Play Fantasy Use your Fantasy skills to win Cash Prizes. Join or start a league today. Play Now
 
Tag:Thunder
Posted on: May 23, 2011 5:57 pm
Edited on: May 24, 2011 10:57 am
 

Buffoonery at its best in Portland

The way things are going in the circus that is the NBA these days, with the tents and elephants and freak show setting up shop in Portland once again, there’s never been a better time to resurrect this memorable quote from Tayshaun Prince.

You know what they call this? They call this buffoonery.

Except this goes way beyond comedy – beyond even the wackiness Prince experienced in Detroit this season. The firing of Rich Cho as the Trail Blazers’ general manager Monday, and the search for the team’s third GM in less than a year, means the Blazers are no longer simply a joke. They are a league-wide embarrassment, a proverbial Petri dish for the experimental breeding of ego, incompetence, and the kind of empty-suit entitlement that rears its ugly head when rich guys think money and malice trump class.

On July 19, 2010, when Portland hired Cho to replace Kevin Pritchard – who was fired, for reasons that remain a mystery, hours before the previous month’s draft – team president Larry Miller issued the following statement: “Rich is the perfect fit for our organization.”

Whoops!

On Monday, a month before the next draft, the Trail Blazers announced they’ve “parted ways” with Cho. The first line of Miller’s statement explaining that bombshell went like this: “The fit between Rich and our team simply wasn't right.”

Can I get a whoops, whoops?

Of course it wasn’t right, because Cho was an independent thinker who wanted what any GM in the NBA should have as long as his business card bears that title: autonomy. The Blazers do not believe in autonomy, unless your name is Paul Allen or you are employed by Allen’s Seattle-based Vulcan Inc. The “Vulcanites,” as NBA front office insiders call them, ran Pritchard and assistant GM Tom Penn out of Portland and now someone has run out their replacement. Cho probably doesn’t feel this way now, but he’s better off. Or at least that’s what his colleagues in the GM profession hope.

“Rich is such a nice guy, such a good, gentle guy, and this could destroy him,” one of Cho’s colleagues said Monday. “He may never get another job as a GM because people will say, ‘How weird is it that you got fired after only 10 months on the job?’ But they don’t care about that stuff. They don’t care how they treat people.”

The person in the GM’s seat – now, it’s Chad Buchanan, who will hold the interim title until, or rather if, Portland is able to persuade some other poor soul to take the job – is never the one calling the shots there. Ultimately, that is Allen, who gets his advice from two key Vulcanites who’ve lurked behind the scenes in the organization for years: Steve “Hat Man” Gordon and Bert Kolde, a longtime friend of Allen’s who is listed in the team’s front office directory as director of the board.

“He’s the de facto GM,” said a person familiar with the Blazers’ hierarchy. “He’s the guy always trying to make calls and make decisions.”

Echoing the tasteless, underhanded way the Blazers fired Penn and Pritchard, NBA front office sources told CBSSports.com Monday that word began circulating at the scouting combine last week in Chicago that Portland already was looking for Cho’s replacement. Good luck to Allen, Miller, Hat Man, Kolde, the dancing bears and clowns on a unicycle in their quest to find a better person for the job than the three aforementioned executives, who were all capable – not to mention deserving of the freedom to make their own basketball decisions.

Was the mild-mannered Cho, after working under Sam Presti in Oklahoma City, prepared for this kind of hot seat? Was he as capable and accomplished as his predecessor, Pritchard? Of course not; but that’s the organization’s fault for firing Pritchard in the first place. And it was their responsibility to hire the right person, and to give that person a chance to grow into the job. The Vulcanites didn’t like Pritchard’s talkative, cocksure ways, so they hired the quietest person in any room; they overcompensated. Next, they should sew themselves a puppet and put it on the payroll, or go to the pet store and buy a parakeet. Hat Man will have him chirping, “Yes, sir, Mr. Allen,” in no time.

What the Blazers want above all else is a weak-minded yes man – not the kind of team-first, independent thinker that Cho proved himself to be when a report surfaced in the Oregonian last week that he wanted to suspend star Brandon Roy over his complaints about playing time after Game 2 of the first-round series against Dallas. This is the kind of authority a GM has to have if he’s going to shape the organization according to his vision. It is the kind of moment when, if an executive is undercut by ownership, it becomes apparent to everyone how much juice he has.

None.

All NBA executives face pressure from above. It’s part of the job. It’s the first thing they think of when they wake up and the last thought that crawls through their weary brains when they go to sleep: How do I keep my owner happy? Owners from coast to coast meddle in coach hirings and firings, weigh in on personnel decisions they know nothing about, and generally exert the influence that goes along with the flourish with which they sign the checks.

But Portland? This is ownership run wild. This is an organization that deserves to have no one – and I mean no one – even agree to interview for the job that was unfathomably vacated for the second time in less than a year.

At least the Blazers didn’t wait until draft night to drop the hammer on Cho, who made no discernable mistakes since taking over for Pritchard – and, hell, didn’t even have time to make any. Unless you consider getting Gerald Wallace from the Bobcats and losing a first-round playoff series to the Mavericks – still in the running for the NBA title – with his star player hobbling around on one leg a mistake.

And so the Blazers are right back where they were less than a year ago, when they fired Pritchard for no good reason and were firm in their belief that money and the allure of working for an owner with limitless pockets would trump any concerns candidates might have about working in the theater of the absurd.

Here’s hoping that this buffoonery hurts the Blazers more than Cho. Here’s hoping that their hunt for the next victim turns up much the same as the cache of credibility they have left.

Empty.
Posted on: April 21, 2011 8:55 pm
Edited on: April 21, 2011 9:00 pm
 

Stern envisions replay official, challenge flags

PHILADELPHIA – NBA commissioner David Stern defended the officiating through the first week of the playoffs Thursday night and said he envisions a time when the league will have a dedicated replay official and when coaches will be allowed to throw challenge flags in the final two minutes of games. 

“The officiating has been how officiating is,” Stern said during a stop on his playoff tour at Game 3 between the Heat and 76ers. “We have this issue. We have humans that officiate our games and they don’t catch everything. But they’re the best at what they do.” 

The opening week of the playoffs included several controversial calls, including one in which Oklahoma City’s Kendrick Perkins was incorrectly credited with a basket in the Thunder’s 102-101 victory over the Nuggets in Game 1 of their series due to a missed basket interference call. The league office issued a statement acknowledging the mistake, but a blatant trip by the CelticsKevin Garnett against the KnicksToney Douglas – helping to free Ray Allen for a deciding 3-pointer in Game 1 of that series – did not result in a mea culpa from Stern’s officiating department. 

Stern stressed several times the need to strive for accuracy through replay enhancement without further slowing down the games. 

“Eventually, you may have someone sitting at a desk rather than having a Talmudic discussion of three referees every time there’s a disputed play,” Stern said. “We might have one person whose job it is to keep the headphones on and always watch. And you might let a coach throw the flag in the last two minutes. We’re striving for accuracy. … We have to find a way to speed the game up, and to get it right. That’s the most important thing.” 

With developments Thursday further enhancing Sacramento’s efforts to prevent the Kings from moving to Anaheim, Stern said Oklahoma City owner Clay Bennett – chairman of the relocation committee – and several league officials are in Sacramento “verifying” Mayor Kevin Johnson’s assertions to the Board of Governors last week about Sacramento’s renewed financial commitment to the team. 

“Our preference was to understand that better, and the verification is under way,” Stern said. 

Asked if the recently agreed upon sale of the Pistons to Tom Gores and the expression of interest from Ron Burkle to buy the Kings and keep them in Sacramento was proof that the NBA’s financial state isn’t as dire as owners say, Stern said, “No. It just means they know we’re going to get a good (labor) deal and they’re already factoring it into their decisions to buy. And they know we’re not only going to get a good deal, but a deal that really makes it sustainable to buy a team.” 

Among the other topics addressed by Stern Thursday night: 

• Asked if the league needs provisions in a new collective bargaining agreement to prevent “player-made teams” like Miami’s, Stern said, “No, because I have grown up in this league with teams that had great players.” Referencing the Celtics and Lakers of the 1980s, Stern said, “To me, you may call me a players’ person, but the players made a deal that says they’re allowed to become free agents and decide where they want to go. And you’re making it into a federal offense to discuss where they might want to play with another player. It doesn’t warm my blood. In fact, if the team that can get those players is under the cap, that’s the way the system was designed to work. I don’t get too boiled for that.” 

• However, when asked about a Yahoo! Sports report from December that Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert – a key member of the NBA’s labor relations committee – had retained counsel to investigate tampering allegations against the Heat for signing LeBron James, Stern said, “I’m aware of the issue, but there’s been no formal complaint of tampering or anything like that filed. … If there was tampering that someone could prove, that would make my blood boil.” 

• Reiterating comments he made earlier Thursday in New York to the Associated Press Sports Editors, Stern said he and players’ association chief Billy Hunter are in agreement that a court battle such as the one consuming the NFL in its labor dispute “should be avoided. … We’re going to do our best (to get a deal). And we’ve got more than two months.” 

• After maximum contract lengths were reduced by one year in each of the past two CBAs, Stern said he favored ratcheting them down again. “Shorter and less guaranteed,” he said. “I have no idea what they’ll agree to and I’m not going to negotiate with them here.” 

• On whether the Heat have met expectations, Stern said, “They met my expectations, but they didn’t meet everybody else’s. Before the season, everyone thought they were going to win 75 games and we should just mail the trophy. In fact, it takes a while for a team. This is a team game, and they’ve done pretty well. They’re pretty darn good and they’re playing awfully well, but it hasn’t been the walk in the park that they expected.”
Posted on: April 15, 2011 6:21 pm
Edited on: April 15, 2011 6:58 pm
 

Anaheim Royals? Not so fast

NEW YORK -- NBA commissioner David Stern on Friday dismissed the last-ditch candidacy of Ron Burkle to purchase the Kings and keep them in Sacramento, and the league’s board of governors voted to extend the Maloof family’s deadline to apply for relocation to Anaheim until May 2. 

In calling the Burkle plan "not a high priority," Stern at the same time praised Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson’s presentation, in which he promised millions of dollars in new sponsorships and funding for a new downtown arena. But after a decade of failed efforts to get the Kings a new building in northern California, Stern expressed skepticism about last-ditch efforts to keep the team there. 

"In light of the history in Sacramento, that's usually an eye-roller," Stern said in a news conference after the end-of-season Board of Governors meeting. "We don't know if that's real or a pie in the sky. We don't know whether we can find that out in a couple of weeks, but we are going to knock ourselves out to do it."

Later, on a pre-playoff conference call with national media, Stern described Johnson’s presentation as "persuasive," and said the relocation deadline was extended so owners would have more time to evaluate both the Anaheim relocation plan and Sacramento’s save-the-Kings proposal. Stern said a presentation by the Maloofs and Anaheim city officials was made "in good faith," but left owners with an incomplete understanding of issues such as funding, TV rights, desired arena improvements and "what would be an appropriate relocation fee."

"It just seemed to be a good idea to put it off for a couple of weeks," Stern said. 

If the Maloofs follow through with their application to relocate to Anaheim, Stern said the board would then evaluate whether the market can support a third team. Two board members told CBSSports.com that owners have yet to take a tally of whether the Maloofs have the required 16 votes to approve the relocation. One owner noted that if the vote is close, it will call into question the fact that the league will be casting the vote for New Orleans, which is now owned and operated by the other 29 owners. 

Sources also told CBSSports.com there’s a feeling among representatives of at least one team that more consideration be given to moving the Kings to Kansas City, given the franchise’s roots are there and the city’s arena is more NBA-ready than Anaheim’s Honda Center. "Interesting position," said one team representative. The issue of Kansas City, however, was not formally raised during the two-day meeting. 

"I think they’re planning on looking more closely at the Sacramento situation before a final decision is made," the team rep said. 

One of the owners told CBSSports.com that he detected a "bias" against relocation among members of the executive committee, which consists of representatives from all 30 teams. "I don’t think anybody likes to see teams moving," the owner said. 

But this sentiment was not evident in the selection of Thunder owner Clay Bennett to chair the relocation committee. Bennett’s appointment was quickly panned for several hours online by those pointing out the apparent conflict on Bennett’s resume -- given that he moved the SuperSonics from Seattle to Oklahoma City, creating a public relations nightmare for the NBA. Stern, of course, rejected such a notion while praising Bennett for his "yeoman’s work" on various committees. 

"I don’t think there’s any conflict at all," Stern said. "What would the conflict be? … Maybe Sacramento will think the same thing you do, which I don’t, that he favors movement. In this case, he favors what’s best for the league."

Some other news items from Stern’s pre-playoff media tour with deputy commissioner Adam Silver on Friday: 

• On the issue of Kobe Bryant’s gay slur costing him a $100,000 fine, Stern said there were no plans to come up with a list of words players would be forbidden to utter on the court. "Our rules are what they are, and for the most part, our players conduct themselves in the manner we’d like them to conduct themselves," Stern said. "Kobe apologized for his insensitive remarks. I think he understood it. He was severely penalized, and we’re ready to move on."

• The sale agreement transferring ownership of the Pistons from the Davidson family to Tom Gores’ Platinum Equity group has been signed, and Stern said the deal will close no later than June 30. Gores and Karen Davidson have assured Stern it will be done by the end of May. Owners were impressed with Gores, whom Stern referred to as "really gung-ho to make this thing into a winner and a community asset."

• Owners had what Stern described as "a very energetic discussion" about resuming play promptly after timeouts and possibly reducing the number of timeouts. 

• Despite the threat of a lockout, Stern said season ticket sales for next season are "ahead of last year’s pace." But Stern noted the money will have to be returned to customers, with interest, in the event of a work stoppage. 

• In response to a question about the roughly one-third of NHL teams that lost less money by not playing during hockey’s 2004-05 lockout, Silver said, "We do have teams that are in that situation. I won't say the precise number, but there are several that will do better financially if we’re not playing. Having said that, it’s absolutely our goal to get a deal. And even those teams that would do better by not playing, I’m sure they would prefer to be playing and build their business. There’s no doubt that as a business, we’d do enormous damage to ourselves by not playing."

Posted on: December 22, 2010 6:06 pm
Edited on: December 22, 2010 11:17 pm
 

Nuggets put Melo trade talks on hold (UPDATE)

The Denver Nuggets have decided to temporarily back away from trade discussions involving Carmelo Anthony out of respect for the superstar, who is grieving the death of his sister, a person familiar with the situation told CBSSports.com.

Nuggets officials have begun informing teams that they will not be engaging in any further trade discussions, especially with the closeness of the tragedy to the Christmas holiday. The team announced Wednesday night that Anthony will not return to the team until after Christmas.

"It is a difficult time" for the Anthony family, "especially during the holidays," the person said.

Michelle Anthony, 36, died Tuesday in Baltimore of a pre-existing medical condition. She is survived by her four children.


Category: NBA
Posted on: December 6, 2010 7:42 pm
 

Hornets officially on life support in New Orleans

If any entrepreneurs out there are in the market for a failing business that is going to shut down operations in a few months for a work stoppage, David Stern would like you to come forward with your best offer.

And if you'd like to keep the business in New Orleans, where things were so bad the previous owners ran out of money and credit operating it, all the better.

Oh, did we mention? Bidding starts at $300 million.

The future of the NBA in New Orleans, one of America's finest and star-crossed sports destinations, took a definite turn toward life support Monday when Stern announced that the league is stepping in to save the Hornets from themselves. The question now is: Who, if anyone, will come forward with the deep pockets and patience to keep the team in Louisiana?

The best way to answer that question is to ask yourself: If you had $300 million, is that how you would spend it?

Despite Stern's insistence Monday that the league stepping in to buy 100 percent of the Hornets from owners George Shinn and Gary Chouest was "the best opportunity for the franchise to remain in New Orleans for the long term," it's hard to see how the NBA gets from here to there.

"This was the most stabilizing force for the team in New Orleans that we could come up with," Stern said Monday.

In other words, this was the best of all available options -- especially if you consider that this was the only option.

Despite a compelling team with marketable superstar in Chris Paul who has orchestrated the best start in franchise history, the Hornets remain among the worst teams in the NBA in attendance. In fact, they are seriously in danger of triggering a clause that would allow the team to break its lease with the state if they fail to average 14,214 fans per game until Jan. 31. Even if that happens, a prospective buyer who wants to move the team presumably would still be faced with a relocation fee. That means the owner of the team -- the 29 other NBA teams -- would theoretically get less money in a sale to someone who wants to move it to Kansas City than from someone who wants to keep it in New Orleans.

But that's short-term math. And the long-term interests of the NBA are now more involved in the sale of the Hornets than ever before. Regardless of what changes are made to the league's revenue-sharing scheme in conjunction with a new collective bargaining agreement, it clearly is in nobody's interests to operate a team in a market where it is doomed to lose money forever.

That means there are three choices: 1) find someone (or a group of investors) in New Orleans who have so much money that they don't care about losing millions annually on a basketball team; 2) find international investors who, a la Mikhail Prokhorov, are willing to pay a premium for a piece of the American basketball business; or 3) find someone capable of moving the team somewhere else.

Option 2 would be fine, except remember: Prokhorov's purchase of the Nets was contingent on the move to Brooklyn being finalized. The Russian billionaire wanted no part of owning a team in East Rutherford or Newark. Though Stern said the protracted talks between Shinn and Chouest meant the Hornets were never thoroughly shopped to other potential owners in New Orleans, it tests the limits of credulity that another suitable New Orleans buyer is out there somewhere.

This point is proved by Stern's own statement Monday that it was "possible, if not likely" that the Hornets would've been sold to an owner who would've relocated them if not for the NBA stepping in. The test of the league's staying power in New Orleans begins in about a week, when the Board of Governors is expected to approve the NBA's bailout by an overwhelming margin.

"We're not in any hurry," Stern said.

Despite reports to the contrary, Stern said Chouest never raised the specter of a lockout among the reasons he decided not to go forward with purchasing Shinn's remaining 65 percent of the team. At this point, it hardly matters. The Hornets are the NBA's problem now, and Stern said it's likely that a sale won't be completed until a new CBA and revenue-sharing model are implemented.

In the meantime, everyone involved has good intentions and it's commendable to give this franchise the liquidity it needs to operate in New Orleans at least for the rest of this season. If a long-term solution can be achieved that keeps the team in Louisiana, that would be ideal. Then again, it would've been ideal to keep the SuperSonics in Seattle, too.

For a lesson in how money trumps idealism, look no farther than the Sonics' move from Seattle to Oklahoma City. According to NBA turnstile data, the Sonics brought in $457,863 in gate receipts per game in their last season in Seattle. In 2008-09, the Thunder's first year in Oklahoma City, that figure ballooned to $1,122,109. Since then, with support from the Oklahoma City business community and the inventive front-office maneuverings of GM Sam Presti, the Thunder have established themselves as a model organization -- thriving both on and off the court in a small market.

Here's hoping that two years from now, the same can be said for the Hornets. But it's difficult to see how the NBA gets from here to there in New Orleans.
Posted on: November 19, 2010 11:50 pm
 

Without Durant, Westbrook goes solo

BOSTON – At one point during the Thunder’s surprising victory over the Celtics without Kevin Durant Friday night, Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks saw something he admired, but didn’t necessarily like.

Driving fearlessly into the conversation about the most lethal point guards in a league filled with them, Russell Westbrook was doing what he was supposed to do in Durant’s absence. He was trying to carry his team, on the road, against the defending Eastern Conference champions. Against the team that lost to the team that knocked the surprising Thunder out of the playoffs last spring.

The trouble was, he was trying too hard. After a turnover and a charge on consecutive out-of-control possessions in the second quarter, Brooks took Westbrook out and tried to give him a chance to cool off.

“He has a spirit that’s not going to back down,” Brooks said after the shorthanded Thunder beat the Celtics 89-84, their second victory in four days against a playoff team on the road following an equally impressive performance in Utah. “But sometimes, you have to back down and use your guys. I said, ‘Russell, you have four guys out there working just as hard as you are. Use them.’”

After a three-minute stint on the bench, Westbrook settled down and ultimately needed those guys – on both ends of the floor – to hold off the Celtics down the stretch. Westbrook finished with 31 points, six assists, and seven turnovers, dueling with Rajon Rondo until the Celtics’ point guard missed the last five minutes with a strained hamstring. The Thunder won despite going the last 9 1-2 minutes without a field goal, with Westbrook going 0-for-7 with six points – all from the foul line – in the fourth quarter, and with Durant sitting on the bench in street clothes with a sprained ankle that caused him to miss a game for the first time since the 2008-09 season.

After finding out less than an hour before tipoff that the Thunder would be without Durant in addition to starting forward Jeff Green, the Celtics suffered a classic case of letdown.

“We were definitely out of sync,” Ray Allen said. “We didn’t have any ball movement. We didn’t have any rhythm all night.”

In effect, the Celtics learned how it feels to be their opponent on most nights. Typically, it is Rondo who controls the tempo and dances through the defense with the ball on a yo-yo string. Westbrook did it with aggression and straight-line speed, whereas Rondo does it with lateral quickness and cut-your-heart-out guile. But Westbrook’s method was just as effective.

“Russell did a phenomenal job controlling the tempo,” Brooks said.

That is, after coming to the bench, listening to a lecture Rondo used to hear all the time from Doc Rivers, and resisting the urge to do too much.

“When guys are down,” Westbrook said, “other guys have to come in and be ready to play.”

Just not too ready.

The Thunder needed a confidence-builder after struggling to a 3-3 start that was capped by a 92-83 loss to the Celtics at home on Nov. 7. Their success will almost always be about Durant. But it was interesting to see Westbrook fearlessly attack Rondo without his superstar scoring machine on the floor with him.

More and more, Westbrook’s matchup with the opposing point guard will be as much reason to watch the Thunder as Durant. The rest of this month alone will feature Westbrook vs. Jason Kidd and Chris Paul. Early next month, Derrick Rose. Westbrook belongs right there in the conversation with all of them.
Posted on: November 1, 2010 8:54 pm
Edited on: November 2, 2010 12:45 am
 

Post-Ups (UPDATE)

By not completing a trade for Carmelo Anthony before the start of the season, the Nets knew they were faced with a calculated risk. What could’ve been a coup for them – the Nuggets being awful out of the gate and Anthony making the situation untenable for coach George Karl – hasn’t happened. But something else has gone the Nets’ way as they’ve continued to keep the trade talks alive.

Derrick Favors, the centerpiece of a four-team deal sending Melo to New Jersey that fell apart last month, has shaken off a poor preseason and made important strides toward proving that he’s worthy of inclusion in a franchise-shaping transaction like the one Denver is considering. It’s only three games, but the No. 4 overall pick is shooting 58 percent from the field while averaging 10.3 points, 10 rebounds and only one turnover per game. His talent is raw, and his defensive instincts are nonexistent. But at the very least, Favors hasn’t done anything in this ridiculously small sample size to infect the Denver front office with any serious doubts.

One executive who has watched Favors went so far as to say, “His stock as skyrocketed,” which is true any way you look at it. (After the up-and-down preseason Favors had, one way to look at it is this: There was nowhere to go but up.) The Nuggets, according to sources, are still in wait-and-see mode. And they’ll be seeing plenty before the key date in this saga, Dec. 15, when summer free agents become trade-eligible.

One of the aspects of this decision that GM Masai Ujiri is evaluating is how competitive his team will be with Melo on board. The next two weeks will be telling, with five games against teams that made the playoffs in the West last season – Dallas (twice), the Lakers, Suns and Trail Blazers. Rival executives have speculated that in some ways, Ujiri’s job becomes more difficult if the Nuggets get off to a strong start. If that happens, it will be exponentially more difficult to sell an Anthony trade to the paying customers. Given that Anthony left no doubt that he’s leaving Denver one way or another when he told Yahoo! Sports last week, “It’s time for a change,” a catastrophic start to the season would’ve been a far easier environment in which to justify trading him.

Until then, the Nuggets, Nets and Knicks – Anthony’s preferred destination – are in limbo until more tradable assets flood the market in six weeks. Which gives us a chance to flood the market with the rest of this week’s Post-Ups:

• As interesting as it will be to watch the first head-to-head matchup between John Wall and Evan Turner, the top two picks in the 2010 draft, the more intriguing figure in the Wizards’ backcourt hasn’t played a minute yet this season: Gilbert Arenas. The artist formerly known as Agent Zero is likely a no-go against the Sixers Tuesday night as he prepares to undergo further tests on his injured right ankle. He’s already seen foot-and-ankle specialist Mark Myerson in Baltimore. While the Wizards hold out hope of making a Wall-Arenas backcourt work, the scant hope that Arenas and the $80 million he’s owed can be moved before the trade deadline requires Arenas to return to the court, be productive, show signs that his All-Star talent remains intact, and prove that he’s no longer a locker-room risk. None of that can happen until teams see a significant sample size of Arenas on the court.

• A person with knowledge of the situation confirmed Denver’s interest in Portland swingman Nicolas Batum in a potential Anthony trade, but those overtures have fallen on deaf ears among the Trail Blazers’ brass. Portland isn’t about to include the talented, versatile Batum in a deal unless they’re getting Melo, which isn’t happening. Having said that, the Blazers have a tremendous asset in Batum if and when they get involved in any trade discussions as the deadline nears. Batum is not only affordable – he’s still on his rookie contract – but his value is much greater to faster-paced teams. With their grind-it-out style, the Blazers understand that they don’t take full advantage of Batum’s open-court abilities.

• Commissioner David Stern went easy on the Knicks over the Isiah Thomas fiasco, allowing Thomas and then the Knicks to announce the death of their failed attempt at a reunion via a blatantly illegal consulting arrangement. Stern could’ve really embarrassed Garden chairman James Dolan on that one, but elected to allow the Knicks and Thomas to clean up the mess themselves and then say there was no need for the league office to take action. Pending the outcome of a league investigation of alleged illegal workouts with draft prospects – some perpetrated under the Thomas regime as team president, according to Yahoo! Sports – the NBA office is not likely to be so kind this time around. While there is no precedent for forfeited draft picks for such violations, those alleged to have been committed by the Knicks in the Yahoo! report would be the most extensive and persistent on record. The league has hired outside counsel to investigate the allegations, and the Knicks plan to cooperate fully. All of this was simply another lesson that re-hiring Thomas in any capacity was a bad idea whether it was against NBA rules or not.

• I am justifiably puzzled by the Heat’s apparent pursuit of a point guard to get Miami’s offense running more smoothly until floor-spacer Mike Miller returns from injury. I could see the usefulness of a Derek Fisher-type in that role, but short of that, the Heat’s offense would run just fine with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James acting as interchangeable wings initiating the offense. Coach Erik Spoelstra could play that way now, if he wanted to, by benching Carlos Arroyo for James Jones – who would fill Miller’s role as the shooter until Miller returns. The problem with Jones is his lack of defense, but the rest of Miami’s defense is so smothering, I’m not sure Jones-for-Arroyo wouldn’t be worth examining. Something tells me the Heat will eventually realize that they don’t need a point guard, simply because they’ve already got two of them: Wade and LeBron. Besides, after signing the top three free agents on the market and turning the NBA upside-down this summer, it strikes me as gluttonous for the Heat to be out on the market pursuing more pieces. Dear Coach Riley: I think you’ve got enough.

UPDATED 12:45 a.m.

• Though most 2007 draft picks were not getting extensions by the midnight Tuesday ET deadline, the Suns agreed to a five-year, $22.5 million deal with Jared Dudley, said his agent, Mark Bartelstein. ESPN the Magazine reported that the Grizzlies signed Mike Conley to a five-year, $45 million deal. With hours to go before the deadline, only Kevin Durant, Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Dudley and Conley had received extensions amid uncertainty over a new collective bargaining agreement that makes it difficult to assess such players’ value.

• It cannot be overstated that the public truce between the Blazers and Rudy Fernandez is no indication that the Spanish star is happy spending this season – and next, now that his fourth-year option has been picked up – in Portland. While sources say Fernandez is resigned to the fact that he’s a Blazer for the foreseeable future, efforts by Fernandez and his agent, Andy Miller, to tone down the rhetoric will go a long way toward making the situation more fertile for a trade. If nothing else, the fact that Fernandez now has two years left on his contract makes him far less of a flight risk if he’s traded. The Blazers remain steadfastly opposed to giving Fernandez his wish and releasing him from his contract so he can return to Spain. So for now, Fernandez appears content to accept his minutes and role while allowing trade inquiries from other teams to progress naturally.

Posted on: October 28, 2010 3:44 pm
 

No extension for Green, Stuckey; Horford in talks

Jeff Green and Rodney Stuckey, two members of the 2007 draft class seeking contract extensions by Monday’s deadline, will not be receiving them, people familiar with the circumstances told CBSSports.com.

Thunder GM Sam Presti, who earlier Thursday told the Oklahoman that a deal would not be reached with Green, told CBSSports.com that he had good dialogue with agent David Falk and seriously explored the matter.

“We will have to revisit the discussions in the future,” Presti said.

As a result, Green will become a restricted free agent after the season, as will Stuckey, who also will not be reaching a deal with the Pistons, a person with knowledge of the situation told CBSSports.com. Among other factors, Stuckey’s situation is complicated by an ownership change in Detroit, sources said.

To date, only Kevin Durant and Joakim Noah among high-profile members of that draft class have received extensions from their teams. Agreements for Houston’s Aaron Brooks, Portland’s Greg Oden and Atlanta’s Al Horford also are long shots at best – although a person familiar with the discussions told CBSSports.com that talks are scheduled this week between Hawks management and Horford’s agent, Arn Tellem.

The reason for the extension drought is simple: With a new collective bargaining agreement coming after the season, and a new pay structure and possibly altered contract lengths and guarantees along with it, it is difficult for teams to commit to new deals that in past years were foregone conclusions for players of this caliber. Even restricted free agency, which could change under the new agreement, is an unknown because executives and agents don’t know how it will change under the new agreement.

“People want more certainty and want to understand the rules,” a person involved in contract negotiation said. “Are contracts going to be 75 percent guaranteed? Fifty percent guaranteed? What are the rules?”
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com