Posts Tagged ‘Joe Lacob’

Morning shootaround — Nov. 14

VIDEO: Top 10 Plays from Friday night


Enes Kanter paying off in OKC? | Warriors owner Joe Lacob opens up | Jimmy Butler got tips from the greatest Bull | Pacers boss Larry Bird is still big on Boston

No. 1: Enes Kanter paying off in OKC? — He opened the season coming off the bench, is often back on the bench in a tight fourth quarter and at best is the No. 3 option for the Thunder. Is Enes Kanter really worth the massive contract he signed last summer? Well, it’s a matter of perspective. OKC was virtually forced to match the offer sheet and keep him, if only because you don’t surrender assets for nothing in return. Besides, he is a gifted offensive player. For those who feel the Thunder aren’t getting their money’s worth here in the early season, Anthony Slater of the Daily Oklahoman has a different take:

Enes Kanter signed a max offer sheet with Portland this offseason, giving the Thunder three days to pick between two options — match or decline. Keep Kanter or don’t.

The argument against was simple. It was a four-year, $70 million overpay that included a dreaded player option at the back end. Even in a market flush with escalating money, the long-term pact seemed steep for a one-sided, defensively challenged skill set.

But it was never much of a choice. The Thunder’s eventual decision to match wasn’t just a smart one, but an obvious one and, to them, the only one. The alternatives made it so.

Let’s say OKC, entering a crucial year in the franchise’s history, declined to match, choosing to go cheaper on a big man. Because of salary cap restrictions, the Thunder’s only method to add a piece on the open market would’ve been through a minimum deal or the taxpayer mid-level exception.

Here’s a list of the 14 free agent big men who signed in that price range this offseason: Jeff Withey, Bismack Biyombo, Luis Scola, Kendrick Perkins, Amar’e Stoudemire, Cole Aldrich, Kevin Seraphin, Eric Moreland, Boban Marjanovic, Joel Anthony, JaVale McGee, Salah Mejri, Cristiano Felicio and Shayne Whittington.

Draw from a bargain bin of aged, severely flawed or unknown out-of-the-rotation fill-ins? Or retain a highly skilled 23-year-old offensive center with the capabilities of putting up Sixth Man of the Year-type numbers off the bench?

Wanting to maximize its talent ceiling around Kevin Durant, who is famously entering free agency this offseason, the Thunder chose Kanter. Eight games into that scrutinized mega-deal, Kanter is helping prove OKC correct.

“Enes has been great for us,” Durant said.

His positives are obvious and rarely disputed. Kanter is the most skilled interior offensive presence the Thunder has had in its short franchise history, notching all 11 of the organization’s 20-point, 10-rebound games from a center.

Kanter’s 26 offensive rebounds are tied for sixth most in the league this season. Multiple times per game, he flips an empty Thunder possession into two points with a crafty, position-based rebound-putback. He’s averaging 12.4 points and 8.9 rebounds and doing it in only 21.4 minutes per game.

“He’s a force down there,” Durant said. “You can say what you want about him, but you can book him for (those numbers).”

Kanter’s 19.7 rebounds per 48 minutes trail only the outrageous Andre Drummond (24.9) and DeAndre Jordan (19.9). Among centers, his 27.5 points per 48 minutes trail only Jahlil Okafor (29.3) and Brook Lopez (28.2).


No. 2: Warriors owner Joe Lacob opens up — He’s the owner of the hottest team in the NBA and a fresh NBA championship ring, and that makes Joe Lacob a happy man. Lots has changed since he bought the Warriors five years ago and heard boos from the crowd (Rick Barry famously told the fans to pipe down, that Lacob was the best thing to happen to the club in a long time). The Warriors have reached the playoffs three times and won a title. Lacob has a new arena underway in San Francisco and a team that still hasn’t touched its prime. In so many ways, he’s sitting on a gold mine. Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group hitched a ride with Lacob from his home to a recent game and took good notes:

When it was closing time, Lacob refused to get off the phone until it was officially done. They were supposed to be boarding a helicopter. The pilot — looking to complete his last route before he and his colleagues went on strike — pressured Lacob to get onboard.

“And where were we going that day?” Lacob asked, taking his eyes off the road to set up the punchline. “We were going by helicopter to Delphi in Greece. Which is famous for the Oracle. The Oracle of Delphi. To which I then said, ‘We’re off to see the Oracle.’ The irony, right?”

Reflection is how Lacob gets to the happy place he wants for this night. He starts reliving the crazy stories along the way.

The struggles that were debilitating at the time but are now hilarious, such as the painstaking task of replacing the franchise’s top executives.

The hours-long conversations with his cohorts in the trenches, like the hours he spends on the phone with Bob Myers.

The curve balls that came in the middle of the night, like the news of Monta Ellis being sued for sexual harassment.

“The reason this is so important is because of the process and how hard it’s been,” Lacob said as he merged onto Interstate 280 while driving to the arena. “Only Nicole knows fully how hard it’s been. All of that really is what I remember more. It’s the getting here. All the work. The firing of various people and the hiring. All the big trades. The booing. You remember all the things it took to get there, to get the championship. A lot of stuff had to happen, and it’s the details that make this meaningful.”

Lacob’s attention immediately shift to Highway 280. Sometimes it takes 50 minutes to get from his home to Oracle. Sometimes it takes 2 hours.

He likes to get to the arena by 6 p.m. for 7:30 pm games. He needed to be their earlier this night for the pregame ceremony. The worry shines through his eyes as he points to the logjam in front of him.

“Look at this,” he says with a twinge of irritation. “This is bad.”

Curran has seen much worse. That guy you see living and dying with every play on the sidelines at Warriors games, that’s a mild version. Curran sees the unfiltered version.



No. 3: Jimmy Butler got tips from the greatest Bull — He has improved gradually ever since he joined the club, morphing from a defensive specialist to one of the better all-around guards in the league, and then cashed in last summer. Life is good for Jimmy Butler, and that’s due in part to Michael Jordan. During his development, Butler sought out the six-time NBA champ and that was a wise move. Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago has the details:

What Jordan lesson made the biggest impression on Butler?

“How hard you have to prepare,” Butler told recently. “The games are the easy part, man. You got to work every single day, put in extra work to make sure you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing. Practice isn’t enough, you got to get in early, you got to stay late. You got to come back at night. He’ll let you know that because he did it, and look what it did.”

No one is comparing Butler to Jordan, but the Bulls have to love to hear that coming from their emerging star.

John Paxson spent eight seasons sharing a backcourt with Jordan and saw that fierce competitor in practice every day. Now the Bulls’ executive vice president, Paxson won’t compare Butler to Jordan — or any other player, for that matter — but that’s not the point. It’s Butler’s aspiration to be a Jordan-like worker that makes him proud.

“The one thing with Jimmy is, that’s a great bar to have. It’s not about achieving it. It’s about following that example that Michael gave,” Paxson said. “And the example is simple, it’s a simple formula: work hard, compete, value the game, respect the game. And Jimmy has. I think the unfair thing to say with Jimmy right now is he wasn’t that way. He just didn’t get a lot of chances prior to the last couple years. From my vantage point, Jimmy’s always worked hard, played hard and valued the game, so it’s obviously not a surprise that he’s put himself in this position.”

The 26-year-old Butler and Jordan built up a relationship after Butler started endorsing Jordan Brand, Jordan’s company under the Nike umbrella. This summer, Butler posted a picture of himself and Jordan at Jordan’s camp in Santa Barbara, California, after they had a shootout with a couple of young campers.


No. 4: Pacers boss Larry Bird is still big on Boston — He always talked a good game, whether he was preparing to drill a three-point shot over a late defender or when asked his opinion on the game of basketball. Larry Bird runs the Pacers, of course, but his heart and thoughts are also in Boston, where he spent his entire Hall of Fame career winning titles and respect with the Celtics. Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe caught up with Bird who, of course, had something to say, and all of it interesting:

“They talk about Chicago and Philadelphia. No. They don’t ever compare to Boston. I mean, there’s ladies in their 90s and they can name every player on the Red Sox and Patriots team. You just don’t have it anywhere like that.

“It’s unbelievable out there, and my gratitude to the fans out there is that I’d never root against them because I know how important sports are to them.”

Larry Legend didn’t take it too seriously when he first heard the deflated footballs charge after the Patriots waxed the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game last January.

“It doesn’t really matter. It was written about a lot around the country, but here in Indianapolis, most people knew. We knew the Patriots was going to beat them anyway. I thought it was pretty chintzy. People finally realized they would have beat us anyway. I just laughed about it.

“They got the footballs they played with and we got our footballs. And their footballs beat our footballs.

“I watch every one of the Colts games. I really like them. But my son loves all things about the Patriots. And I never root against the Patriots.”

I reminded Bird that the deflated footballs debacle was reminiscent of accusations often levied against Celtics godfather Red Auerbach — such as Pat Riley believing that Auerbach rigged the thermostat at the Old Garden to torture the Lakers.

“Right,’’ Bird agreed. “If that’s what they think, then now we’ve got them.’’

It’s a love story, this thing between Bird and Boston. Hub fans loved Bird the first time he showed up at Camp Millbrook in Marshfield in the summer of 1979, and it never changed. He could do no wrong, right through his retirement from the Celtics in 1992.

Almost a quarter of a century later, while Bird has raised a family and excelled as coach and president of the Pacers, he remains loyal to the folks who cheered him all those years on the parquet floor.

“I even rooted for the Red Sox against the Cardinals in those World Series,’’ he said. “That one took me to the dirt because you know I love my Cardinals.’’

Bird’s Pacers beat the Celtics in Indianapolis earlier this month. What does he think of today’s Green Team?

“They’re young and they play together and they’re fun to watch,” he said. “I haven’t really watched them that much. They seem like they’re going to be all right.’’

The Celtics have a lot of players with similar skill sets. Speaking as an ex-coach, what’s that like when doling out the playing time?

“Guys are always going to be pissed off whether they’re playing 30 minutes or 40 minutes or 10 minutes,” said Bird. “It’s the same old thing. The players are never happy.

“It all depends on how they’re playing and how the team’s doing. You can run into that problem. I don’t know if they have that problem. They seem like they get along pretty well, but they do have a lot of guys that are young and want their chance.

“Everybody wants their minutes. We’ve got the same problem.’’

Celtics coach Brad Stevens brings a college mentality to the pro game and tries to make his team play hard for the full 48. Is this realistic in the NBA?

“That’s the only way you get better,” said Bird. “I think the players understand that. I don’t know much about Brad Stevens even though he’s right here in Indiana, close to us. I think I just met him one time in Orlando at Summer League. I know he did a good job here at Butler, so you got the right coach.’’

Most players don’t stay in college very long. In today’s draft, do you really know what you’re getting anymore?

“We spend a lot more time now and have a lot more background checks,” said Bird. “We’re probably more familiar with them than we were 25 years ago.

“But they come in so young. We’ve got a couple kids that are 19 years old, and one of them is playing 20 minutes for us. I couldn’t imagine playing in the NBA at 19 years old.

“It’s tough for these kids. They go from being high school All-Americans to one year of college and being drafted high, and then they come in here and they expect they’re going to walk in here and take over, and that’s not the way it’s going to be.

“It takes time. So there’s a lot of hit and misses out there.’’


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Hedo Turkoglu retires and will be honored by the Magic in some manner. No word on whether the Raptors will follow suit … Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who won a title in Milwaukee and then forced his way out of town in a trade, returned recently to say he thinks the Bucks are on the way backTrey Burke‘s move to the bench has Utah going in the right direction.


Morning Shootaround: June 21

Heat hot for Dragic | LeBron in a funk | No breaking up Warriors | Dealing in Detroit

No. 1: Miami to offer Dragic 5 years, $80 mllion — It won’t be a max deal, but Miami plans to turn up the heat early in the free agency period by offering point guard Goran Dragic $16 million per season to remain in South Florida as a key part of resurrecting the former champs. Marc Stein of says that the team will offer less than the allowable $100 million overall, because the Heat still have to deal with a new contract for franchise icon Dwyane Wade:

Sources told that the Heat are planning to offer Dragic a five-year deal in excess of $80 million to keep him in Miami after acquiring the 2014 All-NBA third-team selection from Phoenix on trade deadline day in February.

Only Miami can offer a five-year deal this summer to Dragic, who told local reporters after the season that he “had a great time” with the Heat despite missing out on the playoffs. He said on more than one occasion that “I want to come back.”

Heat president Pat Riley has likewise expressed confidence in Miami’s ability to retain him, saying at a season-ending media availability two months ago: “If he doesn’t sign, my ass will be in that seat [next to reporters] next year.”

A five-year maximum deal for Dragic would exceed $100 million but Miami also might find itself dealing with Dwyane Wade’s free agency one summer earlier than expected if Wade decides to bypass his $16.1 million player option for next season. The Heat also await a decision from Luol Deng about his plans to either invoke next season’s $10.2 million player option or opt for free agency.


No. 2: LeBron still trying to deal with Finals loss — If only it were a case of James Brown, Sly Stone or George Clinton filling up the head of LeBron James. But when the four-time MVP says he’s “still in a little funk,” he’s not dancing. In a streamed testimonial on Bleacher Report’s “Uninterrupted,” James said he’s still trying to get over the 4-2 loss to the Warriors, but vows to keep the Cavaliers contending for championships in the years to come, according to Joe Vardon of the Northeast Ohio Media Group:

“Hopefully I can put our team in position once again to try to compete for a championship next year and year in and year out,” James said on Bleacher Report’s “Uninterrupted,” a series of streamed testimonials James takes part in as part of an undisclosed financial arrangement. “That’s my goal, and my inspiration hasn’t changed.”

James told the Northeast Ohio Media Group during the Finals he is “happy where I’m at” in Cleveland, and in the immediate aftermath of Tuesday’s Game 6 loss to the Golden State Warriors he reiterated his family was happy to be home.

James has a $21.57 million player option on the deal he signed when he returned to Cleveland last summer. He’ll likely decline the option for a new one-year contract worth roughly $22 million with a player option.

In James’ latest “Uninterrupted” video, in which he speaks while sitting in a barber’s chair getting a haircut, he said “being back home is everything that I dreamed of, everything that I thought about.

“Being back with these fans, being back with this community, just being back here and trying to bring joy to this city, which deserves it,” James said. “Bringing a sense of pride to this city, which deserves it. Giving this city something to talk about, which they deserve.”

Of the Finals, in which James averaged 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists but the Cavs’ lost 4-2, he said “it hurt to lose, and I’m still in a little funk right now, but I’m trying to work my way out of it.”

“You know, for a team that’s first getting together, in our first year to be able to reach the Finals, (I’m) not saying I’m happy with the results, but I’m proud of our guys,” James said. “Just the growth that they had from the first day we walked in the gym to the other day, us losing, I’m proud of the guys and what they was able to accomplish.”


No. 3: Warriors want to stay together — Though league rules prevent him from talking in specifics, first-year general manager Bob Myers hinted that keeping free agent Draymond Green is the high priority, but bringing back most of the roster that won Golden State’s first championship in 40 years is the plan for next season. He spoke to Al Saracevic of the San Francisco Chronicle:

“Our hope is to keep the core together,” said Myers. “That is within our control.”

“Clearly, with the success we’ve had this season, the players have shown this group can win. High character. A lot of youth. They’ve been able to complement each other.”

Beyond Green, the Warriors have a few other questions to answer, but nothing too pressing. With the expected departure of Lee, a former All-Star whose minutes were curtailed drastically because of Green’s rise, the team will be looking for a backup power forward.

A key reserve, Leandro Barbosa, is an unrestricted free agent. Myers and the ownership group, led by Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, will have to decide whether to re-sign the 12-year veteran or look for an upgrade.

“I think the league has shifted a little bit,” said Myers. “Even though it’s perceived we have a lot of shooting, we still could use more shooting, especially in the second unit.

“We could always use a shooter who can defend. That’s on the wish list of the entire league. Spacing the floor has become a major focus for all teams, as we saw in the playoffs and the Finals.”

The good news for Myers? His bosses have plenty of money, and they’re not afraid to spend it. Lacob and Guber have made it clear that success on the court is a priority.

“We want to be fiscally responsible. And we want to win,” said Myers. “Clearly, from ownership, it’s win first. It’s a good place to be. It gives you a great chance to be successful when the ultimate goal is winning.”


No. 4: Pistons might be ready to deal pick — After trading for “stretch four” Ersan Ilyasova, whom coach Stan Van Gundy says will be in the starting lineup, the Pistons brought in a pair of forwards in Frank Kaminsky and Myles Turner for pre-draft workouts and Terry Foster of the Detroit News says that could be a sign that the team is getting ready to shop its No. 8 pick:

The Pistons sent more signals Saturday that they might be willing to trade away the eighth pick in Thursday’s NBA draft when they worked out big men Frank Kaminsky of Wisconsin and Myles Turner of Texas.

Then again, perhaps Stan Van Gundy and his staff don’t want to leave any stone unturned. Both Kaminsky and Turner will be available at No. 8. And the Pistons appear to be set at power forward after obtaining from Milwaukee “Stretch Four” Ersan Ilyasova, who Van Gundy said would start the 2015-16 season for the Pistons.

If Van Gundy is interested in adding more depth at power forward, he can turn to either Kaminsky, the college basketball player of the year, or Turner. Both have similar games. They can hit perimeter shots and dip inside for buckets. Kaminsky’s major weakness is perimeter defense. And Turner must show more fluidity when he runs.

Both are 6-foot-11 and projected to go anywhere from 11th to 16th. They are competing for a better draft slot.

The Pistons are expected to select a small forward if they keep the eighth pick. There is also a chance they’ll trade up with the New York Knicks, who are looking to deal the fourth pick. If that happens it gives the Pistons a solid shot at Duke forward Justise Winslow or shooting guard Mario Hezonja of Croatia.

Regardless, whomever the Pistons select will be a premier perimeter shooter.

If the Pistons select Kaminsky or Turner it would put them in the market to sign a free agent small forward — perhaps former Piston Arron Afflalo. That becomes a dicey proposition because this has not been a big destination for free agents.

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Karl-Anthony Towns works out for Timberwolves and looks more and more like No. 1 pick … Greg Oden to take part in mini-camp with Mavericks … Doc Rivers’ mother dies in Illinois … Celtics legend Bill Russell enjoys his role as link to the past at the NBA Finals … Spain’s Rodriguez planning return to NBA … Lance Stephenson says he seeks to change his image with the Clippers.

Curry warns against distraction

Mark Jackson coached the Warriors (and Stephen Curry) for three seasons before being relieved after the 2013-14 season.

Mark Jackson coached the Warriors for three seasons before being fired after the 2013-14 season.

You watch the Warriors play, so free and easy, so loose and happy, almost as if dancing to a rhythm that only they can hear.

Best record in the league. Best start in franchise history.

So what could stop the music?

Only a distraction that would take everyone’s mind off the next game and the next game and dwell on a festering wound from the past.

That’s what leading scorer Stephen Curry seemed to be saying when he responded to team owner Joe Lacob’s recent remarks about why he replaced Mark Jackson with Steve Kerr as head coach.

Lacob had already issued an email apology when Curry felt compelled to put the focus back onto the basketball court.

Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle had Curry’s take on the situation:

“I think it’s unfortunate that it’s a distraction from what’s going on right now,” point guard Stephen Curry said after the team prepped for Monday night’s game against Minnesota.

“Obviously, we’re playing well. You can nitpick what’s different between this year and last year, but you’re talking about two great coaches. I feel like Coach Kerr is doing his job great, and Coach Jackson did his job the way he thought was right. Obviously, there was a lot of success with it.”

After initially saying he had no comment, Kerr said: “I’ll just repeat what I’ve said all year, which is ‘I inherited a hell of a team.’ There have been a lot of good things done in this organization — the front office, coaching staff, player development. I’m sitting here with a great team. We have the best record in the league. That didn’t happen because our staff showed up. It’s happened over the course of several years, and a lot of people deserve credit for that, including the previous staff.”

Until last week, the Warriors had gone out of their ways to heap equal amounts of praise on Jackson for changing the franchise’s culture during his three-season run in the Bay Area and Kerr for taking the organization to the next level this season. Speaking at a venture capitalists luncheon Wednesday, Lacob strayed from the company lines.

Lacob said Jackson didn’t really know X’s and O’s, refused to hire a top-notch assistant coaching staff and wasn’t very likeable.”

Curry seemed to appreciate Lacob offering the apology.

“For him to apologize, it’s a big gesture,” the point guard said. “My whole thing is not to discredit anything Coach Jackson did, because he was such a great coach for us and elevated a lot of our individual games. I’m proud of that and appreciate that. Obviously, it’s a new era and a new experience that we’re in right now and that we’re enjoying.”

You know the old saying about fish rotting from the head down. Give Curry credit for making the point that the Warriors don’t a lingering bad odor of past resentment to take their minds off the task of moving ahead.

Myers solidifies his Warriors future


Since leaving player agency and joining the Warriors three years ago, Bob Myers has headed a fast rise in Oakland.

It happened fast. That’s the thing.

Agent to general manager-in-waiting to actual GM to indisputably part of the solution in Golden State. Zero to 60 in about three years. Maybe not officially zero, since the experience as a leading agent is a rolling start, but Bob Myers had never lived the front office life before, and certainly not one as unique as the Warriors with so many voices coming at him from different directions.

About the only certainty when he went to work for his hometown team as assistant general manager in 2011 was that Myers would eventually, and probably quickly, become head of basketball operations, because no way he comes down from a lofty position in the agent game to serve as an aide. There was no chance to predict this with any confidence, though, the way a management newbie turned no cap space and limited trade assets into Andre Iguodala, how Myers did the Stephen Curry extension at what turned out to be an incredible bargain, how the Warriors got prime coaching target Steve Kerr away from Phil Jackson and the Knicks, and how the draft record will look good if Harrison Barnes is more 2012-13 than 2013-14 and Festus Ezeli recovers from knee surgery.

By the summer of 2014, the turnaround has led all the way to where general manager is one of the positions the Warriors don’t have to worry about. Myers has proven himself in pressure situations, the window of opportunity is still open after the disappointing first-round exit last season, upper management is relieved to be away from the strained relationship with previous coach Mark Jackson, and now the team and Myers have agreed on a three-year contract.

The new deal, first reported last week by Tim Kawakami of the Bay Area News Group, is on top of the 2014-15 remaining on the original package, putting Myers under contract through 2017-18. The Warriors are in an uncertain place on the court as Kerr takes over with no coaching experience and needing to deliver immediate results, good enough to project to somewhere around the middle of the Western Conference but unproven enough for reasonable doubts about a long playoff run, there is transition off the court with the planned arena construction and move into San Francisco, the salary cap has to be managed to take on another big salary with Klay Thompson a season away from free agency, but the front office is stabilized.

Relatively speaking, at least. Owner Joe Lacob is very involved. Assistant general manager Travis Schlenk, well regarded as a future GM somewhere, has a voice. Assistant general manager Kirk Lacob, son of Joe, has a voice. Jerry West, untitled in basketball ops but a minority owner/member of the executive board, does not know how to hang back, wanting to challenge people and loving others challenging his ideas just as much. Even the new coach, Kerr, is a former GM who will speak up, lobbying hard to keep Thompson and David Lee rather than trading for Kevin Love.

The mega-decisions — whether to include Thompson in the deal to get Love from the Timberwolves, whether to go four years and $48 million for Iguodala and three years and $36 million on an Andrew Bogut extension within about four months — come down to Lacob and Myers. But that’s still a lot of volume in one place. That’s still a very crowded war room when communication is not one of the GM’s strengths.

Still, the understated Myers kept the Warriors together emotionally last season as a counterbalance to an owner whose passion is regularly on display, with Jackson’s future in play for several months, when an assistant coach was fired for bugging colleagues’ conversations and another assistant demoted, not to mention dealing with the Donald Sterling saga in the first round against the Clippers that Golden State players and coaches said affected them too. That the Warriors got to a Game 7 despite the absence of Bogut says a lot about Jackson and the risk Lacob and Myers took in firing him. But there was also a composure in difficult situations, and that’s Myers too.

After all of one season as an apprentice and two as the GM, he has solidified himself as part of the long term, a proven commodity at age 39. Myers is no longer one of the questions, even more now that the potential contract issue is off the table with the extension. It happened fast.

Morning shootaround — July 16

VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played July 14


Report: Hornets, Stephenson reach deal | Reports: Wolves, Warriors renew Love trade talks | Parsons clarifies comments about Houston | ‘The Greek Freak’ at point guard? | Silver: Clips sale may not happen soon

No. 1: Report: Stephenson headed to Hornets — The Charlotte Hornets opened free agency by taking a big swing at landing restricted free-agent swingman Gordon Hayward of the Jazz, but Utah matched the Hornets’ offer sheet last weekend. Swing No. 2 appears to be a success for the Hornets this time, though, as they have agreed to terms on a three-year deal with Indiana Pacers standout (and unrestricted free agent) Lance Stephenson, as first reported by Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. This marks a big loss for the Pacers — who had the best record in the East last season — but there had been talk that contract negotiations between Stephenson and Indiana had broken down of late. Bonnell has more on the move for Charlotte:

Following an all-night negotiating session, the Charlotte Hornets have come to an agreement to sign Indiana Pacers shooting guard Lance Stephenson, the Observer has learned.

Under terms of the agreement, Stephenson will make $9 million in 2014-15 and $9 million in 2015-16. Stephenson will get a slight raise in 2016-17 if the Hornets pick up the team option.

Stephenson fills an obvious need, as the Hornets were weak offensively at the shooting guard and small forward positions. The 6-foot-5 Stephenson had a breakthrough season statistically, averaging 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists. He also shot 49 percent from the field and 35 percent from 3-point range.

However, he has a quirky personality that seems to have limited his market when he became an unrestricted free agent July 1.

The Pacers had offered Stephenson $44 million over five seasons, and reportedly did not come off that number. Stephenson thought he was worth considerably more.

But the question becomes how Stephenson’s quirkiness might play out once he signs a lucrative contract extension. He famously blew in opponent LeBron James’ ear in the playoffs. He was fined for flopping this season and was charged with 14 technical fouls, fourth-most in the NBA.

It is not the Hornets’ habit to take frequent risks on high-maintenance players. Trading for Stephen Jackson worked out for two seasons before they traded him on to the Milwaukee Bucks. Now they have drafted P.J. Hairston, a player who lost his NCAA eligibility over improper benefits and who recently was cited for punching a teenager during a pickup game at a Durham YMCA.

Hornets owner Michael Jordan has said one of his team’s greatest strengths last season was the character of the players on the roster. Did that embolden the front office to pursue Stepehenson? Is Stephenson now a threat to that chemistry?

Certainly the Hornets faced competitive pressure in the Eastern Conference. The Cleveland Cavaliers improved dramatically with the addition of James, so that’s a non-playoff team in the East that now looks like a post-season lock. While the Heat lost James, they weakened the Hornets with the signing of Josh McRoberts.

It’s possible the Hornets would have struggled just to make the playoffs this season without upgrading the roster with a move like Stephenson.


Morning Shootaround — May 7

VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played May 6


Nets get rude welcome to the big time | Clippers keeping their eyes on the prize | Pressures shift to Warriors’ ownership and front office | Spurs fighting against their own history

No. 1: Welcome to the big show Brooklyn, your Nets aren’t dealing with the Raptors anymore: We tried to warn you not to count on that 4-0 regular season record against the Miami Heat. This is the playoffs. And whatever happened before now is history. It’s what you do now that counts. The time off didn’t bother the Heat. If anything, it only served to refocus their attention on that Nets team that had their number during the regular season. The victim of those eight days spent going over every detail wore black Tuesday night at American Airlines Arena. And as Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post points out, it’s a whole new world:

So this is what the varsity looks like: a little bit faster, a little bit quicker, a little bit smarter, a little bit savvier. And a whole lot better. Intellectually, you knew that.

Instinctively, the Nets knew that. But it’s still not the same as seeing it up close, in person, in living color.

“We have to put up more resistance,” Paul Pierce said.

“We have to elevate,” Shaun Livingston said, “because they’re going to force you to elevate, or else.”

“They’re the defending champions,” Jason Kidd said. “They’re going to be at a high level. You have to find a way to match it.”

None of this came as a surprise to the Nets, of course, certainly not to the grizzled and the graybeards among them who have been through this all before with the Heat. Still, it’s one thing to say things properly — We swept the season series and it means nothing! They’ve been off for a week but we don’t expect them to be rusty! — and quite something else to stand your ground in the face of a full frontal Heat attack.

And not wind up flatter than Kevin Bacon in “Animal House.”

“They’re the ones that kept attacking for 48 minutes,” Kidd said. “We didn’t.”

The Nets didn’t lose the series Tuesday night, and there’s little chance any of the key participants will be confused on the matter. The Nets came to these Eastern Conference semifinals in full grind mode anyway, snarling their way through the seven-game slog with Toronto, and the grinder’s mantra is this: Get a split. Game 1, Game 2, doesn’t matter, counts the same.


Firing Jackson daring move by Warriors

By Scott Howard-Cooper,

VIDEO: GameTime crew discusses the Warriors firing Mark Jackson

And so it turns out that hiring Mark Jackson to coach the Warriors wasn’t the risky move by owner Joe Lacob.

Firing him was.

Jackson’s future in Golden State had been in obvious peril for months, since Lacob made it a very public issue in an interview with Tim Kawakami of the Bay Area News Group, and so the announcement Tuesday that Jackson was gone was no surprise. When 51 wins in the regular season followed by a commendable playoff showing in a seven-game loss to the better team, the Clippers, with the complete backing of star player Stephen Curry doesn’t save a job, then Lacob was clearly heading in this direction for a long time.

Now all Lacob has to do is find someone better.

The emotional owner wanted a coach who would take the Warriors from the traditional fun bunch of an offensive threat to a group that would defend, and Jackson delivered. The owner wanted a team of passion that would offer something more than the signature Golden State pratfall of regular-season thrills replaced by zero playoffs or a few games as the sparring partner, and Jackson delivered. The owner wanted someone who could mesh veterans together while developing prospects, and Jackson delivered.

One of the best fan bases in the league, supportive in the drought years and all the right kinds of maniacal in the payback of the playoffs the last two seasons under Jackson, is going to want an explanation from Lacob and deserves one.

Jackson’s attitude of superiority created the distance from ownership and the front office that would become his undoing, but he had the locker room. The underdog Warriors went to Denver, nearly an impossible place for road teams to win in 2012-13, lost All-Star David Lee, didn’t flinch, had a hobbled Curry, beat the Nuggets and pressed the Spurs to six games in the second round. The underdog Warriors faced the Clippers this season without the important defensive and emotional presence of Andrew Bogut, didn’t flinch, and got to the final minute of the final game on the road before losing Saturday.

Amid all the positives of the roster in place combined with the aggressive and smart early history of Lacob and general manager Bob Myers joined with the support around the Bay Area, there will be no shortage of interested replacements. They will wonder about whether Lacob’s passion leads to unrealistic expectations, but people like Steve Kerr will also be able to rationalize it to themselves. This has become a destination franchise, and putting the Knicks and Warriors back to back is a no contest, with the added appeal that Kerr would be relatively close to his San Diego home base. New York has the singular advantage of the relationship with Phil Jackson.

The classic part is that if Jackson had this exact run with another team and he was available at the same time there was a vacancy in Oakland, he would be the epitome of what Lacob wanted. Instead, Kerr has emerged as the leading candidate as what Jackson was immediately before the Warriors hired him in 2011: a former veteran guard used to pressure situations but with no experience on the bench at any level and a post-playing career in broadcasting.

The absence of coaching experience made Jackson a daring move for Lacob then, before Jackson repaid the confidence. It just wasn’t the ultimate gut call that could blow up on the Warriors. Firing Jackson was.

VIDEO: Jackson gets emotional after Warriors’ Game 7 loss in Los Angeles

‘Run TMC’ crew in rarefied HOF air

By Scott Howard-Cooper,

VIDEO: ‘Run TMC’ takes a closer look at one of Golden State’s magical eras

They were together just three seasons. It seems like they ganged up on opponents for longer, but, no, just three seasons of sending scoreboard operators to the injured list with finger and hand disorders, before a trade brought things to an abrupt end, followed by a lifetime of wondering what could have been if Golden State’s Run TMC era had remained intact.

There was always something forever about the Warriors of T(im Hardaway), M(itch Richmond) and C(hris Mullin) and Don Nelson the mad-scientist coach, encouraging, not merely allowing, Manute Bol to fling 3-pointers from about the back of his neck. Now there officially is.

The Hall of Fame is expected to reveal Monday that Richmond, along with Alonzo Mourning, will be part of the Class of 2014. This comes after the February announcement that favorite TMC sidekick, Sarunas Marciulionis, will also be enshrined this summer. He’ll join Mullin (a 2011 Hall of Famer) and Nelson (2012) in Springfield, Mass.

Three players and the coach from the Warriors of 1989-90 and 1990-91 will be in the Hall. It is the kind of rarified air usually reserved for the Lakers and Celtics, with a strong case to be made that the point guard Hardaway could be the fourth player to go with the shooting guard (Richmond), small forward (Mullin) and reserve swingman (Marciulionis). Even better for Golden State? This party will include former coach and current community ambassador Al Attles, as beloved within the organization as any person is with any franchise in the league. He’ll be there to receive the John W. Bunn Lifetime Achievement Award, the highest honor from the basketball museum short of enshrinement.

For all the historical significance, those Warriors who tried to lure opponents into track meets and cause trouble with freakish matchups — 6-foot-7 Tom Tolbert on 7-foot-1 David Robinson, anyone? –went just 37-45 and 44-38 and won one playoff series. The defense, or what passed for one, wasn’t going to allow any long postseason runs, a common theme for years to come in Oakland. But what has turned into a near-annual statement from the anonymous Hall voters suddenly puts the Dubs of the late-80s/early-90s into a unique stratosphere.

“It’s a hotbed of basketball,” Mullin said of the Bay Area. “It really is. It’s great for the fans because a lot of nights and a lot of years, they cheered us on unconditionally. I would say this, though. That wasn’t a bad culture after all. You hear about ‘New culture, new culture.’ That wasn’t too shabby. Mitch hopefully is in. I’m sure Tim’s going to get in through this process. That’s not a bad culture. I think that’s a very proud franchise through the years, from Wilt Chamberlain to Nate Thurmond to Al Attles, to Rick Barry, Tom Meschery. You talk about the last championship, it was Al Attles (as coach). Let’s not forget that. The guy’s still there. So it’s a rich, proud franchise. I think we should praise what’s going on now. But it wasn’t too shabby.”

Just Mullin saying hello to Joe Lacob.

Lacob bought the team in 2010 with declarations about a fresh start, comments Mullin understandably took personal since he had been the general manager who put together most of the Warriors of the time. Lacob was talking about the management team led by predecessor Chris Cohan and the annual disappointment in the standings. But Lacob also had frequent references to building a roster around toughness and defense while getting away from the run-and-gun crew from Mullin’s days as basketball operations boss. So point taken. There was never a shot at the history of the franchise and, in fact, it was Lacob who provided the long-overdue honor of retiring Mullin’s jersey No. 17.

But three players and the coach from the same team in the Hall of Fame is a rare sighting, even if Marciulionis is there for his international play with the Soviet Union and Lithuania. The part about the basketball hotbed is about the Bay Area as a whole, from the youth leagues to the pros, a history underlined in Springfield as well: enshrinement for Richmond, Marciulionis and former Philadelphia and San Francisco Warrior Guy Rodgers this year.

Oakland native Gary Payton (2013), Nelson, former Warrior Jamaal Wilkes and Berkeley native Don Barksdale (2012), and Mullin and Stanford women’s coach Tara VanDereveer (2011). And that doesn’t count Mullin as part of the collective Dream Team induction (2010) or ex-Warriors Ralph Sampson and Bernard King.

Moving forward, Hardaway will be high on the rankings for most deserving in the next election, along with Kevin Johnson, who played practically next door to Oakland at the University of California, and, if someone nominates him, ex-Warrior Chris Webber. Jason Kidd, an Oakland native who also played at Cal, will get his ceremony in 2018, barring unexpected developments.

VIDEO: Mitch Richmond reflects on his Golden State days

Curry’s On The Rise And Dubs Following

VIDEO: Stephen Curry finishes incredible, off-balanced layup against the Bucks

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — Something BIG happened Thursday in the third returns of All-Star fan voting regarding the Western Conference backcourt.

Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry overtook his Los Angeles Clippers counterpart Chris Paul as the No. 2 vote-getter. Paul is regarded almost unanimously in the basketball universe as the top quarterback in the game today, yet the fan vote positions Curry to start ahead of him at the 63rd All-Star Game in New Orleans on Feb. 16.

On the verge of making his first career All-Star appearance — whether it’s as a starter through the fan vote or he earns the nod of the Western Conference coaches who left him off as a reserve last year — Curry surged past the wildly popular CP3 and leads him by some 26,000 votes heading into the final stretch. Fan voting ends on Jan. 20.

Paul likely won’t be able to play anyway because of the separated right shoulder he sustained a week ago in Dallas. There’s no telling how the injury might have shifted would-be Paul votes to Curry. But it’s reasonable to think it made no difference at all. Kobe Bryant has played in just six games yet has garnered more votes by a wide margin than all West backcourt candidates. Chicago’s Derrick Rose is third in the East despite playing in just 10 games.

Perhaps Curry got a bump from overseas fans or maybe the Warriors faithful is stuffing the ballot box at Oracle Arena and online after he trailed Paul by nearly 52,000 votes after the second returns and almost 66,000 after the first. Or maybe we’re just witnessing a young, incredibly exciting player on a meteoric rise to stardom. Still, his surge past the incumbent Paul is astonishing.

All-Star starting spots don’t just pop free. Players are often entrenched in starting roles for years. Paul has been selected to six consecutive All-Star Games. He’s started the last three and four of the last five with only Steve Nash nabbing the spot in 2010. Before Curry captured the world’s imagination with breathless playoff performances, he finished eighth in last year’s fan voting. Paul was named the All-Star Game MVP, and he’s having another terrific season.

Yet suddenly, Mr. Assist is taking a back seat to a player some call the baby-faced assassin.

This is big for Curry and the Warriors, who for most of their existence have languished in mediocrity and far off the radar of NBA fans beyond their own long-suffering devotees. They produced mostly bad teams interspersed with entertaining ones that still never accomplished much. Some caught lightning-in-a-bottle like Don Nelson‘s 2007 bunch that he dubbed “schmoes” during their upset of No. 1 seed Dallas.

Think of this: Curry’s Warriors, barring a major catastrophe, are headed to the franchise’s first consecutive playoff appearances since 1991 and 1992. They went from 1995 to 2006 without making the playoffs once. In 2011-12, Curry played in 26 of 66 games due to injury. The Warriors won 23. Last season he played in 78 and the team won 47. This season, his fifth, Golden State (24-14), having withstood an early injury bump, is on pace to crack 50 wins for the first time in 20 years.

Curry delivers undeniable star-power and brand-power at a time when the franchise finally means business under the well-heeled and opportunistic ownership group headed by Joe Lacob. Curry makes the Warriors must-see TV and a target on every free agent’s wish list. That was witnessed last summer with Golden State’s late entry into the Dwight Howard sweepstakes and their signing of free-agent forward Andre Iguodala, a vital addition that has helped a team with an explosive offense now rank fourth in defensive rating behind only Indiana, Chicago and Oklahoma City.

With Curry, anything seems possible. The Warriors are a percolating franchise and a Western Conference contender at this very moment, and for the foreseeable future. The impending move into a sparkling, waterfront arena in San Francisco (as much as I personally hate to see the team leave the East Bay) will strengthen the franchise’s profit margin and transform it into a “big market” club that chases top free agents and willingly steps into the luxury tax when applicable. Golden State is on the NBA map.

If Curry, 25, finishes second in fan voting and is a starter in his first career All-Star Game, he will have earned the popular vote through performances that almost seem mythical. He’s averaging career-bests of 23.1 ppg and 9.4 apg — blowing away last season’s career-high of 6.9 apg. While his shooting percentages (44.0 percent overall  and 38.9 percent on 3s) are actually career lows, and turnovers (a career-worst 4.2) continue to be an issue, he’s taken on more responsibility than ever and is the go-to gunner and leader of a team with growing aspirations.

Yes, Curry is on the rise, and he’s taking the Warriors with him.

And that’s BIG.

Curry Takes His Next Superstar Step


DENVER – On a night like many others, everything changed. Stephen Curry had these thunderclap games before, but never in the playoffs, and that moved him to a new level. Warriors owner Joe Lacob had felt vindicated by his gamble before, but never like this as he searched for the explanation of what a performance in late April means years from now.

That’s the key description: late April. May or June work, too. Curry cut up the Nuggets in the playoffs is the thing. The time when reputations are really earned by anyone hoping to gain entrance into the world of NBA stars.

Curry has definitely built the resume, even while being passed over for the All-Star Game in what had to have been a near miss. He is arguably the best shooter in the game. He finished seventh in the league in scoring. He set a single-season league record for 3-pointers. He is back in the Team USA mix.

But for true credibility, for generating buzz unlike anything that could happen in a dozen of these Tuesday nights during the regular season, there was Game 2 of the first-round series and Curry going for 30 points, 13 assists against one turnover, and three steals to lead Golden State to a 131-117 fireworks show of a victory at the Pepsi Center and a 1-1 tie in the best-of-seven matchup that moves to Oakland.

And there was also teammate Richard Jefferson in front of his locker after the game. Jefferson has played 12 seasons and is in the playoffs for the ninth time, some with long runs, so he knows this is different.

“A hundred percent,” Jefferson said. “From my experience of just being around this league, it doesn’t matter if you’re an All-Star, it doesn’t matter if you’re this or that. When you play well in the playoffs, it carries over all summer long. There’s a certain respect that goes with. It’s the same thing with guys who win championships. There’s a certain elite group, an elite club of guys, that are like, ‘Hey, I respect you. I know what you’ve done. I know what you’ve been through. You’ve been to the mountain top.’ ”

And there was Lacob, the beaming owner, outside the locker room. Lacob had invested $44 million over four years in October to sign Curry — with a concerning history of ankle problems that remained a pressing issue last season — to a contract extension. It had been obvious since early in 2012-13 and now it had become official the once-risky move was now a brilliant one.

Had the Warriors waited until July to re-sign Curry as a restricted free agent, wanting proof that he could hold up, it would have cost the franchise millions more. At the very least, Curry would have upped his asking price. At worst, another team would have gone completely over the top with an offer sheet. Golden State would have needed a millisecond to match, but at a much greater cost than an average of $11 million annually.

This was proof.

“Besides the fact that I’m getting an ulcer and my neck is killing me I’m so nervous?” Lacob said, smiling.

Yes, exactly. Besides that and all the way to an extra feeling of vindication.

“Yes,” he said.

Lacob paused and broke out in laughter.

“I don’t know what else to say,” he did say. “I think we’ve known that all year, so this is no surprise to us tonight. He’s been playing like this all year. It means more in the playoffs, certainly. But it wasn’t just him tonight.”

One night was that big of a deal, to the team and the player and the entire franchise moving forward. One night was Curry taking the next step. Things had become different even if they were the same.