Posted on: January 30, 2011 10:51 pm
Revenge, as they say, is sweet.
Back in August, Nuggets GM Mark Warkentien thought he was going to continue negotiating the two most important contract extensions in the organization's history -- those of Carmelo Anthony and coach George Karl. The fact that Warkentien had been ostracized in the very organization he'd positioned for a run to the Western Conference finals a little more than a year earlier, though, amounted to the writing on the wall.
Warkentien, the 2009 NBA executive of the year, was let go along with fellow front-office type Rex Chapman in a complete purge of the Nuggets' management team. This was after Warkentien had been insulted with an offer to take a roughly 50 percent pay cut -- with some of the difference possibly to be made up through incentive clauses. (And maybe some Wal-Mart coupons.)
Within weeks of owner Stan Kroenke's decision to turn the organization over to his son, Josh, and former Raptors executive Masai Ujiri, Anthony's camp began informing the team that he would not be signing a three-year, $65 million extension and wanted a trade. Nuggets advisor Brett Bearup subsequently was let go, and the Nuggets believed they had made a fresh start in their efforts to make the best of the Anthony situation.
Only one problem: Warkentien, who knows where all the bodies are buried in Denver and has a strong relationship with Anthony, is about to be employed by the enemy. A person close to Warkentien confirmed a report Sunday night by Yahoo! Sports that the Knicks intend to hire Warkentien as a high-level consultant. The move, which has yet to be finalized, represents the first step in Knicks president Donnie Walsh's long-time efforts to hire a right-hand man. In the past, he had considered Warkentien, former Warriors executive Chris Mullin, and former Trail Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard, while coach Mike D'Antoni had some other candidates in mind.
After Garden chairman James Dolan's clumsy attempt at hiring former coach and president Isiah Thomas was thoroughly repudiated by Walsh, the decision to go with Warkentien is the strongest sign yet that Walsh -- whose fingerprints are all over the Knicks' revival -- will chart the course for the long-term future of the franchise, too.
Walsh's contract has a team option that must be picked up by April 1. While the addition of Warkentien as a consultant is viewed by those close to the situation as a prelude to an expanded and more permanent role, sources also say that not only is Walsh's option expected to be picked up, but his contract may be extended as well. Though Walsh has made no noise about wanting the extension, he has expressed to confidants a strong desire to see the Knicks' rebuilding through after overcoming a series of health issues in recent months. After returning to Madison Square Garden recently after undergoing hip replacement surgery, Walsh has been described by friends as especially enthusiastic and strong-willed about completing the massive restoration project.
So while the addition of Warkentien, a shrewd negotiator with a reputation as a relentless scout, bodes well for a Walsh-driven front-office structure going forward, the natural question is as follows: What does this mean for the Knicks' pursuit of Anthony? On one hand, teaming Warkentien with Walsh on the Denver trade negotiations would make it a decidedly unfair fight -- combining Walsh's experience with Warkentien's direct knowledge of the Denver power structure and Stan Kroenke's tendencies and psychology when it comes to deal-making. Sources say that Warkentien long ago zeroed in on Kroenke's negotiating weakness in any Anthony trade: his obsessive pursuit of cost-cutting. As Warkentien learned in a negotiating class he recently took at Harvard, the best way to win a negotiation is to know what the opponent wants and where his weaknesses are.
But it is difficult to predict how Kroenke, who is still ultimately calling the shots behind the curtain while his son and Ujiri handle the day-to-day business, will respond to the Knicks' hiring of Warkentien. It is possible, according to one source who understands Denver's still complicated organization dynamics, that Kroenke would stubbornly recoil from any talks with the Knicks and refuse to give Anthony his wish -- or give Warkentien the satisfaction. Also possible, the source noted, is that Kroenke would redouble efforts to once again engage the Nets in trade talks as a far more palatable option than dealing with Warkentien. Another person with direct knowledge of the Nuggets' trade discussions has told CBSSports.com on multiple occasions recently that the Anthony talks have not evolved since the Nets dropped out last week. One reason may have been the Knicks' impending hiring of Warkentien, which sources say leaked to some members of Denver's basketball operations.
One way or another, it would appear that Warkentien will play a prominent role in the Knicks' pursuit of Anthony -- via a trade or as a free agent. Warkentien is believed to be on board with the notion that Anthony wouldn't lose nearly as much money as some pundits think if he were to play out the season and become a free agent under a new collective bargaining agreement. Estimates showing that Anthony would lose $40 million in such a scenario are nothing short of irresponsible.
Imagine the irony, though, if Warkentien ultimately winds up signing Anthony to a contract with the Knicks -- a contract he thought he'd be finalizing with the Nuggets last August. The plot, as they say, thickens.
Posted on: October 13, 2009 8:56 am
Edited on: October 15, 2009 9:21 am
Upon a recent visit with a colleague who is involved in business dealings throughout the NBA, the subject of how a certain player on the Golden State Warriors was doing came up.
"Golden State," said my friend, shaking his head, "is a story in and of itself."
Indeed. And a pathetic story at that.
It's not just that the Warriors have suspended guard Stephen Jackson for two games due to conduct detrimental to the team. It's not that coach/emperor Don Nelson and GM Larry Riley sat down with Jackson Tuesday in an attempt to smooth things over. Everyone can see -- including Jackson -- that all they're up to is getting Jackson back on the court so they can trade him. Since that's what Jackson wants, he should be amenable.
UPDATE: Captain Jack relinquished his captaincy Tuesday, and he and Nelson came away from the meeting with very different demeanors. Nelson bordered on chipper afterward, while Jackson was described as bitter. Maybe that's because Jackson has realized that he might very well be stuck in Golden State. Nelson, perhaps, already is imagining himself luxuriating under a palm tree in Maui when this sad saga finally ends.
In a calm, matter-of-fact tone, Jackson eviscerates Nelson (he listens to him only because he's paid to), Kobe Bryant (he gets preferential treatment from the refs), and his teammates (who didn't come to his defense when he got ejected for complaining about the calls in the preseason game against the Lakers. Hang in there with this video ; it's worth your time.
But this story isn't about Jackson. He's merely the latest player who has been swallowed by the vortex of incompetent ownership and sad egotism, the combination of which have turned the Bay Area's NBA team -- one of the league's prime properties, by the way -- into such a joke that it makes Jim Dolan's regime in New York seem like a tranquil pool of efficiency by comparison.
This has been going on too long. The games Golden State management tried to play with Monta Ellis in the wake of his moped accident, the shameful treatment of Chris Mullin, and now the bungling of l'Affaire Jackson -- all of it is a steaming pile of obfuscation that is crying out for the nuclear option. If he hasn't already, David Stern should forcefully suggest that it's time for majority owner Chris Cohan to finally sell this franchise that has disintegrated on his watch.
But Cohan isn't the only problem, either. His problem is merely the only one that -- if solved -- would lead to the resolution of all the other problems. Namely, those problems are president Robert Rowell, Riley, and Nelson. Find me another NBA team with a triangle of stubbornness, petulance, and cluelessness that rivals this Warriors triumvirate and I'll send you a P.J. Carlesimo bobblehead doll.
Two members of this bungling trio were present at Las Vegas Summer League this past July. (And when it comes to Nellie, I should point out that he was present in the arena, not just the casino.) It was a sad commentary on what the Warriors have become: A disheveled Nelson sitting uncomfortably in the stands, a ball cap scrunched down on his unkempt coiffure. By his side at all times, like a pea-brained pug, was Riley -- whose ascent to the GM's chair came at the expense of Mullin and by the forceful hand of Nellie. One night, Nellie invited a couple of scribes out for dinner and cigars, a gesture he hoped would curry favor and mold the mushy contents of their skulls to Nellie's twisted brand of basketball management. One thing I have learned in this business: When a sports figure invites you to dinner for the sole purpose of showing you what a prince he is, he is up to no good.
The no-good has gone on in Golden State long enough.
Posted on: April 6, 2009 2:14 pm
NEW YORK -- The Basketball Hall of Fame did not extend an invitation to Chris Mullin on Monday, passing on the basketball great and Golden State Warriors executive in a stellar class that included none other than Michael Jordan. Although Jordan's Charlotte Bobcats have begun to resemble a team with a plan, the criteria obviously weren't based on front-office accomplishments. If they were, Mullin -- and not Jordan -- would've gotten in.
These are strange days for Mullin, who has been shamefully marginalized in the Golden State front office as his contract winds down to its termination date at the end of June. Once that happens, he'll be a free agent, and any number of wayward teams figure to come calling. But one option for Mullin remains as intriguing as any -- to me, and also to Mullin, I'm told. You see, Knicks president Donnie Walsh has yet to follow through on his plan to hire a No. 2 in command in New York, and Mullin would be the perfect fit.
He's done it before, with success. He's a native New Yorker who'd partly satisfy one of Walsh's overarching plans for the team to reconnect not only with its alumni but also with the very fabric of New York City basketball tradition. He's as honest and trustworthy as they come, qualities that Walsh values greatly. They know each other inside and out from their time together with the Indiana Pacers. It all seems like such a natural fit.
A couple of problems. First, Mullin has established strong ties in the Bay Area, and with children in school there, significant forces would be pulling against returning to the other coast. If the opportunity were right, I'm told, this wouldn't necessarily be a deal-breaker for Mullin, who at 46 has an entire career ahead of him as a basketball executive.
Next, there is the issue of where Mullin would fit into the hierarchy with the Knicks. The team has been happy with current No. 2 man Glen Grunwald, a company guy who doesn't need the spotlight or the credit and has more than one year left on his contract. If Walsh hires someone this summer, it wouldn't be to replace Grunwald, necessarily, but to join him.
Finally, some believe there is a far more significant impediment for Mullin's possible homecoming: the Knicks' coach, Mike D'Antoni, who enjoys as much power as any NBA coach. But D'Antoni has never worked with Mullin and doesn't know him well. One well-placed source has told me that if and when the Knicks hire a second-in-command in the front office, D'Antoni has a list of candidates he'd feel comfortable working with. Not that he has anything against Mullin, but Mullin isn't on the list.
D'Antoni has flexed his muscles in ways big and small since getting the Knicks job, and for good reason. His resume speaks for itself, and he's at the top of every potential free agent's coaching wish list. His comments over the weekend in Toronto about how nobody on the Knicks' roster is safe provided only the latest example of how much influence D'Antoni wields with personnel decisions. (As if there should be any doubt after the way he singlehandedly banished Stephon Marbury from the team even though Walsh preferred to keep him around and shop him.)
While several potential candidates have contacted Walsh to express interest, Mullin has not. Despite how he's been treated in Golden State, Mullin would never let that change who he is -- a loyal company man who is under contract until June 30. But it's clear that Mullin would listen, and should be even clearer that Walsh would want to discuss it with him once his contract is up.
Walsh has done virtually no work this season on hiring a No. 2 man and eventual successor, and won't even begin the process until July. While he'd never hire someone D'Antoni was absolutely opposed to, there are strong indications that Walsh also wouldn't limit his list of candidates to those who would meet D'Antoni's approval. (Walsh and D'Antoni haven't discussed this potential hire in detail, I'm told, and won't until after the season.)
As he approaches the end of his first full season in New York, Walsh gets A's all around for hiring a championship-caliber coach, creating flexibility to improve the team by moving debilitating contracts, and reconnecting this once proud franchise to its roots (as evidenced by the long overdue Legends Night ceremony last month, which met everyone's approval but Stan Van Gundy's). He's restored respect, decency, and strong management to a franchise that had been lacking all three for too long. Walsh's next task -- even before the 2010 free agent bonanza begins -- will be to give the Knicks something else they've sorely lacked: stability. He can do that by hiring a capable, respected executive to work by his side and eventually take over when Walsh, 68, retires in two or three years.
The Knicks could do a lot worse than Mullin. Who knows? Depending on how he did here, maybe he'd eventually get into the Hall of Fame.
Posted on: December 20, 2008 7:49 pm
After a 115-99 loss to the Hawks Friday night, Warriors coach Don Nelson volunteered an obscure piece of information that has far more significance than most people realize. Acknowledging that coaching defense and being tough on players are weaknesses of his, Nelson announced that assistant coach Keith Smart was being elevated to a defensive coordinator role, and that Sidney Moncrief would be Smart's top assistant.
We've mentioned previously here that Nelson, 68, got a two-year extension in October but might not finish the contract on the bench. A person familiar with the Warriors' plans -- and those are few and far between, as it appears the Warriors have no plan -- told me that one option under consideration is Nelson moving upstairs to a full-time GM role at some point. Smart and Moncrief would be the favorites to succeed him on the bench.
Where does that leave Chris Mullin, you ask? Exactly where he is at the moment: With a contract that expires June 30 and little reason to expect he'll get a new one.
Nellie's announcement Friday night in Atlanta, thus, makes perfect sense. It's another step in the direction of Nellie handing the coaching reins to Smart or Moncrief. My prediction: When Nellie goes upstairs, Smart will be the head coach and Moncrief his lead assistant.
Posted on: December 17, 2008 11:57 am
* Finally, the Rockets showed how dangerous they can be if everyone is healthy. Yao was unstoppable, Tracy McGrady had his fourth career triple-double, and Ron Artest played a crucial role coming off the bench in a 108-96 victory over Denver.
* Those who took issue with my accolades for Derrick Rose will delight in the fact that D.J. Augustin (29 points, 7 assists) outdueled the Bulls' No. 1 pick (7 points, 6 assists) in the Charlotte Bobcats' 110-101 overtime victory over the Bulls.
* I was standing outside the visiting locker room in Philadelphia last Wednesday night when the 76ers' medical staff, led by team doctor Jack McPhilemy, ventured inside to examine Zydrunas Ilgauskas' foot and X-rays thereof. Little did I know how stunned the doctors were when they viewed the X-rays. Bob Finnan of the News-Herald explains. (Link courtesy of TrueHoop.)
* Interesting decision for the Warriors when Monta Ellis comes off the suspended list Friday. Who gets waived or traded to clear a roster spot? Even though Ellis won't be ready to play until sometime in '09, Golden State needs to make room on the roster. Matt Steinmetz makes a solid case that the decision will provide insight into how much GM Chris Mullin's power has diminished. Mullin is believed to want Marcus Williams to stay, but coach -- and perhaps soon-to-be-GM Don Nelson -- wants to keep Rob Kurz. If Kurz stays and Williams goes, you'll have your answer.
Tags: Charlotte Bobcats, Chauncey Billups, Chicago Bulls, Chris Mullin, Chris Paul, Cleveland Cavaliers, D.J. Augustin, Dallas Mavericks, Derrick Rose, Don Nelson, Donnie Walsh, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Mark Cuban, Memphis Grizzlies, Mike D'Antoni, Monta Ellis, New Orleans Hornets, Ron Artest, Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming, Zydrunas Ilgauskas