HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Next time you’ll listen when Amar’e Stoudemire tells you the Knicks are not afraid of the Miami Heat.
The Knicks showed no fear at Madison Square Garden in battling from behind and then out playing the Heat down the stretch on TNT last night. It was the sort of performance that exposes all the reasons why these Knicks, with a key addition (Carmelo Anthony) here or there, could be trouble for the rest of the Eastern Conference come playoff time and beyond.
When people try to simplify this win for the Knicks by pointing out that Mario Chalmers missed a wide open shot that could have tied the game in the final seconds and that the Knicks just took care of business late, they are doing a disservice to the home team.
The Knicks snatched this game, using that 17-8 fourth-quarter surge to turn back Dwyane Wade and LeBron James at crunch time. Those four straight 3-pointers during the run, two each from Danilo Gallinari and Landry Fields, proved to be the difference as the Knicks doubled the Heat’s fourth quarter production.
Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
If you’re Dan Gilbert, what do you do – what can you do – to give Cleveland fans some kind of hope?
Steve Aschburner: In 48-point Comic Sans, Dan Gilbert needs to assure Cavs fans that they are embarking on a massive overhaul of their team via draft picks and trades – forget about free agency. He has to sell them on youth and hope and some sort of blueprint for the future. He needs to push Chris Grant to move players such as Antawn Jamison and Mo Williams to needy contenders for picks and cash, and to serve as facilitator to as many deals as possible while extracting cuts that fit their vision. The only NBA players who would willingly join the current mess are mercenaries coming only for the money they could get while being overpaid. That’s why Gilbert and his team must focus on future NBA players.
Fran Blinebury: Keep your fingers crossed at the lottery, keep your mouth shut the rest of the time and keep believing that karma will reward you in the next life.
Art Garcia: Build an elaborate time machine and go back to 2007 or give the Cavs to Pat Riley. (more…)
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We will understand if Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan spends the rest of his days looking over his shoulder, avoiding cracks in the sidewalk wherever he walks and ducking for cover at the sign of a cat any shade other than albino.
We’re just as confused here at the hideout as McMillan must be in regards to what he and the Trail Blazers have done to incur the wrath of the basketball gods the way they have the past two seasons.
Now comes word that Brandon Roy, who was already out indefinitely, will have an arthroscopic procedure on both knees next week. McMillan should have requested Ashton Kutcher deliver the news, as opposed to whatever member of the beleaguered Trail Blazers’ athletic training staff had to deliver the crushing news.
Roy’s knees give the Trail Blazers a total of seven knees that have cost players their seasons, or at least large chunks of the season. Greg Oden is out for the season after having microfracture knee surgery. Second-yard forward Jeff Pendergraph injured his knee and required season-ending surgery. And rookie guard Elliot Williams has undergone surgery this season on both knees. Veteran center Joel Pryzbilla is working his way into normal shape after missing 26 games recovering from offseason knee surgery.
Dan Gilbert and LeBron James toss the word “karma” around without knowing the true dark side of the word. Folks in Portland know all too well what the wrong side of that coin can do to a team’s hopes and dreams.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – And you thought Dan Gilbert was tough on his players.
Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has taken things to a different level, joining the chorus of Baron Davis critics this season. According to my main man Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports, Sterling has taken to heckling one of his own players:
– “Why are you in the game?”
– “Why did you take that shot?”
– “You’re out of shape!”
While Sterling has also taunted other Clippers players since the middle of last season, none have received it worse than Davis, the sources said. Davis has missed 14 of the team’s 25 games this season and is averaging 7.4 points while making a team-high $13 million. Including this season, Davis has three years and nearly $42 million left on his contract.
“There’s nothing I can say,” Davis said of Sterling’s taunts. “I have no comment on that. You just get to this point where it’s a fight every day. It’s a fight. You’re fighting unnecessary battles. I’m fighting unnecessary battles.
“It’s frustrating because I know and my teammates know I’m capable of getting it done, even dudes on the other team. It’s frustrating.”
We realize Davis has become a bit of an easy target these days. But your own owner taking shots at you seems a bit much, even in this day and age.
We know how Clevelanders will react Thursday night: not well. Is that OK with you?
David Aldridge: To paraphrase Emma Greenway in Terms of Endearment: I think moving a thousand miles and uprooting a city’s collective psyche without its consent is worth a pout, don’t you? (Yeah, I know. Chick flick. But it was a good chick flick.) As long as there is no attempted violence and/or vulgarity involved in their signs or actions, I think it’s okay if LeBron gets a few boos and chants tossed his way. He’s a big guy. He can handle it.
Steve Aschburner: I’m going to be in the building, and this is one of the few times I’ll be grateful that media seating at most NBA arenas has gotten lousier – that is, higher from the court – in recent years. That should keep me out of the line of fire compared to the old courtside days. But it would really be nice if the Cavs fans, since everyone is expecting them to zig, could instead zag by doing something clever and/or unexpected. Like going mum for anything that has to do with LeBron. Or serenading him with silly sing-a-long songs — “Hit The Road, Jack!” or “You’re So Vain” for starters – as opposed to simple booing, cruder language or dangerous projectiles.
Art Garcia: Fans voicing their displeasure with the opposition is nothing new. It’s an accepted and celebrated part of games. Would Philly fans still be Philly fans if they didn’t boo? A-Rod went through this the first time he returned to Seattle, but something tells the Cleveland faithful will crank Bang-a-Bron to 11. Whether it’s right or wrong, it’s coming Thursday and I suspect it’s gonna keep coming for years.
Fran Blinebury: I operate under the “Mother Rule.” If you wouldn’t say it, wear it or hold it up on a sign with your mother sitting next to you, then it’s out of bounds. Anything else goes. And if I were 20,000 Clevelanders trying to sound my displeasure, I have one word: vuvuzelas.
Scott Howard-Cooper: It’s not just about Clevelanders. Ninety percent of the NBA fans in the world would pack themselves into The Q to be not well with LeBron. As long as it’s not well within the limits of the law and good decorum — there are certain words kids do not need to hear yet — people not only will understand. They will be cheering on the Cleveland fans.
Shaun Powell: Within the limits of good taste and safety, anything is fair game. Unfortunately for LeBron, the Browns aren’t having a great year, so Clevelanders will take some of that out on him, too. While they’re at it, they’ll just shovel some of that archived anger from “the Fumble” and “the Drive” and the 1997 World Series loss as well. Bring ear plugs, LeBron. And his teammates might wanna treat LeBron like a fire engine and stay back at least 500 feet.
John Schuhmann: As long as they don’t interfere with the game or make it uncomfortable for people who bring their kids to The Q. Hopefully, most of the crowd’s energy is expended in support of the Cavs, but boos, whistles and (PG-13) signs are fine with me.
Sekou Smith: Having witnessed the Malice at the Palace in person (from right behind the Pacers’ bench), I would urge any and all fans in attendance to think long and hard before doing anything other than booing until they lose their voice. If they really wanted to stick it to LeBron James they could give him the silent treatment. And I mean complete silence. How crazy would it be if no one made a sound whenever he touches the ball and then the crowd just goes nuts whenever the home team does anything? This game might have needed an age-limit rule as well. “No one under the age of 21 allowed,” for fear of what they might hear.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – When I packed up and headed off to college a lifetime ago, the last thing my folks said to me as I hit the door was “remember — no matter what happens — you can always come home.”
Those were comforting words for a clueless kid headed to a new life over 1,000 miles away from everything he’d ever known.
LeBron James is going to find out the hard way that those words don’t always ring true.
You can’t always go home, at least not right away in some cases. Sometime in the distant future, perhaps 20 years from now, he might be able to return to Cleveland without drawing the ire of the masses.
Thursday night’s Heat-Cavaliers game at Quicken Loans Arena, however, is definitely not going to be that time.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We can see the starting blocks now.
Training camp is around the corner.
The official start is still a few weeks away, but if you pop your head into the practice facility of just about any team today you’re guaranteed to see NBA players getting a head start on the 2010-11 season.
They realize what’s at stake. They know how important the first steps of a marathon can be for anyone with playoff or even loftier expectations.
The pressure is on all around the league, on players, coaches and front office types that understand the time to make a move up the league’s food chain is now. Kobe Bryant and the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers were the only ones that could go into the summer with any feeling of satisfaction, knowing full well that the good vibrations could last for only so long.
It’s time to the make the donuts again, or close to it, and that means there are questions we need answered.
For comparison sake, the lowly and annual bottom-dwelling Los Angeles Clippers were scheduled for 12 national television appearances based on excitement over the return of Blake Griffin from injury.
James’ new team, the Miami Heat, are scheduled for 29 national TV games — including James first game in Cleveland since leaving in free agency. As The Plain Dealer reported last week, it will be Dec. 2 at The Q.
With NBA TV’s fan night voting, the Heat will likely hit the maximum number of national games at 34 as the Cavs did last season.
For the first time since 2005, the Cavs’ season opener will not be on national TV as they host the Boston Celtics on Oct. 27.
If there was any debate at all about the league’s most valuable player the last few years, I think that should clear it all up.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Not even a couple of days away from it all could help us make sense of what, by the day, looks more and more like an endless summer.
The free agent drama we can deal with. The incendiary reactions of fans (and in some cases owners) to decisions made during a free agent summer can be understood and soothed with time.
A seemingly senseless crime, however, makes for far tougher digestion for us all, especially here at the hideout, where we hold the friends of the program in the highest regard.
Up until now it was our policy to refrain from commenting on the death of Lorenzen Wright, a FOHT before there was a “Hang Time.” But the moratorium is over.
For all the time we’ve spent on LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Dan Gilbert, Shaquille O’Neal and all the other major players this summer, surely we can spend a few moments remembering one of our staunchest critics and most ardent supporters. We won’t waste time delving into theories about what did or did not happen to Ren (never referred to him as Lorenzen until learning that he was missing late last month, it was always Ren or Vern-Gagne, his middle name), we’ll let law enforcement officials in Memphis sort that out and concentrate on enjoying the memories we have of the big fella.
Never short on opinions, Wright made it a point to needle me about any and every thing, every time he saw me. (It was his way of returning the favor for a description of him that was penned when the news broke that he would be signing with the Hawks, for a second time, in the summer of 2006).
He never did say if it was “journeyman” or “old man” that bothered him most, other less-flattering adjectives might have been used to describe him in a blog post or two, but we’ll never know. It doesn’t really matter now anyway. Whatever it was, it led to plenty of back and forth and good-natured jabbering between us in locker rooms from Los Angeles to New York.
He made up a nickname for me (not sharing that one, but the folks who were around us in those locker rooms know what it is and surely are chuckling now). And he used it frequently, no matter the company. It was funny, too. Even I can’t deny that.
We laughed about it the last time we saw each other.
It was a rare Atlanta “snowstorm” that found us both at a neighborhood establishment on the night of the BCS Championship game in January. I was there with a couple of buddies after a long day busting rocks here at the hideout and Ren was there after finishing a workout at a local gym. He said he had just moved to the area and joked that he was trying to blend in with the locals. He came over and joined us and we spent the next three hours talking about all manner of things — the Alabama-Texas game on the flat screens all over the place, his 13 years in the NBA, our respective journeys, where we might be headed, but most of all our families and specifically our children (‘Ren has six that will mourn their father’s passing for years to come).
We exchanged numbers as we headed out of the building and into the remnants of that snowstorm. Ren called me two days later to ask if there was a Home Depot or Lowe’s in the neighborhood. We ended up talking another 50 minutes, putting the finishing touches on a conversation that started two days earlier.
In hindsight, it’s probably one of the most honest conversations I can ever remember having with a pro athlete, on or off the record, at any stage of his career. It’s funny how the conversation flows when you recognize that you are both fathers, husbands, sons and brothers, just men trying to make sense of it all on any given day. Basketball never came up.
The one lasting memory I’ll have of Ren is as an unabashedly proud and doting father, much like most of us lucky enough to experience such things.
The summer of 2010 will symbolize many things for many people, new beginnings for some and the end of an era for some others. But it will always be a bittersweet memory here at the hideout.
Rest in peace Lorenzen Vern-Gagne Wright (1975-2010)!
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Show me the man or woman brave enough to dispute our argument that this is easily one of the strangest summers in NBA history.
Go ahead, raise your hand and show yourself in this season of “The Decision,”Dan Gilbert‘s response letter and just about every other strange occurrence that comes to mind.
Adding to these peculiar times is the support New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is showing (after the fact, of course) his former free agent crush, LeBron James. You might expect the Russian billionaire to still be steaming over losing out to the Miami Heat for James.
“I want to say that I support LeBron, the best athlete in the NBA. He had a truly difficult choice to make. Any move he made was sure to be viewed as wrong, and to leave many unhappy fans. Basing his decision on achieving results on the basketball court shows that the sportsman won the day, not the showman or the businessman. What is wrong with that?”
Prokhorov said that in a signed letter to the editor to USA Today. Surely, it is in response to the continued criticism of James for his decision to bolt from Cleveland after seven seasons with the (near his) hometown Cavaliers in favor of playing with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.
We have to applaud Prokhorov for showing that kind of class in defeat.
His Nets swung and missed in the James sweepstakes (they whiffed on every other major free agent target as well, but rebounded with several other moves). But he’s not crying about it. If we were sitting on a stack of billions here at the hideout, we might not take a loss as hard either.
Still, we’ve seen plenty of spirited defenses of LeBron around these parts the past few weeks, but this qualifies as the first (that we know of) from a billionaire. Prokhorov did add this little disclaimer:
“I wish them success and give them my moral support. I will be happy for us to beat theMiami Heatin the conference finals, maybe not this season, but in the very near future.”
We’re not sure how this will go over with Gilbert at the next owners’ meeting, but something tells us Prokhorov could care less.
It doesn’t matter to us, Prokhorov has already shot to the top of the HT Favorite Owner rankings (that 1-30 list will be unveiled prior to the start of training camp). And it has nothing to do with his playboy image, the billions and the fact that he’s as confident a human as we can remember seeing since Deion Sanders was in his prime.