Prowling the NBA: Feb 7 - BOOM SHAKALAKA

Alright. Last week I said this week’s theme was going to be Amare Stoudemire. And I completely intended it to be...BUT…

Amare is going to be relevant next week, when the trade deadline finally hits. So the Stoudemire op-ed is getting pushed back to next week to make this week’s theme the breaking news of this week.

Which, of course, is the return of everyone’s favorite NBA video game franchise: NBA Jam.

That’s right people. The game where players jump 30 feet in the air, shove each other to the ground, and literally light the nets on fire (HE’S ON FIRE) is back, in next-gen glory complete with real player models, faces, and out of control action.


If only Kevin Love could really jump that high, right?

The downside is that, in two weeks, even this NBA Jam roster selection could be out of date. The NBA’s trade deadline is fast approaching (February 18th) and as always, the twittering in this 11th hour has reached a level that rivals actual Twittering.

Also on the docket this week, more NBA All Star news, coaching news, an interview with Kevin McHale, and something that will lead us into next week’s update and impact the league for years….the first bit of news on the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Let's just say not everyone's happy about that one...

So let’s get started. And for the first time in a month, there’s nothing on Gilbert Arenas.

So we'll start instead with NBA Jam:

First of all, the game is a Wii exclusive, which...well, is maybe good, maybe bad. Certainly the last attempt at NBA Jam on the Xbox was less than spectacular. The Wii platform seems a little more suited for the casual, pick-up-and-play, party attitude of the NBA Jam series.

More promising though is that the series' original creator is back on board for this one. Electronic Arts acquired the license from Acclaim (who acquired it from the original publisher, Midway), and promptly contacted him as a consultant to their design team. Rest assured that everything about the new NBA Jam will be right in line with the classic ones.

Perhaps the biggest upgrade is that players now have actual faces, rather than just appearing as generic sprites with different color jerseys. Interestingly enough, the game is using fully rendered and textured 3D models for the bodies, but 2D photographs for the faces.


For those who can't make out the text (poor quality scan, sorry...), basically what EA has done is scoured the ‘net for every single picture they can find of the players who are in the game, then cutting the faces out of those photos to get the expressions they want. Each player will have three "game" faces, a couple of excited "I'm dunking" faces, plus a positive and negative face for when you do something right or wrong. The game will use some subtle blurring at the neckline to hide the transition form 3D to 2D on the players.

The disappointing news, at least as the game stands right now, is that only three players from each team will be available to choose from, not the whole roster (or at least the starters). That's unfortunately going to leave out some very NBA Jamish duos. Nick Young and JaVale McGee? JR Smith and the Birdman? Who gets left off the Lakers? Bynum? Odom? Artest?

I mean, if I'm starting a real NBA team, give me Al Jefferson and Kevin Love. But an NBA Jam team? Corey Brewer and Ryan Hollins please.

On the bright side, it's still completely legal to shove the guy with the ball.


Alright, now to kick of the hardcore NBA news. Amare Stoudemire? He seems like an ideal NBA Jammer. Even though this isn't his week anymore, there's still news on him.

The Amare Stoudemire sweepstakes:

Like last week, this is going to be divided into who’s in an who’s out. A lot of these were posted last week, but there’s a new entry in the "IN" column, so read up.


The San Antonio Spurs:

Surprise surprise. I was skeptical of this too when I first heard it, but this actually had legs. The Spurs "know they need to do something," as one source puts it, to their frontcourt if they want to really contend with the Lakers (hint to Timberwolves fans...if Timmy Duncan isn't enough...well....)

The questions here are about the long term impact. First, the Spurs would have to give up a lot....probably Manu Ginobili and some combination of Matt Bonner, Michael Finley and Roger make a trade realistic. That's a lot of outside firepower, and the player that has been the Spurs' driving x-factor in all their championship seasons (and the missing piece in all the years they've fallen short). Further, if the trade does happen, would the Spurs be willing to spend the money needed to keep Amare beyond this summer? Is he the missing piece for a championship run in the first place?

San Antonio, of course, would be elated if the Suns decided to take Richard Jefferson from them to replace aging Grant Hill. That might gain steam in the next couple of weeks if the Suns don't feel like any clearly better offers come in.

I'm going to say that if the Spurs can get Amare, they should get Amare. As a tandem, Duncan and Stoudemire would be a nearly unstoppable force on offense, and I think Amare can pick it up enough (and Duncan can cover enough), that he at least can be as effective a defender as Antonio McDyess. He certainly can't be more of a liability on that end as Matt Bonner.

The Chicago Bulls:

The offer here is Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng, and Tyrus Thomas for Stoudemire. In terms of talent, that far outstrips the Spurs' offer(s). But this would also have a much more adverse effect on the Suns financially....Hinrich and Deng have contracts that extend into next season (and beyond).....Ginobili, Finley, Mason and Bonner are all expiring deals.

If the Suns move Amare, does that mean they're rebuilding? Even with veterans Steve Nash, Jason Richardson and Grant Hill still on board? After Nash and Hill specifically stayed because they both felt the team was getting back into the contender mix? Hmmm...

The Philadelphia 76ers:

As reported last week, the Sixers have decided to go boom, blowing up the roster for whatever cap space they can get. Amare would certainly seem to be a good fit for their open court system: if he opts out, they get $17 million off the books. If he doesn't, they keep a player fairly custom build for their system, and $17 million off the books in 2011 (along with potentially Samuel Dalembert's $12 million and Jason Kapono's $7 million) in what is, at some point, going to become known as the "Year of Durant".

Andre Iguodala would be the centerpiece of a trade here. What else? Would the Suns want Kapono's shooting? Would they want young talent like Thaddeous Young and Marreese Speights? One would think the Sixers wouldn't give up either of those two, nor would the Suns have much interest in Lou Williams or Jrue Holiday, with Nash, Leandro Barbosa, and the emerging Goran Dragic already on board.

The New Jersey Nets:

The Nets can offer the Suns something no other team in the mix can: lots of good draft picks. The general field offer here is Stoudemire for Yi Jianlian (who's been playing very well lately), Courtney Lee, Bobby Simmons (expiring), and a couple first rounders. All would fit into the Suns' system and plans.

Another possibility is, if the Nets win the #1 pick in the lottery, a sign-and-trade over the summer with Devin Harris as part of the deal.

For now though, the Nets' only untouchable is Brook Lopez, for obvious reasons. A combination of Lopez and either Harris or John Wall would give Amare a good show of talented support to play with, and a trio of Stoudemire, Lopez, and either Harris or Wall would be a major draw this summer for LeBron or Wade.

For his part, Amare was quick not to rule out the Nets just because of their record this year. When asked about teams he'd automatically say "no way" to, Stoudemire responded, "I don’t think the Nets are one of them."

The Detroit Pistons:

Like the Sixers, the Pistons have gone into all out remake the roster mode, and have several attractive pieces to offer the Suns.

First are the veterans, Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince, both of whom would be fantastic fits for the Suns' system and assurance to Nash and Hill that the team isn't starting over. Also possible is Charlie Villanueva, the sweet shooting big man the Pistons signed over the summer.

One player the Suns would certainly want who the Pistons won't be giving up is Ben Gordon. Detroit is very locked into Gordon and Rodney Stuckey being the backcourt of the future, even if Stuckey has yet to prove he deserves the support.

The Phoenix Suns:

The new addition to team in the running for Stoudemire is the one he's already on. This week, in an interview with Fanhouse, Stoudemire said he is more likely to stay with his current contract next year rather than opt out and hit free agency.

"I can opt out this summer or I can opt in, which means I'll be back another year (for $17.69 million)," said Stoudemire, speaking after the morning shootaround in preparation for Wednesday night's game against Denver. "That's definitely an option. I'm leaning more toward that right now.

This would drastically reduce the Suns' desire to trade Stoudemire, since their motivation to deal him is the thought he will opt out and walk away for nothing. If he were to "opt in", the Suns could simply retain him for next season.

The next step appears to be talking with Suns' management about a contract extension, which Stoudemire expects them to make soon. The point there, of course, is how much gets offered. Stoudemire seems to believe he's a max free agent, which is a view unlikely to be shared by the Suns or most other teams, but at the same time, Amare can probably get max money by finishing the season strong and playing up the competition between teams to sign him. He'll be the most coveted of the "second tier" free agents, and a team that misses out on LeBron/Wade/Bosh and is desperate to sign star power will probably consider offering him max money very strongly.

If Stoudemire chooses to opt in, he'll be in the same situation Carlos Boozer is in, after he chose last season to stay in his contract. The main risk Amare runs with that decision is that the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that's being planned to take effect in 2011 (the summer Amare would hit free agency) could put a much stricter limit on contract sums, reducing the amount Stoudemire would make under that scenario versus what he could make if he opts out and hits free agency this year.


The New York Knicks:

Which is odd, because they're in on basically every other trade rumor out there. But team President Donnie Walsh has flatly said, "I haven't talked to them" and laughed at the idea that he would.

No real reason why, but odds are the team is 100% focused right now on somehow getting Jared Jeffries out the door. Without that, the Knicks can kiss their summer plans goodbye.

For the Suns, the obvious question is who would they want off the Knicks' roster? The only players that would really interest Phoenix are the two players New York won't give up: Danillo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler. Not to mention that for the finances to work, the Suns would have to take on Larry Hughes, Al Harrington, Darko Milicic, or David Lee. Expirings have their uses, but again, what would that say to Steve Nash? The Suns can get a much better offer from a different team and Walsh seems to know that.

The Miami Heat:

On the surface, Amare + Wade seems like any team's dream. How would anyone possibly guard those two and emerging scorer Michael Beasley?

But the Heat have two things in mind here:

1) Unlike the Knicks, the Heat actually do have the money to sign two max free agents. Why not just wait until the summer and see what happens?

2) The Heat reportedly value Chris Bosh much more because of the defense factor.

Stoudemire has a summer home in Miami and says he'd gladly play for the Heat, but he too seems to be thinking it'd be a summer signing, not a deadline trade.

The Minnesota Timberwolves:

This I'm admittedly back and forth on. On one hand, I don't think David Kahn is planning to trade for Stoudemire, especially at the expense of Al Jefferson or Ricky Rubio. On the other hand, I do think he's considering a way he can trade for Stoudemire that won't break the bank.

In terms of last week's trade rumor, Kahn said he isn't going to make any trades, Amare included, unless "someone calls up with a deal that’s so preposterously one-sided, we'd have to do it, " which he defines as, "Something that even Al Jefferson would have to say, 'David you have to do that.'"

So Kahn's statements seem to rule out a Stoudemire trade, but at the same time....they don't.

"I think Al actually backed up exactly the conversation we had face-to-face in Denver a couple of weeks ago, and that was as follows: ‘Al, I am not looking to trade you, and that’s the truth. I haven’t made one phone call all year long proposing a deal that involved Al Jefferson, and I won’t do so this year,’ " Kahn said.


"I also said ‘At the same time, Al, you know, though, that I can’t control this totally. If somebody calls and makes us an offer that is so obvious, we have to do it. And he said ‘Of course, I know that, David. You can never promise that.’"

So that's what it is, I think. Right now, no....but later? Who knows. I'm going to rule us out for now because, like the Knicks' situation, the Suns are probably going to get a better offer from someone else. But at the same time, I don't think we can ever be %100 ruled out of any trade situation. Unlike McHale, Kahn is a guy who keeps all doors open at all times.

And another story that was reported last week…

The Celtics are looking to move Ray Allen:

Reports began breaking a week ago that the Warriors were going to try and put together a package of Monta Ellis and expiring for Ray Allen. That rumor turned out to be speculation, but on the other hand, Ray Allen is indeed available.

The Celtics are apparently shopping Allen, looking for what the Warriors could offer: a younger shooting guard and a couple expiring deals. Allen’s contract expires at the end of the season, but the Celtics don’t want to commit to an extension for the aging guard and don’t have the money to replace him in the open market. So the only choice left is to trade his contract for a different one that will stick with the team for a few years.


The problem is that the list of players who fit the desired description is short, and none of those players seem like particularly good fits.

Monta Ellis can score with the best of them, but he’s undersized for a shooting guard and not a particularly effective defender. Would the Celtics be willing to risk having Rajon Rondo guard bigger, stronger shooting guards when they already rely on him so much for everything else?

Kevin Martin has size and can shoot, but doesn’t defend and there’s questions about him playing a team game. Andre Iguodala is a great teammate and can defend with the best of them, but can’t shoot.

Maybe the most intriguing and best option is Kirk Hinrich. He’s relatively young, a solid shooter, a solid defender, and could also move to point guard to give Rondo some needed backup.

On the Bulls’ side, moving Kirk Hinrich and the expiring deal of John Salmons would free up enough cap space for them to sign not one, but two max free agents over the summer.

If I were to make a guess, I’d say it’s more likely Ray Allen stays put than not. None of the available guards can really compare to him, even at this age, and the Celtics have only recently (as in this weekend) gotten their whole roster more or less healthy. Still, it’s looking increasingly unlikely he’s going to be in Boston beyond this season, and trading Allen is the only way they can replace him with anyone quality.

Of course, Ray Allen isn’t the only shooting guard being shopped around.

The Rockets are still looking to trade Tracy McGrady:

Reports are the Rockets/Wizards trade talk is still alive, but are currently stuck. The core of the deal is McGrady for Caron Butler and either Mike Miller or Randy Foye. However the Rockets also want Brendan Haywood, the Wizards want Louis Scola or Carl Landry, and the two aren’t willing to exchange them for each other.


The Rockets are also still talking to the Bulls, but likewise, those negotiations are stalled. The Rockets want Joakim Noah and the expiring deals of Brad Miller and Jerome James, but the Bulls are much more interested in moving Kirk Hinrich and Tyrus Thomas, and have no intent to trade Noah to anyone.

Talks between the Rockets and Sixers involving Iguodala and Samuel Dalembert are "sporadic", as one source puts it. Still, Houston believes it has a better than 50% chance of moving Mcgrady somewhere before the deadline.

Now moving on to a Rockets rival…

The Utah Jazz are talking about trading Carlos Boozer for Tayshaun Prince:

The Jazz know Boozer is gone at the end of the year and want to get something for him before then. The Pistons are reeling, with an overload of swingmen and no low post presence. So the deal makes sense for both teams.


The snag for the Jazz is that the ownership and coaches disagree on what to do. Jazz management is still unsold on paying the huge luxury tax bill that would come with keeping Boozer all season, and want to get something for him, since they won’t have the money to make a big signing over the summer even if his deal is kept an expires. Jerry Sloan and the coaches on the other hand want to keep him at all costs for the remainder of the season because they believe that gives the team the best chance to make noise in the playoffs. Prince would add a playoff tested veteran to the Jazz who can do a little of everything and really glue a team together,  but moving Boozer would leave Utah very thin in the frontcourt, with Millsap moving into the starting five with just Kosta Kufos to back him and Mehmet Okur up off the bench.


The Pistons have reportedly also suggested a Boozer/Richard Hamilton trade, but despite the great potential of a Williams/Rip backcourt, the Jazz are less than enthused about the three years and $38 million left on Hamilton’s contract.

Now for a long string of Mavericks-related news, starting with….

The Dallas Mavericks are determined to move Josh Howard:

Which is something that should have happened two years ago, but hey…

The Mavs are skidding out of control, thanks in particular to…well, us….and Howard is the expendable, not-fitting-in piece they’re looking to use to right the ship (as opposed, ironically, to the mammoth expiring deal of Erick Dampier).

What Dallas wants in return is either a genuine shooting guard who can give the backcourt some legitimate size and allow Jason Terry to go back to his sixth man role, or a defensive big man with more mobility and offense than Dampier.


The Josh Howard camp is convinced he’s going to either Toronto or Miami, who can offer the Mavs neither of the kinds of players they want. The Mavs say, "That comes completely out of left field,’’ according to one team source. The Raptors say they don’t want him anyway.

The players the Mavs are targeting are Kevin Martin, Andre Iguodala and Caron Butler (noticing a pattern in the names that come up in all these rumors?) The Martin trade attempts have been stalled, but could revive in the next week as the deadline looms closer and the Kings keep losing (2-15 with Martin now). The Mavs would probably need a third team to facilitate a Martin trade, at any rate.

The Sixers and Wizards, meanwhile, are both considering a trade with the Mavs, but are reportedly more focused on seeing if a McGrady trade to one of them starts gaining momentum first. The Wizards would probably want the Mavs to take on the contract of DeShawn Stevenson along with Butler; the Sixers will likely, at some point, suggest including Sam Dalemebert in the deal in exchange for Dampier as well.

Also happening is Mavericksland is something out of the bizarre…

The NBA is investigating how a couple of Mavs fans got into the Portland Trailblazers’ huddle:

How weird is that? Near the end of last Saturday’s Mavs/Blazers game, two female fans walked onto the court and into the Blazers’ timeout huddle. One reportedly even wrapped her arms around Blazers’ guard Rudy Fernandez before anyone noticed and had them escorted back to their seats.


"I was surprised,’’ Fernandez said. "I was listening to the coach on the bench and behind me, she touches me and says, ‘Rudy, I love you.' I said, ‘What?’’’

Jerryd Bayless said the two were drunk, which…well, you pretty much would have to be to try something like this and not think you’d get into trouble for it. When Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban was asked how the two got past security, the always sarcastic billionaire wryly said, "The same way someone snuck into a White House function."


Cuban is referring, of course, to Tareq And Michaele Salahi (the two on the right...left is White House Chief of Staff Rham Emmanuel) who got into a private dinner with President Obama without invitation earlier in the year. Cuban also had something to say about the All Star festivities Dallas is hosting this year.

Mark Cuban and Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones are hoping to set an NBA All Star attendance record this year:

Which certainly seems like a very attainable goal, considering the venue. The All Star game is being held in the brand new Cowboys Stadium, which can seat over 100,000 people (105,121 attended the first Cowboys game this year)

The NBA is expecting about 90,000 for this year’s All Star game, which would shatter not only the previous All Star attendance record of 44,735 set in 1989 at the Houston Astrodome, but also the attendance record for any basketball game period: 78,129, set in 2003 in Detroit during the Michigan State/Kentucky college ball game.

Holding an NBA game in a football stadium…that’s some nastolgia for longtime Wolves fans who remember when the Timberwolves played their first season in the Metrodome.


How can Cuban expect 90,000 people seated in 4 decks of stands to see the game? Well, the 60 yard jumbotron sure helps.


Of course, 90,000 isn’t enough for Cuban. He wants 100,000, and both he and Jerry Jones think they can get it. "Well, we want to push the magical number and we think we have an opportunity here," Jones said before the Dec. 19 Texas-North Carolina college game, which served as a test run for the All-Star Game. "We're well along the way right now: one-double-0."

Added Cuban, "If the NBA will let it go to 95, there's no reason why it can't go to 100."

Now for some news on who’s out of All Star weekend…

Brandon Roy is out for two weeks; Chris Paul is out for....a lot longer...:

Both will miss the All Star game, and Paul might miss the rest of the season as well.

CP3 will be replaced in the All Star game by Chauncey Billups, who proved his case this weekend with a career high 39 point performance in a win over the Lakers (and with the Nuggets sans-Melo). No word yet on who will replace Roy….my vote would be for Aaron Brooks, but it could also be a big man, like last year when Mo Williams replaced Chris Bosh.

The Chris Paul injury is torn cartilage in his left knee, which has been bothering him all year. Hornets’ coach and GM Jeff Bower said, "We're in fact-finding stages right now, gathering as much information as possible for decisions to be made to take the next steps. It is likely there will be a surgical solution for it. We don't have a timetable for Paul's return right now, nor do we know a surgical procedure right now."

Other sources have said Paul will be out 4-6 weeks, and still others say he will be out the rest of the year, considering the injury and how this is all but a lost year for the bugs.

Now for some news on who’s in for All Star weekend…

The participants for the Three Point Contest have been named:

Daequan Cook returns to defend his title. Challenging him are Paul Pierce, Stephen Curry, Danilo Gallinari, Channing Frye, and Chauncey Billups.

Have I mentioned Chauncey Billups' career night against LA? Well, I'm mentioning again, because it's relevant here. Billups scored 39 and went 9-13 from three, and some of those three pointers were just incredible shots.

I mean, that's on fire. Like NBA Jam on fire.

Anyway, now for some news on who’s out of…well, not All Star weekend, but…

Mike Dunleavy has resigned as the head coach of the LA Clippers:

He will still serve as the team’s general manager, for now at least. "I've had several conversations with our owner Sterling concerning what we think is best for the team overall," said Dunleavy. "We have discussed the possibility of my concentrating only on basketball operations. That option has always been available to me."

"I've come to the conclusion that this is the ideal time for me to direct my efforts toward the many personnel opportunities that lie before us, such as the trade market, the draft and the free-agent process. We fully expect to be active and productive on all those fronts."


Sources say Dunleavy just "burned out", which is probably true, but also to consider is that the Clippers have just fallen well short of expectations this season. Reports have maintained for a while now that Dunleavy was banking on the return of Blake Griffin to, in a sense, save his job (it’s not clear to what degree it was at risk), so one would certainly think that Griffin’s season ending surgery played a part in this as well.

Also certainly playing a part were back-to-back losses to the Nets and us….

Dunleavy’s focus now will be on what to do with the expiring contract of the highly coveted (and highly productive) Marcus Camby. No new news on that front though.

Assistant Kim Hughes will take over for the rest of the season (I mean, Sterling is a cheapskate….he’s not going to pay Dunleavy to quit AND a new coach…), but sources say the team has already tuned him out after just three days and one game. Ouch. But if you think that’s bad, then check this out…

Sources say the Clippers are considering Isiah Thomas as their new coach, and maybe to replace Dunleavy as GM as well:

Oh dear…

I think that’s all that really needs to be said about that.

Also happening in the coaching ranks this week…

Del Harris has resigned as the assistant coach to the New Jersey Nets:

Here’s what he officially said to the press:

"I have seen Kiki go from a man who was trying to encourage a team that was down to one who has developed a good sense of coaching. I believe in these recent games there is strong evidence that the team has gotten over the hump and will be much more competitive the rest of the way."

Much more competitive? Ya…right.

Here’s the real deal: Harris wanted to be named head coach, and even had his agent make the suggestion to Nets’ President Rod Thorn. The response? "Hold it right there. All due respect, he will not be the next head coach here. So if he has any delusions about that, you should let him know it's not going to happen."


As one can imagine, that didn’t sit well with Harris. And with nothing at stake and nothing to gain, he abandoned ship.

Which seems to be the general attitude of everyone in the Nets’ organization: every man for himself. With the season lost and a new Russian billionaire owner coming in next year, everyone has their own agenda. Rod Thorn is is a power struggle with Kiki Vandeweghe, who took over for ex-head coach Lawrence Frank. Vandeweghe meanwhile is in way over his head as a first time head coach, which hurts his own chances of staying with the team long term.

The Nets have signed a deal to play the next couple of seasons at the Provincial Center, home of the New Jersey Devils, while they wait for their Brooklyn arena to be built and a move to be approved. Everything’s chaos in Newark…it’ll be interesting to see how it all turns out.

Ok, before we get to the Draft Watch and CBA talk...

Kevin McHale talks about the Wolves, his new job, and what his plans are for the future:

This is from Jerry Zgoda and the Star Tribune:

Q You just came out of a production meeting? Don't you just talk off the top of your head?
A Most of the time, but this is organized. This is big time. It's fun. I like it. Chris [Webber] and Ernie [Johnson] are great.

Q With what Flip [Saunders] is dealing with in Washington, does that make you want to rush back into the league?
A No. Shocks you, huh? We'll wait and see what happens. ... Washington, I thought they had a chance to have a big year. I anticipated [Gilbert] Arenas coming back bigger than he did. The whole thing with the guns, that's a disaster. I didn't anticipate that. It's hard to anticipate something like that.

Q Players with guns: Random thing or bigger issue in the league?
A I think it's very random. I'm not telling you players don't have guns, but they have guns like I have guns: At home, for hunting in the country. There are no guns in the locker room.

Q The this progress?
A What do you mean by that?

Q Is this team better than where you left them? Is there a reason for fans to still hope?
A I've seen about two-thirds of their games. They've spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out who they are. That always happens with a new coach, new teammates, new lots of stuff. Then you add young guys. They're searching to find how they play together, who's going to play together. That takes time.

Q Where do you think this team was headed as you left it?
A Who knows? So much depended on, was Al going to come back healthy? If you don't get Al back healthy ... you're trying to build the team around him. I think he's looking better and better. He's getting back to form.

Q Many of the players you acquired have been shipped away. Think Al will be traded, too?
A I have no idea.

Q Memphis: Real or a mirage?
A Real. Lionel Hollins has done a great job. The thing I like: Lionel decided to go big with [Marc] Gasol and [Zach] Randolph. Most teams go small in a heartbeat. He stays big and by the fourth quarter, Gasol and Randolph have their guys in foul trouble and they're getting to the line. They don't have a lot of depth, but they outrebound you. They pound you inside.

Q When are you going to start Tweeting?
A Never.

Q With Blake Griffin done before his season started, is Tyreke Evans a lock to win Rookie of the Year?
A Evans, by far.

Q Where will LeBron be playing next year?
A Cleveland. They're going to go out and get some things [players]. There's a comfort level with him there in Cleveland.

Q Are the Celtics title days behind them?

A They haven't been healthy all year. If they get healthy and get some rhythm, they're the team to beat. I really like their bench if they can get healthy: Big Baby [Glen Davis], Marquis Daniels, [Eddie] House, Rasheed [Wallace], that's a nice blend of guys who can play. Those guys fit together well.

Q Will you coach or manage again?
A Oh, who knows? I'm going to wait and see.

The thing is, as much as I hated McHale the VPO, that's how much I love McHale the TV personality. I've seen him on a couple TNT studio shows, and he did great. I listened to him do a game broadcast, and he did so well I could actually stand listening to Reggie Miller commentate with him. It's just a little disappointing, because he shows insight on camera that he never applied in the office.


Draft Watch:

S-n-P has a new Draft Board up, plus there's a Consensus Big Board as well, so I'll direct you to them for your draft talk needs.

The NBA has finalized its new Collective Bargaining Agreement proposal:


And you can forget any of the hard line talk you've heard up to this point, because the proposal Stern and the owners came up with is way more radical than anything anyone ever speculated. Here's some of the standout details:

  • Rollbacks on max contracts that would reduce contract amounts by 2/3
  • The reduction of guaranteed salary amounts to less than half a contract's total worth
  • A maximum limit of 4 years on any contract length
  • The elimination of salary exceptions, such as the Mid-level Exception, effectively creating a hard salary cap
  • The restructuring of current NBA contracts to conform to the new salary limits

Catch that last one? The NBA wants to not only impose mush stricter limits on future contracts, but also wants to redo contracts that have already been signed to fit within those limits.

That in particular is not going to sit well with the players. Consider Dwight Howard, for example. His contract runs to the end of the 2011-2012 season, and he stands to make over $18 million that year. Except if this proposal is part of the new CBA that will take effect the summer before that year, that $18 million could be reduced down to $6 million, maybe less, with only half of that money being guaranteed. Think he'd be happy about that?

"The league has to be careful," said one agent. "If the top players are united against David, that's going to make for a tough fight. It could get very ugly."

Ugly as in lockout ugly.

Now keep in mind...despite what that agent says, this is not just David Stern. This is the NBA Board of Governors, often mistakenly referred to as the Owners' Union (there's a Players' Union, so...) Of which, by the way, Glen Taylor is the chairman of.


Also keep in mind that it was Glen Taylor's signing of Kevin Garnett to the mega $126 million contract that arguably was the "last straw" that caused the last NBA lockout in 1998.

David Stern, Players' Association Director Billy Hunter, and Union president Derek Fisher all declined to comment on the proposal this week. "David and Billy have decided not to comment until we get to All-Star weekend and I'll fall in line with those two gentlemen," Fisher said Friday night.

Union Vice President Adonal Foyle, on the other hand, had plenty to say.


"I think it's a proposal that's far-reaching. This has gone too far. It wants a hard cap, it basically will create no middle class, and which, in effect, means none of the Bird rules would apply."

"I think when you look at the current CBA as it stands, it benefits both the players and owners. This is an agreement where we can quabble with different things within it, but it's an agreement that gives some things to both parties involved."

"A system like that would be too restrictive, and it doesn't jibe with what we think the league is. We have been willing to negotiate a guarantee that we don't get over a certain threshold, and no other businesses do that. We hold back 9 percent of our income so that the owners can make sure they are covered on the back end. We have given up a lot of stuff, and they have given up a lot of stuff, so I think to start off a negotiation in this rash a term, I think it's unfair."

"The meetings, in our estimation, had been quite constructive. We were seeming to get a sense of where everybody was, and we went through why we think [the current agreement] should be extended. But I think a proposal like this is the first time they're saying: 'This is the way we want to go with the league.' "

I've said this before, but it bears repeating now: if push comes to shove and neither side compromises, there will be a lockout and the owners will get their way because of one key factor: they have the money to sit out of the NBA as long as they want....the players don't. And it looks a lot more likely that that will happen now with Stern and the owners opening with such a blatantly unpopular proposal they know the players are going to hate.

So here's the deal. Next week's theme is Amare Stoudemire for sure.

There's 18 months left on the current CBA, but even a proposal like this one, made as far in advance as this is, can have drastic effects on the NBA right now, and there's no better example of what those effects could be than Amare. The NBA, the trade deadline, the Timberwolves, the new can all be tied together by Stoudemire.

Until next week...

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