Posted on: December 5, 2008 4:27 pm
Former NBA player Corie Blount, the center on Cincinnati's Final Four team in 1992, has been arrested and charged with possession of 22 pounds of marijuana.
This according to The Associated Press, which says Blount was arrested Thursday after retrieving a package containing 11 pounds of marijuana from a home in southwest Ohio and bringing it to his nearby residence, where 11 more pounds were found.
What, 11 pounds weren't enough?
The drug possession charge is a felony, and Blount was released on $10,090 bond. During an 11-year NBA career, Blount spent time with the Bulls, Lakers, Cavs, Suns, Sixers, and Raptors.
Posted on: December 4, 2008 5:13 pm
News that Elton Brand is day-to-day -- and out for Friday night's game in Detroit -- with a hamstring injury only underscores the struggles Philadelphia is having trying to find the right niche for their prized free-agent big man.
The Sixers were a running team last year and made the playoffs by outhustling opponents with a somewhat unorthodox style. They needed to play that way because they didn't have a consistent post scorer to play through. Now that they have one, they don't know what to do with him.
The Sixers are 8-11 with Brand well below his career averages in scoring (16.7) and blocks (1.5). A 50 percent career shooter, Brand is hovering around 45 percent from the field.
"If we had to do that deal over, I’d do it in a second," team president Ed Stefanski said. "Every game he’s getting better and better. I'm very happy with Elton Brand -- 17 points, 10 rebounds, 1.5 blocks a game. He’s giving it to us."
And in truth, it's not just Brand. Andre Iguodala was struggling badly before snapping out of it the past two games. Lou Williams, a bright spot last season, is shooting 35 percent. Coach Mo Cheeks changed things up in the past two games -- the Sixers beat the Bulls and lost to the Lakers -- with Iguodala handling the ball more and wing players attacking the basket. This is a team really struggling to find its identity. Stefanski hinted Wednesday that he wants Cheeks to play a smaller lineup more often. But if so, why'd the Sixers give Brand $80 million?
Before Wednesday night's game Lakers coach Phil Jackson put his finger right on the pulse of the problem. First, Brand can't possibly be 100 percent after missing all but the final eight games last season with an Achilles injury. Second, a team that is used to playing without a low-post scorer needs time to figure out how to play that way.
"The NBA game’s evolving to more high-post centers and more unloading the post and giving players more opportunities to penetrate through dribble and opportunities to run guys in through the wings," Jackson said. "Having a static post or guys who play down on the post does present problems for drivers and penetrators."
Just as the Sixers.
Posted on: December 4, 2008 1:45 pm
* Eastern Conference GM: "The center and point guard are the two most important positions to fill. In the past, I would have said the 5 and probably would today. But the NBA has changed its rules, and they favor the perimeter players, so it's closer. Still, it is a huge advantage to have a rebounding, shotblocking center and how many are there? Not many people have 7-foot children. If they were both great, I would still take the center ... but I would try to get both." Verdict: Oden.
* Eastern Conference GM: "Difficult question to answer. The two most difficult positions to fill in the league the 1 and 5 spots. ... I would probably go big and take Oden. Then Oden has the bad night at the Garden and Rose is playing great. But being honest, if you are talking about both guys coming out at the same time in the same draft, I probably take Oden. But now after the fact, with Oden's injuries and with Rose playing so well, I -- like everyone else -- would take Rose. But that's easy to say after the fact." Verdict: Leaning Oden.
* Western Conference GM: "Probably Oden. The big is harder to find." Verdict: Oden
Add these opinions to the three GMs who weighed in for the column, and here's the unofficial tally:
Leaning Rose: 0
Leaning Oden: 4
Posted on: December 4, 2008 11:58 am
You can count the teams capable of preventing Lakers-Celtics II on one hand: Cleveland, Orlando, Houston, New Orleans – who knows, maybe Portland or Utah? (Disclaimer: The Spurs still have Tim Duncan.)
To keep us occupied until then, you only need three fingers to count the teams capable of joining Phil Jackson’s 1995-96 Bulls in the 70-win stratosphere. Well, one, if you ask Jackson.
“I don’t think there’s any chance that we’re going to get anywhere close to 70 wins,” Jackson said Wednesday night, before the Lakers improved to 15-2 with a 114-102 victory over the 76ers. “I’m not going to say that we can’t win 60, but I don’t think there’s a chance [at 70] – and that’s if everything goes well health-wise. Traveling in the West is just too difficult. With the changing time zones, it just makes it very difficult to be consistent, night in and night out, on the road.”
Kobe Bryant, always looking for another record to shatter, said he and Jackson had this very discussion a few years ago about the 72-10 Bulls.
“Chicago is smack dab in the middle, so the travel time isn’t as big as going from the West Coast all the way to the East Coast,” Bryant said. “It would be extremely difficult for any team to do that now, especially a team on the West Coast.” By that logic, only the strategically located Cavs (15-3) have a shot. The Celtics (18-2) are off to the best start, but they don't qualify under the Jackson rule -- too far from the middle of the country. I say none of them can do it. No sense expending your energy for a regular season goal when it’s so obvious that Boston, L.A., and Cleveland have something more important in mind.
The rest of your Morning Shoot:
* Bryan Colangelo decided to pull the rug out from under Sam Mitchell on Wednesday, in part, because of something that could happen a year and a half from now. Colangelo's swift decision on Mitchell -- who was hardly in Eddie Jordan's or P.J. Carlesimo's shoes at 8-9 -- was a sure sign that the Raptors' GM is getting nervous about losing Chris Bosh as a free agent in 2010 and needs the team to win now. Like, RIGHT NOW. There were whispers on Toronto's West Coast trip -- which Colangelo conspiciously attended -- that Mitchell wasn't using some of the Raptors' personnel to Colangelo's satisfaction. Most people around the league think Bosh is gone anyway in 2010, but Colangelo feels he has to do everything he can to protect his investment.
* Sad, crushing news about former NBA veteran Rodney Rogers. His college coach, Dave Odom, told the Raleigh News & Observer that Rogers is paralyzed from the shoulders down after an all-terrain vehicle crash last week in North Carolina. "Say a prayer for Rodney and his family," Odom told the paper. Rogers, 37, has been transferred to the Shepherd Center, a hospital and rehab center specializing in catastrophic injuries in Atlanta. I'm familiar with it. I went there a few years back to do a story on former Jets defensive back Jamie Henderson, whose promising NFL career was cut short by brain injuries suffered in a motorcycle wreck.
* Brian Windhorst, who has covered the Cavs for six years, can't say enough about the team's unity and chemistry. Typically, news about grown men drinking beer together in the shower would fall into the TMI category. But these Cavs really do seem to have it together. (Thanks to TrueHoop for the link.)
* Remember the outcry about American players (Josh Childress, Brandon Jennings) going to Europe? Seems to have been a bad career move for Jennings, who signed with a team in Italy after eligibility issues clouded his college future. InsideHoops.com points out a Washington Times article that says Jennings is the fourth guard in the rotation with Lottomatica Roma. Maybe it's time to play Lotto instead. Or hire Stephon Marbury's agent. (Oh, right, he doesn't have one.)
* Couple of interesting games out West tonight: Phoenix-Dallas and San Antonio-Denver. Gotta watch the Blazers -- winners of six in a row, including three on the road -- getting the ultimate test when they visit the Celtics Friday night. It's a matchup Brandon Roy is looking forward to, as well.
Posted on: December 3, 2008 7:07 pm
Jackson took note of Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo's presence on Toronto's current road trip and thought it was a pretty clear sign Mitchell was in trouble.
"Some friends said [Colangelo] felt he had to go out and watch the team and that caused some suspicions on my part," Jackson said Wednesday night before the Lakers played the 76ers. "There had to be something going on there."
There was, none of it good. Toronto (8-9) lost to the Lakers on Sunday, then got blown out, 132-93, in Denver Tuesday night. Mitchell, the 2006-07 NBA coach of the year, couldn't survive that fiasco.
"It’s the curse of the coach of the year," Jackson said. "It’s a thing that we’ve seen time and time again. A guy takes a team that is struggling, rights it and gets it going, and then a lot’s expected. This year’s been a real struggle for them. But he’ll find another job. He’s done a good job."
Mitchell orchestrated a 20-game turnaround in Toronto, guiding a team that won 27 games in 2005-06 to a franchise record-tying 47 wins in '06-'07. The Raptors won 41 games last season, making their second straight first-round playoff exit.
"When you’re not doing as well as we think we should, or someone thinks we should, then it happens," Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks said. "We understand when we take these jobs that expectations and things happen, and we have to live with the good and bad."
Cheeks could be next on the list. The Sixers were expected to make significant strides this season after adding Elton Brand, but they're 8-10 entering Tuesday night's game against the Lakers. Sixers president Ed Stefanski, addressing reporters before the game, gave what sounded sort of like a vote of confidence in Cheeks. The key phrase occurred when Stefanski said he and Cheeks are still communicating. When communication breaks down between a coach and his GM, it's over for the coach.
"Mo is coaching. The players are the players," Stefanski said. "They all have to figure it out, with me. OK? We talk and communicate daily to try to straighten this out. But all of us, including everyone in that locker room, are not happy that we're 8-10 right now."
Posted on: December 2, 2008 11:00 am
Edited on: December 2, 2008 3:22 pm
Some in my position might take the cowardly, convenient route and never admit my preseason prediction -- with my previous employer -- that the Rockets would win the NBA title this season. Go ahead, Lakers-Celtics-Cavs loyalists, let me have it.
But I'm sticking with my prediction; that's what predictions are for, to expose the foolishness of the pundit making them. I'm sticking with my prediction A) because I have to, due to journalistic integrity and all, and B) despite Tracy McGrady once again morphing into paper mache. To no one's surprise, McGrady is spending more time with Dr. James Andrews than Yao Ming, and will miss at least a week due to soreness in his surgically repaired left knee. So be it. I still like the team, and I trust that GM Daryl Morey knew what he was doing when he acquired Ron Artest -- just as he knew what he was doing when he drafted Carl Landry and traded for Luis Scola.
UPDATED 3:23 p.m. The basketball gods are angry -- very angry -- that I could be so clueless as to pick a team that hasn't been past the first round of the playoffs in seven years to win the NBA title. Thus, the latest is that McGrady says he'll miss three weeks with "general soreness" in his knee.
Houston is in the bottom third of the NBA in scoring average (94.3), but is second only to Boston in points allowed (90.9). At 11-7, the Rockets are hovering around in a three-way tie with Utah and Phoenix for fourth in the West despite Shane Battier playing only two games and McGrady and now Brent Barry being on the shelf. Rick Adelman should consider himself lucky that the Hornets, Jazz, Spurs and Mavs have all stumbled out of the gate, too.
Artest will begin to pay off for Morey because he is still capable of carrying the offense with McGrady out. The challenge will be getting Artest to slip back into a complementary role once McGrady returns. That's Adelman's problem, one that he never had to deal with to this degree when he coached Artest in Sacramento. If anyone can handle Artest, it's Adelman. But clearly, finding the right way to incorporate Artest into the Rockets' offensive hierarchy has been a failure as the Rockets approach the quarter-pole of the regular season.
Artest is shooting only 34.4 percent, and as he has done throughout his career, he's taking the bulk of the shots and putting the ball on the floor way too much. That was OK in Sacramento when he played with Kevin Martin, but not OK when he's playing with Yao.
The Rockets catch a scheduling break now, facing the Clippers and Warriors twice in the next 11 days along with Memphis and Atlanta. After that, with McGrady back, Artest needs to find the role he's going to occupy the rest of the way. If not, then this columnist -- and 7.7 percent of NBA general managers who predicted the Rockets would win it all -- will have to admit they were wrong.
Here's the rest of the Morning Shoot:
* You have to give Warriors fans credit. Despite the fact that their team is winless since acquiring Jamal Crawford from the Knicks, and despite their coach, Don Nelson, candidly admitting he doesn't have a playoff team this year, they packed Oracle Arena and rocked the place Monday night. Their reward? Golden State threw the game away at the end, losing 130-129 to the Heat in overtime. The crushing blow was Michael Beasley stealing an inbounds pass in the final seconds of OT. Oh, Crawford scored 40 in his G-State debut, but alas he is headed for yet another losing season. No current player has been in the NBA longer without making the playoffs.
* Boy, things don't look good for Mo Cheeks. Sixers president Ed Stefanski wouldn't answer questions about the team Monday, saying he'll address the situation on Wednesday. The Sixers, expected to compete for a high playoff seed after acquiring Elton Brand, have lost four straight and are 7-10 heading into Tuesday night's back end of a home-and-home with the Bulls. Frustration is building. Long after most reporters and teammates were gone Sunday night following a 103-92 loss to Chicago, Brand sat at his locker for a long heart-to-heart with assistant coach Jim Lynam.
* The Celtics won the Stephon Marbury Bowl rather decisively, 107-88 over the Magic. Orlando is desperately in need of a point guard who can get to the basket and put the defense on its heels. That is one thing Marbury can do, in addition to putting his teammates and bosses on their heels. Having won nine straight, Boston obviously doesn't need Marbury. At some point, though, Doc Rivers may need more production out of Sam Cassell's roster spot than two technical fouls, which Sam I Am managed to tally up despite not playing a minute Monday night. Cassell has a non-guaranteed contract and isn't playing at all, so it'd be easy math to sign Marbury for the $1.2 million veterans minimum and hire Cassell as an assistant coach.
* The Trail Blazers bring a four-game winning streak into Madison Square Garden to play the Knicks Tuesday night, showcasing Greg Oden for the first time at MSG. The story behind the story, though, is Portland G.M. Kevin Pritchard. Few executives with a team this talented have been as active as Pritchard in trade discussions. Although the Mike Conley-for-Travis Outlaw deal discussed during the summer isn't going to happen, Outlaw, Channing Frye, and Sergio Rodriguez could be on the move before the trade deadline. The Blazers have shown the ability to compete with the Western Conference elite, but Pritchard also has cap flexibility going forward to be a factor in the free-agent frenzy of 2010. In other words, get used to the Blazers being in the discussion for a long time.
* Veteran Chicago basketball writer Sam Smith has brought his irreverance to Bulls.com, and apparently he's allowed to write whatever he wants. Smith pointed out a reader comment he spotted on a competing Web site that shall remain nameless. It was from a reader in St. Louis who wondered if, upon seeing the headline, "Wizards fire Jordan," last week, Charlotte Bobcats part-owner MIchael Jordan worried -- just for a moment -- if it was referring to him. "I thought we were with some team in Charlotte ... the Bearcats or something like that?'" the reader thought MJ might have mused.
Posted on: December 1, 2008 5:47 pm
"After meeting with Stephon and his representative this afternoon, we have directed Stephon not to participate in practice or attend games until further notice," Walsh said. "We want to continue to meet with him to discuss a long-term resolution."
The key word being "directed." Walsh, a lawyer by trade, left Marbury no room to play semantics. Marbury has contested coach Mike D'Antoni's assertion that he ordered him to play in recent games at Milwaukee and Washington, saying D'Antoni merely asked him to play.
So there, it's over .... right?
Posted on: December 1, 2008 5:00 pm
Edited on: December 1, 2008 5:02 pm
This is painful to watch, but the Knicks can't say I didn't warn them.
I spoke with a high-ranking team official a few days before the Knicks opened training camp in Satatoga Springs, N.Y. My question, essentially, was, "You're not actually going to bring Stephon Marbury to training camp, are you? You couldn't possibly do such a thing ..."
The official knew that this basketball franchise had only recently emerged from a series of dark clouds that would've been reason enough for any other franchise to be kicked out of the NBA. Poor management, indecisiveness in the face of incompetence, an embarrassing sexual harassment trial that centered around the conduct of coach/president Isiah Thomas and skirted the issue of Thomas' prized acquisition, Marbury, and his own conduct before and during the trial.
That's only the beginning. A year earlier, commissioner David Stern was dragged to a Manhattan boardroom to mediate a silly, vindictive, ego-driven, exhausting, and nonsensical dispute between the Knicks -- supposedly Stern's flagship franchise -- and then-coach Larry Brown.
At the time of our discussion, the Knicks were enjoying a rare respite from being the laughingstock of professional basketball. To Stern's utter delight, Thomas had been reassigned to pencil-sharpening duty, and the franchise had been placed in the capable hands of Donnie Walsh. To no one's surprise, Walsh hit a colossal home run with his selection of Mike D'Antoni to coach the team.
All was finally right with the NBA franchise that has most often done wrong over the past decade or so, with the exception of one little matter. With the exception of one individual who should have been playing no role in this reconstruction aside from being the last brick taken down in the demolition.
While there was agreement in the locker room -- and on some level in the front office -- that the Knicks needed to move on without Marbury, the official stated to my astonishment that there was a very good chance the Knicks wouldn't rush to any decisions on Marbury. In short, they would handle Marbury as though he were any other disgruntled player in the NBA. They would handle Marbury as though they were any other normal franchise.
I made my opinion known. This would be a huge mistake.
With news today that Marbury's buyout negotiation lasted only 15 minutes with no resolution, two things have never been clearer: 1) D'Antoni, and the players who told him they didn't want Marbury around, couldn't have been more correct, and 2) the Knicks' new hierarchy gravely underestimated Marbury's gift for spawning chaos and destroying a team.
That Marbury is destroying the Knicks at a time when, for all intents and purposes, he is no longer a member of the team, is a testament to his uncanny proclivity for franchise detonation. Cue the elevator music ... Nobody does it better ...
Though Marbury is foolish for failing to employ an agent who could have him dribbling a ball and taking aim at his next victim in some other city, you have to admit that his negotiating skills are far better than anyone imagined. Suddenly, a player nobody wants around sat down at the poker table today with all the cards. Details have yet to emerge as to exactly what was discussed and where each side drew the line, but this much is clear: Marbury has become such a devastatingly disruptive force that Walsh has lost any leverage he had.
Walsh needs to make this problem go away so badly, it wouldn't surprise me if he winds up paying Marbury his full salary plus some of his own just to make it happen.
On the court, the Knicks are heading in the right direction. They are coming off a game in which they scored 138 points and got a franchise-record 22 assists from D'Antoni's hand-picked replacement for Starbury -- Chris Duhon. The balance sheet looks pretty good, too. Before the calendar turned to 2009, Walsh already had accomplished what some thought was impossible -- unloading Zach Randolph's $48 million over three years and clearing enough cap space to be a player in free agency for the first time since 1996. And yet all anyone is talking about is Marbury.
The pride of Coney Island owns the back pages, and he'd own the front pages, too, if not for an equally wobbly knuckleball who plays football for the New York Giants. The knuckleball from Coney Island is holding the Knicks hostage, but nobody can say they weren't warned.
Walsh said the other day that he would bring his recommendation on Marbury to Garden chairman James Dolan, and that he expected Dolan to sign off on it as long as it wasn't "ridiculous." Dear sirs, I would submit that ridiculous is upon us.