Who's ready to play in the NBA? Shan Foster is so ready he has burst into song.
Team USA is announced. Nate Jones points out that it's a near clean sweep for athletes who wear the shoes of Nike or a subsidiary. Nike sponsors Team USA. Michael Lee of the Washington Post says Gilbert Arenas was right: "All the talk about having a national program of 33 players and forcing them to make a three-year commitment to the program, participate in summer workouts, then tryout for the team in an intense training camp process seems laughable now. Two weeks ago, USA Managing Director Jerry Colangelo scrapped plans to invite about 15 or 16 players to Las Vegas to cut the team down to 12. It was sort of sneaked in during the NBA Finals, so nobody made a big deal about it. I think this team wins the gold, but I can't argue with Gilbert: It looks like Team USA knew what it wanted all along."
CNBC's Darren Rovell addresses the reality that no player from the 2008 draft class yet has a shoe deal. I have heard several stories of agents asking for Kevin Durant money, only to find it is not available. Rovell explains how the market has been changing: "The basketball shoe market is down from the $4.5 billion the market was at when Nike signed LeBron. Powell says this year basketball shoes will gross in the $2.5 billion range. Then consider how dominant Nike is. Adding up Nike, Converse and the Jordan business, Nike has a 93 percent share of the basketball shoe market, the largest take of any shoe business by one company. And finally, consider this. Michael Jordan is still Nike's best endorser by a mile. Powell says sales of the Jordan brand make up a larger percentage of the overall shoe business than they ever have. For every three pairs bought in this country, two of them (67 percent) are the Jordan brand. Nike has a 24 percent share, adidas has a 4 percent share and Converse has a 2.5 percent share. Given these numbers, you can imagine what it would take for Nike to fork over big bucks when they already have a basic monopoly on the business. And you can imagine how marketable a certain player would have to be in order for adidas to jump at him. Five years ago, the power was in the hands of the players and the agents."
ESPN's Chad Ford just published a new mock draft. He mentions a potential Portland/Memphis trade: "... the No. 13 pick and the expiring contract of Raef LaFrentz to Memphis for No. 5, Brian Cardinal and Jason Collins." I'm getting e-mail from readers in Portland every few minutes claiming this is already done, but am assured that is not so. Whom would the Blazers select if they could get the fifth pick? Insiders are all over the map. Russell Westbrook, Joe Alexander, and O.J. Mayo have all been mentioned. (For what it's worth, John Hollinger's projections consider Westbrook a marginal prospect.)
On a related note, Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star writes: "Pacers president Larry Bird had hoped Westbrook would visit Tuesday after not working out for them because of an injury last week. That plan got scrapped because I've been told Westbrook has been given a 'promise' by a team picking higher than the Pacers. I'm not sure which team has given Westbrook the 'promise.' Wouldn't it be something if Donnie Walsh took the player his former team has had its eye on for some time?"
The players who will be invited to the Green Room on draft night: Joe Alexander (West Virginia), Darrell Arthur (Kansas), DJ Augustin (Texas), Jerryd Bayless (Arizona), Michael Beasley (Kansas State), Danilo Gallinari (Italy), Eric Gordon (Indiana), DeAndre Jordan (Texas A&M), Brook Lopez (Stanford), Robin Lopez (Stanford), Kevin Love (UCLA). OJ Mayo (USC), Anthony Randolph (LSU), Derrick Rose (Memphis), Brandon Rush (Kansas), Russell Westbrook (UCLA).
USA Today's Reid Cherner and Tom Weir on the Lance Armstrong of the 2008 NBA Draft, Tennessee's Chris Lofton: "Projected before the season as a first rounder, he battled testicular cancer which was not known until the completion of the year. As a second-rounder or a free agent, this is a guy worth putting a few marbles on. He is a long range shooter who can get his own shot. You can believe the tapes from his junior or his senior year and then make your decision."
I have been saying for ages that some top high-school graduate would bypass the NCAA and all its rules for the nice income and sound skill development of Europe. Brandon Jennings, having some trouble qualifying to play for Arizona, is reportedly noodling with the idea.
Plenty of people seem to think that the Golden State Warriors like Jason Thompson, a big man with some perimeter skills. Thompson is a former AAU teammate of Dajuan Wagner, but back then he was not nearly as tall, and played on the wing.
Getting to know rebound rates, and finding some measures by which Leon Powe is one of the best players in the NBA.
An excellent explanation of why Portland is likely to make a trade or two before long, from Dave at BlazersEdge. Essentially, if the team stands pat, the cap room they have worked so hard to get next summer could be eaten up by cap holds for Martell Webster, Channing Frye, and Jarrett Jack. If Portland is going to get a big-time free agent next summer, and the roster remains as is, those players are still on the roster, they will have to be cut, traded, or signed to reasonable new deals before Portland can make a move. Also, I would not be surprised if Portland spends some or all of that cap space in advance, by acquiring a veteran between now and the trade deadline.
Candace Parker dunks in a WNBA game. It's the second such dunk in league history, but I suspect the first of many for Parker.
Eric Musselman thinks NBA teams should spend more time talking to college coaches about draft prospects.
UPDATE: In Oklahoma City, the Sonics owners have said the team will have a strong economic impact. In court in Seattle, their experts have argued that teams like the Sonics have no impact, and could in fact hurt their host city. A TV news report from Oklahoma City describing the situation.