Posted Nov 1 2010 6:27AM - Updated Nov 1 2010 11:58AM
Billy King is looking for a place to sit.
It is opening night at Prudential Center in Newark, and the new general manager of the New Jersey Nets is running around like most everyone else associated with the franchise, lost, trying to figure out what seat will give him the best view of the court. The Pru is going to be the Nets' home for the next two years until the Barclays Center in Brooklyn is online, but other than being here for a couple of sparsely attended exhibition games, King hasn't been in the building much. And the home of the NHL's Devils is cavernous, though actually seating fewer people for basketball (around 18,700) than the late, unlamented Izod Center in the Meadowlands.
It's a big night for the franchise, which is trying to put everything about last season out of its collective psyche -- the 0-17 start that got Lawrence Frank fired, the internal dispute about whether Del Harris was or was not promised to succeed him, the injuries that wrecked the roster, the 12-70 record that, barely, missed the NBA's all-time worst 9-73 mark of the 1973 Philadelphia 76ers. The Pru is more than a bridge to Brooklyn; it's an escape.
But like many escape routes, it also has corridors that lead nowhere. Which seems to be the case as King roams the hallways, trying to find the loading dock area. That is where new owner Mikhail Prokhorov, coming directly from Moscow to see his new team for a few days, will be arriving soon, along with Onexim Group CEO Dmitry Razumov, Prokhorov's right hand executive for Nets affairs. His right hand woman, Onexim Sports and Entertainment President Irina Pavlova, is already in Jersey to serve as a liason between the remaining Nets minority owners, the basketball people and the Russian-dominated Onexim Group that is now in charge.
King has already been here an hour, having stopped by new coach Avery Johnson's office to wish him good luck. With a career 194-70 record, and a Finals appearance with the Mavericks in 2006, Johnson brings credibility. King, an executive in Indiana and Philadelphia for more than a decade, brings stability. He drafted relatively well in Philadelphia, selecting Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young in recent years, but got justifiable heat for bestowing $50 million on Kenny Thomas and $64 million for Samuel Dalembert. King, who was fired by the 76ers in December 2007, says he's learned his lesson and will be more judicious with Prokhorov's billions.
But the heat is on everyone. Prokhorov has promised a Finals appearance in five years. The Nets hoped to be a player for LeBron James, Amar'e Stoudemire or Joe Johnson, but came up short, settling for the likes of Travis Outlaw, Jordan Farmar, Joe Smith and Anthony Morrow. They hoped to have John Wall to build around, but had to settle for Derrick Favors with the third pick in the Draft. They still want to trade for Carmelo Anthony, but so far, the only player they've acquired in a trade is Troy Murphy. And billionaires are not known for their patience.
And while Prokhorov is affable in public and quick with a quip, he has made his intentions quite clear: he wants the Nets to become the NBA's version of Manchester United, a global brand, which is why New Jersey went around the world in eight days during the preseason, with trips to Russia and China. It is why Prokhorov is working to expand broadcast penetration for Nets games in Russia to cities beyond Moscow this season, even if on a one- or two-day delay. The clock is running.
They should be better, with their free agents, and Outlaw, and a healthy Devin Harris and Brook Lopez. But a quick start, with consecutive, winnable home games against Detroit and Sacramento, is crucial.
"I'm excited about the energy and the enthusiasm of the guys, because they're so excited," King says. "My biggest concern is injuries. Because you can do all the planning, and it changes things on the fly. That's probably the biggest thing. We can't afford a key injury or two. Some rosters can. We can't."
But at 5 o'clock, his main concern is finding out where Prokhorov will alight.
"He's going to the production office?," King asks Leo Ehrline, the Nets' senior vice president and chief relationship officer, who will provide the same liason services in the other direction for the Russians that Pavlova is doing with the Americans. Ehrline says yes, and that the room has a shower -- and security. King checks out the office and it's satisfactory, with the shower and a television.
At 5:14, King gets a text: "The Eagle has landed."
He looks for the elevator, so he can get up to Prokhorov's suite. Pavlova is already there. There are questions about the champagne that will be available. (Prokhorov says he is not a big drinker, but will have a sip or two of the bubbly on special occasions.) Silver balloons festoon the doorway. This is a little different.
King smiles. Actually, he says, it's not really all that different.
Another text. Prokhorov is close.
Back down to the loading dock, where all manner of people pass by. Two members of commissioner David Stern's security detail; the Commish will be in attendance as well, having a pre-game presser announcing that the 2011 Draft will be held here instead of its usual home at The Theatre at Madison Square Garden, which is being renovated. Gary Lieberman, one of the Nets' minority owners, stops by. Bobby Marks, the Nets' GM. Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt, here to see and support Favors and the Pistons' Will Bynum, comes by with his staff. Cassandra Johnson, Avery's wife, pulls in. Johan Petro, the Nets' backup center, walks by from off the court.
"Frenchy!," King calls. "You ready?"
Petro actually snorts, as if insulted by the question.
"You seen Arn and Bob?," King asks, referring to super agents Arn Tellem and Bob Myers, who represent Farmar and Detroit's Ben Wallace and Tracy McGrady.
"Bob's going to call me when they get here," says Marks.
At 5:52, Prokorov's car pulls in. Out comes the 6-foot-7 owner, with Razumov and Prokhorov's public relations assistant, Ellen Pinchuck. All fresh as daisies after the 10-hour flight. Given Prokhorov's reputation for long hours, they'd just be rolling up their sleeves back home. Handshakes and hugs all around. Prokhorov is dressed and ready to go. The entourage moves upstairs to meet the New York media. Champagne glasses are passed out, and some reporters aren't sure whether this is proper protocol.
"Come on," Pinchuk says, "don't be shy."
Questions for the new owner?
Are you still predicting a playoff berth this season?, he is asked.
"We have 82 games," Prokhorov says, in his nuanced, accented English. "And then the season will be much better. We need some time."
Are you going to stay for the Miami game?
You looking forward to the Miami game?
"It's great period," Prokhorov says. "Three games, only three days. Excellent. Because I'm very busy now in Russia. That's why it's very good to have three games. Because a few months ago, I told to everybody, I will see, 25 percent of the home games."
When do you plan on coming back?
"It's top secret."
The Knicks are putting billboards in Brooklyn.
"I saw the picture," Prokhorov says, "but I think Amar'e (Stoudemire), he looks very sad. He looks like he wants to play in Brooklyn in a couple of years."
Will the Nets get Carmelo Anthony in a trade?
"I would love to comment, but it's prohibited under the NBA rules. I am sorry."
After a toast, more questions.
Now that you've gone through free agency, what did you learn?
"That the league is quite competitive," Prokhorov says. "It's a very competitive league. And I like challenges."
You said before that you thought you could convince great players to come play in New Jersey. Why didn't that happen this summer with LeBron and Bosh and the others?
"I'm sure we have the lack of advertisement," he says. "We suffered from a lack of advertisement. When you have the worst record in the league, it's not easy to break the wall between the team franchise and the great player. But the situation is changing, and I am very optimistic about this."
The party moves upstairs to another reception, where King checks on the salmon, Russian dance music plays on the speakers and the Commish and deputy commissioner Adam Silver drop in, with now-minority owner Bruce Ratner. Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti comes by; the Nets have committed $75,000 toward the rehabilitation of Rutgers defensive lineman Eric LeGrand, who was paralyzed Oct. 16 in a game against Army. Fans walk up to Prokhorov and ask questions in an impromptu second news conference.
King is looking to head back down the court. He still doesn't know where he's going to sit, and the game's about to start. A summer-long overhaul of a roster, and an organization, and a culture, is slowly taking root. Whether that translates to more wins or is just window dressing designed to entice people in their new home and corporate sponsors half a world away to pony up is going to take a season to find out.
King winds up standing most of the game, in front of seat 12. The Nets come from behind late to beat Detroit. It's just one win.
But it's a start.
Because the normal Oct. 31 deadline for rookie contract extensions fell on a Sunday, members of the Draft class of 2007 can still get deals done on Monday. But the likelihood of anyone other than Kevin Durant and Joakim Noah coming away with a new contract is slim in the extreme. The only close call remains Atlanta's Al Horford -- whose agent, Arn Tellem, met with Hawks officials in Philadelphia on Friday and was still talking with them on Sunday evening.
If Horford, taken third overall in the '07 Draft, doesn't reach a deal with the Hawks, that means eight of the top 10 picks from that Draft will become restricted free agents next summer, able to sign offer sheets with other teams. Their existing teams will have the right to match any offer they receive, unlike potential unrestricted free agents like Carmelo Anthony and David West (each can opt out of the final year of his deal after this season) and actual free agents like Jamal Crawford, Caron Butler, Tayshaun Prince, Shane Battier, Zach Randolph, Jason Richardson, Grant Hill and Andrei Kirilenko.
But it could be a potential boon to teams with cap room, who could target several players and keep dropping sheets on them until someone bites -- like Miami and Utah did in the summer of 2003. The Heat signed Elton Brand to a six-year, $84 million offer sheet in July of '03, and when the Clippers matched, the Heat then dropped a six-year, $63 million sheet on then-Clippers forward Lamar Odom. This time, the Clippers passed, and Odom became a member of the Heat.
Utah coveted Gilbert Arenas, who signed with the Wizards, then gave a six-year, $42 million offer sheet to forward Corey Maggette, which the Clippers matched. The Jazz then went after Hawks guard Jason Terry, giving him a three-year, $24 million offer sheet in September, 2003, which Atlanta matched. But Utah finally broke through in 2004, getting Mehmet Okur from Detroit as a restricted free agent for six years and $50 million, and getting unrestricted free agent Carlos Boozer from Cleveland for six years and $68 million.
The list of 2007 Draft picks that will be restricted free agents next summer will likely include: Portland center Greg Oden, the top pick in '07, as well as teammate Rudy Fernandez (taken 24th in the first round), Memphis guard Mike Conley (fourth), Oklahoma City forward Jeff Green (fifth), Wizards forwards Yi Jianlian (sixth) and Al Thornton (14th), and guard Nick Young (16th), Minnesota forward Corey Brewer (seventh), Golden State forward Brandan Wright (eighth), Sixers center Spencer Hawes (10th) and forward Thaddeus Young (12th), Grizzlies guard Acie Law (11th), Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey (15th), Suns forward Jared Dudley (22nd), Knicks forward Wilson Chandler (23rd) and Rockets guard Aaron Brooks (26th).
There's no guarantee, of course, that the sheets will be flying, given that a lockout next summer is likely and that there could be new rules and/or restrictions for restricted free agents that could make them less desirable. The uncertainty is driving a lot of teams' decisions; it doesn't make a lot of sense to pay $10 for something that might only cost you $7 if you wait a few months for the price to come down.
But it's still a gamble.
No one is surprised that Portland didn't put more money into Oden, who's missed two of his three NBA seasons with injury, and is still weeks away from returning from his latest injury, a fractured kneecap he suffered 11 months ago. He will have to show somebody, whether it's Portland or someone else, that he can stay healthy enough long enough to make a long-term committment to him.
"Greg knows that we value him," Blazers GM Rich Cho texted Sunday night, "and at the same time understands that it makes sense for both the team and for him to wait until next summer."...
Fields' path not surprising
The fact that rookie Landry Fields is starting for the Knicks at shooting guard is not a surprise to Johnny Dawkins, his college coach at Stanford and former NBA point guard. Dawkins said before the Draft that Fields had a lot more upside than many scouts seemed to be giving him, and compared him favorably to Phoenix's Jared Dudley -- a versatile, jack-of-all-trades kind of player -- saying Fields was a better scorer coming into the NBA than Dudley was when he came out of Boston College.
"I played him against teams that were good defensively," Dawkins said. "I had him bring it up. I played him at the post, put him at the elbow like the Lakers do with Kobe (Bryant). He's played in that kind of system, and he's shown versatility for us. At that (pro) level he's going to have to be a wing player, maybe some two, but primarily a wing player. He'll have to guard that position. He was very good for us because as a role player last year he was my third or fourth option, and he was just as good if not better than he was as the primary option. No matter what position you put him in he accepts that position."
The Knicks took Fields in the second round (39th pick overall), leading to the usual head scratching, booing and "who's he" caterwauling from the New York faithful at the Draft. But Fields has impressed since Summer League in Vegas and has never really been challenged for the job, despite the presence of veteran guards like Roger Mason, Jr., on New York's roster.
"He's really good," a Knicks man says of Fields. "We're very happy where he is right now. Great energy, solid basketball IQ, needs to improve in some areas, but we like him a lot."
Fields, along with center Timofey Mozgov, became the first rookies to start on opening night for the Knicks since Kenny Walker did so in 1986. And according to the Knicks, of the 38 players selected ahead of Fields on Draft night, only two fellow rookies -- Washington's John Wall and Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins--started for their teams.
(Last week's rankings in brackets; this week's record in parentheses)
1) L.A. Lakers (3-0) : Defending champions' prerogative. Plus no one can beat them if they're healthy and focused.
2) Boston (2-1) : Is Rajon Rondo the best point guard in basketball? Don't just knee-jerk your reaction; think it over.
3) Miami (3-1) : The potential for defensive devastation is unlimited. If the Heat turns you over, you're dead.
4) Orlando (1-1) : If you watched how Miami defended the Magic Friday -- hard closes on its 3-point shooters, fronting Dwight Howard, extreme activity in the passing lanes -- you know why the Gilbert Arenas rumors won't die. When you can guard Howard without doubling, you can guard the Magic, but that would be much harder with a penetrating guard like Arenas on the floor.
5) Atlanta (3-0) [NR]: Look who seems to be taking to the Princeton Offense! Hey Mikey, they like it -- and they're in first in the Southeast.
6) New Orleans (3-0) [NR]: First 3-0 start for the Bugs in three years.
7) Portland (3-0) [NR]: Blazers held three opponents to 91.7 points per game.
8) Denver (2-1) : Give Carmelo credit for one thing -- he may not want to be in Denver but at least he's giving full effort on the court and not making a bad situation worse.
9) Oklahoma City (2-1) : Just wonder about the team's internals now that Jeff Green officially is not going to get an extension. The Thunder have been all for one and one for all, but one of the all isn't getting paid, while another is. Now we'll start to find out how together this group really is.
10) Chicago (1-1) : Derrick Rose is ballin' while Carlos Boozer and Ronnie Brewer work their way back from injuries.
11) Dallas (2-1) : How 'bout them Cowboys! Mavericks are playing way better D than the football team, grinding out wins while they get into an offensive rhythm.
12) San Antonio (1-1) : Typical Spurs, getting Parker's extension done quietly, with no muss and no leaks until it was done.
13) Memphis (2-1) [NR]: Darrell Arthur starting and productive at power forward in place of injured Z-Bo, as Grizzlies pick up where they left off in the preseason.
14) Golden State (2-1) [NR]: Monta Ellis gets off to ridiculous start with 46 points in opener, 11 assists in game two when Steph Curry went down with a sprained ankle. Will Warriors pull him off of the trading block?
15) New Jersey (2-1) [NR]: Progress: the Nets didn't win their second game last season until Dec. 8. These Nets don't just compete -- last year's team did that more often than not -- they can score and come back from deficits. Last season's version couldn't do that.
Portland (3-0): Blazers came from behind in each of their three wins. Per Jason Quick of the Oregonian, Portland has outscored its three opponents in the final 5:35 of play by a combined 49-12.
Houston (0-3): Rockets aren't playing bad, just aren't getting results, and have dropped their first three for the first time in more than a decade. They aren't budging on not playing Yao more than 24 minutes a game or in back to backs, and Brad Miller isn't getting any younger. Erick Dampier to the rescue!
What does Tracy McGrady have left in the tank?
"It's taking a little longer than I expected," McGrady said last week, "but what can you do?"
The 31-year-old is in Detroit on a one-year deal, still trying to find his explosiveness and game, more than a year and a half after his last knee operation -- microfracture surgery in February, 2009, while he was still in Houston. Nobody has worked harder than McGrady since to try and get back to being an effective player, but his production has been sporadic, both in his remaining time with the Rockets and in a brief stint in New York last season after McGrady was involved in the three-team deal with Houston and Sacramento.
Several teams thought about McGrady during the offseason, but the Pistons were the only team to pull the trigger. Detroit wanted to take a relatively risk-free ($1.3 million) look at McGrady, who has appeared in the Pistons' first three games behind Tayshaun Prince at small forward. But he has just returned after missing most of the exhibition season -- he played only in the preseason opener against Miami -- with what he called "tired legs."
But it's hard not to go back to that knee.
The injury to McGrady's knee was, apparently, in that dreaded "weight bearing" area of the knee, and while all injuries are different, the difference between weight bearing and non-weight bearing has often been the difference between whether a player returns to his previous form or not. Players with non-weight bearing injuries, like Jason Kidd and Amare Stoudemire, were able to come back stronger than those, like Chris Webber and Jamal Mashburn and Penny Hardaway, who had weight bearing injuries.
McGrady says his knee is fine.
"From training camp to now, I made drastic changes," he said. "At the beginning of camp I was limited in what I could do. We've come a long way. I did a lot of sled pulling (on the side during practices), strengthening other areas that didn't have anything to do with my knee. I did a lot of work on areas around my knee, to help support it."
The Pistons have one of the league's miracle workers in head athletic trainer Arnie Kander, who uses natural medicines and unconventional methods to help players recovery from injuries, often faster than in other places. Players swear by him. McGrady has been with him throughout October, and McGrady says the daily sled pulling is paying off.
"I'm real comfortable where I'm heading," he said.
Pistons coach John Kuester says that McGrady will ultimately be a regular part of the team's rotation, and Detroit won't be playing him extended minutes even if he shows physical improvement during the season. McGrady has earned respect from his new organization with the work he's put in, and he says he's feeling better physically. But will he ever be a difference-maker again in this league? Nobody knows.
"I have a weird body," McGrady said. "But I feel, now, about 85 percent. We'll probably go five games at a time, with 15-minute plateaus. And then I'm sure we'll go up from there."
From Andrew Cerisier:
My question, why is it that other than the Thunder (last season) can no other team in the midwest be more competitive and actually have a shot at the title. The Timberwolves excluded, of course, because we are in the umpteenth year of rebuilding after being strapped financially by KG and his contract and inability to put the pieces around him mainly because of said contract. I don't understand why players aren't signing here -- or anywhere else for that matter that isn't Chicago -- to try and build something special to compete for a championship. I don't include Cleveland in this question for obvious reasons. He (LeBron) left and there was a reason for that. Is it all about the climate, the limelight of the city, taxes? What has happened to staying with the franchise that drafted you and making it work?
You have two questions intertwined there, Andrew. One is 'why don't players stay with the same team their whole career?,' and the other is about the Midwest's ability to build championship teams. As to the former, unless that team is contending throughout the player's entire career -- like Tim Duncan has found in San Antonio, for instance --the temptation to find love and riches elsewhere can be powerful.
I don't buy the premise of your second. These things see cyclical. Reggie Miller stayed in Indy, and he was a California kid. Mark Jackson loved it there too and it wasn't his idea to be traded to Denver (a mistake Donnie Walsh acknowledged was one of his biggest). KG did give you 11 years in Minnesota, and never publicly asked out, and would have stayed, I think, if the Wolves had kept a representative team around him. The Cavs put a championship-caliber team together in the late 80s/early 90s around Mark Price, Brad Daugherty and Larry Nance, and it was injuries and Michael Jordan, not wanderlust, that did that group in. Geography isn't destiny. You have to draft well, trade well and pay the right people the most money. Same formula that the Lakers and Celtics and Bulls have used over the years.
From Kevin Meng:
Hey, David, I had an idea: I think for one of your Morning Tip themes you should have a team of the decade tournament. Do a bracket of the eight best teams from the decade like the '01 Lakers, '04 Pistons, '08 Celtics, '05 Spurs, '10 Lakers, etc. Talk about the teams, what made them great, how they would fair against each other. Maybe even some teams that didnt win the title like the '01 Kings. Match them up, make predictions, and maybe a " what if" section. Obviously use your artistic lisence to spice it up. Just a suggestion, but I think this is a great idea.
What do you all think? I actually think that could be kind of fun. Who would you put on the All-Decade Team team? Let me know at email@example.com. If there's real interest, I could get behind this as something to do during the season. And as always, send me your comments, criticisms and bawdy limericks! (Just kidding about the limericks. Unless they're really funny. No, just kidding. Really.) If your e-mail passes the test, we just might post it!
(weekly averages in parentheses)
1) Kobe Bryant (20.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.3 apg, .468 FG, .941 FT): Bryant told ESPN's Lisa Salters he doesn't want to talk about his knee any more, which either means a) he's still struggling with it and trying to find a way to compensate for it, or b) he's completely healed and will play possum for the next several weeks.
2) LeBron James (20.5 ppg, 5.75 rpg, 6 apg, .448 FG, .781 FT): James an average +9.5 in his first four games, and has been as good -- better, probably -- than advertised at the defensive end.
3) Dwight Howard (21 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 2 bpg, .625 FG, .462 FT): Okay, even I did a double take when I read this one.
4) Kevin Garnett (14.3 ppg, 11.7 rpg, 0.3 bpg, .528 FG, .625 FT): With Kendrick Perkins out until early next calendar year, KG will have even more of a burden on defense. He's held up through the preseason and the first week of the season very well and looks like he's got some spring back in his step.
5) Kevin Durant (29.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.7 apg, .388 FG, .857 FT): Durant's streak of consecutive regular season games with 30 or more points ended Sunday night when he scored "only" 28 in OKC's blowout home loss to the Jazz.
4.6 -- Rating for the Celtics-Heat season opener on TNT Tuesday night, including 7.43 million total viewers and 5.339 million households, making it the most-watched regular-season game ever on cable, beating Bulls-Lakers in 1996. The doubleheader (the second game, Lakers-Rockets, drew a 2.4 rating, with 3.719 million total viewers and 2.823 million households) was the most watched in the history of TNT. At the risk of being viewed as terribly parochial, yay, us.
$2,536,080 -- "Dead money" spent by the Heat, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, on waived players Patrick Beverley, Da'Sean Butler, Kenny Hasbrouck and Shavlik Randolph.
$2 -- Amount per ticket (with a minimum purchase of five tickets) that Ron Artest is charging fans for a chance to win his championship ring in a Christmas Day drawing. Artest is trying to raise funds for mental health awareness and treatment for children that suffer from mental health problems by selling off the ring, which has 16 diamonds to match the Lakers' 16 titles. Winners will be flown from wherever they are to Los Angeles (coach class), where they'll be put up at the Four Seasons, get two tickets to a Lakers game and $1,000 a day for meals. Pretty good deal, and pretty classy of Artest.
1) This is a great ad. One of the best I've ever seen. (People who say it is about selling shoes, my God, you couldn't miss the point any more if you were Cher from Clueless.) It acknowledges the criticism he's received, accepts that some of it may be valid, yet is unrelenting in its position that LeBron is his own man, comfortable in his own skin, and has no intention of doing anything other than what he believes. You can agree, disagree, think he's narcissistic beyond all measure, but you have to give him props for standing his ground.
2) Sixty years ago Sunday, Earl Lloyd became the first African-American to play in an NBA game, in Rochester, N.Y., for the Washington Capitols. He was not the first African-American drafted (that was Chuck Cooper, taken by the Celtics in the second round of the 1950 Draft), or the first signed to a contract (that was Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton, the former Harlem Globetrotter who signed with the Knicks). But Lloyd was the first of the three to actually get on the court. I wish I believed that black players around the league were aware of the milestone and would have some public words of thanks for Lloyd, Cooper and Clifton this week. I do not believe that most of them do.
3) Watching Rip Hamilton on Wednesday, doing his thing, running people ragged off of screens, looking fitter than ever and with his midrange game still sharp, I couldn't help but think how effective he'd be playing in Jerry Sloan's system in Utah, filling that Jeff Hornacek role next to Deron Williams. And I couldn't help but think how a lanky 6-foot-10 guy like Andrei Kirilenko would help the size-challenged Pistons at either the two spot (if Detroit keeps Tayshaun Prince) or the three (if they move him). But I also thought about how Rip's contract (three years, $37.5 million remaining) might be too much for the always tax-aware Jazz to absorb, especially considering how they've already taken on Al Jefferson's deal for the next three years. Still think it would make a lot of sense for both teams.
4) Exceptionally classy ring ceremony, Lakers. Having the players introduce one another was a terrific touch, and that's not at all a slam on My Man Tanter, who is the best of all time at what he does.
5) You know CP3 and 'Melo were looking at each Friday night in New Orleans and thinking, "hmmmm..." Not that I'm advocating contraction, but the Denver Hornets (New Orleans Nuggets?) would be a pretty good team, keep both superstars happy and have a real chance in the West. Please don't send me e-mails saying I want to contract your teams. I don't. I'm just making a point.
6) "Freaky like my Lady Pyramid" is destined to become this season's first catchphrase.
7) Go vote Tuesday. I don't care who you vote for, as long as you vote. You can't complain about how things are going when you don't do anything about it.
1) God bless you, Luke. My sincere condolences to the family. This franchise has gone through so much turmoil in the last couple of years, and it never seems to bottom out. Present and past members of the organization were devastated Sunday night, for Maurice was beloved both as a coach and as a man.
2) I was going to write how something seems odd to me in Salt Lake City, even though it's just a week into the season, when the Jazz went into Oklahoma City Sunday night and smoked the Thunder. I'm still not sure something isn't wrong, but maybe it's just getting used to Al Jefferson and not having Mehmet Okur on the floor to stretch defenses, and nothing more.
3) "Would anyone object," the Hawks' Etan Thomas asks in his HoopsHype column this week, "to changing the NBA logo from Jerry West to Michael Jordan?" Yes, Etan. I would. Jordan's place as one of the greatest ever -- maybe the best ever -- is secure enough without changing the iconic West logo to a Jordan Jumpman. I like keeping links to the league's great players of the past as close as possible.
4) When your opposition clowns you to the point of their star player doing pushups on the sidelines while the rest of his teammates laugh and gawk, that's a pretty pathetic performance in the season opener, Wizards.
5) Just asking: did Boise State lose Saturday? No? So why are they jumped in the BCS standings by TCU?
6) I like baseball, and playoff baseball is sensational, and World Series baseball produces incredible, indelible moments. So why would baseball put the Series head to head with a killer Sunday night NFL matchup -- Steelers-Saints -- which is sure to crush it in the ratings? Don't get it.
Went to the movies and saw The Town with some of the fellas. Enjoyed it. I think Ben Affleck will clearly have a better career directing.
Steve Nash (@the_real_nash), Thursday. Nash said in a subsequent Tweet that he wasn't taking a shot at Affleck's acting chops, merely praising Affleck as a director.
"We've got to make the playoffs. I anticipate us making in the playoffs and going further (than last season, when Charlotte was swept by Orlando in the first round). Anything less than that is a step backwards."
-- Michael Jordan, in conversation with the Charlotte Business Journal, on his expectations for the Bobcats.
"There was a fight, and that's all you need to know."
-- Celtics coach Doc Rivers, confirming a dustup in practice between guards Delonte West and Von Wafer on Friday. It was the second time last week that West and Wafer had gotten into an altercation, which does not bode well for either player's long-term future in Boston.
"This is a major advertisement for Turkish basketball."
-- Serif Yalcin, president of the Turkish team Besiktas, on his team's two-year agreement with guard Allen Iverson, formally announced on Friday.
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