Posted Feb 16 2010 10:21AM
DALLAS -- I know you do not want to read about labor issues the day after an exciting All-Star game, which capped a very successful All-Star Weekend here. (And to think Cubes resisted the idea for so long.) Trust me: I don't want to write about them, because they're hard to follow, and they bore you to tears, and I suspect that there won't be as many clicks on this as there would be on, say, a rumor involving the Lakers trying to get Amar'e Stoudemire. (Not true. Made you look!)
But it would be head-in-the-sand extreme to ignore the lines being drawn in the sand by the NBA and the players' union this week, after the union brought out its biggest stars, including LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, to express its dismay at the league's first official proposal for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement to replace the old one, which will expire in 2011. Sure, it's early, but Friday's meeting between owners and players did not go well, and even if owners agreed to "table" (or pull, or rip apart, whatever euphemism floats your boat) their initial, Draconian proposal, that doesn't mean they've softened their stance, or are any less willing to do whatever they need to do to change the existing salary structure in the NBA.
"I can't run this business like this," said an extremely high-ranking official of a smaller market team Friday night, pointing out that his team had already lowered ticket prices as much as it possibly could to avoid losing money, and didn't have the resources of a local television contract that, say, the Lakers have (a healthy nine figures, if you believe what you hear) to help his team's struggling gate. He -- and most of his owner friends -- are ready to lose a season.
When Cuban was on the TNT set Sunday before the game, someone asked him if he was optimistic a deal could be made in time to avert a work stoppage after '10-'11.
"No," was his blunt, honest answer.
But the players are, at least at the beginning, showing solidarity as well. LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade all were at the bargaining table across from the owners on Friday, showing at least a cursory desire to be part of the solution, even as their own lucrative potential deals hang in the balance, along with the players who make a lot less.
"This is what all of this is for," Kevin Garnett said Friday. "This is what the next generation that's going to have to deal with this, the new class coming into it. MJ, he and Patrick Ewing, Reggie Miller, (Hakeem) Olajuwon, those guys, back in '98, '99, there was a lot of voices, along with Shaq. They were the voices then. And being established and being together is one of the things that I think players definitely have to learn. Being together, having one voice like Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West, and some of the old guys when they had to stand up. Tommy Heinsohn was telling me that they had to (almost) cancel an All-Star game (in 1964, when players participating in the game held out for owner recognition of a players' union before agreeing to play the game)."
In their initial proposal this time around, the owners asked for a hard cap, similar to that which is used in the NFL, and the elimination of all exceptions to the cap, including the "Larry Bird" exception that currently allows teams to re-sign their own players to deals at amounts higher than what those players would get if they signed elsewhere. The owners asked for reductions in the length of player contracts, and asked that all existing deals be "refitted" to their proposed new system.
Commissioner David Stern, in his State of the League news conference Saturday night, said that his teams were projected to lose $400 million combined this season, and had lost "at least $200 million" a year since the last CBA was ratified in 2005.
"Our revenue generation has not been a problem," Stern said. "The cost of that revenue has gone up dramatically ... we have always investment spent and we are continuing to do that. But it's beginning to -- this economic environment, we are feeling it a little bit more. We have had cutbacks at the league; we have had cutbacks at the team, and reductions of expenses and the like. The revenue side has not been the problem. I think it's been fair to say that the current business activities do not support the current structure, expense structure that we have."
The players, obviously, disagreed. They say the owners' proposal would cost players, on average, $750 million a year from what they currently make.
"We don't reach the same conclusion on the financials that the NBA does," said Billy Hunter, the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, on Friday. "Obviously, there probably are some teams in the smaller markets that are struggling, but there also are a lot of teams that are making a profit and others that could be, if the teams were managed properly. So that's our position. But we think that the problem can be rectified through revenue sharing -- which, for whatever reason, did not show up in their proposal."
Ah. The magic words: Revenue sharing.
The very issue that vexes NFL owners, and is the background music for that league's own labor struggles with its players, is at the heart of what ails the NBA economically, and what needs to be fixed.
The most honest assessment of how pro sports actually works economically -- when it works economically -- was given to me when I was covering the NFL a few years ago. It came from Art Modell, the longtime owner of the Cleveland Browns, who was instrumental in getting the NFL's teams to abandon their lucrative local television deals in the 1960s for a single, league-wide, deal with the national television networks -- and, then, split the revenues from that deal equally, so that Green Bay Packers got the same amount of money from television rights as the New York Giants or Chicago Bears.
"We're 30 (there were 30 teams, then) fat-cat Republicans who vote Socialist," Modell said.
But sharing the money is what has made the NFL into a sports leviathan, the envy of all the other sports leagues. No league's teams split more money more evenly than the NFL does. The NFL's deals with CBS, NBC, ESPN, FOX and satellite partner DirecTV over the eight combined years of the league's current TV deals net the league more than $24 billion -- billion, with a B -- which nets each team somewhere in the neighborhood of three-quarters of a billion dollars over those eight years. That allows NFL teams to be able to use the TV money alone to pay for their players' salaries, before a single ticket is sold, before a single hot dog or beer is bought or before a single jersey is purchased.
The NFL also splits the gate for every game, with 60 percent of ticket revenue going to the home team, and 40 percent going to the road team.
"What we've put forth in the earlier meetings is that we thought the goal the NFL uses is really sort of the marquee plan," Hunter said Friday. "In the NBA, all the teams share in the national TV revenues and they share in the national sponsorships. But then on the local level, they do their own thing. But nobody shares gate revenues. In the NFL, they do. So we say that same kind of thing has to be adopted here. Let some of the teams in the larger markets, like New York, Chicago, L.A., make a contribution. Don't expect to get all you need off the backs of the players. And that's what happens. Every time we go through these negotiations, it's always about the players giving back."
The NBA has revenue sharing as well, but nothing on the NFL's scale. The NBA's teams also share the national television money the league receives from TNT and ESPN/ABC, and from DirecTV, and like the NFL, the NBA splits money from its licensing, digital rights and merchandising agreements. The TV deals, which now run through 2016, pay the league $7.4 billion.
The NBA also has a luxury tax program similar to that of Major League Baseball, where teams that exceed the luxury tax threshold pay a penalty -- $1 for every dollar they're above the threshold -- that is kicked back to the teams that stay under the threshold. This year's threshold is $69.9 million, so a team with a payroll of, say, $79.9 million would have to write an additional $10 million check.
Teams that stay under the threshold are projected this season to receive payments of more than $4 million from the teams that pay the luxury tax.
Depending on moves made by Thursday's trade deadline, anywhere from eight to 12 teams will pay some kind of tax this year.
Players have also been subsidizing owners out of their own pockets for the past decade -- a fact that many people seem to either gloss over or don't understand.
Ever since the 1999 lockout, players have been giving back part of their salaries if the amount of money teams spend on salaries exceed agreed-upon amounts. This giveback, known as the "escrow plan," had, through 2006, players put aside up to 10 percent of their paychecks into an escrow fund, which was given to the owners if player salaries exceeded the agreed-upon percentage. (From 2007 through this season, the escrow amount dropped to nine percent of player salaries, and it will be eight percent for next season.)
The union estimates that players have returned $1.1 billion in salaries to the owners over the last five years.
In addition, after several lower-revenue teams took the unusual step of publicly complaining to Stern about the discrepancies in revenue sharing a few years ago, the league voted in 2008 to expand the areas of revenue sharing, including some local revenues generated by the more successful franchises, for three years, into a pool of almost $50 million, according to the SportsBusiness Journal.
And, yet, owners--most genuinely, I think--say the current model is not sustainable. They will allow that they sometimes are their own worst enemies -- as another extremely high-ranking team executive of another team admitted Saturday night -- but it costs money to get elite players, and in the NBA, you cannot win without elite players.
Players, though, can't understand how these very, very successful people, incredibly competent in their other businesses, somehow have become helpless when it comes to running a basketball team. They don't understand why they should have to continue to give back the amount of money they can make when no one is forcing the owners to do anything other than pay the minimum salary allowed under the CBA to their players. The Lakers don't have to give Kobe Bryant $130 million just because that's what he is allowed to make. There doesn't have to be a bidding war for LeBron James this summer.
In fact, take James and his elite brethren out of the equation. Why have so many teams paid so much money to so many marginally important players over the years with the mid-level exception? A lot of second-tier centers have been getting first-tier money, and you know who you are.
(Still with me?)
So, where is the solution? Please, I'm not a lawyer, and I know this is much more complex than a columnist can understand. But these are some simple steps that can be taken to start the ball rolling:
1) An honest assessment from both sides: Players need to realize the reality of a double-dip recession, and what it's done to available capital, even for the very rich. Owners can't borrow as much as they used to, but their costs -- not just salaries, but necessary items like health care, insurance and the like -- keep going up. Yes, a person should be able to make what the market can bear, but with 10 percent unemployment the average around the country -- and much higher in cities like Detroit -- there isn't going to be much sympathy for a player complaining he can only make $60 million on a max deal instead of $95 million.
But the league has to be real, too. Owners can't pin their losses in other businesses they may own on the employees in one of their smaller businesses -- NBA players. They have to do a better job of developing their own assets instead of trying to buy good players off of other teams -- or, worse, mediocre players they have to overpay. If you want NBA players to take an NFL-like hard cap, then they have to have some of the benefits NFL players get -- like a bigger slice of the pie from merchandising, as the NFL's players get from their own marketing company, Players, Inc.
2) The Un-Guaranteed Contract: NBA players are the only players in pro sports that enjoy almost fully guaranteed contracts. No, the owners don't have to guarantee them, but you try to be the guy to convince one of the top-shelf agents representing a Lottery pick that you want to change the way things have been done for 30 years with his guy.
If players meet the owners halfway on reducing the number of fully guaranteed deals, owners need to reach out, too. A reasonable compromise: keep the maximum contract allowed for re-signing your own players at its current six years instead of trying to cut it down to three or four. But only the first three years of that six-year deal would be guaranteed. After that, a player would be non-guaranteed, although teams could offer incentives for fully guaranteeing the rest of the deal the same way they now can offer bonuses if a player or his team reaches certain statistical goals.
This would allow teams to get out of especially onerous deals with players whose skill levels have dropped, or who have proven not to be worthy of the money they're getting. In essence, it would be the same as the one-time "amnesty" that teams got in 2005 which allowed them to cut one player from their roster and not have that player's salary count against the luxury tax. And players might rail in the abstract about their brethren, but they're more brutal in their assessment of players than anybody. They know who is stealing money. And this wouldn't take money out of their collective pockets; it would just re-distribute it to guys who were actually earning it on the court.
3) Additional revenue sharing: It's a real tough nut to crack, one that even the NFL is having trouble with. Its owners are fighting a fierce battle among themselves about how much money the haves are supposed to give the have-nots. The league is trying to get out of a deal that pays $220 million to teams at its economic bottom -- a deal that has helped teams trying to fund new stadiums, for example. (Our co-host here in the Metroplex, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, is leading that fight. He said in September he was finished writing checks for other cities, like Minneapolis, that weren't raising the revenues his Cowboys do. "That's going to stop," he told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "That's on its way out.")
NBA owners don't have a colossus like Cowboys Stadium, but they do have egos and pride, and it's just as hard to get them to keep propping one another up as it is in the NFL.
Stern said Saturday that there will be significant new revenue sharing in place, but that that deal has to wait until the new CBA is completed.
"It's going to be when we have the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, there will be a new revenue-sharing model in place as well," he said, "but there's a different set of issues that are internal that we are working our way through, and we actually have, I think it's fair to say, the support of the large-revenue teams that for the appropriate kind of revenue sharing that will be necessary at the conclusion of the bargaining negotiations."
4) Fifty-fifty. The players currently take 57 percent of all Basketball-Related Income. The owners' initial proposal brought that number down, according to the union, to 43 percent. The middle number between 57 and 43 is 50. Everyone, from my 5-year-old on down, gets the concept of sharing. The players provide the talent and skill and star power; the owners provide the capital and venues and take the risks. They're equally important. Let them get the same cut.
Now, back to basketball. For now, anyway.
Let's open up the rumor vault as we head into the home stretch before Thursday's trade deadline:
•As mentioned during the All-Star Game Sunday night, talks between New York and Houston about Tracy McGrady have re-started, after it was believed they were permanently dormant. "It's picked up again," an involved source said on Sunday, though all sides concur that nothing is imminent, and nothing may happen.
•Washington has told at least one team that Antawn Jamison is almost certain to be gone by Thursday. I hear that Cleveland still has Jamison on its wish list, despite all the reports over the weekend that the Suns and Cavaliers had all but agreed to a deal for Amar'e Stoudemire. But the Cavaliers could be playing chicken here. They know the Wizards have insisted on forward J.J. Hickson in any deal for Jamison; by letting it be known that Hickson is likely on his way to the Suns, Cleveland could be trying to force Washington's hand in accepting a Jamison trade without HIckson.
•Denver has stepped up its pursuit of Tyrus Thomas from Chicago, feeling that if it can get one more big man, it can match up exceptionally well with the Lakers in the playoffs. The Nuggets have seen a dropoff in Chris Andersen's intensity this season -- not a lot, just enough to be noticeable -- and want some insurance in case of injuries to their oft-injured bigs, from Nene to Kenyon Martin to Andersen.
•The Grizzlies, I'm told, have added John Salmons to their list of possible deals to strengthen their bench for the stretch drive, along with the two they've had in their back pocket for a while now and that have been reported elsewhere: taking Miami's Dorell Wright off the Heat's hands (and getting the Heat under the luxury tax threshold) for a draft pick, or moving a pick to Utah for Jazz guard Ronnie Brewer. I'm not told for certain what Memphis would give Chicago for Salmons, though I suspect that would involve that said same first-round pick. The Grizz can only do one of the three deals, each of which will sap up all of the team's remaining cap room.
•The Bucks are trying to decide whether to be buyers or sellers. Teams are interested both in Kurt Thomas and Luke Ridnour, but Scott Skiles is loath to part with either one; Milwaukee has clawed its way back into the playoff picture in the East, and dealing either or both of those guys could damage those chances, and even two home playoff games would mean a lot more for Milwaukee's bottom line than other places.
•Al Thornton and Sebastian Telfair are both eminently available from the Clippers, who are debating on whether to wait until this summer and try for one of the elite free agents, or package their available assets now -- including Marcus Camby -- and try to strike now for a big-time player to complement their Eric Gordon-Chris Kaman-Blake Griffin core.
•Denver GM Mark Warkentein's proposal for a round-robin "tournament" for the eighth through 15th-place teams in each conference -- the winner of which would get the final playoff spot in the East and West -- was quietly tabled by the NBA's Competition Committee in its meeting on Friday. A couple of teams expressed some interest in the idea, but not nearly enough for an aye vote. The Committee did vote to extend instant replay next season throughout the entire overtime period, instead of its current use only in the last two minutes of overtime, as it is used in the final two minutes of regulation. In addition, a clear path foul will, next season, trigger instant replay.
•Three years ago, the Lakers shifted the balance of power in the west by getting Pau Gasol from the Grizzlies. Friday's acquisition of Washington's Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood, along with guard DeShawn Stevenson, by Dallas, is not likely to rise to that level. But it helps the Mavericks immensely.
"I think that was a good trade for Dallas," Gasol said Saturday. "The contributions that Caron and Brendan can give them is definitely a big plus for them. They have a good inside presence with Brendan, and then Caron is a very, very good player, an All-Star caliber player that can give them a lot. I know Howard has struggled a little bit with the ankle; he's been struggling and hurting. They made a move. They felt like they needed to make a move to get better, attempting to go for the championship. We'll see how it works for them."
Gasol knows what Butler, Haywood, and all the other players in the trade are going through, having to pick up stakes in the middle of the season.
"It's tough," he said. "First you've got to go from leaving your place or your home to a hotel. I think that's hard enough. And all the excitement, obviously if it's a good trade for you, the team situation, a better situation than you were leaving with your (former) team, it's good. But you still have to live in a hotel, day in and day out, until you find yourself a place. You want to rent it (or buy)? You probably want to rent it at least until the end of the year, then see how it goes ... and then moving your stuff. I think I've still got stuff in Memphis I don't even know (about), and I see my brother (Marc) wearing it."
(Last week's rankings in brackets)
1) Cleveland  (43-11): So, what happens when they're completely healthy?
2) L.A. Lakers  (41-13): Showed they're a lot more than just Kobe with wins at Portland, Utah.
3) Orlando  (36-18): Vince steps into the Wayback Machine.
4) Utah  (32-19): Rolling until Lakers slapped them around.
5) Denver  (35-18): 'Melo and CB both healthy, again.
6) Atlanta  (33-18): Would like one veteran big for stretch drive.
7) Boston  (32-18): The end of Big Baby in Beantown?
8) Oklahoma City  (30-21): Thunder is league's best story at midpoint.
9) Dallas  (32-20): Tough Juice, Haywood to the rescue.
10) Phoenix  (31-22): Where does STAT wind up?
11) Toronto  (29-23): Raptors filling in the pieces and making a move.
12) San Antonio  (30-21): Can the Spurs get an athletic big?
13) Portland  (31-24): Blazers hope Roy returns after break.
14) Charlotte [NR] (26-25): Bobcats (94.2) second-best in league in points allowed.
15) Miami [NR] (26-27): Will not stand pat. Will. Not.
L.A. Lakers (2-0): In a short week of play, we go with quality over quantity, and the Lakers' routs of San Antonio at home and Utah on the road -- without Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum -- made the strongest impression. L.A. moved the ball around brilliantly, running its offense through Pau Gasol (a +14 against the Spurs) and Lamar Odom (a +19 against the Jazz). And the Lakers made it plain, even though it should have already been obvious: They are a lot more than a one-man gang.
L.A. Clippers (0-2): Interim coach Kim Hughes wanted to go more up-tempo, but that often leads to a team slacking off defensively, trying to outscore the opposition. Played no defense in giving up 109 to Utah, then played less than no defense (is that grammatically possible?) the next night in allowing the Warriors to ring up 132. The Clips barely breathed on Stephen Curry as he made 7 of 11 threes.
Gus Johnson isn't in the Hall of Fame yet?
The things you learn at All-Star Weekend.
The "Honeycomb," as he was known in his destructive days as the precursor to Karl Malone's bruising style at power forward with the Baltimore Bullets, was one of 19 nominees announced on Friday for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2010. And while most of the attention was put on the 1992 Dream Team, which will be inducted as a group at the induction ceremonies in Springfield next August, I found myself dumbstruck that Johnson wasn't a HOFer yet.
A five-time All-Star, Johnson was second-team NBA four times (it was his great misfortune to play during an era in which Mr. Baylor and Mr. Barry and Billy C were swapping first-team honors at forward), averaging 17.1 points and 12.7 rebounds in 10 NBA seasons, and averaged almost a double-double in his five NBA playoff appearances (Johnson won a championship in his final season as a player, with the ABA's Indiana Pacers, in 1973.). Injuries were the only thing to really slow Johnson, who died in 1987, down on the court. He's only one of four Bullets/Wizards to have his number (25) retired.
The Veterans' Steering Committee nominated Johnson and former Knicks great Richie Guerin this year for the Hall. Here's hoping 18 of the 24 voters necessary for induction do the right thing.
As always, send your comments, questions and snark to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Just because they're millionaires and billionaires doesn't mean they don't have a point. From Victor Adesoba:
Do you agree that the owners are being unreasonable trying to get a bigger piece of the revenue pie, or do they have a legitimate beef with ideas like a hard cap and shorter contracts?
Talked about a lot of this above, Victor, but basically, I don't think it's wrong in a double-dip recession for everyone to sacrifice some. That will almost certainly mean a reduction in player salaries, and I think even the most ardent members of the Players' Association recognize that. But owners have to get realistic about enhanced revenue sharing amongst themselves as well in order to spread the pain more evenly.
Woe, Canada. From Joe Dalton:
I love reading your opinions but I have to ask you a question -- Why do the Raptors not get enough respect around the league -- as both a competitive team, and as a franchise that has the ability to keep players?
I have not read one article by a major American sportswriter outlining reasons why Chris Bosh may not bolt out of town as soon as he becomes a free agent. Not One.
I should point out what is obvious to me, but may not be obvious to those south of the border -- (and for the record, Minnesota is actually north of Toronto). First, Toronto is the 5th largest city in North America, with over 5 million people and a devoted fan base. Furthermore, Toronto is the only NBA team in Canada, so in addition to the support that the team gets from its south western Ontario population of over 10 million people (that live within an hour's drive of the Air Canada Center), the franchise also has the support of most of the country.
Furthermore, with the exception Houston, Toronto has more international support than just about any other team in the NBA -- the team, much like the city has a large dose of international flavor. Currently Toronto has two Italians, a Turk, a Slovenian, a Spaniard and 7 Americans on the team, making it the most internationally diverse team in the NBA. Assistant GM Mauricio Gherardini was the best basketball mind in Europe, and Jay Triano (a Canadian) is an assistant on the Team USA development squad...
Lastly, money! The Raps can offer CB4 more money than anyone else.
So thanks for reading my rant, and I hope you can offer some insight as to why you guys feel that Bosh is just waiting to bolt out of T.O.
Joe, the Raps are respected. Bryan Colangelo is respected. So is Gherardini. But they started, by their own admission, terribly this season, and that naturally led to speculation that Bosh would be looking to bolt. I don't think anyone knows for sure what Chris is going to do. But I'm fairly certain the Raptors have offered him an extension for the maximum they can pay him, and he hasn't signed it yet, and every day he doesn't sign leads to more speculation -- the exact same speculation, you have to acknowledge, that LeBron, D Wade, Joe Johnson and other top-shelf free agents have had to deal with all season.
And Bosh is the best big man available in free agency this summer. He'll have more available suitors than just about anyone else, because more teams feel like they'll have a real chance of landing him.
I also have a little invention involving a "combustible" engine machine that I'm working on patenting. From scar24:
My question is pertaining to the NBA. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh... all three of their careers will be diminished if they can't get any rings right? So my question is why don't they all take $10 million for 2 years go to the same team ANY team, preferably Cleveland because they have a deep bench and plenty of shooters to stretch the floor. Do you think this plan would work? I do understand that they'd be taking a significant pay cut but wouldn't they get all that back with endorsements? I mean what's a measly $5 million to those guys their already rich anyways. I don't know are these just the ramblings of a 23- year-old kid or maybe just maybe is this the best idea EVER!!?
Why don't Bruce Willis, Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep all work for scale, so that they can be in the same movie? It's called capitalism, my man. Yes, they all make a lot off the court, but would you give up, say, $60 to $70 million if you could get it?
1) LeBron James (32 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 12 apg, .591 FG, .714 FT): Continues dominant play, doing whatever is needed.
2) Kobe Bryant (DNP-sprained left ankle): You know 24 has to be hurting to miss games and All-Star Weekend.
3) Dirk Nowitzki (16 ppg, 6 rpg, 1 apg, .346 FG, 1.000 FT): Help on the way for the Diggler.
4) Kevin Durant (33 ppg, 11 rpg, 1 apg, .780 FG, .875 FT): Durant makes scoring 30 look so easy. It isn't.
5) Carmelo Anthony (19 ppg, 5 rpg, 4.5 apg, .424 FG, .625 FT): Returns from sprained ankle after missing two weeks.
Dropped out: Chauncey Billups
9 -- Number of first-time players in the All-Star game this season: Kevin Durant, Al Horford, Chris Kaman, Zach Randolph, Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, Gerald Wallace, Deron Williams and David Lee.
8 -- Members of the Draft class of 2003 that have become All-Stars, with Kaman (sixth overall in '03) making his first All-Star team this season. The others: LeBron James (first in '03), Carmelo Anthony (third), Chris Bosh (fourth), Dwyane Wade (fifth), David West (18th), Josh Howard (29th) and Mo Williams (taken in the second round and 47th overall).
7 -- Consecutive seasons a Western Conference or neutral city has hosted the All-Star game. Since 2003, when Atlanta hosted, the game has been held in Los Angeles (2004), Denver (2005), Houston (2006), Las Vegas (2007), New Orleans (2008), Phoenix (2009) and Dallas. The game returns to L.A. next season.
2) First time in Cowboys Stadium. Good God, JerryVision is huge! What did Jerry Jones spend, eleventy kajillion dollars on it? It's the world's largest HD screen, some 11,000 feet in all, and you just can't take your eyes off of it. (Speaking of which, Chris Webber had a great idea: on off days, when the stadium doesn't have an event in it, they should just rent it out and show movies on that bad boy. My friend Teri asked, 'Can you imagine watching Avatar on that?' It would be a great thing for Jones, who bulldozed neighborhoods to build his palace, to do for folks in and around the Arlington/Dallas area that can't afford to pay the tens of thousands of dollars to buy tickets to see the Cowboys, or for next year's Super Bowl, or for whenever they bring All-Star back here.)
3) Tuff Juice, with a real chance to win again. Though D.C. will miss you, Caron Butler.
4) Nice job with the Olympic flame, Steve Nash. A pretty cool moment, and some of us in the States do know why running is such a big deal in Canada, and who Terry Fox was.
5) Kevin Durant makes scoring 30 points seem like scoring eight. You don't even notice him doing it. And all of a sudden, there it is. He scored 15 points in 20 minutes Sunday at All-Star; if he had played 30, he would have been the MVP.
6) I only seem to run into Becky Hammon, the San Antonio Silver Stars' guard, at All-Star, when she's usually taking part in the Shooting Stars competition that kicks off All-Star Saturday Night. Hammon's "Team Texas," with Dirk Nowitzki and our own Kenny (The Jet) Smith ("he's not a Jet no more," Charles Barkley cracked, "he's a prop plane"), won the shooting competition Saturday, beating out the L.A.-based team featuring former Clipper and current NBA-TV analyst Brent Barry. (Quick aside: Bones was really ticked off his team lost, as he barely missed making the half-court shot that would have won the competition. I love being around athletes. The quest for winning never leaves them. Never.) Anyway, my point was, I always see Becky, and we chat for a couple of minutes, and she couldn't be more charming or delightful, and she's obviously carved out a career for herself as one of the best point guards of her era. There's a word we don't use anymore to describe people we may not know very well, but like a lot anyway. That word is "swell." Becky Hammon is swell.
7) Doyel, heard you saw me mouthing Alicia Keys on Sunday. Damn Skippy. You got a problem with that? Or this?
1) I think we can all agree that there have been better dunk contests, right? (Which reminds me: Nate, if you're going to bring in Cowboys cheerleaders , have them actually be part of the dunk attempt. Jump over them. Dribble around them. Have one of them dunk. Something.) Let me say this one more time, so that people pay attention. Ten corporate sponsors. One hundred thousand each. One million dollars. Winner take all. You'll get people to dunk that you want to see dunk.
2) The Superman Beef. Shaq, if Dwight Howard stole it from you, you stole it from Christopher Reeve. Like someone said in Dallas this weekend, I don't remember seeing you in D.C. Comics.
3) An All-Star Weekend without Allen Iverson, voted in as a starter by the fans, but dealing with a sick child right now. Thinking about you both, AI.
4) Season-ticket holders in Washington, who don't have much to look forward to for a couple of years. But it had to be done. It would be nice if Ted Leonsis gives Ernie Grunfeld a chance to fix what's broken. You want to kill him for giving Arenas $111 million, fine. I would have re-signed Arenas, too. Even coming off the knee injury.
5) Two words, hotel that many of the TNT crew stayed at in Dallas and I won't name (for now): Hot water. If you're overwhelmed with the crush of All-Star Weekend, how are you going to perform during Super Bowl Week next year?
6) Only eight weeks to go, Jersey. Eight long, possibly history-making weeks.
I'm starting the Campaign now...don't trade Amare..we need him to make this playoff run..are u with me?
-- Suns forward Jared Dudley( @JaredDudley619), Saturday, 3:10 p.m., making his plea to Phoenix management to keep Amar'e Stoudemire in town instead of taking one of the numerous offers on the table for the five-time All-Star forward.
"I got in at 7, went to the hotel a little after that. Got a little bit of sleep before practice this morning. Got back to the hotel for another half-hour of sleep. But it makes it okay when you win a resume builder like this."
-- Phoenix's Steve Nash, on Saturday night, after a whirlwind 36 hours in which he took a leg of the Olympic torch relay in his native Canada on Thursday, lit the Olympic Flame at the Opening Ceremonies of the Winter Games on Friday, left Vancouver late Friday night, flew all night to Dallas and landed Saturday morning -- before winning the Skills Competition during All-Star Saturday Night.
"What happened in 2006?"
-- Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki, conveniently forgetting the Mavericks' Finals loss to Miami that year, when facetiously asked Saturday if winning the Haier Shooting Stars competition for "Team Texas" made up for losing a championship.
"Either pull your shoes up, or pull your pants down. You're going to end up catching an ankle cold out there."
-- Heat forward Udonis Haslem, as quoted by the Miami Herald, to teammate Michael Beasley, who was wearing a pair of silver pants that seemed to be several inches too short.
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.
The Orlando Magic talk to the media and introduce Scott Skiles as their new head coach.
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