Posts Tagged ‘Dan Gilbert’

Heat owner classy in disappointment

Miami Heat owner Micky Arison handled the disappointment of losing LeBron James much better than Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert did four years ago.

Arison expressed his shock after learning James will leave the Heat after four seasons and two championships to return to the Cavs with a message on Twitter.

James does leave Arison with those two titles, but losing the game’s greatest player will cost the Heat and Arison untold millions in revenue in the years to come.

Gilbert has felt that impact over the last four seasons after James took his talents to South Beach. Incensed by James’ stunning decision to leave, a decision James made on national television without first apprising the Cavs owner, Gilbert wrote an open letter to fans that disparaged James.

Thankfully, Arison, informed of James’ decision not long before Sports Illustrated broke the news through a first-person essay by James earlier Friday, issued his more measured response.

Gilbert offered his own response to James’ homecoming on Twitter.

And this in response to a logical question from his young son:

Reports: LeBron won’t meet with other teams, decision looms


VIDEO: GameTime: Aldridge on LeBron


‘Melo to New York
 | No LeBron decision expected tonight | Cavs eye ex-Heat players

Update 11:30 p.m. — Raptors, Vasquez agree to terms

While so many teams are wondering who’s coming and going, the Toronto Raptors keep re-signing their own. The latest to agree to terms is backup point guard Greivis Vasquez, a key player in the team’s resurgence after coming over from Sacramento in the Rudy Gay trade.

Update 10:57 p.m. — No more meetings; LeBron decision looms

After meeting with Heat president Pat Riley on Wednesday, LeBron James has all the information he needs to make his highly anticipated decision: Miami or Cleveland. Multiple reports suggest that James and his agent, Rich Paul, will not entertain meetings with any other teams, and that James will talk with his family and then make his decision.

Interesting about this decision is that James — unless privately or through back channels — has not met with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, new general manager David Griffin or new coach David Blatt.

Update 9:45 p.m. — Bosh to Houston if LeBron bolts Miami … Or will he?

Hours after news broke of the Mavericks and Rockets restricted free agent Chandler Parsons coming to terms on a lucrative offer sheet came a report that Chris Bosh will accept the Rockets’ offer if James leaves for Cleveland.

However, our own David Aldridge is hearing a different tune.

If this development is true, it could potentially help quicken a decision by James, who likely wouldn’t want to interfere with Bosh’s chances of joining the Rockets if James is indeed headed back to Cleveland. Once Houston receives the Parsons offer sheet, which Parsons can sign tonight when the clock strikes midnight, Houston will have 72 hours to match. But until general manager Daryl Morey knows where James is headed, and, thus, where Bosh is headed, they won’t have a clear indication of how to proceed with Parsons, which was Dallas’ intention.

The Rockets could theoretically sign Bosh and match the Parsons offer sheet, but it would take some hasty work to carve out enough cap space.

Update 9:30 p.m. — No Love for Cleveland

In a frenzy to boost its roster as it guns for LeBron James, Cleveland reportedly was trying to push for a trade to acquire Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love. Love, of course, wants out of Minnesota, but it appears team president and coach Flip Saunders isn’t ready to make a deal.

Update 8:08 p.m. — No decision expected tonight

According to several reports, LeBron James is not expected to announce his decision tonight.

Update 7:40 p.m. — LeBron, Riley wrap up meeting, direction unclear

The highly anticipated meeting between LeBron James and Heat president Pat Riley in Las Vegas has ended, and there is no clear indication of James’ intentions.

One media member, Chris Sheridan of sheridanhoops.com tweeted that James has decided to return to Cleveland.

However there has been no further confirmation.

Update 7:01 p.m. — Mavs make move for Rockets’ Parsons; Cavs want Love

Seeking to upgrade at small forward, the Dallas Mavericks have put the Houston Rockets on the clock by coming to an agreement with restricted free agent Chandler Parsons on an offer sheet reportedly for three years and in excess of $45 million.

Parsons can’t officially sign the offer sheet until midnight ET. When he does, the Rockets will have 72 hours to match, a move they have consistently vowed to make.

However, those plans could change depending if Heat free agent Chris Bosh accepts an offer already on the table from the Rockets. If Bosh remains undecided on his plans as the clock ticks down on a decision on Parsons, Houston could be put in a situation of having to decide to pass on Parsons at the risk of not getting Bosh — or matching on Parsons at the risk of losing Bosh if he indeed leaves Miami.

Bosh’s decision, in all likelihood, will revolve around James’ decision to either stay in Miami or bolt to Cleveland. And at this point (as James is currently meeting with Heat president Pat Riley in Las Vegas), there is no telling how much longer James might take to reveal his plan.

In more LeBron James machinations, the Cavaliers are reportedly seeking to put together a trade for Minnesota’s discontented power forward Kevin Love, on the contingency that they sign James.

Update 5:05 p.m. — It’s about this money

The NBA announced its salary cap for the 2014-15 season — an all-time high, 7.5 percent more than last year. It’s a bit of news that will come in handy in the Heat’s talk with LeBron James in about an hour.

The release from the league:

The National Basketball Association today announced that the Salary Cap has increased by 7.5% to an all-time high of $63.065 million for the 2014-15 season.  The tax level for the 2014-15 season increased by 7.1% to $76.829 million.

The Salary Cap and tax level go into effect at 12:01 a.m. ET on Thursday, July 10, when the league’s “moratorium period” ends and teams can begin signing free agents and making trades.

The minimum team salary, which is set at 90% of the Salary Cap, is $56.759 million for the 2014-15 season.

The current Collective Bargaining Agreement provides for three different mid-level exceptions depending on a team’s salary level.   The non-taxpayer mid-level for this season is $5.305 million, the taxpayer mid-level is $3.278 million and the mid-level for a team with room under the Salary Cap is $2.732 million.

Update 4:50 p.m. — Reports: LeBron’s meeting with Heat

After all the rumblings earlier in the day about Cleveland making room for a LeBron James return (scroll below), remember, James still has a meeting with Heat brass to talk things over … and who knows what might happen there.

James, evidently, will have company when he talks to boss Pat Riley:

Elisburg is the Heat’s senior vice president of basketball ops and a salary cap specialist.

The meeting, according to several reports, is scheduled in Las Vegas for 6 p.m. ET.

Update 3:46 p.m. — Report: Melo Back to the Knicks

Carmelo Anthony isn’t waiting on LeBron James or anyone else. He is sticking with the New York Knicks, according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News. The official announcement is expected to come Thursday, the first day free agents can sign deals and trades can be stamped by the NBA:

A person close to Anthony told The News on Wednesday that barring a last minute change of heart Anthony will re-sign with the Knicks after “agonizing over this” for the past week.

“He will have something for everybody on Thursday,” said the friend who was with Anthony before Anthony’s scheduled workout with Kevin Durant and Kevin Love in Los Angeles on Wednesday. “He is really torn because this is the biggest decision of his career. But he wants to get it done in New York. He told me he believes in Phil.”

The Knicks offered Anthony a max deal of $129 million, some $33 million more than any other team could offer. The team, according to many sources, has yet to be told of the decision. But the Knicks had been considered by many to be the front-runners.

Isola’s source, who quotes ‘Melo, may have spurred an immediate catchphrase, as NBA.com’s Jeff Caplan points out:

Almost an hour after Isola broke his story, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne put a brake on it:

Update 3:39 p.m. – No stress

This man has the entire basketball world on edge and yet he seems totally relaxed … SMH!

Update 3:26 p.m. — What happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas!

What would this day be without a shameless plug from the fine folks of Sin City?

Update 3:17 p.m. — It’s about forgiveness in Cleveland

Can all really be forgiven in Cleveland?

Update 2:40 p.m. — Celtics still chasing Love

Don’t be fooled by the Celtics involvement in any deals this summer. They have one player and one player only on their minds and that’s Kevin Love.

Update 2:20 p.m. — LeBron ready to turn the other cheek to Gilbert?

J.A. Adande weighs in with the best question surrounding this LeBron-back-Cleveland narrative that has ruled the day, the one that includes LeBron’s face-to-face meeting with Heat boss Pat Riley.

How could you even consider going back to work for an owner like Dan Gilbert?

If I could get a meeting of my own with LeBron James, I’d ask him how he could even consider compromising his values and stepping down from the moral high ground he ascended to during the playoffs by weighing an offer from Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert.

LeBron produced the sharpest and most noteworthy criticism of Clippers owner Donald Sterling after TMZ made Sterling’s racially offensive diatribes public, saying “it’s unacceptable in our league.” No one has accused Gilbert of holding the same misguided racial perceptions as Sterling. With Gilbert, it’s about the personal attacks on LeBron’s character, and his diametrically opposed views on the business of the NBA.

Gilbert, for those who never bothered to read his unhinged response to The Decision in 2010 before the Cavaliersrecently purged it from their website, called LeBron’s departure to the Miami Heat a “cowardly betrayal” and said LeBron was a bad example for the children of Cleveland. This wasn’t just a critique of the televised announcement; it was a tantrum about the very premise of free agency, as if anything other than a career-long commitment to the team that drafted a player constituted treason.

A year later, Gilbert was among the group of owners holding to the hard line when the NBA locked out its players, willing to sacrifice games in order to institute a new collective bargaining agreement that limited player earnings and hampered the formation of superteams.

A return to the Cavaliers by James would be a tacit endorsement of all that he rejected. It wouldn’t represent just a swallowing of his own pride — it would be a surrender in the battle for self-determination for NBA players.

As much as people blasted LeBron about “The Decision,” Gilbert’s letter was the most egregious transgression made by any single individual in the summer of 2010.

The idea that all could be forgiven now is rather remarkable.

Update 2:06 p.m. — James arrives at his hoops camp

As we mentioned earlier, LeBron is in Las Vegas for his LeBron James Skills Academy, which just began and features many top-flight high school and college players …

Update 2 p.m. — LeBron silent as Cavs jockey for him

While Cleveland seemingly works to land him, LeBron James has had little to say the last few days …

Update 1:31 p.m. — A look into the (free-agent) future

If LeBron James takes a two-year deal with the Heat, who else would join him on the free-agent market in 2016?

Update 1:17 p.m. — LeBron more valuable to Cavs than Heat?

LeBron James has allowed the Miami Heat to reach a new level as a franchise. What would his return mean — in dollars and cents — to Cleveland?

Update 1:14 p.m. — The real reason LeBron is in Vegas …

We all know LeBron James is meeting with Heat boss Pat Riley today in Las Vegas, but the real reason James is there is to host his LeBron James Skills Academy, which begins today (sorry the list is upside down) …

Update 12:48 p.m. — Recapping the action thus far

We’ve hit a bit of a lull in the Cavs/LeBron/free agency news, so take a second and catch up on what you might have missed …

Update 12:22 p.m. — Report: LeBron talked to Miller; Heat moves impress James?

Update: 12:04 p.m. — No Love-to-Cavs deal lined up (yet)

Thinking this salary cap purge is being done to line Cleveland up to land Kevin Love? Think again …

Update: 11:57 a.m. — Parsons on Cavs’ radar; some crucial LeBron-to-Cleveland points

Informed observers Marc Stein and our own David Aldridge bring up key issues regarding a potential LeBron-Cavs reunion …

Update 11:42 a.m. — Cavs eye more ex-Heat players; what might Bosh do?

The Cavs are after two more ex-Heat players (Mike Miller and James Jones), but if LeBron does return to Miami, will Chris Bosh come back?

Update 11:39 a.m. — Deal may not be harbinger of anything

Hold off on those celebrations there, Cleveland …

Update 11:36 a.m. — Don’t fret just yet, Heat fans

Many GMs see a LeBron-Heat reunion as possible, but just maybe for not as long as some thought …

Update, 11:33 a.m. — Options aplenty in Cleveland

The Cavs will have some explaining to do whether or not this trade helps them land LeBron … or not …

Update, 11:28 a.m. — Cavs reportedly after Allen, too

If the Cavs are trying to get LeBron James back in the fold, maybe going after one of his old teammates wouldn’t hurt?

Update, 11:26 a.m. — Detailing the three-team deal

Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal spells out in further detail why the Cavs made this trade

https://twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ/status/486893073465483264 (more…)

Morning Shootaround — July 7


VIDEO: Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports joins GameTime to talk about free agency

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Reports: Cavs have shot at landing LeBron | No word on ‘Melo for Bulls | Report: Hibbert being shopped? | Uncertainty reigns for James, Anthony

No. 1: Report: Cavs trying to get in position for LeBron offer; James listening to offer? – Seemingly from the start of last season, there has been talk that perhaps and just maybe, Cleveland could find a way to bring Ohio native LeBron James back to the team that originally drafted him. Although James would have nothing to do with such talk — or any free-agency chatter — during the season, the notion remained out there. As Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports, the Cavs are doing everything they can roster-wise to be in position to sign LeBron if he so chooses to return to them:

At the urging of LeBron James’ agent, the Cleveland Cavaliers are pursuing a maximum contract salary slot to bring back the free-agent superstar, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Rich Paul, the president of Klutch Sports, has been funneling belief into the organization that the Cavaliers are in strong position to lure James from the Miami Heat, sources told Yahoo Sports.

For years, Paul has confided to people that bringing back James to Cleveland has been something of a mission for him, and he’s encouraging Cavaliers officials to offer no restraint in the recruitment of James, sources said.

Paul will be joining James for a sit-down meeting with Miami president Pat Riley early this week, when there could come more clarity on James’ future with the Heat. Riley has been recruiting free agents to join Miami, but has been limited in salary cap space to make competitive offers and limited in the ability to promise players they’ll get to play with James.

For the Cavaliers, the shedding of contracts to create salary-cap space isn’t a tremendous risk. For James, a four-time MVP and two-time NBA champion, the stakes are far higher. If Paul gets up the hopes of the franchise and Northeast Ohio without delivering James’ return, Paul risks playing a part in turning James into a villain all over again.

Nevertheless, the Cavaliers have little choice but to dutifully make the moves necessary to make James an offer. The biggest obstacle remains unloading the contract of Jarrett Jack. The Cavaliers have found a landing spot for Jack and his $6.2 million annual salary in the Brooklyn Nets, but only if the Cavs can find a third team to take on Brooklyn’s Marcus Thornton, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Cleveland is offering Thornton and future draft considerations as incentive to absorb his $8.7 million expiring contract, sources said. The Cavaliers need to unload more contracts and have made 2013 first-round pick Sergey Karasev, among others, available in deals, sources said.

ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein report that James may in fact be listening to the Cavs’ offer, but they have work to do to land the former MVP:

After more than two years of planning, the Cleveland Cavaliers, believe they have LeBron James legitimately listening to their pitch to leave the Miami Heat and return to his home state in free agency, according to sources close to the process.

There has yet to be a firm indication that James actually is ready to leave Miami after four years and two championships with the Heat, but sources told ESPN.com that the four-time MVP is increasingly considering the Cavaliers as an option as he moves into the final stages of deciding which team to sign his next contract with.

A critical face-to-face meeting looms with Heat president Pat Riley on a day to be determined this week, sources confirmed Sunday night, so that James can hear the Hall of Famer’s plans for the Heat’s roster. But James’ agent, Rich Paul, has already sat down with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert in what is regarded as the first formal step toward trying to shrink the gulf between James and Gilbert after the ocean of hard feelings stemming from James’ departure from Cleveland in 2010 to sign with the Heat.

Sources say that the Cavs’ pitch made to Paul last week — which they also hope to make this week to James in their own face-to-face meeting — revolves around Kyrie Irving and the other young prospects they have, in addition to the numerous options Cleveland possesses to add to the roster over the next year.

The Cavs also believe they have made the greatest move yet this summer, convincing Irving to sign a five-year maximum contract extension in the first few hours of free agency. With No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins under control for the next five seasons as well, the Cavs are pitching youth and roster stability to James, who played on one of the oldest teams in the league last season.

The team also potentially owns three first-round picks in the 2015 draft, including the Heat’s pick if they fall outside the top 10. They also have the Memphis Grizzlies’ pick if it falls between Nos. 6 and 14 and their own pick. The Cavs believe they can use these as assets in potential trades to further upgrade the roster if James will come aboard.

(more…)

Five teams LeBron should, but won’t consider

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Pat Riley discusses the Big 3 staying in Miami

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Even before Pat Riley went all Clint Eastwood — Stay, “if you’ve got the guts” – during his entertaining Thursday news conference, my money was on LeBron James understanding that island hopping for titles on the backs of fans’ emotions isn’t a good look. And so he will ultimately keep gunning for not three, not four, not five … in sun-kissed South Florida.

Of course, Dan Gilbert never dreamed LeBron would dump his Cleveland Cavaliers, but he did. So until he says otherwise, there is always a chance The Chosen One will think his work is done here and seek a new hoops metropolis to conquer.

It certainly would be unprecedented, the most dominant player in the game packing his bags yet again, and this time after leading his last franchise to four consecutive Finals and two championships. Who in the history of the game has ever done that?

And yet, there’s something devilishly fascinating about that very prospect.

Could LeBron lift a third team to the NBA Finals? Could he win a third title? A fourth, a fifth?

And for which team would he play?

Forget the Knicks, that move would have to wait until the summer of 2015 when New York has cap space. The Lakers? Always a possibility, but how rewarding would it really be to hang a 17th championship banner in Staples Center all the while being Kobe Bryant‘s personal valet to a sixth ring and even him up with Michael Jordan?

I’ve got five teams — three in the East and two in the West — that LeBron could vault to instant contender. Three of the five franchises have never won an NBA title, and of the other two, neither has won one since 1983. So LeBron would be a sight for sore eyes, and a boon for business in any one of these locales.

I call this list, The Teams LeBron Should, But Won’t Consider.

His desire should be to stay in the Eastern Conference because it’s just a whole lot easier to get through the East than the brutally competitive West. Plus, with the Heat instantly weakened, the path to the East crown would truly be wide open. So here are my five:

1. Washington Wizards: The Wizards’ finances are in as good as shape as the Wizards’ backcourt with John Wall and Bradley Beal emerging as a dynamic duo. Washington needs to re-sign center Marcin Gortat to reproduce a front line with Nene. Add LeBron — who would come in as the elder statesman to the Wizards’ rising stars, so there’s no adjustment period as to who is the alpha dog (assuming Wall can handle it) like there was initially in Miami with Dwyane Wade – to this starting lineup and dare I call them Eastern Conference favorites.

2. Philadelphia 76ers: Don’t laugh. And, hey, if LeBron and Carmelo Anthony really want to team up, here’s their spot. There’s so little money on the books that Philly could sign both stars and still have enough left over to add some pretty good role players. These two could come in as the big brothers and lead one of the great youth movements of our time. Think about it, the Sixers already have Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams at point guard and 6-foot-11 Nerlens Noel is ready to roll after sitting out all of last season. With the third pick in next week’s Draft, they’ll add another high-caliber youngster, maybe Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker. Then there’s consummate pro Thaddeus Young. Sounding good isn’t it?

3. Toronto Raptors: General manager Masai Ujiri has already overseen a couple minor miracles in shedding the salaries of Rudy Gay and Andrea Bargnani, so what’s one more? The books still aren’t as clear as in Philly, but it can work. Re-signing Kyle Lowry might be out the window, but how about Greivis Vasquez, budding, young star DeMar DeRozan, LeBron, Patrick Patterson and Jonas Valanciunas? I’m pretty sure coach Dwane Casey would be good with it.

4. Phoenix Suns: Imagine LeBron driving and then trying to decide if he should kick it out to Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic, Channing Frye or maybe Gerald Green. Imagine LeBron sprinting for fast-break dunks with a perimeter defense that includes himself and the dogged Bledsoe, and a team that stamped itself as one of the great hustling squads of last season. If we thought the old Steve Nash-Mike D’Antonio Suns teams were fun, whoa, this one could fly off the charts.

5. New Orleans Pelicans: There’s some work, not a ton, to be done on the payroll side, and there’s some tradable commodities despite multi-year deals in place (i.e. Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon) and nothing should be viewed as impossible when it comes to pairing LeBron with Anthony Davis, right? Greatest inside-out duo since Kobe and Shaquille O’Neal? This pairing has devastation written all over it. New Orleans would never be the same.

However, we all know that no one backs down from a challenge issued by Clint Eastwood.

Morning shootaround: June 14


VIDEO: Fisher discusses the Knicks’ roster 

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Jordan explains Higgins’ exit | Beasley as Heat’s cavalry? | Jackson, Fisher huddle with ‘Melo | Cavaliers closing in on coach

No. 1: Jordan explains Higgins’ exit — For years, a lot of casual observers of the Charlotte NBA team (once Bobcats, now Hornets) figured Rod Higgins held his job as president of basketball operations largely because he was a longtime pal of owner/legend Michael Jordan. But in addressing the reason behind Higgins’ abrupt deision to resign – Jordan shifted more responsibilities to general manager Rich Cho – the GOAT made it clear why he valued having Higgins around too. Here’s a peek at veteran scribe Rick Bonnell‘s Jordan exclusive in the Charlotte Observer:

“Rod’s strong points are working with the coaches and the trainers, traveling with the team,” Jordan said. “He was my buffer zone with the coaches. I didn’t want to overwhelm them with ideas, so I’d work with Rod on that.”
Jordan said he wants Cho, with a background as an attorney, dealing more with budgets and managing the salary cap.
“One of (Higgins’) strong points is not negotiating, leveraging teams,” Jordan said. “Sometimes when teams would call (proposing trades), they’d bypass Rod to get to Rich.”
Higgins, with the franchise since 2007, teamed with Cho the last three years. Jordan said that arrangement led to some “confusion over who reported to whom. It created a contentious environment where I had to step in.”
That’s when Jordan proposed these shifts in responsibilities, which Higgins considered a demotion. At that point, Jordan said he asked Higgins if they could wait until after the draft to make a change.
“He chose to leave now,” Jordan said.
Higgins, 54, has been a friend and colleague of Jordan’s for roughly 30 years. They played together with the Chicago Bulls in the mid-1980s. Jordan later hired Higgins to help him run the Washington Wizards’ basketball operation. Jordan said that made Friday’s parting extra difficult.
“I had to make a decision about a brother,” Jordan said. “I hope he gets a soft landing and finds (the job) he wants.”

***

No. 2: Beasley as Heat’s cavalry? — Before the 2014 Finals began, the suggestion that Miami might find itself in need of help from erratic forward Michael Beasley would have been seen as an implicit admission that the Heat were headed for trouble against the San Antonio Spurs. Well, they are in trouble, down 3-1 and facing elimination in Game 5 Sunday in San Antonio. And more than a few critics have wondered if Miami coach Erik Spoelstra might look to Beasley as an X factor and counter to Kawhi Leonard‘s offensive impact for the Spurs. Our man Jeff Caplan didn’t necessarily see much of a role for Beasley in the series when they chatted prior to Game 1, but now can offer a look at the maddeningly talented but scatter-careered forward:

Beasley has yet to be active in The Finals and has been inactive in 10 of Miami’s 19 playoff games. He’s played a total of seven minutes in three games. During the regular season, he appeared in a career-low 55 games and averaged career-lows in points (7.9), rebounds (3.1) and minutes (15.1).
Yet, Beasley said: “Honestly, this season has flown by faster than any other I’ve been in. I don’t know why, I don’t know how. I guess time really does fly when you’re having fun.”
The Heat had no fun in Games 3 and 4 in Miami and now head back to San Antonio for Sunday’s Game 5 in the unenviable position of trailing 3-1. After Game 4, Spoelstra was asked if Beasley could be an option in Game 5 to provide some much-needed scoring punch. While his playing time was sporadic, Beasley did record a career-high shooting percentage of 49.9 percent and 38.9 percent from beyond the arc, a better mark than only his rookie season.
Spoelstra didn’t give a direct answer, and in an indication as to how Beasley is still perceived, the questioner was roasted on Twitter by fans and also media covering The Finals for having even broached the subject.
“I shouldn’t say no. I do, but I’m not going to stress over it,” Beasley said when asked if he cares more now how others view him. “People who know me, my family, my kids, my closest friends, they know me. I’m not trying to get everybody to know that I’m a good guy, a great guy or whatever. At this point I’m just focused on playing basketball.”

***

No. 3: Jackson, Fisher huddle with ‘Melo — We can assume that, if numbers came up when basketball boss Phil Jackson, new head coach Derek Fisher and GM Steve Mills of the New York Knicks met with Carmelo Anthony and agent Leon Rose Friday in Los Angeles, the Knicks contingent detailed the pay cuts Anthony would be facing were he to leave New York as a free agent this summer. How big would those cuts be? The difference between a nine-figure deal with N.Y. vs. an eight-figure packages from outside suitors, the latest allegedly the Miami Heat in a refurbished Big 4 vision. Knicks beat writer Al Iannazzone laid out some of the basics for Newsday:

Phil Jackson led a contingent of Knicks officials into a meeting with Carmelo Anthony on Friday in Los Angeles, according to a league source, and presented their plan for turning the team into a contender.
The current blueprint includes Anthony, but he has the ability to opt out of his contract by June 23 and become a free agent. All indications are that Anthony will do that.
Jackson has said he hopes Anthony will “opt in” and wait until 2015 to become a free agent. But a league source said Anthony hasn’t changed his mind after saying all season that he would become a free agent this summer.
If Anthony were to opt in, it would give the Knicks more flexibility next summer, and perhaps in 2016, to sign multiple stars. The 2015 free-agent class could include LeBron James, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Bosh and Marc Gasol. Kevin Durant is the big potential prize in 2016.
Jackson was accompanied by general manager Steve Mills and new coach Derek Fisher during the sit-down with Anthony and his agent, Leon Rose. It was the first time Anthony met with Fisher since he became coach.
The Knicks can pay Anthony more than any other team in free agency. A maximum deal from them would be five years and roughly $129 million. But Jackson also has said that if Anthony re-signs, he hopes he will take less to give the Knicks more room for other moves.

***

No. 4: Cavaliers closing in on coach — Holders of the Draft’s No. 1 pick, dreamers when it comes to LeBron James’ possible return as a free agent, the Cleveland Cavaliers are said to be getting closer to assigning value to at lease one of their multiple variables: their vacant head coaching position. Longtime Cavs beat writer Bob Finnan wrote about the narrowing field of candidates: Alvin Gentry and Tyronn Lue, both assistants on Doc Rivers‘ staff with the Los Angeles Clippers, and former Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt:

Clippers assistant coaches Alvin Gentry and Tyronn Lue and former Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt.
Gentry and Lue met with Cavs majority owner Dan Gilbert on June 13. It was their second interview with the Cavs.
Blatt reportedly will meet with the Cavs next week. He previously spoke to Cavs General Manager David Griffin about the position left vacant by the firing of Mike Brown on May 12. Blatt told Israel reporter David Pick that he interviewed for the Cavs’ head-coaching job via the phone.
The 55-year-old Blatt announced during a news conference in Israel on June 12 that he was leaving his position as head coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv. It is believed that he would be joining an NBA team. If he doesn’t get the Cavs’ job, he could join Golden State coach Steve Kerr’s coaching staff as his lead assistant.
However, he’s very much in the mix in Cleveland for the head-coaching position.
Griffin has been doing some background checks on Blatt, and Pick reported that he has spoken to former Cavs’ draft pick Milan Macvan, who played for Blatt in Maccabi. Macvan, a Serbian power forward, was a second-round pick of the Cavs in 2011.
There was a report that Blatt wouldn’t come to the NBA unless he got a head-coaching job. He said on June 12 that wasn’t true.
If those are the three finalists, two of them — the 37-year-old Lue, and Blatt — have never been head coaches in the NBA. The third, 59-year-old Gentry, is considered by some as a coaching retread who has a below-.500 record in 12 years as a head coach. All three coaches are known as offensive-minded, who would take advantage of the Cavs’ personnel.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Miami’s Ray Allen has at least one of these three R’s in his future: Return, relocation or retirement? … Celtics assistant Ron Adams might wind up on Steve Kerr‘s staff in Golden State, and Julius Randle refutes the claim that his right foot needs surgery. … Tim Duncan has until June 24 to opt in for next season. He, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Gregg Popovich all have contracts that run through 2014-15, should they choose to give it one more season. … One more inspiring scrap-heap-to-Finals-star Boris Diaw story. … Can Dante Exum vault into the Top 3 and rock the 2014 Draft? … Sid Lowe goes to the Timberwolves for a third (or is it fourth?) go-around, with Sam Mitchell invoking “country club” privileges next. … Larry Bird tries to help disappointed Pacers fans buck up … We’re not clear as to which trio should feel more disrespected by this, the Heat’s Big 3 or the classic comedic geniuses.

Cavs see, believe another lottery win

By Lang Whitaker, NBA.com


VIDEO: Cleveland is No. 1 again … in the lottery

NEW YORK CITY — Against all odds, the Cleveland Cavaliers did it again.

After successfully winning the NBA Draft lottery in two of the last three years, and three times in the last decade, on Tuesday night the Cavs once again won the NBA Draft lottery. Despite having just a 1.7 percent chance of landing the top choice, the ping-pong balls once again bounced Cleveland’s way.

“It was incredible when Cleveland didn’t pop up at nine,” said newly appointed Cavaliers general manager David Griffin. “I knew obviously we’d moved up, and I had to gather myself for a second. Just a remarkable, remarkable feeling.”

Three years ago the Cavs landed in the lottery with a first-round choice acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers, and selected Kyrie Irving. Last year they used their own pick to draft Anthony Bennett first overall.

While at the moment the Cavs are still without a coach — Griffin termed the search in its “infancy” — Cleveland will be able to pair its top pick with an athletic young core led by former lottery picks Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Bennett. The Cavaliers have several options with the first overall pick, with the ability to choose from a pool of quality players including cream of the crop Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid.

“I don’t think there’s a clear cut No. 1 in most drafts,” Griffin said. “And I think people when they say that, they have a really strong feeling for one player over another, but I don’t think it’s necessarily a consensus in most drafts.”

Of course, having all these first overall picks is a nice luxury, but being in the lottery year after year also signals you’re regularly missing the playoffs. At some point, the talent the Cavs have stockpiled has to coalesce into a playoff team. Perhaps that time is now.

“We’re very open-minded,” Griffin said. “We’re going to try to get radically better, much quicker. We really feel like there’s a sense of urgency about improving our team as a whole, and we’re going to look for the right fit in that, and we’re very open-minded about what that means.”

Representing the Cavs in the sealed room where the actual drawing took place was Jeff Cohen, the team’s Vice Chairman and the man who has been in the back room for the drawings the last four years. Cohen said he went into the draft clinging to a maxim from what he termed “a book of isms” that said, “You can believe it when you see it.” So as the ping-pong balls ricocheted around the machine, Cohen tried to visualize the Cavs’ winning numbers being drawn.

When the numbers 13, 7, 9 and 14 were drawn, it was announced that this combination would give Cleveland the first pick. Cohen’s hands went to his head, which slowly shook back-and-forth, trying to process their good fortune. He saw it, but he couldn’t believe it. “It was surreal, just … surreal,” Cohen said.

For his own good luck charm, Griffin had a lucky bow tie belonging to Nick Gilbert, son of Cavs’ owner Dan Gilbert, tucked into his jacket pocket out on the television set. (“I didn’t wear it because nobody else could swing Thor’s hammer,” said Griffin.)

Other than the Cavs leaping to the top of the draft, the rest of the picks fell as planned, which meant some premier franchises such as Boston and Los Angeles weren’t able to leapfrog into the rarefied lottery air.

“You’re sitting over there, pretty much naked, and there’s nothing you can do about it,” said James Worthy, a former No. 1 pick who sat on the podium as a representative of the Los Angeles Lakers. “Most of the guys who are sitting up there, when you’re under the pressure they respond by making a great play or shooting a big basket. But when you’re sitting over there, you’re just a sitting duck waiting.

“You get nervous, my heart started pounding a little bit,” Worthy added. “But then we came up at seven, I was like, ‘Damn!’ But nevertheless, it is what it is.”

Morning Shootaround — Feb. 17


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for All-Star Sunday

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Westbrook to return Feb. 20 | Aldridge: Players interested in Blazers | Howard on his path to Houston | Gilbert opens up on ‘Letter’, Cavs

No. 1: Report: Westbrook may return Feb. 20 — At last night’s All-Star Game in New Orleans, Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant put on quite a show en route to a 38-point night and nearly won the MVP award, too. Afterward, he spoke with our David Aldridge and said he was mostly trying to enjoy the weekend and All-Star Game, but maybe he’ll be a bit happier once he gets back to OKC with the latest news about his All-Star teammate, Russell Westbrook. According to Yahoo!Sports’ Marc J. Spears, Westbrook is closing in on a return and could play as soon as this Thurday when the Thunder host the Heat (8 p.m. ET, TNT):

The Oklahoma City Thunder are hopeful that injured guard Russell Westbrook will return for Thursday’s game against the Miami Heat, a source to Yahoo Sports.

The Thunder announced on Dec. 27 that Westbrook had surgery on his right knee for the second time since late October. He was projected to be out until after the NBA All-Star break without a specific return game. The source said Westbrook will be re-evaluated on Tuesday in Oklahoma City, which could open the door for a return against the visiting Heat.

Westbrook averaged 21.3 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds in 25 games. The Thunder are 22-8 without Westbrook, mainly due to Kevin Durant playing on an MVP level.

“This whole group, they are resilient,” Durant said. “We persevered through everything and just stayed together. We had faith no matter what. We are looking forward to having Russell back and make it seem less of a transition for him.”

***

No. 2: Aldridge says some stars want to join BlazersLaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard became the first pair of Trail Blazers players to participate in the All-Star Game since 1994, when Clyde Drexler and Cliff Robinson represented the Rose City. Apparently, though, the Blazers’ sudden success this season has caught the eye of more than just All-Star voters and coaches. Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com reports that Aldridge and Lillard both said that fellow All-Stars have expressed interest to them, albeit anonymously, about playing in Portland:

When you’re winning, players want to follow. And according to Aldridge, a couple of All-Star players that shall remain anonymous have approached him, telling him that they would like to play with himself and Damian Lillard in Portland.

“Definitely a few guys have told me that this weekend,” Aldridge informed CSNNW.com.

Aldridge and Lillard say they haven’t actively recruited players over the course of the weekend, which is revealing, meaning those anonymous players went out of their way to express their interest in playing for the Trail Blazers.

“I think winning and the type of people that we are will attract people,” Lillard said. “In that way, I guess we are recruiting but I haven’t actively done so.”

The long perception of the Trail Blazers being an unattractive team in the far left coast with their closest opponent approximately 630 miles away, Portland is slowly starting to transform into a place that players have to consider if serious about their basketball careers.

“If you’re serious about basketball, Portland is the place,” Lillard told CSNNW.com. “I love it there. It’s not a big city so it allows you to concentrate on your craft. Some people need the distractions of the nightlife but for me personally, it’s the perfect place for me. I just work on my game. That’s what I get paid to do.”

All-Star Weekend is where friendships are started and developed. Having the opportunity to play with the best players in the world does something to players. They start to envision playing together. Then they talk about it amongst themselves.The Big 3 in Miami had a few All-Star Weekends together before they joined forces in the summer of 2010. All-Star power forward Chris Bosh admits guys do think those thoughts, but claims that most of the time, talk is all it amounts to.

“Yeah, you always do that like, ‘Man, it would be great to play with this dude. He’s very talented. He’s the best of the best in the league.’ But most of the time, it’s unrealistic,” Bosh said.

Probably so, but it’s still great when players say they want to come play with you in your city. That’s a start. Whether it happens or not is another story.


VIDEO: All-Star highlights from Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge

***

No. 3: Howard explains why he ended up in Houston – In a great, overarching story from All-Star weekend by the venerable J.A. Adande of ESPN.com, he takes a look at how the NBA has changed so much since the Michael Jordan era. One key point of his story is how in today’s era, the only way for players to maximum maintain control of their careers is by playing for less the the maximum amount of money. To his point, former Orlando Magic star Dwight Howard explains how that thinking may have shaped his decision to force a trade to the L.A. Lakers and his ultimate signing with the Houston Rockets last summer:

What’s undeniable is that LeBron’s move to Miami and Dwight Howard’s departure to Houston were the right move for both to make, even if they were handled clumsily and awkwardly. Want to talk fast? Doesn’t it already seem like a long time ago that Howard’s wobbly walk out of Orlando and his uncomfortable season in L.A. were as big a story as the NBA had? Now he’s on the hottest team in the league at the All-Star break, winners of seven straight, sitting in third place in the Western Conference and reporters were more interested in the upcoming free agencies of LeBron, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Love (in 2015).

Howard couldn’t have come off worse when he left Orlando. But now that he’s finally settled in Houston he’s said nothing but the right things. On the other side of his free agency he offered an eloquent perspective on a player’s right to determine his playing place.

“That’s the only time you really want to be selfish, when you’re making the decision about where you want to play basketball,” Howard said. “A lot of people might look at you and say, ‘Hey that’s not right, you’re not looking out for my team or my city.’ But at the end of the day, you only get one time around the track, you only get one time to play this game of basketball. Our windows are so short. We have to do whatever we can to be successful. A lot of people are not going to like it … because we’re not doing what they want us to do. And people hate that. All of us have to learn, in our own way, we have to make ourselves happy first. We want to do whatever we can for the fans, sign autographs, take pictures. That’s who we are off the court. But when it comes to the business of basketball, we have to be selfish and take care of our self first.”

***

No. 4: Cavs owner Gilbert opens up in Q&AWe’ve mentioned several times in Hang Time land this season how much of a disappointment the Cleveland Cavaliers have been, especially given their offseason roster makeover and the expectations of a playoff run (or more) in 2013-14. Team owner Dan Gilbert, never one to shy away from commenting about his team, recently chatted with Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal and opened up on the rough season, his infamous ‘Letter’ to LeBron James after he left the Cavs in 2010 and more:

Q: Why has this season been such a disappointment?

A: Well up until the last week and maybe the road trip before that, you’re absolutely right the season overall has not hit our expectations. It’s hard to pinpoint the reason. We needed to figure out who we are: Who we are as a team and as a franchise and make sure we’re all headed in the same direction. I think it has taken a little bit longer to gel from a chemistry standpoint. Some of that is non-tangible, but to me not just basketball but all organizations there has to be a chemistry where people trust each other, believe in each other from the front office to the coaching staff to the players. There was a lot of static this year. A lot of that is expected as normal growing pains from a young team, but I think there was more than people expected. Hopefully now we see here within the last week, that’s beginning to change in a significant way.

Q: Do you regret saying at the lottery, ‘We’re not coming back here,’ because it seemed to really speed up the clock?

A: I think that was in response to questions. Obviously when a reporter asks you a question when you’ve been at the lottery three years in a row, I don’t think it shows much confidence to your fan base or anything that you’re not going to fee pretty good about not being there for the fourth year in a row. When people say that about the Yahoo article, is it really an unrealistic, arrogant position to say that you’re going to be in the top 55 percentile of teams to be in the East after four years? We didn’t go pump our hands and say, ‘We’re winning the NBA championship this year!’ I think it’s a good goal to say we’re going to make the playoffs. No one said make the playoffs, do or die. I think it’s a reasonable goal, so no, I don’t regret it.

Q: How about The Letter? As a whole, do you regret sending it?

A: I would’ve reworded the language in The Letter, but I don’t regret sending a letter out to our fan base. People forget the letter was not to LeBron, it was to our fan base. If I had to do it again, for sure, I would’ve reworded several parts of it. But I think it definitely needed a strong statement from me at that time. I keep a couple binders on my desk and I have a binder of the responses to The Letter from the people of Cleveland. There’s thousands, maybe 2,000 from every facet of life, from CEOs of big companies to hand-written letters from 94-year-old ladies, from street sweepers to policemen and firemen. The response went way beyond. For some reason, it appealed to this generational Cleveland thing. If you want to talk about books, someone should publish all the responses to The Letter. It was like, ‘We’re from Cleveland and we’ve been rejected.’

Q: Were you surprised by the reaction? Did you know it would cause that type of firestorm?

A: No, not to the extent that it did. I didn’t think it would. Going back now and looking, yeah probably. But at the time? I didn’t think it would become sort of the thing that it did.

Q: Has it had any negative impact on your organization over the last four years?

A: You never know for sure, but I haven’t felt it or been aware of it. People said nobody would come here, that’s not true. Do I think any players are going to not come here because Dan wrote a letter three or four years ago? I don’t think so.

Q: How important is it to re-sign Luol Deng?

A: We love Luol Deng for a lot of reasons, which everybody knows. Besides the kind of player he is, the kind of person he is and the kind of leader he is by example. But you can’t make these decisions in a vacuum. You have to look at all the pieces and see where you’re going to be.

Q: There has been a lot of talk about Kyrie and Dion and if they can coexist? Do you think they can start together, play together and succeed?

A: Yeah, I do. In fact I can make a case that as they both mature, and we’ve seen that even more recently, that kind of threat at the perimeter and driving and shooting ability of both of them, it’s going to be a hell of a load for any defense to handle. I think they can and I think there’s other examples of that in NBA history. We’ll see what happens, but I think they’re both extremely talented players and they genuinely like each other. People think they don’t like each other, they genuinely like each other. That’s sort of made up. Look, they’re both 21, 22 years old. There was a little bit of feeling out of who’s going to do what, but I do believe like I said in the news conference, I think the talent on this team is so good, but they’re so young. We’ll see what happens.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: For the record, Kevin Durant is getting awfully tired of the LeBron James comparisons … Celtics forward Gerald Wallace — a one-time star for the Charlotte Bobcats — still isn’t over being traded by the Bobcats back in 2011 … Knicks star Carmelo Anthony enjoyed meeting Celtics legend Bill Russell at All-Star weekend … The term “daily vitamins” has a whole different meaning to the Atlanta Hawks

ICYMI of The Night: If you somehow missed all of All-Star weekend, don’t worry … we’ve got the best plays and moments from all the events right here: 


VIDEO: Relive the top 10 plays from All-Star weekend

Cavs Mired In Self-Made Mess




VIDEO: Kyrie Irving sits down with TNT’s Craig Sager to talk all things Cavs

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — This is what happens when you try to outsmart the system without the right parts, when you think you’ve come up with a formula for an equation that doesn’t actually have one.

All of the lottery picks, risky free agent acquisitions, financial flexibility, spread sheets and advanced statistical and analytical data on the planet won’t save a NBA executive or coach from that wicked reality when the bill is due.

Cleveland Cavaliers general manager Chris Grant found out the hard way today when he was relieved of his duties and replaced, at least on an interim basis, by his former assistant and now “acting general manager” David Griffin. The Cavaliers are a mess, one of their own making, and Grant — despite keeping a low public profile by GM standards — found himself on the firing line, and rightfully so. Organizational and institutional arrogance will get you every time.

And there is no quick fix, no easy way out of this tire fire for the Cavaliers. There is only the painful and very public walking of the plank for Grant as Griffin, and whoever succeeds him, tries to salvage whatever they can from the wreckage that is the past four years and steer the franchise back onto solid ground.

You can’t blame All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving for being anxious about the direction of the franchise after yet another season goes sideways before Valentine’s Day. He’s not the one who chose Mike Brown, who had already been unceremoniously dumped in his previous stint with the franchise because he couldn’t get the franchise over the championship hump, to usher in the new era of Cavaliers’ basketball. He didn’t draft Dion Waiters or Anthony Bennett when everyone in the league would have gone elsewhere with those top picks. He didn’t sign Andrew Bynum or engineer any of the other moves that have come post-The Decision. Whether it was his call or not (most anyone with a lick of wisdom about this situation knows that Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert‘s voice was heard on each and every decision), Grant owns all of those moves.

Trading for Luol Deng was a nice move, but it didn’t happen soon enough. It came after the air of inevitability about this particular Cavaliers team, a woeful 16-33 in a depressed Eastern Conference that they were expected to make a playoff statement in, was already established.

Gilbert made his intentions for the immediate future clear in a statement released by the team:

“This has been a very difficult period for the franchise. We have severely underperformed against expectations. Just as this is completely unacceptable to our loyal and passionate fan base, season ticket holders and corporate partners, it is also just as unacceptable to our ownership group. I can assure everyone who supports and cares about the Cleveland Cavaliers that we will continue to turn over every stone and explore every possible opportunity for improvement to shift the momentum of our franchise in the right direction. There is no one in our entire organization who is satisfied with our performance, and to say that we are disappointed is an understatement. We all know the great potential of our young talent, seasoned veterans, as well as our recent all-star addition. We believe a change in leadership was necessary to establish the best possible culture and environment for our entire team to flourish.

There is no move, nor any amount of capital investment, we will not make if we believe it will improve our chances of competing and winning in this league for both the short and long term. The fans of this great city have invested too much time, money and effort for the kind of product we have recently delivered to them. This must change,” concluded Gilbert.

This is the latest example of a franchise assuming that there is a template for the type of success enjoyed by the likes of the San Antonio Spurs translating to every other market. It takes stars, superstars usually, and just the right fit to launch an outfit from the lottery to the upper echelon of the league. The players come first, then the success. That’s the way it’s always been and always will be. Assuming that some set infrastructure is supposed to come first is where the Cavaliers went wrong.

They were spoiled during the LeBron James years. They foolishly assumed their fabric had as much to do with those teams making deep forays into the playoffs year after year as James did. Maybe they realize now that there is no chicken and egg debate here. You either grow your superstar and surround him with the right pieces to reach his potential or you make mistake after mistake — the Cavs, before and after Grant joined them (he was an assistant GM first) made plenty of those while LeBron was on his way up — and eventually watch things come apart at some point down the road.

James didn’t depart his native Northeast Ohio because he hated snow or tired of the comforts of home. He went to Miami to win and because the Heat, and Pat Riley, offered a surefire path to the one thing all of the all-time greats covet most, and that’s a Larry O’Brien trophy.

I knew where this thing was headed the moment Gilbert’s now infamous post-Decision promise that the Cavs would win a title before James and the Heat was unearthed to the public.

The risky move to sign Bynum over the summer, when the Cavs were one of a handful of teams with cap space and assets to make big moves, was one that alerted the players already on the roster that Grant and his staff were grasping for anything to make a splash.

It turns out that the Bynum signing was every bit the useless play I thought it was. All it did was increase the tension in an already fragile relationship between Irving and Waiters. The Cavaliers’ locker room culture wasn’t strong enough to absorb and force a cat with Bynum’s baggage to conform, the way he’ll have to in Indiana now if he wants to stick around with a contender for the remainder of this season.

Their Central Division rivals to the north in Indianapolis are a shining example of what the Cavaliers could have and should have been able to do during the time that has passed since LeBron’s departure. They took risks in drafts, free agency and trades and in hiring Frank Vogel as their coach to manage what has become one of the most complete and balanced rosters in the league.

It certainly helps to have Larry Bird, Donnie Walsh and Kevin Pritchard at the helm while going through the rebuilding process. But that’s still no excuse for the Cavaliers taking such a cavalier attitude towards conventional wisdom over the course of the past five or six seasons.

In a results-oriented business, the Grant-led Cavaliers simply never showed enough to warrant him making it to the final year of his contract. And now that same mess he inherited will be passed along to Griffin and whoever else follows. Whether or not Irving, Deng and any of the other players acquired on Grant’s watch will be around to see this thing to the finish is anyone’s guess.

But there are some certainties involved in this process, no matter how many perceived assets the person calling the shots is working with. You can go off on your own and decide to reinvent the game if you want, you can take players that don’t fit and squeeze with all your might to try to make it work. You can look past fresh new faces in the coaching ranks in an attempt to right a past wrong or what have you, but you can not and will not circumvent the system. It just doesn’t work.

If you don’t believe it, ask Gregg Popovich how that all would have worked in San Antonio if he didn’t have Time Duncan to build around; or Sam Presti in Oklahoma City without Kevin Durant.

The superstar players come first, then the structure around them. And it all has to fit together.

Defined In Times Of NBA Tumult, Stern Stepping Down In Tranquility

a

NEW YORK – The news of the day surprised few, if they had been following along: Starting in June, the NBA Finals will revert to the 2-2-1-1-1 schedule format currently used in all earlier playoff rounds and for The Finals prior to 1985.

In a nutshell, the reasons for 2-3-2 –- commercial air travel by the teams and catering to newspapers’ travel budgets – no longer are issues for the league, allowing competitive considerations about proper home-court advantage to carry the day. At the Board of Governors meeting that wrapped up in New York Wednesday afternoon, the unanimous recommendation of the competition committee from September was unanimously approved by the NBA’s owners/team reps.

The backstory of it all, though, was more compelling –- this was commissioner David Stern‘s last scheduled Board of Governors session, his last post-BOG news conference. Aside from the closed-door, collective bargaining bloodlettings in which Stern most famously rolled up his sleeves, earned his paychecks and made his bones, these meetings of the 30 team owners ranked a close second in crafting Stern’s reputation across 30 years as NBA commissioner and consummate cat herder. (His bi-annual pressers at The Finals and All-Star weekend placed third, offering glimpses of his many moods and styles to the fans.)

But for his finale, it seemed rather tranquil. For a man whose vision and will shaped the NBA over the past three decades like no others, and whose professional highlight/lowlight reel necessarily would be crammed with lockout moments, talk of “enormous consequences,” subtle verbal jabs and occasional fits of pique, the low-profile business that wrapped Wednesday was awfully tame.

“It is, right?” Stern said as he stepped from the platform, playing along momentarily with the “lightning rod” reputation one wag laid on him during questions and answers. Even Stern knows his best (and worst, equally memorable) moments have come during times of the NBA’s greatest turmoil. But this simply isn’t one of those times.

Business is good. Labor peace prevails at least until 2017. San Antonio’s Peter Holt will continue as BOG chairman. Reports at the BOG from revenue-sharing and collective-bargaining committees were encouraging, as Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver described them. Arena development or renovations are said to be on track in Sacramento, Minnesota, Milwaukee and New York’s Madison Square Garden. And two dozen or more franchises are on track to be profitable by the end of 2014-15, Stern said, assuming they want to be.

“There are some teams who will not be profitable, in many cases because they choose not to by virtue of their payments to either players or coaches or general managers,” he said. “We’re getting to a point that with revenue sharing, teams that are improving their performance will break even or make money, except for those that are ‑‑ I haven’t looked at the Nets’ balance sheet, but my guess is that they’re going to not necessarily be profitable.  But that also involves large payments to build a building as well as large salary, as well as large [luxury] tax payments. But that’s OK.”

The meetings Tuesday and Wednesday might have been as much about Stern’s fast-approaching retirement as the Finals format or other league matters. He’ will step down Feb. 1, 2014, after precisely 30 years, the longest run of any commissioner in the four major U.S. pro sports. Pressed only a little, Stern shared some of what went on.

“Oh, there was a very warm reception last night at dinner at which some speechifying was accomplished,” he said, “and a series of totally embarrassing photos of me over the last 36 years, and a very heartwarming video that was voiced in part by … Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James. It was pretty neat.

“It was a little bit over the top. There used to be a joke that said ‘My father would have enjoyed it, my mom would have believed it.’ It fell into that category. But it was very nice.

“I got the opportunity to thank my colleagues at the NBA for their incredible work and saying how pleased I was that the league was in such good hands under those colleagues and Adam’s stewardship.”

Silver will take over as commissioner on Feb. 1, a move that has been ratified and contractually set for the past year. No formal baton hand-off has been scheduled, but All-Star Weekend Feb. 14-16 in New Orleans will be two weeks too late.

At the close midday Wednesday, Stern said, a resolution was read into the meeting’s minutes. “[It] was also very warm and thanking me for my job done in the success of the league,” Stern said. “That provided the basis for me to quickly bang the gavel down on the meeting, and my last words were ‘Lunch is served.’ “

The kudos and plaudits will come rolling in over the final three months or so of Stern’s tenure. He has another victory lap or three in him, beginning with Miami’s championship ring presentation on opening night Tuesday, followed by a trip to Sacramento and the franchise that was saved for that city on his watch.

“The game is in good shape. We came off a great season,” Stern said. “Our teams are going to have record season-ticket sales, renewals are strong, sponsorships are up, gate is going to be up. Everything coming off a very strong base is going to be up this season.  Seems like a really good time to do something else.”

Stern has been Silver’s biggest booster to the owners and in the media, assuring them of a smooth transition. Silver orchestrated a little payback Wednesday, commissioning a David J. Stern bobblehead to give to the owners and team reps. Cleveland’s Dan Gilbert later did an interview in which he joked that the Stern doll only shakes its head side-to-side, rather than nodding yes.

Stern told that story on himself, as relaxed and tranquil as he’s ever been in his job.

“Believe it or not, even including my interaction with the media and the burns I [have] from being a lightning rod, it’s been a great run,” the commissioner said, “and I’m grateful to the owners for giving me the opportunity.”

From 2-3-2 to 2-2-1-1-1

Rod Thorn, NBA President, Basketball Operations, recalled Wednesday a Finals turnaround in which the Celtics and the Lakers played on a Friday, flew from Los Angeles to Boston on Saturday, then played a matinee game at Boston Garden. With that in mind, the NBA will schedule an extra day off between Games 6 and 7 in June, if the 2014 Finals go that long.

No determination has been made yet on turnaround time for subsequent championship series, Stern and Silver said, or for the travel gaps between other games in the series. A Finals that goes seven games will require four airline flights between Game 2 and the finale, rather than the current two, but teams these days fly exclusively on charter flights.

Also, the competition committee felt that facing three consecutive road games (Games 3-5) was unfair to the team that earned home-court advantage, as was spending a full week on the road at that point in the postseason. Silver was said to have urged the owners to approve the change, citing basketball reasons over the business reasons that triggered the 2-3-2 approach. They approved it without dissent.

Interestingly, the teams with Games 1, 2, 6 and 7 at home (if needed) won 21 of the 29 Finals (.724) played under 2-3-2, compared to a 26-12 mark (.684) for the 38 NBA/BAA championships through 1984.

“I think there is a sense that it skews the competition, but it’s not backed up by the data,” Silver said. “The likelihood of a team winning in a 2‑3‑2 format of the favored team is the same as in the 2‑2‑1‑1‑1 format.  But there certainly was a perception … that it was unfair to the team that had the better record that it was then playing the pivotal Game 5 on the road.”
a

No Hard Feelings As Brown Gets To Work

x

LAS VEGAS – Mike Brown was wearing a black coach’s polo shirt with the Cleveland Cavaliers logo, the “C” with the sword through it on the left breast, and it didn’t feel all that weird anymore.

“It was weird for a while,” Brown said Saturday after watching the Cavs’ Summer League team lose to Miami 82-76. “But it was a seamless transition for myself and my family. It almost, to a certain degree after we got over the initial shock of it, it almost felt like we never really left. It was almost like we went on vacation for a little bit.”

That’s certainly a pleasant way for Brown to describe his short tenure with the Los Angeles Lakers that ended after one full season and five games into last season. That’s when he was unceremoniously dumped by the Lakers following a 1-4 start. The basketball world expected Phil Jackson to come down from the mountaintop to replace him, but instead L.A. chose Mike D’Antoni. Everybody knows the roller-coaster season that followed, the infighting, the injuries, the criticism, the first-round sweep.

Then came the ultimate insult in the first week of July when Dwight Howard announced he was joining the Houston Rockets.

Brown said he paid little attention to the Lakers soap opera once he left, finding a way to separate his emotions from the job he had just lost coaching Kobe Bryant, just three years after being fired by the Cavs as the franchise panicked awaiting a decision, The Decision, from LeBron James.

“I watched Mater Dei High School basketball and I enjoyed it,” Brown said. “I appreciated the opportunity the Buss family gave me and [Lakers general manager] Mitch Kupchak. I enjoyed being around all the players and working with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol and those guys. But when they made the decision I was all-in with my family.”

And so Brown really can go home again, to the city he says he and family loves, where his youngest son wanted to return and graduate from high school with his old pals, to the place the Brown family was returning before he ever received a phone call. Then his phone rang.

The rest is a Q&A with new Cavaliers coach Mike Brown:

Q: Who made the first call leading to your return to the Cavs?

A: Chris Grant (Cavaliers general manager) did. He caught me off-guard a little bit, you know, but it was a business call more than anything else.

Q: Did it take some time to process his reason for calling?

A: No, it was just the first step because it was new to me and I’m sure it was probably fairly new to them, so it was a thing that was a process. But again, we were on our way back to the area regardless because we love the area. My youngest boy wanted to graduate from high school there with his friends and my oldest boy had signed with Butler University which was about a 4 ½ drive, so it was a nice fit. When the call happened it was just a thing to process more than anything else.

Q: Were you convinced there were no bridges burned on either end after your firing in 2010?

A: I never forget, one of the guys that I hired, Bernie Bickerstaff, that was one of the first things that he taught me. … He told me, ‘Young buck, don’t ever burn any bridges in this business or in life.’ It was an easy piece of advice for me to follow because that’s how I’m built. You appreciate any opportunity you are given in life and try to make the most of it. When I was here last time I had a fantastic ride, I thoroughly enjoyed everything I was involved with.

Q: Your team has an intriguing roster led by young All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving and the front office made several moves to add depth. How complete do you believe this team to be?

A: We’ll see. First of all, this organization is one of the best, if not the best, top to bottom because it starts with your owner and our owner Dan Gilbert has a done a lot to make sure that we’re heading in the right direction toward a championship. And you go from him to Chris Grant and you look at the job that he’s done with little or no credit, in terms of the draft picks and the trades that he’s made in the past couple of years and you feel like with the roster and the staff that we put together, and having guys like Kyrie and Dion [Waiters] and Andrew [Bynum] and Andy [Verajao], so on and so forth, Jarrett Jack, that you feel like you have put a competitive team together and we should be able to go compete for a championship, which is my goal every year.

Q: Since returning to Cleveland, how have you found the emotional state of the fans three years after The Decision?

A: Pre-LeBron, post-LeBron, the Cleveland fans have always been terrific. Even the year that I was out [of coaching] and I was in Cleveland, we really enjoyed that area and walking around, whether it was downtown or out in Westlake where we live, and coming across fans in general because they’re very passionate. Not only about the Cavaliers, they’re passionate about the Browns, they’re passionate about the Indians and about their city, so they’re in a good mindset right now.”

Q: Do you sense the fans have renewed hope for the franchise or that a buzz has returned about the team?

A: Yeah, you feel that, and again you credit Dan Gilbert and Chris Grant for putting this thing together and trying to get us in the right direction before the actual season starts off. The buzz that is out there is a nice one right now, and hopefully it will be able to continue to stay like that through the course of the year and just progress.”