Posted Nov 26 2010 7:08PM
• The headline isn't that Phil Jackson jabbed the Heat by wondering how long before Pat Riley descends from the throne to replace Erik Spoelstra as Miami's coach. It's that Jackson took this long. This is a new level of brass, though, different from tweaking Orlando as a plastic city, Sacramento as a cow town and the '99 Spurs as asterisk champions for winning the title in the abbreviated lockout season. Jackson was already unpopular among fellow coaches -- very respected but unpopular -- and loosening the ground under Spoelstra is a particularly low moment.
• Counterpoint: If players go for head games -- trash talking, comments under their breath to a guy at the line in the closing seconds of a close game -- there's nothing wrong with Jackson doing it too. Hoping to gain a competitive advantage by aggravating is a common tact. Jackson is playing within the rules. The real question is why so many people continue to react to comments made under constant threat of smirk, whether in a moment of play or boredom. He is the cat, they are the string.
• And give Jackson this much. He never was on the Heat bandwagon. The Celtics were his pick in the East from the beginning.
• There's still no reason to panic in Oklahoma City, but the 10-5 start does come with a 5-1 fattening-up mark against the Eastern Conference while going just 5-4 within the West. The Thunder are 2-3 against the Spurs, Mavericks, Jazz and Trail Blazers, and they have yet to face the Lakers or Hornets. If the disparity does continue against the best of its own conference, the teams OKC will have to handle to advance in the playoffs, then panic will be on the table.
• This is the season the NBA Development League becomes more than a proving ground for prospects. The Nets sent Terrence Williams down to their Springfield, Mass., affiliate and the Timberwolves may give Jonny Flynn time with Sioux Falls while working back from a hip injury in a pair of expanding uses for the minor league. Sending players on a rehab assignment regardless of experience, similar to baseball, should be changed as part of the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, as opposed to the current rule that only players in their first two seasons can go to the D-League. But even if the alteration is made, some teams may still think it's better to have recovering players regaining their conditioning and rhythm with the big club in practice as opposed to running with players who will never touch the NBA.
• Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo.com writing about Kobe Bryant and Michael Jackson is the must read of the week. And a lot of other weeks. Kobe talking about Jackson in a mentoring role -- you can't make this stuff up.... Kate Fagan of the Philadelphia Inquirer sets the Allen Iverson scene in Turkey. Such as it is.... Good stuff from John Canzano of the Oregonian on the other Greg Oden recovery.
• O.J. Mayo is down to 13.3 points and 38.7 percent shooting, which could be dismissed as a slow start in Memphis except that it's early pace for a third consecutive season of scoring decline. The big picture, coming at the same time as Kevin Love blossoms in Minnesota, is that a lot more people have finally come around to what should have been apparent at the time: Kevin McHale deserved credit, not criticism, for the 2008 draft night deal that sent Mayo, Greg Buckner, Marko Jaric and Antoine Walker to the Grizzlies for Love, Mike Miller, Brian Cardinal and Jason Collins. Mayo had more glitter as a potential scoring sensation, but Love clearly had talent to be a major success.
• The 2010 Mayo assessment from one executive: "On a really good team, he's a third guard." Some within the league are beginning to see him as little more than a role player, in other words. It doesn't help that the Grizz moved him to a reserve role this week while making rookie Xavier Henry the new starter at shooting guard.
• One of the great things about the Blake Griffin rocket -- LeBron James just called him, via Twitter, the most explosive player in the league -- is that this is not Griffin playing with the stored energy of missing all last season to injury. This is his regular motor. Ferocious work ethic with an uncompromising focus wrapped around star-quality talent.
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