Archive for April 22nd, 2010

Stern threatens suspensions for continued criticism of referees

Posted by Scott Howard-Cooper

OKLAHOMA CITY – Commissioner David Stern, fed up with issuing fines for continued “corrosive” comments about referees, drew a bold line in the sand Thursday and said he will begin suspending coaches and players for postseason games if the criticisms continue.

Speaking in even tones but clearly out of patience after a stream of financial disciplines, Stern was direct and sending a strong signal in response to a question about two fines levied against Lakers coach Phil Jackson in the playoffs for trying to work referees with statements to the media.

“I wish I had it to do all over again and, starting 20 years ago, I’d be suspending Phil and Pat Riley for all the games they play in the media,” Stern said in a press conference at the Ford Center moments before Game 3 of the Lakers-Thunder series. “You guys know that our referees go out there and knock themselves out to do the best job they can, but we’ve got coaches who will do whatever takes to work them publicly. And what that does is erode fan confidence and then you get some of the situations that we have.

“So our coaches should be quiet, because this is a good business that makes them good livings and supports a lot of families. And if they don’t like it, they should go get a job someplace else. I don’t mean to be too subtle. [Laughter] And I think that Phil’s a great coach. He’s a friend of many years. I just came by and said, ‘Hi.’ And he said, ‘I don’t like you today.’ I said, ‘I like you.’ But it’s corrosive. It’s corrosive.

“Because of the pressure cooker that is the NBA playoffs, over the years I’ve let it go. But when you hear the Chicago coach [Jackson] say, ‘Oh, this game was lost because NBC wants an extra game,’ you hear a New York coach [Riley] say, ‘Well, you know, what are you gonna do? Jordan gets all the calls,’ it sounds like a lot of fun, etcetera. Or you hear a Stan Van Gundy do what he wants to say and then the players join.

“We know, inside the community, what it’s meant to do. So, OK, it’s playoff time, everyone’s crazy. Back off. But if I had to do it again, I wouldn’t. I would stop it and the price wouldn’t be a modest $35,000 fine. It would be whatever a day’s pay is, and then two days pay, and then a week’s pay. And if someone wants to try me the rest of this playoffs, make my day. The game is too important and I don’t think that the people who trash it are respecting it, and we’ll do what we have to do.

“Players and coaches alike. They give the impression to our fans that referees somehow have an agenda. Yeah, they have an agenda – to knock themselves out to give the best calls that they can give, and then to send their checks home to their mothers and give the rest to charity.”

When one No. 8 did shock the world

Posted by Steve Aschburner

CHICAGO – Cavaliers coach Mike Brown began his NBA career in Denver in 1992, spending five seasons first as a video coordinator and then as a scout. So he was on hand in 1994 for arguably the most memorable first-round upset in history, when No. 8 Denver spotted No. 1 Seattle a 2-0 start – back in the days when best-of-five was all it took to advance – and still knocked off the 63-victory SuperSonics.

“Any time you have 1 and 8, everybody automatically thinks that 1 should dominate 8,” Brown said about 90 minutes before tipoff of Game 3, Cleveland-Chicago, at United Center. As he spoke, his Cavs had the Bulls in a 2-0 hole after winning 61 games in the regular season to Chicago’s 41. Back in 1994, George Karl’s Sonics – led by Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp – had won 21 more than Dan Issel’s 42-40 Nuggets.

“It was devastating [to the Nuggets] from the simple fact that everybody had already, before the series ever started, counted us out,” Brown recalled. “Now we were down 0-2. I don’t even think my Mom thought we were going to come back and win.”

The last two games of that series, first in Denver, then in Seattle, went into overtime. After the Game 5 clincher, 98-94, Nuggets’ center Dikembe Mutombo lay on the court crying tears of joy in a keeper postseason moment.

“So anything can happen,” Brown said. “You don’t think too far ahead and you respect the people in front of you.”

Down the hallway, though, Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro knew where his club stood. “We can’t go down 3-0,” he said.

No team in NBA history ever has climbed out of that big a hole.

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Time for some wake-up calls

Posted by Fran Blinebury

Did they not get the memo?  Did they hit the snooze button?

Despite the fact that the playoffs started last weekend, there are a few guys conspicuously missing.

Yes, that means you, Kevin Durant.  We know the regular season scoring champ is averaging 28 points a game in the playoffs.  But in the two losses to the Lakes, Durantula has not been the same dynamic force that vaulted him into the MVP conversation, shooting just 41.5 percent from the field and only 28.6 percent on 3-pointers.  Time to step up tonight with the series shifting to OKC.

Then there’s Michael Beasley, who’s been so ineffective for Miami that even Dwyane Wade has said he’s tired of talking about the Heat forward.  With Kevin Garnett in Game 2, Beasley was eaten alive by Glen Davis.  Does he really want to be a complete no-show and be a reason that Wade ponders hitting the door in free agency.

With Brandon Roy sidelined by knee surgery in Portland, you might think Rudy Fernandez would be making the most of his opportunity.  But after complaining about a lack of playing time all season, Fernandez has taken just nine shots (and made two) in the first two games against the Suns.  He’s just 1-for-7 on 3-pointers.

Time to step it up.  Better late than never, fellas.

Phil Jackson decides to cowboy up

Posted by Scott Howard-Cooper

OKLAHOMA CITY – Orlando was a plastic city and Sacramento had semi-civilized rednecks, so it seemed Lakers-Thunder was about to get real personal when Phil Jackson started talking cowboys and Oklahoma after shootaround today at the Ford Center.

One difference: He is genuinely interested in the topic and plans to visit the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum here. No mocking the Plains culture, no stereotypes that so bother people here, no sarcasm when asked his thoughts on spending four days here.

“I can hardly wait…” Jackson said. “I’m looking forward to it.”

Reporter: “Have you met any of the cowboys that are in the Cowboy Hall of Fame?”

Jackson: “Actually, Tex Winter, my former assistant, has a cousin that’s in the Cowboy Hall of Fame.”

Reporter: “Are you kidding?”

Jackson: “No, I’m not kidding. I’m going to search it down.”

Reporter, still not believing: “What does excite you about going to something like that? You’re being sarcastic?”

Jackson: “No, I’m not being sarcastic at all.”

Reporter: “What would excite you about some of the things you’ve heard might be in there?”

Jackson: “I spent my summers on a ranch. I know what it’s all about – sitting on a horse for eight hours and going out and rounding up cattle and branding cattle and that kind of stuff. That’s where I grew up.”

Reporter: “Are you going to do this tomorrow?”

Jackson: “Whatever is our off day. Is tomorrow our off day? Hopefully there’s not that much traffic tomorrow. I know it’s a busy weekend in Oklahoma. It really is.”

Reporter: “Compared to L.A., I think you’ll be fine.”

Jackson: “I don’t know. There’s a lot of construction downtown.”

OK, maybe a little sarcasm.

OKC is on the clock

Posted by Scott Howard-Cooper

OKLAHOMA CITY – Huge night. Historic night.

There are big days in the sports history of a region, and then there are big days. In this region on this day, they get the calendar convergence of the first NBA home playoff game in city history and the NFL draft that should include several Oklahoma and Oklahoma State products going in the top 10 and the strong possibility that Sooners quarterback Sam Bradford will go No. 1. All a very big deal, all at the same time.

It probably won’t be a great test of loyalties because only 18,000 people can attend Thunder-Lakers Game 3, and tonight’s installment of the NFL mini-series is just one round. It’ll just be an exhausting night for TVs.

Stillwater and Oklahoma State is about 65 miles north. Norman, home of Oklahoma, is about 20 miles south. And the Dallas Cowboys, the popular NFL team, are about 200 miles away. Football is king here. The Thunder, though, have quickly built a passionate fan base in the two seasons since moving from Seattle.

On your mark… get set… remote!

(Old) School Is In Session!

Posted by Sekou Smith

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Milwaukee Bucks guard Jerry Stackhouse thought he’d made the list.

A 15-year NBA veteran, the 35-year-old Stackhouse figured there couldn’t be more than a couple of players his age or older in the playoffs.

Silly youngster, Stackhouse didn’t even make the top eight.

“I didn’t make it?” he said, sounding surprised and relieved at the same time. “Wow, I thought I was up there.”

Nope!

Oddly enough, the eight oldest players in the league are all on playoff rosters. The elite eight: Shaquille O’Neal (38, Cleveland), Kurt Thomas (37,Milwaukee), Grant Hill (37, Phoenix), Kevin Ollie (37, Oklahoma City), Juwan Howard (37, Portland), Michael Finley (37, Boston), Jason Kidd (37, Dallas) and Theo Ratliff (36, Charlotte).

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And outside of Ollie, they all play crucial roles for their teams.

“If you’re still hanging around in the league, you’re obviously doing something right, basketball-wise and off the court,” said Finley, a 15-year veteran that played for both the Spurs and Celtics this season. “Nobody wants to put a knucklehead on their team, especially a championship-contending team.”

Thomas is holding down the middle for the Bucks in their first round series against the Hawks with Andrew Bogut out with an injury. He’s not shocked to see so many of the league’s old guard still at work.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all,” said Thomas, who is also in his 15th season. “When you’ve been playing as long as we have, you definitely learn your craft. You know what you have to do to be successful out there on the floor and you just try to hone in on those things and maintain that focus.”

Durability certainly isn’t an issue for this group at this late stage. Still, it’s a mystery how so many of them have remained viable this late in their careers.

“Maybe [it’s luck] luck?” said Kidd, who is in his 16th season. “When you talk about Juwan, Grant and those guys, they really take care of their bodies. Mentally if you still feel you can compete that’s the biggest challenge as you get older. When you look at those guys, they feel they can contribute and are contributing in a big way.”

That doesn’t mean the old guys have escaped the comic scrutiny of their younger teammates or fans.

“My friends I grew up with can’t believe I’m still playing,” Thomas said. “And I even had one fan in [Washington D.C.] scream out that he had found my AARP card. But you just take it all in stride. I love doing what I’m doing. When I first made it into the league, my goal was to try to play 10 years. When I reached that point I wanted to play 15. And now I just want to keep going. When I was with San Antonio coach [Gregg] Popovich told me I should keep playing as long as I could and I’m taking that advice and running with it.”

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Kidd takes pride in being a part of the old guard.

“You look at this time of the year and you need veteran guys,” he said. “You look at Grant, Howard, these guys have been in battles and understand what it takes to win. Sometimes some wisdom comes in, but these guys are still playing at a high level and helping their teams win, so I think it makes it fun to come to work and have that challenge against younger guys.”

There is certainly a savvy that comes with age, even if there is an obvious decline in physical prowess.

“I think I’m just a lot smarter,” Thomas said. “I don’t make the mistakes I used to when I was younger. I know I’m not  as fast as I used to be and I don’t jump as high as I used to. I just try to focus on the things that I can do well out there and stick to those.”

– NBA.com’s Art Garcia and John Schuhmann contributed to this report.

The Numbers Game: Celtics-Heat

Posted by John Schuhmann

Glen Davis

Baby is bigger in the playoffs. (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images)

Though the first round series between the Celtics and Heat is just two games old, it has already produced some fascinating numbers. Take a look…

  • Over the last 67 minutes of game action, the Celtics have outscored the Heat 144-92.
  • Glen Davis’ 23 points in Game 2 were eight more than he’d scored in any regular season game this season. Davis has scored 20-plus points four times in 199 career regular season games and six times in 33 postseason games.
  • The Heat have scored on just 72 of their 177 (actual) possessions in the two games, a brutal 41 percent.
  • The Celtics are the best defensive team of postseason thus far, allowing just 83.3 points per 100 possessions (estimate).
  • Dwyane Wade is shooting 61 percent (22-for-36) in the series. His teammates are shooting 32 percent (38-for-118).
  • Wade is a minus-40 after two games, the worst plus-minus of the postseason thus far.
  • Jermaine O’Neal’s 4-for-24 is his worst 2-game shooting performance of his 14-year career, with a minimum of 20 shots.
  • Miami’s 22 turnovers in Game 1 were the most they had committed in more than two years. They last had 22 turnovers on March 31, 2008, in a loss in Indiana.
  • Boston’s 38 points off of Miami’s turnovers in Game 1 is the most the Heat have allowed, in the regular season or the playoffs, since the stat was first tracked in 1995. It’s tied for the second most the Celtics have scored in that time. They scored 39 points off of 29 Cleveland turnovers on Nov. 29, 1997 and had scored 38 on two other occasions earlier than that.
  • The Heat’s 20 points in the paint in Game 2 were both the fewest they’ve scored and the fewest the Celtics have allowed all season.

The Heat will obviously like to turn some of these numbers around Friday in Game 3 (7 p.m. ET, ESPN).

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Follow him on twitter.