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David Aldridge

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Amar'e Stoudemire might end up staying put come Feb. 18.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

In world of trade talk, chatter rarely lives up to hype


Posted Feb 8 2010 12:32PM

I hate trade columns.

Weeks of speculation that almost never pan out and aren't anchored by any kind of reality. If it's not an agent looking to place his client(s) somewhere else, it's a GM, on orders of his silent owner, looking to create a market for a player he wants to to ditch. Even the "truth" of something, like Team A is shopping a player, is normally calculated by Team A for its own self-interest. Plus, almost everyone is lying this time of year; the teams that are really looking to do something deny it even when they're caught red-handed.

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Hate them.

But you love them, and I get that. Nothing beats bar talk (How good would the Cavs be with Jamison?), and it's fun when it's not your job to check out every rancid, ridiculous rumor. But we are within two weeks of the Feb. 18 trade deadline, so I guess spending a few minutes dipping into the water isn't going to kill me.

So ... by this time next week, it's almost a certainty that Caron Butler will be gone from Washington, and highly likely that Tyrus Thomas will no longer be a Bull. By the 18th, Indiana's Troy Murphy and Philly's Andre Iguodala are certain to have new addresses as well, though those teams may well go right up until the 3 p.m. deadline to max out their suitors' offers.

Amar'e Stoudemire? For all the talk that a trade is a done deal, two people who should know swore to me Sunday that it's much more likely the Suns hold onto STAT than make a trade.

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Is Phoenix the next stop for Andre Iguodala?
Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Stoudemire's declaration to Yahoo! Sports that he might well not opt out of his deal after this season and play the final season at $17.68 million next year, though, would seem to make him more likely to be traded than not; teams will be much more willing to take on one year of salary before a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is worked out than try to sign a free agent like Stoudemire not knowing what the new rules would be on new contracts.

Would Philly bite the bullet anyway, and make a deal, sending Iguodala out West? Not without some certainty that Stoudemire wouldn't opt out after next season, and the Sixers still believe he will, meaning they'd get probably wind up with nothing, as they certainly aren't going to be in a position to give him the $60 million for three years that he's been seeking. That's a non-starter for Philly.

Would Chicago mind if Stoudemire opted out? Probably not. He's not their target next summer; I remain convinced Dwyane Wade and/or Chris Bosh are. So if the Bulls deal for Stoudemire and he walks, that's just $17 million more in cap room for them.

On the other hand, the Bulls, I'm told, are terrified that if they don't move Thomas by the 18th, he'll happily accept the one-year, $6.2 million qualifying offer Chicago would have to tender him this summer as a restricted free agent -- a complete non-starter for a team that is determined to save every penny toward next summer. And if they don't tender him and let him walk as an unrestricted free agent -- what Milwaukee did last summer with Charlie Villanueva, for example -- they will have let Ben Gordon and Thomas scoot town in consecutive seasons while getting nothing in return, and that would be a hard sell to Bulls fans.

Sending Thomas to Houston as part of a package for Tracy McGrady's expiring contract would seem to be the way to go. The problem, though, from a source in the middle of all this, is that Houston is not interested in Kirk Hinrich, whose contract would be central toward making a deal with the Rockets work. (Chicago still has expiring pieces like Brad Miller that could make a deal possible, however.)

The Wizards' desire to move Butler has only increased in recent days, since they found out they will indeed get some cap relief from the NBA this season after losing Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton to suspension for the rest of the season. Washington's cap number will be reduced almost $4 million, according to sources -- pro-rated amounts of the remainder of Arenas's $16.1 million and Crittenton's $1.47 million salaries -- taking its cap number to a little more than $74 million. The cap threshhold is $69.9 million, meaning Washington could avoid paying tax if it can pare another $4 to $5 million in salaries off its books.

That means Butler, though I suspect the Wizards will ask inquiring teams to remove Mike James and/or DeShawn Stevenson from their payroll as well.

Butler winding up somewhere in Texas is most likely, with Washington probably deciding between Dallas' and Houston's competing offers before next week's All-Star Game. The Wizards are determined to get a young player back, though, and the Mavericks' only non-geezer is rookie guard Rod Beaubois -- while Houston has a young guard like Kyle Lowry and an expiring big man contract in forward Luis Scola to pair with McGrady's $22 million expiring deal.

(Don't discount Portland, either. While much has been made of the Blazers' pursuit of Washington center Brendan Haywood, the Blazers have just as much, if not more, interest in Butler, and are willing to put $3 milliion in cash toward a deal -- which certainly interests the Wizards. But Portland's refusal to put any of its young players other than Martell Webster in any potential deal puts it on the outside looking in. As has been reported, the Wizards want either Nicholas Batum -- no chance -- or Rudy Fernandez -- not likely, as he is a favorite of many inside the Blazers' braintrust. The Lakers would also love to repatriate Butler with Kobe Bryant, who would love to have him. But L.A. doesn't have the expiring contract/young player assets necessary to get seriously involved.)

As for Jamison and Haywood, Washington would rather hold onto both, though there's always a deal out there that can change someone's mind. Cleveland, as everyone knows by now, wants Jamison, but the Cavs still don't want to part with second-year forward J.J. Hickson, whom the Wizards looked long and hard at before taking JaVale McGee in the 2008 Draft. The Cavs and Rockets are also in the market for extra picks for 2009, and are willing to pay for them.

Dribbles

• Manu Ginobili never thought he'd wear another team's uniform. Now, he has to allow that it is possible.

"I said it many times: if you had asked me a year ago, a year and a half ago, it was basically no question in my mind that I was going to be a Spur, probably, forever," Ginobili said last week. "But it didn't happen. Injuries first, Olympic Games or whatever, it didn't happen, and now I'm three months away from becoming a free agent. So I know it's going to happen. And I owe it to myself. It's probably going to be my last contract. So I'm going to sit, study the offers, see what's out there for me and then make a decision."

The 32-year-old Ginobili now knows that there is no contract extension coming from the Spurs, and that he probably won't be in San Antonio next season. The Spurs' window for paying luxury tax is for this year and next only, and Ginobili isn't going to sign for just one year when there's so much uncertainty about the ongoing labor negotiations. So for now, he plays on, trying to regain the form that made him so important during San Antonio's title runs.

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Ginobili a life-long Spur? Don't bet on it.
Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images

But the numbers don't lie. Ginobili's production has dropped from 19.5 points per game in 2007-08, to 15.5 points last season and 13.2 points this season. He's averaging just 11 points and shooting just 37 percent away from home. And though Ginobili swears he feels great physically and is getting his legs back after being limited the past two seasons with ankle troubles, San Antonio's fear is that the past few years serve as prologue.

Last week's TNT game in Portland crystalized the issue. For much of the game, Ginobili was brilliant, doing all of the things that have made him so valuable for the Spurs and so maddening for opponents. But in the fourth quarter, neither Ginobili nor the Spurs could close the deal, and he missed a wide-open three in the closing seconds that would have tied the score. One game, one shot, I know, and maybe Ginobili does have another great run in him.

But Ginobili's injuries and past commitments to the Argentinian National Team for international competition, which culminated in a gold medal for the Argentines in Athens in 2004, combined with the Spurs' long playoff runs this past decade, have put a lot of mileage on his tires. Ginobili is done with international play now after Spurs coach Gregg Popovich made his displeasure plain. But San Antonio is willing to let him explore free agency -- and willing, it seems, to let him walk.

"It's different," Ginobili said. "I was in this situation after my second year in the league, when I was a free agent. But I didn't think it was going to be at this point. But now it will and now I've got to make up my mind. And I'm going to be ready to change teams if I have to"...

• Hidden amidst all the trade talk recently was the disclosure last week on ESPN.com that former Rockets and NBA executive George Postolos, who's been sniffing around the Charlotte Bobcats for more than a year, has made another bid for the team that may require Michael Jordan to exercise his right of first refusal on matching any offers for the team by the end of the month.

Postolos is well-known in league circles, and especially to commissioner David Stern, who has been an advocate of his since Postolos came to the league office in 1996 as his special assistant. After two years at that job, the Rockets hired him as chief operating officer. With the Rockets, Postolos was involved both with the negotiations that brought Yao Ming to the NBA from China and with the financing and construction of the Toyota Center, and became the team's president and chief executive in 2002.

During his time with the Rockets, the franchise more than doubled in value.

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George Postolos may have interest in the Bobcats.
Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images

"He's really politically minded, great in the community," said former Rockets general manager Carroll Dawson, who worked the basketball side for the Rockets while Postolos worked the business side. "I always thought that if he got out of sports, he'd run for governor or mayor or something."

Postolos left the Rockets in 2006 to form The Postolos Group, and has been looking for a sports franchise to buy ever since. His consortium has looked into buying majority stakes in the Grizzlies, 76ers and Blazers in recent years, according to industry sources. He first made a bid for Charlotte in 2009, but Bob Johnson, the team's current owner, wasn't willing to sell.

Johnson was awarded the Charlotte franchise in 2003 to great fanfare, becoming the first African-American to be a majority owner of a major sports team. The future looked bright for the man who had become a billionaire creating and developing BET into one of the country's largest cable television networks. But his tenure with the Bobcats has been rocky.

A start-up regional sports network failed after just two years. Johnson fired dozens of employees at all levels who had been directly involved in the startup of the franchise less than three years into the venture, and the Bobcats have failed to draw significant interest in the Charlotte market despite Johnson's having financed most of the beautiful new Time Warner Cable Arena in downtown Charlotte. The Bobcats were 26th in the league in average attendance last season, drawing a little more than 14,500 per game to the 19,000-seat arena.

Jordan's record in Charlotte has also been spotty. His first choice as coach, Sam Vincent, lasted just one year, and the Bobcats have not had much success in the Draft despite having several lottery picks. The likes of Adam Morrison (first-round pick in 2005), Sean May (2006) and Brandan Wright (2007, who was traded on draft night for Jason Richardson) have flamed out early. But Jordan at least got the coaching part right by bringing Larry Brown in last year.

Last summer, Charlotte traded the first Draft pick in franchise history, center Emeka Okafor, to New Orleans for Tyson Chandler. Many around the league suspected that, while Chandler is a solid pivotman, the real reason behind the deal is that it will save the Bobcats more than $23 million over the life of the two players' contracts -- Okafor has two addtional seasons on his deal at $12.4 and $13.4 million, respectively, through 2013. And clearing the team's books of Okafor's $72 million contract may have made buying the team more palatable to an outside group.

Top O' the World, Ma!

(Last week's rankings in brackets)

1) Cleveland [1] (41-11): They are going to lose a game again, right?

2) Denver [3] (34-17): Nuggets 5-3 without 'Melo.

3) L.A. Lakers [2] (39-13): Kobe must really be banged up to miss a game.

4) Utah [9] (31-18): Millsap stepped right in for (again) injured Boozer.

5) Boston [6] (32-17): Cs have some serious thinking to do.

6) Atlanta [5] (32-17): J Smoove having an All-Star caliber season.

7) Orlando [4] (34-17): Two inexplicable losses to the Wizards.

8) Dallas [7] (31-19): Mavericks in a tailspin.

9) Phoenix [11] (31-21): Suns have found their shooting eye again.

10) Portland [8] (30-23): Blazers running out of healthy bodies.

11) San Antonio [10] (29-20): Spurs don't finish games on D like they used to.

12) Oklahoma City [15] (29-21): OKC won 23 games all of last season.

13) Toronto [13] (28-23): Bosh elevating his game at right (contract) time.

14) New Orleans [12] (27-24): Collison holding up the fort for Paul.

15) Houston [NR] (27-23): Aaron Brooks for Brandon Roy All-Star replacement?

Team of the Week

(2/1/10-2/7/10)

Phoenix (3-0): Two weeks ago, the Suns looked dead in the water, losing to the Jazz and Bobcats and looking bad doing so. But the NBA gives you a chance to get back on your feet quickly and Phoenix has taken advantage, ripping off five straight wins over four quality opponents -- Dallas, Houston, New Orleans and Denver -- and finishing up a four-game road sweep with Friday's victory at Sacramento. Despite the constant trade talk, Stoudemire has picked up his game, and Channing Frye looks like he's gotten a second wind in his new role coming off the bench after struggling through December and January.

Team of the Weak

Golden State (0-3): If anyone has the slightest idea what the franchise's plan is long-term, let me know. If anyone has the slightest idea who's interested in coming here after Don Nelson leaves, whenever he leaves, let me know. If anyone on this team has the slightest idea of how to play defense -- the Warriors have allowed opponents to score 100 or more points 42 times -- let me know. What a mess, and what a shame, because the team's long-suffering fans deserve better than another eight-game losing streak and another trip to the Lottery.

Nobody Asked Me, But ...

What does all this regular-season dominance mean for the playoffs?

The Hawks own Boston, sweeping the Celtics 4-0. If you think it's two years ago, and Atlanta is going to gaaaack in a playoff series against the Cs because they're the Cs and Atlanta is Atlanta, you haven't been watching. Jamal Crawford has been that good (though, we should mention, he's never been on a team that's won this much in his career, and you never know how that will manifest itself in the postseason).

But if Atlanta plays Orlando, its season is over. The Magic have manhandled the Hawks, 3-0, this season, winning by an average of 22 points.

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Allen and the Celtics have struggled with Orlando.
Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

Likewise, Orlando won the regular season series with Boston, 3-1, roaring back to beat the Celtics in Boston on Sunday, 96-89, leading Doc Rivers to declare that Orlando -- along with the Lakers and Cavaliers--are better than Boston.

Utah would love to play the Spurs. The Jazz swept San Antonio 4-0, breaking a 10-year, 20-game road drought in winning twice at the AT&T Center. But Utah would hate to play Denver. The bigger, ornrier Nuggets took three of four from the Jazz, who beat Denver Saturday in Salt Lake City -- without Carmelo Anthony or Chauncey Billups in the lineup.

But the dominant regular season performances make some things clear:

• No wonder Boston might be looking to deal Ray Allen. No one guy is responsible for a team's defense, but Boston's two guards have been torched by Joe Johnson (24.8 points) and Crawford (20.3 points) in the four games. If the Celtics face Atlanta again, they'll need a defensive upgrade in their backcourt. That's why a package including the Bulls' Kirk Hinrich would make sense.

• Why Atlanta has another big in its sights. The Hawks are looking to do a smaller deal before the deadline for a veteran big man. Maurice Evans is eminently available, but his $2.5 million salary this season and next makes getting a greybeard defender like Milwaukee's Kurt Thomas ($3.8 million) harder. But they need to find someone, because Dwight Howard (21.7 points and 14.3 boards in four games) has dominated the Hawks' smallish bigs.

Why San Antonio would be looking at Tyrus Thomas. Utah has bludgeoned the Spurs in the paint this season, averaging an incredible 51 points in the paint per game and shooting 49.8 percent overall from the floor. The Spurs would also love to add Thomas's defensive length to their aging, non-athletic roster, though it's not a certainty that San Antonio would go that route again after middling results from bringing in Drew Gooden last winter.

... And Nobody Asked You, Either

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

You mean it wasn't Berry Gordy? From Sterling Herring:

Mr. Aldridge can you find out for a bunch of basketball junkies WHO invented the crossover? I say Chris Jackson.

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Tim Hardaway's crossover was legendary.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Sterling, I'm thinking you're under 35, right? All due respect to the former CJ, now Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (who's still balling overseas; great article on him this week), but they were crossing people over well before the late 1980s. And even Mahmoud would concede that Tim Hardaway's crossover was slightly better. And 20 years before either of them laced it up, a fellow named Archie Clark was breaking people's ankles in Baltimore. You should familiarize yourself with a fellow named Marcus Haynes, too. I invite hoop historians to provide other examples, because I'm leaving about 20 other guys out, I know.

Nothin' but love for ya, honey. From Reginald LeCounte:

Phoenix, Toronto and the Bobcats above the Grizzlies?! Are you serious? They have four guys that can put up 20 any night, they are in the playoff chase in the competitive West and they have the youngest team in the league, yet they can't get any love from you. They have the third-best record in the league since mid-November and you just disregard them. Amazing, I tell ya.

I didn't "disregard" them, Reginald. I regarded them. They've been playing terrific for most of January. But so were Toronto and Charlotte, and yes, I know they beat the Suns on MLK Day; I covered the game for TNT. I just think Phoenix is a little better, which the Suns have proven since with their win streak.

MVP Watch

(2/1/10-2/7/10)

1) LeBron James (35 ppg, 7 rpg, 10.3 apg, .541 FG, .886 FT): He's running away with the award at the moment, leading Cleveland to 11 consecutive victories and full control of the Eastern Conference. He's doing it without the injured Mo Williams and Delonte West. He's scoring when he needs to score; passing when passing is called for, blocking potential game-winning shots and leading in every way possible.

2) Kobe Bryant (27.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3 apg, .468 FG, .652 FT): Broke consecutive games played streak at 235 by missing Saturday's game at Portland. Will Kobe play in the All-Star Game or rest himself for the stretch drive?

3) Dirk Nowitzki (23 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 3.3 apg, .545 FG, .913 FT): Nowtizki is saying he's not having much fun this season, despite Dallas' solid record, and it's now that you have to mention that Dirk could be a free agent after this season. No one expects he'll do anything but stay a Maverick for life, but he does have some leverage, and it shouldn't be taken for granted.

4) Kevin Durant (30.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 3 apg, .441 FG, .946 FT): The Oklahoma Kid is as good a gunslinger as there is in the West, leading the Thunder into the middle of the Western Conference playoff chase. He doesn't seem to force much (despite everyone loading up their defenses against him, he shoots 49 percent from the floor) and his young teammates seem to enjoy his success without worrying about their own.

5) Chauncey Billups (24.3 ppg, 2 rpg, 7 apg, .390 FG, .824 FT): Mr. Big Shot makes his MVP debut after going for a career-high 39 in Los Angeles on Friday, but not just for that. Billups has never played better or been more of a leader as he has this season for Denver, which is trying to somehow catch the Lakers for the best record in the west.

Dropped out: Tim Duncan

By the Numbers

24 -- Consecutive points scored Saturday by Cleveland's LeBron James in the first half of the Cavaliers' victory over the Knicks.

24 -- Consecutive games of 25 or more points by Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant.

24 -- Career four-point plays by Atlanta's Jamal Crawford, an NBA record, breaking a tie with Reggie Miller. Crawford has five four-point plays this season.

I'm Feelin' ...

1) Who Dat? Dey de World Champs!

I have no quarrel with Indy, or the Colts, a first-class organization. But if you've been to New Orleans since Katrina, you know what the people of New Orleans have gone through. So to have a moment that is theirs to celebrate, and is about them -- not the tourists, not the government, not anybody but the people who live there and who are trying to rebuild their lives -- makes their win over Indy something to celebrate.

2) That's a monster, Carmelo-less win on the road against the Lakers on Friday, Denver.

3) If you can figure out Orlando, you're a better man than I am, Gunga Din. How does the same team lose at home to Washington on Friday, get on a plane, and then defensively dominate the Celtics in Boston on Sunday?

4) Not that beating the Roy-, Oden-, Outlaw- and Pryzbilla-less Blazers is a major accomplishment, but to do it without Kobe Bryant -- and in a place where you'd lost nine straight -- is worth noting, Lakers.

5) The power of Facebook, Vol. MCMLXVII: here and here and here.

6) I always wonder about the tug of war going on within Stephon Marbury. On the one hand, there is the affable, really smart guy who understands about branding and marketing. And then there's the guy that eats Vaseline.

7) I don't pretend to be a hockey expert, but that was awfully compelling stuff on Sunday between the Penguins and Capitals. Will be very curious to see the ratings for that vis a vis CBS' 343-hour long pregame show and Magic-Celtics on ABC.

Not Feelin' ...

1) The opening salvo fired by the owners to the players last week, in its initial proposal to the union, as first reported by CBSSports.com. The owners know that the players will never agree to a hard cap; this smells like the "supertax" some teams proposed in the last collective bargaining session that would have amounted to a double tax on teams that went over the luxury tax threshhold. But the players have to know that owners are serious about getting the players' share of Basketball Related Income below 50 percent from its current 57 percent. Very. Serious.

2) The otherwise funny McDonald's commercial during the Super Bowl with Dwight Howard and LeBron James and Larry Bird. It only serves to remind people that they --Dwight and LeBron, I mean -- won't be dunking in Dallas next week.

3) Reaching like Plastic Man by the Associated Press, which tried to make a controversy out of Kobe Bryant's new Nike print ad that was in this week's Sports Illustrated, among other mags, because the phrase "I don't leave anything in the chamber" is attributed to him in the ad. This supposedly became a "controversy" because the ad -- done weeks ago -- came out the same week Washington's Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton were suspended by the NBA for the season for their respective roles in the guns-in-the-locker-room incident. (The league overreacted, too, saying the ad language was "inappropriate.") What, exactly, was the controversy? Do we think Bryant and Nike sat in a room in November and said "let's put gun language into the ad, and then hope someone is stupid enough to bring four guns into an NBA locker room! We'll make millions!"

4) No, Andrei. No.

5) When well-meaning corporations and employees, nonetheless, stick their foot in it.

6) Gadzooks, who is this El Nino, and why is he so angry at us?

Tweet of the Week

Terrible night for me last night, 1st 1/4.got a migrane. Sounds like nothing, but I lose vision in my left eye, lose all feeling in my body.
-- Bucks center Andrew Bogut (@AndrewMBogut), Saturday, Feb. 6. Bogut didn't return to that game Friday against New York, but returned to action Saturday night and scored 21 points in leading Milwaukee to a win over Indiana.

Mr. Fifteen

This week's Mr. Fifteen is Portland's rookie guard Patty Mills. The 21-year-old native of Australia was taken by the Blazers in the second round of last June's draft, after starring at St. Mary's for two seasons. He got on most NBA scouts' radar with his excellent play for Australia during the 2008 Summer Olympics in China, and Portland thought he might see some action this season. However, broke his right foot during Portland's Summer League, underwent surgery last July and quickly fell deep on the team's point guard depth chart behind Andre Miller, Jerryd Bayless and Steve Blake.

After a couple of NBA D-League stints in Idaho with the Stampede, where he'd been averaging better than 25 points a game, Mills was callled up to the Blazers earlier this month as "insurance," as coach Nate McMillan put it.

Me: How do you stay sharp mentally?

Patty Mills: It's tough. Obviously I'm a rookie, first time I'm experiencing this. I haven't been in a situation like this before. So it's tough. It's tough, more mentally than anything else. For me, not knowing what's going to happen on the team at the moment, when you don't play and the injuries that we've been through, you don't practice that much either. There's really rare times where I get to practice at a game situation and kind of show myself and prove myself. So it's hard. But all I can do is come in and work hard every day on my game, shooting, individual workouts, lifting. That's basically it. And just telling yourself over and over again just to stay ready.

Me: Who works with you?

PM: I come in with the shooting coach (John Townsend), who I've been working a lot with. Both Billy Bayno and coach Monty (Williams), those two. But really, for me, in the situation I'm in, I'm knocking on everyone's door. I'm pestering everyone, from the coaches to the players, 'come on, let's play one-on-one, let's get a workout in before you leave,' trying to do all I can to develop my game. Because it's hard, being in the situation I'm in. I'm pretty much knocking on everyone's door.

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After a long wait, Patrick Mills is in the NBA.
Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

Me: I'm sure you were happy to be called up from Idaho, but was there a part of you that said 'Hey, I'm getting some playing time down here and I'm playing well; maybe I should stay here for a while?'

PM: Yeah. I hurt my hand (while in college) late last January (and missed the NCAA Tournament), broke my foot. So that whole year of '09, I only played a handful of games. So to be sent down to the NBA D-League and kind of get that game rhythm back, it was great, and I really liked that. I love being here. I love being around the guys. When I'm here, I feel like I'm learning a lot, from Andre, from Blake, from Bayless, from Brandon (Roy), guys like that. But then again, there's no better way to learn like being in that situation on the court, referees, all that.

Me: You played with Sundiata Gaines in Idaho. When he hit that shot against Cleveland, were you at all surprised?

PM: You know what's interesting, my last (NBA D-League) game was actually his last game before he got sent up as well. He had the exact same shot against Reno in Reno. And he missed it. And I got the rebound and put it back on the buzzer to win. And then he got sent up and made that same shot (in Utah). I would have saved it for the league as well.

Me: Any regrets about coming out early?

PM: No, no regrets. That's the mental side of things there. You back yourself, and that's what I've done. I believed I had a chance to go in the first round, and from what I'd been told pre-draft, was that you have a chance to go in the first round. So I backed myself. Things didn't work out the way it did. I was drafted to a great organization, a place where I told myself that I can improve. Broke my foot and that made things even more tougher. Your mind is a very powerful thing. You definitely do think what might have happened, what could have happened. But at the end, I'm happy with the decision I made, and I feel I'm developing my game since my injury.

Me: Would you have had that confidence without your Olympic experience?

PM: I don't think so. That gave me a big boost in confidence. Playing against the caliber of guys I played against, at a young age, 19 I was, that really helped me. It helped me into my second year at St. Mary's, and still now, I look back on it. That's almost two years ago now. I still look back on that and say yeah, I matched up with those guys. I can play with those guys. So now it's just waiting, being ready for your opportunity.

Me: Your family is Aboriginal. With the history of the Aborigines in Australia and the history of athletic success from Aborigines like Evonne Goolagong (tennis) and Cathy Freeman (track and field), is there a special feeling of obligation to do well?

PM: Most definitely, most definitely. I mean, you named the two powerful icons. So I put myself on that same level, where there is that responsibility to represent the indigenous Australians, just like those (have) done. Those two were people that I looked up to. Obviously they're not the same sport, but the way they carried themselves, the way they represented themselves, not only for Australia but for the indigenous community, I take it upon myself to do the same. There's a lot of people in the community of Australia that are looking up to people like me. And that's a great thing. And you kind of carry that sort of chip on your shoulder when you get out and play, because I have in the back of my mind that there's not too many people, indigenous Australians, that make it to this level. You kind of have a responsibility.

Me: Where were you when Cathy won the Olympic gold medal (in the 400 meters) in Sydney?

PM: I was at home, glued to the TV. That's something that sticks out when you mention her name, the gold medal win in Sydney. She's an icon. She's everything that an indigenous person wants to be, and that's why so many people look up to her.

They Said It

"We get guys contract extensions."
-- Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki, lamenting the offensive explosions of Portland's Andre Miller (career-high 52 points) and Golden State's Monta Ellis (tying his career best 46 points) in consecutive games against Dallas last week.

"There defintely was a little frustration, because I felt like I had been an All-Star a couple years."
-- Utah's Deron Williams, on finally being named to his first All-Star Game.

"I gotta cheer myself up, but it's tough."
--Blazers guard Brandon Roy on Saturday, after announcing that he would miss the All-Star Game with a hamstring injury that has kept him out of play the last two weeks.

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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photoGiannis Antetokounmpo Injury
Giannis Antetokounmpo leaves the game after injuring his left ankle while driving the lane.
photoGameTime: Cavaliers
Shaq and Isiah break down the Cavaliers defense.
photoGameTime: Thunder-Warriors Preview
Shaq and Isiah preview the Thunder-Warriors game and Andrew Bogut's impact on the game brings.

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