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David Aldridge

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For the NBA's 400-plus players, it is time to stop listening to everyone else and choose.
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Players must forget rhetoric and simply make a decision


Posted Nov 14 2011 10:22AM

Labor Central
Comparing the offers
Stern's memo to players with complete offer (PDF)

Because this ain't about education! It ain't much about winning, and it sure as hell ain't much about basketball. It's about money! Just (bleeping) money!

-- Climactic scene from the movie "Blue Chips," when the coach, Pete Bell, acknowledges his role in violating the rules in college basketball to put a winning team on the court

Let's be clear at the outset: no one involved in the NBA's current lockout has, as far as I know, broken any rules or laws.

That's part of what's been great about covering the pro game for 25 years; you never had to worry about that phone call at 3 a.m. saying some 18-year-old kid was busted for selling oxycontin, or wait to see if the kid with the wicked crossover but the 550 SATs had magically improved his score 400 points in six weeks.

You never had to schmooze oily boosters or other "friends of the program" with their summer jobs that, oddly, involved very little work for the youngsters, or deal with egomaniacal coaches talking ad nauseum about their precious systems and how it was all about educating the kids, only to leave those kids in the lurch at the drop of a cellphone when the next school came singing its siren song -- the one about the eight-figure contract and the condo in the hills.

In the NBA, it has always been about the money, and no one tried to make you believe differently. Kids once came out of college because their rookie pro contracts were the big payday. But the implementation of the rookie wage scale in 1995 changed that. Afterward, the goal was to come out of school as early as possible to "start the clock," as the agents say, get the rookie deals out of the way as soon as possible so that the players could cash in on the extensions or the free-agent deals.

For the superstars, whether they were genial and quiet like Tim Duncan, or outsized and incorrigable like Shaq, or brash and profane like Kobe Bryant, the message was the same as well: pay me. Duncan was no less ruthless in 2000, when it was time for the Spurs to cough up, as Shaq was a couple of years later -- he held San Antonio over a barrel, flirted strongly with the Magic and made Gregg Popovich's agita kick up like you wouldn't believe before the Spurs came correct with the loot. When Jerry Buss made it clear he'd like to think about it before extending Shaq, the Diesel went ballistic, cussin' and snortin' and talkin' his way out of town to Miami in a trade -- just in time for Buss to bestow $120 million on Bryant, the Lakers' new franchise player.

The role players found their pipeline to the ATM with the mid-level exception, which was originally designed as a tradeoff after the 1998 lockout. In exchange for caps on the superstars' top salaries -- Kevin Garnett's $126 million deal in 1996 has yet to be topped 15 years later -- teams would make sure there was a burgeoning middle class in the NBA, and, presumably, be able to keep important players in their rotation. (Adjusted for inflation, KG's 1996 contract would have cost the Timberwolves $173,273,551.56 in 2010, so says this handy-dandy inflation conversion website thingy.)

On occasion, a solid player like Chauncey Billups or Hedo Turkoglu helped their teams reach Finals series after getting MLEs. Sometimes, a young player (like Larry Hughes in Washington) got stability with an MLE, played above his head for a couple of years, then cashed in (as Hughes did by getting $65 million from the Cavs in 2005 after his three-year, $15 million MLE with the Wizards expired).

But, increasingly, the MLE was used to reward one-year wonders, guys who had one above-average season.

Brian Cardinal parlayed one modest year, his 2003-04 season in Golden State -- 9.6 points, 4.2 rebounds -- into a $39 million deal with Memphis the following summer. Jerome James did Cardinal one better, turning one good playoff series with Seattle in 2005 against Duncan and the Spurs into a $30 million MLE bonanza with the Knicks.

Same with coaches and general managers, whose salaries began to swell in the late 1990s and grow and grow with the new millenium, as teams desperate to catch up to the elites or elites desperate to remain elite paid through the nose. Milwaukee paid $7 million per year for George Karl in the late '90s and New York paid $10 million per for Larry Brown in 2005 -- a deal that only lasted one season, with Brown being fired in 2006 and settling for $18.5 million of the remaining $40 million on his deal in a compromise orchestrated by the Commish himself. Phil Jackson got $12 million in Los Angeles in 2008-09 and a new five-year, $35 million deal is what Doc Rivers is under today in Boston. General managers have gotten richer, too, with $2 and $3 million annual salaries no longer uncommon.

And I never had a problem with any of that.

This was all about what the market can bear.

If owners had the cash and the inclination to write the checks, more power to them.

So don't have any illusions about this current lockout, which may well continue into 2012 if the union's executive committee and player representatives, meeting today in New York, decide to take a pass on the league's latest -- and, it says, last -- contract offer before putting an even more restrictive one on the table.

This is about money, pure and simple.

The players want to hold onto the mechanisms that have delivered so much loot to them over the last decade, and the agents who represent them want to keep their paydays coming, too. Forget all this nonsense about looking out for future generations, like these guys are coal miners trying to get more medical for Black Lung Disease. While I don't doubt the motives of the guys on the union's executive committee, who have commuted to New York time and again for months, most players don't give a damn about some 15-year-old that may be in the league in five years, when their careers are just about over.

So, now that that's clear ...

Players, make up your mind.

Not what your mama or daddy tells you. Not what your agent tells you. Not what your wife or your girlfriend or your grandma says, not what your next-door neighbor or your accountant or your personal trainer says.

You.

If you want to play this season, take the deal. Unless you're a moron with your money, you're not going to go broke. Really. You're going to make a very good living, no matter if you're a rookie just coming in or a 12-year vet on his way out. There are auto workers in Detroit and migrant workers in Arizona and hotel maids in Florida who would love to trade places with you -- even if they had to live on a "mini" mid-level at $2.5 million. (Here, I respectfully disagree with my buddy Etan Thomas, the Hawks center and one of the union's vice presidents, who argues here that NBA players have more in common with the 99 percent folks than the 1 percent that is, presumably, represented by NBA ownership in this case. While I understand the argument that there are similarities between the squeezing of the middle class in the real world and in the NBA's world, I cannot in good conscience argue that a guy making more than most will in a lifetime is in the same boat. You are among the one percent. Full disclosure: so am I. None of us are bagging groceries at Whole Foods.)

If you really do think this is a bad offer, and can be sweetened further by going back to the bargaining table, and are willing to lose a year's salary for the principle, and really do care about the generation that follows you, then trust the executive committee, tell your team representative no dice, reject the offer and decertify your union. From what I'm told, the growing group of agents who have jumped on the decertification train have up to 200 signatures ready to go, and are ready to file an antitrust lawsuit on their players' behalf against the league.

But do what you think is right. Get educated on the issues. I'm not a lawyer or a labor reporter, and I have an agent to handle my contracts, too, but I've learned what this lockout is about, and if I were a player and had to cast a vote, I could. You should, too. Stop with the "silent majority" bull. Speak up, one way or the other.

This ain't about education...

If I read one more time about how the players' union hasn't "educated" the players on the details of the lockout, I'm gonna hurl. How many regional meetings, conference calls, Skypes and pamphlets do you need before it sinks in? How can an NBA player, who has been barred from working out at his facility for the last four months, who can't have contact with his coaches, who can't work out with his team's trainers, who is part of a union that has conceded approximiately $3 billion of his future salaries to try and save his job, still not have a rudimentary understanding of the issues involved? It is one thing not to know the minutae of the different offers between the league and the union on, say, the repeater tax (how much extra tax does the NBA want on the third $5 million?). It is another to have no idea at all of what's going on, or why. If you don't know, pick up the damn phone and ask or text someone who does. Anyone who just trusts their agent -- no matter how honest, or well-meaning the agent is -- is a fool.

Having said that, the union continues to do a terrible job making the most rudimentary information available for players to make up their own minds. How can there not be a dedicated website or portal on the union's website where players can log on and get the basic data points -- or the union's proposed data points -- so that players and agents aren't left to fend for information from media reports or the league's Twitter account?

No one expects the Players' Association's overworked lawyers to be available for every agent's call or every player's text. But players should have an easy way to access information about this proposed CBA. The old CBA is available on the union website; why isn't there a one-pager of this proposal there as well? By the way, if you did want to have a player vote on the proposal, how would you do it when so many international players and U.S.-born NBA players currently playing overseas are out of the country? Wouldn't you have to have an electronic vote, anyway?

It ain't much about winning...

Meanwhile, the league continues to hold onto the "competitive balance" argument for its position on the system issues like a fat guy sliding down a firepole slathered with butter. As late as Sunday night, when the NBA held its Tweetapalooza for fans and anyone else checking in on Twitter, the league maintained yet again that closing the gap between the league's top spending teams and its lowest-spending teams will result in increased parity and give more teams a chance to win.

The NBA has empircal evidence -- from its own economists and other deep thinkers -- that bolsters its contention that closing the money gap will close the competition gap. But it has not yet made any of that data public or referenced it specifically to the media. The union has, for the most part, done the same, though its chief economist, Kevin Murphy, broke down the PA's arguments to Steve Aschburner last month, claiming that income variance between teams accounted for no more than five to 10 percent of the difference between teams when it came to winning. David Berri, a non-aligned academic and part of the Wages of Wins team, has concluded that, at most, salary disparities can account for up to six percent of the difference between winning teams and losing ones.

Another study showed that in the first five years after Major League Baseball implemented its luxury tax system in 1996, there was almost no impact on competitive balance. The only significant impact was the reduction in salaries for baseball players, a drop of approximately 22 percent. (If you want to read the whole thing, it will cost you $10, unless you work at a library or someplace similar.) I am no economist, but I've documented time and again that the NBA has never been competitive throughout its history.

Once again: seven teams have won more than 80 percent of the league's championships since 1947. During the most democratic decade in league history, the 1970s, when eight different teams -- New York, Milwaukee, the Lakers, Boston, Golden State, Portland, Washington and Seattle -- won titles, the public was so disinterested that The Finals had to be shown on tape delay. (Again, to be fair, part of that disinterest likely came from white fans' anger at and disdain for the league's black players of the era. For many reasons, one suspects, white fans were turned off by the NBA and didn't really start coming back in droves until Magic and Bird came on the scene in the early '80s.)

At best, then, there is debate as to whether lowering salary disparities has the intended effect of increasing competition.

I submit most NBA fans have made their peace with the idea that their teams likely won't compete for titles any time soon. They come to games to root for their team or individual players, and, as long as they're entertained, they'll likely come back.

I arrived at this conclusion a few years ago when working for the Four-Letter network. I got into an e-mail argument with Mark Cuban over whether NBA tickets were overpriced and driving most working folks out of the league's arenas. Cuban argued that there were plenty of affordable tickets in all buildings and that the most important thing for fans was having a good time. I thought that was folly and said so; Cuban thought I was an idiot when it came to business, and said so. Realizing I needed to buttress my argument with some facts, I spent the next several months traveling around the country, interviewing fans in a dozen different cities. I interviewed fans whose teams were winning and fans whose teams were losing; fans in large-market, big-revenue cities and fans in small-market, small-revenue cities.

After all those interviews, I came to the inescapable conclusion that Cubes was right on the money.

People didn't care about their teams' winning or losing nearly as much as they did about whether their kids had fun. They didn't mind sitting in the nosebleed seats as long as the vendors came by occasionally and the music was loud and rocking. They loved watching the games, and would come back again. (Lots of fathers with their daughters, by the way.) The Bulls kept selling out after Jordan left and before Derrick Rose arrived. But, for the longest time, so did the Kings, whether they were rooting for terrible teams with one star player, Mitch Richmond, or the C-Webb-Vlade Divac-Mike Bibby teams that contended for championships. The recession, which hit the Maloof family as hard as its paying customers, was a catalyst in changing that. And the guess here is that that global economic freefall has as much to do with why teams are losing tens of millions of dollars as the salaries they're paying players.

Fans supported good teams in Milwaukee and Dallas in the 1980s, and Seattle, Utah and Charlotte in the 1990s, and Phoenix and Indiana in the 2000s, knowing that they had very little chance of breaking through and winning titles. They supported them because they had good players, were well-coached, and played an entertaining style of basketball. They will continue to support such teams in the future.

...and it sure as hell ain't much about basketball!...

Remember basketball? Or, more to the point, basketball after the '98-'99 lockout? Very little memorable hoop; a lot of godawful shooting, and low scoring, and the beginnings of almost a decade in the doldrums. The parallels between that year and this one are frighteningly similar -- coming off a huge season (the '97-'98 campaign was Jordan's last in Chicago, producing the last of the Bulls' six championships) with huge Finals ratings, combined with great interest in a young, up-and-coming Draft class (the 1996 Draft, with Allen Iverson, Ray Allen, Stephon Marbury, Steve Nash, Antoine Walker, Jermaine O'Neal and a kid named Kobe, was just starting to take root, just as the '03 Draft has come to define the current player era), made for a bright, bright future.

And then, the abyss.

One shudders to think what the quality of play will be like, assuming this year's lockout is settled any time soon. Think about how much this has taken out of the 37-year-old Derek Fisher, the union president and starting point guard for the Lakers, mentally and emotionally. And Fish is maniacal about staying in shape; imagine what those who've taken it easy will look like when they have to go up and down the floor a few dozen times on short notice.

"You don't know what they've been doing all summer," said one concerned general manager. "You remember '99. You remember how poor the conditioning some of our guys were. The injury factor was prevalent. The quality of play wasn't as good ... who's gonna be this year's Shawn Kemp? Hopefully he's not on our team this year."

It's likely many teams may well keep two and three young players on the roster that otherwise wouldn't make the team or would be in the NBA Developmental League precisely because of the expected injury toll. So one of the bigger "B-list" issues that will be watched by GMs and coaches as the union and league continue negotiating is roster size. The union's executive director, Billy Hunter, said he'd be amenable to discussing cutting rosters from their current maximum of 15 if the league made concessions on the system issues that have continued to keep the two sides apart.

Even if, somehow, the two sides came to an agreement by the this week, and the 72-game regular season as proposed by the league, starting Dec. 15, were preserved, the next 30 or so days would be less an orderly walk to the starting gate as a mad clamboring of many people into very little space. Think of the final minutes of "Titanic." Even under the best scenarios, its not likely teams would have more than 10 days for training camp, and there isn't a coach around who wouldn't want or need more time to put in his schemes, specific plays and sets, get a feel for his rotation or anything else that would produce higher quality play.

"First, we'd have to complete the agreement ... the so-called A list issues," deputy commissioner Adam Silver Video said last Thursday. "So we'd have to get right back to the negotiating table, finish up the agreement. It probably would take us at least a week. Then there's the free agency period. Then we would get players into training camp, and I think it's unclear whether we would have a preseason. We may have a very short preseason, as we did when we had the last lockout."

The guess -- and we're all guessing -- by most folks around the league is that a team like Oklahoma City, with its nucleus of young veterans, is as well-positioned as anyone when and if the lockout ends. The Thunder has a rotation of players who have been around each other for a few years (other than Kendrick Perkins, who should at least be a little healthier going into camp than he was last season, when he was coming off of an ACL injury and acquired from Boston at the trade deadline). And OKC's best player, Kevin Durant, has seemingly played every minute of every day this summer, a gym rat's gym rat.

But how will older legs -- in Boston, in San Antonio -- handle a sprint involving three games in three days and unusually high numbers of back-to-backs? How will young teams in Utah and Philly handle the mental grind of game after game, week after week? How will teams use their limited time? Is it to get players in shape? Or to start scrimmaging as soon as possible to knock off the rust, knowing that will leave players more susceptible to injury?

One coach said, sotto voce, that he will simply rest his star players on the third night of back-to-back-to-back games when and if they appear on the schedule -- no matter what they did the night(s) before, no matter where his team is in the standings and no matter where his team was playing that night. One suspects his view is hardly unique. So if you're in a Western Conference city, and the Heat is making its only appearance in your town this season, you better hope LeBron and D-Wade didn't have it too hard in Denver and Salt Lake the two previous nights. If you live in Charlotte, just pray that the Hornets had it easy in D.C. and Jersey before heading your way, or you could be watching Chris Paul in Armani, not a uniform.

... It's about money! Just (bleeping) money!

You say you understand the players' point of view that they're being asked to subsidize the poor financial decisions of owners and their general managers, and you're accused of being a tool of the union and biased against businessmen. You say you understand the need for both sides to share the risk and rewards going forward in a 50-50 split of BRI, and it's noted that you write for NBA.com and appear on NBA-TV (even though, for the billionth time, you point out you work for Turner Sports and not the league), and thus are an NBA propagandist.

You are neither.

You are a guy that, like everyone else, just wants his basketball back, and can't figure out why, after all these months of meetings and proposals and counterproposals, they still can't figure out how to split the $4 billion.

I get that businesses should have a chance to be meaningfully profitable as they define it on Wall Street -- at a 10 to 15 percent operating profit. I get that NBA owners saw the steadily declining profit margin of NFL teams -- from 14 percent to around four percent from 2006 to 2010, before the NFL worked out a new CBA with its players -- and got the willies. I get that the days of easy debt that previous owners had, where they had access to however much cash they needed to stay liquid and pay the bills, are over. I get that Joe Lacob and Peter Guber paid $450 million for the Warriors and wonder when they'll ever make a dime off of that business. I get that.

But I also get that players only get a bite or two out of the apple, and that they have steadily been boxed in for the last few decades. The salary cap (1983) wasn't enough. The rookie wage scale (1995) wasn't enough. The limits on maximum salaries (1998) wasn't enough. The escrow accounts and luxury tax (2005) wasn't enough. I get that players can justifiably ask, when will enough be enough? I asked the league Sunday night during its Twitter exchange if it gets everything it's asked for this time, from the better split of BRI for owners to the drags on luxury tax payers that shrink the gap between the Lakers and Kings (or whoever is at the bottom in spending in a given season), will that be enough? Will there no longer be excuses for any team, no matter the market, if it doesn't win?

Still waiting for an answer.

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From Ricardo Almeida:

In the last Morning Tip, you published a letter from a reader who believed that a league with more star concentration around some teams were more entertaining.

I respectfully disagree and I have to side with David Stern on this one. I'm an European NBA follower (at least for now...) and the main reason that got me to stay awake until ungodly hours in the morning just to catch a game or two was inherent competitiveness of this league. Every season there are a couple of teams who have more chances of reaching the playoffs than any other, but that isn't written in stone and potentially, every team is a good draft, or at least a few smart trades, away from becoming a contender.

Without a hard salary cap or some kind of restriction to level the playing field, the NBA is risking to became just like any European soccer league, where you have just three or four rightful contenders and the rest of the teams are just cannon fodder. In that scenario any given team is just a billionaire owner away of becoming a champion, which in my honest point of view, is anything but competitive. There are at least three great consequences to that:

1) The number of interesting games will be awfully reduced. Since there are no limitations to how much a team could spend, great teams in lucrative markets will inevitably round up all the star players, just like what happens now in Spain with Real Madrid and Barcelona S.C., for example. So instead of having, at least two or three great matchups per week, people will be only compelled to watch a handful of games in all season.

2) No more regular match-ups between stars. It's was bad enough that we had to say goodbye to the Wade-James "competition" last summer.

3) The probability of success for a given team is gonna be proportional to the deepness of its owner pockets. Small-market teams or with a "not-so-rich" owner will struggle and eventually move to other markets again and again.

As for the underdog theory, again, take a look at the European soccer leagues. In my experience, the proposed NBA system, as with many other salary "capped" systems, is the only ones capable of producing real underdogs, because the top dogs are on a leash.

As a final remark, I want to point out that I am a Knicks fan. I know that New York is one of the most lucrative NBA markets. In the absence of a salary cap, I also know that the Knicks were definitely gonna be one of the big contenders in the East. But I'd rather watch my team reach the top on its merit as an organization than by simply overpowering all the other ones.

You make several good points, Ricardo. But I just disagree that there needs to be fundamental change for more teams to be competitive. There may well have to be fundamental change for more teams to be profitable, but that's a different argument. There are too many small(er) revenue teams that manage to build legit teams (San Antonio, Utah, Oklahoma City) even in the current economic climate for me to think it can't be done anywhere that management drafts well, is creative in how it spends its money and smart about on whom (and how much) it spends its most money.

Well, Sidney Crosby doesn't have Jose's crossover. From Joseph Darren:

The average NBA salary [$5,150,000] is by far the highest of the four major leagues. It is more than double the average NFL salary [$1,900,000] or NHL [$2,400,000]. The highest-salaried superstar in the NHL makes what Jose Calderon makes [almost $10,000,000 annually].

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From the days of George Mikan to now, star players -- not teams -- have been the big draw.
NBAE Photos/NBAE/Getty Images

And since the NBA isn't the most profitable or the most popular sports league I have a hard time justifying the players' demands especially in the global economy we live in today.

You and I may have different definitions of popular, Joseph. Of course the NFL and Major League Baseball are more popular sports than the NBA. But I would wager Kobe Bryant is more popular individually than any quarterback in the NFL (maybe not Tom Brady?) or any pitcher in the big leagues. The NBA has been built on star players dating back to the first one, George Mikan. People came to see him, not the Minneapolis Lakers. (See?)

But, you're right, NBA players as a whole make more than any other group of pro athletes, and they will continue to. I humbly submit part of the reason why is what I stated above, part is that they have (and will keep) guaranteed contracts, and part is there are fewer of them (450) than there are hockey, football or baseball players. And, you're also right, given the global recession, a person making more than $5 million is a one-percenter. But their "demands" are the same ones you or any other working person would have: this is my salary. I don't want it cut. And I don't want to give back $3 billion in collective salaries to management.

I should walk a mile (high) in his shoes. From Jason Mitchell:

Can you explain what Carmelo Anthony did that was so wrong last year? I'm not even a particularly big fan of his (non-Olympic) game, but was flabbergasted by all the venom directed his way, and surprised to see you write this week that he held Denver "hostage."

Neither party is ever under any legal or ethical obligation to renew an expiring contract. Denver offered to renew a summer early, and Carmelo declined. What was he supposed to do if he didn't think he wanted to play in Denver anymore? Sign (forfeiting all leverage and the free agency rights for which his predecessors fought so hard) and then demand a trade? How is that better? Further, identifying a team or teams with which he would re-sign allowed the Nuggets to haul in a huge catch in exchange for his services. He could have refused to commit to signing anywhere, left the Nuggets empty-handed or nearly empty-handed, played the field as a free agent in the summer, and signed with a team not gutted by a trade with Denver.

Did he waver, send mixed messages, and at times seem confused about what he really wanted, especially in the fall? Absolutely. Can't a man be a little unsure about a career-defining and life-altering move almost a year before his current contract expires?

Did he kill a deal to New Jersey? Probably. So what? Players earned their free agency rights. Why should Carmelo Anthony live and work somewhere he doesn't want to live or work just to "do right" by the Nuggets?

I just don't understand why players exercising their free agency are being covered lately with the disdain usually reserved for holdouts and players making trade demands early in contracts. Carmelo signed a contract with Denver, honored it, and decided to move on. What's the big deal? From the tone of the coverage, it seems many in the media would prefer players had never earned free agency rights, which is depressing to say the least.

You never heard me say Carmelo didn't have the right to play out his contract, Jason. And he certainly has the right to decide he wants to live and work wherever he pleases. But if you were around the Nuggets, as I was, many times last season, the words "held hostage" are completely accurate. His teammates grew weary of not knowing when or if he'd be traded; his coach couldn't coach the rest of the team because of it, and a team that had great potential at the start of the year was greatly diminished. Did 'Melo do the right thing by letting the Nuggets know a year ahead of time that he wanted out? Absolutely. Did it have a major impact on the team last season? Same answer.

Good letters this week, people! Keep it up.

Send your comments, questions, criticisms and nominations for new Academy Awards host -- and who wouldn't want to see Mr. Abe Vigoda back on the big stage? -- to daldridgetnt@gmail.com. If your e-mail is sufficiently interesting, funny, thought-provoking or snarky, we just might publish it!

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$8,995,000 -- Price asked for this South Florida residence by Miami Heat forward Mike Miller, who put the house up for sale last week. Hey, it's got butler's quarters!

$750,000 -- Approximate amount still owed by former Celtics star Antoine Walker to three Las Vegas casinos. Walker pled guilty last June in Nevada to felony bad check charges and will be sentenced Dec. 6 after his scheduled sentencing date last week was pushed back. He is not expected to serve time in jail while he attempts to make restitution on the debts. He had hoped to make a comeback in the NBA last season, but spent most of the season in the NBA D-League.

136 -- Days since the lockout began.

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1) Regardless of where they stand, it's heartening to hear so many players will be in New York today. It's your future; you should get involved.

2) Good for Dorell Wright. The 510 could use some good news these days.

3) I know it's not NBA-related, but I love time-lapse photography/videography, and this breakdown of the eight-day transformation of the carrier deck of the USS Carl Vinson, docked in San Diego, into a basketball court for last Friday's Michigan State-North Carolina game is beyond cool. (H/T to CBSSports.com.)

4) You can safely assume I do not support Rick Perry for president. But he handled a brain freeze in front of millions -- which anyone who's been on television, yours truly included, has had happen more than once -- with grace and good humor afterward.

5) Needed some good news this week. Who thought it would come out of Venezuela?

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1) There is nothing that can be said that will make any sense out of what has transpired at Penn State this week. All we can hope for is that the young men that were, allegedly, grievously wounded by Jerry Sandusky will be able to find some level of solace and peace in the months and years to come. As for Joe Paterno, I do not profess to have a relationship with the man. By all accounts he has been above reproach for most of his life, walking the walk long before it became fashionable. But he will have to answer for his response when presented with evidence that there was evil -- that word chosen on purpose -- taking place on his campus. And, make no mistake, Penn State is his campus. He answers to no one; he reports to no one. If he wanted it stopped, it would have been stopped. For whatever reason, he chose to do only that which was required of him, and no more. That is not enough, when children are being harmed, and you know they're being harmed, and you don't do everything you can to stop it. For God's sake, have someone make an anoymous phone call to the police, at the least.

1a) This is much more eloquent than I have been above.

2) RIP, Ed Macauley. Your life was much more than the answer to the trivia question, "who on earth did the St. Louis Hawks trade for Bill Russell?"

3) Call in any time, Mr. Checketts. Always glad to hear from you.

4) Maybe STAT thought he was helping the cause. He did not.

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Been losing a lot weight. Can't wait to Show you guys what I've been doing. Ayo baby

Celtics -- and free agent -- forward Glen Davis (@iambigbaby11), Tuesday, 3:27 p.m., letting both the Celts and prospective suitors know that he's in much better shape this season than last, which was a disappointing campaign. Davis says he's lost 25 pounds in the offseason with improved diet and harder workouts.

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"If I had any idea that Shaq wanted to learn from me, I would have been happy to have worked with him, but all indications that I had received was that he felt he was doing fine and he didn't need or want my help."

-- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, responding on his Facebook page on Wednesday to comments Shaquille O'Neal made in his book that he had an interest at one point in his career asking Abdul-Jabbar for advice but decided against doing so.

"It's just kind of a weird story. It's not like I can go down to the bike shop and buy a new bike. It'd be the same if my clothes were stolen."

-- Former NBA player Shawn Bradley, whose custom made bike -- with an 80-centimeter frame -- was briefly stolen from his Utah home last week before being recovered by the police. The 7-foot-6 Bradley can't just walk into The Bike Shop and buy off the rack.

"Kessler's conduct is routinely despicable."

-- Commissioner David Stern, to the Washington Post, on union lawyer Jeff Kessler, who had compared NBA owners to "plantation owners" to the Post. Kessler later apologized for making the analogy.

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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