Former Suns center Walk dies at 67

VIDEO: Take a look back at Neal Walk’s life and career

From staff reports

Former Phoenix Suns standout center Neal Walk — perhaps best known for being selected with the pick after Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the 1969 Draft — has died at 67. The big man played eight seasons in the NBA, six of them with the Suns and also spent time with the New Orleans Jazz (1974-75) and New York Knicks (1975-77) before embarking in an overseas playing career.

His best season came in 1972-73 when he averaged 20.2 ppg, 12.4 rpg and 3.5 apg for a 38-44 Suns squad that missed the playoffs. After that season, he would log one more campaign in Phoenix before he was traded in the offseason to the Jazz, who later dealt him to the Knicks in February of 1975 (where Walk finished out his NBA career).

Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic has more on Walk, his legacy with the Suns and his career:

The Phoenix Suns do not have many people who can claim working in the organization for about two-thirds of its 46-year history and there are only two players who can claim a 20-point, 12-rebound season for the Suns.

Neal Walk’s legacy includes both.

Walk passed away Sunday night at age 67. He was at a Phoenix hospital after being in poor health in recent weeks for various medical reasons, 28 years after surviving surgery to remove a tumor on his spinal cord.

Away from unfair comparisons to Abdul-Jabbar, Walk had an exemplary five-year run at center in Phoenix and played eight NBA seasons before finishing his pro basketball career in Israel and Italy.

“My answer on the coin toss was always, ‘I didn’t toss it and I didn’t make the call. I just play basketball,’ ” Walk once told azcentral sports.

And he played it well.

Walk is the only Suns player besides Charles Barkley to average 20 points and 12 rebounds in a season. The 6-foot-10 center did so in his fourth year (1972-73), when he averaged 20.2 points, 12. 4 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 38.4 minutes per game. His 1,009 rebounds that season is nine shy of the franchise record set by Paul Silas. He also had a 26-rebound game that was one off Silas’ franchise record.

Walk was a gritty rebounder with a left-handed shooting touch and a hook shot. He was an exemplary passer for a big man to the point that he led the Suns in assists (4.0 per game) during his final Suns season in 1973-74.

The unfair shadow of Abdul-Jabbar’s greatness never left Walk, even though Walk held his own with the greats at times. Walk posted a career-high 42-point game against Abdul-Jabbar in 1972. He still was booed at home, where the lack of support affected him.

“People didn’t appreciate how good he was on the court,” said Steve Rich, Walk’s longtime friend and former roommate. “He felt unappreciated. Instead of appreciating him for what he could do, they always compared him to Jabbar. He was as smart as any athlete I’ve ever met. Neal like it when he was seen that way.”

The Suns traded Walk in the 1974 offseason to New Orleans, but he was not the same player after shedding 25 pounds because of a switch to a vegetarian diet. He dropped to a 7.2 scoring average in 1974-75, when he was traded to New York. The Knicks waived him after 11 games in 1976.

After playing in Europe, Walk could not find steady work after basketball. He legally changed his name to “Joshua Hawk” as a part of a spiritual journey and admitted drug use during his career.

In 1987, a tingly feeling in his feet prompted a doctor’s visit that led to surgery to remove bone chips in his neck. During that surgery, it was discovered that a disk was pressing against his spinal cord with a lump between his shoulder blades. A subsequent surgery removed the knuckle-sized mass, which was benign, but he lost use of his legs.

Walk was considered an “incomplete paraplegic” who still experienced leg spasms.

Walk is survived by his wife, Georgia, and a brother.



Morning shootaround — Oct. 5

VIDEO: Clippers superstar Chris Paul put in the work in preparation for the 2015-16 season


LeBron wants Cavs, Thompson to “get it done” | Kobe’s (preseason) return lasts 12 minutes | Williams counting on comforts of home to help rejuvenate career | Room to grow for Westbrook? | Warriors will hold each other accountable in Kerr’s absence

No. 1: LeBron wants Cavs, Thompson to “get it done” — The leader of the Cleveland Cavaliers spent his weekend doing what needed to be done, speaking publicly on what he called the “elephant in the room.” Tristan Thompson‘s holdout has officially become a distraction for LeBron James and the rest of the Cavaliers in their quest for a championship. Yes, it’s early in the process. But James is calling for both sides to do whatever it takes to get Thompson back in the fold so the Cavs can get back to the business of trying to finish what they started last season.’s Dave McMenamin has more LeBron clearing the air after practice Sunday…

“I’m not here to talk about numbers, things of that nature, because that’s for them, for both sides to figure out. The last thing you need is a distraction when you try to make a championship run. And we have that right now. And it’s unfortunate for both sides that we’re going through it right now as a team. It’s not an excuse, we will be ready to go but hopefully something happens in the near future.”

James and Thompson both attended the wedding of Todd Leebow, a mutual friend, in Miami on Saturday. The pair’s agent, Rich Paul, was also in attendance. James said he decided to post his message via social media after spending “the majority of the day” with Thompson.

Last week, James told reporters that he wouldn’t be addressing Thompson’s holdout ad nauseam. After making his comments Sunday, he said it was “probably my last time” speaking up about Thompson.

“I know he wants to be here, I believe this franchise wants him to be here, and so on and so on,” James said. “So, like I said, hopefully something gets done soon so we can really get down to it.”

James maintained that his Instagram post was not meant to be a directive aimed solely at the Cavs’ front office.

“Throughout the negotiation process, it’s always both sides,” James said. “It’s not just one-sided. I’ve been a part of negotiation before, and making deals and things of that nature, not much in the NBA but in other businesses, so, it’s always for both sides to figure out.”

Paul recently vacated a five-year, $94 million max contract demand for his client in favor of a preferred three-year, $53 million deal, league sources said. The Cavs already have tendered a five-year, $80 million offer to Thompson, according to sources.

Beyond taking to social media and speaking to reporters about Thompson, James said he will not interfere any further with the negotiations. Meaning, don’t expect him to knock on the door of general manager David Griffin’s office.

“I’m not going to go to them and tell them what they should do,” James said. “That’s their job, they know to do it very well, and they’ve done that to this point. They’ve brought in and did what they had to do for us to be a contending team, and, so, obviously Tristan is a big part of that run we want to make. I believe that something will happen.”

VIDEO: LeBron James addresses Tristan Thompson’s contract situation


No. 2: Kobe’s (preseason) return lasts 12 minutes — No one said it would last forever, or even two quarters. And fireworks were not expected in Hawaii for Kobe Bryant‘s long awaited return to action with the Los Angeles Lakers. But a 1-for-5 shooting effort in a 90-71 loss to the Utah Jazz was not the fairy tale comeback Kobe’s biggest fans might have hoped for in his 2015-16 debut. But it was just fine by Kobe and Lakers coach Byron Scott, who has no plans to push it at this stage of the process. ESPN’s Baxter Holmes of explains…

After his first game since late January, when he tore the rotator cuff in his right shoulder, ending his 2014-15 season after 35 games, Bryant said he felt “pretty good” and that it was “good to get out there.”

He added that his legs feel strong and that he didn’t feel any fatigue.

“It’s just getting the timing,” said Bryant, whose past three seasons have all been cut short by injury. “Getting timing. Getting acclimated to that again.”

Lakers coach Byron Scott seemed pleased with Bryant’s performance.

“He was pretty good,” Scott said. “He moved well.”

Scott said the plan of playing Bryant 12 minutes was agreed upon before the game.

“I told him before we went out, let’s just play the quarter and then let’s shut it down and see how you feel [Monday], we’ll go through practice and then get ready for Tuesday,” Scott said.

The Lakers face the Jazz again Tuesday, and Bryant is expected to play limited minutes in that game as well, though Scott said they’ll likely increase Bryant’s minutes gradually throughout the preseason.

VIDEO: Kobe Bryant says he still has some rust to work out of his game


No. 3: Williams counting on comforts of home to help rejuvenate career — He wouldn’t be the first NBA player to retreat to the familiar to recharge himself, to jumpstart his career. But Deron Williams went home to Dallas to do more than that. He went home to rejuvenate an All-Star career that has stalled in recent seasons, basically since his ugly departure from Utah in the wake of the Jerry Sloan drama to his injury-filled tenure in Brooklyn with the Nets. No longer mentioned at or even near the top when the conversation turns to the best point guards in the league, Williams aims to change all of that in his first season back in Dallas since high school. Dwain Price of the Star-Telegram explains…

That pressure could become magnified again now that Williams is playing for his hometown team. A 2002 graduate of The Colony, Williams must deal with having friends and family members around him more than usual, along with the constant requests for tickets to games.

But he sees a bright side to this (family) reunion.

“My kids are in school and in their activities, and their grandmas get to come and see them play, play soccer and play volleyball,” Williams said. “And when we need a break we can send them over to her house, so it’s definitely a lot of advantages to it.

“My family mainly has always been my biggest supporters. They know what I’m capable of.”

A two-time Olympic gold medal winner, Williams shot a career-low 38.7 percent from the field last season. Both he and the Mavs know he’s capable of a better performance.

“The important thing there is his health,” said Carlisle, whose team opens the preseason at home Tuesday against Denver. “With the beginning of last year he was coming off double ankle surgery, so it limited him.

“Late in the year he had a really good run and his health was very good. We’ve got to help him continue the momentum with good health.”

As he attempts to rejuvenate his career, Williams would like nothing better than to prove a lot of people wrong. And that includes the person he sees in the mirror.

“I want to prove myself wrong because I started to doubt myself in the past,” Williams said. “That’s what I was talking about — mentally, it just took a toll on me.

“I’ve just got to get out of that rut that I was in the last couple years mentally, and I look forward to this situation. I think it’s going to be better for me.”


No. 4: Room to grow for Westbrook? — Russell Westbrook was a revelation last season in Oklahoma City with Kevin Durant out with an injury. But could there be even more to his game? Certainly, writes Erik Horne of the Oklahoman

“He’s reaching a level where it’s hard to make strides, it’s hard to make gains,” Thunder GM Sam Presti said.

Until now, “small” and “incremental” have not defined the progression of Westbrook’s career. As much as Kevin Durant‘s greatness has defined the Thunder, it’s been Westbrook’s continual quantum leaps of development and production that has driven Oklahoma City’s rise.

So, what’s the next step for a player with a seemingly limitless ceiling?

The details.

“You have to be looking for the small and incremental,” Presti. “And that I think again is part of the aspect of where our team is.”

“Smaller,” Westbrook said when asked if his game has come down to large or small improvements. “It’s important each year you find different things, different nits in your game that you want to get better at. Working on your balance, working on different things that I can do to be more effective.”


No. 5: Warriors will hold each other accountable in Kerr’s absence — Draymond Green‘s not worried about the Golden State Warriors losing their way while their coach, Steve Kerr, is away taking care of his surgically repaired back. Green insists that, to a man, the Warriors will hold each other accountable to stay on course and do things the right way. The same way, he says, any championship team would with their leader missing. And there is plenty of leadership within the locker room, writes Carl Steward  of the Bay Area News Group writes…

Kerr’s absence during training camp and the preseason may be the first mini-test in the Warriors’ quest to repeat, and Draymond Green knows the kind of mentality that can seep in if the players, particularly the veterans, don’t pay heed.

“It’s like if your boss leaves work, everyone relaxes,” Green said Saturday. “It’s like a weight off your shoulders. When your boss checks out, it’s like, ‘Oh, man, what’s up, now we can chill.’ It’s just human nature. So it’s a challenge for us to not do that.”

Green said the players have to be more accountable to one another than they were last season. Walton and the club’s other assistants, while fully qualified, can only do so much. Players must carry more responsibility to “keep the ship sailing,” as Green put it. It’s another lesson he learned from Michigan State coach Tom Izzo.

“That’s myself, that’s Steph (Curry), that’s (Andrew) Bogut, that’s Andre (Iguodala), that’s us as leaders,” he said. “If something isn’t going right, we have to step up. At the end of the day, Luke can do it and he will do it, but anytime you can get something from another player, it’s better. Coach Izzo always had a saying, ‘A player-coached team is always better than a coach-coached team.'”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Former Phoenix Suns legend Neal Walk has died at 67 … Mark Price is fired up to coach in Charlotte (the 49ers now after leaving the Hornets for the college game) … One prominent Chicago columnist says surgery cannot fix what ails Derrick Rose … Jerry Stackhouse “happy” to add NBA flavor to Raptors’ staff … Wizards rookie Kelly Oubre isn’t running short on confidence in his game … The Suns finished camp with a chemistry boost … Eric Gordon knows he has to have his healthiest and best season this year … So who fills the void in Detroit left by Greg Monroe‘s departure?

ICYMI: An all-access look at the launch of NBA2K16:

VIDEO: A behind-the-scenes look at the launch of NBA2K16

Morning shootaround — Oct. 4

VIDEO: The Top 5 plays from Saturday’s preseason action


Chris Paul wants victory at the negotiation table | Carmelo says he’s far from finished as a superstar | D’Antoni talks point guards | Otto Porter says for him, the time is now

No. 1: Chris Paul wants victory at the negotiation table — On the cover of the new ESPN magazine is Chris Paul, striking a serious pose and wearing a business suit, with the headline: The Player NBA Owners Fear The Most. The gist of the piece is Paul is a serious businessman who’ll be serious business when the owners and union begin talks for the next labor agreement. As union president, Paul has been vocal about what he believes are inequities in the system; vocal yet respectful. Here’s a snippet in the piece written by Kurt Streeter:

When I ask about his relationship with Silver, Paul is guarded. “I know Adam really well. We communicate at different times and different things like that.”

When I ask what he’d like to work on with Silver, he leans back and grimaces. He looks at Karen Lee, the publicist. He wants to cite an issue that came up during a recent season — but not on the record. Lee asks that my recorder be turned off.

Paul recounts an innocuous vignette showing that he and Silver have a good relationship. It casts both in a positive light. I urge him to tell it on the record, but he doesn’t want the details known. Private discussions, he says, should stay private.

We continue. Silver has said that some franchises are struggling. What does Paul think? The restaurant is still. “That’s why we’ve got a lot of talking to do,” Paul says.

I say I’ve often wondered why the players or the league would want to risk a work stoppage now, with the NBA’s increasing popularity, the new revenue, with franchises selling for crazy amounts. The Kings for $534 million, the Hawks for $850 million, Paul’s own Clippers for a mind-boggling $2 billion.

“I’ve never been in this situation,” Paul says. “You know, going through what we’re about to. I would say, hopefully, no work stoppage or anything like that. That’s the ultimate goal.”

I press. He looks me in the eye, smiling. He’s not going to show his cards. After a while, Lee chimes in. The negotiations, she says, “will be tough but respectful. Is that a good way to put it?”


No. 2: Carmelo says he’s far from finished as a superstar — When Carmelo Anthony began training camp, he did so with a chip on his shoulder. Based on his perception, the basketball world believes he’s no longer among the NBA elite, in part because he’s coming off an injury-filled year and slipping into middle-age, and also because his team isn’t expected to contend anytime soon. Well, Melo takes offense to that. Here’s Ian Begley of ESPN New York with the report:

The 31-year-old Knicks star is confident that he can play at a high level for the next “four or five years.”

“Without a doubt. Without a doubt,” Anthony said after the Knicks’ final training camp practice on Saturday.

Anthony is entering the second year of a five-year, $124 million contract. Only one member of his draft class in 2003 (LeBron James) has played more regular-season minutes.

So many are predicting that Anthony is entering the downward arc of his career. But he doesn’t see it that way.

“Come on, you’re counting me out already?” he asked a reporter with a laugh.

Anthony believes that his decision to undergo knee surgery will help him perform at an elite level through the remainder of his current contract and beyond.

“I wasn’t a guy who would run straight to surgery for anything. But I think now, [taking] care of this really put me in position to perform at a high level for the next four or five years,” he said.

Anthony also believes that he can play effectively past age 35 because he doesn’t rely on a freakish vertical leap or foot speed to perform.


No. 3: D’Antoni talks point guards and more — Being away from the game allows a former coach to gain a different perspective, and Mike D’Antoni offered such, and more in a Q&A with Sports Illustrated. D’Antoni coached with the Nuggets, Suns, Knicks and Lakers, and nobody would be surprised if he gained another shot; it was his system that indirectly helped the Warriors put up pinball numbers and win the NBA title. Here’s the story with Jake Fischer of SI: There are a ton of teams starting to fully embrace this small ball strategy. Did you ever anticipate this would become so widespread, where teams like the Indiana Pacers essentially just banished Roy Hibbert because they didn’t want to play with traditional big guys anymore?

D’Antoni: Well, the league has always been a copycat league. I’m sure somebody is going to come up with something else and it will then go some place else. It’s just the game has changed. The rules have changed and the ability of players to be able to shoot threes and space the floor and be a power forward and be able to space all the way out to the three-point line—even centers can go out and shoot threes—it’s changed and people have to follow that. You give it enough time and I just think that it was kind of going that way anyway. And then what Golden State did, I just think it put everybody on notice and in order to beat them, you’re going to have to play that way. I think it’s a great thing. Obviously, I like that type of basketball. I like watching it. I think it’s exciting and I think fans love it. You’re trying to win and entertain and I think the Golden State Warriors accomplished both. I read about the presentation you gave during the Las Vegas Summer League and, essentially, you said to build a team’s offensive attack around a post player playing with his back to the basket is wasting an opportunity offensively. Why do you think that?

D’Antoni: If you look at the stats around the league, a post-up is not a very good shot. [Laughs] It just isn’t. Now again, in our business and leagues, a lot of times you say something and people take that as 100%: You’re always going to have post-ups and you’re always going to have 15-foot shots. They have not become the best shots. The best shots are layups and foul shots and three-point shots. So you try to gear your offense to where you can exploit those three things. And then, other teams are smart: They run you off the three so you have to shoot a 15-footer, or you can get a mismatch inside where you can post-up, and when you get a mismatch, you have to exploit that. But to go down and put your best offensive player on the block against their best defensive player, it’s just not a great option anymore. It just isn’t.


No. 4: Otto Porter says his time is now — The age difference in Washington between last years’ small forward and this year’s is striking. In that sense, Otto Porter Jr. is no Paul Pierce. But he wants to be just as effective on the court as the since-departed Pierce. Porter played well for the Wizards as last season progressed and believes that, after a shaky rookie season, he’s prepared to take on a bigger role. Interestingly, the Wizards are trying to get someone to play his position next year. Guy by the name of Kevin Durant. Anyway, here’s Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post:

“It’s a huge opportunity for him,” Marcin Gortat said. “He had been waiting for the opportunity. I think he’s ready. He’s having fun out there. He’s enjoying his time. But the most important thing, he’s not going to be out there to prove that he belongs in this league.”

A significant increase in playing time during the Wizards’ two-round playoff run allowed the lanky 6-foot-9 Porter, who was in and out of Coach Randy Wittman’s regular season rotation, to showcase his skill set. The No. 3 overall pick in the 2013 draft is a persistent cutter, sneaky rebounder and dogged defender. He does not need the basketball on offense to make an impact. Instead, he defers to teammates, spotting up for three-pointers and filling lanes to the basket to field passes and retrieve misses, assuming the dirty labor most players avoid.

On the surface, Porter’s postseason statistics — 10 points and eight rebounds in about 33 minutes per game — do not awe, but they were giant compared with his regular season numbers and don’t properly delineate Porter’s impact: The Wizards had six lineups log at least 15 minutes and tally a plus net rating, and Porter was the only player in all of them.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Haha. Steph Curry laughed off the “chillin’ on defense” comment by Ty Lawson … Clippers Wes Johnson says there was big confusion on the Lakers last season … Kobe Bryant and D’Angelo Russell getting along just fine. … Tony Parker thinks (and hopes) good health is just around the corner.

Hornets’ Kidd-Gilchrist dislocates shoulder in preseason opener

VIDEO: Kidd-Gilchrist injures right shoulder in preseason vs. Magic

The Hornets’ plans to respond to the disappointing 33-49 finish last season and return to the playoffs took an immediate hit Saturday night as Michael Kidd-Gilchrist dislocated his right shoulder in the exhibition opener against the Magic, an injury that was expected to keep him in an Orlando hospital overnight and put his availability at least for the short term in doubt.

Kidd-Gilchrist will miss Sunday’s game at Miami — which would have happened out of caution with the slightest of injuries — and be evaluated by team doctors Monday in Charlotte, the Hornets announced. That examination should provide more clarity on how long the starting small forward will be out and whether the absence could stretch into the regular season that begins Oct. 28, also in Miami.

While there was no way to immediately put a timetable on the recovery, losing Kidd-Gilchrist is a setback on multiple levels, especially since it was serious enough to require hospitalization. This was, after all, MKG on the comeback trail after injuries limited him to 55 games in 2014-15, and in his first action since signing a four-year, $52-million extension in the offseason. Also, even a short stay on the sideline will delay the chance for a centerpiece of the Charlotte future to mesh with newcomers Nicolas Batum (traded from Portland), Frank Kaminsky (drafted) and Jeremy Lin (signed as a free agent).

The new pairing of Kidd-Gilchrist and Batum is especially critical for the Hornets. The pair was projected to give Charlotte a strong pair of perimeter defenders as part of a critical season of evaluation for the team and Batum, before he becomes an unrestricted free agent in summer 2016.

The first look instead turned into Kidd-Gilchrist being hit while coming off a pick in the second quarter and hitting the floor hard. He was helped to the locker room and soon left the arena for the hospital.


China earns Olympic bid

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — China won its 16th FIBA Asia title and is heading to the Olympics for the ninth straight time, thanks to a 78-67 victory over the Philippines on Saturday. China is the ninth team to secure a trip to Rio next summer.


After a hot start from the Philippines, China took control in the second quarter, led by as many as 16 points, and held on for a 11-point victory to wrap up FIBA action for the summer. Yi Jianlian had 11 points and 15 rebounds for China, while Andray Blatche finished with 17 points and five boards for the Philippines.

The Philippines’ Olympic dream isn’t completely dead. They will play in one of the three qualifying tournaments next July, where the final three bids will be earned. But they would have a hard time beating any team from Europe or the Americas.


FIBA will determine which three teams host the three qualifying tournaments and which three get the wildcard spots. The Toronto Star reported earlier this week that Canada has decided not to make a bid to be a host.

Morning shootaround — Oct. 3



‘Holdout’ turns screws on Thompson, Cavs | Cuban ‘gets’ Chandler’s barbs | Greater Heat depth brings minutes challenge | Clippers still counting on Wes

No. 1: ‘Holdout’ turns screws on Thompson, Cavs — If there’d been a statue of Tristan Thompson outside of Quicken Loans Arena, it would have been lassoed and pulled to the ground as happens when banana republics undergo regime change. Instead, the Cleveland Cavaliers had to settle for scrubbing their backup power forward/center’s likeness from signage around the Q and purging any merchandise specific to Thompson from the team’s arena and online stores. Why? Thompson officially is a “holdout,” now that the deadline for him to sign either the Cavs’ one-year qualifying offer or a long-term deal passed at the end of Thursday. Thus the dicey business situation moved into a new phase Friday, as detailed by’s Dave McMenamin:

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ message on Friday, considered the first official day that Tristan Thompson’s contract standoff with the team escalated to a “holdout” situation, was loud and clear:

If you are not going to be present for training camp, you are not going to be weighing on our minds.

“Right now, my thoughts are just about the guys that are here and how hard and how well they are working and no specific expectation otherwise,” said Cavs coach David Blatt when asked for his reaction to Thompson letting the Cavs’ one-year, $6.8 million qualifying offer for this season expire at 11:59 p.m. ET on Thursday without accepting it. “Just happy to see our guys working as well as they are.”

With the qualifying offer off the table, negotiations will shift to both sides focusing on a multi-year agreement. Thompson’s agent, Rich Paul, recently vacated a five-year, $94 million max contract demand for his client in favor of a preferred three-year, $53 million deal, per league sources. The Cavs have already tendered a five-year, $80 million offer to Thompson, according to sources.

Friday was the fourth consecutive day of camp that Thompson missed, however Blatt was adamant that the big man’s absence has not caused a distraction as his team readies itself for the regular season.

“We got a veteran group,” Blatt said. “We got a very professional group of guys going about their business and going about their jobs the way that they should. The team is working and we are going to continue to do so.”


No. 2: Cuban ‘gets’ Chandler’s barbs — When Clippers center DeAndre Jordan reneged on his agreement to sign as a free agent with Dallas, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban chose some of his words carefully but didn’t exactly hide his displeasure. More recently, it was Tyson Chandler‘s turn to vent about the turn of events and Chandler – the former Mavs center who kind of got squeezed to Phoenix when Dallas targeted Jordan at the start of free agency this summer – came out strong in support of his fellow big man re-upping with L.A. Well, Cuban didn’t bristle at Chandler’s human, understandable reaction, writes Tim McMahon of

“He does have the right to be salty,” Cuban said during an appearance on 103.3 FM ESPN’s “Dennis and Friedo” on Friday.

Chandler, a hero during Dallas’ 2011 title run, has now twice been given second-fiddle treatment by the Mavs’ front office in free agency. The big man was blunt when asked this week about DeAndre Jordan’s decision to renege on his verbal commitment to replace Chandler as Dallas’ starting center. Chandler considers Jordan’s choice to stay with the Los Angeles Clippers a better-late-than-never, wise decision.

“I thought it was crazy,” Chandler told reporters during media day with the Phoenix Suns, his new team. “I never thought that DeAndre was going to sign with the Mavs, to be honest. I thought he was leaving a great situation back in L.A. Clearly, their roster is very talented and they have an opportunity to contend, so I didn’t understand it to begin with. Him going back on it, I actually thought that he got a good look at the picture.”

It’s not the first indication that Chandler — who informed the Mavs that he was heading to Phoenix minutes before their July 1 meeting with Jordan started — is a bit miffed about being disrespected by Dallas. His peace sign/sun combo was an underrated tweet during the comical emoji battle that unfolded while Jordan snacked on chicken with his Clippers pals and ignored Cuban’s phone calls while waiting to officially sign his deal with L.A.

Cuban said a year ago that he had “learned his lesson” from letting Chandler leave and intended all along to keep him … until he learned that the Mavs had a legitimate shot to add an NBA rebounding leader who was just entering his prime.

“I didn’t think it would get to that point,” Cuban said of the 33-year-old Chandler’s departure from Dallas. “We actually tried to have discussions right at the start of the year about an extension and it kind of just died on the vine. His agent didn’t really take it anywhere, and I was the first to say ‘If you don’t want to take it right now, we’ll try to figure something out at the end of the year,’ because I realized that by waiting that gave Tyson an extra year.

“Then the opportunity for DeAndre came along and we were pretty straightforward. Tyson or his agent gave us the ultimatum before the decision was made. He said he wouldn’t wait. That’s his decision. It is what it is. He does have a right to be salty, because I really did suggest to him — and it’s exactly the way I thought — that he’d be here for a long time.”



No. 3: Greater Heat depth brings minutes challenge — The deeper the NBA roster, the greater its flexibility and the more varied its looks in butting heads with the league’s 29 other teams. But “deep depth” brings with it some hard math for a lot of players: Divvying up the 240 minutes of a typical game by 10 or 12 players means less playing time than a guy could expect in a tighter rotation of eight (assuming he’s one of the eight). That’s what the Miami Heat will face this season and that’s what the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson wrote about:

The upshot of adding skilled veterans Gerald Green and Amar’e Stoudemire and 10th overall draft pick Justise Winslow, along with the return of Josh McRoberts from knee surgery, means the Heat’s second unit — which could potentially include those four and Mario Chalmers — is “obviously a big upgrade from what we had last season coming off the bench,” [Dwyane] Wade said.

But Wade also cited this potentially uncomfortable flip side of adding depth: fewer minutes for players unaccustomed to that.

“Everyone talks about how excited we are about our depth, but you’ve got to understand at times the depth will get in the way of your playing time,” Wade said. “How are we going to get past that? Those are the things people don’t look at that affect teams. We’ve got to be able to get over that hump.”

Two players who stand to be most affected by that: Chris Andersen, who played in 60 of the 65 games he suited up for last season, and Udonis Haslem, who played in 46 of the 77 that he was available for.

“It takes a special person to do that,” Haslem said. “When it takes a hit on playing time, it takes a hit on your ego. My job is to walk guys through who haven’t experienced it. I can instill a positive influence, keeping guys engaged in practice.”

Erik Spoelstra said the Heat does research to make sure it doesn’t sign players who are likely to complain about playing time. Asked about the six power rotation players, Spoelstra said all are selfless.

“This type of situation might not be for every veteran player,” Spoelstra said. “We try to over-communicate that early in the process of recruitment. When we sign them, we over-communicate the role. With any great team, it’s necessary you have talent and depth.

“But you have to be willing to sacrifice to leverage all of that depth. We haven’t gotten to that point yet with [defining] roles. It’s not about minutes, it’s not about shots, it’s not about opportunities. It’s about an opportunity to come together and do something special.”


No. 4: Clippers still counting on Wes — Hey, there was an NBA preseason game Friday night! The Clippers led by as much as 21 points en route to beating Denver at Staples Center, with Cuban’s pal Jordan contributing 15 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots in 26 minutes. But much of the focus for the Clippers was on the small forward spot, where Matt Barnes is the only starter missing from last season and where veteran All-Star Paul Pierce and underachieving Wes Johnson figure to time-share. Beat writer Dan Woike of the Orange County Register stayed up late in filing this roster update:

Barnes, one of the faces on the banners last season, is now with Clippers rival Memphis, and while the team feels it has upgraded on the wing, there’s still a loss to be dealt with.

“There’s no question we’re going to miss Matt,” Chris Paul said. “Matt brought a lot to our team – leadership, toughness. I don’t know; Matt was one of a kind. Replacing Matt, it’ll be a lot of different guys.”

It was never going to be one guy; at least that wasn’t the plan for Coach Doc Rivers and the Clippers over the summer.

“I just think the guy in that spot is going to have success because those other four guys are really good, so he’s going to get shots that you don’t get on other teams because of that,” Rivers said. “One of the things I really wanted was an athlete in that spot, a guy that could make shots and finish at the rim.

“From afar, Wes (Johnson) has the ability to do that. He has not done it yet really in his career, but you know he can, or at least you believe he can. And then you want a veteran as well, and so that’s where Paul (Pierce) came in.

“We went into this with a plan.”

They had a plan for who they would sign. But who will start [in the regular season]? That’s still up in the air.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Boston’s Isaiah Thomas hasn’t been jacking up shots with his usual carefree frequency lately – but he’s quick to assure Celtics fans it’s not a permanent alteration in his game. … The Chicago Bulls still seem committed to a Twin Tower lineup using Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol in a league going smaller and smaller. … The better your team, the easier its schedule – because it doesn’t have to play itself, right? breaks down some of the schedule disparity on tap for 2015-16. … In case you missed it, National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts gets the Q&A treatment in Cosmopolitan magazine. … LeBron James voiced his displeasure with the too-many recent shootings across the land and has his foundation working on getting kids away from the guns-and-violence culture.

Morning shootaround — Oct. 2


Tristan Thompson and Cavs sweat out deadline | Dwight Howard feels silence is better this time | Back in the coaching chair, Sam Mitchell is ready | Big man pairing has Okafor and Sixers excited |

No. 1: Tristan Thompson officially a holdout — The midnight deadline came and went and nothing changed in the Tristan Thompson negotiations, or lack thereof. Thompson had until midnight to sign the Cavs’ qualifying offer, which he refused to do. And the sides are still apart on a new deal. Thompson can either sign a new deal or accept an offer from another team until March 1, which the Cavs would then be free to match. The Cavs expected Thompson to report to training camp Friday, although that’s uncertain now. Here’s Jason Lloyd of the Beacon Journal with a recap

The two sides remained separated this week on a long-term deal. If Thompson accepts the qualifying offer, he will be an unrestricted free agent after the season.

Contracts are fairly rigid under the collective bargaining agreement, making holdouts rare in the NBA — although they do happen. Anderson Varejao’s bitter contract dispute spilled into December in 2007 before he finally signed a three-year, $17 million offer sheet with the Charlotte Bobcats that was quickly matched by the Cavs.

“It wasn’t easy for me. I missed the first 21 games if I remember,” Varejao said Thursday. “But I had to do it back then because I felt like I was disrespected with the offer they offered me. I don’t really know what’s going on with Tristan right now, numbers and stuff, I’m not sure. But I’m pretty confident he will be here soon.”

LeBron James twice in recent days also said he was optimistic the two sides would reach agreement on a long-term deal sooner than later.

James Jones is the secretary/treasurer of the players union and held the role when the current collective bargaining agreement was ratified. Players typically always stick together on financial issues, yet Jones is a veteran trying to win another championship and understands Thompson is a vital piece the Cavs need.

“First thing’s first. We understand that this is a business, and once the business is taken care of we can come in and work on the floor,” Jones said. “Until that’s resolved, he’s handling his business and we support him 100 percent. At the same time, the guys that are here are working, and we have a goal and a mission and we’re not going to let anything stop us from focusing. We’re staying on course.”


No. 2: Dwight Howard feels silence is better this time — When the summer arrives and if he becomes a free agent, there won’t be a big fuss made about Dwight Howard. For one, he perhaps isn’t the franchise player now than he was then. And he isn’t going to make the process a dramatic presentation, unlike a few years ago when he made a messy exit from Orlando. Older and wiser and certainly stung by the criticism, Howard has adopted a new approach this time: He’d rather leave well enough alone. Ken Berger of CBS Sports had a take on Dwight and what the future may hold…

Given that each of Howard’s pre-free agency go-rounds with the Magic and the Lakers turned into a full-on circus, this was a step in the right direction for the soon-to-be 30-year-old All-Star.

“There’s no need for me to focus on anything next summer,” Howard said. “My job is to focus on how I can get this team to be the best team in the NBA and win a championship.”

The Rockets didn’t get LaMarcus Aldridge, as there is only one LaMarcus Aldridge and he signed with the Spurs. But with a worthwhile gamble on Ty Lawson — who will take some of the play-making pressure and defensive attention away from James Harden — the Rockets will be among the better teams in a loaded Western Conference. According to Las Vegas oddsmaker Bovada, the Rockets’ championship odds are 16-1 — sixth in the NBA.

Though the team revolves around Harden, the Rockets need a healthy, committed and engaged Howard to be in the hunt to come out of the West. Healthy, committed and engaged, however, are not words that have been synonymous with Howard in recent years.

With the Lakers, he was hindered by after-effects of back surgery and an uneasy partnership with Kobe Bryant. Last season, he played only 41 games due to persistent issues with his right knee.

In many ways, Howard is a cautionary tale for marquee free agents who are thinking about leaving their teams when the TV revenue windfall hits the market over the next two summers. After forcing his way to the Lakers from Orlando in a 2012 trade, Howard spent one miserable season in LA before bolting to the Rockets. Howard, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony are just a few examples of superstars who left for supposedly greener pastures (either through free agency or via trade) and still have yet to advance as far in the postseason as they’d been with their former teams.

Are you paying attention, Kevin Durant?


No. 3: Back in the coaching chair, Sam Mitchell is ready — The guy in charge of the Wolves at the moment never thought he’d be in this position so soon. But a year after joining the staff as the top assistant to Flip Saunders, Sam Mitchell is now coaching the Wolves while Saunders recovers from cancer treatment. Mitchell was a former Coach of the Year with the Raptors but flamed out shortly thereafter and found himself out of work until his old buddy Saunders reached out. Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune recently did a question and answer with Mitchell…

Q. It has been seven years since you were a head coach. These obviously aren’t the circumstances you wanted, but did you always want to do this again?

A. Yeah, once I made the decision to come back into coaching, to prove myself and show people I want to be a head coach again. I enjoyed my time in the media. I learned a lot, got to watch a lot of basketball. It still tugs at me a little bit with the circumstances, but we all have a job to do and we’ve got to be professional and do our jobs.

Q. How did being away from coaching change the way you look at the game?

A. When you’re coaching, you just watch your team and the opponent. When you’re doing TV and radio, you’re watching everybody. I got a chance to talk to different coaches. Why do you do this or do that? It was a great learning experience and it proved to me I can do something else if I needed to. A lot of guys panic if they’re not in coaching, like that’s all I know, what am I going to do? It gave me confidence in myself that I can do other things.

Q. You said it at the news conference yourself and Glen Taylor said he has seen you mature. How will people who watched those Raptors teams see it now?

A. That’s not for me to say. I think every day you try to get a little better. That’s what I try to do. I’m probably not as hard on myself and not as hard on people as I used to be. I’ll probably still have my moments. But I appreciate life in different ways now. I can appreciate what these guys do, I can appreciate what assistant coaches do, I can appreciate what the media does now because I was there. Hopefully with that experience I have more patience and I look at things a little differently. But I’m not going to sit here and try to list how I’m different. I guess if you’re around me enough, you’ll see it.

Q. Were you too hard, too intense the first time around?

A. Well, I’m not going to lose my intensity. I was talking to my minister recently and he reminded me don’t lose what got you here. You’re an intense person, but you can do it a little bit different. I can communicate a little differently. Hopefully my language is better.


No. 4: Big man pairing has Okafor and Sixers excitedJahlil Okafor was a high lottery pick and so was Nerlens Noel and now these two found themselves playing next to each other for the team that drafted them. When that team is the Sixers, you can see what they’d be in position to score a pair of bigs in two years. Now many teams have the luxury of putting two promising young bigs on the floor and watching them develop, yet that will be one of the main themes of the Sixers this season while they use yet another 82-game season to search for a star from within. Marcus Hayes of the Daily News thinks Philly is on to something …

With skillful tanking and blind luck, the Sixers today find themselves in a nearly unprecedented position. Noel and Okafor were the two most coveted post players of their respected draft classes; each nearly 7 feet tall with wonderful athletic gifts, though slightly different; each hungry to prove he was more valuable than the slot in which he was drafted.

Ralph Sampson, the Virginia gentleman, and Hakeem Olajuwon, the Nigerian project, were drafted first overall a year apart by the Rockets, but they played only two full seasons together. Both No. 1 overall picks, they never had the extra incentive of being snubbed.

Charismatic Midshipman David Robinson had cemented his Hall of Fame berth by the time the Spurs added dour islander Tim Duncan in 1997.

“They were very different people,” said Sixers coach Brett Brown, who worked with Duncan and Robinson briefly as a Spurs assistant.

Those pedigreed pairs had less in common than Noel and Okafor.

Both Noel (Boston) and Okafor (Chicago) are products of big American cities; AAU-groomed, highly touted, one-and-done products of elite college programs expected to lead their drafts.

Both also are still upset that other teams passed on them. Each was projected as the No. 1 overall pick but slipped; Noel, injured, to fifth two years ago; Okafor, his unmatched skill set out of vogue, to third this year.

So, they are angry.

So much common ground.

So much time to grow.

It shouldn’t take long.

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Warriors will wear special jerseys in the opener … Mike Conley is sticking with the mask for now Serge Ibaka is coming back from an injury too, remember … Dorell Wright wrote a letter to his younger brother and NBA rookie Delon …

Reports: Thompson passes on Cavs qualifying offer Staff Reports

Well, the thing that everyone following the Cavaliers-Tristan Thompson saga presumed would happened has happened. And that’s nothing.

Multiple reports say that Thompson has declined to sign Cleveland’s qualifying offer, and it’s just another wait-and-see on what’s next.


Report: Cancer battle ongoing for Timberwolves’ Saunders

The announcement by Golden State that Warriors coach Steve Kerr is taking a leave of absence to recover from back surgery brought the number of NBA head coaches dealing with health issues this preseason to two. The other, of course, is Minnesota’s Flip Saunders, who is battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma and will not be actively involved with the Timberwolves for at least the first half of the 2015-16 season.

Saunders’ dual role as president/head coach is being handled on an interim basis by GM Milt Newton and assistant coach Sam Mitchell. The organization is giving Saunders and his family as much time and privacy as they need while fighting his illness. Wolves beat writer Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune did provide an update Thursday during a live chat on the newspaper’s website:

There’s no question things have changed dramatically since the team announced his diagnosis in August, back when it quoted his doctors saying the cancer was very treatable and curable. Since then there have been changes to the way his body handled the chemotherapy (and maybe how much cancer they’ve found) that have made it life threatening. Everyone involved has gone radio silent because of the family’s request for privacy and federal patient-privacy laws, etc., but between the complete silence, the lack of people visiting as far as I can tell apart from his immediate family and very inner circle while he remains hospitalized here in Minneapolis and the things I’m hearing second-hand, well, none of it is good. I’ll just say this, and this is just my own opinion, if he pulls through this: I doubt very much he’s back this year, it’s probably unlikely he coaches again just because of the stress inherent doing both those jobs and I think there’s a pretty good chance he doesn’t return full time to either job. As far as the franchise goes, that will put them in a holding pattern for some time. I can’t see Glen Taylor allowing Milt Newton and Sam to make a major decision until they know more about Flip’s future and Glen decides who will run his team for the long term. I wouldn’t assume it’ll be Milt and Sam going forward, that’s just for the short term until things become clearer.

Kerr takes leave of absence from Warriors

VIDEO: Stephen Curry talks on Media Day

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Luke Walton is the new coach of the defending NBA champions. Well, for the time being, at least.

The Golden State Warriors announced Thursday afternoon that head coach Steve Kerr is taking an indefinite leave of absence to recover from two back surgeries he underwent this summer.

The Golden State Warriors announced today that Head Coach Steve Kerr, who underwent surgery on his back to repair a ruptured disc in late July and a follow-up surgery in early September, will take a leave of absence from the team as he continues with rehabilitation and the recovery process. The length of Kerr’s absence is unknown and will be based on his progress.

“At this point, the most important thing is to make sure Steve is healthy, completely recovered and ready for not only the rigors of a long NBA season, but day-to-day life in general,” said Warriors General Manager Bob Myers. “We don’t anticipate the recovery process will be long term, but as of today we don’t know the exact timeframe. We’ll evaluate his progress daily and provide updates as necessary.”

“After the first two days of training camp, I realized I need to take a step back and focus on my rehabilitation in order to be ready for the grind of another NBA season,” said Kerr. “As I noted last week, my summer was difficult and no fun due to the multiple back surgeries. At this point, I simply want to get healthy and back to my normal daily routine on and off the court.”

So for the time being, Walton, who was an active player just 30 months ago and had just stepped into the lead assistant role with the departure of Alvin Gentry, is the man in charge of the best team in the league.

The Warriors begin their preseason schedule against the Toronto Raptors, in San Jose on Monday. They’ll get their rings on opening night of the regular season, which is 26 days away.