Tag:Heat
Posted on: November 22, 2010 9:52 pm
Edited on: November 22, 2010 10:14 pm
 

Source: Dampier to sign with Heat

Erick Dampier has a one-year offer from the Miami Heat and is expected to sign it Tuesday, CBSSports.com has learned.

The 35-year-old center arrived in Miami Monday night and, pending his passing of a medical exam, will join the team to replace Udonis Haslem, who is out until at least February with a torn ligament in his foot. The deal is for one year at the prorated veteran's minimum, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

The Heat will have to release a player to create a roster spot for Dampier, likely Dexter Pittman or Jamaal Magloire.

The Heat previously worked out Dampier in September, but decided not to proceed with an offer. The Suns, Raptors, Rockets and Bucks pursued Dampier, who had a verbal agreement to join the Rockets. But Houston surprisingly backed away after failing to clear a roster spot for Dampier. In the end, Dampier got his preferred situation: a title contender forced to accelerate its pursuit of him based on a need that arose during the season. His patience, it turns out, paid off.

Another team inquired about Dampier Monday: the Hornets, who caused Dampier to give them serious consideration based on their 11-1 start. But the Heat remained the ideal fit from Dampier's perspective, and he becomes the latest free agent to join Miami's title pursuit -- albeit under unfortunate circumstances.

The need to act quickly in the wake of news Monday that Haslem will need foot surgery that will shelve him for several months was only underscored Monday night, when the Heat were getting blown out at home by Indiana. Even with the high-profile free-agent additions of the summer, Miami still lacks a true center and has been getting exploited around the basket by bigger, tougher teams.

How ready Dampier is will determine how quickly the Heat will be able to reverse that trend. By his own admission,  Dampier has always been a player who plays himself into shape as the season progresses. After initially meeting with the Heat in September, Dampier considered working out at the Pro Training Center in Clearwater, Fla., to get himself ready to sign. In the end, he decided not to take that route.

Further complicating the decision on who to sign as Haslem's replacement is the fact that Miami's offensive efficiency clearly has been hurt by their slow pace and coach Erik Spoelstra's insistence on playing a traditional point guard with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Adding Dampier, a plodding, post-up center with limited mobility, may signal that Spoelstra -- and, by extension, president Pat Riley -- are digging in on their strategic preferences instead of freeing up the offense with smaller lineups. Either way, Dampier was the best and only option available to a team that badly needs an interior presence to get past Boston or Orlando in the East.
 
 




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 12, 2010 3:15 am
 

Kobe, Melo in the middle of it again

DENVER – In two different locker rooms, separated by about 50 yards and five championships, Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony assessed the night’s developments in the NBA as we now know it.

The end of the Lakers’ 8-0 start. A significant victory by the Nuggets, who bounced back from consecutive losses that included an embarrassing meltdown in Indiana. The latest, ever-so-subtle shift in the Melodrama, with Anthony saying after the Nuggets’ 118-112 victory over the two-time defending champs, “I’m content with my situation.”

Across the continent, the Miami Heat lost again to the Celtics and fell to 5-4 – while the Cavaliers, LeBron James’ former team, are 4-4.

“Oh, ____,” Bryant said with a smile after being informed of the delicious irony. “That’ll make for a good story in Cleveland in November. But come April, I don’t think that’ll be much of a story.”

Somehow all the stories were intertwined Thursday night at the Pepsi Center. The best team in the league took one on the chin, giving up a 33-point fourth quarter to the small-ball Nuggets, who can do nothing more than view Anthony’s fragile future as a day-to-day proposition. The team the Lakers beat in the Finals, Boston, made mince meat of the mighty Heat – a 112-107 victory that, for now, has changed everyone’s perspective about how good this free-agent fabrication will be.

It is knee-jerk reaction time, because it is November in the NBA. Hours earlier, Bryant was sitting in a courtside seat at the Pepsi Center after shootaround, deflecting questions about whether the Lakers could win 70 games. Two weeks ago, everyone wanted to know if the Heat could win 73, eclipsing the NBA record established by Phil Jackson’s 1995-96 Bulls.

“You guys never stop that stuff,” Bryant said after the game, his knees wrapped in ice and a black, boxer-style robe draped over his shoulders. When asked if there’s too much dissection of the early returns, Bryant stood up and said, “What else are you guys going to do? Talk about Miami all the time?”

If nothing else, Thursday night, Nov. 11, was a turning point in this season of anticipation and unprecedented interest. It was the night when doubts about the Heat were driven home, and when the world exhaled with the knowledge that, no, the Lakers will not go undefeated. It seemed fitting that it all came together on a night when the old-guard Celtics humbled the new-look Heat – and when the young star of the league whom Bryant relates with the best showed why he belongs in the conversation about the top of the pecking order in pro basketball.

“We’re both brutally honest,” Bryant said. “I think that’s the thing. We don’t pull punches. We don’t sugarcoat how we feel. That’s what attracted me to him, and I think vice versa. We don’t pull punches. We hang out all the time and we can be harsh with one another, and it’s fun.

“He and I are like that all the time, and I’m like that with everybody,” Bryant said. “We rip each other pretty good back and forth. Obviously, I pull a little bit more weight because I’ve won a little bit more than him so I can talk a little bit more. We really just have a great relationship. We hit it off in Beijing and we’ve been tight ever since.”

After Anthony put up 32 points on 14-for-25 shooting from the field with 13 rebounds, Bryant hugged him and told him something.

“Just, ‘Good win,’” Melo said. “‘Keep it up.’”

Anthony is in the same position Bryant was in three years ago, wanting to find greener pastures. Bryant found them at home, in L.A., because the Lakers got lucky and got him Pau Gasol. They’ve been to the Finals three times and won two titles since then.

Melo said he isn’t looking ahead too far ahead, that he can’t see what December, February, or June have in store.

"I see the Phoenix Suns Monday night,” he said. “That’s what I see. … I’m content with my situation right now.”

It turns out there is an NBA beyond South Beach, and on Thursday night, Bryant and Melo were basking in it. Bryant, chasing his sixth title to equal the great Michael Jordan, was unusually jovial after a loss. Anthony, Bryant’s partner in brutal honesty, said he was “proud of my team” for the way it bounced back. And he promised to keep answering all the questions that result from his decision to leave his options open by refusing to sign a three-year, $65 million extension – a decision that has given the Nuggets no choice but to continue exploring what they can get for him in a trade. Because if Anthony doesn’t sign that extension by the February trade deadline, it will no longer a question of whether they trade Anthony, but what they get for him.

“I’m looking forward to just playing basketball, man,” Anthony said. “I’m not concerned about anything else right now. The only thing on my mind right now is winning, playing games, getting my guys back healthy and getting them back out there on the court. Everything else is irrelevant to me right now.

Down the hall, Bryant had just finished regaling his postgame audience with stories of why he respects Anthony so much – why, of all the stars on the 2008 Olympic team, he gravitated toward Anthony. For one thing, the elbows Bryant always makes a point of throwing at the new guys didn’t cause Anthony to recoil when he came into the league.

“He welcomed it,” Bryant said. “He just kept coming and coming and coming, so I respected that about him.”

Bryant respects his honesty, too, and can relate because he was once sitting in the same seat. The only advice Bryant said he’s given his friend is to make sure he’s sure about what he wants.

“Like I tell him, he’s got some catching up to do,” Bryant said. “It’s a long, rocky mountain to climb.”
Posted on: November 9, 2010 3:04 pm
 

How will Nuggets' shakeup affect Melo?

The ouster of adviser Bret Bearup from the Nuggets' basketball operations was a long time coming, according to rival executives who have dealt with the team's dysfunctional front-office structure for years. But the real question is: How will the latest shakeup in Denver affect Carmelo Anthony?

Answer: Too early to tell, but it certainly doesn't make it more likely that he'll be traded.

Let me explain.

Bearup, an unofficial adviser to outgoing owner Stan Kroenke, is said to have been a proponent of trading Anthony rather than losing him as a free agent after the season and getting nothing in return. So Bearup has been an active voice in trade discussions, sources said, seeking out potential suitors and scenarios even as newly hired GM Masai Ujiri was preaching patience.

So it's significant that Stan Kroenke's son, Josh, who has been handed nearly complete control of the organization, was able to move Bearup out of the picture. Sources say rival executives had been told in recent days that Bearup was no longer authorized to discuss the team's personnel decisions, a stunning development to teams that had become accustomed to Bearup wielding significant power due to his close relationship with Stan Kroenke.

When I caught up with Stan Kroenke in September after a Board of Governors meeting in New York and asked him for his thoughts on trading Anthony, he said, "That's going to be Josh's decision." The fact that Stan had handed that much responsibility to Josh at such a critical juncture for the organization may have been the first sign that Bearup was on the outs.

"I think with Josh taking over, he was able to start with a clean slate," said one executive who has dealt with the Nuggets on personnel issues in the past.

But will this shakeup, first reported Tuesday by Yahoo! Sports , ultimately determine whether Anthony is traded or not? That's a stretch. One thing for sure is that the Nuggets' brass will now operate more secretively and from a unified power source, which has not been the case in recent years. The lack of clarity rival executives ran into this past summer in communicating with Denver officials was nothing new; it dated back to the awkward duo of Mark Warkentien and Rex Chapman, who did not get along and were ultimately let go in the first phase of this purge.

One thing to remember in all of this: Ujiri was stung by Chris Bosh's departure from Toronto as a free agent and clearly wants to avoid a similar situation with Melo. Whatever the Nuggets do, they're likely to be more transparent about it than they have in the past. If nothing else, when GMs call Denver now, they'll at least be able to figure out who's making the decisions.


 

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 26, 2010 10:17 pm
 

Big Three = Big Flop

BOSTON – On opening night, the Big Three were a Big Flop.

So much for the coronation, the predictions of a 73-win season, and shooting to the top of the Eastern Conference in July. In October, when it finally mattered, the Celtics were still the Celtics. The Heat were the test-tube babies of the 2009-10 Cleveland Cavaliers and the 2006-07 Heat: Not good enough.

The champions of the summer have a lot to work on in the fall.

Returning to the scene of his greatest career disappointment, LeBron James once again was denied by the savvier, grittier, defensive-minded Celtics, who inflicted the first scar on the team expected by some to dominate the NBA. The original Big Three beat the newer version, 88-80 Tuesday night in the 2010-11 NBA season opener.

Boston had to sweat out a flurry of one-on-one majesty by King James, who had 15 points in the third to turn a 45-30 rout into a six-point game, 63-57, heading into the fourth quarter. Then, the Celtics – 26th in fourth-quarter scoring last season – tempted fate with a sloppy closeout attempt as the Cavs – I mean, Heat – went on a 10-0 run from the 4:14 mark to the 1:10 mark. The run cut Boston’s 83-70 lead to 83-80 with 70 seconds left.

The Celtics, still undisputed Kings of getting baskets out of timeouts in big moments, got a 3-point dagger from Ray Allen with 49.8 seconds left to keep mighty Miami winless in 2010-11. The Heat, and their accompanying media circus, travel to Philadelphia Wednesday for Game 2. And if opening night was any indication of the drama and hype that will surround this team, it is going to be a crazy ride.

But the anticipated issues of chemistry between LeBron and Wade, who missed all but three minutes of the preseason with a hamstring injury and Chicago court appearances, reared their ugly head all night. LeBron led the Heat back in 1-on-5 Cavs style in the third, with Wade and Chris Bosh on the bench. Like his old team, LeBron’s new team had no answer to pesky Rajon Rondo and no fortitude in protecting the basket from Boston’s improved frontcourt.

All of this is fixable, and not entirely surprising when you consider that the Celtics’ core has been together for three years, with one title to their credit, and the Heat have been together for what coach Erik Spoelstra reminded everyone before the game was 14 practices and two shootarounds.

But none that changed the fact that LeBron would walk out of TD Garden, his house of horrors, in much the same fashion that saw him leave last spring: In defeat.
Posted on: October 26, 2010 7:14 pm
 

LeBron: Never thought I'd leave Cavs


BOSTON -- The last time LeBron James was in TD Garden, he was walking down the hallway to a summer of uncertainty and, ultimately, tumult. The Cavaliers had just lost to the Celtics in the playoffs, and LeBron's future -- and the transformative summer of 2010 in the NBA -- were deep in flux.

"It definitely felt disappointing," James said Tuesday night, about 90 minutes before tipping off the 2010-11 season in the same building, but with a new team. "At that time, I didn’t think that it would be the last moment I wear a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform. It was disappointing, and I never thought in the back of my mind that I would be somewhere else. But right now, as I reflect back on it, I'm excited about this new start. I'm excited about this season. I'm excited about this team and this franchise, and I'm glad to get it going in the city where we struggled in previous years."

It was a thoughtful revelation from James on the night when he was set to begin the next, and most important phase of his career. Surrounded by a horde of media in an auxiliary interview room before the game, James spoke about developing chemistry with Dwyane Wade, his many critics, and his new Nike commercial that debuted online Monday before it hit the TV air waves Tuesday night.

In the ad, James took on his critics as part of a new ad campaign titled, "Rise," a takeoff on the famous Maya Angelou poem , "Still I Rise," which James reads from in the commercial. James took aim at one of his fiercest critics, Charles Barkley, mimicking Barkley's famous and controversial line, "I am not a role model," before popping a donut into his mouth.

James also pokes fun at himself with a segment depicting him finishing his Hall of Fame speech in an empty room.

"It was mostly my execution and me just hearing a lot of people saying some of the things that I've done, have I ruined what I've done over the years," James said. "That instance was a point where no one shows up to the Hall of Fame speech. Not saying I'm a Hall of Famer right now, but I'm headed in the right direction."

After a summer of public gaffes, highlighted by the widely panned "Decision," the commercial shows James in a different -- and better -- light. But he wanted to make one thing clear Tuesday night, when I asked him which lighthearted or serious moment in the ad was his favorite.

"None of them were jokes," James said. "I wasn’t in a joking mood. None of them were jokes. I don’t know if I had a favorite. I think when you look back on it, it’s basically saying, 'Should I be who you want me to be? Or do should I just be me?' That’s how I got to this point. I respect everyone who’s had an opinion, but at the same time, you've got to do the best for yourself. And I think everyone has to do that."
Posted on: October 22, 2010 6:40 pm
 

Source: Melo not afraid to test new CBA


The NBA's labor talks have been big news in the days leading up to the tipoff of the 2010-11 season. Cutting player salaries by one-third ... contraction ... doomsday rhetoric from the commissioner to the union and right back at him. Oh, and by the way: the Heat play the Celtics Tuesday.

All of this affects some 400 players, 30 billionaires, and you ... the fan. But it affects one player perhaps more than any other: Carmelo Anthony.

The Nuggets star is days away from starting the season with a team he no longer wants to play for, and that's his own choice. But the dilemma is this: If Anthony can't compel Denver to trade him to a team of his liking, he has to be prepared to stare $65 million in the face and say, "No, thanks."

Or does he?

That is one of the unspoken uncertainties inherent in the NBA's labor fight. If the league insists on imposing a hard salary-cap, and if it follows the NHL model of rolling back existing contracts to make them fit the new system, Anthony's three-year, $65 million extension offer from Denver is a mirage.

An NHL-style rollback would result in Anthony's extension (if he signed it) and every other existing deal in the league being reduced to fit the new model.

Maybe that is why a person familiar with Anthony's strategy told me that Melo is fully prepared to spend the entire season in Denver without signing an extension and then take his chances under the new deal.

"Carmelo is not afraid to go into next year and test the CBA," the person said.

That seems like a bold statement, but in a way, maybe it isn't. What would be the point of begrudgingly accepting an extension with a team he doesn't want to play for just to get the money under the current deal when the new deal may very well wipe it out anyway with a rollback?

My former Newsday colleague, Alan Hahn, covered the 2004-05 NHL lockout and has been all over this angle as it applies to the NBA labor talks.

Several sources involved in the Anthony trade discussions continued to maintain Friday that the Nuggets will likely decide to move him after Dec. 15, when numerous players become trade-eligible -- thus widening the field of assets at Denver's disposal. But no team is going to take Anthony on a rental basis. More to the point: If Anthony believes there's a chance he'll have to accept a pay cut anyway under a hard-cap system with rollbacks, why not wait it out and sign with the team he really wants to play for, the Knicks?

It's a risk, sure. It's a lot of money to leave on the table -- or maybe it isn't, depending on how determined owners are to slash player expenditures. And based on commissioner David Stern's statement Thursday that owners want to take a $750 million to $800 million bite out of payroll -- a one-third reduction -- they seem sort of serious.

Stern was asked Friday for the second consecutive day about all things labor, this time on his preseason tipoff conference call with NBA media -- which typically is a chance for the former deli worker-turned-sports titan to spread his unique brand of sunshine on the masses. One of the more interesting questions was about Anthony and other stars trying to force their way to other teams, and whether that's good or bad for the sport.

Stern said it didn't bother him "in the least," so at least he's consistent. In the months leading up to the free-agent summer of 2010, Stern applauded the free-agent rights players had negotiated in the CBA while pointing out that the system was built to give the home team an advantage by paying more money.

Well, the system didn't work in the case of LeBron James and Chris Bosh, who took less money than their existing teams were offering to team up with Dwyane Wade in Miami. That was their right. And the home-team advantage won't exist in the hard-cap world Stern's owners are trying to create. A hard cap will only lead to more player movement; just look at the NHL, where Stanley Cup champions are routinely blown up soon after the victory parade.

"The players have no obligation to sign a contract," Stern said Friday. "And I remember these guys -- what were their names? -- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who actually asked to be traded; Patrick Ewing, who asked to be traded. Here we have a player who's keeping his options open. That's his right under the collective bargaining agreement, and I don't think it's fair to hold him to a higher standard."

I agree. I never had a problem with LeBron leaving Cleveland; it was the way he did it that bothered me. I have no problem whatsoever with Anthony deciding to bring his talents somewhere else. If there's a risk involved in that strategy, that's on him.

Stern embraced one concept Friday that may help in this regard, and it's one that I suggested here back in July : an NFL-style franchise tag.

"I think that the franchise player is an interesting concept," Stern said. "I think it's going to come up in our collective bargaining."

A franchise tag would build in protections for teams hoping to keep their stars under a hard cap. The players' union opposes all of it -- the hard cap because it would limit salaries, and a franchise tag because it would limit player movement. For the time being, we're stuck with a system that both sides enthusiastically agreed to only five years ago -- and one that has Anthony, one of the game's biggest stars, stuck in a self-imposed limbo.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com