Posted on: January 8, 2012 5:19 pm
WASHINGTON -- There's no question which team is the worst in the NBA. That would be the Wizards, in case you didn't know -- and hopefully you don't, because that would imply that you haven't seen them.
To see them is to understand that the 2008-09 Nets' NBA-record 0-18 in start just might be in jeopardy.
In a performance labeled "sickening" and "embarrassing" by Andray Blatche, whose own performance also could've been thusly described, the Wizards fell to 0-8 Sunday with a 93-72 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Afterward, Blatche (10 points in 31 minutes on 5-for-16 shooting) attempted to get coach Flip Saunders' back, but ended up making his coach look bad in the process. It's been that kind of start to the season for the Wizards, who can't even fall on their swords properly.
"Flip is definitely doing his job," Blatche said. "I just don't feel like guys are listening and following behind what he says and what he wants us to do."
Never a good sign, eight games into the season.
"Guys want to try to do it their own way, and it's not working," Blatche said. "The record shows that. I feel like everybody should go home and focus and think and take consideration for what Flip is saying, because it can't hurt. It damn sure ain't helping us our way."
The Wizards scored 17 points in each of the first two quarters and were mesmerized by Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio. When Rubio entered the game with 1:30 left in the first quarter, he orchestrated a 17-2 run and controlled everything that was happening on the floor during his 31 minutes off the bench with 13 points, 14 assists and six rebounds.
"It's on us as players, because we're the ones being put out there at the end of the day, embarrassing ourselves," Blatche said.
Somehow it made matters worse for the Wizards that Rubio was doing this to them after they'd traded the No. 5 pick in the 2009 draft to Minnesota for Randy Foye and Mike Miller, who were gone after one season. The Wolves drafted Rubio with the fifth pick, and unlike the Wizards at the time, had the luxury of waiting two years for Rubio to show up.
If only the Wizards had known that they had that luxury, too. If they'd kept the pick, Saunders said, "Who knows who it would've been? And if it was Rubio, then John Wall might not be here."
Wall, no doubt, already is wishing he weren't.
"I didn't expect it to be this tough," said Wall who was 3-for-10 with 10 points and six assists. "It's just not good right now. ... You've got to have some type of urgency out there on the court to want to play. You've got to have some type of self-esteem or some type of pride that you don't want to keep being 0-8. It's a pride game now."
Saunders said he was going home Sunday night to ask himself: "What can I do as a coach to get us better? Right now, I haven’t done a good enough job. That’s evident. We’re not totally getting through to some guys and some guys continue to play the way they want to play and not the way we need to play as far as a team."
After his postgame interviews were over, Blatche sauntered out of the Wizards' locker room and turned toward the arena exits. Someone chased him down to shake hands and ask, "How you doing?" "Not good," Blatche said.
And it's hard to figure out how that is going to change.
Posted on: November 5, 2010 11:30 pm
NEW YORK – It had been 10 months since Gilbert Arenas played a basketball game that counted – 10 long months since he’d assumed the pose at his locker, waiting for the reporters to converge on him. Waiting for the show.
And somehow, someway, Arenas the performer was back Friday night. Not so much on the court, where he looked understandably hesitant and out of his element. But at his locker, digesting an 18-point performance in his first regular season game since a 50-game suspension for bringing guns to the Verizon Center locker room, Gilbert Arenas finally smiled.
“It was a rough ride for me,” Arenas said after the Wizards lost to the Knicks 112-91 in the official unveiling of the Arenas-John Wall backcourt. “The funny part about it is, I didn’t break down until after everything was over with. That’s the weird part. While I was going through it, I had my teammates saying, ‘Keep your head up’. And then once the season ended and everybody left, I didn’t have anybody to talk to anymore. It was like I was just stuck on that island and that’s when it really hit me hard.”
That was how Arenas looked when I walked into the visiting locker room at Madison Square Garden: like a lost soul on an island. A giant ice pack on his left knee, a towel draped over his tattooed legs, Arenas had his eyes closed and his head down when the locker room opened to reporters.
I asked Arenas, the fallen star of the Wizards who hopes to rise again, to describe that breaking point.
“I thought about retiring for a minute, because I really didn’t know what to expect,” Arenas said. “I just thought it was too much negativity for me to come back in. I just didn’t know if I was mentally prepared for it again.”
With $80 million left on his contract, retirement certainly wasn’t an option. But with Wall, the No. 1 pick who had a dismal, nine-turnover night, Arenas knows he’s going to have to adjust. For one, he came off the bench in his first game back. For another, he was hesitant on the attack and did most of his damage on spot-up jumpers. More than anything, Arenas knows there’s hardly a guarantee he’ll be able to resurrect his career alongside the team’s new dominant offensive force and undisputed star of the present and future.
“Players get traded,” Arenas said. “When you look around the league, there’s only a few players that stay with one organization. So while I’m here, I’m going to contribute to the best of my ability and be a great teammate. You know, basketball is basketball, no matter what city you go to. I’ve been here for eight years and I’m happy for that. I could’ve been traded a long time ago, but they hung by and stuck with me. I’m just grateful Ted [Leonsis] believes in me.”
The grim-faced, unemotional Arenas who checked in at the scorer’s table with 2:35 left in the first quarter was a far cry from the showman who’d become one of the sport’s most engaging personalities until his infamous downfall – the joking, cry-for-help display of finger guns on Jan. 5 in Philadelphia, the last time he suited up for a regular season game. Those close to Arenas have been privately pleading with him to go back to being himself – not the caricature who was created to sell tickets and generate lighthearted buzz, but the genuine Arenas, whomever and wherever he is.
The smile, the laughs, the unmistakable look of relief that washed over him at his locker Friday night was a good first step. Though the direction and destination are unknown.
“I was anti-media for a while,” Arenas said. “But you know, it’s part of our jobs. Eventually my personality’s going to come back and kick in. I made mistakes and I’ve got to live with them. I’m just ready to move forward and try to forget about the past. I know it’s going to always be there, but I’m going to try to be a better person and a better teammate.”
Posted on: November 3, 2010 6:29 pm
The World's Most Famous Arena is now free of asbestos, too. Madison Square Garden will reopen in time for the Knicks' game Friday night against No. 1 pick John Wall and the Wizards.
The team issued a statement Wednesday saying environmental experts had provided assurances that the arena is safe after debris fell on the court Monday night during an asbestos-related excavatiion as part of MSG's $775 million to $850 million renovation scheduled for completion in 2013.
The Knicks-Magic game, which was postponed due to the toxic scare Tuesday night, will be rescheduled at a later date.
Posted on: November 1, 2010 8:54 pm
Edited on: November 2, 2010 12:45 am
By not completing a trade for Carmelo Anthony before the start of the season, the Nets knew they were faced with a calculated risk. What could’ve been a coup for them – the Nuggets being awful out of the gate and Anthony making the situation untenable for coach George Karl – hasn’t happened. But something else has gone the Nets’ way as they’ve continued to keep the trade talks alive.
Derrick Favors, the centerpiece of a four-team deal sending Melo to New Jersey that fell apart last month, has shaken off a poor preseason and made important strides toward proving that he’s worthy of inclusion in a franchise-shaping transaction like the one Denver is considering. It’s only three games, but the No. 4 overall pick is shooting 58 percent from the field while averaging 10.3 points, 10 rebounds and only one turnover per game. His talent is raw, and his defensive instincts are nonexistent. But at the very least, Favors hasn’t done anything in this ridiculously small sample size to infect the Denver front office with any serious doubts.
One executive who has watched Favors went so far as to say, “His stock as skyrocketed,” which is true any way you look at it. (After the up-and-down preseason Favors had, one way to look at it is this: There was nowhere to go but up.) The Nuggets, according to sources, are still in wait-and-see mode. And they’ll be seeing plenty before the key date in this saga, Dec. 15, when summer free agents become trade-eligible.
One of the aspects of this decision that GM Masai Ujiri is evaluating is how competitive his team will be with Melo on board. The next two weeks will be telling, with five games against teams that made the playoffs in the West last season – Dallas (twice), the Lakers, Suns and Trail Blazers. Rival executives have speculated that in some ways, Ujiri’s job becomes more difficult if the Nuggets get off to a strong start. If that happens, it will be exponentially more difficult to sell an Anthony trade to the paying customers. Given that Anthony left no doubt that he’s leaving Denver one way or another when he told Yahoo! Sports last week, “It’s time for a change,” a catastrophic start to the season would’ve been a far easier environment in which to justify trading him.
Until then, the Nuggets, Nets and Knicks – Anthony’s preferred destination – are in limbo until more tradable assets flood the market in six weeks. Which gives us a chance to flood the market with the rest of this week’s Post-Ups:
• As interesting as it will be to watch the first head-to-head matchup between John Wall and Evan Turner, the top two picks in the 2010 draft, the more intriguing figure in the Wizards’ backcourt hasn’t played a minute yet this season: Gilbert Arenas. The artist formerly known as Agent Zero is likely a no-go against the Sixers Tuesday night as he prepares to undergo further tests on his injured right ankle. He’s already seen foot-and-ankle specialist Mark Myerson in Baltimore. While the Wizards hold out hope of making a Wall-Arenas backcourt work, the scant hope that Arenas and the $80 million he’s owed can be moved before the trade deadline requires Arenas to return to the court, be productive, show signs that his All-Star talent remains intact, and prove that he’s no longer a locker-room risk. None of that can happen until teams see a significant sample size of Arenas on the court.
• A person with knowledge of the situation confirmed Denver’s interest in Portland swingman Nicolas Batum in a potential Anthony trade, but those overtures have fallen on deaf ears among the Trail Blazers’ brass. Portland isn’t about to include the talented, versatile Batum in a deal unless they’re getting Melo, which isn’t happening. Having said that, the Blazers have a tremendous asset in Batum if and when they get involved in any trade discussions as the deadline nears. Batum is not only affordable – he’s still on his rookie contract – but his value is much greater to faster-paced teams. With their grind-it-out style, the Blazers understand that they don’t take full advantage of Batum’s open-court abilities.
• Commissioner David Stern went easy on the Knicks over the Isiah Thomas fiasco, allowing Thomas and then the Knicks to announce the death of their failed attempt at a reunion via a blatantly illegal consulting arrangement. Stern could’ve really embarrassed Garden chairman James Dolan on that one, but elected to allow the Knicks and Thomas to clean up the mess themselves and then say there was no need for the league office to take action. Pending the outcome of a league investigation of alleged illegal workouts with draft prospects – some perpetrated under the Thomas regime as team president, according to Yahoo! Sports – the NBA office is not likely to be so kind this time around. While there is no precedent for forfeited draft picks for such violations, those alleged to have been committed by the Knicks in the Yahoo! report would be the most extensive and persistent on record. The league has hired outside counsel to investigate the allegations, and the Knicks plan to cooperate fully. All of this was simply another lesson that re-hiring Thomas in any capacity was a bad idea whether it was against NBA rules or not.
• I am justifiably puzzled by the Heat’s apparent pursuit of a point guard to get Miami’s offense running more smoothly until floor-spacer Mike Miller returns from injury. I could see the usefulness of a Derek Fisher-type in that role, but short of that, the Heat’s offense would run just fine with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James acting as interchangeable wings initiating the offense. Coach Erik Spoelstra could play that way now, if he wanted to, by benching Carlos Arroyo for James Jones – who would fill Miller’s role as the shooter until Miller returns. The problem with Jones is his lack of defense, but the rest of Miami’s defense is so smothering, I’m not sure Jones-for-Arroyo wouldn’t be worth examining. Something tells me the Heat will eventually realize that they don’t need a point guard, simply because they’ve already got two of them: Wade and LeBron. Besides, after signing the top three free agents on the market and turning the NBA upside-down this summer, it strikes me as gluttonous for the Heat to be out on the market pursuing more pieces. Dear Coach Riley: I think you’ve got enough.
UPDATED 12:45 a.m.
• Though most 2007 draft picks were not getting extensions by the midnight Tuesday ET deadline, the Suns agreed to a five-year, $22.5 million deal with Jared Dudley, said his agent, Mark Bartelstein. ESPN the Magazine reported that the Grizzlies signed Mike Conley to a five-year, $45 million deal. With hours to go before the deadline, only Kevin Durant, Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Dudley and Conley had received extensions amid uncertainty over a new collective bargaining agreement that makes it difficult to assess such players’ value.
• It cannot be overstated that the public truce between the Blazers and Rudy Fernandez is no indication that the Spanish star is happy spending this season – and next, now that his fourth-year option has been picked up – in Portland. While sources say Fernandez is resigned to the fact that he’s a Blazer for the foreseeable future, efforts by Fernandez and his agent, Andy Miller, to tone down the rhetoric will go a long way toward making the situation more fertile for a trade. If nothing else, the fact that Fernandez now has two years left on his contract makes him far less of a flight risk if he’s traded. The Blazers remain steadfastly opposed to giving Fernandez his wish and releasing him from his contract so he can return to Spain. So for now, Fernandez appears content to accept his minutes and role while allowing trade inquiries from other teams to progress naturally.
Tags: Al Horford, Berger's Post-Ups, Bulls, Carlos Arroyo, Carmelo Anthony, David Stern, Derrick Favors, Dwyane Wade, Evan Turner, Gilbert Arenas, Hawks, Heat, Isiah Thomas, James Jones, Jared Dudley, Joakim Noah, John Wall, Kevin Durant, Knicks, LeBron James, Mike Miller, Nets, Nicolas Batum, Nuggets, Rudy Fernandez, Thunder, Trail Blazers
Posted on: September 12, 2010 5:13 pm
The revelation of the world championships, quite obviously, was Kevin Durant. He did everything for Team USA -- did exactly what was required of a blossoming superstar who was asked to put his imprint on the world basketball stage.
So without a doubt, Durant will be suiting up for the 2012 Olympics in London, when some of the divas who passed on Turkey will be back to defend the gold medal attained by the Redeem Team in Beijing two years ago. But what became plainly apparent Sunday, as the United States ended a 16-year drought in the FIBA worlds by beating Turkey 81-64 for the gold medal, is that not all of those '08 Olympians will be assured of getting their spots back.
Far from it.
It's widely assumed that three spots will be available: those belonging to Jason Kidd, Tayshaun Prince and Michael Redd. So as I plan out Mike Krzyzewski's Olympic roster before Team USA even gets to the airport, I say those spots should go to Durant, Lamar Odom and Chauncey Billups.
When the Americans left U.S. soil as underdogs to Spain in the eyes of many, I felt that however this tournament played out, Odom and Billups deserved spots on the team for London. As good as Durant was, it's impossible to dismiss the championship pedigree Odom and Billups brought to this otherwise woefully inexperienced team. If nothing else, Odom and Billups deserve a spot as a reward for taking one for the country this summer. They stepped up and gave Jerry Colangelo and Coach K their commitments at a time when LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were too busy working on their Twitter accounts, and while Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony were occupied with trying to get traded.
As far as tangible contributions, Billups didn't shine during the tournament. But no one should have a problem with him getting the Jason Kidd memorial roster spot in London for his experience and for his trouble this summer. As for Odom, who was brilliant in the gold-medal game with 15 points and 11 rebounds -- including a flurry of putbacks, 3-pointers and work-ethic baskets in the fourth quarter -- he earned a spot regardless. My pal Gregg Doyel still thinks Odom is a lackadaisical yo-yo ; I've always thought he was wrong about that, and that much was proven beyond any doubt in this tournament. Odom was huge for the U.S. It was no coincidence that the Naismith Trophy was handed first to Odom and Billups Sunday in Istanbul. They earned it. American basketball is all about pecking order, and they were right at the top of it, where they belonged.
But this so-called "B-Team" so far exceeded expectations from spots 1-12 that there will be precious little room for sentimentality when Colangelo and Krzyzewski assemble the Olympic roster in two years. Let's say I'm right and you start with Durant, Odom and Billups joining '08 Olympians James, Wade, Anthony, Paul, Kobe Bryant, Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard, Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams. How do you make room for Derrick Rose (which Colangelo must)? How do you ignore the versatility and defensive intangibles offered by Russell Westbrook (which Colangelo shouldn't)? How do you snub Blake Griffin and Tyreke Evans (you probably can't)? What if John Wall is as good as we think he is (which he is)? What if Rajon Rondo wants to play (which he should)?
As the adage goes, these are some good problems for the Americans to have. A few short years after the embarrassment of bronze medals at the 2006 world championships and 2004 Olympics, USA Basketball is back. It was back in Beijing two summers ago with the Redeem Team. But really, this B-Team should be -- and will be -- remembered for driving home the point.
At a time when reputations and gold medals were on the line, the biggest American stars in the sport took a pass. Those who showed up and got the job done should be rewarded. More than a few, I predict, will be.
Posted on: July 16, 2010 12:03 am
Edited on: July 16, 2010 6:47 am
LAS VEGAS – After the whirlwind of being the No. 1 pick in the draft, signing his $25 million endorsement contract with Reebok, and doing other things that No. 1 picks have to do, John Wall is back where he’s most comfortable: on the court.
That’s where he was Thursday night, as I was typing this: in a courtside seat with his knees wrapped in ice, texting with abandon and watching former Kentucky teammate Eric Bledsoe play for the Clippers against the Trail Blazers in an NBA Summer League game. Earlier, Wall had 21 points and 10 assists in his third pro game, an 88-82 victory over the Mavericks. Wall is now 3-0 since the Wildcats lost to West Virginia in the East Regional Final.
“I was excited to play that first game and get into a rhythm and start winning games for my team,” Wall said Thursday night.
Though he didn’t shoot well (4-for-19), it was arguably Wall’s best game since arriving in Vegas. He’s averaging 21 points and 9.3 assists, but the best number Thursday night was in the turnover column: three, after committing eight in each of his first two games.
“I’m trying to get better at everything,” Wall said.
Wall said he’s spoken “once or twice a week” with his future backcourt mate, Gilbert Arenas, since the draft, and hopes to work out with the Wizards’ former franchise player before training camp. Wall is used to playing with top talent – three of his former Kentucky teammates are making their NBA debuts in Vegas this week – but finding a comfort zone with Arenas will be his most important on-court relationship to date.
The Wizards, so far, couldn’t be happier with how Wall is handling the first days of his NBA career. “No diva factor,” is how one source described him. That’s exactly what the Wizards need after enduring the nightmarish fallout from Arenas’ firearms incident and suspension.
The Hawks continue to be the most likely landing spot for free-agent center Shaquille O’Neal, but even Atlanta – which could use Shaq’s ability to sell tickets – is balking at his asking price. The Hawks, after retaining free-agent Joe Johnson with a six-year, $124 million contract, may not be able to get ownership to approve offering O’Neal the mid-level exception starting at $5.8 million.
The Celtics and Mavericks have been monitoring the O’Neal situation, although one person with knowledge of the Celtics’ plans said they’re “not very” active in their discussions about turning Shaq into the Big Leprechaun. The Knicks’ reported interest in Shaq is lukewarm at best, sources say. But if O’Neal is willing to lower his price – say, to the bi-annual exception of $1.9 million – his market would expand considerably. One Eastern Conference GM said if the right team gets O’Neal, he could be “the key to the East.” The thinking is this: The only weakness on Miami’s superteam is in the middle, where Shaq could do some damage.
Hornets officials have begun their search to replace fired GM Jeff Bower, but have not gotten back to several coaching agents involved as to which of their clients will be getting interviews. Former Trail Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard would be good fit, especially considering his relationship with Hornets coach Monty Williams – a former Portland assistant. But a person familiar with the state of the Hornets’ search said several potential candidates haven’t been informed of where they fit on the team’s list of priorities. Meanwhile, ESPN.com reported that Spurs executive Dell Demps interviewed for the job Thursday.
As for Pritchard’s former employer, the Blazers are believed to have zeroed in on Thunder assistant GM Rich Cho, whose strengths in data analysis have wowed the Vulcan Inc. cronies who have owner Paul Allen’s ear. The Vulcanites, as they’re not so fondly called, are wielding plenty of influence in the power vacuum created when Pritchard was fired on draft night, sources say.
The Suns’ search for a day-to-day GM is on hold until former player agent Lon Babby officially is installed as team president. Babby, sources say, will take control of the search, which is believed to be wide open.
As impressive as Wall was for the Wizards Thursday night, he wasn’t even close to being the fan favorite in the game. That honor went to Jeremy Lin, the former Harvard standout invited to play on the Mavs’ Summer League team. Lin, trying to become the NBA’s first American-born Asian player, showed a real flare for getting to the basket and was impressive with 13 points and a plus-14 in 27 minutes.
Posted on: June 28, 2010 1:11 am
Edited on: June 28, 2010 12:39 pm
Two months after parting ways with his agent, Dwight Howard has chosen a new one – Dan Fegan, who also landed No. 1 pick John Wall this summer.
Howard, 24, is at a crossroads in his career as the Magic try to surround him with the right kind of talent to begin winning championships. He also won’t be a free agent until after a new – and likely owner-friendly – collective bargaining agreement is adopted. Fegan’s second significant score of the summer solidified him as “one of the most powerful agents out there,” one team executive said upon hearing of the Howard addition Sunday. Fegan also is a well-versed participant in the ongoing CBA negotiations that could dramatically affect Howard’s on-court earning potential. Unlike this summer’s crop of free agents, who can land one more massive pay day under the current CBA, Howard and other young stars face uncertainty as owners aim to take a substantial bite out of the salaries paid to the highest-earning players.
“Dwight wanted to be represented in the CBA talks,” a person close to the Magic center said.
But what Howard was really looking for was an out-of-the-box, full-service and long-term approach to on- and off-court marketing, according to a one of Howard’s close advisors. Fegan also is now backed by the international clout and deep pockets of the French media giant Lagardere, which recently bought Fegan’s powerful BEST agency and renamed it Lagardere Unlimited.
“Dwight is an iconic superstar with an authentic brand and global appeal,” Fegan told CBSSports.com. “Of course, our team is ecstatic that he chose us.”
Howard parted ways in April with agent Aaron Goodwin, who had represented the All-Star center since he was selected No. 1 overall by the Magic in 2004. While Howard has been criticized for failing to develop his offensive game and for lacking the killer instinct to lead his team to titles, there is no doubting his marketability. In fact, one person with close ties to Howard said he was swayed by Fegan’s vision for following a strategy similar to agent Lon Rosen’s long-range plan for Magic Johnson when he played for the Lakers. A significant portion of Johnson’s career earnings have come from business relationships that Rosen helped him establish in the prime of his career, and they continue to pay off to this day. Rosen, also at Lagardere, will be part of the team representing Howard.
“I just felt that the marketing and agent team at Lagardere Unlimited was a great fit for executing my overall business plan,” Howard said in a statement to CBSSports.com.
Posted on: May 18, 2010 9:01 pm
Edited on: May 19, 2010 9:38 am
Gilbert Arenas tore the Wizards apart. On Tuesday night, the basketball gods took a major step toward putting them back together.
The Wizards "went through a lot last year," Wall said. "I'll have an opportunity to help turn the organization around. They have cap space to add some good players."
Wall said he'd received a text from his college coach, John Calipari, who is at the center of speculation about several NBA coaching jobs. Wall said he hasn't discussed Coach Cal's future with him -- nor has he spoken with his pal, LeBron James, since his season ended prematurely with a loss to Boston in the conference semifinals.
As for the possibility that ping pong balls and free agency could bring them together somewhere, Wall said, "That would be exciting, but I haven't talked to him about that. I'm just excited to get a chance to play in the NBA."