Posted on: July 1, 2009 1:18 am
Edited on: July 1, 2009 10:37 am

Blazers make play for Turkoglu

Determined to make the first splash of the NBA's free-agent negotiating period early Wednesday, the Portland Trail Blazers are making a strong push to sign Hedo Turkoglu, the prized free agent of the summer.

While negotiations across the league were in the early stages, a person with knowledge of the discussions said the Blazers are trying to lure Turkoglu with a deal in the $50-million range. Contracts cannot be signed until July 7, when the annual moratorium on signing and trading players is lifted.

Other teams expected to make a play for Turkoglu, who earned a huge pay day by helping Orlando get to the NBA Finals, were Toronto, Detroit, and Sacramento. The Magic, who acquired Vince Carter from the Nets on the belief that they could not retain Turkoglu, are not expected to be a factor in a situation that involves Turkoglu getting $10 million a year.

UPDATE: Turkoglu's agent, Lon Babby, told the Oregonian that the Blazers were the first team to call. "They were enthusiastic and well received by us," Babby said. "We are engaged in the process. We will see where it takes us in the next couple of days and take it from there."

GM Kevin Pritchard and assistant GM Tom Penn first called Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, who are seeking extensions from the team, the Oregonian reported. In order to clear cap space for Turkoglu, the Blazers likely would have to renounced their rights to both Joel Freeland and Petteri Koponen, both playing overseas.

UPDATE: Several team executives confirmed the Blazers' interest in Turkoglu Wednesday. But as is usually the case, the Blazers were operating in somewhat of a clandestine environment. One agent who has been in contact with numerous teams since the free-agent bell rang at 12:01 a.m. said Blazers officials insist the talks with Turkoglu were still in the developing stages. It's difficult to imagine where Turkoglu would do better than the Blazers, though. The Pistons, according to sources, are targeting Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. Oklahoma City -- another rare team with cap space -- appears to be focused on restricted free agent Paul Millsap or New York's David Lee.
Posted on: June 25, 2009 6:50 pm
Edited on: June 26, 2009 7:10 am

Vinsanity in Orlando (UPDATE)

NEW YORK -- Last summer, the Nets were politely rebuffing inquiries about Vince Carter, not ready yet to part with their highest-paid and most impactful player as part of their plan to attract major free agents in 2010.

That plan intersected with the opportunity to move Carter and the $35 million left on his contract Thursday, when New Jersey sent Carter to the defending Eastern Conference champion Orlando Magic.

It was the final blow to the core of Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson, and Carter, who led the Nets through some of the best seasons in franchise history. It also made New Jersey a major factor in the 2010 free-agent sweepstakes and signaled to their fans in New Jersey that they're packing it in for the move to Brooklyn. The Nets also had talks with the Spurs and Cavs about Carter.

The Nets cleared more hurdles this week in making their dream of moving to Brooklyn by 2012 a reality. And by moving Carter, they put themselves $17 million in 2010 cap space closer to putting a marquee star -- or two -- in that new playpen.

The Magic? To me, the trade signals that Orlando GM Otis Smith doesn't believe he can keep Hedo Turkoglu, who will be an unrestricted free agent in a couple of weeks. Carter will join a healthy Jameer Nelson in the backcourt, but he's similar to Turkoglu from the standpoint of ball-dominance and big shot-making -- two ingredients that the Magic would've sorely missed had they not hedged their bets by replacing them.

Orlando sent Rafer Alston, Courtney Lee, and Tony Battie to the Nets for Carter and Ryan Anderson. Battie and Alston have contracts that expire after next season, while Lee and Anderson are a wash. So the Nets save $17.3 million from Carter's contract in 2010 and have only three players guaranteed money that season -- Josh Boone, Eduardo Najera, and Keyon Dooling. (They hold team options on Lee, Yi Jianlian, Brook Lopez, and Sean Williams.)

The Cavs, Spurs, and Magic have struck so far with a win-next-season-at-all-costs strategy. Who's next?


Posted on: June 15, 2009 1:48 am

Phil finally celebrates ... as he should

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Phil Jackson didn't want to celebrate until the job was finished. When it was over, when he'd secured his 10th championship to pass Red Auerbach for the most in NBA history, Jackson could finally let go. This was his 10th champagne bath, but it was seven years in the making.

"You can see it in his eyes how ecstatic he is," Kobe Bryant said after the Lakers beat the Orlando Magic 99-86 Sunday night for Jackson's 10th career title. "It's been a long time since he had a champagne bath, and I knew that, so I made sure he became part of our circle and we got him pretty good. He took his glasses off, threw his head back and soaked it all in because this is a special time. And for us to be the team that got him that historic 10th championship is special for us."

Finally free to talk about it, Jackson admitted afterward that he enjoyed passing the great Auerbach but would light a cigar in his honor just the same. Jackson played for Auerbach's nemesis, Red Holzman, with the Knicks, and his relationship with the Celtics' Auerbach was ... well, competitive is the word Jackson once used to describe it, and that's probably the best word. Or at least the most diplomatic.

"I'll smoke a cigar tonight in memory of Red," Jackson said during the trophy presentation. "He was a great guy. I'll smoke a cigar in memory of him."

Auerbach, up in heaven, no doubt will be hoping that the cigar is laced with poison. A cigar? In Red's memory? To celebrate a Lakers championship?

To me, it is pointless to debate whether Auerbach or Jackson is the better coach. The game is different, the rules are different, the players are different, the travel is different. We could do this all day and not have the answer. What we know is that Jackson has won more titles, and that he's done it with great players. How many would Auerbach have won without Russell and Havlicek?

Of all the ways Jackson awkwardly tried to explain his place in history during these Finals, I liked best what he said Sunday night. When asked about how proud Holzman would've been for one of his players to surpass Auerbach, Jackson not only gave credit to Holzman -- but also to Les Harrison, who coached Holzman with the Rochester Royals. Some accuse Jackson of being a product of Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal, and Kobe. But if you say that, then you also have to mention that he's a third-generation coach from the Harrison-Holzman tree.

Jackson told a story about attending Walt Frazier's Hall of Fame induction. When Harrison and Holzman approached him, Harrison told Jackson, "I'm his father, so you're really my grandson."

"So there's a legacy that came that direction with me,"' Jackson said.

Say what you want about Jackson, but let the man light up that cigar and enjoy it.

Category: NBA
Posted on: June 14, 2009 7:22 pm

Tex Winter looms over Finals

ORLANDO, Fla. -- There would be no Phil Jackson without Tex Winter, which is why it's so odd to see the Lakers' coach moseying around the sideline without the innovator of the triangle offense by his side.

Winter, 87, suffered a stroke in April and is now recovering in Oregon. The famed developer of the triangle offense -- a system that has helped bring Jackson to the brink of his 10th championship -- has been unable to speak with Jackson on the phone during the playoffs due to the effects of the stroke.

"I just get reports that he's enjoying the game," Jackson said. "He's watching it and is very close to what's going on."

When Jackson was hired to coach the Bulls in 1989, he made sure he had Winter handling the offensive strategy and Johnny Bach handling the defense. Without his longtime triangle guru, Jackson has turned over some of Winter's in-game duties to assistant coach Brian Shaw, who is regarded as a possible replacement for Jackson if and when he decides to retire.

"He always encouraged team play and system play, and so if it would become too individual he would bring up the fact that the ball wasn't moving or the team wasn't playing together or there was a stagnation out there on the floor," Jackson said. "He'd always bring that to bear. But more than anything else, he kept a running score on the sideline, which is now done by Brian Shaw, whose cryptic handwriting is poor quality. But we can still get our way through it."

You can turn over the clipboard to Shaw or anyone else, but it's just not the same without Tex. Here's wishing him the best.

Category: NBA
Posted on: June 13, 2009 4:35 pm

Van Gundy vs. ... Doyel?

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Stan Van Gundy made a lot of sense Saturday about the predicament facing the Orlando Magic.

This is one instance, Van Gundy said, when the cliche about taking "one game at a time" doesn't apply.

"When you're in this situation, the key thing is, do you still have a belief that you can win the championship?" Van Gundy said. "If you don't think you can go to L.A. and win the championship, then even though you're saying one game at a time, it's pretty easy to let go if things aren't going well. So I think you've got to first start with the belief that you can win the championship, and then from there. I tell them it's no different than the approach we've had all year, our goal from the beginning has been to win the championship. But then you approach your job one day, one game, one possession at a time. So it's no different from that."

Then Van Gundy went through the litany of occasions when the Magic were backed into a corner in this postseason and found a way out. Down 2-1 to Philadelphia and winning the series in six. Down 3-2 against Boston and winning the series in seven, with the clincher on the road. Giving up LeBron's game-winner in Game 2 of the conference finals and winning the series in six. And now this: Trying to become the first team to win a title after trailing 3-1 in the Finals.

"How are we going to bounce back?" Van Gundy said. "The question gets tiresome with this team."

Then Van Gundy took aim at the critics who've taken aim at his team for its failure to rise to the occasion against the Lakers -- missing a chance to steal Game 2 when Courtney Lee couldn't convert an alley-oop layup at the buzzer and melting down completely in Game 4.

"Whatever people's perceptions are of certain players, certain teams, whatever, I mean, it's like they say about anybody with sort of first impressions," Van Gundy said. "They just never go away no matter how many times you prove it to the contrary. And plus, I always stand in amazement of a lot of people's ability to continue to have opinions that absolutely stand in the way of all facts and evidence. I mean, it's an amazing quality some people have to be able to ignore every piece of evidence and fact and still have their opinion."

Hmmm ... could he be talking about my man Doyel? I smell a sledgehammer-like response coming in the Blogg Doyel.

Category: NBA
Posted on: June 12, 2009 6:03 pm

Van Gundy: No regrets

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Stan Van Gundy's mood had changed considerably after 12 hours to dissect the calamity that was Game 4, a meltdown so complete and devastating that he'd said Thursday night on his way out of Amway Arena: "That one will haunt me forever."

Some of it will, yes. But Van Gundy was steadfast in his defense of two aspects of the 99-91 overtime loss to the Lakers that he directly controlled: The decision not to foul on the inbounds play that led to Derek Fisher's 3-pointer that sent the game to overtime, and his love-hate relationship with point guard Rafer Alston.

For the second time in 12 hours, Van Gundy was questioned Friday about why he instructed his team not to foul when the Lakers inbounded the ball at their own end with 10.8 seconds left in regulation and Orlando leading 87-84.

The Lakers ran a brilliant inbounds play. Trevor Ariza passed to Kobe Bryant, who quickly dished it back to Ariza, who found Fisher upcourt. By the time Fisher approached the 3-point arc on the dribble, it was too late to foul.

Once the player is in attack mode within shooting range, it's always a dangerous proposition to foul. Had Jameer Nelson lunged at Fisher in an attempt to wrap him up and force him to shoot two harmless free throws instead of a dagger 3-pointer, Fisher would've had Nelson at his mercy. He's a savvy veteran, and would've found a way to get the shot off -- resulting either in three foul shots or a 4-point play.

"I've rethought it and rethought it and rethought it, and it's easy to say now, 'Do I wish we had fouled as opposed to giving that up?'" Van Gundy said. "Yeah, but I still don't think at 11 seconds to go in a game that we're going to foul in that situation. I'll put it this way: You always have regrets. Faced with the same situation again at 11 seconds, we still wouldn't be telling them to foul."

What Van Gundy is second-guessing is the approach Nelson used to defend Fisher on the play -- and by extension, he's second-guessing whether there was anything else he could've told Nelson before sending him onto the floor after the timeout. If you're Nelson, you absolutely must meet Fisher beyond the 3-point line when he catches the ball. Once Nelson was positioned inside the line, it was all over. He willingly gave Fisher the advantage.

"Basically Jameer had one responsibility on the play, and that was to not give Derek Fisher a look at a three," Van Gundy said. "It's one of those things I'm sure Jameer wishes he had back and had played differently. I question whether we made that clear enough or could have told him to play the play a different way. But I thought we were pretty clear on that."

All of this begs the question of what Nelson was doing on the floor in the first place. Van Gundy's unusual handling of his point guard rotation -- sticking with Nelson too long in Game 1 and leaving Alston on the bench so long in the fourth quarter Thursday night that he didn't feel comfortable bringing him back for overtime -- will haunt the Magic all summer. Alston was none too pleased after the game, saying he was "shocked" and offering this telling quote: "I wasn't hurt. I ran through nine Heat packs. I didn't get the call."

Van Gundy reiterated his postgame stance that he didn't want to break up the group -- including Nelson -- that had played so well in the fourth quarter after an abysmal third quarter orchestrated by Alston.

"I don't want to indicate at all that this was Rafer's fault, but we just played extremely poorly in the third quarter," Van Gundy said. "I mean, that was as bad a stretch as we have had in this series, and so we were playing very poorly. And then the unit we had in there in the fourth quarter got going and playing very well. And I did not want to disrupt that. That wasn't a change in rotation; that to me was an extreme difference between how one unit had played and another unit was playing. I wanted to stick with the unit that was playing much, much better."

As for the last item that will haunt the Magic all offseason -- free throws -- Van Gundy did everything he could to deflect the criticism that is being heaped upon Dwight Howard. The Magic missed 15 of 37 free throws in the game and six of their last nine. Howard was at the line with 11.1 seconds left in regulation, staring at an 87-84 lead, and missed both. He was 6-for-14 from the line in the game and said after the game that he wasn't going to get down about it.

"The guy put out one of the absolute great efforts that I've seen him make or anybody make -- 20-plus rebounds, nine blocks, played his heart out and missed two free throws," Van Gundy said. "... That's not something that I get upset about. I mean, there's nobody up there trying to miss a free throw in that situation. You might get frustrated by it and so do the players. ... I don't want Dwight getting down about it, and I don't think there's anything wrong with saying that he's not going to get down about it. I know he feels badly about missing them, but you know what? Players, even more so than coaches, they've got to have themselves in a position where they clear their heads and are ready to bounce back and play a game on Sunday. For whatever reason, Dwight is a guy with his demeanor and everything that a lot of people in the media have chosen to criticize. But if he gets criticized on that comment, personally I think that's ridiculous."

Looks like both of them will have all summer to think about it.

Posted on: June 12, 2009 12:16 pm

No suspension for Pietrus

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Mickael Pietrus won't be fined or suspended for Game 5 of the NBA Finals after the league office reviewed his hard foul against Pau Gasol at the end of overtime in Game 4 and decided not to take further action, CBSSports.com has learned.

This was the convenient way to handle this; the last thing anybody wanted was a controversy heading into a closeout game in the Finals. But it was not the right way to handle it. After so many upgrades and downgrades of flagrants this postseason, it was incumbent upon the NBA to get this one right. I don't think they did, but I am willing to give them a chance to explain.

At the competition committee meeting in Chicago last month, team executives told league officials that they need explicit guidelines for what constitutes a flagrant-one and flagrant-two. The rule book defines a flagrant-two as "unnecessary and excessive contact," but Stu Jackson and his comrades have a compendium of factors and circumstances that they consider when reviewing flagrant calls to determine if the punishment was assessed correctly.

The league has agreed to provide these guidelines to players, coaches, media, and fans before next season. Obviously, we could've used them sooner, because it has become virtually impossible to look at a flagrant foul and determine what the league will make of it.

It's supposed to be like obscenity. You're supposed to be able to know it when you see it. To me, Pietrus' foul on Gasol fit that description better than any other flagrant foul I've seen this postseason.

Category: NBA
Posted on: June 4, 2009 5:30 pm

Jameer Nelson will dress for Game 1

LOS ANGELES -- The ultimate X-factor has arrived in the NBA Finals, and the players haven't even gotten to the arena yet. Orlando point guard Jameer Nelson, out since February with a torn labrum in his right shoulder, will be on the active roster for Game 1 against the Lakers on Thursday night, CBSSports.com has confirmed.

Nelson won't start in place of Rafer Alston, who has led the Magic to the Finals after he was acquired from Houston at the trade deadline to replace Nelson. But Nelson will be available to come off the bench, which could provide a huge spark for Orlando.

Nelson was the key figure in the Magic's two regular season victories over the Lakers, totaling 55 points in the two games. He returned to practice this week amid public statements of pessimism from coach Stan Van Gundy and general manager Otis Smith as to whether he'd be available at all in the series.

The surgery Nelson underwent on Feb. 19 was termed season-ending at the time, but speculation reached a fever pitch after Orlando beat Cleveland in the conference finals that Nelson could help the Magic in some capacity against the Lakers. Check back for more after the pre-game media availabilities Thursday night.


Category: NBA
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