Posted May 24 2010 9:25AM
The lead was going to be about Mikhail Prokhorov this morning, but Mike Brown was fired by the Cleveland Cavaliers late, late Sunday night, which ESPN first reported and I got confirmed at 3 a.m.
It's unfortunate, but it wasn't surprising, not after the Cavs got run out by the Celtics in the second round, two rounds before they were supposed to be in the Finals. With everything at stake this summer with LeBron James, such an implosion couldn't occur without someone paying the price, and because there's no one left to trade, and no cap room to sign a big-time free agent, this was the last card the Cavaliers had left to play.
There is only one question Dan Gilbert, who gave Brown the news Sunday in Detroit -- where Brown was watching his son play in an AAU tournament and where Gilbert lives -- can ask James Monday: Who do you want? Phil Jackson? Larry Brown? Pat Riley? Give me a name and I will try to get them.
As I told you last week, Jackson may have told L.A. reporters that he was 90 percent certain he would coach the Lakers next season or retire, but someone who is very close to Jackson said that he would be watching what happens this summer like everyone else, and that he has not ruled out anything. Which would, logic dictates, include coaching somewhere else, like Cleveland or Chicago, if James is on board -- as long as the money is right. (I doubt the Bulls would get any kind of hometown discount.) We know that Brown is still undecided about where he will call home next year, and Riley made it quite clear after the Heat's season ended that he's tanned, rested and ready if the right free agent comes calling.
For his part, Mike Brown will go right to the top of almost everyone's search list, unless he wants to take a year off and enjoy his severance. A head coach who pays attention to defensive detail, sprouts from the Popovich Tree and boasts a .643 regular season winning percentage won't be out of work long.
Now, as Casey Kasem used to say, on with the countdown, which includes a wrap of the preraft camp in Chicago, and why I think John Wall and Gilbert Arenas can play together in Washington. But first comes the Big Russian and how he's about to turn the Nets into Manchester United.
Mikhail Prokhorov is as advertised: tall, affable, somewhat scripted, cryptic, and secure like you'd expect a man sitting on $17 billion to be.
We sat down on Tuesday night, minutes after a gust of wind broke the 45-year-old billionaire's heart, leaving his team with the third pick overall in next month's Draft -- just as it jump-started the hearts of Washington Wizards employees and fans. (Flip Saunders showed me video of the team's scouts and other personnel erupting into cheers and hugs in the Wizards' locker room Tuesday, seconds after deputy commissioner Adam Silver announced Washington would get the first pick. The crazy man in the dark sweatsuit jumping up and down like a banshee, Saunders pointed out, was Saunders).
The interview was part of Prokhorov's official rollout after being approved as the Nets' majority owner by the league's Board of Governors two weeks ago ("He said, 'Call me Mike,'" Stern said). Prokhorov spent Tuesday morning and afternoon in Manhattan, then came to Secaucus -- the last time the Nets will do official business in Secaucus before moving to Newark for two years, then Brooklyn and a new arena -- in hopes of securing the first pick, as the odds suggested the Nets should. But, as befits this star-crossed franchise, the Nets finished third. But if Prokhorov was upset afterward, he didn't show it.
It is his personality.
"I never lost my cool" before, he says. "It's my day-to-day practice ... I can blame only but myself."
His assistant put no limits on the questioning, only insisting that we'd get only a half-hour. (No, I didn't ask him about the 2007 party in Courchevel, France, when he was detained for four days after being suspected of bringing in prostitutes. He was never charged, and the French apologized to him. If you can figure out how that's germane to whether he's going to pay luxury tax, drop me a line.)
But I did want to know more about Prokhorov than we've heard and read in the handful of media appearances he's made in the last two years, since he's become one of Russia's richest men. I wanted to know how his family's relative comfort -- his father worked for the Soviet Sports Committee -- amidst the decaying Communist structure of late-1970's Russia -- affected his worldview.
"Truly, I never think seriously about my role in the world," he said in his heavily accented but perfectly understandable English. "I like the global view of the picture. I think those people who have a global view, they can take advantage of what is going on now. I feel lucky that I became the owner of the NBA team. I am the first foreigner. I am really fired up to expand the NBA reach all over the world. I want to make from that, this team, transglobal team, from the fans from New Jersey to Brooklyn to Moscow and from Asia to Europe. That's a great story."
How, I asked, will you make New Jersey known in Moscow?
"You know, this is often times the contradiction of the world," he said. "Local and global mentality. I think I can, being the first foreign owner, I can mix the culture. The excellent culture of NBA and global vision, and some element of surprise coming from Russia."
And the surprise?
"Wait and see."
Prokhorov clearly sees the Nets' growth opportunities in Europe and Asia much like soccer teams such as ManU that have followings around the world. The marketing possibilities that can be created by someone with his bankroll -- by contrast, the Glazer Family, which owns Manchester and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is worth $2.4 billion, according to the latest Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans -- are probably endless. LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson already have huge followings in China, but Prokhorov has deeper pockets than each of their respective owners -- and each of the owners of the shoe companies that arranged their China tours.
"We're talking about the globalization of the game," Prokhorov says. "And there's no limits. If you are limited in the country in the future, you are dead. To really understand this, and to create globalized franchise, is more effective. And I think I'm a part of the global world, and I want to share my views, to help not only NBA as a franchise, but the Nets, to be a real global team. And I am confident we can reach the goal ...
"There is a business model. We call it diversification. On the right side, it's different industry, diversification, and on the other side is different countries to do diversification. The more global you are, the more strong you are, because you can find the best people all over the world, who are the same as you, who have the same ideas. But you have different ideas. And if you can mix all the cultures, you are the strongest."
In 30 minutes, Prokhorov used the words "global" or "global view" a half-dozen times. It's the centerpiece of his pitch for free agents to be this summer, when he hopes to use the $24 million in cap room the Nets will have to make a splash. He did not back down from his video pledge to Nets season ticket holders that the 12-70 team from this past season will be in the playoffs next season and will win a championship within five years.
"We have two competitive advantages," Prokhorov says. "We are creating the history practically from scratch now. And it's really exciting. And our desire to win is really great. And our second competitive advantage is, being the first foreign owner, is to create a really global team, with fans all around the world. And I feel pretty sure to persuade the very best of the best that the Nets is the place to be."
A child of Perestroika -- the series of changes that introduced capitalism into the Soviet republics (glasnost, or openness, was the political equivalent set in motion by former premier Mikhail Gorbachev) -- Prokhorov came out of college believing, literally, in a new way of doing business.
"Can you imagine?," he asks. "I was never born into capitalism. We have no people, no experts, know nothing about market economy. But we have willpower, we were good educated, we have passion to develop our own business. So it was a great time."
He made his first real money making stonewashed jeans in a laundromat. (Don't judge -- it was the '80s.) Prokhorov's company grew to 300 employees by the time he moved into the financial sector.
"My first business was to unload railroad cars, because it was the first legal -- the only legal opportunity -- for the student to have legal money," he says now. "That was because there was no private business in the Soviet Union, and as soon as Perestroika came, the legislation was changed, and we had the right to open private enterprise. It was a lucky chance, at the time we looked at the market, what was the craze? It was stonewashed jeans ... And we just, for years, we see enormous (profit) margins. Enormous margins."
And that made Prokhorov a marked man. The early '90s were not for the timid in Russia. Prokhorov has acknowledged he had to pay the occasional bribe to get through some of the red tape, but bureacracy was hardly a businessman's biggest concern in those days. Organized crime stuck its tentacles into almost all aspects of Russian life; as money began to be made, the mob began taking its cut from banks and other economic engines in the country, through corruption and murder.
Did you ever fear for your safety, I asked Prokhorov.
"From time to time, I used security," he said after a pause. "But the basic problem, you need to be transparent. Not only for public, but always in your company or in the group you're coming (into). If you follow the rules, you can survive. It doesn't matter in what situation. But those people in Russia who had experience of this, in '90s, they're real, they're real capitalists."
Prokhorov survived, and soon thrived, winning big on investments in minerals and energy funded by money made with his longtime financial partner, Vladmir Potanin, as the duo took advantage of the hyperinflation that decimated Russian currency in the late '90s and early 2000s. Like another businessman -- name of Cuban --Prokhorov also was fortunate, selling his share of Norisk Nickel, the country's largest mining company, for $7 billion in 2008 -- just before the global recession sank the fortunes of many of his competitiors. (Cuban became a billionaire by selling his stake in Broadcast.com, the internet radio company he co-founded, to Yahoo! in 1999 for $5.7 billion, just as the dot-com bubble was about to burst.)
With his billions, Prokhorov has fed his love of sports with big investments in soccer teams abroad, the Russian biathlon program and by buying CSKA Moscow, the celebrated Russian basketball club, in 1997. During his decade as principal owner, CSKA spent lavishly on national and international players and won the Euroleague title twice (2006, 2008) and finished second in 2009. (When Prokhorov sold his interest in Norisk, he no longer was financially involved with CSKA.)
There are parallels, Prokhorov says, between his CSKA experience and what he expects in New Jersey.
"Business is business," he said. "And you need to have a good management structure, team spirit, and to be very predictable in the team. You can be unpredictable outside. You need to know where you are better than others, and if you have people who are better than others, and lots of team spirit, you have a winner. And, of course, some luck."
They did not get that luck last Tuesday, winding up with the third pick instead of the chance to take a franchise changer like John Wall. But Prokhorov was nonplussed. He will not go to the Finals in June ("It's better next year, with the Nets") and he will only be in Newark for 25 percent of the home games next season, spending much of his time back home, attending to his many other businesses. He will empower Rod Thorn, who will take over general manager duties from Kiki Vandeweghe, to make the decision about the team's next coach, and he will, he said, allow his employees to make mistakes without looking over their shoulders.
No nightly phone calls, a la Steinbrenner.
No handful of computers to return e-mails lightning fast, a la Cuban.
'Cause Prokhorov doesn't have a computer.
"He retains information like no one I have ever seen in my life," says his director of international projects, Ellen Pinchuk. The season ticket holder video, she says, was done in one take.
Oh, come on! He has to have a computer! How, I asked him, does he research companies he wants to buy?
"You don't need computer to buy company," he said. "Can you imagine, a lot of fake information in the computer. And if you have a global view, you have a strong team, you have the opportunity to filter all of the fake information, and to turn it off, and to have a clear picture of what's going on. We have a big press of information coming every day. It's impossible, you have no time to test if it's true or not. You need to feel it or it doesn't matter in business. That's why I have my own system, to protect my brain and to get rid of this fake information."
It's organic, almost?
"Maybe," he said. "For the time being, results are not bad."
• Crowded D.C. Backcourt
The texts came to Ted Leonsis Tuesday night.
Gilbert Arenas, the Washington Wizards' guard, fresh off a month of house arrest, had seen what occurred earlier, when the Wizards jumped from fifth to first in the lottery, with the opportunity to take Kentucky's John Wall. And that would mean Wall would move to point guard, and Arenas would move to shooting guard.
And oh, the trouble that would cause!
There is a school of thought that says the Wizards shouldn't have Arenas within a mile of Wall, such is Arenas' supposed toxicity. Arenas, the argument goes, will drag down Wall with him, into his world of bringing guns to the locker room, and suspensions, and unmentionable acts with teammates' footwear. Wall has no chance to resist the devilish charms of Arenas, the anti-teammate depressant, and the Wizards will sink deeper into the morass.
Could go that way, one supposes. But not me.
"It's the same thing I'm going to say: Look how me and Eric Bledsoe did," Wall said last week at the pre-Draft combine, referring to his Kentucky teammate. "Guys said we both needed the ball, and it wasn't going to work together. Eric did a great job of not pressuring, not worrying about having the ball. He knew I was going to find him and I was the point guard. And just like that, Eric can score just like Gilbert. So if I go there with that pick, I'm going to find him with the ball. He's a scoring person and he's been in the league for a long time. He's a veteran. He's going to help me out and give me advice while I'm going through the process."
First of all, there aren't horns growing out of Arenas' head. Did he do a dumb, dumb thing, and lose millions of dollars as a result? Yes and yes. Is it possible he's so thick-headed he learned absolutely nothing from that? Possibly. But that would be surprising. Arenas is immature at times, but he's not stupid, and he's not Lucifer. He knows that David Stern won't need much to throw the book at him, kick him out of the NBA forever. If Arenas isn't on his absolute best behavior next season it will be shocking. And career suicide.
Second, Arenas played off-guard at Arizona, where he first made a name for himself, and throughout his first few seasons in the NBA. He was very effective in Washington with Larry Hughes, with Hughes initiating the Wizards' offense as much as Arenas did from the point. A two guard front like Saunders implemented after Arenas' suspension would make a world of sense with Wall and Arenas.
Third, there has never been a hammer in the history of hammers like the one the Wizards have over Arenas. If they're too frightened to wield it, and he's too dumb to see it hanging over his head, then a pox on both their houses. He has no rights. He's a plebe. If they tell him to drop and give them 20 pushups he better get to huffing and puffing. And if they tell him he's moving to shooting guard, and he gives them any guff about it, they should Tinsley his rear end and forget about it. They'd have to pay him the rest of his $80 million, but they can lose without Arenas just as easily as with him. If Flip Saunders doesn't set him straight about there being a new sheriff in town from minute one of training camp, then Saunders isn't worth the $5 million annually he's getting.
This scenario also presupposes that Wall is soft as chewing gum, easily pliable. Not so. The kid is comfortable in his own skin, but he's nobody's lackey. He's come to his own maturity the hard way, having had to deal with the death of his father at 9, and all the pain, confusion and anger that caused.
"My mom, I didn't see her as much, working three to four jobs," Wall said. "She had to take care of me and my sisters. This is a dream come true for me. This is all I want to do for my mom. Seeing her work so much, and doing everything she could, and my sisters making all my games. I just want to do it all for her."
But the path was rocky. He was cut as a sophomore from his high school team in Raleigh, in part, because of his bad attitude.
"It was tough," he said. "I didn't really know too much about what death was, and why people was going away, and why God was taking them. Now, I understand. But at that point, it was frustrating. I had so much anger and frustration come into me, that's when my anger problems started building up. I couldn't trust people. So it was pretty tough. But my mom sat down and told me one day, 'If you want to play basketball, if you want to do something special that changes your life around, you have to change your attitude, and your dad is going to be watching.' And once I figured it out, I said basketball is my escape. And this is the best way for me to do that."
Wall has promised his family that he will return to college and be the first in his family to get a degree. This is a tough kid, one whose skills, star power and promises made are not going to be run over by anyone. He wants to be a good teammate, but he wants to be great, too. Whether Arenas is around or not, that's not going to change.
• Avery's Choice
If Avery Johnson wants to be general manager as well as the next coach of the Hawks, it's news to the Hawks.
Johnson did want both positions when he interviewed with the New Orleans Hornets last week, and some reports said that demand turned the Hornets off, though the Hornets denied it. But similar rumors came out after Johnson's interview last week with the Hawks, which begins to smell like the agenda of someone who doesn't want Johnson to get head coach jobs.
Johnson met with Hawks GM Rick Sund for five hours Monday, and, according to a source who was involved with the meeting, Johnson "never mentioned a word" about wanting front office duties.
"He never gave us any indication he wanted a say in personnel," the source said. "If he had, Rick would have said, 'Thanks, but you're out.'"
Johnson is also up for the Nets' job (which would explain his rather ham-handed insistence on ESPN after the Cavs' demise that James should play in Newark next season), but New Jersey isn't in any hurry to name its next coach after the big events of the last couple of weeks, with the sale of the team to Prokhorov getting finalized and Thorn adding general manager to his executive duties. Thorn is just beginning the process of going through names. But New Jersey also is likely to wait until July, when it knows what James is going to do, before picking a coach.
Chicago and the Clippers also look like they're willing to wait on James before finalizing a new hire. As for the Hornets, they'll have to almost certainly wait until after the Finals if they want to hire Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau (and this story explains why prospective owner Gary Chouest may not have time right now to finalize either a new coach or his purchase of the team from current majority owner George Shinn).
(Conference finals edition)
1) Boston (2-0): Six straight wins against the two best east teams.
2) Washington (DNP): Getting the first pick in the Draft (JohnWallJohnWallJohnWallJohnWall) makes for a good week.
3) L.A. Lakers (2-1): Lamar Odom is a better barometer than mercury.
4) Phoenix (1-2): STAT of the night: 42 points.
5) Philadelphia (DNP): Restored credibility with Doug Collins hire; restored hope with second pick in the Draft.
6) Orlando (0-2): It's ugly in the Land of the Mouse. Ugly.
7) Utah: Gone Fishin', but will Boozer be Sent Packin'?
8) Cleveland: Gone Fishin'. Up until the minute he was fired Sunday night, Mike Brown was actually comforting people close to him instead of the other way around.
9) Atlanta: Gone Fishin'.
10) San Antonio: Gone Fishin', but hoping help will come from Europe next year with Tiago Splitter.
11) Chicago: Gone Fishin', and in no hurry to hire the next coach.
12) Oklahoma City: Gone Fishin'.
13) Denver: Gone Fishin'.
14) Portland: Gone Fishin'.
15) Dallas: Gone Fishin', and I wouldn't worry too much about the Diggler intending to file for free agency. It allows him to get a no-trade clause in his next contract with the Mavericks.
16) Milwaukee: Gone Fishin'.
(Conference finals edition)
Boston (2-0): The Celtics have been ahead of Orlando following 11 of the first 12 quarters of this series. Their dominance of what had been the league's best team the second half of the season has been as remarkable as it was unexpected. Everyone that had written off Rasheed Wallace as out of shape, too old and too disinterested to make a contribution during the playoffs, raise your hands. Keep 'em up. And, maybe, acknowledge that he can contribute in a big way to a championship contender.
Orlando (0-2): It's not about Vince Carter, who is an easy target because he's never been what everyone demanded he be. The Magic are not winning at the two most important spots in basketball: point guard and center. Rajon Rondo is dominating Jameer Nelson just as he dominated Mo Williams, and one Dwight Howard has not equalled or bettered Boston's trio of Kendrick Perkins, Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis. Nor has Orlando gotten anything of significance out of its bench. Orlando is better than this. It has one game to show it.
Who's ready to gamble their job on DeMarcus Cousins?
The Kentucky freshman center -- and he is a center, no question, don't even think about playing him at power forward -- passes every eyeball test known to man. He is enormous, from head to toe, and at 6-foot-9, 290 pounds, with a 7-5 3/4" wingspan, should have no problem playing in the hole in the NBA against most non-Yao pivots. He averaged nearly a double-double at perhaps the nation's toughest college, still, to live up to expectations.
So, why isn't he the consensus first pick in the Draft? And why on earth are so many teams scared to death of taking him, whether its second, third or fourth?
"That's been the question the whole year, my so-called red flags," Cousins said at the Chicago pre-Draft camp last week. "I'm misunderstood."
The red flags? His body, which he acknowledges needed work after the Kentucky season, but has tightened up noticeably after a seafood and salad diet; his on-court demeanor, which occasionally was on the edge; his off-court attitude, which tends not to open up to strangers. This doesn't make him unique, but other people aren't about to be offered tens of millions; he is. And so, NBA teams have spent a lot of time trying to figure out just who is inside this kid from Mobile, Ala.
If you get Zach Randolph production out of Cousins, what's so bad about that? Except you may have a player that takes as long to mature as Randolph did.
One personnel guy, on Cousins: "Of all the big men that played this year, he played the hardest."
Another personnel guy, on Cousins: "I don't think he's a malicious kid. But there are some issues there."
The Sixers, picking second, are assumed to be taking Evan Turner from Ohio State. But if new coach Doug Collins sees a need at center, with Samuel Dalembert entering the last year of his deal and on his way out, could the 76ers take a flier on someone as talented as Cousins, or take the safe pick in Turner?
With Brook Lopez set at center, New Jersey (three) won't pick Cousins. But Minnesota, with a rather desperate need at center, picks fourth, and the Wolves are doing their homework on him. Ditto Sacramento, which picks fifth, and Golden State, which is sixth. Cousins interviewed with the Timberwolves and Golden State, and with teams all the way down to the Raptors (13th). They probed and picked at his question marks, and he says he welcomed the opportunity to clear the record, to let people know that their impressions of him are so, so wrong.
"I want them to ask me, so I can tell them the truth," Cousins said. "I'm not that type of person."
Are you not entertained by the Dalembert/Chandler era? From Pim Stuurman:
• I have a question concerning the lack of talented centers in the league at the moment. The past few drafts have had very weak groups of centers, in my opinion. Dating back to the 2007 draft, the following true centers were picked in the top 20 (I'm leaving Al Horford off of this list, who's just a misplaced power-forward in my opinion) :
2007: Oden (1), Noah (9), Hawes (10), Smith (20)
2008: Lopez (10), Hibbert (17), McGee (18), Ajinca (20)
2009: Thabeet (2)
I think most people will agree that Smith and Ajinca can be taken of the "high potential" list (some may even argue the same can be said for Thabeet, but I feel he still has a lot of potential). This leaves a very small list of 7 raw talents in what I feel will be the most important position in 2 or 3 years.
The reason I feel this way is that the league has so many talented guards and forwards at the moment, that every team will have a superstar at at least one guard spot in a couple of years. However, only a few will have a supercenter...
Pimster, I have to disagree. Almost all of the rules changes in recent years were designed with the goal of increasing scoring, because that's what the NBA thinks fans want. And scoring has gone up, both in points per game and Offensive Rating, over the last seven seasons. So there's no turning back; the game is increasingly going to be a small man's game, even though, as you mentioned later in your letter, teams with quality bigs like the Lakers and Magic went far in the playoffs. It's just easier to find a great point guard than a great center.
It's been a rough few years for everyone in the Motor City. From Ricardo Vaz:
• Has Joe Dumars blown it? Gordon is a scoring machine if the conditions are right, but wasn't that 40M contract given to Charlie V a blunder? With so many different style PF's in the league, from Rashard Lewis to Amare Stoudemire, I don't think an "unconventional PF" as he is described will do the job. Do you see them making another move in free agency next season when Prince comes off the books? Because they don't have that much cap space right now and besides aging Ben Wallace they don't have any other big men.
I'm sure if you gave Joe some sodium pentathol he'd 'fess up that maybe he should have stopped at Gordon. But the Pistons have some assets -- like that soon-to-be expiring contract of Prince's that you mentioned -- and they'll certainly look at going big in the first round, whether they stay at seven or try to move up.
As always, send your column critiques, draft questions and snark to email@example.com. If you write it (first and last name, please), and we like it, we just might print it. You've been warned.
1) Kobe Bryant (3 games: 32.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 9.7 apg, .515 FG, .958 FT): If the Suns have an answer for Bryant, it's in Sanskrit.
2) Rajon Rondo (2 games: 18 ppg, 4 rpg, 10 apg, .467 FG, .615 FT): You think Danny Ainge wakes up some mornings and thinks, "Thank God Rondo isn't a free agent this summer?"
3) Pau Gasol (3 games: 24.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.7 bpg, .696 FG, .692 FT): Unstoppable in the post against Stoudemire through three games.
4) Kevin Garnett (2 games: 10 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.5 apg, .409 FG, .500 FT): Don't look at how much he scores, look at when he scores. The defense is always there.
5) Steve Nash (3 games: 13.7 ppg, 3 rpg, 14.3 apg, .500 FG, 1,000 FT): Good screens in Game 3 got the Nasty One some much better looks Sunday than he saw in the first two games against the Lakers.
Dropped out: LeBron James
302.6 -- Weight of University of Texas center Dexter Pittman, the heaviest player at the Chicago pre-Draft camp last week. Pittman also topped all players with 20.8 percent body fat. (Pittman had to leave the camp on Friday after his half-brother was shot and killed Thursday in Houston.)
5 -- Number of times since the lottery process was altered in 1992 that the team with the highest percentage chance of getting the first pick in the Draft has gotten the first pick after the Nets were shut out last Tuesday.
.050 -- Shooting percentage (1 of 20) of the Suns' Channing Frye -- who shot 45 percent from the floor during the regular season, and 44 percent from 3-point range--in three games against the Lakers in the Western Conference finals.
1) "Havlicek stole the ball! It's all over!" "There's a steal by Bird! On the lead to D.J.; he lays it in!" "And it's picked off! Off to Henderson, and he lays it up and in!" And, now, this.
2) My NBA.com colleague John Schuhmann pointed out that the lottery was good news for the Interstate 95 North corridor, where Washington, Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York (the Knicks didn't have a pick, but at least Utah, which had New York's pick, didn't get a top-three selection) have been doormats for years. Maybe the 2010 draft will plant the seeds of an Atlantic and Southeast Division renaissance down the road.
3) Best wishes to veteran assistant coach Phil Hubbard, who collapsed during Thursday's pre-Draft camp in Chicago. Hubbard went home to North Carolina for the rest of the week and I was told he was feeling better.
4) Nice to see Tom Penn in Chicago. The Blazers' former assistant GM, fired for still-inexplicable reasons in March, was at the pre-Draft camp, did some work with us on NBA-TV and is trying to figure out whether to stay in the game or do something outside of basketball for a while. Either way, someone will treat him better than Portland did.
5) Somebody in the top 10 is gonna get a good player in Ekpe Udoh.
6) What would LeBron make in an NBA world with absolutely no salary restrictions? One writer takes a stab at answering.
7) I guess Lost ended Sunday night. I gave up midway through Season Two. I've slept well.
1) Let's be honest: These playoffs have been terrible so far. There has been only one seven-game series -- Milwaukee and Atlanta in the first round -- and there has been precious little competitive play between supposedly good teams. A Celtics-Lakers Finals, hopefully, will provide some kind of drama.
2) Rashard Lewis is not coming up large, either in his or the other guy's buildings.
3) Calvin Murphy? You're on a steep, steep ledge. Climb off, now.
4) My God, has it really been 10 years since Malik Sealy died? What a good brother. I still have one of his ties from his nascent clothing business.
5) I don't know if Worldwide Wes was peddling John Calipari around. I heard that rumor a month ago and wasn't able to confirm it or shoot it down. But I do know that Calipari desperately wants to get back to the NBA someday. Who knows if someday is next season or two years from now? But I know he wants it.
6) This is tampering: "Hi, I'm Owner Jones. I'm planning to offer LeBron James $75 kajillion dollars on July first. I had dinner with him last night and told him so. I am telling you, we're coming hard after LeBron. I'll also be throwing in a pony." That is not what Mark Cuban said when he was being interviewed by CNNMoney.com last week, and it's certainly not what Steve Kerr said in a radio interview earlier this month. Cuban was asked if he could see the Mavericks getting involved, and he gave a hypothetical way they could; Kerr was shooting down his team's chances of getting James with the mid-level exception. The league has better things to do than hand out (relatively) penny-ante fines.
7) I'm not a big cycling guy, 'cause I don't know who could possibly trust any result that comes out of that sport, given its un-ending string of doping by almost all of its top performers. Nor am I a big Lance Armstrong fan, though I obviously respect and admire what he's been able to accomplish. But how could you possibly believe anything that comes out of Floyd Landis' mouth now, when he's been lying about everything for years?
Wow, Vince, u gotta make those.
-- Bucks guard Charlie Bell (@flintstone14), Tuesday, 10:33 p.m., after Vince Carter missed two free throws in the final seconds of Game 2 against Boston.
"I interviewed with Washington. It was kind of, I don't know, I don't think they're going to take me with the number one pick."
-- Butler forward Gordon Hayward, wondering why the Wizards went through the trouble of bringing him in when he'll certainly fall somewhere between one and 30, Washington's bookend first-round picks.
"Not to be arrogant or cocky, but I won every national player of the year award."
-- Ohio State swingman Evan Turner, who was, indeed, neither arrogant nor cocky in complying with a request to make the case for why he should be taken ahead of John Wall with the first pick in the Draft.
"Who wouldn't want to play with Deron Williams?"
-- Georgetown big man Greg Monroe, asked about mock drafts and the like linking him to the Utah Jazz, which has the ninth pick in the Draft.
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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