HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Steve Kerr understands the importance of every shot, every possession and every games this time of year. You don’t win five championships in your 15-year career and not comprehend the significance of each and every step you take in the middle of May.
That’s why the sweet-shooting TNT analyst was a must-get for Episode 117 of the Hang Time Podcast. With the conference semifinals winding down and the conference finals looming, a sobering dose of perspective was needed here at headquarters. We needed someone to provide a little context and perspective to what LeBron James and the Miami Heat are going through right now, what Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors are dealing with right now and what it all means in the grand scheme of things.
Things are fluid for so many of the teams still alive in the playoffs, not to mention the teams whose seasons have finished and are searching for coaches and eventually players to help them get to the point where they are still play in mid-May. Kerr breaks it all down, and more, including his assessment that Heat star Dwyane Wade is no longer an “everyday superstar” but an “every other day superstar.”
We thought Kerr’s presence might defuse the normal mid-week volcano that is Rick Fox, whose “Get Off My Lawn” rant of the week includes his debunking of the NBA’s great point guard myth (as he describes it only the way he can).
In Rick’s estimation, we might have seen the last of the point guards to win MVP in the The Finals when Spurs point guard Tony Parker did in 2007. He’ll could very well be the last of his kind, according to Rick, to find his way into the company of elite players at his position like Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas and Chauncey Billups, the only PGs other than Parker since 1980 to claim that hardware.
(Sorry Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving and the rest of you, Rick says don’t bother.)
You get all of that and a whole lot more on Episode 117 of the Hang Time Podcast …
If ever there was going to be the perfect, if overdue, moment for Derrick Rose to return to action for the Chicago Bulls, it would be a Game 7 in the NBA playoffs, with his team desperate for help, facing the Brooklyn Nets in a hostile building …
Stop. Rose won’t be walking through that door for the Bulls Saturday night, even if he does have more spring in his step than Willis Reed did 43 years ago on the other side of the East River, limping back for a Game 7 and straight into sports mythology. The Captain only stuck around long enough to hit two shots and inspire the New York Knicks to their first championship. Rose would seem to have that much in him, in what would likely be a 15-20 minutes limit whenever he actually does return to action. And of course we’re wasting our time and our typing here.
After all, Rose’s extended layoff from knee surgery last May – we’re at 51 weeks now – could have had its perfect ending in Game 6 Thursday at United Center, where a packed arena’s warm embrace for however long he lasted might have been enough to propel the Bulls into the second round already. It could have come two weeks ago, synchronized to the start of a postseason he missed last spring. It could have come last month or sometime after the All-Star break, when word began leaking out from behind the practice curtains that, in 5-on-5 scrimmaging, that the 2011 MVP was looking as good as ever.
The arc of Rose’s repair and rehabilitation from ACL surgery has gone from anticipatory to antsy to anticlimax. It has overstayed its welcome in the Windy City, like the occasional stubborn winter, and as with the Chicago Cubs’ ridiculous drought, a numbness and a whole lot of scoffing is settling in for some folks. If they did not laugh, they would cry.
But there’s more floating out there than jokes. During the Game 5 telecast Monday, TNT analyst Steve Kerr was critical of Rose for his refusal to take that last big step of rehab, testing all that work and dedication where it matters most, in an NBA game, for a team in need. Multiple Bulls players have been pushing through bruises, pain and illness, while Rose still monitors the repair of a year-old injury (April 28, 2012, to be exact).
“I know I’ve kind of changed my mind,” Kerr said on-air. “I’ve really supported the Bulls and Derrick with the way they’ve handled it. I think you err on the side of caution. But I think where the Bulls are now with this series with [backup point guard] Kirk Hinrich struggling with the calf injury — if Derrick is OK and there’s no threat to further injury, I think he’s got to play.”
It’s that kind of talk, not just from Kerr but all over sports-radio airwaves and the Internet, that has dinged Rose’s reputation. As beloved in his short career as any Chicago sports star save one, Rose’s hesitancy to play until he’s fully “comfortable” or regains “muscle memory” has some people questioning his courage, his character, his commitment, you name it. It is as irrational as it was inevitable with a layoff this long, fan stuff of impatience mixed with the coverage of the other hobbled Bulls as “gamers.”
Rose told reporters at the Bulls’ shootaround Saturday in New York that he hadn’t heard the criticism. “That’s my first time hearing about it,” he said in another too-rare media moment. “I barely turn on the TV. I’m with my son all day so that’s about it.”
None of the second-guessing is coming from the organization or his teammates. Coach Tom Thibodeau and Hinrich, as all of them have for months, gave Rose absolute votes of confidence Wednesday. Still, the Bulls and Rose failed each other by failing to keep everyone – not just themselves but the media and the fans – in the loop. They let him, his agents, his family and his sneaker partners (adidas) dictate the terms of communication, kept at a trickle, that bled away empathy and heightened suspicions. Monthly sit-downs with Bulls reporters would have provided better feedback, kept Rose’s affable personality front and center and calmed if not satisfied the locals.
The Bulls also should have avoided distractions, speculation and all this angst by shutting down Rose’s will-he-or-won’t-he return about six weeks ago. Did they really want to overlay the learning curve of his return onto their playoff preparation, risking other guys’ roles and rhythms? Did they seriously consider throwing him raw out there against a Brooklyn backcourt of Deron Williams and Joe Johnson? Would they seriously put Rose as red meat in front of the Dobermans from Miami, if they made it to the next round?
Come on. Who’s believes this stuff?
There would have been nothing wrong had Rose and the Bulls tossed the entire 2012-13 season aside and simply let everyone know the plan, assuming they had a plan. If this truly was matter of, physically and mentally waking up each day and gauging his health and his confidence, OK, fine. Even that would have gone done better if not for the elaborate, expensive series of shoe commercials – “The Return” – that made it look as if Bulls fans would be getting Rose as “Rocky” sooner rather than later.
The long, unsatisfying NBA season in Chicago is nearing an end. When Rose does come back in October, he’ll turn this all into a win-win: Show rust and people will nod, agreeing finally (and probably wrongly, since rust is part of these things whenever) that he needed another five months. Play great and the uber-cautious strategy will seem like genius, and the teeth-gnashing of this spring will fade away.
It’s just difficult for a lot of folks over the next few hours or days knowing that – with Hinrich’s calf, Luol Deng‘s illness, Joakim Noah‘s plantar fasciitis, Taj Gibson‘s knee and Nate Robinson‘s towel-and-bucket routine Thursday – the healthiest guy on the Chicago roster might be Derrick Rose.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – A healthy civil discourse and creative storytelling are staples of our operation here at the Hang Time Podcast. We make it a point to do as much of both on a weekly basis, whether there are live microphones involved or not.
Solving mysteries, however, is a little something new. And we tackle two huge head-scratchers on Episode 103 of the Hang Time Podcast, featuring special guests Kevin Harlan of TNT and Brent Barry of NBA TV.
Harlan was in New Orleans working as a radio play-by-play man for the Super Bowl and there were rumblings (we blamed it on Reggie Miller and Steve Kerr, but the truth is yet another mystery for someone to solve) when the lights went out in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Barry, an old friend of the program and a longtime HT Fave, did his best to help us solve the mystery that is Dwight Howard, whose playing days with Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers haven’t come closet to anyone’s expectations from a group that was expected to contend for a championship this season.
These, are just two of the many issues discussed on Episode 103 of the Hang Time Podcast, a must-listen if you’re interested all in finally getting some answers to those nagging questions that have been bothering you.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – This day, this moment, belongs to Reggie Miller.
This is his night in the Hall of Fame spotlight. But in addition to family, friends and former teammates, coaches and fans who will all share in his special moment.
That group includes his colleagues at TNT, who shared some of their own thoughts about Miller …
“Reggie will go down as one of the greatest shooters of all time. But you can’t mention Reggie’s name and not think of the legendary comeback against the Knicks.”
“Reggie is a friend of mine and I’m very happy for him. It’s an awesome accomplishment and it’s going to be a wonderful night for him and his sister.”
“I loved watching Reggie play because for 48 minutes he gave you everything he had, and he possessed all those qualities that encompass being a superstar in this league: worth ethic, court sense, will to win, loyalty, charisma, killer instinct, ability to perform in the clutch … the list goes on and on. Like all the greats, Reggie wanted the ball in his hands with the game hanging in the balance and time and again he would deliver. His night in Springfield is richly deserved, and we’re all richer for having watched such a talent for all those years in the Pacers uniform.”
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – For a man whose name is synonymous with a franchise, city and state, it should come as no surprise that there are rumblings about Reggie Miller one day returning to help run the Indiana Pacers.
Miller’s headed to Springfield for a glorious weekend that will include his being enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame. But there will be no shortage of chatter about the TNT analyst’s future and whether or not it might one day include a return to Indianapolis and the Pacers.
There couldn’t be a more a natural fit, from this perspective.
Miller embodies everything the Pacers stood for during the height of the franchise’s NBA glory years. His return would be more than just symbolic, though, as Miller has proved himself to be not only an ambassador for the Pacers, Indiana and the game itself, but also an astute observer of the global growth of the game over the past three decades.
“I never close any doors,” Miller said. “I listen to everything. (Owner) Herb Simon and I have had this conversation before. So yes, if something presented itself, I would definitely look at it and go from there.”
The Pacers have been led by either Donnie Walsh or Larry Bird for nearly the past 30 years.
Walsh returned for his second stint with the organization, replacing Bird as president, in June. Bird is taking at least the next year off. The 71-year-old Walsh hasn’t put a timetable on how long he will remain in his current capacity.
“I’m always interested,” Simon said. “Reggie would be a wonderful person to have in this franchise.”
HANG TIME PLAYOFF HEADQUARTERS – It’s easy to focus on the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Big 3 Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden when they’re playing as well as they have in the past three games of the Western Conference finals.
But to focus solely on the stars would overlook perhaps the most startling development in this series. The Thunder’s role players, commonly referred to as the “others,” are outplaying their Spurs counterparts considerably in the past 12 quarters of this series.
Praised by many as the deepest and most balanced team in the league, the Spurs haven’t been able to lean on the likes of Matt Bonner, Gary Neal, Danny Green, Tiago Splitter or any of the extras who helped them roll to 20 straight wins since April 11, and that includes those two wins over the Thunder in Games 1 and 2. They’ve been in the conference finals witness protection program the past three games, though, as the Thunder have seized control with three straight wins.
Neal suffered a through a particularly ugly performance on this night, shooting 0-for-6 from the floor and scoring just two points in his 14 minutes of action. His 6-for-22 shooting effort in the past three games is indicative of the struggles that have plagued the Spurs’ extras.
Meanwhile, the Thunder have received timely contributions from guys like Derek Fisher, Nick Collison, Serge Ibaka, Thabo Sefolosha and Daequan Cook, whose eight points(on a perfect 3-for-3 shooting from the floor, and consecutive makes from long distance) in just three minutes and 54 seconds of action in the first half of Game 5 proved to be crucial to the Thunder’s cause in their 108-103 win.
For Michael Jordan, this is like being called for pushing off on Bryon Russell, or getting stripped by CraigEhlo, or throwing the ball to Steve Kerr and John Paxson, only to watch them miss.
In so many other instances in his playing career, Jordan has been both good and lucky. As an executive, not so much. And the crummy luck came back to haunt him once again with the NBA draft lottery, where the seven-win Bobcats suffered a bigger defeat the other 59 combined.
They’re choosing second in what’s probably a one-superstar draft. Such is life for Jordan since he traded his sneakers for a seat in the boardroom. He can’t seem to win.
When he had the first overall pick, while the GM in Washington, the prize was Kwame Brown. When he had the third pick, the 2006 college player of the year was available, and Adam Morrison was taken because he was a scorer, which the Bobcats desperately needed. (In a cruel twist of fate, Jordan later traded for the fourth pick in that 2006 draft, Tyrus Thomas, giving the Bobcats the biggest busts that year.)
Then he held lower lottery picks in franchise player drafts and missed out on Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose and Kyrie Irving.
SAN ANTONIO – For nearly two decades, there have been many different ways to describe the enduring success of the Spurs.
In the Alamo City, it’s known simply as Pop’s way.
It’s contentious and cranky, irascible and irreverent, insightful and often inventive.
Year after year, more than anything, it’s just winning.
Gregg Popovich was named the 2011-12 NBA Coach of the Year, the second time he has won the honor, once more validating a style and an attitude that permeates the Spurs organization.
“That’s probably overblown I’m sure,” Popovich said. “When you win a lot of things get attributed to you that you shouldn’t get full credit for and when you lose you get a lot of things you shouldn’t be blamed for.
“We’ve just been blessed with people who understand their priorities and are very team and community oriented. Our organization has also been blessed, as I’ve said many times, with incredible good fortune. If you can draft David Robinson and follow that up with Tim Duncan, that’s a couple of decades of very, very possible success unless you just screw it up.
“It’s hard to take credit when the circumstances have gone your way so consistently. There are a lot of people who have been in circumstances that have not been in their favor that would be just as successful in this situation, but just didn’t have the opportunity. So we don’t pay much attention to that.”
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS –Shaquille O’Neal needed just seven words to sum up the scene.
“You can’t do this anywhere else,” a smiling O’Neal said as he surveyed the set where he was just minutes earlier alongside his new teammates — on Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Ernie Johnson, Reggie Miller, Steve Smith, Steve Kerr and Chris Webber — taping the first of NBA TV’s new six-part original series “Open Court.”
“This is why I came here,” said O’Neal, the recently retired superstar center and newest member of TNT’s studio team. “You get to be yourself around here. You see how easy it is to just dive right in and talk shop with the boys. It’s just like being around family. There’s going to be some laughing, some crying and if Kenny says one more word to me, there might be some fighting, too.”
O’Neal was joking, of course. But he was right. The laughter flowed on the custom-made set at NBA TV’s Atlanta studios. The series features some hilarious stories, opinions and spot-on commentary from the best collection of NBA analysts anyone could gather in one spot and it’s all moderated by the Emmy Award-winning Johnson, the best studio host in the business.
The debut episode will air Tuesday night at 9 p.m. ET, following NBA TV’s GameTime which airs at 7 p.m. ET, with a new episode airing weekly on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET.
“This is like going to a reunion and telling stories with your boys and someone capturing it all on film,” Steve Smith said. “And it really is an embarrassment [of riches], to have all these guys in the same room with all this knowledge and history about not only the NBA but the game of basketball. We cross over a couple of generations, so we’ve got a few stories to tell.”
How about six hours worth? And that was just what was captured on the six episodes. There was plenty more where that came from; both Johnson and Miller served up repeated reminders to the rest of the crew to save all the good stuff for the show.
With Hall of Famers (Barkley), sure-fire future Hall of Famers (O’Neal and Miller for starters), NBA champions (Kerr, Kenny Smith, Steve Smith) and Dream Teamers there is a surplus of insight, colorful memories and gut-busting stories all delivered in a relaxed setting.
“I would have been mad if I wasn’t here,” Kenny Smith said. “This is too much fun. Look at the guys in this room. Think about all the things that have been accomplished, all of the things that we’ve seen and done. You put all of us in one room and turn us loose … that’s some serious gumbo.”
The six episodes will be titled:
• Open Court: Tallest Tales of the NBA
• Open Court: My Generation
• Open Court: Curious Tales of the NBA
• Open Court: Pressurized Tales of the NBA
• Open Court: Head Games and Fame
• Open Court: Curtain Calls and Loose Balls
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The choice seems rather simple from here, it’s either the 72-game season or bust. Take the deal and start the season in roughly a month or blow it all up.
And this time, it’s all on the players.
They asked for the owners to move a bit, show a little flexibility and come off that ultimatum talk that freaked everybody out earlier this week. Well, you got what you asked for and the proposal is in your hands (for review by the player reps from each team by Monday or Tuesday at the latest).
If time is what the union needs, that is what they will get with the weekend. Look it over, soak it in, chew on the details and think long and hard about what you do next, because if we’re this close to seeing the 2011-12 season and it somehow slips away between now and early next week … there will be no mercy from the masses.
NBA Commissioner David Stern made it clear late last night that there will be no better offer from the owners. This is it. Best offer on the table. Take it or leave it.
Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated: On the 133rd day of the lockout, commissioner David Stern called the players’ bluff: Are you going to accept the new era for the NBA, or are you going to decertify? It is now time for everyone at the table to show his cards. Players finished 23 collective hours of negotiation Thursday with a final offer from the owners that Stern hoped would end the lockout with minimal damage to the season. On Monday or Tuesday, the union representatives from all 30 teams will meet to decide whether they should put this offer to the entire membership for a vote. Should the players accept, Stern said they will be able to salvage a 72-game season starting Dec. 15, with the playoffs and the NBA Finals starting one week later than normal. The final offer comes amid a swelling movement among the players to pursue decertification. They had been hoping to force the owners to compromise in negotiations by threatening to take the union’s case to court. Union executive director Billy Hunter acknowledged this week that as many as 200 players were prepared to sign a petition that would send the union down a path of 45 days or longer to potential decertification. Now the players face a hard choice of gambling on the courts and the uncertain bargaining leverage of decertifying, or instead embracing the certainty of a proposal that Stern insists is the best deal they’ll ever see. Union president Derek Fisher declined to assess the quality of the offer, other than to acknowledge it wasn’t good enough to earn his outright approval. Hunter said he was going to leave it up to the player representatives. “It’s not the greatest proposal in the world, but I have an obligation to at least present it to our membership,” said Hunter. “So that’s what we’re going to do.”