Monday, June 25, 2012
First Cup: Monday
- Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: Tony Parker, the Spurs’ All-NBA point guard, will return to the United States from France on July 5 to have his injured left eye examined by a specialist in New York. Parker’s participation in this summer’s Olympic basketball tournament in London will remain in question until the team clears him to play. The 30-year-old suffered the injury when struck by flying glass during a brawl at a New York City nightclub June 14. Parker wasn’t directly involved in the bottle-hurling melee, which involved hip-hop performers Drake and Chris Brown. The Spurs, who signed Parker to a four-year contract extension worth $50 million before the 2010-11 season, insist they be involved in determining both the severity of Parker’s injury and his recovery. “Trust that we’re going to take advantage of the remedies that are available to us through the NBA’s agreement with FIBA (the international basketball governing body) to understand the severity of the injury and be involved in Tony’s prescription for recovery from any injury,” general manager R.C. Buford said.
- Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: Sam Presti on Sunday shot down speculation that the Thunder could target Phil Jackson or Jeff Van Gundy for the team's coaching duties should a contract extension with Scott Brooks not come together. “To me, it's rubbish,” said Presti, the Thunder's general manager, when asked about recent reports listing the two former coaches as possibilities. Brooks' contract expires Saturday. But the two sides postponed negotiations while the team was competing in the NBA Finals. Now that the season has concluded, Presti called Brooks' contract the organization's top priority. And, again, Presti stressed during his season-ending news conference with reporters how valuable he believes Brooks has been in helping to build the Thunder. “As we've said before, Scotty is an integral part of our organization and critical to our success,” Presti said. “And we value him greatly. We're looking forward to having those conversations, as he said, in the coming days. But he's been integral to our success. We wouldn't be in the situation that we're in without him and his commitment to the organization and to our players.”
- Dan Le Batard of The Miami Herald: Pat Riley likes the storm. Needs it. He is truly terrible at being satisfied. He doesn’t trust the calm. He wants the water rising and the kingdom on fire, and he’ll make it so even as everyone is floating and feeling safe, especially if everyone is floating and feeling safe. “I'm past Thursday night,” he says. “It is over. We’ve got the draft coming up.” So you aren’t like Wade, who has printed up Team No Sleep T-shirts while careening between South Florida parties? “I’m going to put out Sleep Management T-shirts,” Riley says. “We’ve got a championship in our back pocket. Just one. One of the things you don’t want to do after it is in your back pocket, you don’t want to start reminding everyone how you did it. That is the start of the team on the demise. I remember when we won in 1987, best year we ever had with the Lakers, Mychal Thompson was our Shane Battier. We won the championship, had a great night, celebrated, a really great night, and he was in the weight room at 7 a.m. the next morning. I remember that 25 years later. You don’t want to get too drunk with your success. You don't want to waste a lot of time telling everyone how you mastered it. Simply, euphorically, quietly, enjoy it. That is hard for the contemporary generation today to understand." Come on, Pat. You sound like an old man telling those partying kids to get the hell off your lawn. Let them enjoy it. “I will ... for a week,” he says.
- Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: The Charlotte Bobcats’ new database scouting system has over 50,000 web pages. You can instantly look up year-by-year statistics for Boston Celtics great Bill Russell … or any other player in NBA history. You can check the injury archive of a Slovenian playing in the Spanish league or whether a forward in the Development League was ever busted for drugs. This is Charlotte Bobcats general manager Rich Cho’s baby, an Internet-friendly system that took six months and a six-figure cost to develop. Now it evolves daily and gets put to the test in Thursday night’s NBA draft, when the Bobcats select second and 31st following a 7-59 season. Cho’s boss, president of basketball operations Rod Higgins, has a simple description for this complex tool: “One-stop shopping.” The result, the Bobcats hope, is that quicker access to a buffet of information offers a competitive advantage in player evaluation. ... Cho’s system has all the basics you’d expect: Player contracts, statistics that can be used to compare Bobcats players’ development to others’, any potential bonuses that could complicate trade discussions. But beyond that, this is a function of Cho’s self-description as “a big information hound.” Call it nosey if you like. To Cho, it’s being forewarned. You can see both the engineer and the lawyer in Cho’s concept.
- Josh Robbins and Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: New Orlando Magic General Manager Rob Hennigan has started to reconfigure the franchise's basketball operations department. On Sunday, Hennigan fired Assistant General Manager Dave Twardzik and six scouts. In addition to Twardzik, regional scout Tom Conrad, international scout Rudy D'Amico, international scouting coordinator Sam Foggin, pro scout Bob Staak, regional scout Greg Stratton and NBA advance scout Al Walker were let go, team spokesman Joel Glass confirmed.
- Ala Iannazzone of Newsday: The NBA is expected to review an exchange on Twitter between Amar'e Stoudemire and a fan in which Stoudemire used foul language and a gay slur. An NBA spokesman said in an email Sunday night that he's sure the matter "will be reviewed" by the league. The exchange, which was confirmed by a source close to Stoudemire as being sent by the Knicks star
- Jason Reid of The Washington Post: With centers Okafor and Nene, who was acquired in March, and forward Ariza on the roster, the Wizards now have a more grown-up look. Next season, they could realistically aspire to end the league-wide laughter at their expense, or at least make it less boisterous. But after years of providing their fans with a product that’s even more awful than Andray Blatche’s half-hearted approach in the weight room, simply becoming less of a punch line isn’t good enough. Fans want their teams to aspire to greatness. They’re encouraged when management articulates a clear plan to improve. The savviest in any sport realize that reaching the top, or climbing within shouting distance of it, usually isn’t an overnight process. Franchises supposedly committed to winning (the Wizards claim to be one) eventually need to show significant progress. The Wizards’ latest move provides another example that they need to raise their bar.
- Ted Evanoff and Kyle Veazey of The Commercial-Appeal So who is that person? He's a bit of a mystery. For three days last week in San Jose, The Commercial Appeal sought out more than a dozen people believed to know Robert Pera. Most declined repeated requests for interviews. Pera didn't respond to an e-mail or a message left with an employee in Ubiquiti's sleek lobby, which has glass-walled conference rooms on each side of the entry but no receptionist. A source close to Pera said he is abiding by NBA requests not to comment publicly during the league's evaluation of his purchase. He has, however, reached out to the local minority ownership group. As for his personal life, the source said he values his privacy. ... His love for basketball, though, is well known. Former San Jose State player Terry Cannon said Pera came to him about three years ago looking for coaching. They work out one-on-one often in a local club, mostly in the afternoons. "His strength is probably his shot," said Cannon, who estimated Pera at 6-foot-3. "He has great touch. He has pretty good footwork." Ben Moore, Ubiquiti's vice president for business development, said the NBA is a regular topic of down-time conversations at the office, and that Pera often attends Golden State Warriors games in nearby Oakland.
- Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times: Brandon Jennings, 22, has become more involved in Milwaukee activities. He will be appearing at Summerfest — dubbed the world’s largest music festival — next month and will hold one of his basketball camps. He seems to found his niche. Asked if he enjoys being a Buck, Jennings said, “Oh, yeah, of course. I’ve been the starting guard here for three years.” Jennings was also asked if he could envision himself becoming the face of the Bucks’ franchise, and if he wants to take on that role? “Yes, I would,” Jennings said. “At the end of the day, it’s an NBA team. If you asked any guy in the NBA, would you like to be the face of a franchise, I’m sure 80 percent of them would say yes, no matter where they are.” While contract extension talks will commence next week, Jennings said he’s already looking forward to next season. He wants to radically alter the attitude of his team, which has failed to make the playoffs the last two seasons.
- Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: The Charlotte Bobcats are believed to be high on Barnes — keep in mind the Michael Jordan/North Carolina connection — but don’t want to take him second overall. That’s why so much speculation persists on the Cavs and Bobcats working a deal that would give the Cavaliers the No. 2 pick and access to anyone not named Anthony Davis, while the Bobcats would drop down two spots, still in position to take Barnes, and would presumably pick up the Cavs’ extra first-round pick (No. 24 overall). Off the court, Barnes is smooth and polished. He speaks well, seems thoughtful and appeared for media interviews at the combine wearing dress pants and a sweater while almost everyone else appeared in shorts and T-shirts. Barnes said he did it because this was a job interview and he was taking it seriously. Yet there is a narcissistic side to him as well, given his bizarre announcement to commit to North Carolina three years ago via Skype. The entire strange production was aired by ESPNU. Asked how he benefited from the extra year in college, Barnes said it helped him to mature.
- Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: [Daryl] Morey said he considers Rockets fans on board with the rebuilding and that Alexander’s interest is only in building a contender. Rockets CEO Tad Brown said he has heard Alexander specifically address that priority. “Every decision that drives Leslie’s direction for the organization is how are we going to get better, how are we going to become a championship contender,” Brown said. “That direction comes directly from Leslie. The business side … is designed to support all of the resources possible to put the best team possible on the court. “I don’t want to say there is a greater sense of urgency. There is always a sense of urgency. That’s cultural. I think there is a sense of magnified opportunity. We have a good young base of guys to build on. We definitely have that feeling that we need to get back to that championship-contending status. It’s going to continue to drive us. Leslie continues to instill that in everybody.” Brown said last season’s dip in attendance does not indicate a growing impatience, arguing it was the result of a lockout-season schedule that removed many of the top teams from the Rockets’ home schedule, eliminating not only those sellouts but their potential to drive partial season-ticket plans.
- Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: Though most attention has turned to Kevin Garnett, and whether the Celtics center will return for one or two more seasons, the team has other aging concerns it will attempt to address in Thursday night’s NBA draft. The Celtics’ plan to sign Jeff Green will be the most important step in filling the small forward role once Paul Pierce starts contemplating retirement, but this team does have an ongoing need for shooters. Regardless of whether Ray Allen returns — a good question both in the minds of the player and the team — the Celtics have to get younger and more athletic on the wing. The Celtics, with the 21st and 22nd picks in the first round, aren’t currently in line for a Cadillac scorer. But they have hinted at a desire to move up. General manager Danny Ainge and his staff took advantage of their second visit to Miami during the conference finals to get a look at two of the best perimeter players on the board — North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes and Washington’s Terrence Ross. ... If the Celtics want a shooter and scorer, there will be options with the 21st and 22nd picks. They will be forced to beware of sliders. Beyond Ohio State power forward Jared Sullinger, the most notorious appears to be Baylor’s Perry Jones, a terrific 6-11 athlete and scorer whose motivation has been questioned. Besides, they already have a player of similar skills in JaJuan Johnson. They could get lucky if St. John’s forward Moe Harkless — a prototypical “power 3” — drifts far enough down the board.
- Steve Luhm of The Salt Lake Tribune: Since moving to Utah from New Orleans before the 1979-80 season, the Jazz have bagged trophies like Mark Eaton, Bobby Hansen, Bryon Russell, Shandon Anderson, Mo Williams and Paul Millsap in the hit-and-miss wilderness beyond the draft’s first round. Eaton helped stabilize a floundering franchise, and Russell started on two teams that reached the Finals. More recently, Williams and Millsap developed into borderline All-Stars who, in 15 combined seasons, have earned nearly $74 million. Oddly, the Jazz got Williams and Millsap with the 47th pick of their drafts — the same one they own this year. What’s been Utah’s secret? "The things we look for in a second-round pick are basically the same ones we look for in a first-round pick," said vice president of player personnel Walt Perrin. "How hard do they play? How hard are they willing to work to improve? How smart of a player are they? Is their jump shot broken and will he work to fix it? Will he fight defensively?" General manager Kevin O’Connor has been in Utah since 1999 and was in charge of the drafts that netted Williams and Millsap. "You have to ask yourself, ‘What NBA skill does a guy have?’ " O’Connor said. "Maybe he doesn’t have all of them, but what NBA skill does he have? That’s what you try to evaluate."
- Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: The Nuggets are loaded with 20-somethings — not just in age, but where the players were drafted. Six of Denver's top-eight players were drafted 18th or lower. Sure enough, the Nuggets have the 20th pick in the first round of the NBA draft Thursday. The new Nugget will fit right in with his fellow 20-somethings. (Unless the Nuggets draft, say, Kentucky guard Marquis Teague, who is only 19). Denver has a history of finding gems outside the lottery picks, notably Ty Lawson (drafted 18th in 2009) and Kenneth Faried (22nd in 2011). But the reality is, whomever the Nuggets draft, it's possible it will be a Jordan Hamilton-type situation — a player the team can develop and use in later seasons. "I don't want to burst anybody's bubble, but I don't think the 20th pick in this draft is going to be better than Jordan Hamilton or Julyan Stone, and they didn't play this year," Nuggets coach George Karl said this past week. "I mean, I'd be shocked. If Jordan is in this draft, he'd be in the top 10. And if Julyan goes in the draft, he'd be going right around where we pick."
- Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Lamar Odom told Oprah Winfrey that the reality TV show which he has with his wife did not affect his performance with the Dallas Mavericks this past season. The Mavs acquired Odom from the Los Angeles Lakers last December in hopes that he would be a key figure in their quest to capture back-to-back NBA titles. Odom, however, had one of the worst seasons of his 13-year career and was eventually placed on the inactive list on April 9. ... On Oprah's Next Chapter, which aired Sunday night, Odom said the reality TV show wasn't a distraction and had no effect on his poor performance with the Mavs. "I think this past year I didn't perform on a level that I wanted to perform as far as being a professional basketball player,'' Odom said. "And so I think I have to reprove myself.'' Odom is slated to make $8.2 million next season, but the Mavs can buy him out of the contract by Friday for $2.4 million.