Posts Tagged ‘Nate McMillan’

Seattle’s Return To The NBA Getting Closer?


It was one of those days where people remember precisely where they were when they got the news. Like assassinations, market crashes and so many other seismic world events, the day Seattle lost the SuperSonics — officially, July 2, 2008 — didn’t just come and go. It seared itself into the hearts and psyches of NBA fans in that Pacific Northwest city.

“It killed me, man,” former Sonics coach George Karl said Wednesday night. “I was in the Seattle area with my daughter, in Olympia. There were rumors and then it was over. It happened so quick.”

There had been promises, there had been worries, there had been political wrangling. When the clock ran out, all that remained were accusations, recriminations and, yes, tears. The reality was stark: Starbucks impresario Howard Schultz and his partner had sold the SuperSonics to an investment group headed by Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett. Talks about a publicly financed arena broke down, and the Sonics were headed to Oklahoma and a new life as the eventual Thunder.

Forty-one years of NBA history was over. The source of some of the league’s biggest names and most entertaining teams — and the only Seattle franchise to claim a championship in major professional sports — was gone.

“Destroyed,” was the word chosen by Boston’s Jason Terry, who grew up in Seattle and starred at Frankin High, which is about 5 miles from the Sonics’ old haunt, Key Arena. “There [were] all kind of ‘Save the Sonics’ shirts, signs and blogs.”

As of Wednesday though — four years, six months and seven days since the moving vans rolled in — Seattle is as close as it’s been to getting the NBA back. Investor Chris Hansen was close to a deal to purchase the Sacramento Kings and relocate them to the Emerald City, according to multiple media outlets.

First reported by Yahoo! Sports, Hansen — who already has a deal to build a new arena, this time largely through corporate funding — was offering the Maloof family that owns the Kings more than $500 million. The team’s future in Sacramento has been shaky for several seasons because of squabbling over a new arena in the California capital, with possible destinations such as Orange County and Las Vegas mentioned in the past.

Seattle, via Hansen, has been an interested party from the start, though. According to Yahoo!, the Kings would be renamed the SuperSonics, begin play in time for the 2013-14 season and be based in KeyArena for two years while their new home is constructed.

Just how imminent the sale might be morphed through the day Wednesday; some reports out of Sacramento had the Maloofs reconsidering Hansen’s offer. Details of Hansen’s financing for the arena in Seattle’s “SoDo” section — south of downtown — still must be worked out. In October, he reached an agreement with local government to build the $490 million facility near the city’s other stadiums, Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field. An estimated $290 million would come from private investments, with $200 million in public financing repaid through rent, admission taxes and Hansen’s own sources, the Associated Press reported.

The NBA, meanwhile, has its own requirements for a franchise sale and relocation. For the former, an application for transfer must be filed, due diligence is performed on the people and finances involved and then the league’s Board of Governors votes, with 75 percent approval — 23 out of the current 30 teams — needed for new ownership.

For relocation, a team must apply by March 1 if it wants to move in time for the following season. The NBA’s relocation committee than has 120 days to study the proposal and make its report to the Board of Governors. When the owners vote, a simple majority — 16 of 30 — is needed for approval.

The NBA declined to comment on Monday’s news reports. It is believed that KeyArena, the Sonics’ home before their departure and the driving force in Schultz’s decision to sell, would be acceptable as a temporary home should the deal go through.

Hansen is a Seattle native and San Francisco resident who made his fortune working with Blue Ridge Capital and, since 2008, as managing partner of the Valiant Capital firm he founded. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and two members of the Nordstrom department-store family are among his fellow investors in the NBA deal. (more…)

It’s Not Insanity To Credit Felton

HANG TIME, Texas — Nine months ago when Jeremy Lin was causing hysteria in New York, Raymond Felton was undergoing his own type of madness.

Things were intense, insufferable, intolerable for him in Portland as he chafed in coach Nate McMillan’s offense, got out of shape, discontented, discombobulated and had the most unsatisfying season of his NBA career.

That’s why it seemed hardly cause for celebration among Knicks fans last summer when the team surprised everyone by not matching Houston’s free agent offer to Lin and instead brought Felton back home to Madison Square Garden.

But now three weeks into the 2012-13 season, the role played by Felton in the — dare we say it, insanity? — of the Knicks’ blazing start cannot be underestimated.

While Carmelo Anthony deserves credit for be a ball-sharing leader, Jason Kidd for having a veteran’s hand on the rudder and Tyson Chandler for anchoring a solid defense, Felton has lifted his reputation out of mud and run the New York offense efficiently and effectively.

Sure, it was a decision that was about money. To match the contract offer Lin received from the Rockets would have cost the Knicks $45 million in the final season of the three-year deal when you factor in the luxury tax. Felton came for a total of $11 million for three years. But according to Marc Berman of the New York Post, he also came with something extra:

“What I bring to the game is just toughness,’’ Felton said. “That’s all. Just a guy whose going to bring it every night. You know what you’re going to get out of me every night. If I’m having a bad shooting night, you still know I’m going to play hard and get the job done in other ways.’’

Few fans wear Felton’s No. 2 jersey at the Garden, let alone in road cities, as was custom with Lin last winter. And Felton isn’t looking to trademark his “Duck’’ nickname — his whole family calls him that — anytime soon. In fact, Felton’s so humble, he didn’t have a Twitter account until this month. He has 11,112 followers — or 900,000 less than Lin.

“I think the first go-round he did in a Knick uniform has put him in a different light,’’ coach Mike Woodson said. “It’s a good feeling to come back and put it on again. He’s everything we asked as a point guard. He won in college and he’s had good years in the pros. We put the ball in his hands and trust [he] will make the right decisions.”

After being sent to Denver as part of the deal that brought Anthony to N.Y., Felton moved on to Portland last season in a marriage that was rocky from the start. His weight reportedly went up as high as 230 pounds and he was in and out of the Trail Blazers lineup as the starter at point guard and quickly became an object of scorn after another unsatisfying rebuilding season in Portland.

Now back with Knicks, he’s averaging 16.1 points and 6.3 assists per game, has his shooting back on track and is making a respectable 36.7 percent from behind the 3-point line. He’s also dialed in a connection with Chandler, tossing lob passes for dunks that has brought the Garden fans out of their seats, even if they aren’t experiencing a full-blown hysteria as they did over Lin. Just as important, he is a much better defender than Lin and that end of the court has been a calling card of the team’s quick start.

What’s more, Felton is back to being his old self, confident and willing to step up when needed. He popped in 25 points to go with his seven assists and outplayed Tony Parker in the fourth quarter in a statement win at San Antonio before the Knicks finally suffered their first loss of the season in seven games at Memphis on Friday night.

Never mind the old adage about not being able to go home again. Felton is way past that. Now he’s looking forward to a day-after-Thanksgiving matchup in Houston with Lin.

While it’s true that Felton’s return to the Knicks may not have caused a recurrent case of insanity, neither has it been inconsequential.

Lakers Need to Hire PJax … Again

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — They botched this one from the start, ignoring Phil Jackson‘s advice and passing over Brian Shaw for Mike Brown.

But we’ll get back to that in a minute.

The firing of Brown today, the third fastest ouster of a coach in league history and the first under five games in a season in some 40 years, was more than just an admission of guilt on the part of the powers that be at Lakers’ headquarters. It was the latest in a long list of slip-ups by a once proud franchise that seems to have lost its way here recently.

Two straight earlier-than-expected playoff exits (one in Jackson’s final season and one in Brown’s first) were followed up with the biggest player acquisition splash the league has seen since The Decision.

And yet, here we are, five games into what was supposed to be a championship season in Los Angeles, and the Lakers are reeling again. An organization that prides itself on being about titles first and foremost ignored the sound advice from the only coach they’ve had that’s won anything since the Showtime Lakers era ended.

Nearing the end of another era, the Kobe Bryant era, the Lakers are at a crossroads. Do they backtrack and scramble to replace Brown with Jackson, the one coach we know Bryant respects? Or do they roll the dice again on trying to replace Phil and the championship zen that comes along with him?

For all of the names you’ll hear tossed around as potential replacements for Brown — from Mike D’Antoni to Nate McMillan to Mike Krzyzewski to Jerry Sloan — Jackson, 67, is the only one that comes with the sort of track record that lends itself to dealing with not only Bryant but the championship expectations of Lakers die-hards and a city that doesn’t get excited for much else.

With Brown at the helm the Lakers were just trying to stay relevant in a Western Conference that had been overtaken by those young upstarts in Oklahoma City. They’d even fallen behind the rival Spurs in the pecking order the past two years, not to mention fending off their Staples Center and city rivals, the Clippers.

There’s a simple solution to all of this for the Lakers. And it’s the same solution they ignored last time. TNT’s David Aldridge is reporting that the Lakers are not seriously considering Jackson. But they should. They need to make the call and do whatever it takes to lure Jackson out of semi-retirement and get back to the business at hand.

If Kobe wants to give serious chase to title No. 6, and Dwight Howard and Steve Nash want to get their hands on No. 1, the best way to do it is with the man who helped guide Kobe to those first five.

Someone in Los Angeles needs to swallow some pride and hire Phil Jackson … again.

Rounding Up Usual (And Unusual) Suspects For Lakers Job

Considering how much of what the Los Angeles Lakers do is driven by entertainment, more than any of the other NBA teams, there’s a must-see moment waiting to happen as the team scouts for a replacement for Mike Brown, fired Friday as head coach after a disappointing 1-4 start.

The Buss family that owns the team ought to bring in Stan Van Gundy for an interview, then set up hidden cameras for the moment when it leaks to the players.

The list of “Who’s” was instantaneous Friday, compiled in pieces or in full on the Internet almost as swiftly as word of Brown’s firing spread. Here is a quickie list of candidates with HTB assessments of their pros and cons:

Is Third Time (And Improved Defense) Charm For Blazers’ Stotts?

It’s a homecoming of sorts for Terry Stotts to take his Blazers into Dallas, the place where he spent the previous four seasons and was part of the Mavs’ championship in 2011. It will feel warm and familiar.

But it is also the place where Stotts’ view of the game took a transformation that could make him more successful in his third time around than in his previous two stints as coach at Atlanta (52-85, .380) and Milwaukee (63-83, .432).

More than anything else, coach Rick Carlisle is about defense.

“I think the background having been with Rick the last four years kind of opened my eyes to another approach to the game,” Stotts said. “Obviously, being with George (Karl) as long as I was, that was one view. To have a different perspective that was with Rick kind of expanded my horizons. (more…)

USA Basketball: Popovich, Rivers, And Four More Coaching Candidates

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — From 2006 through the London Olympics, the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team went 43-1 (62-1 if you count exhibitions) under coach Mike Krzyzewski. And Sunday’s gold-medal-game victory over Spain was its 36th straight win (50 if you count exhibitions) since losing to Greece in the semifinals of the 2006 World Championship.

So Krzyzewski, who has said that he’s done coaching the National Team, is going out on top, with two Olympic gold medals and one World Championship. The coach that replaces him has some big shoes to fill, as well as plenty of pressure to keep the U.S.A. on top of the basketball world.

Even if you’re a Duke hater, you have to respect what Krzyzewski has done over the last seven years. He’s a college coach, but managed to connect with and motivate five different squads of NBA stars. And after that ’06 loss to Greece, he clearly made it a priority to learn more about the international teams and players his team was facing.

While most fans and pundits focus on the 2016 Olympics in Rio, a new coach needs to be selected well before then. The U.S. will look to defend its World Championship at the renamed FIBA Basketball World Cup, which takes place from Aug. 31-Sept. 14, 2014 in Spain.

So who should USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo select as the next coach? Here are six candidates… (more…)

USA Basketball: Back On Top … Next Up?

LONDON — USA Basketball chairman and managing director Jerry Colangelo doesn’t play the “what if” game. He refuses to even entertain it, whether it’s in regards to the program he runs, the games the teams play or the future of the game of basketball around the globe.

He is simply not interested in delving into the hypothetical world of what would, could or should have been. And when you are the architect and steward of an operation that has won 50 straight games on the world stage, it’s probably wise to deal strictly in the here and now.

So you’ll have to excuse Colangelo for not being as nervous as some were in the final minutes of the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team’s gold medal triumph over Spain Sunday at North Greenwich Arena, the 107-100 final score was the closest in an Olympic final in 40 years.

“What if Marc Gasol hadn’t gotten into foul trouble?” someone asked from deep in the back of a scrum. (more…)

Blazers’ Search Down To Two

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — It’s been 140 days since Nate McMillan was fired as the coach of the Portland Trail Blazers, and the Blazers still don’t have a full-time replacement.

But they’re close. Jason Quick of The Oregonian reports that the Blazers’ list of candidates is down to two

The Trail Blazers’ head coach next season will either be Terry Stotts or Kaleb Canales, The Oregonian has learned, after general manager Neil Olshey on Wednesday informed Steve Clifford and Elston Turner that they are no longer finalists.

Stotts, 54, is the former head coach of the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks, where he compiled a combined 115-168 record. He has never had a winning season, but did advance the Bucks to the 2006 NBA playoffs, where they lost in the first round. He has been the top assistant in Dallas since 2008, and head coach Rick Carlisle credited Stotts’ offensive innovation in helping the Mavericks win the 2011 NBA title.

Canales, 34, is the former video intern hired by the Blazers in 2004 whose ascension has included stops as video coordinator, assistant coach and interim head coach for last season’s final 23 games after Nate McMillan was fired. He went 8-15 with the Blazers and was overwhelmingly supported by the players after the season to be the next head coach. When Olshey was hired in June, he also gave a strong endorsement, saying Canales had “set the bar high” for other candidates to clear.

The Blazers improved offensively under Canales last season, but they really regressed on the other end of the floor… (more…)

Batum Eager To Play For Wolves

He was about 3,800 miles away, but Nicolas Batum’s voice was loud and clear. He wants to play with the Minnesota Timberwolves next season.

Batum, the Blazers’ restricted free agent, made his preference clear Tuesday afternoon in a telephone interview from Madrid, where he was with the French National team as it prepared for a friendly match later Tuesday against Spain, one of the top challengers to the defending U.S. men’s Olympic gold medal team at the upcoming Summer Games in London. While Portland has said it will match any offer sheet for Batum, he hopes they will let him go to play for the Wolves, who have a commitment for a four-year deal worth $45 million on the table when the July Moratorium ends Wednesday.

“I’m a restricted free agent,” Batum said. “I know the situation. Anywhere I sign, the Blazers are going to match. But my first choice was, and is, Minnesota. That’s where I want to play and that’s where I want to put my family. I’ve got nothing against the fans (in Portland) and nothing against the city. But this is a basketball decision and basketball wise, I want to be there. Last year, they impressed everybody, and that’s what I respect. To have a great young point guard like (Ricky) Rubio, and a great coach like (Rick) Adelman, I really liked that project. And I think they think I’m the missing piece at small forward. That’s what they told me.”

Batum met last week with Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, team president David Kahn and Adelman, and was impressed by the direction in which the franchise is going. But the 23-year-old Batum has been a priority to retain by the Blazers through several different basketball administrations, intrigued by his ability to score either as a driver or shooter. Portland acquired Batum in a Draft night deal in 2008 from the Rockets. Last season he averaged 13.9 points and 4.6 rebounds for the Blazers, and his Player Efficiency Rating of 17.32 ranked eighth among small forwards in the league, behind only LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Paul Pierce, Danny Granger, Rudy Gay and Andre Iguodala.

A source said that Batum did not want to sign an offer sheet because he was worried the Blazers would match. And, indeed, according to the Oregonian newspaper, that’s exactly what the team’s new general manager, Neil Olshey, told Batum and his representatives in a meeting last week. However, the Timberwolves have enough space to sign him outright to a sheet. They can clear $10.8 million of additional room buying out center Brad Miller (who has already announced his retirement) and guard Martell Webster, and also could create additional room by using the amnesty clause on center Darko Milicic, who is under contract next season at $5.22 million and has two years and $10.8 million left on his contract.

Batum grew frustrated by the slower pace that former Blazers coach Nate McMillan favored, and thinks he has a chance to play at a more up-tempo style in Minnesota.

“When I talked with Adelman last week, I felt like he wants me, will play me the way I ask to play,” Batum said. “Last year was tough for all of us and I think I need a new start. I think I need something else. Again, it’s nothing against the city or the fans (in Portland).”

Batum said that he thinks Portland and Minnesota will ultimately work something out.

“I know that they’re working on a sign and trade, and I’m very hopeful that both of them understand my situation, do the best both for me and for them,” he said.

Olshey, Batum said, told him last week that he could be a big part of Portland’s team going forward.


Wittman to return, Flip pleased

BOSTON – No one is happier that Randy Wittman apparently will continue as head coach of the Washington Wizards than the man whose firing opened the job for him.

Flip Saunders, who was fired in January with a 2-15 record, said that Wizards management did more than just promote his top assistant coach, who is expected to have his interim tag removed with a new contract in the next week or so. The brass also  addressed some of the team’s issues once Wittman was in place, not that those were secrets prior to Saunders’ dismissal.

“Where I feel good is, there were a lot of things that I thought had to be done with that team when I was there,” said Saunders, who has been working as a consultant for Boston’s Doc Rivers during the playoffs. “When Randy first took over, they didn’t have great success until they did what they needed to do with some of the guys and changed the roster. And they got better.”

For example, a young but immature nucleus of JaVale McGee, Nick Young and Andray Blatche was broken up for Wittman – the first two traded, the third shut down when he ballooned out of shape – even though Saunders said he raised that red flag last season. Washington also acquired center Nene from Denver, who only played 11 games with his new team but gave it an inside presence and a veteran who could command attention off the court. Adding solid role players James Singleton and Cartier Martin helped too, Saunders said.

“I knew what needed to be done,” said Saunders, who went 51-130 in Washington after leading Detroit and Minnesota to 11 playoff appearances in 13 seasons. “Unfortunately I didn’t have the opportunity to see it through. But Randy’s my guy. And the staff there are guys basically that I hired. So I feel good about that too.”