Posted on: September 21, 2010 3:13 pm
Edited on: September 21, 2010 3:28 pm
The misnomer about LeBron James leaving Cleveland is that people thought fans in Northeast Ohio were mad at him for leaving. Wrong. They were mad at him for the way he left. So with the first post-LeBron training camp around the corner, the Cavs’ brass are hoping the fan base is as realistic and patient as they will be as they recover from the Decision and all that it wrought. Internally, the Cavs have moved on. They have a new coach with rebuilding experience (Byron Scott) and a new front-office team with a lot of promise and assets at their disposal (GM Chris Grant and VP of basketball ops David Griffin).
Personnel-wise, no one inside the organization is putting any limits on what this team can do. The bad: They lost LeBron, and simply won’t recover in the short term. The good: They still believe they have the defensive foundation that Mike Brown built, along with enough shooters (Anthony Parker, Mo Williams, Daniel Gibson), former All-Stars (Antawn Jamison) and defensive dynamos (Varejao) to be competitive until the opportunity to pounce on a major personnel upgrade presents itself. Until then, here’s your preseason primer on the Cavs without you-know-who:
Training camp site: Independence, Ohio
Training camp starts: Sept. 28
Key additions: Ramon Sessions (trade), Ryan Hollins (trade), Joey Graham (free agent), Christian Eyenga (draft)
Key subtractions: Shaquille O’Neal (free agent), Delonte West (trade), Zydrunas Ilgauskas (free agent), Sebastian Telfair (trade), plus franchise identity, millions in ticket/merchandise sales, and the very soul of a tortured, doomed sports populace (i.e. some guy named ... oh, never mind).
Likely starting lineup: Williams, PG; Parker, SG; Joey Graham, SF; Jamison, PF; Anderson Varejao, C.
Player to watch: J.J. Hickson. He’s the guy the Cavs refused to give up in any trade scenario for Jamison or Amar’e Stoudemire. With you-know-who out of the picture, Hickson should benefit from increased touches and has a chance to be a bright spot as the otherwise dismal post-you-know-who era begins.
Chemistry check: Williams and Jamison both thought they were coming to Cleveland to win titles with you-know-who. Well, with you-know-who having taken his you-know-whats to South Beach, it will be interesting to watch how these veterans approach a daunting rebuilding project.
Camp battles: Graham, Jamario Moon and Jawad Williams will have a lively competition to replace you-know-who at small forward.
Biggest strength: If you take the glass-half-full approach, this is actually the ideal opportunity for Scott to re-establish a winning culture and instill his usual combination of defense, toughness, up-tempo offense and conditioning without getting pushback from cranky veterans who have grown tired of him. (That comes later.) Also, as difficult as this is for Cavs fans to swallow, the Cavs acquired some very useful assets in the sign-and-trade transaction that ultimately sent you-know-you to Miami. With multiple future first- and second-round picks, expiring contracts and a $14.5 million trade exception, the Cavs are positioned nicely when the right opportunity presents itself. They could’ve burned cap space this summer on average players as an emotional reaction to you-know-who’s departure. But Grant doesn’t – and won’t – operate that way. He will be unemotional and methodical, which is how Cavs fans should want him to be. The addition of Griffin, the former Suns executive, gives Cleveland a keen and connected personnel man to team with Grant; it has the makings of one of the finest front-office tandems in the league.
Glaring weakness: Who’s going to score, defend, perform chase-down blocks, sell tickets, toss talc, pose for idiotic pregame mock celebratory productions, star in hour-long reality TV shows stabbing his hometown in the back, and generally just save the world? Someday, someone besides you-know-who.
Posted on: July 17, 2010 11:20 pm
Edited on: July 19, 2010 12:38 am
LAS VEGAS -- In a fast-moving search for a general manager to replace the fired Jeff Bower, Hornets officials have interviewed former Trail Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard, former Suns executive David Griffin and Wizards executive Tommy Sheppard, with the intention of further escalating their search early next week, sources with knowledge of the situation told CBSSports.com.
Griffin, who left the Suns' front office in the wake of team president Steve Kerr's departure, joins Sheppard, Pritchard and Spurs executive Dell Demps on the list of candidates Hornets president Hugh Weber has spoken with about the job. Demps has met twice with Hornets officials, including having dinner with coach Monty Williams Friday night. Demps and Williams were teammates in San Antonio and have been friends ever since. Sheppard, the top assistant under GM Ernie Grunfeld, is a rising star among NBA execs and was instrumental in quickly and responsibly slashing the Wizards' payroll after the Gilbert Arenas situation last season. Pritchard interviewed for the job Saturday, two people familiar with the Hornets' search told CBSSports.com.
Due to their relationship, Demps is believed to be a prohibitive favorite for the job -- but also is a strong candidate to be installed as the personnel man under incoming Suns president Lob Babby, a former player agent who is scheduled to arrive in Phoenix Monday to be fornally introduced as the team's new head of basketball operations.
The Hornets also have expressed interest in former Trail Blazers execs Kevin Pritchard and Tom Penn and former Kings assistant GM Jason Levien. Also, Bucks assistant GM Jeff Weltman is expected to be on the Hornets' radar. Weber flew back to New Orleans Sunday, and the Hornets are hoping to have a GM in place by midweek or the end of the week, sources say.
Posted on: July 15, 2010 3:08 pm
LAS VEGAS -- The Warriors going to Peter Guber and Joe Lacob instead of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison can certainly be viewed as an upset. But not nearly as upsetting to Warriors fans as something else that could result from the transfer of power from Chris Cohan: A decision by the new guys to leave bad enough alone and keep the decision-making tandem of Don Nelson and Larry Riley in place.
Immediately upon approval of the NBA's Board of Governors, the easiest and best decision Guber and Lacob could make would be cleaning out the Warriors' dysfunctional front office and starting over again. There are plenty of good candidates for both jobs available.
The coaching position would be easy to fill. The Warriors have been grooming assistant coach Keith Smart to replace Nelson for a while now, and he'd be the perfect choice to finally get the job.
As for GM, this summer has been open season on general managers in the NBA, so the list of qualified people to replace Riley is lengthy: Kevin Pritchard, Rod Thorn, Danny Ferry, Jeff Bower and David Griffin are all free agents. Jerry West, whose name has long been associated with a possible takeover of the Warriors, would be a home run -- if he's willing to get back into the grind. Even if he isn't, a tandem of West and Griffin, who worked together in Memphis, would be a solid 1-2 punch. West would restore class and vision to the organization, and Griffin -- who has a keen eye for talent and a deep understanding of the salary-cap and CBA, at least in its current form -- would be an ace in the day-to-day GM role.
Pritchard and Ferry haven't aggressively pursued any of the numerous GM openings to this point, leading to speculation that they're waiting for a more prestigious job to come along. Despite the aimless wandering of the Warriors in recent years under Nellie and Riley, there are few NBA locales more desirable than the Bay Area and few jobs with as much potential to make a meaningful imprint. From that standpoint, reviving the Warriors has West's name -- and logo -- written all over it. But it's not entirely clear if West, 72, wants to return to a front-office role. Sources familiar with Thorn's decision to step down in New Jersey said the longtime Nets boss was under the distinct impression that West, a relentless workaholic during his glory days as an NBA team executive, finally had come to enjoy retirement. Seeing West finally embrace being out of the spotlight appealed to Thorn, 69, on a certain level.
The other aspect of the Warriors' sale that warrants a mention in today's news cycle is the price: $450 million, a record for an NBA franchise that surpassed the previous mark of $401 million paid by Robert Sarver for the Suns in 2004. One of the key sticking points in the negotiations between owners and players on a new collective bargaining agreement is the escalating value of NBA franchises. If the league's financial system is so broken, the players argue, why would someone pay nearly a half-billion dollars to join the club?
But the disagreement runs deeper than that. In an interview with CBSSports.com Wednesday, NBPA executive director Billy Hunter said a point of contention in reconciling commissioner David Stern's latest assertion that the league lost $370 million during the 2009-10 season is the cost associated with buying and owning the teams. Hunter said the league's finances include such expenses as interest and depreciation, which he views as costs that should be borne by the owners and not the players. The Warriors' sale is the perfect example of why such costs shouldn't be used as an excuse to cut player salaries. Here is the simple reason why:
Cohan bought the Warriors for $119 million in 1995. His capital gain of $331 million, less expenses, is his to keep. If the owners want to count interest and depreciation expenses in the formula that determines player salaries, then the players should receive a cut of the profit when owners sell their teams. The owners, for obvious reasons, would never agree to such an arrangement. The players, for equally obvious reasons, should never allow the expenses associated with investing in the purchases of NBA teams to be taken out of their pockets at the bargaining table.
"You can't expect the players to pay for the damn franchise," Hunter sad. "You can't tell me we have obligation to pay for your franchise and then split the difference with you."
Just a couple of things to think about as you digest the news of the Golden State Warriors becoming the highest-priced franchise ever purchased in NBA history.
Posted on: June 25, 2010 11:06 pm
Edited on: June 26, 2010 1:17 am
Following a bizarre trend that apparently dictates that it's better to be devoid of leadership at the most critical time in franchise history, the Nets will be without the executive who led them to two Finals appearances and gave them the best chance of succeeding in free agency. Rod Thorn is stepping down as team president effective July 15, a person familiar with the situation confirmed to CBSSports.com Friday night.
You read that right: Thorn will be pulling the Summer of LeBron version of Kevin Pritchard's draft night, conducting the chase for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson -- a chase the franchise endured a payroll-gutting, 12-win season to engage in. When it's over, he's gone, according to the person with knowledge of the situation, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to announce the move.
While it was known that Thorn's contract was set to expire June 30, his departure is stunning considering his accomplishments and the importance of the free-agent negotiating period that begins July 1. Thorn has agreed to stay on until July 15 to help navigate free agency, but it's not clear what marquee player would choose to join the Nets in Newark, N.J., without knowing who's making the basketball decisions. The team won't move to its new digs in Brooklyn for two more years.
According to an executive with another team who is familiar with the situation, Thorn was asked to take a massive pay cut and balked. Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov may be a billionaire, but not when it comes to paying the person running his basketball team. "He wants a younger voice," the person said.
But that description contradicted a Bergen (N.J.) Record report early Saturday in which Jerry Colangelo was touted as the leading candidate to replace Thorn. The report, which hinted that Colangelo could have some role in the Nets' free-agent visit with James next week in Ohio, rekindled speculation that arose during All-Star weekend in Dallas. At that time, when Prokhorov's bid for the Nets was still being considered by the NBA's Board of Governors, Colangelo said he wasn't pursuing any jobs but would listen if the Nets called. The managing director of USA Basketball, Colangelo would be a key asset in the Nets' pursuit of James or other free agents from the 2008 Olympic team that won gold in Beijing.
Unlike the Cavaliers and Clippers, the Nets at least do have a coach in place -- and perhaps Avery Johnson is angling for personnel authority, given that he stressed his desire for such control in other job interviews this summer. But without Thorn and Kiki Vandeweghe, whom Prokhorov fired through the news media several weeks ago, the Nets will be without a credible basketball management figure at by far the most crucial point in the history of this meandering, mostly second-rate franchise.
Reached via text message Friday night, Thorn replied, "Right now, I have no comment."
The Nets are by no means the only team to gut itself of basketball intellect on the cusp of irreversibly important decisions. Suns owner Robert Sarver decided to cut ties with GM Steve Kerr at a time when Kerr and his assistant, David Griffin -- who also is departing -- were trying to negotiate an extension with star forward Amar'e Stoudemire. The Cavs decided to stumble into the most important month in Cleveland sports history -- and one that could change the NBA landscape forever -- without a coach or GM. Chris Grant, the replacement for former GM Danny Ferry, is indisputably talented but also has never been faced with circumstances as pressurized as possibly losing his city's biggest sports star since Jim Brown.
The Clippers, also entertaining false hope of luring major free agents, have yet to hire a coach. And the Trail Blazers -- though not free-agent players -- made a mockery of the GM profession Thursday when owner Paul Allen fired Pritchard an hour before the draft while instructing him to make his picks and trades before going home for good.
The only thing any of this proves, besides incompetence, is that there's no better job than being an unemployed or soon-to-be unemployed GM in the NBA. Either you're still getting paid by the team that fired you, which is good, or you're salivating over numerous job openings. Or both. But something you're not doing if you're a team without leadership is signing James or Wade as a free agent.
Posted on: June 24, 2010 7:57 pm
NEW YORK -- Stunning news came down moments before the NBA draft began Thursday night. No, LeBron James didn't try to reinstate his college eligibility and join John Calipari at Kentucky. Something more unbelievable: The Trail Blazers fired GM Kevin Pritchard, telling him an hour before the draft that it would be his last day of work for the team.
Jason Quick of the Oregonian first reported the firing, which is surprising only for its bizarre timing. Pritchard's right-hand man, former assistant GM Tom Penn, was fired in March, and the writing has been on the wall for Pritchard ever since. Pritchard, who along with Penn was responsible for building one of the most competitive and financially successful franchises in the NBA, will presumably make the 22nd and 44th picks in Thursday's draft -- which he spent months preparing for -- and then start looking for work. Penn has found work already, at least temporarily; he was at the Theater at Madison Square Garden Thursday night working as a salary-cap analyst on ESPN's draft telecast.
According to the Oregonian, owner Paul Allen informed Pritchard of his dismissal Thursday night and instructed him to conduct the draft before leaving the organization. The Portland GM opening now joins a few leadership black holes around the league. The Suns didn't renew GM Steve Kerr's contract, and assistant GM David Griffin decided to leave the organization after being informed that there would be a formal search for Kerr's replacement. Denver GM Mark Warkentien's contract expires Aug. 31, and the organization has made no efforts to re-sign him. Danny Ainge's future in Boston also is up in the air with the possibility that coach Doc Rivers could step down.
As for the gaping hole left in the Portland front office by Pritchard's classless dismissal, the question becomes: Who would want to work for a franchise that treats its people the way the Blazers have treated Pritchard and Penn? The lure of the Blazers' roster and rabid fan base will be a huge calling card for any potential candidate, but buyer beware. Apparently, the money isn't great, either. One of the points of contention that led to Pritchard's ouster was his displeasure with his approximately $1 million salary -- not much more than assistant GMs make in other cities and a quarter of coach Nate McMillan's compensation. Pritchard had one year remaining on his contract.
According to a person familiar with the Blazers' internal dynamics, one option would be to appoint team president Larry Miller, head of the team's business operations, to serve as the figurehead replacement for Pritchard and hire a competent No. 2 to handle the day-to-day basketball decisions.
Posted on: June 15, 2010 6:19 pm
Edited on: June 15, 2010 9:01 pm
LOS ANGELES -- Steve Kerr's stunning announcement Tuesday that he will not return as the Suns' president of basketball operations next season sent shockwaves through the team's No. 1 plan for this summer: retaining Amar'e Stoudemire.
Stoudemire has been open to exploring his options as an unrestricted free agent by opting out of his contract in the event an extension could not be reached with the Suns. But the departure of Kerr, who had been handling the early stages of the negotiation with Stoudemire's agent, Happy Walters, cast a cloud of uncertainty over the process.
A person familiar with Kerr's decision to step down and return to the television booth in Doug Collins' analyst spot with TNT said it unfolded over the past couple of the weeks and left a sour taste on both sides of the Stoudemire negotiation. Kerr's contract was set to expire after the June 24 draft, and it appears to be another episode of penny-pinching by owner Robert Sarver that spurred Kerr's decision to leave the organization only weeks after the Suns made a surprising run to the Western Conference finals. Kerr, according to sources, was asked to take a significant pay cut on his new deal, a slap in the face given the Suns' successful season.
But another person familiar with the situation told CBSSports.com that Kerr's decision also was related to frustration that Sarver had not yet committed to a full-length, maximum-salary contract for Stoudemire. The Suns have made several offers to Stoudemire this summer, but the person familiar with the situation said the parameters of the offers are "not where they need to be." Now, with the departure of Kerr -- who is trusted by both Stoudemire and Walters -- Stoudemire's future in Phoenix is more uncertain than ever.
As the situation unfolded Tuesday, it was not immediately clear whether Kerr's top lieutenant, assistant GM David Griffin, would be promoted to the No. 1 job or the Suns would orchestrate a search for Kerr's replacement.
Kerr's departure was first reported by the Arizona Republic and KTAR in Phoenix, the Suns' flagship radio station.
Several of Kerr's personnel moves fueled the Suns' run to the conference finals, including reversing course on his controversial acquisition of Shaquille O'Neal by trading him to Cleveland; acquiring Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley from Charlotte; and drafting Robin Lopez and Goran Dragic in 2008. All four players played prominent roles in the Suns' return to the Western Conference elite this season.
Stoudemire, who is working out and strategizing with his agent in Miami, will enter the final stages of his renegotiation with serious doubts about the direction of the organization. The Heat, with enough cap space to add a max free agent alongside Dwyane Wade, are among the most likely destinations for Stoudemire if he does not re-sign with Phoenix.
Posted on: December 18, 2008 10:09 am
While Stephon Marbury has been given permission to seek a deal with a new team, no new talks are scheduled between the Knicks and Marbury's representative from the NBA Players Association to extricate him from New York.
According to a person with close ties to Marbury, the banished point guard is seeking to sign with a "playoff, championship caliber team." The source declined to discuss which teams Marbury is targeting, but didn't shoot down Boston, Miami, or the Lakers as options. One team Marbury won't be signing with is the Suns. Phoenix contributed $500,000 to Spanish club Tau Ceramica to buy out their second-round pick, Slovenian point guard Goran Dragic, and team president Steve Kerr said Wednesday he has "zero" interest in Marbury. Kerr was in Denver Wednesday night scouting a point-guard matchup between Smush Parker and Eddie Gill in a D-League game, and vice president of basketball operations David Griffin plans to work out 4-6 point guards -- possibly including Damon Stoudamire and Troy Hudson -- on Monday. The Suns have until Wednesday to add a player to reach the NBA roster minimum of 13.
Miami is close to the luxury tax threshold and would need to trim a player to make room for Marbury, even if he signed for the veteran's minimum of $1.2 million. Dwyane Wade likely would have to sign off on adding Marbury, given his substantial baggage. A person familiar with the Celtics' thinking said the team would investigate Marbury when he became available, but the signing would have to come with the approval of the coaching staff and key leaders in the locker room.
Knicks president Donnie Walsh and NBPA attorney Hal Biagas, who is representing Marbury, "check in with each other periodically," but have held no further substantive buyout talks and have none scheduled, the source said.