Tag:Timofey Mozgov
Posted on: December 2, 2011 3:30 pm
 

Nuggets and the Nene dilemma

To Nene, or not to Nene. This is the potentially franchise-shaping question facing the Denver Nuggets.

This is becoming familiar territory for Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri, who no sooner got the job last season when he was thrust into the Carmelo Anthony saga. That one ended well for Denver: Melo and his wandering eye got a max extension and a trade to the Knicks. The Nuggets got valuable assets and picks, including players like Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler -- who were already accomplished starters to a degree but also young and cheap enough to build and plan around.

But what about Nene? In a lackluster free-agent class, only Nene and Mavs center Tyson Chandler figure to command max money. Some NBA executives question whether either player is worth a contract starting at the max of $17.4-$17.8 million. If Nene wants to push for a sign-and-trade to a contender -- such as Dallas and Miami, two of the teams on his list -- he'd have to settle for a four-year deal with smaller raises than the Nuggets can offer.

If he wants a five-year deal, he'll stay in Denver. If he just wants a change of scenery, he could get a four-year deal from any number of teams that have cap space or could create it, such as the Nets, Warriors, Rockets or Pacers. In short, Nene has options. Not as many options as Anthony, who had the full extend-and-trade avenue and max sign-and-trade scenario going for him -- but options, nonetheless.

So, why aren't the Nuggets panicking? One, if Ujiri survived the Melodrama, the Nene-a-thon will be a piece of cake. And two, the Nuggets have options, too.

If Nene bolts, Denver is projected to have the most cap room in the league next season -- nearly $39 million, and more if they amnesty Al Harrington between now and then. They have their own first-round pick in 2012 and '13, and could wind up with more if Nene departed via the sign-and-trade route. As weak as this free-agent class is, this year's draft will be deep and exceptional. Not a bad time to undertake a one-year rebuilding/reloading plan if that's what the Nuggets are forced to do.

Also, the Nuggets brass need to find out what Gallinari is going to be in major minutes, not to mention Timofey Mozgov, another piece they got from the Knicks for Anthony. The sting of a rebuilding year also would be minimized by a shortened season. It'll be over fast, and if the Nuggets missed the playoffs, it wouldn't be long before they'd be preparing to pick a potential All-Star in the lottery.

While the Nuggets won't be in the running for a potential superstar free agent like Dwight Howard, Chris Paul or Deron Williams, their copious cap space and assets obtained in the Melo trade would give them flexibility to be one of the biggest players next summer. So do the Nuggets want Nene back? Of course. Ujiri has told him that on many occasions, and as with Anthony, the Nuggets exec has taken the time to build a relationship with his star so there's mutual trust.

But if someone is willing to pay Nene the max in the next week or so, making a 14-point, seven-rebound center a $17 million player? There may be no way to avoid parting ways. And as in the case of Anthony, it could wind up working out for the best for both sides.
Posted on: March 8, 2011 5:10 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2011 5:55 pm
 

Karl, Nuggets agree to three-year extension

After successfully navigating one crisis by getting good value for superstar Carmelo Anthony, the Denver Nuggets averted another one Tuesday when they agreed with coach George Karl on a three-year contract extension that could last as long as six years.

The deal has team options for the fourth, fifth, and sixth years, said Karl's attorney, Bret Adams -- a huge commitment from the Nuggets at a time when coaches have so little job security.

"I think with this team, they just have great confidence that this is a team that's coachable and there's not a more experienced or better coach to do it than George," Adams said. "They stuck with him last year with the cancer, and to take it the next step with this long-term commitment, I don’t think George could be any happier with his future. He wanted to be there, they wanted him there, and with this team it's a whole new re-energized George after the trade."

Contract talks ground to a halt during the months-long process in which Nuggets executives Masai Ujiri and Josh Kroenke were negotiating a trade that eventually sent Anthony to New York on Feb. 20. Once that complicated deal was complete, it didn't take long for contract talks with Karl -- the Nuggets' coach since 2004 -- to Heat up again.

"There was a whole lot of frustration with George having to coach a guy who didn’t want to be there," Adams said. "Only Masai and Josh knew how difficult it was to coach that team in those circumstances. It was difficult, and he kept them winning. To do that under those circumstances was pretty remarkable."

Karl, 59, has won at least 50 games for three straight years and led the Nuggets to the 2009 Western Conference finals against the Lakers. This season, he has dealt with his own personal battle against throat and neck cancer and kept the Nuggets alive in the playoff race despite months of speculation over Anthony's trade destination. The Nuggets are 5-2 since trading their franchise player to the Knicks along with Chauncey Billups for Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Timofey Mozgov, and draft picks. Denver (37-27) currently is fifth in the Western Conference playoff race.

“I’ve always said Denver is the place I want to end my career,” Karl said. “This puts me one step closer to achieving that goal. Masai Ujiri and Josh Kroenke were very professional throughout these negotiations. The Kroenkes have been great throughout this entire process. They’ve been very supportive of me as a coach and during my battle with cancer. I’m excited for the remainder of the season and look forward to making another playoff run.”

Close friends say Karl is energized by the trade, both for the obvious reason of removing the daily distractions of trade speculation and because he's excited about coaching a new group of players. A coach's coach, Karl thrives on the teaching and team-building that comes with the job far more than he thrives on the accolades.

"Getting the Melo trade done and getting George's fairly complicated contract done because of the health issues is a testament to the future of the Nuggets," Adams said. "They've really given real confidence to the fans in Denver as to the direction of this team. They hit two home runs."

Karl, who underwent months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments that spanned from last season through the summer, received another clean bill of health from doctors Tuesday, Adams said. Karl's health issues "had to be addressed" in the contract, and Adams said the Nuggets addressed them "very fairly."

"Extending George’s contract has been one of our top priorities,” said Ujiri, the Nuggets' vice president of basketball operations. “He’s done a tremendous job since arriving in Denver, and particularly with the unique challenges of this season. With George on the bench, we have a bright future and everyone here is focused on finishing the season strong.”

For more on this story, check out our Eye on Basketball blog.
 
Posted on: February 21, 2011 9:57 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2011 9:35 am
 

Knicks, Nuggets agree to Melo trade

Seven months after the famous toast at Carmelo Anthony's wedding, the second member of the Knicks' proposed Big Three is on his way to New York.

Just like he wanted all along.

And now that Anthony is finally a Knick, teaming with Amar'e Stoudemire to form one of the most lethal scoring duos in the NBA, the question of how it's going to work is as important as who's coming next.

The Knicks and Nuggets agreed Monday night on a massive, three-team, 13-player trade sending Anthony to New York, three league sources told CBSSports.com.

The deal, approved by league officials Tuesday night, is Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton, Timofey Mozgov and New York's 2014 first-round pick going to Denver for Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams, Renaldo Balkman and Anthony Carter. The Timberwolves agreed to take Eddy Curry's expiring contract along with Anthony Randolph from the Knicks and send Corey Brewer to New York -- not Denver, as was discussed in a previous version of the trade. The Wolves get $3 million from the Knicks, which will be used to buy Curry out of the few remaining pay checks on his $11.3 million contract.

The Nuggets also get Golden State's second-round picks in 2012 and '13 from New York -- an incredible haul for Denver general manager Masai Ujiri considering the superstar he was forced to trade in his first few months on the job only had one destination in mind. Denver also gets Greek center Kosta Koufos from Minnesota for a second-round pick, a wrinkle added during the trade call with league officials Tuesday. Mozgov and the second-round picks being added after the Knicks made what was described as their final offer Sunday further called into question whether Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan overruled his basketball staff to close the deal.

As they said on one of the news shows Monday night in New York, "If your name is not Amar'e Stoudemire ... you've been traded!"

"They gave up their team," one rival executive said of the assets New York surrendered for Anthony, the league's sixth-leading scorer and a four-time All-Star.

Despite the assets surrendered for Anthony, the deal was another bold step for Knicks president Donnie Walsh, who needed only two years to clean up a decade-old mess at the Garden and put two of the top 10-15 players in the NBA in Knicks jerseys in a span of seven months. Though the Knicks team that emerges from this trade will have flaws, it is the most relevant -- and most dangerous -- team that has inhabited the Garden in more than a decade. The key player the Knicks would have refused to give up in the deal was Landry Fields, a second-round pick who has emerged as one of the top rookies in the league.

Pending the passing of physicals, Anthony and Billups will make their Knicks debuts Wednesday night against Milwaukee at the Garden.

The question becomes whether Walsh will have enough flexibility to make the third member of the Anthony wedding trinity, Chris Paul, appear between 31st and 33rd Streets when he is a free agent in 2012. Deron Williams also will be a free agent that summer, and CBSSports.com reported last week that Williams began contemplating a union with Stoudemire last summer. It isn't clear whether Stoudemire and Anthony making a combined $40 million in 2012-13 will allow space for a third max player under a new collective bargaining agreement. But once the Lakers, Celtics and Heat set the precedent for superstars teaming up, it can't be good for them and not good for others.

The Nets, whose pursuit of Anthony ended Monday night in a crushing disappointment for Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov, could expand the deal by taking two ex-Knicks from Denver but are not fully committed to the idea, according to a person briefed on the negotiations. The Nets' involvement depends on which two of the four ex-Knicks the Nuggets want to trade. Nuggets officials have been pushing for some degree of assurance that they can flip two of the Knicks players they are getting for draft picks, which they value more.

It was presumed earlier Monday that Denver would flip Gallinari and Mozgov to New Jersey for two first-round picks, providing the final incentive for Denver to part with its franchise player. But sources indicated Monday night that the Nets may actually want Felton in that scenario, and that New Jersey prefers Felton over acquiring Andre Miller from Portland in one of several separate potential trades they are discussing.

Either way, Anthony finally will get his wish Tuesday -- a three-year, $65 million extension with the Knicks, the team he has pushed to be dealt to since September. CBSSports.com reported in December and again in January that Anthony, if traded, wouldn't sign an extension anywhere but with the Knicks. His persistence was tested in recent days, when Anthony agreed to meet with Prokhorov, hip-hop mogul Jay-Z and other Nets management figures during All-Star weekend in Los Angeles as a condition of getting permission to meet with the Knicks' Dolan. Anthony was careful not to give any commitment to Prokhorov, but he also didn't turn the Nets down. To ensure that the Nuggets could get a competitive offer from New York, Anthony needed to leverage the possibility of signing the extension with the Nets. So in a way, Anthony and Ujiri were working in tandem all along to get Anthony to his preferred destination in a way that satisfied both their agendas.

Anthony, 26, will join fellow All-Star Stoudemire, 28, to form one of the most potent offensive duos in the NBA -- and the highest-profile superstars in their prime that the team has had in the lives of most Knicks fans. But with the Knicks giving up three starters and Mozgov, a 24-year-old 7-footer, New York will have a thin bench and still won't have a defensive big man to take pressure off Stoudemire. In addition, Stoudemire and Anthony will be scheduled to make $40 million combined in 2012-13 -- perhaps hampering the Knicks' efforts to land a member of that summer's star-studded free-agent class including Paul, Williams, and Dwight Howard.

Meanwhile, Denver's new basketball brain trust of Ujiri and executive Josh Kroenke passed an enormous test of their will, patience and negotiating chops with flying colors. Going all the way back to September, when they refused to pull the trigger on a four-team Melo trade involving Charlotte and Utah, Ujiri and Kroenke expertly played the Knicks and Nets against each other to the tune of a potentially massive package of assets for Anthony. The strategy resulted in an out-of-control groundswell of public support in New York for the Knicks to acquire Anthony, a player some significant members of the organization were determined not to give up major assets to acquire. And in an unimaginable twist given the obstacle that Anthony only wanted to re-sign with the Knicks, the Nuggets could wind up walking away with significant assets from both of the teams that pursued their star player.

It is common for general managers to print money in trades through contract-swapping. The Nuggets could essentially wind up printing draft picks by flipping two of the Knicks' players they didn't want for assets they value more. Even if the Nuggets wind up trading none of the ex-Knicks to New Jersey, it was an extremely impressive debut in the hot seat for Ujiri, a Nigerian-born former international scout who was part of the Toronto front office that got burned by free agent Chris Bosh last summer.

The Knicks get older, but arguably better at the point guard position with Billups, 34, taking over for Felton, 26 -- though Billups is not a classic pick-and-roll point guard and will have trouble playing the heavy minutes Felton endured. Williams, a disciplined, 6-9 reserve, will help bolster New York's undersized front court, and the addition of Brewer to the deal gives the Knicks a much needed wing defender.

In the end, this one's all about Melo -- a sidekick for Stoudemire who will cause problems for Boston, Miami and Chicago while serving as further magnetism for future free agents.  

They're still one shy of a Big Three.

For up to date news on the NBA trade deadline, follow Ken Berger on Twitter at @KBerg_CBS
For more on the Nuggets' trade of Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks: 
Ben Golliver breaks down the winners and losers from the trade
Did this trade make the Knicks contenders? Royce Young has his doubts
Carmelo Anthony: No one man should have all that power , thinks Matt Moore. 


Posted on: February 21, 2011 2:18 pm
Edited on: February 21, 2011 2:42 pm
 

Melo-to-Knicks deal expanding?

LOS ANGELES -- As the Knicks and Nuggets remained in advanced talks Monday on a trade that would send Carmelo Anthony to New York, CBSSports.com confirmed that the deal could expand to include an unlikely facilitator -- the rival Nets.

A person familiar with the rapidly unfolding negotiations said New Jersey could be willing to send two first-round picks to Denver for Russian center Timofey Mozgov and another Knick -- perhaps Danilo Gallinari -- if those players were dealt to the Nuggets for Anthony.

ESPN The Magazine first reported the latest twist in the Anthony saga, which suggests that the Nets are willing to abandon their pursuit of Anthony but only if they can divert two key Knicks assets across the Hudson River in the process.

A second source with direct knowledge of the talks cautioned that it was premature to address the new angle involving the Nets as an indirect facilitator in what would be a separate transaction with the Nuggets because the Knicks and Nuggets have yet to agree to a deal.

As CBSSports.com reported Sunday, the Knicks sweetened their proposal for Anthony in what sources described as their "final offer," agreeing to send Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton and their 2014 first-round pick to Denver for Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams and Anthony Carter. The Nuggets also would get Corey Brewer from Minnesota, which would receive Eddy Curry's expiring contract and forward Anthony Randolph from the Knicks.

The Nuggets, nearing the end of an arduous process that has been unfolding for five months, were pushing for the Knicks to include Mozgov in the deal -- a concession New York has been unwilling to make, especially considering the Nets' minimal chances of persuading Anthony to sign a three-year, $65 million extension with them. Such an agreement from Anthony has been the key obstacle to the Nets completing a trade agreed to with Denver during All-Star weekend -- with the package including Derrick Favors, Devin Harris and multiple first-round picks.

Nets officials, led by owner Mikhail Prokhorov and hip-hop mogul Jay-Z, met with Anthony Saturday in Los Angeles but did not come away with a commitment from the four-time All-Star. Unwilling to abandon any leverage in his pursuit of the extension heading into the uncertainty of a new labor agreement, Anthony also did not close the door on the Nets in that meeting, a person familiar with the situation told CBSSports.com.

Prokhorov covets Mozgov, a six-year pro in Russia before signing with the Knicks last summer. But he also hopes the prospect of two key Knicks players thriving across the river -- and in Brooklyn in 2012 -- could make the Knicks reluctant to complete the trade for Anthony. It's a tactical gamble that would be a win-win for Prokhorov, who would either swoop in to steal Anthony if the Knicks backed away or land two ex-Knicks to make their New York rival uncomfortable.

Either way, the Nets' willingness to allow Denver to flip two Knicks to them in exchange for draft picks could be the final piece that pushes the painstaking Anthony talks to their conclusion. The Nuggets' new management team of Masai Ujiri and Josh Kroenke, having shown patience and negotiating muscle beyond anyone's expectations, would come away with every conceivable asset they were seeking in an Anthony trade: quality young players on reasonable contracts (Chandler and Felton), three first-round picks (one from New York and two from New Jersey), and upwards of $20 million in savings.

Hours before the Nuggets were scheduled to practice at 6 p.m. MT Monday in Denver, it remained an open question whether Anthony would be there -- perhaps for his final public appearance as a Nugget. The trade deadline is 3 p.m. ET Thursday.


"Obviously something has to happen, whether I stay in Denver or they trade me or whatever," Anthony said after the West's 148-143 victory in the All-Star Game. "The end is here." 









Posted on: February 20, 2011 3:41 pm
Edited on: February 21, 2011 1:08 am
 

Knicks make final offer for Melo

LOS ANGELES -- The Knicks have made what was described as their final trade proposal for Carmelo Anthony Sunday, pushing the months-long drama toward its merciful conclusion, CBSSports.com has learned.

The Knicks would send three starters -- Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, and Raymond Felton -- to Denver for Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams and Anthony Carter, sources said Sunday. The Nuggets would get the Knicks' first-round pick in 2014, while Minnesota would get Eddy Curry's expiring contract and Anthony Randolph from New York. Curry would then be waived, and the Knicks would send as much as $3 million to Minnesota to pay his freight. 

The Wolves also would send Corey Brewer to Denver in the proposed deal. Carter must approve the trade and waive his Bird rights for the trade to be approved.

Confident that a Friday night meeting between Anthony, his representatives, and a Nets contingent led by Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov and hip-hop mogul Jay-Z did not result in a commitment from Anthony to sign an extension with New Jersey, the Knicks are drawing the line. They are not offering rookie Landry Fields or Russian center Timofey Mozgov, two pieces Denver has asked for at various times in the negotiations, sources said.

"We shall see," Anthony said on his way out of Staples Center after the All-Star Game Sunday night, after being informed of the status of trade talks with the Knicks.

Earlier, Anthony revealed that he did not give, nor did the Nets ask for, a commitment from him on whether he would sign a contract extension that would trigger the completion of a trade that already has been agreed to between the Nuggets and New Jersey. He described the meeting with Prokhorov as "a good meeting" and "interesting," and said he was "just listening" to the Nets' presentation.

"I didn't give anybody a definitive answer," Anthony said.

Anthony said the Nuggets "have been knowing everything since day one" about where he would and wouldn't sign an extension. 

"They know everything," he said.

While Anthony privately has been entrenched for months in his position that he would only agree to an extension with the Knicks if the Nuggets traded him, a person familiar with the three-time All-Star's thinking told CBSSports.com Sunday night that he did not close the door on the Nets in their meeting. Doing so would have eliminated the Nets as a last resort to get the three-year, $65 million extension that would be off the table in a new collective bargaining agreement.

The Anthony drama now rests in the hands of Nuggets executives Josh Kroenke and Masai Ujiri, who must decide whether to accept the Knicks' offer, continue pushing for a trade to the Nets, or keep Anthony beyond Thursday's trade deadline. Sources say it is unlikely a deal would be agreed to Sunday.

"The deadline is Thursday," Anthony said. "So obviously something has to happen, whether they trade me or I stay in Denver or whatever," Anthony said. "The end is here. All this stuff will be over with. I'm excited for this stuff to be over with, and I'm pretty sure everybody else is excited for it to be over with."

Anthony said he would "not be upset at all" if he were still with the Nuggets after the deadline.

A person familiar with the trade negotiations told CBSSports.com Sunday that the Nuggets were still working through specifics with the Knicks and were pushing for New York to add Mozgov to the deal. Denver also hasn't shut the door on the Nets, with whom they have agreed to the framework of a trade, according to the source. But it appears that key figures in the organization have grown comfortable with the Knicks' offer, which was sweetened significantly after the Nets re-emerged in the discussions during All-Star weekend in Los Angeles.

As the Knicks' pursuit of Anthony reached a tipping point Sunday, the team released a joint statement from Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan, president Donnie Walsh, and coach Mike D'Antoni saying all three were in agreement on the Anthony discussions. In a rare and obscure step, the statement also asserted that "no one from outside our organization" was involved in the Anthony process -- an obvious reference to former team president Isiah Thomas, whose input Dolan has received since Thomas was replaced by Walsh in 2008.

With so many agendas and obfuscation attempts at play, it was difficult to predict Sunday how Denver would respond. But Nuggets executives have signaled that they want a resolution to the Anthony matter by the end of All-Star weekend -- a timetable that Anthony publicly stated that he favored, as well. 

Just as the Knicks' negotiating strategy was sidetracked by Dolan's decision to get involved in the negotiations and meet with Anthony Thursday night in Los Angeles, so have the Nuggets' efforts been influenced by agendas affecting their still complicated hierarchy. Sources say Denver's reluctance to deal with New York throughout the process was prompted more by a feeling among some segments of the team's power structure that they should not give Anthony what he wants -- the extension with the team of his choice. But sources also assert it will be difficult for Denver to turn down what could be the best offer they will receive for Anthony -- one that gives them a quality point guard, Felton, on a better contract than the Nets' Devin Harris; a young, promising frontcourt player, Chandler, who is more polished than New Jersey's Derrick Favors; a hard-nosed, floor-spacing shooter, Gallinari, instead of multiple first-round picks from New Jersey whose ultimate value is undetermined; and $20 million in immediate savings.

The Nuggets' basketball staff is said to have preferred the Nets' long-standing offer centered around Favors and multiple picks, which would set the team up for a long-term rebuilding process -- whereas the Knicks' offer provides assets better suited to a quicker turnaround after Anthony's departure. But the Nets' competing offer ran its course with Friday night's obligatory meeting between Anthony and New Jersey officials, which CBSSports.com reported was allowed as a condition of Anthony receiving permission to meet with Dolan on Thursday.

Keeping Anthony beyond Thursday's trade deadline remains an option, though the likelihood of that has decreased dramatically, sources say. Denver is not seriously considering a nuclear option with Anthony, which would involve telling him the team will not trade him to new York and also won't give him the extension -- making New Jersey the only path to the money for Anthony. That option, sources say, would reflect poorly on the organization and could hinder its future dealings with players.



Posted on: October 14, 2010 12:55 am
 

NBA's new rule causes technical difficulties

NEW YORK – Last season, the Celtics had one of the most gifted technical-foul accumulators in NBA history on their roster. With 14 techs, Rasheed Wallace was one behind teammate Kendrick Perkins and the Magic’s Dwight Howard for the league lead.

So after pushing the limits of on-court indecency on their way to the NBA Finals, the Celtics now have the equally impressive distinction of defining how quick a tech trigger is too quick under the league’s crackdown on griping about calls. On Wednesday night, Jermaine O’Neal discovered that under these rules, pillow talk can get you T’d up.

O’Neal was called for a foul while defending Knicks center Timofey Mozgov with 4:39 left in the second quarter of the Celtics’ 104-101 victory. O’Neal described the following exchange with official Zach Zarba.

“I walked up to him and he said, ‘Jermaine, walk away,’” O’Neal said. “I said, ‘I can’t talk to you now?’ Just like that. Soft, bedroom voice. And he gave me a tech. … To me, that’s too quick. Way too quick.”

Seconds later, noted loudmouth Kevin Garnett was whistled for a tech by referee Kane Fitzgerald, and then for another one, resulting in an ejection. Those two extremes, seconds apart in a preseason game played just a few city blocks from NBA headquarters, highlighted the problem David Stern has with his latest attempt to sanitize the league.

“I see what the league is trying to do with the consistent talking to the refs all the way down the court,” O’Neal said. “I can understand that aspect of it. But when guys walk up and ask, ‘What did I do?’ We should be able to do that.”

Officials from the NBA’s officiating department were on hand for the Knicks-Celtics game Wednesday night to explain the new threshold for technical fouls to the media. I got the shpiel last week in Miami, and this is my interpretation: What Garnett did certainly warranted two techs and an ejection. What O’Neal did warranted an explanation and that’s it.

This is what the NBA is wrestling with on the eve of its most anticipated season of the post-Jordan era. Stern went after the players with a dress code years ago, and he’s got the barber sheers out for all the haircuts owners have in mind for players in collective bargaining. Now, Stern is out to strip the players of more control by stopping the constant bickering about calls. If anything is more inherent to basketball than complaining about calls, I don’t know what it is. But this is where we are.

Until both players and referees adjust to Stern’s latest new world order, we have a mess – a needless controversy of the NBA’s own making, as if the league isn’t good enough at unintended controversy and conspiratorial hooey, especially when it comes to the officiating.

“It’s going to make it look like it’s about the officials,” O’Neal said.

Zarba, Fitzgerald and Kevin Fehr were on a roll Wednesday night, as if they were the Big Three everybody came to see. But it isn’t their fault. According to O’Neal, the look in the officials’ eyes after dishing out four techs to O’Neal, Garnett and Mozgov in a matter of minutes was, “I’m just doing my job.”

And they weren’t the only ones. I counted 12 techs in seven preseason games Wednesday night. I didn’t go to the videotape, but I’m willing to bet that a good number wouldn’t have been techs a year ago.

“I think they’re going to have to take a second look and see how it affects the games and especially the stars,” the Celtics’ Paul Pierce said. “You know people pay good money to come out and see the stars play. Even though we have to play by the rules, I think there has to be some kind of leniency. When a guy turns and just looks at you for a technical, that can cost you a game. That can cost you a player coming out of the game. I think that’s something they’re going to have to look at real hard. This is an emotional game and players are going to use emotion and that’s not going to stop.”

There is a middle ground to be found here, and it isn’t Pierce’s position. (It certainly isn’t Celtics Hall of Fame announcer Tommy Heinsohn’s .) But whatever it is, someone had better find it before the story of Miami’s dynamic duo of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade is overwhelmed by the story of technical fouls.

“Our research shows that fans think NBA players complain too much,” NBA vice president Stu Jackson said on a recent conference call. Just wait until they find out what fans think after watching highlight after highlight of players getting T’d up and tossed during the first week of the regular season.

This is the way Joe Borgia, the NBA’s vice president of referee operations, explained it in the media seminar held last week prior to the Heat’s preseason opener in Miami. Demonstrative and continuous displays of emotion will not be tolerated under the new rules. Players will be allowed to display emotion in the heat of the moment, as long as it isn’t over the top – and as long as they get under control and walk away. To drive home the point, the league has raised the fines for technicals, too.

But Borgia also said that give-and-take between players and refs would be allowed to continue in a civilized way. In other words, what O’Neal did Wednesday night should have been allowed. If a player simply is asking for an explanation of a call, he is supposed to be entitled to the explanation. Just no follow-up questions, and no aggressive displays of emotion.

Pretty simple. But to no one’s surprise, neither the players nor the refs understand where the line is yet. That’s a sign that the line needs to be moved.

“I think officials will have a better feel on it,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “J.O., I was very surprised because he never raised his voice. He didn’t walk away, but it wasn’t anything demonstrative. We’re going to figure it out; it’s just going to take some time. When you talk to the officials, they don’t get it yet. They’re trying to figure it out. It’ll get figured out by Game 1.”

There was an effort a couple of years ago to crack down on the players’ excessive complaining. It was a story for a while, and then things went back to business as usual. With the players wielding all the control in free agency this past summer, and with a potentially ugly CBA fight under way, the days of zero tolerance are here.

The players will adjust. Once they do, the refs will give them more leeway. There has to be give-and-take. Every call and non-call on an NBA court can be debated and reviewed all night. Some disagreement is OK, if done respectfully. A lot of it isn’t OK, and that’s the part Stern is trying to get his referees to eradicate.

“It’s about all of us,” Rivers said. “It’s not just the officials. It’s the players and the coaches. We’ve got to keep trying to make this a better product. And so if people smarter than me have decided that this is what we need to do, then we need to do it and we need to adhere to it. I don’t think it’s that hard.”

No, it shouldn’t be. And ultimately, it won’t be. As long as what you're seeing so far in the preseason isn't the norm.
Posted on: September 24, 2010 7:19 pm
Edited on: September 25, 2010 10:46 am
 

Preseason Primers: New York Knicks


The Knicks didn't get LeBron James. Or Dwyane Wade. Or Chris Bosh. Was the offseason a failure? Hardly. The Knicks are relevant again, with superstar Amar'e Stoudemire and supporting players Mike D'Antoni actually wants to coach. Playoffs? Let's not get carried away, but they have a shot. Which is more than the Knicks have been able to say for a long time. The buzz is back at Madison Square Garden. Now, all Donnie Walsh has to do is get Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul or Tony Parker. Maybe then he'd get some of the credit he's due. But even if Walsh never signs or trades for another player, he's already restored respectability and competitivenss to what was a lost franchise when he took over.

Training camp site: Greenburgh, N.Y.

Training camp starts: Sept. 25

Key additions: Amar’e Stoudemire (sign-and-trade), Raymond Felton (free agent), Anthony Randolph (trade), Kelenna Azubuike (trade), Ronny Turiaf (trade), Roger Mason Jr. (free agent), Landry Fields (draft).

Key subtractions: The stench of a decade of irrelevance. And David Lee (sign-and-trade)

Likely starting lineup: Felton, PG; Wilson Chandler, SG; Danilo Gallinari, SF; Stoudemire, PF; Ronny Turiaf, C.

Player to watch: Eddy Curry. Once again, all eyes are on the Knicks’ troubled center, who was on the verge of being an All-Star a few short years ago and now is hanging onto his career by a thread. Curry hasn’t made it through the first day of training camp for the past two years, so progress will be measured in baby steps. The best thing that could happen for all concerned is that Curry somehow stays healthy, keeps his weight in check, and shows enough in preseason to coax someone into taking on his $11.3 million expiring contract in a scenario that makes the Knicks better. For now, making it through a practice will do.

Chemistry check: Although the Knicks inexplicably flirted with past demons with the ill-fated attempt to bring Isiah Thomas back as a consultant, this is as clean as the slate has been at Madison Square Garden in years. With athletes like Stoudemire and Randolph, shooters like Gallinari and Mason, and a serviceable point guard in Felton, Mike D’Antoni finally will get to fully implement his offensive philosophy. Just as important, Stoudemire’s star power will bring the buzz back to the Garden.

Injury watch: Azubuike is still recovering from last season’s knee injury, and when he’s ready, he’ll be the starting shooting guard. That will give D’Antoni the flexibility to slide Chandler to the three or four, making him interchangeable with Gallinari and Randolph depending on matchups. Curry should be the starting center on paper, and the Knicks would like for him to be productive to increase his trade value. But if Curry falters – a good bet, given his track record – the Knicks are extremely high on Russian rookie Timofey Mozgov. D’Antoni is a huge fan of the 7-1 center, who figures to pass Curry on the depth chart by the start of the regular season.

Camp battles: Aside from Curry-Mozgov, D’Antoni has a pretty good idea of what the rotation will be. Mason, Bill Walker, Randolph and Turiaf give D’Antoni the most bench flexibility that he’s had since he came to New York. Fields, a sleeper in the draft who impressed with his length, athleticism and intelligent play during Summer League and in offseason workouts, figures to be a regular part of the rotation.

Biggest strength: The Knicks have been so bad, irrelevant and mismanaged for so long that the fact that team president Donnie Walsh has them under the cap with a superstar big man and young talent around him has gone overlooked. Such is the hangover from the pursuit of LeBron James. But remember: If Walsh hadn’t created cap space for two max players, James wasn’t coming to New York anyway. If Walsh hadn’t landed Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony wouldn’t want to come, either.

Glaring weakness: Aside from needing one more star to compete with the elite teams in the East, the Knicks need something D’Antoni isn’t known for: defense. They definitely have the athletes to defend better than their reputation under D’Antoni would suggest. Now they have to add the commitment and prioritize it, which will be one of the most important goals in training camp.
 
 
 
 
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