Posted on: December 1, 2011 8:29 pm
And it begins.
Get ready for a replay of the Carmelo Anthony saga, with Chris Paul playing the role of protagonist and the big, bad Knicks once again in the villain role.
Cue the small market-big market theme song.
Seen this movie before. It's called "Gone With the Wind."
With Yahoo Sports reporting Thursday that Paul's representatives have informed the Hornets that he will not sign an extension with the team and that he wants to be traded to the Knicks, and with the Hornets immediately shifting into damage-control mode, we're right back where we were with Melo and the Nuggets. There are several key differences, however, that should be noted.
First, as pointed out earlier this week, the new rules take some leverage away from Paul in his bid to get to New York. Oddly enough, the rules that emerged from a lockout that was supposed to be about keeping small-market stars from fleeing to big markets also has taken a measure of protection away from the home team.
But Paul has done something important here that Anthony and his camp -- the same folks from Creative Artists Agency who orchestrated the union of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami last July -- didn't do. Paul has gotten started with his exit strategy much earlier.
Actually, it was last July when Paul's reps first informed Hornets brass that he wasn't sticking around and wanted to be traded to the Knicks, Lakers or Magic. At the time, the world was focused on LeBron and then the Knicks turned their focus to Anthony, who waited until the free-agent dust settled before clamoring to be dealt to the Knicks to team up with Amar'e Stoudemire.
Anthony got his way -- got his cake and was able to eat it, too. He did this under the old rules, which allowed him to get the same max extension (three years, $65 million) that he could've signed had he stayed in Denver. That avenue is no longer available to Paul. An extend-and-trade deal would only get him one year added to the two years he has left, a non-starter for a superstar of his caliber.
An extension with New Orleans would only net Paul two more years for about $39.6 million. This is nothing compared to what Anthony got, and not even close to the extensions that James, Wade and Bosh turned down before joining forces with the Heat. They did so by getting max length and dollars via sign-and-trades, and that option isn't open to Paul, either -- at least not in the same lucrative way. If he opts out and exits New Orleans via a sign-and-trade, he'd only get a four-year, $74 million deal -- compared to the five-year, $100 million the Hornets could offer. Factor in the notion that the Knicks, as of now, don't have close to the assets necessary to pull off such a deal, and it becomes even less likely.
Which brings us back to the original point: Even though it's December, it's technically July on the NBA calendar. Paul's efforts to determine his own destiny are starting much earlier than Melo's did for a couple of key reasons: 1) With Nene and Tyson Chandler the only potential max free agents in this class, there's no one to steal the attention the way LeBron, Wade and Bosh did las July; and 2) the new rules dictate it.
The Hornets' best chance of not getting stuck losing Paul for nothing is to trade him by mid-January or so. This way, New Orleans gets prime assets from a team where Paul is assured of re-signing with, and Paul only has to wait until July to opt out and get his five-year, $100 million deal from his new team once a newly imposed six-month window expires for players to sign new deals after getting traded.
The clock is ticking on Paul's time in a Hornets uniform, and this will unfold much more quickly than the Melo saga did -- in part, because of the new rules supposedly designed to keep star players from changing teams. Go figure.
There's one key difference so far between Paul's approach and Anthony's. Paul and his representatives have yet to say the words that would turn this saga into the kind of circus that the Melo drama became -- the words that Anthony made abundantly clear last season. What are those words? "I will only sign with the Knicks."
If Paul says those words, the tables turn and the game changes. And the Hornets might be inclined to call Paul's bluff and see if playing in New York with Stoudemire and Anthony is worth about $45 million to him -- the difference between what the Hornets could offer him next July and what the Knicks could offer, given that they currently only have about $13.5 million in projected room as the starting point on a four-year deal.
One thing is clear: We've seen this soap opera before. Getchya popcorn.
With the National Basketball Players Association reformed as a union Thursday with more than 300 authorization votes from players, the union and league can now begin hammering out the fine print of the agreement and negotiate the so-called B-list issues -- such as drug testing, the age limit, etc. A ratification vote is expected by next week, allowing training camps and free agency to open as projected on Dec. 9.
But -- and you knew there would be a but -- there could be a problem for the dozens of players who signed overseas contracts during the lockout. FIBA rules do not allow the paperwork excusing such players from their obligations to be submitted until the CBA is ratified. Once that happens, teams and agents say they're concerned that there could be up to a 48-hour delay in getting the paperwork processed and freeing the players to return to the States.
Thus, there is concern that such players -- the biggest star being the Nets' Deron Williams -- won't make it back in time for the start of camp. League officials are looking into the matter, but here's one way to look at it: If this is the worst fallout from the five-month lockout as far as basketball operations go, so be it.
Sources say there's mutual interest between the Bulls and free-agent forward Caron Butler. But Chicago hasn't ruled out also making a push for restricted free agent Marco Belinelli, whose defensive liabilities wouldn't thrill coach Tom Thibodeau but whose shooting prowess could help open the floor for Derrick Rose. ... Sources confirmed this tidbit passed along by CBSSports.com's Ben Golliver: Hawks guard Kirk Hinrich had shoulder surgery a few weeks ago and is expected to be out until late December or early January.
Posted on: May 18, 2011 7:16 pm
Edited on: May 18, 2011 9:36 pm
CHICAGO – Mike Brown finds the Warriors head coaching job “intriguing,” according to a person who said Wednesday the former Cavaliers coach has had conversations with Golden State officials about the opening.
Brown, who was fired after last season despite averaging 54 wins over five seasons in Cleveland, has yet to formally interview with Warriors owner Joe Lacob, sources said. Also in the mix to replace Keith Smart as Warriors coach are Lakers assistants Brian Shaw and Chuck Person, Celtics assistant Lawrence Frank, and Hornets assistant Michael Malone, according to sources. The search is expected to gain momentum in the coming days.
Frank also is one of three finalists for the Rockets’ head coaching position, along with Mavericks assistant Dwane Casey and former Timberwolves coach and GM Kevin McHale. All three are having second interviews this week, sources said, the Rockets officials are in the evaluation process. Two high-level coaching sources said Casey appears to be the favorite for the Houston job.
While Brown would bring playoff experience and a defensive foundation to a Warriors team that needs both, Malone – Brown’s former assistant in Cleveland – is a creative and especially intriguing candidate. Like reigning coach of the year Tom Thibodeau, Malone, 39, was mentored by former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy and is known as a defensive guru. He transitioned to coaching the offense in Cleveland after John Kuester left the Cavs for the head job in Detroit.
Malone, the son of Magic assistant and longtime NBA coach Brendan Malone, has coached in the playoffs seven times, including two appearances in the conference finals and one in the NBA Finals. He was hired last year as Monty Williams’ lead assistant in New Orleans.
Posted on: May 16, 2011 6:31 pm
Edited on: May 16, 2011 9:44 pm
CHICAGO – The Heat convened for practice Monday on the University of Illinois-Chicago campus with a big problem on their hands. That problem was named Derrick Rose, who was hunkered down with coach and film junky Tom Thibodeau at the Bulls’ practice facility 45 miles away.
By the time I arrived at the Berto Center in Deerfield, Ill., Rose was seated in the corner of the practice floor next to Thibodeau, deeply entrenched in another video session. They watched, they gestured, they scratched their chins as they dissected everything the Bulls did wrong in Game 1.
To the outside observer, that wasn’t much. Chicago has a 1-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals because Rose played a nearly perfect second half, and because the defensive attention he commanded allowed the Bulls to dominate the offensive boards in a 103-82 victory Sunday night. The team with the problems, and with the adjustments to make in Game 2, is Miami.
“They’ll do different things, put different players on him, adjust coverages,” Thibodeau said. “We’ve got to be ready to handle that.”
Although Rose had only two shot attempts within five feet of the basket in Game 1, the defensive attention he attracted left the Heat vulnerable on the boards. The Bulls used this advantage to corral 19 offensive rebounds, which they converted into 31 points. That was the difference in the game, delivered mostly by Rose and the way he forced the Heat to play him.
“Any way you can get an offensive rebound, they got them,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, downplaying Rose’s impact on the Bulls’ huge night on the glass. “It wasn’t necessarily about Rose’s penetration.”
But the Heat’s disadvantage is more pronounced when they play with a true point guard on the floor: starter Mike Bibby or backup Mario Chalmers. This has been Spoelstra’s overwhelming preference, as nine of his 10 most-used lineups during the regular season featured a point guard, according to 82games.com. (If you count Eddie House as a point guard, it’s 19 of Miami’s 20 most-used lineups.)
With Rose being the single most important player for the Heat to contain, Spoelstra is in a quandary as he considers making what would be the most significant tactical adjustment of the series: going for longer stretches without Bibby or Chalmers on the floor. This bigger lineup would feature LeBron James initiating the offense and guarding Rose on the defensive end, which would limit the amount of traps and double teams the Heat have to deploy. Dwyane Wade would be at the other wing, with floor-spacer James Jones at small forward and Joel Anthony and Chris Bosh up front.
Spoelstra only used this configuration for 40 minutes this season, counting regular season and playoffs – and 30 of those minutes have come during the postseason, according to adjusted plus-minus guru Wayne Winston. It’s impractical for Spoelstra to play the majority of the game that way, but in proper doses and in the right situations, this bigger lineup with James at the point (or Wade, for that matter) would solve three of the biggest problems that imperiled Miami in Game 1.
First, a bigger, stronger defender would be able to limit Rose’s penetration and bother his jump shot without overloading the floor with help. Staying at home defensively would give Miami a better chance to keep the Bulls from dominating the offensive boards, and a better defensive rebounding performance would ignite the Heat’s transition game – or, at the very least, get them into their offensive sets faster, before Chicago’s disciplined defense has a chance to get set.
Aside from how long Spoelstra is willing to play with Jones instead of James guarding Luol Deng, the key factor in deploying this strategy is James’ willingness to give up scoring opportunities while being more of a facilitator on the offensive end and also embracing the challenge of guarding Rose.
“It doesn’t matter,” James said Monday. “I’ve guarded all five positions throughout this regular season and postseason. Whatever it takes for us to win. If it means guarding Rose from the start and playing more point guard, I’m up to the task.”
One Eastern Conference coach familiar with both teams agreed that playing James at the point with Jones at small forward is “feasible,” but added, “Not full time.” One problem is Jones’ defensive matchup against Deng, who scored 21 points including 4-for-6 shooting beyond the 3-point arc Sunday night with James guarding him. The other issue is whether James has enough quickness to check Rose, and how he would handle defending pick-and-roll situations.
To that extent, Wade could defend Rose some of the time, with James on Keith Bogans or Ronnie Brewer. And whatever problems this presented defensively, the Heat would more than make up for it by putting tremendous perimeter pressure on the Bulls’ defense. With James and Wade penetrating from either wing, they’d have options: kicking out to each other, to Bosh on a pick-and-pop, or to Jones for an open 3-pointer. This way, Miami would steal Chicago’s offensive momentum and force the Bulls to come up with something to counter it.
In 30 minutes of floor time during the playoffs, the lineup of James, Wade, Jones, Bosh and Anthony has performed 20 points better than average, when adjusted for the strength of the opponent, according to Winston. That’s only slightly better than the plus-19 rating for 73 minutes with Bibby instead of Jones. When Chalmers plays with those players instead of Bibby or Jones, the Heat have played 30 points better than average during a 75-minute stretch.
The first step in Spoelstra’s tactical adjustment will be to play Chalmers more than Bibby when he goes with a true point guard on the floor. With Chalmers on the floor during the playoffs, the Heat have played 12 points better than average and only three points better than average with Bibby.
If that doesn’t work, look for Spoelstra to step up his experimenting with a bigger lineup featuring James and Wade as co-facilitators on offense and co-Rose-stoppers on D. As I've said before, the Heat should’ve played without a true point guard more often during the regular season – a look that would’ve made better use of their transition and off-the-dribble skills – so it wouldn’t be such a significant adjustment now.
But like LeBron said: Whatever it takes. And it might just take an unorthodox approach to beat a team like the Bulls, and to stop a disruptive force like Rose.
Posted on: September 29, 2010 7:25 pm
NEWPORT, R.I. – A year ago, Kevin Garnett was visibly limping up and down the court during training camp, trying to hide the fact that he still wasn’t fully recovered from a knee injury that sabotaged the Celtics’ title defense. On the second day of practice Wednesday, Garnett had no limp, no brace, and no signs of being the kind of defensive liability he was last season.
“Night and day,” coach Doc Rivers said. “I wish he would take a break in practice, but that’s another issue we’ll have to solve. He’s explosive again, especially defensively.”
Rivers must have felt like he was standing in a time machine Wednesday when Garnett grabbed a rebound, threw an outlet pass, and still beat his teammates down the floor. I didn’t see it with my own eyes – that portion of practice was closed to inquisitive observers – but Rivers’ account was believable.
“He couldn’t do that last year,” Rivers said. “Even if he could, he didn’t think he could.”
For the Celtics, it’s simple: To have any chance of getting past Miami to take another shot at the Lakers, they need Garnett to be the old Garnett – or, rather, the young Garnett. If nothing else, Rivers will settle for the healthy Garnett in his bid to get the Celtics back to No. 1 in the NBA in field-goal defense; they slipped to No. 9 last season.
“He’ll make or break us,” Rivers said.
That’s because during the Celtics’ surprising run to the Finals in June, Tom Thibodeau’s infamous defensive schemes were compromised and watered down due to Garnett’s lack of mobility. Gone were the days when Thibodeau could take full advantage of Garnett’s agility – not to mention his reputation as the best defensive player in the league – by letting Rajon Rondo attack the ball with halfcourt and midcourt traps supported by Garnett.
“We literally didn’t pressure the ball up the floor [last season],” Rivers said “When you think about it, you have Rondo on the floor and Kevin to shadow and we couldn’t do it last year. That was a huge concession for our defense, and it put way too much pressure on our defense. Teams were running their offense at 18-20 seconds. Two years ago, they didn’t get into their offense until 12 or 10. That was a huge difference for us.”
Posted on: June 14, 2010 1:45 am
BOSTON -- Dwyane Wade sat courtside Sunday night for Game 5 of the NBA Finals, a stage that he desperately wants to revisit. His coach in the 2006 Finals, Pat Riley, recently floated the idea that, if asked, he wouldn't rule out a return to the bench. Wade, for one, isn't planning for such a comeback.
"That’s just something that was said," Wade said after the Celtics beat the Lakers 92-86 to take a 3-2 lead in the Finals. "That’s not anything we’re concentrating on right now in Miami."
Wade said Riley hasn't spoken with him recently about his plans for next season, when it is believed that a request from a marquee free agent would prompt Riley to come down from the executive suite and replace the highly regarded but ringless Erik Spoelstra on the sideline.
"Right now, Spo’s the coach and that’s what I plan for going forward," Wade said.
Wade, one of the top free agents of the frenzied summer that will begin in earnest July 1, prefaced his willingness to answer questions in the hallway leading to the locker rooms with the following caveat: "As long as it's not about free agency." But Wade did confirm a report in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that he spoke last week in Los Angeles with fellow prospective free agents Chris Bosh and Joe Johnson.
"We’re just friends," Wade said. "Just like you talk to your friends, we’re all friends and we all communicate."
Though Wade said he hasn't begun the recruiting process to help lure another star to Miami, the notion of Riley returning to coach could be a big draw. Of the teams with the most cap space to chase free agents, the Nets (Avery Johnson) and Bulls (Tom Thibodeau) have committed to new coaches. The Knicks already have Mike D'Antoni, who is close to several top free agents from his time as an assistant for Mike Krzyzewski with Team USA. The Clippers are holding out hope that they could lure Larry Brown or Phil Jackson, and the Cavs have made a five-year, $30 million play for the top name in college coaching, Tom Izzo.
For now, in Wade's mind, Riley should be excluded from that list. Just know that recruiting season hasn't really begun yet.
Posted on: June 5, 2010 5:23 pm
LOS ANGELES -- Tom Thibodeau has accepted an offer to become head coach of the Bulls, a person with close ties to the Celtics assistant confirmed to CBSSports.com Saturday.
The news, first reported by the Chicago Tribune, comes as Thibodeau is preparing for Game 2 of the NBA Finals with Boston trailing the Lakers 1-0.
Thibodeau, 50, architect of the Celtics defense that contained Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Dwight Howard during Boston's unexpected return to the Finals for the second time in three years, is not permitted to speak with the media due to team policy that muzzles assistant coaches. But the person with knowledge of the agreement called his decision to leave the Celtics for the opportunity to be the head coach in Chicago -- a marquee franchise with a solid roster and cap space to add a max free agent -- "a no-brainer."
No official announcement will come from either team during the Finals.
Posted on: June 4, 2010 10:26 pm
Edited on: June 5, 2010 2:18 pm
LOS ANGELES -- The New Orleans Hornets have offered their head coaching position to Portland assistant Monty Williams, a person with knowledge of the situation told CBSSports.com.
The offer came Friday afternoon after talks broke down with Boston assistant Tom Thibodeau, whose indecision as he helps coach the Celtics in the NBA Finals bumped Williams from No. 2 on the Hornets' list to No. 1. Thibodeau also interviewed with Bulls officials in Los Angeles before the Finals began, signaling his desire to pursue jobs other than the one vacated in New Orleans when interim coach Jeff Bower returned to his full-time GM duties after the season.
Bower and Williams' agent, Steve Kauffman, are said to be in the preliminary stages of negotiations, with financial terms and certain key contractual details yet to be broached. But close friends of Williams, 38, who played for five teams during a nine-year NBA playing career and became Nate McMillan's most trusted assistant in Portland, say he is excited about the opportunity. No serious hangups are expected in the negotiations.
Thibodeau, who has a full plate with the Celtics down 1-0 in the Finals with Game 2 on Sunday, has now emerged as the leading candidate for the Bulls' job. After Thibodeau allowed a Thursday deadline to accept the Hornets' offer lapse -- a deadline that Bower has told friends he did not impose -- the Hornets conducted a lenghty second interview by phone on Thursday with Williams. The Blazers assistant performed well in the interview process, impressing Hornets officials with his preparation and enthusiasm for the job.
Posted on: July 7, 2009 12:09 pm
Edited on: July 7, 2009 11:23 pm
UPDATES THROUGHOUT with Kuester negotiations:
The Detroit Pistons have passed on Avery Johnson in their search for a head coach and have entered into negotiations with Cavaliers assistant John Kuester, a person with knowledge of the situation told CBSSports.com. A person familiar with the negotiations said an agreement is expected within 24 hours.