Posted on: May 20, 2010 8:00 pm
Edited on: May 20, 2010 8:49 pm

Sources: Casey has inside track for Hawks job

Former Timberwolves coach Dwane Casey has the inside track for the Atlanta Hawks' job, three sources familiar with the situation told CBSSports.com Thursday.

Casey, an assistant for Rick Carlisle on the Dallas bench who's attracted interest from several teams in the market for a coach, has a strong relationship with Hawks GM Rick Sund from their days in Seattle together. Plus, considering the likelihood that Casey would fit under the Hawks' $2 million annual budget for a head coach, it looks like "his job to lose," one of the sources said. Casey and the Hawks' brass were planning to discuss the opening in Chicago during the pre-draft camp this week.

A second source familiar with the situation, however, noted that Sund is in the process of formulating a list of 4-5 candidates to interview for the position vacated when Mike Woodson's contract was not renewed after an embarrassing second-round sweep at the hands of the Orlando Magic. Mark Jackson, the broadcaster and former player, is one of those expected to be interviewed, the source said. Sund also is interested in speaking with Blazers assistant Dean Demopoulos, among others. Casey, one of the sources said, will have to earn the job.

While the Hawks are expected to target Casey and the Sixers have agreed to terms with Doug Collins, several other teams are in holding patterns in their coaching searches. The Bulls, Clippers and Nets are in no rush to hire a coach, particularly with all that is riding on their pursuit of LeBron James and other free agents when the negotiating period opens July 1. No team in the running for those elite players wants to give up the negotiating power of allowing the player to have input on the coaching hire. The Clippers, sources say, also are holding out hope that Larry Brown could be persuaded to take over a young, talented roster with cap space for a max free agent. And with Phil Jackson's future with the Lakers in limbo, there's a pie-in-the-sky theory that perhaps Jackson could be persuaded to move across the hall at Staples Center and take on a reclamation project -- especially if he can't come to terms with Dr. Jerry Buss on how much of a pay cut he's expected to take.

The other shoe to drop -- and it's a big one-- is Mike Brown in Cleveland. Brown and most of his staff are expected to be fired "sooner than later," according to a person familiar with the Cavs' organizational dynamics. According to that person, letting Brown go will come with a softer-than-expected financial blow because of an unusual circumstance in which Brown's salary for next season is only half guaranteed.

If and when Brown is let go, he immediately would become a candidate for any team with an opening that isn't a realistic destination for James. No team hoping to lure James would hire a coach who was just fired at his behest.


Posted on: February 4, 2010 3:03 pm

Huddle crashers

I'm a little late to the party on this one. And being that I'm heading to Dallas a week from Thursday for All-Star weekend, I need to step up my game -- because folks in Dallas evidently like to show up at the party early and drink often.

You probably have heard by now about the two women who somehow gained access to the Trail Blazers' huddle in Dallas Saturday, and how one of them gained, um, access to Rudy Fernandez. One of the women -- whom Jerryd Bayless described to the Oregonian as "drunk" -- grabbed Fernandez during the incident and gave him a hug. The ladies were allowed to return to their seats. The NBA has said it's investigating the incident.

I don't attend many games in Dallas, but I sit courtside at my fair share in Madison Square Garden. And I assure you, if such an incident had occurred at MSG, those women would've been led out of the building in handcuffs. If they were lucky. At two separate games this season, I witnessed a particularly beefy MSG security guard charged with protecting the visiting team's bench virtually challenge an unruly fan to a fight. One of the fans, who was accosting members of the Toronto Raptors' bench, clearly had his beer muscles in full effect and decided to go nose-to-nose with the aforementioned beefy security guard. Bad idea. The bouncer -- for lack of a better term -- walked Joe Six Pack all the way up the aisle, down a flight of stairs, and into a hallway. Lord only only knows what happened next.

The Garden security staff is notoriously aggressive, which I suppose in a case like this would've been a good thing. Mavs owner Mark Cuban was right; this sort of thing happens all the time in NBA arenas. A couple of years ago, a fan made his way onto the court and tried to high-five LeBron James during a timeout. I don't remember what happened to that fan. I'm sure the fan doesn't, either.

Posted on: January 9, 2010 2:26 am

The beat goes on in Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. – Through it all – the curse of the big men, the seven injured players , Steve Blake’s pneumonia, the gripes from Andre Miller about playing time, and finally Miller’s 30-minute shouting match with coach Nate McMillan – the Trail Blazers keep winning.

Of course they won Friday night, because they were playing the Lakers at the Rose Garden, where they’ve beaten L.A. nine straight times. This time, it was 107-98 in favor of the Blazers, who had rising star Brandon Roy outplay Kobe Bryant and enjoyed a 32-5 advantage from the free-throw line (39-10 in attempts). But the details hardly matter from night to night.

The Blazers are winning – seven of 10 now – with an eight-man rotation that includes rookie Dante Cunningham, who logged 18 minutes against the Lakers. They are winning with a starting center named Juwan Howard, whom I watched play at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind., when the Hoosiers hosted Michigan and I was a sophomore at Indiana in 1992. Think about that. Juwan Howard is the Blazers’ starting center, and a capable one at that, with eight points and 10 rebounds Friday night. Juwan Howard was drafted in 1994, the same year as Blazers assistant coach Monty Williams. The same Monty Williams who roams the sideline for McMillan, who sits on the bench with a walking boot because he ruptured his Achilles’ tendon.

“It’s been a crazy year, but I just never really like to look back,” Roy said. “I just say, ‘Let’s keep pushing,’ and I think we’re doing a great job of not looking back.”

How could the year get any crazier after Greg Oden (knee) and Joel Pryzbilla (knee) both were lost for the season, Blake wound up in the hospital with pneumonia, and key rotation players Nicolas Batum, Rudy Fernandez, and Travis Outlaw all out for significant time? Miller and McMillan found a way Thursday, getting into a heated argument during practice over various things, including Miller’s mistake of telling Jerryd Bayless to make his second free throw with 4.3 seconds left and the Blazers trailing Memphis by two Tuesday night. McMillan had instructed Bayless to miss the free throw to create a putback opportunity. Miller’s season-long angst over how he’s being used – sometimes not starting games and often not finishing them – erupted.

“That was a situation where I needed to handle that and handle that better than I did,” McMillan said. “We’re past that. We’ve talked and I’ve talked to the team and addressed the team about it.”

Asked about his relationship with Miller, McMillan said, “Let me say this, and I hope you guys write this. Get your pens out. I love my players, OK? And not just current players, but past players, my relationship with my players are important. … I had some say on bringing Andre Miller here and so to bring these guys here and to assume that I have an issue – no, there’s no issue or no problem. … I’m OK with all of my players, so there’s no issues.”

Not on the court, anyway.

The Blazers got 21 points off the bench Friday night from Bayless, who’s been getting Miller’s closing minutes lately. They’re winning with small lineups, did a better job of getting out in transition Friday night, and have fallen back on McMillan’s long-time emphasis on defense – his forte – to stay afloat in the Western Conference playoff picture.

“There hasn’t really been a calm moment this season,” Roy said. “But 23-15? We’ll take it.”

Getting by with what they have has done more than create an inspirational story line. It’s reduced anxiety over whether Portland GM Kevin Pritchard needs to give up long-term cap flexibility for the short-term boost he would get from acquiring a big man in a trade.

Pritchard, being one of only a handful of GMs with real cap space, has explored bestowing it on any number of cost-cutting colleagues in exchange for a much needed body – with no takers, yet. But if the Blazers keep playing like this, and if the injuries and other distractions continue to galvanize them, what’s the rush to do a deal?

“It’s kind of a wait and see for us,” McMillan said. “We’re not even at the midway point. We know that we have a long ways to go and a huge challenge ahead of us to go through the remainder of the season without those two big guys.”

Before the game, Lakers coach Phil Jackson bemoaned the Blazers’ epic bad luck with big men and injuries, invoking the names of Sam Bowie and Bill Walton. But there were no ghosts involved in Portland’s latest homecourt mastery over the defending champs.

“They’re extremely well coached,” Bryant said. “They execute everything well. They don’t make mental mistakes, and I think that’s been the key. They’ve been able to adjust their game and adjust the tempo of the game having most of their horses out.”

And somehow, one of the improbable early-season success stories in the NBA gallops on.
Category: NBA
Posted on: July 24, 2009 5:28 pm

Miller, Blazers finalizing deal

After failing in their pursuit of free agents Hedo Turkoglu and Paul Millsap, the Portland Trail Blazers are closing in on point guard Andre Miller.

Miller, 33, is on the verge of agreeing to a two-year deal worth slightly more than the $5.9 million mid-level exception annually with a team option for a third year, a person with knowledge of the negotiations said.

The Sixers, whose youth movement Miller helped stabilize, decided early in the free-agent negotiating period that they were content to move forward with Lou Williams starting at point guard and first-round pick Jrue Holiday backing him up. Despite their emphasis on upgrading the point-guard position, the Blazers initially prioritized their pursuit of Turkoglu and Millsap -- in part because, like the Sixers, they were concerned about overpaying an aging point guard with a suspect shot. When Turkoglu reneged on a verbal agreement to sign with Portland and the Jazz matched the Blazers' offer sheet for Millsap, a restricted free agent, Portland officials circled back to Miller, who had also attracted interest from the Knicks on a short-term, cap-friendly deal.

Devoting a little more than $6 million in 2009-10 cap space to Miller leaves the Blazers with about $1-$3 million to spend this summer. The short-term deal also does not jeopardize Portland's plans to re-sign Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge to extensions as early as next summer.

With Miller off the board, the Knicks likely will turn their attention to Bucks restricted free agent Ramon Sessions. While it is accurate that the Bucks may not match a lucrative offer sheet for Sessions as they try to rein in payroll, the Knicks are not likely to make a prohibitive offer because they are determined to preserve precious 2010-11 cap space for their pursuit of LeBron James or another high-end free agent. The Bucks, however, appear ready to move on with first-round pick Brandon Jennings as their starting point guard.

Posted on: July 22, 2009 11:34 am

Time to re-sign, Lamar

A few weeks ago when Ron Artest decided to sign with the Lakers, one of the first things out of his mouth was this: "I know Lamar Odom, so that's pretty cool."

Artest and Odom have known each other since they were kids growing up in Queens, playing in the playgrounds and on AAU teams. As much as Artest wanted to sign with the Lakers -- even saying he'd "play there for nothing" -- it is unfathomable that he would've made such a bold career move without knowing L.O. would be on board.

This is why the posturing, the rejected offers, and the offers taken off the table over the past few weeks have been so puzzling. Well, puzzling isn't the right word. I never -- ever -- begrudge athletes, entertainers, finance people, or anybody else when they try to get paid. That is their right and that is how the game is played. An athlete's career is a nanosecond, and they should make as much money as humanly possible. You would do the same thing. So would I.

But the time has come for Odom and his agent, Jeff Schwartz, to recognize that the market is what it is for a player who might just be the best sixth man in the NBA -- but one who, nonetheless, has never made so much as an All-Star team or led the league in any major statistical category. Odom wears his heart on his sleeve and the address of the South Jamaica home where he grew up on the tongues of his sneakers. The dirty secret that Lakers management has known throughout this process is that Odom's heart is in L.A. That's where he and his sneakers belong, too.

Miami? Nice place. No state income tax. Great teammate to play with in Dwyane Wade. But adding Odom wouldn't put the Heat any closer to a title than the Lakers would be if they re-signed him. Portland? The Blazers certainly have the cap space after losing out on Hedo Turkoglu and Paul Millsap, but Portland doesn't feel like the right fit for Odom.

In my mind, the only place besides L.A. that would've made sense for Odom was Boston. But the Celtics struck early in the free-agent period and signed Rasheed Wallace for a fraction of what Odom is seeking.

There will be no hard feelings on either side when, I predict, Odom relents and accepts a three-year deal from the Lakers for somewhere north of $30 million. Derek Fisher is on record saying, "We want him back badly and I hope we can accomplish that in the next couple days." Kobe Bryant is on record saying he's "optimistic" that Odom will return to the Lakers. It is time for those recruiting efforts and optimism to become reality.

Some people whose names end in two G's don't like Lamar Odom. They're stuck in their wistful thinking about how good he could've been if he'd applied himself or if he wanted to be one of the top five players of his era. Odom certainly has that kind of talent. But he was born to be a wingman, and life's challenges have only solidified that niche for him. The Lakers are the perfect team for him, and he for them. It's time to stop posturing and put pen to paper with the Lakers. I refuse to believe that Fisher, Bryant, and Artest will let him do anything different. If Odom knows what's good for him -- if he knows where he's wanted and where he belongs -- then he'll listen.

Posted on: June 24, 2009 6:12 pm
Edited on: June 24, 2009 6:22 pm

Trade Buzz 2.0

Here’s your second cup of pre-draft trade buzz of the day. In case you missed it, the first cup is here. One more cup, and you will have consumed as many cups of trade buzz as I’ve consumed coffee today:

• The Trail Blazers, known to be seeking an upgrade at point guard, have expressed interest in the Bulls’ Kirk Hinrich. But a possible Portland-Chicago trade involving Hinrich has yet to enter the realm of serious discussion, according to a person familiar with the situation. While there has been speculation for months that the Bulls would be open to moving Tyrus Thomas, who has been linked to Hinrich in a possible Portland trade, Thomas has been told there’s “nothing at all” on the table involving him at this point, the person said.

• The Suns are hoping to pry Oklahoma City’s 25th overall pick, using a 2010 unprotected first-rounder as bait.

• The Knicks, convinced they cannot land Davidson guard Stephen Curry with the eighth pick, continue to actively explore ways to move up. New York also has engaged in talks with Minnesota about acquiring the 28th pick and Memphis about No. 27.

• We’ve already told you about the Atlanta-Golden State trade that would send Jamal Crawford to Atlanta – a trade I don’t really understand. Crawford is owed more than $19 million over the next two seasons and isn’t a natural point guard (and thus can’t be viewed as a reasonable replacement for unrestricted free agent Mike Bibby). Do the Hawks hate the $7.4 million owed to Speedy Claxton and Acie Law so much that they’re willing to try to force-fit Crawford into an offense already dominated by Joe Johnson and Josh Smith? There must be something more to this.

• Loyal BergerSphere readers also are aware that the Blazers and Mavericks have swapped the 24th and 22nd picks, respectively, with Portland giving up one of its four second-round picks -- 56th overall -- for the right to move up two spots.

Back with more -- and back to the coffee pot -- as needed.
Posted on: June 24, 2009 5:28 pm
Edited on: June 25, 2009 9:01 am

Mavs, Blazers swap picks (UPDATE)

The Trail Blazers and Mavericks have agreed to swap first-round picks, with Portland sending its 24th and 56th selections to Dallas for the 22nd pick, a person with knowledge of the deal told CBSSports.com Wednesday.

The 56th pick was the last of Portland's four second-round picks. They still have Nos. 33, 38, and 55.

UPDATE: The Mavs also get a second-rounder in 2010.
Category: NBA
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com