Posted on: November 27, 2008 9:31 am

Finally, Marbury and Knicks ready for divorce

Something else to be thankful for: The Knicks and Stephon Marbury finally are headed for a divorce.

After first reported Wednesday night that Marbury refused to play for the second time in six days, the stalemate between Marbury and coach Mike D'Antoni has reached its inevitable conclusion.

At D'Antoni's urging, Knicks president Donnie Walsh is exploring options that would finally remove Marbury from the locker room and roster, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. These include sending him home until a buyout or trade can be arranged, waiving him, or suspending him without pay for refusing to play.

D'Antoni, who has banished Marbury to the bench and told the $22 million point guard he's not in the plans, approached Marbury about playing Friday night in Milwaukee when the Knicks were shorthanded after trading Zach Randolph and Mardy Collins to the Clippers and Jamal Crawford to Golden State. He approached Marbury again on Wednesday, when the Knicks had only two healthy guards available (besides Marbury) when they faced the Pistons in Detroit. Marbury again refused, and sat in his customary spot at the end of the bench in street clothes.

It is anticiapted that the D'Antoni-Marbury showdown has reached a point of no return and will be resolved by the end of the weekend. The Knicks host the Warriors Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

"In so many words," a person familiar with the situation said, "he needs to be sent home."

But Walsh has been in no hurry to expedite Marbury's ouster, wanting to preserve whatever minuscule trade value he had left, and has moved deliberately throughout the process. There could be some legal wrangling between Walsh and Marbury's only representative, NBA Players Association attorney Hal Biagas, to determine whether Marbury's recent encounters with D'Antoni about playing time constitute a contract violation. Garden chairman James Dolan has balked at paying Marbury his entire $21.9 million salary in a buyout, and Marbury has vowed publicly not to take a penny less -- even if he could make that money up by signing with another team.

Teams that have at one time or another expressed interest in Marbury include Golden State, Miami, and Dallas. As of their last meeting, Walsh and Biagas had not reached the phase of seeking a new team for Marbury, which would facilitate his departure.

If you think Marbury has any standing in the locker room or have any doubt about where his teammates stand, read these quotes from Quentin Richardson in Thursday's print edition of Newsday:

"He hasn't played with us all year. He doesn't want to play with us. He's expressed that a second time, so whatever. I don't look at him as a teammate, because teammates don't do that. Regardless of what you have going on with the organization or what you have going on with your coach or whatever, you're not going to allow your teammates to be left out there the way they were left out there. ... Regardless of how you're trying to stick it to whoever. At the end of the day, we're getting left out there and we're shorthanded. People are hurt, and people are still playing.

"Right now," Richardson said, "he's the furthest thing from my mind. ... He's not trying to be part of this team and he's voiced that. So why would I waste my time thinking about it?"

Category: NBA
Posted on: November 26, 2008 5:21 pm
Edited on: November 26, 2008 8:19 pm

Will Marbury again opt not to play? (UPDATE)

The depleted Knicks haven't even taped their ankles yet in Auburn Hills for tonight's game against the Pistons. But don't be surprised if Stephon Marbury sits on the bench again, by his own choice -- despite the fact that Mike D'Antoni only has two available guards with Cuttino Mobley undergoing more heart tests and Nate Robinson out with a groin injury.

There are strong indications that Marbury has once again declined -- refused, declined, take your pick -- D'Antoni's overture about playing tonight. D'Antoni, who has ostracized Marbury and kept him on the bench for the first month of the season, first approached Marbury Friday in Milwaukee about playing his first significant minutes of the season. The Knicks were shorthanded after trading two healthy guards, Jamal Crawford and Mardy Collins, in separate deals with the Warriors and Clippers. Mobley's status is up in the air while he undergoes more medical tests, which could take days. Robinson could be out a week.

Marbury later disputed the notion that he refused to play Friday night, but it was clear from his comments to D'Antoni that he wasn't going to help out his team. So the Knicks played with only seven players, and Marbury still hasn't hit the court.

A person with knowledge of the situation told that a similar situation is unfolding tonight in Auburn Hills. With Robinson out after hurting his groin Tuesday night against Cleveland, D'Antoni has only Chris Duhon, Anthony Roberson, and Marbury available. Only the person said Marbury will not make himself available. The ugliest circus in the NBA just got uglier.

"In so many words," the person familiar with the situation said, "he needs to be sent home."

This will be developing throughout the night, so check back for updates.

If I were D'Antoni, the solution would be pretty simple. Marbury dresses for the game, and then halfway through the first quarter, I point to him and say, "Steph," and I point to the scorer's table. If he doesn't go, it's very simple. He's suspended without pay and the Knicks' problem is solved.

UPDATED 8:20 p.m. EST: The Knicks and Pistons are under way in Auburn Hills. (I'm under way watching on TV in Queens.) Marbury is on the bench in street clothes. D'Antoni is disgusted with the whole situation, and said before the game, "I don't want to keep talking about it and talking about it. It kind of follows the same path, so we'll go from here." In order to compensate for their lack of guards, Quentin Richardson slides from the 3 to the 2, and newly acquired Al Harrington goes to the 3.

This Marbury stuff is reaching an end game, if it hasn't already. I promise you.



Category: NBA
Posted on: November 26, 2008 4:18 pm

Don't look now, Mavs on a roll

A beleagured Donnie Nelson stood in the hallway outside the visiting locker room after a recent game, and I couldn't help but thinking he had that look. You know, the look coaches and executives get when winning becomes a relief, not an expectation or an accomplishment.

Dallas started 2-7 under new coach Rick Carlisle. The bench was unproductive, Jerry Stackhouse looked over the hill, and Jason Kidd was the Mavs' best player. Given where J-Kidd is at this stage of his career -- still a Hall of Famer but definitely on the downward slope -- that told you everything there was to know about the Mavs.

An anticipated fall from the 50-win elite in the Western Conference to a lower-seeded playoff team seemed inevitable. But given Dallas' disappointing start, it seemed like Carlisle could be in for more of a rebuilding effort than he expected. The Mavs needed overtime to beat the Knicks -- 124-114 -- on the night we spoke, and that's nothing to write home about. Still, Nelson wasn't ready to hit the panic button.

Good thing he didn't. The Mavs have won four more since then, giving them a five-game winning streak heading into the Thanksgiving break. Three of those wins came against weaklings like Charlotte, Memphis, and Indiana, and only one against a true contender (Houston). So we'll see if the Mavs are really back on track Friday night when they visit the 12-1 Lakers. For now, things seem to have stabilized.

"With a new system, it takes a while to adjust," Nelson said. "We feel like we need to get a couple of wins, get some confidence back. It's one of the cliches of the NBA, right? But we're a tenth of the way into the season and it's no time to start shifting around and start making adjustments and making moves."

The move Mark Cuban and the Mavs will come to regret is the trade that brought them Jason Kidd for Devin Harris. While Harris continues to blossom into one of the most exciting young ballhandlers in the league, Kidd is just hanging on. He's still a great floor leader, but will become a liability -- especially in a conference where someone has to check the likes of Tony Parker, Steve Nash, Deron Williams, and Chris Paul. Kidd can't do that kind of work anymore.

What seemed clear was that Kidd would thrive in Carlisle's offensive system after clashing with Avery Johnson, who was all about defense and structure. Carlisle is a pretty structured offensive coach, with precise sets and a lot of movement off the ball. But so far, Carlisle and offensive guru Terry Stotts have shown a willingness to put the ball in Kidd's hands and let him push it.

"The style that we're playing -- you see it -- it's up and down," Nelson said. "There's probably more plays called in the fourth quarter simply because there's more fouls called and you've got to execute. But we've been pushing it, getting up and down, and it's been good for Jason because he can get back to some of that freedom. You see Dirk shooting threes and posting up, so we're using his versatility. You wish you could have a couple more wins at this point, but that's life in the NBA."

Kidd owned his previous coach, Lawrence Frank in New Jersey, who was all about defense and structure. Kidd often thought he was the coach in New Jersey, and the organization grew tired of it. In Dallas, with a big-time coach in Carlisle -- one of the top-notch fourth-quarter and crunch-time coaches -- Kidd theoretically should thrive. Assuming the Mavs make it to crunch time.

"We've challenged them, and they've responded," Nelson said. "It's a good system, a good coach. We've just got to give it time."

Category: NBA
Posted on: November 26, 2008 1:34 pm
Edited on: November 26, 2008 3:40 pm

LeBron gets no N.Y. bonus from Nike (UPDATE)

Once and for all, sports business aficionado Darren Rovell sets the record straight about rumors LeBron James gets a bonus from Nike if he plays in New York, L.A., or Chicago. (Hint: He gets no such thing.)

UPDATED 3:39 p.m. EST: Right on cue, word comes today that Microsoft has dropped LeBron as an endorser, not renewing the star's two-year contract. Just last night, LeBron was asked about Tiger Woods' deal with General Motors ending early and whgether the economy could affect his endorsements. "I don't know the relationships Tiger had," LeBron said. "With the economic system going down or the economy going down, I know I have great relationships with the partners I have. All of them are long-term deals, so I can only comment on what I have. And looking forward, there's always going to be deals out there."

Category: NBA
Posted on: November 26, 2008 11:04 am

Morning Shootaround: Dwight Howard is good

* Courtesy of TrueHoop, John Denton of Florida Today informs us that Dwight Howard is on pace to become only the third player in NBA history to lead the league in rebounding and blocked shots since the league started tracking blocked shots in 1973. The others: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, and Ben Wallace.

* Again, TrueHoop steered us to Dick Jerardi's story on the Magic's Jameer Nelson funding a new locker room and practice facility at his alma mater, St. Joe's. Little known fact: I lived across the street from the St. Joe's when I worked in Philadelphia.

* Funny how Earl Monroe and Bill Bradley were at the Garden to see LeBron last night, yet all the celebrity buzz was about Jay-Z, Beyonce, Kanye West, Q-Tip, Julia Stiles, and Chloe Sevigny. ( I plead guilty, too.)

* The Lakers are 12-1 after routing the Nets, 120-93, Tuesday night. Let the debate begin: Can they become the second team in NBA history to win 70 games (1995-96 Bulls)?

* Ed Tapscott for coach of the year. His debut produced the Wizards' best effort of the season, a 124-100 rout of the Warriors in Jamal Crawford's debut.

* From the if-you-can't-beat-em-join-em department. Agent Jason Levien has officially joined the Kings as general counsel/assistant G.M., effective Dec. 15. Tapscott was a lawyer and an agent at one time, too. What's next, Leon Rose coaching the Knicks when LeBron joins them in 2010?

* The New Jersey Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on what role a racial slur uttered by an investigator played in the reckless manslaughter retrial of former NBA star Jayson Williams.

* Magic Johnson tells Bloomberg News he won't recommend Isiah Thomas for any more NBA front office jobs. This is probably best for everyone concerned.

* Former Knick Zach Randolph on replacing Elton Brand as the low-post scorer with the Clippers: "Shoot, he ain't better than me."

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all from the BergerSphere.



Category: NBA
Posted on: November 25, 2008 7:25 pm

Mobley needs tests, but trade goes through

Cuttino Mobley needs more tests to determine the severity of a heart condition, but the trade that sent the 11-year veteran from the Clippers along with Tim Thomas to the Knicks for Zach Randolph and Mardy Collins was approved before the 6:30 p.m. EST deadline Tuesday.

Mobley's agent, Andy Miller, said before the Knicks-Cavaliers game at Madison Square Garden that his client underwent medical tests Monday and was en route for more at another location outside New York. Miller wouldn't disclose the condition, citing medical provacy laws.

Mobley has had some type of heart irregularity throughout his career, and it's never caused him to miss a game. It is believed that Knicks president Donnie Walsh -- in addition to performing his due diligence -- was trying to squeeze more out of the Clippers as part of the deal completed Friday.

Thomas and Al Harrington, acquired Friday from Golden State for Jamal Crawford, both were in uniform for the game against Cleveland Monday night. Mobley is unlikely to be cleared to play Wednesday night at Detroit, and the Thanksgiving holiday could complicate efforts to get him cleared by Saturday, when the Knicks face Harrington's old team, the Warriors.


Category: NBA
Posted on: November 25, 2008 12:54 pm

LeBron film sold to Mark Cuban (sort of)

According to Sports Business Daily, Variety reports that "More than a Game," the documentary film about LeBron James and his high school team in Akron, Ohio, has been sold to Lionsgate. Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, has an ownership stake in Lionsgate. So why no stories about how the Mavs have the inside track on LeBron in 2010?
Category: NBA
Posted on: November 25, 2008 10:38 am
Edited on: November 25, 2008 10:55 am

Morning Shootaround

This is something we're going to do often here at the 'Sphere, take you around the league in the morning for some news and other interesting stuff.

* First, more LeBron. For those who think his flirtation with New York is a media creation, take a gander at the kicks he'll be sporting tonight at MSG: the Zoom LeBron VI Big Apple tribute shoe. Last March, LBJ wore Yankee pinstripe shoes in honor of his favorite team, and they were good for 50 points.

* I watched some Heat vs. Rockets last night. The Heat hung around before bowing out, 107-98. But with Mario Chalmers (23 points, six assists, and 4 rebounds), it doesn't look like Miami needs a point guard.

* Looks like Larry Brown has found himself a point guard, too. D.J. Augustin, inserted into the starting lineup with Ray Felton at the two, put up 25 points and 11 assists in Charlotte's 93-84 victory over the Sixers. Maybe LB has changed his tune about playing rookies. But probably not.

* Speaking of the Sixers (7-7), they continue to struggle, shooting 32 39 percent with only 12 assists on 32 field goals. What's up with that?

* Think the Wizards miss Roger Mason? With Tony Parker still out, Mason hit 5-of-7 three-pointers in the Spurs' 94-81 victory over Memphis, which got 26 from O.J. Mayo. Manu Ginobili came back with 12 points in 11 minutes off the bench for San Antonio.

*  Second straight triple-double for Chris Paul (14 points, 17 assists, 10 rebounds) in the Hornets' 99-87 win over the Clips.

* Jamal Crawford makes his debut with the Warriors tonight at Washington in Ed Tapscott's coaching debut for the Wizards. Crawford says he's eager to shake the loser label he inherited with the Knicks. But it looks like he's headed for his ninth straight season without making the playoffs.

Category: NBA
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