Posts Tagged ‘Tom Izzo’

Payne works to adjust to the NBA game


VIDEO: Adreian Payne gets high for the flush on the break

LAS VEGAS — When Adreian Payne was 15 years old, he realized he needed a summer job. He was, after all, a teenager, and Payne heard the same siren song of commerce that appeals to adolescents everywhere.

“I wanted to be able to buy myself something,” Payne recalls. “I wanted to go to the mall with my friends and stuff like that.”

And so Payne, who grew up in Dayton, Ohio, went out and got a job. As a janitor at his own middle school.

To Payne, it was a great gig.

“I swept, took gum off of the desks, mopped. It wasn’t bad, because I knew everybody there at my school, and it was the summer so there wasn’t anybody there. But I knew the janitor, I knew the lunch lady, all the staff. It was kind of fun. Being young I played around sometimes, but it was fun.”

Once he saved up enough money, Payne went to the mall and bought a pair of shoes. These days, as the recent first round pick of the Atlanta Hawks, with the requisite rookie scale contract, Payne’s shopping horizons have broadened a bit: “I’m looking for an apartment right now, actually. That will probably be the next thing I get.”

Payne spent the past week in Las Vegas with the Atlanta Hawks at the Samsung NBA Summer League exhibiting the drive and skill that made the Hawks interested in him to begin with. As a four-year player for coach Tom Izzo at Michigan State, the 6-foot-10 Payne developed into a deft outside shooter, knocking down 3-pointers at a 42 percent rate as a senior. That combination of size and shooting ability should fit perfectly into the spread-and-shoot system the Hawks implemented last season under first-year head coach Mike Budenholzer.

“Being able to shoot the ball can translate to anything, any level,” Adreian said. “But [the NBA game is] a lot different, the speed of the game, and the players are more athletic. So it’s just a matter of you just getting more comfortable out there, trying to find the pace of the game so your shots still come and you’re in rhythm, still. So I’m just trying to get my shot off quicker but not in a rush. But just quicker, more efficient, less movement.”

Payne helped lead the Hawks’ summer squad to a 2-3 record in the round-robin format, and played 28 minutes today in the Hawks’ 78-71 elimination round loss to the Houston Rockets. Payne finished with 11 points but struggled from the field, finishing 4-for-15, including 1-8 on three pointers.

“They were telling me to get my shots, try to slow myself down, run the offense and let them come. They was coming, they just wasn’t falling,” Payne said with a laugh.

Hawks assistant coach Darvin Ham coached the Hawks summer league squad, and saw plenty to like from Payne.

“It’s one of those situations where you always love the fact you have to tell a guy to slow down as opposed to pick it up. He just needs to know how to be quick but not in a hurry,” said Ham. And then, to emphasize the point, he repeated it quickly and in a hurry: “Quick but not in a hurry.

“He gets going and he’s going full speed and that’s normal for guys coming out of college,” Ham said. “They want to do everything a thousand percent, at a hundred miles an hour, and you can’t fault him for that. He’s from a heckuva program and Coach Iz[zo] did a great job with him. We’re just going to try to refine him a little bit and teach him how to play with a change of pace, so to speak.”

Coming into today’s loss, Payne averaged 12.8 ppg on 40 percent shooting from the field in Atlanta’s five previous games. Ham said the Hawks know he can get his shot going.

“His shooting element is there,” said Ham, “the defensive element is there, making athletic plays, we just gotta get him to stop fouling so much.”

Is that easier said than done with rookies?

“Oh, absolutely,” Ham continued. “Because in college, they actually play a lot more physical than we do in the NBA. At the NBA level, the big key is not to impede progress, so referees are a little more ticky-tacky with how they call fouls as opposed to in the college game, where you can get into guys and put your forearm into ‘em when they face up and all of that. So it’ll take some time, but he’s a smart kid, a smart player, he’ll make the proper adjustments.”

One adjustment Payne has made thus far has been trying to add shotblocking to his defensive repertoire, something he says he wasn’t able to display at Michigan State.

“[Coach Izzo] wanted me to stay on the floor — I was getting in foul trouble. So the rules here are a lot different than they are in college — you have verticality here, in college you don’t. So it’s a lot different.”

Accordingly, another part of Payne’s adjustment has been studying tape of the NBA game to increase his familiarity with the league. While at Michigan State, he said, NBA games weren’t often on his TV — “I watched a lot of college games.” Video games were no help either — “I suck at 2K.”

“I’ve been watching a lot more NBA now, and I love watching it,” Payne said. “Now that I’m here in the league I’ve been watching a lot more film, been watching film with Coach Ham, and just trying to get better.”


VIDEO: Adreian Payne gets the stiff rejection against the Rockets

D’Antoni resigns, Lakers need to go big (Coach K big) in search of his successor

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com


VIDEO: GameTime’s crew breaks down what might be next in Lakerland

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Before anyone asks, Phil Jackson is already taken. He’s got plenty of work to do in New York with the Knicks.

So the search for Mike D’Antoni‘s replacement as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers has to begin elsewhere. D’Antoni resigned tonight, ending his bumpy Hollywood ride 20 games below the .500 mark (67-87) and without fulfilling any of the ridiculous expectations that accompanied his arrival.

In fact, the Lakers have been reeling since they (well, Jim Buss) chose D’Antoni over Jackson when Mike Brown was fired five games into the 2012-13 season, a decision that was as curious then as it is now given the disastrous results. The Lakers were believed to be poised for a return to championship-level status when Dwight Howard and Steve Nash joined Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol to form the nucleus of the revamped Lakers two years ago.

It never happened. Injuries and inconsistent play derailed that train before it ever got on the tracks. They scrambled their way into the eighth and final playoff spot at the end of the 2012-13 season, but Bryant suffered a torn Achilles and was unavailable for the postseason (they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs) and Howard bolted for Houston in free agency in July.

Reports that D’Antoni wanted the Lakers to pick up the team option on the fourth year of his contract, after a dreadful 27-55 season no less, surfaced in recent days. The Lakers reportedly refused to pick up the second year of his contract last week, per ESPNLosAngeles.com.

D’Antoni felt he wouldn’t have any chance at success without some job security, and you could argue he shouldn’t when you consider that he actually survived this season. Sure, there were injuries galore and drama that was beyond D’Antoni’s control. Bryant played just six games. Nash played 15. Gasol was in and out of the lineup and unable to find a rhythm or fill the leadership void.

But this Lakers’ crew wasn’t going far with Bryant and Nash healthy. They had absolutely no shot without those veteran stars leading the way. There was turmoil from the start and some of the most embarrassing moments in franchise history — that 48-point beating from the Los Angeles Clippers still stings — occurred under D’Antoni’s watch. The Lakers had the second worst season (.329 winning percentage) in their history and their lowest win total since moving to Los Angeles from Minneapolis.

“Given the circumstances, I don’t know that anybody could have done a better job than Mike did the past two seasons,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said in a statement. “On behalf of the Lakers, we thank Mike for the work ethic, professionalism and positive attitude that he brought to the team every day. We wish him the best of luck.”

Other more famous folks with deep Lakers’ ties simply wished him good riddance …

Where the Lakers go from here is simple; back to school. College, specifically, to grab Duke legend Mike Krzyzewski. And before you go crazy, hear me out on this one.

With a top-10 Draft pick and plenty of salary cap space to work with this summer, the Lakers have everything working in their favor. And that’s why they need to go bold with this next hire. They need a program builder. They need someone to repair the culture and start over with whatever new and improved cast they can put together around Bryant, Nash and whoever else they consider a part of the core.

They’ve pursued Coach K before, unsuccessfully, of course.

They need to get it right this time around.

We’ve seen the way Krzyzewski handles himself with NBA players. He’s been masterful with USA basketball. The NBA’s biggest stars — from Bryant and LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony all the way down the line — not only respect him, they go all-out for him in ways that many NBA types feared they would not when he joined Jerry Colangelo‘s program.

I’m not saying Krzyzewski is the only choice. No one could blame the Lakers if they go the traditional NBA route and tap a George Karl, Jeff or Stan Van Gundy or even someone with Lakers ties like Byron Scott.

They could even try to lure Kentucky’s John Calipari, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo or even Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, guys with great relationships with certain NBA players who could be key free agents in the coming seasons.

But the two best men for the job already have pretty good or great ones. The Zen Master is making a mint in New York to fix the Knicks and insists he’s done coaching. He’s off the list.

Krzyzewski  could stay at Duke forever. And he might, if Bryant and the Lakers can’t convince the universally respected coach of the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team to finally take the leap and give the NBA a shot!

Morning Shootaround — March 26


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played March 25

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Westbrook unsure if he’ll be on minutes limit | Report: Warriors to reassign Scalabrine | Aldridge hopes to play Thursday | Izzo quells Pistons talk | Kaman not happy with his role in Lakerland

No. 1: Westbrook unsure if he’ll face minutes limit in playoffs — It is understandable that the Oklahoma City Thunder would want to be careful with how much star guard Russell Westbrook plays as the season winds down. After all, Westbrook has had three knee surgeries within the last eight months and OKC knows it needs him healthy to make any kind of serious run at The Finals. As our Jeff Caplan reported last night, though, Westbrook says he’s unsure if he’ll be on a minutes/time limit once the playoffs get rolling:

Russell Westbrook returned to action Tuesday night for the first time since his knee scare four nights earlier in Toronto. He remains on a minutes restriction, up to 32 a game, a precaution he’s not yet sure will be lifted once the playoffs start in little more than three weeks.“I’m not sure,” Westbrook said prior to Tuesday’s game against the Mavericks. “Once I talk to the doctors, the coaches and the people I I need to talk to about that, then we’ll figure it out.”

“I feel great, but it ain’t about this year,” Westbrook said. “I’m 25 years old, you know? It’s not all about right now. You got to think about the future. I can’t just think about what’s going on right now. I’m still young, I’m trying to play as long as I can.”

Westbrook’s knee nightmare started 11 months ago in the first round of the playoffs when Rockets guard Patrick Beverley careened into him, tearing the meniscus in Westbrook’s right knee and ending his season. He underwent surgery to repair the meniscus days later and then required two subsequent, and unexpected arthroscopic procedures, one coming days before the start of training camp and another two days after he put up a triple-double at Madison Square Garden on Christmas Day.

The latest setback kept him out until Feb. 20. Tuesday’s 129-118 overtime loss to the Mavs was the first time since his return that he logged more than 31 minutes. He played 33, but Thunder coach Scott Brooks, in order to adhere to the minutes restriction, sat Westbrook for the first 2:57 of overtime. OKC fell behind 120-113 before he checked in.

Westbrook has averaged 26.3 minutes in the 12 games he played prior to Tuesday night. His career average is 34.0 mpg and he averaged 38.4 mpg in the 2011-12 playoffs when OKC advanced to the NBA Finals. Along with the minutes restriction, which has been bumped up from 25-26 minutes initially to 30-32, Westbrook will continue to be held out of one game of back-to-back situations.

That leaves Westbrook available for eight of the Thunder’s final 11 games. OKC wraps up the regular season on April 16 and will open the first round at home that weekend. How the team will handle his minutes at that point, Brooks said, is not yet a significant part of the discussion.

“I haven’t really focused on a lot of that because there’s plenty of time for us to talk about that,” Brooks said. “We’re just focusing on what we have in place and that’s just the regular season. We’ve had some small discussions about what we’re going to do moving forward, but right now we haven’t really locked up anything.”

“It’s just my mindset, how I think, how I get myself going,” Westbrook said. “I just think to myself, go out and try to compete, that’s it, go out and help my team win. I know when I’m on the floor my only thing is go out and play hard and try to win.”

Since his return after the All-Star break, he’s averaged 21.0 points, 7.1 assists and 5.1 rebounds. His shooting percentages — 45.2 overall and 41.3 from beyond the arc — are higher than his overall shooting percentages.

“I mean, I’ve been confident,” Westbrook said. “The training staff and the rehab that I’ve done has put me in a great spot to be able to come out and perform at a high level, how I want to perform. So I have confidence in my knee; just have to go out there and play and let the rest take care of itself.”


VIDEO: The Mavs win an OT thriller against the Thunder

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No. 2: Report: Warriors to reassign Scalabrine — A fan favorite during his playing days in New Jersey, Boston and Chicago, Brian Scalabrine has transitioned into a burgeoning coaching career in the NBA now. As a assistant coach in his first year on the Warriors’ staff, Scalabrine is working toward his long-term goal of becoming an NBA coach. His journey, however, may face a slight detour, writes Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, as the Warriors are expected to move Scalabrine into another role at the behest of coach Mark Jackson:

In what’s become an increasingly dysfunctional atmosphere, Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson has forced a reassignment of assistant coach Brian Scalabrine, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Ownership and management have been strong advocates of Scalabrine and his performance on the job, sources told Yahoo Sports. Nevertheless, Warriors officials decided that as long as Jackson is the head coach, he’ll have control of his coaching staff.

It is immediately unclear what kind of a role to which the Warriors will transition Scalabrine, but management has no intention of letting him leave the organization, sources said.

Over the past two years, Jackson’s difficulty with managing his coaching staff and creating a functional work environment has developed into one of the issues that threatens his future on the job, league sources said.

Scalabrine, who joined the staff in July, was Jackson’s choice as an assistant coach. For two straight years, Jackson has had issues with assistant coaches that he hired. Michael Malone and Jackson would go weeks without speaking to each other a year ago, league sources said. Malone left Golden State to become the head coach of the Sacramento Kings.

Jackson, in his third year at the helm of the Warriors, has one year left on his contract, but has come under increased scrutiny within the organization for how he has run the team and worked on the job. There have been no conversations about an extension for Jackson – nor are they expected to take place, sources said.

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No. 3: Sliding Blazers hope to have Aldridge back Thursday — As our Fran Blinebury pointed out yesterday in a post you may have missed, the Blazers’ reliance on 3-pointers that fueled their early success may be their undoing now. While that may or may not be true, one thing that’s hurting Portland’s chances at winning is LaMarcus Aldridge’s absence from the starting lineup. Aldridge has missed the Blazers’ last seven games with a back contusion, but told CSNNW.com’s Chris Haynes he hopes to play Thursday night in Atlanta:

The Portland Trail Blazers sunk to a new low when they got outplayed and outworked by the Orlando Magic, resulting in an embarrassing 95-85 loss Tuesday night in the Amway Center.“It’s probably the lowest point as far as being inconsistent, but it’s also the toughest,” Damian Lillard said postgame. “It’s getting down to that point where it’s time to make that push and get in the playoffs…We just got to tightened up and get it done.”

The Trail Blazers have shot 40 percent or lower in their last three games. Their lack of focus and energy level is clearly noticeable. On the defensive end, well, that continues to be a concern.

They need a savior, badly. And one may be on its way.

Slouched in his locker room stall after the game was a defeated-looking LaMarcus Aldridge who has sat out the team’s last seven games as he deals with a nagging back contusion. He looked helpless, wishing he could help his team.

The power forward spoke to members of the media for a few minutes and provided a ray of hope for the organization and the fan base.

“I say I’m trying to go no matter what [against Atlanta on Thursday] but if I look good enough to play [in Wednesday’s workout], then I’m going to play,” he said. “It’s up to the medical staff.”

Center Robin Lopez didn’t hold back about how he feels about Aldridge’s contribution to the team.

“We need L.A.,” Lopez said. “In order for us to be at our best, he has to be on the court with us. He’s our leader.”

Aldridge says he’s been getting better each passing day. The Trail Blazers are 3-4 since he took that hard fall in San Antonio on Mar. 12. He admitted that he didn’t think it would take this long. He wanted to play tonight, but the pain was too severe when he tried to run.

The eight-year vet was asked if a return on Thursday has anything to do with the team losing, and he replied saying it factors into it, though he reiterated that it’s ultimately the call of the team’s medical staff.

“It (losing) makes me want to play even worse, yes it does,” Aldridge answered in frustration. “But it’s not about me, it’s about the medical staff and them saying I can play. I’ve been wanting to play but obviously if you can’t move, you can’t play.”

Wednesday’s practice will be the first time since the injury that he’ll experience some body contact and try to go all out.


VIDEO:
Blazers coach Terry Stotts talks about Portland’s loss in Orlando

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No. 4: Michigan State’s Izzo quiets NBA talk – As most NBA observers know, the Detroit Pistons are in a state of unrest in many ways. They fired coach Maurice Cheeks just 50 games into this season in a move that owner Tom Gores recently told the Detroit Free Press that he felt good about in retrospect. General manager Joe Dumars is thought to be on thin ice and could lose his job this offseason and Gores might have an eye on a local name — Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo — as the man to steer the Pistons in a winning direction. However, Izzo, in an interview with ESPN yesterday, seems fairly content in East Lansing, Mich.:

Tom Izzo has a message for the NBA should it come calling again: He’s still happy in college.

“There’s been so many rumors over the years,” the Michigan State coach said on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” on Tuesday. “I look at people I used to recruit against years ago [that] said that I’d be gone, but I’m still here and some of those schools have had three different coaches.

“I’ve always said I’d never say never to anything because you never know what it brings. But I got so much more work to do here. I have a great president, a great AD and a football coach that I really get along [with]. So this is a pretty good place for me right now. We’re in a pretty good spot. Program’s in pretty good shape.

“Ain’t broke, so why fix it?”

Izzo’s comments come after a USA Today report stated the Detroit Pistons, enduring another disappointing campaign, could make a play for Izzo after this season.

The Pistons are expected to be in the market for a new coach. Maurice Cheeks was fired during the season, and interim coach John Loyer likely won’t be back.

Izzo said after Tuesday’s practice that he hasn’t talked to the Pistons or Detroit owner Tom Gores, adding that he has never met Gores, a Michigan State graduate.

“I swear to you, I have not talked to one soul from the Pistons,” Izzo said.

Izzo, 59, flirted with the NBA in the past, nearly taking the Cleveland Cavaliers’ job in 2010. He is 467-186 in 19 seasons, and his teams have reached six Final Fours. The Spartans have made the NCAA tournament 17 consecutive seasons and won the title in 1999-2000.

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No. 5: Kaman unhappy in Lakerland, sounds off — Center Chris Kaman, a former All-Star, hasn’t exactly set the world on fire in his first season with the Los Angeles Lakers. Part of his struggles can be attributed to a foot injury that cost him to miss several patches of the Lakers’ first 69 games. But Kaman also hasn’t been happy with how he’s been used by coach Mike D’Antoni and expressed his frustration to the media before last night’s victory over the visiting New York Knicks:

Chris Kaman can’t wait until his miserable season with the Los Angeles Lakers finally ends.

Until then, he’s just trying to salvage something out of this wrong turn in his basketball career.

Kaman was the Lakers’ starting center Tuesday night against the New York Knicks with Pau Gasol sidelined by vertigo, but it was his first game action in March. The former All-Star 7-footer had watched the previous 10 games from the sidelines, unable to carve out any role in coach Mike D’Antoni’s system.

“It’s been a long season,” Kaman said. “I can’t wait until it’s over, I’ll tell you that.”

Kaman, an 11-year NBA veteran, called it the most frustrating season of his career “by far. Tenfold.”

Although he is averaging 9.9 points per game when he plays, Kaman is at career lows in rebounds (5.6) and minutes per game (18.4).

Kaman’s frustration has been palpable since shortly after he signed a one-year deal with the Lakers as a free agent in July. He appeared in just 34 of the Lakers’ first 69 games this season, with a foot injury hindering him much less than his inability to click with Los Angeles’ coaching staff.

“I was surprised the way we started the first preseason game,” Kaman said of his inability to crack D’Antoni’s rotation. “My bad on my part not doing due diligence enough to look into (D’Antoni’s) style of play.”

Kaman said he hadn’t spoken to D’Antoni since the Lakers were in Portland on March 3. The center doesn’t necessarily think that’s weird, but he leaves little doubt he doesn’t sync with D’Antoni’s style of coaching or management.

“I’m not at peace about it,” Kaman added. “I’m (ticked) about it, but I can’t control it. … It’s tough, but the best thing to do is play and try to stay positive and finish on a strong note.”

After spending his first eight NBA seasons with the Clippers, who made him the sixth overall pick in the 2003 draft, Kaman was traded to the New Orleans Hornets for one season.

He was similarly frustrated last season after signing with the Dallas Mavericks, struggling to get off coach Rick Carlisle‘s bench and chafing at his lack of involvement. He also missed time with a concussion.

Kaman said he can’t stay in game shape without playing in any games, and he expected to be rusty in his first game back. His foot injury is nothing that would prevent him from playing, and he’s still hoping he’ll get some time on court in the Lakers’ final 12 games of what’s likely to be the franchise’s worst season since moving to Los Angeles.

Kaman, who turns 32 next month, said he’ll “just do my job, make this go as quick as possible, and go from there.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Feels like we’ve heard this from Kobe Bryant before, but he told the New Yorker that Shaquille O’Neal was “lazy” …Spurs forward Matt Bonner will miss the next two weeks with a calf strain … Cavaliers forward Luol Deng doesn’t like not being in the playoffs for the first time since 2008-09 … Jazz rookie point guard Trey Burke says Utah fans are being ‘selfish’ when they root for the Jazz to lose to increase their Draft lottery chancesChris Bosh opened up on “The Dan Le Batard Show” on South Florida radio about his nickname, his best friends on the team and more

ICYMI of the Night: Cavaliers guard Dion Waiters had himself quite a game last night against the Raptors and nailed this pretty little layup, too …


VIDEO: Dion Waiters sinks the crafty reverse layup against Toronto

USA Basketball: Popovich, Rivers, And Four More Coaching Candidates

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – From 2006 through the London Olympics, the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team went 43-1 (62-1 if you count exhibitions) under coach Mike Krzyzewski. And Sunday’s gold-medal-game victory over Spain was its 36th straight win (50 if you count exhibitions) since losing to Greece in the semifinals of the 2006 World Championship.

So Krzyzewski, who has said that he’s done coaching the National Team, is going out on top, with two Olympic gold medals and one World Championship. The coach that replaces him has some big shoes to fill, as well as plenty of pressure to keep the U.S.A. on top of the basketball world.

Even if you’re a Duke hater, you have to respect what Krzyzewski has done over the last seven years. He’s a college coach, but managed to connect with and motivate five different squads of NBA stars. And after that ’06 loss to Greece, he clearly made it a priority to learn more about the international teams and players his team was facing.

While most fans and pundits focus on the 2016 Olympics in Rio, a new coach needs to be selected well before then. The U.S. will look to defend its World Championship at the renamed FIBA Basketball World Cup, which takes place from Aug. 31-Sept. 14, 2014 in Spain.

So who should USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo select as the next coach? Here are six candidates… (more…)

Lessons To Be Learned?

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Posted by Sekou Smith

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Not everyone in South Florida is ready to roll out the red carpet for LeBron James and serve as the subjects of his new kingdom.

There is at least one voice, drowned out by a sea of others still giddy over the arrival of James (along with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, of course), begging for folks in and around Miami to ease up on the love affair with James.

Dave George of the Palm Beach Post is preaching awareness to Heat fans. He insists they should learn a few lessons about James from the way he exited Cleveland. It’s an interesting message after a solid week of euphoria fueled by the formation of Miami’s Big 3:

As exciting and promising as it is to have The Big Three in Miami, it might be wise to dial back the adoration a bit on The Chosen One. He craves it a little too much. He practically screamed it with a self-indulgent ESPN special centered on his choice of NBA suitors, a TV special that would have turned stomachs in South Florida for its pretentiousness if James had said anything other than “I’m going to take my talents to South Beach.”

Instead, it was sweet music, a majestic pronouncement, something on the order of Michelangelo saying “I’m going to take my talents to the Sistine Chapel.” LeBron, the modern master, could have done the whole thing simpler, but simple doesn’t suit him.

So far we’ve seen him handpicking teammates on the Heat, with Zydrunas Ilgauskas secured, Mike Miller apparently on the way and maybe more to come. We’ve heard him elicit an ear-splitting Beatles concert reaction, too, by telling an AmericanAirlines Arena crowd that he didn’t come to Miami to win one NBA title, but five, six, seven, however many it takes to keep everybody happy.

If not for Dwyane Wade, who on Wednesday acknowledged the Lakers as the favorites to repeat in 2011, I would be worried, but even Wade is going to have to work hard to keep this Heat circus on schedule all the way to the NBA Finals.

Should there be a problem with who gets the last shot in a close game, it likely will be LeBron who gets his feelings hurt and Dwayne who will smooth things over. Wade, remember, came off the bench for the 2008 Olympic Redeem Team and led the U.S. in scoring despite playing just 18 minutes per game.

If there is grumbling over the inexperience or the ineptitude of Miami’s head coach, it will be LeBron who does it. He never even spoke to Tom Izzo during the Cavs’ lengthy courtship with the Michigan State icon. Wade, on the other hand, is perfectly comfortable with Erik Spoelstra and can be counted upon to mediate all grievances.

And if LeBron needs to learn about deferring to Dwyane in some situations, and vice versa, forget about Pat Riley coming to the rescue. That’s something the two stars will have to work out between themselves when the team hits an occasional bumpy patch.

Wade, who signed for less money than LeBron or Chris Bosh, has shown he can compromise in return for a championship. He also has proven the ability to take charge and personally make a championship happen when all else fails. With LeBron, we still have to see on that.

George raise some great points about this new partnership in Miami.

Everyone has been so caught up in the move itself that few people have raised critical questions about the dynamics of it all and who will make it work.

While we’re not nearly as worried about James and his ability to check his ego on the boat dock, it’s a conversation worth having, especially for the folks in Miami.

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Winners And Losers

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Posted by Sekou Smith

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Sifting through the wreckage that was “The Decision,” the 60-minute ESPN spectacle that saw LeBron James declare his intentions to join the All-Star party in Miami, has left us with very few real winners but oh so many losers.

Sure, the Heat vault to the top of the list of title contenders in the Eastern Conference on star power alone, sending their fans and folks in and around south Florida into their own hoop dream that ends with parades up and down Ocean Drive. And James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are all checking their ring sizes in anticipation of the hardware they will chase for the next five seasons, and possibly beyond.

But there is little else to celebrate today, with frayed feelings everywhere else.

Nowhere is that empty feeling greater than it is in Northeast Ohio, and especially Cleveland and Akron, where James has lived, worked and played his entire life prior to Thursday’s night’s stunning departure. And if you need proof, just take a look at the number of people in Cleveland that watched the show Thursday night compared to the number of folks in Miami.

Their rage remains palpable, not only with James but with any and everyone that doesn’t share their anger about the way this all went down.

Still, the Hang Time crew had been charged with handing out awards for the winners and demerits for the losers. And no matter what, we have to do the job. So without further ado:

WINNERS — Miami, South Beach and business owners all over South Florida

Every single restaurant, club, condo and boutique hotel and shop owner in Miami should start planning to clear out more space and expand their facilities, because if James’ arrival there has a similar impact to what he had in Cleveland, business is about to get really, really good. Already one of the world’s finest party hot-spots, Miami and South Beach get the added boost of being the epicenter of the NBA universe for at least the next year. And if the Heat actually lives up to the immense hype that surrounds this groundbreaking compilation of stars, Will Smith might want to find his way to the studio for his 1997 hit, beinvenido a Miami!

LOSERS — Jim Gray, LeBron James and Dan Gilbert

Both James and Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert will spend plenty of time as punching bags for folks that don’t agree with how they have handled themselves during this process, and rightfully so. The entire broadcast was a classic example of how not to handle something like this, as both Richard Sandomir of The New York Times and Buzz Bissinger of Vanity Fair made abundantly clear in these must-read accounts of what went down Thursday night. But the man we’d most like to bounce on his head here at the hideout is Jim Gray. Not only did he drive us wacky playing 21 questions (fine, he asked 18 before getting to the only one anyone cared about), he did it in such a smug manner that even James appeared to be annoyed with the silly banter. Even worse is the news that Gray was possibly behind this entire debacle, per CNBC’s sports business guru Darren Rovell. We waited 30 minutes for James to give us what we came for and we’re putting that last 30 on Gray and his useless interviewing scheme. This wasn’t fair to the fans in Cleveland or anywhere else to drag out the decision the way they did.

WINNERS — Dennis Scott and the rest of the media working the story

ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard and former ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith are both being credited with breaking the Miami Big 3 story, deserving plaudits for two guys that turned out to be spot on in their reporting and analysis. Broussard scooped his own network a day early. But he and Smith were not the first pundits to float the idea of a Justice League-style conglomeration in Miami. That honor belongs to NBA TV’s very own Dennis Scott, who suggested Miami as destination paradise for the elite members of the free agent class of 2010 on this special edition of the Hang Time Podcast … over a month ago! 3D detailed exactly how Pat Riley could get it done and everything.

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LOSERS — Mike Brown and Danny Ferry, the ousted brain trust

Former coach Mike Brown and former GM Danny Ferry were both ushered out of town in the aftermath of the Cavaliers’ playoff flame out last season. Brown was fired, while Ferry chose to depart rather than spend his time dealing with the foolishness that he must have known was in store in free agency. Both men were scapegoats for failures that deserves to spread out among many more, including James and Gilbert. Brown departed as the most successful coach in franchise history and really a pawn in a game far more sinister than he probably imagined. Ferry got out ahead of the craziness. And good for him. They’ll both resurface elsewhere and the hideout crew wishes them the best.

WINNER — Tom Izzo, the Cavs-coach-that-wasn’t

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo knew better than to dip his toes into the NBA waters in Cleveland, whether LeBron James was on board or not. Kudos to Izzo for smelling the stench ahead of time and avoiding being a casualty in this high-stakes hoops-opera that would only have served to tarnish his legacy as one of college basketball’s best coaches. Izzo resisted the intense and lucrative recruiting pitch of another MSU Spartan, Gilbert, who clearly isn’t ready to turn the operation over to anyone else, not even Izzo. If he watched Thursday night’s show, and there was no reason for Izzo to bother, we bet he was relieved that he hadn’t jumped at Gilbert’s offer when he heard the words “South” and “Beach” roll of James’ lips.

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LOSERS — Cavs coach Byron Scott and the team and fans James left behind

Cavaliers coach Byron Scott remains a fantastic choice to lead the Cavaliers into this most uncertain future. But he could have kept his analyst job with ESPN if he’d known he would be coaching a team with Mo Williams as its first option. Scott was rumored to be the next in line for the Los Angeles Lakers if Phil Jackson left, he didn’t. So you go from almost coaching a team led by Kobe Bryant to almost coaching led by James to coaching a team led by Anderson Varejao? That’s just not right. We’re rooting for the Cavs, who still have some room to maneuver and add star power of some sort with nearly $12 million in available cap space, once they renounce their rights to James. But Scott will have to work some magic to save this season for the Cavaliers and a fan base that’s been cut to the bone by yet another disappointing sports moment.

WINNERS — The team that upends the Miami 3 on their way to a title

There are about 20 teams that would love to ruin the fairy tale ending Wade, James and Bosh have in mind. The NBA history books are littered with super teams that were put together with multiple championships in mind, the most recent group being the Shaquille O’Neal-Bryant, Karl Malone-Gary Payton Lakers of 2003-04. They made it all to the NBA Finals before being dispatched in five games by a then superstar-free Detroit team, whose legacy in Pistons’ lore was cemented by their dethroning of Hall of Fame Foursome the Lakers assembled. This Miami 3 already have a target on their chests and plenty of teams are aiming for them, including Stephen Jackson and the Charlotte Bobcats and Magic GM Otis Smith, who added fuel to the Southeast Division and Sunshine State rivalry by stating publicly that he thought James was “more of a competitor.”

LOSERS — All the teams that didn’t land James, Wade or Bosh

James never did name a runner-up for his services or a pecking order for the six teams he considered. So we’ll throw them all in here since the Heat snagged the top three free agents on the market. The Knicks, however, lead the pack of the biggest losers. After spending the last two years doing whatever they could to create hype for James coming to Madison Square Garden and saving a basketball-mad city, so losing out to former Knicks coach Riley has to sting for the Knick faithful, yes that includes you Spike Lee. Amar’e Stoudemire is not an adequate consolation prize, we don’t care how many different ways the Knicks try to sell it. Waiting another year for Carmelo Anthony or some other member of the free agent class of 2011 isn’t going to cut it either. The Bulls, Nets, Cavaliers and even the Clippers have foundations to work with. Meanwhile, the Knicks are back to chasing ghosts.

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Izzo Ready To Rock In Cleveland

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Wade’s Recruiting Technique

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Posted by Sekou Smith

BOSTON – That LeBron James parade staged by Los Angeles Clippers fans was cute and all, but if you want real recruiting you have to go bigger than walking the streets outside of the Staples Center.

You have to go with another superstar making clear why a top free agent would want to come play in a certain city.

Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade, himself a member of the celebrated free agent Class of 2010, is already on the case.

Wade has already come up with a five-point list of why someone (James, Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire, etc.) should join in Miami, courtesy of Dave Hyde of the Sun-Sentinel:

5. The media is fair. Imagine that. Someone with something good to say about the media.

“I think it’s very fair here for the most part,” he said.

And that’s important?

“With Facebook and Twitter and all the social media out there, it’s nuts,” he said. “So you look around and want some responsible [media] on how you’re covered. It’s fair here.”

4. South Beach is your backyard. “For other people, this might be really more enticing,” he said. “But for [ NBA] players it’s not really like that. During the season, you don’t go out all the time, no matter what you hear.

“If you’re talking the off-season, now, I’ll say it’s a bigger deal.”

Don’t people leave here in the summer?

“I can think of a couple people who like it,” he said, smiling. “I’m in Chicago a lot in the off-season. But some of the [players] are here a lot.”

3. February becomes an enjoyable month. “Everyone loves the sun here,” Wade said.

There’s no serious competition if the Los Angeles Clippers don’t enter the discussion. Cold-weather cities like Chicago, Cleveland and New York seem all the colder when teams visit the Heat in February.

“I hear about that all the time, how nice the weather is,” Wade said. “It’s a big deal.”

2. This organization knows how to win. Team president Pat Riley’s rings. Heat owner Micky Arison’s reputation. None of the other teams expected to be big free-agent players have won a title with the present cast of owner, architect and star player.
“Everyone thinks this is a first-class organization,” Wade said. “There are a handful of organizations you’d say that about, and this is one of them. It’s big for guys to see the track records of the people running the team.”

Wade didn’t mention what made headlines earlier this off-season about Michael Jordan not being part of the Chicago organization. For a contrast, there was Mourning to Wade’s left, signing autographs.

1.You’re guaranteed at least one other elite player on the roster. OK, he didn’t say this. I stated this for him. Wade isn’t re-signed yet. But all indications are he’ll be back with the Heat, right down to Saturday’s autograph session. Why embed yourself in a community you’re about to leave?

“Nothing’s signed,” Wade said.

Assuming he signs, he’s the Heat’s top selling point. His return would validate everything on the above list and give a player like James the kind of teammate he’s never had.

HT’s Take: We’re already wondering how big a fine the league is cooking up for Wade. Ha. Actually, if you’re trying to lure another top free agent, what better way to get your point across than with a player of Wade’s stature articulating it for you? If wade stays in Miami, which looks like a decent possibility at this point, he’s going to sway another of his Class of 2010 mates to rock with him on South Beach.

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LARRY DREW’S INTERESTING RISE TO THE TOP

New Hawks coach Larry Drew is not his predecessor, no matter how closely they are linked throughout their careers. Drew’s style, approach, demeanor and personality all make him very different from Mike Woodson.

Steve Hummer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: As a Hawks assistant, Drew was a quiet presence. Never much of a screamer in practice, more of a teacher than a taskmaster, he must make the transition to the role of demanding rather than asking.

At Missouri, he won the Sparky Stalcup Award for inspired leadership, so that important quality has always been there.

Untested as a head coach, he has much to reveal about himself — and little time or wiggle room in which to do it. For he will be measured by the Hawks’ ability to progress past the second round of the playoffs, the point where they have stalled the past two seasons.

One fact that has made itself already known: Drew knows point guards.

He was one, for one. Drew may be one of the best players ever to come out of Kansas City, schooled by an older brother in the fundamentals of ball handling and court awareness.

“He may have been the most fundamentally sound seventh-grader I’ve ever seen,” said long-time Kansas City Star metro columnist Steve Penn, a middle-school teammate of Drew’s.

At Missouri, he had a 5-to-2 career assist-to-turnover ratio.

Drew counts among his best friends the all-time, mold-breaking guard, Magic Johnson.

His offseason camp — called Larry Drew Advance Guard Academy — caters to the position.

And he is actively passing along the point-guard gene. His oldest of three sons, Larry Drew II, just finished a tumultuous growing year playing point at North Carolina. His wife, Sharon, has been freely quoted as saying her son is much better at this stage than was her husband.

The couple maintains a home on the far left coast, where the other two teenage boys are California guard prodigies.

If he can develop second-year Hawks guard Jeff Teague, that will mark one of the more immediate departures from Woodson.

HT’s Take: Drew is an excellent choice for a Hawks team that needed a new coach and not just a name or a personality to handle a group that piled up the fifth-best season in franchise history. Drew”s not a self-promoter or a guy that’s ever hunted the headlines as an assistant coach. But he’s honed his craft over the years, working all over the league and with some of the best people in the business. Sure, he has plenty to prove as a head coach, but what first time boss doesn’t? Drew has the added advantage of having guys like Al Horford, Josh Smith (below) and Jamal Crawford in his corner.

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THE IZZO LOVE AFFAIR HAS FOLKS IN CLEVELAND WORRIED

Sorry Dan Gilbert, but not everyone in Cleveland is enamored with idea of Tom Izzo coaching the Cavaliers. While the world waits for Izzo’s final decision, which could come as soon as this evening, others ponder the possibilities.

Bud Shaw of the Plain Dealer: Whether Dan Gilbert gets his man has taken precedence over other questions.

Is Tom Izzo LeBron James’ man?

Gilbert swore James would not be consulted on the coaching hire. I didn’t believe him then. But I do now. Because if I’m James — and, just so you know, we have not been mistaken for one another lately due to my decision to let my hairline recede and erase my temporary Chosen One, Too tat — I’d tell Gilbert if he asked that Izzo’s stellar reputation as a college coach is at the very least mitigated by other factors.

Izzo would be the second rookie NBA head coach for James, though obviously he would walk into the Cavaliers locker room carrying a much bigger stick than Mike Brown did.

Izzo has been to six Final Fours in 12 seasons. Brown knew Gregg Popovich was spelled with two g’s. Brown, though, cut his teeth on the NBA sidelines, and James still lost faith in his strategies and in-game adjustments.

Next year is James’ eighth in the league, and Izzo would come with a NBA learning curve in tow.

One of the many thoughts sources attribute to James is that he’d like a former NBA player as head coach. (Stand down, Barkley, not you.) The Cavs under Izzo aren’t the only team that would fail to meet that standard. The same parameters would hurt the chances of some of James’ biggest suitors.

James could have that here with Byron Scott, who left New Orleans on good terms with James’ buddy, Chris Paul. But Scott, for some reason, looks like a Plan B to Izzo.

I’d rank them Jeff Van Gundy, Scott and then Izzo. But then again, I saw Olympic gold in Eddie the Eagle’s future, too.

HT’s Take: Without a commitment from James one way or another, the only thing Izzo can count on is a nice paycheck and the possibility that he’ll be on the hottest of hot coaching seats in all of basketball. If James were to return, the pressure to win a title would be off the charts. Without James, Izzo has to try to fashion a playoff team out of the supporting cast that’s been assembled around James by a general manager, Danny Ferry, that is no longer there. Glad Izzo has to make this decision and not me.

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MARK JACKSON IS READY TO DANCE

ABC analyst and former star point guard Mark Jackson is ready for his chance to run a team. He was in the final three for the Hawks’ job and has had discussions elsewhere. But his best fit might be in his own backyard.

Chris Tomasson of FanHouse: If the Clippers want to talk with Mark Jackson about their coaching job, they know where to find him.

“I’m the girl on the dance floor just dancing to the music,” Jackson said in an interview Saturday with FanHouse when asked about the Clippers’ opening. “If somebody wants to dance with me, come on over.”

Jackson, a former NBA guard now serving as an ABC analyst during the Finals between Boston and the Lakers, was one of three finalists for the Atlanta job before it went Friday to Hawks assistant Larry Drew. Jackson and Dwane Casey, the other finalist not selected, are both expected to be candidates with the Clippers, apparently in no position to fill their opening.

“It’s a great job,” Jackson said. “It will play itself out.”

A source close to the situation has told FanHouse the Clippers might wait until after July 1 to hire a coach to perhaps help their chances of landing Cleveland star LeBron James, expected to opt out of his contract and become a free agent that day.

Asked about Drew getting the Atlanta job, Jackson said, “I wish him all the best.” Jackson also spoke well of how Hawks general manager Rick Sund handled the search to replace Mike Woodson, let go May 14 after six seasons.

“Rick Sund did an outstanding job from top to bottom with the way he handled everything,” said Jackson, an NBA point guard from 1987-2004 who never has been a coach at any level but was known for his leadership as a player. “A class organization. I’ve got nothing but great words. He’s handled (the coaching search) the best that I’ve been a part of so far.”

HT’s Take: Jackson captivated the Hawks’ with his charisma and knowledge of the game, but they had the same concerns many of these teams do about hiring a guy that has no coaching experience. But is Jackson really any bigger risk than some of these other first time head coaches like Drew or Tom Thibodeau in Chicago? Jackson will get his shot and the Clippers, where he could connect with Baron Davis, might be the best fit.

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WIZARDS OWNER SAYS ARENAS STAYS PUT

If John Wall is the new face of the franchise in Washington that means Gilbert Arenas has to go, right? Not according to new Wizards owner Ted Leonsis.

Tarik El-Bashir of the Washington Post: One day after assuming control of the Washington Wizards, majority owner Ted Leonsis reiterated his commitment to having Gilbert Arenas on the team next season, and to giving General Manager Ernie Grunfeld and Coach Flip Saunders a chance to turn around the struggling franchise.

Leonsis met with Arenas at the owner’s McLean home last month and has been in contact with the point guard via e-mail, exchanging notes with him as recently as Thursday.

“We had a great meeting,” Leonsis told a group of Washington Post reporters and editors Friday. “The conversation was about, ‘Here’s a line, and you can’t cross this line.’ The scrutiny around you has quadrupled. You need to internalize that. There are some things you can’t joke about anymore.”

Leonsis also dismissed recent reports that the Wizards are actively seeking to trade Arenas, whom the NBA suspended in January for the remainder of the 2009-10 season after he brought guns into the Verizon Center locker room.

“We’re not actively trading him,” Leonsis said. “But I would ask you to put yourself in another general manager’s shoes. He was injured for two years and suspended for a year and he’s a max [contract] player. If you were another team’s general manager, would you be trading for Gilbert Arenas right now?”

Leonsis also suggested that buying out Arenas, who is owed $80 million over the next four years, is not financially feasible. “You mean just write a $100 million check for him to go away?” Leonsis said with a laugh.

As for the future of Grunfeld and Saunders, Leonsis said he’s met with both in recent weeks and reiterated that they will be with the team next season.

The new owner compared Grunfeld to Washington Capitals General Manager George McPhee, whom he also inherited from the late Abe Pollin’s regime. Leonsis hinted that the Wizards will be run much like the Capitals: ownership will set the strategy, and the general manager will be given the space to execute that strategy.

“I’m not telling Ernie who to pick with the first [overall draft] pick, but told him, if you want to trade the pick, [then] you’re coming to talk to me about it,” Leonsis said. “Because that would be against the strategy that we laid out.

“I believe that Ernie is a very talented person and I believe that Flip is a very talented person. I’ve seen people be really successful executing one plan and unsuccessful doing another plan. So I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt.”

HT’s Take: What else can the Wizards but hold on to Arenas? Now they could try to sell a sweet story to their fans. Few tales could top the dramatic saga of the rookie phenom (Wall) teaming up with the redemption-seeking former All-Star (Arenas) and making some positive noise in an Eastern Conference ripe for some new playoff blood, depending on what happens i free agency, of course. But Leonsis said it best when he laughed about writing a $100 million check to make Arenas “go away.” That, my friends, is not going to happen.

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Friday’s Free-Agent Frenzy

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Posted by Sekou Smith

BOSTON – No practice today here at the NBA Finals.

That means we’ve got more time to snoop around and see what else is going on in the world of basketball, namely the continuing coaching carousel, the Draft and everybody’s favorite, the free-agent frenzy.

– First and foremost is this on-one-minute, gone-the-next free-agent summit. Hang Time sources have indicated that many of the central figures and even players that are not free agents this summer have been in contact with each other already regarding who does what come July 1.

They haven’t set up shop in a backroom at some restaurant or anything, but who needs to do that in this day and age of social networking?

Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony was at Game 2 of the Finals in Los Angeles and admitted that he was supposed to be meeting LeBron James there, only to have James back out at the last-minute, per Yahoo! Sports. Chris Bosh did show up that night, making the rounds around courtside and getting recruiting pitches from Lakers fans non-stop as he made his way around the court.

Free agents Dwyane Wade and Joe Johnson have been in LA the past few days for a Brand Jordan photo shoot where they’ve mingled with (non-free agents) Chris Paul and Anthony, surely they’ve had some conversations about what will go on in a few weeks.

So it’s obvious these guys have been in constant contact with each other, making sure to stay on top of who is going to do what when the free agent alarm clock goes off in a few weeks.

And we didn’t even get to Amar’e Stoudemire yet:

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SUNS REMAIN ‘PLAN A’ FOR STOUDEMIRE

Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic: Amar’e Stoudemire has wavered on favoring the Suns in this process, especially after another round of trade talks involving him. He was back to prioritizing the Suns on Thursday, a day after his agent, Happy Walters, met with Suns General Manager Steve Kerr for the first time since April. Stoudemire said no offer was made but “it sounds like the Suns definitely want to make an effort. I’m just not sure what type of effort. They’re definitely looking to keep me around. So we’ve just got to figure out what the proper math is.” They have until June 30 to agree to an extension or Stoudemire becomes an unrestricted free agent. He said they plan to meet again this month. “I’ve established great relationships around town,” Stoudemire said. “My family is now pretty much from here because all my kids were born and are being raised here. It’d be great to remain a Phoenix Sun for my whole career. “That’s my ultimate goal. And then to win a championship with the team. But we’ve just got to make sure that we can try to get that done sooner than later because we want to capitalize on the opportunity. We did a great job this season but we definitely want to have a better season and go further the next few years.” Even if he gets to free agency, Stoudemire said he would give the Suns a chance to counter any offer he would receive. “My loyalty is here with the Phoenix Suns,” he said. “Once free agency starts and teams are offering me X amount of dollars, then I would definitely say, ‘You know what, Phoenix? These guys are offering this much. So if you guys want to step up to the plate, we can hit a home run.’ If not, then I could settle for an inside-the-park home run. Just as long as I make it home.”

HT’s TAKE: Give Stoudemire credit for taking the proactive approach. It’s up to the Suns at this point. If they are willing to offer the max, Stoudemire isn’t going anywhere. But the Suns always seem to make the summer interesting. And no one loves the spotlight or the drama more than Stoudemire, so this saga is probably just getting started.

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STILL NO DECISION FROM IZZO ON CLEVELAND

Brian Windhorst of the Plain Dealer: Tom Izzo came, he saw, he dined. What he’ll do next, however, remains uncertain. The Michigan State coach and his family spent all Thursday afternoon and evening with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, General Manager Chris Grant, and assistant general manager Lance Blanks. According to multiple sources, the visit went well and Izzo and his family were impressed with the Cavs’ facilities and the city. But Izzo left town after nearly nine hours without accepting Gilbert’s offer. After arriving on one of Dan Gilbert’s private jets around 1 p.m., Izzo and his family were ushered away in two black SUVs. He visited Cleveland Clinic Courts in Independence, met Cavs staff and then had dinner. As Izzo was spending the day in Cleveland, Spartans fans in East Lansing, Mich., held a rally at the university hoping the coach who has led the team to six Final Fours in the past 12 years would stay. When he got back home, Izzo declined to talk about what happened in Cleveland and told reporters he felt bad about the situation. “I feel bad about that, I feel bad about all that stuff,” Izzo said. “But I do feel good that I did what I had to do and I will, uh, apologize to everybody for not commenting.”

HT’s TAKE: Izzo won’t drag this out much longer. After speaking with one of Izzo’s closest confidants who is here in Boston for the Finals, it’s clear that Izzo wants to take the NBA leap. There are $30 million reasons for him to step into the void, whether the Cavaliers can retain James or not.

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SCOTT IN THE CLEVELAND MIX, TOO

Sam Amick of Fanhouse: Byron Scott had an hour-long phone interview with Cleveland general manager Chris Grant and assistant general manager Lance Blanks today, according to his agent. Brian McInerney, who has represented Scott for more than 20 years, exclusively told FanHouse that the discussion focused on Scott’s championship pedigree and how it might fit with a Cavaliers organization that will continue to pursue a title with or without LeBron James. There were no future plans made for another interview or conversation, in part because of the looming issue of what Tom Izzo will do. The Michigan State coach was in Cleveland on Thursday to meet with Cavs officials and tour the team’s facility. While Izzo has reportedly been offered the job, it’s clear Cleveland is considering other options while it remains unclear what Izzo will do. McInerney said Izzo was not discussed. Scott’s appeal is simple, as he won three championships with the Lakers as a player and had much postseason success as a coach. His New Jersey Nets team went to the Finals in 2002 and 2003, and his New Orleans Hornets made a surprise run to the Western Conference semifinals in 2008. The winning history was the main topic discussed in the interview that was heavy on coaching philosophy, according to McInerney. “They asked him what his view was on championships, talked about his mentality that you either win or you come home on your shield trying,” McInerney said. “That being said, everything (information-wise) should go through the team.”

HT’s TAKE: Scott is by far the safer choice for the Cavaliers. He’s already won and won big in the NBA, even though he’s been fired everywhere he’s been. And if his hiring would give the Cavaliers the best chance of keeping James, the Cavs would be foolish to dismiss that. The Cavs are wise to carry on simultaneous discussions with he and Izzo, making sure to cover all bases.

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WIZARDS TALKING JOHN WALL AT NO. 1

Michael Lee of the Washington Post: When asked on Thursday if the Wizards planned to take Kentucky point guard John Wall with the No. 1 overall pick, new owner Ted Leonsis said he was “not allowed to” make that announcement. “It’s good theater for the NBA to have people wondering what we’re going to do,” Leonsis said at his introductory press conference at Verizon Center. “I won’t make the pick, our General Manager Ernie Grunfeld, will make the pick.” Wonder no more. Although the Wizards have yet to saying anything official, Wall will be Grunfeld’s choice for the June 24 NBA draft. There was little mystery with the decision, but Wall is the only player the Wizards have scheduled for a workout for the top choice – and that will remain the case. David Falk, agent for Ohio State junior Evan Turner, said that his client would not work out for the Wizards. Falk and Turner were both in attendance at Game 4 of the NBA Finals in Boston. Falk said Turner would only work out for Philadelphia, which holds the No. 2 pick, on June 17 – the same day Wall will work out for the Wizards. Wall is currently scheduled to workout for the 76ers the day before.

HT’s TAKE: We’re still not sure this is even news. As soon as the Wizards snagged that No. 1 pick at the Draft lottery, Wall should have started house hunting in the D.C. area. The Wizards not only need a new face of the franchise, they need a potential superstar at his position. And by most estimates, Wall is the only player that fits that mold in this Draft.

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HAWKS STILL COACHLESS

Jeff Schutlz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: If general manager Rick Sund and owners were waiting on the conclusion of the Los Angeles Lakers-Boston Celtics’ series to talk to a coach, the wait would be understandable. But there’s no indication they’re waiting to talk to an assistant on either staff (Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau already has accepted the Chicago Bulls’ job). There’s the longest of long shots that former Hawks star Glenn “Doc” Rivers could be available. But Rivers has a year left on his contract. He is likely to either return to the Celtics for one more season or take a one-to-two-year break from coaching to spend more time with his wife in Orlando. What exactly is going on now? Nobody can be certain. Avery Johnson, the strongest of the four candidates, took the New Jersey job. That leaves Minnesota assistant Dwane Casey, Hawks assistant Larry Drew and ESPN commentator Mark Jackson as the known finalists. All have been interviewed. All are waiting. It had been expected that a decision would come by this week. The lack of a decision thus far has fueled speculation in the media and among fans that Sund and owners are not in complete agreement on a choice. For the record, this is generally how things work: Sund makes a recommendation and the owners take it from there. Sund has said that ownership has accepted his recommendation in the past, such as the decisions to give Woodson a two-year contract in 2008 and the one to let him go after this season. So what do you think? Are you concerned neither franchise has a coach yet?

HT’s TAKE: Multiple sources confirmed for us Friday morning that this is a Drew-Casey debate between the front office and the owners, not a dispute between the owners, as has been reported elsewhere. The owners are in the Drew camp while Sund and his staff are steadfast about Casey being the best choice to replace Mike Woodson. Expect a resolution by the end of the weekend and an announcement on the new coach as early as Monday morning, if not sooner. The minute Avery Johnson accepted the Nets’ offer (below), the Hawks were forced to adjust their plans.

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A Championship Or A Pink Slip

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Posted by Sekou Smith

PHOENIX – Within hours of the official  announcement of Mike Brown‘s firing in Cleveland, former TNT analyst Doug Collins will be formally introduced as the new coach in Philadelphia.

It’s that time of year in the NBA, when coaches are fired on the same day others are hired and everyone moves on without so much as a sideways glance.

But we’re still scratching our heads over this Cleveland deal, a firing that was first reported over a week ago by Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix via Twitter (only to be dismissed hours later by Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who said a decision had not been made). Of course, it had. And we all knew that the minute Brown became the scapegoat for the Cavaliers’ flameouts in the playoff in each of the past two seasons.

Somebody had to take the fall for the team with the best regular season record in each of the past two seasons coming up woefully short in the postseason. And you had to figure it would be Brown.

The bigger question, however, remains for the prospective replacements for Brown (and we’re not even getting into what kind of job this will be if LeBron James decides to continue his career elsewhere).

What does the next coach have to do NOT to get fired?

Clearly, it’s either a championship or a pink slip, right?

And that’s the case in Cleveland as well as other places around the league where the expectations have outgrown the reality of the situation.

There are only four active coaches that have won title, FOUR! So if you don’t have Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich, Larry Brown or Doc Rivers coaching your team these days, isn’t it time to seriously consider making a change?

Magic coach Stan Van Gundy has to be swigging Maalox by the gallon right now with his team on the brink of elimination in the Eastern Conference finals against Boston, the victims of yet another surprising playoff flame-out after the franchise and its fans were dreaming of a return to the NBA Finals this time a week ago.

Brown won 60-plus games in back-to-back seasons, took the Cavs to their only NBA Finals appearance and ranks as the franchise’s top coach of all time based on his winning percentage and still woke up this morning unemployed.

And he’ll be joined in the coaching unemployment line by several other guys like himself, including Avery Johnson, Byron Scott and even former Hawks coach Mike Woodson (who guided the Hawks to the fifth best season in franchise history this year before being fired after Van Gundy’s Magic swept them out of the conference semifinals).

Talk about a tough job market. Try keeping a head coaching job in the NBA these days.

The speculation about Mike Brown’s replacement will center around huge names, Jackson’s name has already surfaced, and even stretch into the college ranks to guys like Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Kentucky’s John Calipari, fine coaches in their own right but neither with a shred of either NBA experience (in Coach K’s case) or NBA success (in Calipari’s case) to speak of.

We’ll spare Michigan State fans the pain of lumping Tom Izzo‘s name in with those other two, but it will come up because Gilbert is a MSU alum and has a relationship with Izzo.

The chatter will continue until the job is filled.

It’s that time of year, when coaches are fired on the same day others are hired and everyone moves on without so much as a sideways glance.