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Tag:Chris Paul
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 8, 2011 1:31 pm
 

Reggie Miller sticks up for small markets

As the superstar exodus to greener pastures and glitzier cities continues in the NBA, Reggie Miller rode to the rescue of the small market Tuesday. 

In TNT's pre-All-Star conference call, Miller said a franchise tag to curb player movement will be "tough" to implement in collective bargaining. But if that's what it takes to keep stars in small markets -- Miller played his entire 18-year career in Indiana -- he's all for it. 

"I was disappointed when LeBron left and went to Miami," Miller said. "I'm not faulting him, because obviously this is America and people change jobs and occupations and locations all the time. But for a guy that's been in a small market for 18 years, I just love when stars and superstars -- and you had the biggest superstars in our league in terms of name recognition in LeBron in a small market -- I didn’t think overall that helps the brand. Therefore, I hope Deron Williams stays in Utah and Chris Paul stays in New Orleans. It's good to have superstars in smaller markets because it helps the brand." 

Fellow Turner Sports broadcaster Kevin McHale, who famously traded Kevin Garnett from Minnesota to Boston in 2007, called the franchise tag an "interesting concept." Depending on how it's implemented, a franchise tag would either give teams cap relief to help them retain a star player, further restrict star players' movement, or both. 

"There's something to that," McHale said. "It gives the team that drafts a guy and develops a guy more of an opportunity to hold onto the player. I agree having the talent distributed throughout the whole NBA is much better for the game as whole. If you win, they'll want to play in different cities, no matter if it's Oklahoma City or New York City. If you're winning, they're going to want to go there and be part of it." 

Whether the owners can get such an onerous request past the union without a fight? Good luck. 

"They're going to have to get the players' association to buy into that," McHale said. 

The prospect of a franchise tag in a new CBA plays directly into the future of Carmelo Anthony, who is seeking a trade yet is concerned about losing money by passing on a three-year, $65 million extension that could be less lucrative in the new labor agreement. If the Nuggets decide to keep Anthony, part of their motivation would be having solid knowledge that they'd be in a position to retain Anthony with a franchise tag after the new deal is ratified. Anthony's countermove, obviously, would simply be to opt out of his $18.5 million contract for next season. That game of chess is likely to unfold all the way down to the Feb. 24 trade deadline.
Posted on: December 1, 2010 2:53 pm
 

Post-Ups

When LeBron James struts to the scorer's table in Cleveland Thursday night and tosses his customary talc in the air -- to a vicious chorus of boos or derisive laughter -- all eyes will be on how the prodigal son responds to being a pariah on the court he used to own.

That's fine. It's a story -- a big one by NBA regular season standards -- and one that will be examined ad nauseum during the relentless news cycle that follows.

I happen to have some context when it comes to Cleveland sports misery, and also boiling Cleveland sports bile. As a writer for the Associated Press, I sat in the press box at then-Jacobs Field for former Indians hero Albert Belle's return after signing a free-agent contract with the White Sox. The atmosphere was venomous, to say the least. I was also on hand for a much sadder, more poignant moment when the contents of doomed Municipal Stadium were auctioned to teary-eyed fans after Art Modell hijacked the beloved Browns and schlepped them to Baltimore. Among the items up for bidding that day, appropriately enough, was the commode from Modell's office.

Not to bore you with my life story, but I was also in the press box in Miami when Jose Mesa vomited away what would've been Cleveland's first pro sports championship in four decades in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series. Visions of Edgar Renteria and Craig Counsell dance in my head to this day.

I don't come from Cleveland; I only lived there for two of the best years of my life as a sports writer. But I think I can safely speak for the good people of Northeast Ohio when I say that James leaving the Cavaliers for the Miami Heat was worse than all of the above.

There is vibrant debate in the LeBron-o-sphere about how Cleveland fans should treat him Thursday night. Gregg Doyel, a proud Ohioan, pleads for Clevelanders to comport themselves with dignity and not make LeBron the victim. Point well-taken. Others say screw that ; give the traitor all the venom that he's got coming to him. Knowing how much sports heartache that city has endured over the decades, I can understand that point, too.

There's a movement afoot to have 20,000 people laugh hysterically at LeBron when he's introduced, and various chants have been scripted for when he touches the ball, checks into the game, or steps to the foul line. Kudos for creativity on those. But here's what I'd like to see. Here's what I think would be the appropriate response: When the Heat are introduced, and specifically when LeBron is introduced, turn your backs on the court and don't make a sound. Not even a whisper. The silent treatment and reverse ovation will be spookier than any alternative, and would haunt your former hero for at least 48 minutes and maybe months. Then, turn around and enjoy the game. Even in a place that has, um, witnessed its share of disappointments, it is still just a game, after all.

And with that, we move on to the rest of this week's Post-Ups:

* Lost in all the hysteria over LeBump and LeCoup attempt on coach Erik Spoelstra this week is the question of what Spoelstra can do with his lineups to improve Miami's performance on the floor. With help from adjusted plus-minus guru Wayne Winston , I dug into the lineups Spoelstra has used this season and came to some interesting conclusions.

The problem doesn't appear to be LeBron and Wade playing together; it's who's on the floor with them that makes a difference. In lineups with both LeBron and Wade, the Heat have outscored the opponent by 61 points. With LeBron only, they're plus-38, and with Wade only they're plus-21. (They're minus-14 with neither, for what it's worth.)

Spoelstra's most frequently used lineup -- the starting lineup of Wade, James, Chris Bosh, Joel Anthony and Carlos Arroyo-- has outscored the opponent by 36 points over 133 minutes. According to Winston, that lineup plays 14.55 points better than average. In other words, those five players would beat an average NBA lineup by 14 points over 48 minutes.

When Spoelstra subs Zydrunas Ilgauskas for Anthony in his second-most used lineup, that number goes down to 2.65 points better than average and Miami is plus-6. What happens when the Heat play without a point guard proves the point I've been harping on all along: Whether he likes it or not, LeBron needs to be the point guard on this team.

By far, Miami's best lineup with James and Wade (and with at least 30 appearances) is one without a true point guard. The Supertwins plus Bosh, Udonis Haslem (currently injured), and James Jones is 44.19 points better than average and outscoring opponents by 29 points in 43 minutes. If anything, Spoelstra should have been using that lineup more often; despite the assumption that Jones' suspect defense is an issue, that lineup is comparable defensively to the starting unit featuring Arroyo and Anthony instead of Jones and Haslem.

Without Haslem, Spoelstra still has an effective option with James and Wade and no true point guard on the floor. But to this point, he's only used this combination 13 times for a total of 17 minutes: James, Wade, Bosh, Ilgauskas and Jones are 45.81 points better than average and plus-15.

The point-guard problem is underscored when Spoelstra uses another point guard other than Arroyo. For example, of the four lineups Spoelstra has used with James, Wade and Eddie House, three of them are awful -- the worst being a lineup of James, Wade, Haslem, Ilgauskas and House, which is 46.99 points worse than average and minus-8.

The bottom line: Aside from using LeBron as a point guard more frequently, you can't really argue too much with the combinations Spoelstra has used most often. LeBron is the one player capable of tailoring his game to the needs of the team, and if he does, that will help Wade emerge from his funk and get the Heat playing like a Super Team instead of a Blooper Team.

* Brendan Haywood's agent, Andy Miller, told CBSSports.com that his client's one-game suspension enforced Friday against the Spurs was for "an isolated incident. ... It's over, and we're moving forward." One person familiar with the situation called it a "flare-up" and a "misunderstanding" between Haywood and coach Rick Carlisle that did not involve minutes or playing time. The relationship between Haywood and Carlisle is not in need of being addressed further, the source said. Haywood logged only 7:58 against Miami in his return Saturday night, but got more than 21 minutes Monday night against Houston -- the Mavericks' sixth straight win.

* As we touched on during preseason , Magic GM Otis Smith was presented a trade proposal involving Gilbert Arenas and Vince Carter this past summer, and despite Smith's close relationship with Arenas, he turned it down. Sources have continued to believe that the Wizards would only be able to trade Arenas if and when he proved he was healthy and in a positive place emotionally after the ruinous 50-game suspension he incurred last season. To the Wizards' delight, that has finally happened. Since being reinserted into the starting lineup eight games ago, Arenas has been consistently exceeding 30 minutes a night and has scored at least 20 points in five of those games. While the Magic have let it be known that they're willing to make a big deal if it involves trading anyone except Dwight Howard, sources say there has been no movement on the Arenas front since the aforementioned discussions fell apart.

* The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported Tuesday that an attendance clause believed to have lapsed in the team's arena lease with the state actually still exists . That means the Hornets, currently 25th in the NBA in attendance despite their 12-5 start, would be permitted to start the relocation wheels spinning by breaking their lease unless they average at least 14,213 for the next 13 games. Team president Hugh Weber reaffirmed the team's commitment to New Orleans in the article, but stopped short of unequivocally stating that the team would not use the clause to break the lease. One reason: It would cost the team $10 million. Another: New ownership would be wise to consider such a move. If the Hornets are struggling now, with inspired play from Chris Paul and a giant-killer mentality instilled by new coach Monty Williams, just imagine how bad the attendance would be if the team was forced to trade Paul after a lockout.

* As we close in on Dec. 15, when numerous free agents signed over the summer become trade-eligible, rival executives have privately started wondering if the Heat would consider parting with one of their Big Three if it meant fielding a more complete team. The face-saving option to trade and the most easily obtainable, executives say, would be Chris Bosh. In fact, one executive speaking on condition of anonymity wondered how it would alter Denver's reluctance to trade Carmelo Anthony if the Heat offered a package centered around Bosh. The Nuggets, according to the executive, might prefer an established star in the low post as opposed to Derrick Favors, an unproven rookie. It's fun speculation, but highly unlikely. Aside from the embarrassment associated with breaking up the ballyhooed Big Three in Miami, the rub would be cost; executives continue to believe that if Denver deals Anthony and/or Chauncey Billups before the February deadline, it will be in a major cost-cutting deal.

* Meanwhile, as the Melo turns, executives are becoming more convinced that Anthony would not agree to an extension with the Nets -- a stance that could kill New Jersey's months-long bid for the superstar once and for all. Having attended a recent Nets game in Newark, which might as well be Russia as far as native New Yorker Anthony is concerned, I concur. Melo is interested in starring in a Broadway show -- or a nearby, off-Broadway equivalent. Had the Nets' move to Brooklyn not been sabotaged by lawsuits and New York City government paralysis, that would've made a huge difference. But Newark is Newark, and I believe Melo is headed elsewhere.
Posted on: November 15, 2010 9:42 am
Edited on: November 15, 2010 9:52 am
 

Kobe rips owners: 'Look in the mirror'

LOS ANGELES – With labor talks reaching a critical stage between now and the All-Star break, Kobe Bryant weighed in for the first time Sunday night with some strong words for NBA owners.

“I think the owners need to look in the mirror,” Bryant told CBSSports.com when asked about the $750 million to $800 million reduction in player salaries being sought by the owners. “They need to make the right judgment themselves and stop trying to force us players to be the ones to make adjustments. They’ve got to look in the mirror and decide what they want to do with the sport, and we as employees will show up and do what we’ve got to do.”

Bryant, the highest-paid player in the league under what is likely to be his final contract, is scheduled to join Michael Jordan as the league’s only $30 million players in the final year of the deal in 2013-14. Asked where he stands in the labor dispute that could be more punitive to stars like Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard and Derrick Rose – who likely won’t get new contracts until a new CBA is in place – Bryant said, “I’m going to fight for our players.”

“It’s about making sure we have the best deal going forward,” Bryant said. “That’s my stance and that’s not going to change. I’m not going to waver. It’s about taking care of the generation that’s coming after us. That’s what the guys before us tried to do, and that’s what I’m going to try to do. I’m not going to waver from that.”

These were the strongest words yet spoken publicly by an NBA player about the owners’ pursuit of a hard cap, enormous salary reductions and a rollback of existing contracts. Coming from Bryant, they carried weight – both with the players and owners.

“The onus is not on us,” Bryant said. “People are trying to put that responsibility on us. It’s not our responsibility. It’s the owners’ job. This is what they do.”

Bryant’s vow to fight for players who didn’t get max deals under the current system and will likely have to accept less in a new CBA comes as a divide is forming between two camps – the paid, and the not-yet-paid. CBSSports.com has learned that players like Howard and Anthony, Chris Paul and Rose are growing wary of possibly getting shut out of the kind of max money that this past summer’s free agents scored. If owners aren’t successful in getting across-the-board rollbacks, but do negotiate a reduction in future max salaries and guarantees, the players subject to the haircut are “not going to have it,” according to an influential person involved in the players’ side of bargaining strategy.

“They’re not going to allow those guys to sneak in a year before collective bargaining and say, ‘We got paid,’” the person said. “They can’t have their cake and eat it, too. There are too many powerful players whose contracts are coming up to let that happen.”

Bryant isn’t choosing sides in that debate; he just wants a fair deal for everyone. His point was primarily directed at owners who went on a spending spree this past summer before quickly shifting gears to claim player costs must be brought down to stem hundreds of millions in annual losses. And his comments come at a time when, as on the court, Bryant perhaps senses that the bargaining game is about to get interesting. Commissioner David Stern, deputy commissioner Adam Silver, union chief Billy Hunter and president Derek Fisher of the Lakers will hold a 2-on-2 bargaining session Thursday to ramp up the intensity of talks heading into All-Star weekend, a key time-stamp in both sides’ efforts to avoid a lockout when the current deal expires on June 30, 2011.

Bryant’s comments also represent the strongest signal of commitment from the players since multiple All-Stars made a surprise appearance at a bargaining session during All-Star weekend in Dallas last February.

“If they’re gonna pay players to perform and this that and the other, then do it,” Bryant said. “It’s not on us.”

Posted on: September 24, 2010 7:19 pm
Edited on: September 25, 2010 10:46 am
 

Preseason Primers: New York Knicks


The Knicks didn't get LeBron James. Or Dwyane Wade. Or Chris Bosh. Was the offseason a failure? Hardly. The Knicks are relevant again, with superstar Amar'e Stoudemire and supporting players Mike D'Antoni actually wants to coach. Playoffs? Let's not get carried away, but they have a shot. Which is more than the Knicks have been able to say for a long time. The buzz is back at Madison Square Garden. Now, all Donnie Walsh has to do is get Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul or Tony Parker. Maybe then he'd get some of the credit he's due. But even if Walsh never signs or trades for another player, he's already restored respectability and competitivenss to what was a lost franchise when he took over.

Training camp site: Greenburgh, N.Y.

Training camp starts: Sept. 25

Key additions: Amar’e Stoudemire (sign-and-trade), Raymond Felton (free agent), Anthony Randolph (trade), Kelenna Azubuike (trade), Ronny Turiaf (trade), Roger Mason Jr. (free agent), Landry Fields (draft).

Key subtractions: The stench of a decade of irrelevance. And David Lee (sign-and-trade)

Likely starting lineup: Felton, PG; Wilson Chandler, SG; Danilo Gallinari, SF; Stoudemire, PF; Ronny Turiaf, C.

Player to watch: Eddy Curry. Once again, all eyes are on the Knicks’ troubled center, who was on the verge of being an All-Star a few short years ago and now is hanging onto his career by a thread. Curry hasn’t made it through the first day of training camp for the past two years, so progress will be measured in baby steps. The best thing that could happen for all concerned is that Curry somehow stays healthy, keeps his weight in check, and shows enough in preseason to coax someone into taking on his $11.3 million expiring contract in a scenario that makes the Knicks better. For now, making it through a practice will do.

Chemistry check: Although the Knicks inexplicably flirted with past demons with the ill-fated attempt to bring Isiah Thomas back as a consultant, this is as clean as the slate has been at Madison Square Garden in years. With athletes like Stoudemire and Randolph, shooters like Gallinari and Mason, and a serviceable point guard in Felton, Mike D’Antoni finally will get to fully implement his offensive philosophy. Just as important, Stoudemire’s star power will bring the buzz back to the Garden.

Injury watch: Azubuike is still recovering from last season’s knee injury, and when he’s ready, he’ll be the starting shooting guard. That will give D’Antoni the flexibility to slide Chandler to the three or four, making him interchangeable with Gallinari and Randolph depending on matchups. Curry should be the starting center on paper, and the Knicks would like for him to be productive to increase his trade value. But if Curry falters – a good bet, given his track record – the Knicks are extremely high on Russian rookie Timofey Mozgov. D’Antoni is a huge fan of the 7-1 center, who figures to pass Curry on the depth chart by the start of the regular season.

Camp battles: Aside from Curry-Mozgov, D’Antoni has a pretty good idea of what the rotation will be. Mason, Bill Walker, Randolph and Turiaf give D’Antoni the most bench flexibility that he’s had since he came to New York. Fields, a sleeper in the draft who impressed with his length, athleticism and intelligent play during Summer League and in offseason workouts, figures to be a regular part of the rotation.

Biggest strength: The Knicks have been so bad, irrelevant and mismanaged for so long that the fact that team president Donnie Walsh has them under the cap with a superstar big man and young talent around him has gone overlooked. Such is the hangover from the pursuit of LeBron James. But remember: If Walsh hadn’t created cap space for two max players, James wasn’t coming to New York anyway. If Walsh hadn’t landed Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony wouldn’t want to come, either.

Glaring weakness: Aside from needing one more star to compete with the elite teams in the East, the Knicks need something D’Antoni isn’t known for: defense. They definitely have the athletes to defend better than their reputation under D’Antoni would suggest. Now they have to add the commitment and prioritize it, which will be one of the most important goals in training camp.
Posted on: September 13, 2010 11:36 am
 

Amundson chooses Warriors over Hornets

Free-agent forward Lou Amundson agreed to a two-year, $4.7 million deal with the Warriors Monday, choosing Golden State over the Hornets in a lengthy negotiation that took longer than agent Mark Bartelstein expected.

"It just came down to Golden State being the right fit," Bartelstein said.

Asked what made it the right fit, Bartelstein gave an answer that will no doubt intrigue all followers of the meandering, seemingly rudderless W's.

"Just the vision that [GM] Larry Riley kind of laid out with the change in ownership and the style they want to play," Bartelstein said.

No wonder the negotiation took so long. From the outside looking in, the Warriors look like a team with no vision, with an aging coach who won't go away, and with an uncertain future under incoming owners Joseph Lacob and Peter Guber.

The $450 million sale of the team from Chris Cohan to Lacob and Guber won't be approved by the NBA's Board of Governors until sometime next month. Training camps open at the end of September, so presumably Don Nelson will vacate his hammock in Maui to coach the team. According to Bartelstein, the pitch Riley made to Amundson did not address Nellie's future. "I think that's still something they're trying to work through," Bartelstein said.

There's no doubt Amundson will be a good fit in the Warriors' up-tempo style; he was part of an effective bench brigade in Phoenix that at times rattled the Lakers with their hectic pace during the Western Conference finals. But which coach will he be playing for in the Bay Area? Nellie or his presumed successor, Keith Smart? Or both, before all is said and done? Remains to be seen. Whatever the case, Amundson was sold on the vision enough to turn down the Hornets, who with a healthy and reasonably content Chris Paul would appear to be a far more likely playoff contender.



Posted on: September 12, 2010 5:13 pm
 

Odom, Billups deserve to be rewarded

The revelation of the world championships, quite obviously, was Kevin Durant. He did everything for Team USA -- did exactly what was required of a blossoming superstar who was asked to put his imprint on the world basketball stage.

So without a doubt, Durant will be suiting up for the 2012 Olympics in London, when some of the divas who passed on Turkey will be back to defend the gold medal attained by the Redeem Team in Beijing two years ago. But what became plainly apparent Sunday, as the United States ended a 16-year drought in the FIBA worlds by beating Turkey 81-64 for the gold medal, is that not all of those '08 Olympians will be assured of getting their spots back.

Far from it.

It's widely assumed that three spots will be available: those belonging to Jason Kidd, Tayshaun Prince and Michael Redd. So as I plan out Mike Krzyzewski's Olympic roster before Team USA even gets to the airport, I say those spots should go to Durant, Lamar Odom and Chauncey Billups.

When the Americans left U.S. soil as underdogs to Spain in the eyes of many, I felt that however this tournament played out, Odom and Billups deserved spots on the team for London. As good as Durant was, it's impossible to dismiss the championship pedigree Odom and Billups brought to this otherwise woefully inexperienced team. If nothing else, Odom and Billups deserve a spot as a reward for taking one for the country this summer. They stepped up and gave Jerry Colangelo and Coach K their commitments at a time when LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were too busy working on their Twitter accounts, and while Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony were occupied with trying to get traded.

As far as tangible contributions, Billups didn't shine during the tournament. But no one should have a problem with him getting the Jason Kidd memorial roster spot in London for his experience and for his trouble this summer. As for Odom, who was brilliant in the gold-medal game with 15 points and 11 rebounds -- including a flurry of putbacks, 3-pointers and work-ethic baskets in the fourth quarter -- he earned a spot regardless. My pal Gregg Doyel still thinks Odom is a lackadaisical yo-yo ; I've always thought he was wrong about that, and that much was proven beyond any doubt in this tournament. Odom was huge for the U.S. It was no coincidence that the Naismith Trophy was handed first to Odom and Billups Sunday in Istanbul. They earned it. American basketball is all about pecking order, and they were right at the top of it, where they belonged.

But this so-called "B-Team" so far exceeded expectations from spots 1-12 that there will be precious little room for sentimentality when Colangelo and Krzyzewski assemble the Olympic roster in two years. Let's say I'm right and you start with Durant, Odom and Billups joining '08 Olympians James, Wade, Anthony, Paul, Kobe Bryant, Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard, Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams. How do you make room for Derrick Rose (which Colangelo must)? How do you ignore the versatility and defensive intangibles offered by Russell Westbrook (which Colangelo shouldn't)? How do you snub Blake Griffin and Tyreke Evans (you probably can't)? What if John Wall is as good as we think he is (which he is)? What if Rajon Rondo wants to play (which he should)?

As the adage goes, these are some good problems for the Americans to have. A few short years after the embarrassment of bronze medals at the 2006 world championships and 2004 Olympics, USA Basketball is back. It was back in Beijing two summers ago with the Redeem Team. But really, this B-Team should be -- and will be -- remembered for driving home the point.

At a time when reputations and gold medals were on the line, the biggest American stars in the sport took a pass. Those who showed up and got the job done should be rewarded. More than a few, I predict, will be.

 
 

 

Posted on: August 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Edited on: August 12, 2010 4:49 pm
 

Stars come out for NBA labor talks (UPDATE)

NEW YORK – NBA owners and players met for 3 1-2 hours Thursday in a bargaining session that didn’t result in any progress toward a deal but did help change the tenor of the debate: The star players did show up, and they’re engaged.

In a surprise development, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Joe Johnson and Chauncey Billups joined the players’ executive committee in the bargaining session – a reprisal of their appearance at the most recent meeting at All-Star weekend in Dallas.

“I think it’s important for all of us, as the faces of the NBA, to be involved in the negotiations and what’s going on,” Anthony said as he exited the Omni Berkshire Place Hotel on 52nd Street, to waves and cheers from passersby. “Our future’s in jeopardy if we can’t come to a mutual agreement.”

According to sources familiar with the players’ strategy, the stars decided to take a break from their appearance schedule associated with the World Basketball Festival, a four-day event in conjunction with Team USA training camp, to avoid the perception that they aren’t going to be involved in the bargaining process for the long haul. Some observers believed that the players’ appearance at the All-Star bargaining table in February would be a one-time deal, something that the stars of the league wanted to dispel, sources said. Wade and Billups were the first to commit, followed by James, Anthony and Johnson.

“It’s important to have representation of all the guys in the NBA and not just ourselves,” said Hawks guard Mo Evans, a member of the executive committee. “It was great to have those guys interested in what’s going on in the league. We’re all involved. We’re going to leave this game to someone else – whether it’s two years from now, five years from now, or 10 years from now. We want to leave this game in a better place than when we got it.”

According to people in the bargaining session, there was far less rancor and rhetoric than in the session at All-Star weekend, when the players rejected the owners’ initial proposal. The word “lockout” was thrown around less frequently, too.

UPDATE: But both sides acknowledge that there's much ground to be covered. According to one person present, commissioner David Stern proclaimed at one point during the meeting, “There’s a gulf, not a gap.”

However, in an encouraging sign, the league and union issued a joint statement after the bargaining session, as opposed to individual missives: "The NBA and NBPA held a four-hour bargaining meeting today that included constructive dialogue and a productive exchange of information. While we still have much work to do, it was encouraging how many players and owners participated in the process and all pledged to continue to work together. We all agreed to meet again before training camp.”

Still, while the tenor of the dialogue improved, there was virtually no progress on the issues that keep both sides far apart on a new deal to replace the current CBA, which expires on June 30, 2011. The owners and players continue to disagree on the extent of the NBA’s stated losses – the latest figure the league used Thursday, according to a source, was $380 million during the 2009-10 season – and how the pie should be divided. Under the current agreement, players get 57 percent of overall revenues, known as basketball-related income (BRI).

It was the first bargaining session since All-Star weekend, and the first time owners and players discussed face-to-face the players’ proposal that was submitted to the owners last month. There was little concrete discussion of specific issues, such as the owners’ desire to institute a hard salary cap with shorter contracts and less guaranteed money. Both sides agreed to meet again before the start of training camp, and then break into smaller groups to tackle specific bargaining issues.

“They generally objected to the entire proposal,” Hunter said. “They said they didn’t agree with it. We kind of anticipated that. But at the same time, it lends itself to more discussion so they all felt as though we did make progress in terms of our willingness to talk to one another as opposed to at one another. And so to that extent, things felt a lot better in the room – the atmosphere, the environment, the nature of the discussions – more so than in February. Things have thawed a lot.”

In addition to the stars, the players were represented by the members of their executive committee: president Derek Fisher, treasurer James Jones, and vice presidents Adonal Foyle, Keyon Dooling, Roger Mason, Theo Ratliff, Etan Thomas, Chris Paul and Evans. The owners were represented by Peter Holt (Spurs), Glen Taylor (Timberwolves), Wyc Grousbeck (Celtics), Jeanie Buss (Lakers), James Dolan (Knicks), George Shinn (Hornets), Stan Kroenke (Nuggets) and Larry Miller (Trail Blazers). Suns owner Robert Sarver, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and Magic CEO Bob Vander Weide canceled at the last minute to address personal business.

“It was great conversation, great dialogue going back and forth, great communication,” Anthony said. “So hopefully we can come to an agreement soon.”







 
 
 
 
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