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Tag:LeBron James
Posted on: June 10, 2010 3:55 pm
 

Pierce vs. Artest will be key to Game 4

BOSTON -- Lost in the officiating angst and Ray Allen's feast-or-famine shooting is a matchup that will be critical to the outcome of Game 4 of the NBA Finals Thursday night: Paul Pierce vs. Ron Artest.

As Mike Freeman has noted , Pierce has been notably absent from the Finals festivities thus far, averaging only 16.3 points while shooting 36 percent from the field. That's simply not good enough for the Celtics to win this series. Allen's 3-point shooting comes and goes, but Pierce needs to produce for Boston to take the momentum back from the Lakers.

Pierce has downplayed the notion that Artest's defense has anything to do with his lack of productivity in the first three games, but that's wishful thinking on his part. Sometimes Artest is a viable option on offense, and sometimes he shoots 1-for-10 or dribbles around aimlessly before launching an ill-advised shot. But one thing the guy does is play defense. Been doing it for years. This is why the Lakers signed him.

Well, not exactly. The Lakers signed him presuming they'd be facing LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the Finals, but the Celtics dispensed with Bron & Co. and proceeded to unleash a torrent of organizational change on the banks of Lake Erie. When you draw up a defensive game plan for the Celtics, the first guy you zero in on is Pierce. Phil Jackson and his staff haven't been required to do much in that regard other than put their arm around Artest, point to No. 34 in green and white, and say, "Get him."

Artest has, with brute force and quick hands and savvy that comes not from video study but gut instincts. Artest has said on several occasions during the playoffs that he doesn't study the opponent he's guarding, whether it's Kevin Durant, LeBron, or Pierce. On Friday, he explained why.

"I've seen every move in New York City, so I don’t have to study my opponent anymore," Artest said. "Every move that somebody has in the NBA, I’ve seen it already. I’ve seen it in New York already."

Artest was asked if he could still dominate a game defensively -- as if holding the Celtics' No. 1 scoring option to 36 percent shooting was somehow not dominant.

"I have before," Artest said. "I've dominated a game defensively and scored four points. You really don’t see it. It’s like that death blow, the Chinese blow? Where you hit and you don’t really feel it yet until it’s in you, and like five seconds later you kind of die? You've see that on TV?"

Sure, Ron. Anyway, Artest's approach to guarding Pierce hasn't been steeped in any nuance. Just straightforward grappling and a few playground tricks.

"I guess you just play the same way that you’ve been playing for all these years, but just stick to it," Artest said. "That’s why sometimes I have bad games because I'm playing the same way I've been playing for years. I try to get better, but one thing I have been doing for years is playing defense. I know how to change a game defensively, know little things I can do to disrupt everybody on the floor. Offensively sometimes, certain days, I may have 30 [points]. I've worked on that part of my game. Some days I might go 1 for 10. But defensively I can probably make somebody else shoot bad. So the days I don’t play well offensively, I've got to make sure I stay executing and maybe only take two shots or four shots, get some deflections, get some stops, pull out some old New York City tricks defensively and see what happens. See if it works."
 
It's worked so far on Pierce. If it keeps working, the Celtics are in trouble.

Posted on: June 9, 2010 7:25 pm
 

Lakers' Brown warns Izzo about NBA jump


BOSTON -- Lakers guard Shannon Brown would be happy for his college coach, Tom Izzo, if he made the jump to the NBA as coach of the Cavaliers. But Brown's enthusiasm, offered in the locker room after Game 3 of the NBA Finals, didn't come without a warning.

"He’s gonna have to, in my opinion, adjust some of his coaching tactics and techniques," said Brown, one of numerous NBA players who played for Izzo in East Lansing. "But I definitely think he could be successful at this level. The legacy that he has and could possibly leave at Michigan State is something that not too many people could do. If he stays, I'm happy for him. If he goes, I’m happy for him. He definitely has the options in his hands."

Izzo is mulling an offer from the Cavs that is anticipated to be in the $6 million-a-year range. Despite a flurry of speculation Wednesday that Izzo had accepted or verbally committed, sources told CBSSports.com that wasn't the case. Izzo is said to be doing his due diligence -- read, trying to figure out if he'd be coaching LeBron James or a rebuilding team -- and the negotiation is ongoing, according to a person involved in it.

Izzo, who has led the Spartans to six Final Fours and one national title, is known for his intense, fiery demeanor and for being extremely hard on his players. That's fine for a college coach, but won't work in the NBA. One factor that could work in Izzo's favor is that he's been at Michigan State so long, his name and accomplishments mean something to a cross section of NBA players who would respect what he's done at the college level.

"I’d just tell him it’s a whole different thing from college to the NBA," said Brown, who played for Izzo from 2003-06. "It’s a whole different business. You've got to be ready for anything."

Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who soon will enter into a contract negotiation for next season having already acknowledged that he'll be asked to take a pay cut from his current $12 million salary, was asked before Game 3 Tuesday night for his thoughts on a college coaching hauling in half that much per year.

"Good for him," Jackson said. "Way to go."

But Jackson warned that coaching in the NBA is an "arduous task."

"It's not an easy job, and you know, when it's 200 some days, depending on how far you go into the playoffs, it's pretty arduous as far as dealing with stars of all ranges coming to the NBA," he said. "And from that, it has to go on for 82 games. It's a long march, and that gets difficult. The game itself, 82 games is a big difference from 30 or whatever you coach in college."

Nobody has coached more NBA superstars than Jackson, and Brown said communication will be the key for Izzo.

"It would be tough for him," Brown said. "He likes guys that are like him. He likes fiery guys. He probably couldn't talk to them the way he does sometimes, but I think if he made the adjustment he would be great."
Posted on: June 6, 2010 9:52 pm
 

Melo in wait-and-see mode on extension


LOS ANGELES – Carmelo Anthony has watched the free-agent hype envelop his friends, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and can’t help wondering: What if? What if it were me?

“I know it’s overwhelming for those guys,” Melo said Sunday night at Staples Center, where he watched the first half of Game 2 in the NBA Finals from the tunnel leading to the Lakers’ locker room. “I’ve talked to Bron and I’ve talked to D-Wade more than I do with Bosh. I can hear it, that it’s overwhelming a little bit. I know I would be overwhelmed. But you’ve got to do what’s best for you and your family and hopefully win championships.”

In the coming weeks, while the free agents of 2010 are deciding their futures, Melo will be deciding his, too. Nuggets GM Mark Warkentien is expected to make a three-year extension offer to Anthony’s agent, Leon Rose, in the hopes of preventing him from becoming an unrestricted free agent after next season. The decision is complicated: Take three years of security under the current collective bargaining agreement, or opt for the chance to be free next summer.

“When we talk, I’ve got to sit down with my team and talk, with all my representatives and figure out what’s the best situation – whether I take the extension now or wait until next year, depending on the collective bargaining agreement,” Anthony said. “So there’s a lot of things that go into that. It’s my decision at the end of the day. If the offer is on the table, I’ll have to look at it and see how I feel.”

Anthony, who trains in Santa Monica during the offseason, was supposed to attend Game 2 with James, who invited widespread scorn with a national TV interview that aired on CNN Friday during the Finals. James backed out of the plans to take care of other business, Anthony said.

But clearly, James somehow became cognizant of the further criticism he’d invite by sitting courtside at the very event he’s been accused of trying to upstage. While Bosh, one of the top free agents this summer, sat in the second row across from the Lakers’ bench, Anthony preferred to hang back in the tunnel to avoid attention.

“It’s fun,” Anthony said of the free-agent buzz. “It’s fun for me to watch and see what’s going on.”

But not necessarily to be a participant.
Posted on: June 5, 2010 5:23 pm
 

Source: Thibodeau accepts Bulls' offer


LOS ANGELES -- Tom Thibodeau has accepted an offer to become head coach of the Bulls, a person with close ties to the Celtics assistant confirmed to CBSSports.com Saturday.

The news, first reported by the Chicago Tribune, comes as Thibodeau is preparing for Game 2 of the NBA Finals with Boston trailing the Lakers 1-0.

Thibodeau, 50, architect of the Celtics defense that contained Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Dwight Howard during Boston's unexpected return to the Finals for the second time in three years, is not permitted to speak with the media due to team policy that muzzles assistant coaches. But the person with knowledge of the agreement called his decision to leave the Celtics for the opportunity to be the head coach in Chicago -- a marquee franchise with a solid roster and cap space to add a max free agent -- "a no-brainer."

No official announcement will come from either team during the Finals.


 

Posted on: June 4, 2010 2:23 pm
Edited on: June 4, 2010 11:00 pm
 

Ferry out as Cavs GM (UPDATE)

LOS ANGELES -- In what the team is describing as a "mutual" parting of ways, Danny Ferry is out as general manager and will be replaced by assistant GM Chris Grant.

After five years as GM, Ferry's contract was up and the team announced Friday that he and owner Dan Gilbert agreed not to renew it. The move comes as superstar LeBron James is about to become a free agent, with the prospect of him leaving the Cavs threatening to devastate the city and organization.

Welcome to the hot seat, Chris Grant.

Hired as GM two years after the Cavs drafted LeBron, Ferry spent much of that time establishing a winning culture and doing everything possible to appease James by surrounding him with talent the King regarded as championship caliber. Despite Ferry's efforts -- which included acquiring Mo Williams, Shaquille O'Neal and Antawn Jamison -- the Cavs never achieved the right mix. Williams never developed into the consistent No. 2 scoring threat, especially in the postseason; the O'Neal gamble backfired; and Jamison came up small in his first -- and possibly last -- postseason run with James.

With coach Mike Brown and now Ferry out, the fallout from Cleveland's surprising loss to the Celtics in the conference semifinals has been swift and far-reaching. All Grant has to do now is hire a coach, keep LeBron, and surround him with enough talent to win a championship. It's a pretty tall task; just ask Ferry.

And with the restless Gilbert calling the shots -- and no doubt watching LeBron's hour-long interview on the Larry King Show Friday night for clues as to what he'll decide come July 1 -- the Cavs' situation is in the ultimate state of flux. Speculation immediately focused on whether Gilbert had a power play in mind for a big name to take over as the Cavs' coach and president of basketball operations. The name most often linked to the Cavs, due to his relationship with James, is that of Kentucky coach John Calipari, who recently refuted the notion that he would leave Lexington for a return to the NBA.

With a coaching vacancy and the path cleared for Gilbert to lure a big name to replace Ferry, the Cavs are now on equal footing with other potential suitors for LeBron that also have an opening to hire the coach of his choice. On his CNN interview, which aired Friday night, James reiterated that he does not want to hand-pick his next coach, but made a point of saying that there are several coaches that would intrigue him. James also said he is "far from close" to making a decision.
 
Although Commissioner David Stern said Thursday night that he has been assured "at the highest levels" that there would be no so-called free-agent summit, James said in the interview with King that he does, in fact, plan to discuss his plans with other top free agents -- and that he was interested in learning their plans. According to James, top players getting together to decide where to play -- and with whom -- was an opportunity for them to determine how to "better the league."

 




Posted on: May 27, 2010 9:18 pm
Edited on: May 29, 2010 1:07 pm
 

Thibodeau hires agent; series complicates search

LOS ANGELES – While Tom Thibodeau remains the front-runner for the Hornets’ head coaching position, the extension of the Celtics-Magic series has complicated efforts by both parties to close the deal.

Thibodeau, architect of the Boston defense that ousted LeBron James from the playoffs, is entrenched in a suddenly difficult Eastern Conference finals with Orlando as the Celtics’ 3-0 lead has dwindled to 3-2 heading into Game 6 Friday night in Boston. In preparation for a contract negotiation with New Orleans, Thibodeau hired leading sports representation firm Creative Artists Agency on Thursday, according to a person with knowledge of the decision. CAA has an expanding coaching business in addition to its dealings with top free agents James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

The Celtics’ difficulty in closing out the Magic also has affected the progress of other coaching searches, most notably Atlanta’s. The Hawks, who have twice interviewed Mavericks assistant Dwane Casey, the leading candidate for the job, have been unable to schedule an interview with Mark Jackson due to his broadcasting and travel obligations in the Eastern Conference finals. That interview is expected to take place in the next couple of days, according to a person familiar with that situation.

Meanwhile, the Cavaliers have officially embarked on their search for a candidate to replace Mike Brown, who was fired after back-to-back 60-win seasons. At or near the top of the list is Bucks assistant Kelvin Sampson, a person familiar with the situation confirmed to CBSSports.com. But the Cavs have quietly begun conducting background checks on several other candidates and have been privately saying in those conversations that James, a soon-to-be-free agent, will not be making the decision, according to a person familiar with the Cavs’ search. James certainly will have input, but the person said James doesn’t want his fingerprints on the Cavs’ hire – in part because the organization doesn’t yet know if he will be staying or leaving as a free agent.

A person with close ties to James told CBSSports.com that he remains undecided, citing the complicated series of decisions league-wide on coaching hires and the movement of other top free agents. Wade told the Chicago Tribune in a story published Thursday that he plans to sit down with fellow CAA clients James and Bosh to jointly discuss their options.

The Bulls and Nets also are interested in Thibodeau, though in Chicago’s case, his hiring of an agent could complicate matters since the Bulls are one of the only teams in the NBA that do not negotiate with coaching agents. Portland assistant Monty Williams also remains on the radar for the Nets, Hornets and Clippers, who also are interested in Jazz assistant Tyrone Corbin. A person familiar with the situation said Williams is believed to be the No. 2 choice in New Orleans if Thibodeau says no. Williams performed extremely well in the interview process and impressed incoming Hornets owner Gary Chouest and team president Hugh Weber.

The Clippers, according to sources, remain hopeful of persuading Larry Brown to leave Charlotte for L.A., but pressure is expected to mount on Brown to tell the Bobcats’ brass definitively if he’s saying or leaving so the team doesn’t get shut out in the search for qualified replacements.
Posted on: May 25, 2010 9:14 pm
 

Source: Phil won't return with big pay cut

PHOENIX – Phil Jackson said Tuesday he “just can’t imagine” coaching any other team next season. But the Lakers' coach refused to close the door on leaving for other opportunities, while a person with ties to him told CBSSports.com that he would not return to L.A. next season with a significant pay cut.

On reports in the past 24 hours that the Bulls and Nets have reached out to Jackson or his representatives through “backchannels,” Jackson said, “Those channels have not reached me. I have no awareness of that at all.”

But given the chance to shut down the rumors and commit to the Lakers or retirement next season, Jackson said, “I’ve always had problems committing. … I’ll leave it open and just say that, as of now, I have not made up my mind about coaching or not coaching next year. That’s all I can say, really, truthfully.”

On reports indicating the Bulls’ interest in orchestrating a reunion with Jackson in Chicago, Jackson said, “I have no, at all, desire to go back to Chicago to coach the Bulls.” As for the Nets, whose bid for Jackson would be fueled by deep-pocketed Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov, Jackson said, “I’d like to have a vodka with him. He seems like a very interesting young man.”

“I have not entertained any conversations about [coaching elsewhere] right now, so I just can’t imagine it,” Jackson said. “That’s not to say it’s beyond the wildest dreams or never would happen, but it’s not part of my conscious thought.”

Jackson does not have a contract for next season, and has acknowledged that he has been asked to take a pay cut from his $12 million salary. Asked if he knew what “backchannels” may have been operating on his behalf – or on behalf of the teams – Jackson said, “No I really don’t. I’m not aware of how you would go about doing that, unless you’re talking about Mark Twain stuff or Huckleberry Finn – those kind of channels rather than the river.”

Jackson, 64, got a lot of laughs for that line, but this is no laughing matter for the Lakers. While Jackson reiterated his hunch Tuesday that there’s a 90 percent chance he’ll either be coaching the Lakers next season or retiring, a person with close ties to Jackson told CBSSports.com that it’s too early to set odds. If Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss insists on a massive pay cut, the person said, Jackson would not return. Published reports have indicated that Buss is seeking to pay Jackson $5 million next season, a pay cut of $7 million.

The source close to Jackson indicated that the question of how much Jackson’s pay would be reduced is, to some degree, semantics. Given that he is close to retirement age, a significant portion of Jackson’s salary could be deferred in the form of retirement benefits that he would see without penalty in two years.

Another person with knowledge of Jackson’s situation said it would be difficult to imagine him leaving the Lakers with Kobe Bryant in the prime of his career and having just signed a three-year extension. The person equated it to overtures that frequently came Jackson’s way when he coached Michael Jordan in Chicago, saying Jackson never would’ve left Jordan in his prime, either.

But one of those sources said circumstances could change with the possibility of Jackson becoming bait to lure LeBron James to the Bulls, who have maximum salary-cap space to sign him and a quality roster that Jackson views favorably. The person said the Jackson/LeBron situation was plausible, considering Jackson would have the chance to complete a potentially irresistible trifecta – coaching Jordan and Bryant, and then capping his career with James.

All of this continued to unfold about an hour before the Lakers took the floor to play the Suns in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals.

“They’re no distraction,” Jackson said of the reports. “Not to me, and not to the players, either. It’s a distraction, I think, to other teams and I think a disservice to coaches that are really seeking jobs and have opportunities to go to those towns.”

Posted on: May 24, 2010 6:44 pm
 

Kobe: Celtics' success no surprise

PHOENIX -- For the Lakers, talking about the Celtics is taboo, to say the least. Andrew Bynum tried it, and Phil Jackson accused him of a brain -- um -- malfunction. Lakers fans chanted, "We want Boston!" during Games 1 and 2 of the Western Conference finals at Staples Center, and Kobe Bryant chided them for being "disrespectful to the team that we're playing."

But discussing the Celtics' surprising blitz though the postseason -- evicting LeBron James from the second round and getting his coach fired, and now breezing to a 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals? That's fair game.

So Bryant was asked on the practice floor Monday how much Boston's ruthless dismantling of the Magic has surprised him.

"Honestly? Zero," Bryant said.

And the Cavs?

"I just thought it was great defense," Bryant said. "I just wasn’t surprised by it. You give them a series to prepare, and they're going to be prepared like you wouldn't believe. They're going to home in on things that you do and take those things away from you. And if you can't make adjustments ... throughout a series, you’re going to have problems."

Yes, even when the Celtics were struggling with a .500 record after Christmas, Bryant saw this coming.

"They started the season off the right way," he said. "Once they stepped back and let [Rajon] Rondo do what he does, that team started taking off. They're a great defensive team -- defense, rebounding, that’s how they punch their ticket. That’s how they go about doing it."

Just don't ask him about playing the Celtics. Not yet. And no more "We want Boston!" chants until this series is over.

"It makes no sense," Bryant said. "No sense."

That must be how the Suns feel trying to defend Bryant. In Game 1, they limited his supporting cast by not double-teaming him, and Bryant scored 40 points. In Game 2, they pressured him when he had the ball and Bryant dished out 13 assists. In Game 3, they played zone on nearly every possession in the second half, and Bryant hurt them both ways -- scoring 36 points and handing out 11 assists.

"You know Kobe’s going to score, there’s no doubt about that," Jason Richardson said. "He’s going to get his 30-plus points or whatever it is. But when he’s doing that, you don’t want him to have 10 or 11 assists because that means he’s getting people involved. We've got to figure out a way. Are we going to let him score or are we going to let him be a distributor? We've got to pick our poison, which one we want. Because you know that any given time he can score, so I don’t think we want him to be a distributor, too."

Suns coach Alvin Gentry has wrestled with how to defend Bryant and also how to combat the Lakers' size advantage. Bryant is going to do what he does, but the best strategy by far that the Suns have employed against L.A.'s front court was Amar'e Stoudemire's aggressiveness in taking the ball to the basket and getting to the foul line in Game 3. Did it work because he was able to get Bynum and Lamar Odom in foul trouble? Or did he get them in foul trouble because the strategy was working? That will be the next stylistic adjustment in a series that could still take a few more strategic twists and turns.

That, and how much zone the Suns want to play. It worked in the second half Sunday night because Bynum and Odom were limited by fouls and the Lakers weren't hitting from the perimeter; they uncharacteristically launched 32 attempts from 3-point range, making only nine.

"I like seeing it a lot when they don’t go in," Gentry said of the Lakers' trigger-happy night beyond the arc. "The zone is good when the shots are not going in. ... It also gave us an opportunity to win, and that’s the only thing that concerns me. I'll do anything. We’ll play any way if it helps us win."

That's one of many reasons why too much Boston talk from the Lakers wouldn't be a wise idea. There are still a few things for the defending champs to figure out between now and then.



 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com