Posts Tagged ‘Steve Aschburner’

Westbrook’s face fixed, will sit Sunday; Irving out; Bosh goes home

VIDEO: Westbrook hurt in loss vs. Blazers

There are sports injuries too gruesome to watch in replay – Joe Theismann’s, Shaun Livingston’s and Paul George’s leg fractures all spring quickly to mind – and then there are those you have to look once, twice, even three times to comprehend.

Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook‘s fracture to the zygomatic arch bone in his right cheek qualifies as one of the latter. Westbrook got kneed in the face by Thunder teammate Andre Roberson on an inbounds scramble late in their club’s loss at Portland Friday in a game that saw him record his third straight triple-double. Westbrook, already on the floor, lay on his stomach momentarily. After he got up, photos showed an odd indentation or depression in his face. Royce Young of ESPN.com passed along the day-after basics following surgery Saturday to repair Westbrook’s face:

He has been ruled out for Sunday’s game at the Los Angeles Lakers and will be re-evaluated next week to determine when he can return to play.

Westbrook had his third consecutive triple-double against the Blazers, scoring 40 points with 13 rebounds and 11 assists. He had a historic February, averaging 31.2 points, 9.1 rebounds and 10.3 assists, numbers that only ever have been totaled by Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson.

Kevin Durant is set to be re-evaluated for a minor procedure he underwent last Sunday and could return as soon as this coming week. In seven games without Durant in February, Westbrook averaged a triple-double — 31.2 points, 10.0 rebounds and 11.3 assists.

Westbrook, 26, is averaging 26.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 8.1 assists in 45 games this season. He missed 14 games in November because of a fracture in his right hand.

Newly acquired D.J. Augustin will start in place of Westbrook on Sunday against the Lakers.

Young also had speculated on what this injury might mean to Westbrook’s well-known sense of fashion:

But here’s the really pertinent stuff:

Meanwhile, Cleveland also will be without its All-Star point guard Sunday at Houston. Kyrie Irving continued treatment Saturday on the left shoulder strain that caused him to miss the Cavaliers’ game at Indiana Friday, his team announced, and will not join the team for its matinee clash with the Rockets. Irving’s status will be updated Tuesday morning prior to the Cavs’ home game that night against Boston.

Craving some good news on the NBA health front? The Miami Heat and their veteran power forward, recovering rather nicely from the condition that ended his 2014-15 season, were happy to oblige late Saturday afternoon:

Morning shootaround — Feb. 24


VIDEO: Highlights of Monday’s action from around the NBA

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Some Kevin-on-Kevin love | Commish misses Bosh, too | Rondo consults Dirk’s shot doc | Kirilenko heads back home

No. 1: Some Kevin-on-Kevin love — No, not that Kevin Love. We’re talking Kevin love, as in Kevin McHale‘s admiration for Kevin Garnett, the straight-outta-high school gamble who paid off big for McHale when he was starting out as VP of basketball operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Garnett was the face of Minnesota’s franchise for most of his 12 seasons there and, on the eve of his return to the Wolves in practice and a welcoming press conference Tuesday, one Hall of Famer – before coaching in Houston against his former employer – talked about the Hall of Famer-to-be, as chronicled in the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

“I’m happy for the Timberwolves organization,” McHale said Monday. “For a lot of years, he was, of course, the face of the franchise. It sounds like they’re happy. He’ll do a good job with those guys.”

McHale was asked Monday if it seems right that Garnett return to his NBA beginnings.

“That’s up to Kevin,” McHale said. “So many people do different things. I’m happy for him if he’s happy. He’s a good kid. I spent a lot of time with him. I think it’s great when that can work out if it really works out for both parties. It’s great for the Timberwolves, and Kevin must have felt good about it, otherwise he wouldn’t have signed off on it.”

Garnett waived a no-trade clause minutes before Thursday afternoon’s NBA trade deadline. He arrives Tuesday not the player he once was, but rather a man who has seen it all, done it all and can help team a young Wolves team mature.

“Kevin loves basketball,” McHale said. “He’s competitive. He always has been. He has a wealth of knowledge. He has played a lot of big games, won a championship and he’s not afraid to talk. He’ll say a lot of things.”

Rockets veteran forward Corey Brewer thought he’d hear many of those things when McHale drafted him to play for the Wolves in 2007. But Garnett was traded just weeks later.

“It’s great for the franchise,” said Brewer, who like Garnett was brought back to the Wolves but traded for a second time in a December deal that sent him to Houston. “KG, he’s the face of the franchise, still to this day even though he left for a while. I’m happy for the franchise. I’m happy for him to go back. I think he’ll have a great impact. Those guys need a guy like KG. They’re young. They’re all getting better. They need that voice, that leadership.”

(more…)

Suns’ brass fires back at Dragic

dragic

Goran Dragic was traded to the Heat on Thursday for players and two first-round picks. (NBAE via Getty Images)

Goran Dragic said what he felt and got what he wanted. The Phoenix Suns reacted Thursday and responded Friday.

One day after Dragic, the Suns point guard who sprung his discontent on the team and on the NBA in the days and hours leading up to the league’s trade deadline, the Phoenix brass fired back. Dragic said he was unhappy and felt he no longer could trust the Suns’ front office? Well, the front office characterized Dragic as selfish and overrating his value within the team’s pecking order. Moving him to Miami served Phoenix’s needs just fine, they said.

President of basketball operations Lon Babby, in particular, wasn’t pleased by a couple of “aspersions” tossed the team’s way. Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic was there to chronicle Babby’s and GM Ryan McDonough‘s comments:

Babby said he took personal offense to Dragic’s Wednesday comment that he did not trust the organization, characterizing his statements as “unfair and unwarranted.” Dragic had been upset that the Suns brought in two more starting-caliber point guards, Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas, since he returned to the team in 2012 and that he became primarily a wing player because of their additions.

“If some of those moves ruffle Goran’s feathers, so be it,” Babby said.

Babby said the Suns, including Managing Partner Robert Sarver, tried to reach out to Dragic several weeks ago to gauge his concerns and views on his future with Phoenix but did not get a response until Tuesday, when they were no longer surprised and already had [newly acquired Bucks guard Brandon] Knight in mind. McDonough said the Suns never received a list of preferred destinations and did not care if there was one because of how Dragic and his agents handled the situation.

After hearing fans and media comment that the Suns traded their best player (Dragic), McDonough said Friday, “Our response to that, I think, is that Eric Bledsoe and Markieff Morris are still in Phoenix Suns uniforms.”

Dragic did give a little context via Twitter to his caustic remarks, and did nothing to quell suspicions that he said what he did to leverage his way out of town:

Morning shootaround — Feb. 20

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Bosh hospitalized for lung tests | Bucks add more wingspan | Buyer’s remorse on Rondo? | Wolves: Not buying buyouts

No. 1: Bosh hospitalized for lung tests — The genuine surprise and excitement over the Miami Heat’s acquisition of Phoenix guard Goran Dragic had fans in South Florida focused on what might be some renewed postseason ambitions. But those good vibes got undercut later Thursday with the news that veteran forward Chris Bosh had been admitted to a local hospital to underdog testing of his lungs. Here are details from the Miami Herald:

Bosh was “under the weather” on Wednesday when he reported to practice, according to Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, and team trainers sent Bosh to see a doctor. He did not attend practice Thursday and was instead admitted to the hospital.

Initial tests on Bosh, 30, were inconclusive, according to a team spokesman. An independent source confirmed for the Miami Herald that the initial tests were on Bosh’s lungs.

While in New York over the weekend for the All-Star Game, Bosh complained of pain in his side near his rib cage. He then traveled to Haiti during Carnival with his wife, Adrienne, and Dwyane Wade and Wade’s wife, actress Gabrielle Union.

Asked on Thursday after practice whether Bosh was sick in Haiti, Wade said, “I don’t know if he was sick. I’m not a doctor. I just know he wasn’t feeling good. He wasn’t coughing or throwing up, but he just wasn’t feeling good. So I don’t know when it happened. It could have happened in New York.”

Although Bosh noted discomfort in his side last Friday, he appeared healthy. On Saturday, he won the All-Star Shooting Stars competition at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, and on Sunday, Bosh played 11 minutes in the All-Star Game at Madison Square Garden.

*** (more…)

Sun has set on Phoenix’s Dragic era

dragic

After averaging 20.3 points and 5.9 assists last season with the Suns, Goran Dragic’s numbers have dipped to 16.2 and 4.1 and seeing less time with the ball in his hands. (USA Today)

A day earlier, it was only the stuff of “reports.” By midday Wednesday, though, and with about 24 hours left before the NBA trade deadline, Goran Dragic‘s desire to be dealt from the Phoenix Suns was cold, hard fact.

The seventh-year guard made his dissatisfaction with the Suns clear when he talked with reporters Wednesday. These differences sound irreconcilable, per Paul Coro‘s story in the Arizona Republic:

“I don’t trust them anymore,” Dragic said following Wednesday’s practice session. “It happens too many times. Two, three times.

“They give promises, OK. It’s hard. But at the same time, I wish them all the best. They were great to me the past five years. I’m always going to have a good memory about Phoenix fans and the city. I just hit that point of my career that it’s better for me and my family to move on.”

The relationship between Dragic and the Suns melted down over the team’s commitment to a three-guard backcourt that has required him to adjust his style and minutes to fit in Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas. Last season, Dragic was named to the all-NBA third team after averaging 20.3 points, 5.9 assists and 35.1 minutes. This season, his numbers have dipped to 16.2, 4.1 and 33.4, and he has significantly less time with the ball in his hands.

Now a team that was one of the league’s happier stories in 2013-14 has serious drama and a potential setback on its hands. As unhappy as Phoenix fans might be over this, at least Dragic has made his decision over basketball reasons, rather than seeking out a more lucrative market for off-court income or to team up with particular buddies.

Dragic has mentioned New York, Miami, Indiana and the L.A. Lakers as destinations in which he has interest, but Boston, Houston and others may have interest in acquiring him and persuading him to stick around long-term.

If Dragic isn’t traded by the deadline, he intends to sign elsewhere as a free agent this summer. More from Coro:

“I don’t feel comfortable with my situation,” he said, adding, “It’s just different. Standing in the corner, it’s not my game. I see that we’re not going in the right direction. That’s why I take action and try to put myself in a better position.”

Anthony officially out for knee surgery


VIDEO: The latest news around the NBA

As dreary as this season has been for the New York Knicks and their fans, and as difficult as it’s been for Carmelo Anthony from a physical standpoint, imagine if he were shutting things down – as he is, due to his ailing left knee – as a member of the Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks or Houston Rockets.

While the pain and injury are no fault of his own, Anthony’s reputation, already dinged for what he hasn’t accomplished in 11-plus seasons, would take another hit if he had sold his services to the Bulls, the Mavericks or the Rockets, only to exit after 40 appearances for the surgery.

The Knicks announced Wednesday that team orthopedist, Dr. Answorth Allen, would perform a left knee patella-tendon debridement and repair. The procedure, scheduled for this week, will remove damaged and dead tissue that is causing pain, while promoting the healing of healthier tissue.

Losing Anthony wouldn’t have hurt the Lakers all that much had he signed there, given Kobe Bryant (shoulder surgery) already has been lost for the season. And it certainly isn’t likely to make the 10-43 Knicks much worse. The high-scoring forward’s storyline dovetails nicely with the team’s now; Anthony’s absence over the Knicks’ final 29 games should aid rather than thwart their targeted tailspin toward the bottom of the standings.

Knicks president Phil Jackson told reporters Anthony’s recover would take 4-6 months. Anthony averaged 24.2 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 35.7 minutes.

Durant backs off media edginess

Kevin Durant averaged 32 points a game last season in winning his first MVP. (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE)

Kevin Durant feels if the Thunder had been healthy, they would be near the top in the West. (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE)

Kevin Durant either reconsidered some of his caustic comments that began at All-Star Weekend. Or he got tired of the heat he suddenly was taking and decided affability is a lot easier road to travel than candor when headed toward NBA free agency in 2016. Or maybe one of his many sponsors suggested that an edgier Durant would be costing himself, and them, way too much money if his likeability took a dive.

Whatever the reason, Durant walked back the tone if not entirely the content of the criticism he directed at the media in New York a few days ago. He also clarified some comments in a GQ article that was posted to the magazine’s Web site Wednesday. Durant spoke with reporters after the Oklahoma City’s first post-All-Star practice Wednesday, with Darnell Mayberry and Anthony Slater of the Daily Oklahoman chronicling it in Q&A fashion. Bottom line: “I had a moment. I hope we can get past it.”

Here are some notable excerpts:

Story in GQ created some buzz, specifically the quote about your players not being as good in the past. What specifically did you mean?

I think my words were misinterpreted a little bit. I read that this morning and felt bad, but I was just talking in terms of how the public views our team, how everybody views us. Everybody talks about the James Harden trade to this day. Everybody else is asking about a player that’s a three-time All-Star, leading scorer in the league, so we can’t do nothing about that. I never wanted to slight my teammates like I did, but just from the outside looking in, that’s how people view us. That we got worse. But we can’t control that. That’s what really I was trying to say, so I’m sorry if my words got misinterpreted, but I never want to slight my teammates.

And:

A lot of people on the outside looking in think that might be a factor in your decision next summer, the fact that they traded James and the talent hasn’t been the same as in the past and you haven’t been to the Finals since. What impact does that decision in 2012 make on your decision next summer?

None. None. We’re still a good team. Still a good team. Let’s be real now. We’d still be up there if we didn’t have injuries. If I wasn’t out, if [Russell Westbrook] wasn’t out, we’d be up there. So don’t act like we a bad team or we got worse. Nah, we had injuries. It’s a part of the game and I understand that, not crying about it. But that’s what happened. We lost Russell for a playoff series, we lost Serge [Ibaka] for a playoff series. Stuff like that happens, but to say all because we lost James we didn’t make it to the Finals. Everybody’s going to have their opinion, especially with the time winding down and the summer coming up with me, but I love where I’m at right now and I’m just trying to focus on that every single day.

And:

We’ve sort of gotten to know you a certain way the first six, seven years and this year you’ve been edgier, you’ve been more outspoken. How do you explain that shift?

Let’s be real. Let’s look at the whole thing. I’ve been in the league eight years. The media and myself have had a great relationship for eight years. I said something. Two days in a row I said something. Am I allowed to be upset one time? Am I allowed to be mad? Am I human? Do you look at me that way? I can’t say nothing wrong? We had great communication for eight years and it’s still that way. But I had a moment. Everybody in life has one. You had one for sure before but it’s not broadcasted like mine. I was more so trying to take up for my teammates, my coach and every guy in the league that gets scrutinized and I don’t like. Maybe I shouldn’t say nothing about it. I had my moment.”

Sanders’ buyout — did nerds lose one?

When the Milwaukee Bucks signed Larry Sanders to a contract extension worth $44 million over four years, it was proclaimed as a victory of sorts for the wonks. The numbers-crunchers. The slide-rule set full of folks Charles Barkley might let do his taxes but wouldn’t let near his basketball roster.

So now that Sanders has proven to be a bust for the Bucks — as witnessed by the buyout he and the team were negotiating Wednesday, at a severe reduction ($15 million) from that remaining balance — does that mean the wonks lost one?

Most likely, it depends. The analytics devotees will say that they merely identified what it was that made Sanders so valuable to Milwaukee during his breakout (now looking flukey) 2012-13 season and that he still would be worth every penny if he just continued doing that. Skeptics may counter that breaking someone’s game and value down into decimal points and percentages has about as much predictive power as the past performance of your IRA.

One way or the other, though, Sanders stopped being the player that Milwaukee paid him to be in August 2013 and became the guy who, fresh from his latest NBA drug suspension and personal layoff, should feel like Dillinger for absconding with a third or so of his pact’s actual value.

It could serve as a lesson, too, against the sort of congratulations handed out prematurely when the deal was struck. After noting that Sanders never had averaged double figures in scoring or rebounding and that he wasn’t a superior athlete, ESPN.com’s Ethan Sherwood Strauss back in August 2013 wrote:

Just based on the raw numbers, signing Sanders to this deal makes no sense.

Unless you’re a nerd — the kind who appreciates Sanders’ mastery of angles, the timing of his jumps and his penchant for adhering to his defensive responsibilities. To the NBA geek, this validation of Sanders is a validation of looking deeper than mere “counting stats.” Though Sanders is the big winner with a hefty pile of cash, his success is a giant victory for basketball nerds all over.

It means Kirk Goldsberry, in detailing Sanders’ secretly sterling defense at the MIT Sloan Conference, isn’t talking to a wall. His reality-based ideas can either influence NBA decision-makers or reflect smarter NBA decision-making.

It means Grantland’s Zach Lowe, he of the “LARRY SANDERS!” meme, can get many readers excited about the subtleties of Sanders’ interior defense, stuff that didn’t rate before in-depth writers like Lowe seized the mainstream as their turf. Even if big men tend to make more, they rarely cash in while scoring fewer than 10 points a game. But the basketball cognoscenti isn’t laughing at this contract.

Why? Because the nerds are winning.

Not to go all Sir Charles on analytics, but proclaiming victories is a lot more fun and way easier than acknowledging foibles and shortcomings. “Moneyball” is great until it never wins or even gets you to the World Series. One fella can be just as wrong mining stats as the other guy can be trusting his eyes or his gut.

If the Sanders buyout is a victory for anyone, it’s the Milwaukee accountants. By shedding so much of his guaranteed salary – and then using the “stretch” provision of the collective-bargaining agreement – the Bucks will be able to reduce the salary-cap hit for this signing mistake to about $2.14 million a year for seven years.

As time goes on, that’s a 3 percent claim on the cap that will grow ever smaller. Less significant to Milwaukee’s bottom line than their annual write-down for flat beer and spoiled brats.

As for Sanders and where he might land, anyone who has followed his career – both pre-NBA and since – has to root that it’s in a safe, comfortable spot, whether that includes basketball or not. The personable 26-year-old has had off-court issues that frequently collide with his sincere desire to do the right thing, and playing up to the expectations of that fat contract seemed to be too much for him.

If another NBA team takes a chance on him this season – his buyout would allow for playoff participation, coming before March 1 – in theory he could impact a postseason berth or swing a game this spring. Then again, his best and healthiest option might be to take another step back and return to NBA action only when, and if, it fits with the rest of his life.

Robertson applauds players union for adding James’ clout as VP

NEW YORK – The adversaries that get drawn in bold strokes in any NBA collective bargaining negotiations (and too often, subsequent lockout coverage) are the owners vs. the players. The commissioner – now Adam Silver, before that David Stern – vs. the head of the union. Michele Roberts has that title now as the NBPA’s executive director now, filling the job previously held by Billy Hunter.

But there’s an underlying tension, too, between the stars of the NBA and its so-called working or middle-class players. They are the league’s role players. They are the guys who typically make up The Other Nine on teams fortunate enough to have A Big Three. They are the league’s “82.7 percent” if you want to go by the percentage of NBA players who makes less than $8 million, about 372 of approximately 450.

About two-thirds of the league’s performers are paid less than $5 million, and according to ESPN.com data, nearly 40 percent (173) draw salaries between $1 million and $4 million. That means, in a union set-up, the vast rank-and-file has the votes. When push has come to shove in recent collective-bargaining agreement talks, middle-class issues from salary maximums to mid-level exceptions have been served, generally at the superstars’ expense.

But there is a place for star power. The NBPA showed that in its unanimous vote of player reps Friday to add LeBron James to the union’s executive committee, moving into the position opened when Roger Mason Jr. retired to take an NBPA management role.

And Oscar Robertson, an authority on star power in sports labor relations, concurred. Robertson – the game’s legendary “Big O,” worthy of any NBA Mount Rushmore as the game’s all-time triple-double threat – spoke Saturday about his nine years as union president. Fifty years ago this summer, after the Maurice Stokes benefit game at Kuthser’s Resort in the Catskills, Robertson was courted by retiring NBPA president Tom Heinsohn, Jack Twyman and union director Larry Fleisher to take over as president.

Robertson provided the sort of high profile leadership that James, teaming with current NBPA president Chris Paul, can offer when the next CBA talks ramp up toward 2017. He shared with ESPN.com his experience and his perspective on James’ impact:

“I think it’s wonderful, the stars need to lead by example,” Robertson said on Saturday. “There’s so much to be done in the next few years.”

Robertson believes that James can leverage his position as the league’s signature star in ways he could not 40 years ago and that is why having him and Paul as the face of the union could be valuable.

“It’s not a risk for LeBron because he’s a star; there’s nothing they can do to LeBron,” Robertson said. “You have to be successful and then you can put yourself in that position. Times have changed, there is nothing the owners can do. Years ago, owners didn’t want players in (union leadership), they tried to trade you or get rid of you and get you out of the league. They’ll deny that but it was true.”

Robertson put his name on the lawsuit in which the union successfully challenged the reserve clause, leading to free agency in the NBA much as Curt Flood‘s fight paved the way in baseball. The Cincinnati and Milwaukee star guard felt he paid a price after his playing days, losing out on broadcasting, coaching or executive positions out of NBA owners’ resentment.

But in recent years, Robertson felt the game’s stars weren’t doing enough of the union’s work, leaving the decisions and public-relations goodwill to players with lower profiles.

“LeBron can get instant access to the media and the fans,” Robertson said. “In this day and age, it isn’t always what you do behind closed doors. Sometimes it’s public and getting the mass of people behind you. I’m sure he can do that.”

Morning shootaround — Feb. 14


VIDEO: Highlights of Friday’s Rising Stars Challenge and Celebrity All-Star Game

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Durant: Players should vote for awards | Rising Star MVP Wiggins craves Olympics | Union fires shot across NBA bow | Mason’s condition shows some progress

No. 1: Durant: Players should vote for awards — It’s Valentine’s Day, so you might want to send some extra flowers or candy to your nearest sports media person after Kevin Durant hurt their feelings on Friday. The Oklahoma City star took the occasion of the NBA’s All-Star Media Availability at a New York hotel ballroom to question the media folks’ credibility as voters for the league’s annual awards, such as Most Valuable Player, Sixth Man, Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player. Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com was among those to capture Durant’s critical comments:

“I think (the) media gets too much power to vote on stuff like that. Quite frankly I don’t think you really know a lot about as much we know about it,” Durant said when asked if MVP winners should be allowed to vote on the MVP like former Heisman Trophy winners are allowed to do with the annual award for the best college football player. “So we play against these guys every single night, we battle against these guys, we know what they say on the court, we know how they handle their teammates, we know how they approach the game, and our votes should count.

“Our opinions should count. I don’t think you guys know as much we do, and I don’t see why you have more power than we do.”

Durant won his first MVP for the 2013-14 season, totaling 1,232 points in voting, including 119 first-place votes. The award is decided by a 124-member panel consisting of sports writers and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada. There’s also an NBA.com MVP fan vote that counts as one vote, making for a total of 125 ballots overall. The same panel of U.S. and Canadian sports writers and broadcasters also casts votes for the other awards, but the MVP award is the only one for which fans can vote.

Players are awarded 10 points for each first-place vote, seven points for each second-place vote, five for each third-place vote, three for each fourth-place vote and one for each fifth-place vote.

“We really know these guys inside and out,” Durant said of why players should vote for the awards. “There are a lot of guys that deserve Defensive Player of the Year or Sixth Man of the Year but you guys (decide sometimes because) they are not the sexier names. A lot of people will see the names of these players and don’t look at the other guys that contribute to our game as well.

“You guys aren’t in the scouting reports, you’re not in the team meetings and the film sessions to really break down each player’s games. I don’t see why you have more power in voting than we do. We are out there on the court playing with them. We appreciate how you guys blow the game up and bring attention to the game but at the same time, to keep it pure, the players should have more say in that stuff.”

***

No. 2: Rising Star MVP Wiggins craves Olympics — For a lot of fans at Barclays Center in Brooklyn or viewing elsewhere, it probably took a moment to sink in that Andrew Wiggins, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ rookie participating in the Rising Stars Challenge Friday was on the right team. Wiggins played for the World squad, against the USA group of rookies and second-year players, because he was born and raised in Canada. He was feeling some maple-leaf pride after his swell performance, as chronicled by our man Scott Howard-Cooper:

Already at the forefront of Canada’s planned ascent on the global basketball stage — well under way with the recent influx of players in the NBA the last few seasons — Wiggins added to that with 22 points on eight-for-11 shooting to win the MVP award as the World beat the U.S. 121-112 on Friday nigh

Asked if he is looking forward to playing Team USA — the real one — in international competition, Wiggins said, “Definitely. That’s a game I dream of. And hopefully we can play in the Olympics.”

Pressed if he would play for his homeland this summer, in the tournament to qualify for the 2016 Olympics (as the reigning World Cup champion, the U.S. is exempt) Wiggins said, “Right now I’m taking it day by day. But it’s something I would love to do.” Coming attractions, indeed.

***

No. 3: Union fires shot across NBA bow — This is relative peacetime in the NBA, more than three years removed from the league’s last costly lockout, with a labor deal in place at least until July 2017. But businessmen and unions do what they do, so the National Basketball Players Association’s annual All-Star player rep meeting offered a glimpse into some jargon and rhetoric with which fans soon might become all too familiar. Our own Steve Aschburner explained a money issue that already has surfaced:

They’re here now, with the union’s rejection of two “smoothing” proposals from the NBA to manage the flood of new money from dramatically increased TV rights fees beginning with the 2016-17 season. Michele Roberts, the NBPA’s new executive director, said the team reps voted unanimously to reject both proposals during a meeting that included about 50 players.

What that could mean, if left unaddressed, would be an abrupt hike in the league’s salary cap from an estimated $68 million in 2015-16 to, say, $90 million for 2016-17. That’s when the new nine-year, $24 billion TV deal kicks in at nearly triple the current broadcast fees. Boosting the cap number that suddenly could make virtually every team in the NBA a bidder for the lucky free agents of 2016. Rosters could be entirely rebuilt, or completely destroyed, all in a few weeks time.

The NBA apparently had pitched two versions of a proposal to “smooth” that infusion of money into the system to avoid artificially bidding up salaries of the players who happened to hit the market that summer, at the expense of the majority who would remain under contract. By “smoothing” the increase — with the cap rising by lesser amounts, with the difference from the players’ CBA-guaranteed share of the league’s revenues divvied up proportionally among them all — those locked into contracts would benefit from the added cash.

But the NBPA’s economic consultants determined that a typical player would make less money overall by signing contracts into an artificially constrained salary cap (for example, $80 million vs. $90 million) while receiving “shortfall” checks, than he would signing a new deal without the smoothing constraints on the cap.

The NBPA also voted LeBron James onto its executive committee as first vice-president, teaming the Cleveland star with union president Chris Paul of the L.A. Clippers to add heft to the hierarchy. Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com had more on that:

With Paul, James and new, aggressive executive director Michele Roberts, the union has loaded up with high-profile faces for a fight for a bigger portion of what could be a $7 billion revenue pie two years from now.

Just how big a role James eventually will play, though, is yet to be seen. He did not attend the meeting because he was committed to a sponsor’s event across town. He talked to various members of the executive committee over the phone and plans to meet with Roberts this weekend.

The union believes having James and Paul, the Los Angeles Clippers’ All-Star point guard, on the front line will increase the pressure, both publicly and privately, on owners.

“I cannot tell you how delighted I am; the union is supported by players across the spectrum,” Roberts said after leading a meeting of approximately 50 players, including All-Stars Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook and Kyrie Irving.

***

No. 4: Mason’s condition shows some progress — In a perfect world, Anthony Mason, longtime NBA forward who had helped the Knicks reach the Finals in 1994, would have been a visible presence this week during All-Star festivities. Instead, he continues to fight for his life in a hospital bed after suffering what his former agent Don Cronson called “congestive heart failure.” But Mason’s condition had improved slightly by Friday, as reported by ESPNNewYork.com’s Ian Begley:

[Mason] has made “small, but real” progress the last two nights after being “near death” Wednesday, his former agent said.

“He isn’t out of the woods, but he’s had two good nights,” Don Cronson, Mason’s agent during his playing days, said by phone Friday night.

Cronson said he’s received updates from Mason’s family.

“It seems like he’s day-to-day now. Before it was hour-to-hour,” Cronson said. “Thankfully, the last two days have been better.”

The New York Daily News had more details of the events leading up to Mason’s incident Wednesday:

Before he was hospitalized, Mason, 48, was scheduled to attend a press event Wednesday at the Times Square Knickerbocker Hotel, where Mason’s former teammate, John Starks, announced his business partnership with the Zipway company. Cronson said he is sure Mason was preparing to be a visible presence during the NBA All-Star Game week in the Big Apple.

“This originally happened a week ago today,” Cronson said Friday. “(Mason) was in the hospital. I think he was having some discomfort, some kind of chest pain. One of his guys said, ‘You have to have yourself looked at.’ He goes into the hospital and the whole event took place there. I spoke to family members, and had he been in the (hospital) lobby as opposed to the third floor, where he was, he would have died. Fortunately, he was close enough to the emergency facilities that were brought to bear and saved his life.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Pacers and Paul George let it be known last week that the All-Star wing player, out since Aug. 1 after suffering leg fractures in a Team USA scrimmage, planned to be practicing March 1. Now he’s targeting March 14 for a possible return to game action. … Washington’s John Wall has his eye on the All-Star MVP trophy and Magic Johnson’s single-game record of 22 assists. … Knicks boss James Dolan doesn’t quite apologize for tangling with an unhappy fan via email, but he knows he shouldn’t have done it. … If Jeff Van Gundy can air out the Bulls for alleged friction with coach Tom Thibodeau, it only follows that Stan Van Gundy can do the same with the Kings in their handling of Tyrone Corbin. … Anthony Davis isn’t participating, but he talked the other day about ways he hopes to improve and about NBA life in general. … Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousin concurs – George Karl is a good coach. … How Portland’s Wesley Matthews transformed himself from undrafted offensive liability to a serious scorer. … Atlanta interested in Gary Neal? The Budenholzer connection. … How could the NBA spruce up All-Star Weekend? Consider these suggestions.