Posts Tagged ‘ESPN’

20 Teams Dream Big On MLK Day


VIDEO: GameTime’s crew previews all of the MLK Day action

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – More than Christmas or even All-Star weekend, the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday provides the NBA a platform to showcase some of the best players and teams the league has to offer. Stars young and old, championship teams and those aspiring to join those ranks … they’ll all be on display Monday.

A total of 10 games from across the country will highlight a day of celebration of both the game and the Dream Big mantra of not only Dr. King but also the league. What to watch for during the MLK Day hoops smorgasbord, the official halfway mark of the regular season:

Dallas vs. Cleveland, 1 p.m. ET (League Pass)

The skinny: The Cavaliers are feeling good after a 3-2 road trip and look to take advantage of a Mavericks team still smarting from getting blown out by Portland Saturday night. Luol Deng has infused the Cavaliers with a new energy, much like what Monta Ellis has done all season for Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks. That loss to Portland was a wake-up call for Rick Carlisle’s team, a group riding high after winning four-of-five prior to that humiliating defeat. “We regressed. The first three quarters are beyond embarrassing,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle told the team’s official website. “We weren’t playing together. We weren’t helping each other. Do that against a quality team … and they’re going to make you pay a heavy price.”

L.A. Clippers vs. Detroit, 1 p.m. ET (League Pass)

The skinny: Losses to the league’s elite have left a cloud over the Clippers’ season to this point. They look like a championship team on paper and when everything is clicking (and when everyone, Chris Paul specifically, is healthy). The Clippers are 0-5 on the road this season against the league’s top five teams, and while this game against the Pistons doesn’t provide a similar test, Clippers coach and Senior VP of basketball operations Doc Rivers is constantly evaluating his crew. “I like our team,” Rivers told ESPNLosAngeles.com. “That doesn’t mean we won’t make changes. We’re not looking to make changes, but we’re always looking just like every other team. I like our team right now. If the season ended and we had the group we have right now, I like how we look. Obviously, I’d add Chris Paul to that group — but other than that I like our team a lot.”

Toronto vs. Charlotte, 2 p.m. ET, (League Pass)

The skinny: Playoff dreams in Charlotte this season have a lot to do with Kemba Walker and how well the point guard plays at what is the league’s deepest and most difficult position. If you don’t believe it just look at what Kyle Lowry has meant to the Raptors during their post-Rudy Gay-trade renaissance. So with the news that Walker will miss the next 10-14 days with a second-degree sprain of his left ankle, the Bobcats need Ramon Sessions to step up in a major way to keep the playoff vibes alive. The Raptors, meanwhile, are 6-4 in their last 10 games and can continue their momentum with another big road win.

Philadelphia vs. Washington, 2 p.m. ET (League Pass)

The skinny: The Wizards are trying desperately to reach the .500 mark, for both tangible and symbolic reasons. The break even mark gives them a chance to climb above .500 as they continue their playoff chase. And getting above that mark allows them to think about themselves in a different light, as they continue to work through the inconsistencies that have plagued their season. They haven’t had a winning record since starting the 2009-10 season 2-1. “Somebody just needs to not tell us our record and we’ll just go out and play,” shooting guard Bradley Beal said. “Every time they tell us ‘.500,’ we just pressure ourselves too much and end up not showing up.” Wizards point guard John Wall and his Sixers counterpart Michael Carter-Williams better show up for their showdown.

Brooklyn vs. New York, 2:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

The skinny: There’s no shortage of subplots in this Battle of the Boroughs. Both Knicks coach Mike Woodson and Nets coach Jason Kidd have survived all of the turmoil of the early season and, courtesy of a feeble Eastern Conference playoff field, remain in the thick of the hunt for postseason positions. The Knicks are still dealing with myriad injury issues, not to mention the ongoing J.R. Smith drama. The Nets just want a little payback after the Knicks beat the starch out of them in their last meeting (a 113-83 rout on Dec. 5). “We definitely do,” Nets point guard Shaun Livingston told ESPNNewYork.com. “They came in and beat us pretty well at our place. We have to take that upon ourselves and take it personally. We’ve got to come and compete.”


VIDEO: Pacers big man Roy Hibbert encourages the children at an Indianapolis elementary to Dream Big

New Orleans vs. Memphis, 5 p.m. ET (NBA TV)

The skinny: The Grizzlies five-game win streak is tied with the Portland Trail Blazers for the best current run in the league. The surge couldn’t have come at a better time for a team that has been bolstered by the return of All-Star center Marc Gasol. He will do his best to help take advantage of an injury-plagued Pelicans team that doesn’t know if it’s coming or going. Even with Anthony Davis playing out of his mind, the Pelicans cannot find a groove. Davis is averaging 22.4 points and 11.1 rebounds during the Pelicans’ eight-game skid, both above his season averages. But he needs help if the Pelicans are going to avoid sliding all the way down the ladder in the Western Conference. “It’s adversity,” Davis said. “We have to learn how to deal with it.”

Miami vs. Atlanta, 5:30 p.m. ET (League Pass)

The skinny: The best way for the Heat to shake out of their recent funk is to continue to find inspiration wherever they can. For LeBron James, it’s watching his biggest rival and good friend, Thunder star Kevin Durant, who has been on a tear of late.  The unfortunate recipient of LeBron’s wrath could end up being the Hawks. Because Durant has raised the bar, even for a LeBron. “I do a lot of checking and seeing what guys have done overnight,” James told ESPN.com’s Heat Index of keeping up with the performances of other players. “After every game, I always go … and see what guys did. I didn’t have to look too far to see what K.D. did last night. As soon as I looked at my phone, a family member of mine said, ‘K.D. had 54, you only had 21. You stink.’ So, there it is.”

L.A. Lakers vs. Chicago, 8 p.m. ET (League Pass)

The skinny: It’s tough to get excited about these two teams squaring off when their best players are wearing designer suits instead of uniforms. It’s a good thing the Lakers and Bulls have learned how to operate without Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose, respectively. To their credit, the Lakers enter the game riding the wave, however slight it might be, of a two-game win streak. That’s a good way to hit the halfway mark of the season for team that has to feel like it’s endured 82-games worth of tumult already. “We just have a lot of injuries and a lot of stuff,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said after Sunday’s win over the Raptors. “We got some guys who are improving and we’re not as good as we’d like to be, obviously this last stretch really knocked us for a loop, but our whole goal is to get back and win one at a time and play well, just get better, keep our energy up and our spirits up and see if we can have a good second half.”

Portland vs. Houston, 8 p.m. ET (TNT)

The skinny: It’s funny the way things work out sometimes in the NBA. The Trail Blazers are every bit of the elite, title-contending team most of the pundits predicted the Rockets would be last summer when they landed Dwight Howard in free agency. The Blazers have done it all season with a steady mix of LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard and arguably the most underrated supporting cast in the league. It won’t be that way for long if it’s up to Nic Batum, who told our very own Jeff Caplan that he believe he’s an All-Star. “You know, KD, is way up there, so can’t reach him he’s so far. But the West has to take a small forward after KD; I think it should be me. The West is crazy. I talked about it with Tony Parker two nights ago — I had dinner with him — that in the West, for a bench, to pick seven guys is pretty tough. KD is going to start at small forward, but I know if I get a chance to be on the bench to be a backup to KD, I would be very happy to do it.”

Indiana vs. Golden State, 10:30 p.m. ET (TNT)

The skinny: Paul George‘s 360 dunk has been the talk of the basketball world the past 24 hours and rightfully so. But that one dunk shouldn’t overshadow what is a most appropriate nightcap of a monster day of hoops. We get the most consistent team in the Eastern Conference and perhaps the league against arguably the most exciting team, though not the most consistent, in the league. George, Steph Curry, Lance Stephenson and Klay Thompson will provide the offensive fireworks. But the fellas up front on both sides love to mix it up (David West‘s pockets are $15,000 lighter after he was fined for that elbow to the jaw of the Clippers’ Blake Griffin). Keep an eye on West, Roy Hibbert and Ian Mahinmi of the Pacers and Andrew Bogut, David Lee and HT fave Draymond Green of the Warriors. They’ll wage their own battle during the game.


VIDEO: Pacers star Paul George leads the top 10 dunks of the week

Kobe Signs Two-Year Extension




VIDEO: Kobe Bryant talks to Rick Fox about all things Lakers

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Whatever the Los Angeles Lakers’ future plans are, they included Kobe Bryant front and center. The longtime Lakers’ star signed a two-year contract extension Monday, making sure the face of the franchise for most of the past two decades remains the same.

The business became official earlier this morning in Los Angeles, when Bryant signed the extension, worth a reported $48 million (per ESPN’s Chris Broussard) at Lakers headquarters.

ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Ramona Shelbourne has more on Kobe’s new deal:

The Lakers did not announce financial terms, but a source told ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Ramona Shelburne that the deal is worth $48.5 million.

Bryant will remain the NBA’s highest-paid player over the course of the extension, the source told Shelburne. The former league MVP will receive $23.5 million in the first year and $25 million in the second year of the extension, according to the source.

Bryant, who is recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, will make over $30.4 million this season, the final year of his current contract with the Lakers.

Bryant is back on the practice court, but the Lakers are still awaiting word on when he will be able to return to action. He missed the end of last season and the start of this one with a torn Achilles, plus the rehabilitation and recovery process needed after his April surgery to repair the Achilles.

“This is a very happy day for Lakers fans and for the Lakers organization,” Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said in a statement released by the team. “We’ve said all along that our priority and hope was to have Kobe finish his career as a Laker, and this should ensure that happens. To play 20 years in the NBA, and to do so with the same team, is unprecedented, and quite an accomplishment. Most importantly however, it assures us that one of the best players in the world will remain a Laker, bringing us excellent play and excitement for years to come.”

That ends any speculation about the Lakers’ offseason plans, now that Kobe is in the fold for at least two more seasons. With a robust crop of potential free agents expected to populate the market in the summer of 2014 (most notably New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony). With a healthy Kobe as their lead recruiter, the Lakers figure to be a major player in those sweepstakes.

Now that the extension business is done, we can all get back to Kobe Watch 2013-14 … he’s already been ruled out of Tuesday night’s game against Washington. But there’s always Wednesday’s game in Brooklyn to use as the next target date.

Johnson Working His Baseball Magic





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Whatever it was that took Hall of Famer Magic Johnson away from the game he adores had to be pretty powerful, especially in Los Angeles.

The only brand that could match, or maybe even surpass, the Los Angeles Lakers in the Southland is Dodgers baseball. While Magic was helping the Showtime Lakers to five NBA titles during their heyday in the 1980s, Tommy Lasorda‘s Dodgers were also busy chasing championship glory, winning two World Series titles during the decade.

Magic and the Dodgers coming together the way they did decades later, when Magic joined the Guggenheim Group that owns the Dodgers and helped revive the franchise, seems almost like it was destined to happen.

They were intertwined, the Lakers star and the famed baseball franchise, during what Lasorda described (in the video above) as the “Golden Age” of LA sports.

Sure, the Dodgers are in a hole right now in the National League Championship Series, down 2-0 to the St. Louis Cardinals. But they are light years away from the drama and turmoil that plagued the franchise in recent years, before Magic and the Guggenheim Group got involved.

As he often did for the Lakers as their star point guard, Magic is already setting the table for Monday’s Game 3 at Dodger Stadium:

When news broke last week that Magic would no longer be a part of ESPN’s NBA coverage, it shouldn’t have come as a complete shocker. He has designs on restoring the Dodgers to the winning and championship tradition they enjoyed during his Showtime Lakers years. And he’ll need to be locked in and focused on that task in order to succeed.

We probably haven’t seen the last of him in an analyst’s role (Magic did guest analyst work for TNT before his stint with ESPN … you never know), but for now, the master of “Showtime” has moved on to the baseball world.

Griffin, Clippers Retire Lob City



.

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Those critics who claimed the Los Angeles Clippers were all style and no substance last season will have to find something else to nit-pick about the reigning Pacific Division champions.

Because “Lob City” is finished. No more. History.

One of the central figures in the movement, Clippers All-Star dunk machine Blake Griffin, has declared it D.O.A. under coach Doc Rivers. The new coach is all about substance in his effort to take the Clips from an exciting, playoff-regular group to an actual championship contender. With a new, defensive-minded focus and significant shift in how they’ll play on offense, there is simply no room for the flash that was Lob City, as Griffin detailed to ESPN’s Shelly Smith:

“Lob City doesn’t exist anymore. Lob City is done. We’re moving on and we’re going to find our identity during training camp and that will be our new city. No more Lob City.”

The fun police can blame Rivers. He won’t mind. As long as his team is grinding on both ends and playing up to its potential, he’ll be pleased. Fans who had grown accustomed to the “Lob City” mentality, though, will need time to adjust. I know I will after enjoying Griffin and DeAndre Jordan‘s slam-dunk finishes off tosses from Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford the past couple of seasons.

But it’s a necessary change, Griffin said, for the greater good:

“Our offense is going to have a totally different look this year,” said Griffin, who added that he’d done a lot of work in the offseason on his face-up game from 10 to 15 feet. “Our offense is going to have a lot of movement and floor spacing. I’m looking forward to it.”

Of course, not everyone will feel the same way about the end of Lob City.

Griffin, the 2010 NBA Slam Dunk champion, said he gets that.

“People will still wear T-shirts,” Griffin said. “I can’t really go to people’s houses and take their T-shirts and cut them up. But we [will] have a new identity as a team and that’s going to be what we work out during training camp.

“We’ll take about two or three weeks and really come up with something good.”

This news will be greeted with smiles by guys like Brandon Knight, Kendrick Perkins, Timofey Mozgov and countless others who have found themselves on the wrong end a highlight from an encounter with the Clippers.

R.I.P. “Lob City” … it was fun while it lasted!

Report: CP3 Considering Rio In 2016?





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Chris Paul knows exactly what that chest-swelling experience is like when you represent your country in the Olympics and return home with gold around your neck.

That experience, twice, and a living coaching legend like Mike Krzyzewski have served as incentive for Paul to reconsider his future participation with USA Basketball, namely for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“If it had been another coach than Coach K, I was prepared to be done,” Paul told ESPN.com over the weekend.

A healthy dose of peer pressure probably didn’t hurt the cause. Pau’s teammates on the gold medal winning team from the 2012 London Olympics, Kevin Durant and Kevin Love, officially signed on for next summer’s World Cup of Basketball in Spain and 2016 during last week’s USA Basketball mini-camp in Las Vegas.

Paul reconsidering could have an impact on other veteran stars (LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, etc.) who were ready to move on and leave coveted slots on the Men’s Senior National Team’s roster for both tournaments to younger stars.

There’s no shortage of talent, especially at point guard. Paul could be in competition with the likes of Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving, Steph Curry and a host of others vying for a roster spot in 2016. There were eight point guards on the mini-camp roster last week in Las Vegas.

But Paul would seem to be a lock for 2016 given his relationship with Coach K and the fact that he’s already earned golds in Beijing in 2008 and in London last summer. Three years is plenty of time for Paul and any other members of that 2012 team to reconsider their options. Not all of them are expected to even consider the possibility of another run in 2016, but USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo made it clear last week that the door remains open for at least a handful of those stars to rejoin the player pool that will produce the 12-man roster for Rio.

And as of today, only Durant and Love are committed for both Spain next summer and Rio in 2016.

West Is Wide Open Without Westbrook






HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Forget about The Finals, for now.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have to worry about getting out of the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, now that we know they’ll have to finish the Houston Rockets without one half of their superstar dynamic duo. Russell Westbrook needs surgery to repair cartilage in his right knee and could be out anywhere from four to six weeks, depending on how quickly he recovers.

The news hits the Thunder hard. They entered the playoffs as the Western Conference No. 1 seed and now, just two games in, they lead the Rockets 2-0 heading into Saturday night’s crucial Game 3 (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) at the Toyota Center., they are forced to ponder the possibility of playing for the remainder of the postseason without one of the 10 best players in basketball.

“We hope [he comes back in the playoffs],” Kevin Durant said. “Our firs thing is to make sure he gets healthy and gets that knee back right. We’re not trying to rush him or bring him back ahead of schedule. We want to make sure he’s healthy and his knee is right. That’s our only concern right now.”

There is a time frame that would allow Westbrook to return later in the playoffs, perhaps late in the conference finals or the start of The Finals.

But again, the Thunder will have to make it that far without the league’s resident iron man. Love him or hate him, no one can question Westbrook’s durability, before now. He hadn’t missed a game during his five-year career, having played in 394 consecutive regular season games and all 45 playoff games the Thunder have played during that same span.

But he won’t be on the floor for Saturday night, joining a long list of game changers who are watching this NBA postseason from the bench of or beyond due to injury. Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, Amar’e Stoudemire, David Lee and Danny Granger are all watching their teams toil without them in this postseason. They all serve as human reminders for their peers that your next false step could be your last, of this season.

But none of those aforementioned stars plays on a team that had the supposed inside tack to get back to the conference finals and then The Finals, for that rematch with the Miami Heat. Westbrook’s injury opens the door in the Western Conference for the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers or Memphis Grizzlies and the Denver Nuggets or Golden State Warriors to start eyeballing the calendar in early June for a possible trip to The Finals of their own. Shoot, even the Los Angeles Lakers, down 2-0 to the Spurs in their first round series, can start dreaming about doing the unthinkable.

Simply put, the West is wide open now.

“Kevin Durant needs to take the Carmelo Anthony approach,” said ESPN analyst Jalen Rose. “Take around 25-30 shots per game, his team already has a 2-0 lead. The one thing about professional sports, and life for that matter, when opportunity knocks, you have to seize it. So trust me, all of the teams in the Western Conference, their ears perked up today. They feel like they have chance to advance.”

The Thunder earned the No. 1 seed in the West this season but entered the postseason with plenty of worthy challengers who did not plan on the fragile nature of things to swing in their favor with Westbrook’s injury. No offense to Reggie Jackson, Kevin Martin, Derek Fisher or anyone else in a Thunder uniform, but it’s Durant and Russell Westbrook who do the headlining. In fact, the Thunder have never had to work for an extended period of time without both of their stars in the lineup.

Trying to navigate these rough playoff waters with only one half of that devastating combination sounds more like mission impossible for a Thunder team that, truth be told, spent much of this season learning how to operate without the former third member of their superstar crew, Rockets All-Star guard James Harden.

Thunder GM Sam Presti, coach Scott Brooks and Durant all did their part to rally the troops today after the news spread of the severity of Westbrook’s injury.

“Our team as a whole, we’ve got a resilient group of guys, a lot of character within that locker room and a group that enjoys playing together and has been through some adversities over the last several years that they’ve been together.” Presti said. “We’d expect them to adjust, come together and have different guys step in and play well collectively. Once we were able to gather all of the necessary information and everything was accumulated, it was an easy decision for our medical team.”

The decision on how to play in Westbrook’s absence won’t be nearly as easy. The Rockets’ defensive strategy shifts now from worrying about picking between two lethal performers to focusing solely on Durant and daring that Thunder supporting cast to beat them. Westbrook averaged 24 points and seven assists through those first two games while also serving, as always, as the Thunder’s primary facilitator.

Jackson’s been solid in spurts of relief this season. Doing it daily, however, could be more than he’s capable of handling. And even if does acquit himself well in the first round, either Chris Paul or Mike Conley and their teams, will be waiting on the Thunder’s replacement for Westbrook in the next round.

Durant insists that the Thunder’s “Next Man Step Up” mantra applies in this case, just as it does any other.

“We have good depth on our team,” Durant said. “Reggie Jackson is ready for the moment. He has been working his tail off ever since he got here. So he’s ready for this. We just have to rally behind him and know that we have to give him confidence, because he’s going to make mistakes like everybody else. But we just have to keep encouraging him.”

All the courage and encouragement in the world won’t make Jackson into Westbrook. Their is certainly survival after losing a superstar. The Lakers (Kobe) and Celtics (Rondo) are proof of that much.

But we’re talking about a team focused on competing for championships, not just surviving.

“It doesn’t matter who we throw out there. We’re a 15-man team and we still are, even with Russell being hurt,” Brooks said. “We’re a 15-man team and everybody believes in each other and that’s what you have to do. You don’t win in this league with one player. You don’t win with five or six players, you win it with your team. We talk about that and we believe in the things that we talk about. We don’t jus throw it out because it looks cool on a t-shirt or a billboard. We believe in each other, we believe in what we do and we take pride in it and we’re proud about what we do.”

We’re all going to find out exactly what the Thunder do when they are forced to play a man down.

Forget about The Finals … for now!

Report: Cavaliers Pursuing Phil Jackson?



.

MIAMI – Phil Jackson in Cleveland?

Go ahead and let that sink in for a minute …

If the Cleveland Cavaliers have their way, that won’t just be a question … it’ll be a reality. The Cavaliers’ coaching search shifted from reuniting with former coach Mike Brown to focusing on another, much more accomplished former Los Angeles Lakers coach.

The Cavs have entered the Zen Master’s zone, per a report from ESPN.com, as they reached out to the “retired” Jackson to gauge his interest in coming aboard to help revive the franchise. It’s not the first time the Cavs have approached Jackson:

Jackson interviewed with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert in 2005, when Gilbert was looking for a coach. That year, Gilbert ended up hiring Mike Brown.

Brown and the Cavs have mutual interest in a reunion. Gilbert and Brown met over dinner Sunday night, a league source confirmed.

Jackson is considering other coaching options, sources said. The Brooklyn Nets and possibly the Sacramento Kings – if they relocate to Seattle — are two teams likely to appeal to Jackson more than the Cavaliers, according to sources close to the situation.

The Nets reached out to Jackson before even firing coach Avery Johnson last fall and are expected to check his interest again following the season. The Seattle-based group attempting to purchase and relocate the Kings, led by investor Chris Hansen, is interested in bringing Jackson on board in an executive role if it wins approval for the deal, sources said.

Jackson is believed to be looking for a similar situation as Pat Riley has with the Miami Heat– oversee personnel moves and mentor a head coach. To land and keep Riley, the Heat gave him a deal that included an ownership stake in the franchise.

Jackson entertaining an offer to get back into coaching is one thing. To dive into a situation in need of as much rebuilding work as the Cavs require, however, seems like a longshot. All-Star Kyrie Irving is a promising young talent and the Cavaliers will have financial flexibility this summer, but they just don’t fit Jackson’s usual profile.

With a number of potential coaching vacancies this summer, and Jackson high on the wish list in each and every instance, it makes sense for the Cavaliers to be proactive in their pursuit of arguably the best coach in NBA history.

Whether or not that pursuit produces anything other than interesting headlines and lots of chatter remains to be seen.


Magic’s $1 Million Dunk Offer For LeBron





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Finally, someone put their money where there mouth was instead of just whining about LeBron James making an appearance in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest.

Hall of Famer and ESPN analyst and Magic Johnson made his plea for James to take his pregame dunk exploits (above) to New Orleans for All-Star Weekend next year, and sweetened the deal by offering to put up $1 million for James to end the suspense and help revive the contest that Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins made a must-see event 30 years ago.

“Please LeBron, get in the dunk contest,” Johnson said earlier tonight on ESPN’s Kia NBA Countdown pregame show. “I’m going to put up a million dollars. A million dollars to LeBron. Please get in the dunk contest. I go every year. I want to see you out there. A million to the winner.”

If Magic is offering up a that kind of cash for the winner, surely there might be a few other superstars willing to join the fray. Perhaps 2011 Sprite Slam Dunk champion  and Los Angeles Clippers All-Star Blake Griffin would be willing to consider accepting the challenge? Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook has yet to showcase his stuff on All-Star Saturday night. And there has to be a standing invite for the reigning champ, Toronto’s Terrence Ross.

Presumably, any other superstars willing to get in the mix are welcome, too (hey, it’s not our money. It’s Magic’s cash, and he’s got plenty). It’s not just about the money, though. It’s about the competition. A star-studded field in New Orleans could help revive the contest and finally end the speculation about what LeBron might do on that stage.

After coming under fire for his spectacular pre-game dunkfests earlier this week, LeBron said he was considering not participating in the Heat’s unofficial contests anymore. But he decided against it a day later and was up to his old tricks before the Heat took on the Memphis Grizzlies.

Now comes this offer from Magic and a chance for LeBron to not only win a cool $1 million but to donate it to the charity of his choice (you know he won’t keep the cash if Magic’s stunt works and he actually accepts and wins the contest).

All we need now is to hear from LeBron …

Report: Clippers Interested In KG?





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The countdown to crazy season in the NBA is on.

Anything goes during crazy season, no rumor is too out there and no anonymous source is out off-limits. That’s what adds all of the spice to the process.

The very first and perhaps most intriguing report of the countdown season comes from The Sporting News, which has multiple sources claiming that the Los Angeles Clippers are interested in making a deal for Boston Celtics All-Star Kevin Garnett. The deal would reportedly involve the Clippers giving up promising young point guard Eric Bledsoe and veteran swingman Caron Butler.

The obligatory refuting of these claims are already in full effect, with ESPN’s Chris Broussard reporting that there have been no “trade talks” between the Clippers and Celtics, which of course would force someone to come up with a clear-cut definition of “trade talks.”

But there is no doubt that both the Clippers, losers of five of their last seven games with injured All-Star point guard Chris Paul on the shelf, and the Celtics, who will finish this season without their own All-Star point guard, Rajon Rondo, are searching for solutions. Sean Deveney of The Sporting News made a compelling case for these two franchises doing business in his initial report:

Celtics officials have made no decisions about the future, even with rookie power forward Jared Sullinger (back surgery) joining point guard Rajon Rondo (knee) last week in seeing their seasons end.

The Celtics came into Sunday’s game on a four-game winning streak and will wait until closer to the trade deadline to decide whether to keep this team together. The deadline is 3 p.m. ET Feb. 21.

For now, the Clippers wait on their injured guards. [Chauncey] Billups is working his way back from a foot injury. There is no timetable for the return of star point guard Paul from a knee injury. [Jamal] Crawford, the team’s sixth man, is wearing an industrial-strength facemask to protect his broken nose.

The Clippers are a battered bunch and losers of five of their previous seven games.

Coach Vinny Del Negro hopes to get Paul and Billups back during the team’s eight-game trip, which runs through Feb. 11.

“Right now, it is all about winning games,” Del Negro said. “We need to get guys back to win at a higher rate than we are right now, then we were used to at the beginning of the season. It’s a long season; you have to manage it the right way. When we think we’re getting everyone back, it seems like, so far this year, someone’s been injured. You have to manage that. You have to take the highs and the lows.”

But still, the Clippers are going for it. And why not? When healthy, they count themselves among NBA title contenders. That’s saying something for a franchise that had long been considered not just among the NBA’s worst, but in all of sports.

Considering, too, the struggles of the Los Angeles Lakers, the Clippers see this season as a chance to reach at least the Western Conference finals and in doing so to reorder the hoops hierarchy in LA.

Garnett, who makes his offseason home in Malibu, has a no-trade clause in his contract and two years left on his contract. So there is that one, gigantic hurdle to deal with. He’s not going anywhere he doesn’t want to go.

But he could have worse options than joining a Clippers team that could be one or two healthy stars away from making a championship run. The championship window in Boston is closed, no matter how hard Celtics coach Doc Rivers tries to fight it.

Garnett has a limited amount of time left to chase a second title to pair with the one he won with the Celtics in 2008. Rolling with the Clippers could be his best and last chance to add to his already Hall of Fame worthy resume. For a player as consumed by winning as Garnett has been his entire career, it would be hard to dismiss an opportunity like this were it actually on the table.

And that brings us back to the core of crazy season in the NBA. No matter how far-fetched an idea seems in theory, the possibilities will get floated to the basketball-loving public between now and the Feb. 21 trade deadline.

The countdown to crazy season in the NBA is on!

Howard, Van Gundy Join Forces Again … For Seminole County School System




HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Their names will be linked in Orlando sports lore forever, former Magic superstar center Dwight Howard and former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy.

But it won’t always be about their messy divorce and departure from the Magic. On at least one account, the former player and coach will come together to help bolster the future for students in the Orlando area, the Seminole County School system to be exact.

It turns out that Howard and Van Gundy do have a common interest outside of winning a Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Diametrically opposed on so many issues, Howard and Van Gundy are political allies (the combatants in contests across the nation in this election year need to take notice) when it comes to helping preserve the property tax base that helps fund the school system.

Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel informed us all of this rather intriguing arrangement between these two men:

If you read my column last week, you know Van Gundy is the chairman of a political group in Seminole County called Citizens for Preservation of Property Values. The goal of the group is to increase property taxes in Seminole County to help preserve the area’s traditionally strong public school system — a system that has been decimated by $73 million in budget cuts over the past five years. In the Nov. 6 general election, Seminole voters will decide whether to approve a 1-mill increase in property taxes for four years beginning a year from now. The increase would bring in as much as $25 million annually to the school district.

Van Gundy says Dwight, who was recently traded to the Lakers, is going to lend some financial backing  to the cause.

“Dwight has pledged his support,” Van Gundy said Monday during an interview on our Open Mike radio show on 740 The Game. “He’s a resident of Seminole County, and he’s keeping his house here. I think his history will show that he’s had great concern for kids in the Central Florida community. With him still living here, we asked him to help and he didn’t hesitate.”

Surprisingly to some, both Stan and Dwight say they are on good terms and have been communicating regularly over the last several weeks. Van Gundy even texted Howard and wished him good luck after he was traded to L.A.

(more…)