Posted Mar 5 2012 9:44AM
It was late Sunday night and Joe Maloof's team had just dropped another tough game, this time to the Suns. His Kings are young and green and learning. He sounded tired on the phone. And he didn't sound like a guy who has a $391 million arena in his back pocket.
You could understand. The Maloofs have been down this road before with the city of Sacramento, 13 years of false starts and dashed hopes and bad mistakes made by the family and by the city. Theirs is an uneasy marriage of convenience, put together by a former point guard turned mayor, Kevin Johnson, with one goal and one goal only -- to get a new arena built that will bring money to everyone's pockets and keep the team in town. And the business community's engagement is chiefly inspired by the potential to finally develop the Railyards section of Sacramento, where the arena has been placed in numerous previous other plans over the years that never passed muster, either by the City Council or voters.
On Tuesday, that day may finally come to pass. The Council is scheduled to vote on accepting the framework for a new arena that was agreed upon by the Maloofs, the city, the NBA and mega-corporation AEG just last week, just beating a league-imposed deadline. But until shovels hit the ground -- hell, until opening night 2015 or 2016 or whenever the Kings play their first game in their new building -- Joe Maloof and his brothers will be skeptical, just as many in the city remain skeptical of them.
"We love Sacramento," Joe Maloof said Sunday night. "We said we always wanted to stay there and hopefully work this out. It's a great first step. Now it has to be finished ... that Mayor Johnson is still a very aggressive guy. But he's trying. We're all trying. We're excited that we're on the right track, believe me."
What is a right track for Sacramento could provide franchise stability for the NBA for the foreseeable future.
The Kings are the only known franchise that was on the brink of relocation. With Commissioner David Stern committed to keeping the Hornets in New Orleans by insisting prospective owners stay there and play in a refurbished New Orleans Arena, there aren't any other teams without a new building that could potentially be lured by the Seattles or Kansas Citys of the world.
The non-binding framework agreed upon by the parties after marathon meetings in Orlando during All-Star weekend calls for the city to put up $255.53 million toward the construction of a new arena in the Railyards part of downtown, the last major undeveloped tract of land in that part of Sacramento. The Maloofs have committed to spending $73.25 million. AEG, the conglomerate of billionaire Phillip Anschutz that built Staples Center, would contribute $58.75 million and run the new building. An additional $3 million would come from the sale of paraphernalia such as commemorative bricks and other items.
But the devil, of course, is in the details. For all the glad-handing and standing ovations at Power Balance Arena last week, this thing is a way from being finalized.
"The question mark is the Maloofs," said Jack Robinson, the editor of the Sacramento Business Journal. "I don't think anybody expected they had that kind of money. But we presume that since David Stern was sitting right next to them that the NBA is going to make sure that they have that kind of money ... the NBA seems to be satisfied and seems to be putting its weight behind the Maloofs."
Since the Maloofs have taken a financial beating during the recession -- up to and including having to sell controlling interest in their beloved Palms Casino in Las Vegas -- many wonder if they can come up with the $73 million. The term sheet specified that the family could refinance its existing loan with the city under more favorable terms, and the Maloofs could conceivably sell the Power Balance Arena. But would those deals alone provide enough up-front money?
There may still be negotiations going on about exactly how much the Maloofs and AEG will contribute, or how revenues will be split between the two once the building opens. The term sheet specifies a 50-50 split between the two for arena advertising, including naming rights for the arena. The Kings would get all the revenue from ticket and luxury suite sales and concessions. (This is a far different deal for the team than it would have gotten had it moved to Anaheim's Toyota Center this season, which the team was planning to do until Johnson stepped in last spring and convinced NBA owners to give him one more year to put a plan together.)
"Once Sacramento showed it would be all in, I think at that point, I sensed that the league encouraged, strongly encouraged, the Maloofs to move (financially). I'm not sure what words were used," said Sacramento Councilman Robert King Fong, an arena supporter.
"When you look at the term sheet the most interesting thing is that the Maloofs' contribution, they basically don't have to put any cash in," Fong said. "They can finance the whole thing. That should tell you something. They're cash poor. I'm not sure how they're going to come up with it. I don't know if the league is going to help them."
There are also questions, though, about whether the city can come up with the money it says it can to finance the building. Some $200 million of the city's $255 million contribution will come, it says, from selling existing parking and parking enforcement operations in the downtown area to private companies, or from borrowing against the expected revenues that will be produced with a new arena anchoring the Railyards. Presumably, once a building goes up, the parking around that building and in the immediate area will become more expensive and produce more money for the city and the companies that pay for the rights to operate parking and nearby garages.
The other $55 million will come from the sale of existing land the city owns. That may or may not include land the city owns near the current Power Balance Arena.
"We don't have any evidence that the city can come up with either of those sums," Robinson said. "But the city seems more confident, not less, as it learns more about the value of its parking operations ... the value of the land and the (Power Balance) arena is highly questionable. If anybody is counting on that asset, they're walking on thin ice. But that doesn't seem to be where the city is saying it's going to get the money."
Johnson, who has had his share of dustups with the council since becoming mayor in 2008, had to keep a lot of balls in the air to pull a deal together. The Kings had already signed a memorandum with the city of Anaheim (the Maloofs had already planned on calling the team the "Anaheim Royals") when Johnson made his last-ditch appeal to Stern and the league's relocation committee.
"We had the scare of our lives as far as our sports team," Johnson told Sacramento Bee columnist Ailene Voisin Friday, "and what I will always remember is that I sent an official letter to the commissioner asking to address the owners, and he said, 'OK.' I got a chance to be in the room, to plead my case. I tried to say, 'This is someone who graduated and remains part of the NBA family, fighting for his city, and here's what we can do.' But he challenged me on everything."
Methodically, Johnson put a deal together, coaxing more money out of both the Maloofs and AEG. The NBA, which had washed its hands of the situation a year ago after being unable to get the city to agree on financing an arena, had president of league and basketball operations Joel Litvin get directly involved, and sent a sales team to Sacramento to see if there was more money locally. But Johnson was the catalyst.
"There's no getting around it: Mayor Johnson made this happen," Robinson said. "When the team was ready to go, he made this happen. He and the council are not exactly friendly ... but this deal, I think, reflects their concerns about the city's assets. A month ago I might have said there was a political risk; some of the members may have thought 'I don't want to get into this.' I think there's way too much momentum now for the council to stop it."
"I think we certainly have enough votes to pass it," he said Saturday evening.
"I think it would be nice to have more than enough. It would be good optics. But I think we'll pass it."
The arena will help jump-start the development of the Railyards. A courthouse is on line to be built there. A long-contemplated light rail/bus project into that area may get a green light to proceed. And Sacramento will not be known as the city that let the Kings get away. In a one-major sports town, that would be a terrible legacy for the elected officials involved, and the Maloofs.
But the key words here are the qualified ones: "expected" and "should" and "proposed." There is optimism in Sacramento, to be sure; the city is in a much better position now than a year ago, when civic groups desperately hoped for a miracle, and the last game of the regular season against the Lakers had a funereal quality. But they aren't out of the woods yet.
"We've got a long way to go," Joe Maloof said Sunday. "We have some things to work out. But we stepped up and the NBA stepped up as well. There's work to be done in the next month and a half to consummate it, still.."
Thunder's Brooks plays waiting game for new deal
Scott Brooks had just gotten to the NBA as a 165-pound point guard out of UC-Irvine in 1988 when he got his first and best lesson in what it took to be a coach in the league. He was in the 76ers' locker room when Jim Lynam, then the 76ers' coach, got in Charles Barkley's grill.
"Charles was one of the toughest players to coach, because he was so talented and so hard-headed and stubborn and ornery," Brooks recalled during All-Star week. "Jimmy challenged him, challenged him to a fight, put his wallet, threw his wallet on the floor. 'Whoever wins gets the wallet. Put your wallet down, Charles. You're not as tough as you think.' And that always reminded me, wow, that's how you're supposed to coach an NBA player. You're not supposed to coach him because he's Charles Barkley the All-Star; you're supposed to coach him as Charles Barkley, he's a member of the 12-man team." (Brooks told this story to Jim Lynam's daughter, Dei, a reporter for CSN Philly, proving, again, how wonderfully insular the NBA is. Everybody knows everybody.)
Brooks has taken those lessons to Oklahoma City, never falling for the trappings of the game -- he drives a Toyota Prius to work. And though it's not known whether he's asked Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook to step outside, he has not been a wallflower during his superstars' rise to their own All-Star status. He's been right in the middle of his young players' development, and as part of the culture of growth in OKC as anyone.
So it's surprising that the Thunder have let Brooks get to the walk year on his contract without yet reaching agreement on an extension. And it's stranger still considering how quickly the Thunder worked to get Durant and Westbrook signed to long-term deals before they ever became free agents. Yes, they're more important pieces to OKC's future than any coach, but the Thunder have always been proactive rather than reactive when it comes to keeping people they want to be part of their core.
After signing Westbrook to a five-year, $80 million deal, Oklahoma City has almost all of its key players locked up for the foreseeable future. Westbrook is now signed through 2017. Durant is signed through 2016. The Thunder gave Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison signing bonuses in order to get their Hancocks on extensions through 2015, and guard Thabo Sefolosha is signed through 2014. Among its key players, only James Harden and Serge Ibaka don't have long-term deals. Nor, for the moment, does Brooks.
Even when Brooks put his future in OKC on the line by benching Westbrook in the fourth quarter of Game 2 of the Western Conference finals last season against Dallas, Westbrook never submarined Brooks afterward, and never had any of his people initiate any kind of whispering campaign against him.
"Right now, one thing that Scotty has never, ever done is either complain about a contract situation or demand one," said his agent, Warren LeGarie, on Friday. "It's the end of his current deal, but as you can see it hasn't affected his commitment to the team or the way he chooses to coach it. Ultimately, this league is about results. He's learned that as a player and a coach. That's what you're judged by. Ultimately your results are what you're judged by."
Going into the Thunder's game Monday against Dallas, Brooks is 156-114 (.578) with OKC. And that includes a 3-29 start when he took over for P.J. Carlesimo 13 games into the 2008-09 season; since then, Brooks is 153-85 (.643).
It's much more likely than not that OKC will make a deal for Brooks, the 2010 Coach of the Year. But every day that goes by without a deal makes for increased speculation, and that is not something a championship contender like the Thunder needs.
"Scott and I have been through a lot together over the years and he's been an integral part of the team and the development of our players," Thunder general manager Sam Presti said by telephone Sunday. "He knows what we think of him. As we've said previously, we're hopeful he'll be the coach of the Thunder for many, many years."
Presti declined to go into any further detail about Brooks' status, including whether he and LeGarie were currently having discussions, or if talks have been tabled. On Friday, LeGarie, while declining to go into specifics, seemed to indicate there hadn't been much movement since preliminary negotiations after the end of the lockout.
"Both sides were probably in a different place where it appeared there was potential for a deal," LeGarie said. "... At that point, we just agreed to disagree on what we think the value of Scottie is to the team. At that point, it's just a matter of we'll wait until the end of the season, which is when these things tend to get sorted out anyway."
Durant and Brooks came to the Thunder franchise, then a lame-duck team in Seattle, about to move to Oklahoma City -- KD as the heralded second pick in the 2007 Draft, Brooks as Carlesimo's assistant. Once Brooks became coach, he never wavered in what he believed in. And Durant never questioned whether it would be better for him to have a more experienced guy developing him at the start of his career.
"He coaches me up every single day," Durant said during the All-Star break. "He doesn't let me slip up on anything, no matter what. I'm the first guy he yells at, and I really like that. That's something that I grew up on. My mom was always strict on me, my dad, my coaches. I didn't want it to be any different coming from one of the best coaches in the NBA in Scotty Brooks. I don't want him to baby me, and that's one thing he's not doing. I'm excited to be playing for him."
There's no indication that Presti is looking for a coaching "closer" in the Phil Jackson mold to finish the job in OKC. That would be a major gamble, as only Jackson, Rudy Tomjanovich, Gregg Popovich, Larry Brown, Pat Riley, Doc Rivers and Rick Carlisle have coached teams to NBA titles in the last two decades. Jackson is happily ensconced in Idaho; Tomjanovich has shown no interest in returning to coaching; Brown is 71 and still willing, but would cost a fortune; Riles says his coaching days are over, and Popovich, Rivers and Carlisle are, as far as I know, happily employed elsewhere.
No one is suggesting Brooks should get the $7 million per season Rivers is pulling down in Boston, or the $6 million Mike D'Antoni gets from the Knicks, or even the $5 million Flip Saunders was being paid in Washington. But, surely, there's a number between those and the less than $2 million annually Brooks is reportedly making that will make everyone happy.
(Last week's ranking in parenthesis)
1) Chicago (5) [4-0]: In the month since getting smoked by the 76ers, the Bulls have won 13 of their last 15, including Sunday's revenge victory in Philadelphia. And Rip Hamilton is finally back on the court.
2) Oklahoma City (3) [2-1]: Thunder's seven-game win streak ends at Atlanta Saturday with its old nemesis -- turnovers -- the main culprit. Twenty-one more against the Hawks, which led to 22 Atlanta points.
3) San Antonio (1) [1-2]: Spurs finally have their whole team back and available after T.J. Ford (hamstring) and Manu Ginobili (oblique) return to the lineup on Friday and Sunday, respectively.
4) L.A. Lakers (7) [3-0]: Metta World Peace showing signs of life (54 percent from the floor) since the All-Star break.
5) Miami (2) [1-2]: Heat's relative lack of size without Chris Bosh (bereavement) wouldn't matter against most teams, but it was a factor in Sunday's loss to the Lakers.
6) Orlando (8) [2-1]: Increasing rumblings that the Magic will play it out with Dwight Howard and not trade him by March 15th deadline. Posturing or fed up? We'll get a better feel this week, when the real offers for Superman start coming in.
7) Atlanta (9) [2-1]: Hawks keep winning enough to make dealing any of their rotation guys for a big seems shortsided.
8) L.A. Clippers (6) [2-2]: Look, maybe Clipper Darrell is trying to use the team to make a little coin on the side. But given the years of Sterling-induced bad press this franchise has gotten, even if it is technically right here, shouldn't someone see that it's better in the long run to keep CD in the tent than outside of it?
9) Dallas (4) [1-3]: Lamar Odom returns after being on leave for the last week, but how can Mavs trust he'll be able to stay engaged mentally?
10) Memphis (13) [3-0]: Four straight and eight out of nine since Valentine's Day. And should get Z-Bo back in the next few weeks.
11) Philadelphia (10) [2-2]: A GM made this point about the Sixers on Sunday: Not only did they have great continuity in personnel and coaching at the start of the season, they were in shape at the start of the season. That advantage may be waning now that other teams that weren't as stable when the lockout ended have key players now ready to handle bigger minutes. Or, the Sixers could just be playing better teams now.
12) Indiana (14) [3-0]: Pacers have made hay winning six straight, but their next nine are brutal: at Chicago, versus Atlanta, at Miami, at Orlando, home versus Portland, home versus Philly, a back-to-back road and home set with the Knicks and a final game against the Clippers on the 20th.
13) New York (11) [1-1]: Got a Tweet on Sunday from someone asking, in all seriousness, "do you think Jeremy Lin shoots too much?"
14) Houston (12) [1-3]: I am an original member of the Kyle Lowry fan club; I've been on him as a potential top-shelf lead guard since his Villanova days. But if you want Pau Gasol as badly as you seem to want him, you have to deal quality players in return.
15) Boston (4-0) [NR]: With KG reluctantly playing center, does Danny Ainge have to swallow hard and move Ray Allen in some sort of three-way deal to get Chris Kaman to Beantown?
Dropped Out: Denver (15).
Chicago (4-0): Wins at San Antonio, Philadelphia only reinforce the Bulls' standing as the league's best (17-6) road team..
Cleveland (0-4): For a minute before the All-Star break, the Cavs could actually entertain serious thoughts of an unlikely second-half playoff run. Will be harder now, especially if Boston and New York can solidify their recent improved play.
What would the point be of trading Rajon Rondo, again?
Look, if you're not in a locker room every day, you have no idea of the dynamics of a given team. And, so, it may well be that Rondo is such a head case that his fellow Celtics teammates are tired of his act, and wouldn't mind if he were traded. But even that makes little sense if you're Danny Ainge, Boston's team president, or Doc Rivers, the coach. Because very few of those guys are going to be around next season.
The Celtics are certainly going to rebuild after this season, with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen not likely to return. But neither will the likes of Keyon Dooling and Sasha Pavlovic and Jermaine O'Neal. And even if any of those guys has beef with Rondo, who cares? At this point of their respective careers, Rondo brings just as much to the table, if not more, than any of them, as his 18-point, 20-rebound, 17-assist masterpiece Sunday against the Knicks exemplified.
Make no mistake; Rondo is high maintenance -- "a personality challenge," as it was put to me last week. He can be inscrutable and stubborn, and he has definite ideas about how to best utilize his and his teammates' skills. But he has done nothing this season, I was told, to make his exile a necessity; his only major misstep was the two-game suspension he got from the league last month after tossing the ball at referee Sean Wright in a game against Detroit. (Arriving late to TD Garden, well past the proscribed 90 minutes before tipoff time that most teams ask their players to be in house, was a problem for Rondo earlier in his career, but a league source says he hasn't been late once this season.)
Maybe Ainge believes a Rondo without teammates who command attention and double-teams, like Pierce, who would have to shoot a lot more jumpers with teams no longer having to account for Pierce or Allen, will be a much less effective player. Maybe being the quarterback of a rebuilding team instead of a contender would bring out more of Rondo's not-so-great attributes. Or maybe a team with an $86 million payroll just doesn't want to pay Rondo the $36 million he's still due after this season. They are all fair concerns.
But there isn't another point guard in the league who has Rondo's skill set. Many are better shooters, sure, but none can rebound, pass, penetrate and score the way he can when he is truly energized.
One general manager said Sunday afternoon that he thought Ainge was only serious about moving Rondo when Chris Paul was the prize, and that everything since hasn't been serious. As with everyone else that's been in trade rumors, the rubber is about to meet the road.
But if the Celtics are serious about dealing Rondo, they better be getting a hell of a player back in return.
The Whole World is Watching -- and Hooping! From Anthony Tsatsakis:
I am going to respectfully disagree with your conclusion (NBA talent is diluted compared to the 1980s) since I believe that your math takes into account only the last part of the process that churns out basketball talent. Your conclusion (more teams, same amount of talent, thus talent is diluted) is based on the premise that the pool of talent today is of the same size with the pool of talent in the '80s, which I don't think is correct. Of course, I don't have data from universities to see how many students are playing bball for earnest today vs. in the '80s, but there are at least three things that make me believe that the expansion of the talent pool over the last 25 years far outweighs the increase of players needed to fill the roster of the expansion teams.
1) The NBA is way more popular now than it was in the early '80s, and thus, way more kids aspire to become NBA players. We can call this the MJ effect. Also, we should keep in mind that the Larry Bird-Magic Johnson effect would not show up in the data until early '90s since it takes a few years between the moment a kid gets inspired by a bball hero to start playing bball and the moment he becomes an NBA player.
2) International players. I do not have the exact numbers of international players currently on NBA team rosters, but I am sure it is enough to fill up 2 or 3 rosters -- maybe even more.
3) Talent is a function of effort and number of hours put into practice. The NBA offers more lucrative contracts today and it is more professional than it used to be, which in turn makes all aspiring NBA players train harder and put in longer hours. So the collective average of talent of today's era compared to that of the early '80s is way higher.
I'm sure there's an economist out there who can define our different opinions, Anthony. But I think it comes down to this: I think there are a finite number of people who are good enough to be NBA players, and it doesn't matter if the pool of available players is bigger now than it was 20 years ago: the number of those with the necessary skills hasn't increased. I just don't think today's players are as fundamentally sound as they were then. Many can jump higher and are faster, but they aren't better basketball players. But we obviously disagree.
It's a pick-em matchup. From Michael Meehan:
What do you think would be the best 5-player team possible to field from today's NBA players? Would there be any non-Americans on it? If not, would you like this all American team to go to the London 2012 Olympics? Finally, what would be your pick for best 5 player team of non-Americans?
For me I'd go with:
Americans: PG Derrick Rose, SG Kobe Bryant, SF LeBron James, PF Amar'e Stoudemire, C Dwight Howard
Internationals: PG Tony Parker, SG Manu Ginobili, SF Luol Deng, PF Dirk Nowitzki, C Marc Gasol
Surprisingly I'm putting Marc in Ahead of Pau here. I'd be really interested in your picks. I think the Americans would still win, but that's a good international team.
You've got a good list there, Michael, but must disagree with Stoudemire at the four for the American team. I think Kevin Love is a better power forward right now. If you're asking for a top five, I might -- might -- put CP3 ahead of Rose, but I might not, depending on what day it is or how much I've had to drink.
A crutch of their own making. From Jason Mitchell:
Let's remember that the lockout took away 16 games, and the entirely separate, greedy decision to stuff the remaining 66 into a condensed schedule took away practice and recovery time. Not that this steady stream of all-basketball all-the-time isn't a blast for junkies, but the league and players could have easily agreed to cancel another five or ten games for the sake of quality of play and player health.
Good and fair point, Jason.
Send your questions, comments, criticisms and Super Tuesday party platter ideas to email@example.com. If your e-mail is sufficiently interesting, thought-provoking, funny or snarky, we just might publish it!
(Weekly averages in parenthesis)
1) LeBron James (32.7 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 6.3 apg, .569 FG, .722 FT): Rarely has someone been so polarizing that people custom-design their criticisms of him before he actually does something. If he passes at the end of the game, he has no heart; if he shoots and misses at the end, he's not clutch; if he does shoot and score, he's selfish. Some of y'all have to let your hate go; he's a basketball player. That's all.
2) Kevin Durant (32 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2 apg, .452 FG, .829 FT): Someone asked me last week why no one makes a big deal out of the fact that KD shoots the ball all the time -- only Kobe Bryant averages more attempts per game than Durant's 19.7. The answer is simple. People like Durant.
3) Kobe Bryant (34 ppg, 6 rpg, 4 apg, .543 FG, .806 FT): Pretty good weekly stats for a guy coming off of a broken nose and a concussion.
4) Derrick Rose (28.8 ppg, 2 rpg, 7.5 apg, .483 FG, .800 FT): Says the back is feeling fine again. Which is ironic, because that makes Erik Spoelstra's temples start pounding again.
5) Chris Paul (23.3 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 7.5 apg, .500 FG, .773 FT): He told me during the All-Star break that teams aren't defending him any differently since Chauncey Billups went down for the season. If they aren't now, they will be.
Dropped Out: Tony Parker
4,124 -- Actual attendance at the Hershey Arena on March 2, 1962, when Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points for the Philadelphia Warriors against the Knicks. Since then, thousands more have claimed to be there. (Among those who actually were there, believe it or not: Hall of Fame NFL quarterback Sonny Jurgensen, then playing for the Philadelphia Eagles, who held training camp in Hershey.)
39 -- Consecutive games with one or more steals for Chris Paul, dating to last season, the longest such current streak in the league, according to the NBA. Paul also has the longest streak of consecutive games with a steal, 108 (set between 2007 and 2008) in the last 25 seasons, going back to Alvin Robertson's 105 straight games in 1985-86.
17 -- Consecutive victories by the Lakers over the Timberwolves. Per Elias, that's the current longest win streak by one team over another in the league.
2) Don't even like the sound of the word "norovirus." But Ray Allen looked like he'd recovered from whatever it is Sunday.
3) Kobe is right on this. But most great players have never had natural rivals; that's what made Russell-Chamberlain and Magic-Larry so special. Jordan didn't really have a rival: people tried to puff up Clyde Drexler, whose Blazers met Jordan's Bulls in the '92 Finals, but that never really felt right; Drexler was a great, great player in his own right, a Hall of Famer and Top 50 of all time talent, but he still wasn't in MJ's class. (Same for Reggie Miller.) The Blazers made the Finals twice -- facing Jordan's crew once and Isiah Thomas' Pistons once and lost both times; Chicago went six for six. Thomas would have come closest to a rival for Jordan, since his Pistons tortured Jordan for years and won two titles before Chicago broke through in '91-- and since many who were around at the time thought Jordan kept Thomas off the Dream Team in 1992.
4) If God is a basketball fan, he will guide Zach Randolph back to good health sooner rather than later, and get Lamar Odom's head right, which could get the Grizzlies and Mavs a few more wins, which could help nudge the Lakers or Clips to sixth in the West, giving the world what it wants -- Lakers-Clippers in the first round.
5) The Kings' rookie point guard with the West Coast pedigree won Western Conference Rookie of the Month honors for February. Who knew it would be Isaiah Thomas and not The Jimmer? Sacto might have a really good piece there in Thomas
6) Kind of like Major League Baseball's second wild card and one-game playoff between those two teams. It obviously keeps more teams alive for the postseason, which helps MLB's bottom line, but it doesn't add another round of playoffs, which would have pushed the World Series well into November. A good compromise that will make for electric atmospheres in those one-or-done games.
1) Tried to explain this in the 140-character Twitter world, then realized Twitter has no context gene. So: LeBron James made the right basketball play Friday night, when he passed up a potential game-winning shot against Utah to feed an open Udonis Haslem for a shot Haslem has made hundreds of times. Except this time, he didn't, and James was again roasted by ex-players and fans and everyone else with access to the web for being docile when he should have been aggressive -- especially considering how incredible he'd been in the fourth quarter against the Jazz, making increasingly amazing and ridiculous shots to bring the Heat back from a double-digit deficit. James, it was Tweeted, has no heart or guts, chokes in the clutch and should never be compared to Michael Jordan. For the billionth time: James ain't Michael Jordan. Kobe ain't Michael Jordan. Nobody is Michael Jordan. Stop comparing people to Michael Jordan. James took the blame (on Twitter, natch), writing, "I came up short again!" The point I couldn't make in Twitter Time was that nothing James does now, during the regular season, matters. If he'd made or missed the game-winning shot, it wouldn't matter, nor would it have mattered if Haslem made the shot. James will only be judged by the number of titles he wins in Miami, because of the expected standard he set when he went to Miami ("not four, not five, not six"...).
2) Cubes and Lamar Odom's agent can spin all they want, but, so far, LO has been a disaster in Dallas, and Rick Carlisle was honest enough to say so last week on his radio show. I have a solution, though for obvious reasons that will be made clear below, it will never happen: the Mavs should trade Odom to the Nets for Mehmet Okur. Lamar is a creature of habit and familiarity; sending him to his native New York would be doing him a huge favor, ease his peace of mind, get him closer to his ailing father and make his wife and her production company happy. Plus, it would rid the Mavs of a headache and bring back a serviceable center in Okur who could spell Brendan Haywood. But this will never happen. A happy, productive Odom in Jersey might convince Deron Williams to stay past this season, and the Mavericks have him on their radar as a free agent this summer.
3) Wow, it's gone south in a hurry in Portland.
5) I'm sure the NFL, after its investigation of the Saints and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, will determine that the Saints/Williams circumvented the cap by paying out bonuses for hard hits, and punish them for that with fines and suspensions. Sort of like the way the feds finally got Al Capone, but for tax evasion. Just hard to work up the outrage over the notion that a coach would encourage his players to ... hit the opponents hard and try to knock them out of the game. Thought that was what they were supposed to do.
6) Can't say I was a big Monkees fan: J. Anthony Brown, one of the hosts of the Tom Joyner Morning Radio Show, basically summed up my feelings about the band and its Saturday morning show when he said that it was basically something he watched while waiting for Soul Train to come on. But I know many people enjoyed the show and the work of singer/songwriter Davy Jones, who died last week. RIP.
On our way 2 the airport!! I just popped a peppermint in my mouth and it tasted like Cologne and lotion!! They both bust in my toiletry
-- Grizzlies swingman Tony Allen (@aa000G9), Friday, 10:23 p.m. Dude, carry the mints in your pocket.
"Michael (Jordan) has assured us that he's working harder than he ever has in his life & playing less golf."
--Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver, during a panel discussion at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference last weekend, addressing criticism of Jordan's tenure as majority owner of the Bobcats.
"He's a nicer guy than I am, to be honest with you. He's just not the type of person who would intentionally do something like that."
-- Kobe Bryant, to reporters in Los Angeles, expressing his belief that Dwyane Wade's All-Star Game foul on him, which broke Bryant's nose and gave him a concussion, was not deliberate.
" I try to be pretty insular. I have friends, people that I confide in, people I trust. And that's what I do. I know a lot of this is motivated by other folks, so I don't let it bother me. I couldn't care less."
-- Players' Association Executive Director Billy Hunter, in an interview with SI.com, on criticism of his leadership style both before and during the lockout.
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|Lob To Love|
Anderson Varejao lobs it inside to Kevin Love who finishes with the alley-oop dunk.
|Cavaliers vs. Bulls: First half|
LeBron James scores 19 points in the first half as the Cavaliers lead the Bulls 58-52.
|Strip And Slam|
LeBron James gets the strip and takes it all the way in for the slam.
Tony Wroten gets out in transition and blazes inside and Larry Sanders gets the big block at the rim.
|Parker Pummels It|
O.J. Mayo runs the break and lays it off to Jabari Parker who pounds home the nasty two-hand punch.