Posted on: June 18, 2010 6:33 pm
Edited on: June 18, 2010 8:00 pm
LOS ANGELES – At the risk of looking ahead before the party at Ron Artest’s house is over, it’s time to consider how different the NBA landscape will look the next time someone hoists the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Everyone but Gregg Doyel seemed to enjoy the epic, seven-game series given to us by the Lakers and Celtics. In fact, the series was ABC's most-viewed Finals and Game 7 was the most-watched NBA game since Michael Jordan's last championship shot in 1998 against the Jazz. At a time when owners and executives are understandably nervous about what the future will hold under a new collective bargaining agreement, it didn’t hurt for the sport to put its best foot forward for two weeks in June.
The momentum will carry right into the draft next week, when the NBA welcomes its next potential superstar, John Wall. Then, the main event: free agency, beginning July 1. The decisions and alliances that will be made during the first week of July could shift the balance of power and change the sport for the next decade.
Will LeBron James stay in Cleveland, to be joined by Chris Bosh or another high-profile free agent in a sign-and-trade? Will he form an alliance with Dwyane Wade in Miami, Derrick Rose in Chicago, or a superstar-to-be-named-later in New York? Will Kobe Bryant, fresh off his fifth title, push for a sign-and-trade scenario that would add Bosh to the Lakers’ embarrassment of riches?
The possibilities are endless, though Bryant was in no mood to contemplate all of this after celebrating his second straight title Thursday night. Asked by an enterprising reporter about the daunting possibility of facing a team with, say, LeBron and Wade in next year’s Finals, Bryant shot back, “What is it with you? You want to just emotionally drain me? I don’t want to think about that. Those guys, I’ve seen those guys up close and personal. I don’t want to think about playing against both of them at the same time. I want to enjoy this for a little bit.”
Not for long.
Once the free agency dust settles, the focus will shift from the Summer of LeBron to an army of lawyers, actuaries and accountants who are wrestling with the 800-pound gorilla in the room: the collective bargaining agreement. As thrilling as the Lakers-Celtics series was, it only underscored how concentrated the power – and titles – are among the big-market, high-revenue teams. Despite the fact that the players will include a plan for changing the league’s revenue-sharing model when they submit a proposal to the league in the next two weeks, sources indicate that NBA negotiators remain adamant that revenue sharing will not be part of the bargaining process. Months after getting an early start on negotiations, the owners and players still disagree on the validity of $400 million in losses stated by commissioner David Stern. Any way you slice it, it’s going to be a long, ugly fight with the goal of preventing a work stoppage when the current agreement expires on June 30, 2011.
Which brings us back to how things will look the next time the confetti is falling as Stern hands over the championship trophy 12 months from now. Stern’s NBA could be embarking on the most impactful era of basketball since Jordan retired, with big stars in big markets and world-wide interest in the sport perhaps even surpassing the Jordan era. And this could also be true next June: The NBA could be days away from a lockout that would kill all the momentum.
These are important times with a lot at stake, and with no time to do what Bryant pleaded with reporters to let him do: Enjoy it for a little bit.
Posted on: June 6, 2010 9:52 pm
LOS ANGELES – Carmelo Anthony has watched the free-agent hype envelop his friends, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and can’t help wondering: What if? What if it were me?
“I know it’s overwhelming for those guys,” Melo said Sunday night at Staples Center, where he watched the first half of Game 2 in the NBA Finals from the tunnel leading to the Lakers’ locker room. “I’ve talked to Bron and I’ve talked to D-Wade more than I do with Bosh. I can hear it, that it’s overwhelming a little bit. I know I would be overwhelmed. But you’ve got to do what’s best for you and your family and hopefully win championships.”
In the coming weeks, while the free agents of 2010 are deciding their futures, Melo will be deciding his, too. Nuggets GM Mark Warkentien is expected to make a three-year extension offer to Anthony’s agent, Leon Rose, in the hopes of preventing him from becoming an unrestricted free agent after next season. The decision is complicated: Take three years of security under the current collective bargaining agreement, or opt for the chance to be free next summer.
“When we talk, I’ve got to sit down with my team and talk, with all my representatives and figure out what’s the best situation – whether I take the extension now or wait until next year, depending on the collective bargaining agreement,” Anthony said. “So there’s a lot of things that go into that. It’s my decision at the end of the day. If the offer is on the table, I’ll have to look at it and see how I feel.”
Anthony, who trains in Santa Monica during the offseason, was supposed to attend Game 2 with James, who invited widespread scorn with a national TV interview that aired on CNN Friday during the Finals. James backed out of the plans to take care of other business, Anthony said.
But clearly, James somehow became cognizant of the further criticism he’d invite by sitting courtside at the very event he’s been accused of trying to upstage. While Bosh, one of the top free agents this summer, sat in the second row across from the Lakers’ bench, Anthony preferred to hang back in the tunnel to avoid attention.
“It’s fun,” Anthony said of the free-agent buzz. “It’s fun for me to watch and see what’s going on.”
But not necessarily to be a participant.
Posted on: May 27, 2010 9:18 pm
Edited on: May 29, 2010 1:07 pm
LOS ANGELES – While Tom Thibodeau remains the front-runner for the Hornets’ head coaching position, the extension of the Celtics-Magic series has complicated efforts by both parties to close the deal.
Thibodeau, architect of the Boston defense that ousted LeBron James from the playoffs, is entrenched in a suddenly difficult Eastern Conference finals with Orlando as the Celtics’ 3-0 lead has dwindled to 3-2 heading into Game 6 Friday night in Boston. In preparation for a contract negotiation with New Orleans, Thibodeau hired leading sports representation firm Creative Artists Agency on Thursday, according to a person with knowledge of the decision. CAA has an expanding coaching business in addition to its dealings with top free agents James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
The Celtics’ difficulty in closing out the Magic also has affected the progress of other coaching searches, most notably Atlanta’s. The Hawks, who have twice interviewed Mavericks assistant Dwane Casey, the leading candidate for the job, have been unable to schedule an interview with Mark Jackson due to his broadcasting and travel obligations in the Eastern Conference finals. That interview is expected to take place in the next couple of days, according to a person familiar with that situation.
Meanwhile, the Cavaliers have officially embarked on their search for a candidate to replace Mike Brown, who was fired after back-to-back 60-win seasons. At or near the top of the list is Bucks assistant Kelvin Sampson, a person familiar with the situation confirmed to CBSSports.com. But the Cavs have quietly begun conducting background checks on several other candidates and have been privately saying in those conversations that James, a soon-to-be-free agent, will not be making the decision, according to a person familiar with the Cavs’ search. James certainly will have input, but the person said James doesn’t want his fingerprints on the Cavs’ hire – in part because the organization doesn’t yet know if he will be staying or leaving as a free agent.
A person with close ties to James told CBSSports.com that he remains undecided, citing the complicated series of decisions league-wide on coaching hires and the movement of other top free agents. Wade told the Chicago Tribune in a story published Thursday that he plans to sit down with fellow CAA clients James and Bosh to jointly discuss their options.
The Bulls and Nets also are interested in Thibodeau, though in Chicago’s case, his hiring of an agent could complicate matters since the Bulls are one of the only teams in the NBA that do not negotiate with coaching agents. Portland assistant Monty Williams also remains on the radar for the Nets, Hornets and Clippers, who also are interested in Jazz assistant Tyrone Corbin. A person familiar with the situation said Williams is believed to be the No. 2 choice in New Orleans if Thibodeau says no. Williams performed extremely well in the interview process and impressed incoming Hornets owner Gary Chouest and team president Hugh Weber.
The Clippers, according to sources, remain hopeful of persuading Larry Brown to leave Charlotte for L.A., but pressure is expected to mount on Brown to tell the Bobcats’ brass definitively if he’s saying or leaving so the team doesn’t get shut out in the search for qualified replacements.
Posted on: May 21, 2010 11:38 pm
With speculation growing over where LeBron James and other marquee free agents will wind up July 1, the player who could represent the best consolation prize is about to move one step closer to coming off the market.
Representatives for three-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony and the Denver Nuggets have scheduled a face-to-face negotiating session with the hopes of agreeing on a three-year extension that would keep the coveted scorer from hitting the free-agent market in 2011, sources familiar with the situation told CBSSports.com. Since Anthony, who turns 26 later this month, isn’t a free agent this summer, he is free to discuss an extension with his team prior to the opening of the negotiating period July 1.
The Nuggets, fully aware that Anthony would be in high demand in 2011 among teams that strike out in their pursuit of James, Dwyane Wade and other marquee free agents this summer, are hopeful that this will be the first step toward “making Melo a Nugget for a long time,” one of the people familiar with the team’s strategy said.
Anthony’s agent, Leon Rose, declined comment recently when approached after a playoff game and asked about Anthony’s future. Rose, of course, has a full plate now that James’ season has ended and his long anticipated foray into unrestricted free agency is in full froth. With six weeks to go before James can terminate his contract and hit the market, speculation about where he will go has reached a fever pitch. But hardly anyone is paying attention to Anthony, who would be the ideal consolation prize for teams like the Knicks, Nets, Bulls, Heat, Clippers and Wizards if they fail to lure the free agents of their choice this summer.
Anthony signed his current agreement in 2006, the same summer when James, Wade and Chris Bosh all chose three-year extensions with an early termination option in the fourth year that would maximize their ability to hit the free-agent market in the prime of their careers. Anthony opted for a four-year deal with an option for a fifth year, thus choosing the additional money and security over flexibility. The Nuggets are hopeful that Anthony will follow the same strategy again, especially with the very real threat of a lockout in 2011 and ultimately a salary structure that is expected to be far less favorable to the players, sources say. Some circumstances have changed. Anthony’s current deal was negotiated by agent Bill Duffy, whereas his current agent, Rose, negotiated the shorter extensions for James, Wade and Bosh. Ultimately, though, it comes down to what the player wants.
Anthony will have to weigh those financial realities against the possibility that the Nuggets’ roster built around him and an aging Chauncey Billups has gone as far as it will go with the current core group. Also, sources say Anthony perpetually feels slighted among the league’s top talent and may want to seek a bigger stage to pursue his rightful place in the league’s pecking order.
For example, if James turns down the Knicks’ overtures this summer and stays in Cleveland or signs with the Bulls, imagine what a star Anthony would be in New York if he returned to his birthplace next summer with a chip on his shoulder. Not only would he have an opportunity to prove the doubters wrong about his own talent, but he also would be the perfect candidate to tap into Knicks fans’ anger over being jilted by James. During the Knicks’ most recent run of success in the 1990s, they were immensely popular in New York not only because they were successful, but because they never had the league’s best player. The underdog/villain role would suit Anthony’s personality perhaps better than any of the league’s current superstars.
While Anthony was born in New York, he grew up in the Washington, D.C., area, and the Wizards’ just became a far more attractive destination for free agents with the draft lottery triumph that will land them No. 1 pick John Wall. The point is, Anthony will have options galore if he decides to forgo an extension this summer and hit the market in 2011. And that’s something both sides in his imminent contract negotiation understand quite well.
Posted on: May 18, 2010 9:01 pm
Edited on: May 19, 2010 9:38 am
Gilbert Arenas tore the Wizards apart. On Tuesday night, the basketball gods took a major step toward putting them back together.
The Wizards "went through a lot last year," Wall said. "I'll have an opportunity to help turn the organization around. They have cap space to add some good players."
Wall said he'd received a text from his college coach, John Calipari, who is at the center of speculation about several NBA coaching jobs. Wall said he hasn't discussed Coach Cal's future with him -- nor has he spoken with his pal, LeBron James, since his season ended prematurely with a loss to Boston in the conference semifinals.
As for the possibility that ping pong balls and free agency could bring them together somewhere, Wall said, "That would be exciting, but I haven't talked to him about that. I'm just excited to get a chance to play in the NBA."
Posted on: May 14, 2010 2:44 am
BOSTON – At the end of a playoff series he’d been very much a part of winning, Kevin Garnett was asked the obligatory question about what LeBron James’ next few weeks will be like.
Garnett did better than answer it. He offered LeBron a piece of advice.
“Loyalty is something that hurts you at times, because you can’t get youth back,” Garnett said Thursday night after the Celtics eliminated the Cavs 94-85 with the help of his 22-point, 12-rebound performance straight out of 1998. “I can honestly say that if I could go back and do my situation over, knowing what I know now with this organization, I’d have done it a little sooner.”
Garnett, one of the original high-school-to-the-NBA stars, will turn 34 the day after Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Magic. Fifteen years in, he is chasing his second championship. The only thing loyalty got him was 12 years in Minnesota with one trip past the first round of the playoffs.
“I don’t know what’s going through his mind,” Garnett said of LeBron. “He’s a different individual. I haven’t spoken to him or anything, but the world is his. Whatever he wants it to be, whatever decisions he makes are probably going to be best for him – not only him, but for him and his family.
“He’s the face of basketball,” Garnett said. “I think his desire is definitely there. It’s going to be the talk of the summer because, you know, everyone’s going to be tuned in. It’s not just him, but D-Wade and Chris Bosh and all the other solid free agents available this summer. It’s going to be an interesting summer.”
A summer that started early for LeBron, in large part because Garnett found his health and his youth and some puzzling defensive schemes perpetrated by the Cavs. After Garnett had caused major problems for Antawn Jamison in the first five games of the conference semifinals, Cavs coach Mike Brown’s counter move was starting the game with Shaquille O’Neal defending him – a matchup straight out of 1995, and one that should’ve stayed there. Garnett picked-and-popped Shaq right out of that defensive look, and nobody else had much luck with him, either.
“It’s my 15th year, and I have seen almost everything that you can possibly do in a basketball game,” Garnett said. “My mentality throughout these whole playoffs has been attack, attack, to be the presence. So when they put Shaq on me, my thought process didn’t change. It didn’t change at all.”
Something clicked for Garnett, and for the Celtics, once the playoffs started. He averaged 18.8 points and 8.0 rebounds in the series, and helped close it out Thursday night with a ferocious dunk that made it 88-74 with 5:53 left and a clutch hook shot off an inbounds play that wound up being the game’s last basket.
“He’s healthier and happier, which makes all of us happier,” coach Doc Rivers said. “With health, I’m assuming that brings confidence.”
And results, too.
Posted on: April 8, 2010 11:11 am
Edited on: April 8, 2010 7:59 pm
Chris Bosh is out for the rest of the regular season after undergoing surgery to repair a facial fracture suffered on the other end of an inadvertent elbow. No, you are not the only one wondering if the All-Star power forward has played his last game in Toronto.
First of all, the Raptors will have a tough time making the playoffs without Bosh, so the remaining four games could be all that's left of their season. Of more concern is the fact that team executives I've spoken with recently continue to believe that Bosh is the most likely of the highly regarded free agents to change teams this summer.
Like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, Bosh signed his most recent extension with the intention of testing the unrestricted free agent market this summer; each has a player option for the 2010-11 season. All three turned have turned down extension offers since last summer, with Bosh the most recent prospective free agent to say no. The Raptors relayed an extension offer in January, and Bosh's position was that he wanted to play out the season and deal with the contract afterward.
Injury aside, Toronto's inability to make significant improvement this season despite the addition of free agent Hedo Turkoglu has frustrated Bosh to the point where people close to him believe he is the most motivated of the Big Three to seek a new address this summer. In all likelihood, the Raptors would try to accommodate his wishes via a sign-and-trade so they can avoid losing him and getting nothing in return.
It has been long speculated that Bosh, a Texas native, would seek a return to his home state. Conveniently, there are three teams located there, all of which might be enticed to explore a sign-and-trade. The Rockets are in desperate need of star power, the Spurs are aging, and the Mavericks are always game for splashy, big-ticket moves.
One thing's for sure: It's gotten a lot easier over the past 48 hours to imagine Bosh wearing another uniform next season.
As for the Raptors' battle for the eighth playoff spot in the East with Chicago, the Bulls got another break Thursday night -- also at the hands of the Cavs. LeBron James was inactive for Cleveland's game in Chicago, giving the Bulls a chance to move ahead of Toronto with four games to play for each team. The Raptors hold the tiebreaker and have the easier schedule: at Atlanta, at Detroit, and home to New York in addition to hosting the Bulls on Sunday. Chicago is at New Jersey Friday night and finishes the season against two playoff teams: home to Boston and at Charlotte.
Posted on: April 2, 2010 4:58 pm
Edited on: April 2, 2010 5:53 pm
Forget about Kobe Bryant joining the 2010 free-agent frenzy. The three-year, maximum extension he finally agreed to Friday with the Lakers put an end to that.
Instead of exercising his early termination option after the season, Bryant is signing up to finish his career in a Lakers uniform. With a $24.8 million salary next year, Bryant is eligible to make $27.4 million in 2011-12, $30 million in '12-'13 and $32.6 million in the final year of the extension.
This is splendid news -- and not only for Bryant and agent Rob Pelinka, who will get a nice chunk of that $90 million as a commission. It's splendid because it promises four more years of Lakers drama -- the annual questions about whether Phil Jackson will be back to win one more title, and what Kobe will do/think/say if Phil ever does decide to ride off into the sunset with Jeanie Buss and never look back.
It's also splendid because it may offer a glimpse into the decision LeBron James will have before him three months from now. Granted, they are at very different stages of their careers. But if Bryant just laid down the blueprint for LeBron -- hey, if they've given you everything you want, you might as well stay -- then there will be a handful of extremely disappointed general managers standing around with cap space and nothing to spend it on come July 1.
Bryant's extension offer has been on the table since July, when he decided not to exercise the first of two straight termination clauses. It was widely believed that he would follow that good-will gesture by quickly signing an extension, but it took months to finalize.
In addition to eliminating Bryant from a free-agent class that is expected to include James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and others, his decision to commit to three more years with the Lakers suggests that Bryant believes Jackson will be back for at least one more year as coach. Jackson, 64, told NBA.com last week that he expects to be back, barring any surprises in his annual post-season physical. Jackson later backtracked, saying he wasn't leaning one way or the other. Bryant, it would appear, believes otherwise.
Bryant's decision will come as a surprise to several GMs I've spoken with recently who are in the planning stages for this summer's free-agent signing period. They had begun to expect Bryant to make himself available to the highest bidder -- that Bryant was the free agent everyone kept forgetting about. It was never assumed that Bryant wanted to leave L.A., but rather that uncertainty over Jackson's future might compel him to keep his options open.
With four titles and another one possible this June, what better options could there have been? Apparently, according to Kobe, none.
The last time I saw Bryant, he was walking toward the loading dock at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, sunglasses on and head hanging after a particularly humiliating loss to the Thunder. Minutes earlier, Bryant had gotten more of the rubbish he gets in every NBA city -- more of these comparisons to players who haven't won anything yet. It would stand to reason that Bryant put the LeBron comparisons to rest last June, when he hoisted his fourth championship trophy, and first without Shaq. James hasn't won any yet, and Bryant is within two of tying Michael Jordan, and yet all anyone can talk about is LeBron, LeBron, LeBron.
Bryant can take that; there is no denying James' talent and no telling how many titles he'll ultimately win if he puts himself in the right situation, starting this summer. But now Bryant supposedly has been passed in the NBA hierarchy by Kevin Durant, according to the great basketball publication Rolling Stone.
"Whoever said that is a little bit over their head with that one," Jackson said.
Asked that night in Oklahoma City if he "got caught up" in the head-to-head matchup with Durant, Bryant smiled and said, "That's a silly question." With nine turnovers in the loss, Bryant also was asked if the player defending him -- Thabo Sefolosha -- had become one of the better defenders in the league.
"Sure," Bryant said, with about $90 million worth of sarcasm.
Bryant could have joined the new generation chasing him in the chase for dollars this summer. On Friday, the best player of his generation decided to sit that one out. Let's compare the resumes in four years and see if he was right.