Tag:Wizards
Posted on: December 1, 2010 2:53 pm
  •  
 

Post-Ups

When LeBron James struts to the scorer's table in Cleveland Thursday night and tosses his customary talc in the air -- to a vicious chorus of boos or derisive laughter -- all eyes will be on how the prodigal son responds to being a pariah on the court he used to own.

That's fine. It's a story -- a big one by NBA regular season standards -- and one that will be examined ad nauseum during the relentless news cycle that follows.

I happen to have some context when it comes to Cleveland sports misery, and also boiling Cleveland sports bile. As a writer for the Associated Press, I sat in the press box at then-Jacobs Field for former Indians hero Albert Belle's return after signing a free-agent contract with the White Sox. The atmosphere was venomous, to say the least. I was also on hand for a much sadder, more poignant moment when the contents of doomed Municipal Stadium were auctioned to teary-eyed fans after Art Modell hijacked the beloved Browns and schlepped them to Baltimore. Among the items up for bidding that day, appropriately enough, was the commode from Modell's office.

Not to bore you with my life story, but I was also in the press box in Miami when Jose Mesa vomited away what would've been Cleveland's first pro sports championship in four decades in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series. Visions of Edgar Renteria and Craig Counsell dance in my head to this day.

I don't come from Cleveland; I only lived there for two of the best years of my life as a sports writer. But I think I can safely speak for the good people of Northeast Ohio when I say that James leaving the Cavaliers for the Miami Heat was worse than all of the above.

There is vibrant debate in the LeBron-o-sphere about how Cleveland fans should treat him Thursday night. Gregg Doyel, a proud Ohioan, pleads for Clevelanders to comport themselves with dignity and not make LeBron the victim. Point well-taken. Others say screw that ; give the traitor all the venom that he's got coming to him. Knowing how much sports heartache that city has endured over the decades, I can understand that point, too.

There's a movement afoot to have 20,000 people laugh hysterically at LeBron when he's introduced, and various chants have been scripted for when he touches the ball, checks into the game, or steps to the foul line. Kudos for creativity on those. But here's what I'd like to see. Here's what I think would be the appropriate response: When the Heat are introduced, and specifically when LeBron is introduced, turn your backs on the court and don't make a sound. Not even a whisper. The silent treatment and reverse ovation will be spookier than any alternative, and would haunt your former hero for at least 48 minutes and maybe months. Then, turn around and enjoy the game. Even in a place that has, um, witnessed its share of disappointments, it is still just a game, after all.

And with that, we move on to the rest of this week's Post-Ups:

* Lost in all the hysteria over LeBump and LeCoup attempt on coach Erik Spoelstra this week is the question of what Spoelstra can do with his lineups to improve Miami's performance on the floor. With help from adjusted plus-minus guru Wayne Winston , I dug into the lineups Spoelstra has used this season and came to some interesting conclusions.

The problem doesn't appear to be LeBron and Wade playing together; it's who's on the floor with them that makes a difference. In lineups with both LeBron and Wade, the Heat have outscored the opponent by 61 points. With LeBron only, they're plus-38, and with Wade only they're plus-21. (They're minus-14 with neither, for what it's worth.)

Spoelstra's most frequently used lineup -- the starting lineup of Wade, James, Chris Bosh, Joel Anthony and Carlos Arroyo-- has outscored the opponent by 36 points over 133 minutes. According to Winston, that lineup plays 14.55 points better than average. In other words, those five players would beat an average NBA lineup by 14 points over 48 minutes.

When Spoelstra subs Zydrunas Ilgauskas for Anthony in his second-most used lineup, that number goes down to 2.65 points better than average and Miami is plus-6. What happens when the Heat play without a point guard proves the point I've been harping on all along: Whether he likes it or not, LeBron needs to be the point guard on this team.

By far, Miami's best lineup with James and Wade (and with at least 30 appearances) is one without a true point guard. The Supertwins plus Bosh, Udonis Haslem (currently injured), and James Jones is 44.19 points better than average and outscoring opponents by 29 points in 43 minutes. If anything, Spoelstra should have been using that lineup more often; despite the assumption that Jones' suspect defense is an issue, that lineup is comparable defensively to the starting unit featuring Arroyo and Anthony instead of Jones and Haslem.

Without Haslem, Spoelstra still has an effective option with James and Wade and no true point guard on the floor. But to this point, he's only used this combination 13 times for a total of 17 minutes: James, Wade, Bosh, Ilgauskas and Jones are 45.81 points better than average and plus-15.

The point-guard problem is underscored when Spoelstra uses another point guard other than Arroyo. For example, of the four lineups Spoelstra has used with James, Wade and Eddie House, three of them are awful -- the worst being a lineup of James, Wade, Haslem, Ilgauskas and House, which is 46.99 points worse than average and minus-8.

The bottom line: Aside from using LeBron as a point guard more frequently, you can't really argue too much with the combinations Spoelstra has used most often. LeBron is the one player capable of tailoring his game to the needs of the team, and if he does, that will help Wade emerge from his funk and get the Heat playing like a Super Team instead of a Blooper Team.

* Brendan Haywood's agent, Andy Miller, told CBSSports.com that his client's one-game suspension enforced Friday against the Spurs was for "an isolated incident. ... It's over, and we're moving forward." One person familiar with the situation called it a "flare-up" and a "misunderstanding" between Haywood and coach Rick Carlisle that did not involve minutes or playing time. The relationship between Haywood and Carlisle is not in need of being addressed further, the source said. Haywood logged only 7:58 against Miami in his return Saturday night, but got more than 21 minutes Monday night against Houston -- the Mavericks' sixth straight win.

* As we touched on during preseason , Magic GM Otis Smith was presented a trade proposal involving Gilbert Arenas and Vince Carter this past summer, and despite Smith's close relationship with Arenas, he turned it down. Sources have continued to believe that the Wizards would only be able to trade Arenas if and when he proved he was healthy and in a positive place emotionally after the ruinous 50-game suspension he incurred last season. To the Wizards' delight, that has finally happened. Since being reinserted into the starting lineup eight games ago, Arenas has been consistently exceeding 30 minutes a night and has scored at least 20 points in five of those games. While the Magic have let it be known that they're willing to make a big deal if it involves trading anyone except Dwight Howard, sources say there has been no movement on the Arenas front since the aforementioned discussions fell apart.

* The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported Tuesday that an attendance clause believed to have lapsed in the team's arena lease with the state actually still exists . That means the Hornets, currently 25th in the NBA in attendance despite their 12-5 start, would be permitted to start the relocation wheels spinning by breaking their lease unless they average at least 14,213 for the next 13 games. Team president Hugh Weber reaffirmed the team's commitment to New Orleans in the article, but stopped short of unequivocally stating that the team would not use the clause to break the lease. One reason: It would cost the team $10 million. Another: New ownership would be wise to consider such a move. If the Hornets are struggling now, with inspired play from Chris Paul and a giant-killer mentality instilled by new coach Monty Williams, just imagine how bad the attendance would be if the team was forced to trade Paul after a lockout.

* As we close in on Dec. 15, when numerous free agents signed over the summer become trade-eligible, rival executives have privately started wondering if the Heat would consider parting with one of their Big Three if it meant fielding a more complete team. The face-saving option to trade and the most easily obtainable, executives say, would be Chris Bosh. In fact, one executive speaking on condition of anonymity wondered how it would alter Denver's reluctance to trade Carmelo Anthony if the Heat offered a package centered around Bosh. The Nuggets, according to the executive, might prefer an established star in the low post as opposed to Derrick Favors, an unproven rookie. It's fun speculation, but highly unlikely. Aside from the embarrassment associated with breaking up the ballyhooed Big Three in Miami, the rub would be cost; executives continue to believe that if Denver deals Anthony and/or Chauncey Billups before the February deadline, it will be in a major cost-cutting deal.

* Meanwhile, as the Melo turns, executives are becoming more convinced that Anthony would not agree to an extension with the Nets -- a stance that could kill New Jersey's months-long bid for the superstar once and for all. Having attended a recent Nets game in Newark, which might as well be Russia as far as native New Yorker Anthony is concerned, I concur. Melo is interested in starring in a Broadway show -- or a nearby, off-Broadway equivalent. Had the Nets' move to Brooklyn not been sabotaged by lawsuits and New York City government paralysis, that would've made a huge difference. But Newark is Newark, and I believe Melo is headed elsewhere.
Posted on: November 5, 2010 11:30 pm
 

Arenas after return: 'I thought about retiring'

NEW YORK – It had been 10 months since Gilbert Arenas played a basketball game that counted – 10 long months since he’d assumed the pose at his locker, waiting for the reporters to converge on him. Waiting for the show.

And somehow, someway, Arenas the performer was back Friday night. Not so much on the court, where he looked understandably hesitant and out of his element. But at his locker, digesting an 18-point performance in his first regular season game since a 50-game suspension for bringing guns to the Verizon Center locker room, Gilbert Arenas finally smiled.

“It was a rough ride for me,” Arenas said after the Wizards lost to the Knicks 112-91 in the official unveiling of the Arenas-John Wall backcourt. “The funny part about it is, I didn’t break down until after everything was over with. That’s the weird part. While I was going through it, I had my teammates saying, ‘Keep your head up’. And then once the season ended and everybody left, I didn’t have anybody to talk to anymore. It was like I was just stuck on that island and that’s when it really hit me hard.”

That was how Arenas looked when I walked into the visiting locker room at Madison Square Garden: like a lost soul on an island. A giant ice pack on his left knee, a towel draped over his tattooed legs, Arenas had his eyes closed and his head down when the locker room opened to reporters.

I asked Arenas, the fallen star of the Wizards who hopes to rise again, to describe that breaking point.

“I thought about retiring for a minute, because I really didn’t know what to expect,” Arenas said. “I just thought it was too much negativity for me to come back in. I just didn’t know if I was mentally prepared for it again.”

With $80 million left on his contract, retirement certainly wasn’t an option. But with Wall, the No. 1 pick who had a dismal, nine-turnover night, Arenas knows he’s going to have to adjust. For one, he came off the bench in his first game back. For another, he was hesitant on the attack and did most of his damage on spot-up jumpers. More than anything, Arenas knows there’s hardly a guarantee he’ll be able to resurrect his career alongside the team’s new dominant offensive force and undisputed star of the present and future.

“Players get traded,” Arenas said. “When you look around the league, there’s only a few players that stay with one organization. So while I’m here, I’m going to contribute to the best of my ability and be a great teammate. You know, basketball is basketball, no matter what city you go to. I’ve been here for eight years and I’m happy for that. I could’ve been traded a long time ago, but they hung by and stuck with me. I’m just grateful Ted [Leonsis] believes in me.”

The grim-faced, unemotional Arenas who checked in at the scorer’s table with 2:35 left in the first quarter was a far cry from the showman who’d become one of the sport’s most engaging personalities until his infamous downfall – the joking, cry-for-help display of finger guns on Jan. 5 in Philadelphia, the last time he suited up for a regular season game. Those close to Arenas have been privately pleading with him to go back to being himself – not the caricature who was created to sell tickets and generate lighthearted buzz, but the genuine Arenas, whomever and wherever he is.

The smile, the laughs, the unmistakable look of relief that washed over him at his locker Friday night was a good first step. Though the direction and destination are unknown.

“I was anti-media for a while,” Arenas said. “But you know, it’s part of our jobs. Eventually my personality’s going to come back and kick in. I made mistakes and I’ve got to live with them. I’m just ready to move forward and try to forget about the past. I know it’s going to always be there, but I’m going to try to be a better person and a better teammate.”

Category: NBA
Posted on: November 4, 2010 10:51 am
 

Sixers' Collins not expected to miss more games

Sixers coach Doug Collins is not expected to miss more games due to a vertigo condition that forced him to leave the bench for the second half of Philadelphia's 101-75 victory over Indiana on Wednesday night, a person familiar with the situation told CBSSports.com.

Collins, whose team is struggling out of the gate at 1-4, was treated for a concussion after hitting his head in a fall during preseason and was diagnosed with vertigo. The latest issue with Collins, according to a source, is that he has not been taking his medication on game days because it makes him tired. The effects of vertigo returned after Collins didn't take his medicine for two consecutive days due to back-to-back games against Washington and Indiana. With an adjustment in dosage, Collins is expected to be on the bench for the Sixers' game Friday night against the Cavaliers.



Posted on: November 3, 2010 6:29 pm
 

Asbestos-free MSG to re-open Friday

The World's Most Famous Arena is now free of asbestos, too. Madison Square Garden will reopen in time for the Knicks' game Friday night against No. 1 pick John Wall and the Wizards.

The team issued a statement Wednesday saying environmental experts had provided assurances that the arena is safe after debris fell on the court Monday night during an asbestos-related excavatiion as part of MSG's $775 million to $850 million renovation scheduled for completion in 2013.

The Knicks-Magic game, which was postponed due to the toxic scare Tuesday night, will be rescheduled at a later date.
Posted on: July 16, 2010 9:56 pm
Edited on: July 16, 2010 10:38 pm
 

Summer League Buzz

LAS VEGAS -- If members of LeBron James' entourage get hired by the Miami Heat, the NBA wouldn't rule out opening an investigation into possible salary-cap circumvention, a high-ranking official familiar with the league's thinking told CBSSports.com Friday.

While league officials are not actively pursuing any tampering charges related to James' decision to sign with the Heat -- and, in fact, have received no complaints that would trigger such a probe -- it wouldn't be surprising to see an investigation related to any jobs given to people in James' circle of advisers. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the league would not need a team to lodge a complaint to launch such an investigation.

In a detailed account of the Heat's nearly two-year effort to recruit James to join Dwyane Wade in Miami, Yahoo! Sports on Friday quoted an NBA front office executive who said he wants the league to examine whether Heat president Pat Riley promised jobs or other benefits to members of James' camp as part of his recruiting pitch.

 “You can’t promise jobs or preferential services outside of a contract or a job for a friend," the team executive told Yahoo! Sports. "If that’s part of the deal, it’s a violation.”

The penalties for such side deals designed to circumvent salary-cap rules are severe. In 2000, the Minnesota Timberwolves were fined $3.5 million and lost three draft picks after disclosure of a written deal with free agent Joe Smith. The arrangement called for Smith to play under three consecutive one-year contracts, after which it was agreed that the team would use his Bird rights to sign him to a multi-year deal to make up for the money he'd left on the table. Owner Glen Taylor and then-GM Kevin McHale agreed to leaves of absence in order to get back two other draft picks that had been taken away as part of the penalty. In addition to forfeiture of draft picks, league rules call for a maximum fine of $5 million, voiding the contract of the player in question, and up to a one-year suspension of any team officials involved.

One impediment to prosecuting such a case against the Heat -- if and when members of James' camp are hired for any jobs -- is that it will be difficult to prove it is any different from what the Cavs did to appease James when he played for them. One member of James' circle of friends, Randy Mims, was employed by the Cavs as a "player liaison." The hiring was never investigated, and the Cavs were never subject to any punishment for the arrangement.

__

While the Hawks have ruled out paying luxury tax to sign Shaquille O'Neal -- or any other free agent, for that matter -- the organization hasn't shut the door completely on bringing Shaq to Atlanta, a person familiar with the team's thinking told CBSSports.com. If O'Neal were to lower his asking price from the mid-level exception -- starting at about $5.8 million -- to the bi-annual exception of about $1.9 million, the Hawks would be interested in exploring such a signing. Atlanta would be able to pay O'Neal the bi-annual exception -- or a portion of its mid-level -- and avoid paying luxury tax. But the current ownership group has never paid luxury tax and doesn't plan to begin paying it now. Also, the Hawks haven't discussed -- nor are they interested in -- a sign-and-trade arrangement with the Cavs that would cost them a piece of their young core, sources say.

__

The Raptors continue to explore several potential trade scenarios involving point guard Jose Calderon, who was going to be dealt to the Bobcats earlier this week before Charlotte owner Michael Jordan backed out of the deal. Interest from potential trade partners has been lukewarm, according to a person with knowledge of the talks. ... Wizards assistant GM Tommy Sheppard and Kings assistant GM Jason Levien will interview for the Hornets' GM opening, two people with knowledge of the situation confirmed to CBSSports.com. Hornets president Hugh Weber already has spoken with Spurs executive Dell Demps and plans to speak with former Trail Blazers execs Kevin Pritchard and Tom Penn, as well as former Suns exec David Griffin, sources said. Weber, according to one of the sources, is hoping to have the process wrapped up quickly, perhaps as soon as Sunday. ... Demps has spoken with Suns officials about that team's opening for a personnel man to work under incoming team president Lon Babby, a former player agent.



Posted on: July 16, 2010 12:03 am
Edited on: July 16, 2010 6:47 am
 

Summer League Buzz

LAS VEGAS – After the whirlwind of being the No. 1 pick in the draft, signing his $25 million endorsement contract with Reebok, and doing other things that No. 1 picks have to do, John Wall is back where he’s most comfortable: on the court.

That’s where he was Thursday night, as I was typing this: in a courtside seat with his knees wrapped in ice, texting with abandon and watching former Kentucky teammate Eric Bledsoe play for the Clippers against the Trail Blazers in an NBA Summer League game. Earlier, Wall had 21 points and 10 assists in his third pro game, an 88-82 victory over the Mavericks. Wall is now 3-0 since the Wildcats lost to West Virginia in the East Regional Final.

“I was excited to play that first game and get into a rhythm and start winning games for my team,” Wall said Thursday night.

Though he didn’t shoot well (4-for-19), it was arguably Wall’s best game since arriving in Vegas. He’s averaging 21 points and 9.3 assists, but the best number Thursday night was in the turnover column: three, after committing eight in each of his first two games.

“I’m trying to get better at everything,” Wall said.

Wall said he’s spoken “once or twice a week” with his future backcourt mate, Gilbert Arenas, since the draft, and hopes to work out with the Wizards’ former franchise player before training camp. Wall is used to playing with top talent – three of his former Kentucky teammates are making their NBA debuts in Vegas this week – but finding a comfort zone with Arenas will be his most important on-court relationship to date.

The Wizards, so far, couldn’t be happier with how Wall is handling the first days of his NBA career. “No diva factor,” is how one source described him. That’s exactly what the Wizards need after enduring the nightmarish fallout from Arenas’ firearms incident and suspension.
__

The Hawks continue to be the most likely landing spot for free-agent center Shaquille O’Neal, but even Atlanta – which could use Shaq’s ability to sell tickets – is balking at his asking price. The Hawks, after retaining free-agent Joe Johnson with a six-year, $124 million contract, may not be able to get ownership to approve offering O’Neal the mid-level exception starting at $5.8 million.

The Celtics and Mavericks have been monitoring the O’Neal situation, although one person with knowledge of the Celtics’ plans said they’re “not very” active in their discussions about turning Shaq into the Big Leprechaun. The Knicks’ reported interest in Shaq is lukewarm at best, sources say. But if O’Neal is willing to lower his price – say, to the bi-annual exception of $1.9 million – his market would expand considerably. One Eastern Conference GM said if the right team gets O’Neal, he could be “the key to the East.” The thinking is this: The only weakness on Miami’s superteam is in the middle, where Shaq could do some damage.
__

Hornets officials have begun their search to replace fired GM Jeff Bower, but have not gotten back to several coaching agents involved as to which of their clients will be getting interviews. Former Trail Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard would be good fit, especially considering his relationship with Hornets coach Monty Williams – a former Portland assistant. But a person familiar with the state of the Hornets’ search said several potential candidates haven’t been informed of where they fit on the team’s list of priorities. Meanwhile, ESPN.com reported that Spurs executive Dell Demps interviewed for the job Thursday.

As for Pritchard’s former employer, the Blazers are believed to have zeroed in on Thunder assistant GM Rich Cho, whose strengths in data analysis have wowed the Vulcan Inc. cronies who have owner Paul Allen’s ear. The Vulcanites, as they’re not so fondly called, are wielding plenty of influence in the power vacuum created when Pritchard was fired on draft night, sources say.

The Suns’ search for a day-to-day GM is on hold until former player agent Lon Babby officially is installed as team president. Babby, sources say, will take control of the search, which is believed to be wide open.
__

As impressive as Wall was for the Wizards Thursday night, he wasn’t even close to being the fan favorite in the game. That honor went to Jeremy Lin, the former Harvard standout invited to play on the Mavs’ Summer League team. Lin, trying to become the NBA’s first American-born Asian player, showed a real flare for getting to the basket and was impressive with 13 points and a plus-14 in 27 minutes.


Posted on: July 15, 2010 2:25 pm
 

Livingston gets another chance in Charlotte

LAS VEGAS -- One of the feel-good stories of 2009 Summer League was Shaun Livingston getting another chance with the Oklahoma City Thunder. On Thursday, Livingston was finalizing a three-year deal with the Charlotte Bobcats that will give him his best opportunity yet to revive his once-promising career.

Livingston has agreed to a three-year deal with the Bobcats, with the third year partially guaranteed, two people familiar with the agreement confirmed to CBSSports.com. Livingston, still only 24 as he continues the long road back from a catastrophic knee injury suffered in 2007 with the Clippers, is expected to get a chance to compete with D.J. Augustin to be the Bobcats' starting point guard, one of the people with knowledge of the circumstances said.

In any event, Livingston's signing -- which was not yet official as of Thursday afternoon, the sources said -- would seem to preclude the Bobcats from pursuing point guard Ramon Sessions, who is expected to be dealt by the Timberwolves. As Royce Young pointed out in the Facts & Rumors blog , Indiana is a logical landing spot for Sessions, the odd man out amid Minnesota GM David Kahn's latest bolstering of the point-guard position with his signing of Luke Ridnour to a four-year, $16 million deal.

Livingston, the No. 4 pick of the 2004 draft, averaged 11.3 points and 5.8 assists in 36 games with Oklahoma City and Washington last season. In 26 games (18 starts) with the Wizards, he averaged 13.0 points, 6.2 assists and shot 54 percent from the field.
Posted on: June 29, 2010 3:20 pm
Edited on: June 29, 2010 6:55 pm
 

Heat take small step toward Big Three (UPDATE)


The Heat picked up $356,000 in additional cap space Tuesday by agreeing to a buyout with James Jones, but the only move that would give them a clear, uncomplicated path to fitting max free agents LeBron James and Chris Bosh under the cap with Dwyane Wade -- trading Michael Beasley -- is proving to be the most difficult task of the NBA offseason.

The buyout with Jones, which according to a person familiar with it will be official by Wednesday, means his contract will count only $1.5 million on Miami's cap -- a $356,000 savings on the $1.856 million that had been guaranteed. Jones' full salary had been $4.65 million, but most cap experts already were figuring only the guaranteed amount in Miami's obligations. The buyout was first reported by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel .

But the real key to orchestrating three-max coup when the negotiating period begins Thursday at 12:01 a.m. is removing Beasley, a former No. 2 overall pick, and his $4.9 million contract from Miami's books. Those efforts have fallen on deaf ears among the few teams left with cap space that have displayed a willingness to absorb contracts.

"They literally can't give him away right now," a person with knowledge of the Beasley dilemma told CBSSports.com. "No one is going to take that money on their cap."

According to the person familiar with the situation, the Nets turned down Miami's offer of Beasley for Keyon Dooling's $500,000 non-guaranteed contract. (For obvious reasons. The Nets are trying to clear space for two max free agents, as well, and in fact dumped Yi Jianlian on the Wizards Tuesday to save $3 million.) Minnesota also turned down the Heat's offer of Beasley for Ryan Gomes, the person said.

If the Heat are unable to dump Beasley by July 8, the first day free-agent contracts can be signed and trades approved, they'll have to get creative in trying to pull off the LeBron-Wade-Bosh trifecta they're believed to be working on. Short of pure cap space for re-signing Wade and signign the other two, someone would have to agree to a sign-and-trade (smaller raises and one less year) or take less than the max, which starts at $16.6 million next season.

Meanwhile, speculation and conflicting reports continue to swirl about whether a free-agent summut occurred in Miami this past weekend involving James, Wade and Bosh. A person with direct knowledge of the players' offseason plans told CBSSports.com that the trio -- who are friends and are represented by the same agency, CAA -- have spoken with each other about their offseason strategy since their respective seasons ended. However, the person said there was no meeting in Miami this past weekend. Wade was in Chicago Saturday to conduct business meetings and take his children to the Cubs-White Sox game before flying to an undisclosed location -- not Miami -- on Sunday. Gossip reports in New York placed James on the social scene in Manhattan over the weekend, including a post-draft party at pal Jay-Z's 40/40 Club and a 40th birthday party for marketing maven Steve Stoute at Rockefeller Center.










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