Wednesday, March 10, 2010
First Cup: Wednesday
- Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com: "I've seen a lot of press releases in my career. What the Clippers sent late Tuesday afternoon -- a sharp-tongued, 230-word document titled 'CLIPPERS, DUNLEAVY SEVER TIES' -- was not a press release. It was a mission statement and something of an apology to season-ticket holders who paid good money to watch one of the most frustrating teams in the NBA the past couple of seasons. Trust me, team president Andy Roeser saw each of those 'Fire Dunleavy' signs floating around Staples Center as the team won 19 games last season and stumbled through this one. Although the powers that be had good intentions, allowing Mike Dunleavy to step down as coach and keep his job as general manager on Feb. 4 wasn't enough of a bloodletting. When a fan base is as frustrated as Clipper Nation has become, someone's head has to roll. ... Generally, even in the worst professional breakup, people pretend to like each other. They use phrases like 'go in a different direction' and 'We thank Coach So-and-so for his efforts and commitment to the franchise.' In this case, the Clippers wanted it known that this was not a clean break."
- Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: "Control of the Clippers is now there for the taking. An organization with the most underutilized potential in all of sports is now open for shaping. The office is empty for the strongest of general managers. The bench is available for the best of head coaches. The building is even unlocked for someone who can do both. Now introducing Clippers general manager, coach and forward LeBron James. Crazy, sure, but you have to wonder whether the Clippers didn't suddenly ax Dunleavy because they received word that there's somebody out there who could deliver them potential free-agent James. Now introducing, Clippers forward LeBron James and two of his high school chums as general manager and coach. Crazy, too, but that's the thing about what happened Tuesday. The Clippers didn't lose a general manager, they gained a world of possibilities."
- Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times: "The big question to analyze: Why now, and not a clean sweep in February? Team President Andy Roeser was not available to answer that specific question, but did provide insight into the decision making. 'With all due respect to Mike, we arrived at the realization that we weren't going to be able to move forward together in the long term, and we felt that, in order to give us the most flexibility as we approach this opportunity-filled off-season, making a clean break was our best option at this time,' Roeser said in an e-mail to The Times. 'We think Neil Olshey is well prepared to meet the mandate to lead us to a 'win-now' mentality, and to take advantage of the many opportunities that lie ahead.' (Subtext: Let's get everything in order before LeBron James comes to visit this summer.) Olshey has been with the Clippers since the 2003-04 season and was considered a Dunleavy protege."
- Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "Not that the suddenly overtaxed Lakers need the reminder, but their top player is spending a lot more time on the court. Kobe Bryant is averaging 38.8 minutes a game after averaging only 36.1 last season, a relatively large jump that makes him and 22-year-old Andrew Bynum the only Lakers starters logging more minutes this season. 'It shows maybe the need, the desire to have him on the floor, something along the lines that we need him out there to win games,' Coach Phil Jackson said. Jackson said he was surprised by the size of the increase in playing time but not troubled by it, perhaps because Bryant took an 18-day break last month while sidelined by an ankle injury for five games."
- Chris Iott of Booth Newspapers: "All of Rodney Stuckey’s tests there came back negative, and it’s a good bet those tests are being repeated now that Stuckey is back in Detroit. If there is even an inkling that his collapse had anything to do with his heart, he will not be back on the court anytime soon. No one involved in the NBA has forgotten about Reggie Lewis. No one wants that tragedy to repeat itself. Pistons coach John Kuester won’t discuss a timetable for Stuckey’s return, but he sounds like a guy who expects to see his starting point guard back on the court. ... Of course, in the end, the decision about when -- or if -- Stuckey comes back is up to one person: Stuckey. It really is none of our business. But whether or not doctors find something wrong with Stuckey, he has only two options when it comes to basketball: Quit or play. No one would blame Stuckey for taking option No. 1. It is his life. But if he chooses option No. 2, there’s no reason to wait until fall. Either Stuckey is healthy enough to return to his career as an NBA player, or he’s not. If he is, he should come back whenever he feels like it. Waiting until October won’t change a thing."
- Tom Enlund of the Journal Journal: "The NBA's time machine has to be dialed back to 1987 to find the last time that the Milwaukee Bucks clashed with the Boston Celtics in a playoff series. The Celtics won that Eastern Conference semifinal series in seven games in what was the conclusion to an almost annual playoff rivalry between Milwaukee and Boston in the mid-'80s. Boston coach Doc Rivers recalls some of those classic Bucks-Celtics playoff tussles. At the time he was a big man on campus at Marquette University. 'Those were great series,' said Rivers Tuesday. 'It was just that the Bucks couldn't win them (except for 1983). They were so close. We were talking about that a couple weeks ago, how people forget how good the Bucks were back then because the Sixers and the Celtics won every year (in the East). But the team that was always nipping on their heels was the Bucks. They just had the misfortune of being in the wrong conference. You could make the case if they were in the other conference, they might have made some of those Finals.' The Celtics defeated the Bucks in seven games in the 1974 NBA Finals. There is still a long way to go before this season's first-round playoff matchups are determined, but the way things are going now, there is a chance Milwaukee and Boston could meet."
- Mike Baldwin of The Oklahoman: "Kevin Durant is surprised people like Magic Johnson, who recently interviewed him, is shocked he’s comfortable with small-market Oklahoma City instead of playing in New York, Los Angeles or Chicago. 'I was watching the Larry Bird-Magic Johnson documentary the other day,' Durant said. 'I’m similar to Bird. I like being at home. I like staying at my mom’s house and her cooking. That’s the kind of person I am. I’m not into the big city lights and the paparazzi, that type of stuff. I just love playing basketball and chillin’ out.' In the HBO documentary Durant referred to, Bird was comfortable in French Lick, Ind., while Johnson preferred the constant entertainment in Hollywood. 'I can relate to both of those guys -- Magic Johnson for how much he loves the game and his enthusiasm for the game and Larry Bird for how laid back and relaxed he is,' Durant said. 'That’s the kind of guy I am off the court. I’m good in Oklahoma City. I love it here. I like going outside and seeing the neighbors and they say, ‘Hello.’ They make me cookies and give me Skittles. There are cities you may not get that.' "
- Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: "Donnie Walsh is skipping the Big East Tournament to keep a trained eye on the Big Wreck that is his basketball team. The Knicks' president was expected to accompany the club on its five-game trip with the growing sense within the organization that the entire basketball staff is on high alert. The Knicks (22-41) enter Wednesday's game against the Spurs on pace to lose 50 games for the second straight season. The roster will be overhauled, especially with Walsh having enough salary-cap space to sign two 'max' free agents. Walsh is still deliberating which Knicks to re-sign, including David Lee, and he may also be contemplating changes to the support staff, particularly since the team has struggled defensively. In typical Walsh fashion, he's downplaying his presence on the trip, saying, 'This gives me a chance to be around the team. It's really the last chance this season for me to do this.' Still, Walsh's scheduling change comes days after an ugly home loss to the Nets and after he accepted responsibility for the Knicks' wretched season and deflected blame from his head coach, Mike D'Antoni."
- Mary Schmitt of The Plain Dealer: "Well, what did you expect? Naming Michael Jordan as the Cavaliers' top antagonist of all-time was almost as easy as selecting LeBron James as the top Cavs player of all-time. For all the cumulative damage Jordan did throughout his career, nothing crushed the franchise like The Shot -- over an outstretched Craig Ehlo -- that gave the Chicago Bulls a 101-100 victory in the deciding Game 5 of the first-round of the Eastern Conference playoffs on May 7, 1989. That shot, and the game, propelled Jordan and the Bulls into the stratosphere. Neither they, nor the Cavs, were ever the same again. It was Cleveland's misfortune to field some of its best teams as Jordan was at his greatest. 'You look at the top 10 players on our team and then compare them to the their top 10 and we were the better team,' Wayne Embry, the Cavs' general manager from 1986-96, recently told The Plain Dealer's Terry Pluto. 'But they had greatness. It's just so hard to beat greatness.' "
- Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: "Utah coach Jerry Sloan delivered several good lines while meeting with reporters before Tuesday's game against the Bulls. Sloan was asked how he's lasted 22 years with the Jazz when most other NBA coaches seem to lose touch with their players within a few seasons. 'I tell our players, 'I'm going to be here and you may not,' ' he said. 'I've been real fortunate that our owner gave me the opportunity to say that when he first started out. Coaches are going to be here and players are expendable. -- If you don't have support, you don't have a fighting chance.' Someone asked Sloan what he thought about his 1970s-era photo on a mural honoring Bulls legends that went up outside the locker room this year. He hadn't seen it. 'I don't think it affects me in any way,' Sloan said. 'Like my friend said, 'I'll still eat hamburgers.' ' When it was pointed out that Jazz rookie Othyus Jeffers, a West Side native, requested 150 tickets for Tuesday's game, Sloan responded, 'I couldn't afford to buy tickets when I played. These young guys make a lot more money.' "
- Ted Kulfan of The Detroit News: "Isn't it strange that Jonas Jerebko could be playing better in the NBA this season than he ever did in Europe? Jerebko thinks there might be a reason why. In Europe, said Jerebko, 'The game is so much more compact. It's more wide (open) here and you can do a lot more. I've grown in every aspect of the game (here).' Jerebko said 7-footers stay in the lane in Europe, waiting for opponents to drive to the basket. The NBA game is more open. 'You have to be on the move, it's an up-and-down game, and that shows my skills,' he said."
- Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "Generally, when Johan Petro has been called upon to fill in, he's played well. Last season, when Chris Andersen was unexpectedly out of the lineup for the Nuggets' game at Orlando in February, Petro answered the bell with two points, seven rebounds, a block and a steal. A reserve the majority of his career, Petro understands having to stay ready. But it didn't make waiting this season any easier. 'It was super hard,' Petro said. 'I had some ups and downs. Sometimes I didn't feel like coming (to practice). I felt like quitting, a little bit. But I always found a way to keep myself going. The league is about opportunities, and you never know when your number will be called. So you want to be ready for it, and I think that's what I've been trying to do here. 'I'm probably going to be more focused because I definitely have a lot to prove.' Petro started Sunday and may get that chance again tonight against Minnesota, but expect him to be used in a mix-and-match strategy going forward with Malik Allen and Joey Graham."
- Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "On the way out of the Verizon Center visitor's locker room, I passed Luis Scola and thought I'd make a modest suggestion, perhaps overstepping my position as a guest there, but still seeming on safe ground. 'Take tomorrow off,' I told him, knowing that the Rockets were not practicing and that he had been carrying such a heavy load. 'Oh, he won't,' said Wizards center Fabricio Oberto and Scola's former teammate with Argentina's national team. 'I can't,' Scola said. 'I took yesterday off.' The guy played an average of 42.5 minutes on the three-game road trip. He has had double-doubles in four-consecutive games, averaging 21.8 points and 16 rebounds. Scola has played 1,949 minutes this season and in three NBA seasons has still never missed a game. But he will be at Toyota Center on Wednesday, along with guys that rarely play, taking free throws and pushing through drills. 'That's his mentality,' Rockets assistant strength and conditioning coach Dave Macha said. "He'll shoot, work on his footwork, agility stuff. That's how he gets ready. With him, if he feels like he's prepared, he'll play a lot more aggressively, more confidently. Confidence breeds success. 'That's him. He's got to get ready, make sure he outworks the next guy.' "
- Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star: "That Hedo Turkoglu is at the point of having to salvage a much-hyped season is disappointing for Raptors fans, of course. Turkoglu's improbable off-season acquisition was a joyous moment for a franchise whose depth chart could have been far shallower if not for some nifty navigation of the NBA's salary-cap regulations. But after playing at a high level in a contract year for the NBA finalist Orlando Magic last season, Turkoglu has clearly slacked off for parts of this season. The team gave him time off for fatigue to open training camp. He since has been plagued by poor conditioning and nagging injuries. And though his numbers aren't abhorrent – he is slightly below his career averages in most major statistical categories – there is a sense he has under-delivered. He has blamed his role instead of adapting to it, publicly stated his wish to have the ball more often on a team that sometimes plays point guards Jarrett Jack and Jose Calderon simultaneously. But those arguments are old now. And a lot will be forgotten if, as the Raptors steer themselves into the final quarter of the regular season, Turkoglu finds his form."
- Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Michael Jordan, Charlotte’s impending majority owner, not only is becoming more of a fixture at Bobcats games, but now sits at the end of the team’s bench. Somehow, we couldn’t envision Pat Riley sharing fist pumps with Yakhouba Diawara."
- Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "Don't get nervous about the Pacers beating the 76ers. The Pacers will have plenty of opportunities to lose games down the stretch. They've got to go to Cleveland twice, along with games against Boston, Milwaukee, Charlotte, Oklahoma City, Utah, Atlanta, Miami, Houston and Orlando. You should probably get nervous if they win in Boston and Milwaukee this weekend."
- Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: "The Kings are ramping up the rhetoric and festivities because, frankly, Tyreke Evans hints at a future beyond furloughs and foreclosures. How long has it been? How many years now? Accordingly, for tonight's game against the Toronto Raptors, the first 10,000 fans will receive a commemorative 'Rally for RekeROY' T-shirt. Another 5,000 can poke around with an Evans 'Face on a Stick.' There will be a highlight video during introductions, testimonials from fans and, for those who have forgotten what spontaneous applause is , cheat sheets will explain when to start and stop the R-O-Y chant. Small town? Small time? For sure. But as that English chap wrote, 'To thine own self be true.' (Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act I, Scene III). This is exactly the type of boosterism and corny behavior that plays well in Salt Lake City, Orlando, Charlotte, Milwaukee, Memphis and Indianapolis, and would be absolutely ridiculed in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and even Bay Area. The Warriors, for instance, are shuttling ROY candidate Stephen Curry between sports talk shows and media gatherings, and otherwise leaving the theatrics to others. Others, say, like Sacramento."
- Jerry Briggs of the San Antonio Express-News: "San Marcos resident Charles Austin is known by one member of the New York Knicks as a former Olympian, a gold-medal winning champion and 'basically, the highest-jumping person in the United States.' Austin is also credited as a man who showed 29-year-old Knicks forward Jonathan Bender the way back to the NBA. 'I give him a lot of credit,' Bender said. 'When you're working out on your own, you can only go to a certain level. When you have someone who can come in and help you get there, it's a little different.' A personal trainer and owner of So High Sports and Fitness in San Marcos, Austin told Bender in November 2008 that he could assist the former No. 5 overall NBA draft pick if he wanted to return to basketball. The dream came true for Bender in December 2009 when he signed as a free agent with the Knicks."