TrueHoop: Basketball Books

First Cup: Tuesday

July, 9, 2013
7/09/13
5:32
AM ET
By Nick Borges
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Mike Bresnahan and Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times: With Kaman in the fold, the Lakers have nine players under contract for a total of $81.6 million, including Metta World Peace, whom they can waive via the one-time amnesty provision. In fact, Kobe Bryant seemed to fear for the worst. "This is a tough day for Laker nation," he said Monday on Twitter, reminding his 3 million followers that World Peace was a key part in the Lakers' Game 7 victory over Boston in the 2010 NBA Finals. "Personally I'd keep Metta and make a run with the unit we have and just add a few pieces," Bryant added, along with the hash tags "Keep the peace" and "Lakers still deciding." The Lakers couldn't actually waive World Peace until a one-week period that would begin Wednesday, and they would have to still pay his $7.7-million salary next season, but they would save about $15 million in luxury taxes if they cut him. The Lakers would have no small forwards on their roster if they waived World Peace, though Bryant occasionally has played the position.
  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: Larry Bird does not talk much to the media, but when he does, he is brutally honest, engaging, and entertaining. He was after the Pacers' game at the Orlando Summer Pro League, when he was asked about a variety of topics, since time with Bird is so precious. He addressed the end of the Big Three Era in Boston and reflected on his own Big Three Era, and how he, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish were allowed to age in Celtics uniforms. "It's tough. I knew I was on my way out. Actually I was going to leave a couple of years earlier and (former president) Dave Gavitt talked me into staying," Bird said. "It was tough. There was always talk about should Red (Auerbach) trade us early, but there's loyalty there in that organization and he decided to keep us. "But you always gotta look out for the franchise. You always do." Bird said seeing Paul Pierce not finish his career with Boston is difficult.
  • Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times: Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hammond claims it is his “intention’’ to re-sign Brandon Jennings. Many NBA officials are skeptical. Jennings, the Bucks’ starting point guard the last four seasons, is a restricted free agent. He can entertain offers from any team with the Bucks having the right to match and retain his services. Since his arrival in Milwaukee five summers ago, though, Hammond has constantly stated he wouldn’t overpay a player — even though he has done that, most notably with his free-agent signing of Drew Gooden. Hammond gave Gooden a five-year, $32 million contract and, to say the least, it was a major mistake. … Some league officials claim Jennings is seeking a contract that would pay him $12M a season. The speculation is that Hammond doesn’t believe Jennings is worth that amount and thus is more receptive to moving Jennings in a sign-and-trade deal than he’s publicly letting on. Of course, if the Bucks unload Jennings, they’ll need someone to replace him. The Bucks had expressed interest in ex-Golden State veteran guard Jarrett Jack, but he has made a verbal commitment to sign with Cleveland. The Bucks are also believed to have had serious discussions about pursuing Atlanta’s Jeff Teague, a restricted free agent who is a good friend of former Hawks and current Bucks coach Larry Drew.
  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has targeted the regular-season opener as the date to expect Rajon Rondo’s return to action, and the point guard’s agent agrees. “That sounds right,” Bill Duffy said yesterday at the Orlando summer league. “We don’t want to put any pressure on him and overanticipate, but the main thing is to be healthy and 100 percent. He’s on target in his rehab and we anticipate a 100 percent return.” Duffy doesn’t expect Rondo to suffer from the uncertainty that continues to hound Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose’s return from knee surgery. “I think Rajon’s (knee surgery) was less severe, so he’s more optimistic,” Duffy said. “I don’t think that’s Rajon’s nature. He’s not going to be as patient. But psychologically he’ll be fine. That was a big hurdle for Rose, but Rajon isn’t made that way.” Nor does Rondo appear to be bothered by the latest round of trade rumors. “He’s been going through that for the last three years,” Duffy said. “He’s just used to it.”
  • Mac Engel, of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Andrew Bynum is going to squeeze teams as much as he can because he knows there are not many people on this earth who can do what he does. How many 7-foot men on this earth are actually any good at basketball? Five, six? By comparison, giving Beltre a monster deal looked like the sure thing compared to an NBA player who only once in his career has played a full 82-game season. We forget now, but the Rangers took a major risk when they handed Beltre a six-year deal worth $96 million. We forget because Beltre has been such a hit. If Cuban wants a real center — and Andrew Bynum is the next-best option — he is going to have to take a similar risk and deal with the consequences.
  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: Larry Bird was a little blunter when I asked him today to elaborate on why teams like Oklahoma City and Indiana can’t toy around with the tax. “Because we can’t afford it,” Bird said. “It’s like buying a used car and a new car. If you got the money to buy a used one, you better get the used one.” Bird then said something interesting. He said the Pacers owners essentially have done the same thing the Thunder’s owners have done. That’s sign off on the front office assembling a roster that is as competitive as possible but one that doesn’t push the team past the tax threshold. Indiana’s payroll also is approaching $70 million. The projected tax threshold for the 2013-14 season is $71.6 million. “Our owners went out and have done everything they could this year so we could be up close to the tax,” Bird said. “We just can’t fight the tax. It’s always going to be a disadvantage for us. I feel bad for Oklahoma. They had a great team and they had to make a trade. They were right there. But we’re going to have to do the same in the future. We’re always fighting an uphill battle with revenues. But that’s part of who we are. And we do the best we can with what we have.”
  • Shawn Windsor of the Detroit Free Press: Josh Smith, the Pistons’ newest free agent-to-be, isn’t a good three-point shooter. In fact, he isn’t much of a jump shooter beyond 12 feet. This isn’t good news for those of you who think NBA small forwards should be able to … shoot. But this isn’t awful news, either. At least not yet. If Maurice Cheeks and his staff can persuade Smith to avoid chucking up long two-pointers and concentrate on attacking the rim, the Pistons will sport as athletic a frontline as there is in the league, capable of post offense, post defense, shot blocking and rebounding. Smith is a 6-foot-9 leaper with a quick first step and good vision. Whether cutting to the basket from the weak side or rolling to the lane off pick-and-rolls, the Pistons haven’t had a player like this in a long time. Actually, few teams possess a player like Smith. And that’s the issue. His uniqueness tantalized coaches and fans for nine years in Atlanta but never quite satisfied them. A jump shot and a full-time motor make him a top-five player. But even without the shooting range, Smith can take over a game. That ability could push the Pistons into the playoffs.
  • Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer: Josh Harris made one thing clear Monday: The 76ers' managing owner is learning from new general manager Sam Hinkie."We thought we were getting a super-smart, very hardworking, very focused, world-class general manager - and that's what we got," Harris said before the Sixers faced the Indiana Pacers in an Orlando Pro Summer League game. So I like to say that I was playing checkers and he was playing chess," Harris added. "He's thinking about five moves ahead. So I am learning a lot about basketball from interacting with him." Hinkie orchestrated his first bold move with the team on draft night. He traded all-star point guard Jrue Holiday and acquired the rights to center Nerlens Noel, the sixth overall pick, in a trade with the New Orleans Pelicans. The Sixers also received the Pelicans' 2014 first-round pick, which is protected from picks one through five, for Holiday and a second-round pick (42d overall) in the draft. On Friday, the Sixers acquired Royce White and the rights to Turkish star Furkan Aldemir in a trade with the Houston Rockets. The Sixers essentially gave up nothing in return.
  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: Most players on summer league rosters are recently drafted rookies, first- or second-year players, or NBA hopefuls looking to catch an eye and get a fall camp invitation. And then there's Jeremy Evans. He's an oddity in Orlando. And not just because he's the only one here who has leaped over his own drawing during a dunk on national television. As a player about to enter his fourth NBA season, the 25-year-old Evans is considered an old man in this part of Florida. By coming to camp again, the 2012 Slam Dunk champion is hoping to continue improving to the point he can work his way into the Jazz's regular rotation.
  • J. Michael of CSN Washington: Bradley Beal won’t play in this weekend’s summer league for the Wizards due to a leg injury, and it is looking doubtful he’ll be able to suit up for the USA Basketball mini-camp later this month, too. Beal, who was in attendance Monday to watch 2013 draft picks Otto Porter and Glen Rice Jr. work out for the Wizards at Verizon Center, still has some discomfort in his right fibula, the smaller of the two bones in his lower leg. While he only watched the first day of mini-camp, Beal has been cleared for some basketball activities by the team’s doctors. He last had an X-Ray almost a month ago. Beal’s season ended April 2 when tests showed he had a stress injury -– but not a fracture. “They cleared me to start running doing some light things. It’s definitely going to be a slow progression. There’s still a little pain on touch,” Beal said. “As far as hurting when I'm running its not hurting at all, or (when) jumping at all. I’m still going to take my time because it might come back on me.”
  • Jason Gonzalez of the Star Tribune: Devean George wants to bring a sense of hope to the north Minneapolis intersection of Golden Valley Road and Penn Avenue. The Minneapolis native, former Augsburg College star and NBA player is taking aim at the same stretch of neighborhood where he grew up dribbling a basketball and later witnessed a random drive-by killing of an 11-year-old boy that shook the city. The change will come in the form of 45 affordable housing units, built on top of an outreach program for community youth that he calls George’s Building Blocks. “It’s all about collaboration. That’s what this plan is. Everyone building blocks one at a time,” said George, who played alongside Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal after becoming the first Division III player selected in the NBA draft’s first round. “From Morgan Avenue to Queen Avenue. We’ll start on this corner, and from there, harmony.” Building toward something greater always has been a part of George’s life.
  • Kurt Kragthorpe of The Salt Lake Tribune: The Jazz have some issues when it comes to playing consistent, team-oriented defense inside EnergySolutions Arena. But it’s apparently a different story outside the building. An author who toured the NBA in search of ticket bargains credits the brokers outside ESA with establishing an almost impenetrable defense. More accurately, Motez Bishara accuses them of collusion, not allowing one another to lower the prices. Beating the NBA: Tales From a Frugal Fan is Bishara’s story of how the secondary ticket market works. He shares his experiences of landing high-priced courtside seats for marquee games and finding huge discounts for other games, mostly by scouring websites and making in-person deals with scalpers outside the arenas. Except in rare cases, he succeeded in securing good tickets for much less than face value. So he was not happy about paying $20 for a $17 upper-bowl ticket to watch the Jazz play Phoenix on a cold night in February 2011.

First Cup: Wednesday

June, 26, 2013
6/26/13
5:40
AM ET
By Nick Borges
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: As if squandering their fifth championship wasn’t tough enough to swallow, the Spurs were made to endure the added insult of a commercial, erroneously aired on NBA TV, advertising all the celebratory gear that will now be donated to various charities.
  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: Back in 1994, Brian Shaw performed a rap song called “Anything Can Happen.” In the lyrics, he talks about the unreal turn-of-events in his life, when the year prior, his parents and sister died in a car accident.
  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: As previously mentioned in this space, Ray Allen benefits by not opting in, by not settling for the one year, at $3.2 million, remaining on the two-year deal he signed last summer when he left the Boston Celtics. Instead, he now can utilize the arcane Non-Bird exception in the NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement. With that measure, he can start a new contract next season at a 20-percent raise over the $3.1 million he earned this past season. In addition, under the Non-Bird guidelines, Allen can use that salary-cap exception to build a contract as long as four years, with annual 4.5-percent raises. What it means is that Allen will become a free agent on July 1, just as he did last season. It also means, because of the NBA's July signing moratorium, that the Heat cannot re-sign him until July 10, at the earliest. Still, there is no need to panic. If anything, it means Allen is looking to invest more time with the Heat than the initial two seasons he signed up for.
  • Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News: A future Hall of Famer might become available, so Billy King did his due diligence and made the call. Multiple sources told the Daily News that the Nets GM inquired about Kevin Garnett’s desire to join Deron Williams in Brooklyn, but King didn’t get an answer while uncertainty surrounds the Celtics. Garnett, 37, has a no-trade clause in his contract, which he vowed not to waive last season. But circumstances changed dramatically in Boston following a first-round playoff loss to the Knicks, with GM Danny Ainge committing to rebuilding and Doc Rivers bolting to the Clippers.
  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: An NBA source with knowledge of the situation adamantly denied Tuesday that the Charlotte Bobcats are shopping small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as a trade commodity. … Otto Porter and Kidd-Gilchrist would create a redundancy on a Charlotte roster with many other needs. Hence the assumption the Bobcats would move Kidd-Gilchrist, the No. 2 overall pick a year ago, to make room for Porter. The league source said not only that Kidd-Gilchrist isn’t on the trading block, but that the chances of Porter making it past the top three picks are slim. Another league source strongly doubted any chance of Porter getting past the Wizards at No. 3. … It’s not uncommon during the days leading to a draft for misinformation to be spread, particularly in a draft such as this with no clear-cut top pick or an obvious order of the top six selections. It’s a mystery what the Cleveland Cavaliers will do with the top pick Thursday night, in part because the Cavs acknowledging their intentions could only hurt the trade value of the No. 1 pick.
  • Ken MaGuire of The New York Times: His new passport says he is Greek, but Giannis Adetokunbo has lived a struggling immigrant’s life. He has peddled goods on city streets to feed himself and his brothers. While other families ferried off on island vacations, his often changed apartments in search of cheaper rent. Yet Adetokunbo, 18, stands out from the hundreds of thousands of immigrants trying to survive in Greece. He was born here. He speaks Greek fluently. He completed Greek schooling. He recently became a Greek citizen. Adetokunbo (pronounced a-det-o-KOON-bo), a 6-foot-9 son of Nigerian parents, also plays basketball. Very well. That is what N.B.A. scouts say. They flocked to Greece and buzzed about his ball-handling, his court vision and his decision-making. … He has signed to play in Spain next season, unless an N.B.A. team has different plans for him after the draft. Passport in hand, he also has begun playing with the Greek national under-20 team. But before N.B.A. scouts located the 500-seat Filathlitikos gym in Zografou, a densely settled Athens suburb, Adetokunbo sometimes put basketball aside to help his family. Like other immigrants to Greece, his parents struggled to find work. Adetokunbo and his older brother, Thanasis, would help out by hawking watches, bags and sunglasses. In doing so, they jeopardized their roster spots because they were missing practices. They also missed meals. “Sometimes, our fridge was empty,” said Adetokunbo, who turned 18 in December. “Some days, we didn’t sell the stuff and we didn’t have money to feed ourselves.”
  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal:With Thursday’s NBA Draft quickly approaching, sources within the Cavs insisted Tuesday that their draft board was not yet set and the team hadn’t decided yet who to take with the No. 1 overall pick. None of the options are a terrific fit and almost anyone the Cavs take will start the season coming off the bench. Maryland’s Alex Len and Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel remain the top big men available, but the Cavs have seemed cool on Noel throughout the draft process. ESPN draft analyst Chad Ford continues to believe the Cavs will take him, but admitted in a conference call Tuesday it was a guess and he was simply “reading the tea leaves.” Ford believes the choice has been narrowed to Len, Noel and UNLV’s Anthony Bennett. A few executives polled around the league believe the choice will come down to Len or Noel.
  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: Ernie Grunfeld only needed to take a few steps from his office to see Otto Porter Jr. play home games for Georgetown at Verizon Center. Alex Len was a short drive up Route 1 to Maryland. And Victor Oladipo played high school basketball at DeMatha before starring at Indiana. At least one — or perhaps all three — will be available when the Wizards choose the No. 3 overall pick on Thursday at Barclays Center, but Grunfeld said that he doesn’t feel any added pressure to pick a player because fans in the area are already familiar with him. “No. Why should I?” Grunfeld said at a news conference in advance of the NBA draft on Tuesday at Verizon Center. “We’re going to take the player that we feel is going to help us the most long term.” Porter, UNLV forward Anthony Bennett and Kentucky big man Nerlens Noel all came to Washington to meet with the Wizards since the team moved up five spots in the NBA draft lottery. Grunfeld didn’t offer any hints about where he is leaning with the draft quickly approaching, but at least seemed committed to using the selection after admitting that the team has had discussions about dealing the pick.
  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: So why would the New Orleans Pelicans have any interest in possibly selecting Michigan point guard Trey Burke with their sixth overall pick in Thursday night’s NBA draft? Despite already having Vasquez, Austin Rivers and Brian Roberts, though he could become a free agent if the Pelicans don't pick up his option next month, Burke is a rare talent. He was the national player of the year after averaging 18.6 points and 6.7 assists leading Michigan to the Final Four this past season. … With Burke, the Pelicans would have a better chance of getting into their sets quicker, get up better shots and take more advantage of Anthony Davis’ athleticism like the gold medal winning 2012 USA Basketball team did when he soared often for alley-oop dunks at the London Olympics. … The Pelicans don't have a glaring need at point guard like they do at small forward, but they also shouldn’t bypass possibly selecting the best player left on the draft board when they select at No. 6 if Burke is available. In regards to improving the small forward spot, free agency is the best solution.
  • Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: There will be no more hiding and no more speculation as to what the 76ers have been doing since introducing Sam Hinkie as president and general manager on May 14. Tomorrow night, the Sixers are scheduled to make three picks in the NBA draft, first at No. 11, then twice in the second round (Nos. 35 and 42). At some point during the evening, Hinkie will come out and talk about the players he picked, or the players the Sixers traded for, or the picks they traded away. While that will be his top priority, the questions certainly will shift in the direction of what is going on with this organization: Is there a plan for free agency? Does that plan include an offer to Andrew Bynum? How stable is the roster as constructed? Oh, yeah. And how is that coaching search going? If you're looking for answers - and we all are - perhaps some of them will come tomorrow. But don't count on it. For reasons only he knows, Hinkie has decided to go into hiding since taking the job after being an assistant to the GM in Houston.
  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: If possession is 9/10ths of the law, then the Mavericks appear to have an inside track to a new point guard. Gal Mekel, an Israeli who played last season for Maccabi Haifa, has been in Dallas the last couple days, worked out for the Mavericks and was at the team’s basketball offices on Tuesday. Mekel, 6-3, attended Wichita State before returning to Israel to continue his playing career. He’s been likened to a J.J. Barea starter kit. As a free agent, Mekel is eligible to agree to terms with any NBA team after July 1, when free agency opens. At 25, he’s got experience of international play and has been pursued by several other NBA teams. The Mavericks spent a considerable amount of time chatting with Mekel on Tuesday.
  • Robert McLeod of the Globe and Mail: The Raptors do not own a pick in the two rounds of the draft, so having all those boards to stare at might be like owning a fancy wide-screen television without any cable to provide the moving pictures. “You never know what’s going to come your way,” Ujiri said. “I think obviously you’ve studied the draft all year and you have the guys you like, the guys you don’t like, and how you rank them. “And you go into it preparing like you never know what might happen on draft day.” Ujiri is alluding to the possibility that the Raptors could wind up trading into the draft. But unless there are teams willing to take a flier on, say, Andrea Bargnani, the underachieving Italian power forward who has two years and $22-million (all currency U.S.) left on his contract, Ujiri’s hands appear to be tied. Apart from surrendering younger assets such as Jonas Valanciunas or Terrence Ross, the Raptors do not appear to have many bargaining chips. Still, you can’t blame a guy for trying. Asked if he was working the phones to try to trade into the draft, as several Internet reports have suggested, Ujiri said: “I never like to play my hand in any kind of way.”
  • Joesph Goodman of The Miami Herald: At last count, the Heat’s Harlem Shake video, uploaded to the social-media depository Feb. 28, was approaching 46 million views. Within two days of its link first appearing on the Heat’s Twitter account (@MiamiHEAT), the video was retweeted 63,927 times. According to Research Magazine, 51 percent of the video’s social-media sharing came from outside the United States. What does that mean, exactly? It means the Heat is the first American sports dynasty of the Social Media Age, and it wasn’t accomplished by Ray Allen hitting his unforgettable three-pointer, the team running off 27 consecutive victories or LeBron James winning back-to-back everything. It was done with an oversized bear head hiding Dwyane Wade’s face, Mario Chalmers as Super Mario, Shane Battier’s “horsestronaut” costume and James donning his matching fuzzy and red faux ermine fur crown and cape, and dancing shirtless. Yes, it can be argued that one doesn’t happen without the other, but what’s the lasting image of this team going to be worldwide? Did the Harlem Shake make the defending champions, or did the defending champions make the Harlem Shake? “The horse head,” Battier said. “It’s undefeated.” No, seriously. “I had one secret for Game 7,” Battier said. “I don’t think we could have done it without the ‘horsestronaut.’ ”
  • Brad Rock of the Deseret News: Here is all the dirt on John Stockton: He wrecked his parents’ car as a teenager and rolled a mangled tire into the Spokane River. He cursed at his brother during driveway pickup games. He botched the words at his wedding rehearsal, nervously pledging his “love and infidelity,” rather than fidelity. He admits that late in his career he failed to address an undercurrent of discord among teammates, which hurt chemistry. So there you have it, straight from his soon-to-be-released book, “Assisted,” written with his middle school coach, Kerry Pickett. Sex, drugs and partying? There’s none of that. No tattling on teammates, either. “Bad as I Wanna Be” it’s not. If you thought you knew the Hall of Fame basketball player, the answer is yes and no. That “altar boy” image is true, at least in one sense: He really was an altar boy.

First Cup: Thursday

November, 8, 2012
11/08/12
5:58
AM ET
By Nick Borges
ESPN.com
Archive
  • John Rohde of The Oklahoman: So we’re to believe James Harden was rushed, that he wasn’t given enough time to decide whether to stay with the Thunder or bolt, so to speak. Harden said Thunder general manager Sam Presti gave him one hour to accept a four-year, $54-million extension, or he would be traded to the Houston Rockets. “After everything we established – everything we had done – you give me an hour?” Harden told Yahoo! Sports. “This was one of the biggest decisions of my life. I wanted to go home and pray about it. It hurt me. It hurt.” Truth is, this all didn’t come down to one hour. There were 16 previous weeks of talks. Evidently, at no point while winning an Olympic gold medal, throwing an all-white (attire) yacht party and making it rain at a topless bar during the offseason did Harden feel any urgency to ponder the Thunder’s latest offer. From the get-go, it was evident Harden would not get a four-year max extension from OKC, or roughly $60 million, before the league’s Halloween deadline. … A deadline had come and somebody had to make a move. For nearly four months, that move was Harden’s to make. When that last hour was up, it was Presti who took control. Whose fault is that?
  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: Accountability. That’s the only way the Pacers will be able to stay afloat for the next three months without Danny Granger. Everybody has to be responsible for their actions. The unit that hasn’t been accountable this season is the bench. I’m still waiting to see the upgrade. Lance Stephenson was effective offensively in the third quarter, but that changed once the Hawks went to a zone in the fourth quarter. Vogel had nowhere to turn in that fourth quarter when Kyle Korver was running Stephenson ragged through screens. Vogel couldn’t turn to Sam Young or Gerald Green. So he tried change things up with the players he had on the court. He put Hill on Korver and Stephenson on Jeff Teague. There was no way Stephenson could stay in front Teague. But again, it’s not like Vogel could go to his bench.
  • Kurt Kragthorpe of The Salt Lake Tribune: The version of the Lakers appearing Wednesday night at EnergySolutions Arena was so lifeless and so ineffective that the Jazz can receive only so much credit for a 95-86 win. The Jazz obviously had something to do with the Lakers’ struggles, hounding them defensively and continually outworking them. If both of these teams were supposed to be desperate, having each lost three of four games to open the season, only one of them played that way. The Jazz’s effort was evident from the start, when Paul Millsap blocked a Dwight Howard shot and Gordon Hayward stripped Kobe Bryant and drove for a dunk. They’re not always artistic, but they’re trying. … So they got a win, mostly because the Lakers (1-4) played worse in falling to last place in the entire Western Conference. I’d suggest clipping and saving today’s NBA standings, just for fun. As for the Jazz (2-3), nobody should be sure how much value to place in this victory. Jazz center Al Jefferson, for one, struggled with the proper framing. "We really can’t be happy with it," he said, before clarifying, "we’re happy with it, but we can’t celebrate too long." That’s because more evidence is required to say the Jazz have ironed out their offense.
  • Mike_Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: Kobe Bryant was still seething as he sat in front of his locker, acknowledging he played with an anger and fire he hadn't displayed in a while. "Just a little bit," he said, practically spitting out the words. Why? "Nothin' I care to share," he said. Bad sign for the Lakers. Bryant is mad. Or maybe it's a good sign. It can't hurt at this point. If Bryant was angry with Pau Gasol, it made sense. The four-time All-Star had five points in 36 minutes, missing seven of nine shots as the Lakers were outmuscled badly by the smaller but tougher Jazz. If Bryant's mad at Coach Mike Brown, he's not alone. Lakers fans are displaying little to no patience for the Princeton-based offense that has taken one victory in five games. If Bryant's irritated with himself, he shouldn't be. He had 29 points and made 15 of 17 from the free-throw line, though his six turnovers were a problem on a team that seemingly loves to give the ball to opponents. If he's mad at the Utah crowd, he should also perish the thought, even if Jazz fans hurled a mildly obscene chant upon the Lakers in the final minute of play. It was completely accurate. The Lakers really do, um, stink these days.
  • Mike Berardino of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: How ridiculously talented are the Heat this year? How ruthlessly efficient has Showtime East been on offense through five games? It's actually become a fair question to wonder whether the Heat at times pass up too many open shots in pursuit of the perfect look. … It's early, yes, but the Heat used this mini-test against a rising Eastern Conference foe to build their reputation as an offensive juggernaut. "The ball is popping, it's moving, the unselfishness has become contagious," Spoelstra said. "The ego-less part of it, I think, is one of our biggest strides right now. … The ball just moves to the open man." It's not just the Heat's scoring average, which sits at an even 110 as they embark on a six-game road trip over the next two weeks. Points per possession — at both ends of the floor — are much more meaningful to Spoelstra, who couldn't have had many complaints with the way the ball was moving on offense in the first half.
  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: With contracts signed, the roster set and their summer transformation complete, the Nets quickly crafted a vague outline for their bright new future, with one overarching goal: to catch the Miami Heat. No team was mentioned more often by Nets officials this fall. With a starry new backcourt and a replenished lineup, their sights were set high. Eventually, the Nets might meet that lofty vision. For now, the gap remains considerable, even glaring. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade needed less than three quarters Wednesday night to demonstrate the point, and the Heat cruised to a 103-73 rout at American Airlines Arena, dealing the Nets (1-2) their worst loss of this young season. ... The Nets shot poorly from the perimeter, rarely got into the paint and never did find a way to slow down the N.B.A.’s pre-eminent superstar tandem. James and Wade combined for 42 points, nearly matching the entire Nets starting lineup. “Nobody said we were on Miami’s level,” Coach Avery Johnson said. “We aspire to get there. We’re not there. We’re definitely not there with three games in the regular season.” As Johnson pointedly noted, it took the Heat (4-1) a while to develop an identity when they brought Wade, James and Chris Bosh together in 2010. Wade himself stressed that the Nets will need patience as Deron William and Joe Johnson get acclimated to one another. The process apparently will be ugly at times.
  • Dan Woike of The Orange County Register: People want to know when Chauncey Billups will return to the court. He was asked Wednesday morning after the Clippers' shootaround. "I'm not going to throw a date out, obviously," Billups said. Less than six hours later, Billups appeared on ESPN's Countdown and told a different story. "Barring any setbacks," Billups said, "I'm hoping in a month I'll be back out there." He was asked about his return for a third time before the Clippers' game with San Antonio and gave a third answer. "Write whatever you want," he said. The main reason why Billups' return date is cloudy is because it's actually a mystery. At this point, Billups said he's playing at game speed in practice without soreness in his Achilles' tendon. "It's been nothing in my Achilles'. My Achilles' is great. It's strong, powerful," Billups said. "It's recalibrating the rest of my body, getting it up to speed, telling it 'It's time to go.'"
  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: He doesn’t like to do it. In fact, he admits he despises it. But until NBA players such as DeAndre Jordan learn to make more of their free throws than they miss, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is not going to stop calling for intentional fouls against them to force them to the foul line. “That’s a lie,” Popovich said, straight-faced, when asked before Wednesday’s Spurs-Clippers game at Staples Center if he again intended to employ intentional fouls against Jordan. “I have never hacked anybody on purpose.” In fact, Popovich has been one of the most frequent employers of the tactic, from calling for ‘Hack-A-Shaq’ against Shaquille O’Neal to using it against Jordan and teammate Blake Griffin in the Western Conference semifinals in May. “Yes, we’ll use it again tonight,” Popovich said before tipoff. “I think it’s ugly. I think it’s awful. But it’s legal. It’s there. If somebody doesn’t want to get hacked, they should shoot free throws better. “Shooting free throws is part of the game, but I’ve got to admit it’s an ugly thing when that Spurs coach does that.”
  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: The Celtics wanted to get off to a positive start this season, definitely one better than last season’s 5-9 start, during which they looked completely unprepared following the lockout. Rajon Rondo, the anointed team leader, points to Sept. 4 as a critical date for the development of this retooled Celtics club. That’s when many members of the team showed up in Waltham and played intense pickup games, attempting to develop chemistry and get a jump start on the new season. But it seems regardless of how many offseason workouts that attempt to simulate real practices, no matter how much hanging out and bonding teammates do, and how much players rehearse game situations, nothing compares with actual NBA games. That’s when chemistry is built. At 2-2, the Celtics hardly look capable of making a title run, but it’s still early November and there is plenty of time to gain cohesion and develop into a contender.
  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Telegram: Rick Carlisle has a shiny diamond ring he won when he led the Dallas Mavericks to the 2011 NBA championship. But the Mavs coach accomplished something Wednesday he's never accomplished since he became the team's coach in 2008. With a 109-104 victory over the Toronto Raptors, Carlisle got the Mavs off to a 4-1 start for the first time in his five seasons in Dallas. The win enabled the Mavs to sweep a three-game homestand before they start a two-game road trip Friday in New York against the unbeaten Knicks. Playing the Raptors without Dirk Nowitzki (knee), Shawn Marion (knee), Rodrigue Beaubois (ankle) and Elton Brand left the Mavs with only 11 healthy bodies in uniform. But they were able to fight and scratch and reach the 4-1 mark for the first time since 2007-08.
  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: The burning question about Vince Carter was always about his heart, his effort, and whether he had it in him to be as great as his jaw-dropping athleticism would allow him to be. Would he put in the extra hours? Would he develop every facet of his game? Would he last? Or would he be an NBA supernova, one of the gifted few who flash before our eyes and burn out as rapidly, leaving fans to wonder: Is that all there was? Well, it’s been a decade and a half since a scrawny 21-year-old Carter became a Raptor. He’s in his 15th NBA season and no matter what you think of him, or what memories or emotions he evokes, there is something to be said for the staying power of the Dallas Mavericks swingman.
  • Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: With the Bulls up 99-93 against the Magic and 3.8 seconds left in the game on Tuesday, Noah fired up a three-pointer in hopes of cracking the 100-point total and getting the fans at the United Center free Big Macs through a promotion the team had going. “Talk to Joakim about that,’’ Robinson told the media after the game. Media types weren’t the only ones who wanted to talk to Noah about it. Coach Tom Thibodeau was not pleased with Noah’s decision. “I talked to him about it, but I’m going to keep that private,” Thibodeau said after Wednesday’s practice. Not that Noah needed a visit to the principal’s office to know it was wrong. He realized that right after the game.
  • Bob Ford of The Philadelphia Inquirer: The 76ers were without swingman Jason Richardson and center Kwame Brown for Wednesday's game against the New Orleans Hornets, and that might not change for at least the remainder of this three-game road trip. Coach Doug Collins said Brown, who aggravated a calf strain Monday, would almost certainly not be ready to play in Boston on Friday night or in Toronto on Saturday night. "His calf is as large as a grapefruit," Collins said. Richardson, who sprained his left ankle on Sunday, is making more progress, but a return against Boston would be unlikely as well. Additionally, of course, the Sixers are still without projected starting center Andrew Bynum, for whom the organization is not presenting any time line concerning his first appearance of the season.
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: Nikola Vucevic and Nikola Pekovic share more in common than a first name. They hail from Montenegro and have played together on the country’s national team. They even hung out a bit this afternoon. But they will put their friendship on a temporary hiatus a few hours from now, when Vucevic’s Orlando Magic faces Pekovic’s Minnesota Timberwolves at the Target Center. “We talk really often,” said Vucevic, who prefers to shorten his name to "Nik" in the U.S. “We talk about everything. As a player, he’s a very strong dude. He’s basically one of the strongest big guys in the NBA, and he uses his body great. He knows what his strengths are and he uses that. It’s very tough to guard him.” Pekovic is a good scorer and is one of the NBA’s most physical players — so much so that Dwight Howard once likened facing him to a mixed martial arts fight.
  • Brian T. Smith Special to The Denver Post: Ty Lawson dominated his personal battle Wednesday, pouring in a game-high 21 points and dishing out eight assists during Denver's 93-87 victory over the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. Lawson exposed Houston point guard Jeremy Lin in the process, limiting his counterpart to just six points on 2-of-9 shooting. Early in the game, Nuggets coach George Karl believed Lawson was settling: deferring instead of distributing, reacting instead of attacking. Lawson responded with a second-quarter outburst, unloading 14 points in 3:21. He buried two 3s and made three layups, consistently blowing by Lin. By the time Lawson's burn was over, it was 54-39 Nuggets, and Denver (2-3) was sprinting toward its first road victory.
  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: Long after the Rockets’ loss, Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin were on the Toyota Center practice court working on their shots. Mostly, however, they might have been working off frustration. “I’m just frustrated, man,” Parsons said. “I could be playing so much better. Missing the shot is the last of my worries. People are going to miss and make shots. It would have been a big shot that would have helped our team. But little things. I’m turning the ball over too much, having (Danilo) Gallinari just tip the ball over me is just effort. That’s usually what I do to people. It’s frustrating to allow that to happen. We got to be a team that’s going to win games even when we miss shots. We got to move the ball. We got to cut hard. We have to run in transition. We got to get back in transition. We have to rebound, dive on the floor. We have to do all the scrappy things.”
  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: Action got heated with 10 minutes left when Kings rookie Thomas Robinson nailed Jonas Jerebko in the neck with an elbow. Veteran referee Bennett Salvatore ejected Robinson with a Flagrant-2 and Jerebko lay on floor for a few minutes clutching his throat. The Sacramento Bee reported Robinson wasn't in the locker room after the game, but Tyreke Evans said Robinson did apologize to this teammates for his flagrant foul. Evans added that Robinson said Jerebko “flopped a little.” It was a rough night all around for Jerebko, who was also hit in the right eye earlier.
  • Kyle Veazey of The Commercial-Appeal: To some, the $175 million in debt that Robert Pera's ownership group took on to help its purchase of the Memphis Grizzlies may be eye-opening. But not in the world of the NBA, one of its executives said Wednesday. "There is nothing unusual about the financing to acquire the Grizzlies," said Rob Friedrich, a vice president of the NBA and the league's general counsel. "It is standard in the context of team acquisitions and fully compliant with the NBA's debt policies. The financial wherewithal of Robert Pera and this ownership group is very strong and the team remains on a very solid financial footing." The Pera-led group closed on the $377 million purchase of the franchise from Michael Heisley late last month. A source told The Commercial Appeal Monday night that the group used $125 million available to NBA teams through the league's credit facility and another $50 million in bank financing to close the deal. But that's nothing new in the NBA. Nineteen of the league's 30 teams use the league's $2.3 billion credit facility, and many use it to the $125 million per-franchise maximum.
  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: If you really love the NBA, you probably have the league’s official Register and Guide, publications that are very good and are printed annually. If you want to go a step further, get Harvey Pollack’s 2012-13 Statistical Yearbook. It’s the bible of NBA trivia and statistical analysis and has been printed every year since 1968. Flip to any page and you’ll learn something you didn’t know before. Like how many assist-rebound double-doubles there were in the league last season (there were 18, including six by Boston’s Rajon Rondo). The book is 355 pages of pure enlightenment. Pollack, by the way, is the only person left who has worked for the NBA in some capacity in all 66 years of its existence. He’s 90.

First Cup: Friday

August, 31, 2012
8/31/12
4:45
AM ET
By Nick Borges
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: The whirlwind starts next week for Dwyane Wade, with Tuesday appearances on "The View" and Letterman. It continues with a book tour that opens that day in New York with the release of his parenting treatise, "A Father First: How my life became bigger than basketball," and continues with three stops later in the week in South Florida. While the griping, heartfelt first-person account of emerging from a contentious divorce with primary custody of his two young sons is the tome's focus, it also tells the parallel story of Wade's basketball arc, including his championship seasons with the Miami Heat. To a degree, the book is a surprise in that respect, with far more basketball detail than hinted at in the advance publicity, including a final chapter devoted to the collaboration of Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh in defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2012 NBA Finals.
  • Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: There haven’t been many sweet moments between Shaquille O’Neal and the Lakers since his trade in 2004, but the big one will come April 2 at halftime of the game against Dallas. O’Neal’s No. 34 jersey will be retired, as Lakers owner Jerry Buss promised it would be, and go up on the Staples Center wall along with the Lakers’ other greats. In eight Lakers seasons, O’Neal posted averages of 27.0 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.49 blocked shots while winning three NBA championships (2000, 2001 and 2002). On the wall already by then will be Jamaal Wilkes’ No. 52, scheduled to be retired by the Lakers in an earlier ceremony in the coming season. Wilkes’ honor will be at halftime on Dec. 28 against Portland. The first reflective moment of the season will be the unveiling of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s statue at Star Plaza outside Staples Center on Nov. 16.
  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: Air Alamo’s Quixem Ramirez is in the ballpark when he calls Gregg Popovich the most fascinating coach in the NBA. At the very least he’s unique. Undeniably blue-collar, yet able to appreciate the delights of fine wine and duck fritte. A no-nonsense type who delights in tormenting the media with terse answers and wordless stares, but funny and engaging when he chooses to open up. Popovich did exactly that in this mailbag with Spurs.com. The basketball stuff is fine — thoughts on Patty Mills, the Spurs’ Olympic contingent and Tony Parker’s coachability — but the personal details are way, way more interesting. Such as his preference for summer reading (biographies of Stalin and Putin) and his inspiring advice for aspiring coaches: Buy a coat and a tie, and get a job. Most helpful of all was Popovich’s disclosure that he counts Led Zeppelin among his favorite bands. And now I know, whenever I get the inevitable Death Stares this season, that I can attempt to assuage him with the offering that I, too, love the Hammer of the Gods.
  • John Rohde of The Oklahoman: Teammates Thabo Sefolosha, Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison and Cole Aldrich frequently exchanged laughter Thursday as they shared viewpoints about their latest community project. Their voices could be heard through the static of teleconference call from Johannesburg, South Africa, seven hours and nearly 9,200 miles away from where they routinely make appearances in the greater Oklahoma City area. From Thursday through Sunday, NBA Cares will hold the 10th edition of Basketball Without Border in Africa, an outreach program with a contingent of current NBA and WNBA players, coaches and past players focused on grassroots basketball development, education, health and wellness. One highlight will be the Saturday dedication of the NBA Cares Legacy Project, a refurbished sports complex in Alex Township, one of the largest urban neighborhoods in South Africa. Seven active NBA players are participating in this year's BWB, and four are with the Thunder. The OKC organization has been deeply involved in community service since it arrived in the summer of 2008. Each player does a minimum of 12 community appearances every season, with a team average of 14 per player. With more than 200 appearances annually, the Thunder has ranked in the top 5 among NBA teams in community service the last three seasons.
  • Marc Narducci of The Philadelphia Inquirer: Just since that final game with the Celtics, the Sixers are bringing in veterans Andrew Bynum, Kwame Brown, Jason Richardson, Dorell Wright, Nick Young, and Royal Ivey, and rookie Arnett Moultrie. Pair that with projected rotation players, Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes, Thaddeus Young and Lavoy Allen, and the Sixers appear to be a much deeper team than last year. In Bynum, they have a viable all-star capable of impacting the game at both ends of the court. It’s not unrealistic to consider the Sixers a top-four team in the Eastern Conference. And Collins is raring to go. “My mind is always going and I am a crossword puzzle guy, how to solve a puzzle,” Collins said last week during the 1972 U.S. Olympic team reunion in Lexington, Ky. “We have new pieces and I like our pieces.” ... It appears as if one of Collins' most difficult tasks will be to appropriate playing time. “I like our versatility, I think we can play big, we can play small and I think we have the best low post player in the NBA,” he said obviously referring to Bynum. “The big thing is how quickly we can put it together.”
  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: New Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn has added assistants Laron Profit and Luke Stuckey, completing his coaching staff. The Magic also announced that Gordon Chiesa was named special consultant to the head coach. Profit and Stuckey also will be involved in player development. Chiesa figures to be Vaughn’s guru of sorts on a part-time basis. He has vast experience as an NBA assistant with the Memphis Grizzlies and Utah Jazz. He also has spent time as a college head coach at Providence and at Manhattan. New Orleans Hornets lassistant coach James Borrego, Houston Rockets assistant coach Brett Gunning and Golden State Warriors assistant coach Wes Unseld Jr. had been previously hired.
  • Tim Cowlishaw of The Dallas Morning News: Comment From Guest ... Hi, how good do you think O.J. Mayo can be? What's his ceiling? Cowlishaw: His ceiling is pretty high if you've ever seen him play for Memphis. And if you saw the Grizzlies' first-round loss to the Clippers, you know Mayo sometimes doesn't get anywhere near that ceiling. I'd rather have him playing two-guard minutes than Vince Carter. Beyond that, it will be an interesting experiment.
  • Doug Haller of The Arizona Republic: Former NBA coach Eric Musselman is a candidate to join Herb Sendek's staff at Arizona State, azcentral sports has confirmed. ESPN's Andy Katz reported Thursday that Sendek has had "serious conversations" with Musselman, who currently coaches the Los Angeles D-Fenders, an NBA development team. In April, he was named the league's coach of the year. Sendek lost two assistants last week when Scott Pera left for Penn and Lamont Smith joined mentor Lorenzo Romar in Washington. Practice starts in October. According to sources, Sendek would like to add at least one coach with NBA ties. If so, Musselman fits the mold. He was head coach of the Golden State Warriors from 2002-2004 and the Sacramento Kings from 2006-07. Musselman also has served as an NBA assistant with Minnesota, Atlanta and Orlando. In the past, Mussleman reportedly expressed interest in college coaching, but it's unclear if that interest stretches to serving as an assistant.

Episode 3: Tales from "Dream Team"

July, 9, 2012
7/09/12
4:39
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
Jack McCallum has a certain way of telling a story. He doesn't skip the juicy stuff, but he doesn't get hysterical about it either. He is also forever on the lookout for funny, poignant and delightful NBA moments, which he hoards in his notebook and then, now and again, assembles in a book.

One of my favorite reads was McCallum's book about his season with the Phoenix Suns. The news, however, is that McCallum was similarly embedded with what is widely believed to be the best basketball team ever assembled, the original 1992 Dream Team of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird et al. As they assembled, prepared and eventually cruised to gold in the Barcelona Olympics, McCallum was there, scribbling notes.

"Dream Team," is a fascinating and fun read, with all kinds of new insight into the key Dream Teamers. The book goes on sale July 10.

Episode 2: Tales from "Dream Team"

July, 6, 2012
7/06/12
12:16
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive

Jack McCallum has a certain way of telling a story. He doesn't skip the juicy stuff, but he doesn't get hysterical about it either. He is also forever on the lookout for funny, poignant and delightful NBA moments, which he hoards in his notebook and then, now and again, assembles in a book.

One of my favorite reads was McCallum's book about his season with the Phoenix Suns. The news, however, is that McCallum was similarly embedded with what is widely believed to be the best basketball team ever assembled, the original 1992 Dream Team of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird et al. As they assembled, prepared and eventually cruised to gold in the Barcelona Olympics, McCallum was there, scribbling notes.

"Dream Team," is a fascinating and fun read, with all kinds of new insight into the key Dream Teamers. The book goes on sale July 10.

Episode 1: Tales from "Dream Team"

July, 5, 2012
7/05/12
12:24
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive


Jack McCallum has a certain way of telling a story. He doesn't skip the juicy stuff, but he doesn't get hysterical about it either. He is also forever on the lookout for funny, poignant and delightful NBA moments, which he hoards in his notebook and then, now and again, assembles in a book.

One of my favorite reads was McCallum's book about his season with the Phoenix Suns. The news, however, is that McCallum was similarly embedded with what is widely believed to be the best basketball team ever assembled, the original 1992 Dream Team of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird et al. As they assembled, prepared and eventually cruised to gold in the Barcelona Olympics, McCallum was there, scribbling notes.

"Dream Team," is a fascinating and fun read, with all kinds of new insight into the key Dream Teamers. The book goes on sale July 10.

First Cup: Tuesday

November, 22, 2011
11/22/11
6:59
AM ET
  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "Hired-gun lawyer David Boies late in the day on Monday announced the players were withdrawing that lawsuit filed in Northern California last week and consolidating it with the one they filed in Minneapolis at the same time. So the lawsuit filed here that had Anthony Tolliver, Derrick Williams, Caron Butler and Ben Gordon named as plantiffs now also gets many other names added to it, most notably Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Steve Nash and Chauncey Billups. So why here? Simply timing. Boies said the move was made for expediancy's sake, which means he thinks they'll get a court date set faster in Minnesota than the March date set by the Northern California court. All of this, of course, is intended never to get that far."
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "The crucial moment occurred as the clock approached midnight on Nov. 10. After another marathon negotiating session, NBA Commissioner David Stern announced that the owners had put an offer on the table. Players either could accept it or instead face a much worse deal. Players viewed that statement as an ultimatum. Minutes after Stern completed his press conference, Magic player representative Chris Duhon told me, 'This ultimatum is just going to make most players angry and go the distance.' That’s exactly what happened. The players rejected the deal. Their elected leaders decided to dissolve their own union and take their battle to the court system. What intrigues me is how Stern, and the owners he works for, could’ve made such a drastic miscalculation (assuming, of course, that they wanted a deal in the first place). They should have known that the union never would’ve accepted an offer under that level of public duress. If the union had agreed to the deal, the union’s leaders would’ve looked like weaklings."
  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "For all the shots Shaquille O’Neal has taken in print and in promotion at Pat Riley’s expense when it has come to his new autobiography, 'Shaq Uncut: My Story,' one somewhat leaps off the page. That would be Page 180, when he talks about Riley’s 'Gestapo conditioning.' Monday, at a Miami Heat Thanksgiving event at the Miami Rescue Mission, Riley took a moment from assisting to address some of what recently has come his way from his former star center. 'He’s marketing. He’s a marketer. He’s just marketing right now,' Riley told the Sun Sentinel with a dismissive laugh. 'That’s all he’s doing.' Riley then was asked specifically about the use of the term 'Gestapo.' 'I’m trying to figure out whether or not Hannibal Lecter, the Gestapo or John Gotti, I don’t know which one is worse,' Riley said of the characterizations he’s received from O’Neal over the years. 'They’re all equally insulting.' ... Riley joked to the assembled media at Monday’s event that they should wish O’Neal a happy Thanksgiving. And then he said he has moved past the friction that led to O’Neal’s trade to the Phoenix Suns in 2008. 'He’ll use anybody and say anything to market whatever it is he has to market,' the Heat president said. 'So right now he’s marketing his book.' "
  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: "The quality of play in these charity games is pretty dreadful – and not worth the risks. Blow out a knee. Sprain an ankle. Fracture a cheekbone. Under normal circumstances, when a player sustains a significant injury during the offseason, he has access to the team's medical staff and some of the most advanced orthopedic care in the world. But that doesn't happen during a lockout. Players are locked out of team premises, barred from contacting team officials and, more importantly, precluded from consulting members of the medical staff. 'Do I worry about getting hurt?' DeMarcus Cousins repeated, pausing thoughtfully, after Sunday's Goon Squad exhibition at UC Davis. 'I fell last night while I was walking down the street. You can get hurt doing anything. You don't let yourself think about it.' It's probably time to think about it, which might explain the no-shows at these events and why the players at the Pavilion didn't get close enough to each another to catch a cold."
  • Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News: "Spurs guard Tony Parker is sounding more like a businessman the longer he stays with ASVEL Villeurbonne. Parker told Basketactu.com that he will remain playing with his French team for the rest of the season if the NBA is canceled because of the lockout. And he also plans to make a bid for French forward Boris Diaw if the lockout continues. Diaw hasn’t chosen to go overseas, but has hinted he might join Parker if the season is wiped out. Parker has been successful since beginning with his team. His team is playing in the 2011 Eurocup as he’s won MVP of the month and week since joining the team. As the lockout continues, Parker is becoming more engrossed with his French team. He will return to the Spurs as soon as the lockout ends, but it sounds like he’s busy with his own team."
  • Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: "It is common practice for rookies -- especially first-rounders, millionaires-in-waiting -- to get a loan from their financial adviser. Some, like Thompson, however, don't want to accumulate debt. So he's 'living like a broke college student' while staying at home with his parents. Tyler is living with his brother in Cupertino. The hard part about the waiting, they say, is they have no idea when it will end. Eventually, they'll get paid, get to play on the big stage. Until then, their time is filled trying not to go insane. 'They need to work out,' Oakland-based agent Aaron Goodwin said. 'Take a class or two online. Do some work towards finishing their degree.' Both Warriors rookies said they work out daily. Preparing for camp, whenever it starts. Training for their debut, whenever it comes. Tyler, who's been training at Cal, said he is embracing the center position. He's trying to get in the best shape possible and work on his low-post game. Thompson trains at various spots in Southern California and plays pick-up with various NBA players in the area. Still, he acknowledged the monotony of it all. 'It's de-motivating,' Thompson said. 'Not knowing when the season is starting. Not knowing how long this will go on. We're doing the same thing every day. I'm not going to lie. It's hard to stay motivated.' "
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "Dwight Howard will not be playing in President Barack Obama's basketball-themed campaign fundraiser next month, after all. The online flyer for The Obama Classic Basketball Game on Dec. 12 in Washington, D.C., no longer lists Howard as one of the players 'confirmed to play.' Howard was listed on the same flyer over the weekend, and the Orlando Magic superstar himself indicated on Twitter on Saturday that he was going to play in the game."
  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "Andray Blatche may have missed out on his first NBA paycheck of the season last week – and might lose out on $6.4 million if the NBA lockout wipes out the 2011-12 campaign – but that hasn’t stopped him from trying to make Thanksgiving special for some families in need. Blatche plans to join Roger Mason Jr. and the National Basketball Players Association on Tuesday to hand out 100 turkeys on a first-come-first-serve basis at the Laurel Boys and Girls Club from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. I can’t do this, so I’ll give out some turkeys. (Alex Brandon - AP) Blatche has given away turkeys through his charity foundation in the past, but he rarely had the opportunity to connect with people since he was busy playing for the Wizards. But already this year, Blatche has given turkeys to single-parent mothers, breast cancer survivors and battered woman in his hometown of Syracuse, in South Carolina and Florida. He also volunteered over the weekend at a round-robin basketball challenge sponsored by the Maryland-National Capital Park Police."
  • Peter Vecsey of the New York Post: "One of the countless calamitous consequences of the negotiating impasse between NBA owners and players is the unavailability, because of the lockout, of game footage for anybody who might be facing a documentary deadline ... for example, Joyce Sharman. Forty seasons ago, her husband, Bill, guided the Lakers to professional sports’ longest winning streak, 33 straight. Joyce is co-producing the documentary. But the way things are going, by the time it’s finished it’s not going to be all that timely. Considering Bill Sharman is 85, and two stars from that team (Wilt Chamberlain, Happy Hairston) are deceased, while two others (LeRoy Ellis, Flynn Robinson) are battling cancer — and taking into account the team’s impressive imprint — you would think David Stern would have headed lickety-split to the appropriate location and personally unlocked the league’s film archives."
  • Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: "Lamar Odom stood in front of his locker in Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center one night and did his best to explain to me what it is he feels he gets out of those Power Balance bracelets. Odom, a minority investor in the company that has its roots in Laguna Niguel in Orange County, now has to deal with word via the Sacramento Bee that Power Balance has declared bankruptcy and via TMZ that Power Balance is closing up shop after a $57 million class-action lawsuit settlement. ... UPDATE: Power Balance’s Jason Damata reached out to the New York Daily News to say the settlement was $1 million and the company isn’t going out of business but has filed for bankruptcy."
  • Tom Reed of The Plain Dealer: "The Cavaliers are losing one of their most valuable game-night contributors, a highlight maker whose work is respected throughout the NBA. Jonny Greco, the video production director renown for the team's pre-game introductions and spoofs, is leaving the organization to take a job with World Wrestling Entertainment. Greco, 32 and his staff have won three regional Emmys and three national industry-insider awards. Not a bad haul for someone who worked just seven seasons for The Q. Although fans might not know his name or face, almost any regular to The Q for Cavaliers or Lake Erie Monsters games would recognize his scoreboard productions that included mock interventions for Boston Celtics fans and Candid Camera parodies featuring 'Puff' Dog."
  • Rich Hofmann of the Philadelphia Daily News: "Hip Hop is no more. Seeing as how there is no actual basketball to talk about during the NBA lockout, this qualifies as big Sixers news. After receiving hundreds of communications from fans, nearly all of them advocating the end of a symbol of a different era, the team's new ownership will announce today that the never-beloved mascot has been put out to pasture, literally. To spare the sensibilities of the one or two children who weren't scared to death by the rabbit, the team will say that Hip Hop fell in love, married and moved away to start a family. Apparently, it either was that or announce that they were going to boil him in a pot on a really big stove in a remake of 'Fatal Attraction.' ... The task of coming up with a replacement for Hip Hop will fall to two firms specializing in the business. One is Jim Henson's Creature Shop, which began as the workshop of the late creator of the Muppets. The other is Raymond Entertainment Group, whose founder is Dave Raymond, the original Phillie Phanatic."

First Cup: Thursday

November, 3, 2011
11/03/11
6:54
AM ET
  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "It is hard for most Suns fans to muster some dislike for Steve Nash, but the NBA lockout puts all owners and players on the public's bad side. Nash gets it. Fans have his sympathy. He even thinks they are right. However, Nash would like fans to understand that the players' selfishness comes with a point. 'You have two wealthy sides arguing over percentage points,' Nash said. 'It's hard for fans to understand that this is a business. I don't blame them. If I were in their shoes, I'd be critical, frustrated or even angry. You just want to see the game you love. Both sides are arguing for inevitably selfish reasons, but also for what's right when they are gone. It's a big mess.' A new collective-bargaining agreement, which could last 10 years, won't benefit the 37-year-old much. The 30 days of season that have been canceled would cost Nash $2 million in salary if no days are restored. He said his loyalty is to future players. The players union reportedly has fractures, but Nash contends it is solid. 'It's strange, because it's never been the most stable group,' Nash said."
  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: "The damage-control efforts have supplanted any attempt to break the 125-day stalemate with the league, which has already canceled a month of games. That is why players, agents and even N.B.A. officials are eager to see what message emerges from the union Thursday. 'I think there will be a lot of clarity coming out of the meeting on Thursday,' said one person aligned with the players, who has communicated with both league and union officials this week. The first agenda item, the person said, is 'to hash out the Derek Fisher situation.' Two people with ties to the union said the issue was mostly resolved in a Tuesday conference call involving Fisher, Hunter and the board. But one person said it was important for everyone to speak face to face before the matter is put behind them."
  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "A seasoned University of Memphis professor walked up to Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley and waited patiently. The gentleman finally shook Heisley's hand, revealed that he is a Grizzlies season-ticket holder and spoke glowingly about the team's success. Heisley smiled. 'Thank you,' the Chicago-based billionaire said. Except for his speech on business principles during the Fogelman College of Business and Economics alumni awards program, Heisley used an economy of words Wednesday --- especially regarding the NBA and a labor impasse that has wiped out the first month of the regular season. 'I know very little. I'm not on the negotiating committee so I can only tell you that I think on both sides -- all of us -- hope we have a season,' Heisley, the event's keynote speaker, told a crowd in the Holiday Inn at the University of Memphis. 'The players want to play. The owners want to play. It's a difficult negotiation. But they are all working very hard.' "
  • Tom Reed of The Plain Dealer: "LeBron James did not listen to coach Mike Brown, writes O'Neal in 'Shaq Uncut: My Story', and received special treatment in the season leading up to his free-agent decision. The self-proclaimed Big Diesel also addressed James' failure in last season's NBA Finals, likening it to his infamous Game 5 performance with the Cavs against Boston in 2010. O'Neal's best behind-the-scenes material involves his relationship with former Los Angeles Lakers teammate and rival Kobe Bryant. But he offers Cavs fans a glimpse of the way the franchise placated James, a two-time league MVP. 'Our coach, Mike Brown, was a nice guy, but he had to live on edge because nobody was supposed to be confrontational with LeBron,' O'Neal writes. 'Nobody wanted him to leave Cleveland, so he was allowed to do whatever he wanted to do.' ... O'Neal cites a meeting in which the coach was called out for the double standard applied to James. 'I remember one day in a film session LeBron didn't get back on defense after a missed shot,' O'Neal writes. 'Mike Brown didn't say anything about it. He went to the next clip and it was Mo Williams not getting back and Mike was saying, 'Yo, Mo, we can't have that. You've got to hustle a little more.' So Delonte West is sitting there and he's seen enough and he stands up and says, 'Hold up, now. You can't be pussyfooting around like that. Everyone has to be accountable for what they do, not just some [of] us.' Mike Brown said, 'I know, Delonte. I know.' Mike knew Delonte was right. I'm not sure if Kobe [Bryant] is going to listen to [new Lakers coach] Mike Brown. LeBron never really did.' "
  • Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press: "Wednesday evening would have been the Timberwolves' Target Center season opener against Atlanta if not for the NBA lockout. One guess is that the Wolves' starting lineup under new coach Rick Adelman would have been the same as last season - Luke Ridnour and Wes Johnson at guards, Kevin Love and Michael Beasley at forwards and Darko Milicic at center - with forward Derrick Williams and guard Ricky Rubio coming off the bench. It's unclear which, if any, free agents the Wolves would have signed. The Wolves' next game was to be at Philadelphia on Friday, then a return home to play Toronto on Saturday."
  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: "While the NBA lockout doesn't appear to be headed to a conclusion anytime soon, one of the few issues that have been resolved is the amnesty clause. ... Richard Hamilton, Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva take up nearly 75 percent of the team's payroll, so it's natural they are the most likely candidates to be released. There's a case that can be made for each: Haimlton will be 34 in February and his production has been declining rapidly the past two years. After shooting a career-low 41 percent from the field in 2009-10, his 14.1 points per game last season was the lowest in his Detroit career. Factor in the team's efforts to trade him for essentially nothing and some of his well-documented troubles with the last two coaches, John Kuester and Michael Curry, he would appear to be the most obvious candidate."
  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "Since July 1, the images and names of Wizards players have been blacked out and redacted until further notice. They’ve been stripped from the side of the building, taken down from the walls near the locker room. Their presence is felt, minimally, only in the merchandise section of the team’s Web site. The concourse inside the arena is filled with pictures of Capitals, Mystics and Bullets. Yes, Bullets. Not Wizards. Mixed in with posters of Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green and Alana Beard, you can find Wes Unseld, Elvin Hayes, Phil Chenier, Rick Mahorn and Jeff Ruland. Part of the arena is in 2011, the other in 1981. Signs and posters along the walls are covered in red, white and blue, so there aren’t even any pictures of retired Wizards in those bronze and blue uniforms anywhere. Images of all of the Wizards’ logos – the new red, white and blue sorcerer; the Washington Monument on the basketball; and the dc – now occupy the spots near the locker room where oversized pictures of Wall, Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee, Nick Young and Trevor Booker once hung."
  • Dei Lynam of CSNPhilly.com: "Looking at available free agent centers, one particular name was eye-catching as it pertains to the Sixers’ needs. Don’t worry, the name is not Samuel Dalembert, who is a free agent and will land somewhere with a contract somewhere in the $5 million per year range. The name is Kwame Brown. Before you utter something about him being a bust, hear us out. Brown is a 10-year veteran who began his career in Washington playing for, yes, Doug Collins. The No. 1 overall pick in 2001 struggled as a rookie, averaging just 14 minutes. He played for Collins his sophomore season as well, but his best year was his third season, when he averaged 11 points and 7.4 rebounds with Eddie Jordan as head coach. Brown has never been a shot blocker, but he can defend and his 6-11 body alongside Brand would form a formidable low-post presence. He has been a backup and starter throughout his career, but if the Sixers used him as a starter it would benefit the team’s bench."
  • Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News: "The Warriors are most likely to go simple/quick and use the expected new amnesty clause to remove Charlie Bell’s remaining $4.1M from cap calculations (but they’ll still have to pay him). It makes a lot of sense, if you analyze the different tugs and pulls in the GSW front-office set-up ... The practical reason: If they waive-amnesty Bell, they’ll get to about $10.5M under the presumed salary-cap line, and that’s JUST ABOUT ENOUGH to make Nene (or a low-post scorer like him) a very, very strong free-agent offer. $10.5M to start is almost exactly what I would project Nene asking for, in a new-labor landscape. Hmm, interesting, isn’t it?"
  • Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times: "Yes, I sneered when I read ESPN.com's Marc Stein report that Davis either wants to play for the New York Knicks, Charlotte Bobcats or the Lakers should Cleveland make him a free agent. ... Davis surely has the talent and could help the Lakers at point guard. The supporting cast around him would force him to swallow his ego. Winning may ease Davis' mood swings. With so much uncertainty how a lockout shortened season will evaporate the Lakers' energy or whether Mike Brown will truly win over his players, however, adding Davis to the mix wouldn't be worth the risk."
  • Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times "But as Eric Musselman prepares for the D-League draft -- in which the D-Fenders have the No. 1 pick -- on Thursday, he insists he is not putting in this work primarily to reenter the NBA head-coaching realm. 'In my mind this is the best job outside of the 30 NBA head-coaching jobs. For me, at this stage with where I am, I would rather be the D-Fenders coach than an NBA assistant. So I couldn't be luckier.' "

Wednesday Bullets

November, 2, 2011
11/02/11
3:56
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive

First Cup: Tuesday

November, 1, 2011
11/01/11
6:43
AM ET
  • Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times: "Years removed from his public sparring from Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal proclaimed since then that the feuding served nothing more than a motivational tool between the two teammates and nothing more than a marketing tool for the general public. O'Neal attempted saying that with a straight face when the two formally ended their feud in 2006, when they reunited for the 2009 NBA All-Star game and when he retired this offseason. Not that any of us believed it, but we can now say for sure that O'Neal still harbors ill will toward Bryant. 'Shaq Uncut: My Story,' his autobiography written with respected hoops writer Jackie MacMullan to be released Nov. 15, makes it pretty clear how Bryant's pending sexual-assault case and O'Neal's uncertain NBA future ultimately led the Big Fella to threaten Bryant during the 2003-04 season."
  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "As expected, the NBA lowered its lockout hammer Monday on Micky Arison for offering opinions on the ongoing work stoppage on his Twitter account last Friday. NBA spokesman Tim Frank confirmed to the Sun Sentinel that the league has fined the Miami Heat owner. Yahoo reported the sanction was $500,000. NBA Commissioner David Stern had issued an edict before the July 1 start of the lockout that team and league personnel would not be allowed to comment on the lockout beyond the confines of league-approved media sessions. Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan was fined $100,000 in September for comments made to an Australian publication regarding the lockout. At that time, the league only acknowledged the sanction, not the scope of the fine. Such was the case again Monday."
  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "What fans must remember about this labor impasse is to not hold it against the players. If there was a fault meter in this lockout, the players would be holding steady near the bottom and the owners' needle would flick and rock past the red line. It's not the players' fault that they have been receiving 57 percent of the basketball-related income for years. And the economic climate shouldn't merit a drastic drop down to 50 percent or lower. If the owners are trying to break the players' union and get them to cave into a deal that guarantees profits for all teams, all they should have to do is prove that all their other business ventures have built-in profits. Somehow, that seems unlikely. As fans, you have to try to remember Dirk Nowitzki's greatness, Jason Kidd's cool demeanor, J.J. Barea's gigantic heart and Tyson Chandler's screams. Forget about the dollar signs for now. Just take comfort in the knowledge that basketball will return at some point. And when it does, those rings will be waiting for the Mavericks."
  • Marc Berman of the New York Post: "Knicks owner James Dolan is frustrated the lockout rages on and the club’s season opener tomorrow against the Heat at the Garden has been wiped out. But Dolan, part of the owners’ negotiating committee, is content about one of the agreed-upon aspects of a new collective bargaining agreement: the size of the salary cap will not go down. More than any team in the NBA, that will benefit Dolan’s big-market Knicks the most, ironically. According to multiple sources, one of the resolved issues in a new CBA is the 2011 cap will remain at the level as it was in 2010 -- $58 million. ... Economic projections from sources say the salary cap will then grow to about $60 to $61 million in 2012 -- when the Knicks will have the largest cap space in the league and have room to woo either Chris Paul, Deron Williams or Dwight Howard, who are slated to become free agents. The Knicks could be at least $20 million under the projected 2012 cap. Ironically, Dolan has been seated across from Paul, who is the Knicks’ top priority, during many of the labor bargaining sessions because Paul is on the union’s negotiation committee. According to a players source, Dolan has been the least combative of the owners and often serves as a mediator during contentious moments."
  • Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News: "Sean Elliott felt physically fine about a dozen years ago. The NBA’s opening night was cancelled, just as it is tonight, but Elliott kept working to stay ready. 'I was anticipating some type of season,' he said Monday. He got some type of season, all right. The lockout crunched 50 games into three months. Then, in March of that shortened 1999 season, Elliott’s kidneys began to fail. He not only survived, he did so while playing all the way to the Finals. And that’s why he thinks a compacted season is not only tolerable for today’s players, it will also be telling of them. 'We will see who is serious about it,' Elliott said. 'And who has been out there messing around.' Elliott reports his health remains good. Monday was the birthday of his brother and organ donor, Noel. And asked if he told his kidney “happy birthday,' Sean laughed. 'Every year,' he said."
  • Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: "The majority of system-based issues have already been agreed upon, according to multiple national media outlets. Thus, much of the framework for a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that will end the work stoppage and kickstart a stalled 2011-12 season is technically in place. So why wait? And what’s to be gained from a mutual hardline holdout that will result in missed games and millions of dollars in lost revenue — all at the risk of alienating fickle sports fans already dealing with a shaky economy? A lot. For owners: a clean sweep that returns the NBA’s power back into their hands, resetting the hierarchy of a kingdom that swayed last season while superstars such as LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony dictated the futures of multiple franchises at once. 'You still essentially come down to the people that own the league saying, ‘We’re worried about the next 10 years, not the next six months … and there’s a desperate need for a long-term correction,’ ' said Tom Penn, an ESPN analyst and former NBA small-market executive."
  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: "In an ideal world, the Cavaliers would be busy preparing for the 2011-12 season opener Wednesday in Boston. The media would be talking about Cavs guard Kyrie Irving's NBA debut or center Anderson Varejao's return to the court after his ankle surgery last season. Instead, there's very little chatter. Just a lot of apathy."
  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "The longer the hardwood stays in hiding, the more teams risk a critical breaking of habit. Teams know that many people renew their season tickets each year because, well, it’s just what they do. Fans might give a stray thought to pulling back when they see the bill, but after a while, the games become part of their routine. After a while, it’s harder to imagine their winter without the games. NBA folks are concerned about making it all to easy for fans to get used to missing the games. And this is where the confluence of a prolonged lockout and the current economy could mushroom into a nasty financial hit. In the one marketing course we took in college, the difference between inelastic and elastic demands was learned. Groceries are in the former category; tickets to sporting events are in the latter. You might want to go to the games, but you don’t need to go. That point could be brought home when suddenly you can’t go. It is your resulting reaction that most frightens salespeople and owners around the league. The fact the purchasing public might be forced into NBA withdrawal is an unwanted unknown."
  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "But before anyone gets prepared for the Wizards to slash $22 million from the payroll – or about $18 million, if you include money lost from the cancellation of the season’s first month – there are a couple a reasons why it makes sense for the Wizards to keep Lewis through the 2011-12 campaign. ... If the players agree to a 50-50 split of revenues, the salary cap would likely be close to $51 million, with a luxury tax level set for about $62 million. So keeping Lewis for another year wouldn’t hurt the team financially and waiving him could actually create more problems: if the Wizards’ payroll drops below $30 million, the team would be forced to pay other players — possibly for more years — in order to meet a potential minimum salary. Wizards owner Ted Leonsis is going to have to pay Lewis at least $32 million no matter what. So, would he rather pay Lewis to play for him or simply pay him to leave to join the contending team of his choice? Lewis was plagued by injuries last season and won’t ever return to his all-star form of three seasons ago. But he is healthy again, still has some game left, and could provide a veteran presence for a team that otherwise has Andray Blatche – or Young, if he comes back – as the oldest player on the roster. ... It probably is a slam dunk that the Wizards will eventually cut Lewis, but it doesn’t have to be immediate."
  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "Coach Tom Thibodeau and his staff have been logging normal business hours at the Berto Center, albeit not working out players who are prohibited from using team facilities. John Paxson, Gar Forman and basketball management have been performing background on potential free-agent targets and preparing for various scenarios they can pursue once they receive the new collective bargaining agreement rules. ... Grant Hill, Caron Butler, Tayshaun Prince, Jamal Crawford and Jason Richardson are among the intriguing wing players who will be unrestricted free agents should they fit in the Bulls' salary structure. Given that a maximum extension for Derrick Rose also is on tap, it's unlikely they'll be major players especially because they likely will be over the salary cap and only able to offer veteran's minimums. Sources familiar with management's thinking said there are no plans to use the amnesty clause on any current Bull. As for the business side, team sources said the Bulls not only haven't laid anybody off, but team Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf has paid full salaries to the basketball operations staff. League sources said several teams have reduced salaries of assistant coaches and scouts. Other teams have let scouts go."
  • John Powers of The Boston Globe: "As long as the season ends by the beginning of July, there’ll be time to get the players in camp for the tournament that begins July 29. And if there isn’t a season, the US still can use any of the three dozen players in its pool, which includes all but a couple of members of the Beijing gold-medal team and last year’s world champions. 'We’re autonomous,’ said USA Basketball board chairman JerryColangelo. 'We’re not part of the NBA.’ What’s encouraging is that the players’ agents want their clients at the Games. 'They’ve reached out to me to say they’re in, that they’re playing no matter what,’ said Colangelo. There are two compelling reasons for the Jameses and Wades and Durants to don their star-spangled suits. If there’s no NBA season, they will have gone more than a year without performing. And if they win the gold medal, they’ll be seen as patriots instead of pampered prima donnas. What’s crucial, though, is that the “A’’ team does sign up. Whenever the US has sent second-tier pros, it has finished third or worse. And sending anyone else would be a fool’s errand."
  • Michael Lee and Peyton M. Craighill of The Washington Post: "After years of disappointment, though, the Wizards have their work cut out for them. Just 29 percent of NBA fans in the region named the Wizards as their favorite team in the Post survey, which was taken in August shortly after the NBA locked out its players. A surprising 14 percent of the region’s NBA fans list the Los Angeles Lakers as their No. 1 team, while 9 percent name the Boston Celtics and 7 percent the Miami Heat. ... By contrast, 72 percent of the region’s NHL fans name the Capitals as their favorite team, 48 percent of the NFL fans list the Redskins and 42 percent of the soccer fans say D.C. United is their No. 1 pro team. ... An obstacle for the Wizards, the poll suggests, is finding a way to attract the region’s newer residents. Fans living in the area for at least 10 years are more supportive of the Wizards. Among those who care at least a little about the NBA, 36 percent of long-time D.C. residents name the Wizards as their favorite basketball team, but only 9 percent of newcomers say the same. The franchise has done a lot to reconnect with longtime fans by associating the club more closely with the Bullets’ legacy. The Wizards have established a player alumni association and in May unveiled new uniforms with a red, white and blue color scheme and a horizontal stripe that harkens back to the old design popularized by Bullets Hall of Famers Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes. And the team’s new 'D.C.' logo echoes that of the Bullets before the franchise changed its name. Winning on the court would help as well."
  • Rick Westhead of the Toronto Star: "When is a front-row seat not a front-row seat? Perhaps when it’s for a Toronto Raptors game. A Raptors season-ticket holder alleges the team’s owner, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, treated him 'like dirt' by installing a new row of premium seats directly in front of his $915 courtside seats. MLSE says the aggrieved fan is a dishonest and cunning scalper. A judge will settle the clash. After a flurry of court filings, unsuccessful mediation and a lengthy discovery process over the past four years, Toronto businessman Mark Michalkoff’s complaint against MLSE is heading to a courtroom. A trial over the dispute is scheduled to start Nov. 15 in Ontario Superior Court in Toronto and is expected to last a week."

Friday Bullets

October, 28, 2011
10/28/11
1:01
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Wizards shooting guard Jordan Crawford tells the Washington Post's Michael Lee, "I don’t tell nobody, but I feel like I can be better than Michael Jordan."
  • Nicolas Batum -- absolutely killing it in EuroLeague play. Nick Gibson of Sheridan Hoops: "Batum threw up a ridiculous line of 26 points, seven rebounds and eight assists with a pair of steals and a ranking of 36 (think of ranking as a poor man’s PER, without the per-minute and pace adjustments). Those stellar numbers were enough to earn him the Euroleague’s Week 2 MVP award."
  • SportsFeat unearths a 1977 article written by Woody Allen about Earl Monroe for Sport magazine: "What makes Monroe different is the indescribable heat of genius that burns deep inside him. Some kind of diabolical intensity comes across his face when he has the ball. One is suddenly transported to a more primitive place. It’s roots time. The eyes are big and white, the teeth flash, the nostrils flare. He dribbles the ball too high, but with a controlled violence. The audience gets high with anticipation of some new type of thrill about to occur." (Hat tip: David Roth)
  • Grantland's Men in Blazers will match your devotion to an NBA team to a soccer club you can root for while the lockout continues.
  • Ira Winderman asks whether zone defenses in the NBA stifle individual brilliance. Perhaps, but the isolation and clearout-heavy NBA of the 1990s was painfully boring at times. Strategic intrigue brings a lot to basketball, a game that thrives on individual talent but also the choreography of fine-tuned team play.
  • LeBron James, Clyde Frazier, Sarah Palin, Rob Mahoney, John Wooden and Basketball Prospectus all in one place -- on The Painted Area's 2011-12 Basketball Books Overview.
  • A brief history of the 3-pointer at the Los Angeles Clippers' site, which means prominent placement for one Eric Piatkowski.
  • Some old-time Washington, D.C. hoops legends rally around an old friend, now in prison, who was once of the District's can't-miss prospects.
  • Andrew Sharp of SB Nation thinks there's something disingenuous about Michael Beasley's claims that he was exploited and betrayed by his former agent and AAU coach: "He felt betrayed when he found out that his agent had been taking care of his mother? He didn't think it was suspicious when his mother moved to Kansas State with him and had a new car and house when she got there? And this 'betrayal' just happens to crystallize after Bell had negotiated the parameters of a shoe deal for him, but before he signed it and would've paid Bell a hefty commission?"
  • The gray wool suit -- an essential for the civilized man, but might be a bit toasty for Dwyane Wade in Miami. In the accompanying interview with GQ, we get a glimpse of how Wade stocks his wardrobe with the help of his iPad: "So how does Wade put his looks together? With the help of his stylist, Calyann Barnett. Barnett's star client loves getting dressed but hates shopping—he can't exactly roll up to the Miami Bloomingdale's—so she sends photos to his iPad and fills up his new 800-square-foot closet."

First Cup: Wednesday

October, 19, 2011
10/19/11
6:35
AM ET
  • Rich Hofmann of the Philadelphia Daily News: "Considering that they began their stewardship on a day when the NBA continued to lock out its players during a labor dispute, a day when they could not even mention the names of their players in public, Harris and Aron and the rest did the next best thing: they cut ticket prices on nearly 9,000 seats, some by as much as 50 percent. 'Slashing' was the word Aron used, more than once. It is absolutely the right way to go - and especially if the lockout lasts for any significant period of time. Harris, a billionaire, is obviously not in the habit of setting money on fire - but trying to get started on any kind of a turnaround in this environment is beyond difficult. 'Clearly, we need to do a better job of getting the town excited about the Sixers,' Harris said. Later, he added this dose of reality: 'One of the reasons we didn't put any time frame on our goal is because we can't.' It should not be impossible, even if smart people before him have been unable to figure it out. We all have seen the other teams develop this lasting brand loyalty. Last year, the Sixers were young and exciting and made the playoffs. Their coach, Doug Collins, is widely liked and respected. If they can continue to progress, there should be something here to build upon. Of course, Harold Katz probably said the same thing at some point when he owned the team in the '80s."
  • Tom Moore of phillyBurbs.com: "One name stood out on the release listing the 'other investors' with the 76ers’ new ownership group. That would be Philadelphia native Will Smith, the well-known actor and singer, who is joined by his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. 'We were aware that he might be interested and we reached out to him,' said Sixers managing owner Joshua Harris after Tuesday’s formal news conference at The Palestra. 'He’s a local Philly guy and a basketball fan. Who wouldn’t want Will Smith and his wife in your group?' Harris said he doesn’t expect Smith to take a hands-on role with the team."
  • Tim Tucker of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Lockout notwithstanding, the NBA announced Tuesday that its Board of Governors voted unanimously to approve the sale of the Philadelphia 76ers. Meanwhile, the league remains quiet on the proposed sale of the Hawks, which appears stalled in the approval process. 'Nothing new at this point,' NBA senior vice president of communications Tim Frank said by email Tuesday. The Atlanta Spirit Group’s agreement to sell a majority stake in the Hawks, as well as the Philips Arena operating rights, to Los Angeles businessman Alex Meruelo was announced Aug. 7, contingent on approval by the NBA. Ten weeks later, a decision on approval does not seem close at hand. A vote is not on the agenda for the league’s Board of Governors meetings Wednesday and Thursday in New York, Frank confirmed. The Hawks will be represented at the meetings by Bruce Levenson, a member of the group attempting to sell controlling interest in the franchise to Meruelo."
  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: "You've got it all wrong, Dwight. That's why there was such an overwhelming sense of civic sadness when your comments to Esquire magazine began to leak out earlier this week. For the first time, it sounded to many of us that you want to leave Orlando more than you want to stay. ... You have a communal bond here and an entire city that loves you. If you go to L.A., you'll be going to Kobe's team. If you go to New York, you'll be going to Jeter's town. The fans and media in those cities will rip you apart if you miss a free throw that cost their team a championship. In Orlando, we'd just blame it all on Gilbert. See what I mean, Dwight? See why your Esquire comments made fans here so sad? You told the magazine, 'There's a lot more you can do in a bigger city.' Not true. There is a lot more you can do in Orlando. Much more than you can ever achieve elsewhere. In a bigger city, you will be known, but you'll never be loved."
  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "The session was easily the longest of the 110-day lockout, and the two sides were being helped along by the presence of a federal mediator. According to sources, the reason things were dragging out longer has to do with the preferred strategy of George Cohen, the director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. Cohen favors speaking to each side individually, then taking small proposals back and forth. If he can achieve some agreements, it was said, he can then moves the sides toward a larger resolution. For the first several hours at the midtown Manhattan hotel, sources were saying the league’s committee and the union spent very little time in the same room. But, while nothing was certain at the late hour, no news was taken as a positive sign in that the lengthy session comes after much contentiousness. 'They’re still talking, so that has to be better than not talking,' said a source."
  • Amos Maki of The Commercial-Appeal: "The Memphis City Council approved a resolution Tuesday asking the council's attorney to 'explore all options' -- including a lawsuit against the NBA -- to recover revenue that may be lost due to the lockout. "Everything is on the table to recover the funds, if any are lost," said council chairman Myron Lowery, who sponsored the item. A yearlong lockout could send the fund used to pay off FedExForum bonds into the red by 2022, forcing the city and county to make up the difference. The shortfall could reach $10.6 million by 2029, or about $600,000 annually for each government."
  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "JaVale McGee’s early exit from the NBA players’ union meeting in Los Angeles on Friday drew the ire of National Basketball Players Association president Derek Fisher when Fisher was asked to respond to McGee’s claim that some players were “ready to fold.” Other players have chimed in, but there is a reason why the Wizards center was at the Beverly Hilton valet counter waiting for his car while the union was going over its strategy to about 25 players. McGee was on his way to the airport to catch a flight to Manila, where he was scheduled to go on a promotional tour through the Philippines for Smart Communications, the country’s leading wireless provider. He will film commercials and make some appearances as part of a newly-signed endorsement deal with the talk and text company, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. And from there, McGee will continue his journey through the South Pacific by stopping Hawaii to participate in the USO/Armed Forces Entertainment tour called Hoops for Troops."
  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "Ricky Rubio has arrived. Well, sort of. He left Spain for Los Angeles last week and is there seeing the sights -- Malibu and Santa Monica last weekend -- while working out daily with NBA players. Yesterday, he played pickup ball on a team with Pacers star Danny Granger, Chicago's Joakim Noah, Utah rookie Enes Kanter and Cavs forward Omri Casspi. Michael Beasley made a call on Twitter the other day, asking Rubio to play in his All-Star Classic game on Friday at Osseo High. No indication that's gonna happen, though."
  • Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: "Jazz rookie center Enes Kanter has hit the West Coast. Kanter arrived in Los Angeles on Sunday and played in a pickup game Monday with Minnesota's Ricky Rubio, Indiana's Danny Granger, Chicago's Joakim Noah and Cleveland's Omri Casspi. Boston's Paul Pierce also participated in the session, which featured about 15 NBA players. Kanter will likely stay in Los Angeles for the remainder of the week, and plans to bounce around the country playing in pickup games as long as the NBA lockout continues. 'I want him to be around NBA players,' said Max Ergul, Kanter's agent. Ergul said that Kanter's recent workouts with Tim Grover in Chicago went well. However, Ergul believes it's important for Kanter to begin competing against and blending in with NBA talent, since the league canceled the preseason and training camp has been postponed."
  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "Jerry West was lured to Memphis to be a savior and give the Grizzlies much-needed credibility in 2002. ... Although West enjoyed Elvis-like status during his stay -- police once stopped traffic to allow him to cross Union Avenue -- he says 'unsettling things happened too.' West became the object of at least two stalkers, which forced him to hire a security guard. 'One woman even went so far as to buy a wedding dress for the happy life she envisioned we would have together,' West wrote. West also details his rocky relationship with former Griz coach Mike Fratello, who took over after Hubie Brown unexpectedly retired in 2004. West fired Fratello soon after the 2006-07 season began because of philosophical differences."
  • Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: "Jerry West has complained in the past about Phil Jackson not embracing him and is doing so again. One point that should be made about that time is that Jackson came in and needed both Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal — who were separately close with West — to accept that it was Jackson’s voice they needed to hear first and foremost. In that regard, it’s not surprising at all that Jackson, who isn’t that much of a warm fuzzy anyway when it comes to being social (and we sure know West isn’t the easiest guy to warm up to), tried to keep Bryant, O’Neal and the team in as tight a new circle as possible. The result was an immediate NBA championship in 2000 after the Lakers were swept out of the second round by San Antonio in 1999. For sure West was uncomfortable with the idea that Jackson would date the owner’s daughter, Jeanie Buss. But that venture has stood up, too, with Buss and Jackson even now still together after Jackson’s second departure from the Lakers."
  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "The United Service Organization officially announced Tuesday the 'Hoops for Troops' tour that Derrick Rose confirmed he would participate in during his shoe promotion last Saturday. Rose and fellow NBA players Joe Johnson, Al Horford, Mike Miller, D.J. Augustin, Tyreke Evans, JaVale McGee and Brook and Robin Lopez will be in Hawaii from Oct. 23-28 to put on clinics designed to boost morale for military families. 'I am honored to take part in a USO tour and greatly appreciate the USO’s efforts in organizing this trip,' Rose said in a statement. 'I am so thankful for the great sacrifices the service members and their families make for our country and it is a truly special opportunity to give back by sharing our love of basketball with them.' "
  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "Danny Granger, along with every other NBA player, isn’t getting paid during the lockout. That’s not stopping Granger from sharing some of the near $11 million he made last season with some of the unfortunate Conseco Fieldhouse workers who aren’t getting paid because of the lockout. Granger is the process of trying to arrange a dinner with the fieldhouse employees who are impacted financially because of the lockout. He also wants to put together a charity game where the proceeds can go to the workers. Paul George, Brandon Rush, James Posey and Dahntay Jones want to help their teammate with the event, too. People like the concession workers, stat people and ushers get paid by the game. There have already been three preseason and three home games cancelled because of the lockout. You’ve got to commend those players for trying to put something together because the perception around the country is that the billionaire owners and millionaire players are nothing but greedy."
  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: "Alex Jensen was introduced to the media on Tuesday at the Edgewood Community Center. There's no question he's a coaching disciple of Majerus. 'I used to tell our guys in college, he's going to ruin the game for you,' Jensen said. 'You're going to learn it so well, when you watch an NBA or college game, you're going to point out what they are doing wrong. He's one of the best basketball minds around. I was lucky to learn from him as long as I did.' When Charge general manager Wes Wilcox first approached Jensen about the job, the latter was skeptical. He remembered how things were in 2002-03 with the Yakima Sun Kings, who won the CBA title that year. 'I thought about my experience in the minor leagues,' he said. 'It's totally different now. I played in the CBA for a season and had a great experience. I was in the spot a lot of these players will be in. The opportunity to be a head coach with this organization with the same beliefs as I do was too much to pass up. Their philosophy is the same as to what I've been taught. It was an opportunity that came along that I couldn't pass up.' Wilcox said Jensen was the obvious choice."

First Cup: Monday

October, 17, 2011
10/17/11
6:01
AM ET
  • George Will of The Washington Post: "The NBA's dispute, which has already caused cancellation of the preseason and the first two weeks of the regular season, at a cost of perhaps $500 million, illustrates an agreeable truth: Man is an economic animal, rationally maximizing income, except when he isn't. Many of the players are prepared to lose substantial income by prolonging negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement. They are doing so to win concessions that will primarily benefit players much younger than Garnett. Fans accuse the players of avarice, but the longer the impasse persists, and the larger the losses, the more altruism will explain this."
  • Jim Ingraham of The News-Herald: "I find it hilarious, for example, the NBA owners feel like they are really putting the screws to the players’ union by staging a lockout. Many of the players who are being locked out already have so much money they don’t have to work another day in their lives. ... I don’t care if grandstanding Delonte West is working as a stock boy in a furniture store or not. All I know is Kris Humphries is so worried about not having a paycheck he killed some time during the lockout by marrying one of the Kardashians. Kris Humphries? I mean, it’s not like these locked-out NBA players, in the grand scheme of things, are being prevented from doing something that is critical to the advancement of mankind. It’s not like they are teachers, inventors, doctors or the judges on 'American Idol.' Locking out NBA players from playing basketball is basically like canceling recess."
  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "In a mob scene Saturday reminiscent of — dare it be said — the unveiling of early Air Jordan models, Derrick Rose thrilled fans, some of whom had been waiting since 2 a.m., with midday appearances at two downtown stores to promote his new adidas shoe. Rose also continued to unveil the self-assuredness that has helped him become the youngest most valuable player in NBA history on the court and an eloquent spokesman off it. In pointed comments about the NBA lockout, Rose turned up the volume beyond the aw-shucks routine of his rookie season. 'Everybody knows it's not our fault,' Rose said, naturally taking the side of his fellow players. 'If it was up to us, we'd be out there playing. I think that it's wrong. I know (the owners) can easily take care of it and not take advantage of people. I guess that's how people are. 'It's very sad. They're not thinking about anything we're saying. They're not taking into consideration anything we're trying to give them.' "
  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "Is this NBA lockout -- the league's first since a similar dispute shortened the 1998-99 season to 50 games -- really about ensuring that competitive balance? Or if owners agree to a new system that doesn't have a restrictive hard salary cap and rules that allow small-market teams to keep their star players, is it simply a play for more money? And will any conceivable system ever really save owners from themselves? The NHL missed an entire season in 2004-05 in the name of a new owner-friendly system, and yet, soon after, those same owners went looking for every loophole they could find in the pursuit of a title. The NHL's hard cap ensured small-market teams could again compete with wealthy Detroit, Toronto and the New York Rangers. But it also has seen Chicago dismantle its championship team just months after winning the 2010 Stanley Cup, and the league next summer could be right back in a standoff over a new labor agreement. ... No system will stop NBA general managers and owners from unwise drafting or silly spending, although owners seek shorter player contracts that aren't fully guaranteed in the final years in any new deal as a way to protect themselves from injuries or their own bad decisions."
  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "The point being that if players want to find a way, they can find a way. Under the previous agreement. Under a draconian new one. Stern acknowledged as much during his NBA TV interview, admitting that the reduction of Bird Rights, the increase of the luxury tax, the hardening of the cap can only do so much to sway player preference. 'There are natural advantages to certain cities,' he said. 'Some people like lakes, and you can go to cities with lakes. Some people like the ocean and you can go to South Beach. But there is an increasing sense that 'glamorous' cities have an edge and I guess it's always been that way.' For Wade, James and Bosh there will be difficult decisions as early as their 2014 opt-outs, decisions compounded by a CBA that well may be loaded with one-way signs out of South Beach. But the three made it work before and the hunch is no matter the configuration of any new CBA, none will be announcing intentions of eventually taking their talents to Sacramento, Minnesota or Milwaukee."
  • Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: "Just 10 months ago the New Orleans Hornets were an economically foundering team on the brink of extinction in New Orleans, nearly sold to an out-of-town billionaire with designs on relocation, before NBA Commissioner David Stern took the unprecedented step of having the league purchase the team to prevent it from being spirited away. Jac Sperling, the New Orleans native Stern appointed, is the franchise’s chairman and governor and has helped dramatically improve the team’s financial viability. He spearheaded a drive to sell 10,000 season tickets and is negotiating a long-term lease renewal with the State of Louisiana. Sperling believes once the season-ticket goal is attained, the Hornets will be able to introduce a new owner and new lease agreement simultaneously. Sperling sat down with Times-Picayune Hornets beat writer Jimmy Smith for a Q&A this week and addressed myriad subjects, including the fact there will be no exit clause in the new lease a new owner could exercise to threaten a future move, and how NBA owners view the Hornets’ plight."
  • Bob Young of The Arizona Republic: "However, now that NBA Commissioner David Stern has declared Tuesday as the last day - seriously, he isn't kidding this time - that an agreement can be reached before the league will have to cancel its big Christmas Day tripleheader and likely lose most of the season, maybe it's time to re-examine Hahn's idea. In fact, we'd take it a step further if the NBA actually ends up cancelling the entire season. Why not get all the shoe brands involved? The website hoopshype.com maintains a list of all the sneaker brands and the players who endorse them. One could easily come up with 12 teams or more, all of them stocked with at least a few All-Stars and with plenty of players left over to rotate onto the rosters, which could range from 15 to 20 players. Nike, of course, is the monster. There are 188 NBA players listed as Nike endorsers, including 45 former All-Stars."
  • Andy Young of The Denver Post: "Downtown Denver businesses, especially those catering to the Pepsi Center crowd, are bracing for a chilly winter with the growing prospect that the Denver Nuggets? won't play a game before the new year. Area bars and restaurants, pedicabs and sports-apparel stores estimate that 10 percent to 50 percent of their business comes from hoops-related sales. Each Nuggets home game generates about $1.5 million in economic activity for the city, according to the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. Over the course of the regular season, opposing teams and their entourages book an estimated 4,000 hotel rooms, equivalent to the size of a medium convention. That could be wiped out as National Basketball Association team owners and players struggle to reach a new labor agreement. The first two weeks of the season have been canceled, and NBA commissioner David Stern? said last week that games through Christmas will likely be called off if a deal isn't reached by Tuesday."
  • Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: "But here’s the thing, Jazz fans. While owners and players slug it out after news conferences and through text messages, and plausibly serious threats to cancel Christmas are followed by gun-to-your-head references, the billionaires are actually your best friends. Moreover, they’re looking out for you. The millionaires? Not so much. ... In one single CBA, the NBA can attempt to fix what was shattered when LeBron James fled to Miami and Carmelo Anthony turned a ridiculous hostage situation in Denver into new digs in The Big Apple. Will it work? We’ll see. Revenue sharing must improve. Some small-market teams (ahem, Minnesota) must make better decisions. But the owners have made it this far by sticking to their guns and remembering that everyone lost last season when messy Milwaukee played sorry Sacramento. If the billionaires can stand united for the long haul, maybe the NBA can actually become competitive again. And maybe, just maybe, the Jazz can draft an annual All-Star and keep him in uniform for more than 5?1/2 years."
  • Lance Pugmire of the Los Angeles Times: "Jerry West, the Lakers' Mr. Clutch who was an All-Star in all 14 of his NBA seasons before helping assemble teams that won six NBA titles as Lakers general manager from 1982-2000, says in his new book that his personnel job was 'like putting on a Broadway play and hope you cast it perfectly.' In 'West By West: My Charmed, Tormented Life,' to be released this week, the 73-year-old Hall of Famer, newly hired as special advisor to the Golden State Warriors, reveals the dark drama that swirled around and within him during his legendary run in Los Angeles. He writes of beatings and an absence of love being raised by his father, Howard, in West Virginia; of the Korean War death of his immensely kind brother, David; and of fighting the demons of depression and insecurity during both the lows of repeated NBA Finals losses to the Boston Celtics as a player and the highs of his last title as GM."
  • Carla Peay of The Washington Times: "On a chilly Sunday morning in October, 18 basketball players showed up to pursue a dream. The setting was an open tryout for the NBA Developmental League Champion Iowa Energy, the WizardsD-League affiliate, held on Oct. 16 at the Northern Virginia Sportsplex. The tryout was a six-hour process of drills, running, and three games of two 20-minute halves. Players who show promise will have their names submitted to the league office, and will become eligible to be drafted. The Energy will invite 17 players to training camp, which starts in mid-November. The team’s final roster has 10 spots. But for players looking to impress the Energy coaches and general manager, the criteria for making a D-League team might not be what you’d expect. 'You’re not going to find a superstar at an open tryout for a D-League team,' said Energy general manager Chris Makris. 'Guys think if they make it to the D-League and score 25 points a game, an NBA general manager will notice them. NBA GM’s are smarter than that. NBA teams already have scorers. They’re looking for the same thing we are, guys who can transfer their game to what we need at this level, guys who have a high basketball IQ.' In other words, the team is looking for role players, and good ones."
  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: "Now 26 and back in his hometown, Zach Andrews is a compelling success story – a product of a foster care system who at times was homeless and who, on more than a few occasions, despaired over his bleak circumstances. His late father was never in the picture. His mother is still around, he said, but was never really there. He often visits his old high school (class of 2003) to encourage other youngsters confronting similar situations but also to reconnect with the former teachers, counselors and coaches he says "transformed" his life. In his four years at Cordova, he discovered theater arts and developed decent study habits, and as he grew into his gangly 6-foot-9 frame, emerged as one of the area's elite basketball players. ... Andrews last weekend tried out for the L.A. D-fenders, the Lakers' minor league affiliate headed by former Kings coach Eric Musselman. If Musselman offers a job, Andrews will take it. But he still plans to try out for the Kings' affiliate, the Reno Bighorns, next Sunday. In his gut, he hopes the Kings come through. He already has had conversations with the team – sort of."

First Cup: Wednesday

October, 5, 2011
10/05/11
6:25
AM ET
  • Dan Jovic of Fox 8: "So far this season the Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary football team has been ready for anything that came their way on the football field, that was until Tuesday. Members of the state's third ranked Division III team were shocked when two-time NBA MVP LeBron James showed up for practice wearing full pads and took part in the late afternoon session. 'I not gonna lie, it was pretty cool to see him out there,' said starting quarterback Kevin Besser. James borrowed the equipment and jersey of #13 Clayton Uecker, who did not practice today due to injury. Uecker is also the tallest player on the SVSM roster at 6'5". SVSM running back Sae'Von Fitzgerald said James looked just like every other member of the team with a helmet on. 'He wore everything. Shoulder pads, helmet, visor... everything,' said Fitzgerald. But when it came to tackling, James was off limits."
  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: "An NBA collective bargaining agreement will be reached by the end of this weekend. That's my prediction. That's where I'm putting my beer money. I've already told two friends I would buy the kegs if I'm wrong. If the lockout persists, regular-season games will be lost for only the second time in NBA history. But nothing that transpired these past few days convinces me to tap into the savings. Progress was made on a number of issues, including the adoption of a more generous revenue-sharing package that the small- to mid-market owners have pursued for years. Also, the owners softened their insistence on implementing a hard vs. soft salary cap, though details about luxury penalties, guaranteed contract lengths and player exceptions have yet to be finalized. ... Losing preseason games is a minor inconvenience. But a week from now? If Stern, Hunter and Fisher aren't seated together at a microphone, all smiles and ready to start collecting their salaries, I'll take back my beer bet."
  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "In truth, the players have done the compromising. They are giving back from the current deal. The owners’ compromises are from their own previous proposals, not the previous system they put together or the mess they created. Stern, however, framed the argument in a way to put pressure on the players. Even if they can ignore public perception, many within the union will believe a version of a 50/50 split could be workable. There remain many other issues to negotiate. Even the 50/50 split was more of a proposal to make a proposal. Each percentage point is worth roughly $40 million, putting the sides $80 million to $160 million apart, depending on how the split is determined with guaranteed minimum and maximums. By the time the back-to-back news conferences were over, for the first time, the sides did not seem far apart. That is how Stern wanted it to seem. He orchestrated his little show masterfully. That won’t get a deal done. The 1998 lockout stretched into 1999, so this one could drag on, too. But increasingly, it seems as if Stern and the owners will get what they wanted all along. The trick will be to get it done by Monday so that the full season can be saved."
  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: "With no meetings scheduled and both sides seemingly dug in, the chances for playing a full season appear grim. While a 50-50 split appears equitable, the players contend that with the league holding 8 percent of player salaries in escrow, the figure is slanted toward the owners. ... NBA superstars such as Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant attended the meetings and were active in the discussions. On their Twitter accounts, many players sounded resigned to the idea of missing regular-season games. Stern said he truly believed the sides were close to an agreement, especially when the hard salary cap and rollbacks were eliminated from the equation. If Stern does cancel the first two weeks of the season, the Celtics also would lose home games against the Charlotte Bobcats and Los Angeles Clippers."
  • Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: "The NBA is not the NFL. Heck, right now, amid the major leagues' thrilling late-season rush, the NBA is not even baseball. Yet the NBA's average player salary of about $5.1 million equals the average salary of those two sports combined. The NBA players need to do the math, listen to the yawns, and look in the mirror. The NBA players need to take a pay cut and go back to work in a sport that will be healthier because of it. Under the old agreement, the players were making 57% of basketball-related income. After Tuesday's negotiating session, the owners were talking about giving the players 50%. What happens if the players take that horrible pay cut? They will still be the highest-paid team athletes in American pro sports. Some of them will still make millions to spend their lives on a bench. The only thing that might radically change is that more owners might have more money to field better teams, increasing parity and popularity while ensuring survival."
  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "Detroit Pistons free agent Tracy McGrady denies a report that a deal is 'in the works' for the 14-year veteran to play in China during the NBA lockout. In fact, McGrady ruled out even exploring the option of playing overseas if the lockout threatens the regular season, which is scheduled to begin next month. 'Not at all,' McGrady texted the Free Press this afternoon when asked whether playing overseas is an option. The Philippine Star quotes a player who has signed with the Chinese league’s Foshan Dralions as saying the team also was pursuing McGrady, a 32-year-old six-time All-Star. Center Marcus Douhit said he was told that a deal is 'in the works.' ... He played for the Pistons on a one-year, veteran’s minimum contract. Speculation is that he will sign with an NBA contender after the lockout."
  • Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News: "Spurs guard Tony Parker will announce Thursday that he will play for his French team ASVEL during the rest of the NBA lockout. Parker has been hinting at playing overseas for the past several weeks. But if the players and owners don’t settle, the French website sports.fr reports that Parker will play for his own team. There was an issue with insurance to guarantee Parker’s contract with the Spurs. But he will pay that stipend out of his own pocket to play for the team, perhaps as soon as Oct. 14 against Paris-Levallois. The contract has an opt-out for Parker to return to the Spurs as soon as the lockout finishes. But playing any kind of basketball comes with the risk of injury."
  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: "Heat employees, who took a 10 percent paycut July 1 when the lockout started, saw their paycut increase to 25 percent this week, which will be the case for five months or until the lockout ends, whichever comes first... Shane Battier and Grant Hill – who are on Miami’s list of potential free agent targets – both have interest in talking to the Heat after the lockout, friends say."
  • Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: "Jazz rookie center Enes Kanter has returned to the United States and resumed workouts with trainer Tim Grover in Chicago. Grover worked out Kanter last spring during predraft sessions. Utah then selected the Turkey native with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. Kanter plans to remain in Chicago for the immediate future, keeping an eye on the progress of the NBA lockout. Contract offers from Chinese professional teams are off the table. 'The China thing, what happened is … Enes' priority is the NBA, as an NBA player,' said Max Ergul, Kanter's agent. 'Once [China] came up with that rule change — we thought they could've bent it around — it's just not happening. They're very stern; they don't want a player coming and leaving. I'm not going to put my signature on something that might force him to stay there for a whole season.' Kanter will consider signing with a European pro club if a strong offer is presented and the NBA's work stoppage continues."
  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: "Samardo Samuels is trying to make the best of the extra time he has on his hands. The Cavaliers' 6-9, 260-pound forward from Jamaica, who thought he'd be in training camp by now, spent most of his summer working on his game in Los Angeles and Las Vegas and is currently working out with former Cavs assistant coach Chris Jent, now an assistant at Ohio State. While Samuels may be working on his shot with Jent, the most important things he said he learned this summer were how to prepare and how to win. He spent time with Baron Davis, Mo Williams and Elton Brand, and then played in the Impact Basketball summer league with former NBA champion Chauncey Billups, whose approach and attitude really impressed him. 'Even in the little games we played in the Impact League, to see the approach he takes and the seriousness he has for the game was fun to be a part of,' Samuels said of Billups. 'He's one of the best at doing it right now.' Samuels picked up a lot just watching the veterans getting ready to play. 'Those guys know how to win,' he said."
  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "First-round pick Nikola Mirotic said the only reason he stayed in this year's NBA draft is because of the strong possibility his rights would be acquired by the Chicago Bulls. In an interview with HoopsHype.com editor-in-chief Jorge Sierra, Mirotic said he was 'thrilled by the Chicago option' and was told by Bulls management roughly two to three weeks before the June draft that it planned to try to acquire him. Because of his prohibitive buyout with Real Madrid, Mirotic spooked some teams away despite his first-round talent. The Bulls sent picks Nos. 28 and 43 and cash to the Timberwolves for the rights to the Montenegro forward, who was picked 23rd. ... Mirotic's deal with Real Madrid runs through 2015 with an NBA out, however the Tribune previously reported his buyout is roughly $2 million Euros. Mirotic told the web site he wants eventually to play in the NBA, however he isn't sure if he will make the jump in 'two, three, four or five years.' "
  • Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times: "When he won his lone NBA championship as a player in 1972, Jerry West felt uncomfortable basking in champagne and celebrating. When the Lakers unveiled his statue this year during All-Star weekend, he expressed paranoia no one would actually attend the ceremony. And in his autobiography,'West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life' slated for an Oct. 19 release, West says the book centers more on what he calls 'growing up in a very abusive household' in West Virginia than it does about sharing salacious details. 'This book is not a book trashing people,' West said Monday night at a local Best Buy, which promoted the debut of NBA2K12. 'I don't trash anyone in this book. This book is an honest accounting of who I am. Maybe it's a little bit too honest. It was painful to write, to be honest with you. I'm hoping that people who led a very awkward life can take something from this book. There's not a whole lot of basketball in it.' "
  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: "The Cavaliers reportedly have selected their new radio play-by-play announcer. Unfortunately, they are not ready to announce the candidate for another day or two. Several industry sources say the Cavs wanted to 'stay local' in replacing Joe Tait, who retired after 39 years after the 2010-11 season. They appeared to be looking for a younger candidate who was adept with social media. Everything pointed toward Cleveland native and Detroit announcer Matt Dery. However, he was told on Tuesday that he didn't get the job. Cavs broadcasting director Dave Dombrowski has been reaching out to candidates to let them know that they didn't get the job. An industry source said former television announcer Michael Reghi also got that call on Tuesday."
  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: "The NBA on Tuesday officially canceled its entire preseason schedule and the first two weeks of the regular season could be next. A large chunk, if not all, of the 2011-12 season is in serious jeopardy. For those who invested in Trail Blazers season tickets, this entitles you to a refund. According to a team source, season ticket holders will receive refunds based on when and how many games are ultimately canceled. Refund checks will be mailed from the team to season ticket holders by the 10th of the month during the month after games are missed."

SPONSORED HEADLINES