Posted on: December 22, 2008 11:04 am
Edited on: December 22, 2008 11:04 am

Monday Shootaround

We open the week with the genius of LeBron James, according to Tom Ziller. I agree, but don't think LBJ's flirtation with 2010 is over. Far from it. Even Brian Windhorst of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, who coaxed the extension talk out of LeBron, realizes this is just another piece of the puzzle. B-Win offered these two key observations: 1. LeBron remains in love with being the center of attention with regard to his impending free agency; and 2. "There are many, many more twists and turns to come."

A lot can happen between now and this summer, when LeBron has the opportunity to sign another three-year extension. If he chooses, he can continue signing three-year extensions until the cows come home, constantly motivating the Cavs' front office to put championship-caliber talent around him. It's a viable option, until you consider this: If LeBron were to sign a three-year extension in '09, he would need to sign his next deal under whatever rules are negotiated in the new collective bargaining agreement; the current one expires in 2011. As we've pointed out numerous times here, any of these top-tier potential free agents would be wise to sign a long-term deal under the current rules -- either with their current teams or new ones. There is a growing feeling among ownership that salaries have to be scaled back under the next agreement, and the cratering economy has only reinforced the notion. Although attendance is holding steady league-wide, the NBA Players Association is carefully monitoring what it expects will be flat-to-declining revenues over the next two seasons. If revenue slips more than expected, the pool of money available for player salaries will shrink.

This is one of many issues LeBron will consider this summer when he decides whether to sign another short-term extension. And it is one of many issues he will consider on June 30, 2010 if he doesn't extend. So all of the teams that have aggressively begun clearing cap space haven't done it for naught. SLAM Online says LeBron is just playin' us. In The New York Times, Howard Beck writes that there are plenty of reasons to get under the cap, and they're not all named LeBron.

Another key aspect LeBron will consider: Do the Cavs use some of their generous cap space to sign a top-tier running mate for LeBron -- Carlos Boozer in '09 or Chris Bosh in '10? Ah, so many story lines, so many delicious angles for LeBron to consider and exploit as he holds the entire NBA in the palm of his hand.

Here's the rest of your Morning Shoot:

* A Chinese magazine says Yi Jianlian lied about his age. Yeah, but how does this explain his aversion to finishing strong at the rim?

* Love this line from Chris McCosky of the Detroit News: "Like the Lions, the Pistons remain perfect on Sunday -- perfectly winless, 0-6."

* Yes, it's time to include Orlando (21-6) in the discussion of elite teams. The Magic have toppled the Spurs and Lakers back-to-back, and a win over Golden State (hah!) Monday night would equal the best 28-game start in franchise history. Right at the heart of Orlando's recent success has been point guard Jameer Nelson. I've always said Orlando would be scary with a real point guard, and evidently Nelson has started to become one of those. Meanwhile, the Magic kind of like the fact that nobody is noticing them.

* Bright Side of the Sun looks at the point guards auditioning for Phoenix on Monday, and hints there could be another audition if a "veteran point guard gets bought out." Oh, dear.

* BallerBlogger says the Cavs have what it takes to win a title.

* Patrick Ewing Jr., now coming off the bench for the D-League's Reno BigHorns, was scoreless (0-for-6 FGs) with three rebounds on Sunday.

* Brian Cuban defends his brother's decision to trade Devin Harris for Jason Kidd.

That's all. Enjoy the Raptors and Clippers Monday night on NBA TV.

Category: NBA
Posted on: December 21, 2008 12:06 am

Wade passes on extension talk

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- With ice packs adorning his legs and a box of protein drink in his hands, Dwyane Wade sat at his locker and deferred credit to his teammates for his 43-point night. Earlier, he'd deferred to his teammates on the floor, finding Daequan Cook for a clutch 3-pointer late in the Miami Heat's 106-103 victory over the Nets.

A frigid, icy New Jersey night awaiting him, Wade also was in no hurry to accelerate speculation about his plans for the free-agent summer of 2010. Even though everybody else is doing it.

A few nights ago in the hallways of this very arena, Utah's Carlos Boozer caused quite a stir when he said he has decided to decline his player option for the 2009-10 season and weigh his options. On Saturday, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that LeBron James -- who has consistently fanned the flames of his impending free agency -- is considering signing an extension with the Cavaliers after the season. Such a move would signal James' contentment with the Cavs' plans to build him a championship team. It also would make July 1, 2010 -- when James has the right to decline his player option and become a free agent -- a moot point. A few weeks ago, James himself called that date "a very, very big day."

Wade, too, has a right to become a free agent in the summer of 2010, along with the likes of James, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire, Dirk Nowitzki, Yao Ming, and Paul Pierce. Unlike Boozer, whose player option comes a year early, Wade isn't ready to announce his intention to test the market. And unlike James, he isn't ready to say he'd consider re-signing with Miami next summer, either.

"I don’t know," Wade said. "I'm not concentrating on that right now. I'm not concentrating on my contract or talking contracts. I'm trying to help this team get to the playoffs and that’s all I'm worried about."

Like me, Wade didn't think Boozer's comment Wednesday night was anything controversial or surprising. Top-tier players with capable representation made sure they negotiated for the ability to sign a new contract -- with their current team or another one -- before the collective bargaining agreement expires in 2011. With a new deal between owners and players coming, who knows if the money will be there in 2011 or '12? It probably won't.

"I think it’s just giving yourself flexibility," Wade said. "And I think [Boozer] just came out and said he’s going to use his flexibility come next summer. I don’t know how it’s perceived out there, but that’s all it is. He gave himself flexibility and he gets to use it."

On Saturday, James spoke for the first time about re-signing with Cleveland next summer rather than waiting until 2010.

"You play out this season of course; I will consider it," James told the Plain Dealer. "The direction we are headed is everything I expected and more."

I asked Wade if he'd heard about James' comments.

"Oh, yeah," he said. "I'm sure he has a great opportunity in Cleveland, where he’s building a championship team. Just because you signed a three-year deal doesn't mean that you won't sign an extension beforehand."

James signed a three-year, $60 million extension with Cleveland in 2006, turning heads by turning down the team's five-year, $80 million. Wade did the same.

"The deal that was signed by everybody was just to give themselves flexibility and options," Wade said. "And he can sign a longer deal this summer and be in Cleveland a long, long time."

At some point, maybe Wade will be ready to say the same thing. Not yet. He is leading the league in scoring and having a season worthy of MVP consideration. On back-to-back nights, he scored 35 to topple the Lakers and equaled his season high with 43 to turn back the Nets. 

But unlike the dominance he displayed at the Olympics, Wade's excellence comes on a team that has a long way to go before it can even talk playoffs, much less championships. In that respect, Wade's situation is most similar to Bosh's in Toronto. Both need to see how things play out before they commit to anything.

"I'm under pressure to do well and to see what decision I'm going to make," Bosh told me recently. "And the organization is under pressure to bring this team around. We want to win now."

So far, Wade is content to walk the walk, rather than talk the talk.


Posted on: December 20, 2008 7:59 pm

Carter on Cavs' radar?

An item on a competing sports and entertainment network's website stated that the Nets' Vince Carter is on the Cavaliers' list of players they're interested in acquiring.

Intriguing. Juicy, even. Big name, prominent team, a potentially blockbuster trade. Alas, it's just another rumor.

I spoke Saturday with an executive-level source who has knowledge of both teams' activities, and he reported that the Cavs and Nets have not discussed a Carter swap in any form. In fact, the Nets and Cavs haven't discussed any type of trade in a month and a half.

Numerous teams around the league will be calling Cleveland between now and the Feb. 19 trade deadline, so be prepared for more rumors -- both substantiated and unsubstantiated -- to fly. The reason is the Cavs have two players they need to make decisions on -- Wally Szczerbiak, whose $13 million expiring contract is a valuable chip, and Anderson Varejao, who has a player option for 2009-10.


Posted on: December 20, 2008 7:49 pm

Nellie takes another step away from bench

After a 115-99 loss to the Hawks Friday night, Warriors coach Don Nelson volunteered an obscure piece of information that has far more significance than most people realize. Acknowledging that coaching defense and being tough on players are weaknesses of his, Nelson announced that assistant coach Keith Smart was being elevated to a defensive coordinator role, and that Sidney Moncrief would be Smart's top assistant.

We've mentioned previously here that Nelson, 68, got a two-year extension in October but might not finish the contract on the bench. A person familiar with the Warriors' plans -- and those are few and far between, as it appears the Warriors have no plan -- told me that one option under consideration is Nelson moving upstairs to a full-time GM role at some point. Smart and Moncrief would be the favorites to succeed him on the bench.

Where does that leave Chris Mullin, you ask? Exactly where he is at the moment: With a contract that expires June 30 and little reason to expect he'll get a new one.

Nellie's announcement Friday night in Atlanta, thus, makes perfect sense. It's another step in the direction of Nellie handing the coaching reins to Smart or Moncrief. My prediction: When Nellie goes upstairs, Smart will be the head coach and Moncrief his lead assistant.


Posted on: December 19, 2008 11:08 am

Friday Shootaround

Friday's speed-read brings you Stephon Marbury digging into his deep pockets, Chris Webber throwing his shoes at Charles Barkley, Brandon Roy's 52-point game, J-Kidd's return to NJ, and more:

* Turns out Stephon Marbury didn't receive a comp ticket to attend the Knicks-Lakers game at Staples Center Tuesday night. He paid full price for the courtside perch: $2,600. At $21.9 million to do nothing, I think he can afford it.

* As the first snowflakes of New York's first big snowstorm of the season begin to flutter outside my window, it strikes me that Devin Harris may be looking forward to Jason Kidd's return to the Meadowlands Friday night a little more than I am. Harris is playing sensational basketball for the Nets, who appear to have gotten the better of last season's deadline trade sending Kidd to Dallas after six-plus seasons -- and two Finals appearances -- in New Jersey. The Mavericks practiced in the city Thursday in preparation for the game, and Kidd was surrounded by about 20 reporters afterward. Here's some of what he had to say. And here. And what the Nets had to say. And what former Mavericks coach Avery Johnson had to say.

* It's the second Kidd vs. Harris matchup since the trade, but the first in New Jersey. The Mavs beat the Nets 111-91 on March 8, but neither point guard was much of a factor. Kidd had three points on 1-for-5 shooting with 13 assists, while Harris had nine points on 3-for-12 shooting with two assists.

* Ticket brokers in L.A. say demand for seats at the Celtics-Lakers game on Christmas Day is the highest it's ever been for a Lakers regular season game.

* Chris Webber throws his shoes at Charles Barkley.

* With a 90-78 rout of the Spurs, the Magic are starting to make a case that the Big Three (Boston, Lakers, Cavs) needs a fourth.

* Knicks center Eddy Curry is being sued over allegations he failed to make good on clothing bills totaling $41,000. And here I thought if Curry was going to get sued for not paying a bill, the plaintiff would be a fast-food chain.

* Fifty-two points for Brandon Roy. Wow. It's all over YouTube.

* Elton Brand doesn't need surgery. Still out for a month, though.

* Wages of Wins breaks down the Pistons' decline, and says the answer is Iverson.


Category: NBA
Posted on: December 19, 2008 10:07 am

Jazz owner rips Boozer

Carlos Boozer was looking dapper in a nicely tailored suit Wednesday night as he stood in the bowels of the IZOD Center chatting with one of my competitors, Chris Sheridan of What Boozer said during the interview has sent the already fragile Jazz into a tailspin.

What did Boozer say, you ask? That his strained left quadriceps tendon would keep him out until the All-Star break, or for the rest of the season? That Jerry Sloan was a grouchy old man? That Paul Millsap was the most overrated player in the NBA -- not the most underrated, the honor bestowed upon him Thursday?

Nope. Nothing quite that controversial. Nothing even remotely surprising or combustible at all.

Boozer simply confirmed what anyone who follows professional basketball should have known: That he intends to declined his $12.7 million player option this coming summer and seek a long-term deal.

"I'm opting out. No matter what, I'm going to get a raise regardless," Boozer said. "I am going to opt out, I don't see why I wouldn't, I think it's a very good business decision for me and my family, but I'd also like to see what happens with the Jazz and stay here."

That quote rippled through the Jazz organization, all the way up to owner Larry Miller, who blistered Boozer on his weekly radio show Thursday.

 "It's one of the top 10 stupidest things I've heard an NBA player do in 20 years," Miller said.

Why would this come as such a surprise? Top-tier players like Boozer and Kobe Bryant (early termination clauses in '09), plus LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade (player options in 2010) specifically negotiated escape clauses in their current deals -- escape clauses that kick in before the current collective bargaining agreement expires. A host of others -- Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, Michael Redd, Yao Ming, Paul Pierce, Richard Jefferson, Tyson Chandler -- have early termination clauses in 2010. What's the big deal?

All of these clauses were negotiated so marquee players would have a chance to sign long-term deals -- in many cases, the last of their careers -- under the current rules. Once the CBA expires in 2011, most players and agents believe the new agreement will be less favorable to them and more favorable to the owners. All of the above players will get more money if they opt out or terminate their contracts before the CBA expires than they would if they waited.

James has parsed his words carefully in discussing his 2010 options, but he has all but said what Boozer said the other night -- that he plans to decline his player option and become a free agent. That doesn't mean James, Boozer, Bosh, Wade and others will leave their teams; after all, their current teams can pay them more and give them longer deals. Boozer went so far as to say that in his quote, adding that he'd "like to see what happens with the Jazz and stay here."

Despite the fact that Boozer was merely being honest and essentially stating the obvious, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan expressed disappointment with his comments. Boozer went into damage control mode with local beat reporters; here is the transcript of their conference call. Boozer and the Jazz tried to blame the messenger, a standard media relations ploy when someone says something controversial. The spin was that Boozer thought he was simply chatting off the record with Sheridan, who spent a lot of time with Boozer and teammate Deron Williams while covering Team USA's gold medal run in Beijing. Boozer even invoked the old "the reporter put words in my mouth" tactic. Don't believe it.

There was nothing off-the-record or sinister about this, and nothing really surprising or controversial, either. It's just business, people. Good business, at that. Can't be mad at Boozer -- or any other player -- for that.


Posted on: December 18, 2008 6:20 pm

Warriors wouldn't do Felton deal

While the Warriors' reported interest in Ray Felton makes sense on some levels, it doesn't make sense to the Warriors.

This from a person with direct knowledge of the team's thinking: Golden State would not trade a 6-10 forward with huge upside for a point guard. And it doesn't matter whether the 6-10 forward's name is Anthony Randolph or Brandan Wright. The Warriors "wouldn't even consider that in any way, shape or form," the person said.

The thinking is this: The Warriors just made a trade for a combo guard (Jamal Crawford), and if they're trading anybody, it would be an established veteran whose upside is known. Randolph and Wright both have played sporadically, and the Warriors need to see what they are -- especially Randolph, who is only 19.

Once Monta Ellis comes back from an offseason ankle injury, the team's strategy is to see who fits with Ellis rather than start trading for other players -- especially another guard -- and see if Ellis fits with them.

The one caveat when it comes to the Warriors is that nobody is clear on who is making the decisions. Team president Robert Rowell has taken on more personnel authority, and coach Don Nelson has been known to engage in a trade discussion or two. And remember who coaches the Charlotte Bobcats? Larry Brown, who got fired by the Knicks, in part, for agreeing to trades behind team president Isiah Thomas' back.

It is a tangled web being woven in the Bay area, but for now, Felton doesn't appear likely to be ensnared in it.




Posted on: December 18, 2008 11:50 am
Edited on: December 18, 2008 4:24 pm

Thursday Shootaround

Your daily speed-read on the NBA includes big news from Eric Gordon, Elton Brand's dislocated shoulder, Mike D'Antoni being touted as coach of the year, Shaq being Shaq, and the biggest choke of the season:

* I'll give Clippers rookie Eric Gordon this: He knows how to make an entrance. The day before Gordon is to play his first NBA game in his home state of Indiana, he made news -- big news -- in an article teased on the front page of the Indianapolis Star Thursday. Gordon, a freshman on the Indiana University team wracked by a recruiting scandal and coach Kelvin Sampson's ouster, alleged that drug use on the team contributed to the collapse. Wow.

* Two games into the Tony DiLeo era in Philadelphia, the 76ers have lost star power forward Elton Brand to a dislocated right shoulder. MRI Thursday. Depending on the severity, Brand could miss a month -- as teammate Thaddeus Young did with the same injury earlier in his career. Dwyane Wade missed six weeks with a dislocated shoulder during the 2006-07 season. It's a shame for Brand, who has been blamed for the Sixers' slow start that led to the firing of Mo Cheeks over the weekend. It was obvious that Brand still wasn't 100 percent recovered from an Achilles injury that kept him out of all but eight games last season.

* Mike D'Antoni getting early props for coach of the year. Suns fans agree in this webisode from, which also shows Shaq can still be Shaq when he feels like it. 

* If Sacramento Kings fans were choosing their next coach, it would be ...

* HoopsAddict calls Celtics-Lakers on Christmas day "potentially the most anticipated regular season game in decades." What, bigger than Charlotte-Memphis Friday night?

* Dime poses the question: Was Joe Johnson's missed free throw with 2.7 seconds left and the Hawks trailing the Celtics by one the biggest choke of the season? I call it an anomaly. According to, Johnson hadn't missed a free throw all season in a "clutch situation."

* How much is Carlos Boozer worth? He's going to find out.




Category: NBA
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