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David Aldridge

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A contract buyout isn't out of the realm of possibilities for Gilbert Arenas and the Wizards.
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Futures of Arenas, Wizards still up for grabs


Posted Feb 1 2010 3:42PM

The dust, being dust, finds all kinds of uncomfortable places to settle. In the eyes, in the heart, in the guts, where the Washington Wizards will have one of the toughest decisions any organization has ever had to face this summer:

How do you solve a problem like Arenas?

How do you catch a now-admitted felon and pin him down?

How do you find a word that means Arenas?

A passer of sorts? A will of his own? A clown!

Oh, how do you solve a problem like Arenas?

How do you keep a goofball on your cap?

Last week's announcement of a season-long suspension by the NBA for both Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton did nothing but kick the can down the road a piece for Washington.

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No matter what else happens the rest of yet another desultory season, the Wizards will still have to deal with the question of Arenas. There's his $80.1 million remaining salary, the supposed insurmountable ill will between the team's former franchise player and his employers (more on that later), a fan base that is split more or less down the middle on bringing Arenas back for the 2010-11 season and, finally, a team vacillating daily between blowing up its underachieving bunch, sending it off piecemeal or keeping most of this bunch together.

If Washington could get a steady diet of Gotham teams, as it had this weekend in wins over the Nets and Knicks, a turnaround in the horrible East might still be possible. But barring the emergence of primates from body orifices, the Wizards are looking at yet another date in Secaucus, with the question of what to do about Arenas front and center.

There are four choices, none good:

1) Bring Arenas back next season.

2) Try to find someone that will trade for him.

3) Work out a buyout with him, allowing him to become a free agent -- though he'd remain on the team's books for four cap-killing years.

4) Try to void the rest of his contract -- which, if successful, would give Washington a chance to get under the cap next summer after having a $78 million payroll this season.

Right now, from what is whispered around the nation's capital, the Wiz are looking hardest at Nos. 3 and 4.

Would it be hard in the extreme to bring him back next season? Absolutely. Explaining that Arenas was, again, the face of the franchise after all that has transpired and all that has been discovered since the initial disclosure of the incident with Crittenton would be next to an impossible sale. Selling Arenas as the leader of a locker room that has tired of his act would require UN-type diplomacy.

Arenas has told his media confidantes that he can't play for team president Ernie Grunfeld anymore. But ... who cares what Arenas thinks of Grunfeld? Is Grunfeld the coach?

I'm fairly certain that Michael Jordan didn't care for Jerry Krause. It seemed to work out.

Last time I checked, Grunfeld was the one who had OK'd $170 million guaranteed for Arenas since 2004 -- including $111 million when Arenas was coming off of microfracture surgery in 2008 -- and has gotten exactly one second-round series out of his franchise player. Until last Christmas, what exactly had this franchise done to Arenas other than let him get away with everything -- rehab on his own, play when he wanted, given him the rights and privileges of a great player even though he hadn't been great for more than two years?

So, after what he's put the Wizards through, a comeback at Verizon Center almost certainly isn't in the cards.

So, is there a trade out there? The Wizards have three trade goals: immediate tax relief for next year, young players and/or cash and Draft picks. The only team that can provide immediate tax relief is Houston, if it sends Tracy McGrady to Washington for Caron Butler and a couple of spare contracts like those of guard Mike James -- and it's more likely Washington would hold out for the Rockets taking DeShawn Stevenson instead of James. A Washington-Houston deal is a possibility, but the Rockets will have other options as well.

Further complicating a potential deal for Arenas is the uncertainty of what will constitute a maximum contract under the new collective bargaining rules. Currently, player maximums are dependent on how many years the player has been in the league, and run from 25 to 35 percent of the team's cap total. That figure is sure to be opposed vehemently by owners, who will seek significant reductions in player maximums. But players with existing contracts, like Arenas, will be grandfathered in. In a new CBA with a lower cap and maximums, a player with a deal similar to Arenas' could take up a prohibitively large chunk of a team's cap room.

At any rate, no one is going to be interested in Arenas until it's clear he won't miss part of next season while he's in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for March 26, and it's hard to imagine he'd want any delay in the jail term, since a six-month sentence would get him out of prison just in time for training camp. And the Wizards, along with others around the league, think there could still be a few teams interested in dealing for Arenas.

Consider:

He will be 28 on opening day next season.

He will be three years removed from his microfracture surgery in November, 2007, and two years removed from his third and final knee surgery in 2008.

We won't know what an unrestricted free agent will cost next season until the final cap number comes in in July, but by way of comparison, the three-year extension the Cavaliers have had on the table for LeBron James since last summer (which he has, so far, turned down) is for $65 million. Kobe Bryant can get a three-year extension for more than $90 million from the Lakers starting in 2011. Arenas, obviously, is not in James' or Bryant's class. The point is that teams will have to clear that kind of money in order to even make a run at James or Bosh or Wade, and every team isn't going to get that summer of 2010 superstar. Some teams will have to move to Plan B.

Such as (odds of a deal, in my view, in parenthesis):

Miami (100-1): I don't believe the Heat has any interest in Arenas at the moment. I doubt Miami will have any interest in Arenas this summer. But Riles is playing big-time poker with his franchise player, Dwyane Wade. I've never known Riles to have cap room burning a hole in his pocket without finding someone worthy on which to use it. But if he strikes out on LeBron, Bosh or any of the blue chippers, Wade is going to skip his loo right on back to his hometown of Chicago. And that would leave Miami with a big, empty building, one that the Heat has had increasing trouble filling since the championship season of 2006.

That season, the Heat was fourth in the NBA in attendance.

The next season, Miami was fifth.

The next season, Miami was eighth.

The next season, Miami was 15th.

The next season -- this one -- Miami is 12th.

Sense a trend?

It's much more likely Miami would wait for the Wizards to buy Arenas out before making a move if they ever become interested. And it's much more likely Miami isn't going to ever be interested. But stranger things have happened. And that's a big arena.

Golden State (30-1): The Warriors made a run at Arenas in 2008 after losing Baron Davis to the Clippers, offering him $100 million. But since then, Golden State has given Monta Ellis $66 million and drafted Stephen Curry in the first round of last year's draft. The Warriors no longer have the need, nor the money, to go after Arenas.

Except, despite the Warriors' frequent denials -- including one to me on Friday -- many around the league still don't believe that Ellis is completely off the trade block. One executive of a team that has had discussions with Golden State about potential deals says that the Warriors have put only three players -- Curry, Anthony Randolph and Anthony Morrow -- on trade ice.

I don't think the Warriors are shopping Ellis, but that doesn't mean they might not be persuaded. If the Wizards and Warriors got serious, Washington would have to take Corey Maggette's massive (three years and $30.8 million remaining after this season) contract, and probably one other tax-busting deal (perhaps Vlad Radmonovic's $6.8 million for next season) to get Golden State to even think about taking on Arenas.

Orlando (25-1): The Magic has a championship-caliber team and would certainly be skeptical about bringing in a volatile player like Arenas. On the other hand, general manager Otis Smith's affection for and strong relationship with Arenas is no secret; the two got together when the Magic visited Washington in early January. That doesn't mean Smith is going to make a move for Arenas, but if anyone is likely to be able to reach him, it would be the no-nonsense, quiet Smith.

A deal with Washington would have to include Vince Carter (two years and $35.8 million left after this season). I know that the Wizards do not consider taking on Carter's salary an impediment if Orlando was willing, especially because only $4 million of the $18.3 million due Carter in 2011-12 is guaranteed. That means Carter might only play next season for any prospective employer, and that employer would be on the hook for only $21.5 million. If Orlando flames out in the playoffs, and Carter doesn't make people forget Hedo Turkoglu, and the Wizards were willing to ease the Magic's luxury tax pain by taking on another big contract (Brandon Bass, anyone?), well, consider the coffee pot heated.

Philadelphia (25-1): Do Arenas and Eddie Jordan like each other? Not very much. But Arenas became a star playing Jordan's Princeton offense, and Jordan made the playoffs three straight seasons letting Gil be Gil, and last time I checked, the Sixers were struggling to adjust to Jordan's sets and were ADBL (Almost Dead Bleeping Last) in the East. Are you telling me Philly would have no interest in ridding itself of, say, Elton Brand's deal? Or Samuel Dalembert's? The Wizards aren't big Dalembert fans, but beggars can't be choosers.

New York (25-1): There's much more chance the Knicks would make a play for Arenas than, say, Amar'e Stoudemire. (The antipathy between STAT and Mike D'Antoni was thick by D'Antoni's last season in Phoenix, and nothing I've heard suggests it has dissipated on either side.) If the Knicks whiff on the A-listers, they will have to find someone to appease the angry masses, sportswriters and cab drivers that will be demanding action. And New York has enough 2010 contract chattel, including Eddy Curry and Jared Jefferies, to send Washington's way without having to give up any of its youngsters -- though Washington would certainly ask for one of them.

Yet, as noted above, a buyout is much more likely than a trade.

There have been a lot of buyouts over the last 10 years or so, from Alonzo Mourning to Stephon Marbury, but the situation that most reminds me of what Washington faces with Arenas is Portland, and Shawn Kemp, in 2002.

The Blazers owed Kemp $46.5 million in the final two years of his seven-year, $107 million contract. But Kemp had left the team the year before to check into a rehab clinic for cocaine abuse, and had been suspended by the league for not complying with his after-care program in February of 2002, and was out of shape when he returned. Portland wanted to sever ties. The Blazers broached the idea to Kemp's representatives at the end of the season, and it took three months of negotiations, but Kemp finally agreed in August of '02 to take about $30 million of what he was owed -- a little less than two-thirds of his contract -- and was waived. He then played one season with the Magic -- making a little more than $1 million -- before basically retiring from the NBA in 2003.

The issue isn't which is worse -- substance abuse or bringing guns to the workplace -- but how similar the existing circumstances were in creating an atmosphere where it was both in the team's and the player's best interests to make a deal. That's where we are now with the Wizards and Arenas.

If the Wizards ultimately can get Arenas to agree to a buyout, it would save the team millions in luxury tax payments the next four years. But Arenas would not come off of the team's cap. Under the rules, Washington can work out a lower cap number for Arenas, but it can't, say, pay him $40 million in a buyout for next season and then have him come off the cap for 2011. He'll remain on the team's cap for four more years -- even with a buyout, and a reduced number -- unless he's traded. Or, if the contract is voided.

That last option has gotten a lot of play, but perhaps in inverse proportion to its likelihood. For reasons I've explained several times, the language in the Collective Bargaining Agreement and recent legal history will make it extremely difficult for Washington to make a successful argument to void Arenas' contract. The Wizards have not contacted league attorneys about the various complexities that would be involved, and those who would know in the organization say that voiding has not been broached yet as a serious possibility. (I can also tell you that it isn't an idea yet supported by Lincoln Holdings, Ted Leonsis' group that already owns 44 percent of the team and is seeking to gain a majority share from the estate of the team's late owner, Abe Pollin.)

That's it. That's the list of options.

"We're a better team with him," Antawn Jamison told me last month.

They might have been. But this group is on its last legs, and Agent Zero is on his way out.

Dribbles

A few days ago, the Lakers were happy to see President Obama, but they weren't very happy about how they were playing.

"I think we got a little overconfident," Lamar Odom said.

"I think the road is good," Phil Jackson said. "I think we got stagnant, I think, at home a little bit. We didn't do as well at home as we'd like. We'd like to have a loss or two, and we had more than that."

The Lakers started their eight-game eastern road swing by losing two of three in Cleveland and Toronto, but they righted things with wins at Washington, Indiana, Philadelphia and Boston -- where Kobe Bryant dropped the hammer on Boston with a ridiculously tough game-winner over Ray Allen Sunday. They have a chance to end the trip 6-2 with a win Monday night in Memphis. Whether they played harder, as Ron Artest said they had to do, or not, they got things straightened out -- leaving the Celtics, who've dropped three in a row heading into Monday's game at Washington, to figure out why their energy level has dropped so dramatically in the last few games.

L.A. is back on top in the Western Conference by a comfortable margin -- and homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs is a key to the Lakers' chances of repeating. But the Lakers have lost twice to Cleveland, once to Orlando and once to Denver -- the only teams, at the moment, who have a realistic chance against them in the postseason.

"We have to understand that we're no longer the hunter," Odom said. "Now we're the hunted. We just have to recognize that and play with a certain type of, I wouldn't call it urgency. I guess we have to carry ourselves a certain way in this position. I think if we do that, with the talent we have, even the games that we play ugly, we'll find a way to win."

Top O' the World, Ma!

(Last week's ranking in brackets)

1) Cleveland [1] (38-11): Cavs home for six straight, where they're 19-3.

2) L.A. Lakers [2] (37-11): Got rolling on their long road trip.

3) Denver [3] (32-15): Nuggets don't fear anyone, including Lakers.

4) Orlando [5] (32-16): Magic seem to have gotten their sea legs back.

5) Atlanta [4] (30-16): Don't want any part of the Magic any more.

6) Boston [6] (29-16): Does KG look like KG to you? Me, neither.

7) Dallas [7] (30-17): Can Mavericks afford to hold on to Josh Howard?

8) Portland [8] (28-21): Didn't think Andre Miller could score 52 points in a week, much less a game.

9) Utah [9] (28-18): Jazz depth getting it through injuries.

10) San Antonio [10] (27-19): Home losses beginning to pile up.

11) Phoenix [11] (28-21): Stoudemire rebounding numbers plummeting.

12) New Orleans [NR] (26-21): Keep shedding players, but they're winning.

13) Toronto [14] (26-22): Raps 19-9 since early December.

14) Charlotte [NR] (24-22): Stephen Jackson has been everything he said he'd be.

15) Oklahoma City [NR] (26-21): Here's hoping more people can see Durant before April.

Team of the Week

(1/25/10-1/31/10)

Chicago (3-0): Wins at San Antonio, at Oklahoma City and at New Orleans constitute getting it done, in a week where Derrick Rose (23.7 per game this week) made the first of what will be many All-Star teams. Bulls have won five in a row overall and nine of their last 11 to get back above .500 and solidify their playoff position as the All-Star break approaches. Putting rookie Taj Gibson into the starting lineup at power forward has also paid dividends for Vinny Del Negro, who has beaten back the calls for his noggin.

Team of the Weak

Golden State (0-4): Playing just well enough to compete and lose to better teams like Charlotte, New Orleans and Oklahoma City, a pattern that's repeated itself over and over while the Warriors have dropped nine of 11 overall. I know GS is determined not to have a fire sale, but something has to give sooner or later, doesn't it?

Nobody Asked Me, But ...

Why can't Tracy McGrady play in the NBA D-League while he waits to be traded?

The Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and the union prohibits players with more than two seasons of NBA experience from being sent down to the NBA's Development League. Only rookies and second-year players can be assigned there, and then, they can only be sent down a total of three times a season, so obviously, the 30-year-old McGrady, in his 13th season, is currently not eligible to play for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, Houston's affiliate.

I know all the arguments: the union doesn't want coaches to use the NBA D-League as punishment for veteran players. The union fears coaches would opt to send "knucklehead" or problem players that they feel need to be taken down a peg or two to the NBA D-League, where they could be gone for quite a long while; there's no limit to how long an assignment lasts. The NBA doesn't want its development league clogged with veterans as a de facto taxi squad, taking minutes and opportunities away from the young players that comprise the whole reason for the league's existence.

And veterans certainly don't like the idea of playing in a league many still feel is beneath them, despite the NBA D-League producing the likes of Denver's Chris Andersen, Detroit's Will Bynum, Houston's Chuck Hayes, Minnesota's Ramon Sessions and Golden State's C.J. Watson since 2001. (Not to mention my man Sundiata Gaines, in Utah. Currently, there are 70 players in the NBA with D-League experience; there have been 152 callups to the NBA over nine years.)

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Would a stint in Rio Grande help Tracy McGrady?
Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images

But there are, occasionally, special circumstances, such as T-Mac's. The two sides have agreed that McGrady won't play again in Houston. The Rockets are still actively looking to deal him, and he is still working out diligently in Chicago, where he trains eight days at a time with trainer Tim Grover at Grover's Attack Athletics facility. But right now, there's no one for him to play with, because everybody with pro level talent is playing in a pro league somewhere, either domestically or abroad.

Why couldn't every NBA team have a "special dispensation assignment" it could use for NBA D-League veteran use, say, once every two years, for emergencies and other unforeseen circumstances? It would allow the NBA team to send a veteran with more than two seasons of experience to the NBA D-League to get some work. I'm thinking, obviously, of veterans coming off of longterm injuries -- like, say, Portland's Travis Outlaw, who'll be out until March following foot surgery. But there is the occasional tough nut like McGrady's situation. If you want to limit the time of the assignment to two weeks or so, fine with me.

How would it hurt to give McGrady a place where he can knock off the rust that was evident in his game during his brief stint with the Rockets? How would it hurt to give McGrady a place to show what he can still do (and give Houston a showcase for him, so that prospective teams have some fresh intel on which they can make a decision)? How would it hurt McGrady's teammates in Rio Grande to have a few games playing with an NBA star, who can give them some subtle hints about the pro game and display what a player at the next level really does? How would it hurt Rio Grande's opponents to have a chance to show their "A" game for potential NBA employers?

... And Nobody Asked You, Either

As always, send your comments, questions and snark to daldridgetnt@gmail.com..

Obviously, he doesn't know my history with Caribana. From Daniel B:

It's unfortunate that you, and most U.S. media, disrespect Chris Bosh and his efforts. He leads the NBA in double doubles. [Editors' note: Bosh is second to Dwight Howard in double-doubles.] He is much more worthy than KG for the starting position. CB4 is a 20 and 10 player and should be recognized as such. Yes, he is from here in Toronto, but it's not a small market by any means. I know that if it wasn't a popularity contest and it was left up to coaches and media, then CB4 would be a starter (I mean .. Allen Iverson over Rondo?). I guess what I'm trying to say is keep in mind CB4's efforts on a team that will make the playoffs, a team who has a favourable schedule on their midst.

Daniel, did you read my column last week? I picked Bosh for my Eastern reserves. I don't pick the starters; you and other fans do. But even if I did, I'm not sure I'd pick CB over Garnett. A team's record does matter to me.

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Who's more All-Star worthy: Gasol or Bosh?
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Only the Chuckster works half the year and gets away with it. From Julius Martinez:

Pau Gasol doesn't even have his nose to the window? The Lakers easily have the best record in the tough Western Conference and have only one All-Star? OK, if that's the case ... what does that tell you about how good Kobe is that he can take his team to the best record without an All-Star and playing with numerous injuries?

Not hating on Gasol, Julius. But he's missed 18 games, and that's a huge chunk of the schedule. Just can't consider someone who's missed that much time. If he'd been healthy all year, he'd obviously be the pick. But it's not fair to Randolph and Landry to consider someone that's been on the DL that long.

I'm guessing Casual Fridays are on hold at this guy's office. From Fred Chiuppi:

...I completely agree with what Stern did and it is exactly what is necessary to avoid this from happening again...

The Players Union support should simply state: thanks for embarassing the league and our players, and be glad you still have an opportunity to play in the NBA. Lets not sugar coat it or dance around the issues. These are men, not children. Nobody's perfect and everyone makes mistakes, but these acts were deliberate and are inexcusable.

When will people start accepting responsibility and being accountable for their actions? I see these same issues in my own business and its quite disturbing that people will place blame elsewhere before looking in the mirror and confronting themselves. Arenas and Crittenton should tell the Players Union, thanks for your support but we simply accept the punishment.

The union, I think it's safe to say, is not offering full-throated support of Arenas or Crittenton, but will handle Crittenton's appeal if he asks for one.

MVP Watch

(1/18/10-1/24/10)

1) LeBron James (24.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 9.8 apg, .394 FG, .708 FT): Not the best week shooting, but dimed opponents up and Cleveland didn't miss a beat.

2) Kobe Bryant (24.5 ppg, 5 rpg, 6 apg, .500 FG, .741 FT): For a guy that couldn't grab a ball cleanly at the start of the week because of his jacked-up hand, Bryant shot the ball pretty well, and finished the week like there was nothing troubling him at all. There isn't a will like his anywhere else.

3) Dirk Nowitzki (25 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.3 apg, .455 FG, .962 FT): Another All-Star appearance, this time at home, for -- we can all agree on this, right? -- the best foreign player to ever play in the NBA. I never want to minimize the impact that Drazen Petrovic and Vlade Divac had on the game when they came over, for they helped usher in a true global age of basketball. But Dirk has been so great for so long we almost take him for granted.

4) Tim Duncan (17.8 ppg, 12.8 rpg, 4 apg, .381 FG, .958 FT): No, that's not a misprint. TD made 23 of 24 free throws last week. Unfortunately, the Spurs can't seem to get anything going during their huge homestand that precedes the Rodeo Trip.

5) Kevin Durant (34.3 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 3.7 apg, .593 FG, .875 FT): The Thunder from Over Yonder makes his MVP Watch debut this week; it's folly not to include someone who is beasting as thoroughly as Durant is for Oklahoma City. Everyone knows he's going to get the ball, yet he rarely forces shots, includes his teammates in the offense and is giving a good night's effort at the defensive end most of the time.

Dropped out: Carmelo Anthony

By the Numbers

12 -- Years since the Spurs had lost three straight home games.

533-- Career victories with the Lakers for Phil Jackson after Sunday's last-second win over Boston, leaving him one shy of Pat Riley as the franchise's all-time winningest coach.

$7,500,000 -- Amount that New Jersey's new governor, Chris Christie, wants the Nets to pay if they break their existing lease at the Izod Center in order to play their games the next two seasons at the Prudential Center, home of the NHL's New Jersey Devils, according to a report issued by the governor's Gaming, Sports and Entertainment Committee that was obtained by the New York Times.

I'm Feelin' ...

1) Let's just call this The Kobe Spot and be done with it.

2) First-time All-Stars Durant, D-Wil, Rondo, Rose, Wallace, Horford and Z-Bo. Congrats.

3) Of course there's some political stagecraft involved, but I still think it's cool to have a president and Veep that can just drop in unannounced to a big basketball game, and look like they're having fun there instead of waiting for the photo op to end.

4) That's a pretty good performance subbing for CP3 Saturday in Memphis -- 18 assists, the game-clinching rip of O.J. Mayo and the final flush -- Darren Collison. In leading New Orleans back from a 21-point deficit and breaking the Grizzlies' 11-game home winning streak, you broke the franchise rookie record for assists. Is it a bad time to point out that I said the Hornets should have taken Sam Young with the 21st pick in the first round last June instead of you? (And you may be starting for a while; Yahoo! Sports reported Sunday that Paul is undergoing knee surgery for a torn meniscus and will miss at least a month.)

5) Kenyon Martin, whose reputation has preceded him for years. But that's no longer fair or relevant. Martin's leadership in Denver the last couple of seasons, as evidenced by the 27 and 11 he posted Sunday in leading his team -- without the injured Carmelo Anthony -- past San Antonio.

6) Toronto's unheralded depth. The Raptors got a lot of ink for getting Hedo Turkoglu, but they've turned it around of late in part because of reserves like ex-NBA D-Leaguer Sonny Weems (shooting 57 percent as a starter replacing the injured DeMar DeRozan), veteran Antoine Wright (15 points Sunday against Indiana) and former Piston Amir Johnson (double figure scoring off the bench in three straight games).

7) Beyonce. Oh, you know why.

Not Feelin' ...

1) Someday, down at the bottom of a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue, I'll ask Mike Woodson what precipitated this.

2) I like you, Paul Shirley. But you're wrong on Haiti. Way wrong. Stupid wrong. Ignorant wrong.

3) Danny Granger's Blues. You're not forgotten. Keep ya head up.

4) You too, Al Jefferson.

5) Chris Kaman, officially Snubbed.

6) Didn't really care who won Album of the Year at the Grammys, but you were looking around for Kanye after Taylor Swift won, weren't you?

7) Are you serious, NFL? Because the word "football" is in your company's name, have you trademarked and copywritten that, too? Do I owe you $20 for just saying the word "football?" Oops, I just said "football" again! Another $20! D'oh! (Which reminds me -- did anyone watch the Pro Bowl? Anyone? Bueller?)

Tweet of the Week

But really, I'm just Glen Davis -- not uno-uno or anything else. I'd rather let my play on the court be what I am known for, not some nickname.
-- Celtics forward Glen Davis (@GlenDavisNBA), Thursday, 9:46 a.m., on his request that he no longer be called "Big Baby," his nickname for almost all of his 24 years.

Mr. Fifteen

This week's Mr. Fifteen is Lakers forward Adam Morrison. The 25-year-old Morrison is in his second season in Los Angeles after a midseason trade last year from Charlotte, the team that took him third overall in the 2006 Draft after his storied collegiate career at Gonzaga. But after playing in 78 games and averaging almost 30 minutes per game for the Bobcats his rookie season, Morrison has struggled to find significant playing time. A torn ACL ended his second season before it began, and Larry Brown didn't find much time for him through the first half of last season in Charlotte before he was dealt west -- along with Shannon Brown, who has become a signficant role player for the Lakers -- for Vladmir Radmanovic, in what the Lakers acknowledged was more a trade to lessen their luxury tax burden than to improve their talent level.

With the Lakers, it would take some kind of miracle for Morrison to find run behind Ron Artest and Luke Walton at small forward, and Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom at power forward. Morrison (2.5 points per game in 8.1 minutes per game this season) will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and will almost certainly have to go elsewhere if he wants to get on the court again.

Me: How are you holding up?

Adam Morrison: Oh, it's the best team in the world. I'm lucky to be on this team.

Me: In most places, you learn by playing and doing. On this team, can you learn through osmosis?

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Adam Morrison is averaging 8.1 mpg this season.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

AM: A hundred percent. You know, we've got, obviously, Kobe, Ron (Artest), new addition. We've got a lot of good players, and obviously it's a championship caliber team. I learned a lot just from last year, just going through that playoff run, on how guys take care of themselves. It's a long season, that type of stuff. How they play the game.

Me: You had such a good summer in Vegas (Morrison was the star of the Lakers' Summer League team that played in the Vegas Summer League in July). What, if anything, did you think would come from that?

AM: I knew it was going to be tough to find minutes, anyway. You know, the season's only halfway through. Anything can happen. That was more for, they wanted me just to play and then show other teams that I'm healthy, can still play in a sense. So they did me a favor by giving me that opportunity. Obviously I want to play more, but I'm happy to be on this team, honestly.

Me: What's a typical day like for you? When do you get the mental reps that you need if you're not playing?

AM: One thing that Phil (Jackson) does a very good job of is he makes sure that the guys who don't play a lot of minutes, we try to play every day. We play three-on-three, two-on-two, four-on-four full court. And that, at least, keeps a rhythm, somewhat of a rhythm of playing, and you feel like you're part of the team. You're practicing. So that's where I usually try to get them. And usually some of the guys will go in and shoot the night before. Stuff like that.

Me: You said last summer that you'd lost some of your confidence. Is it still in the back of your mind, 'Hey, I was a damn good player in college; I know I can play in this league?'

AM: Yeah. I had an okay season my rookie year, and then I got hurt, obviously. So I just view it as I had a tough go. I've just got to stay confident, which I am. Certainly it would help to get some run and feel good about myself. I'm still confident, very much so.

Me: How do your teammates try to keep you involved?

AM: The guys are great. That's the best thing about being on this team. From top to bottom, you get treated pretty much the same. And all the guys are cool with each other. There's no disrespect because you don't play, or they look at you different. That's the best part about it. Like I said, you get to play in practice, go hard. That stuff's key.

Me: Can you do another year of this, or do you have to go somewhere and play?

AM: Hopefully we can win another one, so I want to be a part of that. I have no idea what's going to happen this summer. But like I said, I really am blessed to be a part of this. They helped me rehab last year, and got me right for the summer, and just to be part of this team is pretty cool.

They Said It

"I think we match up well with anybody else except this team."
-- Hawks guard Joe Johnson, after Orlando defeated Atlanta Saturday night for the third straight time this season and sixth straight time overall.

"My heart dropped."
-- Trail Blazers center Greg Oden, telling reporters in Portland his reaction when he found out that nude pictures he'd taken of himself in 2008 and sent to a lady friend had wound up on the Internet.

"I'm trying, I'm trying. Unfortunately, you can't have a hostile takeover of a basketball team."
-- Billionaire Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, according to MarketWatch.com, confirming the years old, poorly-held secret that he is interested in buying the Golden State Warriors.

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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