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Tag:LeBron James
Posted on: May 3, 2011 2:58 pm
Edited on: May 3, 2011 3:04 pm
 

Do LeBron and Wade share a brain?

MIAMI – From the day LeBron James and Dwyane Wade became teammates, they were the focal point of a social and basketball experiment. How they would react – to the pressure, to the spotlight, to each other – would be the subject of daily curiosity. 

After 82 regular season games and six playoff games – a very public journey that was launched in the seclusion of training camp on a Florida Air Force base – the questions are still coming about the on-court aspects of their relationship. In the huddle before the final possession, they were asked Tuesday in the hours before Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Celtics, who gets the last shot? Who demands the ball? Does one back off when the other has the hot hand? 

But those who have followed the first steps in the Heat’s playoff run may have noticed something else about this superstar duo that is even harder to explain. For months, LeBron and Wade have been conducting postgame interviews while seated side-by-side at a table in the interview room. There is no one-on-one time with either star, and the only opportunity to ask James a question without Wade hearing the answer came in LeBron’s customary availability on game nights, about an hour before tipoff in the locker room. 

Even that tradition, the last proof that James and Wade were, in fact, separate humans, was scratched off their itineraries recently. Of late, James has stopped going solo with the media before games and instead sits at the interview table next to Wade before shootaround, as he did Tuesday morning. 

A few weeks ago, the two actually began the somewhat bizarre and unprecedented habit of answering questions on practice days while standing shoulder-to-shoulder on the court. It has led to some awkward camera footage -- you may have noticed Wade answering questions on TV while LeBron stands in the background, using up valuable oxygen – and has produced some awkward moments. How do you ask Wade about a last-second shot James missed when the guy who missed it is standing right next to him? 



Instead of shooting from the hip, LeBron and Wade are attached there.

The Celtics’ Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen started the trend of group interviews, but LeBron and Wade have taken it to a level never before seen in professional sports as far as I can tell. Their calculated decision to function as one not only on the court, but also in the court of public opinion, says so much about the relationship they have forged and the pitfalls that have always been present for two stars and friends joining forces in the prime of their careers. 

“I think from Day 1, we kind of understood even from our teammates that we’re going to be the two guys that everyone looked at – to see how we reacted to things, to see how we could handle the change, to see how we could handle playing with each other,” Wade said Tuesday. “We realized that. And that’s something that we communicated and talked about, even from the beginning, that we had to be always on the same page. If we're not on the same page, always communicating with each other and just having each other's backs, no matter if it's bad times or it's good times. We're always going to stay even-keeled, so that helps the success of our team.” 

Their refusal to be divided and/or conquered isn’t unique. During media availability at All-Star weekend, James sat shoulder-to-shoulder with Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul on the scorer’s table and ran interference for his friends when difficult questions about trades or free agency came up. James even chided the media for harping on his fellow All-Stars’ futures, when it was James who had escalated the trend of stars teaming up and put so much pressure on Melo and CP3 to find better teammates in the first place. 



But more than camaraderie and protectiveness, the controlled way James and Wade present themselves publicly speaks to a certain level of paranoia about what outside forces would try to do to them if they were separated and forced to stray off message. It was interesting that James referred collectively to himself and Wade Tuesday as “the voice” of the team. Do they not have their own thoughts and voices? Would James’ head explode if Wade expressed an independent thought, or vice versa? 

This strategy is straight from the playbook of team president Pat Riley’s “one voice” approach to maintaining organizational control. Riley, who orchestrated this three-headed monster of LeBron, Wade and Chris Bosh, has conducted a grand total of two media availabilities the entire season – brief Q&A’s at two charity events. As with the Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick model in football, the one and only voice belongs to the coach. As a corollary, the two stars share a voice – rarely, if ever, saying something the other isn’t thinking or wouldn’t say. 

“I’m louder than D-Wade, D-Wade is louder than CB,” James said. “You can hear my voice from here to, anywhere obviously. Here to Akron. And D-Wade, he voices his opinion. He does it sometimes, also. But we don’t step on each other’s toes or anything like that. But at the same time, it's not a bed of roses with me and D-Wade and CB. We get on each other if we feel like you’re not doing your job. It's constructive criticism that we need to have with one another to help our team win.” 

It is a fascinating sidebar to the Heat’s journey through the playoffs, perfectly encapsulating the mindset of two superstars as they try to put the Celtics in the first 0-2 playoff hole of the Big Three era Tuesday night. And it highlights the luxury that they have off the court – the ability to look to each other for guidance before answering a question, exchanging small talk under their breath before deciding which one will speak – is one that does not exist on the court. The island they share in the public eye can be more easily divided in the course of a game, when split-second decisions must be made and when credit or blame unavoidably must be be assigned. 

“I also think that people forget that me and 'Bron were the best of friends before we played together,” Wade said. “We got criticized for being friends and hanging out before games with each other, when I'd go to Cleveland and go to his house. We got criticized for that: ‘Back in the day, the Lakers didn’t do that. Boston didn’t do that.’ Well, today, obviously that worked, because we're here together.” 

Together? Inseparable is more like it.
Posted on: March 25, 2011 11:48 pm
Edited on: March 26, 2011 1:40 am
 

Time for Knicks' Melo-dimensional offense to end

NEW YORK – In the uncomfortable quiet of a losing locker room, Chauncey Billups perked up and spoke up when asked about the issue that ultimately will determine the success or failure of Carmelo Anthony’s shotgun wedding with the Knicks

Billups had just played another poor game and once again could not orchestrate the Knicks’ offense down the stretch in the team’s fifth straight loss and eighth in nine games, a 102-96 loss to the Bucks on Friday night. Billups and Anthony had checked in with 7:15 left and Milwaukee leading 91-88. With Billups, Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire on the floor together, the Knicks proceeded to miss their next nine shots from the field and made only 3 of 15 the rest of the way. 

“Tough times,” Anthony said. 

“Everything is so hard,” added coach Mike D’Antoni. 

Billups and Anthony have been a painful fit with D’Antoni’s triple-threat, pick-and-roll offense, which should be unstoppable with a point guard of Billups’ skill and leadership and two scorers like Anthony and Stoudemire. But like the opening weeks of the season, when offensive juggernauts LeBron James and Dwyane Wade couldn’t get out of each other’s way, the Knicks cannot do the one thing they’re currently built to do – score – when it matters most. Most puzzling of all, it’s more difficult for them to score when their three most accomplished offensive players are on the floor together. 

So I asked Billups in a quiet moment in the locker room if the offense is going to have to change to fit Anthony, or if he will adapt to a system he’d thrive in if only he’d embrace it. 

“Yeah, I think that’s in his makeup,” Billups said. “I think he’s probably done it before. The problem is, he’s always been so good that the system has always been just whatever he kind of wants, you know what I mean? He’s always been so good that he’s always been able to just do that and they make the system up around his strengths. I think now this is the first time he’s coming into this system and the system is a little different than the way that he plays. But he’s so good that he can be effective in any system, I think.” 

When Billups said Anthony has done it before, he meant when he played with multiple stars with USA Basketball. The offense didn’t always run through Melo with Team USA, and he didn’t always score the most points. It’s what Anthony needs to embrace now, more than he’s ever needed to embrace anything in his eight-year career. 

“He’s done it before,” Billups said. “He’ll do it again.” 

Anthony got his 25 points Friday night, and Stoudemire got his 28. But they combined for only four baskets and 12 points in the fourth quarter – and only one basket each during the horror show that was the final 7:15. 

“It’s so not fluid,” D’Antoni said. “It’s almost like mud in your engine. We’re just chugging, and it’s tough to play that way, in my opinion. We’re not spacing the floor real well, and the ball’s not moving. And it gets more pronounced in the fourth quarter.” 

With the Knicks 7-11 since the Anthony trade, D’Antoni unsurprisingly is facing the brunt of the criticism. It has not been a honeymoon for him in New York. After two years spent tearing down and cleaning house, D’Antoni finally has been given multiple All-Stars to coach for the first time since he left Phoenix. The problem is, this has been given to him with a quarter of the season left – on a team with no center, and on a team whose depth was badly depleted by the trade. 

He has also been given one of the most gifted scorers in the NBA, a player whose existing game happens to clash with the system that he runs. There are those who will follow the simplistic script and say D’Antoni is no good for the talent he has, and that the Knicks should start over again with another coach who will let Anthony do whatever he wants. 

Doing this without giving D’Antoni a realistic timeframe to break some of Anthony’s bad habits would be too silly to spend much time addressing. But more to the point: Has everyone forgotten that the Knicks gave $100 million to Stoudemire, who has played his entire career in the very system that people want to scrap after 18 games? 

The solution, which obviously isn’t going to come easily, is for Anthony to do what Billups suggested he’s never had to do before: adjust his game to the talent and system around him. He and Billups obviously have spent some time thinking about this, if not talking openly about it, because they said all the right things Friday night. 

“It’s an open offense – a lot of movement, a lot of pick and rolls, a lot of just spacing the court out,” Anthony said. “So that’s something that I have to adjust to. I will adjust to it. I’m not worried about that. And that’s something that I knew coming into this system, that I will have to adjust my game to fit into what’s going on.” 

But this wide-open system that Anthony and Billups keep describing bears no resemblance to what they do when they’re together with Stoudemire on the floor. Stoudemire’s pick-and-roll opportunities, the bread-and-butter of the offense, are nonexistent. The ball movement and spacing fall apart when Anthony touches the ball, sizes up his defender(s), and makes his move. 

“I don’t really think we can say the offense has to go through me or the offense has to go through Amar’e,” Anthony said. “In this offense, everybody touches the ball. Everybody gets open. … Everybody is a part of the offense. So for me to sit here and say the offense has to go through me or Amar’e … Chauncey has the ball. He coordinates all that, and we feed off him.” 

Billups described D’Antoni’s system as “different than any other system out there. … I’ve always pretty much been kind of a fast learner, but it is more different than any other system I’ve played in.” 

Not to belabor the Miami comparison – because we’re clearly talking about different caliber players – but LeBron and Wade have gone back and forth in trying to decide whose turn it is to score and to lead. Through 18 games, Anthony has been the focal point of the Knicks’ offense. That’s right, the player whose game fits the system the least has been the one getting the most opportunities. 

It is time for the Knicks to remember why they brought Stoudemire here, and what he does best: score easy baskets on pick-and rolls, and if not, create wide-open shots for someone else. Facing a far bigger challenge than he imagined when he got here, it is time for Anthony to embrace that, too. He’ll get his opportunities to do what he does best, and in some ways they’ll be better and higher-percentage opportunities than he’s ever had before. 

“Me personally, I’m gonna try to figure it out, and we’re gonna try to figure it out as a team,” Anthony said. “And when that happens, those times are gonna be fun. Basketball will be fun again.” 

He has no idea how much.
Posted on: March 23, 2011 8:12 pm
Edited on: March 23, 2011 9:53 pm
 

Van Gundy: Rose-y outlook for MVP

NEW YORK – Stan Van Gundy has read the tea leaves – and lots of NBA articles, including on this site, evidently – and declared the MVP race over. 

“I don’t think it’s wide open,” Van Gundy said before the Magic played the Knicks Wednesday night. “I mean, the media seems to have made their decision and they’re the ones who vote, so I think it’s over. … Derrick Rose has it. I haven’t really read or heard a media guy who is going another way at this point. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t win it.” 

Van Gundy, clearly chastened by recently having been called on the carpet by commissioner David Stern for voicing his opinions, suffered a momentarily lapse into his previous persona when asked about the MVP race – which he clearly believes, once again, that Dwight Howard should be winning. 

“To me, with his rebounding, his scoring and his defense, I just don’t think there’s anybody who impacts as many possessions in a game as Dwight does,” Van Gundy said. “I think Derrick Rose has been great. I will have no problem if Derrick Rose wins the MVP. They’ve got the best record in the East, and he’s been clearly their leader. You can make a great case for him. 

“He’s been great,” Van Gundy said. “But I still don’t think anyone impacts the game as many possessions in a game as Dwight does.” 

Howard, speaking in the locker room before the game, declined an invitation to state his own case for MVP. 

“Derrick Rose has been playing great basketball,” Howard said. “I’m not a guy that likes to talk about myself, but I think I do a lot for my team in order for us to have a chance to win every night. I think that’s about it. I don’t like talking about myself.” 

As chronicled here, my personal opinion for about two thirds of the season was that LeBron James would get my vote for MVP. But Rose has come on – not statistically or efficiency-wise all the time, but in terms of lifting the Bulls to elite status in the East and being their undisputed floor leader and scorer. Since losing two straight on the road in early February, the Bulls have beaten Miami and Atlanta twice and San Antonio and Orlando once apiece. In February and March, Rose is averaging 25.7 points and 7.1 assists in 23 games.

Earlier this month, Matt Moore and Ben Golliver had a spirited MVP discussion in our Eye on Basketball blog that you can relive here.
Posted on: March 5, 2011 12:12 am
 

Melo takes leading role from Amar'e in loss

NEW YORK – Twice in the final minute-and-a half when the Knicks needed a basket, Carmelo Anthony had the ball in his hands. Exactly what the Knicks want, right? 

Most of the time. But not all of the time. And as it turned out, not Friday night against the one team above all others the Knicks can’t beat – the team with the worst record in the NBA. 

The Knicks were barely a .500 team when they traded for Anthony, and that’s exactly what they are since the trade – 3-3. The one constant, going back to the days when LeBron James wore No. 23 Cavs attire, is that the Knicks can’t beat Cleveland. The old Knicks were 0-1 against them this season, the new Knicks are 0-2, and Knicks of all shapes and sizes are 0-11 against Cleveland since Dec. 19, 2007. 

“It’s a tough loss,” Anthony said. “I don’t want to say it’s embarrassing, but it’s a tough loss.” 

Offense wasn’t the problem for the Knicks Friday night, not when they shot 55 percent from the field and lost 119-115. But the most telling sequence came at the end, when the ball was in Anthony’s hands twice with the game on the line – and twice, one of the most feared clutch scorers in the game didn’t deliver while another feared clutch scorer could only watch. 

With the score tied 110-110 after J.J. Hickson’s driving layup with 1:41 left, Anthony brought the ball up and had it on the wing. Amar’e Stoudemire, who had 36 points at the time, started coming over to set a screen. Anthony threw up a stop sign – the Knicks’ new leading man waving off the old leading man with the game on the line. 

In the pre-Melo days, this would be time for a pick-and-roll for Stoudemire – one of the great finishers in the game and the NBA’s leading fourth-quarter scorer. But these are the uncharted waters the Knicks are wading in now that they’ve added Anthony, who is cut from the Kobe Bryant cloth when it comes to crunch time. 

Ultimately, Anthony made the right basketball play – kicking to Shawne Williams for an open 3-pointer that went in but didn’t count because Anthony was whistled for an offensive foul. What would’ve happened if Stoudemire had come over to set that screen and rolled to the basket for a potential layup, Mike D’Antoni will never know. 

“They’ve got to figure that out,” D’Antoni said. “We’ll figure it out, but an iso with Carmelo is one of the best in the league. Look at the stats – last quarter, fourth quarter over the last 10 years, I think he’s No. 1 in percentage of making shots, so that’s good. Amar’e having the ball in his hands is good. That’s not going to be a problem.” 

Anthony said he waved Stoudemire off because the Cavs were in the same defense they were in on a prior possession, when they ran pick-and-roll and kicked out of it for a missed jumper. But it was a problem again on the Knicks’ final possession, when Anthony drove the lane, missed a layup, and got called for another charge. 

“I guess it was an offensive foul,” Anthony said. “He called it. I saw the lane, and I wasn’t going to settle for a jump shot at that point. I saw a path, I went, and he took a big charge.” 

In that situation, with seven seconds left and the Knicks trailing 117-115, it’s all Anthony, all the time. There’s no time to wait for a Stoudemire pick-and-roll to develop. So when you have one of the best one-on-one scorers alive, you put the ball in his hands and take your chances. Unlike some so-called superstars in this league, Anthony will never shy away from that moment. 

The earlier situation could’ve gone either way. And that – along with something called defense – is what the Knicks (31-29) are trying to figure out with 22 games to go. 

This being New York, some hysterics already are plunging off the bandwagon as if the bandwagon just hit an enormous pothole. That’s just silly. It’s preposterous to expect a scorer of Anthony’s stature to do anything but try to score with the game on the line in the last two minutes – especially considering he took exactly half as many shots from the field as Stoudemire. Anthony’s 29 points came on 10-for-16 shooting, while Stoudemire equaled his season high with 41 points and was 16 for 32 from the field. 

Is it panic time for the new Knicks? Hardly. They’re about as mediocre and inconsistent as they were before the trade, except they now have not one, but two of the best scorers in the game -- and, by the way, didn't have Chauncey Billups Friday night. They have to figure out who’s turn it is, and when. But if anyone was expecting it not to be Anthony’s turn in the final two minutes of the game when the Knicks need a basket, they’re going to be disappointed again and again.
Posted on: February 19, 2011 6:06 pm
 

LeBron, CP3 come to Melo's defense

LOS ANGELES – LeBron James started the trend of superstars teaming up in the prime of their careers. Chris Paul stoked the flames with his infamous wedding toast in July. 

On Saturday at All-Star media availability, Anthony’s partners in crime showed up to defend their close friend amid the ever-increasing insanity over his February free-agent decision. 

“Carmelo Anthony is his own man, just like I’m my own man,” LeBron said, butting into the latest interrogation of Anthony to take the Heat off his friend. “It's totally different. It's totally different, because one thing about me, when I was going through my situation, I was able to hide a little bit because it was the offseason when it got heavy. This guy's traveling every day, he has to play, he still has to put on a uniform and still represent the Denver Nuggets the right way and still listen to you guys ask him every single day what is he doing, where is he going. And he knows just as much as you guys know.” 

Asked if the Melo saga has grown worse than LeBron’s free-agent extravaganza this past summer, James said, “Yeah, because he has to see you guys every day. I didn’t have to see you at all in the offseason.'' 

James, who along with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh chose to sign a three-year extension in 2006 so all three would be free agents at the same time, also defended Anthony’s decision to opt for the added security of a four-year extension at the time. 

“There was no wrong answer,” James said. “It’s just a tough situation what he’s going through right now, to have to answer these questions every single day and still try to lead his team to victory every single night and play at a high level. But he's showing right now, averaging 31 points in the month of February, that he can do these things at a high level and still listen to you guys ask him the same damn situation every day.” 

Seated shoulder-to-shoulder between James and Paul on the scorer’s table, Anthony shed little new light on his situation Saturday. He once again refused to confirm of deny his Thursday night meeting with Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan, but said if he were traded to the Knicks to play for Mike D’Antoni, “That’s a great system he has there.” 

Amar’e Stoudemire, Anthony’s would-be teammate and the inspiration for Paul toasting to forming “our own Big Three in New York” at Anthony’s July wedding, said the addition of Anthony “definitely is going to help us as far as going into the postseason. You have two guys who demand double teams and it’s going to be tough to guard us.” 

As for the players the Knicks would have to give up in an Anthony trade – some combination of Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton and Landry Fields – Stoudemire said, “That is a lot. I'm not sure what the details are. But with a player of that stature, he definitely helps any ballclub he goes to.” 

James even went so far as to break down the dilemma facing the Nuggets, who must decide whether to accept a lesser trade package from the Knicks, sign Anthony to the three-year, $65 million extension that has been on the table for months, or risk losing him in free agency and getting nothing in return. The Nuggets prefer to trade Anthony to the Nets, which would yield a better collection of assets centered around Derrick Favors and multiple first-round picks. But that possibility grew more remote Saturday when a spokeswoman for Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov said the Russian billionaire has not met with Anthony and has no intentions to meet with him during All-Star weekend. Anthony's long-held insistence on signing an extension only with the Knicks if traded finally is gaining the kind of public traction that could bring an end to the Nets' months-long pursuit of the three-time All-Star.

“Me personally, if I’m a GM or if I’m an owner, I wouldn’t want to lose one of the best players in the league, one of the top 10 best players in the league,” James said. “You try to do anything in your power to keep him. I mean, he’s one of the top 10 players that we’ve got in the game today. That’s just my personal opinion. But I’m not a GM. I’m not an owner. I’m just a player. 

“What would you do?” James continued. “If you're the owner of the Denver Nuggets or you're the GM of the Denver Nuggets, and you don’t know for sure if Carmelo's going to sign the three-year extension, what would you do? Would you try to get something for him, or would you just let him walk?” • Get something for him, someone replied. 

“That's what I think,” James said. 

For his part, Paul deflected a question about his own looming free agency in 2012, which depending on the structure of a new collective bargaining agreement could put him in Anthony’s shoes as early as this coming summer. At one point, James interrupted the Anthony questioning, gestured toward Paul, and said, “He would have all the answers. You started this ___ thing.” 

All with a toast that made Anthony the toast and the bane of All-Star weekend.
Posted on: February 19, 2011 12:46 am
 

Sources: LeBron calls out owners at CBA meeting

LOS ANGELES – Just before the All-Star break, LeBron James expressed hopefulness that progress could be made in the NBA’s labor talks so a lockout could be avoided. On Friday, James willingly accepted the leadership role that comes with his stature and called out certain hard-line owners for being unrealistic in their demands. 

James was one of several particularly vocal players in Friday’s bargaining meeting, and sources told CBSSports.com his chief complaint was with hard-line owners who’ve bought their teams in recent years and are now trying to dramatically alter the financial system they willingly bought into. 

“This has been a 57 percent system for years,” said a person who was in the meeting, paraphrasing James’ message. “This has been a system with guaranteed contracts forever. What did you guys expect? What did you think you were getting into?” 

That was among the highlights in an otherwise uneventful bargaining meeting, in which no actual negotiation was accomplished. Though the list of players in attendance was far longer than at last year’s All-Star meeting – in addition to the executive committee and some of the same top-flight stars who attended in Dallas, Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Baron Davis, and Al Horford were among those in the room – the tone was much less contentious. But a compromise is no closer to occurring. 

“I’m worried about the league,” Dwyane Wade said. “It’s not just about myself, it’s about the future of the NBA. We want to make sure this game continues to grow and continues to prosper. We don’t want lockouts. We want this game to go on for many, many years, and we understand that a deal has to be done. Both sides have to come to an agreement. Neither side is going to come to an agreement if we can’t meet halfway.” 

Though National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter said the owners’ hard-line position “kind of softened” by the end of the meeting, the owners still are no closer to making a second proposal to counter the players’ proposal. The owners haven’t offered anything new in terms of a formal proposal since submitting their initial slash-and-burn document 13 months ago. 

“I don’t know that there’s going to be a formal, written proposal coming from them any time soon,” Hunter said. 

And absent that, nor will there be one from the players. 

“We won’t submit another proposal” before the owners do, Hunter said. “That’s out of the question. … If we’re going to avoid a lockout, they’ve got to move off the dime.” 

Hunter said he will meet with commissioner David Stern next week after the All-Star break and schedule a series of negotiating sessions that will begin in the next 1-2 weeks. 

“I’m going to tell my guys to be prepared for a lockout,” Hunter said. “… We’ve got four months. And we’re going to see what we can do in the next four months. If it comes together, good. If it doesn’t, then we put our players on notice.” 

Hunter did not back down from his previous prediction that a lockout is 99 percent certain, but said, “We’re going to negotiate. We’re going to make every effort. I keep saying the same thing. I’m beginning to hear myself, like an echo. We’re going to make every effort to negotiate. We want a deal. Our guys do not want to be locked out. But given no choice … if you don’t give us any choice and our only alternative is to fight, then we’ll fight. 

“If it means that we’ll have to lose a season to get a deal we can live with,” Hunter said, “we’re willing to do that. We don’t want to, but we’ll suffer some pain.” 

The owners James and other players were taking aim at in the meeting were the new, hard-line group that has come into the NBA in recent years – including the owner of James’ former team, Dan Gilbert. Owners like Gilbert, the Suns’ Robert Sarver, the Celtics’ Wyc Grousbeck and the Wizards’ Ted Leonsis weren’t around for the last lockout and rely more on the financial success of their NBA teams than the old-school owners ever did. 

It is those new owners, sources say, who are pushing the hardest for dramatic changes, including a hard cap and a reduction in contract length and guarantees. Sources say the players in the meeting were incredulous that owners are suddenly so hellbent on changing the rules they signed up for. The owners offered no response to the challenges issued by LeBron and several other players, sources said, but listened to their concerns in what was termed a “cordial” and “amicable” meeting. 

Hunter also said that when the union’s University of Chicago economist asked owners if they would be asking for the same changes if they were making more money, the response was, “Yes.” This was the most significant moment in the meeting, Hunter said, with owners revealing that their goal is not to cut losses but to increase profits. 

“We may never have a consensus on what the numbers mean,” Hunter said. 

Two key issues that are expected to become contentious – a possible franchise tag and the contraction of teams in underperforming markets – did not get much attention in Friday’s meeting. But Hunter reiterated his insistence that the players will not agree to a deal without seeing details of a vastly improved revenue-sharing system – the creation of which the owners believe should be handled separately from bargaining. 

As for an issue that affects a certain free agent-to-be who faces possibly losing millions if he opts out of his contract rather than sign an extension before June 30, sources say Carmelo Anthony emerged from the meeting with no more knowledge about the issue than he came in with. Earlier in the day, when asked about the risk of entering free agency in the first year of a potentially punitive CBA, Anthony replied, “That’s why I’m about to go meet with Billy Hunter.” 

“You’ve got guys who’ve negotiated their contracts this past year – LeBron, Chris Bosh, etc.,” Hunter said. “Does that the mean that if a guy like Carmelo comes up while we’re negotiating and if the franchise player tag gets introduced and adopted, that he now suffer as a consequence because he can’t go out on the market? I don’t know if that’s acceptable to me.”
Posted on: February 13, 2011 12:36 pm
 

LeBron: Heckler incident 'wasn't huge deal'

BOSTON – LeBron James said Sunday his verbal altercation with a heckler in Auburn Hills, Mich., “wasn’t a huge deal,” and that he simply reacted the way anyone else would have. 

“I said what I had to say and I moved on,” James said before the Heat played the Celtics. “I didn’t stay on him. I just said what I had to say just like any normal person would if they felt like they’ve been disrespected and moved on. That’s all I did.” 

James confronted the heckler during the Heat’s 106-92 victory over the Pistons – Miami’s eighth straight. Reports indicated the heckler said something about James’ mother, Gloria, and that James responded with something to the effect, “Don’t say anything about my family. Be respectful or we’re going to have a problem.” 

Our Eye on Basketball blog has video of the incident here

“There’s 20,000 people-plus in the arena,” James said. “You can’t single out everyone; that would be a waste of time trying to do that. You understand that you go out there to play the game of basketball and fans are going to be fans.” 

James said he’s faced more heckling than he expected back in July when he made the decision to leave Cleveland and team up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. 

“I understood the situation I was getting myself into, changing teams and locations and changing scenery,” James said. “I understood that a lot of people didn’t like what we did, like what I did and there were going to be some hateful people.” 

Hateful, and stupid, too.
Posted on: December 26, 2010 7:22 pm
 

Gentry: Griffin is 'best athlete in the league'

LOS ANGELES – The best game of the weekend at Staples Center wasn’t on Christmas Day, but the day after. And it didn’t involve Kobe Bryant, LeBron James or Dwyane Wade, but rather a budding superstar whom one of the top coaches in the NBA called “the best athlete in the league” on Sunday. 

His name, of course, is Blake Griffin. And he does things like this

In front of a rare sellout crowd at Staples – for a Clippers game, that is – Griffin stole the holiday weekend show with his 18th consecutive double-double as L.A. beat the Suns 108-103. Griffin had 28 points and 12 rebounds, but that wasn’t the miracle. The miracle was that the Clippers figured out how to close out a tight game with Griffin sitting on the bench after fouling out with 2:52 left. 

After some nervous moments down the stretch, including a shot-clock violation in the face of the Suns’ improved defense after last week’s trade, the Suns cut the Clippers’ lead on Mickael Pietrus’ corner 3-pointer with 22.5 seconds left. But Pietrus, who came from Orlando with Marcin Gortat and Vince Carter in the trade that sent Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Earl Clark to Orlando, still giveth and taketh away. His turnover, forced by Eric Gordon as the Suns were angling for a 3-pointer to send the game to overtime, let the Clippers survive without their athletic and emotional leader. 

“He’s the best athlete in the league right now,” Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. “As a big guy, if guys are going to throw lobs and stuff like that, there’s nobody that’s even remotely close right now. You have to make him into a basketball player. You have to make him make basketball plays, not athletic plays. In the first half we let him make all of these athletic plays. And with Grant [Hill] guarding him, we made him make basketball plays. I’m pretty sure if you look at the time Grant guarded him, I don’t think he got a basket.” 

The Clippers (9-22) are a .500 team over their last 10 games, and with Griffin’s talent and attitude, there is reason to believe this team is heading for better days. 

“They’ve got good young players and they’ve done a good job with them,” Gentry said. “I think you’ll continue to see them get better over time. They got off to a rough start, but it’s not so much that. Are you getting better? Are you building up? You can see that they’re getting better.” 

The driving force is Griffin, a freakish athlete who has an emotional edge to go with his talent. He refused to back down from Hill, a savvy, 38-year-old veteran who was a year away from his freshman season at Duke when Griffin was born. After absorbing a hard hip-check from Pietrus on his way to the basket in the fourth, Griffin stood over the bodies that had fallen in his wake like bowling pins and screamed. He ran to the defense of teammate Al-Farouq Aminu, who moments earlier had been pulled down by Pietrus on a transition layup attempt. 

Gentry is right about Griffin’s athleticism, and the rookie is something else the Clippers have lacked for too long: a superstar with attitude, and by that I mean a good attitude.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com