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Presti's vision -- even after Harden deal -- keeps OKC stable

POSTED: Oct 29, 2012 7:40 PM ET

By David Aldridge

BY David Aldridge

TNT Analyst


James Harden's departure from OKC shouldn't make the Thunder any weaker in the West.

"I trust Sam."

And that's why James Harden was traded late Saturday night, while much of America was hip-deep in the World Series or Notre Dame-Oklahoma, at a movie or out on the town, or getting ready for this monster of a storm that overwhelms the entire eastern third of the United States on the satellite maps. While America went about its business, Sam Presti pulled the trigger (because Kevin Durant trusts him), and that's that.

Durant has uttered those three words to me and anyone else who's interviewed him over the last couple of years, and it is not a stretch to say those three words are the reason Oklahoma City has an NBA franchise this morning that's still championship material.

Yes, losing Harden, whatever the return, is a blow. He had proven himself, with a notable exception here or there, of being capable in a playoff drive. He bounced back from a tough shooting series in the West semis against the Lakers (19-of-53, while he was also chasing Kobe Bryant around on defense) by shooting 61 percent from behind the arc and 49 percent overall against the Spurs in the Western Conference finals. He was the Thunder's best playmaker in the guts of a ballgame, and those things matter when you're trying to be the best.

Harden Heads to Houston

By any of the available metrics that seem to matter these days, Harden was one of the top 20 -- maybe top 15 -- offensive players in the league. We will never know, of course, how skewed those numbers were because almost every night, Harden played against single coverage next to Durant and/or Russell Westbrook. But Harden maxed out in terms of his production, leading to last season's Sixth Man of the Year award and a spot on the U.S. Olympic team that won gold in London. As his turn to cash in came up, what did you expect him to ask for? What would you have asked for?

Durant trusts Presti, the way Tim Duncan trusts Gregg Popovich, the way Kobe Bryant trusts Mitch Kupchak -- or, at least, the way Kobe keeps the pressure on Kupchak to make big moves for the Lakers.

So the deal was made.

And besides Durant's "Wow" tweet Saturday night, I doubt you'll hear him say too many bad things about the trade.

There is history there; over the last three years, the Thunder paid to keep Durant, Westbrook, coach Scott Brooks, Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison -- and, in August, Serge Ibaka. No doubt owner Clay Bennett has financial limits he will not pass, and taxes he will not pay, but his checkbook doesn't have cobwebs on it.

The idea of trading Harden was not a shock around the league. As the negotiations dragged on over the past few weeks, and the Oct. 31 deadline for signing Class of 2009 draftees to extensions of their rookie deals, discreet inquiries had been made. But the Thunder and Harden's agent, Rob Pelinka, kept trying to find common ground.

Presti Discusses Trade, OKC's Future

The Halloween deadline worked against both sides. Harden genuinely wanted to stay, but the Thunder had already used its five-year, "designated player" contract on Westbrook, and could only offer Harden a four-year deal. If he wanted five years, he'd have to be traded to a team that hadn't yet used its designated player contract. The difference was between the four-year, $60 million maximum OKC could offer and five-year, $79.5 million offers others could make.

OKC also knew it had to do something by Halloween. The Thunder couldn't wait until the trade deadline next February; what if they were rolling in the west? The offers would also dwindle after the 31st for the reasons stated above; teams looking to acquire Harden wouldn't be able to give him a fifth year after then even if they had the designated player option available.

And the Thunder certainly couldn't chance waiting until next summer, when Phoenix, Dallas, Detroit and a half-dozen other teams could have given Harden an offer sheet as a restricted free agent. Sign-and-trade deals wouldn't have made any sense, either; OKC doesn't want or need additional salary, and Harden certainly didn't want to go to a team that just shredded its roster in order to get him.

So it had to happen now.

The end came Saturday, after Presti and Pelinka and Harden had one last pow-wow. The Thunder, as Yahoo! Sports first reported, were indeed willing to improve on their last offer, for a last time: I heard it was $53 million, Yahoo! said $54 million ... what's seven figures among friends? But that was all. OKC had to know, and know now -- was Harden in, or not? If the answer was not, he would be traded. (Durant and Westbrook knew this was possible, though they didn't know the details of where, and for what.)

The Rockets were waiting, and they needed an answer, because once the deal started coming together there would be a lot of players who needed to pass physicals before Houston could even begin to talk about the extension.

It was a little surprising that the Thunder didn't send Harden east, where they'd only have to see him twice a year, but there wasn't much in the conference that OKC wanted (other than Wizards' rookie Bradley Beal, which Washington had zero interest in discussing). The idea was to make the best deal, wherever it was.

James Harden: Top 10

On the other hand, there was Houston, with a proven scorer in Kevin Martin to take over as sixth man, a young prospect in Jeremy Lamb that OKC liked and -- just as importantly -- two more first-round Draft picks. They have protections on them, but they will ultimately convey to the Thunder, allowing OKC to add still more young talent (and, he notes parenthetically, young talent on cap-friendly rookie deals).

The Thunder saw that Cleveland was never able to put quality young players around LeBron James, and Orlando failed to do the same with Dwight Howard. Durant and Westbrook will be free agents someday, and OKC can hope that having talented teammates that have grown with you might make a difference down the road.

And this is, of course, where that trust goes both ways. Durant and Westbrook are the unquestioned leaders of their franchise, and the franchise believes they will be able to handle the trade.

For Houston, the motivations and expectations are quite different. The Rockets have no title aspirations now; they just know they got the best player in the deal, and that's been the goal for GM Daryl Morey all during his hunt to improve his roster.

For all the talk about how Saturday's trade affected Oklahoma City, the Rockets didn't make out too bad, either. Whether or not Harden is a max player, he's a damn good player who should help Jeremy Lin as he makes the adjustment to full-time starting point guard. And even if the Rockets give Harden a max deal, it doesn't hamstring their financial future.

Remember, the Rockets "only" gave Lin and Omer Asik $25 million apiece over three years. Yes, that third year, 2014-15, with its poison-pill provisions for both Lin and Asik -- when they each get almost $15 million apiece -- will be a tough pill for Houston to swallow, given that the Rockets will also likely being paying Harden more than $15 million that season (if my cocktail napkin math is correct), and Houston will certainly jettison some folks in the summer of 2014.

Remember also, as one of my Twitterati pointed out late Saturday, the Rockets are starting a new regional sports network this year in partnership with MLB's Astros. And, just as with the Lakers' new deal with Time Warner Cable SportsNet (though not nearly as lucrative a deal as L.A.'s $2 billion to $4 billion windfall from TWC), the Rockets will be getting massive injections of cable TV money over the next few years, which should help soften the blow of a big payroll. (And, there continues to be no reason they couldn't trade either Lin or Asik before their poison-pill years kick in to a team looking for an expiring contract.)

But they've got a star, a legitimate big-time player to build around. Harden will get his money and his chance to prove he is a superstar in his own right, not just a satellite spinning around the Durant/Westbrook planet.

Be careful what you wish for.

Unless you wish for $25 million more, guaranteed, and a starting spot at two guard. Then, it could totally be OK.

Trust me.


With a full regular season finally upon us, there's no escaping that it's time to make ridiculous predictions about the upcoming season, about which we know nothing and can only take the wildest, most fact-free guesses possible. But y'all like this stuff. So, let's take a crack at it, with the usual two conditions: 1) If I'm wrong on any of these, I will hotly deny ever making such senseless guesses, even as you show me the screen grab displaying me yapping; 2) if I somehow get a category or two right, I will lord it all over you, making you point at me in public and say. "There walks the man!," and demanding you refer to me as "The Streak" in traffic. Also, two tickets to "The Book of Mormon" would be nice.

So, picks:


Heat Keys to Success

* THE FAVORITE: Really, do you have to ask? It's Miami.
* THE DARKHORSE: Detroit. If rookie Andre Drummond comes on quickly, the Pistons will be a playoff team.
* COACH ON THE HOT SEAT: Scott Skiles, Milwaukee. He and GM John Hammond are in the final year of their respective deals.


... Orlando is going to be that bad without Dwight Howard.


... not sure the Nets are going to be as good as advertised, at least not early. You look at their roster and you don't see a single upper-level defender. There will surely be a lot of nights at Barclays when Brooklyn puts up 110 points, but when the jumpers aren't falling, can the Nets get enough stops?


Filling In For Rose

I hope...

1. ... Derrick Rose can be Derrick Rose again. There aren't five players as exciting or as important to the future of the league.
2. ... we can see a healthy Wizards team sometime this season. A backcourt of John Wall and rookie Bradley Beal, with some decent depth (Nene, Emeka Okafor, Kevin Seraphin) up front could win some games. But Wall's out the first month of the season and Nene's plantar fasciitis will probably keep him out for the season opener.
3. ... the Raptors' exhibition play is indicative of a rebirth of the cool in Canada, and that rookie Jonas Valanciunas continues his preseason signs of development. Toronto is such a great city, with a success-starved fan base (hi, Julie!) that deserves a competitive team to support.
4. ... Kyrie Irving doesn't have a sophomore slump.
5. ... the Bucks can get an arena deal soon that will keep that team from having to go into the Rumor Vortex of franchise relocation.

GREAT MATCHUPS: Boston @ Miami, Tuesday, TNT (championship ring night); New York @ Brooklyn, Thursday, TNT (regular-season opener at Barclays Center); Miami @ New York, Friday, ESPN (LeBron in the Garden); Indiana @ Chicago, Dec. 4 (Central Division foes renew intense rivalry); Brooklyn @ Atlanta, Jan. 16 (Joe Johnson's return to the 404); Miami @ Boston, Jan. 27, ABC (Ray Allen comes back to Beantown); Indiana @ Philadelphia, Feb. 6 (Andrew Bynum vs. Roy Hibbert in a battle of the east's best centers); Washington @ Cleveland, March 12 (John Wall vs. Kyrie Irving); Miami @ Chicago, March 27 (hopefully, Derrick Rose is back and the Bulls are still in the mix).

PLAYOFF TEAMS: Miami, Atlanta, Boston, Philadelphia, New York, Brooklyn, Indiana, Chicago

CONFERENCE FINALS: Miami over Indiana


Thunder's Expectations

* THE FAVORITE: Oklahoma City. Yes, we know what the Lakers did in the offseason. Yes, we know Harden has been traded. Still says here that the Thunder are the team to beat in the West. Steve Nash or Kobe will still have to guard Russell Westbrook, and while Dwight Howard negates most team's inside effectiveness, the Thunder are a jump-shooting bunch.
* THE DARKHORSE: Sacramento. Yeah, I said it. The Kings have enough talent, with new additions in Aaron Brooks and first-rounder Thomas Robinson, to be in the postseason hunt. As ever, they will probably go as far as DeMarcus Cousins can take them.
* COACH ON THE HOT SEAT: Mike Brown, Lakers. It's going to be that way until he either wins a title in L.A. or gets fired. That's unfair, but he knew what the deal was when he signed up.


... Denver's going to be really, really good. Andre Iguodala is the perfect addition to a team that already was in the top 10 in forced turnovers last season. Think of the Nuggets as a more talented version of the 76ers' team Iguodala helped lead to the East semis last season: Ty Lawson is a better Jrue Holiday, Danilo Gallinari is a better Thaddeus Young, etc.


... Andre Miller isn't underrated, or underappreciated. He's just damn good, and he has been for more than a decade. This season, if Miller gets his customary 575 or so assists, he'll pass Rod Strickland and go into ninth place on the NBA's all-time assist leader board.


I hope...

Timberwolves Season Preview

1. ... James Harden in Houston can become the star player he showed signs of being in OKC. The Thunder will still win without him, but it's a little sad to see a team that had to be broken up because of finances even before it reached its full potential.
2. ... the Warriors can get close to a full season out of Andrew Bogut and Steph Curry. And by that I mean 65 to 70 games.
3. ... the Wolves are still within some kind of striking distance of the postseason when they get Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio back. Minnesota has more than enough talent to be a playoff team this year, but not without its top two players.
4. ... the Clippers can get 60 games out of Chauncey Billups. The difference between the team when he was on the floor and after he was lost for the year with an Achilles' tear was substantial.
5. ... the Spurs have another run in them. Nobody does the game of basketball more proudly than they do, and it's a pleasure to watch them maximize their effort collectively, instead of for individual achievements.

GREAT MATCHUPS: Clippers @ Lakers, Friday, ESPN (Battle of Staples I); Lakers @ Thunder, Dec. 7 (Western finals preview?); New Orleans @ Portland, Dec. 16 (Cousin LaMarcus vs. Anthony Davis); Houston @ Minnesota, Jan. 19 (hopefully, Linsanity faces off against a healthy Ricky Rubio); Lakers @ Phoenix, Jan. 30 (Steve Nash's return to Phoenix);

PLAYOFF TEAMS: Oklahoma City, Denver, Utah, San Antonio, Memphis, Dallas, L.A. Lakers, L.A. Clippers,

CONFERENCE FINALS: Oklahoma City over L.A. Lakers


1) Miami: Jorts makes the squad! This is a good day.

2) Oklahoma City: One day soon, OKC fans, you're going to realize that Saturday wasn't nearly as bad a day as you think this morning. Your GM has a history of amassing multiple first-round picks and spinning them into gold down the road. And with a fair-to-middlin' chance that the Toronto first-rounder the Thunder got as part of the Harden package falls between No. 4 and 14, OKC will get to add still another young, talented -- and, relatively, cheap -- player to its roster next season.

3) L.A. Lakers: This is going to be a work in progress all season. There's no reason to panic if the Lakers get off to a bad start, and until they have their starting lineup in place for a few weeks, you're not going to be able to adequately measure their progress.

4) San Antonio: Former Lakers and Hawks forward Josh Powell doesn't stick as the Spurs' 15th man.

5) Indiana: Actual unretouched photo of one Gerald Green, rimshaker.

6) Boston: As Doc Rivers noted this week, all the moves Danny Ainge made in the offseason to deepen the Celtics' rotation won't matter in the long run if Boston doesn't rebound better this season.

7) Memphis: Grizzle needs to make hay while the sun shines to start the season: nine of their first 14 are at FedEx Forum, including home games against Toronto, Cleveland and Detroit, with road games at Charlotte and Golden State.

8) L.A. Clippers: Grant Hill (bone bruise) on the shelf to start the regular season.

9) Dallas: Eddy Curry waived by Spurs, picked up by Mavericks, likely will see playing time with Dallas after injuries to Chris Kaman.

10) Denver: George Karl needs 25 victories to pass another former Tar Heel, Larry Brown, for seventh place on the NBA's all-time coaching victories list. Karl has 1,074 wins entering the start of this season.

11) Philadelphia: Sixers building another quality bench in preseason, with Dorell Wright, Nick Young (team high 15 ppg in exhibition games) standing out.

12) New York: Mike Woodson insists Amar'e Stoudemire will only be out 2-3 weeks, though tabloids suggest he'll be out longer.

13) Chicago: Still think Taj Gibson gets that extension before Wednesday's deadline.

15) Brooklyn: Nets insist that cortisone shot and days off for Deron Williams before the start of the regular season to rest his ankle is no big deal.


Who are those names in agate, and why do they keep trying?

The saddest place in the world is in the "Transactions" list that runs in every paper that's still kicking. Almost always, a person's sporting accomplishments are on the front page or on Page 3, there for much of the world to celebrate and admire. But on the agate page -- agate is a style of font used in printing -- there are man's defeats. Such was the case last Friday:

Utah Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey announced today that the team has waived forward Darnell Jackson and guard Chris Quinn. Following the moves, Utah's roster now stands at 15 players. Utah opens the regular season on October 31 at EnergySolutions Arena when the team will host the Dallas Mavericks at 7 p.m. (ROOT, 1280 AM/97.5 FM).

Jackson (6-9, 265, Kansas) appeared in six preseason games for Utah, averaging 1.7 points in 5.7 minutes per game. Quinn (6-2, 175, Notre Dame) played in five preseason contests, averaging 1.8 points and 1.4 assists in 6.0 minutes.

And that's all. Nothing else about Jackson or Quinn, or why they didn't make the team, or what they'll do next. They were just fired for the world to see, and we don't pay it any more mind than when we read our horoscope. I should avoid conflicts. Oh, and this guy just lost his livelihood and his ability to feed his family.

"I've been in this situation before," Quinn said over the phone Sunday afternoon. "The good thing is with a lot of years of experience, they know what I can do, that I can play in this league. You see stories like it all the time. All of a sudden a guy gets on a team and have a great year and they are doing real well for themselves."

This remains Quinn's dream. At 29, he must believe it's still possible to catch lightning in a bottle and stick, just as he did in Miami from 2006-09, when he had his best run as an NBA player after coming out of Notre Dame as an undrafted point guard.

Showtime in Utah

But the last cuts of training camp are the hardest. You've been with one team most of the summer, learning all of their terminology, and sets, and philosophies. You get used to playing with teammates. And then, at the last minute, you're released -- and at the worst possible time. Teams are getting ready for the season; unless there's an injury, they're not adding players, they're cutting them. There aren't any NBA jobs left.

But it was worth the gamble for Quinn.

"Just getting my name out there again, showing people when I got a chance that I could still play in the NBA," he said. "Utah's a first-class organization and I learned a lot from them."

So, for now, Quinn is back in his offseason home of Columbus, Ohio, doing drills and cardio work with a trainer to try to simulate NBA shape. But nothing can substitute for going up and down the floor, again and again, day after day.

Quinn's agent, Mark Bartlestein, works the phones to Europe and basketball leagues around the world and in the States.

"He's an NBA player, no question about it," Bartlestein said. "He proved it this preseason. If the right opportunity came over in Europe, he'd take a look at it."

Quinn's journey started six years ago, when Miami signed him after he went unselected in the 2006 Draft. Those Heat teams were between champions, playing after Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade's took Pat Riley's "Fifteen Strong" to the 2006 title and before LeBron's mission last season.

Quinn wasn't just a spare body then; he was part of the rotation, starting 25 games his second season, averaging 7.8 points per game in 22 minutes a night. He played in 66 total games that season, and 60 the next, when Miami went to the playoffs under Erik Spoelstra for the first time.

Chris Quinn started 25 games for the Heat in the 2007-08 season.

But after playing in 168 games for Miami, Quinn hasn't found a stable home.

"He's a good player," Lindsey said Sunday night. "I believe that he's a roster player in the right situation. You know how it is to line up all those dots with timing, team, coach. He's going to have to go through that process. But I think he's going to play in the NBA again, and hopefully this season."

Quinn, who played in New Jersey and San Antonio the next two seasons after leaving Miami, fell victim as so many did last season to the uncertainty created by the lockout. Not knowing how long the players would be locked out, Quinn went to Europe and signed with Khimki, a Moscow-based team. But he returned when his contract was up.

"I left at the end of August when the lockout was full speed ahead and there was talk of the season being lost," Quinn said. "It was a good experience. I'm not going to say there wasn't challenges but what was good for me was learning the culture. I got to play for a year. It was a situation where my minutes would fluctuate, but at least I knew I was going to get in and play. Sometimes in the NBA when you're a third point guard you may not play for 10 games and then you play a couple of games, and then your minutes really fluctuate."

He knew it was a long shot to make the Jazz's final roster. Utah was thick with point guards entering training camp, with Mo Williams, Earl Watson and Jamaal Tinsley all there, and Randy Foye being force-fed some minutes there by coach Tyrone Corbin to get him on the court more.

But, like quarterbacks in NFL training camps, you can never have enough point guards. Somebody has to take all of those reps with the ball. Like every other team, the Jazz have a list of players currently not on rosters; their assistant GM, Walt Perrin, helps put the training camp list together. They were straightforward with Quinn; they had a lot of people ahead of him, all of whom had guaranteed contracts, kryptonite to the camp invitee, who almost always doesn't have one of those.

"We don't try to sell anybody," Lindsey said. "We try to give them the facts as far as guarantees and opportunity. For me personally, it's just something I've learned, starting with Carroll [Dawson, the longtime Rockets general manager] and going through R.C. [Buford, the Spurs' president of sports franchises]. You don't sell anything. Because if you do, you have a credibility problem with the agents. I'd rather not overpromise and underdeliver and then have to backtrack any comments."

Knowing the odds, Quinn signed anyway. He lived in a nearby hotel and left all his stuff in Columbus, except what he could shove inside a couple of bags.

"I had a little bit of everything," he said. "When I got there it was 80 degrees and sunny, and by the time I left it was starting to snow. So I had everything from shorts to coats, suits, because of the dress code. I had everything I could get in there ... I took it a day at a time there and tried to show what I could do when I got the opportunity."

The minutes came sporadically -- 12 against Oklahoma City, then eight and six in consecutive games against the Lakers. Then, two minutes of mop-up time against the Clippers, and three minutes in his last game, against Portland. Five games, 31 minutes.

"He's still in shape," Lindsey said. "He's still got his speed. I really do believe he's a roster player and can help a club. When he played, he played good for us. For us, our run last year with Jamaal Tinsley, when Earl Watson went down, Jamaal took over. And his pure point ability and his vision helped us make a run last year and helped Ty get to the playoffs. A lot of times, incumbency will win."

It won in Salt Lake City. Last Thursday, Lindsey and Corbin sat Quinn down and told him he was released. He was on the next plane to Columbus with his two bags.

"We've all been told no, me included," Lindsey said. "That reality is hard to take."

Said Quinn: "They were very honest, straightforward. Those are two guys I have a great deal of respect for."

So, it's back to the gym for Quinn, and back to the phones for Bartlestein.

"You're talking to teams about him every day, making sure they know he's available, making sure they have the films of him in the preseason," Bartlestein said. "You've got to keep his name in their minds pretty much 24/7, so if there is an injury he's one of the guards they're thinking about."

This is the tough part of these kinds of stories, when you have to ask, gently, if they've considered what they will do when their playing days are over. Because it's not that Quinn can't play in the NBA, it's whether he'll get another chance to play in the NBA. There are only so many spots, and way too many guys who can fill them.

Yes, Quinn says, he's thought about what he might do with himself when he's finished. It's just that he doesn't think he's finished, and it's hard to imagine not playing when you think -- you know -- you can still play, and contribute, to a team. For now, though, he contemplates the next move. He's not hiding, avoiding people in town, as if he should be ashamed. He's a professional basketball player, between gigs.

. "There's ups and downs," he said. "But I've always kept a pretty straight head and kept my nose to the grind, whether things were going good or bad, and just kept working ... I'm lucky I get to spend some time with my family and friends, get to see people a little more. I have a pretty positive attitude about things. This is my seventh year and I've been blessed to play six years, get some things financially under my belt and be able to take care of my family."


I have made too much of color, Part I. From Karolis Jachimavičius:

You disappointed me, Mr. Aldridge. It is true that basketball was and still is stereotyped as a black man's game and mad white people did and still do stereotype black people and later are afraid to look them in the eye, but there were people with various skin tones who didn't or did buy tickets to the game.

"White America" is just like saying "Black people are criminals." And you advocate the affirmative action in coaching. Would you really take a player that is black and averages 10 points instead of a white guy and averages 20? Would you hire a black manager which can earn you $500,000 instead of a white one which can make $1 million? It'd be plainly stupid. Just because white people are dominating leading positions because of slavery and segregation, it doesn't mean everyone sees the struggling black guy as stupid. It's a problem of those narrow minded people. After all, do you want to be that black guy that gets pushed up front because of his skin? "Oh, we got a black guy for the show. He can't do (anything), stutters and mispells "dog" but, you know, he's black, we have to show we care, nevermind if we really do."

Celebrating the success of a black guy is like saying "Oh, she/he is human too!" Roy Hibbert wrote about this in his Twitter - "why is everyone applauding me when I say I graduated from a university?" It's nothing special for a white person, eh? It's nothing special for anyone born with a healthy brain.

Instead of praising the achievements of black or whatever community let's just praise the community of good will.

I am going to try and answer the point I think you're making, Karolis. One can hope for -- demand -- that there be diversity in the workplace for qualified people of color and women. It's not a zero-sum game in which making sure you have a workplace that tries to reflect the population means you're "settling" for something less. As I wrote, I am open to the notion that this is no longer a big deal in the NBA, given the league's success at making sure black head coaches get a chance to succeed or fail on their own merits -- and that they, now, are getting second and third chances to succeed or fail, just as white head coaches have gotten. I am not celebrating the success of black coaches; I am celebrating the opportunities they're getting to succeed -- or fail. It is something I noticed and wrote about, and I'm willing to acknowledge I may be more sensitive about these kinds of things than other writers. But, hey, it's my column, you know?

I have made too much of color, Part II. From Chuck Aguolu:

... I tend to agree with you on most basketball issues, and disagree with you on a select few, such as your Big Board drafts, [I thought Damian Lilliard was a much better prospect at the point than Kendall, and evidently Portland thought so too haha]. I also tend to agree with you on the "basketball related" social issues as well, such as bringing a team back to Seattle, your occasional analysis of other sports in your "I'm feeling/Not feeling," your heavy and well deserved denouncement of Sandusky [sorry, I hate to bring his name up here as well], your viewpoint on Armstrong's career, and the like. However, the social issue that I disagree with you on, and one that many would consider personal to me, is your continual emphasis on the advancement of black influence both in the sport of basketball and in the world.

Now, don't misunderstand me in what I am saying. I am a black student from California who recently moved to New York to go to college and major in finance here. The problem that I have with your emphasis on black influence stems not from dislike of the attention you put on the issue, but on the fact that the attention you put on the subject, in the country that we live in today, is unnecessary.

In my opinion, the rise of prominence in terms of black people is no longer something to look at and praise as a new innovation in our society today. Blacks in life today are now engrained into the fabric of our society so much so that I don't see any need to continually point out the rise and upward trend of employment in various sectors. If you walk around to various businesses and research the various levels of management in those said businesses, you will most likely than not find black people on all levels of management, and I doubt that they have a mindset of promoting black culture as they go up and about throughout their business and everyday life. Even in basketball, you said so yourself that you wonder whether it is worth recognizing the fact that the percentage of black head coaches in the NBA has shifted to being more black, rather than 50/50. Heck, even the president of the United States of America and the leader of the free world, one of the most powerful men on Earth is a black man, and he has opened a door for many other black aspiring individuals, such as myself to seek a position at that high of a level.

Furthermore, when someone like LeBron James does something such as form a company with his high school pals and the company succeeds [I'm not completely sure of the details here, so correct me if I'm wrong], I don't believe it is necessary to brand LeBron as someone that you "can not help but root for him" as you did with Royce White over a completely different issue {more on that later] because LeBron gave his black high school buddies jobs. I'm impressed and happy that LeBron cared enough for his friends in this way, but should it really matter whether they were black?

Do not get me wrong, I am aware that racism and the like still exists. Some people I have met in New York say that they are going to vote for Mitt Romney simply because he is white, and they aren't afraid to directly say it to me. However, aside from this, I don't believe that glorification of black prominence is needed to sort of "counteract" the racism that sadly still exists in our country today...

Chuck, you raise valid points, and thanks for the letter. However, as you noted later (sorry I couldn't include it all; even cyberspace has limits), you're younger than I am, and you didn't experience the kinds of things people in my generation did growing up -- and we had it way easier than my parents' generation! Your experiences shape your life, and if you've been fortunate enough not to have been subject to the kinds of things I and others have, that's great. That's the whole point of progress; things should be better for you. But sometimes, when you have a minute, look into the eyes of an elderly man or woman of color. There is, often, such sadness in those eyes, and that sadness comes from the experiences of their lives. Not all of those experiences had to do with their skin color, but many did. And that shapes their view of the world. And you have to respect that view, because it is theirs, just as your view is yours.

When is small too small? From Andy Ip:

As a Miami Heat fan, I am thrilled with the title last season and am equally excited for the team to win another one this year. The "small-ball" direction the offense is taking has the league buzzing, and rightfully so, but I have some concerns over this. It reminds me of the Orlando team from a few years back where the strategy was to surround Dwight with shooters and dare the defense to double him in the post. Everyone was praising the effectiveness of the offense and only when the team started struggling to knock down threes, did everyone become extremely critical of their "living/dying by the three" philosophy. I know LeBron is much more versatile offensively than Dwight and Miami has other shot-creating options in Wade and Bosh; but if the Heat are serious about adopting this as their "Plan A", will they be able to sustain it long-term/deep into the playoffs? Do my concerns have any legitimacy or am I just being picky with a talented offense?

You couldn't be any pickier with a salad fork, Andy. You have the best player on earth deciding what to do with the ball most every possession. As good as Dwight Howard is, he isn't nearly the player LeBron James is, nor did Orlando have anyone as good as Bosh or Wade on the floor with Howard. Miami's small ball is just different from everyone else's because the Heat's quarterback is Tom Brady/Peyton Manning/Drew Brees, and everybody else ... isn't.

Send your questions, comments, criticisms and brooms for the Bay Area -- can't say I saw that coming to If your e-mail is sufficiently funny, thought-provoking, interesting or snarky, we just might publish it!


1) Showtime! The regular season kicks off Tuesday, and you can bet that some time during the course of the next eight months, you'll see something you've never seen before. I'm confident of that because it's happened in each of the 25 seasons that I've been covering the league.

2) Smart call by the league to eliminate the center spot from All-Star ballots. As a former selector, I can tell you, there were years when it was very, very difficult to find enough good centers just to put on the ballot in each conference. Making an "all bigs" list makes a lot more sense.

3) Kevin Love and Larry Fitzgerald, two genuinely good dudes.

4) General Manager Sager and I are very pleased with our roster after last week's fantasy draft. The Custom Made Insiders (trademark pending) expect to contend for the! fantasy championship, and look forward to playing those chumps, The Famers. (CMI t-shirts being designed as we speak.)


1) Speaking of Lin, can we let him play, say, 15 games that actually matter for the Rockets before we decide he's an irretrievable bust?

2) Sorry to see Quentin Richardson got waived by Orlando over the weekend. QRich is an honest guy who's overcome a lot of personal tragedy over the years to have a solid NBA career. Hope there's a little left.

3) When Daniel Orton left Kentucky after his freshman year for the NBA Draft in 2010, a lot of personnel types thought he'd made a mistake, even though he wound up going to Orlando with the next to last pick in the first round. If he had played even just one more year, the scouts thought, he would have been a sure top-10 pick in the '11 Draft. Now, after not being tendered by the Magic, and waived by the Thunder over the weekend, you hope Orton -- still all of 22 -- can find a home where he can work on his game.

4) I can't say I knew Emanuel Steward personally; we both received awards a few years ago in Chicago from the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and had a nice conversation afterward. But I loved listening to him call fights for HBO. He was blunt and almost always right, just as he was during his very successful career as a trainer for Tommy Hearns, Lennox Lewis and other champion fighters. Watching him cuss out Lewis between rounds in Lewis' fight with Mike Tyson, telling him to stop messing around and knock Tyson out, was to watch someone who knew his business and knew it well. RIP.

5) That Brad Pitt perfume commercial? What the...?


$377,000,000 -- Final sales price, per sources, of the Memphis Grizzlies from former owner Michael Heisley to a group led by wireless technology entrepreneur Robert Pera. There had been questions about Pera's financial stake after his Ubiquiti Networks wireless equipment supply company reportedly lost tens of millions of dollars in value in recent months, but Pera bolstered his group -- which includes minority ownership stakes by Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, ex-NBA All-Star Penny Hardaway and former Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. -- with two substantial minority partners who each put up more than $25 million in cash, according to a source.

7 -- Percentage of the Sacramento Kings that will be sold, according to the Sacramento Bee. The share belongs to a minority owner, developer Bob Cook, who declared bankruptcy earlier this year.

1 -- Members of the Class of 2009 Draft that have received contract extensions as of Monday morning -- although James Harden will sign one before Wednesday's deadline with his new team, the Rockets. He'll join the Clippers' Blake Griffin as the only members of that class to get extensions if Denver's Ty Lawson and Chicago's Taj Gibson can't work out deals before then.


If I'm not what u lookin 4 ....That's fine...just dont kick me in my ass on the way out the door....I didn't do anything to deserve that.
-- Former Mavericks guard Delonte West (@CharleeRedz13), Friday, 11:25 a.m., after the team suspended him for a second time this month for conduct detrimental to the team. West insisted he was not suffering any effects from his bipolar disorder, but was unfairly blamed after two other teammates got in an argument he tried to break it up.


"What we're trying to build here, we're trying to build something special and we're trying to build it for the long haul, not a quick fix. With the draft picks that we have and some of the young players that we have in here and their work ethics, we think we're headed in the right direction."
-- Cavaliers coach Byron Scott, to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, after the team picked up his option for the 2013-14 season and didn't leave him in lame duck status for the upcoming season.

"They're telling me the pain can't do anything else to my knee. I'm going to have to play through the pain, but it hurts."
-- Pacers forward Danny Granger, after Friday's exhibition finale. That does not sound good at all.

"You'd think they want the youngest and best-looking, but it's not that way at all. They want experienced, well-spoken flight attendants with a professional attitude. Teams are afraid of the 23-year-old beauty queen. They think only bad things can happen.''
-- Bill Wernecke, director of Delta Airlines' charter department, on the specific types of flight attendants NBA teams want on their charter planes. According to The Wall Street Journal, Delta flies 21 of the league's 30 teams on one of its specially designed charters, featuring fewer seats that allow for greater leg room for taller humans, occasional big screen TVs for video games and postgame spreads from local restaurants.

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.