Posted Jul 19 2010 6:05AM
The finish line is near.
The most soul-sapping NBA offseason in my memory is winding down. Most of the big fish have found whatever ponds they plan to work in for the next few years, the heat from The Decision has begun to cool, all of the head coaching vacancies have been filled, the summer leagues are now over, and the Lakers, after all this, are still the champs. But there is still plenty to chew on, from Byron Scott's reclamation project in Cleveland to John Wall's electric pro debut, to the latest labor talk (ugh), to various and sundry leaguewide items.
I figure next week I'll do my annual 1-30 rankings of each team's offseason, then shut things down for a bit until mid-August, when the Hall of Fame Induction and the U.S. men's World Championship team will coincide on the east coast. And then, blessed vacation. (By the way, as this column is, as we've admitted from the start, a blatant ripoff of Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback, if you have ideas for guest columnists while I'm away, please send them to me. I'll give you an example of someone whose 800 words I'd love to read: Pat Riley. I would love to hear how he planned it, who he picked to help him execute it, and where he was when he found out, absolutely and for sure, that it worked. Now that would be a great Morning Tip. Riles, you have our numbers.)
But for now, let's go back to July 8th, around 9 p.m., when Byron Scott was sitting in his new office in Independence, Ohio, about 15 minutes from downtown Cleveland, and turned on the television to watch his future unfold in front of his eyes as LeBron James announced where he was taking his talents. He had no idea what James was going to say.
"We had practice that night," Scott recalled last week. "I went in my office and looked at it. Watched the whole -- not the whole thing. I watched the whole thing up to the point where he made his decision. When he made his decision, I watched another five minutes, then I got my stuff and I went to the hotel and I started thinking about practice the next day."
There was, then, no rending of cloth by Scott, no wailing, no burning of James' jersey. Perhaps Scott understood what James was going through better than most.
For years, the scuttlebutt around the NBA has been that Scott was the coach in waiting for the Lakers, the team that made him a star and got him his three championship rings. Playing off of Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Scott was a lethal finisher and perimeter weapon for the Showtime Lakers, a favored player of owner Jerry Buss -- and, later, a good buddy of Kobe Bryant's, whom Scott played with in Bryant's rookie season in 1996.
When Scott took the Nets to the Finals in back-to-back seasons in his first head coaching gig, then followed that up with quick success in New Orleans, all his tickets seemed punched. Even after he was fired early last season in New Orleans, over the strenuous objections of franchise player Chris Paul, it still seemed a matter of when he'd come back to the area where he'd starred in high school -- Morningside, in Inglewood, home of the Forum -- to replace Phil Jackson.
Except the plan didn't work out that way. Not only is Scott not waiting for Jackson to retire, he jumped in with both feet to coach the Cavs, not knowing what James would do when he took the job on the first day of free agency. Some of Scott's closest friends told the 49-year-old hey, there are only 30 of these jobs available, and you never know when -- if -- another one will come your way. And while Scott could always spend another year in a TV studio, he wanted to coach again, and quickly.
Now, Scott is halfway across the country, with no Showtime, no Buss, no Kobe -- and no James, with the prospect of coaching a team suddenly staring its own horrid past right in the face again. But Scott says he has a clear mind when it comes to Cleveland's former favorite son.
"My connection was totally different than everybody else's, because I had no connection," he said. "I never got an opportunity to coach LeBron. From an emotional standpoint, I had no emotional ties to the whole situation. Obviously, I wanted him to be there so I could coach him. But when he made his decision, my whole mindset, my gears started shifting to getting ready for summer league, and then getting ready for the season."
On paper, it doesn't look like it will be a pleasant one.
The old Cavs, obviously, were built around James, with players who were brought in because of the way their games complemented his. He was the supernova, the hub of the wheel, the raison d'etre. Without him, Cleveland is a shadow of its former championship-contending self, the nightmare scenario come true for a city that walked on eggshells for seven seasons -- an expensive, old shell with no great player around which to build. There is Mo Williams, and Anderson Varejao, and third-year forward J.J. Hickson, and a lot of question marks.
But there will be basketball in Cleveland in the fall, and Scott will be coaching, looking to find a way to defend without great quickness on the wings or size inside, looking for a way to run without a great point guard to make decisions on the break like he had in New Jersey (Jason Kidd) and New Orleans (Paul).
"That's a little different," Scott allowed. "I'm gonna have a two-guard front this time and say 'one of you guys is gonna have to really push it from the beginning.' It's going to be a learning process for those guys as well, because this is a team that's never been that type of team. So I'm going to have to live with some of the mistakes early, and that's what training camp and preseason is for, for guys to start getting used to playing that style of basketball."
One thing is clear: Hickson will start at power forward. That means that Antawn Jamison will have to move, either to the small forward spot or the bench. Scott would prefer it if the 34-year-old Jamison reprised his Sixth Man of the Year role in Dallas a few years back with the Cavs, which would require Cleveland to start Jamario Moon at the three, convince 2009 first-rounder Christian Eyenga to come from overseas or beat the odds and sign Orlando free agent Matt Barnes. As of late Sunday, according to a source, the Cavs were still in the running for Barnes -- though their opposition was formidable, with the Lakers, Celtics and Heat, along with Toronto, all making strong pitches.
Jamison is hardly the only person Scott has to convince. Much of Northeast Ohio is in mental tatters, including more than a few Cavaliers staffers. That's why one of Scott's first pep talks was internal.
"We did a couple of things just with the organization, to kind of let them know where we stand, and how we're feeling, and that we've moved on and we're getting ready for another great season," Scott said. "And I guess we will have to reach out the closer we get to training camp to the community, to give them some time right now to heal. But I'm looking forward to that. I'm looking forward to connecting to the community. Everywhere I've been so far in Cleveland, going to the practice facility or going back to the hotel, the response has been great, at least towards me. And I'm looking forward to making sure that all of those things come through."
And, again, Scott has some experience in this area. Having helped shepherd the Hornets through their two seasons in Oklahoma City after they were displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Scott knows about sudden change, franchise upheaval and adjusting on the fly. He always tried to meet trouble head-on then, take the mystery out of it. And here he is again, having to be half coach, half counselor for a stricken city.
"I think that's a little bit of my job as well," he said. "Coming in with fresh eyes, fresh ideas, fresh thoughts, a new system, a new philosophy, I think all of those things will also help the guys kind of move forward, and the community as well. Is it going to be a tough act? Yeah, it's going to be tough. But for me, basketball, and that court, is my sanctuary. And I hope those guys feel the same way when we get out there. You forget about all the stuff that happened July 8th -- or 7th, or 9th, whatever day that was -- and you move forward."
John Wall has got It.
It is why LeBron has you on speed dial.
It is what makes kids wait in line for an hour for your autograph, even though you've yet to appear in an official NBA game.
It is what fills an arena in the middle of Las Vegas, in the middle of summer, day after day, on the chance that you will do something remarkable and special with a basketball.
It is what brings the owner of your team out to midcourt seats, in his spiffy suit that he spent six hours in at the Board of Governors meeting, just to make sure he doesn't miss a second of your debut.
It is what makes people fork over for season tickets for a team that went 26-56 last season, which ended just three months ago.
It is what gets you a lot of appearances on TNT. (Especially a lot of home games in D.C., with a certain sideline reporter able to drive to the games, say, instead of flying, and stay at home instead of at the swank hotels downtown, which would save the company so, so much money. Just sayin', for example.)
It is hope. And excitement. And charisma. And leadership. And talent. John Wall has all of those things, so he has It, and It can take a team places if It's harnessed and focused and driven. Or It can't, if hubris and recklessness and sloth replace those former qualities. It's up to the guy.
That is part of why he wlll be living in D.C. with two adults, Dwon and Brian Clifton, old friends -- and in Brian Clifton's case, his old AAU coach -- that Wall trusts, and that have Wall's back. It is part of why the Wizards have had internal discussions about exactly how much exposure to give Wall his first season.
"He's got a knack, you know?," Washington Wizards coach Flip Saunders said after Wall's debut last week, and yes, you knew.
Wall, the top pick in the Draft, played in four of Washington's five Las Vegas Summer League games, leading the league in scoring and assists, and was named Most Outstanding Player after Sunday's final day. Of course it came against a lot of no-hopers and Euro maybes, with 10 minute quarters and almost unlimited fouling, with a lot of refs learning along with the players, and no one possessing anything remotely resembling the velcro-lock defenses from the league's top teams that Wall will face starting in the fall.
But Wall also showed he has a gear that almost no one else in the league -- maybe Rajon Rondo or Russell Westbrook -- has with the basketball. He showed flashes when he dominated the game, like a No. 1 overall pick should. He seems to already have a sixth sense with third-year center JaVale McGee, the way Chris Paul and Tyson Chandler just clicked in New Orleans. And he showed that he hates, hates to lose, and that is something the Wizards, for whom losing has been a chronic guest, the Thing That Wouldn't Leave, for almost a generation now, desperately need in their locker room.
"He's got an unbelievable intelligence for the game, but he's unbelievably competitive," Saunders said. "He's one of the most coachable guys around. If he makes a mistake, he wants to know what it is, he wants to learn. You can get on his butt, get on him, and he'll respond to that. He takes pride in whatever he does. He wants to be the best at each end."
He has a long, long way to go before that is true, at either end. He shot just 38 percent from the floor in Vegas, turned the ball over way too much, gambled on defense way too much, and didn't exactly lock down Dallas' rookie point Jeremy Lin or Clippers rook Eric Bledsoe, his former Kentucky teammate ("Of course I'm buying," Wall said afterward, as the two hugged). He probably yaps too much when he dimes up the opposition, and he's got rabbit ears (he heard Clipper Darrell's heckling from clear at the other end of the court, while he was on the free-throw line).
"It's a lot different in college," he said after his debut. "You know, that one second you have to make a pass, it's not there. You have to make it right away. It's great to be on the NBA level in my first debut, but the regular season hasn't come yet, but the summer league's going good."
He also heard what Wizards assistant coach Sam Cassell -- still find it hard to believe I'm typing "assistant coach Sam Cassell" -- told him, time and again, during practices.
"At the ends of quarters and ends of game, go get the ball," Wall said. "Don't let nobody else bring it up. It's my team, get the ball, and in late shot clock situations get the ball and make plays. I thought I did a good job with my assists, but I have to watch my turnovers."
When Wall plays with Gilbert Arenas in the fall -- and, unless the Wiz and Magic swap Arenas for Vince Carter, as has been rumored for months, that's what's going to happen -- Saunders plans to play the two of them together, with newly acquired Kirk Hinrich spelling each as needed, and according to the situation. And while Saunders will flop Wall and Arenas on occasion, Wall will have the ball in his hands 80 to 90 percent of the time. Arenas had some of his best games in his suspension-shortened season last year when Earl Boykins was on the ball and he played the two, and some of his best work in Washington came near the start, when Larry Hughes ran the point and Eddie Jordan scrapped the Princeton offense to get Arenas some looks off screens.
(Doesn't mean it's going to work, I know, just as I know that the Chuckster, among most others, thinks Washington should get rid of Gil posthaste. I'm in the minority on this. I think Arenas is smart enough to understand that Wall can extend his career four, maybe five more years, and that he can help Wall, too. Just like Chauncey Billups helped Rip Hamilton shine, and Jason Kidd made Kerry Kittles and others look good, Wall can do for the former Agent Zero. That was his old number, not his IQ.)
Defenses will try to negate Wall's incredible speed -- he got to the cup in three seconds against Golden State after a Warriors make -- by playing underneath on screen and rolls, conceding the 15-footer, because it's a heck of a lot less destructive to them than letting Wall get into the paint, where he already had a veteran's respect from the refs, living at the foul line.
"At Kentucky, they did that a lot," he said. "So coming in, I want to be able to make that shot, make it easier for me to get into the paint, and find my teammates. I won't be the greatest shooter in the world. God didn't bless me to be the greatest shooter. But if you work at it and get enough repetitions, you can be a good enough shooter to keep people honest, and that's what I want to do."
Because the Wiz still don't have certainty at either forward position, and because Wall just turned 19, and because Arenas has played in just 47 games his last three seasons due to injuries and Gunsmoke, and because there is so much youth on the roster, Washington is a team that will likely improve in fits and starts, maybe like the Kings did last season with Tyreke Evans learning his way at the point. It is a team that could stand at least one more productive trip to the Lottery. It is a team whose future is years away.
But whatever their future is, Wall will be in the center of it. For he has It in the palm of his hand.
(Rankings through 7/18/10)
1) Miami: Finding a quality surrounding cast (Haslem, Z, Miller, Jones) for the Super Friends without breaking the bank is just as impressive as getting the Super Friends.
2) L.A. Lakers: Didn't get Raja Bell, which just wouldn't have felt right. Didn't lose D-Fish, which wouldn't have felt right, either.
3) Utah: Considering it lost three of its top eight players from last season's rotation in a week, the Jazz made a pretty good recovery with Al Jefferson and Bell.
4) Boston: Bringing in Lawrence Frank for Tom Thibodeau is a strong play. He'll never compromise on demanding better defense.
5) Houston: Paid through the nose for Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry, but couldn't let a chunk of their core group walk. Brad Miller will help Yao as well; wouldn't surprise me if they played together a lot.
6) Chicago: Ronnie Brewer at $4+ million per seems to make more sense than J.J. Redick at $6+ million per.
7) Orlando: Having said the above, having people around who understand and embrace the culture of a team is important, so keeping Redick around meant more to the Magic than you may realize.
8) Denver: Thinking about Al Jefferson going to the Nuggets to play power forward put me in mind of Max Cherry in Jackie Brown, after he really, really thought about the scheme she'd come up with to take Ordell's money: "It could work."
9) San Antonio: I just have a feeling the Spurs haven't seen the last of Richard Jefferson. Call it a hunch.
10) Dallas: If --if -- Tyson Chandler is healthy, the Mavericks made a great trade this week. Otherwise it was just swapping one bad contract for another.
11) Portland: Still think $6.5 million a year for a backup is ridiculous, but Wes Matthews is a good player and he'll help the Blazers, eventually, when they make whatever trade (Andre Miller? Rudy Fernandez? Both?) they have in their back pocket.
12) Washington: It was just summer league, but dang, John Wall looked good. So did Trevor Booker and JaVale McGee, for that matter.
13) Milwaukee: Felt good hyping Larry Sanders before the Draft, and nothing the Bucks' first-rounder did in Vegas diminished that belief.
14) Oklahoma City: Could be three Thunder (Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Russell Westbrook) on USA Basketball team for the World Championships in Turkey.
15) Indiana: Still don't understand why the Pacers let Sam Perkins go from player development, but adding Clark Kellogg to the mix can only be viewed as a positive.
Golden State: No, not because they got a draft pick for Anthony Morrow, but because the Warriors were finally sold, for a reported record $450 million, to Joe Lacob, a minority owner of the Celtics, and Hollywood producer and executive Peter Guber by Chris Cohan. It's unfotunate that Larry Ellison and his billions didn't get the team, because one can only imagine the bells and whistles he would have rung and blew. But Lacob, by all accounts, is a genuinely good guy. And Guber's Tinseltown connections can't possible hurt a franchise in desperate need of some buzz. Don't think it portends well for GM Larry Riley and coach Don Nelson, but Riley has left the team in pretty good financial shape by dumping Corey Maggette's contract, and getting David Lee will help the on-court product, too.
Minnesota: You listen to David Kahn long enough and there is a rationale for everything. But at the end of the day the Wolves gave away a 20 and 10 guy for Kosta Koufos and picks that will likely never amount to anything. There had to be a better deal out there for Al Jefferson, especially considering how desperate the Jazz were to get him. Now, sometimes owners tell you they aren't going to spend money for a while, and you have to follow their wishes if you want to stay employed, and you do the best you can with a hand tied behind your back. But Wolves fans have suffered for a long time, and subjecting them to more short-term pain isn't right.
Is there, really, no way to avoid a lockout next summer?
A year out from certain, lasting damage if the NBA indeed locks out its players, there was next to no indication from last week's Board of Governors meeting that owners remain anything other than near-unanimously resolved to either radically alter the current Collective Bargaining Agreement or torch the 2011-12 season.
A spate of reasonably good news: a higher-than-expected salary cap for this season, the highest ratings for The Finals in 13 years, a record number of season tickets already sold for next season and a torrent of publicity for the league during the Summer of LeBron has not had the slightest effect, even though many of the league's own team employees, whom you heard sotto voce at the Vegas Summer League last week, can't figure out how the Association can be on such perilous economic ground when its owners kept throwing real money around like, well, Monopoly money:
Wes Matthews, one NBA season, average 9.4 points per game: $34 million from Portland.
Travis Outlaw, seven NBA seasons, career average 9.5 points per game: $35 million from New Jersey.
Josh Childress, four NBA seasons, last two seasons in Greece, career NBA average 11.1 points, 5.6 rebounds: $34 million from Phoenix.
Tyrus Thomas, four NBA seasons, career average 8 points, 5.2 rebounds, 1.4 blocks per game: $40 million from Charlotte.
Amir Johnson, five NBA seasons, career average 4.7 points, 4.2 rebounds: $34 million from Toronto.
There are head-scratching contracts every year, to be fair. But these and other deals -- and I find no fault with the players or their agents for getting them; you are worth whatever someone pays you, whether you're Carmelo Anthony or Anthony Morrow -- in the wake of a double-dip recession, with fans scrambling to keep their jobs so they can afford even discounted tickets, made a lot of people wonder about the math. Commissioner David Stern stuck to his numbers: the league estimates its teams lost $370 million in revenue last season, he said last week, down but slightly from the $400 million estimate made during All-Star Weekend. But how could a league hemorraging so much money still have so many teams lavishing such money on players with such middling numbers?
This kind of analysis made the Commish cross.
"We're not asking the players or the union to save the owners from themselves," he said at his news conference last week, after I'd asked that very question. He also took exception to my notion that teams had spent more than $1 billion in new money (he jumped all over that "new money" phrase, correctly, saying it was money that was just transferred, from one group of players to another, not new money in the system; gahd, I've got to remember I'm talking to a lawyer and be precise in my questioning).
"In other words, we've got teams who actually cleared the cap, and then spent up to it," he said. "Teams that were formally taxpayers came down, as they had to, then they spent up to the cap...look at the Heat, the Knicks, former taxpayers. It was not new money. To them, it made sense to do what they did under the system. But if you get all the teams spending to the cap, you have a system that is not sustainable for us."
The union, of course, begged to differ, going through its usual mouthpieces to contest the league's claims of nine-figure losses last season, and reiterating its desire to make increased revenue sharing by teams -- which the Players' Association maintains will alleviate a lot of the financial differences between the NBA's economic haves and have-nots -- a central part of the collective bargaining process. Stern says that there will be more revenue sharing next season, but that that issue has to remain on a parallel track with the league's negotiations with the players, not become part of the negotiations.
I went through the obvious need for more revenue sharing as the NFL does in exhaustive detail during All-Star Weekend, but also pointed out the difficulties the NFL is having in maintaining its own program, with supernova teams like the Cowboys chafing at having to fork over some of their revenue from ticket sales, among other revenue pools, to teams that produce a fraction of the money Dallas does.
Nothing's changed in my view since then: yes, there has to be more revenue sharing between teams -- of the gate, of local sponsorships, most anything you can think of. Yes, the players have to give some things back; I would start with a simple restructuring of max contracts, making the last three years of a six-year deal for a team's own player non-guaranteed, which would allow teams to get out of deals with players no longer pulling their weight. But teams would have to allow players to, in essence, "re-guarantee" the final years of a deal in that critical fourth season if they reached certain reasonable criteria. Whether that's individual statistics, or honors, or team wins or success in the playoffs, I leave up to the fine, fine attorneys on both sides.
The American Needle decision, handed down by the Supreme Court in May, neither helped the NFL, the primary litigant, or other sports leagues seeking a full-blown endorsement of their various levels of antitrust protections, nor did it hurt sports leagues in any significant way. What the Needle decision -- and you can look up the details of it on Google or some such engine if you're interested -- basically said was, go back to the bargaining table and try to work this stuff out.
Work it out. Or ruin the renaissance so many of you on both sides have worked so hard to produce. Cuban sold and promoted his heart out; Kobe played his heart out. Fans opened their wallets; coaches went without sleep, all to make the game better. And it is better. But a work stoppage will end that momentum, perhaps forever.
Much better letters from you this week, so let's let 'er rip!
They Need to Reseed their Breed with Sheed. From Derek Auclair:
I have a question regarding a point you made on Rasheed Wallace and the Celtics options. Here is what you wrote:
Boston would like to use the contract of Rasheed Wallace, who has told the Celtics he will retire, to get a trade exception. If Boston sends Wallace's contract to another team -- which could remove the salary from its cap as long as Wallace stays retired -- for a draft pick, the Celtics could get a trade exception for as much as the $6.3 million Wallace was due to receive.
I don't see the benefit for the other team doing this unless the Celtics are including draft picks, cash or both. And wouldn't that team need to be under the cap to fit Sheed's salary since they are not sending any money out?
They could also get a player, Derek, which I did not make clear: the exception was only one option, which would allow the Celtics to sign a free agent for more than the mid-level exception. But as the number of players worth the mid-level dwindle, Boston may not have a choice but to take an actual player back for Wallace's contract.
Coach Hindsight has never lost more than two in a row. From Mike Stroh:
Do you think Brian Colangelo made a big mistake and miscalculation in not trading Chris Bosh prior to the trade deadline last year? I think it was pretty obvious to the people of Toronto as well as the rest of the world that Bosh wasn't going to re-sign with the Raptors.
Do you think that the Raptors will ever be able to build and keep a championship caliber team? Other than the cold weather in the winter, and the obvious fact that Americans love their country why do you think it is that players don't want to stay in Toronto?
I don't believe the Raptors really thought Bosh was returning. I do think they hoped to make a sign-and-trade that would net them some players. If you gave Colangelo truth serum I think he'd tell you he expected to do something with Houston for Luis Scola and some other parts, or maybe the Lakers and Andrew Bynum, but when it became clear that Bosh wanted to go to Miami, and the Lakes won again and thus planned to hold onto Bynum, all those plans fell apart.
On the other hand... From John Whitlock:
Donnie Walsh should retire!!!! Signing Amare Stoudemire to a massive, long-term contract is a recipe for disaster, and the Knicks' draft was a terrible disaster!!!!
Look how well the Lakers two 2nd round picks are doing, and they were both selected after Walsh picked two garbage cans. Rautins should not have been selected at all -- he's over-aged, under-sized, and non-athletic, and the other guy is an under-sized swingman, who might have merited being picked after 50...
In Toronto, Brian Colangelo is converting unwanted & overpaid stiffs [Turkoglu & Calderon] into assets. Walsh has done nothing to help the Knicks. Re-signing Lee, while forgetting about Stoudemire, and making two good picks in the draft, would have been far wiser, but Walsh is following in Isiah's footsteps it seems...
Afraid I don't share the pessimism, John. Did they overpay for Stoudemire? Yes. Is he the best player on their roster? Same answer. As for the draft, I don't know if Rautins is ever going to be a playmaker, but I know he can shoot, and having shooters on the roster in Mike D'Antoni's offense makes sense. And Johnny Dawkins, Landry Fields's coach coach at Stanford, and who knows a thing or two about a thing or two, told me before the Draft that Fields had a real chance in the NBA, that he had a lot of Jared Dudley in him. You're also downplaying Anthony Randolph, who has incredible upside. Look, I don't know if it's all going to work, but I would not use the word disaster to describe the Knicks' offseason.
What...you mean we should be adults about this? From Iris Gardner:
I don't know what all the hoopla is about concerning Lebron. He is looking out for his future and he choose where he wanted to go. No one owns him and he doesn't owe the organization. He left money on the table -- let it go.
The league can wait on the day of releasing a player without regard of showing them respect and uprooting their families but when a player does the exact same thing people want to degrade them with nasty comments and more. This is not fair.
Also, Dan Gilbert has no class or he would not have made those rude comments. Get over it. The way players have to suck it up when they are told they are being traded without notice.
I do think LeBron owed the Cavs advance notice that he was leaving, Iris. That's all, though.
You can always sell hope. Emphasis on sell. From Mauricio Bergh:
Don't you think the outcoming of this year's free agency will finally teach some teams a lesson? In the end, the teams that claimed astronomous cap space and needed a big star the most --Nets, Knicks, Clippers -- got nothing but a 'yeah, maybe in another life'. I'd really like the Bucks or the Thunder to make a blast in postseason next year and teach the importance of real management for these people: you may not have 2 or 3 All-Stars, it does not mean your team will suck. (it might not get a ring either, but it's better than dreaming of being the 8th seed).
Different markets have different needs, Mauricio. It's hard in New York or L.A. to build slowly through the Draft when you're charging exhorbitant ticket prices. In Oklahoma City, with no history and no expectations, it was a lot easier to be patient, because fans were just happy to have a team and were willing to wait for a better product. Bottom line, I have no doubt that three or four teams will do the same thing next summer that Miami, et.al. did this summer. BTW, did you just invent a word -- "astronomous?"
Address your free agent agita, coach complaints and general malfeasance up near Brainerd to firstname.lastname@example.org. If your e-mail is appropriately snarky/funny, insightful/damning, or correctly corrective, we may well publish it, which is why we need a first and last name, people. Aloha.
$33,500,000 -- Support that the Indianapolis Capital Improvement Board will provide to the Pacers over the next three years to help the team stay in town. The Pacers said they needed help from the city to defray some of the costs of running Conseco Fieldhouse.
$100,000 -- Fine for Cavaliers' owner Dan Gilbert by the league after his post-LeBron-to-Miami screed.
60.5 -- Percentage of Americans aware of LeBron James that have a favorable impression of him after his decision to go to Miami, according to a Celebrity Davie-Brown Index Poll taken earlier this month and reported by CNBC. That is down from 71 percent in May. But James only lost a couple of points (from nearly 70 percent to nearly 68 percent) as a viable endorser, according to the survey, putting him on a similar line of popularity with Jack Nicklaus, Tyra Banks, Dick Vitale and Bruce Willis.
1) Do you need help reading between the lines to understand MJ's thoughts on the subject?
2) Call me crazy, but I don't think C Webb enjoyed being compared to Darko Milicic.
3) There will be nights when DeMarcus Cousins's lack of vertical will render him ineffective, but there will be a lot more nights when his size and bulk and great hands and skill will render him quite effective. He is a load, and that's meant in a good way.
4) Sure it's PR, but still a nice touch from STAT on his way out of Phoenix.
5) Good to see that assistant coaches Dean Demopolous and Joe Prunty, dismissed rather abruptly from Nate McMillan's staff in Portland, seem to have landed with the Clippers' and Cavs' staffs, respectively.
6) Thank God this thing seems to be working.
1) So...this is the cleaned-up quote in the penultimate paragraph of this story? I feel bad for D-Wade that he was originally misquoted, really -- no excuse for that by a professional reporter. But there is no good context to use the World Trade Center, or "Twin Towers," or 9/11, other than their context, which is the only context. I learned a long time ago not to compare any sport to war. That goes ditto for the events of September 11, 2001.
1a) Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. If this story is true -- if -- LeBron is buying Riles's old house, once removed. Doesn't this raise anyone's eyebrow at Olympic Tower? I'm sure everything is above board and beyond reproach, and again, I don't know if the claim is correct. But if it is, shouldn't someone be making sure that all the Is are dotted and all the Ts are crossed on the transaction?
2) Jeff Bower is but the latest highly qualified executive (Danny Ferry, Kevin Pritchard, Steve Kerr, David Griffin) to be shown the door by ownership in recent weeks. Which always begs the question: if the team execs think it's such an easy job, why not just add it to theirs?
3) I like anger-based humor as much as anyone -- Sam Kinison was briliant -- but this seems less like a joke and more like a cheap way to make a buck off a city's pain.
4) Let's not make death sanitize George Steinbrenner, who became a caricature of the Boss from Hell and wasted a lot of the largesse he inherited. But he can provide a lesson for some of the young owners in all sports, including the NBA -- you can't buy chemistry.
5) Many in basketball have known for the better part of a year that Dean Smith was not doing well, but his family's acknowledgement of his deteriorating condition last week was still painful to read. Here's hoping Coach Smith is comfortable and happy, for few have been on the right side of history as often as he was.
6) Man, everybody's got Chris Paul moving everywhere in two years -- to New York, to Charlotte, to L.A. (of course). How about using that time to just build a better team around him in New Orleans?
7) Can't say I spent a lot of time watching Louis Oosthuizen play golf this weekend. By the way, that's pronounced "Oosthuizen."
Net fans I will not be going anywhere, just to clear the air. I think lol
-- New Jersey guard Terrence Williams (@TheRealTWill), Saturday, addressing speculation that the Nets, still looking for a starting power forward, may have no choice but to trade him now that they have Anthony Morrow and Courtney Lee at shooting guard and Devin Harris and Jordan Farmar at the point.
"I think that the advice that he received on this was poor. His performance was fine. His honesty and integrity shone through. But this decision was ill-conceived, barely produced and poorly executed. Those who were interested in it were given our opinion prior to its airing."
-- Commissioner David Stern, making his feelings about ESPN's and LeBron James' "The Decision" quite, quite clear.
"That championship doesn't hold the same kind of weight in your heart if you're just kind of along for the ride."
-- New/old Jazz guard Raja Bell, telling the Salt Lake Tribune why he opted to play in Utah instead of joining the Lakers, who, led by Kobe Bryant, recruited Bell heavily.
"It was so stressful. If I didn't die of a heart attack this week, I think I'll never die."
-- Rockets forward Luis Scola, telling the Houston Chronicle of his angst and concern that he would have to play next season in Spain before Houston came correct with a massive five-year, $47 million contract last week.
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