Posted Aug 15 2011 2:04PM
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- He claimed he was going to go through the next two days stone-cold sober, and for a guy who has Dr. Drew on speed dial, that would be an accomplishment.
This was Thursday, the day before Dennis Rodman bared his soul for the audience at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony, before he changed clothes three times while waiting to be brought up to the stage (the last of the 10 inductees, of course; who on earth would you ask to follow Rodman on the dais?), before his son put on dad's fedora, turning into a pint-sized Huggy Bear; before his wife Michelle and mother Shirley and four kids and the other members of the entourage slowed the red carpet traffic to a crawl; before the black guy in the white wedding dress walked around outside, desperate to be noticed. Before all that, it was just Dennis Rodman and his thoughts, and he was able to boil down all of the craziness, the ink, the piercings, the cussing, the 11,954 rebounds, the documentary that Penny Marshall is directing about him, into a simple philosophy.
"My environment was in the projects," Rodman said. "A lot of the guys that's inducted into the pro basketball Hall of Fame probably grew up in the projects back in the day. It's very tough. It's tough just to go in the street, or go across the streets, or go across town. I didn't imagine this would happen, not even close. I didn't even imagine playing basketball. I loved football back in Dallas. I loved the Cowboys back then. Not even close. I didn't think I'd amount to anything."
Get out of the projects. That's all. If that means being one of the best rebounders in the history of the game, so be it. If it means becoming a counterculture hero -- a guy who can sustain himself, despite having no particular job at the moment other than being Dennis Rodman -- then that's what you do. It wasn't about the NBA; it was about not sleeping in his car anymore. If he could have hitched a ride over to Arkansas, maybe he would have been Sam Walton's tallest assistant floor manager.
He was always uncaring about public perception. He told Sports Illustrated 24 years ago how he used to put quarters in those jug-sized ears while in college just because people looked at him like he was crazy. But they looked at him.
Almost a quarter-century later, they're looking at him again, in his black jacket, while he's bawling on stage, the same emotional Worm that wept when he was named Defensive Player of the Year in 1990, just four years after he'd been plucked out of Southeastern Oklahoma State University (it was always great listening to the Pistons' old public address guy, Ken Calvert, trying to say "Southeastern Oklahoma State University" quickly when introducing Rodman). That same emotion brought an anvil's worth of pain on Rodman's head in 1987 when, seconds after being vanquished by the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, he said Larry Bird was overrated because he was white. The media guillotined him, and took Isiah Thomas down, too, when he said he agreed with Rodman. And even though Bird came out two days later and said it didn't bother him and he didn't care, Rodman went down the drain in a lot of people's eyes.
But Rodman and Thomas and the Pistons persevered, and became one of the great championship teams, and Rodman became one of the greatest winners, helping Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen get rings at the end of his career just as he had helped Thomas and Joe Dumars get rings at the beginning.
The big crybaby.
"That's why we love him," Thomas said by phone. "That's the guy that we all see, that we all protected, when he played with us, in the locker room, all the rest. When he jumped up and said something crazy, something outlandish, the guy who wore lipstick? That ain't the guy that we saw every day, turning into the glamour guy. The guy we saw on stage (Friday), that's the guy we saw every day."
He swung and missed at life more than three times, and that's what a lot of people missed about Rodman. He really did work to get better.
Behind the mascara was a work ethic any 9-to-5er on the assembly line could appreciate. He'd worked odd jobs in Dallas to eat, but he really learned to buckle down on a farm, having come into the lives of the Rich family of Bokchito, Okla., in 1983, after going to Oklahoma to play basketball at SEOSU. The Rich's adolescent son, Bryne, had accidently shot and killed his best friend on a hunting trip the year before, and had withdrawn into near-mute non-communication. But he came to a basketball camp where Rodman was working as a counselor.
At first, when Rodman reached out to the boy, Bryne was resistant. But the next day, he sidled up to Rodman as he shot free throws. Famously, he never really left his side for the next three years, soon convincing his less-than-racially tolerant family to a) let him bring his new friend home for dinner (who could have known his new friend "Dennis," whom he'd met a week ago at camp, was a 6-foot-8 black kid?), b) let him sleep there overnight, c) let him move in with them instead of staying in the dorms at college. It was 13-year-old Bryne who picked Rodman up from the bus station in a gray Subaru and drove him home to the farm.
Yet it was in Bokchito, with the Riches, that Rodman began to change.
"It took a little while," he said. "All the aggressiveness, as far as like, anything you say probably (ticks) you off, because of what you're used to. You're used to the bump and grind. You're seeing people in the projects getting stabbed. Your mom's cussing at you; your dad's cussing at you; people are cussing at you. You're used to that type of atmosphere, every day, every day. You're not used to people coming to you saying, 'So, how do you like your steak? How do you like your potatoes? We're making some sweet tea so we can sit outside and make a picnic.' You're not used to that."
Rodman learned that it was possible to wake up at 5:30 a.m. instead of going to bed at that hour. He baled hay and milked cows and did all the other chores that were expected of the kids, then went to school and practice. The arrangement paid off; Rodman became a three-time All-America at SEOSU, averaging 24.4 points and 17.8 rebounds as a junior. But his education was still just beginning.
"When Dennis came to Detroit as a rookie," Dumars e-mailed last week, "he was shy, no tattoos and naive. (But) his talents stood out the fist day he stepped on the floor."
Rodman loved his time in Detroit, loved being a part of a team that needed him. The Pistons were in a death struggle with the Celtics, who eliminated them in the playoffs year after year. Rodman brought manic energy at the defensive end and glass and was part of one of the most productive benches in the league, with Vinnie (Microwave) Johnson shooting and John (Spider) Salley blocking every shot in sight.
The Pistons finally vanquished Boston in '88, lost a heartbreaking seven-game Finals to the Lakers, then came back and swept L.A. in the Finals the following year. In four years, Rodman had come from near obscurity at SEOSU to becoming one of the Bad Boys. (People forget that it was the NBA that first christened the Pistons as the "Bad Boys" as part of a highlight video, then recoiled in horror when they, you know, started acting like Bad Boys -- complete with Bill Laimbeer wearing a stylish black hat during the 1990 Finals against Portland.)
But the championship window of every team has a shelf life. After back-to-back titles, the Pistons' core began to age, Jordan and Pippen found their sea legs, and Chicago dispatched Detroit in the '91 Eastern finals. Jordan -- telegenic, stylish, an otherworldly player and marketing sensation -- became the player the league preferred mythologizing, and the grabbing, uber-physical defense the Pistons, Knicks and Celtics preferred got legislated out of the game. Closer to home, Rodman's nascent marriage fell apart after just a few months. One morning, he found himself in the parking lot of the Palace of Auburn Hills with a shotgun in his hands.
Was he thinking of killing himself? He still doesn't know.
"My wife left me, took my kid, took my money, took everything," Rodman said. "I didn't know how to deal with these hard times. I thought being in the NBA, we won a couple of championships, everything was cool, good friends. And everything started to crumble around me. And Chuck Daly was like, 'Dude, my house is your house' ... I lost everybody, pretty much. And when you're at home, and you're contemplating, what should I do, what should I do?, and those four walls are closing in, I just got in my truck."
He drove to Auburn Hills.
"I was listening to Pearl Jam the whole time," he said. "I fell asleep. I think that anytime, 'cause I had the gun like this (in his hands), anytime, if I had any type of reaction, I could have shot that off easily, by accident. I wasn't really trying to kill Dennis Rodman; I was trying to get rid of the old one. Because the one that had come to the NBA was no longer there anymore. It ripped me apart, mentally wise and physically wise ... I was like, screw it. To hell with it. There's no sense being around here. And I had nowhere to go."
Rodman asked for a trade, and was sent to San Antonio in a package for Sean Elliott on Oct. 1, 1993. It was in that military town, with a former Air Force cadet and Russian expert named Gregg Popovich as general manager, that Rodman, at a mall with his new girlfriend, first dyed his hair, out of boredom more than anything else. Soon after, they went to the movies, and saw "Demolition Man," the Sylvester Stallone action flick in which Wesley Snipes played the proto-villian Simon Phoenix, complete with blond Mohawk. It was an omen.
But Rodman's emerging wild side clashed with his teammates -- specifically, David Robinson, the Navy man and the Spurs' big man leader in the pre-Tim Duncan days.
"I got red hair, pink hair, blue hair, this, this and this, and I'm doing this, going out and having a good time," Rodman said. "And then go on the court and I'm grabbing 20 rebounds a game. (Robinson) used to say to me, 'I need to talk to you about God.' I would say, 'Ohhkay.' So we sat down one day at a restaurant and said, 'I you'll just understand that this is the type of city where people love to go to church, they're very simple, they're not very edgy,' and the whole spiel. And I said, OK, great, cool. I said, 'I can't live that life. All I do is come here, I get paid to play basketball. I didn't come here for people to like me; I come here to play basketball and win.' I think that was one of the biggest problems with me and David, that we kind of bumped heads a lot. Not all negative, but I thought he could have been more aggressive in games, like (Hakeem) Olajuwon, like Shaquille O'Neal, other big men. David wasn't really the physical type center."
Rodman says he liked Robinson and respected his skills. And Rodman's numbers in San Antonio were even better than they were in Detroit. But the Spurs crumbled in the playoffs two years in a row, most cruelly in 1995, after posing the league's best record (62-20) during the regular season. Robinson won the MVP award and the Spurs reached the West finals against the defending-champion Rockets. But an extremely motivated Olajuwon dominated Robinson in the series, and Rodman seemed to actually detach from the team -- just as he had at points during the season.
The Spurs suspended him at the end of the preseason, giving him a three and a half week leave of absence, then suspended him a second time when he didn't return on time from the first suspension. Rodman didn't endear himself to management after separating his shoulder in a motorcycle accident late in the year.
In the Rockets' series, Rodman sat by himself on the baseline during a timeout in Game 1. Then-coach Bob Hill benched him for the last 21 minutes of Game 2. Houston won in six games. But Rodman believes his troubles in San Antonio had a benefit.
"I did my job. I averaged 18 rebounds a game for two years there," he said. "And I did everything I possibly could. We had the best record two years in a row. The only thing that wasn't right was me and Popovich didn't get along, because I wanted a new contract and he wouldn't give me one. So, they decided to trade me for Will Perdue." And here, Rodman chuckles.
"I think San Antonio actually really prepared me mentally-wise," he said. "I just said the hell with everyone. I'm just going to do my thing. I'm going to do my job. Because a lot of guys that get traded to a new team do not have that stamina as far as keeping the momentum (of their career) going. If you win a rebound title, most guys, like Ben Wallace, when he went to Chicago, his career just went pffft, went down. He was the defensive player of the year three, four years in a row, and when he got the big contract, pffft. His career went to hell. Me, my career went up. It went up."
It helped that he went to Chicago, which needed his low-post defense and toughness to complement Jordan and Pippen's perimeter ballhawking after Horace Grant left via free agency to join O'Neal in Orlando. There were major questions about whether Rodman's act would fit. But the Bulls also had a coach in Phil Jackson who tolerated Rodman's idiosyncracies, fined him quietly when he broke team rules but, basically, let Rodman be Rodman.
"He can pass the ball," Jackson said on the red carpet Friday. "And in the triangle offense, if you can pass the ball, your teammates are going to love you."
On a team full of high basketball IQ guys -- and, just as importantly, on a team that bumped his salary from $2.5 million to $9 million in 1996 -- Rodman again thrived.
He killed opponents on the offensive glass who had to double Jordan or Pippen all the time, he scored when he was open, and he still could guard big men in the low post as well as anyone for key stretches, if not for 40 minutes. He took Shawn Kemp in the '96 Finals (George Karl said that Rodman won two of the four Finals games by himself), then guarded Karl Malone in '97 and '98.
"I used to really trip out, with me, Scottie and Michael," Rodman said. "We played the same position. We were the same size. To see Michael and Scottie play defense, it was like poetry. 'Cause every practice, Michael and Scottie played against each other. When they'd go in the game and match up with the same people, they could guard (the same) people. That's why I actually look at Michael as the greatest basketball player ever. He scored 30-some points a game and had 10 straight scoring titles, and made the first defensive team every year. And you saw the games; he played defense. He played damn defense. And Scottie played defense. They're the best one-two punch in the history of the game, I'm thinking."
So the scoreboard clock ran out with Rodman winning five titles -- as many as Kobe, and one more than Duncan and Shaq, by way of comparison -- and having dozens of gallons of more ink (on his body, not written). But while a lot of star players have had less-than-stellar personal moments, Rodman has lived his post-career life in a seemingly unending spiral of addictions, bouncing from trouble to trouble, with his wife sticking alongside probably more than can be expected.
Ironically, the Hall of Fame honor from the NBA -- the league that Rodman disparaged for fining him millions and suspending him over and over -- has been a career changer. Rodman's in demand again, with new business opportunities (the Rodman Cigar is available at fine shops near you!) in the offing. Yet his old friend Thomas is uncomfortable with how Rodman is perceived today.
"That sensitive guy that you saw on stage -- honest, like brutally honest -- that's the guy that we went to war with and went to war for," Thomas said. "In my opinion, he's been so misunderstood. I think he has to live up to this certain image style to earn a living ... he has to be a flamboyant person. He can't be that person unless he gets all liquored up to be it. But that's the only way he can make money."
Right now, though, Rodman's on a roll. Though I did wonder what surprised him more: making the Hall of Fame, or reaching his 50th birthday. For a guy that ingested all kinds of questionable substances during the last two decades, getting through them is an accomplishment.
"I think it surprises me more making 50," he said. "Because I've been running hard. From 38 to 45, I was really just having a good, good time. Just having a good time. No drugs, but just partying hard all the time, because I have all this free time on my hands. The last few years, I've actually slowed down. I don't know if it's the age or if I'm just trying to be more of a human being, more of a productive human being."
Getting through three days sober -- more or less -- was an encouraging sign. But there's a lot of game left to be played.
Big names lining up for pro-am showdown
As of late Sunday, the Goodman-Shaw League showdown was still on for next Saturday at Washington, D.C.'s Trinity University. The confirmed participants were, for the Goodman (D.C.) squad, Kevin Durant, Ty Lawson, Gary Neal, Michael Beasley, Grizzlies rookie Josh Selby and forward Sam Young, Kings big men DeMarcus Cousins and Donte Greene, And1 star Hugh (Baby Shaq) Jones and D.C. guard Warren (D-Nice) Jefferson. The Shaw (L.A.) League has commitments from Brandon Jennings, James Harden, DeMar DeRozan, Dorell Wright, Nick Young, JaVale McGee and Pooh Jeter.
Durant warmed up for the battle this past weekend by leading his Madness team to the Goodman championship game on Sunday with 44 points. The Shaw game will end a whirlwind summer of playing for the Thunder's superstar, who told the Washington Post he's set an October 1 deadline for deciding whether he'll play abroad if the lockout continues into the regular season.
The Wizards' John Wall was, as of last Friday, still looking to find suitable insurance to play in the Goodman-Shaw game, which has been the subject of woofing on both sides via Twitter and Facebook for weeks. Wall's presence would add to the Goodman League's list of marquee names and provide additional backcourt flexibility with Lawson and Neal. More importantly, Wall is beloved in D.C. already, even after just one year with the still-woeful Wizards. Fans that may not be able to afford to see him at Verizon Center next season would like to see him this weekend.
Just who would you take in a dispersal draft of every available NBA player?
This exercise in imagination will never happen, of course, even if the league were to, as it indicated it could if the players' union opts to decertify, void all existing contracts. It's one of the league's talking points that the union would be forfeiting $4 billion in guaranteed money if it decertifies, but the end result would also be that every player in the league would then be a free agent. And it is hard to imagine Micky Arison sitting idly by while, say, LeBron James gets wooed by, say, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard to go to Los Angeles. The possibility of such a scenario actually coming to pass is meteor-hitting-the-earth-by-Labor-Day thin. But it is, at least, a theoretical possibility. (And, let's be honest; what else is there to write about?)
The Arizona Republic's terrific Suns beat writer, Paul Coro, was the first to explore the various possibilities if there were a draft of existing players. Coro used the 2011 NBA Draft order as a guide and thus had the Cavaliers, picking first ... taking ... James. (Hard to imagine Dan Gilbert going that way, but then again, I never thought an NBA owner would issue a vitriolic press release in Comic Sans font, either.)
For the sake of this exercise, though, let's not use the Draft order. There were several teams that didn't have first-round picks, after all, and wouldn't be able to take part under that structure. Let's just keep it simple: you own the U.S. Americans, a new expansion team based in Las Vegas, playing in the new $1.5 billion Tarkanian Arena at CityCentre, and can take any player you want in a dispersal draft. Who would you take?
Here are our "draft" rules:
• Let's take all of the potential contract issues off of the table, and assume the Americans have a full budget and will be able to sign any player they choose. (Unrestricted free agents are not eligible to be selected in the dispersal, though the Americans could certainly sign them after the dispersal draft like any other team.)
• And let's go a step further to make it more realistic: after each pick, each team can take one of its existing players off the board. So after the Americans' first pick, each of the other teams can pull one of their stars back. But just one. That will still leave a lot of outstanding talent in subsequent rounds.
• We will limit to 10 rounds, assuming the Americans will fill out the remainder of the roster with their regular Draft picks and undrafted free agents.
• And, once a team has a player taken off of its roster, it's out of the draft and can't have anyone else taken from its team, and will receive a "sandwich" first round pick in the next draft, much as Major League Baseball awards teams that lose free agents. This will lead to interesting decisions for teams that have multiple stars; allowances will have to be made for age, injury, and the like. MLB's sandwich picks usually come between the first and second rounds of its draft, but that wouldn't work in the NBA, which only has two rounds.
• For our purposes, let's award the sandwich picks between the lottery teams and the first playoff team -- so the first team that has a player taken in the dispersal draft would be awarded the 16th pick overall in the first round. The next team would get the 17th, and so on.
Again, for purposes of this exercise and for argument, I am including this year's first-round picks among players, so teams like Cleveland would have to decide between protetcing Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson. (Is that fair? No. Is it fair that I didn't get to go to Vegas this year because of the stupid lockout? Same answer.)
Let's have at it.
MOCK DISPERSAL DRAFT -- FIRST ROUND
With the first pick in the 2011 NBA Dispersal Draft, the U.S. Americans select ... LeBron James, forward, Miami Heat. (Heat receives 2012 first-round pick, 16th overall, and cannot have any other players taken).
REMAINING TEAMS PROTECT: Boston: G Rajon Rondo; Knicks: F Carmelo Anthony; Philadelphia: G Jrue Holiday; New Jersey: G Deron Williams; Toronto: C Jonas Valanciunas; Chicago: G Derrick Rose; Indiana: F Paul George; Milwaukee: C Andrew Bogut; Detroit: F Greg Monroe; Cleveland: G Kyrie Irving; Orlando: C Dwight Howard; Atlanta: F/C Al Horford; Charlotte: G Kemba Walker; Washington: G John Wall; Oklahoma City: F Kevin Durant; Denver: G Ty Lawson; Portland: F/C LaMarcus Aldridge; Utah: F/C Derrick Favors; Minnesota: F Kevin Love; L.A. Lakers: G Kobe Bryant; Phoenix: C Marcin Gortat; Golden State: G Stephen Curry; L.A. Clippers: F Blake Griffin; Sacramento: C DeMarcus Cousins; San Antonio: G Manu Ginobili; Dallas: F Dirk Nowitzki; New Orleans: G Chris Paul; Memphis: C Marc Gasol; Houston: F Marcus Morris
Post-round analysis: Thought about CP3. Thought about Dwight. Thought about Kobe. But the pick is LeBron. Yes, he had a lousy Finals. But he had to play pretty well for Miami to make the Finals, just as he played pretty well the previous two seasons to win back-to-back MVPs. He is in the prime of his career, yet still young enough (26) to be the centerpiece of a championship contender for the next five to seven years. The pressure he puts on opposing defenses is so great, and so hard to stop -- unless you have a top-shelf D like Dallas -- that the possibilities are irresistable.
MOCK DISPERSAL DRAFT -- SECOND ROUND
With the second pick, the Americans select ... Joakim Noah, center, Chicago Bulls. (Bulls receive 2012 first-round pick, 17th overall, and cannot have any more players taken.)
REMAINING TEAMS PROTECT: Boston: G Rajon Rondo; Knicks: F Carmelo Anthony; Philadelphia: G Evan Turner; New Jersey: C Brook Lopez; Toronto: G DeMar DeRozan; Indiana: C Roy Hibbert; Milwaukee: G Brandon Jennings; Detroit: G Brandon Knight; Cleveland: F/C Tristan Thompson; Orlando: G Jameer Nelson; Atlanta: G Joe Johnson; Charlotte: F Bismack Biyombo; Washington: C JaVale McGee; Oklahoma City: G Russell Westbrook; Denver: F Wilson Chandler; Portland: F Nicolas Batum; Utah: C Enes Kanter; Minnesota: F Kevin Love; L.A. Lakers: F/C Pau Gasol; Phoenix: F Jared Dudley; Golden State: F/C David Lee; L.A. Clippers: G Eric Gordon; Sacramento: G Tyreke Evans; San Antonio: F Tiago Splitter; Dallas: G Jason Kidd; Hornets: C Emeka Okafor; Memphis: G Rudy Gay; Houston: G Kyle Lowry
Post-round analysis: Oh, how I wanted to pick Westbrook. Imagine the speed at which he and LeBron could play in the open court, throwing oops to each other. But you still need size in this league to win -- witness the Mavericks' ascension with Chandler anchoring the middle last season -- and the energetic Noah would be a great complement to James, able to start possessions at the defensive end in any number of ways -- off the glass, off a steal, off a block, off a taken charge. The best way to utilize LBJ's skills is to play fast, and Noah would create numerous opportunities to do that.
MOCK DISPERSAL DRAFT -- THIRD ROUND
With the third pick, the Americans select ... Kevin Garnett, Celtics. (Boston receives first-round pick in 2012 Draft, 18th overall, and cannot have any more players selected in dispersal draft.)
REMAINING TEAMS PROTECT: Knicks: G Chauncey Billups; Philadelphia: F Thaddeus Young; New Jersey: G MarShon Brooks: F Andrea Bargnani; Indiana: G Darren Collison; Milwaukee: F Luc Mbah a Moute; Detroit: F Jonas Jerebko; Cleveland: F Omri Casspi; Orlando: F Brandon Bass; Atlanta: F Josh Smith; Charlotte: G Gerald Henderson; Washington: F Jan Vesely; Oklahoma City: F/C Serge Ibaka; Denver: F Danilo Gallinari; Portland: G Ray Felton; Utah: F Gordon Hayward; Minnesota: F Derrick Williams; L.A. Lakers: C Andrew Bynum; Phoenix: G Steve Nash; L.A. Clippers: C DeAndre Jordan; Golden State: G Monta Ellis; Sacramento: G Jimmer Fredette; San Antonio: G Tony Parker; Dallas: G Jason Terry; New Orleans: F Trevor Ariza; Memphis: F Zach Randolph; Houston: F Luis Scola
Post-round analysis: Yeah, he's old. But having Garnett barking for a year or two alongside Noah would be great to watch. With James, Garnett and Noah, you would have the opportunity to unleash a defensive force the likes of which this league hasn't seen since the days of the Dobermans in Chicago. Imagine having to dissect that trio across the front line. Good luck, hoss. Many make the argument that a stretch four would be more helpful to James, but Cleveland tried that with Antawn Jamison, and Garnett just backed him down and shot over him at will in the 2010 Eastern semis -- which just happened to be James' last series as a Cavalier. I'll take my chances Garnett stays healthy long enough to make taking him worth it.
MOCK DISPERSAL DRAFT -- FOURTH ROUND
With the fourth pick, the Americans select ... George Hill, guard, from the Indiana Pacers. Indiana receives a first-round pick in the 2012 Draft, 19th overall, and cannot have another player taken off of its roster.)
REMAINING TEAMS PROTECT: Knicks: G Iman Shumpert; Philadelphia: F Andre Iguodala; New Jersey: G Anthony Morrow; Toronto: F Ed Davis; Milwaukee: G Stephen Jackson; Detroit: G Rodney Stuckey; Cleveland: F/C Anderson Varejao; Orlando: G J.J. Redick; Atlanta: G Jeff Teague; Charlotte: G D.J. Augustin; Washington: G Jordan Crawford; Oklahoma City: C Kendrick Perkins; Denver: G Arron Afflalo; Portland: G Wes Matthews; Utah: F Paul Millsap; Minnesota: G/F Wesley Johnson; L.A. Lakers: F Lamar Odom; Phoenix: C Robin Lopez; Golden State: F Dorell Wright; L.A. Clippers: G Eric Bledsoe; Sacramento: F J.J. Hickson; San Antonio: C Tim Duncan; Dallas: C Brendan Haywood; New Orleans: G Jarrett Jack; Memphis: G Mike Conley; Houston: G Courtney Lee
Post-round analysis: Hill is versatile, able to play at both ends, experienced at both playing off of a superstar and playing in big postseason games -- and, important on a team that will spend money but isn't looking to be ridiculous about its payroll -- is a potential starter who comes relatively cheap ($1.54 million next season). I need a guard who can take some of the defensive load off of James, and it helps that Hill can spot up and shoot as well.
MOCK DISPERSAL DRAFT -- FIFTH ROUND
With the fifth pick in the dispersal draft, the Americans select ... Nick Collison, of the Oklahoma City Thunder. (Oklahoma City receives a first-round pick in the 2012 Draft, 20th overall, and cannot have another player taken off of its roster.)
REMAINING TEAMS PROTECT: Knicks: G Landry Fields; Philadelphia: G Lou Williams; New Jersey: F Jordan Williams; Toronto: G Leandro Barbosa; Milwaukee: F Ersan Ilyasova; Detroit: F Austin Daye; Cleveland: G Daniel Gibson; Orlando: F Ryan Anderson; Atlanta: G Kirk Hinrich; Charlotte: F Corey Maggette; Washington: F Andray Blatche; Denver: F/C Chris Andersen; Portland: C Marcus Camby; Utah: G Devin Harris; Minnesota: C Darko Milicic; L.A. Lakers: G Derek Fisher; Phoenix: F Grant Hill; Golden State: G Klay Thompson; L.A. Clippers: G Mo Williams; Sacramento: F Jason Thompson; San Antonio: C DeJuan Blair; Dallas: F Shawn Marion; New Orleans: G Marco Belinelli; Memphis: G O.J. Mayo; Houston: C Donatas Motiejunas
Post-round analysis: Collison showed what he could do in the playoffs, when he threw his hands, feet, face and whatever else was handy in the way of Dirk Nowitzki and made the eventual Finals MVP earn every point in the Western finals. He's a good backup to have in case Garnett gets injured. Plus, Collison's cap friendly contract makes him another valuable piece to have on the roster.
MOCK DISPERSAL DRAFT -- SIXTH ROUND
With the sixth pick, the Americans select ... Mickael Pietrus, forward, Phoenix Suns. (Phoenix receives a 2012 first-round pick, 21st overall, and cannot have another player taken off of its roster.)
REMAINING TEAMS PROTECT: Knicks: G Toney Douglas; Philadelphia: C Nikola Vucevic; New Jersey: C Dan Gadzuric; Toronto: F Amir Johnson; Milwaukee: F Drew Gooden; Detroit: G Ben Gordon; Cleveland: C Ryan Hollins: Orlando: F Hedo Turkoglu; Atlanta: C Zaza Pachulia; Charlotte: F Tyrus Thomas; Washington: F Chris Singleton; Denver: F Kenneth Faried; Portland: F Gerald Wallace; Utah: G Alec Burks; Minnesota: F Michael Beasley; L.A. Lakers: F Matt Barnes; L.A. Clippers: C Chris Kaman; Golden State: F Ekpe Udoh; Sacramento: G Marcus Thornton; San Antonio: F Kawhi Leonard; Dallas: G Rudy Fernandez; New Orleans: F Quincy Pondexter; Memphis: F Darrell Arthur; Houston: G Kevin Martin
Post-round analysis: Pietrus was terrific in the Finals two years ago against the Lakers. For whatever reason, he's fallen out of favor in Phoenix. That won't be a problem for the Americans, who see Pietrus as a perfect fit in a three-guard rotation, giving them the ability to switch defensively with James on just about every possession. Again, we're going to make our bones at the defensive end, but we need guys who are used to taking and making threes when the lights are their brightest.
MOCK DISPERSAL DRAFT -- SEVENTH ROUND
With the seventh pick, the Americans select ... Rod Beaubois, guard, Dallas Mavericks. (Dallas receives a 2012 first-round pick, 22nd overall, and cannot have any more players taken off of its roster.)
REMAINING TEAMS PROTECT: Knicks: G Bill Walker; Philadelphia: F Elton Brand; New Jersey: F Bojan Bogdanovich; Toronto: G Jose Calderon; Milwaukee: F-C Larry Sanders; Detroit: F Charlie Villanueva; Cleveland: C Semih Erden; Orlando: G Gilbert Arenas; Atlanta: F Marvin Williams; Charlotte: F Dante Cunningham; Denver: C Timofey Mozgov; Portland: G Brandon Roy; Utah: F Al Jefferson; Minnesota: G Luke Ridnour; L.A. Lakers: G Steve Blake; Golden State: G Reggie Williams; L.A. Clippers: F Al-Farouq Aminu; Sacramento: G John Salmons; San Antonio: G Gary Neal; New Orleans: C David Andersen; Memphis: F Tony Allen; Houston: F Chase Budinger
Post-round analysis: Might be a reach taking the oft-injured Beaubois, but I can't get that great series he had in the 2010 playoffs against San Antonio out of my head. He is so fast with the ball that James might have trouble keeping up with him. If he ever stays healthy and gets himself under control, there's not a guy in the league that can stay in front of him. Dribble penetration with James on the wing would be lethal.
MOCK DISPERSAL DRAFT -- EIGHTH ROUND
With the eighth pick, the Americans select ... Trevor Booker, forward-center, Washington Wizards. (Washington receives a 2012 first-round pick, 23rd overall, and cannot have any more players taken from its roster.)
REMAINING TEAMS PROTECT: Knicks: C Ronny Turiaf; Philadelphia: C Spencer Hawes; New Jersey: G Jordan Farmar; Toronto: F Linas Kleiza; Milwaukee: G Carlos Delfino; Detroit: F Jason Maxiell; Cleveland: G Baron Davis; Orlando: G Quentin Richardson; Atlanta: C Keith Benson; Charlotte: F D.J. White; Denver: G Andre Miller; Portland: C Greg Oden; Utah: F Jeremy Evans; Minnesota: C Nikola Pekovic; L.A. Lakers: F Ron Artest; Golden State: C Andris Biedrins; L.A. Clippers: G Randy Foye; Sacramento: G Francisco Garcia; San Antonio: F Richard Jefferson; New Orleans: F Patrick Ewing, Jr.; Memphis: G Greivis Vasquez; Houston: F Jordan Hill
Post-round analysis: Booker doesn't give you a ton of offense, but he'll bang on the boards and is a better perimeter defender than you think. Won't play a lot for the Americans but he'd be ready in case there were injuries to the starters or top reserves.
MOCK DISPERSAL DRAFT -- NINTH ROUND
With the ninth pick, the Americans select ... Anthony Carter, guard, New York Knicks. (New York receives a 2012 first-round pick, 24th overall, and cannot have another player taken off of its roster.)
REMAINING TEAMS PROTECT: Philadelphia: G Jodie Meeks; New Jersey: F Travis Outlaw; Toronto: G Jerryd Bayless; Milwaukee: F Jon Brockman; Detroit: C Ben Wallace; Cleveland: F Antawn Jamison; Orlando: C Daniel Orton; Atlanta: F Magnum Rolle; Charlotte: C DeSagana Diop; Denver: F Al Harrington; Portland: F Luke Babbitt; Utah: F C.J. Miles; Minnesota: F Anthony Randolpa; L.A. Lakers: F Luke Walton; Golden State: G Jeremy Lin; L.A. Clippers: F Ryan Gomes; Sacramento: F Donte Greene; San Antonio: F Matt Bonner; New Orleans: COMPLETE (all available players protected); Memphis: G Sam Young; Houston: G Jonny Flynn
Post-round analysis: Reasoning? We need a backup point guard for Hill that I can trust to run my offense in the second quarter, when teams can bog down offensively with reserves on the court. If George Karl swears by A.C., that's good enough for us.
MOCK DISPERSAL DRAFT -- TENTH ROUND
With the 10th pick in the dispersal draft, the Americans select ... Jeremy Tyler, center, Golden State Warriors. (Golden State receives a 2012 first-round pick, 25th overall.) * As the dispersal draft is now over, remaining teams that have not had a player selected no longer have to protect the remaining players on their rosters.
Post-round analysis: The 20-year-old Tyler is a pure prospect, whose upside as a potential dynamic big man is worth the gamble -- not to mention inexpensive.
And there you have it. Would this work as a real NBA team? I don't know, but it would be fun to watch. I'm sure most of you disagree with every pick with every fiber of your being. Well, that's what talk radio and the internet are for, right?
From his mouth to God's ears. From Matthew Welch:
I have always admired sports' -- Particularly the NFL's -- ability to create different winning teams one year to the next. One year a team could be the worst in the game, the next year, playoff finalists. In my very basic and humble view this is down to two things, the draft and the hard cap. At the moment the NBA is more like the English soccer league with the richer, larger-market teams pooling all the good resources with the smaller markets having to rely on youth to be successful. It has been wonderful to see OKC put together a great team of young talent but I am sure their success will be short lived due to players moving to bigger markets. This is why I am a believer in the hard-cap system, it promotes greater equality and a more varied competitive spectacle.
Having read a constant stream of articles about the lockout over the last month I feel a major point is being constantly overlooked and could have much wider implications. I'm not talking about the players, the owners or even the fans, my concern is for the workers. The janitor, shop worker, bar staff, street vendors, stadium security and many more -- people whose livelihoods are at risk if the lockout continues in one of the greatest economic crisis of our time. This year in February I fulfilled a life long dream to go to Utah ... yes Utah, to watch the Jazz, a team I have supported since being introduced to basketball. The city is a quite friendly and is almost a tranquil place, but come game day, the place comes alive. Streets, bars, restaurants and shops fill up with fans from across the state. How many of those people working to serve all those people will have to be laid off or get their hours cut if we lose half or even a full season? The owners and the players have a responsibility much larger than the depth of their pockets, they have a responsibility to the economy and livelihood of the community that has been built around each team. I just hope they think of this implication when sat at the negotiating table.
Amen, Matthew. Everyone pays lip service to the people who are going to be laid off, furloughed, etc., if the lockout starts costing us games. But I don't think anyone in a position of power really cares. Those folks are collateral damage to them, acceptable losses to get what they want -- more money. It's sad and unfortunate.
From Gene Ramos:
Is Shaun Livingston capable of 100 percent or close to rehab and a starting position in NBA at the point position?
I think Shaun is fine physically, Gene. He played in 73 games for the Bobcats last season before getting traded to the Bucks as part of the Stephen Jackson deal before the Draft. I don't think many teams would think of him as a starter at this point, including his new team. It's likely that Shaun will have to be a third guard in a rotation for the near future. And, considering how far he's come since that horrific injury a few years ago, that's an amazing accomplishment.
It would be must-see-TV. From Brian Wilson:
Your segment on the 2012 Olympic team selection got me wondering. If the worst-case is realized and the entire upcoming season is lost, the appetite for hoops would be pretty high by next spring. Does USA Basketball have the ability to negotiate a deal to televise tryouts/practices with a network (be it NBA TV or someone else) so that fans can get our fix?
I don't know that there will be tryouts, Brian. This is going to be, much like 2008, an invitation only deal, with Jerry Colangelo embossing the envelopes. As far as practices, they won't take place until next summer, after The Finals. Let's hope that we've got a deal by then. If not, I'll pass along your proposal to my bosses.
Send your questions, comments, criticisms and a map to find Tiger Woods' old game to firstname.lastname@example.org. If your e-mail is sufficiently interesting, thought-provoking, funny or snarky, we just might publish it!
$2,500,000 -- Amount that former Tar Heel and Suns forward Vince Carter gave to his alma mater's "Basketball Family Fund," the largest amount the endowment has ever received.
3 -- Times Houston will have hosted the All-Star Game after the city was reportedly given the 2013 game by the NBA, according to a local Houston television station. Houston had the game in 1989, playing it at the Astrodome, and 2006 at Toyota Center. Next year's game will be played -- well, maybe -- in Orlando at the Amway Center.
45 -- Days since the owners began the lockout.
1) It was great -- great -- to see Alexander Wolff, Jim Durham and Brian McIntyre get their recognition from the Naismith Hall of Fame last week with the Curt Gowdy Media Award (Wolff and Durham) and John G. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award (McIntyre). I have not worked with Alexander personally over the years but am a big fan of his work in Sports Illustrated. I worked with JD and Dr. Jack Ramsay for many years on ESPN Radio, and anybody who's covered the league over the last three decades has dealt on a regular basis with Brian, who was, always, honest, accessible, quick to respond and, also, quite funny. He's the best.
2) Pretty compelling speech from Rodman Friday night. Unvarnished, unsparing (especially on himself), occasionally profane. Have you ever heard someone speak so honestly about his dysfunctional relationship with his mother--with his mother not 30 feet away, in the audience?
3).This is, simply, the greatest statement ever made by a corporation. "They remain puppets"... will go into my lexicon of all-time phraseology.
4) You can't watch scenes like this enough. Welcome home, Major Harlow.
5) I'm officially on vacation as of this morning. Next week, former NBA big man Kermit Washington will pen the first guest Tip while I'm gone. Three others will follow. One will involve you, the NBA fan. Details will follow below. But the first will be Kermit's.
His is a remarkable journey since his playing days ended. For more than 15 years, Kermit has made annual pilgrimages to Africa for Project Contact Africa, the aid and assistance group that has fed and clothes tens of thousands on the continent who needed it. He often goes to Kenya, as he plans to do in just a few weeks, bringing a small group of NBA players and volunteers who try to put a small dent in the despair. In 2003, he helped to build a 6,000 square foot school, clinic and food distribution center there. Unfortunately, the work never stops, because the need never does. The column will tell you all about it.
As for the NBA fan -- you -- I have an idea. I want you to write a guest column, about how you're coping -- or not coping -- with this lockout. I want you to tell me what it is you love so much about pro ball, how it gets inside you, how it makes you watch 25-year-old games on NBA TV or read old Jack McCallum or Jackie MacMullen pieces in Sports Illustrated. Why you love Granny Waiters just as much as you love Blake Griffin. Why you come back, after the work stoppages and The Brawl and everything else. And I want you to tell me why you, of all the NBA fans, should write it.
The e-mail, again, is email@example.com. We'll sort through the best offers while I'm at the beach and let you know who wins in a couple of weeks.
1) Would have been an even better night in Springfield if Reggie Miller had been inducted -- as he doggone well should have been. A major, ridiculous oversight, selection committee, that needs to be fixed in time for the 2012 class.
2) We're at the point now where they can't even agree on who canceled the meeting they were supposed to have last week. Good God.
3) Chill, Perk. It's the summertime.
4) Condolences to my colleague Ernie Johnson, simply the best at what he does, and his family this week. Ernie lost his father, longtime Braves broadcaster Ernie Johnson, Sr., on Friday.
Kid stops me at the airport & asks me for an autograph. When I finish, he looks at the sheet & says "Your NOT Curtis Granderson"? #gotme
-- Former Bulls top pick Jay Williams (@RealJayWilliams), Sunday, 2:40 p.m. Judge for yourself.
"It seems to me that I could handle the prime minister's job."
-- Nets owner and Russian tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov, during a news conference last week, continuing a summer in which he's dropped hints about his political aspirations. Left unsaid (or, perhaps, unasked) is what this would mean for his day-to-day control of the Nets, who are planning to move into their new home in Brooklyn next year.
"No one wanted to hire him. He would've gone home and been a lawyer in North Dakota."
-- Former Bulls general manager Jerry Krause, to Yahoo! Sports, on his role in plucking Phil Jackson out of relative obscurity in 1987 by hiring him as an assistant coach in Chicago alongside Tex Winter, who was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame last week. Krause and Jackson famously have gone their separate ways and no longer speak due to Jackson's acrimonious departure from the team following its sixth and last championship in 1998.
"This is about profitability. We're going to make it profitable."
-- Commissioner David Stern, in a podcast with ESPN.com on Friday, while detailing a claim that the players' union has said in private meetings with the league that teams should only break even financially in a new collective bargaining agreement.
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