Posted on: January 3, 2009 9:53 am
 

Marbury Musings

An ESPN.com report that Stephon Marbury prefers to play in Boston has created a bit of a stir this weekend, and a delayed reaction. We've discussed here several times that Marbury's two preferred destinations are Boston and Miami -- partly to stick it to the Knicks, partly because the situations would be oustanding for him.

The problem is that Marbury having a preference about where to sign once the Knicks set him free is only half the equation. It takes two to Starbury, and neither team has expressed anything other than morbid curiosity about Marbury and his impending availability.

The Heat, for one, are slightly over the luxury-tax threshold and are trying to avoid paying tax this season. So if they signed Marbury to the $1.2 million veteran's minium, they'd have to shed a player to satisfy that goal.

As for Boston, president Danny Ainge, of course, has been doing his due diligence on Marbury. Boston's recent stumbles only underscored concern about lack of depth with the departure of James Posey for New Orleans and retirement of P.J. Brown. According to a person familiar with the situation, Ainge feels strongly that Marbury was not at fault for the way his Knicks career has ended. He doesn't blame Marbury for balking at a chance to play after being told he wasn't in the team's plans. But Ainge also has concerns about where Marbury is physically after sitting out the entire regular season and the last two months of 2007-08 following foot surgery.

Ainge confided recently that he doesn't fully understand what transpired between the Knicks and Marbury over the last couple of years; it's been a complicated relationship, with plenty of blame to go around. Basically, Ainge has an open mind about Marbury, with a healthy dose of skepticism.

The facts are these. Ainge would not add Marbury to the locker room unless the following conditions were met:  1) He's healthy and in good enough shape to help the team; 2) The coaches want him; and 3) The players want him.

Although Marbury is in excellent condition, he hasn't played competitive minutes in months. The other two conditions are tossups. Doc Rivers isn't afraid of coaching difficult players, and there is a feeling on the coaching staff that the departure of James Posey has left Boston's bench with a critical flaw -- no dependable sixth man providing instant offense on a nightly basis. Posey's contribution wasn't just on the offensive end, though; he provided defense and intangibles, two things Marbury doesn't offer. Marbury can be a decent on-the-ball defender when he's committed, but the last few years in New York he was an awful help defender.

Anyway, all of this most likely would be a moot point once we get to condition No. 3 -- the players. There have been conflicting reports about whether Garnett would block a Marbury signing. To me, the fact that he hasn't openly endorsed adding a player he was teamed with so famously in Minnesota says everything you need to know.

It's fun to talk about, though. And it was fun to see this photo resurfacing with the ESPN followup item. Yes, that is yours truly locked in an uncomfortable embrace with Marbury at Knicks media day before the season. It's a long story, one that is far from over.

 

Posted on: December 31, 2008 10:49 am
Edited on: December 31, 2008 1:11 pm
 

Wednesday Shootaround

A lot can go wrong on a year-ending, four-game road trip -- even for a defending champion riding a 19-game losing winning streak. The Celtics, who appeared to be hurtling toward immortality only a week ago, suddenly have lost three out of four.

"It was an awful trip," coach Doc Rivers said.

Yup, sure was. When Rivers called this a "dangerous trip," he was right. The bump in the road only underscores how insanely difficult it is to win 70 games. And it turns out Lakers coach Phil Jackson was right: It's not so much the competition -- there are plenty of medicore teams to beat up on -- but rather the travel. What did the Celtics in more than anything was playing last Tuesday night against Philadelphia, then flying to L.A. to face the Lakers on Christmas Day and Golden State the next night (both losses). A blowout win at Sacramento was followed by a 91-86 loss at Portland Tuesday night with the Blazers missing Brandon Roy.

Now the Celtics (28-5) basically have to forget the last four games ever happened and regroup for what shoud be -- stress that, should be -- and easy one at home Friday against the Wizards.

LaMarcus Aldridge shedding the "soft" label and bringing the fight to Kevin Garnett was one of the notable developments in Portland's victory Tuesday night. A Blazers scribe went so far as to write that Garnett's never-ending trash talk and cheap shots are "bush league."

Another notable development: The Blazers scored a basket with six men on the court. Incredibly, the officials counted said basket but assessed a techical foul, thus awarding a foul shot to Boston. Rivers was perplexed -- and angry.

For those keeping score at home, the Celtics were still even witih the 1995-96 Bulls' 72-win pace after losing to the Lakers; both teams were 27-3 after 30 games. But Jordan's Bulls didn't lose their fifth game that season until Feb. 6, when a second consecutive loss dropped their record to an incredible 41-3. The Celtics are probably fortunate they don't have to worry about chasing that record anymore.

Here's the rest of your Morning Shoot, the last one of 2008:

* The next time the league wants to interview him about an on-court incident that led to a suspension, Dirk Nowitzki just might not call them back. Dirk and the Mavs took their aggression out on the Timberwolves, coming back from a 29-point deficit -- the biggest comeback in franchise history -- for a 107-100 victory Tuesday night.

* Charles Barkley out at 1:30 a.m. after a night of drinking? No surprise there. But behind the wheel of a car, Charles? Come one, you can't afford a driver? Everybody makes mistakes, and Barkley appears to have cooperated fully and will accept his punishment like a man. He does a lot of good for the league -- he's the star of TNT's popular "Inside the NBA" show -- but at some point there have to be repercussions. As far as I can tell, not much was done to hold Barkley accountable for his admission of rampant gambling at a time when the NBA was embroiled in a gambling scandal. I suspect nothing will be done to him this time, either.

* On a more important note: Even if Charles doesn't learn his lesson, you should, writes Spencer Hall of the Sporting Blog. If you're going to enjoy adult beverages this evening and need transportation, call a damn cab.

* Sounds like a big-time recruiting job by Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady persuaded Dikembe Mutombo to turn down more money from the Spurs and Celtics to join the Rockets' quest for a title.

* Paul Millsap extended his streak of double-doubles to 16 without even stepping on the court. A first-quarter tip-in credited to C.J. Miles on Dec. 23 was correctly adjusted to reflect that Millsap actually made the basket. But an alert reader of the Deseret News noticed that Millsap didn't get credit for the offensive rebound that went with it. The reader submitted a suggested statistical correction to the NBA, which adjusted Millsap's line for the game to 11 points, 10 rebounds. When Millsap returns from a sprained left knee, he'll still be riding the longest double-double streak since Kevin Garnett's 33-game ride in 2006.

* Somebody forgot to tell Steve Francis that it was the Memphis Grizzlies he was traded to, not the Vancouver Grizzlies. The team had to cancel a news conference introducing him before Tuesday night's game against Phoenix when Francis missed his flight to Memphis due to a "family issue."

* Stephon Marbury, blogging for the New York Post about his banishment from the Knicks: "If you don't want me, just pay me and let me go. I just want to play basketball."

And here I thought we could escape 2008 without another mention of Marbury.

Here's to a happy, healthy, and Marbury-free New Year.

 

Category: NBA
Posted on: December 30, 2008 5:56 pm
 

Another setback for Boozer

More bad news on the injury front for the Utah Jazz and Carlos Boozer.

After undergoing a third series of MRIs on his left knee, Boozer will undergo an arthroscopic procedure to diagnose and repair the problem, the team said in a news release. Due to a cut on Boozer's knee near the scope site, the procedure will be delayed until Jan. 9.

Ouch. The team offered no timetable for Boozer's return, but you have to believe he'll be on the shelf until at least the All-Star break -- maybe longer. Boozer hasn't played since Nov. 19, missing 21 games and counting. His replacement, Paul Millsap, was productive with 15 consecutive double-doubles until spraining his left knee last Tuesday against the Bucks. Millsap has missed three games, and although Utah is 2-1 without both Boozer and Millsap, this is another huge blow to a team that has been riddled with injuries this season.

 

Category: NBA
Posted on: December 30, 2008 11:36 am
 

Baron denies Bay Area talk

Hey, it was just a little misunderstanding. Baron Davis is denying he told former teammate Stephen Jackson that he wants out of L.A. and has his eyes on a return to Golden State.

"No, I don't want out," Davis told The Los Angeles Times Monday. "I don't know what Stephen Jackson got from my conversation. That never came out of my mouth. I'm here. I'm here doing the same thing I did at Golden State. The first year I got to Golden State it was rough. It was a tough season. We were figuring each other out, figuring out the system. That transition year is always a tough year."

Davis did acknowledge telling Jackson he misses playing with him.

"When you see people, you miss what you had," Davis said. "Obviously, in no way shape or form am I ready to jump ship. That's not why I came here. That's not why I committed to come here. I'm committed here to turn this thing around. I like the talent on this team, I like the promise. The team is going to get better. My job is to continue to get better and make this year as positive and productive as we possibly can."

So there you have it.

Warriors coach Don Nelson refused to address the matter, and Ronny Turiaf brushed it off as "wishful thinking" on Jackson's part.

Whatever Baron said or didn't say to Captain Jack, I stand by my original reaction -- with a slight amendment. The Warriors are a mess. So are the Clippers.

 

Posted on: December 30, 2008 11:26 am
Edited on: December 30, 2008 5:02 pm
 

Tuesday Shootaround (UPDATE)

* From the Tracy-McGrady-Is-Made-Out-Of-Paper files: No more back-to-backs (for now) for the Rockets' oft-injured off guard.

* Shaq is back. Averaging 24.5 points over the last six games, he insists that if the Suns just get him the ball, he'll produce. He did Monday night, scoring 28 in a 110-102 victory over the Oklahoma City Blunder.

* Lang Whitaker of SLAM offers his Eastern Conference All-Star team. One glaring ommission, IMHO: Rajon Rondo.

* Rockets G.M. Daryl Morey said he had a "good meeting" with the agent representing Dikembe Mutombo, but doesn't expect the semi-retired center to make a decision on his future for several more days.

UPDATE: Things evidently progressed more rapidly than Morey imagined; Mutombo has signed with the Rockets for the rest of the season.

* Ah, rumors. The lifeblood of basketball coverage. The latest (and I use that term loosely) had the Rockets, Lakers, and Bucks discussing a trade that would extricate Chris Mihm from L.A., ship Charlie Villanueva and Tyronn Lue out of Milwaukee, and pry Carl Landry from the Rockets. Only problem with that one was, the Bucks haven't had any trade discussions with either of those teams, a team executive with knowledge of the situation told CBSSports.com. Oh, well!

* Linas Kleiza wants to stay in Denver, according to Hoopsworld.com, despite recurring whispers that the Knicks have discussed a David Lee-for-Kleiza deal with the Nuggets. It's my understanding that those talks are dead, given Donnie Walsh's reluctance to part with Lee and George Karl's affinity for Kleiza. But for what it's worth, I happened to notice Kleiza in the stands after Sunday's game against the Knicks, having his photo taken by friends with the MSG court in the background. Just sayin.

* Doc Rivers is thinking about playing Kevin Garnett for no more than eight minutes at a time to preserve him for the stretch run.

* What's this, 20 wins for the Hawks before the end of December? Whoa.

* Brandon Jennings blogs about Christmas overseas.

* Accused inside-trade Mark Cuban is getting back in the market, investing heavily in a Georgia-based movie-theater chain that embraces digital technology.

 

 

 

Category: NBA
Posted on: December 30, 2008 10:46 am
 

Iverson headed to bench?

When the Pistons traded for Allen Iverson, it was clear that no coach with a contending team would have a more difficult job the rest of the way than Michael Curry. It's about to get a lot more difficult.

With Rip Hamilton missing the last two games with a groin injury, the Pistons have nonetheless extended their winning streak to four -- including a very Piston-like 88-82 victory over Orlando, ending the Magic's seven-game winning streak. After experimenting with a small lineup in recent weeks -- Tayshaun Prince at power forward, and a three-guard lineup of Rodney Stuckey, Allen Iverson, and Hamilton -- Curry has been forced to go with a more traditional lineup with Hamilton out. And you know what the great philosopher Rasheed Wallace once said: Necessity is the mother of invention. Or something like that.

While the Iverson trade clearly was designed to create cap space over the next two years, Curry's job is to put the best possible combination of players on the floor and give the team the best chance to win. Based on how the Pistons have played the last two games without Hamilton, it would seem that Detroit is better off with a two-guard lineup to start games. Against teams that play small, Curry could get away with a small-ball look and not get hurt in the post. But most nights, the Pistons will function best with two guards on the floor and three bigs.

Which brings us back to the question that was posed in the first place when Joe Dumars acquired Iverson: With Iverson, Hamilton and Stuckey all capable of starting, who sits?

Once Hamilton is healthy, the best candidate to go to the bench is Iverson. If Iverson looked at it objectively, he would see the benefit of reinventing himself as a killer sixth man, bringing instant offense off the bench the way Manu Ginobili does in San Antonio or Lamar Odom does in L.A. During the sometimes helter-skelter possessions that ensue with the second units on the floor at the end or beginning of quarters, Iverson would be a perfect fit to score buckets in bunches. Despite the beating he's endured over the years, he can still get to the basket and create his own shot with the best of them. He's also been a gambling steal-producer on defense his entire career -- not a sound, team-concept defender, which the Pistons need during the more structured portions of games.

The problem is, Iverson has never outgrown his desire to be on the floor 40-plus minutes every night. Every coach who has ever substituted for him can attest to the fact that you can't take Iverson out of a game without a dirty look and a few dirty words. This is partly a testament to Iverson's competitive fire, which has been matched by few -- if any -- of his contemporaries. But it's also a huge problem is Iverson is going to be placed in any kind of secondary role.

Iverson seethed when Curry took him out with four minutes left and the Pistons trailing the Hawks by six earlier this month. When Hamilton got ejected with about a minute left, Curry sent Iverson back in. According to this account, Iverson passed up an open look from beyond the 3-point arc with Detroit trailing by five, passing the ball without even looking at the basket. If you know Iverson, you know that A) he's never sized up a shot he didn't like, and B) there probably was a message for the coach behind it.

So if I'm Curry, I know what has to be done. Once Hamilton is healthy, Iverson needs to be sold on the glory of coming off the bench and showing his detractors that he can, in fact, reinvent himself at this stage of his career. Iverson will need a contract after the season -- either from the Pistons (not likely) or somebody else. For 13 years, the little guy has proved he's one of the greatest scorers ever to play the game -- and not just for his size. You don't wind up third in the history of the NBA in points per game -- behind Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan -- without being an all-time great. But he has reached a turning point in his career, a point at which he must show that he can not only accept the selfless fulfillment of being a great sixth man, but thrive in the role. He should listen to Ron Artest, who has gladly embraced any role presented to him for the sake of winning a championship.

Let's face it, the Pistons aren't winning a title this season regardless of how the Curry-Iverson feud plays out. But to have the best chance, Curry must have the courage to bench the unbenchable. And Iverson has to learn to like it.

 

 

Posted on: December 29, 2008 4:40 pm
 

The case for Stephon Marbury

Eyebrows furrow and mouths fall agape when the topic of adding Stephon Marbury to the average NBA roster is broached. Why would any team want to invite the kind of chaos, discord, and most importantly, losing, that have followed Marbury everywhere he's been during his 12-year NBA career?

The Knicks, who need all the help they can get, are so allergic to Marbury at this point that they've decided to pay him $21 million (or whatever amount they have to fork over in a buyout) to stay away. I'm on record agreeing 100 percent with that decision, so we don't need to rehash it here.

But the NBA is a results business, and any other team considering adding Marbury -- either through a farfetched trade or by signing him to the veteran's minimum once the Knicks buy him out -- has to take an unbiased look at what Marbury would bring to the table.

Fortunately, Alan Hahn -- author, bloghost, and capable leader of the Knix Fix -- has done the math. Based on the Knicks' win-differential with and without Marbury during his four seasons with the team, Hahn computed (on his way to the airport) that Stephon-a-non-grata raised the Knicks' winning percentage by a measley .072. Seems like nothing, but over 82 games, Marbury is worth 5.9 victories.

Over the 50 or so games most teams have left, Marbury would be good for 3.6 wins. Such a number would be irrelevant to the Knicks, who are focused on the future -- not the playoffs. But do any borderline playoff teams out there need three or four more victories to get them over the hump? Miami, Milwaukee, Toronto, Philadelphia, and Dallas come to mind. (That's not to say any of those teams has interest, but they would appear to benefit the most from chalking up a few random Ws.) The Knicks would be in the same boat if they were looking to squeeze out a few more wins, grab the eighth seed, and get swept by Boston. That is not the plan. So all of the aforementioned teams have to take this with a grain of salt -- or maybe a few grains of Goody's headache powder -- before deciding whether Marbury's off-the-court baggage is worth the price of admission to the playoffs.

Oh, and they should consider that Marbury has never won a playoff series, either.

 

 

 

Category: NBA
Posted on: December 29, 2008 4:04 pm
 

Sean Williams is officially a bust

The Nets have announced that center Sean Williams, the 17th overall pick from last season, has been assigned to their D-League affiliate, the Colorado 14ers. They should rename the team the 17ers. Talk about falling from the sky like a rock.

And to think: If not for some off-the-court issues Williams had coming out of Boston College -- including several suspensions for violating "team rules" -- he might've been a lottery pick. We don't need to kick the man when he's down, but suffice it to say that when you Google Sean Williams and one of the entries that shows up on the first page is from the website Cannabis.com, it is not good.

Wendell Maxey of HoopsWorld did a piece on Williams today titled "Searching for Sean Williams." The search is over.

 

 

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com