HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The end of one season parts the waters for the beginning of a new one every year this time in the NBA.
For some, the end can’t get here fast enough, while others will fight until the very end to be a part of the new season. For Kobe Bryant, his bittersweet ending to his 17th NBA season comes with loads of uncertainty.
Will the Los Angeles Lakers’ icon return to form after tearing his Achilles April12? Will he ever be the same? Is it reasonable for anyone to expect him to?
Instead of just asking the questions we sought out the experts for answers on Episode 113 of the Hang Time Podcast featuring legendary trainer Tim Grover, the man who has helped the likes of Kobe, Dwyane Wade and Michael Jordan before them, set the standard as the ultimate competitors in their field. We also picked the brain of Dr. Thomas Best, the Director of Sports Medicine Research at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, for some history and cold hard facts about what Kobe is facing from medical standpoint.
Grover’s already mapping out an extensive plan for Kobe to get back sooner rather than later and you can identify some of his strategies in his new book, “Relentless: From Good To Great To Unstoppable,“ which highlights the training methods the greats have used to separate themselves from the pack.
We’ve also discuss our picks for MVP (LeBron James) and several other awards, debate whether or not Kevin Durant should have chased a fourth scoring title instead of handing this year’s trophy to Carmelo Anthony and handed out a little internal hardware of our own with the crowning of the regular season winner of Braggin’ Rights (and believe it or not, the rookie did it)!
Check out all of that and so much more on Episode 113 of the Hang Time Podcast featuring Tim Grover and Dr. Thomas Best.
That’s not to say that Gay hasn’t been a nice player during his six-plus seasons in the NBA; the kind who could often fill up the basket and make it look easy.
But that was the trouble. The Grizzlies have carved out their place, if tenuous, in the upper half of the Western Conference. Like Tina Turner and her band: they never, ever do anything nice and easy.
Gay has been barely shooting 40 percent from the field this season, checking it at a myopic 31 percent from 3-point range. For a player taking such a big bite out of the payroll, Gay too often seemed to drift, which was the rap as far back as 2006 when he was drafted eighth overall out of UConn.
Now the Grizzlies get veteranTayshaun Prince, who can knock down the 3s, play solid defense and do all of the dirty work/little things, if he’s still so inclined at 32. They also get Ed Davis’ ability to finish at the rim and a couple of contracts that are far more palatable.
In short, the Grizzlies saved themselves a bundle and in a roll-of-the-dice way may have gotten some answers for a team whose chances to reach the NBA Finals this season were probably closer to a scratch-off lottery ticket than money in the bank.
Now the question is whether they’ll do the right thing by coach Lionel Hollins, who’s been allowed to quack like a lame duck without a new contract all season.
While the new ownership group (which is led by Robert Pera and celebrity pals Justin Timberlake and Peyton Manning) and the management team (which includes stat guru John Hollinger) are clearly making their mark on the operation, it is Hollins who has already placed his stamp on the Grizzlies.
Yes, he’s often cranky and challenging. But those are the same attributes that describe the Grizzlies when they’re at their best. A lot of coaches talk about professionalism and accountability, Hollins demands it. He learned during his playing career from championship teams in Portland and Philadelphia that sacrifice and teamwork are not just to be valued, but expected.
Much was made of Hollins recent statement when he said: “We get hung up on statistics a little too much, and I think that’s a bad trait all over the league.”
Was it a shot at Hollinger and the new regime? Or simply Hollins being Hollins? Likely a little bit of both.
In the four years since Hollins has been on the Grizzlies bench, he has pushed, prodded, cajoled, driven and turned the quaint little franchise in the league’s smallest market that had never won a single playoff game into a “Grind House” team which Memphis could support. He did it by making the Grizzlies a reflection of his own personality, often flinty and contrarian.
This is Hollins’ team, even if they change pieces, because they share his DNA. You can’t have the “Grind House” without the head grinder.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The centennial edition of The Hang Time Podcast was bound to be our biggest and best effort to date.
It had to be, given the star-studded guest list headlined by TNT’s Emmy Award-winning crew from The Inside set, masters Shaquille O’Neal, Kenny Smith and the Hall of Famer, Charles Barkley. With an opening assist from the great Ernie Johnson and a visit from the longtime radio voice of the Atlanta Hawks, Steve Holman, who was celebrating his 2,000 consecutive broadcast, we made sure to celebrate 100 right here at headquarters.
Dozens of current and former NBA players, current stars and living legends, have made appearances on the show in the first 100 episodes. We’ve talked to a little bit of everybody, from comedian extraordinaire Charlie Murphy to NBA Commissioner David Stern, Hollywood up-and-comer Genesis Rodriguez to comedic wiz Chelsea Peretti.
About the only guys we hadn’t spoken to yet were Shaq, Kenny and Charles … until now!
Listen in on Episode 100 of the Hang Time Podcast and party with us while we keep it 100!
(Big ups to Vince Thomas of The Shadow League, our former super producer Micah Hart for hatching the podcast with me from the start and the NBA TV and NBA Digital brain trust of Rusty Mintz, Tony Lamb, Steve “The Boss Man” Quintana, John Donovan, Kevin McCormack, Beau Estes our former internTori Carmenfor helping nurse the show from its infancy into the full-blown ball of hoops chaos that we’ve grown into.)
DALLAS – To quote Memphis Grizzlies defensive bulldog Tony Allen Saturday night: “This is the year.”
The Grizzlies love the makeup of their grizzled, veteran team and their chances to contend for the whole enchilada. And with a new ownership group in place led by young tech billionaire Robert Pera and flanked by glimmering, star-power partners like Justin Timberlake and Peyton Manning, again, to quote Allen: “The sky’s the limit for this team.”
At least it should be. Yet here we sit, still five weeks removed from the trade deadline and uncertainty is swallowing the Grizzlies whole, an inconvenient and unspoken truth (at least as a team) that at any moment the financial hammer can come crashing down on the this team.
Rumors persist that Memphis is shopping its highest-priced assets. Rudy Gay (owed $37.2 million over the next two seasons), Marc Gasol (owed $30.1 million over the next two seasons) andZach Randolph (owed $34.3 million over the next two seasons), the roots of the Grizzlies’ four-year rise from obscurity, are all twisting in the trade winds as potential sell-offs to lessen the franchise’s financial burden under the new and less-forgiving collective-bargaining agreement.
“That’s what happens when you get new owners,” said Randolph, who plans to reside in Memphis during the offseasons even if he’s traded. “Mr. [Michael] Heisley (the Grizzlies’ previous owner), he had a vision of keeping us all together. He took care of all of us to build a team and try to win a championship. Now the new owner probably wants to do something different. But it’s a business.”
Even coach Lionel Hollins, the most successful coach in Grizzlies history, waits on an extension in the final season of his contract.
“Hopefully I’ll have this team the whole year, and if I don’t, I’ll coach other guys,” Hollins said. “If they don’t give me an extension, then I’ll decide what I’m going to do. I think our team has done well growing as a group each year and developing to the point this year where I feel we’re a legitimate contender. We’ve [been able] to play with [everybody] out of the top teams. That’s usually when you’re trying to get there, you win a lot of games, but you don’t do well against the contenders. You might win one or two, but we’ve been able to compete with every last one of them.”
The Grizzlies dropped to 24-11 Saturday night after never getting in gear against the struggling Dallas Mavericks one night after securing a rugged overtime home win against the San Antonio Spurs. The Mavs, 104-83 winners, led by 18 in the first half and by 30 in the third quarter as the Grizzlies were gassed and never made a run.
Prior to the game, the Grizzlies, to a man, said they don’t discuss trade rumors in the locker room, on the team bus or anywhere.
“If we discuss it that means you think about it,” said Gay, the team’s leading scorer and its longest-tenured player now in his seventh season. “I’m not going to try to think about it. I’m just trying to win games.”
It’s the big secret that isn’t, the topic they don’t want to talk about, but will be asked of them at every stop.
“It’s tough knowing that this team has done so well and we’re having to go through trade rumors,” said point guard Mike Conley, whose under contract for another three seasons at a reasonable $26.1 million. “With the new CBA and all that, we were hoping we wouldn’t have to be in this situation. Here we are, all these rumors and speculation of what might happen, what could happen in the next few weeks until the trade deadline.
“I think it’s been kind of nice that guys haven’t it let it affect them. It can easily affect a team, but this team has done a great job of throwing it aside, saying we can’t control it and just go about our business.”
It wasn’t long ago when Marc’s brother, Pau Gasol, led the Grizzlies’ first three-season playoff surge after the move from Vancouver. Those games were played at a half-empty FedEx Forum. Memphis has made substantial strides in attendance from ranking 28th in the league in 2009-10 and averaging 13,485 a game, and routinely being outdrawn by the city’s first love, the Memphis Tigers who share the arena.
Through 18 home dates this season, the Grizzlies, 14-4 on their home floor, rank 18th in attendance, averaging 16,529.
The franchise’s new ownership group owes it to their growing number of fans, to the players that have grown together to become a contender and to Hollins, who has overseen the process, to stick with the program through this season.
“I think we’re one of the most well-rounded teams in the league,” Gay said. “I don’t think there’s a letdown at any position.”
After whatever happens in the postseason, then re-assess and re-package to fit a new financial model in the summer.
“I feel like we got the whole package,” said Randolph, who is having an All-Star-type season averaging 16.9 points and 12.0 rebounds. “Rudy on the wing, me and Marc down low, we got Mike Conley stepping up and playing great ball, we got T.A. [Allen], our defensive leader, so our starting five is as solid as any starting five in the league.
“You want to see us together because we’ve come a long way.”
No other contender in either conference faces such roster uncertainty at mid-season. It’s unfair, and if a shakeup occurs before the Feb. 21 trade deadline, there will be no excuse to feed the fans, and perhaps no way of ever knowing if this is indeed the year.
“That’s the NBA and one thing about that is anything can happen,” Gay said. “Other people are going to have different plans. You just have to take advantage of the time you have.”
A star-studded group of investors — including NFL quarterback Peyton Manning and his wife Ashley, entertainer Justin Timberlake and former NBA players Penny Hardaway and Elliot Perry — could be approved to purchase the Memphis Grizzlies at the NBA’s Board of Governors two-day meeting today and Thursday in Manhattan.
And with the league’s other 29 owners, they could find themselves with a new revenue stream in the form of jersey-patch ads.
The Memphis sale and a report from the NBA’s planning committee on the pros and cons of placing ads on jerseys are two of the items believed to be on the BOG agenda. Though the actual list of topics isn’t made public, other items may include:
Reports on revenue sharing and collective bargaining.
Arena news, including the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn and improvements to Madison Square Garden in New York.
Discussion of rule changes via the competition committee, including flopping and other referee points-of-emphasis.
Updates on ticket sales, network contracts and sponsorships.
Review of the NBA China program and preseason games played internationally this fall.
The status of the Sacramento Kings’ arena deal and possible relocation is not believed to be among the scheduled topics, nor is any formal discussion of efforts in Seattle to gain an existing or expansion franchise.
A Los Angeles investor, Steve Kaplan, has joined the Grizzlies purchase group headed by Robert Pera, according to a story Tuesday in the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. Kaplan was involved with current Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley’s unsuccessful attempt to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers, the paper reported.
Any move to put ads on players’ jerseys -– common practice in international play and even in the WNBA -– would not come at NBA commissioner David Stern’s urging. Neither would it happen, though, over his objections.
Stern told reporters during the Boston Celtics’ stop in Milan earlier this month that he would rather not see the sponsors’ patches on uniforms. “As a personal matter, I am not in favor of it, but I’m not standing in the way of it,” Stern said. “If my board wants to do it, we’ll do it.”
HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS – Kentucky power forward Anthony Davis is going to be the first player to hear his named announced Thursday night in New York.
Beyond that tidy bit of information, there are no certainties involved in the 2012 NBA Draft.
We know this here at headquarters because we’ve asked just about everyone you could imagine and canvassed the basketball globe on the eve of the Draft and found that no one, and we mean no one, is certain of anything other than Davis walking across that stage first.
What’s it like living through this process from the inside out? We find out from North Carolina’s Tyler Zeller, a projected lottery pick. Who are the biggest movers and shakers in the Draft? Well, it is a fluid list that will change several more times before the start of the Draft, says NBA.com’s Draft guru Scott Howard-Cooper. The Houston Rockets remain the team most eager to move their way up the Draft board, their master plan (Dwight Howard in a Rockets uniform) is clear for all to see. We go behind the scenes on their motives with NBA.com’s Fran Blinebury (rhymes with grime and scary).
Check out all that and more on Episode 84 of the Hang Time Podcast our Draft Special, with Tyler Zeller, Scott Howard-Cooper and Fran Blinebury. And make sure you to tune into the Draft Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – In the days since the first two weeks of the NBA regular season ended, there has been no mincing of words from either side.
We are in a red alert situation. The 2011-12 NBA season is on the line every second of every minute of every single day as this lockout continues. NBA commissioner David Stern said as much in various interviews Thursday, making clear that something has to be done sooner (next week Tuesday at the earliest) rather than later …
No Deal Tuesday, No Games Through Christmas?
Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: Setting another arbitrary deadline for more lost games, NBA commissioner David Stern said that without an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement by Tuesday, he fears there will be no games on Christmas Day.
“It’s time to make the deal,” Stern said, speaking deliberately and threateningly Wednesday in an interview on New York’s WFAN radio. ”If we don’t make it on Tuesday, my gut — this is not in my official capacity of canceling games — but my gut is that we won’t be playing on Christmas Day.”
Tuesday is the day the league and players’ association will meet with federal mediator George Cohen in an attempt to resolve their differences before more games are canceled.
“Deal Tuesday, or we potentially spiral into situations where the worsening offers on both sides make it even harder for the parties to make a deal,” Stern said.
Stern confirmed that negotiating committees for the league and National Basketball Players Association will meet separately with Cohen on Monday and then will convene for a bargaining session under Cohen’s supervision Tuesday. Why the deadline? Stern’s Board of Governors is scheduled to meet in New York Wednesday and Thursday — first for the planning committee to present its revenue sharing plan and then for a full board meeting.
Asked when more games could be imperiled after he canceled the first two weeks on Monday, Stern said, “I don’t have a date here sitting at my desk. But if we don’t have a deal by the time the owners are in, then what’s the purpose of us sitting around staring at each other on the same issues?”
Hunter: “It’s not an issue of time. It’s an issue of will. If you are in a room and you want to make a deal and there are three major issues that are holding you up, if you can come to a compromise on those three areas than you have a makings of a deal. It’s not a nature of time. We can go in and do a deal if they want to go in and do a deal. We can do a deal in an hour, two hours if we can agree to the major terms. And after that you got to work on everything else. Everything else will fall in place.”
Q: What has been the most frustrating part of negotiations?
Hunter: “I don’t think [the owners] are negotiating in good faith. That’s what’s frustrating. David Stern told me three years ago – and I keep reiterating that because people keep pulling up their cup on it – that they were going to lock out [the players] in order to get what it was they wanted. And what he’s done is done that. [Stern] said he was going to lock out [the players] and his owners were prepared to lock out to get what they wanted. It’s driven pretty much by the small-market teams. They actually want revenue sharing in the big markets, but the big markets have said, ‘OK we’ll give revenue conditioned upon you getting the deal in place that we think has to be there because we don’t want to go into our pockets as much as we may have to. We think you should get it off the backs of the players.’ So that’s what he’s done. He’s stated an extreme position from the get go and he’s negotiated that way. So here we are.
“We’ve been negotiating for almost three years, and here we are at the 12th hour when all of the sudden they make a slight move. But then on top of that, they then decide that they want a hard cap. So then when you get close to the economics of the number, then they get close to the system. And they know that the system is very important. If we give on the economics, we are not going to give on the system. And so all of the sudden you reach a possible agreement on the economics and now the system becomes a problem. So it’s like a moving target. It’s frustrating. It’s frustrating because the whole intent and purpose and whole strategy has been to break the resolve of the players.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS –Peyton Manning might be the NFL’s best player and No. 1 pitch man these days, but in high school he wasn’t even the biggest star on campus at Isidore Newman School in New Orleans.
That honor belonged to Randy Livingston, who in 1993 was Gatorade National Player of the Year in boys basketball, earning his trophy a year before Manning would take home the same honors in football.
Currently the head coach of the NBA D-League’s Idaho Stampede, Livingston joins us on Episode 26 of the Hang Time Podcast to reminisce about his time as not only the nation’s top high school recruit, but also the knee injuries that curtailed his playing career and the resolve it took to overcome that adversity and succeed as a player in the NBA, the D-League and now as a head coach.
Livingston also offers an interesting perspective on the rules changes the D-League will implement this season and the potential impact those changes could have if and when they are introduced to the NBA.
Veteran NBA writer Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports joins us as well, sharing his insights on the Carmelo Anthony situation in Denver — yes, we realize that all is quiet these days on the “Melo-drama” front, but there are still rumblings that things might not be what they seem in Nuggets camp.
We didn’t forget about Carlos Boozer‘s injury or Joakim Noah‘s extension in Chicago. And nobody is crazy enough, not even the HTP crew, to miss the Miami Heat’s preseason debut against Detroit tonight at 7 p.m. live on NBA TV.