Posts Tagged ‘Bill Duffy’

Morning Shootaround — August 10


NEWS OF THE MORNING


VIDEO: Alonzo Mourning delivers his moving Hall of Fame speech

Durant’s National Team dues have been paid | Ray Allen will play in 2014-15 season | Lakers still feeling the sting of deal that never happened

No. 1: Durant’s National Team dues have been paid – Eyebrows around the globe went up when Kevin Durant officially withdrew from the roster for the 2014 FIBA World Cup late last week, citing physical and mental exhaustion. Folks will continue to debate whether or not it was the right decision. But our Jeff Caplan insists Durant’s dues have been paid:

In the words of Pat Riley: Get a grip.

Kevin Durant‘s decision to walk away from Team USA little more than three weeks before the start of the 2014 world championships is hardly the end of the world. It’s not even the end of the Americans’ chances to defend their 2010 gold medal, when Durant cleaned up as tournament MVP.

So Team USA’s leading scorer on the 2012 gold-medal-winning Olympic squad will join LeBron James,LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Dwight HowardKevin Love and NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard as stateside spectators. After participating in last week’s training camp in Las Vegas that opened with Durant inundated by questions about his coming free agency — in 2016! — and ended with the jarring snap of Paul George‘s right leg, Durant on Thursday informed USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski that he needed to take a “step back.”

In a statement, the Oklahoma City superstar explained his decision for reneging on his commitment to the national team. Mentally and physically worn down from last season and a busy summer of commitments, the NBA’s MVP said he needed these final 50 days or so of the offseason to recharge before beginning another long, expectation-laden season.

So get a grip.

Criticism of Durant having bailed on the national team, or worse, on his country, or of putting the squad in a bind weeks before departing for Spain are unjustified. Durant has for years been an enthusiastic supporter, a valiant competitor and a gracious ambassador for USA Basketball.

As I noted on July 30 as Durant was being grilled in Vegas about playing for his hometown Washington Wizards two summers from now, Durant didn’t have to be there. He chose to be there. With all due respect, the rebranded World Cup isn’t the Olympics, the créme de la créme of international competition as far as an American audience is concerned. And if we’re being honest, that goes for American basketball players, too. The world championships have always, and likely always will mean more to Pau Gasol and Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, who, by the way, is foregoing the World Cup one year after leading France to its first-ever European championship.

It was Durant’s sense of commitment to USA Basketball in the first place that led him a year ago to announce his intention to anchor this squad. But the day after the Thunder lost in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals, Durant openly spoke of how physically and mentally grueling the season — half of which he carried the Thunder without injured co-star Russell Westbrook — had truly been. Nobody amassed more regular-season minutes and then more postseason minutes than the MVP.

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Clark Ready For Opportunity With Jazz

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Advanced metrics are at the heart of measuring a pro prospect’s potential. But as newly signed Utah Jazz guard Ian Clark is out to prove, number-crunching can’t measure heart.

He’s used to the doubts.

The skinny kid from Memphis didn’t get a scholarship offer from his hometown Tigers after four stellar years at Germantown High School. And after four tremendous seasons at Belmont as a knock-down shooter on three NCAA Tournament teams and an all-conference defender, not even the hometown Grizzlies, rooted in defense and desperate for perimeter shooting, showed much interest in this 6-foot-3 ‘tweener — undersized by NBA standards to play shooting guard and not a natural point guard.

“Not that I know of,” Clark said from Memphis in a Tuesday morning phone interview about 18 hours after he signed his contract in Salt Lake City and was introduced as the latest member of the youth-movement Jazz.

“I guess it’s kind of instilled in me now since I’ve been growing up,” the 175-pound Clark said of being a perennial underdog. “I’ve never been the premiere player, per se, and getting all the attention, so I’ve kind of gotten used to that. At the same time, it’s a sense of pride and sense of confidence that you have in yourself that you want to prove you can compete with anybody. So that’s kind of the chip I’ve had since high school and throughout college and now I have to do it at this level.”

NBA TV’s David Aldridge covered every angle of Clark’s basketball journey through the Summer League, including his awesome 33-point championship game with the Golden State Warriors that Clark’s agent Bill Duffy said put his client “over the top.”

Clark, 22, said he picked the Jazz over a few other interested teams as well as some lucrative options overseas because of the team’s foundation of young players and the opportunity to break in quickly.

The Jazz totally revamped their backcourt outside of shooting guards Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks. They acquired shooting guard Brandon Rush, drafted point guard Trey Burke out of Michigan and signed journeyman point guard John Lucas III. Clearly, the point guard position could provide plenty of opportunity for a player who seizes it.

So now the question is: Can Clark, a high-character person play the point at a high enough level in the NBA? At Belmont, he shot better than 48 percent for his career and 42.5 percent from beyond the arc. He only averaged 2.2 assists in his career, but he wasn’t asked to set people up; he got set up to let it fly.

“I look at myself as a combo guard, being able to utilize my shooting ability when needed, but also being able to bring the ball upcourt and initiate the offense and get guys going,” Clark said. “I’m definitely not a pure 1 (point guard), but I’ve been working a lot this summer on my ballhandling and making the right reads, ball screens and defense.”

Playing for Miami in the Orlando Summer League, Clark scored 15 points on Burke and the Heat. With Golden State in Las Vegas, he averaged 9.0 ppg until he scorched the  Suns for seven 3-pointers and was named the title game’s MVP. He averaged 1.4 apg while the Warriors up-and-coming shooting guard Kent Bazemore handled the point the majority of the time.

“I’ve been playing 2-guard my whole life,” Clark said. “I think it’s definitely going to be a transition, but once I get used to it, once I get with Utah and coach [Ty Corbin] really helps me out, I think I’ll be able to transition into a combo guard.”

That’s the Jazz’s hope.

Oden’s Comeback Destination Due In Days

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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — His workouts complete, his guests leaving in some mixture of intrigued and wary, sidelined center Greg Oden could choose the NBA team with which he’ll attempt his latest comeback as soon as Monday, one of his agents said Friday.

Six teams are believed to have scouted the 7-footer — the No. 1 pick in the 2007 Draft who has played a total of 82 games in six years due to multiple knee injuries — in workouts in Oden’s native Indianapolis, including Miami, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio, Atlanta and Dallas.

Agent Bill Duffy declined to reveal details, but said contract talks have ranged from general conversation to more specific terms, as the teams consider both the rewards and the risks of signing a premier talent whose body, thus far, has been unable to withstand the rigors of NBA play.

“Physically, he’s awesome,” Duffy said Friday afternoon. “We’re very happy with where he is. [His health and impact are] going to depend on monitoring him and his minutes.”

Oden, 25, has not played in an NBA game since Dec. 5, 2009. Four days earlier, in his final full performance for Portland against Miami, he had 13 points, 20 rebounds and four blocked shots in 30 minutes.

In 61 games in 2008-09 and 21 the next season, Oden averaged 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 22.1 minutes while shooting 57.7 percent. He has had three microfracture knee surgeries, which might dissuade teams from offering more than a veteran’s minimum salary, perhaps with appearance-driven incentives.

Another of Oden’s agents is Mike Conley, Sr., whose son is a point guard for the Memphis Grizzlies and a friend from their days together in high school and college. Mike Conley Jr. told Sean Deveney the Sporting News this week that he thinks Oden, in spurts, might be able to help a team.

“I expect him to come back and be someone who in short periods of time can dominate a game,” Conley said. “Just let him build up and get back to himself. I think it would be a little unfair to put him out there and give him 40 minutes.”

The NBA has a checkered history of players who have managed to return from career-threatening injuries. Miami president Pat Riley recently talked about players such as Kurt Thomas and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, both of whom were hampered for several seasons by foot problems, yet revived their careers through rehab. Guard Shaun Livingston, now with Brooklyn, is another whose NBA days seemed in 2007 after a leg injury captured in a gruesome YouTube video.

But Oden’s teammate in Portland, Brandon Roy, was unsuccessful in a comeback attempt last fall with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Houston’s 7-foot-6 Yao Ming ultimately was forced into retirement at age 30 in 2011 by chronic foot fractures.

The best spot for Oden to land? That likely depends on a team’s balance sheet, its risk tolerance and its commitment to patience and modest results. The teams showing interest in Oden run the gamut, from the NBA’s two-time defending champions in Miami and perennial contenders in San Antonio, to lottery teams last season in New Orleans, Sacramento and Dallas. Atlanta, too, is in the midst of an overhaul and shopping.

Portland, the team that drafted Oden over No. 2 Kevin Durant six years ago and paid him more than $23 million for the equivalent of one season’s production, apparently is not interested. Curiously, a team missing from the list of six is Phoenix, which has one of the most respected training staffs in the league that’s been a draw for ailing players such as Grant Hill and Jermaine O’Neal.

Should Oden reach a deal with Miami, the spotlight on him will be hotter than with any of the other five. He’ll risk being seen as something of a front-runner, as he would to a lesser extent with the Spurs. Then again, Miami took a similar flyer on Eddy Curry without much clamor and facilitated Chris [Birdman] Andersen‘s return as a valuable contributor who never rocked the Big Three boat of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

Any of the teams lower in the pecking order — the Pelicans, Kings, Hornets or Hawks — could offer more modest expectations. And if Oden were to stay healthy and help one of them, he might find himself with more supporters nationally and globally than he would by jumping aboard the Miami or San Antonio bandwagons.

“We’ve looked at all the scenarios,” Duffy said Friday. “There might be less pressure if he tries this with a team that’s rebuilding. Then again, the quality of the medical staff will matter. Maybe a winning team has chemistry that’s good or his role would be clearly defined.”

Oden’s choice, assuming he picks from among multiple offers, will affect not only his NBA future but the number of people rooting for him to have one.

Bucks’ ‘Young Money’ All Grown Up?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – For a player whose name alone stirred as much debate as it did four years ago, it’s stunning how silent folks are now that Brandon Jennings is seemingly all grown up (or at least well on his way).

All of the critics who questioned his motives and at-the-time controversial decision to skip college for a year, instead pursuing his professional hoop dream in Italy, have disappeared. It’s been a steady climb for Jennings, who has done nothing but improve his game year after year, from a rough start in Italy to being drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 10th pick in the 2009 NBA Draft the next year, to now.

Has he grown enough on and off the court for the Bucks to cement his future in Milwaukee with a contract extension before the Oct. 31 deadline? That remains to be seen.

But with days left before a decision has to be made, Jennings would become a restricted free agent at the end of this season if there is no extension, the topic is on the minds of some. Gery Woelfel of the Journal Times raised the question to Jennings, who has more pressing matters on his mind these days, namely making sure he and backcourtmate Monta Ellis return the Bucks to the playoffs:

Jennings has repeatedly said he’s content in Milwaukee and would welcome being with the Bucks for the long haul. Signing an extension would virtually assure that.

But Jennings said he isn’t the least bit worried if an extension can’t be worked out.

Asked if his contract situation was weighing on his mind, Jennings said, “No, because at the end of the day, everything will work out. All I can do is go between the lines and play basketball every day.’’

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Welcome To Recruiting Season

– For the latest updates check out: NBA.com’s Free Agent Tracker

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – This is always our favorite part.

Now that you can actually back up the rumors with real, live contact with free agents, we’re going to get a chance to see exactly who is serious about taking home some prizes in this compressed NBA free agency period.

Contact between team officials and players can be made this morning, meaning we no longer have to subsist on a daily diet of unnamed sources and innuendo. With courting season tipping off, we’ll get a chance to see what teams are ready to back up the hype generated in the past week.

If you like Caron Butler or Jamal Crawford, invite them to tour your practice facility and chauffeur them around town like the blue-chip free agent many teams think they are.

If Nene or Tyson Chandler is the big man you must have, the one that will solidify your team’s frontline, now is the time to show them just how much they are needed. Someone has to give these guys a reason to sign here rather than there.

And with the finishing touches on the nuts and bolts of a new collective bargaining agreement still in the works, free agency is going to come down to the same thing it almost always does (aside from cold hard cash, of course) — which team can work it best during recruiting season.

The recruiting season does extend beyond middle, high school and college ball.

Good recruiters are just as valuable at the NBA level, because they know what buttons to push to turn the head of players being pursued from nearly every direction.

The universal opinion that this free agent crop is lacking in franchise talent, a theory that is hard to argue when comparing the 2011 crop to that star-studded 2010 bunch. But that’s what makes the right recruiting pitch even more important — there were only a handful of teams with legitimate shots to land the likes of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Amar’e Stoudemire.

What franchise worth its private jet doesn’t think it can lure David West or Kris Humphries with the right recruiting pitch?

On to the madness …

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ROCKETS CHASING A NEW BIG MAN

With the Yao Ming era officially over, might Nene be the man the Rockets tab to replace him in the middle? Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports that the Rockets’ interest will shift to a face-to-face meeting with the Brazilian big man today, one of many in-person recruiting pitches Nene is sure receive before making a decision on his future:

The Rockets’ pursuit of free-agent center Nene will move to a meeting Monday in Denver between the coveted center and Rockets coach Kevin McHale and general manager Daryl Morey, a person with knowledge of the meeting said on Sunday.

Nene is considered the top free agent available and has indicated a desire to leave the Denver Nuggets after failing to reach an agreement on a contract extension before the lockout. The Rockets had tried to work a deal with the Nuggets to acquire Nene prior to last season’s trade deadline.

Morey has also been in talks with the representative of free-agent center Tyson Chandler.

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Labor Talks: Time To Make A Move

– For labor updates, follow: @daldridgetnt | @AschNBA

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Don’t beat yourself up if you’re having a hard time keeping up. Most of us are in the same spot, trying to figure out who is for what as the clock ticks down to the league’s 5 p.m. ET Wednesday deadline for the players to either take or dismiss the league’s 50-50 proposal.

Some players are all for making a deal, as Kobe Bryant told Yahoo! Sports:

“We need for the two sides to get together again before Wednesday, because we’re too close to getting a deal done,” Bryant told Yahoo! Sports. “We need to iron out the last system items and save this from spiraling into a nuclear winter.”

Some others are not. Some of the owners are for it and apparently, per ESPN.com‘s sources, some others are not. It’s high time someone made a move, the right move to get the 2011-12 season up and running.

But when the sides can’t come to a consensus within their own caucuses, it’s tough to see some sort of breakthrough if and when the sides come together again to try and hash out the final details of a new collective bargaining agreement.

With the union representatives from all 30 teams set to meet today in New York, in advance of Wednesday’s end-of-business deadline, plenty of observers are a little nervous about what type of movement could emerge from the gathering. The players have limited options at this point. They can take a vote on the proposal and decide to take the deal, bowing to the league’s “ultimatum,” as union president Derek Fisher called it over the weekend, and breathe life into a season and the NBA fan base. Or they can refuse to even consider it, as Fisher insisted in the immediate aftermath of Saturday’s bargaining session, and push this affair into an even darker corner.

Fair or not, the players will own the next 36 hours of this mess.

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Labor Talks: Here We Go Again

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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Did you wake up this morning wondering what the first weekend of November has in store for you, NBA fans?

Let us help.

How about another round of “talks,” perhaps even another round of hollow smiles and more posturing about deadlines that move at the whim of the men on both sides of the league’s labor dispute and even a scare tactic or two that threatens to cost us the entire 2011-12 season?

We completely understand if lockout fatigue syndrome is full-blown in your household. It’s choking the life out of things here at the hideout, where every breaking news blast is met with a raised eyebrow and questions about who might be pulling the strings on this latest stunt (the dissolution of the union is coming back to the forefront now).

(SI.com and NBA TV’s legal analyst Michael McCann details all of the particulars for you!)

They’ve met in small groups, larger groups and committees. There have been conference calls, secret ones and not-so-secret alike, news conferences and now threats of the union decertifying and still no sign of the one thing we need … a new collective bargaining agreement!

Substantive talks are one thing and we’d welcome anything in that neighborhood going on this weekend.

But showing up to a Manhattan hotel and sticking around just long enough to tell each other that nothing has changed is not what we’d consider progress.

And we’re not the only ones exhausted by the process …

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Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe captures the mood of many with his column that places the current state of affairs in the proper historical context:

It is very annoying for those of us who still love the sport of professional basketball to see what its custodians are currently doing to harm it. I wish it were as easy to decipher as the NFL madness. It was pretty easy to outfit the combatants in that one.

White Hats: Players

Black Hats: Owners

The NFL lockout was about very rich guys, all making a profit from their teams, wanting more. The players asked for nothing. Status quo was fine with them. There was a $9 billion pie, and there was ample opportunity for everyone to get a nice slice.

The NBA pie is worth “only’’ approximately $4 billion, and, unlike the NFL, not everyone makes a profit. That is clear. But just who is losing what remains unclear, because history teaches us that in these matters, professional sports teams make statements concerning their finances that, while perhaps not outright lies, are, shall we say, substantial stretches of the truth. Make that enormous, stupendous, astonishing stretches of the truth.

Labor Talks: Tick Tock, Tick Tock …

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We’ve all known for a while now that the first week of October would serve as a crucial week in these NBA labor talks.

No progress before then and the opening days of this month could be a make-or-break time for both sides, not to mention the millions of us around the world biting our nails hoping that our first love (the NBA) would come back to us … and soon.

It’s hard to categorize the things that have gone on in recent days as true progress. Sure, there have been meetings. Ideas have been exchanged. But no one is talking in a way that suggests that even the loose framework of a deal is under way.

And now comes this crossroads moment, a “very huge day,” according to the words used by union president Derek Fisher in characterizing today’s session.

We won’t know exactly what that means until the sides emerge from that meeting room in New York and explain themselves after yet another day of exhausting conversation about how to close the gap between what the owners want and the players are willing to give.

But if the developments of the past 24 hours are any indication, everyone seems to be digging in and the clock continues to tick …

Agents Urge Players To Stay Strong

Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated: In a letter to their clients, Arn Tellem (Wasserman Media Group), Bill Duffy (BDA Sports), Dan Fegan (Lagardère Unlimited), Jeff Schwartz (Excel Sports Management), Leon Rose and Henry Thomas (Creative Artists Agency) and Mark Bartelstein (Priority Sports and Entertainment), outlined what is deemed acceptable and unacceptable going into the biggest day of negotiating yet.

Here are some of the notable demands in the letter, which was obtained by SI.com from a player: (Click here for the full letter in PDF):

• With the National Basketball Players’ Association having already offered to drop the players’ portion of basketball-related income from 57 percent to 52 percent, the agents implore players to insist on “no further reduction of the BRI received by the players. A source close to the union told SI.com recently that any agreed-upon deal in which the players received 51 percent could possibly be ratified but would likely lead to the ousting of Billy Hunter as the NBPA’s executive director, so this is in line with those parameters.

• A system in which the current structure of the Bird and mid-level exceptions remains the same.

• No reduction in salary from existing levels for maximum contract players.

• No changes in unrestricted free agency and improvements on restricted free agency.

• “Refuse any deal that excludes players from the explosive growth of the NBA.” Owners’ proposals that have started with players receiving 46 percent of the BRI have included drastic declines in their percentage of the pie in the later years of the agreement.

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Labor: Where Do We Go From Here?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Stunning is the only way to describe the mood shift here at the hideout in the past 24 hours.

From giddy anticipation for potential progress that could come from the first full bargaining session since the lockout began to the depths of despair in the aftermath of said meeting producing nothing of the sort. I tried to warn folks. No deal would be struck. The two sides were probably not going to move off of their initial positions. They did not.

The owners and players (and their representatives) are as far apart right now as they were when this entire ordeal began. It’s as if the calendar hasn’t moved one bit since July 1.

NBA commissioner David Stern and union executive director Billy Hunter might even agree on that. There is no next bargaining session scheduled. Not even a brief get together for coffee. Nothing.

The labor talks have “Hit a wall,” as our very own Steve Aschburner points out, but he is not the only one shining a light on the hard cap vs. soft cap debate that seems be at the center of the impasse (this week).

You can choose sides all you want, but as far as these eyes can see the only real losers in this entire affair are those of us who love the game and want to see it played as soon as possible.

Still, we have to gauge the reactions from all sides and examine the fine points of each and every argument. More importantly, we have to sort through the rubble now and figure out exactly where we go from here. Because optimism is no longer a part of this equation …

The Union’s Next Test … Decertification

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: When [Hunter] goes to Las Vegas on Wednesday for the most important players meeting of his tenure as executive director, does he find a coup awaiting him?

“Now Billy has to go to Las Vegas with nothing to bring the players,” a prominent agent told Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday night.

“He’s chosen a particular path, and there hasn’t been any progress on that path. There was all this false optimism in the last week about how the league was going to come with a new proposal that he could take back to the players, and they came with nothing. Stern wants to stall, and stall until the players start missing paychecks.

“Billy was hoping that he could keep the players engaged, excited that a deal was coming. There was all that rhetoric of good feelings, and today was the day that Stern was going to come with a proposal. He was relying on the fact that Stern would negotiate in good faith with him, that he didn’t want to lose games. He thought that Stern would blink, start to negotiate. He was relying on the fact Stern didn’t want to hurt the game, and he was wrong.”

Yes, there had to be a pit in Hunter’s stomach. Three hours waiting for the owners to debate among themselves, big markets wanting to cut a deal, and small markets willing to lose games – lose the season – to get guaranteed profits and maybe a better chance to chase championships.

There’s a big labor meeting in Las Vegas on Thursday, and Hunter is competing for the hearts and minds of his rank-and-file players. He’s already lost the top agents, who are laying the groundwork for a coup, sources told Yahoo! Sports. The decision to make a move on Hunter could come as soon as this week, agents privately said.

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Blazers Continue To Wait On Oden

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The good news for Blazers fans is that Greg Oden wants to resume his NBA career in Portland and the club has given indications that it will pick up the qualifying offer on his contract by the June 30 deadline.

The further good news is that Blazers fans might not have to suffer through the disappointment of Oden suffering another season-ending injury in November or December of next season.

That’s because the bad news is that his agent Bill Duffy says it could be January before the 7-foot center is ready to play.

Duffy spoke with Brian Berger on 750 AM The Game in Portland and the plan this time is to take it very slooooowly:

“You proceed with caution,” Duffy said. “We don’t want to come back too soon. We’re not going to even challenge it until we get to that 12 month threshold. If it were December or November or January we just can’t afford any more slip ups. We’ll wait until we get full clearance and then probably err on the side of caution, maybe a month or so after that.”

Oden, the No. 1 pick in the 2007 Draft, has had microfracture surgery on both knees since the start of his NBA career and played in just 82 of 328 games in his four seasons with the Blazers.

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