Posted on: July 12, 2010 10:36 am
Edited on: July 13, 2010 12:13 pm
A cautionary tale for teams doling out millions to free agents in 2010: In some cases, it's only a matter of time before those same free agents are dumped overboard at a discount.
Case in point: Hedo Turkoglu, the most sought-after free agent of 2009. After leading the Magic to the NBA Finals, Turkoglu flirted with the Trail Blazers before landing in Toronto for five years and $53 million. Twelve months later, the Raptors unloaded the disgruntled forward in a three-team trade with Phoenix and Charlotte.
So much for Turkoglu leading the Raptors anywhere but rebuilding.
The trade expanded into a three-team arrangement Monday, with the Raptors getting Leandro Barbosa from Phoenix and Tyson Chandler and Boris Diaw from Charlotte while sending Jose Calderon to the Bobcats, a person with knowledge of the deal told CBSSports.com. The framework is pending a trade call with the NBA office later Monday, the source said.
UPDATED 12:20 a.m. ET: But Yahoo! Sports reported early Tuesday that Bobcats owner Michael Jordan was having "second thoughts" about participating in the deal. Jordan's reluctance came after players in the deal had been informed they'd been traded, and it imperiled all but the initial Turkoglu-for-Barbosa portion of the trade.
UPDATED 12:13 p.m. ET: The Toronto Star reported Tuesday afternoon that the Bobcats portion of the deal is dead , nixed by Jordan's concerns.
In the make-believe world of NBA trades, this one actually makes sense. The Raptors get rid of Turkoglu, who was never happy with his role in Toronto, and get a playmaker in Barbosa with only a one-year commitment. They use a portion of the $14.5 million trade exception received in the Chris Bosh sign-and-trade to make the deal pass muster under the 125 percent rule required to validate trades between teams that are over the salary cap. Turkoglu is on the books for $9.8 millon next season.
The Suns, trying to move on after losing Amar'e Stoudemire to the Knicks, made another solid move in acquiring restricted free agent Josh Childress from Atlanta for a second-round pick. By doing so, Phoenix bypasses the offer sheet and seven-day matching procedure for restricted free agents, which eliminates what would've been merely a formality since the Hawks were not going to match an offer sheet for Childress after signing Joe Johnson to a max deal. With Turkoglu's play-making ability and Childress' athleticism, it's hard not to like the Suns' post-Amar'e look. Childress, who gets a five-year, $34 million deal, will give coach Alvin Gentry more flexibility in his rotations. Turkoglu will take some of the pressure off an aging Steve Nash to be the playmaker and ballhandler on every possession.
Posted on: June 25, 2010 11:06 pm
Edited on: June 26, 2010 1:17 am
Following a bizarre trend that apparently dictates that it's better to be devoid of leadership at the most critical time in franchise history, the Nets will be without the executive who led them to two Finals appearances and gave them the best chance of succeeding in free agency. Rod Thorn is stepping down as team president effective July 15, a person familiar with the situation confirmed to CBSSports.com Friday night.
You read that right: Thorn will be pulling the Summer of LeBron version of Kevin Pritchard's draft night, conducting the chase for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson -- a chase the franchise endured a payroll-gutting, 12-win season to engage in. When it's over, he's gone, according to the person with knowledge of the situation, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to announce the move.
While it was known that Thorn's contract was set to expire June 30, his departure is stunning considering his accomplishments and the importance of the free-agent negotiating period that begins July 1. Thorn has agreed to stay on until July 15 to help navigate free agency, but it's not clear what marquee player would choose to join the Nets in Newark, N.J., without knowing who's making the basketball decisions. The team won't move to its new digs in Brooklyn for two more years.
According to an executive with another team who is familiar with the situation, Thorn was asked to take a massive pay cut and balked. Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov may be a billionaire, but not when it comes to paying the person running his basketball team. "He wants a younger voice," the person said.
But that description contradicted a Bergen (N.J.) Record report early Saturday in which Jerry Colangelo was touted as the leading candidate to replace Thorn. The report, which hinted that Colangelo could have some role in the Nets' free-agent visit with James next week in Ohio, rekindled speculation that arose during All-Star weekend in Dallas. At that time, when Prokhorov's bid for the Nets was still being considered by the NBA's Board of Governors, Colangelo said he wasn't pursuing any jobs but would listen if the Nets called. The managing director of USA Basketball, Colangelo would be a key asset in the Nets' pursuit of James or other free agents from the 2008 Olympic team that won gold in Beijing.
Unlike the Cavaliers and Clippers, the Nets at least do have a coach in place -- and perhaps Avery Johnson is angling for personnel authority, given that he stressed his desire for such control in other job interviews this summer. But without Thorn and Kiki Vandeweghe, whom Prokhorov fired through the news media several weeks ago, the Nets will be without a credible basketball management figure at by far the most crucial point in the history of this meandering, mostly second-rate franchise.
Reached via text message Friday night, Thorn replied, "Right now, I have no comment."
The Nets are by no means the only team to gut itself of basketball intellect on the cusp of irreversibly important decisions. Suns owner Robert Sarver decided to cut ties with GM Steve Kerr at a time when Kerr and his assistant, David Griffin -- who also is departing -- were trying to negotiate an extension with star forward Amar'e Stoudemire. The Cavs decided to stumble into the most important month in Cleveland sports history -- and one that could change the NBA landscape forever -- without a coach or GM. Chris Grant, the replacement for former GM Danny Ferry, is indisputably talented but also has never been faced with circumstances as pressurized as possibly losing his city's biggest sports star since Jim Brown.
The Clippers, also entertaining false hope of luring major free agents, have yet to hire a coach. And the Trail Blazers -- though not free-agent players -- made a mockery of the GM profession Thursday when owner Paul Allen fired Pritchard an hour before the draft while instructing him to make his picks and trades before going home for good.
The only thing any of this proves, besides incompetence, is that there's no better job than being an unemployed or soon-to-be unemployed GM in the NBA. Either you're still getting paid by the team that fired you, which is good, or you're salivating over numerous job openings. Or both. But something you're not doing if you're a team without leadership is signing James or Wade as a free agent.
Posted on: June 24, 2010 7:57 pm
NEW YORK -- Stunning news came down moments before the NBA draft began Thursday night. No, LeBron James didn't try to reinstate his college eligibility and join John Calipari at Kentucky. Something more unbelievable: The Trail Blazers fired GM Kevin Pritchard, telling him an hour before the draft that it would be his last day of work for the team.
Jason Quick of the Oregonian first reported the firing, which is surprising only for its bizarre timing. Pritchard's right-hand man, former assistant GM Tom Penn, was fired in March, and the writing has been on the wall for Pritchard ever since. Pritchard, who along with Penn was responsible for building one of the most competitive and financially successful franchises in the NBA, will presumably make the 22nd and 44th picks in Thursday's draft -- which he spent months preparing for -- and then start looking for work. Penn has found work already, at least temporarily; he was at the Theater at Madison Square Garden Thursday night working as a salary-cap analyst on ESPN's draft telecast.
According to the Oregonian, owner Paul Allen informed Pritchard of his dismissal Thursday night and instructed him to conduct the draft before leaving the organization. The Portland GM opening now joins a few leadership black holes around the league. The Suns didn't renew GM Steve Kerr's contract, and assistant GM David Griffin decided to leave the organization after being informed that there would be a formal search for Kerr's replacement. Denver GM Mark Warkentien's contract expires Aug. 31, and the organization has made no efforts to re-sign him. Danny Ainge's future in Boston also is up in the air with the possibility that coach Doc Rivers could step down.
As for the gaping hole left in the Portland front office by Pritchard's classless dismissal, the question becomes: Who would want to work for a franchise that treats its people the way the Blazers have treated Pritchard and Penn? The lure of the Blazers' roster and rabid fan base will be a huge calling card for any potential candidate, but buyer beware. Apparently, the money isn't great, either. One of the points of contention that led to Pritchard's ouster was his displeasure with his approximately $1 million salary -- not much more than assistant GMs make in other cities and a quarter of coach Nate McMillan's compensation. Pritchard had one year remaining on his contract.
According to a person familiar with the Blazers' internal dynamics, one option would be to appoint team president Larry Miller, head of the team's business operations, to serve as the figurehead replacement for Pritchard and hire a competent No. 2 to handle the day-to-day basketball decisions.
Posted on: May 3, 2010 1:56 am
The coaching carousel has been spinning at an unusually slow pace for teams whose offseasons already have begun. That is expected to change in the coming days, with the Hornets and Sixers closing in on plans to begin interviewing candidates.
The Hornets plan to interview a mixture of current assistants and former head coaches, with sources telling CBSSports.com that at least eight names are on New Orleans’ list so far. Assistants Tom Thibodeau (Celtics), Dwane Casey (Mavericks), Monty Williams (Trail Blazers), Tyrone Corbin (Jazz), and Steve Clifford (Magic) are expected to interview for the Hornets job, along with former head coaches Avery Johnson and Lawrence Frank and broadcaster Mark Jackson. Johnson, Jackson and Thibodeau also are expected to interview with the Sixers.
The Nets’ search is in limbo until the transfer of ownership to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov is completed. All signs point to team president Rod Thorn remaining with the team, with Kiki Vandeweghe back to his GM position. Though the Nets have scheduled no formal interviews, they are believed to be interested in Thibodeau, Boston’s associate head coach in charge of the defense, and Jackson, whose name recognition and New York roots would be appealing for a team on its way to Brooklyn.
Vinny Del Negro’s status in Chicago is expected to be resolved this week as organizational meetings conclude with chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. Several front office situations also are in flux, including Portland, where GM Kevin Pritchard is waiting to learn if he will meet the same fate as close friend and former top assistant Tom Penn, who was fired in March. In Denver, GM Mark Warkentien’s contract is set to expire after he did not receive an extension to accompany coach George Karl’s. Sources familiar with the Denver situation said Warkentien’s status is expected to be resolved within a week after the Nuggets’ playoff elimination. Team executive Rex Chapman is expected to be let go, sources said.
The Clippers have not made any official inroads in their coaching search, leading rival executives to wonder if further changes are afoot in the front office after Mike Dunleavy was removed as coach and then fired as GM. Dunleavy’s replacement, Neil Olshey, has been told his status is not interim in nature, sources said. Dunleavy has filed an arbitration case after the Clippers stopped paying his salary, of which nearly $7 million is owed through the end of next season.
In Philly, all decisions hinge on whether Larry Brown decides to leave the Bobcats for the Sixers’ team presidency. Brown, 69, has said publicly he won’t coach anywhere but Charlotte, but has returned home to Philadelphia to speak to his wife and children about his next career move. The Bobcats are pushing for Brown to resolve his future “sooner than later” so the organization can move forward with preparations for the draft and free agency with a clear understanding of who will be coaching the team.
Posted on: February 4, 2010 3:03 pm
I'm a little late to the party on this one. And being that I'm heading to Dallas a week from Thursday for All-Star weekend, I need to step up my game -- because folks in Dallas evidently like to show up at the party early and drink often.
You probably have heard by now about the two women who somehow gained access to the Trail Blazers' huddle in Dallas Saturday, and how one of them gained, um, access to Rudy Fernandez. One of the women -- whom Jerryd Bayless described to the Oregonian as "drunk" -- grabbed Fernandez during the incident and gave him a hug. The ladies were allowed to return to their seats. The NBA has said it's investigating the incident.
I don't attend many games in Dallas, but I sit courtside at my fair share in Madison Square Garden. And I assure you, if such an incident had occurred at MSG, those women would've been led out of the building in handcuffs. If they were lucky. At two separate games this season, I witnessed a particularly beefy MSG security guard charged with protecting the visiting team's bench virtually challenge an unruly fan to a fight. One of the fans, who was accosting members of the Toronto Raptors' bench, clearly had his beer muscles in full effect and decided to go nose-to-nose with the aforementioned beefy security guard. Bad idea. The bouncer -- for lack of a better term -- walked Joe Six Pack all the way up the aisle, down a flight of stairs, and into a hallway. Lord only only knows what happened next.
The Garden security staff is notoriously aggressive, which I suppose in a case like this would've been a good thing. Mavs owner Mark Cuban was right; this sort of thing happens all the time in NBA arenas. A couple of years ago, a fan made his way onto the court and tried to high-five LeBron James during a timeout. I don't remember what happened to that fan. I'm sure the fan doesn't, either.
Posted on: February 1, 2010 4:34 pm
Edited on: February 1, 2010 4:37 pm
January is the month when NBA teams start figuring out what they are. The feeling-out period of November and December gives way a time when night-to-night performance dictates the tweaks that are needed at the trade deadline.
Based on the standings as we sit here on Feb. 1, there are nine teams legitimately in the Eastern Conference playoff picture (the line is drawn at the Knicks, who enter the month six games out of the eighth spot). In the West, 11 teams are strong playoff contenders (drawing the line at the Clippers, who are six games out of eighth). Of those 20 teams, which ones performed the best and the worst in the month of January, and why?
The “who” is easy. For the “why,” we need some statistical analysis. And for that, we turn to adjusted plus/minus expert Wayne Winston. In his blog, Winston opines on all 30 teams and why they performed the way they did in the month of January. Let’s break out Winston’s analysis of the playoff contenders with the five best and five worst records last month:
(To review, adjusted plus/minus tells you how many points better or worse a team would perform if a given player were paired with four average players against five average players. For example, LeBron James’ was plus-21 in January, meaning his team was 21 points better than average when adjusted for whom LeBron was playing with and against.)
1. Cleveland (12-3): It’s all about Shaquille O’Neal, whose adjusted plus/minus through December was minus-4 but in January was plus-4.
1. (t)Denver (12-3): Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups are overrated, according to Winston. Nene and Chris “Birdman” Andersen each had a plus-23 rating in January.
3. Charlotte (12-4): The Bobcats’ success can be attributed to Gerald Wallace (plus-15), Flip Murray (plus-11), and Stephen Jackson (plus-8).
4. Utah (10-4): Deron Williams registered a plus-17, but Andre Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer, and Kyle Korver all were plus-10 or better, too.
5. New Orleans (12-5): Chris Paul (plus-8) and Marcus Thornton (plus-9) combined to form an effective starting backcourt – a plan that will have to be adjusted with Paul out indefinitely due to a left knee injury requiring surgery. Darren Collison, you’re up ...
5. (t) Lakers (12-5): Winston says Ron Artest (minus-1) has been fading steadily since his Christmas night fall and unrelated foot ailments. Remarkably, his system credits Sasha Vujacic with a plus-16 – same as Kobe.
1. Houston (5-9): David Andersen (plus-7) has been helpful. Chuck Hayes (minus-9), not so much.
2. Boston (6-8): The main culprit, as you might expect, has been Kevin Garnett (minus-11), whose offensive rating was even worse than his overall adjusted plus/minus (minus-21). Glen “Don’t Call Me Big Baby” Davis also struggled (minus-14).
3. Phoenix (7-9): Channing Frye’s rating went from plus-13 through December to plus-2 in January. Amar’e Stoudemire, Jason Richardson, Grant Hill, Goran Dragic, and Louis Amundson all hovered between minus-9 and minus-11. Robin Lopez was plus-9.
4. Portland (7-8): Nicolas Batum (plus-16), Andre Miller (plus-13), Martell Webster (plus-13), and Jerryd Bayless (plus-10) kept the Blazers afloat. But they need a big man in the worst way, as Juwan Howard (minus-18) and Jeff Pendergraph (minus-14) killed them.
5. Miami (8-9): Rafer Alston (minus-14) hasn’t solved the Heat’s point guard woes. Dorell Wright (plus-11) was solid.
No single statistical method is the be-all, end-all for evaluating a team’s performance. Depending on which front office you’re talking to, you’ll get different accounts of which data are most meaningful. But these numbers shed some light on some common beliefs about what certain contenders need to add or subtract before the Feb. 18 trade deadline. In Denver’s case, the performance of Nene and Birdman seemed to debunk the notion that the Nuggets desperately need to acquire a big man. In Portland’s case, the data proves that the Blazers need an upgrade in the frontcourt.
The Celtics? They need Garnett to be as healthy and dominant as he was two years ago. (Don’t hold your breath.) Do the Jazz need to trade Boozer? If they want to get under the luxury tax they do, but not if they want to continue playing their best basketball of the season.
Which team that’s currently a long shot to make the playoffs had the best January? That would be the Bucks, who went 8-7 in January – better than six teams currently in the hunt. The Bucks are an aberration to Winston, as well, because all he could come up with to explain their success was Charlie Bell’s plus-10 rating in January. It’s an imperfect system that nonetheless provides some interesting stuff to think about as we close in on Feb. 18.
Posted on: November 16, 2009 11:11 pm
ATLANTA -- The Trail Blazers' six-game winning streak ended Monday night with a 99-95 overtime loss to the Hawks, whose home-and-home sweep of Portland serves as bookends for that streak. But after the game, coach Nate McMillan's thoughts were with someone far more important to the Blazers than Greg Oden, LaMarcus Aldridge, or even Brandon Roy.
Team owner Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founder and one of the most envied and respected owners in the NBA, has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The diagnosis came about a month ago, just when it appeared that Allen had beaten another health hurdle after undergoing heart surgery during the offseason. Nearly 25 years ago, Allen overcame Hodgkin's disease.
"He is optimistic he can beat this, too," wrote his sister, Jody Allen, CEO of Allen's company, Vulcan, in a memo published on CNET's news site.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with him," McMillan said. "We just hope that he has a speedy recovery and he can get back to us as soon as possible. We’ve been thinking about him and praying for him. He’s a fighter, and we wish him well."
John Canzano of the Oregonian captured what Allen, 56, means to the Blazers in this preseason column, in which he explained Allen's sickly appearance late last season and during Portland's playoff run. Having undergone a prior valve surgery, Allen had another heart operation during the summer, when the Blazers' front office was busy trying to give $50 million of Allen's money to Hedo Turkoglu, who didn't want it.
"I'm fine, finally," Allen said during training camp. "I'm much, much better. I hit a few bumps in the road. Your health ... is the most important thing in the world, isn't it?"
Oh, what a dozen or more coaches and GMs in the NBA would do to have an owner like Allen. He doesn't meddle; well, OK, only a little. He runs the team in a first-class way, spends some of the billions he has earned, and cares about what happens. He cares about the fans because, well, he is a fan. Assuming he was watching on TV Monday night, he would've been disappointed that the Blazers frittered away a 10-point fourth-quarter lead. But he would've understood why. His team returns home to the Rose Garden to face the Pistons Wednesday night, having just won four road games in five nights before falling in overtime to the Hawks.
"He’s always done whatever our organization needed for him to do to put us in the best position," McMillan said. "We just wish him well."
Allen also owns the Seattle Seahawks, but everybody knows his heart beats to the rhythm of the Blazers. Here's hoping for the kind of comeback he loves to applaud.
Posted on: October 21, 2009 10:59 pm
The Trail Blazers entered the offseason not knowing whether they'd be able to work out contract extensions with Brandon Roy or LaMarcus Aldridge, the two pillars of a team on the rise. Now, they've got both off them done -- or close to it.