Tag:Phoenix Suns
Posted on: September 16, 2011 12:57 am
Edited on: September 16, 2011 1:16 am
 

Las Vegas 'Lockout League' Week 1 notebook

Posted by Ben Golliver

impact-basketball

Thursday night marked the end of Week 1 of the Las Vegas "Lockout League" at Impact Basketball. The fourth day of games was probably the week's most spirited, with some new faces upping the talent level and some technical fouls and trash talk livening up the week-long basketball marathon. Here's a quick look back at the week that was and a recap of the day's highlights.

Telfair eyes contender

At 26, Sebastian Telfair is now a decade removed from being one of the most hyped high school players of all time. His superstar trajectory never materiaized;  Telfair just concluded his seventh NBA season, has yet to make a single playoff appearance and has only played in more than 60 games once in the last four years. A free agent, Telfair hopes all that changes next season.

"I sure do have a list of teams in my mind," Telfair said. "Those teams being one of the teams to make a run for a championship or the teams that are fighting every year for a championship. Seeing Dallas win a championship, congratulations to them, but I'm jealous. I'm extremely jealous. Dallas is definitely on my list. They've got the gold right now. It's not a bad thing in this league to want to go where the gold is. If you can compete and help the team win a championship, that's one of the main focuses in the NBA.

Aside from the Mavericks, Telfair clammed up a little bit as to who was on his radar. "The obvious teams," he finally allowed. "I won't say any teams in particular, but the obvious teams."

Asked what he would bring to a championship contender at this stage of his career, Telfair didn't hesitate or elaborate: "I bring myself. I bring Sebastian Telfair."

Dudley addresses low turnout 

As noted earlier Thursday, only 35 to 40 players attended the National Basketball Players Association regional meeting at the Vdara Hotel. That was roughly half of estimates offered earlier in the week. Phoenix Suns guard Jared Dudley said people shouldn't rush to conclude that the low turnout number represents dissension, disinterest or disunity among the players.

"To me, does it matter? You can spin it that way. At the end of the day, I wasn't in a couple of the meetings in New York. Does that mean I'm not unified? I think that would be wrong to write that. At the end of the day, we all have to write papers, we all have to write stuff."

Modest, but worthwhile, improvements

There is plenty of good news for those considering checking out the "Lockout League" play next week. First, there are plenty of tickets available. Second, Impact Basketball has shown itself to be very flexible in making improvements to the series.

On Thursday, Impact added an in-game emcee to help narrate the action. This is a particularly fan-friendly addition because the players are playing in jerseys that do not bear their names and sometimes rotate from team to team throughout the week. There's also no large scoreboard or video replay, so it can get a bit confusing keeping track of everyone, especially for the non-diehards. Many of the players in attendance are not particularly recognizable or well-known, either, so the emcee was a thoughtful improvement. 

On Wednesday, Impact also cut back from four games per day to three games per day. While you might think at first that this would be less basketball for your money, the move actually improved the games considerably. Less was more here. The change allowed the games to be standardized to 10-minute quarters and rosters were condensed so that each team had seven or eight players instead of the five-a-side that was the norm during the four games per day earlier in the week. That meant each player could go harder, each guy could get breathers if necessary and the threat of a single injury stopping play was no longer a problem. Perhaps most importantly, it cut down on the total number of hours a fan would need to devote to seeing all the best players play. Instead of being in the gym from 1:30 p.m.to 9:30 p.m., fans could leave closer to 7:30 p.m. 

The new presence of bigger-name players like Al Harrington, Stephen Curry and Rudy Gay (who watched from the sideline) on Thursday didn't hurt either.

Hijinks 

In this no-frills environment there was bound to be edgier player behavior. Profanity from the court and from the pre-game soundtrack was the norm at Impact; the sterilization that you find at the NBA in that regard was not present. 

With only a few exceptions, the players, who were not forced by anyone to conduct interviews or interact with media or fans, were thoughtful and kind on and off the court. Of course, the exceptions are far more entertaining than the rule, so here are a few highlights.

Melvin Ely, who is reportedly heading to China, crumpled to the ground after taking a blow to his face. In some fairly serious pain, Ely was escorted to a training area away from the court, where he was attended to by medical personnel. On his way there, though, he took a quick detour to upend a large gatorade bucket in frustration, crashing the contents behind one of the team's benches. Players chuckled and media members raised their eyebrows.

On Thursday, Denver Nuggets forward Al Harrington made his debut with a bang, earning two technical fouls in one game for disputing calls. The first time, he merely shouted at one of the referees; the second time, he chucked a ball so far off the court it hit a brick wall some 20 or 30 feet behind one of the baskets. Harrington was not ejected after receiving his second technical, although free throws were awarded on both violations.

The best trash talk exchange of the week occurred on Thursday, when Indiana Pacers forward Dahntay Jones and Detroit Pistons forward Austin Daye got into an entertaining back-and-forth. Jones, as you might expect, was the Impact Basketball king of the hard foul, sending player after player crashing to the hardwood in an effort to prevent lay-ups. He also was quick to chat too.

Daye found himself arguing a call while waiting to rebound a free throw attempt. Jones, who was in the backcourt, piped up to let Daye know that he was "soft" and that he should end his argument. Daye, an exceptionally skinny man for an NBA player, took real exception to Jones' label, raising his arms up to gesture towards the media section located behind the basket.

"You've got the worst game in here, ask any of them," Daye told Jones twice. Jones responded by mocking Daye's arm motions and sarcastically mimicking his aggravated tone. Play eventually resumed. 

'When you work out with guys for three or four months," Dudley explained, "they get under your skin. You're tired, you want to go home."

Top scorer

Houston Rockets guard Kyle Lowry had the high point scoring game of the week, notching 56 points in a heated Thursday contest.
 
Team play

Probably the most entertaining team to watch was a late-arriving Golden State Warriors crew that made its debut on Thursday. Curry, David Lee, Jeremy Lin, Ekpe Udoh, Jeremy Tyler, Klay Thompson, Lou Amundson, Charles Jenkins and Dorell Wright all got some run in. There were so many Warriors they actually had to be split up into two squads. What was great about Golden State was that you could see real chemistry at work rather than the slapped together teamwork that you usually see in summer exhibitions. Lots of communication and instruction. Lee hollered across the court at Lin, instructing him to stay in the weakside corner and serve as an outlet whenever he drew interior defenders on a drive. Thompson got a feel for establishing an inside-outside game with Lee, and lit it up from deep, draining jumper after jumper. 

Undersized Thomas feels he has a leg up 

Of the incoming rookie class of 2011, Isaiah Thomas, the draft's final pick by the Sacramento Kings, stood out for how comfortable he looked against more seasoned competition. Thomas is an undersized scoring guard who will struggle to defend at the NBA level. But he's also exceedingly quick, confident and able to create his own shot, a nice combination for a reserve, change of pace guard.

Thomas said he fit in right away at Impact because of his previous experience playing against professional players in Seattle, where he attended the University of Washington. 

"It's a blessing because not everybody in my position has that [experience]," Thomas said. "We've got guys like Brandon Roy, Jamal Crawford, Nate Robinson and the list goes on. Jason Terry. They really look out for the younger guys, the guy like Brandon Roy is such a great guy, he gives me input before games, after games, even when we workout together up in Seattle. He's a great guy and I learn from things like that.

He said he feels like he has a leg up on many other rookies in his position, both on and off the court, because of that guidance.

"It makes the transition smoother. Every guy up in Seattle has been through the situation I'm about to go through, but in different ways. If I can ask them about practice is going, what to expect, what's the business side of things. They all got different input, I take that all in. They are just trying to help, they are never going to steer me in the wrong direction."

As the last man selected in the draft and with a nonguaranteed contract likely in his future, Thomas realizes he will have to get in where he fits in with the Kings. "Play hard, play every possession like it's my last," Thomas explained. "Do whatever that want me to do. Score, get others involved, get on loose balls, play defense, I just want to play. After the draft, the Kings said, 'Keep doing what you're doing. We're excited when the time comes.'"
Posted on: September 15, 2011 10:32 pm
Edited on: September 15, 2011 10:34 pm
 

Dan Gilbert responds to negotiation report

Posted by Royce Young

There was a report earlier Thursday that Dan Gilbert, along with Suns owner Robert Sarver, kind of sort of derailed some growing momentum in the NBA's labor strife. Well, Gilbert responded to that via Twitter. Shocking, I know.



Boy, his rants are a lot more fun when they're in a funny font.

But I have no idea what a "bloggissist" is, but it seems to me like it's a cutdown of some sort. Here's the thing with this whole labor mess: There's a lot of chatter, a lot of spin and a lot of rhetoric coming from about 25 different angles. It's hard to know what's real, what's stretching the truth and what's straight up propoganda.

Writers and "bloggissists" kind of trust readers to be able to sort through the crap and decipher what's legit and what's not. A solid report from a solid reporter like the one from ESPN LA claiming Gilbert and Sarver led the way in shooting down some momentum is believable. Was it likely sourced from a certain side of the aisle? Yeah, most likely. But I doubt it's complete fiction.

Besides, here's what's sad and pathetic: That the NBA is actually in jeopardy of missing games. Try as you might Dan, but you can't dupe NBA fans into believing that whatever battle you're fighting is worth losing games.
Posted on: September 15, 2011 7:10 pm
 

Report: Sarver, Gilbert killed potential deal

Posted by Royce Young



There was a reason for all the budding optimism surrounding Wednesday's labor meeting. There was a little momentum and by a lot of indications, the players and owners were closing the gap to a degree.

But after a five-plus hour meeting in New York, a lot of that optimism was squashed. The reason? Two owners didn't like the way things were heading, according to ESPN LA.

Owners and players initially found reason for optimism during Tuesday's meetings. Commissioner David Stern and Peter Holt, the head of the owners' executive committee, felt that the players' proposal to take 52 or 53 percent of basketball-related income, compared to 57 under the previous agreement, was basically fair, sources said.

Owners were seriously considering coming off of their demand for a salary freeze and would allow players' future earnings to be tied into the league's revenue growth, a critical point for players. The owners also were willing to allow the players to maintain their current salaries, without rollbacks, sources said.

But when the owners left the players to meet among themselves for around three hours, Cleveland's Dan Gilbert and Phoenix's Robert Sarver expressed their dissatisfaction with many of the points, sources said. The sources said that the Knicks' James Dolan and the Lakers' Jerry Buss were visibly annoyed by the hardline demands of Gilbert and Sarver.

That, is kind of hard to swallow. Especially knowing that Gilbert was a soft cap lover as long as he had LeBron. And knowing that Sarver is one owner that doesn't have much of a reputation for caring about his team, instead only about profits.

Now, it might be a bit strong to suggest the two owners "killed" a potential deal because there is still some separation, but they certainly caused a major bump. Still, this is kind of good news. The players and owners are getting close on money, which is a major hurdle. If they can just get lined up on systematic details, we'll get a deal. And that could happen in any meeting.

Maybe next time Sarver and Gilbert don't get their way. Maybe next time, the other heavy hitters come together. Billy Hunter spoke of a divide between owners and while David Stern tried to brush it off, he acknowledged it. The owners are looking at losing a substantial amount of money in a lockout and playing the hardline, stubborn card might not be wise right now. For owners like Buss and Dolan who are making money, I'm sure it would be easy to grow annoyed with that kind of edged approach.

But keep hope. Like I said, while it's bad news, it's also kind of good news. There's movement towards... something. Eventually someone will get overruled and a deal will be struck. It's just a matter of how long all this hardline posturing is allowed to go on.
Posted on: September 9, 2011 2:40 pm
 

Suns President and CEO Rick Welts resigns

Posted by Royce Young

About four months ago, Phoenix Suns President and CEO Rick Welts shocked everyone by publicly announcing that he's gay. Now, he's pulling another stunner by resigning his position, via the Arizona Republic.

His reason: He wants to focus on his personal life more.

Welts told The Arizona Republic Friday morning that he is not leaving for another job but to be in another city. In the past year, Welts started a new relationship and his partner is in Sacramento. He plans to do speaking engagements and perhaps take an offer to write a book.

"The most important thing for me is to get my personal and professional lives better aligned," Welts said. "They've probably never been aligned. I'm 58 years old and it's time to do that.

"This isn't one of those departures to see greener pastures. It really is completely a personal situation. These guys have been tremendously accommodating and any other inference than that is absolutely crazy."

Suns' general counsel Jason Rowley will replace Welts on an interim basis and also will be a candidate in the team's national search for a replacement.

Other than the big news he made months ago, Welts is probably most famously known for being the mind behind the NBA's All-Star Weekend as well as a primary promoter of the 1992 Olympic "Dream Team." (Welts is credited with coming up with the name.) He is also credited with being a major part of the WNBA's creation in 1996.

Welts has been with the Suns since 2002 and was primarily in charge of boosting ticket sales and relieving then general manager Jerry Colangelo of some of his day-to-day business duties.
Category: NBA
Posted on: September 5, 2011 1:14 pm
Edited on: September 5, 2011 1:42 pm
 

Realigning the NBA

Posted by Royce Young



Conference realignment has sort of taken over the world the past few weeks. Texas A&M pretty much put the nail in the coffin for the Big 12 by bolting for the SEC and because of it, a whole new chain of events have tipped over. The landscape of college football could look a whole lot different in a few months. Or in a few weeks. Or even tomorrow.

But you know what else could use a little realigning? The NBA's divisions. They're kind of a mess. It's not going to be as a result of some $300 million network, recruiting ties or competitive advantages. Nope. For the NBA, it's more just about common sense. Geographically, the divisions are kind of a mess. In 2011 that's not as huge a deal as it was in 1981 because travel is much easier. You can go from Portland to Oklahoma City in just a few hours.

However, chartered travel is experience. Fuel is very pricey. And with the NBA and teams supposedly losing so much money, why not exhaust every option to cut costs and realign the divisions so they make a lot more sense? Why not group teams together that are hundreds, not thousands, of miles apart?

Plus, it just makes a lot more sense to have structured regions. Grouping teams together based on geography does more to forge rivalries, gives fans a chance to commute between games if the want to and gives the players less travel and more days of rest. All good, right?

So if you're going to spend all this time restructuring a new collective bargaining agreement, why not fix the divisions too? Here's how they should look:

WESTERN CONFERENCE

SOUTHWEST
Dallas
San Antonio
Houston
Phoenix
Oklahoma City

The NBA's new Southwest division is the American League East, the SEC West, of the league. It's a group of five teams that are all pretty good. Things change though and in 15 years, this could be the weakest division in the league. But for now, it'd be pretty good.

And it just makes sense. Dallas and Oklahoma City are about three hours via car away from each other. San Antonio, Dallas and Houston are in the same state. And OKC and the Texas teams and Phoenix just have one state separating them, which is a whole lot better than five.

MIDWEST
Memphis
Minnesota
Denver
Utah
Milwaukee

Clearly the division that needed the biggest overhaul is the Northwest, mainly because of the Sonics transformation into the Oklahoma City Thunder. When the team was in Seattle, the division made a lot more sense. Now it doesn't. That's why a midwestern division with makes a lot more sense.

That creates somewhat of a problem in the Northwest though. There's not a great fit. So for the sake of the argument, the Northwest has to make the Big 12 and peace out. No more Northwest, but instead the new Midwest.

The new Midwest is still a bit spread out, but all the teams are at least located somewhat centrally in the country. A trip from Utah to Milwaukee won't be quick, but the Jazz, Nuggets and Timerwolves have been oddballs in the Northwest. It's not an ideal division with teams right next door to each other, but it makes a lot more sense than the current setup.

PACIFIC
Los Angeles Lakers
Los Angeles Clippers
Sacramento
Golden State
Portland

Moving Phoenix away from the Lakers is a bummer, because those two teams are historical rivals that have always competed in the same division. But if A&M and Texas can separate, I think we can live with the Suns and Lakers moving apart.

The Pacific now features five teams that are actually next to the Pacific Ocean, which seems like it should count for something. Plus having the Blazers and Lakers together makes up for separating the Suns and Lakers.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

CENTRAL
Chicago
Detroit
Indiana
Cleveland
Toronto

Really, the new Central was the inspiration for this. Why aren't the Raptors in this division? Look at how close those teams are to each other. I think you could almost ride your bike between arenas. The old Central was really good too -- maybe better -- but the Bucks have to move. So it's the Raptors who replace them and the solid geographic setup remains.

ATLANTIC
Boston
New York
Philadelphia
Washington
New Jersey

Nothing too radical here. Five cities that you can transport between using a train. Old rivalries are preserved and the Wizards are added, which frankly, makes a lot of sense.

SOUTHEAST
Miami
Orlando
Atlanta
Charlotte
New Orleans

Two teams would swap conferences with the Bucks moving back to the West and the Hornets heading to the East. Not that this would upset the competitive balance of the league or anything, but it just makes a lot more sense for the Hornets to be placed in a division with Orlando, Charlotte, Atlanta and Miami.

And let me add this: If college football has no issue tossing tradition and historical rivalries out the window, why not just eliminate conferences all together? It would be a radical move, but what's the point of the East and West, other than just that's the structure of the playoffs? If it were one unified "super" conference, that would finally solve the issues of a 50-win Western team missing the postseason while a 37-win Eastern team slips into the eight-seed.

You could even just build the league into three 10-team divisions. Combine the Southwest and the Pacific, the Midwest and the Central, and the Atlantic and the Southeast. There are your super-divisions. Now you can keep teams playing more in their division than anything else and cut down on long road trips. It would make a West coast road trip for the Mavericks a whole heck of a lot more interesting.

Basically, we'd be looking at a league with three sub-conferences and once the playoffs started, seeding would just be based from that. Almost like the NCAA tournament, you could set two regions and seed from there. Head-to-head tiebreakers, division records and all that stuff would separate any identical records. Just an idea while we're brainstorming, you know?

(Note: I don't really love that idea, quite honestly. But I was just throwing it out there. One of those things that probably makes sense, but wouldn't ever happen. Much like Bill Simmons' terrific "Entertaining As Hell Tournament." Really, a unified conference makes it easier to implicate the tournament too.)

Let's face it: The West has kind of sort of dominated the past decade. Sports operate in cycles, but if there's a way to prevent that, should we? The West compiled a record of 2,257-1,643 against the East from 1999-2008 and over the last 13 seasons has represented 10 champions. That's pretty dominant. That'll change eventually, but what really is the point of the conferences, other than the standard, "that's just the way it's always been done" answer? 

All that is after the fact though: Divisional realignment is the start. Fixing the structure of the postseason would be the ideal next step. It's kind of like a plus-one for college football. Maybe a pipe dream, but something that's really in the best interest of the game. But if anything's to be done, it's to realign the divisions so they at least make a little more sense. Preserve rivalires, start new ones, save money, cut down on travel and hopefully, help the league grow a little bit more.

Picture via Jockpost
Posted on: August 24, 2011 12:30 pm
Edited on: August 24, 2011 12:40 pm
 

Charles Barkley will not appear in NBA 2K12

Posted by Ben Gollivercharles-barkley-jump-rope

In a curious turn for one of basketball's most beloved personalities and all-time greats, Hall of Fame forward Charles Barkley will not appear in the upcoming NBA 2K12 video game. NBA 2K12 will feature 15 NBA legends, including Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Barkley's former teammate with the Philadelphia 76ers, Julius Erving.

Kotaku.com reports that game maker 2K Sports negotiated with Barkley about appearing in the game but that a deal was not able to be reached.
"There's no doubt in our minds that Charles is and should always be a key part of the conversation as it relates to who are the NBA's Greatest players of all time," a 2K Sports spokesperson told Kotaku. "We have a very positive relationship with Sir Charles and while we were unable to include him in-game this year for a variety of reasons, we share everyone's hope that he may one day appear in our game."
But why?

Initial statements from 2K Sports said that Barkley's absence was a creative decision, albeit a difficult one. But the fact the game went forward, and was promoted, with Barkley's rookie year team without him—in a game that prides itself on accuracy—suggested otherwise.

Why Barkley couldn't fit in may be due to money, what billing he receives in the game, or a combination of both.
Of the possible explanations presented, money makes the most sense, by far.

Barkley has a healthy ego, but he's not delusional. It's dfficult to imagine he would play the, "Put me on the cover of this game with Jordan, Bird and Magic or I'm not doing it" card. And disputes over the licensing of NBA players are nothing new; Jordan himself has been involved in them for at least a decade, if not longer, and reportedly did not appear in any games from 2004 until last year's NBA 2K11 for licensing reasons.

That Barkley is the only obvious legend missing -- indeed, we called his early-1990s Suns teams the game's biggest snub last week -- is pretty disappointing. Not only are the Suns compromised, but the 1985 76ers, with Erving leading the way, will be lacking the younger, more ferocious Barkley. Weak.

Barkley's "round mound of rebound" game and oversized personality are what video game dreams are made of. A natural born populist, it's not often that Barkley finds himself cast in the role as the guy who let everyone down. Who knows? Maybe he will find a roundabout way to blame this on Kenny Smith.
Posted on: August 15, 2011 10:41 am
 

Marcin Gortat says he and Robin Lopez are cool

By Matt Moore

Marcin Gotat made some comments last month about Robin Lopez which gave the distinct impression that he and younger LoBro don't get along. The conflict was over the first Gortat was in Phoenix when Lopez, according to Gortat, didn't give him the right instructions on whether practice was on the court or in the film room. Gortat got yelled at and wasn't too happy about it. In the Arizona Republic this week, Gortat wanted to clear the air on the subject. 
"There's no argument between me and him," Gortat said, feeling as though there was backlash to his comments. "The stuff that came out with what I said at the camp was just the first contact with Robin. I don't think there was any problem between me and him. Whatever happened didn't have any impact on me or on him.

...

"Robin is a player who's (been) longer with this team right now in Phoenix so he's got his own respect and he's got his own problems also. I'm definitely looking forward to playing with him next year."
via Catching up with Phoenix Suns center Marcin Gortat.

Gortat's comments were originally taken from a tour in Poland, so it's entirely problem the issue was just lost in translation, or at least the tone.  But this seems more like damage control. Gortat talking about taking Lopez' job, then saying everythin's fine just doesn't seem right. Gortat wasn't too comfortable with a reserve role in Orlando; it's clear he wants to be the guy down low. Lopez and he may not be mortal enemies, but they're far from bosom buddies.

That said, we don't know what Gortat's feelings are, so we should take this at face value. It's enough that Gortat voluntarily borught up the subject in order to clear the air. That's more than most players would do.  
Posted on: August 10, 2011 9:54 am
Edited on: August 10, 2011 10:26 am
 

Report: Markieff Morris to Greece?

By Matt Moore

It's not just All-Stars and veterans contemplating playing overseas during the lockout. Rookies who haven't played a second in the NBA are now getting into the act. Yahoo! Sports reports that Suns first-round pick Markieff Morris is in talks with Greece squad Panathianaikos, via his agent. Morris retweeted the Yahoo! Sports tweet Tuesday, which shows it's in good order. 

It's not uncommon for second rounders to elect to go for the money in Europe over the low chance of making a roster only to wind up sitting the entier year. But lottery picks are a different matter. This is a player who hasn't been groomed by his team yet, who hasn't started working on weight training or shifting his game to the pro level, and it's a player the Suns need return on. The idea of him having his game immediately affected by Panathinaikos is at once comforting and alarming. It's good that he'll be in shape, good that he'll get experience, good that he'll get toughened up. But it's a concern that they can't control all the factors. 

 Morris' agent Tony Dutt recently told the Houston Chronicle he's pursuing overseas offers for all of his clients, including Markieff's brother Marcus. This could be the start of more rookies, who really need the money, looking overseas to start their professional careers. The trickle down effects of this lockout don't end with veterans at the end of their careers.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com