DALLAS – As late as Wednesday, after the Indiana Pacers beat the Rockets in Houston and then huddled around the nearest TV to catch the end of Bulls-Heat, they believed Danny Granger was coming back.
Word was as soon as Thursday night at Dallas.
All that changed in a matter of about 15 hours when coach Frank Vogel got the definitive news Thursday afternoon: Granger is done for 2012-13. After flare-ups followed a lone failed comeback bid in late February and early March led to another round of doctor consultations, the determination was for the former All-Star to undergo surgery on his troublesome left knee.
Granger’s next stop is the OR. But the Pacers’ is the postseason. As disappointing as the news is for Granger and his teammates, Indiana has reached this point — a dogfight with the New York Knicks for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference — without the him for all but five mostly ineffective games all season.
“It was surprising, I’ve been thinking he was coming back all along, but we can’t do anything about it now,” guard George Hill said. “I hope that he has a safe recovery and a quick recovery, but we have to move on as a team and continue doing what we’ve been doing all year long without him and that’s finding our identity and playing good, solid team basketball.”
As much as the addition of a 6-foot-9 shooter might have boosted the Pacers for the stretch run and beyond, integrating Granger at this late date could have proven more problematic than beneficial. In the five games he did play (more like three games because he logged just 10 and eight minutes in his final two appearances), Granger averaged 5.4 points and 1.8 rebounds. He played 19 minutes in each of his first three games.
“Now that question whether he’s going to get back or not is out of our minds,” David West said. “And we just have to go ahead with the guys we have.”
The Pacers have managed to fill Granger’s position nicely with budding All-Star Paul George, journeymen Gerald Green and Sam Young, and rookie Orlando Johnson. Lance Stephenson has emerged as a contributor as the starting shooting guard. Roles have long been established as has the Pacers’ hard-nosed identity as the league’s toughest defense.
With just nine games left after Thursday’s matchup with the Mavericks, the Pacers are focused on capturing the No. 2 seed. They’re hopeful of grinding their way to the East finals against the Heat, last season’s playoff ouster who Indiana actually rooted for to extend their streak to 28 at Chicago.
Indiana won the regular-season series with Miami, 2-1, taking two home games by an average margin of 11.5 points and holding the Heat to 77 and 89 points. With or without Granger, they believe they possess the team defense, interior size and scoring to make the Heat sweat.
“Succeeding in this league is about confidence, and it’s not like we just lost Danny and we have to go out and establish a belief in ourselves,” Vogel said. “We have a great deal of belief in ourselves, in who we’ve become this year without Danny. Obviously, we had hopes to bring him back, but we have a great deal of confidence.”
Vogel said he spoke to Granger Thursday prior to him leaving the team to return to Indianapolis and meet with doctors.
“He’s at peace with [the decision for surgery]. He knows that it’s the best decision,” Vogel said. “He’s disappointed, but you’ve got to make the best decision and we feel like we did.”
The best news to come Thursday for the Pacers was the return of West, Indiana’s second-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder (just a tick below George in both categories) from a six-game absence with a balky back.
West has made tremendous strides this season, returning to the form prior to his ACL injury that made him a two-time All-Star with the New Orleans Hornets. He’s averaging 17.3 ppg, up from 12.8 last season, on nearly 50 percent shooting, and 7.7 rpg, up from 6.6 last season.
“I don’t think you could give him enough credit for what he’s done with our team and our culture,” Vogel said of the 10-year veteran West. “He’s the lion in the locker room, he’s the heart and soul and he gives us the swagger of knowing we’re playing with one of the best in the game at the power forward position.”
What had been Granger’s team is now in West’s hands. A physical, defensive force and offensive go-to-guy in the clutch, West becomes a free agent this summer, while Granger returns for the final year of his deal.
But on Thursday, with Granger’s official departure and West’s return, all the uncertainty has ceased except for this: Just how far can these Pacers can go?
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Not all NBA free agents are created equal.
Sometimes you’re Deron Williams and sometimes you’re not.
And this isn’t news to the huddled masses of familiar names and faces still looking for work with the start of training camps just a mere month away. They know that it’s time for the two-minute drill, when their options are dwindling and an invite to camp becomes a life-preserver for guys who are used to guaranteed roster spots and permanent spots in a team’s rotation.
This would explain the likes of Eddy Curry, who most likely will not be in Miami on opening night when the championship banner is raised but does have a ring with his name on it, auditioning for any team interested.
It’s the same reason you hear names like Josh Howard, who has worked out for his home state Charlotte Bobcats, Josh Childress, Hilton Armstrong and so many others — some former lottery picks (Childress) and some former All-Stars (Howard) — doing what millions of other Americans are doing right now, and that’s looking for work.
Curry, along with Hilton Armstrong, worked out for the Nets Wednesday, according to Yahoo! Sports. Curry, the much maligned former Knick, spent last season with the Heat, playing 14 games and averaging 2.1 points while riding the coattails of LeBron James to his first NBA title.
Curry, 29, played a combined 10 games in his final three seasons with the Knicks before his contract was used as salary ballast in the Carmelo Anthony deal in February 2011.
Armstrong was part of the Nets’ free agent minicamp in May, when he earned some praise for his play from general manager Billy King.
“What I like about Hilton is he’s long and he knows how to play. I think the biggest thing for Hilton is doing it consistently,” King said at the time. “I think he got better each day. I like his length, because the one thing is it’s hard to find athletic size in this league.”
In Miami, crickets. In Chicago, the gentle whoosh of wind on an eerie 80-degree day in mid-March (take that, Dwight Howard). In Oklahoma City, tumbleweeds.
While so many others throughout the league scrambled at the NBA trade deadline to plug holes or add pieces that might aid in getting after a championship three months from now, the very best teams did nothing. Given what little time remains to adapt to significant changes, the shortage of practice days to acclimate or road trips to bond, doing nothing seems like a wise non-maneuver for top contenders.
The Heat still need size but figure they can find someone on the scrap heap of buyouts now that deadline day has passed. The Bulls have most of the answers in-house, though unfortunately also in the trainers room. The Thunder have been set for a while and weren’t interested, either, in change for change’s or for headlines’ sake. Only San Antonio did anything, and they took the past-is-now route by trading for Stephen Jackson.
Then there was Philadelphia, which didn’t want to mess with a winning formula but managed to upgrade nonetheless, acquiring swingman Sam Young from Memphis for the rights to center Ricky Sanchez, a player it had no use for. Young, a career 6.9 ppg guy and 45.5 percent shooter whose numbers are down this season, was available primarily because Memphis had some salary-cap housekeeping to do. According to Marcus Hayes of the Philadelphia Daily News, the Sixers might have stumbled upon that rare occurrence when a deal that seems too good to be true actually is pretty darn good:
Young is a 6-6, 220-pound bulldog who weighs as much as Sanchez and who doesn’t care if you know his name. He will be a selfless bench player who can give Evan Turner and Andre Iguodala breaks. Occasionally, he will get all Joe Dumars on annoying hybrid players like, oh, LeBron James.
“Sam’s overall skill set can be a valuable asset to our team and he adds to our depth at two positions,” team president Rod Thorn said in a statement.
“We needed to add some toughness,” said Sixers coach and chemist Doug Collins, who clearly is wary of altering the delicate formula that has his young squad atop the Atlantic Division. “There was nothing out there that you would say you would change your team for.”
Will Young get the Sixers into the No. 1 or No. 2 spots in the Eastern Conference playoff bracket? Not likely. He probably won’t do much, if anything, to stop Miami’s dominance over Philadelphia in the short term; the Heat takes a nine-game winning streak in the series into Friday night’s game at the Wells Fargo Center and has won 11 of the past 13 meetings.
But Sam Young is addition without subtraction, a helpful piece now and for offseason planning, and the sort of things the less-desperate, more-serious teams prefer when a season is getting short and things mostly are going well.
The Memphis Grizzlies have traded swingman Sam Young to the Philadelphia 76ers for future considerations, according to a source.
Young was taken in the second round of the 2009 Draft by Memphis but had fallen out of the Grizzlies’ regular rotation this season, and is the last of the three Draft picks Memphis took that season to be traded within three years. The Grizzlies traded center Hasheem Thabeet, taken second overall that year, and forward DeMarre Carroll (taken 27th in the first round) to Houston for forward Shane Battier last season.
Young is expected to be put into the 76ers’ $2.7 million trade exception the team received as part of the trade in January that sent forward Marreese Speights to the Grizzlies.
The mood has yet to strike us here at the hideout. Sure, we’ve got all the Turkey Day fixings ready for Thursday.
Inside our own little basketball world here, there is little to be thankful about these days. We’re thankful the entire season hasn’t been canceled (yet). We’re thankful there is still a scrap of hope that the sides will come to their collective senses and put an end to this dreadful lockout.
But without either side giving an inch in the coming days and weeks, we won’t have that scrap to hold onto. Time is running short and not even the holiday season seems to be affecting the mood of the major players in this drama.
Many of these owners know how damaging a lockout can be, having gone through the 1998-99 lockout. There are 33 active players living through the second lockout of their careers — Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Grant Hill among many others — an average of slightly more than one player per team. You’d think they would know exactly how costly this current fight will be on the collective psyche of fans that don’t care about the particulars and just want their game back.
But while millions of people will spend Thursday carving that Thanksgiving turkey and watching NFL games with family and friends, enjoying every second, our game will remain dormant. Someone needs to wake up and breathe life back into the game. All it takes is one phone call to get the proverbial ball rolling …
Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: The NBA season is now in the hands of lawyers who can’t even figure out how to start a game of phone tag. That’s where we are. In a media briefing Monday to announce that the players have consolidated and refiled two separate antitrust claims into one class action in Minnesota, attorney David Boies lamented the slow response and virtual silence from the NBA since the actions were first filed last Tuesday. In fact, he scoffed at the league’s response — delivered to reporters via email from NBA counsel Rick Buchanan, and not commissioner David Stern — as evidence for why making a phone call to begin settlement talks would be “a waste of time.” ”I think they’ve made pretty clear, including by the statement that they just made, that they’ve got no interest in talking to us,” Boies said at his Manhattan office. “It takes two people to negotiate.” But it only takes one person to pick up the phone and dial a number to get the ball rolling. And Boies said neither side had done that as of Tuesday, at least not at the highest levels of the law firms involved — the law firms that now hold the future of a sport in their hands. Legal protocol says that Stern can’t really call former union director Billy Hunter, and the attorneys for either side can’t call one of the clients on the other. It’s a tangled web they’ve woven, one that has made tracks in four district courtrooms in three states since the NBA first sued the players in August. As to whether the players’ attorneys should call the NBA’s attorneys, or vice versa, there is protocol for that, too. The players have sued the NBA, and thus it is incumbent upon the NBA to respond. The league has until Dec. 5 to formally respond to the lawsuit in the U.S. District Co in Minnesota. Or, its legal representatives can at any time pick up the phone and call Boies or any of his associates working on behalf of the players to initiate settlement talks. This would not only bring the league closer to stopping the clock on potential damages, but also would start the clock on possibly having a basketball season.
Howard Beck of The New York Times: The N.B.A. will argue that the players’ disbanding of the union is a sham perpetrated solely as a bargaining tactic, and that the antitrust laws should not apply. Boies said the primary goal remained a quick settlement that would save the 2011-12 season. “If the league’s approach is to ignore this litigation and try to go into a state of denial and hope it goes away, I think that will not be in anybody’s interest,” Boies said. “I don’t think it’s in our interest, I don’t think it’s in their interest. It’s certainly not in the fans’ interest.” Boies said he originally considered filing the lawsuit in Minnesota, which is in the Eighth Circuit, before choosing Northern California, which is in the Ninth Circuit. Both jurisdictions have a history of player-friendly rulings, with one notable recent exception. Last spring, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected N.F.L. players’ bid for a permanent injunction to end that league’s lockout. Boies represented the N.F.L. in that case. The Minnesota court provides two advantages over the Northern California courts, Boies said. It generally has a less congested docket, and it has a history of moving cases along swiftly. Although antitrust cases can sometimes take years to resolve, Boies said he believed he could get a declaration of summary judgment much sooner, perhaps in three months. “This is not a complex antitrust suit,” Schiller said, adding, “It’s not going to take years. It’s going to take months, if not weeks.”
Chris Sheridan of Sheridanhoops.com: The next logical step in the illogical NBA lockout is for David Boies to call Jeffrey Mishkin, or for Jeffrey Mishkin to call David Boies. The latter attorney, Boies, who represented Al Gore against George W. Bush in the 2000 U.S. presidential election, now represents NBA players, and Mishkin is the outside counsel for NBA commissioner David Stern and the owners. It would take approximately 2 minutes for their secretaries to put that call together. And after obfuscating and posturing for the better part of an hour in a meeting with reporters Monday night, Boies finally yielded to the relentless logical questioning of yours truly, put his hands to his temples for 13 seconds and then said he may just go ahead and make that phone call sometime in the next day or two. “Some lawyers say to pick up the phone is a sign of weakness,” Boies said. “But if you’re weak, you’re weak, and if you’re strong, you’re strong. It doesn’t make you weak or strong by your calling or not calling. On the other hand, until they’re prepared to say something other than what they just put out in this statement, the question is, why are you calling?” This particular episode of peacocking … oops, I mean news briefing … was designed to be a show of strength from the players’ new lead attorney, an epic billable hour ($1,225 is Boies’ going rate) of rhetorical posturing about how the NBA owners are now in really, really big trouble because they are leaving themselves open for triple damages — about $6 billion if the entire 2011-12 season is missed.
Marcus Thompson II of the Oakland Tribune: Warriors rookie Klay Thompson, drafted No. 11 overall, crossed that bridge last week when his beloved Washington State Cougars took on rival Gonzaga. Watching from home, he said had he known the lockout would have come to this, “it probably would have affected my decision” to leave college early. Whether they should have stayed college isn’t the only nagging question. Should they go overseas? Should they borrow money or tough it out? It is common practice for rookies — especially first-rounders, millionaires-in-waiting — to get a loan from their financial adviser. Some, like Thompson, however, don’t want to accumulate debt. So he’s “living like a broke college student” while staying at home with his parents. Tyler is living with his brother in Cupertino. The hard part about the waiting, they say, is they have no idea when it will end. Eventually, they’ll get paid, get to play on the big stage. Until then, their time is filled trying not to go insane. ”They need to work out,” Oakland-based agent Aaron Goodwin said. “Take a class or two online. Do some work towards finishing their degree.” Both Warriors rookies said they work out daily. Preparing for camp, whenever it starts. Training for their debut, whenever it comes. Tyler, who’s been training at Cal, said he is embracing the center position. He’s trying to get in the best shape possible and work on his low-post game. Thompson trains at various spots in Southern California and plays pick-up with various NBA players in the area. Still, he acknowledged the monotony of it all. ”It’s de-motivating,” Thompson said. “Not knowing when the season is starting. Not knowing how long this will go on. We’re doing the same thing every day. I’m not going to lie. It’s hard to stay motivated.”
Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk.com: Hope of a partial season springs from the fact in the next few weeks (likely after Dec. 5) we can expect the judge to order more mediated negotiations between the two sides, PBT was told. Mandated mediation is commonly part of anti-trust lawsuits, essentially a chance for the judge to make sure the two sides really want to go down this path. To give the sides one more chance to settle their differences without a judge involved. (It is possible one side picks up the phone and calls the other to ask for a negotiating session, but that is the less likely scenario. The owners have said they wouldn’t do that and players attorney Boies said he would not because the league is not receptive.) A judge likely will order mediated negotiations by the middle of December if not before, according to the source. Talks would start soon after. This would be similar to the talks when federal mediator George Cohen sat down with the sides last month. The one key difference would be the level of pressure on both sides to figure this out — the players do not want to lose a season of salary ($2.2 billion), the owners do not want to lose a season of revenue (at a much higher percentage for them than the last deal), plus neither side wants to damage the game by costing a full season. What is the point of fighting over how to divide up the revenue pie if the pie itself gets smaller? In addition, the threat of summary judgment — which would certainly be a huge loss for whichever side did not convince the judge of its case — is another motivation for both sides to figure this out.
Lee Benson of the Deseret News:Derek Fisher isn’t unique or alone. He simply serves as a convenient and highly visible example of the serious dysfunction that is the NBA, a place where for decades well-paid, well-fed employees have constantly snapped at the hands that feed them. Here in Utah we’ve been watching it up close and personal since the Jazz first arrived in 1979. It’s been like living next door to the expensive house on the hill where the parents continually and lavishly spoil their children. They give them whatever they want, treat them like royalty — and in turn the children behave like ungrateful brats. We’ve all watched as salaries have increased like Argentinian inflation, as amenities that range from plush practice and playing facilities to charter jets have grown exponentially, as players have become so pampered they don’t even drive their own Escalades to the arena and wouldn’t think of paying full-price for anything. (And as the price of tickets and concessions rise year after year.) And yet, it’s never enough. Right now, the average NBA salary is $5.1 million, the median NBA salary is $2.4 million (half of the players make more, half make less), and the least anyone can make is $500,000 (the rookie minimum). And the players are revolting at the owners’ notion that they need to scale back because there’s a Great Recession going on, almost a 10th of America is unemployed … and by the way, two-thirds of the league’s franchises are losing money every year. In a way you can’t fault the players. Isn’t this how the overindulged always behave? By the same token, the owners have only themselves to blame. They purchased their season of discontent through their decades of constant pampering and acquiescence.
Michael Lee of The Washington Post:Andray Blatche may have missed out on his first NBA paycheck of the season last week – and might lose out on $6.4 million if the NBA lockout wipes out the 2011-12 campaign – but that hasn’t stopped him from trying to make Thanksgiving special for some families in need. Blatche plans to join Roger Mason Jr. and the National Basketball Players Association on Tuesday to hand out 100 turkeys on a first-come-first-serve basis at the Laurel Boys and Girls Club from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Blatche has given away turkeys through his charity foundation in the past, but he rarely had the opportunity to connect with people since he was busy playing for the Wizards. But already this year, Blatche has given turkeys to single-parent mothers, breast cancer survivors and battered woman in his hometown of Syracuse, in South Carolina and Florida. He also volunteered over the weekend at a round-robin basketball challenge sponsored by the Maryland-National Capital Park Police. “I’m at a point in my life where I’m straight,” Blatche said in a recent telephone interview. “I’m just doing what me and my family believe in, which is giving back and always count your blessings. That’s why I’m out here doing as much stuff as possible. Even though it’s not the season, I’m still continuing to do what I’ve been doing.” Blatche has been a steady presence over the past few months at the Laurel Boys and Girls Club, where he has worked out with trainer Joe Connelly four to five days a week. Mason and Wizards teammates John Wall and Hamady Ndiaye have also trained with Blatche in recent weeks. “They let me work out there, so I’m showing some love back,” Blatche said of his turkey giveaway.
Iman Shumpert for the New York Post: Friday night, I headed out to Bridgeport, Conn., to play in another charity game for us locked-out players. The people who came out — maybe 2,000 — provided us plenty energy with cheers and competitive boos. I decided to sit out the last part of the game after going up for a dunk and feeling an awkward pain in my knee. I could have kept playing, but decided just to ice it to ensure I was OK. Nothing major. I think it was due to not warming up at half because I was hanging out with fans and doing photos and autographs, which is partly why we were there. Some of the many participants were Tyreke Evans, Sam Young, Josh Selby, Wes Mathews, Nolan Smith, Howard Thomkins and Travis Leslie. My team won, 171-169. The best part for me was getting a chance to connect with more Knicks fans praying for a season! It was a great turnout. The last couple days, I’ve spent time in the studio where Tupac was shot — Quad Recording Studios in Midtown. Definitely a magical feeling in that sort of work environment. I did a collaboration with Billz, an up-and-coming, unsigned Brooklyn group. This Thanksgiving, I have a lot to be thankful for. The lockout has given me a chance to for once have a lot of down time to spend with family and friends.
LAS VEGAS — Washington point guard John Wall took home top honors as Most Outstanding Player in Las Vegas after leading all players in scoring (23.5 ppg) and assists (7.8 apg). Fellow rookie DeMarcus Cousins was honored as T-Mobile Rookie of the Month for his impressive Summer League showing. Below are the rest of the players named to the All-Tournament team.
T-Mobile Rookie of the Month DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento)
Most Outstanding Player John Wall (Washington)
All-Tournament Team Sam Young (Memphis)
JaVale McGee (Washington)
Reggie Williams (Golden State)
DeMar DeRozan (Toronto)
JJ Hickson (Cleveland)
Ty Lawson (Denver)
Dominique Jones (Dallas)
Derrick Caracter (LA Lakers)
Larry Sanders (Milwaukee)
Gani Lawal (Phoenix)
Jermaine Taylor (Houston)
Alonzo Gee (San Antonio)