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David Aldridge

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Suns president Lon Babby embraced the tough task of moving on from the Steve Nash era.
Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

Uneasy as it is, Babby directs Suns into post-Nash Era


Posted Jul 30 2012 1:49PM

Every day for two years, everyone had asked Lon Babby the same question: What are you going to do with Steve?

"Even my wife was asking me," Babby said over the weekend.

Of course, Steve was Steve Nash, only the heart and soul of the Phoenix Suns for the last eight years, the two-time MVP and the fierce competitor who had helped make Phoenix into the NBA's most exciting team for several seasons. And Babby was the new guy, the attorney-turned-baseball executive-turned sports agent-turned NBA executive, hired by the Suns in 2010 as team president. First and foremost on his to-do list was The Nash Situation. But there was much more to accomplish.

In the space of four weeks, the Suns have traded Nash, replacing him with Goran Dragic and first-round pick Kendall Marshall. They brought in two former high lottery picks from Minnesota, Michael Beasley and Wes Johnson. They got Luis Scola off the amnesty pile just as they jettisoned Josh Childress. They re-signed guard Shannon Brown and tried to sign Eric Gordon from New Orleans.

They are, slowly, moving on from the Nash Era.

"I grew up playing tennis," Suns owner Robert Sarver said Sunday afternoon. "And you can either attack your opponent at the net, or you can play on the baseline. But you can't get caught in the middle ...

"You can't kind of be in no man's land [in the NBA]. You have to be getting better or you have to be getting worse. A number of the fans obviously wanted to keep Steve, but a number of the fans thought we should have moved on last year. In general, I think our fan base was ready for us to move on. The backlash from that wasn't as strong as I thought it could have been. Our fan base was ready for us to get younger. I think we're prepared for it. The reality is that the last two seasons, we were mediocre. I was ready for us to move on."

The Suns aren't there yet; they're a long way from being relevant again in the Western Conference. But they've overhauled the roster quickly, and in doing so, they've done things that almost no one else would do in a similar situation.

First, they traded their franchise player to a hated rival, sending Nash to the Lakers for four future Draft picks (two firsts, two seconds) and $3 million. Lots of great players have been traded. But the Philadelphia Warriors didn't send Wilt Chamberlain to the Celtics. The Pistons didn't trade Adrian Dantley to the Bulls.

Second, while they got a lot of players, they didn't overspend on any of them. They put minimal money (three years, $18 million) into Beasley, whom the Timberwolves opted not to tender, and rather than give Robin Lopez big dollars, they sent him to New Orleans as part of a three-team deal with Minnesota that landed them a future first-rounder and Johnson. And their financial discipline this summer and last offseason gave them the room to be able to outbid everyone for Scola, an amnesty victim of the Rockets, claiming him for $2.1 million.

The one player Phoenix did throw some money at was Gordon, whom the Suns gave a four-year, $58 million offer sheet. But New Orleans matched the sheet even though Gordon seemed to truly want to play in the Valley of the Sun, so it's a moot point.

Third, the Suns copped to their mistakes, which almost no one in this business does willingly. Phoenix ate the remaining $20 million of forward Josh Childress' five-year, $33.5 million contract. And Babby also got Sarver to cough up $30 million for Goran Dragic, the guard that Babby had traded to Houston just a year earlier, when Dragic was making $1.9 million. Now, he'll make $7.5 million a year.

And instead of -- what's the word? Oh, yes, tanking -- to get a high Draft pick, the Suns played honorably the last two years, just missing the playoffs each season as their veterans ran out of gas and their younger players couldn't get it done. Maxing out with a mediocre team usually leaves you exactly where Phoenix was -- at the back end of the lottery, with next to no chance of getting an impact player. But you couldn't have guys like Nash and Grant Hill and not try to win.

Babby and Sarver agreed.

"We went back and looked at all teams over the last 30 years and how they rebuilt," Sarver said. "The reality is that if you go bad for a few years to get good, there's no assurances you're ever going to get good. There are a few exceptions like Oklahoma City, but the majority of the teams have taken six to 10 years to rebuild."

Said Babby: "I just don't like the concept of it. It still doesn't sit well with me, relying on ping pong balls. We knew we wanted to take a chance on Beasley, who was a No. 2 pick. And Wes Johnson was a No. 4 pick. So if one of those guys lives up to his Draft position, that's pretty good for us."

It nonetheless created an awkward dance. Nash wanted a chance to compete for a title, but he wasn't going to do it for the minimum. To keep Nash, the Suns would have had to put even more money into veteran players instead of doing what everyone knew had to be done -- make the roster deeper, and purge it of its thirty-somethings.

"People ask me whether it was a financial decision," Babby said. "I would say the answer was no. Because we had to get younger. We had to get more athletic. That great era had pretty much run its course, and if Steve was going to stay we would have to have a high-end backup or a borderline starter, because he was going to be 39, then 40."

The math was simple for Babby. It wasn't just that the Suns would have to put significant money into Nash; they'd also have to spend lavishly on a backup for Nash, who did everything he could to stay on the court but who was increasingly showing signs of wear. And putting that much money into one position would keep Phoenix from doing the other things it had to do.

"We've sort of been two years in the planning to get to this point, where we'd have this kind of flexibility," Babby said. "I can't tell you I knew exactly how it was going to turn out, but we had our sequencing and our timing."

The denouement with Nash began July 1, as the courting by other teams began. While the Suns moved quickly to sign Beasley, the Raptors made their pitch to Nash, as did the Knicks and Mavericks. Each had something unique to offer -- a chance to finish his career in his native Canada, or as a centerpiece on Broadway (Nash spends much of his offseason in SoHo), or a chance to play out his days with one of his best friends, Dirk Nowitzki, in Dallas. (ESPN.com's Marc Stein, who is extremely close to Nash, detailed the blow-by-blow of negotiations a few weeks ago.)

Babby knew that Nash was much closer with Sarver and some of the Suns' minority owners than he'd ever be with him. So Babby didn't spend a lot of time making his case to Nash personally. He spoke with Nash's agent, Bill Duffy, while Nash and Duffy talked things out with general manager Lance Blanks, Sarver and director of player personnel John Treloar.

But, really, all the Suns could do was wait; they had already had four extensive exit interviews with Nash since the season ended. They knew where he stood; he knew where they stood. If Nash opted for the Raptors or Mavericks, the Suns would get nothing in return; if he went to New York, at least they might get back guard Iman Shumpert, at whom they had looked long and hard before the 2011 Draft.

Then, the Lakers came calling. They had a huge trade exception created from dealing Lamar Odom to the Mavericks last December, and they wanted Nash. The initial reaction from the Phoenix braintrust was universal: No. Actually, hell, no. But when Nash said he wanted to play in Los Angeles because it was the closest NBA city to Phoenix, where his children still live with his ex-wife, the Suns began to relent. And the Suns realized that they had some leverage. The only way the Lakers could get Nash is by doing a sign-and-trade deal, and after this coming season, teams like L.A. that pay luxury tax will be prohibited from doing sign-and-trade deals. It was now or never.

"The Lakers wanted him, and we didn't want him to go there, so we said, 'Let's see what we can get for him,' Babby said.

In the end, it was Sarver's call. His first major deal as owner of the Suns, completed about 24 hours after his purchase of the team from Jerry Colangelo became official, was signing Nash away from Dallas. But he gave the green light for the trade.

"The Suns and the Lakers have competed in the same division and conference for a long time," Sarver said. "But I think we're at different stages right now in terms of the two teams. At the end of the day, this just gave us the best option for assets, too, and from a basketball standpoint, if you kind of take the emotion out, it was the best thing for the Suns, for the franchise. I think we've shown in the last couple of years that drafting is one of our strengths, so it kind of played into our strengths. It's one of the things we definitely have to use to move our franchise forward, especially with the new rules with the new CBA."

But Phoenix had a lot of balls in the air. As they were finalizing the Nash trade with the Lakers, they were in the process of signing Dragic, who had his moments over two-plus seasons in Phoenix backing up Nash but didn't really get a chance to start until he was sent to Houston. Dragic wanted to keep starting. The Suns had a starting job available.

They simultaneously made their best pitch to Gordon, throwing $14.5 million a year at him. To create that kind of cap space, the Suns had pared their roster over the last two seasons of just about every big contract, sending Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson to Orlando for Marcin Gortat's more reasonable $34 million deal, along with Mickeal Pietrus and Vince Carter -- who ultimately were bought out and waived, respectively.

And after the lockout ended, the Suns did next to nothing, other than signing Brown to a one-year deal. The result was a mediocre team last season, but a team that had $23 million in cap room. That room had to be used in the right sequence, however.

When Babby was on the other side of the negotiating table, he used poison pills, accelerated signing bonuses and the like to make it as hard as possible for teams to match offer sheets on their restricted free agents. But the rules are a little different now. A bigger signing bonus means a player actually makes less money over the life of a contract, for example.

"The amazing thing is before the process starts, people think you have cap room and so you can do anything you want," Babby said. "That's not how it works. You have to have room every step of the way. So the whole key to the thing was the sequencing. Once we knew we were going to trade Nash, that was one step, and then we knew we could put an offer in on Gordon."

Babby's assistant, Trevor Bukstein, had worked with him at Williams and Connolly in Washington, the law firm where Babby represented the likes of Tim Duncan, Andre Miller and Hill as one of the game's preeminent agents. When Babby went to Phoenix in 2009, he brought Bukstein and his expertise of the cap with him. That enabled the Suns to plan several different scenarios for player acquisition.

"We went through all the sequences," Babby said. "On a $58 million payroll, this kid had it nailed to within $43."

When the Rockets waived Scola, the Suns were mainly concerned about Dallas, New Orleans and Cleveland. But once Phoenix determined the Cavaliers weren't interested in Scola, the Suns estimated the maximum the Mavericks and Hornets could bid on Scola, and offered just a little more.

Even though New Orleans was taking its sweet time matching the offer to Gordon, tying up some of Phoenix's room for almost a week, the Suns created enough room for Scola by using the amnesty on Childress.

"Actually, the Josh thing was my idea," said Sarver, whose idea it was to sign Childress in the first place. "I just felt it made sense. We still felt Josh was a good player. I think the system in which we play, especially with Steve where we need to spread the floor, maybe wasn't the best for him. I think he's good and will still be a good player, but freeing up that cap space allowed us to have more opportunities down the road, to have that space for free agents or to be able to make trades. It was part of being able to make a move for Scola and still being able to have the cap space to make other moves next summer."

The last move was moving Lopez and forward Hakim Warrick to New Orleans last week as part of the three-team deal with Minnesota. Lopez got $15 million and a shot at the starting job with the Hornets; Phoenix got Johnson, who didn't play up to expectations in Minnesota, along with a future first-rounder from the Wolves; the pick is protected to 13 in 2013 and 2014, and to 12 in 2015 and 2016. If the Suns don't get their first in any of those four years, they'll get two seconds from Minnesota instead.

But after all the wheeling and dealing, the Suns are still around $7 million under the cap, with a chance to be as much as $15 million under in the summer of 2013. No player on the roster is making more than Dragic's $7.5 million; no other team's highest-paid player makes as little, and only Cleveland, New Orleans and Sacramento also have no one on their payrolls making more than $10 million. Phoenix has up to five first-round picks and five second-rounders coming its way over the next three years, with a much younger roster. (That latter fact puts coach Alvin Gentry in a tough position, entering the last year of his contract.)

Again, the Suns are hardly a threat to win the title. Their fans have been used to watching their teams not only compete with the NBA's elite, but make the SportsCenter highlights as well. Those days are over. Nash will be back with the Lakers next Jan. 30, with a team that expects to be contending for a title.

The Suns have no expectations. But they have gotten through the transition that is the toughest in the NBA: losing the franchise player.

"I think when my time is over here, and I don't know how long that will be, the thing that I think I will be proudest of is how we kind of got through the Steve Nash transition," Babby said. "That was two years in the making. I think we did it with the grace and dignity I think he deserves. I think we avoided the circus that has happened in most places. I think that speaks well of our franchise and our values, and how we treat players. People want to come here. I think people feel very good about the program and the culture."

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1) Pretty good starts by the U.S. men's and women's Olympic teams in London, I'd say. In 20 years, you can bet, there will be some baller who's currently 7 saying that the 2032 Olympic team could beat the 2012 team, and the reaction from today's generation will be just as adamant as mine is when these guys say they could beat the Dream Team.

1A) Speaking of which, there's just nothing better than the Olympics on television, especially now that a network like NBC has so many affiliate channels/networks on which it can air every sport you'd possibly want to see. Spent a good chunk of Saturday afternoon watching the Italian women sweep the foil event (I always had called it fencing; silly me), and couldn't have been more intrigued.

1B) And, that guy NBC had in the studio Sunday doing pregame and postgame basketball stuff? Glenn "Doc" Rivers? He looked like he'd been in front of a camera before. As did Doug Collins doing the color commentary. They could have a future in television if the coaching thing doesn't work out.

2) Barring some 11th-hour snag, the Sixers will do something very intelligent this week in hiring Tom Penn as their general manager, and not just because the surname is perfect for Philadelphia. He was a grounded, hard-working smart guy when he was inexplicably cashiered by Portland as Kevin Pritchard's assistant GM two years ago, and he still is. He and Collins should work well together.

3) I have volunteered for opening night at Barclays Center, Knicks at Nets. I want to talk to people who were in Brooklyn when the Dodgers left town in '58, and ask them if this, in any way, starts to finally heal the gaping wound they've lived with for five decades. (I'd also like to speak with people whose homes were displaced in building Barclays, because we always forget that neighborhoods are ripped apart to build the gleaming palaces that almost none of those displaced citizens will ever set foot in.)

4) Don't know which one of the finalists Neil Olshey is going to pick to coach the Trail Blazers when the second round of interviews starts today, but he's got excellent candidates -- interim coach Kaleb Canales, Orlando assistant Steve Clifford, Suns assistant Elston Turner and Dallas assistant Terry Stotts, the former Bucks and Hawks head coach. Thee isn't a bad choice among the four, though if you're asking me, and you're not, Turner deserved a shot about six or seven years ago.

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1) I know Jacque Vaughn has the San Antonio Seal of Approval, and I have no doubt he's cut from the same cloth that allowed the likes of Avery Johnson and Scott Brooks to instantly command respect from their players soon after they became head coaches. I just hope everyone in Orlando remains patient while Vaughn cuts his coaching eyeteeth. And Dwight Howard better be thousands of miles away when training camp starts, because his presence and all the baggage it carries would be grossly unfair to put on a guy just getting started.

2) Can't believe it's been 19 years since Celtics forward Reggie Lewis collapsed and died after playing a pickup basketball game on July 27, 1992, at Brandeis University. Reggie was just starting to take his place as the next great Celtic, getting comfortable with the idea that the Bird-McHale-Parish era was over and he was the guy. But he wasn't just a great player; he was a genuinely good guy. And even if he wasn't, dying at 27 is dying way too young.

3) Sherman Hemsley died last week. He portrayed George Jefferson in the hit '70s sitcom "The Jeffersons", which was the first television show that featured an affluent African-American family -- George Jefferson owned a dry cleaners and lived, as anyone of that era knows, in a "deluxe apartment in the sky" with his wife and family. In the modern era of 500 television channels, it may seem odd that a single TV show would carry so much cultural impact, but when there were just a handful of networks, "The Jeffersons" was a big deal. To see a black family that wasn't scuffling for money and whose protagonist held his (mostly) white neighbors in disdain was something no one had ever before seen. Hemsley played it outsized and over the top, and was hysterical.

4) Scary. Glad she came out of this OK.

5) It may just be me, but it's still weird seeing Peyton Manning in a Broncos uniform.

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If, one day, Tim Grgurich makes the Hall of Fame, do you think he'll show up for the induction ceremony?

The best basketball camp you'll never be invited to continues its annual run a week from today in Las Vegas. NBA players and coaches will spend several days among themselves, without any fans, media or agents to ruin it. They will come alone, paying for their own airfare and hotels. They'll be there, in the height of the NBA's vacation season, because of Tim Grgurich, who is the closest thing to an actual sensei that you can have without having to wax anyone's car.

Grgurich is a basketball lifer, universally respected by everyone around the league, such is his love of the game. Every year there is a mad scramble to see which team can convince Grgurich to be on its staff as an assistant. He is one of the very few coaches in basketball who is trusted by every player, who isn't viewed as a snitch or a turncoat. He cares about only one thing: making you a better player.

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Tim Grgurich, then an assistant with the Mavs, works with Tyson Chandler as Dallas preps for the 2011 Finals.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

"He's our modern day Pete Newell," Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle texted Sunday from London, where he is attending the Olympics, referring to the legendary Hall of Fame coach who taught generations of centers the finer points of the game at his Big Man's Camp.

Everyone comes to Gurg's camp happily, but quietly, such is his anathema to attention, even the good kind. He is always polite when you talk to him, but he is always firm -- he has no interest in talking, ever, about himself or what he does. There is the occasional homage (NBA.com's own Steve Aschburner wrote about Grgurich and the camp a couple of years ago), but such is the respect he's commanded over two decades that nearly everyone honors his request not to say anything. Rule No. 1 of Gurg Camp: You do not talk about Gurg Camp.

"The thing is, this is more than a clinic," said one NBA head coach, who asked -- begged -- not to be named. "This, to me, is as pure as it gets. There's zero money being exchanged. Coaches are working for free. Players are coming for free. You come in there to work and to get better. You do drills in the morning. They do some scrimmaging in the afternoon, but everything is catered to what we do in the NBA."

This year, more than 60 NBA-affiliated players are scheduled to make the trip; only players currently on rosters are invited. The Wizards' rookie Bradley Beal, the third pick overall in the 2012 Draft, will be there, along with Washington's first-rounders from last season, Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton. Houston rookies Royce White and Terrence Jones are going, as is 2011 first-rounder Donatas Motiejuanas. Orlando's rookie forward, Andrew Nicholson and Bucks rookie John Henson will be there; Memphis rookie Tony Wroten, along with young vets Marreese Speights and Josh Selby, are going, too.

The Nuggets' rebounding machine, Kenneth Faried, isn't sitting on his laurels after his strong rookie season; he'll be there. Veteran Anthony Randolph and second-year swingman Jordan Hamilton is going. And their teammate, rookie Evan Fournier, will come if he can resolve pending visa issues. The Pistons and Pacers will likely have players there as well.

"I think drills, shooting and just staying active playing basketball in the summer, with good instruction, is good for a player like Faried," Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri said in a text Sunday. "We know he is going to rebound, defend and play hard. His skills can always get sharper."

But the camp isn't just for players. Among the coaches who are expected to attend are Carlisle, Karl, Indiana's Frank Vogel, Memphis' Lionel Hollins, Detroit's Lawrence Frank, Portland's Kaleb Canales and Toronto's Dwane Casey. The assistant coach list includes the Clippers' Marc Iavaroni and Robert Pack, the Lakers' John Kuester, the Thunder's Rex Kalamian and the Spurs' Mike Budenholzer.

Coaches run drills and practices at the camp, learning how to put a pro practice together and enhance the skill level of the world's best players. It is continuing education for them as well.

"He does it because just as long as the other guys want to do it, he'll do it," an unnamed coach said. "It's just a way to give back and teach the game. As coaches, you get better. You're picking guys brains. There's continuous improvement."

Grgurich began the camp while a Sonics assistant under George Karl, with a handful of players that wanted to work out in the offseason.

"When he was at Seattle, they had a lot of their guys who lived in Vegas, and Gurg lived in Vegas, so he'd work them out," said Hollins, who met Grgurich in the mid-80s at a coaching clinic ("There was this crazy man doing a full-court defensive drill, and he was running each position, running from point to point on the court," Hollins recalled) and who was just breaking into pro coaching in Vancouver as a Grizzlies assistant after being an assistant at Arizona State.

"We had Lyndon Hamilton, Felipe Lopez and Keon Clark," Hollins said. "And Mike Brown, myself and Gurg were the coaches. And we played 3-on-3 with these guys, 2-on-2, 1-on-1. At the time, in '91, I was 37 years old, still could move around a little bit. And we'd bang around with the guys. But Gurg gave me an opportunity to teach, to be 1-on-1 with these guys. He gave me the opportunity. He called me and said, 'What are you doing?' He mentored me when I first started and had no idea of how things were going to go."

In the beginning, the league didn't much like the idea of coaches coming in contact with players from other teams, or with potential free agents. But the NBA came to see what everyone else did who comes in contact with Grgurich: There is no agenda where Gurg is concerned. It didn't take long for word of mouth to spread throughout the league.

Over the years, as Grgurich has coached in Seattle, Denver, Phoenix, Portland, Milwaukee and Dallas, the camp has endured. Future All-Stars like Paul Pierce, Baron Davis, Zach Randolph, Rasheed Wallace and Jermaine O'Neal came through as young players, and Vogel and Hollins were among the numerous young coaches who got a chance to show what they could do in front of players and their coaching peers.

There is pressure coaching a playoff game. There is even more pressure when you're trying to come up with a practice that will impress coaches that will hire you some day.

"It's pressure, but it gives you a forum to talk about what you know, and also to organize it and plan it," Hollins said. "And then you have your own team and you get to work with them every day. Then we have stations. He'd say, 'Run the pick and roll today. But do it the way you want to do it.' "

With the AAU influence on basketball -- game after game, tournament after tournament -- never stronger, and colleges limited in the number of hours they can practice every week, and the NBA schedule as brutal as ever, the actual teaching time for basketball fundamentals has never been lower. The Gurg Camp is one of the few chances to reach players where they live.

"He has a sincerity that very few people on earth possess," texted Greg Anthony, my NBA TV and CBS colleague, who was coached by Grgurich in college at UNLV. "Allows u to trust him because he's in it for u!"

At 70, Grgurich is going stronger than ever. Carlisle, who had him as a consultant in Dallas when the Mavericks won their first NBA title in 2011, thinks he should make the Hall of Fame as a contributor, the same way longtime coach Tex Winter did recently.

Said Hollins: "Gurg has that respect because he's worked with players around the league, with no agenda. It's not about what team you play on. It's not about whether you're a star or not. It's about whether you want to get better. And if you want to get better, we'll be here for you."

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He also formed a human "T" with Billy Crystal whenever Tyrone Nesby made a three. From Bob Sternquist:

Believe or not, I am a longtime Clip fan and one of the original members of the Clipper Nation. I was one of the curly haired teenagers who hung the "B" from the concourse for Benoit Benjamin when he blocked shots back in the Sports Arena (kind of embarrassing to admit now, but I was young). Anyways, it seems to me everyone is excited the quality character guys the Clips have signed (which is good) but the 4 & 5 roster depth is not good (Blake Griffin excluded). Nobody is saying a thing about it. I just found out Reggie Evans signed a 3-year, $5 million deal (via a sign-and-trade) with the Nets. Is it me or is that huge loss for the Clips? With amnestying [Ryan] Gomes, what can the Clips do financially to secure depth? Is Ryan Hollins really an answer for bench depth?

Hollins and Ronny Turiaf will have to do, Bob. With two max contracts on the books -- I am assuming that CP3 will re-up next summer, and Blake Griffin has already signed his -- along with DeAndre Jordan's and Caron Butler's deals, the Clippers don't have a lot of wiggle room. They'll be filling out their roster with minimum or near-minimum deals like those they gave to Hollins and Ronny Turiaf for the foreseeable future. For better or worse, this is going to be their team for a while.

Show us your papers, please. From Aaron Ludwig:

Quick question -- why doesn't Hakeem crack your list of top international players? He should be right up there with Dirk (or higher), right? Or is it different since he went to college in the States?

Hakeem was indeed born in Nigeria, Aaron, but he became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1993; he played for the gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic team in 1996 (which some people, quite mistakenly, refer to as "Dream Team II.") It may be a distinction without a difference, I grant you, but I view Olajuwon as an American citizen now, like so many millions of other immigrants who've come to the States over the last three centuries.

These are chickens. This is a hatchery. Count the chickens. Carefully. From Greg Aguilar:

Commissioner David Stern stopped the trade of Chris Paul for "basketball reasons". With Ray Allen joining the Miami Heat, the next two seasons and playoffs will be a joke. Why not cancel the next two years and just give the Miami Heat the championship trophies?

I will bring that up with the 1976 76ers, led by Dr. J and George McGinnis, and the 2004 SuperLakers of Kobe, Shaq, Gary Payton and Karl Malone the next time they have a reunion of their championship teams ... wait a minute! They're still going to have a season next year? Let's maybe get through training camp before we anoint Miami with more rings, Greg.

He's still ... Penn State. From Jeffrey Boyd:

I have great respect for your opinions because they are usually thoughtful and intelligent rather than simply reactions. However, I would like to take issue with one of your comments about Penn State. You said you had no problem with the "NCAA being in the Lack of Institutional Control business." Well, I do. I live in Pennsylvania. I'm a taxpayer there. And taxpayers in Pennsylvania fund state universities, which PSU is among. I don't understand why the National Collegiate Athletic Association should have the right to punish a state college. Isn't that the purview of the state? I can agree with the NCAA removing bowl eligibility and even removing wins (though I don't agree with that aspect), but I cannot abide with their heavy-handed moral righteousness about fining PSU and taking the money to be used for child abuse. Yes, there needs to be awareness training, etc., but since when did the NCAA become such a moral crusader? Does anyone actually believe that culture of football at PSU is unique to them? That a Jerry Sandusky can only exist at Penn State and not Alabama, Miami, Michigan, Ohio State, Texas, etc.? The lack of institutional control at PSU cannot and should not be rectified by the NCAA, and certainly not without proper hearings and investigations. The state of Pennsylvania has been remarkably silent during all of this but it's time they did something instead of having a mediocre organization like the NCAA usurp the power that the citizens of PA (and their elected representatives) rightfully own.

I don't understand what the issue of taxes has to do with this, Jeffrey. This was not your garden variety recruiting violation where a rule was broken. Children were harmed, perhaps irreparably, and adults who could have done something about it chose instead to protect the football program. There has never been anything like this before. That required the NCAA to act in a way it never had to before. You're not actually advocating that there is a "moral" position other than the one the NCAA took, are you? If they had done nothing to specifically address the issue of the sexual abuse of the children, they would have -- correctly -- been excoriated for making the penalties all about the football team and not the victims. We're gonna have to disagree on this one.

Send your questions, comments, criticisms and new scripts for the Queen to read as she continues her burgeoning acting career to dlaldridgetnt@gmail.com. If your e-mail is sufficiently funny, thought-provoking, interesting or snarky, we just might publish it!

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750 -- Days between the trade of Carmelo Anthony from the Nuggets to the New York Knicks and the date of Anthony's first game back in Denver since the trade -- next March 13. Anthony was dealt to the Knicks on Feb. 21, 2011, and the lockout cancelled New York's visit to Denver last season.

$3,500,000 -- Price that former Grizzlies and former Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas is reportedly asking for his Virginia home, according to Deadspin, which found his local listing. Arenas lived in the house when he was with the Wizards. Shark Tank included.

41 -- Current NBA players who are on the U.S. and international teams competing at the Olympics in London. Of the 12 teams that qualified for the Games, 11 of them have at least one NBA player on their roster. Only Tunisia does not have a single NBA player.

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Hope my parents ready to buy that NBA League Pass if they wanna watch me play this year lol

-- Phoenix rookie guard Kendall Marshall (@KButter5), Thursday, 6:51 p.m., as the 2012-13 schedule was released -- with the Nash- and Hill-less Suns getting only a handful of appearances (two apiece on TNT and NBA TV, one on ESPN) on national television.

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"I never gave it any serious thought. It didn't feel right to me. I've never been there. I've never really had a chance to experience their culture, only from the outside looking in because of my father."
-- 76ers forward Andre Iguodala, telling the Philadelphia Inquirer that he had been asked to play for Nigeria's basketball team, which he would have been allowed to do because his father was from the African nation.

"It challenges Derrick to seize the moment. In this environment, Derrick should feel challenged, and I hope he accepts the challenge to seize what he wants as opposed to it just being handed to him."
-- Timberwolves president David Kahn, Video after Minnesota signed veteran forward Andrei Kirilenko on Thursday, throwing down the gauntlet to forward Derrick Williams, the Wolves' first-round pick (second overall) in the 2011 Draft. Minnesota traded Wes Johnson, the fourth overall pick in 2010, to Phoenix to clear enough room to sign Kirilenko to a two-year, $20 million deal.

"The city of New Orleans is a city of immense culture, economic growth and host to millions of people annually; it is a nationally and internationally recognized city. It is a city deserving of a seven day a week newspaper."
-- New Orleans Saints and Hornets owner Tom Benson, in a letter to the owners of the New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper, offering to buy the struggling publication. The owners recently reduced the print edition to three days a week, though the paper's online version prints every day. The letter was obtained by New Orleans' WWL-TV.

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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