In this week's edition of the Friday 5 with Ken Berger, the CBSSports.com senior NBA writer talks LeBron, the Josh Smith problem in Atlanta and what to make of the Billy Hunter situation. You can follow Ken on Twitter at @KBergCBS.
1. Let's start here. Is it weird watching LeBron when there's honestly nothing to criticize? He shows up and takes over in the fourth, he's shooting 40 percent from 3 and he guards everything all the time. I feel uncomfortable without that constant tension regarding his weaknesses.
KB: I have to admit, LeBron was a better story before he won his championship. It's a pleasure watching him play, don't get me wrong. But you're right about the lack of tension. There's nothing wrong with the guy, and he's no longer the self-proclaimed whatever who couldn't win, because he did win.
Don't worry, it'll get good again when the Heat have to break up in a year or so because of the luxury tax and LeBron will either have to win again with a vastly different team or win somewhere else.
2. So Billy Hunter.... that's an awkward situation. You covered how this could end for Hunter ... what happens with Derek Fisher now?
KB: Well, the lawyers who wrote this exhaustive report suggest that it's appropriate for Fisher to remain in his role as president since he fits their recommended criteria for executive committee membership: He's played in the league this season and has not announced plans to retire. I'm not sure if Fisher will or won't sign with another team for the rest of the season. But even if he doesn't, he can remain president if he wants to. He and Matt Bonner are the only members of the committee who have been with NBA teams this season and whose terms haven't expired.
So my guess is, first the union has to make sure it has the full roster of 30 player reps and alternates so they can elect seven more committee members -- preferably at All-Star weekend. Then, at the same meetings in Houston, the player reps and new executive committee need to decide if they are going to recognize Hunter's contract or send him on his way.
My guess is Fisher stays at least through that process and the search for a new executive director. But despite Fisher's suspicions prompting this whole review in the first place, the argument can be made that it wouldn't be the worst idea for Fisher to step down and clear the way for a new president. New leadership across the board for the union seems like a pretty good idea.
3. The Josh Smith situation has gone under the radar, really for years. The Hawks slow-rolled his extension in restricted free agency, eventually matching an offer from Memphis. He just never complained as loudly as the other stars. With this new situation, does this finally push the situation to a head? Is Smith finally going to get a change of scenery?
KB: Depends on two things: 1) Whether Danny Ferry has a short-term plan or a long-term plan, and 2) whether Smith will be happy with whatever changes will be made this summer, be they personnel or on the coaching staff. One exec privy to Atlanta's trade posture told me Ferry seems to be in "win now" mode, which suggests he'll try to add an All-Star-caliber talent alongside Smith rather than trade him.
If he trades him, the best package out there is likely to be picks and young players -- the foundation of a rebuild that Smith wouldn't want to be a part of, anyway. But always remember in these cases: Money talks. Is Josh Smith going to be the first star to take less money to go play where he wants? LeBron and Bosh didn't, Carmelo didn't, Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Dwight Howard didn't. Smith isn't on the same level as those guys, but he's in roughly the same situation.
4. Any arguments with the All-Star starters?
KB: I never quibble with the fan vote, because there's nothing you can do about it. Do Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett deserve to be All-Stars this season? Nope, but that's who the fans want to see, and that's fine. With Garnett, especially, he's earned the lifetime achievement appearance. I'm relieved Chris Paul held off Jeremy Lin, because Lin making it as a starter would've caused a logjam for the West reserves, virtually assuring that a legitimate All-Star would have been left out.
5. How was the family vacation?
KB: So for Christmas week, I brought the family with me to Los Angeles, where JBerg and ZBerg enjoyed the Knicks-Lakers and Celtics-Clippers games. We had JBerg in a Kobe jersey and ZBerg in a Melo jersey on Christmas Day, and they were victorious in the taco giveaway. For Celtics-Clippers, we had the little one in a CP3 jersey and the big one wearing Blake Griffin. (I had to explain to ZBerg that we were holding off on buying a Celtics jersey until after the trade deadline, and he nodded approvingly.) Lots of fun.
I allowed myself one trip to In-N-Out Burger, and it was worth it. At Disneyland, it was cold, raining and miserable, but I managed to be in line at 7:30 a.m. to score an elusive Fast Pass to the Lightning McQueen ride. It was sort of like lockout duty; a lot of standing around, odd characters wandering by, rumors that progress was being made, followed by pangs of disappointment and finally, victory. Unlike Billy Hunter, I worked almost every day. Covering two games and only one coach firing (Avery Johnson) is pretty much the best you can hope for on vacation in the NBA.