who now works for Fegan as an agent, represents Texas guard Avery Bradley. By draft day, representing Wall has become fairly easy -- he's a lock as the top overall pick. The combination guard Bradley, on the other hand, has an ankle injury that kept him on the shelf through some of the pre-draft period, and has kept him from being able to show off to teams. Bradley was once projected as a lottery pick, but by draft day Fegan and Butler are scrambling to determine a "floor" for Bradley -- a team beyond which he will not fall.

Early in the day, there's plenty of nice talk about Bradley, but no firm interest from teams holding picks in the middle of the first round. Every year, there are some highly regarded players who slide far down the draft board, and there's a concern Bradley could be a candidate.

On short notice, Fegan decides Butler should spend draft night with Bradley and his family outside of Seattle, where they are gathered. Before rushing to the airport for a midday flight, Butler shows Fegan X-rays of the ankle in question. Fegan's instructions to Butler are to "manage family expectations -- it may be a bit of a rough ride."

Early in the day, Fegan workshops different pitches to use to sell Bradley to front offices. His athleticism is a major point. "He tests out," says Fegan, "a lot like Russell Westbrook."

After talking it out, he rejects that approach, and settles on a different theme: Bradley is the 2010 version of another Fegan client, Jrue Holiday. The two, he says, are "eerily similar." Both were touted, coming out of high school, as top-five talents. Both played out of position in college, for a team that won less than expected. Both slipped from the top five on the draft board, even though -- as goes Fegan's talk -- time will show both are among the best picks in their respective drafts.

Fegan seems able to get any GM, owner or coach on the phone in moments, and does, nearly all day. Larry Bird, R.C. Buford, Danny Ainge, Mark Cuban, Sam Presti ... they and many others hear this pitch.

GMs hate the idea of letting someone like Holiday slip through their fingers, and Fegan's job is to seed the worry that such a thing could be happening with this player.

Fegan later admits that he doesn't think these kinds of sales change all that much -- teams are only swayed if they're having a hard time deciding between two players. But he has learned through the years to keep his pitches focused -- to just make a point or two, and then drop it, so that the most important message has a chance of sticking on days when GMs are overloaded with input. And maybe it works. Fegan delivers his Bradley-as-Holiday talk to Ainge Thursday afternoon, and sure enough, the Celtics pluck Bradley with the 19th pick.

The calls go on throughout the day, and as much as Fegan talks, he also listens. With almost every call, there is fresh insight into who might be selling a pick, and what everybody around the league thinks about this or that player. Other Fegan clients come up too. Almost no matter the issue, Fegan has his homework done. Would he like this client as a Maverick? That one as a Timberwolf? Without any notes, he's ready with quick answers and polished long-term strategies. Then it's on to the next call.
Albert Hall's Dwight Howard book
Photo courtesy: Kyle Gustafson
If you're asking Dwight Howard to promote your product, this book is for you.

Albert Hall is a contractor who markets players for Lagardère. In a quick marketing meeting with Hall, Hall presents Fegan new branding books that will be used to promote John Wall and Dwight Howard to sponsors.

(The books make clear, among other things, that Fegan's client list includes a who's who of basketball players with floppy hair. Varejao, Noah, Ricky Rubio ... no other agent can touch that.)

On draft day, Hall is happy to talk about Dwight Howard's next Adidas commercial, but whoever he talks to, the conversation seems to revert to tennis player John Isner, whom Hall recently brought to Lagardère. In a turn of events that makes Hall look like a genius, Isner is the talk of the sports world for having won the longest match in Wimbeldon history while setting a bouquet of records, capturing the imagination of sports fans everywhere.

There are marketing opportunities for a player like that. Hall has talks underway with multiple companies, and smiles often when the topic is Isner.
Dan Fegan and Joyce Li
Photo courtesy: Kyle Gustafson
Dan Fegan and Joyce Li on the morning of the draft, with John Wall's Reebok contract.

Fegan is one of the most connected people in the world -- the bluetooth headset never comes off, and the information he traffics in is as good as anybody's. However, he often does all this without the benefit of the Internet. He has come to New York from his L.A. home without a laptop, which is unthinkable for many of his contemporaries.

Indeed, he seems a tad skeptical. When Butler swipes his way through several screens of an iPad, going from showing X-rays, to checking e-mail, to adding to a task list in just a few seconds, Fegan breaks his monologue to tease: "Stop showing off with that thing."

For a man transacting a constant stream of business, this counts as humor.

Meanwhile, every conceivable detail -- what's the budget for Wall's after-draft party? Where are the earliest and most recent versions of Wall's Reebok contract to compare? How many cars will be necessary to get Wall's family where they need to go? Should we get security for Wall tonight? Can the Four Seasons switch Fegan to a bigger room to accommodate meetings? Where's the Aleve? -- is at the fingertips of assistant Joyce Li.

How does Fegan manage without the Internet? "He has me," says Li. And it's believable that's the difference.
Dan Fegan and Brian Clifton
Photo courtesy: Kyle Gustafson
Dan Fegan and Brian Clifton, moments before John Wall's Reebok contract becomes official.

When Wall came to Lagardère, his longtime confidant, AAU coach and friend Brian Clifton, came too -- with a job from Fegan to manage Wall's marketing. The first major transaction in that regard is Wall's Reebok deal.

The morning of the draft, Wall's Reebok commercial is already done and on the air, and Reebok shoes are on Wall's feet. But Fegan and Clifton are still reviewing the last round of changes to the already-signed deal. Fegan's inner lawyer is on the march. He is very hands-on with the fine print, and has personally hashed out a lot of details with Reebok. But until Clifton has had a chance to see the final agreement, Fegan is keeping the signature pages of the contract from Reebok.

At the end of this meeting, Clifton agrees to everything in the final, signed document. Fegan takes a moment to celebrate the deal becoming official. The signature pages of the contract would then be delivered to Reebok as the final step of completing the deal, and Reebok's Tom Shine joins Wall's post-draft party.
John Wall and family
Photo courtesy: Kyle Gustafson
By early evening, for Wall, the long wait to be an NBA player is almost over.

Even though the first pick had long been determined -- Wall's camp had no real doubt -- Wall wisely refuses to assume anything or to celebrate too early. He has his game face on until David Stern calls his name.

After becoming the first Kentucky player ever picked first overall, Wall nearly chokes up: "Words can't even explain right now. Growing up I lived in a tough neighborhood, getting in trouble in school, especially when my dad passed. So my mom taking me to school ... I love her to death."
Dan Fegan and Sandro Varejao
Photo courtesy: Kyle Gustafson
Fegan and Sandro Varejao play chess at John Wall's post-draft dinner.

Through the day, as Fegan talks to one front-office executive after another. Many of them bleed Fegan for information. Nearly every time he is entirely forthcoming in sharing what he knows.

I ask him why ... are there not advantages in keeping some secrets, and preserving his ability to bluff? For instance, wouldn't it be good to be able to convince a team they'll have to use an early pick on one of his clients, because some other GM is sure to pick him shortly after?

Fegan says a lot of agents do well keeping information to themselves. "But I'm a chess player, not a card player," he explains. "I'm OK with having all the pieces on the board, and thinking a few moves ahead. Other people have a different strategy, and don't want you to see all their cards."

When he leaves his Los Angeles home, Fegan actually packs a chessboard, and says almost all of his staff plays. Even in the midst of Wall's party at Buddakan, surrounded by the most festive of moods, Fegan is thinking strategically, playing chess against Sandro Varejao -- the former international professional and brother of Cleveland forward Anderson, who is Fegan's vice president of international basketball.
Dan Fegan and Lagardere staff
Photo courtesy: Kyle Gustafson
Much of the Lagardère staff -- Nathan Pezeshki, Matt Davis, Dan Fegan, Joyce Li and Sandro Varejao -- at the end of a long day.

As much as the party is for Wall, a fair chunk of the day's relief comes from Avery Bradley's having found a home with the Celtics, a happy end to the biggest of the day's many challenges.
By Diamond Leung

OAKLAND -- Warriors general manager Larry Riley said that aside from all of the talents of Ekpe Udoh, he was impressed by the fact that the Baylor power forward showed up in a suit and expressed his desire to play for Golden State.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Udoh explained. “The fans are ridiculous. They averaged 18,000 the last five years. That’s pretty good numbers.”

Udoh isn’t the big-name pick the Warriors got last year with Stephen Curry, but he was the best player on their board. They passed on Georgetown’s Greg Monroe in favor of Udoh for his shot-blocking, ability to make mid-range jumpers and offensive rebounding prowess.

“Had DeMarcus Cousins slipped to No. 6, he was a guy we were onto pretty heavily and likely would have taken him,” Riley said. “We need a guy with some strength and beef around the basket.”

The TrueHoop Dossier: Xavier Henry

June, 24, 2010
6/24/10
8:44
PM ET
By D.J. Foster
ESPN.com
Archive
Xavier Henry
Getty Images Sport/Jamie Squire
Xavier Henry (right): Just don't call him a sleeper.

Xavier Henry is a sleeper in this draft, but not in the conventional sense. Usually sleepers come from tiny schools or from remote locations across the globe and can actually benefit from the mystery surrounding them and a lack of exposure. But Henry went to Kansas, one of the biggest basketball programs in the nation. Sleepers often times have amazing size or off the charts athletic ability. But Henry is 6-foot-6 and a good, but not great, athlete. So why is Xavier Henry a sleeper, exactly?



Like ESPN's Chad Ford said, it's because so many people have concluded that Henry is a solid player, that now most everyone has moved him aside while they search for the next superstar. Call it the Joe Johnson effect. Dime magazine's Austin Burton explains:
"Joe Johnson didn’t put up numbers in college that advertised he’d be a future All-Star. In his sophomore year at Arkansas he averaged 14.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.4 steals. At Kansas, Henry was good for 13.4 points, 4.4 boards, 1.5 dimes and 1.5 steals a night at the two-guard spot. Were you expecting more from an All-Everything high schooler who was the prize in a recruiting war between the Jayhawks, Kentucky and Memphis? Consider that Henry played next to a pair of star upperclassmen — point guard Sherron Collins and center Cole Aldrich — on a deep KU squad where four guys averaged double-figure scoring.

So why is he a Lottery pick? Because in the NBA Draft, talent always supersedes stats. Henry needs to work on his handle in order to be a true three-position threat like Johnson, but his lefty shooting stroke is good from NBA three range, and he can make a living muscling defenders to create space for mid-range J’s and floaters. Beyond the pro-ready frame, he’s got pro-ready game."

While it's a convincing argument, the general consensus among scouts is that Henry will be a solid player, but his lack of potential will keep him from being a star. Jonathon Givony of DraftExpress thinks Henry has "role-player potential" but wonders if Henry might be a little too "one-dimensional." These sentiments, on top of a concern for Henry's lack of lateral quickness, have been echoed by many.

There's just something about the way Henry plays the game that screams Robin instead of Batman. Sure, Henry can throw down an exciting dunk every now and then or get up for a big block, but the majority of on-court action seen from Henry has been in a complimentary role, primarily as a spot-up shooter. The 19-year old knocked that role out of the park in his first year in Kansas, moving without the ball well and hitting open jumpers that were created for him. But the question remains: Can Henry create for himself?

In an interview with Brandon Chatmon of Newsok.com, Henry addressed the questions surrounding his game leading up to pre-draft workouts:
"That was the first time (in my life) they started (questioning my ability),” Henry said. "My confidence wasn't shaken, I just had to go out and prove them wrong.”

"It got under my skin a little bit,” he said. "It wasn't that I couldn't do it, I just didn't have to do it on a team with two All-Americans (Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich).

"I knew when I got to this point in the process, where I could show my own game, I'd be just fine.”

Henry showed off his smooth lefty stroke, his court awareness on both ends of the court, and his NBA-ready body at Kansas and in workouts leading up to the draft. Now we'll just have to wait and see what he has in store for us next.
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2010 draft

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