Posted Feb 14 2012 1:11AM
This is the week, of course, that Linsanity ran over the NBA.
So, of course, I will be writing about arenas, and city councils, and bond issues.
Jeremy Lin's saga has dominated the league, and it is a great, great story. A lot of wonderful stories have been written about his unlikely, seemingly impossible, rise from an afterthought to a star, in the biggest place one can become a star. But there is business to be done on the west coast. There will be a reckoning, one way or the other, in the next three weeks, that will determine the fate of the Sacramento Kings and the city of Seattle.
I hate this.
People that I like are going to be hurt, one way or another: either good fans in what has been a great NBA town, Sacramento, or fans in Seattle whose team was ripped from their hearts, and now seek to do the same to someone else.
Four years after the Sonics left town, Seattle's again hoping that it will have a team, and soon. The issue, then as now, is a new arena. The Commish will not even have a meeting with you if you don't have a new arena in your back pocket. And Christopher Hansen, a hedge fund manager from San Francisco and a Seattle native, thinks he can get a building built in downtown Seattle. He's bought land in downtown, near where the NFL's Seahawks and MLB's Mariners play.
The reason Hansen's plan is relevant is that the Kings and the city of Sacramento have two and a half weeks to come up with their own plan for a new building in downtown Sacramento. If they can't reach agreement, the Kings would be a team without an arena, leaving the team's owners, the Maloof Family, with a hard decision: stay at Power Balance Pavilion, which can't produce enough revenue; sell, which the principal owners, Joe and Gavin Maloof, are dead set against, or move the team. Somewhere.
Hansen, as detailed by the Seattle Times earlier this month, has been engaged with Seattle's political leaders since early last year. His group's plan is to fully fund a new arena with private financing -- more than the $375 million it cost to build L.A.'s Staples Center, which opened in 1999, according to a source with knowledge of the group's plans. Keeping the financing private instead of seeking state or local funds will avoid the fiasco in Seattle last time, when the Sonics' attempts to finance a new building stalled before owner Clay Bennett moved the team to Oklahoma City in 2008. Bennett sought tax dollars to help finance a $500 million arena and entertainment complex in the Seattle suburbs, but that plan met with heavy resistance both in Seattle and with state legislators in Olympia.
This time, Hansen has enlisted the help of Seattle's mayor, Mike McGinn, who said last week that no city taxes would be used to finance a new arena, though there is local skepticism about that pledge.
"They are really engaged," the source said. "Doing all the things right that were done wrong previously ... it feels like this is a really well thought-out, really sophisticated plan."
Another source said the Hansen Group and the mayor's office are determined to avoid dealing with Frank Chopp, the House speaker in Olympia who was adamantly opposed to using any public funds for a new arena. The hope is not to have to go through Olympia "for funding, for blessing, for anything," this source said. Hansen will need the help of King County officials, some of whom were not helpful the last time around.
The Kings have enough local support in Sacramento. The problem is money. Where does the $400 million to build a new arena in Sacramento come from?
After the Maloofs nearly left town for Anaheim last year, the NBA gave Sacramento until March 1 to come up with a plan for a new arena to replace Power Balance (formerly ARCO Arena). The Kings had agreed to a deal with Anaheim where Henry Samueli, the owner of the NHL's Anaheim Ducks, would give the Kings $75 million in relocation money and for improvements to the Honda Center, where the Ducks play and where the Kings would have been a tenant.
But questions among NBA owners about the financing of the deal and whether Honda Center could generate enough revenues, combined with a powerful presentation by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson at the Board of Governors meeting, convinced the league to put off a final decision on the Kings until this year.
For Seattle, taking an existing team is the only option. There will be no expansion, now or in the foreseeable future. There aren't enough good players to go around for 30 teams; how on earth could you add two more (and it would have to be two, for the obvious logistical and conference balance reasons) to the mix? For Seattle to get a team means that some other city will have to lose its team. That doesn't necessarily have to mean Sacramento is that city, but with the clock ticking, that city is under the gun.
Two people involved in the process said the same thing independent of one another last week: Seattle is going forward with its arena plan whether or not the Kings become available next month. The idea is for the NBA to have no choice the next time a team is sold or is interested in moving; with a new building, Seattle folk believe their city will vault to the top of the relocation list, ahead of towns like Kansas City that already have NBA-ready arenas built. (Kansas City's Sprint Center was built by the arena-building arm of AEG, the mega-corporation run by billionaire Phillip Anschutz, who owns Staples Center and a share of the Lakers.) In this vein, Seattle views its opponent as Anaheim, not Sacramento.
Johnson has spent the last year trying to navigate the minefield of local and state politics in an attempt to put a deal together. Sacramento's latest -- last? -- plan is to pay for half of the $400 million through privatizing the city's garages, parking meters and parking enforcement. The city, according to the Sacramento Bee, may also sell existing property to help raise additional funds. On Tuesday, the city will lobby the city council to let it continue the process by formally opening discussions with 10 companies that have expressed interest in taking over the parking businesses. The city has received a Request For Qualification (RFQ) from the companies -- which determines their general interest in the project -- but wants to move forward with a Request For Proposal (RFP), which would get those companies to formally submit bids.
Sacramento's hopes were nearly derailed last week, when a proposal to table discussions on the arena in favor of putting the matter on the ballot for a special June election -- well after the NBA's March 1 deadline -- was defeated, but only by a narrow 5-4 vote of the council.
"I knew that as we got deeper into this we would be losing votes on the council," said Robert King Fong, a Council member representing Sacramento's Fourth District, and a supporter of the arena proposal, in a telephone interview Friday.
"I understand where people's politics are, and we're in an election year," he said. "My sense is that we've kind of gotten down to the nitty gritty on the vote. People knew that there were two no votes and to see two more was a little bit shocking. I may have been a little off in my counting, but I think where we are now is where we're going to be ... When you have a nine member council it's good to have five votes. You just have to be able to count to five."
Of course, there is another $200 million shoe in this process. The other half of the money for the building, everyone understands, has to come from the Maloofs, or from the NBA, or from AEG. The Maloofs have been silent about whether they're willing -- or able, given the financial hits their businesses took during the recession, which led to them selling controlling interest in their beloved Palms casino in Las Vegas last year -- to come up with that kind of coin. Frankly, there are those in the Sacramento government who want to force the issue, and find out once and for all if the Maloofs are in for the long haul.
Meanwhile, Seattle plans.
The idea would be to once again renovate Key Arena, where the Sonics played, until a new building was on line. The new arena will not be built unless there is a commitment from an NBA team to come to Seattle. Seattle is also monitoring what happens with the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes, who have been owned by the NHL since 2009. There are three groups that are reportedly looking to buy the Coyotes and keep them in Arizona, but if those deals do not come to fruition ... well, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman made no secret that that league would love to have a team in Seattle -- if there is a new building constructed there. (That sounds so familiar.)
The Times detailed the last few months of coordinated interaction between Hansen's company, Valiant Capital Management, LLC, and the Mayor's Office. The city has hired two veterans of arena financing and construction. One is Carl Hirsh, the managing partner of Stafford Sports, LLC, who was involved with the Sixers' efforts to get Wells Fargo Center built as a Comcast executive, then worked with the Spurs and San Antonio to get what is now the AT&T Center built, then worked with Orlando and the Magic to get the state-of-the-art Amway Center built. The other is Hugh Spitzer, an attorney with Foster Pepper, one of Seattle's largest law firms, and an expert at financing municipal projects through bond intitiatives.
Hirsh is "a terrific guy and a bright guy, who helps people who aren't in the arena building business figure out their contracts with people who are," said a source who worked extensively with him on an NBA arena project.
Because the land Hansen bought is adjacent to Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field, it has already been zoned for the level of additional traffic that would come to a new basketball arena. (The potential of increased traffic in the area doesn't sit well with everyone; Seattle Councilmember Jean Godden told the Times that the Mariners and Seahawks have been "good partners" over the years. "Suppose we have three events simultaneously?" she said. Godden, the Times said, also is concerned that if the city has to finance construction bonds for the project it might exceed the city's debt limit.)
Whatever assistance the NBA has provided either city has been kept under wraps. The Commish, publicly, separately washed his hands of both situations, though the league is viewed by many in Seattle as complicit in allowing Bennett to leave.
"We haven't heard a word" from the NBA, Fong said. "They're just waiting to see if this is something to be engaged in. And I get that."
And the clock ticks toward zero. Soon, the music will stop, and someone will be left without a chair to sit in. There are only so many teams to go around. For now, the Kings are still Sacramento's, to keep or lose.
"I think the council will take care of its business," Fong said. "When people ask me if this is going to happen, as a veteran of these efforts, I like to say, 'Boy, we haven't hit no yet.' And that's as good as yes."
Tony Parker loves what the new legs that now populate the San Antonio bench have brought to the Spurs this season. But don't get it twisted.
"No disrespect to my young teammates," he said last week. "But I don't care how good they're playing. I want to play with Manu, any time of the day. Even if he's 50 percent."
Last Saturday's return of Manu Ginobili to the lineup after missing 22 games brought a lot more than 17 points and 59 percent shooting (51 percent on threes). Ginobili calms everyone down -- Parker, Gregg Popovich, the big crowds at AT&T Center -- who have grown accustomed to Ginobili's spins, flourishes and flops over the last decade. He gives San Antonio a chance to be a genuine contender in the West. Without him at full speed, the Spurs are good, but they're not dangerous, as evidenced by their first-round flameout against Memphis last season after Ginobili broke his elbow in the final regular-season game. He sucked it up heroically and played in five of the six games against the Grizz, averaging 20 a game. But he still wasn't himself, and Duncan was playing on a bad ankle.
So, Ginobili has to be great. But the Spurs probably won't go far in the playoffs without their extended rotation, either.
San Antonio has won championships when it got major contributions from its role players -- Jaren Jackson in 1999, Stephen Jackson in 2003, Brent Barry and Devin Brown in 2005; Michael Finley in '07 -- as well as the usual excellence from Tim Duncan, Parker and Ginobili. With the 35-year-old Duncan on the back nine of his career and the 34-year-old Ginobili struggling the last couple of years with inopportune long-term injury, the Spurs knew they again had to limit their Big Three's regular-season minutes as much as possible. But they usually have gone to veterans for those minutes, like a Robert Horry or Steve Kerr. Popovich didn't know this season's younger bench would be this good, helping them to a seven-game win streak, the Southwest Division lead and another great start to the annual Rodeo Trip.
"They've played well," Popovich said. "If they were playing poorly I might be doing something different. But Gary Neal and Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green have all contributed and played good basketball, and it's really been a savior. Tony has played at an All-Star pace and Timmy's been very consistent, but those other guys have allowed us to score. Otherwise, I think we would have been seriously offensively challenged. So they've played well enough that I've learned to enjoy watching them play. They learn quickly. As we all know there aren't a lot of practices, but the times that we are able to talk about things they seem to catch on pretty quick. It's been fun."
It's hard to remember Pop using the word "fun" in a basketball context. Wine, sure. Basketball, not so much.
The legs are an interesting mix of youth and experience. Leonard is a rookie, so promising that the Spurs dealt Popovich favorite son George Hill to Indiana for Leonard's rights. Forward James Anderson is in his second NBA season. So are Gary Neal and Tiago Splitter, but they're both 27, having played extensively abroad and overseas before coming to San Antonio last season. Splitter was injured and didn't look anything like the star he'd been in the Spanish League; Neal became an unlikely go-to guy. Third-year forward Danny Green played sparingly for the Spurs last season; guard T.J. Ford was languishing in Indiana, where he'd fallen out of favor.
But this season, each has made major contributions. Ford "won two games for us," Popovich said, before Ford suffered a torn left hamstring in January that will keep him out until after the All-Star break. Green scored 24 in a win over Denver; Leonard, who's started 15 games, had 15 points, six rebounds and five assists in 31 minutes in a win over Oklahoma City. Last week in Philly, Splitter bludgeoned the 76ers' big men, running a clinic on screen-roll sets with Parker en route to 15 points in 17 minutes in San Antonio's road win, the same game where Neal, who'd missed the start of the season with appendicitis, made all four of his 3-point shots; he's shooting 40 percent from behind the arc.
And, famously, Popovich opted to play his reserves over his starters for almost all of the fourth quarter and overtime in Dallas Jan. 29, when the bench mob overcame an 18-point third-quarter deficit and scored San Antonio's last 51 points. And if Green had let his last-second jumper in regulation go a half-second earlier, the Spurs would have won in regulation. But his basket was waved off and Dallas won in overtime.
"We asked each other on the bench every two minutes, 'Should we get the other guys back in now,?'" Popovich said. "And we said 'Why? Those guys stunk. These guys are doing really well, so we might as well let them play.' We just went with it. And James Anderson came in, who hadn't been playing at all, and he was playing just as well as they were. We've used all of them in some way, shape or form. We've played a lot of guys, probably 10 guys most games, sometimes more."
Many of the reserves worked out together in San Antonio before the lockout began. Once it started they scattered to their respective homes to work out, but they got together once a month for a week in San Antonio to try and maintain continuity with one another.
"Game by game, we've just grown together," Green said, "to learn each other when we get out there. Eventually you have games like Dallas where they expect us to come back, and we did. It was a big confidence booster for us. At that point, we were just having fun."
That word, again.
The Spurs have continued their metamorphosis, begun last season, from a defensive phalanx that suffocated half-court offenses and went almost exclusively through Duncan every time down the court to a team that tries to run and needs to score. San Antonio is, really, a mediocre defensive team now (12th in points allowed, 20th in field goal percentage allowed, 16th in 3-point percentage allowed). But the Spurs have become quite good offensively (seventh in points per 100 possessions, eighth in points per game, fifth in John Hollinger's True Shooting Percentage).
That doesn't mean Popovich isn't still searching for the next Bruce Bowen. That's why Leonard, with his long arms, wide body, big shoulders and hands, and quick feet, has quickly become a favorite.
"He's a strange dude," Popovich said. "I haven't figured him out yet; we haven't had enough time. But he enjoys the defensive challenge. He knows that's his No. 1 role. He knows I would like to put him in a machine and turn him into Bruce Bowen. Probably doesn't love that totally. But he does have an affinity for D, and he is long ... and he can rebound his position. He shoots much better than advertised, and he's not afraid to stick his nose in. All of those things, and he's a quick learner, those are all elements to a good beginning for a young kid. Those are the things I like about him. And he doesn't speak. He just plays. He's like everybody else on this team; he just does his work and he goes home."
A Popovich kind of guy.
And it doesn't mean Pop has gotten all warm and fuzzy. He still cusses a blue streak and still chews out Parker and Duncan just as much as anyone.
"It was shocking," said Green, who played in Cleveland with LeBron James during all that business in James' last season there. "When I first got here last year it was a big shock. Because I think he holds them more accountable than us. Other places I've been to, the younger guys get screamed at more than the older guys. Here, he yells at them before he yells at us, because he feels that they should know better. That's how it's supposed to be. He doesn't favor anybody. He curses us, but once he expects you to play a certain way, you better believe he's going to be on you."
Ford, who admittedly liked to get out and see the local sights earlier in his career, has noticed how things are different in San Antonio. And he's grateful for being back on the court after a series of brutal injuries, including the spinal cord injury he suffered after a fall in 2004 that kept him out of action for a year and a half. It affected him, he said, for a long time afterward. But the Spurs wanted to be able to rest Parker as well during the regular season, and Ford wanted a coach who would get on him and challenge to get better, not just yell.
"Me and Timmy had a distant kind of relationship," Ford said. "We used to kind of mess around with each other on the court a little bit. It was just natural once we got around each other to keep [talking]. I think those guys just show the leadership, what it takes to be focused and in tune to the game plan, and what we're trying to accomplish. And I think that's the easiest thing that they showcase to all the new guys, is the way things work without really speaking. Those guys are more action guys."
Last season the Spurs had the NBA's best regular-season record. But that did them no good against Memphis. They're rolling again this season, trying to save themselves for the only time that matters around the Alamo, but they're winning in the process. And Parker, who said last season was likely the Big Three's last real shot at a championship, has been rejuvenated.
"It's a fine line between winning and losing," Parker said, "and I think all those games, I think it's going to help us down the road. Because it makes us deep. It makes us a better bench, and I think now maybe we can maybe compete against the young teams, over a stretch of a long game, and maybe save Manu until he's 100 percent for the fourth quarter, and stuff like that. I think it's going to help us."
(Last week's ranking in parenthesis; weekly record in brackets)
1) San Antonio (7) [3-0]: Ginobili returns Saturday, plays 17 minutes. Others play more. They all played in those hideous Chapparals uniforms. Unfortunately.
2) Miami (1) [3-1]: When the Heat put a beatdown on you, it just feels different from other teams' beatdowns.
3) Chicago (2) [3-1]: The Bulls, finally back home after going 6-3 on 16-day road trip, play next six and 13 of next 17 at United Center.
4) Oklahoma City (4) [3-1]: Thunder clinches All-Star coaching berth for Scott Brooks and staff by virtue of having the West's best record.
5) L.A. Clippers (6) [3-1]: KMart has been around like 19 seconds and already has his first technical.
6) Dallas (12) [3-0]: Was that the Diggler we saw polishing off the Blazers Saturday with that patented foul-line fadeaway? And Delonte West rounding into form? And Jet Terry playing at the same high level he has all season?
7) Philadelphia (3) [2-2]: Lost consecutive games for the first time this season before rebounding Friday over Cleveland.
8) L.A. Lakers (8) [2-2]: Still struggling to find any rhythm in the halfcourt offense, which leads to Kobe having to hoist many more rocks per game than is desirable.
9) Atlanta (9) [2-2]: After blowout home loss to the Heat Sunday, Hawks are 11-7 since losing Al Horford for the season with a torn pectoral muscle.
10) Indiana (5) [1-3]: Paul George just 8 of his last 30 from the floor during Pacers' three-game losing streak, though he did go 5-of-9 Saturday.
11) New York (NR) [4-0]: Lost in the Linsanity is how much more productive Landry Fields and Iman Shumpert have been with Lin on the floor to command defensive attention.
12) Houston (11) [3-1]: Got it going despite slump from Kevin Martin, who'd gone 5-of-26 in his previous four games before busting out with 28 in Sunday's loss to the Warriors.
13) Utah (10) [1-3]: Fast start has been slowed, just in time for a back-to-back-to-back this week.
14) Denver (13) [1-3]: A team that wins games by moving the ball and getting out to run will have to do even more of that with Danilo Gallinari out.
15) Orlando (15) [2-2]: Seven games left for the Magic until All-Star Break, aka, Weekend at Dwight's.
Dropped out: Portland (14).
New York (4-0): Who did you expect, Kentucky? Duh ... Linning has turned everything around in New York, cooled the hot seat Mike D'Antoni was sitting on, speeded up Carmelo's recovery, made Iman Shumpert the off guard the Knicks anticipated he'd be and taken a load off of Baron Davis. Who knows how long this will last, but what a fun ride it's been!
New Jersey (0-4): So much for that renaissance; Nets get blasted by an average of almost 15 points per game this week, and have lost six straight overall. And it doesn't get any easier: next seven are Grizzlies, Pacers, Bulls, Bucks, the resurgent Knicks, Orlando and Dallas. Prokhorov "elects" not to pay much attention. (Get it?)
What do Harvard jocks think about Jeremy Lin, Harvard Class of 2010?
You didn't really think I wasn't going to write about this kid this week, did you?
Lin's story resonates with so many different groups, but it must especially resonate with those athletes who went through the same pressures Lin did at the ultimate academic institution, one that lists eight U.S. presidents among its alumni, including President Obama; 20 Supreme Court justices, a few dozen Nobel Prize winners, several generations of Kennedys, notable journalists, actors, musicians and all manner of the nation's elite thinkers.
Not many ballers, though.
"I'm watching," said CBS Sports anchor James Brown, who went to Harvard as a big-time center out of storied DeMatha High School in suburban Washington, D.C., and graduated in 1973. "I saw him the night after he scored 28, the second night (against Utah). I'm saying 'who is this kid? Is this a flash in the pan?' I wanted to see him against some top flight talent. And then he lit up the Wizards (besting John Wall). Then I wanted to see him over a couple of weeks' period."
Former Duke star Tommy Amaker has built Harvard's basketball program into a Top-25 program this season. But Lin's comet ride was much more unlikely and unexpected, given that he'd been given a look by teams from Golden State to Houston and found wanting.
"It's absolutely amazing to me," said former NFL linebacker Isaiah Kacyvenski, who played with the Seahawks, Rams and Raiders after graduating cum laude from Harvard in 2000. "I know a lot have people already commented, but this is simply a triumph of the human spirit."
Kacyvenski saw Lin play at Harvard and was taken with his "electric" game.
"He just had that "it" factor when he played even then," Kacyvenski wrote via e-mail. "If you've seen him in person then you know what I mean. A warrior's will to win with a boyhood exuberance for the game. It's fun to watch, and you want to see a person like that do well. There is a term for this, emotional contagion. People rally around someone like this in life, just not in sports. When he signed with the Warriors I remember thinking that someone like him just needs a shot to show himself. Just a shot. To someone like Jeremy and myself, playing in front of 100 people or 80,000 people doesn't affect play at all. To play the game you love one more day is the gift. Because that little kid in him gets to come out for one more day to play the game he loves."
Kacyvenski overcame his own incredible odds to become a star at Harvard. Making it there requires a unique skill set.
"Harvard is a challenge in many ways, which really is the beauty of the experience there," Kacyvenski wrote. "I learned to fully appreciate the meaning of being a student-athlete there. And I am sure that Jeremy did as well. All students alike are tested in the classroom. No exceptions are made for any student. The work must be done, and done well, and done on time, regardless of extenuating circumstances. In a sense, playing a very intense sport like football or basketball at Harvard really prepares you to never make any excuses in life. I think that is one of the biggest things that my time at Harvard gave me. It is a level playing field that makes no exceptions for time spent playing a sport or any other activity (of which a multitude of students are involved). Level of focus must remain high at all times if you want the best of both worlds--in the classroom and on the field."
Harvard actually offers more Division I sports than any other university, and Kacyvenski was joined in the NFL by former Crimson players like center Matt Birk (Vikings) and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (Buffalo). But a minority athlete like Lin succeeding at the highest levels adds even more glitter to the fairy tale.
"I would spend weekends studying, not going out out make up for the time and effort that I poured into football," Kacyvenski wrote. "I am sure that Jeremy made that same sacrifice, and it was going to show whether the world found out about him in basketball or in business or with charity work. He adhered to the same strategy that a lot of the students and athletes at Harvard adhere to; put the time and hard work in, and you will put your best foot forward. If you do this, there is no reason to look back and second guess what could have been. This approach allows you to build confidence in your own abilities and weather the storm of doubt that will inevitably follow you into professional sports if you are that lucky (stigma coming from and Ivy League School, stigma surrounding talent level)."
Brown chose Harvard over North Carolina, where he had all but enrolled before taking a look north instead of south, because he thought his presence there as an African-American student athlete could have an impact well beyond the floor.
"What we tried to do there was perform so many young kids of color would see you can do it in the classroom and the court," Brown said. "It is so nice to see the diversity this kid brings to the Garden. I'm looking at the stands and I'm loving these Asian-American faces in the stands. He's packaged in a more traditional size (than Yao) and now that they're picking up the NBA in those places, the NBA couldn't have hoped for better."
But Lin's Harvard degree, Kacyvenski knows, won't help him stay in front of the Russell Westbrooks and Chris Pauls of the world. In fact, it might cause people to come at him harder.
"I would say the 'novelty' of coming from Harvard wore off when my teammates realized that I did not think of my degree as any entitlement," he said. "In the end, the degree was just a piece of paper. The experiences and life lessons learned at Harvard is what I carried deep in my heart and helped drive me to be the absolute best that I could be, regardless of my talent level. When you show that level of commitment day in and day out--first player in the facility and the last player to leave--you earn the respect of your teammates, coaches, and front office...(t)hat novelty wears off quickly from those around you when you do this. Well, it almost does. I was always expected to have answers to random facts, pointless trivia, and investment strategy. LOL."
Brown's time as a Harvard athlete was bittersweet. He had come there as part of the school's best-ever recruiting class, along with fellow Washingtonian Floyd Lewis, that was expected to bring the school its first-ever Ivy League title. But the Crimson teams of that era never broke through. Last year, Harvard tied with Princeton for the regular season Ivy championship, deciding the NCAA berth with a one-game playoff. With 2.8 seconds left, Harvard led by one, that close to its first NCAA berth since 1946. But Princeton's Douglas Davis hit a buzzer-beater to deny the Crimson yet again.
This season, Harvard is even better, ranked in the Top 25. And Lin has come out of nowhere to become an unlikely NBA star. Maybe it's karma.
"It is all for the good," Brown said. "However long ago it was, we were supposed to be doing as a team what the kid is doing individually at the NBA level. People will ask me, 'is there a sense of sorrow because you guys came in with so much hope? And now it's happening for Harvard at the collegiate level and Jeremy at the NBA level.' I told them, absolutely not...I recognize the error of my ways in college, not working as hard to stay at the top once I got to the top. And I love what this kid is doing. I am just thrilled."
Deja vu all over again. From Viney Reddy:
Lately there has been talk about whether the Magic should trade Howard or try to hold on to him. I was wondering why no one mentioned the Jazz or the Nuggets in this situation. Both these teams traded their franchise players, but wound up better than the teams they traded with. Why don't the Magic follow the Jazz and Nuggets lead and try to get a lot of young talent for Dwight Howard? I think it makes a lot of sense for them to go for young, talented players seeing that they don't have much beside Howard at the moment. Instead of letting Howard walk, why don't the Magic try to trade him for better assets?
Who's saying that Orlando is going to let Howard walk and get nothing, Vin? A few weeks ago I thought the Magic might want to think about holding on to Howard to try and steal a championship in this addled season, but that's changed with their up-and-down play. Even in that scenario, though, the likelihood would be that Howard would do a sign-and-trade deal to get the extra year's salary. In either case, the Magic are almost certainly going to get assets. But since Howard has seemingly limited the teams that he would agree to sign an extension with if traded, Otis Smith's hands are kind of tied. (Portland could put a good package together around Nicolas Batum and Wes Matthews, for example, but Howard won't stay there.) The only team that has mulitple young assets it could -- could -- put in a deal is Chicago, and I'm not sure the Bulls really want to part with Noah, Deng, et. al., even for Howard. Otherwise you're talking about teams with one really good piece to offer, like New Jersey (Brook Lopez) or the Lakers (Andrew Bynum).
Big Brother needs better angles. From Brian Slack:
I'm sure you're well aware of the bad goaltending call on LaMarcus Aldridge with 6 seconds left in the game Monday night. The NBA really needs to take more responsibility in its game deciding calls. That was a great game start to finish. Two great teams battled it out all 4 quarters. Then to see the victory in sight (a huge one at that), shot blocked, Camby tip out! (as you can tell this is a biased Blazer fan talking) The Blazers are all but assured the victory. Then the whistle blows. One bad call later and the game goes to overtime.
Portland as a whole is furious. You know how we take our basketball up here. This city is still mad and outraged. After a game deciding call like that its very disheartening. I'm not mad or disappointed in my team or the Thunder, it's the league. I know the refs get a lot of crap and get called every name in the book. I know they work hard and have a difficult schedule too. They deserve more credit from the public. But if you aren't 100 percent on a call like that you don't make it. Then beyond those guys, why is it a rule that they cant use video playback on goaltending calls? They need to at least have an exception for the last 1 or 2 minutes of a game. This is just unacceptable. We cant help but feel robbed. For me, we won this game. Yes this is one game but in the crowded west, every game matters. It might mean nothing now as for how things stand but come end of season every win will count. One game could mean the difference between 8th or 4th. A missed call such as this can be like a snowball that can grow big enough to crush dreams down the road.
I agree with you. Completely. The use of replay should be extended to goaltending calls, under the same general criteria and circumstances replay can be used in other instances -- on plays at the end of the second and/or fourth quarters -- and to your point, its use on goaltends should be limited to the final two minutes of each of those quarters.
Whoa! Noah! From Camilo Arbelaez:
I've been a long time follower of your column and have always wanted to respond something "sufficiently interesting, thought-provoking, funny or snarky" but have always kind of agreed on everything on your column. Anyways, today I was reading about your picks for the Eastern Conference All-Star reserves and you mentioned Roy Hibbert as a "no brainer" for Howard's backup at the center spot. Hibbert is having a very good season, averaging a double double and being the starting center for a promising and solid Indiana Pacers squad. I just think that calling him a no brainer is a bit disrespectful to another quality center from the Eastern conference, Joakim Noah. I mean, the guy is nearly averaging a double double too, and his play may not be the greatest to watch and may not have such an impressive offensive game, but you have to give him credit for being one of the all defensive centers in the NBA, and being a key player for the team with the best record in the conference.
Fair criticism, Camilo. Joakim is having a strong season and I shouldn't have been so dismissive of his chances. But I do believe Hibbert is having a better season and was deserving of that All-Star spot.
(Send your questions, comments, criticisms and other acts from the 60s that they can drag out at next year's Grammys (damn you boomers!) to firstname.lastname@example.org. If your e-mail is sufficiently interesting, thought-provoking, funny or snarky, we just might publish it!
(Weekly averages in parentheses)
1) LeBron James (20.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 7.8 apg, .433 FG, .806 FT): Very confused: LeBron was mad at Kendrick Perkins because Perkins was mad at LeBron because LeBron tweeted about Blake Griffin's dunk over Perkins? Is that right? Or was Adele somehow involved?
2) Kevin Durant (28 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 4.3 apg, .483 FG, .864 FT): Durantula has a record out, too. Judge for yourself. (Note: Lyrics are not for the kiddies.)
3) Kobe Bryant (29 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 3 apg, .402 FG, .867 FT): Didn't know who Lin was before Friday. Forgot about it Saturday. Shot terribly all game in Toronto on Sunday, then beat the Raptors with a last-second thing of beauty. Just another week for Kobe Bean.
4) Chris Paul (21.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 9.5 apg, .476 FG, 1.000 FT): Defenses will surely load up on him even more now that Chauncey Billups (ACL) is out for the season.
5) Derrick Rose (5 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 3 apg, .625 FG, N/A): Now it's a stiff back that has the reigning MVP out of action the last two games, including Sunday's loss in Boston. He was scheduled to see a back specialist upon the team's return to Chicago.
14 -- Consecutive seasons Kevin Garnett had been an All-Star before this year, when his streak of making All-Star games -- tied with Kobe for the longest ever -- was snapped.
7,941 -- Miles that the Spurs will log on their annual Rodeo Trip, which is nine games this season: starting a week ago Sunday, from San Antonio to Memphis (663 miles), from Memphis to Philadelphia (881), from Philly to New York (78), from New York to Detroit (490), from Detroit to Toronto (208), from Toronto to Los Angeles, through San Antonio, where the team's plane will refuel (2,649 total), from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City (586), from Salt Lake City to Portland (633), from Portland to Denver (987) and, finally, from Denver back to San Antonio (796) after the Spurs' game with the Nuggets Feb. 23.
127 -- Road games for the Wizards since the last time they won away from home by 20 or more, which Washington accomplished Sunday in a 98-77 win at Detroit. The last time the Wizards won a road game by 20 or more was on Dec. 2, 2008, when they beat the Nets in New Jersey, 108-88.
1) Congrats to Kobe for passing Shaq; congrats to Paul Pierce for passing Bird. Two great and professional warriors who could easily have been just as great if they'd play on the other guy's team. I can imagine Bryant making Employee No. 8 in Boston look better than Antoine Walker did, just as I can envision L.A. native Pierce knocking down jumpers in Forum Blue and Gold.
2) Someone in New Orleans deserves a raise for arranging this.
3) Thought-provoking article in the New York Times magazine earlier this month about the NBA's attempts to establish a foothold in China.
4) I saw Doc Rivers in the locker room after the Celtics beat the Lakers in the Finals in 2008. And he was very, very happy and proud. But that was a different look he displayed in Chapel Hill on Wednesday, when his son Austin, the Duke freshman, hit the game-winner to beat North Carolina, and if you're a parent, you understand the difference.
5) Liked the Minnesota Muskies unis, TWolves! Clean. Simple. Fish.
6) Lefty looked pretty impressive at Pebble.
1) I was in the throes of Linsanity Saturday, getting ready to sit down and enjoy Rubio-Lin, a matchup so audacious to consider a year ago that the Commish would never admit he'd dreamed it. And then I heard Whitney Houston had died, and the game petered away. Hers was a voice that must have come from God, it was so powerful and artful. "I Will Always Love You" was such a perfectly sung ballad it had to inspire the knockoffs and parodies it did; that's how some people react in the face of truly iconic moments. If you want to read about Whitney's failings as a human, please go somewhere else. I am not in the mood. She was 48. I turned 47 last week. Life is so very, very fleeting, and today I am so very, very sad.
1a) Although Jennifer Hudson made me cry tears of joy Sunday at the Grammys. Unbelievable.
1b) Although ... Nicky? What the hell was that?
2) Add another handful of key injuries to this season's Butcher's Block: Billups, Gallinari, Varejao. This is getting depressing.
3) When you're still on your rookie contract, no matter how innocent you think the words sound, saying "I'm going to keep my options open" doesn't endear you to fans who barely have seen you play for their team, Brandon Jennings.
4) I lobbied for you, JSmoove. You need better lobbyists than me, evidently.
5) When your friends mess up, you have an obligation to tell them. Jason Whitlock is my friend. He messed up. He's still my friend. The End.
6) I tried to work up the talk radio outrage that the Patriots' Rob Gronkowski danced at his team's already-scheduled party after their loss in the Super Bowl with his shirt off. I really did, because I know that you're supposed to be incredibly angry with the guy who set an NFL record with 17 touchdowns in a season -- and who played in the Super Bowl with a severely sprained ankle that probably should have kept him out a month -- because he had the audacity not to sit in his room and look at a lightbulb for eight hours after losing the World's Most Important Game. I tried. Really. I just couldn't do it. It's my fault.
This week's Mr. Fifteen is Miami Heat center Eddy Curry. You younger heads probably have forgotten that the 29-year-old Curry was the fourth overall pick in the 2001 Draft, when he and Tyson Chandler, taken second in '01, were supposed to make Chicago fans forget about Michael Jordan's Bulls. Chandler ultimately became a top-12 center in the league, just not in Chicago; he found his footing in New Orleans and, last season, Dallas. But Curry has wandered through the NBA, a perennial tease because of his array of post moves and quick feet. However, one thing or another has always tripped him up. His days in Chicago were numbered after he developed an irregular heartbeat that forced him to miss the last 13 games of the 2004-05 season, his best with the Bulls. The Bulls, worried that Curry might have hereditary factors that could lead to serious or fatal heart issues, asked him to undergo DNA testing; after he refused, Curry was traded to the Knicks in the offseason. Then-Knicks president Isiah Thomas gambled that Curry was healthy and gave him a $60 million contract. But after averaging 19.5 points and 7 rebounds in his first season in New York, Curry's game and life fell apart. Injuries, tragedy and poor decisions combined to make Curry a forgotten man and league cautionary tale. After playing just 10 games for New York over two seasons, he was traded to Minnesota last year as part of a three-team deal. But after being recruited by LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, Curry signed a free agent deal with Miami and has lost, by his estimation, more than 70 pounds. He made his season debut with the Heat lat Jan. 19 against the Lakers, playing six minutes and scoring six points. He's appeared in six games this season, averaging 1.6 points and less than one rebound in five minutes per game.
Me: Is there a "typical" day for you as you continue to try and stay in condition?
Eddy Curry: No, not necessarily a typical day for me. I'm just trying to take every day I can to do as much as I can to be ready. And whenever Spo (coach Erik Spoelstra) needs me, I'll be there.
Me: What's the main thing you work on -- strength, cardio?
EC: Just getting my touch back, getting my timing back, rhythm, that type of stuff. Being away for so long, and not getting up and down with the guys for so long, it takes a toll on you. And even once you get your body in physical shape, the touch just isn't there. It doesn't come back as fast as the conditioning does. So that's the only thing.
Me: Does the ball actually feel different in your hands?
EC: At first it did. At first it did. But now it's feeling good again. I'm seeing it go in a lot now, so I'm just gonna keep pushing. And like I said, when he's ready for me, I'll be there.
Me: The league has changed so much since you were on the court regularly --players, coaches. Do you find yourself saying, 'This isn't the same league I played in?'
EC: Not really. I've been watching. I've always been a fan and a student of the game, so I've always watched. I've seen who comes in or goes out, who does what. I studied a lot of tendencies and stuff like that. Even though I wasn't playing, I still felt like I was a part of it.
Me: What did you think when you heard Miami was serious?
EC: It just made me want to work even harder. I knew that I had to be in a totally different type of shape than I could possibly do by myself. I just did as much as I could by myself, and when the time came for me to come here, I just came here and I did everything they wanted me to do.
Me: You were in Chicago with Tim Grover until then?
Me: What did he have you doing?
EC: A lot of running. A lot of running, a lot of basketball. Just really tried to play a lot. We had a lot of good competition in there. So any type of run I could get, I was always a part of it..Caron (Butler) was there. Juwan (Howard) was there. (Andre) Iguodala was there. We had a lot of good guys there. A lot of pre-Draft guys came in there, Enes Kanter. All of those guys were there. I felt good this summer. It wasn't until I came here and I started losing my legs with all that running and stuff. I was like, 'Hold on, man.' But the summertime is a different type of basketball. I wouldn't say it's friendly, but I wouldn't say it was cutthroat. When the season starts, it's all about getting better and playing as hard as you can possibly play and leaving it all out there, and it's that timing I need to get back.
Me: What did Riles say, specifically, that he wanted to see from you?
EC: He said, 'You're in good shape, but you're not in world-class shape.' And that was it. It's all about getting in world-class shape.
Me: What will you contribute when and if you get to play regularly?
EC: I think just giving guys a new look. Nobody's seen me in a while, so maybe they forgot what I could do. So that's what I'm looking forward to, just getting out there and really showing what I can do on the low block.
Me: Do you think about, maybe, playing June basketball in the Finals?
EC: I just think about the next game ... that's where I am. And I know realistically it may be towards June. But I'm still looking at the next game, 'cause I don't want that day to come and I miss my opportunity because I'm looking so far ahead.
Me: If I asked you how you wound up in the situation you were in, what would be the answer?
EC: I don't know. I really don't know. It all happened so fast, and it was kind of a snowball effect, and before you knew it I was here. So, I really can't say. I really can't say. Things just happened.
Me: What will it mean to be back on the court?
EC: It'll mean the world to me. To me, my family, my fans, all my supporters, all my critics ... I don't even think about (the criticism). Honestly, I just keep working. I keep working. I look at this an opportunity to change a lot of things about myself, to just redefine myself. I just look at it as a great opportunity. I just knew that this was where I wanted to be, so a lot of the other calls (from other teams), I really didn't take, or didn't even acknowledge.
We should have kept @jlin7. Did not know he was this good.Anyone who says they knew misleading U
-- Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey (@dmorey), Thursday, 12:42 p.m., acknowledging that in retrospect there may have been some benefit to taking another look at Jeremy Lin when the Rockets had him last season instead of waiving him. In a related story, no duh.
"I don't tell Jay-Z to do anything. I mean that. He tells me what to do. Listen, when it comes to our engagement, let's just say he's the CEO."
--Nets CEO Brett Yormark, to the Wall Street Journal, on his relationship with the music mogul and part-owner of the team. Blue Ivy's dad has been hands-on in the planning of the VIP area at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, as well as revamping the team's logo and uniforms as it prepares to move to New York next season.
"Everybody gets frustrated with each other and I saw that today. Two guys knew the play, one guy didn't. And it drains energy. Not being a professional drains energy. And being a professional is knowing every set you run, knowing your rotation because it's draining for the pros who know, who do the work.''
--Doc Rivers, decrying his Celtics' performance after an unsightly 12-point loss Friday to underwhelming Toronto.
"Stop putting me in with the old guys! All the media, they always put me in the same category with Tim and Manu, because I've been playing so long with them. I'm still 29. They think I'm like 33 or something. My best years are coming!...everybody, when I tell them I'm 29, they're like 'what? You're not 33?' They just assume I'm the same age as Tim and Manu. My next three years should be my best basketball years. They always say your best basketball comes between 28 and 32."
--Spurs All-Star guard Tony Parker, decrying the assumption that he's as geriatric as some of his teammates. Parker, remember, started his NBA career at 19.
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