Tag:Trail Blazers
Posted on: November 22, 2010 5:11 pm
Edited on: November 22, 2010 10:19 pm
 

Haslem to have surgery, miss several months

Heat forward Udonis Haslem will undergo foot surgery Tuesday and miss several months, a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed to CBSSports.com.

The surgery, first reported by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel , creates a huge void in Miami's frontcourt rotation and will require them to revisit their pursuit of free-agent center Erick Dampier.

The prognosis for Haslem's recovery from the procedure to repair a torn ligament in his left foot likely makes returning after the All-Star break the best-case scenario. With its already thin front line having been exploited at times against bigger lineups, Miami will have to add a big man to replace Haslem's rebounding and post defense. Replacing his leadership will be even more difficult.

UPDATE: The Heat offered Dampier, 35, a one-year contract at the prorated veteran's minimum and he is expected to sign it Tuesday, CBSSports.com has learned. Miami will have to release a player -- Dexter Pittman or Jamaal Magloire, according to sources -- to create a roster spot for Dampier.

After initially being rebuffed by the Heat, Dampier appeared headed for the Rockets. But the deal fell apart when Houston had difficulty creating a roster spot for him, according to an NBA front office source. The Suns and Trail Blazers also have inquired about Dampier, who would be an ideal fit because he's a natural center and thus would limit the exposure of Chris Bosh and Joel Anthony at the five position -- a spot neither is ideally suited to play.

The Blazers are down two big men after the retirement of Fabricio Oberto and the news that 2007 No. 1 pick Greg Oden will miss the rest of the season due to microfracture surgery. Portland signed Sean Marks after working out Marks, Randolph, Earl Barron, and Dwayne Jones. Barron later signed with the Suns, who are no longer pursuing Dampier; the opportunity for Dampier would be only short-term in Phoenix because starting center Robin Lopez's knee injury is not a long-term situation.

Another name on the market, Mikki Moore, was discussed by Portland officials when Oberto retired, but the team elected not to pursue him. Moore has played for six teams in the past six seasons.




 



Posted on: November 17, 2010 1:14 pm
 

Post-Ups

Their three-game winning streak and 22-gun salute from the 3-point line against the Lakers notwithstanding, these are delicate times for the Phoenix Suns. So delicate, in fact, that a speculative riff on an NBA writer’s podcast last week sparked a flurry of trade rumors surrounding Steve Nash.

Such is life in the NBA blogosmear, but there’s an element of truth to the speculation. Watching Nash play without Amar’e Stoudemire, and Stoudemire without Nash, is a classic lesson in being careful what you wish for. The Suns, like many NBA teams, were hesitant to lavish five guaranteed years on Stoudemire given the uninsurable state of his knees. The Knicks, boxed out of the LeBron James and Dwyane Wade sweepstakes, were in the rare position of being open to Stoudemire’s in-person overtures back in July. It was a match made in Desperadoville.

The Knicks were in Denver Tuesday night to face the Nuggets and the latest apple of their eyes, Carmelo Anthony. They arrived in a tailspin, having lost five in a row, and left with a 120-118 loss, a six-game losing streak, and much of the hopelessness inspired by Knicks teams of the past decade. No fewer than 15 power forwards playing at least 25 minutes per game are ahead of Stoudemire in efficiency rating, according to Hoopdata.com. Among them are Michael Beasley, Charlie Villanueva and Hakim Warrick – who replaced Stoudemire in Phoenix. You don’t need data to see that Stoudemire is struggling in his new home. Watching him search in vain for someone who knows how to run a pick-and-roll is evidence enough.

Despite Warrick’s statistical accomplishments, things aren’t much better for Nash and the Suns. Lost in the Suns’ unconscious shooting exploits in a 121-116 victory over the Lakers Sunday night was the ongoing horror show of watching Nash dribble around desperately in search of someone to set a capable screen and roll to the basket. Both Nash and Stoudemire have lost something irreplaceable in each other.

While the Knicks plan to do their due diligence and inquire as to Nash’s availability, the Suns haven’t gotten to the point of entertaining offers, according to an executive familiar with their strategy. Coach Alvin Gentry already has made it clear publicly that the Suns aren’t trading Nash, and the executive familiar with the team’s posture characterized the flurry of rumors as “random” and “not factual.” But in Phoenix, as with many revenue-challenged NBA cities, basketball sense doesn’t always align with financial reality.

Without Stoudemire – and assuming they can’t make 20-plus 3-pointers a night for the rest of the season – the Suns will be struggling to get a whiff of the eighth seed come April. They’re the worst rebounding team in the league in terms of defensive rebounding rate and offensive rebounding differential, and the loss of center Robin Lopez to a sprained knee certainly won’t help.

“We’ve got to be a little bit more scrappy than we’ve been in the past,” said Jared Dudley, a key member of the superior bench that made the Suns such a threat to the Lakers in the conference finals last spring.

But Suns owner Robert Sarver, whose non-basketball businesses in the banking and real estate sectors have been hammered by the recession, isn’t paying $63 million for a scrappy, barely .500 team. The Suns are comfortably below the $70.3 million luxury-tax threshold, so there’s no urgency there. However, Sarver has been one of the most vocal in a new wave of owners in the collective bargaining fight, and rival executives believe he’ll be on a rampage at the trade deadline if the Suns are out of the playoff hunt. That’s an eventuality the Suns hope to prevent, and despite their current upswing, it will prove to be a difficult fight.

“Hopefully we can get a couple of wins in a row so we can get those rumors away,” Dudley said of the Nash speculation. “You don’t want your franchise player to go. He makes everybody better here and he’s the face of Phoenix. If you think the transition is big with Amar’e, I can only imagine. It would be a journey having [Nash] leave.”

Which brings us to the next step in our journey, to the rest of the Post-Ups:

• With Jermaine O’Neal out several weeks with a sore left knee, you and I both know what name comes to mind as a free-agent replacement: Rasheed Wallace. While ‘Sheed’s agent, Bill Strickland, wouldn’t completely rule it out, it doesn’t sound like Wallace is even contemplating the possibility of coming out of retirement – for the Celtics or anybody else. “I have not talked to Danny [Ainge, the Celtics’ president] or Rasheed about that, but I think Rasheed is through,” Strickland said. Wallace, 36, isn’t believed to be working out on the court in any capacity in the event a team might be interested in his services. And while it’s hard to imagine Wallace coming back with the NBA’s tech-happy mandate to the referees, it’s more of a physical issue. As far back as when Wallace was still with the Pistons, he was known to sometimes leave his shoes on between games in order to keep playing. If he’d removed them, his ankles would’ve swelled up so badly that he wouldn’t have been able to get them back on.

• Leave it to the Zen Master to decode the mystery of Utah’s amazing string of double-digit road comebacks last week. Lakers coach Phil Jackson pointed out that Jazz coach Jerry Sloan is perhaps the only NBA coach who elects to have his team play offense in front of his bench in the second half. Most coaches prefer to have their team in front of them on defense down the stretch of road games. Lo and behold, the Jazz reeled off double-digit road comebacks against Miami, Orlando, Atlanta and Charlotte by pouring on the offense in the second half. Visiting coaches choose which basket to defend in which half. “You can generate a lot of points in front of your bench,” Jackson said. “Defensively, a lot of coaches like their team to be in front of the bench in the second half on the road, because you can call stuff and give eyes to the players with their back to the basket. They’re the only team in the NBA that does it the other way.”

Brandon Roy’s future with bone-on-bone in both knees bears watching, given that his game is based on getting to the basket and he’s only 26 – with a lot of mileage theoretically ahead of him. But Dr. Nicholas DiNubile, spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and former consultant to the Philadelphia 76ers, said it depends on the extent of the damage and where it is. After his latest bout with knee swelling and pain last week, Roy learned that surgery was not an option because he has no meniscus left in either knee. DiNubile said Roy’s fate will be determined by whether he lacks cartilage, too. “It would be extremely unlikely at that age to have no meniscus and no cartilage,” DiNubile said. Whether the bone-on-bone condition is occurring in the actual knee joint (bad) or under the kneecap (still bad, but better) also is important. If the bone-on-bone situation is where the tibia meets the femur, “You’re kind of doomed,” DiNubile said. “That’s not compatible with up-and-down playing. If he were to have bone-on-bone in the main part of his knee, his career’s going to be limited one way or the other.” If the condition exists in the kneecap, DiNubile said athletes “can do surprisingly well.”

• As more than an innocent bystander in the Carmelo Anthony saga, Nuggets coach George Karl is more than doing his part by using his considerable powers of persuasion to try to keep Melo in Denver. But it’s impossible to evaluate Karl’s efforts on that front without noting his own pursuit of a contract extension. Two people familiar with the situation told CBSSports.com that the Nuggets view Karl as part of their future, regardless of whether Anthony stays. Whether Karl wants to remain in Denver if he winds up with a rebuilding team post-Anthony – that’s another matter. But despite Karl’s disenchantment with the ouster of his friends Mark Warkentien and Tim Grgurich, the lines of communication between Karl, GM Masai Ujiri, executive Josh Kroenke, and team president Paul Andrews are very much open. And weighing on the matter more than Anthony’s future is Karl’s health. Karl, 59, has several more hurdles to clear in his heroic efforts to beat throat and neck cancer, and wants to be sure he remains cancer-free before asking the Nuggets to commit to him beyond this season. Everyone in the NBA, including the Denver front office, is rooting for him.

Tayshaun Prince’s repeated blowups, with coach John Kuester giving as good as he’s getting, aren’t expected to play a major role in the Pistons’ decision on whether to trade the swingman and his $11.1 million expiring contract. A person with knowledge of Prince’s thinking told CBSSports.com that his frustration isn’t fully directed at Kuester; losing, after his time as a member of the formerly contending Pistons, is a bigger issue. But the biggest issue in the decision on whether to move him is the impending ownership change in Detroit. Trading an expiring deal, by definition, involves taking on future money – which is difficult, at best, to do when a new owner is entering the picture.

Kevin Love’s 31-point, 31-rebound game – an incredible performance and the first of its kind since Moses Malone in 1982 – was a quiet victory for Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis. Rambis had been trying to prove a point to Love by limiting his minutes: If you don’t play both ends of the floor, you’re not going to play. Rambis’ message finally got through, and the result was an example of what Love is capable of when he puts his mind to it. But this isn’t the end of the dysfunction in Minnesota, by any stretch. Just because Love performed in an historic way doesn’t mean he’s buying Rambis’ message long-term. And a person familiar with the Wolves’ locker room dynamics isn’t convinced it’s smooth sailing from here. “The team is a disaster,” the person said. Depending on who you ask, the issue is either lack of communication from Rambis, or an unwillingness to listen on the part of Love and others who are disenchanted with minutes. It’s going to take more time to sort it all out.
Posted on: November 4, 2010 10:22 pm
Edited on: November 4, 2010 10:24 pm
 

Oberto's assist to the Blazers

No one was happy to hear the news that Blazers forward Fabricio Oberto decided to retire Thursday due to a recurring heart condition. Known wherever he's been as a great teammate, Oberto proved it once again on his way out of Portland.

When a player suffers a season- or career-ending medical condition, he's entitled to receive every dollar he's due. But Oberto, 35, didn't go that route. In fact, after discussing his medical issues with Blazers officials, doctors and his agent, Oberto agreed to sign an addendum to his contract converting it from guaranteed to non-guaranteed.

In fact, he insisted on it, said Oberto's agent, Herb Rudoy.

"He just absolutely was adamant when we talked about it," Rudoy said Thursday night. "He didn’t feel it was correct to be there for a week and get paid for the season."

So the Blazers will put Oberto, a 2007 NBA champion with the Spurs, on waivers Friday and will be able to use most of his $854,389 salary to put towards a big man to replace him -- at least until Greg Oden and/or Joel Pryzbilla return from injuries. It may not seem like a lot by NBA standards, but remember to double it because the Blazers are paying luxury tax. Pretty generous parting gift from a guy who logged a total of 45 minutes over five games with the Blazers.

As CBSSports.com's Ben Golliver confirmed, the Blazers are expected to work out Earl Barron, Dwayne Jones, Sean Marks and Shavlik Randolph. Eric Boateng, the last player cut by the Nuggets, also will be brought in for a workout.

Meanwhile, with the injuries to Oden, Pryzbilla and now Oberto, it appears that former Net Josh Boone made a serious tactical error going to China after failing to attract free-agent interest this past summer. The Blazers tried to get Boone, a 6-10 forward, to sign a non-guaranteed deal in July, but he opted to sign with the Zhejiang Golden Bulls, instead. At this point, he'd be getting 10 minutes a game of NBA run from the injury-ravaged Blazers. Oops.



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 30, 2010 7:00 pm
 

Blazers pick up Fernandez option

NEW YORK -- Rudy Fernandez received news from the Trail Blazers Friday. No, he hasn't been traded or released. To the contrary, the Blazers picked up the disgruntled swingman's fourth-year option, agent Andy Miller said.

Picking up the team option was basically a formality, given that the $2.2 million figure isn't high enough to be a prohibitive factor for potential trade suitors. The paperwork was hand-delivered to Miller Friday afternoon, hours before Fernandez suited up to play the Knicks in New York's home opener.

Miller had a brief meeting with Blazers GM Rich Cho and assistant GM Steve Rosenberry, but there is little movement on the trade front. Fernandez, who has publicly asked to be released from his contract so he can return to Spain and incurred several hefty fines as a result, appears to have resigned himself to the fact that he will be a Blazer for the foreseeable future.

Still, the detente between the sparring camps shouldn't be misread. Though Fernandez has been productive in 39 minutes off the bench in Portland's first two games, there is little reason to believe that he will suddenly fall in love with the idea of spending two more years in Portland. Though sources say no logical trade discussions are on the table, the calming of the rhetoric between Fernandez's camp and the Blazers should help create a more fertile atmosphere for a trade Portland might find attractive.





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?”
Posted on: July 23, 2010 1:10 pm
 

Monty wants to hear directly from Paul

The next step in the drama surrounding All-Star point guard Chris Paul will happen Monday, when he will meet with New Orleans officials and decide whether to push his angst to the next level by formally -- and in person -- requesting to be traded.

Hornets coach Monty Williams, for one, wants to hear those words straight from his point guard's mouth before drawing any conclusions about their future together.

"We'll sit down with Chris on Monday and see what happens," Williams told CBSSports.com by phone Friday. "I'm as eager as anybody to see where this goes."

It is a critical time for Williams, who is only in his second month on the job yet already is facing a crisis that could affect the franchise for years. His key ally in Monday's sitdown with Paul, new GM Dell Demps, has only been on the job for 48 hours. Their goal will be to talk Paul out of his desire to be traded, which was first reported Wednesday by CBSSports.com .

"This has become a national story, and it's not a story," Williams said. "Nothing has happened yet."

On Monday, it will -- one way or another. As CBSSports.com reported Wednesday, Paul has decided he wants to be traded and has asked his new agent, Leon Rose, to inform New Orleans management that he prefers to be dealt to the Knicks, Magic or Lakers. Other teams have joined the mix since then, with sources saying that the Mavericks and Trail Blazers have been the most aggressive in their pursuit.

"Other teams are jockeying to get in the mix," said one person familiar with the league-wide pursuit of one of the most gifted point guards in the league.

Paul's desire, according to a person familiar with his strategy, is to follow in LeBron James' footsteps by joining forces with one or more elite players. While the Lakers are viewed as a long-shot scenario, the Magic and Knicks both present tantalizing possibilities. In Orlando, Paul would team with Dwight Howard, who already has informed Magic management that he wants to play with Paul. In New York, Paul would play the role of a younger, higher-octane Steve Nash by pairing with Amar'e Stoudemire in Mike D'Antoni's offense, which was invented for a point guard of Paul's exquisite gifts.

For starters, any team hoping to land Paul would have to take Emeka Okafor and his onerous contract, which pays him $53.2 million over the next four years. If New Orleans decided to entertain offers for Paul, the team also likely would insist on including James Posey, owed $13.4 million over the next two years. The Magic could offer Vince Carter, who has only $4 million of his $18.3 million guaranteed for the 2011-12 season, as well as draft picks. The Knicks don't have draft picks to offer, but since they're approximately $3 million under the cap, they could take back $3 million more salary than they send out in the deal -- a significant cost savings for the Hornets in addition to the $3 million cash the Knicks wouldn't think twice about adding to the deal. By acquiring Anthony Randolph and Kelenna Azubuike from Golden State in a sign-and-trade for David Lee, the Knicks also have young assets to pair with Danilo Gallinari and/or Wilson Chandler in a credible proposal for Paul.

Of course, if Paul escalates the trade request that has been made through intermediaries into a formal request Monday, the Hornets would be under no obligation to oblige him -- much less trade him to the team of his choice. Williams said the team's strategy for dealing with such a situation wouldn't be devised until after Monday's meeting.

Williams is putting up a brave front, and is genuinely looking forward to the chance to sell Paul on his vision for the team. But he and Demps, having stepped into a situation that was not their doing, also face the responsibility of reconciling the past year of turmoil in a way that makes Paul reconsider.

Those attending Monday's meeting for the Hornets will be Demps, Williams and team president Hugh Weber. It is not clear whether Paul will be joined by his new agent, Rose, who has not responded to calls from CBSSports.com to determine whether he is officially representing Paul after a 15-day waiting period following the end of his relationship with Octagon.

But one thing is clear: The job of selling Paul on the basketball reasons to stay will fall on the shoulders of Demps and Williams, who are dealing with a situation of this magnitude for the first time -- at least as the top decision-makers on an NBA team. The firing last week of experienced GM Jeff Bower -- and further, subsequent housecleaning in the front office -- have only made the organization more vulnerable at a time when Paul's impatience with the team's direction is at an all-time high.

After Bower was let go, the Hornets fired director of basketball administration Andy Loomis. Director of scouting Brian Hagen has survived the purge, but doesn't have a contract for next season, sources say.

As for Paul, Williams said he's texted back and forth with his point guard in advance of Monday's meeting. The Hornets' new coach sees the writing on the wall, but doesn't want to read what Paul or his representatives have to say -- he wants to hear it from him.

"All of this stuff has come out with no quotes from Chris and no quotes from us," Williams said. "... I just wish all this had been handled behind closed doors. This is not the way I like to operate, and I know this isn't the way that Chris likes to operate. We've communicated by text just to try to figure out where this stuff is coming from."

If by "stuff" he means smoke, then it's coming from the fire smoldering within Paul. On Monday, Williams will get a chance to put it out.



 




Posted on: July 16, 2010 12:03 am
Edited on: July 16, 2010 6:47 am
 

Summer League Buzz

LAS VEGAS – After the whirlwind of being the No. 1 pick in the draft, signing his $25 million endorsement contract with Reebok, and doing other things that No. 1 picks have to do, John Wall is back where he’s most comfortable: on the court.

That’s where he was Thursday night, as I was typing this: in a courtside seat with his knees wrapped in ice, texting with abandon and watching former Kentucky teammate Eric Bledsoe play for the Clippers against the Trail Blazers in an NBA Summer League game. Earlier, Wall had 21 points and 10 assists in his third pro game, an 88-82 victory over the Mavericks. Wall is now 3-0 since the Wildcats lost to West Virginia in the East Regional Final.

“I was excited to play that first game and get into a rhythm and start winning games for my team,” Wall said Thursday night.

Though he didn’t shoot well (4-for-19), it was arguably Wall’s best game since arriving in Vegas. He’s averaging 21 points and 9.3 assists, but the best number Thursday night was in the turnover column: three, after committing eight in each of his first two games.

“I’m trying to get better at everything,” Wall said.

Wall said he’s spoken “once or twice a week” with his future backcourt mate, Gilbert Arenas, since the draft, and hopes to work out with the Wizards’ former franchise player before training camp. Wall is used to playing with top talent – three of his former Kentucky teammates are making their NBA debuts in Vegas this week – but finding a comfort zone with Arenas will be his most important on-court relationship to date.

The Wizards, so far, couldn’t be happier with how Wall is handling the first days of his NBA career. “No diva factor,” is how one source described him. That’s exactly what the Wizards need after enduring the nightmarish fallout from Arenas’ firearms incident and suspension.
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The Hawks continue to be the most likely landing spot for free-agent center Shaquille O’Neal, but even Atlanta – which could use Shaq’s ability to sell tickets – is balking at his asking price. The Hawks, after retaining free-agent Joe Johnson with a six-year, $124 million contract, may not be able to get ownership to approve offering O’Neal the mid-level exception starting at $5.8 million.

The Celtics and Mavericks have been monitoring the O’Neal situation, although one person with knowledge of the Celtics’ plans said they’re “not very” active in their discussions about turning Shaq into the Big Leprechaun. The Knicks’ reported interest in Shaq is lukewarm at best, sources say. But if O’Neal is willing to lower his price – say, to the bi-annual exception of $1.9 million – his market would expand considerably. One Eastern Conference GM said if the right team gets O’Neal, he could be “the key to the East.” The thinking is this: The only weakness on Miami’s superteam is in the middle, where Shaq could do some damage.
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Hornets officials have begun their search to replace fired GM Jeff Bower, but have not gotten back to several coaching agents involved as to which of their clients will be getting interviews. Former Trail Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard would be good fit, especially considering his relationship with Hornets coach Monty Williams – a former Portland assistant. But a person familiar with the state of the Hornets’ search said several potential candidates haven’t been informed of where they fit on the team’s list of priorities. Meanwhile, ESPN.com reported that Spurs executive Dell Demps interviewed for the job Thursday.

As for Pritchard’s former employer, the Blazers are believed to have zeroed in on Thunder assistant GM Rich Cho, whose strengths in data analysis have wowed the Vulcan Inc. cronies who have owner Paul Allen’s ear. The Vulcanites, as they’re not so fondly called, are wielding plenty of influence in the power vacuum created when Pritchard was fired on draft night, sources say.

The Suns’ search for a day-to-day GM is on hold until former player agent Lon Babby officially is installed as team president. Babby, sources say, will take control of the search, which is believed to be wide open.
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As impressive as Wall was for the Wizards Thursday night, he wasn’t even close to being the fan favorite in the game. That honor went to Jeremy Lin, the former Harvard standout invited to play on the Mavs’ Summer League team. Lin, trying to become the NBA’s first American-born Asian player, showed a real flare for getting to the basket and was impressive with 13 points and a plus-14 in 27 minutes.


 
 
 
 
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