Posted on: December 17, 2009 3:04 pm
After playing 17 of their first 21 games at home, the Lakers were due for some adversity. This wasn't the kind they were looking for, however.
Things didn't get dicey until after the defending champs won their second straight road game in Milwaukee Wednesday night, thanks to Kobe Bryant's buzzer-beater in overtime. After the team's equipment truck broke down four times on the drive from Chicago earlier in the day, things only got worse on the flight from Milwaukee to Newark, N.J.
"The plane is shaking, and seems to be blowing all over the place," team broadcaster John Ireland wrote in his blog. "The worst turbulence we’ve had in three years. People are saying things like, 'I love you, man,' and they’re only half-kidding. All of the traditional in-air card games are stopped, and Lakers PR Director John Black blurts out: 'I want to apologize to everybody that I’ve yelled at during my career.' If you know John Black, you know this is something he would absolutely never say unless he thought that plane was in serious trouble."
The plane eventually landed safely in Newark at 2:30 a.m. ET Thursday. For believers in the supernatural, this transpired after the team had spent a grand total of three hours in the Pfister Hotel -- the oldest hotel in Milwaukee, which also is rumored to be haunted. At 3:15 a.m., the Lakers checked into their hotel in Manhattan.
"Three cities, two games, six bus rides, a haunted hotel, a broken luggage truck and near-crash landing," Ireland wrote.
Wisely, Phil Jackson gave the players Thursday off.
Posted on: December 16, 2009 12:44 pm
CHICAGO -- Tracy McGrady returned to the Houston Rockets Tuesday night, and the fans cheered. T-Mac hit a 3-pointer, his only points during an eight-minute stint, and all was right in Rocket Land again. Right?
No, not so much.
McGrady's comeback is only part of a larger plan to increase his minutes and prove his worth to a team willing to take a chance on his once-breathtaking ability to score and benefit from his $23 million expiring contract at the same time. The Rockets were 14-10 this season without Yao Ming and McGrady, and now the only question is how long they'll have to keep up the charade until McGrady is in good enough condition to help another team.
"The plan is to increase his minutes because they’re gonna trade him," said a person familiar with the Rockets' plans. "I know they are. It doesn’t do them any good to have him playing eight minutes a game on that contract. They’ll find somebody, and there are plenty of teams that are interested, in spite of the contract."
In fact, there will be plenty of teams interested because of that contract. McGrady's $23 million salary comes with two built-in perks: It comes off the books on July 1, 2010, making it a vehicle for clearing cap space for the highly anticipated free-agent signing period, and it's 80 percent insurance-protected. The insurance provision already has kicked in, since McGrady missed 41 consecutive games during his recovery from microfracture knee surgery. The Rockets, or McGrady's new team, would receive 80 percent of his per-game salary for any games he misses the rest of this season.
Any number of teams desperate for short-term scoring punch while they prepare for a 2010 spending spree would be obvious fits; the Bulls and Knicks are at the top of my list. The Heat reportedly also are intrigued by McGrady, and team president Pat Riley is said to be closely monitoring T-Mac's progress.
On Wednesday, I brought all of this information to someone who is personally invested in McGrady's success -- Tim Grover, the renowned trainer at Attack Athletics on the West Side of Chicago. Grover famously trained Michael Jordan and has recently worked with such stars as Kobe Bryant, Gilbert Arenas, and McGrady. Grover wouldn't speculate on the Rockets' motives with regard to T-Mac, but said McGrady's debut Tuesday night was "long overdue."
"I wasn’t down in Houston, and I don’t know what the situation was or why they felt they needed to hold him out this long," Grover said. "Obviously, they had their reasons. They must have found something they wanted to be cautious with. The end result is we're happy to have him back on the floor."
Grover didn't merely help McGrady recover from microfracture surgery, which despite its name is a major procedure requiring months and months of rehab. He reinvented McGrady's body, which had no core strength when he got to Grover's gym.
"We took care of every single issue that he ever had -- the knee, the back, everything that’s ever bothered him in the past," Grover said. "We realigned his body and balanced everything out and made it much stronger and got a lot of his explosiveness back. Now getting back mentally 100 percent is the challenge. And the only way to do that is go out there and compete against NBA players."
At least McGrady is doing that now. Though in a perfect world, he won't be doing it in a Rockets jersey for much longer.
Posted on: November 16, 2009 7:48 pm
Now that Allen Iverson's career with the Memphis Grizzlies has come to its predictable end, the question is: What about the rest of his career?
Posted on: September 15, 2009 6:41 pm
Edited on: September 15, 2009 10:44 pm
Stephen Jackson's $25,000 fine for "public statements detrimental to the NBA" would be funny if it weren't so bogus in a fun police sort of way.
First, if $25,000 fines were assessed for all statements detrimental to the NBA, I'd be in trouble. Also, the world would be without poverty. All that fine money donated to good causes would be enough to feed everyone.
Second, I realize that technically players aren't allowed to publicly request trades. But really, what else would anyone write or talk about in the month leading up to the trade deadline if that rule were enforced in the strictest sense? The league's press release reminds us that Ron Artest was fined in 2005-06 for publicly requesting a trade. OK, that's one down and about 199 players to go.
I don't recall Kobe Bryant getting fined for his numerous public trade requests in the summer of 2007. (He wasn't.) Memory doesn't serve me on whether Allen Iverson was fined for demanding a trade in Philadelphia during the 2006-07 season. The league's thinking is that those players didn't directly, explicitly, and in so many words ask to be traded. But everyone knew what they were doing. (In Iverson's case, one theory is that he didn't go to the media with his trade demand; he went to the team and it leaked to the media. In Kobe's case, the official explanation for why he wasn't fined was that he recanted so quickly after making the trade demand.)
This is all kind of silly, anyway. Overall, I'm OK with the fine -- as long as we call this what it is. It seems to me that the NBA is fining Jackson so that coach Don Nelson doesn't have to. Nellie doesn't want to cross one of his best players, and this way, Jackson can be mad at the NBA and not his coach. Makes sense to me.
One more thing: I don't understand how publicly requesting to be traded is detrimental to the NBA. Isn't that part of what makes the NBA fun?
UPDATE: Upon further reflection, here's the other side of that argument: In the year leading up to the most recent collective bargaining agreement, which was ratified in 2005, whiny players making public trade demands had become somewhat of an epidemic. So the league warned the players' union that it was going to begin cracking down on such statements, arguing that they hurt the image of the league. A few selfish, bratty players were painting the entire league with that brush. Now, when Jackson's fine seems to come out of nowhere, maybe that's because the league has been successful in curbing the public sniping. Me? I still find it fun.
Posted on: July 22, 2009 11:34 am
A few weeks ago when Ron Artest decided to sign with the Lakers, one of the first things out of his mouth was this: "I know Lamar Odom, so that's pretty cool."
Artest and Odom have known each other since they were kids growing up in Queens, playing in the playgrounds and on AAU teams. As much as Artest wanted to sign with the Lakers -- even saying he'd "play there for nothing" -- it is unfathomable that he would've made such a bold career move without knowing L.O. would be on board.
This is why the posturing, the rejected offers, and the offers taken off the table over the past few weeks have been so puzzling. Well, puzzling isn't the right word. I never -- ever -- begrudge athletes, entertainers, finance people, or anybody else when they try to get paid. That is their right and that is how the game is played. An athlete's career is a nanosecond, and they should make as much money as humanly possible. You would do the same thing. So would I.
But the time has come for Odom and his agent, Jeff Schwartz, to recognize that the market is what it is for a player who might just be the best sixth man in the NBA -- but one who, nonetheless, has never made so much as an All-Star team or led the league in any major statistical category. Odom wears his heart on his sleeve and the address of the South Jamaica home where he grew up on the tongues of his sneakers. The dirty secret that Lakers management has known throughout this process is that Odom's heart is in L.A. That's where he and his sneakers belong, too.
Miami? Nice place. No state income tax. Great teammate to play with in Dwyane Wade. But adding Odom wouldn't put the Heat any closer to a title than the Lakers would be if they re-signed him. Portland? The Blazers certainly have the cap space after losing out on Hedo Turkoglu and Paul Millsap, but Portland doesn't feel like the right fit for Odom.
In my mind, the only place besides L.A. that would've made sense for Odom was Boston. But the Celtics struck early in the free-agent period and signed Rasheed Wallace for a fraction of what Odom is seeking.
There will be no hard feelings on either side when, I predict, Odom relents and accepts a three-year deal from the Lakers for somewhere north of $30 million. Derek Fisher is on record saying, "We want him back badly and I hope we can accomplish that in the next couple days." Kobe Bryant is on record saying he's "optimistic" that Odom will return to the Lakers. It is time for those recruiting efforts and optimism to become reality.
Some people whose names end in two G's don't like Lamar Odom. They're stuck in their wistful thinking about how good he could've been if he'd applied himself or if he wanted to be one of the top five players of his era. Odom certainly has that kind of talent. But he was born to be a wingman, and life's challenges have only solidified that niche for him. The Lakers are the perfect team for him, and he for them. It's time to stop posturing and put pen to paper with the Lakers. I refuse to believe that Fisher, Bryant, and Artest will let him do anything different. If Odom knows what's good for him -- if he knows where he's wanted and where he belongs -- then he'll listen.
Posted on: July 3, 2009 4:33 pm
Phil Jackson will return to coach the Lakers next season to make a run at his 11th NBA title with Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest.
"After consulting with Lakers team internist Dr. John Moe, I feel confident that I can gainfully pursue an NBA season with another long playoff postseason," Jackson said in a statement posted on Lakers.com. "All things point to go."
Jackson, 63, had another year left on his contract at about $12 million but had a window of several weeks after the NBA Finals to notify Lakers management if he would fulfill the deal. Jackson has undergone two hip replacement operations and has been concerned for several years about the wear and tear of traveling for a full 82-game season and the playoffs. That's why Jackson raised the possibility of only coaching home game next season and turning the reins to assistant Kurt Rambis for road games. The idea was quickly rejected by the Lakers.
It was clear Thursday when Artest announced his intentions to sign with the Lakers after speaking with Jackson that the NBA's career leader with 10 titles would be back.
I have two thoughts: 1) Nobody walks away from $12 million these days. Not even with a limp. And 2) With the unpredictable Artest on the team, Phil will earn every dollar. And he might just earn his 11th ring.
Posted on: July 2, 2009 6:56 pm
Edited on: July 3, 2009 2:17 am
Shaq can have LeBron. Ron Artest says he'll take Kobe.
But Artest said talks with Cleveland "never got that far." Told that Cleveland, by all accounts, had extreme interest, Artest said, "I don't know how extreme. I love the Cleveland Cavaliers, though. I love LeBron and Coach (Mike) Brown and Shaq."
But what he really loves is L.A.
"L.A. is what it is," Artest said. "I've been here for the whole summer, and it's pretty good. It's good for me. I know Lamar Odom, so that's pretty cool."
Artest spoke as though Odom would return to the Lakers to join Artest and Kobe Bryant for another title run. Although the Spurs and several other teams were interested in Odom, the Lakers have the inside track. L.A.'s other free agent, Trevor Ariza, agreed Thursday to sign with Houston for the same mid-level deal Artest got from the Lakers.
Posted on: June 30, 2009 9:00 pm
Kobe Bryant will be a Laker for one more year. At least.