TrueHoop: Chris Sheridan

Dwight Howard to China? Josh Boone's scouting report

July, 22, 2011
7/22/11
12:37
PM ET
Sheridan By Chris Sheridan
ESPN.com
Archive
NEW YORK -- I had lunch yesterday with Josh Boone at a Turkish restaurant down the street from the United Nations, where the former New Jersey Nets forward ate a kafta kebab for the first time in his life and said he was leaning toward returning to China for a second season rather than playing in Turkey, where there is interest in his services.

Boone polished off his plate of lamb, beef, onions, peppers and Turkish rice like a man who hadn't eaten a decent meal in weeks, even though that wasn't quite the case.

Actually, the last time he hadn't had a decent meal for an extended period of time was last fall, after he first arrived in China, where he spent last season playing for the Zhejiang Chouzhou Golden Bulls of the Chinese Basketball Association, making more than $400,000 (he said he was always paid on time; sometimes early) while living in the eastern China city of Yiwu, a metropolis of 1.2 million people nearly 200 miles north of Shanghai.

"My worst day in China?" Boone said. "Probably one of the first days, actually, because I was very sick for the first two weeks I was out there. My stomach was just not tolerating the food. And when I was out there for the first week or so, I was eating nothing but Chinese food when they were taking me out to eat, and there was one day I couldn't even leave the hotel. We were supposed to have a double practice session, and I couldn't even leave the hotel.

"I thought I was about to die."

The culture shock of moving to China is something a number of current NBA players might experience this fall if the NBA lockout extends through the summer and forces players to decide whether they want to wait out the labor stalemate or ply their trade in the world's most populated nation -- a place where Quincy Douby won MVP honors last season and where Stephon Marbury appears to have permanently taken his talents.

The most high-profile player to publicly flirt with the possibility of playing in China is Dwight Howard, who said "I got something up my sleeve" when he spoke with reporters in Spain earlier this week.

Howard was a member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic team that traveled to Macau and Shanghai en route to the Beijing Olympics, where the American players were astounded by the level of popularity enjoyed by teammate Kobe Bryant (who also is being wooed by the Turks).

"I can't imagine that there's not going to be at least few," Boone said when asked how many American players might end up in China if the lockout drags on. "Especially guys that are not under contract right now, they could be essentially leaving money on the table if they didn't.

"Personally, I would love the chance to get to play against Dwight Howard in China. And if someone like him went over, someone that had the big name, he'd be treated like a king, essentially. They would absolutely love him in China," said Boone, who averaged 16.8 points and 10.6 rebounds last season after failing to stick in the NBA.

"For somebody like him to go over, I think he could possibly be a trendsetter. If someone with the stature that Dwight has decided to go over, I think that would kind of pave the way for several other guys who are possibly on the brink. I think that would make some people's decisions easier," Boone said.

It took Boone a couple of weeks to settle in after he arrived in China, though he often ate meals at McDonald's and KFC, didn't see any American civilians for weeks until running into a pair of men from New Jersey at the Golden Arches in Yiwu (they recognized him as Josh Boone of UConn, not Josh Boone of the Nets), and had to play catch-up to be in as good condition as the Chinese players, whose offseason lasts only 3-4 weeks before they return to training for the upcoming season.

Boone found himself playing for a team whose coach clashed with the other American player, Mike James, before James was put back on a plane to America and was replaced by another import, Marcus Williams.

Chinese Basketball Association rules stipulate that no team can have more than two import players, and the total amount of time they can be on the court is restricted to three-quarters of a game (Boone said he often sat out the entire first half and then played all of the third and fourth quarters, while Williams played the entire 48 minutes).

American players are expected to be hyper-productive, and Boone said it took time for his coach to get accustomed to seeing Boone occasionally take a mid-range jumper rather than dunk the ball every time he was fed in the low post.

Boone also clashed with the team's general manager, who told him "You don't drink beer? You no man!" at one of the team's early post-game dinners. "I came back and had like 20 and 10 in the next game, and he said "OK, you a man.' "

Boone also was assigned a translator who was schooled in Canada for 5-6 years but whose culinary tastes were decidedly Chinese. The translator had a particular zest for cow penis, one of the many strange dishes that can be ordered at an authentic mainland China restaurant. (Columnist Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times found the dish quite tasty when he sampled it in 2008.)

"I think I had some kind of eyeball. I'm not sure. But that was before I got wise to the fact that I don't necessarily have to eat what they put in front of me," Boone said. "When I initially got there, there were a lot of times I would be staring at a table full of food and not be able to eat anything. Some of the stuff was just real nasty."

What did Boone do for fun?

"Nothing, really. Basically, as soon as we were done practicing or playing, I went to the hotel. I had my PlayStation and my X-Box over there, I had my computer, so I could keep myself entertained. But there wasn't really a whole lot to do."

Boone became acquainted with bypass Web sites that allowed him to use Facebook and other social media that are blocked by the totalitarian Chinese government, and he had an advantage over his Chinese teammates whose computers were confiscated by team personnel at 10:30 p.m. every night as part of curfew rules (although Boone would nonetheless occasionally see his teammates walking the streets late at night on their way home from karaoke bars).

He complained that when his team played on the road, stat crews consistently failed to credit him with the proper number of rebounds and blocks. He said people on the street would walk up to him and call him "Yao Ming" with smiles on their faces, and he said the team's fan base was particularly loyal, often taking bus trips of 5-6 hours to support the team on the road during the playoffs.

"The food is obviously a lot different and takes some getting used to, especially if you are in a smaller town and don't have access to some of the American restaurants that you have in Beijing and Shanghai," Boone said. "The travel and the accomodations definitely take some getting used to, because you're not staying in Ritz-Carltons over there and you're not taking private jets over there. The nicest place we actually stayed at was a Holiday Inn in Beijing."

All in all, Boone said his year in China was a rewarding experience, though he never had enough free time to see the country's most famous sites, including the Great Wall and the architectural wonder of Shanghai's skyscrapers.

His advice for NBA players considering signing in China: "Probably two things. One, definitely be in shape when you get over there because you're already a couple months behind going in, and it makes the transition so much easier if you're in shape. The other thing is just have an open mind about it. Don't go over with a closed mindset that you're only going to experience what you want to experience, and you're only going to be over there a certain amount of time. Go over there and enjoy the experience."

But be careful what you eat.

Labor talks: Are they really closer to deal?

June, 22, 2011
6/22/11
11:03
AM ET
Sheridan By Chris Sheridan
ESPN.com
Archive
NEW YORK -- Player reps from the 30 NBA teams will meet in New York Thursday at a critical union meeting prior to Friday's resumption of collective bargaining talks, and whatever cautious optimism they hear will be cautious to the extreme.

Although the owners have moved significantly on their financial proposals in recent negotiating sessions, they are still asking for several things that could be potential deal-killers.

A hard cap. The owners made a proposal Tuesday including what they are calling a "flex cap," which would target a median team payroll of $62 million and would include an unspecified maximum team salary that could not be exceeded under any circumstances (thereby eliminating the luxury tax and shrinking the pool of revenue sharing dollars, which commissioner David Stern pegged last fall at $54 million). To the union, the flex cap is simply another variation of a hard cap.

Salary cuts. The union put a half-billion dollar giveback on the table Tuesday and had it dismissed as "modest" by Stern. Players proposed a five-year labor agreement with $100 million less in salaries each season, cutting their share of BRI (basketball-related income) from the current 57 percent down to 54.3 percent in the first several seasons of the proposed five-year pact. Is the union willing to make further real dollar concessions that might allow the sides to meet in the middle? That is a key question with eight days remaining until the current agreement expires.

Stagnancy. Under the owners' proposed flex cap system, the $2 billion that would be guaranteed to the players each season would remain relatively stagnant over the next 10 years, having the effect of cutting the players’ portion of basketball-related income, as currently calculated, from 57 percent last season to less than 40 percent in the latter years of the proposed 10-year agreement. The players want assurances that if revenues continue to rise, they will get a fair share of the increase.

Selling out. The proposal made by the owners would allow current players to continue making similar salaries to what they are earning now, but it would drastically alter the earning potential of future generations because of the shrinking percentage of BRI that would be earmarked for player salaries. That has been one of the issues that union president Derek Fisher and members of the union's executive board have repeatedly cited as being particularly repugnant.

The union also has taken issue with the owners only recently having begun to move back to the status quo on several aspects of the deal. In the past week, the owners have dropped their demands for non-guaranteed contracts, and the elimination of the Larry Bird exception and the mid-level exception, but the union claims salaries would be reduced by roughly $7 billion over 10 years under the owners' latest proposal.

"We've had guaranteed contracts for 40 years. It's almost like somebody walks into your house, they take something that belongs to you and then they want to sell it back. And you say: 'Hey, it was mine from the get-go, so why the hell should I pay for it. And I didn't authorize you to take it, and I never said I'm available for you to take, or use, or abuse,' " union director Billy Hunter said.

What to expect in Tuesday's NBA labor talks

June, 20, 2011
6/20/11
8:52
PM ET
Sheridan By Chris Sheridan
ESPN.com
Archive
NEW YORK -- Just a prediction here, but one based upon experience from having covered numerous NBA labor battles in the past.

On Tuesday, the players are expected to make a new offer to the owners when the sides meet for what commissioner David Stern has said will be the most important collective bargaining session yet.

And whether the players give a little or give a lot, past performance metrics show that Stern will likely put that give in his pocket and walk away from the meeting saying some variation of the phrase: "It isn't enough," thereby pushing the pessimism pedal to something approaching full throttle.

After the owners last Friday backed off their demand that all contracts be at least partially non-guaranteed, Stern said the onus was now on the players to reciprocate in a strong enough way to move the sides closer to an agreement that would prevent the league's first summer work stoppage since 1998.

But don't expect that to happen. Not yet, anyway.

If labor negotiations were neat and tidy, each side would be making incremental moves toward the middle, and the differences would then be bridged at the end -- which in this case is 11:59 p.m. ET the night of June 30, when the current labor agreement expires.

But labor negotiations are not neat and tidy, and both sides in this protracted negotiation know each other well enough to realize that the actual horse trading will take place in the 11th hour, even if the sides remain more than a half-billion dollars apart, as they do now, right up until that final hour (which, by the way, does not have to be the final hour if the sides mutually agree to stop the clock and continue talking into July 1, July 2 or beyond).

What continues to be the biggest divide between the sides is how to split up the money, with the owners still seeking a reduction of approximately $750 million, phased in over four years, from the $2.1 billion in player salaries they doled out last season.

The players are willing to sacrifice some money, but not that much money. (The union has already offered to relinquish its guarantee of 57 percent of basketball-related income).

And so, no matter how much money the players offer to sacrifice when the sides reconvene Tuesday, there is no way it'll be anywhere close to the number the owners are seeking, which is why we are pegging the next appearance of Doomsday Dave for approximately 5:42 p.m. ET in the afternoon Tuesday. (TUESDAY UPDATE: The start of the talks has been moved back an hour, so my prediction changes to 6:42 p.m.).

"The owners are asking for a give that puts them in a place where they've never been, which is guaranteed profitability," said a source familiar with the dynamics of this particular negotiation and past labor talks. "The biggest problem is that it is unreasonable for owners to even ask for $400 million when they say they are losing $300 million, and thus far they are nowhere near lowering their demands down to the $400 million range. So it's a question of when will they get to a number that is reasonable?

"If the owners were asking for $400 million and the union was offering $100 million, then there would be a deal to be done," the source said. "But that is not even close to being the case at the present time."

And Tuesday is not the time for the union to show its entire hand. It's a time for the players to give the owners a peek at the direction where they'd like this negotiation to move, but not much more.

There are still a heck of a lot more days before the 11th hour actually arrives, and the key pieces of the jigsaw puzzle do not need to be agreed to with nine full days still left until the current agreement expires.

So if you are looking to measure progress Tuesday, look for it in the measure of disdain Stern exudes when he makes his public comments afterward. If he is off the charts in terms of contempt, that will be a bad thing. But if he comes out and concedes that this negotiation is still salvageable, that'll be the most important thing he says -- no matter how hard he tries to posture that Tuesday has been framed as a make-or-break day.

The actual make-or-break day is still more than a week away, so expect a fair measure of doom and gloom. It'll be the nuances of that gloom-and-doom message that'll need to be deciphered.

Rubio's skills will show when he runs

June, 2, 2011
6/02/11
8:09
PM ET
Sheridan By Chris Sheridan
ESPN.com
Archive
I have seen Ricky Rubio play in person almost two dozen times while covering the 2007 Eurobasket in Madrid, the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and the 2010 World Championship in Istanbul, and I have never seen him play a quote-unquote great game.

I have seen him look very good and very mediocre, but never great.

One reason why? He doesn't run with gazelles, much less Wolves.

Rubio has the ability to be one of the greatest passers ever to come to the NBA from Europe, because in the NBA he will be able to throw those passes to athletes who will be able to rise above the rim and flush his feeds unlike anyone on the Spanish National Team or FC Barcelona has the athletic ability to do on a consistent basis.

In Minnesota, at least one of his new teammates is already dreaming about the passes that will soon be coming his way. That player, Kevin Love, was introduced to Rubio by Timberwolves assistant GM Tony Ronzone last summer in Madrid prior to Team USA's friendly match against Spain (a victory in which Derrick Rose took over the starting position from Rajon Rondo, and which was secured when Kevin Durant blocked Spain's final two shot attempts from the field.)

Two things (aside from the Pistol Pete Maravich comparisons, which stem in part from his mop-top haircut and in part from his ballhandling prowess) stick in my conciousness when recalling what I have seen from Rubio.No. 1: He has very, very long arms; No. 2: The majority of his outside shots are set shots, not jump shots.

As noted by colleague Chad Ford earlier today in this blog, Rubio has seemed to regress over the past two seasons playing with Barcelona after spending the early part of his ACB career with DKV Joventut. With the Spanish national team, he has alternated as a starter and a reserve, depending on the day-to-day moods of a few particularly whimsical coaches, including Aito Garcia Reneses, who used three different starters at the point guard position during the 2008 Olympics (the others being Jose Calderon and Raul Lopez). Usually, it was the worst of the three: Lopez.

When Team USA played against Spain twice at the Beijing Olympics, the book on Rubio was that he was a very mature player with no fear, a good open-court player with nice vision and court awareness who looks to set teammates up first but isn't afraid to take big shots, with inborn charisma and a great feel for how to play the game.

Beginning next fall, barring a lockout, we'll see how his game translates to the NBA style of play.

For now, I will end this post with two predictions: Rubio will finish the 2011-12 season in the top five in steals, and his passing will lead to Michael Beasley at least tripling his total of 33 dunks in the 2009-10 season.

Last word on dead Melo-Nets trade comes from ex-Net Kidd

January, 22, 2011
1/22/11
8:30
PM ET
Sheridan By Chris Sheridan
ESPN.com
Archive
NEWARK, N.J. -- Jason Kidd got his first look Saturday at the temporary home of his former team, and he couldn't help but wonder how long the building with a picture of Martin Brodeur on the side will remain the temporary home of the New Jersey Nets.

After all, Kidd was with the Nets back when they were talking about making their move to Brooklyn by 2007.

Now, four and a half years later, the new arena in Brooklyn is no more than a jumble of construction equipment, steel beams and poured concrete, still a long way from completion -- although the Nets insist it'll be ready for the start of the 2012-13 season.

In the meantime, the Nets are toiling in a building so cold that Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle took one look at the industrial strength propane space heaters in the hallway outside the visitors locker room at the Prudential Center and said "Look, the back of the Batmobile."

"Unless it’s built, you can’t believe it. That’s just the nature of the beast," Kidd said. "They’re saying it takes two years. Well, I heard the same thing when I was here. I don’t know how long I’ve been gone (35 months), but you can see how long it takes for things to be built. And if it’s not built, they’re gonna be playing here. I don’t know if Newark is an attraction for a star player."

Consider that quote part of the eulogy on the Carmelo Anthony-to-New Jersey Nets traded that died a sudden death earlier this week when Mikhail Prokhorov pulled the plug on the three-team trade talks between the Nets, Nuggets and Pistons. (Prokhorov was in attendance Saturday night and extended an invitation to Mark Cuban, the man who earlier this season called him a derogatory euphemism for a cat, to watch the game together from Prokhorov's suite. Cuban visited Prokhorov at halftime.)

Anthony is trying to leverage his way into being traded to the New York Knicks, and his distaste for the very notion of signing an extension with the Nets was one of the factors that ultimately led to the deal's demise. As outlined in this news story by ESPN colleague Michael Mazzeo, Kidd said he has not spoken with Anthony about his trade options. But if he had, he'd have advised him to stay in the Western Conference if he values winning a championship over living in a large metropolis. "In the West, everyone went East last summer," Kidd said. "Dirk was the only one who stayed."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Raptors have a special media rule

October, 29, 2010
10/29/10
9:46
AM ET
Sheridan By Chris Sheridan
ESPN.com
Archive
Levity is often in short supply when it comes to dealing with media relations people from NBA teams, but that is never the case with the Toronto Raptors.

PR director Jim LaBumbard won the Brian McIntyre Award from the Professional Basketball Writers Association a couple years back for his commitment to making things easy instead of difficult for writers and broadcasters covering his team, and he possesses a sense of humor that is refreshing in a profession where the stone-faced outnumber the easygoing by at least a 2-to-1 margin.

LaBumbard has injected a little comedy into the Raptors 2010-11 media guide in the first season of their post-Chris Bosh era.

Under the heading MISCELLANEOUS on Page 3 of the guide, it reads as follows:

"Any media member wishing to 'take my talents to South Beach' will have their credentials confiscated and be escorted from the building."

Amare scores 30 thanks to Kane Fitzgerald

October, 13, 2010
10/13/10
11:33
PM ET
Sheridan By Chris Sheridan
ESPN.com
Archive
NEW YORK - The most demonstrative gesture of the night came from Kane Fitzgerald, and it was such a demonstrative gesture that Fitzgerald became a central character in Wednesday night's Celtics-Knicks exhibition game.

Who, you ask, is this Kane Fitzgerald?

He is an 29-year-old NBA referee beginning his second full season who pulled out his best Shag Crawford imitation and gave a quick pair of technical fouls (from 30 feet away) and a full-armed heave-ho to Kevin Garnett in the second quarter of Boston's 104-101 victory -- the latest instance of a referee following the letter of the law and showing zero tolerance as part of the NBA's leaguewide crackdown against griping about or showing physical displeasure with calls.

Garnett has always been one of the league's more vocal and demonstrative complainers, and what set him off this time was a technical foul handed to teammate Jermaine O'Neal after O'Neal mildly questioned a foul call levied against him by Zach Zarba.

Zarba quickly hit O'Neal with a tech, and Garnett drew his pair of technicals seconds later for letting the refereeing crew know how ridiculous he thought O'Neal's tech was. So with Jermaine O'Neal in foul trouble, Shaquille O'Neal (hip arthritis) and Glen Davis (sore left knee) sitting out and Garnett ejected, Amare Stoudemire found himself being guarded by the likes of Marquis Daniels and Luke Harangody as he scored 16 of his 30 points in the third quarter before sitting out the entire fourth.

"It may take a while to get adjusted, any time something that severe is changed. You're used to playing a certain way, you're used to certain reactions. It may take a while for guys to get used to it, but we'll adjust. Again, it's for the betterment of the NBA, it's the betterment of teams and players, so we have to adjust," Stoudemire said before being asked if he believes the tighter technical foul rules make for a better product. "Absolutely. It makes it a clean game, a fun game. You let the officials do their jobs, and we do ours."

Stoudemire would probably get an argument on that point from Garnett, but KG had left Madison Square Garden by the time the locker rooms were opened to reporters, and thus was unavailable for comment. KF (Kane Fitzgerald) was not available for comment, as referees are only allowed under league guidelines to give public explanations for rules interpretations, not judgment calls.

Here was Doc Rivers' take: "It is what it is. You've just got to live with it. What can you do? Listen, I do think as a league it's about all of us. It's not just the officials and the players and the coaches. We've got to keep trying to make this a better product. And so people smarter than me have decided this is what we need to do, so we need to do it and we need to adhere to it. I don't think it's that hard.

"I think it'll come to it eventually not being a knee-jerk thing. I think officials will have a better feel on it," Rivers said. "We're going to figure it out, it's just gonna take some time. When you talk to the officials, they don't get it yet. They're trying to figure it out, and it'll get figured out by game one."

But it wasn't just the Celtics who were hit with quick technical foul whistles. It happened, too, to Knicks rookie Timofey Mozgov, who was given a tech for mumbling something in Russian as he walked past referee Kevin Fehr after being called for his fourth foul early in the third quarter.

"I don't want to say something to ref, just somthing to myself in Russian language," Mozgov said. "I say: 'I have trouble with fouls again.' Maybe one bad word, but it was not for ref."

It was "funny," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said. "He'll learn to keep his mouth shut. I'm sure he won't want to be giving away that many rubles."

Funny for now, maybe.

But when guys like Kane Fitzgerald (a native of Jersey City with four years experience refereeing in the D-League, two in the WNBA) have a bigger impact on the outcome of a game than someone such as Kevin Garnett, you have to wonder whether the NBA is creating a bigger problem through its solution than the problem it is supposedly trying to correct.

As an NBA fan myself, I'm not a person who goes to games to see referees blow their whistles incessantly and give out T's like they're lollipops on Halloween.

Anybody with me?

Or is this rule a good thing?

Your comments are welcome.

Sheridan empties his notebook

October, 9, 2010
10/09/10
8:44
PM ET
Sheridan By Chris Sheridan
ESPN.com
Archive
Some of this I've tweeted about, some I haven't. But all of it bears mentioning in this blog.

So here we go:

" Spoke with Semih Erden of the Boston Celtics the other night at the Prudential Center in Newark, where I've been keeping an eye on the Nets and an ear to the maneuverings surrounding Carmelo Anthony -- the subject of today's column, an open letter to 'Melo. Erden told me that each of the players on the Turkish National Team that won the silver medal at last month's World Championship received a bonus of 1 million Turkish Lira (about $700,000) along with a free villa/apartment, courtesy of a wealthy Turkish real estate mogul who wanted to reward them for their success. The members of the gold-medal winning Team USA were paid $25,000 apiece, Andre Iguodala said.

" Spoke with referee Bill Kennedy 2 1/2 weeks ago at a media seminar in Jersey City at which NBA officials explained this year's rules changes and points of emphasis, and he told me a couple interesting things: Kennedy paid for his own plane ticket from Phoenix to Istanbul, because the ticket sent to him by FIBA was coach class and could not be upgraded. Also, Kennedy had no air conditioning at his hotel in the city of Kayseri, where he worked the preliminary round, and he said there was only one instance when he called a traveling violation under the stricter FIBA interpretation, whereby a player must begin his dribble before taking a step. I also caught up with referee David Jones, who worked the 2008 Olympics but said he is ineligible to continue as a FIBA ref because he has reached the age of 50. Saw Joey Crawford and asked if he had called any balls and strikes over the summer. "Only about a million," Crawford said.

" Dropped off a package of "Rondo" cookies in the Celtics locker room, giving them to Rajon Rondo, who I had last seen in Athens on the day he withdrew from Team USA. "Rondo" is a brand of Turkish cookies, packages of which were laid out for the media's consumption in Istanbul. Missing from the Boston locker room that night was Tony Gaffney, who was given his release so he could sign with Turk Telecom in Ankara, Turkey.

" Spent some time today speaking with Nets rookie Derrick Favors, who will be travelling to Asia for the first time in his life as the Nets fly there to play exhibition games against the Houston Rockets in Beijing and Guangzhou. Favors has been to Africa, travelling to Senegal and Mali with a Reebok team three years ago. "Makes you thankful for everything you’ve got over here," Favors said, "just how hard they work over there. One man I met said he walked to work 5 to 6 miles a day, each way, every day."

" Also ran into NBA executive Kim Bohuny, who runs the Basketball Without Borders program and will be with the Nets and Rockets in China next week, and who I had last seen in Athens when I ran into her having dinner with a group that included former NBA guard Sarunas Jasikevicius, who spent last season with Panathinaikos in Athens. Jasikevicius told a story of how one night when the "Greens" played at the gym of archrival Olympiacos, three knives were hurled at them as they ran through the tunnel onto the court prior to the game. He also said fans tore apart bathroom fixtures and threw the porcelain pieces at the Panathinaikos bench, along with baseball-ball sized chunks of concrete stripped from the damaged bathroom walls. (For a sampling of the video from that game, click here and jump to the 2:50 mark, which is shortly before the fireworks begin. Literally.)

" One more FIBA note, since people have been asking me in e-mails. The United States is the only team that has qualified for the 2012 Olympics, although it's a safe bet that Great Britain will be awarded a spot as the host nation. That leaves only 10 spots open in the 12-team field, and they will be allotted thusly: The top two teams in the 2011 Eurobasket, to be held in Lithuania; the top two teams from the Tournament of the Americas, to be held in Mar Del Plata, Argentina; one team from the FIBA-Africa championship, to be held in Ivory Coast; one team from the FIBA-Asia championship, to be held in Lebanon; one team (Australia or New Zealand) from FIBA-Oceania; and four teams (three if G.B. makes it) from a 12-team qualifying tournament (comprised of four teams from Europe, three from the Americas, two each from Africa and Asia and one from Oceania) to be held in July, 2012.

Shaq says the new Tim Duncan is ...

October, 7, 2010
10/07/10
11:18
PM ET
Sheridan By Chris Sheridan
ESPN.com
Archive
... somebody who played against Shaq himself last night and drew three fouls against O'Neal in the first six minutes.

I'll gave you a hint: The "new Duncan" has relocated to one of Shaq' former hometowns -- the one where O'Neal grew up as a pre-teen.

If that's not enough info for you, or if you'd like to read exactly what Shaquille said about this particular player, just click here for the complete report.

An NBA lockout Avery Johnson can call his own

October, 3, 2010
10/03/10
10:52
PM ET
Sheridan By Chris Sheridan
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NEWARK, N.J. - Avery Johnson finished up his pre-game chat with reporters, walked a couple steps to his office door and tried to turn the handle, to no avail.

He was locked out.

Yes, the New Jersey Nets were still working the bugs out Sunday night as they made their 2010-11 preseason debut in their temporary new home, the Prudential Center, with a 108-70 victory over Maccabi Haifa. On the bright side, rookie Derrick Favors missed his first shot and then made his next five -- all on dunks -- as part of a 14-point, nine-rebound performance in 21 minutes.

"After all the trade rumors, it was good to come out, feel fresh and play basketball," said Favors, who remains the centerpiece of the dormant-but-not-dead Carmelo Anthony-to-New Jersey trade rumors that will likely not subside until the trade deadline passes in mid-February -- unless Anthony is traded before then.

There were no Nuggets scouts in attendance Sunday night. For that matter, there weren't that many people in attendance whatsoever. I counted roughly 2,500 people in the stands just prior to tipoff, and the Nets announced a crowd of 5,174 for what was the first NBA preseason game of the 2010-11 schedule played on U.S. soil (the New York Knicks defeated Armani Jeans Milano in Italy earlier in the day).

The arena was so quiet, you could hear Nets sophomore Terrence Williams calling out to Damion James: 'C'mon, rook" as the Nets rebounded on the defensive end in the third quarter and looked to move the ball upcourt.

"I call everyone rook now," Williams said. "I even call Joe Smith a 'rook.' He's a reborn 'rook.'

Williams razzed Favors afterward, pointing out his 2-for-5 free throw shooting in a voice loud enough that everyone in the locker room could hear it and get a kick out of it. But Williams showed his voice can actually drop a few octaves, too, when he noted with amazement that reserve center Johan Petro has nearly 330,000 followers on Twitter, a happenstance for which Williams (just shy of 24,000 followers) has not yet received a satisfactory explanation. (Apparently, according to Ben Couch of nets.com, there was a locker room plot in Denver last season in which the goal was for Petro to end up with more followers than all of the other Nuggets combined).

Coach Johnson was more pleased with Favors (6-for-8, with the other FG coming on a nifty drop-step move) than he was with Brook Lopez (11 points, six rebounds in 23 minutes), who he described as "not good, not good" in a first half in which he was matched up against a 6-foot-6 center. But the Nets new coach was pleased with the outside shooting of Anthony Morrow (4-for-6 on 3s) on a night when one of the Nets' other main 3-point threats, Troy Murphy (strained groin), was unavailable.

The Nets will continue to call the Prudential Center their home for the next two seasons while their new arena in Brooklyn is being built (concrete has been poured, but no steel beems are in the ground yet), and this may go down as the smallest crowd they'll ever play before between now and the move to Brooklyn.

It was quite the sight for the eyes of Jordan Farmar, whose entire NBA career up until now had been spent with one of the league's marquee teams, the Los Angeles Lakers.

"Well, there are Lakers fans all over the world, really, and everywhere you go it's packed, sold out," Farmar said. "Here, we're trying to get to that level. But there's limits to everything."

There certainly are -- something Johnson found out when he found himself locked out of his own office on the Nets' Night One in Newark.

Knicks can acquire 1st Rd pick, if needed, for 'Melo trade

October, 1, 2010
10/01/10
5:13
PM ET
Sheridan By Chris Sheridan
ESPN.com
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I tweeted about this yesterday, and I spoke about it on ESPN 1050 radio in New York this afternoon, and I'm blogging it now.

The news is this: A high-level NBA source assures me that the New York Knicks are confident they can acquire a 2011 first-round draft pick, if they need one, as part of a package they would put together and offer in exchange for Carmelo Anthony if the Denver Nuggets decide they are going to trade him. (Currently, the Knicks can only offer a first round pick in 2014, because Houston owns their 2012 pick, and NBA rules prohibit teams from going consecutive years without a first-round pick).

Knicks president Donnie Walsh tried over the summer to acquire Rudy Fernandez from Portland for Wilson Chandler, but the Blazers said they would prefer to do a three-team deal that would net them a 2011 draft pick that figured to end up in the teens in next June's draft. (Portland had several teams offering exactly that caliber of pick back on draft night last June, but they did not pull the trigger -- a move the Blazers are no doubt regretting even more after Fernandez gave a one-man clinic earlier this week on how to obliterate one's own trade value in less than 7 minutes.)

So the Knicks had been shopping Chandler around, but there were apparently no takers nine days ago when Walsh, in discussing the need to have future first-round draft picks to facilitate any trades, said: "I need to go out and see if I can get one, and I don’t know how to do that yet.”

(Walsh reportedly turned down a three-way trade over the summer that would have sent Anthony Randolph to Indiana, the Pacers' No. 1 pick to Portland and Fernandez to New York).

But my source says Walsh has now found another doable deal that would net him a No. 1, though the source would not disclose whether Chandler would be the piece the Knicks would give up (a package of Toney Douglas and Bill Walker, for instance, might be more enticing to some teams).

And then there's the side question of whether New York could outbid New Jersey, which has already shown a willingness to move Derrick Favors, their own No. 1 pick in 2011 and a Golden State 2012 No. 1 pick (with 1-7 protection in 2012; 1-6 protection in 2013 and 2014) as part of a trade package for Anthony.

In any case, the trade talk surrounding Anthony is currently dormant.

But don't be surprised if it picks up later this month -- especially if Anthony sticks to his guns and makes it clear to the Nuggets that he has no plans to play for them after this season, and they risk losing him for nothing if they fail to trade him. (It is notable that Anthony would not even allow coach George Karl to make a recruiting pitch when the two met yesterday in Denver.)

Meet Knicks center Timofey Mozgov ... and his impostor

September, 29, 2010
9/29/10
7:06
PM ET
Sheridan By Chris Sheridan
ESPN.com
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At the time this entry was posted, the Knicks were 38,000 feet above the ground flying to Milan, Italy. And they also were sky high on their new 7-foot-1 center, Timofey Mozgov, who I wrote about today in a training camp wrapup column for the ESPNNewYork site.

You may or may not recall that Lamar Odom nicknamed Mozgov "Wilt Chamberlain" earlier this month in Turkey as Team USA was preparing to play Russia in the quarterfinals of the World Championship, and it remains to be seen whether that nickname sticks now that "Mozgov on the Hudson" is about to open on West 33rd Street.

What also remains to be seen is how much longer we'll be able to enjoy the humorous Twitter posts being put up by a Mozgov imposter. (Sample: Bear meet and toast = brekfast of champiuns,. Ready for war at praktis b4 we head 2 Italy. Ya gotova!!!!) The Knicks' front office folks are already trying to have the account closed down.

'Melo trade offers: Quality still in Nets' favor

September, 27, 2010
9/27/10
2:00
PM ET
Sheridan By Chris Sheridan
ESPN.com
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So here it is, Monday afternoon, and as we all await word on what Carmelo Anthony will or will not say at the Nuggets' media day today (J.A. Adande will bring you the blow-by-blow), it's worth taking a look at why the New Jersey Nets still have to believe they are in the lead when it comes to acquiring Anthony.

All the latest trade chatter regarding Anthony can be found here in Marc Stein's latest news story. But the broad landscape still remains much the same as it did through last weekend: Anthony still desires a trade to one of the nation's three largest media markets (New York, Los Angeles or Chicago). And with the Chicago Bulls refusing to include Joakim Noah in their offers, and the New York Knicks unable to put together a package of everything the Nuggets are seeking, New Jersey's offer reigns supreme for the time being.

The four-team deal the Nets have helped engineer would give the Nuggets a prime young talent in Derrick Favors, the No. 3 overall pick in last June's draft; a large expiring contract in Andrei Kirilenko, who can actually play when healthy; and a pair of what would appear to be high-quality first-round picks -- the Nets' own 2011 first-round pick, and a first-rounder owed to the Nets by the Golden State Warriors, with 1-7 lottery protection in 2012 and 1-6 protection in 2013 and 2014.

As mentioned here when Knicks president Donnie Walsh spoke with the media last week, New York has been trying without any luck to acquire a first-round pick from another team to sweeten a trade offer believed to be built around Anthony Randolph, the expiring contract of Eddy Curry, along with Danilo Gallinari and/or Toney Douglas. In fact, the Knicks tried without success in August and early September to move Wilson Chandler for a first-round pick, which they then would have shipped to Portland for Rudy Fernandez.

As of Sunday night, the Knicks were thinking they were out of the mix -- unless Anthony were to withdraw his agreement to sign an extension that would keep him with the Nets long-term, something Anthony and Nets part-owner Jay-Z discussed in person last week in New York.

So the Nets are sitting on their same offer (which would cost them Favors, Devin Harris, the rights to Jarvis Hayes along with the two first-round draft picks) as Denver appears ready to make one final sales pitch to 'Melo after spending the weekend taking one more look around the league to see whether something more appealing might be cobbled together.

Very few teams own the rights to multiple first-round draft picks in the next couple of years, as New Jersey does.

Among those who do:

Chicago: The Bulls own their own 2011 and 2012 first-round picks, plus they have the right to receive a first-round pick from Charlotte in 2012 (the Bobcats' pick carries lottery protection in 2012, 1-12 protection in 2013, 1-10 protection in 2014, 1-8 protection in 2015 and becomes unprotected in 2016).

Houston: The Rockets have their own 2012 pick and the Knicks' 2012 first-round pick, plus they have the right to swap first-round picks with the Knicks in 2011.

Minnesota: The Timberwolves have the rights to a future Utah pick (protected 1-16 in 2011, 1-14 in 2012 and 1-12 in 2013), plus a future Memphis first-round pick on which the lottery protection declines from 1-14 in 2011 to 1-12 in 2012, 1-10 in 2013 and 1-9 in 2014 and 2015.

L.A. Clippers: The Clippers have the rights to their own 2011 first-round pick (protected 1-10) and to Minnesota's first-round pick, although the Timberwolves' pick carries 1-10 lottery protection in 2011 before becoming unprotected in 2012. However, the Clippers also owe the Oklahoma City Thunder a first-round pick that likely will be the worse of their own 2012 picks or Minnesota's 2012 pick).

Toronto: The Raptors have their own 2011 first-round pick plus Miami's (provided Miami makes the playoffs, which is a safe assumption).

D'Antoni hyperbolic on Russian center Mozgov

September, 22, 2010
9/22/10
8:13
PM ET
Sheridan By Chris Sheridan
ESPN.com
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GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Remember a year ago when Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni called Danilo Gallinari the greatest shooter he had ever seen?

Pretty strong words, and D'Antoni later regretted heaping that level of praise on the Italian youngster.

Well, we have a new D'Antoni-ism to go into the 2010-11 season with. It concerns Timofey Mozgov, the incoming 7-foot-1 rookie center from Russia who has been practicing with the Knicks informally over the past several days.

"Have to see how he adapts to the NBA game, but at 7-1, 270 pounds, he's maybe our most athletic guy, that runs, that’s a great guy, that has great hands and knows how to play," D'Antoni said. "(Watching him) I’m like, 'Yeah, what am I missing?' So I’m happy with him and excited about the possibility. We have a lot of guys we should be excited about the possibilities."

Excited? OK.

But "most athletic guy?"

I wonder what dunkmeister Bill Walker will have to say about that. As you can see here, he's never been shy about speaking his mind.

You can read more of what D'Antoni and team president Donnie Walsh said about the new-look Knicks, and the difficulties they must overcome to put together a suitable trade package for Carmelo Anthony, by clicking here to read a column I wrote today for the ESPNNewYork site.

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