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David Aldridge

Contributions from Shane Battier (right) will be just as vital as those from LeBron James this season.

New faces aside, Miami's repeat hopes lie in its defense


Posted Nov 19, 2012 3:10 PM

It is one thing to battle history. It is another to battle physics.

Shane Battier is listed at 6-foot-8, 225 pounds, but he looks a little thinner than that. Kenneth Faried is listed at 6-foot-8, 228, but plays a half-foot and 20 pounds bigger. And there is no doubting the calendar: Battier is already 34, while Faried turns 23 today.

At any rate, Battier's assignment was to keep Faried off the glass last Thursday -- a tall order, given that Faried is top 10 overall in rebounding and leads the NBA in offensive boards. Banging bodies underneath is not Battier's normal assignment. His milieu for more than a decade has been sheer annoyance on the perimeter, keeping wing players from their sweet spots, contesting jumpers late. But here he was, trying to box out a perpetual motion machine with dreads.

Mostly, Battier failed at that task; Faried wound up with 20 boards, 11 on the offensive glass, and the Nuggets pounded Miami on the glass, 48-29. But the Heat won the game, for the first time in more than a decade in Denver -- in no small part because Battier scored all 18 of his points on six 3-pointers.

Ying, meet yang.

The Heat's hopes of a repeat lie with the very lineup that got them their title last June -- the small one that has Battier playing power forward, with LeBron James at the three and Chris Bosh at center. It was the culmination of Erik Spoelstra's season-long quest to play fast at both ends, with his most athletic lineup on the floor against the Celtics and Thunder.

And it obviously worked. But that was just for a month, with days off in between for rest. Now, Miami is trying to carry it out for a full season. And the Heat's major offseason acquisitions, Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, aren't going to be much help defending the paint; they're having enough trouble getting out to open 3-point shooters. Which leaves Battier swapping paint with bigger, younger power forwards.

Will he be a skid mark by next spring?

"We'll see. We'll see," Battier said with a laugh. "The thing about it is, it's taxing physically. But I just have to be smart about it. I'm not asked to grab 10 rebounds. I just block out. Blocking out's tough when you have to block out a guy like Faried. But I look at it as an unbelievable challenge for me. I've been counted out a lot in my life, and in my career. And I've always met the challenge. I just look at it as a new challenge, a new chapter for my book. I look forward to overcoming it."

Chris Bosh's new role and Dwyane Wade's injuries haven't slowed Miami too much thus far.

Miami isn't anywhere close to the defensive force it was in the 2012 playoffs. That burst of excellence came after a regular season in which the Heat was fifth-worst in the league in 3-point percentage allowed (36.3 percent). But in the playoffs, going almost exclusively to a smaller lineup, that number dropped dramatically to 30 percent.

During the first month of this season, Miami's dropped back again -- the Heat's currently fourth-worst in 3-point percentage allowed, at better than 37 percent. But, just as last Thursday, Miami's winning -- sometimes without Wade, who missed the last two games of the road trip with a sore left foot.

That's left Spoelstra to play Mike Miller at shooting guard, with Allen coming in off the bench. Defending twos has been a problem for Miami no matter who plays there, including Wade. (He says his left knee, scoped in the offseason, is fine.)

"Probably the biggest adjustment is, when you're going from one team to the next, you have instincts," Allen said. "You understand the schemes, you understand the calls. So when you're playing with a team, there's something that happens and you make the call. You just do it instinctively. And now in this situation, my instincts kind of fool me a little bit sometimes. Because I know what I want to do, what I've been doing over the past. So I kind of have to reprogram my mind to do how they do it under Coach Spoelstra. Sometimes I catch myself, and I'm thinking a little bit more than I'd like to. It hasn't become instinctive yet."

As Allen puts it, compared to where he played the last few seasons in Boston, Miami's defense has more moving parts. Kevin Garnett wasn't blitzing 1-4 pick-and-rolls very often.

"In Boston, more you just rely more on the bigs to be in certain positions," he said. "We try to keep those bigs right there. But the guards, everybody has the responsibility to crack back on the big in rebounding, or get into the paint. So it's more of a moving defense than we were in Boston."

Meanwhile, Battier wages nightly battles inside, leaving James to handle the opposition's top perimeter wing.

"Shane is a great defender, but it's a different position he has to defend," Bosh said. "There are different spots. We're getting used to it. At the beginning of the season, you know how it is -- guys are just really worked up to play us. You have a huge road trip early. You have to just stay steady and calmly focus on how to get better. We are small, but we're one of the best teams in the league. We're the defending champs. And we carry that with us every day."

It helps to still have James, who is deadlier than ever. Funny how no one kills him anymore for passing in the clutch, as he did on Allen's four-point play to beat the Nuggets in Miami, or on the key 3-pointer by Norris Cole in the last minute to preserve a season-series sweep of Denver (after the Nuggets had erased almost all of an 18-point third-quarter deficit).

"We've been to the mountaintop with each other," Bosh said. "In order to get back there, we're going to have to trust each other. Coach is going to have to trust guys to play their minutes well, and if somebody's open, if you start thinking about it, that's when things don't go right. You can't think in this game. You have to just go out and play."

Miami's offense has been outstanding with Allen and Lewis aboard. The Heat leads the league in offensive efficiency, averaging a league-high 110.2 points per 100 possessions. Miami also leads in effective field goal percentage (55.2 percent) and is second in true shooting percentage (58.6 percent). The spacing, the open shooters—it's everything Miami banked on.

The Heat have played three-guard sets often so far, with Mario Chalmers, Wade and Allen on the floor in key moments, such as the first game against Denver. Miami was down one when James drew the defense to him and hit Allen in the corner. As Allen points out, the reason the play worked was because James had just driven the paint for a layup the play before.

"And the whole coaching staff was like, 'you can't let him come down the lane!' " Allen said. " 'You have to sink in and make sure he doesn't beat you one on one. If you foul him, he's going to get to the free throw line.' So you keep hammering your guys, you've got to contribute two guys on the ball. You see it on TV when the analysts say, this guy has to sink in. And for me, when I see that sink in, I'm gone, the minute you turn your head. It was just that natural progression of the way that play worked."

Bosh, whom everyone now understands is crucial to the Heat's hopes, is shooting what would be a career-best 55 percent from the floor. The fact that Miami is playing small doesn't mean it needs no contributions from any big man. Bosh has come full circle on his issues about playing center; he knows he's going to be in the middle, and he believes the Heat can win with what they put out there every night.

"If we were concerned, we would be our own worst enemy," he said. "You can't really be concerned about it. It's something we don't even think about. We just play the game. The rest of the season might not come. We just have to focus on the next game, the next day. We have a tough bunch of guys. We're focusing on how to improve with that lineup every single day. As long as we concentrate on that, we'll be okay."

What Miami wasn't as sure about was Lewis being able to play so soon this season after undergoing offseason treatments on his left knee. The procedure, known as OssaTron, got some life back into a knee that had ground to a halt in one-plus forgettable seasons in Washington. As a Wizard, Lewis looked like a shell of the player that had been effective playing off of Dwight Howard in Orlando.

Spoelstra thought it would be months before Lewis could make a contribution. But he got through training camp with next to no problems, and came out of the gate shooting better than 52 percent. He's on a stretching program, concentrating on strengthening his hips, throughout the year.

"It's actually a six-month process," Lewis said. "When I came to Miami, when we talked to them during free agency and signed with them, they said they had this procedure they could do that could help me."

With the Southeast Division the worst in basketball, Miami may clinch the division by the All-Star break. But there are some actual good teams out there, and Miami will have to beat some of them to repeat. After bad road losses in New York and Memphis and a late falter against the Clippers in L.A., Denver's thin air appeared to do them some good.

"We've been frustrated on the road against good teams this year, no question about it," Battier said. "We wanted to play well in statement games, and we haven't put it together. It's been a little frustrating. We know what we're capable of doing when we really focus and play hard."

It's nothing new for Miami to start slow (you do remember 9-8, the sky is falling, Spo Must Go from two seasons ago, right?), only to right itself with season-defining wins. It was the blast furnace pressure of LeBron's return to Cleveland in December of '11 that sent the Heat on a 32-8 streak (including the 118-90 beatdown of the Cavs), and last February, Miami won three games in three nights in three cities -- Atlanta, Milwaukee and Indiana.

Beating the Nuggets in Denver without Wade in a fourth game in five nights may be a similar tonic. Or, maybe, it's just a game in November.

"It shows you and reveals your team's character, and yes, you do need that from time to time," Spoelstra said. "We have been tested. But to be tested in a close game, all the tension, the good and bad, yelling at each other, all that stuff, it makes you feel alive."

In the meantime, Spoelstra is trying to limit everyone's minutes. James is the only player logging more than 36 minutes a night, and he's playing a minute less per game than he did last season. Only three players -- the Big Three -- are averaging more than 30.

There are months to rebuild the defensive confidence that Miami had against OKC. The Heat has some bigger options to go with against bigger teams, like Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony, who started most of last season at center.

The Heat could lose to Boston or a rejuvenated Chicago or Indy down the road, and New York would love another crack at Miami in the playoffs. But the Heat insists it won't be itself with complacency.

"I think we have pretty good perspective as a team, a lot of veterans," Battier said. "We know better. We know better. We know it's a grind, so last year was such a sprint. There wasn't really time to have perspective. But this year, we know we need to gradually build toward the end of the season. That said, we don't want to drop games while we're building. We want to continue to grow and build."

Bosh expects more bumps in the road.

"Just because we're the champs doesn't mean we can have everything easy, that everything's going to be peachy right off the bat. That's unrealistic," Bosh said. "All we focus on is our mistakes, correcting our mistakes, and really just moving forward. When you start getting frustrated, pointing fingers at each other, ranting and raving to the media, that's when the snowball effect goes and that's when it just gets bigger. We know what we have in this locker room. We just have to concentrate on everybody, and keep it in here, and everything will take care of itself.

TOP O' THE WORLD, MA!

(Last week's record in parenthesis; last week's ranking in brackets)

1) Memphis (3-0) [4]: Grizz have won 15 straight at FedEx Forum after taking the Knicks apart in the second half Friday night.

2) Oklahoma City (3-1) [2]: First career triple-double for KD on Sunday night (25, 13, 10 assists, just two turnovers) in the Thunder's win over Golden State.

3) Miami (3-1) [5]: Heat end road trip 4-2; now play 12 of next 14 at American Airlines Arena.

4) N.Y Knicks (3-1) [1]: Jason Kidd still amazing people around the league -- not with his stats, but with his leadership and his ability to get players to do more than they've done in the past.

5) San Antonio (2-1) [3]: Ginobili rounding into form, but Spurs lose Kawhi Leonard for two weeks with quadriceps tendinitis.

6) L.A. Clippers (2-0) [7]: Outside of Memphis, there may not be a team playing better in the West.

7) Brooklyn (3-0) [15]: Sometimes, stats are contradictory: Nets are DFL in the league in pace (number of possessions per game), at 91.6, but they're top 10 in the league in offensive efficiency (104.9 points).

8) Milwaukee (3-0) [NR]: The Larry Sanders Show (9 points, 8 boards, 2.4 blocks per game for the 2011 first-round pick -- and, this season, the starting center) now airing in prime time for the surprising Bucks.

9) Boston (3-2) [8]: Celtics still look one quality rebound-snarfing big man short.

10) L.A. Lakers (2-1) [9]: That is going to be one crowded bench at Staples with all the new and carryover assistant coaches on staff.

11) Philadelphia (2-2) [6]: Andrew Bynum acknowledges truth of ESPN.com report over the weekend that his setback to his knee came after he went bowling. Geeeesh.

12) Dallas (2-2) [12]: Mavericks have to figure out why they've been wilting in the second halves of games of late.

13) Chicago (1-3) [10]: Circus Trip a little shorter this season than usual, but Bulls off to usual rough start on it after consecutive losses to Clippers and Blazers over the weekend.

14) Portland (3-1) [NR]: I wish Dr. Jack Ramsay were doing the Trail Blazers' games this season, just so he could keep screaming "Lillard!" "Leonard!" "Lillard!" "Leonard!" all year when Damian Lillard hits a three or Meyers Leonard gets a fast-break dunk.

15) Minnesota (1-2) [13]: Wolves, down to eight useful players, sign veteran Josh Howard last week -- nine years after they could have taken him at the end of the first round of the 2003 Draft instead of ... um ... Ndudi Ebi.

Dropped Out: Atlanta, Denver

TEAM OF THE WEEK

Memphis (3-0): A big week for the Grizz, with wins over Miami, Oklahoma City and the Knicks before beating Charlotte on Saturday. Marc Gasol may be playing the best of his career, and he could be the best center in the game right now.

TEAM OF THE WEAK

Washington (0-3): Really, what's left to say? This is a team going nowhere, with a future no one can see. Presidents come and go, coaches are hired and fired, players are shuttled in and out of the lineup, and it doesn't matter. The Wizards continue to stink, year after ridiculous year.

NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT ...

How does one sum up the Eggman?

My friend Ed Tapscott has this saying: basketball is a culture. It is the truest thing you can know about the game. The culture is wrapped up in the simple love we all have -- even those of us who couldn't play a lick -- for the 94x50, and the people who play in that space, who coach in it and who reveal the truths about a person's character when they honor the sport by playing hard, and smart, and with character.

The Eggman was the epitome of that culture.

Kenny Williamson, whom everyone in basketball knew as "Eggman," died last week, after a year-long battle with cancer. His death was not unexpected, though he had been fighting the disease bravely and trying to continue his work as assistant general manager of the Grizzlies. But it was nonetheless jarring to anyone who knew him at all, who'd ever walked into a gym and run into him, a big smile and hug soon to follow, followed by storytelling that left you laughing. I cannot tell you how many times I got next to nothing done at the Chicago Pre-Draft camp because I ran into Eggman, sitting in the bleachers, and there went a morning when I should have been chasing down trade rumors.

The morning went happily.

I wanted to write about Eggman because the juxtaposition of his death, coming the same week the Lakers completed their dalliance with Phil Jackson, was striking to me. Phil Jackson is certainly a towering figure in basketball, at the top of the coaching tree, only challenged by Red Auerbach in terms of impact on the teams he coached. He has earned all the attention he receives, and his potential return to the Lakers certain was newsworthy.

But the Eggman's death touched more folks in the hoops community.

Eggman grew up in Harlem, which is where he got the name. There was a guy in the neighborhood who would go to upstate New York and buy eggs, and he would put them in a cart and walk up and down the street yelling 'egg man!' And people would buy the eggs. The story goes that one day Kenny Williamson was going to the store and took a cart with him, and his friends said 'you look just like the egg man!' And a legend was born.

Former scout Kenny 'Eggman' Williamson left an indelible mark around the NBA.

He played at Delaware and graduated from CCNY before serving in Vietnam. After returning from the war he got into coaching, starting at Columbia and coaching AAU teams in New York. Then he went to Iona, where he was the top recruiter for Jim Valvano, before going to Florida State with Pat Kennedy, Louisville with Denny Crum, Seton Hall with George Blaney, and to St. John's. That was only the preamble to his pro career which started with the Knicks -- Tapscott and Ernie Grunfeld brought him home in the 1990s -- followed by stints in Charlotte with the Bobcats and his final stop in Memphis.

He was a scout, but he was much more a judge of people than of basketball, though he obviously knew the game inside and out. Eggman never big-timed anybody, never asked for or expected anything from you. He knew everyone. And everyone who knew him ... well, let them tell you.

Walt Perrin (Vice President of Player Personnel, Utah Jazz): He was my travel partner for 12 of the 15 years he was in the league. We were the modern day version of Dickie (McGuire) and Will Robinson. If you saw one, you saw the other. The stories about him on the road are legendary. Being on the road with him, because we did so much travel, being on the road you try not to have as many distractions or interruptions as possible. If we did have them...

He was very impatient with people that could not understand the obvious. And he would let them know that in his own certain way. The reason we got along so well and we were able to travel so well, I think I was more of a calming effect on him. Sometimes it doesn't happen as promised.

Ed Tapscott (Director of Player Programs, Washington Wizards): We're on the Concorde. Some French dude tries to walk in the line in front of us. And Kenny starts cussing at him. And I'm telling him, 'Kenny, he's French. He doesn't understand you.' He says 'Tap, this (expletive) knows what 'get the (bleep) in the back of the line means.' I'm like 'Kenny, calm down.' Then, two American dudes tried to cut ahead of us when there was a gap in the line. He looked at them and said, 'Hey, y'all know better than to (bleep) with me.' And we walked onto the Concorde like we were rich dudes, too.

David Pendergraft (Vice President, Pro Scouting, Toronto Raptors): Eggy was the master manipulator. He was the master manipulator. Like I've been around in my 35 years, whether it was college or pros, there's two guys that are master manipulators. [Kentucky coach] John Calipari was one. He could make you do (things) you would never do. And Eggy was the other.

One time -- it was last year -- he told me. He didn't ask me, he told me, 'we're going to go to the Big Smoke in Vegas." I said 'that's great, when is it?' He said something like Saturday, Nov. 11. I said 'great, I'll bring my wife and you bring yours.' He said 'no, this is what we're going to do.' He left from Memphis and I left from Atlanta and we met in Vegas at 10:30 in the morning. We had reservations at the Fairfield Inn, which is a small hotel in the Marriott chain. And I'll never forget giving our credentials. We're platinum, which is a big deal at the Marriott. And they're like 'what are you doing staying at the Fairfield?' And they gave us suites. The Big Smoke was at 7 at night. We got there at 10:30 in the morning and we couldn't get in our rooms and we went to the pool.

Now, I'm smoked out by the time the Big Smoke happens. We go to the Big Smoke and we go to Tao for dinner. We took the redeye home. So I got to Vegas at 10:30 in the morning and left at 1 at night. And Eggy could make a 56- year old man do that.

Sam Cassell (Assistant coach, Washington Wizards; recruited to Florida State by Williamson): I was playing at a junior college, San Jacinto. He came down there and our coach at the time had what he called talking time, a talk period where D-1 coaches could talk to you. Eggman came down and coach told him, '15 minutes, Kenny.' He said, 'boy, you can come to Florida State.' I didn't know anything about Florida State basketball. You couldn't tell me what conference they was in. But he said 'you coming to Florida State. I've got a situation that's perfect for you.'

I said, 'if I do come to Florida State, what would be my role?' He said, 'how many points do you score now?' I said about 22, 23 a game. And he said 'I want you to try average 22 points at Florida State. And we're moving to the ACC next year. And you can play on Tobacco Road for eight games.' That did it for me. I didn't tell him that, but that did it.

Jim Valvano (from the late coach's autobiography): More than anything, the Egg Man showed me how different recruiting in the black community had to be. 'Don't tell them what it's like for a black kid at Iona,' Eggy said, 'because, man, you don't know. That's presumptuous for a white guy to tell anybody that.' If I hadn't thought much about it before, I sure did then.

Allan Houston (assistant general manager, New York Knicks): It's really hard to find authentic people. I don't care if it's a teammate, a coach. It's really hard to find authentic people that don't have a motive. Eggman was a part of my family before I even thought about being in the NBA. My dad (longtime coach Wade Houston), Tap, Leonard Hamilton, all of them, they all hung out together, before black folks were getting head coaching jobs, and they were recruiting at Louisville and Florida State. When he was between coaching jobs he actually stayed at our house when I was little. I would always hear stories about how Egg would call. He had a whole wealth of knowledge that he would share, and it was freely given.

Rodney Dobard (former player, Florida State): Egg got there my second year at Florida State. He took me in right away as a father figure. I met him and his wife at the time, and they treated me like one of their sons. When I got out of line, his role was the father figure role, as far as disciplinarian, making sure I was doing what I was supposed to do on and off the court.

Tapscott: When Eggman was at Florida State they had a practice one day and he told Doug Edwards if he didn't listen he was gonna kick his ass. Doug said 'I'll whip your ass, old man.' Eggman said 'I'll be here tomorrow, and you better bring your piece, 'cause I'm bringing mine, and I'm gonna shoot you in the ass.' The next day, Eggman brought his gun. He said to Doug, 'how about this 'old man?'' Pulled out the snub nose and ran Doug out of the arena.

Cassell: Doug's nickname at Florida State was Funky Fresh. He said 'Funky Fresh comes in here today, I got something for his ass today.' I died laughing. He said 'you see how big Doug is? I'm an old man. I ain't putting up with that (bleep).' At that time he was about 45, 48.

Dobard: It was me and Egg and three other guys in the car. We didn't have CDs back then; we had a tape player at the time. It was a rap song and I'm just reciting the lyrics. And he turned the sound down. And I was like, 'coach, what are you doing?' He said, 'you can remember all the words to these songs. But when it comes to remembering the plays, and the stuff you can make money off of, you can't tell me a damn thing!'

Cassell: He was the essence of a good-hearted man. If you needed an answer, he'd seek it for you. He would tell me, 'Sam, you can play. But whatever you put into this game, you'll get out of this game. If you cheat this game, this game will (bleep) you more than anything you could ever think of you.' He was brutally honest ... that man taught me a lot about life, how to treat people. He'd say, 'you don't have to be an (expletive) all the time in your life.'

Perrin: He would not eat rice anywhere. White rice or any kind of rice when we'd go out. I said 'why don't you like rice?' He said 'I ate so much rice when I was in the service, I just do not want to see it anymore.'

Lionel Hollins (coach, Grizzlies): Before Egg even came to the team I was working for Adidas. I took a team to Germany for the Albert Schweitzer games. Before I could say hello to him, everybody in the gym was saying hello to him, and he was talking loud like he always does. We were in Germany, and everybody knew Eggman! Before we even got over there people were asking, 'is Eggman coming?'

Pendergraft: Last year we threw a surprise party for him. And it was a surprise party, a reunion, a revival. It was the craziest thing you've ever seen. And then when he had brain surgery, Walt Perrin and I went to visit him. Eggy's out of the hospital and he's getting his stiches out. Walt flew from wherever he lives, and I flew from Atlanta.

I'm at Eggy's house, his apartment. I'm knocking on the door -- I'm banging on the door. No one answers. And we've already talked to Eggy when we landed to get directions. So I call Eggy's number and I said 'Eggy, I thought your mom and dad was at your house.' His mom is like 90, and sharp as a tack. He said 'they are.' I say, 'aren't they at Door number 4?' He said, 'they are.' 'Well, I'm knocking on the door.' He says, 'well, knock louder, (expletive)!' I looked at Walt and said 'Eggy's okay.'

Frank Ross (college scout, Oklahoma City Thunder): We're interviewing [now-Hawks forward] Josh Smith (for the Bobcats, before the 2004 Draft) and Egg had gone to see him play. When he came in and sat down, Egg said 'look, I've seen you play. We play 82 games in our schedule. Based on the energy I've seen you give on the floor, our coach is going to have to give you a highlighter and a schedule, so you can highlight the games you're going to play.'

Hollins: He would tell (potential draftees), 'I already know the answers. I just want to hear you tell me. What about that incident when you got suspended from the squad? Tell me the real story.' Eggy knew every agent, knew everybody on the street. He knew where to get answers. He was on top of everything. He would ask guys, 'are you married?' 'Uh, no.' 'Do you have a girlfriend?' 'No.' 'Do you have a friend with benefits?' 'What does that mean?' 'You don't know what a friend with benefits means?' The guys didn't know how to take it. But they would open up and tell him what he needed to know.

Ross: Bernard Robinson and Keith Bogans, they was acting up and not playing right. Egg had dinner with them and said 'this is gonna be Biblical tonight. Either it's gonna be a new beginning, or it's gonna be the Last Supper.' Needless to say it was a new beginning for Keith Bogans, 'cause he's still in the league. But it was the Last Supper for B Rob.

Perrin: As a lot of people said (at a memorial service for Williamson Saturday in Memphis), he was a man's man. You didn't have to worry about where you stood with Egg. If he liked you, he liked you. If he didn't, you would know. He would ask about family. If he didn't see you for a year, he'd still ask about your family and remember their names. He could have conversations with CEOs all the way down to custodians.

Hollins: He was always in my corner. I interviewed for the job in Charlotte, and Egg was like, 'I don't know what MJ was thinking! You had the best damn interview of anybody who was there.'

Ross: Egg was scouting at the McDonald's All-American game, and I think this time it was in San Diego. Egg is sitting a row behind Robert Sarver. Right in front of Egg was one of Sarver's kids, and he kept leaning back in his chair, and the chair kept hitting Egg's knees. Egg tried to turn his legs but that didn't work. Finally Egg looked at Sarver and said 'this ain't gonna work.' Sarver said 'yeah, it's kinda tight in here.' Egg said 'being tight ain't got nothing to do with it.' Now Sarver says 'hey, you're invading my privacy, too.' And Egg takes the cushion off of the armrest and points it right at Sarver and says 'look, this is about to go to a level you don't want to go to.'

At halftime, Sarver sees Egg talking with Dave Griffin (then the assistant GM in Phoenix; now the assistant GM in Cleveland). Sarver walks up to Griff afterward and says, 'that guy you were just talking to; who does he work with?' He says, 'he works with Charlotte.' Then Sarver walks up to Egg and extends his hand. Egg thinks he's going to apologize. Sarver shakes his hand and says, 'I'll be sure to tell Bob (Johnson, then the owner of the Bobcats) about your behavior at the next owner's meeting.' Egg pulls him in close and says 'I don't give a (bleep) what you tell Bob; just make sure you get my name right. It's Kenny Williamson.' Later he calls Tap and says 'look, I may have just lost my job.'

Cassell: One time I jumped off on somebody, the equipment manager or someone. Egg saw me and 'don't you ever let me catch you doing that again.' And he was right.

Perrin: He seemed to know almost everybody. If he didn't know them, he got to know them. So I got to meet a lot of people that I did not know because he knew them. And because I was traveling with him, his friends became my friends. And my friends became his friends.

Pendergraft: At the service, I said he was a thief. He would take your friends and they'd become his friends.

Perrin: He did things here in Memphis with the schools, which I know he probably did when he was in New York and with Charlotte. He would talk with the kids at school, have a little contest, always give them a few tickets to the game. The kids always looked forward to him coming, and that was never talked about. In the obituary it said you could send flowers. In lieu of flowers, send money to a food bank in Memphis. I know he was giving money yearly to this food bank. A lot of this stuff never gets mentioned. He would talk to all of the people in the arena, from the custodians to the ticket takers, and it was kind of an encouraging talk to them to get them ready for the year. How many people know that?

Hollins: He told the doctors, 'I don't want no BS. If you can cure me, cure me. If you can't, I'll live it out.' That told me that Eggman definitely believed in God. He's definitely in a better place than we are here on earth.

Houston: He went through a stage where he was just back watching Kentucky practicing. He will be someone whose presence will never be replaced. You just don't find people like Egg. You just don't. His thing was, I'm here to love and help. And everything else comes after that. He received so much love because he gave it.

Cassell: Even when he was sick, I would call him and he'd hit me right back. I would say, 'Egg, are you still smoking them cigars? He'd said 'hey! Don't be living my life.'

Dobard: I saw him a few months ago. We talked. It was great seeing him. And he was still the same. He would say 'don't worry about me; how you doing?' And he still had that family mentality. He told me I was more than welcome to come to Memphis any time, for any game, and don't worry about anything.

Perrin: At the service, they asked everybody to hold their comments to three minutes. And one of the guys got up and said, 'how could you do three minutes on Eggman? We could be here three days.'

Pendergraft: Jim Maloney (the late, longtime assistant at Temple) used to have a saying when somebody died: 'give 'em two weeks, and everybody will forget.' I was telling Walt yesterday, 'this is one that Jim Maloney's saying ain't gonna stand up to. 'Cause nobody's ever gonna forget Eggman.

Hundreds of mourners attended Eggman's funeral in Memphis on Saturday. There are also tentative plans for a public memorial to be held to honor Eggman in New York on Dec. 1.

... AND NOBODY ASKED YOU, EITHER

I was gratified to receive a lot of e-mails on my story on Keyon Dooling. So many people have to deal with both sexual abuse and/or PTSD; as Keyon said, there's a lot of pain out there that has not yet been addressed. And, people who work in this field had some helpful suggestions and/or corrections.

From Cathy Oswego:

You will probably get 1,000 of these emails, but I want to thank you for your article. As a childhood sexual abuse survivor, it's comforting to see more folks who can make a positive difference share their stories. I'm also thankful for how you addressed Mr. Dooling's PTSD. It's such a difficult condition to articulate because symptoms vary from person to person, and frequently those of us who suffer from it have a hard time even knowing how to describe how it effects us. So, thank you for such a well written piece and thank you to Mr. Dooling for his strength and courage in giving a voice to what so many of us live with everyday.

From Dr. Matthew Sacks:

The stigma surrounding mental health in professional athletes will continue to diminish only through the words of people like Keyon and through solid reporting like your own. One minor piece of feedback re: your article is where you mention paranoia as a 'primary' symptom of PTSD. This is not accurate; I assume what you were referring to is what we call 'hypervigilence', which is one of many possible symptoms of PTSD. Paranoia is a term usually reserved for individuals suffering from a psychotic disorder, not an anxiety disorder like PTSD.

From Matthew Conetta:

Thank you for writing about Keyon Dooling's mental health problems recently. It helps break the stigma of mental illness so others may be more likely to seek help.

You used the word "asylum" and I wanted to let you know that that word is outdated. Asylums have largely been closed. They suggest a very negative, punitive environment. While I would not suggest psychiatric hospitals are the most pleasant of places, using the term "psychiatric hospital" or "inpatient psychiatric facility" would be much more appropriate. I realize, it's a semantic matter but it is important for those of us who work in the field and especially for those who suffer from mental illness.

From Noah Guthartz:

Your column this week is excellent as always, and Mr. Dooling's story in particular touched me. I have been in a similar position as his wife, friends, and colleagues ... that of having to visit a loved one in a mental institution. Dealing with the mental illness of an extremely close friend remains one of the most indelible experiences I have ever had ... and I salute Dooling and his family on being so open about it. Mental illness is an issue that has likely touched many of our lives to one degree or another, yet it is still a bit taboo, or at the very least merely whispered about with euphemisms like 'exhaustion'.

One problem with being an NBA player is that they are made out to be larger than life, when we all know nobody is. We quickly forget this when we hear about 'headcases' like Delonte West, and even those not explicitly connected with mental illness, like DeMarcus Cousins or Gilbert Arenas. This is not to excuse any player's actions, but I think we need to remember these are people, and with human beings the truth is rarely black and white or easily broken down to terms like 'headcase' or 'lack of maturity'.

I am glad to see the Cs have made a space for Dooling to remain productive and do some good. I know the league has made helping rookies' adjustment to the 'NBA lifestyle' a priority in recent years, but perhaps more 'player development' of the sort Dooling will now be pursuing would be good to go hand in hand with the more traditional Xs and Os and strength/conditioning 'player development'.

Thank you all, and the others who wrote, for sharing your experiences.

Just in case you're wondering, D'Antoni has a size 8.5 ring finger. From Mindaugas Jancis:

Just read your Morning Tip and thought, having Lakers situation in mind, is there a team in NBA history that has won the championship after changing the coach during the season?

Does the name Patrick James Riley ring a bell, Mindaugas? Riles won his fifth title as a coach in 2006 for the Heat after taking over for Stan Van Gundy 21 games into the 2005-06 season. Miami then went on to the 4-2 upset of the Mavericks in the Finals. That is the only time, as far as I know, that a team has made a coaching change during the season and gone on to win the championship. The Sonics went to the Finals in '78 with Lenny Wilkens, who took over for Bob Hopkins 22 games into the '77-'78 season. But Seattle lost to Washington in the championship series in seven games.

Send your questions, comments, criticisms and...oh, just insert your own General Petraeus joke here to daldridgetnt@gmail.com. If your e-mail is sufficiently funny, thought-provoking, interesting or snarky, we just might publish it!

MVP WATCH

(Weekly average in parenthesis)

1) LeBron James (29 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 7 apg, .489 FG, .667 FT): Played through a cold Saturday to end the Heat's road trip with 20 points in a win over Phoenix.

2) Kevin Durant (28 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 5.8 apg, .521 FG, .938 FT): Thunder experimenting with KG-like rest patterns for Durant, pulling him out earlier in the first quarter and bringing him back in to play with the reserves in the second.

3) Carmelo Anthony (20 ppg, 8 rpg, 1.5 apg, .429 FG, .850 FT): 'Melo insists he and D'Antoni had a good relationship in New York. Similarly, I had a great relationship with the woman who knocked the side mirror off of my car when she had an "episode" behind the wheel.

4) Rajon Rondo (8.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 10 apg, .583 FG, .000 FT): Extended his consecutive games streak with at least 10 assists to 34 Sunday night in Boston's loss to the Pistons -- though it may have been a little fishy in the final minutes.

5) Kobe Bryant (27 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 8.3 apg, .608 FG, .833 FT): Posted his 18th career triple-double (22 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists) in Sunday's home win over the Rockets.

BY THE NUMBERS

$5,000,000,000 -- Estimated revenues the NBA expects to produce this season, according to NBA Commissioner David Stern, who made his prediction at a meeting of Beyond Sport United in New York last week. That would represent a 20 percent increase in revenue from the last full season, 2010-11, before last year's lockout.

1,700,000 -- DirecTV customers in Southern California who finally were able to see Laker games as of last week when the satellite company finally reached agreement with the team's broadcaster, Time Warner Cable SportsNet to show games on the system. DirecTV was the largest provider remaining who had missed the team's first two weeks of the season while working out a deal with TWCSports Net, which spent somewhere between $2 and $4 billion over 20 years to launch two Lakers-centric sports channels.

$625 -- Estimated price of Yao Ming 2009 Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, which the retired star is going to begin selling in limited quantities in the United States with other wines from his collection.

I'M FEELIN' ...

1) Memphis, you've got a terrific basketball team this season. If you ever were going to be "all-in" on a team and pay the two (hundred? Thousand?) dollars for tickets, this is the year.

2) D'Antoni is going to do a very, very good job in Los Angeles. But the Lakers' title hopes won't have anything to do with coaching; they'll rest on how soon Dwight Howard gets back near 100 percent this season ... and how he shoots free throws in the playoffs. Really, in that sense, nothing's changed from when Mike Brown coached the team.

3) A great read on how the best play-by-play man in the history of the NBA got his start.

4) I'm thinking of a team. A team that has taken on three comers in the NBA TV Fantasy League, and has stomped each one of those three teams, and currently stands alone in first place with a 3-0 record -- undefeated and undisputed. As General Zod said in "Superman II," 'is there no one who will even challenge me?' (And Sager?) Kneel before the Custom Made Insiders!

5) "Lincoln." Go. There isn't a scenery-chewing scene to be found, and Daniel Day-Lewis is incredible as the 16th president.

6) Last week, my Twitter follower count passed the 200,000 mark. I continue to be amazed by how many people think I have interesting things to say in 140 characters. The bad thing about Twitter is that it lets the occasionally ugly and brave behind computer types spew their bile and venom. But the vast majority of you have been great company these past couple of years. Keep writing, keep challenging, keep correcting. Thank you.

NOT FEELIN' ...

1) Seriously. What's up with the Pacers? Is Danny Granger this valuable?

2) Yikes. I hadn't even thought about the Jeff Ruland Analogy when it comes to Andrew Bynum, even though this column's premise is that such comparisons are premature. I'm telling you, Jeff Ruland was a top-five center before his feet gave out, and he and a young Rick Mahorn gave Bullets fans, for about five seconds, a semblance of hope.

3) I don't know what's up with Ty Lawson, but he's really struggling out of the gate.

4) God, it must be tough to be an NHL fan. My sincere sympathies.

5) This is what happens when you don't pass the big man the rock. He gets frustrated.

6) Someone has to tell the children that these precious treats are on life support. God save us all.

Q & A: ANDRE IGUODALA

Like many teams, the Nuggets are trying to adjust to new players in key roles, and the 28-year-old Iguodala is happily dealing with the lower-key expectations in the Mile High after eight occasionally contentious seasons in Philadelphia. The 2012 Olympian has only been in town for a few weeks, but he's already learned a few things, among which the most important is: never get in between the Manimal and an offensive board.

Andre Iguodala (left) is still getting adjusted to his new role and teammates in Denver.

Me: What is it like coming to a team with high expectations and depth?

Andre Iguodala: It's been pretty much the same. Being on the east coast, there's a lot more media coverage, so there's a lot more pressure on me to perform. Coming here, it's a little bit more relaxed in that aspect, but on the court, we have so much talent that we have to demand a lot from each other every day, and in practice. We have a good problem as far as guys wanting to get minutes, guys competing every day in practice. When you come in, you might feel sluggish, and there's somebody right there that's going to push you, because they're trying to take your minutes. We all understand when the second unit is playing well and pushing the first unit, it's only going to make us all better.

Me: Why have y'all shot the ball so badly so far?

AI: I think just trying to get adjusted to one another. Some guys may be passing up shots, trying to be too unselfish, where others, it's mental. They're putting too much pressure on themselves shooting. I think we'll be fine once we get it rolling, once we get some more kinks out. Because we're still young. I'm a big piece that's new to the team, and I'm still trying to figure things out. But defensively, it's been a 180, a big turnaround as far as getting stops when we need to. We've had one bad defensive game, and that was against Phoenix, when we didn't get stops. But other than that, we've played pretty good.

Me: How did that happen?

AI: Like I said, when we're in practice, and that second unit's going against the first unit, and we're going against them, it's kind of a pride thing setting in: I'm going to stop my man. You're not going to score on me. I've tried to bring that mindset coming to the team. It isn't hard. People say defense is hard work. It's really just a mindset. And in the NBA, it's a team thing, a team concept. All five guys have to be on the same page. And when we're athletic and playing smart with our two bigs, JaVale (McGee) and Kenneth (Faried), we can spread out and switch and guard guys and have different coverages, we're a really good team.

Me: Have you made the mistake of trying to fight Faried for a rebound?

AI: You know what, I figured out the rebounding thing. I'm actually getting more rebounds. Kenneth is really aggressive on offensive rebounds. Defensive rebounds, he's not as all over the place. He'll just cover his area defensively. He'll either get a strong-side rebound or a weak side rebound. I just try to stay out of his way at the offensive end.

THEY SAID IT

"I love Dr. Buss but I don't believe in Jim Buss."

-- Magic Johnson, making it plain via ESPN.com that he cares not for the Lakers' decision maker, who opted -- along with his father, Jerry Buss, the team's owner, along with GM Mitch Kupchak -- to hire Mike D'Antoni instead of Phil Jackson.

"I would boo this team right now as well. Boo me as well."

-- Kings Coach Keith Smart, after a lackluster effort from his team in a 112-96 home loss Friday to the Hawks led to a cascade of boos from the crowd at Sleep Train (!) Arena in Sacramento.

"I have had trouble sleeping lately."

-- Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova, telling the Racine County Times that he is indeed struggling with the pressure of living up to his new $40 million deal. Ilyasova's numbers are way down (6.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 27.8 percent on three-pointers) compared to last season's contract-year stats (13 points, 8.8 boards, 45.5 percent from three).

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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