HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The shocking news that Kobe Bryant‘s season came to an abrupt end with a probable torn left Achilles Friday night spread through the basketball world like an emotional tidal wave.
Pundits and fans, friends and foes alike, everyone is digesting the news that even if the Lakers make the playoffs, Bryant’s work this season is done. Reactions from around the basketball universe (and beyond):
ORLANDO — Pat Williams knows about beating the odds.
Three times he has been the official team representative when the Magic won the Draft Lottery.
At 71, he is smiling and relentlessly active and looking fit less than a year after being diagnosed with cancer.
So while the immediate outlook for the local NBA franchise would seem to run the gamut from bleak to dire, Williams says Orlando as a sports market and a city is in far better shape to withstand the loss of Dwight Howard than when Shaquille O’Neal bolted for L.A. back in 1996.
“It won’t be nearly as big a blow,” said Williams. “Not really. This town has grown so much since then. We had 55 million visitors last year. That’s never happened before in an American city. I think Orlando can stand on its own. It’s a major, major market now.
“So is there sense of dismissal, that we’re ‘a dried up pond,’ as Shaq called it? No. No.
“Of course, we were a good bit smaller then and maybe not as sophisticated. Of course, he never left here and has lived here ever since. So I guess you could say that Shaq hasn’t changed since then, but we have.
“The Shaq experience, it continues to irk people with no end in sight and that was 16 years ago. (more…)
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Come playoff time, the name on the back of a NBA jersey is just as important as the name splashed across the front of the jersey.
Careers are made in the playoffs. Legends are made in the playoffs. And if you’re not careful, they can be broken in the playoffs, too.
That’s why the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat, teams filled with stars whose names reverberate throughout the basketball world and beyond, are in our crosshairs this weekend.
Both teams are locked in intense battles in their respective conference finals series, the Lakers against the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Heat against the Indiana Pacers. Slip up here and the view of the stars on some of these teams is altered forever. Come back from the abyss, and that view takes a decidedly different turn.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We should apologize in advance for overloading your basketball senses with one of the most jam-packed Hang Time Podcasts of the season.
We tackle everything from Russell Westbrook‘s surge to the Thunder’s chances to win it all to the chances of Anthony Davis being an immediate factor in the NBA to what’s in store for Vinny Del Negro and the Los Angeles Clippers to why in the world one of our favorite analysts was rocking that “Elevator Ernie” Halloween costume on Fan Night last night on NBA TV.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – No, we’re not talking about that three-day stint LeBron James and his Miami Heat teammates have in Cleveland this week.
We’re talking about TNT’s Ernie Johnson and the NBA TV Fan Night crew of Greg Anthony and Chris Webber checking in with the Heat star about some fun the TNT crew has had at his expense regarding his hair-line and whether or not he’s going to come home to the crew.
If you haven’t seen this already, enjoy some interesting insights on that and more from James last night:
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – With all due respect to Jimmer-Mania and the legions of fans who were caught up in that storm this time a year ago, you haven’t seen hoops hysteria like you’re going to see tonight at Madison Square Garden when the Jeremy LinShow comes back to town.
Jimmer Fredette, himself the epicenter of a basketball movement at BYU, is going to get a New York City-sized dose of “Linsanity” when the Knicks’ conquering hero returns to home soil to take on the Sacramento Kings.
With Lin’s face plastered all over the back page of the tabloids, on magazine covers and all over television screens around the globe, it would be easy for anyone to get swallowed up in the commotion. Most of us are neck-deep in it.
Lin is winning over observers by the day — a historic six-game run complete with buzzer-beating game winners, scintillatingindividualperformances and the resurrection of a team in disarray has a way of convincing folks. People who didn’t want to believe what they were seeing after the first couple of games are now coming around to the fact that Lin’s New York Minute is going to last a little longer than they might have expected.
Lin has a presence about him that even his predecessors cannot deny.
“You could argue this could be the biggest story of the NBA season,” NBA TV analyst Greg Anthony said during last night’s Heat-Pacers Fan Night broadcast. “I hear more about Jeremy Lin than anything else going on in the NBA. What’s been most impressive is that he never doubted himself. He’s always maintained a certain amount of confidence that he could do it when given the opportunity. It’s not about whether or not he leads them to a championship or is an All-Star, he’s proven he is an NBA player. He’s made the Knicks the talk of the town and not because they were 8 and 13 at one point.”
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – If you’re Rudy Gay, Kyle Lowry, Paul Millsap, Monta Ellis, Josh Smith or any of the other NBA players who woke up this morning without an All-Star bid, you deserve an explanation.
You deserve to know why what you’ve done wasn’t good enough to earn one of those reserve spots, and you deserve that answer now. Since Naismith hung that first peach basket coaches have been preaching about sacrifice for the greater good being the most crucial element to a successful team and players surrendering themselves to the process being the path to hoops righteousness.
Then the All-Star reserves come out and you see that these same coaches employ wicked double standard based on who a player is as opposed to what they have done. Now before you assume that this is some assault on the 14 players that were honored last night, understand that it is not. They deserve to bask in the All-Star limelight in Orlando just like anyone else.
This is strictly about the hypocrisy of coaches who demand one thing from players and then turn around and reward something totally different when it’s time to fill out those ballots for the reserves. They are the ones charged with making the right decisions on the reserves, not the other players or the fans or anyone else. It’s supposed to be a reward for this season, right now, and not the past or the future.
There is a reason Dirk Nowitzki said before the reserves were announced that he didn’t think he deserved a bid this year. Paul Pierce admitted he was surprised he made it because he’s been on the other side of this double standard in the past, piling up numbers on a struggling team and then watching the All-Star festivities from a beachfront resort.
For years, putting up numbers on a bad or even mediocre team was not enough to secure an All-Star nod. I’ve heard coaches say it for years in the NBA when touting their own players or the virtues of others, “you have to reward winning.” So when Steve Nash or Deron Williams find their way onto the list and Ellis does not, the head scratching begins.
Matt Kawahara and Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee had the news:
A projected starter who signed a four-year, $21.3 million free-agent contract Dec. 9, Hayes was expected to play a key role in the Kings’ offense and serve as a physical, vocal presence on defense.
“We’re not going to be able to replace him,” Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie told The Bee on Monday afternoon. “He was one of the best defensive frontcourt players in the league and a really unique player we thought would facilitate some offense.
“We’ll take a look at what we can do, but it’s not going to be the same.”In a statement released Monday, Petrie said notifying Hayes of the failed physical was “one of the most heartbreaking moments of my professional or personal life.”
Hayes has undergone further testing on his heart, but specifics about his condition have not been released. Messages left for Hayes’ agent Monday were not returned.
Monday evening, Hayes posted to his Twitter account, “Thank you everyone for your prayers and support, taking the next step to get healthy and back on the court, much love.”
Perhaps fortunate for the Kings front office is the fact that one of their own, who played in Sacramento last season, is still out there on the free agent leftover pile.
As the Kings look for ways to replace Hayes, among the available free-agent big men is Samuel Dalembert, who played last season in Sacramento.Asked about the possibility of bringing back Dalembert, Petrie said: “We’ve stayed in touch with him periodically along the way. We’ll see what develops here in the next few days and go from there.”
As Victor Contreras of the Bee points out, those 7 1/2 seasons that Peja spent in Sacramento were special and usually spent performing at a very high level.
He goes out as one of Sacramento’s all-time favorite Kings, a player whose No. 16 should hang from the Power Balance Pavilion rafters soon alongside the jerseys of former teammates Chris Webber (No. 4) and Vlade Divac (No. 21).
Stojakovic was the stubbly, baby-faced assassin on the Kings’ original Fab Five. Webber was the muscle inside, Jason Williams thrilled crowds with no-look passes, Divac played point-center, and Doug Christie supplied the defense.
But it was Stojakovic who killed teams from beyond the arc. He was in constant motion, flowing along the baseline like a shark, scoring on back-door feeds and hitting threes from the corner.
Worth remembering also? Peja’s fourth place finish in the 2003-04 MVP voting (24.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 48% 3-point shooting) was just as high as Webber ever finished in his best season of 2000-01 (27.1 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 4.2).
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Now that we have the hardest part of that pesky 149-day lockout behind us, it’s time to refocus and turn our attention to the future. And that means the next step(s) teams will take in the process to return the NBA to fully operational.
With the 66-game schedule being arranged and free agency and training camp to begin simultaneously on Dec. 9, we should be in store for some fast and furious personnel action around the league. But before we get there, we have details that must be dissected and discussed.
There are, however, plenty of opinions regarding how this tentative out-of-court agreement between the players and owners was reached and what sort of structure it will allow teams to function in …
Michael Wilbon of ESPN.com: The funniest thing about these five months of melodrama is that the NBA will begin the season precisely when and how it should anyway. Play should never for any reason commence before Thanksgiving and probably not until the first week of December, at the earliest. Truth is, a tripleheader on Christmas Day with Kobe, LeBron, D-Wade, Dirk and D-Rose, plus the Knicks in the Garden hosting the Celtics, is probably better than these two quarrelsome parties deserve. It’s as though they stumbled into beginning the NASCAR season with Daytona. Please, don’t tell me the Christmas Day games need a makeover for scheduling reasons. How do you get better than the Mavericks receiving their 2011 NBA championship rings in front of the Miami players? The Lakers are must-see holiday TV, so if LeBron and D-Wade aren’t available, who better to share the stage with Kobe than reigning MVP Derrick Rose and a conference finalist team? The last time we saw the allegedly revamped Knicks, they were going out like dogs to the Celtics; what better place to start anew with the most overrated franchise in American sports? So please, don’t let the NBA screw up its first call of the new season. These matchups are irresistible. Purposefully or not, the league couldn’t stage a more satisfying comeback. Even if those games are all moved to TNT, I’ll feel the same way about the Christmas Day return.
Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel: An expected windfall for NBA contending teams in search of affordable talent could wind up short-circuited by the league’s soon-to-be-approved collective-bargaining agreement. The Sun Sentinel confirmed Sunday that instead of players being released under the league’s “amnesty” provision going directly to the open market, a bidding system has been put in place for teams operating below the league’s salary cap to add such players at a deep discount. ”That’s what the clause is in there for,” a party familiar with the impending process Sunday told the Sun Sentinel. “It’s so the Lakers can’t go in and scoop up all the players.” Under the amnesty program, a team can waive a player in order to remove his salary from its salary cap and luxury tax, while still paying out the balance of that contract. It had been widely assumed that such players then would immediately hit the open market. That could have positioned the Miami Heat to add players such as Baron Davis, Rashard Lewis, Brendan Haywood or Brandon Roy at the NBA salary minimum, with the players’ previous teams still paying their full salaries. (Team-by-team decisions on specific players, if any, to receive amnesty releases will not be announced until after the CBA is ratified.) However, in an outline of the proposed collective-bargaining agreement obtained by the Sun Sentinel, the NBA instead has instituted “a modified waiver process” that would allow teams operating below the salary cap to “submit competing offers to assume some but not all of the player’s remaining contract.” For example, while Lewis has two years at $44 million total remaining on his contract, a team currently operating below the salary cap could bid to pay Lewis $3 million in each of those years (with the Washington Wizards, who are expected to make Lewis available, then paying the balance of his salary). ”Some of it is still not 100-percent worked out,” a party familiar with the impending policy told the Sun Sentinel.
Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated: I will admit (and not just because it’s easy to look up online) that I didn’t think the NBA owners and players had it in them to reach agreement. I believed a majority on each side of the table wanted to save the 2011-12 season, but I also believed that process and protocol had got the better of them. They knew what they should do, but they didn’t know how to do it — that’s what I thought would be the epitaph on this lost season. But they turned out to be bigger than the overwhelming circumstances. This is not a perfect deal, and it is surely loaded with all kinds of unintended consequences. For all anyone knows, the efforts to limit the dominance of the richest franchises could wind up giving them more power than ever, should a hardened salary cap inspire the players to chase endorsement income in the absence of a big free-agent payday. There are going to be bad feelings all around, and you may see some players refusing to do any commercial or public service work for their teams as an act of protest for the deal they feel was shoved down their throats. For objective people, however, it does no good to exclusively blame the players or the team owners. Because each side needs the other. Together they built up the NBA, together they threatened to bring it down, and together they came to an agreement when they finally realized just how much they need each other. These negotiations could have meant the end for the NBA. What they wound up generating was not the solution to all of their problems. But it is a beginning. In this world, a beginning is something to be celebrated.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: The NBA and Players Association are discussing the formation of a committee to study the age minimum for the league’s draft with the possibility that no immediate changes to the “one-and-done” rule will come in the finalization of the new collective bargaining agreement, a league official told Yahoo! Sports. “Only the agreement to have the committee may be part of the new CBA,” the source said. “I doubt it will have any affect on the 2012 draft.” This could mean the current class of star college freshmen, including potential No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis of Kentucky, will have the opportunity to enter the 2012 draft. The draft’s age rule is considered one of several “B-list” issues that were tabled in settlement talks, but must be resolved in negotiations before the league and players can get a signed agreement. The NBA and its players must still negotiate several more issues, including drug testing and NBA Developmental League assignments. The shelving of the age minimum debate buys the league more time to deal with the high-profile and impactful issue. For now, the rule calls for American-born players to turn 19 during the calendar year of the draft and be one year removed from their high school graduating class. Since its inception, the rule has created an era in college basketball known as the “one-and-done,” where many top players have spent one year on campus before leaping to the NBA. Within the NBA, there’s a growing movement to create a rule similar to Major League Baseball, which requires college players to stay three years before becoming eligible for the draft. Some NBA teams have suggested a system in which the age minimum for the draft would be 20. Under that scenario, non-international players also would have to wait until two years after their senior high school class has graduated.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS –Shaquille O’Neal needed just seven words to sum up the scene.
“You can’t do this anywhere else,” a smiling O’Neal said as he surveyed the set where he was just minutes earlier alongside his new teammates — on Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Ernie Johnson, Reggie Miller, Steve Smith, Steve Kerr and Chris Webber — taping the first of NBA TV’s new six-part original series “Open Court.”
“This is why I came here,” said O’Neal, the recently retired superstar center and newest member of TNT’s studio team. “You get to be yourself around here. You see how easy it is to just dive right in and talk shop with the boys. It’s just like being around family. There’s going to be some laughing, some crying and if Kenny says one more word to me, there might be some fighting, too.”
O’Neal was joking, of course. But he was right. The laughter flowed on the custom-made set at NBA TV’s Atlanta studios. The series features some hilarious stories, opinions and spot-on commentary from the best collection of NBA analysts anyone could gather in one spot and it’s all moderated by the Emmy Award-winning Johnson, the best studio host in the business.
The debut episode will air Tuesday night at 9 p.m. ET, following NBA TV’s GameTime which airs at 7 p.m. ET, with a new episode airing weekly on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET.
“This is like going to a reunion and telling stories with your boys and someone capturing it all on film,” Steve Smith said. “And it really is an embarrassment [of riches], to have all these guys in the same room with all this knowledge and history about not only the NBA but the game of basketball. We cross over a couple of generations, so we’ve got a few stories to tell.”
How about six hours worth? And that was just what was captured on the six episodes. There was plenty more where that came from; both Johnson and Miller served up repeated reminders to the rest of the crew to save all the good stuff for the show.
With Hall of Famers (Barkley), sure-fire future Hall of Famers (O’Neal and Miller for starters), NBA champions (Kerr, Kenny Smith, Steve Smith) and Dream Teamers there is a surplus of insight, colorful memories and gut-busting stories all delivered in a relaxed setting.
“I would have been mad if I wasn’t here,” Kenny Smith said. “This is too much fun. Look at the guys in this room. Think about all the things that have been accomplished, all of the things that we’ve seen and done. You put all of us in one room and turn us loose … that’s some serious gumbo.”
The six episodes will be titled:
• Open Court: Tallest Tales of the NBA
• Open Court: My Generation
• Open Court: Curious Tales of the NBA
• Open Court: Pressurized Tales of the NBA
• Open Court: Head Games and Fame
• Open Court: Curtain Calls and Loose Balls