The Professional Basketball Writers Association announced the winners of its annual writing contest at All-Star weekend. The top three finishers, as judged by an independent panel of journalists, were chosen in three categories – game stories, columns and features.
The PBWA also named new officers to two-year terms that run through All-Star weekend 2015. Mary Schmitt Boyer of the Cleveland Plain Dealer takes over as President, succeeding two-term predecessor Doug Smith of the Toronto Star. Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel will serve as Vice President, replacing NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner.
Recently marking its 40th anniversary, the PBWA was formally organized on Jan. 23, 1973, to address access and working-condition issues in members’ coverage of the NBA. It provides a network of men and women who cover the league, initially for newspaper beat writers but expanded through the years to include magazine and Web site reporters. The association handles the voting for the NBA’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, and presents it own annual awards: the Magic Johnson (to a good player who is media-friendly), the Rudy Tomjanovich (to a head coach who meets the same criteria) and the Brian McIntyre (top team media-relations staff) trophies.
With Howard and the Lakers smarting from the 10-point loss to the Magic, the All-Star big man reportedly left the court without so much as a handshake for the guys he battled alongside for years in Orlando.
Magic players said they weren’t upset that Howard didn’t shake their hands or wish them well after Sunday night’s win. Howard walked off the court once the final seconds of the fourth quarter ticked off Staples Center’s clock.
“That’s fine,” Magic point guard Jameer Nelson said. “Certain guys don’t shake hands after the game.
“I don’t have any hard feelings to the guy. He made a decision to do what he did. He’s on the team that he’s on. I’m here in Orlando, where I want to be. I just wish him the best of luck. I’m not going to go up and hug him and kiss him or anything like that. I think my coach would be mad at me.”
Magic power forward Glen Davis said he didn’t take any offense.
“If he wants to walk off the court, it’s cool,” Davis said. “No hard feelings, you know? He lost. I would feel bad, too. I wouldn’t want to shake anybody’s hand. So it is what it is.”
Howard and the Lakers have issues of their own to deal with. They’ll have to play another week without Steve Nash and another six to eight weeks without Steve Blake (abdominal surgery), the man who was slated to serve as Nash’s primary backup,
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – It’s been a while since we’ve heard from NBA Commissioner David Stern in this space. He was such a huge presence ’round these parts during the lockout that we felt it necessary to give him a little break in the aftermath of the deal getting done and the season starting.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We apologize in advance for the conflicting reports you’re going to hear in the days and weeks ahead about basically any and every NBA player, free agent or not, being pursued by this team or that team.
Hey, it’s that time of year, just a few months later than normal.
Of course, with a condensed free agency period/training camp all rolled into one, things are going to be a little wilder and crazier than usual. So again, be prepared to hear any and everything and just remember that until at least Dec. 9, it’s all talk …
PACERS CHASING RONDO?
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: As Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge aggressively pursues possible deals for Rajon Rondo, the Indiana Pacers have emerged as an intriguing suitor for the point guard, league sources told Yahoo! Sports. For the past few days, Pacers officials – and third-party surrogates – have been making calls and gathering information and insight into Rondo’s reputation as a teammate and leader, sources said. The Pacers and Celtics have discussed the preliminary framework of a deal, but two sources said Indiana would need a third team to provide Boston with the talent it wants to do a deal. The Celtics are likely trying to gather the necessary pieces to make a bid for Ainge’s ultimate target: New Orleans point guard Chris Paul, sources said. It was unclear if the Pacers had begun to reach out to broaden discussions, but there was an expectation they would do so. The Celtics have been gauging Rondo’s trade value for more than a year, and have held discussions with teams about him across the past few trade deadlines and NBA drafts. There have long been divides within Boston’s front office, coaching staff and locker room about Rondo. He can be moody, difficult and stubborn, and several league sources were dubious if the Pacers’ young coach, Frank Vogel, would have the stature to deal with Rondo.
NETS READYING OFFER FOR DWIGHT HOWARD
Marc Stein and Chad Ford of ESPN.com: The New Jersey Nets are prepared to offer a trade package featuring Brook Lopez and two future first-round picks to acquire Dwight Howard before the Orlando Magic center becomes a free agent in July 2012, according to sources close to the situation. Sources told ESPN.com this week that, to sweeten the proposal, New Jersey would likewise offer to take back the contract of Magic forward Hedo Turkoglu, who has three seasons left on his contract worth just under $35 million. Absorbing Turkoglu’s remaining salary would become financially feasible for the Nets after the expected release of swingman Travis Outlaw through the amnesty clause that will be included in the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement and by including another smaller contract or two in the deal. No trade deadline for the 2011-12 season has been set in stone yet by the league office, but many team executives believe it will fall in March. Once the league officially re-opens for business, Howard’s future in Orlando is sure to be one of the season’s dominant story lines, along with Chris Paul’s future in New Orleans and the Nets’ attempts to secure a long-term commitment from star guard Deron Williams. It’s been an open secret around the league that the Nets’ dream scenario is pairing Howard with Williams, after they followed up their failed pursuit of Carmelo Anthony last season by trading for Williams just before the February trade deadline. It remains to be seen whether Howard will regard the Nets as a prime destination on par with the New York Knicks, even after they move out of New Jersey, but sources say that Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov has long believed that teaming them up would convince both Team USA stars to commit their long-term future to the Brooklyn-bound Nets.
“I’m not trying to run behind nobody like Shaq or be behind somebody else,” Howard said, referencing Shaquille O’Neal‘s decision to leave the Magic following the 1995-96 season and sign with the Los Angeles Lakers.
“I want to start my own path and I want people to follow my path and not just follow somebody else’s path. I want to have my own path, and I want to start that here in Orlando. But I can’t do it alone. Not only do I need the right teammates, but I need the city behind me. That’s the only way it’s going to get done. We can change this small city that we have — this small market that we have — and we can make it a big market.”
“I just got tired of everybody asking me, ‘Where am I going to go? Are you going to stay?’ Everybody in Orlando is asking me,” Howard said. “So it was like, ‘You know what? I want everybody to get their minds off something that is not gonna happen.’ “
All season long, as the topic of his possible departure has been raised, Howard has insisted — sometimes angrily — that he wasn’t preparing to pull another ‘Melo-Drama type escape.
Talk about your home cooking. Howard putting his name in ink on a new deal would certainly be the way to end all the speculation.
But will it happen and, if it did, what would we have to talk about next season?