Posted Feb 26, 2013 4:56 PM
Some trade deadline, huh?
Welcome to Adam Silver's Revenge.
The soon-to-be Commish was front and center during the lockout, as the league insisted that its owners were losing their metaphorical shirts under the old Collective Bargaining Agreement, and needed new mechanisms that would not only redistribute more revenues from the NBA's haves to its have nots, but would redistribute players as well. There would be no way for smaller markets to compete with their more well-heeled competitors if there was no disincentive to keep the big spenders from hoarding difference-making role players.
If the Lakers or Knicks not only could spend with impunity to acquire free agents or trade for superstars, but could also get a veteran or two for the stretch drive, went the argument, the league would never have any kind of competitive balance.
So, the league not only pushed for a 50-50 split of revenues with the players, but also pushed for more onerous luxury tax payments for teams that consistently stayed over the threshold. You couldn't keep teams with deep pockets from spending over the tax line, but you could make it hurt more in the wallet. And so came the "repeater tax," and the elimination of sign-and-trade deals starting next season for teams more than $4 million over the luxury tax line, which is at $70.3 million this season.
And, lo and behold, the biggest deal at the trade deadline in terms of names was Milwaukee -- small-market Milwaukee -- getting J.J. Redick from the Magic. (That's if you don't count the Rudy Gay deal to Toronto as a trade deadline deal, which it basically was. But even there, the major player in the three-team deal between Memphis, Detroit and Toronto wound up going north of the border, not to a high-profile outfit.)
In previous years, Redick would have certainly been scarfed up by the likes of the Lakers or Bulls, teams that have strong season ticket bases and incredible local television deals. And they would have had no problem with giving Redick a full mid-level exception deal or better next summer.
Now, those teams are likely to pass on Redick next summer. The Lakers' tax bill is going to be astronomical if they re-sign Dwight Howard. The Bulls, by rule -- since they used both their mid-level and bi-annual cap exceptions last summer on Kirk Hinrich and Marco Belinelli, respectively -- cannot go above the $4 million "apron" this year, and it's hard to see them adding a lot of salary next season, either, with Taj Gibson's extension kicking in on top of the long-term, big-money deals they have in place for Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. Chicago does, however, still have its amnesty provision available to relieve some of the short-term burden. (Teams above the apron will also only be allowed to offer three-year mid-level deals next summer instead of the four-year deals that teams at or below the apron will be able to offer.)
The proof of teams' collective caution is in the pudding: according to STATS LLC, 45 players were traded in the week of the trading deadline in 2010, and 49 players were dealt in 2011. But in each of the last two years, that number has dropped to just 27 players being traded. And this year, six of those players were moved in one deal, when the Rockets sent Patrick Patterson, Cole Aldrich and Toney Douglas to Sacramento for Thomas Robinson, Francisco Garcia and Tyler Honeycutt. (And the Warriors traded Charles Jenkins to Philly and Jeremy Tyler to Atlanta just to get under the tax threshold.)
Knowing that the other shoe won't drop until the summer, when more teams with more cap room might be more inclined to make trades, it's premature -- folly? -- to offer grades or winners/losers to the deadline activity, or lack thereof. But premature is what we do! So let's call these educated guesses and informed speculation on what the contending teams that were expected to be active did, or didn't do.
MILWAUKEE: The Bucks didn't want to give up Monta Ellis, figuring Ellis won't dare opt out of the final year of his deal next season and try to find $11 million in free agency in this Unbrave New World of the repeater tax. So Milwaukee wouldn't give the Hawks Ellis in a Josh Smith deal, and picked up solid vet J.J. Redick from Orlando for three players that weren't in its long-term future. If the Bucks are serious about matching any offer for restricted free agent to be Brandon Jennings, they have a chance at a very strong three-guard rotation. If Redick walks, they clear that much more cap room for potential trades, and can still use either Ellis or Ersan Ilyasova as trade chips.
HOUSTON: A lot of people around the league like Patrick Patterson, and think he's a better player/prospect than Thomas Robinson, whom the Rockets got from Sacramento in a six-player deal the night before the deadline. I am not one of those people. An effort guy like Robinson is always someone worth having on your roster, and it doesn't matter if he was the fifth pick overall or the 55th pick. Also, dealing Patterson and Marcus Morris in separate deals not only brought Robinson to Houston, but opened up playing time for Houston's top pick from last year: Donatas Motiejunas. Most importantly, the Rockets didn't give up any cap room they'll need this summer to go after either Dwight Howard or Josh Smith.
ATLANTA: I'm giving my old high school classmate Danny Ferry the benefit of the doubt on this one, figuring he didn't get offered nearly what he'd hoped for Josh Smith, and winding up doing two minor deals: Anthony Morrow to Dallas for Dahntay Jones, and cash and future Draft considerations to Golden State for Tyler. Ferry is thinking big picture, anyway: he has exactly three players under contract as of July 1 (Al Horford, Lou Williams, John Jenkins, with team options on Jeff Teague and Ivan Johnson) and up to $40 million to play with. He can take back any contract he wants this summer in a sign-and-trade deal for Smith, or if Smith decides to walk, Atlanta will have that much more cap room to offer free agents. (In case you didn't know this, players like going to Atlanta. There will be free agents who want to play there.) The canvas is blank; Ferry can fill it in any way he wants, and he will, in July.
TORONTO: The Raps failed to move Andrea Bargnani like they wanted; their deadline move was getting Sebastian Telfair from Phoenix for Hamed Haddadi. But Toronto had already made its big move, getting Rudy Gay from Memphis late last month. The Raptors immediately look like a better team, with DeMar DeRozan looking like he's found an immediate rhythm with Gay and Gay taking the scoring load that Bargnani was supposed to assume when he was taken first in 2005. But the lack of interest in Bargnani doesn't bode well for the Raptors' chances of moving him this summer—and he's still got two years and $22.25 million left on his contract after this year. (Toronto does still have its amnesty provision available, which allows teams to waive a player and have his salary come off of its cap and luxury tax totals.)
DALLAS: Other than the Jones-Morrow minideal, the Mavs didn't move a muscle at the deadline, with good reason: they'll be a major player this summer, with a chance to sign two high-profile free agents if they get rid of all the players that are on one-year deals this season. Maybe Dwight Howard and Josh Smith, old Atlanta Celtics AAU teammates, to play alongside Dirk Diggler for the next couple of years? Or going after a still-viable veteran point guard like Andre Miller? The Bank of Cuban will be open for business again.
OKLAHOMA CITY: Nothing wrong with getting Ronnie Brewer from the Knicks, or dealing Eric Maynor to Portland if you think Reggie Jackson is ready to handle the backup point role in the playoffs. But OKC could have used another veteran wing for the title drive -- maybe a Hakim Warrick or a Mike Dunleavy, Jr.? --who could help stretch opposing defenses and keep teams from loading up on Durant and Westbrook more than they already are.
BOSTON: The Celtics burned up the phones in the days before the deadline, but they couldn't pull the trigger on a Kevin Garnett or Paul Pierce deal, settling for Jordan Crawford from the Wizards for Leandro Barbosa's contract and Jason Collins, and picking up Terrence Williams off the waiver wire and D.J. White from China. But that only is delaying the inevitable. Danny Ainge seems desperate to start the rebuilding clock, whether with or without Rajon Rondo (the C's denials to the contrary, teams say Rondo was quite available before the deadline), and the Celtics didn't get that accomplished. Will they revisit possible deals for Garnett and/or Pierce this summer? They may not have a choice -- and they may not have as much leverage then, either.
SACRAMENTO: Again, many think Patterson is a good pickup for the Kings. But the visual of a rebuilding team dealing the fifth pick in the Draft less than four months after taking him is a tough one to absorb. Even with Patterson, there still is no idea of what kind of team this is, or how it will compete and win in the future. Are the Kings a running team featuring the likes of Isaiah Thomas, or a halfcourt team that has to rely on DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans?
L.A. CLIPPERS: The Clips stood pat, but not by their basketball people's choice. L.A. and Washington had a done deal Wednesday night that would have sent forward Trevor Ariza to the Clippers in exchange for Caron Butler, giving L.A. a long, defensive-oriented body to throw at the likes of Kevin Durant in the playoffs. (Butler, who still has an offseason home in the D.C. area, and who was loved by the locals, didn't have a problem returning to a non-Arenas Wizards locker room. He'd have been welcomed back as a much-needed offensive option, according to sources.)
But sources indicated that Clippers owner Donald Sterling nixed the deal Thursday morning, not wanting to gamble on the team's chemistry being affected in any way down the stretch. My interpretation: we don't want to do anything that could, in any way, be held against us by assistant general manager Chris Paul this summer if we don't get far in the postseason.
Either way, the Clips probably are just as well. If Paul couldn't convince Kevin Garnett to come West, there wasn't another game-changing deal out there.
L.A. LAKERS: Trading Howard would have been insane, given that he is the only impact player on their roster under 32. I don't care how petulant or clownish Howard can be, or was during All-Star weekend; he is still the best center in the league by a mile. Less than a year removed from major back surgery, and with a torn labrum, he is still leading the league in rebounds and is fifth in blocked shots.
Is it a gamble for L.A., knowing Howard can walk at the end of the year? Yes. But what choice did the Lakers really have? They would never have gotten equal value for Howard in a trade, and exactly who would play center for them now, with Pau Gasol weeks away from returning from his plantar fasciitis tear? By the way, Howard looks much more like himself since the break; maybe he did work on his cardio down in Houston like he said he would.
(By the way, here's what happened between Gregg Popovich and Howard during the All-Star Game, according to a source who witnessed it: in the third quarter, Pop called out a play, but Howard jacked up a corner three instead. Pop immediately turned to the bench and said 'get him the (bleep) out.' That was it, really. No extended swearing or shouting, just Pop being Pop.)
SAN ANTONIO: They're 45-13. Who is out there that would make them better?
CHICAGO: Knowing that the Bulls can't take back any salaries or go over the threshold, there wasn't much of a trade window for them other than hoping someone would take Rip Hamilton (only $1 million of his $5 million team option for 2013-14 is guaranteed). But doing nothing with a team that's hoping to get Derrick Rose back for the playoffs leads to family members spouting off in frustration (see "They Said It" below).
UTAH: You stick around long enough, you know there are certain immutable NBA truths: 1) Quick Change or Red Panda is almost always going to be the halftime act; 2) the louder the PA guy, the more obnoxious -- except for the Pistons' Mason (Deeeetroit Basket-ball!!); 3 you question Kevin O'Connor, the Jazz's executive VP of basketball operations, at your peril. His track record over 14 seasons in the SLC is beyond reproach. But I remain stunned nonetheless that the Jazz didn't make any deals before Thursday's deadline.
With Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Mo Williams, Raja Bell, Randy Foye and Earl Watson all on expiring contracts, the opportunity to turn one or more of those players into a young piece to go alongside Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Gordon Hayward seemed too good to pass up. But the Jazz passed. Now they're likely to lose many of those players without getting anything in return, for Utah isn't very likely to take big contracts back for them in potential sign-and-trade deals this summer.
Utah could have more than $40 million in cap room if they let all eight of their unrestricted free agents walk, which is unlikely. No matter how much space the Jazz winds up with, though, it's not the same in Salt Lake City as in other towns. With very few exceptions -- such as 2004, when Utah signed Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur -- the Jazz haven't been able to convince free agents to come to the Wasatch Region.
This is when Jazz fans have no choice but to trust O'Connor, GM Dennis Lindsey and Utah's front office. It's worked out well before. But hope is a dangerous drug.
Memo to self: never call Kenneth Faried "Ken."
"What did you call me?," Faried said Friday morning, when I made the mistake of shortening his first name. "I had to get on Chuck and Shaq about that, too. I'm not no damn Ken doll. My mother named me Kenneth."
The Nuggets' second-year forward said this with a smile on his face, but just enough bass in his voice to make one realize that he'd really rather be called Kenneth. You could make an issue of it, but dude is 6-foot-8, 240 and gets many boards every night against men 20 to 30 pounds heavier, so you better really have a conviction in your heart as to why you need to call him 'Ken.'
Faried has plenty of conviction, about a great many things. Of late, he has gotten attention because of one in particular: his support for same-sex marriage.
It is an area in which one does not normally find professional athletes, who normally blanch at taking a stand on what cereal they eat, lest they offend a single person anywhere. But Faried came to his position honestly and through tough experiences growing up in Newark, N.J., where he was raised by his mother, Wauuda, and her wife, Manasin Copeland.
"I've been supporting gays, lesbians, transgender, transsexual rights since I was in high school, since my mother came out to people," Faried said. "I've been okay with it. I'm in support of it and I'm gonna continue to be. I guess I'm in a bigger light now, and when I say things about it, when I make a statement about it, it's more glorified. It's okay with me, because I respect it, and I'm going to continue to live up to the hype of being in support of it."
Faried's star has pointed nowhere but north in his second NBA season. He was the MVP of last week's Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star weekend, dropping in 40 points with 10 rebounds in Team Chuck's win over Team Shaq. In Faried's day job, he's tied for 10th in the league in rebounding with Atlanta's Al Horford, and continues to engender respect around the league for his relenteless work ethic, which earned him the moniker "The Manimal."
Faried likes that nickname. But he doesn't care for the term "civil union" any more than "Ken."
"Everybody deserves the right to be married to anybody they want," he said. "But for gays or lesbian and transgender or transsexuals, it has to be civil unions. But why can't it be a marriage? I mean, it's two regular people, and they decided to get married in matrimony."
He joined Athlete Ally, a nonprofit organization founded by a former amateur wrestler, Hudson Taylor, who wanted to confront the homophobia that is still rampant throughout sports at all levels. Taylor wanted straight athletes to take a public stand condemning prejudice toward gay men and lesbians, whether or not they were involved in athletics.
That trend has started, slowly, taking hold in pro sports. NFL players Brendon Ayanbadejo, Chris Kluwe, Scott Fujita and Connor Barwin have made public statements of support for gay marriage and other causes in the last couple of years. Numerous athletes, from Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas to Major League pitchers Mat Latos, Matt Cain and Yovani Gallardo, have been photographed as part of the "No H8" campaign supporting gay and lesbian rights.
And when 49ers' cornerback Chris Culliver said gay players wouldn't be welcome in the San Francisco locker room during Super Bowl week, he was almost universally condemned, and had to quickly apologize.
Faried has also made a video with his "two moms" on behalf of One Colorado, which is seeking to legalize same sex marriage in that state, that has gotten more than 207,000 hits on YouTube since being published late last month.
"It was nothing, really," Faried said. "It was a just a discussion. They said we read about your mom being gay, and fighting lupus, things like that. I was like, yeah. And they asked me, can I speak out on it, to help support them, give them support in Colorado? I said sure, that's no problem, I can help. I can give them the support, and basically speak out on my behalf. That really helped move things forward for them."
Faried's mother met Copeland while being treated for Lupus, the inflammatory disease in which the body's immune system goes haywire, and attacks healthy tissue, organs and cells. Copeland was one of Waudda's nurses. But Kenneth already knew his mother was a lesbian. (After undergoing a kidney transplant in 2010, Waudda Faried, who also suffers from diabetes, is doing better, living with Copeland in West Orange, N.J.)
"She told me, and it was okay," Faried said. "I was perfectly fine with it. I wasn't going to say, 'no, ma, that's not okay,' or anything. She told me when I was young. I was young, I was understanding about things. I was okay with it."
One is loath to make sweeping generalizations about subjects like this, because people come to their views over a lifetime, and those views can change and evolve in any direction. Millions of Americans genuinely do not believe that gay men and women should not be allowed to marry. But for an NBA player to willingly trade his name recognition for a political cause -- any political cause -- is unusual.
Faried came to the attention of Athlete Ally after the group was invited to the NBA's Rookie Transition Program last year, along with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). The league brought Athlete Ally and Faried together, knowing Faried's back story.
"The last five years we've seen a major shift," Taylor said by phone Sunday. "In the last year we saw more athletes speak out, more athletes come out and more teams take a stand than any time in history. I think (more attention came) from all those teen suicides that were happening a few years ago, and the passage of Proposition 8 (an initiative in California that banned same-sex marriage, which was passed by voters in 2008, but was overturned by the California Supreme Court as unconstitutional) really brought a lot of attention to the issues. The It Gets Better project was a huge success and started to break down the stereotype that you had to be in the LGBT community to be an advocate for the LGBT community."
Taylor became a "straight ally" while wrestling for the University of Maryland. A three-time All-America, Taylor went public with his support for gay rights by wearing a pro-gay rights sticker on his headgear during matches.
"I was a theatre major and I had friends who were coming out, and the juxtaposition of seeing the openness of the theatre community and the homophobia of the locker room sort of brought it home to me," said Taylor, now the head wrestling coach at Columbia University.
"I did an interview about being an ally, about wearing this sticker, and as a result I got 2,000 e-mails from across the country," Taylor said. "Kids in high school would write, 'I see you speaking out as an athlete ally, and now I think I can join a sports team. I think I can go into a locker room.'"
Faried's moment of clarity was more forced upon him. When he was in elementary school in Newark, he and his family members were ridiculed.
"People would make jokes about it—'ah, your mother's a man,' stuff like that," he said. "You live and you learn. You get over it. I had a couple of scraps over it. I had to defend my mother's honor, and my honor. People would say 'oh, you're a gay, too.' Now, it's more common in the New York, New Jersey area, because of the (annual Gay Rights) parade, because of Gay Pride, things like that. People respect it. And because of the marriage you're able to have, more people respect it and more people are okay with it."
That doesn't mean it's a subject discussed frequently in the locker room.
"I don't engage in it," Faried's teammate, Andre Iguodala, said. "It's a touchy subject with our culture, and our generation. I think everyone's entitled to their own opinion. I might think it's wrong, but I have nothing against anybody. I've worked with people who are gay, and I don't have any problem with them. It's just like a person who curses. I may not like them, but we exist, co-exist. So I don't have a problem with it. And that's pretty much my stance."
But the Nuggets didn't have any problem with Faried's taking a public stance, according to a team source, understanding what a personal issue it was for him.
Today, no one would dare get in Faried's grill about his mother's life choices. But there surely is a kid out there somewhere in a similar situation as he was as a child, who will have to deal with the implications of a parent or loved one coming out to the rest of the family, to the community, to the world. Things are better, but they're still not ideal.
"Whether it's your mom or dad, either way, just stay positive," Faried offers. "Don't get upset because of the fact that your mother's life choices or father's life choices (are different). Just stay positive and receptive, and just learn about it. It's not nothing bad. It's not nothing negative. And be that positive influence. Your parents really want you to be there for them, just as much as their partner is, or as much as the next person. They want you to be there. Because they want you to be accepting of it."
(This week's record in parenthesis; last week's rankings in brackets)
1) Miami (4-0) : Via NBA.com's Clutch Stats (get acquainted with our new stats page; it is phenomenal), Chris Bosh is 19 of 22 (86.4 percent) in the last five minutes of regulation this season, tops in the league among players with that many or more attempts.
2) Oklahoma City (2-1) : Dominance: Sunday's 102-72 win over the Bulls was the Thunder's 12th victory this season by 20 or more points.
3) San Antonio (3-1) : Spurs finish another Rodeo Trip in winning fashion, going 7-2, with dominant wins over Brooklyn, Chicago and the Clippers, since leaving home the first week of February.
4) Indiana (3-0) : Danny Granger finally back after missing the first 54 games of the season with a knee injury.
5) Denver (2-1) : Nuggets hold on to Timofey Mozgov for the stretch drive after being underwhelmed by the offers they received before the deadline.
6) Memphis (4-0) : Grizzlies continue to strangle opponents at the defensive end. Even though they've only averaged 95.6 points per game the last seven games, they've won each of those seven by allowing just 87 a game
7) L.A. Clippers. (1-1) : Chris Paul swears he hasn't yet made up his mind about whether he'll re-sign in L.A. this summer. For some reason, I don't believe him.
8) Golden State (3-1) : I hate the Warriors' short-sleeve unis. Hate them.
9) Chicago (2-2) : Many nights, the Bulls have an amazingly difficult time putting the ball in the basket.
10) N.Y. Knicks (1-2) : Kenyon Martin the latest 30-plus something member to join Team Metamucil.
11) Brooklyn (2-2) : Enigmatic doesn't begin to describe this season's Nets team.
12) Houston (2-1) : Rockets attempted an NBA season-high 46 three-pointers attempted Saturday night against the Wizards, making 19, in their 105-103 loss.
13) Atlanta (2-1) : Josh Smith continues the longest rent-don't-buy a swank house stretch in recorded history.
14) Boston (1-3) : Other than renting Jordan Crawford from Washington, Cs decide to stand pat at the trade deadline and go with their vets.
15) Utah (1-1) : Jazz were swept by Clippers, a potential first-round opponent, in the regular season series, 4-0. First time that's happened to the Jazz since the 1978-79 season.
Miami (4-0): Heat come out of the All-Star break winning four in five, including Sunday night's come-from-behind win over Cleveland, to run its overall win streak to 11 in a row. Dominant wins last week over Atlanta, Chicago leave little doubt that the Heat are the team to beat in the East—unless you're Indiana, the last team to beat Miami, and which has beaten the Heat soundly in the teams' first two meetings this season.
Philadelphia (0-3): Sixers finally get Andrew Bynum back for a full-court practice at the end of last week, according to the Philly media. But it's getting very, very late in the regular season game for the Sixers to make a playoff push.
What's with all this garment-rending over Russ Granik making the Hall of Fame?
There was some squawking when the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame announced during All-Star weekend that Granik, the NBA's former deputy commissioner, had been one of five people selected to the Hall under its new process, which allows five special committees to directly elect one person per committee each year to the Hall. This is totally separate from the more familiar process that nominates finalists for election to the Hall by the Hall's still-unknown rotating committee of 24 electors.
To be elected to the Hall by that group, a finalist has to get 18 out of the 24 votes. That is the group that nominated the likes of Gary Payton, Mo Cheeks, Bernard King, Rick Pitino, Spencer Haywood and others, whose selection as finalists was also announced during All-Star weekend. Those who get 75 percent of the vote and are thus elected to the Hall will be announced the morning of the NCAA men's national championship game, April 8.
But Granik wasn't in that group. He was selected from the Contributor Committee, which selects people that have, as you may have guessed, made significant contributions to the game of basketball.
The Contributor Committee is one of five such committees that directly elect people to the Hall every year. The other committees are the Veterans' Committee (which selected former Knicks guard Richie Guerin this year to the Hall), the Early African-American Pioneers Committee (which selected former coach, historian and author Edwin B. Henderson), the ABA Committee (which selected Indiana Pacers big man Roger Brown) and the International Committee (which selected former Brazilian great Oscar Schmidt).
"I thought there were too many people who slipped through the cracks, who might not ever get in," Hall of Fame Chairman Jerry Colangelo said by phone Sunday.
"By going to direct elects in certain categories, we could sort of make up for lost time, get another bite of the apple," Colangelo said. "A good example is the ABA, the ABA contirbutors. With Artis Gilmore, Mel Daniels and, now, Roger Brown, we're recognizing some and there may be a few more. We're not committed indefinitely."
When the Hall announced Granik had been selected by the Contributor Committee over the likes of former Bulls GM Jerry Krause and Celtics broadcaster Johnny Most, there was grumbling among some media types about how Granik hadn't accomplished enough in his 30 years in the league office, most as David Stern's right-hand man, to warrant selection. The conceit was that Granik, who also was chairman of the board of the Hall of Fame from 2003-07, was the improper, undeserving beneficiary of some home cooking.
"It really doesn't matter," Colangelo said. "The reason I say that is as chairman, you've heard me say over and over again, I believe in the sanctity of the process. I think it's pure. I think we have an amazing number of people who are worthy of consideration, in every category. There are a lot of deliberations...we have writers and broadcasters on the committee, and former coaches, and players. These are people in the business, who have been there for many, many years. We've been pretty particular about who we put on these committees, so we get a brought spectrum of experiences."
There are several administrators who are already in the Hall. Does the name Emil S. Liston ring a bell? Probably not to most. But Liston is in for helping develop what is now the NAIA Tournament, for small colleges that aren't in the NCAA. There is no recorded objection to this.
Ferenc Hepp is a Hall of Famer. You say you aren't familiar with "the father of Hungarian basketball?" Well, he's in there, for contributions to the development of basketball in Hungary and for his work over many years with FIBA in Europe. (There may be objections to Hepp, but since I don't speak or write Hungarian, I can't swear to it.)
Oswald Tower, he of the National Basketball Rules Committee Towers, is in the Hall.
Danny Biasone is in the Hall, not necessarily for his brilliance as the owner of the old Syracuse Nationals, but because he advocated his fellow owners for years to implement a 24-second shot clock to make the game more exciting. They finally relented in 1954, and the NBA began gaining popularity.
Granik's case? He was central to the inclusion of NBA players in the Olympics and other international competitions while vice president of USA Basketball from 1989 to 1996 (he subsequently was named President of USAB). If you weren't covering the league in the late '80s, you have no idea how tough it was to sell the idea of pros participating in the Games, both in the states and around the world.
There is a whole cottage industry of people dedicated to perpetuating the sham that the Olympics are somehow pristine, above the taint of "professionalism," as if the old Soviet and East German teams were anything but pros. And how they howled when FIBA invited the NBA into the tent. Granik was in the middle of all of those delicate negotiations, and he had a leading role in convincing Michael, Magic and Bird to play for the Dream Team.
Granik was also a key negotiator for the league as it got increasingly big rights fees from the broadcast networks in the last two decades, and he was one of the chief advocates to modify the NBA's rules to allow more freedom of movement.
"At a time of major, major transition, under David's leadership as commissioner, we went from kind of an adolescent into adulthood," Colangelo said. "Many, many things were in front of us. And the combination of David in his inimitable fashion and MO, and Russ's complementary MO, were perfect at the right time for the NBA to take all these steps to become the league that it is today. That covers the whole ball of wax. It was building an organization, expanding an organization, increasing the revenues incredibly as a league and raising the value of franchises. In every one of those, Russ played a significant role."
In other words, Granik was great at saying, 'what David meant to say was....' and continuing the conversation/negotiation after Stern had verbally napalmed someone.
Personally, I like Granik and am happy for him, but it would not have curdled my Cheerios if he hadn't made the Hall. If others don't think Granik did enough to warrant election to the Hall, that's fine. But any vote about anything -- the Naismith Hall of Fame, the Oscars, American Idol -- is a subjective, group decision. Unless you're talking about electoral politics, to get bent out of shape because of any one vote is kind of silly.
The annual Mickey Rooney "I've got a great idea; let's do the show in the barn!" awards for improving All-Star weekend are always a hoot. From Dominic Northcott:
I read your weekly Tip regularly and had a couple of ideas about the All-Star Game, I think that with the new format focused on East vs. West there are a few more options in term of events.
I have a couple, considering that there are now captains for respective conferences a game of 2-on-2 in which the captain could pick any player on their team from their respective conference (however I like the idea of not being able to pick players from the team they would play for in the regular season, to spice things up.) to really show that they want their conference to win and will try and help out a long the way, instead of just being a face.
Also, I really like the idea of having all the players in the 3-point contest take part in dunk contest and vice-versa, this would potentially be both hilarious and eye opening. It could give the crowd an insight into the fact all NBA players are extremely skilled in all facets of the game, even the most one dimensional. It would also give the courtside crew such as yourself plenty of opportunities to have a laugh at those who just aren't (Matt Bonner with the windmill...)
Two-on-two, one-on-one, HORSE, heard 'em all, Dominic. But I must admit, the dunk/3-point dual is a new one. As you mentioned, it would likely cause great embarrassment for the 3-pointers who try to dunk, and vice versa, so it's not likely to gather a lot of steam. But it's a different idea, I grant you.
This is going to read great in Los Angeles. From Rick Dhanda:
Every day I have to read updates on the progress of Sacramento's attempt to keep their team while Seattle tries to recoup theirs. Frankly I find it extremely unfair for both sides (that Sacramento has to fight its owners to keep its team and that Seattle had its own team ripped from its side) but I guess that's just the way it is. I recently saw that the Clippers renewed their Staples Center lease, and one thing I vehemently don't agree with though is the need for two teams in LA. I know that nobody can make an owner move his team, and I know that Lakers and Clippers fans are separate groups for the most part, and I know it's bad timing since the Clippers are finally good after being awful forever, but give me a break.
Are you telling me that one city fan base should be given two teams to entertain it while two other cities should have to squabble to just have one each for their immense group of fans? Do you see the Clippers as a continued fixture in Los Angeles? Is there any chance that anyone can rip the Clippers from Donald Sterling's grip to maybe spread some of the wealth and entertainment around?
According to ESPN.com's most recent attendance figures, Rick, the Clippers are currently sixth in the league in attendance, while the Lakers are eighth. And over the last 10 years, while the Clips have only been in the top 10 in attendance once -- last year, Chris Paul's first in town -- they've never averaged fewer than 16,170 at Staples Center. The Lakers, of course, have been sold out for years, averaging 18,958 over the last decade, and have only been out of the top 10 in attendance once. And there is no way -- none -- that Sterling would ever leave L.A. And I assume (but don't know, in all candor) that the Sterling Family plans to keep the team long after Donald Sterling is gone.
The Weekly Westbrook/Durant Letter. From Noel Bandera Lopez:
They are not my team, but I wanted to speak a little about Oklahoma City Thunder. Last week we saw an episode of immaturity from Westbrook, which made me wonder about the bigger picture: if the point guard will eventually realize that he must be the second option in the team...
Westbrook has the worst field goal percentage among the 15 first scorers in the league, but he is shooting in average every 1.9 minutes (Durant every 2.14). He plays less minutes but even so he shoots more than the franchise guy. Amazing. It is true that Durant usually shoots more free throws and that somehow can compensate partially, but for example in The Finals Westbrook also shot more from the free-throw line than his teammate. So let me understand this. OKC has one of the two best players in the game, who is averaging over 50 percent for the first time in his career, but they prefer to give more shots to one guy who has a 42 percent? To win a ring will be much more complicated if they don't change this crazy situation.
Some things bear repeating, over and over, Noel. The Thunder cannot -- cannot -- win a championship if Westbrook isn't a scorer. They don't have that many other options.
Send your questions, comments, criticisms and Oscar singers better than Jennifer Hudson was Sunday night (don't bother; there aren't any) to firstname.lastname@example.org. If your e-mail is sufficiently funny, thought-provoking, well-written or snarky, we just might publish it!
(weekly averages in parenthesis)
1) LeBron James (23.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 9.3 apg, .590 FG, .792 FT): It is a measure of how dominant James has been this season that you are surprised he has "only" three triple-doubles.
2) Kevin Durant (20.7 ppg, 11.7 rpg, 8 apg, .388 FG, .957 FT): Comes out of the All-Star break getting busy on the glass and with assists, getting other players involved, including a career-high 11 dimes in his third career triple-double Wednesday.
3) Carmelo Anthony (25.3 ppg, 7 rpg, 2.3 apg, .381 FG, .806 FT): Had his Syracuse University jersey retired Saturday during the Orange's last Big East game against Georgetown at the Carrier Dome.
4) Tony Parker (26.3 ppg, 4 rpg, 7 apg, .537 FG .840 FT): See below, if you didn't think TP was a legit MVP candidate before this week. Against CP3 Thursday: 31 points on 12 of 16 shooting, 7 assists.
5) Chris Paul (7.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 5 apg, .214, .889 FT): Post All-Star Game hangover? Not CP3's best week: he was smoked head to head Thursday night by fellow MVP candidate Tony Parker in the Spurs' rout.
3 -- Years that Jazz assistant coach Sidney Lowe allegedly did not file any income tax returns, according to the North Carolina Department of Revenue. Lowe was arrested in Wake Forest, North Carolina, on Monday, and was released on $10,000 bail after being indicted on three misdemeanor charges. Lowe apologized on Wednesday.
7 -- Career NBA teams for forward Hakim Warrick, who was waived by the Magic Saturday after being acquired from Charlotte Thursday at the trade deadline for Josh McRoberts. It says here that Warrick will find an eighth team very, very soon.
$155,000 -- Amount awarded to Hall of Famer Moses Malone by the state of California in a workers' compensation case. Malone is one of thousands of former professional athletes who have filed for workers' comp in California, according to this fascinating article in the Los Angeles Times over the weekend. A study commissioned by several sports leagues cited by the Times claims that more than 4,500 players have received almost three-quarters of a billion dollars total after the last three decades in workers' comp claims.
1) The "Lakers in Disarray" angle is more fun for most of my brethren, but it looks like they're starting to figure out a way they can play together. If that's the case, they'll be dangerous by the end of the regular season.
2) The Wizards are 8-24 against the Eastern Conference. The Wizards are 9-13 against the Western Conference, including a season sweep of the Nuggets, and wins over the Thunder, Clippers and Rockets. Washington won't make the playoffs, but the Wizards look like a team going in the right direction.
3) My kingdom for photos of MWP in his Cookie Monster pajamas.
4) Friday was a good day for Seattle's basketball fans, even though at least one additional legal hurdle remains, along with an environmental impact study of the land that the group led by Chris Hansen wants to use for a new arena site.
5) But I ran also into Kevin Johnson during the All-Star Game in Houston, and he was extremely confident, after spending the weekend pigeonholing owners and other NBA execs, that he and the city of Sacramento would keep the Kings there. Make out of each of these developments what you will.
6) Not a gearhead, but watched a lot of the Daytona 500 on Sunday. Considering it's three or four hours watching cars make a series of left turns, going around and around, Fox does a really good job making the race compelling. Or maybe I was just rooting for Danica.
1) Jerry Buss was a giant. The Lakers' owner, who died last week at age 80, was as important to the explosion of the NBA in the 1980s as any player or coach. It was Buss who recognized that a Lakers game had to be more than just 48 minutes of screens and shots, and that people had to be entertained during timeouts and at the half. Much like the late Tex Schramm, the Dallas Cowboys' longtime general manager, Buss brought glitz, glamour and scantily-clad cheerleaders to his team, calling the experience "Showtime," and made the Lakers the most important team in the league, even more than the Celtics, who'd won more titles. Buss did a lot to narrow that margin; under his stewardship the Lakers won 10 championships and appeared in six other Finals. His personal excesses were certainly not Chamber of Commerce approved, but the (very) young women Buss squired certainly knew what they were getting into; as with his good friend Hugh Hefner, the possibility of a long-term relationship with him was laughable. The Lakers may be run by the Buss Family for a long time going forward, but things will never be the same.
2) My hope is to convince one person a year not to buy into the hype of trade rumors season, to ignore the "sources" who know exactly what's been talked about, and with whom, and who are so, so wrong every year. It's like every year, people hit themselves in the head with a mallet, and then expect that it won't hurt when they do it again next year.
3) Best wishes to former Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley, who reportedly suffered a stroke after returning to Chicago from All-Star Weekend.
4) Is there anybody affiliated with this Oscar Pistorius case who has not been charged with killing someone else? Good God, this is bizarre.
6) There aren't many things the International Olympic Committee can do that would surprise me, given its well-deserved reputation as an often ethics-lite organization. But getting rid of wrestling at the Summer Games?
Remember Kordell Stewart? He was the Steelers' quarterback in the 1990s and early aughts who was known as "Slash," because he was a quarterback/running back/receiver/kick returner. Less than two years after his retirement, Yao Ming may take that moniker. The former Rockets' center is a student/vintner/politician/animal rights activist/owner. Try getting all that on a business card. But the 32-year-old is doing all of those things since foot injuries cut his NBA career short. During All-Star weekend, Yao returned to the city and the franchise that took him with the first overall pick in the 2002 Draft and for whom he played all eight of his often injury-plagued seasons. He got the key to the city of Houston and watched the All-Star Game seated next to, and towering over, Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon.
It was a brief respite for Yao, who wears a lot of hats these days, from owning the Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball Association to studying for a degree at Shanghai Jiaotong University, to starting a line of boutique wines in Napa Valley, to sitting on the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference as an advisor on how China can improve its athletic programs ("I'm still not very comfortable with that word politician," Yao said). He remains curious, friendly, ribbing a producer with a thick New York accent ("I do not understand this English you are speaking," he said. "What is that? Old English?") and he still is quite accommodating; he spent nearly an hour going over his career, his regrets, and his future. What follows is an abbreviated transcript of the conversation.
Me: Are there normal days for you?
Yao Ming: Sort of. I can't hide my size, anyway. That's one of those things I can't change (in my) lifetime. So it's always hard for me to walk on streets and not be recognized. But I'm kind of used to it.
Me: How did you get used to it?
YM: Well, I can't change things, so I have to make adjustments, how I'm thinking.
Me: Did you expect more Chinese players would follow you, Wang Zhizhi and Yi Jianlang to the NBA?
YM: Well, I think there's a few young athletes in China that have the potential to play in the NBA, maybe in the next three to five years. For fairness, I don't give a name. But they are pretty talented. They just need a good league in China, or maybe they play overseas somewhere before they come to here, to fill (out) their strengths, from the body physicalness, strength, speed, skill, shooting, are all kind of skill that you need for game. You have to understand, in the NBA you compete against the best of the best in the NBA. You have to prepare for that.
Me: I had read that in China, there was such an emphasis in the past to recruit the tallest players into the national program that the development of guards and wing players has suffered.
YM: It is true. The perimeter player in China is, I think there is less than the big guy to have a potential to play in the NBA in the future. If you can look back in the history of NBA, back to '60s, '70s, most of the famous players are big guys -- Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, even the first, Mikan -- all big guys. Not much of small. Because the basketball skill is not fully developed like today. The size always helps you. It's a little bit similar like that right now in China. But following the developing like we have right now, I think in the future we will have those talented wingmen joining this league.
Me: What goes through your mind when you come back to Houston?
YM: A lot of friends here. This feels so familiar and it feels so warm here. Obviously, Houston is warm! (Laughs) Driving on the street here, and living in house, having dinner with friends, everything just makes me feel so comfortable. My hometown in China, Shanghai, it's similar to New York. And I grew up there. It's very familiar for me, too. You compare New York to Houston, Houston gives you more space. People are more spread out. You have more room for yourself. In New York, you always walk on streets, full of people there. It gives you a different experience.
Me: What is it like to watch the Sharks as an owner?
YM: I chew my fingers. (Laughs) Really. To manage your team is totally different. Obviously, the two leagues are different. You can't just, organizing is different. The players are different. The rules are different. We play FIBA's rules. But as an owner and part of a manager (team), to deal with a team is a totally different experience than as a player. It's nothing connected. But it provides me a very interesting view, to learn this sport more. I think people maybe not understand how incredible those general managers (are). I have a general manager to help me manage the Shanghai Sharks, the team I own in China. Maybe people were more focused on the players who play on the court. But those guys who are behind, I think, are very important, too.
Me: Michael Jordan gets incredibly frustrated when he watches his team play. How do you deal with that?
YM: Be patient. Be patient. That is the number one priority with me. As a player, the player has a natural attitude, which is, you have it done right now, today. You play desperate, like you have no tomorrow. But when you manage your team, you have to know how to give and take. You have to know, you have to plan a longer year, maybe a five-year process, or longer. You have to take a young player to grow him. Some of the players we have is only around 20 years old. Waiting for him to mature could take five years, six years, or even longer. I still chew my fingers sometimes, but I only chew the fingers when I'm home.
Me: When you were playing, who could you confide in, that you could talk with honestly about things?
YM: Well, I'm honest to anybody.
Me: Right, but sometimes people want their honesty in smaller doses. Sometimes people don't really want honesty.
YM: The Rockets, first of all, have honest coaches. And all of the players we had on the team in the old days, when we had Shane Battier, Chuck Hayes, Dikembe Mutombo, all those guys, (Tracy) McGrady, we were all very friendly. We are very honest talking to each other. Today's young generation, I believe there is some of a tradition where we continue. They have the same GM and the same owner. I believe the player is not only selected by the GM, he is selected by the owner. He will ask, not only how talented (the player) is, but how good is his personality. I think I'm still in touch with the former players, friends, today. But if you want me to pick one or two of them, I'd say Shane and Dikembe. I would say we are really tight.
Me: How is McGrady doing over in China, by the way?
YM: You want me to tell you the truth?
Me: You're an honest man!
YM: His team and my team are competing for last place right now. Hopefully, my team gets luck.
Me: What do you think of the Rockets now?
YM: Better than us. (Laughs) James Harden is an amazing player. I watch him play on TV, and another day I was sitting courtside -- I sat courtside this time -- and I watched him play. He is an amazing player. And he's so strong. He's so strong. The Rockets have a bunch of young, talented kids. I think next five years, I would not be surprised if they achieve something big.
Me: You're friends with Jeremy. What did you think last year when he blew up in New York --
YM: Well, I would say, after he came out, I have some former teammates, like a Chuck Hayes. It's very similar, like a Jeremy before. Because he become famous -- not in New York, and that is why he didn't get the attention -- but he is very successful player, too. I was thinking, most people's attention, they're on Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Kobe. They are great, fantastic, no question. And the basketball game on this (NBA) level is reliant on a lot of talent. But those guys (like Lin), look at their resumes. Undrafted by NBA, keep trying out (for) different teams, keep waiting for their chance on the bench, maybe for sliding minutes. And maybe just to try and help a little in practice so that hopefully, one day, they can get a shot. And they wait for so long to get a moment, their moment, and probably their moment for a lifetime. Those are heroes as well. And they are more representative of most of the people. Most people can't grow up to be 7-foot-3, or play like Kobe, or have size like Durant but be able to play small forward or point guard. Back to just 10 years ago. If I'm a coach and I see Kevin Durant, I put him at center, right away! (Laughs) They are still, they are also heroes.
Me: Do you talk with Jeremy often?
YM: I talked to him a little. Last year, I know a lot of people were swarming him, so I just sent a congratulations (text). Just be careful, don't get hurt. Take me for an example. But this year, he plays a lot of minutes right now. I don't want to bother him too much. I know how player feels. They want to spent time with the family, with the team, and get a lot of rest.
Me: What are you passionate about today?
YM: My education. I'm in school. I just passed my final exam. I scored a couple of As, and a couple of Cs. So average is a B. (Laughs) And the basketball team. Winning and losing, that's always shaking it up between exciting and frustration. But you have to look at the bright side. There's a lot of bright side out there.
Me: What's your favorite class?
YM: History. History.
Me: I was a history major.
YM: It teaches us a lot of experience.
Me: When I first interviewed you in 2002, you said that when you were a kid, you wanted to be an explorer. You still want to give that a shot someday?
YM: That would be really difficult. (Laughs) That also relates to history, too. Because I want to see different things and learn the different culture.
Me: Is there anyplace that you haven't been or haven't seen that you would like to go to, or see?
YM: The moon.
Me: They can arrange that now.
YM: We're in Houston. They could launch me.
Me: Anyplace on Earth?
YM: My wife and me has arranged to try to go to the Maldive Islands. My wife and me really want to go for next vacation, sometime this year, maybe. It's quiet. Surrounded by water. Peaceful. And I hear it will be sinking sometime soon, probably in the next 100 years.
Me: How would you sum up your career?
YM: I feel like I'm a lucky guy. I'm a lucky guy. It's almost like most of my lifetime until today, I'm a lucky guy. I have great parents, who played basketball before, and are very great person. I would say parents are the first guides for the children. That decides in the future what kind of friend you're going to make. And that's why I say how fortunate I am. It's all from my parents -- including this career, this basketball career. I know there's out there how many kids want to get out to the NBA, NCAA into NBA, or maybe an overseas league, or whatever. I think my parents always told me, don't get too used to it. You have to know you are playing basketball. Basketball is the major. Everything else is only because you can play basketball. So you have to know what is important. So I think I stick on that.
Me: What will you tell Amy (Yao's 2-year-old daughter) about your career?
YM: I brought her to a New Year's Eve game (in 2010). By then, I was already out for the season. She never got a chance to watch me play before. We had her when I was 30 years old. I just wanted her to be there. She was only seven months old; she probably doesn't remember it. I believe somebody took her picture. I hope one day she will ask me. But I don't need to tell her.
Me: You don't?
YM: I want her living in a way where she can develop into the type of girl she want to be. I won't say ... I'm really proud about my parents, but since my growing up, so many people tell me 'your parents are great; you need to be' (like them). I'm proud of that. Somewhere in the corner of my mind, I'm saying 'I want to be myself, a little bit.' I'm still proud about my parents. That's why I'm saying maybe, people will talk to her, my Amy. But not me.
Me: What would it mean to you to have your jersey retired?
YM: I don't know yet.
Me: But if it happened?
YM: Don't force me. I may come back. (Laughs) Just playing. But since I came to NBA, even before I come to NBA, I already know that jersey retirement is the greatest, highest honor for a player. It's not only to people, not only represents a great player, but a great person, but the city, not only the team, will remember you. The jerseys on top of the Toyota Center (are) Moses Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, (Rudy) Tomjanovich and Calvin Murphy. (Ed: Clyde Drexler's number is also up in the rafters.) And there's not one day that we're walking into the arena, running into the arena for a game, that we're not watching those jerseys, and thinking that those are the guys, those are our veterans guiding us to victory. And more than that, guiding us to become a better guy. So I think whatever happens, I appreciate what Houston has given to me for this past experience, these past 10 years, and I'll always treat it like home.
Rockets guard Jeremy Lin (@JLin7), Thursday, 11:36 a.m., telling us much more about his eating habits than he probably should. And making middle aged men who eat a handful of raisins and gain four pounds green with envy. What? Why are you looking at me? I'm working out!
"What have you pieced together? Have you made any moves? Have you made any trades to get better? You know all roads to the championship lead through Miami. What pieces have you put together for the physical playoffs?...Joakim Noah is a great player. Luol Deng is a great player. But you need more than that. You have to put together pieces to your main piece. The players can only do so much. It's up to the organization to make them better."
-- Reggie Rose, Derrick Rose's older brother and manager, venting to ESPNChicago.com last Thursday about what he perceives as the team's inaction this season to improve the Bulls while his brother continues his rehab from the torn ACL he suffered in the playoffs last April. Derrick Rose quickly issued a statement through the team after his brother's comments, saying he feels the Bulls are as committed as he is to trying for a championship.
"It's not a question of if we make the playoffs. We will. And when we get there, I have no fear of anyone -- Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Denver...whoever. I have zero nervousness about that."
Kobe Bryant, in an interview with Sports Illustrated's Jack McCallum, after being asked if this season's Lakers, with all their dysfunctions, can make the postseason.
"He was in a very dark place for those two or three weeks of isolation and hibernation. There's nothing like going through it. That is enough. I don't think, after what he has endured, this man is capable of being broken. He can be down at the depths of personal depression, but now look at him."
-- Pat Riley, to the Miami Herald's Dan LeBatard, on how LeBron James rebounded from the 2011 Finals loss to the Mavericks to his ultimate triumph in 2012, including the Finals win over Oklahoma City and leading the U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal in London.
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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