Posts Tagged ‘Jerry Stackhouse’

Morning shootaround — July 23


Team USA rolls in opener | Paul George shines in long-awaited return for USA | Harden looks forward to fresh start | Ingram’s tough road to the NBA

No. 1: Team USA rolls in opener — They might have had just four days of practice together, but Team USA came out in their exhibition opener and looked nothing like a team that needed more time to bond. Behind prime time performances from Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins and Paul George, Team USA coasted to a 111-74 win over Argentina. And as Steve Aschburner writes, it was a dominant performance from start to finish…

By halftime, the USA led 56-33, thanks largely to a 35-15 rebounding edge that produced second chances and defensive pressure that stymied Argentina’s attack. Led by Carmelo Anthony‘s three steals and Cousin’s two in the first 20 minutes, the NBA stars shook loose 14 turnovers and turned them into 25 points. All those offensive rebounds — they grabbed 19 of their missed shots to Argentina’s 14 defensive boards in the half — showed up in a 19-2 advantage in second-chance points.

George, playing for USA Basketball for the first time since fracturing his right leg in an August 2014 intrasquad scrimmage, shot 6-for-9 with a pair of 3-pointers. Cousins had nine points and 10 rebounds in the half, while DeAndre Jordan maintained USA’s inside advantage with six points and four boards.

Andres Nocioni scored eight points in the first half, and Manu Ginobili had six. Argentina was better from distance — 6-for-14 on 3-pointers vs. 4-for-12 on 2-point field goals — thanks to cleaner looks. In the paint, USA dominated in the half 34-6.

Taking better care of the ball in the third quarter — just two turnovers — Argentina stayed even with the Americans at 80-56. They got 22 shots, compared to 26 in the first half, and only allowed USA one offensive board.

The Americans got their swagger back in the fourth, though, outscoring Argentina 24-8 through the first six minutes of the quarter.

The game was the first of five that Team USA will play over the next 11 days before heading to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the 2016 Summer Olympics. The Americans will play the Chinese national team twice — Sunday in Los Angeles and Tuesday in Oakland — before traveling to Chicago and Houston for games against Venezuela and Nigeria, respectively.


No. 2: Paul George shines in long-awaited return for USA — It was two years ago in Las Vegas during an exhibition that Paul George suffered a gruesome broken leg that changed the course of his career. Now back and healthy, George came off the bench to score 18 points last night for Team USA, and as Yahoo’s Michael Lee writes, George showed everyone that he’s all the way back …

George is back in the Team USA fold, ready to complete what he started before his career was interrupted by what he now calls a “bump in the road.” The venue for George’s long-delayed international debut changed to the brand-new T-Mobile Arena, but he admitted playing an organized game in Las Vegas again was “eerie.” Any uneasiness quickly subsided shortly after Krzyzewski brought him off the bench in the first period. After scoring 18 effortless points in an emphatic 111-74 demolition of Argentina, George was quick to state that the injury that rocked USA Basketball was “behind me.”

All week, George’s Olympic teammates avoided discussing with him a setback that he has little interest in reliving but remains a defining moment in his career that he has been unable to escape – especially since his will to overcome that incident continues to define his character. Krzyzewski said after Friday’s game that George is playing “the best basketball in his life.”

Determined to not only come back, but to continue his steady improvement after missing nearly an entire season, George made his return since breaking his right leg the best of his career. He led the Indiana Pacers back into the postseason, came one point short of Wilt Chamberlain’s All-Star Game scoring record with 41 points and earned third-team All-NBA and second-team All-Defensive honors.

Colangelo said the incentivized gesture USA Basketball extended in the aftermath of George’s injury was the “right thing to do,” but George also rewarded that blind faith, making easy the decision to add him to the 12-man roster.

“I’m here for a reason,” George told The Vertical. “I’m not just a guy that Coach K brought along.”


No. 3: Harden looks forward to fresh start — It was a season of discontent for James Harden and the Houston Rockets, who went through a coaching change and then made a quick postseason exit. But with new coach Mike D’Antoni on the sideline this season and several new free agents signed up, Rockets’ star Harden tells Lang Whitaker that he’s excited for the new opportunity…

Q: How do you feel you fit into Mike D’Antoni’s system, and how do you feel his system benefits you?

HARDEN: You know what? The day he got hired, we watched film. We’ve communicated several times a week. You know, it’s going to work. I’m really excited about it because he’s prepared. He’s prepared, he’s given me knowledge, he’s given me things where I can fit into his offense and what he’s trying to do. And not only myself but the entire team — I asked him questions about how Patrick Beverley fits and the new guys that we got fit. So it’s exciting. And [we added Jeff] Bzdelik, who was the head defensive coach for Memphis. You know, everybody talks about, ‘The Rockets aren’t a good defensive team.’ Well, we got one of the best defensive coaches in the league now. So it’s all about preparation. In this league it’s all about preparation, putting guys in positions where they’re successful, and good things happen.

Q: Do you feel like you get a bad rap for your defense?

HARDEN: Yeah, yeah. But everybody makes mistakes. I can look up the same amount of plays for myself as the other top guys in the league. So I don’t really worry, I don’t focus on it. And now with the more talent that’s going to release some offensive pressure off me, I’m going to be able to go out there and play both ends of the floor at a high level. It’s really difficult to go out there, play all 82 games, lead the league in minutes and have to do everything offensively. I mean, no one else had that weight on their shoulders in the league. So like I said, it doesn’t really bother me. I focus on what I gotta do and I just go out there and do it.


No. 4: Ingram’s tough road to the NBA — The Lakers used the second overall pick in this summer’s draft on Brandon Ingram, a lanky forward out of Duke who showed everyone in his one year of college that he is an elite scorer. But making it to the NBA wasn’t an easy path for Ingram, and as Chris Mannix writes for Yahoo, Ingram getting to the NBA was a family affair

As he got older, his basketball obsession grew. He played after school. When he got home, he challenged Bo to one-on-one on the battered hoop in the backyard. “I was a senior in high school before I beat him,” Ingram said. When it got dark, his father, Donald, who managed the local rec center, opened up the gym. “It was an all-access pass,” Ingram laughed.

The work paid off. Ingram won a state championship his first year at Kinston. He went on to win three more. A stringy, 6-foot-2 guard as a freshman grew, by his own estimation, two inches every year to finish high school as a slender 6-8 forward. Spins, fadeaways, step-backs — Ingram had it all. He averaged 24 points and 10 rebounds as a senior. Legend had it that in four years, Ingram never missed a free throw. So? “Most definitely, that’s true,” Ingram said.

Last month, the Lakers tabbed Ingram with the second overall pick in the draft. Overnight, Ingram, 18, became the face of one of the NBA’s most storied franchises. It’s not the type of position he has always been comfortable in. For years, Ingram was shy about playing in front of crowds. It wasn’t until eighth grade, when he joined Jerry Stackhouse’s AAU team, that he took to it. He was a star in high school but needed Mike Krzyzewski to tell him at the 2015 McDonald’s All-American Game that he had pro potential. He could score on anyone but wasn’t always assertive in high school and was briefly benched for listless play at Duke.

The Lakers hope he grows into the role. They see Ingram as a multi-position player. At 6-9, 190-pounds, Ingram will need to bulk up. He was eating six meals a day, some 5,000 calories, Ingram said, before the draft and he hopes to be 210 pounds next season. But the talent is undeniable.

Durant sees it. For months, scouts have compared Ingram to Durant. And Durant understands why. “He reminds me of myself, but he’s a little farther along than I was at that stage,” Durant told reporters at Team USA practice in Las Vegas on Wednesday. For Ingram, there is no higher compliment. He grew up wearing Durant’s sneakers. His walls were covered with Durant posters. He mimicked many of Durant’s moves. He worshipped him when he was at Texas, cheered him in Seattle, followed his career closely in Oklahoma City. The Lakers hope they found the next Durant; Ingram knows it will be a while before he gets there.

“It’s a very special comparison,” Ingram said. “But, of course, I know I’m not him. I know I’m not him yet, but I have the potential to make my own brand. Of course, you grow up with him as an idol, and in a few months he’s going to become my rival. It’s going to be a dream come true. I think just watching him for so long and having the ability to actually learn and play against him is just going to be a special motivation for me as a competitor and someone who really looked up to him.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks have agreed to an extension that will keep Dirk under contract until he’s 40 years old … The Pelicans have signed free agent forward Terrence JonesDraymond Green reached a plea deal with prosecutors in Michigan … Luis Scola isn’t thrilled with the real estate prices in Brooklyn …

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 232) Featuring Jerry Stackhouse

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — While the Cleveland Cavaliers spend their days trying to figure out who they are, and perhaps better yet who LeBron James wants them to be, the Toronto Raptors are quietly giving chase for that No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference standings.

Their grind has been steady and a bit under the radar, since the basketball world’s focus has been locked on the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs for months now. But the Raptors seem bent on crashing the party. All-Stars Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are trying to make sure of it.

They have someone with loads of experience at their disposal in Toronto assistant coach Jerry Stackhouse, an 18-year veteran who has seen and done it all, having spent most of his life immersed in the game.

If anyone can aid Lowry and DeRozan in their quest to join the league’s elite, it’s a no-nonsense veteran like Stackhouse, who never shied away from a challenge during his playing career.

Stackhouse joins us on Episode 232 of The Hang Time Podcast to talk Raptors, his life and times in basketball and so much more.

On a more somber note we say goodbye to friend of the show and hip-hop legend Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor, who passed away Tuesday from complications of diabetes. Phife, a lyrical genius and noted hoops head, joined us on the bus during the Hang Time Road Trip 2 in October in Oakland. His work with A Tribe Called Quest is timeless and he will missed by many.

We also want to send our prayers up for our colleague and friend Craig Sager of TNT, who is once again battling acute myeloid leukemia, an aggressive form of cancer. #SagerStrong

Check out all that and more on Episode 232 of The Hang Time Podcast featuring Jerry Stackhouse.


As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Sekou Smith of, Lang Whitaker of’s All-Ball Blog and renaissance man Rick Fox of NBA TV, as well as our new super producer Gregg (just like Popovich) Waigand.

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


VIDEO: Our main man Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest joined us on the bus on The Hang Time Road Trip 2 in Oakland

Stackhouse hoping for coaching career

TREVISO, Italy — He never imagined this, and not just the part about coaching a group of high schoolers from the United States against France’s under-20 national team Saturday afternoon as part of the adidas Eurocamp international scouting bonanza.

Coaching anybody anywhere. Jerry Stackhouse never envisioned the role as his 18-year NBA career in eight cities, complete with two All-Star appearances as a Piston, was winding down. Broadcasting, maybe. But not this.

“And then I was watching my kid playing on the eighth-grade team,” he said. “The guy was just rolling the ball out there with them and (the players were) not really learning. That spurred me to get into it. I love it. Those last three or four years that I played, I felt like my role, as soon as the season was over, I was headed to the AAU circuit.”

Which eventually brought him here, about 20 miles north of Venice, for three games in three days with a roster of elite college prospects from around the United States, starting with a 77-67 loss to the more-experienced French club at La Ghirada Sports Complex. Which could quickly get him back to the NBA.

Stackhouse said he talked with the Hawks last summer, soon after retiring, about staying in his adopted hometown as a player-development coach and that he met with new president Phil Jackson about a role with the Knicks in 2014-15. While staff decisions in New York are essentially on hold until a head coach is hired, the sense from Stackhouse’s side is that “there could be some realistic possibilities coming in.”

“I enjoyed this year, just doing some broadcasting, doing radio and still being able to build what I want to do from a basketball standpoint coaching wise,” he said. “But I think I’m ready. When you look at the guys that had completely no experience, like Jason (Kidd) last year and his success, I think that’s what it’s going to. It’s going to coaches that can really understand these players now. That’s the key.”

He calls the former players who became head coaches with zero bench experience — Doc Rivers, Mark Jackson, Kidd — the blueprint. There are differences, though, some in Stackhouse’s favor. He is looking at being hired as an assistant, a much easier bridge to cross than directly to the No. 1 chair. On the other hand, while Kidd immediately went from player to head coach, Rivers and Jackson had time away and did not face the possibility of having to coach contemporaries.

“I feel like I’m going to bring the same energy,” Stackhouse said. “The thing about it is, the fact that my career playing allowed me to sit in every seat, from a star player to the 15th guy on the team. I didn’t look at myself that way as a player. I felt like I could still compete and even in my last year in Brooklyn, I was able to be a part of what’s going on. But now I can understand the dynamic for everybody that I coach — as a sixth man, everything, you’ve got to try to include them. You’ve got to bring ’em in and reel ’em in and let them know that they’re an essential part of what’s going on. I think I can better force that than anybody because I’ve sat in all those seats.”

As a player, at least. Now he is trying for a new spot in the NBA.

Big O: LeBron Would ‘Excel’ As NBPA Prez


LeBron James is said to be “mulling” making a bid for the presidency of the NBA players association.

Oscar Robertson held that post longer than any NBA player in history.

To this day, Robertson remains the biggest name to have served his fellow players in that capacity. And as one of the game’s true Olympian figures, Robertson cannot imagine a better candidate than James, who is on his way to similar heights.

“Yeah, he’d have to think about it — I think he would have an excellent situation,” Robertson said in a phone interview Thursday evening. “I think if he was president of the players [union], he would excel like he does on the basketball court. I guess, maybe now with all the advice and the consultants and things, it would be a different situation.”

Robertson, the NBA’s legendary “Big O” during his Hall of Fame career in Cincinnati and Milwaukee, served as president of the National Basketball Players Association from 1965 to his retirement in 1974. Those were some of the league’s, and the union’s, most tumultuous years, when the two sides hammered out the makings of today’s so-called “player-owner partnership” mostly by colliding repeatedly into each other.

Big O key in early labor battles

Organized by Celtics great Bob Cousy in 1954 and further established by his Boston teammate Tom Heinsohn from 1958-65, the union in 1965 still was fighting for what now would be considered bare essentials: pay for preseason games, better medical care, the concept of an All-Star “break,” modest bumps in meal money and pensions, and a boost in the minimum player salary — out of FOUR figures. All of the strategies and jargon that were in play during the 2011 lockout, like cancelled games and filings with the National Labor Relations Board? Those were in play in the 1960s, too, when the NBPA’s power base was a lot more tenuous.

“Actually, I was naïve when I started,” Robertson said. “I didn’t know anything about it.  Sometimes it’s fate, what happens. So I just got involved. I didn’t know anything about the union whatsoever — I knew what it was because I was in it, but as far as how to run it, it was on-the-job training for me.”

The American Basketball Association (ABA) sprang up in 1967, exacerbating tensions between the NBA’s owners and the players. By 1970, with salaries bid ever higher and the two leagues in merger negotiations, the union filed an antitrust lawsuit to block such a move, given its impact on their employment and freedoms. The players sought to abolish the college draft and the option clause in standard contracts that bound them to their teams in perpetuity. Acrimony spiked, and a lawsuit in the matter soon became known for the union president’s name attached to it: the Oscar Robertson suit.

“I’m glad that I was a star,” Robertson recalled Thursday. “Because if I was a mediocre player, I wouldn’t have lasted very long. Because in those days, the league hated you as a player rep and they wanted to get rid of you.”

Robertson, now 74, wasn’t just a star. He was the LeBron James of his day (or vice versa). Many people know of him as the master of the triple-double — in 1961-62, he famously averaged at least 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for an entire season. What too many neglect, of course, is that Robertson averaged 30.8 points along with those 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists.

Even fewer realize that the 6-foot-5, 205-pound guard averaged a triple-double over his first five seasons in the league: 30.2 ppg, 10.4 rpg and 10.6 apg in 384 appearances from 1960-61 through 1964-65.

Robertson’s game gave him a voice, not unlike James in Houston at All-Star weekend in February. On that Saturday, at the union’s membership meeting at the Hilton, James commanded the room by probing and leading the discussion of NBPA executive director Billy Hunter’s job performance and ethics, outgoing president Derek Fisher’s role, the members of the union’s executive committee and the very future of the association.

James and veteran Jerry Stackhouse, through their comments, questions and actions that afternoon, reportedly imposed order on a group spinning out of control. Stackhouse, who recently told that the union hopes to name a replacement for Hunter (and acting director Ron Klempner) sometime after Christmas, isn’t expected to be active as a player this season.

But James’ star power as a possible NBPA president could boost the union’s credibility and impact.

Stars have tradition of taking NBPA spotlight

The star-driven NBA has had, for more than a decade, a union driven by role players. What Cousy, Heinsohn and Robertson began, others such as Bob Lanier, Isiah Thomas and Patrick Ewing continued. But since 2001, Michael Curry (2001-05), Antonio Davis (2005-06) and Fisher (2006-present) have headed the NBPA.

Through the union’s first 47 years, 10 players served as president; seven wound up in the Hall of Fame and the 10 combined for 75 All-Star selections. In the past 13 years, Davis’ 2001 All-Star appearance stands alone. None of the last three presidents is headed to Springfield.

That didn’t preclude them from being effective — Fisher worked tirelessly and often thanklessly through the prickly lockout two years ago. But the clout that comes with star status — James has two NBA titles with the Heat, four MVPs, Olympic gold and more — can help immensely, Robertson said.

“I felt I commanded a lot of respect from a lot of different ball players, when you say something to the guys,” Robertson said. “And if you’re friendly with ‘em, other than playing basketball, it will help also.”

Finding NBA stars willing to take on the role, while sacrificing time and outside earning opportunities, has gotten more difficult. Robertson thinks it has something to do with the stakes these days.

“That’s always been [an apathy] problem with some guys,” he said. “But you look at it over the years, with all of the problems they’ve had, a lot of players because they’re making money, they just don’t get involved. They don’t need to — it might hurt you selling a pair of shoes or a headband or something.”

Robertson: NBPA prez a job of ‘sacrifice’

People can debate the merits of a union president who dominates All-NBA teams vs. one who relates (and earns similarly) to the league’s middle class. Either version will wind up logging long hours. “There’s no doubt about it, it’s a sacrifice,” Robertson said. “Especially if you do a good job. If you do the job [the way] they’re going to have confidence in you, sometimes it gets a little lonely. Until something happens.

“I didn’t think about whether it was hard or not [to make time]. It was an opportunity. There was an awful lot going on when I was with the players association, a lot of changes that needed to be done. Some we did right, some we didn’t.”

Robertson is proud of the gains achieved by the NBPA during his tenure. The Robertson lawsuit triggered negotiations that led to free agency, as well as a settlement that paid more than $4 million to then-current players and another $1 million in union legal fees. Pensions improved and the minimum salary tripled on his watch.

Only a handful of his peers or players since have thanked him for his service, Robertson said (“But I didn’t do it for that anyway”). He also said he paid a professional price. Robertson was dropped after one season as color analyst on the NBA’s network telecasts because, legend has it, some owners bristled at such a prominent role for the player who sued them.

On the other side of the ledger, however, Robertson points to the strides they all made. “Look at the money guys are making now,” he said. “Look at the [charter-jet, luxury-hotel] travel. There’s an orthopedic doctor at the games. You get better meal money. You have a right to go to other teams if you don’t have a valid and existing contract with your team.

“There’s no doubt about it — we were there during some [pivotal] years for the NBA.”

So there are some of the pros and cons, in Robertson’s view, as James mulls a potential candidacy: The time commitment, the opportunities skipped, the politics involved, knowing when to delegate and so on. The Hall of Famer said he would be willing to advise James, if asked. Also, Robertson’s old friend Jim Quinn — the attorney who worked on the lawsuit four decades ago and helped broker the lockout settlement 20 months ago — is again working with the NBPA in its search for Hunter’s replacement.

The union’s greatest challenge now? “Getting rid of personality tiffs. That kills you,” Robertson said.

“Somebody gets upset … because somebody doesn’t like what you’re doing, and they start this current going against you. A lot of players, when they start to make millions of dollars and they get agents who also are afraid to have their little nest egg cut off, that’s what happens.”

James, through force of personality and basketball superiority, might be the right choice to stem that.

What They’re Saying: On The Heat Streak

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. 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:

On the streak | How the Heat are winning | What makes Miami so good? |
Difference from last season’s team? | Chances at winning out? | How to stop the streak? |
Any weaknesses in this crew? | Juggernaut team a good or bad thing?

On the wonder of the streak …

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…)

LeBron James’ Latest MVP: Most Vocal


Any doubts that this is LeBron James‘ NBA and the other players currently are just participating in it should have been shelved last weekend. No, not by what the reigning Most Valuable Player and runaway favorite again for the 2012-13 award (sorry, Charles) did in the All-Star Game on Sunday, though his 19 points, five assists and three 3-pointers in 30 minutes weren’t shabby.

James made his greater impact the day before, when he led the discussion – some have referred to it as part interrogation, part rallying cry – of fellow union members at which National Basketball Players Association Billy Hunter was relieved of his duties.

Insiders marveled immediately at how forceful both the Miami Heat supertar and Brooklyn Nets veteran Jerry Stackhouse were, among the 35-40 players in the hotel meeting room, in vetting the recent investigation into Hunter’s nepotism and conflicts of interest and in moving the group toward a cleaner, more player-driven organization.

The vote of team player reps to oust Hunter was unanimous, 24-0 (not all teams were represented). The reconfigured executive committee, several of whom stood behind union president Derek Fisher when the outcome was announced, featured a handful of new members (including Stackhouse) along with some holdovers.

But it wouldn’t have gotten to that point in the span of a couple of hours, if not for James and Stackhouse challenging the business audit conducted by law firm Paul, Weiss, then challenging their peers to take the union back.

The New York Times quoted one person in the room as saying, “It was spectacular.”

“It’s a misperception that we try to fight, that this was the first meeting LeBron has attended or this was the first time LeBron said something,” said Miami teammate James Jones, the NBPA’s secretary-treasurer. “LeBron’s always talking about how we can improve our game and the issues surrounding our game. Because he’s one of this league’s brightest faces and brightest stars.”

Star power matters in situations like this, not just when national media is focused on a lockout and collective-bargaining talks. James and other big names such as Dwyane Wade, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce made their presence in Manhattan known in the fall of 2011, when the NBA was shut down and sliced from 82 games to 66 in 2011-12 before an agreement was reached.

But dealing with internal strife matters, too, as does the reorganization and the strides that can be made during times of labor peace. It’s not just for the 10th or 12th men on NBA rosters (Chris Paul was the only perennial All-Star on the exec committee.)

“I want to be educated,” James told late Thursday night, after the Heat’s drubbing of the Bulls in Chicago. “Not only so I’m educated individually but so I can relate to my teammates and my teammates can relate it to their friends in the league. So we all can be more knowledgeable about it and not be caught off guard – that’s what happened. Everybody asks about [the Hunter crisis] and when you don’t have an answer, that doesn’t look good.”

If others were impressed with him, James said he was impressed with Stackhouse, 38 and 18 years into an NBA career that might not continue beyond this spring. The Nets swingman wasn’t just vocal – he accepted a VP spot on the union board. Stackhouse also was working the visitors dressing room at Barclays Center Friday, along with NBPA attorney Ron Klempner, talking with members of the Houston Rockets.

“That shows a lot,” James said of Stackhouse’s commitment. “He’s almost finished with his career and it’s not about him. It’s about the collective.”

Fisher and the other players took no questions from reporters last week after reading a statement of less than three minutes announcing Hunter’s dismissal. But Jones said the 8-0 vote against Fisher last spring, seeking his resignation, was set aside at the meeting when the case against Hunter was made clear to those players in attendance. “What happened in the past is in the past,” Jones said. “Derek is our president and we’re all behind him.”

The Heat reserve also said that it wasn’t true that most NBA players are ignorant of or disinterested in union business until trouble looms. “It’s not like we’re trying to keep 20,000 members involved,” Jones said. “We’ve got about 450 . It’s a misconception that they’re not involved.”

Still, many critics have cited Fisher and others for allowing Hunter’s questionable decisions – hiring family members, directing NBPA investments, paying certain improper expenses and the limited oversight of his contract extension – to occur on their watch. Even Fisher said after the meeting, “Going forward, we’ll no longer be divided, misled, misinformed. This is our union and we’re taking it back.”

That, James said, was his motivation last weekend.

Hunter, 70, is expected to mount a legal challenge, pending the results of criminal investigations into the matter. Or he may simply seek a settlement of the $10.5 million he says is still owed to him. The union might turn to an executive search firm to find a replacement for Hunter, unless Klempner seeks the position permanently and is a consensus choice.

“We haven’t got to that point yet,” James said. “We cleaned our house with the firing of Billy, releasing him. Right now we are getting things in order. But we are not going to take a step back. We’re going to push forward and make sure we have more of an emphasis on the players.

“We feel like that’s something that should be done – the players’ voices mean something. In the past, it wasn’t the players that we heard so much.”

And there’s no better time, with relative labor peace until at least 2017.

“Yeah, that’s why you get started now,” James said. “So at least you have a plan by the time it’s time to talk again.”

NBA Players Union Ousts Longtime Director Billy Hunter


HOUSTON – Calling it “a day of change,” Derek Fisher told a roomful of reporters that the National Basketball Players Association had voted unanimously to terminate the employment of Billy Hunter, the union’s executive director since 1996.

That’s how Fisher, the union president, opened his statement. Moments later – and there weren’t many of those in the brief-statement, no-questions news conference that lasted fewer than three minutes – Fisher added: “We do not doubt that this process will possibly continue in an ugly way.”

Apparently, a day of change doesn’t happen overnight.

A group of NBA players estimated to number somewhere between 35 to 50 – All-Stars, participants in assorted weekend events, team player representatives and other interested union members – gathered Saturday afternoon to hear specifics in the NBPA’s dispute with Hunter and ultimately decide his fate. The roll-call included Miami’s LeBron James, New York’s Tyson Chandler, Chicago’s Joakim Noah, Minnesota’s Kevin Love, the L.A. Lakers’ Steve Blake, Houston’s Chandler Parsons and Cleveland’s Daniel Gibson, among the many.

Battle lines were drawn three weeks ago when an independent business review commissioned by the players was released, citing Hunter for nepotism and conflicts of interest and raising questions about the validity of his most recent contract extension. Hunter countered by saying that none of the incidents reported – including hiring two of his daughters or directing union financial business to an investment firm that employs his son – rose to the level of criminal conduct, though he swiftly instituted “reforms” against such activity. He also maintained that his contract – which pays Hunter an annual salary of about $3 million, with an estimated $10.5 million still due him – did receive proper oversight, per NBPA by-laws.

Friction between Hunter and Fisher sparked during and after the 2011 NBA lockout. The in-fighting led to a unanimous vote by what then was an eight-member executive committee of players seeking Fisher’s resignation. But with report last month from law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, a newly configured committee voted 5-0 to place Hunter on paid leave of absence.

By announcing Hunter’s dismissal without fielding questions, there was no explanation offered for how an 8-0 committee vote against Fisher got turned around so thoroughly. Or what the veteran NBA guard’s future holds in relation to his union role. Or whether a broader vote by the general membership would be held or needed.

Up at the podium Saturday, Fisher said simply that he would continue as president. San Antonio forward Matt Bonner will serve as vice president and Miami’s James Jones continues as secretary-treasurer.

Brooklyn’s Jerry Stackhouse – who had been urging an NBPA housecleaning that would sweep out Hunter and Fisher – is the first vice president-elect. Chris Paul, Roger Mason Jr., Andre Iguodala, Stephan Curry and Willie Green will serves as vice presidents on the new executive committee.

Fisher’s brief statement did not provide a specific reason for Hunter’s termination or comment on the validity of his contract. Instead, Fisher said: We want to make it clear that we are here to serve only the best interests of the players. No threats, no lies, no distractions will stop us from serving our membership.”

Fisher alluded to “three ongoing government investigations pending” into Hunter’s business practices, including the U.S. Attorney’s office in New York. Some outsiders had speculated that the players might keep Hunter on his paid leave of absence while waiting for those investigations to be completed, perhaps in the hope they would provide “cause” for his firing.

But a union source told that bringing the situation to a head now, rather than waiting, would be more helpful to the NBPA if the two sides opt to reach some settlement.

The 70-year-old Hunter, who had held his post since 1996, had wanted to participate in the players’ annual meeting at All-Star Weekend to provide his side of the story but he was told by the union he would not be permitted to attend. Instead, he put his rebuttal on a website, challenging the union’s position on him and handling of the matter.

But Fisher and his peers, as they stood at the front of a mostly empty banquet hall, seemed eager at least for the sounds of closure. “Going forward,” he said, “we’ll no longer be divided, misled, misinformed. This is our union and we’re taking it back.”

Union Chief Hunter Makes Case Via Blog

HOUSTONBilly Hunter is taking his case to the people.

Hunter, the embattled executive director of the National Basketball Players Association — currently on indefinite leave amid charges of nepotism, conflicts of interest and improper business practices — has a new blog designed to do just that. It’s at:

Hunter’s fate as NBPA executive director is expected to be decided at the union’s annual meeting Saturday at All-Star Weekend. Whether he would be permitted to attend the meeting — to rebut the charges that surfaced in a report in late January commissioned by the players from law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison — remained in doubt as union members began to gather here Thursday.

To make his case regardless, or perhaps to leverage his way to an audience with the players, a team of Hunter attorneys Friday morning announced “Mr. Hunter’s new blog, simply designed for two purposes.”

1) To keep many of you updated on the status of Mr. Hunter’s position with the NBPA.  Many of you have graciously inquired about the well-being of both Mr. Hunter and his family during this challenging time.

2)  To provide a strong preliminary rebuttal to the Paul Weiss Report which was one-sided in content and not characteristic of Mr. Hunter’s successful 17 year tenure of the NBPA.

In the Paul, Weiss report, Hunter was found to have employed family members, paying them and their professional firms nearly $4.8 million since 2001. He used a financial firm, Prim Capital, that employed his son Todd for NBPA investments. He also allegedly negotiated a contract extension — at an annual salary of about $3 million — without seeking proper approval of the union’s executive board and spent NBPA funds on a variety of expenses questioned in the report. Hunter told the New York Times in a recent interview that he expected to be paid the balance of his contract — $10.5 million in salary and benefits — whether he is retained or not.

Friction between union president Derek Fisher, a veteran NBA point guard, and Hunter has its roots in the league’s 2011 lockout. Fisher’s role also is in question, if only because he currently is not an active NBA player. Some players, including stridently outspoken Brooklyn veteran Jerry Stackhouse, have urged a sweep of the union’s hierarchy, including Hunter, Fisher and the executive committee.

The meeting Saturday, initially scheduled for morning, has been moved to mid-day to accommodate players’ travel needs, one source told Anticipating resistance to allowing him counter the charges in person, Hunter’s “blog” features links to a 21-page preliminary response, an executive summary and a PowerPoint presentation intended for the players.

The release sent to NBA media outlets Friday concluded:

Many players expected to hear from Mr. Hunter in Houston and have expressed dismay that he has not not been invited by the interim leadership regime — whose authority to place him on administrative leave is not supported by the union’s Constitution or bylaws.  Therefore, Mr. Hunter was left with no choice but to communicate with the public in a more direct manner to ensure that his response to the allegations was heard without filter.

As we have all been taught from childhood, there is always another side to the story that should be evaluated in any circumstance and before any judgments are made or actions, once taken, cannot be reversed.

Nets’ Stackhouse On Players Union: Hunter, Fisher, Others Must Go

Several NBA players, including Boston’s Paul Pierce and Brooklyn’s Deron Williams, have said that a change is needed atop the National Basketball Players Association’s hierarchy. In other words, Billy Hunter, cited recently for nepotism and conflicts of interest after 16 years as the union’s executive directory, needs to go.

Now, Nets veteran Jerry Stackhouse adds his voice, perhaps the most strident yet, to those seeking reforms that begin but don’t necessarily end with Hunter being replaced. Stackhouse made his views clear to Detroit News reporter Vincent Goodwill after Brooklyn’s victory over the Pistons Wednesday.

“I think we need wholesale changes all the way around,” Stackhouse said. “I think everybody’s pointing the finger at Billy, and rightfully so. He’s made some wrong moves, but at the same time, we’ve sat and allowed those moves to be made.”

In other words, NBA players bear responsibility for whatever has gone on that they might not like. That includes union president Derek Fisher and members of the NBPA’s executive committee.

Stackhouse says Hunter isn’t the only one who needs to be shown the door.

“Derek has stepped up and has really tried to grab the reins but I think he has to go too,” he said. “If you’re not aware of everything that’s happened on your watch for so long, I think the whole system is flawed.”

Stackhouse, a 1995 lottery pick in his 18th NBA season with his eighth franchise, said he will travel to Houston next week for what are expected to be some heavy-duty union meetings at All-Star weekend.

“I plan on going to make my point. I won’t be surprised if Billy was there, with all he’s done he’ll try to show his face and act as if business as usual,” Stackhouse said. “The same thing with Derek. They can’t operate as if business as usual. They’ve shown their flaws too much to still continue in their positions.”

With the current collective bargaining agreement in place for five more years, Stackhouse sees this as a time for the union to get its house in order. For that to happen, though, every NBA player has to show an interest in his and his peers’ business interests, rather than sticking someone in each team’s locker room with the “player rep” role and leaving important work only to them.

Some might note that Stackhouse, 38, wasn’t a familiar face at a lot of the CBA talks during the 2011 lockout. Others might wonder if he’s angling for a post-playing career as a union exec – though that would require him to stop playing, which Stackhouse has show no signs of doing.

Besides, he said, this matter is bigger than one guy’s ire or ambitions.

“It’s not about me,” said Stackhouse, who is likely to retire after this season or the next. “It’s about a league that’s been great to me and great to a lot of other people, to make sure we keep growing. The league is growing and the salaries should grow too.”

Clippers Top League’s Best Benches


HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — After Thursday’s 90-77 win in Minnesota, the Los Angeles Clippers are now 3-0 without MVP candidate Chris Paul.

All three wins have come on the road against good teams, and in none of them have the Clippers required a huge performance from one of their other starters. In fact, Blake Griffin has averaged just 16.3 points in the three wins. Eric Bledsoe, starting in place of Paul, has done a decent job of running the team, but has totaled only 11 assists.

The Clippers won the three games — and won them all comfortably –for the same reason that Paul has been able to sit the entire fourth quarter in nine of the 37 games he’s played in: They have the best bench in basketball.

Here’s all you need to know about the Clippers’ bench and why they’re a much-improved team: Last season, the Clips were outscored by 11.6 points per 100 possessions when Griffin was on the bench. This year, they’re outscoring their opponents by 11.7 points per 100 possessions with Griffin on the bench.

That’s a 23.3-point turnaround and that’s really what it’s all about. A good bench should build on leads, not lose them. That’s why the Bulls’ bench was so good the last couple of years, even though it didn’t have anybody who could really score. When Omer Asik, Ronnie Brewer and Taj Gibson were on the floor together, the Bulls shut down foes and scored enough to build on the lead the starters gave them.

With that in mind, here are the best benches in the NBA …

L.A. Clippers

The Clips have a full, five-man bench unit that’s one of the best lineups in the league. In 243 minutes with Bledsoe, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, Lamar Odom and Ronny Turiaf on the floor, L.A. is a plus-14.5 per 100 possessions.

Though Crawford is known for his offense, this is really a defensive unit that has only scored 102.8 points per 100 possessions, just a notch above the league average. But it has allowed only 88.3, making it the second-best defensive unit of the league’s 72 lineups that have played at least 100 minutes.

The question is how Grant Hill fits in. In Hill’s first game back, that unit only played six minutes together. And in the last three games, it hasn’t played together at all, though that may have more to do with Bledsoe starting.

Either way, it would be disappointing if coach Vinny Del Negro broke up such an effective unit. And it really could affect where the Clippers finish in the Western Conference standings.

San Antonio

Though Manu Ginobili has been neither healthy nor sharp, the Spurs’ bench continues to get the job done. It’s just tough to determine where the starters end and where the bench begins, because eight different guys have started at least nine games for San Antonio already. But coach Gregg Popovich‘s ability to mix-and-match lineups will little drop-off is part of what makes the Spurs’ bench so good.

The Spurs don’t have a full bench unit like the Clippers. Their latest starting unit is Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter. Their most-used lineup that includes at least three other Spurs has only played 38 minutes together, and that lineup includes Parker and Duncan.

This is why we’d rate the Spurs’ bench behind that of the Clippers. But San Antonio is still outscoring its opponents by a solid 5.7 points per 100 possessions with Duncan off the floor. That’s a very good thing. (more…)