NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Next up for HOF consideration? — Now that the star-studded Hall of Fame class of 2016 has been praised and inducted, it’s time to look forward to next year’s candidates. Our Scott Howard-Cooper takes a look at the candidates most likely to make the list for 2017 … a group that could include Kevin Johnson, Tim Hardaway and Chris Webber:
No vote-sucking automatics of the O’Neal-Iverson-Kidd variety are coming up for nomination in fall/winter this year among players with strong NBA or ABA ties, before the field is narrowed to finalists prior to All-Star Weekend in New Orleans and a second round of voting takes place in time to announce the winners during the Final Four in Glendale, Ariz. There is the interesting case for Ben Wallace, but he is the closest to anyone big-footing their way on the ballot, the way 2016 included O’Neal, Iverson and Izzo as three obvious calls and the 2018 headliners will arrive with hefty credentials. Even George McGinnis’ new status breaks right for the carryovers, with McGinnis moving from the North American group, the committee that includes Johnson, Hardaway and Webber, to the veterans. That makes one less candidate in North America to draw support away, not to mention that the possible benefit for McGinnis of only needing one round of voting in for enshrinement in his new category.
While the timing issues would be relevant any year, they are especially important this time as three ex-players search for reason to hope after the letdown of the recent election cycles. If Hardaway, Johnson and Webber can’t get traction when Wallace may be the biggest newcomer, after all, depending which college and NBA coaches go on the ballot for the first time, it does not say much for their chances when several marquee names are added for 2018.
Johnson needs a push after reaching the finalist stage this year, again, but failing to receive the necessary support, again. He is the lone NBA player who reached the second round of voting in 2016 without getting elected, along with college coaches Lefty Driesell, Bo Ryan and Eddie Sutton.
Hardaway, meanwhile, is going backward, from previously making finalist to being cut in the initial balloting in ’16 and not even making it to All-Star Weekend despite making five All-NBA teams and five All-Star games in a career that included five seasons averaging at least 20 points and three seasons with double-digit assists.
Webber is in the deepest hole of all: two years on the ballot, two years of not making it past the first round, after 20.7 points, 9.8 rebounds, five All-Star games and five All-NBA spots. Not making it just to finalist in 2017 would be the most-damning statement of all, and it might be anyway, no matter how many coaches are potentially drawing votes away.
There could also be newcomers who have been eligible but have yet to be nominated — Penny Hardaway, Brent Barry, Bruce Bowen, Robert Horry — but none would seem to have the same case as Wallace, the former center best known for patrolling the inside for the Pistons. And there is a case.
No. 2: LeBron continues Hollywood expansion — LeBron James has never hid his ambitions to explore his Hollywood interests, both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. He got rave reviews for his performance in the 2015 comedy “Trainwreck,” alongside Amy Schumer and Bill Hader. LeBron’s latest venture is helping produce a fictional show for NBC about a medical doctor with some of the world’s most famous athletes as clients. Joe Vardon of the Plain Dealer provides some details:
James’ SpringHill Entertainment, which counts cable hit “Survivor’s Remorse” and the new CNBC show “Cleveland Hustles” among its projects, will be guided on this unnamed medical drama by renowned sports orthopedic surgeon, Dr. James Andrews.
The show and Andrews’ role as executive consultant were first reported by the Hollywood Reporter. A spokeswoman for James and SpringHill circulated the Hollywood Reporter‘s story confirming all of the information in it.
According to that report, the plot of the show is “when the doctor undergoes a health crisis, it forces him to rethink his approach to medicine with the help of a gifted sports psychologist.”
James and Maverick Carter, who runs SpringHill on a day-to-day basis, will serve as co-executive producers on the new show. Matt O’Neill (Bait & Switch), who recruited Andrews, Nicolas Falacci and Cheryl Heuton (Numb3rs) will write the script.
Last summer, SpringHill signed a content agreement with Warner Bros. for TV and film. The new show will be the first on network TV to come from that agreement.
No. 3: Brooks sees no chemistry issues for Wizards — Washington Wizards coach Scott Brooks has managed two alpha personalities before, during his time working with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City. So when he says he’s not worried about there being any chemistry issues with his Wizards (John Wall and Bradley Beal in particular), he might know what he’s talking about. Candace Buckner of the Washington Post explains:
Scott Brooks reclined in a folding chair inside the Washington Wizards‘ practice facility. He was dressed casually in gray shorts and an athletic shirt, as if at any moment he might jump into a pick-up basketball game. He looked relaxed, smiling often. Certainly, with training camp a few weeks away, Brooks must have had concerns — but least among them is the dynamic between his two best players.
On Friday afternoon, Brooks shared his thoughts for the first time since John Wall and Bradley Beal, in separate CSN interviews, spoke of on-court chemistry issues. Brooks has read their admissions — and he doesn’t plan on holding emergency counseling sessions before the 2016-17 season begins.
“There’s a lot of things I’m worried about going into camp, and every coach in this league is worried about. That is not one of them,” Brooks said of Wall and Beal’s possible rift. “I haven’t even talked to our assistant coaches about it. Will I meet with each player individually? Yes. Will I meet with the team? Yes. Will I meet with the positions together? Yes. But I don’t see our team having a problem with chemistry.”
On the August day when the Wall-Beal story circulated, Brooks was in Los Angeles with the two players as the team held a mini-training camp. Brooks recalled the team having a “great workout” that day and never felt the need to address issues.
“Two things I noticed about both of them: They’re very competitive, and they care about their teammates. When you have those two qualities, you will never have problems with me as the coach and you’ll never have problems with your teammates,” Brooks said. “With that being said, they’re like brothers, and you’re going to have arguments. If you don’t have an argument as an NBA team, that’s odd.”
Brooks, 51, understands friction between teammates. He played 10 seasons in the NBA himself and won a championship with the 1993-94 Houston Rockets, a roster filled with colorful characters.
“We’d argue once a week,” Brooks said of that season.
Also, Brooks helped groom — and, likely, referee — the Oklahoma City Thunder as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook blossomed into superstars.
Durant and Westbrook had moments when they would “cuss” each other out, even during games when teammates had to separate them. Brooks does not suspect, however, that his experience in handling two bickering young stars had anything to do with the Wizards picking him to lead their team.
“Never once did Ted [Leonsis], Ernie [Grunfeld], [senior vice president of basketball operations] Tommy [Sheppard] ever mention that to me. Never once did I ever think about ‘When are they going to mention that to me?’ ” Brooks said, referring to the conversations he had with the team owner and front office before taking the job.
“I don’t look at it as an issue, I look at it as two competitive players developing their position in this league,” Brooks continued. “I’ve had history of two competitive players, at a young age, [developing] together. That’s not always going to be lovey-dovey, but the respect has to be there.”
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