Posts Tagged ‘Steve Aschburner’

Morning shootaround — Oct. 3



‘Holdout’ turns screws on Thompson, Cavs | Cuban ‘gets’ Chandler’s barbs | Greater Heat depth brings minutes challenge | Clippers still counting on Wes

No. 1: ‘Holdout’ turns screws on Thompson, Cavs — If there’d been a statue of Tristan Thompson outside of Quicken Loans Arena, it would have been lassoed and pulled to the ground as happens when banana republics undergo regime change. Instead, the Cleveland Cavaliers had to settle for scrubbing their backup power forward/center’s likeness from signage around the Q and purging any merchandise specific to Thompson from the team’s arena and online stores. Why? Thompson officially is a “holdout,” now that the deadline for him to sign either the Cavs’ one-year qualifying offer or a long-term deal passed at the end of Thursday. Thus the dicey business situation moved into a new phase Friday, as detailed by’s Dave McMenamin:

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ message on Friday, considered the first official day that Tristan Thompson’s contract standoff with the team escalated to a “holdout” situation, was loud and clear:

If you are not going to be present for training camp, you are not going to be weighing on our minds.

“Right now, my thoughts are just about the guys that are here and how hard and how well they are working and no specific expectation otherwise,” said Cavs coach David Blatt when asked for his reaction to Thompson letting the Cavs’ one-year, $6.8 million qualifying offer for this season expire at 11:59 p.m. ET on Thursday without accepting it. “Just happy to see our guys working as well as they are.”

With the qualifying offer off the table, negotiations will shift to both sides focusing on a multi-year agreement. Thompson’s agent, Rich Paul, recently vacated a five-year, $94 million max contract demand for his client in favor of a preferred three-year, $53 million deal, per league sources. The Cavs have already tendered a five-year, $80 million offer to Thompson, according to sources.

Friday was the fourth consecutive day of camp that Thompson missed, however Blatt was adamant that the big man’s absence has not caused a distraction as his team readies itself for the regular season.

“We got a veteran group,” Blatt said. “We got a very professional group of guys going about their business and going about their jobs the way that they should. The team is working and we are going to continue to do so.”


No. 2: Cuban ‘gets’ Chandler’s barbs — When Clippers center DeAndre Jordan reneged on his agreement to sign as a free agent with Dallas, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban chose some of his words carefully but didn’t exactly hide his displeasure. More recently, it was Tyson Chandler‘s turn to vent about the turn of events and Chandler – the former Mavs center who kind of got squeezed to Phoenix when Dallas targeted Jordan at the start of free agency this summer – came out strong in support of his fellow big man re-upping with L.A. Well, Cuban didn’t bristle at Chandler’s human, understandable reaction, writes Tim McMahon of

“He does have the right to be salty,” Cuban said during an appearance on 103.3 FM ESPN’s “Dennis and Friedo” on Friday.

Chandler, a hero during Dallas’ 2011 title run, has now twice been given second-fiddle treatment by the Mavs’ front office in free agency. The big man was blunt when asked this week about DeAndre Jordan’s decision to renege on his verbal commitment to replace Chandler as Dallas’ starting center. Chandler considers Jordan’s choice to stay with the Los Angeles Clippers a better-late-than-never, wise decision.

“I thought it was crazy,” Chandler told reporters during media day with the Phoenix Suns, his new team. “I never thought that DeAndre was going to sign with the Mavs, to be honest. I thought he was leaving a great situation back in L.A. Clearly, their roster is very talented and they have an opportunity to contend, so I didn’t understand it to begin with. Him going back on it, I actually thought that he got a good look at the picture.”

It’s not the first indication that Chandler — who informed the Mavs that he was heading to Phoenix minutes before their July 1 meeting with Jordan started — is a bit miffed about being disrespected by Dallas. His peace sign/sun combo was an underrated tweet during the comical emoji battle that unfolded while Jordan snacked on chicken with his Clippers pals and ignored Cuban’s phone calls while waiting to officially sign his deal with L.A.

Cuban said a year ago that he had “learned his lesson” from letting Chandler leave and intended all along to keep him … until he learned that the Mavs had a legitimate shot to add an NBA rebounding leader who was just entering his prime.

“I didn’t think it would get to that point,” Cuban said of the 33-year-old Chandler’s departure from Dallas. “We actually tried to have discussions right at the start of the year about an extension and it kind of just died on the vine. His agent didn’t really take it anywhere, and I was the first to say ‘If you don’t want to take it right now, we’ll try to figure something out at the end of the year,’ because I realized that by waiting that gave Tyson an extra year.

“Then the opportunity for DeAndre came along and we were pretty straightforward. Tyson or his agent gave us the ultimatum before the decision was made. He said he wouldn’t wait. That’s his decision. It is what it is. He does have a right to be salty, because I really did suggest to him — and it’s exactly the way I thought — that he’d be here for a long time.”


No. 3: Greater Heat depth brings minutes challenge — The deeper the NBA roster, the greater its flexibility and the more varied its looks in butting heads with the league’s 29 other teams. But “deep depth” brings with it some hard math for a lot of players: Divvying up the 240 minutes of a typical game by 10 or 12 players means less playing time than a guy could expect in a tighter rotation of eight (assuming he’s one of the eight). That’s what the Miami Heat will face this season and that’s what the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson wrote about:

The upshot of adding skilled veterans Gerald Green and Amar’e Stoudemire and 10th overall draft pick Justise Winslow, along with the return of Josh McRoberts from knee surgery, means the Heat’s second unit — which could potentially include those four and Mario Chalmers — is “obviously a big upgrade from what we had last season coming off the bench,” [Dwyane] Wade said.

But Wade also cited this potentially uncomfortable flip side of adding depth: fewer minutes for players unaccustomed to that.

“Everyone talks about how excited we are about our depth, but you’ve got to understand at times the depth will get in the way of your playing time,” Wade said. “How are we going to get past that? Those are the things people don’t look at that affect teams. We’ve got to be able to get over that hump.”

Two players who stand to be most affected by that: Chris Andersen, who played in 60 of the 65 games he suited up for last season, and Udonis Haslem, who played in 46 of the 77 that he was available for.

“It takes a special person to do that,” Haslem said. “When it takes a hit on playing time, it takes a hit on your ego. My job is to walk guys through who haven’t experienced it. I can instill a positive influence, keeping guys engaged in practice.”

Erik Spoelstra said the Heat does research to make sure it doesn’t sign players who are likely to complain about playing time. Asked about the six power rotation players, Spoelstra said all are selfless.

“This type of situation might not be for every veteran player,” Spoelstra said. “We try to over-communicate that early in the process of recruitment. When we sign them, we over-communicate the role. With any great team, it’s necessary you have talent and depth.

“But you have to be willing to sacrifice to leverage all of that depth. We haven’t gotten to that point yet with [defining] roles. It’s not about minutes, it’s not about shots, it’s not about opportunities. It’s about an opportunity to come together and do something special.”


No. 4: Clippers still counting on Wes — Hey, there was an NBA preseason game Friday night! The Clippers led by as much as 21 points en route to beating Denver at Staples Center, with Cuban’s pal Jordan contributing 15 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots in 26 minutes. But much of the focus for the Clippers was on the small forward spot, where Matt Barnes is the only starter missing from last season and where veteran All-Star Paul Pierce and underachieving Wes Johnson figure to time-share. Beat writer Dan Woike of the Orange County Register stayed up late in filing this roster update:

Barnes, one of the faces on the banners last season, is now with Clippers rival Memphis, and while the team feels it has upgraded on the wing, there’s still a loss to be dealt with.

“There’s no question we’re going to miss Matt,” Chris Paul said. “Matt brought a lot to our team – leadership, toughness. I don’t know; Matt was one of a kind. Replacing Matt, it’ll be a lot of different guys.”

It was never going to be one guy; at least that wasn’t the plan for Coach Doc Rivers and the Clippers over the summer.

“I just think the guy in that spot is going to have success because those other four guys are really good, so he’s going to get shots that you don’t get on other teams because of that,” Rivers said. “One of the things I really wanted was an athlete in that spot, a guy that could make shots and finish at the rim.

“From afar, Wes (Johnson) has the ability to do that. He has not done it yet really in his career, but you know he can, or at least you believe he can. And then you want a veteran as well, and so that’s where Paul (Pierce) came in.

“We went into this with a plan.”

They had a plan for who they would sign. But who will start [in the regular season]? That’s still up in the air.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Boston’s Isaiah Thomas hasn’t been jacking up shots with his usual carefree frequency lately – but he’s quick to assure Celtics fans it’s not a permanent alteration in his game. … The Chicago Bulls still seem committed to a Twin Tower lineup using Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol in a league going smaller and smaller. … The better your team, the easier its schedule – because it doesn’t have to play itself, right? breaks down some of the schedule disparity on tap for 2015-16. … In case you missed it, National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts gets the Q&A treatment in Cosmopolitan magazine. … LeBron James voiced his displeasure with the too-many recent shootings across the land and has his foundation working on getting kids away from the guns-and-violence culture.

Report: Cancer battle ongoing for Timberwolves’ Saunders

The announcement by Golden State that Warriors coach Steve Kerr is taking a leave of absence to recover from back surgery brought the number of NBA head coaches dealing with health issues this preseason to two. The other, of course, is Minnesota’s Flip Saunders, who is battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma and will not be actively involved with the Timberwolves for at least the first half of the 2015-16 season.

Saunders’ dual role as president/head coach is being handled on an interim basis by GM Milt Newton and assistant coach Sam Mitchell. The organization is giving Saunders and his family as much time and privacy as they need while fighting his illness. Wolves beat writer Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune did provide an update Thursday during a live chat on the newspaper’s website:

There’s no question things have changed dramatically since the team announced his diagnosis in August, back when it quoted his doctors saying the cancer was very treatable and curable. Since then there have been changes to the way his body handled the chemotherapy (and maybe how much cancer they’ve found) that have made it life threatening. Everyone involved has gone radio silent because of the family’s request for privacy and federal patient-privacy laws, etc., but between the complete silence, the lack of people visiting as far as I can tell apart from his immediate family and very inner circle while he remains hospitalized here in Minneapolis and the things I’m hearing second-hand, well, none of it is good. I’ll just say this, and this is just my own opinion, if he pulls through this: I doubt very much he’s back this year, it’s probably unlikely he coaches again just because of the stress inherent doing both those jobs and I think there’s a pretty good chance he doesn’t return full time to either job. As far as the franchise goes, that will put them in a holding pattern for some time. I can’t see Glen Taylor allowing Milt Newton and Sam to make a major decision until they know more about Flip’s future and Glen decides who will run his team for the long term. I wouldn’t assume it’ll be Milt and Sam going forward, that’s just for the short term until things become clearer.

Surgery done, Bulls’ Rose will reacquaint with rehab process

VIDEO: Rose out 2 weeks with facial fracture

CHICAGO – No rhyme, no reason. Could be that Derrick Rose is snake-bit, whatever that is. Could be karma or kismet or some other form of lousy luck. Could be that one of his luxury residences is built on a sacred burial ground and the payback stinks.

But the “why him?” of Rose’s litany of injuries, even if it was a part of the Chicago Bulls’ locker room dismay, wasn’t a topic of conversation during the second workout of training camp Wednesday or in their public comments afterward.

The half-empty view of Rose – the Bulls’ oft-injured point guard who suffered a facial fracture in the first practice of 2015-16 a day earlier and underwent surgery Wednesday morning – was that this team is locked in a gauze-wrapped “Groundhog Day,” unable to get and keep Rose healthy to seriously contend for the NBA championship.

The half-full view was, who knows rehab better than Rose and the Bulls?

Coach Fred Hoiberg said Rose’s surgery went as expected and revealed no structural damage beyond the left orbital fracture initially diagnosed. A timetable for his return to workouts and, presumably with a protective mask, his availability to practice and eventually play still was being determined by the team’s medical staff.

“He’s still in great spirits,” said Hoiberg, who said he texted with Rose Tuesday evening but had not spoken with him after surgery. “It’s not a structural injury. When he comes back ready to go, he should be able to go right back into 100 percent. Where if you have something going on with one of your other body parts, it’s going to be gradually [getting] back.”

Rose, who turns 27 Sunday, was running along the baseline early in practice Tuesday when he accidentally got struck by an elbow from one of the Bulls’ big men. Just like that, Hoiberg – who had gotten a taste of Chicago’s injury misfortunes last week when veteran forward Mike Dunleavy underwent back surgery – found himself in Tom Thibodeau‘s coaching sneakers.

Veterans Aaron Brooks and Kirk Hinrich are the backups at point guard, with E’Twaun Moore and even Jimmy Butler available for playmaking minutes. But while Thibodeau had familiarity and continuity on his staff’s side, able to keep Rose’s spot warm with the likes of Nate Robinson, D.J. Augustin, John Lucas III, Brooks and Hinrich through the former MVP’s previous absences, Hoiberg has new strategies and a new style. Rose is missing the early classes now, with the Bulls hoping that doesn’t mess up their whole semester.

“He’s a tough kid,” center Pau Gasol said. “Hopefully he’ll heal well and he’ll be ready to go [by opening night vs. Cleveland Oct. 27]. But it’s unfortunate he won’t be able to be a part of most of training camp or the preseason because it’s a useful time for any team to get things on track. Set the foundation for the season, especially with a new system, new philosophy, a new coach. But no excuses – life works out that way some times and you’ve just got to keep working.”

Said Hoiberg: “He’s still going to be here. He’s still going to be at practice. He’ll still be learning. … He’s in great shape. We don’t know how much he’ll be able to do while he’s in recovery mode. But he still will be here learning.”

Facial injuries similar to Rose’s are not uncommon in the NBA, with LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Joe Johnson, Chris Paul, Jason Terry and others suffering various hits and returning to action in a few weeks or less. Rose’s multiple knee injuries have forced longer layoffs and more time away from the team, so that is a relative bright side to this trauma.

No one among the Bulls had even a theory, other than rotten probability, why Rose would be the franchise’s limping medical chart. Since the start of the 2011-12 season, he has missed 212 of 312 possible regular season games, playing in 340 of 558 in his seven-year NBA career.

Hoiberg shrugged off the suggestion of a woe-is-me attitude, though certainly this is an old issue bleeding into a new era.

“We’ve still got a job to do,” he said. “We can’t hang our heads or feel sorry for ourselves. It’s about getting these guys prepared to go out and play. You’re right, injuries are a part of this. Guys have stepped in in the past with this team and given great minutes when key guys have been sidelined.”

The Bulls play their first preseason game Tuesday against Milwaukee at United Center.

Center Joakim Noah, a close to Rose as any of the Bulls players, said both his sidelined pal and his other teammates are staying chins-up.

“We’ve got to stay positive,” Noah said. “We’re living out our dreams. We play for the Chicago Bulls for a living. Things could be a lot worse.”

Report: Kobe intends to spend entire playing career as Laker

VIDEO: Kobe Bryant talks with David Aldridge at Lakers’ media day

It never seemed to be much more than cagey ol’ Phil Jackson, eyes no doubt twinkling, needling his former team in Los Angeles when he raised the possibility last week of Lakers great Kobe Bryant finishing his career with a different franchise.

But the Internet being what it is, hungry for NBA headlines, it got the attention Jackson – speaking at the New York Knicks’ media day – might have intended:

Closure was in order, then, when Bryant himself met with reporters on the West Coast at the Lakers’ own media day. Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports was on hand and got a comment from Bryant on Jackson’s suggestion late in the session:

He’s not planning on playing anywhere else.

From Spears’ report:

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Kobe Bryant has a message for Phil Jackson, Los Angeles Lakers fans and anyone else who thinks he will finish his NBA career elsewhere.

“A lot of players want to go to different teams or contend to win championships,” Bryant told Yahoo Sports at the conclusion of the Lakers’ media day on Monday. “I’m a Laker, man. I’m a Laker for better or worse.”

Bryant, 37, is entering his 20th season with the Lakers. He’s making $23.5 million in the final year of his contract, and if he does continue to play, he expects he’ll do so in a Lakers uniform.

“I’m a Laker, man. How many times do I have to say that?” Bryant said “Dude, I bleed purple and gold.”

Bryant missed 123 of the Lakers’ 164 games over the past two seasons, recovering from rotator cuff surgery, a knee fracture and Achilles surgery. He has been cleared to participate fully in the team’s training camp in Honolulu.

No. 1 pick Towns’ hectic summer settles down to serious NBA business

VIDEO: Take an all-access look as Karl-Anthony Towns becomes 2015’s No. 1 pick

EDINA, Minn. – From being the first NBA newbie to shake Adam Silver‘s hand on the stage in Brooklyn to squeezing into a phone booth with actor Kevin Spacey on late-night television, from taking some high, hard lessons from new grizzled teammate Kevin Garnett to maybe bringing some high heat of his own from the mound before the Los Angeles Angels-Minnesota Twins MLB game Sunday afternoon at Target Field, it has been a summer like no other for Karl-Anthony Towns.

But the Minnesota Timberwolves’ 6-foot-11 rookie forward/center knows that, fun as it was, it all flows from his status as the league’s No. 1 overall draft pick.

“I got a job this summer, I didn’t get a scholarship,” Towns said Saturday. “So for me, I actually have to play a different role now. It’s been a crazy summer, to say the least. The most hectic I’ve ever had in my life. But to be able to have it all happen the way it happened is a blessing.”

Towns, recently back in the Twin Cities after traveling the country for the NBA Draft, the Las Vegas Summer League and workouts in L.A., participated in a pair of youth basketball camps Saturday hosted by the Wolves. He’ll throw out the first pitch before the Angels-Twins game in downtown Minneapolis. And then he’ll be a week out from what matters most, the first training camp of his professional life.

Prepping for that has gotten most of Towns’ recent attention, he said.

“I’ve been everywhere,” said the University of Kentucky’s newest-minted millionaire. “But mostly just focusing on my game, making sure I’m the most prepared I could be for the season. Just came back from L.A. Had a great time training there for a week of, I guess I call it basketball meditation. I usually do [it]. My phone was completely off and making sure I was focusing on the game.”

A multi-talented big man, Towns said he worked out with some NFL players, along with former NBA forward Al Harrington. “But mostly I was working out by myself,” he said. “Basketball-wise, just playing, getting ready for the season, making sure I have all my fundamentals and making sure my skills are as sharp as possible.”

The expectations for Minnesota, just 16-66 last season in a rebuilding season, are genuine now. No one is predicting a leap into the Western Conference playoffs, but the talent base is broad now with the addition of Towns to a roster already blessed with Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Ricky Rubio and a half dozen other legit players.

The Wolves will cope with the absence, at least early in the 2015-16 season, of coach and basketball president Flip Saunders, on a leave of absence while undergoing treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Assistant Sam Mitchell will serve as head coach on an interim basis at least through the season’s first half. Towns said he doesn’t expect the situation to disrupt his or his teammates’ development.

“No, we’re fighting right now,” Towns said Saturday. “We’re all fighting the same way he’s fighting. We all just worry about him getting better. He’s getting better every day. And we’re just glad to know our coach is getting well.”

Towns’ first taste of NBA practices and his swift learning curve in Las Vegas gave him a base to build on in camp. He averaged 12.8 points and 7.2 rebounds, looked far more comfortable by just his second game, yet had three games with seven or more fouls (players don’t foul out in the summer league). That won’t cut it in the preseason or the regular season, of course.

“I think the biggest thing is, you have to understand the different rules,” Towns said. “There are so many rules that change from college to the NBA. Change of pace is a big thing also.”

Towns, who won’t turn 20 until Nov. 15, said he talked to some of the kids Saturday about doing “what you love.” Growing up in Piscataway, N.J., he switched his early passion for baseball – he was a pitcher – to basketball over time and not merely because of a growth spurt.

“I did what I loved. That’s why I think I play the way I do,” Towns said. “I’m very passionate, and I love the game I play.”

That should serve him well as his relationship with Garnett deepens. The greatest player in Wolves history, back for his first full season in Minnesota since 2006-07, is seen even in late career as one of the NBA’s fiercest competitors. Towns’ rookie season figures to be a special project for KG and KAT.

“He’s my mentor,” said Towns, who spent time with Garnett in Los Angeles last month. “Everything he knows, and countless years he’s been playing this game at a high level, [I am] just trying to garner information from him every day. Learn how to be a better leader, how to be a champion, just to be a true professional.”

Minnesota rookie Karl Anthony-Towns signs autographs after a Timberwolves youth clinic. -- Photo by David Sherman

Minnesota rookie Karl Anthony-Towns signs autographs after a Timberwolves youth clinic.
— Photo by David Sherman

Rival coaches welcome, dread healthy return of Lakers’ Bryant

VIDEO: Kobe Bryant’s career milestones

CHICAGO – As one of the NBA head coaches said Thursday, the word out of Los Angeles that Kobe Bryant is fully healthy for the start of the Lakers’ training camp is a classic case of good news-bad news.

Good news for Bryant, the Lakers and NBA fans, obviously, after enduring Bryant’s two injury-marred partial seasons. Bad news, presumably, for rivals if Bryant is able to get back to something approximating his Hall of Fame-bound younger self.

But Bryant, at age 37, after a ruptured Achilles tendon in 2013 and a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder last season, never has been so mortal or so old. He’s returning to a Lakers team that has gone 48-116 the past two seasons, the worst of the franchise’s L.A. era. And the harsh reality is that the Lakers were no better with Bryant in the 41 games he played than they were without him in the other 123 – their winning percentages with (12-29) and without (36-87) were precisely the same: .293.

So it’s one of the larger questions looming over the 2015-16 NBA season: How far back will Bryant get? Several of the league’s head coaches tackled it – and shared their thoughts on Bryant’s particular brand of greatness and intensity – Thursday prior to the start of their annual fall meeting in downtown Chicago.

“I think he’s still probably capable of being an All-Star,” said George Karl of the Sacramento Kings. “A lot of Kobe Bryant now is his brain as much as it’s his skills and athleticism. For years he was skilled and athletically bigger, stronger than the players he played against. Now he’s learned the angles. He’s still going to be extremely difficult to defend – you’re going to need to defend him with one of your better players. He might not be as great defensively but he’s still going to make defensive plays.”

As for Bryant’s ability to make peace with any decline in his game, Karl said: “It’s probably a little more difficult than you think it is. I was a very ordinary player, and I didn’t want to give up on who I was. I didn’t want to think I wasn’t an NBA player and I wasn’t good enough to play in that game. Now Kobe’s going from the top of the mountain, from a Mt. Rushmore-type, to maybe just being a really good All-Star. I don’t know how long Kobe will take to make that decision. Will he like who he is and continue to play at that level, or does he just want to remember himself as being one of the best?”

Washington’s Randy Wittman talked of the tough intersection Bryant’s at, with injuries, age and a struggling Lakers team converging. “Some handle it better than others,” the Wizards coach said. “But look, I don’t anticipate anything different from what Kobe’s been. I think he’s going to come out and try to show that he’s still got it.”

Coping with the Lakers’ losing ways? “I don’t think he thinks they’re going to lose,” Wittman said.

Sam Mitchell, interim Timberwolves coach during Flip Saunders‘ medical leave to battle cancer, said he thought of Bryant while packing for his flight Thursday morning from Minneapolis. ‘They were talking on ESPN about Peyton Manning, and they were saying he didn’t have the zip he had and using all these clichés,” Mitchell said. “But remember something about those veteran players, they’ve got heart, man. They’re gonna go down swinging. Eventually Father Time’s gonna win. But Kobe Bryant’s got five championship rings and he’s one of the most competitive guys I’ve ever been around in my life. And you know what? In his mind, he’s still Kobe Bryant. Until someone proves him wrong and knocks him off.”

The Timberwolves open their season against the Lakers at Staples Center on Oct. 28. “We’re going to prepare for Kobe Bryant on opening night as if he’s the Kobe of old,’ Mitchell said, “because he’s going to come out and play.”

Denver’s Mike Malone echoed that. “You can’t talk about Kobe like an ordinary player,” Malone said. “His will to win, his tenacious personality … everybody says ‘Well, he’s not going to be the same.’ But I’m never going to short-change Kobe Bryant.”

Malone was on Golden State’s staff when Bryant suffered his Achilles injury, a point at which some thought Bryant’s playing career was done or jeopardized. And now? “I’m curious to see how he is and, really for our league, I hope he comes back and plays great,” the Nuggets’ new coach said. “I expect to see a very determined, passionate and hungry Kobe Bryant, because he’s been away from the game for a while. I know when Denver plays the Lakers, we’re not going to go in expecting to see ‘poor old Kobe.’ We’re going to expect to see the Kobe of old.”

That word comes up a lot now: old. Father Time has a consecutive victories streak and doesn’t play favorites.

“He’s gonna still be ‘Kobe Bryant,’ ” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said, “but when you’ve missed two years basically and you’re older, it’s not easy. Just the rhythm and timing alone, on top of the injuries and fighting the age as well. Kobe is probably as mentally as tough as any player we’ve seen since Michael [Jordan]. So he’s gonna be ready. He’ll be good.”

Rivers thinks the Lakers bottomed out last season and will be up to the challenge Bryant throws at them, within reason. “When he left, when he was healthy, they were really good,” the Clippers coach said. “He has a lot of young guys he can be a mentor to. And they’ve added – they had a better summer, so there will be some veterans he can play with as well.”

And poke and prod and ride as mercilessly as he does himself.

Blogtable: Best offensive rebounder in NBA today?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

BLOGTABLE: Were ’83 Sixers most dominant playoff team ever? | NBA’s best offensive rebounder today? | What you remember most about Malone?

VIDEOMoses Malone’s 30-point, 30-rebound game from 1982 vs. Seattle

> Moses Malone is the NBA’s all-time leader in offensive rebounds, but who is the best offensive rebounder in the NBA right now, today?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comWhen Detroit’s Andre Drummond grabbed 440 offensive rebounds in 2013-14, he was the first player with more than 400 in a season in 16 years (Jayson Williams had 443 in 1997-98). Drummond had 33 percent more than the No. 2 man, DeAndre Jordan. Then last season, Drummond grabbed 437, topping runner-up Jordan by 40. So with all due respect to the Clippers center and to wily Zach Randolph in Memphis, the easy answer here is Drummond.

Scott Howard-Cooper, Andre Drummond. More than five per game last season? That’s how to make a big contribution on offense while not having much of an offensive game, or at least a traditional offensive game.

Shaun Powell, After watching him rip through the playoffs last season I’m tempted to nominate Tristan Thompson. He goes for more second helpings than you at Thanksgiving. But the premier offensive rebounder is Andre Drummond, and he’s still learning how to play the game. Imagine what happens when he develops a post move or a mid-range shot. Until then, the offensive glass is what he does very well, better than most.

John Schuhmann, Andre Drummond was the league leader in offensive rebounding percentage last season, but DeAndre Jordan was second while playing for a coach — Doc Rivers — who doesn’t want to sacrifice transition defense for offensive boards. No team allowed a lower percentage of their opponents’ shots in the first six seconds of the shot clock than the Clippers, who ranked 28th in offensive rebounding percentage as a team. With that context, the case could be made that Jordan is the better offensive rebounder among two similarly long and bouncy bigs.

Sekou Smith, Andre Drummond‘s the only player in the league to average more than five offensive rebounds per game last season, so he has to get the nod. But I love watching DeAndre Jordan (4.8 offensive rpg and a league-leading 15 rpg last season) do his work around the rim for the Los Angeles Clippers. He’s huge, like Drummond, and uses every bit of his size and athleticism to his advantage on the boards. He does it with more flair than Drummond and does it in a dominant fashion on a team where he’s never really been featured on that end of the floor.

Ian Thomsen, Andre Drummond dominated during the regular season, but the big man who made you think of offensive rebounding as a weapon last year was Tristan Thompson. As the Cavaliers’ scorers went down during the playoffs, Thompson tirelessly created second-chances while helping to drive his team within reach of the championship.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blogBy all the stats, Detroit’s Andre Drummond is pretty effective, by a pretty healthy margin, with DeAndre Jordan not far off. But fresh in my mind is the work Tristan Thompson did during the NBA Finals. We always hear from coaches that rebounding is mostly about effort over anything else, and I thought Thompson showed that during The Finals.

Blogtable: What will you remember most about Moses Malone?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

BLOGTABLE: Were ’83 Sixers most dominant playoff team ever? | NBA’s best offensive rebounder today? | What you remember most about Malone?

VIDEOMoses Malone career retrospective

> The NBA lost one of its all-time greats when Moses Malone died Sunday at age 60. What will you remember most about the “Chairman of the Boards?”

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comI’ll remember Moses as a man of few words, whose comments took on greater import and pithiness because he wasn’t all that talkative. I’ll remember the pools of sweat he left at both ends of every court on which he played – hardest working and most perspiring man in the game at the time. Unfortunately, though, I think I’ll remember how jarring it was to see Malone play for so many teams in his career. Legendary players aren’t supposed to pack their bags that often – even skipping his ABA stops due to that league’s shoddy finances, Malone changed NBA teams eight times. For a while it almost seemed like a Moses-of-the-month club, with Malone spread around the league so everyone could have him for a stint. Guess that makes him both old-school and very modern, as pro athletes go.

Scott Howard-Cooper, Probably the tenacity. It seemed like if there was a rebound anywhere in the area code, he would grab it. Imagine the number of times an opponent got chewed out by their coach for not sealing Malone off the offensive boards. Coaches must have gone hoarse. Moses had good size, but he wasn’t Shaquille O’Neal or Wilt Chamberlain. But when the ball was coming off the rim, it didn’t matter.

Shaun Powell, Moses wasn’t the most eloquent speaker and was rather reluctant to do interviews, but he came up with a few gems. Of course, there was “fo, fo, and fo” and also the quip about “me and four guys from Petersburg” being able to beat up the Celtics in The Finals. He nicknamed his two young boys “Harvard” and “Yale” because that’s where he said they were going to school (neither did). And finally, Moses remarked how he “learned” Hakeem Olajuwon how to play the game and after getting roasted by a young Hakeem regretted that he “learned him too good.”

John Schuhmann, I don’t know if “underrated” is the right word, but looking back at Malone’s career, he clearly doesn’t get mentioned enough as one of the best big men in NBA history. When you look at his shooting numbers (49 percent for his career, only five seasons at 50 percent or better), he obviously wasn’t as efficient as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain or Shaquille O’Neal. But by rebounding so many of his own misses (and that he shot free throws better than all of those guys), he kind of made up for that. Really, his numbers are right there with Shaq.

Sekou Smith, In addition to this Air Force 1 poster that hung on the bedroom wall when I was a kid, it’s the fact that Moses was a technician. The polish and proficiency of his game, on both ends of the floor, is what will always stick out to me about him. He dominated with what would classify now as an “old school” style that didn’t rely on his physical prowess as much as it did his pure skill and ability to wear you out by beating you to all the sweet spots on the floor. You don’t score and rebound the way he did, at his size, without being an absolute technician. 

Ian Thomsen, I think about how he was underestimated when the ABA folded in 1976. In the ensuing dispersal draft Malone was chosen second by the Blazers (their first pick was Maurice Lucas) and was then unloaded to the Buffalo Braves for a first-round pick (which turned into Rick Robey). The Blazers already had Bill Walton, who would lead them to the 1976-77 championship — but that doesn’t change the fact that they and the Braves undervalued 21-year-old Malone, who was traded again for a pair of first-rounders (Wesley Cox and Micheal Ray Richardson) to the Rockets. Two years later, Malone would be the NBA’s MVP, and in 1981 he would lead the Rockets to the NBA Finals. The misunderstanding of his potential was stunning.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog I was in middle school in 1988, when my hometown Atlanta Hawks signed a then 32-year-old Moses Malone to team him with Dominique Wilkins and Reggie Theus and give the Hawks, finally, a potent inside-out attack and make them a presumptive Eastern Conference contender. I may have only been a kid, but I knew enough about the NBA to know that these Hawks had a chance to be special, so I mowed lawns all summer and raised $205 and bought a $5 season ticket for that ’88-89 season. By then Moses wasn’t the dominant glass demon he’d been earlier in his career, but he was still effective and still worthwhile. The main thing I remember was how often he seemed to miss short shots intentionally when nobody was near him, and how through this my friends and I learned what it meant to “pad” one’s stats. Many times after games, we would hang around near the locker rooms and ask for autographs. Moses wasn’t the most enthusiastic autograph giver, but he usually made himself available eventually. One night someone asked him if he had any extra shoes he could give away, and without looking up, Moses said, “Ain’t got no shoe contract.” What made this even better was he was starring in a national Nike commercial at the time.

Blogtable: Were ’83 Sixers most dominant playoff team ever?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

BLOGTABLE: Were ’83 Sixers most dominant playoff team ever? | NBA’s best offensive rebounder today? | What you remember most about Malone?

VIDEOThe Sixers sweep away the Lakers in the 1983 Finals

> After winning 65 games in the 1982-83 regular season, Moses Malone’s 76ers went 12-1 in the postseason and swept the Lakers 4-0 in The Finals. Was this the most dominating postseason performance ever?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comThanks to Malone’s “Fo’, fo’, fo'” prediction, the 1983 Sixers’ postseason run might be the easiest to remember in terms of their 12-1 record (only Milwaukee got a game from them, defending home court while down 0-3). But it takes two teams to make for a great series and a succession of them to elevate a playoff run. While Philadelphia’s gauntlet to the title was challenging, it wasn’t as tough as the one the Los Angeles Lakers ran in 2001 while going 15-1 or what the Chicago Bulls faced either in 1996 (15-3) or 1991 (15-2). The ’00-01 Lakers outscored Portland by an average of 14.7 points, Sacramento by 9.2 and San Antonio by 22.2 in starting 11-0. They dropped Game 1 of The Finals against feisty Allen Iverson (48 points) but were far superior to that overmatched Sixers squad as they won the series’ next four.

Scott Howard-Cooper, That team, the 2001 Lakers that went undefeated against three 50-win opponents in the West before beating Philly for the title or the 1996 Bulls that crushed everyone in sight before a brief stumble in The Finals. Maybe the 76ers of 1983 get the edge because they swept a very good Lakers club, the defending champions, for the championship. That was a higher degree of difficulty than the others. L.A. had a lot of talent and couldn’t come close to keeping up.

Shaun Powell, Well, the Shaq-Kobe Lakers of 2000-01 get the nod because they had to play an extra round (under the 16-team playoff format) and their only loss in the postseason was in overtime during The Finals (coincidentally in Game 1 against the Sixers). Also, the Moses-Doc Sixers had a few close calls along the way; winning two against the Knicks by a total of five points and sweating out an OT win against the Bucks. Besides, while that Bucks team was maybe the best in Milwaukee history (they swept the Celtics), the Sixers didn’t have to go through Larry Bird and Kevin McHale, who tormented them the years before.

John Schuhmann, Statistically, the 2000-01 Lakers (15-1) were the most dominant team in the postseason, outscoring their opponents by 13.5 points per 100 possessions. Nine of their 15 wins came by more than 10 points. The ’82-83 Sixers only outscored their opponents by 6.7 points per 100 possessions, winning only two games by more than 10 points. The ’90-91 Bulls (15-2, +12.6 points per 100 possessions) aren’t far behind the Lakers.

Sekou Smith, It was indeed the most dominating postseason performance in my lifetime. The Sixers were loaded and swept the defending champion Lakers in The Finals. How good or great a team was depended on its parts, how dominant it was depended on the quality of the competition. The 1983 Sixers reached The Finals with an 8-1 record and then swept a championship team. That speaks volumes.

Ian Thomsen, I’ve got to go with Michael Jordan’s 1995-96 Bulls. After going 72-10 in the regular season, they won 14 of their first 15 playoff games, including seven straight victories against teams that had won 60 games. Can we forgive them for losing twice in the NBA Finals after seizing a 3-0 lead over the Seattle SuperSonics? We should: That team was unbeatable.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blogJust how old do you think I am? I don’t remember the 1983 Finals, but a 12-1 postseason run, at least on the surface, sure seems dominant. The only other team to me that sticks out as similarly dominant is the 2002 Lakers, who won a title with a 15-4 postseason record.

More Moses memories, pre- and post-NBA

VIDEO: Moses Malone career retrospective

It’s been a couple of days since Moses Malone died unexpectedly at age 60 Sunday in Norfolk, Va. Even in this era of 24/7 news coverage, some of the appreciations and remembrances of the legendary NBA center still are getting posted and published. One, from the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch, provided some details of Malone’s passing and cause of death (hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease), along with a glimpse into Malone’s recent post-NBA life. Another, by L.A. sports columnist Mark Whicker, recalled the clamor-bordering-on-uproar generated when Malone, intensely recruited as a high school senior, decided to skip NCAA basketball entirely.

First from the Times-Dispatch:

On Tuesday, Malone visited a doctor in Houston, where he lived. Malone was working out when he felt his heart skip a beat. The doctor found nothing wrong, but gave Malone a heart monitor. When Malone was found Sunday, he was wearing his heart monitor.

Police and EMS responded, and they told [Malone’s best friend Kevin] Vergara that Malone probably died of in his sleep.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for Virginia said Malone died of natural causes. The cause of death was listed as hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.

“He was always very health-minded,” said Vergara, who noted Malone didn’t drink or do drugs, and skipped sodas and fried foods in favor of grilled chicken, fish and salad. “He’s vigorous about working out.”

Even when Malone traveled, he frequently rose early and visited the hotel fitness center. So when Malone didn’t show up at breakfast at 6 a.m. Sunday morning, no one was worried at first. When he didn’t answer his phone, Vergara went to his room and knocked on the door. Still, there was no response.

Vergara obtained a room key from the front desk. He tried to open the door, but the latch was locked from the inside. That’s when he knew something was wrong.

The story, by Richmond reporter Eric Kolenich, also mentioned Malone’s girlfriend Leah Nash, their 6-year-old son Micah and his two older sons Moses Jr. and Michael. It also spoke of the Malone’s friendships.

“We talked every day, literally,” Vergara said. Even though Malone lived in Houston and traveled frequently, and Vergara remains in Hopewell, they kept in constant contact, often talking about Moses’ love of the Dallas Cowboys and Vergara’s love of the Washington Redskins. As Malone’s mother aged, Vergara cared for her.

And Vergara got to know Malone better than most. Malone had a reputation of not being very smart. But that wasn’t the real Malone, Vergara said.

“He is very smart,” Vergara said. “He was a shy person, but when he got to know you he opened up. And he knows the game. … He would have been a good coach.”

But that wasn’t the route Malone took. Instead, he spent retired life doing speaking engagements and playing in charity golf events. He was still under contract with Nike, which occasionally sent him on trips. He worked out, but he didn’t play basketball much anymore. Golf became his sport of choice.

On Sunday, he was scheduled to play in NBA referee Tony Brothers’ golf event to support single mothers. Malone had participated each of the past six or seven years.

Malone talked about operating his own charity golf event in Petersburg. Vergara says he might start one in Malone’s memory.

Whicker wrote about Malone as a highly sought prep star who ultimately disappointed all of college basketball by signing directly with the ABA Utah Stars. Within two years, he was tearing up the NBA, averaging 25.5 points and 14.1 rebounds through his first nine seasons in the league (1979-87), numbers that no player has matched in a single season since then.

Malone, elected to the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2001, wound up as one of four high school-to-NBA stars who won both NBA championships and Most Valuable Player awards (three in Malone’s case). The others: Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. But in simpler media times, when word-of-mouth mattered, there was an undercurrent of excitement about Malone’s game and potential that stirred a frenzy among college coaches:

Malone somehow became as good as the college recruiters thought he was. New Mexico had a late-season game against Florida State, and assistant coach John Whisenant went from Tallahassee to Petersburg. And stayed. He was at the Howard Johnson motel until Malone signed in June, with Maryland.

Whisenant now works in commercial real estate in Albuquerque. Malone was his friend. After he signed, he drove to the hotel to tell Whisenant.

“I don’t know whose car it was,” Whisenant said Monday. “I know Moses didn’t have one. The whole thing was the most bizarre recruiting story you’ve ever seen.”

Whisenant would accompany Malone to high school all-star games, throughout the country, and then fly home with him. Malone would hang out at the motel before he went home. Together they watched Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run on TV. Sometimes Malone would bring his best friend Nathan, who was a manager on the high school team.

“They would sit there and sing,” Whisenant said. “Nathan was a great singer and Moses would do backup. They sang Motown songs. Sometimes I hear songs on the radio and think of those two.”

Malone and Nathan would take Whisenant to the Mouse Trap, the local nightclub, and Whisenant would sit there as the only white person in the place and think how far he’d come from Gore, Okla.

“I was trying to hold off the entire ACC,” Whisenant said. The Maryland people were everywhere. Lefty Driesell was an all-world recruiter. His obsessive assistant, Dave Pritchett, was known as Pit Stop. They would visit the hotel, too. That’s where Whisenant met an intense Detroit coach named Dick Vitale.

Sometimes Driesell would call Whisenant and imitate Malone, just for fun.

Driesell asked Malone who the toughest playground player in Petersburg was.

“Well,” Malone said, “there was The Milkman.”

Why did they call him The Milkman?

“Because he killed a milkman, man,” Malone replied.

The best part of that story is that it is possibly true.