Posts Tagged ‘President Obama’

Collins And Nets Breaking Barriers

VIDEO: Jason Collins signs with the Nets

Less than two months ago when they were 10-21 following a New Year’s Eve thumping, one might have believed there was a better chance of seeing an openly gay athlete in a NBA game than seeing Brooklyn in the playoffs.

Now Jason Collins and the Nets will try to break down barriers together.

By signing the 35-year-old 7-footer to a 10-day contract, it could be said the No. 8 seeded team is clawing desperately to hold onto the last playoff spot in the moribund Eastern Conference.

“The decision to sign Jason was a basketball decision,” Nets general manager Billy King said in the statement. “We needed to increase our depth inside, and with his experience and size, we felt he was the right choice for a 10-day contract.”

And maybe if this were 10 or 20 years from now, that’s all it would be, a line of agate type in the transactions column.

For now though, it is one giant leap for sportskind, if only because it is the official opening of the societal and cultural closet door.

“Jason told us that his goal was to earn another contract with an NBA team,” said commissioner Adam Silver. “Today, I want to commend him on achieving his goal. I know everyone in the NBA family is excited for him and proud that our league fosters an inclusive and respectful environment.”

Athlete Ally ambassador and Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried said: “With Jason Collins signing with the Nets today, I believe our world as professional athletes will open up and become less ignorant of gay male athletes playing and more accepting and embracing of the whole situation.”

It was back in April of last year when Collins revealed himself in Sports Illustrated to become the first openly gay male athlete in one of the four major American sports.

That announcement brought praise from President Obama, an invitation to the State of the Union address and a much higher profile than Collins had ever achieved with a 12-year NBA career in which he averaged just 3.6 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. Yet it didn’t bring a training camp invitation from any of the 30 NBA clubs.

In the meantime, University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam jumped into the headlines with his announcement that he is gay. Coming from the SEC co-defensive player of the year ahead of the NFL draft and from a 24-year-old at the start of his pro career, Sam’s revelation was immediately considered much more a test of tolerance in the testosterone filled air of sports, even if it had been met with a collective shrug in his own college locker room last fall.

“We would accept it greatly and it shouldn’t be a problem, man,” Nets guard Joe Johnson told reporters last week. “We’ve got a veteran group and I think everybody is pretty comfortable in their own skin. It’s about what he can do to help us out there on that court. That’s what it’s about.”

Point guard Deron Williams said if Collins’ addition would help the team, he’s in favor.

“I think it’s definitely going to be a media circus just because of the situation,” Williams said. “But I think with the type of team that we have, veterans who have played with him before and know him, it shouldn’t be a problem.”

The Nets, in fact, are probably the most logical and comfortable fit for Collins. For one, team owner Mikhail Prokorov campaigned for gay rights during his presidential bid in Russia. What’s more, veterans Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are former teammates of Collins and Pierce was his most ardent backer when Collins came out last spring. Coach Jason Kidd also played alongside Collins with the Nets and will surely help foster an inclusive attitude.

“To each his own,” Pierce said back in April. “It’s probably going to open the door to many more. There’s so many professional athletes, there’s so many human beings, that are scared … because of the exposure of sports and what people might think about it. But I think what he did was a great thing, just to kind of open the door for other athletes who probably now are going to have the courage to come out.”

There has already, of course, been an outcry from some on social media that it is all a story manufactured and overblown for a player whose career has been marginal at best. No one is interested, they say and post and tweet. Yet the fact they have read and posted and tweeted is the clearest contradiction of themselves.

Collins has put himself in the spotlight. However, the Nets also deserve credit for looking past any potential distractions to help shoulder the burden and make history.

Heat All-Star guard Dwyane Wade got the news and summed up what matters on the court about Collins: “One thing I know about him is he fouled very hard. …Welcome back.”

For a chance to pull on the jersey, to lace up the sneakers, to try to help get the once forlorn Nets into the playoffs, smashing one previously unthinkable notion at a time.

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 144) Featuring SI.com’s Seth Davis

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Digging into the history, life and times of John Wooden, the man, the myth and the legend, is an undertaking any lover of the game would relish.

For best-selling author, CBS analyst and SI.com college hoops expert Seth Davis, it was a literary pilgrimage a lifetime. And the end result, WOODEN: A Coach’s Life (Times Books, Jan. 14) is masterpiece on arguably the greatest coach and teacher in the history of sports.

We dive in on all things Wooden with Davis on Episode 144 of the Hang Time Podcast. While we had him we also discussed the current state of the college game, the NBA stars of the future incubating in college right now (Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon and the rest) and a host of other topics with one of the foremost authorities on the college game.

In addition, there’s discussion about Hollywood Rick hanging at the Golden Globes, the three-team deal between the Warriors, Celtics and Heat, the Heat’s White House visit (and President Obama‘s defense of Mario Chalmers), the Knicks’ J.R. Smith problem, Bleacher Report‘s Ric Bucher suggesting the Clippers are better off without Blake Griffin and a host of other hot topics around the league.

Toss in Sounds of the Game and the latest installment of Braggin’ Rights (you already know who leads the pack) and we should have all of your bases covered.

Check it out on Episode 144 of the Hang Time Podcast featuring SI.com’s Seth Davis.

LISTEN HERE:


As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Sekou Smith of NBA.com,  Lang Whitaker of NBA.com’s All-Ball Blog and renaissance man Rick Fox of NBA TV, as well as our new super producer Gregg (just like Popovich) Waigand and the best engineer in the business,  Jarell “I Heart Peyton Manning” Wall.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.


VIDEO: The Heat visit with President Obama at the White House

Nash Documentary Seeks Final Kickstart

g

VIDEO: A clip from the “Nash” documentary.

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – With any luck, by spring Steve Nash won’t have to visit a Canadian movie house to remember how good it felt to be healthy, relatively speaking, and playing in pressure-packed postseason basketball games.

“Nash,” the movie, is a documentary film that delves into the two-time MVP’s life on and off the court through rare, behind-the-scenes access. It gives fans a backstage pass into his home and private life that few have entered. It captures the Phoenix Suns’ unexpected March to the 2010 Western Conference finals against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers, and all the way through the stunning trade in the summer of 2012 that put Nash in purple-and-gold (in fact, production was halted to re-make the ending after the trade).

“People will see that he’s just the guy next door, just a humble guy and never complacent,” director and producer Michael Hamilton said during a phone interview from his home in Vancouver. “I think, for me, I’ve known Steve, I know his story in and out and followed him along the way. But making this film, that’s one of the biggest things I pulled from the film, that all the stuff that this guy’s accomplished — and I’m not saying he’s done — he’s never complacent.

“He’s got a lot of money, he’s got a great career, etc., but he’s never complacent — he always strives for more. That’s what I hope people will take from this. He’s almost an anomaly for the pro athlete with the kind of things he believes in and how’s a normal guy trying to navigate through pro sports.”

The plan is for the Canadian premiere to be in either Vancouver or Toronto in mid-April, just as the NBA playoffs are set to begin. Hamilton, a longtime acquaintance of Nash, hopes to then deliver the film south of the border to art houses in the NBA’s largest markets, starting in Los Angeles.

And that’s where this project truly gets interesting. Much like Nash’s career, the film will only reach the goal of gaining widespread exposure through a determined grassroots effort. The marketing and distribution of it depends greatly on securing enough “backers” who make financial pledges through the arts-funding website Kickstater.com.

Hamilton recently launched a campaign to raise $30,000 (Canadian, about $28,000 U.S). The fundraising lasts through Jan. 10 and currently has 44 backers contributing $4,565 (Canadian). As with all Kickstarter.com campaigns, the final stages of the project will only be funded if the pledge goal is reached. In September 2013, the Nash project started a Kickstart campaign that ultimately met the its goal of raising $110,000 in funding.

A portion of the contributions, Hamilton says, will go to the Steve Nash Foundation.

The film features some of Nash’s closest friends and rivals in the NBA, plus wide-ranging celebrities sharing their unique viewpoint into what makes Nash tick. The list includes pal Dirk Nowitzki, a very candid Bryant, Yao Ming, Tony Parker and international soccer star David Beckham. Others include Snoop Dog, Oscar-winning director and producer Ron Howard, illusionist David Blaine and actor Owen Wilson. Oh, and some kind words from President Obama.

“It’s kind of a funny name,” Wilson says in the film’s trailer. “I’m just saying, Steve Nash — it’s a little bit like an action hero. It’s a cool-sounding name.

“Steve Nash.”

With a little luck, Nash’s unique skills will soon be back on the court. And with a bit more backing, come spring his unique journey will be coming to a big screen near you.

Labor Talks: Deals And Deadlines

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?”

Billy Hunter Answers Pointed Questions

Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports: Q: Do you think both sides can come to an agreement by Tuesday or is it wishful thinking?

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.

(more…)

Kanter Keeps Eye On Washington

NEW YORK – Like every other player here for Thursday night’s Draft, Enes Kanter would love to hear his name called first when NBA Commissioner hits the stage with that first card in his hand.

And there are rumblings that if there is a surprise to be had by Cleveland with that first pick it could be Kanter. But if things don’t go according to plan, Kanter has his eyes on another destination that he feels would be an ideal fit.

Kanter continued to rave about the Washington Wizards and his love for D.C. and the “international feel” the city has. For the Turkish-born Kanter, that feel could be crucial during his rookie season. It certainly helps that he’s gotten a public endorsement from the face of the franchise, John Wall, and talks regularly with Wall about the benefits of starting his NBA career with a friend to help him make the transition.

“I would love to go to D.C.,” Kanter said. “It’s an international city, [President Barack] Obama loves basketball and I would love to play with John Wall. I think it could be a great team, Washington.”

Add the 6-11, 260-pound Kanter to a core that includes Wall, JaVale McGee and Jordan Crawford and there could be reason for excitement for Wizards fans, especially if Kanter turns out to be the type of player some league insiders think he could be.

“In two or three years this could be the guy we’re talking about as the best player in this draft,” a Western Conference executive said Wednesday afternoon. “He’s a big, physical kid with lots of room to grow. And he’s a better and more polished player than he was before this season began.”

Kanter didn’t get a chance to show it on the floor, having been ruled ineligible by the NCAA to play at Kentucky during his freshman season.

That didn’t prevent him from working on his game, though. He worked out with the Wildcats all year and says the court time, even if it was just practice, helped him smooth out the rough edges in his game. The proof came during the predraft workout season, where Kanter impressed at every stop, including two stops in Cleveland, the team with the No. 1 and No. 4 picks in the draft.

The Wizards have the sixth pick but according to reports have been trying to move up in the order, perhaps as high as No. 2. Kanter believes he could go that high, though he didn’t want to guess to what team. The Timberwolves own the No. 2 pick.

Wherever he lands, Kanter certainly won’t lack anything in the confidence department.

“I think with the right team I will be great,” Kanter said when asked where he sees himself in five years. “I would say All-Star.”