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David Aldridge

Vinny Del Negro and George Karl

Unsaid says much about Del Negro, Hollins and Karl ousters


Posted Sep 30, 2013 10:15 AM

And so, there has developed, in Washington, a kind of knowing without being known to know, for which there is no word at all. It is a nonoperational, untraceable knowing, which can seldom be proven or disproven. Indeed, its vague oriental essence can barely be expressed. It is ying and yang, knowing-not-knowing. It is knowing all about the thing without being culpable of knowing the thing itself.
-- Richard Ben Cramer, "What it Takes", 1992

Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know.
-- Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, 6th Century B.C.

I know Nothing!
-- Sergeant Schultz, "Hogan's Heroes", 1965-71

Everybody knows why Lionel Hollins, George Karl and Vinny Del Negro were fired.

Right?

The NBA is rife with knowing without knowing, of rumors with no father that float, these days, through the blogosophere, ping-ponging from site to site, with such rapidity that they congeal into "fact" within hours. Vanity, pride and other deadly sins often conspire against truth in such situations. No one is 100 percent saint or sinner. Change almost always comes with new ownership, or with a power vacuum.

Yet, do we really have to "know" why three of the most successful coaches in recent years aren't with their respective teams? The only thing that you have to "know" is that they aren't there.

And so, you'd love to think that Hollins couldn't imagine being anywhere else, doing anything else, than spending opening day of NBA training camps with me, Steve Smith and Matt Winer in an Atlanta television studio. Because, really, what better place is there? But, you'd be wrong.

He is a coach.

"I hear Marc Gasol say, 'Coach helped us grow as players, and also as men,' " Hollins said Friday. "That means a lot to me. Because I believe it's my responsibility to help these young players become better men. All these young guys, I think we had three -- Tony Allen, Rudy [Gay] and Marc -- got married this summer. Next summer, Darrell [Arthur] and Mike [Conley] are getting married. Letting them know that [basketball] is just a small part of your life."

Coaches coach. It's the reason that Larry Brown meanders from place to place, and why Phil Jackson's name still draws rapt attention, and why Pat Riley's protestations that he's done calling Fist Out never completely convince. It's the business they have chosen.

And yet, this NBA season is starting without Hollins on the bench. And it's starting with Karl, one of eight coaches in NBA history with more than 1,000 victories, out of a gig. And it's starting with Del Negro planning trips to Dallas and San Antonio to visit Rick Carlisle and Gregg Popovich instead of coaching the Clippers.

In an offseason where NBA coaches were cast here and there like driftwood, and almost half of the league (13 teams) made changes, the dismissal of those three in particular resonated through the noise.

Hollins was not offered a new contract by the Grizzlies' new management, despite Memphis making the Western Conference finals for the first time in franchise history.

Karl drove the Nuggets to a franchise-record 57 regular season wins.

The Clippers had made the postseason once in the previous 13 years before Del Negro was hired in 2010, but in his three seasons, Del Negro made the playoffs twice and the Clippers won their first Pacific Division title.

Coaches know they're hired to be fired, that the clock starts ticking the second they accept the gig. They're big boys and they know what's coming. And almost everyone knows that sinking, awful feeling when you're cashiered. I do. It was among the most empty of feelings, yet my whole body felt on edge, hypersensitive, as if a gust of wind on my bare arm would cut me, and I'd bleed out. But these are grown men who've dealt with disappointments before, and came back.

This isn't about getting fired. This is about getting fired when you've done your job, when you've won, been directly responsible for creating success in places where precious little was before.

What do you do with the disappointment, anger and the bewilderment?

"Everyone handles it a little bit differently," Del Negro said by phone from Arizona on Tuesday.

"The harder part is my three years there, we did stuff that had never been done before," he said. "You want to see it through. It's more different, for me, for my assistant coaches ... all of the guys that worked really hard and got pushed aside, I'm glad they landed on their feet. You come to the conclusion that, if you spend your whole life trying to figure out what other people are thinking or how to control them, you can't control what they're going to do. It used to be if you had success, set every franchise record or whatever, you got rewarded for that.

"Look at Lionel Hollins. He set all the franchise records. He gets fired. George Karl sets all the home records [Denver was a franchise-best 38-3 at home last season.] He gets fired. I set all the franchise records. I get fired."

The Clippers went from 18th in the league in defensive rating in Del Negro's first season to eighth last season. They were eighth-best in points allowed and tied for 10th-best in opponents' effective field goal percentage allowed. But the improvement wasn't enough to save his job.

The reasons for Del Negro's firing have been long rumored, never confirmed. Of course, they rarely are in such situations. But criticism of Del Negro was always just below the surface in Los Angeles, whispers and rumors about players being unhappy with their roles, and his adjustments during games.

Then, after the team fired Del Negro in May, owner Donald Sterling agreed during an interview with the assertion of then-Los Angeles Times columnist T.J. Simers that the players were "calling the shots" in Los Angeles and wanted Del Negro fired.

"This is a players' league," Sterling told Simers, "and, unfortunately, if you want to win you have to make the players happy. Don't you think that's true?...

"Money is not the only thing that makes them happy. They want to win, and they want the best opportunity to win. Do they know what the best opportunity to win is? I frankly don't know. But if you have special players, and special players think that they know the best opportunity to win, you have to support them."

The Clippers walked that statement back once Chris Paul reportedly expressed his anger at the intimation that he was the chief advocate for firing Del Negro. And since Paul was about to become a free agent, the team had to do everything to assure his happiness. That happiness was assured, though, once the team secured Doc Rivers to replace Del Negro -- a process that stopped, and started, but was pushed to the finish line when the Clippers gave Boston a first-round pick and agreed to pay Rivers the full balance of his $35 million contract.

All Del Negro will say about all that is, "me and Chris had a great relationship." But he doesn't have to say more. Obviously, getting Paul in the controversial 2011 trade from New Orleans is the main reason the Clippers became an honest to goodness contender, just as Derrick Rose helped Del Negro get a lot of his wins in Chicago in 2008 and '09. It's a players' league, to be sure. But to dismiss Del Negro's part in the Clippers' success is an insult as well.

"You take the punches and roll with it," Del Negro said. "That's all you can do with it. I loved seeing the development of the players. I liked seeing the young guys get better. I liked seeing the team come together, and the culture changing. The culture with the Clippers is a lot different now. I learned that in San Antonio. Just the attention to detail and things like that.

"People say continuity is important. Look at the Spurs, and Jerry Sloan with the Jazz, or the Pat Rileys and the great coaches. They all had great coaches. But they had continuity. They lose in the first round, they didn't blow the team up. The Spurs hadn't done anything in four years, and now they're an offensive rebound away from winning the championship [last season]. Think about Michael Jordan and the Bulls, every year, losing to Detroit, losing to Detroit, losing to Detroit."

Hollins and general manager Chris Wallace brought that kind of stability to the Grizzlies. In his third stint as the franchise's coach, Hollins made Memphis into an ornery, defensive-oriented team. Wallace was excoriated league-wide for trading Pau Gasol to the Lakers in 2008, but the package he got back included Pau's younger brother, Marc. He's become the spine of the Grizzlies' franchise and was last season's Defensive Player of the Year.

The deal also gave Memphis the financial flexibility to take Zach Randolph from the Clippers. In Memphis, Randolph resurrected his career, changing his reputation from that of an underachieving coach killer to a dependable low-post cudgel and a two-time All-Star. Wallace and Hollins stuck with point guard Mike Conley when many others thought him a first-round bust, and Conley developed into a cool leader and a dependable scorer.

Yet despite bringing the franchise its greatest successes, Wallace was pushed aside when Robert Pera bought the Grizzlies last year, retaining a title that no longer had any authority behind it. And Hollins was shown the door after the playoffs. Again, no one would come and say exactly why the coach who has 39 percent (214) of the franchise's all-time regular-season wins wasn't retained.

But everyone knows. Right?

Hollins did not completely embrace the new regime's desire to utilize advanced stats -- the new analytics -- to determine player rotations or style of play. Hollins supported Gay, whom the analytic-based community thought is vastly overrated and underperforming, and whom the Grizzlies traded to Toronto.

Hollins eschewed taking 3-pointers, which are highly valued by the advanced-numbers folks, because he believed he didn't have 3-point talent on the roster. And Hollins made no secret of the fact that he didn't believe the new owners could spend what other teams could, given the limitations of the Memphis market to create revenue.

After discussions on a new deal for Hollins went nowhere in early June, the Grizzlies gave Hollins permission to speak with other teams, and elevated assistant coach Dave Joerger to Hollins' spot. But after lengthy discussions -- ironically -- with the Clippers and Nuggets, Hollins wasn't hired. Instead of planning for the season, he spent the last couple of months planning for his daughter's wedding.

Today, Hollins does not want to re-litigate the last few months. He says, over and over, that Pera, general manager Jason Levien and vice president of basketball operations John Hollinger have, and had, the right to do what they believed would best help the franchise.

But that doesn't mean it didn't hurt.

"For me, it was just getting over, trying to digest what happened," he said. "Like the beautiful girl when she was rejected, what did I do wrong? And when I analyzed it, I don't think I did anything wrong. I think they made a decision, and that was it. Now, whatever they may say, I don't think is what really [happened] behind the scenes. They wanted to hire somebody different."

Hollins' agent spoke with the Grizzlies after the playoffs, but the two sides never came close to bridging the gulf. Hollins thought after his team had not only made the playoffs, but beaten the likes of the No. 4-seeded Clippers and top-seeded Thunder in successive series, that he'd earned a representative payday. It wasn't forthcoming.

"The market out there was $4 million [per year] for four years," Hollins said. "And I could have lived with that if they had come to me and said, 'We can't pay this.' But they never offered me a contract. Ever. They didn't talk to me for 10 days. But none of that really matters. It's their team, their money, and they can do what they want."

Hollins heard from several members of the coaching fraternity, including Karl, Tim Grgurich and Jeff and Stan Van Gundy. Jerry Colangelo called. Ex-teammates like Steve "Snapper" Jones told him to keep his head up.

"Probably the best compliment and pat on the back came from John Thompson," Hollins said. "I saw him at USA Basketball [in July], and we were milling around. He said, 'Don't go anywhere; I want to talk to you.' And when he was done with his conversation he said, 'First, I want to give you a hug. And second, I pat you on the back for sticking with your principles.' He said, 'You stuck with what you believed in, and you were successful with it. What else do they want?' "

For now, Karl will work for ESPN this season. Both Hollins and Del Negro will commute from Memphis and Phoenix, respectively, to do work for NBA TV during the season, all joining that well-worn fraternity of ex-coaches who do studio work until the next opportunity comes along. Given the impatience of the modern owner, that chance will certainly come soon.

"It's not the first time I've been fired, either as a head coach or an assistant coach," Hollins said. "My life is good. They don't control my happiness. Before I had that job, I was happy. I was happy while I had it. And I'm happy now. And I believe I'll get another job in time."

Four years ago, Del Negro's rise to coach in Chicago was a surprise. He'd played 14 seasons and been an assistant general manager with Phoenix, but few around the league knew he wanted to be on the bench. Now, he's a twice-fired coach, likely to be on the short list when the openings begin to come in earnest.

He is obviously looking forward to spending time this season with his family. But he is already looking ahead.

"[Ex-St. Louis Cardinals manager] Tony LaRussa told me, 'Every day I get up as a manager, I feel terrible and I'm gonna throw up, and I have to fill out the lineup card, and then we have the game, and if we win the game, I'm relieved, but I'm already worrying about the game the next night,' " Del Negro said. " 'And I can't wait to do it again.' "

DRIBBLES

Gersson Rosas understands the symbolism and the responsibility of being the highest-ranking Latino executive in the NBA. He always did.

"He's a very driven individual," his brother, Mike Rosas, said by telephone Sunday evening. "I would say that was his lifelong dream, since he was about 5 or 6 years old. We'd be watching cartoons before school, and he'd change the channel to ESPN. He's always had that dream. It was always in the back of our minds that he would accomplish it. He never really had a basketball career in high school, but he always knew his passion would be running a basketball team."

Mavs owner Mark Cuban took him up on it this summer, hiring Rosas to become the Mavericks' general manager. Rosas will work with team president Donnie Nelson, in a partnership Cuban hopes can bolster Dallas' collective brain power and organizational flow.

"I live this," Cuban e-mailed Saturday. "Whether it's traditional analytics, bio analytics or whatever else I can find, my job is to uncover new innovative ways to give the Mavs an advantage."

Columbian-born and Houston-reared, Rosas was part of the Rockets' staff under GM Daryl Morey that has been raided by competing NBA teams in recent months. Sam Hinkie, the assistant general manager in Houston, got the 76ers' GM job this spring. Rosas was named GM of the Mavericks, and Houston's director of scouting, Arturas Karnisovas, became Denver's assistant GM in July.

It completed Rosas' meteoric rise from intern with the Rockets under the team's previous general manager, Carroll Dawson, to the team's vice president of player personnel, and then, executive vice president, under Morey.

"It's a special privilege, but it comes with serious responsibility," Gersson Rosas said Thursday. "I wouldn't have gotten where I was today without the help of several individuals. Not just on the basketball side, but on the educational side. My message in that area is, identify your passion. What is it that you really love to do? Work is too hard for you not to be doing something that you're passionate about. I feel the responsibility, but I don't think I should be the only Latino general manager. And I want to open the door for others. It's great to see what's happened in baseball and some of the other sports, but in every sport, diversity is so important. It's something I take personally. I don't want to be the only one."

Such things don't matter to some, but they do when it's your people that have never gotten a chance to work at the highest levels, just as it mattered that Argentina and Spain broke through in the last decade to become world basketball powers. It matters that Mexico was an upset winner of the FIBA Americas tournament earlier this month, earning a spot in the World Cup of Basketball in Spain next year.

At 35, Rosas is also one of the new breed of young execs with little playing experience who drew league-wide attention. Rosas is well-versed in the analytics world, of course, but his strength is more in organization and player evaluation.

"Daryl has the biggest brain of all of us," Rosas says.

While in Houston, Rosas was also general manager of the Rockets' NBA Development League team, Rio Grande Valley. The Vipers made three D-League Finals on Rosas' watch, winning two championships. Equally importantly, Rosas was credited with bringing several players to RGV that got playing time there and got better, from Patrick Beverly to former first-rounder Donatas Motiejunas, to Garrett Temple (now with Washington) to Greg Smith, who became an important part of the Rockets' rotation last season.

Houston, like Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Golden State, utilizes its D-League team as an extension of the parent NBA team. It shares philosophies and sends its young players back and forth between the two teams, over and over, during the season. The teams have the same philosophy and teach the same things to their players.

The Rockets and Rio Grande Valley had a hybrid agreement, more and more common between D-League and NBA teams, where the NBA team pays for and controls the D-League team's basketball operations management, while local ownership in the D-League city handles the team's business operations.

Brooklyn (Springfield Armor), Boston (Maine Red Claws), New York (Erie BayHawks), Miami (Sioux Falls Skyforce) and Portland (Idaho Stampede) also have hybrid agreements with their D-League affiliates.

"It was beneficial because we invested a lot there," Rosas said. "There's a number of teams who have figured out the value of it. The league is growing and developing in leaps and bounds. I thought last season was the best season (the NBADL) ever had. It's like anything else. If you have success people will copy it. I don't think we're that far off from the 30/30 structure I know the league wants.

"The opportunity to develop coaches and develop staffs and develop processes, we invested in it. And if you invest, you get a return on the investment. The D-League is where you can develop talent, to have a high level alternative where guys can develop and can play. And they can be coached. The D-League team is going to be an extension of the NBA team. They can be developed positively or developed negatively."

Not only did the Vipers make a point of grooming players for the Rockets under Rosas, but made sure they continued working with players that they knew were never likely to play for their parent team.

"He was the driving force behind the D-League," Morey said Sunday. "Obviously he made the finals three out of four years, and we won two titles. Both of our head coaches during that time [Chris Finch and Nick Nurse] have become NBA assistant coaches. We had the most callups of any team in the league. And really, Gersson was the key behind all of that. His ability to find talent was really the driving force behind the Vipers' success."

The Spurs were very interested in bringing Rosas to their organization. Rosas was part of the Rockets' contingent that wooed Dwight Howard on July 1 to come to Houston, and Dallas came hard after him after that successful courtship.

He was happy with the Rockets, but the opportunity to go out on his own, working for an owner with seemingly limitless enthusiasm and resources, was too good to pass up.

"When you're in my position, in my role, you have to evaluate the whole situation, and that starts at the top," Rosas said. "The owner, his vision drives the organization. He raised the bar to a championship organization, that's his vision. He was willing to give me the opportunity, and he was willing to give me the resources. In my job, that's all you can ask for."

Cuban says that when he went to Nelson to try and find smart up-and-comers, the first name Nelson gave him was Rosas, one of the few Rockets' employees who was there before Morey's arrival in 2006.

"Donnie and I were discussing how to extend our knowledge base," Cuban said in the e-mail. "We want to add as many smart people as we can. Gersson does an incredible job of managing people, departments and processes. Bottom line he gets things done. That allows Donnie and I to try new things. It's a great combination."

Gersson Rosas, his brother says, was always a serious child. He didn't waste time after going to Dobie High School in Houston and then graduating from the University of Houston in 2000. Gersson Rosas was already doing "all kinds of internships for no pay, crazy hours, missing holidays," Mike Rosas says. The Rockets made him an intern in 2001 and he worked there for two years before taking an assistant coach's job at Houston's Westbury Christian High in 2003, where star Ndudi Ebi was about to be taken in the first round of the NBA Draft by the Timberwolves.

A graduate assistant's job at his alma mater, the U of H, came next. The Rockets brought him back in 2004 as a personnel scout and video coordinator, beginning his rise through the organization. By 2007 he was Houston's Director of Scouting.

The Rockets were doing the hard work of transitioning from the Yao Ming-Tracy McGrady era, starting the years-long process of sifting through players, almost all of whom were expendable if a better player was available via trade. But Houston had to build up its talent base, making the players it had better ones, in order to flip them for picks and other players.

"His ability to find great players and put them together, especially in the tough times, was really key," Morey said of Rosas. "Unfortunately for us, he'll add a really good element to [Dallas]. He comes from a different background and he has a different perspective."

Rosas understands and knows that analytics, for example, are a huge part of player evaluation. But he came to Dallas in part to see how the Mavericks utilize their advanced stats throughout their organization.

"Coming from Houston, I'm a basketball guy, but my exposure to Dallas has really opened my eyes to analytics," Rosas said. "Mark really believes in it, how we can use it on the court, off the court, different technologies. His motivation of, 'Are we doing what nobody else is doing?', it's a special responsibility. There's a great staff in here. I can't say enough about Rick Carlisle. [Head athletic trainer] Casey Smith is a guy who's got an unbelievable vision, with the connection between players and health and training. They're doing things here that are tops in the league, and that's because Mark believes in it."

But, as every exec says these days, there has to be a balance between the numbers and what your eyes tell you.

"The reality is, I'm a competitor," Rosas says. "As a competitor, you want every resource available to you so you can make the best decisions. I don't think you have success if you focus 100 percent on basketball, or if you focus 100 percent on analytics. Our focus and responsibility here is to get as much information as you can, from the basketball perspective, from analytics, from the medical aspect. Getting as much info as you can to make an informed decision ... we're not in here focused solely on one aspect."

But no coach believes more in analytical data than Carlisle.

"You want to have a coach you feel you have a good partnership with," Rosas said. "I don't have all the answers; he doesn't have all the answers. But working together we can get to the right place. What was exciting is we compliment each other. You have a veteran championship coach who's had a lot of success, who understands we have to try different things to get to championship level. Is he going to agree to everything? No. But he's willing to try different things."

Dallas sought Howard, of course, just as it went after Deron Williams last summer, without success. But the Mavs didn't go the one-year route again after whiffing on Howard, signing veterans Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert and DeJuan Blair, while trying to continue developing young players like Jae Crowder and first-rounder Shane Larkin.

The Mavericks had to do better by Dirk Nowitzki as he enters the last year of his contract. He'll almost certainly retire in Dallas, but last season was one of the toughest of his career.

"We have work to do," Rosas said, "but you have a superstar in Dirk who's the face of the organization, who's won a championship here, and that's a great advantage. We've got to add to the talent base, we've got to create upside to our roster, and we've got to have players that can play with Dirk, and after Dirk. We've got some young players we drafted that we hope can surprise us, though the development curve can take some time. But there's a definite focus on doing what we need to do to add to the roster and continue the playoff run that this organization has gotten used to."

Yet Gersson Rosas will likely never convince those closest to him that his new team is worth supporting. "We're still a Rockets family," said Mike Rosas, who remains one of the Rockets' team chaplains.

But seeing how far his big brother has come so fast matters.

"Just the fact of having that kind of capability to influence a team at that level, and having a great owner like Mark Cuban, he knows that results will be a big part of the job," Mike Rosas said. "I know it's just the beginning. He takes the pressure and puts in the right place. He just works harder instead of burning out."

NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT ...

How many Class of 2010 players will wind up with extensions?

Friday's announcement by the Kings that they'd given DeMarcus Cousins a four-year, $62 million extension -- basically, the Kevin Love Deal -- was a surprise only if you weren't in Las Vegas at USA Basketball practice. You wouldn't have seen new majority owner Vivek Ranadive, seemingly glued to Cousins' representatives, gushing about the center about whom so many others have merely spewed. The Kings' new braintrust made it clear from minute one that they were going to tie themselves to Cousins, and make him the centerpiece of Sacramento's latest rebuilding effort.

With Cousins, Washington's John Wall and Indiana's Paul George (who each got five years and $80 million) and Milwaukee's Larry Sanders (four years, $44 million) in the mix, there are few obvious candidates among the remaining Class of 2010 members to get new deals before the Nov. 1 deadline. If they don't get extensions, they'll become restricted free agents after next season, with their current teams able to match any offer sheets they command elsewhere.

The Class of 2009 started slowly, but wound up getting seven extensions last year, starting with Blake Griffin's $100 million from the Clippers, and James Harden's $80 million from Houston. The rest: Golden State's Stephen Curry (four years, $44 million), Toronto's DeMar DeRozan (four years, $40 million), New Orleans' Jrue Holiday (four years, $41 million), Denver's Ty Lawson (four years, $48 million), and Chicago's Taj Gibson (four years, $32 million).

Charlotte re-signed guard Gerald Henderson this summer for three years and $18 million, and Atlanta matched a four-year, $32 million offer sheet that restricted free agent guard Jeff Teague got from Milwaukee.

Only six members of the Draft Class of 2008 got extensions -- Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook, who each got max deals, Kevin Love, Danilo Gallinari, Jason Thompson and George Hill. Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka also signed an extension, but because he played a year overseas before coming over, the Thunder weren't under the same deadline to sign him.

Only five players from the Class of 2007 got extensions. Kevin Durant got a max deal for $85 million from Oklahoma City, and Al Horford and Joakim Noah got pretty similar deals worth around $60 million. The Grizzlies gave point guard Mike Conley a $40 million extension, and the Suns gave Jared Dudley $22.5 million. It was a far cry from 2002, when 16 members of that year's Draft class got extensions. By 2005, that number had fallen to seven; the next year it was six.

The most likely remaining player from the 2010 class is Phoenix guard Eric Bledsoe.

The centerpiece of the three-team trade with the Clippers and Bucks for the Suns, the 23-year-old Bledsoe would certainly get a substantial offer if he's allowed to hit the market next summer.

While Bledsoe has yet to have the kind of success of other young point guards like Curry or Ty Lawson, the going rate for young floor generals seems to be the $10 million to $12 million per year that Curry, Holiday and Lawson received. For a Suns team that is going to struggle both to win games and draw fans, keeping Bledsoe long-term must be a priority.

Detroit's Greg Monroe would also look to be in line for an extension, having established himself as one of the good young big men in the East. He was top 10 last season in double-doubles (37) and was one of the few bright spots for the Pistons the last two seasons.

But league sources indicate an extension for Monroe is highly unlikely. The Pistons are not going to give him anywhere near the max, based on their current roster. Plus, Monroe's agent, David Falk, has little interest in signing an extension for less than that. While discussions are friendly, it's likely the two sides will revisit next summer -- if Monroe is still on the roster.

With Andre Drummond looking like the Pistons' center of the future, and with $56 million invested in Josh Smith -- much more effective as a four -- how much will Detroit put forth for Monroe?

Boston guard Avery Bradley showed great promise in his second season, taking over for Ray Allen at the two. But shoulder injuries during the playoffs ended his year, and Bradley struggled mightily when he was forced into starting point guard duties after Rajon Rondo was lost for the season with an ACL tear. After the Celtics blew up their roster this summer, it seems unlikely they'd extend themselves into giving up future cap room, even for a defensive talent like Bradley.

Utah has decisions to make on two of its young players, forward Derrick Favors and swingman Gordon Hayward. The Jazz have committed to its young players, and they're hopeful that a deal is possible either player. But with a month to go, there's no certainty.

Four other players -- Memphis' Ed Davis and Quincy Pondexter, Sacramento's Greivis Vasquez, and Washington's Kevin Seraphin -- are longer shots for extensions. But each had strong moments last season and are established parts of their respective teams' rotations.

There's no chance for top-10 2010 picks Evan Turner (Philly), Wes Johnson (Lakers), Ekpe Udoh (Milwaukee) and Al-Faroqu Aminu (New Orleans).

... AND NOBODY ASKED YOU, EITHER

Not even Riles can pull that off. From Miguel Angelo Antoniazzi:

I was looking at the 2014 NBA Draft odds and possible lottery winners and I have one question for you:

There is a great possibility that Philadelphia could win the lottery next year, but they own a protected first round pick to Miami in 2014. So this means that if Philadelphia wins the No. 1 pick, Miami could be selecting Andrew Wiggins in next year's Draft???

No, Miguel. The pick, which the Heat got from Philly on Draft night in 2012, is protected from picks No. 1-14 in the first round, meaning if it is anywhere in that range, the 76ers retain it. Miami will only get the pick if it is between the No. 15-30 in the first round.

Perhaps he was still polishing up "The Winner Within" at the time. From Paul Teufer:

Mr. Riley did not coin the phrase three-peat. Byron Scott did, but Riley trademarked it.

Being an award-winning journalist (the award was written, in crayon, by my 6-year-old), Paul, this is precisely the kind of information I am duty bound to confirm or scuttle. So, I went to the source.

"Yes, I did," Scott texted Saturday. "In Hawaii, during training camp."

Scott did not recall when he heard that Riles had trademarked the phrase, but he knows that he was never cut in for a piece of the cheddar. "C'mon, man," Scott texted. And then, he was off, teeing it up somewhere.

Send your questions, comments, criticisms and your favorite government agency that will be shut down on Tuesday 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

$7,000,000 -- Reported cost of the Rockets' renovated locker room at Toyota Center, which has television screens above each player's cubicle that can provide advanced statistical data and other info.

28 -- Years since the NBA Finals were changed to a 2-3-2 format, with the middle three games played in a row before the team with home-court advantage gets the last two games of the series. The Boston Herald reported Sunday that the NBA's Competition Committee voted to change the Finals format back to the 2-2-1-1-1 format used in all other rounds of the postseason. Owners will still have to ratify the change at their next Board of Governors meeting.

25 -- Years that Miami's Andy Elisburg has been with the organization. The Heat's cap guru finally got his long-overdue promotion to general manager over the weekend as the Heat announced several front office changes, including adding former player Juwan Howard to the bench as a full-time assistant coach, something he was basically doing anyway the last two seasons while still technically on the roster.

I'M FEELIN' ...

1) I expect to be plied with your finest meats and cheeses in the owners' suite next time I roll through the 916.

2) New Orleans All-Star 2014? New York All-Star 2015? Toronto All-Star 2016? Rollin' sevens!

3) We'll never be down with the capri pants, D-Wade. But the Bill Walton socks? Cool.

4) My initial instinct was to recoil at the idea of putting nicknames on the backs of NBA jerseys, an experiment the league is apparently going to allow Miami and Brooklyn to conduct for one game this season. Then I got over my old fogyness and surmised the republic will go on, regardless of whether Ray Allen rocks "Shuttlesworth" on the back of his uni. And, this is hardly the first time the league has allowed nicknames on jerseys. In that regard, it's an homage to the past. (And, in another, it's a blatant, crass way to yet again get into your wallet. I know, I know.)

4A) Along those lines, there was an amazing period in the 1970s in baseball where nicknames on jerseys were rather commonplace. Jimmy Wynn was known as "the Toy Cannon" for his strength despite his diminutive size, and celebrated his nickname while with the Braves. San Francisco's Johnnie LeMaster, angry at constantly being booed by his own fans at Candlestick Park, turned the tables on them for one game. The A's got in the act with pitcher Jim "Catfish" Hunter and shortstop Bert "Campy" Campenaris. The funniest was Braves pitcher Andy Messersmith, who sported the seemingly odd nickname "Channel" on the back of his jersey. The reason? His number was 17 -- which was the original television channel number of Ted Turner's Superstation, which became TBS -- and which, ultimately, became the conglomerate now known as Turner Sports, which pays my salary. "Channel" 17? Get it? The synergy of nostalgia and baldfaced commerce!

5) A tip of the hat to Mariano Rivera, as classy a superstar as has ever played in any sport. Good luck to him in whatever he decides to do next.

6) This restores my faith in humanity, while also shaming me to be a better citizen of the world, for if someone as famous and accomplished as Bobby Orr can do so much for so many, surely I can do more.

NOT FEELIN' ...

1) It is hard for me to believe that KD and D-Wade have legit beef with one another, simply because everybody these days is so buddy-buddy with everyone else. It's been so long since I've seen some actual animosity between stars, it's hard to recognize the real thing.

2) This does not imbue one with optimism about STAT's future.

3) Adieu, Brother Hedo. If this is the end of your days in the NBA, it was a great, great ride. Great player when healthy.

4) Tony. You know better.

5) Mmmmmm ... beer. And ... arrests for DUI leaving the stadium.

TWEET OF THE WEEK

Anyone know where I can get some good poutine in Orlando???? ‪#starving
-- Magic forward Andrew Nicholson (@nicholaf44), Thursday, 4:09 p.m. For the uninitiated, poutine is a Canadian dish of French fries covered in thick gravy, topped with cheese curds.

THEY SAID IT

"No coach has been able to control Kobe. No coach we've had since 1996 and that's not going to change."
-- Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak, at his preseason media availability last week, on what he hopes will be a manageable relationship between Bryant and Mike D'Antoni when Bryant returns to the court.

"I don't feel with this team that it's mandatory that I have to surround myself with perspective or wisdom or, you know, an Owl that's been there, done that. I feel that this year's team is about development. And I feel like it's about ... teaching, relationships and energy more than NBA wisdom."
-- 76ers' Coach Brett Brown, to the Philadelphia Inquirer, on the idea that he has to hire a veteran or former NBA head coach to his staff as he begins his first season as a head coach.

"I'm not in any rush to get him back. Obviously it'd be great if he's here for opening day and practicing. If he's not, I'm more than OK with it."
-- Cavaliers Coach Mike Brown, on the status of still-injured center Andrew Bynum. Bynum, who signed a two-year, $24 million deal with Cleveland, has not yet been cleared to resume contact or practice.

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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