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David Aldridge

Will the top two picks of the Draft -- Derrick Williams (left) and Kyrie Irving -- both become stars one day?
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Assessing the 2011 Draft class one final time

Posted Jun 27 2011 1:03AM - Updated Jun 29 2011 10:01AM

For a Draft that wasn't supposed to be very good, there was an awful lot of maneuvering on Thursday to acquire picks.

There wasn't the clear and obvious choices at the top of the first round that there have been in recent years, but no matter. A last chance to acquire relatively inexpensive talent before the lockout shuts everything down -- with a new collective bargaining agreement almost certain to be more restrictive -- proved irresistable for most teams; only a handful that hadn't already acquired additional picks stayed pat throughout the night, and most teams with multiple picks used them, even as it adds guaranteed money to the payroll.

Grading a Draft in the days after it occurs, though, is as crazy as a mock draft before it occurs. (Trust me. I know.) All you can do is squint and take a guess at what you think kids are going to become, which is like trying to pick the 5th at Aquedcut with regularity. So we take a deep breath, take another swig of a frosty beverage and get to work. (Included are trades made on Draft day for players and other picks.)

Head of the Class

Video UTAH
Draft picks:
C/F Enes Kanter, 3rd, first round; G Alec Burks, 12th, first round
Our take: For all the mocks that consistently had Utah going for Brandon Knight, knowing Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor, it was hard to envision him passing up on all the potential size that was available at three. And he didn't, taking a shot that the rugged Kanter is all that Kentucky thought he'd be before he was shut down by the NCAA and ruled ineligible last season. With Kanter, Al Jefferson, Mehmet Okur, Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors, Utah has a glut of big men, and one will almost assuredly go to acquire backcourt help. Burks is not everyone's favorite but he fills a distinct need. BTW, O'Connor was the happiest man in America when the Kings took BYU star Jimmer Fredette with the 10th pick, two picks ahead of Utah, thus saving O'Connor from having to endure the wrath of Cougar Nation by not taking the native son.

Draft picks:
F Jan Vesely, 6th, first round; F Chris Singleton, 18th, first round, G Shelvin Mack, 34th, second round
Our take: Wizards had zeroed in on the Czech native in the last couple of weeks, though they tried to move up to take Kanter. The hope is that Vesely becomes a consistent running mate for John Wall and displays the ability to run the floor and finish that he showed in Europe. Wizards should forget the idea that Vesely can play the three in the NBA for now and let him grow playing alongside JaVale McGee. Singleton was top 10 on many boards and gives the defensively-allergic Wizards their first legit perimeter defender since ... ever? Mack should back up Wall and end the NBA Development League point guard revolving door that ran through D.C. last season.

Draft picks:
C Bismack Biyombo, 7th, first round [acquired from Sacramento]; G Kemba Walker, 9th, first round; F Corey Maggette [acquired from Milwaukee]
Our take: The Bobcats needed to get back to their defensive mindset that got them to the playoffs two years ago, and did so by taking part in a three-team trade that netted them Biyombo, the Congolese native who showed incredible shot-blocking and altering potential playing in Spain's ACB League. Walker impressed Michael Jordan with his championship pedigree from Connecticut and should score in the pros as effectively as he did in college, whether he's playing point or shooting guard. Maggette has always been able to score, which will certainly help the second-worst offense in the league.

Draft picks:
F Tobias Harris, 19th, first round [acquired from Charlotte]; F Jon Leuer, 40th, second round; G Steven Jackson [acquired from Charlotte]; G Shaun Livingston [acquired from Charlotte]; G Beno Udrih [acquired from Sacramento]
Our take: The Bucks not only saved a lot of loot (and headaches) by trading Corey Maggette to the Bobcats and John Salmons to Sacramento, and moving down from 10th to 19th in the first round, but they bring consistent scoring and defense from the veteran Jackson and potential production from the rookie Harris, who impressed many teams during the workout stage. Udrih may drive Scott Skiles crazy at times but he's a perfect backup for Brandon Jennings and solidifies the guard rotation. Ex-Badger Leuer is a very good value almost midway through the second and could contribute.

Draft picks: G Klay Thompson, 11th, first round; G Charles Jenkins, 44th, second round; C Jeremy Tyler, 39th, second round [acquired from Charlotte]
Our take: The 6-foot-6 Thompson looks like an excellent fit with Steph Curry in the backcourt, able to spot up with deep range and handle the ball when new coach Mark Jackson wants to reverse things and get Curry a shot. His presence also will likely facilitate the repatriation of Monta Ellis in an Eastern Conference city to be determined at a later date. Jenkins will be the next in the line of midget scorers (Ellis, Reggie Williams) in the Bay Area, and the 20-year-old Tyler, who famously skipped his senior year of high school to play professionally abroad before becoming NBA Draft-eligible, could be a steal if his physical and emotional maturity catches up with his potential.

Draft picks:
C Nikola Vucevic, 16th, first round; F Lavoy Allen, 50th, second round
Our take: The Sixers were looking to improve themselves up front and Vucevic fits the bill. He rocketed up the charts after measuring 6-foot-11 3/4 in shoes and 259 pounds at the Chicago pre-Draft camp and more than holding his own against the other center prospects in Chicago and in subsequent workouts. He should provide some offensive pop for a team that didn't get much of that from its bigs last season. Allen is a local (Temple) product with an active body who could sneak into some minutes in the rotation next season.

Draft picks:
F Kenneth Faried, 22nd, first round; G Andre Miller [traded from Portland], F Jordan Hamilton, 26th, first round [acquired from Dallas]; F Chukwudiebere Maduabum, 56th, second round [acquired from Lakers]
Our take: Nuggets add three more players to their Knicks West core, starting with Faried, a rebounding machine (86 career double-doubles for Morehead State) who should step right in and replace Kenyon Martin's board work at power forward. Hamilton has great scoring potential just in case re-signing Wilson Chandler becomes problematic. Most importantly, the Nuggets bring the 35-year-old Miller back to work his passing genius, make the right decision with the ball every time and throw the league's best alley-oops to a very athletic group. And no team in the league will have a better change of pace combo at the point than Denver with the laconic Miller followed by the speedy Ty Lawson. George Karl is sleeping better already.

Draft picks:
F Derrick Williams, 2nd, first round, C Brad Miller [acquired from Houston], G Malcolm Lee, 43rd, second round [acquired from Chicago]
Our take: The Wolves listened to several offers for the pick, but in the end did the right thing and took Arizona's Williams, the closest thing to a sure thing in this year's Draft. Yes, he is redundant for a team that already has Michael Beasley, but you don't force things with the second pick; you take the best player and worry about the rotation later. With a core of Kevin Love, Beasley, newly minted Ricky Rubio, Williams and Wes Johnson, and vets like Luke Ridnour, Martell Webster and Anthony Randolph, the Wolves have amassed enough talent to be able to make a real offer for the next disgruntled or underpaid superstar who becomes avaiable via trade. In the meantime, whoever the next coach is will have to figure out a rotation from all these seemingly similar parts.

Draft picks:
G MarShon Brooks, 25th, first round [acquired from Boston], F Bojan Bogdanovic, 31st, second round [acquired from Minnesota], C Jordan Williams, 36th, second round
Our take: From the back end of the first round, the Nets did quite well. Brooks was a volume shooter and scorer at Providence and should step right in at shooting guard next to Deron Williams. Bogdanovic is a quick small forward from Croatia who is one of the top European prospects, finishing second in the Euroleague in scoring for Cibona Zagreb. He probably won't play in the NBA this season but he's a comer and valuable either as a player or a future trading chip for Jersey. Williams has improved his body greatly since the end of Maryland's season, continuing a three-year trend where he's gone from a puffy high school senior in Connecticut to a cut-up 247 pounds at the Chicago camp. At any weight, Williams has always been able to rebound.

Heads or Tails

Draft picks:
G Kyrie Irving, 1st, first round; F Tristan Thompson, 4th, first round; F/C Milan Macvan, 54th, second round
Our take: Can Irving be the next great NBA point guard after playing in just 11 games in college? Probably. His ability to shoot and change speeds is tailor made for the NBA, and he's been steadfast in his insistence that he won't be swallowed up by all the savior talk put on him in Cleveland. He's not LeBron, but he's pretty good. Thompson was on every lottery team's short list, but no one thought he was on the Cavs' as well. He is the key to the Cavs' Draft, because Cleveland passed on a couple of bigger man prospects to take the Texas freshman. Nonetheless, Thompson is a terrific power forward prospect. He'll need to put on some weight and develop some consistent post moves.

Draft picks:
C Jonas Valanciunas, 5th, first round
Our take: No one expected the 19-year-old center to come over this season after signing a longterm contract with his Lithuanian team. But the Raptors are gambling that in a year, they'll have one of the world's top center prospects, and that was worth bypassing players like Kemba Walker, Brandon Knight and Bismack Biyombo that were ready to play now. It doesn't help new coach Dwane Casey, so he'll have to make do with what he's got and try to improve the league's worst defense. And it won't help the team's long-suffering fans, who rightly were hoping for some immediate help and aren't going to be patient much longer.

Draft picks: G Brandon Knight, 8th, first round; F Kyle Singler, 33rd, second round; F/C Vernon Macklin, 52nd, second round
Our take: It's not that Knight is in any way a reach at eight; he's quite likely to mature into a very good floor general in the pros. But his presence only adds to an already-crowded Pistons backcourt with seemingly redundant parts: Knight and Rodney Stuckey, Ben Gordon and Rip Hamilton, Will Bynum and Terrico White. All but Stuckey are under contract and the Pistons insist they're going to re-sign Stuckey. And all of them expect to play. And what about Tracy McGrady, who had a solid season in Detroit last year? That seems to be about three guards too many for a three-guard rotation. Singler and Macklin are excellent values in the second round and will be good big man insurance in case Tayshaun Prince or Jonas Jerebko seek greener pastures.

Draft picks: G Jimmer Fredette, 10th, first round [acquired from Milwaukee]; G/F John Salmons [acquired from Milwaukee]; F Tyler Honeycutt, 35th, second round; G Isaiah Thomas, 60th, second round
Our take: It's all about Jimmer in the 916. Will he become the superstar his fans expect after his brilliant college career, creating buzz, making clutch shots and selling tickets for a franchise whose future in town is in the balance? Or will he become a merely serviceable guard that can't stay on the floor because he can't stay in front of anybody? It's still a puzzlement how Fredette will co-exist with Tyreke Evans; both need the ball to be most effective, and that's not a knock on either. But that's coach Paul Westphal's problem, not yours. Salmons returns to Sacramento and should replace Omri Casspi in the starting lineup. Honeycutt was on many teams' first-round boards and could be a steal. Ex-Washington star Thomas thinks he can overcome his small stature and thrive in the pros. He'll get his chance.

Draft picks: F Markieff Morris, 13th, first round
Our take: The Suns couldn't move up and they couldn't move back, so they stayed at 13 and took the older (by seven minutes) Morris twin, who is not as good a scorer as his younger brother Marcus, but is a superior rebounder and defender, traits that Phoenix desperately needs. The Suns claim they're going to change their culture and get serious about defense, and taking Markieff Morris confirms that philosophy switch. Whether that's realistic given the team's roster and dependence on Steve Nash remains to be seen.

Draft picks:
F Marcus Morris, 14th, first round; F/C Donatas Motiejunas, 20th, first round [acquired from Minnesota]), F Chandler Parsons, 38th, second round; G Jonny Flynn [acquired from Minnesota]
Our take: The Rockets got a good haul for their money on Draft night and have set up competition at most positions for new coach Kevin McHale. Morris is the team's small forward of the future, and will see minutes at power forward as well in case Luis Scola has to log minutes at center. Parsons has an all-around game that is similar to incumbent forward Chase Budinger. Flynn is a point guard in the mold of current starter Kyle Lowry. Motiejunas is the Draft's question mark, though. He was in the high lottery for most Mockers for months, but upon closer inspection, NBA types found his passion wanting on occasion. But he has a lot of skill, and he's 7 feet tall, and he's 20.

Draft picks: G George Hill [acquired from San Antonio]; F Davis Bertans, 42nd, second round
Our take: The Pacers opted to move first-rounder Kawhi Leonard to the Spurs for native son Hill, who will compete for minutes with Darren Collison -- and, probably, play alonside Collison on occasion. He gives Indiana a strong guard rotation with fellow point guard A.J. Price, defensive specialist Dahntay Jones and second-year swingman Paul George. Bertans has great range and can do a lot of the things that free agent Mike Dunleavy, Jr., does. Indiana has spent three years clearing cap room to be a player in free agency this summer, and has a promising core of young players returning: Roy Hibbert, Tyler Hansbrough, Collison, George and Danny Granger.

Draft picks: G Nolan Smith, 21st, first round; G Jon Diebler, 51st, second round; G Ray Felton [acquired from Denver]
Our take: The Blazers rolled the dice that they can get more than one season out of Felton, brought in from Denver for Andre Miller and who is a free agent at the end of next season. But just in case, they drafted Duke's Smith, the son of the late veteran Derek Smith who switched to point guard for the Blue Devils for most of the season after Kyrie Irving's toe injury. It was a bit surprising that the Blazers didn't figure out how to get a big guy with Greg Oden's return uncertain and Marcus Camby a year older. One thing at a time, one supposes. Diebler can stroke it.

Draft picks:
None; G Rudy Fernandez [acquired from Portland]
Our take: A quiet night for the world champs turned active when the Mavericks managed to add to their rotation by trading the rights to first-rounder Jordan Hamilton to Denver in a three-team deal that netted them Fernandez, who'd been productive for a time in Portland but who fell out of favor with Nate McMillan. Coming off the bench in Dallas, Fernandez should fill in nicely if DeShawn Stevenson or Peja Stojakovic isn't re-signed.

Draft picks: F JaJuan Johnson, 27th, first round [acquired from New Jersey], G E'Twaun Moore, 55th, second round
Our take: Celtics opted not to keep Providence product MarShon Brooks, who they took in the first round and who could have been Ray Allen's eventual replacement at shooting guard. Instead, Boston moved down in a deal with the Nets and took Johnson, the versatile forward from Purdue. Johnson may have to step in and contribute if the Cs don't re-sign Glen Davis. Boston then did a smart thing in taking Johnson's teammate, Moore, late in the second, making the transition to the pros for each easier.

Draft picks: F Nikola Mirotic, 23rd, first round, acquired from Minnesota; F Jimmy Butler, 30th, first round
Our take: There aren't many holes on a team that wins 62 games in the regular season, and thus the Bulls could afford to make a deal for Mirotic, the talented forward with Real Madrid who will remain overseas for at least two years. He'll be worth the wait. Butler is an all-around talent who is not likely to crack the rotation any time soon.

Draft picks:
G Norris Cole, 28th, first round [acquired from Chicago]
Our take: It was no secret the Heat hoped to move into the first round, using the first pick of the second round they'd received from Cleveland in the LeBron James deal last year and some of Micky Arison's cash. Ultimately they wound up going for Cole, the Cleveland State guard who was on a lot of teams' short lists for late first-round selections. Cole will give the Heat a penetrating point guard they lacked last season, ideally allowing James and Dwyane Wade to be finishers instead of initiators in the offense. Whether a rookie can handle the pressure of playing with the SuperFriends remains to be seen.

Draft picks: F Justin Harper, 32nd, second round [acquired from Cleveland], G DeAndre Liggins, 53rd, second round
Our take: The Magic made the most of their lack of Draft position, getting a perfect fit in Harper, a deep shooter from Richmond who'll provide "stretch four" offense around Dwight Howard. Yes, Orlando already has Ryan Anderson, but depth is never a bad thing -- and it gives Orlando another chip to potentially make a deal down the road to get Howard more talent. Liggins has defensive chops that could help him stick and get spot minutes in the rotation.

Draft picks: F Trey Thompkins, 37th, second round; G Travis Leslie, 47th, second round
Our take: The Clippers added a couple of young athletes in Thompkins and Leslie, but it would surprise if either became a contributing member of the rotation. The bigger picture for L.A. is keeping their young core together and keeping its powder dry until '12, when the Clips will have Minnesota's unprotected first-rounder and cap room to make a move for a marquee player.


Draft picks: G Reggie Jackson, 24th, first round
Our take: The guess here is that the Thunder would have scarfed up Mirotic and happily waited two years for him if Chicago hadn't traded up with the Wolves to take him. Instead OKC goes for another guard in Jackson, who's talented to be sure. But the Thunder already has a strong guard rotation and it's not likely Jackson will be able to beat out Eric Maynor for minutes. The conventional wisdom is that OKC got Jackson because it doesn't think it will be able to re-sign Maynor down the road, but it's equally hard to see the Thunder letting Maynor go after he played so well in the postseason.

Draft picks: F Kawhi Leonard, 15th, first round [acquired from Indiana], G Cory Joseph, 29th, first round; F Adam Hanga, 59th, second round
Our take: The explanation you hear is that the Spurs didn't think they could pay George Hill what he wanted in free agency, and thus reluctantly opted to move him for Leonard. That may well be true, but it's out of form for a franchise that's trying to set itself up for the post-Duncan era to let proven talent with playoff experience go. Still, Leonard is capable of guarding multiple positions and should get better offensively. Joseph was a bit of a surprise at 29, but with Hill's departure and Tony Parker on the back nine of his career, the Spurs have to start thinking about their backcourt future.

Draft picks: G Iman Shumpert, 17th, first round; C Josh Harrelson, 45th, second round [acquired from Hornets]
Our take: If the Knicks were looking for someone to guard multiple positions, why not go for Chris Singleton, who's bigger and longer? They weren't the only team impressed by Shumpert's on-ball defensive talents in that range of the first round, but he has to turn into a rangy two-way player that can ultimately replace Chauncey Billups to make the choice worth it. Harrelson improved dramatically last season at Kentucky, losing weight and becoming a consistent rebounder. Hard to see how he'll fit into Mike D'Antoni's system, though.

Draft picks: G Darius Morris, 41st, second round; G Andrew Goudelock, 46th, second round; F Ater Majok, 58th, second round
Our take: Morris left Michigan after his freshman year to the dismay of many, who thought he needed another year at least. There was some interest in him at the bottom of the first but he lasted well into the second, and with Mike Brown now in charge in L.A. it's at least conceivable Morris could get some burn -- especially if the Lakers opt to replace Derek Fisher. Their major improvements will almost certainly come through a trade of one of their bigger names, though, with Lamar Odom at the top of the list.

Draft picks: G Josh Selby, 49th, second round
Our take: You feel for a kid like Selby. A year ago, he was a big-time recruit coming to a big-time program at Kansas who seemingly had everything in front of him. A year later, after some poor decisions -- including entering the Draft -- and some less-than-stellar workouts, he's not taken until the end of the second round by a team that won't have many minutes available. How does he get better? How does he avoid falling behind? Selby has talent, but everybody in this league is talented.

Draft picks: C Keith Benson, 48th, second round
Our take: Not a lot to write home about here. Benson is a project who can block shots but has a way to go to become a contributor. But the Hawks didn't have much inclination to deal their way into the first round after trading that pick to the Wizards in the Kirk Hinrich deal.

Draft picks: None
Our take: When a team sells its only Draft pick, you can't give them a passing grade, can you? Even if David West opts in for next season, he's coming off a major knee injury that will keep him sidelined for months. The Hornets obviously are waiting to see what the next CBA provides before adding any salary to their payroll, which cannot be much of a selling point for Chris Paul.


What's really happening with Warriors' Ellis?

Did Monta Ellis demand a trade in a meeting with the Warriors' brass on Thursday? Not really.

During the hour-long chat he did make it clear that he didn't want to be around for the meat of his prime if Golden State's new ownership group was no more committed to making the roster better than the old regime. He did say that if the team wasn't doing any better by the trade deadline next February, he'd like to be sent somewhere where he'd have a chance to compete. In the meantime, he's all in with the Warriors and Mark Jackson, who reportedly has called him twice already to insist he'll be on the roster next season.

Call it a demand with an asterisk. I still think he's getting moved after the lockout ends, though, and especially after the Warriors took Washington State's Klay Thompson in the first round last week ...

Sale of Hawks looking legit

The story concerning the imminent sale of the Hawks by last week is pretty much on the money, the team's denials to the contrary. The sale is close to being completed, though it won't be finalized in time for an approval vote by the Board of Governors at its meeting Tuesday in Dallas. There is a single, and up to now, anonymous buyer, according to a source. The amount? I'm told it's in the neighborhood of $300 million, including debt on the team. The team's current ownership group, Atlanta Spirit, is expected to remain on in a minority ownership capacity, according to the source, who's been briefed on the terms of the pending transfer.

Another group led by the founders of the Outback Steakhouse chain in Florida also put in a bid on the team, according to a source, though it's unclear how much they put up or if they were ever seriously considered ...

What it takes to get No. 2

To clear up the Laker-Minnesota trade talk once and for all: the Lakers asked what it would take to get the second pick. The Wolves said Pau Gasol. The Lakers said no. The Lakers countered with Lamar Odom. The Wolves said no. End of discussions.

Nobody Asked Me, But ...

Can Mark Cuban and Micky Arison swoop in, Caped Crusader style, and avert the lockout?

It's the longest of longshots. I don't think there's a lot of sentiment among owners to keep things going, no matter how good the ratings were in the regular season and playoffs, no matter how much the metrics show that things are changing to the good for any number of teams, and that there's still money to be made for teams that aggressively market, brand and sell their teams to their local fan bases. Too many owners see this as a chance to get a permanent stranglehold on the game's economics, to -- yes -- guarantee themselves profits for the next decade and make sure that player salaries never again eat into their bottom line.

That's why Cuban, the Mavericks' owner, and Arison, the Heat's owner, may be the only guys who can pull this off.

I know that Cuban can't possibly want a lockout now, after 11 years of putting his blood, sweat, tears and a lot of his money into driving the Mavericks to the top of the mountain. I know that he can't possibly be sitting silently while other owners talk about the virtues of shutting the game down, even if it takes a year, to get profit certainty. I know the pride he and other owners took last year when the league pulled itself out of a nosedive and held losses well below expectations by selling and selling and selling.

I've never run a business and don't anticipate I will. So I can't tell you what it's like to have your fortunes tied up in something that you have no idea will or will not be successful. I've never known the fear that many business people have had the last few years, watching a recession destroy companies that have been in business for six or seven decades. It's a different kind of fear from the norm, I suppose, though I think anyone whose job supports his or her family has an inkling of what it's like. How many of us really aren't living paycheck to paycheck?

I say all that because I know it is hard for owners to make money these days, and maybe hard just to break even, no matter how hard you work or how dedicated you are. But I know that Cuban has made the Mavericks work, and no franchise was in worse shape than that one when he bought the team. A lot of people have helped him -- Don and Donnie Nelson, Terdema Ussery, the team's CEO, Dirk Nowtizki, Rick Carlisle, Jet Terry, Steve Nash, Michael Finley, and hundreds more you've never heard of. But Cuban has been the driving force behind it all -- never satisfied, always looking for the next way to do something better and more efficiently. He believes in advanced statistics not because they provide all the answers, but because without them, all you'd be doing is guessing. This does not mean he's without flaws or faults, but we're looking for someone who can solve this thing, not St. Francis of Assisi.

I wrote last week how Arison has the respect of both owners and players as someone who has been a hawk in previous collective bargaining negotiations, but who is also held in high regard by players for how he's treated active and former Heat players over the years. As someone whose franchise reportedly gained $60 million in value this season upon the arrival of LeBron and Company, and who must be losing lots of potential commitments for next season already, Arison has the unique standing to stand up and say, "Let's figure this out before it gets too late."

It's impossible to figure out conclusively whether NBA owners are simply going through the same (relatively) rough patch most of us are as the world recession slowly, slowly recedes, or are hemorraging money at an unacceptable rate.

An example: Bucks owner Herb Kohl borrowed $55 million last year, taking out three separate loans using the NBA's line of credit program with Bank of America, according to Senate disclosure forms the soon-to-be retiring public servant filed recently. Did he do so to pay off growing debts, or was he merely refinancing existing debts using the lower interest terms the league has in its program like all of us do when we refinance our home loans? If he was mortgaged to the hilt and millions in the red, could he get that kind of massive loan, even from a friendly bank? Or do rich guys get more rope than the rest of us would?

Whatever the reality, it's the owners who have the power to solve this quickly. They're the ones who can bring a lockout about and they can meet the players' union halfway. They know their last proposal is not something Billy Hunter can sell to his members -- an estimated $2 billion in lost salaries for players during the proposed 10-year deal, according to the union. And even if you say the union is way off, 50 percent off in its estimates -- what, $1 billion in givebacks is OK? You certainly can make the argument that in a league where the average salary is $5.7 million, a reduction or wage freeze for a few years isn't going to kill anyone.

But most players, you understand, don't make $5.7 million a year. Most players make much less -- more than enough to live on comfortably, of course. It doesn't mean they deserve raises in perpetuity, but it does mean they're going to fight to maintain what they already have, just like members of any other union would.

It isn't just the show of solidarity that players displayed Friday in New York. This is more than wearing "STAND" T-shirts. The players on the union's executive committee aren't posturing. This is real to them. During the last lockout, the players at the top of the game's economic stratus had control. Patrick Ewing was the union's president and Alonzo Mourning was an active participant. Their agent, David Falk, had great sway behind the scenes, and Falk has made no secret of the fact that he thinks there should be a two-tiered system in the game -- two or three guys making the bulk of the money, with six or seven guys making the minimum or near minimum. Guess which group he tended to represent?

The union's executive committee now is dominated by players who are never going to see anything approaching a nine-figure contract during their lifetime. Those players feel an obligation to the rank-and-file. Demanding that they give up exceptions like the mid-level which are usually the only vehicle for good-but-not-great players to get a payday is not going to go down easy.

"To play in the NBA is a blessing," Hawks forward Etan Thomas, a vice president of the players' union, said Friday in an e-mail. "We all appreciate and value this opportunity and have the utmost respect for the game.

"Which is why we feel an obligation to avoid turning our backs on the future generations as well as the younger players in this league," he continued. "We know our history. We know how players laid a foundation for us to cherish and preserve. Players like Michael Jordan, Dr. J, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone. Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, Larry Bird, all the former players who were prepared to boycott the 1964 All-Star Game in an effort to be recognized as a union and negotiate their rights, such as Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, Elgin Baylor, Lenny Wilkins, Hal Greer, Chet Walker, Bob Pettit, Walt Bellamy, Tom Heinsohn, etc.

They all paved the way and fought for this league to reach the level it is now, and we respect that. We cannot take all of their hard work and throw it down the drain."

What could Cuban and Arison do? Together, they could, at least, ask their fellow owners to turn the clock off, give these negotiations more time. It doesn't have to be pie-in-the-sky. Give it two more weeks, until July 15. That would give everyone some time to think about bridging the huge gap that exists between the sides. But there is an opening. Hunter reiterated last week that the union isn't opposed to all hard cap systems, only those at lower numbers. A cap at $62 million, even a flexible one, is a non-starter for the union if the top end, hard cap number is only a few million more. That's what you have now, in essence, with the luxury tax threshold.

What, though, about a hard cap at $72 to $75 million, with limited exceptions? (As I wrote last week: keep a modified Bird exception, keep the veteran's minimum exceptions, junk everything else, including the bi-annual and mid-level exceptions.) That would put several hundred million more dollars into the system than what the league is currently proposing, while alleviating a lof of the union's concerns and getting rid of many of the exceptions teams insist drive them out of profitability. It will make the job of general managers a little easier; they won't have to constantly assemble and re-assemble teams year after year to stay inside the skinnier lines at $62 million. And the hard cap is the issue that's tied both sides in knots, with the league insisting it has to have one and the players insisting they can't live with one. But they can live with one. It just has to be one at a big enough number.

The current minimum that owners have to spend on the cap is 75 percent of the cap, $44 million, which is what Sacramento did. A lot of teams would certainly balk at having to pay 75 percent of $75 million, $56.25 million. So perhaps you reduce the team minimum to 70 percent--$52.5 million. That's 'only" $8.5 million more than the Kings are paying now. But it would reduce the gap between the highest and lowest-paying teams from its current $66 million to $23 million or XP. It isn't a perfect solution. It is a start.

I know it's not my money and I know it's going to be hard for many teams to get anywhere near such a big payroll. But the league's overarching concern is lessening the gap between the teams that spend the most (the Lakers' $110 million) and the least (the Kings' $44 million). Lowering that gap will give more teams a chance to compete and make money. It won't guarantee it. No one is guaranteed anything in life. But it will give more teams a chance. Isn't that all anyone can ask for, a chance to use their skills, smarts and guts on a relatively even playing field? If, after that, the talks don't bring the two sides any closer by the 15th, start the lockout. At least you spoke up and tried.

No one owner is going to move anyone. But together, maybe Cuban and Arison can buy us all a little more time.

... And Nobody Asked You, Either

A Knight in Sweaty Armor. From Nick Quintal:

I'm a local down here in Florida and I've had the pleasure of watching Brandon Knight as an 11-year-old in a little league basketball. I was the score keeper so to speak. My question is: just how successful and how great do you think this kid can really get?

He's got a great chance. I didn't know this until last week: Knight took 24 college credit hours while in high school in Florida, and in his one season at Kentucky, he took a full 36-hour load, giving him 60 college hours after his freshman year. Academically, he would have been a junior next year. That's amazing. I lost almost all of my scholarship money after taking a full load my first year in school, and all I was doing was drinking heavily, not running the point for one of the country's historic basketball programs. He's going to be just fine, I suspect.

Roll, roll, roll your ball, gently down the wing. From Donald Boyd:

In my brief playing days, you have five seconds to inbound the ball. However, I see the players in the NBA inbounding the ball and letting it roll all the way up court until the offensive player touches the ball. Then it comes into play. What happened to the five-second count?

The five-second rule only applies to the inbounder, not to the person catching the inbounds pass. Once the inbounds pass leaves the inbounder's hands, that count stops. The person receiving the ball is under no obligation to pick the ball up until he's ready, and if the defense backs off, he could conceivably let it roll all the way under the opponent's basket.

Finding Fault with the Finals Format. From Georges Bitar:

I have often heard the reason for The Finals to have a different format than the other rounds was to save on traveling costs and time as you mentioned in your answer (May 30). My question is: If it saves so much time and energy having this format, why don't they implement it for all rounds? Why is it exclusive only to The Finals? Wouldn't the logic of saving time and money be true for all rounds?

You make a good point. Logically, going 2-3-2 in all rounds would save money. But there's two issues. First, The Finals series is covered by far more people than any other playoff series. Most of the others are mainly covered by local outlets that try to budget for postseason travel. But hundreds of media cover the Finals, many from around the world. Second, I think -- I don't know -- that the league feels it also would make things even harder for the team without homecourt advantage.

In a 2-2-1-1-1 format, the team without home court could clinch at home in Game 6, for example. But in the 2-3-2 format, the likelihood is that the non-home court team has to win all three games at home to clinch in front of their fans, a very difficult proposition. Since the 2-3-2 Finals format was instituted in 1985, only two teams without homecourt advantage -- Detroit in 2004 and Miami in 2006 -- have won all three middle games at home. And some people think the league does it that way to try and ensure a sixth or seventh game, which would generate more money from advertisers; in the 27 years of 2-3-2, the Finals have gone five games or less 10 times, six games 13 times and seven games four times. The Commish said during these last Finals that the league isn't wedded to 2-3-2 and if someone wants to make an argument to go back to 2-2-1-1-1 for The Finals, he'll listen.

Send your questions, comments, criticisms and your best barbeque recipies for the Fourth of July to If your e-mail is sufficiently thought-provoking, funny, sassy or snarky, we just might publish it. For reals, player.

By The Numbers

5-2: Early odds from the online sports betting website that the Heat will win the 2012 title. The Raptors, at 150-1, are the current longest shots to win the championship.

8: First-round picks by the Timberwolves in the last four years -- Derrick Williams (2011), Lazar Hayward (2010), Wesley Johnson (2010), Ricky Rubio (2009), Jonny Flynn (2009), Ty Lawson (2009), Wayne Ellington (2009) and O.J. Mayo (2008)

$9,000,000: Salary for 2011-12 for Bobcats forward Boris Diaw, who decided last week to exercise his player option for next season. A smart choice, given the likelihood of a lockout and a different CBA.

I'm Feelin' ...

1) One more sign of how popular the NBA is now: the highest ratings for the Draft in 15 years, in a Draft where almost all of the top prospects were international players almost no one stateside has seen or could name. But we all know that things like this don't seem to hold much sway where it counts.

2) Young ballers in love.

3) About time Dwane Casey got another chance to coach an NBA team. About doggone time. Now, who's going to get the Czar and his 667 career wins back behind a bench?

4) That's a pretty interesting staff Mike Brown is putting together in L.A. But it would be a great staff if he could somehow convince Tim Grgurich to leave the Mavs. It would surprise me if Kobe hasn't already been lobbying Gurg for a week.

5) No matter what side of the issue you're on, last Friday's vote in the New York Senate that approved gay marriage statewide was an historic night. I certainly understand that many people are genuinely, honestly opposed to it on religious or moral grounds, and they have every right to be so, and I am not taking them to task for doing so. I just wonder why anyone would care what two other people decide to do with their lives if it doesn't affect yours. We say we want people to have the freedom to make their own decisions about their lives with a minimum -- or no -- government interference. How is this any different? I'd really like to know, without the usual homophobic slurs, please.

Not Feelin' ...

1) It's about to get very, very slow in the NBA world. Trying to figure out how the Tip will evolve during the lockout, as I'm sure you don't want to read every Monday about how the two sides aren't making any progress (and I surely don't want to write it). We'll figure out something here at Tip International.

2) This isn't good for anybody, really.

3) Just wondering what the Commish thinks about one of his owners, the Nets' Mikhail Prokhorov, saying that "capitalism for all" is "not true" in a speech last week in Russia. Prokhorov was elected the head of a new political party in Russia that is not viewed as legit by local observers.

4) Godspeed, Nick Charles. You were one of the best, and dealt with a horrible disease with incredible grace.

5) I like Mike Silver, the Yahoo! Sports NFL writer, but his patronizing comments about the NFL Network and as being the equivalent of the old Soviet Union's Pravda is a cheap shot at those who work there. I know a lot of them, and they're nobody's patsies or mouthpieces. This is a sore subject for me because, working on NBA TV and writing for as well as TNT, I'm often asked how much the league controls what I say or write. The answer is, not at all. I've never had anything censored. I've never had anyone ask me to change anything, and I've taken my whacks at a few people. The only thing the league asked me to do -- until this year -- was not write about college underclassmen before the Draft, and that policy changed this season. I haven't pulled any punches about what I've said or written about these labor talks, nor have I been asked to, and I would hope the powers that be know better than to ask.

6) Just another reminder of how old I'm getting: My guess is that more than half of you have no idea who Lt. Columbo was. He was the fictional crime-solving cop brilliantly brought to life by actor Peter Falk, who died last week. "Ah, St. Peter? Just one more thing, sir"...

Tweet of the Week

Very emotional moment right now!!! But just want to Thank Everyone for all the Support. SA has been great to me and will never forget it!!
-- New Pacers guard George Hill (@George_Hill3), Thursday, 10:01 p.m., after learning he'd been traded from the Spurs to Indiana. Hill is from Indianapolis and starred there in high school and then at IUPUI before being drafted in the first round by San Antonio in 2008.

They Said It

"The comments that I made were basically giving LeBron some props as a player, not to dismantle any player like Michael. We all know that he's the greatest player that ever played the game. I think it was taken a little bit out of context. I felt like I was drawing more of a conclusion from the statistics more than the accolades."
-- Scottie Pippen, on Friday, doing the cha-cha as he walked back his comments from earlier this month, when he claimed that LeBron James "may be the greatest player ever to play the game" because of his ability to score and get others involved. This was before James didn't come up large in his building or Dallas' building for long stretches of the Finals, making him 0-2 in the championship series for his career so far ... compared with Jordan's 6-0 Finals record. Glad you cleared that up, Scottie.

"Personal Reasons"
-- Explanation given in document filed last Tuesday in a California court by Ron Artest as to why he wants to legally change his name from Ronald William Artest, Jr., to Metta World Peace. I wish I were making this up. On the other hand, according to, which first reported the story, Artest chose MWP after coming close to officially changing his name to Mr. One Love. No, not making that up, either.

"I have two jobs in place. One, I've been training a couple of chickens in my backyard. I have a miniature treadmill. I have some steroids for the chickens, and we're going to do cockfights. So I might do that. The other one is I've been also training for curling. So I'll be in Canada and Montreal with the curling team up there. So, yeah, I can't wait."
-- Dwight Howard, joking at Video a benefit event for his foundation about his plans post-lockout, according to the Orlando Sentinel.


Longtime NBA reporter and columnist David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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