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David Aldridge

Kobe Bryant and Steve Blake
Kobe Bryant is the Lakers' star, but Steve Blake (right) is their resident 'Paxson' in 2013-14.

Teams cherish their 'Paxson' types ... even if spotlight doesn't


Posted Sep 16, 2013 9:41 AM

By the time the Larry O'Brien Trophy is hoisted in June 2014, you'll likely hear LeBron James' name mentioned, oh, 2.4 million times, on one medium or another. He is a superstar in a league that has, for six decades, pushed its superstar players. This is not a criticism of that, only an acknowledgment of reality. You will also hear about Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Kevin Durant and a dozen other players who are the most talented, telegenic and valuable.

This is not about those guys.

An NBA season goes through so many gyrations and changes, and every team is fragile. Injuries, fatigue, ambition, bad calls, agents, the media ... any or all of them can ruin a franchise's aspirations, whether that is to win it all or make the playoffs. To withstand all those pressures, inside the locker room a team needs a few tough guys. Tough physically, tough mentally, able to make major contributions to their team even if they don't play much. They are mentors and the guys the stars don't pick on in practice or in film sessions. Call them glue guys, whatever. You need a few to win a title.

I call them Paxsons -- named after John Paxson, the no-nonsense shooting guard on the Bulls' first three championship teams of the early 1990s.

Paxson was not the best player on those Bulls' teams; he never averaged more than 11.3 points a game in 11 seasons. But he was as vital as Michael Jordan or Scottie Pippen to the Bulls, someone that coach Phil Jackson could count on -- and whom he, famously, demanded MJ count on down the stretch in the '91 Finals. And in that moment, Paxson delivered.

On the great Lakers teams of the 1980s, A.C. Green and Michael Cooper were Paxsons. Bill Laimbeer was a Paxson for the Pistons in 1989 and '90. Derek Fisher was a Paxson on each of the five Lakers' recent title teams.

You see Paxsons today in the form of Miami's Shane Battier, who earns his keep by annoying and frustrating opposing teams with his defense and 3-point shooting. Battier was brutal offensively for five games of The Finals against the Spurs, going just 3 of 15 while missing every conceivable kind of shot. And for long stretches, he wasn't as effective defensively as he has been for most of his career.

But if you tried taking him out of coach Erik Spoelstra's rotation, you'd lose an arm.

Then, in Games 6 and 7, when the Heat absolutely had to have it, Battier didn't shrink from the challenge. He made 9 of 12 shots combined in the last two games, all 3-pointers.

Paxsons aren't just on championship teams. They are there when a team loses 15 in a row and they're there when the coach gets fired. They're pros, giving the same effort whether their teams are on TNT and ESPN, or not.

Last year, Blazers insiders will tell you, Jared Jeffries was as important to the day-to-day operations of the squad as Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard or my cousin LaMarcus, the All-Star. Jeffries was a mentor to the younger players, a total professional, great in the locker room, smart, engaged teammates with his personality -- and, most importantly, did all this while accepting a playing role of limited minutes on a rebuilding team. Those things matter.

With training camps beginning in just a couple of weeks, let's turn the spotlight away from the game's stars and look at some of the guys who will do their jobs nightly while giving their teams not only a chance to win, but will do so in a way that rarely calls attention to themselves.

In no particular order:

Larry Sanders, Bucks: The third-year center became an Internet favorite (he recently poked fun at himself for a misspelled tattoo in the offseason), a darling of the advanced stats crowd and almost averaged a double-double in a breakout season as the Bucks' starting-yet-undersized man in the middle. And Milwaukee opted to build around him rather than Brandon Jennings or Monta Ellis, giving Sanders a $44 million extension last month while letting Ellis walk to Dallas and trading Jennings to Detroit.

But there is more work that needs to be done. If Sanders can control his temper with the referees and deportment with teammates, both issues last season (though the locker room issues cut in several directions, not just from Sanders), he can get better. The Bucks think he can be even more disruptive at the defensive end, getting both his blocked shots (he was second in the league last season at 2.8 per game) and rebounds to All-Star levels.

Quincy Pondexter and Kosta Koufos, Grizzlies: On a team that is defense first, second and third, Pondexter earned his way into the rotation last season -- despite not having stellar individual numbers, per Synergy Stats. But the Grizzlies saw that he made winning plays that didn't show up in the box score, advanced or otherwise. At the other end, his ability to make 3-pointers (41 percent on spot-up 3-pointers last season) is crucial to create space for Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and Zach Randolph. It also stirs up the often-stagnant Memphis halfcourt game.

Memphis has coveted Koufos for the last year-plus. Denver wanted to give JaVale McGee more minutes and dealt Koufos, the Nuggets' starting center last season, to the Grizzlies. Gasol has racked up major minutes the last two years, especially in the postseason (609 out of a possible 720 minutes last playoffs), and Koufos will be a solid backup. There may also be times when Memphis plays Gasol and Koufos together.

Draymond Green, Warriors: He is entering only his second season for Golden State, but he's already assumed a major role. "Always ready. Great leader," says a team insider. Despite his age, Green does everything right, and at just the right cadence to command respect. And he showed during the Las Vegas Summer League that he's trying to add more to his offensive repertoire for next season.

Steve Blake, Lakers: Seems like he's been in L.A. for 10 years, doesn't it? Blake does what he always has done: run the offense well as the No. 1 backup, be able play alongside Kobe Bryant because he'll always find the open spot on the floor and get to it and create room for Bryant to drive while being a pressure-valve release for Bryant. Coach Mike D'Antoni always wanted Blake for his offense; with a full training camp, and Bryant working his way back from his torn Achilles', Blake may have to do more offensively this season than normal.

Jared Dudley, Clippers: Less Lob City, more long-range efficiency. That's why the Clips worked a mega-deal that brought Dudley and his career 40.5 percent 3-point shooting from Phoenix and J.J. Redick's career 39 percent 3-point marksmanship from Milwaukee. Whether or not Dudley replaces Caron Butler as the starting three, he'll have plenty of opportunities to do the little things -- making shots, defending, adding a little toughness to a team that needed it. And Dudley has extensive playoff experience from his days with Steve Nash in Phoenix.

DRIBBLES

Jeanie Buss says it once. She says it twice. She says it a third and a fourth time, in case it didn't sink in.

This TV show is not about her, or her family, or her fiancé, or the team she runs. Really.

Jeanie Buss and Phil Jackson
Lakers executive Jeanie Buss (left) and her fiance, ex-Lakers coach Phil Jackson, will have input on a new sports TV show.

What Buss hopes will come from the collaboration of her group with award-winning writer and director Ron Shelton are answers to the questions she always gets about being the Lakers' Executive Vice President and directing the business side of the NBA's most glamorous franchise.

Except the show isn't about the Lakers.

"It may not even be basketball," she said by phone Sunday afternoon. "It could be any other sports property. It's just about how it's an interesting industry ... it isn't based on anybody. It isn't based on my family. It isn't based on the Lakers. What's interesting to somebody like a Phil Jackson or Ron Shelton are stories, like the guy who's trying to make it in pro sports. The sacrifices they make to be a pro athlete, to be a coach."

The project is, as they say, in development. But having the increasingly dominant cable network Showtime committed almost certainly means the show will ultimately be, as they say on the West coast, green-lighted. (Look at me throwing around the Hollywood lingo! Just call me Griffin Mill and keep reading.)

The only thing that's certain is that Shelton, who wrote and directed three of the best sports movies in recent years -- "Bull Durham," "White Men Can't Jump" and"Tin Cup" -- will come up with a script, direct it, executive produce it and a pilot will be shot. It's likely going to be more drama than comedy, though there will certainly be some funny moments.

Given that Shelton is aboard, and the executive producers are Buss, her fiancé, Phil Jackson, and Jeanie's best friend, Linda Rambis, along with Linda's husband, Kurt (a Lakers assistant coach), it's probably a good bet we'll see something on Showtime -- which has come on strong in recent years with original hits like "Dexter," "Homeland," "Nurse Jackie" and "Ray Donovan" -- sometime in 2014.

Buss is the latest pro sports figure to be attached to a television project. (LeBron James will be executive producer of "Survivor's Remorse", a show in development with Starz. That show, which is supposedly not autobiographical, will center on two people from North Philadelphia who make it out of the inner city and become rich and famous. One is, ah, an NBA star; the other is not. The story centers on the responsibilities each feels for the old neighborhoods.)

The possibilities are plush for Buss' new venture, considering the institutional knowledge that Buss, Jackson and the Rambises have about pro sports in general and basketball in particular. Plus, Shelton has a history in creating memorable dialogue and getting sports movies right -- unlike so many others who've tried. (Examples -- among the few that can be digested in a family NBA notes column -- here, here, and here.)

But ...

"Certainly this isn't the Lakers' story; this isn't the Jeanie Buss story, this isn't the Phil Jackson story," she said. "There's been a thought that a lot of the shows on TV have strong female characters, but they're doctors or cops or lawyers. In this show, sports is the backdrop. It isn't going to be about re-creating games in a scripted show, because there isn't anything better than the games that are real. It's more about behind the scenes."

Buss, perhaps the most powerful female executive in the league -- she runs the whole off-the-court deal in L.A. and is the team's Board of Governors representative -- gets asked questions about her job that aren't limited to her relationship with Jackson, the former coach who led the team to five titles.

Buss had kicked around the idea of a television show about a pro sports team for a few years. At one point, she had a writer working on a script. But then the reality show boom hit, starting with "Survivor" and exploding with "American Idol." Networks saw the ratings and the money they could save by not having to hire and pay writers and actors. In a lot of ways, reality TV is a lot like sports, which is one of the few things that people still make appointments to watch live.

Only after shows like "Desperate Housewives" hit for ABC a few years ago did series TV get back on its feet. The idea for this show, though, remained dormant until a production company linked Buss and Shelton a few weeks ago.

"I was a fan of his," Buss said. "So when the production people put us together, it really was about sitting down for the first time and having that kind of conversation. He gets our business. He gets what goes on in it. He will create a compelling group of people that show what goes on in working in professional sports."

Shelton will write the script, but there will certainly be collaboration between him and the basketball people. Jackson has written best-selling books, and he'll have input with Shelton, though neither he nor Buss is going to do actual script writing.

"It's like filling in the color," she says. "OK, what's it like on a game day when people are calling for tickets? What are some of the crazy things people have said to you? That's the kind of conversations I've had with him in developing this. What is it like to be in the office on a game day, or a non- game day. What's it like to be on the business side, dealing with players' families, things like that. It gives him inspiration to kind of fill in what transpires for a character in that kind of world."

While some successful shows have nominally involved sports in recent years, there really hasn't been a very good weekly television show centered on basketball since "The White Shadow" went off the air in the '80s. And most of the movies ... good grief. "Celtic Pride"? "Juwanna Mann"? "The Air Up There"? "Eddie"? (Full disclosure: I didn't see "Coach Carter", and the 2011 sitcom "Mr. Sunshine", set in a fictional San Diego sports arena -- though many interior shots were taken in the Great Western Forum, the Lakers' old L.A. home -- was canceled before I could get a peek.)

But television shows about pro sports still have to be careful not to get too close to today's headlines. There are still bad memories of ESPN's 2003 foray into drama with the series, "Playmakers", a fictional look at an unnamed pro football league. That show, which detailed players taking drugs (and faking drug tests), promiscuity in the extreme and violence on and off the field, raised so much ire at the NFL that it pressured the Four-Letter to drop the show. ESPN, not wanting to risk losing its most important sports property, agreed to shelve it after just 11 episodes, despite the show getting outstanding ratings.

That will not happen with the new show, Buss said.

"A few years ago, we had a scripted show," she said. "Adam [Silver, the deputy commissioner] and [Commissioner] David [Stern] were both aware of it. I'm protective of the league as well. I don't even know if it's going to be basketball, but it isn't going to be based on any real team. They're not going to use NBA marks or logos. If I'm involved with it, it isn't going to be 'Playmakers'. It isn't out to make the league look bad or make the team look bad. I wouldn't be involved in anything like that."

Despite spending much of her adult life in Tinseltown, Buss says she's "humbled by Hollywood and not really understanding the process" of episodic television.

"Just because I watch TV doesn't mean I know how it all works," she says. "I think it's a nice opportunity, to show what people ask me about all the time. What is my job really like? What goes on behind? What is the process of everything leading up to a game? And what happens when you win that game, and what happens when you lose that game? The players, you get to see them. They get to be on the court and get to actually touch the ball. But there are a lot of people who put a lot of blood and sweet and tears and love to get them on the floor."

So, who will play the unnamed female executive of the sports team that is, most assuredly, not Jeanie Buss?

"When you have a partner like Showtime, and some of the programming they have delivered, there isn't that kind of demarcation as there used to be between who's a TV star and who's a movie star," Buss said. "This could be a meaty, attractive role for any female. It's like, this TV show, each episode is like it's own little movie. We want to do something that's good material so that the casting will be easy, because it will be really quality, a quality script."

NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT ...

Could Michael Beasley actually, you know, help the Heat?

At first blush, no. Make that, hell, no. Yet the Heat signed Beasley last week to a non-guaranteed one-year contract, making Beasley the second -- to this point, anyway -- underachieving former top 3 Draft pick that will join Miami next season. At least former No. 1 overall pick Greg Oden has the excuse of severe injuries to explain why he hasn't become what was expected of him. By comparison, after five years as a pro, this is the thumbnail description of Beasley, the No. 2 pick of the 2008 Draft, to which most NBA types adhere:

* He can score, if you let him shoot a lot;

* He doesn't seem to be a player bad and/or rebuilding teams think is a valuable enough piece to retain;

* He has had some problems with substance abuse.

"He won't do the right thing until he hits rock bottom," said a less-than-satisfied team official who's worked with Beasley in the pros.

That would not seem to be the kind of player the two-time defending champion Heat would want within 1,000 miles of their locker room.

Miami's got a no-nonsense, veteran core group that just went seven brutal games with the Spurs to defend its rings, needing a shot for the ages from Ray Allen in Game 6 to do so. Miami does not have a glaring need in its current rotation; the Heat seem to be cool with Norris Cole backing up Mario Chalmers, and as we all should know by now, Erik Spoelstra loathes both positions and making excuses about not having enough size, so Shane Battier can play the four and Chris Andersen is enough backup big man.

So why go through the drama of bringing back Beasley, whom Miami jettisoned to Minnesota two years after drafting him to help create enough salary cap room to bring in the SuperFriends? (I wanted to know Riles' thinking on this, because I do respect the man and didn't want to speculate, but as ever, he's gone underground, unavailable throughout the remainder of his and my lives. I don't know why I still bother to ask.)

But Riles never does anything he hasn't game-planned extensively. Which means he not only ran the idea of bringing Beasley back by LeBron, Wade, Bosh and Co., but also convinced them it was a gamble worth taking.

Why?

The obvious scenario, one that pro sports seems to love to create, is the parable of the Prodigal Son: the callow youth who insists on getting his riches before he's entitled to them, then wastes them, then comes crawling back, chastened, yet is welcomed back into the family with open arms.

Cue Instagram. And modern NBA history is rife with championship teams being willing to take chances on talent with baggage: Dennis Rodman in Chicago, Stephen Jackson in San Antonio (BTW, Jack explained what was up with this to Dan LeBatard and Bomani Jones last week), Metta World Peace in Los Angeles and more.

But the Bad Kid/Boys' Town analogy is facile reasoning. Beasley isn't an evil person and his issues wind up costing him much more than others. The issue is whether Beasley the basketball player is worthy of the Heat, and worth giving playing time to next season.

Beasley is still just 24, coming off a season in which he appeared in 75 games for a dreadful Suns squad, averaging roughly 10 ppg in a little under 21 minutes a night. That the 25-57 Suns took a nanosecond after Beasley was arrested for suspicion of marijuana possession to cut him loose and pay him the $7 million in guaranteed money they owe him (which can be spread out over three years via the stretch provision) was telling.

Or, maybe not, given his inability to stay out of trouble with the cops, regardless of where he's been since coming out of Kansas State.

But could Beasley be any worse off than, say, Andersen, who was kicked out of the league in 2006 for two years for a gross violation of the substance abuse policy? (At the time, a two-year ban could only be levied against a player who'd tested positive four times for performance-enhancing drugs -- or one time for so-called "drugs of abuse." And they were the heavy ones: amphetamines, cocaine, LSD, heroin, codeine, morphine or other opiates, and PCP.) Yet Andersen was reinstated, played well for a time for the Hornets and Nuggets, and was researched extensively by Miami before being signed late last season. He played a key role off the bench for the Heat during the playoffs.

Andersen showed he could be trusted with playing time during the postseason, with 76 rebounds in a little more than 300 postseason minutes for Miami. Per basketball-reference.com, Andersen was 10th in the league in Win Shares during the playoffs (1.9, tied with Indiana All-Star Paul George). Among players that logged 200 or more postseason minutes, Andersen's PER of 24.9 trailed only Chris Paul, James, Kevin Durant and Brook Lopez.

Beasley cannot take all the blame for being on awful defensive teams in Phoenix last season (the Suns allowed opponents to shoot 51.2 percent from the floor, 25th-best in the league) and Minnesota (the Wolves gave up 103.6 points per 100 possessions in 2011-12, tied for 20th). But he was not good individually, either.

Per Synergy Sports, Beasley's man shot 39 percent on 3-pointers last season, the majority of which were on spot-up threes. Beasley's man also shot 41 percent from 3-point range on those shots. Looking at the tapes, not all of those baskets were scored by Beasley's man; he rotated to the open man and got splashed. But on many occasions, he was indifferent both to the close out or to contesting the shot when his man did have the ball. Neither explanation will keep him in Spoelstra's rotation for long.

But Beasley can score. When he posted up in Phoenix last season, he wasn't that bad, making almost half (30 of 62) of his shots (per Synergy Stats). The Suns isolated him a lot because they didn't have many better offensive options; that won't be an issue -- or a likely set -- in Miami, at least not with the starters. Spoelstra could play Beasley at center in a small lineup with Battier remaining at power forward.

And when Beasley is with the starters, he obviously will be the beneficiary of single coverage. He'll find room at the top of the key, where his driving ability could give Miami another dribble-drive dimension other than James and Wade. And in transition, he should be an athletic lane-filler and finisher.

Whatever he's done or not done to load up the luggage that contains all of his significant baggage, Beasley is 10 times more talented than any other free agent the Heat could possibly sign given their current budget. He's not an unknown quantity. At the least, he can take some of the regular season load off of Miami's older, more playoff-drained players. And you mock Riles at your peril.

So ... yeah. He could help the Heat.

... AND NOBODY ASKED YOU, EITHER

There is still some misunderstanding in the 801 about what "offseason" constitutes. From Christopher Root:

I saw your article pop up on Facebook and decided to take a look since my team is the Jazz. Since you put them at 29 I figured there would be some pretty horrible things to say and I usually very much enjoy your stuff. After reading the paragraph, I wondered to myself what exactly they had done so wrong. They were realistic in their chances to make the playoffs and win a title, set themselves up beautifully for the future, and are giving the young guys a chance to earn contracts. You didn't really put much emphasis on why exactly they supposedly had one of the most horrendous offseasons other than the fact that they will likely be horrible this year and that ticket prices will still be expensive.

Gordon Hayward
Some Jazz fans continue to be confused by DA's offseason rankings.

They'll be bad, for sure. Should it earn them a 29th spot on your list for bad offseasons? I hardly think so. In fact, I think they accelerated the process of rebuilding rather than retaining mid-level talent like Paul Millsap or Randy Foye. I'm not a Jazz homer by any means, I am both a fan and a critic but I'm not certain what you would have had them do better other than perhaps, going after James Harden when it was clear he was available. How could they have done better?

One more time, Christopher: I understand why the Jazz did what they did. That does not change the fact that, if we are strictly evaluating the offseason -- not next year, but this summer -- Utah is much worse off now than it was at the end of the regular season. That's all I was judging. Yes, Utah is rebuilding. But, again, the Jazz is not going to be able to get free agents to come to Salt Lake City as easily as, say, the Heat can get players to come to Miami, or the Knicks or Nets can get players to come to New York. That's just reality. And, so, the Draft and retaining good players are even more important to Utah than in other cities. Losing both Al Jefferson and Millsap, no matter the circumstances, cannot be spun as having a good summer.

As for the sliver of credit concerning the former GM and Nikola Pekovic ... never mind. From Brent Bunn:

He was drafted with the 1st pick in the 2nd round in 2008 by Kevin McHale. Kahn had nothing to do with reacquiring Nikola. He was a part of signing him but not drafting

I am aware of that, Brent, though I thank you for the note. I do think David Kahn should get some credit, though; he was a big Pek supporter from Day One and he signed him to a reasonable deal (three years, $13 million) out of the gate in 2010, when few people outside of the NBA fraternity knew about the big man's potential. That faith in him, I think, laid the groundwork for what ultimately was a relatively painless negotiation leading to Pek's new, bigger deal. Pekovic wanted to stay in Minnesota and the Wolves knew enough to finally come correct with the money.

Scotty, I gotta have more power. From Rick Dhanda:

... As a full-time student living away from home, certain luxuries are not always available to me and my friends. For example, basic cable is the best we can afford, and this unfortunately leaves out NBA TV and other crucial networks that televise NBA games. So you would think that spending $190 for a year long subscription of League Pass (demonstrating the extent of my commitment to the NBA more so than the casual observer who flips on an ABC Sunday doubleheader from time to time). However, every game that is on NBA TV (come on, we're literally paying for NBA television, why do I have to buy the channel too?), ESPN, ABC, and TNT is routinely blacked out. Not only that, I cannot even wait until after the game is over as League Pass only archives games that weren't blacked out in the first place.

These are, however, the best games to watch. It just seems entirely unfair to deprive the paying dedicated fans of the best games of the season, to the extent that we cannot watch them live or afterwards, while any casual fan with a TV can turn them on. I'm not exactly paying $190 to enjoy the excitement of a Charlotte-Milwaukee matchup. I want to watch the Rockets-Spurs or the Lakers-Clippers match ups. And any competent and dedicated fan can find an online website that illegally streams the games, although the quality leaves something wanted. All this really does is alienate LeaguePass users, take money away from the NBA or its partner networks, and funnel it toward whatever website is infringing on its copyright.

Finally, as far as I am aware, the extent of the restrictions on the NBA's online broadcasting is more restraining than on the online broadcasting of the other professional leagues. Although I have only used the NHL one myself, I understand that the NFL and MLB ones are similarly less restrictive as well.

As someone that is going to watch NBA games regardless of whether they are blacked out or not, I would much rather prefer if I could pay one sum to the NBA for full access to its games instead of feeling alienated by a League depriving its paying customers from its best product.

Rick, you raise a lot of points, and some are certainly valid, but there are a couple of corrections that must be made. Only one cable operator charges viewers more who want NBA TV, and that's DirecTV. Otherwise, every other operator has NBA TV on its basic cable tier, and you shouldn't be paying extra for it.

You are right; games that are blacked out during the regular season are not archived on League Pass. However, there have been enhancements made to the package. Starting with the 2013 playoffs, every postseason game up to and including The Finals was archived, and will be going forward. And this season, any game that's on League Pass will include both the home and away broadcasts, so if you want to hear your hometown announcers doing a game, you can do so.

In addition, there are certain packages you can purchase that are less than $190. You can get League Pass via broadband mobile only, for example. And there will be 97 regular season games broadcast this season on NBA TV. I can't sit here and tell you that the blackouts are going to stop any time soon, but in the meantime, we're trying to give you more options with the games you can get.

Send your questions, comments, criticisms and a more fitting way for Carlos Danger to leave public life -- oh, right, there couldn't possibly be one -- to daldridgetnt@gmail.com. If your e-mail is sufficiently funny, thought-provoking, well-written or snarky, we just might publish it!

BY THE NUMBERS

$75,000 -- Amount in damages and court costs being sought by attorney Bret Adams, who has represented former Nuggets Coach George Karl since the early 1990s, in a suit Adams filed against Karl last week. Adams claimed he has not been paid by Karl since January; Karl is still being paid by Denver after being fired in June.

$50,000 -- Fine agreed to by Seattle hedge fund manager Chris Hansen, acknowledging he'd contributed secretly to a group trying to block the construction of a new arena in Sacramento. Hansen says he gave money to the group to look at the feasibility of the arena in Sacramento, and allowed the group to use some of the money for "political" purposes, but did not know it used some of his contribution to collect signatures needed to force a referendum next year on the use of public funds for the $448 million arena.

19 -- Players currently under contract by Dallas after the Mavs signed former Lakers second-rounder Devin Ebanks last week. Dallas also agreed to terms on a non-guaranteed deal last week with Fab Melo, the Celtics' first-rounder last year who was waived by Memphis. The Mavs already have 15 players on guaranteed deals for next season: Dirk Nowitzki, Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon, Shawn Marion, Samuel Dalembert, Gal Mekel, Vince Carter, Brandan Wright, Wayne Ellington, DeJuan Blair, Jae Crowder, Bernard James, Devin Harris, Shane Larkin and Ricky Ledo.

I'M FEELIN' ...

1) Good to hear D-Rose finally believes he's 100 percent. When he gets back on the court and plays like the league MVP he was just two seasons ago, all the manufactured drama of last season about whether Rose was tough enough or leaving his team in the lurch, all that BS, will magically disappear from the Windy City and from TV studios looking for drama where none existed. Opening night of this season will come approximately 18 months after Rose tore his ACL -- which is exactly the time frame many doctors tell you it takes for an athlete to fully recover from such an injury. Please, stop comparing everyone to Adrian Peterson.

2) Good luck to the happy couple.

3) Congrats to Mexico, which won the FIBA Tournament of the Americas last week with an upset win over Puerto Rico in the title game in Venezuela. Mexico will advance to the World Cup next year in Spain, participating in that tournament for the first time since 1974. Hawks center Gustavo Ayon was named MVP of the FIBA tournament after going for 20 and 16 in the title game. (The United States, by virtue of winning the World Championships, as they were previously known, in 2010, has automatically qualified for the World Cup.)

4) Glad to see Chris Wright, who had a cup of coffee in Dallas last season as he continues to play with Multiple Sclerosis, received a camp invite last week from the Raptors. He's a hell of a kid and I will be rooting for him to stick in Toronto.

5) Glad, Part II: Good hire in Sacramento, as the Kings make former Bulls head athletic trainer Chip Schaefer their Director of Athletic Performance.

6) For any number of reasons, I will be rooting for Miss Kansas in the Miss America pageant. Hooah.

NOT FEELIN' ...

1) I feel your pain, KD. I feel your pain. Gonna be a long season if they give up 400+ yards in the air every week.

2) Pau! Yes, it's for a good cause, but you look 12.

3) This. Stinks. (UPDATE: the paper has, apparently, had a change of heart. It still stinks that it came to this.)

4) Wondered if I was the only one that noticed that Tom Brady tends to publicly harangue teammates that he finds wanting, but I may be the only one who wonders why Brady is rarely called out on it -- as opposed to, say, Terrell Owens or Jay Cutler.

TWEET OF THE WEEK

Sorry to all the cavs fan if I offended them in anyway making the comment I made I didn't mean it the way you all took it.
-- Magic rookie guard Victor Oladipo (@VicOladipo), Thursday, 7:42 p.m., apologizing for saying he "really didn't want to go to Cleveland" in the Draft during an event for Orlando season ticket holders last week. Oladipo likely meant he didn't want to play behind Dion Waiters, which was his probable fate in Cleveland had the Cavs taken him and not UNLV forward Anthony Bennett with the first overall pick. Orlando took Oladipo with the second pick.

THEY SAID IT

"It was hell for me the last 12 months, to be honest. I'm just happy that that light is getting brighter and brighter for me in the tunnel and it's at the stage now where I feel like I'm driving out of that tunnel."
-- Andrew Bogut, to Bay Area reporters Friday. Bogut has rehabbed his surgically repaired ankle all summer after limping through the playoffs last season. Bogut said he doesn't expect any restrictions this coming season; the first pick in the 2005 Draft will be a free agent in the summer of 2014.

"Athletes get pitched all the time. People have this view that you're not the smart money, you're the dumb money. We get pitched mom-and-pop businesses that are not scalable. We get pitched on the marketing side, heavily. We get pitched by people who say their company is the next Google. Well, if you're the next Google, why are you free to sit here and talk to me on a Tuesday afternoon?"
--Former NBA player Jamal Mashburn, profiled in the Wall Street Journal last week as he starts a venture capital firm with former NFL player Winston Justice. Mashburn, the Journal reported, owns 80 restaurants, some car dealerships amid other companies he's purchased.

"In hindsight, looking back, obviously I wish I had stayed in Toronto. There's no doubt we could have contended for a championship. I think about that often. But if 'if' was a fifth, you know?"
--Recently retired Tracy McGrady, to the Toronto Star, on his decision to leave the Raptors (and his cousin, Vince Carter) in 2000 to sign a $93 million deal in Orlando, teaming with Grant Hill. Their collective stay with the Magic, of course, was throttled by injuries and an inability to get out of the first round of the playoffs, and while McGrady had some moments in his subsequent stop in Houston, he didn't get to The Finals until this year, in name only as a non-factor bench guy with the Spurs.

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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