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Posted on: January 24, 2012 12:45 pm
 

Tempers flared in Saunders' last game

In the least surprising news of the lockout-shortened season, the Wizards have fired coach Flip Saunders and replaced him with lead assistant Randy Wittman, multiple sources confirmed to CBSSports.com Tuesday.

Wittman will take over on an interim basis, paving the way for the Wizards to limp their way with some semblance of dignity to as high a lottery pick as possible. After that, sources say, widespread changes are expected.

"They need to clean house," one league front office source said.

Washington started the season 2-15, and hit rock bottom Monday night with a 103-83 loss in Philadelphia. Tempers flared during the first half of that game, as players were "upset about being subbed out" when the Wizards were down by as many as 30 points, a person with knowledge of the situation told CBSSports.com.

"At that point," the person said, "no one had the right to complain about anything."

Players were informed after the loss in Philadelphia that a coaching change was coming, a source said. But the writing had been on the wall since at least the eighth game of the season, Washington's eighth consecutive loss to start the season. After the 93-72 loss to Minnesota, Andray Blatche stated that the players had begun to tune Saunders out.

"Flip is definitely doing his job," Blatche said that night. "I just don't feel like guys are listening and following behind what he says and what he wants us to do."

The Wizards won their first game two nights later against Toronto, but things only got worse from there as they lost seven of their next eight. The lone victory came against the West's top team, Oklahoma City, but the string also included a putrid 64-point effort in a loss to the Bulls without Derrick Rose.

 
Posted on: January 23, 2012 2:13 pm
 

Hibbert, Pacers unlikely to agree on extension

Roy Hibbert wants to stay in Indiana, but is unlikely to agree to an extension by Wednesday's deadline to re-sign 2008 draft picks, his agent, David Falk, said Monday.

"There's no rush," Falk said. "I think it’s unlikely that we’ll come to agreement this week. It doesn’t mean in any way that he's not happy in Indiana. ... We've had very friendly discussions, and both sides recognize that the discussion is probably premature."

Last year, only five of the 30 first-round picks agreed to in-season extensions that took them off the restricted free-agent market, including a five-year, $85 million deal for Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City. So far this year, only the Bulls' Derrick Rose and Durant's teammate, Russell Westbrook, have gotten extensions done. Sources say the most likely candidates to beat Wednesday's deadline for new deals are Kevin Love (Timberwolves), Danilo Gallinari (Nuggets), Ryan Anderson (Magic) and Nicolas Batum (Trail Blazers) -- with Eric Gordon (Hornets) also a possibility.

Hibbert, 25, is averaging 13.9 points and 9.9 rebounds and is shooting 54.2 percent from the field in his fourth season, leading the Pacers to an 11-4 start -- including a 98-96 victory over the Lakers Sunday. Hibbert's scoring and rebounding numbers have gone up every season he's been in the league.
Posted on: January 8, 2012 5:19 pm
 

Winless Wizards not listening to Saunders

WASHINGTON -- There's no question which team is the worst in the NBA. That would be the Wizards, in case you didn't know -- and hopefully you don't, because that would imply that you haven't seen them.

To see them is to understand that the 2008-09 Nets' NBA-record 0-18 in start just might be in jeopardy.

In a performance labeled "sickening" and "embarrassing" by Andray Blatche, whose own performance also could've been thusly described, the Wizards fell to 0-8 Sunday with a 93-72 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Afterward, Blatche (10 points in 31 minutes on 5-for-16 shooting) attempted to get coach Flip Saunders' back, but ended up making his coach look bad in the process. It's been that kind of start to the season for the Wizards, who can't even fall on their swords properly.

"Flip is definitely doing his job," Blatche said. "I just don't feel like guys are listening and following behind what he says and what he wants us to do."

Never a good sign, eight games into the season.

"Guys want to try to do it their own way, and it's not working," Blatche said. "The record shows that. I feel like everybody should go home and focus and think and take consideration for what Flip is saying, because it can't hurt. It damn sure ain't helping us our way."

The Wizards scored 17 points in each of the first two quarters and were mesmerized by Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio. When Rubio entered the game with 1:30 left in the first quarter, he orchestrated a 17-2 run and controlled everything that was happening on the floor during his 31 minutes off the bench with 13 points, 14 assists and six rebounds.

"It's on us as players, because we're the ones being put out there at the end of the day, embarrassing ourselves," Blatche said.

Somehow it made matters worse for the Wizards that Rubio was doing this to them after they'd traded the No. 5 pick in the 2009 draft to Minnesota for Randy Foye and Mike Miller, who were gone after one season. The Wolves drafted Rubio with the fifth pick, and unlike the Wizards at the time, had the luxury of waiting two years for Rubio to show up.

If only the Wizards had known that they had that luxury, too. If they'd kept the pick, Saunders said, "Who knows who it would've been? And if it was Rubio, then John Wall might not be here."

Wall, no doubt, already is wishing he weren't.

"I didn't expect it to be this tough," said Wall who was 3-for-10 with 10 points and six assists. "It's just not good right now. ... You've got to have some type of urgency out there on the court to want to play. You've got to have some type of self-esteem or some type of pride that you don't want to keep being 0-8. It's a pride game now."

Saunders said he was going home Sunday night to ask himself: "What can I do as a coach to get us better? Right now, I haven’t done a good enough job. That’s evident. We’re not totally getting through to some guys and some guys continue to play the way they want to play and not the way we need to play as far as a team."

After his postgame interviews were over, Blatche sauntered out of the Wizards' locker room and turned toward the arena exits. Someone chased him down to shake hands and ask, "How you doing?" "Not good," Blatche said.

And it's hard to figure out how that is going to change.
Posted on: January 5, 2012 3:16 pm
Edited on: January 5, 2012 9:26 pm
 

Bogut to miss 'a few more games'

Bucks center Andrew Bogut is expected to miss "a few more games" while he tends to a private matter that has nothing to do with his own health, according to a statement released Thursday by his agent, David Bauman. 

"It is important to note that this is not related to Andrew's personal health in any way," Bauman said in a statement released to CBSSports.com. "Andrew appreciates the support of the Bucks, his teammates and his fans, and he expects to be back after a few more games' absence fully prepared to play the game that he loves and 100 percent ready to help the Bucks win games."

Bogut is in his native Australia taking care of what has been described as a personal family matter. Given the distance, the earliest he could possibly return would appear to be Sunday's game in Phoenix. After that, the Bucks return home for games Tuesday against the Spurs and Thursday against the Pistons.

"In the interests of the situation, he asks that his privacy be respected," Bauman said.

The Bucks are off to a 2-3 start with Bogut averaging 14.3 points and 10 rebounds in the four games he's played.

Posted on: January 2, 2012 11:36 pm
 

'Uptight' Knicks get burned by Bargnani

NEW YORK -- According to Tyson Chandler, the Knicks were "uptight" Monday night in their first home game since their Christmas Day victory over the Celtics. Playing without Amar'e Stoudemire will do that to you.

But on the two possessions that doomed them against the Toronto Raptors, the Knicks weren't uptight. They were just at the mercy of Andrea Bargnani.

Clinging to a one-point lead in the final minute, the Raptors went to Bargnani on high pick-and-rolls on two straight possessions, anticipating that the Knicks would stick with their game-long approach to switching on the Toronto big man and leaving a smaller defender on him. Earlier in the game, when the screens had been set closer to the elbow, Bargnani got the ball in the mid-post against smaller defenders like Landry Fields and Toney Douglas and made them pay.

Both times at the end of the game, the Knicks switched and left Fields to defend Bargnani on the perimeter instead of Chandler. Both times, Bargnani delivered -- first with a 17-footer, and then with two free throws after Fields fouled him. The Raptors led by as many as 18 and beat the Knicks 90-85.

"It worked out for Andrea," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "One of the things he's doing is learning how to play against switches. That's the same thing Dirk (Nowitzki) went through, and so I was talking to him about that -- how we're using some of the same sets we used for Dirk against switches."

After Bargnani's 17-footer gave Toronto an 86-83 lead, Carmelo Anthony passed to Chandler for a dunk on a pick-and-roll to again cut it to one, 86-85, with 34.6 seconds left. The Raptors ran the same play and baited Fields into a foul, leading to two free throws and an 88-85 Raptors lead with 17.7 seconds left. The Knicks elected to go for a quick 3-point attempt from Anthony, which fell short.

"The play was for me to go quick," Anthony said. "We were down three with 17 seconds left. If I made it, we tied the game up. If I missed it, we had a chance to get the rebound."

Neither happened, leaving the Knicks to dwell on their defensive approach to guarding Bargnani (21 points) on the two most important possessions of the game. Switching on high pick-and-rolls is vintage Mike Woodson, the Knicks' defensive assistant who had a reputation for switching everything in Atlanta because he had so many long, quick athletes.

"I thought it was good that we switched it," Chandler said. "I definitely thought it was the right play. I just think we weren't aggressive enough with it. The play was for us to switch immediately and keep him more on the perimeter where the guard should have the advantage. The only time he's going to have the advantage is when he's more up on the elbow where he can be more comfortable with his shot and just kind of stand flat-footed and just shoot over the guy. Everything we do, we just have to be a little more aggressive with it."

After beating the Kings in Sacramento Saturday without Stoudemire (ankle), the Knicks are hopeful he'll return Wednesday night against Charlotte.

"We're not too concerned," said Anthony, who had 35 points but missed nine of his 13 shots in the second and third quarters. "We need him out there at 100 percent, not 70 percent."

In the meantime, the Knicks (2-3) need to "let go and play," Chandler said.

"Right now, it seems like we're a little uptight, and there's no reason to be," Chandler said.

Not yet, anyway.

 
Posted on: December 25, 2011 4:05 pm
 

'Relieved' Stern vows new CBA will work

DALLAS -- While admitting that he was "a little bit relieved" to be presiding over an opening day that almost didn't happen, NBA commisssioner David Stern vowed Sunday that the new labor agreement reached last month is "going to work over time" to create a competitively balanced league.

"We think we're going to come out of this pretty well," Stern said before his first opening-day stop, the NBA Finals rematch between the Heat and Mavericks. Afterward, Stern was set to make his way to Oklahoma City to watch the Magic and Thunder.

"We're beginning to see shorter contacts already under the collective bargaining agreement as teams cast a wary eye on two years from now, when the enhanced tax gets to be considerably higher and you have to be mindful of that," Stern said.

Of course, this being the NBA -- which has endured a rocky transition to the start of a 66-game season after a contentious, five-month labor fight -- some unresolved issues remain.

First, Stern addressed the fact that the owners of the two teams he was about to watch, Miami's Micky Arison and Dallas' Mark Cuban, were among the five who voted against the new labor deal. Arison has acknowledged that his no-vote was registered in protest, presumably over elements of the revenue-sharing plan that was a major sticking point for owners.

"That doesn't send any signal whatsoever," Stern said of the formal disapproval registered by Arison and Cuban, saying the revenue-sharing plan will amount to close to $200 million by the third year of the CBA -- giving "all teams the opportunity to compete," he said.

"The shorter contracts will make more free agents available on the market, and the enhanced tax system will make it more difficult for teams to use their resources simply to get a competitive advantage," Stern said.

But while Stern said the new agreement continues to embrace the concept of free agency, he solicited suggestions from the media audience as to how to address a more burning issue: the practice of players who are not yet free agents trying to force their way to the team of their choice, as Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul have done, and as Dwight Howard is in the process of doing.

"I'm an avid reader of many of your rants ... so what would you suggest?" Stern said to me when I asked him about the topic

"For example, a franchise tag," I said.

Stern pointed to a new measure in the CBA that allows a team to extend a star player by paying him 30 percent of the salary cap, as the Bulls recently did to retain reigning MVP Derrick Rose.

"After that, when a player has played a number of years in the league -- seven or eight -- and says, 'I don't want to re-sign in this particular city, I have a different choice,' it doesnt concern us at all that he has that option," Stern said. "This league has embraced free agency ... and has for decades. And that's fine."

Stern also pointed out that if a team decides to call an impending free agent's bluff and "try to persuade him" to stay after the season, there is a "strong incentive" in the form of the five-year contract with 7.5 percent raises that the home team can offer as opposed to a four-year deal with 4.5 percent raises that other suitors have available, he said.

"The difference at the max end is going to approach $30 million," Stern said. "So we'll be watching some interesting situations play out, whether players will forgo that difference."

Stern said the concept of players pushing to be traded to a team of his choice "goes back to Wilt (Chamberlain) and Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar). It's well-grounded in all sports, actually. And in fact, the NFL hasn't had to use its franchise player designation a lot. Either the player wants to stay or he doesn't want to stay, so I don't think we need it."

Among the other topics Stern addressed on opening day in Dallas before heading to Oklahoma City:

* On the trend set by the Heat with the formation of their Big Three last summer: "I don't think it's a slippery slope at all. I think the fact that players are able to move from team to team, having played under their contracts -- their rookie extension, whatever it is -- and find a team that is managed well enough so they are under the cap and they can acquire more than one player, we think that's fine. The ultimate for the league will be whether that's an interesting and fun team, and the Heat are an interesting and fun team."

* On the rising cost of stockpiling stars: "I don't think that free agency should be looked askance at because that's what players are entitled to do. It will get expensive over time for teams to acquire players with increasing contracts and the like, but it will have a way of working itself out. And I would say to you that this is going to be a system that is more likely than not to be here 10 years from now."

* On his role in the Chris Paul trade debacle: "I don't think it affected the integrity of the league. But I do think I could have done a better communications job."

* On the new CBA's impact on small-market teams: "A team that goes into the tax for a $20 million player in Year Three is going to pay $45M in tax money. We'll see who does that. And the way this is going to help the small team is that there will be more free agents available over time, playing out their four-year contracts and shorter -- because contracts are getting shorter. ... I hate to use the term 'small market,' because three of the smallest markets in our league are Oklahoma City, New Orleans and San Antonio. Don't cry for any of them, but they're small markets."

* On how and why the labor deal finally got done: "This process got speeded up because we sat down with the players and we agreed that Christmas Day was a wonderful magnet. If we were going to be able to play 66 games -- a 20 percent reduction, a 20 percent reduction in pay, etc. -- let's do it this weekend or we'll see you whenever. And whenever was going to be a very contentious whenever."

* On Cuban's criticism of Stern vetoing Paul's trade to the Lakers: "In the middle of this criticism of me throwing him under the bus, he managed to pick up Lamar Odom. Not bad."

* On what would've happened if the league had not taken over the Hornets: "We thought the team was gone. That would've been it. We wanted to give the team a chance in New Orleans, and we thought they could succeed there."
Posted on: December 22, 2011 2:01 pm
Edited on: December 22, 2011 3:18 pm
 

Nets' Lopez to have foot surgery

Nets center Brook Lopez, the key component of a possible trade for Dwight Howard this season, will have surgery Friday to repair a stress fracture in his right foot, the team announced.

The typical recovery timetable for such an injury is four to six weeks, which would give Lopez more than a month of court time before  the March 15 trade deadline.

Lopez sustained the stress fracture to the fifth metatarsal (the long bone on the outside of the foot) in a preseason game against the Knicks on Wednesday night.

How does the injury affect the Nets' ability to pull off a trade for Howard between now and the trade deadline? It certainly complicates things, and the Eye on Basketball blog takes a look
Category: NBA
Posted on: December 22, 2011 12:01 pm
 

Chuck Hayes cleared to play

Free agent Chuck Hayes, whose four-year deal with the Kings was voided after he failed the team's physical, has been absolved of any heart issues by the renowned Cleveland Clinic, his agents said Thursday.

Hayes underwent "a full day of exhaustive testing and exams" Wednesday, directed by Dr. Steven Nissen, the chairman of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, according to a statement released by agent Calvin Andrews of BDA Sports. On Thursday morning, doctors informed Hayes that "he does not have a heart problem" and that "their recommendation is that he can continue to play basketball without any concerns," the statement said.

"I am happy to say I have a healthy heart and have been cleared to play immediately," Hayes said. "I look forward to getting back on the court as soon as possible."

Hayes' preference is to revisit the deal to play for Sacramento, according to a person familiar with his thinking. The Kings on Wednesday rescinded an offer to free-agent center Samuel Dalembert, but that decision is believed to have been independent of Hayes' second opinion because it was made before the final results were known, a source said.

Kings GM Geoff Petrie did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Hayes' updated medical condition. Petrie is said to have been distraught over Hayes' initial diagnosis, calling it "one of the most heartbreaking moments of my professional or personal life."

Hayes' $21 million contract was the second deal voided due to the discovery of a heart condition during the NBA's abbreviated free-agent signing period. Celtics restricted free agent Jeff Green signed a one-year, $9 million deal with Boston but had the deal voided when his physical turned up an aortic aneurysm requiring season-ending surgery.

Hayes, 28, averaged 7.9 points and 8.1 rebounds last season with the Rockets, who signed Dalembert Wednesday after the Kings rescinded their contract offer to him. 
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com