Morning shootaround — Sept. 3

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Chris Bosh situation far from settledKobe almost traded for Grant Hill? | Meet the godfather of the salary cap

No. 1: Chris Bosh situation far from settled As the NBA creeps closer to the start of training camp, perhaps the biggest mystery lies with the status of Chris Bosh. The 11-time All-Star forward and the last remaining member of the Big Three era last played right before the All-Star break last season, then sat with an illness linked to the blood clots that hampered him the season before. Bosh has played 44 and 53 games the last two seasons but he and the organization expect him to be in uniform this season. But is it that simple? Ethan Skolnick of CBS Sports takes a wide-angle view of Bosh and life in a new stage for him and the Heat:

It’s been one of the NBA oddities of the past couple of years, an organization that has done so much winning over the past couple of decades, and now keeps finding itself in no-win battles. The Heat really can’t afford the optics of another bad breakup, not while maintaining its reputation as one of sports’ model organizations.

Yet here it is again, even if its intentions are nothing but noble, concerned only about protecting Bosh’s health — essentially protecting him from himself, considering the medical consensus about the dangers of him playing on blood thinners.

Yet some close to Bosh are not convinced that the Heat’s motivations are quite so pure. They suspect that the franchise is more concerned about clearing Bosh’s salary from the cap, which it can do exactly one year after he last played (on February 9, 2016) provided that he doesn’t play more than nine additional games. That would give Riley more room to reload with fresh, younger talent next summer, to make at least one last title run before he — now 71 — retires.

What does Bosh think?

Well, it’s hard to explicitly know, other than that he desperately wants to play, and that it’s not about money, since he will receive the $76 million he’s still owed regardless. He wants to play so badly that he has crossed the country to find a doctor to clear him; according to the Miami Herald, one doctor has proposed him taking blood thinners in the morning and getting off them at night, but the Heat are not comfortable with that arrangement.

Bosh hasn’t spoken on any of that. Not on his treatment. Not on his frustration. Not on any reports.

He has communicated infrequently and cryptically about his situation since February, in Toronto, where he abruptly withdrew from the All-Star Game due to another calf strain. Bosh downplayed the apparent setback then, saying that “I just wanted to make sure I was taking the necessary precautions and being a good professional,” but the details ultimately emerged — he had suffered another blood clot. This came after his first blood clot ended his 2014-15 season.

Long one of the NBA’s most accessible players, Bosh has said nothing definitive about his condition in the months since, entirely avoiding media members with whom he has interacted for years, staring down at a book in the locker room while a Heat official stands guard. And the Heat haven’t offered much more detail, as the organization attempts to avoid violating his privacy and creating another controversy.

Even so, it’s been obvious since the spring that the sides have not been aligned.

Not with Bosh releasing a statement in March through a publicist rather than the team (and the team refusing to comment on it). Not with Adrienne posting #BringBackBosh on her Twitter account and Bosh associates wearing those T-shirts to playoff games.

Not even after the sides came to an uneasy truce in May, releasing a joint statement that he would not be playing in the remainder of the playoffs and that they were “working together” so they could “return Chris to playing basketball as soon as possible.”

Not even after Micky Arison, the Heat’s managing general partner, mentioned Bosh as one of the Heat’s core players in a post on the team’s official website, and then tweeted “Looking good CB @chrisbosh look forward to seeing in camp” in response to Bosh’s recent video posts.

***

No. 2: Kobe almost traded for Grant Hill? It’s always interesting when we get a sneak peek at the inner-workings of the NBA and teams and trade discussions, even when the facts and stories surface many years later, and especially when they involve big names. But Kobe Bryant and Grant Hill? For each other? Phil Jackson admitted the talks took place 17 years ago, just before the Lakers went on their Shaq-Kobe dynasty. Suppose Hill stayed healthy; would he be a solid mesh with Shaq? Here’s the dish, from Ian Begley of ESPN.com:

That trade — a deal that would’ve changed the course of recent NBA history — was never close to consummation, according to Jackson.

It came about because Bryant wasn’t happy with the idea of coming off of the bench early in the 1999-2000 season — Jackson’s first with the Lakers — and requested a trade.

“For a few minutes, I thought about taking the Pistons up on an offer they made to trade Kobe for Grant Hill. Make that a few seconds,” Jackson told his friend, Charley Rosen, in an interview published Friday for Today’s Fastbreak.

Bryant, of course, would develop into one of the top players of all time, winning five titles along the way. Hill, who is nearly six years older than Bryant, had shown, at that point, the promise to be one of the top players of his era. But debilitating injuries derailed his career. Had it gone through, the Bryant-Hill trade would have altered Jackson’s legacy and the history of the NBA. But Jackson said the Lakers never seriously considered the offer.

“The thing was that Kobe already saw himself as being one of the greatest players in the history of the NBA. I thought that, in time, he would indeed reach that goal.

“Anyway, he was not going to be traded,” Jackson said in the Today’s Fastbreak piece, in which he also mixed up the chronology of his run with the Lakers. “So we’d talk about being patient, and letting the game come to him. But Kobe would sometimes still go off on his own, disregarding the offense and trying to single-handedly take over the game. When I called him on this, he’d say that for us to keep on winning, there was a lot for him to do.”

This was just one example of the not-always-rosy relationship between Bryant and Jackson. Jackson has detailed many of his run-ins with Kobe in his books, and he gives an overview of his relationship with the recently retired Lakers star in the Today’s Fastbreak piece. Jackson and Bryant developed a mutual respect and admiration for one another as time passed.

“I’ll miss him, and the game will miss him,” Jackson said.

***

No. 3: Meet the godfather of the salary cap Most NBA fans wouldn’t know recognize the name Larry Coon and would be stunned to know how much respect and importance he carries within league circles. Well, he’s the Einstein of the league’s salary cap and is often consulted by league personnel and media when clarification is needed regarding the fine print. He’s aware of the rules, restraints and whatnot of the league’s collective bargaining agreement with its players and nothing stumps him. Dan Woike of the Orange County Register recently wrote a profile of the man who knows his way around the lingo:

A middle-aged man who’s more likely to buy a pocket protector than come off a screen-and-roll and throw a pocket pass, one who says he has no desire to even pick up a basketball, has become one of the most knowledgeable people in the NBA.

His hair has grayed, his shoulders tend to slouch, and this day in Vegas, he looks like any one of the thousand convention-goers in town, corporate polo and khakis included.

If Coon looks more the part of office-dweller than NBA revolutionary, there’s a reason for it.

He spends his days in the information technology offices at UC Irvine, managing major projects and evangelizing business analytics.

But over the course of more than 15 years, he’s used his nights to become an indispensable part of the NBA fabric, operating the go-to reference used by teams, players, agents and reporters.

When it comes to understanding the rules that get your favorite players to and from your favorite teams, Coon is the person people turn to.

THE RIDE

“You think you know something? You really want to know it?” Coon says. “Explain it to others.”

After his office hours, Coon and one of his protégés load up in Coon’s silver Mazda and head over to the UNLV campus, which is hosting the Sports Business Classroom in addition to the NBA’s Summer League.

Coon starts to recount his journey, always staying on script, trying not to deviate from the linear order of events. He knows how he wants to explain things.

It’s his area of expertise.

His “CBA FAQ” has become a staple in web browsers around the league, breaking down the 154,274-word collective bargaining agreement – approximately the same length as “The Grapes of Wrath” – that lays out the financial rules for the NBA into more palatable terms.

Before Golden State general manager Bob Myers won the 2015 Executive of the Year award and built a team that won a single-season record 73 games and signed the biggest free agent available in Kevin Durant, he was merely a law student with a thirst for NBA knowledge.

To quench it, he tried to study the CBA.

“Anyone who knows and has tried to do it, it’s very dense,” Myers said. “Larry was the first person to break it down into layman’s terms, into ways that were succinct, efficient.

“It was like the CliffsNotes version of the CBA.”

People trying to find work in the NBA’s front offices now had the companion to a document that could make even the trained eye crust over. The phrase “in accordance” appears 259 times in the 2011 CBA; “notwithstanding” is there 128 times.

Neither appears in Coon’s FAQ.

“You can’t learn the cap by studying the collective bargaining agreement,” Portland General Manager Neil Olshey said. “Larry did that FAQ that had all the questions, and what Larry did better than anybody is he made it digestible for people who didn’t have that high-end mathematics background. That’s why I was able to use it.”

Coon’s trip to NBA celebrity began in a place so many Southern California basketball fans have been – watching the Lakers and listening to Chick Hearn.

But instead of being inspired to shoot jump shots, Coon’s love of basketball drifted to the mechanical side.

How, he wondered, were teams able to get certain players and not others. What could they pay them? Were there limits? What were the loopholes? And who are the people smart enough to exploit them.

Coon’s an obsessive, and he sought the answers with the same voracity that led his cycling habit to become, at one time, a 500-mile-a-week routine.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Harrison Barnes is ready for his close-up in Dallas and a chance to be a prime-time player … Some tweets by Karl-Anthony Towns bode well for his time with the Timberwolves … Sure, it’s nothing but talk now here in September, but Andre Drummond says he’s big on the Pistons this season.

Comments are closed.