NBA

CSN NBA Insiders Notebook: Is Melo on the move?

CSN NBA Insiders Notebook: Is Melo on the move?

AT AN ARENA NEAR YOU – Welcome to the latest and greatest edition of the CSN Insiders Notebook.

The rumor mill is starting to get hot and heavy with some of the game’s biggest names being talked about as being on the move.

At the top of the list these days is the New York Knicks and their star player, Carmelo Anthony.

Our CSN Philly Insider Jessica Camerato gives us the latest on how Melo is handling this latest round of trade rumors.

MELO ON THE MOVE?

Who will Carmelo Anthony be playing for after the trade deadline?

Anthony holds a no-trade clause with the Knicks, but his time in New York seems like it will be coming to a close. If the Knicks find a team that Anthony agrees to, this could mark the end of the Melo era in the Big Apple.

The Clippers have emerged as the main suitor for the 14th-year veteran who is averaging over 22 points, six rebounds and three assists this season. Now comes the challenge of finding a third team to make a deal work.

So far the Cavaliers and Celtics -- two enticing destinations for a player looking to win -- reportedly have said they are not interested. (LINK: http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/18561036/report%C2%A0knic ks-clippers-discussing-trade-for%C2%A0carmelo-anthony)

This leaves Anthony waiting out his time on a losing Knicks team while he waits to see what the front office does before mid-February.

"You've got to deal with that, even though I try not to read it. And everywhere you go, even if you don't hear about it, somebody is telling you about it, somebody is saying something," Anthony said, via ESPN.com (http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/18570450/new-york-knicks-fans-boo-carmelo-anthony-calls-last-week-mentally-draining ). "It can be mentally draining, mentally fatiguing."

ATLANTIC DIVISION

SIMMONS RECOVERY ON TRACK

While there is no timetable for Ben Simmons’ return, the number one pick in last June’s NBA draft continues to make progress in his rehab from a Jones fracture in his right foot.

Simmons had a scheduled scan with the operating specialist last week in New York. The results showed his recovery is moving along as expected. As part of that recovery, Simmons began one-on-one activity at the Sixers training complex. He competed “very slow” at about “80 percent,” according to Sixers head coach Brett Brown, against Delaware 87ers forward James Webb.

“If you said it’s 20 percent, 10 percent I’d get thrilled,” Brown said. “I can’t wait to coach him. I really can’t wait to coach him.” (LINK http://www.csnphilly.com/philadelphia-76ers/brett-brown-ben-simmons-i-cant-wait-coach-him ) – by Jessica Camerato

CROWDER’S PLAY OF LATE STANDING OUT

Jae Crowder has far exceeded the expectations many had for him when he came to Boston two years ago as a throw-in to the Rajon Rondo trade with Dallas. His play of late has been really good which has only added to the reluctance on Boston’s part to include him in any trade.

In his last nine games, Crowder has averaged 18.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists while shooting 52.8 percent from the field and 45.3 percent from 3-point range.

The Celtics were contacted by the New York Knicks regarding a possible deal involving Carmelo Anthony. If Boston was open to the idea of adding Melo which at the time of this writing they were not, they would most likely have to include Crowder in the deal. He is not untradeable, but his versatility, production and extremely team-friendly contract will make it difficult for the Celtics to part ways with him. – by A. Sherrod Blakely

IS SULLINGER THE ANSWER TO RAPTORS’ BIG MAN NEEDS?

The recent skid by the Toronto Raptors only highlighted what many NBA execs have been saying all season. Toronto has a good team, but title contender? Nope.

And the Raptors know this, which is why they’re in the market for an impact power forward.

Could they already have him and not know it?

Jared Sullinger was supposed to be that guy, but foot surgery has kept him off the court until recently.

 And let’s just say the early returns have not been encouraging, which is why the Raptors are open to trying to acquire another power forward such as Atlanta’s Paul Millsap.

In his first five games, Sullinger averaged 4.0 points and 2.6 rebounds while shooting a woeful 25.8 percent from the field and 18.2 percent on 3’s. The Raptors recently announced he would do a rehab stint with their Development League affiliate, the Raptors 905.

“I tell them all the time, when I come back I’m gonna bring one thing and that’s probably rebounding right now,” Sullinger told CSN’s Abby Chin recently. “Just because everybody is in midseason form. It’s gonna take time for me to fit in, know where my shots are, kind of know the offense.” – by A. Sherrod Blakely

 NETS AMONG TEAMS TO ‘REST’ HEALTHY PLAYERS

It’s hard to imagine that the Brooklyn Nets won’t finish this season with the NBA’s worst record. And yet you will still find some nights where some of their best players – and I use the word ‘best’ very loosely – are on the bench in street clothes. 

Like San Antonio, Atlanta, Memphis and others throughout the league, the premise is to make sure players are relatively healthy as can be as they near the end of the season and prepare for the playoffs.

And then there’s the Nets who are not only going to fail to make the playoffs, but they can’t even cash in on the one benefit to being a bad team – a high pick in that upcoming year’s NBA draft.

The Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry trade in 2013 netted Boston several picks which included the right to swap this year’s pick which at this point is looking like the top overall selection.

So no playoffs and no lottery pick and guys still getting time off to rest?

Nets guard Randy Foye is among those who likes the approach taken by GM Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson who came from San Antonio and Atlanta, respectively.

“I think fatigue injuries [result from] back-to-backs or three-in-four-nights where you don’t feel anything, but at the end of the day, you’ve strained a hamstring or pulled a muscle or something like that,” Foye told Newsday. ‘I think the way we’re doing it right here is pretty smart. We’re building toward something.” – by A. Sherrod Blakely

CENTRAL DIVISION

DRAMA TAKES CENTER STAGE WITH THE BULLS

Drama, thy name is the Chicago Bulls.

First it was Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler calling out their teammates for a perceived lack of commitment, then Rajon Rondo calling out Butler and Wade on Instagram for their leadership style.

Then there was a team meeting, fines, pseudo-punishments and a blowout.

Well, a blowout loss to the Miami Heat Friday night.

But in the end, there were no regrets as Wade said he’d have no issues working and playing with Rondo despite Rondo’s feelings. And Wade stuck to his sentiment even through the firestorm.

“When you’re a leader, certain things you do and say aren’t always going to be the popular thing in the locker room,” he said. “As a leader, sometimes you can’t be liked. It’s the harsh truth and harsh reality. I’m probably not liked in this locker room today. I’m OK with that.”

And with all that, the Bulls are still holding onto a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. – by Vincent Goodwill

JAMES WANTS MORE HELP IN CLEVELAND

Drama seems to carry in the Eastern Conference or even more specifically, the Midwest as LeBron James again laid down the gauntlet for what he perceives is a lack of help from the Cleveland Cavaliers management and ownership.

James, in his 14th year, is averaging a league-leading 37.5 minutes per game—not a great sign for a 32-year old who’s played deep into June every year since 2011.

After a losing streak that included a puzzling loss to a New Orleans Pelicans team playing without Anthony Davis, James said to reporters, “I just hope that we're not satisfied as an organization."

The Cavaliers have the highest payroll in the NBA and have paid the luxury tax in the two years since James’ return from Miami, in addition to losing $40 million in operating losses, according to Forbes Magazine.

And with his relationship with owner Dan Gilbert always being a point of contention, one wonders if the Cavaliers will continue to press forward with personnel moves or try to save a few bucks—if so, will James try to save his ailing body before the playoff run? – by Vincent Goodwill

DUMARS INTERESTED IN RETURN TO NBA

Hall of Famer Joe Dumars has been synonymous with the Detroit Pistons for 29 years, starting with being drafted in 1985 all the way through his playing career and run as president of basketball operations before his reign ended after the 2013-14 season.

Dumars has laid low from the public eye since but confirmed he wants to get back into the NBA in a podcast with the Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski this week.

“Actually, it’s been great,” Dumars said. “The run in Detroit was tremendous on a lot of levels -— on and off the court. I enjoyed every moment of it. Twenty-eight, twenty-nine straight years, I enjoyed every moment of it. But then sometimes, it’s time to turn the page and have someone else come in and do this and carry that load.”

Dumars led the Pistons to a championship in 2004, another Finals appearance in 2005 and was at the helm of a team that went to six straight Eastern Conference Finals from 2003-08.

His run in Detroit ended when he admitted he should’ve rebuilt instead reloaded, but his resume is as stacked as anyone not with an NBA job—and better than most who have jobs currently.

He should be back in the NBA and fairly soon. – by Vincent Goodwill

ROBINSON III TO COMPETE IN SLAM DUNK CONTEST

Indiana Pacers second-year forward Glenn Robinson III hasn’t hit the league by storm in the way his father, Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson did two decades ago as one of the league’s most deadly scorers.

But Robinson III can get up and above the rim in a way his father never could, so it’s no shock to see him enter his name into the participants of All-Star Weekend’s Slam Dunk contest in New Orleans in the middle of February.

Robinson will be the third Pacer in franchise history to enter the contest, and the small-town Pacers have had decent moments for Robinson to live up to. Paul George was part of a winning combination in the 2014 dunk contest with John Wall, and who could forget Terence Stansbury in the 1987 dunk contest with his “Statue of Liberty” dunk that’s been remembered through time.

So basically, Robinson II has more footsteps to follow, and he’s used to it by now. – by Vincent Goodwill

NBA POTENTIALLY IMPACTED BY PRESIDENT’S TEMPORARY BAN

The Milwaukee Bucks are mired in a terrible losing streak but recent world events have put that in the background as Thon Maker’s status has come into question with President Trump’s temporary ban on the entry of non-American citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Maker was born in Wau, Sudan, which became part of an independent South Sudan in 2011. Sudan is one of the seven banned countries, along with Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen.

With the NBA having several players who fit this description, the league has to get on top of this and league spokesman Mike Bass issued a statement Saturday saying, “"We have reached out to the State Department and are in the process of gathering information to understand how this executive order would apply to players in our league who are from one of the impacted countries. The NBA is a global league, and we are proud to attract the very best players from around the world." – by Vincent Goodwill

SOUTHEAST DIVISION

WALL-BEAL BACKCOURT CLICKING

John Wall wishes Bradley Beal could be an All-Star with him, and after an offseason in which he raised eyebrows by admitting to CSNmidatlantic.com that they had a tendency to “dislike” each other they’ve smoothed out their differences which is a big reason why the Wizards were 26-20 heading into Sunday’s game at the Pelicans.

The backcourt is having its best season together, and individually, as Wall and Beal are averaging career highs in multiple categories and defending as well as in duo in the league.

“People say we couldn’t get to this road together. Whatever dislikes we had with each other we put that to the side when we stepped between those lines because we know how much we both want to win, how competitive we are,” Wall told CSN after being selected to his fourth consecutive All-Star Game. “I know I can’t be John Wall without Bradley Beal, and Bradley Beal can’t be (himself) without John Wall.” – by J. Michael

HEAT’S WAITERS SERVING UP BETTER PLAY, WINS

With Rodney McGruder, Willie Reed and Luke Babbitt in the starting lineup – and no Hassan Whiteside – the Heat won their sixth game in a row entering the weekend to give themselves hope though they’re still mired at the bottom of the East.

Babbitt, who Tony Allen of the Grizzlies admitted he voted for as an All-Star, plays reserve minutes to score 22 points during the streak has had an impact if you believe in plus-minus ratings. With him on the floor, the Heat have been on the positive side five times.

But it’s the clutch shot-making of Dion Waiters that has keyed the hot streak as he beat the Warriors with a three and slammed the door shut with one vs. the Nets. Miami is 5-15 without him. They’re 12-15 with him.

Waiters only makes $2.9 million when he signed as a free agent and is surely going to opt out of his second year to test the market. – by J. Michael

ANOTHER REBUILD IN THE MAGIC’S FUTURE?

A team built to be defense-first is failing miserably, and the Magic lost even more offense with Jodie Meeks being knocked out indefinitely following right thumb surgery.

“It’s everybody,” Bismack Biyombo said after Orlando gave up 128 points to the Celtics which made for 100-plus in 14 of 15 games. “Our efforts are not good enough. We talk about the right thing. Everybody says the right thing but we’ve got to hold each other accountable. … It is embarrassing to be out there.”

Another restructuring seems to be in order for a roster with good pieces that don’t fit. For Meeks, he hasn’t played a full season since 2013-14 with the Lakers and he only has played 24 games after missing the start of this season with injuries. – by J. Michael

PACIFIC DIVISION

KINGS FALTER AT HOME, FALL OUT OF PLAYOFF SPOT

After a 1-6 homestand, the Sacramento Kings embarked on a season-long eight-game road trip that included three sets of back-to-backs. Six games in, the Kings are holding their own with wins over the Pistons, Cavs and Hornets. Following Tuesday’s game against the Rockets, the Kings return home where they will play 11-of-13 at Golden 1 Center. They do not leave the Pacific time zone from February 1-March 5. … Rudy Gay, 30, underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon on Monday in New York. According to Dr. Martin O’Malley, Gay is expected to make a complete recovery in time for training camp before the 2017-18 season.  … DeMarcus Cousins is an All-Star again. The 26-year-old big man will make his third straight appearance in the annual event next month as a Western Conference reserve. Cousins is posting huge numbers across the board, but over his last 18 games, he’s handing out 6.2 assists per game. Not bad for a 6-foot-11 big man.- by James Ham

DURANT THE PLAYER IS GOOD, BUT THE ACTOR …

In their fourth month as Warriors teammates, Draymond Green finally is willing to admit he is not impressed with Kevin Durant.

As an actor, that is.

Green recently re-watched “Thunderstruck,” a 2012 comedy in which Durant plays himself, a star for the Oklahoma City Thunder whose talents are switched with those of his biggest fan, a 16-year-old aspiring hoopster who previously couldn’t make a simple layup. Durant, meanwhile, becomes as hopeless as the kid once was.

“I’ve seen it multiple times,” Green said. “But that’s the first time I’ve seen it since KD was my teammate, though. I thought it was bad before. But now that we’re really close, I can really voice my opinion on it.

“It was bad, man. It was really bad. Oh, it was bad.”

Identifying “He Got Game” and “Coach Carter” as his favorite hoop movies, said his review was less a knock on Durant than on the movie, which is intended for children.

“I’m not saying KD is a bad actor, I’m saying that was a bad movie,” Green said. “Somebody else should give him another shot, though.

If somebody brought me a movie (script), I would have probably done it too. But after seeing his first movie, if somebody brought me a script like that now, I wouldn’t do it.” – by Monte Poole

DOC RIVERS WILLING TO TRADE HIS SON AUSTIN?

It could happen any day, any hour, any minute. Clippers coach/president Doc Rivers could bring Knicks star Carmelo Anthony to Los Angeles.

And Rivers’ son, Austin, the team’s backup point guard behind Chris Paul, reportedly is among the players that intrigue the folks in New York. Would Doc trade his son for a player entering his twilight years?

“Listen, I would trade anyone,” Doc Rivers told ESPN. “You have to be willing to do that, so -- and (Austin) would be one of them, and any of them would be one. But I don’t want to trade any of our guys. I like our team.”

The Knicks have essentially placed Anthony in a “for trade” ad. The veteran forward, however, has a no-trade clause in his contract. He’d have to approve any deal.

Because the Clippers one of the few teams Anthony would agree to join, there have been discussions regarding a deal. At issue is with whom, exactly, are the Clippers willing to part. Rivers and veteran guard Jamal Crawford are among the names.

Can Doc resist? – by Monte Poole

KOBE RETURN TO THE LAKERS … AS A COACH?
Coach Kobe?

Retired Lakers legend Kobe Bryant in a recent radio interview made it clear he’d be available to assist his former team, which sits in the Western Conference cellar.

“The Buss family knows I’m always one phone call away,” Bryant told ESPN Radio.

Though LA coach Luke Walton is a former Lakers teammate of Bryant and consistently expresses admiration for the future Hall of Famer, he’s not sure the timing is right for a dose of Kobe.

“It depends in what capacity he will come in and help,” Walton told reporters. “After losing by 40, he’s not the first guy I’m calling.

“Kobe is more about tough love. At that moment, I didn’t need tough love. I didn’t hear (Bryant’s comments), but it’s good to know he’s here for us.”

Insofar as Bryant, who retired after last season, is notoriously intense, the concern is that might alienate a talented young team seeking growth under a first-year head coach. – by Monte Poole

SOUTHWEST DIVISION

HARDEN CONTINUES MVP CHASE

James Harden went off for a historic 51-point, 13-rebound, 13-assist triple-double on Friday against the Sixers. With those remarkable numbers, he became the second player to record two 50-point triple-doubles in a single season, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Remember, we’re not even at the All-Star Break yet.

Of those 51 points, Harden scored 19 points in the third and 17 in the fourth. He finished with a stat line of 16-28 FG, 6-11 3PG, 13-14 FT, 13 rebounds, 13 assists, 5 turnovers, 4 fouls, 2 steals and 1 block in 39:09.

"Tonight was me just scoring the basketball, being aggressive," Harden said after the Rockets’ 123-118 win (LINK http://www.csnphilly.com/philadelphia-76ers/after-triple-double-vs-sixers-james-harden-praises-joel-embiid-calls-him-problem ). "They were doing a really good job of not leaving our shooters and so I had to make plays." – by Jessica Camerato

GASOL PLANS TO STAY WITH THE SPURS

 Pau Gasol intends to opt in to his $16 million player option for next season with the Spurs. The 36-year-old big man is currently out of action after undergoing surgery on his left hand. He is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with the injury.

Rookie DeJounte Murray went scoreless in two minutes of action in the Spurs loss to the Pelicans on Friday. But in the four games leading up to the contest in New Orleans, the 20-year-old guard averaged 13.3 points, including a career-high 24 against the Nuggets on Jan. 19. … Jonathon Simmons has missed three straight games with a wrist injury. – by James Ham

FERRELL MAKES THE MOST OF LAST-MINUTE OPPORTUNITY

A day after signing a 10-day contract with the Dallas Mavericks, Yogi Ferrell found himself in an unexpected play … the starting lineup.

“It was definitely very eye-opening for me,” Ferrell told reporters. “You know, when coach (Rick Carlisle) told me I was going to start, my mind switched and I made sure I was ready.”

He was indeed up for the moment, helping the Mavericks pull off a 105-101 upset of the San Antonio Spurs.

Ferrell had nine points along with seven assists and zero turnovers, in addition to tallying a pair of steals.

Among his nine points were a pair of free throws in the closing seconds to secure the victory.

Regardless of whether he sticks with the Mavericks or not, to get a last-second start and deliver how he did in the clutch … it’s exactly what you have to do as an undrafted player, to stick in the NBA. – by A. Sherrod Blakely

NORTHWEST DIVISION

NOT THE BREAK THAT KANTER, THUNDER WERE LOOKING FOR

Enes Kanter, the high-scoring big for the Thunder was having a nice stretch of games before deciding to punch a chair during the Thunder’s 109-98 win over the Dallas Mavericks. Kanter, 24, will miss the next two months with a broken forearm, leaving Oklahoma City without their third-leading scorer.

The Thunder have won three in a row heading into Sunday’s matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Russell Westbrook posted three straight triple-doubles early in the week to give him 23 on the season. His streak was broken against the Mavericks, but he still managed to drop in 45 points, grab eight rebounds and dish out three assists in the win. – by James Ham

TWITTER BEEF BETWEEN MCCOLLUM AND PARSONS

There was quite the Twitter war last week in Portland between the Blazers’ CJ McCollum and Memphis wing Chandler Parsons after the Trail Blazers beat Memphis.

Parsons, who was pursued by the Blazers in free agency in July and offered $94 million before he opted to sign with Memphis, air-balled a three-point attempt during the game.

After the game, the Blazers’ team authorized Twitter account sent out a video of Parsons’ air-ball, with a tweet that read, “To be fair, the NBA 3-point line is really, really far away from the basket.”

Parsons immediately retaliated, tweeting back to the Blazers, “good luck in the lottery show this year” in reference to the Blazers being 21-27 at currently out of the Western Conference playoff seeding.

McCollum then fired back at Parsons: “We hit the lottery by not signing you’’ in reference to Parsons being hobbled by knee problems this season.

Parsons tried to counter with a response aimed at McCollum: “Stop it. Technically, I hit the lottery.’’

 When McCollum arrived at Blazers practice the next morning, his exchange was quite the topic. 

“A lot of jokes being made,’’ McCollum said. “I always have a sense of humor, so when I see something that I want to respond to, I respond. I felt like that was something I wanted to respond to.’’

Teammate Evan Turner, for one, said he nearly lost himself when he first read the tweets on Friday night while dining at Departure in downtown Portland.

“I knocked like everything over at the bar,’’ Turner said. “Everybody went crazy. I went crazy … threw my cellphone. It was unreal, man. It was crazy: On Chandler’s part, on CJ’s part … very funny. Hilarious.’’

McCollum said he knows Parsons in passing from a few encounters throughout the years. He said he made the response mostly because he was defending his team.

“It’s my team. I ride with my guys,’’ McCollum said.

Turner said one of the things that made the exchange so funny is knowing the personality of the two players involved. Turner said Parsons is very sarcastic and McCollum is usually very conservative.

“I’m surprised CJ said it because he is always so politically correct like he’s trying to run for president,’’ Turner said. – by Jason Quick


HAYWARD EARNS FIRST ALL-STAR SELECTION

The Utah Jazz have been one of the surprise teams this season, and the play of Gordon Hayward has had a lot to do with that. That’s why it came as no surprise when he was selected by the Western Conference coaches as an all-star reserve this season.

He becomes the first Jazz player to be named an all-star since Deron Williams in 2011.

"My teammates, our coaching and support staff helped put me in this position," said Hayward. "We still have work to do but I'm excited about the direction we're headed. I look forward to representing Utah in New Orleans."

This season, he’s averaging 21.6 points and 5.7 rebounds – both career highs.

While the numbers are good, it’s the team’s success that certainly played a significant factor in the coaches selecting him as an all-star.

Including games played Sunday, Utah (30-19) has the best record in the Northwest Division and are currently fifth in the West overall. – by A. Sherrod Blakely

LAVINE PASSES ON SLAM DUNK CONTEST

There will be no sequel to what was one of the greatest slam dunk competitions in recent memory. Zach LaVine, who defeated Orlando’s Aaron Gordon last year in slam dunk overtime – a first – said he will not participate in the event next month in New Orleans.

“I feel like I’ve accomplished everything I could in the dunk contest,” LaVine told reporters. “I’m never saying I won’t ever do it again, but I’m focused on this (season). We’re getting close to being able to make the playoffs, and we have that on our mind. Getting the rest and I guess just focusing more on the game was a big thing.”

Gordon said he’s not sure he’ll participate in the slam dunk contest, either. And his reasons sound very similar to what ultimately led to LaVine deciding to not participate.

“I don’t know what else I have left up my sleeve or in the tank dunking-wise,” Gordon told reporters in Boston recently. “The other reason is, I’d like to focus on the Orlando Magic and game play. That’s the most important, the main priority right now.” – by A. Sherrod Blakely

Don't forget the NBA's contribution to the college hoops scandal

Don't forget the NBA's contribution to the college hoops scandal

While nobody is very surprised to hear about all the corruption in college basketball uncovered by an FBI probe into agents, shoe companies, money managers and coaches, I'm not hearing too many people talking about the NBA's role in all of that.

The NBA has been complicit in the corruption for years. The league has been, at the very least, the great enabler.

Professional basketball has been hiding its intentions in regard to players entering its league for a long time. The league has taken two stances in regard to players entering the NBA directly out of high school. Let me summarize those for you:

  • Some of the kids don't make it in the league and end up without a college scholarship and penniless. We don't want this to happen and thus, want them in college so they can turn into upstanding citizens with a backup plan to pro hoops. We need to protect these kids from themselves.
  • A high school career in basketball isn't enough time for our scouts to evaluate their NBA future. It's hard enough to project players into the NBA after a couple of years in college -- doing so after high school is almost impossible. Plus, these players just aren't ready for the NBA.

Of course, reason No. 2 is much more important than the first one. The NBA really doesn't care a lot about the kids who don't make it. The concern is much more about wasting first-round draft money on players who aren't good enough to make their team. And, of course, the NBA always enjoyed it when college players were stuck in college for a full four years -- which was just enough time for them to become big-name, ready-made pro stars who could generate spectator and TV money from the day they entered the league.

Just a few months back, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver went public with the idea that the "one-and-done" rule should be changed or modified:

“My sense is it’s not working for anyone,” Silver said Thursday night before Game 1 of the N.B.A. finals. “It’s not working for the college coaches and athletic directors I hear from. They’re not happy with the current system. And I know our teams aren’t happy either, in part because they don’t necessarily think the players who are coming into the league are getting the kind of training that they would expect to see.”

Again, one reason for changing the rule would be that players coming into the league aren't "getting the kind of training that they would expect to see." In other words, Silver seemed to be in favor of extending the time players should stay in college, rather than do the right thing: Drop the one-and-done rule entirely and allow players make a choice about their chosen profession after graduating high school.

Athletes have that choice in baseball, golf, tennis, soccer and just about any other sport but basketball and football. (And if you think this basketball scandal is big, just wait and see what happens if the Feds ever start looking into football -- where the real money is.)

The blue-chip players are the ones getting those six-figure checks from the shoe companies. Allow them to enter the NBA out of high school and you solve a lot of these problems. By the way, a good portion of those players want no part of those college scholarships and prove it when they league those universities after basically one semester to chase the NBA dream.

If those players were allowed to enter the NBA immediately, would there still be corruption? I'm sure there would be. But not nearly as much. There wouldn't be a lot of money left after the cream of the crop gets its share. Young basketball players shouldn't be made to be criminals because they took money for their basketball talent out of high school. It should be their right to become professionals immediately.

And the NBA should get out of the way and allow it.

Fining teams for resting players sounds great, but...

Fining teams for resting players sounds great, but...

It is being reported that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is attempting to get the authority to fine teams for resting multiple players in a single game or healthy ones in a nationally televised game.

A fine idea. People pay big money to watch stars play and feel cheated if a player sits out even though he is probably healthy. And networks surely must be miffed when the stars sit out games that the networks pay monstrous sums of money for the right to show.

But like a lot of fine ideas, this sounds great until you try to actually make it work.

Seriously, if LeBron James wants to sit out a game in January, you think the Cleveland medical staff can't come up with some sort of "injury" to justify his absence? And he probably deserves his rest days, given how hard he plays. League-wide, we might begin to see a lot of bogus "injuries."

But I will say this, the whole Popovich/Spurs idea of resting multiple players in the same game CAN be dealt with. And it's gone on long enough. If San Antonio wants to go without 80 percent of its starting lineup, then it must be done for a home game. Let the coach face the wrath of his home fans for that.

I might also add that giving a commissioner unrestricted, absolute power in regard to matters like this scares me. Certainly it doesn't seem to be working well for the NFL.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once again, Danny Ainge proves he's not afraid to bet big on his own judgment

Once again, Danny Ainge proves he's not afraid to bet big on his own judgment

A few thoughts about the blockbuster Cleveland-Boston trade:

  • One thing I've always admired about Danny Ainge: He's got a lot of guts. He always has. He's totally unafraid. And in pulling the trigger on a trade with the team he's trying to beat in the NBA East, he's taking a gamble. In trading his team's best and most popular player he's making an even bigger gamble. And in taking on Kyrie Irving, well, he might be taking the biggest gamble of all. But he doesn't really care what anyone else thinks, he does what he thinks is right. It's the same as the trade he pulled off prior to the draft with the No. 1 pick. He thought Jayson Tatum was the best player in the draft and knew he didn't have to take him with the first pick, so he moved the pick. And he really didn't care what anybody else thought of the deal. The guy has had plenty of self-confidence and courage since the day he started playing basketball. I remember watching him as a high-school junior in the Oregon state basketball tournament and on the football field and marveling at how he laughed in the face of pressure. He seemed totally immune to it and probably still is.
  • In today's world, people running franchises who are willing to make a big gamble or controversial move without worrying about what fans or media will think about it are rare -- and usually worth their weight in gold.
  • Ainge has put a big burden on his coach, Brad Stevens. As well he should -- Stevens is one of the best in the business. But I think Stevens will need to be at the top of his game to find the kind of team chemistry the Celtics had last season. Irving, I've heard, is pretty tough to handle -- for his teammates and his coaches. Getting him to play the team game and keeping him out of calling his own number all the time might be a problem.
  • This deal has long-term ramifications that should not be ignored. Irving is four years younger than Thomas (who is dealing with a hip injury) and in better health. Most people in the league believe LeBron James is headed out of Cleveland after this season and Boston has positioned itself to be the next big thing in the East. Thomas has one year left on his contract and Irving has two years and a player option for a third. Ainge is making a move that's possibly good for this season but definitely good for the seasons after that.
  • Thomas is 5-9 and often listed at 185 pounds. He doesn't look as if he's within 20 pounds of that number, however. Irving is 6-3 and 193. Players as small as Thomas have a pretty rough ride in the NBA -- and I'm not so sure how long he can keep that slight frame healthy enough to carry the heavy load he carried last season. I certainly wouldn't invest in that body with a long-term max deal.
  • Kevin Love and Thomas played on the same AAU team in high school and I'm sure they will play well together. Cleveland will be OK next season if Thomas stays healthy. Of course, behind him is Derrick Rose, another player whose continued good health is no sure thing.
  • I don't know what to think of Irving and his desire to get away from James. But I have a feeling that PLAYING with LeBron is OK, it's just existing with him that's a problem. You hear stories about the entourage, about LeBron basically running the whole organization -- stuff that can't be easy on teammates.
  • The Celtics have reshaped their team coming off what was a very good season. That takes guts. But that's Danny Ainge.

 

Kyrie Irving's demands are taking disloyalty to an obscene new level

Kyrie Irving's demands are taking disloyalty to an obscene new level

I don't know about you, but I'm seeing something in the NBA right now that could become a real problem for me.

For years, discontented players have asked to be traded. Usually they do it privately and not in the media. You never hear about it most of the time that it happens.

First, let's get this straight right now -- I have nothing against free agency. I grew up in an era when players where chained to the same team for life, even if they never got a chance to play much. They had no options. They had to play for the team that "owned" them, or go home.

So now free agency has brought a lot of player movement and it usually favors the rich franchises, the more glamorous cities or the places where the sun shines the most frequently. But I never get too worked up over that. It's the way it is in any business. People want to work for successful companies alongside talented co-workers in great cities.

I wasn't upset when Kevin Durant chose Golden State or LeBron James picked Miami. Or Cleveland. It was their right. The fulfilled their contract and won the right to choose a new team.

But what's bugging me now is a player under contract who is acting as if he is a free agent. He is not only demanding a trade, he is trying to dictate where he should be dealt. I don't like any of that.

Kyrie Irving is that guy. He has three seasons -- the last one being an opt-out year -- left on his contract with Cleveland and has told the Cavs he wishes to be traded. And not only that, he's given the team three "preferred destinations." Now keep in mind, this isn't Carmelo Anthony, who has basically been run out of town by Phil Jackson and has it written into his current contract with the Knicks that he has the right to approve any trades.

What gives Irving the right to expect to just trade his uniform in for another one? Well, nothing. Except NBA players these days are being catered to, fawned over and recruited the same way they were in their high school days, when they played AAU basketball. And we are starting to see the signs that they are beginning to think they can simply go where they want, sign up to play with their pals or create a super team on a whim.

And face it, in many cases some of the top players are basically running their franchise. LeBron James complains in Cleveland that he doesn't get enough help to beat the Warriors but come on -- LeBron has been the de facto General Manager of that team since he returned. He's been behind a good many of that team's trades and free-agent signings, as he assembled a roster of friends and players he knew would defer to him. Now that it isn't working to his satisfaction, he wants a do-over. Or to go someplace else.

If we're talking about recruiting free agents or even Anthony -- who has the no-trade clause that he could modify for any team chasing him -- that's fair game. But players already under contract who first demand a trade and then try to pick the team they go to?

No way.

First off, you sign a deal for $20 million a season as Irving did, you keep your mouth shut and play. Play it out. Then you become a free agent and can go wherever you want. But don't attempt to hold a team for ransom that has signed you in good faith. Be a person of integrity and honor your deal.

And trying to pick the team you're traded to after demanding a trade while under contract? That's what's adding insult to injury.

The Cavs should find out where he'd least like to go and send him there. If the league gets to the point when contracts mean nothing and players can merely quit on their current team and demand a trade to a specific team of their choice, that's when I will quit paying attention.

There is enough player movement as it is, with free agency. And giving up on your current team is not only unseemly, it takes disloyalty to an obscene level.

June 28: Dream Team debut here and Tyson takes a bite out of Holyfield

June 28: Dream Team debut here and Tyson takes a bite out of Holyfield

I've been bumping around this business for a long time. Too long, many of you might say. During that time, I've seen some pretty good stuff. Unforgettable stuff.

And it just so happens that a couple of those things happened on this date -- June 28.

The first one was in 1992 right here in Portland, the very first game played by the greatest basketball team ever assembled -- the Dream Team -- in Memorial Coliseum. We had no idea what to expect but the results of all the team's games were more one-sided than we expected. And what I remember most was the introduction of the entire roster before the very first game (June 28) vs. Cuba. It was overwhelming to hear the names of all those great players on one squad making their debut in our arena before heading off to the Olympics.

The assembled crowd went nuts, but the biggest ovation? For Clyde Drexler, of course. And it seemed to go on and on and on -- to the point when Clyde flashed an almost embarrassed grin. The event was called The Tournament of the Americas and it has to be the most impressive show ever staged in Portland, including those trips to the NBA Finals,

But it wasn't the most memorable event I ever covered on a June 28. That came five years later, on June 28, 1997 at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas. You guessed it -- the Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield fight, best known for Tyson biting Holyfield's ears.

It was the craziest event and the craziest aftermath I've ever been around.

When Tyson landed the first bite I couldn't tell exactly what happened and neither could anyone else in the area where I was sitting. It looked as if Holyfield got stung by a bee. Finally, when it happened again, referee Mills Lane stepped in and called the fight a draw. The press room after the fight was chaos and it was difficult to get a clear picture of what happened until after Lane spoke.

But while I was writing my column for The Oregonian, all sorts of mayhem was playing out in the adjoining casino and hotel. People were upset about the mysterious outcome of the fight and rampaging through the casino -- some of them even stealing chips off tables. Gunshots were heard, although that was never confirmed. I did see the local police department outside the hotel, though, with guns drawn.

Later it was revealed to me that among those caught on security tapes stealing chips off tables was a group of NBA players, who were made to pay back what they stole. The casino was closed for an hour -- which had to cost the establishment upwards of a million bucks.

Me? I didn't get back to my room until the wee hours of the morning, having been waved outside the lobby to the street by some cops who looked as if they meant business. It makes for a great story years later but on June 28, 1992, it was frightening.

This could be the very night, though, when that well-known tourist axiom "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" was born. The next day in the local newspaper, there was a tiny story buried near the back of the main section about a little ruckus at the MGM Grand after the fight, mentioning that people thought they heard gunshots but it was merely the sound of champagne corks. Oh sure.

So today, by the way, I'm just sitting around waiting to see what will happen on this June 28. But so far, Phil Jackson getting fired or Tim Quarterman being traded to Houston just don't move the needle.

OK, so tell me about Durant's "legacy" now

OK, so tell me about Durant's "legacy" now

As much as I detest the word "legacy" when people are talking about pro athletes (basketball players have careers, they don't have a legacy. Things like that are reserved for the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy) I'm going to use it here.

Where are all those people who insisted that Kevin Durant would affect his "legacy" by jumping from Oklahoma City to Golden State and, as I heard so many times, "ride those guys' coat tails to a championship."

Well, as it turned out, Durant did the right thing. The Warriors would not have won without him. He was the MVP of the series. And he escaped having to play in a city YOU wouldn't live in to the Bay Area. And he escaped having to play with Russell Westbrook on a dysfunctional team and landed with a squad that was the most unselfish in the league.

When people look back on his career they're going to say he carried the Warriors to this championship -- not that they carried him to one.

And he did so while sacrificing pieces of his game for the sake of playing on a winning team. He would have scored more points and his stats would have looked much better had he stayed with the Thunder. But the NBA Finals stage allowed him to show just how talented he is -- leading many people to conclude he's the next big thing in the league.

As far as the Cavaliers are concerned, the Finals showed they have some work to do on that roster of theirs. Instead of stacking their bench with LeBron's buddies, they need to get some serious role players with talent. They need guys capable of contributing instead of just sitting and watching. In Game 5, the Warrior bench outscored the Cavalier bench 35-7, typical of the entire series.

The Warriors, too, had a big coaching edge. Golden State plays the prettiest game in basketball on offense and just about the best defense in the league. The Cavs take turns playing one-on-one with not enough defense.

The right team won. And Kevin Durant made the right move.

GOAT? Who knows... but there's never been another team like the Warriors

GOAT? Who knows... but there's never been another team like the Warriors

You can talk all day and all night about the greatest teams of all time. And you really can't come to any conclusions. Differing eras makes it too difficult.

But there has never been another team like this version of the Golden State Warriors.

Folks, time changes. And it has changed basketball in a very big way. You know that, of course, but it may be a bigger change than you think.

Yes, the Warriors shoot the three-point shot like nobody else -- in volume and accuracy. In Game 3, they made 16 of their 33 threes while Cleveland was hitting just 12 of 44. That's a huge edge.

And I must say, Steph Curry is just as unique as his team. I know Kevin Durant is getting most of the headlines from Wednesday's game -- as he should -- but we're already taking Curry for granted because he's been doing his amazing thing for a few years now.

It wasn't just that Curry made five of his nine three-point shots. It's that he made shots -- and continues to make shots -- from spots where other players don't dare shoot them. And he gets them off quickly, too. Curry's edge over most every other player in the NBA is that he's accumulating points three at a time on shots that nobody else makes with consistency. If he gets a glimmer of daylight from about 25 feet and in, he can be deadly. I don't remember any other player in the history of the game as proficient as he is at shooting in volume from distance.

And above that, he's a perpetual motion machine. He had 13 rebounds Wednesday because he's so active. He gets to the ball, whether in the air or on the floor. In his own way, he's as difficult to defend as any of the game's legendary players.

And yes, the Warriors also have other shooters. Klay Thompson and Durant are terrific. But what makes these guys special is that they move the ball and move bodies. They play an unselfish, equal-opportunity offense that doesn't allow the defense to lock in on anybody. In contrast to the Cavaliers.

Cleveland plays too much one-on-one. It's really not sustainable -- even as good as LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are at it -- over the long haul against a team moving the ball the way the Warriors do.

Wednesday, 72.5 percent of Golden State's made field goals were assisted. For Cleveland, it was just 42.5. EVERY SINGLE SHOT by Thompson, Draymond Green, David West and Shaun Livingston came off an assist. That's crazy.

And of course, when a lot of people are evaluating this series at some point, they're going to point fingers at the Cavaliers' "supporting cast" and conclude Cleveland didn't get enough production out of it. I think it's easy to say that, but my observation over many years of watching this game is that when one or two players are as ball dominant as James and Irving are, other players simply don't get a good feel for the game. What you end up with is players who are so eager to actually get a shot they burp up a bad one (J.R. Smith) or become more reluctant to shoot (Kevin Love). It's a natural response when you aren't getting consistent touches.

Basketball is changing at warp speed and the Warriors are leading the way. Shooting from distance is of paramount importance these days. You simply cannot afford to get outscored by a big number from behind the three-point line. It's so difficult to overcome that. And you've got to move the ball and play unselfishly to get open three-point shots.

And to beat the Warriors, you're going to need a great team. And there is only one great team out there right now and it's the Warriors. And they are so much different than any of the other great teams in history that it's hard to say where they fit.

A few other thoughts about Game 3:

  • I'm still not understanding why James didn't get out past the three-point line on Durant on that critical shot late in the game. That shot was too important to allow it to be wide open.
  • I'm also bewildered as to why the NBA allows these games to degenerate into a wrestling match. So many obvious fouls are being ignored that if you actually get called for a foul -- or a travel or a double dribble -- you're just flat-out unlucky. It's a joke.
  • People are saying that Green isn't playing his best during this series but he does so many things for his team. Wednesday night he led all players in contested shots with 15, had the best plus/minus of anybody with 14 and had a team-high seven assists to go with a team-high five screen-assists. That doesn't sound like a bad game to me.
  • The only team capable of beating the Warriors is the Warriors. If they don't move, or move the ball, or take a night off on defense, they can be had. But that's the only way.

 

 

Cavs down 0-2, will the NBA decide games need to be officiated differently?

Cavs down 0-2, will the NBA decide games need to be officiated differently?

Last season, with the Golden State Warriors on the verge of a second consecutive NBA Finals win, the officiating of the series suddenly changed. Cleveland began holding and bumping Steph Curry as he attempted to move without the ball. The game got more ugly.

And not a lot of fouls were called.

I've seen this kind of thing before and it's about time to start bringing out the usual NBA Conspiracy Theories.

In the old days, the story was often told that David Stern would just send an officiating team of "fixers" out to manipulate the outcome of games in order to ensure a longer Finals (more games = more money for the league).  And, it was often said, the league had a desire for the large-market teams to win. And I have to admit I actually suspected some hanky-panky in those days regarding certain games.

But Stern is gone and Adam Silver is now in charge.

So I'm just asking, can we look forward to some radical change in how the rest of the Finals games are going to be called? Will the Cavs be able to wrestle the Warriors into submission?

Well, I'd guess not. I'm not sure Cleveland is close enough to Golden State that officials could actually do much to help.

The Warriors are good. REAL good. I've seen a lot of teams come and go and I think this is certainly at least among the best. This team is in that conversation. And just like the Trail Blazers, the Cavs need help to beat them. I said from the start the only way Portland could beat the Warriors is to play its best game and have the Dubs play their worst.

And it's not much different with the Cavaliers.

News flash: Golden State is a pretty good team

News flash: Golden State is a pretty good team

Reaction and overreaction to Game 1 of the Finals:

  • It stinks to be Kevin Love sometimes. I'm hearing people say that he wasn't very good Thursday night, but 15 points and 21 rebounds isn't exactly a bad night, is it?
  • The Warriors won with ease even though Klay Thompson and Draymond Green combined to go 6-28 from the field. That doesn't bode well for the Cavs.
  • Don't ever go overboard on Game 1 of a seven-game series. Cleveland will have a better game and the Warriors may have a worse one. It takes some adjusting when you play the Warriors.
  • There were some Trail Blazer fans who were upset with me when I told them they'd have to be patient until the Warriors' reign of terror abated in a few years. But I wasn't talking about just the Trail Blazers. The way it looks now, there's really nobody in the league who can look ahead and figure they have a shot at stopping Golden State next season. That team is too good.
  • Yeah, I know, people think it's just terrible that one or two teams can dominate the NBA like this. But welcome to pro basketball. It's been pretty much like this forever. The Celtics, the Lakers, the 76ers, the Spurs, the Heat -- they've all taken their turn. Golden State waited 40 years in between championships and is getting its run now. In a game where there are only five players in action at a time, it's pretty easy for one or two players to create a big advantage. It's one of basketball's historic problems.
  • I'm convinced that the Warriors are one of the best teams I've ever watched in the NBA. They move the ball like the 1977 Trail Blazers and defend like some good Spurs teams. They are so deep that when they go to their bench, players you've never heard of before they became Warriors look terrific.