Posts Tagged ‘David Aldridge’

Hunter Defends Union Conduct

Longtime MLB and NHL labor nemesis Donald Fehr’s name has been mentioned. The acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, B. Todd Jones, might be approached, though he already has two jobs and he’s in the midst of his own controversy at the moment. And NBA.com’s David Aldridge on Monday offered up a trio of candidates who could be worthy choices to head up the National Basketball Players Association.

All this speculation about Billy Hunter’s possible successor as NBPA executive director was enough to trigger Hunter’s first interview defending his performance and arguing why he should continue in his job.

It might, however, be too little, too late. Again.

Too late because, for the second time in a week (and borrowing a term from politics), Hunter has tried to lead from behind. It was only after he was cited in an independent audit commissioned by the players for incidents of nepotism and conflict of interest that Hunter announced a series of “governance reforms” in how the NBPA would conduct its business.

Now, even as a list of replacements was being informally (or maybe even formally) compiled, Hunter tried to catch up to the process in a sitdown interview with the New York Times Wednesday. He is on indefinite paid leave blocking him from NBPA business or contact with NBA players while the union sorts through its options in advance of a highly scrutinized Feb. 16 meeting at All-Star Weekend in Houston.

Of course, Hunter’s silence to this point might have been driven by legal advice. A federal investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan and the Labor Department still is underway. The Times, citing an anonymous source, reported that “grand-jury subpoenas were issued to a number of players and union employees over the last several weeks and that the state of New York’s attorney general has begun an inquiry. Hunter has maintained throughout that none of his actions rise to the criminal level:

“They didn’t find one dime missing, nothing out of place.”

The too-little part? It’s risky to confuse quantity with quality in interview situations — men and women of few words can speak volumes — but Hunter’s quotes in Howard Beck’s story totaled a mere 184 words. In what was billed as a 65-minute interview, much of the time seemingly was taken up by Hunter’s attorney, Thomas Ashley, or by disputing specifics in the damaging report compiled by the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.

Among the more significant concerns cited in the audit were Hunter’s hiring of family members; his receipt of a $1.3 million vacation payout that was inadequately documented; the decision to spend $80,000 in “due diligence” on a possible investment in a failing bank that had ties to his son; and questionable travel expenses. Hunter called the report “just a lot of little things.”

“It’s almost like you put enough together, and you throw it up against the wall, hopefully something will stick,” he said. “But when you look at them each individually, we can rebut them.”

The challenge for Hunter might be getting an appropriate forum. The Times story noted that Boston’s Paul Pierce and Brooklyn’s Deron Williams already have spoken publicly about the need for a replacement. And veteran Jerry Stackhouse is ready for a change, too, according to Vincent Goodwill of the Detroit News.

The Times story noted, too, that the 70-year-old director might not be permitted to attend meetings at All-Star Weekend that could decide his fate. Hunter seemed skeptical that he would be given a fair chance by union president Derek Fisher or the executive committee to present his side of the issues, beyond what he already has done.

“I assume that between now and then that Derek will be doing everything he can to stack the deck,” Hunter said, referring to the coming union meeting, “so that they have the appropriate players in place to vote according to their request or plan.”

Hunter’s future would be determined by a vote of the NBPA’s 30 player representatives. In the event things don’t go as he might like, Hunter and Ashley said that – if he were terminated – they feel the $10.5 million and benefits left on his contract still would be due him. A legal fight for it, if necessary, surely would ensue.

Two items of interest related to that: First, the NBPA’s coffers apparently are in great shape, with a reported $80 million surplus, according to the Times story.

Second, NBA players have talked for years about their “partnership” with the owners. Well, one thing owners sure are good at is firing people in leadership positions (a.k.a. coaches) and paying them not to work even as they hire – and pay – replacementa. The NBPA soon might be feeling that partnership more than ever.

Want A Pau Gasol Trade? Be Patient

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – If you’re waiting on Pau Gasol in Minnesota or Toronto (or anywhere else, really), you’ll need to be patient.

While the All-Star big man continues to look like a bad fit with Mike D’Antoni‘s Lakers, L.A. brass is willing to wait to see how things work out after Steve Nash returns from his leg injury, as our David Aldridge reports in the video above.

“Right now,” DA says, “nothing’s happening with regard to Pau Gasol.”

That doesn’t mean that folks around the league can’t talk about the possibilities, of course. And it’s not like the NBA’s other general managers can’t gauge Mitch Kupchak‘s interest in their players until Nash is cleared to play.

Toronto fans are probably the most desperate for a shake-up. Their team is 4-15 and Andrea Bargnani is shooting 40 percent. Using an adjusted strength-of-schedule formula that takes home-away and back-to-backs into account, the Raps have played the league’s toughest schedule thus far. But they still have three more games on their current five-game trip and 4-15 is never an easy hole to climb out of, no matter what the circumstances are.

Doug Smith of the Toronto Star writes that rumors are just that, and Bryan Colangelo is always going to see what’s available:

The merits of a Gasol-Bargnani swap can be debated until the cows come home — and it would have to be a significantly bigger trade anyway to make the salaries match — but it speaks to general managers doing what they should: Try to make their teams better, in their opinion.

But it’s often the chatter that goes on behind the scenes that yields action; if things get to the public stage it often means one side is trying to change the opinion of the other by applying some public pressure.

There is no doubt that Colangelo, and his Los Angeles counterpart Mitch Kupchak, are tying their level best to improve their teams. If they chatted about Bargnani and Gasol, you can be sure they talked to several other teams as well.

And when those talks get to the public stage, another flurry of interest will follow. And when either makes a trade no one saw coming, it will be reality.

Meanwhile, Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes that there’s certainly some validity to the Wolves’ interest in Gasol:

Make no mistake: Adelman has been driving the bus on personnel moves since last summer and the Wolves’ continued interest in a 32-year-old with knee tendinitis and an $18 million salary means Adelman approves of the idea, if he’s not outright pushing for it.

Any such deal would have to include Derrick Williams, Nikola Pekovic as well as J.J. Barea and/or Luke Ridnour just so the Wolves could give back enough salary to absorb Gasol’s big contract.

And it might very well have to involve a third or fourth team to make the deal work because the Lakers, if they do indeed trade Gasol, want a power forward who can shoot — a “stretch 4″ — to put next to Dwight Howard and have other preferred targets in sight such as Toronto’s Andrea Bargnani or New Orleans’ Ryan Anderson rather than Williams, who indeed is a stretch 4, just not a very consistent one so far.

Gasol’s contract (he’s owed $19 million this season and $19.3 million next season) would make any trade difficult to pull off, but bigger contracts have been moved and there seems to be interest around the NBA in one of the league’s most talented big men.

Still, the Lakers want first to see what they’ve got when D’Antoni is able to coach all four of his star players together. Furthermore, we’ll have to wait until Jan. 15 before some players who signed new contracts this summer are trade eligible.

So hold off on the trade talk for now.

In Stunning Turn Of Events, Lakers Pick D’Antoni Over Jackson For Vacancy





Showtime, or a veritable facsimile thereof, won.

In a stunning development late Sunday night, the Los Angeles Lakers opted to sign former Knicks and Suns coach Mike D’Antoni to a four-year deal as their next coach, ending negotiations with 11-time NBA champion coach Phil Jackson. He was believed to be the prohibitive favorite to replace Mike Brown, who was fired last Friday.

D’Antoni and former Lakers, Blazers, Bucks and Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy interviewed with the Lakers over the weekend. But they were fallbacks, interviews done just in case the Lakers, somehow, could not reach a deal with the 67-year-old Jackson, who’d won five titles in Los Angeles during two stints as head coach.

But the Lakers could not reach agreement with Jackson, whose representatives had made it clear last summer that Jackson wanted a much bigger role in any organization that he joined, with hiring authority for coaches and other positions in the organization.

Negotiations with Jackson ended Sunday night, and the Lakers called D’Antoni’s agent, Warren LeGarie, as their home game against the Kings was ending. The two sides quickly worked out a contract somewhat along the lines of what Brown — another LeGarie client — received, though specific dollar amounts were not immediately available.

The Lakers never contacted other potential coaching candidates like former Blazers coach Nate McMillan, or former Jazz coach Jerry Sloan.

In the end, D’Antoni’s relationships both with Steve Nash, whom he helped get two MVPs in Phoenix, and with Kobe Bryant, who has known D’Antoni since he was finishing his playing career in Italy when a young Bryant lived there, made him the choice over Dunleavy.

D’Antoni’s Suns gave as good as they got with the Lakers in the playoffs, rallying from a 3-1 deficit to defeat L.A. in a 2006 first-round series. And his “Seven Seconds or Less” offensive system, which demanded pushing the ball up court — even after opponents scored — to get a good shot early in the shot clock, was much more in line with the old “Showtime” Lakers of Magic Johnson than the halfcourt-based Princeton offense that Brown tried to run.

The Lakers fired Brown Friday morning, despite executive vice president Jim Buss having given him a vote of confidence the day before. And despite everyone, including Bryant, stressing patience as the team dealt with injuries and the learning curve with the Princeton sets.

D’Antoni badly wanted the Lakers job, and an opportunity to again coach the now 38-year-old Nash. He was disturbed by how his stint in New York ended, without a playoff appearance, and with him resigning in March after Knicks management refused his entreaties to try and trade star forward Carmelo Anthony.

D’Antoni had knee replacement surgery about two weeks ago, and has to be cleared by his physician to be allowed to travel. He is already walking and his in-house therapist believes D’Antoni is about a week of rehab away from being able to handle coaching’s rigors. The current plan is for D’Antoni to be in Los Angeles by Wednesday or Thursday. The Lakers play the Spurs Tuesday night at Staples Center, but per LeGarie, D’Antoni will not be in attendance for that game. Bernie Bickerstaff, who has coached the Lakers to two wins on an interim basis, would probably coach that game, then.

LeGarie says that D’Antoni will not conduct any interviews before being introduced by the Lakers. D’Antoni will likely be put on an accelerated rehab program when he arrives in Los Angeles.

D’Antoni’s older brother, Dan, who has been with him on the bench in Phoenix and New York, will be joining Mike D’Antoni on the Lakers’ staff, according to a source. It is unknown if any of the Lakers’ current assistant coaches will be retained, though it is possible that Bickerstaff could be asked to stay.

Reflections On Reggie’s Big Day

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – This day, this moment, belongs to Reggie Miller.

This is his night in the Hall of Fame spotlight. But in addition to family, friends and former teammates, coaches and fans who will all share in his special moment.

That group includes his colleagues at TNT, who shared some of their own thoughts about Miller …

Shaquille O’Neal:

“Reggie will go down as one of the greatest shooters of all time. But you can’t mention Reggie’s name and not think of the legendary comeback against the Knicks.”

Charles Barkley:

“Reggie is a friend of mine and I’m very happy for him. It’s an awesome accomplishment and it’s going to be a wonderful night for him and his sister.”

Ernie Johnson:

“I loved watching Reggie play because for 48 minutes he gave you everything he had, and he possessed all those qualities that encompass being a superstar in this league: worth ethic, court sense, will to win, loyalty, charisma, killer instinct, ability to perform in the clutch … the list goes on and on. Like all the greats, Reggie wanted the ball in his hands with the game hanging in the balance and time and again he would deliver. His night in Springfield is richly deserved, and we’re all richer for having watched such a talent for all those years in the Pacers uniform.”

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USA Basketball: Griffin Out, Davis In?

LAS VEGAS – It appears Anthony Davis will suit up with the Olympic team after all.

The rookie forward and No. 1 overall Draft pick of the New Orleans Hornets is being called in to replace Clippers All-Star forward Blake Griffin, for tonight’s exhibition game against the Dominican Republic at UNLV’s Thomas and Mack Center (9 p.m. ET on ESPN).

Griffin completed practice Wednesday with the rest of USA Basketball’s Men’s National Team but woke up feeling some discomfort in his left knee and was flown back to Los Angeles for further examination from the Clippers’ team doctors.

Griffin signed a five-year extension with the Clippers that could be worth as much as $95 million on Wednesday.

But there has been no permanent decision made about Griffin’s availability for London. USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo told TNT’s David Aldridge that there haven’t been any discussions about Griffin not making the trip.

“I don’t want to go there yet, but I don’t have to tell you can build the case for length, shot blocking,” Colangelo said, “but until we hear about Blake I don’t want to speculate about anything.”

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Deron Williams Makes It Official, Signs Five-Year Deal With Nets On IPad





LAS VEGAS — Someone needs to get Deron Williams a crown since he’s the NBA’s new king of technology.

First he broke his own free-agent news by Tweeting that he was picking the Brooklyn Nets over the Dallas Mavericks. His latest high-tech move came just after 9 p.m. local time, when he signed the five-year, $98 million deal with the Nets on the opening night/morning of the free-agent signing period on an iPad, per Ken Berger of CBSSports.com.

An added twist, according to Berger, is the fourth year opt-out that was included in the contract, which no doubt serves as an escape hatch for Williams if the Joe Johnson sign-and-trade deal is the only other major move the Nets make to revamp their team.

The Dwight Howard trade rumors that were percolating Monday have shifted dramatically and now include teams other than the Nets, the team Howard has requested the Orlando Magic trade him to since December.

TNT’s David Aldridge reported earlier Tuesday night that the Lakers and Rockets have jumped back into the Howard mix as it enters into its eighth month of uncertainty.

Wilcox Ready To Resume NBA Career




HANG TIME CAPITAL BUREAU – Free-agent forward Chris Wilcox has been cleared for full-court contact, his agent said Monday, as the 29-year-old attempts to resume his career after undergoing aortic surgery last March. Wilcox had been playing well for the Boston Celtics as a reserve when the team’s doctors noticed what the team called a “significant” enlargement of his aorta. As a precaution, Wilcox was shut down for the season and operated on at the Cleveland Clinic March 29.

Doctors performed what is known as a “Modified David” procedure, in which a graft was attached to a small piece of Wilcox’s aorta to prevent it from enlarging further after he finishes playing. There was no valve replacement or bypass procedure performed.

Wilcox’s cardiologist, Dr. Matt Hook, of the Wake Heart and Vascular Associates in Raleigh, N.C., cleared Wilcox for full contact in the last few days. Wilcox has been working out in North Carolina the last few weeks, lifting weights and doing cardio work, and is planning to go to Houston to continue his workouts with player development guru John Lucas. Wilcox shot 59 percent from the floor last season for the Celtics, averaging 5.4 points and 4.4 rebounds in a little more than 17 minutes per game.

“After the great year he had with Boston, I know Chris could be a strong contributor for any team,” agent Jeff Schwartz said Monday.

Olshey Leaving Clippers, Taking GM Reins In Portland

In another bizarre move from pro basketball’s most bizarre franchise, the Los Angeles Clippers announced Monday that general manager Neil Olshey — whom they had said three days ago had agreed to terms to remain with the team — was instead leaving, with sources confirming that Olshey would be named the Trail Blazers’ new GM. A news conference is expected in Portland Tuesday.

Olshey, who engineered the trade that brought All-Star Chris Paul to the Clippers in a franchise-altering deal in December, had been working all season without a contract, with owner Donald Sterling unwilling to sign him to a long-term deal.

On Friday, the Clippers had announced Olshey had agreed to terms on a new deal, with a conference call set up for Monday afternoon. But one side clearly didn’t think a deal was done.

“Circumstances have obviously undergone some movement since our announcement Friday. In light of that, we want to wish Neil well and acknowledge his contributions during the time he spent with the Clippers,” team president Andy Roeser said in a statement released by the team Monday afternoon.

Olshey had been the Clippers’ GM for two years, replacing Mike Dunleavy in 2010, and his acquisition of players like Paul and free agent forward Caron Butler dramatically re-shaped the team’s roster. But he interviewed with Blazers owner Paul Allen a couple of weeks ago in Europe, and was believed to be Allen’s choice for the job.

In Portland, he will replace interim GM Chad Buchanan, who had been the Blazers’ acting GM since the team fired Rich Cho last summer. The Blazers had interviewed several candidates for the job, including TNT analyst Steve Kerr and former New Orleans Hornets GM Jeff Bower. Portland may also be looking for a new head coach to replace interim head coach Kaleb Canales, who replaced the fired Nate McMillan in February.

Olshey opted for Portland, according to a source, because the Blazers — while not being an easy place to work either, having fired several executives in the last three years, including Cho, his predecessor, Kevin Pritchard, and Pritchard’s assistant, Tom Penn — nonetheless have the resources available to be involved in any transaction. With Allen’s largesse, the Blazers are always potential players in any trade, free-agent signing or Draft day deals. The Blazers currently have the sixth and 11th picks overall in this month’s Draft.

In Los Angeles, Olshey only had a handful of people working with him in the basketball operations staff — “he was basically MacGuyver down there, “ a source said — and had difficulty getting decisions made quickly. Nonetheless, he had enough clout to dramatically, and historically, remake the Clippers’ roster in a frantic two-week frame in December.

First, after the NBA, which owned the Hornets at the time, controversially vetoed a three-team trade that would have sent Paul to the Lakers, Olshey was able to leverage the Clippers into position to make a deal with New Orleans to acquire Paul in exchange for guard Eric Gordon, forward Al-Farouq Aminu, center Chris Kaman and a 2010 first-round pick.

Then, the Clippers signed Butler to a three-year, $24 million deal. They followed that by convincing guard Chauncey Billups to report to the team after they claimed him off waivers from the Knicks. Finally, the Clippers matched a four-year, $43 million offer sheet that restricted free agent center DeAndre Jordan received from Golden State.

During the season, Olshey added veteran big man Kenyon Martin, who’d been playing in China during the lockout, signed free agent Reggie Evans and acquired guard Nick Young from Washington as part of a three-team trade.

With the team’s new core surrounding third-year star Blake Griffin, the Clippers dealt with expectations they had never dealt with before. For the first time, there were serious questions asked about which Los Angeles basketball team was better. In the end, both the Clippers and Lakers reached the second round of the playoffs, and while that was a disappointment for the Lakers, it marked only the second time in 35 years that the Clippers had gotten that far in the postseason.

A search for a replacement for Olshey is already underway, headed up by Roeser. In the interim, all responsibilities pertaining to the team’s basketball operations will be absorbed by Roeser, head coach Vinny Del Negro, and Clippers’ Director of Player Personnel Gary Sacks.

Time To Vote … DPOY?





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Much like the debate that goes on every year regarding the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award,  selecting a Defensive Player of the Year is an exercise based largely on the subjectivity of the voters.

Without a clear-cut set of statistical markers a player can reach to solidify his case, the issue is left to the discretion of those with ballots. And that means 2.4 blocks per game by one player might be seen as defensive prowess while 2.4 blocks per game by another player are simply digits and a decimal attached to a name and little else.

NBA.com’s Shaun Powell had to try to make sense of the minutiae while crafting his ballot, which includes a list of the expected names (Dwight Howard, Tyson Chandler, LeBron James and Serge Ibaka). But instead of riding with the obvious and incumbent choice, Howard, Shaun went in a different direction:

Is it possible to be the team MVP when Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudamire wear the same uniform? If so, then Chandler’s that guy. The Knicks didn’t become a better team until they took a cue from their center and began to make defense a priority.

Chandler is indispensable because he means so much defensively. He bails out teammates, starts the break and does what others cannot do or will not do. He ranks in the top 20 in rebounds per game (10.0, ninth), rebounds (607, 11th), blocks per game (1.44, 18th) and blocks (88, 16th).

“Tyson is our anchor,” Anthony said. “He gets us going.”

TNT’s David Aldridge picked Serge Ibaka as his winner, giving the nod to the league’s shot-blocking king rather than the incumbent. He makes the case for Ibaka:

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Who Is Your MIP?





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We’ll get back to our MVP debate later this week.

While we wait to decide between LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant for the top award, today we get an early look at the frontrunners for the Most Improved Player award.

Our West Coast bureau chief Scott Howard-Cooper weighs in today with something of a surprise pick in Jeremy Lin of the Knicks. And he overlooks the fact that Lin played just 53 percent of the Knicks’ game this season and instead focuses on the impact Lin had and the seismic rise in production for the undrafted Lin from his rookie season to this one.

H-C makes the case:

Twenty-seven games, 25 starts, 17.9 points, 7.4 assists and 44.5 percent shooting in 33.1 minutes. The season-long numbers: 35 games, 25 starts, 14.6 points, 6.2 assists, 44.6 percent shooting and 26.9 minutes.

But yes. Playing barely more than half the season, the equivalent of 43 games in a season with an ordinary calendar, is enough to earn Most Improved.

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