Posted by Sekou Smith
BOSTON — You’ve got to love seeing all the stars that come out for the NBA Finals.
The New Jersey Nets’ new owner (Mikhail Prokhorov) and new coach (Avery Johnson) sitting in front of one of the hottest free agents on the summer market, Dywane Wade, during Game 5 Sunday night is more than we could have hoped for here.
(Before the NBA’s tampering police start handing out fines, it was purely a coincidence that one of the biggest free agent players this summer was sitting in front of one of the biggest free agent players this summer.)
The only folks missing from this party were LeBron James, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo and the rest of the players invited to the on-again/off-again Free Agent Summit.
Lucky for you we’ve got news on all of the above:
JAMES 100 PERCENT BEHIND POTENTIAL IZZO HIRE
Just so we understand this correctly, James is all for Izzo being hired in Cleveland, but that doesn’t mean he’s committed to returning? That’s the way Brian Windhorst of the Plain Dealer details it here:
According to a high-level source, James would endorse the Cavs’ hiring Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo.
Cavs owner Dan Gilbert said last week that James is not involved in the search for a replacement for Mike Brown, but sources have indicated James approves of the highly-respected Izzo. James also said in an interview with Larry King that he doesn’t want to be heavily involved with selecting his next coach.
But James “100 percent” would endorse Izzo’s hiring, the source said.
Izzo, meanwhile, is still pondering the Cavs job. On Sunday, Izzo told several Michigan-based reporters via text messages that he was “still gathering” in regards to the Cavs’ offer. Gathering facts and opinions, it is assumed. Perhaps even attempting to gather information from James’ himself.
Lansing (Mich.) television station WLNS reported on Sunday that Izzo is waiting to speak directly with James, which the station reported had not happened as of Sunday night.
Nonetheless, James isn’t believed to be giving anyone a hint to what his personal plans will be once he hits free agency on July 1. That seems to be the greatest issue Izzo is considering. Izzo has consulted numerous friends and acquaintances looking for an opinion of what James’ intentions might be and what the Cavs may be able to do if they re-sign him or if they do not.
While he ponders and hopes to speak with James, though, Michigan State is trying to leverage its hometown edge. Several grassroots campaigns have been organized to appeal to Izzo to turn down the Cleveland offer.
A Web site has been formed to collect messages from fans and several groups have formed rallies and gatherings to make signs. There are now hundreds of signs supporting Izzo throughout East Lansing and the route from Izzo’s home to the Breslin Center, the Spartans’ arena, is littered with signs.
Izzo will likely have to drive past them on Monday when he’s scheduled to host the start of a youth basketball camp that bears his name.
Though there has been an expectation that Izzo would make up his mind over the weekend, there were no indications on Sunday that Izzo planned an announcement on Monday.
HT’s TAKE: Take your time Tom, the rest of us don’t have lives or anything to get on with. There’s only Game 6 of the NBA Finals, the draft, a little thing called free agency (think recruiting season in your world) and summer leagues to tend to. Again, take your time buddy! Shoot, why don’t you and LeBron announce your intentions on the same day, that way we can go another month like this, speculating about your every move, every single day. You won’t get sick of it, we promise.
WADE WANTS TO BE IN MIAMI?
Seriously, D. Wade wants to stay in Miami. That’s probably not news to the other members of the FA Class of 2010. After all, they’ve had clandestine communications going on for weeks now, per one member of the group. But Wade made that point emphatically clear to ESPN.com’s J.A. Adande after Game 5 Sunday night:
As the July 1 opening of the NBA’s free-agent shopping spree draws near, Dwyane Wade says he will start off by looking for the best player to join him with the Miami Heat, rather than searching for the franchise where he would best fit.
“It’s going to be fit with me first,” Wade said. “I’ve made that very clear. Do I want to leave? Nope. Mmm-hmm. I want to be in Miami. That’s where it starts.”
Wade attended Game 5 of the NBA Finals in Boston with his two sons, because at ages 8 and 3 they have no memories of their father’s run to the championship with the Heat in 2006 — and because the recollections are beginning to get hazy for Wade himself after failing to get past the first round of the playoffs in the past four seasons.
While he has said he will talk to other players and got the NBA world buzzing with his concept of a “free-agent summit” he said, “I don’t do recruiting. Not now, anyway.”
“I don’t look at it as recruiting. I’ll gauge and see if guys want to be [in Miami], who wants to be with me.
“It’s about who can come to Miami, it’s about who do you trust, who can fit the organization, who best fits you as a player, things of that nature.”
HT’s TAKE: You know Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert wishes LeBron was talking like this. Of all the teams hunting free agents this summer, we’re willing to say right now that the Heat will definitely come away with what they want. As long as Wade is their best advocate for enticing others to join him, they have a leg up on the competition.
HAWKS GET A NEW TWIST WITH LARRY DREW
Larry Drew is not Mike Woodson. Who cares if they worked together the last six years and have known each other for years. One man is not the other, so says Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Clearly Atlanta believes LD offers something distinct from Woody. The Hawks hired him after rejecting not just Woody but his entire program. Promoting his lead assistant means they don’t think LD got much of a chance to put his stamp on that program. And the Hawks are telling you that not only do they expect LD’s way to be better than Woody’s way, but that he’s the guy to guide them to the next level even though he’s never been in the head coach’s seat before.
Anybody making snap judgments about the legitimacy of those views is just guessing. Sund and ASG made their choice. LD gets his shot to win over skeptics. At some point it will become clear if he’s the right choice.
I talked to some players this weekend, and all of them said they expect LD’s approach to be different than Woody’s. Drew often ran the second-team offense in practice and was said to deploy creative sets, with one player describing them as a “fun” departures from the isolations. Another player said when things went badly for the Hawks, LD tended to be more of an “encourager” than a “screamer” and focused his energy on laying out a detailed plan for how the Hawks can get better.
The players have better insight into LD than the rest of us, and so it’s significant that he enjoys wide support among them. But they can’t be sure how Drew the assistant will work out as Drew the head coach. His relationships with players will be tested. Now LD has the final say on how the run the team, including playing time and touches, and players inevitably aren’t going to like some of his decisions.
It’s probably not much different than most real-life workplaces when your direct boss becomes the “big boss.” It happened to me at a previous job. I knew that when my supervisor became the department’s boss our relationship would necessarily change. Where once he would go into his boss’s office as my advocate, and sometimes privately agree with my gripes, suddenly I was griping to someone else about his decisions. We talked every day when he was my direct supervisor; when he became the department head and had wider responsibilities, sometimes the explanations came down through the chain of command, and sometimes not at all.
I knew that when he was promoted my boss had to put some of that “command distance” between us. I’m not saying I always liked it but I accepted the circumstances and did my job. It’s not an exact analogy, I know, but Hawks players now have to do much the same with Drew. It’s part of being a professional.
HT’s TAKE: What he said!
WELCOME TO THE KOBE CHRONICLES
While most of the free world marveled at Kobe Bryant‘s monster showcase in Game 5 (38 points on 50 percent shooting from the floor), there’s a trio of Los Angeles area columnists that weren’t particularly impressed with what they saw from Bryant or the Lakers, in one case. In fact, they know that it was Bryant reverting back to some nasty old habits of his:
Mark Whicker of the Orange County Register: As if transported to 2006 and 2007, the BP (Before Pau) period in recent Lakers history, Bryant was forced to be Hal Holbrook or James Whitmore, the one-man show in Kobe Bryant Tonight.
The fact that he could do such a thing, could go 7 for 9 with three 3-pointers in the third quarter of Game 4 against the one team best-equipped to impede him, might be the one shred of value the Lakers can take home from Boston.
If any other Laker had decided to crawl onto the stage with Kobe, maybe the club could have swiped this game, as undeserving as they were. That did not happen, the Celtics won, 92-86, and the Lakers trail 3-2 with Games 6-7 at home.
“We were waiting for him to do that,” Phil Jackson said, after Bryant went 13 for 27 and drilled 38 points, even getting to the foul line nine times.
So were the Celtics, even though Ray Allen and Tony Allen do not seem reluctant to crowd Bryant, slapping at his dribble, making him extend, staying down while he goes through his fakes. On one first-half shot Bryant faked up and faked up and finally shot, but R. Allen was still there, and the result was a hard rebound.
But then Bryant got his ankle re-taped and tried to take the Lakers on his magic carpet, although they wouldn’t ride. It was a diva against an orchestra.
“It’s amazing what that does to your team,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said. “We said, look, it’s only two points when he scores, it’s not 10. But it makes you question your defense because he was terrific.
“He’s the best shotmaker in the game. In that stretch I kept turning to Tibs (assistant coach Tom Thibodeau) and Armond (Hill) and saying, those are tough shots. You’ve just got to live with it, play through it.”
The Celtics played, all right. They humiliated one of the better defensive teams in the NBA, shooting 56.3 percent overall and whipping the Lakers in the paint, 46-32.
T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times: I just love Our Ball Hog when he puts on a one-man show like this, after all, this is only Sunday night entertainment unless you somehow think your life changes whether the Lakers win or not.
He scored 23 straight points between the second and third quarters, many of them dancing off one leg and falling backward, the other guys on his team just running around and letting the Celtics score so he might shoot again.
This was superstar basketball, almost a made-for-TV movie, one against five in a dramatic shootout.
He scored the first 19 points in the third quarter for the Lakers, the Lakers down by 11 when he started ignoring the rest of his teammates and down by 11 when he had finished.
Over the years it doesn’t always mean the Lakers are going to win when Our Ball Hog loses sight of everyone else, but you’ve got to admit it’s the best in basketball entertainment.
In addition to scoring, he’s also going to give dirty looks to any teammate who doesn’t get him the ball, which is good for a chuckle if you’re watching. And tell me you didn’t grin or laugh when TV caught him coaching, pointing to himself and insisting he be the one to cover Paul Pierce.
Later, I heard he wanted to fly the plane home, too.
Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: So this is what the wall looks like.
Sickly green, bulging with elbows, dripping with sweat, a solid sheet of basketball will.
So this is how the Lakers look with backs flattened against it.
Kobe Bryant screaming, Ron Artest bricking, Pau Gasol disappearing, Andrew Bynum limping, Lamar Odom smiling?
“We’ll respond,” he said.
You will? How? If the Lakers’ answer is anything like it was on this steamroller of a Sunday night at TD Garden, they will soon end their season with a loud and pronounced cry of uncle.
Ouch! they moaned when the Boston Celtics’ tiny Rajon Rondo soared over Odom and Bryant for a key fourth-quarter tip-in.
Aww! they wept when Paul Pierce took an inbounds pass, shrugged off Derek Fisher and found Rondo running past Artest for a key uncontested four-quarter layup.
Oh no! they whined when the Celtics grabbed so many loose balls and shoved so many purple bodies, former and current New England Patriots heroes Tedy Bruschi and Wes Welker stood up in the stands and roared as if their team had just punched in a touchdown.
This is no longer a series, it is a stereotype, the resilient Celtics boxing around the retreating Lakers, 92-86, Sunday at TD Garden to take a three-games-to-two lead.
The Finals return to the comfort of Staples Center for Game 6 on Tuesday, with a possible Game 7 there on Thursday, but don’t be fooled. If home is where the heart is, the Lakers need to conduct an all-out search once they arrive.
At this point, the better team is not the better team. The biggest is not the strongest. Style is getting whacked by substance. Talent is getting whacked by tough.
Said Bynum: “We’ve got to get into it.”
Said the Celtics’ Tony Allen: “We’re way into it.”
That pretty much said it all on a night when a biology class turned into a history lesson. Less than two weeks after the Lakers began the series showing their 2010 guts, they have reverted to their 2008 softness.
HT’s Take: Game 5 did have an eerie 2008 feel to it for all the reasons these guys have mentioned. But more than anything, Bryant’s insistence that he do it alone is what sticks out about Game 5 to us. Surely, Kobe knows by now that this approach will not work.