Posts Tagged ‘Dan Gilbert’

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.”

No. 1 Pick Could Help Push Cavs Into The Playoffs

x

NEW YORK – Before Tuesday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers were among the two or three Lottery teams most likely to make the playoffs next year. They have a budding superstar, other young players who will only get better, and a new (and old) coach who will get them to improve on the end of the floor where they’ve been particularly dreadful that last few years.

2013 Lottery results
Pick Team
1. Cleveland
2. Orlando
3. Washington
4. Charlotte
5. Phoenix
6. New Orleans
7. Sacramento
8. Detroit
9. Minnesota
10. Portland
11. Philadelphia
12. Toronto (to OKC)
13. Dallas
14. Utah

After Tuesday night, if you didn’t already have them there (some of us did), you’d have to move the Cavs to the top of the list. Thanks to the results of Tuesday’s Draft lottery, Cleveland will add the No. 1 pick of the 2013 Draft to and young and talented core of Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson.

It was just two years ago that the Cavs won the right to select Irving with a pick acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers. This time, they won with their own pick, earned with a 24-58 record, some terrible defense, and an 8-3-6-7 combination of ping-pong balls.

A month ago, Mike Brown was rehired to fix that defense. The Cavs are the only team to rank in the bottom five in defensive efficiency each of the last three years, but ranked in the top five on that end a couple of times under Brown (and with the best player in the world).

A month from now, Cleveland will add another piece to the puzzle. Two No. 1 picks in three years is a good way to ensure both short and long-term success.

“It’s going to mean a lot,” Cavs owner Dan Gilbert said Tuesday, “because if we can pick the right guy to fit into the young core that we have now, we can be a great team for many, many years.”

Before the lottery, there was no clear No. 1 pick. No LeBron James or Anthony Davis. And there was no Big Two on the level of Greg Oden and Kevin Durant. Among the top four or five talents, there’s a guy at each position, and none is a can’t miss prospect.

But with Cleveland drawing the top selection and already having Irving and Waiters in their backcourt, Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel, a 6-foot-11 power forward, jumps to the top of the list. The Cavs have Thompson, Tyler Zeller (taken with the No. 17 pick last year) and the oft-injured Anderson Varejao up front, but every good team needs at least three quality big men.

The issue, of course, is that Noel won’t be available until at least Christmas, still recovering from ACL surgery in his left knee in March. And as we’ve seen in the past, training camp is a critical part of a rookie’s orientation to the league.

The Orlando Magic, who finished with a league-worst 20-62 record, will draft second, and they can use help at every position and on both ends of the floor. They have a handful of young players, but none is really a franchise anchor. Their best pieces are on the frontline, however, so they should be happy with any number of options in the backcourt, including Michigan point guard Trey Burke and Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore.

In discussing the possibilities, Magic coach Jacque Vaughn talked about building a culture as much as acquiring talent.

“I trust our general manager and our scouts and their ability to find the right person who’s going into fit in our locker room,” Vaughn said.

Magic general manager Rob Hennigan, another descendant from the San Antonio Spurs’ management tree, had a similar outlook, saying that he wants to continue “to build the momentum with what we want to be about, what our identity is, what our values are, and really staying true to that.”

Like the Cavs, the Washington Wizards have a young and talented backcourt. So they will probably look to go big with the third pick, though general manager Ernie Grunfeld indicated Tuesday that he’ll look for the best player available.

“In this league, players win, regardless of what position they’re at,” Grunfeld said. “We’ll take the best player that we feel will help us, in the short term and the long term.”

Report: Cavaliers Pursuing Phil Jackson?



.

MIAMI – Phil Jackson in Cleveland?

Go ahead and let that sink in for a minute …

If the Cleveland Cavaliers have their way, that won’t just be a question … it’ll be a reality. The Cavaliers’ coaching search shifted from reuniting with former coach Mike Brown to focusing on another, much more accomplished former Los Angeles Lakers coach.

The Cavs have entered the Zen Master’s zone, per a report from ESPN.com, as they reached out to the “retired” Jackson to gauge his interest in coming aboard to help revive the franchise. It’s not the first time the Cavs have approached Jackson:

Jackson interviewed with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert in 2005, when Gilbert was looking for a coach. That year, Gilbert ended up hiring Mike Brown.

Brown and the Cavs have mutual interest in a reunion. Gilbert and Brown met over dinner Sunday night, a league source confirmed.

Jackson is considering other coaching options, sources said. The Brooklyn Nets and possibly the Sacramento Kings – if they relocate to Seattle — are two teams likely to appeal to Jackson more than the Cavaliers, according to sources close to the situation.

The Nets reached out to Jackson before even firing coach Avery Johnson last fall and are expected to check his interest again following the season. The Seattle-based group attempting to purchase and relocate the Kings, led by investor Chris Hansen, is interested in bringing Jackson on board in an executive role if it wins approval for the deal, sources said.

Jackson is believed to be looking for a similar situation as Pat Riley has with the Miami Heat– oversee personnel moves and mentor a head coach. To land and keep Riley, the Heat gave him a deal that included an ownership stake in the franchise.

Jackson entertaining an offer to get back into coaching is one thing. To dive into a situation in need of as much rebuilding work as the Cavs require, however, seems like a longshot. All-Star Kyrie Irving is a promising young talent and the Cavaliers will have financial flexibility this summer, but they just don’t fit Jackson’s usual profile.

With a number of potential coaching vacancies this summer, and Jackson high on the wish list in each and every instance, it makes sense for the Cavaliers to be proactive in their pursuit of arguably the best coach in NBA history.

Whether or not that pursuit produces anything other than interesting headlines and lots of chatter remains to be seen.


No Improvement = No More Scott For Cavs

To be fair to Byron Scott, this was not the job he signed up for. When Scott agreed to become the 18th head coach in Cleveland Cavaliers history on July 1, 2010, a fellow by the name of LeBron James still was considered to be the cornerstone of the franchise’s present and future. Yes, James technically was a free agent but the very act of hiring Scott was seen by some as a move that would enhance the Cavaliers’ chances of keeping him.

A week later, James announced his decision. So long, Cuyahoga. Hello, South Beach.

And yet, Scott’s job was the one he stayed on for, through three difficult seasons that yielded some common problems and some unique challenges.

The talent cupboard was pretty bare once all those supporting pieces around James left or were rightly cleared out. What talent remained mostly was young, embodied by second-year point guard Kyrie Irving, rookies Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller and youngters such as Tristan Thompson, Alonzo Gee and eventually Marreese Speights. And then, this season, injuries to defensive presence Anderson Varejao, to Irving and to others got layered onto the issues already in place.

The result: A 24-58 record that was worse than 2011-12′s 21-45 (in the post-lockout 66-game schedule).

And swiftly, Scott’s termination, not quite 34 months into a 48-month contract but after several weeks of speculation, too. His record: 64-166, heavily tilting the near-.500 mark he brought after most of 10 seasons with New Jersey and New Orleans (he’s 416-521 now).

The Cavaliers, in their news release, said all the expected things: the tremendous respect management has for him professionally, the admiration personally, yada yada yada. That’s boilerplate at this time of year. What got Scott was what gets so many others in his profession: the lack of Cleveland’s tangible improvement in his third season and an eagerness/impatience level from owner Dan Gilbert that was out of sync with the length of his deal, if not expectations.

With Irving running the attack, at least for the 59 games in which he appeared, the Cavs were a third-tier team offensively but trending upward. Defensively, though – and Varejao’s absence can’t be overstated here – they were headed in the wrong direction (27th in the league with a rating of 109.4).

Comments from players once news of Scott’s firing was made official were fairly typical. Gee, I wish I could have done more. And no, it didn’t seem like he lost the locker room.

More interesting, though, was the list of possible replacements that the Cleveland Plain Dealer posted within minutes.

Among the names offered in the combo wish list/guessing game: Phil Jackson, Mike Krzyzewski, Tom Izzo, John Calipari, Larry Brown, Rick Pitino, Nate McMillan, Mo Cheeks, Flip Saunders, Jerry Sloan and one or both of the Van Gundy Bros. Current NBA assistants Brian Shaw, Mike Malone and Mike Budenholzer also were mentioned, as were former Cavs bench boss Mike Brown and Keith Dambrot – James’ high school coach now at Akron.

There was a sense, as the news spread, that Cleveland GM Chris Grant ought to act fast, lest some other team with a vacancy snatch the Cavs’ preferred candidate. But that’s the good thing about the coaching carousel – for every one thrown off, another one comes on. And – cue the calliope music! – round and round it goes.

What, you thought the playoffs and the draft were going to provide all the NBA entertainment in the next couple of months?

Ainge-Riley Feud Joins A Long NBA List

a

a
HANG TIME, Texas -
- The Hatfields and McCoys, Montagues and Capulets, Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj have never had anything on the NBA. When it comes to feuds, there have been some dandies.

So when Pat Riley and Danny Ainge went lip-to-lip this week it was just the latest chapter. Here are just a few other memorable ones:

Danny Ainge vs. Tree Rollins

In a 1987 first round playoff game against Atlanta, the Celtics’ guard Ainge tried to tackle 7-footer Rollins of the Hawks. They wound up in a heap of bodies on the court and Ainge came out of the pile screaming with a gash that required two stitches from where Rollins had bit him.

The next day’s edition of the Boston Herald bore the headline: Tree Bites Man.

Joey Crawford vs. Tim Duncan

It was a 1997 playoff series when the bombastic veteran referee did not like that Duncan was laughing on the bench and challenged him to a fight. The league fined and suspended Crawford and banned him for working Spurs games for several years.

The pair has since patched things up. However Duncan and teammate Manu Ginobili were photographed in October at a Halloween Party where they aimed fake guns and guest dressed up as Crawford.

Clyde Drexler vs. Jake O’Donnell

The final game of the veteran referee’s career came on May 9, 1995 when he ejected the Rockets’ Drexler in the second quarter of a playoff game in Phoenix. The league suspended O’Donnell and he never worked another game. Drexler claimed that there was no previous history between the two.

But league sources confirmed that Drexler had been ordered to send a written apology to the ref following a 1989 incident when he played in Portland and had threatened O’Donnell prior to a game.

Red Auerbach vs. Phil Jackson

It practically became a running joke. Each spring when the Zen Master would close in on adding another championship ring to his collection, some mischievous reporter would dial up the former Celtics legend and let him vent.

“Three titles in a row don’t constitute a dynasty,” Auerbach would rant. “He had Michael Jordan and Shaq.”

Of course, Red had Bill Russell.

Jackson usually responded with a bemused smile and a zinger and ultimately that cap with the Roman number X for his 10 championships when he passed Auerbach’s total of nine.

LeBron James vs. Dan Gilbert

All it took was James announcing on national TV that he was taking his talents to South Beach for the Cleveland owner to vent all of his frustrations in a letter that accused LeBron of selfishness and “cowardly betrayal” and promised that his Cavs would win a championship before The King.

Well, so Gilbert is a better venter than prognosticator. He has since admitted that his childish actions were wrong and, besides, all we be forgiven if LeBron opts out of his Heat contract and returns to the Cavs in 2014.

Shaquille O’Neal vs. Kobe Bryant

So how many more championships could the Lakers have won in the early years of the 21st century if the two giants of the court had been able to make their huge egos squeeze comfortably into the same locker room?

Kobe thought Shaq was lazy. Shaq thought Kobe was a ballhog.
So they both were right. Then things got personal and nasty and out the window went any chance of a “four-peat.”

Ex-Cavs Owner George Gund Dies at 75



HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – George Gund III, the ex-owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Cleveland Barons hockey team, died Tuesday after a long battle with cancer.

Gund, 75, a businessman and philanthropist in addition to being involved in sports team ownership, had been undergoing cancer treatments for the past 18 months, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Gund and his brother Gordon, 73, owned the Cavaliers franchise from 1983 until they sold it to Quicken Loans founder and billionaire Dan Gilbert in 2005.

Geoffrey Gund, president of the board of trustees, issued a statement on behalf of The George Gund Foundation:

“The deep sadness that my family feels at the passing of my brother George is shared by the entire extended family of The George Gund Foundation and, I am sure, by those who knew George through the Foundation’s work,” the statement read. “He served faithfully and with honor as a trustee of the Foundation for many years carrying out the wishes of our father, his namesake, to contribute to human well-being and the progress of society. He enthusiastically supported the Foundation’s long-term and patient investments in the transformation of Cleveland and he also personally engaged in that effort.”

Gilbert Might Have Traded LeBron

If he had it to do over again, Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert said, he never would have promised that his team would win an NBA championship before LeBron James won one with the Miami Heat.

He wouldn’t have had to, because that whole business of James’ departure as a free agent in July 2010 would have been handled much differently. The Decision would have been Gilbert’s, not James’.

With another crack at it, Gilbert said, he and then-GM Danny Ferry would have peddled James sooner, getting back some assets via trade before he left the Cavs as an unrestricted free agent. The lesson provided most recently by Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti in his pre-emptive trade of James Harden apparently caught Gilbert’s eye.

Speaking with reporters prior to the team’s opener, a 94-84 victory at Quicken Loans Arena, Gilbert said he regretted waiting until his superstar could leave with no return to the Cavs:

”The key thing, whoever you are and wherever you are, you can not wait,” Gilbert said. ”The big lesson was if a player is not willing to extend, no matter who they are, no matter where they are playing, no matter what kind of season you had, you can not risk going into a summer and having them leave in unrestricted free agency and get nothing back for it.” (more…)