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David Aldridge

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New Orleans wants Chris Paul to stay in town, but the Hornets aren't ignoring the warning signs.
Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Hornets prepare plan to avoid being 'LeBron'd' by Paul


Posted Dec 5 2011 7:03AM

The lockout essentially ended a week ago. Here's what we've had since: a week of rumors about Chris Paul wanting out of New Orleans, and Dwight Howard wanting out of Orlando, and Deron Williams -- despite his Twitter protests -- wanting out of New Jersey.

Small-market owners can be forgiven if they're a little testy this a.m.

Those owners kept the lockout going for months to avoid precisely these kinds of scenarios -- their lone, star player looking at the SuperFriends in Miami and the Dynamic Duo in New York ... and wanting to create their own Justice League. They wanted to make the disparity in salary between staying where you are and going where you want so large that a player couldn't in good conscience turn it down. The new rules in the proposed CBA tilted things a little in their favor, but not nearly as much as they'd hoped. And now, things look like they haven't changed much at all.

"They've protected teams who've made bad decisions long-term on players," said one team executive this week, referring to the yearly amnesty plan. "But they haven't helped the teams who like their rookies and want to keep them."

Paul, not a rookie, has the same max extension on the table that Anthony let sit in Denver for months last season. No one in New Orleans should hold his or her breath waiting for him to sign it. That would leave the Hornets with three options, none of them good:

1) Let Paul play it out like James did and hope they don't suffer the same fate as the Cavs. The Hornets would have substantial cap room to sign a major free agent next summer and have let Paul's camp know that's the plan;

2) Trade Paul as soon as humanly possible and be done with it;

3) Trade Paul before the trade deadline, which hasn't been set yet but will be sometime in February.

Since 2005, the Hornets have had to deal with being displaced for two seasons following Hurricane Katrina, watching former owner George Shinn's sale of the team to energy executive Gary Chouest fall through, firing coach Byron Scott and general manager Jeff Bower within a year, and, finally, seeing the team eventually sold to the league in order to keep it in New Orleans until prospective buyers could be found. This was all while trying to keep Paul from looking toward greener pastures elsewhere.

"Is it 'business as usual?," one member of the team's braintrust asked last week. "No. But we've become so used to 'unusual' around here that it's not a big deal."

Another thing also becomes clear when you dial the 504. The Hornets are going into this with eyes wide open. They know that Paul spent much of the summer in New York at lockout meetings -- and also with Knicks star Carmelo Anthony. They know that even if he can't get as big a salary from the Knicks as with other teams, it's likely his representatives have all manner of endorsements at the ready in New York that would make up the difference. They believe he'd prefer going to a team where he doesn't have to be "the man," and that the Knicks would be just that, with Anthony and All-Star Amar'e Stoudemire willing and able to take the spotlight and the heat that come with it.

The key for the Hornets is to avoid getting "LeBron'd." That means not getting left at the altar next July with nothing but a trade exception burning a hole in your pocket for a year. If basketball is to work in the Big Easy post-Paul, the Hornets have to get a treasure trove of assets back in return -- an All-Star player, young talent and multiple Draft picks.

That is why the Hornets are hoping for a different approach with Paul than James had with the Cavaliers in his final season in Cleveland, or, to a lesser degree, Anthony had last season in Denver before getting traded to New York. While the Hornets are hopeful they can somehow convince Paul to stay, they are realists. Given the constraints of being under the league's ownership this season, and the lack of talent on the roster relative to other places, they know that Paul wants out. And they are willing to help facilitate that, as long as there's a return that makes them whole as a franchise and able to go forward in New Orleans when the team is eventually sold. So while they hope against hope Paul somehow has a change of heart, they also plan to work with Paul and his representatives, to try and make the best possible deal if it comes to that.

In short, the Hornets are going to act like grownups and not complain about their small-market plight. They want Paul to be able to come back to New Orleans some day when and if he is traded and get a standing O. Paul's love for New Orleans has been genuine, as has his good work throughout the city. Those haven't been forgotten, no matter what happens.

Orlando has the same scenarios with Howard. Using the amnesty provision on Gilbert Arenas this year would get the Magic under the cap, but barely, and not by nearly enough to be able to sign a signficant free agent. Orlando's only hope is to also find someone to take Hedo Turkoglu's contract off its hands for nothing more than a pick or two, or to do a sign-and-trade involving free-agent guard Jason Richardson where the Magic take back an unguaranteed deal, or picks.

(An aside: If you're Orlando GM Otis Smith, do you pick up the phone, call the Clippers and say, 'Let's end this right now. You give me Blake Griffin, Chris Kaman and that unprotected No. 1 pick for next year from Minnesota and you have a deal.'

How could the Magic do better? They'd get a 23-year-old nightly highlight reel to put butts in all of those new seats in the year-old Amway Center. They'd get a center in Kaman who has been an All-Star and who, conveniently, is in the last year of his contract. And they would get the Holy Grail of Draft picks -- an unprotected No. 1 pick from the Timberwolves! That's like a leprechaun handing you ingots of gold. It's only one of the deepest Drafts, potentially, in the last 20 years, with bona fide star prospects rolling two and three deep at every position. Did I mention it's Minnesota's pick? Rick Adelman is a great coach, but he isn't Anne Sullivan; that pick will be top 10 for sure and top five in all likelihood.

And how could the Clippers say no? They'd get the best center in the league -- a guy whom everybody believes wants to play in Los Angeles -- in the prime of his career, and have the likes of Eric Gordon, Eric Bledsoe, DeAndre Jordan (he's not going anywhere), Mo Williams and, one suspects, a solid free agent small forward (Tayshaun Prince? Caron Butler?) with which to surround him. They'd have a star just as big as Bad Blake to fill Staples Center, and while Griffin has certainly attracted the likes of Fox and KIA as corporate sponsors and created incredible buzz for what has been a moribund franchise, what do you think Superman could do in the City of Angels?

How could they say no?

Oh, right. Donald T. Sterling owns them.

There's no way that Sterling would live in a world where he'd have to pay Howard around $75 million for the next four seasons when he can pay Griffin a little more than $18 million over the next three, even though it would make his team a serious contender for the first time since future Hall of Fame coach Dr. Jack Ramsay was an intern patrolling the sidelines and the team was called the Buffalo Braves. How this guy continues to own an NBA team is beyond my admittedly limited comprehension.)

Could Orlando pull the trigger quickly on Howard? Smith has never been shy about putting his neck on the line; he may have been the only guy in the league willing to take Arenas' mega-salary, balky knees and baggage the size of steamer trunks. But it would be a surprise nonethless if the Magic don't at least try to improve the roster first and see if that will change Dwight's wanderlust.

The rules didn't change that. Not at first glance, anyway.

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Tough choices ahead for Hill

Grant Hill has his free agent Final Four, according to sources: the incumbent Suns, the Clippers, the Bulls and the Knicks. Each provides its own opportunities. Like many who've gone to Phoenix, Hill has fallen in love with head athletic trainer Aaron Nelson and his staff, who have kept him on the court. In his last three seasons there, Hill's played in 243 out of a possible 246 regular-season games and his Lost Years in Orlando are a fading memory. He genuinely likes playing with Steve Nash and his former agent, Lon Babby, is now the team president. The feeling the team has for Hill is mutual; he's what the Suns want to stand for, on and off the court.

The Clippers offer Bad Blake and Los Angeles, cap room, a starting job at the three and a chance to be part of something that is just getting off the ground. The Bulls provide a team defensive bulwark that is sweet music to a 39-year-old's musculature and a legit chance at the NBA title that has eluded him in 16 seasons. The Knicks, who came close to getting Hill before he signed in Phoenix in 2007, are much improved on the floor and provide anyone with Hill's gifts of gab and presence the opportunity for numerous off-court endorsements and potential post-career contacts. On the other hand, while Hill's defensive skills are still first-rate, he won't last long if he has to guard his guy, and 'Melo's guy, and Stoudemire's guy. It will, genuinely, be a tough call...

Slimmed-down Love ready to soar

I hate Kevin Love.

How did you lose 20 pounds, again?

"Really it just came off," he texted Saturday night.

Love showed up Sunday in Minnesota ready to pick up where he left off last season, when he was an All-Star and threatened the record books with stats (20.2 points, 15.2 rebounds) that haven't been seen in the NBA in years. And Love's physique isn't the only thing that's different in the Twin Cities. There's a new, veteran, proven head coach in Rick Adelman, a promising, explosive talent in first-round pick Derrick Williams and a totally unproven, precocious, wunderkind point guard in Ricky Rubio, who finally made the trip over from Europe this year to play for Minnesota.

But it's Love's standing that is the most important entering training camp. Both he and his trainer, Rob McClanaghan, thought he needed to lose some weight in order to improve his lateral movement and defense. So Love changed his diet and did night time workouts all during the lockout. Other guys stayed in shape barnstorming around the country. Love and Derrick Rose, one of his workout partners, lived in the gym.

"He's a worker," McClanaghan texted Sunday, "and that's all he wants to do -- work out."

Now it will be up to Wolves president of basketball operations David Kahn to do the heavy lifting. He has to figure out a way to make Love happy enough to sign a contract extension instead of looking around like every other star player seems to be doing these days.

Love says he's happy in Minnesota and would like to stay, but the mandate for the front office after last season was obvious -- improve this train wreck of a team. So Kahn fired Kurt Rambis and replaced him with Adelman, who brings 945 career victories to the locker room. That was a good start. How fast Rubio and Williams become regular contributors to the rotation will surely play a big part in Love's thinking, too.

But for now ...

"I will put on a few lbs and redistribute as muscle now," Love said in his text. "I feel great. Now just need to get (my) cardio up before camp."

I run twice a week, lift twice a week and do the elliptical twice a week. I try to eat decent portion sizes. My weight almost never goes down, though it doesn't go up, either. It just sits there, mocking me.

Did I mention I hate him?

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As always, we begin our top 15 Power Rankings this week with the first snapshot as camps open. It's a little harder than normal because we don't yet know what moves teams are going to make to bolster their rosters, so the rankings will likely change. We also give a nod toward teams that have proven themselves year in and out in the playoffs -- which is the whole point, isn't it?

1) Dallas (57-25 regular season, won NBA championship): We give the defending champs the benefit of the doubt, but there are a lot of question marks. Do the Mavs load up now and re-sign the likes of Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler and J.J. Barea to try and defend their title, or let those guys go, sign some minimum guys, keep their powder dry and make a run at Deron Williams or Dwight Howard next summer?

2) Miami (58-24, lost in NBA Finals): There's only one thing. The ring.

3) Chicago (62-20, lost Eastern Conference finals): Really, if you're his teammate, how can you not love Derrick Rose? No whining about how he doesn't have enough to go out and compete, no desire to find two or three of his AAU buddies to make a SuperTeam. He'll take what he's got and play with it, and if the Bulls lose, he genuinely thinks it's his fault and no one else's. It is my job to be skeptical of everything and everyone with whom I have professional associations, but there's nothing this kid has done since coming in the NBA that is anything but first-rate.

4) L.A. Lakers (57-25, lost Western Conference semifinals): No coach has bigger shoes to fill than Mike Brown, or has more pressure on him from minute one this season. Okay, Erik Spoelstra does. But that's it.

5) Oklahoma City (55-27, lost Western Conference finals): Thunder has everything they need to make a title run right now.

6) Memphis (46-36, lost Western Conference semifinals): Can't tell what this team is going to be until Marc Gasol is officially re-signed. If he is re-signed.

7) Boston (56-26, lost Eastern Conference semifinals): Celtics have so few players signed right now, one Glenn Rivers may need to get himself in shape to play a little backup point guard until the troops arrive.

8) San Antonio (61-21, lost in first round): After playing so well for so much of last season, can the Spurs mentally recover from getting throttled in the first round by the Grizz? Or was it just that Ginobili was hurt?

9) Atlanta (44-38, lost Eastern Conference semifinals): The Highlight Factory was abuzz in the playoffs, but if the Hawks lose Jamal Crawford it's a big step backward.

10) Orlando (52-30, lost in first round): Just can't see a good ending for the Magic with regard to D12. So, does GM Otis Smith wait for the inevitable phone call next summer, or is he proactive, pulling the trigger before the trade deadline? Or does he have an ace up his sleeve and have a way to somehow bring another superstar to Orlando?

11) Video New York (42-40, lost in first round): Knicks remain a destination for many players -- including Chris Paul -- but don't have any more assets of significance to package in potential deals.

12) Portland (48-34, lost in first round): Whether or not they get rid of Brandon Roy, Blazers need to get a center; they can't possibly operate on the assumption that Greg Oden will be back or anywhere near his old self anytime this season, if ever.

13) Denver (50-32, lost in first round): We know that the Nuggets will have great point guard play from Ty Lawson and Andre Miller. And, at the moment, that's all we really know about the Nuggets.

14) New Orleans (46-36, lost in first round): And we know even less about the Hornets than we do the Nuggets.

15) Philadelphia (41-41, lost in first round): Evan Turner says he's ready for a major turnaround his second season. If so, don't be surprised if the 76ers challenge the much higher-profiled Knicks in the Atlantic Division behind Boston.

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How much is defense really worth on the NBA open market?

Among this year's restricted free agents, you can certainly understand why teams might take a flier on the rapidly improving low-post skills and already-there bangability of Memphis' Marc Gasol, or the wingspan and explosiveness of the Clippers' DeAndre Jordan, or on the Sixers' freakishly athletic forward Thaddeus Young. And there are those who are intrigued by the scoring prowess of the Wizards' guard Nick Young.

But why doesn't Milwaukee's Luc Mbah a Moute get the same kind of attention?

In three seasons with the Bucks, Mbah a Moute has earned a reputation as one of the league's Video premier Video on-ball Video defenders, versatile enough to get out to the "stretch fours" that are all the rage these days. Against the Sixers last season, Mbah a Moute took Elton Brand in the first half and shut him down, then took a hot Lou Williams in the second half and shut him down.

"Top five at his position, plus (he) can guard fours with range," a head coach opined this weekend. "Very competitive." But, the coach added, having Mbah a Moute on the floor necessitates having other shooters on the court with him, unless you want to play three on five at the offensive end.

And that's the rub. Mbah a Moute isn't just a mediocre offensive player -- his career scoring average is just 6.7 points per game. He is below average. He did not make a single 3-pointer last season (he only attempted seven), in 26.5 minutes a game for the Bucks. In three years, he's made just six threes. Now, threes aren't the only measure of a player's value, of course, but in today's game, with those stretch fours, forwards have to be able to shoot the ball with some kind of range. Right now, Mbah a Moute can't. So he won't get paid as much as a guy like Thaddeus Young, who has averaged 12.5 per game in four seasons in Philly and, while not a great 3-point shooter himself (career .338 from behind the arc), has some proclivity at it.

There's no guarantee that Thaddeus Young will ever become a consistent NBA starter at either forward position, or that Nick Young, who is nowhere near the defender Mbah a Moute is, will be a meaningful contributor on an upper-eschelon team. But since the Youngs can both score better, they'll get paid more. It's that simple.

Occasionally, defensive-oriented players do have their day in the sun. The Bulls gave Ben Wallace $60 million in 2006, after he led the league in rebounds and blocked shots. But you have to be dominant, like Wallace was. Very good defenders like Mbah a Moute aren't often rewarded like very good offensive players.

"Defensive players do get paid. but you better be damn, damn good defensively," a general manager said Sunday. "The only way you're going to get paid playing defense is you have to be premier."

This continues an argument I've had with personnel and management types for years. Every time you ask what the most important ingredient for a championship team is, you get the same answer: the ability to defend. The rules and the skills of today's players make it almost impossible to stop someone in open space with the ball. It is imperative to have a team committed to playing outstanding defense, and to have at least one player of superior on-ball skills to be the focal point.

Think Joe Dumars during the Pistons' heyday. He didn't stop Michael Jordan -- no one player did -- but his outstanding footwork, strength, fundamental soundness and toughness made Jordan have to expend copious amounts of energy to get past him, or around him. Only then did the rest of the "Jordan Rules" kick in -- knock him on his butt every time he drives to the basket. The combination of the two often left Jordan exhausted by the end of a series with Detroit, and only when Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant matured did Chicago finally vanquish the Pistons.

But my argument has always been this: Is it easier for a bad offensive player to become a credible shooter or scorer, or easier for a bad defensive player to become a credible defender? Dumars quickly became a prolific scorer for the Pistons and the 1989 Finals MVP. Bruce Bowen couldn't shoot when he first came into the league; by the time he became a full-time starter with the Spurs, he had mastered the corner three and led the league in 3-point percentage (.441) in 2002-03.

"Every team is different in how they value certain players," Dumars texted Sunday. " I think it's easier for teams to be patient when you're winning."

Defense-first players have a tough time making a lasting impression coming into the pros. The pre-Draft process tends to favor scorers. Team and group workouts often feature shooting drills and halfcourt games, where you don't usually get to see a player have to make a lot of defensive decisions. This also helps out players who aren't good defenders, limiting the exposure of their weaknesses when compared with prospects who don't score as well but don't get as much attention for their defense.

Every year, teams pass on defensive-oriented players who can do the very things teams insist they need defensively. This year, among others, Ohio State's David Lighty fell through the cracks.

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A defensive stalwart and solid outside shooter at Ohio State, David Lighty went undrafted in 2011.
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It's not like people didn't know Lighty, who'd starred at Villa Angela-St. Joseph's High School in Cleveland before going to the high-profile Buckeyes for four seasons, starring on a team with national championship aspirations and shooting 43 percent on threes his senior season. At 6-foot-7, 216 pounds, he had the ideal frame for an NBA two guard or small forward. He was, by all accounts, a terrific kid who would work his tail off. He had good workouts for several teams, which told him he would definitely go in the second round. And yet, when it came to Draft time, Lighty's name stayed off the board.

Why?

Like many potential second-rounders, Lighty was viewed as a player teams could stash overseas for a year or two to get seasoning without his NBA team having to pay his salary. But if he wanted to return to the States, the team that drafted him would maintain his rights. Lighty didn't want that kind of arrangement with anyone; he hoped to show what he could do in an NBA training camp this year. But the lockout complicated things. With no contact allowed between teams and players once the lockout started there was no certainty about whether Lighty would get a camp invite if and when the lockout ended. So he signed a multi-year deal with Bennet Cantu, one of the top teams in Italy's top division, Serie A, and that is playing Euroleague this season.

For Cantu, which also has former Rockets Draft pick Maarty Leunen on its roster, Lighty is averaging 15 minutes a game, shooting 50 percent from 3-point range and scoring 7.5 points per game. He's gotten to play against the likes of Portland's Nicolas Batum, who spent his time during the lockout playing for the French team SLUC Nancy, that country's defending champion. Lighty is learning about the pro game. He's still defending when he gets on the court.

"He's doing fine," his agent, Joel Bell, said Saturday. "He's hopefully going to attract attention over there, which I think he will, because he's a good player. And we'll take it from there. It's very unfortunate. Everyone we talked to (before the Draft) said, 'He's a prototypical NBA guy. There's a role. We can see what he does.' I know he'll be in the NBA in the future."

For their part, the Bucks have made it clear they plan to match any offer on Mbah a Moute.

"We think Luc is more valued here playing under Scott Skiles and his system than he would be anywhere else in the league," general manager John Hammond said Sunday. "We know the value of that, and we plan to have him here as a member of the organization."

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He just can't quit you, NBA. From Danon Danesh:

I'm very excited that (the) sides finally realized it should be a COLLECTIVE bargaining agreement not one side pushing the other side around. No one can have it all, and it is very sad that it took them as long as it did to figure it out. BUT we are there and I'm glad.

One more thing about the lockout: I thought by saying 'if they don't make a deal this time i'll switch to NFL and forget about NBA' I could stop caring, but I couldn't. Everytime the sides met for however long of a session (even though they raised our hopes and smashed them to the ground) I would check on nba.com to see what the results were. But when they finally announced it I said 'nah, I can't stay mad at them it was pure business' and that's what it was just business.

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Fans can't help coming back to the NBA after a bitter summer of lockout and labor talk.
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Now towards a bright future.

Danon, I think it's like dating someone for a while, and then they break up with you, and you're so mad at them for a while you can't even bear to hear the sound of their name. But then you remember why you started going out with them in the first place, and eventually, you become friends again. Unless you start stalking them with their new boyfriend. Don't do that. No stalking.

Well, they do have a Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament in Great Britain, if that helps. From Will Hughes:

Being from England, it is difficult to really know which team to support. In my country, you pick a football (soccer) team before the age of ten -- based on anything from home town, which team your brother supports, or their sworn enemy -- and stick with them through thick and thin until the day you die. This may too be the case in the U.S. (unless you're from Seattle and the NBA no longer exists for you), but as an Englishman it's a tricky choice.

I flirted with the Celtics back in my early teens (20 years ago) when the NBA was at its height, but unfortunately it was barely televised here so my interest waned. Now, due to the Internet and all its glorious children, I'm right back in, waiting for the season to start and buying ESPN UK and clearing space off my PVR box.

But which team to follow? To follow the Mavericks would be glory-hunting, and I've never been to Texas. Likewise Miami, although I have been there. Everyone likes the Lakers and the Knicks so it doesn't seem right. I follow Arsenal here so Denver would be a logical choice given that they have the same (sort of) owner in Stan Kroenke but they're unlikely to have any players by mid-December.

As an under six-foot white man, the only logical choice would be to follow Jimmer Fredette wherever he goes. So, after six minutes as a Bucks fan, I am now a bonafide Sacramento Kings man. That is until they move to Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Seattle etc.

You can't go wrong following Oklahoma City, Will. They've already moved and are quite unlikely to leave OKC for some time, they have a bona fide superstar in Kevin Durant who doesn't want to go anywhere else and, per your measurements, their coach is an under six-foot white guy! Plus, Jimmer is over six feet tall, so that won't work for you. Happy hunting for your new squad.

It's competitive like the Competitive Eating Contests that Chestnut guy wins every year is competitive. From Nick Jones:

In your latest column, a fan mentioned that the NBA wasn't competitive these days and only a certain few teams can win. I'm pretty sure the Mavs were not considered top 5 last year, yet they won it all. They were behind the Lakers, Heat, Spurs, Bulls, Celtics and around the same as the Thunder in betting.

You then made a comment that the NFL was more competitive and 15-20 teams in any year can win. Maybe one team outside the top 15 can make the playoffs -- like the Seahawks and Chiefs did last year -- but in no way did they have a chance to win the Super Bowl. The last 4-5 years, the team that has won the Super Bowl has been amongst the few favourites from the start so it's just as predictable as the NBA in that respect.

Basically I'm trying to say that the NBA is far more competitive than some people may think!

We will have to agree to disagree, Nick. At the start of last season, no one thought the Packers would win the Super Bowl. No one picked the Arizona Cardinals to make the Super Bowl before the 2008 season began. No one put big money down on Seattle to make Super XL in '06. For many reasons -- chief among them, injuries -- there is just more opportunity for an NFL team to come out of nowhere to win or compete for a title than an NBA team. Yes, the Mavericks were a surprise Finals winner last season, but that is the exception in the NBA much more than the rule, where the Lakers and Celtics have dominated for 50 years. We will see if the new rules and taxes usher in a new era of greater balance, but I think a more realistic hope is that smaller-market and revenue teams simply be able to hold onto their star players instead of having to begin worrying about losing them the day after they're drafted.

Send your comments, questions, criticisms and stuff that's blown into your back yard in Peoria from the Santa Ana winds in California 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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$807,000,000 -- Amount advertisers spent on NBA games on television last season, according to Kantar Media, a media and advertising tracking company. The possibility of losing that revenue -- ABC/ESPN gets about 5 percent of its yearly revenue from the NBA, according to Barclays -- was the financial firewall that helped salvage the season.

200-1 -- Odds from Las Vegas last week that the Raptors would win the NBA championship this season, the longest of any team. Miami, at 2 1/2-to-1, is the current favorite by Vegas oddsmakers to capture The Finals, with the Lakers (5-to-1), Chicago (7-to-1) and Oklahoma City (7 1/2-to-1) the next three favorites.

18 -- Players that were waived in 2005 under the last amnesty provision: Derek Anderson (Portland), Vin Baker (Boston), Troy Bell (Memphis), Calvin Booth (Milwaukee), Doug Christie (Orlando), Derrick Coleman (Detroit), Howard Eisley (Phoenix), Michael Finley (Dallas), Brian Grant (Lakers), Fred Hoiberg (Minnesota), Aaron McKie (Philly), Ron Mercer (New Jersey), Reggie Miller (Indiana), Alonzo Mourning (Toronto), Wesley Person (Miami), Eddie Robinson (Chicago), Clarence Weatherspoon (Houston) and Jerome Williams (Knicks).

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1) I will be quite pleased whenever the release of the season schedule comes about. Quite pleased. It is coming. Slowly to be sure, but it is coming. Hang in there.

2) Let's just say there were a lot of basketball players on the court Saturday afternoon in Lexington, Kentucky, that will have futures playing professionally in some type of professional-based basketball association where they are paid to play basketball, if you know what I'm saying.

3) Could Magic and Cubes have some kind of reality-show based competition to see who wins this battle?

4) I really like Mike Miller as a guy, and he can be a very good player on a good team like the Heat when he's healthy. Unfortunately, he can't seem to stay healthy, and his latest injury makes him a prime amnesty candidate. But when your child has a life-threatening condition, and then begins to recover, getting cut from a team --even one as good as the Heat -- doesn't ruin your day.

5) Hoopz, you must live in the weight room knocking out the squats.

6) It's getting very hard not to believe that Tim Tebow is the real deal in Denver. Which seems to drive John Elway and his coach, John Fox, crazy. But he keeps on doing whatever the game dictates he needs to do to win that week.

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1) This is the week we will find out if NBA owners and general managers will live up to their end of the bargain after the lockout. Will they pay what's fair for this year's crop of good but not great free agents? Will they exercise some measure of discipline and not go crazy trying to prove how "competitive" they are? Or will they do what they've done for the last two decades -- spend way more than they should for middling talent, then blame the players and agents for taking the money? Understand; this isn't a call for collusion; I'm not asking for teams to pay less than what players are really worth to save money. But there's a fine line between league-wide price fixing and going underwater financially. These owners have to prove they can walk it.

2) Don't have much doubt that the Blazers will cut Brandon Roy using the amnesty provision. And there really aren't any villains in the matter. His contract no longer makes any sense, given his chronic knee problems. And Portland's management isn't wrong if it goes that way. It isn't a calamity or tragedy. Roy will get $82 million and have the opportunity for a fresh start somewhere else, where there won't be as much pressure on him to be a franchise savior.

3) I'm not calling anyone a liar, but if I read one more story about a guy who's "added 15 pounds of muscle" during the lockout, I'm gonna hurl. Five pounds, sure. Ten pounds ... maybe. But it's amazing how those "15 pounds" quickly melt away after the first few suicides are run, and the guy weighs 197 like he always did when the regular season starts.

4) Man, I loved watching Ron Lyle fight back in the day. Dude could break cities with his right.

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I don't know how it feels to actually drive to the practice facility. Been going to Clubsport so long. Lol
-- Cousin LaMarcus (@aldridge_12), Thursday, 6:08 p.m., getting his bearings back under him as the lockout officially nears its end.

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"The NBA is a $4 billion business. To put that into perspective, the NBA is a bigger business than Hasbro Toys, JetBlue Airways, or MetroPCS. Try imaging one of those companies shutting down operations for a whole year."
--Rick Horrow and Karla Swatek, authors of a Bloomberg Businessweek analysis of financial winners and losers at the end of the lockout. And don't joke about JetBlue closing up shop; just flew down to Florida on that airline, and I loves me the DirecTV.

"You know, as much as every time I try to run from it, it just comes and pulls me back in. So I accept it. If I'm a five, put me down there, have me guarding the biggest guy, I accept the challenge. It is what it is. Every year that I've said 'Oh, no, I'm not doing it,' I'm in there anyway. So, I accept it."
-- Heat forward Chris Bosh, telling Miami reporters last week that he's now willing to play center for the Heat this season after chafing at that role last year. Bosh has worked on getting stronger at the urging of former Miami great Alonzo Mourning, who's now working for the team's player development group.

"Definitely don't want to call him 'Peace,' because he might think that is grounds for him to leave practice."
--Lakers coach Mike Brown, to local reporters, on the linguistical challenges of communicating with the Baller Formerly Known as Ron Artest, now Metta World Peace.

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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