HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Only time will tell if Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins will live up to his immense potential or if Keith Smart will indeed have staying power as a coach in the NBA.
We can close the book on one thing: the Kings (specifically co-owners Joe and GavinMaloofs) made the right decision changing coaches — from Paul Westphal to Smart eight games ago. That change had to happen, and not just for Cousins but for an entire team in need of a change in mood and direction.
The Kings are 3-5 since Smart took over for Westphal — that’s not exactly playoff-ready and is a mark that probably doesn’t have the Western Conference elite worried about them. But the difference in this team’s confidence is evident. They’ve shown a resilience and cohesion that was simply absent under Westphal, battling back from hugedeficits to win games (last night’s win over Indiana being the latest such effort) that could have easily been blowout losses added to their pile.
Blaming the former coach for all that went wrong would be more than a little shortsighted on our part, so we’ll stop right here and point out the shared responsibility of all involved (coaches, players, front office, etc.). Still, a team that looked like a complete dysfunctional mess just a few weeks ago is at least showing signs of life now.
“I’m trying to create an environment where the power forward position is a partnership where no one is being demoted or upgraded over the next player,” Smart said. “I want to be able to write down tonight I’m expecting 20 points and 10 rebounds from that group and they form a partnership.”
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – So, DeMarcus Cousins is involved in another snit? And this is news, how? Everyone knew Cousins was maturity-challenged when the 2010 draft arrived, and yet the Kings took him anyway because it’s hard to find 6-11 players with soft hands and decent footwork. They figured they’d just ride out the emotional bumps, which were sure to come, and hope he’ll figure it out before it’s time to extend his contract.
But while it might be fashionable today to dismiss Cousins as a permanent head case, it’s best to take a wait and see approach. It’s too early to tell if the Kings made a draft mistake. The 2009 draft, however, is a different deal. The results are slowly pouring in and we have a fairly decent idea who screwed up and who didn’t.
Here’s a Hang Time take on the first 15 picks, in retro:
1. Blake Griffin, Clippers: No-brainer pick is the only All-Star of the bunch so far.
2. Hasheem Thabeet, Grizzlies: He’s already on his second team — or third, if you count the D-League stint. Sometimes when you reach for a raw 7-footer, you end up with a raw 7-footer.
3. James Harden, Thunder: Sharp shooter was a nice pickup by Sam Presti, although others drafted lower might wind up better in the long run.
4. Tyreke Evans, Kings. Hasn’t he regressed since his rookie year? Is that due to coaching, or is Tyreke just going to be an OK player?
5. Ricky Rubio, Wolves: Ding. Ding. He might save David Kahn‘s job.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We’ve barely been at this thing for a week and already there are tons of fireworks. And we get them on a daily basis.
The Timberwolves, armed with a Kevin Love-led young crew and the dazzling magicianship (made that word up) of young Ricky Rubio, stunned the reigning champs to kick off the New Year (ending an 18-game slide in the process). The Heat steamrolled their way to 5-0 for the first time in franchise history, capping a huge weekend for LeBron James in style. The Nuggets beat back the Lakers in a rematch of their New Year’s Eve tilt despite Kobe Bryant reaching the 28,000-point club. And the Clippers lived up to their “Lob City” moniker (see the handy work of Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin below) while handing the Trail Blazers their first defeat of the young season.
You can see all of that and more in the Daily Zap:
Rookie point guard Kyrie Irving’s first game was anything but memorable, as the Cavaliers were pelted by the Toronto Raptors, 104-96, on Monday at Quicken Loans Arena.
Irving, the first overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft, finished with just six points, seven assists and three rebounds. He shot 2 of 12 from the field, 1 of 5 from beyond the arc and committed one turnover in 26 minutes.
“It’s just one game,” Irving said. “It’s a learning process. I didn’t shoot the ball particularly well.” (more…)
The mood has yet to strike us here at the hideout. Sure, we’ve got all the Turkey Day fixings ready for Thursday.
Inside our own little basketball world here, there is little to be thankful about these days. We’re thankful the entire season hasn’t been canceled (yet). We’re thankful there is still a scrap of hope that the sides will come to their collective senses and put an end to this dreadful lockout.
But without either side giving an inch in the coming days and weeks, we won’t have that scrap to hold onto. Time is running short and not even the holiday season seems to be affecting the mood of the major players in this drama.
Many of these owners know how damaging a lockout can be, having gone through the 1998-99 lockout. There are 33 active players living through the second lockout of their careers — Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Grant Hill among many others — an average of slightly more than one player per team. You’d think they would know exactly how costly this current fight will be on the collective psyche of fans that don’t care about the particulars and just want their game back.
But while millions of people will spend Thursday carving that Thanksgiving turkey and watching NFL games with family and friends, enjoying every second, our game will remain dormant. Someone needs to wake up and breathe life back into the game. All it takes is one phone call to get the proverbial ball rolling …
Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: The NBA season is now in the hands of lawyers who can’t even figure out how to start a game of phone tag. That’s where we are. In a media briefing Monday to announce that the players have consolidated and refiled two separate antitrust claims into one class action in Minnesota, attorney David Boies lamented the slow response and virtual silence from the NBA since the actions were first filed last Tuesday. In fact, he scoffed at the league’s response — delivered to reporters via email from NBA counsel Rick Buchanan, and not commissioner David Stern — as evidence for why making a phone call to begin settlement talks would be “a waste of time.” ”I think they’ve made pretty clear, including by the statement that they just made, that they’ve got no interest in talking to us,” Boies said at his Manhattan office. “It takes two people to negotiate.” But it only takes one person to pick up the phone and dial a number to get the ball rolling. And Boies said neither side had done that as of Tuesday, at least not at the highest levels of the law firms involved — the law firms that now hold the future of a sport in their hands. Legal protocol says that Stern can’t really call former union director Billy Hunter, and the attorneys for either side can’t call one of the clients on the other. It’s a tangled web they’ve woven, one that has made tracks in four district courtrooms in three states since the NBA first sued the players in August. As to whether the players’ attorneys should call the NBA’s attorneys, or vice versa, there is protocol for that, too. The players have sued the NBA, and thus it is incumbent upon the NBA to respond. The league has until Dec. 5 to formally respond to the lawsuit in the U.S. District Co in Minnesota. Or, its legal representatives can at any time pick up the phone and call Boies or any of his associates working on behalf of the players to initiate settlement talks. This would not only bring the league closer to stopping the clock on potential damages, but also would start the clock on possibly having a basketball season.
Howard Beck of The New York Times: The N.B.A. will argue that the players’ disbanding of the union is a sham perpetrated solely as a bargaining tactic, and that the antitrust laws should not apply. Boies said the primary goal remained a quick settlement that would save the 2011-12 season. “If the league’s approach is to ignore this litigation and try to go into a state of denial and hope it goes away, I think that will not be in anybody’s interest,” Boies said. “I don’t think it’s in our interest, I don’t think it’s in their interest. It’s certainly not in the fans’ interest.” Boies said he originally considered filing the lawsuit in Minnesota, which is in the Eighth Circuit, before choosing Northern California, which is in the Ninth Circuit. Both jurisdictions have a history of player-friendly rulings, with one notable recent exception. Last spring, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected N.F.L. players’ bid for a permanent injunction to end that league’s lockout. Boies represented the N.F.L. in that case. The Minnesota court provides two advantages over the Northern California courts, Boies said. It generally has a less congested docket, and it has a history of moving cases along swiftly. Although antitrust cases can sometimes take years to resolve, Boies said he believed he could get a declaration of summary judgment much sooner, perhaps in three months. “This is not a complex antitrust suit,” Schiller said, adding, “It’s not going to take years. It’s going to take months, if not weeks.”
Chris Sheridan of Sheridanhoops.com: The next logical step in the illogical NBA lockout is for David Boies to call Jeffrey Mishkin, or for Jeffrey Mishkin to call David Boies. The latter attorney, Boies, who represented Al Gore against George W. Bush in the 2000 U.S. presidential election, now represents NBA players, and Mishkin is the outside counsel for NBA commissioner David Stern and the owners. It would take approximately 2 minutes for their secretaries to put that call together. And after obfuscating and posturing for the better part of an hour in a meeting with reporters Monday night, Boies finally yielded to the relentless logical questioning of yours truly, put his hands to his temples for 13 seconds and then said he may just go ahead and make that phone call sometime in the next day or two. “Some lawyers say to pick up the phone is a sign of weakness,” Boies said. “But if you’re weak, you’re weak, and if you’re strong, you’re strong. It doesn’t make you weak or strong by your calling or not calling. On the other hand, until they’re prepared to say something other than what they just put out in this statement, the question is, why are you calling?” This particular episode of peacocking … oops, I mean news briefing … was designed to be a show of strength from the players’ new lead attorney, an epic billable hour ($1,225 is Boies’ going rate) of rhetorical posturing about how the NBA owners are now in really, really big trouble because they are leaving themselves open for triple damages — about $6 billion if the entire 2011-12 season is missed.
Marcus Thompson II of the Oakland Tribune: Warriors rookie Klay Thompson, drafted No. 11 overall, crossed that bridge last week when his beloved Washington State Cougars took on rival Gonzaga. Watching from home, he said had he known the lockout would have come to this, “it probably would have affected my decision” to leave college early. Whether they should have stayed college isn’t the only nagging question. Should they go overseas? Should they borrow money or tough it out? It is common practice for rookies — especially first-rounders, millionaires-in-waiting — to get a loan from their financial adviser. Some, like Thompson, however, don’t want to accumulate debt. So he’s “living like a broke college student” while staying at home with his parents. Tyler is living with his brother in Cupertino. The hard part about the waiting, they say, is they have no idea when it will end. Eventually, they’ll get paid, get to play on the big stage. Until then, their time is filled trying not to go insane. ”They need to work out,” Oakland-based agent Aaron Goodwin said. “Take a class or two online. Do some work towards finishing their degree.” Both Warriors rookies said they work out daily. Preparing for camp, whenever it starts. Training for their debut, whenever it comes. Tyler, who’s been training at Cal, said he is embracing the center position. He’s trying to get in the best shape possible and work on his low-post game. Thompson trains at various spots in Southern California and plays pick-up with various NBA players in the area. Still, he acknowledged the monotony of it all. ”It’s de-motivating,” Thompson said. “Not knowing when the season is starting. Not knowing how long this will go on. We’re doing the same thing every day. I’m not going to lie. It’s hard to stay motivated.”
Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk.com: Hope of a partial season springs from the fact in the next few weeks (likely after Dec. 5) we can expect the judge to order more mediated negotiations between the two sides, PBT was told. Mandated mediation is commonly part of anti-trust lawsuits, essentially a chance for the judge to make sure the two sides really want to go down this path. To give the sides one more chance to settle their differences without a judge involved. (It is possible one side picks up the phone and calls the other to ask for a negotiating session, but that is the less likely scenario. The owners have said they wouldn’t do that and players attorney Boies said he would not because the league is not receptive.) A judge likely will order mediated negotiations by the middle of December if not before, according to the source. Talks would start soon after. This would be similar to the talks when federal mediator George Cohen sat down with the sides last month. The one key difference would be the level of pressure on both sides to figure this out — the players do not want to lose a season of salary ($2.2 billion), the owners do not want to lose a season of revenue (at a much higher percentage for them than the last deal), plus neither side wants to damage the game by costing a full season. What is the point of fighting over how to divide up the revenue pie if the pie itself gets smaller? In addition, the threat of summary judgment — which would certainly be a huge loss for whichever side did not convince the judge of its case — is another motivation for both sides to figure this out.
Lee Benson of the Deseret News:Derek Fisher isn’t unique or alone. He simply serves as a convenient and highly visible example of the serious dysfunction that is the NBA, a place where for decades well-paid, well-fed employees have constantly snapped at the hands that feed them. Here in Utah we’ve been watching it up close and personal since the Jazz first arrived in 1979. It’s been like living next door to the expensive house on the hill where the parents continually and lavishly spoil their children. They give them whatever they want, treat them like royalty — and in turn the children behave like ungrateful brats. We’ve all watched as salaries have increased like Argentinian inflation, as amenities that range from plush practice and playing facilities to charter jets have grown exponentially, as players have become so pampered they don’t even drive their own Escalades to the arena and wouldn’t think of paying full-price for anything. (And as the price of tickets and concessions rise year after year.) And yet, it’s never enough. Right now, the average NBA salary is $5.1 million, the median NBA salary is $2.4 million (half of the players make more, half make less), and the least anyone can make is $500,000 (the rookie minimum). And the players are revolting at the owners’ notion that they need to scale back because there’s a Great Recession going on, almost a 10th of America is unemployed … and by the way, two-thirds of the league’s franchises are losing money every year. In a way you can’t fault the players. Isn’t this how the overindulged always behave? By the same token, the owners have only themselves to blame. They purchased their season of discontent through their decades of constant pampering and acquiescence.
Michael Lee of The Washington Post:Andray Blatche may have missed out on his first NBA paycheck of the season last week – and might lose out on $6.4 million if the NBA lockout wipes out the 2011-12 campaign – but that hasn’t stopped him from trying to make Thanksgiving special for some families in need. Blatche plans to join Roger Mason Jr. and the National Basketball Players Association on Tuesday to hand out 100 turkeys on a first-come-first-serve basis at the Laurel Boys and Girls Club from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Blatche has given away turkeys through his charity foundation in the past, but he rarely had the opportunity to connect with people since he was busy playing for the Wizards. But already this year, Blatche has given turkeys to single-parent mothers, breast cancer survivors and battered woman in his hometown of Syracuse, in South Carolina and Florida. He also volunteered over the weekend at a round-robin basketball challenge sponsored by the Maryland-National Capital Park Police. “I’m at a point in my life where I’m straight,” Blatche said in a recent telephone interview. “I’m just doing what me and my family believe in, which is giving back and always count your blessings. That’s why I’m out here doing as much stuff as possible. Even though it’s not the season, I’m still continuing to do what I’ve been doing.” Blatche has been a steady presence over the past few months at the Laurel Boys and Girls Club, where he has worked out with trainer Joe Connelly four to five days a week. Mason and Wizards teammates John Wall and Hamady Ndiaye have also trained with Blatche in recent weeks. “They let me work out there, so I’m showing some love back,” Blatche said of his turkey giveaway.
Iman Shumpert for the New York Post: Friday night, I headed out to Bridgeport, Conn., to play in another charity game for us locked-out players. The people who came out — maybe 2,000 — provided us plenty energy with cheers and competitive boos. I decided to sit out the last part of the game after going up for a dunk and feeling an awkward pain in my knee. I could have kept playing, but decided just to ice it to ensure I was OK. Nothing major. I think it was due to not warming up at half because I was hanging out with fans and doing photos and autographs, which is partly why we were there. Some of the many participants were Tyreke Evans, Sam Young, Josh Selby, Wes Mathews, Nolan Smith, Howard Thomkins and Travis Leslie. My team won, 171-169. The best part for me was getting a chance to connect with more Knicks fans praying for a season! It was a great turnout. The last couple days, I’ve spent time in the studio where Tupac was shot — Quad Recording Studios in Midtown. Definitely a magical feeling in that sort of work environment. I did a collaboration with Billz, an up-and-coming, unsigned Brooklyn group. This Thanksgiving, I have a lot to be thankful for. The lockout has given me a chance to for once have a lot of down time to spend with family and friends.
That’s sweet music to the ears of basketball fans everywhere.
With Stern and union executive director Billy Hunter smiling and joking with one another as they walked out of that New York hotel late last night signaling that today’s bargaining session (which begins at 10:30 a.m.) could very well be the final push needed to bring our beloved game back, clearly it’s time to make a deal.
And when asked whether LeBron James was the best defender, he put Kobe Bryant ahead of the Heat forward, because Bryant has a little more of a winning mentality than James. He said that James might get that mentality someday, but Bryant has already proven it.
Whatever Barea decides to do in the future, we’re convinced this won’t go over well in the Heat locker room. Making nice about Kobe, on the other hand, might help Barea avoid future instances like this one:
NEWARK – The celebration was interrupted at the start, delayed a little longer and then held mostly behind closed doors for No. 10 pick Jimmer Fredette.
Sure, the Prudential Center got a dose of “Jimmer-Mania” during Thursday night’s draft, but nothing like we might have seen had Fredette not been a part of a three-team trade that saw him put on a Milwaukee Bucks hat to make his ceremonial walk across the stage to shake NBA Commissioner David Stern‘s hand, only to swap it out later for a Sacramento Kings’ lid.
Instead of making the normal media rounds like most of the other draft picks, Fredette remained sequestered in a private room in the bowels of the arena as the details of that trade were worked out.
By the time he did emerge from the back, it was clear that former BYU star was just relieved to finally be able to celebrate properly.
“Took a while waiting back there,” Fredette said. “But it’s a great moment for me and my family, and for the Sacramento Kings organization. Hopefully their fan base is excited, because I’m really excited to get out there and start the season with them and have a great year. So I’m looking forward to it.”
Not anymore than the folks in Sacramento.
The 10th pick in the draft was the only one to receive a shout out from the mayor of the city he will call home for the start of his professional career.
Former NBA star and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson made his approval of the Kings’ pick public immediately.
“Jimmer is exactly what the Kings need right now,” he said in a statement. “He’s electric, a fan favorite and a competitor. Together with Tyreke [Evans], they will create one of the most dynamic, young guard combos in the NBA. Congrats to the Kings on an exciting pick.”
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – It’s no secret that the Kings need a new arena in order to remain in Sacramento for the long term.
But according to former first-round draft pick Antoine Wright, who has played for four different clubs in six seasons, what the Kings could also use to regain relevance in the Western Conference are scouting reports.
“My rift, really, with the organization was that I don’t think they prepared the guys enough to win basketball games,” Wright said. “We were probably the only team in the NBA that didn’t have a scouting report. How do you expect a young team to go out and carry a game plan? Every team I’ve been on, they give you a scouting report on every guy on the team, a couple paragraphs about each guy before you go out there and play against him.
“Coming on the court before the game was chaos – no structure whatsoever, and we kind of had a laid-back coach. [Paul] Westphal was pretty laid back, and with a group of young guys, you’ve got to have somebody who comes in and disciplines them.”
Wright wasn’t even close to done yet.
“I’m not going to throw any of their players under the bus, but one of the main players who was a big part of our team, his attitude was really, really bad — I’m pretty sure you can figure out who that guy is,” he said before confirming that he was speaking of then-rookie forward-center DeMarcus Cousins. “Tyreke [Evans] had a pretty good attitude. His work ethic wasn’t great, but he’s a good young player. I believed in him completely. I just don’t think the coaches did enough to prepare us to win games.”
The 6-foot-7 guard was taken by the Nets with the No. 15 pick in the 2005 Draft and never averaged more than his 7.3 points per game with Dallas in the 2008-09 season. He signed a one-year contract with the Kings last summer, but lasted only seven games with the team following an arrest for DUI and a blow-up with assistant coach Mario Elie. Then Wright finished last season playing for the Jiangsu Nangang Dragons in the Chinese Basketball Association.
You have to wonder how Wright thinks he’s helping his chances of re-making image and getting back into the NBA. But in a league that increasingly relies on analytics and detailed preparation, if what Wright says is true, maybe you can stop wondering how the Kings haven’t made the playoffs since 2006 and have just a 49-115 record over the past two seasons.
Note to future Kings: Subscribe to NBA League Pass and do your own scouting.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Kentucky coach John Calipari is a busy man these days, taking yet another team to the Final Four.
He’s got connections with some of the NBA’s best young players and with some of the league’s future stars that are still playing for the Big Blue Nation.
He coached each of the past two NBA Rookies of the Year, Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans, while they were in college at Memphis.
One near connection that surprised us, though, was Calipari’s link that never was to Lakers star Kobe Bryant. My main man Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports detailed their intriguing history on the weekend Calipari, the former Nets coach, was back in his old stomping grounds to punch the Wildcats’ ticket to the Final Four:
This was 1996. Cal was the new coach of the New Jersey Nets, fresh out of the college ranks at Massachusetts. Bryant was a high schooler from suburban Philadelphia, the first modern player who was academically qualified for college to say he was jumping straight to the NBA anyway.
The Nets had the eighth pick overall, too high, many said, for an unproven 18-year-old. With each drill Cal ran Bryant through at the Fairleigh Dickinson University gym, he grew convinced otherwise.
“If you watched the workouts, you’d say either this kid has been taught to fool us in the workouts or he’s ridiculous,” Calipari said, back here in Jersey, now preparing his Kentucky Wildcats for a Sweet 16 game Friday against Ohio State.
“I worked him out three times and I thought I was losing my mind. Obviously I wasn’t. He was really good. I’d brought him in a third time because I just said, ‘I’ve got to see this kid again because this is ridiculous.’”