Posted on: January 21, 2010 5:44 pm

Will Mo injury prompt Cavs trade?

The Cavaliers' announcement Thursday that guard Mo Williams is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a sprained left shoulder presents an interesting dilemma if you're Danny Ferry.

Well, interesting if you're you or me. Distressful if you're Danny Ferry.

The news could've been worse. As Plain Dealer Cavs writer extraordinaire Brian Windhorst pointed out, Williams could've needed surgery, which would've sidelined him for months. Such a verdict would've put the Cavs and Mike Brown in the same boat the Magic and Stan Van Gundy found themselves in last spring with Jameer Nelson -- and we all know how that worked out.

Assuming the worst-case scenario -- that Williams misses six weeks -- his return would be slated for the first week of March. That's still plenty of time to restore normalcy to the Cavs' offense and get Williams in shape for the playoffs. But remember: There's a very real chance that the Cavs will lose Delonte West for an extended period of time once his weapons charges are dealt with in Maryland -- and in NBA Commissioner David Stern's office. With guns galore in the NBA this season, clearly Stern will be in no mood for a slap on the wrist. According to reports, West is due in court Friday for a pre-trial hearing. Barring a plea, trial is set for February.

So ... with two key backcourt members facing lengthy absences, what does Ferry do? His posture to this point in the trade market has been to try to parlay Zydrunas Ilgauskas and his $11.5 million expiring contract into a stretch power forward -- someone like Washington's Antawn Jamison. But now, there are backcourt issues to be addressed. And in all likelihood, neither outcome will be known for sure before the Feb. 18 trade deadline.

Play-making guards who currently qualify as very available are the Nets' Devin Harris, the Sixers' Andre Iguodala, and the Knicks' Nate Robinson. Harris and Iggy carry a hefty price for the Cavs, who already have precious little cap space to operate with next summer, when their prized free-agent-to-be, LeBron James, will be weighing his options. It borders on the farcical that the Cavs would take on Harris' $27 million over the next three seasons for a short-term fix -- one that would only further pave the way for the Nets to lure LeBron and another top-tier free agent on July 1.

Iguodala's $57 million over the next four years? Not even worth discussion, in my opinion.

Robinson is the cheapest and least cap-killing option, given that he's on a one-year deal for $4 million. (He also has the right to void any trade, but why would he do that in this case?). The risk with Robinson comes on the court, where he's undisciplined, and in the locker room, where his playful antics rub veterans the wrong way. Maybe Shaq and LeBron could put him in his place. Maybe not.

The Cavs can certainly get by with LeBron handling more of the initiating duties on offense and Daniel Gibson playing increased minutes (although the latter is a lot scarier than the former). Remember, too, that Leon Powe looms as a wild-card addition to the front court once he returns from a season-long absence following offseason knee surgery.

So a logical course of action for Ferry would be to ride it out, make do with what he's got, and hope for the best once Williams returns.

But with so much pressure on this franchise to deliver a championship for LeBron in his walk year, it's certainly worth wondering how much this turn of events will increase the temptation to make a proactive -- and potentially risky -- move between now and Feb. 18.

Posted on: November 30, 2009 7:13 pm
Edited on: December 1, 2009 9:44 am

Vandeweghe to coach Nets (UPDATE)

Kiki Vandeweghe has accepted the Nets' interim coaching job, with veteran Del Harris likely joining him on the bench as his lead assistant, CBSSports.com has confirmed.

Vandeweghe, the Nets' assistant GM, will take over after Wednesday night's home game against Dallas, in which the Nets could break the NBA record with an 0-18 start, the worst in league history. Tom Barrise will serve as the sacrificial coach against the Mavs, a person familiar with the decision said.

UPDATE: A second person directly involved in the discussions said Harris' participation isn't yet finalized, but that Harris is expected to arrive in New Jersey Wednesday and sign a contract for the rest of the season. The notion that Harris will serve as co-coach is inaccurate; Vandeweghe has assistant coach experience and will focus on player development, as he did with the Mavericks early in the decade. Harris, a longtime sideline tactician, will help with in-game strategy much the way he and Bernie Bickerstaff did with Vinny Del Negro last season. But, as one source put it, "The buck stops with the head coach."

Vandeweghe, who will be introduced in his new role during a Tuesday morning news conference at the Nets' practice facility, also is one of the key figures who've helped run Pete Newell's prestigious big-man camp for years.

"This is not something he's being forced to do," a person close to Vandeweghe said Tuesday. "This is something he wants."

Like team president Rod Thorn and deposed coach Lawrence Frank, Vandeweghe is in the last year of his contract. So in addition to an experienced lead assistant, he would like assurances that he could return to his front office position after the season. The situation would be similar to Portland GM Kevin Pritchard finishing the 2004-05 season on the bench and returning upstairs after Nate McMillan was hired.

Thorn and Vandeweghe discussed this and agreed that if Thorn is making the decision, Vandeweghe will be back in the front office next season. But with the ownership situation up in the air, nothing can be decided on that front because neither Vandeweghe nor Thorn knows who will be making such decisions once the team is sold to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov. The sale of the team is expected to be finalized by the end of the calendar year.

Vandeweghe's first game would be Friday night at home against the Bobcats. He takes over a team still recovering from the shock of Frank's firing, demoralized and embarrassed by an 0-17-and-counting start, and still decimated by injuries. The starting backcourt of Devin Harris and Courtney Lee only recently returned from injury, and projected starters Yi Jianlian and Jarvis Hayes remain out, along with key reserves Eduardo Najera, Keyon Dooling, and Tony Battie. The Nets have among the most available cap space in the league as they pursue a strategy of luring two top-shelf free agents next summer. But despite a string of legal victories in their pursuit of a move to a new arena in Brooklyn, repeated delays have pushed that possibility into the 2011-12 season.

A key question is who will be making the decisions with all that cap space, as Thorn and Vandeweghe don't know if the new ownership group will retain them beyond this season.

Making matters worse, the Nets are having trouble drawing fans even with the prospect of witnessing the NBA record for season-opening futility Wednesday night. In its Off the Dribble blog, the New York Times reported Monday that seats for the Dallas game were being unloaded for as little as $2 in the upper bowl and $8 in the lower level. Talk about futility.


Posted on: November 29, 2009 10:04 am
Edited on: November 30, 2009 12:01 am

Nets fire Frank (UPDATE)

The Nets spared Lawrence Frank the embarrassment of tying the NBA record for the longest losing streak to start a season, but that didn't change anything for the players he used to coach. The Nets fell to 0-17 Sunday night under interim coach Tom Barrise, losing to the defending champion Lakers 106-87.

Barrise, a 13-year veteran of the staff, coached what could be his only game pending team president Rod Thorn's decision on who will be handed the reins for the rest of the season. Within the organization, Thorn is considering Barrise, assistant coach John Loyer, added to the staff in September after Brian Hill left for the Pistons, and assistant GM Kiki Vandeweghe. According to a source, Thorn also has interviewed at least one person outside the organization. But with the team mired in an epic crisis, and with the proposed sale of the team to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov to be decided by the end of the calendar year, it is clear to all candidates that this is an interim situation only. The Nets' brass will hunker down in day-long organizational meetings Monday, and a source said Frank's replacement will be installed in time for the team's next practice on Tuesday.

With their 0-17 start, the Nets tied the record for the worst start in NBA history, also achieved by the 1988 expansion Heat and 1999 Clippers. According to Yahoo! Sports, the team had been planning to let Frank go after the West Coast trip ended -- using the two practice days prior to Wednesday night's home game against Dallas to install the new coach. But Thorn, who has supported Frank through tough times before and respects him, decided Sunday to spare his coach the indignity of walking straight from the sidelines to the plank. Frank, who started his head coaching career in New Jersey with an NBA record 13 straight victories in 2004, ended it with 16 straight losses.

It became clear on a recent stretch culminating in a 99-85 loss at Milwaukee that Frank had lost his command of the locker room. Still, Thorn had wanted to give Frank a chance to save his job once several key injured players returned. Although New Jersey's bench remains decimated by injuries, the recent return of Devin Harris and Courtney Lee has not improved the team's performance. 

Appointing Vandeweghe, who has no head coaching experience, to replace Frank would mimic the recent bumbling of another frugal organization, the New Orleans Hornets, who fired former Nets coach Byron Scott and replaced him with GM Jeff Bower. Due to cost-cutting moves, neither team had an obvious interim candidate on the bench, and the idea of getting two jobs for the price of one appeals to the bean-counters in a way that has rattled front-office assistants on financially strapped teams league-wide. Vandeweghe makes at least $1 million as Thorn's right-hand man and has little leverage to object to such a move.

Vandeweghe, who has reportedly been less supportive of Frank than the ultra-loyal Thorn, was analyzing the team's personnel and formulating his potential coaching strategy during the Nets' West Coast trip. Before the team left on the trip, Vandeweghe lingered in the locker room long after a 98-91 loss to the Knicks on Nov. 21, speaking privately with Harris and other key players. He is said to be prepared to accept the interim post if asked.

Loyer is a new wrinkle in the Nets' coaching picture. He spent the past four seasons as an assistant with the 76ers, and prior to that worked his way up the ranks with the Trail Blazers for five seasons as a video coordinator, advance scout, and assistant coach. Conspiracy theorists will be pleased to point out a vague connection Loyer has to potential 2010 free agent LeBron James; Loyer attended the University of Akron in James' hometown.

Posted on: November 28, 2009 12:40 pm

Nets, Frank continue march toward immortality

There has been "no change" in Lawrence Frank's status as coach of the 0-16 Nets as the franchise continues its inexorable march toward the record for NBA futility, two people familiar with the team's situation told CBSSports.com on Saturday.

After losing to the Kings 109-96 Friday night, the Nets enter Sunday's game against the defending NBA champion Lakers with a chance to equal the worst start in league history, achieved by the 1988 expansion Heat and 1999 Clippers. After Sunday's presumed defeat is in the record books, Nets president Rod Thorn faces a decision on Frank with two off days prior to the potential record-breaker at home Wednesday against Dallas -- and Frank's former point guard, Jason Kidd. Does he allow Frank, whom he has respected and supported, to achieve the futility mark at the hands of Kidd? Or does he deviate from his plan to evaluate Frank's job performance only when the team returns to full health?

A mercy firing might spare Frank the embarrassment of having his name forever associated with a winless start that has more to do with ownership's cost-cutting than Frank's coaching ability. But there's little hope it would change the Nets' fortunes. Shooting guard Courtney Lee played only three minutes off the bench Friday night after returning from a groin injury two games earlier. Although Devin Harris returned to the starting lineup against the Kings, the Nets are still without reserves Yi Jianlian, Jarvis Hayes, Keyon Dooling, Eduardo Najera, and Tony Battie. Thorn has been thus far steadfast in his plan to hold off on deciding Frank's future until the team has a reasonable complement of players available. One of the sources stipulated that there is no change in Frank's status "right now" -- further evidence of how fluid the situation is.

Frank is a lame duck in the final year of his contract, but with lead assistant Brian Hill having left to join the Pistons' bench, Thorn's options are limited to assistant coach Tom Barrise and assistant GM Kiki Vandeweghe. Complicating matters is the pending sale of the team to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov and the fact that Thorn and Vandeweghe also are in the final year of their contracts. Given the Nets' lame-duck status in New Jersey and the scant hopes for a meaningful turnaround, league sources believe it's not out of the question for lame-duck owner Bruce Ratner to mimic the Hornets' decision to install GM Jeff Bower as Byron Scott's replacement on the bench. It is believed that Vandeweghe, who traveled with the team on the current West Coast trip, would accept such a reassignment on an interim basis. 

Barring something even more unforeseen than an arena materializing in Brooklyn by the All-Star break, none of the above has more than a puncher's chance to knock the Nets off their collision course with history.

Posted on: November 24, 2009 10:11 am
Edited on: November 24, 2009 10:35 am

Nets' Brooklyn arena clears key hurdle (UPDATE)

The Nets' proposed Brooklyn arena, facing a series of deadlines that could have imperiled the project and the team's sale to a Russian billionaire, has cleared a significant legal hurdle. The New York State Court of Appeals rejected a key challenge Tuesday, clearing the way for the state to seize land and issue tax-free bonds for constructions costs.

Here are the breaking stories from the New York Times and Bloomberg News.

More details to follow.

UPDATE: The court rejected a challenge seeking to prevent the state from using eminent domain to seize land for the $4.9 billion, 22-acre project, which also includes commercial and residential real estate development. Other lawsuits by opponents of the project are pending, but this hurdle was key because it clears the way for the state to meet a Dec. 31 IRS deadline to begin selling about $700 million in construction bonds with tax-free status. Without the bond issue, the project would face further delays that would jeopardize plans by Russian billionaire Mikhail Prohorov to buy a majority stake in the team and its new arena.

UPDATE: Nets owner Bruce Ratner issued a statement applauding his latest legal victory, saying, "Our commitment to the entire project is as strong today as when we started six years ago." But a key opponent said the fight to stop the development is "far from over."

"While this is a terrible day for taxpaying homeowners in New York, this is not the end of our fight to keep the government from stealing our homes and businesses," said Daniel Goldstein, spokesman for a group called Develop, Don't Destroy Brooklyn.

UPDATE: Among the other lawsuits pending is one filed last week in state Supreme Court by neighborhood groups and elected officials seeking to overturn the Empire State Development Corp.'s approval of a construction plan for the project. If those opponents obtain a temporary restraining order, it's not clear how that would affect the bond issue and other deadlines facing Ratner and the Nets.

The Nets (0-13) embark on a four-game road trip beginning in Denver Tuesday night, trying to avoid the worst start in NBA history. The 1988 Miami Heat and 1999 Clippers both started 0-17. The Nets have been devastated by injuries to key players Devin Harris, Courtney Lee, and Yi Jianlian, among others, and have been aggressively clearing salary-cap space in the hopes of luring two marquee free agents next summer. A key component of that strategy has been Ratner's plan to abandon the antiquated IZOD Center in the Meadowlands and move to a new arena within the New York City limits. 
Category: NBA
Tags: Brooklyn, Nets
Posted on: October 22, 2009 7:09 pm

NBA wants Prokhorov, but what about other owners?

NEW YORK -- It's not often that a group of reporters assembles around a table in a ritzy hotel conference room and hears NBA commissioner David Stern discussing prostitutes. Such is the brave new world the NBA is entering by giving tacit approval to a bid by Russian playboy/billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov to buy a controlling stake in the Nets and their long-delayed Brooklyn arena.

Stern said Thursday that Prokhorov made a positive impression on NBA owners over the past two days, when he was introduced to them as part of a Board of Governors meeting at the St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan. Prokhorov, a Russian oligarch with an estimated net worth of $9.5 billion and a taste for the finer things in life, introduced himself to his prospective business partners as "Mike."

Cue the "Be Like Mike" jingle. Barring a Steve Phillips-like revelation, Prokhorov's bid to rescue the Nets appears to be a slam dunk in the making -- with an assist from Stern.

"I would say that his application is under review, because the review process is incomplete and the documents are not finalized," Stern said. "That said, we haven’t surfaced anything that would cause us to have a negative opinion of him. But we’re not finished."

Stern was queried on accusations against Prokhorov in 2007 that he supplied prostitutes to business partners at a French ski resort, saying the matter never came up during the "robust and lively discussion of his background." Prokhorov has requested an apology from those who detained him, which Stern said "may or may not be coming."

"If you were applying for work at the NBA – despite your sordid past – we would not ask you about arrests," Stern said to the reporter who asked about the incident. "And he wasn’t even arrested. ... There weren't any charges pressed. It made for a lot of good copy and caused you to ask that question."

If Prokhorov is approved -- and Stern said he expects a vote by the owners by the end of the year -- then expect a lot more good copy. Prokhorov may have tried to portray himself as a working-class stiff-turned self-made billionaire, but the NBA will never be the same with him involved in it.

Prokhorov will make Mark Cuban seem like Bambi.

All indications Thursday were that Stern and his lieutenants, Adam Silver and Joel Litvin, are buying what Prokhorov is selling, and that's no surprise. Silver, the deputy commissioner, went so far as to describe Prokhorov's ascent from Russian serf to successful businessman as a "classic American rags-to-riches story." Welcome to the club, Mike. 

Stern himself said the most noteworthy aspects of Prokhorov's bid are his "high net worth" and the ability to finance the Brooklyn project and field a successful team. The ever globally minded Stern also noted that Prokhorov could help the NBA expand operations in Russia, given Prokhorov's success as a part-owner of European power CSKA Moscow. A lot is riding on all the moving parts in this equation. Prokhorov, Stern said, is interested in owning "the Brooklyn Nets, and nothing else." Clearly, Mike isn't a Newark or East Rutherford kind of guy.

The Nets face one final lawsuit before the proposed Brooklyn arena can finally move forward. The current owner, Bruce Ratner, has won every legal and political challenge so far. But if he doesn't win this one, he won't beat a Dec. 31 deadline to break ground on the project in order to secure the tax-free bonds that are supposed to pay for construction costs.

"That puts a pretty direct deadline on both the Ratner group and the Prokhorov group to get it done," Stern said.

The real question is whether Stern can sell the controversial Prokhorov to enough owners to get him approved before Dec. 31. The commissioner will be doing this at a time when he's going to bat for low-revenue owners to achieve a revamped revenue sharing model in a new collective bargaining agreement with the players. Though Stern stopped short of saying he endorses Prokhorov, it is clear that he views the Russian as the best chance to keep two teams in the league's largest media market.

Everyone knows the Nets are hoarding cap space for a run at LeBron James and other top free agents next summer. A rich, flamboyant owner and new arena within shouting distance of Madison Square Garden could be the tipping points. If you're the Knicks, what's your incentive to back Prokhorov's bid? If you're the Cavaliers, how much revenue sharing dough would it take for you to approve an owner who's poised to steal the best player in the NBA from under your nose?

Interesting questions to think about, which most assuredly will generate more robust and lively discussion.

Category: NBA
Posted on: June 25, 2009 6:50 pm
Edited on: June 26, 2009 7:10 am

Vinsanity in Orlando (UPDATE)

NEW YORK -- Last summer, the Nets were politely rebuffing inquiries about Vince Carter, not ready yet to part with their highest-paid and most impactful player as part of their plan to attract major free agents in 2010.

That plan intersected with the opportunity to move Carter and the $35 million left on his contract Thursday, when New Jersey sent Carter to the defending Eastern Conference champion Orlando Magic.

It was the final blow to the core of Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson, and Carter, who led the Nets through some of the best seasons in franchise history. It also made New Jersey a major factor in the 2010 free-agent sweepstakes and signaled to their fans in New Jersey that they're packing it in for the move to Brooklyn. The Nets also had talks with the Spurs and Cavs about Carter.

The Nets cleared more hurdles this week in making their dream of moving to Brooklyn by 2012 a reality. And by moving Carter, they put themselves $17 million in 2010 cap space closer to putting a marquee star -- or two -- in that new playpen.

The Magic? To me, the trade signals that Orlando GM Otis Smith doesn't believe he can keep Hedo Turkoglu, who will be an unrestricted free agent in a couple of weeks. Carter will join a healthy Jameer Nelson in the backcourt, but he's similar to Turkoglu from the standpoint of ball-dominance and big shot-making -- two ingredients that the Magic would've sorely missed had they not hedged their bets by replacing them.

Orlando sent Rafer Alston, Courtney Lee, and Tony Battie to the Nets for Carter and Ryan Anderson. Battie and Alston have contracts that expire after next season, while Lee and Anderson are a wash. So the Nets save $17.3 million from Carter's contract in 2010 and have only three players guaranteed money that season -- Josh Boone, Eduardo Najera, and Keyon Dooling. (They hold team options on Lee, Yi Jianlian, Brook Lopez, and Sean Williams.)

The Cavs, Spurs, and Magic have struck so far with a win-next-season-at-all-costs strategy. Who's next?


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