The Warriors know the chatter from opponents won't let up as teams seek to strip them of their crown
POSTED: Oct 19, 2015 11:09 AM ET
Golden State Warriors: Back-to-Back Champs?
Are the Warriors a lock to win it again? If not, who will challenge them?
OAKLAND — The President, like the Lama, is a big hitter.
"I shot 76," Stephen Curry said Thursday afternoon. "Ray Allen shot 75. My dad shot 75. So I was third. You know what that means. But the President did beat in the team thing. He definitely took the crown. He's an efficient golfer. And he's fast, too."
Yes, Stephen Curry beat the President of the United States in a round of golf. No, Stephen Curry had never played golf with the President of the United States, on Martha's Vineyard, before the Warriors won the NBA championship in June. The Ring still brings perks. And, of course, a nice, big circular target to be worn for the next year. The 40-year title drought now over, the Warriors now are every team's prey, the Splash Brothers at the top of every team's scouting report.
The great teams, the ones that won multiple titles, are the ones that embraced the challenge, found different motivations to push them through the regular season grind. The old Pistons loved being the bad guys; the Bulls would always add one or two new players every year who hadn't yet won championships. The Lakers chased the ghosts of the Celtics; Bird chased Magic, and vice versa. The Warriors need to find their muse.
"I just actually reflect on my rookie year," Klay Thompson said. "I remember when the Miami Heat came to town. And I was kind of in awe, like, 'Oh, wow, these guys are the champs. I watched them last June. It's a big game for us.' And the crowd's electric. It's really cool to be in this position now, because that's how it's going to be when we going on the road everywhere. That's why we're so excited about this season, and we're up to defending our crown. We want that same feeling that we had in June."
But Golden State begins its title defense knowing that it, like every champion, has been fundamentally changed by the very act of winning it. It's the Disease of More, to be sure, but it's something else, too -- the Law of Diminishing Marginal Returns, What Have You Done For Me Lately, Eye of the Tiger, all of those things that conspire against champions.
Every game, exhibition or no, is viewed at least in part as a temperature reading. When the Warriors were sloppy in consecutive losses early last week, Draymond Green said he was "pissed off" at his teammates, and himself.
"When is he not?" Curry retorted later, laughing.
Just as he did after two poor efforts in the Finals, Green called both himself and his team out.
"Our level of play, my level of play, my level of energy, has been up and down," Green said. "(Bleeping) awful. That's kind of more what I'm pissed off about. It's where we're at right now. And I think we've had some great practices; the last week has been great. I just don't think we feel good about ourselves now. And I'm happy about that. Because to not feel good about yourself in preseason, I like that. As opposed to just shrugging it off and saying we're okay, we're good, it's just preseason."
Golden State didn't make many personnel changes, save one -- flipping David Lee's expiring contract as part of separate deals with Boston and Philly, which ultimately netted veteran forward Jason Thompson, who'll team with Festus Ezeli off the bench. (First-round pick Kevon Looney will miss much of the season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right hip.)
But the biggest, baddest boulder in the Warriors' way at present is the figurative one pressing down on Steve Kerr's spinal column.
GameTime: Myers on Kerr
Kristen Ledlow talks with Warriors GM Bob Myers about starting the season without Steve Kerr.
The Warriors' coach has been absent for most of training camp and the preseason, recovering from two offseason back surgeries. The first, to repair a herniated disc, resulted in a spinal fluid leak that caused debilitating headaches and pain, requiring the second surgery. Kerr is currently on a leave of absence, leaving assistant coach Luke Walton the interim coach through the preseason. It's not clear when Kerr will return, though he did meet with the team in San Diego before its game Saturday with the Lakers.
Kerr's imprint on the team, even after just one year in charge, is profound. He expertly refined what was already a very good team, getting the Warriors to move the ball more, turn the ball over less ("plays of insanity," as he called them) and play much more efficiently. He made practices less of a grind by occasionally incorporating music, and followed Phil Jackson's long-time tradition of splicing video clips with humorous cut-ins -- sometimes to get a laugh, sometimes to make a point.
"It's moreso his experience of the game, rather than the coach," Green said last week. "He's (only) been a coach for a year. It's his experience of the game, his knowledge, his wisdom. We miss him. Luke has been great, but Luke is Luke. Coach Kerr is Coach Kerr. It's a little different if you come into the season knowing, all right, Coach Kerr is out; we've got Luke. Because you adjust to that and you say all right, this is what we have. It's a little different for everybody, for Luke, with him out. Because it wasn't something that you planned for."
Walton surely wasn't planning on it. He'll be a head coach on his own someday. But his apprenticeship under Kerr was supposed to stop at associate head coach -- the job Gentry had on the Warriors' bench before taking the Pelicans coaching job last June.
Walton has championship experience of his own to draw on, of course, with two rings from the Lakers in 2009 and 2010. His father knows a thing or two about winning, as well. But he hasn't had "the talk" with the Warriors yet about what the challenges of repeating may entail.
"I haven't shared much, because I anticipated, let them come in and be sloppy, and mess around, and then you've got it in your back pocket," Walton said. "But we came in, and these guys, the first week of training camp was incredible. I mean, it really was. It was really impressive how much they were getting after it and how much they were embracing the whole thing. It wouldn't have been appropriate to tell them about that stuff. Obviously late, the last week or so, we had a little bit of slippage. The truth of the matter is, it's harder the second time around."
For one, life gets in the way.
Warriors Season Preview: Stephen Curry Interview
Reigning MVP and NBA champion Stephen Curry talks about enjoying the moment and defending the title this season.
The NBA's reigning Kia Most Valuable Player had a second daughter, Ryan, with wife Ayesha in July, to give the Most Adorable and Memed Child Ever, older sister Riley, competition for future postgame pressers. He extended his deal with Under Armour in September, a deal that now runs through 2024 and gives him an ownership stake. He is developing a social media app to further connect athletes and fans, and is not letting out many details -- "We want to make sure we get it right," he said last week.
It is hard to keep the world at bay once you let it in. But how do you not take advantage of once in a lifetime opportunities?
"It was tough," Curry said. "It was a fun summer, obviously celebrating the championship. That opens up a lot of doors and experiences I would have never thought possible. I wanted to enjoy those, obviously. I took about a month off and went back to work to prepare myself for this season, to kind of balance all of that and family life. It was a chaotic but fun and unforgettable summer."
He wasn't the only one with a busy dance card.
"It comes with the territory," said Finals MVP Andre Iguodala. "There were some things that I was obligated to do that I didn't want to do. I mean, you've got to do it. A few things I committed to before things turned out the way they did. But like I say, it was part of the process."
Kerr, who now has six rings as a player and coach, told Curry, first and foremost, to enjoy the ride.
"There's no real secret to it," Curry said. "It's about remembering how we got there, how hard it is, just making sure that stays in the memory bank. So when we get into training camp, we don't lose sight of what got us to that point. There's nothing wrong with enjoying it, celebrating. We've been taking the trophy all over the place; I think it traveled more than we did. Just to be able to kind of turn the page once training camp starts, but be ourselves, be the same team, and build up the process."
Only one team ended that year with a win, and that was us. And obviously, the other teams are gunning for us this year to try to get to where we are.
– Stephen Curry
Curry got back in the lab with his personal trainer Brandon Payne, continuing and increasing the visualization, ballhandling and strengthening exercises that have helped Curry become not only the game's best shooter -- its best ever, as Mark Jackson said he was two years ago; on this, there simply cannot be any more argument -- but, perhaps, the game's best passer, as well. (Curry, after signing a four-year extension in 2012 for $44 million, still hasn't made a peep about his contract. In fact, he said this summer that he's not interested in exploring free agency in 2017, and will happily re-sign with Golden State at the first opportunity. Warriors GM Bob Myers would not make his own contract with Beelzebub available to a reporter.)
Curry's goals this summer were to continue figuring out ways to work within the offense to maximize its strengths. The Warriors anticipate a second season in the system will create a quantum leap in how good they'll be offensively -- terrifying news for the Western Conference and beyond.
Kerr pointed out to his All-Star guard that the one-handed, full-court passes that Curry tried earlier in his career had a rather low success rate. So, Curry has cut back on the home run attempts. But while his assists per game were down a little last season from 2013-14, his turnovers were down as well -- and his PER (28), Offensive Win Shares (11.5) and Total Win Shares (15.7) shot through the roof.
So did his MVP votes.
"I tried to get more explosive, with creating space," Curry said. "That's the biggest area for me. Coming off the pick and roll, and being efficient with the dribble, so I can get from point A to point B, where I see I need to be, and get there and be able to have balance and strength to be able to rise and take a shot, or get into the paint and make plays. But all that's about being efficient in as few amount of steps as I can, and as few a number of dribbles. Being able to get to where I want to go. So a lot of ballhandling and a lot of strength work when it comes to being explosive -- laterally, forward, all that kind of stuff."
Iguodala, a curious guy by nature, picked the brains of a few players who'd won championships before just to see how wearing that title armor felt the following season.
"I spoke to Chris Bosh for a hot second out here," Iguodala said. "I asked him, 'When do I come back to start training?' He was like, 'Take as long as you want. Don't come back.' I don't know if he trying to get over on me or what. I think D-Wade said something similar to that. That was about it. I was bouncing all over the place, so I didn't get too much chance to run into NBA players."
Across the ocean, Andrew Bogut was doing his part toward assuring a repeat performance this season by disposing of almost a tenth of his body mass.
Bogut dropped 22 pounds in a little more than a month by eliminating sugar from his diet, a move he says was long in coming ("It's in everything, like bread," he said). Perhaps. It also surely didn't escape Bogut's notice -- he's a pretty sharp Aussie -- that he was benched during The Finals, with Kerr putting Iguodala in the starting lineup -- a small ball approach that turned the series around and led to Iguodala's Finals MVP.
"The main concern for me was being too heavy, and it just takes a toll on the ankles, (which have been) surgically repaired, and the knees and the joints and everything," said Bogut, who suffered a broken nose, the fourth of his career, on Thursday, during Golden State's win over Houston. "I feel much better. I think your body heals much better. It was a no-brainer for me to give it a shot. I just wanted to try it. It was moreso like, 'I've never tried this, so let's see what happens.'"
Bogut went cold turkey off of sugar starting in early September. The first day, he had a terrific headache. The second day, he worked out, and "4 p.m. felt like midnight," he says. "Cranky. And after that, I was pretty good."
Motivation has come from the outside, as well. The Warriors have taken umbrage at the offseason woofing from some of their Western Conference foes. Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said Golden State got lucky last season that it didn't have to play either the Clippers or Spurs, who played each other in the first round, in the postseason. (He also said it was a lesson for his team, which blew a 3-1 lead over the Rockets in the conference semifinals, that it had to finish the job when it has a chance.)
Houston's James Harden, who finished second to Curry in the MVP voting last season, and who famously said early during the regular season that Golden State "ain't that good" still thinks he should have won the hardware.
They have noticed out in the Bay.
"It's like there was a gnat in your house," Green said. "You swat it away, swat it away, swat it away. Eventually, you're going to call pest control. It just gets irritating after awhile. For awhile, we just blew it off, blew it off, blew it off. But it just gets irritating."
Klay Thompson fired back, pointing out, correctly, that the Clippers were a win away from getting the Warriors in the conference finals. "I wanted to play the Clippers last year," he said, "but they couldn't handle their business."
Curry sarcastically apologized for his team's health, his MVP award and anything else that Golden State may have done to offend its conference brethren. But he gets why the other teams are so chatty.
Hang Time: Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes
The Hang Time crew talks with Golden State Warriors stars Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes.
"Only one team ended that year with a win, and that was us," he said. "And obviously, the other teams are gunning for us this year to try to get to where we are. Knowing we've got the trophy, we've probably got to expect some comments and some things, that kind of chatter. But the whole deal for us is, we hear it when people ask us about it. I like to have fun with it. At the end of the day, we've still got to go out and play 82, and we've still got to have the same confidence to get back to The Finals."
There are other pressures, too, including internal ones.
Curry's incredibly valuable deal has allowed Golden State to build a championship roster while still staying under the tax threshold, but that's going to change soon. Co-owner Joe Lacob has indicated he's willing to go into the luxury tax in future years to keep his core group together, and the day of reckoning is getting closer.
Klay Thompson's four-year, $70 million deal kicks in this season, as does Green's $82 million deal. And Curry will be a 7-9 year max guy in 2017, eligible for a contract for up to 30 percent of the Warriors' cap. If the cap rises as currently projected to a whopping $108 million by then, Curry could get a five-year deal from the Warriors beginning at better than $35 million annually.
That outlay doesn't include Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli, who are both likely to get new extensions before next month's deadline for the Draft class of 2012. Barnes will probably wind up somewhere in the $16-$18 million per year range, given the recent deals for small forwards like Toronto's DeMarre Carroll ($15 million per season), Dallas' Chandler Parsons (better than $15 million per), Utah's Gordon Hayward (almost $16 million per) and Orlando's Tobias Harris ($16 per). Ezeli's defensive work off the bench is highly valued.
But veterans Marreese Speights, Leandro Barbosa and Brandon Rush are all free agents after this season, and Golden State holds the option on valuable backup point Shaun Livingston for 2016-17. That's a lot of guys in their contract years, which is always a tricky road for a team to navigate, no matter how good it is.
"We are, technically, the same team," Curry said. "We have everybody minus David Lee back, and Jason Thompson. But we're different in that regard. Because everybody's in a different place in their careers. Maybe stuff's going on off the court. You've got to kind of separate what we did last year from this year, even though it's the same personalities in the locker room. Support each other, encourage each other, figure out how we can mesh all the different storylines together into one goal, which is doing what we did last year."
Without Kerr around, they've been in a dry patch trying to get themselves going.
"I wouldn't say it's difficult; it's just weird," Curry said. "We're used to a certain vibe in practice, and we're used to his presence and what he brings. His mind for the game, the way he gets across his points. He's got a great sense of humor that keeps practice light. And I think everybody else on the coaching staff and players feel more comfortable when he's around. But in the meantime, we still have a job to do, to get better."
It probably won't be possible to equal last season's 67-15 romp through the regular season, with Oklahoma City back on its feet, and the Clippers and Rockets even deeper. But a good regular season isn't the goal anymore. Nor will the Warriors, almost surely, be as fortunate with injuries as they were last season. They will get everyone's best shot, every night. If it were easy to repeat, it would have been done more often.
But it has been done. That is the goal for these Warriors, who were the league's best offensive and defensive team last season, who have the best shooting backcourt in league history, who have the NBA's best home-court advantage, and who are brimming with brio and brine, switching defenders and a chance to be immortal.
"We've got great leadership from our coaching staff," Klay Thompson said. "We've got great vets on this team. And we just have a very competitive team. We don't let up, we're very deep. It's a different feel. It's like we've arrived. We're one of the premier franchises in sports. So we're here to stay."
1) Golden State Warriors: Brandon Rush looks healthy again, and if he gets his shooting eye back, what a(nother) weapon to have off the bench.
2) San Antonio Spurs: Do you think they're even keeping score of the exhibition games down there?
3) L.A. Clippers: For the man who has almost everything -- Billionaire Clips owner Steve Ballmer reveals he owns four percent of Twitter.
Love's D Creates The Three
Kevin Love steals the outlet pass and passes behind his back to Mo Williams for the open three.
5) Houston Rockets: The Rockets have maybe had two or three practices with their core group on the floor during camp and the preseason. The last week before the regular season starts will be huge for them to try and get some continuity back.
7) Chicago Bulls: The Bulls hopefully won't feel pressure to rush Derrick Rose back by the start of the regular season.
8) Memphis Grizzlies: The staying power of Grit N' Grind -- the Grizzlies' season ticket renewal rate coming into this season, at better than 90 percent, is the highest in team history.
9) Atlanta Hawks: Mike Budenholzer continues to look at his options at small forward before the start of the regular season. Will he go big with Paul Millsap, for offensive pop with Kent Bazemore or a 3 and D approach with Thabo Sefolosha?
10) Washington Wizards: Kelly Oubre has not a clue about what the Wizards are running, but he is long and athletic and has worked hard. He won't be much help this season, but there's hope down the road.
11) Dallas Mavericks: Rick Carlisle declared Deron Williams (calf) done until the start of the regular season.
Mavs Season Preview: Guard Play
Vinnie Del Negro and Brent Barry discuss the state of the point guard position in Dallas.
12) Milwaukee Bucks: Where will the points come off the bench for the Bucks this season?
13) Toronto Raptors: Power forward may be an issue for the Raptors all season. It's not a criticism of Patrick Patterson to say he may be better coming off the bench.
15) Miami Heat: Hassan Whiteside (calf) finally gets back onto the court last week, and the Heat finally get a look at their projected starting lineup: Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Chris Bosh and Whiteside.
Can Lamar Odom beat the demons?
This one hit the guys hard.
"I'm (bleeped) up behind this one," one of Lamar Odom's better-known teammates from over the years texted on Thursday, declining further comment. This was in the hours when Odom's condition in a Las Vegas hospital was grave, after a reported combination of cocaine and sexual performance stimulants, taken during an extended stay at a brothel, put him into a coma.
Events can overtake you at any time on a story like this, and trusting any "sources" on this one is fraught with peril. We're in a minute by minute situation here, and it would be foolish to be overly optimistic. Odom remains in a fight for his life. But as this is being written late Sunday, Odom is reportedly making progress in his recovery, awake and communicating with family.
That Odom, still just 35, is there, instead of finishing up his NBA career, is a shock. But it does not come out of left field. His spiral since being dumped by the Mavericks in 2013 -- out of shape and seemingly uninterested in trying to make things work in Dallas -- has played out on the bottom-feeder stage of reality TV and TMZ, one horrible incident after another fodder for whichever Kardashian show he's on.
CP3 to Lamar Odom: 'We Love You'
Chris Paul has a special message to Lamar Odom from Shanghai, China.
But he was incommunicado with most of the dozens of players that he had befriended in 13 years in the NBA. His circle ran the gamut, from guys like Luke Walton, now the Warriors' interim coach ("The last few days have been very, very hard," Walton said Thursday), to Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade to Dirk Nowitzki.
"He was kind of out of sight, out of mind," said Corey Maggette, who played with Odom in Los Angeles with the Clippers, on Sunday. "He just kind of drifted away. It's kind of hard to see. Me and Keyon Dooling (another former Odom teammate), we were just talking about it and we were hurting. Lamar, he's genuinely a good guy. Sometimes you just go through these storms."
Odom was, almost always, gentle with a word, quiet with a deed -- even when it cost him much more than expected.
Many of us -- not all -- have buffers between the tragedies in our lives, times of relative calm where our friends and family are readily available, and healthy, and happy. We have ups and downs, but no real sorrows or heartbreaks.
This was not Odom's life.
The litany remains as awful now as ever. His father was an addict. His mother died of cancer when he was 12. His grandmother, who raised him, died when he was 24. When he was 27, his sixth-month old son died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. When he was 31, one of his cousins was shot to death in New York; while in town for the funeral, a car Odom was in hit a motorcycle. Odom and the passengers in the car then watched in horror as the motorcycle hit a 15-year-old boy, who died of his injuries the next day.
A few of us -- not all -- may somehow be capable of rousing ourselves from that Butcher's Block, and having some kind of angst-free life afterward. Odom, a quiet guy who internalized almost everything that happened to him, wasn't one of those people. He self-medicated, and if it wasn't legal, it was doggone understandable.
"I think it's probably pretty universal, in terms of the people you talk to, they all tell you the same thing," said Brian Shaw, who was an assistant coach for the Lakers during Odom's seven-season run in Los Angeles, from 2004 to 2011. (He was the Sixth Man of the Year in 2010-11.)
"He was a great guy, overly generous, very genuine, always smiling and laughing," Shaw said. "When it came to on the basketball court, he put his work in. He trained and was at practice. In terms of that, he was a joy to coach. He was a joy to be around. Never confrontational. Just a good, all-around guy.
"In terms of what people probably know, I think the things that were out there already, his mother passing away when he was young, and his father's drug addiction, and losing a son, and people close to him dying and those things that happened, he faced a tremendous deal of tragedy and tragic situations in his life. But he never really showed it. He disguised it well. The times I was around him, he never really showed that sadness, that anyone who had to deal with that type of tragedy would show."
In Odom's case, the old cliché about the basketball court being a refuge for one's troubles appeared true. He was supposed to go to UNLV, until he didn't (the NCAA investigated his college dalliances twice), and he wound up at Rhode Island for a year before entering the Draft in 2000 (but not before making an impression on the student body).
"I was in the same Draft, " Maggette recalled Sunday, "and I was there with my family -- my mother and father. Lamar was there, sitting at the table by us, by himself. There wasn't anybody at the table early. I went over to him and said 'I'm Corey, why don't you come sit with us? And he came over and talked with my family and said 'I'm Lamar Odom.' I just have love for the guy, truly have love for the guy. I don't want bad things to happen. I just want him to know, dude, we still have love for you, bro. We just care about you as a person."
He always cared about winning and losing more than he let on.
"I bleed on the inside when I lose," he told me in 2004, a month into his pro career, as a rookie with the Clips. "I'm grumpy on the plane. I don't talk for about 20 minutes until somebody cracks a joke or something like that. I'll never get used to losing. I want to win every game. I want to win every sprint, every race. But you do have to get used to it in a sense. I guess it's the way you go out and play the game."
That was part of why everything seemed to click for Odom when he came back to L.A. in 2004, to the Lakers this time, as part of the Shaquille O'Neal trade to Miami. Through all the issues that those Lakers had -- the Smush Parkers and Kwame Browns, and Kobe's bizarre first-round series against the Suns in 2006 -- they always kept Odom around, even as they despaired about his pregame diet. And when Phil Jackson came back for a second tour as coach, Odom seemed to blossom, his Swiss Army Knife game perfect for the triangle.
He was brilliant in the Lakers' run to the title in 2009, averaging 12 points and 9 rebounds per game in 23 minutes per game, almost all off the bench, and won his Sixth Man award the following season. He was a valued, important part of a championship team, which, perhaps, gave him the coping mechanism he so often lacked for a time.
The times I was around him, he never really showed that sadness, that anyone who had to deal with that type of tragedy would show.
– Former Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw
"He engulfed himself in basketball," Maggette said. "When his kid died, he was just coming with the Lakers. I would see him and we would always have good conversations. I don't know if he was just in a lot of pain and a lot of hurt with what was happening to him. He never talked about it."
But after the Lakers put Odom in the ill-fated three-team trade with Houston and New Orleans in 2011 -- which would have brought Chris Paul to the Lakers -- Odom wanted out. That was the beginning of the end of his effective days as a player. The subsequent trade to Dallas was a nightmare, Odom never in good shape, the Mavericks weary of waiting for him to look like the guy who was so good for the Lakers.
And thus began the latest chapter, Odom having married Khloe Khardashian in 2009. Without basketball, though, Odom's standing in that odd, odd world changed -- his NBA juice replaced by his pathologies. It's not that being on reality TV created Odom's problems; Odom's problems were made worse being on reality TV.
To be clear: the feeling among NBA types that know Odom is all but unanimous: Khloe Kardashian truly did, and does, love him, and vice versa. And the Kardashians, in their own, Q-rating desperation kind of way, provided Odom with an extended family that he had rarely had.
Shaw went to Indiana in 2011, to be the Pacers' associate coach. But he kept in touch with Odom.
"I wasn't around him a lot, but I went to his wedding," Shaw said. "I think he genuinely loved Khloe. I think he was seeking out and searching for that family structure that he hadn't had. He absolutely loved and adored his kids. I think he was in a great place, being in L.A., playing for the Lakers, winning championships and individual awards. And things suddenly changed for him...being away from L.A. for a little while, it kind of changed his demeanor a little bit. Things started happening a little more often."
Odom had been connected to substance problems since his first incarnation with the Clippers, but things came fast and furious after he was done playing -- a run-in with a photographer, a DUI arrest, and a divorce, a run-in with a TV cameraperson. They were all grist for the mill, potential plot lines for the show.
Maggette knows the Kardashians, and likes them. "They've always been nice to me," he said. But living every moment in the public eye, he allows, has its costs.
"At the end of the day, when you look at a guy like Lamar, Lamar's a very private guy," Maggette said. "And now you engulf him in all this reality. He never had a chance to be himself without everybody being around, asking for autographs. The Lakers gave him a chance, won championships. It kind of kept him in his place. And then they traded him. He didn't know that was going to happen. And after that, things just didn't go right."
Odom had been working out with a boxing trainer this summer, in hopes of getting a shot in someone's camp. (A source that spoke with Odom recently says his belief was, if Metta World Peace could get one more shot in the NBA, so could he.)
That's now on hold, maybe forever. Odom has reportedly suffered kidney damage, and even if he recovers from his injuries, he has a larger issue to overcome. He will never be able to maintain anything approaching a normal life until he figures out why he self-medicates the way he does -- and how to stop. You hate to always recommend John Lucas, but his common sense/tough love approach has helped so many people gain and maintain sobriety.
And Odom has an incredible story to tell. His testimony would have power, not just for basketball players, but for anyone who has had trouble coping with what the world has thrown at them, who's wrestled with the demons.
Shaw, for one, had to deal with his own demons. In 1993, his parents, Charles and Barbara, and his sister, Monica, were killed in a car accident outside of Las Vegas. They were coming to see Brian, who played for the Heat at the time and had a home in the area.
"There was this stage, this period (after) I went through, of kind of, recklessness," Shaw said. "I felt like the worst thing that would happen to me is, if something happens, I'll be reunited with my loved ones. Because they're all gone, and I'm the only one here. It almost gives you a feeling of invincibility. Whatever happens, happens. I know for me, during that time, I had to think, that wasn't the right way of doing things. My niece survived, and I thought, I have to be there for her. If he gets through this, maybe his kids will give that sense of worth and wanting to be here."
Trouble at the top. From Collins Evulukwu:
There is a SI report regarding Joel Embiid's constant insubordination with the 76ers management. How often do things like this occur with lottery picks within their first or second season?
I read that story Friday morning, and while the Sixers said there were big inaccuracies in the piece, there have indeed been frustrations with him. As to your other question, it is rare, but not unprecedented, for Lottery picks to have major problems with the team that drafted them. Pervis Ellison was traded from Sacramento after one season in 1989. Chris Webber, after being Rookie of the Year in 1993-94, was dealt from Golden State to Washington after Webber clashed with Don Nelson. And there was the saga of the "Three Js" -- Jim Jackson, Jamal Mashburn and Jason Kidd -- taken fourth, fourth and second in consecutive years by Dallas from 1992 to 1994. All three were gone by 1997.
Talking Thabo. From Nicolas Morin:
I'd love to have your take on the Sefolosha acquittal and this Guardian's article claiming the sports media silence over it is "deafening and mystifying"
Dave Zirin and Bomani Jones have also made the point that the sports media has fallen down covering the entire Sefolosha incident, and they have a point. But there were circumstances that made it difficult. Sefolosha was reluctant to talk much about the case before the trial, and as we know now, he declined plea bargain offers that would have involved no jail time in order to go to trial. Speaking for myself, I reported on Sefolosha's arrest during the first round of the playoffs between the Hawks and Nets in April, and how the union, in conducting its own investigation, hadn't found any video that would confirm the police's version of what happened. (For that, I was accused by a media columnist in New York of "bashing" the police.) I also requested, several times, a sitdown interview with Thabo for television, but was told by his representatives that he couldn't talk because of the impending trial. (He did give a brief interview to ESPN.com in June.) As for the trial/acquittal itself, I do think it was covered reasonably well, if not extensively.
Taking a Hypocritical Oath? From Rick Dhanda:
I saw you addressed the Matt Barnes/Derek Fisher situation in your Morning Tip and I saw that Derek Fisher had politely asked the media to differentiate his professional life and personal life during media sessions where he wants to discuss the Knicks.
The thing that infuriates me is that Fisher is getting the benefit of the doubt in a way that Barnes never would have. Because Barnes is a temperamental hothead and Fisher is a five-time champion, former head of the NBAPA, and now current head coach, the media seems willing to gloss over this incident and sweep it under the rug as an ugly outlier.
I feel pretty confident in saying that if Matt Barnes had chosen to date Derek Fisher's almost ex-wife and it had been leaked to the media, he would be getting excoriated by everyone for being a bad teammate, a locker room disruption, and an example of poor moral conduct. Are we giving Fisher slack because his character is considered superior to Barnes'?
Well, there's a difference, Rick, and it has nothing to do with Fisher's championships or past/current jobs. Fisher doesn't have the history that Barnes has, on and off the court, of confrontations -- with opposing players, with opposing players' relatives, and on and on. Whether Fisher broke the code by dating a former teammate's wife, he wasn't the one who instigated the argument at the house, by all accounts. And so, yes, he gets a little leeway here. I'm not saying Barnes had no right to go there; he says he feared for his kids, who expressed discomfort that Fisher was there. And I'm sensitive to that, as any parent would be. But the fact remains if he hadn't gone, there would have been no altercation.
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8 -- NBA teams for veteran guard Nate Robinson, who signed a one-year deal with the Pelicans on Friday. With Jrue Holiday on a minutes limit going into the season, bringing in Robinson, who appeared in nine games for the Clippers toward the end of last season, is good insurance.
$129,000,000 -- Expected cost for renovations of the Timberwolves'/Lynx's home arena, Target Center. The teams will continue playing in the arena during the renovation, which is slated to take more than a year. The two teams are already in a new practice facility across the street.
1) If I had to pick one team I think has the requisite talent, hunger, anger and collective will to put a special season together, right now, I'm thinking Oklahoma City.
Maya Moore on Finals Victory
LaChina Robinson talks with Maya Moore on getting the victory in the WNBA Finals.
2) Congrats to the 2015 WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx for surviving the Indiana Fever in a tough five-game series. ESPN pointed out that Maya Moore, in her first five professional seasons, has won three WNBA titles, a Finals MVP award and the WNBA Rookie of the Year award. No male player in any of the top four team U.S. sports -- the NFL, MLB, NBA or NHL -- has ever gotten out of the gate with that much success.
3) Not gonna lie: I'm rooting for Ian Clark to win the Warriors' last roster spot. He's been a favorite since his star turn for Golden State's summer league team a couple of years ago. I love guys that earn their way and don't come from college basketball's Power Six conferences.
4) Great idea, and great execution by Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, who interviewed each of the six people that caught home runs in Wrigley Field last week during Game 3 of the Cubs-Cardinals series, and turned it around into a story for the next day.
1) During the last week of the exhibition season -- when teams, rightly, will shield their star players from injuries by limiting their minutes -- tickets for those games should be severely discounted, or given away for free. I'm not kidding. Fans shouldn't pay top dollar to see not-top-dollar play just because teams are scared.
2) The Cavs' injury problems won't keep them from a top-two finish in the East, to be sure. But this can't be good for LeBron's long-term health.
Warriors-Lakers Game Called
After several slips on the floor by both teams, the game was called to preserve players' health.
3) Feel for the fans in San Diego who paid for Saturday's game between the Lakers and Warriors, only to see it called off in the third quarter after players slipped numerous times on wet spots on the court. But if someone on either team had blown out an ACL, that team would have never heard the end of it for putting its players in peril. Byron Scott and Luke Walton were right to call it a night.
4) I've spent a lot of time in the last 25 years flying USAirways out of D.C., whether to LaGuardia on the USAirways Shuttle, or to Connecticut almost every week during the NBA season when I had another job. For the better part of eight years, it was a steady, unspectacular and safe ride. Names come and go in the airline game (indeed, USAirways was the rebranded name of three older airlines), and last Friday was USAIrways' last, as its merger into American Airlines was completed. I will miss the old silver birds.
5) Even if you were born in East Lansing and have named your first-born Earvin, how can you not feel for Michigan's punter?
They are, surely, the best pair of basketball-playing big man brothers in history. And this summer was a culmination of sorts for the duo of Pau and Marc Gasol atop that rarest of summits. Marc Gasol signed a max contract for $110 million to stay with the Grizzlies, while his older brother, at 35, had what may be his greatest performance in any competition.
Leading a Spain team playing without many of its usual cast -- including Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio and Jose Calderon -- in the EuroBasket Tournament, Pau Gasol put his countrymen on his back, averaging more than 25 points and 12 rebounds in leading Spain to the EuroBasket gold medal and a berth in the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Next year will surely be the last chance at an Olympic gold for the core group of Spain's team, which won the FIBA World Championship in 2006 and three European titles, and the last for Gasol, who has two NBA titles with the Lakers.
With the Bulls, Pau Gasol has a reasonable shot at one more, if Chicago adjusts quickly to the new offensive system of new coach Fred Hoiberg, and Derrick Rose is able to get back on his feet after suffering yet another injury at the start of training camp. Gasol made a very solid contribution to the Bulls last season, his first in Chicago. Making his fifth All-Star team, he averaged a double-double (18.5 points, 11.8 rebounds), continuing a year in which showed he still had a lot left in the tank -- both for Reinsdorf and for Country.
Me: What has international play meant to you over the years?
Pau Gasol: I mean, it definitely has made me grow, as a person, as a player. It's given me a lot; I've given it a lot. But I've received a lot more. There's a special pride in playing for your country, and play with our group of guys. We always had a good chance to fight for medals, and to win championships. I think we've accomplished a lot of special things and shared special moments. It's a really unique, unique feeling and I've loved every second of it.
Pau Gasol Top 10 Plays
Check out the top 10 plays from Pau Gasol's 2014-15 NBA season!
Me: Was there any part of you that needed or wanted to show people that if you feed me in the post, I can still get it done?
PG: I've done that, I think, most of my career. The impressive part is to continue to do it at this stage. That's something very fulfilling, satisfying for me. I'd like to continue to do it for as long as I can. It was really special. This tournament, you prepare for a month, over a month, with your team, for a two- or three-week tournament, nine games, tops. It's basically a series and a half of playoffs. It's a lot harder to do in a longer period of time. But I was happy that I was able to help my team win another gold medal, and the way I played, the way we played as a team, as a group, understanding that each had a role, and we all accepted those roles. It was really, really something special. Because we weren't the favorite; we had a lot of guys missing. It meant something bigger than other championships that we have won in the past.
Me: Did you get any time to mentally decompress before you came back over for camp?
Bulls Season Preview: Breakdown
The guys breakdown how the Chicago Bulls attack the defense.
PG: It was hard, because it was such a short break between the end of the championship to coming back here to the start of training camp again. To learn a new system, a new philosophy, a new everything here. I took two days where I went to the mountains, into the Pyrenees, and I tried to decompress, and absorb the peace and the nature and the air as much as I could. But then I had to pack, see my family, say goodbye, and get on a plane, and here we are. So not much time. But I understand that. I was prepared for that mentally, now. Now it's trying to navigate through training camp as best as I can so I don't overdo it, so I can be ready and prepared for another marathon.
Me: Your impressions of Fred Hoiberg's system so far?
PG: It's a lot of motion, a lot of movement. The ball is going to, supposed to, flow, and I think that plays to our advantage, because we have a lot of offensive weapons, a lot of guys that can score the ball. The ball can't stick, like maybe it did in the past. So, that's good. We're going to play a higher-paced game, kind of adjusting with the majority of the league that has been a successful style the last few years for most teams. We'll see. Now, we also have to play to the strengths of our group. I'm a big believer (that) you have to play to the strengths of your personnel, to utilize your weapons to the best of your ability. So, we'll see. It's a learning process. Now let's see how we can apply against competition when the time comes. But it's going to come quick. It's what this league is about. It comes quick, and you have to be ready.
Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson), Saturday, 8:06 p.m., after his Michigan State team's unbelievable last-second win over chief rival Michigan on a returned fumble by Michigan's punter for a touchdown as time expired. Earlier in the week, Michigan fans had vandalized a statue of Johnson that stands outside of MSU's Breslin Center with yellow paint.
"I'm very disappointed in Bud's courtesy and civility in those interviews. I'd like him to be much more curt, short and rude. Like me."
-- Gregg Popovich, when told his longtime former assistant and current Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer had not taken his approach when doing in-game interviews with reporters.
"He always says 'Don't need any. I rested last year.'"
-- Pacers coach Frank Vogel, on the heavy work load that Paul George has taken in practice and during training camp.
"Everything after I got fired in December only validated the job my staff was doing. Everything kind of went haywire after that, and in the end, it was a perfect scenario... By the end of it, I looked like John Wooden."
-- Nuggets Coach Mike Malone, to the San Francisco Chronicle, on the circus that enveloped the Kings after Sacramento fired Malone early last season.
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