POSTED: Mar 3, 2014 10:45 AM ET
The Knicks' Carmelo Anthony finds himself at a career crossroads earlier than he expected.
Carmelo Anthony was muttering to himself, in front of 17,000 people.
The New York Knicks were getting poleaxed again, this time by a masked LeBron James. New York's transition defense was nonexistent, as James got to the rim after New York's made buckets in less than five seconds. James' Heat team is playing for another title; his Olympic teammate is praying for a miracle.
With 22 games left in their season, the Knicks are six games behind eighth-place Atlanta for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They've lost six straight after falling in Chicago Sunday, and 12 of their last 14. They are 18 games under .500, just a game ahead of Boston, which everyone assumes is tanking this season. Miami and Indiana are rolling. The Wizards, Bulls and Nets are hot. Even the Bobcats continue to be competitive. Basically, the East's top teams are separating themselves.
The Knicks are chaff.
"It's baffling," center Tyson Chandler said. "We get off to good starts. We've had leads at halftime. We've had leads going into the fourth quarter. For whatever reason, we've been having breakdowns. And that's concerning, 'cause the fourth quarter is the time you step things up and grind things out."
Last week brought another crisis: the arrest of starting point guard Raymond Felton on two felony gun possession charges, in the toughest anti-gun state in the country. The Knicks chose not to suspend or publicly discipline Felton, though it was at best unclear whether Felton followed league rules and provided the state with proof of ownership and registration of the semiautomatic weapon that his ex-wife says belonged to him.
Knicks vs. Bulls
Coach Mike Woodson looks beaten down, almost certain to be cashiered when the season mercifully ends. The rumor mill keeps trying to find a way to bring Bulls Coach Tom Thibodeau to New York next season (not a chance in hell, you hear; Thibs may have his moments with Chicago's front office, but he has no interest climbing into that septic tank).
The team's ratings are down significantly on its television network, a season after they'd dramatically risen up to win 54 games and make the Eastern Conference semis. The team is obviously still a moneymaker. Forbes values the franchise at an NBA-best $1.4 billion, estimating Madison Square Garden made $287 million in revenues last year after its $1 billion renovation of the building. And it needs stars to continue filling that building and drawing viewers.
Enter Muttering Carmelo.
New York moved heaven -- and several young, talented players -- to bring Anthony in from Denver in 2011. But Anthony can opt out of the extension he signed in '11 this summer, with teams like the Clippers, Lakers and Bulls capable of clearing enough cap room to make a serious run at him. And Anthony has stated clearly he plans to see what's out there for him this summer.
Even in a post-Dwight-left-the-Lakers-for-Houston NBA, the odds still are in New York's favor.
GameTime: Zwerling on the Knicks
The Knicks can offer Anthony a stultifying amount of money: $129 million over five years, based on his current deal. No one else can come close to that. Anthony did say during All-Star weekend that he'd be willing to play in New York next season for less than the max, and it wasn't a news flash to the team's front office. He also knows the off-court life and business opportunities in New York are bountiful; he can likely name whatever coach he'd like to come in.
The issue is players.
The Knicks are stuck like nobody else in the league is stuck for the next 16 months.
The Lakers are bad this season, but they have their 2014 first-round pick, a sure lottery choice. A great young talent is going to be their initial reward for their first losing season in nine years. And, depending on what Los Angeles does with free agent Pau Gasol and guard Steve Nash -- whose contract is eligible to be waived via the stretch provision -- the Lakers could have more than $25 million in cap room this summer. They won't have $25 million to spend on free agents, of course, because at least some of that money will have to be used for cap holds on some existing players. But they should be able to sign at least one significant free agent.
The 76ers are bad this season, but they have two first-round picks in the upcoming Draft -- theirs and the Pelicans' -- along with five second-round picks. Rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams is the likely Rookie of the Year. Forward Nerlens Noel is likely to miss all of this season to complete rehabbing his torn ACL and will debut next season. And the Sixers will have multiple millions of their own to absorb contracts in trades and sign free agents.
Utah has Trey Burke, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Alec Burks and a lottery pick. Milwaukee has Giannis Antetokounmpo, Larry Sanders, John Henson and a lottery pick. Sacramento has DeMarcus Cousins -- a talent the Knicks would kill for -- and a decision to make on the talented Isaiah Thomas. And, a lottery pick.
The Knicks, famously, don't have a first-round pick in 2014. They do have two young, promising guards in rookie Tim Hardaway, Jr., and Iman Shumpert -- whom they tried to trade to Oklahoma City at the trade deadline for what would have been the Thunder's not-very-good first-rounder.
The Knicks supposedly are keeping their powder dry for the summer of 2015, when Amar'e Stoudemire's $100 million deal finally comes off the books (no one on Earth thinks STAT will opt out of the final year of his deal, which will pay him $23.4 million in '14-'15), and Chandler's and Andrea Bargnani's deals also expire. That summer, New York could take a run at Minnesota's Kevin Love or Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge, provided neither signs an extension with his current team.
LeBron vs. Melo
It's highly unlikely, especially given MSG chairman James Dolan's penchant for rarely acknowledging mistakes, that the Knicks would try to deal Anthony -- even though that probably is the sensible move.
"Whatever happens, we all go through things on the day-to-day that none of the public knows," Chandler said. "The one thing we have in common is when we walk through those doors, we think it's a safe haven -- and especially when we go between the lines. 'Cause your focus should be geared towards the game."
The Knicks fired GM Glen Grunwald last summer, never really explaining what he did to deserve being dismissed after building the team that had the franchise's most successful season in 13 years. They brought back former MSG executive Steve Mills to replace Grunwald. Mills' relationships with CAA, which represents Anthony, Woodson, assistant general managers Mark Warkentein and Allan Houston, are being counted on to deliver Anthony this summer and beyond.
But asking the World's Most Famous Impatient Fans to wait another 16 months -- especially when the Knicks played this hand from 2008-10, insisting that they'd bag not one, but two superstars in free agency, if everyone would just chill out -- is a big gamble. The Knicks courted James and all the other big names, but wound up having to overpay for Stoudemire, whose knees were in such bad shape they couldn't be insured.
In New York, the future is always now.
Six and a half out. Twenty-two games to go. How on earth can the Knicks think they still have a shot?
"Because we're not mathematically out," Chandler said. "I'm not going to sit here and lie to you. There's things that have to change. We can't continue to do the same thing that we're doing night in and night out and expect different results. That's just insanity."
If you want to know why Harold Bell is the way he is, start with his grandmother.
"My grandmother used to tell me, 'A lie will change a thousand times. The truth will never change,' " Bell said. "If I leave here today or tomorrow, don't nobody owe me anything. What I'd like to do is pay back some of the people that helped. Can't nobody say I stole from no kids, or drugs, or anything like that."
For five decades, Bell has told the truth as he saw it, on the airwaves in Washington, D.C., as one of the first African-American sports radio talk show hosts in the country. More recently, he's been a no-holds barred Internet columnist who regularly trashes sacred cows and tries to call attention to those in the black community who often don't get recognition -- both sports figures and regular folks.
Last Sunday, he hosted a forum honoring his father-in-law, the late Dr. Charles H. Thomas, Jr., whose family led civil rights demonstrations in Orangeburg, S.C., in the early 1950s, before Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. He's honored both Doug Williams, the Super Bowl XXII MVP winner, and Gary Mays, a multi-sport athlete in D.C. in the 1950s who guarded Elgin Baylor, played catcher for Armstrong High School and nearly made the Washington Senators' roster -- with one arm.
Bell advocated behind the scenes for the release of former University of Maryland star Jo Jo Hunter from prison last year. Hunter had been convicted in 1997 of robbing two jewelry stores and was sentenced to serve up to 43 years in prison. Bell had several prominent sports stars and other Washingtonians write letters on Hunter's behalf. He was paroled last summer.
"I've come to know Harold in the last few years," says Brian McIntyre, who was the NBA's longtime Vice President of Communications through 2010. "He's a guy who's reached an awful lot of people's lives. He's a fighter. He believes in what he believes dearly, and he's not going to give an inch. You have to respect somebody who is as passionate as he is."
And for 40 years, he and his wife, Hattie, ran Kids in Trouble. That organization went into the D.C. neighborhoods in which Bell grew up before playing at Spingarn High (Hall of Famer Dave Bing, who went on to become mayor of Detroit, was a classmate) and tried to improve the lives of at-risk youth with community programs. They also raised money to send kids to summer camps and for Christmas toy parties for kids that otherwise wouldn't get any, with Washington Redskins players often serving as Santa.
"I think you've got to live by example," Bell said. "The only reason I'm still standing strong is because somebody else is holding me up. And it's not financial all the time. When I was making big money, it was with the Lottery [a sponsor of his radio show]. I tried to keep it real for my young people, to show them that they could make it. I'm just a regular guy. I think I'm more proud of that than anybody else. When I see the young kids today, it's still Mr. Bell and Mrs. Bell. They know I never misled them."
A multi-sport athlete at Spingarn, Bell remained active in D.C.'s community as an adult, working as a roving leader for the District's Recreation Department. He started programs for kids and their families, giving away Thanksgiving turkeys and opening community centers that had previously been closed on the weekends to neighborhood residents.
Working the streets, Bell came in contact with Petey Greene, a local legend who hosted a highly-rated radio show (and, later, television show) on WOL-AM. After a few weeks of hearing Bell spout off his opinions, Greene told Bell he should put his mouth to better use, and gave him five minutes every Sunday to talk sports.
"I had never done that before," Bell said. "We had become such good friends. After he told me to get the hell off his show and get my own show, Bobby Bennett picked me up. I talked about sports and then he gave me his blessing to go get my own show."
Bennett was another local radio icon and deejay known as "the Mighty Burner." But within a few months, Bell was ready to go it alone. Station WOOK-AM hired him for a solo host job, allowing him to express his strong opinions with no filter. The show was christened "Inside Sports," and for much of the next 20 years, Bell held court with a Who's Who of sports figures.
"Every sports talk show in this country is formatted after the original Inside Sports," he says now. "Outside the Lines? I was going Outside the Lines. I was real sports before Real Sports. I was doing issues when everybody else was just giving the scores, and telling you how tall everybody was ... I played message music. Nobody was playing message music. That was unheard of. And when I'm listening to my shows, I can understand why so many people liked it."
He interviewed Jim Brown and Spencer Haywood, Calvin Hill and John Chaney. He did panel discussion shows with football players on the difficulties they faced after they retired, decades before it became a national issue. He gave John Thompson and Sugar Ray Leonard some of their first airtime (and fell out with both); he became friends with Red Auerbach, who lived in D.C. until his death even while running the Celtics. And people like former NBA referee Lee Evans and Jim Cleamons, who played with the '72 Lakers championship team and went on to be an assistant coach on the Bulls' and Lakers' title teams of the '90s and 2000s, reached back to help. Which is all Bell ever wanted.
"Good man," Attles says of Bell. "Good man. He does so much trying to do things. He's good people. We go back a long way. He's just been outstanding. I grew up in New Jersey and went to school in North Carolina, of course, and moved out to the west coast. But I have always been partial to people who give back to the community, try to give back. He did so many things. I'm a community guy and he always was. It's not easy. As we get older, and new people come in and do things, I don't think it's that people don't appreciate what you've done, it's just that people move on."
In 1973, Bell produced and hosted a half-hour special on Muhammad Ali on WRC TV, the NBC affiliate in Washington, that is believed to be the first prime time sports program produced by and starring an African-American reporter.
"I met Ali up on Howard University in 1967, when I was a roving leader," Bell said. "He was up there speaking. He was going through all them problems with the draft and everything. We met up there and hit it off. We walked down Georgia Avenue down to T Street. He found out I was working with young people, and he was really [impressed]. We had about 40, 50 people. I didn't see him again for three or four years. Then I ran into J.D. Bethea, who was at the Washington Times, and Harry Barnett, who was an attorney, representing George Foreman at the time, they said, 'Come on Harold, you want to ride with us down to see Ali fight an exhibition?' And damned if Muhammad Ali didn't recognize me. He was like, 'Harold Bell, what are you doing down here?'"
Bell hosted his show well into the 1990s in different iterations, never compromising (he once gave the boxing promoter Don King a five-figure check back after he claimed King reneged on a promise) and chastising those whom he believed didn't give enough back to the communities from which they came. Players, media, coaches, it didn't matter: if you were on Bell's bad side, there was hell to pay. (Bell, however, says he never hung up on a caller, and thinks many of today's radio gabbers are "rude" to their listeners.)
"You've got to be able to distinguish between constructive criticism and destructive criticism," he says. "I knew when people were trying to help me and when they were trying to hurt me ... you have to consider the source. When Red jumped on me, I knew he wasn't trying to destroy me. Or when Al pulled me to the side, I knew he was trying to help me, not to hurt me."
Bell is still working. He now has his own YouTube channel, of course, which airs his collection of starmaker interviews on his radio shows with the likes of Ali, as well as Auerbach, Sam Jones, Attles, and Connie Hawkins. He's a regular on Sirius XM's Maggie Linton Show, co-hosting a two-hour special on Sirius (channel 110) last Friday to commemorate the end of Black History Month. He still has events at D.C.'s iconic Ben's Chili Bowl restaurant. And he's still telling the truth. His truth.
"If you know Harold," McIntyre said, "if you haven't had an argument over something, then I don't think you know Harold."
(Last week's record in parentheses; Feb. 10 rankings in brackets)
1) Indiana  (4-0): Andrew Bynum speaks, and he says he wants to play. Maybe he does.
Nuggets vs. Trail Blazers
2) Miami  (2-0): After this week's Texas two-step in Houston and San Antonio, the Heat don't travel west of the Mississippi the rest of the regular season. (They travel to the river's edge in April with a game at Memphis.)
3) Oklahoma City  (2-1): Don't know what Caron Butler has left in the tank as a player, but a better locker room/community guy you will not find. Ever.
4) Portland  (3-0): After bleeding points before the All-Star break, the Blazers have gotten back to defensive basics: five straight wins, averaging 92.4 points against per game.
5) L.A. Clippers  (3-0): They bagged the elephant ... Granger.
6) San Antonio  (3-0): There's going to be an interesting meeting between Manu Ginobili and his shoe rep this week, I think.
7) Houston  (2-1): Rockets haven't been 20 games above .500 since late in the 2008-09 season, when Houston finished 53-29 and lost to the Lakers in seven games in the Western Conference semis.
8) Chicago  (4-0): Jimmer Fredette is shooting 49.3 percent on 3-pointers this season. The Bulls are 26th in the league in 3-point percentage, making just 34.3 percent of their 3-point attempts entering play Sunday. This seems like a good match.
9) Golden State  (2-2): NBA stars: they're just like us!
10) Phoenix  (2-2): Locals starting the Kevin Love to the Valley of the Sun in 2015 campaign.
Cavaliers vs. Grizzlies
11) Washington  (3-0): John Wall's numbers post All-Star break so far: .509 shooting (58-114), 21.3 points per game, 10.3 assists. Wizards' record since the break: 6-1, putting them three games above .500 this late in the season for the first time in seven years.
12) Dallas  (2-2): Eighth straight loss to the Spurs on Sunday night leaves Mavs tied in the loss column with the Grizzlies for the West's final playoff spot.
13) Toronto  (2-1): Nobody says $9 million plus per year for DeMar DeRozan is too much anymore.
14) Memphis  (2-1): Grizzlies begin huge three-game trip tonight against three of the East's hottest teams: Washington, Brooklyn and Chicago.
15) Brooklyn [NR] (2-1): With 25 points Saturday in Milwaukee, Marcus Thornton's already earned whatever pro-rated salary amount the Nets are paying him for the final two months of the regular season.
Dropped out: Atlanta (14)
Chicago (4-0): Won nine of last 10, holding all but one of the nine under 100 points. Maybe Tom Thibodeau is right. Maybe the Bulls do have enough. Oh, God: I'm falling under the Thibodeauean Spell! I'm not gonna look at reporters who talk to me! I'm not gonna have any hobbies! Help!
Philadelphia (0-4): Fourteen straight losses. Haven't won since Jan. 29. That was before the Winter Olympics began. I am deadly serious when I ask: what is the 76ers' pitch to season ticket holders, who start renewing for next season about this time around the league?
What Bryan Colangelo meant to say was ... wait, what?
It is an indictment of our national discourse that we always say we want honest answers to questions from our public figures, that we don't want spin or talking points or clichés. And then, when someone gives an honest answer, we crush them.
The Raptors' former general manager got caught in a candor cloud Friday at the annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, the brainchild of Rockets general manager Daryl Morey that has become the event for the advanced stats crowd that is now firmly entrenched in NBA front offices. Colangelo, who helped build the "Seven Seconds or Less" Phoenix Suns of Steve Nash and Mike D'Antoni before going to Toronto, had the temerity to acknowledge what everyone knows goes on at the bottom of the standings every year in the NBA: his team's front office cared less about winning in 2011-12, the lockout-shortened season, than improving its lottery chances.
On a Basketball Analytics panel with Celtics coach Brad Stephens, my TNT colleague Steve Kerr, Celtics assistant GM Mike Zarren and former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, the subject of tanking came up. It's gotten a lot of attention this season, because so many people "know" that teams like Boston, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Sacramento were dumping games to improve their chances at getting the best players in a deep, rich 2014 Draft. (What? Phoenix is fighting for a playoff spot? Well ... they're the outlier!)
Trade Deadline: Colangelo
Freed, perhaps, by not currently being in a front office, when it came Colangelo's turn to speak, he didn't lie.
"Admittedly, I tried to tank a couple of years ago," Colangelo said to the audience. "I didn't come out and say, 'Coach [Dwane Casey], you have to lose games.' I wanted him to establish a winning tradition and culture, but I wanted him to do it in the framework of playing and developing young players and with that, comes losing. There's just no way to avoid that."
Of course, few believe that kind of parsing is possible. Teams know good and well that the vast majority of the players in whom they're trying to establish a "winning tradition and culture" while losing games won't be on the team when and if the team improves. Not to pick on the 76ers, but the likelihood that the core of their next playoff team will feature Hollis Thompson, James Anderson, Henry Sims, Jarvis Varnado, Byron Mullens and Eric Maynor is remote. It does not matter if those guys win or lose. They won't be there in two seasons.
But Colangelo spoke the truth. The Raptors were likely to be terrible in '11-12, and no amount of rah-rahing or shell drilling was going to change that.
The truth, however, has not set Colangelo free. Corporations don't like it when executives are honest about what's really going on behind closed doors. Brown and Williamson's reaction to what Jeffrey Wigand told 60 Minutes in 1995 about what cigarette companies really put in their cigarettes comes to mind.
So Colangelo wants to set the record straight -- like, immediately.
"While discussing the current draft/lottery process, the word 'tanking' was brought up in the context of teams that deliberately increase or preserve their salary cap flexibility or seek to obtain future draft picks for current assets, which sometimes (more often than not) naturally results in a decrease in a team's short term competitiveness," Colangelo said over the weekend, adding that he knew going that route was no guarantee that the result would be favorable.
"My casual use of the word 'tanking' in the context of the panel discussion was unfortunate given the sensitive nature of the topic and the negative connotations it yields," he said. "I meant nothing more than to acknowledge that we had employed a systematic and strategic, yet still highly speculative planning process to rebuild our team which is commonly seen in sports."
Colangelo knew he wouldn't have his 2010 first-round pick, center Jonas Valanciunas, for another year, after the 19-year-old opted to play in Europe. The Raptors knew they wouldn't be able to re-sign point guard Jose Calderon, and Colangelo's 2005 No. 1 overall pick, forward Andrea Bargnani, was going through another injury-riddled season. In short, there wasn't much talent there.
The league loves to talk about how any of its 30 cities is a potential free-agent destination. The reality is that Toronto -- despite being lovely, full of energy and diversity, and with a fan base that has supported the Raptors year after year -- is not a desired landing place for most U.S.-born players of note. (A lot of people don't like red wine, either. Go figure.)
The best way -- maybe the only way -- a team like Toronto can add difference-making talent is through the Draft.
Colangelo admitted that his ultimate goal would have been for Toronto to lose enough to get the top pick overall. If he had gotten, say, Anthony Davis, to pair with the incoming Valanciunas and the cap room he hoped would lure a free agent, he probably would still be in Toronto.
"The potential rewards of such planning however would include having an accelerated, more experienced group of young players, a potentially high-value draft pick to add to that 'core' and a well-preserved and flexible salary cap structure going into the subsequent free-agent season," he told me. "This was very much about planning for our future. The unfortunate but realistic premise of this type of rebuilding model however is that you will experience growing pains along the way."
The Raptors started the lockout-shortened season 3-3, sandwiching wins over the equally dreary Cavaliers with a road win in New York, which would go on to make the playoffs. But then, Toronto fell through the floor, losing 10 of its next 11 games. Seven of the 10 losses were by double digits, including a 35-point embarrassment of a loss to the 76ers. At the All-Star break, Toronto was 10-23. Bargnani missed six weeks of an already abbreviated season with a left calf strain.
"I want to reiterate a very important point that I never asked our coach to intentionally lose games," Colangelo said. "Instead we set out to establish a new culture and to develop our young 'core' players through significant playing time which could come at an obvious, perhaps unavoidable cost ... losing an inordinate amount of games."
The irony is that Casey did make the Raptors more competitive than anyone -- including Colangelo -- thought that they'd be, especially at the defensive end, among the hardest things for a coach to instill in young players who know full well they'll be judged (and paid) by what they do at the offensive end of the floor.
Nonetheless, Toronto improved from last in the league in defensive rating to 14th in '11-12, and shot up from 28th in opponents' effective field-goal percentage to fifth. The Raptors gave up 105.4 points per game in 2010-11, fifth-worst in the league. The next season, that fell to 94 ppg -- ninth-best in the league.
Players like DeMar DeRozan and Amir Johnson, who have become key parts of Toronto's Atlantic Division-leading team this season, did get better.
"It turned out that Dwane Casey did an outstanding job coaching this group and won significantly more games than anyone anticipated, evidence that no one was intentionally trying to lose basketball games," Colangelo said.
But Toronto lost a lot more than it won. The Raptors were 23-43, finishing fourth in the Atlantic Division. Ironically, by winning their last game of the season over the Nets, the Raptors finished a game ahead of New Jersey, which had the sixth pick in the Draft -- but had already traded it to Portland for forward Gerald Wallace in a desperate attempt to keep rising free agent Deron Williams from bolting to Dallas in the summer.
If Toronto had lost that last game instead, it would have finished in a tie with the Nets and had a coin flip determine who would pick sixth -- Toronto or Portland. Instead, the Blazers got the sixth pick and took ... Damian Lillard. The Raptors still had a chance at the seventh pick, but lost a coin flip with the Warriors, who took Harrison Barnes. Toronto took the University of Washington's Terrence Ross with the next pick.
Instead of castigating Colangelo for telling the truth about what's going on, the league should accelerate plans to further discourage teams from losing in order to improve their Draft position. It doesn't seem to matter to teams that history is rather clear on the fact that the teams with the worst record in a given season almost never get the top overall pick -- it's happened just three times in the 24 years since the current weighted lottery system was implemented in 1990.
Van Gundy, who I love, caustically said something has to be done to make teams try to win.
"Not what Philadelphia is doing right now, which is embarrassing," Van Gundy said during the discussion, in front of 76ers' GM Sam Hinkie, who attended the panel. "I don't care, [Commissioner] Adam Silver can say there's no tanking or what's going on -- if you're putting that roster on the floor, you're doing everything you can possibly do to try to lose."
I'm not a proponent of Zarren's "wheel" idea that many glommed onto, which would guarantee every team would get at least one top pick overall within a 30-year period. College players and their agents would be able to game the system terribly.
For example, if a rising senior in high school thought to be a future top pick overall knows an NBA team he doesn't want to play for is set to have the first pick after his freshman year in college, he's not going to declare for the Draft that year. That's good, you might say; another year in college would do nothing but help.
But if the same player and agent know a more desirable destination -- say, New York or L.A. -- is locked in to pick first, they'll come out after their freshman year regardless of whether they're ready or not.
But I'm also not a fan of Van Gundy's proposal to eliminate the Draft entirely, and make every incoming college player a free agent. I'm sorry, but no one is going to go to Utah, Milwaukee or Sacramento as a free agent. What would the point of all this enhanced revenue sharing be if you let New York and L.A. have their pick of young players?
(Kerr had his own idea -- which he debuted as a guest Morning Tipper during the summer -- which you can read about here.)
The idea should be simple: Incentivize as many teams as possible to win. No plan will totally eliminate tanking. But if fewer teams are ultimately rewarded for doing so, the practice won't be tried nearly as much.
My idea is simple: the non-playoff team with the best record among non-playoff teams would get the first pick in the Draft. The non-playoff team with the second-best record would get the second pick. And so on, with the team with the worst record in the league getting the 13th pick in the first round, with the playoff teams following.
There have been a couple of notable jewels taken over the last 30 years with the 13th pick: Hall of Famer Karl Malone in 1985 to Utah, and Kobe Bryant to the Hornets in 1996. And there have been a bunch of good pros: Jay Humphries, Dale Davis, Jalen Rose, Richard Jefferson, and on and on. But teams would nonetheless put a higher premium on "winning" the non-playoff bracket.
The league also should implement financial incentives that owners won't be able to resist to keep those seventh- and eighth-place teams in each conference from losing late in the season on purpose.
Maybe this: Teams that make the playoffs in a given season -- or, say, three times in four seasons -- will have a higher salary cap the following season than teams that don't make the playoffs, or their teams will get a higher percentage of revenue sharing than those who don't make the postseason.
Would it make the rich richer? Sometimes. But it would also do what Silver and ex-Commissioner David Stern have said they want: to reward teams that manage their teams well, that build both with smart drafting and astute trades and free-agent signings, and put a team together that competes for several seasons. And, again: The idea is to make winning the end result, not to be in rebuilding mode forever.
"I do believe that any system that somehow rewards a higher frequency of losing is both counter-intuitive and flawed," Colangelo said. "The ongoing discussion of eliminating or tweaking the current draft/lottery system is both timely and warranted given the trends we are seeing and the perceptions we are hearing around the league in this regard. The perception of 'tanking' in the literal sense is simply not accurate, but any perception of 'tanking' is clearly not good for business."
I got your Daddy Day Care right here. From Joao Ribeiro:
I'm a fan of your column and I rarely disagree with your views or opinions. I not going to do it now either, I'm just going to elaborate a modest observation. In your last "Tweet of the Week", made by the wife of Steve Blake, you mentioned that you "can't imagine how tough a trade is on kids in the middle of a season". Obviously, it´s always tough and difficult for any kid to be away from their parents, but I think the impact of that event is somehow different when the referred parent is making a crazy amount of money. Steve Blake will be able to financially support his family with pretty much anything they want and a couple of months or even years of distance may be worth the price. In fact, in this situation most kids would be able to keep their father's company because it wouldn't be affordable to stay in the same place if he does have to leave (bottom line, Steve Blake's family stays put because they want to and not because they have to). I am not going to say that your comment was "offensive" or even "silly", but if you´re not going to pick the humorous, most common type of tweet than you could pick a more meaningful one (but then again, it is Tweeter [sp]). Keep up the good work!
There are a lot of people who agree with your sentiment, Joao. Dennis Scott shared it on our trade deadline show on NBA TV the day after the deal was announced. I'm obviously aware that the Blakes have financial advantages most of the rest of us will never have. Yes, he makes a lot of money, and because of that, he doesn't have to uproot his family when he changes job locations. All I was saying is that it's hard on kids when a parent is not around because of work/travel obligations. I know from personal experience that children want their dad around, and when he has to be out of town for long stretches, it's hard on everyone.
The sound goes up to 11; the fouls should go up to seven. From Jason Yu:
I wanted your take on an idea I had after watching the Raptors lose to the Wizards in a thrilling 3OT game. My suggestion is that the NBA adds an extra foul for players still in the game for each additional overtime period. It's no secret that the NBA revolves around its stars. This rule would make it easier for stars to stay in the game if a game goes into overtime which makes for better basketball when the best players are closing out the game. It makes a huge difference for the bigs, who commonly accumulate 4-5 fouls by the end of regulation. For almost any team, losing their starting anchor really hurts the team and can be a night and day difference. Teams obviously cannot account for a game going into overtime in advance, so this gives the coach/player/team a fair chance to manage their fouls even when a game gets sent to OT. I do think that players that have already fouled out though should stay fouled out for simplicity's sake and also to prevent more hacking-a-Howard/Drummond/DeAndre. I know this probably won't happen just because overtime games don't happen often, so it won't be a priority, and the NBA just seems to be making every effort to marginalize the 5 spot or more specifically the post game, so a rule that helps bigs the most isn't in their best interest either but I really think it would make the game better and makes too much sense not to ...
I understand the sentiment, Jason, but I don't know that there's a need to change the existing rules. In the game you referenced, five players -- Kyle Lowry, Amir Johnson and Patrick Patterson for Toronto; Marcin Gortat and Trevor Ariza for Washington -- fouled out. Obviously a triple-OT game is an unusual circumstance, though. You would never have that many players foul out of a single overtime game. And players like John Wall and DeMar DeRozan, who had the ball in their hands a lot more than either team's bigs -- and who also had to guard people with the ball on the other team, thus being just as susceptible to picking up fouls as the bigs -- were able to stay on the floor.
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(weekly averages in parentheses)
1) Kevin Durant (31 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 6.3 apg, .469 FG, .929 FT): With Thabo Sefolosha out for six weeks, KD may get even more perimeter defensive assignments than he already has down the stretch.
Magic vs. Heat
2) LeBron James (25.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 5.5 apg, .677 FG, .727 FT): Of course, the NBA does more than one thing at a time in the course of a given day. But is there really any reason for the league to care whether James is wearing a black or a clear mask? Is someone really making -- or, taking seriously -- an argument that teams are at a competitive disadvantage because they can't see his eyes? Because he's won four MVPs when people have been able to look right at him.
3) LaMarcus Aldridge (16 ppg, 7 rpg, 3 apg, .467 FG, .000 FT): Back in the lineup Saturday after missing first five post-All-Star games with a groin injury.
4) Paul George (21.3 ppg, .7.3 rpg, 4.8 apg, .406 FG, .917 FT): Indy hearts in throats Sunday night when George took a hard fall in the second half against Charlotte. He got off the deck and scored 22.
5) Tim Duncan (15.7 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 3 apg, .457 FG, .882 FT): Big Fundamental was certainly buoyed by the return of Tony Parker Sunday after Gregg Popovich had held him out the last couple of weeks for injury maintenance.
15 -- Technical fouls this season for DeMarcus Cousins. The Kings' center picked up numbers 14 and 15 last Tuesday, getting ejected from Sacramento's game against Houston after arguing a foul call against Dwight Howard. To add insult to injury, Cousins was suspended for a game and fined $20,000 for what the league determined was a punch to the stomach of the Rockets' Patrick Beverley earlier in the game, and for not leaving the court in a timely manner after being ejected. With his next technical foul -- number 16 -- Cousins will earn an additional one-game suspension, and would get subsequent one-game suspensions for every two additional Ts he receives after number 16, as per the NBA's player discipline rules.
Wizards vs. Raptors
38 -- Years since the Wizards' franchise had been in a triple-overtime game. Washington beat Toronto 134-129 Thursday in trips, the first time the team had played 63 minutes of NBA basketball in a single game since Nov. 15, 1975, when the team -- then the Bullets -- lost to Philadelphia 110-109.
$100,000 -- Minimum amount the NBA has pledged to the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network and the Matthew Shepard Foundation from the sale of Jason Collins' No. 98 Brooklyn Nets jerseys. The league announced Friday it would donate all proceeds from Collins' jersey sales to the two organizations. Collins' jersey became the top seller at NBAStore.com last week. He wears 98 in honor of Shepard, a gay college student who was murdered in a hate crime in Wyoming in 1998.
Allen Iverson's Jersey Retirement Ceremony
1) Allen Iverson, one of a kind. Congrats. There's never been a better fit between a player and his temperament and a city and its temperament than AI and Philly. And, what, you expected him to wear a suit to his jersey retirement?
2) The Clippers traded Byron Mullens and Antawn Jamison at the deadline, and brought in Glen Davis and Danny Granger on post-buyout deals to replace them. That's a pretty productive swap.
3) Wilton Norman Chamberlain had a pretty productive evening 52 years ago last weekend in Hershey, PA.
4) Lupita Nyongo, how did you become so incredibly charming and mature at your age? What a beautiful and moving acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars.
4a) Here is the story that The New York Times wrote about the man whose story was the basis for the book "12 Years A Slave" on which the movie was based. The story was first published on January 29, 1853 -- 161 years ago. Incredible.
5) As a Patriot League graduate, it's heartwarming to see two PL players -- the Blazers' C.J. McCollum (Lehigh) and the Hawks' Mike Muscala (Bucknell) , who was brought in from the ACB League last week by Atlanta as the Hawks struggle to stay afloat through all their frontcourt injuries -- donning NBA jerseys.
1) Okay. I'm sick of snow. Really. I'm not kidding.
2) Thanks, Tyreke Evans. Now nobody can use the "I missed the meeting/wedding/birth because I was stuck in an elevator" excuse, since you documented your time trapped via Instagram. Now we all have to prove we actually were stuck in elevators all those times!
Warriors vs. Knicks
3) Not blaming the Cavs or their security people without knowing all the information, but this pattern of fans coming onto the court at Quicken Loans Arena is beyond disturbing, and has to be addressed immediately before something really tragic happens.
4) It is impossible to schedule an 82-game NBA season and make everyone happy. Someone always has four games in five nights, or an extended road trip, or only three home games in a given month. But it seems especially harsh to schedule the Knicks for a game in Miami Thursday night, have them fly three hours back to NYC, and have Steph Curry and the rested Warriors waiting for them for a Friday matchup.
5) RIP, Harold Ramis. The director, writer and actor was a personal favorite, dating to his days on the great SCTV comedy show in the late '70s and early '80s. He had a hand as a writer in so many great American comedies of my generation, from "Animal House" to "Vacation" to "Stripes," and he wrote and directed the elegant "Groundhog Day," the seminal 1993 comedy that still holds up. What I loved about Ramis' comedy was that it was available to everyone. I get that Woody Allen is talented, but his comedies are not written for a broad audience. If you get it, great, but if you don't, there's little access to it. Ramis combined the slapstick with the melancholy in a way that was more universal, and I have great regard for filmmakers who understand our collective humanity -- our shared fears and passions -- but who address them intelligently, instead of going for the lowest common joke. Ramis' movies made you laugh, but they didn't pander. Big difference.
At 32, Dwyane Wade is on the back nine of his NBA career. The Heat guard has been on a treatment program all season after undergoing OssaTron shockwave therapy on his knees to deal with tendinitis issues that slowed him last year and in the playoffs. That's meant few back-to-back games and hours of treatment before practice, hours of stretches with his trainer, Tim Grover. It's a means to an end; the plan remains the same: to get Wade to the playoffs healthy and ready to give Miami a shot at a threepeat.
Dwyane Wade Feature
Like LeBron James and Chris Bosh, Wade can opt out of his contract at season's end and become a free agent, and while no one thinks he's looking to leave, no one's expecting Wade to give Miami another hometown discount like he took to help create enough cap space for James and Bosh to come to South Beach in 2010.
Me: I guess you all were confident that the defense was going to come along and you were going to get back to your old selves. But from the outside, it looked shaky for a minute.
Dwyane Wade: We know that when you come into a season, you've got to work to get back to where you was, at your best the previous year. Nothing is guaranteed. We understand that. We knew coming into this year that it was going to take time for us to get to where we want to be, and we have our own expectations. We try not to let any outside expectations of what people think the Miami Heat should be, when they want them to be, get in our minds. We knew we had a lot of work to do.
Me: But how hard is it, when you're losing four or five games in December and January, and Indiana is five or six games up in the loss column, to see the big picture?
DW: I think for this team, it's a little different. We're a team that understands our game. We understand, first of all, when everyone is healthy, you've got to be a healthy team to be successful in this league. And we also understand that when we're playing well, that we can win anywhere. We have that confidence. So we wasn't necessarily worried about or looking at, oh, Indiana's starting off to a fast pace. We know they're a good team. We played them the last three years in the playoffs. It's no surprise to us. Maybe to people who are outside of Indiana or outside of seeing us play them, that thought that. For us, it was just about, you know, let's just get to our game. And we're eventually going to get there. And I think now we're playing good basketball, but we want another level, and then even another level once we reach the playoffs.
Me: How has Greg progressed handling more minutes and more responsibilities?
Media Day: Dwyane Wade
DW: Well, I think Greg has done an unbelievable job of being patient, and our trainers have done a great job of being there with him, being supportive. There's days where he can give you more than other days. That's just the nature of his injury. But the minutes he's been able to play and come and give us, it's been big minutes for us. First of all, we just love to see Greg back on a basketball court. We know he's not where he wants to be yet, but where he is right now is a lot further along than anyone could expect at this time. So we're happy to have him.
Me: How are you feeling?
DW: I'm feeling. You know, I have my good days and my bad days. All I do is continue to keep working, to get my body feeling as good as it can from day to day and from game to game. So I just, when I get on the court, I try to be my best. Some nights it's going to be more than others. Some nights my role is different than others, some nights I feel better than others. I just try to go out there and play the game of basketball that I love the best I can on that night for this team.
Me: When you're at your best, what can you still do?
DW: When I'm feeling at my best, I can do the things I want on the court. My strengths have always been my ability to penetrate, to finish, to find guys and just draw the defense and make things happen from there. When I'm at my best, you can tell. I'm in the paint a lot, I'm active, and then I start mixing in my outside game. It's a good feeling. A lot of people don't understand that hasn't went through injuries, as players going through it now, that we understand it. You're not as healthy as you once was. You take it for granted. But now, I don't take it for granted. Some nights, I feel amazing. Some nights, I don't. But I still get out on the court and try to do my job. My job now is different than it ever has been, but I try to do my job every night on the court.
Me: How do you make that accommodation when you're not feeling your best?
DW: I don't know. I don't know how to answer it. All I know is I play a team sport, and I'm a team player. As much as I love putting the ball in the basket, but I also love seeing success for my teammates. Understanding that with this group, to succeed the way we want to succeed, certain players on certain nights have to take a back seat. Even though my back seat is so much different from a Udonis Haslem's back seat. Someone who I respect tremendously, who's been with me here since day one. Look at the back seat he has to take. And my back seat is different. So I don't complain about mine. I just go out there and I just try to figure it out. Some nights I get a chance get in the passenger seat. Maybe the driver's seat. [Laughs.] But I just want to be in the car and help this team win.
Me: I know the summer is a long ways away, but you all do have some contractual options at the end of the season. What's your approach going to be in deciding what you want to do -- and where you want to do it, and for how much? And do I want to be here with these guys, or is there something else out there for me?
DW: Well, I want to be here. I think that's always the things I've always said and I've always expressed. And after that, I want to win. I don't want to be in a situation where I'm starting over and I'm rebuilding. I want to win. And I want to be on a team that has an opportunity to do that, and feel like I'm a big part of that. This is where I want to be. But as players, [having] options is good. Because you don't know what is to happen or what is to come. So for us, I think we're in a great situation. Guys have options as players, and they can exercise those options. Who knows what that means? But right now, for us, we're on a very good team. We enjoy each other. We enjoy this city and we enjoy playing for this organization, and that's what we're going to continue to do.
2014 All-Star Top 10: Dwyane Wade
Me: It is fair, though, that you would have the most leverage if you did things collectively this summer as opposed to individually, right?
DW: I don't know, man. I haven't wrapped my brain around all of that yet. It's too much. The new CBA, the things we can do, and what kind of sacrifices. When that time comes, you'll sit down with the ones you trust to give you advice, and lay it all out on the table, and you'll go from there, and see what's best for you at that time.
Me: You got a nickname for LeBron yet with the mask?
DW: Nah. Not yet. It's going to come. Twitter, Instagram. It's gonna come. He's already got Bane James, so I guess that's what we're going with.
Guess it was my lucky day yesterday. Had this hand in Texas hold 'em on flight back
-- Dirk Nowitzki (@swish41), Tuesday, 7:34 p.m., knowing that it was not yet time to fold 'em.
"I have a root canal scheduled next week, doesn't seem so bad now."
--Lakers Coach Mike D'Antoni, according to local media, after answering more questions about his latest public dustup with forward Pau Gasol. Gasol was critical both of his teammates, about whom he told ESPN.com there were too many "individual actions" following the Lakers' blowout loss to the Pacers Wednesday, and of D'Antoni's decision to play small while Los Angeles got hammered on the boards 70-49 by Indiana. In response, D'Antoni said Gasol should have kept his comments "in house."
"I can't remember who it was that asked me yesterday; he said 'would you have taken this job with the roster, if it was just the guys who are healthy and playing right now would you have taken this job?' I said, after interviewing for head coaching jobs as many times as I did, 11 times prior to this interview, and not getting a job, I said 'Yeah, I most likely would have taken it.' But the expectation and everything else would have been different, knowing if there wasn't going to be Gallo [Danilo Gallinari], JaVale [McGee], Nate [Robinson] for half the season and the situation be what it is. So, no, I don't hate the roster. What I hate is having to beg guys to play."
--Nuggets Coach Brian Shaw, to the Denver Post, after speculation grew that he was criticizing his front office following a series of harsh comments about his team's makeup and mental toughness.
"I got my license to carry in like 26 states, but I'm not bringing my gun to New York City. I know better than that."
--Nets guard Deron Williams, to local reporters, in the wake of Knicks guard Raymond Felton's arrest last week on felony gun charges. Felton is accused of having a semiautomatic weapon in his possession that he hadn't registered in New York at the time of his arrest.
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