Tag:Jamal Crawford
Posted on: May 2, 2011 11:40 am
Edited on: May 2, 2011 1:55 pm
 

Hawks-Bulls Preview: Wings will be clipped

Posted by Royce Young

I. Intro:  No. 5 seed Atlanta Hawks (44-38) vs. No. 1 seed Chicago Bulls (62-20)

It's not really the matchup we all anticipated, but that doesn't change anything. So it's not Dwight Howard versus the Bulls frontcourt, but the Hawks present Chicago an interesting matchup. Really, I get the feeling this series could surprise a bit and be really good.

A challenge for the Hawks though will be to forget about the Orlando series and re-focus here. Because that was a big win for them. They were humilated last year and obviously played with an edge. They need that same kind of motivation and edge to hold down Derrick Rose and the Bulls.

II. What Happened:  A look at the season series

The Bulls took the season series 2-1 over the Hawks with one close loss and two blowout wins. The Hawks scored 14 fewer points a game against the Bulls, were crushed on the glass, shot low percentages and couldn't stop the Bulls. The win the Hawks picked up came because they were able to slow the Bulls down and beat them in an ugly, grind-it-out game.

III. Secret of the Series: Transition

The Bulls play very good defense. The Hawks halfcourt offense can sometimes be bad. Solution? Run.

The Hawks have a bunch of talent and athleticism, especially in their bigs, that can get out in the open floor and run against the Bulls. Josh Smith is terrific in transition. Al Horford runs well. Players like Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford can find secondary opportunities off of fast breaks. Running is a big thing for the Hawks to try and do because it's hard to see them beating the Bulls four times using halfcourt offense.

The Bulls though are very good at controlling pace and keeping teams from running. Obviously Tom Thibodeau knows the Hawks want to run as much as possible and that will be a focus.

IV. The Line-Item Veto:  Who wins each match-up?

PG: The Bulls obviously had the edge in this department before Kirk Hinrich's injury, but now it's pretty wide. Jeff Teague will start for the Hawks in Game 1 and might be handling duties the entire series. Either way, the Bulls have a giant edge at point guard. Hinrich is a pesky on-ball defender and Rose would've had to work. His life just got easier. Huge advantage, Bulls. 

SG: This is kind of the opposite of the point guard matchup. Joe Johnson is the main offensive option for Atlanta and Keith Bogans' job is to lock him down. But for Chicago, not only is Bogans healthy, but he's totally capable of limiting Johnson. The Hawks have an edge, but it's not wide. Advantage, Hawks.

SF: Assuming the Hawks stick with the same starting five used against Orlando, Josh Smith will be here against Luol Deng. Obviously Smith has a big size advantage, but Deng is super long and will take Smith out on the perimeter. A lot will come down to if Smith does the same or uses his head and goes inside on Deng. Too close to call for me, so this is a push. 

PF: Carlos Boozer will try to give it a go in Game 1 and will face off in the series against Al Horford. This will be a terrific head-to-head with two big bodies that score well in the post. Definitely a good one to watch. Horford is more consistent and is playing better, so Atlanta has the edge here. Advantage, Hawks. 

C: Again, this will be Jason Collison versus Joakim Noah is things stay the same for Atlanta. If Larry Drew changes things up, he'll have Horford against his old Florida buddy and Marvin Williams at small forard with Smith at power forward. Under the assumption though Collins starts here, Noah has the edge. He played like the animal he is against Indiana and his athleticism could give Collins trouble on the glass. Advantage, Bulls. 

Bench: This is where the Hawks make their move. Jamal Crawford has been an absolute weapon off the bench for Atlanta and even Marvin Williams and Zaza Pachulia chipped in big time against Orlando. The Bulls bench lacked against Indiana other than Kyle Korver. Chicago doesn't look for offense as much as Atlanta does off the bench, but still, the Hawks should win this area easily every game. Advantage, Hawks. 

Coach: Larry Drew did a nice job in Round 1. Tom Thibodeau has emerged as a pretty incredible strategist and game coach. This feels like series that will be more just about matchups than anything else and Drew has the opportunities to use his team's versatility to move things around. But Thibodeau is the superior here. Advantage, Bulls. 

V. Conclusion

The Hawks can win this series. I'm convinced. They have the athletes, the scorers and the confidence to hang right in with the Bulls. Especially after the shaky play Chicago showed in the opening round. The Bulls are the better team, no doubt. They have a better system, won the season series handily and have Derrick Rose. But the Hawks have some talent. Don't overlook them.

That said, it's hard to picture it actually happening. The Bulls are just going to swallow the Hawks in the halfcourt. Atlanta averaged just 80 points per game against the Bulls in the regular season and had one of the worst offenses in the league. Like I said, transition is key, but the Bulls aren't dumb. They know that. The Hawks have the talent to steal one here or there, but the Bulls take this in six.
Posted on: April 6, 2011 10:05 pm
Edited on: April 6, 2011 10:20 pm
 

Jamal Crawford's latest lawsuit is for the dogs.

Jamal Crawford suing landlord for lost deposit due to dog behavior. Has apparently never heard of a rolled up newspaper. 
Posted by Matt Moore

First of all, I want to apolgize for the headline. It's beneath all of us, and I really have no excuse. May God have mercy on my soul. 

Here's a weird story. So Jamal Crawford rented this mansion from this woman. And Jamal Crawford had dogs which he kept in the house, two bull mastiffs and a rottweiler. (Why don't any NBA players own poodles? Or border collies? Collies are good dogs.) Crawford let his dogs roam around his house, and, well, his dogs did what dogs do. From TMZ: 
But according to MyFoxAtlanta.com -- the landlord says she's going EASY on the guy -- because his massive doggies -- 2 bull mastiffs and a rottweiler -- relieved themselves all over the home ... we're talking #1s AND #2s.

In fact, the landlord claims the designer blinds are stained with dog pee ... and she has to replace the carpets because the smell is unbearable. She claims the dogs also chewed up several banisters and doors ... and the plumbing needs to be replaced because the sinks were clogged up with dog food.
via NBA Star in DOG FIGHT Over Urine Stains | TMZ.com.

Crawford's suing the landord for $60,000 plus legal fees over his $20,000 deposit. The landlord claims the damages totalled $28,000. 

Can we take a second and ask who rents a mansion? I mean, I get that Crawford doesn't want to buy a place since they won't give him the extension. But how does one rent a mansion? And why is a mansion for rent? These things are very strange. 

Second, so Crawford's just letting his dogs wander around and micturate and defecate all over the house? And he's just living with it? How does that work? Isn't that a health hazard? 

Seems hard to believe the landlord's allegations, but with the history of behavior of professional athletes, and really, the human race, anything's possible. Jeez. No wonder he needs a new extension. He's got to move every six months because of the smell. 
Posted on: March 31, 2011 4:01 pm
Edited on: April 1, 2011 1:08 am
 

Lamar Odom was the total sixth man this season

Posted by Royce Young

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Like most of the others, the Sixth Man Award is pretty vague. Is it for a player that actually is the sixth guy in the rotation? Is it for a bench player, exclusively? Can a guy that started almost half his team's games win it?

According to the rules, yes. To be eligible, you just have to come off the bench more games than you started. Lamar Odom is just barely eligible (34 starts, 39 off the bench). But in a way, that's one of the best parts of his Sixth Man resume.

Odom has filled in everywhere this season for the Lakers. Power forward, center, small forward. The guy is maybe the most versatile player in the league. And it's not like he's done a good job. He's done a fantastic job.

At 14.4 points and 8.8 rebounds per game on nearly 54 percent shooting (almost 60 percent true shooting, the highest of his career) and a PER of 19.88, Odom might be having his best, most efficient season of his career.

He's always been sort of the X-factor for the Lakers because of his unique skillset. And he's always been very good for them in whatever role he's used. But his main issue has been consistency. This season, he's been reliable almost every single night. When that happens not only is he one of the most dynamic players in basketball, but the Lakers are maybe the toughest team to beat.

Look at what he did in the World Championships in Turkey. Playing as one of the only big men on the United States roster, Odom was absolutely vital to the team bringing home gold for the first time in 16 years. His value to a team can't be understated. Things like points and rebounds per game don't often do him justice. Most felt Odom was an All-Star snub for his efforts this season, despite his apparently "low" numbers.

Not that his numbers are bad, though. He's second in scoring off the bench and first in rebounds. He's 10th in the entire league in field goal percentage and among power forwards (if that's what he even is), he's fifth in assists per game. However you cut it, Odom has had a great year.

There are other very nice candidates, no doubt. Jason Terry of course, Jamal Crawford, Thaddeus Young, Glen Davis and a few others. Sixth Man is sort of one of those hard to figure awards because you have to try and measure production versus impact off the bench versus value to the team versus other intangibles. What separates Odom, for me, is that he encapulates everything you want in a role player. Able to step in and start three positions. Able to play in crunch time. Able to take over a game on his own, if needed. And always productive. Checks across the board.

That's not always been the case for Odom as when his career wraps, I think we'll all look at his incredibly unique skills and ability and wonder if he underachieved. I don't necessarily see it that way -- especially these last few seasons with the Lakers -- because fitting in next to Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol is hard. Really hard.

NBA Awards
For guys like Terry and Crawford, they basically know what they're called on to do. Terry is to play second fiddle to Dirk and score in bunches. Same for Crawford off the Atlanta bench. But Odom has to manage how he fits next to being productive. That's really, really challenging. And a reason stats don't always tell the story.

Odom really feels like the one player out of this group that if you subtracted him, his team would be cost a substantial number of wins. I really think he's that valuable to what the Lakers do. Just the options he gives Phil Jackson late in games to match up or create mismatches with.

Really, the best argument there is right now as to why not to vote for Odom is because he started so many games. As long as he's within the rules, it doesn't matter to me and again, I kind of like that. Like I said, being the type of play that's able to fill in wherever is needed is what makes a great sixth man.

Being a bench player is something Odom has said is sort of hard for him to grasp, because he knows how good he is. He was the No. 4 overall pick of the Clippers in 1997 and has the ability to start for basically everyone.

"At first, it was hard for me," Odom told reporters recently. "From a business standpoint, the year Phil wanted me to come off the bench was my free agent year. You know how that goes. When you're a free agent, you want to start and play as many minutes as you can. But it was the right decision.

"As a sportsman, you're used to starting," he continued. "I used to be one of the guys and go to guys on the team. I'd be lying if I told you it didn't. I'll be honest with you, a little bit. I've always started for every team I was on and was one of the first three options."

And that sort of mentality is exactly what makes a guy a great team player and a great sixth man. A lot of guys with the kind of profile Odom has and talent aren't willing to sacrifice minutes and a starting spot. Odom is, while still playing at one of the highest levels he ever has.



Posted on: March 12, 2011 1:55 pm
Edited on: March 12, 2011 3:24 pm
 

As March rolls in, Hawks start to roll out

Posted by Royce Young



It's kind of easy to forget, but five years ago the Atlanta Hawks were right up there in terms of futility with the Los Angeles Clippers, Detroit Lions and Pittsburgh Pirates. They were always awful.

In 2004, they finished with 28 wins. In 2005, 13 wins. In 2006, they doubled that total ... to 26 wins. The Hawks went over a decade without a quality winning season or playoff berth. Post-Dominique, post-Highlight Factory, the Hawks just weren't relevant.

Then, things started to move for them in 2008, with a 37-win season and a surprising playoff appearance. Instead of selling at the deadline, the Hawks became buyers, targeting Sacramento's Mike Bibby in a trade that said Atlanta was going to try for the postseason. It worked. They were supposed to get swept by the 66-win Celtics. Except the young Hawks squad pushed the eventual champs to seven games.

It was a start, and a far cry from the dismal sub-30-win seasons. Really, before the Oklahoma City Thunder became the poster child for using youth to rebuild, the Hawks had done it, and successfully. In 2009, the Hawks won 47 games and finished fourth in the East. Last season, third with 53 wins. A roster built around Joe Johnson, who was slickly signed from the Phoenix Suns, Josh Smith, Marvin Williams and Al Horford, who were drafted, and Jamal Crawford, who was also plucked in free agency, the Hawks had finally built a winner.

Except, there's a problem. They're stuck. They don't seem to be going anywhere. They're sprinting full-speed on a treadmill. They just can't seem to move the needle.

In those three playoff appearances, the Hawks' best effort was a first-round victory over the Heat in 2009, after which they were swept by the Cavs. Last season, the Magic absolutely humiliated Atlanta in one of the most lopsided series ever.

Problems seem to start for the Hawks right around this time of year. Take Friday night. The Hawks, who are fifth in the East, rolled into Chicago as losers of three straight. All three at home. With a chance to make a statement and establish new momentum heading into April, the Hawks fell asleep at the wheel and careened off a bridge. They scored 26 points in the second half -- twenty-six! -- en route to a 94-76 beating. It was just the latest setback in a season that's seen plenty.

General manager Rick Sund saw this coming. He knew the team wasn't going anywhere. They flirted all offseason trying to find an extra big man to help Horford and Smith inside. Talks with Shaquille O'Neal seemed to go on and on and on. But nothing ever happened, and Atlanta eventually settled on Etan Thomas. Big move, I know.

At the latest deadline, Sund saw the need to move Bibby, who was letting down the Hawks defensively at the point of attack. So he snagged veteran point guard Kirk Hinrich in a very good move. But that's the thing: Kirk Hinrich isn't the piece to move you over the top. He's not the one that's going to take you to the Eastern finals.

The Hawks have committed to this core long-term. Johnson got that wild $120 million extension. Horford signed a big $65 million deal. And Smith is signed through 2013. Crawford will likely walk this summer and Williams doesn't appear to be an integral part. But the Hawks have their core -- except their core is still missing the key piece. Johnson isn't capable of carrying that load. He's being paid like he is, but it's obvious the Hawks need help. Painfully obvious. Nothing said that more than the Orlando series last year.

But how do you get help when 80 percent of your payroll is tied up in three guys? The Hawks made their bed. Now they're got to sleep in it.

(Is this where I mention the Hawks whiffed on Chris Paul, taking instead Marvin Williams?)

It's funny, because in 2011, this Hawks franchise is in a far better place than it was five years ago. They have a young, quality group that's winning consistently. I'm sure everyone in Atlanta much prefers this incarnation over the miserable 13-win campaigns, but right now, this season is headed for the same place: failure.

Sure, they get to play a few more games in April and sell some playoff tickets and get people excited for two or three games, but these Hawks are stuck. They don't have the chops to make a run to where they want to be. At some point a rebuilding project has to progress to "built" and the excuse of being young isn't a good one anymore.

Posted on: January 5, 2011 12:56 pm
 

The Game Changer: Knicks outgun the Spurs

Posted by Royce Young

Each game is made up of elements which help formulate the outcome. Monday through Friday, we'll bring you the elements from the night before's games in our own specialized version of the game recaps. It's not everything that happened, but it's an insight into what lead to the results you'll see in the box scores. This is the Game Changer.

THE BIG ONE: SAN ANTONIO CAN'T RUN WITH NEW YORK

The Knicks have had quite a turnaround early in this season. However, the major qualm is that they're beating up on average and bad teams, but aren't good enough to actually beat a good team.

Well, you can cross that one off now.

The Knicks completely outran the league's best team with a 128-115 win over the Spurs at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks shot nearly 55 percent from the field and got 31 points from Wilson Chandler, 28 from Amar'e Stoudemire and 28 from Raymond Felton as they pulled away late.

The Spurs have ramped up pace and tempo this season, playing faster than ever. And it's been a large part of their success. But it didn't work against the team that actually lives by running. The Spurs just couldn't keep up and after the game got into an up-and-down flow, they couldn't slow it down and get it into a style they liked. San Antonio tried to grind it out in the fourth, but the Knicks were still running.

One curious move was Gregg Popovich sitting his starters down with three minutes left, only down 10. With a game tonight against the Celtics, I'm sure Coach Pop wanted a little extra rest for his guys and with the way the Knicks were running, his team of veterans were probably gassed. Still a bit curious though, especially considering the 3-point shooters San Antonio has. A 3, a stop and a bucket and it's a five-point game with lots of time left.

Regardless of that, this is New York's biggest win of the season and finally something the Knicks can point to and say, "See! We're good!" Not that they need that validation because their quality record says enough, but any time you beat the league's best team, it helps in every way.

GO-GO-GADGET LINES

Zach Randolph put up a monster double-double, going for 31 points and 16 rebounds against the Thunder.

Marcus Camby had 10 points and 20 rebounds in a loss to Dallas.

Jamal Crawford notched a season-high 31 points and added seven assists in Atlanta's win over Sacramento.

Wilson Chandler deserves a mention with his season-high 31 points against San Antonio.

MIAMI ROLLS AGAIN

I feel like it the season started in December, then yeah, we probably could've started talking about 72 wins for the Heat. Because they are rolling right now.

With their win over the Bucks, that makes 19 of 20 for Miami and most of those have come in impressive fashion. Dwyane Wade notched another big night, dropping 34 as LeBron dished out nine assists. Really, everything is working according to plan right now. Miami has scoring when it needs it. The Heat have defense all the time. And playmakers are all over the floor.

Sometimes, it's honestly a little tough to see how someone can beat them. But the thing about the Heat is that they make themselves vulnerable at times. They lapse, get selfish and don't play defense. It's the reason they've lost nine times.

But lately, everything has been working according to plan. To win 19 of 20 is pretty good, especially because that meant beating some solid teams.

Tony Allen: GOOD AT PUNCHING, BAD AT LAYUPS

The next time O.J. Mayo and Tony Allen get into it, Mayo's got some ammunition to at least make fun of him with. On a solo fast break, Allen streaked toward the rim with his tongue hanging out like he was going to finish big. Instead, he blew the layup. This was actually one of four layups Allen missed on the night. He did finish with 19 points though and hit two crucial 3s.


Lakers VENT A LITTLE, THIS TIME AGAINST THE COMPETITION

Instead of yelling at each other, the Lakers started doing it to their opponent, beating down the Pistons 108-83. It was a blowout so that stats are a bit skewed, but Kobe Bryant only attempted 18 shots as Pau Gasol went for 21 points and Lamar Odom added 16. That's the Laker formula we've seen work this season.

Kobe went just 6-18 from the floor, but had eight assists and grabbed seven rebounds. So maybe there was something to Phil Jackson's critique of his recent play and Bryant came out looking to be more unselfish. He set teammates up and looked a bit passive at times. He didn't have his shot going again, so he let his cast of very talented characters bring him through.

PARTING THOUGHT

In Oklahoma City's 110-105 loss to Memphis, Jeff Green registered zero rebounds in 42 minutes of play. That's only the third time since 1986 a power forward has had that happen. The other two were Cliff Robinson and Pat Garrity. Not exactly wonderful company to be in.
Posted on: November 8, 2010 3:20 pm
Edited on: November 9, 2010 7:12 am
 

Pistons still rumbling about trading core pieces

Posted by Royce Young

It doesn't look like Joe Dumars is going to be able to pull of fhis coal-for-silver trade of Richard Hamilton for Josh Smith because Atlanta isn't dealing, but that doesn't mean the Pistons aren't out in the market right now.

The Pistons would prefer to blow up the roster and move out some of the more expensive veteran pieces they have like Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince. Hamilton will be difficult to deal because his age (32), plus his contract (runs through 2013). But Prince on the other hand, has a pretty enticing deal and as a guy that could contribute on a contender, is probably Detroit's best bet to make a move.

Sekou Smith of NBA.com has heard a trade rumor involving the Hawks and the Pistons, this time not involving Rip Hamilton. It's a swap involving Prince and possibly Will Bynum for Jamal Crawford and Jeff Teague.

An interesting deal for sure because the Hawks could certainly use a defensive-minded veteran stopper like Prince, plus his expiring contract frees them up some financially. Crawford wants a contract extension and has made that clear with a pay-me-or-trade-me demand over the summer, but the Hawks didn't budge then after getting several calls on it. So to make a move now would really just indicate that Atlanta is looking for some cap flexibility.

Plus, Mike Bibby isn't going to be around that much longer and trading a potential future point guard in Teague seems a little curious. Sure, Will Bynum is a decent piece to get back, but I don't know if he's starting material.

In the end, it's probably nothing more than a whispered rumor that won't happen, but it's clear the Pistons are at least shopping their veterans. And a likely player could definitely be the Hawks. Something to keep an eye on, at least.

Posted on: November 2, 2010 11:41 am
 

Josh Smith could be moved? What?

 Posted by Royce Young

With time running out, the Atlanta Hawks added some more zeroes to their payroll but signing Al Horford to a five-year, $60 million extension. That's the Hawks second big contract to hand out in the past few months with the first being Joe Johnson's massive $120 million deal.

Atlanta has its core all put together and the young team is starting to come of age. Problem is, there might not be enough to go around.

Chad Ford of ESPN.com pointed out that with Johnson's big deal plus Horford's new contract, keeping those two plus Josh Smith and Marvin Williams won't be easy. In fact, it might be impossible without busting the luxury tax. If the current roster stays the way it is, Jamal Crawford is most definitely not getting re-inked to any new deal soon.

So could general manager Rick Sund be forced to move a core piece? Potentially, yes.

Ford said that Sund "flirted" with trading Smith last summer before changing his mind. He's not available now, but a good number of GMs feel he mght be for the taking at the trade deadline. Smith makes over $12.5 million in 2011-12.

The Hawks would prefer to move Williams who hasn't lived up to his draft number. Williams has struggled to find a place on the team and has shifted roles a number of times. And at $8 million per year, his contract could be nice to unload. However, Williams was reportedly shopped this summer and didn't get many bites.

Ford says the Knicks, Nets, Pistons and Suns have all shown interest in Smith in the past and could be contenders for his services at the February deadline. But would Atlanta be willing to move him if they're in the middle of the Eastern hunt? Surprisingly, yes.

Atlanta probably feels like its set to lose one of its key pieces, because of the versatility on the roster. Smith is obviously a top tier player and not someone easily replaced, but because of Smith, Horford has been playing out of position the past few years. That of course means Atlanta would need to find a new big man, but say Smith was dealt to Phoenix where he'd be a beautiful fit with Steve Nash. The Hawks could get back Robin Lopez and another player and likely be pretty happy with that.

It seems awfully bold of the Hawks to potentially move Smith, one of the league's most talented, athletic and versatile players. But in this NBA landscape where money is everything, sometimes, hands are forced. Horford got paid, Johnson got paid and as a result, the Hawks might have to trim some off the roster. It would be a shame to see and it's still a long way from happening.
Posted on: October 22, 2010 12:07 pm
Edited on: October 22, 2010 12:35 pm
 

Friday 5 with KB: Contraction, Horford, Melo



CBSSports.com's Ken Berger discusses contraction , Denver trades, and the upcoming season.
Posted by Matt Moore

Posted by Matt Moore


Each week we'll be bringing you five questions for our own Ken Berger of CBSSports.com about the inside happenings of the league. This week, Ken talks about the contraction issues , Denver's objectives in trade talks, and what he's looking forward to this season. You can email your questions to the Friday 5 With KB at cbssportsnba@gmail.com or hit us up on Twitter at @cbssportsnba .


1. Your report on the CBA discussions sent shockwaves through the blogosphere as you reported the league is considering contraction as an option. But with small-market owners Peter Holt and Glen Taylor as powerful as they are, aren't they two guys that would deeply oppose this concept?

Ken Berger, CBSSports.com: Yes and no. In Taylor's case, I believe he'd oppose it only if his franchise were being eliminated. But business would be better for him if another struggling franchise were axed. In Holt's case, remember that the profitability challenge isn't about market size. It's about revenue. Yes, there are big and small markets, but that's not the point. The point is, there are high-revenue teams (such as the Lakers, who rake in nearly $2 million at the gate per home game) and there are low-revenue teams (such as the Grizzlies and Timberwolves, who make $300,000-$400,000). There are small-market teams that generate at or close to $1 million per home game (Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Utah), and there are teams in large metro areas that struggle (Atlanta, Washington, Philadelphia). What the league has to constantly look at is, are the low-revenue teams doing as well as they possibly can in the markets where they're doing business? If the answer is yes, there are three ways to deal with it: 1) enhance revenue sharing to the point where those teams can compete and profit; 2) relocation; or 3) contraction. No. 3 is clearly a last resort, but you'd have to be the most rose-colored-glasses type in the world not to see that the NBA would benefit immensely from getting rid of two teams. The league as a whole would be more profitable, and the product would be better.

 2. Let's turn to our best-selling show, "As Melo Turns." You reported this week that Denver's exploring a series of one-on-one deals. We have serious questions about how good of a deal this is for Denver, particularly the whole "Anderson 'Flopsy' Varejao" angle. So what positions do you think they're aiming for with these one-offs? Or is it just any upgrade they can get?

KB: Denver's top priorities remain as follows: draft picks, young players, and cap relief. In recent weeks, after the four-way fell apart, they've added something to the list: getting rid of Kenyon Martin and/or J.R. Smith in the deal. Executives familiar with their strategy say the Nuggets appear close to abandoning another component of their wish list: a veteran player who is a decent replacement for Anthony. The thought being, if you're getting worse in the short term without Melo, why not go all the way and set yourself up to rebuild the right way? Why not "be Sam Presti," as one exec put it to me. So the long answer to your question is that the Nuggets' approach is in flux on every level, but there are certain things they feel they have to get out of this: draft picks, young players, and cap relief. If they decide to go ahead and move K-Mart and J.R., and give up the notion of trying to patch the hole with, say, Andre Iguodala, they'd be in a position to get more of all three.

 3. This week you saw a big peelback of the number of technicals compared to last week. It seemed like both sides were starting to find that "middle ground" you talked about last week. Do you think this is going to be a non-issue or do you think the union really is going to get involved legally?

KB:
For once, I agree with David Stern. Cooler heads will prevail, and the union will realize that this isn't a battle they want to wage. (Better to save their time, lawyers and money for the real fight over the CBA). Stern even budged a little Thursday when he admitted that some officials have overstepped in the enforcement of the new policy, and that they'd have to adjust. So as you and I have said from the beginning, that's what's going to happen. The players will back down a little, the refs will give them a little more leash, there will be marginally more techs doled out early in the season, and then everyone will move on.

 4. Al Horford, Jamal Crawford. Clock's ticking, at least on Horford, and we don't hear anything. What's the lastest on that front?

KB: 
The Hawks have until June 30 to extend Crawford, so there's no rush there -- despite Jamal's understandable desire to get it done now. But with regard to both Crawford and Horford, Hawks GM Rick Sund has a long history of not doing veteran extensions. This was his approach in Seattle with Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, and he did the same with Mike Bibby, Marvin Williams, Zaza Pachulia and Joe Johnson in Atlanta. (Note: Johnson was the only one of those players who got a max deal from Sund.) The point is clear: If this has been your philosophy in the past, early or mid-way through collective bargaining agreements, then it will most certainly be your strategy in the last year of a CBA. You can't 100 percent rule out Horford getting an extension by the 31st, but I doubt it. Unless the Hawks are getting a home-team discount, what's the incentive for them to pay Horford now when they don't know what market value will be under the new deal?

 5. Okay, Ken, last Friday 5 before the start of the season. We know you're least looking forward to the LeBron show. But what are you most looking forward to as the season starts Tuesday?

KB:
  I'm not least looking forward to LeBron at all. I was least looking forward to "The Decision" and its aftermath. I'm very much looking forward to watching him play alongside Dwyane Wade. It will be compelling theater, everywhere they go. Aside from that, just to mention a few things on my radar: I'm interested in seeing how Kobe Bryant's knee holds up; whether Kevin Durant and the Thunder are ready to take the next step; whether Amar'e Stoudemire will bring the buzz back to Madison Square Garden; whether Dwight Howard is as determined to dominate as he says he is; my first chance to listen to Stan Van Gundy eviscerate someone in a pre-game diatribe; my next chance to hear Howard imitate Van Gundy; the first of a million times this season that Jeff Van Gundy says, "I just don't understand that;" where and when Carmelo gets traded; and LeBron's first game in Cleveland Dec. 2.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com