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David Aldridge

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Ricky Rubio has benefitted from an additional season overseas in Spain.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Rubio starting to live up to noise surrounding his hype


Posted May 10 2010 3:17PM

If you thought TD Garden was loud Sunday, as the Celtics rode an historic performance from Rajon Rondo to tie up their best-of-seven Eastern semifinal with Cleveland, you should have heard the noise coming from the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy, site of the Euroleague Final Four.

Or, more accurately, you should have tried to hear Timberwolves president of basketball operations David Kahn on the phone.

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"I can't hear you," Kahn said, and that was appropriate, because it was impossible to hear him, too -- and that was during the third-place game between CSKA Moscow and Partizan Belgrade.

Let's be honest: Other than a brief blip from Oklahoma City in the first round, and Milwaukee taking Atlanta to seven games, and the Cavs and C's taking turns dazzling ("It's probably gonna go seven games," Mo Williams said afterward), the playoffs have been underwhelming this year. Every once in a while, they've whelmed. Rondo overwhelmed Sunday, becomingy just the third player in NBA history to amass at least 29 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists in a playoff game (the others were Oscar Robertson, with 32, 19 and 13 in 1963, and Wilt Chamberlain's 29, 36 and 13 effort in 1967).

So there's time to check in across the pond. That's where Kahn and execs from other wannabe playoff contenders were, checking out the talent at the European Final Four. Kahn, of course, was there to look in on the Timberwolves' future, 19-year-old Ricky Rubio, whose Regal FC Barcelona team won the championship Sunday over Olympiacos, 86-68, for its second Euroleague title. Former Grizzlies player Juan Carlos Navarro, with 21 points and five assists against Olympiacos, was named Final Four MVP; Rubio, who scored nine points, was the first player to cut down the nets.

"Barcelona will not sleep tonight," said the play-by-play guy on the TV feed, and Kahn may be sleeping easier these days as well. When Rubio chose to play in Barcelona for two seasons instead of coming to Minnesota (the team that picked him sixth overall in the 2009 Draft), Kahn got a lot of heat and a lot of people around the league expected the Wolves to eventually deal away their rights to him. But Kahn said Sunday that the plan to bring Rubio over after next season is still in place, and that the Wolves anticipate Rubio to be the beneficiary of two years of seasoning, two years of growing physically and two years of working on his jumper.

So while coach Kurt Rambis and the Wolves took some serious lumps this season, Rubio has been playing with veterans like Navarro, former NBA camper Pete Mickeal and Fran Vasquez, the Magic's 2005 first-round pick who has yet to come over to the States. Barcelona rolled through the European season, winning the ACB Super Cup in October and tore through the ACB League with a 30-3 first-place mark. In Friday's semifinal win over CSKA Moscow -- Mikhail Prokhorov's soon-to-be former team -- Rubio had 10 points and eight assists in 32 minutes.

"He makes plays one can't see," gushed a veteran NBA personnel man who was in attendance this weekend. "He knows how to play the point."

(Here, I will interrupt, because my guy then compared Rubio to both Steve Nash and Jason Kidd, and unless the young man is going to average a triple double for his whole career, that's too rich. OK. Back to the gushing.)

"He's shooting much better and has gotten stronger with the upper body," my guy says. "He's already won the Copa Del Rey. Now he (has) a Euro championship ... won this summer's European championship and has a silver medal from 2008 (at the Beijing Olympics) at the age of 19. You gotta love that record."

Kahn doesn't gush as much. Maybe it's because he knows how important Rubio's future success is both to the franchise and to his own employment down the road.

"Ricky had a good year, especially in the big games in Euroleague play Friday night included," Kahn said via text, once continuing the interview via phone proved hopeless. "Kurt told Ricky through me to work on his shot and it is obvious Ricky spent a lot of time on it this season. Nothing needed to be coordinated (with the Barcelona team); everybody knew that it was something that needed improving."

Rubio also had to weather the emotional pull of playing in his first Euro Final Four.

"The crowd is just a little different," said Cavaliers guard Anthony Parker, who led Maccabi Tel Aviv to Euroleague titles in 2004 and 2005 and was Final Four MVP in '04.

"They carry over that soccer mentality," Parker said. "You see flares in the stands and people beating drums and blowing trumpets, and they're doing chants and stuff. Maybe that's the only factor that's a little different. The pressure's still there. Everything else is still there. But because it's only one game, I liken it more to a college Final Four atmosphere than the NBA ... they hadn't won a Euroleague championship in like 20 years or something. We went from Israel, and the Final Four was in Paris, and we had like 10,000 Maccabi fans there, all wearing their yellow. It was just a great, great experience."

Rubio has a busy summer ahead. He goes almost immediately into the Spanish League playoffs, which will run through mid-June. That's followed by practice for the Spanish national team beginning in July, as Spain prepares for its defense of its FIBA world championship next August in Turkey. And nothing else has changed; Minnesota still expects Rubio no earlier than the summer of 2011, which is the first time he can opt out of his six-year contract with Barcelona.

"He will be all of 20 by then," Kahn texted.

Bringing Rubio over in '11 could also be a public relations salve that summer. There's a slim, slim chance the Wolves might not have their first-round pick in 2011; they owe the Clippers a first from the long-ago Marko Jaric deal, and 2011 is the last year the pick is top 10 protected. After that, L.A. gets the pick outright with no strings and no protections. Now, it's highly likely that Minnesota will retain that pick for '11, considering that the eight playoff teams in the West each won at least 50 games this season, and the Wolves won ...15.

At either rate, after another year's apprenticeship abroad, Rubio needs to start showing what all the fuss is about.

Dribbles

The economic meltdown in Greece, which finally reached U.S. attention last week when the stock market dropped nearly 1,000 points in an afternoon after riots broke out in Athens, could impact the NBA next season. Chiefly, what will the country's top club team, Olympiacos, do with its top two foreign players: ex-Hawk Josh Childress and ex-Nugget Linas Kleiza (who was Euroleague's top scorer this season)?

Childress signed a three-year, $20 million deal in 2008 with Olympiacos, with out clauses following the first two seasons. He tried to negotiate a new deal with Atlanta last summer but the two sides couldn't come up with a number and he returned to Greece, where he has played well again this season.

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It's hard to believe, but the International Monetary Fund will affect Josh Childress' NBA future.
David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

Kleiza, who signed a two-year, $12 million deal with Olympiacos last summer, has an out clause that he must exercise by July 15. At 25, he would be a prime free agent this summer in the NBA, but probably wouldn't warrant a full mid-level exception.

But the Greek economy is so bad now -- the International Monetary Fund expects its economy to shrink by 2 percent this year, just as it did last year, the country's bonds were lowered to "junk" status last week by Standard and Poor's, and Greece says it cannot pay back billions in loans due next week without the immediate financial assistance of other nations -- that it's hard to believe a basketball team can survive the storm any more than anyone else. (The IMF announced Sunday that it will provide Greece with a three-year bailout fund worth almost $40 billion to stem the tide.)

The chairman of Olympiacos, Socrates Kokkalis, is the chair and CEO of Intracom, a public telecommunications and electronics conglomerate, as well as the head of Intralot, a company that supplies gaming and transaction processing systems to state-run lotteries around the world. He was a member of the Forbes 500 richest persons in the world at the beginning of the century, but has fallen out of that group as of the 2010 listing.

"He will not be adversely affected by the economic collapse," said Kleiza's agent, Bill Duffy, from France on Saturday. "He has made that very clear to us."

A lot of NBA teams would be interested in the 26-year-old Childress, who sent Friday's semifinal against Partizan into overtime with a last-second offensive rebound putback. He averaged 15.2 points and 4.8 rebounds this season for Olympiacos, shooting 52 percent from the floor.

Top O' the World, Ma!

(Second-round playoff edition)

1) Phoenix (4-0): Will need a healthy Robin Lopez back to have any chance against L.A. in conference finals.

2) Orlando (3-0): You can see the gears in SVG's head turning as he desperately looks for something to yell at his 7-0-in-the-playoffs team.

3) L.A. Lakers (3-0): I recognize that guy ... haven't seen him in a while ... why, that's Derek Fisher! Where've you been?

4) Cleveland (2-2): Cavs have been dominant at times, pedestrian at others. Not a great formula as you go up in class.

5) Boston (2-2): Ray Allen has shot 40 percent from the floor in four games, Paul Pierce 32, and Celtics are tied with the team with the best record in the league.

6) Utah (0-3): Three losses by 14 points total show Jazz has closed gap with Lakers. But there's still a gap.

7) Atlanta (0-3): About to Go Fishin', losing three straight to the Magic by an average of 29 points.

8) San Antonio (0-4): Though Spurs are paying tax now, not paying tax in past years for players like Scola, Dragic is catching up with them.

9) Oklahoma City: Gone Fishin', but picked up the option year on Scott Brooks' contract, thus ensuring he'll be fired within 24 months, as all Coaches of the Year apparently are mandated to be.

10) Denver: Gone Fishin'.

11) Portland: Gone Fishin'.

12) Dallas: Gone Fishin'. On the other hand, Cubes is teaming up with that Girls Gone Wild guy for a new HDNet show, which must make the Commish really happy.

13) Milwaukee: Gone Fishin', and trying to figure out next season's payroll.

14) Miami: Gone Fishin', with Dwyane Wade's off-court drama on full blast. Why does anybody have to drag children into this?

15) Chicago: Gone Fishin'. In the case of Vinny Del Negro, with Orca, apparently.

16) Charlotte: Gone Fishin', Waiting for Larry.

Team of the Week

(Second-round playoff edition)

Lakers (2-0): Regained focus a round earlier than last season, despite Ron Artest's tweet screeds on his coach, and now one win away from yet another Western Conference final. A sweep on Monday would give the Lakers almost a week off before playing Phoenix and do wonders for Andrew Bynum's meniscus, Kobe Bryant's knee and finger and the greater Southern California basin's psyche. Clip-'n-save if L.A. faces Phoenix, as seems inevitable: Lakers won three of four this season over the Suns by an average of 15 points, though Suns did beat them by 15 in late December.

Team of the Weak

Spurs (0-4): It wasn't as lopsided as a sweep would normally indicate. But the Spurs lost all the important skirmishes, couldn't hang with the Suns when they went small and got crushed on switches in Phoenix's screen-roll sets. Grant Hill burned Tim Duncan in Game 2, and Goran Dragic torched DeJuan Blair in Game 3. Most importantly, the Suns shredded the Spurs in the fourth quarter the last three games of the series; Phoenix shot 9 of 16 (56.3 percent) in Game 2, 15 of 21 (71.4 percent) in Friday's breakthrough Game 3 and 11 of 19 (61 percent) in the clincher Sunday. For the series, Phoenix shot 48 percent; the Spurs had held opponents to 45.2 percent shooting during the regular season. The Spurs weren't old; they were outplayed.

Nobody Asked Me, But ...

How much good was really done by pushing up the deadline for early entry candidates to decide whether to stay in the Draft?

Saturday was the deadline for underclassmen who had declared for the NBA's Draft (Schedule for June 24) to decide whether to stay in it or return to college. Previously the underclassmen had until a week or so before the Draft to decide, but a new rule enacted this year by the NCAA pushed the deadline up five weeks. (International players still have until June 14 to decide if they're staying in.) The rationale is that the college teams were in limbo waiting so long for their star players to make up their minds, which in turn hurt recruiting efforts.

But the new deadline creates questions. How is a kid supposed to make a good decision when he has far less information now than he would if he had another month of workouts and meetings with NBA teams? The likes of John Wall and Evan Turner know they're going in the top five, but most college players don't have that luxury. By the time the old deadline came around most early entries had gone through more than a dozen workouts, many times with their peers, and had a pretty good idea of where they were going in the Draft. Now, the decision-making process is compressed.

Also at work is the spectre of a lockout in 2011, which may have forced more underclassmen to stay in than normal -- which may explain the 103 players that declared. If they don't come into the league this year, college players may not see a professional paycheck until 2012. Even an undrafted rookie free agent can put $473,604 in his pocket next season.

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Iffy first-round picks like FSU's Solomon Alabi could be hurt by the new early-entry rules come June.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

There weren't that many potential impact players who were sitting on the fence, and only a few strays waited until the last minute before deciding to go back. (I would mention their names, but if they're officially out of the Draft now they can't be mentioned in these pages. But I can say Wall, Turner, DeMarcus Cousins, Derrick Favors. It relaxes me.)

NBA types will grin and bear the new rule.

"On the margins, it's better," said Rockets general manager Daryl Morey. "It clarifies who we need to focus on for the Draft. So for us, on the margins, it's better. I would look to rework everything, but that's a bigger discussion."

"I like it because you find out who's in and who's out right away," Indiana president Larry Bird told the Pacers website this week. "Then you can get down to your business. You don't have a lot of time to bring these guys in but at the 10th pick we'll be able to see everybody we want to see ... I know people are complaining about it but that's just me. If you bring in 15 guys and 10 of them go back and pull out of the Draft, you're wasting your time. I want to know who's in and who's out."

But some teams fear the practice of making promises to individual players that they'll be taken in a specific spot will only increase. And with no more ambiguity about players' status in the final month before the Draft, some teams fear that agents will limit individual workouts, making it harder for those teams to make final evaluations before picking.

"That's normal," Morey said. "If that's a problem, it's a problem with everybody. We're used to dealing with that."

One team executive (who wished to remain anonymous) has big problems with the new rule, though.

"First, all these rules are for the adults, not the players," the executive said. "Secondly, players at this time, when they elect to come in -- not the guys that should and definitely have a spot, buit the borderline guys who shouldn't -- they really aren't listening to their college coach. The college coach becomes like the parent with the teenager -- they're telling them what they don't want to hear."

The old time frame was a reality check for a lot of underclassmen, the executive said.

"You'd have the workouts, and maybe they'd go to Chicago (for the pre-Draft camp), and they'd have time to read the papers and look at all the mock drafts," the executive said. "And they'd talk to the NBA people, and then it starts to slowly sink in, maybe this isn't the wisest course of action for me, to stay in this ... there's a chance that the process does at times work, to get people back in school that probably should have stayed. But now, with the time frame -- when your inclination is to probably have an itchy triger finger to start with, and you haven't had the chance to talk to NBA people -- you probably are going to stay in."

Teams will put even more value on the two combines, run by Minnesota in late May and New Jersey in early June. Houston, Phoenix and the Clippers provide assistance to the Timberwolves in running their camp; the 76ers and Knicks pitch in with New Jersey. Kahn estimates all but one or two teams will have people in Minneapolis. For teams like the Cavaliers, that don't have a first-round pick and aren't likely to convince players to come work out for them as a result, going to the combines is crucial to seeing players; the Cavs can buy their way back into the first round on a moment's notice.

... And Nobody Asked You, Either

And another thing: what's with people playing Internet Spades and surfing eBay on the office computer?

From Greg Cunningham:

Can something please be done about Amar'e Stoudemire being classified as a center for everything OTHER then the games themselves on which he is supposed to be judged? First, it is the All-Star Game and now, he makes the All-NBA Second Team for a position he doesn't even play on his own team. Nor can anyone make a serious argument that he would be a center if he were to play for any other team in the NBA. He is, without question, a prototypical power forward. The NBA is the highest level of basketball competition. So let this guy compete and get judged with everyone else in his designated position ... Otherwise it is intellectually dishonest and you know it!

It is ridiculous that no one outside of the true fans in sports bars, at water coolers and in family rooms all across America are talking about this.

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Some fans are a little irritated at the official position designated to Amar'e Stoudemire.
D.Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images

I would point out that with Robin Lopez injured, STAT is playing center during the Suns' best playoff run since the Barkley Era ... but that seems to set you off, Greg. So I'll sit quietly over here.

It's like Buddy Hackett said about Howard Cosell: Some people hate him like poison, and other people just hate him regular.

From Oliver Smith:

...I am a huge NBA fan, but I really think the sports popularity is completely varied. I live in South Central Wisconsin and it seems that many people couldn't give 2 cents about the NBA. Most people I talk to enjoy college basketball much more than the NBA and have said that college basketball has much more soul. Players are hungrier and so on and so forth. I assume cities with teams in them have much more popularity than ones that have no team. What have you found out about its popularity?

I find NBA fans in just about every city, Oliver, whether it has an NBA team or not. I've seen great crowds for preseason games in Buffalo and Alabama and Anaheim and Vegas. Now there's no question that in many places in the country people prefer the college game for varied reasons, and that's fine; I'm not one of those absolutists who says in order to love one you must hate the other. But any honest assessment of the college game versus the pro game must include two salient differences: 1) the college game has only kids playing, not adults with mortgages and wives and children (usually) and other worries, and 2) colleges play a season about a third as long as an NBA team that makes the playoffs. If they had to go hard 90 times instead of 30, and play against grown men every night instead of their peers, I guarantee you some of that lung power would dissipate.

The Emerald City wasn't just in Oz. From Tim Hamilton:

Greetings from Melbourne, Australia! Love reading the Morning Tip although it comes out on the busiest day of my working week (Tuesdays Australian time) ...

Not playoffs related, but: I have noticed in your column that you often express sympathy for the people of Seattle for losing the Sonics. I can't find much information on how this was more unusual to any other team relocating, what was so different about this situation?

It's a bit off topic but its something I've been curious about for a while.

Thanks for the note, Tim. First, in the interests of full disclosure, I love Seattle. It was one of my top two or three towns to visit in the league. Just a beautiful, cosmopolitan town that was on the water, yet an hour from Mount Ranier or two hours from British Columbia. The difference as I see it is between Seattle and other towns that lost teams is that the people of Seattle gave the Sonics four decades of almost uninterrupted support, through good seasons and bad, and lost the team not because they didn't continue to buy tickets and make significant financial commitments, but because they wouldn't pony up and pay for a new arena.

Now, a lot of cities are held hostage in that way, but most of those cities hadn't also paid the freight for new football and baseball stadiums in the past decade as Seattle had. At some point, enough is enough; a city can't keep writing checks for billionaires. And the team was sold to a guy from Oklahoma City, who lived in Oklahoma City, and made no pretense of the fact that he would like to own a team in Oklahoma City. Add to that the fact that Sonics fans were treated to one final horrible season when Kevin Durant and Jeff Green were rookies, only to see them blossom two years later and a thousand miles away to become the league's most exciting up-and-coming team. I can't help but have a soft spot for Seattle, which did nothing to deserve having its team ripped away.

As ever, send your questions, comments, criticisms and snark to daldridgetnt@gmail.com. If you write it, and we can understand it, we might publish it.

Playoff MVP Watch

(5/3/10-5/9/10)

1) LeBron James (3 games: 28 ppg, 8 rpg, 6.3 apg, .509 FG, .743 FT): Celtics have slowed down the Cavs in transition, but James is still getting wherever he wants, and Paul Pierce is exhausted and ineffective after chasing him around for three-plus quarters.

2) Kobe Bryant (2 games: 32.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 7.5 apg, .500 FG, .842 FT): Who knows if he's feeling better or just making shots again? Result is the same: Lakers are prohibitive favorites in the west again.

3) Dwight Howard (3 games: 23.7 ppg, 15 rpg, 2.3 bpg, .815 FG, .587 FT): Swatting away mini-Hawks like Godzilla bats down those futile Army planes, keeeping his cool with the refs, leading the Magic to another week's rest.

4) Steve Nash (4 games: 22 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 7.8 apg, .557 FG, .882 FT): At the start of the season, he said he liked this team's chemistry, but he had no idea where it would lead. Now, he knows. What a performance from the team's emotional and cerebral leader Sunday.

5) Deron Williams (2 games: 21.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 9 apg, .345 FG, .900 FT): Lakers have slowed down the league's hottest player going into the series, and Jazz are on the brink of elimination as a result.

Dropped out: Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Durant

By the Numbers

40 -- Years since Willis Reed invented the term "pulling a Willis Reed." It was then that he limped onto the Madison Square Garden court before Game 7 of the 1970 Finals against the Lakers after missing most of Game 5 and all of Game 6 with a torn thigh muscle. The Knicks' captain only scored four points, but they were the first four of the game and fueled the Knicks to a convincing 113-99 victory. I always feel compelled to add, however, that Walt Frazier did go for 36 points and 19 dimes in that game, too.

105 -- Playoff games won together by the Spurs' Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan, which, per the NBA, is second only to the 111 postseason games won by Phil Jackson and Scottie Pippen in Chicago. (Pippen leads Michael Jordan because MJ spent 1994 hacking in the minor leagues, as you may recall, while the Bulls went to the Eastern Conference semifinals.)

6 -- Voters for league Most Valuable Player, out of 122, that did not vote LeBron James for first place.

I'm Feelin' ...

1) Good for Robert Sarver. And, good for Phil Jackson. It doesn't matter to me what side you're on in the Arizona immigration debate, only that you have a side. The weak tea sports figures serve up these days when it comes to talking about real-life issues has been distasteful for anyone who remembers the stands of Jackie Robinson and Jim Brown and Muhammad Ali on the left, and Roger Staubach and Tom Landry and Jack Nicklaus on the right. (Far from the caricature often painted of him, Vince Lombardi seemed to be somewhere in the middle; a Robert Kennedy Democrat that believed in patriotism and the Puritan Work Ethic, yet also fiercely defended the rights of gay players and didn't see any colors other than Packer Green and Gold. Read David Maraniss' exemplary biography of Lombardi, When Pride Still Mattered, for the skinny.)

Athletes aren't gods, and they aren't morons; they're people, and they're entitled to have an opinion without others threatening boycotts and demanding trades and other such nonsense because they have the temerity to express them.

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Robert Sarver deserves praise for taking some kind of a stand on the Arizona immigration debate.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

2) When it comes to Draft history, the Suns have been like the kid that always got picked on in elementary school -- reflexively defensive. (You remember two for flinching, and the like.) Every time you mentioned The Litany: Marcin Gortat (Phoenix's second-round pick in 2005), and Rudy Fernandez (first-rounder, 2007) and, um, Rajon Rondo (first-rounder, 2006) -- all traded away to save Sarver some guaranteed first-round loot -- the Suns' front office types would get glassy-eyed, and mumble, and stare at the floor. So it's good that they can finally stick their chests out about someone they fought hard to get, and develop, in second-year guard Goran Dragic. Finally, it appears the Suns have a real backup for Steve Nash, after years of plowing through candidates from Marcus Banks to Leandro Barbosa.

2a) I called Steve Kerr late Sunday, after the clincher in San Antonio. I wanted to ask him what it all meant after so much pain. But he was so happy, and relieved, and exhusted-sounding on the phone, it didn't seem appropriate to do anything other than congratulate him and let him celebrate. A year ago, when the Shaq trade didn't work out, I said it was appropriate to hang the "moron" tag around Kerr's neck, as he had said he'd accept if Phoenix didn't win with O'Neal. This year, they won without O'Neal, and without Mike D'Antoni, and all the credit goes to Kerr, and coach Alvin Gentry, and the welterweight guard who showed what you have to endure to win big in this league Sunday, playing with one eye closed. They don't come much tougher than Steve Nash.

3) It's the Big Four now, Rondo. No more hiding. In fact, you're the most important piece. But I think you already know that.

4) Let's get to this now: if LeBron shoots 9 for 28 in any other playoff game this postseason, it isn't because of his elbow. Please, God, enough about the elbow.

5) If this is how new Wizards owner Ted Leonsis thinks about things, they have a bright future.

6) It's been a horrible 12 months for the Nets. The next 10 days should be much better. Mikhail Prokhorov should be officially approved this week by the league's Board of Governors as the team's new primary owner, and the Lottery is a week from Tuesday. The cavalry's coming.

7) Can I be in charge of the Hamed Haddadi highlight reel?

8) The Big Man, Yao Ming, tweeted a picture of his workouts in Houston last week, and Morey said he's coming along on schedule.

"He's at 90 percent of his weight running on treadmill," Morey said. "He gets out and does some light work on the court. He'll be back next year. It's just how we bring him back. He'll be in a period of 20 to 30 minutes early. I think he'll be on a minutes limit for a good stretch at the start of the season."

Not Feelin' ...

1) Who does Paul Silas have to taser to get an interview for a head coaching gig?

2) Bill Laimbeer, Dan Majerle and Sam Mitchell are the latest candidates to get an interview in Philly, as the process slogs along and while Larry Brown decides if he can coach for the Sixers or continues to insist for a front office job. More than one potential interviewee, I'm told, has expressed concerns about the team's structure. Of all the available jobs out there -- Bulls, Clippers, Hornets, Nets -- this appears to be the least attractive to the most candidates.

3) I'm not saying Joe Johnson isn't a terrific player. He was third-team all-NBA. I'm saying it will be hard to commit $80 to $90 million to him when he's in so many playoff games where he has little or no effect on the outcome. What are you paying a guy that much money for if he's not going to be an impact player in the postseason?

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Is Joe Johnson still worth $80 to $90 million per season?
Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

4) Atlanta's implosion against Orlando is also not great for Mike Woodson's argument for a new contract. Though he should still get one, unless Riles or Larry Brown is walking through that door.

5) I don't think this is the last we see from the Spurs, though they'll have to make a hard decision this summer about the Big Three and whether it's time to make the best deal possible for either Parker or Ginobili. My guess would be Parker.

6) God, I loved me some Lena Horne. In another life, I ushered her one-woman show when she came through town; she was in her 70s then, and still did almost two hours of songs and stories. Glamorous and kind through and through, a real trailblazing star. Thank you for all you did for us, Ms. Horne.

7) Nothing can adequately express the horror this family must be dealing with this week. You can only hope that prayer and family can get them through, and that the young man who seems to be responsible never sees the light of day again.

Tweet of the Week

@chrisbosh play for the heat and i will buy you your ipad........ 3g version ....ha ha... deal? can we get it in writing?
-- Tennis star Andy Roddick (@andyroddick), Thursday, 10 a.m., making his plea to Toronto's Chris Bosh for a change of venue next season.

They Said It

"If some free agent were to say, 'I want to come here, but you must do this,' well, hell, if that happens that day, then I might have to give it some thought."
-- Pat Riley, letting anyone with a jones for South Beach know that he's tanned, rested and ready to get back on the coaching sideline if that's what it took to lure a top-shelf free agent to Miami next season. That subsequent sound you heard was current Heat coach Erik Spoelstra fainting.

"There's just no excuse. It was unprofessional."
-- Boston GM Danny Ainge, doing the Mea Culpa Tour on a Boston radio station Wednesday after getting docked $25,000 by the league for tossing a towel in the air during Game 2 of the Celtics' series with the Cavs in an attempt to distract Cleveland forward J.J. Hickson while he shot a free throw.

"You remember that movie, 'Where's Roger Rabbit' or something? Remember that villain in there? The image just stuck with me in that light."
-- Lakers coach Phil Jackson, comparing Kobe's "White Hot" fashion shoot look to that of the infamous Judge Doom in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" to the L.A. Times last week. You make the call.

Longtime NBA reporter and columnist David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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