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Injured stars dim abundant optimism that training camp brings


POSTED: Oct 1, 2012 2:10 PM ET

By David Aldridge

BY David Aldridge

TNT Analyst

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Chris Paul (left) and Dwyane Wade are working to be ready when the real games of 2012-13 begin.

The best nine months of the year begin today.

Actually, the best nine began over the weekend, when several teams began their training camps. But today is when most teams get started, when media days bring so much promise and potential, when everybody genuinely thinks they're just 82 games away from paradise.

By the end of these nine months, we'll know if the Heat are a true dynasty or a one-off, an historical quirk. We'll know if Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant can meld their skills and personalities into something dynamic and dominant, or if they'll combust. We'll know if the Thunder are poised to break through like the Bulls did in '91, or if they're heading toward the same kind of limbo that the Buffalo Bills and Phoenix Suns found themselves in -- great teams that couldn't ever break through.

No veteran has come in out of shape.

No feuds have surfaced.

No rookies have shown how clueless they are.

But over the next month, everything changes. Remember, coaches Mike Brown, Frank Vogel, Mike Woodson, Kevin McHale, Dwane Casey, Tyrone Corbin, Randy Wittman, Keith Smart and Lawrence Frank didn't have a full camp with their new teams last season. They weren't able to put in their defensive sets and philosophies, and drill their players, and put in their transition offenses. Today, they can start doing so.

But the curtain also rises with some stars remaining off stage. As ever, injuries -- more than anything else -- will determine who is standing at the end of June. An NBA team without its superstar for an extended period is a lottery team hunting down ping-pong balls. And there are several teams that are going to be waiting -- maybe for a while -- for their difference-makers to get back on the court.

Chris Paul, Clippers

INJURY: Thumb surgery (8/21/12)

PROGNOSIS: Not yet cleared to play

Paul tore the ligament in his right thumb during training camp for the U.S. Olympic team last July. He played through the injury during the London Games, and played quite well, but got the thumb repaired upon his return to the States. The Clippers expect Paul to be cleared for full-court practice in the next two weeks and be ready for the start of the regular season.

The Clippers are in flux for a while. The other backcourt starter, Chauncey Billups (Achilles tear), is several weeks away from getting back on the floor. L.A. revamped its bench, adding Lamar Odom, Grant Hill and Jamal Crawford to try to shore up its defense. It's a lot to ask, even for a team with the expectations the Clippers have.

None of it matters until Paul returns.

"There's no timetable for him or Chauncey," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said Sunday. "The timetable is probably when we get back from China [for preseason games with the Heat on Oct. 11 and 14]. They'll probably be involved more, do more contact stuff. It'll be a daily conversation with the doctors. If they have contact, I think Chris'll be fine. Hopefully we'll have him ready by the end of the exhibition season and I expect he'll be ready for the regular season."

Odom is recovering from a different injury -- the mental anguish of last season. It was a lost year in Dallas in which the 2011 Sixth Man of the Year was a shell of the player who helped the Lakers win back-to-back titles. Odom was trying to deal with both the trade from L.A. to Dallas and his tangential involvement in a traffic fatality; a motorcycle struck the limo Odom was riding in New York last summer, then struck and killed a nearby pedestrian.

By the end of last season, the Mavericks paid Odom not to play for them, then gave him away to L.A. as part of a four-team offseason deal.

"He's been engaged in everything we're doing," Del Negro said. "He's just got to lose a few pounds, get in better condition. But that's going to come. But he's definitely been very vocal. In the first three practices he's been very involved with everything we've done."

At least Blake Griffin is fully recovered from arthroscopic surgery in early July that kept him off the Olympic team.

"Blake is 100 percent healthy," Del Negro said. "He hasn't missed a drill. He just has to learn to play a little bit with Lamar and Grant. But we've got some time."

Dwight Howard, Lakers

INJURY: Back surgery (4/20/12)

PROGNOSIS: Not yet cleared to play

Yahoo! Sports reported last week that Howard was targeting being ready for the start of the season after the April surgery to repair a herniated disc. And he certainly looked spry last week on "Ellen". But a Lakers spokesman said Sunday that there was still no timetable for Howard's return, and that he has not yet been cleared to resume full-court activities, even though he's taking part in one-on-one drills with coaches and doing some shooting.

John Wall, Wizards

INJURY: Stress injury, left patella

PROGNOSIS: Out eight weeks

John Wall's Injury

Wall's injury snuck up on both he and the Wizards. He began experiencing pain in the knee while working out, but an initial MRI of the knee three weeks ago did not disclose any injury, and the team thought he was suffering from bursitis. Only after the pain persisted did Wall undergo a second MRI, performed by New York physician David Altcheck, which showed that Wall was on the way to suffering a stress fracture in the kneecap. That would have been much worse, so the Wizards and Wall consider themselves lucky.

Unfortunately, this is par for the course for one of the NBA's most star-crossed franchises.

My friend Tony Kornheiser calls it "the Curse o' Lez Boulez," the seemingly endless series of injuries, poor performance and pestilence that has hung over the Bullets/Wizards franchise since ... forever, it seems. John Williams, Chris Webber, Gilbert Arenas, the list goes on and on. But the Wizards think Wall should be back right after Thanksgiving.

"There's no surgery needed," team president Ernie Grunfeld said in a Friday conference call. "Rest is needed, obviously, and so we're fortunate that we did get this opinion and that we found it at such an early stage."

Avery Bradley, Celtics

INJURY: Shoulder surgeries (May 30, left shoulder; July 10, right shoulder)

PROGNOSIS: Out until January

Bradley's emergence gave Boston hope that he would be the heir apparent to Ray Allen. Problem was, the Celtics were hoping that would be a couple of years down the road. After Allen left for Miami, Boston had to scramble to find a starter to replace the injured Bradley, who told local reporters Friday he has still not been allowed to pick up a basketball since the second of two operations to fix his balky shoulders.

General manager Danny Ainge signed free agent Jason Terry and traded for Courtney Lee, who should be able to hold down the fort. But Lee's excellent defensive play before his injury will be needed in the postseason if Boston is to be a serious challenger again to the Heat.

"I have to be prepared and strong enough when I do come back," Bradley told reporters. "I feel like I'm letting my teammates down if I rush myself back."

Derrick Rose, Bulls

INJURY: ACL surgery (5/12/12)

PROGNOSIS: Return TBD, hoping for second half of season

Rose -- whose new shoe and apparel line come out this week -- told reporters last month that he's rehabbing his knee five days a week, and that he's just been cleared to start jumping again. He's chronicling his rehab for adidas in a series of vignettes (here is Episode 3)

"Derrick is doing well and is right on schedule," Bulls GM Gar Forman texted Sunday. "Going through the process one step at a time."

But when the regular season starts, will Rose join his teammates on the bench? Will he travel with the team? Or will he be left alone to do his rehab with his trusted personal trainer, Rob McClanaghan, in California?

"Will decide what's best when the time comes," Forman texted.

Dwyane Wade, Heat

INJURY: Arthroscopic knee surgery (7/9/12)

Dwyane Wade's Injury

PROGNOSIS: Out for preseason

Wade is not going to play in the exhibition season, but he's practicing with Miami during training camp. The Heat, understandably, are going to take it easy with both Wade and LeBron James until the games start for real. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra can afford to limit Wade's minutes all season with Ray Allen around to take at least some of his run.

Andrew Bogut, Warriors

INJURY: Ankle surgery (4/2712)

PROGNOSIS: Not cleared for full-court work

Bogut still has yet to play for the Warriors since being acquired from Milwaukee at the trade deadline in March. His presence is critical to Golden State's hopes of a revival this season, along with a return to health of Stephen Curry, who is back on the court after missing the last couple of months last season following his own ankle surgery.

"Day to day," Bogut messaged via Twitter Sunday night. "Want to get in a preseason game or 2 if possible."

Bogut has been back in the Bay for a month, but the timetable for his return is with fingers crossed.

"Without any setbacks," general manager Bob Myers texted Saturday night, "we hope to see him play in some preseason games in the latter part of our schedule."

With Bogut on the floor, the Warriors get open looks for Curry, second-year guard Klay Thompson and rookie Harrison Barnes. With Bogut on the floor, Golden State isn't quite the defensive sieve its been for years. With Bogut on the floor, the Warriors have someone who can make plays and score in the paint. Without him ... they're the Warriors.

Coach Mark Jackson texted Sunday that Bogut will remain "connected" with the team if he is not ready to start the regular season. "He is one of our leaders," Jackson wrote. "Our target is opening night."

Ricky Rubio, Timberwolves

INJURY: Reconstructive ACL surgery (4/21/12)

PROGNOSIS: Not yet cleared to play

Rubio has just been cleared to begin running, but the Wolves are not going to rush their co-franchise player after his March injury. VP of basketball operations David Kahn texted Sunday that Rubio will be cleared to resume full-court activities in November if there are no setbacks in his rehab. The optimistic forecast for Rubio is a December return to playing, but no one can say that's a certainty.

Iman Shumpert, Knicks

INJURY: ACL surgery (5/2/12)

PROGNOSIS: Out until at least December

The rookie showed he was a key cog in New York's rotation both during the Jeremy Lin flash and afterward, until his injury in the first-round series loss to Miami. When Shumpert comes back, the Knicks have a chance to stop opposing wings. But it may be a good long while before he's the same player again.

In the meantime, Shumpert has shown another skill: spitting beats. (Not too bad, considering it's just a hobby for now.)

"Everything will be based on how my knee reacts as my rehab picks up every week. I'm not cleared to give details yet," Shumpert said Sunday in a Twitter message. "My body feels unbelievable right now tho. And mentally im wonderful."

DRIBBLES

He can count.

He is 54, in an era when video coordinators 20 years his junior are getting head coaching gigs.

He hadn't been a coach in six years, which often becomes dog years in NBA circles. Out of sight, out of mind, out of a job, out of chances.

His career mark was 115-168 in his previous coaching stints, with the Hawks and Bucks, with one playoff appearance in four years. Those aren't numbers that jump off the page. In fact, most GMs that saw them would turn the page.

But that's the thing about the NBA. The men who coach players are almost always about so much more than the numbers they are assigned. Those numbers do not define them. And they didn't define Terry Stotts, any more than they defined other assistants like Darrell Walker (56-113), Marc Iavaroni (33-90) or Terry Porter (99-116), who got those same kind of high-risk, low-reward coaching jobs with bad teams.

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So Stotts, who had been Rick Carlisle's offensive coordinator in Dallas the last four years, helping the Mavericks win an upset title in 2011, went to Portland and made his case.

"You never know if you're going to get another chance," Stotts said Sunday, having just landed back in Portland to get ready for his first training camp as the Blazers' coach. "When I went through the whole process, the number of people who said good things about me, at the same time, it's a little humbling. It's a perfect opportunity for me at this stage, with a young team. I'm comfortable who I am, I'm comfortable with what kind of coach I am."

Stotts' reputation is as one of the game's best offensive minds. He has two-plus decades of pro experience on the bench, starting as an assistant under George Karl in the CBA, then in Seattle when Karl jumped back to the NBA. He turned out to be exactly what the rebuilding Trail Blazers were looking for.

Finally finished with the failed Greg Oden-Brandon Roy era, Portland was determined to shed salaries and go young, dealing Gerald Wallace to Brooklyn at last season's trade deadline and Ray Felton and Kurt Thomas to New York in the summer. They let Jamal Crawford walk to the Clippers and fired Nate McMillan last February.

Assistant Kaleb Canales finished up last season on an interim basis, but while many thought Canales would wind up getting the job permanently, new GM Neil Olshey was impressed with Stotts' demeanor and plan. Olshey thought a young team with two first-round picks (guard Damian Lillard and center Meyers Leonard) and that was expecting bigger things from forward Nicolas Batum (after matching Minnesota's $46 million offer sheet) needed an experienced teacher.

A team that had become a stagnant isolation team needed someone who believed in spacing and ball movement, who was an acolyte of the "flow" system in Dallas that treated the next pass as a holy relic.

"I really thought Terry deserved another shot," Olshey said. "When we did our homework he was in two every difficult situations. He made the playoffs in Milwaukee and that was the year they had serious injuries to Mo Williams and [Andrew] Bogut ... from a temperament standpoint, Terry was going to be a really good guy here. We have a growth thing here. And Terry really bought into the idea of we're all in this together."

Stotts also didn't want to be stereotyped.

"I didn't want to ... offensively, I'm known as an offensive coach," he said. "But I wanted them to know I could coach both sides of the ball, that I was actually proud of my experiences in Atlanta and Milwaukee. I learned a lot. I'm not the same coach I was. But there were a lot of positives."

It also helped Stotts' case that Olshey got glowing reviews from Carlisle and Dirk Nowitzki, among others.

"I was always impressed with Terry's grasp for the whole game -- not just offense and defense, but the personalities," said Carlisle, who lost his other top assistant, Dwane Casey, to the Raptors shortly after the Mavs' 2011 title run.

Working in Rick Carlisle's unique atmosphere in Dallas helped Terry Stotts (left) land the Portland gig.

Just as he'd learned both sides of the ball as an assistant under Chuck Daly (New Jersey) and Larry Bird (Indiana), even though offense was his strength, Carlisle created a climate in Dallas where he expected contributions from everyone about everything.

"In our staff meetings, our defensive guy is always free to join in with the offensive guys, and vice versa," Carlisle said. "Dwane always had ideas about the offensive side, and Terry did about the defense as well. It provided a lot of versatility to our staff."

That versatility won the day for Stotts over Canales -- whom he and Olshey both wanted to keep on as an assistant -- Suns assistant Elston Turner and former Magic assistant Steve Clifford, who wound up going to the Lakers. And Carlisle believed strongly that Stotts, like Casey, Michael Curry and Mike Brown -- each of whom got a coaching gig after serving on his benches over the years -- was much more than his previous record.

"He's been ready," Carlisle said Saturday. "He was in two situations where it was difficult to win. I mean, look at Mike D'Antoni. He was the head coach in Denver (going 16-34 in the lockout season of 1999) and that was a very dysfunctional situation, and at that point, a lot of people wrote him off as a head coach. But he went to Europe and kept studying and learning, and then he came back, and there haven't been many coaches who've won more than he has the last few years."

Carlisle's methods influenced Stotts as well, just as he'd learned about energy and pressure from Karl.

"Being with him, he was the only coach I knew when I basically got my two other shots," Stotts said. "Rick approaches the game with the same passion, but he's more detail oriented. George's teams have always had kind of a freedom on offense. It was two sides of the coin where I saw another way of doing things. Rick's been successful everywhere he's been and he was as big an influence on me as George. Winning a championship was just a completely different experience for me."

The Mavericks created ways for Nowitzki to flourish offensively from the free throw line extended, using Jason Kidd and Jason Terry's abilities in screen-and-roll situations to get him open looks.

Stotts thinks LaMarcus Aldridge, the lone All-Star on the Blazers' roster, has similar perimeter abilities. The day the Blazers announced Stotts' hiring in August, he was already at Aldridge's offseason home in Newport Beach, designing sets.

"LaMarcus is an extremely good mid-range shooter," Stotts said. "I think he can, and probably will extend his range. I don't know about being a 3-point shooter. He's exceptionally good on the low block. I want to get him on the free-throw line area like with Dirk ... when you have the skill set he has already, then it's easy to build on. Because I think one thing sets up another. As far as comparing him to Dirk, he kept getting better. Every year he kept getting better. And I think LaMarcus will do the same thing ...

"Damian Lillard, he's legit. And he's going to have an immediate impact. A lot of the offense in Dallas went around Jet, in terms of a two guard who could handle the pick and roll. That's not necessarily our strength here. But we have good 3-point shooters here."

In any teaching environment, Stotts believes, a coach has to keep at his players and tell them what he wants, over and over. That will be his task in Portland. But he will have to ignore the day-to-day noise of the won-loss record. In a Western Conference filled to the brim with contenders, the Blazers aren't likely to make a postseason ripple.

Portland's ownership group has meddled incessantly the last few years, firing Tom Penn and Kevin Pritchard and Rich Cho from their positions and alienating much of what is still a great fan base. But owner Paul Allen hired Olshey away from the Clippers, and let Olshey hire Stotts. The Blazers say they're committed to letting them build the franchise from the ground up and next summer, Portland will likely have more than $13 million in cap room.

In the interim, Stotts will draw on a lifetime of learning and basketball. His father was coach at the University of Guam, where the family lived and where Stotts played against military teams from 1969-74 ("it was a good time to be there, and I left at the right time ... both culturally and basketball-wise," he said of his time on the island).

Stotts played for Dave Bliss at Oklahoma, and after he became a coach, he was an assistant for Karl, Mike Montgomery (Golden State) and Lon Kruger (Atlanta), where he got the coaching job after Kruger's short stint in the pros. Stotts did an admirable job with the Hawks, but was there in the midst of the team's sale and couldn't survive a bad start in 2004.

The Bucks hired him in 2005, and he made the playoffs his first season there, but Milwaukee stumbled to a 23-41 start the following season. Again, Stotts was replaced. It is a story that young assistants suffer through season after season. Is the failure their fault? Ultimately, they're the coach; the Ls go on their record. But bad teams have any number of fathers.

Now having worked at the highest level, Stotts now has a chance -- one that many in his line of work don't get -- to show that he hasn't just aged, he's grown.

"I'm very comfortable in what I can do," Stotts said. "I think I'm past the point of I know what I can do to help the team. I know it's a big picture. You hate to lose games and that's not going to change. But when you see improvement. Ultimately, when my parents were teaching and coaching, seeing people get better, seeing players get better, that's very rewarding. And I think we have an opportunity to do that here."

TOP O' THE WORLD, MA!

We restart our top 15 power rankings this week, taking into account all of the moves made by teams since the end of the postseason -- Draft picks, trades, free-agent signings, coaching hires -- and, most importantly, the team's returning core from last season. Now you can get on me if I have your team ranked too low (or not at all), because this is my guess of the top 15 teams in the league going into the start of training camps.

Miami Heat 2012-13 Season Preview

1) Miami (46-20, first place, Southeast Division; won NBA championship): To the victor goes the spoils ... and Ray Allen. What's even scarier for the rest of the league is that the Heat don't even need Allen until the playoffs; that's how good LeBron James is right now.

Oklahoma City Thunder 2012-13 Preview

2) Oklahoma City (47-19, first place, Northwest Division; lost NBA Finals): The Thunder have the callouses of a team that got its heart broken. Normally, a team with the kind of talent and youth the Thunder have breaks through sooner rather than later. But can OKC keep James Harden's contract status from becoming an issue?

Los Angeles Lakers 2012-13 Season Preview

3) Los Angeles Lakers (41-25, first place, Pacific Division; lost second round): I'm not fitting the Lakers for rings just yet, because I still want to see how Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash actually complement one another on the court. But they could be a defensive behemoth by season's end.

San Antonio Spurs 2012-13 Preview

4) San Antonio (50-16, first place, Southwest Division; lost Western Conference finals): The longest extended run this side of "Cats" shows no signs of stopping, with the Spurs' core of old and young vets ready to start another ascent of the mountain.

2012-13 Indiana Pacers Preview

5) Indiana (42-24, second place, Central Division; lost second round): Everything's in place; the Pacers' title contender window is officially open. There's no reason the Pacers can't contend for the East's best record.

6) Boston Celtics (39-27, first place, Atlantic Division; lost Eastern Conference finals): Could be very interesting at TD Garden this season if Rajon Rondo is indeed ready to be the league's best point guard.

7) Memphis (41-25, second place, Southwest; lost in first round): If Z-Bo is back to his old form, Grizz should get back to bludgeoning people inside, with Rudy Gay motivated to prove he should have been an Olympian.

8) Los Angeles Clippers (40-26, second place, Pacific; lost in Western Conference semis): Clips have a lot of talent, but they have to prove they can become an elite defensive unit if they're ever going to be more than an exciting regular-season show.

9) Dallas (36-30, third place, Southwest; lost in first round): By my count, 11 Mavericks who are expected to make the team are either in a contract year or are subject to a team option for their 2013-14 deals. That's a lot of uncertainty for a team hunting for another Finals run.

10) Denver (38-28, second place, Northwest; lost in first round): The Nuggets are a sexy pick to make a long playoff run, and if Andre Iguodala gives George Karl the kind of perimeter defense that, say, Nate McMillan did back in the day, that might turn out to be true. We know the Nuggets will score at a furious rate.

11) Philadelphia (35-31, third place, Atlantic; lost in Eastern Conference semifinals): There are a lot of new pieces, and for this thing to work, Andrew Bynum has to get on the same page as Doug Collins. But if Philly can get out of the blocks in decent shape, the Sixers should be a force by the end of the season.

12) New York (36-30, second place, Atlantic; lost in first round): There's firepower up and down the lineup, but who's going to run the show? Ray Felton was great in Mike D'Antoni's system, but will he be just as good playing halfcourt ball for Mike Woodson -- and playing off of Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire?

13) Chicago (50-16, first place, Central; lost in first round): The Bulls aren't a title contender until Derrick Rose comes back, but they'll still defend well enough to win a whole bunch of 94-90 games and get to the playoffs. And maybe Rose is back by then.

14) Atlanta (36-30, second place, Southeast; lost in first round): Certainly looks like the Hawks are laying in wait for the summer of 2013, when one suspects they and a half-dozen other teams will max out restricted-free-agent-to-be James Harden. Until then, a one-and-done in the playoffs is the likely outcome.

15) Brooklyn (22-44, fifth place, Atlantic; did not make playoffs): You just wonder, after all the hype of moving into New York, and all the money spent, whether the Nets will be good enough defensively to really make a mark in the Eastern Conference. Who's really a shutdown guy among their core group?

NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT ...

Um, how is this flopping penalty going to actually work?

The NBA announced last week that it was putting the finishing touches on a new flopping policy for the coming season. This came after the Competition Committee met a couple of weeks ago and decided to implement what the Commish had been hinting at for the past few months -- the flop, a truly ugly tactic, a glitch in the system -- one which, like Cypher in the original Matrix movie, had to be eliminated. (No sequel for you, Joe Pantoliano.)

There's just one problem. Actually, there are a few. And the league did not want to comment further than what its spokesman said on Thursday -- that the penalties would likely be implemented after games, not during them. But a lot of questions were left unanswered, such as:

  • Who will administer the penalties? Will it be the NBA's new Supervisor of Officials, Mike Bantom? Will it be the league's VP of Basketball Operations, Stu Jackson? Will it be a combination of people? Could it be the Commish? After all, he's always had the final say on player discipline, and until recently, he was the appellate court as well.
  • What criteria will be used to determine whether someone is flopping? Will it be the Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's definition of pornography -- I know it when I see it?
  • What will the fines for flopping be? By way of comparison, regular-season technical fouls starting this season will run a player $2,000 for each of his first five technical fouls called, $3,000 each for technicals 6-10, $4,000 apiece for technicals 11-15 and $5,000 plus a one-game suspension for a 16th T. The $5,000 fine is levied for every technical after the 16th, with suspensions after every other technical following number 16. What is the plan for floppers? Will recidivists (I'm looking at you, Manu) be treated more harshly than first-timers?
  • Why not allow the referees to handle flopping during the game, under the same umbrella as the "respect for the game" provision that has let them "T" up players and coaches who did too much gesticulating after foul or other calls the last few years? Everyone complained initially, but the refs still have that clout. Simply, why couldn't refs give players technical after flopping infractions under respect for the game, or as a delay of game technical (which is what flopping does -- delay the game)?
  • Is it even allowable for the league to unilaterally change disciplinary rules without the consent of the union? A source involved in the Collective Bargaining Agreement discussions last year said over the weekend that flopping is not among the so-called "B List" non-economic issues that the league and union are still hashing out, almost a year after the conclusion of the lockout. It is hard to imagine the union will sit idly as players begin complaining about the lightening of their wallets
.

... AND NOBODY ASKED YOU, EITHER

While you're at it, ask him if he wouldn't mind shooting a little less as well. From Bryan Tran:

My friends (Laker bandwagoners, every last one of them) and I have an argument which you might be able to settle -- sending Kobe to the bench this season. To me it makes perfect sense -- pairing one of the best pure point guards of this decade and a deadly shooter, a guy who likes having the ball in his hands for 23 seconds of the shot clock, with the most dominant frontcourt in the league. This takes out from this equation a pull-up shooter who also needs the ball in his hands. Kobe and Antawn give the Lakers the wiliest bench in the league, whilst throwing Steve Blake (or any other guard) into the starting line up is an upgrade in spot-up 3-point shooting around those big guys. I admit, it's a hard sell -- "hey Kobe, you haven't won the 6th Man award yet..." But I'm still surprised no one agrees with me. What are your thoughts?

You've got spunk, Bryan, I'll give you that. But there's about as much chance of convincing Kobe Bryant to come off the bench as there is convincing Packers fans that that those replacement refs were right on the money Monday night.

The spotted bass isn't the only Arkansas fish that's in high demand. From Evan Demirel:

Derek Fisher
Derek Fisher would seem to be a prime candidate for a TV analyst job someday.

As a Little Rock native, I'm curious to get your take on (Derek) Fisher. When will he be up for reelection as president and do you think he'll retain the position?

What are the chances Hunter will actually be able to depose him and is there any kind of timeline that would have to happen in?

Finally, once Fish finally retires - where do you think he'll mostly likely land in his first couple seasons out of the league? Coaching, color commentary and front office work have been the three most common routes I've heard. I read Sam Presti thought he could ultimately become commissioner.

I doubt he becomes Commissioner, Evan. But all the others are legit possibilities. I suspect Derek will wind up going into TV, but that could just be me hoping rather than having any info. As for the fight Derek is engaged with with Billy Hunter, man, who knows what happened there? Billy doesn't share many of his thoughts these days, understandably so. As I wrote last week, though, there's no mechanism in the constitution of the NBPA that establishes how long a player that isn't currently on a roster can remain in an executive position in the union. It's likely there won't be a vote on whether to keep Fisher (if he wants to stay in the position) until the union has its annual meeting of player representatives during All-Star Weekend in Houston in February.

Finally, someone who sees the big picture. From Ryan Newsome:

I'm a disaffected Sacramento Kings fan but I'm not writing to talk about basketball today.

Over time, I've gathered that you're a very big Alicia Keys fan and not-at-all a fan of Nicki Minaj. As such, I imagine the fact that Nicki appears on Alicia's song 'Girl on Fire' generates some mixed emotions for you. Which emotion wins out?

P.S. If you choose to publish this question it also gives you an excuse to put in another gratuitous photo of Alicia!

There is not a single sentence in this e-mail that is in any way incorrect, Ryan. As for the Minaj interruptions on "GoF," well, sometimes Alicia does a duet with Jay-Z on "New York State of Mind," and sometimes ... it's Nicki Minaj. What are you gonna do?

And, this.

Send your questions, comments, criticisms and beverage suggestions for the U.S. Ryder Cup team as it drinks itself this morning, to quote Mike Tyson, into bolivion, to daldridgetnt@gmail.com. If your e-mail is sufficiently funny, thought-provoking, interesting or snarky, we just might publish it!

I'M FEELIN' ...

1) October is one of the great months for a sports fan. Baseball concludes its six-month march with its playoffs and World Series; the NFL and college football are in full swing, the NHL (usually) has gotten underway and basketball -- blessed basketball -- begins to stir from its summer siesta, with camps opening in the pros and official practices starting in the college game. This should be a compelling NBA season.

2) Welcome back, Greg Willard. It will be great to see you on the court again.

3) I like this "Revolution" series on NBC so far. Am I gonna be disappointed after watching a full season?

4) I root for Jayson Williams. I do. He was one of the best interviews in the game for years. But I know that he killed a man for no good reason other than his own hubris and stupidity, and that there's no coming back from that in the eyes of many. I still hope Williams can make something out of the rest of his life. Still root for him. Don't condone him. Just root for him.

5) When You Know It's Time For Training Camp to Start, Vol. MCMXLVII

6) Congrats, Drew Brees, for tying Johnny Unitas' mark of 47 consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass -- a record that stood for 52 years before Sunday.

NOT FEELIN' ...

1) No one that knows is saying exactly why Raja Bell is being Tinsley-ed by the Jazz and not being allowed to come to Utah's training camp. A reasonable guess is that Utah doesn't want to eat the final year ($3.48 million) of Bell's contract and is looking for a trade partner, but given the deterioration of Bell's relationship with the team, finding someone to take on his deal is not a likely proposition.

2) Really, really surprised Leandro Barbosa isn't on someone's roster at the start of camp. He played quite well for Brazil in the Olympics.

3) No Stan Van on TV this season? At least nothing official as of yet? Bummer.

4) You guys stink. Also, you're lazy.

5) There is a supposed 10-year-old person who goes by "Honey Boo Boo" that hundreds of thousands of supposedly brain-functioning humanoids watch on television every week. I would not watch any 10-year-old person on television every week -- not 10-year-old Albert Einstein, or 10-year-old John Kennedy, or 10-year-old Jennifer Lopez. A 10-year-old's thoughts, such as they are, should not be at all interesting or revelatory to an actual adult person. That there are such spacklings out there who can vote and breed further corrodes my faith in humanity.

BY THE NUMBERS

6 -- NBA teams for Darko Milicic, the second pick in the 2003 Draft. Milicic signed with the Celtics last week after being amnestied by Minnesota during the summer.

48 -- Corporate sponsors that have renewed their deals with the Sacramento Kings this season. Along with new partnership deals with Nokia Siemens and Walmart (which the Kings say are those companies' first sponsorship deals with an NBA team), the franchise has the most sponsorship commitments it has had in its 27 years in Sacramento -- which will be of great help for the unsettled team. The full list is here.

$78,744,515 -- Net assets for the National Basketball Players Association at the end of June, according to the LM2 public filing the union had to present to the Department of Labor, as all unions have to do. The NBPA filed on Friday. Among the other listings in the LM2 was a salary of $3.159 million for Executive Director Billy Hunter and $1.318 million to Dewey, LeBeouf, the since-defunct law firm of attorney Jeffrey Kessler, the longtime sports labor lawyer. Active players received a refund of $40,473 from the escrow each paid to the NBA as part of the old CBA for 2011-12. That money was returned because player salaries in 2011-12 did not reach 57 percent of Basketball Related Income. And non-active players like Allen Iverson ($129,333), Alonzo Mourning ($96,000), John Stockton and Michael Jordan ($22,667 apiece) received their annual cut of the union's licensing agreement money.

TWEET OF THE WEEK

Not gonna watch another nfl game until real refs r back. What a farce
--Dirk Nowitzki (@swish41), Monday, 11:23 p.m., after the Packers-Seahawks Monday Night Debacle. When the Diggler is upset, you've lost America. Or, Germany.

THEY SAID IT

"I don't have Ray's number anymore. I'm not trying to communicate (with him), just trying to be honest with everybody in here. It's not wishing him less than or whatever, it's just what it is."
-- Kevin Garnett, at the Celtics' media day Friday, detailing his out-of-sight, he's-no-longer-my-teammate-mind with regard to Ray Allen. KG said media day was the first and last time he would talk this season about Allen's departure to the Heat.

"We were rolling the dice on getting Jeremy Lin but taking smart risks is what we have to do up and down the roster on every move. As only 1 team out of 30 gets to win, you cannot play it safe. A fund manager who beats more than half his peers and beats the S+P 500 is considered pretty good. We have won more games than we lost the past few years (beaten our peers) despite losing our franchise player Yao Ming and it has been appropriately considered disappointing despite the fact that most teams win around one-third of their games after losing their franchise player."
-- Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, during an "Ask Me Anything" online chat on Reddit, reiterating why Houston signed the restricted free agent guard and why he doggedly pursued Dwight Howard despite the long odds.

"To be honest with you, I blocked a lot of things out of my life. I'm a man who's been abused, sexually, emotionally, mentally. I've been abused in my life, and there's so many guys around the NBA who have been abused and I know it because I've been their therapist. I didn't even have the courage because I blocked it out so much that I couldn't even share that...It took literally a meltdown for everybody to see how serious I was about not playing ball anymore."
--Former Celtics guard Keyon Dooling, in a terrific, honest interview with Boston cable channel CSNNE, detailing his final days before deciding to retire -- a decision that was so gut wrenching, he says, that he wound up needing professional help and spending time in a hospital.

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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