Category:NBA
Posted on: March 10, 2012 1:16 pm
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I've moved!

Dear fellow BergerSphere inhabitants,

The BergerSphere has moved! My new location is better, snazzier and frankly, more fun than ever. So if you've bookmarked this blog and are looking for trade deadline news and updates this week, come visit and bookmark my new location:

http://www.cbssports.com/nba/blog/k
en-berger

See you on the other side.

Ken 
Posted on: March 9, 2012 12:10 am
 

Magic want Melo-like haul for Howard

Magic executives have continued to tell teams this week they do not intend to trade Dwight Howard, but several teams came away from the conversations with a clear picture of what the club wants if it changes course: a replica of the deal Denver pulled off last February for Carmelo Anthony, multiple league sources told CBSSports.com Thursday.

If the Magic decide to trade Howard, they have “not closed any doors” on potential suitors, said a person familiar with the organization’s strategy. Teams that are on and off Howard’s list of preferred destinations – the Nets, Mavericks and Lakers – will be considered, and may the highest bidder win, sources said.

What Orlando is seeking if it makes a deal for the All-Star center is a package similar to what the Nuggets received for Anthony at the 2011 trade deadline: multiple good, young players and draft picks. Orlando executives view the Denver model as a middle ground between blowing up a contender and starting over with draft picks and reaching for veteran All-Stars whose contracts ultimately could hinder the recovery from a Howard trade.

Representatives of three teams in the mix for Howard – either on his list or among teams willing to gamble on trading for him in the hopes that he can be persuaded to stay beyond this season – told CBSSports.com Thursday that the Magic have not decided which path to pursue. Howard, 26, can opt out of his $19.5 million contract after the season and become an unrestricted free agent. His formal trade request through agent Dan Fegan of Lagadere Unlimited remains on the table and he has not given the Magic any commitment to opt in and/or re-sign after the season.

In a complicated, three-team trade for Anthony that was consummated after a five-month marathon over his desire to join the Knicks, the Nuggets came away with a treasure trove of young talent and draft picks: Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and 7-footer Timofey Mozgov plus a future first-round pick and two future second-round picks. Felton has since been dealt to Portland for Andre Miller. The Nuggets recently signed Gallinari to a four-year, $42 million extension (about half what Anthony makes over the same period), and are hoping to get Chandler, a potential 20-point scorer, back after a stint in China before the season is over.

The Nuggets also received another 7-footer, Kosta Koufos, from Minnesota, which made the trade work under league cap rules by taking Eddy Curry and Anthony Randolph from the Knicks along with a second-round pick from Denver.

For a variety of reasons, a similar haul isn’t realistic for Howard, despite the fact that he’s a far more valuable star than Anthony. The Knicks also got former All-Star Chauncey Billups in the deal, and the Nuggets were able to parlay interest from the Knicks, Nets and other teams Anthony had no intention of extending his contract with into a bidding war that drove the price for him through the roof.

If a player is heading out of Orlando with Howard, it is likely to be Hedo Turkoglu. Unlike Billups – a productive veteran leader with one year left on his contract – Turkuglo will be a liability in the deal due to his declining skills and the $23.4 million he is owed over the next two seasons.

Nonetheless, the revelation that Orlando wants similar assets as those Denver received for Anthony moved the needle on the Howard saga with only a week to go before the March 15 trade deadline. If the Magic decide not to trade Howard by next Thursday, they face the prospect of losing him as a free agent and receiving no assets in return.

The Mavericks and Lakers, teams loaded with high-priced veterans, do not have the kind of assets the Magic want for Howard. The Nets, with 24-year-old 7-footer Brook Lopez and promising rookie guard MarShon Brooks, come closer – though two people familiar with the Orlando strategy told CBSSports.com Thursday that none of the three teams has assets that would entice the Magic to part with Howard. Perhaps this is why Orlando officials have been more forthcoming in recent days about what they’d want in a package for Howard, and why at least one rival GM interpreted this shift in posture as an indication that Orlando understands it needs to create competition and prime the pump on the bidding war.

With the Magic determined to trade Howard to the team with the best offer if they decide to move him, a deal sending Howard to a so-called “rental” team (i.e., one he will refuse to give a long-term commitment to as part of the trade) could play right into the Nets’ hands. If, for example, Orlando traded Howard to Golden State and Howard opted out after the season, the Nets would be in a position to sign him as an unrestricted free agent without giving up any players or draft picks.

The other team aggressively trying to maneuver for a shot at acquiring Howard and persuading him to sign this summer is the Rockets, who need a replacement for retired center Yao Ming and who are still recovering from the voided Chris Paul trade that would’ve landed Pau Gasol from the Lakers. But a more serious contender could emerge in the coming days: the Hawks, who are dealing with disgruntled should-be All-Star Josh Smith’s own reported trade request. Smith and Al Horford would represent a coup for the Magic considering the alternative of losing Howard for nothing, and Atlanta is Howard’s hometown, where he attended Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy. Even with the potential of getting – and keeping – a player of Howard’s popularity and impact, questions remain about whether the Atlanta ownership group would be able to afford two max players going forward. Joe Johnson is owed $90 million over the next four years.

If nothing else, Howard’s familiarity with Atlanta would diminish the biggest impediment for another potential rental team giving up major assets to get him: Aside from it being an untenable gamble in a normal season, it’s even more so in this one. If, for example, Howard were traded against his will to Golden State, he’d play only 26 games with his new team – and only 12 home games in his new surroundings.

“That’s not a lot of games to get attached to Golden State,” one rival executive said.

Could the Warriors possibly give up Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Ekpe Udoh, etc., under those circumstances? The Magic hope so, which is why the Howard saga quietly escalated to the next phase Thursday: Orlando’s attempt to follow the Denver model by creating a bidding war and scoring a Melo-like haul of assets.

So from now until 3 p.m. on March 15, the Dwight Howard story is open for business, 24 hours a day.
Posted on: March 5, 2012 4:05 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2012 4:22 pm
 

Nets' Lopez to miss 3 weeks with ankle sprain

The Nets got a rare dose of positive injury news Monday when X-rays on center Brook Lopez's right ankle were negative. The key piece of a potential trade with Orlando for All-Star Dwight Howard will be in a walking boot for what the team described as a precaution and will miss three weeks.

Though that puts Lopez on the shelf until after the March 15 trade deadline, team officials privately were expecting worse. Lopez was injured Sunday night during Deron Williams' 57-point game in Charlotte and left the arena on crutches.

Lopez missed the Nets' first 32 games with a broken right foot, putting a damper on trade discussions between New Jersey and Orlando. The Magic have been telling teams over the past month that they intend to keep Howard beyond the trade deadline, but rival executives are dubious. Howard has not publicly or privately given any indication that he wants to stay with the Magic beyond this season, and Orlando could lose him as an unrestricted free agent without getting any assets in return under new collectively bargained guidelines governing sign-and-trades.

Howard's list of preferred destinations has not changed since the summer, and it includes the Nets, Mavericks and Lakers. New Jersey and Dallas will have the cap room to offer Howard a four-year, $81 million deal after Howard opts out July 1. If he stayed in Orlando, Howard would get an extra year and 7.5 percent annual raises -- as opposed to the four-year deal and 4.5 percent raises he'd get by leaving. Barring injury, the difference isn't as dramatic as it seems, since Howard, 26, would make most of it up on his next contract. He'd do even better in Texas, where there is no state income tax.

The Nets, who can offer Howard the allure of Williams' star power and their impending move to Brooklyn, continue to be the front runners for Howard if the Magic decide to trade him. Rival executives believe the Magic would be foolish to misread Howard's desire to change teams this summer, and the Nets have the roster and cap flexibility to provide Orlando with the assets they'd need to rebuild.

Meanwhile, sources say serious trade discussions league-wide are on hold while teams await a verdict from Orlando on Howard.

"That has to drop before anything else does," one rival executive said Monday. 
Posted on: March 1, 2012 7:57 pm
 

On Wilt's day, Russell takes a pass

The 50th anniversary of Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game is not only an occasion to remember the accomplishment, but also the man.

What better way to reflect on Chamberlain’s signature moment than through the eyes of his friend and most bitter rival?

So I called Bill Russell, the 11-time champion of the Celtics, and asked if he’d be so kind as to share his thoughts about the occasion 50 years ago Friday. I’ll provide his response, followed by the context.
 
The response from Russell: “Not really.”

“Is it a bad time, or is it a topic you don’t really want to talk about?”

“A little of both,” he said.

And that was that. I apologized for the intrusion and wished Russell the best.

“No intrusion,” Russell said. “And thank you.”

I shared the conversation with Sy Goldberg, Chamberlain’s longtime friend and attorney. On the phone from Los Angeles, Goldberg was neither surprised nor particularly offended by Russell’s reaction.

“There was a love-hate relationship between these two guys,” Goldberg said.

Let it be noted that Russell, who turned 78 last month, harbors no grudges or animosity toward Chamberlain – nothing different than they ever did, anyway. Goldberg said in the old days, the NBA used to schedule the Sixers and Celtics on Thanksgiving Day, and when the game was in Philadelphia, Russell was a guest at casa de Chamberlain for Thanksgiving dinner.

“Russell was there all the time,” Goldberg said. “They were close friends.”

But Chamberlain never forgave Russell for questioning his toughness after Lakers coach Jan van Breda Kolff refused to put an injured Chamberlain back into Game 7 of the 1969 NBA Finals against the Celtics. Chamberlain had asked out with six minutes left and asked back in with three minutes left, but van Breda Kolff declined. The Celtics won, 108-106, for their second straight championship and last of the Russell era.

“That day, Russell said something like, ‘I don’t care how bad he was, I would never have come out of the game,’” Goldberg said. “Wilt never forgave him for that.”

But with Russell and Chamberlain, the hard feelings weren’t permanent. On the day Chamberlain died of heart failure, Oct. 12, 1999, Goldberg got a call from a frantic Russell, who didn’t want to believe the news.

“I had been called by the gardener, and the police were there, and it was real pandemonium,” Goldberg said. “And I got a call from Bill Russell. His quote was: ‘I wouldn’t believe any news at all unless you tell me it’s true.’ And he sounded like he was devastated.”

In the old days, Chamberlain got all the attention and Russell got most of the championships. So on the eve of Wilt’s 100-point anniversary, the old Celtic stays quiet.

Maybe that’s for the best. Maybe that’s how Wilt would’ve wanted it.
Posted on: March 1, 2012 6:30 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2012 12:11 pm
 

The story behind the audio of Wilt's 100

Of all the improbable circumstances that collided on the night 50 years ago when Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points, perhaps none was more devastating than the realization that hit play-by-play man Bill Campbell after the game.

As Campbell was driving home from Hershey, Pa., to his home in Broomall, Pa., after using his velvety voice to document the feat for humanity, he realized what a terrible mistake he’d made.

“It suddenly hit me halfway home, maybe one in the morning,” Campbell said on the phone this week. “One hundred points and I didn’t even tape the game.”

Fortunately for Campbell, he later got a phone message from a man whose name he didn’t recognize, and it saved him a lifetime of embarrassment – and provided the public with a lasting memory of Chamberlain’s unprecedented feat.

“I called this guy back, and he told me, ‘I’m sure as a representative of a fine professional organization, you obviously have a very skillfully produced recording of this event,’” Campbell said. “I didn’t say we didn’t. He said he had recorded the fourth quarter, had done it at home on his little ham-and-egg set. And he said, ‘Would you mind if I sent it to you as a memento of the occasion.’ And I thought, ‘Would I mind? This may get me off the hook!’”

The recording of the fourth quarter of Chamberlain’s 100-point performance for the Philadelphia Warriors against the New York Knicks on March 2, 1962 was made by a college student named Jim Trelease, who bootlegged the recording in his University of Massachusetts dorm room. If not for that – Campbell calmly calling, “He made it! He made it! A dipper dunk! He made it!” after the basket that got Wilt to 100 -- the accomplishment would be even more mythical than it already is. There were no TV cameras in Hershey that night, and thus no video of the historic event

Campbell, who is planning to attend the Philadelphia 76ers’ game against the Golden State Warriors Friday night in Philly to commemorate the 50th anniversary, said he later heard from Chamberlain himself about that recording.

“When Wilt was named to the Hall of Fame, he called in from Los Angeles and he said, ‘Do you have any of the 100-point game?’” Campbell said. “He said, ‘Send it to the Hall of Fame.’ And we sent it to the Hall of Fame, and they were delighted to have it.”

And so are we.
Posted on: February 25, 2012 8:56 pm
 

Stern anoints Silver as successor

ORLANDO, Fla. – David Stern proclaimed Saturday night what has long been assumed but never confirmed: He will recommend deputy commissioner Adam Silver to succeed him as commissioner when he retires.

“One of the things that a good CEO does -- and I try to be a good CEO -- is provide his board with a spectacular choice for his successor,” Stern said during his annual All-Star news conference. “And I have done that. And that's Adam.”

Stern, 69, reiterated what he said after the collective bargaining agreement saving a 66-game season after a 149-day lockout was finalized: He will not be commissioner when both sides have the opportunity to opt out of the deal in 2017. Beyond that, he placed no timetable on his departure, but said he would have the discussion with owners “very soon.”

Silver has been deputy commissioner and chief operating office since 2006 after serving for more than eight years as president and COO of NBA Entertainment. He has played a key role in negotiating the league’s last two broadcast rights agreements and the last four collective bargaining agreements with the National Basketball Players Association – and also created NBA China as a stand-alone entity. Silver, who also played a key role in delivering the league’s public message to the media during the lockout, was asked during Stern’s news conference how prepared he is for the job. He smiled and slid the microphone in front of Stern.

“He’s a first-rate, top-of-the-class executive,” Stern said.

Stern's recommendation of Silver would have to be approved by the league's Board of Governors.

Among the other news Stern made Saturday night:

• Negotiations in Orlando involving the league, city of Sacramento and the Maloof family on achieving a funding plan for a new arena before a March 1 deadline has “several remaining points that may or not be bridged,” Stern said. The talks will continue Sunday, and Stern said the issue is coming up with additional funding necessary to pay for the project. “Life is a negotiation,” he said. “… It’s getting there, but it’s just not there yet. And we’re looking for other ways, imaginative ways, to bridge the gap.”

• He confirmed that there is a leading candidate to purchase the New Orleans Hornets and that the league is “optimistic that we will make a deal” in the next “week or 10 days.” There is a second group that is “in sort of second place,” Stern said, “waiting to see how we do with group one.” Both groups would keep the team in New Orleans, where the city is continuing to negotiate an arena lease extension upon which the ownership deal is contingent.

• Stern confirmed that he has spoken with Seattle investor Chris Hansen, who is spearheading support for an arena to attract a team and replace the Supersonics, who moved to Oklahoma City in 2008. “It sounded OK to us,” Stern said of Hansen’s plan. “Go for it. That’s all.” But Stern acknowledged that the plan would require that “we have a team that we could put there.” As arena funding talks with Sacramento and the Malodors continue, one might view Stern’s enthusiasm about the prospect of a return to Seattle as a leverage point in that negotiation.

• Stern alluded to increased attendance, TV ratings and sales, but didn’t give specifics. National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter said earlier in the day that Stern has told him attendance and merchandise sales are up, and that Silver told him in a recent meeting that league revenues are expected to increase more than pre-lockout projections. “Everything is good,” Stern said.

• Asked whether the NBA would consider aiding teams that lose superstars to free agency, such as host city Orlando is facing with Dwight Howard, Stern said, and “No. Why should we? … We have a system that has a draft that basically tells a player where he’s going to play in this league when he’s drafted, and a further system that has a huge advantage to the team that has him. Our players could play for seven years for a team they didn’t choose. And we think that’s a system, but not a prison. ... I'm sure Dwight will make a good and wise decision for him."

• Stern shot down the notion of adding expansion teams in North America (as if there aren’t too many teams already). But he wouldn’t rule out overseas expansion in the next 10 years, deferring the topic to silver, who said, “We’ll see.”

• Stern took issue when asked to evaluate his decision, when acting in his capacity as the owner of the Hornets, to disallow the trade that would’ve sent Chris Paul to the Lakers. “There’s no superstar that gets traded in this league unless the owner says, ‘Go ahead with it.’ And in the case of New Orleans, the representative of the owner said, ‘That’s not a trade we’re going to make.’” “But that representative was you?” Stern was asked. “Correct,” he said. “And was that the right move to make?” “Buy a ticket and see,” Stern said. “We’ll see how it works out.”

• Asked about reports that shoe companies are trying to steer their star clients to bigger markets – a reference to Adidas’ relationship with Howard – Silver said the league does not have jurisdiction over shoe companies. “But we have looked into it, and we have been assured by the two major shoe companies in the league that the incentives they build into contracts are based on winning as opposed to market size,” Silver said.

• On Jeremy Lin, the Taiwanese-American whose sudden emergence with the Knicks has spawned intense global interest, Stern said, “I just think it’s the universal story of the underdog stepping forward.”
Posted on: February 24, 2012 6:25 pm
 

NBA to make 13-man rosters permanent

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The NBA’s competition committee voted Friday to make the transition rule allowing teams to dress and play 13 players permanent and to shorten and streamline the waiver period, said Stu Jackson, the league’s executive vice president of basketball operations.

The roster rule was approved unanimously by the committee consisting of league and team executives and will be recommended to the Board of Governors for formal adoption pending approval by the players’ union. The waiver period, currently 48 business hours during the season and seven days from the end of the season until August 15, would be changed to 48 hours year-round, including weekends.

The long-held practice of the league maintaining three daily waiver reporting times – 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. ET – would be replaced by a single daily reporting time of 5 p.m. ET, Jackson said. The changes could take effect as soon as this summer.

The roster rule initially was employed with the intention of allowing teams to dress 13 players but only play 12. It was subsequently decided that all 13 who dressed would be able to play. The committee voted Friday to recommend making the rule permanent.

“It just makes more sense for our teams,” Jackson said.

One team representative made what Jackson characterized as a “somewhat humorous” proposal that actually might achieve the league’s goal of shortening games: Penalize players for moving around the lane area and slapping fives after free throws. The committee didn’t pass that proposal, but adopted an informal recommendation that in extreme cases – such as a player walking to half court to high-five after a free throw – the team should be assessed a delay-of-game warning.

“It’s more of a referee interpretation,” Jackson said.

Jackson made the usual presentation on the quality of play, including the fact that scoring is down -- from 99.3 points per team per game at this point last season to 95.0. About half the difference can be attributed to fewer fouls, fewer free-throw attempts and lower free-throw percentage, Jackson said. Free-throw attempts are down 2.3 per team per game, fouls are down 2.7 per game and points from free throws are down 2.1 per game.

“Possessions are down very slightly, we’re not shooting the ball as well and then there’s the cumulative effect of what happened before the season,” Jackson said. “You had a shortened preseason, you don’t have as much time to prepare, and teams are going deeper into their bench and playing the 10th, 11th and 12th guy more.”

The committee also viewed a presentation on player tracking, a technology that digitally illustrates every movement a player makes during a game -- such as how high they jump when getting a rebound and how much space is between the shooter and defender, and how shooting percentage varies with that space. About 10 teams currently use a version of this technology to evaluate players, and the committee discussed the idea of someday providing it at the league level to all teams.

“That won’t happen for quite a while, but it’s certainly worth monitoring,” Jackson said.
Posted on: February 20, 2012 11:56 pm
 

Against Lin, D-Will restores sanity

NEW YORK – For 16 days, all Deron Williams heard about was Linsanity.

“It started on me,” Williams said Monday night.

And his personal mission was to have it end on him, too.

“We definitely had this one circled,” Williams said. “The whole team did, and I personally did because it’s been stuck on my mind. This all started on me.”

On a night when the Knicks assembled their full array of stars around amazing point guard Jeremy Lin, it was Williams, the one-man show from across the Hudson, who stole the show. Williams had a season-high 38 points, including a career-high eight 3-pointers, as the Nets beat the Knicks 100-92 to avenge a Feb. 4 loss at Madison Square Garden that spawned the incredible rise of Lin.

“Like I said, I had this one circled,” Williams said. “I don’t really watch SportsCenter. I don’t really watch too many games. But I do see Twitter. People tweet me and every three lines was, ‘Jeremy Lin destroys Deron Williams.’ So I definitely took offense to that. I had it circled.”

So did Knicks fans who were waiting to see how Carmelo Anthony, returning from a seven-game absence due to a groin injury, would fit with Lin running the offense. The best way to put it is: some good, some bad, lots to work on.

Anthony was willing to work within the flow of the offense, scoring his first basket on a pick-and-pop with Lin and then setting up Amar’e Stoudemire for two straight baskets, including and three-point play. But predictably, given Anthony’s extended absence while Linsanity gained momentum without him, the Knicks’ offense lacked its usual flow.

Lin’s 21 points, nine assists and seven rebounds weren’t enough, and both Anthony (11 points, 4-for-11 shooting, six turnovers) and Stoudemire (17 points, four rebounds) struggled to pick the right times to assert themselves. Baron Davis also was ineffective in his first game of the season after missing the first 32 with a bad back, and it was J.R. Smith’s second game with the team.

“We have to get some things sorted out, and we know that,” Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said.

Before we get back to Williams, who was the biggest reason for the Knicks’ struggles because he flat wore out Lin on the defensive end, here’s what you need to know about the much-publicized job of fitting Melo back into the Knicks’ offense: It can work, but everyone is going to have to adjust – including him.

Straight from a scout who has watched Anthony’s career extensively, here are the issues: Anthony and Stoudemire like to operate in the same area of the floor, and that’s something D’Antoni has to figure out regardless of who the point guard is. The way Lin has played for the first 11 games of this run, it will be easier for him to figure out than it was for any of the other point guards the Knicks have tried.

Here’s the other, and perhaps more important issue: Anthony likes to set up and call for the ball in an area that is between the low block and the 3-point line, a little wider than most mid-post isolation scorers want the ball. Anthony has been effective his entire career from that area, because he has so many options from there. But he also takes up a lot of space, thus killing the corner 3-pointer – so crucial to D’Antoni’s style – on that side of the floor, and also crowding out the pick-and-roll and wing penetration. One game is a little soon to call it a failure, though I’m sure that won’t stop it from happening.

“We are not in panic mode,” Lin said. Now, back to the real star of the show.

Back to D-Willsanity. After one night of well-deserved satisfaction, Williams goes back to his reality of playing for a 10-24 team that is quite obviously in the Knicks’ shadow for the time being. At his locker in the visiting room Monday night, Williams called this “definitely the toughest year of my career and one of the toughest years of my life.”

“I’ve never lost at any level going back to middle school,” Williams said. “It’s definitely been a struggle, but I’m learning to fight through things and trying to lead guys even though it’s not the best situation all the time. We’re playing better as it goes and learning how to play and we’re developing guys. So it’s still a fun process. I just hope it’s not an extended process.”

Which brings us to Williams’ future, the options he has before him with an opt-out after the season and whether he’ll be chastened in his desire to team up with stars – in Brooklyn or somewhere else next season – when he sees that it isn’t always easy to make it all fit.

“We still need to get some guys in here, there’s no doubt about that, if we want to be a better team,” Williams said. “We’re 10-24 right now. We’ve got to get some players.”

Asked how he feels about the Nets’ plan to make that happen, Williams said, “I’m very comfortable right now. There’s not much I can really do besides play basketball. And that’s what I said I was going to do from the beginning of the season: play basketball and let everything work itself out, and at the end of the season, assess where things are. I’m sure I’ll have a conversation with Billy (King, the Nets’ president), with ownership and go from there.”

On Wednesday night, the Nets’ last game before the All-Star break, Williams will see his friend and foe (for now), Dwight Howard, when the Nets host the Magic. The fortunes of so many are tied up in what happens with Howard between now and the March 15 trade deadline – and with both of them after that, on July 1.

“It’ll be interesting to see how the fans are going to react,” Williams said. “I’m sure it’ll be pretty crazy. I kind of look forward to the game. I like playing against him, so it should be fun.”

Enduring the worst season of his professional life, D-Will deserves to have some fun. And putting a speed bump in front of Linsanity, which started on his watch, was well worth the trip back across the river.
 
 
 
 
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