Posted by Sekou Smith
BOSTON – That LeBron James parade staged by Los Angeles Clippers fans was cute and all, but if you want real recruiting you have to go bigger than walking the streets outside of the Staples Center.
You have to go with another superstar making clear why a top free agent would want to come play in a certain city.
Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade, himself a member of the celebrated free agent Class of 2010, is already on the case.
Wade has already come up with a five-point list of why someone (James, Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire, etc.) should join in Miami, courtesy of Dave Hyde of the Sun-Sentinel:
5. The media is fair. Imagine that. Someone with something good to say about the media.
“I think it’s very fair here for the most part,” he said.
And that’s important?
“With Facebook and Twitter and all the social media out there, it’s nuts,” he said. “So you look around and want some responsible [media] on how you’re covered. It’s fair here.”
4. South Beach is your backyard. “For other people, this might be really more enticing,” he said. “But for [ NBA] players it’s not really like that. During the season, you don’t go out all the time, no matter what you hear.
“If you’re talking the off-season, now, I’ll say it’s a bigger deal.”
Don’t people leave here in the summer?
“I can think of a couple people who like it,” he said, smiling. “I’m in Chicago a lot in the off-season. But some of the [players] are here a lot.”
3. February becomes an enjoyable month. “Everyone loves the sun here,” Wade said.
There’s no serious competition if the Los Angeles Clippers don’t enter the discussion. Cold-weather cities like Chicago, Cleveland and New York seem all the colder when teams visit the Heat in February.
“I hear about that all the time, how nice the weather is,” Wade said. “It’s a big deal.”
2. This organization knows how to win. Team president Pat Riley’s rings. Heat owner Micky Arison’s reputation. None of the other teams expected to be big free-agent players have won a title with the present cast of owner, architect and star player.
“Everyone thinks this is a first-class organization,” Wade said. “There are a handful of organizations you’d say that about, and this is one of them. It’s big for guys to see the track records of the people running the team.”
Wade didn’t mention what made headlines earlier this off-season about Michael Jordan not being part of the Chicago organization. For a contrast, there was Mourning to Wade’s left, signing autographs.
1.You’re guaranteed at least one other elite player on the roster. OK, he didn’t say this. I stated this for him. Wade isn’t re-signed yet. But all indications are he’ll be back with the Heat, right down to Saturday’s autograph session. Why embed yourself in a community you’re about to leave?
“Nothing’s signed,” Wade said.
Assuming he signs, he’s the Heat’s top selling point. His return would validate everything on the above list and give a player like James the kind of teammate he’s never had.
HT’s Take: We’re already wondering how big a fine the league is cooking up for Wade. Ha. Actually, if you’re trying to lure another top free agent, what better way to get your point across than with a player of Wade’s stature articulating it for you? If wade stays in Miami, which looks like a decent possibility at this point, he’s going to sway another of his Class of 2010 mates to rock with him on South Beach.
LARRY DREW’S INTERESTING RISE TO THE TOP
New Hawks coach Larry Drew is not his predecessor, no matter how closely they are linked throughout their careers. Drew’s style, approach, demeanor and personality all make him very different from Mike Woodson.
Steve Hummer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: As a Hawks assistant, Drew was a quiet presence. Never much of a screamer in practice, more of a teacher than a taskmaster, he must make the transition to the role of demanding rather than asking.
At Missouri, he won the Sparky Stalcup Award for inspired leadership, so that important quality has always been there.
Untested as a head coach, he has much to reveal about himself — and little time or wiggle room in which to do it. For he will be measured by the Hawks’ ability to progress past the second round of the playoffs, the point where they have stalled the past two seasons.
One fact that has made itself already known: Drew knows point guards.
He was one, for one. Drew may be one of the best players ever to come out of Kansas City, schooled by an older brother in the fundamentals of ball handling and court awareness.
“He may have been the most fundamentally sound seventh-grader I’ve ever seen,” said long-time Kansas City Star metro columnist Steve Penn, a middle-school teammate of Drew’s.
At Missouri, he had a 5-to-2 career assist-to-turnover ratio.
Drew counts among his best friends the all-time, mold-breaking guard, Magic Johnson.
His offseason camp — called Larry Drew Advance Guard Academy — caters to the position.
And he is actively passing along the point-guard gene. His oldest of three sons, Larry Drew II, just finished a tumultuous growing year playing point at North Carolina. His wife, Sharon, has been freely quoted as saying her son is much better at this stage than was her husband.
The couple maintains a home on the far left coast, where the other two teenage boys are California guard prodigies.
If he can develop second-year Hawks guard Jeff Teague, that will mark one of the more immediate departures from Woodson.
HT’s Take: Drew is an excellent choice for a Hawks team that needed a new coach and not just a name or a personality to handle a group that piled up the fifth-best season in franchise history. Drew”s not a self-promoter or a guy that’s ever hunted the headlines as an assistant coach. But he’s honed his craft over the years, working all over the league and with some of the best people in the business. Sure, he has plenty to prove as a head coach, but what first time boss doesn’t? Drew has the added advantage of having guys like Al Horford, Josh Smith (below) and Jamal Crawford in his corner.
THE IZZO LOVE AFFAIR HAS FOLKS IN CLEVELAND WORRIED
Sorry Dan Gilbert, but not everyone in Cleveland is enamored with idea of Tom Izzo coaching the Cavaliers. While the world waits for Izzo’s final decision, which could come as soon as this evening, others ponder the possibilities.
Bud Shaw of the Plain Dealer: Whether Dan Gilbert gets his man has taken precedence over other questions.
Is Tom Izzo LeBron James’ man?
Gilbert swore James would not be consulted on the coaching hire. I didn’t believe him then. But I do now. Because if I’m James — and, just so you know, we have not been mistaken for one another lately due to my decision to let my hairline recede and erase my temporary Chosen One, Too tat — I’d tell Gilbert if he asked that Izzo’s stellar reputation as a college coach is at the very least mitigated by other factors.
Izzo would be the second rookie NBA head coach for James, though obviously he would walk into the Cavaliers locker room carrying a much bigger stick than Mike Brown did.
Izzo has been to six Final Fours in 12 seasons. Brown knew Gregg Popovich was spelled with two g’s. Brown, though, cut his teeth on the NBA sidelines, and James still lost faith in his strategies and in-game adjustments.
Next year is James’ eighth in the league, and Izzo would come with a NBA learning curve in tow.
One of the many thoughts sources attribute to James is that he’d like a former NBA player as head coach. (Stand down, Barkley, not you.) The Cavs under Izzo aren’t the only team that would fail to meet that standard. The same parameters would hurt the chances of some of James’ biggest suitors.
James could have that here with Byron Scott, who left New Orleans on good terms with James’ buddy, Chris Paul. But Scott, for some reason, looks like a Plan B to Izzo.
I’d rank them Jeff Van Gundy, Scott and then Izzo. But then again, I saw Olympic gold in Eddie the Eagle’s future, too.
HT’s Take: Without a commitment from James one way or another, the only thing Izzo can count on is a nice paycheck and the possibility that he’ll be on the hottest of hot coaching seats in all of basketball. If James were to return, the pressure to win a title would be off the charts. Without James, Izzo has to try to fashion a playoff team out of the supporting cast that’s been assembled around James by a general manager, Danny Ferry, that is no longer there. Glad Izzo has to make this decision and not me.
MARK JACKSON IS READY TO DANCE
ABC analyst and former star point guard Mark Jackson is ready for his chance to run a team. He was in the final three for the Hawks’ job and has had discussions elsewhere. But his best fit might be in his own backyard.
Chris Tomasson of FanHouse: If the Clippers want to talk with Mark Jackson about their coaching job, they know where to find him.
“I’m the girl on the dance floor just dancing to the music,” Jackson said in an interview Saturday with FanHouse when asked about the Clippers’ opening. “If somebody wants to dance with me, come on over.”
Jackson, a former NBA guard now serving as an ABC analyst during the Finals between Boston and the Lakers, was one of three finalists for the Atlanta job before it went Friday to Hawks assistant Larry Drew. Jackson and Dwane Casey, the other finalist not selected, are both expected to be candidates with the Clippers, apparently in no position to fill their opening.
“It’s a great job,” Jackson said. “It will play itself out.”
A source close to the situation has told FanHouse the Clippers might wait until after July 1 to hire a coach to perhaps help their chances of landing Cleveland star LeBron James, expected to opt out of his contract and become a free agent that day.
Asked about Drew getting the Atlanta job, Jackson said, “I wish him all the best.” Jackson also spoke well of how Hawks general manager Rick Sund handled the search to replace Mike Woodson, let go May 14 after six seasons.
“Rick Sund did an outstanding job from top to bottom with the way he handled everything,” said Jackson, an NBA point guard from 1987-2004 who never has been a coach at any level but was known for his leadership as a player. “A class organization. I’ve got nothing but great words. He’s handled (the coaching search) the best that I’ve been a part of so far.”
HT’s Take: Jackson captivated the Hawks’ with his charisma and knowledge of the game, but they had the same concerns many of these teams do about hiring a guy that has no coaching experience. But is Jackson really any bigger risk than some of these other first time head coaches like Drew or Tom Thibodeau in Chicago? Jackson will get his shot and the Clippers, where he could connect with Baron Davis, might be the best fit.
WIZARDS OWNER SAYS ARENAS STAYS PUT
If John Wall is the new face of the franchise in Washington that means Gilbert Arenas has to go, right? Not according to new Wizards owner Ted Leonsis.
Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post: One day after assuming control of the Washington Wizards, majority owner Ted Leonsis reiterated his commitment to having Gilbert Arenas on the team next season, and to giving General Manager Ernie Grunfeld and Coach Flip Saunders a chance to turn around the struggling franchise.
Leonsis met with Arenas at the owner’s McLean home last month and has been in contact with the point guard via e-mail, exchanging notes with him as recently as Thursday.
“We had a great meeting,” Leonsis told a group of Washington Post reporters and editors Friday. “The conversation was about, ‘Here’s a line, and you can’t cross this line.’ The scrutiny around you has quadrupled. You need to internalize that. There are some things you can’t joke about anymore.”
Leonsis also dismissed recent reports that the Wizards are actively seeking to trade Arenas, whom the NBA suspended in January for the remainder of the 2009-10 season after he brought guns into the Verizon Center locker room.
“We’re not actively trading him,” Leonsis said. “But I would ask you to put yourself in another general manager’s shoes. He was injured for two years and suspended for a year and he’s a max [contract] player. If you were another team’s general manager, would you be trading for Gilbert Arenas right now?”
Leonsis also suggested that buying out Arenas, who is owed $80 million over the next four years, is not financially feasible. “You mean just write a $100 million check for him to go away?” Leonsis said with a laugh.
As for the future of Grunfeld and Saunders, Leonsis said he’s met with both in recent weeks and reiterated that they will be with the team next season.
The new owner compared Grunfeld to Washington Capitals General Manager George McPhee, whom he also inherited from the late Abe Pollin’s regime. Leonsis hinted that the Wizards will be run much like the Capitals: ownership will set the strategy, and the general manager will be given the space to execute that strategy.
“I’m not telling Ernie who to pick with the first [overall draft] pick, but told him, if you want to trade the pick, [then] you’re coming to talk to me about it,” Leonsis said. “Because that would be against the strategy that we laid out.
“I believe that Ernie is a very talented person and I believe that Flip is a very talented person. I’ve seen people be really successful executing one plan and unsuccessful doing another plan. So I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt.”
HT’s Take: What else can the Wizards but hold on to Arenas? Now they could try to sell a sweet story to their fans. Few tales could top the dramatic saga of the rookie phenom (Wall) teaming up with the redemption-seeking former All-Star (Arenas) and making some positive noise in an Eastern Conference ripe for some new playoff blood, depending on what happens i free agency, of course. But Leonsis said it best when he laughed about writing a $100 million check to make Arenas “go away.” That, my friends, is not going to happen.