HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — A groundbreaking revelation from Jason Collins. A season-ending defeat for the Los Angeles Lakers, with reactions from Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and others included. And season-best rant from Rick Fox.
You get all of that and more on Episode 115 of the Hang Time Podcast, a discussion, debate and a diatribe from our very own resident Lakers expert.
Collins coming out as the first openly gay professional athlete in one of the four major American sports is a topic that certainly deserves our attention. What his coming out means for the rest of the league and the future was a discussion we had to have with the man, Mike Lee of The Washington Post, during what could very well have been his final NBA season.
Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Shaquille O’Neal and nearly every other Lakers great of note has weighed in on Dwight at one time or another this season. The reviews have usually been pretty harsh, too. But no one has been as consistently pointed in their analysis and criticism of the young(er) Superman in his lone season in Lakerland.
Rick pulls no punches in his latest, raw assessment of what Dwight did in LA this season (not much, according to Rick), what he needs to do to repair the damage (take the Lakers’ $119 million max deal and now) and what his legacy will be (damaged forever) if he can’t find a way to finish what’s been started in purple and gold.
It’s a must listen, right here on Episode 115 of the Hang Time Podcast …
HANG TIME, Texas – The win over the defending champion Heat in the first week of December was an eye opener. Taking down the Thunder in the first week of January was no less impressive.
But if the goal of the Wizards is to provide more than a once-a-month shock to the NBA system, then the season begins tonight.
Point guard John Wall will make his season debut tonight against the Hawks after missing three months due to a stress injury in his left patella. While nobody is expecting to see the player that averaged 16.3 points. 8.6 assists and 4.6 rebounds in his first two seasons, just having the former No. 1 draft pick on the court is finally a lift for the club that is again foundering at the bottom with a 5-28 record, the worst in the league.
Wall is trying to keep a lid on expectations, as he told Michael Lee of the Washington Post:
“I figure the first couple games probably won’t be the best games,” Wall said after practicing for the third consecutive day without complications from his left knee.
“Just go out there and play my game,” he said. “Don’t do too much. I know that’s the main thing I’ve got to do for my first game back. Just let the game come to me and just try to help my team out.”
Wall also doesn’t expect to have a difficult adjustment to playing alongside several new teammates after sitting next to the Wizards coaching staff for nearly every game and observing their tendencies. His teammates have already marveled as his speed and decision-making, which has been sorely missed for a team has started five different point guards this season – A.J. Price, Shaun Livingston, Jordan Crawford, Shelvin Mack and Garrett Temple.
When asked if he felt any external or internal pressures with coming back, Wall quickly responded, “No pressure at all.”
The biggest challenge for him, Wall said, will be “getting my legs underneath me but just working the offense, being the point guard, finding my teammates and knowing guys’ sweet spots is pretty easy to me.”
Without Wall to run the show, the Wizards have been virtually clueless all season, unable to attack defenses and score. In one more season when Washington made significant changes to the lineup — Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza, rookie Bradley Beal – they have clearly lacked a leader to pull it all together.
While the medical staff will have Wall operating under a limit on playing minutes as he works his way back into game shape, Wizards coach Randy Wittman says there will be no limits to what he asks of his franchise player in terms of leading his team.
“John is going to have the ball in his hands a lot,” Wittman said. “I don’t want to take any pressure off him. He hasn’t gotten any pressure yet this year. I want him to feel some pressure. John likes pressure.”
Of course, Wittman can only hope that Wall will relieve any pressure on his own situation, which has to be in the crosshairs of a season when Mike Brown, Avery Johnson and Scott Skiles have already been relieved of their head coaching jobs.
If there has been a reason that Wittman has been spared the same fate, it’s because he’s been coaching with one hand tied behind his back without Wall. Now that the Wizards’ main man is back in the lineup, the heat is on and the clock is ticking.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – It doesn’t matter if it’s choosing sides for kickball during recess or the NBA Draft, someone always feels slighted.
But the No. 1 pick of the 2010 Draft was done a grave disservice last night during the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge draft on NBA TV. When John Wall has to watch 11 other players, rookies and sophomores, come off the draft board ahead of him … “Houston we have a problem!”
If anyone thinks there are 11 first-and second-year players in the NBA better than Wall, playing better than Wall or that would get picked before Wall in a pick-up game anywhere on the planet, they are crazy.
I understand that the Wizards have been a frustrating group this season and that Wall’s reputation has suffered because of it. But this notion that he’s anything other than one of the best young talents in the league is simply foolishness.
Wall’s reaction to the draft snub from both Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley, who ended up taking him, was classic. His response, via Twitter, “Motivation!!”
Although his numbers are down this season, Wall still leads all second-year players in assists at 7.6 and ranks second only to the all-star Griffin in scoring average at 16.7 points (Yes, amidst the league-wide Linfatuation with the New York Knicks, Wall has actually produced better stats for the entire season).
Wall had a slow start to the season, but over his past 19 games, he is averaging 18.8 points, 8.0 assists and 5.3 rebounds. In his past six games, Wall is quietly averaging 21.8 points on 50.5 percent shooting and 9.8 assists
Wall has every reason to show out in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge. And this draft snub is all the motivation he needs to get loose. And I’m saying this after publicly endorsing Team Shaq last night.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We had too many games and way too many sick highlights from Wednesday night for us to waste your time this morning yapping.
So instead of lowering the boom on the Knicks or Wizards about their feeble showings or celebrating the Clippers … or the Hang Time Grizzlies … or the Heat … or the Bulls for looking great again. While some teams are struggling to find their way, some teams are already in the groove!
You can check them all out on the Daily Zap:
Heat fans will insist that we don’t dole out the proper love for their team around here on a regular basis. But don’t confuse us keeping two car lengths behind the Heat bandwagon with us not respecting their power.
The mood has yet to strike us here at the hideout. Sure, we’ve got all the Turkey Day fixings ready for Thursday.
Inside our own little basketball world here, there is little to be thankful about these days. We’re thankful the entire season hasn’t been canceled (yet). We’re thankful there is still a scrap of hope that the sides will come to their collective senses and put an end to this dreadful lockout.
But without either side giving an inch in the coming days and weeks, we won’t have that scrap to hold onto. Time is running short and not even the holiday season seems to be affecting the mood of the major players in this drama.
Many of these owners know how damaging a lockout can be, having gone through the 1998-99 lockout. There are 33 active players living through the second lockout of their careers — Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Grant Hill among many others — an average of slightly more than one player per team. You’d think they would know exactly how costly this current fight will be on the collective psyche of fans that don’t care about the particulars and just want their game back.
But while millions of people will spend Thursday carving that Thanksgiving turkey and watching NFL games with family and friends, enjoying every second, our game will remain dormant. Someone needs to wake up and breathe life back into the game. All it takes is one phone call to get the proverbial ball rolling …
Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: The NBA season is now in the hands of lawyers who can’t even figure out how to start a game of phone tag. That’s where we are. In a media briefing Monday to announce that the players have consolidated and refiled two separate antitrust claims into one class action in Minnesota, attorney David Boies lamented the slow response and virtual silence from the NBA since the actions were first filed last Tuesday. In fact, he scoffed at the league’s response — delivered to reporters via email from NBA counsel Rick Buchanan, and not commissioner David Stern — as evidence for why making a phone call to begin settlement talks would be “a waste of time.” ”I think they’ve made pretty clear, including by the statement that they just made, that they’ve got no interest in talking to us,” Boies said at his Manhattan office. “It takes two people to negotiate.” But it only takes one person to pick up the phone and dial a number to get the ball rolling. And Boies said neither side had done that as of Tuesday, at least not at the highest levels of the law firms involved — the law firms that now hold the future of a sport in their hands. Legal protocol says that Stern can’t really call former union director Billy Hunter, and the attorneys for either side can’t call one of the clients on the other. It’s a tangled web they’ve woven, one that has made tracks in four district courtrooms in three states since the NBA first sued the players in August. As to whether the players’ attorneys should call the NBA’s attorneys, or vice versa, there is protocol for that, too. The players have sued the NBA, and thus it is incumbent upon the NBA to respond. The league has until Dec. 5 to formally respond to the lawsuit in the U.S. District Co in Minnesota. Or, its legal representatives can at any time pick up the phone and call Boies or any of his associates working on behalf of the players to initiate settlement talks. This would not only bring the league closer to stopping the clock on potential damages, but also would start the clock on possibly having a basketball season.
Howard Beck of The New York Times: The N.B.A. will argue that the players’ disbanding of the union is a sham perpetrated solely as a bargaining tactic, and that the antitrust laws should not apply. Boies said the primary goal remained a quick settlement that would save the 2011-12 season. “If the league’s approach is to ignore this litigation and try to go into a state of denial and hope it goes away, I think that will not be in anybody’s interest,” Boies said. “I don’t think it’s in our interest, I don’t think it’s in their interest. It’s certainly not in the fans’ interest.” Boies said he originally considered filing the lawsuit in Minnesota, which is in the Eighth Circuit, before choosing Northern California, which is in the Ninth Circuit. Both jurisdictions have a history of player-friendly rulings, with one notable recent exception. Last spring, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected N.F.L. players’ bid for a permanent injunction to end that league’s lockout. Boies represented the N.F.L. in that case. The Minnesota court provides two advantages over the Northern California courts, Boies said. It generally has a less congested docket, and it has a history of moving cases along swiftly. Although antitrust cases can sometimes take years to resolve, Boies said he believed he could get a declaration of summary judgment much sooner, perhaps in three months. “This is not a complex antitrust suit,” Schiller said, adding, “It’s not going to take years. It’s going to take months, if not weeks.”
Chris Sheridan of Sheridanhoops.com: The next logical step in the illogical NBA lockout is for David Boies to call Jeffrey Mishkin, or for Jeffrey Mishkin to call David Boies. The latter attorney, Boies, who represented Al Gore against George W. Bush in the 2000 U.S. presidential election, now represents NBA players, and Mishkin is the outside counsel for NBA commissioner David Stern and the owners. It would take approximately 2 minutes for their secretaries to put that call together. And after obfuscating and posturing for the better part of an hour in a meeting with reporters Monday night, Boies finally yielded to the relentless logical questioning of yours truly, put his hands to his temples for 13 seconds and then said he may just go ahead and make that phone call sometime in the next day or two. “Some lawyers say to pick up the phone is a sign of weakness,” Boies said. “But if you’re weak, you’re weak, and if you’re strong, you’re strong. It doesn’t make you weak or strong by your calling or not calling. On the other hand, until they’re prepared to say something other than what they just put out in this statement, the question is, why are you calling?” This particular episode of peacocking … oops, I mean news briefing … was designed to be a show of strength from the players’ new lead attorney, an epic billable hour ($1,225 is Boies’ going rate) of rhetorical posturing about how the NBA owners are now in really, really big trouble because they are leaving themselves open for triple damages — about $6 billion if the entire 2011-12 season is missed.
Marcus Thompson II of the Oakland Tribune: Warriors rookie Klay Thompson, drafted No. 11 overall, crossed that bridge last week when his beloved Washington State Cougars took on rival Gonzaga. Watching from home, he said had he known the lockout would have come to this, “it probably would have affected my decision” to leave college early. Whether they should have stayed college isn’t the only nagging question. Should they go overseas? Should they borrow money or tough it out? It is common practice for rookies — especially first-rounders, millionaires-in-waiting — to get a loan from their financial adviser. Some, like Thompson, however, don’t want to accumulate debt. So he’s “living like a broke college student” while staying at home with his parents. Tyler is living with his brother in Cupertino. The hard part about the waiting, they say, is they have no idea when it will end. Eventually, they’ll get paid, get to play on the big stage. Until then, their time is filled trying not to go insane. ”They need to work out,” Oakland-based agent Aaron Goodwin said. “Take a class or two online. Do some work towards finishing their degree.” Both Warriors rookies said they work out daily. Preparing for camp, whenever it starts. Training for their debut, whenever it comes. Tyler, who’s been training at Cal, said he is embracing the center position. He’s trying to get in the best shape possible and work on his low-post game. Thompson trains at various spots in Southern California and plays pick-up with various NBA players in the area. Still, he acknowledged the monotony of it all. ”It’s de-motivating,” Thompson said. “Not knowing when the season is starting. Not knowing how long this will go on. We’re doing the same thing every day. I’m not going to lie. It’s hard to stay motivated.”
Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk.com: Hope of a partial season springs from the fact in the next few weeks (likely after Dec. 5) we can expect the judge to order more mediated negotiations between the two sides, PBT was told. Mandated mediation is commonly part of anti-trust lawsuits, essentially a chance for the judge to make sure the two sides really want to go down this path. To give the sides one more chance to settle their differences without a judge involved. (It is possible one side picks up the phone and calls the other to ask for a negotiating session, but that is the less likely scenario. The owners have said they wouldn’t do that and players attorney Boies said he would not because the league is not receptive.) A judge likely will order mediated negotiations by the middle of December if not before, according to the source. Talks would start soon after. This would be similar to the talks when federal mediator George Cohen sat down with the sides last month. The one key difference would be the level of pressure on both sides to figure this out — the players do not want to lose a season of salary ($2.2 billion), the owners do not want to lose a season of revenue (at a much higher percentage for them than the last deal), plus neither side wants to damage the game by costing a full season. What is the point of fighting over how to divide up the revenue pie if the pie itself gets smaller? In addition, the threat of summary judgment — which would certainly be a huge loss for whichever side did not convince the judge of its case — is another motivation for both sides to figure this out.
Lee Benson of the Deseret News:Derek Fisher isn’t unique or alone. He simply serves as a convenient and highly visible example of the serious dysfunction that is the NBA, a place where for decades well-paid, well-fed employees have constantly snapped at the hands that feed them. Here in Utah we’ve been watching it up close and personal since the Jazz first arrived in 1979. It’s been like living next door to the expensive house on the hill where the parents continually and lavishly spoil their children. They give them whatever they want, treat them like royalty — and in turn the children behave like ungrateful brats. We’ve all watched as salaries have increased like Argentinian inflation, as amenities that range from plush practice and playing facilities to charter jets have grown exponentially, as players have become so pampered they don’t even drive their own Escalades to the arena and wouldn’t think of paying full-price for anything. (And as the price of tickets and concessions rise year after year.) And yet, it’s never enough. Right now, the average NBA salary is $5.1 million, the median NBA salary is $2.4 million (half of the players make more, half make less), and the least anyone can make is $500,000 (the rookie minimum). And the players are revolting at the owners’ notion that they need to scale back because there’s a Great Recession going on, almost a 10th of America is unemployed … and by the way, two-thirds of the league’s franchises are losing money every year. In a way you can’t fault the players. Isn’t this how the overindulged always behave? By the same token, the owners have only themselves to blame. They purchased their season of discontent through their decades of constant pampering and acquiescence.
Michael Lee of The Washington Post:Andray Blatche may have missed out on his first NBA paycheck of the season last week – and might lose out on $6.4 million if the NBA lockout wipes out the 2011-12 campaign – but that hasn’t stopped him from trying to make Thanksgiving special for some families in need. Blatche plans to join Roger Mason Jr. and the National Basketball Players Association on Tuesday to hand out 100 turkeys on a first-come-first-serve basis at the Laurel Boys and Girls Club from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Blatche has given away turkeys through his charity foundation in the past, but he rarely had the opportunity to connect with people since he was busy playing for the Wizards. But already this year, Blatche has given turkeys to single-parent mothers, breast cancer survivors and battered woman in his hometown of Syracuse, in South Carolina and Florida. He also volunteered over the weekend at a round-robin basketball challenge sponsored by the Maryland-National Capital Park Police. “I’m at a point in my life where I’m straight,” Blatche said in a recent telephone interview. “I’m just doing what me and my family believe in, which is giving back and always count your blessings. That’s why I’m out here doing as much stuff as possible. Even though it’s not the season, I’m still continuing to do what I’ve been doing.” Blatche has been a steady presence over the past few months at the Laurel Boys and Girls Club, where he has worked out with trainer Joe Connelly four to five days a week. Mason and Wizards teammates John Wall and Hamady Ndiaye have also trained with Blatche in recent weeks. “They let me work out there, so I’m showing some love back,” Blatche said of his turkey giveaway.
Iman Shumpert for the New York Post: Friday night, I headed out to Bridgeport, Conn., to play in another charity game for us locked-out players. The people who came out — maybe 2,000 — provided us plenty energy with cheers and competitive boos. I decided to sit out the last part of the game after going up for a dunk and feeling an awkward pain in my knee. I could have kept playing, but decided just to ice it to ensure I was OK. Nothing major. I think it was due to not warming up at half because I was hanging out with fans and doing photos and autographs, which is partly why we were there. Some of the many participants were Tyreke Evans, Sam Young, Josh Selby, Wes Mathews, Nolan Smith, Howard Thomkins and Travis Leslie. My team won, 171-169. The best part for me was getting a chance to connect with more Knicks fans praying for a season! It was a great turnout. The last couple days, I’ve spent time in the studio where Tupac was shot — Quad Recording Studios in Midtown. Definitely a magical feeling in that sort of work environment. I did a collaboration with Billz, an up-and-coming, unsigned Brooklyn group. This Thanksgiving, I have a lot to be thankful for. The lockout has given me a chance to for once have a lot of down time to spend with family and friends.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – When a monster trade happens and you need an extensive breakdown, we’d like for you to be able pull up a chair here at the hideout and get all your questions answered.
We’ll take care of everything, including asking all the right questions of the people in the know.
So on a weekend that sees Rashard Lewis, Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus, Marcin Gortat, Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu all change teams on the same weekend (in two different deals instigated by Magic GM Otis Smith), we want to make sure you come here for the breakdown.
And we took care of all that and more on Episode 37 of the Hang Time Podcast.
If this is just the start of a crazy couple of months before the February trade deadline, two more teams that could be in the middle of the movement mix are the Hawks, the only team in the Southeast Division yet to overhaul their operation in the past two seasons, and the Knicks, who are desperately pursuing another All-Star (Carmelo Anthony) to play alongside Amar’e Stoudemire.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Sixty-one seconds of wobbly footage (sorry, it’s all we could dig up) is hardly enough time to examine the fit in Washington.
And by the fit, we obviously mean how Gilbert Arenas and rookie point guard John Wall can work together in the backcourt for the Wizards this season. The great debate began long before the Wizards actually drafted Wall with the No. 1 overall pick in the June draft.
Everyone has an opinion about if it can and how it might work:
We’re going on record here at the hideout as wanting to see how these guys work together. There’s no need to trade Arenas yet, not before we see him in action with Wall as his wingman. (Despite this notion that this is now Wall’s team, we’re not buying it. Arenas is still the alpha dog.)
Arenas is still one of the most ruthless scorers of his generation. And from all indications, he’s spent his time away from the spotlight tightening every facet of his game in anticipation of a monster comeback season.
Having Kirk Hinrich around as insurance also helps ease any tensions that might exist between Arenas and Wall, while also providing the Wizards with a living example of a veteran guard that understands when and how to defer to a younger teammate with loads of talent and potential.
That said, there are folks much closer to the situation that think this pairing could actually work, albeit with Wall “running the show” and Arenas as his wing man.
With Wall running the show, Arenas will be freed from the burden of balancing making decisions for the team and going for his. Now, Arenas can simply focus on scoring, which plays more into his natural instincts. With Arenas moving to shooting guard, he also won’t have to worry about defending the quicker point guards in the league, ones like Tyreke Evans, who gave him so much trouble last season. Yes, the 6-foot-4 Arenas will have to contend with shooting guards who are much taller and stronger, but those bigger guards will also have to deal with him on the other end.
[Flip] Saunders implemented a two-guard offense near the end of last season, and while he will use some of those plays, the plan is for Arenas to routinely spell Wall from ball-handing duties, especially if there comes a time when Wall gets overwhelmed. And, with a rookie point guard trying to handle Saunders’s complicated offense and pressure from opposing teams looking to fluster him, you can bank on that happening a few times.
Arenas will be the highest paid player on the Wizards for the next four seasons, unless some team decides to take a chance on him in the interim, so he remains an important figure whose performance and behavior will always be heavily scrutinized. But as one team insider told me, Arenas doesn’t have the “juice” he once had, having exhausted his good favor within the organization with that locker room incident.
There is the potential that Arenas will grow frustrated with a somewhat marginalized role. The team has several new pieces, but some of the holdovers are used to deferring to the veteran Arenas.
His fourth comeback will be underway in two weeks, but since the Wizards’ fortunes no longer reside in Arenas’s ability to play at an elite level, success will be measured mostly in his ability to conform. That still is a lot to expect of him.
In a sea of training camp questions from around the league, sorting out the Arenas-Wall situation looms as one of the most intriguing. Never mind that the expectations for this Wizards team are as low as they’ve been in years and they’re playing in arguably the most rugged division (Southeast) in the league this year.
This is a turning point season for the franchise, now that Ted Leonsis is in control and the Wizards are starting basically from scratch. This Arenas-Wall chemistry experiment either works like magic and the Wizards take a turn for the better or it blows up and Arenas has to go.
Either way, it is must-see drama, especially during training camp, for all of us.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Summer League is over and the free agent frenzy has slowed to a crawl.
Someone even had the nerve to utter the word “offseason” here at the hideout, a taboo topic around these parts where we go hard, 365 days a year.
The Hang Time Podcast, however, is still going strong. Episode 18 is ready for your ears and filled with information.
Michael Lee of the Washington Post joined us to talk about John Wall‘s sensational summer league debut and what’s in store for Wall, Gilbert Arenas and the rest of a Wizards team bent on resurrecting itself after a tumultuous 2009-10 season.
NBA.com’s very own Art Garcia also joined us from Las Vegas to discuss the summer’s most intriguing rookie lightning rod, Wall’s former Kentucky teammate DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins, and much, much more.
We’ve also added a new wrinkle to the show. The HTP Skype Call of the Week made it’s debut. We’re taking at least one call a week from the listeners. Make sure to stay tuned to the show on Twitter so you can weigh in on whatever topics we are discussing every week.