Posts Tagged ‘pistons’

13 NBA Reasons To Be Thankful


VIDEO: NBA players give thanks for their communities and more

Before we dig into the turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberries and pumpkin pie, here’s a baker’s dozen things on the NBA plate to appreciate on Thanksgiving Day:

Kobe Bryant: We get two more years — at least — of the most ruthless, relentless, never-show-a-weakness competitor the league and maybe pro sports has seen since Michael Jordan was chewing up the scenery and opponents in Chicago. In the wake of his signing a two-year, $48.5 million contract extension, we also got a slew of critiques about impact on the salary cap and physical limits of your average 35-year-old body that overlook his unquenchable thirst to play, his drive to get back onto the court for the Lakers. Love him or hate him, you’ll miss him when he’s gone.


VIDEO: The Starters talk about Kobe Bryant’s new deal

The Heat Wave: Never mind that the Celtics did it in 2008 with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, the Celtics did it in 1980 with Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish, the Celtics did all through the late ‘50s and 1960s with Bill Russell and an entire wing of the Hall of Fame and the Lakers did it with Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy. The Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami is just what the doctored ordered in the overreactive, hypersensitive age of social media — something to cheer, complain and obsess about. And, oh yeah, they’re damn good.

LeBron James: For all of the disappointment over not getting to the top in Cleveland, bad judgment and bad taste of “The Decision,” he took his talents to South Beach and has delivered on the promise. Would Jordan or Bird or Magic or Wilt Chamberlain or Bill Russell have stood up to the 24/7 scrutiny under which James has played his entire career? Be thankful you get to see him now, because 20-30 years from now you’ll be bragging to the grandkids that you did.


VIDEO: LeBron James is off to a monster start again this season

Riquickulous: It’s not just a clever TV commercial for Nike. On almost any night he laces up his sneakers, it never gets old to know that the game’s greatest ball handler and top point guard Chris Paul is quite likely to pull off a variation of the “the pull-back-hop-step-under-the-left-leg-behind-the-back-right-hand-two-dribble-half-pokey-crossover-between-two-defenders-drop-step-take-tweet-through-over-the-shoulder-pop-pass-into-the-sidestep-power-jump-stop-double-clutch-offhand-reverse-floater-layin.”

Anybody need me to repeat that?


VIDEO: Chris Paul puts a ridiculous move on the Rockets’ Jeremy Lin

The Spurs Way: They’re the often unseen lining on the inside of an expensive fur coat, the overlooked soles on the bottom of a pair of $1,000 designer shoes. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and all of the stability and professionalism they stand for in San Antonio prove that you don’t have to live in the headlines to be deserving of them.

John, Paul George & Ringo: Because of where they’re from, because of who they are, the Pacers will likely never be known as the Fab Four or Five, even if they’re lifting the Larry O’Brien Trophy in June. It’s a team-wide commitment to the task that has the Pacers steely-eyed and focused on the rolling up the best record in the league. But watching the growth and transformation of George from talented rookie into team leader and MVP candidate has been nothing short of breathtaking.


VIDEO: NBA Action takes a closer look at Indiana’s fast start to 2013-14

LaMarcus Aldridge: Another MVP candidate from another team with a geographical handicap that keeps the world of headlines and acclaim from beating a path to his door. The Blazers forward could have become discouraged and looked to bail out of Portland after three straight non-playoff seasons in the prime of his career. Instead he’s doing it all and having his best season in the NBA Go ahead, tell me you saw 13-3 coming.


VIDEO: The Blazers’ LaMarcus Aldridge has helped Portland start off solid

Gregg Popovich vs. Craig Sager: Those terse, contentious in-game chats on TNT between the acerbic Spurs coach and a guy wearing one of Secretariat’s old stable blankets are some of the most uncomfortable and hilarious bits in the history of television. Other sideline reporters have tried to horn in on the act, but this is Ali-Frazier of the genre.

Russell Westbrook: Yes, he’s wild, restless, unpredictable, flamboyant, stubborn and burn-down-the-house crazy at times on the court. But we watch him with our jaws dropped because of those traits. I know you expected me to say Kevin Durant, and I have nothing but respect for K.D.’s silky smooth, just-go-about-his-business approach to the game. But when it comes to the Thunder, you can’t help but be drawn to the lightning.


VIDEO: Russell Westbrook runs wild on the Nuggets in Oklahoma City’s victory

Love Story: Everybody knew he could rebound coming out of UCLA, but not like this. Everybody knew he could shoot and score and pass when he entered the NBA. But not like this. There are still general managers in the league who foolishly label Kevin Love as “unathletic” every year in their annual poll and you have to wonder how they keep their paycheck or any sense of credibility. The Timberwolves power forward is challenging LeBron in the early MVP race with a game that is deliciously well-rounded.


VIDEO: Kevin Love is leading the league in rebounding

Stephen Curry: Slender as a reed and maybe as frail as a snowflake, Curry is delicate yet dangerous, in some ways the 21st century version of George Gervin because he can shoot with such ease and from unexpected angles and barely ever looks like he’s breaking a sweat. It’s his propensity for injuries that makes you want to take in as much as you can see right now, just in case.

Andre Miller: He’s old and slow … and he’s been that way for what seems like decades now. But at 37 and in his 15th season, if you bounced him out of Denver right now and into Chicago, the Bulls would have just the smart, tough point guard they need to stay in the Eastern Conference race. There’s something about watching an experienced, heady veteran surviving and thriving that is satisfying.

Motor City Jerseys: OK, let’s not get carried away and see Kobe wearing “La-La Land,” Dwight Howard “H-Town” or LeBron “South Beach” across his chest. Detroit and the Motor City nickname has history, tradition, staying power. It really means something to a town that has taken its share of lumps and bruises through the years and a franchise with a long-standing championship pedigree. The Pistons in the Motor City jerseys are just, well, cool.

Have Grizzlies Lost Their Bite?

VIDEO: The Grizzlies needed everything they had to get their only win of the year so far

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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — “It gets late early out there.”

Yogi Berra was talking about the left field shadows at the old Yankee Stadium. But he could have been referring to the shadow of former coach Lionel Hollins in Memphis.

Not even a week into the 2013-14 season and there seems to be something missing from the Grizzlies. Teeth and claws.

Or as they call it at the FedEx Forum, “Grit and Grind.”

It’s unwise to read too much into just the first three sips from an 82-game regular season. Otherwise we’d be guzzling the Kool-Aid of the confounding 3-0 Sixers and already making hotel reservations for next June in always sunny Philadelphia.

But there are times when a few early leaks in the bucket could be cause for concern that the bottom might fall out.

The Grizzlies, who advanced to the Western Conference finals a season ago, have carried around a style and reputation as subtle as an anvil in their climb up the ranks of legitimate contenders. Yet the early returns have shown that anvil dropping onto their toes.

Were it not for a couple of timely jumpers by Tayshaun Prince in overtime on Friday that finally put down the Pistons, Memphis would be looking at an 0-3 start that might have some reaching for the panic button. As it is, it might not hurt to at least get a finger loosened up.

After an uninspiring 111-99 loss at Dallas Saturday, the Grizzlies have surrendered more than 100 points three times in three games. While on their way to winning a franchise record 56 times last season, the Grizzlies and their No. 2-rated defense allowed opponents to hit the century mark just 10 times in 82 tries.

That certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed within the locker room, as noted by Ron Tillery of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal:

“This ain’t us,” Griz forward Zach Randolph said. “I don’t know if we’re focusing on the offense or not, but we’re a defensive team and that’s what we’ve got to hang our hats on. And another thing is we’ve got to come out faster.”

Yes, it is early. But the trend could bring out all of the fears that were left by management’s decision to let Hollins — the best coach in franchise history — walk out the door. While the thought was that rookie coach Dave Joerger would be able to put some juice into the Grizzlies offensive by getting more ball movement and a faster pace, it was not supposed to be at expense of their lockdown defense.

While the Memphis offense that had the slowest pace in the league a year ago has jumped from 17th to 13th through the opening weekend of the season, the defense has fallen from 100.3 (No. 2) to 109 (26th). Opponents’ shooting percentage is up overall, especially from behind the 3-point line. However the interior defense that is supposed to be anchored by the bruising play of Randolph and 2013 Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol, is being exploited regularly.

After after reeling in the Mavs with a stretch of solid defense in the middle of the game, too often the Grizzlies were simply trading baskets, giving up layups or committing interior fouls that produced a parade to the free-throw line.

“We didn’t come out and play with any force,” Joerger said. “They’re at home. You’ve got to come out and set the tone early. We did not do that. We did not defend. We didn’t cut hard.”

These are all the areas that were as much a part of the Grizzlies appearance in games as their jerseys and sneakers under Hollins. If he was often critical, sarcastic and demanding, it was because there was a purpose. If it was Tony Allen who gave their home court the “Grind House” nickname, it was Hollins who laid the foundation and planted the seeds in the front lawn.

When the Spurs eventually exploited Memphis’ lack of offensive firepower in their conference finals blitz, it was clear that an upgrade was needed in order for the Grizzlies to take the next step. Was adding 33-year-old Mike Miller enough? Definitely not if the defensive intensity was going to drop.

In a Western Conference race that has only become more crowded and contentious, the last thing the Grizzlies can afford to lose is their identity.

So with the shadow of Hollins looming, it might not be too early for the grit and grind to heed another old Yogi-ism:

“When you come to a fork in the road…take it.”

New Coaches: Five That Fit

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HANG TIME, Texas – Sometimes it’s the big things, a change in philosophy or overall team strategy that’s required to make a difference. Sometimes it’s just a new attitude, a new voice that’s needed in the locker room.

With a baker’s dozen new coaches ready to roam NBA sidelines — at least one in every division — this season, some will find the task a heavier lift than the circus wagon that holds the elephants.

Others will pick up their new teams immediately. Here are the five coaches who’ll make themselves right at home in their new digs and have the smoothest transitions:

Doc Rivers, Clippers – The veteran of previous stints with the Magic and Celtics definitely has the least room for improvement in the win column, since the Clips already won a franchise-best 56 games and their first-ever division title a year ago. But the little brothers of Staples Center won’t really shed their “second-class-citizen” image until they make a real run in the playoffs and that’s where Rivers’ experience will pay off. While they will still dance to the tune of Chris Paul’s talent on the court, Rivers will get them marching to a more serious, professional beat at both ends of the floor and in the locker room. They have to be more than just a group that jumps into the passing lanes to get steals on the defensive end and thrives on Lob City dunks on offense. He knows what it takes to win a championship and will put his stamp on the team early so we’ll notice the difference.

Mike Brown, Cavaliers — Let’s face it. Other than a fat man in an undersized Speedo, there wasn’t a more uncomfortable fit anywhere than Brown coaching the Lakers for a year and a smidgen. But now he’s back in Cleveland in a familiar role with a young team that is trying to build something special around an All-Star talent. OK, Kyrie Irving isn’t LeBron James, but he is the kind of lead horse that can pull the wagon. The truth is that these Cavaliers have a deeper collection of all-around talent than ever surrounded James, from Anderson Varejao to Tristan Thompson to Jarrett Jack to No. 1 draft pick Anthony Bennett and maybe a rehabilitated Andrew Bynum. Brown will emphasize what he knows best — defense — to give the Cavs a toughness and identity that, assuming Irving stays healthy, will have them back in the playoffs for the first time since LeBron left.

Jason Kidd, Nets – If it was so easy, the Naismith Hall of Fame would be filled with plaques of many more All-Stars who took off their uniforms one night and slipped easily into the role of head coach the next. There will be plenty about the nuts and bolts of the job that Kidd will have to learn as he goes along. But it helps that as point guard he already possessed some of the coaching genes. It also helps that he’s walking into a locker room filled with veterans names Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry, Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Andrei Kirilenko, who are all looking to erase recent seasons of disappointment to come together and win a championship. Kidd won’t have to sweat the small stuff with this bunch. Garnett, Pierce and Terry have all won rings before and know the sacrifices that have to be made and the work that must be put in. In fact, Kidd’s toughest job might be holding them back and limiting regular season playing time. Since he’s in the glare of the New York media, any mistakes along the way by the rookie coach might be magnified, but he’s played a good portion of his career there and knows how to survive.

Mike Budenholzer, Hawks – After nearly two decades in San Antonio and the past six seasons as Gregg Popovich’s right hand man on the Spurs bench, this was finally the right time and the right place for Budenholzer to make the move into the No. 1 seat. For one thing, the Hawks are certainly not bereft of talent, even after the departure of Josh Smith. Free agent Paul Millsap will fill in capably. For another, it’s not as if there is the burden of having to live up to decades — or even one or two seasons — of greatness. But mostly it was time because Budenholzer was hand-picked by general manager Danny Ferry, his old Spurs buddy, as the start of a plan to finally have the Hawks build something special and to do it the right way. The Eastern Conference has gotten stronger at the top and it will be much tougher for Atlanta to break through against the likes of Miami, Indiana, Chicago and Brooklyn. But Budenholzer and Ferry won’t be impatient, are in this for the long haul and will have each other’s back. There’s no rush this season.

Maurice Cheeks, Pistons – After previous stints as head coach in Portland and Philadelphia, Cheeks spent the past four seasons as Scott Brooks’ assistant in Oklahoma City getting prepared for his third chance. The understated Cheeks knows his stuff and knows what he wants and could be just the right personality to get the newly acquired, up-and-down pair of Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings to deliver every night. The real heat is on general manager Joe Dumars to build the once-proud franchise back up after a half decade of serious slippage has had the Pistons way outside of even playoff contention, let alone the championship conversation. Cheeks will have Chauncey Billups back with his championship pedigree as an extension on the court and if he can keep the young big man tandem of Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe moving ahead together, the Pistons could bring some joy back into The Palace with a run at a playoff spot.

Laying It On The Line: The Answers

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HANG TIME, Texas – On a recent hot summer day when Allen Iverson announced his retirement, what immediately came to mind was not one single spectacular shot that he made, but all of those fabulous, bone-jarring times he crashed to the floor.

And then got back up.

It wasn’t just his ability to lead the NBA scoring four times that made Iverson special. It was that warrior’s mentality, the trait that made him willing, against all odds, to out-scrap, out-hustle, out-compete everybody else on the court.

Through the history of the NBA, it’s usually been the big men — think Shaquille O’Neal, Moses Malone, Alonzo Mourning, Karl Malone, Charles Oakley — who got the reputation for being strong and tough, but the truth is some of the fiercest players we’ve seen over the past 30 years have been guards.

In addition to Iverson, here’s another handful of the backcourt backbreakers we’ll call The Answers. They’re indomitable. They breathe fire. They don’t ever quit. They would chew off a leg to escape from a steel trap. They’re the ones you want playing in a single game with your life on the line:

Isiah Thomas It was never wise to be fooled by the cherubic face and angelic smile. The truth is that while Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn got most of the notoriety for their bruising style and often dirty tricks, Thomas was the real heart and cold-blooded soul of the Detroit “Bad Boys.” Part of what made him the best “little man” ever to play the game was an inner fire that never burned out. He competed ferociously and refused to ever show a sign of weakness. Hobbling on a badly sprained ankle in Game 6 against the Lakers in the 1988 Finals, he scored 25 points in the fourth quarter — a Finals record — and nearly pulled out a win that would have given the Pistons their first championship a year earlier. Then there was the night of Dec. 14, 1991 when on a drive down the lane in the first quarter in Salt Lake City, Thomas took an elbow to the face from Karl Malone that opened a huge gash over his left eye. After receiving 40 stitches, Thomas returned to play in the fourth quarter.

Michael Jordan Sure, he had the leaping ability, the defensive desire, the post game, clutch jumper and late-game instincts. But Jordan the All-Star would never have become Jordan the legend and icon without his roaring, brash nature, downright mean streak and readiness to do anything it took to pull out a win. He could barely control his competitive urges, whether it was challenging Bulls teammates in practice, occasionally punching one of them out, or rising up in a game situation to respond to any kind of challenge — real or imagined — that might have been tossed out. There was virtually nothing that could stop Jordan from leaving every ounce of himself in any game that he ever played. The so-called “Flu Game” in the 1997 Finals is frequently cited. He spent the night before Game 5 at Utah suffering from severe stomach distress and was a questionable starter. Dehydrated, struggling to breathe, he hit 13 of 27 shots for 38 points to lead the Bulls to a 90-88 win. Just as telling was a story from the training camp of the 1992 USA Dream Team in Monte Carlo. After beating Jordan in a golf match one afternoon, coach Chuck Daly was awakened very early the next morning by a banging on his hotel room door. When he opened the door, Daly found a grim-faced, primed-for-revenge Jordan standing there, dressed for the golf course. “Let’s go,” he said.

Kobe Bryant – You can call him a shameless gunner who never ever met a shot he didn’t like or wouldn’t take. Shaq did. You can call him a difficult and unpleasant teammate who would make a guy leave an extra contract year and $20 million on the table to walk away from the Lakers. Dwight Howard certainly did. But after 17 NBA seasons, you can’t call Bryant anything less than the most single-minded, driven competitor in the game today. He won’t just trash-talk opponents, but will ride his own teammates to get them to try to match his level of intensity. (They can’t.) He plays hurt, aching, sick, bruised, broken and he is usually still the best player and hardest worker on the floor. He played half of the 2007-08 season with a fractured finger on his shooting hand and still won the MVP Award and led the Lakers to The Finals. At 34 last season, he averaged the second-most minutes per game in the league last season — trailing only rookie Damian Lillard — until tearing an Achilles tendon on April 12. So then he just took to Twitter from his sickbed to critique his teammates. It’s supposed to take nine months to a year to come back from Achilles surgery, but Bryant plans to tear up the calendar.

John Stockton Another one of those with a choirboy face who might have kept a pair of brass knuckles under his robe. Trying to get him to change his expression was as fruitless as banging your head against a brick wall. His Jazz teammate, The Mailman, had all those big, bulging muscles. But Stockton was equally as strong in competing with the stubbornness and dependability of a mule. Durability is a mark of greatness and in 19 seasons Stockton missed only 22 of a possible 1526 games due to injury. He never drew attention to himself by dribbling behind his back or through his legs, mostly throwing bounce passes that led to layups that were mind-numbingly effective and oh-so-deadly. He was also widely known throughout the NBA for using his 6-foot-1 body — OK, and occasionally his elbows — to set picks on opposing big men. Stockton never went looking for trouble or fights and rarely was involved in trouble, but night in night out he had the strong jaws and voracious appetite of a pit bull.

Clyde Drexler Oh, how nicknames can be deceiving. Clyde the Glide practically slides across the tongue like ice cream on a hot summer day. But it’s a lot like calling the fat kid in the crowd “Slim” or the tall guy “Shorty.” Maybe it was the fact that from the time he was a star in on the University of Houston’s Phi Slama Jama team all the way through his 15-year NBA career in Portland and Houston, the TV screens were filled with images of him floating effortlessly to the basket. In reality, he was as sharp and cutting as razor wire. He went down onto the floor for loose balls and into the crowds of tall trees to come away with the toughest rebounds. He would slice through the narrowest opening to get to the hoop for a critical bucket. He would use arms, legs, elbows — any means possible — at the defensive end, all the while with a smile on his face that belied how much he wanted to destroy you. The defending champion Rockets were down 3-1 in the 1995 conference semifinals, facing elimination and when his teammates entered the locker room, Drexler was stretched out on a table connected to IV bottles. He had the flu and nobody thought he would play. But Drexler dragged himself out onto the court and, though he could not manage a single field goal in the game, played 32 hard and inspirational minutes to spark a Rockets win that started a comeback to their second straight title.

Summer Dreaming: Executive Of The Year

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HANG TIME, Texas – Never mind that the weather map says it’ s hurricane season. This is the time of year when there are nothing but blue skies over every NBA franchise from Miami to Portland to Los Angeles to Toronto.

Draft picks have been chosen and brought into camp. Free agents have been signed and trotted out for the TV cameras. Trades have been made to fill holes in the lineups. It’s a time for championship planning among the elite class and fantasizing about moving up by the wannabes.

But the truth is that, despite so much spin doctoring that comes out of all the front offices, there are a handful of team presidents and general managers that made the most of the offseason. That’s why we don’t have to wait till next April — or even the season openers — to know who’ll be taking bows for their work. They’re our summer dreaming picks for Executive of the Year:

Daryl Morey, Rockets – Unless Dwight Howard wakes up one morning and declares it was all a mistake — that he really loved having Kobe Bryant as a playmate, that he thoroughly enjoyed Mike D’Antoni’s offense and that he never, ever meant to leave those clever recruiting banners in L.A. — this is as sure a thing as Usain Bolt outrunning a lead-boot-wearing Charles Barkley. If Howard stays healthy, he and fellow All-Star James Harden will team up to make the Rockets instant challengers for one of the top four seeds in the Western Conference and could even be a dark horse contender to advance all the way to The Finals. But before they even chalk up one “W” in the standings, Morey has put a headlock on the award simply by making the Rockets franchise relevant again for the first time in years. After drifting on a sea of anonymity and mediocrity since the star-crossed Tracy McGrady-Yao Ming pairing came undone, the Rockets are back in the spotlight. A year ago, they were on national TV once. Now they have 10 appearances on ESPN, nine on TNT, one on ABC and even made it into the Christmas lineup with a date at San Antonio.

Billy King, Nets – It’s like walking into a casino with a sack full of money, walking straight to the roulette table and plopping it all down on red. Or black. Either way, it’s a 50-50 gamble and you live with the results. King certainly has the cushion and the endorsement of Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokorhov and the understanding that paying the luxury tax bill of nearly $100 million is no problem. Still, it takes considerable nerve for King to bet it all on the hope that a 37-year-old Kevin Garnett, 35-year-old Paul Pierce, 35-year-old Jason Terry and a rookie head coach in Jason Kidd can take down the two-time defending champs from Miami along with the rest of what has become a strengthened Eastern Conference lineup. Deron Williams and Joe Johnson were enough to make Brooklyn a postseason sports destination for the first time since the Dodgers left town, but now it’s the old Celtics who’ll be expected to show them how to win a series or more. To get Andrei Kirilenko to walk away from a guaranteed $10 million to sign a cut-rate deal was probably the second-best move of the entire NBA offseason, trailing only Dwight Howard’s move to Houston. Kirilenko adds a tough defender and a slashing finisher to a lineup that hopes to have Brook Lopez improving on his first ever All-Star season. If he’s accomplished one big thing already, King has jumped the Nets over the Knicks as the headlining team in New York, which is signficant.

Chris Grant, Cavaliers – Things have changed considerably since that first summer on the job as GM when LeBron James took his talents to South Beach and the temptation might have been to turn out the lights and simply declare the NBA party in Cleveland over. Grant has steadily reassembled the franchise one piece at time to a point where people are whispering that it’s not out of the question to think James could return next summer when he becomes a free agent. Before that, the Cavs figure to have a resurgent seasons between their splendid young point guard Kyrie Irving and all the other pieces that Grant has put around him. Anthony Bennett may have been a bit of a surprise on draft night, but should fill a need on the front line and free agent signee Jarrett Jack will be both a firecracker lift off the bench. Of course, the big bonanza would be if free agent Andrew Bynum can overcome the knee injuries that left him notable only for sitting on bench modeling outrageous hairstyles last season in Philly. A return to the form that once made him an All-Star with the Lakers makes Grant a genius and, even if Bynum falls short, the Cavs have not made a long crippling financial commitment to the gamble. And don’t forget to give Grant credit for not listening to the suggestions that he should have traded Anderson Varejao. The Cavs will likely make a playoff push in the Eastern Conference and, depending on how bright the future looks next spring, could turn the head of a familiar figure to come home.

Joe Dumars, Pistons – Let’s face it. The Hall of Fame guard-turned-GM has taken his fair share of abuse through recent seasons for allowing the once-proud franchise to drift way out of the playoff picture and even have trouble drawing crowds to The Palace. Was it a curse for making Darko Mlicic the No. 2 pick in the 2003 draft, ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade? Then there was that disastrous free agent splurge on Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva in 2009. But lately Dumars has been making a comeback, drafting a pair of big men in Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond who have the potential to anchor the Pistons front line for years to come. He made his biggest play in signing free agent Josh Smith, hoping that the stat-line filler can step into the role of No. 1 option and even team leader. Then Dumars traded for Brandon Jennings with hope that he can be both reined in and unleashed and brought home former Finals MVP Chauncey Billups to show him how. Mo Cheeks gets his third shot as a head coach and it’s all a mix that could put the Pistons back in the playoffs.

Dell Demps, Pelicans – The easier path for Demps would have been to keep Nerlens Noel when the big man fell into his lap at the No. 6 pick and keep on selling a theme of acquiring young assets and building for the future. But with a new team name, new franchise colors and a new owner (Tom Benson) writing the checks, it was a time for a new and bolder direction. The young and oh-so-slender Noel was deemed too much duplication on the front line with 2012 No. 1 pick Anthony Davis and was trade to Philly for 23-year-old guard Jrue Holiday, who puts the only All-Star credentials in the New Orleans lineup. Demps then kept dealing to bring more firepower into the lineup with former rookie of the year Tyreke Evans. Of course, that immediately brought talk of a crowded backcourt with Eric Gordon still on hand, but Demps and coach Monty Williams are betting that a three-man rotation cannot only thrive, but put some punch into what was a thoroughly mediocre offense last season. Assuming Davis takes another big step forward in his second season, the Pelicans could contend for one of the final playoff spots in the West.

PREVIOUSLY: Comeback player | MVP | Coach of the Year | Sixth Man of the Year | Defensive Player of Year | Most Improved Player | Rookie Of Year

Signing Day: Free-Agent Moves And Trades Around The NBA Become Official



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Somebody has to go first.

Who is it going to be?

It’s only fitting that the first “official” transaction of the free agent summer of 2013 be Dwight Howard putting his John Hancock on that four-year, $88 million deal with the Houston Rockets. Or maybe it will be Chris Paul finally signing the five-year, $107 million deal he agreed to last week with the Los Angeles Clippers. Josh Smith putting pent to paper on that four-year, $56 million deal with the Detroit Pistons is a candidate as well, though, sometime Wednesday afternoon is more likely for that.

Those are the three biggest deals, to date, of the summer of 2013. And any one of them could be the first one to become official now that the league’s moratorium on free agent signings and trades has been lifted, as of 12:01 a.m ET.

But the guessing game is over for many of the players who have been waiting on this day. The salary cap figures for the 2013-14 season are set. And we’ll make sure you are updated on the latest, as these deals — which also includes that blockbuster trade that sent Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry from Boston to Brooklyn — get the league’s official stamp of approval. (And, as our always-astute John Schuhmann points out, the KG/Pierce mega-deal likely won’t be consummated until Friday because little-used Nets forward Kris Joseph was signed on April 12 and can’t be traded for 3 months per CBA rules).

Keep checking back here all day Wednesday as deals start becoming official …

11:46 p.m. ET

REPORT: BUCKS READYING OFFER SHEET FOR HAWKS’ TEAGUE

Might there be an end in sight to the point guard drama involving the Milwaukee Bucks and Hawks restricted free agent Jeff Teague? There could be as the first 24 hours of signing day comes to an end. (You knew we were going to finish up the first day with a little drama, what with so much of the “official” business still being sorted out.)

While this is hardly a done deal, what with all of the confusing signals that have gone back and forth about potential swapping of restricted free agent point guards Teague and Brandon Jennings, as well as unrestricted free agent guard Monta Ellis, the Bucks are reportedly set to scramble all those other plans and present Teague with a four-year, $32 million-plus offer sheet.

If Teague does indeed sign an offer sheet from the Bucks, the Hawks would have three days to either match the offer or watch him head to Milwaukee and play for his former coach with the Hawks, Larry Drew.

8:49 p.m. ET

BYNUM TO THE CAVALIERS 

Andrew Bynum wasn’t about to be left out of the free agent big man parade, not with a two-year offer on the table from the Cleveland Cavaliers. With only $6 million of the incentive-filled deal guaranteed the Cavaliers, Bynum had to take advantage of the opportunity that isn’t nearly as risky as it appeared to be Tuesday, when ESPN.com first reported that he was considering the Cavaliers’ offer. TNT’s David Aldridge provides some details and perspective:

Bynum agreed Wednesday to sign with the Cavaliers on a two-year deal worth $24 million. But that $24 million, really, is just $6 million in guaranteed money for next season. The other half of Bynum’s salary next season would come if he reaches certain incentives. The Cavaliers have a club option for the second and final year of the deal.

The deal is a small gamble for the Cavs, who continue to rebuild their team in an orderly manner. They had already added first overall Draft pick Anthony Bennett, former Warriors combo guard Jarrett Jack and ex-Laker big man Earl Clark since June to a core that includes guards Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, forward Tristan Thompson and centers Anderson Varejao and Tyler Zeller.

Now they add Bynum, whose abilities when healthy are unquestioned. The 25-year-old center averaged 20.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in 2011-12 with the Lakers, his final season in L.A., and looked to be one of the game’s best young big men.

But knee injuries have plagued Bynum throughout his career, and kept him from logging a single game with the Philadelphia 76ers last season after being part of the four-team trade that sent Dwight Howard from the Magic to the Lakers, Andre Iguodala from the Sixers to the Nuggets and several young players and Draft picks to the Orlando Magic.

Bynum, according to sources, is still not able to participate in full-court drills. But the Cavs don’t need Bynum next season. They have the veteran Varejao, recovering from a blood clot that ended his season last January, and Zeller, the second-year center from North Carolina.

So many of the Cavaliers’ main players are in the process of trying to recover from injuries that it’s difficult to identify exactly who or what they might be come training camp. But there is no denying they are a talented bunch with the potential to compete for a playoff spot, provided the key members of their core group get healthy in time for the start of the 2013-14 season and stay that way for as long as possible.

Toss in Bynum at anything close to his best, and the chances of them making some playoff noise go up dramatically.

6:37 p.m. ET

REVISED NUMBERS ON SMITH DEAL WITH PISTONS …

Josh Smith signed a four-year, $54 million deal with the Pistons and not the $56 million figure previously reported here and elsewhere, a source with knowledge of the deal has confirmed to NBA.com.

The dollar amount, however, was only part of what sold Smith on the Pistons, who have already put him front and center on the team’s website. The other was a convincing sales pitch from Hall of Famer and Pistons boss Joe Dumars.

“When I first met with Joe, he had me sold from the word ‘go,’ ” Smith said during his introductory presser Wednesday afternoon. “This is an organization that is a successful organization. I’ve always wanted to be part of a good organization that has a lot of die-hard fans.”

4:12 p.m. ET

CLIPPERS PRESENT FAMILIAR AND FRESH FACES

Everything the Clippers do these days seems to be big-time, and that includes introducing all of the players they signed and/or traded for this summer. And that includes Matt Barnes, Darren Collison, Jared DudleyRyan Hollins, CP3 and J.J. Redick flanking Doc Rivers and the rest of the Clippers’ brain trust:

3:33 p.m. ET

BOBCATS AMNESTY THOMAS

Tyrus Thomas will not be a part of whatever the Charlotte Bobcats do this season or beyond. They have requested waivers on the seven-year veteran and plan on using the one-time amnesty provision on him. That allows the Bobcats to wave him and not have his salary count against their salary cap or luxury tax figures.

2:46 p.m. ET

PACERS KEEP WEST IN THE FOLD
Perhaps no player over the last two seasons has done more to help a team’s on-court and locker room culture than the Pacers’ David West. Since he came aboard before the 2011-12 season, Indiana has returned to its glory days of the mid-1990s with long playoff runs, Central Division relevancy and legitimate contender status in the East.

West got a reported deal from the Pacers early in free agency as he was one of, if not their primary, target. Pacers.com has details on the move, which keeps West with Indiana as it tries to make a run to The Finals:

The Indiana Pacers announced Wednesday they have re-signed veteran free agent and two-time NBA All-Star David West to a contract. Per club policy, terms of the contract were not released.

West, 6-9, 240 lbs, is a 10-year veteran who has played the last two seasons with the Pacers, averaging 15.1 points and 7.2 rebounds in 139 games. Prior to his time with the Pacers, West had played his entire NBA career with the New Orleans Hornets. He has career averages of 16.1 points per game and 7.2 rebounds per game.

“We said when the season ended, bringing David back was our No. 1 priority and we are very pleased to have him back,” said Larry Bird, Pacers President of Basketball Operations. “He is a leader, he is a professional, he is a great competitor and he is the type of player and person you want on your team if you hope to be successful.”

West played in two All-Star games in 2008 and ’09. Those two seasons, he averaged 20.6 ppg and 8.9 rpg and 21 ppg and 8.5 rpg, respectively.

“You can watch David play and appreciate him, but to coach him and see what he brings to our team on a daily basis really enhances that appreciation,” said Pacers Head Coach Frank Vogel. “There aren’t many players like him in the NBA and to have him back on our team is very important for what we hope to accomplish.”

2:33 p.m. ET

LAKERS RE-SIGN FREE-AGENT CENTER (SORRY, IT’S NOT DWIGHT)
Sorry to get your hopes up there, Lakers fans, but Dwight Howard still is Houston-bound. But, at least Lakers fans will get to enjoy the sideline antics and celebrations of backup center Robert Sacre for another season! Lakers.com has more on the return of the towel-waving big man:

The Los Angeles Lakers have re-signed Robert Sacre, it was announced today. Per team policy, terms of the agreement were not released.

Sacre, a 7-foot center out of Gonzaga University, was selected by the Lakers in the second round (60th overall) of the 2012 NBA draft. In 32 games (three starts) with the Lakers last season, he averaged 1.3 points and 1.1 rebounds in 6.3 minutes. Sacre also spent time with the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the NBA Development league during his rookie campaign, appearing in eight games and posting averages of 11.0 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.33 blocks in 32.8 minutes.

At Gonzaga, Sacre finished his career with the Bulldogs ranked second in school history with 186 blocked shots while averaging 9.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.38 blocks in 135 games. As a senior, Sacre was named the 2012 WCC Defensive Player of the Year and was an All-WCC First-Team honoree while averaging 11.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.42 blocks in 26.3 minutes.

1:44 p.m. ET

JEFFERSON HEADS EAST, JOINS BOBCATS
Al Jefferson spent his first three seasons with the Celtics before being the lynchpin (for Minnesota, at least) in the deal that sent Kevin Garnett to Boston. After three seasons with the Wolves and the last four with the Jazz, Jefferson is going back to the Eastern Conference on the heels of him signing a deal with the Charlotte Bobcats.

It’s a move that surprised many in the early stages of the offseason given the reported amount Charlotte would pay Jefferson and how it might help reverse the fortunes of a franchise that has often been stuck in hard times. Jefferson joins a youthful frontcourt that features Bismack Biyombo and some veteran bigs (such as Brendan Haywood):

Charlotte Bobcats President of Basketball Operations Rod Higgins announced today that the team has signed free agent center Al Jefferson. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“We are ecstatic to add Al to our roster,” Higgins said. “He gives us a low post presence that we have not had on our roster and brings a skill set that does not become available very often. He is a veteran leader who helps his teammates get better, but at the same time he is only 28 years old so he can be part of the core of this franchise for several years to come.”

The 15th pick in the 2004 NBA Draft, the 6-10 Jefferson has played in 628 games for the Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz during his nine-year career. He has career averages of 16.4 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.4 blocks in 30.6 minutes, while shooting .500 from the field.

Jefferson is one of only two players in the NBA to have averaged at least 17.0 points and at least 9.0 rebounds in each of the last six seasons, joining Dwight Howard in doing so. No other player has posted those averages in more than four of the last six campaigns.

1:37 p.m. ET

WIZARDS ADD MAYNOR, RE-SIGN TEMPLEIn our breakdown of teams most likely to crack the playoff party next season, the Washington Wizards were our surprise pick to be postseason bound (with the No. 6 seed, no less!). Part of that comes with the assumption that John Wall plays a full season — a hope that will be helped immensely by Washington’s signing of capable backup Eric Maynor.

Maynor made his name as Russell Westbrook‘s backup for 2 1/2 seasons before getting injured and losing his job to Reggie Jackson. The Thunder moved Maynor at the trade deadline last season to Portland, where he again was a solid backup, this time to Rookie of the Year winner Damian Lillard. The Wizards have more on the addition of Maynor on a day where they also re-signed defensive stopper Garrett Temple:

Washington Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld announced today that the team has signed guard Eric Maynor. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not released.

“Eric is a solid player who has thrived playing behind some of the league’s best point guards,” said Grunfeld. “He will bring stability and experience in that role and add leadership and character off the floor.”

Maynor averaged 4.5 points and 2.8 assists in 64 overall games with Oklahoma City and Portland last season, including 6.9 points and 4.0 assists in 27 game after being traded to the Trail Blazers.

Washington Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld announced today that the team has re-signed guard Garrett Temple. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not released.

“Garrett was a good addition to our backcourt rotation last season and we are happy to have him back to give us depth at both guard positions,” said Grunfeld. “His defensive ability, toughness and team-first attitude make him an excellent fit in our system and provide a great example of the culture we are building.”

1:14 p.m. ET

PISTONS SIGN VERSATILE SMITH
This isn’t a big surprise to anyone — particularly after the Atlanta Hawks announced the signing of Paul Millsap two hours earlier — but Josh Smith is officially a member of the Pistons. Smith leaves behind the only NBA team he’s ever known (as well as his hometown of Atlanta) to venture off to the Motor City to play along side young big men Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe.

Detroit Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars announced today that the club has signed free agent forward Josh Smith to a multi-year contract. Per team policy, terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

“We’re pleased to welcome Josh Smith to the Pistons organization,” Dumars said. “Josh is a two-way player and we look forward to blending his talents with our young core.”

12:08 p.m. ET

KNICKS, RAPTORS COMPLETE SWAP
As our own John Schuhmann pointed out a few weeks ago, the Raptors’ proposed trade that would send Andrea Bargnani (and his large contract) to New York proved that no player is untradeable. That is apparently true as the Knicks and Raptors officially signed off on the deal that breaks down as follows:

New York receives Bargnani while the Raptors get Marcus Camby, Quentin Richardson, Steve Novak, a 2016 first-round pick and second-round picks in 2014 and 2017.

11:48 a.m. ET

TRAIL BLAZERS SIGN WRIGHT
Portland owner Paul Allen took to Twitter to announce the signing of Dorell Wright and rookie Allen Crabbe, not to mention the completion of the trade that will bring second-year power forward Thomas Robinson to the Pacific Northwest.

It’s been an interesting offseason, so far, for the Trail Blazers, as they attempt to escape from the Western Conference cellar and move back into the playoff mix. It remains to be seen if their offseason moves will produce the kind of results they desire.

11:23 a.m. ET

HAWKS PICK UP MILLSAP
According to Hawks GM Danny Ferry, ex-Jazz forward Paul Millsap “got the call at 12:01 (a.m. on July 1)” to gauge his interest in coming to the team. Millsap, who was born in Monroe, La., and went to Louisiana Tech, is back in the South again after signing his contract with the Hawks on Wednesday morning.

Millsap, 28, averaged 14.6 points on .490 shooting, 7.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 30.4 minutes per game in 78 starts with the Jazz last season. He is expected to help fill the void in the lineup by Josh Smith, who is reportedly headed to the Detroit Pistons. The Hawks have more in a team release:

The Atlanta Hawks have signed forward Paul Millsap, President of Basketball Operations/GM Danny Ferry announced today. Per club policy, terms were not disclosed.

The 6-foot-8, 253-pound forward has career averages of 12.4 points on .516 shooting, 7.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 27.4 minutes per game in 540 games (265 starts) and has recorded 107 double-doubles. A native of Louisiana, Millsap played collegiately at Louisiana Tech where he became the only player in NCAA history to lead the nation in rebounding in three consecutive seasons.

“Paul was one of our top priorities entering the free agency process and we believe he is a great fit with the team and culture that we are trying to build,” Ferry said. “He is a high-character individual and his toughness, high basketball IQ, and selflessness will add to our locker room and give us versatility on the court.”

10:30 a.m. ET

KNICKS RE-SIGN PRIGIONI
Pablo Prigioni made a lasting impression on New York as a 36-year-old rookie with his passing skills and playmaking. While he was mostly a reserve for New York in his first season, Prigioni moved into the starting lineup down the stretch and the Knicks took off, going 16-2 with Prigioni among the first five.

That productivity helped lead the Knicks to re-sign the point guard to a deal, the terms of which were undisclosed by the team. The team released the following statement Wednesday morning:

New York Knickerbockers Executive Vice President and General Manager Glen Grunwald announced today that the team has re-signed guard Pablo Prigioni to a contract. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Prigioni, 6-3, 185-pounds, was the first Argentine-born player in Knicks history and made his NBA debut at age 35 after signing as a free agent on Jul. 24, 2012. He averaged 3.5 points, 3.0 assists and 1.8 rebounds over 16.2 minutes in 78 games (18 starts) this past season and was inserted into the Knicks starting lineup on Mar. 18 to help lead the team to the franchise’s third-longest winning streak of 13. In 11 postseason games (10 starts), Prigioni averaged 4.5 points, 3.2 assists and 1.27 steals over 20.9 minutes.

“We are very excited to have Pablo back in a Knicks uniform. He is one of our catalysts on both the offensive and defensive end,” Grunwald said. “His tenacity, leadership and experience played an integral role in our team’s success down the stretch, and into the postseason.”

1:08 a.m. ET

BULLS CONFIRM DUNLEAVY DEAL
The Bulls add some depth to a bench crew that did a lot of heavy lifting last season by confirming the signing of veteran swingman Mike Dunleavy. The 11-year pro has become a vital reserve throughout his career, which has included stops with the Warriors, Pacers, Bucks and now, Bulls. As our own John Schuhmann pointed out yesterday, Chicago should be getting a lot of 3-point bang for the buck as Dunleavy is a significant upgrade in the shooting department.

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12:20 a.m. ET

PAUL WASTES NO TIME RE-SIGNING
And the first man to put pen to paper is … CP3 (with Lil’ Chris keeping a watchful eye over the proceedings)! According to the Clippers’ web site, Paul inked his deal almost immediately once 12:01 a.m. ET (9:01 L.A.-time) passed and will be sticking with the Clippers through the 2017-18 season.

Many Questions Amid Free-Agent Answers

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HANG TIME WEST –
Welcome to Phase 1A, the continuation foul of the first wave of the hectic opening days in free agency, as the Rockets break into the victory dance, the Hawks stay very busy from the Draft through the second week of July and the Nuggets do whatever it is that the Nuggets are doing.

This is still 1A because the first wave is not yet settled, not with deals set to become official on Wednesday and not with the next set of important decisions looming with Andrew Bynum, Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis at the top of the list. If anything, the first wave was about raising questions moving ahead as it was about resolutions.

Now, for example, what do the Mavericks do at point guard? They went from needing a new start there to getting four. They nabbed Shane Larkin with the No. 18 pick in the June 27 draft and then notched a reported four-year, $29-million deal for Jose Calderon. When Dallas spent another $9 million over three years for a reunion with Devin Harris, and in the wake of luring Gal Mekel from Israel with a three-year contract, the issue quickly went from who has the position for 2013-14 to who gets squeezed out of minutes.

Calderon is the favorite to start. Harris’ defense and experience at shooting guard, and with O.J. Mayo gone from the Mavericks backcourt, makes it easy to envision Calderon and Harris playing together. But Larkin’s speed is a unique dimension that can also be utilized, depending on how well he acclimates to the NBA with the Mavs still in win-now mode.

Shifting to another division…what do the Warriors do for depth? They have a quality top six — Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Igoudala, David Lee, Andrew Bogut, Harrison Barnes — and landing Igoudala while barely touching the core of the 2012-13 roster makes them one of the winners of the summer. But they need more bodies to really be in the conversation as one of the favorites to win the West.

Festus Ezeli, the backup center last season, is expected to be out another five to eight months after knee surgery. Carl Landry, the backup power forward, reached a deal with the Kings. Jarrett Jack, the backup point guard, reached a deal with the Cavaliers. That’s a lot of production to replace, or a lot of pressure on Nemanja Nedovic to go from the No. 30 pick to dependable backcourt reserve, though Golden State also likes the idea of Igoudala with the ball in his hands.

The Warriors will apparently have the benefit of acquiring Igoudala in a sign-and-trade, a technicality that creates flexibility under the salary cap that would not have existed if the deal was an outright signing. This way, they still have the mid-level exception and Traded Player Exceptions.

What becomes of Bismack Biyombo? The Bobcats spent a reported $41 million over three seasons to sign center Al Jefferson, the biggest free-agent deal in team history, after using the fourth pick in the draft on power forward Cody Zeller. That obviously takes minutes from Biyombo, the 2011 project of a lottery pick who needs playing time to have any chance of developing into the game-changer on defense a lot of teams thought two years ago he could become.

Maybe Charlotte sees him strictly as a third big man, and that’s fine. He fits well as a defensive presence with an awkward offensive game playing next to the post scoring of Jefferson or the fluid Zeller. But 2013-14 is the third season for Biyombo, ordinarily make-or-break time for players with a lot to prove. Managing frontcourt minutes will be a storyline to watch for new coach Steve Clifford.

Where does Josh Smith fit with the Pistons? Feel free to answer “he doesn’t.”

Detroit can use the frontcourt scoring – or the scoring, period – but Smith’s undisciplined offense, as several Hawks coaches were unable to change his shot selection, doesn’t help anyone. His shot blocking will help though. The real issue is whether the Pistons will take minutes from promising big men Greg Monroe or Andre Drummond to get Smith minutes at power forward, or whether Smith will play primarily at small forward.

Smith at $56 million over four years is a panic purchase by an organization trying to push back into relevancy. But Drummond, coming off an encouraging rookie season in a reserve role, and Monroe, their power forward and leading scorer, need the minutes, while No. 8 pick Kentavious Caldwell-Pope needs the ball at shooting guard.

Coach Don’t Lie: ‘Sheed On Pistons’ Bench

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ORLANDO, Fla. — Does anybody know the NBA record for technical fouls by an assistant coach in a season?

Might be time to look it up, because it seems that Rasheed Wallace will be making his debut among the carriers of the clipboards as he joins new head coach Maurice Cheeks on the Pistons’ bench. Nothing is official yet, but Wallace was on the bench Monday for the Pistons’ game against the Celtics in the Orlando Pro Summer League.

“What Rasheed brings is knowledge of the game,” said Cheeks. “How to do things. When to do things. Where to do things. That’s important for any NBA team, but it’s going to be especially important for us this season because we’ve got so many young players.”

As they say, coach don’t lie.

Greg Monroe (23), Tony Mitchell (21) and Andre Drummond (19) are all front court players under 24 years old and the most likely targets for tutoring by Wallace, the 6-foot-11 Wallace. But even the Pistons’ top draft picking, shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will benefit just from being around Wallace, according to Cheeks.

“This is a guy who has been around the league for a long time, played for a lot of different teams, in a lot of different situations,” Cheeks said. “He can pass along what to do in a game to help you win one game and what to do in a locker room to help you win a lot of games down the line.”

Wallace’s 17-year career took him through Washington, Portland, Atlanta, Detroit, Boston and New York, where he retired for a second time at the end of last season following an aborted comeback attempt with the Knicks. He averaged 14.4 points and 6.7 rebounds and his addition was the final piece to the puzzle that produced the Pistons 2004 championship, when they stunned Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in The Finals.

Of course, Wallace is known as much for his outbursts of temper, which led to more than 300 career technical fouls, including an NBA record 41 during the 2000-01 season. Most famous was his expletive-filled rant following Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Boston and the Dec. 12, 2012 game against Phoenix when he drew two technicals and was ejected in less than 90 seconds. He got the second for saying his trademark “Ball don’t lie,” when Goran Dragic missed a free throw.

Cheeks was the one who reached out to the 39-year-old Wallace about the possibility of starting a coaching career.

“I think he can be a very valuable part of what we’re trying to do next season,” Cheeks said.

Not to mention drawing all the attention on the bench away from the head coach when the T’s start to fly.

“I’m letting him take all those bullets,” Cheeks said laughing. “Rasheed’s used to it.”

Coach (Rasheed Wallace) Don’t Lie?





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Jason Kidd isn’t the only former New York Knicks veteran to trade in his locker room stall for a spot in the coach’s locker room. In what has to qualify as the best news perhaps of the entire offseason, HT fave Rasheed Wallace will soon be announced as a member of the Detroit Pistons’ coaching staff under Mo Cheeks.

Wallace is in Orlando for summer league action with the Pistons and was spotted in the gym at the Amway Center this afternoon with a polo shirt on with the Pistons’ logo on the upper left side. Wallace helped the Pistons become an Eastern Conference power and won a ring in 2004 and made another trip to The Finals in 2005.

He’s expected to work with the Pistons’ young frontcourt core of Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond and Tony Mitchell, hopefully imparting some of the same wisdom he did for guys like Jermaine O’Neal and Zach Randolph when they youngsters in Portland playing behind a then-All-Star Wallace. Both O’Neal and Randolph went on to become All-Stars after being tutored by Wallace, who saw his season and likely his playing career come to an end this season in New York when a stress fracture sidelined him.

Wallace’s presence could be a huge boost for Pistons’ free-agent pickup Josh Smith, who has agreed to a four-year, $56 million deal with the team that cannot be signed until Wednesday. For all of the hype about Wallace’s technical fouls and run-ins with officials over the course of his career, he’s been lauded by many who have played with him as the ideal teammate and one of the smartest players to come through the league in his era.

Josh Smith To The Pistons For $56 Million





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Josh Smith won’t be joining that free agent party in Houston after all.

The free agent forward agreed to terms on a four-year, $56 million deal with the Detroit Pistons this afternoon, a deal first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.

This ends Smith’s at times tumultuous nine-year tenure with his hometown Atlanta Hawks, the team that selected him with the 17th pick in the 2004 Draft. It also ends the pursuit of the versatile forward by both the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks, who were both still trying to figure out ways to present possible sign-and-trade deals to the Hawks that would land Smith.

Smith’s childhood friend and fellow free agent prize Dwight Howard picked the Rockets Friday night. It was widely known that the Rockets were trying to pair the former AAU teammates, both 27, as professionals in a dynamic frontcourt package with All-Star James Harden and point guard Jeremy Lin in the backcourt.

Ultimately, the opportunity to play for an organization, general manager (Joe Dumars) and coach (Mo Cheeks) who believe that Smith can be a game changer in a promising frontcourt group that includes Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond won Smith over, according to a person familiar with the situation.

The Pistons were the first team to meet with Smith when free agency began at 12:01 a.m. on July 1. He’ll play both forward spots for the Pistons and brings career averages of 15.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.1 blocks and 1.3 steals.

Smith inspired a love-hate relationship with the hometown fans, they loved him when he was at his best and extremely tough on him when his shot selection wavered or he had dust-ups with his coaches. The Hawks replaced Smith Friday night by adding former Utah power forward Paul Millsap on a two-year, $19 million deal.