Posts Tagged ‘Darko Milicic’

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.”


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.


Labor Talks: Tick Tock, Tick Tock …

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We’ve all known for a while now that the first week of October would serve as a crucial week in these NBA labor talks.

No progress before then and the opening days of this month could be a make-or-break time for both sides, not to mention the millions of us around the world biting our nails hoping that our first love (the NBA) would come back to us … and soon.

It’s hard to categorize the things that have gone on in recent days as true progress. Sure, there have been meetings. Ideas have been exchanged. But no one is talking in a way that suggests that even the loose framework of a deal is under way.

And now comes this crossroads moment, a “very huge day,” according to the words used by union president Derek Fisher in characterizing today’s session.

We won’t know exactly what that means until the sides emerge from that meeting room in New York and explain themselves after yet another day of exhausting conversation about how to close the gap between what the owners want and the players are willing to give.

But if the developments of the past 24 hours are any indication, everyone seems to be digging in and the clock continues to tick …

Agents Urge Players To Stay Strong

Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated: In a letter to their clients, Arn Tellem (Wasserman Media Group), Bill Duffy (BDA Sports), Dan Fegan (Lagardère Unlimited), Jeff Schwartz (Excel Sports Management), Leon Rose and Henry Thomas (Creative Artists Agency) and Mark Bartelstein (Priority Sports and Entertainment), outlined what is deemed acceptable and unacceptable going into the biggest day of negotiating yet.

Here are some of the notable demands in the letter, which was obtained by from a player: (Click here for the full letter in PDF):

• With the National Basketball Players’ Association having already offered to drop the players’ portion of basketball-related income from 57 percent to 52 percent, the agents implore players to insist on “no further reduction of the BRI received by the players. A source close to the union told recently that any agreed-upon deal in which the players received 51 percent could possibly be ratified but would likely lead to the ousting of Billy Hunter as the NBPA’s executive director, so this is in line with those parameters.

• A system in which the current structure of the Bird and mid-level exceptions remains the same.

• No reduction in salary from existing levels for maximum contract players.

• No changes in unrestricted free agency and improvements on restricted free agency.

• “Refuse any deal that excludes players from the explosive growth of the NBA.” Owners’ proposals that have started with players receiving 46 percent of the BRI have included drastic declines in their percentage of the pie in the later years of the agreement.


Can you spot the Karma in Carmelo?

The new word today, boys and girls, is “karma.” I suspect even LeBron James, who wasn’t sure about “contraction,” has an idea what this means.

Now that karma is bold-faced and suddenly prominent in the basketball lingo, can we see some examples of such? Well, here’s a start:

Karma: Kevin Garnett (allegedly) calls Charlie Villanueva a cancer patient and then suffers an injury, misses a few weeks with a strained right calf.

Karma: Elton Brand reneges on a verbal pledge to re-sign with the Clippers (or so thought Mike Dunleavy), joins the Sixers, still looking to be who he once was. Meanwhile, back in L.A., heeerrreee’s Blake Griffin!

Karma: Michael Jordan criticizes Jerry Krause all those years for being a lousy general manager; Bobcats are floundering under Jordan’s rule.

Karma: Joe Dumars thinks Darko Milicic will turn out better than Carmelo Anthony; now trying to make a deal with Carmelo as the main figure.

Karma: Suns figure they’d be better off without Bryan Colangelo first and then Steve Kerr. Hmmmmm.

Karma: Ditto Trail Blazers and Kevin Pritchard.

Your turn, readers. Give us your examples of karma in the NBA.

Did You See What We Saw?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Before we get to that spectacle of a game in Cleveland tonight, take a walk with us.

The Hang Time crew had eyeballs on every game on the schedule,  just as we always do, especially on a Wednesday night.

So the only question left to ask you is, Did You See What We Saw?

Check out our rundown of the all 12 games and let us know if you agree or disagree:


Looking good: Who says the Hawks can’t survive without Joe Johnson, who is out 4 to 6 weeks with an elbow injury that will require a surgical procedure from Dr. James Andrews to fix the problem? They did just fine without him in this win over the Hang Time Grizzlies. The Hawks piled up a season-high 33 assists (on 42 made field goals) without Johnson in the mix. It’s the best Larry Drew‘s movement-based offense has looked this season.

Sound the Alarm: Whatever experiment our Grizzlies are conducting at shooting guard needs to stop. Rookie Xavier Henry got the start against the Hawks and O.J. Mayo finished with 10 points off the bench. But their combined work didn’t come close to matching the 25 points and 10 assists the Hawks got from Mo Evans and Jamal Crawford.

HT’s Take: All that chatter about Jeff Teague snatching Mike Bibby‘s starting job has vanished in just one month of the season. Bibby was clutch in the win over the Grizzlies, nailing four of his five shots from beyond the 3-point line. Without Johnson for the next month or so, the Hawks are going to need more big games from Bibby, Crawford, Evans, Teague and rookie Jordan Crawford.



Looking good: Nets point guard Jordan Farmar will have to wait a while longer to get the shine he deserves, because as good as his 28-point, nine-assist night was, it wasn’t nearly as wicked as the performance Russell Westbrook had. Westbrook scored all 13 of the Thunder’s points in the third overtime and finished his night with 38 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists. If Westbrook keeps this up, the Thunder will have to make room for two names (Kevin Durant and Westbrook) on the marquee. And I want to see the Western Conference coach brave enough to leave Westbrook off of the All-Star team.

Sound the Alarm: Despite the fireworks, this wasn’t an instant classic. Neither team played well before halftime and it did take them three overtimes to pile up 223 total points. That’s what happens when both teams are missing their catalysts (both Durant and Nets point guard Devin Harris were in street clothes). The injury concerns for both of those guys will have a serious impact on their respective teams if they persist.

HT’s Take: We hear all the complaints about the Thunder being overhyped and not really ready for prime time, yet they keep finding ways to win games, with and without Durant in uniform. They have the same record as the Los Angeles Lakers, so they can’t be too far off the pace. We predicted the Thunder would be among the top two in the West when it was all said and done and we’re not ready to toss that out just yet. We still believe they have the potential to chase that spot.



Looking good: Raise your hand if you thought the Celtics’ Big 3 would still be going strong like this 200 games deep into this experiment. We certainly can’t make that claim. But the Celtics continue to defy all of the rules of age by continually waxing the opposition. It certainly helps when Paul Pierce is dialed in the way he was against the Trail Blazers — he torched them for 28 points (including a 4-for-5 showing from long distance).


Did You See What We Saw?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Who in the name of Naismith would be crazy enough to try to watch all 13 games on Wednesday night’s NBA schedule, completely ignoring Game 1 of the World Series, Modern Family and whatever else was going on last night?

You know we did.

The crew here at the hideout managed to view significant portions of all 13 games and we must admit, we came away impressed more often than not, even by some teams that ended up on the losing end at the end of the night.

The most anticipated season in league history? However preposterous it might have sounded to hear that in recent weeks, we’re warming up the idea now.

Back to Wednesday night’s games, though. It was an absolute embarrassment of basketball riches on display from coast to coast all night. Did you see what we saw?


Looking good: Now you know why the Cavaliers refused to part with J.J. Hickson last year in a proposed Amar’e Stoudemire deal. He was a force (21 points on 8-for-11 shooting) and is poised for a breakout season. Boobie Gibson rebounded from an ugly start (0-for-8) to finish with 16 points and a team-high eight assists.

Sound the Alarm: The Celtics can’t afford many off nights in the revamped Eastern Conference, where the Magic, Heat and even the Hawks plan to push the pace. There was bound to be an emotional letdown, of sorts, after Tuesday’s season-opening home win over Miami. There just can’t be many more like it.

HT’s Take: They say the best way to get over a breakup is to dive right back into the game. And the scrappy, LeBron James-free Cavaliers proved they’ll do just that by out working the Celtics down the stretch. But I wouldn’t go making travel plans for the NBA Finals yet.


Looking good: All those new additions, rookies and otherwise, showed well in the Nets’ debut in their new arena. Even Jay-Z and Beyonce showed up, a rare occurrence compared to last season when, our Twitter family informed us, Jay never showed up. You expect an Avery Johnson-coached team to play a certain way and the Nets did that down the stretch. He’s already got the Nets 18 games ahead of last season’s win pace.

Sound the Alarm: The Pistons’ inability to finish this thing off, they were up seven with 1:40 to play, doesn’t bode well for a team that enters this season without a whole lot of confidence in each other.

HT’s Take: We tuned in hoping to see something from Nets rookie Derrick Favors and he didn’t disappoint. The eight points and 10 rebounds are fine, but he was much more physical around the basket than even we expected. Our initial fears about the Pistons were confirmed. They just don’t look like a team on a mission of any sorts.


Looking good: Welcome to the season, Dwyane Wade. We knew he needed more than those four minutes he played in the preseason to get warmed up. His 30-point outburst against the Sixers is much more like normal. When James Jones sinks six of his nine 3-pointers against anyone, the Heat become nearly impossible to deal with for anyone other than the league’s elite.

Sound the Alarm: As’s Andy Jasner pointed out, the Sixers’ starting five did not attempt a single free throw all night. That’s either some sever disrespect for their games or a serious lack of force being used by Jrue Holiday, Andre Iguodala, Jason Kapono, Elton Brand and Spencer Hawes.

HT’s Take: The Heat will do the same things they did to the Sixers to most of the teams in the league. The fact is, few teams will be able to match their firepower and depth. And any team that can’t protect the rim will see Wade, James and Chris Bosh have their way attacking the basket. We did see another solid rookie debut, this one out of the Sixers’ Evan Turner (team-high 16 points, seven rebounds and four assists).


The Ultimate Hype Man


HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Give David Kahn his credit for keeping things interesting in Minnesota.

A day after the Timberwolves took out a full-page ad in the Star Tribune admitting that, surprise, they are not likely to contend for the NBA title this season, Kahn drops an even bigger bombshell.

In a detailed letter to Timberwolves’ fans (season ticket holders), he’s touting a “singular” move that will be made to complete his roster transformation and, we’re assuming, set the franchise on a championship path.

Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune offers up some insights on what exactly this singular move could be, tossing around names like Carmelo Anthony (with the Timberwolves as potentially the third-party in a blockbuster, three-team deal) and even Josh Smith and Joe Johnson.

Of course, Kahn can’t mention specifics — he’s already been fined once this summer for saying too much. But you already know that no one does the hype man routine better than Kahn (remember that summer league gem, above). And he certainly cranks up the hype machine with this letter that you have to read to believe.

Here’s a snippet:

During the last 14 months, we have added several pieces to our ballclub:  perimeter shooting, athleticism and length to the roster, and all while maintaining our youth.  Just as important, we have done so with an eye toward adding more talent by choosing to operate under the salary cap.

The reality is, we are still lacking a dominant player – our version of Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade or Kevin Durant – and that will remain an item at the top of the To-Do list.

It’s possible this player could emerge from within the roster.  Nearly every player on our team has his best days ahead of him.   Some could make an All-Star team during their careers and one has already become an impact player on the USA Men’s National Team in this year’s FIBA World Championships.  We also have eight players currently on the roster who were selected in the top-seven of their respective drafts:  Michael Beasley, Kevin Love, Wes Johnson, Jonny Flynn, Darko Milicic, Corey Brewer, Martell Webster and Ricky Rubio.

The average age of those eight players is 22.

However, if one of our players fails to emerge, we will be prepared to find more talent for our team – and we will seek a singular move rather than a series of moves, as we did these last 14 months.

Love him or hate him, you can’t deny him.

Kahn is the ultimate hype man!


A Good Home For T-Mac?


Posted by Sekou Smith

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Tracy McGrady seems to be running out of options.

He’s been on a bit of a workout tour this summer and has yet to find a home.

The news that his representatives are meeting with the Detroit Pistons today, courtesy of our main man David Aldridge of TNT, might not register with most, since the Pistons have fallen on hard times and McGrady’s way past his prime.

But as far as shelter for wayward talents goes, McGrady couldn’t land in a better place.

Tough times or not, no one does cast-offs and reclamation projects better than the Pistons.

Chauncey Billups was an afterthought in July 2002 when the Pistons signed him as a free agent and helped him turn his career around. You’d never heard of Ben Wallace before he showed up in Detroit. And Rasheed Wallace was toxic before the Pistons acquired him in a trade that turned out to be the linchpin of their drive to the 2004 NBA title.

Even Kwame Brown (another member of the Summer 2010 free agent class still looking for a home) looked good (in spurts) wearing red, white and blue … fine, that was a stretch, but you get the point.

If T-Mac has anything left, it’ll come out of him in Detroit.

General Manager Joe Dumars has the ultimate eye for the right fit (that Darko Milicic thing notwithstanding). And if he takes a chance on McGrady, that’s more than enough validation for us.

(So long as McGrady is careful about what he says when the cameras start rolling. Because things didn’t go so well when it happened after his workout in Chicago, below).


Everybody Wants A Piece


Posted by Sekou Smith

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — You figured a week later all this hype and hoopla about Miami’s Big 3 would have waned a little bit, right?

There is other stuff going on, summer league, other free agent news, etc.

But the fervor hasn’t let up one bit for what’s going on with the Miami Heat. Almost every player transaction that happens elicits a mention of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James or Chris Bosh and their joining forces on a Heat team that continues to take shape by the day.

Quentin Richardson left the Heat and signed with their Southeast Division rival Orlando but spent as much time talking about what he was walking away from as he did the Eastern Conference powerhouse he was joining, per Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel:

“Definitely, there was a lot of consideration. I have a lot of respect,” said Richardson, who played 76 games for the Heat last season, starting all but one.

“It came down to me considering them heavily. I felt this was the best situation for me and I feel like we have just as good a chance as they do to win a championship.”

Richardson said that Wade — his sometime work-out partner — was in his ear ever since the Heat pulled off the Triple Play last Thursday.

“I definitely heard from D-Wade,” he said. “D-Wade is one of my good buddies. He was disappointed to see me walk away. He knows me. Everytime I go out there, it’s going to be like a war. I told him that and he told me, ‘The intrastate rivalry is on.'”

Richardson said he had a few other offers. There was one other factor in his choosing Orlando — a big factor: All-star center Dwight Howard.

Everybody, it seems, wants a piece of the hottest crew in basketball.

All it took was a recruiting pitch from James to convince Zydrunas Ilgauskas, a Cavalier his entire NBA career, to flip and sign with the Heat for the league minimum.

This is the same man who spurned more lucrative offers elsewhere last season, after being traded by the Cavs to facilitate the deal for Antawn Jamison, to re-sign with the Cavaliers for a playoff run that came up woefully short of the championship folks in the organization were expecting.

David Hyde of the Sun-Sentinel described this stampede to South Beach as well as anyone:

Have you watched the gravitational pull of greatness help the Heat the past few days?

It didn’t just lure season-ticket buyers overnight. It isn’t just bringing a worldwide media buzz to the point that exhibition games are being mentioned in Europe and Asia.

It goes beyond how this team instantly became an easy team to love in South Florida and hate in any other NBA city.

It’s the players lining up outside the arena. The veteran players. The role players basketball analysts said would be hard to find. The thirtysomethings who want to rub against greatness just once in their careers.

Juwan Howard is reportedly the next veteran to sign on for duty in Miami, joining Udonis Haselm and Mike Miller. Something tells us he won’t be the last. Not when everyone else on the planet wants a piece of this team.

More from Hyde:

None of these are great players. Each comes with legitimate questions. Each also can be accused of piggybacking on excellence in the hopes of gaining a ring. But can’t they be praised for that more?

Don’t fans always ask players to value winning above all else?

Don’t media always ask players to fit egos into the bigger team?

So much of sports is about fitting players into proper roles. So if these players aren’t great talents — or even good anymore by NBA standards, in some cases — they can be slotted into a definitive role that makes their game valuable on this roster.

Their first Sports Illustrated cover is already set (below). Surely, it won’t be their last.

This is the first of many magazine covers for the Miami Heat's Big 3!

We’re not pointing fingers around here. We’ve been caught up in the Miami Matrix as well. We can’t get enough of this story either, even when we know we should try to move on to something else.

Two HT faves, Al Harrington and Josh Childress, have found new homes and we’re yet to connect with either one of them to talk details (though, we are in the process of tracking them both down). And the Jazz pulled off one of our favorite moves of the summer, replacing Carlos Boozer with Al Jefferson after Minnesota GM David Kahn made good on his promise to move Jefferson so he could make room for the feared Darko Milicic/Kevin Love/Michael Beasley frontline.

You can probably guess who we think made out best in that deal. And it’s not about our continued ribbing of Kahn or the Timberwolves, a team we are considering for inclusion in HT’s Adopt-A-Team program (it worked for the Grizzlies last year didn’t it?) this season.

With the Western Conference ranks thinning a bit, what with all the concentration of star power in the Eastern Conference during free agency, the move to secure Jefferson by the Jazz keeps them in the mix among the elite. That’s always a good thing.

Ross Siler of the Salt Lake Tribune:

Given the departures of Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver in free agency, Jazz general manager Kevin O’Connor wasn’t about to describe the acquisition of Al Jefferson as the second coming of the trade that delivered Pau Gasol to the Lakers in 2008.

At the same time, O’Connor couldn’t help but herald the arrival of a player in Jefferson who he billed as one of the best low-post players in basketball, following a trade in which the Jazz seemingly gave up remarkably little in return.

The Jazz completed their deal for Jefferson on Tuesday, sending two future first-round draft picks and center Kosta Koufos to Minnesota while absorbing Jefferson’s $13 million salary thanks to the trade exception they acquired last week for Boozer.

“What we feel like is that we really added a premium player to our team,” O’Connor said, adding, “If you had put him in free agency this year with that crop that they had out there even yet, I think he’d be pretty highly rated, and that’s how we look at him.”

The 6-foot-10, 265-pound Jefferson averaged 20.1 points, 10.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in three seasons with the Timberwolves. O’Connor noted that at 25, after six seasons in the NBA, Jefferson should be entering the best years of his career.

Minnesota general manager David Kahn seemed to echo those sentiments. “Al is motivated to have a career-defining season, and I recognize the Jazz will be the recipients of that, not us. I expect him to help Utah immensely,” Kahn said in a statement.

Who knows, maybe Kahn will give us his take on Miami’s Big 3?