Posts Tagged ‘Kenny Smith’

Dwight, D’Antoni And The Lakers’ Big Rift?



.

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – For months it appeared the Los Angeles Lakers’ free-agent summer plans would hinge on the relationship between two men, Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant.

The Lakers’ two biggest stars had to find common ground if this multi-million dollar experiment is going to bear fruit in the future. They had to be on the same accord going into the summer for Howard to ignore the other options he has as an unrestricted free agent and stick with the Lakers after a tumultuous first season in Hollywood.

Not everyone is convinced that the Howard-Bryant dynamic is the linchpin to the Lakers’ plans, though. Another man, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni, could very well be the central figure on the Lakers’ side. Perhaps it’s his relationship with Howard, and not Bryant, that holds the key to the future between the All-Star big man and the franchise known for Hall of Fame big men.

As folks in Orlando can attest, this could be the start of Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak‘s very own Dwightmare!

While Howard hasn’t so much as spoken a word publicly about his future, there are rumblings in Los Angeles that he plans on entertaining free-agent pitches from the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks, as well as the Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers, instead of simply agreeing to the $118 million offer the Lakers have planned for him on July 1 when free agency opens.

Howard’s rationale for listening, however complex, apparently has as much to do with his murky relationship with D’Antoni than any of the other factors, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

According to sources with knowledge of the situation, part of the discussion between Howard and Kupchak centered around Howard’s frustration with D’Antoni — particularly how the center felt marginalized as the coach looked to Bryant and Steve Nash for leadership and suggestions and discounted Howard’s voice.

Every player was afforded the opportunity to meet with Kupchak individually after D’Antoni left the room, but few spent as much time as Howard and Kupchak did together. Antawn Jamison also had a separate meeting with Kupchak without D’Antoni present, but that was because of a scheduling conflict.

Kupchak left the meeting with Howard undeterred, telling reporters he was “hopeful” and “optimistic” that Howard would be back with the Lakers next season and beyond, yet there have been several developments in the last couple weeks that could have an effect on Howard’s decision.

D’Antoni chose not to retain assistant coach Chuck Person, a Howard confidant, on his staff for next season. Also, Lakers assistant coach Steve Clifford, who was with Howard in Orlando for five seasons before both of them came to L.A. last year, has become a hot head coaching candidate, interviewing with Milwaukee and receiving interest from Charlotte.

One source described the potential departure of Clifford, coupled with the loss of Person as “removing the buffers,” between Howard and D’Antoni, “which is a bad thing.”

Howard’s relationship with Bryant seemed much healthier at the end of the Lakers’ season than it did at any other time throughout the season. He visited Bryant at the hospital after he’d had Achilles surgery and Bryant spoke glowingly of Howard during his exit interview.

Bryant is going to do his best to mend fences and rebuild bridges this summer for the Lakers in what is truly a colossal summer for the franchise. The NBA’s social media king took to Twitter to spread that message to the masses:

But if there is a rift (spoken or not) between Howard and D’Antoni, even Kobe might have a hard time fixing it. Especially with all of the other options that will be presented to Howard in about six weeks.

The Lakers cannot afford to enter the 2013-14 season with Bryant still on the mend from that Achilles injury and only Nash and Pau Gasol as headliners in a Western Conference that could be as deep as it’s been in years. Having Howard on board would keep the Lakers among the playoff crowd. Without him, there is no telling where the Lakers land.

While the situation seems dire to some, Kupchak believes he has a better grip on things than the rest of us think. More from McMenamin:

Kupchak did not seem worried about any potential rift between player and coach.

“I think Dwight likes winning, he likes performing at a high level,” Kupchak said. “I think he’s fine with Mike D’Antoni, but I’m not really concerned if players like a coach, so I don’t ask that question. Our coaches are evaluated by wins and losses.”

Kupchak was further pressed about the possibility of a coaching change being dictated by a player.

“This organization has a precedent with that kind of a situation and I think we learned our lesson,” Kupchak said, referring to when Paul Westhead was fired in the early ’80s and the decision was tied to Magic Johnson‘s wishes. Whether that was the real story or not, both Johnson and the Lakers organization took a hit for how it was perceived.

We’ll know better in six weeks just how big a rift there is, if at all, between Howard and D’Antoni.

In the meantime, enjoy the rest of your latest Dwightmare!


Shaqtin’ A Fool: Top Five Hard Fouls


-

-
Shaq unveils a special edition of “Shaqtin’ A Foul” as he counts down the hardest fouls in NBA history.

#shaqtin

The First 50 Years With Sir Charles

.

When you walked into Charles Barkley’s little slice of the locker room, you might as well have stepped into a whole different world. It was a world where heads were shaved, complimentary tickets distributed, insults hurled, jokes told, social commentary delivered, reporters sent away sated and one of the best basketball players on the planet had to prepare himself for the next game. All of it seemed to occur in the space of five minutes.

“There will never be another player like me,” Barkley once said. “I’m the Ninth Wonder of the World.”

You know? He was right.

Here is Barkley, 13 years after lacing up his sneakers in an NBA game for the final time, more popular than ever as a television personality, opinionator and, well, just plain liver of life.

If Michael Jordan’s 50th birthday on Sunday felt like a royal occasion with seemingly everyone in the basketball world taking time to genuflect in the throne room, then Barkley’s, coming just three days later, has all the trappings of the morning after a keg party. In other words, a lot more fun.

The Chuckster’s persona — and at times, even his person — has almost grown large enough to be one of those floats in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and that’s actually the perfect image, full of hot air, constantly changing course with the wind and barely tethered to earthbound reality.

He says so many things, and it is our job to figure out which ones he really means. For in these ongoing best days of his life, it seems that everybody still wants to know the real Charles Barkley. Trouble is, the answer has always been a lot more complicated than the question.

During his playing days, was Barkley the obnoxious, overbearing sort who once charged toward the stands to spit on a boorish fan and wound up hitting an 8-year-old by accident? Or the sincerely apologetic type who responded by buying season tickets for the little girl and her family?

Was he the nit-picking critic that found fault in every single thing done wrong by his teammates? Or the selfless, ideal team players who charmed the socks off everybody in the locker room and at the same time lifted them to heights?

Is Barkley the fun-loving fellow who likes to joke and cajole his way through encounters with the media? Or the guy who would always tackle the tough issues of race and child-rearing with his whip of a tongue?

Remember the stir he created with a simple phrase: “I’m not a role model.”

How out of touch is that view today in an era of Tiger Woods, Marion Jones, Alex Rodriguez, Lance Armstrong and Oscar Pistorius?

His was the first voice you normally heard upon entering the locker room and usually the last you heard on the way out. And truth be told, for all the the times his teammates would roll their eyes at some of the things he said, that role of spokesman/court jester was one they needed him to fill almost as much as the slot as one of the greatest power forwards of all time.

“I know a lot of people say a lot of things about Charles Barkley,” his former Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich once said. “But I’ve never seen a guy who loves this league more than he does. He follows the game. He loves the game so much.”

Who else but Barkley could sit there on the TNT set week after week on Thursday nights and be so outrageous? And who else but Barkley would constantly take the wildly popular show to new heights by allowing himself to be the constant butt of jokes.

There was the time Kenny Smith played the role of a bouncer controlling the velvet rope outside the “Champions Club” and kept taunting the ringless Barkley about the partiers inside.

“Hey Chuck, Zan Tabak’s in here,” Smith said laughing. “Look it’s Jack Haley, Chuck. Jack Haley!”

And, of course, there was Barkley paying his “I’ll kiss your ass” bet to Smith when the rookie Yao Ming hit the 20-point mark in a game.

Smith showed up the next week with a donkey in the studio, but only Barkley would have unthinkingly believed he had to actually pucker up to the back end of the four-legged ass.

He could have an MVP season and carry the Suns to the 1993 NBA Finals, grab a career-best 33 boards in single game (more than the entire opposing team) and, at an honest 6-foot-4 1/2, toil away to be the shortest player ever to lead the league in rebounding.

Mostly, Barkley could be himself.

Once, when pondering such a milestone birthday, he said: “I just want to be living the day after I turn 50.”

In that case, check in tomorrow when The Chuckster will still be living turribly large.

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 100) Featuring TNT’s Shaq, Kenny and Charles

hangtime-100-575-

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The centennial edition of The Hang Time Podcast was bound to be our biggest and best effort to date.

It had to be, given the star-studded guest list headlined by TNT’s Emmy Award-winning crew from The Inside set, masters Shaquille O’Neal, Kenny Smith and the Hall of Famer, Charles Barkley. With an opening assist from the great Ernie Johnson and a visit from the longtime radio voice of the Atlanta Hawks, Steve Holman, who was celebrating his 2,000 consecutive broadcast, we made sure to celebrate 100 right here at headquarters.

Dozens of current and former NBA players, current stars and living legends, have made appearances on the show in the first 100 episodes. We’ve talked to a little bit of everybody, from comedian extraordinaire Charlie Murphy to NBA Commissioner David Stern, Hollywood up-and-comer Genesis Rodriguez to comedic wiz Chelsea Peretti.

About the only guys we hadn’t spoken to yet were Shaq, Kenny and Charles … until now!

Listen in on Episode 100 of the Hang Time Podcast and party with us while we keep it 100!

(Big ups to Vince Thomas of The Shadow League, our former super producer Micah Hart for hatching the podcast with me from the start and the NBA TV and NBA Digital brain trust of Rusty Mintz, Tony Lamb, Steve “The Boss Man” Quintana, John Donovan, Kevin McCormack, Beau Estes our former intern Tori Carmen for helping nurse the show from its infancy into the full-blown ball of hoops chaos that we’ve grown into.)

LISTEN HERE:

As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Sekou Smith of NBA.com,  Lang Whitaker of SLAM Magazine and Rick Fox of NBA TV, as well as our new super producer Gregg (just like Popovich) Waigand and the best engineer in the business, Jarell “I Heart Peyton Manning” Wall.

– 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.

All-Star Balloting Begins In Houston


HOUSTON
— Never mind the standings and the early season problems and the firing of a coach and the controversy over his replacement.

According to the 2013 All-Star Balloting presented by Sprint, Mike D’Antoni should have enough elite talent on his roster to get the Lakers into the Western Conference finals against the Thunder.

The Lakers with Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Metta World Peace and Thunder with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin each have five players on this season’s ballot, which was unveiled at a tipoff ceremony at the Toyota Center.

The defending NBA champion Heat — LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Ray Allen Shane Battier — along with the Celtics and Nets all have five players on the Eastern Conference side of the ballot.

In keeping with league policy, No. 1 overall draft pick Anthony Davis is the only rookie on the ballot.

For the first time ever, NBA fans will be able to vote via social media networks, including Twitter and Facebook, and Sina Weibo and Tencent QQ in China.

The balloting is now open and fans also have other digital methods of voting:

– on NBA.com/ASB

– through SMS voting by texting the player’s last name to 6-9-6-2-2 (MYNBA)

– on NBA Game Time

– on NBA Game Time from Sprint

The All-Star ballot lists 120 players — 60 from each conference — with 36 front-court men apiece. Previously the ballot featured three positions with fans picking two guards, two forwards and a center.

Balloting will conclude on Jan. 14 and starters will be announced on Jan. 17 during a special one-hour show on TNT featuring Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith.

The 2013 NBA All-Star Game will be played on Feb. 17 at the Toyota Center in Houston and televised exclusively on TNT.

Now all D’Antoni has to do is pick up his All-Star pieces and glue them back together.

Shaq Stirs It Up On Open Court … Again!

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – TNT’s Shaquille O’Neal has a way of making headlines even when he’s not trying to (just drop “Shaq” and “Dwight Howard” into the search window above and see what happens).

Shaq has no greater forum than NBA TV’s Open Court (11 p.m. ET tonight), where he not only has controversial company (Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Ernie Johnson and others) but also a host of equally controversial topics to dissect.

They’re going in on the “Dream Team” debate this time, arguing which group of U.S. Olympians ranks as the greatest crew of all time. Leave it up to Shaq to stir it up like this:

Reflections On Reggie’s Big Day

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – This day, this moment, belongs to Reggie Miller.

This is his night in the Hall of Fame spotlight. But in addition to family, friends and former teammates, coaches and fans who will all share in his special moment.

That group includes his colleagues at TNT, who shared some of their own thoughts about Miller …

Shaquille O’Neal:

“Reggie will go down as one of the greatest shooters of all time. But you can’t mention Reggie’s name and not think of the legendary comeback against the Knicks.”

Charles Barkley:

“Reggie is a friend of mine and I’m very happy for him. It’s an awesome accomplishment and it’s going to be a wonderful night for him and his sister.”

Ernie Johnson:

“I loved watching Reggie play because for 48 minutes he gave you everything he had, and he possessed all those qualities that encompass being a superstar in this league: worth ethic, court sense, will to win, loyalty, charisma, killer instinct, ability to perform in the clutch … the list goes on and on. Like all the greats, Reggie wanted the ball in his hands with the game hanging in the balance and time and again he would deliver. His night in Springfield is richly deserved, and we’re all richer for having watched such a talent for all those years in the Pacers uniform.”

(more…)

Shaq: No Interest In Magic GM Job





HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS – Well, that didn’t take long.

As soon as he was included in the discussion for the vacant general manager job in Orlando, Shaquille O’Neal has taken himself out of the mix.

The future Hall of Famer and TNT analyst released a statement this afternoon denying any interest in pursuing the position that came open with Monday’s mutual parting of the ways between the Magic and Otis Smith.

And this isn’t coming from any back channel sources or anyone else. It’s from the big fella himself, who said he has no plans of leaving the Inside set where has starred this season alongside Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley and Ernie Johnson.

“When I first heard about the vacancy for the Orlando Magic general manager position, I was clearly intrigued.” he said in a statement. “I was drafted by the Magic, I have a great love for the franchise, and I have made the city of Orlando my home.  Additionally, I have great admiration and respect for the DeVos family.  However, this is not a job I have an interest in pursuing.  I feel very fortunate to be with TNT and to have the best job in sports.  I look forward to many more years with Charles, Kenny and E.J.  I wish the best for the Magic and I am confident that they will select a great GM and coach.”

ESPN’s The Magazine’s Chris Broussard reported Wednesday that there was mutual interest between O’Neal and the Magic and that he could interview with them as early as next week. Barkley was on The Dan Patrick Show this morning and confirmed that O’Neal indicated to him that he had interest in the job and would be interviewing with the franchise that drafted him.

But all of that comes crashing down with O’Neal’s statement that he has no plans of giving up his seat on the set at TNT.

Griffin Grumbling Is Too Soon, Off Base





HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS – Before we let the Clippers slip away into the shadows of teams vanquished on the road to the Larry O’Brien trophy, we have to slather a little praise on the “other” team in Los Angeles for a season full of entertaining basketball, complete with enough Chris Paul and Blake Griffin highlights to last a couple of seasons.

We’d also like to back the critics off of Griffin and his game, which is a whopping 159 games old with this playoff run included. That’s right, Griffin is just two seasons of actual on-court time into his career that has been scrutinized incessantly since he burst onto the scene as dunking machine/pitchman last season.

I saw the Inside crew discussing Griffin’s game (Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Shaq and Ernie Johnson go at it above) and felt the instant analysis of his long-term prospects was a bit premature. Shaq and Ernie have it right that it’s far too soon to assume we’ve seen the very best Griffin will have to offer during his career.

(Andrew Bynum‘s been in the league for seven years and people are still talking about him being a young player … and this is supposed to be it for Griffin?)

This was Griffin’s first playoff rodeo folks. Why would anyone assume he’s reached his zenith, that he won’t continue to improve in the coming seasons?

(more…)

#TeamShaq Rules Rising Stars Draft





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – With the 11th hour additions of both Jeremy Lin and Norris Cole, the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge draft got an extra dose of last-minute drama from the game’s honorary commissioner, TNT’s Kenny Smith.

By snagging both of the late additions to go along with No. 1 overall pick Blake Griffin and rookie point guard sensation Ricky Rubio, Shaquille O’Neal nailed his first ever draft (he showed up wearing the “Black Pat Riley” t-shirt) and Team Shaq goes into All-Star Weekend with the clear advantage over Team Chuck (Barkley).

Team Chuck has the sort of balance you strive for when putting together a team for the grind of an 82-game (or 66-game) regular season. But Team Shaq has the star power at guard, point guard especially, that you need to win games like the one we’ll see on All-Star Friday night in Orlando.

That didn’t stop Barkley from talking smack after he passed over Lin for a rookie point guard sensation of his own in Kyrie Irving with his first pick.

“It wasn’t very difficult [to pass on Jeremy Lin] to be honest because [Lin's] only been playing for a week and it’s been a fantastic week,” Barkley said. “But Kyrie Irving is terrific and he’s going to hand it to [Lin] and if Ricky Rubio wants some…he can come get some too.”

You’ve got to ride the hot hand Chuck. And no one in basketball is hotter right now than Lin.

Team Shaq didn’t even get the endorsement of NBA TV’s Dennis Scott, Shaq’s best friend and former Orlando Magic teammate. “As I go through the [rosters], at first I thought Shaq had the upper hand but he has too many point guards,” Scott said. “Shaq has more playmakers but Charles has more finishers…I think Charles may have the upper hand.”

Et tu 3D?

Being the long-range bomber that he was (and remains, to this day) 3D should know better than to bet against the guys who will have control of the ball throughout the game. Team Chuck’s bigs will need someone to get them the ball. All of the best playmakers other than Irving and John Wall will be working for Team Shaq that night.

Mark it down, we’re predicting a big win for Team Shaq that night!

Full rosters & a poll after the jump: (more…)