Tag:Berger
Posted on: November 17, 2010 1:10 pm
 

Post-Ups

Their three-game winning streak and 22-gun salute from the 3-point line against the Lakers notwithstanding, these are delicate times for the Phoenix Suns. So delicate, in fact, that a speculative riff on an NBA writer’s podcast last week sparked a flurry of trade rumors surrounding Steve Nash.

Such is life in the NBA blogosmear, but there’s an element of truth to the speculation. Watching Nash play without Amar’e Stoudemire, and Stoudemire without Nash, is a classic lesson in being careful what you wish for. The Suns, like many NBA teams, were hesitant to lavish five guaranteed years on Stoudemire given the uninsurable state of his knees. The Knicks, boxed out of the LeBron James and Dwyane Wade sweepstakes, were in the rare position of being open to Stoudemire’s in-person overtures back in July. It was a match made in Desperadoville.

The Knicks were in Denver Tuesday night to face the Nuggets and the latest apple of their eyes, Carmelo Anthony. They arrived in a tailspin, having lost five in a row, and left with a 120-118 loss, a six-game losing streak, and much of the hopelessness inspired by Knicks teams of the past decade. No fewer than 15 power forwards playing at least 25 minutes per game are ahead of Stoudemire in efficiency rating, according to Hoopdata.com. Among them are Michael Beasley, Charlie Villanueva and Hakim Warrick – who replaced Stoudemire in Phoenix. You don’t need data to see that Stoudemire is struggling in his new home. Watching him search in vain for someone who knows how to run a pick-and-roll is evidence enough.

Despite Warrick’s statistical accomplishments, things aren’t much better for Nash and the Suns. Lost in the Suns’ unconscious shooting exploits in a 121-116 victory over the Lakers Sunday night was the ongoing horror show of watching Nash dribble around desperately in search of someone to set a capable screen and roll to the basket. Both Nash and Stoudemire have lost something irreplaceable in each other.

While the Knicks plan to do their due diligence and inquire as to Nash’s availability, the Suns haven’t gotten to the point of entertaining offers, according to an executive familiar with their strategy. Coach Alvin Gentry already has made it clear publicly that the Suns aren’t trading Nash, and the executive familiar with the team’s posture characterized the flurry of rumors as “random” and “not factual.” But in Phoenix, as with many revenue-challenged NBA cities, basketball sense doesn’t always align with financial reality.

Without Stoudemire – and assuming they can’t make 20-plus 3-pointers a night for the rest of the season – the Suns will be struggling to get a whiff of the eighth seed come April. They’re the worst rebounding team in the league in terms of defensive rebounding rate and offensive rebounding differential, and the loss of center Robin Lopez to a sprained knee certainly won’t help.

“We’ve got to be a little bit more scrappy than we’ve been in the past,” said Jared Dudley, a key member of the superior bench that made the Suns such a threat to the Lakers in the conference finals last spring.

But Suns owner Robert Sarver, whose non-basketball businesses in the banking and real estate sectors have been hammered by the recession, isn’t paying $63 million for a scrappy, barely .500 team. The Suns are comfortably below the $70.3 million luxury-tax threshold, so there’s no urgency there. However, Sarver has been one of the most vocal in a new wave of owners in the collective bargaining fight, and rival executives believe he’ll be on a rampage at the trade deadline if the Suns are out of the playoff hunt. That’s an eventuality the Suns hope to prevent, and despite their current upswing, it will prove to be a difficult fight.

“Hopefully we can get a couple of wins in a row so we can get those rumors away,” Dudley said of the Nash speculation. “You don’t want your franchise player to go. He makes everybody better here and he’s the face of Phoenix. If you think the transition is big with Amar’e, I can only imagine. It would be a journey having [Nash] leave.”

Which brings us to the next step in our journey, to the rest of the Post-Ups:

• With Jermaine O’Neal out several weeks with a sore left knee, you and I both know what name comes to mind as a free-agent replacement: Rasheed Wallace. While ‘Sheed’s agent, Bill Strickland, wouldn’t completely rule it out, it doesn’t sound like Wallace is even contemplating the possibility of coming out of retirement – for the Celtics or anybody else. “I have not talked to Danny [Ainge, the Celtics’ president] or Rasheed about that, but I think Rasheed is through,” Strickland said. Wallace, 36, isn’t believed to be working out on the court in any capacity in the event a team might be interested in his services. And while it’s hard to imagine Wallace coming back with the NBA’s tech-happy mandate to the referees, it’s more of a physical issue. As far back as when Wallace was still with the Pistons, he was known to sometimes leave his shoes on between games in order to keep playing. If he’d removed them, his ankles would’ve swelled up so badly that he wouldn’t have been able to get them back on.

• Leave it to the Zen Master to decode the mystery of Utah’s amazing string of double-digit road comebacks last week. Lakers coach Phil Jackson pointed out that Jazz coach Jerry Sloan is perhaps the only NBA coach who elects to have his team play offense in front of his bench in the second half. Most coaches prefer to have their team in front of them on defense down the stretch of road games. Lo and behold, the Jazz reeled off double-digit road comebacks against Miami, Orlando, Atlanta and Charlotte by pouring on the offense in the second half. Visiting coaches choose which basket to defend in which half. “You can generate a lot of points in front of your bench,” Jackson said. “Defensively, a lot of coaches like their team to be in front of the bench in the second half on the road, because you can call stuff and give eyes to the players with their back to the basket. They’re the only team in the NBA that does it the other way.”

Brandon Roy’s future with bone-on-bone in both knees bears watching, given that his game is based on getting to the basket and he’s only 26 – with a lot of mileage theoretically ahead of him. But Dr. Nicholas DiNubile, spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and former consultant to the Philadelphia 76ers, said it depends on the extent of the damage and where it is. After his latest bout with knee swelling and pain last week, Roy learned that surgery was not an option because he has no meniscus left in either knee. DiNubile said Roy’s fate will be determined by whether he lacks cartilage, too. “It would be extremely unlikely at that age to have no meniscus and no cartilage,” DiNubile said. Whether the bone-on-bone condition is occurring in the actual knee joint (bad) or under the kneecap (still bad, but better) also is important. If the bone-on-bone situation is where the tibia meets the femur, “You’re kind of doomed,” DiNubile said. “That’s not compatible with up-and-down playing. If he were to have bone-on-bone in the main part of his knee, his career’s going to be limited one way or the other.” If the condition exists in the kneecap, DiNubile said athletes “can do surprisingly well.”

• As more than an innocent bystander in the Carmelo Anthony saga, Nuggets coach George Karl is more than doing his part by using his considerable powers of persuasion to try to keep Melo in Denver. But it’s impossible to evaluate Karl’s efforts on that front without noting his own pursuit of a contract extension. Two people familiar with the situation told CBSSports.com that the Nuggets view Karl as part of their future, regardless of whether Anthony stays. Whether Karl wants to remain in Denver if he winds up with a rebuilding team post-Anthony – that’s another matter. But despite Karl’s disenchantment with the ouster of his friends Mark Warkentien and Tim Grgurich, the lines of communication between Karl, GM Masai Ujiri, executive Josh Kroenke, and team president Paul Andrews are very much open. And weighing on the matter more than Anthony’s future is Karl’s health. Karl, 59, has several more hurdles to clear in his heroic efforts to beat throat and neck cancer, and wants to be sure he remains cancer-free before asking the Nuggets to commit to him beyond this season. Everyone in the NBA, including the Denver front office, is rooting for him.

Tayshaun Prince’s repeated blowups, with coach John Kuester giving as good as he’s getting, aren’t expected to play a major role in the Pistons’ decision on whether to trade the swingman and his $11.1 million expiring contract. A person with knowledge of Prince’s thinking told CBSSports.com that his frustration isn’t fully directed at Kuester; losing, after his time as a member of the formerly contending Pistons, is a bigger issue. But the biggest issue in the decision on whether to move him is the impending ownership change in Detroit. Trading an expiring deal, by definition, involves taking on future money – which is difficult, at best, to do when a new owner is entering the picture.

Kevin Love’s 31-point, 31-rebound game – an incredible performance and the first of its kind since Moses Malone in 1982 – was a quiet victory for Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis. Rambis had been trying to prove a point to Love by limiting his minutes: If you don’t play both ends of the floor, you’re not going to play. Rambis’ message finally got through, and the result was an example of what Love is capable of when he puts his mind to it. But this isn’t the end of the dysfunction in Minnesota, by any stretch. Just because Love performed in an historic way doesn’t mean he’s buying Rambis’ message long-term. And a person familiar with the Wolves’ locker room dynamics isn’t convinced it’s smooth sailing from here. “The team is a disaster,” the person said. Depending on who you ask, the issue is either lack of communication from Rambis, or an unwillingness to listen on the part of Love and others who are disenchanted with minutes. It’s going to take more time to sort it all out.
Category: NBA
Tags: Berger
 
Posted on: January 27, 2010 12:11 pm
Edited on: January 27, 2010 6:46 pm
 

Arenas suspended for rest of season (UPDATE)

NEW YORK -- Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton, whose dispute involving guns on NBA property plunged the league into another image crisis, were both suspended for the rest of the 2009-10 season Wednesday.

NBA commissioner David Stern announced the suspensions in a strongly worded news release after meeting with Arenas at the NBA offices for a little more than an hour. Then, he blistered both players on a national media conference call, saying he's "simply not going to tolerate" guns on NBA property.

"We mean what we say when we say that guns are prohibited from being in our buildings or on team business," Stern said. "And when you violate that prohibition, you will be dealt with harshly."

Crittenton, the other party in the Dec. 21 argument at Verizon Center in Washington, met with Stern Tuesday. Both players have pleaded guilty to gun charges as a result of the incident.

“This is about the health and safety of our players – all players, as well as the overall image of our players," Stern said.

Sources told CBSSports.com that Arenas agreed not to appeal the suspension as a way to avoid a potentially longer sentence of a full 82 games, which would have stretched into next season. Stern denied there was any such agreement. Arenas, 28, a three-time All-Star and one of the most flamboyant performers in the league, will lose more than $7 million in salary and still faces possible discipline from the Wizards.

The Washington Post first reported the agreement between Stern and Arenas, who was accompanied in the meeting with Stern by his criminal defense attorney, Ken Wainstein, but not by any representatives from the players association.

Stern negotiated the suspension details with Billy Hunter, the executive director of the players association, over the past several days, but the collective bargaining agreement gave him sole discretion to deliver a suspension of any length under Article 35(d) of the NBA Constitution. The two also discussed strengthening the league's gun policy during negotiations on a new CBA, which are expected to begin in earnest during All-Star weekend in Dallas Feb. 12-14.

"We’re going to make, I would guess, an even stronger statement on the subject than is being made with the penalties being announced," Stern said.

Arenas arrived in New York shortly after 11 a.m. and went straight to the NBA offices on Fifth Avenue, where Stern had been waiting to speak with him before rendering his decision. According to a source, it was the first time Arenas had spoken with league officials about the Dec. 21 dispute.

Crittenton pleaded guilty Monday to a misdemeanor gun charge stemming from the argument. Arenas previously pleaded guilty to a felony charge of carrying a pistol without a license and will be sentenced March 26.

Stern acknowledged that his decision to suspend Arenas indefinitely on Jan. 7 was a direct result of his conduct in the wake of the firearms investigation, which was first reported by CBSSports.com on Dec. 24. In the days after details of the incident became public, Arenas took to his Twitter page with wild, rambling statements and stated publicly in locker-room interviews that he'd done nothing wrong. His career careened out of control on Jan. 5, when in the pre-game huddle in Philadelphia he pantomimed shooting his teammates with finger guns. That, Stern said, was the last straw.

"I felt that I should do something to keep Gilbert from doing even further damage to himself," Stern said.

If Arenas accepts the suspension without appeal, he will miss 48 games -- the third-longest non-drug related suspension in NBA history, following Ron Artest (73) and Latrell Sprewell (68). Under provisions that call for him to forfeit 1/110th of his $16.2 million salary, Arenas' lost income will be $7,065,634.

Stern said he has not personally counseled the Wizards on whether or how it might be possible to void Arenas' contract, which has four years and $81 million remaining after this season -- though he acknowledged that such conversations would take place among attorneys for the parties involved.

The Wizards have taken no official steps indicating their intention to void Arenas' contract, which would be a tall order. Language in the CBA protects players from being punished by the league and the team for the same offense, except under "egregious" circumstances. Stern reiterated Wednesday that the league suspensions are "irrespective of any action the team might take."

"You’ll have to ask a lawyer," Stern said. "I'm just the commissioner. And I'm sure if you ask 10 lawyers, you’d get 10 different descriptions. That’s how those guys are. So I don’t want to practice law on this phone call other than to say the team is a separate issue."

The Wizards issued a statement saying the players "violated the trust of our fans," and that their "poor judgment ... stands in contrast to everything Abe Pollin stood for throughout his life."

Arenas, whose relationship with most members of the Wizards' hierarchy is fractured, has told confidants that he believes he's finished in Washington.

One legal fight that Arenas may have avoided is a potential grievance over his suspension. If he compels the players' association not to appeal, there will be no need for an arbitrator to rule on whether Arenas bringing guns to the Verizon Center locker room constituted an on-court or off-court offense. Suspensions in excess of 12 games for on-court offenses can be appealed to a grievance arbitrator; for all other matters, Stern is the arbitrator.

And he spoke Wednesday, loud and clear. 

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