Tag:Phil Jackson
Posted on: May 11, 2011 10:53 pm
Edited on: May 12, 2011 12:19 am
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Rivers: 'I'm a Celtic'

MIAMI – Doc Rivers received a contract offer from the Celtics three months ago, but invoked one of his favorite rules: No contract talk during the season. So the issue was tabled, the future of the Big Three era Celtics on hold.

Over the past couple of weeks, Rivers came to the conclusion that he wants to come back and coach the Celtics next season as opposed to taking a year off to watch his son, Austin, play at Duke. On Tuesday night, after the Celtics were knocked out of the playoffs with a 97-87 loss to the Heat, Rivers revealed what he concluded during Boston’s latest playoff run.

“I’m leaning heavily toward coming back,” Rivers said. “I haven’t made that decision, but I can tell you I probably will. I’ve kind of come to that over the last couple of weeks. You know, I’m a Celtic. And I love our guys and I want to win again here. I do. I’m competitive as hell, I have a competitive group, and so we’ll see. But I can tell you that’s where I’m at today.”

On his way out of American Airlines Arena, Rivers said Celtics management came back to him after the playoffs started to press for a decision. There was a meeting after one of the opening games of this series in Miami.

“Danny (Ainge) and Wyc (Grousbeck) and them have been on the other side of patience,” Rivers said in the hallway of the arena. “And it gave us a long time to talk about it as a family. So I haven’t signed anything or done anything. But it’s there and I probably will sign it.”

The Lakers losing to Dallas and facing an uncertain future without Phil Jackson and speculation about the team being broken up contributed to Rivers’ desire to get his status resolved quickly.

“I know after listening to the Lakers being broken up after they lost, I’m sure, hell, we’re all done, our team,” Rivers said. “We have to add some people, but other than that I love that locker room. … I don’t believe this team is done.”

Rivers' decision isn't final, though he gave Ainge the go-ahead to speak with his agent, Lonnie Cooper -- a gesture that was understood to mean Rivers is serious about staying.

"I just told them, 'You can just talk to Lonnie,'" Rivers said. "'I don’t want to hear nothing, I don’t want to see nothing. I just want to do my job.' And then we talked last week ... and I told them, 'Whatever you work out with Lonnie, I’ll probably do it."

The pause gave Rivers time to focus on the task at hand and also speak with his family; his wife has only one child still at home, Winter Park High School senior Spencer.

"And he told me he doesn't want me home," Rivers said with a smile.

Rivers' decision has massive implications for the future of the Celtics' veteran core. Kevin Garnett, who has said previously he wouldn't play for a coach other than Rivers, has one year left on his contract. Ray Allen has a player option for next season, and he said Tuesday night, "I don't have any plans of going anywhere else." Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo are under contract for three more seasons.

Rivers staying in Boston also takes him off the market for any number of teams that may have been hoping he'd take a sabbatical and be ready to return to the sideline in 2012. New York, where Rivers played, and Orlando, where he coached, were two of the most logical landing spots.

But sources say Rivers has not forgotten the loyalty Ainge and the Celtics showed him when they stuck with him through one losing season after another before the 2007 trades that brought Garnett, Allen and Pierce together.

"It would be hard for him to leave," one person close to Rivers said. "He wants to show the same loyalty they showed him."

 
Posted on: May 10, 2011 7:06 pm
Edited on: May 10, 2011 8:04 pm
 

Another tough call for Rivers

MIAMI – In the opening minutes of overtime, in a game the Celtics had to have, Doc Rivers faced a decision he never imagined he’d have to confront.

Badly in need of a basket and unable to afford another turnover from the Heat’s relentless trapping of Rajon Rondo, Rivers had to sit his courageous point guard in the hopes that a healthier Delonte West would handle the ball better and Jeff Green would provide better floor-spacing in the most important minutes of the season.

This was barely a minute-and-a-half into overtime of Game 4 against Miami on Monday night, and it was a problem for which there was no good answer. Take Rondo out? With the inspiration he’d provided and desperation he’d infused into the Celtics after returning from what should’ve been a season-ending dislocated elbow in Game 3? Put the heart and soul of the Celtics on the bench?

“I don’t know what the right call was,” Rivers candidly admitted after the 98-90 overtime loss to Miami, which put the Celtics in a 3-1 hole in the best-of-7 series.

With the Celtics facing elimination Wednesday night in Miami, this was not the last difficult decision Rivers will have to make. However and whenever this series ends, Rivers’ next dilemma will be personal and will affect just what happens to the Big Three era Celtics from here.

Five players remain from the Celtics’ 2008 championship. Rondo’s emergence as one of the top point guards in the league and also a leader with incalculable toughness has since transformed the Big Three into the Big Four. But you can’t mention Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen without mentioning the coach who held them all together.

Rivers has stated that he soon plans to take a sabbatical from coaching to watch his son, Austin, play college ball at Duke. It is a father’s dream, to have the freedom and security to enjoy his children’s accomplishments – especially when those accomplishments intersect on the basketball court.

Rivers hasn’t officially proclaimed his intentions, not wanting to become a distraction for a team that he believed had one more championship run in it. Also, Rivers is a basketball coach, not a basketball spectator. It is a hard game to walk away from if it is ingrained in you as it is in Rivers.

But the reality is that the Celtics’ core isn’t getting any younger, and Rivers’ son figures to play one season at Duke before following in his father’s footsteps to the NBA. It’s a now-or-never moment for Rivers, who is needed away from the court in the same way he was needed in Boston to coax enough sacrifice out of his trio of stars to hang a 17th championship banner from the rafters at the new Garden. If Rivers’ legacy as Celtics coach is two Finals appearances and a championship, he can walk away with his head held high.

Pierce has three years left on his contract, while Garnett and Allen have one each. Rivers and the members of his coaching staff are up after this season, and with at least a truncated lockout looming, there could be no basketball work to do until September or so. If you’re Rivers, how do you view the impending labor crisis as it relates to you? Do you chalk up the potentially shortened season to your sabbatical, and get the best of both worlds – some games with your son and one more chance with the Celtics? Or do you walk away and not look back?

Whatever he decides, Rivers must now prepare for more than the diabolical talents of Heat stars Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, who would like nothing better than to slam the window shut on the Celtics’ run of success. He must prepare for some serious soul searching, and for the accompanying speculation that goes with any accomplished coach who steps down with work still to be done.

The Lakers’ Phil Jackson hasn’t even gotten to Montana yet and already the rumor mill has him coaching the Knicks after next season. The hype machine will churn even more vigorously for Rivers, who will be able to name his team and price whenever he decides to come back.

His history with the Knicks makes him a logical fit in New York if Mike D’Antoni doesn’t last beyond next season. His championship pedigree and ability to manage stars and their egos makes him one of the few men breathing who are up to the task of coaching the Lakers. One high-level coaching source told me recently that the most fitting place for Rivers is Orlando, where he lives. In addition to sons Austin and Jeremiah, who played at Georgetown before transferring to Indiana, Rivers has a daughter, Callie, who played volleyball at the University of Florida.

There are plenty of decisions to be made, not the least of which have to do with trying to keep this season alive for the Celtics Wednesday night in an elimination game on the road. But the bigger dilemma is looming on the horizon for Rivers, and it might just have everything to do with whether the Celtics as we know them are finished.
Posted on: May 8, 2011 6:38 pm
Edited on: May 8, 2011 6:54 pm
 

Lakers' run ends in disgrace

What a disgrace. 

The career of the most decorated, accomplished coach in NBA history … the relentless pursuit of a sixth title by Kobe Bryant, the greatest champion in the sport since Michael Jordan … any shred of dignity the Lakers might’ve left Dallas with Sunday after an embarrassing sweep … all of it crumbled under the weight of a colossal humiliation and dishonor put forth by the two-time defending champions. 

Losing is one thing. Getting swept is another. Getting sent home in an utterly uncompetitive blowout is even worse. But nothing is more disgusting than champions acting like punks. Nothing is more embarrassing than a team that cannot lose with dignity. 

The revolting episode that was most likely Phil Jackson’s final game as a coach will have far-reaching implications. This 122-86 debacle, and the deplorable behavior that went along with it, is the kind of loss whose aftershocks last for months, if not years. 

We already knew this would be a very different Lakers team next season, even if they’d won a third straight title. We already knew there would be a new coach. And this is the NBA; there are usually some new players. 

But this sudden, thorough, and inexplicable descent into dysfunction and depravity will not go unpunished. 

Lamar Odom, and particularly Andrew Bynum, will never be able to repay Jackson for shaming him this way. Bynum, a positive force during much of the series, doesn’t deserve to wear a Lakers uniform again after his unconscionable cheap shot to a defenseless, airborne J.J. Barea in the fourth quarter of a 30-point humiliation. There’s no place for that regardless of the victim, but Bynum violated the No. 1 rule of the schoolyard (where he belongs) and the NBA: Pick on someone your own size. Only punks and losers take aim at those half their size. 

The fact that Bynum needed Ron Artest – involved in one of the most notorious behavioral incidents in NBA history – to escort him past the Mavericks’ bench and toward the locker room told you everything you needed to know. At least Artest’s gesture proved that that Lakers’ team bond hadn’t completely eroded. In a sick way, Artest sticking up for a teammate who’d done something so cowardly was the only evidence that there was anything at all left of these Lakers as currently constructed. 

Championship caliber teams sometimes win in the playoffs, and sometimes they lose. Sometimes they lose like the ’91 Pistons, who walked out before time expired in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Bulls. Sometimes, they lose like the Spurs, who have never sacrificed an ounce of their professionalism for some twisted, macho moment that lasts but a second but stains your reputation forever. 

The Lakers, at the end for Jackson and near the end for Bryant, have managed to put themselves in the company of disgraced champions – those who don’t engender or deserve the respect of the generations. Big changes for the Lakers are now not only likely and expected, but also necessary, even mandatory. Say good-bye to Hollywood, say good-bye to the babies who couldn’t lose like champions. Shame on them, and good luck to the professionals they will leave behind to try to resurrect the Lakers’ proud history. 

Whatever uniform he is wearing in October, or whenever the NBA resumes, Bynum will be watching from his hotel room at a Four Seasons somewhere because he’ll most certainly be suspended. His actions will be suspended in time, serving as a lesson for every one of his contemporaries who play this game. 

We can only hope the Celtics and Heat were watching this. One of them will lose that series, and whoever it is will have an obligation to lift basketball out of the gutter the Lakers abandoned it in on Sunday.
Posted on: February 10, 2011 7:53 pm
 

Phil, Doc react to Sloan's departure

BOSTON – Phil Jackson competed against Jerry Sloan as both a player and a coach, and knew him as someone who’d never quit – and whose teams never would, either. 

But Jackson has flirted often with the notion of when is the right time to walk away from coaching, and took Sloan at his word that it was just the “right time.” 

“I think sometimes you hope you can pick the right time, and I think you want to close the chapter on it,” Jackson said before the Lakers played the Celtics Thursday night. “And if that was the way it ended for him, I know he felt that you have to live your life by your gut feeling and do it that way. So I think it was great that he was able to do it on his own terms.” 

Ray Allen, who used to experience Sloan’s hard-nosed defensive style more frequently in the Western Conference, had the same reaction everyone else did upon hearing the news of Sloan’s resignation Thursday. 

“I’m curious why,” Allen said. “I think everyone’s kind of wondering what exactly happened – if he stepped down or they went in another direction. … He’s been a great ambassador for the game.” 

Doc Rivers always knew what he was getting when he stepped onto the floor to play against or coach against a team coached by Sloan.

“They were going to play hard,” Rivers said. “They were going to cut. They were going to pick-and-roll you to death. They were going to foul you hard. You had to play defense for 24 seconds. And they were going to milk every possession until they got the shot they wanted.” 

Jackson, whose Bulls twice defeated Sloan’s Jazz for NBA titles, said Sloan’s lack of a championship “shouldn’t diminish his career.” 

“But really, you hate to see a guy go out without having won a champ with all the great teams he’s had,” Jackson said. “… I think coaching 23 years probably is an energy thing. It takes a lot of energy and there’s a time when you feel like you just can’t put anything more into a team.”
Posted on: December 27, 2010 7:11 pm
 

Lakers' scars more than skin deep

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – There was no direct evidence of the butt-kicking in practice that Kobe Bryant had promised. Head-butting, yes. But butt-kicking? 

“Not sure,” said Ron Artest, wearing the only tangible proof of what Phil Jackson called a “feisty” practice Monday in the form of a swollen cut under his right eye. 

Artest’s battle scar didn’t result from any contact with Bryant, who had promised after the Lakers’ listless loss to Miami on Christmas Day that distracted, unfocused, and unprepared teammates would be held accountable on the practice court. Artest’s wound, according to a source, resulted from a collision with Shannon Brown’s head during the 5-on-5 portion of practice, which was won by the second unit, an amused Jackson said. 

“Kind of fun and interesting,” Jackson said of the reserves’ victory. 

So the Lakers’ starters have now lost three games in a row – blowouts at home against Milwaukee and Miami, and now this. The impact of any tongue-lashings or motivational tactics from Bryant will be put to an immediate test Tuesday night in San Antonio, where the Spurs (26-4) are experiencing no such strife and enjoying the best record in the league – five games better than the two-time defending champion Lakers. 

“They’re doing something special this year and we have to understand what it is,” Jackson said. 

Bryant didn’t speak with reporters Monday; he was off the practice floor by the time media were allowed into the gym. But the simple fact that he practiced at all – he typically rests his 31-year-old body to save fuel for the championship run – should have sent a clear message. 

And apparently it did. The message was received, loud and clear, by Artest, who bristled at the notion that Bryant was pointing the finger at him during his postgame rant Saturday. The money quote from Bryant, “The game has to be the most important thing,” caused curious minds – including mine – to wonder if Artest’s championship ring raffle was deemed by Bryant to be an unnecessary distraction. 

After the game, Artest apologized to Lakers fans on Twitter, writing, “Every loss my fault.” On Monday, he shot down the notion that he was distracted Saturday and several times alluded to how “unfortunate” it was that Jackson kept him on the bench for most of the fourth quarter. 

“I didn’t get a chance to even let it be a distraction because I only played 20 minutes,” Artest said. 

With every teammate except Lamar Odom off the practice court, Artest said, “I’m the last one to leave the gym every day,” and urged one reporter to “pay attention to the surroundings.” 

"I work extremely hard on defense,” Artest said. “I’m the last one to leave every day. The game is extremely important.” 

Later, I asked Artest if his Twitter apology meant that he was responding to the notion of being singled out by Bryant. 

“If we keep losing, you’ve got to point to yourself first,” Artest said, aiming his thumb at the middle of his chest. “Always point the finger right there before you point the finger anywhere else. I point the finger at myself all the time. Even before I came here last year, I would point the finger at myself. I said, ‘If we lose, it’s on me.’ Before you point, you’ve got to look in the mirror first and say, ‘What could I have done?’” 

When asked about Bryant’s soliloquy about misplaced priorities on the team, Jackson said, “I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s been some distractions. … But we think that these guys are veterans and should be able to handle that.” 

When asked what distractions Bryant and Jackson may have been referring to, Artest said, “There were a lot of distractions, from my ring raffle to the green shoes. Nike came with the green shoes and adidas. There were a bunch of things going on.” 

It doesn’t get easier. Not only are the Spurs obviously a threat, but they’re beginning to put distance between themselves and the Lakers that will be challenging to close by the end of the regular season, when all-important home-court advantage will be determined. Clearly, before they get caught up in catching the Spurs, the Lakers have to get their own house in order first.
Posted on: November 29, 2010 6:42 pm
 

Four options for Riley

So there's trouble in paradise, but what happens next? Here's a look at Pat Riley's options as he tries to turn his Super Team into a team that can actually function:

* Fire Erik Spoelstra and take his job: As Phil Jackson said, it's SVG 2.0. The problem is, sources say Riley would only come downstairs as a last resort because A) he really doesn't want to coach anymore, and B) he knows that the same roster flaws that are sabotaging Spoelstra would do the same to him. Also, this isn't exactly Dwyane Wade's idea of a solution; Wade and Riley butted heads in the past. Personally, I think it would be eye-opening for LeBron James to be coached by someone with experience and championship rings -- someone who could put him in his place.

* Fire Spoelstra and hire someone else: This would be the ultimate sign of how wing-heavy and flawed this supposed dynasty really is: Riley fires Spoelstra, his handpicked protégé, and hands the job to ... Ron Rothstein? Well, that's not going to happen. But really, who's out there? Mike Brown? LeBron's been down that road in Cleveland, and the road ends in a spectacular, five-car pileup in the playoffs. Mike Woodson? For what, to run an even less creative offense? CBSSports.com's Matt Moore mentions two intriguing coaches who are currently unemployed: one credible (Jeff Van Gundy) and one straight out of Frankenstein (Don Nelson). I believe JVG is done coaching; he has a much easier and better job making fun of Mike Breen on TV. Plus, I can't imagine him doing that to his brother, Stan, in Orlando. Nellie? If someone could get him out of his hammock in Maui, they should make this happen tomorrow. Why? Not because it makes sense or the Heat would finally figure out how to play together and win a championship. Who cares about that? It should happen because the Earth would shift, the island would move, blinding lights and screeching noises would overwhelm us ... yes, it would be the basketball version of "Lost." Nellie, the connoisseur of ill-fitting basketball parts, chowing down on this disjointed beast of a team in Miami? It would be delicious on so many levels. If the Heat hired Nellie, I might move to Miami just so I wouldn't miss a minute of the hilarity.

* Stick with Spoelstra for the season and then score a coaching free-agent coup: Sadly, this is the most realistic of the options so far. If Riley really wants no part of this, then he could make it right with another offseason of roster tweaks and a chance to make a run at two very good coaches whose contracts will be up: Nate McMillan and Doc Rivers. McMillan is a fine coach, but I don't think he's the right fit for LeBron and Wade for the same reasons Spoelstra isn't the right fit: too upright and too averse to up-tempo offensive basketball. Speaking of which, Mike D'Antoni always seems to be a three-game losing streak away from being on the hot seat, even though he's spent the majority of his Knicks tenure coaching a D-League team. So if James Dolan ever has the urge to fire D'Antoni, I'd hire him in Miami in about three seconds. For one thing, D'Antoni would get to coach the two players he thought he'd be coaching in New York, only in a warmer climate. For another, I bet he'd enjoy paying no state income tax and saying good-bye to $7,000-a-month real estate tax bills in Westchester County. And finally, D'Antoni was the right coach for LeBron and Wade all along. He'd loosen the reins, let LeBron run the point and be Magic Johnson, and outscore everybody 130-117. But the most intriguing coach in this scenario, by far, is Rivers, who has the patience, presence, and pedigree to give LeBron and Wade just enough leeway while also commanding their respect. Plus, Florida is home for him, and any time you can trade an old Big Three for a younger version and cement your legacy as one of the most decorated coaches of all time, I'd say that would be a pretty good career move.

* Tell LeBron and Wade to quit whining, look in the mirror and figure it out: Of all the intriguing options, I like this one the best. To be fair, it isn't just the players who have to adjust; Spoelstra will have to change, too, by putting the ball in LeBron's hands and getting him in transition and in the open floor to create -- for Wade, for Eddie House and Mike Miller (once healthy). LeBron holds the key to this approach. He's the one player on the roster -- perhaps the only one in the league -- with the breadth of talents to adjust his game and make it fit with an elite scorer like Wade. I don't think Wade is built that way. He scores; that's what he does. LeBron can do it all, and he can do so much more than what he's doing now if he'd check his ego and if Spoelstra would be willing to give up some control. It's a slippery slope, but more promising than the one the Heat are currently sliding down.
Posted on: November 17, 2010 1:14 pm
 

Post-Ups

Their three-game winning streak and 22-gun salute from the 3-point line against the Lakers notwithstanding, these are delicate times for the Phoenix Suns. So delicate, in fact, that a speculative riff on an NBA writer’s podcast last week sparked a flurry of trade rumors surrounding Steve Nash.

Such is life in the NBA blogosmear, but there’s an element of truth to the speculation. Watching Nash play without Amar’e Stoudemire, and Stoudemire without Nash, is a classic lesson in being careful what you wish for. The Suns, like many NBA teams, were hesitant to lavish five guaranteed years on Stoudemire given the uninsurable state of his knees. The Knicks, boxed out of the LeBron James and Dwyane Wade sweepstakes, were in the rare position of being open to Stoudemire’s in-person overtures back in July. It was a match made in Desperadoville.

The Knicks were in Denver Tuesday night to face the Nuggets and the latest apple of their eyes, Carmelo Anthony. They arrived in a tailspin, having lost five in a row, and left with a 120-118 loss, a six-game losing streak, and much of the hopelessness inspired by Knicks teams of the past decade. No fewer than 15 power forwards playing at least 25 minutes per game are ahead of Stoudemire in efficiency rating, according to Hoopdata.com. Among them are Michael Beasley, Charlie Villanueva and Hakim Warrick – who replaced Stoudemire in Phoenix. You don’t need data to see that Stoudemire is struggling in his new home. Watching him search in vain for someone who knows how to run a pick-and-roll is evidence enough.

Despite Warrick’s statistical accomplishments, things aren’t much better for Nash and the Suns. Lost in the Suns’ unconscious shooting exploits in a 121-116 victory over the Lakers Sunday night was the ongoing horror show of watching Nash dribble around desperately in search of someone to set a capable screen and roll to the basket. Both Nash and Stoudemire have lost something irreplaceable in each other.

While the Knicks plan to do their due diligence and inquire as to Nash’s availability, the Suns haven’t gotten to the point of entertaining offers, according to an executive familiar with their strategy. Coach Alvin Gentry already has made it clear publicly that the Suns aren’t trading Nash, and the executive familiar with the team’s posture characterized the flurry of rumors as “random” and “not factual.” But in Phoenix, as with many revenue-challenged NBA cities, basketball sense doesn’t always align with financial reality.

Without Stoudemire – and assuming they can’t make 20-plus 3-pointers a night for the rest of the season – the Suns will be struggling to get a whiff of the eighth seed come April. They’re the worst rebounding team in the league in terms of defensive rebounding rate and offensive rebounding differential, and the loss of center Robin Lopez to a sprained knee certainly won’t help.

“We’ve got to be a little bit more scrappy than we’ve been in the past,” said Jared Dudley, a key member of the superior bench that made the Suns such a threat to the Lakers in the conference finals last spring.

But Suns owner Robert Sarver, whose non-basketball businesses in the banking and real estate sectors have been hammered by the recession, isn’t paying $63 million for a scrappy, barely .500 team. The Suns are comfortably below the $70.3 million luxury-tax threshold, so there’s no urgency there. However, Sarver has been one of the most vocal in a new wave of owners in the collective bargaining fight, and rival executives believe he’ll be on a rampage at the trade deadline if the Suns are out of the playoff hunt. That’s an eventuality the Suns hope to prevent, and despite their current upswing, it will prove to be a difficult fight.

“Hopefully we can get a couple of wins in a row so we can get those rumors away,” Dudley said of the Nash speculation. “You don’t want your franchise player to go. He makes everybody better here and he’s the face of Phoenix. If you think the transition is big with Amar’e, I can only imagine. It would be a journey having [Nash] leave.”

Which brings us to the next step in our journey, to the rest of the Post-Ups:

• With Jermaine O’Neal out several weeks with a sore left knee, you and I both know what name comes to mind as a free-agent replacement: Rasheed Wallace. While ‘Sheed’s agent, Bill Strickland, wouldn’t completely rule it out, it doesn’t sound like Wallace is even contemplating the possibility of coming out of retirement – for the Celtics or anybody else. “I have not talked to Danny [Ainge, the Celtics’ president] or Rasheed about that, but I think Rasheed is through,” Strickland said. Wallace, 36, isn’t believed to be working out on the court in any capacity in the event a team might be interested in his services. And while it’s hard to imagine Wallace coming back with the NBA’s tech-happy mandate to the referees, it’s more of a physical issue. As far back as when Wallace was still with the Pistons, he was known to sometimes leave his shoes on between games in order to keep playing. If he’d removed them, his ankles would’ve swelled up so badly that he wouldn’t have been able to get them back on.

• Leave it to the Zen Master to decode the mystery of Utah’s amazing string of double-digit road comebacks last week. Lakers coach Phil Jackson pointed out that Jazz coach Jerry Sloan is perhaps the only NBA coach who elects to have his team play offense in front of his bench in the second half. Most coaches prefer to have their team in front of them on defense down the stretch of road games. Lo and behold, the Jazz reeled off double-digit road comebacks against Miami, Orlando, Atlanta and Charlotte by pouring on the offense in the second half. Visiting coaches choose which basket to defend in which half. “You can generate a lot of points in front of your bench,” Jackson said. “Defensively, a lot of coaches like their team to be in front of the bench in the second half on the road, because you can call stuff and give eyes to the players with their back to the basket. They’re the only team in the NBA that does it the other way.”

Brandon Roy’s future with bone-on-bone in both knees bears watching, given that his game is based on getting to the basket and he’s only 26 – with a lot of mileage theoretically ahead of him. But Dr. Nicholas DiNubile, spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and former consultant to the Philadelphia 76ers, said it depends on the extent of the damage and where it is. After his latest bout with knee swelling and pain last week, Roy learned that surgery was not an option because he has no meniscus left in either knee. DiNubile said Roy’s fate will be determined by whether he lacks cartilage, too. “It would be extremely unlikely at that age to have no meniscus and no cartilage,” DiNubile said. Whether the bone-on-bone condition is occurring in the actual knee joint (bad) or under the kneecap (still bad, but better) also is important. If the bone-on-bone situation is where the tibia meets the femur, “You’re kind of doomed,” DiNubile said. “That’s not compatible with up-and-down playing. If he were to have bone-on-bone in the main part of his knee, his career’s going to be limited one way or the other.” If the condition exists in the kneecap, DiNubile said athletes “can do surprisingly well.”

• As more than an innocent bystander in the Carmelo Anthony saga, Nuggets coach George Karl is more than doing his part by using his considerable powers of persuasion to try to keep Melo in Denver. But it’s impossible to evaluate Karl’s efforts on that front without noting his own pursuit of a contract extension. Two people familiar with the situation told CBSSports.com that the Nuggets view Karl as part of their future, regardless of whether Anthony stays. Whether Karl wants to remain in Denver if he winds up with a rebuilding team post-Anthony – that’s another matter. But despite Karl’s disenchantment with the ouster of his friends Mark Warkentien and Tim Grgurich, the lines of communication between Karl, GM Masai Ujiri, executive Josh Kroenke, and team president Paul Andrews are very much open. And weighing on the matter more than Anthony’s future is Karl’s health. Karl, 59, has several more hurdles to clear in his heroic efforts to beat throat and neck cancer, and wants to be sure he remains cancer-free before asking the Nuggets to commit to him beyond this season. Everyone in the NBA, including the Denver front office, is rooting for him.

Tayshaun Prince’s repeated blowups, with coach John Kuester giving as good as he’s getting, aren’t expected to play a major role in the Pistons’ decision on whether to trade the swingman and his $11.1 million expiring contract. A person with knowledge of Prince’s thinking told CBSSports.com that his frustration isn’t fully directed at Kuester; losing, after his time as a member of the formerly contending Pistons, is a bigger issue. But the biggest issue in the decision on whether to move him is the impending ownership change in Detroit. Trading an expiring deal, by definition, involves taking on future money – which is difficult, at best, to do when a new owner is entering the picture.

Kevin Love’s 31-point, 31-rebound game – an incredible performance and the first of its kind since Moses Malone in 1982 – was a quiet victory for Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis. Rambis had been trying to prove a point to Love by limiting his minutes: If you don’t play both ends of the floor, you’re not going to play. Rambis’ message finally got through, and the result was an example of what Love is capable of when he puts his mind to it. But this isn’t the end of the dysfunction in Minnesota, by any stretch. Just because Love performed in an historic way doesn’t mean he’s buying Rambis’ message long-term. And a person familiar with the Wolves’ locker room dynamics isn’t convinced it’s smooth sailing from here. “The team is a disaster,” the person said. Depending on who you ask, the issue is either lack of communication from Rambis, or an unwillingness to listen on the part of Love and others who are disenchanted with minutes. It’s going to take more time to sort it all out.
Posted on: November 12, 2010 3:15 am
 

Kobe, Melo in the middle of it again

DENVER – In two different locker rooms, separated by about 50 yards and five championships, Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony assessed the night’s developments in the NBA as we now know it.

The end of the Lakers’ 8-0 start. A significant victory by the Nuggets, who bounced back from consecutive losses that included an embarrassing meltdown in Indiana. The latest, ever-so-subtle shift in the Melodrama, with Anthony saying after the Nuggets’ 118-112 victory over the two-time defending champs, “I’m content with my situation.”

Across the continent, the Miami Heat lost again to the Celtics and fell to 5-4 – while the Cavaliers, LeBron James’ former team, are 4-4.

“Oh, ____,” Bryant said with a smile after being informed of the delicious irony. “That’ll make for a good story in Cleveland in November. But come April, I don’t think that’ll be much of a story.”

Somehow all the stories were intertwined Thursday night at the Pepsi Center. The best team in the league took one on the chin, giving up a 33-point fourth quarter to the small-ball Nuggets, who can do nothing more than view Anthony’s fragile future as a day-to-day proposition. The team the Lakers beat in the Finals, Boston, made mince meat of the mighty Heat – a 112-107 victory that, for now, has changed everyone’s perspective about how good this free-agent fabrication will be.

It is knee-jerk reaction time, because it is November in the NBA. Hours earlier, Bryant was sitting in a courtside seat at the Pepsi Center after shootaround, deflecting questions about whether the Lakers could win 70 games. Two weeks ago, everyone wanted to know if the Heat could win 73, eclipsing the NBA record established by Phil Jackson’s 1995-96 Bulls.

“You guys never stop that stuff,” Bryant said after the game, his knees wrapped in ice and a black, boxer-style robe draped over his shoulders. When asked if there’s too much dissection of the early returns, Bryant stood up and said, “What else are you guys going to do? Talk about Miami all the time?”

If nothing else, Thursday night, Nov. 11, was a turning point in this season of anticipation and unprecedented interest. It was the night when doubts about the Heat were driven home, and when the world exhaled with the knowledge that, no, the Lakers will not go undefeated. It seemed fitting that it all came together on a night when the old-guard Celtics humbled the new-look Heat – and when the young star of the league whom Bryant relates with the best showed why he belongs in the conversation about the top of the pecking order in pro basketball.

“We’re both brutally honest,” Bryant said. “I think that’s the thing. We don’t pull punches. We don’t sugarcoat how we feel. That’s what attracted me to him, and I think vice versa. We don’t pull punches. We hang out all the time and we can be harsh with one another, and it’s fun.

“He and I are like that all the time, and I’m like that with everybody,” Bryant said. “We rip each other pretty good back and forth. Obviously, I pull a little bit more weight because I’ve won a little bit more than him so I can talk a little bit more. We really just have a great relationship. We hit it off in Beijing and we’ve been tight ever since.”

After Anthony put up 32 points on 14-for-25 shooting from the field with 13 rebounds, Bryant hugged him and told him something.

“Just, ‘Good win,’” Melo said. “‘Keep it up.’”

Anthony is in the same position Bryant was in three years ago, wanting to find greener pastures. Bryant found them at home, in L.A., because the Lakers got lucky and got him Pau Gasol. They’ve been to the Finals three times and won two titles since then.

Melo said he isn’t looking ahead too far ahead, that he can’t see what December, February, or June have in store.

"I see the Phoenix Suns Monday night,” he said. “That’s what I see. … I’m content with my situation right now.”

It turns out there is an NBA beyond South Beach, and on Thursday night, Bryant and Melo were basking in it. Bryant, chasing his sixth title to equal the great Michael Jordan, was unusually jovial after a loss. Anthony, Bryant’s partner in brutal honesty, said he was “proud of my team” for the way it bounced back. And he promised to keep answering all the questions that result from his decision to leave his options open by refusing to sign a three-year, $65 million extension – a decision that has given the Nuggets no choice but to continue exploring what they can get for him in a trade. Because if Anthony doesn’t sign that extension by the February trade deadline, it will no longer a question of whether they trade Anthony, but what they get for him.

“I’m looking forward to just playing basketball, man,” Anthony said. “I’m not concerned about anything else right now. The only thing on my mind right now is winning, playing games, getting my guys back healthy and getting them back out there on the court. Everything else is irrelevant to me right now.

Down the hall, Bryant had just finished regaling his postgame audience with stories of why he respects Anthony so much – why, of all the stars on the 2008 Olympic team, he gravitated toward Anthony. For one thing, the elbows Bryant always makes a point of throwing at the new guys didn’t cause Anthony to recoil when he came into the league.

“He welcomed it,” Bryant said. “He just kept coming and coming and coming, so I respected that about him.”

Bryant respects his honesty, too, and can relate because he was once sitting in the same seat. The only advice Bryant said he’s given his friend is to make sure he’s sure about what he wants.

“Like I tell him, he’s got some catching up to do,” Bryant said. “It’s a long, rocky mountain to climb.”
 
 
 
 
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