Posts Tagged ‘Larry Miller’

Morning Shootaround — Feb. 27

Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.

The one recap to watch: When we turned on League Pass last night at the home office and saw the Warriors-Pacers game on the dockett, we knew we had our pick for game of the night early on. Turns out, we were right. Although the final score reflects a bit of a one-sided affair, Indiana-Golden State turned out to be a dandy. Nothing like seeing two teams who are good-if-not-great at what they do: the Warriors on offense (with their No. 9 overall rated crew on that end) and the Pacers on defense (they’re No. 1 in defensive rating). Though a late Roy Hibbert-David Lee-Steph Curry scuffle became the storyline here, we enjoyed watching the Pacers take on one of the NBA’s best offenses and use its size and length to fluster anything the Warriors did around the basket.

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News of the morning

LeBron may end pregame dunk routines | Lopez delivers down stretch for NetsBucks suspend Dalembert | Buss once helped save Jazz | Rookie Cunningham may miss rest of season

LeBron’s dunking exhibitions may endAside from Harlem Shake videos, perhaps one of the bigger growing viral trends around the web are the pregame dunking exhibitions that Heat star LeBron James has been putting on. As he and his Miami comrades have — like the L.A. Clippers – been showing off their acrobatics in the warm-up lines, James often steals the show. Just check out this one he pulled off on the visiting Cavs two nights ago:

James isn’t too happy, though, with the flak he’s catching from those wondering why he won’t participate in the Slam Dunk Contest if he can pull off moves like this, writes Michael Wallace of ESPN.com:

James has been executing contest-worthy dunks during warmups, but has been unwilling throughout his career to participate in the league’s dunk contest during All-Star Weekend despite pressure from fans and former players.

“Maybe I should stop because it’s making a lot of people mad about what I do,” James said after he scored a season-high 40 points and had a career-high 16 assists in Tuesday’s double-overtime win against Sacramento. “They’re like, ‘Well, if you can do it in warmups, why don’t you (want to) be in the dunk contest? Stop it.’ “

James was in the act again before Tuesday’s game, when he lobbed the ball into the air, caught it off the bounce and shifted the ball between his legs before slamming it through the rim. The Heat have a reputation for late-arriving crowds, but more fans have filled into the arena’s lower bowl before games with cell phones or video recorders in hand waiting for James to take the court before games.

The Heat have started to stream video of James’ pregame dunks on the team’s official website, and owner Micky Arison has used Twitter to encourage fans to arrive to games early if they want to see the show James puts on.

James said Tuesday he wasn’t aware of how popular the routine has grown, because it’s something he’s always done. More Heat players have gotten involved, including Chris Andersen, Mike Miller, Ray Allen, Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers, who has been James’ stiffest competition of late.

“I’ve been hearing about it,” James said. “But I don’t really watch TV or go on the Internet too much. As a team, it’s kind of our new thing. I’ve had some good ones, but (Chalmers) doing a 360? That’s impressive. We have a little epidemic right now. It’s kind of like the Harlem Shake.”

Nets’ Lopez delivers in clutchNets coach P.J. Carlesimo has taken flak of late for his tendency to pull All-Star center Brook Lopez down the stretch of games. He changed things up last night and kept Lopez in the game down the stretch and the All-Star came through, hitting several clutch baskets to salt away the Nets’ win over the Hornets. It was a matchup of NBA brothers to boot as Brook Lopez took on his brother, Robin, in a game where the Lopez twins’ mother found rooting interest hard to come by, writes Tim Bontemps of the New York Post:

“I’ve kept my confidence through this entire week,” Lopez said after finishing with 20 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four blocks. “It’s definitely good to get a win like this, but I try not to put too much stock into one game. … It is a marathon and not a sprint.”

Perhaps it just took facing off against his twin brother Robin, the starting center for the Hornets, to get him back on track.

“It’s always fun,” Brook Lopez said of facing off against his twin, who finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots. “[Robin’s] always very physical. Playing against him is enjoyable. … How many other people in the world get to experience something like this?”

The two brothers had a large cheering section in the stands, as their mom, Debbie Ledford, was cheering them on alongside their older brother, Alex, and his family.

Brook had said before the game his mom would be wearing either a Nets hat with a Hornets shirt or vice-versa, and she did exactly that, wearing a black Nets hat to go with a black Hornets T-shirt.

“It’s difficult, because they play the same position, they play the same minutes,” Ledford told The Post. “So, if anything happens, they kind of cancel out each other out. … One is successful at the expense of the other.

“All I hope is that they both have good games, but it’s difficult. You can’t choose which team you want to win.”

Bucks’ Dalembert suspended vs. MavsThis hasn’t been the best season in veteran big man Samuel Dalembert‘s career. On the court, he’s averaging his lowest scoring (7.0 ppg), rebounding (5.8 rpg) and minutes average (16.7 mpg) since his rookie season. Off it in Milwaukee, he dealt with an icy relationship with former coach Scott Skiles (read more here). Maybe his problems can’t be traced solely to Skiles, though, as he was suspended last night for a pattern of behavior, writes Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel:

Bucks general manager John Hammond announced Dalembert was suspended for one game without pay due to a violation of team policy.

Bucks coach Jim Boylan said the suspension was due to a pattern of behavior rather than one specific incident.

“Everybody on the team, players, coaches, staff, they have certain responsibilities to the team,” Boylan said in his pre-game remarks. “When those responsibilities aren’t met, there are consequences.

“So Sam has not met some of those and the consequence is he is suspended for tonight’s game.”

Dalembert has been serving as the primary backup to starting center Larry Sanders.

Boylan said “it’s more of a pattern” when referring to the reason for the suspension. “It reached a point where something needed to be done, so we decided this was the appropriate action to take,” he said.

Former Bucks coach Scott Skiles benched Dalembert in the Nov. 24 home game against Chicago due to a lateness issue and started Przybilla at center. Dalembert did not play at all in the game but returned to the lineup when the Bucks played in Chicago two nights later.

Dalembert said later it was a “misunderstanding.”

“Coach said there were certain times to be there, and I was in the building,” Dalembert said in November. “I thought it was a little harsh. My team could have used me out there.

“That was the punishment. Nobody told me nothing before the game. So I found out the next day. If there’s a miscommunication and a misunderstanding … everybody misunderstands stuff but we communicate.

Lakers’ Buss helped Jazz stay putBack in the mid-1980s, the Utah Jazz were a mostly fledgling franchise whose future in Salt Lake City seemed iffy. In fact, the city of Miami was interested in buying and moving the team there in 1985. That year, nine different owners were in line in Salt Lake City to buy the team from Sam Battistone, with one of the potential owners being the late Larry Miller. Miller was the Jazz’s owner from 1985 until his passing in 2009 as Utah experienced tremendous success during the John Stockton-Karl Malone era. But had it not been for Lakers owner Jerry Buss during a 1985 NBA Board of Governors meeting, writes Steve Luhm of the Salt Lake Tribune, the Jazz might have been Miami’s team:

According to the late Larry Miller, Buss played an undeniable role in keeping the Jazz from moving to Miami in 1985.

When Miller wanted to buy 50 percent of the team, Buss stood up for him during a Board of Governors meeting in New York City.

Without the support, the board might have rejected Miller’s ownership bid, which would have left the door open for a buyer from Miami to purchase the franchise.

Nine groups, apparently, stood in line to buy the franchise from owner Sam Battistone before Miller joined the battle to keep it in Utah.

Battistone was seeking limited partners, but Miller didn’t think that approach wouldn’t work.

He believed Battistone needed one partner, not several, and stepped forward with an $8 million offer to become co-owner.

Even though Miami bid $20 million for the franchise, Battistone accepted Miller’s offer because he also wanted the team to remain in Utah.

At that point, Miller went to the Board of Governors, seeking approval for his ownership bid. Atlanta’s Ted Turner attended the meeting. So did Jerry West, Red Auerbach and David Stern, the NBA’s new commissioner.

When Miller began his presentation, San Antonio’s Angelo Drossos quickly emerged as a skeptic.

Drossos started questioning Miller, often interrupting before he could finish his response.

“After the fifth interruption, Buss, who I had never met, interrupted Angelo,” Miller recalled. “He said, ‘Angelo, why don’t you shut up and let him answer a question?’ “

Then, Buss “started asking questions that led to a discussion of my numbers. … Within half an hour, Jerry said, ‘I’m satisfied. Let’s go with him.’ “

After Buss’ endorsement, Miller quickly became co-owner of the Jazz.

“Jerry saved me that day,” Miller wrote.

Mavs’ Cunningham may be done for seasonRookie Jared Cunningham has only appeared in just eight games for the Mavericks this season, spending much of 2012-13 as a member of Dallas’ NBA D-League club, the Texas Legends. He’s suffering from tendinitis in his knee and is already setting his sights on playing again in 2013-14, writes Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News: 

The No. 24 overall pick said Tuesday that he’s suffering from tendinitis in his right knee and is going to be out “for a while.” He said his sights already have been set toward the 2013-14 season.

“My goal is to be completely ready for summer league,” Cunningham said. “I want to get my body back to the way it was in college so I have my athleticism.”

Coach Rick Carlisle said it was critical that Cunningham get healthy.

“I wouldn’t call it a lost season,” Carlisle said. “He’s gotten a lot of work in, and he’s gotten a fair amount of experience and he now understands what an NBA season is about. But we’re going to do the right thing. We’re going to make sure he gets healthy. And we’ll go from there.”

The Oregon State product’s start in the NBA was derailed when a hamstring kept him out of the summer league. From there, a thumb injury and knee issue flared up.

Now, Cunningham will stay with the Mavericks and work on conditioning his right knee. He was walking with a slight limp after shootaround.

“It’s best that I stay here and take advantage of everything they have to help my rehab,” Cunningham said. “It’s been a tough year. But I’m looking forward to getting right for the summer.”

ICYMI of the night: This Chris Paul-to-Blake Griffin alley-oop is only No. 4 on our nightly Top 10 countdown, but it’s No. 1 in our hearts around here …:

Another Lost Season For Greg Oden





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Portland Trail Blazers center Greg Oden is losing yet another season to injury.

The horrible news came this evening, when the franchise announced that Oden underwent yet another microfracture surgery on his left knee earlier today.

What was supposed to be a routine procedure to clean debris out of his knee ended up costing the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NBA Draft the entire 2011-12 season. Oden has had microfracture procedures on both knees, a fractured knee cap and these two surgeries this month, a diabolical cocktail for a player once believed to be the future of the franchise.

The team released the news via statement, explaining exactly how this latest twist came about:

“Initially, Greg was undergoing a procedure similar to the one he had a couple of weeks ago to have debris cleared from his right knee,” said Acting General Manager Chad Buchanan. “However, once the doctors were inside Greg’s left knee, they unfortunately found articular surface damage and determined microfracture was necessary.”

Oden, who will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, was selected by the Trail Blazers with the first overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. In 82 career games (60 starts), Oden has averaged 9.4 points (57.7% FG), 7.3 rebounds and 1.43 blocks in 22.1 minutes per game.

“This is not the news we were hoping for Greg or the organization,” said Trail Blazers President Larry Miller. “It’s hard to put into words the heartbreak for everyone involved, but especially for Greg. He’s a young man who has experienced a great number of physical challenges in his playing career and today is yet another significant setback for him. We have a lot of empathy for Greg and his family during this difficult time.”

I watched Oden play as a freshman in high school, and like most predicted a long and prosperous NBA future for the teenager who looked like a 40-year-old man then (complete with a full beard). He was the best high school freshman big man I’d seen in person since I watched Chris Webber as a freshman in high school. He was that dominant at a 14-year-old.

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Malone, Miller And The War Of Words





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Hall of Famer Karl Malone is still making headlines in Utah, but for all the wrong reasons these days. The Jazz legend is in the middle of a fierce war of words with current Jazz owner Greg Miller, son of the late Larry Miller, over the handling of Hall of Famer Jerry Sloan‘s departure as coach last season.

Last week Malone blasted the organization for not supporting Sloan and allowing then Jazz star Deron Williams to essentially force Sloan out as coach, while also telling the The Salt Lake Tribune that he had to buy a ticket from a scalper to get into a recent game.

Miller fired back in a blog post and on radio calling Malone a “liar” and high-maintenance.”

Sloan cleared the air a bit this afternoon in a statement:

“I would like to set the record straight regarding my retirement from the Utah Jazz. I had the unwavering support of the Miller family during my 23 seasons as head coach and I left on my own volition. It is not true that the Millers undermined my authority as head coach. I had their complete backing to run the team as I wished and was assured that no player could ever overrule my decisions.

“The Millers encouraged me to stay with the team and gave me multiple opportunities to do so. They felt strongly that I should wait at least until the end of the season to resign and did everything they could to keep me coaching.”

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Sellout Streak In Jeopardy?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Ask anyone that’s covered NBA games for a living to name the three best home court atmospheres and the Rose Garden in Portland is sure to make their short list.

It doesn’t matter if it’s the regular season or a playoff game. Folks in Portland love their Trail Blazers (and sports teams in general). So you can imagine the immediate reaction I had when I saw this ditty from the Oregonian‘s John Canzano questioning whether or not the Trail Blazers’ 166-game sellout streak might be in jeopardy when they return from their current six-game road trip for back-to-back games against the Kings (Jan. 23) and Hang Time Grizzlies (Jan. 24):

… insiders at One Center Court tell me that there’s some minor angst internally about the streak surviving those back-to-back games against chronic lower-tier opponents.

“You have no idea how difficult it is to pull off a sellout,” one high-ranking Blazers official told me. “It’s a siege to pull off a single sellout.”

Team president Larry Miller said he’s looked at those two games and feels, “we have a pretty good shot at a sellout, but it’s not easy.” And the Blazers are hoping a productive road trip and some smart marketing will move Blazers fans to buy tickets and keep the streak alive.

“You definitely have to look at certain games and try to figure out how to position them and market them,” Miller said. “But I think the community feels connected to the players and views the arena as the place to be on a game night.”

As much as I’d hate to see the streak come to an end, the realities of what’s going on around the country right now economically are staring us all in the face. Sitting in Philips Arena Monday afternoon — on a holiday — and seeing thousands of empty seats brings home the bottom-line impact this recession is having on the game.

Miller is right, it’s not easy … even in a hoops hotbed like Portland (or anywhere else right now).

But if I had to break the piggy bank here at the hideout and put some money on any one fan base rising up and making sure their sellout streak continues, I’m going with the folks in Rip City!

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Big Decisions Upcoming For Blazers

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Gotta love the Blazers. For all the management changes and whatnot, they finally have the look of a cohesive and fluid team right now, one that’s a legit contender. LaMarcus Aldridge is almost certainly headed for his first All-Star Game, Jamal Crawford has proven to be a worthy pickup (if not replacement) for retired All-Star Brandon Roy. Nate McMillan is getting it done as a coach again and the Blazers will give Oklahoma City a run for the division title if this keeps up.

I wonder, though, if the good times will last beyond this season. That’s because Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune raised a few good points in recent days. The Blazers will be faced with several major off-season decisions, and while that seems so far into the distance, it’s something for the franchise must consider right now as it takes stock of certain players and how they’re progressing, or not.

At the top of the list, of course, is Greg Oden. If you haven’t noticed, he’s still invisible. And nobody knows if he’ll ever wear a Blazers’ uniform this season or ever again, as Eggers points out:

When I approached the No. 1 pick in the 2007 draft in the locker room before Sunday night’s game with Cleveland at the Rose Garden, he told me, “I’m still not talking about it right now.”

Or about anything, I guess.

Since he flew to Vail, Colo., for a meeting with Dr. Richard Steadman — the specialist who performed the surgery — in early December and spoke with The Oregonian’s Jason Quick, Oden hasn’t done any media.

Team trainer Jay Jensen won’t talk about Oden, and interim general manager Chad Buchanan speaks only in vague terms about the oft-injured, oft-maligned would-be player.

I can’t get an answer as to what Steadman and the other medical people saw in Oden’s December MRI that was termed by team president Larry Miller a “setback,” slowing his progress toward a return to on-court duty.

“It wasn’t as encouraging as we’d hoped,” is all Buchanan will say.

One report said the MRI showed a problem area in a non-weight-bearing ligament in the knee, but nobody with the club will confirm that. Oden evidently had no symptoms or anything to cause alarm. What, then, was it?

“I’d prefer not to talk about specifics,” Buchanan says politely.

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Oden Has Setback, Restructures Deal

– For the latest updates check out: NBA.com’s Free Agent Tracker

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — As if the news of Brandon Roy‘s retirement wasn’t brutal enough for Portland Trail Blazers fans, this latest injury-themed setback will shake them up again.

Greg Oden has had yet another setback, discovered after his latest physical examination, and has agreed to restructure his one-year deal with the team independent of the $8.9 million qualifying offer the team extended to him in the summer.

More from the official statement released by the team:

The contract agreed upon today comes after both sides mutually agreed to negotiate a new deal that is independent of the qualifying offer.

“Following Greg’s most recent physical examination and evaluation, we’ve determined that he has suffered a setback,” said Trail Blazers President Larry Miller. “We’re hopeful, but less confident that he will return to the court this season. We’ve stood by Greg from the day he was drafted and we continue to do so now with this agreement.”

Oden, 23, has averages of 9.4 points (57.7% FG), 7.3 rebounds, 1.43 blocks and 22.1 minutes in 82 games (60 starts). He has notched 21 double-doubles and grabbed 10-plus rebounds 26 times.

“I’m obviously disappointed with the setback, but I’m as determined as ever to return to the court,” said Oden. “I appreciate the support of the Trail Blazers and our fans and that they continue to stand behind me.”

Oden’s NBA career has been stalled time after time by knee injuries and this latest one coming on the heels of the reports that Brandon Roy is headed for retirement is a brutal blow for a team that has managed to remain a playoff squad while dealing with a litany of injuries to key players.

Report: Brandon Roy Set To Retire

– For the latest updates check out: NBA.com’s Free Agent Tracker

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — For days there have been rumblings that the amnesty clause in the new collective bargaining agreement would be used on Portland Trail Blazers guard Brandon Roy. Apparently it will not be necessary.

ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard is reporting that Roy is set to retire, due to the degenerative knee issues:

Sources say Roy has privately conceded his ongoing knee trouble would have inevitably led to a reduced role, and given his close connection with the Portland community the former All-Star does not want to end up being released through the forthcoming amnesty clause and thus eligible to be picked up by another team.

Roy’s retirement would eventually give the Blazers salary-cap relief. League rules call for a waiting period of one year from the date of the player’s injury or illness, after which the Blazers could get Roy’s contract off their books.

Since Roy played all the way into the playoffs last season, that date will likely be April 28, 2012 — one year from the day the Blazers were eliminated from the playoffs.

According to NBA rules, a league physician will have to confirm that Roy is unfit to play for the Blazers to get the salary-cap relief.

As recently as Monday, Blazers officials had said that, despite considerable speculation to the contrary, they would not use the amnesty clause on Roy. The clause allows a team to release one player and gain salary cap relief; however, the team must still pay the salary.

“Our plan right now is not to use the amnesty,” Blazers president Larry Miller told the Oregonian newspaper. “We expect Brandon to be a part of this team when the season starts.”

The Curious (Amnesty) Case Of B. Roy

– For the latest updates check out: NBA.com’s Free Agent Tracker

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – In a league filled egos and attitudes, Portland’s Brandon Roy always seemed to fight against stereotype.

In the times we’ve crossed paths, Roy has always struck me as one of the more grounded players in the league, a guy very much in tune with fragile nature of things in the high-stakes world of professional sports. Perhaps his injury history, dating back to before he came into the league, influenced him. You never know.

Now Roy stands at a career crossroads in Portland, caught in the middle of a dilemma caused by all the splendid things he’s done in a Trail Blazers uniform and the things his fragile knees have done to him while wearing that same uniform.

The Trail Blazers have to decide if Roy stays on the roster as a shell of the All-Star, face-of-the-franchise talent he once was or if they use the league’s new amnesty clause to cut ties with their former leader who is owed $63 million on his current contract.

Trail Blazers president Larry Miller offered a chilling but telling assessment of where things stand, when he told The Oregonian‘s Jason Quick:

“If Brandon were to accept mentally that ‘I’m not that guy anymore, but I will do whatever I can to help the team,’ it would make it easier to keep him around,” Miller said. “We know every-so-often he is going to give us that game, and be the Brandon Roy of old, but mentally accepting where his game is, that’s the bigger challenge for him. I don’t know if he is there, or if he can get there.”

Having been in the Rose Garden crowd during Roy’s magical Game 4 performance against Dallas in that first round playoff series last April, it’s hard for me to sit here and suggest that he could dial up enough of those performances, on knees that have no cartilage, to justify the Trail Blazers keeping him in the fold.

The flip side, however, includes the Trail Blazers cutting ties with Roy and him landing with another team and excelling in exactly the same role he would have been used in had they kept him. That’s a proposition that would only serve to rile up the restless fringe of the always-fervent Blazer fan base even more.

That said, waving Roy would provide a huge financial relief for the franchise. They’d get under the luxury tax threshold and become players in the free-agent market, provided they waive him early enough. (But this theory also requires the fans trusting that the franchise, sans a GM to replace the fired Rich Cho, would make the right moves to rebuild the core of the roster. And it’s safe to say the trust factor is shaky right now in Portland.)

To their credit, Roy’s camp isn’t making this about anything other than what’s best for all involved. All they’re asking for is an immediate decision, per Quick:

“I get it. Brandon gets it,” said Greg Lawrence, Roy’s agent. “It’s not complicated. They are going to make a decision that is best for them. If they want him to be there, he will show up and work hard like he always has and do whatever it takes to help the team win. If they don’t want Brandon to be there, he will move on. He just wants to know.”

Don’t we all!

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The Gym Is Open: The NBA Unleashed

 

– For the latest updates check out: NBA.com’s Free Agent Tracker

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The doors are open. The players are back in gyms around the NBA. And so too are the rumors that make this time of year unlike any other on the calendar, even if it is a few months late.

Outside of the trade deadline, there is no better time to soak in the sort of drama we’re experiencing in these days leading up to the union being reformed, the new collective bargaining agreement being finalized and the start of training camp and free agency. All we need is a big top and a ringmaster to conduct the ceremony of this player or that player being sent here or there. This is the circus that is the NBA unleashed from its 149-day lockout.

Today’s version offers more theories on some of the players mentioned in this space yesterday and some interesting, high-profile additions to the list. The fun never stops …

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CHANDLER HEADED ELSEWHERE?

Chris Broussard and Marc Stein of ESPN.com: In a surprise development on the first day that NBA teams and agents could start talking about new contracts, Tyson Chandler came away convinced that his time with the Dallas Mavericks is coming to an end. “I really think I’m going to be on a new team come training camp,” Chandler told ESPN.com in a telephone interview Wednesday night. “I’m really taking a hard look at all of my options, trying to see what best suits me.” Chandler’s doubts about the Mavericks’ willingness to re-sign him to a lucrative long-term deal are bound to be welcome news for the teams already courting him in these early stages of free agency. Chandler and Denver center Nene rank as the two most coveted unrestricted free agents in the 2011 class, but the overwhelming sentiment in many front offices has been that Chandler’s return to Dallas was essentially a lock after the 7-footer’s role in helping the Mavericks win their first championship. Chandler, though, insisted Wednesday that such assumptions are a misnomer and admitted for the first time that he’s disappointed by the club’s decision not to offer him a contract extension after he was widely credited — most notably by Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki — for changing the team’s defensive culture after three first-round exits in the previous four years.

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TEAMS IN HOT PURSUIT OF NENE

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: The Nuggets, New Jersey Nets, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers were among the teams that reached out to Nene’s representatives Wednesday, the first day teams were allowed to contact agents to discuss potential deals. Once the offers arrive, it could take more than $13 million annually to sign Nene. While the market is still developing for him and the rest of a thin free-agent class, he’s clearly the focus for every team with cap space and the need for an inside presence. The Nuggets are pressed to keep him, and would likely have to pay significantly more than would’ve been necessary if they had worked a deal with him prior to his opting out this summer. The Nets could be the major threat for Nene because of their combination of salary-cap space and desire to surround point guard Deron Williams with as much talent as possible to convince him to sign an extension. Privately, Williams has made it clear that he’s far less inclined to re-sign a long-term deal with the Nets if they don’t immediately improve their roster. New Jersey can also gather assets and still stay in position to make trade offers to the Orlando Magic for Dwight Howard.

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METTA WORLD PEACE AN AMNESTY CANDIDATE?

Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times: Achieving world peace comes with a hefty price tag. The Lakers might feel the same way about another form of World Peace, this one the goofy 6-foot-7 Lakers forward who flexes his biceps, makes the Staples Center crowd gasp every time he shoots and goes by the first name Metta. The Times’ Mike Bresnahan has reported that the Lakers might waive the player formerly known as Ron Artest via the league’s amnesty clause. Such a move could move somewhat risky considering that Artest’s defense remains strong and waiving World Peace would make it necessary for the Lakers acquire a defensive stalwart to replace him. But the thought process makes sense for basketball and monetary reasons. World Peace averaged a career-low 8.5 points last season and appears, at 32, to be on the decline in maintaining the lateral movement and quickness that have made him a top defender. By shedding World Peace’s three-year, $21.5-million contract, Bresnahan estimated that the Lakers could save as much as $27 millon in salary and taxes in 2013-14 under the new rules, should the Lakers remain between $10 million and $15 million over the tax threshold. That would prove more beneficial than even cutting forward Luke Walton (two years, $11.46 million).  That’s why it’s important World Peace understands and embraces the need to temper his antics, ranging from his Twitter rants to his on-court goofiness and his name himself.

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Utah owner: No hard feelings, D-Will

In the end, Greg Miller said Wednesday, he went with his gut.

The owner of the Utah Jazz said in a telephone interview that he decided to OK the trade of All-Star guard Deron Williams to the New Jersey Nets because of his increasing belief that the Jazz could be caught empty-handed in the summer of 2012 if Williams decided not to re-sign in Utah, as other teams have found themselves in the past year.

“The concern that we as a franchise have had all along is if you look at what happened with LeBron James in Cleveland, and Amar’e Stoudemire in Phoenix, and Chris Bosh in Toronto, there seems to be a trend developing where those marquee players get away,” Miller said. “In the case of those three teams there was very little at the end to show for it. I was very concerned that the same thing would happen to us if Deron left.”

Utah traded Williams on Wednesday to the Nets for rookie forward Derrick Favors and point guard Devin Harris, and two first-round picks. One of the picks is New Jersey’s unprotected first-rounder next year; the other is a 2012 first-round pick originally acquired from the Golden State Warriors. The pick is protected through the first six picks of the Draft in 2012 and 2013, and through the top seven picks in 2014. That means that the pick will go to Utah if the Warriors do not finish with one of the six worst records in the league in 2012 or 2013, or one of the seven worst in 2014. If none of those scenarios occurs the first-round pick turns into second-round picks in 2014 and 2016.

Miller said he and general manager Kevin O’Connor had conversations over the past few months both with Williams and his representatives, and that Williams was non-committal about his future every time. He didn’t say he was definitely leaving, but he didn’t say he was definitely staying, either. And the Jazz were increasingly worried that Williams would walk.

“At the end of the day, I never heard him say he was going to stay or go,” Miller said. “Just going with my gut, I just felt like he would likely be moving on. The opportunity to make this trade caught us by surprise when NJ called (Tuesday) and asked if we’d be interested in doing the deal. Kevin called me yesterday afternoon … we decided this would be a great opporunity for the Utah Jazz to preserve the value of Deron Williams by trading for these four, essentially, first round picks, and control our destiny, which I wasn’t sure we would be able to do with Deron.”

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