Posted Feb 28 2011 6:47AM
So this is what a Hot Stove League actually feels like.
"It went nuts," Dirk Nowitzki said Saturday. "Guys moving left and right. I didn't expect all that. Obviously, Carmelo was a big deal, but everybody saw that coming. Deron came out of the blue. A lot of moves, you couldn't even catch up on. The next day, somebody mentioned one move, and I was like, 'Gerald Wallace? He got moved, too?'"
He did. And so did Anthony and Williams and Kirk Hinrich, and Aaron Brooks and Ray Felton and Derrick Favors, and Baron Davis and Mo Williams and Chauncey Billups, and Yao Ming and Rip Hamilton and Chris Kaman could have, and O.J. Mayo actually did, for a few minutes, anyway. By my count, 20 of the 30 teams were involved in some kind of trade in the final four days before last Thursday's deadline, and that doesn't include Indiana and Memphis' aborted deal that would have sent Mayo to the Pacers for Josh McRoberts and a first-round pick.
The landscape has indeed changed. The Knicks now have two-thirds of a star trio trolling the boards at Madison Square Garden, and they have a point guard in Billups who may be one of a handful of guys who can handle the egos of Amar'e Stoudemire and Anthony without either thinking he's chosen sides. The Nets have one of the two stars they think they'll need to fill up the Barclays Center in Brooklyn when they move to New York in two years, but the star has already put them on blast: Fix this team, or I'll walk before you move to Brooklyn.
The Celtics? Wow, who knows? But trading Kendrick Perkins is the biggest gamble Danny Ainge has taken in his time as the team's general manager. Trading for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen was easy. This is hard. This is messing with the core fabric of a team that's been to two Finals in the last three years, winning one, and which was arguably one injury away -- Perkins' injury -- from winning again last year. This is counting on Shaquille and Jermaine O'Neal to be what they once were, and that doesn't happen in sports.
"And, you're counting on Delonte West being your backup point guard," a Western Conference GM said, referring to Nate Robinson's departure.
In a reductionist business such as journalism, you often have to create false constructs, like "winners" and "losers," in trying to evaluate something that just happened a minute ago. It really is ridiculous to try and make an assessment of these deals when we don't know what the new collective bargaining agreement is going to look like, or who the teams are going to draft with the picks they got in some of these deals, either this year or in the future. We have no idea if Perkins is going to remain motivated, knowing he's still playing for a new contract, or if he'll be numbed by how sudden he was sent packing.
So, naturally, let's pick winners and losers.
1.) For the past couple of weeks there has been considerable gnashing of teeth about the plight of small-market teams. With the Cavaliers, Nuggets and Jazz all losing (or being forced to trade) their franchise players since last summer, some of the league's owners have lamented the future, wondering if the haves are going to devour the have-nots unless radical surgery is performed on the collective bargaining agreement.
And then Sam Presti engineers another coup and brings back home the only relevant lesson plan: draft the right guys. Sign the right guys. Trade for the right guys. Keep the right guys. In other words, manage your team.
Presti, the Thunder's GM, did it again last week, taking advantage of the Celtics' uncertainty about whether they could re-sign Perkins to acquire the 26-year-old center, along with the 26-year-old Robinson, for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic. It was the same way he took Russell Westbrook with the fourth pick in the 2007 Draft when most people thought there was no way Westbrook could play point guard; the same way Presti took advantage of the Heat's desperate desire to clear cap space for the Super Friends to get guard Daequan Cook for next to nothing, and the same way he used the Thunder's existing cap room to extend reserve forward Nick Collison to a cap-friendly deal that gave Collison sizeable up-front money.
In getting Perkins, he filled the Thunder's most obvious need -- a true center with size to compete with the trees in Los Angeles and San Antonio. With Perkins -- who will miss a couple of weeks with a sprained knee before making his OKC debut -- at center, the Thunder can move 6-foot-10 shotblocking machine Serge Ibaka to power forward in place of Green, the athletic four who gave up pounds and inches to the league's biggest big men. And the veteran Nazr Mohammed gives OKC proven size in reserve. With Robinson and James Harden coming off the bench firing, the Thunder shouldn't have too many more scoring droughts, even against the league's better defenses.
Presti isn't perfect; no GM is. But man, is he right more than wrong.
2) New York (acquired Carmelo Anthony from Denver, along with Chauncey Billups, Renaldo Balkman, Anthony Carter and Shelden Williams, in exchange for Ray Felton, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari and Timofey Mozgov, along with a 2014 first-round pick and 2012 and 2013 second-round picks).
Someone -- we were on so many sets with so many people the last few days, it's hard to remember -- made the best point about trade week: If you got the best player, you made the best deal. And so the Knicks have to get high marks for figuring out a way to make the deal work -- even though everyone knew that Anthony wanted to be in New York, and nowhere else -- through all the months of negotiations, feints and false starts. There sat Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, determined to make a deal that would bring Anthony his way, and as late as Monday afternoon -- late Monday afternoon -- New Jersey thought it still had a chance.
But the Knicks prevailed. And, yes, it will be an adjustment for both Amar'e Stoudemire and Anthony, because neither has played with a frontcourt player as good as the other during his career. It will be an adjustment for Mike D'Antoni. But for all their improvements this season, the Knicks were still barely over .500 at the All-Star break. They still needed to upgrade their talent. They have.
3) Cleveland (traded Mo Williams and Jamario Moon to L.A. Clippers for Baron Davis and Clippers' 2011 first-round pick).
The Cavs got a second lottery pick to go with their own by scarfing up the Clips' top pick for Davis, who has said (and Twittered) all the right things about his new surroundings since Thursday's trade and who will not seek a buyout of the final two years of his contract -- a smart move, considering he's due $27.6 million though 2013. More importantly, the Cavs didn't sacrifice their $12 million exception from the LeBron James sign-and-trade -- though they tried, working a deal that would have brought Rip Hamilton from Detroit for a Pistons' first-rounder. (The Cavs may then have tried to work a buyout with Hamilton, with the Bulls and Celtics ready to scarf him up.)
Of course, everyone is saying this is the worst Draft in history. They say this every year. It's a rite of passage for personnel types to bemoan how crappy a Draft is beforehand, so that if they manage to hit on a diamond in the rough they can boast and brag about how they were The Only One to see how special their guy was. The more top 10 picks you have, the better chance you have of hitting a home run. The Cavs will now get two big swings, and can still take a big contract in until mid-July with their exception. (At least, I think they'll be able to; I must admit I don't know if teams' trade exceptions will be retained in the period between the end of the current CBA and the beginning of the next one.)
4) Denver (see above trade)
Once Carmelo refused the Nuggets' $65 million extension offer last summer, what was once a rescue operation became a salvage situation for Denver: Make the best deal you can, with everybody watching. It wasn't pretty, but the Nuggets made out quite well. Where they once had a sun in Anthony and a series of orbiting satellites around him, they now have a series of smaller asteroids. But they have a lot of them. They are two deep at every position. Are they as good? No. But they're going to be very interesting once everyone learns one another's name.
5) Orlando (no trades)
The Magic had fallen behind Boston, Miami and Chicago in the East, and the deadline promised to only widen the gap -- and make Dwight Howard that much more ornery, with the Countdown to 2012 starting to sound like a gong instead of a ticking clock. But the Bulls and Heat weren't able to pull off deals for the shooting guard and big man, respectively, that each sought, and the Celtics moved Perkins and Robinson for Green and Krstic -- a move that might make sense in the long run but doesn't appear to strengthen Boston for this year's stretch drive. Moreover, by dealing Perk the Celtics fundamentally changed their coverage against Orlando in a potential playoff meeting. Boston was able to handle Orlando in the past because Perkins could cover Howard with next to no help. Now, the Celtics are down to a 38-year-old Shaq, Krstic or Big Baby Davis as the first line of defense against Superman.
1) Boston (see above trade; acquired a second-round pick from Cleveland for Semih Erden and Luke Harangody; acquired a second-round pick and cash from Sacramento for Marquis Daniels)
This has nothing to do with Green, who will help the Celtics this season and down the road. It is about a team that was built to win a championship -- now -- and now has to re-establish the chemistry and trust that it took four years to build.
"He knows our stuff so well," Doc Rivers said in late January, just before Perkins returned to the lineup. "It's amazing, in the practices. We've been good offensively this year, but when he's in practice, we're really good. Because we can run stuff that we ran two years ago out of a (timeout) that he knows. And timing and all that stuff is so important, and he gets all of that."
It would have been difficult for Boston to re-sign Perkins, given what it could offer under the rules and what he was looking for. Just as many (including me) have given Utah credit for being proactive with regards to Williams rather than waiting for the inevitable, Ainge should get some credit for being bold and finding a young, strong, athletic four in Green that can back up Paul Pierce now and be his heir apparent in a few years, giving Boston some semblance of a real post-Big Three future. But when you're as close as Boston was to winning last year, and you have to expend so much mental energy to make another charge up the hill, moving such an integral piece of the team's psyche and toughness can't be a net positive.
2) Utah (traded Deron Williams for Derrick Favors, Devin Harris and two first-round picks)
The picks could be lottery picks; Favors could turn into Utah's next great power forward; Harris could well regain the form that made him a borderline All-Star early in his career, in Dallas. That's a lot of coulds for a franchise that never likes taking chances and doesn't like change any more than taking chances.
But owner Greg Miller was worried that Williams would leave in 2012, when he could hit free agency, just as LeBron left Cleveland and Amar'e left Phoenix and Carmelo talked his way out of Denver. So when GM Kevin O'Connor presented him with the trade proposal last Tuesday, hours after first working on it with his counterpart in Jersey, Billy King -- the two are long, old friends who've known each other 20 years -- it took a surprisingly short amount of time for Miller and O'Connor to agree.
"It made a lot of sense," Miller said Wednesday.
For the last couple of years, the Jazz had watched Williams get angrier and angrier as players left Utah for greener pastures. He got into the occasional verbal dustups with Jerry Sloan, but they figured they were no worse than what Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson occasionally had to work out behind closed doors, or any other star player and his coach. They didn't get all that upset when Williams would insist on running pick and roll plays early in games instead of running Sloan's offense -- so that, the team increasingly believed, he could get a leg up on piling up early assists, according to a source with knowledge of the Jazz's thought process.
"He wanted to coach a little bit, too," the source said. "But he was like that in college."
But by the end, after Sloan's sudden resignation, there didn't seem to be a future in Deron Williams. So the Jazz pulled the trigger. It might well work out in the long run, but they're a diminished team now, the promise of Williams and Carlos Boozer becoming the next Stockton-to-Malone gone.
3) Dallas (no trades)
The Mavericks had Caron Butler's $10 million expiring contract available for everyone to take in exchange for another shooter or wing, but couldn't find any takers -- or any deals that fit their liking. It's not that Dallas needs another body, but the Mavs are in a dogfight with San Antonio and L.A., and by not getting a deal done they'll have to count on Peja Stojakovic staying healthy and keeping his shooting eye. Butler insists he'll be back for the playoffs, but will he be the same guy?
4) Houston (traded Shane Battier to Memphis for center Hasheem Thabeet, DeMarre Carroll and a first-round pick; traded Aaron Brooks to Phoenix for Goran Dragic and a future first-round pick)
GM Daryl Morey has had so many irons in the fire the last year. He had Tracy McGrady's expiring contract last year, and turned that into Kevin Martin. The expectation was that Yao Ming would return after missing all of last season following foot surgery, and that the Rockets would return to prominence in the west. But Yao barely got on the court this season before suffering a stress fracture that sidelined him for the rest of this season and put his career in jeopardy. The Rockets made a bunch of small moves, and probably got the better of the deals last week with the Suns and Grizz (someone once told me a long time ago, if you're going to miss in the NBA, miss big, and Thabeet is still 7-foot-2, last time I checked). But they didn't move Brad Miller for Zaza Pachulia, as was strongly rumored, and decided to hold onto Courtney Lee instead of taking an offer from the Bulls.
The end result is that Houston isn't much closer to regaining ground in the West than they were before.
5) Charlotte (acquired Joel Przybilla and Dante Cunningham from Portland for Gerald Wallace; acquired D.J. White and Mo Peterson from Oklahoma City for Nazr Mohammad)
Michael Jordan spoke bravely about how the Bobcats were making these deals in order to bolster their chances to make other deals down the road with some of the assets they picked up, and how he wasn't interested in just making the playoffs every year and going out early. But it's hard to see any of these trades -- three of the four players have expiring deals -- as anything but salary dumps.
1) Washington (acquired Mike Bibby, Jordan Crawford, Mo Evans and a 2011 first-round pick from Atlanta for Kirk Hinrich and Hilton Armstrong)
That's right; time's a wastin' for the Wizards, and John Wall isn't even through his rookie season, with at least three more years to play in Washington before he can even sniff restricted free agency.
The Wiz may have thought that they could take their time rebuilding, leisurely add a young piece here and there, but Wall put them on blast Wednesday after another blowout loss in Philadelphia.
"Until we find five guys that really want to fight, compete and care the whole game, it's really going to be tough," Wall said, and only the infirm and insane didn't know he was talking about Andray Blatche, who has sleepwalked through much of this season after getting a big extension last summer from GM Ernie Grunfeld.
Owner Ted Leonsis blogged over the weekend that the Wiz still "have to find our own stars right now," and that he and Grunfeld were still committed to building through the Draft and adding young assets like the promising but raw Crawford through trades. The Wizards' hope is that they've amassed enough young assets that they may be able to package a few of them this summer for a second star player to go with Wall, with the hope of a third coming in the Draft. It's a perfectly good plan. As long as it works.
2) New Jersey (see above trade; acquired Dan Gadzuric and Brandan Wright for Troy Murphy)
Deron Williams is no dummy and he isn't blind; he knows that Prokhorov has a ton of loot and isn't afraid to use it. But there have been lots of billionaires who said they would spend whatever it takes, and they often spent it on the has-beens and never weres. The Nets have 17 months to get Williams some real help before he walks, and there is a certain professional basketball team in his hometown of Dallas that has an owner with his own billions, unafraid of using them -- and who will just happen to have an opening at point guard that summer, with Jason Kidd's deal expiring.
The problem for the Nets is that they've used a lot of -- not all, but a lot of -- their assets. They'll have another lottery pick this season to replace Favors, but it's hard to see Williams being excited about trying to nurture a kid two-guard or four during the meat of his career. The Nets weren't wrong to pull the trigger on the deal -- Williams is a star, one of the top two or three point guards in the game. But he made no promises at his introductory press conference in Jersey, just as he made no promises to the Jazz.
3) Sacramento (acquired Marcus Thornton from New Orleans for Carl Landry; acquired Marquis Daniels from Boston for a second-round pick and cash)
The Kings are rebuilding, and they could well be moving, so GM Geoff Petrie likely can't do very much. But Landry is better than Thornton, and the expiring contract of Daniels is hardly big enough ($2.4 million) to be of much use next season -- almost assuredly, the deal was done to get Sacramento past the league minimum salary threshold. The Kings were below the $43.5 million minimum (75 percent of the salary cap) last week; after the Daniels deal they've gone just above $44 million in team salary. But the Kings didn't move Samuel Dalembert's $12 million expiring salary (probably also to stay above the minimum). With grassroots organizations in Sacramento trying to convince the Maloof Family to keep the team in town and not make a deal with Anaheim, the franchise has bigger fish to fry. But everything's in limbo.
Whatever happened in Detroit on Friday morning, it wasn't good. Whether it was a player-orchestrated boycott of coach John Kuester's practice, or a one-man Blue Flu starring Rip Hamilton, with a bunch of coincidences taking place, the Pistons have the look of a franchise without a rudder, and whether that's a fair perception or not, that's what a lot of people think. And whatever did or did not happen, the Pistons have a much, much bigger problem: Their players do not respect the head coach and have no problems telling him that to his face.
And Hamilton has not been the only person doing so.
Whatever you're hearing about the last two years, it's 10 times worse, someone in the middle of this mess said over the weekend. Kuester has lost his players, and the only question now is how long he'll be allowed to linger.
Before you point a finger at Joe Dumars, as some have already done, there is not much he is going to be allowed to do while the sale of the franchise to Flint, Mich., native and L.A. businessman Tom Gores is finalized. Dumars certainly does not have the green light (and this is me guessing) to fire Kuester, even if he wants to, and pay off the remainder of his contract, which would only add to the price tag Gores is assuming from Karen Davidson, the widow of the late owner Bill Davidson.
I have said that Dumars' one mistake was not sending Hamilton home weeks ago, when it was obvious that Hamilton's days were numbered in Detroit, when he and Kuester had already butted heads several times. (I'm told Hamilton not only cursed out Kuester on a regular basis, but told him to "shut up" during practices, and that he and others regularly referred to Kuester as a bum who couldn't coach.) The rightness or wrongness of the position is irrelevant; the fact that players were so brazen to think they could do it without repercussions was the issue, and no doubt the reason that Kuester put Hamilton in dry dock permanently in January.
The sad thing about this is that I like and respect all of these guys. I like Hamilton, I like Kuester, I like Dumars. Each has always been available, candid and cordial over the years. They've all been good guys. And the Pistons have had way too much tragedy to deal with over the past few years -- the death of Bill Davidson in 2009, the death of former public relations executive Matt Dobek last August, the death of Joe Dumars' brother and best friend Mark in January at 49 (Dumars had already lost another brother, Daniel, last year) and Friday's death of James McBride, Ben Wallace's oldest brother, at the age of 58. Wallace has been excused from the team for some time to be with his family and thus was not a part of whatever took place Friday.
The Pistons fined Hamilton and Chris Wilcox for missing shootaround, and Austin Daye and Rodney Stuckey for being late. But Ben Wallace, Tayshaun Prince and Tracy McGrady were absolved. Wallace was with his brother; Prince legitimately had a bad back and McGrady was actually ill. The Pistons insist the initial reports of an organized mutiny were overblown. But perception has trumped reality, and the disclosure that Hamilton turned down a trade to Cleveland -- with a buyout likely to follow, which would have allowed him to go to the playoff team of his choice -- only adds to that.
I had asked Dirk Nowitzki on Saturday if he expected blowback from the owners during collective bargaining because of the perception that players were more in control than usual.
"You don't want all the power with the owners," Nowitzki said, "but you don't want to have the players with all the power, boycotting practices and stuff like that. That's taking it a little far. So hopefully we can find a happy medium somewhere."
The Pistons should send Hamilton home, and whether they can buy him out or not by tomorrow -- the deadline for players to be added to other team's rosters to be playoff eligible -- doesn't matter. Let Prince leave via free agency. Let Kuester finish the season with some dignity, and then make a change. Longtime assistant coach Darrell Walker has been sitting there waiting for a chance for years, while the Pistons went to Michael Curry (one year) and Kuester (two). Walker, who has head coaching experience in Washington and Toronto, would be a perfectly good choice for a young, rebuilding team, and he won't cost the new owner the kind of money it would take to lure the likes of Nate McMillan.
(Last week's rankings in brackets; this week's record in parentheses)
1) Dallas  (3-0): Mavs have won six straight straddling the All-Star break, but haven't been able to cut into the Spurs' Western Conference lead.
2) San Antonio  (3-0): Win over Memphis Sunday gives Spurs 21 straight at AT&T Center, and 28-2 home record. SA hasn't lost at home since just after Thanksgiving.
3) Chicago  (2-1): Noah returns and hoovers 41 boards in first three games.
4) L.A. Lakers  (4-0): Kobe professed that everything would be fine at All-Star, and after a perfect week culminated by a tough road win at Oklahoma City Sunday, perhaps everyone should stop worrying.
5) Boston  (2-1): Let's just say Danny Ainge got everyone's attention this week.
6) Orlando  (2-1): A Gilbert sighting! Arenas shoots better than 50 percent in a game on Sunday (5-7) for the first time in 25 games and just the second time in the 30 games he's played for the Magic.
7) Miami  (2-2): With all the talk about the Heat needing time to integrate all their new players, can Miami afford to bring in a Troy Murphy and give him big minutes right away?
8) Oklahoma City  (1-3): Thunder take a step back after trade, but when Perkins is healthy OKC will take a giant leap forward:
9) Portland  (1-2): Blazers blow big lead over Lakers Friday, look hungover in bad loss to the Hawks Sunday.
10) Atlanta  (2-2): Hawks hope to solidify perimeter defense with acquisition of Hinrich. My man Sekou Smith wrote last week on the Hang Time Blog that the Hawks have had nine -- nine! -- point guards since 2005, when they could have taken Deron Williams or Chris Paul or Ray Felton or Monta Ellis.
11) Denver  (2-1): Nuggets subtract a superstar but add a lot of good players, giving them more depth and, potentially, making them even more lethal in transition. At altitude, that's a big deal.
12) New York  (2-1): After giving up 115 and 108 in first two games post-trade, Knicks change starting lineup and grind out big win Sunday in Miami over the Heat.
13) New Orleans  (2-1): Okafor returns, but team can't work out extension with David West.
14) Philadelphia [NR] (3-0): Seven of eight, including four straight, and they can score, and they can defend. The 76ers are for real.
15) Memphis [NR] (2-2): No, O.J., we love you! What would give you the idea we want to get rid of you? Oh. Right.
Caltech (1-0): The Beavers defeated Occidental 46-45 on Tuesday to finish their regular season with a 1-13 record in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Oh, and the win snapped a 310-game losing streak in SCIAC play going back 26 years, to 1985. (The SCIAC, a Division III conference, features Pomona-Pitzer, the school where Gregg Popovich got his coaching start.) And Caltech is getting better at this basketball thing, having broken a 207-game overall losing streak in 2007. On the other hand, Kentucky doesn't have 31 alumni who have won the Nobel Prize, or 67 alums who have won the National Medal of Science or Technology.
Detroit (1-3): Let's just say the buzz from Eminem's Super Bowl commercial has worn off. Quickly.
How good is Jimmer Fredette, anyway?
We can talk about BYU's senior guard because he is not an underclassman and will obviously be in the Draft next June. He has certainly gotten a lion's share of media attention this season with his incredible scoring prowess (his 27.4 average is tops in Division I men's basketball) and his story (practicing in the dark, playing against men in prison) in leading BYU to a top-10 ranking in college basketball this season. The obvious question is whether Fredette will make the jump to the NBA.
"I don't think anybody has a very accurate sense of where he'll go," an Eastern Conference personnel director said Sunday. "He'll be the guy with the most uncertainty of where he'll go right up until the Draft. Because his range is so wide. Especially for a guard. DeAndre Jordan had that kind of range, but he was a big guy. For a guard, their range is a little more defined than his is."
So I asked a few of my college scouting moles four questions about Fredette: Is he a first-round or second-round pick? Is he a potential starter or more likely to be a career backup? Is he a shooter (many thrive in the NBA, but they can be schemed into ineffectiveness by smart coaches and harassed off the 3-point line by cagey defenders) or a scorer (think guys like Kevin Durant, who is extremely difficult to guard because of his length and repertoire)? And, while there is next to no question that Fredette's defense isn't very good, is he just garden variety bad or so awful that he may not be able to stay on the court very long?
1) Most said Fredette will be a first-rounder, anywhere from the middle to the end of the round. "Too much buzz from the herd," said one. One said that it's possible Fredette could go in the lottery, but anyone that takes him that high shouldn't anticipate he'll be able to step in right away and make a bad team good. "If you had to really depend on him to create shots for himself, it'd be tough," the scout said.
2) Many of the scouts think Fredette will be a rotation guy. "He'll be a bench guy," one said, "but a good bench guy." Another said Fredette's place in the rotation will depend "on many factors." And another said he could see Fredette starting someday, but he'll have to go to the right (read: good, defensive-based) team.
3) To a scout, they all said just about the same thing about Fredette: He's both shooter and scorer. "But his three (point) range is huge," one said. Another said his NBA potential as a scorer will depend on other factors, like style of play on his team and the teammates he plays with. For example, this scout didn't think Fredette would be that good with the Knicks, even though Mike D'Antoni likes to push the ball in an open offense, because it may be difficult for Fredette to play with a guy like Carmelo Anthony who needs the ball so much. But in a system like Golden State's, which was perfect for a comparable guy like Stephen Curry, Fredette might do well.
4) He's bad -- "slow feet, not very athletic" one said. But another scout added that Fredette may not take many chances on D because he knows how much BYU depends on him, and knows he can't afford to get into foul trouble. Another said he was "not great defensively, but not horrible." A third said he was an "awful" defender that would be better suited to a team that doesn't care much about defense or plays a lot of zone. And a fourth said Fredette is bad, but there are "worse guys making millions now. It's an excuse to be a hater."
Hope that clears it up for you. I'm more confused than ever.
Good things come to those who wait ... most of the time. From Merlin Bianchini:
Why did Miller not wait until the CBA is settled, possible franchise tag, hard salary cap, etc., other changes that could help the small market teams and the competitive balance of the league?
A good question, Merlin. Though most think there will be such protections in a new CBA, there's no guarantee that will happen. And even if there are protections like that, Miller just was convinced that Deron Williams was going to bolt in 2012, and he didn't want to enter a walk year with that kind of uncertainty hanging over his franchise. I'm sure a lot of Jazz fans are bummed, but at least Miller made a decision and didn't flinch from it.
Perhaps there could be a Bad Blake ride at Disneyland that goes up to the 11th floor and drops you off on the seventh. From Luke Flemming:
If Anaheim wants to host a team, why not relocate the Clippers? This would be beneficial in the sense that a) LAC now have a superstar of their own in Blake; b) which could allow them to move out of the Lakers shadow/sharing a home court; c) wouldn't require the teams signing off for having a third team in the geographic location?
This obviously doesn't address the fact that Sacramento won't build a new arena for their team/city, and moving is still obviously a good option for them, but is moving the Clippers into Anaheim not a feasible option?
That will never happen as long as Donald Sterling owns the team, Luke. He is an Angelo through and through. He bought the team with the express purpose of moving it from San Diego to L.A., where he hangs out with his cronies and friends and where being the owner of the Clippers, even after 25-plus years of losing under his terrible leadership, still has some cachet, believe it or not.
If you build it, they will stay. From Patrick Wiebe:
Hi David, it wasn't clear from your last column ... why does SAC even need a new arena? I am usually skeptical when owners say a new arena is needed for them to stay. It's nice for them, as this creates pressure to get other people's money (taxes) involved to pay for their arena.
There is, indeed, a difference between "need" and "want," Patrick. There is nothing structurally wrong with ARCO Arena, as far as I know. The problem, of course, is that the building (built in 1987) does not have enough new suites and other revenue-generating bells and whistles for the Maloof family to make more money when it's in use. And since the Kings have one of the league's least profitable local television deals, the need for them to maximize revenue from an arena is even more important. Of course there's no reason for public taxes to go toward construction of an arena many of them will never set foot in. That's a decision every city has to make for itself.
I can't imagine this would be appeal to more than five or six thousand sportswriters. From Kiran Varagur:
What are your thoughts on the possibility of the NBA All-Star weekend happening in Toronto sometime soon? With the globalization of the game, having preseason and now regular season games hosted in Europe, doesn't it make logical sense to host the first All-Star game outside of the United States in Toronto, an NBA city? I'm not sure if there is a weather issue when deciding on the locations (i.e. the last six cities L.A., Dallas, Phoenix, New Orleans, Las Vegas and Houston are all warm February locations), but Toronto isn't exactly a slouch when it comes to hosting world-class international events. I think it'd be a resounding success!
Please tell me who I see about this, Kiran. I miss the regular trips to the 416 that came in the early, Vince and T-Mac days. I don't think weather would be any more of a factor there than in, say Minneapolis and Salt Lake City, two cities that have hosted All-Star games in the last 20 years. (There was a near blizzard in SLC in '93, but that didn't stop folks from enjoying themselves.) I asked the league about this on Friday and was told that they don't believe the powers that be in Toronto have ever applied to host an ASW. It's always a hassle for cities and owners to host the weekend, because they have to invariably displace season-ticket holders who expect tickets to the game and the Saturday night events, and either don't get them or are pushed up into the rafters. But Toronto is one of my favorite NBA cities and I'd love to be up there for an All-Star.
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(weekly averages in parenthesis)
1) Derrick Rose (25 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 6.7 apg, .369 FG, .855 FT): Watching D Rose at the end of the Miami game Thursday, when he had the presence of mind not to force a drive to the basket, but wait, wait, wait -- and then, when Dwyane Wade took one step in too far, fire a pass to the corner to an open Luol Deng, who promptly drained the game-clinching three -- was to see everything that makes Rose an MVP candidate.
2) LeBron James (28 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 4 apg, .526 FG, .722 FT): Gets into Twitter feud with ex-teammate Boobie Gibson over Gibson's supposed "there's a new King in Cleveland" toast at a party Friday night. I'm sure Magic and Bird and Michael wasted time doing equally silly things in their day. It's just hard to envision it.
3) Dwight Howard (30.3 ppg, 14 rpg, 3.3 bpg, .673 FG, .792 FT): Since when does Superman shoot better from the foul line in a week than from the floor?
4) Kobe Bryant (24.5 ppg, 4 rpg, 5.8 apg, .463 FG, .875 FT): He professes no concern about his team, which is a good thing, because this is going to be the team for a while. One senses he knows that.
5) Dirk Nowitzki (25 ppg, 9 rpg, 2 apg, .491 FG, .731 FT): Diggler has gone for 20+ in four straight and five of last six.
0 - Number of teams that have gone unbeaten in division play since the NBA went to its current six division format six years ago. After Saturday's win over Milwaukee the Bulls are 12-0 against their Central Division opponents, with four division games left: at Indiana March 18, at Milwaukee March 26, at Detroit April 1 and at Cleveland April 8.
6 - Losing streaks of five or more games this season by the Timberwolves. Their latest such streak, seven losses in a row, was broken Sunday in a 126-123 win over Golden State.
90.9 - So-called "excitement rating" by New Jersey's Deron Williams, the highest for any player in the league, according to the finding from a company that e-mails and texts fans when a game hits a particular "excitement level" that the company, Thuuz.com, thinks would interest fans -- who can then watch the game on their mobile devices or televisions. Per CNBC's Darren Rovell, the top 10 most exciting players in the league using this criteria were Williams, Steve Nash, Kevin Love, Derrick Rose, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, John Wall, Chris Paul, Monta Ellis and Kevin Durant.
1) That was the most exhausting trade deadline period I can recall in 25 years. It took seven months to trade Carmelo, and it took 24 hours to trade Deron Williams. Amazing. It was crazy, but people were incredibly interested and passionate about their teams and the moves they made (and didn't make). That's good for the game.
2) Gerald Wallace wasn't the most noteworthy pickup before the trade deadline, but he might be one of the most important. That was a really good deal for the Blazers.
3) I don't know if Bucks guard Michael Redd will ever be the player he was before all the knee injuries, but hearing he's back on the court again is great news. Hopefully he can complete his career on his terms.
4) Welcome back, Stuart Scott. You were missed.
5) Meant to link to this last week. I am impressed with the precision with which the author went about his work, just as I am amazed that there are grown people with enough time on their hands to determine the exact date in which a fictional character did something that didn't happen.
6) Haven't seen The King's Speech. I guess I should.
1) When you think about it, Chris Bosh made only one more shot in 18 attempts in Chicago on Thursday than I did.
2) Clock's running, Mr. Prokhorov.
3) I finally read Buzz Bissinger's Daily Beast piece on how white fans, in his view, are increasingly alienated from the NBA. It's worth reading. But he left out an important qualifier: 'White, middle-aged guys like me, Buzz Bissinger, are increasingly alienated from the NBA.' The Commish denies that he enlisted the help of Republican advisor Matthew Dowd a few years ago simply to help the league regain appeal in Red State America, but I have no doubt that many older white men struggle to enjoy pro basketball the way they enjoy baseball. It's my view though that a lot of people under 30 -- including white guys -- love the NBA, just as many of their fathers did when they were under 30. The NBA is a young person's sport, as evidenced by where the league spends its marketing dollars, what kind of music is played in arenas (very few Beatles or Rolling Stones tunes, other than the occasional Start Me Up; lots of hip-hop). I like Bissinger's work; Friday Night Lights was unsparing and brilliant, and I respect that someone who famously ranted about bloggers to Bob Costas is now blogging his brains out, while winking at himself. But I tire of journalists who say they're the only ones "courageous" enough to write about topics like race. I write about race when it's appropriate, and so do a lot of other journalists like Dave Zirin, Jason Whitlock, Harvey Araton, Michael Tillery, and on and on. It's not especially courageous, by the way.
4) You're better than this, Cleveland. Stop it.
5) The announcement that Carmelo and LaLa have a new reality show on VH-1, the week that Anthony was traded to the Knicks? Let's just say it doesn't come as a shock. The cynic in me wonders if 'Melo's desires to play in New York aren't all basketball-related.
@mcuban I thought you were gonna make some trades?
-- Nets forward and Kim Kardashian boy toy Kris Humphries (@KrisHumphries), Thursday, 9:35 p.m., to Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Humphries played in Dallas for 25 games last season before being traded to the Nets. The Mavericks opted to stand pat instead of using Caron Butler's expiring $10 million contract to make a deal at the deadline.
This week's Mr. Fifteen is Chicago Bulls forward Brian Scalabrine. The 10-year veteran from USC signed a one-year deal with the Bulls last summer after playing five seasons in Boston, where he won a title with the Celtics in 2008. In 2009 he got more significant minutes in the postseason after Kevin Garnett's season-ending knee injury. The 31-year-old Scalabrine has appeared in 15 games this season for the Bulls, averaging 1.1 points in a little more than five minutes per game, and is known for not taking himself too seriously off the court.
Me: First, gotta ask how shocked you were that the Celtics traded Perk -- even for a good player like Jeff Green?
Brian Scalabrine: I mean, I think I was just like everyone else. I was pretty shocked that they would break it up. But I will say this: Danny and Doc are both probably smarter than I am, and they're probably smarter than a lot of people when it comes to basketball. So I think they must see something in there that they thought they needed to make a move, a different move, to get them over the hump ... I think if anybody can use (Green) right Doc'll use him right, and he can be very valuable for that team.
Me: Why did you pick Chicago? I heard you could have signed overseas.
BS: I think because of (Tom) Thibodeau. For a guy like myself, when a guy like Thibs goes to bat for you, you want to make him proud. Just like when I played for Boston, whatever Doc wanted me to do, I would do. It's kind of like I have a relationship with that coach, so it means a lot to me when he said 'I want you on my team.' That's like the ultimate compliment you can get, especially being a player in this league.
Me: What was his sales pitch?
BS: Just like, 'I want you on my team; let's get this thing done.' And I was like, all right, let's get it done. I had an opportunity to go overseas, but there may be a possibility of going to another NBA team. But I really thought that with him and Chicago, from what I know, what I knew of Chicago, I knew Derrick Rose was very good. And I knew that Joakim Noah had, like, an endless motor. So thinking about Tom, I didn't realize that Derrick was this good, and I didn't realize that Joakim was as good as he is. But seeing what Tom can do defensively, I know what he can do. I thought this team had a chance, I think, to battle in the East and maybe get to the Finals and maybe even win a championship. Obviously, early on, you have that expectation going in. And to be a part of something special, that's kind of like my thing. I just want to win. I know that winning's the ultimate cure-all to the individual play. Your overall quality of life is better when you've got an opportunity to win. I just love it.
Me: Is Derrick as laid-back as he seems?
BS: Yeah, definitely. He's definitely a laid-back guy. I think the basketball court is like the place where he lights his fire. I'd like to see more of that from him, and I think as he continues to grow, we'll see that from him. One thing about him is he's unbelievably competitive, and he has an unbelievably strong will.
Me: I imagine that's harder for him to lead than an older guy like KG who's been in the league 10 years and seems to be more of a natural leader.
BS: It's not, like, from what I've seen in this world, the way that he acts is like, that's his natural instincts. I seen Rajon (Rondo) when he was a rookie. He was brash and cocky, just like he is now. Those are leadership abilities in their own right. And Derrick's will and drive and determination are also, I think that's just an innate ability he has from the beginning. It's not something that he has to work on, to develop. He's just like that. And I think you see it. You watch our games, sometimes he eases into games, and then he just takes over, and when we need him to step up he makes big plays, and down the stretch, he puts us in a great position to win every night. He takes it personal. Like if we lose, he thinks it's his fault. That's what a true star, a true, true star in this league, that's what you're looking for. When I played with J Kidd (in New Jersey), he was the same way. He really thought it was his responsibility to win games for us down the stretch. And J did it differently. He wasn't making the offensive plays that Derrick does, but whether it was getting a loose ball, or helping make a play, that's how he treated it the same way.
Me: KG and others have always said you're a good teammate. What do you think that means?
BS: Well, to me, it's like the ultimate compliment. I'm not, it's like when you reflect back on your career, I'm so far past the idea that ... let's say I have a great year, and I average six points, or I don't ever play and I average one point. The marginal difference of that, when you look at that, it's just, to me, I want to be there for my guys. If I have to work hard to make them better, or set the example for myself, that's what I do. But I don't do it for, like, odd reasons. It's very, very, very, very clear cut for me. I'm a good teammate because it takes good teammates to win, and I want to win. I tell guys, listen, this is what you need to do, this is what coach wants you to do, and we need you to do that. Because it's not about that time right there; this is about April, May and June. But we have a great group of guys who are receptive to getting better. They want to go to that next level. All of our guys want to prove they can play at that elite level, and how I can help them is just by being a good teammate. Sometimes that's the most important thing you can do.
Me: But you hear that guys have to play a lot to get the other guys to listen to what they're saying.
BS: I think that is not actually the case. Because I've been ... I'm not making stuff up when I tell them this is what we need you to do. All I'm doing is, I'm not saying I'm a basketball genius or anything. All I'm doing them is telling them what our head coaches and assistant coaches want them to do. That's it ... I'm not coming up with stuff on my own here. I'm not that smart. Like our coach, when you're an assistant coach, you're a head coach, there's so many other things you have to worry about besides, hey Joe, when the guard's coming off, you need to trap the point guard and not the guy coming off. I mean, that's just a small example. Our coach wants our guys to do that. It's not my idea of what our defense should be or our offense should be. It's Tom's idea, or it's our assistant coach's idea of what we should do. I'm just trying to help our coaches do that.
Me: So you're going to coach when you're done?
BS: No, I don't think so. Their life is, it's a grind. It's very, very, very long hours, 16 hours a day, watching film, breaking it down, working with players, emotional highs and lows, away from your family, no job security whatsoever. It's not like something I worked my whole life to do. I thought at one time I would love to be a coach. But when you see our guys, the blood, sweat and tears they put into coaching each game, and each preparation, each possession, I don't think that's something that I want to move toward. I want to help Tom Thibodeau as a player, to help the guys do what he wants them to do. I'm not trying to be some head coach or assistant coach. I don't think that's in my future.
Me: So what will you do?
BS: I tell you, it's pretty clear cut what I want to do. Whether I get a chance to do it or not is up in the air. I want to do color, color commentate NBA games. I want to paint the picture for the fans to see. Because I really feel like there's a group of fans out there that, well, put it this way. I break it up into three categories. One, there's the fans that go to the game, and they know what's really going on. And one, that's a small percentage. Maybe not small. Give them 30 percent. And then there's this group, they're there to see just the entertainment of the game. And that's a big percentage of what we've got going. They look at the end result -- the ball here, the ball there, just the score on this guy. They don't look at all the intricacies that go into this guy getting the shot. Then you have the other group that doesn't really care at all; they just want to be entertained. They love dunks; they love And One, they love that kind of stuff. And that drives our business, so you have to be thankful for them. But what I want to do is, I want to enlighten those people in the middle, to actually come over and see the execution of the game is so beautiful, and the artistic value of what we do is not just the end result. It's so many things that go into it. From the certain angle to the certain guard coming off and selling on the weak side, or why does this guy get a wide-open dunk? Well, the reason is because the man in the corner is a drop-dead shooter, and this guy doesn't want to leave him. So what I want to do is, I want to enlighten the people from that standpoint, show them. Like, lookit, this is what our game truly is. It is a controlled pace, hard-playing, mentally grinding game, that even as you further and further and deeper and deeper in the playoffs, that execution becomes even more important. Clearly, that's what I want to do. Whether I'll be able to do that, I don't know. People think I have the best job in the world right now. I think that that job, clearly, is the best job in the world. There's no better job out there. You go out to NBA games and see this beautiful masterpiece come together every night, and being able to talk about it and explain it to people.
Me: Do you ever get annoyed when they start chanting your name at the ends of blowout games?
BS: I mean, it's the group, the entertainment of the game. These people come to be entertained. The one side of it, I don't really fully understand it. But on the other hand, who am I to say? These people pay $130, $500, $30, whatever they're paying to come see you play, and if that's who they want to see. Believe me, when I go out there, I'm going out there to score. I'm going out there to give them what they want. And I'm not always successful doing it. But if they want it and they ask for it, I try to give it to them. Sometimes I'm not successful; sometimes I am. But I think that's part of the entertainment of the game. People love that, and who am I to say that you can't do that? I don't look at it as a condescending thing to me. I have so much background of work and life that I put into this game, from the day that I committed when I was a kid, to the time I made it, and you're still hungry to get more and more and more. And the level at which I play at, if they're looking at it like I'm getting some kind of free ride, then I just, I don't have respect for that. To understand the amount of work that goes into this game, especially for guys who aren't as talented as the next guy, I think if they're cheering for that, then more power to them.
Me: How did you get involved with Seeds Of Peace (the organization dedicated to promoting peace throughout the world using sports like basketball to bring young people of different faiths and nationalities together)? Was it Arn (Tellem, his agent, and a SOP board member)?
BS: Yeah, absolutely. Arn said he's giving this camp. I knew very little at that time. It was two years post-9/11. I knew very little, just from the news. That's where everything kind of got the idea that there's the Middle East, and us, and how it's peace and how it works over there. Arn said 'hey, you should come do this.' What blew me away more than anything was how politically tied-in these kids were. Like from 9 to 16 years old, and the way that they looked at life was just so eye-opening, the difference of like the way our kids look at life, or the way I looked at life. Even though they love the NBA, we have kids that love the NBA, they have kids that love the NBA. The difference to me was, it's like a secondary thing to them, or it's way down the line to them. Their first thing is like, their uncle or a cousin was killed during some kind of bombing, or war, or fighting that's been going on for years. And that is like their first main agenda. It's not like they don't have fun. But at the end of the day, they keep thinking about that. And to me, that blew me away from the kids I used to run basketball camps with. Kids should be kids; don't get me wrong. I think it's awesome in America, we have the freedom to do that. But I feel like because they do that, these kids are going to grow up stronger, and deal with more than the kids that we have. If I can make them, for that one day, if I can bring a smile to their face, or if I can keep contact with some, if they end up staying in the States, than that's what I'm going to do. Because the life that they're living is very difficult.
Me: Do you look at some of these fake Twitter accounts with your name on them?
BS: No, I don't. I don't. I know there's a lot of them. Everyone says I should set the record straight, set my own account up. But I don't. It's hard. The thing about the Twitter and Facebook is, it's so permanent. And like, a lot of things, for me, to talk, it's like a lot of things are a big, long story. I got burned earlier by ESPN. I painted a nice picture of where I feel like we were as a team, where I thought we were going as a team ... I said we're not a championship team right now. We have to still prove that we can do x, y and z. But if you look at our improvement from Day 1 to here, if we continually do this, we're going to be there in June when it counts. Then they just headline that out, that Scalabrine says the Bulls aren't a championship team. And I know it's like ESPN is such a big, big, big company. But the relationship I've built with these guys in the media, and the radio, I felt like that would never happen, because I'm so up front and honest with people. But anybody can take what I say and twist it around, I was like, I just didn't want to deal with that kind of stuff.
Me: But if you guys win the championship, like you did in Boston in '08, you are going to hijack the (postgame) podium again, right? Because that was really funny.
BS: I will. If we win the championship, I will definitely hijack the podium. And it will be classic stuff. It will be more classic stuff than it was before. I'll bring up things like, 'How can we win an NBA championship, and we only have one guy in the All-Star game?'
"If New Orleans happens to win a championship, does everybody get a trophy?"
-- Lakers Coach Phil Jackson, in his wry way, making note of the league's ownership of the Hornets.
"I came to coach Yao and Tracy, and ended up with Luis and Chuck."
-- Rockets Coach Rick Adelman, lamenting the injuries and roster turnover over the last couple of years that has left Luis Scola and Chuck Hayes as the only remaining players on Houston's roster from when Adelman was hired 3 1/2 years ago.
"I will also say this very directly. While Isiah Thomas is a friend of mine, a very good friend of mine, he was not at all involved in this process."
-- Knicks chairman James Dolan, at the team's press conference introducing Carmelo Anthony, denying that the Knicks' former coach and executive, now coaching at Florida International, was working behind the scenes to get Anthony to New York--and circumventing the Knicks' current management team, led by Donnie Walsh. Dozens may have believed him.
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