Posted Oct 9, 2012 1:12 AM
You have no choice in this. You must root for Royce White.
What this 21-year-old kid is doing -- publicly facing his mental illness head on, not hiding and cowering while worrying what people may think, being proactive in developing a plan of attack to eliminate a main stress gear before it ever starts turning -- is one of the most courageous things I can recall someone that young doing in a long time.
You may have heard the news last week in bits and pieces, as news now comes to us in our overloaded information age. Rookie NBA forward doesn't want to fly...has fear of flying...buying own bus to drive from city to city...Rockets are actually considering letting him! Who's running things in Houston?
Which, it should come as no surprise, is just about completely wrong.
Writing about anyone's health, mental or physical, is perilous. No one wants all their business out in the street, and every person's course of treatment is different.
It disappointed White to read stories where doctors whom he had never met and who had never treated him were offering opinions on his condition and his future. And this is mental illness we're talking about, not a stress fracture. It is an illness that stigmatizes its victims and paralyzes them into suffering in silence.
"On one end, you have the world that doesn't know, and then you have people in power that do know, and it's too costly to make the reforms necessary," White said on the phone Sunday night. "And then you have the mental health people who are just quiet to begin with. You want to be alone. You're prone to being scared. As a demographic, we're really quiet people. It just so happens that I'm not quiet."
Fear of flying is not White's illness. White has generalized anxiety disorder. The fear is a symptom. The entire geography of a plane ride -- thinking about the flight the night before, going to the airport, sitting at the gate, then getting on the plane, and then flying -- created anxiety upon anxiety, an exponential buildup. The flying was only the half of it.
"I actually had anxiety about the panic," he said. "I developed an anxiety, a phobia about having panic attacks during travel."
So White, taken 16th overall by Houston in the 2012 Draft, and his support group devised a strategy, wrapped around an idea. The strategy was to do everything to reduce as much stress in his life as possible, stress being one of the main triggers for increased anxiety. Becoming a professional athlete produces incredible stresses, on the court and off. Flying would have been one of the new, major stresses, for the reasons addressed above.
The idea was the bus. Wherever possible this season -- and it won't be possible every time, and White knows it -- he plans to take a bus from wherever the Rockets are to where they're going.
White is hardly the first person with a fear of flying. Former NFL coach and analyst John Madden comes to mind, of course. Soccer star Dennis Bergkamp became known as "the non-Flying Dutchman" after he began refusing to get on planes. Actor Ben Affleck doesn't like to fly after being on a plane whose engine caught on fire, but he still flies for work. White will, too. Just a lot less than he would have otherwise.
With an agreement with the team within reach, subject to the advice of the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association, White is reporting to Rockets' camp this morning, a week after the rest of the team. He worked on the side with some players and assistant coach J.B. Bickerstaff Sunday, and he's way behind. But he's going to be on the team this season.
"Everyone was just asking me if I was okay," White said. "The perception was I was going through something mental health wise right now, that I wasn't well. But they were all really supportive. Chandler Parsons is my veteran; I'm his rookie. And he told me, whatever I need, just let him know. I definitely don't want to be one of those weak links, and I don't think anybody sees me as that."
White has been talking about this -- "negotiating" doesn't seem an accurate word here -- with the Rockets for a while now. Any agreement in writing between a player and a team constitutes a side agreement, and has to pass muster with the league and union.
But this wasn't negotiable for White.
"It came to the point where either I was going to ask for the support I need, or would I be able to play in the NBA?" he said. "I wasn't willing to become one of those stories where a guy is drinking to deal with depression, or taking drugs to deal with stress."
Obviously, travel isn't an issue when Houston plays at home. So that left going to and coming from the team's 41 regular-season road games.
The NBA, goes the conventional wisdom, is a plane league. You fly from Atlanta to Orlando; you fly from Denver to Salt Lake City; you fly because of back-to-back games, and four games in five nights. These days, you fly on chartered planes instead of commercial if you're an NBA team, but you fly.
Every blue moon, a team will bus from, say, Sacramento to Golden State -- about an 80-minute ride most nights -- if there's a back-to-back with the Kings and Warriors.
But White's group saw possibilities, borne in the NBA's dictum that whenever possible, a team gets to the city in which it's playing the night before the game. Normally, that means getting on the plane right after the game, flying to the next city, checking into the hotel upon arrival and going to sleep, waking up the next day, ready to play in that city that night. But you could do pretty much the same thing if you got on a bus right after the game and drove all night.
"Teams have to be in the night before, right?" White asked. "If we're playing at 7 [p.m.] every day, the game's usually over by 9 or 10 [p.m.]. That gives me all night to travel anywhere, within reason. I think Portland to L.A. is 15 hours, but Portland to Golden State is just nine. Denver to Phoenix is 10. When you look at it from that perspective, there's a lot of places you could make it by bus. I drove places at night at Iowa State and people always kidded me and said 'you know you can't do this in the NBA, right?' But we looked at it and said 'you know what? Why don't we try it?' "
The Rockets' first regular season game, on Nov. 2, is at Atlanta, which is about 793 miles northeast of Houston. Normally, the Rockets would practice in Houston the morning of Nov. 1, assemble at an airport that afternoon and take the two-hour flight to Atlanta, getting there in the late afternoon or early evening.
But let's say White takes the bus instead.
Assuming an average speed of 65 miles per hour, it would take about 12 hours to drive from Houston to Atlanta. If he left on the bus while his teammates headed for the airport -- say, 3 p.m. on Nov. 1 -- he could drive all afternoon and evening, get to Atlanta around 3 a.m. on Nov. 2 and check into his hotel -- and still be able to get some sleep before the morning shootaround. And, let's be honest. A few of his teammates may be getting back to the hotel later than 3, if you get my meaning.
Taking the bus, White could easily make a back-to-back on the road, such as going from Toronto, where the Rockets play Dec. 16th, to New York, where they play the next night, the 17th. The distance between the cities is 343 miles -- about a five and a half hour drive, assuming that average 65 mph speed. The same goes for playing back to backs in Chicago Christmas evening and Minnesota (409 miles, a six-plus hour drive) on Dec. 26.
White will have to fly some times, as when the Rockets have a back-to-back, at home against Golden State on March 5 with a game in Miami the next night, March 6. And there will certainly be the occasional flat tire or oil leak, or some other unforeseen hiccup.
The Rockets knew that travel could be an issue for White well before they drafted him. Similar issues came up when he was at Iowa State, where his coach, Fred Hoiberg, allowed him to drive on occasion instead of flying with the team. And Hoiberg is extremely close with Rockets coach Kevin McHale, who was the general manager of the Timberwolves while Hoiberg worked in various front-office jobs with Minnesota from 2006-10.
But the Rockets found that White never missed game because of driving, and when he had to fly because driving was impractical, he did. Since being drafted by Houston, White didn't miss a day of the team's Vegas Summer League, or its offseason conditioning sessions. He didn't miss a day at the Rookie Transition Program. The Rockets became convinced that the chances of this working were greater than the chances of it not.
"I have a lot of gratification for them to reach their hand out and say let's try to help you," White said.
This is where we have to, again, be honest. If Royce White were a 6-foot-3 undrafted shooting guard, we wouldn't be having this conversation. He knows this and so do they. The Rockets are being accommodating toward White because they believe he is one of the top big men prospects to come along in some time. So they're meeting him halfway by letting him get on a bus and drive away.
Not everyone would have the same approach.
"I'm not against the player," one team executive said Sunday, granted anonymity, "but the team comes first."
Said another: "I wouldn't have drafted him in the first place ... however, if he could board and get buckets, I'd figure out a way to get him to the game."
The logistics are still being worked out. He hasn't had time to price out buses yet, though the possibilities for sponsorship are intriguing. Will the Rockets pay for the bus driver, or will White? Will they allow his executive assistant to ride with him? Each of these things may sound like Houston is coddling White, but he needs to have order in his life for his life to work. He needs structure, and a routine, and people that he feels comfortable with. (Which is why Ellen DeGeneres might be riding with him on the bus sometime in the near future. It's being worked on.)
The very act of getting on top of this, of bringing some order to what would appear an insurmountable problem, is therapeutic for White. But the underlying issue was getting a structure in place on which he could depend.
"Organizational compulsive disorder is kind of my thing," White said. "I get very discomfited when things don't get organized. Now it gives me something to gauge from. We put a plan in place. Now, I can look at it. Is it working? Is it not working? ... It was also about my routine, and developing consistency. Getting a bus, making it feel like home is part of that consistency."
White is actually planning to fly on Wednesday to Hidalgo, Texas, where the Rockets will open their preseason against the Thunder. There's still some question about whether he'll be up to speed enough to get the go-ahead, though; there's probably a better chance he would play Friday in the home exhibition opener against New Orleans.
I'm not canonizing the young man, just rooting for him. White has had his share of problems, including his suspension from the University of Minnesota team in 2009
after an incident at the Mall of America, and later pleaded guilty to theft and disorderly conduct. He was later charged with trespassing in connection to an alleged theft of a laptop from a dorm and left Minnesota soon after. But White didn't have any trouble at Iowa State over two years.
And his willingness to be a public guinea pig of sorts, to put all his problems out there, to acknowledge he's taking a form of Prozac and is dealing with insomnia ("on the entrepreneurial side it actually helps me, because I get an extra eight hours to work," he says), gives him a lot of credibility and leeway.
So, I will root for White. But you wonder if becoming such a public advocate for such an insidious and overwhelming disease will take its toll, even on a 6-foot-8, 250-pounder who asked for the assignment.
"I'm a very activist type of guy in nature," White said. "For me, advocating for people that need it, that need help, is actually a release for me. I actually sleep better at night when I think I've helped someone else...I do worry that it is a fight I wont' be able to win. I do wonder, will I see the change in my lifetime? At the same time, it's bigger than me. Somebody has to do it."
For a 675,000-square foot building of iron and concrete, the $1 billion Barclays Center in Brooklyn takes on many different shapes.
It is a beacon, which drew Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace back to play basketball there. It will also draw Barbra Streisand, Rihanna, Bob Dylan and Lady Gaga to perform in concert there. Not all at once.
"It's been a long time coming," Williams said last week, as the team got its first look at its 18,000-seat arena, built where Walter O'Malley wanted to put a new baseball stadium four-plus decades ago. He was not allowed to build that stadium there. And because of that, Walter O'Malley took his Brooklyn Dodgers and went to Chavez Ravine, 3,000 miles away. There hadn't been another professional sports team that set foot in the borough -- which would be the fourth-largest city in the United States if it weren't part of New York City -- since.
It is a bulwark, on which Avery Johnson hopes to build a defense. With the money that Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov provided this summer, Johnson was able to keep his starting point guard and center, add a six-time All-Star in Joe Johnson via a trade and fill his bench with veterans (Reggie Evans, Jerry Stackhouse, Josh Childress, Keith Bogans) who can help police the locker room.
"We haven't been a good defensive team," Avery Johnson said. "Not this team. I've had good defensive teams in the past, and have had significant improvement in that area. Hopefully, because we have better defensive players to go with our defensive system, we'll be able to improve. Guys will be able to take on more of a challenge."
It is a vacuum, which many believe will suck the life out of Brooklyn, and never restore the money and the jobs and the housing that were promised by Bruce Ratner, who owned the Nets when the Atlantic Yards project, as it was known, began to take shape almost a decade ago.
It is a gauntlet, thrown at the feet of the Knicks, who have dominated the pro basketball landscape for six decades in New York. They've kept the Nets at arms' length, first on Long Island in their original ABA incarnation, then for another 35 years at the Meadowlands complex, and in Newark the last two seasons.
With expanded rail service that comes up to the Barclays entrance, along with existing Long Island Railroad Service, the Nets hope that as many as 75 percent of people who come to events there will use public transportation instead of driving, given the paucity of parking places in the neighborhood. That phrase is not chosen at random; Barclays is smack dab in the middle of several communities -- Fort Greene and Park Slope and Prospect Heights.
Traffic discriminates against all. And so it was that Wallace, who lives waaaaaay out in Jersey, still, needed two hours to commute from his house to Barclays.
"I'm a country boy, so I don't know nothing about the city," Wallace said. "I'm still trying to figure this out."
"He's got to have a yard, and a fishing pond," said Williams, who lives with his family on the Upper West Side and is just 15 minutes away. "Horses. A chicken coop. He just can't come into the city. He's out of his element."
The Nets have nearby rooms if players want to stay near the arena after their morning shootarounds there. They will fly out of Newark Airport when they have back-to-back games, going through the Holland Tunnel. But the team has still not finalized its search for a permament practice facility. For now, practices are still being held at the team's old spot in Jersey, near its old arena in East Rutherford.
The team is still trying to figure out the best way to be a good neighbor in the community. Residents are hopeful, but wary, with so many expectations that have been dashed in past years.
The initial plans that Forest Ratner proposed were enormous: a mix of commercial and private development, a Frank Gehry-designed arena, with 6,430 housing units -- almost 35 percent of which were supposed to be "affordable" for local residents -- and jobs for thousands of Brooklynites.
But Gehry dropped out of the project years ago. The housing bubble burst and the recession hit, and just about any large-scale development plans in the United States had to be downgraded. Lawsuits and recriminations between city officials and residents, as well as between city officials and one another, have followed. Some 800 people were displaced from their homes as the city used the eminent domain authority to clear space for the new arena.
Now, the city -- the taxpayers --will almost certainly pick up the tab for the expected overtime that police officers in the area will accrue patrolling the streets late into the night after games and events.
Opponents coalesced into umbrella groups, the largest called Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn, consisting of 21 community organizations opposed to the plan. Among the board members of DDDB are actors Michelle Williams, Steve Buscemi and Rosie Perez; former major league pitcher and "Ball Four" author Jim Bouton, along with writers Nelson George and Dave Zirin.
There are many jobs today at Barclays, about 2,000 of them, according to the Nets' president, Brett Yormark. And many of the hires are people from the community and surrounding areas. But only 100 of those are currently full-time positions. Most of them are part-time jobs. And there has been little sign of the affordable housing promised, opponents to the project have said, repeatedly -- including during a protest on the building's opening night, the first of eight concerts by Jay-Z, who is a partial owner of the Nets.
"Our goal is for anyone who ever opposed the project to, within time, all the good that's happening here, how much we're giving back," Yormark said. "This, to me, is a civic meeting place, where people can grow up and have some dreams, or root for their favorite artist, or performer, or player. I think it's starting to unfold that way. And we'll just continue to work at it."
Nets players have been dipping a toe into the waters, doing community events in Brooklyn. But they do so carefully.
"I think there has to be substance, because if you don't come in and continue to bring opportunity, then you've got some people around here that's going to let you know about it," Stackhouse said.
Stackhouse found out quickly what the level of anger and frustration was, when he heard from a local city council member at an event.
"She said 'don't just come here to take some pictures and say that you were in Brooklyn; are you going to continue to bring some substance to the region?,' " Stackhouse recalled. "It wasn't the time or place for it. It was a little bit out of line, but at the same time, you understood where she was coming from."
There is some hope among locals that the arrival of the Nets, and the 200 events a year that will come to Barclays, can galvanize the community, bring some dollars to the neighborhood. The Nets can do their part by not stinking out the joint this season. They were a horrid 9-24 at home last season at Prudential Center in Newark; overall, they gave up 106.9 points per 100 possessions last season. Only Sacramento was worse.
Can Avery Johnson build a good defense this season out of a group that doesn't have a great shot blocker or lock-down defender? Maybe the latter could be MarShon Brooks, who had a strong rookie season but whose playing time may be cut with Joe Johnson's arrival.
"I've always been a pretty coachable kid," Brooks said, "so whatever coach needs me to do, I'll do. If I have to take out the trash, I'll take out the trash."
A fully healthy roster will help Avery Johnson -- who has actually pared down his defensive playbook from his Mavericks days.
"I can't imagine the Dallas handbook, because it's pretty big to me," Lopez said. "We have written tests for our defensive philosophy, so it's just a matter of taking all that information and putting it on the court."
But there will be nights at Barclays where Williams and Joe Johnson are rolling, Wallace is filling the lanes, Humphries and Lopez are doing the dirty work inside and Brooklyn will drop 120 on someone. Avery Johnson no longer will have to move Williams to shooting guard because he doesn't have anyone else who can score enough to keep the Nets close.
"He's going to be a lot happier," Johnson said. "It's not anything based on contract; it's based on our roster, and us having the ability to win games and compete every single night. He's got a little bounce in his step. He's got a lot of pep in his step. We had a lot of sleepless nights the last two years, and he and I spent a lot of those nights in restaurants, talking about vision, talking about building to where we are today. He's really excited."
Joe Johnson knew Williams was wired in the first week of July.
"Four or five days before the trade, Deron called me," Johnson said. "He said, 'what do you think about coming to Brooklyn?' I was like, 'man, where are you getting this from?' ... I don't know what kind of strings he was pulling, but he made it happen."
Williams organized practices before the start of camp, with most players taking part in September, so that the team's new players could get up to speed. He was in Joe Johnson's ear this summer in the Hamptons. And he wants to be held accountable.
"Nobody's scared to say something to me," he said. "We've got vets. Jerry Stackhouse has been in the league 18 years. My good friend Keith Bogans keeps me straight. We have a good group. We have a good veteran group. We have guys that are at the point of their career where they want to win. They're not worried about their stats."
And they hope Barclays shifts shapes once more, into a real home for them, after so many years in the wilderness. The vision that GM Billy King and Prokhorov sold Williams to keep him from going to Dallas is on the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic, perhaps not a catalyst to remake a borough, but just an arena, a fine arena that will enable the Nets to win more basketball games.
"At times, it was hard for me to see that vision, because we were losing, and things weren't going well," Williams said. "But now that I made the decision to come back, I'm happy. I'm excited I did. This can be special -- this team, this move, everything they did, everything they've talked about for the last two years, it's come true."
1) Miami: Juwan Howard just hanging out with the Heat, apparently, working out and practicing while the waiver wire and/or injuries create potential opportunities, either with the Heat or somewhere else.
2) Oklahoma City: T-minus three weeks and counting to James Harden extension deadline.
3) Los Angeles Lakers: Dwight Howard now wants to be known as "Iron Man?" Ohhhhhkay.
4) San Antonio: There's nothing cuter than when Pop is in love.
5) Indiana: Who will help their team more this season as a backup point: The Pacers' D.J. Augustin or the Clippers' Eric Bledsoe?
6) Boston: Marvelous Marvin Hagler attends the Cs' game in Milan, Italy, on Sunday. The Marvelous One left the States after getting jobbed (yeah, I said it) in the Ray Leonard fight in 1987.
7) Memphis: Glad to see Penny Hardaway is part of the new ownership group (with Peyton Manning) of Robert Pera that's buying the Grizzlies from Michael Heisley.
8) Los Angeles Clippers: CP3 hoping to start practicing with the team during its trip to China this week.
9) Dallas: Mavs travel to Germany, where Dirk Diggler gets the hero's welcome.
10) Denver: These. Are. Hideous.
11) Philadelphia: Sixers shut Andrew Bynum down for the whole preseason to let his knees heal from The Full Kobe during the summer.
12) New York: J.R. Smith wants to start at shooting guard, but Mike Woodson seems to be hedging his bets where that's concerned.
13) Chicago: Finally, got Thib's deal done last week. What on earth took so long?
14) Atlanta: Larry Drew starting DeShawn Stevenson at two guard for beginning of preseason, with Lou Williams running the point off the bench.
15) Brooklyn: Eight nights of Jay-Z concerts to kick off Barclays Center finally ended over the weekend, and Hova says he actually drives himself to work.
Is Washington, D.C. a good sports town?
This is slightly off topic, I know. But it's kinda personal. I am a born, bred and raised Washingtonian; that is, someone who lives in the actual District of Columbia. Other than a three-year stretch right after college when I lived in Bethesda and Chevy Chase, I have had a D.C. address my whole life. (There are people who grow up in these nearby suburbs, places like Bethesda and Chevy Chase and Fairfax, who claim they're from D.C. They're swell folks. They're not from D.C.)
A quick primer: if, among your past elected mayors, you have one caught on camera smoking crack in a hotel room with a woman not related to him by marriage, you're from D.C.
If you got your hair cut half a block from where the snipers who terrorized the city a decade ago killed a man walking across the street, you're from D.C.
If you know where the Big Chair is, you're from D.C. If you know who originated the "Quiet Storm" format on nighttime FM radio was, you're from D.C.
If you name your fantasy baseball teams "RuPaul Casanova" or "Eddie Brinkmanship" or "Darold Knowles Best," you're from D.C.
Anyway, the question of whether D.C. is a good sports town has been talk radio fodder for the last couple of weeks. Both Sports Illustrated and ESPN The Magazine have made the District as Sports Town recent cover stories. And the Twitterverse 'sploded last week, what with the Nationals making the playoffs for the first time since moving to Washington, D.C., in 2005, and Robert Griffin III continuing to dazzle as the Redskins' rookie QB. The Wizards are still waiting, as ever, for the turnaround, only to find more despair, with John Wall out two months with some kind of stress injury to his knee.
Too often, the topic begins with the notion that "no one is actually from Washington." This usually comes out of the mouths of potted plants like George Will, who isn't, of course, from Washington, but has lived among us for decades. Will, who can write some, is famous for using four-syllable words when two will do just fine. A statement like that is the exclusive province of someone whose car couldn't get to Ward 8, where the poor people live, with a police escort. (Lest you think, in this political season, that I'm picking on a conservative, my friend Mike Wilbon, decidedly not conservative, stepped in it just as deeply last week when trashing D.C.'s sports bona fides. I don't take it personally from Wilbon, who, I know, sees the world through Chicago Eyes, and that's okay. But, again, he's not from D.C.)
There are lots of people who are from Washington, many for generations. There's a lot more to D.C. than Capitol Hill, Georgetown, the Kennedy Center and wherever they tape "Meet the Press." There's a city full of people who go to work every day, put their kids through school, go to church, bury their dead and celebrate the living. Those people are great sports fans. They come to see the Redskins, Wizards and Caps, and they're warming to the Nationals, who drew 2.4 million this year -- not great, but not terrible, considering the Nats lost 100 games three years ago.
However. Are you a great D.C. sports fan?
Take this easy quiz and find out. If you can answer three-fourths of these correctly, you are, indeed, made of special D.C. stuff. There are no prizes. No coupons. No certificates. No calls of congratulation. Just an increase in your own sense of self-worth. Unless you Google all the answers, in which case you must answer to yourself. Your weak, cheating self:
1) Who was the "Secretary of Defense" for the Washington Diplomats of the old North American Soccer League?
2) Explain who Robin Ficker is. Or, was.
3) What did Mstislav Rostopovich do every year at the annual holiday concert in December with the National Symphony Orchestra that brought the house down?
4) Don't just tell me who played at Turkey Thicket; tell me where Turkey Thicket is in town.
5) Name at least one sponsor of Washington Senators telecasts in the late 1960s.
6) Who was Vince Lombardi referring to during his one season as the Redskins' coach when he said, "that SOB must be deaf?"
7) Who is Jim Hrycuik and why is he important?
8) Who were "Ba-Ba" and "Big Sky?" Why do they matter?
9) Name at least two former sponsors of what is now known as the City Open Tennis Tournament.
10) Where were Washington's annual Soap Box Derby trials held?
11) Tom McMillan, the University of Maryland basketball star, was a U.S. Olympian in 1972. Who was the next Maryland men's basketball player who made an Olympic team?
12) Name either of the men who first dressed up as the Fat Lady.
13) The Redskins had several prolific kick and punt returners from the 60s through the 80s. Name any two.
14) Who did the radio call of the Bullets' title in 1978? (He did another title call just a few years later.)
15) Edwin B. Henderson. Go.
16) Where did Joe Dean Davidson, Dave Brown and Bob Headen coach for years and years?
Not your average Aboriginal. From Andre Harrington:
I'm an Aussie living in Japan so my opinion is limited to highlights but, Patty Mills was one of the best players outside of the American, Spanish and Argentine teams at the 2012 Olympics. Shortly before the tournament he signed a very modest deal with the Spurs. I understand that would have taken a load off his shoulders coming into the games and he could focus entirely on what was happening on the court. But if he had waited until after the Olympics (like Andrei Kirilenko did), I believe he most probably would have received a bigger pay slip and maybe more minutes. Just wanted to see your take on the situation for Patty or any player in a similar situation.
Agree that Mills was terrific in London, Andre, but I'm not sure there was a better payday or opportunity for Patty than the one he took in San Antonio. Maybe he could have gotten a few more bucks from a really bad team, but I would much rather take a little less -- and maybe play a little less -- to be on a contending team. But that's me.
He is not seeing the change he believes in. From Brian Hayde:
Maybe I missed something about the new CBA. Wasn't this new labor agreement supposedly going to give small-market franchises the ability to draw and sign elite players? It seems as if, regardless of any type of labor agreement, large-market franchises will continue to find a way to afford to bring the elite players to their club. It seems frustrating. Obviously, the free agent himself can pick and choose his club. As well as what type of financial commitment that said small-market club is willing to go to field a winning team.
There are certain "pre-cooked" advantages that some -- not all -- big-market teams have over small-market teams that will be resistant to any CBA changes, Brian. The Lakers, as we discussed last week, are simply in a different stratosphere now than everyone else because of their new TV deal with Time Warner Cable. And there are indeed free agents who would rather play in L.A. than Oklahoma City, no matter how good the Thunder are at the moment. The new CBA works against (ital.)any(endital) team with a lot of talent, because it makes the cost of keeping them nearly prohibitive. I say "nearly," because there are teams that are willing to bite that bullet. But, as Glen Grunwald acknowledged last week, the Knicks passed on matching Houston's offer sheet for Jeremy Lin because they didn't want to pay that much luxury tax down the road to keep him.
Why do you hate America? Or, at least, the Pacific Northwest? From Jesse Palmer:
You do realize of course, Mr. Aldridge, that if the Blazers have a winning record by the end of the season, a few Blazer fans might remind you of how you and others never wanted that to happen? I'm not sure what your basing Portland's supposedly assured bad win-loss record in the upcoming season on other than that I suspect that you and the higher-ups in the NBA really, really don't want that to happen simply because its Portland. I could be wrong about this suspicion, but I don't see you talking down other teams this way.
Sigh. Jesse, I want you to think -- really think -- about this. Why would a winning season in Portland be something that I "never wanted ... to happen?" Seriously. What benefit would that provide me? More money? Is there a 5-foot-10 supermodel out there whose interest in me depends on my never, ever going to Portland? Do you have some other evidence that I don't like your city? If you do, it would be incorrect, as I have had some wonderful times in the Rose City. I am basing my contention that the Blazers will struggle this season on a) the Blazers telling me they think they're going to struggle this season, b) the Thunder, Lakers, Clippers, Spurs, Nuggets, Grizzlies, Mavericks and Jazz. Do you, really, think the Blazers are going to be better than any of those teams in the West this season? It's not "talking down" a team to make an assessment of how it will do in a given season. For the record, I don't think the Kings, Suns and Hornets will do all that well in the West, either. I don't hate any of those cities, either.
Send your questions, comments, criticisms and Infield Fly Rule mishaps to firstname.lastname@example.org. If your e-mail is sufficiently funny, thought-provoking, interesting or snarky, we just might publish it!
1) I normally don't like giving any of the shoe companies any pub, but that is one terrific adidas ad for Derrick Rose, where we hear Kevin Harlan's call of D-Rose's knee injury, see the city of Chicago basically come to a halt, and then see Rose in the midst of intense rehab, finishing with his (not yet, in reality) return to the court.
2) So far so good, Brandon Roy.
3) Parochial? Yeah, and what of it? Just watch the season premiere of "Open Court" on Wednesday on NBA TV. As always, some great discussion among NBA legends, some laughs and good stuff all around.
4) You are classy fans, Detroit Tigers supporters, for the good words and support you gave Oakland A's reliever Pat Neshek, who pitched in Game 1 of the ALDS two days after he and his wife lost their 1-day-old son, Gehrig John Neshek. You are classy people, A's organization, for putting Gehrig Neshek's initials on the team's uniforms. And God Bless Pat Neshek and his family as they try to cope with the incomprehensible.
5) Covering the Cardinals-Nationals Division Series for TBS this week. Playoff baseball is incredible. So much drama, such dramatic turns of fate in such a short period of time. Having a blast.
5A) Seattle draws more than 66,000 on an NFL Sunday for its Major League Soccer game with fierce rival Portland. Let's hear no more about how that city didn't support the Sonics.
1) I am happy that the league believes flopping an important enough offense to try and deal with it. I am not a fan of the new flopping rules. The referees should have the discretion to call a delay of game technical foul on someone they believe is flopping. That would make the flopping stop, and quickly. Now, the union is planning to file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, which could be followed by a grievance if the NLRB complaint is not upheld. The union will certainly argue in any grievance that the league's unilateral action is arbitrary and an unprecedented discipline for an on-court activity that doesn't affect the health or safety of other players, or is not related to conduct toward officials.
2). Dwight. Shaq. This is beneath both of you. For the uninitiated, Shaq said last week that both Andrew Bynum and Brook Lopez were better centers than Howard, something Brook Lopez doesn't even agree with.
That prompted Howard to say, "I don't care what Shaq says. Shaq played the game and he is done. It's time to move on. He hated the fact when he played that older guys were talking about him and how he played. Now he's doing the exact same thing. Just let it go. There's no sense for him to be talking trash to me. He did his thing in the league. Sit back and relax. Your time is up."
Shaq, I remember how hurt you were when guys like Bill Walton took shots at you early in your career. It doesn't feel any better now than it did then. Dwight, you don't have to rise to the bait. I know how high you regard Shaq and I'm sure that it's painful that one of your heroes is coming at you like this. But that's life in the big city.
3) My goodness. Roddy Buckets hurt again.
4) It's hard to write about Dana Davis, aka "Double D," being gone. The VP of Basketball Operations for the Grizzlies was found dead in his apartment last week at age 56. There just wasn't a more gregarious man in the game. Double D knew everybody, it seemed, and had friends in the music and political worlds just as deep as his ties to the NBA. Just a good, good dude. I feel terribly for my friends with the Grizz, who are also dealing with the serious illness of assistant GM Kenny "Eggman" Williamson. All anyone can offer in times like these is their support, and prayers.
32 -- Average age of the Knicks' top 13 players with Rasheed Wallace now on the team, which would make New York the oldest team in league history, according to Stats, LLC.
35 Consecutive points scored by the Warriors Sunday night, a stretch spanning the end of the third and start of the fourth quarters, in Golden State's 110-83 exhibition victory over the Lakers.
$160,000,000 -- Estimated amount, according to one study, that a sponsor might receive in exposure if an NBA team that puts that company's advertising on the new 2.5 x 2.5" patch on team jerseys goes on an extended postseason run. The league will allow such sized ads to go on jerseys beginning next season.
"I think it's a bunch of crap to be honest with you. Are they going to come back after a game and fine you for flopping? That's tough to do to me.''
-- The Mavericks' Dirk Nowitzki, on the league's new anti-flopping mandate.
"I understand that the jersey is going to go under the ceiling and be hung but hopefully I'm going to be able to play for the next six, seven, eight, maybe nine years so I'm going to try to get that number. I'm going to call Steve. I'm quite sure, maybe not 100 percent, that he'll be fine with that if I carry his number. I'm going to do this with pride. That's the number I've been playing with my entire life."
--Suns center Marcin Gortat, detailing his plans to the Arizona Republic to petition Steve Nash for permission to wear Nash's number 13 this season. Gortat has worn 13 for his career until he came to Phoenix; with Nash wearing that number, Gortat wore number 4 the past year and a half.
"Here's the thing: Some people are just very, very dumb. I keep hearing it from some people that I just want to score and that other stuff. Nobody has won more championships than me in my entire generation. I've got five of them. You can't be selfish and win one championship, let alone five. That argument should be in the coffin by now. I don't like having the ball."
-- Kobe Bryant, in an interview with ESPN Radio in Los Angeles, on his reputation as a ball hog and how, if true, it would impede the Lakers this season.
|Grizzlies vs. Spurs: Game 1|
Tony Parker records 20 points and nine assists, Kawhi Leonard adds 18 points as the Spurs roll to the Game 1 victory.
|Grizzlies-Spurs: Game 2 Preview|
Steve Smith and Brent Barry look ahead to Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals Tuesday at 9p ET on ESPN.
|Press Pass: Gasol and Pondexter|
Marc Gasol and Quincy Pondexter talk with the media after the Grizzlies lose Game 1 to the Spurs.
|The Daily Zap|
Another look at the Spurs 22-point rout of the Grizzlies in Game 1.
|Sunday's Top 5 Plays|
Tony Parker's laser dime lands at the number one spot on Sunday's Top 5.