Posted on: May 21, 2010 11:38 pm
With speculation growing over where LeBron James and other marquee free agents will wind up July 1, the player who could represent the best consolation prize is about to move one step closer to coming off the market.
Representatives for three-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony and the Denver Nuggets have scheduled a face-to-face negotiating session with the hopes of agreeing on a three-year extension that would keep the coveted scorer from hitting the free-agent market in 2011, sources familiar with the situation told CBSSports.com. Since Anthony, who turns 26 later this month, isn’t a free agent this summer, he is free to discuss an extension with his team prior to the opening of the negotiating period July 1.
The Nuggets, fully aware that Anthony would be in high demand in 2011 among teams that strike out in their pursuit of James, Dwyane Wade and other marquee free agents this summer, are hopeful that this will be the first step toward “making Melo a Nugget for a long time,” one of the people familiar with the team’s strategy said.
Anthony’s agent, Leon Rose, declined comment recently when approached after a playoff game and asked about Anthony’s future. Rose, of course, has a full plate now that James’ season has ended and his long anticipated foray into unrestricted free agency is in full froth. With six weeks to go before James can terminate his contract and hit the market, speculation about where he will go has reached a fever pitch. But hardly anyone is paying attention to Anthony, who would be the ideal consolation prize for teams like the Knicks, Nets, Bulls, Heat, Clippers and Wizards if they fail to lure the free agents of their choice this summer.
Anthony signed his current agreement in 2006, the same summer when James, Wade and Chris Bosh all chose three-year extensions with an early termination option in the fourth year that would maximize their ability to hit the free-agent market in the prime of their careers. Anthony opted for a four-year deal with an option for a fifth year, thus choosing the additional money and security over flexibility. The Nuggets are hopeful that Anthony will follow the same strategy again, especially with the very real threat of a lockout in 2011 and ultimately a salary structure that is expected to be far less favorable to the players, sources say. Some circumstances have changed. Anthony’s current deal was negotiated by agent Bill Duffy, whereas his current agent, Rose, negotiated the shorter extensions for James, Wade and Bosh. Ultimately, though, it comes down to what the player wants.
Anthony will have to weigh those financial realities against the possibility that the Nuggets’ roster built around him and an aging Chauncey Billups has gone as far as it will go with the current core group. Also, sources say Anthony perpetually feels slighted among the league’s top talent and may want to seek a bigger stage to pursue his rightful place in the league’s pecking order.
For example, if James turns down the Knicks’ overtures this summer and stays in Cleveland or signs with the Bulls, imagine what a star Anthony would be in New York if he returned to his birthplace next summer with a chip on his shoulder. Not only would he have an opportunity to prove the doubters wrong about his own talent, but he also would be the perfect candidate to tap into Knicks fans’ anger over being jilted by James. During the Knicks’ most recent run of success in the 1990s, they were immensely popular in New York not only because they were successful, but because they never had the league’s best player. The underdog/villain role would suit Anthony’s personality perhaps better than any of the league’s current superstars.
While Anthony was born in New York, he grew up in the Washington, D.C., area, and the Wizards’ just became a far more attractive destination for free agents with the draft lottery triumph that will land them No. 1 pick John Wall. The point is, Anthony will have options galore if he decides to forgo an extension this summer and hit the market in 2011. And that’s something both sides in his imminent contract negotiation understand quite well.
Posted on: May 3, 2010 1:56 am
The coaching carousel has been spinning at an unusually slow pace for teams whose offseasons already have begun. That is expected to change in the coming days, with the Hornets and Sixers closing in on plans to begin interviewing candidates.
The Hornets plan to interview a mixture of current assistants and former head coaches, with sources telling CBSSports.com that at least eight names are on New Orleans’ list so far. Assistants Tom Thibodeau (Celtics), Dwane Casey (Mavericks), Monty Williams (Trail Blazers), Tyrone Corbin (Jazz), and Steve Clifford (Magic) are expected to interview for the Hornets job, along with former head coaches Avery Johnson and Lawrence Frank and broadcaster Mark Jackson. Johnson, Jackson and Thibodeau also are expected to interview with the Sixers.
The Nets’ search is in limbo until the transfer of ownership to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov is completed. All signs point to team president Rod Thorn remaining with the team, with Kiki Vandeweghe back to his GM position. Though the Nets have scheduled no formal interviews, they are believed to be interested in Thibodeau, Boston’s associate head coach in charge of the defense, and Jackson, whose name recognition and New York roots would be appealing for a team on its way to Brooklyn.
Vinny Del Negro’s status in Chicago is expected to be resolved this week as organizational meetings conclude with chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. Several front office situations also are in flux, including Portland, where GM Kevin Pritchard is waiting to learn if he will meet the same fate as close friend and former top assistant Tom Penn, who was fired in March. In Denver, GM Mark Warkentien’s contract is set to expire after he did not receive an extension to accompany coach George Karl’s. Sources familiar with the Denver situation said Warkentien’s status is expected to be resolved within a week after the Nuggets’ playoff elimination. Team executive Rex Chapman is expected to be let go, sources said.
The Clippers have not made any official inroads in their coaching search, leading rival executives to wonder if further changes are afoot in the front office after Mike Dunleavy was removed as coach and then fired as GM. Dunleavy’s replacement, Neil Olshey, has been told his status is not interim in nature, sources said. Dunleavy has filed an arbitration case after the Clippers stopped paying his salary, of which nearly $7 million is owed through the end of next season.
In Philly, all decisions hinge on whether Larry Brown decides to leave the Bobcats for the Sixers’ team presidency. Brown, 69, has said publicly he won’t coach anywhere but Charlotte, but has returned home to Philadelphia to speak to his wife and children about his next career move. The Bobcats are pushing for Brown to resolve his future “sooner than later” so the organization can move forward with preparations for the draft and free agency with a clear understanding of who will be coaching the team.
Posted on: February 23, 2010 12:05 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2010 5:34 pm
If Allen Iverson can't make it back to the Philadelphia 76ers by next week, a parting of ways between the iconic star and the city where he tried to resurrect his career will be inevitable, a person with close ties to the future Hall of Famer told CBSSports.com Tuesday.
"For the team's sake and his own sake, he can't keep trying to go back and forth with this," the person said. "If he can't get back by next week, it's probably not going to work."
Contrary to Iverson's often stormy history with the organization, sources described his indefinite leave of absence as "amicable" and "nothing sinister." Iverson has been in and out of the lineup in recent weeks while he tends to his ill daughter.
The Sixers tried to make it work with Iverson, getting an initial spark in attendance and excitement from his return. But Philly plays Orlando on Monday and Atlanta on Wednesday, and if Iverson can't commit to returning to the team by then, the wheels will be in motion for his release.
News of Iverson's predicament, which could well signal the end of his career, made me think back to comments from one of his friends and former teammates during All-Star weekend. Carmelo Anthony, perhaps the only star player who's ever been able to co-exist productively with Iverson, was asked what A.I.'s legacy will be -- if, in fact, this is the end for one of the greatest athletes ever to appear on an NBA court.
"His legacy is self explanatory," Anthony said. "He came into the NBA and almost changed the whole game of basketball in his own way."
The key words being "in his own way." To the end, Iverson never compromised. He lost the cornrows only briefly, sporting a haircut during All-Star weekend in Phoenix in 2009. He gave up on winning a championship when he accepted money from the Memphis Grizzlies, and then from the Philadelphia 76ers -- choosing his "happiness" over more lofty goals that have eluded him since he turned the NBA on its head as the No. 1 pick in the 1996 draft.
Now, Iverson is dealing with something no parent ever wants to even think about -- a sick child who needs him. No one will ever dispute the importance of that. It simply isn't debatable. Neither is the Sixers' right to move forward without Iverson if he can't uphold his commitment to the team.
"He’s always going to go down as one of the greatest players to ever play," Anthony said. "Whether they say 6-feet-or-under or whatever. Regardless of height, he’s going to be one of the greatest. I was fortunate enough to play with him for two years. It seems like a long time ago, but it was only two years ago when I played with him and he averaged 26, 27 points. In the last year and a half was when everything went south for him."
I shared my thoughts about Iverson before he signed with the Sixers, when it appeared that his NBA career was over. Now it seems like that career obituary was only premature by a couple of months.
Anthony called Iverson's stubborn insistence on doing this his way "a positive and a negative. When he came into the league, I don’t think anybody was expecting that type of player, that type of person to come into the league. He made fans embrace him, and they stuck with him all the way until today."
Now, the NBA is more than ready to move past Iverson's "me" generation of stars. Could Iverson have compromised? Could he have changed his game, extended his career, given himself a chance to add a championship to his resume if only he could have accepted coming off the bench for a contender? Sure. But when it comes to A.I., it's pointless to even ask such questions.
What you saw was what you got. Like a comet, Iverson was something to watch until he flamed out in spectacular fashion -- which was the only way this was ever going to end.
One more thing about Iverson: Drama walks in lock step with him wherever he goes. When it comes to The Answer, another plot twist or two isn't out of the question.
Posted on: February 8, 2010 5:24 pm
Labor problems, the potential for blockbuster trades, and yes, some basketball will be on the agenda at All-Star weekend in Dallas. Something else will command the attention of NBA team executives on Friday: The idea of a play-in tournament to determine the eighth playoff seed in each conference.
Posted on: February 1, 2010 4:34 pm
Edited on: February 1, 2010 4:37 pm
January is the month when NBA teams start figuring out what they are. The feeling-out period of November and December gives way a time when night-to-night performance dictates the tweaks that are needed at the trade deadline.
Based on the standings as we sit here on Feb. 1, there are nine teams legitimately in the Eastern Conference playoff picture (the line is drawn at the Knicks, who enter the month six games out of the eighth spot). In the West, 11 teams are strong playoff contenders (drawing the line at the Clippers, who are six games out of eighth). Of those 20 teams, which ones performed the best and the worst in the month of January, and why?
The “who” is easy. For the “why,” we need some statistical analysis. And for that, we turn to adjusted plus/minus expert Wayne Winston. In his blog, Winston opines on all 30 teams and why they performed the way they did in the month of January. Let’s break out Winston’s analysis of the playoff contenders with the five best and five worst records last month:
(To review, adjusted plus/minus tells you how many points better or worse a team would perform if a given player were paired with four average players against five average players. For example, LeBron James’ was plus-21 in January, meaning his team was 21 points better than average when adjusted for whom LeBron was playing with and against.)
1. Cleveland (12-3): It’s all about Shaquille O’Neal, whose adjusted plus/minus through December was minus-4 but in January was plus-4.
1. (t)Denver (12-3): Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups are overrated, according to Winston. Nene and Chris “Birdman” Andersen each had a plus-23 rating in January.
3. Charlotte (12-4): The Bobcats’ success can be attributed to Gerald Wallace (plus-15), Flip Murray (plus-11), and Stephen Jackson (plus-8).
4. Utah (10-4): Deron Williams registered a plus-17, but Andre Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer, and Kyle Korver all were plus-10 or better, too.
5. New Orleans (12-5): Chris Paul (plus-8) and Marcus Thornton (plus-9) combined to form an effective starting backcourt – a plan that will have to be adjusted with Paul out indefinitely due to a left knee injury requiring surgery. Darren Collison, you’re up ...
5. (t) Lakers (12-5): Winston says Ron Artest (minus-1) has been fading steadily since his Christmas night fall and unrelated foot ailments. Remarkably, his system credits Sasha Vujacic with a plus-16 – same as Kobe.
1. Houston (5-9): David Andersen (plus-7) has been helpful. Chuck Hayes (minus-9), not so much.
2. Boston (6-8): The main culprit, as you might expect, has been Kevin Garnett (minus-11), whose offensive rating was even worse than his overall adjusted plus/minus (minus-21). Glen “Don’t Call Me Big Baby” Davis also struggled (minus-14).
3. Phoenix (7-9): Channing Frye’s rating went from plus-13 through December to plus-2 in January. Amar’e Stoudemire, Jason Richardson, Grant Hill, Goran Dragic, and Louis Amundson all hovered between minus-9 and minus-11. Robin Lopez was plus-9.
4. Portland (7-8): Nicolas Batum (plus-16), Andre Miller (plus-13), Martell Webster (plus-13), and Jerryd Bayless (plus-10) kept the Blazers afloat. But they need a big man in the worst way, as Juwan Howard (minus-18) and Jeff Pendergraph (minus-14) killed them.
5. Miami (8-9): Rafer Alston (minus-14) hasn’t solved the Heat’s point guard woes. Dorell Wright (plus-11) was solid.
No single statistical method is the be-all, end-all for evaluating a team’s performance. Depending on which front office you’re talking to, you’ll get different accounts of which data are most meaningful. But these numbers shed some light on some common beliefs about what certain contenders need to add or subtract before the Feb. 18 trade deadline. In Denver’s case, the performance of Nene and Birdman seemed to debunk the notion that the Nuggets desperately need to acquire a big man. In Portland’s case, the data proves that the Blazers need an upgrade in the frontcourt.
The Celtics? They need Garnett to be as healthy and dominant as he was two years ago. (Don’t hold your breath.) Do the Jazz need to trade Boozer? If they want to get under the luxury tax they do, but not if they want to continue playing their best basketball of the season.
Which team that’s currently a long shot to make the playoffs had the best January? That would be the Bucks, who went 8-7 in January – better than six teams currently in the hunt. The Bucks are an aberration to Winston, as well, because all he could come up with to explain their success was Charlie Bell’s plus-10 rating in January. It’s an imperfect system that nonetheless provides some interesting stuff to think about as we close in on Feb. 18.
Posted on: May 28, 2009 11:04 pm
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – The psychology of the Lakers is hard to figure, even for someone like Derek Fisher, who has the smarts and just enough Zen to be a coach one day.
At some point, if he wants to, Fisher will be standing on a court somewhere trying to predict how the team he’s coaching will respond in a closeout game on the road. For now, he’s just a point guard trying to do the impossible: predict which Lakers team will show up Friday night in Denver with the chance to close out the Nuggets when there’s a potential Game 7 at home in their pocket?
“Game 7 is there because of the schedule, but it doesn’t necessarily exist,” Fisher said after practice Thursday. “Just go out and play and we can close it out [Friday] night. We haven’t been able to do that so far in these playoffs. We look forward to that opportunity.”
But is it an opportunity or a pitfall? The Lakers trounced the Rockets by 40 points in Game 5 of the conference semifinals at Staples Center, only to return to Houston and lose by 15 in Game 6. Part of it was that they simply got beat. A big part of it was that the chameleon-like Lakers knew they could fall back on a closeout game at home. New series, same situation. What happens this time?
“Well, I’m not one to say we’re going to play the same way we played in the previous game,” Fisher said, speaking from experience. “But I do think we’re continuing to learn from things that are happening as we go on. And I do think because of what we experienced in the Houston series, in the Utah series, our playoff experience from last season, as we get closer to that light that’s at the end of that tunnel ... it’s starting to become in our sight. I think we’ll continue to see the type of intensity and concentration and focus that’s required generally every time out in the postseason. But we’ve had a difficult time, I think, knowing that the end of the tunnel is there, but when it hasn’t been in sight, I think we’ve gotten off track.”
Will things be different this time? Fisher thinks so. And in an interesting twist, the Lakers may have run into a team that is just as schizophrenic as they are.
“We’ve got to come out swinging,” the Nuggets’ Kenyon Martin said. “Nothing more, nothing less. We know we can beat this team. We feel we’re better than this team. We’ve proved it at times. There’s a game in front of us that we can get if we just worry about the task at hand.”
Fisher believes the Lakers’ focus has intensified as they’ve gotten closer to the ultimate goal; this was exemplified by the “5 Mo!” that was written in impeccable penmanship on the erase board in the Lakers’ locker room Wednesday night. But Fisher also believes the way the Lakers attacked Denver in Game 5 was significant. It’s taken five games, but Fisher believes the Lakers have finally begun to win their collective battle with the counter-intuitive nature of Phil Jackson’s triangle offense.
“In this system, when there’s pressure, you go away from it,” Fisher said. “You don’t force pressure, you cut away from it. Cut around it. Cut behind it. Pass the ball and move. If two guys are cutting off a space, you pass the ball to somebody else. At times, we have fought that one constant as a team. Don’t fight the pressure. Invite it and then pass it and move around it. And the games seem to get very simple in the second half once we start to do that. Pick the ball up, pass it, and trust that he’s going to make a play.”
That’s what Kobe Bryant did in Game 5. He had his fewest shot attempts in a 40-plus-minute game in more than a year. Kobe would like you to know, by the way, that he’ll have a little more in the tank going back to the Mile High City than he otherwise would. Remember how he was doubled over in exhaustion there earlier in the series? He needed the rest he got in Game 5.
“I didn’t have to work as hard,” Bryant said. “They were really trapping me out at halfcourt. They were determined not to let me beat them. And I think because of that, I have a little bit more energy today and will have more energy [Friday night].”
With a game in hand, the Lakers didn’t respond well in the Houston series. They barely showed up for Game 4 and couldn’t close out the Yao-less Rockets in Game 6. Phil Jackson knew better Thursday than to try to predict how his team will respond this time.
“I can’t tell you if we learned anything,” Jackson said. “We’ll have to wait and see what happens [Friday] night.”
It was Bryant who said Wednesday night that the Lakers need to be “cold blooded” in Game 6. Who sets that tone, he was asked? “Who do you think?” said Bryant, never one to miss a punchline. “We’ve just got to execute. That’s what we talk about. You can’t get too high and you can’t get too low. Just try to cut 'em up.”
Posted on: May 28, 2009 5:30 am
LOS ANGELES -- An NBA playoff series doesn't begin until you have a good ol' referee conspiracy.
Conspiracy theory, I should add.
And a deeply flawed one.
Nonetheless, we're in for an interesting day in the Los Angeles area Thursday now that a member of the Nuggets has told the Denver Post -- anonymously, of course -- that he believes the Lakers bought their 103-94 victory over the Nuggets in Game 5 Wednesday night for the very reasonable price of $50,000.
For those keeping score at home, that's how much Lakers coach Phil Jackson and the Lakers paid in fines for complaining about the officiating after Game 4.
"The Lakers paid $50,000 to win that game," the anonymous Nuggets player told the Post. "They got their money's worth."
The player did not allow his name to be used, for fear of retribution from the league, the Post reported. But let's be fair. The player didn't allow his name to be used because he didn't want to pay a fine himself for such a salacious comment. If I were Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke, I'd make it my business to find out who said that, and deduct the inevitable fine that will be assessed to the Nuggets from his paycheck.
If it was Kenyon Martin, for example, I'd ask him to forfeit $10,000 of his game check for each of the nine shots he missed from the field.
If it was Nene, for instance, I'd ask him to pay up for each of the 33 points Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom combined to score in the paint that he was supposed to have been defending.
It doesn't matter who said it, really. What matters is that the Nuggets have resorted to a different sort of dirty trick than the one that raised Jackson's ire after Game 4. This was worse than Dahntay Jones tripping Kobe Bryant in that game. This reeked of sour grapes.
The Nuggets were called for 30 personal fouls in Game 5 Wednesday night. The Lakers were called for 22. The resulting disparity of five free throws wasn't enough to account for the nine-point difference on the scoreboard. But that's not the point.
I don't pretend to have watched all 52 fouls called in the game, nor have I gone frame-by-frame through all the fouls that weren't called. And as busy as I'll be Thursday getting reaction from the various parties involved, I won't have time. But that's not the point. To the naked eye, it was a liberally officiated game at both ends of the floor by referees Monty McCutcheon, Ron Garretson, and Tom Washington. Obvious contact in the act of shooting and/or driving to the basket was ignored at both ends.
Before the game, Jackson playfully commented on his $25,000 fine -- an additional $25,000 was assessed to the Lakers -- by saying, "I'm a gardener. I like planting seeds. Constantly."
After the game, Nuggets coach George Karl channeled his inner Stan Van Gundy, lamenting the fact that playoff games have turned into a contest of which coach can gripe the most in hopes of influencing the officials.
"I'm not going to get fined," said Karl, who proceeded to make comments that almost certainly will get him fined. "... It was a difficult whistle to play, no question about that. Every player in my locker room is frustrated, from guards to big guys. Look at the stat sheet. Gasol goes after at least 20 jump shots and 20 shots to the rim and gets one foul. Our big guys have 16. I don't know. Nene has six fouls; three or four of them don't exist. And it's frustrating when you take one of your big guys off the court for that many minutes.
"I think Stan Van Gundy says it right," Karl continued. "In the postgame, we're lobbying for the league to help us with the refereeing. And this is too good a series. It's too good of teams competing that we're sitting here just confused by the whistle."
I don't think the referees had anything to do with the Nuggets' 5-for-21 shooting in the fourth quarter. I don't think the referees had anything to do with Denver's four consecutive turnovers in the third, when the Lakers started making their move. But I disagree with one anonymous Nuggets player -- speaking for the entire locker room, apparently. We'll see Thursday, when the teams speak with the media before flying to Denver, if anybody backs him up.
My guess? It's going to be a costly day for both sides.
Posted on: May 26, 2009 7:57 pm
LOS ANGELES -- I hope the bosses don't mind, but I'm going to be conducting interviews here in L.A. for a new position I'm creating at CBSSports.com. It's called Senior NBA Flagrant & Technical Foul Writer.
Yes, it's a full-time position, because covering the NBA criminal justice beat is nothing short of a full-time job.
In case you missed it, a flagrant-one charged to Orlando's Anthony Johnson for elbowing Cleveland's Mo Williams in the eye socket was rescinded Tuesday. Supreme Court Justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor, who has an extensive background in sports law, immediately struck down the decision in a scathing, one-paragraph opinion. President Obama issued a statement that he regrets the error; Orlando is not in Sotomayor's jurisdiction.
On to the Western Conference smackdown, the subject of two correct decisions and a hilarious one from the league office Tuesday. Andrew Bynum's two-handed block against Chris Andersen in Game 4 was downgraded to a personal foul (correct), Dahntay Jones' bush-league trip of Kobe Bryant in the same game was upgraded to a flagrant-one (correct), and Lakers coach Phil Jackson was fined $25,000 for criticizing the officials (ha!). Tune into the next episode of Jeanie Vision for the Zen Master's reaction.
Kidding aside, politics has taken center stage in both series. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy chided Mo Williams and Ben Wallace for flopping in the Eastern Conference finals, saying that in Game 3 they both "fell down more than a baby learning to walk." To which Big Ben replied that Van Gundy should "come out here and do something about it" or "shut the ___ up." Good comeback, Ben! Make the check payable to the National Basketball Association and mail it to 645 Fifth Ave., New York, NY, 10022.
In the Western finals, shifting to L.A. for Game 5 Wednesday night tied 2-2, Jones' second straight game with a flagrant-one is no laughing matter. As I wrote Monday night, that brings Jones' total to three flagrant points in the playoffs. One more flagrant-one will result in an automatic one-game suspension. If he's idiotic enough to get a flagrant-two, he'll be subject to a two-game suspension.
Applicants for the new position I've created are welcome to post their qualifications here, as well as suggestions on how they would bring clarity, consistency, and sanity to the NBA's pursuit of equal justice. Judge Sotomayor, unfortunately, must recuse herself. She has bigger fish to fry.