Posts Tagged ‘Chris Mannix’

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 63)

HANG TIME STUDIOS – Eight days of NBA action is all we needed to fire up the engines here at the hideout. Eight days of highlights, heroics and high drama.

And you know whenever there is NBA drama (good and/or bad) to be discussed, we do it on the Hang Time Podcast.

We rounded up a crew of experts to chop it up with us this week.

– Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman joined us to break down the Thunder and the latest drama surrounding Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

– Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated dove in during the Ricky Rubio festival, which included us trying to finally settle the debate as to who is really driving the Rubio bandwagon, while also dropping a little Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao knowledge on us.

– Tom Ziller of SBNation and Sactown Royalty  helped us close out the show with the latest on Demarcus Cousins and the Sacramento Kings and all the craziness that comes with that mess.

Eight days and we get all this and more. If you have any suggestions or topics you’d like to see us cover as the season rolls along, let us know in the comments or on Twitter.

LISTEN HERE:


As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Lang Whitaker of SLAM Magazine and Sekou Smith of NBA.com, as well as our super producer Micah Hart of NBA.com’s All Ball Blog.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.

Trade Rumors Flying At Wicked Clip

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

FROM ALMOST DONE TO “DEAD”

UPDATE 9:47 p.m.: One of the biggest blockbuster trades of this new NBA season died before it ever got done.  Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, who first reported the deal earlier, is now reporting that the deal was killed by the league.

NBA commissioner David Stern has killed the New Orleans Hornets’ trade of Chris Paul after several owners complained about the league-owned team dealing the All-Star point guard to the Los Angeles Lakers, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.

Some owners pushed Stern to demand that trade be nullified, and the Hornets be made to keep Paul on the roster for the foreseeable future, sources said. A chorus of owners were irate with the belief that the five-month lockout had happened largely to stop big-market teams from leveraging small-market teams for star players pending free agency.

All the players involved in the trade have been told to report to their teams for the start of training camp on Friday.

Before Stern intervened, the Lakers had reached an agreement to acquire Paul in a three-team trade that would have cost them Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.

The shockwaves that the initial reports of the deal sent around the league will be matched by the outrage simmering now that the deal is apparently off.

* * *   * * *   * * *

LAKERS’ DEAL FOR PAUL DEAL CLOSE

UPDATE 6:03 p.m.: Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports is reporting that the Hornets are informing teams that Chris Paul is headed to the Lakers in a deal for Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom:

The Hornets have started to inform teams that they’re sending Chris Paul to the Lakers for Gasol and Odom, league sources tell Y! Sports.

Whether or not this removes the Lakers from the Dwight Howard sweepstakes remains to be seen. They still have Andrew Bynum to work with, if they were to pursue such a deal.

But Kobe Bryant and Bynum with Paul running the show keeps the Lakers among the elite and favorites in the Western Conference.

* * *   * * *   * * *

PACKAGE DEAL?

UPDATE 5:58 p.m.: Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports is reporting that free agent small forward Josh Howard and coveted big man Nene could be a package deal, depending on where the Brazilian center/power forward signs:

 Wiz free agent SF Josh Howard is attracted to signing with team DEN FA C Nene signs with, source tells Y! SA, Chi, Den, NO, Utah, NJ in mix

* * *   * * *   * * *

BREAKING DOWN THE DEAL

UPDATE 3:47 p.m.: David Aldridge reports Caron Butler is heading to the Clippers, reportedly for three years/$24 million. Butler was considering offers from the Nets, Bulls, and Spurs, but chose the up and coming Clippers instead.

Also, parameters for a potential three-team deal appear to be in place that would land Chris Paul in Los Angeles with the Lakers. According to Aldridge, the deal would look like this:

Lakers get: G Chris Paul

Hornets get: F Luis Scola, G Kevin Martin, G Goran Dragic, 1st and second round picks

Rockets get: F/C Pau Gasol

Note: The deal is not done. Sources indicate while the Lakers and Rockets are comfortable with the deal, the Hornets are still making inquiries about Paul with other teams.

* * *   * * *   * * *

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Thank you Tayshaun Prince.

Thank you for doing your business quietly and without rumors swirling about your future. Thank you for bringing a measure of calm to a process that has been anything but for so many. And congratulations on four more years in Detroit for a tidy $27 million.

Now back to the trade rumor craziness that has had all of our heads spinning today.

The truth is, we don’t have enough hands that could type fast enough here at the hideout to keep up with all of this craziness. The rumors are flying at a wicked clip. and the official start of free agency is still hours away.

What we know, as of this minute, is that the New York Knicks have come out of nowhere to lead the pack in the chase for Tyson Chandler, per reports from both Ken Berger of CBSSports.com and . Of course, this could complicate the Knicks’ pursuit of Chris Paul (unless they have another move up their sleeve) and deals yet another nasty blow to Chauncey Billups, who could be on the move for the second time in 10 months due to circumstances, one way or another when all is said and done.

Then there is that SI.com report confirming the discussions of a three-way deal between the Rockets, Lakers and Hornets that would send Paul to the Lakers and allow the Lakers to hold on to Andrew Bynum, but only so they can do more business next. Chris Mannix of SI.com added via Twitter that:

Lakers pushing hard to make Pau/CP3 deal. If they can close, would offer Bynum for Dwight and whatever bad contract ORL wants to dump.

TNT’s David Aldridge added the Pau Gasol to Houston portion to round out this latest development.

Good luck trying to make sense of all the different information, seeing as how it changes every few minutes. How did anyone keep up with all of this stuff before Twitter anyway?

Stay tuned. Things can only get crazier before the start of training camps tomorrow.

Labor Talks: Nuclear Winter No More!

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

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Merry Christmas NBA fans. Our 149-day lockout nightmare, and the NBA’s “Nuclear Winter” is over.

It’s a little early, but most appropriate now that there is a tentative settlement agreement on lawsuits that will pave the way for a collective bargaining agreement between the NBA and its players, reached after a marathon, 15-hour Black Friday-early Saturday negotiating session in New York.

That means the shortened 2011-12 season starts on Christmas Day, a 66-game season with training camp and free agency starting simultaneously on Dec. 9 and season-opening slate of games – Boston Celtics at the New York Knicks; Miami Heat at the Dallas Mavericks; and Chicago Bulls at the Los Angeles Lakers — that should serve as a fitting return our beloved game for fans around the globe.

All that said, a multitude of issues remain. But the framework of the new deal is done — we’ve been telling folks for months now, this thing wasn’t officially over until we had NBA Commissioner David Stern and (former) union executive director Billy Hunter sitting next to each other smiling … “Yahtzee!”

As NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner reported before the sun rose over the hideout, “players are to receive a “band” share of basketball-related income ranging from 49 percent to 51 percent depending on the league’s growth (with a more reasonable shot at 51 than in previous offers). A laundry list of system issues, meanwhile, are intended to make the NBA more competitive across its 30 teams.”

If the immediate player reactions are any indication, the rest of the process is strictly a formality. These guys clearly want to get back to what they do best.

Opinions will vary in the coming days and weeks about winners and losers. We will leave that for others to decide (more on that below). But I think it’s clear that the owners returned to the table ready to compromise in ways (the players already had) to ensure that we see NBA basketball before in time for the 2011 on that 2011-12 season to mean something.

In that respect, it’s a win-win for all sides (players/owners and most importantly the fans). Now, back to the news at hand (with a special HT hat tip to the dogged Ken Berger of CBSSports.com for breaking the story) …

***

Howard Beck of The New York Times: As a frantic Black Friday gave way to a sleepy Saturday morning in Midtown Manhattan, the biggest deal of all was consummated in a law office tucked between FAO Schwartz and the Apple Store. With handshakes, sighs and weary smiles, the N.B.A. and its players resolved a crippling labor dispute, allowing them to reopen their $4 billion-a-year business in time for the holidays. A 66-game season will start on Christmas Day, ending the second-longest lockout in league history. The deal was reached at about 3 a.m. Saturday, on the 149th day of the lockout, after a final 15-hour bargaining session at the law offices of Weil, Gotshal and Manges. “We’ve reached a tentative understanding that is subject to a variety of approvals and very complex machinations,” the league’s commissioner, David Stern, said at 3:40 a.m., “but we’re optimistic that that will all come to pass, and that the N.B.A. season will begin on Dec. 25, Christmas Day, with a tripleheader.” Training camps and free agency will open, simultaneously, on Dec. 9, giving teams two weeks to prepare. The three Christmas games are likely to be the ones that were already on the schedule: Boston at the Knicks, followed by Miami at Dallas and Chicago at the Los Angeles Lakers. The rest of the schedule will be reconstructed and released in the coming days. “We’re really excited,” said Peter Holt, the San Antonio Spurs owner and chairman of the league’s labor-relations committee. “We’re excited for the fans. We’re excited to start playing basketball, for players, for everybody involved.”

***

Brian C. Mahoney of the Associated Press (via The Washington Post): After a secret meeting earlier this week that got the broken process back on track, the sides met for more than 15 hours Friday, working to save the season. Stern said the agreement was “subject to a variety of approvals and very complex machinations, but we’re optimistic that will all come to pass and that the NBA season will begin Dec. 25.  The league plans a 66-game season and aims to open training camps Dec. 9, with free agency opening at the same time. Stern has said it would take about 30 days from an agreement to playing the first game. “All I feel right now is ‘finally,’” Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade told The Associated Press. Just 12 days after talks broke down and Stern declared the NBA could be headed to a “nuclear winter,” he sat next to Hunter to announce the 10-year deal, with either side able to opt out after the sixth year. “For myself, it’s great to be a part of this particular moment in terms of giving our fans what they wanted and wanted to see,” said Derek Fisher, the president of the players’ association. A majority on each side is needed to approve the agreement, first reported by CBSSports.com. The NBA needs votes from 15 of 29 owners. (The league owns the New Orleans Hornets.) Stern said the labor committee plans to discuss the agreement later Saturday and expects them to endorse it and recommend to the full board. The union needs a simple majority of its 430-plus members. That process is a bit more complicated after the players dissolved the union Nov. 14. Now, they must drop their antitrust lawsuit in Minnesota and reform the union before voting on the deal.

***

***

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: The owners made “significant moves” toward the players on several important system issues that long separated the two sides, a union source told Yahoo! Sports Saturday morning. “There’s still some tweaking to those that needs to be done,” the source said. After the tentative agreement was announced, some players privately said they would not vote for the deal, believing they had conceded too much to the owners. Still, there is not believed to be enough support to block ratification. “We’re optimistic that the [agreement] will hold and we’ll have ourselves an NBA season,” NBA commissioner David Stern said at a brief news conference held in New York with Players Association executive director Billy Hunter and president Derek Fisher. Free agency and training camps will start on Dec. 9, Stern said. Under the current agreement, the regular season would have a 66-game schedule that begins on Christmas Day with three games: Boston Celtics at the New York Knicks; Miami Heat at the Dallas Mavericks; and Chicago Bulls at the Los Angeles Lakers. Players are not expected to be permitted to start working out at their team facilities – or with coaching staffs – until camps open on Dec. 9. “It’s finally great to wake up to this kind of news,” Houston Rockets guard Kevin Martin said.

***

Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated: • Jeffrey Kessler nearly killed the deal. Again. Sort of. Kessler, the union’s outside counsel, has been a lightning rod for criticism during this process and a frequent target of Stern for what the NBA believes has been a disruptive influence in the negotiations. On Friday, Kessler nearly torpedoed the negotiations again when he, via speakerphone, asked the NBA for a 51 percent of the basketball-related income. Stern and Holt, who have been vehemently opposed to giving the players any more than 50 percent, rejected the proposal. While Kessler was merely the vessel delivering the union’s message, his offer infuriated representatives from the league and, according to a source close to the NBA’s Labor Relations Committee, nearly ended the negotiations. The two sides stayed at the table, however, and, according to the source, eventually agreed on a band that will give the players between 49 and 51 percent of the BRI. • The NBA is happy with this deal. The players are OK with it. Complete details of the new CBA won’t be disclosed for a few days, at least, but it’s clear the NBA got much of what it wanted. It reduced the players’ share of BRI by at least six percent (or $240 million per season) and will ultimately put significant restrictions on player movement, through the luxury tax, that will prevent big or more attractive markets from luring top players away from their incumbent teams. “I think it will largely prevent the high-spending teams from competing in the free-agency market in the way they [have] in the past,” [NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam] Silver said. “It’s a compromise. It’s not the system we sought out to get in terms of the harder cap, but the luxury tax is harsher than it was in the past deal and we hope it’s effective. You never can be sure, but we feel, ultimately, it will give fans in every community hope that their team will be able to compete for championships and that their basis for believing in their team will be a function of management rather than how deep the owners’ pockets are or how large the market is.” The players? It seems they got a deal they can live with. While many players will likely be unhappy with the concessions made by the union, the majority will vote to approve the deal, in part because they believe it’s the best deal they can get and in part because they are not willing to sacrifice an entire season’s salary.

***

***

Henry Abbott of ESPN.com: Common sense suggests players – many of whom have not followed all that closely, and almost all of whom love playing NBA basketball – will approve the deal.  But Hunter’s caution is not without reason. Compared to Stern, Hunter has a bigger, less predictable group that has surprised him more than once in this process with stridence.  There are more than 400 players, for one thing. For another, many of them are incredibly competitive and are sensitive to the idea Stern and the owners have walked on them. And the players not only have real power — some of them are plaintiffs in a case that must be dropped for the NBA to operate – but they also have some bitter pills to swallow, including spending cuts that will affect several free agents in the years to come, a smaller mid-level exception, and less job security for many rank-and-file players.  There may be some salesmanship in how Hunter, Derek Fisher and the Players Association handle the next few days.  If I were doing the selling, these are some of the points I’d make: *NBA free agency – the bedrock of every players’ market value — is not everything it once was, but it’s alive and well. There is no hard cap, and every team will have at least some kind of mid-level exception every year. * The Bird exception has led to some of the league’s best-paid, winningest, happiest players, and is essentially untouched. *Minimum team payrolls will be climbing. The league instituted this in the name of competitive balance. But it will be in effect whether or not better players are available for stingy teams to sign, and whether or not owners know how to spend that money wisely. That’s a win for free agents. The Grizzlies reportedly signed Zach Randolph in part because they had to get their salaries up to the league minimum. There will be more deals like this in the future. * The best way to really make a lot of money as a non-superstar NBA player is to touch off a free-agent bidding war. Revenue sharing will help even the most tight-fisted teams to join these once in a while. If $3 million or so sounds like a decent salary to you, right now, for the first time have as many as 30 teams that both want you and can afford you.

***

Chris Sheridan of Sheridanhoops.com: Here are some of the key details of those moves, according to a league source who was privy to the details of the tentative agreement and shared those details with SheridanHoops.com. _ On the financial split, the players will receive between 49 and 51 percent of revenues, depending on annual growth. The players had complained prior to Saturday that the owners’ previous offer effectively limited them to 50.2 percent of revenues, but the source said 51 percent was now reasonably achievable with robust growth. _Owners dropped their insistence on what would have been known as the Carmelo Anthony rule, preventing teams from executing extend-and-trade deals similar to the one that sent Anthony from the Denver Nuggets to the New York Knicks last season. This means that if Dwight Howard, Deron Williams and Chris Paul want to leverage their way out of Orlando, New Jersey and New Orleans, they will still be eligible to sign four-year extensions with their current teams before being immediately traded elsewhere. _ Teams above the salary cap will be able to offer four-year mid-level exception contracts to free agents each season. Previously, owners were asking that teams be limited to offering a four-year deal one year, a three-year deal the next, then four, then three, etc. _ The rookie salary scale and veteran minimum salaries will stay the same as they were last season. Owners had been seeking 12 percent cuts. _ Qualifying offers to restricted free agents will become “significantly” improved. The sides had already agreed to reduce the time for a team to match an offer to a restricted free agent from 7 days to 3. _ A new $2.5 million exception will be available to teams that go blow the salary cap, then use all of their cap room to sign free agents. Once they are back above the cap, they will be able to use the new exception instead of being limited to filling out their rosters with players on minimum contracts. _ The prohibition on luxury tax-paying teams from executing sign-and-trade deals was loosened, although the freedom to execute those types of deals will still be limited.

***

In The Aftermath Of Doomsday …

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The frayed emotions and exhausted looks on the faces of basketball lovers worldwide should be impossible to hide this morning.

Now that the doomsday fears have been realized, and the first two weeks of the NBA’s regular season have been canceled, we’re all left with the uneasy feeling of what faces the chopping block next as the lockout digs deeper into the fall.

We can dispense with all of the pleasantries now and get down to brass tacks. Forget about when the season starts. Most fans are wondering this morning if there will be a season. The unthinkable a few weeks ago has become our new reality …

Something To Salvage?

Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated: Can the season be saved? The answer is yes, so long as the NBA owners are willing to negotiate into January, as they did to resolve their previous lockout in 1999.

Understand that two weeks of NBA games have been wiped away, and that more cancellations are to come. Nothing important is likely to change over the next two weeks that will enable basketball to be played in late November or early December.

On and on it will go, with both sides looking back to the salvation of the ’99 lockout. That resolution a dozen years ago may have influenced these extended talks that failed Monday night in New York. As much anxiety as both sides were feeling to reach an agreement this week, they weren’t experiencing the ultimate pressure that will be felt later this winter when the entire season is at risk. “The problem,” said a former league official who was involved in the negotiations that shortened the 1998-99 season to 50 games, “is that people tend to look at early January as the drop-dead date.”

He was worrying that the absolute final offer from either side may not emerge for another 12 weeks. Not until the final days of this calendar year will the owners fully understand the consequences of losing a full season during a recession, while more than 400 players find themselves confronted with the likelihood of a full year without an NBA paycheck.

In many ways these entire negotiations have gone according to form. It is not the formula anyone would have desired, but it has been entirely predictable. The owners lock out the players July 1, with little negotiating done for most of July and August, followed by sudden urgency to make a deal that can save the full season.

Lost Games Part Of The Plan?

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: On the sidewalk out on 63rd Street, sirens wailing and knucklehead cameramen jostling for position and cursing each other, here was Billy Hunter living in his own movie. Regular-season games lost on his watch, and on David Stern‘s, just as they’d discussed two years ago.

“It goes back to a comment that David said to me several years ago, when he said this is what my owners have to have,” Hunter said Monday night, after the first two weeks of the 2011-12 NBA regular season were canceled. “And I said, ‘Well, the only way you’re going to get that is, you prepare to lock us out for a year or two.’ And he’s indicated to me that they’re willing to do it. So my belief and contention is that everything that he’s done has demonstrated that he’s following that script.”

(more…)

Labor Talks: In the Midnight Hour

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Perhaps “no comment,” officially, is the best thing anyone could say at this late stage of the NBA lockout.

After more than five hours of closed-door negotiations in New York Sunday night, the two sides agreed to stay quiet about what was said and resume negotiations Monday at 2 p.m. ET.

“We don’t have any comment at all, other than we are breaking for the night and reconvening tomorrow afternoon,” NBA Commissioner David Stern told reporters after emerging from the meeting, which was scrapped as of late Friday night only to be revived over the weekend.

The continuation of talk is better than the alternative. Stern issued a Monday deadline for a new labor agreement to be reached before the first two weeks of the regular season were canceled. Union executive director Billy Hunter was scheduled to fly to Los Angeles this morning for a previously scheduled regional meeting with players, but will instead be back in the meeting room alongside union president Derek Fisher and the rest of their negotiating team.

“We’re not necessarily any closer than we were [going into] tonight,” Fisher told reporters when he hit the New York sidewalk shortly before midnight.

Stern, Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver, owners Peter Holt of San Antonio and Glen Taylor of Minnesota, and senior vice president and deputy general counsel Dan Rube met with Hunter, Fisher and union vice president Mo Evans. Attorneys Jeffrey Kessler and Ron Klempner were also present.

Getting all of them in a room together just two days after both sides agreed that they would not meet without the precondition that the players accept a 50-50 split of BRI was a victory in itself. The introduction of the 50-50 split is what shut down talks Tuesday, when the players rejected the notion outright. According to Sports Illustrated‘s Chris Mannix the subject was not discussed at all during Sunday’s session, which focused solely on … .

We won’t find out exactly where things stand until someone speaks about it in-depth, and preferably on the record. (Both sides agreed not to do so, according to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com.) But the clock continues to tick on Stern’s deadline.

The regular season is scheduled to begin Nov. 1 …

Still Chasing ‘Melo

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – And you thought we were crazy for carrying on about Carmelo Anthony on Episode 26 of the Hang Time Podcast with Yahoo! Sports NBA writer Marc J. Spears.

We are certainly not crazy.

Despite the relative silence on the topic in Denver, Anthony’s name remains the hottest thing going in the Tri-State area (both the New Jersey Nets and the New York Knicks believe they have a shot to land him).

We understand that you’ve heard all this before about the Nets and Knicks — Free Agent Summer 2010LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, etc. — and their supposed pursuit of a big fish or two to swim in the water surrounding those areas.

Seriously, every little move being made by the Nets and Knicks these days is interpreted as a means to acquiring Anthony, who has done his best to stay mum on his future since training camp began.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports and Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated, two of the most well-respected writers in the business, have made it clear that their sources indicate neither the Nuggets nor the Nets have given up hope on something being worked out in the future.

– Mike D’Antoni‘s 11-man rotation in New York? According to Marc Berman of the New York post it’s all about showcasing young talent for a potential deal for Anthony:

D’Antoni first mentioned the 11-man concept in Milan. And as he left Paris, it’s still in play. D’Antoni said he wants to press and run so fiercely, he needs bodies. The skeptical view is no eight-man unit has stood out, and they are showcasing guys for a Carmelo Anthony trade.

“We can play a lot of guys,” D’Antoni said. “We’re going to have to press, run and use more guys this year because they can obviously play.”

None of this news shifts the focus in Denver, of course, where the main issue remains Anthony’s desire to either remain with the franchise that drafted him or move on. There has been no definitive public statement touching that topic from Anthony or anyone associated with him.

But while we’ve been down on the Nuggets here at the hideout (nothing malicious, mind you, we just feel like they as presently constituted they do not strike us as a contender in the Western Conference anymore), there remains cautious optimism surrounding this team in Colorado.

And the caution and optimism all hinges on the same thing, Anthony. Denver post columnist Woody Paige describes it here a recent passage from his mailbag:
I went to the intrasquad game in Broomfield the other night  and was very impressed. I told Masai Ujiri and Josh Kroenke, the new kingpins of the Nuggets, “You take this team and add K-Mart and Birdman, and you’re better than you were two years ago. But you’ve got to have that guy sitting over there.” 

That guy was No. 15, Melo. J.R. Smith, Ty Lawson, Al Harrington and Chris Andersen coming off the bench are stronger than an on-time rent check. Talk about energy, offense and a new, improved Lawson. I talked to both Andersen and Martin. They’re both antsy, but are doing the right thing. The Nuggets need them after Christmas, down the stretch and in the playoffs, not now, not at the beginning of the season …

George Karl is slimmer and healthier looking. He has been playing golf with his son. Carmelo and I talked briefly. He is handling all of this very well. Here’s what I get: He’d be happy to play for the Nuggets this season, despite all the talk, and the longer he spends with these players, the more he is convinced they have a chance to be very good once the full roster is available. The more he hears about a hard salary cap possibility, the more likely he will sign the extension.

The Nuggets have backed off all trade talks and are hoping he’ll sign. That deal with the Nets will be there next week, next month, in February, no matter what you might read. So if all fails, the Nuggets have that trade as a backup plan.

Harrington is going to be a big-time scorer on this team early in the season. Nene looks good. And Gary Forbes, the invitee, will make this team. Lawson will take another big step. And J.R. is J.R. But we have to see how the Melo thing plays out.

Don’t we all!

A Championship Or A Pink Slip

***

Posted by Sekou Smith

PHOENIX – Within hours of the official  announcement of Mike Brown‘s firing in Cleveland, former TNT analyst Doug Collins will be formally introduced as the new coach in Philadelphia.

It’s that time of year in the NBA, when coaches are fired on the same day others are hired and everyone moves on without so much as a sideways glance.

But we’re still scratching our heads over this Cleveland deal, a firing that was first reported over a week ago by Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix via Twitter (only to be dismissed hours later by Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who said a decision had not been made). Of course, it had. And we all knew that the minute Brown became the scapegoat for the Cavaliers’ flameouts in the playoff in each of the past two seasons.

Somebody had to take the fall for the team with the best regular season record in each of the past two seasons coming up woefully short in the postseason. And you had to figure it would be Brown.

The bigger question, however, remains for the prospective replacements for Brown (and we’re not even getting into what kind of job this will be if LeBron James decides to continue his career elsewhere).

What does the next coach have to do NOT to get fired?

Clearly, it’s either a championship or a pink slip, right?

And that’s the case in Cleveland as well as other places around the league where the expectations have outgrown the reality of the situation.

There are only four active coaches that have won title, FOUR! So if you don’t have Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich, Larry Brown or Doc Rivers coaching your team these days, isn’t it time to seriously consider making a change?

Magic coach Stan Van Gundy has to be swigging Maalox by the gallon right now with his team on the brink of elimination in the Eastern Conference finals against Boston, the victims of yet another surprising playoff flame-out after the franchise and its fans were dreaming of a return to the NBA Finals this time a week ago.

Brown won 60-plus games in back-to-back seasons, took the Cavs to their only NBA Finals appearance and ranks as the franchise’s top coach of all time based on his winning percentage and still woke up this morning unemployed.

And he’ll be joined in the coaching unemployment line by several other guys like himself, including Avery Johnson, Byron Scott and even former Hawks coach Mike Woodson (who guided the Hawks to the fifth best season in franchise history this year before being fired after Van Gundy’s Magic swept them out of the conference semifinals).

Talk about a tough job market. Try keeping a head coaching job in the NBA these days.

The speculation about Mike Brown’s replacement will center around huge names, Jackson’s name has already surfaced, and even stretch into the college ranks to guys like Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Kentucky’s John Calipari, fine coaches in their own right but neither with a shred of either NBA experience (in Coach K’s case) or NBA success (in Calipari’s case) to speak of.

We’ll spare Michigan State fans the pain of lumping Tom Izzo‘s name in with those other two, but it will come up because Gilbert is a MSU alum and has a relationship with Izzo.

The chatter will continue until the job is filled.

It’s that time of year, when coaches are fired on the same day others are hired and everyone moves on without so much as a sideways glance.