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Tag:Magic
Posted on: May 20, 2010 6:40 pm
Edited on: May 20, 2010 7:02 pm
 

NBA gets it right with ref ban

What Joe DeRosa did at halftime Tuesday night wasn't egregious. It wasn't close to a federal offense, even in David Stern's court of law.

A fan in the first row behind the scorer's table was heckling DeRosa, an 18-year veteran NBA referee. DeRosa didn't like it, so he tossed the basketball at the fan. The fan caught it and fired it back. DeRosa motioned for the fan to be ejected. That was it. Nobody got hurt.

No harm, no foul. Right? The Eastern Conference finals between the Magic and Celtics would continue without incident.

Not quite. The NBA did the right thing Thursday when it suspended DeRosa for one game without pay over the incident.

Was the punishment too harsh? Too draconian? Not at all, and here's why: The NBA has zero tolerance for player behavior when it comes to interacting with fans. Players are simply not allowed to physically engage fans in any way for obvious reasons -- the 2004 Palace brawl chief among them.

One of the best things about the NBA is how close the fans are to the action. When media seats used to be courtside in every arena, one of the most enjoyable aspects of sitting there was the verbal sparring between hecklers and players, and oftentimes, hecklers and refs. In many cases, the players and refs respected the hecklers who brought some creative material to their courtside seats.

But under no circumstances can a player lose his cool to the point where he physically engages a heckler -- even from a distance by, say, throwing a ball at somebody. If a player did that, he'd be suspended without a doubt. And the NBA shouldn't have different standards for referees.
 
DeRosa's suspension speaks to that very need for consistency and was well deserved. Especially in light of the fallout from the Tim Donaghy scandal, what's good for the players has to be good for the refs, too.

Nobody in any job in America takes as much abuse, or has a greater responsibility to maintain his composure, than an NBA ref. It's certainly understandable why DeRosa lost his cool. He's human. But he still had to be punished. And in this case, the punishment fit the crime.






Posted on: May 14, 2010 4:59 pm
Edited on: May 14, 2010 10:04 pm
 

How the Celtics did in Mike Brown (UPDATE)

On a day when the fallout hit the fan with alarming swiftness in Cleveland, it’s worth revisiting how the team with the best record in the NBA got in this predicament in the first place. 

There were numerous factors. The health and playoff savvy of their proud opponent, the Boston Celtics. The failure to re-integrate Shaquille O’Neal into the starting lineup after he’d missed the last six weeks of the regular season. LeBron’s free agency. LeBron’s elbow. 

All of it conspired to set a series of potentially devastating dominoes into motion. The first one – Mike Brown getting fired as the Cavs’ coach – didn’t tumble on Friday. But it’s teetering as violently as the emotions of fans all over northeast Ohio. 

Amid a report by SI.com that Cavs owner Dan Gilbert already has decided to fire Brown, Gilbert and GM Danny Ferry held their season-wrapup news conferences Friday and said that wasn’t true. It isn’t true yet, is what they should have said. Gilbert, in effect, delivered that very message when he refused to answer a point-blank question as to whether he could say definitively that Brown would be back next season. 

“I like the way you asked that question,” Gilbert said, and then he dodged it, saying everyone in the organization would be evaluated over the next 7-10 days. 

“We are going to take a long, deep, hard look at every key position in this franchise from top to bottom,” Gilbert said. “We’re not going to react emotionally the next morning after unexpectedly losing a series.” 

Essentially, the decision will be up to LeBron James, according to a person familiar with organizational dynamics. "That's where this thing is headed," said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to discuss team business. "LeBron's going to make the call. That's what this is all about."

How could the Cavs be held hostage by James on the free-agent front and also have him deciding the future of their coach?

"Hey, they created this monster," the person said. "They kept giving in to him on everything and now you pay they price."

The notion that Brown is on his way out – after back-to-back 60-win seasons and only one year removed from being named NBA coach of the year – should be obvious to anyone who watched the Celtics-Cavs series. Boston coach Doc Rivers constructed a strategy aimed at attacking the Cavs’ biggest weaknesses, which is what any team tries to do. Few teams have executed such a plan better than the Celtics did. The fact is, as the aftermath engulfed the Cavs on Friday, the Celtics had to be amazed that their plan worked as well as it did. 

This wasn’t X’s and O’s. It was shock and awe. The Celtics saw not only weaknesses, but vulnerabilities – which are like festering weaknesses in basketball. They thought if they attacked certain areas successfully, it would not only result in good outcomes on the court, but potentially lethal side effects for the Cavs. The most damaging side effect of such a strategy is dissension, which became the theme for the Cavs over the last two games of the series. 

“You have to get a team to that point,” Ray Allen said. “It doesn’t involve taking shortcuts. You can’t just start games trying to go for the jugular right off the bat. It’s like an A, B, C all the way to Z process that all of us have to go through, and it requires everybody. When we’re as a team willing to put forth that effort from the offensive and the defensive end, then you can find those weaknesses and create that dissension.” 

The Celtics knew that going into the series, Brown already was facing an uphill battle with Shaq’s return to the lineup. They knew he’d feel pressured by Shaq’s reputation and $20 million salary to play him if he was healthy. The more Shaq was on the court, the Celtics believed, the better. The more he was on the court with Antawn Jamison, who hadn’t played alongside O’Neal until the playoffs began, that would be better still. 

The Celtics knew that Kevin Garnett would be able to attack Jamison, given that Garnett was one of the few opponents that Jamison ever faces with more size and length than he has. If the Celtics got Garnett going in a big way, that would free up Kendrick Perkins to wrestle under the basket with Shaq. All of this, they hoped, would lead to all kinds of griping and disagreements behind the scenes for the Cavs about who should be playing up front, and in which matchups. Sure enough, that’s just how it played out, with Brown eventually trying to re-insert Zydrunas Ilgauskas into the rotation in Game 5 – too late to quell the grumbling and insecurities in the Cavs’ locker room. Responding to the pressure of the unfavorable Garnett-Jamison matchup, Brown decided to start Game 6 with Shaq on Garnett and Jamison on Perkins. Um, that didn’t work, either. 

But that was only a small part of it. The Celtics knew that Mo Williams is a less than willing defender, and that he wouldn’t react well to pressure from Rajon Rondo, or to hard, physical screens. Williams shying away from contact in the Heat of a playoff battle would, in turn, infuriate LeBron to the point where Brown would have to take Williams off Rondo for stretches in games. Brown’s inability to solve the Rondo problem – he switched to Anthony Parker in the middle of the series, then started using LeBron in certain situations in Games 5 and 6 – only resulted in more dissension, which ultimately undermined Brown’s authority. 

The third key part of this divide-and-conquer paradigm was putting road blocks between LeBron and the basket and daring him to, 1) make the wrong basketball play by forcing his dribble into triple coverage, or 2) make the right play by passing to his teammates, who wouldn’t be up to the task. Time and again in the series, LeBron’s supporting cast melted under the pressure – from Williams, to Jamison, to Parker. The only one who stepped up consistently was Shaq, and the Celtics knew Shaq didn’t have enough left in the tank to carry his team for 48 minutes. 

It was obvious that the Celtics’ strategy was working when I asked James before Game 6 if he wanted to or planned to have any input into the game plan. He didn’t say he didn’t want to, only that it wasn’t his place. 

“It’s tough, because you don’t want to try to step on Coach’s toes,” James said. “It’s the whole coaching staff, and I agree with the system that they’ve put in. We’ve been successful in the postseason. We’ve been successful in the regular season. For me to go sit in the coaches’ meeting and say, ‘This is what I feel the strategy should be’, you only can go so far with that. You have to play the game and be around the game to understand exactly what I’m saying. You just can’t do things like that.” 

James didn’t have much nice to say about Brown throughout the series, and he refused to come to his coach’s rescue in the postgame news conference Thursday night, when he questioned Brown’s in-game adjustments. The Celtics were probably busy preparing for their next divide-and-conquer mission, Orlando, by then. But somewhere, they were smiling.
Posted on: May 12, 2010 3:10 pm
Edited on: May 12, 2010 3:13 pm
 

Hawks mulling extension for Woodson

Making a decision on Mike Woodson's future is the Hawks "No. 1 priority" this offseason, and it will be resolved quickly, a person with knowledge of the team's plans told CBSSports.com.

"With respect to Woody, and in fairness to him, I think it will be resolved soon, one way or another," the person said.

The Hawks won 53 games, their fifth straight regular-season improvement under Woodson, who coached the entire season on the last year of his contract without an extension. Hawks GM Rick Sund has a long-standing policy not to do contract extensions during the season.

But Woodson's legacy has been tarnished by Atlanta's four-game implosion against the Magic, a sweep in which the Hawks were outscored by 101 points. It was the Hawks' second straight season-ending sweep, coming on the heels of last season's 4-0 loss to the Cavaliers in the conference semifinals.

Woodson's salary with bonuses exceeded $2 million this season, and rival executives don't expect the Hawks to offer much more than that on a new deal -- which could be a recipe for Woodson's quick exit. Woodson is represented by Joe Glass, who also represents Bobcats coach Larry Brown -- which essentially means Woodson's future is tied to Brown's.

Woodson has been linked to the Philadelphia 76ers' opening as a package deal with Brown, who would replace Ed Stefanski as team president. To this point, Woodson and Brown are about the only two people in the NBA who haven't interviewed for the Sixers' job. Sources are skeptical of the Sixers' enthusiasm for turning the basketball decisions over to Brown if he isn't coaching. Some executives believe the Clippers remain the most sensible option for Brown as coach and team president, despite Brown's comments in an interview this week that he is having difficulty being away from his family in Philadelphia.

One consideration for the Hawks, sources say, is to make Woodson a firm offer within the next week. If the offer isn't to his liking, "It'll give him an opportunity to get involved for other jobs," said one person familiar with the team's plans.

The other hot-button issue for the Hawks is the future of Joe Johnson, who had a miserable series against Orlando and made it worse with comments critical of fans who had booed the team at home. One person close to Johnson said the circumstances may have made it less likely for Johnson to bolt the placid environment of Atlanta for a pressure-cooker like New York. Going to Chicago to play with Derrick Rose and "let Rose take all the daggers," a source said, might be a more attractive option. But sources say the Hawks' brass haven't ruled out Johnson returning to Atlanta.





Posted on: April 11, 2010 1:40 pm
 

Stan: Pencil in LeBron as MVP of the decade

CLEVELAND -- Stan Van Gundy has been stumping for Dwight Howard as the NBA's MVP for a few weeks, as is his right. Not only is Howard Van Gundy's player, a very credible case can be made for him to win the award.

But with anticipation that LeBron James will win his second straight MVP and do it unanimously, Van Gundy said Sunday that we might as well just give him the trophy for the next decade.

"Obviously I'm biased," Van Gundy said before the Magic played the Cavs in Cleveland's regular season home finale. "I'm in a situation where I see a guy every day and know what he does. But look, I've said all along, too: We all know how the vote’s gonna go. I mean, LeBron will win the MVP every year until he retires.

"I think it is tougher for big guys, but there’s a lot of things that go into it," Van Gundy said. "For the next eight to 10 years, LeBron basically has to go into the year and lose the MVP award. I think you guys have already decided that he’s the MVP and he has to go in and lose it. That’s a pretty good position, and he ain't ever going to lose it because he’s a damn good player."

As usual, Stan the Man was on a roll, and there was no stopping him.

"I don’t even know if Jordan was as hyped as he is and then he goes out and lives up to the hype and sometimes exceeds it," Van Gundy said. "That’s not easy to do. He’s a hell of a player. I mean, I'm not going to argue when he’s the MVP, that’s for sure."

But Van Gundy did take issue with a couple of aspects of the voting. First, in basketball and all sports, Van Gundy said the MVP voting shouldn't be done until after the playoffs. To an extent, I agree. (Remember Dirk Nowitzki winning the MVP in 2006 and losing in the first round to Golden State.) But the NBA Finals MVP usually takes care of the best player in the playoffs, and it's not all bad to keep what essentially are two separate NBA seasons apart when it comes to awards.

"The year’s not over this week," Van Gundy said. "To disregard the playoffs, I don’t care what sport you’re in, when you’re picking an MVP doesn’t make any sense to me. Then again, I’m not running the league."

Secondly, Van Gundy believes scoring is given too much weight in the media's calculation of MVP worthiness. I can see both sides of this argument. On one hand, Howard will most likely be named the unanimous defensive player of the year, a well-deserved honor for his defensive and rebounding dominance. But shouldn't his impact on those areas of the game be given equal consideration with scoring average? There is a scoring title for that, after all.

"His scoring would have to go way up," Van Gundy said. "We’re a team that offensively is not going to help him right now win an MVP award. We’re built on much more balanced scoring than most of the other teams. It’s tough. [Steve] Nash did it as a point guard, but it’s tough to do it without averaging 25 right now."


Posted on: March 24, 2010 10:57 pm
 

Hawks' Smith flushes doubts at buzzer

ATLANTA – As much as they wanted to downplay it, this meant something. The Atlanta Hawks didn’t want to go into the playoffs with a Can’t-Beat-The-Elite albatross following them every step of the way. 

“We know we can play with anybody,” said Josh Smith, who flushed a lot more than a game-winning putback dunk at the buzzer Wednesday night in an 86-84 victory over the Orlando Magic

It all came together for a team that no longer has to search so hard for respect. In front of a solid midweek crowd in attendance-challenged Philips Arena, the Hawks clinched a playoff berth and carried star-crossed teammate Jamal Crawford to the postseason for the first time in his nine-year career. 

They also took an important step, however reluctant they were to admit it. Despite a 4-0 season sweep of the Celtics, the Hawks’ resume was stained by an 0-6 record against the other elites – 0-1 against the Lakers, 0-2 against Cleveland, 0-3 against Orlando, with those three losses coming by an average of 22.3 points. That streak ended Wednesday night, when Joe Johnson’s jumper caromed off the rim and into the left hand of Smith, who soared through the lane and beat the buzzer with a dunk that sent a lot of doubts down with it. 

It was important, Smith was saying at his locker, “Just for our confidence, to know we can beat this team.” 

The deciding sequence came after Vince Carter’s 3-pointer tied it at 84-84 with 9.9 seconds left. As it turns out, it was better that the Hawks didn’t have any timeouts, because Smith said the matchup confusion resulted in nobody putting a body on him as Johnson’s 16-footer floated toward the rim. 

“Vince hit a great shot at the end, and Vince played great defense at the end to get the stop,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “On the weak side, we just stood and watched. We absolutely spectated. All we needed was one boxout and we’d be in overtime. But we didn’t get the boxout and we’re not in overtime. How you stand there and watch that play, I don’t know. The guys on the court were doing the same thing the guys on the bench were doing – standing there watching.” 

Down the hall, in the Hawks’ locker room, they were doing something else. Crawford, who’d spent his entire career on pathetic non-playoff teams in Chicago, New York and briefly in Golden State, proudly flashed a black T-shirt that read, “Clinched!” He hung it in his locker, saying he figured he’d let it stay there for a while. It’s been a long wait. 

“When you first come into the league, you think you’re supposed to be in the playoffs in year one or two,” Crawford said. “I don’t take it for granted. I’ve seen some tough situations, the worst of the worst.” 

And if the Hawks had lost to another elite team, they’d be wondering if they were ever going to take the next step. 

“It feels good,” Al Horford said. “There’s a lot of people that have been talking and questioning us against the bigger teams.” 

As the locker room was clearing out, the party was just starting in coach Mike Woodson’s office. Earlier in the day, after shootaround, roses and balloons had adorned his office signifying his 52nd birthday. Now, family and friends and adult beverages had joined them.

“That was a great game, a playoff game,” Woodson said. 

They will be playing those in Atlanta again this spring, the third straight year Woodson will lead the Hawks to the postseason. For five straight years, he’s won more games than he did the last. By beating Orlando, the Hawks clinched their ninth consecutive winning month – the third-longest streak in franchise history and second-longest since the team has been in Atlanta. 

Woodson is on the last year of his contract, Johnson is poised to join the star-studded free agent class, and all bets are off as to how that shakes out. For now, they should all take Crawford’s advice. 

“You have to appreciate it,” Crawford said, “because you never know when it’s going to happen again.”
Posted on: February 25, 2010 1:05 pm
Edited on: February 25, 2010 1:35 pm
 

Dwight Howard = Wilt Chamberlain?

When Dwight Howard isn't ignoring immature taunts from Shaquille O'Neal, how does he stay busy?

On Wednesday night, he put his name in the same sentence with Wilt Chamberlain.

I'd like to be able to say, "Dwight, I knew Wilt Chamberlain. And you're no Wilt Chamberlain." Sadly, I didn't meet the late, great Wilt until he joined the rest of the NBA's 50 Greatest at the 1997 All-Star Game in Cleveland. I have spent considerable time around Dwight Howard -- watching him perform with boyish enthusiasm and astounding athletic talent, and listening to him thoughtfully, respectfully, and sometimes playfully answer questions from inquiring types like me.

At 24, Howard's resume has a long way to go before he can hold it up against Wilt's, or even Shaq's. Those are facts. So is this: Dwight Howard did something Wednesday night that nobody had accomplished since Chamberlain in 1969, a year before I was born.

In Orlando's 110-92 victory in Houston, Howard had 31 points and 16 rebounds and was 11-for-11 from the field. He also had three assists, one block and was 8-for-12 from the foul line, but that's not the point. The point is, Howard became the first player since Chamberlain to record at least 30 points and 15 rebounds while not missing a shot in at least 10 field-goal attempts. He also recorded his 19th consecutive double-double, a franchise record that broke a tie with -- you guessed it -- O'Neal.

Nobody is saying that Howard = Chamberlain, or even that Howard = Shaq. But it's time to stop dismissing the most physically overwhelming talent in the NBA as a mere freak. Howard is a freak who has his team playing the best basketball in the league.

When it comes to doubting Howard's killer instinct, offensive fundamentals and meanness, I'm guilty as charged. I've questioned Howard's desire to be the alpha male from time to time. But I'm ready to put that aside and just enjoy him for what he is and what he will be -- the most dominant big man in the NBA for the next decade or so.

Last season, Howard became only the fifth player in NBA history to lead the league in blocks and rebounds in the same season. Neither Chamberlain nor Shaq is on that list, which includes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Ben Wallace. (In fairness, the NBA didn't count blocks as an official statistic until the 1973-74 season.) Howard currently leads the league in both categories again, and if he repeats the feat, he'll stand alone as the only player ever to do it twice.

More importantly, Howard's team is winning. The Magic are 13-4 since Jan. 20, and no other team has as many wins during that stretch.

The Cavs got Shaq for one reason, and one reason only: To contend with Howard in the playoffs. They just added Antawn Jamison in the hopes that they'll have an answer for Rashard Lewis, who destroyed Cleveland in the conference finals last season. Jamison is too much of a pro to belittle Lewis or anybody else. That hasn't stopped O'Neal from incessantly taunting Howard, calling him an impostor, and generally dismissing him as little more than a wart on his ample behind.

All of this will come home to roost in the playoffs, when the Cavs will have to get past Howard and the Magic if LeBron James is going to deliver the championship that he and the city of Cleveland so desperately need. Take a look at these numbers, crunched by NBA.com's John Schuhmann, showing the dramatic difference in LeBron's production against Orlando with Howard on the floor vs. off the floor since 2007-08. The translation: Howard is so good that he makes the best player in the NBA significantly worse.

Whatever happens in May and June, we know this: Howard will be there with a smile on his face. And he will let his play do the talking.


 

Posted on: February 12, 2010 5:39 pm
Edited on: February 12, 2010 6:04 pm
 

Howard says he expected more of Shaq

DALLAS -- If Shaquille O'Neal had directed his latest tirade at someone else, we would've had a good old fashioned sniping contest Friday at All-Star media day. Dwight Howard wasn't having it.

Howard took the high road, in more ways than one. Not only did he refuse to return jabs at O'Neal -- who once again took verbal swipes at his heir apparent Thursday night in Cleveland -- but Howard took it a step farther.

He did something that nobody has been able to do on the court for 17 years. He made Shaq look small.

"I would never take a shot at anybody," Howard said. "It doesn't matter if you're trying to motivate them or anything. Shaq has been in the league for a long time. He has a very lengthy resume. I just started. I'm only 24 years old and I have a long way to go. The only thing I would want from Shaq -- or any of the older guys who’ve been in my position -- is to help me grow as a player and as a person. That’s what my job would be as I get older. It’s to help the new guys who come in grow into better players and not try to bring them down or talk about them in a bad light. I would want to be that person that younger guys could look up to and ask for advice on how to carry themselves on and off the court."

If Shaq doesn't feel like a big enough doofus for trotting out his tired "Superman impostor" routine on Howard, there's more.

"I just wouldn't expect somebody to do that," Howard said. "There’s nothing I can do about it. He said what he had to say, it didn't sit too well with me personally. I felt like Shaq being who he is and what he’s done for the NBA ... I thought it would be better for him to try to help me through things instead of trying to put me down -- especially in front of you guys. That part kind of stuck with me., I would never talk bad or say anything to put him down."

Posted on: February 8, 2010 11:13 pm
 

Vince Carter is on the Magic?

Apparently, the Magic have acquired Vince Carter. I hadn't noticed -- until Monday night.

Let's not get too carried away with Carter's incredible display against the Hornets -- 48 points, 34 in the second half, and only three shy of his career high. This is not what the Magic had in mind when they pre-empted Hedo Turkoglu's departure by trading for Carter. They expected what they'd gotten for most of the season until now -- a former All-Star who is willing to settle into a secondary role behind Dwight Howard.

But you have to believe it was nice for Stan Van Gundy to witness this unexpected development in the Magic's 123-117 victory over New Orleans. It won't happen often, but when the Magic are slogging their way through the playoffs in a few months, getting sick to death of listening to Van Gundy yell at them about defense with that raspy voice of his, at least they'll know this: Vince Carter is still capable of taking over a game. On occasion, he is still unguardable.

Carter had settled into a mostly pedestrian existence in Orlando, deferring to younger teammates with more bounce in their legs. He hadn't been this good all year, by a lot. He hadn't warranted being a Twitter trending topic since before Twitter was invented.

I can confidently say that 48 points will be his season high; he won't do this again. But the fact that he showed that he can is every bit as important. When the Magic play Cleveland, Boston, Atlanta, or whomever else gets in the way come May and June, their opponent will have to defend Carter as though he will do that again.
 
That's why Carter will be better for the Magic in the playoffs than Turkoglu would've been. You saw merely a glimpse of his worth Monday night, and a glimpse is all it takes.




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