TrueHoop: Sneaker Wars

First Cup: Thursday

January, 10, 2013
1/10/13
5:47
AM ET
By Nick Borges
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times: The day began with a tweet, was fueled by a fast-spreading media report and ended with rumors and reaction. But by the end of the day, nobody seemed to know the fate of basketball in Seattle or Sacramento. The two cities reacted very differently Wednesday to swirling rumors that a group from Seattle is negotiating to buy the NBA's Sacramento Kings. In Seattle, there was excitement that the NBA might return after its exit five years ago. In Sacramento, there was despair among fans and defiance from public officials, punctuated by Mayor Kevin Johnson vowing to fight to keep the team in town. "It's a significant day for the community because it appears it's the first day that the Sacramento Kings are for sale," Johnson said at a news conference. … Johnson made it clear he believes it's unlikely the Maloofs — who bought the team in 1998 for $156 million — will themselves keep it in Sacramento.
  • Editorial Board of The Sacramento Bee: Do the Maloofs really want to go down in history as the ones who took the Kings from Sacramento? They apparently are in talks to sell the team to a group led by billionaire Chris Hansen, who would move it to Seattle. According to some media reports Wednesday, a $500 million deal is close. If that's true, the very least the Maloofs can do is allow time for a bid from ownership groups who would keep the team in Sacramento. The other Kings owners – who control 47 percent of the team – need to push in that direction. It is also way past time for the Maloofs, who previously insisted they had no plans to sell the team, to make a clear statement of their intentions. Their stock answer to any question – their PR people say the team won't comment on "rumors or speculation" – is disrespectful to city leaders and long-suffering fans, who deserve far better.
  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: If ever there was a time for a financial white knight to make an appearance, bathed in the purple and black splendor of the region's only major professional sports franchise, this is it. One last shot. One last gasp. One more dance. If Kings co-owners Joe and Gavin Maloof are finally willing to sell their NBA franchise – buckling under the financial burden that has been building since the housing bust – they owe Sacramento a chance to cobble together a competitive bid. Downtown. The railyard. The K Street Mall. The current location in Natomas. Who cares where the cement is dumped if the franchise is still around to tease and torment, to provoke endless conversations about DeMarcus Cousins and his maturity issues, Tyreke Evans and his injuries, Jimmer Fredette and his slump, Geoff Petrie and the loss of his golden touch? The Maloofs owe us that much. Commissioner David Stern and his board of governors owe us that much. NBA history teaches us that this community is something special, that sellout streaks outlast losing streaks, withstand economic downturns, overcome crappy teams and lousy coaching and Game 7 heartbreak except when threats of relocation extend into a second, excruciating decade.
  • Marcos Breton of The Sacramento Bee: Whether the Kings ultimately move or stay, it's time that Sacramento embraces an undeniable truth: None of the turmoil surrounding the team is the fault of this community. It's all on the owners, the Maloofs. It's their doing, their failures, their dysfunction and their unbelievable gall. Mayor Kevin Johnson called their bluff Wednesday, saying he will try to find an ownership group to buy the team and keep it in town now that the Maloofs are clearly open to selling. These guys have been looking for an obscene deal for years, and the one positive about Wednesday is they can't deny it any longer. The jig is up. So long, boys. It hasn't been nice knowing you.
  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: According to the report, the Sacramento Kings owners, the Maloof family, is close to an agreement to sell the team to an ownership group that plans to move the team to Seattle as early as next season. And that would make Nuggets coach George Karl, an ardent fan of Seattle, very, very happy. When the SuperSonics were uprooted and moved to Oklahoma City in 2008, Karl, who spent seven years of his career coaching that team, said, “It killed me. It happened so quick.” And yet as much as he loves Seattle he doesn’t however, overstate Seattle’s worth as a basketball city. “I think it’s a great sports city,” Karl said. “I think it has an East Coast feel. I think sports is always going to be (secondary) because Seattle is a little bit of an individual city – outdoors and entrepreneurs. There’s just a lot of mental action there. I don’t know if it’s ever going to be a great sports city because of that. They have a lot of things on Saturdays and Sundays.” As for Sacramento, Karl said “in the same sense there’s a part of me that’s disappointed because I think Sacramento, I’ve enjoyed my times in Sacramento.
  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: Wednesday's NBA news du jour about the Kings' possible relocation from Sacramento to Seattle brought back childhood memories for two Utah Jazz players on the other side of the country. Earl Watson remembered one of the few times he shed tears as a basketball fan. Marvin Williams recalled growing up wanting to play for the Seattle SuperSonics. Though the move isn't a done deal yet, both players are optimistically cautious that their friends, family and acquaintances in the Emerald City will no longer be NBA-less in Seattle. "I got a few texts about it this afternoon," Williams said before Wednesday's 112-102 Jazz win over the Bobcats. "I'm not going to get my hopes up yet. … It sounds like it's pretty promising, but I've got to wait to see."
  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: Growing up in Vallejo, Calif., and then Fresno, Greg Smith was surrounded by fans of the Sacramento Kings, including many of his closest friends, so much so that even without sharing their affection for the local team he still felt their pain with the news Wednesday that the Kings appear headed to Seattle after a sale of the team. “It’s just tough,” Smith said. “They’ve been there so long. It’s going to hurt. In Sacramento, you always had the Kings. They’ve been there your whole life. Going to Seattle is tough. I don’t know the details, why management needs to do that. But it’s going to hurt.”
  • Darnell Mayberry of the The Oklahoman: So how does the possibility of basketball being back in Seattle affect the Thunder? Thunder chairman Clay Bennett in April 2011 was appointed chairman of the relocation committee. He's joined by Miami owner Micky Arison, Indiana owner Herb Simon, Philadelphia owner Ed Snider, San Antonio owner Peter Holt, Utah owner Greg Miller and Minnesota owner Glen Taylor. In order for the Kings to move to Seattle, the franchise must first gain approval from Bennett and the board. In other words, the man who was reviled for “ripping the Sonics from Seattle,” is now one of the men in charge of returning the NBA to the city. If Seattle acquired another NBA team through relocation or expansion by 2013, the Thunder would have had to pay the city of Seattle $30 million as part of the settlement between the two sides. But another stipulation precludes the Thunder from making that payment even if the Kings relocate to Seattle. The Washington state legislature would have had to authorize $75 million in funding for Seattle's KeyArena by the end of 2009 in order for the Thunder to be on the hook for that payment. That did not happen. So even if the Kings move this summer, the Thunder's ownership group will retain a $30 million payment that would have gone to the city of Seattle.
  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: He may have tweaked Carmelo Anthony’s composure with some choice comments, but when asked about the Knicks forward’s one-game suspension last night, Kevin Garnett cut short his postgame press session. “Ya’ll have a good night,” the Celtics forward, with a slight smile, said on his way out of the locker room. Other Celtics were more outwardly intrigued. Rajon Rondo had just finished joking about being suspended for hanging up on an NBA investigator when it was mentioned that Anthony had been given the same penalty by the league for attempting to stalk Garnett outside the Celtics locker room and team bus Monday night. “Oh, my goodness, so that’s the same thing, huh?” the Celtics guard said, comparing his penalty to that of the Knicks forward. … Rondo then added as another joke, “Just because I get suspended doesn’t mean I’m a bad person. Why can’t I be a peacemaker?” In a more serious vein, Doc Rivers said Anthony should have been fined, not suspended.
  • Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News: "It's funny how business works," Nowitzki conceded. Funny indeed. But when you think about it, if your aim is brilliance it takes a fair share of crazy to get there. And when you stop laughing at the thought of Nowitzki playing for the Lakers and start thinking about how much sense it makes for everyone involved, the unimaginable actually becomes plausible. How, you ask? By trading Dwight Howard to the Mavericks for Nowitzki. By rolling the dice on Nowitzki paired with Nash paired with Kobe Bryant paired with Pau Gasol creating the kind of perfect amalgamation for D'Antoni's system. By understanding that combination gives the Lakers a better chance to compete for a championship over the next two years, not the team we see flailing about with mismatched parts trying to fit into a system it's not built to succeed in. And by accepting you're going to have to blow things up in two years anyway, and with Gasol and Bryant and Nowitzki's contracts all expiring after the 2014 season the Lakers will go into that summer with enough cap space to add at least two dynamic young stars. … I know it sounds crazy, right? But the NBA is where crazy happens these days, and unless you're willing to think outside the box and act decisively, you're putting yourself at risk against your fast-thinking, fast-acting competition.
  • Cathal Kelly of the Toronto Star: Ahead of Wednesday’s press conference, Tom Anselmi gave Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo the head’s up – there would be a second house cleaning in as many days at an MLSE franchise. … When they start clearing out cubicles at any business, a tremor goes through the herd. If Colangelo’s worried about showing up at the office to find his desktop photos piled in a cardboard box, it doesn’t show. He was stretched out courtside during pre-game, shaking hands, looking as relaxed as a new hire. “I’ve learned you can never operate out of fear,” Colangelo said. “I am unaffected by this.” … Colangelo is in the last year of his three-year deal, with a team option for a further year in 2013-14. That’s still up in the air. “I’ve never brought up my situation (to ownership). It’s never been brought up to me,” Colangelo said, shrugging. What’s the promise going forward? Colangelo isn’t offering one. “A successful year would be making sure we take another step forward in the process of building a basketball team.” The opaque nature of that statement gives you some idea why Bryan Colangelo has a job, and why Brian Burke is looking for one.
  • Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post: It is hyperbole to suggest the Heat’s season is at stake at this stage, not while atop the Eastern Conference, not with memories of greater challenges fresh. Yet while this isn’t a panic point, it could be a pivot point. It is reasonable to be concerned about the Heat’s difficulty in reversing recent trends, notably those related to rebounding, with Indiana becoming the latest to bully Miami on the boards. It is worth monitoring how tightly the Heat stick together, considering Bosh’s comments after the latest struggle.
  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: According to those inside the Blazers’ locker room, Aldridge isn’t just making a case to be an All-Star for the second consecutive season. That, they say, is a no-brainer. Even more, he’s making a case that he’s the best power forward in the NBA. Aldridge is averaging 20.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.3 blocks per game, and is the highest-scoring power forward in the league. He is one of two players who have recorded at least 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in three different games this season. The other is LeBron James. And Aldridge is one of four players who are averaging at least 20 points and eight rebounds per game. The others are James, Kevin Durant and David Lee. “That’s pretty select company,” Stotts said. “That kind of speaks for itself.” In many ways, it might have to. Aldridge is a guarded and understated person who refuses to let too many inside his inner circle. Even on this year’s team, which is close and cohesive, he’s a loner who kind of does his own thing. … The Blazers (19-15) are having a surprisingly successful season and, as players such as Kevin Love, Pau Gasol and Dirk Nowitzki battle injuries and ineffectiveness, Aldridge is emerging as the best power forward in the NBA — even if few are noticing.
  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: The injuries are piling up for the 30-year-old Varejao: He had ankle surgery in 2010-11, which caused him to miss 51 games. He had a fractured wrist in 2011-12, which caused him to miss 41 games. Knee surgery will sideline him until March. He's missed the last 11 games. At the time of his injury, he was leading the NBA in rebounding at 14.4 per game. Varejao was also averaging 14.1 points and shooting 47.8 percent from the field. He plays with such reckless abandon, it's difficult to keep him healthy. "That's how I play," he said. "That's how I help this team. This was a bad hit. He caught my knee in the right spot. I hope I don't hurt it anymore." Scott said injuries are a part of the game, especially with Varejao. "I don't know if you can stop him from getting hurt," Scott said. "It's freaky injuries." Varejao expects to play again this season.
  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: New Bucks coach Jim Boylan admitted it has been a whirlwind for him since he was named to replace Scott Skiles as coach late Monday. The Bucks won in his Milwaukee head coaching debut on Tuesday night, beating the Phoenix Suns, 108-99. Then it was a quick flight to Midway Airport in Chicago and a date against Bulls on Wednesday night. "No time to catch your breath," Boylan said. "Just keep on rolling, that's all." And the Bucks did with a 104-96 victory over the Bulls as they blocked a season-high 15 shots, outrebounded the Bulls, 48-45, and hit 10 of 22 three-point tries. Boylan said he is still getting around to talking individually with all the players but will use Thursday's practice day to chat with a few more members of the team.
  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: The 3-pointer is the most potent weapon in basketball. And the key to being a good 3-point shooting team is simple. "Have people who shoot the ball well," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "If Chris Mullin is on your team, you're going to have a better 3-point shooting team than if I'm on the team." Popovich then, tongue-in-cheek, said the NBA should abolish the 3-point shot. "It's not real basketball," he said. "Get rid of it and let's play basketball again. "But it's there, and everybody's getting real good." … The 3-point line is 22 feet in the corners and 23 feet, 9 inches elsewhere behind the arc. It's almost become the same as a regular jump shot for some players, which is why there have been discussions about moving the 3-point line back a bit. Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, however, doesn't believe that will happen anytime soon. "There's been talk in the past of making the court bigger [in order to move the 3-point line back farther], but you just simply cannot do it because of the limitations on the sizes of the arenas," Carlisle said. "And there's a lack of complete uniformity from arena to arena as well.”
  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: John Wall has been wearing Adidas sneakers in practice this week as he prepares to make his season debut on Saturday after missing the first 33 games with a stress injury in his left knee. After practice, Wall left the impression that nothing is settled with regards to his footwear going forward. “I may try a couple” different shoes, Wall said. “I’m on display again.” But only a few hours later, Adidas issued a statement announcing a new partnership with Wall and Reebok also issued a statement that confirmed his split from the brand that used Wall as its primary basketball spokesperson the past 2˝ years.

First Cup: Tuesday

October, 9, 2012
10/09/12
5:37
AM ET
By Nick Borges
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Tom Moore of phillyBurbs.com: Andrew Bynum believes he’s on track to play in the 76ers’ Oct. 31 regular-season opener. Bynum, who has missed the first week of an expected three weeks to rest his knees, told reporters Monday that he’s making progress and the opener remains his target date. If he was in this situation and it’s the middle of the season instead of training camp, he said “if all the things were on the table, I’d be out there.” … While he said the knee is improving, he also admitted he’s “not able to run up and down right now.” Sixers coach Doug Collins said Bynum has “worked his tail off” in the weight room and on the elliptical machine when he’s not watching practice.
  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: So why did point guard Deron Williams wait over three months to say one of the reasons he didn't sign a free agent contract with the Dallas Mavericks was because owner Mark Cuban didn't attend a meeting? Williams told New York reporters on Monday that the fact Cuban wasn't at the meeting had a major impact on him re-signing with the Nets. Really? Cuban had a prior commitment that required him to be in Los Angeles to tape a segment of his TV show, Shark Tank. Williams said he needed to ask Cuban about his plans for the future. Uh, couldn't he ask Nelson and Carlisle that? … While Williams was meeting with Nelson, Carlisle and Finley, the Nets executed a trade with Atlanta and acquired Joe Johnson. After Williams emerged from that meeting with the Mavs' contingent, he said the acquisition of Johnson helped sway him in the direction of the Nets. Now, he's saying it was Cuban's absence. So which one is it, Williams? The lame excuse that you chose the Nets over the Mavs because Cuban wasn't there isn't holding water among the Mavs' followers.
  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: Finally, Royce White could feel like just another rookie, practicing with his new team, trying to find a role. After missing the Rockets training camp in McAllen and generating national attention for openly discussing his anxiety issues and what he’ll need to overcome them, on Monday White practiced for the first time, declaring “It went as well as it could go.” With plans in place to make his participation routine, White could finally look to the work to come, rather than the workouts he missed. “I think routine is important, especially for someone like me,” White said. “I don’t really feel it. It’s my first day back. It’s not much of a routine yet, but it’s here.” It is, if nothing else, the first step. White had sat out training camp while formalizing a plan that will allow him to take a bus to a large portion of the Rockets’ road schedule. He had worked out with coaches for several days before Monday’s practice with the team.
  • Shannon J. Owens of the Orlando Sentinel: You can blame the collective-bargaining agreement for allowing players to flee for the big lights. Or you can blame bad coaching and management on the part of some small-market teams for their stagnant growth. But none of that gets to the heart of the matter, which in this case, happens to be the matter of the heart. The NBA isn't in love with basketball anymore. It's in love with the production of stars. We're witnessing the NBA's evolution into a fantasy sport. Elite players pick great places to live that offer greater financial and social incentives and, above all else, an immediate chance to win a championship. More times than not, this gives large-market teams a huge advantage. I don't begrudge LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony or Dwight Howard for chasing great opportunities in big cities. There's nothing more American than that. But the NBA has a responsibility to protect the future of its league beyond four or five teams.
  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Amid the launch for the LeBron X, the model that comes with high-end sneaker-compatible software for $270 and without the added technology for $180, James stressed that it is a matter of offering a variety of options. He said the initial focus on a possible $300-plus price was misleading, "because the facts weren't correct." In a private moment with the Sun Sentinel, he said such attention was misplaced. "We have wide ranges of shoes that range from $300 all the way down to $160, $180," he said, with the Nike website currently offering a signature James model at $120. He said there is a place for a high-end model, as well as other price points. "We have great technology and they do a great job of putting out great shoes and things of that nature," he said. "But it just bothers you when things aren't always correct. But other than that, we move on and we get the real facts out there and we live with them."
  • Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: There is a place where Carlos Boozer could find redemption. A place he could find some sort of atonement. The Bulls power forward slowly raised his tattooed right arm upward, pointing his finger into the darkness of the United Center rafters. “Right up there,’’ Boozer insisted on Monday. “You put [a championship banner] up there … the biggest thing is wins, that’s what it all comes down to. Honestly. It comes down to wins and losses, everything else is water under the bridge. We win? Man, if we win, we’re going to party for a long time.’’ Boozer especially.
  • Bill Oram of The Salt Lake Tribune: It's going to be a sad day for sportswriters if the most interesting thing about Enes Kanter ceases to be his Twitter account. But after the sophomore scored 12 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, blocked two shots and, even, tried to bring the ball up the floor, we may need to rethink the big fella's role on this team. Kanter was extremely aggressive around the rim, was following his own shot and proved effective just at keeping the ball alive around the rim. "I thought he played really well," Mo Williams said. "I thought he rebounded well, in the post I thought he was patient."
  • Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: Raptors rookie Terrence Ross had a strong debut. Ross looked a tad nervous on his first attempt, an air-balled three-pointer, but said it wasn’t because he was nervous, but rather because he faded a bit and took a bad shot. Things went much better from there. He nailed his next attempt, another in the third quarter and two more in the fourth without a miss and did some good things defensively, though Casey singled him out for making a couple of “typical rookie mistakes” but added that Ross’ upside is “off the charts.”
  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: It didn’t take long Monday night for Cavs coach Byron Scott to prove he was serious about Dion Waiters earning his spot in the starting lineup. Not only did Waiters not start Monday’s 91-85 victory over Montepaschi Siena in the preseason opener, he didn’t play at all in the first quarter. If it was a test to see how the rookie would respond, Waiters conceded he was a bit rattled. “I’ve never sat out a quarter before in my life,” Waiters said. “I kind of got down a little bit, but I told myself, ‘This is what he wanted. He wanted to see how I’d react to things like that.’ ” Waiters’ debut was spotty. He finished with 11 points, three rebounds and an assist, but his range remains questionable while his strength remains his ability to get to the basket.
  • Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: Stephen Curry has been desperate to get back on the court after a seven-month absence caused by an injured right ankle. His wait ended Monday against the Utah Jazz in the Warriors' second exhibition game. Curry totaled six assists to go with two points and two rebounds in 12 minutes, all in the first half, of the Warriors' 83-80 victory. More important, he didn't appear limited. Jackson had limited Curry's participation in the first three days of training camp and held him out of the exhibition opener against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday in Fresno. "It feels all right," said Curry of his ankle, adding that it felt great until he got tired. "It's a little sore, but that's to be expected. See how it feels tomorrow and then we'll assess Thursday's game. Hopefully I can play a lot more." Monday's outing by Curry also kicked off a new era in Golden State basketball as, entering his fourth season, he is now the unquestioned team leader.
  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: The Nuggets coach had been asked if Denver will make more 3-pointers this season, a sore subject, for sure. "That's probably my biggest concern," said Karl, whose team was 24th in the NBA in 3-point shooting last season, and then traded Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington to the Magic. "I think 40 percent of our 3-pointers are down in Orlando right now. I think we've got the guys who can do it. It's going to be a high priority of the offense. We love the rim, the second shot we want is the free throw and the third shot we want is the 3-ball. We're going to work hard on it. We need some guys to jump up their percentages." Karl named names. He needs increased percentages from Danilo Gallinari (32.8 percent on 3s last season, a career-low) and Corey Brewer (26 percent, lowest since his rookie season). During camp, both players have said their summer shooting workout will benefit them in the regular season. But perhaps the wild card is reserve Jordan Hamilton, who spent a whirlwind rookie season on the bench but showcased his stroke in the summer league.
  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: Even though rookie Nando De Colo’s floor game and slick passing prompted veteran teammate Stephen Jackson to declare that he was “another Manu Ginobili,” Parker and fellow French Olympian Boris Diaw were slightly more realistic about the young guard from Arras, France. “In a sense, he is,” Parker said, “because he’ll do some crazy pass or go for crazy steals. But he’s got a long way to be like Manu. So we can say he’s like a poor Manu right now. But he definitely has the skills and that kind of flashy (style). I remember in a timeout Pop was joking, ‘I have one Manu. I don’t need two.’ “You’ll give him a heart attack with two Manus on the team.” Diaw hadn’t heard about Jackson’s comparison and couldn’t quite believe he had made it. “Jack said that?” Diaw said. “In some ways, the way (Nando) plays in the passing game. But Manu’s unique.”
  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: Daequan Cook entered this season with perhaps the most to gain from the departure of Derek Fisher. But after a week of training camp, it's beginning to sound like Cook's spot in the rotation isn't as secure as once projected — if not lost altogether due to the arrival of promising rookie Perry Jones III. … Cook is competing with Jones III and Lazar Hayward for minutes and was thought to have a leg up due to his contributions last season. So far, though, Jones has garnered most of the praise throughout training camp. At the end of Monday's practice, Cook didn't seem interested in discussing the logjam and how it might impact him. “It's different for everybody,” Cook said. “I mean, it's different looks for every (practice) team. I'm not really concerned about that right now. I'm more focused on just preparing myself for the season and helping the younger guys out right now.”
  • Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press: For a moment at the end of the Timberwolves' practice Monday, Oct. 8, it appeared that second-year forward Derrick Williams was the victim of rookie hazing at the team's practice facility in Target Center. With the entire team watching, the 6-foot-8 Williams had to run full-court wind sprints by himself for nearly five minutes. Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman said Williams was the victim of a "poor decision" when he chose to attempt a three-pointer to determine whether his scrimmage team would have to run sprints. "Up until today, he had been making pretty good decisions in camp," a smiling Adelman said. "Unfortunately, he missed."
  • Michael Pointer of The Indianapolis Star: Things are looking up for the Indiana Pacers. They might have their best team in years, which could lead to larger crowds at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. But a leading Indianapolis ticket broker says it's hard to tell how much that enthusiasm has carried over to the ticket marketplace. "I would say overall that for the marquee games, for the games against the Heat, the Lakers, the Bulls, the holiday games, those seem to be selling a little better than in past years," said Renny Harrison, owner of Carmel-based FanFare tickets. "With that being said, it's still too early to say what overall demand is going to be like." … Harrison said he is impressed that a game against San Antonio on Nov. 23, a Friday, appears to be selling well. But he isn't sure how much to read into that.
  • Craig Stouffer of the Washington Examiner: It didn't take long for Martell Webster to show his understanding of the Wizards' team dynamics. A late summer free agency signing, Webster was asked on the second day of training camp who was tops on his new squad at so-called verbal intimidation. It wasn't exactly a trick question, but his answer was the correct one. "We're trying to train some guys," Webster said. "But [assistant coach] Sam Cassell is still the best talker." Webster also stepped up right away when short-handed Washington needed a boost in its preseason opener at Charlotte on Sunday. Scoring 14 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter -- tying rookie Bradley Beal for the team high -- Webster helped cut a double-digit lead to six before an eventual 100-88 defeat.
  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: It was not until Saturday's intrasquad scrimmage that Jermaine O'Neal's rejuvenated feelings about his health and play surfaced. O'Neal's nine points, six rebounds, three steals and one block matched center Marcin Gortat's 11 points, four rebounds, two steals, one block in less time. "You open the doors, smell the popcorn and the switches are engaged," said O'Neal, who will turn 34 on Saturday. "I was a little bit smarter than the day before and a little bit more comfortable. Everything is a lot different. Boston was a slow grind, wear you down over four quarters. This system is faster, conditioned, run-you-out-of-the-gym practices. But I'll be ready Wednesday." The Suns open the preseason Wednesday at Sacramento. O'Neal said he is having to adjust to how much teaching and running there has been in Suns practices. Long stereotyped for rolling the ball out, the staff might be getting characterized for practicing like Miami, a place O'Neal once played, for the first time.

First Cup: Thursday

October, 4, 2012
10/04/12
6:17
AM ET
By Nick Borges
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: If Royce White’s condition were a traditional sports injury, answers would come relatively easily. The Rockets could pinpoint the cause of the ailment and the treatment needed. They could offer an approximation of when he would be healed and ready to play. But for White and the Rockets, answers are not within such easy reach. With White’s illness — Generalized Anxiety Disorder — symptoms are much more mercurial, the protocol far less tangible. The length of his absence from training camp will remain indefinite. Rockets officials met with White in Houston on Wednesday and came away believing he was making “progress,” according to an official with knowledge of the meeting. But it remains unclear when he’ll join the team. White has been uncommonly open about his condition and managed it well enough to be an All-American at Iowa State. And the Rockets were happy to invest one of their first-round picks last June to acquire him.
  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: Ray Allen got a loud ovation from the surprisingly large crowd of 11,221 when he made his first shot, a three from the corner, less than one minute into Wednesday night's proceedings. Allen shot 5 for 11, including 3 for 7 on threes. But the most amusing Allen news of the night was a fan being booed – essentially forced to move to another seat – for showing up in an Allen “Celtics” jersey. “It was pretty funny,” Allen said. “I don’t know how to feel about that.” Also booed - and pressured to move - was a fan in a Rajon Rondo Celtics jersey. Said LeBron James: “We have enough Ray Allen Heat jerseys that they don’t need to wear Ray Allen Celtics jerseys.” Dwyane Wade, who did not play (knee), took the microphone at halftime and announced, “Will all Celtics fans please exit the building?”
  • Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News: If NBA officials went to the archives, they would likely find Manu Ginobili with a flop or four worth a fine. He’s been guilty. But that’s over a decade in the league, with thousands of falls and groans and whistles. Ginobili has stuck his sizeable nose into the breach as consistently as anyone in the game, and he’s been clever 99.9 percent of the time. That’s why calls have often gone his way, and why a replay won’t reveal much more than what a ref sees live. To Ginobili, this is art. That wasn’t the reaction from most players Wednesday after the NBA officially announced its new anti-flopping policy. While Ginobili said, “I don’t think it’s going to change much,” others around the league saw this as a positive step. … Sometimes there is considerable contact. Ginobili didn’t become El Contusión by pretending to be hit. Sometimes, too, there isn’t much contact. But Ginobili is usually in position and ready to react to what is there. It’s smart, and it changes games, and it has driven opposing players and fans mad. But this season, they say they are going to clean this up. They are going to use replays to see if fines are necessary. So they will look closely when an elbow touches Ginobili’s chest, or maybe it’s a forearm. They will see Ginobili fall, and they will try to determine why, and they will come to the same conclusion referees came to long ago. The guy’s good.
  • Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: Both Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol suggested that the FIBA rule for international play of a warning for the first flop and then a technical foul for the next (meaning two free throws and possession for the opponent) was better. "I'd love to see it have an impact on the game itself," Bryant said. "I think in international play a technical foul is the penalty for it. Free throw and get the ball back, that sort of thing. But I like the rule. Shameless flopping is just a chump move. We're familiar with it because Vlade (Divac) kind of pioneered it in a playoff series with Shaq (O'Neal). And it worked pretty well for him."
  • Darnell Mayberry and John Rohde of The Oklahoman: Eric Maynor was among several Thunder players that watched Tuesday night's broadcast of “Broke,” an ESPN production as part of its “30 for 30” series. The 1 1/2 hour documentary interviewed several current and former athletes who have had significant problems with money. Maynor said the messages in the film were critical for professional athletes in all sports. “I think that was a good show for a lot of people (Tuesday) night, and I hope everybody was watching it,” Maynor said. “With all the money that guys get, not just in this league but in any sport, you got to be careful with the people around you. You got to be careful about how you take care of your money if you want to have some money after you play.”
  • Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times: Many an NBA career has been ruined by the almighty dollar. Milwaukee Bucks young forward Ersan Ilyasova is determined not to let that happen to him. After having a breakout 2011-2012 season, Ilyasova hit the jackpot during free agency this summer. He signed a lucrative contract that will guarantee him $31.6 million over the next four seasons with a team option for $8.4 million in the fifth season. With his financial future virtually set, Ilyasova could have easily got lazy and out of shape during the offseason as some other players in his position have done in the past. Instead, Ilyasova rededicated himself to honing his game even more. “It doesn’t work that way for me,” Ilyasova said when asked if he was tempted to perhaps ease up on his work regimen after signing his huge contract. “That’s not my nature. “The thing with this contract ... there comes responsibility with it. People are expecting more, so that’s why I spent the summer working with a coach to try and improve myself.”
  • Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press: The Timberwolves have concluded two days of training camp, and Brandon Roy's knees still feel as good as new. Roy has yet to feel any pain or discomfort in his knees, which forced the three-time NBA all-star to retire in 2011. It's only two days, and the Wolves have yet to play a game, but the encouraging signs in Roy's comeback are justifying the $10.4 million risk the club took in signing the 28-year-old guard to a two-year deal this summer. Wolves owner Glen Taylor talked about the risk in a MinnPost story Monday, Oct. 1, sharing a conversation he had with Wolves coach Rick Adelman early in the club's pursuit of Roy. Taylor said Adelman had initial concerns, telling him, "I don't know if he can play." Those concerns disappeared after Adelman watched Roy have another impressive practice Wednesday at Minnesota State Mankato.
  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: Cavs power forward Tristan Thompson joined agent Rich Paul's new agency, Klutch Sports Group. Thompson said others around the league leaving Creative Arts Agency for Paul's group are Los Angeles Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe, San Antonio Spurs guard Cory Joseph, Detroit Pistons guard Jonny Flynn and Miami Heat forward LeBron James. "I'm with Klutch Sports," Thompson said. "I transferred from CAA. We have a relationship (with Paul). He's growing as an agent and I feel I want to be part of that growth." Thompson said Paul has offices in Akron and Cleveland.
  • Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: The draft boards and fan chat sites on draft night were rife with disenchantment. Why didn’t they take Austin Rivers? Who is Terrence Ross? Why didn’t we at least trade down to get him?” But somehow, without Ross playing a single game, suiting up for maybe a handful of scrimmages and, as of this morning, four NBA practices, the tune has changed — not completely mind you but enough to be noticeable. We can speculate how something like that happens. People start buying in as the team rationalizes the pick. Or the public educates itself about the player and finds there’s a lot to like about him. Not that those among the Raptors decision makers concerned themselves too much with the public’s reaction. From the moment they made the pick and through the early negative fallout, Bryan Colangelo and his staff knew they had done their homework and if John Hollinger had Ross rated No. 27 or Chad Ford rated him the 11th best pick, what mattered was Ross was the best player available on their own board. And nothing since has made them second guess that. That said, Ross is very much aware of what is in front of him.
  • Kerry Eggers of The Portland Tribune: LaMarcus Aldridge said he is “100 percent healthy” from the hip surgery. I’m wondering if he is entering the stage of his career when injuries are going to be a constant issue. … I don’t think the Blazers will be fine in the short term. This season could be a major struggle. There is almost no veteran depth unless guard Ronnie Price and forward Jared Jeffries suddenly have a game transformation. Rookies Lillard, Meyers Leonard, Will Barton, Joel Freeland and Victor Claver will experience baptism under fire. It’s probably not going to be pretty. All the while, Aldridge won’t be pleased with losing games with any regularity. Maybe he’ll be a happy camper, anyway, taken care of financially with promise for better times ahead with the Portland franchise. I’m not convinced of that. I see clouds overhead, with the possibility of stormy weather as we move through what could be a difficult season in Blazerville.
  • Craig Stouffer of the Washington Examiner: Reporters were allowed to watch the final drill of Wednesday’s first session, something called “4:15,” named for the time set on the clock. With three lines of players weaving back and forth up and down the court and launching shots at both ends, the goal was 110 makes before time expired. The Wizards fell a couple short, but Martell Webster said that misses the point. “With that 4:15 drill, the young guys don’t understand,” he said. “It’s not about getting 110. It’s about pushing your body. You’re going to have to red line. Without red lining you’re not really getting in shape. It’s about getting in shape because this team, we’re young. The oldest guy on this team, [Jannero] Pargo, is 32. We’ve got a young team so we need to run and that’s what that drill is teaching us, to keep the legs moving.” It may come as no surprise that Webster, despite having just arrived in Washington, is already regarded as one of the best quotes on the team, a player who has far more to say, or at least uses far more words to say what he thinks.
  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: But when guard Rodney Stuckey was asked who impressed him the most, he didn't hesitate to name Ukrainian big man Slava Kravtsov. "I like Slava, he's going to help us out a lot," said Stuckey, smiling. "He's a big guy that can run the floor, when he gets to the free throw line he can make them. He protects the paint." He found his way to duck in the paint for a couple scores but his presence most likely will be felt on the defensive end. Rookie guard Kim English didn't see Kravtsov coming and was nailed on a screen at midcourt that left him shaking the cobwebs out minutes later. "I saw film on him and the film doesn't lie," Stuckey said. "He's still gotta get acclimated to the NBA game, though. He's only going to get better." The Pistons acquired Kravtsov because of his ability on the defensive end, as he goes after everything near the rim.
  • Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: So when legendary NBA center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar reached out to Noah this offseason to work out with him, the 6-11 Noah jumped at the opportunity. ‘‘I feel a lot more polished offensively,’’ Noah said. ‘‘I worked with Kareem for a couple of weeks, but just because I worked with Kareem doesn’t mean I’m going to be throwing skyhooks from everywhere. I feel like I learned a lot from him, someone who has an unbelievable knowledge for the game and very interesting guy. But you know how it is — you work with him and people think, ‘Oh, he’s going to come back with a skyhook.’ Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. But I’ll tell you what: At 65 years old, though, his skyhook is still nice.’’ It might be. But even with Noah improving his offense, there are still 21 points a game to make up with Rose out. That’s why Noah put in extra work, Carlos Boozer came into camp in better shape and veteran Rip Hamilton hired a physical therapist to get him in a better place.
  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: The Magic expect Turkoglu to provide leadership and ball-handling. But Turk might have somebody nipping at his heels this season. The buzz around the Magic is how impressed everyone is with rookie Maurice Harkless. Harkless has been limited by an offseason surgery for a sports hernia and isn’t expected to return until mid-November to officially begin his pro career in the regular season. But coaches have liked what they have seen so far from the athletic, 19-year-old who played at St. John’s. Harkless, 6-8, 210 pounds, is a small forward who arrived from the Philadelphia 76ers in the Magic’s trade of Dwight Howard. The Sixers sent Harkless, their first-round pick, to the Magic as part of the meg deal that netted them Andrew Bynum from the Lakers. If Harkless merits playing time, this is the perfect scenario for the Magic to work on the player development aspect. Harkless would share time with Turk, maybe even inherit the starting job at some point.
  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: Delonte West had a big smile on his face when asked how his off-season went. “Quiet,’’ he said. “Nice and quiet. “And that’s a good thing, ain’t it?’’ Yes it is. For West, the quieter, the better. And even though he was a free agent this summer, he stayed out of the limelight by design. Not that it was easy, of course. “I was itching to get on Twitter,’’ he said. “But I didn’t want to put the organization in a compromising position.’’ After his past indiscretions, West has lived and learned. No Twitter rants. No motorcycle rides while heavily armed. Just a summer working on his game and waiting for his next contract, which he was thrilled came from the Mavericks. “I love him as a kid,’’ coach Rick Carlisle said. “I love the fact that he faces challenges every day and he meets them head on.
  • Allan Brettman of The Oregonian: To really get to know the subject at hand, Adidas dispatched its D Rose team from Portland to Chicago. There, the Portlanders ate at Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose's favorite restaurant, visited his Simeon High School gymnasium, stood on the South Chicago corner of West 73rd and South Paulina near where he grew up and hung around with his friends and family. Two years after that get-acquainted process began, Adidas today rolls out the latest iteration of its Derrick Rose signature shoe as well as the first clothing in a Derrick Rose apparel line. The Adidas-Rose partnership, in place since his 2008-09 rookie season, was cemented in February. Rose reupped with Adidas in a deal that reportedly will pay him at least $185 million over 13 years, up to $200 million with incentives. But the 2011 NBA Most Valuable Player tore a ligament in April in a playoff game. An 8- to 12-month rehabilitation is expected. Adidas and Rose, however, have been undeterred in forging ahead with an ambitious marketing and product development plan, most of which is crafted at Adidas America's headquarters in North Portland.

First Cup: Wednesday

August, 22, 2012
8/22/12
4:53
AM ET
By Nick Borges
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: The Lakers have garnered headlines with an off-season that has superstars Steve Nash and Dwight Howard headed to the West Coast. But the other team in Los Angeles, the Clippers, has quietly made some solid moves this summer from giving a five-year extension to franchise cornerstone Blake Griffin, trading for forward Lamar Odom and signing former Piston Grant Hill. So Clippers combo guard Chauncey Billups, who is diligently rehabbing his left Achilles tendon, isn't about to back down from the Lakers. “They are trying to stack the deck over there, but I tell you what - I'm very pleased with my team and what we've been able to do and I will just say this - don't nobody scare me, man,” said the former Piston with a chuckle.
  • George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel: No shoe is worth $315,unless you are Carrie from Sex In The City. But back to reality, there’s been a lot of immediate yada-yada over the $315 LeBron James basketball shoe that will be released by Nike Inc. in the fall. It would be the most expensive sneaker ever. Reaction has been swift and punitive: The president of the National Urban League says “To release such an outrageously overpriced product while the nation is struggling to overcome an unemployment crisis is insensitive at best.” Please. The $315 price tag is insane, for sure, but is it much different than an adidas Chicago Bulls Revolution 30 Custom Authentic Alternate Jersey that sells for as much as $289.99? Or a Peyton Manning jersey that sells for $99.99? Or an Alex Rodriguez authentic road jersey that sells for $184.99? ... I get it. But business is business. No need to rip LeBron and Nike over :The Decision Part II.” The LeBron X Nike Plus will have a significant number of hi-tech perks like motion sensors that can measure how high players jump. I won’t need a motion sensor to tell me I can’t jump worth a darn. But I also wouldn’t spend $315 on a pair of basketball shoes. It comes down to consumer choice. I am sure Payless has plenty of sneakers selling for a whole lot less than 315 bucks.
  • Craig Davis of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Despite the spike in prices over the past year, sales of basketball shoes costing more than $100 were up 50 percent, according to SportsOneSource. But will a $300 sneaker fly in a troubled economy? The LeBron X Nike Plus will be limited edition of about 50,000 pairs. There is a niche market out there unfazed by the price, as indicated by a comment on the forum of SoleCollector.com: “A shoe like that is not meant for everybody. It IS a luxury to have. For myself, I'd rather enjoy the luxuries of having a dope, basketball shoe over owning any type of Gucci, LV or even Yeezy shoe 100% of the time.” A different view from the marketplace was among the comments at LebronJames.com: “How about u call nike and tell the to lower the ridiculous and crazy price on your new shoes coming out...We ain't rich like u.” Ultimately, the market will provide the answer as to what features are vital in a sneaker. The old-school method for finding out how high one jumped was a mark on the wall and a tape measure. As for concern about parents being pressured into shelling out for a supposed must-have luxury item, there was an old-school answer to that as well. Simply stated: “No.”
  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: Any fears Clippers fans might have about All-Star point guard Chris Paul having surgery Tuesday to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb should be put to rest, according to Coach Vinny Del Negro. He wanted to reassure fans that Paul "will be all right" and will "resume all basketball activities" after being sidelined for about eight weeks. It's possible that Paul could be back sometime during training camp, which starts Oct. 1. "I don't want to put an exact date on it," Del Negro said. "When he's ready to play, he'll play. But I expect him back sometime during training camp. I don't know when, but the most important thing is to get ready for the start of the season."
  • Jon Machota of The Dallas Morning News: How many championship banners would be hanging in the American Airlines Center rafters had the Mavericks traded for Kobe Bryant in 2007? That may seem like a far-fetched idea but Mavs owner Mark Cuban said Tuesday morning that it was almost a reality in the summer of 2007. “When I was doing Dancing with the Stars, I was taking breaks because I was talking to Kobe’s agent because Kobe wanted to get traded,” Cuban explained on the Ben and Skin Show on 103.3 [KESN-FM]. “Literally, between Dancing with the Stars practices I had thought we traded for Kobe Bryant. I even talked to their owner and thought we were going to have done deal, and [Lakers GM] Mitch Kupchak changed [Kobe’s] mind and brought him back.” Not sure if the Los Angeles Lakers would’ve taken Jason Terry, Jerry Stackhouse, Devin Harris, Erick Dampier or Josh Howard in return but Cuban assures that Dirk Nowitzki was not in the deal. “It wasn’t Dirk for Kobe,” Cuban said before admitting that the Lakers were smart by not letting it happen.
  • Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman: Life is good for James Harden. But you have to wonder if The Beard Express has a chance of running off the rail. Earlier this summer, his account on Instagram, a picture-based social media website, had a photo of a note with some news. “JUST FOUND OUT I GOT TRADED TO THE HORNETS,” it read. “I'LL MISS OKC.” Not long after, the picture was deleted. Turns out it was a hoax. Hard to believe the Thunder was real happy that one of its potential franchise players is joking around about that. Then again, that gold-and-black, tiger-print cowboy hat couldn't have been a big hit either. But I'm telling you, the Thunder could use this to its advantage. Harden clearly has some wild child in him, and there's nothing wrong with that, but here's where the Thunder can make OKC a huge positive. Sell Harden and his people on the fact that he shouldn't live in party city with a bunch of money. Convince them that he can visit places like L.A. and Miami in the offseason but that he needs to spend most of his time in a place like Oklahoma City.
  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: C.J. Miles contends he wasn’t able to display his entire skill set with the Jazz because he was simply playing the role asked of him behind more established stars. But that doesn’t explain his slip in production last season, when the Jazz revamped their roster following the recent departures of Boozer and Williams. Miles’ numbers slipped to 9.1 points and 2.1 rebounds last season and he shot 38 percent, his lowest shooting percentage since his second year in the league. Miles was shut out of the first wave of free-agent signings, but when most of the elite players found homes, the Cavs found a player still in his prime who fills a huge need at a relatively cheap price. The team began the summer with the clear goal of upgrading the wing position. By drafting Dion Waiters and signing Miles, they believe that has been accomplished. Miles has the ability to play shooting guard in bigger lineups, but will likely find the bulk of his minutes at small forward given the presence of Kyrie Irving and Waiters on the roster. General Manager Chris Grant said the organization didn’t believe the batch of wing players available was very deep, but Miles stood out because of his age and potential.
  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: New Orleans Hornets rookie guard Austin Rivers said he remains on schedule to be fully healed by October’s training camp after having surgery three weeks ago to remove a bone spur from his right ankle. Rivers continues to do most of his rehabilitation work in Winter Park, Fla., his hometown, but said he plans to return to New Orleans soon to resume work. ... Besides Rivers, center Robin Lopez and guard Xavier Henry are both recovering from knee surgeries last month. Shortly after participating in all five games on the Hornets’ summer league schedule, Henry had arthroscopic surgery to repair a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee.
  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: The Spurs announced today they have waived Derrick Byars, a rookie forward who joined the team on April 25 out of the Development League and appeared in the final two games of last season. The move, made in the name of roster housekeeping, was not unexpected. Byars, 28, was technically a member of the Spurs’ roster throughout the postseason run to the Western Conference Finals but was never listed on the active roster and didn’t make any of the road trips. The transaction officially drops the Spurs roster to 14, one less than the NBA maximum.
  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: Pistons rookies Andre Drummond, Khris Middleton and Kim English took part in the NBA's rookie orientation last weekend in New York. In place since 1986, the program is mandatory and one way the league and veteran players try to help rookies get acclimated to life as a professional -- and provide guidance to avoid common pitfalls. "It's a whole different ballgame now," said Drummond, the Pistons' first-round pick. "It's stuff we knew growing up from our mothers and family members that is being reiterated on a whole new level and how different things are going to happen to us." NBA senior vice president for player development Mike Bantom said the players really respond from advice from their older peers.
  • Brendan Savage of MLive.com: A highlight video of new Detroit Pistons big man Slava Kravtsov has readers excited about his potential and shot-blocking ability but questions remain about his offensive abilities. Sure, Kravtsov can dunk the ball ferociously. But can he shoot? That's what some fans are asking. Still, his ability to defend near the basket and swat shots is something all NBA teams covet, leaving fans optimistic the Pistons might have found a free-agent gem if he can bring those skills to the NBA.
  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: John Wall’s rise from unheralded high school prospect to phenomenon after participating in the Reebok Breakout camp has been chronicled many times, in many ways, including a cartoon version that was released earlier this summer. The breakout story has been packaged again, wrapped around a mini-documentary about the latest Breakout Challenge, which featured highly-touted recruits Aquille Carr and twins Aaron and Andrew Harrison and was held last month in Philadelphia. Wall’s thrashing of high school standout Tyrek Coger has made the rounds this week, as well as another video of him schooling even more players. But in this latest video created by NOC, Wall offers some advice to players seeking to reach his status – or higher – in the NBA. Wall will be one of several current and former NBA players – including Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo, Chris Bosh, Kyrie Irving and Paul Pierce – in New York on Wednesday, offering support for the re-election campaign of President Obama at a fundraising event and dinner.

First Cup: Monday

November, 21, 2011
11/21/11
6:47
AM ET
  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "Michael H. Goldberg, executive director of the NBA Coaches Association since 1978, isn't holding his tongue or pen. Goldberg wrote an open letter addressed to the NBA and the players, urging both sides to return to the bargaining table. 'The upcoming NBA season must be saved,' Goldberg said in an open letter that was released Sunday. 'To do otherwise will cause a self-inflicted economic blow to an enterprise that over the years, through the hard work of players, team owners and the league office, has become a great global brand. But, like every business operating in today's fragile economic landscape, one that is more susceptible to decline and fall. Everyone involved must now think beyond their interests, check out the daily financial headlines, and work towards a negotiated solution now.' There are no talks scheduled before Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, the players filed two antitrust lawsuits and the owners held a conference call late last week to discuss their next move."
  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "Charles Grantham worked for the players’ union from 1978 to ’95, serving as its executive director for the last seven years, and doubts the current course for the players — with the first six weeks of the regular season already wiped out — will yield the desired result. 'Quite frankly, I’ve always taken a position that I thought the job of the union was to keep the players working, and that the amount of loss that would be represented here would be astronomical for those that play and the people who work in the system,' said Grantham, an adjunct professor on professional sports negotiations at Seton Hall University’s Stillman School of Business. 'I think at a certain point, it became emotional and it kind of got off the track, while they were close to a deal. They should’ve made one.' ... Grantham believes the players will be fortunate to receive a shortened season and likely won’t get a better deal than the one they rejected. With half of nearly $4 billion in revenues at stake, Grantham questioned whether 'it’s even worth losing that kind of money. I look at it from a kind of cost-benefit analysis. It looks like there is nothing there, or certainly not enough, that it’s worth losing the whole season for.' "
  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: "The ongoing NBA lockout situation presents a dilemma for the Utah Jazz and their fans. Everybody wants basketball to be played, not delayed by a labor mess. But even if it brings pro hoops back sooner than later, an unfavorable collective bargaining resolution for Utah could adversely affect the organization as it tries to maintain a tradition of winning despite market-size challenges. In fact, one source with intimate knowledge of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies' inner workings speculated that small-market-related economic hardships could force Jazz ownership to place a 'For Sale' sign on the franchise. The source told the Deseret News that the Jazz were expected to report losses in the $17 million range for the 2010-11 season. 'If I was a betting man,' the source said, 'my guess is that the Millers will sell the team within the next five years, unless this CBA changes the formula so that the team can make some money.' Others say the Millers will never sell the Jazz. The late Larry H. Miller viewed the Jazz as a 'community gift' to Utah. The self-made entrepreneur once put it like this, 'Selling the Jazz would be like selling Canyonlands.' From his vantage point, RSL owner and pro sports mogul Dave Checketts can't envision the Miller family selling the Jazz. He doesn't view their commitment as conditional. 'I think the Jazz have a tremendous, tremendous fan following. I think teams like that will always exist in the markets they're in,' said Checketts, whose resume includes time spent as the Jazz's president and general manager. 'I don't think the Jazz are an endangered species.' "
  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: "Obviously, the missed NHL season damaged the sport’s reputation and left a black mark on the legacy of Bettman. But the league also attempted to reengage fans with rule changes that opened up the game and encouraged more scoring. The NBA still has an opportunity to reach a settlement and avoid such devastation. And the consensus among the Bruins is that although the NHL has recovered, the sport would have been better off if tensions weren’t so high and emotions so raw during those critical negotiations that could have saved the season. 'It just seemed from the last lockout that there was a bit of miscommunication,’ Paille said. 'Players were just getting frustrated and we needed to solve the problem by coming together as a group and understanding the consequences. It’s one thing for us to pay attention to everything and not take it for granted.’ NBA players and owners, you have been warned."
  • Staff of The Denver Post: "Guard J.R. Smith suffered what appeared to be a serious knee injury while playing for his Chinese team Sunday. Smith, who played the last five seasons with the Nuggets, signed to play for Zhejiang, a Chinese Basketball Association team, during the NBA lockout. Sunday's game was the CBA regular-season opener for Smith and Zhejiang. Video and photos that surfaced from the game show Smith going for a pass while cutting through the lane, then seemingly jamming his leg on the court. He limped off the court. Photos from the game show Smith grimacing in pain. He had scored 20 points, with five rebounds and four assists, before leaving the game. Because of the lockout, the Nuggets cannot comment about any player."
  • Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: "Former Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko broke his nose and injured his left shoulder Saturday during a CSKA Moscow game. CSKA's website said a postgame medical examination by doctors 'did not reveal a concussion.' However, Kirilenko will undergo additional tests during the next few days, with 'special attention' paid to his shoulder. Kirilenko has excelled while playing overseas during the NBA lockout and was recently named weekly MVP of the Euroleague. The longtime Jazz player will be an unrestricted free agent when the NBA's work stoppage ends."
  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "Paul Pierce clearly is being pulled in different directions as the NBA lockout drags on into its 143rd day. He is committed to doing what he believes is the right thing for the players, but as his side takes the owners to court, he knows a lost season could mean the end of the Celtics line for his team’s veteran core. 'That’s a great possibility, because we’re not getting any younger,' Pierce said after taking part in a pickup game for charity at Harvard Saturday night. 'KG (Kevin Garnett) and Ray (Allen) are on the last year of their deals, so we really don’t know the future after this year, especially with those two guys. Me and (Rajon) Rondo are locked in for a couple more years after that, but who knows the direction the team is going to want to go in after that. So that’s a huge concern.' Still, though he denies leading the decertification movement, he supports the decision to break up the union through notice of disclaimer (which essentially accomplished the same thing more quickly). 'If I had a vote, would I take the deal now?' Pierce said, repeating the question and pondering it for a second. 'You know what? I don’t think the deal that’s on the table is a deal that I would take.' So how is this going to play out? 'It’s really hard to say,' Pierce said."
  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "Ricky Rubio played Sunday night in a charity game organized by Bucks forward Drew Gooden, marking the first time the Spanish guard had tested some NBA competition during the lockout. The former Barcelona guard hit the first three-pointer he attempted in the Make-a-Wish Charity Game held at the Cow Palace in Daly City, Calif. Rubio signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves but his NBA debut has been on hold due to the lockout which has canceled league games through Dec. 15. 'I'm going to stay here for a while to see if we'll play,' Rubio said in an Associated Press report on the game. 'I can always go back to Spain. So I know I will be playing basketball somewhere this season.' Among the NBA players participating in Gooden's game were Amare Stoudemire, Joakim Noah, DeMar DeRozan, James Harden, Dorell Wright and Al Harrington."
  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "DeAndre Jordan and Kenneth Faried punished rims with every variety of alley oop and windmill dunk. But no collection of spectacular moments could make up for all that had been lost. Kyle Lowry launched 3-pointers from 30 and 35 feet out. But as the numbers piled up he shouted to a courtside press table, 'I'd rather be playing a game.' Even the pregame invocation could not escape the reason NBA players were available to put on a show Sunday in John Lucas' NBA Lockout Celebrity Charity game. Former Rockets guard Mike James offered the sort of prayer typical before such events - then added one amendment. 'And I pray You will unlock the lockout, in Jesus' name,' James said, raising heads and breaking the silence with laughter. 'Amen.' Until a higher power steps in, however, NBA players have been limited to playing for fun and charity, as a few dozen did on Sunday before about 5,000 filling Delmar Fieldhouse."
  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: 'It wouldn't be a stretch to say Donté Greene played out of his shoes because he did. The sneakers worn by the Kings forward became keepsakes at various points during the Goon Squad Classic, the charity game he hosted Sunday night at the UC Davis Pavilion. Greene autographed shoes he wore during the game and tossed them into the stands. 'I think I went through three or four pair,' Greene said. 'Just all for the fans.' Greene and many other NBA players have been staging contests like this during the lockout, which already has led to the cancellation of more than a month's worth of games. There were plenty of dunks and three-pointers and little defense as Greene's team won 167-164 in overtime."
  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "Five months after being traded to the Indiana Pacers, George Hill was back on a San Antonio basketball court on Sunday afternoon, back in a black No. 3 jersey. Except it wasn’t a Spurs jersey. And it wasn’t the AT&T Center. With the NBA lockout still in full bloom, Hill was in town to play point guard for the Texas Fuel. 'I know San Antonio misses some basketball,' said Hill, one of the Spurs’ most popular players in his three seasons with the team. 'I wanted to give the fans something to do during the lockout.' Haven’t heard of the Texas Fuel? You’re likely not alone. The Fuel is the name given to the American Basketball Association team that plays at the Alamo Convocation Center. They are a professional team, to be sure, but about as far a leap from the NBA as the Alamo Convocation Center is from the currently unoccupied basketball gym the Spurs call home. ... Instead of spending Sunday facing the Pistons in Detroit, Hill found himself running point guard in a half-empty gym that houses SAISD’s high school teams. He might be back soon. He wouldn’t rule out a return engagement with the Fuel. 'It depends on how much Icy Hot I have to use after this game,' he said."
  • Staff of the Detroit Free Press: "The Pistons would have played the Pacers at the Palace on Sunday night. That game, like all NBA games through Dec. 15, was canceled because of the lockout and the never-ending blood feud between owners and players. The cancelation avoided an oddity by the NBA schedule-makers: The weekend marked the seventh anniversary of the famous Pistons-Pacers brawl at the Palace. No one can forget how on Nov. 19, 2004, Indiana's Ron Artest, after a shove from Ben Wallace and getting doused by a beverage, went berserk and, with his Pacers teammates, charged the stands. Artest, of course, has long since left the Pacers, won an NBA championship with the Lakers and received the league's J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award. And changed his name to Metta World Peace."
  • Tom Reed of The Plain Dealer: "In the past nine days, Chris Grant has witnessed college basketball history made from his seat in Madison Square Garden and from the deck of an aircraft carrier best known for burying the remains of Osama bin Laden at sea. The Cavaliers general manager watched Duke's Mike Krzyzewski become the winningest Division I coach on Tuesday, four days after attending the first college game (North Carolina-Michigan State) to be played aboard a ship in the Quicken Loans Carrier Classic. 'The sheer size of the aircraft carrier was indescribable,' said Grant of the USS Carl Vinson, nearly as long (1,092 feet) as the Empire State Building is tall. 'To be there on Veterans Day and in the presence of the Armed Forces made for a perfect day.' Getting a chance to scout about 10 of the top draft-eligible prospects during his trips to San Diego and New York wasn't a bad perk, either. With the NBA lockout ongoing, general managers such as Grant have the unique opportunity to analyze talent unburdened by the day-to-day duties of running a franchise. It could make for the most well-scouted draft class in recent memory."
  • Tom Mahon of the Philadelphia Daily News: "As auctions go, it was a slam dunk. Former Sixers star Julius Erving pulled in a record $3.5 million for 144 items from his personal collection of memorabilia. Doctor J's treasure trove was part of SCP Auctions' November auction, which concluded yesterday. According to SCP, Erving's 1974 New York Nets ABA championship ring netted $460,471, a record for a sports ring. ... The 61-year-old Erving told the Associated Press last month he planned to donate a portion of the auction proceeds to the Salvation Army."
  • Allan Brettman of The Oregonian: "Nike is the dominant basketball sneaker brand, controlling about 95 percent of sales in the U.S. through Nike Basketball, Brand Jordan and Converse. 'Will that energy continue if the NBA lockout continues?' Nike Brand president Charlie Denson said to stock analysts and others in September. 'I believe it will. Basketball never stops. It's truly becoming a global game. Between international leagues, national team play, the upcoming Olympics, the college game here in the U.S., we see basketball continuing to grow.' Basketball sneaker buyers so far are proving Denson correct. In October, sales were higher than the same month last year, said Matt Powell, an analyst for the SportsOneSource Group, who predicted several weeks ago that the lockout would have little to no effect on shoe sales. 'Television is much less important to selling sneakers today than it was in 1999,' during the last extended NBA work stoppage, Powell said. 'Sneaker sales are much more influenced by the web today. Brands get more exposure for products on YouTube than they do on (ESPN) SportsCenter.' ... Adidas, which is about midway through an 11-year partnership as the league's official uniform and apparel supplier, had about $350 million in NBA-related clothing sales last year. Analysts say, however, that the biggest benefit for Adidas in its apparel deal is having its three-stripes logo on NBA uniforms and, as a result, visible to stadium and television audiences. In that regard, the season has been a total loss of the company, which keeps its North American headquarters in North Portland which is also where NBA uniforms are designed. An Adidas spokeswoman noted only that the Germany-based company's latest quarterly earnings statement included growing sales of basketball footwear."

First Cup: Monday

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

Wednesday Bullets

February, 23, 2011
2/23/11
10:50
AM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Charlie from Roundball Mining Company on the (undefeated!) post-Melo Nuggets: "Just a few days ago, this was a zombie team hardly recognizable as the former contenders they once were. The only thing driving them was the undead rumor mill of Melo speculation that manifested itself in a new form after every attempt to kill it. I have to be honest, I no longer cared about the team I love. The games seemed meaningless and the players proved it in their demeanor and team spirit on the court. I felt as empty watching the games as Melo must have after every time he scored 30 points on 25 shots in a losing effort, knowing that each time he put on a Denver jersey would be one closer to his last. Now, after what in many ways was one of the saddest moments in Nuggets history, I feel as reborn as I imagine this team might feel too. Melo got what he wanted, after a long nightmare that consumed not only the Nuggets’ season but those of all the new players who arrived in Denver tonight via trade. Finally, a vision for a team fully committed to each other. Players who want a future now with the meaningful role and the environment to grow into themselves. The Nuggets are finally fighting for something real and exciting as for the first time in months they are a real team."
  • A thorny issue in hoops geekery is assessing the value of being able to create a shot. If you had 12 guys who rebounded a ton, you'd have a very efficient team, but, likely, many possessions where nobody could even get a shot off. That seems wrong. So ... who are the guys who are best at creating shots? Depends how you look, but names like Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Steve Nash and Russell Westbrook come up a lot: The NBA players who create the most shots for their teams.
  • How do uncreative offensive players hurt your team? Consider Bret LaGree of Hoopinion on how the Hawks lost to the Lakers: "Yes, the Hawks missed several open shots in the fateful first half but they also made themselves easy to guard. Whatever defensive value starting Jason Collins against Andrew Bynum had was overwhelmed by the value the Lakers gained by being able to defend five-on-four in the half-court. Atlanta's primary ball-handlers, Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford, approached a defense overloaded to the strong side with lots of dribbling. The resultant offensive stagnation further encouraged Josh Smith to continue his evolution into a spot-up shooter which in turn magnified (possibly exaggerated) the damage of the turnovers he committed when attempting to make an aggressive play."
  • Caltech won a league game for the first time in 26 years. (Via College Basketball Nation Blog.) Great stuff. Couldn't be happier for Caltech coach Oliver Eslinger, who has been a friend of TrueHoop since he was back at M.I.T. (you may recall my linking several times to his blog "Doc's head games" -- he has a Ph.D. in counseling and sports psychology). A footnote (literally) to that game: Click that link above, and look for #22, a guard with his back to the camera as the final free throw is attempted. That's Collin Murphy. Met him on Sunday morning, and he's an Alaskan Packer fan, and as nice as can be. And here's the funniest damn thing: Look at his shoes. They're outrageous yellow Adidas. Now, in yesterday's bullets I linked to some video from a blogger game early Sunday morning. Look what I'm wearing: Outrageous yellow Adidas. Same exact pair! ESPN has restrictions on the kinds of gifts journalists can accept, and I take it seriously. When I happen into free sneakers -- even though the vast majority are below the value outlined by the policy -- I give them away. In this case, Adidas offered me some shoes. I had two pickup games to play in and no shoes. So I accepted them, knowing I'd use them for just a morning before finding somebody who'd want them. I wrapped up the final run of the morning in Caltech's gym, as Murphy walked in, and he just happened to be size 11.
  • The craziest thing about this Dwyane Wade layup is that after throwing up a preposterous falling down dream of a shot, he bothers to look to see if it's going in. Most unlikely thing ever ... until it does. (Via SLAM Online.)
  • How the Heat beat the Kings, in comic form.
  • "Here We Stay" picking up steam as a group eager to keep the Kings in Sacramento.
  • The Bulls are angling for a scorer.
  • An American in Barcelona does not understand the talk that Ricky Rubio is disappointing.
  • Chris Paul's health is a major NBA factor. On that topic, GM Dell Demps spoke to season ticket holders, and Hornets247 blogger "42" has insight: "He feels it takes 2 years for a player to return to pre-surgery level after these kinds of surgeries. The issue is the strength of this quad muscles after bring inactive following the surgery. The first year is largely about building trust in the knee. Chris is fiercely committed to his rehab. The knee brace was a request by the team to provide some insurance of sorts while the knee was healing. Chris honored that request. The knee brace is officially gone." Also, for those worried about relocation, know that Demps says he just bought a house.
  • Recapping the off-court risks associated with Carmelo Anthony. A major factor in that conversation is his appearance in that "Stop Snitchin'" video. On that topic, I accept things are complicated, and this is must-read.
  • The battle is on! The battle between Madison Square Garden and Staples Center to be the place celebrities watch NBA basketball. It's a weird battle, I know. But a battle nonetheless.
  • Magic Johnson's Twitter account is fascinating and worth the follow. He says the Lakers need to make a small trade before the deadline. (Via Mark Medina.) He also plugs MSG in the battle I just mentioned.
  • Michael Redd on video: Still lefty, still draining shots and due back soon.
  • If you want to see a technical foul, put John Wall in a room with the Pacers' front line.
  • "Corned beef, pastrami, salami, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and Russian dressing on rye bread." Per Ian Begley at ESPN New York's Knicks blog, those are the ingredients of the Carnegie Deli's new Carmelo Anthony sandwich. The Russian dressing is said to be a dig at Mikhail Prokhorov, although I'd like to point out the other ingredients practically demand it.
  • The NBA wants play to start faster after timeouts are over, in the name of speeding up the game. Hooray! Now if they could see about keeping those timeouts to the 100 seconds specified in the rulebook, instead of those epic playoff timeouts, during which you can amble at your own pace and still make a trip to the bathroom and get a snack.

First Cup: Monday

February, 21, 2011
2/21/11
7:11
AM ET
  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "The game ended a weekend filled with intrigue (Blake Griffin's dunk over a parked car) and drama (the Carmelo Anthony trade saga). Griffin has elevated the future of the Clippers but had a quiet eight points Sunday after being put in in the fourth quarter. Durant had 34 points for the West and Gasol added 17. The game had some humorous moments, including Orlando center Dwight Howard launching two three-point attempts (he missed both, of course) and possible soon-to-be teammates Anthony and Stoudemire guarding each other. Bryant was jovial with media members afterward, though he became serious when asked if the Lakers (38-19) were ready to capture some momentum. They lost three consecutive games before the All-Star break, including an inexplicable one in Cleveland, and trail San Antonio by 81/2 games. 'We are up for the challenge,' Bryant said. 'Pau and I have been talking this whole time about looking forward and getting back at it. We have been in communication with the rest of the fellas, and we all can't wait to get started.' Lakers fans in attendance demonstrated decent basketball knowledge, booing when four Celtics checked into the game midway into the first quarter (Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett). They also showed good judgment by applauding when Celtics legend Bill Russell was honored. In fact, the entire arena gave him a standing ovation."
  • Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News: "Gregg Popovich got a close look. And with seconds left, he got an even closer one. He gave Kobe Bryant a high-five and a slap on the rear. In less than two weeks, he will see Bryant again, and then Popovich will be sure of a few things. For one, he can’t give up 143 points and win again. For another, the Bryant he saw Sunday night could resurface, and again in May, and this is what Popovich will take away from All-Star weekend. The Lakers may be broken for the moment. But Bryant will continue to be what he has been for more than a decade, trying to fix everything by himself. At times, it’s a quality that has hurt both Bryant and the Lakers. It happened even on Sunday night, when Bryant won his fourth MVP award. Twice at the end, Bryant opted to take on the Eastern Conference all alone, resulting in turnovers. ... Still, this has been Bryant’s way, and Popovich was in attendance to see it. Bryant took 14 shots in his first 15 minutes, then went on to add 14 rebounds and three steals. Your thoughts on Kobe? 'He’s one helluva player,' Popovich said. What do you think made him so good today? 'He’s Kobe. He’s done things like that. We shouldn’t be surprised.' Popovich won’t be surprised if this Kobe shows up again. Not after what he saw, up close."
  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "If Paul Pierce had any notion that the All-Star weekend crowd would be more transient, that was rectified during Saturday’s 3-point contest and again last night when he was verbally drilled during the pregame introductions that lasted longer than some Third World regimes. 'Tru-u-u-u-th' or consequences? 'No,' said Pierce through a laugh, 'those were boos.' He rebutted the allegedly neutral atmosphere, saying, 'Yeah, but most of the fans in the house are LA fans. They bought the tickets first. Even though it’s an All-Star Game and people come in from all around the world, the majority of the people are going to be from LA.' In terms of his play, it was a fairly quiet evening for Pierce in his ninth All-Star appearance. He had six points on 2-of-6 shooting in 11 minutes. And the crowd booed on. Famed Lakers public address announcer Lawrence Tanter noted in the intro that Pierce was from Inglewood (it was in the script, not an ad lib, Tanter said later), but that didn’t help Pierce’s cause. 'I had no part in that,' Pierce said. 'That was kind of nice. I liked the fact that they did that.' Then he shrugged. 'This is LA. I’m a Celtic. You’ve got to expect it,' Pierce said. 'If you walk in the water, you expect to get wet. But from here on out, I’m not going to be claiming LA. I’m from Inglewood, California. The people of Inglewood, they love me. That’s all that matters. I’m not from LA, so I expect the boos.' "
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "Dwight Howard has said that he’s 'retired for life' from the dunk contest. But the temptation to compete again might be too much for the Orlando Magic superstar to resist if the owners and players avoid a protracted lockout and All-Star Weekend is held as scheduled Feb. 24-26, 2012, at Orlando’s Amway Center. A dunk contest that features both Howard and the Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin would be the most widely anticipated dunk contest since Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins faced-off against each other in 1988. What current NBA player wouldn’t want to top M.J.? One reason Howard gave for skipping the last two contests was that he wanted to save his legs for the rest of the regular season and for the postseason. But I think Howard could be coaxed out his self-imposed retirement. The event will be held here in Orlando, and he will be pushed to treat the hometown fans to a spectacle. ... Griffin has emerged as a bona fide contender to that unofficial title. Griffin not only has the repertoire of dunks to challenge Howard, but he also has a comparable sense of theater. Bringing out a local choir to sing 'I Believe I Can Fly' and jumping over a car last night proves that. A victory in the 2012 dunk contest -- on his home court -- over Griffin would keep that title squarely in Howard’s camp. That temptation may be too much for Howard to resist."
  • Israel Gutierrez of The Miami Herald: "It’s now time for the stretch run, the fine-tuning, the battle for position and attempt at dominance. And even before the postseason comes, or before that final meeting with the Celtics on April 10, the Heat’s schedule reads like a season’s worth of showcase games. There’s the Bulls, the Knicks, possibly with Anthony, the Magic, Spurs twice, Lakers, Thunder, another trip to Cleveland. Watching the development of this Heat team has been frustrating and gripping. But watching the team reach for the finish line and attempt to complete what it so badly wants to in Year One of the SuperFriends will be exponentially more fascinating. The Celtics are waiting, prepared to defend what’s theirs. The Bulls are running, with Derrick Rose sprinting by everyone. The Lakers are coming, undoubtedly. The Spurs might be the most challenging of them all. And LeBron is comfortable (his All-Star Game triple-double a sign of things to come?) and waiting to take on all those challengers, armed with stronger teammates than ever. All-Star weekend in Los Angeles was the perfect breather in fantasyland -- at least if you could catch your breath in between all the gasps. Because the finish to this season is going to make your heart race."
  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: "While the NBA is basking in its juggernaut status, there has to be a realization that several of its members are being forgotten. Reports surfaced this weekend that the Kings are looking to move to Anaheim, as if Southern California needs a third NBA team. That has to be perplexing to Stern, who encourages smaller markets and one-team cities in the NBA. That’s why he yanked the SuperSonics out of Seattle and repositioned them in Oklahoma City. The question for Stern is whether his fan base finally will begin to tire of lack of competitive balance. So far there are no signs of that. An estimated 8.1 million viewers tuned in Saturday night to watch Blake Griffin leap over a Kia to win the slam dunk contest, a record for the showcase event. The NBA’s popularity is at an all-time high, even eclipsing the Michael Jordan era. But the untold secret is that many of the smaller-market teams are suffering, and that’s a byproduct of bad management and players choosing to play in more attractive cities. There’s nothing to celebrate about that."
  • Jeff Miller of The Orange County Register: "The Anaheim Kings? The Orange County Kings? The Coto de Caza Kings? Heck, at this point, we're even willing to let Arte Moreno name the club. It could happen, it should happen, someone please make it happen. Honda Center needs an NBA team. You need an NBA team. We need an NBA team. Our own NBA team. Their Lakers and Clippers and now our Kings. Sounds perfect. If there's enough room for all of us here already, there's enough room for a third NBA team. What, like the I-5 is gonna get that much more jammed? Reports swirled this weekend about Kings officials getting more serious about leaving Sacramento because their team currently plays there in a Holiday Inn parking lot. That's just a joke. We've been inside Arco Arena. It's really not that bad. More like a Hyatt parking lot. ... These opportunities are fleeting in a remarkable way. Even more remarkable than the fact Southern California still hasn't landed an NFL team. So bring on the Kings -- our Kings -- and do for the start of the 2011-12 season. Honda Center needs an NBA team. We need an NBA team. You need an NBA team, a new NBA team. Or maybe you've forgotten just how poorly the Lakers have been playing lately."
  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "Eastern Conference coach Doc Rivers wasn't too concerned about the state of the center position in the NBA. Rivers said the shortage is only a phase. 'If you remember, seven years ago everyone was saying there are no point guards in the league,' Rivers said. 'Now we're talking about it's the point guard renaissance. It's more point guards than it's ever been. It'll happen again with bigs. It just will. It'll just take time.' One reason there is a shortage of centers, Rivers said, is they're simply more difficult to create. Not everyone can be a center. 'The first thing is you need to grow,' Rivers said. 'That's the one position where, if you don't grow to be 7-feet tall you can't be a center. All of us could be guards.' "
  • Dave Krieger of The Denver Post: "If it's all business, which is the usual refuge of parties to these messy divorces, then Carmelo Anthony and other larger-than-life athletes are no more than aggregations of points and rebounds, or possibly catches and touchdowns, as the case may be. And so we tell ourselves, with the bitterness of lovers scorned, that these guys were never worthy of our devotion in the first place. Anthony may score a lot, but he doesn't rebound enough. Brandon Marshall may catch a lot of passes, but he doesn't score enough. Not only that, they must be deeply selfish to want out of Colorado. These rationalizations soften the sense of loss. In both of these cases, the loss may actually be more about management of the teams they played for than the players themselves, but we don't want to go there. These are our teams, for better or worse. So let's leave the breathless Melo updates just long enough to consider these guys as people. We'll get back to the commodities market soon enough, probably this week, if Thursday's NBA trade deadline has anything to say about it."
  • Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star: "Two questions about the Hall of Fame voters, who somehow failed to make Reggie Miller a finalist for induction Friday: Who are they and what the heck could they be thinking? A reasonable person could rationally argue Miller is not a first-ballot Basketball Hall of Fame candidate. There are some small holes in the resume, and I've always believed that first-ballot inductees should be absolute no-brainers -- and Uncle Reggie (sorry) is not a first-ballot no-brainer. Close, but not quite. A reasonable person could not, however, argue that Miller didn't belong on the Hall of Fame's list of finalists. Especially -- and I mean ESPECIALLY -- when you look at the less-than-august group of players who made the final cut, and will have a chance to reach the Hall when the vote is announced at the men's Final Four in April."
  • Jeff Schultz of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "This is your team. Joe Johnson stayed. Smith stayed. Bibby stayed. Williams stayed. The only change of significance the Hawks made after being swept in the second round of the playoffs two straight years was to fire coach Mike Woodson. The message delivered: This is the core -- let’s see where it takes us. Time’s about up. If the Hawks don’t do something this season that makes us stop slapping our forehead, blow the sucker up. Rick Sund never has been one for public analysis during the season. He certainly doesn’t discuss trade possibilities. But he did say this Sunday: 'The next two months and our performance in the playoffs will indicate as to exactly what this team is. The challenge is up to them.' And this: 'We’ve put ourselves in position to do something, so let’s see where it goes. We have to do it collectively and with chemistry and coaching and all that.' I think he just said: 'Bob Pettit is not walking through that door.' We can debate whether retaining this core for another season was right or wrong. But it’s significant that Sund is declaring it’s show-me time. The Hawks obviously aren’t as good as Boston or Miami. But they’ve shown at times they can be better than a second-round punchline."
  • Scott Lebar of The Sacramento Bee: "Shoes still matter. Or, at least, shoe endorsements still matter, big time. That was an amusing sidelight over the NBA All-Star Weekend, brought to you by BBVA, Haier and, of course, Kia, which wheeled out an Optima for the slam-dunk contest. Sorry -- the Sprite Slam Dunk. Not to be confused with the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest or the Taco Bell Skills Challenge. The whole event started to sound like a college bowl naming contest. Next up, the Bounty Dribble Drive … Yeah, we're starting to make things up, wondering where events begin and selling ends. TNT's Charles Barkley was wondering about shoes as JaVale McGee kept changing them for each of his slam dunks. Reggie Miller told him they were Peaks, a brand from China. 'What are those, the Chinese version of PF Flyers?' the Chuckster joked. Kenny Smith called them 'runner-up shoes' as McGee lost to Blake Griffin and jack-in-the-box Baron Davis, who popped through the Kia's sunroof and passed to Griffin. Davis should have gotten a fast-food sponsor. Aside from the ribbing, Peak did win. McGee got to wear his special Wolverine model and tweet about his collection, and Dorell Wright wore them for the three-point contest. Other players wear them (including the Kings' Beno Udrih and Carl Landry), but before this, the most publicity they received was when Lakers coach Phil Jackson complained they gave Ron Artest plantar fasciitis. You have to hand it to the fancy Peak footwork. You're probably now more likely to buy the shoe than the car."

First Cup: Thursday

November, 5, 2009
11/05/09
8:54
AM ET
  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "The NBA is the ultimate what-have- you-done lately league. A day after Dirk Nowitzki's outrageous fourth quarter against Utah, everybody was still talking about it. Good thing. That way they didn't have to talk about his 4-for-15 shooting and his six personal fouls Wednesday night against New Orleans. Or his streak of 20-point games ending at 29. He finished with just a dozen, or 17 fewer than he had Tuesday – in the fourth quarter. But although Nowitzki was frustrated by the New Orleans defense, it still couldn't erase that crazy, 29-point fourth quarter he had Tuesday. Lost amid everybody trying to find adequate words to describe that game was that one of Nowitzki's new wrinkles in his game has gone mostly unnoticed. 'He's just a special player,' Carlisle said. 'What he did last night, we may not see that again in this league for a lot of years. He's gotten better every year. This year, he's made an effort to drive the ball more to his right. He's always been a very strong and natural driver left. But he's driving it right more, which I think helps keep defenses honest.' "
  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "The Lakers won another game but might have lost another big man. Pau Gasol is a little closer to returning, but Andrew Bynum was injured toward the end of the Lakers' 103-102 overtime victory Wednesday over the Houston Rockets. Bynum was fouled hard across his right arm while going up for a shot and sustained a sprained elbow with 24.7 seconds left in overtime. He will be re-evaluated today in Los Angeles. 'I can't even lift my arm right now,' Bynum said. 'They just took a shot at me. That's that, I guess. It's not that bad. It just takes a little while to heal up.' Anybody ready for Lamar Odom at center? On the day that Gasol was cleared to resume basketball-related activities, the Lakers secured an overtime victory on the road for the second time in as many days, in no small part because of Kobe Bryant's 41 points and Derek Fisher's last-second steal."

  • Dan Steinberg of D.C. Sports Bog: "'Sometimes it's just frustrating,' Brendan Haywood said last week, when Caron Butler hurt his knee. 'It feels like we're cursed.' Well, that was last week. Then came Wednesday night's loss to the Heat, when Mike MIller went down with a sprained AC joint in his left shoulder--'Felt like it slid a little bit on me and went numb,' Miller said, describing the injury. Flip Saunders said he'll likely be gone 7-to-10 days. But even if it really is that brief of a recovery, this means that within the season's first six games, 60 percent of the Wiz starters will have missed at least one game with an injury. The two who have been spared are Gilbert Arenas, who missed most of the last two years with rotted knee, and Brendan Haywood, who was sidelined for 75 games last season. Does that really seem fair?"
  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel: "There was a point early in Wednesday's fourth quarter, when Dwyane Wade normally goes to the bench, that he locked eyes with Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. 'He pretty much nodded his head,' Spoelstra said. The message was understood. Wade would play to the finish, play all 24 minutes of the second half on the second night of a back-to-back set that began with Tuesday's track meet against the Phoenix Suns. 'This,' Wade said after scoring 40 points in the 93-89 victory over the Washington Wizards, 'is one of those games where you have to will your team to victory.' And where there is a will and a Wade, there is a way."
  • Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press: "Two years after leaving the Timberwolves, Kevin Garnett is still capable of getting what many NBA observers refer to as a 'hometown call.' The 15-year veteran had a significant hand in the Boston Celtics' 92-90 victory Wednesday night at Target Center, leaving the Wolves fuming and winless since the regular-season opener. Garnett heard boos from most of the crowd of 19,133 after he tied up Wolves forward Corey Brewer for a jump ball with 3.9 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Brewer and Wolves fans felt Garnett should have been called for a foul after he reached in to put his right hand on the ball. A replay on the video scoreboard appeared to support the claims. 'I've been waiting for a game like this when a veteran player gets a call or no-call,' Wolves rookie point guard Jonny Flynn said. 'It definitely happened tonight.' "
  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "Brandon Jennings said he got some instant advice from fellow point guard Derrick Rose in the waning moments of the Bucks' 83-81 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday. The words of wisdom came soon after Rose had blocked a potential game-tying shot by Jennings, while the teams were lined up for two foul shots taken (and missed) by Bulls center Joakim Noah. 'Actually, Rose told me when I came back down, 'Next time you get in a situation like that, just bring it back out and try to run something else,' ' Jennings told reporters after the Bucks' practice session Wednesday. 'Me and Rose, we go way back. We're cool. I'm still learning. He gave me a little advice. So I'm going to try to take advantage of it next time I play him.' "
  • Ross Siler of The Salt Lake Tribune: "With one message posted on his Twitter account Tuesday afternoon, Deron Williams underscored the urgency facing the Jazz in the season's first week. 'On the way to the Dallas game!!!' Williams wrote. 'Need this win ... Bad.' Even if it was the first week of November, the Jazz already were playing a must-win game. By the end of the night, they had been punched in the gut, courtesy of Dirk Nowitzki and his 29-point fourth quarter. In the span of 24 hours, the Jazz swung from one extreme to another, yet dropped both games all the same -- embarrassed at home by a Houston team that had eight players score in double figures, and flattened on the road almost single-handedly by Nowitzki. Now the Jazz must regroup at EnergySolutions Arena tonight against San Antonio, in front of the same fans who booed them repeatedly only three nights earlier and didn't bother to stick around for the final horn against the Rockets. 'We haven't gave them much reason to cheer yet,' Williams said. 'We've got to get the best fans in the world up and out of their seats for a little bit, and we haven't been able to do that.' "
  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "In this part of the Northeast, caring about anything in the sporting landscape Wednesday night began and ended with the World Series. The arena was sparsely populated, which allowed the Nuggets fans in attendance to be pretty much as loud as the Nets fans. But while the loudest cheers were saved for Yankees highlights, the Nuggets and Nets played a competitive basketball game. For a half. The Nuggets came to life in the second half and put away the injury-depleted Nets 122-94 at the Izod Center. 'The equalizer in the NBA is the length of the game,' Nuggets coach George Karl said. 'The length of the game usually brings talent forward, and the better teams come forward over time.' "
  • Josh Robbins and Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "Magic fans probably don't want to hear about Phoenix Suns SF Grant Hill advising any Magic player about playing with injuries. But Hill said before facing his old club on Wednesday night that he did speak with point guard Jameer Nelson last season and encouraged his former teammate not to come back to play in the playoffs. 'Put that on the record. You can ask him. I told him not to play, just from my own experience,' Hill said. 'Not so much from a basketball standpoint. Maybe I shouldn't have, because you don't want to plant that seed in somebody before they're going out to play. But I said, 'Look, I've been out there when [I'm] not right and even when you are right, it's a process when you miss that much time. So, you're going to second-guess your shoulder and your confidence and all that.' Then, as you're not at that level, everybody else is at that level. Then you start to lose your confidence.' Nelson missed the last half of the season after shoulder surgery but returned to play in the Finals against the Lakers. He struggled mightily, proving Hill's point."
  • Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: "Help and recover. It is one of the most common defensive laws in basketball. Through four games this season, in which they've won two, the 76ers appear to have the help part down. It's the recover part that is giving them the trouble. And that has led to an alarming number of made three-pointers by their opponents. Of the 438 points scored against the Sixers this season, 153 of them, or 35 percent, have come from shots beyond the arc. Opponents have made 51-of-113 treys, or 45 percent. In the season-opener at Orlando, the Magic drained 16 of 29. In the home opener in Milwaukee, the Bucks shot a pedestrian 7-for-23, then Halloween night in New York, the Knicks launched 41 threes, converting 14. Then in Tuesday's disastrous 105-74 loss to the Celtics, Boston canned 14 of 20. The help and recover principle goes like this: The farther your man is from the basketball, the more the defender slides to the lane for help against penetration and to cut off passing lanes. As the ball moves closer to his man, the defender also gets closer. Once the ball comes to the defender's assigned player, he should be there as the ball gets there. That's the recover."
  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "The Charlotte Bobcats might not be much offensively, but they're adapting to what coach Larry Brown means when he says play the game the right way. Two statistics in particular demonstrate that: The Bobcats are second in the NBA in rebounding and average dramatically more free-throw attempts than their opponents. In both cases, small forward Gerald Wallace is the key reason. Through the first four games, the Bobcats are averaging 46.25 rebounds, compared to 39.75 for their composite opponent. That's second in the league (to Memphis), both in rebounds per game and rebounding differential. Wallace is averaging 14 rebounds per game, second only to Toronto's Chris Bosh at 14.7."
  • Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle: "It had to be comforting to the Warriors and their fans to see the Memphis Grizzlies and Allen Iverson arrive in Oakland on Wednesday. It was a reminder that the Warriors haven't cornered the NBA market on disaffected players or odd chemistry. Iverson missed the Grizzlies' first three games with an injury, came off the bench in Game 4, then groused that he has no intention of being a supporting actor in anybody's drama. It would seem that a detail like that would have been hammered out up-front, not after the contract was signed. Uh, Mr. Iverson, we'd like you to provide a spark off the bench. You want a spark off the bench, go hire a bad electrician. In your NBA Most Dysfunctional Team fantasy league, you are golden if you took the Grizzlies, but don't give up just yet on your Warriors."
  • Iliana Limón of the Orlando Sentinel: "Marcus Jordan stuck to his guns and wore his father's iconic Nike Air Jordans, a decision that has cost the University of Central Florida its six-year, $3 million exclusive contract with adidas. Adidas spokeswoman Andrea Corso said in an e-mail to the Orlando Sentinel, 'The University of Central Florida has chosen not to deliver on their contractual commitment to adidas. As a result we have chosen not to continue our relationship with them moving forward.' UCF Athletics Director Keith Tribble said late Wednesday that he was surprised by the statement from adidas. 'There's really not much I can say because I don't know anything about it and have not heard anything official from adidas about our agreement,' Tribble said. 'As I said before, we spoke with adidas officials throughout this process and were continuing contract negotiations with them. I have not seen anything in writing or heard directly from adidas about a change in our relationship.' "

Friday Bullets

August, 7, 2009
8/07/09
1:37
PM ET

Posted by Timothy Varner of 48 Minutes of Hell.

  •  I'm always more sympathetic to players who test positive for PEDs when the phrase "over the counter" is part of the story. If a substance is readily available to your local high school football team, why would we slap the hands of professional athletes for taking it? Well, as you might have guessed, that sort of reasoning is entirely too simplistic. Dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA, is only available by way of a sad piece of legislative history. Jeff Passan details that episode in this article. Go read Passan's take, and when you're done join me in giving the NBA three cheers for having more integrity on this issue than MLB. The NBA has its warts, but I'm happy that looking the other way on DHEA is not one of them. (Thanks to Third Quarter Collapse for bringing our attention to the Passan piece.)
  • Bradford Doolittle of Basketball Prospectus frames the Rashard Lewis discussion differently than most: "Performance enhancers are a fact of life. Rather than pouring all of these resources into vilifying athletes that made choices no different than what 99% of us would have made, perhaps it would be better to legitimize the industry and work to make PEDs safe. After all, the reason that they have been declared illegal by the FDA isn't because they allow you to hit a baseball farther (if it's true that that is the case); they are illegal because they have unacceptable risks for potentially lethal side effects. Modern athletes are serving as guinea pigs for a developing arm of pharmacology that in 20 years, no one is likely to object to...if they have found ways for all of us to improve the quality of our lives."
  • Will the Rashard Lewis suspension dramatically impact the playoff race? One stat geek says not so much: "As far as I'm concerned, the only relevance this news has is this: The Magic will lose the services of an excellent player for 10 games. But Orlando projects to be a deep team this season and when I reduce Lewis' playing time projection by 10% and up that of players like Mickael Pietrus, Matt Barnes and Ryan Anderson, I see that the Magic's win projection drops from 52 to 51. That is all that really matters."
  • Marvin Williams is set to re-sign with the Hawks. Really, it's true this time.
  • Jon Nichols of Hardwood Paroxysm takes a smart look at shot selection in the final two minutes of games.
  • The Memphis Grizzlies fascinate me. Memphis GM Chris Wallace recently spoke to Chip Crain of 3 Shades of Blue and placed the size of his team's scouting staff in perspective. Michael Heisley takes a beating in the press, but Ronald Tillery makes an argument that Heisley does some things very well. And in a companion piece, Heisley paints himself as Clay Bennett's opposite. Who knew that the Grizzlies were so provocative?
  • Russell Westbrook tells Dime about all the hard work that has gone into his vertical leap. (Thanks to Royce Young of Daily Thunder for the alert.)
  • Someone else who thinks the Lakers lost in the Ariza/Artest exchange.
  • Ridiculous Upside reconsiders the question of whether to play in the D-League or Europe. And, don't look now, but they're out in full force defending the Grizzlies too
  • Neil Paine of Basketball Reference provides a bunch of data that adds up in this way: "...it appears that there's a very slight trend over the last decade that says teams who rely on their guards and smaller players tend to win a few more games over the course of a season. This makes sense, given that the league spent most of the Oughts trying to tip the advantage in favor of perimeter scorers with modifications to the rules on hand-checking and more liberal foul calls on drives in general."
  • Meet Dr. Foot.
  • You have to appreciate Tony Parker's candor. He tells L'Equipe that his recent return to San Antonio was upsetting and that he plans to gradually work himself back into his national team's rotation. They have a heavy schedule between now and training camp. (HT: Kace)
  • I spent the morning listening to a terrific Blazer's Edge podcast with Kevin Pelton. If you don't have time to listen to the entire podcast, skip to segment 4 where Benjamin Golliver and Pelton pick up the hot-button topic of Moneyball, scouting, and the changing face of player evaluation in the NBA. (Soft caution: PG-13 audio between clips.)
  • Jeremy Tyler will not be playing for Union Olympija Lubiana
  • Kurt Rambis is the leading candidate to become the T-Wolves next head coach. Shaquille O'Neal is not the GM in Minnesota
  • Most of the emails I received today were about the new Nike promotional featuring Kevin Durant, Mo Williams and Rashard Lewis.  
  • Save Our Sonics thinks James Donaldson has the best chance of restoring an NBA franchise to Seattle.
  • Bethlehem Shoals says meh to the much ballyhooed free agent race of 2010. Chad Ford says these nine teams are in that race.
  • Update: Sebastian Pruiti of Nets Are Scorching learns that upon being drafted Terrence Williams was immediately enamored by New Jersey's market size. That Terrence Williams caught on quick.

Not Smelling Like a Rose

May, 28, 2009
5/28/09
11:04
PM ET

Remember back when Derrick Rose was in high school, and there were all those articles about how Derrick was so lucky to have his brothers keeping him away from all the scum of recruiting?

Now it's time to start asking how well that worked out.

Of course, you have probably seen the reports about how Memphis is being investigated for this and that. Derrick Rose's brother Reggie's name is coming up a lot. ESPN.com News Services:

Another violation alleged by the NCAA was that a person, according to sources Rose's brother, Reggie, was permitted to travel on the team plane at no cost on two different occasions. The value of the trips was $1,125. The same person was allowed to stay in the team hotel at no cost on five different occasions for a value of $1,135.

"We sell seats all of the time," Johnson said of the team plane. "Anybody is eligible to go. We don't say, 'You can't go because of this or that.' If they pay, they'll go. We'll continue to do that. The way finances are, that's one of the big things on a charter, you have to do things that will help your team. Tiger fans get to go on the charters [if they pay]."

In basketball circles, while Derrick was at Memphis, Reggie was a mystery. He split time between Memphis and Chicago. He jetted around. But he didn't have any obvious means of support.

Dan Wolken of the Memphis Commercial Appeal asked Reggie Rose about it at the time. This is how he responded:

"I've got an AAU foundation out of Chicago through Nike, and I'm a director, and I work with inner-city youth in Chicago," he said. "I'm employed by Nike through AAU basketball. Then I've got a nonprofit organization that helps out kids from the Englewood community."

Wait, did Reggie Rose misunderstand that question? He was asked how he makes money, not how he gives it away. Aren't non-profits for giving goods and services away?

I know some people who work in the non-profit world. Money is tight all around! It's something people tend to do as a sinkhole of money -- not as a source. Reggie Rose tells us he's integral to not one, but two, non-profits.

This is a fascinating answer, in this day and age. I have mentioned more than once on TrueHoop that basketball sources are buzzing about the increased use of non-profits as ways to solve the age-old problem of needing to funnel money to recruits who are supposed to be amateurs. That was a factor in the O.J. Mayo case, and word is non-profits are popping up more regularly around young prospects.

(And let me add here, that I don't much care about someone like Derrick, or even Reggie, Rose making some money. In my perfect world, elite players like Rose would realize the value of their work in above-board fashion -- instead of navigating the underworld of amateur basketball. What concerns me are the people paying. Who are they? What do they want? Why are they so unwilling to let players act freely? When cash is king in steering players to this or that college, agent, sponsor or something else, then we as fans are investing our energy and passion into an endeavor that is not what it purports to be. I'm in the business of understanding what it really is.)

You hate to second-guess somebody's community work, though. So I tried like crazy to find records of Reggie Rose's non-profit. Non-profits are required to file various papers, which are searchable online. Searching every way I know how, I could not find any Chicago-area non-profit with Reggie Rose's name on it. (I also talked to Wolken, who tells me he did the same thing, with the same result.) I found various things with names and missions that theoretically could have been his foundation. But not with Reggie Rose's name.

And here's another weird thing: If you're running a non-profit, and you're close to super-famous Derrick Rose, then you have one thing going for you: The media is all over Derrick Rose, and the media can help you spread the word and raise money. And it's a good cause! You're helping kids! This foundation could even boost Derrick's profile in the eyes of NBA teams and potential corporate sponsors. Wouldn't you be singing the story of the non-profit into every microphone that strayed near you? Where are the photos from this non-profits events?

I also searched for times Reggie Rose mentioned his non-profit to the media. The only one I could find was in response to Wolken's question about how Rose supported himself. 

Help me out here. Help Reggie Rose out. Fill in the gaps. There must be a non-profit or two out there which were the source of Rose's income. Let's find them. Maybe you can search better than I can.

There are two main resources I know about for searching non-profit records: The Foundation Center and Guidestar.

Can you find anything?

And if we can find records of a non-profit, then we can get into the really interesting question of finding out whose money was supporting that foundation.

Renardo Sidney is one of the best high school players in the country ... and yet recently USC and UCLA withdrew their scholarship offers to him.

Sidney's now on a path to attend Mississippi State. But even that school is promising a non-trivial peek into questions like how his family could finance the lifestyle to which they have been accustomed.

Various basketball insiders admit to having paid his family for this or that thing, as Lance Pugmire has detailed nicely in a Los Angeles Times article about Sidney's complex situation.

Here's the thing, though: The kinds of things reported to have happened in this case? There are stories somewhat like that about all kinds of top players. Many of them are, no doubt, speculation or rumor-mongering.

It's unusual, however, that they would be this public, this early in the process. I have not heard many stories at all like this one, where a top program gets so worried about these kinds of payments so as to withdraw an offer.

Makes me think the people around Renardo Sidney just must not be very good at this stuff. Because if my sources are to be believed, all kinds of elite athletes are getting away this kind of stuff.

This story does have one particular element that strikes me as particularly noteworthy -- it involves a non-profit. (I have talked about this before and believe it to be the latest trend in moving money in mysterious ways around basketball.) Pugmire writes:

Renardo Sr. and an El Monte car dealer named Richard Macias formed a nonprofit, tax-exempt educational organization called the Los Angeles/LA Dream Team Foundation.

Tax laws specify that charitable 501(c)(3) organizations such as the LA Dream Team "must not be organized or operated for the benefit of private interests, such as the creator or the creator's family. . . . No part of the net earnings . . . may inure to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual."

Forming a nonprofit to fund a youth athletic team isn't a new strategy, according to Vaccaro, who said, "The money that comes in is supposed to fund and go to the betterment of the team, with that money obviously being focused on the team's superstar."

Federal law requires a nonprofit to allow public inspection of its application form and, if the organization has received more than $25,000 in donations in a given year, its federal Form 990. The Sidneys declined to respond to requests by The Times to inspect the LA Dream Team Foundation documents.

Here's the problem with non-profits: By and large, if money rules are broken in basketball circles, they have to do with the NCAA. You break some NCAA rules, and your amatuer status is at stake. Bad, but not the end of the world.

But non-profits ... their rules are managed by the federal government. In that sphere, there might be more rigorous investigation, and enforcement with more teeth, should anything be found to be suspect.

In the big picture, though, I can't help but wonder about all this. Here's a kid with a lot of skill and marketable attributes. Here are people who want to give him money to associate with him.

What, exactly, is the crisis here again?

To me there's nothing wrong with young people being professionals, in any field. What's wrong is a system that rewards not those who are smartest, most talented, or the best at pushing this or that product. Instead, the system rewards (with instant cash!) those among the best prospects who are most willing to flaunt the unrealistic and difficult-to-enforce rules.

(Thanks Kurt for the heads up.)

The New York Times Sunday Magazine won't come out until Sunday (or Saturday if you subscribe at home) but you can read the cover story right now online.

It's by Michael Sokolove, and it's about a young basketball player in Washington state called Allonzo Trier, who is ranked #1 in the country for his class.

You know the drill with the phenoms and the weird lives they lead.

They're like gorgeous young women. Everyone wants to help them, give them things, and invite them places. And honestly, it's because of their personality. Or whatever. (And you ask: If it's about personality, how about that normal-looking woman over there who has a way better personality? You inviting her to your beach house for the weekend?)

In the opening of the article -- which is a great read and covers far more than the one issue I'm digging into here -- Sokolove summarizes some of the weirdness surrounding this kid.

Trier has his own line of clothing emblazoned with his signature and personal motto: "When the lights come on, it's time to perform." His basketball socks, which also come gratis, are marked with either his nickname, Zo, or his area code, 206. He's expecting a shipment of Under Armour gear soon, thanks to Brandon Jennings, last year's top high-school point guard and now a highly paid pro in Italy. He is flown around the country by A.A.U. teams that want him to play for them in tournaments -- and by basketball promoters who use him to add luster to their events. A lawyer in Seattle arranged for Trier's private-school tuition and academic tutoring to be paid for by the charitable foundation of an N.B.A. player, and the lawyer also procured free dental care for Trier. 

The kicker, of course, is that Allonzo Trier is a sixth grader. These kinds of influences -- various businesses buying the allegiances of players -- are reaching younger and younger, in part because older players are already off the market. 

Now, when I first read that list of entities doing favors for young Allonzo, I nodded along. Some socks. Some shoes from another player. An AAU team with money. All fairly normal, if maybe a little disturbing, stuff. Until you get to that ... charitable foundation of an NBA player part.

Whoa, whoa, whoa ... what?

Here's what freaked me out: Remember the O.J. Mayo recruiting disaster? This is where people trying to get close to a young basketball star -- with an eye on eventually profiting from him -- allegedly used a bogus charity to funnel money to the player.

By coincidence, I have spent a fair amount of this week chasing down other such similar stories. The theory I am investigating an alleged new underground trend in recruiting. Agents, lawyers and the like endear themselves to young players by arranging for them to receive stuff of value through some third-party charity.

How can the NCAA, the IRS or anyone else get upset about a nice charity delivering needed services and support to a young person and his family?

So when I saw this, I couldn't help but wonder ... who is this lawyer in Seattle, who is this NBA player, and what is the story here anyway?

Later in the article, Sokolove answers the first two of those questions:

Rich Padden, the Seattle lawyer and investor who arranged for Trier's schooling, said he set about addressing his educational needs after hearing from Steve Goldstein and another coach in New York who had taken an interest in Trier's basketball and academic progress and had flown him in to play tournaments. Padden arranged for Trier's testing, private tutoring and tuition to be paid for by the charitable foundation established by Brandon Roy, a star with the Portland Trail Blazers. Padden served as a mentor to Roy in high school, as well as to another N.B.A. player from the Seattle area, Martell Webster. (Padden is also an investor in one of the major manufacturers of basketballs, so Trier, who goes through a lot of balls, has a reliable source for more.)

"Allonzo is the first beneficiary of the Brandon Roy Foundation, hopefully the first of hundreds or thousands," Padden said. "He fit our criteria. We would have supported him even if he were not a basketball player."

Okey dokey.

But wouldn't it be so much cleaner if the first recipient were the 100th best player in his class? Or someone who doesn't play basketball at all? Or someone who didn't have a decent shot at making lawyers, agents, sneaker companies and others lots of money one day? (By the way, Trier appears, to my inexpert eye, to be lacing on some Roy-model sneakers in the online article's main photo. UPDATE: Or not. They look like Jordans.)

Now, there's a bit of back story here.  Brandon Roy's older brother was, some say, a better player than Brandon, but had a learning disability that was diagnosed too late for him to qualify  academically for elite college basketball. His career faltered in junior college. Part of Roy's idea in starting a foundation was to help kids like that academically. Trier -- who has academic trouble -- fits the bill perfectly.

But of all kids for the foundation to help first ... Couldn't it have been anyone other than everyone's top pick to achieve stardom?

I'm going to assume this is nothing more than a kid in need of some special education getting a hand up from some colleagues in the world of elite basketball. A tip of the cap to everyone involved for that -- the education is happening no matter the motivation. (I have put out feelers to talk to some of the people involved, to get more of the story.)

Isn't it sad, though, that -- no matter what's really going on in this case -- basketball is so shady that we have to worry about motivation here?

Would it be nice if, as a precaution, everyone on Brandon Roy's business team (agents, lawyers, sneaker executives, foundation people etc.) promised never to do business with Trier, just to be extra safe?

 
Except for one little detail: With those players in those uniforms, it looks like an All-Star game. But nobody plays that hard in the All-Star game.

First Cup: Tuesday

December, 23, 2008
12/23/08
8:48
AM ET
  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "Rajon Rondo has been a Brett Favre fan since childhood. Thus, he also is that most silent of pariahs -- a Jets fan in Boston. But however distasteful the task may be, Celtics fans have to give props to the aging quarterback. It apparently was Favre, more than any point guard over the last 15 years, who had an impact on the rugged way Rondo plays his position. 'I grew up watching football and baseball,' said Rondo, a former high school quarterback. 'I didn't know I had hoop dreams. I watched Brett Favre. When I was in third grade they asked us to do a drawing of our favorite team, and I drew the Green Bay Packers -- green and yellow. But my main thing was Brett Favre. So now I'm a Jets fan.' More to the point, Rondo is an NBA point guard who fearlessly throws his body into the paint as if it were a goal line pileup."
  • Ivan Carter of The Washington Post: "Caron Butler said his sideline rant at the end of Sunday's loss to the Dallas Mavericks wasn't directed at any particular teammate or issue. The two-time all-star said he simply lost his cool after watching the Wizards (4-21) squander yet another winnable game with yet another poor fourth quarter performance. 'There are no Cleos around here,' said Butler in reference to the fortune teller whose ads used to run all over late-night television. 'Even [Miss] Cleo couldn't dictate this. It's just one of those situations where it's 'Man, this is not okay.' Somebody has to say something. This is not okay. It's not okay to continue to lose games like this. And I know that everyone feels that way on the inside. I just expressed it, and I expressed all the way out from deep in my tummy. I just put it out there.'"
  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "Chauncey Billups' legacy in Denver might extend past his final pass. The Nuggets point guard said he would like to someday be general manager of his hometown team -- 'A dream job, bro. A dream job.' How cool is that? In November, the Denver born-and-bred basketball star returned home to try to win a championship. And now, win or lose, he wants to attempt to do the same as a team executive. ... George Karl pointed out that sometimes an exec who was too talented might have a skewed mind-set, thinking 'the game is easier and more perfect than it is. And the guy who wasn't any good is a lot better at looking at the game with a correct reality.' So, is Billups in trouble because he's too good of a player? Karl smiled and joked, 'Probably.'"
  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy said Dwight Howard was picking up 'a lot of pretty ticky-tack fouls' and suggested that big guys such as Howard are being officiated differently than perimeter players. 'I think [Howard] is very frustrated the way the game is being called right now,' Van Gundy said. 'It's different in this league. The real good perimeter players seemed to really get the benefit of every call, any touch. The real good big guys, it seems it's just the opposite. They let people do more in there. I think it's part of an ongoing thing -- they won't say that -- but I think the league is trying to do everything it can to make it a perimeter league and not a post-up league.' Van Gundy agreed that the 6-foot-11, 270 Howard takes more punishment because of his size. 'I think they [officials], subconsciously, even it up. But what's interesting is that they don't do that on the perimeter guys,' Van Gundy said."
  • Chris Lau of the Detroit Free Press: "The Pistons have an active streak of nine games with at least one individual technical. 'Them dudes, they off the chain,' Tayshaun Prince said. 'I can't help them. I talk to them as much as I can. I can't do nothing. You know what? There's been plenty of times where we've been aggressive going to the rim, couple things don't go our way, then a couple ticky-tack calls and the next thing you know, we start to yell at the refs.' Prince hasn't received a technical this season. 'This is what happens when you get a technical foul: Teams make a run, referees start to give them a couple calls here and there, and the next thing you know, we put ourselves in a bad position,' Prince said. 'So, Rasheed and Rip will have to realize when is a good time to make that happen and when is a good time not to make that happen.'"
  • Ross Siler of The Salt Lake Tribune: "Somewhere on the way to reaching the Western Conference finals, earning second-team all-NBA honors, signing a max contract extension and being selected to the U.S. Olympic team, Jazz guard Deron Williams skipped a step. The hole in Williams' résumé his first three seasons as a pro came with never having been chosen to play in the All-Star Game. The expectation coming into this season was that Williams wouldn't have to wait long for his overdue coronation. That all changed, however, as soon as Williams went down with a sprained left ankle in the preseason. Nearly a month after returning, Williams still isn't the same player and his ascent to becoming an All-Star is anything but guaranteed. 'I didn't start the season healthy, so I'm not really worried about it,' Williams said. 'After not making it the last two seasons, I'm even more not worried about it.'"
  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "You know that TV commercial where your problem gets fixed by pushing a big, red Easy Button? Boris Diaw is becoming the Charlotte Bobcats' Easy Button. The problem all season has been scoring; they're last in the NBA in that category by a wide margin. But in the five games Diaw has played here, the Bobcats average about eight more points and shoot 3.5 percentage points better. It's not just what Diaw does (post scoring, 3-point shooting and creative passing), it's what he represents: His willingness to pass seems infectious, and addressed the Bobcats' greatest need."
  • David Gladow of NOLA.com: "Let's be frank: Julian Wright is an amazing talent. His athleticism is on display with every high-flying dunk and diving steal he delivers as a pro, and it was certainly significant enough for the Hornets to draft him in the first round last year. The problem with Wright's game this year does not appear to be a physical one, however. Instead, the second-year New Orleans Hornets forward is reportedly struggling with the mental side of the game, and unfortunately for Hornets fans everywhere, that does not appear to be a battle he will win anytime soon. ... Byron Scott is no dummy. I'm sure he can see what we can. Wright's exceptional talent can help this team ... and even assuming Scott decides that it can't, Wright will be sent to another team. So don't expect Wright to be sitting on the inactive list come May, whether he's on the Hornets or not. But if Wright doesn't begin to grasp the offense (and more importantly, understand that he has plenty of improving to do), we won't be seeing him anytime soon. Mr. Scott will make certain of that."
  • Michael Cunningham of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Watch Michael Beasley and it doesn't take long to realize the Heat's rookie forward has a special talent for finding a way to put the ball in the basket. It also becomes quickly apparent that when the ball goes in to Beasley, there's a good chance it's not coming back out. Among the 17 NBA rookies playing at least 20 minutes per game, Beasley, with 308 shots in 647 minutes, shoots at the highest rate (one attempt for every 2.1 minutes played). Only Dwyane Wade, the league's leading scorer, shoots more often for the Heat (one attempt every 1.8 minutes) and no one else is close to Beasley. Meanwhile Beasley is tied for 15th in assists among rookies averaging 20 minutes or more. The rookies in that group who are equal or worse than Beasley in assists are all post-dwelling centers: Milwaukee's Luc Mbah a Moute, Portland's Greg Oden and New Jersey's Brook Lopez."
  • Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "Last summer, TNT, NBA TV and NBA.com were all brought under the same umbrella with Turner Sports in Atlanta. Part of the reason was so the entities could cover stories on multiple platforms. The first such project will be launched next week to honor James' 24th birthday. There will be 24 hours of continuous coverage on NBATV, starting at 1 p.m. on Dec. 29. It will feature James' first professional game against the Kings in 2003, his first national television game when St. Vincent-St. Mary played Oak Hill Academy at the Wolstein Center in 2002, his first playoff game in 2006 when he put up a triple-double against the Washington Wizards, and his immortal 2007 Game 5 against the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals. It will also include several never before seen feature programs and culminate in the Cavs' game against the Heat on Dec. 30, James' birthday. NBA.com will also have special series of stories and features."
  • John Denton of Florida Today: "Mickael Pietrus was angry Monday and it had nothing to do with him losing his starting shooting guard spot with the Magic for the time being. Instead, Pietrus wasn't happy with how ESPN overlooked his incredible alley-oop dunk Saturday night against the Lakers. Pietrus caught Rashard Lewis' pass several feet away from the rim and because he was so high in the air he was still able to finish off the dunk. 'I'm going to have to call ESPN because they aren't showing me any love,' Pietrus said with a laugh. 'That should have been No. 1 (on the top plays of the night).'"
  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Another Rocket has received the 'Yao Ming bonus.' Forward Ron Artest became the fifth Rockets player to endorse Chinese basketball shoes. Shane Battier also wears Peak. Luis Scola and Steve Francis wear Anta. Chuck Hayes had endorsed a Chinese shoe but recently switched to Nike. Artest wore the Peak shoes for the first time Monday, with plans to move to his own signature shoe next month. 'These are not mine, but they're cool,' Artest said."

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