Posts Tagged ‘Muhammad Ali’

Morning shootaround — August 3

VIDEO: Steve Smith shines a light on the offseason winners and losers


Noah active, energized this summer | Thunder coach Donovan tough as they come | Okafor has great expectations for Sixers

No. 1: Noah active, energized this summer — Change has been good for Joakim Noah. The Chicago Bulls’ All-Star big man has been active this summer and energized this summer, both in the community and where basketball is concerned. Noah feels good. His mind is clear and his focus is sharp. And as far as his new coach, Fred Hoiberg, is concerned, the vibes are good. K.C. Johnson from the Chicago Tribune has more on Noah’s big summer:

Given that Joakim Noah spoke Saturday at an anti-violence community event his foundation organized, the Bulls’ big man placed last season’s personal struggles in perspective.

“Last year was a tough year for me. I feel it was very humbling,” Noah said. “We went through a lot. Right now, I’m feeling healthy both physically and mentally. I’m really excited about our upcoming opportunity. I never take anything for granted.”

Noah, who attended Saturday’s ONE CITY youth basketball tournament at the Major Adams Community Center near the United Center with his mother and sister, has been working out this offseason in California. Recently, new coach Fred Hoiberg visited.

He’s confident his summer at a sports science academy has put the health issues he experienced last season after May 2014 left knee surgery behind him.

“I feel great,” Noah said. “This is the first time I’ve taken a lot of time for myself to just focus on what I need to get done. Sometimes when you go through humbling experiences, (you) hungrier than ever. And I feel ready to prove I can help this team win big.”

Noah said he enjoyed “vibing” with Hoiberg.

“We got to break bread together,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed talking to the coaching staff, spending time with Fred. I think it’s going to be very different.”

Asked to elaborate, Noah smiled.

“Time will tell,” he said. “But it will definitely be different. We had a lot great times with Tom Thibodeau. He’s a great coach. I learned a lot from him. I’ve experienced a lot with him. I only have good things to say about him. I’m looking forward to this new chapter in my career.”

Before the tournament, Noah and his mother, Cecilia Rodhe, unveiled his Noah’s Arc Foundation’s latest public service announcement centered on its “Rock Your Drop” movement. It’s centered on peace, unity and positive change in the face of Chicago’s rampant gun violence.

Spike Lee, Bears running back Matt Forte, “Chicago Fire” actor David Eichenberg and St. Sabina’s Rev. Michael Pfleger are some of the spot’s prominent cameos.

“‘Rock Your Drop’ is a movement that started with my mother. It has been part of my vision as a basketball player since I was a kid,” Noah said. “For it to be finally here and feel this love really means so much to me and to my family. To launch this PSA is huge. To be able to play for the Chicago Bulls is something other than just basketball. When I see people wearing their drops, it means the world to me and my mom.”

Rodhe, an artist, chiseled the small drop out of stone 18 years ago. Noah wore one on a necklace.

“We’re all one. We’ve all been given life,” Rodhe said. “It doesn’t matter where we’re from. I’m from Sweden. You may say, ‘What are you doing here, blonde lady, on the South Side of Chicago? This isn’t your problem.’ I say no. When something is as strong as gun violence and you see the pain of moms, that’s all of ours problem.”

Noah is very hands-on with his foundation. He joked about converting now-teenage kids who razzed him about Kevin Durant fans five or six years ago.

“This will be my ninth season here and I don’t take that for granted,” Noah said. “Guys move around in my profession. They get traded. To be with a team for that long is special.

“I’m working as hard as I can on the court and this is a part of what I wanted to do since I started playing basketball. This is like home. We’ve been putting in a lot of work here. This is not a gimmick. It’s for the right reasons. To be able to do all this work makes me happy.”


No. 2: Thunder coach Donovan tough as they come — Anybody wondering what kind of transition Billy Donovan will make to the NBA after years as one of the nation’s elite college coaches need only peek into his past. Donovan is as tough as they come, having honed his game and his basketball sensibilities in Queens and, later, the Big East. If Donovan’s pedigree is any indication, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and the Co. are in good hands. Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman explains:

After the Big East formed in 1979, basketball interest in the northeast spiked. The early ‘80s produced a golden age for high school point guards in NYC, meaning the 1983 Wheelchair event, the 10th annual, was a must-see edition.

That graduating class had Dwayne “Pearl” Washington, the playground legend and soon-to-be Syracuse star, and future NBA starters Kenny Smith and Mark Jackson.

But it was a sub 6-foot white kid from an affluent area of Long Island who stole the show in that showcase game. His name was Billy Donovan.

“Oh, Billy went off,” said his high school teammate, Frank Williams.

Donovan’s Queens team faced the Brooklyn squad led by Pearl Washington, the game’s headliner. Months earlier, Donovan battled Washington’s in a six-quarter high school scrimmage. Pearl had 82 points.

“We pressed the whole game and he just weaved in and out,” Donovan said. “I learned a lot.”

Donovan was a game-control point guard. Slick ball-handling was his greatest strength. Pearl was a wizard with the ball, his moves legendary. At the Wheelchair Classic, Donovan put his mental notes from the scrimmage to use.

“I don’t think Pearl was ready for it,” Williams laughed.

In the highlight play of his highlight day, Donovan sent Pearl sprawling on a left-handed, inside-out crossover dribble, cruising past him for a layup.

“Pearl nearly fell down,” said Billy’s childhood best friend Kevin Quigley. “The crowd went nuts. Just hooting and hollering. The little white boy just juked Pearl out of his shoes.”

Billy Donovan made a career out of willing himself to success. Too small and athletically limited to compete against premiere athletes? He molded himself into a player and led Providence to an unlikely Final Four run. Florida is a second-tier hoops program at a football school? He quickly turned them into a national powerhouse. Too inexperienced to coach in the NBA? Sam Presti just handed him the keys to the most important season in the Thunder’s brief franchise history.

But before there was Billy Donovan the iconic coach or Billy The Kid bombing 3s at Providence College there was Billy the kid, a Long Island youth addicted to basketball.

“It was almost an obsession,” Quigley said.


No. 3: Okafor has great expectations for Sixers — Philadelphia 76ers rookie Jahlil Okafor is well aware of the struggles that have gone on prior to his arrival in the City of Brotherly Love. But that has not soured him on what could be. He has great expectations for what he and the Sixers will get done in his rookie season. Marc Narducci of the Philadelphia Inquirer has the details:

Okafor averaged 18.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in two Las Vegas Summer League games. Before that, he averaged 14.0 points and 8.3 rebounds in three summer league games in Utah.

“I was satisfied,” Okafor said of his summer performance. “I got better every game and worked on everything.”

Covington said Okafor has already made an impact.

“He has brought a whole lot of excitement to this team,” Covington said. “He is a big man who has made his presence known already.”

Another big man, Joel Embiid, will miss a second straight season because of another procedure on his foot.

“It is hard to do, but he is doing well, and he is keeping his head high,” Covington said.

Just as the focus last season was on Nerlens Noel, this season it will be on Okafor. He said he can’t wait to get settled in the Philadelphia area and is looking for a place to live.

Okafor won’t lack confidence. He expects a lot from a Sixers team coming off an 18-64 season. He knows the expectations will again be low, but he doesn’t care.

“Everybody knows we have expectations, and the fans have expectations, and that is all that matters,” he said.

Okafor will be a trendy choice for rookie of the year because he is expected to play major minutes.

“It’s definitely a possible goal,” he said about earning the award. “Definitely.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Michael Jordan is still the G.O.A.T., just ask Jimmy ButlerNancy Lieberman called Muhammad Ali after joining the Sacramento Kings as an assistant coach … Got cash? You’ll need plenty of it to buy the New York penthouse of former Brooklyn star Deron Williams

Morning Shootaround — Jan. 25

Melo is King for a very special night | Anthony’s big night by the numbers | He’s a ‘bad man,’ but ‘The Greatest?’ | Parsons’ 10 from distance send USA message

No. 1: Melo is King for a very special night — The game was a sellout – 19,812 at Madison Square Garden – so it wasn’t a matter of empty seats masquerading years from now as truth-stretchers, as in “I was there when Carmelo Anthony scored 62 points.” Oh, that number will grow ten-fold over time, with New York Knicks fans wanting to touch and be a part of Anthony’s very special night (even if they weren’t).

But considering the opponent (Charlotte), the fact that this game was played on a Friday night and the dreary ways of the Knicks lately – with a Super Bowl headed to town! – it’s safe to assume many longtime Knicks fans found their entertainment elsewhere and are kicking themselves today. A scan of bylines shows how few of New York media’s NBA “name” writers and columnists actually were working.

That’s the danger, that’s the capriciousness and that’s the beauty of sports, the possibility that on any given night you might see something completely unexpected that sets tongues to wagging worldwide. Anthony did that when he made 23 of 35 shots against the Bobcats, setting scoring records for the Knicks franchise and MSG. Here’s just one of the waggers, Ken Berger of

What you will hear about Melo’s magical performance — a franchise and current Madison Square Garden record — is that it proves nothing except the worst stereotypes about one of the NBA’s most gifted scorers. The grumpy old men in the balcony from the Muppets were already chirping on Twitter about how Anthony didn’t have a single assist to go with his 62 points.

As if he’s supposed to pass to J.R. Smith on his way into the NBA history books, with his team rolling to a rare night of outright elation, on its way to a 29-point victory, 125-96. As if Kobe Bryant was supposed to pass to Smush Parker on his way to 81 against the Toronto Raptors in January 2006.

Bryant had two assists that night, in case you’re wondering — proof, I suppose, of Anthony’s enduring selfishness.

Nonsense. Anthony has been anything but during this lost season in New York. He has done nothing but rise above the circus atmosphere that has engulfed his team, leading the NBA in minutes played (39 per game) while putting together one of his best all-around seasons. His nine rebounds per game are a career high, and his 3.1 assists (yep, assists) are the sixth-highest average of his career.

More than anything, though, Anthony has not fueled what could easily have become a free-agent hysteria with his chance to opt out and hit the market after the season. He hasn’t complained about his predicament, because after all, it is his predicament. Melo wanted New York so badly that he forced his way here in a trade that stripped a young, promising Knicks team built by Donnie Walsh of most key assets it had.

That, in the end, will be Anthony’s burden to bear. He just gave everyone a reminder that, on nights like this one, he’s worth it.


No. 2: Anthony’s big night by the numbers — The player whose Knicks scoring record Anthony broke Friday is also the Hall of Famer to whom he often has been compared. Bernard King played for five teams across 14 NBA seasons, but it was his four years in New York that established the Brooklyn native, by way of the University of Tennessee, as one of the league’s all-time most potent scorers.

King, who averaged 26.5 points in the 206 games (of his career 874) he played for New York, found himself trending on Twitter as Anthony stalked and snagged his franchise scoring mark. And he even got in on the excitement:

In a performance so memorable due to numbers, it figured that the folks at Elias Sports Bureau would have a few statistical quirks and surprises to share:

• Anthony scored 62 points in the Knicks’ win over the Bobcats. It was the 61st time in NBA history that a player scored 60 or more points in a regular-season game. Wilt Chamberlain did it 32 times, all other players combined for 29 such games.

• Anthony scored exactly 50 points in a game three times prior to Friday night, twice for the Nuggets and once for the Knicks. Anthony is only the fourth player in NBA history to score 50 or more points in a game at least twice for two different teams. Chamberlain did it of course, as did Pete Maravich (Jazz and Hawks) and King (Bullets and Knicks). Thirty-seven of Anthony’s points came in the first half, the most for any player in the first half of a game since Bryant scored 42 first-half points against Washington on March 28, 2003.

• Anthony also hauled in 13 rebounds to go along with his 62 points becoming only the fifth different player in NBA history with that many points and rebounds in a game. The others to do that were Chamberlain (22 times), Elgin Baylor (three), David Robinson and Michael Jordan.


No. 3: He’s a ‘bad’ man, but The Greatest? — What, more Melo? To which we at Hang Time HQ respond: What, someone scores 62 points every night in The Association?

While a lot of the better-known NBA media folks in New York were somewhere other than MSG Friday, George Willis of the New York Post was on hand and probed an interesting Anthony-Muhammad Ali angle. In fact, it might have said more about the Knicks star than Willis even realized. The columnist focused on Ali as inspiration for Anthony Friday, thanks to a pregame video the team was shown.

But the parallel between Ali and Anthony might go deeper. One dominated in an individual sport, the other tries to dominate individually in a team sport. Ali, through ego and deeds, separated himself from the pack, while Anthony, with his own ego and deeds, often seems to separate himself from teammates and teams.

While some critics focused on Anthony’s assist total Friday – zero – to take a few new whacks at him on his night of 35 shots and 62 points, the assist numbers of the other Knicks might have been more revealing. Hard to argue that Melo should have been passing to cohorts not nearly as hot in shooting touch. But in their passing to him, none of the Knicks had more than five assists and the team had just 23. The Bobcats posted the same number, 23, on 13 fewer buckets.

This was Anthony at his individual best, initiating and finishing the highlights Friday. Only five of his first 18 field goals were assisted and just nine of 23 overall. The old “Does he make teammates better?” question that the game’s elite strive to answer still hands over him.
Here is a little of Willis’ take:

Before the game, Anthony was so intense, a few of his teammates asked if there were something wrong. There was a lot wrong: Like a five-game losing streak, three straight losses to begin an eight-game homestand and all the talk about the Knicks starting to turn on coach Mike Woodson. There was also talk of whether the Knicks would be better off without Anthony’s huge contract.

Amid the growing adversity, Anthony found inspiration in the words of Ali.

“It was one of his speeches about greatness,” center Tyson Chandler said. “He said, ‘I’m going to show you that I’m great.’ Everybody was against him. Obviously, Melo took it to heart.”

Anthony took it to heart and to the court.

“Hearing the words of Muhammad and then getting out there making those first couple shots, I felt like it was going to be a good night,” Anthony said.


No. 4: Parsons’ 10 from distance send USA message — Not everything amazing happened in the Knicks-Bobcats game Friday. In the second half of Houston’s 88-87 home loss to Memphis, Chandler Parsons made 10 3-pointers, more than any NBA player in a half and matching the Rockets’ record for a full game.
It wasn’t enough as the Grizzlies’ defense on Houston’s last possession forced the ball out of his hands. But it was notable, exciting and tinged with a little resentment, with Parsons feeling yet again overlooked, this time by USA Basketball. As Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reported:

He did, however, hope he had sent a message after he felt he had been snubbed when excluded from the USA Basketball Men’s National team 28-player roster.

“I’m going to use that the rest of my career,” Parsons said. “I’m not surprised. I’ve been overshadowed, overlooked my whole life. I was very frustrated. A life dream of mine is to play on that team. I deserved to be on that team. I played well in the camp. My game, my versatility, I feel like I’d be perfect for that system. I was upset. I still am upset. I think it’s a joke I’m not on there. Maybe next time.

“I guess I can take a positive from a negative and hit 10 3s in a half from here on out.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Who are the Lakers? And for that matter, why? Pau Gasol gets frustrated and existential.Doc Rivers thinks the Bulls would be nuts to let coach Tom Thibodeau walk away – Rivers-style, Celtics to Clippers – though Thibodeau was thinking more Friday night of Kate Upton. … Steph Curry had 33 points and 15 assists, the Warriors shot 55.1 percent and yet Golden State lost? Wait, the brighter perspective: Minnesota won a close game. …

The World, NBA Lose A Friend In Mandela

VIDEO: The Inside crew discusses the legacy of icon Nelson Mandela

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — As the world mourns Nelson Mandela, the basketball world feels that pain deep in its collective soul, having lost one of its greatest ambassadors.

The anti-apartheid leader and former President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999 died Thursday. He was 95. Mandela leaves a legacy as a global icon and activist who helped bring about seismic change in his native South Africa as the first black South African to hold the office. He was the first President elected in a fully representative, multiracial election and was a symbolic figure for freedom, democracy and change the world over.

The Mandela-led government was at the forefront of dismantling the legacy of apartheid by tackling institutionalized racism, poverty and inequality while fostering racial reconciliation.

Mandela was the President of the African National Congress (ANC) and spent 27 years in South African prisons for his political views. He distinguished himself in all walks of life, earning global admiration. A passionate sports fan — he was a true believer in the power of sports uniting people of all walks of life, both in South Africa and around the world — Mandela was instrumental in the NBA’s partnership with South Africa, a mutually beneficial relationship that dates to 1993, some 10 years before the league’s Basketball Without Borders program made its initial foray into Africa.

VIDEO: Former and present NBA players remember life of Nelson Mandela

Players like Dikembe Mutombo, Alonzo Mourning, Patrick Ewing, John Starks and coaches Wes Unseld and Lenny Wilkens joined forces with NBA Commissioner David Stern and then NBPA executive director Charlie Grantham for the first of two groundbreaking trips to the continent, helping to open doors for the NBA in that part of the world and allowing South Africa to show the rest of the world what it means to be transformed from a nation that epitomized racism into a democracy led by one of the greatest leaders the world has seen.

The NBA opened an office in Johannesburg in the spring of 2010, with former Dallas Mavericks executive and Amadou Gallo Fall, a native of Senegal, heading up that effort as the NBA’s vice president for development of the NBA in Africa.

Said Stern on Thursday:

“Nelson Mandela was one of the most powerful and inspirational leaders in the world and a great friend of the NBA.  He led his nation to democracy at incredible personal sacrifice, and in rebuilding it, he understood how to harness the power of sport to inspire and unite people of all backgrounds.  Our thoughts and hopes are with the Mandela family and the people of South Africa, and while we mourn his passing, we know that his legacy and quest for equality will endure.”

Feel Their Heat, Spurs Are Finally Cool


All the latest hot things usually turn up in Miami — clubs, music, dances, swimsuits, celebrities.

It is only fitting then that here come the Spurs. Better late than never.

The trendiness of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker is the basketball equivalent of the Grand Canyon and Gov. Chris Christie’s waistline — a long time in the making.

Perhaps the ultimate irony is that the Spurs could finally achieve the fame and across-the-board appreciation that has eluded them by beating a high-profile Heat team whose long term goal is to be, well, them. A real dynasty.

Yes, the Spurs have already won not one, not two, not three, but four championships. Yet it is this SPF-rated bid for a fifth that is at last getting them more notice than another bronze belly button on South Beach.

While it is Miami’s Bought Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh that still moves the needle on TMZ and Twitter, the Built Three of San Antonio is getting an overdue moment in the sun. It is as if that box of old clothes somebody found in their attic suddenly drew nodding approval on the runaways in Paris and Milan.

All those years when Duncan was as reliable as a metronome with his forceful low post game and nine All-NBA first team selections, he was supposed to be as exciting as oatmeal and now he gets applause as another middle-aged 37-year-old who decided it would be wise to drop 25 pounds.

All those years when Parker was regarded as merely a French affectation, a jaunty little beret that coach Gregg Popovich would occasionally rip off and stomp upon during timeouts, and now he’s suddenly being celebrated as the best point guard in the game when, in fact, he’s been performing at that level for some time.

All those years when Ginobili would throw himself regularly around NBA courts like a crash-test dummy with no regard for his own safety and now he’s earning respect for picking his spots to wreak havoc at a time when he appears held together with duct tape and glue.

For all those years, the Spurs have been accused of being dull, boring and always a ratings-killer when they showed up under the bright lights of The Finals. (more…)

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 95) Featuring Etan Thomas

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — From Bill Bradley a generation ago to Kevin Johnson and Dave Bing, the list of NBA stars who have gone on to distinguished careers in politics is as impressive as it is brief.

If we had our way, Etan Thomas would join that list one day.

A 10-year NBA veteran, Thomas is an accomplished poet, author, activist, public speaker and all around renaissance man in the mold of conscious professional athletes from a bygone era — when you grow up with an understanding of the legacy of living legends like Bill Russell, Jim Brown, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Muhammad Ali there is only one way to go.

Born in Harlem, raised in Tulsa and now a resident of the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, the former Syracuse and Washington Wizards (he also played with Oklahoma City Thunder and Atlanta Hawks) star is in a prime position to follow in some pretty famous footsteps … whenever he’s ready.

But before he moves on to a life in politics beyond the work he did in helping President Barack Obama get a second term, we enlisted the services of the author Fatherhood: Rising To The Ultimate Challenge, to assist our very own Lang Whitaker with some of the nuances of the job just five days into his journey as a new dad. We also debate about the Wizards and how many games they’ll win this season, discuss the impact Robert Griffin III is having on the entire region and the link Thomas has to Tulsa’s famed Booker T. Washington high school and one of its most famous alums, the late former NBA and jazz great Wayman Tisdale.

You get all of that and a complete examination of the news and headlines in the NBA on Episode 95 of the Hang Time Podcast  featuring Etan Thomas, with your hosts Sekou Smith,  Whitaker and Rick Fox. 


As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Lang Whitaker of SLAM Magazine, Sekou Smith of 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.

The Power Of Shaq

MIAMI — There’s no need to debate Shaquille O’Neal’s hoops credentials. He made enough All-Star appearances, All-NBA teams and produced enough highlights in 19 NBA seasons to qualify for entry to the Naismith Hall of Fame twice, if he so desired. His four NBA titles and three Finals MVP trophies will tell the story of his basketball playing career for generations to come and keep him among the NBA’s top 10 of all-time for eternity.

It’s the Hall of Fame work he continues to do off the floor — no athlete in my lifetime has done more with his fame and fortune to give back to the community at large — that’s always made him one of my favorite athletes of all time in any sport.

I witnessed the true power of Shaq far from the NBA glare during a preseason trip to Nashville in the fall of 2004 after he’d joined the Miami Heat. This was after his championship years with the Lakers and before he’d help Dwyane Wade and the Heat win their only title.


All Good For Kobe


Posted by Sekou Smith

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Every second we wait for a decision from LeBron James is a small victory for Kobe Bryant.


The longer James waits to make a decision on where he will play the next five or six seasons of his career, the more time we have to admire Bryant and not only what he and the Los Angeles Lakers have accomplished and what might be in store as they chase a championship three-peat next season.

Folks will inevitably tire of this entire free agency drama starring James, Dwyane Wade and others. And when they do, someone will be sure to remind them that all these free agents are chasing Bryant. They are chasing the man with all the rings, the man who will show up to training camp with a team superior to whatever the free agent frenzy creates and the man who found his peace at home (LA has been his for his entire adult life) after contemplating the same sorts of stay-or-go dilemma that James and Wade are wrestling with right now.

William C. Rhoden of the New York Times illustrates that sentiment beautifully here:

Winning a title is hard, winning two is extremely difficult, three heroic. Winning four or more is close to miraculous.

Which is why the more I see of LeBron James, the more I like Kobe Bryant.

This has nothing to do with life outside basketball, just life on the court — life on the scoreboard. Right now, the scoreboard reads: Kobe Bryant 5 championships, LeBron James 0.

Last month in Johannesburg, Bryant was one of the invited guests at the first day of African Fashion Week. He relaxed in an informal viewing area and watched a World Cup match.

He talked briefly about his first trip to Africa. He mentioned the safari he had gone on a day earlier. He excitedly described how the truck he was in had come upon a clan of hyenas that had identified its prey.

What stood out for Bryant was how the hyenas were so focused on the task at hand that they didn’t even glance at the truck of spectators. That’s what impressed Bryant: the pack was locked in, singularly focused on that moment, on that prey. It was as if the truck did not exist.

In that instant, I realized the difference, at this particular time, between Bryant and James: Bryant is focused on championships — now No. 6 — and his legacy in being regarded as the greatest ever.

James, who is expected to make an announcement about his basketball future this week, is multifocused. He wants to be a billionaire, wants to be an icon like Muhammad Ali, and wants to win multiple championships.

We can debate the best player all day long, without either side making much progress in swaying the other.

But it’s clear that the longer it takes for this free agency drama to play out, the better it is for Kobe Bryant.

It’s all good for Bryant these days.