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David Aldridge

NBPA in position to go on offensive at labor meeting


Posted Aug 1 2011 11:21AM

They meet again today, like Voldemort and Potter, Moriarty and Holmes, Clouseau and (former) Chief Inspector Dreyfus. They are embittered rivals across a conference table, seeking an opening through which they can extract economic concessions. A month into the lockout and there is no end in sight.

Except ...

Despite the lack of negotiating sessions with the league, the National Basketball Players Association has had a good last couple of weeks. Now, this is collective bargaining, and things can change, rapidly. But in the important court of public opinion, the players' union has amassed some arrows to use in its quiver down the road.

First, the end of the NFL lockout puts all of the labor attention on basketball. The issues are vastly different between the two sports, but all sports fans saw the lasting image of Colts center Jeff Saturday hugging the grieving owner of the Patriots, Robert Kraft, who had juggled negotiating sessions with the NFL Players Association with vigils for his dying wife, Myra. Player after player gave Robert Kraft the lion's share of the credit for figuring out a solution to the seemingly intractable issues the NFL owners had with their players' union. It was powerful stuff. Yes, everyone in the NFL makes money. But the NFL's owners are just as desirous of making more as their NBA brethren, yet they figured out how to make a deal. That can only embolden NBA owners -- and there are many -- who want to play next season.

Second, as NBA.com's Steve Aschburner reported two weeks ago would happen, the final audit of the 2010-11 season confirmed that the players will be refunded their full eight percent of escrow that they gave the owners as mandated by the old Collective Bargaining Agreement. Players have put money in an escrow account every year since 1999 as insurance for the owners in case the players' share of Basketball Related Income exceeds its annual limit of 57 percent. And not only will the players be getting that $160 million back from the owners, the owners owe the players an additional $26 million because the players' take of BRI last season was actually less than 57 percent of total revenues. League revenues grew as a whole by 4.8 percent, according to the audit.

The league will certainly argue that the giveback is an outlier; it has never happened before in the 12 years of the arrangement, and at any rate, teams had to spend so much more -- marketing, advertising and the like -- to create that additional revenue that they still, in the main, lost more than they brought in. But the disclosure gives the union a PR claim that, rightly or wrongly, could resonate with fans -- our salaries weren't the problem last season. So why does the system need a dramatic overhaul?

Third, FIBA, basketball's international governing body, announced Friday that it would allow NBA players to join international teams abroad, including national Olympic qualifying teams, during the lockout, as long as the players agree to return to their NBA teams when the lockout ends. Players will also have to work out insurance premiums with the teams; a player who gets hurt without insurance playing overseas would have his NBA deal voided. FIBA's decision clears the way for players like Nets guard Deron Williams, who has agreed to a deal with the Turkish team Besitkas, to play there in the fall if the NBA is still closed for business.

"In view of our role to promote basketball worldwide, we support any player wishing to play the game, wherever and whenever," said FIBA's secretary general, Patrick Baumann. "We do so while obviously taking the interests, rights and obligations of all parties into account."

It is true that there won't be nearly as many jobs available overseas as there are NBA players who supposedly are being courted. But having the FIBA door officially opened is another PR boost for the players. And, importantly, it gives the game's superstar players a role to play in the negotiations, even if they aren't at the bargaining table.

You won't see Kobe Bryant and LeBron James in New York any time soon. Like most of the biggest names in the game, they use their summers to extend their brand around the world -- often with lucrative results. Their issues aren't the same as those rank-and-file guys in the union who are seeking to protect cap exceptions and minimum payments for veterans. But by visibly opting to play overseas, the stars can impact the talks. They can show solidarity with the other players by not putting any public pressure on the union to cut a deal.

During the 1999 lockout, the split between the league's elite players and the middle of the road guys became increasingly evident, especially as agents representing the stars agitated the union to decertify. Some of those same guys are at it again, but the players they represent are much more aligned with their fellow grunts this time around. "They're not going to (mess) with us," one prominent player said Sunday.

If the likes of Williams, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant do opt to play abroad, they will not only make money -- not that they need it -- but they'll take a lot of pressure off of the union to make a deal quickly. There's one other thing to keep in mind when you hear the decertification talk -- dissolving the union would mean it would abandon the complaint against the league it filed this spring with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing the NBA of not negotiating in good faith. That case has yet to be heard, and while the union hasn't gotten the quick NLRB ruling it hoped for, it's expecting to hear from the NLRB sometime in August.

(Why would a guy like Bryant, who a source said Sunday is souring on the supposed offer made by Besitkas, but would contemplate other international offers if the lockout continues, risk injury playing against teams that are a cut below NBA quality? First, he'd be playing basketball anyway if there was no lockout. Second, his knee, by all accounts, is fine after undergoing treatments in Germany (it may have not been the platelet replacement therapy as previously reported, but whatever it was, it worked). Third, he's a basketball player, not an accountant. This is what he does for a living. Staying in shape, staying sharp mentally, all of those things come from playing in games, not working out at the Y or the L.A. Sports Club.)

Are these developments enough, collectively, to get the owners off of their current hardline position when it comes to a hard cap and a favorable BRI split? Maybe not. The owners still have a lot more money than the players do. But the players have been bolstered on a couple of different fronts that could be of key assistance in the fall, when the NBA checks stop coming -- and when the players will supposedly crack.

Dribbles

Checketts angling for a gig in Motown?

Lawrence Frank is aboard as coach, but who will he report to in Detroit? After much speculation, it certainly seems like it's going to be president of basketball operations Joe Dumars, like always, despite the presence of former Knicks president and Madison Square Garden executive Dave Checketts, who has been a consultant to new Pistons owner Tom Gores and his team during the sale of the Pistons from Karen Davidson, the widow of longtime owner Bill Davidson.

Given Checketts' presence, and his open desire to get back into the NBA -- he currently owns the NHL's St. Louis Blues -- many have speculated that he could wind up in a leadership position in Detroit. He had only a two-month consulting arrangement with the team, according to sources -- a deal that supposedly expired on July 31. But when the Pistons gave Magic assistant coach Patrick Ewing an interview for their coaching vacancy in late June, the basketball cognoscenti went into overdrive. Checketts was Ewing's boss in New York; ergo, he had gotten him the Detroit interview. (Never mind the fact that it was Checketts who traded Ewing to Seattle in 2000, a move that precipitated the Knicks' decade-long slog as a luxury tax payer.)

But Checketts wouldn't be clear to do anything in the NBA, according to sources, until he finalizes the sale of the Blues, which he bought in 2006. Checketts put the Blues on the market last April. He said earlier this month that interest in the team from potential buyers has increased in the last few weeks, and told reporters in St. Louis that he expected the Blues, valued at $165 million last year by Forbes magazine, to be sold by the start of the next NHL season.

And is Checketts, who also owns Real Salt Lake of Major League Soccer, interested in being an employee again? Under Gores, he'd be a well-paid, powerful employee, to be sure. But an employee nonetheless. Checketts obviously has more than enough access to capital to put his own group together to buy his own NBA team. He tried to buy the NFL's St. Louis Rams in 2009, but had to drop radio host Rush Limbaugh as a potential minority investor after NFL players objected to Limbaugh's presence in the group.

0801-lawrence-frank-300.jpg
Lawrence Frank is the Pistons' new coach, but who will his boss be in Detroit?
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

It's believed that Gores, worth $2.4 billion and ranked 153rd among the richest Americans, according to Forbes, wants to put a management structure together that is similar to that of AEG, the facilities and entertainment conglomerate headed by Philip Anschutz, the Lakers' part-owner. Anschutz almost never gives interviews and the publicity-shy Gores is equally reticent to speak with the media. AEG president Tim Leiweke does almost all of the public speaking for the organization, which built Staples Center and L.A. Live in Los Angeles, transforming the city's downtown.

Checketts would be a natural for such a position in Detroit; he was a strong public voice for the Knicks in New York during the late 1990s, when the team made The Finals in 1994 and '99, and held onto his power base while internal feuding consumed the team's front office. And the Pistons' business side has been in flux for a couple of years. Longtime team and Palace of Auburn Hills CEO Tom Wilson resigned in early 2010, and Gores dismissed Wilson's successor, former COO Alan Ostfield, in June.

But Gores already has capable executives in Bob Wentworth and Phil Norment, partners of his at Platinum Equity, the private investment firm Gores founded in 1995. They conducted many of the second interviews with the coaching candidates, and while they are expected to remain in Boston at Platinum's corporate offices there, they are expected to be Gores' eyes and ears in Detroit. (Gores will remain in Beverly Hills, where he lives near his two brothers. One, Sam Gores, is one of Hollywood's top agents, representing the likes of Laurence Fishburne, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Andy Garcia and the Black Eyed Peas; another, Alec Gores, is worth about $1.6 billion, according to Forbes, having made his own fortune in private equity, and also lives in Beverly Hills. What a family of slackers.)

When Tom Gores came aboard in early June, he said part of his job isn't to agree with whatever Dumars wanted, but "to challenge Joe, and hopefully that will make the outcome better." And though Dumars never publicly indicated whom he preferred to succeed John Kuester as coach, several people around the league believe he preferred former Hawks coach Mike Woodson to Frank. But Frank blew Gores and his people away during the interview process.

Yet a source insisted this weekend that Dumars concurred with Gores that Frank was the right choice for the job.

(For his part, Woodson has moved on, interviewing for the Minnesota Timberwolves' vacancy. And a source indicates he'll be in New York early this week to talk with the Knicks about becoming their defensive coordinator, a job that management has mandated coach Mike D'Antoni, entering the final year of his contract, accept for next season.)

Dumars has had complete control of the basketball side of the team since being named to his post in 2000. The team that Dumars built around Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Ben and Rasheed Wallace made the Eastern Conference finals six straight years, won the NBA title in 2004 and lost a seven-game Finals in 2005 to the Spurs. But the last three seasons have been horrible ones.

The team has made the playoffs once (2008-09) in that span and coach Michael Curry lasted one season before being fired after the playoffs. Kuester's two-year reign as coach was fraught with dissention, dysfunction and back-to-back 50-loss seasons. Dumars picked both of those coaches. And he's also been pilloried locally and nationally for giving $95 million combined to free agents Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva in 2009.

With Bill Davidson's illness and subsequent death, and Karen Davidson's attempts to sell the team taking more than a year, the Pistons haven't had true ownership in place for a while. With Gores at the helm, they do. Dumars will be on the clock. But will he get a real chance to rebuild the team that he led to a championship just seven years ago? That would be the right call ...

Toronto narrowing its list of GM candidates

Don't expect any movement on the Toronto general manager's search for a couple of weeks. Team president Bryan Colangelo was in Europe last week and won't start whittling down his group of candidates until the middle of the month. Sixers GM Ed Stefanski, former Hornets GM and coach Jeff Bower and Spurs assistant GM Dennis Lindsey are among the candidates, but former Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard is also believed to be in the hunt and is a strong candidate. Pritchard took a player personnel job with the Pacers earlier this summer, but has an out in his deal that would allow him to leave if a GM job became available.

Nobody Asked Me, But ...

Whose side are the retired players on?

At first glance it would seem to be a conundrum for the 1,000 or so ex-NBA, ABA and Harlem Globetrotters in the National Basketball Retired Players Association. On the one hand, all were, at one time or another, part of the National Basketball Players Association, the union that was locked out by the owners on July 1. On the other hand, the NBRPA exists mainly because the NBA, which even the NBRPA's website acknowledges, "has played a major role in funding the Association" since its birth in 1992, when it was founded by Hall of Famers Oscar Robertson, Dave Cowens, the late Dave DeBusschere, Archie Clark and current Detroit mayor Dave Bing. The league helps provide money-making opportunities for many former players by flying them to marquee events like the All-Star Game and Finals on the NBA's dime, and using them as ambassadors for the league.

With the lockout in full effect, several retired players are taking the place of active NBA players in the league's Basketball Without Borders program, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. A group led by Dominique Wilkens is wrapping up its trip to Brazil on Monday. Vlade Divac will be among the former players taking part in the camp beginning in Slovenia next week. And Dikembe Mutombo headlines the BWB program in South Africa next month.

"At this point, we are in a neutral position," said Bob Elliott, the NBRPA president, on Friday. (The group is conducting a search for a permanent executive director.)

"We do have a position with both the NBA and the Players Association and want to continue our relationships with both," Elliott said. "We are in a unique position because all of us are former players, and everyone that's in the Players Association with Billy (Hunter, the NBPA Executive Director) will end up being with us. In the macro way of things, we all have to be able to put something together. Billy and David (Stern), right now, are dealing with the micro."

NBA players vest into the league's pension plan after three years of service, and max out their potential post-career benefits after 10 years. Players who play 10 years or more are eligible after their retirement to get $15,000 a month or $180,000 a year for every year they played. At age 50, retired players can select from a "Part A" or "Part B" benefits package. Part A is a lump sum payment of part of the vested pension that could be kept or rolled over into an individual retirement account. Part B would give the player monthly payments for life. But retired players cannot take all of the money in their pension out at one time because of the fear that former players enduring financial difficulties would find themselves with no income coming in later in life, when the medical bills really start piling up.

Elliott hopes that the league isn't looking to make any revisions in the current benefits package for retired players.

"It's a very good pension and it's something I would be surprised if anything were to be done to make that pension less than it is," he said.

"I don't see that happening. At this point we're more concerned in keeping some actual bodies out there representing the actual position of the NBA. Once Billy and David put something together you'll probably see less of us."

During the NFL lockout, a group of retired players led by former Vikings great Carl Eller sued the league, claiming the imposition of the lockout threatened the continuation of their benefits packages. Eller also sought to be included at the bargaining table during the negotiations, and before the conclusion of the talks between the NFL and the NFLPA, Eller was present at some bargaining sessions. Elliott says his group will not be involved in any such litigation during the NBA lockout, wanting to continue its good relationship with both sides.

"What this lockout means to us is that we have the ability and the opportunity to be more visible, to keep the ball going down the lane," Elliott said. "We want the ball to continue going down the lane without it touching the gutter guards. Indirectly but directly related to the big picture ... it's an opportunity and a responsibility that we're embracing. This is the way the NBRPA should be utilized, when you have a good relationship with the NBA and the PA."

... And Nobody Asked You, Either

When 57 percent doesn't mean 57 percent. From Dave Spiegel:

I'm still confused about the hard cap issue. There already is a hard cap league-wide (the 57 percent of BRI number). Salaries and salary caps are just nominal numbers; the percentage of BRI governs how much players individually and as a group actually get paid. So I don't see why either the players or owners particularly care about a hard cap. I'd think the primary issue would just be the distribution of BRI among players and owners. I could imagine small-market teams (of which there are more than the large-market teams) pushing for a hard cap, so that teams like the Lakers, Mavericks, Knicks and Celtics couldn't go way over the cap with exceptions, and all teams would be on closer to equal footing. I could equally well imagine the large-market owners opposing this. But I don't see why the players would particularly care either way. As long as they get their 57 percent (or whatever percentage they think is fair), why do they care if it comes equally from all 30 teams or skewed toward large-market teams?

In fact, I could also imagine small-market owners being the ones opposing this sort of hard cap. Imagine if 57 percent of BRI comes to $100 million and there are just two teams in the NBA: the Thunder and the Lakers. Without a hard cap, maybe the Lakers pay $65 million in salary and the Thunder pay $35 million. The Thunder like this because they pay less, and dislike it because the Lakers can pay for more for star talent. With a hard cap, the Lakers and Thunder each pay $50 million. I could imagine either of them preferring either situation. And again I don't see why the players would feel strongly on the matter.

You have answered your own question, Dave. Under your scenario above the "bottom" would be $35 million, and the "top" would be $65 million. That's a lot less money in the system than there is currently, meaning that, while the players would indeed get 57 percent of BRI, that BRI would be much, much smaller. You'd rather have 57 percent of $1 billion than 100 percent of $100 million, right? There is an argument to be made that the luxury tax threshold acts as a de facto hard cap. The union doesn't want a system that takes money out of the system, and argues that a hard cap would do that -- in part, because a hard cap would necessarily mean the reduction, if not elimination, of the cap exceptions that allow a team to exceed the cap to re-sign its own players. The league has argued that its "flex cap" proposal would allow teams to go slightly above the "target" of $62 million per team, but won't say how or by how much.

Death is death ... except when it isn't. From Mick Meehan:

I think you made a bit of an embarrassing contradiction in your Morning Tip this week!

Firstly you say 'Sad' for the 15-year-old who was killed in the accident with Lamar Odom, and the kid seems to have been slightly ignored because of the presence of LO. Then you say 'Sadder' that Amy Winehouse died. If you are now claiming that it's 'Sadder' that Amy died than the 15-year-old non-celebrity, doesn't this put you in a similar boat to the people who were more concerned with LO than the kid?

I know you wouldn't think like that to be honest because I respect you a lot, but that's why I said it was an embarrassing mistake more than anything else!

The reason I listed the tragic accident with the teenager "sad" was because it was, indeed, an accident, Mick. No one meant for that to happen or, at least from what we know at the moment, could have prevented it. I listed Winehouse's death as "sadder" because, while we don't know the official cause of death at the moment, it's extremely unusual for 27-year-olds to die suddenly because of natural causes. If it's determined she had a fatal heart attack or stroke, I will withdraw the qualifier. But I think most people, including myself, can't help but suspect that drugs or booze played a role in her death. And that's sadder, to me, because becoming an addict is not an accident. Most people aren't born addicts. They become addicts. They play a role in their own dysfunction. That's not what happened in the car accident. It was a tragedy, but it was an accident.

Is this is a good time to mention that I've been known to listen to ABBA on occasion? From Simon Leppämäki:

I'm a big Swedish basketball fan. So maybe it's not such a big suprise that my question is about our only NBA player ever, Jonas Jerebko. His contract expires now. I understand that Pistons want to sign him up for a new one. But, do you think there are a couple of others who also want to sign Jerebko? And if you think so, which teams seems most likely to be interested?

I'm fairly certain the Pistons will keep Jonas, Simon. Like you, they're big, big fans of his. But it only takes one other team to create a market, and while I haven't heard anything specific, my guess is that a veteran squad looking for an athletic big could have an interest. I don't have any info, but the Spurs have been known to employ international players from time to time.

Send your questions, comments, criticisms and new clothes for the suddenly svelte Kirstie Alley to daldridgetnt@gmail.com. If your e-mail is sufficiently interesting, thought-provoking, funny or snarky, we just might publish it!

By the Numbers

$3,533,426.49 -- Amount that the state of Wisconsin says former NBA star Latrell Sprewell owes in back taxes, the top amount on the state's "Top 100 Deliquent Taxpayers" list it disseminated last week. Number three on the list is former Knicks, Hornets, Heat and Bucks forward Anthony Mason, who the state says owes more than $2 million. The list is designed to embarass citizens who allegedly owe large amounts of money to the state into coughing up their dough.

3:53:41 -- Time, in hours, minutes and seconds, that it took new 76ers owner Joshua Harris to run last year's New York City Marathon, according to an upcoming piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Harris officially purchased the team late last month and is in the process of determining whether he will keep the current front office staff.

17,256,000 -- Unique users for the month of June, fifth overall among sports-based websites, for Big Lead Sports, which reached a deal last week with Knicks center Amar'e Stoudemire to develop a "sports and fashion website" with a fantasy basketball component. BLS trails Yahoo! Sports, ESPN, FoxSports.com and Turner/SI Digital, which includes what you're reading right now. Thanks!

I'm Feelin' ...

1) You shouldn't get your hopes up that there will be a breakthrough at today's negotiating session, the first in more than a month. But they're meeting. That's better than not meeting.

2) This, I believe, is what my Jewish friends would call a mitzvah. This is something I could not do. Try to remember this the next time you insist every NBA ref is on the take and rotten to the core.

3) Glad they haven't forgotten in the Emerald City.

4) Lionel Hollins was quite worried that the Grizzlies would lose assistant coach David Joerger when the Rockets came hard at him earlier this summer. But Memphis stepped up with a solid contract, and Joerger decided to stay, replacing Johnny Davis as Hollins' top assistant next season. These are the kind of seemingly small moves that winning organizations make, keeping continuity and institutional memory.

5) I take shots at Andray Blatche because I don't think he gets the most out of his potential. But I can't hate on the work he's doing up in Syracuse for kids in the offseason.

Not Feelin' ...

1) I got a lot of Twitter grief after I sent a "hang in there" tweet to Jalen Rose after he was sentenced to 20 days in jail for a DUI plea by a Michigan judge. The critics were of like mind; how could I give support to someone who could have killed someone when he got behind the wheel while impaired? I wasn't defending his decision, which was reprehensible. But he's a friend, a friend who did something stupid and is now going to pay for it. I was offering support to that friend as he goes to prison, which I suspect most of you would do if you had a friend looking at jail, whether it's 20 days or 20 years. And I make no apologies for it.

2) Here's hoping someone has the sense to hire Mark Heisler, one of the best NBA writers of all time -- he won the Curt Gowdy Award from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006 for his written contributions to the game over a four-decade career -- after he was let go by the Los Angeles Times last week. Their loss.

3) Yikes. Sad story about former NBA player Jay Vincent.

4) The intention is honorable, but this is a bad idea and shouldn't be pursued further. It solves no problem and creates any number of others. Marty Glickman, Sam Stoller, Bob Seagren, Evander Holyfield, Isiah Thomas and the entire 1980 U.S. Summer Olympic team ... there are dozens of athletes who sacrficed their blood and sweat in the pursuit of Olympic gold, only to lose (or not be allowed to compete) in controversial fashion, and they're not going to be put in any Halls of Fame any time soon. There's only one thing to make up for the events of 9/9/72, and this ain't it.

5) I live in Washington, D.C. I am not, however, part of the political culture of Washington. Which means I'm just as disgusted by the political theater going on with regard to the debt ceiling as anyone in Iowa, Kansas, New York or California. There is no excuse for endangering the on-time arrival of my dad's Social Security check, or your mom's government pension, or anyone else's loved one's anything to score political points. We have never defaulted in the history of this country, and to start now would be criminal.

The Q and A: Jeff Green, Celtics

Boston acquired the 24-year-old forward, along with center Nenad Krstic, in the long-discussed deal that sent center Kendrick Perkins and guard Nate Robinson to Oklahoma City, last February. Green struggled through much of his initial two months with the Cs, even though he actually shot the ball better (48 percent) in Boston than he did with the Thunder. Green is a restricted free agent and when the lockout ends, depending on what the new Collective Bargaining Agreement looks like, the fourth-year forward could be a man in demand.

Me: So what are you doing with yourself during the lockout?

Jeff Green: I went back to Georgetown. I'm taking some classes. I only have four more classes, so I'm chipping away. It's a lockout. So I have time now.

Me: What is your major?

JG: English. Four classes away, man. Chipping at it.

Me: How many classes a week?

JG: I take two a week, four days a week, two hours each. It's hard, very hard. But I've gotta get it done. It'll be good when I get that paper. I've been doing this the past two, three years. I was one year away, so I said, 'Why not?' and went for it. Just chipping away to when I can get that paper and move forward.

Me: If you go back to Boston, what do you expect your role to be next season?

JG: That's up to Doc (Rivers). I know they wanted me to be more aggressive, so that's what I've been doing, is just working on my all-around game. Getting a little Paul Pierce in me. You know, taking a little characteristics from different players. Kobe, being one. Paul. Being with them for a couple of months now. Just a number of guys. LeBron. I'm just working on my game, trying to get better.

Me: What did you feel at the end of the playoffs?

JG: Disappointment. You know, I wanted more. I wanted more. To have the experience that I had with the guys in Boston, it was tremendous. I wanted more. But I learned a lot. I learned from KG, Paul and Ray. Three of the top legends in the game. I was just mad it was over, because I wanted to learn more and more. But I took what they gave me and just move forward and tried to add it to my game.

Me: Would you say you struggled more at the defensive end than the offensive end?

JG: Most definitely. Their schemes were a lot different from Oklahoma. It was tough adjusting to that, to learn the certain rotations. But I tried to do my best and I gave it my all.

Me: Are you looking at overseas possibilities?

JG: Not at all. My word has been with the NBA, and that's where I'm going to stay. But who knows? If the time comes where the whole year is gone, you never know what's going to happen. But right now, that's out of the question.

Me: Do you think you'll be back in Boston?

JG: I mean, when the CBA is all over with, and I can figure which road to go down, that's when I'll think about it. But right now, I'm not even thinking about it.

Me: You know Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook real well. You think they had, or have, beef with each other?

JG: It was blown out of proportion. Russell's a passionate guy, man, and he wants to win. I think they took it out of proportion when they saw him overreact. But those guys love each other. They're best friends. Every day they hung out, did everything together. I think people saw that one reaction and just thought Kevin and Russell didn't get along. But they get along very well.

Tweet of the Week

Sad I can't see president Obama.
-- Shaq (@Shaq), Friday, 4:28 p.m. The Diesel was in D.C. along with his fellow Qs from Omega Psi Phi to celebrate the centennial of that historic Greek organization, and detailed his inability to see the leader of the free world -- who was kind of busy with other stuff -- here.

They Said It

"Oh yeah, great amount of joy out of it. Plus, for me, they say nice guys, good guys finish last. But Dallas, they just had a slew of great guys and veterans on their team that made for just a great team. It wasn't just two, three, four guys on the team, like Miami I kind of felt it was. Around the league, it was kind of a consensus that guys were happy."
--Minnesota's Kevin Love, during a radio interview with WFAN in New York, when asked if players around the league were happy that the Heat didn't win the championship.

"He appreciated the fact that, after a game, I could go to him and say, 'Hey, you know, you kind of let your emotions get away from you at this point.' "
-- Our occasional NBA TV colleague and Utah Jazz broadcast color analyst Matt Harpring, telling the Salt Lake Tribune that while he viewed himself as a friend and confidant of ex-Utah guard Deron Williams, he wasn't afraid to criticize Williams for his play or demeanor, either on the air or after games.

"Well, since I broke the four-year rule, I would prefer to see him go to college now. I see young players today who are drafted into the NBA and can't do basic fundamentals. They're drafted on potential instead of on talent. That scares me and I think it's unfair for the veteran players that are still playing that they get pushed out of the game for a guy who is supposed to be a potential player in the future. And he's just sitting on the bench with a shirt and tie on."

-- Spencer Haywood, who indeed established the "hardship" rule that allowed basketball players to enter the NBA Draft before their college eligibility expired, during a chat with Hall of Fame player and coach Lenny Wilkens in the Seattle Times. Haywood had been asked if he would encourage one of his children who had the ability to enter the NBA after high school to go that route or to play in college first.

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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