The framework of a deal that would reunite the Cleveland Cavaliers and their former coach, Mike Brown, is in place, according to league sources, though the two sides do not yet have a contract in place and there are several remaining issues that have to be resolved.
The Cavaliers have moved quickly after firing Byron Scott, who replaced Brown in Cleveland in 2010, last week. Owner Dan Gilbert met with Brown on Sunday for dinner and discussions have quickly picked up steam.
The two sides are still working out the structure of the contract. Brown is looking for a five-year deal; the team is currently offering four years. A fifth-year club option might be a potential compromise. Brown would also have to work out the offset he has with the Lakers, who still owe him $10 million after firing him five games into his second season as coach there.
Brown posted a 272-138 record in five seasons in Cleveland, building a team around LeBron James that got to the NBA Finals in 2007 and won 50 games or more four times. He was named the NBA’s Coach of the Year in 2009. Criticized early in his tenure there for an unimaginative offense, Brown changed much of his offense, giving assistant coach John Kuester broad authority, and the Cavaliers became one of the NBA’s better offenses in Brown’s last two seasons there.
But the Cavaliers failed to reach The Finals in Brown’s last three years, including the 2008-09 season, when Cleveland went 66-16 in the regular season. The following year, the Cavaliers lost in especially ignominious fashion to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Soon afterward, Gilbert decided not to pick up Brown’s option, in what many believed was a desperate attempt to keep James from leaving via free agency. James, of course, did leave, for Miami.
The Akron Beacon-Journal first reported that a deal between the sides were close.
Cleveland’s current management team pushed to go after Brown after Scott’s outster. The Cavaliers were impressed with Brown’s ability to create a defensive structure while evolving on offense, and winning 127 regular season games his last two seasons in Cleveland — a mark that is just as good as James has had in Miami — without the presence of Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh.
The Cavs may also be moving quickly to keep Brown from the open market.
And speculation has run rampant throughout the league for months that the Atlanta Hawks — whose general manager, Danny Ferry, hired Brown in Cleveland in 2005 — would reach out to Brown at the end of their season. The Hawks’ current coach, Larry Drew, is in the final year of his contract, and the team opted to wait until after the season to decide what to do about his future status.
Collins has grandchildren he wants to spend more time with in his golden years, he wants to watch his son, Chris Collins, now the coach at Northwestern, thrive in the family business.
After giving the last 40 years of his life to the game he loves and the merciless grind that is the pursuit of a championship ring, Collins wants his next four or five years to be on his terms.
“There’s a lot of things I want to enjoy,” Collins said. “I think it’s every man’s dream to be able to live that life that you work so hard to try to live. And that’s what I want to do.”
He knew it at Christmas, when he had to be away while “the grandkids were opening their presents,” that he was done coaching, that he didn’t have the energy to give to the profession the way he knows great coaches have to if they’re going to do the job the justice it deserves.
It wasn’t about wins and losses, Collins said this morning as he addressed the media in Philadelphia. No amount of either would have changed his mind. The sacrifices had become too great, the benefits, financial and otherwise, that come with a NBA coaching job were outweighed by the important moments a proud father and grandfather had to miss.
“I didn’t get down to a Duke game last year,” Collins said. “My son … I want to see him grow, want to see him coach. That’s important to me.”
If only Jrue Holiday, Even Turner, Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes and the rest of the players he coached through a tumultuous season this year in Philadelphia had been just as important. Collins never told them of the exit strategy that had been brewing for months. They were left to the rumblings that grew into rumors the past couple weeks and into full blown hysterics last week.
Collins is a brilliant basketball mind. No one disputes that. And he’s a fine coach, as passionate as he is relentless about teaching the game and as focused and fanatical as they come in his profession. Widely regarded as one of the best analysts around, Collins chose to dive back into coaching three years ago with the franchise he’s always considered home.
He was not pushed out the door. Sixers owner Josh Harris made that clear before Collins said a word this morning.
“Doug is not being pushed out,” Harris said. “I would love to have him back as my coach. This is his decision … I want to make that unequivocally clear.”
Andrew Bynum, the Sixers’ prized summer acquisition from a blockbuster trade that saw Andre Iguodala, Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless traded away for the All-Star center, didn’t play a single second this season.
Instead of contending in the Eastern Conference a season after a surprise run to the conference semifinals, the Sixers finished ninth in the East and four games out of the eighth and final playoff spot, despite playing their “best basketball” in the six weeks after his frustrations boiled over.
I don’t care how diplomatic they try to be, the Bynum debacle stained this season for Collins, Harris and the entire organization.
“We spent $84 million and don’t have much to show for it,” said Harris, who was extremely careful when talking about Bynum and what the Sixers’ plans are regarding the soon-to-be unrestricted free-agent big man. “You look at our cost per win, and its pretty low.”
Collins plans to serve as an adviser to Harris the next five years, a time-frame both men referenced, as they work to increase that cost per win number.
His days of, as he put it, “trying to be Frederick Douglas, Dale Carnegie, Dr. Phil and then trying to draw up a play to win the game,” are over. He said he won’t get the coaching itch again.
He’ll leave that to guys like Michael Curry, the only one of his assistants to get a public endorsement for the coaching vacancy in Philadelphia during Monday’s festivities.
“Michael Curry has been a head coach before,” Collins said. “What he’s done here defensively has been remarkable. I think Michael’s ready. The thing about it is, they are going to get a great coach. This is a great city … to me, this is a win-win. They get a great a coach and it gives me a chance to do some of the things I want to do.”
Collins, 62, has one year left on a four-year deal, but has told management he won’t return in that job. Collins’ possible return to the franchise in another role – perhaps in the front office – hasn’t been ruled out, a source said.
Ownership wanted him to return for the final season of a contract that would’ve paid him $4.5 million, one source said, but Collins informed owner Josh Harris of his decision to leave in recent days.
The news comes just hours after USA Today reported that John Langel, Collins’ agent, said: “[Doug is] the coach, and he’ll continue to be the coach.”
A summer trade for Andrew Bynum forced the Sixers to take apart the team that surprised with last season’s run to the Eastern Conference semifinals. Andre Iguodala (Denver), Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless (Orlando) helped form the nucleus of what was expected to be one of the most promising young teams in the Eastern Conference before the blockbuster trade, which also involved the Magic sending Dwight Howard to the Lakers.
But Bynum missed the entire season with knee issues that ultimately required surgery. The Sixers season fizzled as well; they are ninth place in the East, leaving a frustrated Collins to try and pick up the pieces.
Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
The one recap to watch: As our own Steve Aschburner wrote about before last night’s Knicks-Bulls tilt from Chicago, coach Tom Thibodeau has once again done an amazing job of keeping this Bulls team together all season long. Aside from the scotch-tape job he has done with Chicago’s lineups all season, Thibodeau apparently is the master when it comes to ending a foe’s opposing win streak. The Bulls already had Miami’s 27-game run on their kill list and last night, they added the Knicks 13-game run to it. Nate Robinson was at his best last night, dropping in 35 points and coming up with the hustle plays and backbreaking shots that are a hallmark of his game when he is on.
Parker, Popovich can’t agree on return date — Up until March 1 against the Sacramento Kings, Tony Parker was in the midst of an MVP-type season. But that night in San Antonio, Parker severely sprained his left ankle and missed 22 days before returning to play (and star) in an OT win over the Jazz. He looked just like his old self for a while, but then suffered a neck injury in a loss at Oklahoma City on April 4 and has been out of the lineup since. Parker is hoping to come back soon, but the exact date on that, according to Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News, depends on who you ask:
On his way to the team bus after a loss to the Nuggets in which Gregg Popovich would not allow him to play Tony Parker, the Spurs’ All-Star point guard, made a promise he hopes the coach will allow him to keep on Friday night.
“I’m playing Friday,” Parker said without breaking stride as he focused on Friday’s game against the Kings at the AT&T Center.
For a team disheartened all the more by the pre-game news that forward Boris Diaw has been ruled out of action for two to three weeks with a sprained lower back (technically, a sprained lumbar facet), Parker’s vow was music to his teammates’ ears.
The Spurs leader in points scored and assists, the five-time All-Star hasn’t played since an April 4 game at Oklahoma City in which his most recent injury, a sore neck, resulted in his lowest output of the season: two points, on 1-for-6 shooting.
Parker will have to convince Popovich he is completely recovered from a variety of ailments if he wants to suit up against the Sacramento Kings Friday. The Spurs coach said he would re-visit the issue with Parker after a Friday morning shootaround.
“We’ll see how he feels,” Popovich said after Wednesday’s game in Denver.
In the wake of a published report saying the organization privately hopes Doug Collins doesn’t return next season as 76ers coach, his agent claims it will be Collins’ call.
“The relationship with Doug, me and Sixers management has been terrific,” said John Langel during a Thursday afternoon telephone conversation. “What they told me beyond this season and as recently as today and yesterday is how long Doug stays here is Doug’s decision.”
Langel denied rumblings that the story, which cited multiple unnamed NBA sources, in Thursday’s Philadelphia Inquirer originated from Collins’ camp.
Sixers spokesman Mike Preston said, “We are aware of the report and will not comment on a column loaded with innuendo and speculation.”
In October, Sixers majority owner Josh Harris announced the team had picked up a fourth-year option (for the 2013-14 season) on Collins’ contract. It is believed to be worth $4.5 million.
Sixers CEO Adam Aron has repeatedly — and as recently as last month — said management would like for Collins to coach the team beyond next season.
Harris is expected to meet with the media next Thursday, the day after the end of the regular season.
Report: Bulls likely to add Mirotic in 2014 — Back in the 2011 Draft, the Chicago Bulls pulled off a trade that day with the Houston Rockets to pick up Real Madrid star Nikola Mirotic. Since then, he’s been stashed overseas and is developing his game while Bulls fans salivate over the prospect of having a talent like Mirotic on the roster soon. Bulls fans should get their due soon, though, writes ESPNChicago.com, as the Bulls are poised to add Mirotic to the roster come 2014:
Chicago Bulls fans eager for Nikola Mirotic to join the team that drafted him with the 24th pick in 2011 will likely have to wait until the summer of 2014, general manager Gar Forman explained.
“You’re slotted in the first round, and I think the slot for No. 24 is $1.3 or $1.4 million,” Forman said Thursday on “The Waddle & Silvy Show” on ESPN 1000. “Well, he makes a lot more money than that right now over at Real Madrid. So the way the CBA is written is after three years then you’re no longer slotted. Then you can use whether it’s exception room or cap room in order to pay a guy.
“So there’s no possibility this summer because next year will be his third year. But after next year, the summer of 2014, then we’ll be able to start some negotiations as far as a buyout possibly with Real Madrid or negotiate with him to come over here.”
The 6-10 forward has been compared to Dirk Nowitzki and Danilo Gallinari.
“He reminds me of Dirk and a little bit of Gallo, just a little bit,” said Memphis center Zach Randolph, who played against Mirotic in an exhibition game. “But I can see the Dirk comparisons. I can see why, definitely.”
Some thought Mirotic could play small forward, but Forman said he’ll be a power forward.
“We’re really, really excited about him,” Forman said. “We built a relationship with him, we’re in constant communication. John (Paxson) and I went up and saw him this fall when he played at Memphis and at Toronto in a couple NBA exhibitions, and we think the ceiling there is incredible.
“He’s probably a four, but he’s very, very skilled. He shoots it from 3, can handle it, good mobility. And he’s a tough, tough kid.”
Report: Stern my decide on Kings’ future — Originally, the Sacramento Kings’ future was to be decided at the April 18-19 Board of Governors meeting, but after groups from Sacramento and Seattle gave their presentations on April 3, that deadline was pushed back (as our David Aldridge reports). More developments have come along (as our Scott Howard-Cooper reports) and the future of the Kings remains very much in doubt. Sam Amick of USA Today, though, says that Commissioner David Stern could be the deciding vote in whether or not the Kings move or stay put:
When David Stern announced he would retire next February, his 30th anniversary as NBA commissioner, he likely thought he had seen it all.
But here he is, in the 11th hour of a tenure that has been historic and memorable in many ways, directing traffic in an unprecedented affair, this fight for the Kings between Sacramento and Seattle, that will leave a lasting note on his legacy. And with a week left before the Board of Governors meetings in New York, when a vote on the matter likely will take place, this much has become abundantly clear: Stern still wields considerable influence, and strong signs persist that he’s doing all he can to keep the team in Sacramento.
For all of Stern’s talk of playing a merely advisory role, the growing sentiment from all sides is the commissioner, who has always been clear about his distaste for relocation, is determined to avoid having a sixth team change cities on his watch. And he remains powerful enough to pull it off. The story line is sticky, of course, because of the way the league moved the Seattle SuperSonics to the Oklahoma City in 2008 and the widely held assumption that Stern was hellbent on returning the NBA to Seattle before he retired.
This is a good problem to have for Stern and his successor, deputy commissioner Adam Silver. They clearly are smitten with the potential global impact that could come with Sacramento’s lead investor, Indian software tycoon Vivek Ranadive, but might have a hard time denying Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and his deep pockets. Rumors of expansion as the potential solution to satisfy both sides persist, but Stern has said consistently it is not an option at the moment. The reality remains that one city will go home unhappy.
Monroe, Drummond rising for Pistons — Detroit is in the midst of a fourth straight season of winning less than 40 percent of their games and have a 50-plus loss season for the third time in four seasons. But in the midst of a losing campaign and more rebuilding, the Pistons have found some hope in their frontcourt tandem of rookie big man Andre Drummond and second-year center Greg Monroe. Richard Hardy of HoopsWorld.com has more on the Pistons’ developing duo and the prospects for a brighter future in Detroit:
After selecting Andre Drummond in this year’s draft, the Detroit Pistons had a potential log-jam at the center position. Just two years earlier they had selected Greg Monroe. Both players have shown that they deserve to be starters in this league and rather trading one of them, the Pistons opted to move Monroe over to power forward, hoping that the two can player together.
“We’ve put Greg in a situation where he’s playing a different position than he’s used to,” Pistons head coach Lawrence Frank said. “He’s responded very positively and we just want him to continue to progress in these last 16 quarters of basketball.”
At 6’11 and 250 lbs, Monroe is deceptively quick. Frank believes that in time Monroe can thrive at the four, regardless of what teams throw at him.
“Greg’s ability, with his size and skill level, to put the ball on the floor and make decisions is critical,” Frank said. “His low-post game continues to expand and he’s continuing to gain more and more confidence in his 15-foot jump shot. Defensively, when you look at the last 10 to 12 games, he’s had some really good individual defensive challenges that he’s responded to.”
Although Drummond and Monroe are similar in size, Drummond insists that their games are radically different.
“I do all the dirty work,” Drummond said. “Greg is the fundamental guy. He has the ability to hit the jump shot and he can pass the ball really well. He does all the active stuff and I clean up around the rim. We complement each other and for me, the game is easier when he’s out there.”
Monroe has been impressed with what Drummond has been able to do in such a short amount of time in the NBA. Although he agrees with Drummond about them being different players, he also sees similarities in their games.
“Andre is someone who’s very comfortable around the rim,” Monroe said. “He can run the floor and he’s a better passer than people give him credit for. I think both of us are pretty unselfish and we both have a ton of room for growth moving forward.”
ICYMI of the night: Chris Anderson, formerly of the Nuggets, has just been getting victimized by his old teammates. The latest to slam on him? None other than Washington’s Nene … :
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Eye contact in a timeout huddle means little to the casual observer.
NBA players do all sorts of things in timeout huddles other than locking into their coach and hanging on every word. Sometimes it means something when they stare off into the distance. And other times it means nothing.
But for a large number of coaches heading into the great (contractual) unknown at season’s end, that connection between coach and player(s) is of immense importance.
It could mean the difference between a contract extension, a new contract or no contract, depending on how certain teams finish the regular season and postseason — provided some of these coaches make it that far.
The list of coaches looking over their shoulders as the regular season winds to a close is long and filled with notable names:
DOUG COLLINS, PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
How many coaches of lottery-bound teams get to decide their own fate? Collins might be the only one in the league right now other than Minnesota’s Rick Adelman, who will make his own decision based on things other than basketball. That exhausted look on his face most nights is a reflection of a clearly exasperated coach dealing with a situation that turned a promising, young team last season upside down this season when Andrew Bynum came to town via an offseason trade.
The Sixers hit rock bottom in February and Collins couldn’t contain himself, venting his frustration for all the world to see and hear. But they’ve actually rebounded a bit lately, going 6-4 in their last 10 games and doing whatever they can to finish the season on a somewhat positive note.
His fourth year is already set. The Sixers’ front office wants him back. And they’ll need a steady, veteran coach to guide them out of the mess that the Bynum trade unleashed upon the organization and the fans. Collins is on thin ice only if he wants to be.
TY CORBIN, UTAH JAZZ
Corbin is one of several coaches whose future is tied directly to his team’s finish in the regular season. Make the playoffs, serve as the sacrificial first-round fodder for the San Antonio Spurs or Oklahoma City Thunder and there is reason to believe that Corbin can cajole more out of this group next season.
And with just one season left on his contract, playoffs or not, the Jazz might not shake things up in the coaching ranks at a time when the roster is in such flux — Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap‘s pending free agency (among others) and the future of young bigs Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter.
Corbin’s task has always been daunting in following a legend like Jerry Sloan. But Corbin has handled it about as well as you would expect from a guy who was thrust into an impossible situation.
MIKE D’ANTONI, LOS ANGELES LAKERS
The ice beneath D’Antoni’s feet won’t break this season, even if the Lakers miss the playoffs. There has already been too much turmoil, upheaval and loss for one season. But how would you like to work under the extreme pressure that D’Antoni will have to this summer and next season if the Lakers do miss out on that eighth and final spot in the West?
If the Lakers land in the lottery and the blame game kicks off in earnest, D’Antoni will be third or fourth in the firing line, behind Jim Buss, Mitch Kupchak and Dwight Howard (in whatever order you’d like). Having the unfettered support of the Lakers’ two most important players — Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash — certainly aids D’Antoni’s cause.
Still, if things come apart in Los Angeles this summer, D’Antoni could be one of two NBA coaches in the city walking around on cracked ice.
VINNY DEL NEGRO, LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
Del Negro has just as many detractors as he does supporters these days. Three different league executives have suggested that he’s done a much better job than he gets credit for, when you consider how raw the Clippers’ frontcourt remains with youngsters Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan still coming into their own.
Del Negro’s critics quickly point out that an All-Star and one of the top 10 centers in the league is a pretty good place to start your frontcourt rotation. Plus, they say, Griffin and Jordan’s rawness has as much with Del Negro (and his staff’s) inability to polish them up as it does anything else.
The Clippers have dealt with health issues and rumored locker room drama all season, but they also kicked off the NBA’s season of win streaks with a 17-gamer early in the season that cranked expectations (on the team and Del Negro) to unattainable proportions. The only thing that might solidify Del Negro’s status is a run to the Western Conference finals … and that might work.
LARRY DREW, ATLANTA HAWKS
How does a guy spend half the season as a legitimate Coach of the Year candidate and the other half on the coaching hot list? Only in Atlanta, where the Hawks coach has been on the proverbial hot seat for the past 10 years (Mike Woodson before him and now, Drew). He’s known since last summer, when new general manager Danny Ferry arrived, that he would spend his final season under contract on a non-stop audition.
To his credit, Drew has never once made an issue of his predicament. In fact, he’s relished the opportunity to show off his coaching chops to the rest of the league. Drew knows there could be (at minimum) a half-dozen coaching openings this summer. And anyone who has presided over playoff teams every year he’s been a coach — as Drew has — has made a compelling case for making the short list of interview candidates for any openings.
Bottom line? Drew was not Ferry’s pick as coach. And if the Hawks are going to remake themselves this summer, it makes sense that Ferry will do so with his own pick as coach.
BYRON SCOTT, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
Scott had to fist-fight Brooklyn’s P.J. Carlesimo for the final spot on this list. Carlesimo’s not on thin ice, though, he’s standing in the water. As long as Phil Jackson, Sloan and the Van Gundy brothers (Jeff and Stan) remain options, the coaching seat in Brooklyn is just a temporary perch. Scott is in a much more precarious position because of the belief that the Cavaliers are just a few healthy players (namely Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao) away from turning the corner in the Eastern Conference playoff chase.
Scott keeps finding himself in coaching situations where he has either overstayed his welcome (New Jersey and New Orleans) or failed to get his team to the next step in time (Cleveland). The Cavaliers showed him some love earlier this season by guaranteeing the final year of his contract next season. But even a financial vote of confidence like that might not stand up to the a coaching free-agent summer that will rival anything the players offer up.
If the aforementioned big names are floating around, you better believe the Cavaliers will be fishing around to see who is interested in helping guide Irving into the prime of his career.
ALSO ON THE RADAR: Mike Dunlap, Charlotte; Lawrence Frank, Detroit; Lionel Hollins, Memphis; Keith Smart, Sacramento; Randy Wittman, Washington.
HANG TIME, Texas – Never underestimate Mark Cuban’s knack for attracting attention. And who could blame him if the idea was to draw it away from his underperforming team that is ironically keeping a team of barbers on hold at the same time they’re about to cut off their string of consecutive playoff appearances at 12 years?
Should the Mavericks draft Brittney Griner?
Let cranky Geno Auriemma be outraged and throw bricks. Let former greats of the women’s game Nancy Lieberman and Ann Meyers Drysdale offer their words encouragement to the Baylor star. Let Griner give even the most outrageous hope and dreams to any little girl who has ever dribbled a basketball.
Let’s face it. The Mavs selecting Griner wouldn’t be the first unusual pick in the history of the NBA draft. And before you snicker, remember that somebody took Pervis Ellison, Greg Oden, Kwame Brown and Michael Olowokandi No. 1. Here’s a reminder of a few others off-beat choices down through the years:
JIM BROWN (Syracuse Nationals, 1957 ) – The Nats didn’t have to reach outside the city limits to take a flyer on the guy who would become perhaps the greatest player in NFL history. Brown played four college sports — football, basketball, lacrosse and track — at Syracuse. He even averaged 15 points a game for the basketball team in his sophomore year. But even though there was little doubt that Brown was bound for a career on the gridiron, the Nats made him a ninth-round pick.
Other notables in draft: “Hot Rod” Hundley (No. 1 overall by Cincinnati, traded to Minneapolis); Sam Jones (No. 8 by Boston).
FRANK HOWARD (Philadelphia Warriors, 1958) – It wasn’t just his physical stature at 6-foot-8, 275 pounds that caught the attention of the Warriors in the third round. He could really play and was an All-American in basketball at Ohio State. But baseball was Howard’s first love and he signed with the Dodgers and had a 15-year career in the majors, hitting 382 home runs with 1,119 RBIs.
Other notables in the draft: Elgin Baylor (No. 1 overall by Minneapolis); Hal Greer (No. 13 by Syracuse).
BUBBA SMITH (Baltimore Bullets, 1967) — Long before he became known for playing the role of Moses Hightower in the Police Academy movies and starring in Miller Lite commercials, the 6-foot-7 Smith was an All-American defensive end at Michigan State. His height attracted the attention of the Bullets in the 11th round of the NBA draft, but Smith was the No. 1 overall pick of the NFL Colts and a champion in Super Bowl V.
Other notables in the draft: Earl Monroe (No. 2 overall by Baltimore); Walt Frazier (No. 5 by New York).
BOB BEAMON (Phoenix Suns, 1969) – Who could blame the Suns for taking a flying leap? After all, they were coming off a 16-66 record in their expansion season in the league and Beamon had just shattered the world long jump record by more than a foot at the Mexico City Olympics. Beamon had grown up playing street ball in New York, but was strictly a track and field athlete in college at Texas-El Paso. The Suns picked him in the 15th round of the draft, but he went back to school and graduated with a sociology degree from Adelphi University.
DENISE LONG (San Francisco Warriors, 1969) — The 18 year old out of Union-Whitten High in Iowa was the first woman ever drafted in the NBA, taken in the 13th round. She had averaged 69.6 points and had a single game high of 111 points in her senior year. NBA commissioner Walter Kennedy voided the pick, calling it a publicity stunt by Warriors owner Franklin Mieuli and also noted that high school players weren’t eligible at the time. Mieuli brought Long and other female players in to play before Warriors home games.
Other notables in the draft: Lew Alcindor (No. 1 overall by Milwaukee); JoJo White (No. 9 by Boston); Mack Calvin (187th by L.A. Lakers).
DAVE WINFIELD (Atlanta Hawks, 1973) – It wasn’t just the Hawks who were trying to get their talons on one of the greatest all-around college athletes ever with their fifth-round pick. He was also drafted by the Utah Stars of the ABA and the Minnesota Vikings of the NFL, but went to baseball when the San Diego Padres chose him as a pitcher. In college at Minnesota, Bill Musselman once called him the best rebounder he ever coached. But Winfield did quite well in baseball, a 12-time All-Star with 465 career homers.
Other notables in the draft: Doug Collins (No. 1 overall by Philadelphia); Kermit Washington (No. 5 by L.A. Lakers).
BRUCE JENNER (Kansas City Kings, 1977) — Before face lifts and the Kardashians, there was a time when Jenner was known as the “world’s greatest athlete” after taking the gold medal in the decathlon at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal and the Kings made him a seventh-round draft pick. He never played in college and the closest Jenner ever got to basketball stardom was when he sank a shot during the singing of YMCA in the 1980 movie Can’t Stop the Music, which starred the Village People.
LUSIA HARRIS (New Orleans Jazz, 1977) – Here’s the real forerunner to Griner. A 6-foot-3 pioneer of the women’s game who led Delta State to three consecutive national titles, Harris was the second female ever drafted by an NBA team when the Jazz made her a seventh-round pick. Just imagine the show if she had been given a chance to team up with Pete Maravich in the backcourt. Harris showed little interest in her selection and declined a tryout invitation from the Jazz. It was later revealed that she was pregnant at the time.
Other notables in the draft: Bernard King (No. 7 overall by New York Nets); Jack Sikma (No. 8 by Seattle).
TONY GWYNN (San Diego Clippers, 1981) — After he set the San Diego State assist records for a game, season and career, he was hardly a reach for the Clippers in the 10th round of the draft. Gwynn said that dribbling strengthened his wrists and helped with bat speed and his on-court quickness made him a better base-runner. It all added up to a Hall of Fame baseball career with 3,141 hits and eight N.L. batting titles.
YASUTAKA OKAYAMA (Golden State Warriors,1981) — Tallest player ever drafted by an NBA team? Not Yao Ming or Gheorge Muresan or Manute Bol. Try Okayama, who was 7-foot-8. He earned a second degree black belt in judo in his native Japan and began playing basketball at age 18 at Osaka University of Commerce. Okayama attended the University of Portland (Ore.), but did not play there. He was a member of the Japanese national team from 1979 to 1986. He never signed with the Warriors or attended a camp.
Other notables in the draft: Mark Aguirre (No. 1 overall by Dallas); Isiah Thomas (No. 2 by Detroit).
CARL LEWIS (Chicago Bulls, 1984) — It might have been the year when Michael Jordan earned his first gold medal, but Lewis was definitely the biggest star of the L.A. Olympics, tying Jesse Owens’ record of four track and field gold medals. Though he never played basketball in high school or college, a West Coast scout recommended drafting Lewis in the 10th round because he was “the best athlete available.” That same year the Dallas Cowboys drafted him in the 12th round as a wide receiver. Lewis stayed with sprinting and the long jump to become arguably the greatest track and field athlete ever.
Other notables in the draft: Hakeem Olajuwon (No. 1 overall by Houston); Michael Jordan (No. 3 by Chicago); Charles Barkley (No. 5 by Philadelphia); John Stockton (No. 16 by Utah).
Seven games away from setting an NBA record for most consecutive wins in a season, the Miami Heat are the talk of the sporting world. The defending champions have not lost a game since a 13-point setback in Indiana on Feb. 1 and have a chance — in some people’s minds, at least — to run the rest of the regular-season table. Their winning streak, the second-longest in league history, stands at 27 games.
NBA.com dispatched our game reporters to talk to those around the NBA who have seen the streak close up. Here’s a sampling of what people are saying:
Kevin McHale, coach, Houston Rockets: “The thing I’ve always been impressed about long winning streaks is the fact that you keep your concentration long enough to do it. You win 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 in a row, and you run into a bad team, and it’s late in the year, that’s usually when you stumble. I know the teams I played on went on a lot of 10, 11, 12, 13, 14-game streaks, and then we’d play a bad team, none of us would be ready, and they’d be all juiced up for us. You do get bored [when you're on a great team] a little bit, and you get complacent, and you start taking for granted you’re going to win. You need to lose one or two, and then you get refocused and play. But, as I’ve said all along — I know you guys don’t believe it — but actual human beings play this game. That’s just what happens.”
Ralph Lawler, announcer, Los Angeles Clippers: “I remember when the Los Angeles Lakers won 33 straight games in the 1971-72 season, it’s a record that I thought would never be broken. For the Heat to be approaching the mark, it’s extraordinary. Everyone is paying attention. Winning in the NBA is not an easy thing to do, and when you do it on a consistent basis, the pressure mounts. I think the players for the Heat understand what’s at stake. You can’t shut off the lights and say I’m not aware of what’s going on. LeBron James and his teammates might attempt to deflect talk about the winning streak to the media, but on the team plane and team bus, it’s all the buzz. If the Heat win 30, 31, or 32 games in-a-row, gee whiz, people will start to talk about them being world-beaters.”
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder: “It’s hard to win basketball games in this league and to win ’em in a row is even harder and over 20 is really tough, so we don’t have any hate in our blood over here. We give respect when it’s due. But I would say we’re not worried about what they’re doing, it’s just that all we’re focused on is us. But every time you turn on the TV you hear it and once you really sit back and look at it, it’s impressive.”
Marreese Speights, Cleveland Cavaliers: “If you can’t get excited about playing Miami, then you’re not a basketball player. Everyone around the league is watching you because they’re all keeping an eye on them. [Those] are the games you love to play.”
George Karl, coach, Denver Nuggets: “They’ve won a lot of close games. Sacramento almost beat them, they had a close game with Philadelphia, a one-possession game. It’s a pretty amazing [streak]. Thirteen is a lot [the Nuggets had a 13-game streak and the time], so you double that … it’s pretty impressive.
Daniel Gibson, Cleveland Cavaliers: “When they go into every city, people want to see them. It’s exciting for all of us. They’re playing at such a high clip, you can’t help but want to watch them play.”
Patrick Beverley, Houston Rockets: “Winning streaks are always fun to be a part of, but it is tough when you see one team win so much … No one is scared of these guys, but I think most of the league respects the way they’ve handled their business.”
Scott Brooks, coach, Oklahoma City Thunder: “I’ve never seen it in my lifetime, I mean I know the Lakers did it in the 70s but I wasn’t following the NBA in the early ’70s. But just to do what they’re doing now with the parity that we have in the league it’s pretty amazing. There’s so many games that you have to have everything go right to win. The travel, the back-to-backs, the injuries you have to overcome, the foul trouble, the turnovers, just everything about it and to win 25 straight games … give them credit because they have the mental ability to have the mindset to do that night in and night out, that’s just pretty phenomenal.”
On the way the Heat have won during their streak …
Matt Bonner, San Antonio Spurs: “The Heat have been impressive in that they’ve won in all types of fashion. They’ve won close games, blowouts. They’re rolling. Playing great. Everybody wants to be the team that’s going to break their streak, and that’s what makes it impressive, too. They’re getting everyone’s best shot.”
Gibson: “It definitely shows how focused they are because they have to come in every night prepared. It’s very tough to do because you also got to have a little luck with you because guys have to stay healthy, and everybody has to be clicking.”
Jerry Stackhouse, Brooklyn Nets: “It can be tough building a streak. When you’re constantly trying to find motivation, you can get some mental fatigue. But I think with it being so close to the end of the season and they’re trying to go into the playoffs on a high note, I don’t think it’s as tough a task. If it was earlier in the season, you feel like you’ve got so many games left and you’re not going to win them all, so this might be a good night to just chill out. I just think it comes down to their execution late in games. They trust each other. They’ve been together a while, enough now to know what to do. Their confidence is high.” (more…)
Bynum’s fate was sealed months ago, during training camp, when we all learned that the knee issues that have plagued him throughout his career were flaring up again after that blockbuster summer trade that sent the Los Angeles Lakers’ big man problem to Philadelphia for the Sixers to deal with.
The jaw-dropping part of this whole mess is anyone being shocked that it’s come to this: Bynum’s tenure with the Sixers consisting of not one single second of actual game action in Philly.
“After many months of rehabilitation and consulting with numerous doctors, Andrew and the doctors treating him determined that this is the best course of action at this point,” Sixers General Manager Tony DiLeo said in a statement. “We will continue to monitor and evaluate his status moving forward.”
Bynum is an unrestricted free agent this summer. That’s a Bynum-filled headache the Sixers don’t need after paying him $16.9 million this season to model his wardrobe and throwback hair styles on the bench while his teammates suffered through a brutal season that was supposed to be filled with so much more.
DiLeo and the Sixers would be wise to let someone else take the next multi-million dollar risk on Bynum’s shaky knees. They’ve already poured more than enough money down that drain.
That offseason trade, a blockbuster 12-player deal involving four teams that had Sixers fans dreaming about being contenders, wound up being productive for everyone but the Sixers. Dwight Howard‘s season with the Lakers has been rough, but they are in playoff position right now and at least have hope for the future. Andre Iguodala has adjusted well in Denver, playing a similar role to the one he played for the Sixers, helping the Nuggets to a playoff spot and a 12-game win streak. And Orlando has made good use of Nikola Vucevic, Maurice Harkless and Arron Afflalo.
The Sixers got a wanna-be dominant big man with bilateral knee bone bruises that have bothered him all season, a one-time All-Star with knees that might never support a bid for a second, third, fourth or fifth All-Star nod. A September trip to Germany for the Orthokine therapy injections that worked wonders for Kobe Bryant, and more recently Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams, did absolutely nothing for Bynum.
A Sixers team that was supposed to be primed for a climb up the ladder in the Eastern Conference playoff chase after a surprise run to the conference semifinals last season has suddenly turned into the poster child for thinking and long and hard before you act on the next so-called “blockbuster” deal.
“The team that we tried to put together we’ve never seen,” Collins said after that Orlando loss. “And so I think, when you take a huge piece away from it, your warts show.”
Direct shots at Bynum and the summer deal gone wrong were included in his 10-minute rant.
“We made a huge deal. And we have nobody playing as part of that deal,” Collins continued. “How many teams can give up Andre Iguodala, Moe Harkless and Nik Vucevic, and have nothing in return playing? That’s tough to overcome, right? That’s just the facts. I’m not looking for any out. But that’s the facts. Nik Vucevic had 19 rebounds tonight. Spencer [Hawes] had one. I think Lavoy [Allen] had two.”
Promising young point guard Jrue Holiday has done his part. He became an All-Star this season and kept the Sixers afloat for a while, when everyone still believed that Bynum would actually hit the floor at some point.
But like everyone else in Philly, Holiday got burned by the Bynum deal.
And the ashes will blow through the franchise for a while, kicking up every time someone mentions Bynum’s name or the blockbuster that went up in smoke on the Sixers.
It has all just been so mind-boggling. Bynum’s final statement to the media Friday will be the one fans will focus on most, when he said, “I don’t want to play with pain.”
Again, confusion. Bynum didn’t say he wouldn’t play with pain, he said he didn’t want to. Certainly, everyone wants to be pain-free, but that’s just not a reality in professional sports. The question is this: Is Bynum willing to play with pain, and, if so, how much?
“Actually the condition, 50 percent of the people in the United States have it now; they just happen to not play basketball,” he said. “It takes on a little bit more shape in my world. It’s frustrating. There’s really nothing yet to do about it [surgically]. I just don’t need a swollen knee.
“I played in LA with a bit of swelling, but it wasn’t this bad. I didn’t really feel the pain when I was playing, but now it’s like really stiff and a lot of pain. Just doing stuff, not even full five-on-five stuff. I played in one scrimmage and it’s a 4- to 5-day setback.”
Four or 5 days now, perhaps 4 or 5 years for the organization. Is there any way the organization would look to bring him back after all that has transpired this season? Can you take that chance? If he isn’t re-signed, then what? Sure, there will be money to work with, but can any signings be as significant or have the type of impact the Bynum trade was supposed to have? Time will tell, but for now, time appears to be running out on a Bynum sighting this season.
“I’m not really concerned [about his future]; it’s more frustrating,” Bynum said. “You do the work, you get to a point and then you have to back down. It’s kind of tough. Now it’s getting really late, so I really don’t know.”
The Sixers have plummeted out of the Eastern Conference playoff race with a 22-34 record that recently led to a post-game meltdown by coach Doug Collins following an abysmal home loss to Orlando. That led to speculation about Collins’ future. Now the hope of getting Bynum onto the floor for even a glimpse of what he might be able to provide is fading.
The Sixers front office keeps saying that Plan A is to re-sign a healthy Bynum to a new contract next summer. But they also say they have a Plan B in their pocket. Might be time to reach for it.
CHICAGO – The symmetry wasn’t lost on Doug Collins. Ten months ago, he and his Philadelphia 76ers team were walking the same halls, dressing in the same stalls, taking to the same United Center court for a game that would be, and remains, Derrick Rose‘s last. The Chicago Bulls’ electric point guard blew out the ACL in his left knee late in Game 1, Day 1, of the 2012 NBA playoffs.
The Sixers had been back in town in December, but their game Thursday night was the one that fit the rehab timeline and stirred up a little déjà vu. Rose got hurt on April 28. Here it was, 10 months later. Exactly.
“Derrick, I thought for sure he was going to play tonight,” Collins said about 90 minutes before tipoff. “Y’know, got hurt against Philadelphia, come back against Philadelphia. Game on TNT. I could just see him running out, y’know, with the adidas commercial tonight.”
No such luck. While few around the team would put it past the Bulls’ inner circle to spring Rose back into action as a surprise – coach Tom Thibodeau is notorious for his “game-time decisions” – his sidelined All-Star point guard again was on the inactive list. Same with Philadelphia center Andrew Bynum, the alleged game-changing big man who has played precisely as many minutes this season as Rose. Bynum remains out with bilateral knee bone bruises – good thing he only has two legs – and, with free agency looming this summer, is at risk of a phantom Philly season.
Some have wondered if a recent Bulls slump might be related to the distraction of waiting for Rose. Collins’ team has been waiting, too, but under different circumstances.
“We traded three guys to get a guy who hasn’t played at all this year,” said Collins, without naming Andre Iguodala, Mo Harkless and Nikola Vucevic, helpful pieces in Denver and Orlando. “The Bulls have a player who’s injured but he’s been here the whole time. So the dynamics are a little different. We gave up a lot in that trade, and that’s been tough.”
As a player with Philadephia in the 1970s, Collins battled leg injuries, with some speculating that he might have hurried back too soon. That led to more Rose questions, though his “hurrying back” might mean October.
“The Chicago Bulls have a tremendous investment in Derrick Rose. You want to make sure that this young guy is going to be ready to go,” Collins said. “We take a guy like Adrian Peterson and we say, ‘This guy rehabbed and was back and was playing football … and you kind of expect everybody to have the same timetable.’ Knees are different. Every player is different. Everybody’s game is different.”
Anyone who recalls Rose’s injury 10 months ago, when he came to a jump stop, then damaged his leg as he exploded up, can understand what Collins said next.
“Derrick is an explosive player. He plays in the lane. He’s landing in a lot of bodies, in a lot of congestion,” the coach said. “More important, he’s going to have to be very confident when he plays, about being able to explode off that leg, being able to come down in a crowd and do the things he has to do.
“[Chicago team chairman] Jerry Reinsdorf and the Bulls organization are not short-sighted people. They don’t do that. They view the big picture. I think they feel they have a franchise that has a chance to be good for a long, long time. And Derrick Rose is the guy who is going to make that special.”