Posted Jan 4 2010 11:18AM
So, you want to hear about how Tim Duncan's back on track this season?
Didn't think so.
The Big Fundamental's renaissance, like a lot of other interesting developments in the league this week (from the latest on Tracy McGrady, to Kobe's latest incredible game-winner, to KG's knee) has taken a back seat to a ridiculous problem for the Wizards, all Gilbert Arenas' doing -- and one that will surely cost him money and games when either the Washington, D.C. and/or federal authorities, and/or David J. Stern are done with him.
On Saturday, in front of assembled reporters following the Wizards' loss to San Antonio, Arenas said he used "bad judgment" in the Dec. 21 incident with Javaris Crittenton in which, according to sources, both players had their hands on guns in Washington's locker room -- though it is not clear that they pointed them at one another, as the New York Post has reported.
Former Wizards beat writer Mike Jones, on his blog, and the Washington Post's Michael Lee both reported that a frustrated Crittenton threw one of Arenas' guns across the locker room after Arenas had laid out three guns near Crittenton's locker and taunted him to pick one up. It was an extension of an argument that began between the two on the team's plane from Phoenix Dec. 19, when a source told me that Arenas failed to pay a $25,000 debt to Crittenton. (Jones says the amount wasn't $25,000, and was owed not to Crittenton, but to another teammate: Javale McGee.)
No one disputes that Arenas brought three guns, which were unloaded, to the locker room from his Virginia home. He said he brought them to work because he no longer wanted them in his home with three children around. But it nonetheless was a violation of the NBA's constitution, which specifically prohibits bringing weapons to team facilities. In addition, Arenas had not registered the guns in the District of Columbia, where Verizon Center is located.
"I take responsibility," Arenas said. "If I have to deal with the police, the investigation, the DAs, that's what I have to deal with. I have to deal with that on Monday. I've got to put it in their hands, tell the story, and then see what they say."
But that admission didn't do much to mollify a depressed organization.
On Sunday, the Wizards remained pessimistic in the extreme about Arenas' future. Even if the local and federal governments don't bring indictments -- and no one has the slightest inkling about which way that will go -- the Wizards not only think the league will ultimately throw the book at Arenas, but more than one employee believes that the incident will be the catalyst for wholesale housecleaning, on the court and in the front office, by the new ownership group led by Ted Leonsis, the billionaire owner of the NHL's Washington Capitals. Leonsis, whose group already owns 44 percent of the Wizards, has right of first refusal to buy the Wizards from the estate of Abe Pollin. Pollin died Nov. 24, and until the deal with Leonsis is finalized, major decisions for the team are being made by a committee including Pollin's son Robert and the team's longtime counsel, David Osnos.
In the meantime, the Wizards don't see a scenario under which Stern will show leniency. And no matter whether you think Arenas is a loon, he remains Washington's best player, and without him, the Wizards would almost certainly be doomed to another appearance in the Lottery, and another wasted season for the likes of Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler.
In Washington's near-empty locker room on Saturday, I sought out Jamison, who stands up every day and answers questions about Arenas. I wondered how ticked off he was. Hasn't Arenas, I asked, put all of your careers in jeopardy? Jamison is 33, and running out of time to play on a contender. He re-signed in Washington, and the Wizards have (so far) resisted trade offers from the likes of the Cavaliers, because they believed they had a "Big Three" that, when healthy, was as good as anyone's. But it hasn't happened, and now it doesn't look like it's going to happen.
"That's the thing," Jamison said. "Once a decision comes around as far as what's going to happen, that's when you get into the nitpicking as far as that. If he ends up missing games or whatever, that's when you realize (it). We're where we're at right now with him. I think eventually we're going to get a nice eight- , nine-game win streak. But it's most likely to happen with him on the court. I feed on that. If he ends up missing games, we've got to start all back over as far as the chemistry, trying to get things right. That's going to be difficult. Dealing with this, this is serious. And not only that, but the way fans perceive you. The way kids look up to you. He's got a lot of damage control that he's got to deal with."
Arenas has brought this on himself, just as he continues to draw attention his way with non-stop tweeting in the last two days, and years of pent-up frustration with his demeanor are likely to find their way into print and cyberspace.
A story on Yahoo! Sports Sunday claimed that Arenas has been beligerent of late toward Wizards coach Flip Saunders, and barely spoke to him during training camp. (Maybe. I can only tell you I have not heard any inkling of that from Wizards people, big and small, and they're a pretty honest bunch. There isn't a lot of love for Agent Zero these days, but no one has suggested he and Saunders are sideways. Has Saunders been hard on Arenas at times since the summer, when they talked almost every day either on the phone or via text? Sure. He's got the ball 90 percent of the time; if he doesn't play well, the Wizards have no chance at winning.)
Actually, Wizards insiders have been far more concerned all season with the play of Butler -- who's struggled in Saunders' guard-oriented offense after spending the last four years in the forward-centric offense of ex-coach Eddie Jordan -- and Butler's relationship with Arenas. I heard the "king/prince" analogy this week, as in, Butler became the king last season while Arenas was injured, and wonders why he has to go back to being a prince now that Arenas has returned. But, another team guy pointed out, the Wizards won 19 games last season without Arenas.
That's more of an issue, from what I've been told, than Arenas' relationship with Saunders.
I asked Jamison if he either expected or wanted an apology from Arenas.
"I don't think I need an apology," Jamison said. "I think he realizes that it's something he shouldn't have done, and it's a lot of attention that's not needed. So once you go through things like this, you realize it wasn't the smartest thing to do."
There is at least one person still willing to offer a spirited defense of Arenas. Very early Monday morning, Arenas's former agent, Dan Fegan, called after I'd texted him to see if Arenas had reached out to him. Arenas parted ways with Fegan in 2006, two years before re-signing with the Wizards for $111 million. I hadn't reached out to Fegan to see if he had an axe to grind; I was just curious if Arenas had asked his advice or counsel on how to handle things. (He hadn't.)
"I would venture a strong guess that it was humor," Fegan said. "He's an off-center kid who has a huge need to be loved. But he doesn't pull guns on teammates ... this is a guy that licked all the powder off of the donuts (while in college) and put talcum powder on them. I've represented hundreds of guys, and there are only about five of them I would turn to if I was in trouble or needed help. This is one of the guys that you could do that with."
Fegan also disputed the notion that the Wizards could be successful if they tried to void the remainder of Arenas' contract, which would make Washington a potential major player in next year's free agent class. No one in the organization has said that Washington would try to void the deal, but no one has said that they wouldn't do that, either. At the least, sources said, the team would not shy away from having internal discussions about it.
"There's no way," Fegan said. "It makes great copy, but it's unfortunate, because it's at Gilbert's expense. They're struggling right now, and because Gilbert's not Kobe, he's taking the heat. He's the 10th leading scorer in the league after a two-year hiatus, and in a few weeks he could be top five. It's absurd that they're talking about that."
The union has made noise about going to court if the Commish comes down hard on Arenas. But no one doubts the Commish has the hammer, and no one doubts that Stern and the league have made the players' off-court conduct one of the league's priorities. From the dress code to the strengthening of the drug policy, with increased random testing, to the very change in the league's rules that prohibits guns in arenas and practice facilities, the league has cracked down in the last few years.
The league's recent history of disciplining players for having or carrying guns illegally (players are allowed to have registered handguns) has pointed to a pattern of suspension, though none has reached double digits.
• Stephen Jackson was suspended seven games in 2007 after Jackson pled guilty to one county of felony criminal recklessness after firing five shots from a 9 mm gun outside an Indiana strip club in 2006, during an argument that involved his then-Pacers teammate, Jamaal Tinsley. Jackson had been hit by a car when he pulled out the semiautomatic weapon.
• Sebastian Telfair was suspended by the league for three games in 2008 after he pled guilty to criminal possession of a weapon following an April, 2007 arrest for speeding, during which police found a loaded .45 handgun under the passenger's seat of the car Telfair was driving. Telfair was playing for the Celtics at the time. Telfair was fined and suspended for two games while a member of the Trail Blazers in 2006 after a gun was found in a pillowcase of his on the team's plane. Telfair said the registered gun belonged to his girlfriend, and that he had picked up the wrong bag before boarding the plane.
• Former Nuggets forward Rodney White was suspended by the NBA in 2004 for one game after pleading guilty to unlawful possession of a weapon. White was jailed for two weeks in Washington, D.C., after firing a gun into the air while a passenger in a car.
• The league gave then-Bulls forward Marcus Fizer a one-game suspension in 2002 after he pled guilty to a weapons charge. Police had found a .40 caliber gun in Fizer's car after he was pulled over for having tinted windows.
• In December, 2002, the league suspended Warriors forward Chris Mills three games after he got in a fight with Portland's Bonzi Wells, tried to get into the Blazers' locker room after the game and then blocked the Blazers' team bus from leaving with his car. Blazers players claimed that Mills had a gun with him, but Mills denied it. It was this incident that led to the ban on any weapons, registered or not, at team facilities in 2005.
• And, of course, Arenas has already been suspended by the league, for one game, in 2004, after Arenas pled no contest to a misdemeanor weapons and vehicle charge for possessing a concealed weapon and driving without a license while a member of the Golden State Warriors.
As in the Arenas case, the league is reserving judgment on Cleveland's Delonte West, who faces six weapons charges and two vehicular charges -- all misdemeanors -- stemming from his arrest last September after he was stopped by Maryland police while riding a motorcycle on a highway outside of Washington with two loaded handguns, a loaded shotgun and an 8 1/2-inch Bowie knife in his possession. West has been in and out of the Cavaliers' lineup all season, still dealing with the effects of bipolar disorder.
It is not clear when Crittenton will speak with the police. His role, obviously, is central. The question I have not yet been able to get answered is, did Crittenton have a gun of his own, or did he put a hand on one of Arenas'? Or did something more innocent happen?
Crittenton's agent, Mark Bartlestein, has gone on the offensive, telling NBA reporters that Crittenton will be exonerated.
"I feel really strongly that he didn't do anything wrong," Bartlestein said by phone late Saturday night. "We'll let the authorities finish their investigation, but there's been so much written ... you'd think Javaris had a holster on his pocket. That wasn't the case ... when there's so much competition in the media, everyone wants to sensationalize everything. It's very easy for a young player in this situation to be branded. It spreads like wildfire. I'm very concerned."
No one, including Bartlestein, denies that the two got into a heated verbal dispute.
"He may have had an argument with a teammate," Bartlestein said. "But that happens about 100 times a day. I think there's a lot of frustration. There's that old saying that you can work a lifetime to build a reputation and it can take a second to ruin it. All the things that have been written and said, people have an impression of him that's not accurate."
As I look over this section of the column, I have the TV on in the background, waiting to see if embattled Redskins coach Jim Zorn has officially been fired. And, I swear, up pops a PSA on a local station featuring Crittenton, dressed in the Wizards' home white, his arm around a young boy, "urging you to become a mentor. You can change a child's whole world with just a few hours of your time, and help them build strength and confidence ... your friendship, time and wisdom are the greatest gift you can give a child."
God, it seems, has a refined sense of timing.
The Rockets, as of Sunday night, according to a source, were still "sifting" through offers for Tracy McGrady, and weren't anywhere close to a deal. Part of the issue is that McGrady's high-profile management team of Arn Tellem and Bob Myers is also working the phones, trying to come up with something for their client, and the two sides likely have different trading partners they consider promising. Add in developments like Washington's sudden dilemma with Arenas -- which quelled for now any chance of talks going forward with Houston on a deal that would feature Butler -- and the Rockets are in wait mode.
There are still unresolved issues for McGrady. He was able to get in top-notch condition over the summer working in Chicago every day with Tim Grover, but he also was the beneficiary of having top-shelf NBA talent in town as well -- including, ironically, Arenas, who was rehabbing his own microfractured knee. But all those players are back with their respective teams now.
The two sides also have to finesse the whole notion that McGrady's next destination is not likely to be his last. Would a team trying to do a deal for him release him immediately, so that he might be able to sign with a playoff contender that wouldn't have to pay his close to $23 million tab? Some probably would, but some wouldn't. If he wants to play in this year's postseason, he has to find exactly the right fit, even if it's just temporary. Yet another reason this will take longer than you'd think.
(last week's ranking in brackets)
1) L.A. Lakers  (27-6): Gasol pulls other hammy in Sunday rout of Mavericks.
2) Cleveland  (27-9): Sunday loss to Charlotte knocks hot Cavs out of top spot.
3) Orlando  (24-9): Barnes in starting lineup now ahead of Pietrus.
4) Dallas  (23-11): Spanked again in Staples.
5) Boston  (24-8): Big Baby bounces back from break and is balling.
6) Phoenix  (21-13): Beaten Lakers, Orlando, Boston; lost to OKC, Memphis.
7) Portland  (21-13): Steve Blake out with pneumonia. Of course.
8) Atlanta  (21-11): Did back-to-back losses to Cavs take something out of Hawks?
9) San Antonio  (20-12): Not where they want to be, but getting better.
10) Houston  (20-14): Margin for error is still quite small.
11) Denver  (21-13): Nuggs playing shaky the last two weeks.
12) Oklahoma City  (18-15): Durant 30-plus points in seven straight games.
13) Toronto  (17-18): Bosh becomes leading scorer in franchise history.
14) Miami  (16-15): Something is not right with this team.
15) Utah  (18-15): Still looking for consistency at shooting guard.
Chicago (3-0): Since Vinny Del Negro looked like he was on his last legs, the Bulls have won four straight.
Detroit (0-3): It's been 15 years since the Pistons lost nine in a row, and it's hard to imagine wholesale changes aren't in the offing.
Was there anyone, anywhere, who demanded this niche be filled? (H/T to J.E. Skeets from the "Ball Don't Lie" blog on Yahoo.com.)
I wish you people would make up your minds. From Jamieson Currie:
Usually I wouldn't respond to/comment on something as trivial as this, and I try not to be negative on the Internet, but this whole "is it or is it not the end of the decade" thing that people have been debating all over the place has me a little peeved:
10: 2009-2010 = 1 decade
Careful, Jamie: you'll have math professors writing in, calling you an idiot.
The debate continues. From Luke Pliska:
I am wondering why the player of the decade is Kobe Bryant and not Tim Duncan. I understand Kobe plays in a bigger market, that he is a bigger personality and that he attracts more attention. I also understand Kobe has won more championships in the decade. What I argue is that Duncan won three during the decade and was the best player on all three teams, winning a Finals MVP on all but one of them. Kobe was the best player on only one of his four championship teams. (I actually believe Kobe is the third-best player of the decade behind Duncan and Shaq, Shaq having an equal amount of rings and being the best player on 3 of the championship teams.) Duncan has more MVPs during this decade as well. Duncan has never missed the playoffs during the decade. Once Kobe lost Shaq, they fell down to 34 wins. Duncan never let his team slip below .500, in fact the worst season they had was winning 54 games in the decade. On top of that, they have been out of the first round every year besides 1999-2000 and 2008-09.
Can you explain why with more accomplishments and more winning why Kobe Bryant gets the nod over Tim Duncan? Is it because people just want to continue to talk up Kobe Bryant and put him on the 'Jordan' level?
Tim Duncan is the best player to ever play his position. He IS the Michael Jordan of power forwards. I just wish people could give a guy who has been the perfect professional his props, rather than ignoring him like they always have.
Luke, if you polled100 NBA people about this, 50 would probably say Kobe and 50 would probably say Duncan. It's that close. I'm not going to say you're wrong; you make excellent points. I just think, as a player, Kobe has been the best, year in and out. Just one man's opinion, that's all.
My brilliance finally gets results. From Suzee Goodluck:
How are you and how is your work hope all is moving fine.i seek for honest partner and i meet you and it was interesting and attractive then i drop by to know who this was, i will like to know more about you. if you wouldn't mind you can reply my mail. I will be very glad to read your mail with all pleasure. it will be nice to meet you and also read from you. please do honor my invitation so that we can exchange our pictures and maybe become partner.
Remember the distance does not matter what matters is the love we share with each other.
i wait to hear from you soon.
kiss regards Miss Suzee
Top that, Peter King!
1) LeBron James (29.8 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 7.3 apg, .513 FG, .833 FT): Turns out the "I Love NY" Nikes were fakes. Couldn't imagine even the Swoosh would be that cold.
2) Kobe Bryant (33 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 6.5 apg, .561 FG, .886 FT): After yet another buzzer-beater, would imagine we'd hear about that contract extension through 2014 any time now.
3) Dwight Howard (11.7 ppg, 12.3 rpg, 2.3 bpg, .536 FG, .385 FT): Still not getting enough touches to suit anybody.
4) Dirk Nowitzki (19.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.7 bpg, .375 FG, .913 FT): Playing through shoulder injury suffered last week against Denver.
5) Tim Duncan (21 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 2 apg, .532 FG, .692 FT): Feeling better than he has in years. Check out my Insider Report with TD later this week to hear more about how he's got his groove back.
Dropped out: Carmelo Anthony
11 -- Victories by the Rockets in December, matching the franchise's all-time best for that month.
11 -- Consecutive double-doubles by Minnesota's Kevin Love before his streak ended Saturday.
60 -- Games it took Memphis to win its 16th game last season. This season, it took 32.
1) Seems like Kobe tops this list every week.
2) I guess Paul Pierce is a little more important than we thought, huh?
3) Donte Greene, jack of all trades. The Kings have utilized the 6-foot-10 Greene at shooting guard, but last week, they had him guard LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony in succession. And he didn't do a bad job on any of them. Greene, whom Sacramento got from Houston in the Ron Artest deal last year, has been working with assistant coach Mario Elie all year. "I told him to remember what coach (Paul Westphal) said: 'give him a reason not to take you out,' " Elie said. "It's hard for the young guys to understand, but defense will get you on the court. It's not just offense. It's his defense we're really impressed with. His offense was a bonus but his defense is what's been standing out."
4) The Cavs are a different bunch when Delonte West is on his game, no? Like, darn near unbeatable.
5) Ronny Turiaf, who'll have a great story to tell his grandkids someday about the time he capped Kobe clean at the front of the rim.
6) This great chart (originally posted by Skeets; raw numbers from Hoopdata.com) that shows exactly what shots teams took in games through last Tuesday. The message: layups and threes are, by far, the shots that teams should try and take; you're much more likely to make a layup or a three than a mid-range jumper. Reasons are obvious (layups are closer; threes are often less contested), but it's still worth reinforcing.
1) Hard to say you can't find time for a guy that scores 41 after being DNP-ed 14 straight games, coach D'Antoni.
2) Chris Kaman's All-Star chances. Because the Clippers' center, who's averaging a career high in scoring, isn't on the All-Star ballot. Before you get all bent out of shape, understand the rules (and, as one who once helped put the ballot together, I do): Selectors are not only limited to picking 12 centers per conference, they can only pick a maximum of five players per team. So a starter like the Lakers' Derek Fisher, for instance, isn't on the ballot (the five Angelenos were Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum).
The Clippers on the ballot are Baron Davis, Al Thornton, Blake Griffin and Marcus Camby. Well, you ask, why put Camby on the ballot instead of Kaman? A few reasons, I would guess. First, the ballot is worked on during the preseason, when you're not only using last season's stats, but trying to guess who's going to play and who isn't. A reasonably smart person would have figured Griffin would start, and relatively quickly, at power forward. So, second, Camby played in 62 games last season, while Kaman was limited to 31 because of injury. A reasonably smart person, again, could have come to the conclusion that Camby would start the season ahead of Kaman. Third, trade rumors involving Kaman were hot and heavy for months. There may well have been the feeling that Kaman wouldn't be in L.A. by next February. And you can't put two Clippers centers on the ballot; how would that go over in, say, Utah if Mehmet Okur didn't make the ballot, but Camby and Kaman did?
Here's hoping the West's coaches do right by Kaman and make him the second center, behind leader Amar'e Stoudemire -- whose numbers (20.7 points, 8.4 rebounds) are more than matched by Kaman's (20.3 points, 9.2 boards).
3) My buddy Kevin O'Neill's mood this morning, after his USC team was slapped with a self-imposed ban on postseason play this year following the school's determination that the basketball program under former coach Tim Floyd committed rules violations in its dealings with O.J. Mayo. Mayo, now a starter for the Grizzlies, played at USC for one season before leaving for the NBA.
4) Orlando's point guard problem. As longtime Magic observer John Denton observed, the Magic have been smoked by Rajon Rondo, Brandon Jennings, Jonny Flynn and Derrick Rose in the last 10 days.
5) The Bulls' handling of Vinny Del Negro. Somebody -- somebody -- needs to stand up and say, "This is our guy," or they need to make a change. A close friend of Del Negro's tells me there's no way he walks away from the final year of his contract, with guaranteed money, next year. So, decide. No one looks good twisting in the wind.
6) Me, repeat offender. Last week I said what a great job Zach Randolph has been doing in Memphis (true), and said that he'd been mistake-free with the Clippers last season (not exactly true). He was suspended two games by the team last April after he was arrested on a DWI charge, and two games by the NBA for hitting the Suns' Louis Amundson in the face.
7) NFL fans (I'm looking at you, Indianapolis) who ripped the Colts for taking starters out in last week's game with the Jets, which was meaningless, even if it cost them a chance at an undefeated regular season. I have two words for your insistence that the Colts should have chased history: Wes Welker. Or, if you don't like those two: Charles Woodson.
Marv killed my NYE tuxedo shirt & tie combo, but what does he know? Sager and I are headed down to the River Walk.
-- My TNT colleague, Mike Fratello (@MikeFratello), Thursday, 9:53 p.m. The less said about his years-long feud with Marv Albert, the better. It does not make me proud to post this, but you, the reader, have a right to know the truth.
This week's Mr. Fifteen is Spurs center Theo Ratliff, who is averaging two points and two rebounds in 9.6 minutes a game for San Antonio. The 36-year-old may well be being saved for the postseason, when the Spurs no doubt will need another big body if they're going to beat the likes of the Lakers. But for now, Ratliff is behind rookie DeJuan Blair and veteran Antonio McDyess, and when Matt Bonner comes back from a broken hand, Ratliff will be fourth on the depth chart. But he says he couldn't be happier in San Antonio, his seventh NBA team since being drafted in the first round by Detroit (No. 18 overall) in 1995.
Me: How do you stay ready when you know you're not going to get regular minutes?
Theo Ratliff: I just always know what my role is, try to keep doing stuff off the court, working out, just mainly keeping the body strong. That's my whole approach right now, just making sure everything is ready, so if I need to go out there, I don't want to go out there and be pulling (muscles). Just don't go out there on a whim trying to play. And I stay entrenched in the game, still try to talk to the younger guys, talk to guys on mainly how they play defense, how to guard this guy, certain things like that.
Me: Why do you think it's hard for guys to accept that role?
TR: It's hard because guys who've been starting all their career, they've been the man. So when it comes to that point, if you've never been in that role where you played the role guy, you played the backup, when you get to that point, it can get frustrating for you.
Me: When you first broke in with Detroit, did someone play that 'old guy' role for you?
TR: Oh, yeah, I had a few of those guys. I had Mark West, I had Rick Mahorn, Otis Thorpe, all of those guys that was there. They just always stayed in my ear, just talking about being a professional. Being a professional, always come ready to do the job, and as long as you do your job, you have no problems. You'll have nothing to worry about. And I have 15 years to show for it.
Me: Did you think you'd see 15 years?
TR: Oh, no, especially with all the different injuries and stuff that I had went through (Ratliff missed 79 games with the Hawks in 2001-02 after hip surgery, 27 games with the 76ers in 2005-06 with a stress fracture in his left ankle and 80 games in 2006-07 with the Celtics with a back injury that required surgery) . Thank goodness I found a nice nutrition program, a nice workout program to be able to get myself back healthy enough to be able to go out there to continue to do what I love. And that's the only reason I still play, because I still love the game.
Me: What was the program?
TR: Well, I learned about supplements, as far as mineral deficiencies. And I learned that I had one. Mainly, a calcium deficiency, where my body was breaking down. So I got with a doctor by the name of Joel Wallach, and we came up and formulated a routine for me to do every single day, and I haven't stopped. It's been great for me, and I try to share the knowledge with a lot of other guys throught the league. It's been going well.
Me: You drinking eight glasses of milk a day?
TR: No, this is actually plant derived minerals. It's all natural, absorbs straight into the body. No side effects, all good stuff that your body already automatically needs. We sweat out all our minerals when we're playing, and all of those years of banging, and seeing the different guys with the knee replacements and different things of that nature, I didn't want to be one of those guys. If I could be an example for guys, and they see that I could come back from the things, the injuries that I had, which were very serious and which was threatening my career, and be able to continue to still play and jump and run and the things that I've been doing, and still feel 100 percent healthy, that would be an avenue for other guys to look at the same type of stuff.
Me: You were on the 2001 Sixers team with Allen Iverson that ultimately got to the Finals, though you got traded midway through the year for Dikembe Mutombo. Are you surprised he's back?
TR: No, I'm not surprised. He's a hell of a talent and he's always been a hell of a talent. He's just in a difficult situation where he's one of those guys. He's on the back end of his career, and people are trying to rebuild their teams, and they don't want you to be the main piece of the teams. There's a lot of teams that are just not looking for that. He's still doing what Allen do, but at the same time, teams are trying to rebuild for the future.
Me: If you hadn't signed here, what were your other options?
TR: I had two teams that was calling me. It was just a matter of whether I wanted to go to those teams or not. I thought this was a great situation to try and make a run for the title. Being on a very experienced team. I've been on young teams, and a lot of the young stuff that goes with that. And to have a veteran team, with the guys that they were bringing in, I thought it would be a great opportunity to play with a mature team.
Me: Is this defense as hard to pick up as everybody says it is?
TR: They do it a little different. They definitely do it a little different. But me being of a defensive mindset, it was pretty easy for me. But for guards and guys that have played on different teams, it could be an issue. We've got different types of schemes than any other team that I've played for. It could definitely be different if you've played for a lot of different defenses that other teams have played, or similar defenses that everybody else play, and then come here. Everybody has their assignments and you have to be on your horse to get there.
"The answer to the question is it's a participatory sort of strategy. We all do it. We have our coaching staff, our management staff in a room, 10, 12 guys, and we argue it out. Everything."
-- Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich, on how San Antonio seems to seamlessly integrate new players and personalities without a glitch, year after year, into a winning team.
"This team for the last five years has been known as one of the worst defensive teams in the league. Until our guys decide that it hurts when teams score on you, we've got no chance. We're kidding ourselves."
-- Wizards coach Flip Saunders, fed up with Washington's horrendous team D, after giving up 110 points at home to Oklahoma City on Tuesday. He thought that was the worst thing that would happen all week.
"It's something I have to get over."
-- Rockets forward Carl Landry, acknowledging to the Houston Chronicle that he's been reluctant to take charges in the paint since having five of his teeth knocked out in a collision with Dirk Nowitzki last month.
Longtime NBA reporter and columnist David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.
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Russell Westbrook had 33 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, as the Thunder beat the Phoenix 109-97 on Sunday.
|Mar. 29: Daily Zap|
Recap all of Sunday's amazing action in the Daily Zap.
|Mar. 29: Top 10|
Check out the top ten plays from around the Association.