Posts Tagged ‘Mickey Arison’

Thunder-Heat The New Lakers-Celtics?


MIAMI —
 Magic Johnson and Larry Bird duked it out in the NBA Finals three times in four seasons, although it seemed more like a million glorious battles. The two regular-season games between the rival Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics throughout the 1980s were must-see TV as those teams and their transcendent stars swept up a generation of new fans.

Michael Jordan followed as arguably the league’s greatest solo act with no equal to challenge him during the 90s.

Tuesday’s Christmas Day Finals rematch between the pillars of their respective conferences, LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant, the Miami Heat vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder, reminded just how riveting last season’s title series was and the undeniably tantalizing prospect of more to come, of an emerging Magic-Bird, Lakers-Celtics-style rivalry.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, a teenager during that great period, and assistant coach Bob McAdoo, a Lakers reserve for two Finals series against the Celtics, saw the makings of a modern-day rivalry between dueling MVP candidates and their championship-chasing teams last June.

“Both teams have multiple, once-in-a-generation players,” Spoelstra said prior to the Heat’s 103-97 Christmas Day win, referring to the Heat’s Dwyane Wade and the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook as supporting superstars. “You don’t see that too often, but we remember when we were in the Finals last year, the speed, athleticism, and competitiveness of that series, what we talked about was probably similar to what you saw in the 80s with those Celtics and Lakers teams. Coach McAdoo even said it reminded him of that because it was a force of nature of two teams of young, talented future hall of famers in their prime, and multiple ones on each team. That was a fierce, fierce series, and the five games did not properly tell how competitive that series was.”

The Heat won Games two through four by a margin no greater than six points. Tuesday’s intense matchup made it four of the last six between the two decided by six or less.

“Of course that’s a sexier matchup, as far as LeBron and me and Russell and D-Wade, Serge [Ibaka] and Chris Bosh, of course that’s the matchup everybody wants to see,” Durant said. “But you never know. We never try to concern ourselves like that, we try to take it a day at time, but it does play on last year, everybody talks about us building a rivalry. So, you know, if it does happen, that’d be fun, that’d be something great to be a part of.”

The new collective bargaining agreement, with its harsher luxury tax penalties, might ultimately determine the fate of this rivalry. The Thunder are in excellent position to contend for the foreseeable future. They made the difficult decision to trade James Harden before the season after locking up its young core of Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka at manageable salaries through 2016.

“We’re excited about where we’re going, but still we want to win a championship now,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “We’re not playing for next season or the next season after. We’re like every team, if you have a chance to win you want to win now.”

Heat owner Mickey Arison got one title with his dream-team trio and the Heat are prohibitive favorites to repeat. But, he’ll will have to commit to paying stiff luxury taxes to keep James, Wade and Bosh together to fulfill LeBron’s “not one, not two, not three…” prophecy.

The three All-Stars are under contract through 2016-17, but all three have early termination clauses after next season, and whispers of a James departure for the Lakers are already coming in like the warm Atlantic lapping the South Beach sands at low tide.

Labor Talks: Getting Down To Business

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — After months of disagreeing on almost everything, the end of September has delivered the first common ground NBA players and owners can share: time is of the essence.

With a clear understanding that the calendar is not on anyone’s side in the league’s labor dispute, the sense of urgency for both sides has cranked up. We offer the robust attendance and reported tone of the action during Friday’s meetings in New York Friday, which will continue today as reported by NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner, as Exhibit A:

A source told NBA.com’s David Aldridge that at one point, NBA commissioner David Stern was emphatically directing a comment — and pointing his finger — at [Dwyane] Wade, the Miami Heat’s All-Star guard. Wade objected and interrupted Stern, reportedly saying: “Don’t point your finger at me. I’m a grown man. I have children.”

The meeting broke at that point. A few minutes later, Stern sought out Billy Hunter, NBPA executive director, to briefly talk privately.  Soon thereafter, the session resumed.

While no one sounds ready to declare that a deal is imminent or even in the works, there is no doubt that everyone involved understands that it is time to get down to the business of solving their differences before it’s too late …

Stars Step Into the Spotlight

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: Before a stunning confrontation between Dwyane Wade and NBA commissioner David Stern in Friday’s labor meeting, Wade, LeBron James and Chris Paul told their Players Association peers that they’re willing to sit out the season rather than make further concessions to the owners, sources told Yahoo! Sports.

Wade, James and Paul were at the forefront of a strong players presence at a Park Avenue hotel for Friday’s contentious bargaining session. In a private union meeting prior to the bargaining session with owners, James kept reiterating to the group of elite players that they shouldn’t give back a greater share of the league’s basketball-related income (BRI) than what they’d already conceded in previous negotiations.

“We’re all together on 53 [percent], right?” James said. “All together on 53 right?”

“LeBron, Wade and Paul want to fight this so hard, they don’t seem scared about missing the season,” one source in the negotiating room told Yahoo! Sports.

James, Wade and Paul believe the owners are bluffing in threatening to ultimately cancel the season to get the changes they want in the collective bargaining agreement, a source in the meeting said. In the meeting with union peers, the three stars declared their willingness to miss games rather than drop down from the 53 percent of BRI the union has proposed to the NBA.

Despite the bold talk out of the sport’s biggest stars, the union privately has expressed a willingness to move further toward ownership this weekend with an understanding that Stern wants desperately to cut a deal with the players and avoid a prolonged work stoppage.

If nothing else, the owners did see the star players’ resolve on Friday. Once the players entered the room with the owners, Wade reacted harshly to what he perceived as Stern’s condescending way of lecturing him on the issue.

Union Holding The Line

Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated: There was widespread speculation entering the weekend that the union might be willing to make compromises in order to salvage the income from a full 82-game season. But two union sources said the players agreed to hold firm during an emotional private meeting Friday before the afternoon negotiations, with crucial leadership provided by [Paul] Pierce, the 2008 NBA Finals MVP of the Celtics.

The union leadership reviewed the recent give-and-take of the negotiations amid repeated questioning by Pierce and heated talk from James. Others spoke up as well, but when Pierce was told that the union had already offered to cut its revenue-share from 57 percent to 54 percent of Basketball Related Income (BRI) in order to help the owners deal with their operating losses, he urged his fellow players to unite behind Fisher and union chief Billy Hunter in not yielding further.

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Glory days

Those were the days, my friend. We thought they’d never end.

Remember the sound and fury? The music and the strobe lights? The indoor fireworks? The D.J. screaming and the crowd roaring? The hydraulic lift that brought LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh up onto the stage through the outpouring from a fog machine?

Remember the good old days of the Miami dynasty, that hot, sizzling evening inside American Airlines Arena when the Heat had not lost a single game? Or even six.

That was the night when the Heat held a championship celebration three months before the opening of training camp. That was the time when the world was their oyster and James, Wade and Bosh swapped pearls.

“The goal is to win championships,” said Wade, emphasizing the plural.

“We’re not afraid to be great,” Bosh said.

“I need a few of those,” said James, referring to championship rings. “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven…”

The crowd that filled the arena and danced in the aisles chanted: “Beat L.A.! Beat L.A.!” Nobody mentioned anything about first trying to beat Indiana.

The players hugged and they joked and they traded fist-bumps and one-liners. They all said that Erik Spoelstra was their coach of choice, and that Hall of Famer Pat Riley would not have to come out of the executive suite to lead them. In fact, they taunted him and said he wasn’t needed or wanted in that role.

They could break the Bulls’ record of 72 wins in a season in their imaginations, if not go 82-0.

Now this. A 16-point loss at home to the Pacers.

“They’re still kind of searching out how they’re going to find a role and work their roles together,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said on “The Waddle & Silvy Show” on ESPN 1000 in Chicago.

“The scenario that sits kind of behind the scene, is that eventually these guys that were recruited — Bosh and James — by Pat Riley and Mickey Arison, the owner, are going to come in and say, ‘We feel you (Riley) can do a better job coaching the team. We came here on the hopes that this would work,’ and whatever, I don’t know. That’s kind of my take on it, is that eventually if things don’t straighten out here soon, it could be the (Stan) Van Gundy thing all over again.”

Reality bites.

Seems it’s no longer how many championships they can collect, but how much indignity they can stand. It’s no longer if the ax falls on Spoelstra, only when.

Remember the Miami dynasty. Those were the days, my friend.