Posts Tagged ‘Darko Milicic’

Beasley, Lakers A Desperate Match?

HANG TIME, Texas – To paraphrase the line from the classic filmIt’s A Wonderful Life“, every time Michael Beasley rings an exit bell, Darko Milicic gets another set of wings.

How much longer will Millicic wear the infamous yoke of worst No. 2 pick of the past 10 years now that Beasley’s been bounced from his third NBA team in five seasons?

As well, what is Beasley’s next stop after being waived by the Suns barely 14 months after signing a three-year, $18-million contract?

Nobody’s ever doubted Beasley’s ability to score or rebound when motivated. The trouble is a penchant for trouble that comes from an attention span shorter than the 24-second shot clock, his arrest in August for marijuana possession only the most recent example.

The fact that a Phoenix franchise that won only 25 games last season and did not sell out a single date at home at US Airways Center would spend $7 million to kiss off a 6-foot-10, 24-year-old forward practically shouts warnings from the rooftop.

And yet.

This is the NBA, where there are more second-, third- and fourth-chance believers than the lottery machine at the corner convenience store.

Enter the Lakers.

They are, after all, a team that has pursued Beasley hungrily in the past, thinking a couple of times during the 2011-12 season that they might have had deals to pry him out of Minnesota.

The Lakers, too, in the wake of Dwight Howard’s departure, are a franchise wearing the whiff of new cologne — Eau de Desperation — as they pray for an improbable Hollywood script mending of Kobe Bryant’s torn Achilles’ tendon and bide time until the next free agent auction in the summer of 2014.

As pointed out by Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com, if the Lakers could sign Beasley for the veteran’s minimum of roughly $1 million for the upcoming season, it would allow them to keep salary cap space open for next summer and give a boost to an offense that needs help.

This is a guy who has a career high of 42 points, a guy who once put up 22 points and 15 rebounds in a playoff game, a guy who has a 34.5 percent career mark from 3, but has shot 36.6 percent or better from deep in three out of his five career seasons.

Don’t discount the appeal of Beasley’s ability to shoot it, either. The Lakers drafted Ryan Kelly in the second round primarily for his ability to stretch the floor with his long-range accuracy, but the team has been discouraged by the rookie’s progress during the summer, according to multiple league sources. The Lakers doubt that Kelly, who missed summer league while recovering from multiple foot procedures, will be ready for the start of training camp.

There are certainly financial reasons for Beasley to choose to play someplace else, the $7 million buyout he received from the Suns notwithstanding. Teams such as Milwaukee or Philadelphia could sign him to get close to the mandatory payroll minimum. Could you see him getting thrown a rope by an unlikely savior such as Gregg Popovich in San Antonio, figuring the stable, solid, no-nonsense Spurs locker room kept one knucklehead — i.e. Stephen Jackson — in line and could do it again?

At this point, Beasley comes with his own loud warning siren and flashing red lights. Yet there are those 42 points he scored one night against the Kings, those 19.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg and 2.2 apg he averaged in the only NBA season he played more than 30 minutes a game. And for the Lakers, well, desperation has made stranger bedfellows.

Because of all the things he can do with the ball in his hands, it’s probably premature to say Beasley is down to his last chance, but Darko is over there in the corner flapping his wings.

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 118) Draft Lottery Special Featuring Ryan Blake

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Nerlens Noel, all 206 pounds of him, might not be the franchise savior you had in mind with the No. 1 pick in the June NBA Draft.

But you aren’t the Cleveland Cavaliers, winners of the right to choose first in the Draft, courtesy of their lucky spin during Tuesday night’s Draft lottery. You better believe Noel, the Kentucky big man whose lone college season was cut short by a knee injury, will be the focus of some team’s Draft night plans next month. He’s been on the radar too long to get passed up in what is generally considered a lukewarm Draft class.

Noel is just one of several college stars — Ben McLemore, Otto Porter, Trey Burke … just to name a few, are some of the others — being talked about as top picks in this Draft class. And who better to talk to about the lottery, these prospects and the history of the Draft itself on Episode 118 of The Hang Time Podcast than Ryan Blake, the Senior Director of NBA Scouting Operations and the son of the late and legendary Marty Blake, the father of modern-day NBA Draft process.

With a perspective that spans decades, Ryan Blake offers his analysis of not only this year’s Draft prospects, but also some of the more notable names in the history of the event, from immediate game changers like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird to Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and the high school-to-the-pros revolutionaries to legendary Draft snub victims like Paul Pierce and Danny Granger on to the alpha (LeBron James) and omega (Darko Milicic) of modern Draft day decisions.

What would have happened if the Cavaliers had listened to all of the so-called pundits who suggested that an international prospect like Milicic has more “upside” than James, who was a media superstar and Sports Illustrated cover boy before his senior year of high school?

What would have happened if high school stars like Lewis Alcindor, Shaquille O’NealChris Webber, Glenn Robinson and others had come up in an era where they had the option of bypassing college for the NBA?

We explore all that and so much more on Episode 118 of the Hang Time Podcast … which, of course, includes the latest installment of Rick Fox‘s season-long “Get Off My Lawn” rant! 

LISTEN HERE:


As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Sekou Smith of NBA.com,  Lang Whitaker of NBA.com’s All-Ball Blog and renaissance man Rick Fox of NBA TV, as well as our new super producer Gregg (just like Popovich) Waigand and the best engineer in the business,  Jarell “I Heart Peyton Manning” Wall.

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

Hot List: Top 10 Restricted Free Agents





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Unlike their unrestricted free agent peers, this summer won’t be the fresh start some of this summer’s most notable restricted free agents are hoping for.

Their current teams have the right to match any offers they receive, meaning that the lucrative, long-term deal some of these guys are looking for might come with strings attached. Brandon Jennings of the Milwaukee Bucks plays a marquee position in a market that doesn’t seem to fit his persona or personality.

He turned down a $40 million extension in the fall, making clear his intention to push for a bigger deal or an eventual departure — he could play the 2013-14 season on a qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2014 — from Fear The Deer territory.

As always, Jennings isn’t the only restricted free agent of note this summer. The full list of them can be found on our handy-dandy Free Agent Tracker.

Jennings is the headliner on the Top 10 Restricted Free Agents list, but hardly the only notable name …

Brandon Jennings, G, Milwaukee Bucks

Status on July 1: Restricted free agent
What he’s selling: A first-team All-Rookie pick in 2010, Jennings solidified his credentials as a starting point guard in four seasons with the Bucks. He started 289 of the 291 games he played in and helped guide the Bucks to the playoff twice in his first four seasons. A big time scorer, Jennings has the charisma and personality to help you win games and sell tickets.
What he’s not saying: He’s still barely 170 pounds soaking wet. There are still some front office types who think he’s more of a poor man’s Allen Iverson instead of the young Mike Conley they hoped he might be at this stage of his career.
What he’s worth: Jennings believes he’s worth every penny of a max deal somewhere. Remember, he famously boasted that he was better than Ricky Rubio and has gone about the business of trying to prove as much night in and night out. But a max deal is out of the question in Milwaukee and probably anywhere else. The Bucks aren’t going to bid against themselves for a player who has made it clear that he is interested in playing in a bigger market. He’s already turned down a four-year offer with $40 million, making it clear that he intends to become an unrestricted free agent next summer and let the market set his value.
Likely landing spot(s): The Bucks have the right to match any offers. Any interested teams know that all they have to do is wait this situation out and pursue Jennings in the free-agent summer of 2014.

Jeff Teague, G, Atlanta Hawks

Status on July 1: Restricted free agent
What he’s selling: Teague is coming off of his best season as a pro, having averaged career highs in points (14.6) and assists (7.2) while asserting himself as a true lead guard for a playoff team. He’s only scratched the surface of his potential and, at 24, is still young enough to project major upside in the coming years.
What he’s not saying: Teague is not a great defender at what is easily the deepest position in the league. And his assist numbers (3.0) in 29 career playoff games suggest that he might not be on track to become the elite facilitator a team needs in a point guard.
What he’s worth: The Hawks didn’t do him any favors by not even offering him an extension on his rookie contract before the Halloween deadline. Making that pill even tougher to swallow for Teague is the fact that the two point guards drafted directly ahead of him in 2009, Philadelphia’s Jrue Holiday ($10 million a year) and Ty Lawson ($12 million a year), both agreed to terms on four-year deals at the deadline. If they’ve set the bar — Holiday blossomed into an All-Star this season while Lawson had an equally strong case but missed out in a deep crop of Western Conference point guards — Teague is in a tough negotiating spot with the Hawks.
Likely landing spot(s): Teague needs a team desperate for a young point guard to present an offer sheet that exceeds what the Hawks might be willing to pay (anything near $10 million a year would be a bit of a shock). Utah is still searching for a long-term answer at point guard and could poke around and see if the Hawks will let Teague walk. But the Hawks are likely to keep him on a qualifying offer and he’ll become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Tyreke Evans, G, Sacramento Kings

Status on July 1: Restricted free agent
What he’s selling: A Rookie of the Year and at one time considered the future face of the franchise in Sacramento, Evans averaged 20 points, five rebounds and five assists in his first season. A super-sized point guard, he used his size and skill to his advantage in that role with the Kings. He’s most definitely selling the Tyreke Evans we all saw his rookie season.
What he’s not saying: While he didn’t experience the steep statistical drop off in his next three seasons, Evans is fighting the perception that he bottomed out during those three seasons. The Kings certainly seem to have moved on from Evans being a franchise cornerstone during these past three seasons, hence the absence of an extension offer. Isaiah Thomas supplanted him at point guard and Evans has played out of position ever since.
What he’s worth: This is where things get tricky for Evans, because some team with cap space to work with is going to eyeball Evans and remember that he’s a 6-foot-6, 220-pound combo guard with an ability to run a team and calculate the risk of snatching him away from an uncertain situation with the Kings. If Darko Milicic got $20 million from the Minnesota Timberwolves, someone has to be willing to offer Evans a similar deal.
Likely landing spot(s): Dallas and Atlanta are both in full-blown roster-rebuild mode and could use a talent like Evans at a reasonable price to help get things rolling. He could be the steal of the summer if someone makes a play for him and waits to see if the Kings will match the offer or let him walk.

Nikola Pekovic, C, Minnesota Timberwolves

Status on July 1: Restricted free agent
What he’s selling: With the eternal premium on productive big men, Pekovic showed flashes of being an absolute nightmare in the low post for opposing teams. A 7-foot, 300-pound block of granite, Pekovic averaged 16.3 ppg and 8.8 rpg last season and held it down in the Timberwolves’ frontcourt without Kevin Love available for the majority of the season. He’s got a size/skill-set combination that makes him a rarity in a league that treasures big men who can play high impact basketball on both ends of the floor.
What he’s not saying: The only problem with Pekovic is the 174-game sample size teams have to work with in evaluating the upside of a big man who is 26 and perhaps already deeper into his physical prime than you want a third-year player to be.
What he’s worth: The Houston Rockets used a three-year, $25 million offer sheet to pry Omer Asik away from the Chicago Bulls last summer. An offer like that could work similar wonders for someone trying to slip into the Twin Cities and sneak out with a starting center.
Likely landing spot(s): Minnesota can’t afford to let him walk, not with the regime change and whatever other roster changes Flip Saunders and his new crew have in store. Plus, Pekovic has become a cult favorite in Minneapolis.

Tiago Splitter, F/C, San Antonio Spurs

Status on July 1: Restricted free agent.
What he’s selling: A three-year apprenticeship under the great Tim Duncan can’t be a bad place for a big man to start when resume building. Splitter’s third NBA season turned out to be the charm, as he finally showed some signs of being the low-post factor he was billed as when the Spurs made him their top Draft pick in 2007. The Brazilian big man finally earned a regular spot in Gregg Popovich‘s rotation, another sign and seal of approval, averaging career highs in points (10.3), rebounds (6.4) and minutes (24.7). He made 58 starts this season, 52 more than he did in the two previous season combined.
What he’s not saying: Those previous two seasons mentioned were less than stellar. Splitter has ideal size for a NBA big man but didn’t leave a large footprint early on, the transition from Spanish League MVP to NBA regular being much tougher than anyone anticipated for him.
What he’s worth: Like almost every skilled big man, Splitter is going to be worth more than a man half his size with better credentials. That’s just the way things work in this league. He’s due for a significant raise from the $3.9 million he’s earning this season. In fact, he should have no trouble doubling that in a free agent market (for unrestricted and restricted free agents) that is relatively light on centers.
Likely landing spots: The Spurs have the right of first refusal and will exercise that right if the offers come in at the right number. But Dallas and Atlanta have to have him on their short lists, with several other teams focusing in on him early on in the process.

THE NEXT FIVE: Gerald Henderson, Charlotte; Darren Collison, Dallas; Timofey Mozgov, Denver; Tyler Hansbrough, Indiana; Chase Budinger, Minnesota.


Pistons Working To Save Their Season, Refill Once-Packed Palace

DALLAS – The Detroit Pistons have crashed as hard as the Michigan economy over the last few years and the combination has resulted in a lot of eerily quiet nights inside The Palace at Auburn Hills.

“It is strange for sure,” Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva said before the Pistons dropped a 10th road game in 11 tries Saturday against the Mavericks. “The fact that my first five years in the league, seeing that place sold out every game; every time we went into Detroit it was sold out. It just shows how hard the economy hit, but I think it will bounce back. It’s just a matter of time.”

For now, there are more empty seats than filled ones at Pistons games. But to pin Detroit’s turnstile problem mostly on a rotten economy is to discredit die-hard Pistons fans that have grown weary of throwing good money at bad basketball.

Entering tonight’s eighth home game of the season against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit’s average attendance is 12,392 and ranks last in the league — behind Sacramento, New Orleans and last season’s worst team, Charlotte. Take away the home-opener crowd of 16,646 and the average dips to 11,683. On most nights the actual attendance is much less.

FROM FIRST TO WORST
The Pistons rank last in the league in attendance this season. A look at the club’s average attendance over the last 13 seasons
Season Avg. Attendance Rank
2012-13 12,392 30th
2011-12 14,413 28th
2010-11 16,660 18th
2009-10 18,751 8th
2008-09 21,877 1st
2007-08 22,076 1st
2006-07 22,076 2nd
2005-06 22,076 1st
2004-05 22,076 1st
2003-04 22,076 1st
2002-03 20,470 1st
2001-02 18,556 11th
2000-01 14,812 22nd

“It’s not weird because it’s not a situation where it’s been drastic, where this season it was packed and the very next season it was nothing,” said Tayshaun Prince, a career Piston and last remaining member of the 2004 title team. “It didn’t just hit rock bottom at one point. When things are going so well for a long period of time and then all of a sudden when things hit, then they started to veer down, veer down, veer down.”

From 2002 through 2009, not coincidentally the last time Detroit made the playoffs, the Pistons ranked No. 1 in attendance in six of those seven seasons, routinely boasting sellout crowds of 20,000-plus. The one season they weren’t No. 1, they were No. 2. The run included the ’04 championship and a repeat Finals appearance under Larry Brown, and four other East finals appearances, one prior to Brown under Rick Carlisle, and three more after Brown under Flip Saunders.

Since Saunders won 59 games in 2007-08, but lost in the East finals for a third consecutive time, Detroit has rolled through coaches Michael Curry (39-43) and John Kuester (57-107), with Lawrence Frank now in his second season and trying to rescue a 5-13 start that opened with eight consecutive losses.

Detroit hasn’t won more than 39 games in any of the last four seasons and average attendance has steadily declined from the top spot in ’08-’09 to eighth to 18th to 28th and now to rock bottom.

“It’s not on the fans to come out. It’s on us to put together a product every night that fans can be proud of,” Frank said. “Detroit has always shown great support, not just for basketball, for all their sports teams when they’re competing at the highest level. You’re used to seeing a lot of fans out there, but we’re appreciative for the fans that do go. Obviously, we understand the economic crisis and what hit, and Detroit obviously was hit harder than most. But from the beginning, it’s going to be on us to put together something that the fans can be proud of and want to support.”

To Frank’s point, and further proof that tough economic times alone doesn’t kill attendance, the Detroit Tigers have averaged more than 30,000 fans in each of the last six seasons. Even the Lions, amid another last-place season, are averaging more than 63,000 through six home games, better than 98 percent capacity. Both clubs play in relatively new downtown venues and some debate if the Pistons would be better served leaving their suburban digs some 30 miles north of the city.

But that ignores the club’s attendance track record over much of the last decade and before that when the Pistons shared the Pontiac Silverdome with the Lions.

So how close are the Pistons to rising up again?

“I think it’s real close,” impressive third-year center and leading scorer Greg Monroe said. “We have to find a way to come out every night and just play hard and outwork teams. I think we’re very close to doing that, but it’s going to take games to get the actual body of work to say we are doing it consistently.”

It’s hopeless to still lament the Darko Milicic draft and the free-agent millions thrown at Villanueva and Ben Gordon. Monroe is surrounded by a roster that might not contend for a title, but is at least intriguing for its youth. Second-year guard Brandon Knight and rookies Kyle Singler and Andre Drummond join Monroe as possible long-term core pieces. Veterans Jason Maxiell, Corey Maggette, Rodney Stuckey, Prince and, yes, Villanueva, should help to at least make a push toward playoff contention in a mediocre Eastern Conference.

No progress was made on that front during the recent two-game road swing through Memphis and Dallas with two more double-digit losses (nine in 11 road games). It was a disappointing development coming after the season’s first flirtation with momentum, a modest two-game home win streak that gave Detroit four wins in six games.

They put on an offensive show for the few souls that came out, beating Portland, 108-101, and then drilled Phoenix 117-77. That beat down drew an announced crowd of 10,517, about 300 more than the previous night.

Even the league’s top draws haven’t delivered bigger crowds. The Celtics drew 12,214 and 12,784 came to see three-time scoring champ Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“It’s been tough,” Maxiell admitted. “The last couple years the crowd’s been trimming down. We’re trying to bring the crowds back with some big entertainment. The guys that were here a couple years ago know how it was when we were winning, and we’re trying to bring them back.”

Adelman Bites Darko Dog

When Timberwolves Glen Taylor mentioned in an interview for a magazine profile that coach Rick Adelman wanted underachieving center Darko Milicic – “flatlining” would be a usable adjective too – gone from the roster after last season, some corners of the blogosphere lit up.

It was, after all, precisely what the Interwebs were designed for. NBA Owner Reveals Coach Ripping Player. Go with it! Now! Then sit back and count the clicks.

Here is the pertinent passage from Twin Cities Business magazine:

But most of the Wolves-related headlines concerned [GM David] Kahn’s persistent attempts to upgrade the talent on the roster. Behind the scenes, as promised, Adelman was providing input and helping with the decisions.

“Most of the moves David is making are heavily influenced by what Rick has asked of us. But when it comes to finances, David will tell Rick no,” Taylor reveals. “At the end of the year, Rick gives me a report of what he thinks of each player. He tells me it’s the same one he gave David and that David knows he is giving it to me. Then he goes through the list. He says, ‘This is the first one I want gone’—that was [underachieving veteran center] Darko [Milicic]. ‘This is the second one I want gone. This is what I think of this player.’ “

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Wizards Leaning Toward Using Amnesty Clause On Blatche

The Washington Wizards are leaning toward using the amnesty provision by Tuesday’s deadline to waive forward Andray Blatche, according to league sources.

The Wizards have not made a final decision on the move. Teams have until 5 p.m. Tuesday to decide whether they’ll use the amnesty provision for the upcoming season. If they don’t, they cannot use it again until next July. Teams are only allowed to use the provision once during the life of the new collective bargaining agreement.

Players that are waived under the provision can be claimed by teams under the salary cap for the upcoming season. The team that submits the highest bid gets the player. If Blatche were to be waived, teams would have to submit a minimum bid of $3.79 million for him — which represents the sum of the minimum salaries a player with Blatche’s experience would receive over the next three years, the remaining length of his contract.

Washington is still wavering on whether using the amnesty provision — and writing Blatche a check for the remaining $23 million on his contract. The Wizards have been trying to deal Blatche since the end of the season, but haven’t found any deals to their liking.

They could also keep Blatche on the roster but keep him away from the team while they continue to pursue trades or, perhaps, a contract buyout, in the same way the Indiana Pacers kept guard Jamaal Tinsley at arm’s length for a year before finally reaching a settlement on his contract.

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Batum Eager To Play For Wolves



He was about 3,800 miles away, but Nicolas Batum’s voice was loud and clear. He wants to play with the Minnesota Timberwolves next season.

Batum, the Blazers’ restricted free agent, made his preference clear Tuesday afternoon in a telephone interview from Madrid, where he was with the French National team as it prepared for a friendly match later Tuesday against Spain, one of the top challengers to the defending U.S. men’s Olympic gold medal team at the upcoming Summer Games in London. While Portland has said it will match any offer sheet for Batum, he hopes they will let him go to play for the Wolves, who have a commitment for a four-year deal worth $45 million on the table when the July Moratorium ends Wednesday.

“I’m a restricted free agent,” Batum said. “I know the situation. Anywhere I sign, the Blazers are going to match. But my first choice was, and is, Minnesota. That’s where I want to play and that’s where I want to put my family. I’ve got nothing against the fans (in Portland) and nothing against the city. But this is a basketball decision and basketball wise, I want to be there. Last year, they impressed everybody, and that’s what I respect. To have a great young point guard like (Ricky) Rubio, and a great coach like (Rick) Adelman, I really liked that project. And I think they think I’m the missing piece at small forward. That’s what they told me.”

Batum met last week with Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, team president David Kahn and Adelman, and was impressed by the direction in which the franchise is going. But the 23-year-old Batum has been a priority to retain by the Blazers through several different basketball administrations, intrigued by his ability to score either as a driver or shooter. Portland acquired Batum in a Draft night deal in 2008 from the Rockets. Last season he averaged 13.9 points and 4.6 rebounds for the Blazers, and his Player Efficiency Rating of 17.32 ranked eighth among small forwards in the league, behind only LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Paul Pierce, Danny Granger, Rudy Gay and Andre Iguodala.

A source said that Batum did not want to sign an offer sheet because he was worried the Blazers would match. And, indeed, according to the Oregonian newspaper, that’s exactly what the team’s new general manager, Neil Olshey, told Batum and his representatives in a meeting last week. However, the Timberwolves have enough space to sign him outright to a sheet. They can clear $10.8 million of additional room buying out center Brad Miller (who has already announced his retirement) and guard Martell Webster, and also could create additional room by using the amnesty clause on center Darko Milicic, who is under contract next season at $5.22 million and has two years and $10.8 million left on his contract.

Batum grew frustrated by the slower pace that former Blazers coach Nate McMillan favored, and thinks he has a chance to play at a more up-tempo style in Minnesota.

“When I talked with Adelman last week, I felt like he wants me, will play me the way I ask to play,” Batum said. “Last year was tough for all of us and I think I need a new start. I think I need something else. Again, it’s nothing against the city or the fans (in Portland).”

Batum said that he thinks Portland and Minnesota will ultimately work something out.

“I know that they’re working on a sign and trade, and I’m very hopeful that both of them understand my situation, do the best both for me and for them,” he said.

Olshey, Batum said, told him last week that he could be a big part of Portland’s team going forward.

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USA Basketball: Summer Time Is ‘Melo Time





LAS VEGAS – The noticeable ease that Carmelo Anthony operates with when he has those three letters (U-S-A) across his chest is unmistakable.

In this environment, when he can blend in with an array of other stars, when the pressure to be the alpha male is absent from the equation, when he’s not obligated to carry the heaviest load — as he has in both of his NBA stops in Denver and New York — there is clearly a different air about Anthony.

And it’s not that he minds carrying the burden for his franchise, its fans and an entire city. He’s been doing that seemingly forever, since his time at Syracuse.

But USA Basketball has been a haven for Anthony the past nine years. His connection to the current program predates the reign of both USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski as stewards of the program.

Anthony has played on 10 USA Basketball teams (some 59 games). Only LeBron James has been with the program as long, as they are both playing on their third straight Olympic team.

And while James is clearly this team’s best player, Kobe Bryant its unquestioned leader and Kevin Durant perhaps its most intriguing talent, you could make the argument that Anthony will be the this team’s most important player in London. This may be especially true given a lack of experienced frontcourt depth and Anthony’s ability to play power forward in international competition.

“On this team he does what he does best, just finish plays,” Bryant said. “We don’t ask him to be something he’s not. He goes out there and finishes plays and shoots when he’s open and if he’s not he passes it. That’s why he always kicks serious butt when he’s here.”

Anthony has always been one of the NBA’s elite scorers. He’s also been one of the most nit-picked superstars of his generation, as well. His top five Draft classmates — James, Darko Milicic, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh —  all own or will own NBA Championship rings. The Heat won’t officially get theirs until opening night of the 2012-13 season.

Even with all of the accolades he’s piled up throughout his NBA career, he’s a five-time All-Star and All-NBA performer, Anthony gets more headlines for his deficiencies than he does for anything else.

“I don’t know why he takes a beating about his game at any time,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s one of the top players in the world. Carmelo, in international play, can play three different positions. On our team he’s not married to one position. So any time down the floor he can be in different spots. And I think a really good player likes that. Defensively, the physicality of the game is something Carmelo likes, he’s a guy who enjoys contact and he doesn’t back down from it. He’s able to play through it and use it. Carmelo is one of the better international players, he’s one the best [NBA] players, but it doesn’t always translate internationally … as good a player as he in the NBA, internationally he’s just a sensational player.”

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Welcome To The Doghouse Darko!





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Minnesota Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman has landed the latest, and perhaps the defining rebuke of the myth that once was Darko Milicic, by opting to go with anyone but the former No. 2 overall pick as his starting center this week with Nikola Pekovic sent home to rest sore ankles.

We know, smashing on Darko is no longer a spectator sport. It’s become a bit of a brutal ritual for folks like us, those of us that have refuted this notion that he was destined to be the global icon some billed him to be when he was selected after LeBron James and before the like of Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the 2003 Draft.

But Adelman’s decision to keep Milicic on the bench should be seen as exactly what it is, yet another reminder that our first impressions of Milicic (when he couldn’t get out of Larry Brown‘s doghouse in Detroit) were probably spot on. Adelman didn’t spare any feelings when explaining to the Star Tribune why he chose rookie forward Derrick Williams over Milicic to start alongside Kevin Love:

“He hasn’t done anything to really give you a lot of faith that he’s going to go out and do the job,” Adelman said of Milicic. “He’s gotten himself out of shape. He hasn’t been as driven as you’d like so when a situation like this happens, it’s time for someone to have their opportunity and get back in there. Today, [Williams] going to get his chance and Anthony Randolph is going to get his chance and we’ll see if any of those guys can step up.”

May the Darko myth rest in peace! And be warned, history will not be kind to the real story.

The Future Is Always Now





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – You could feel the vibe from 3,000 miles away.

That energy was real.

The Portland Trail Blazers were on the verge of something special with one of the league’s best young executives, Kevin Pritchard, best young coaches, Nate McMillan, two new young stars, Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, already in the fold, and the new No. 1 pick, Greg Oden, smiling on the stage in front of a sea of thousands and the “Welcome To Rip City” banner hanging behind him.

Nearly five years later, Aldridge is the only one left amid the rubble that was the Trail Blazers’ championship blueprint. Pritchard was the first to go, fired on draft night two years ago. Injuries forced Roy into retirement in December, McMillan was fired Thursday and Oden’s injury-plagued career with the Trail Blazers (82 games is all they have to show for his actual game time in uniform) came to an end later that evening when he was waived.

This isn’t yet another savage poke at an already wounded rabid and wickedly loyal fan base in Portland. On the contrary, they have been the one constant and positive force surrounding this cautionary tale. Their plight is a reminder for any fan base, and the franchise they love, out there dreaming about what could be. The future is always now in the NBA, right now, in fact!

And if you operate with any other theories in mind, you do so at your own risk.

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