Posts Tagged ‘peter holt’

A jab at Phil and Spurs uniqueness

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Peter Holt talks with GameTime after Spurs win title

SAN ANTONIO – Spurs owner Peter Holt couldn’t help himself, or more accurately he simply didn’t want to. The opportunity to turn the sharp stick back on Phil Jackson, San Antonio’s longtime nemesis and Spurs dynasty denier, was much, much too delicious to pass up.

The smile that spread broadly across Holt’s face and the hearty chuckle that spilled from it revealed his satisfaction in doing so. Holt, basking in the immediate glow of his team’s fifth championship Sunday night, was asked if this title is the sweetest of them all. Holt said, yes it is, although the first in 1999 will always be special, and that’s when you could start to see Holt’s face light up and the smile begin to build…

“Even though it was a shortened, asterisked season,” Holt said, now sporting a full-on grin. “Phil, Phil, Phil, Phil, we all played the same amount of playoff games, didn’t we, Phil?”

Holt was quickly reminded that Jackson was retired that season, his first out of the league following a second three-peat with Michael Jordan and the Bulls.

“Yeah, uh-huh.” Holt said. “Well, he bailed out.”

Take that, Zen Master.

Jackson never seems to miss an opening to tweak the Spurs franchise and their loyal fans about winning the title in a lockout season shortened to 50 regular-season games and failing to collect rings in consecutive seasons. Funny, here they stand yet again, with Tim Duncan and coach Gregg Popovich still commanding their posts, with another opportunity to snap up the final carrot out there.

How does Holt feel about their chances?

“Kawhi’s 22, Patty’s 25, Tony’s 32 and Tim and Manu are going to play until they die,” Holt said. “So I think we’re in pretty good shape.”

Sounds like Holt believes Duncan, 38, has no plans to ride his latest trophy into the sunset. Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard sits on the cusp of stardom and Patty Mills, a key role player, is a free agent but could be  back. Tony Parker has already announced that he won’t play for France in the FIBA World Cup later this month, which has to be music to Holt’s ears, and Manu Ginobili, who turns 37 in a month, played this postseason as if 27.

The credit for the Spurs’ sustained success cascades from Holt to general manager R.C. Buford to Popovich and his staff to the Big Three and the revolving role players over the years that surround them. Holt says his franchise is filled with “unique individuals.”

That uniqueness is found in the Big Three re-signing with the Spurs over the years for less than the market would bear elsewhere; in accepting Popovich’s adamancy to begin limiting their minutes seasons ago; to sacrificing roles and buying into wholesale changes in playing style and philosophy that ultimately has kept the Spurs a step ahead of the rest of the league.

“We’ve protected guys for many years minutes-wise,” Popovich said. “And I’ve said before I’ve often felt guilty because their lifetime stats are going to be worse than everybody else’s because of the way I’ve sat them over the years.”

Some players might balk, some might complain. Some might seek to find a way out. But that’s not the Spurs way.

But why?

“Because all three of us see the big picture; we want to win championships,” Parker said. “I think that’s the big key of our success here in San Antonio all those years is Timmy, Manu, myself, we never let our ego [get in the way], it was the team first and that’s the most important. I always trust Pop’s judgment. I trust the way he sees, you know, for our team the big picture to win at the end.

“So I don’t care about all that stuff, as long as we get the ring at the end, and so far he’s right.”

Leonard follows his path to title, MVP

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Kawhi Leonard’s Finals MVP performance

SAN ANTONIO — When the deal went down on Draft night 2011, when the San Antonio Spurs traded humble, team-oriented George Hill, a combo guard who for three seasons ingratiated himself to this team, to this city and most strikingly had found a soft spot in the heart of gruff coach Gregg Popovich, for a mostly unknown small forward with a funny name, all of San Antonio gasped.

Kawhi who?!

Even in the Spurs’ draft room, the decision to pull the trigger was hardly a unanimous, feel-good swap.

“It felt like we were going to get our ass chewed because we just traded the coach’s favorite player,” Spurs general manager R.C. Buford said on Saturday, reminiscing on the eve of Game 5.

Three years later, the folks in the Alamo City have popularized a different phrase for the player whose mannerisms, work ethic and determination fit this franchise like a glove.

Kawhi not?!

And on Sunday night inside the raucous AT&T Center, Kawhi Leonard, equally as humble as Hill and more reserved than even team patriarch Tim Duncan, forcefully answered that question with a third consecutive authoritative performance. He fatigued LeBron James with relentless defensive pressure and dominated in multiple ways on the offensive end.

Leonard’s 22 points and 10 rebounds led the Spurs to a 104-87 victory, a third straight blowout and the final one that ended the Heat’s two-year reign. It completed the Spurs’ season of redemption after last year’s heartache in South Beach and returned the Larry O’Brien Trophy to South Texas for the first time since 2007.

When Leonard stepped to the free-throw line in the first quarter, 18,581 fans instantly chanted “M-V-P! M-V-P!” A few hours later they would do it again, this time with even more conviction following confirmation that this quiet, corn-rowed, 22-year-old who had turned the tide of the NBA Finals in Game 3 was now its MVP.

“At the moment, I was just happy,” Leonard said. “Just had faith throughout the whole game, but I didn’t think at all I was about to win the MVP of the Finals.”

Heeding advice from his coach after sub-par efforts in Games 1 and 2 to be aggressive, to quit being concerned about deferring to the team’s elders, the 6-foot-7 Leonard closed out the final three games by averaging 23.6 points and 9.0 rebounds. He went 24-for-35 from the floor and 7-for-13 from beyond the arc. Defending the game’s best player, the reigning, two-time Finals MVP in James, Leonard had six steals and six blocks.

“He shows up the last three games and just plays out of his mind,” Duncan said. “He’s not worried about just doing the little things. He wants to do it all, and he plays with a confidence that is just amazing.”

When he was announced the MVP, his teammates mobbed him and pushed him playfully, and a smile even broke across Leonard’s normally stoic stone face. He grasped the trophy as his mother, Kim Robertson, hugged him and literally danced by his side.

That it was Father’s Day also resonated. Six years ago, Mark Leonard, Kawhi’s dad, was shot and killed at the car wash he owned in Compton, Calif. The case remains unsolved.

“It is a very special meaning for me knowing that he’s gone and I was able to win a championship on Father’s Day,” Leonard said.

The night after learning his father had been shot to death, Leonard played for his Riverside King High team, scoring 17 points in a loss. After it was over, according to the story in the Los Angeles Times, he broke down and cried in his mother’s arms.

“He loved his dad and they were really, really close,” his mother said, clutching the MVP trophy as she watched her son smiling through sit-down television interviews, the kind he typically hates to do because they force him to talk about himself. “I think from the moment that it happened, he wanted to make his dad proud, he wanted to take that as a rocket, keep on moving, moving. Because I was kind of scared. The thing is he is such a good kid, he always wanted to get better and better and better.”

Desperate to keep the series alive, Miami bolted to a 22-6 start, and James was going off, scoring 17 points in the opening quarter. But Leonard scored eight. He buried two 3-pointers and the Spurs closed to 29-22. Leonard nailed his third consecutive 3-point attempt with 4:47 to go in the second quarter. It put the Spurs ahead for the first time, 37-35. When the shot fell through, the roof practically blew off the arena and the party was officially on. San Antonio would never look back.

Leonard became the youngest Finals MVP since Duncan won it in 1999. He was also 22 at the time, and preferred to defer to veteran center and team captain David Robinson, who as usual, was in attendance Sunday to witness this latest title, Duncan’s fifth. Now here was Leonard, basking in the glory, but really no more than a willing pupil who had learned from these remarkably selfless players on this remarkable team, his own value system so much like theirs.

“I mean, look at Tim,” Kim Robertson said. “I think Tim has been a great role model for him, you know, a mentor for him. Tim is always, I always see him taking him to the side and telling him different things and I really think Kawhi respects that. Kawhi, his thing is he always wants to get better, better, better. He does not want to be in the limelight, he just wants to be good at what he loves to do, and that’s it.”

It sounds so familiar. While this Spurs era will always be known for the Big Three with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, it is Duncan who defines it, who followed Robinson as the face of the franchise, and who will one day pass along that mantle. Popovich has made no secret of it, even saying as much last season, that the quiet kid with the funny name is the next in line.

Spurs owner Peter Holt, wandering the floor and basking in the glow of another championship run, was asked if it’s too much burden to place on such a young player.

“Not so far,” Holt smiled. “He’s got pretty broad shoulders.”

As they say around here, Kawhi not?!


VIDEO: Kawhi Leonard addresses the media after his MVP performance

Pop led Spurs out of Finals doldrums

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Gregg Popovich accepts his third Coach of the Year award

SAN ANTONIO – Last summer was unlike any of the previous 17 in Gregg Popovich‘s career as coach of the San Antonio Spurs. The long days passed, but the doldrums from the Spurs’ heartbreaking Finals defeat to Miami bogged down like a stagnant lake in the Texas heat.

The 2013 championship was right there, 28 seconds from glory for a proud San Antonio franchise, the model of the NBA if not professional sports as a whole. But everybody knows what happened next. Popovich lived with it every day thereafter until he finally could not any longer, when the players returned to begin, somehow, a brand new season.

“The way we lost in the Finals wasn’t an ordinary loss; it was pretty devastating,” Popovich said Tuesday afternoon at the Spurs’ practice facility as he received the Red Auerbach Coach of the Year trophy. “And we decided that we would just face that right off the bat at the beginning of the season and get it out of the way; don’t blame it on the basketball gods or bad fortune or anything like that. The Miami Heat beat us and won the championship and that’s that, and you move on. In all of our lives there are many things more important than winning and losing basketball games and that’s the perspective we had to take. And our team showed great maturity and resilience in being able to do that, so I’m very proud of them for that.”

Their resiliency also came during a period of transition on the bench. Popovich’s longtime aids, Brett Brown and Mike Budenholzer, became head coaches.

But nothing seems to phase this group. With Manu Ginobili turning 36 over the summer and Tim Duncan celebrating his 38th birthday on Friday, neither had to return, or return in better shape than they finished the previous season. When this season could finally have been the one that signaled the inevitable descent it seems has been predicted for the past half-dozen seasons, the Spurs won 62 games, the second-most of Popovich’s 18-year career and earned home-court advantage throughout the playoffs with the league’s top record.

With the Spurs, everything is a collective effort. They win together, lose together and plan how to win again together.

“We’re fortunate,” Popovich said. “These guys don’t care about stats, they only care about winning basketball games. You might get a championship, you might not, but you give it your best effort. But these guys could all have better stats. I play them for 29 or 30 minutes a game in their careers and their stats suffer because of it, but that sacrifice helps our entire team. and this year, whatever adversity we had — every team has adversity — but our bench really helped us through that. We would not have had the same success without what our bench did. I think that and the leadership that our older players showed helped us get through the hard times.”

In accepting his third Coach of the Year trophy, joining only Pat Riley and Don Nelson as three-time winners, Popovich spoke sincerely. He praised owner Peter Holt for granting he and general manager R.C. Buford, who sat next to his friend of more than two decades at the table during the news conference, the freedom to do their jobs, and said he was humbled to be singled out among the many worthy candidates this season that included first-year coaches Jeff Hornacek at Phoenix and Steve Clifford at Charlotte, plus Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau, Portland’s Terry Stotts and others.

None faced quite the unpredictable psychological hurdle that Popovich did with his heartbroken team.

“I think his steadfast attention to detail and facing the realities of last season’s end and immediately getting it behind us was really important,” Spurs general manager Buford said. “And his approach with his staff was different because it was a different staff, but the energy and the leadership we’ve seen has been consistent throughout his time as a coach.”

But of course it wouldn’t be a Popovich press conference without a measure of snark, and Pop didn’t disappoint.

When asked about losing his two longtime assistants, he interrupted the questioner:  “Thank God.”

Asked where he displays his Coach of the Year trophies, Popovich said: “They’re on the hood of my car. … I’ve got three of those right on the hood.”

As a younger man, Popovich dreamed of a playing career in the NBA before turning to coaching, getting his start as an assistant at the Air Force Academy. Asked if he knew he wanted to coach in the NBA once he didn’t make it as a player, Pop responded: “Larry Brown screwed me as a player. He had the unmitigated gall to pick David Thompson over me back when he was the Nuggets coach.”

Brown, of course, is one of Popovich’s mentors and who helped him get to the NBA, a place Popovich said was never truly a goal. He said he would have been happy to live out his days where he spent his early coaching days at Division III Pomona-Pitzer College in California.

“For me, the NBA was watching on TV back when they had the long nets and watching the ball go through the long nets; I really enjoyed that,” Popovich said. “I was fat, dumb and happy as a Division III coach. I could do it the rest of my life, it was fantastic, I loved it. But all of us take a different road here and there. The NBA was never a dream or thought of, ‘I’m going to go to the NBA and be a coach and do this.’ I had no clue.

“We run a lot of the same drills to be honest with you, pivoting drills and sitting on chairs, silly things like that, but all fundamental basketball stuff. After that, let the players play. They know how to get it done.”

So, too, does Pop.

Silver open to tweaks of draft, playoff structure, ‘virtually everything’

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com


VIDEO: Adam Silver explains the talking points at the Board of Governors meeting

NEW YORK – With a new NBA commissioner flexing his distinctly collaborative style, working without crises at a “peace time” Board of Governors meeting, the league’s leadership took no significant votes and made no major decisions this week during their two-day Manhattan conclave.

But they sure did a lot of brainstorming and spitballing.

Talk of tweaks carried the day when Adam Silver, not quite three months into the job that David Stern held for three decades, shared Friday with reporters some of the topics in play at this BOG. In committee reports and in general discussion of the full board, they ranged from the pros and cons of a proposed 20-and-under eligibility rule (two years of college, in other words) to new ways of seeding, re-seeding or otherwise modifying the playoffs bracket.

The owners talked about further transparency, both in officiating itself and in the process that oversees the league’s referees. They kicked around ideas great and small related to the draft and the lottery – the “wheel” concept that would have each team picking at each spot in the first round over a 30-year period, as well as a play-in tournament for the No. 1 pick – without pushing toward any conclusion.

Overall, as described by Silver, the tone seemed to be: Things are good. Anyone have any ideas on how we can make them better?

“The league is doing so well right now, I just want to be very deliberate and cautious any major changes,” Silver said, both directly and in various guise underlying a half dozen other comments. If Stern’s effectiveness as commissioner often boiled down to persuasion, arm-twisting and – when all that failed – swift, autocratic management, Silver publicly so far has come across as a facilitator and delegator, seeking out others’ expertise and respecting the work of the BOG’s committees on matters of competition, finance and other league business.

Oh, there were a few clear developments Friday. The NBA entered into a partnership with USA Basketball and the U.S. Department of Defense to support soldiers and their families “through basketball,” with an emphasis on transitioning the armed forces members back to civilian life.

Also, there was a change at the top: San Antonio owner Peter Holt stepped down as chairman of the Board of Governors after 18 months, because of personal commitments. Minnesota’s Glen Taylor, who held that post from 2008 to 2012, takes over again on an interim basis, with a vote for Holt’s successor to be held by the board’s October meeting.

No vote was taken on the Milwaukee Bucks’ pending sale for a whopping $550 million to New York hedge-fund billionaires Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens – the league’s vetting process is underway. But current Bucks owner Herb Kohl introduced the two prospective owners to the board Thursday. Silver said he knows Lasry personally – Lasry owns a small share of the Brooklyn Nets, from which he’d have to divest – and added: “I don’t anticipate there will be any issues, but we’re not there in the process yet.” The sale could be approved without a formal owners meeting, as quickly as in a month or so.

Silver is diligent about process, and why not? The league sets up committees to study its various issues and make recommendations, so there’s value in their findings. The new commissioner also has tapped into leaders from related fields as resources. This time, NCAA president Mark Emmert and Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke with the owners.

Dempsey’s presence pertained to the “Hoops for Troops” partnership, obviously. But Emmert was there to discuss the NBA’s age-limit for draft prospects and its impact on college basketball and the players.

Silver, at All-Star weekend and in interviews, has talked repeatedly about his preference for raising the eligibility age – he said Friday “a majority” of the owners share that view. He and the league, for practical purposes, have gotten out in front of the NBA players’ union on the topic. After all, it would have to be collectively bargained – written into the existing CBA as an addendum if an agreement were reached, Silver said – and much of the NBPA’s business is on hold while its search for a new executive director grinds on.

But Silver introduced a third party into the coming discussions. “What Dr. Emmert and I agree on is that the NCAA needs to have a seat at the table,” the commissioner said. “If we are going to be successful in raising the age from 19 to 20, part and parcel of those negotiations go to the treatment of those players on college campuses [and] closing the gap between what their scholarships cover and their other incidental expenses.”

Silver didn’t get into any specific incentives, financial or otherwise, that might affect the issue. But he didn’t rule anything out – kind of the theme of the afternoon. Blow through the conference divide to have 10 West playoff teams vs. six East? Open up the instant-replay process to give referees discretion to rule not just on an out-of-bounds possessions but also an unseen foul?

Silver wasn’t ruling anything out.

“This seems like a good time,” he said at one point in Friday’s news conference, “when you have a transition in leadership to take a fresh look at virtually everything.”

Here are some further details on the above:

  • The partnership supporting armed forces members will include exhibition games, clinic, speaking engagements and game tickets, though its primary focus will be the “thousands of service members returning from overseas duty.” Why the NBA? Dempsey, Silver said, ” told us was that basketball is the most popular sport among his troops, and it’s also a highly popular sport among the families of the troops.”
  • Silver had high praise for the league’s competition committee, which is studying playoff structure and other areas of the game with more than the hit-and-run approach of the past. It has moved “towards what I would call an NFL‑style format, where it’s a multi‑day meeting, focused attention from a cross‑section of coaches, general managers [and] owners,” Silver said. “We have a player representative there, as well, and these are the kind of issues where the last thing we wanted to do is make them based on one meeting, owners hearing arguments for the first time.”
  • While not tipping his hand on any tweaks that might blow across traditional conference lines, Silver did mention a factor cited in reverting The Finals this year to a 2-2-1-1-1 format. “You have a system that was designed before all teams traveled by charter,” he said, “and as travel becomes easier, it opens up more windows of opportunity for change.”
  • It is the competitiveness of NBA general managers that underlies the one-and-done scenarios and issues, Silver said. “It doesn’t surprise me,” he said. “If these great young players are available, our teams will draft them. Whether they’ll ultimately turn out to be wise draft picks is a whole separate issue.” Requiring two years after high school – in NCAA hoops, in the D League, in Europe, wherever – would get NBA scouts out of high school gyms, boost the college game, deliver to NBA teams more developed rookies and put players in a pro environment when they might be a little better equipped to thrive. But the NBPA still has to weigh in.
  • Silver wasn’t asked directly about “tanking” or, er, rebuilding teams whose seasons now are done. But he did take a question about playoff teams in the final days of the schedule manipulating their rotations in what appeared to be playoff-positioning. “I’d just begin by saying it’s the last area I think the league should be legislating, and that is minutes players play,” he responded. “I mean, we have some of the greatest coaches in the world in this league and highly sophisticated teams, and so it’s part of managing player time.”
  • Who’s to say that rest and recuperation aren’t the driving forces in the final week, Silver suggested. “We have a long playoffs,” he said. “It’s part of the drama over a seven‑game series. It’s the match‑ups, it’s the reactions. Again, it’s the pairings of particular players against each other. It’s sort of the chess playing among our coaches, and I think resting players becomes all part of that.”
  • Silver said that Milwaukee’s Kohl – who has owned the Bucks since 1985, has included in the sales agreement that the team remain in town, and has pledged that he and the new owners each will contribute $100 million to a new arena – was lauded by the board. “The owners were amazed at the personal contribution [former U.S. Senator] Kohl announced to the city of Milwaukee,” Silver said. “It’s unprecedented for an owner to make a $100 million contribution to his community.”

The round of applause Kohl received in the room reflected that, the commissioner said. Establishing a price of $550 million for what historically has been the NBA’s least valuable franchise might have had a little to do with the clapping, too.

Defined In Times Of NBA Tumult, Stern Stepping Down In Tranquility

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NEW YORK – The news of the day surprised few, if they had been following along: Starting in June, the NBA Finals will revert to the 2-2-1-1-1 schedule format currently used in all earlier playoff rounds and for The Finals prior to 1985.

In a nutshell, the reasons for 2-3-2 –- commercial air travel by the teams and catering to newspapers’ travel budgets – no longer are issues for the league, allowing competitive considerations about proper home-court advantage to carry the day. At the Board of Governors meeting that wrapped up in New York Wednesday afternoon, the unanimous recommendation of the competition committee from September was unanimously approved by the NBA’s owners/team reps.

The backstory of it all, though, was more compelling –- this was commissioner David Stern‘s last scheduled Board of Governors session, his last post-BOG news conference. Aside from the closed-door, collective bargaining bloodlettings in which Stern most famously rolled up his sleeves, earned his paychecks and made his bones, these meetings of the 30 team owners ranked a close second in crafting Stern’s reputation across 30 years as NBA commissioner and consummate cat herder. (His bi-annual pressers at The Finals and All-Star weekend placed third, offering glimpses of his many moods and styles to the fans.)

But for his finale, it seemed rather tranquil. For a man whose vision and will shaped the NBA over the past three decades like no others, and whose professional highlight/lowlight reel necessarily would be crammed with lockout moments, talk of “enormous consequences,” subtle verbal jabs and occasional fits of pique, the low-profile business that wrapped Wednesday was awfully tame.

“It is, right?” Stern said as he stepped from the platform, playing along momentarily with the “lightning rod” reputation one wag laid on him during questions and answers. Even Stern knows his best (and worst, equally memorable) moments have come during times of the NBA’s greatest turmoil. But this simply isn’t one of those times.

Business is good. Labor peace prevails at least until 2017. San Antonio’s Peter Holt will continue as BOG chairman. Reports at the BOG from revenue-sharing and collective-bargaining committees were encouraging, as Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver described them. Arena development or renovations are said to be on track in Sacramento, Minnesota, Milwaukee and New York’s Madison Square Garden. And two dozen or more franchises are on track to be profitable by the end of 2014-15, Stern said, assuming they want to be.

“There are some teams who will not be profitable, in many cases because they choose not to by virtue of their payments to either players or coaches or general managers,” he said. “We’re getting to a point that with revenue sharing, teams that are improving their performance will break even or make money, except for those that are ‑‑ I haven’t looked at the Nets’ balance sheet, but my guess is that they’re going to not necessarily be profitable.  But that also involves large payments to build a building as well as large salary, as well as large [luxury] tax payments. But that’s OK.”

The meetings Tuesday and Wednesday might have been as much about Stern’s fast-approaching retirement as the Finals format or other league matters. He’ will step down Feb. 1, 2014, after precisely 30 years, the longest run of any commissioner in the four major U.S. pro sports. Pressed only a little, Stern shared some of what went on.

“Oh, there was a very warm reception last night at dinner at which some speechifying was accomplished,” he said, “and a series of totally embarrassing photos of me over the last 36 years, and a very heartwarming video that was voiced in part by … Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James. It was pretty neat.

“It was a little bit over the top. There used to be a joke that said ‘My father would have enjoyed it, my mom would have believed it.’ It fell into that category. But it was very nice.

“I got the opportunity to thank my colleagues at the NBA for their incredible work and saying how pleased I was that the league was in such good hands under those colleagues and Adam’s stewardship.”

Silver will take over as commissioner on Feb. 1, a move that has been ratified and contractually set for the past year. No formal baton hand-off has been scheduled, but All-Star Weekend Feb. 14-16 in New Orleans will be two weeks too late.

At the close midday Wednesday, Stern said, a resolution was read into the meeting’s minutes. “[It] was also very warm and thanking me for my job done in the success of the league,” Stern said. “That provided the basis for me to quickly bang the gavel down on the meeting, and my last words were ‘Lunch is served.’ “

The kudos and plaudits will come rolling in over the final three months or so of Stern’s tenure. He has another victory lap or three in him, beginning with Miami’s championship ring presentation on opening night Tuesday, followed by a trip to Sacramento and the franchise that was saved for that city on his watch.

“The game is in good shape. We came off a great season,” Stern said. “Our teams are going to have record season-ticket sales, renewals are strong, sponsorships are up, gate is going to be up. Everything coming off a very strong base is going to be up this season.  Seems like a really good time to do something else.”

Stern has been Silver’s biggest booster to the owners and in the media, assuring them of a smooth transition. Silver orchestrated a little payback Wednesday, commissioning a David J. Stern bobblehead to give to the owners and team reps. Cleveland’s Dan Gilbert later did an interview in which he joked that the Stern doll only shakes its head side-to-side, rather than nodding yes.

Stern told that story on himself, as relaxed and tranquil as he’s ever been in his job.

“Believe it or not, even including my interaction with the media and the burns I [have] from being a lightning rod, it’s been a great run,” the commissioner said, “and I’m grateful to the owners for giving me the opportunity.”

From 2-3-2 to 2-2-1-1-1

Rod Thorn, NBA President, Basketball Operations, recalled Wednesday a Finals turnaround in which the Celtics and the Lakers played on a Friday, flew from Los Angeles to Boston on Saturday, then played a matinee game at Boston Garden. With that in mind, the NBA will schedule an extra day off between Games 6 and 7 in June, if the 2014 Finals go that long.

No determination has been made yet on turnaround time for subsequent championship series, Stern and Silver said, or for the travel gaps between other games in the series. A Finals that goes seven games will require four airline flights between Game 2 and the finale, rather than the current two, but teams these days fly exclusively on charter flights.

Also, the competition committee felt that facing three consecutive road games (Games 3-5) was unfair to the team that earned home-court advantage, as was spending a full week on the road at that point in the postseason. Silver was said to have urged the owners to approve the change, citing basketball reasons over the business reasons that triggered the 2-3-2 approach. They approved it without dissent.

Interestingly, the teams with Games 1, 2, 6 and 7 at home (if needed) won 21 of the 29 Finals (.724) played under 2-3-2, compared to a 26-12 mark (.684) for the 38 NBA/BAA championships through 1984.

“I think there is a sense that it skews the competition, but it’s not backed up by the data,” Silver said. “The likelihood of a team winning in a 2‑3‑2 format of the favored team is the same as in the 2‑2‑1‑1‑1 format.  But there certainly was a perception … that it was unfair to the team that had the better record that it was then playing the pivotal Game 5 on the road.”
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Spurs’ Path To Success Still One Of A Kind





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Don’t bother trying to get a peek at the blueprints. There’s nothing you can glean from San Antonio Spurs’ secret formula that will work for your team.

No two championship teams are built alike, unless you are the Spurs and all four of your title-winning teams have an identical foundation: Tim Duncan at the epicenter with coach Gregg Popovich and GM R.C. Buford at the controls.

Those same building blocks, along with future Hall of Famers Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, have allowed the Western Conference-champion Spurs to chase title No. 5 this season. This current Spurs team highlights a ridiculously rewarding 15-year run that transcends this “win-now-and-at-whatever-cost” era that has claimed so many other organizations that were unable to sustain a level of excellence with the same parts.

The only organization with a better championship track record during this same era is that other would-be dynasty in Los Angeles. But the while the Spurs are going to contend with either Miami or Indiana for the Larry O’Brien trophy next month, the Lakers entered an offseason of uncertainty with Kobe Bryant on the mend from Achilles surgery and Dwight Howard‘s free-agency drama looming. It makes you wonder what might have been if the Lakers had been able to manage the Shaquille O’Neal-Kobe dynamic and if coach Phil Jackson had stayed entrenched in the organization from the time they started winning championships until now.

What the Spurs have accomplished, however, is not up for debate. They’ve defied logic, the odds and the age of their biggest stars to reach the opportunity to compete for another title when they could have torn those franchise blueprints up a half-dozen times and started over from scratch.

The contrast in styles between the Spurs and Lakers is startling, albeit with nearly identical results for two franchises whose accomplishments the past 15 seasons will come to define an era in NBA history.

The Spurs stuck to their principles with a meticulously crafted core of stars and a series of role players who generally played better in San Antonio than they did elsewhere. The Lakers tried to reinvent themselves regularly (selling their organizational soul in the process, some would say) to keep the pace with their rivals in South Texas.

Don’t forget, the Spurs tipped off the championship chase in 1999 with Duncan and David Robinson, followed by the first of the three straight Shaq-Kobe title teams a year later.

In a copycat league where everything from the locker room set up to the analytics department is modeled on a nearly identical template from organization to organization, no one has been able to build a sturdier and more consistent operation than the Spurs.

It starts with having a transcendent superstar like Duncan, whose arrival sparked the Spurs’ renaissance. Add in unwavering discipline in the front office and on the bench (in Popovich and Buford), some splendid ownership (Peter Holt) and a market conducive to staying the course (rather than overreacting to the usual ebb and flow of the league) and San Antonio’s success was born.

The Spurs haven’t been to The Finals since winning their fourth title in 2007. Six years? That is an eternity in professional sports. Not many franchises would have survived the fallout from their Western Conference finals flame out against the Oklahoma City Thunder last year, when their juggernaut rolled into that series and led 2-0 before losing four straight games. Not many organizations with championship expectations would have (or could have) stayed the course in those other non-Finals years as well.

There’s no doubt the San Antonio market helps. There isn’t a rush to tear things down every offseason just for the sake of remodeling. The Lakers have changed course countless times during the same 15-year span, spending countless millions to and running through a series of coaches and role players to help them flesh out championship teams led by O’Neal and Bryant and later Bryant and Pau Gasol.

The Spurs understood that even with a power-packed outfit like the one they fielded during Duncan’s prime that there was no guarantee they’d win it all every season. That’s an understanding the Lakers never seemed to grasp during the early and mid-aughts.

The Lakers, spoiled a bit by those three straight titles in 2000, ’01 and ’02, tried to remodel overnight after watching the Spurs’ 2003 run. So they signed future Hall of Famers Karl Malone and Gary Payton in an attempt to chase a fourth ring and fell hard to the Detroit Pistons in The Finals in 2004 — the same team the Spurs beat in seven games a year later for the title.

Fast forward seven years later and the Spurs have four main pieces from that 2005 team — Duncan, Popovich, Parker and Ginobili — still on top of their respective games.

Those are the building blocks for a dynasty … the Spurs’ way!

Owners Approve Grizzlies Sale






NEW YORK –
The orderly and extended transition from David Stern to Adam Silver as NBA commissioner over the next 15 months rightly dominated the news coming out of the league’s Board of Governors meeting Thursday. But that wasn’t the only topic discussed and dealt with by the owners.

They also unanimously approved the sale of the Memphis Grizzlies to an ownership group headed by investor Robert Pera and including widely known minority partners such as Peyton and Ashley Manning, entertainer Justin Timberlake and former NBA players Penny Hardaway and Elliot Perry. The group has a number of people with Memphis roots.

“I actually know that someone that lives in Memphis is called a Memphian,” Stern said, “and I am looking forward to this Memphian who is going to connect this team in an even stronger way to the community.”

San Antonio Spurs CEO Peter Holt is the new BOG chairman, taking over for Minnesota owner Glen Taylor, who had served in that role since 2008. “We are being nice to David, but I want to be extra nice to Glen,” Holt said. “This has gone really smoothly. Glen has stayed in the chairmanship much longer than normal to allow the continuity to be smooth from obviously David to Adam, but also throughout the ownership group.  So I want to thank Glen for that.”

A discussion on accepting ads in the form of jersey patches as another revenue stream was pushed to the BOG’s next meeting.

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Labor Talks: Nuclear Winter No More!

– For labor updates, follow: @daldridgetnt | @AschNBA

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Merry Christmas NBA fans. Our 149-day lockout nightmare, and the NBA’s “Nuclear Winter” is over.

It’s a little early, but most appropriate now that there is a tentative settlement agreement on lawsuits that will pave the way for a collective bargaining agreement between the NBA and its players, reached after a marathon, 15-hour Black Friday-early Saturday negotiating session in New York.

That means the shortened 2011-12 season starts on Christmas Day, a 66-game season with training camp and free agency starting simultaneously on Dec. 9 and season-opening slate of games – Boston Celtics at the New York Knicks; Miami Heat at the Dallas Mavericks; and Chicago Bulls at the Los Angeles Lakers — that should serve as a fitting return our beloved game for fans around the globe.

All that said, a multitude of issues remain. But the framework of the new deal is done — we’ve been telling folks for months now, this thing wasn’t officially over until we had NBA Commissioner David Stern and (former) union executive director Billy Hunter sitting next to each other smiling … “Yahtzee!”

As NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner reported before the sun rose over the hideout, “players are to receive a “band” share of basketball-related income ranging from 49 percent to 51 percent depending on the league’s growth (with a more reasonable shot at 51 than in previous offers). A laundry list of system issues, meanwhile, are intended to make the NBA more competitive across its 30 teams.”

If the immediate player reactions are any indication, the rest of the process is strictly a formality. These guys clearly want to get back to what they do best.

Opinions will vary in the coming days and weeks about winners and losers. We will leave that for others to decide (more on that below). But I think it’s clear that the owners returned to the table ready to compromise in ways (the players already had) to ensure that we see NBA basketball before in time for the 2011 on that 2011-12 season to mean something.

In that respect, it’s a win-win for all sides (players/owners and most importantly the fans). Now, back to the news at hand (with a special HT hat tip to the dogged Ken Berger of CBSSports.com for breaking the story) …

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Howard Beck of The New York Times: As a frantic Black Friday gave way to a sleepy Saturday morning in Midtown Manhattan, the biggest deal of all was consummated in a law office tucked between FAO Schwartz and the Apple Store. With handshakes, sighs and weary smiles, the N.B.A. and its players resolved a crippling labor dispute, allowing them to reopen their $4 billion-a-year business in time for the holidays. A 66-game season will start on Christmas Day, ending the second-longest lockout in league history. The deal was reached at about 3 a.m. Saturday, on the 149th day of the lockout, after a final 15-hour bargaining session at the law offices of Weil, Gotshal and Manges. “We’ve reached a tentative understanding that is subject to a variety of approvals and very complex machinations,” the league’s commissioner, David Stern, said at 3:40 a.m., “but we’re optimistic that that will all come to pass, and that the N.B.A. season will begin on Dec. 25, Christmas Day, with a tripleheader.” Training camps and free agency will open, simultaneously, on Dec. 9, giving teams two weeks to prepare. The three Christmas games are likely to be the ones that were already on the schedule: Boston at the Knicks, followed by Miami at Dallas and Chicago at the Los Angeles Lakers. The rest of the schedule will be reconstructed and released in the coming days. “We’re really excited,” said Peter Holt, the San Antonio Spurs owner and chairman of the league’s labor-relations committee. “We’re excited for the fans. We’re excited to start playing basketball, for players, for everybody involved.”

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Brian C. Mahoney of the Associated Press (via The Washington Post): After a secret meeting earlier this week that got the broken process back on track, the sides met for more than 15 hours Friday, working to save the season. Stern said the agreement was “subject to a variety of approvals and very complex machinations, but we’re optimistic that will all come to pass and that the NBA season will begin Dec. 25.  The league plans a 66-game season and aims to open training camps Dec. 9, with free agency opening at the same time. Stern has said it would take about 30 days from an agreement to playing the first game. “All I feel right now is ‘finally,’” Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade told The Associated Press. Just 12 days after talks broke down and Stern declared the NBA could be headed to a “nuclear winter,” he sat next to Hunter to announce the 10-year deal, with either side able to opt out after the sixth year. “For myself, it’s great to be a part of this particular moment in terms of giving our fans what they wanted and wanted to see,” said Derek Fisher, the president of the players’ association. A majority on each side is needed to approve the agreement, first reported by CBSSports.com. The NBA needs votes from 15 of 29 owners. (The league owns the New Orleans Hornets.) Stern said the labor committee plans to discuss the agreement later Saturday and expects them to endorse it and recommend to the full board. The union needs a simple majority of its 430-plus members. That process is a bit more complicated after the players dissolved the union Nov. 14. Now, they must drop their antitrust lawsuit in Minnesota and reform the union before voting on the deal.

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Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: The owners made “significant moves” toward the players on several important system issues that long separated the two sides, a union source told Yahoo! Sports Saturday morning. “There’s still some tweaking to those that needs to be done,” the source said. After the tentative agreement was announced, some players privately said they would not vote for the deal, believing they had conceded too much to the owners. Still, there is not believed to be enough support to block ratification. “We’re optimistic that the [agreement] will hold and we’ll have ourselves an NBA season,” NBA commissioner David Stern said at a brief news conference held in New York with Players Association executive director Billy Hunter and president Derek Fisher. Free agency and training camps will start on Dec. 9, Stern said. Under the current agreement, the regular season would have a 66-game schedule that begins on Christmas Day with three games: Boston Celtics at the New York Knicks; Miami Heat at the Dallas Mavericks; and Chicago Bulls at the Los Angeles Lakers. Players are not expected to be permitted to start working out at their team facilities – or with coaching staffs – until camps open on Dec. 9. “It’s finally great to wake up to this kind of news,” Houston Rockets guard Kevin Martin said.

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Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated: • Jeffrey Kessler nearly killed the deal. Again. Sort of. Kessler, the union’s outside counsel, has been a lightning rod for criticism during this process and a frequent target of Stern for what the NBA believes has been a disruptive influence in the negotiations. On Friday, Kessler nearly torpedoed the negotiations again when he, via speakerphone, asked the NBA for a 51 percent of the basketball-related income. Stern and Holt, who have been vehemently opposed to giving the players any more than 50 percent, rejected the proposal. While Kessler was merely the vessel delivering the union’s message, his offer infuriated representatives from the league and, according to a source close to the NBA’s Labor Relations Committee, nearly ended the negotiations. The two sides stayed at the table, however, and, according to the source, eventually agreed on a band that will give the players between 49 and 51 percent of the BRI. • The NBA is happy with this deal. The players are OK with it. Complete details of the new CBA won’t be disclosed for a few days, at least, but it’s clear the NBA got much of what it wanted. It reduced the players’ share of BRI by at least six percent (or $240 million per season) and will ultimately put significant restrictions on player movement, through the luxury tax, that will prevent big or more attractive markets from luring top players away from their incumbent teams. “I think it will largely prevent the high-spending teams from competing in the free-agency market in the way they [have] in the past,” [NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam] Silver said. “It’s a compromise. It’s not the system we sought out to get in terms of the harder cap, but the luxury tax is harsher than it was in the past deal and we hope it’s effective. You never can be sure, but we feel, ultimately, it will give fans in every community hope that their team will be able to compete for championships and that their basis for believing in their team will be a function of management rather than how deep the owners’ pockets are or how large the market is.” The players? It seems they got a deal they can live with. While many players will likely be unhappy with the concessions made by the union, the majority will vote to approve the deal, in part because they believe it’s the best deal they can get and in part because they are not willing to sacrifice an entire season’s salary.

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Henry Abbott of ESPN.com: Common sense suggests players – many of whom have not followed all that closely, and almost all of whom love playing NBA basketball – will approve the deal.  But Hunter’s caution is not without reason. Compared to Stern, Hunter has a bigger, less predictable group that has surprised him more than once in this process with stridence.  There are more than 400 players, for one thing. For another, many of them are incredibly competitive and are sensitive to the idea Stern and the owners have walked on them. And the players not only have real power — some of them are plaintiffs in a case that must be dropped for the NBA to operate – but they also have some bitter pills to swallow, including spending cuts that will affect several free agents in the years to come, a smaller mid-level exception, and less job security for many rank-and-file players.  There may be some salesmanship in how Hunter, Derek Fisher and the Players Association handle the next few days.  If I were doing the selling, these are some of the points I’d make: *NBA free agency – the bedrock of every players’ market value — is not everything it once was, but it’s alive and well. There is no hard cap, and every team will have at least some kind of mid-level exception every year. * The Bird exception has led to some of the league’s best-paid, winningest, happiest players, and is essentially untouched. *Minimum team payrolls will be climbing. The league instituted this in the name of competitive balance. But it will be in effect whether or not better players are available for stingy teams to sign, and whether or not owners know how to spend that money wisely. That’s a win for free agents. The Grizzlies reportedly signed Zach Randolph in part because they had to get their salaries up to the league minimum. There will be more deals like this in the future. * The best way to really make a lot of money as a non-superstar NBA player is to touch off a free-agent bidding war. Revenue sharing will help even the most tight-fisted teams to join these once in a while. If $3 million or so sounds like a decent salary to you, right now, for the first time have as many as 30 teams that both want you and can afford you.

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Chris Sheridan of Sheridanhoops.com: Here are some of the key details of those moves, according to a league source who was privy to the details of the tentative agreement and shared those details with SheridanHoops.com. _ On the financial split, the players will receive between 49 and 51 percent of revenues, depending on annual growth. The players had complained prior to Saturday that the owners’ previous offer effectively limited them to 50.2 percent of revenues, but the source said 51 percent was now reasonably achievable with robust growth. _Owners dropped their insistence on what would have been known as the Carmelo Anthony rule, preventing teams from executing extend-and-trade deals similar to the one that sent Anthony from the Denver Nuggets to the New York Knicks last season. This means that if Dwight Howard, Deron Williams and Chris Paul want to leverage their way out of Orlando, New Jersey and New Orleans, they will still be eligible to sign four-year extensions with their current teams before being immediately traded elsewhere. _ Teams above the salary cap will be able to offer four-year mid-level exception contracts to free agents each season. Previously, owners were asking that teams be limited to offering a four-year deal one year, a three-year deal the next, then four, then three, etc. _ The rookie salary scale and veteran minimum salaries will stay the same as they were last season. Owners had been seeking 12 percent cuts. _ Qualifying offers to restricted free agents will become “significantly” improved. The sides had already agreed to reduce the time for a team to match an offer to a restricted free agent from 7 days to 3. _ A new $2.5 million exception will be available to teams that go blow the salary cap, then use all of their cap room to sign free agents. Once they are back above the cap, they will be able to use the new exception instead of being limited to filling out their rosters with players on minimum contracts. _ The prohibition on luxury tax-paying teams from executing sign-and-trade deals was loosened, although the freedom to execute those types of deals will still be limited.

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We Have (The Makings Of) A Deal!

– For labor updates, follow: @daldridgetnt | @AschNBA

NBA.com’s Labor Central

After 15 hours of negotiations Friday-into-Saturday –- and 149 days of lockout start to finish -– representatives of the NBA owners and players reached a tentative deal on settling their various lawsuits that should lead to a new collective bargaining agreement that will salvage a shortened 2011-12 season beginning on Christmas Day.

Details of what will become a new labor contract still were vague when the meeting ended after 3 a.m. ET at a New York law office. But the bones of a deal reportedly call for the players to receive a “band” share of basketball-related income ranging from 49 percent to 51 percent depending on the league’s growth (with a more reasonable shot at 51 than in previous offers). A laundry list of system issues, meanwhile, are intended to make the NBA more competitive across its 30 teams.

NBA commissioner David Stern and Billy Hunter, the former executive director of the players’ former union, met with reporters in an impromptu joint news conference shortly after the meeting.

“We’ve reached a tentative understanding,” Stern said, “that is subject to a variety of approvals and very complex machinations. But we’re optimistic that will all come to pass and that the NBA season will begin on December 25th, Christmas Day, with a triple-header.

“We’re very pleased that we’ve come this far. There’s still a lot of work to be done in a lot of places, with a lot of committees and player groups and the like. But we’re optimistic that it will hold and we’ll have ourselves an NBA season.

Stern said the owners’ labor relations committee would be briefed Saturday, with the agreement passing then to the overall Board of Governors. The commissioner said he expects both bodies to endorse the deal.

Said Hunter: “We’re going to turn it all over to the lawyers here and have them work out all the details. We’ll be able to then talk with you further as that process proceeds.” It could take a week to 10 days for the players to re-form their union and ratify a formal CBA.

Stern and Hunter did share a few details on the shortened season. A 66-game regular-season schedule, first reported by the New York Times Wednesday, is likely, pushing the start of a full playoff bracket a week or so later into spring. The plan is for training camps and free agency to both begin on Dec. 9, though details remained sketchy. All-Star Weekend in Orlando, initially set for Feb. 24-26, is expected to be preserved.

Technically, the talks that stretched from noon Friday into the wee hours Saturday were aimed at settling the antitrust lawsuit filed last week by the players when they dissolved their union. But the essence of that settlement will serve as the new CBA, assuming remaining “B-list” issues are worked out, lawsuits by both the players and the league (anticipating the union’s disclaimer of interest) get dismissed, the union gets re-formed with the league’s approval and the deal is ratified by both the NBA’s 30 owners and its 430-plus players.

The “A-list” issues, though, were the ones that had hung up the season, forcing what will be an opening night delayed by 55 days. They’re the ones that caused bargaining to break down Nov. 14 and they’re the ones that needed to be addressed to both sides’ satisfaction –- or tolerable dissatisfaction -– for the tentative agreement to get struck.

Finding middle ground on those was key. Among them:

– The mid-level exception for non-taxpaying teams will have a maximum length of four years every season (instead of alternating at four years, then three years). Starting salary can be as much as $5 million.

– There apparently will be a “mini” MLE for taxpaying teams, restricting the amount they can offer to free agents.

– A 10 percent maximum escrow tax will be withheld without the unlimited “true up” amount requested by the owners in their previous offer.

– Extend-and-trade deals –- as used by Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks last season –- will be modified but not eliminated in a new CBA. That could impact players such as Orlando’s Dwight Howard and New Jersey’s Deron Williams.

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Labor Talks: Finger-Pointing Season

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – If you thought October was filled with empty rhetoric from both sides and nastiness that prevents progress in the NBA’s lockout saga, wait until you get a load of the new narrative.

The only thing worse than yet another breakdown in lockout negotiations is the incessant finger-pointing that kicked off in earnest on what should have been the opening night of the season.

And it’s open season on any and everyone connected.

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