TrueHoop: International Basketball

Is basketball really a global game?

September, 12, 2014
Sep 12
3:04
PM ET
Strauss By Ethan Sherwood Strauss
ESPN.com
Archive
videoTeam USA has been squashing the competition at the FIBA Basketball World Cup, and with Spain knocked off, Mike Krzyzewski’s squad has an easy road to the title.

Really, I should be celebrating on behalf of my countrymen, praising Tom Thibodeau’s defense, heralding America’s ability to persevere through injuries and absences. Instead, I’m lamenting over how overmatched the rest of the world is.

It’s one thing when Team USA’s Olympic juggernaut (LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Kevin Love) runs roughshod over its FIBA foes. Anthony Davis was the 12th man on that squad two years ago. But to do this while half-trying? To best the earth with your C team? It speaks to how basketball might not be as global as we were promised.

There was a time around the mid-2000s when America’s basketball decline was a fait accompli. “The rest of the world has caught up,” is what we told ourselves. In 2002, Team USA finished sixth in the FIBA World Championship. The 2003 NBA All-Star Game featured a record five international players, including Yao Ming, symbol of China’s imminent growth into a world basketball power. A year later, Team USA suffered a humiliating defeat in the Olympics, somehow failing to win gold despite featuring plenty of Stephon Marbury. In the 2006 FIBA World Championship, the U.S. was upset by tiny Greece.

America’s basketball demise wasn’t exactly framed as a failure, either. David Stern was keen to promote his promotion of basketball on the global level. This was the natural consequence of the game conquering abroad. Blame the Dream Team, for they had dazzled the world into jerseys and sneakers.

The NBA tells a certain story about itself, about how it’s a global sport on the march. Today, China. Tomorrow, India. Basketball is constantly engaged in a benign imperial conquest of people across the ocean. That story lives on because it’s in part true -- there are basketball leagues over all the world. The story also lives on because it’s vague. We don’t quite have a handle on TV ratings abroad.

Can that story stand up to recent scrutiny, though? The onslaught of international superstars hasn’t arrived. Last year’s All-Star Game featured three internationals, and two also claim American citizenship (Tony Parker, Joakim Noah). It seems that Yao Ming was more a generational talent than a harbinger of China’s fast-approaching hoops dominance. After Yao retired, many of his countrymen found hobbies that weren’t televised hoops.

It is difficult to measure world interest in basketball, but these FIBA games may hint at how invested these other countries are in the sport -- just as our relative weakness in soccer is indicative of how we care relatively less about it.

The story the NBA tells itself about the emerging, globalizing force of basketball is a good one, and I wish it were completely true. I love how the 2014 champion San Antonio Spurs dominated with an international approach. The sport is better for diversifying, for absorbing perspectives and approaches from all over. AAU camps now teach American kids the Eurostep because Manu Ginobili brought his diagonal stylings to the NBA.

As thrilling as the collectivist Spurs are, they don’t boast potential international stars. Kawhi Leonard is from the Inland Empire. The horizon isn’t replete with young Manus, Yaos and Dirks.

Sadly, Team USA’s success represents a failure of basketball on the global level -- for now, at least. The sport hasn’t grown by leaps as it seemed it would in the mid-2000s. The NBA still uses the story of world conquest as a bulwark for the insecurity caused by football’s stateside dominance. That narrative can’t survive so many Team USA victories.

Team USA bringing the pressure

August, 22, 2014
Aug 22
1:32
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
David Thorpe has been watching Team USA, and one thing's for sure: Mike Krzyzewski's team will pressure ball-handlers. Even James Harden is active on defense.

Good try, Mark Cuban

August, 4, 2014
Aug 4
2:32
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
In the wake of Paul George's horrific injury, Mark Cuban wants the NBA to take control of international hoops. Henry Abbott and Amin Elhassan don't agree on whether or not NBA owners have any such right.

video

Hard lessons in basketball politics

December, 20, 2013
12/20/13
10:35
AM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
Almost exactly three years ago Orien Greene was featured on TrueHoop. He's a fringe NBA guard who made an impression on some NBA coaches not with his resume or reputation, but his doggedness, strength, size and handle when it was time to play. "I was the guy," he says, "who would arrive at the workout with nobody knowing my name, but then when it was over, they'd want to keep me."

Danny Ainge saw him work out once and begged him not to work out for anybody else. The Celtics drafted Greene with the 53rd pick of the 2005 NBA draft.

Greene's 30 now, and there's no good reason he couldn't still be in the NBA. He isn't exactly a lights-out shooter, but he still has all the size, strength and mindset that people liked. If nothing else, he's the kind of player D-League GMs cherish.

But off the court he has become one sad complication after another, mostly of his own doing. And as a result he's a 30-year-old guy with a head full of riddles of the international power struggle between FIBA and the NBA and a yearning to pay the bills of his growing family by playing basketball just about anywhere in the world.

His problem is that he has been banned by FIBA for the better part of four years, and nobody seems to know much about exactly when, or indeed if, that ban will end.

Here's just one of the things Greene screwed up: He says he used to smoke marijuana, but doesn't anymore. To get around drug tests while playing in Amsterdam, he had a system of submitting urine that wasn't his own to the drug testers. He collected, he says, urine from three different clean people. And for a while it worked. But then it failed in various different fancy ways. As his time with the team was coming to an end, he took a drug test himself, with his own urine, and failed. Then, in the months that followed, somehow the sports' governing body figured out that other samples hadn't been his. There were interrogations, implications, some confessions.

"I didn't want to cooperate with nothing," Greene says. "One who was pissing for me, we didn't get along, so I told them his name. But I protected the two other guys. They put pressure on this other guy, and he kind of folded on me."

So they had Greene implicating one accomplice, and a different one confessing. You can see how FIBA felt they had to drop the hammer. "That kind of spiraled," Greene says, "into 'We don't want you to play nowhere.'"

In 2010, Greene was suspended for two years, backdated to 2009. But 2013 is almost over now, and he's still banned.

FIBA manages all kinds of difficult things, from the rules of international competitions to the transfer of players between countries. The NBA itself is not subject to FIBA jurisdiction, but the two bodies have staked out certain truces -- for instance NBA players play in FIBA-governed contests like the Olympics and World Championships, and the NBA won't let its teams go after players under contract in FIBA-governed leagues.

Which brings us to Greene's suspension, which seems to fall into a confusing gray area between the NBA and FIBA. Several times since Greene left Amsterdam, he has been "cleared to play" by different teams, including in the D-League, as he has been told at various times by any number of agents, lawyers, officials and advisors. There has been communication with FIBA itself in the form of various phone calls and emails that Greene can rattle off from memory. Put it all together and you get repeated instances of Greene being told he was cleared to play, then playing, and then later learning that he was never supposed to have played, had offended FIBA rules by playing. This is how his ban has lasted so long.

He has one story after another. He thought he couldn't play in the D-League, and knew he would have to go through some kind of background check to clear him to play. So when the Utah Flash wanted to add him to the roster for a playoff run a few years ago his thought was "Well, that ain't going to happen. I stayed home."

But then Drew Sellers, president of the now-defunct Utah Flash, told Greene he was cleared to play and picked him up at his house personally. Greene had a good game, the Flash won, and all seemed well in the world.

Then Greene learned FIBA was not cool with any of that, and his ban would be extended further.

There was another time he had a deal to play in China. The arrangement was that someone would meet him at the airport with his first paycheck. It seemed like he'd have real money to pay for his little children, something that gnaws at him. But instead of being met by someone with money, he was met instead by someone with a note from FIBA saying he was not cleared to play. He stayed a week trying to get it resolved, before returning home as frustrated as you can imagine.

Greene says that at one point a FIBA official told Greene the date his ban would end. Greene waited past that date, signed a deal, and then was told his ban had not in fact ended, and that the official he has spoken to was no longer at FIBA, and that his ban would be extended.

That's his story, these days. His professional life, for the last year and a half, has been nothing but one long ban extension, punctuated by a tournament now and again in the Middle East, which falls beyond the control of FIBA.

How does it all end? Who knows? But Greene says that in the interim, he has seriously downgraded his expectations. When we spoke three years ago, he was all about returning to the NBA. Now Greene says "I'm just focused on paying the bills, playing anywhere I can, 'cause I have kids now."

There are a lot of different ways basketball dreams wind down. Injury, age, bad luck. But this one, where the central challenge of his past few years has been not drug tests, nor bans, but finding out if he truly is banned or not ... that just doesn't seem like it should be a way to go down.

Exporting the N-word

December, 2, 2013
12/02/13
11:10
AM ET
By Coleman Collins
Special to ESPN.com
Archive
True HoopsCourtesy of Coleman CollinsNavigating foreign lands is a big part of Coleman Collins' life as he pursues an overseas hoops career.
Editor's note: This column contains language some readers might find offensive.

The first time that a person who wasn't black used the word "nigga" to address me face-to-face came when I was out of the country. I was playing basketball for a team in a small, largely Croatian village in Bosnia-Herzegovina. I was walking down the street when I passed three adolescent boys going in the other direction on the opposite side. They were visibly excited to come across a black person in the flesh and called out to me: "Hey man, what's up? Hey, my nigga, how you do?" I didn't respond. I didn't know how to respond. I kept walking, feeling my ears burn and my jaw tighten. In my mind I saw images of barking dogs. The rest of the walk home was a blur. When I had cooled down, I wondered: Were they really trying to insult me? Or had their exposure to black culture led them to believe that this was how I'd like to be greeted?

There are generally four schools of thought on the word "nigga." There's the first and largest group -- black working-class (but not exclusively so) people who say it casually because it's what they've always done, or simply because they don't like being told what to do. There's the small but vocal group of middle-class black intellectuals who claim to have "reclaimed" the word, to have turned it into a term of endearment instead of a tool of oppression. It's a neat solution to a messy problem. It ends in "A," after all! This line of thinking is what led us to where Kanye West is currently -- "re-contextualizing" Confederate flags as tour merch. This last seems idiotic at first blush but might yet be proven to be genius. It's too early to talk about it with any sort of nuance, but it's a good marker of the extreme left of the dialogue.

The third group is comprised of the "respectable Negroes," the bootstrap types, the "don't you embarrass me in front of these white folks" crowd. Also largely middle- and upper-middle class, the worst of these would have us believe that if black men only pulled their pants up, stopped littering and stopped calling each other that word, racism and poverty would come to an end.

Last but certainly not least you have the extremely sympathetic older generation that worked to have the word eradicated from white people's vocabularies only to find it shouted from street corners and blasted from car windows in the future they worked so hard for. Carried to the extreme, it's best represented by the NAACP, which literally attempted to bury the word "nigga" in a well-intentioned but ultimately irrelevant funeral in 2007.

As I've played and traveled in various countries around the world, I've often been in situations with another person or their family and realized that this was their very first time meeting a person with skin like mine, shaking his or her hand or breaking bread over the dinner table. It is a strange weight to go from "representing your race" to Representing Your Race, but certainly bearable.



Our academics would have us believe that the word is fine when in context, used without malice as a term of endearment. It's a simple equation in the U.S. Racism = prejudice + power. "White people" are excluded from using it because of their forefather's complicity in the slave trade and subsequent years of oppression. The paleness of their skin serves as prima facie evidence of their inability to use the word.

But where did the boys from Bosnia-Herzegovina fit in? They used it as a greeting. They were not a threat to me or my well-being. They didn't represent any white-power structure -- their country never had any slaves or colonies, and furthermore you'd be hard pressed to find any point in the past 100 or so years when the average Slav was better off from a material standpoint then a black American. If the word's power comes not from any intrinsic value but from the power structures behind it, why was I so angry?

As I've played and traveled in various countries around the world, I've often been in situations with another person or their family and realized that this was their very first time meeting a person with skin like mine, shaking his or her hand or breaking bread over the dinner table. It is a strange weight to go from "representing your race" to Representing Your Race, but certainly bearable. I've been unusually fortunate. For various socioeconomic reasons and sheer lack of numbers, very few African-Americans leave the United States. The percentage of Americans with passports is reported to be anywhere from 10 to 30 percent. Black passport ownership is believed to be some fraction of this. This means that for the vast majority of the world, the first (and likely only) exposure to African-American culture they will have in their lifetimes is through the Internet. Sports highlights, YouTube clips, memes. These people are receiving all of this without the framework that undergirds every interracial interaction in the U.S. This is not to say our rules are impossible to ascertain, but it makes it very, very difficult.

Highlights, music videos, memes. There is a very popular meme among black people that is occasionally funny, generally depressing and seemingly never-ending. It's called "Niggas Be Like." An example: A picture of a Stevie Wonder with the caption "NIGGAS BE LIKE: 'I'LL PAY YOU BACK NEXT TIME I SEE YOU.'" There are thousands of these on the Internet. You could easily copy and paste some of them on to a white supremacist site without anyone noticing; the conspiracy theorist in me wants to believe that's who keeps coming up with them. But the good ones are the sort of in-joke that has come to be understood as OK within cultures.

The first time I saw one of these, it had been posted by a former teammate of mine. The second person I saw repost one was a white girl. She was German, was dating an African-American soldier, felt like she had been given a pass. I know her personally, know she isn't racist. She is someone who wants to belong, and for whatever reason, the "pass" is seen as the ultimate sign that you're in. It actually is the natural extension of the tortured logic of that second school of thought -- if the word is now a term of love, of endearment, then a white person who can say that word without consequence is loved beyond any other. It would be, it must be, the pinnacle of white cool.

So who gets a pass? Most people, myself included, would argue that people with a black parent are fine. It didn't anger me when I heard that Matt Barnes used it. Conversely, I was dismayed to hear that Richie Incognito used it openly and often, but I know how locker rooms work. All it takes is one black guy to say, "Come on, man, you can say it, you know you my nigga" and all hell breaks loose. It's like a gun ban or a tax increase -- not feasible in a world of people with differing standards.

I've been in locker rooms where European players used it nonchalantly around black players, mostly when singing along to song lyrics. Occasionally, I'd pull someone aside and ask them to stop. This was mostly greeted with a look of confusion, an unanswerable question ("But why do you guys say it so much if it's such a terrible word?") and, finally, acceptance and an agreement not to do it again.

Outside of that basic, American, black/white binary, the lines are hard to define. What about Puerto Ricans and Dominicans? Africans? Indians? Last year during a casual conversation, a half-Malian, half-French teammate told me, "Nigga, quit lying!" I asked him not to call me that, please. He was genuinely hurt. "What, I'm not black enough to say that? I don't count?" It dawned on me that it wasn't just his attempt at speaking my language -- it was an expression of solidarity. It was an assertion of blackness. He was placing his flag on the ground. I told him that it had nothing to do with being black enough, or that he somehow hadn't earned the right. It was just simply that I'd prefer to be called something else.
[+] EnlargeColeman Collins
Jack Arent/NBAE/Getty ImagesColeman Collins, shown here at Las Vegas Summer League in 2009, has played for five overseas teams professionally since 2007.

That's the best way to describe how I feel. I'd prefer to be called something else. Call me by name. I try to express this quietly. I'm not interested in shaming anyone, so if I don't have the opportunity to say something privately, I won't say anything at all. I think it can be addressed only on an individual level. Personally, I make an effort not to use it, but I reject the notion that it makes me a better person. It's what works for me. I would prefer not to be called that by anyone, but I understand why certain black people do it. Everyone's experience is different. I grew up fairly privileged, in a family in which I never heard the word uttered. I can't be certain that they never said it privately, but my parents made an effort to set the example for me that it wasn't appropriate. I knew without asking or ever broaching the subject. My mother would even balk at a description of another person as "dark-skinned" or "light-skinned." She'd ask, "Isn't there a better way you can describe that person?" I was never truly in the habit of saying "nigga," it was just something I did as a teenager because that's what other kids did. This made it easy for me to give it up. I can't judge other people who have a stronger attachment to it.

Though I dislike the word, what I dislike even more is people moralizing as if poverty, discrimination and institutional racism are the proper rewards for a few slips of the tongue. These critiques are almost always classist and sometimes explicitly so, with privileged people bemoaning a "lack of class" or a "bad upbringing." This sort of asinine scolding only serves to derail the conversation. They lead to people equating words with weapons. It can never be said enough: The tools of enslavement were not words. The tools of enslavement were guns and ships and limited liability companies. Slavery doesn't start with you calling me a nigger instead of sir; it starts when you have a gun and I have a sharpened stick. And it ends not with dictionaries or thesauruses, but with you putting down the gun. It's the age-old swindle of I'll respect you when. "I'll respect you when you pull up your pants, when you stop talking like that, when you cut that hair." For women, it comes as "I'll respect you when you cover your hair. Your midriff. Your knees. Your ankles. Your face." This is a con game, and I sympathize with those who refuse to play it.

Still, I don't know what to say to the older generation. It must be a particular sort of hell to strain against oppression, toe the line cautiously for decades, only to see young black men make millions from rhyming "niggerish" with "nigga-rich." It's unfortunate but feels too late to interdict. The horse has bolted and galloped around the world, and they would have us lock the barn door from the inside.

This is, of course, impossible. The only way I see forward is a sort of live-and-let-live approach. For white people, I would still advise extreme caution. Please spare us your anecdotes about your noble black maid, your "I know my opinion doesn't mean anything, but gosh it makes me uncomfortable" op-eds. And please don't say it. This is hypocritical on its face; of course you have the right to say whatever you want. I know, I know, First Amendment. I even sort of understand the appeal. It's taboo, and everyone wants to get behind locked doors. I just think that this thing, this one thing and virtually nothing else in society, is something you probably shouldn't have. There are probably many younger people who disagree with me; I've heard that teenagers across the country of all races use it indiscriminately without anger. That would have been absolutely unthinkable to me only 10 years ago, but now it doesn't seem impossible. It could be that the future lies in nothing being off-limits to anyone. The world as an unrestrained, post-racial locker room.

Until it comes, we can only police ourselves and the areas around us. Sweep your own doorstep. I expect to be offended. I expect that I'll have to get used to it. The price we pay for modernity is always the discomfort of the old folks with some new aspect of it. I guess I'm getting old, too.

Since graduating from Virginia Tech, Coleman Collins has played professional basketball in Europe and the D-League, after a brief stint with the Phoenix Suns. Currently, he's the starting power forward for the Ukrainian team Azovmash. He's also a semi-regular TrueHoop contributor.

Monday Bullets

October, 21, 2013
10/21/13
4:01
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive
  • It's 363 pages on my Kindle and chock full of all kinds of hoop goodness: It's the 2013-14 Hardwood Paroxysm Season Preview, in e-book form, for only $1.99. You get fancy charts, team previews, fan fiction and illustrations, including what appears to be the cover of Grand Theft Auto: Rip City Edition.
  • Zach Lowe of Grantland on the Jazz extending big-man-of-the-future Derrick Favors, and the wisdom and limited downside of planning ahead: " If it's right, Utah will have saved itself some valuable cap space by acting early, just as Philadelphia (Jrue Holiday, now gone) and especially Golden State (Stephen Curry) did a year ago by acting in advance of restricted free agency. There are at least eight teams with the potential for max-level cap room next summer, and though a few are already crowded on the front line (Detroit, perhaps Orlando), there are at least a couple that would have loomed as potentially aggressive suitors for Favors."
  • There's a fair amount of debate inside the Wizards' locker room over who's a better poster boy for Kellogg's -- Trevor Booker, who has "at least 12 boxes of cereal" in his pantry right now, or Chris Singleton, who starts his morning with "Dexter and Fruit Loops." Also receiving votes: Ariza, Trevor.
  • There may not be a lot of height in Bhutan, but there are a ton of basketball enthusiasts in the Buddhist kingdom, including Queen Jetsun Pema Wangchuck, who has a regular women's pickup game. According to the New York Times' Garndiner Harris, "The royal set shot is as sweet as honeyed ghee, and the royal dribble as poised as a monk in meditation." (H/T Jacob Greenberg)
  • In the Philippines they hoop in flip-flops. The Trique Indians of Oaxaca don't even bother. A team of boys from the southwestern Mexico state won a youth basketball tournament in Argentina playing barefoot.
  • There are at least two teams in the league that run what they actually call, "a Maggette play," whereby a strong, agile slasher who can drill free throws will curl up from the corner, get the ball on the move and barrel towards the rim. Corey Maggette recently retired and Aaron McGuire used the opportunity at Gothic Ginobili to pay homage to the NBA Journeyman.
  • If the Philadelphia 76ers were a player, they'd be Brian Roberts.
  • And if every Los Angeles Clipper was a Ramones song, it would look like this.
  • Point guard battle in Sacramento: Isaiah Thomas vs. Greivis Vasquez. Who ya got?
  • I love a site that goes to the trouble of inserting the diaeresis above the 'O' in Ímer Asik's name. Forrest Walker of Red94 does Turkish right, and also ponders what kind of production the Rockets need from the 4 spot this season alongside Dwight Howard.

Roy Hibbert's Team USA chances bleak

October, 4, 2013
10/04/13
1:50
AM ET
Stein By Marc Stein
ESPN.com
Archive
The notion of Roy Hibbert securing permission from FIBA to represent the United States in international competition is no longer seen by interested observers as an outright impossibility.

Yet the consistent word in USA Basketball circles remains that Hibbert is a long shot to ultimately receive the needed clearance to make him eligible for the Team USA squad that will compete in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain or the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.

And here's why:

Turns out there is a little-known FIBA bylaw that allows for Hibbert, through USA Basketball, to apply for permission to play for Team USA after appearing in one game for Jamaica in 2010 ... despite the fact that it's been drilled into us all for years that players who represent one country at senior level internationally do so knowing they are essentially ineligible to switch allegiances and play for another country later.

The little-known rule states that a player who has represented one country after the age of 17 may "exceptionally request" that FIBA allow him to play for another country's national team if that national team is "of the player's country of origin" and if the request is deemed to be "in the interest of the development of basketball in that country."

However ...

While Hibbert satisfies half of those requirements, having been born a New Yorker, I'm told USAB's pessimism stems from the fact that it would be a gargantuan stretch to convince FIBA that adding the Indiana Pacers' All-Star center to Mike Krzyzewski's roster would have even a sliver of impact on the state of the game in this country.

(The inverse, incidentally, is true in the case of New York Knicks forward Amar'e Stoudemire, who has been wooed by the heavyweight likes of former Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres to join Israel's national team after Amar'e unexpectedly applied for Israeli citizenship over the summer and with his USA Basketball career clearly over. Stoudemire could undoubtedly satisfy the second of the above requirements, since he'd surely spark tons of fresh interest in basketball in Israel if he made that move, but there's no getting around the fact that Amar'e was born in Florida.)

As for Hibbert ...

The real shame here is that the Jamaican Basketball Association appears to now support Hibbert's hopes of swaying FIBA, which the Indy big man addressed this week in an interview with Pacers.com . In two late-July tweets, one Jamaican official said that his federation -- grateful Hibbert played for them in one major tournament at Centro Basket in 2010 -- has "always been willing to let Roy go" and "will never hinder his desires."

Yet it appears that Hibbert's only shot, in a process FIBA says must be initiated by USA Basketball, is convincing the sport's international governing body that the prospect of switching from Team Jamaica to Team USA would have some sort of far-reaching domestic impact beyond merely making Coach K's talent pool deeper. Hibbert told Pacers.com that "there has been some dialogue" and that "international lawyers" are working on his behalf, but the vibe still emanating from USAB -- as it was in July when Coach K had nearly 30 of Hibbert's peers convened in Las Vegas for a mini-camp -- continues to be pessimistic when it comes to ever seeing Hibbert in red, white and blue.

The solace for Krzyzewski and Team USA chief Jerry Colangelo is that, with or without Hibbert, they should have many more big men to choose from for the next two major events, after Tyson Chandler ranked as the only recognized center on Team USA's roster for the 2012 Olympics in London following the injury withdrawals of Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh.

In the Vegas mini-camp, Team USA had no less than seven invitees who could be classified as centers auditioning for the right to join a frontcourt rotation that we already know will feature Minnesota's Kevin Love. Anthony Davis (New Orleans), DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento), Derrick Favors (Utah), DeAndre Jordan (L.A. Clippers), Larry Sanders (Milwaukee) and the Detroit duo of Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe were all in attendance, along with big forwards Ryan Anderson (New Orleans) and Kenneth Faried (Denver).

Kyrie Irving's inspiring moves

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
2:54
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
Take a minute to enjoy this exchange Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving had while visiting South Africa with UNICEF:

First Cup: Tuesday

September, 17, 2013
9/17/13
5:06
AM ET
By Nick Borges
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News: James Worthy has one concern about Kobe Bryant, and it has nothing to do with whether he will recover from a torn left Achilles tendon. Worthy, who won three NBA titles with the Lakers during the Showtime Era and is an analyst for Time Warner Cable SportsNet, openly wondered if Bryant will adjust his aggressiveness out of health and personnel concerns. “One of the biggest challenges for Kobe this year is, can he step back?” Worthy said. “He’s been in the league for 17 years, has a lot of miles on the body and has had a lot of injuries. Can he find a game that will allow other guys to flourish?” Bryant has steadily progressed on his injured left Achilles tendon, but has yet to resume basketball-related activities.
  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: Kobe Bryant continues to move forward in his rehabilitation from a torn Achilles' tendon, though theLakers are unwilling to put an updated timetable on his exact return. "He's progressing well and has met all the targets and milestones of his rehab, and we expect him to make a full recovery," Lakers spokesman John Black told The Times on Monday. "One of the key issues is to make sure he builds up strength and endurance not only in his Achilles but also in his legs, knees, back and core." Bryant's initial timetable called for at least six to nine months of recovery after he was injured April 12 against Golden State. The more optimistic part would put him in play for two Lakers exhibition games in China next month, though Bryant is expected to miss the Lakers' entire eight-game preseason schedule that ends Oct. 25. The Lakers begin the regular season Oct. 29 against the Clippers. It is unknown if Bryant will be back in time. "We're going to avoid giving a target return date until he's doing full weight-bearing running and on-court basketball activities, at the earliest," Black said.
  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: Ten months from now, Anthony will probably opt out of his Knicks contract, sign a five-year deal for $129 million and happily resume his role as the basketball prince of Broadway. Anthony loves New York, and New York loves Anthony, playoff failures notwithstanding. He has every reason to stay: the money, the market, the chance to be the savior who ends the Knicks’ 40-year championship drought. It was only two and a half years ago that Anthony forced the Denver Nuggets to send him here. It seems unlikely he would leave so soon. But a lot can change in 10 months, and the specter of Anthony’s free agency will shadow the Knicks all season, just as the threat of his departure loomed over the Nuggets three years ago. … New York is still New York. But there is another city that can offer heady doses of fame, fortune and brand promotion, and it happens to be home to the N.B.A.’s most glamorous franchise. The Los Angeles Lakers will have millions in salary-cap room next summer, and a powerful recruiter in Kobe Bryant, one of Anthony’s closest friends. Per N.B.A. rules, the Lakers could offer Anthony only $96 million over four years. But they can offer something the Knicks cannot: a tradition of success, a knack for acquiring and building around superstars, and a habit of staging parades in June. Maybe Anthony isn’t going anywhere, as he asserted last week. But verbal commitments and loyalty are malleable concepts in professional sports. Nothing means anything until the contract is signed.
  • Fred Kerber of the New York Post: From Russia with … nothing shady. That was the finding of a “thorough” NBA investigation into the Nets’ summer signing of free agent forward Andrei Kirilenko, multiple league sources told The Post. The league, after getting complaints from at least one other team that suggested improper agreements, examined the signing and found nothing against the rules. Kirilenko, who made roughly $10 million in Minnesota last season, opted out of the final year of his Timberwolves’ deal and took the Nets’ $3.1 mini-midlevel exception. In doing so, he triggered a wave of anger and suspicion. Rivals owners and executives intimated under-the-table deals existed between Kirilenko and Russian countryman Mikhail Prokhorov, the Nets’ billionaire owner. At least one owner – possibly more – complained to the league. “When there is a formal complaint, the league will look into it,” said one league official who spoke in generalities and refused comment on the Kirilenko issue.
  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: The closest Goran Dragic gets to NBA help is Rasho Nesterovic serving as a mentor in the program. Beno Udrih is not playing. Dragic’s brother, Zoran, was a Houston summer-league player last year. Spain, second only to the U.S. in world basketball, threw Rubio, Sergio Rodriguez, Sergio Llull and Rudy Fernandez at Dragic in waves to wear him down. Slovenia won 78-69, with 18 points and seven rebounds from Dragic. “Every punch they threw at him, he had a counterpunch,” Chris Thomas said. “We’ve had stretches where he’s put the entire team on his back and carried us, especially offensively. “We look to him a lot for those bailout shots at the end of the shot clock or where we just have to get something going. We throw the ball to him and expect him to create. The ball just finds its way to him.” As Slovenia’s tempo increased in recent games, so did Dragic’s scoring. His temperament has been different, too. The cordial 27-year-old who once lacked confidence became surly in a pre-tournament exhibition when he was ejected for shoving a Turkish guard for some post-whistle contact. “I don’t know if it’s the pride of putting on a jersey with your home country on it or if he’s turning the corner as far as being that feisty, gritty, gutsy guy that I know he is now, but hopefully he’ll bring it back to Phoenix with him,” Thomas said.
  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: But Jose Calderon is willing to try. And while he joins the Mavericks as a B-lister who has been functional but not dynamic throughout his career, he’s a point guard in the same mold as Nash and Kidd – one who has the ability to lead the league in assists and who can make a shot when defenses disregard him. And he brings a wealth of knowledge, both at the NBA and international level, while also being still in his prime. He will turn 32 later this month. … What Calderon does best is take care of business – and the basketball. While he’s probably a little more conservative when he’s running the point than Nash or Kidd, Calderon had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.11 last season. Only Chris Paul at 4.26 had a better average and no other player in the league was better than Jason Kidd’s 3.28 assists per turnover. Calderon’s average last season was right on his career norm of 4.13 assists per turnover. … Anyway, it’s clear that there are numbers to support the Mavericks’ hope that Calderon will be the sort of stabilizing influence they want at the point. He’s almost always at the top of the league in assist-to-turnover ratio. Most importantly, he’s going to have to show that he can run a quality team that is adamant about getting back in the playoffs, something the Mavericks missed last season for the first time since 2000. It’s worth noting that Calderon has only one playoff start in his career and his teams have missed the postseason the last five years.
  • Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post: It is highly unlikely that center Greg Oden or forward Michael Beasley will be central to the cause, and moderately unlikely that either will play even a peripheral part. Still, there is intrigue in their additions, especially at the cost – a combined $1.9 million for the 2013-14 season, with only Oden’s deal even guaranteed. There is intrigue because of what they were (first team collegiate All-Americans) and what they were supposed to become (with Oden picked No. 1 overall in 2007 and Beasley chosen No. 2 overall in 2008). There is intrigue because of the way each has fallen short, the oft-injured Oden through much less fault of his own. The masses love a comeback story, and many will find their updates more interesting, especially in the preseason, than anything that James, Wade and Bosh do. There are many questions, none with entirely knowable answers. Still, if Riley can take a shot on these two guys, certainly we can take a shot at some predictions. What are the chances that both make the team? Good. In Oden’s case, it’s nearly a guarantee, unless he gets so frustrated with his rehabilitation that he calls it off himself. Miami is committed to the long game with him and, even if he doesn’t show early progress, he will get one of 15 spots. Beasley will be on the court from the start, barring complications from his legal issues, and his skills are sufficient to earn him a slot over someone like Jarvis Varnado.
  • J. Michael of CSN Washington: The Wizards made its off-season, front-office reshuffling official Monday with the key move being the promotion of Tommy Sheppard to senior vice president of basketball operations. Sheppard already was a vice president of operations along with Milt Newton, who recently left the Wizards to become general manager of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Newton was over personnel. … Sheppard's responsibilities have expanded to include salary cap management, draft preparation, college and pro talent evaluation, statistical analysis and recruitment of free agents and handling day-to-day basketball operations. The other promotions: Ed Tapscott to vice president of player programs; Pat Sullivan to assistant coach; Brett Greenberg to director of basketball analytics/salary cap management; Bryan Oringher to video coordinator; and Ryan Richman to assistant video coordinator. The latter two are in their first seasons with the organization.
  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: No one knows if the introduction would have eventually happened. But it was Mark Aguirre who introduced Mark Cuban to Ross Perot Jr., thus leading to the ownership change of the Dallas Mavericks. That meeting occurred in the latter half of 1999. By Jan. 4, 2000, Perot’s sale of the Mavericks to Cuban for $285 million was finalized. … What made Aguirre even think Cuban would be interested in purchasing the Mavericks? Before winning NBA titles with Detroit in 1989 and ’90, Aguirre was a three-time All-Star with the Mavericks from 1981 until being traded to the Pistons on Feb. 15, 1989. He had witnessed Cuban’s enthusiasm for the Mavericks since Cuban had season tickets near courtside at Reunion Arena and was always one to voice his opinion. “When somebody is that enthusiastic and you see them night in and night out, you can’t help but remember them,” said Aguirre. “So I knew him.” When asked about the importance of Aguirre’s introduction to him buying the Mavericks, Cuban said: “It was everything.”
  • Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: When the news broke that the Pelicans had signed a free-agent guard, it seemed as though it was the last position New Orleans needed to bolster. The Pelicans had acquired Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans earlier in the summer, to go along with a trio of returning guards in Eric Gordon, Austin Rivers and Brian Roberts. But Morrow's career statistics would indicate his long-range shooting accuracy would be a perfect backcourt complement to the frontcourt deep threat of Ryan Anderson, giving the Pelicans a potentially dynamic off-the-bench duo that could either stretch a lead or provide the firepower to play catch-up. Morrow, a career 45 percent shooter (.424 from beyond the 3-point line) has also played some small forward, an area in which the Pelicans can desperately use an offensive upgrade.
  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: Partly because of the intense interest – for obvious reasons – in the Kings' regular-season opener Oct. 30 against the Denver Nuggets at Sleep Train Arena, the team and KXTV Ch. 10 came up with a unique format for the 2013-14 tipoff: a commercial-free telecast. The opener is the first of 11 games Ch. 10 will telecast this season. Comcast SportsNet remains the Kings' primary broadcasting partner and will televise 70 games, with ESPN taking the remaining game – Nov. 15 against the Detroit Pistons at Sleep Train Arena. "Opening night is going to be such a celebration, a new chapter in the journey," Kings president Chris Granger said. "It's going to be a sellout, so we have been thinking about ways to include more people. This (commercial-free telecast) seemed like a way to do that, and fortunately, News10 was more than willing to partner with us."
  • Dan Nakaso of The Oakland Tribune: Even before the basketball season begins, the Golden State Warriors are winning -- off the court. The team already has sold more than 14,000 season tickets, a franchise record, and will set another franchise record with 17 appearances in nationally televised games. And in guard Stephen Curry, they have one of the league's most marketable stars, one who stokes the team's fervent fan base and gives the Warriors a great shot of winning on the court as well. "The Warriors may be young and up-and-coming, but they've already proven that they can perform in the playoffs," said Amy Brooks, a former Stanford guard who now serves as senior vice president for marketing and business operations for the NBA. "The Warriors have historically had a very loyal and passionate fan base. Their recent success has just driven this to a higher level."

TrueHoop TV: Rodman on Rodman

September, 16, 2013
9/16/13
2:05
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
What is Dennis Rodman up to these days?

"I've been doing nothing for the last 13 years, man, and having a blast doing it baby!"

This he says from the TV set where he was shooting, of all things, a Wonderful Pistachios "Get Crackin'" commercial.

The NBA Legend tells us about his remarkable life, saying that in fact "I don't get it either," why people still find him so fascinating.

 video

First Cup: Monday

September, 9, 2013
9/09/13
5:06
AM ET
By Nick Borges
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: There hasn’t been a single team in NBA history impacted in any significant way by their 15th man, and the 2013-14 Spurs won’t be the first. That much is clear from the collection of has-beens, are-nots and never-weres with whom they’ve been connected in recent weeks about possibly filling their final roster spot — Josh Childress, Mickael Pietrus, Sebastian Telfair, Sam Young, even the seemingly-retired Mike Bibby. Just because there has been apparent contact doesn’t mean anything will come of it. Witness the epic duel between Eddy Curry and Josh Powell during last year’s training camp, with the Spurs passing on both to maintain the roster flexibility that allowed them to take a flyer on Australian big man Aron Baynes. Even if the Spurs do look elsewhere, the names illustrate the few weak spots on a roster that was otherwise strong enough to push defending champion Miami to the absolute limit in last season’s Finals. They boil down to two clear roles: Reserve small forward, to scavenge for whatever crumbs Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green don’t hoard; and back-up point guard, a spot the Spurs have yet to secure despite having three already — Cory Joseph, Nando De Colo and Patty Mills.
  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: A league that only now appears to be getting serious about performance-enhancing drugs is about to make a move to statistics on steroids. The question is whether we are about to enter the era of too much information. With the NBA announcing Thursday that it has expanded its partnership to install SportVU Player Tracking technology in every NBA arena, the league not only will be able to track points, rebounds and assists, but also how the ball is moving, how players are moving, and, as the NBA announced, "a continuous stream of innovative statistics based around speed, distance, player separation, and ball possession for detailed and targeted analysis of players and teams." We could bemoan sports turning into math, but there also is an appreciation that simplicity will remain in place, as well. The ultimate truth will remain scoring more points than your opponent. In announcing the expansion to league-wide coverage with the fullcourt motion-capture technology, NBA Executive Vice President of Operations and Technology Steve Hellmuth said, "We are a league driven by data." And that's the rub. If any NBA executive truly views the game that way, then the game is becoming less of a game.
  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: Ryan McDonough had waited years for the opportunity to run his own team, build a roster, and determine the fate of an organization. The Phoenix Suns have allowed the former Celtics executive to do that, and then some. The Suns didn’t have a coach when McDonough was hired as general manager, and had a roster in need of demolition. In four short months, McDonough has completely restructured the team, dumping unwanted players such as troublesome Michael Beasley and dealing away veteran Luis Scola, who didn’t have a long-term role. Like his former employer, Danny Ainge, McDonough is working to replace old with young and stockpile draft picks and salary-cap space for future gain. The Suns are a lottery-bound team this season but there is renewed hope. “Walking in there, the main thing I wanted to do is upgrade the talent,” said McDonough, who moved or released five of the team’s top nine scorers from last season. “And do it in a fashion that was sustainable for the long term. I didn’t want to try to take any shortcuts or try any quick fixes.” With the moves McDonough executed, the Suns potentially have five first-round picks over the next two seasons in addition to the presence of budding point guard Eric Bledsoe (whom the Celtics wanted in any deal with the Clippers involving Kevin Garnett), rookie center Alex Len, and potential standout Archie Goodwin.
  • Leonard Greene of the New York Post: You might have thought from the sweat that poured through his crisp blue shirt Sunday that Bernard King had just stepped off the court after a grueling playoff game. But the perspiration that stained his collar was just testimony of how humbled King was by being inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Such humility is inspiring, particularly when it comes from someone so deserving. … “Bernard King is the only guy that ever scared the hell out of me,” Dominique Wilkins said. Behind the menacing smile was a player with a determination as strong as his post-up game. That was evident in every quick-release shot and punishing fast-break finish. But the highlights that best sum up King’s career have nothing to do with scoring. In the first, King is writhing in pain, pounding the floor after tearing his ACL on a defensive play. In the second, he’s strapped to a machine rehabbing the right knee as part of his improbable comeback. And, in the third, he is sitting next to Patrick Ewing at the NBA All Star Game hearing his name called on the public address system. The comeback was complete.
  • Curtis Harris for The Indianapolis Star: Roger Brown became a Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer on Sunday, with another Hall of Famer telling people what the former Indiana Pacers superstar in the old ABA meant to the franchise. “People say that I put the Indiana Pacers on the map,” Reggie Miller said. “No, it all started with Roger Brown.” Brown, who died in 1997, was presented by Miller and Hall of Famer Mel Daniels, a teammate of Brown’s. Brown’s daughter, Gayle Brown Mayes, called it “a really special day” but “bittersweet” because of her father’s absence. During the induction, Mayes was on the stage with Brown’s son, Roger Jr., plus Miller and Daniels. Brown Jr. spoke on behalf of the family in a video played at the induction. He thanked Miller and Daniels, saying, “There is nothing more bestowing than having two Pacers legends usher in a fellow Pacer legend through the doors of the Hall of Fame.”
  • Ben Standig of CSN Washington: Don't look now, but Jan Vesely may have found his confidence. So far in Eurobasket 2013, the Wizards' forward certainly has found his game. Plying for the Czech Republic along with Washington's 2012 second-round pick Tomas Satoransky, Vesely leads the entire tournament in rebounding (11.3) and is tied fourth in scoring (18.5). For some context regarding the talent on hand for the tournament in Slovenia, the scorer Vesely is tied with is San Antonio Spurs star and French guard Tony Parker. … What any of this means regarding the team's upcoming decision about Vesely's contract for the 2014-15 is intriguing. With Okafor and Trevor Ariza coming off the books, with Bradley Beal and Otto Porter on their rookie contracts, Washington should have solid cap space next summer. Picking up Vesely's $4.2 million option eats into some of the space. As the No. 6 overall pick in 2011, the Wizards certainly want Vesely to succeed. The franchise is also thinking playoffs which makes it harder for on-the-job training (it was even during last year's 29-win season). Even amid his NBA struggles, Vesely's flashed solid on-court instincts as a passer and as a high-riser in the open court. No player floundered more last season with John Wall sidelined. So far in Eurobasket, Vesely's performance is that of someone the team would love playing alongside the highly paid point guard.
  • Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: NBAers Cory Joseph, Andrew Nicholson and Tristan Thompson again led the way. Joseph had 19 points, Nicholson had 17 and Thompson had 10 rebounds to go with eight points. Canada’s outside shooting vanished again (16.7%) as a lack of scoring and depth again came back to bite a team that played solid defensively. “The biggest fear was that scoring was going to be an issue for us,” Triano admitted. “Everybody can say: ‘You have four NBA guys, but our four NBA guys average 25 points combined (in the NBA). It’s not like they’re going to double that or triple that when you play international games.” Though Canada Basketball will try to organize exhibition games next summer, barring an unlikely wild-card berth, the team won’t play its next meaningful contest until Aug. 1, 2015, when qualifying begins for the Rio Olympics. Triano isn’t expecting anybody to bail after this letdown in Venezuela. “We need to get these guys together and play as many games as possible,” he said. “I stay in touch with these guys all year all the time anyway and will now even moreseo because of the relationship we’ve all built over the last 40 days of being together. From the passion and the way these guys care, I don’t think there will ever be a recruiting period. These guys have bought in. They want to do this.” They just couldn’t. Yet.
  • Brendan Savage of MLive.com: Detroit Pistons forward Luigi Datome scored 19 points Sunday to help Italy remain unbeaten in the European Basketball Championship with an 81-72 victory over Greece. Datome, the reigning Italian League MVP who signed with the Pistons as a free agent, sank 8 of 16 shots – including three 3-pointers – and also grabbed four rebounds as Italy improved to 4-0. He made a pair of 3-pointers during a 19-6 run that broke the game open. "It's nice we beat Greece, but we know we haven't won anything yet," Datome said in a story on EuroBasket2013.org. "We just want to compete with other teams like until now." Italy is the only unbeaten team in the 24-team tournament.

First Cup: Friday

September, 6, 2013
9/06/13
5:16
AM ET
By Nick Borges
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Bob Wofley of the Journal Sentinel: Caron Butler’s introduction as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks Thursday at Racine Park High School was a press conference wrapped in a family reunion inside a high school pep rally. Butler, 33, warned those gathered in the fieldhouse where he played for a year that there might be some water works to go with his words. He made good on his prediction. “I’m a little emotional definitely,” Butler said. “Y’all see me crying at press conferences and at other things all the time – draft night – but it’s a different emotion now because this is a dream come true. This is something that I always dreamed about, thought about. I never thought it would happen. So it’s special. Thank you.” The enthusiastic audience of Park high school students and staff in attendance applauded Butler’s heartfelt comments, like this one, when some words quivered and he teared up. Butler was joined at the press table by coach Larry Drew and general manager John Hammond. Bucks owner Herb Kohl also was in attendance. Hammond said he had Butler penciled in as the Bucks’ starting small forward.
  • Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: Gar Forman isn’t into playing -favorites. Sure, the Bulls’ general manager is eager to see what Derrick Rose 2.0 looks like when the MVP point guard takes the court in full five-on-five scrimmages in less than a month, but it’s about the big picture for Forman on what could be a make-or-break season for his current roster. … As Boozer also knows that this group has a shelf life that is on the brink of running out. Deng is a free agent after this season, while Boozer is a prime candidate to be amnestied. It’s basically now or never for the core in the 2013-14 season. But it will all start with Rose. Like he promised at the end of the season, he doesn’t play pick-up games in the summer, and that didn’t change this offseason. So Rose’s first real test will be Oct. 5, in a preseason game in Indiana. “He hasn’t been playing in games [this summer], but that’s not unusual for a lot of players,’’ Forman said. “He’s done his work and has put the time in on making himself better.’’ Now it’s about seeing what Rose will look like post-knee rehab. Less than a month away and counting.
  • Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: It perhaps took some time, but Stephen Curry seems comfortable in his role as the man. He's long since been anointed by Warriors management. And his playoff performances pushed him up a tier on the star hierarchy. But now his teammates, the youngsters and the newcomers, are looking to him for guidance. His coaches are expecting him to be a vocal leader. The fan base is banking on him carrying the franchise to heights it hasn't sniffed in decades. And the fifth-year guard seems to be embracing it all matter-of-factly. "I'm 25. Still young. But I know the drill. I know the expectations," Curry said in a chat with local media after working out at the team facility Thursday. "For me to have the same coaching staff, the same leadership, for three straight years is big. ... We have the stability for us to make that move (to another level), and I hope to lead that charge." Certainly, Curry's not alone in leading the locker room. David Lee and center Andrew Bogut share the leadership load, and Andre Iguodala figures to eventually emerge as a leader. But not even Curry's reputed humility can help him escape the pedestal on which he is now perched.
  • Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN.com: Even after spending $117 million in free agency in July and August, Minnesota Timberwolves president of operations Flip Saunders will have another sizable monetary decision to make. Before his third year begins -- Oct. 31 is the deadline -- the Wolves need to figure out if they will pay forward Derrick Williams $6.3 million for the 2014-15 season. In a phone conversation earlier this week spanning a few topics, Wolves owner Glen Taylor acknowledged the team isn't quite sure what to do. "We'll evaluate his summer program, and how he looks coming into camp (which starts Oct. 1)," Taylor said. "I heard he is looking good." Exercising Williams' fourth-year option is potentially enough to carry the Wolves over the luxury tax and not allow them to sign a free agent for the mid-level exception, according to Grantland.com's Zach Lowe. Williams is working out in Los Angeles with trainer Gunnar Peterson, who said recently via email that Williams is stronger and more balanced than a year ago.
  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: The league on Thursday announced plans to install sophisticated tracking cameras, known as the SportVu system, in every arena for the coming season, creating an unprecedented treasure trove of data about virtually every wrinkle of the game. SportVu, developed by Stats LLC, records data points for all 10 players, the three referees and the ball, every 30th of a second, measuring speed, distance, player separation and ball possession. Every step, every dribble, every pass, every shot, every rebound — really, every movement — will be recorded, coded and categorized. … The N.B.A. is the first major professional sports league in the United States to fully adopt the SportVu system. It will have other implications for the league, far beyond the playbook and the box score. Not everyone might welcome the change. General managers will surely exploit the more sophisticated statistics when negotiating contracts with player agents. Not all assists, points and rebounds are created equal — and teams will soon be able to demonstrate that vividly. Referees are also tracked by SportVu, which means the league will have yet another tool to analyze every call, non-call and missed call as it ranks its officials. Those rankings help determine which referees are chosen for playoff assignments and the finals.
  • Steve Serby of the New York Post: Former Knick Bernard King took a timeout for some Q&A with Steve Serby before King’s Basketball Hall of Fame induction this weekend. Q: What are you most proud of? A: I’m most proud of the fact my wife and I raised a wonderful daughter. That’s what life is all about. In terms of basketball legacy, we could always point to back-to-back 50-point games, the 42 I averaged in the Piston playoff series, or the great year in ’84-85, or the 60 points (Christmas Eve against Nets). What stands out in my mind was what I was able to do at a time when players were not coming back from ACL injuries. I had my entire knee reconstructed. I was told I would never play again. I told myself, “I’m from Brooklyn. I’m from Fort Greene. I grew up on the toughest playgrounds in the world. In one of the toughest neighborhoods in the country, and I made it all the way to the NBA, and I rose to the top of my profession at that time. You don’t know my heart. If I could do that, this is nothing!” I set about the task of working to make it back at a level I could be satisfied with. I did that. To do that for five hours a day, six days a week for two straight years, and not once wavering, always having faith. … I did it. I became an All-Star again, and that was my goal.
  • Staff of The Sacramento Bee: Chris Mullin, 50, a former front-office executive with the Golden State Warriors, will have a variety of basketball operations responsibilities, including advising Ranadive and general manager Pete D'Alessandro on player transactions and scouting. "I couldn't be more excited about joining the Kings and playing a part in making this team a winner again," Mullin said in a statement released by the Kings on Thursday. "I'm especially grateful for the unique opportunity to work in close proximity with a world-class ownership group led by Vivek Ranadive and the talented group of individuals assembled in our front office."
  • Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News: In a move that could bolster their perimeter defense and add competition in training camp, the Lakers signed free-agent guard Xavier Henry on Thursday to give them 14 players on the roster. Terms of the deal weren’t immediately available. But considering the Lakers’ desire to keep cap flexibility for the 2014 offseason, it’s likely Henry’s contract consists of a one-year deal at the veteran’s minimum. It’s also unclear if his contract is guaranteed. The Lakers recently added small forward Shawne Williams and Elias Harris to partially guaranteed deals. The Lakers are expected to sign second-round draft pick Ryan Kelly, though he’s still rehabbing from foot surgery in April. NBA teams can field a maximum of 15 players on their roster. … The Lakers plan to have anywhere between 18-20 players to fill out their training camp roster, including Marcus Landry, who led the Lakers’ Summer League team in scoring. It’s likely Henry, Kelly, Williams, Landry and Harris will compete for roster spots since the Lakers will keep anywhere between 13-15 players.
  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: Two NBA sources have confirmed that Steve Hetzel, former Cavaliers video coordinator, will be hired to coach the Cavs' owned-and-operated NBA Development League team, the Canton Charge. The hire was first reported by the News-Herald. Hetzel, a 2005 graduate of Michigan State where he served as a student manager for the men's basketball team, was named the Cavs' video coordinator in July, 2006. He stayed until 2009, when he left to join former Cavs assistant John Kuester's staff with the Detroit Pistons. After Kuester was fired, Hetzel remained with Lawrence Frank for two seasons. Hetzel replaces D-League coach of the year Alex Jensen, who left the Charge to join Tyrone Corbin's staff in Utah.
  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: France atoned for its opening loss to Germany, riding five double-figure scorers to a resounding 88-65 victory over lowly Great Britain on the second day of play at EuroBasket 2013. Nicolas Batum led all scorers with 17 points and Tony Parker added 16 at Les Bleus improved to 1-1 in Group A. The game, as expected, was never close. France led by double-figures after one quarter, and put Great Britain away for good with a 26-11 outburst in the third quarter. France, which also got 11 points from Nando De Colo and four from Boris Diaw, will play group bottom-dweller Israel on Friday. Also at EuroBasket, Italy improved to 2-0 in Group D with a 90-75 spanking of Turkey. Spurs reserve Marco Belinelli had 17 points for the Italians, who will Finland on Saturday. Across the Atlantic at the FIBA Americas championship, Canada destroyed Mexico 89-67 behind another strong performance from Cory Joseph. The young point guard registered 21 points, eight rebounds and six assists — his fourth game of the tournament with at least 17 points, eight boards and four assists.

First Cup: Thursday

September, 5, 2013
9/05/13
5:06
AM ET
By Nick Borges
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Robert MacLeod of The Globe and Mail: Masai Ujiri’s priority is to inject life into the terminally ill Toronto Raptors, but his basketball roots will forever run deep in his native Africa. Ujiri, hired in May to be the Raptors’ new general manager, recently returned from Johannesburg, South Africa, where he led a handful of NBA stars, past and present, on a four-day pilgrimage designed to try and grow the game on the vast continent. It was the 12th annual Basketball Without Borders mission into Africa. The NBA’s global development and community outreach program’s aim is to unite young basketball players, promote the sport and encourage positive social change in the areas of education, health and wellness. The NBA has run the program, in collaboration with the sport’s global governing body, FIBA, since 2001, and this summer, similar camps were also staged in Argentina and Portugal. Ujiri, 43, was born in Nigeria, and he overcame incredible odds to become the first African-raised GM of a major North American professional sports team. … “Coming here to Toronto, I want to win, I want to build and grow,” the GM said Wednesday, during an interview in his sunlight-flooded corner office that overlooks Union Station in downtown Toronto. “I also think I’ve been put in this position to give back to the kids of Africa. It is a 100-per-cent obligation for me.”
  • Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman: The students are given a break in November and December, allowed to visit any remaining family or friends across the country. That's when Luke, apparently, was first introduced to his new favorite player. He heard Westbrook's name on the radio, saw a few highlights and decided he liked the Thunder. “It was definitely not something, coming to Rwanda, that I thought I'd have in common with an 18-year-old boy,” Dewey said. “But it just shows that the Thunder is huge. I live in the middle of nowhere. It's crazy that the Thunder is reaching these tiny, tiny areas in the heart of Africa.” The two developed a bond over the next few months, grown through teaching but sparked by that initial basketball connection. So when Betsy's father, Lyle, was coming to visit her in late July, they had an idea. Lyle wanted to bring gifts for the students, and what would they enjoy more than Thunder gear? Through word-of-mouth and Facebook, Lyle, an executive assistant at Bailey Oil in OKC, gathered donations at his work. In all, he packed more than 60 Thunder shirts, to go along with banners, an official team basketball and other memorabilia. Soccer is easily the country's most popular sport, but basketball has recently gained a little steam.
  • Justin Giles of the Deseret News: NBA teams have big decisions to make when it comes to their young guys. Because of the collective bargaining agreement and luxury tax implications, teams must weigh the choices before deciding on player options and if players are worth long-term contracts or not. The Utah Jazz have made their decisions, as they will exercise the options on both Alec Burks and Enes Kanter. Does Kanter deserve it? According to Grantland writer Zach Lowe , “Kanter hasn't done quite enough to justify a monster $5.7 million fourth-year option, but that's due to playing time issues; Kanter didn't play in college, and he's been No. 4 in Utah's big-man pecking order. He barely cracked 1,000 minutes last season, much fewer than we'd expect from a No. 3 selection working as a full-time rotation player on a .500 team.” Burks is an interesting combo player who can play both the point guard position as well as shooting guard. With a little more experience, Burks could prove to be a steal when he was picked 12th by the Jazz in the 2011 NBA draft.
  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: Given that green traditionally means go, it's great news for Cavaliers fans when new center Andrew Bynum says his rehabilitation has "all been green.'' In an exclusive interview with The Plain Dealer, his first since the press conference announcing his signing on July 19, Bynum said he's on schedule to return this season and there have been no setbacks since he started working out at the Cleveland Clinic Courts in late July. "I moved here a week after the press conference, I've been here ever since -- day in and day out just working,'' he said, referring to the team's practice facility. "I'm there, focused. I'm doing everything I can do to get back. That's what all this is all about for me right now. I just want to play." … While the team thinks it would be great if he was ready for the start of training camp on Oct. 1, if he doesn't hit that exact date, it doesn't mean he's behind schedule. "It's a fluid process,'' Bynum said.
  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: Healed, cleared, delivered: Channing Frye is yours, Phoenix Suns. After a year away from basketball due to an enlarged heart, the Suns’ deep-shooting big man said he is healthy and was cleared for all activity by doctors at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He began working out and returned with his family to Phoenix. All he awaits now is word from the Suns that their doctors concur. “They told me, ‘No human being is 100 percent healthy. The highest we give is a 98 percent. You are a 98 percent,’ ” Frye said. “They said, ‘We see this all the time.’ I don’t have any fear. I’m not scared to push myself and run and play and get my heart rate up. I’m just waiting on the paperwork. I’m healthy. It’s out of my hands. It’s up to the Suns and what they feel comfortable doing.” … Frye said a virus caused his heart’s enlargement, which shut him down before the Suns went to training camp last year. He said the condensed lockout season of 2012, stress, lack of sleep, coffee and energy drinks were contributors. Even if Frye is cleared, he likely will not be in playing shape when the Suns open their season Oct. 30. He is just beginning to do the off-season work that he normally would have done in May and June because he was restricted to golf, yoga and set-shooting for most of the past year.
  • Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: David Lee got up from his seat, swiveled and lifted just enough of his practice jersey to reveal a newly sculpted six pack of abs. With those moves, the Warriors' power forward affirmed the points he had been trying to make during a just-concluded 15-minute interview: Even after offseason surgery, he said he is in the best shape of his life, and while his team is finally receiving some lofty preseason praise, he isn't resting on those predictions. "We could finish last in the West or we could finish first, but I think we have the ability to be a championship-caliber team," Lee said Wednesday, a day after most of the Warriors reported to voluntary workouts at the team's downtown Oakland facility. "We still have a long way to go, but if you look at where we were three years ago ... and where we are right now, it's very exciting. It comes with a level of responsibility, because now we're going to have a target on our back - rather than being a team that everyone underestimates."
  • Tim Bontemps of the New York Post: Lance Stephenson is impressed with the moves the Nets and Knicks have made this summer, but said he still thinks his Pacers are the team best-suited to challenge the Heat in the East. “I think we’re good,” Stephenson said at a back to school event in Brooklyn Wednesday. “When I’m on the court, and I know when my teammates are on the court, we think we’re better than anybody. “I think we’ve got a good chance to be the number one team [in the East]. We just have to work hard, put it together and do what we need to do to make our team better this year.” After spending his first two years mostly riding the bench for the Pacers, last season Stephenson became one of the NBA’s breakout players. With All-Star Danny Granger spending virtually the whole season on the shelf with knee injuries, Stephenson started 72 games during the regular season and all 19 of Indiana’s playoff games, helping the Pacers push the Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals.
  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: For a team that has had little success the past five seasons, the Washington Wizards have been an unlikely source for teams looking for front office talent. Mike Wilson, the Wizards’ head of college scouting for the past nine seasons, is the latest to join the exodus from Washington after accepting a player personnel position with the Dallas Mavericks. Already this offseason, Pat Connelly left his position as director of player personnel to become assistant general manager of the Phoenix Suns and former vice president of player personnel Milt Newton was hired as general manager of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Former assistant coach Jerry Sichting also left to become the lead assistant with the Suns and assistant athletic trainer Koichi Soto is expected to join the Timberwolves head strength and conditioning coach. Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld and Coach Randy Wittman and their respective staffs are all in the final year of their contracts, but all of the departing individuals have received significant promotions to go elsewhere.
  • Michael Kaskey-Blomain of The Philadelphia Inquirer: It is rare at 25 years old to be considered an elder statesman of anything. Many 25 year olds are just finding their way in the working world, let alone being looked to for leadership. But with six professional seasons under his belt and a roster comprised of fresh faces, that is exactly the position Thaddeus Young finds himself in heading into this season with the Sixers. With much of the Sixers’ roster comprised of rookies and other fringe free agents, Young stands as the team’s longest-tenured and most experienced player. He has seen a handful of coaching changes since the Sixers selected him in the first round of the 2007 draft, as Brett Brown will serve as his fifth head coach in seven seasons. Young has also played under Mo Cheeks, Tony DiLeo, Eddie Jordan and Doug Collins. His role has consistently changed under each coach as well, as he has been both a starter and a reserve, and spent ample time at both forward spots.
  • Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca: Nearly halfway home, but not even close to being done. That sums up the status of the Canadian men’s national team as they take a brief pause at the FIBA Americas tournament in Caracas, Venezuela. The event has reached the second of three distinct stages. With their blowout win over Uruguay late Tuesday night in a game delayed nine hours due to a power outage, Canada concluded group play with a 3-1 record and advanced from Group A in second place. They now have four games against the top four teams from Group B, beginning with their game at 2 p.m. EDT Thursday against Mexico, followed by contests against host Venezuela, Argentina and Dominican Republic. … After the first four games of the Steve Nash era, these are some of the things we’ve learned about them: 1. Canada has a point guard; 2. Canada has a big man tandem to be reckoned with; 3. Canada is deep; 4. The wing position remains a challenge; 5. The team is becoming a team.
  • Zak Keefer of The Indianapolis Star: You hear the joy in her rising voice, you see the pain in her tears, you feel the triumph as she clenches her 84-year-old palms together. Arlena Smith is going back. She’s talking about Roger. Sometimes it hurts, hurts her now because it hurt him then. The day he showed up on her doorstop, exiled from the game he cherished, broke with nowhere to turn. The phone calls she’d get from him, crying, tired of the story that wouldn’t die and the questions that wouldn’t stop. Sometimes, though, it’s pure bliss. Before he became the backbone of the ABA’s Indiana Pacers, Roger Brown became her adopted son, a member of the family. Their good-natured barbs during his AAU games in Dayton. She’d call him “gramps” from her spot on the scorer’s table – “Cuz he moved so slow!” After his team won, he’d walk over to her and ask, “So, how’d I do?” with his cocky grin, knowing full well he was the best player on the court. She watched him blossom into a star, one of the best the ABA ever saw. Sunday, after 17 years of waiting, he enters the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

First Cup: Wednesday

September, 4, 2013
9/04/13
5:06
AM ET
By Nick Borges
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: In mid-May, Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby and newly hired General Manager Ryan McDonough met with Michael Beasley to lay out expectations for the summer. Beasley could not last three months before he let the Suns down again. His on-court regression might have been enough to cut ties but an early August arrest for marijuana possession in his car was intolerable. Faced with owing him $9 million of guaranteed contract, the Suns escaped the failed Beasley experiment with a buyout Tuesday that emphasizes a character standard which was overlooked last year and saves the club $2 million in salary and even more in cap hits for the next two years. Babby negotiated to reduce Beasley’s salary for this season from $6 milliion to $4.67 million and next season’s guaranteed $3 million of a $6 million salary to $2.33 million. Using the waive-and-spread provision of the collective bargaining agreement, the Suns will spread that $2.33 million in payment and cap hits over the years to $778,000 annually. The buyout, along with the ability to spread next year’s salary, creates $1.4 million in cap space this year (now about $6.7 million of total space) and $2.2 million more of cap space next year.
  • Bob Young of The Arizona Republic: So long Michael Beasley, at least until your next court appearance. The Suns got it right Tuesday, announcing that they have waived Beasley after negotiating a buyout of what remains on his contract. Heck, they even managed to save themselves a couple of million and gave themselves some salary cap relief. But even if it had cost them every penny of the $9 million in guaranteed money they still owed Beasley, it would have been worth it to get rid of him. The Suns had to clean up the mess made by former general manager Lance Blanks, with approval of team president Lon Babby and owner Robert Sarver, after Beasley was arrested in Scottsdale for possession and where he still has a sexual assault investigation hanging over him. The Suns, after a disastrous couple of seasons, finally have begun to rebuild goodwill with their constituents. The last thing they needed on a roster full of young players and with a new head coach is a guy like Beasley.
  • Adam Green ArizonaSports.com: The Suns threw down their bet, and the dice came up snake eyes. They lost, plain and simple, and now they will look to move on from one of the worst mistakes the franchise has ever made. Yet, it was the right move to take a chance last summer, just as it is the right call to end the relationship now, even though it will cost the team $7 million over the next few years to not have him around. Signing Beasley gave the Suns a shot at landing a star player at a time when, quite frankly, they had little ability to do so. Years of choosing mediocrity over bottoming out led to middling first-round draft picks, and refusing to part with aging veterans while they could have brought back more in return left them with little in the way of young talent to build around. Sure, the Suns had cap space, but they were not going to lure a big-time star to the desert last summer and were still a season away from landing the first top-five pick since 1987. They were in position to take a flyer on a player who, remember, was just a few seasons removed from being the second-overall pick in the NBA Draft. Had Beasley been able to turn his life around, the Suns very well could have landed an All-Star-caliber player at a time when they badly needed one. Of course, Beasley was unable to change, and now his once-promising career is on the ropes.
  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: America is addicted to sports, bringing with it the obsessive need to dissect even the most insignificant morsels of these silly games that command so much of our attention. (Of which this post, and web site, are but a tiny piece.) Those who exist under that white-hot glare experience the full spectrum of human judgments, not least of which is blame. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich experienced this during the Finals as he rarely, if ever, has during his Hall-of-Fame career. The details are permanently etched in Spurs lore: Spurs up five, less than half a minute remaining in Game 6, Popovich sits defensive anchor Tim Duncan for not one but two crucial possessions. Miami grabs an offensive rebound, and hits 3-pointers, on both to force overtime. The Heat win the game, and then the series two days later. A Google search for “Game 6 Gregg Popovich’s fault” on Tuesday got 408,000 results. The general consensus among the critics: How could you possibly take Duncan, one of the best rebounders and defenders in the game, off the court for such a critical possession? Then, after that didn’t work, how could you possibly do it again? Or as one poster at Pounding the Rock put it, Popovich overthought it so much that he underthought it. This line of thinking ignores two critical factors: 1. The Spurs had tremendous success subbing Duncan out for more mobile defenders on late defensive stands — typically Boris Diaw — throughout the season. 2. The odds of everything breaking the way it did down the stretch were so minute that the biggest factor, by a gigantic margin, was dumb luck.
  • Greg Cote of The Miami Herald: Heat star LeBron James is executive producer of a planned new hour-half sitcom on Starz tentatively led Survivor's Remorse. Set in north Philadelphia, it's about two men from the streets who achieve fame, one in the NBA, the other not, and how they deal with family, friends and changing attitudes about them. LeBron will not star in the show but clearly the premise is autobiographical. "I think the main thing for me is, making it out of a place where you're not supposed to. You're supposed to be a statistic and end up like the rest of the people in the inner city," James said. "When you make it out, everyone expects ... they automatically think that they made it out and it's very tough for a young African-American 18-year-old kid to now hold the responsibility of a whole city, of a whole community. I can relate to that."
  • Page Six of the New York Post: Jay Z is selling his minority ownership in the Brookyn Nets to coach Jason Kidd, sources exclusively tell Page Six. We’re told Kidd will take over Jay’s .067 percent (1/15th of a percent) stake in the team for about $500,000. The move comes as Jay was forced to sell his Nets shares over a conflict of interest after he started a sports agency, Roc Nation, signing clients including Yankee Robinson Cano and Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant. A source told us, “Other owners want to give Jason a part ownership of the team, and urged Jay to sell his shares to him.”
  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: Rookie Ben McLemore must be a little prescient. A short while ago on Twitter, he alerted Kings fans that he was changing his jersey from No.16 to No.17 "for a good reason." Like the fact the organization plans to retire Peja Stojakovic's No.16 jersey in the near future? No confirmation yet - and nothing is imminent - but that's very likely the plan. Meantime, McLemore will stick with No.16 at least for the upcoming season. "We have considered retiring Peja's number," said team president Chris Granger, "and he certainly deserves that honor. (But) at this time, that's all I will say."
  • Ben Standig of CSN Washington: In a world in which the Wizards don't draft Otto Porter, Glen Rice Jr. or any wing player but instead selected an interior option (thus eliminating the need for Al Harrington), Rip Hamilton could have filled the veteran-scorer-off-the-bench-that-backs-up-Bradley Beal role. One issue with Hamilton is that his game has always required him running off constant picks to get open. When he was arguably the NBA's top mid-range shooter, cool, but that's far too big of a scheme tweak to make for a limited role player even if he can still score.
  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: Player development is the name of the game for the youthful Cavaliers. A league source said Steve Hetzel has accepted the job as head coach of the Canton Charge of the National Basketball Development League. He will replace former Charge coach Alex Jensen, who left after two seasons to become a developmental coach on Tyrone Corbin's staff with the Jazz. The Cavs are still reportedly working on contract details. They've put a strong emphasis on player development on the Cavs with so many young, emerging players. They have eight players on their roster 25 or younger, including rookies Anthony Bennett, Sergey Karasev and Carrick Felix. Phil Handy and Vitaly Potapenko make up the development staff on Mike Brown's staff. However, that's also Hetzel's strong suit.
  • Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com: Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau has promoted assistant coach Adrian Griffin to lead assistant, a league source conveyed to CSNNW.com. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity because an announcement on the promotion has yet to be made. Griffin's advancement comes a little over two months since Chicago elected not to retain longtime lead assistant Ron Adams in late June. Adams has since joined the Boston Celtics' coaching staff.
  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: As much as their constellation of NBA stars, France’s EuroBasket reputation is one of heartbreak and disappointment. Blowing a fourth-quarter lead against Greece in the 2005 semifinals. Doing the same thing against Russia in 2007. Destroyed by Spain in the 2009 quarterfinals. Rolled again by the Spanish in the 2011 finals. Including those defeats, France has never won the European title in 37 appearances dating back to 1935. Despite that history, and the absence of Bulls center Joakim Noah, Les Bleus enter this year’s tournament, which starts today in Slovenia, as one of the favorites to challenge arch-rival Spain. British gambling house Ladbrokes puts France’s odds at 7-2, the same as Greece and only slightly worse than Spain at 2-1. Much like his team back stateside in San Antonio, the French go largely as Spurs All-Star Tony Parker goes. The veteran point guard has endured a pair of scares with minor knee injuries, but he’s shaken them off to enjoy a solid exhibition run-up that included yet another loss to Spain. He’s joined by fellow Spurs Boris Diaw and Nando De Colo, which are pretty much the only three reasons the vast majority of Spurs fans will pay much, if any, attention to Europe’s biennial championship. (Unless, of course, you’re dying to get an early look at Marco Belinelli with Italy.)
  • Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: Canada hasn’t been rolling like this since Steve Nash was a young pup. The senior men’s hoops squad picked up its third win in four games at the FIBA Americas tournament Tuesday with a blowout 93-67 win over Uruguay. Canada clinched second place in its pool at 3-1 (though one win will not be carried forward because it came against a team that has been eliminated) with its second convincing win in four contests and heads forward in great shape. Four of the eight remaining teams will be knocked out, while the other four will advance both to the semi-finals and to next year’s FIBA World Cup in Spain. The game was a challenge for both teams, since it was supposed to start eight hours earlier. However, the lights went out in Venezuela, forcing the long delay. … Canada will open the knockout round against Mexico, also 2-1, faces host Venezuela a day later, the Dominican Republic Friday and Argentina on Saturday to close the grueling stretch.
  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: As a kid, C.J. Miles was not allowed to listen to rap music. His father, Calvin Andre Miles Sr., is a preacher (C.J. stands for Calvin Jr.) and the only music he allowed in the house was gospel, Al Green, and Michael Jackson. So what does he think about his son releasing a collection of his own rap songs on Twitter? "My dad was actually the person that encouraged me to do it,'' Miles said in a telephone interview ahead of the release. "He always told me since I was a kid that he felt like it was a big thing that I was drawn to. He always encouraged me to do it. He'll call me some days and say, 'Hey, boy, are you still rapping?''' The answer to that question is an emphatic yes. But Miles wants to make it clear that his music does not detract from his basketball. "My first love is still basketball,'' said the Cavs 26-year-old swingman, who averaged 11.2 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 65 games last season, his first in Cleveland. "That's still what I'm the most passionate about, what I spend the most time on. When I have free time, I have these other outlets and interests.'' Miles has been involved with music his whole life. He and his parents, three siblings and even his grandmother all sang in the church choir. The first instrument Miles learned to play was the drums, which drove his parents nuts until the drum set mysteriously was ''lost'' in a move. "I figured it out when I was older,'' Miles said, laughing.

First Cup: Tuesday

September, 3, 2013
9/03/13
4:57
AM ET
By Nick Borges
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: The best thing that Ryan McDonough inherited with the Suns’ general-manager job was a low bar set by his predecessor and a chance with some flexibility out of his starting block. Previous GM Lance Blanks dropped that bar too low for even a limbo, but he and Lon Babby, the president of basketball operations, also took on a different kind of mess than the last-place team McDonough absorbed. It was about this time two years ago when Blanks showed up for work, raising eyebrows by arriving three weeks after accepting his first GM job. It might be hard to blame him, considering any muscle a GM would like to flex was eliminated when the Suns, in the July between Steve Kerr’s departure and Blanks’ arrival, took on about $82 million of contracts for Hedo Turkoglu, Hakim Warrick and Josh Childress (they are still paying him $14.5 million over the next two seasons). McDonough has created some optimism with the drafting of Alex Len and Archie Goodwin and acquisition of Eric Bledsoe, but where will his moves stand in two years? There were 24 players acquired by the Suns for regular-season play during Blanks’ 20 months on the job, one in which he certainly did not act alone. One-third of them remain Suns.
  • Staff of The Dallas Morning News: What the Dallas Mavericks will do in future offseasons remains a mystery especially with Mark Cuban running the show. While the Mavericks appear to be building for the future at point guard with Shane Larkin, a reunion with J.J. Barea is not out of the question. Dallas did show some interest this offseason, and Barea said he wouldn’t mind returning in the near future. "It's a great relationship with Mark Cuban. If they want to bring me back to Dallas, I am very [good] with it," he told ESPN.com. "But I'm happy in Minnesota. They're the ones that wanted me there, the ones that signed me for four years, so until they decide to trade me, I'm going to give them all my effort in the games." Barea spent the first five years of his career in Dallas and was a fan favorite during the Mavericks’ title run in 2011. After that season, Barea became a declined a 1-year contract offer and became a free agent. Last year, Barea averaged 11.3 points and 4.0 assists per game for Minnesota.
  • Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times: Lamar Odom will be 34 in November. Yet Vinny Del Negro, whose contract wasn't renewed after last season and who probably will be doing television commentary this season, disagrees with the "senior executive of an NBA team." "Lamar can still play," he said. "It's not the basketball skills that are the problem. Once he gets himself in shape and gets his mind wrapped around basketball, he can help somebody." Del Negro said he hates how quickly people will "knock a guy when he is down." He said he hates all the hearsay — "none of us really knows exactly what is going on" — and said of the executive, "If the guy is that powerful, he should have the guts to use his name." We see it all in athletes these days. Overpaid clowns who run their mouths while missing a brain; con artists who work overtime on their public image and very little on their games; sulking jocks with little to offer outside the lines and an expectation of canonization. Odom is none of these. Messed up? Sure. Someone who might have addiction issues? Obviously. Deserving of punishment if it is proved he put others in danger by driving under the influence? Certainly. But dismissed quickly by all of us, especially many in the NBA? Given no chance of recovery and return? Scorned by a public that recently rooted for and adored him? Not now. Not yet.
  • Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: Another victory to close the opening round-robin portion of the FIBA Americas would ensure Canada enters the next phase 2-1 and would enhance the odds of advancing further. Victories against teams previously eliminated do not carry forward. The squad has been able to come together and play well quicker than most anticipated. That’s largely been because of how good Pickering’s Cory Joseph has been. While manning the point, Joseph has been treating opponents like his adversaries in the NBA Development League, where he was a standout months ago. He’s been stuffing the stat sheet, racking up points and assists, even leading Canada in rebounding against Brazil. Joseph looks like a veteran on the court. Reaching the NBA Final and being developed by the league’s best organization, San Antonio, has been huge for the former first-round pick. And he’s playing like a star. Practising every day against MVP candidate Tony Parker surely has something to do with that, as well. Even though he’s the youngest player on the team, Joseph is used to making an impact alongside older teammates. He did it at Pickering Collegiate as a varsity starter alongside players like his brother Devoe, now a teammate again with Canada and he’s done it with the Spurs. Joseph heads into Tuesday in the top 10 in tournament scoring (fifth), rebounding (ninth) and steals (sixth) and leads in assists even though he has also played off of the ball.
  • Staff of the Detroit Free Press: Pistons forwards Jonas Jerebko and Luigi Datome will play for their respective EuroBasket13 teams this week in Slovenia. Datome and Italy open with Russia on Wednesday. Jerebko and Sweden play Greece the same day. Pistons president Joe Dumars and assistant general manager George David were scheduled to leave for Slovenia on Monday to watch both in the tourney, according to pistons.com. The tournament runs Wednesday-Sept. 22, with five games for each team in six days in the qualifying round of the 24-team field. The top-three teams in each of the four groups move on to the second round. Italy, Sweden, Finland, Greece, Russia and Turkey are in Group D. Italy and Sweden play Monday in the final game of group play.
  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Q: With the Grizzlies waiving Fab Melo, should the Heat consider giving him a chance to earn a roster spot? I read reports last year that he would have been Miami's pick in the draft had he not been selected by the Celtics. -- Rudy, Miami. A: If most-recent impressions factor in, then I would consider it a longshot, based on how the former Sagemont standout looked in front of the Heat staff at the Orlando summer league while playing for the Celtics. The Syracuse product remains a raw presence likely destined for more time in the D-League. If the Heat are able to offload Joel Anthony's contract, then it might be possible Melo could be brought in to compete with Jarvis Varnado, but such a spot might not even exist with Greg Oden essentially a developmental project, as well.
  • Gerry Mullany of The New York Times: The former basketball star Dennis Rodman returned Tuesday to North Korea, where he plans “to see my friend” Kim Jong-un, the dictator whose country until recently was threatening to annihilate the United States with nuclear weapons. Mr. Rodman said in Beijing that he was planning a five-day visit to the North but played down speculation that he would try to secure the release of Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American Christian missionary who has been jailed there since late last year after being detained on North Korean soil. “I’m not going to North Korea to discuss freeing Kenneth Bae,” the Basketball Hall of Fame member told Reuters in a telephone interview. “I’m just going there on another basketball diplomacy tour.” His visit comes amid a thaw in relations between North and South Korea, sworn enemies that just months ago appeared to be on the brink of military conflict.
  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: JaVale McGee’s Pop-A-Shot adventures.

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