Tag:Berger's Post-Ups
Posted on: April 13, 2010 12:17 pm

Post-Ups: Playoff Positioning

We know the Lakers (1) will play the Thunder (8) and the Magic (2) will play the Bobcats (7) in the first round. We don't know anything else yet.

Here's what's yet to be decided, and how:


* By virtue of beating Oklahoma City Monday night -- an impressive accomplishment without Brandon Roy -- the Trail Blazers are just about locked into the No. 6 seed. They can clinch it by beating Golden State on Wednesday night. If that happens, the Spurs will be the No. 7 seed regardless of whether they beat Dallas Tuesday night.

* Dallas will be assured the No. 2 seed (and a likely first-round matchup with the Spurs) if Denver beats Phoenix or of Utah loses to Golden State.

* Denver can wrap up the No. 3 spot by beating Phoenix Tuesday night. The Jazz and Suns would then be a lock as the 4-5 matchup, with home-court advantage to be determined when Utah hosts Phoenix Wednesday night.

* If the Nuggets don't beat Phoenix Tuesday night, the Suns and Jazz would have a path to the No. 3 seed. Phoenix would get it with wins over Denver and Utah. The Jazz would get it by beating Golden State and Phoenix.


* Chicago gets the No. 8 seed with wins over the Celtics and Bobcats and a Toronto loss to the Knicks. A Celtics loss to the Bulls also would give the Hawks the No. 3 seed and the Celtics the No. 4.

* Miami clinches the No. 5 seed with a win over New Jersey (duh) or a Milwaukee loss to Boston on Wednesday.
Category: NBA
Posted on: April 12, 2010 6:12 pm
Edited on: April 12, 2010 8:39 pm

Post-Ups: Playoff Positioning Edition

As riveting as the new VH1 show "Basketball Wives" may be, there are more important things to proceed with this evening. Here's a quick guide to the NBA slate Monday night and what matters as far as the playoff race -- in order of interest/importance as determined by me:

* Thunder at Blazers, 10 p.m. ET: OKC needs this one if it wants to avoid the eighth seed -- and despite the Lakers' struggles and the way the Thunder ran L.A. out of the Ford Center a few weeks ago, this would still be the correct strategy. With the tiebreaker over San Antonio, the Blazers need to win to have a chance at the No. 7 seed. Brandon Roy, though, is out with a bone bruise in his right knee.

* Raptors at Pistons, 7:30 p.m. ET (NBA TV): If they want to get swept by the Cavs, the Raptors must win this game. Otherwise, the Bulls can go 1-1 in their final two games and earn the right to be gum on the sole of LeBron's Nikes.

* Hawks at Bucks, 8 p.m. ET/Heat at 76ers, 7 p.m. ET: This is all tied together. Both the Hawks and Bucks need this one to secure their current position (Atlanta No. 3, Milwaukee No. 5). The Hawks would then be rooting for the Bulls to beat the Celtics on Tuesday, and Miami would be hoping for the Bucks to beat the Hawks. Side note: For the sake of Atlanta and the American viewing public, we want the Hawks to somehow face Milwaukee in the first round. A repeat of the Heat-Hawks fiasco from last year's first round -- the most boring seven-game series in NBA history with all seven games being blowouts -- would not be cool with me.

* Mavericks at Clippers, 10:30 p.m. ET (NBA TV): The Mavs essentially would wrap up the No. 2 seed with a victory -- unless the Jazz overtook the Nuggets for the Northwest Division title.

*Wizards at Knicks, 7:30 p.m. ET/Bobcats at Nets, 7:30 p.m. ET: It's Tracy McGrady's last home game as a Knick and it's the Nets' last game at the Meadowlands. If you don't like it, watch a rerun of "Basketball Wives" instead.

Category: NBA
Posted on: April 9, 2010 3:49 pm


Having wrapped up the league’s best record and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, the Cavaliers have the luxury of coasting to the regular-season finish line. Only one problem looms on what Cleveland hopes is a championship horizon. And it’s a big problem – 7-foot-1, 325 pounds to be exact. 

The Cavs are 16-3 without O’Neal, who has been sidelined since Feb. 26 with a torn ligament in his right thumb. Earlier this season, Cleveland was 5-1 without Shaq when he was out with a left shoulder injury. That’s a small sample size, but even I can figure out that the Cavs’ .840 winning percentage without Shaq is better than their .741 winning percentage with him. 

What’s the problem? None, for now. Shaq has been in the NBA for 17 years, so it shouldn’t take him long to figure out which basket the ball is supposed to go into once he returns. But the longer O’Neal is out, and the longer the uncertainty festers about the date of his return, the worse it is for a team that by all other appearances is on a collision course with the Lakers in the NBA Finals. 

Though sources indicate that the team would like to re-integrate O’Neal into the flow for at least the last regular season game Wednesday in Atlanta, coach Mike Brown has been deliberately vague about the particulars. Part of it is that Brown honestly doesn’t know when Shaq will be back. Part of it is that he doesn’t want to know. 

A year ago, Brown took note when the Celtics’ title defense became sidetracked by the daily “will-he-or-won’t-he” speculation about Kevin Garnett’s possible return from knee surgery. Garnett didn’t provide any updates to the media for months, leaving coach Doc Rivers to deal with the distraction. Garnett never ended up coming back, and the Celtics’ beat the Bulls in seven games in a thrilling first-round series anyway. But they ran out of miracles in the conference semifinals against Orlando. Come to think of it, the Celtics are still waiting for the real Garnett to come back – and they may spend their entire playoff run waiting, however long it lasts. 

Brown has told confidants in recent days that he’s trying to avoid the kind of distraction that besieged the Celtics over Garnett’s absence a year ago. Brown’s situation comes with an added complication. Whereas there was no doubt the Celtics would’ve gone farther in the playoffs last year with a healthy Garnett, there is no such guarantee that the Cavs will be better off with Shaq given that they’ve played so well without him. 

The Cavs really need Shaq to deal with only two people in the postseason: Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum. The earliest they’re likely to see either one would be a potential conference finals rematch with the Magic, so there’s no rush. Asked if Shaq’s eventual return could present problems for the Cavs, Rivers said, “I hope so. I hope it tears the entire team apart. But I don’t think so. 

“Shaq’s been through this, and so has LeBron, and so I don’t think there are ever issues when everybody’s trying to win one thing,” Rivers said. There’s only issues when different guys have agendas. And I think Cleveland all year has proven that they’re pretty much an agenda-less team.” 

The question of whether they’re better as a Shaq-less team eventually will be answered. Just don’t ask when. 

Now that the biggest issue of the last week of the regular season is out of the way, here are the rest of the Post-Ups:

• The Clippers will be one of many teams in the market for a new head coach this summer, and sources say they’ve already started doing their homework on one sensible candidate: Mark Jackson. Clippers officials have been calling around for input on Jackson, who has hired agent Steve Kauffman to help him navigate his shift from the broadcast booth to the sideline. Jackson’s supporters in the league have been telling the Clippers not to fear his lack of experience, given the success of previous inexperienced hires such as Rivers and Avery Johnson. They also are touting Jackson as being capable of lighting a fire beneath underachieving point guard Baron Davis. Of course, not much homework is necessary on Jackson. Clippers GM Neil Olshey, like Jackson, grew up in Queens, N.Y., and they’ve known each other since elementary school. Clippers officials are said to be focusing on the draft and free agency before delving fully into their coaching search; they’re in the rare position of having a lottery pick and enough cap room to sign a max free agent. There’s no rush to hire coach, particularly this summer, since the top free agents may want to have a say in the coach they’ll be signing up to play for. The Clippers, Nets and Bulls all will have the ability to offer such a choice; the Knicks have Mike D’Antoni, who would be most of the top free agents’ first pick anyway.

• While much of the 2010 free-agent focus has been on the Knicks, Nets and Heat, the Bulls will enter the summer chase with quiet confidence – not to mention nearly $19 million in cap space. That figure assumes a cap of at least $53.6 million, as the Bulls are among a growing cadre of teams bumping up their projections based on improving revenue data from the league. With a core of Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah, top-notch fan support and a winning tradition woven by Michael Jordan, rival executives are beginning to fear the kind of sales pitch Chicago will be in a position to present to the top free agents – including Chicago native Dwyane Wade. The Bulls also have a couple of trump cards that could make them an even more formidable player in the 2010 sweepstakes. By trading Kirk Hinrich to a team that’s under the cap, Chicago would clear as much as $9 million more – creating enough room to sign one max player and a $10 million player. Teams with cap space that don’t figure to pursue max free agents – such as Oklahoma City and Sacramento -- will be at the center of such subplots throughout the month of July. Those teams have room to absorb contracts and allow other teams to sign players that wouldn’t go to Oklahoma City or Sacramento – a favor that should reap handsome rewards in the form of draft picks or other assets. Bulls officials also are planning to sell free agents on their draft rights to Turkish sensation Omer Asik, a 23-year-old 7-footer whom they hope will follow in the footsteps of countrymen Hedo Turkoglu, Mehmet Okur and Ersan Ilyasova.

• Rumblings that John Wall may not be a lock as the No. 1 pick are exactly what you think they are if you’ve seen Wall play. “Delusional,” said one team executive who will have a lottery pick. “Nobody in their right mind is taking anybody but John Wall with the No. 1 pick. I don’t care if you have Chris Paul and Deron Williams.” Look at it this way, the executive said: If Wall were a free agent this summer, he’d be behind only LeBron and Wade in the pecking order. If Evan Turner were a free agent, he’d be behind Joe Johnson, too. DeMarcus Cousins? He’d be behind all of the above, plus Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire, Yao Ming and Carlos Boozer.

• While it has been widely assumed that only one Eddie would be out in Philadelphia after the season – Jordan, not Stefanski – there is one complicating factor that could change that. And his name is Larry Brown. While the Bobcats coach feels a sense of loyalty to fellow Tarheel and new owner Michael Jordan, there are strong indications that Jordan won’t stand in Brown’s way if he wants to seek another job with complete control over basketball operations. Though some speculation has centered on Brown going to the Clippers, that’s not happening, sources say. The most likely scenario is the Sixers due to Brown’s family ties with the city.

• One team that apparently won’t be cleaning house is the Pacers. Owner Herb Simon told the Indianapolis Star in a wide-ranging interview that Jim O’Brien “will be the coach next season. … I haven’t heard any information that he won’t be back.” Team president Larry Bird will return, too, on his customary handshake agreement, Simon said.

• Not surprisingly, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy takes a contrarian view when it comes to resting superstars down the stretch, as the Lakers and Cavs are doing with Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, respectively. “If you’re worried about injuries, don’t play them in all 82 games,” Van Gundy said at shootaround Friday, according to Newsday’s Alan Hahn.

Great analysis by Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus explaining how and why the league-wide scoring average will exceed 100 points per game this season – the highest mark since 1994-95. The key points: Offense is down on a per-possession basis, but teams are playing at a faster pace. Other than a one-year jump in 1999-2000, teams are playing at their fastest pace since ’94-’95.
Category: NBA
Posted on: April 5, 2010 5:07 pm


It was a mixed bag Monday for Don Nelson, the way it has been for much of NBA coaching career spanning four decades. One victory away from becoming the NBA’s all-time winningest coach, Nelson was once again turned aside by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. 

The fact that Nelson hasn’t won an NBA championship, and that he and the man he’s about to pass, Lenny Wilkens, are the only two coaches with 1,000 wins and 1,000 losses – that all plays a part. So does the fact that Nelson goes out with back-to-back 50-loss seasons, and with some of the same scorched-Earth coaching techniques that have always managed to sabotage his teams along the way. 

It’s not even a given that Nelson is finished; he has one year and $6 million left on his contract, money that he will not walk away from. For all the credit he deserves for tying Wilkens with an injury-ravaged team that has used a record five D-League players this season, Nellie deserves equal servings of scorn for failing to recognize when the jig is up. 

One of the more interesting developments over the past few days came when Nelson stated that he’d been trying to reach his former player and general manager, Chris Mullin, to find out if he’d been selected to the Hall. (Mullin, it turns out, wasn’t selected, either.) Nellie seemed perplexed as to why he hadn’t heard back from Mullin. Just curious: Why would Nelson expect Mullin to call back after Nelson stood by while Mullin was ostracized and eventually booted out of the Warriors’ front office? These are the kind of things only Nellie can comprehend. 

Now, the Warriors are for sale, and Bay Area basketball fans may finally be rid of Nelson and equally loathed owner Chris Cohan in one fell swoop. Any sensible basketball person put in place by presumed new owner Larry Ellison would recognize that the time is now for Nelson to put his feet up in Maui and retire. No more pointless record-chasing, no more mercurial treatment of the players and executives around him. Everyone walks away rich and happy. 

Ellison, the head of Oracle, was the nation’s highest-paid CEO in 2009 with $84.5 million in compensation – mostly in stock – according to the New York Times. As the new owner of the Warriors, he would be wise to set aside just enough to pay Nelson to do nothing next season, and to do it far away from his team. 

As for whether the Warriors can win with Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry in the same backcourt, or with some of the other ill-fitting pieces that Nellie has assembled, that will be for someone else to decide. 

Now that I have that off my chest, here are the rest of the Post-Ups from around the league:

• As team executives get their books in order for the free-agent period that begins July 1, there are indications that the 2010-11 salary cap may not fall as much as earlier projections indicated. Two execs who expect to have cap space for the 2010 free-agent chase told CBSSports.com that their latest projections show the cap being no worse than $53 million – and quite possibly better than that. Last July, the league office circulated a memo to all 30 teams warning of a possible drop in league-wide revenues ranging from 2.5 percent to 5 percent. The result would have been a cap ranging from $50.4 million to $53.6 million. If revenues have been more robust than previously feared, the higher cap could give teams more money to spend on free agents than they’ve been projecting. Several teams continue to work off less optimistic projections for a $52 million cap, with the clear understanding that they’re being overly cautious.

• Now that they’ve clinched a second straight 60-win season and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, the Cavaliers must now walk the dreaded line between staying sharp for the postseason and resting their key players. Over the final week of the regular season, look for Mike Brown to give LeBron James a strategic night off or two. There are two variables in that thought process: Shaquille O’Neal and Anderson Varejao. Ideally, Brown would like to play a couple of games with his full complement of players before the postseason begins, though it’s not absolutely critical since Cleveland has played so well without them. As of Sunday, Brown was still in the dark as to whether O’Neal will return before the end of the regular season or even for the first round. “I don’t know when he’s getting back,” Brown said. “I keep hearing it, and he keeps telling everybody that he’s coming back before the playoffs. He’s telling you guys, you guys are telling me, so you have more information than I do.”

• I give the Cavs credit for not downplaying the importance of the No. 1 overall playoff seed. The team with home-court advantage has won nine of the last 11 NBA Finals, and the Cavs (34-4) have the best home record in the NBA. “That’s a goal that is strived for,” said Ray Allen, whose Celtics won the 2008 title with home-court advantage throughout the postseason. “When you have a team that you know has great potential, that’s your goal, your benchmark that you’re setting out for when you put the team together. That’s what we talked about all year two years ago.”

• Speaking the perils of resting players or not resting them, Celtics coach Doc Rivers told an interesting tale of the final game of the 1992-93 regular season game when he played for Pat Riley’s Knicks. New York had already wrapped up the No. 1 playoff seed in the East heading into the nationally televised regular season finale at home against Michael Jordan’s Bulls. “The league basically said, ‘Everybody better play,’” Rivers recalled. Everybody did, and the Knicks suffered two injuries in the game – to Rivers and John Starks. “I remember Riley saying, ‘That will never happen again,’” Rivers said. Both players returned for the playoffs, where the Knicks lost in six games to the Bulls in the conference finals.

• It's a virtual lock -- or should be -- that Mike Woodson will be re-signed as coach of the Hawks after the season. But the fact that Woodson has been allowed to coach the entire season as a lame duck with no contract extension has naturally given way to speculation about his future. Let me explain: Hawks GM Rick Sund has had a longstanding policy of not discussing contract extensions for players or coaches during the season. That goes for Joe Johnson and Woodson. Sund had to be consistent, or risk the distraction of one person getting extended before somebody else.

• The Andrew Bogut injury has changed the dynamics of the Eastern Conference playoff race in a subtle but very significant way. As of Monday, the Hawks had a one-game lead on the Celtics for the No. 3 seed, which would pit them against the undermanned Bucks in the first round. Without Bogut, the Bucks clearly are the preferred matchup for either Atlanta or Boston, meaning those two teams have more incentive to avoid the No. 4 spot and a first-round matchup with Dwyane Wade and the Heat, who have won eight in a row and 11 of 13.

• The West is a jumbled mess, which will make for an interesting final push for playoff spots. After the Lakers, the Nuggets, Mavericks, Suns and Jazz are tied and teams 2-8 are separated by only three games. All contestants have five games left except the Spurs and Thunder, who have six. San Antonio, with impressive victories over the Cavs, Celtics, Magic and Lakers since the All-Star break, have the most road games remaining (four).
Category: NBA
Posted on: March 26, 2010 5:00 pm
Edited on: March 26, 2010 9:23 pm


OKLAHOMA CITY -- A significant domino tumbled Friday in the 2010 free-agent guessing game, but it didn’t involve who you might think. It came in the form of an important proclamation from a 6-foot-8, 64-year-old man with a gruff voice and an artificial hip. 

Lakers coach Phil Jackson told NBA.com Friday that barring health concerns, he expects to be back coaching the Lakers with a new contract next season. 

Jackson will undergo a physical exam after the season, as he does ever year, but said Friday he doesn’t expect health or financial issues to cloud his future. 

“Probably not,” Jackson said. “I go at the end of the year for a medical checkup now. There are a couple issues I deal with, and if they're all ‘go,’ then I’ve cleared myself. If it’s a warning situation, then I’ll have to have another consideration.” 

Jackson was less forthcoming during his pre-game media briefing Friday night before the Lakers played the Thunder.

"No decision, no leaning at all," Jackson said. "I'm leaning against a wall. ... I'll do the whole physical checkup after the season and then make a decision. It's pretty easy, It'll go pretty quick. It's a two-day thing and then I'll be back and see what happens."

He reiterated that his health is "fine," that he anticipates a clean physical after the season, and that he's not concerned about the financial aspect of the negotiation. "There's some ways around that, and I think that we can find a way to make that work," Jackson said. 

The Zen Master also cleverly noted that it was he who compelled the owner, Dr. Jerry Buss, to re-sign Lamar Odom last summer -- hinting that it would be difficult for him to walk away only one year into that commitment. "At a time when it's tough in this league, he took the step," Jackson said.
If the Lakers were to win another title, Jackson said, "It's imperative to give it another shot. But that's a lot of ifs in there. There's four playoff [series] you have to get through before you can say, 'We won,' and have a chance to do something special again. ... How we make it through the year has a lot to do with it."
Jackson’s intention to return as long as he’s healthy will have a profound impact on the potential 2010 free agent everyone has forgotten about: Kobe Bryant. The four-time champion decided not to terminate his contract after last season, but the extension he was subsequently expected to sign with Lakers has not come to fruition. 

Bryant has steadfastly refused to discuss his contract situation this season, and his agent, Rob Pelinka, did not respond to a request for comment. But until Jackson’s situation was clarified Friday, executives around the NBA had come to believe that it would be unwise to assume Bryant was a shoo-in to re-sign with the Lakers this summer rather than exercise his player option for $24.8 million and join the elite free-agent class that also included LeBron James and Dwyane Wade

“He’s definitely in the mix,” one GM told me recently. “What if they don’t win it this year and what if he’s [ticked] off at Dr. Buss for not re-signing Phil Jackson or he’s sick of playing with whoever and he says, ‘You know what? I’m gonna go put on a New York Knick jersey.’ All of sudden he and Mike D’Antoni hook up in New York and they can talk some Italian. 

“Don’t rule him out if LeBron says no to New York,” the GM said. 

Buss, whose daughter, Jeanie, is Jackson’s girlfriend, said in a recent interview that Jackson’s desire to consider his health after the season was the only impediment to finalizing his return. Jeanie Buss, the Lakers’ executive vice president of business operations, also denied recent reports that family strife could prevent Jackson from returning to coach in 2010-11. 
"I would serve at the behest of the Buss family," Jackson said.

Jackson returning next season would remove a significant tipping point in Bryant’s decision to leave $25 million on the table July 1 and accept significantly less as an unrestricted free agent. Speculation that Bryant would stay in Staples Center and sign with the Clippers are farfetched, according to sources who believe New York is the only place Bryant would go if he left the Lakers. 

“There’s a greater chance he crosses the country and goes to New York than he crosses the hallway and goes to the Clippers,” one executive said. “He can use the Clippers all he wants, but he’s not going to the Clippers -- unless he gets to pick his own coach and GM or something like that. I had no inkling that he would leave the Lakers last summer. Now, New York could be a legitimate option. I wouldn’t rule it out.” 

And with that, here are the rest of the Post-Ups:

• The real question about the free-agent period that begins July 1 is this: If LeBron James stays in Cleveland and Dwyane Wade stays in Miami, what do all these teams do with their cap space? Teams like the Knicks, Nets, Bulls and others will have to decide if they’re going to overpay for a second-tier free agent, use the money to sign several second-tier players, or hold some back for the 2011 free-agent class, which could include Carmelo Anthony. Sources say that the Knicks’ likely fallback option if they don’t get LeBron is Atlanta’s Joe Johnson – but that strategy comes with a caveat. On one hand, Donnie Walsh is too smart to overpay for a player like Johnson who probably isn’t quite deserving of the max. Then again, the Hawks will pay Johnson the max to stay, so if anybody else wants him, the max is what it will take. Johnson said recently that he’d sacrifice to pair up with another elite player, meaning he’d take less than the max. But there’s no reason for him to take less under any other circumstance.

• For similar reasons, Walsh will have to decide whether Chris Bosh is worthy of a max deal if he strikes out on LeBron. Sources familiar with Walsh’s thinking are convinced that he does not regard Bosh as being on the same level as James and Wade, who will be the only two clear-cut max players on the market. “That’s the fallacy with the max,” one prominent agent said. “It allows you to buy Chris Bosh for the same price as LeBron James.” In fact, another person familiar with Walsh’s strategy said if it came down to deciding whether to keep David Lee or sign Bosh to a max deal, Walsh would choose Lee. “There are questions about whether Bosh is the kind of player who can carry a team by himself,” the person said. “He certainly hasn’t done it in Toronto.”

• When the topic of the Magic’s chances of getting back to the NBA Finals comes up, the emphasis is always on whether Vince Carter can be the complement to Dwight Howard that Hedo Turkoglu was last season. But internally, sources say Magic people believe their success is much more closely linked to the performance of point guard Jameer Nelson. Point guard issues helped sink Orlando in last year’s Finals, and Nelson still wasn’t in optimal shape at the start of this season after missing significant time late last season with a shoulder injury. Nelson then tore cartilage in his knee and missed 16 games in November and December, setting his conditioning back even more. “As he’s gotten healthier and gotten in better shape, he’s gotten his quickness back so he’s been able to get in the paint more,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “And he’s also gotten his legs back to where he’s able to shoot the ball better.” Atlanta coach Mike Woodson, whose Hawks beat the Magic this week for the first time in four tries, said Nelson is “still the player that runs their team. Make no mistake about it, he’s an All Star.” But the proof will be in the playoffs, when the issue of whether Nelson’s teammates trust him as a championship-caliber point guard will be resolved one way or another. “We go as the little guy and the big guy go,” Orlando GM Otis Smith said. “You’ll never get an argument from me on that.”

• The Pacers have won four straight and five out of six as they march to the end of another disappointing season. One thing you can count on, according to a person with knowledge of their plans, is Danny Granger being in a Pacers uniform next season. Although teams on the fringes of the free-agent chase will be probing to determine Granger’s availability should they strike out on other options, the Pacers have no intention of moving him, the person said. Indiana wisely embarked on the latest phase of their rebuilding plan with an eye toward the 2011 free-agent class, rather than the 2010 bonanza. With a potential lockout looming, a small-market team like Indiana could not risk committing max money to a free agent this summer with no certainty as to what salary structure will be in place a year from now. As things stand today, the Pacers have only $15.6 million committed to the 2011-12 payroll.
Category: NBA
Posted on: March 11, 2010 5:37 pm
Edited on: March 11, 2010 8:08 pm


Shocker of the year in the NBA: The Philadelphia 76ers are going to fire their coach, and it wasn’t Allen Iverson’s fault. 

Well, not directly, anyway. More on that later. 

With pressure building on Eddie Jordan and the man who hired him, Ed Stefanski, the Sixers are right back where they were when they traded Iverson to Denver three years ago: No superstar, no drawing power, no interest and little hope of divesting themselves of numerous cap-strangling contracts. 

Then again, what else is new? 

Here’s what you need to know about the latest sideshow that is unfolding in Philly: The most likely scenario, according to a person involved in the decision-making process, is that Jordan is gone after the season and Stefanski stays. Does that make sense? Well, sort of, but that’s not really the point. 

The point is, as one rival general manager put it to me recently: “There are only two things you can sell. Success and hope.” With rare exceptions, the Sixers have been selling a steady diet of the latter to their success-starved fan base – a fan base that would show up and make Philly one of the NBA’s prized markets again if given sufficient reason. 

Here’s what completely sabotaged what almost certainly will be Jordan’s lone season in Philly: The team hired a coach whose intricate offensive system required experienced, unselfish guard play. A month later, the team made no effort to re-sign the only experienced, ball-moving guard on the roster. Andre Miller signed a rather modest three-year, $21 million deal with Portland – modest, because the third year is completely non-guaranteed. Even with Miller’s differences with coach Nate McMillan, the Blazers are in the hunt for a playoff spot despite a litany of injuries. The Sixers are in the hunt for another lottery pick, and soon will be in the market for another coach. One person familiar with the situation described Jordan’s dismissal after the season as “virtually a slam dunk.” 

In other words, the Sixers will be selling hope again. Step right up and renew your season tickets so you don’t miss a minute of the Mike Dunleavy/Larry Brown/Avery Johnson/Fill-In-The-Blank Era. 

I don’t pin the Miller decision on Stefanski or Jordan any more than I blame them for another ill-fated personnel move that reeked of owner interference: The shortsighted reunion with Iverson, who might have been the player in the league least likely to embrace Jordan’s Princeton offense. You knew this wouldn’t end well when Iverson strolled into the Sixers’ locker room barely an hour before his debut back in December. Within three months, beset by arthritis, ineffectiveness, and a laundry list of personal problems, Iverson was gone. Barring an unforeseen reversal, Jordan will be next. 

Something else of note: While Comcast’s Peter Luukko has soared up the Sixers’ hierarchy, it would be a mistake to assume that chairman Ed Snider is no longer calling the shots. This quagmire belongs on Snider’s resume, and now it is up to him to fix it. And by that, I don’t mean repackaging it with a new coach and trying to pass it off on Sixers fans as hope. They’ve been down that road too many times already. 

So with that, here are the rest of this week’s Post-Ups:

• The Nets held an elaborate ground-breaking ceremony Thursday on the site of their new arena in Brooklyn. If not for the legal and political delays than forced the team to commit to playing in Newark, N.J., for the next two seasons, it would’ve gone over as an enormous threat to the Knicks on New York City turf. But consider this: With all-powerful Williams “World Wide Wes” Wesley preparing to become an agent representing college and NBA coaches, how will his influence affect the free-agent domino effect on July 1? The agency Wesley is joining, Creative Artists, already represents LeBron James – not to mention Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, whose agent, Henry Thomas, also has joined CAA. Depending on which super-agent lands John Wall, CAA could control the top three free agents, the presumed No. 1 pick, and various coaches who might view a team with Wall, a max free agent, a deep-pocketed owner (Mikhail Prokhorov) and bright future in Brooklyn as an irresistible lure.

• One of the many things I don’t understand is criticism being leveled against Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni for failing to win in his first two years as the Knicks’ coach. If you could use genetic engineering and create a coach who was a combination of Jeff Van Gundy, Pat Riley and Red Holzman, that coach wouldn’t have been able to win with this roster, either. Someone kindly indulge me as to what D’Antoni could be doing differently with a team that has been purposely and effectively gutted for free agency.

• For good reason, Larry Brown’s name has been linked to the Sixers. His roots are in Philadelphia, and as recently as a few weeks ago there were strong indications that Next Town Brown was sniffing around to see if he could arrange a return engagement. But with Michael Jordan’s ownership bid for the Bobcats expected to receive swift approval – an ownership committee performed the perfunctory interview with His Airness this week in New York – it is believed that Brown’s loyalty to Jordan will trump his wanderlust.

• LeBron, Wade and Bosh aren’t the only intriguing potential free agents on the market this summer. Another one is reigning executive of the year Mark Warkentien. According to sources, Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke has made no efforts to negotiate an extension for Warkentien, whose contract runs out after this season. Three situations bear watching if the Nuggets make the ill-fated decision to let Wark walk: The Knicks, Clippers, and Pacers. Although the Clippers have a bright young executive in Neil Olshey taking over for Mike Dunleavy, Olshey would benefit from an experienced hand to help him navigate a crucial time for the franchise. Despite the well documented negatives of working for Sterling, running the Clippers actually is an extremely attractive job. They’re in the league’s second-biggest market, have a talented roster, and the cap space to lure a premier free agent. The Knicks? Warkentien and Donnie Walsh are buddies, too, and according to sources, Walsh finally has the go-ahead to hire a No. 2 basketball man and heir apparent now that the spinoff of Madison Square Garden from parent company Cablevision has been completed. In fact, if Walsh doesn’t hire Warkentien, it is believed that he’d recommend that Pacers owner Herb Simon do it. The Pacers are badly in need of someone with Warkentien’s shrewd eye for talent and negotiating skills as they try not to waste the prime of Danny Granger’s career.
Category: NBA
Posted on: February 26, 2010 6:02 pm


Everybody’s ranked their winners and losers coming out of the trade deadline. We can agree to disagree on any and all of those, and the proof won’t be available for two or three years anyway. 

What is fairly indisputable is which team came out of the 2010 cap-clearing frenzy as the biggest loser. That team, according to me and team executives who are closely monitoring the impending free-agent signing period, is the New Jersey Nets

As if the Nets didn’t have enough problems; their 5-52 record has them two games ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers’ NBA-worst 9-73 mark in 1972-73. On the bright side, the Nets will move to a new arena next season. Unfortunately, that arena is in Newark, N.J., because the Nets’ move to Brooklyn won’t be consummated until 2012. This month, the Nets agreed to play the next two seasons at Newark’s Prudential Center – a vast improvement over the Meadowlands, but perhaps not what a certain marquee free agent or two had in mind. 

But think about this: Heading into the trade deadline, the Nets were on equal footing with Miami in the chase for a max free agent on July 1. New Jersey had upwards of $26 million in cap space – depending on exactly where the 2010-11 cap comes in. Miami already had Dwyane Wade and was one trade away from clearing enough space to pair him with another superstar in the league’s most desirable locale – something that, presumably, would entice Wade to stay. 

After the deadline, the Knicks and Bulls nudged the Nets out of the way – and even the Clippers joined the cap-clearing party. By trading Jared Jeffries to the Rockets, Knicks president Donnie Walsh put the finishing touches on clearing more than $30 million in space – meaning New York is within striking distance of the $33 million needed for two max players. By divesting themselves of John Salmons, the Bulls have comfortably more than the $16.6 million it will take to sign one max free agent. Oh, by the way, the Bulls have Derrick Rose, a key drawing card for any top free agent. Plus, like the Heat, they play in one of the league’s most desirable markets. (Hey, Chicago was good enough for Michael Jordan. And it ain’t Newark.) 

The end result is that the Nets, who’ve endured potentially the worst season in NBA history simply for the chance to sign a major free agent, now will have to get in line behind other teams that have more to offer. 

“What New York and Chicago did,” one rival executive said, “didn’t help the Nets at all.” 

And if the Nets don’t wind up with the No. 1 pick (a.k.a. John Wall)? 

“They’re screwed,” the executive said. 

With that, here are the rest of this week’s Post-Ups:

• Speaking of Rose, a quote from him about his free-agent recruiting efforts during All-Star weekend caught my eye. The first word that came to mind: tampering. Rose told ESPNChicago.com that he spoke with potential free agents LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh during All-Star weekend about joining him in the Windy City. “I told them Chicago is a great place, and if they want to come, we’ll be more than happy to take them,” Rose said. “It would be huge if one of them comes here; either LeBron, Wade or Bosh. We’ll take all of them if we can get them, but we can only get one. So hopefully they just come on. ... We definitely have a real good chance to get them. The Chicago market is unbelievable, and I don’t see anyone really passing Chicago up if they can come here. Just give me a basketball player, just like we have now, and I’ll be good.” Players are rarely, if ever, prosecuted under the league’s tampering guidelines, which are generally reserved for those with the authority to sign players or negotiate for them (i.e. GMs, coaches, agents). But just for the record, Section 35(e) of the NBA Constitution says the following: 

Any Player who, directly or indirectly, entices, induces, persuades or attempts to entice, induce, or persuade any Player, Coach, Trainer, General Manager or any other person who is under contract to any other Member of the Association to enter into negotiations for or relating to his services or negotiates or contracts for such services shall, on being charged with such tampering, be given an opportunity to answer such charges after due notice and the Commissioner shall have the power to decide whether or not the charges have been sustained; in the event his decision is that the charges have been sustained, then the Commissioner shall have the power to suspend such Player for a definite or indefinite period, or to impose a fine not exceeding $50,000, or inflict both such suspension and fine upon any such Player.

• It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the Spurs (in general) or Manu Ginobili (in particular) play with the kind of fire they exhibited Wednesday night against Oklahoma City. (See Manu’s chase-down swat of Kevin Durant here, if you haven’t already.) It was an impressive showing in San Antonio’s first game back at home after their annual rodeo road trip, during which the Spurs were 4-4. The Spurs were 32-29 heading into Friday night’s game in Houston, sitting precariously in the seventh playoff spot. But only five games separate the teams positioned 6-11 in the West. On Sunday against the Suns, the Spurs begin a crucial five-game stretch against teams that currently have winning records – matchups they’ve struggled with all season.

• Just as there should be a rule against a team trading a player and re-signing him 30 days later, there should be a rule against owners who have no shot at signing such a player deceiving his team’s fans into thinking he can. Michael Gearon Jr., one of many co-owners of the Atlanta Hawks, did just that Friday when he said the Hawks will be “very competitive” in their pursuit of Ilgauskas, who is expected to return to Cleveland as soon as the 30-day waiting period expires.

• Billy Hunter, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, said during All-Star weekend that he’s instructed players to start saving money for a potential lockout after the 2010-11 season. Celtics guard Marquis Daniels apparently didn’t get the memo. Via Hoopshype.com, I came across this item on how Daniels enlisted a Beverly Hills jeweler to produce a diamond-encrusted replica of his head. The price for the piece, which contained 1,300 grams of 14-karat gold and may or may not be hollow, wasn’t disclosed. But given Friday’s closing price of $1,118.30 for an ounce of gold, the bust set Daniels back $51,063.81 for the gold alone. If there’s a lockout, I suppose Daniels could sell it. To himself.
Category: NBA
Posted on: February 12, 2010 12:26 am
Edited on: February 12, 2010 1:20 pm

Post-Ups: All-Star Edition

DALLAS – As league officials and executives scramble to make it to the snowed-in All-Star city Friday, they will be seeking two key ingredients that will get them through the next few days: snow shovels and answers. 

The shovels, I can’t help them with. But the answers will be readily available. Team executives who've been burning up their BlackBerrys proposing dozens of trade scenarios over the past week or so will need to come out of All-Star weekend with some idea of how the NBA's uncertain financial landscape will affect those deals. 

Owners and general managers will convene for a series of critical meetings Friday, starting with the owners' annual Technology Summit and culminating with a scheduled face-to-face bargaining session between owners and the National Basketball Players Association. Weather permitting, it will be the first bargaining session since the owners delivered a roundhouse to the union in the form of a draconian initial bargaining proposal calling for a hard cap and drastically reduced player salaries. 

The public will get commissioner David Stern’s typically rosy state of the league address Saturday night, but the executives contemplating taking on tens of millions through pending trades don’t want the sanitized version. They want to know where they stand, and how the decisions they make between now and the Feb. 18 trade deadline will position their franchises for some rocky times ahead. 

"I think the uncertainty has slowed everybody's roll until they get the state of the union at the league meetings," one Western Conference executive said. "The one thing that makes this interesting is that there’s always buyers and sellers. The sellers are far more plentiful than the buyers, so buyers are going to be really deliberate when it comes to taking on future money."

For example: If the threat of a hard cap is real – with none of the current exceptions or luxury tax provisions that allow teams to exceed it – why would a team like the Cavs acquire Antawn Jamison, who will be on the books for $15.1 million in 2011-12, the first year of a new CBA? If there’s a hard cap of $50 million, Jamison would account for 30 percent of it. If the Cavs were able to retain LeBron James this summer, they’d have 60 percent of the cap tied up in two players in the first year of the new CBA. The situation would be so untenable that owners proposed retro-fitting existing contracts under the new rules, but that would be unprecedented – so much so, sources say, that it could result in a deal-breaker at best and an anti-trust lawsuit at worst. 

But those issues are a long way off. The Cavs are in win-now mode, and they’re eager to placate LeBron by acquiring Jamison, the stretch power forward they believe they need to dispense with Orlando, Boston, and Atlanta in the playoffs. But winning is one thing; financial folly is quite another. 

Owners, GMs, and agents – those able to make it here after two days of massive flight cancellations across the country – will want to know where the business model is headed before they go ahead with their deals. There’s no way to know for sure, but you have to at least ask the questions. 

Every trade that is made before the deadline will be done with all of this in mind. So with that, here’s the latest trade buzz as we head into a snowy All-Star weekend:

• The Cavs remain interested in the PacersTroy Murphy, but sources say they’re preoccupied with a couple of other deals they favor – one of which involves Jamison. The Wizards, as previously reported, aren’t seeking a straight salary dump; they’re looking for a legit rotation player with upside, such as J.J. Hickson. The Wizards are also looking to attach guard Mike James and his $6.6 million expiring contract to any deal to help them achieve luxury tax savings.

• Portland has joined San Antonio, Denver, Charlotte, and Sacramento in the pursuit of Tyrus Thomas, with one person familiar with the situation characterizing the Blazers as “close” to finding a workable scenario. Rival execs have contradicted that account, saying the Bulls are telling them they need to sweeten their offers. Chicago is seeking a quality draft pick in addition to cap relief. Denver and Charlotte have conditional 2010 second-round picks from previous trades, and Denver also could offer a second-round pick that can be swapped with the Clippers.

• Executives say Phoenix officials continue to tell them it’s unlikely that they’ll deal Amar’e Stoudemire. No proposals have been submitted to the Suns that would make them better this season. The exception to the Suns’ reluctant posture, sources say, would be a deal that would create a seductive opportunity to position them better next season and beyond than they’d be if they kept Stoudemire and played the opt-out game with him. While the Sixers continue to discuss internally whether Stoudemire makes sense for them long-term, sources describe Philly as a highly unlikely destination.

• Miami Heat president Pat Riley has been aggressive in his pursuit of Stoudemire, but sources say the Heat are one of the teams carefully weighing such a transaction against the uncertain backdrop of collective bargaining. At this stage, the Heat are the undisputed leaders of the impending 2010 free agent sweepstakes because they have one marquee potential free agent, Dwyane Wade, on the roster and enough cap space to sign another max player without making any further trades.

• In addition to peddling Kirk Hinrich, sources say the Bulls also are exploring interest in Luol Deng, who has four years and $51 million left after this season. Trading both of them – or packaging one of them with Thomas – would provide Chicago with enough cap space to score two max free agents this coming summer, effectively placing them on equal footing with the Heat in the 2010 chase.

• The Warriors continue to peddle Andris Biedrins (four years and $36 million left) to achieve cost-savings, while the Clippers are offering Al Thornton and Sebastian Telfair for the same reason, sources say.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com