Category Archives: NBA

Does the NBA Need a Rooney Rule?

US Presswire Sports ArchiveSo far this season, four NBA coaches have been fired or “mutually agreed” to be fired–Mike Brown (Lakers), Avery Johnson (Nets), Scott Skiles (Bucks) and Alvin Gentry (Suns). Three of the four are African-American. They’ve been replaced by Mike D’Antoni, PJ Carlisimo, Jim Boylan and Lindsey Hunter (above), respectively.

Three of the four are white.

When the NFL enacted its Rooney Rule a decade ago (it requires team to interview at least one “minority” candidate for head coach and senior football operations openings), no one suggested the NBA enact a similar edict. That’s because the league had a long and positive history of hiring African-Americans as coaches and senior front office personnel.

Still does. In its most recent “Race and Gender Report Card,” the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida gave the NBA an A+ in the area of minority hiring.

But what’s happened so far this season is a bit troubling. Coaches get fired, not doubt. And among the other 26 NBA teams, 11 are led by an African-Ameerican head coach. That’s not bad, but the trend has worth watching.

In the NFL, solid former coaches with winning records–such as Lovie Smith and Jim Caldwell–were overlooked by ownership, which in most cases decided to go with unproven coaches. (Seven of the eight new NFL coaches have never been head coaches in the league.) And a plethora of talented coordinators was overlooked as well.

The Suns promotion of Hunter, a former player with 17 years of experience and two championship rings, to interim coach at least shows that the NBA is still ahead of its brutish brethren. But not by as much as the league thinks.

Time to Give College Football Players the Same Leverage as their Coach

Kelly's headset was barely off before he was headed to Philly to discuss and NFL job.

Kelly’s headset was barely off before he was headed to Philly to discuss and NFL job.

Maybe it’s the timing that got under my skin. Had the jet carrying beaten and battered Notre Dame even touched down back in South Bend before Irish head coach Brian Kelly was straightening his tie and fussing with his hair awaiting a meeting with the Philadelphia Eagles to discuss their vacant head coach position?

It seems like he sneaked off to another gate and booked for the Northeast as his players continued to ice down and soothe their wounds from the beat-down they endured against national champion Alabama.

Just so we’re clear: I have absolutely no problem with college coaches striking while the confetti is still raining down on their shoulders and leverage their success for a fatter paycheck. No problem at all.

God Bless Penn State’s Bill O’Brien for doin’ the NFL Dance before “deciding” (wink) to $tay at Penn State earlier this week. Last fall, the man took perhaps the most toxic and unpredictable college gig in America and handled it with dignity and success, winning more games (eight) than anyone thought he would.

Oregon’s Chip Kelly was more like that guy on the dance floor who thinks he has some moves. His awkward twirl with Cleveland, Philadelphia and reportedly Buffalo was actually pathetic. He’s been dancing for a few seasons now and it seemed as if he was a goner for sure. And good for him. Like many coaches, it seemed like he wanted to someday coach at the highest level. But after all but calling for a U-Haul, he $suddenly decided go stay in Eugene, much to the shock of many and the delight of Duck faithful.

Now, here’s the other Kelly, the Irish savior–who three years ago was a relatively unknown Kelly at Cincinnati–standing at the precipice of Notre Dame lore. Dude was being sized-up for a pedestal that would stand alongside those hoisting Knute Rockne, Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine and Lou Holtz as Irish coaches who won national championships. (A coach name Elmer Layden won one there, as well (1938) but alas I don’t believe he stands atop a pedestal, at least not one in South Bend.

But before the Irish defense has stopped flinching at the thought of ‘Bama’s 6′-2″, 220-pound running back Eddie Lacy, Kelly was dancin’.

Okay, so the confetti was raining on Nick Saban, not him, but Kelly was leveraging a blowout like nobody’s business–as is his right. But the timing was a bit stinky to me.

Moreover, his players couldn’t execute such leverage. What if they could? What if, say, Johnny Football (aka Maisel), the freshman Heisman Trophy winner, could have walked into head coach Kevin Sumlin office the morning after arriving back in Texas from New York and said, “Coach, I may not be any hotter than this, I’m heading to the NFL!”

But he can’t. Unless his potential one-and-done buddies on the basketball team, Johnny Football and other college players aren’t eligible for the NFL draft until they’ve been out of high school for three years.

We could debate all night about the merits of one-and-done, and in an age when the strength and condition programs at top college rival those of the NFL, I’m not wholly buying the idea that football is more physical and therefore the players should stay in college. They should at least be able to earn a living during the few years their bodies (and, ahem, their brains) will tolerate the game.

They should at least be able to do what their millionaire coaches do and leverage their success for economic gain.

They should at least be able to dance.

Plenty of Shared Blame (And just Bad Luck) NBA Injuries

It’s hard to believe it mere coincidence that so many high-profile players this season–Rickey Rubio, Kevin Love, Jeremy Lin and, of course, Derrick Rose–have gone down with significant injuries in this post-lockout compressed season.

Playing an average of four game per week, common sense says the unusual wear and tear, combined with the lack of a training camp are the culprits. And those are the by-product of the greed that lead the NBA and the players’ union to seek to recover as much of its lost revenue as possible after bickering for months over how to split the millions the league generates each season.

Yet as likely to blame is the lack of recovery time, says at least one orthopedic surgeon, Dr, Riley Williams of the New York Hospital for Special Surgery and team doctor for the New Jersey Nets. Check him out in this video. That last of down time may have lead not only to the high-profile injuries but an unprecedented number of muscle strains throughout the season, something that rarely reaches the headlines.

No matter who’s to blame, the 2011-12 season will likely go down as perhaps the costliest in league history, with the toll not truly known until we see how well the fallen stars recover. Or don’t

My Five Greatest ‘Jersey Nets!

They’ll close the doors, turn out the lights, pack their bags and head out of town tonight.

The Nets will leave New Jersey, closing out the team’s 36-year stay in the land across the Hudson, and head for Brooklyn, N.Y. and an intriguing future.

I covered the Nets for several seasons in the early 80s, starting in 1981, the team’s first season at the Meadowlands (They now play in Corey Booker’s Neighborhood, Newark).

Interestingly–and to me, fittingly–the franchise ends its Joisey run with the Philadelphia 76ers, the team against whom the Nets had their greatest triumph. At the end of the 1983-84 season, the Nets upset the defending champion 76ers in the first round of the playoffs, winning a deciding Game 5 (it was 3 of 5 then) after Doctor J had promised a Game 5 win, saying, “You can mail in the stats.”

That team was led by Buck Williams, Mike Gminski, Otis Birdsong and coached by Stan Albeck. Today, the nostalgic folks at NJ.com are allowing readers to pick their all-time New Jersey Nets team (meaning only players who played with the franchise while it was in the state; hence, no Doctor J.

Here’s mine:

Buck Williams (the foundation, maybe my all-time great NJ Net)
Jason Kidd (at his peak)
Bernard King (imagine if they’d kept him)
Darrel Dawkins (he called me Big Scoop)
Jayson Williams (yep, him…this is about on-the-court)

I loved a few other guys, but eliminated them for various reasons–including the late great Drazen Petrovic (just didn’t play long enough), Deron Williams (not enough team success), Michael Ray Richarson (close), Suuuper John Williamson (close, as well) and Vince Carter (stellar dunker who never bought into team concept).

No surprise, Jayson Williams was not invited to tonight’s closing festivities. Understandable. Just last week, he was released from prison after serving his time in the death of chauffeur years ago and the ugly aftermath. It was just too soon to bring him back.

Metta World Peace Out!


Ron Artest worked hard to overcome. Now, Metta World Peace has undone it all.

I don’t think Peace intended to club Oklahoma City’s James Harden. But after feeling as if justice was not served on his own behalf in the first half today against the Thunder, I believe he intended to club somebody.

And for that, Peace will (or should) be out for awhile.

By this time Monday, I expect Stu Jackson to announce that Peace is suspended for as much as 10 games. That’s right. Ten.

Now, I could also see him getting a mere five game suspension–with the league giving him credit for “good behavior” since that ugly, going-in-the-stands thing.

Five games would take him into the first round of the playoffs. Gievn his past, I’m not sure Stu will think that’s just enough.

Peace should miss no’ ‘money time.

And that can only happen if Peace is suspended for double digits.

Fortunately, Harden appears to have survived the clubbing. The Thunder reported that he passed league-manded concussion tests, and he was apparently available for the second half of the thrilling Lakers-Thunder game. And that could help Peace’s cause.

But Peace did what he did. And considering his past, he will (and should) be suspended for a considerable period of time–time that matters.

I Hate MVP Predictions…But Here’s Mine!

I hate it when sports prognosticators pick post-season award winners before the first national anthem’s been sung.

Too much happens between the first play of the season and the last that has a profound impact on individual performances. But more important, these predictions influence voters–creating a leader-in-the-clubhouse or it’s-this-guy’s-turn mentality that becomes hard to beat.

Occasionally, though, it does. In the Heisman race, it seems early “front-runner” (at least in the minds of the prognosticators) Andrew Luck of Stanford was victimized by the hype surrounding him and failed to live up to the high expectations placed upon him. The eventual winner, Robert Griffin III of Baylor, meanwhile, was a virtual preseason unknown who emerged from the abyss of zero expectations and dazzled voters with his exciting play.

Now…

All that said, I’m going to predict the MVP for the upcoming NBA mini-season: Chris Paul.

Of course, a lot can happen between Christmas Day and the end of the regular season (playoffs aren’t factored into post-season awards) but already the near-consensus best point guard in the league, is showing that he will likely transform the long-moribund Clippers in the best team in Los Angeles (at least until Dwight Howard takes up residency there).

Paul had 17 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in just three quarters in his Clipper debut last night against the Lakers. More important, the Clips crushed the Lakers 114-95.

Yes, it was preseason.

Yes, the Lakers still have the best player in Los Angeles in Kobe Bryant.

But Paul (along with the additions of Caron Butler and Chauncey Billups, and the holder of that young cat who dunk over cars) has already shown these ain’t your Daddy’s sorry Clips.

They will march stride-for-stride with the Lakers this season, if not run them off their own Staples Center floor.

And Paul will own LA this season – beating out the seemingly consensus preseason-front runner Kevin Durant.

Love you, Kevin but sorry, your Luck will run out, too.

In Los Angeles, Who’s Golden Now?

Lucy Nicholson photo/Reuters

Who’s the best team in LA? Really.

Yes, I can now actually ask the question without having my NBA credentials revoked.

I’ll even go on the record now and say it…the Clippers.

I’m 2000 miles anyway from the giddiness and gloom that are unfolding in various Los Angeles in the wake of what is no doubt the biggest move of the NBA’s wacky offseason. But I’m as excited to see the pairing of dynamic point guard Chris Paul (acquired late last night-or was it early this morning?–from N’awlins) and the most exciting and dominating big man in the game, Blake Griffin, as if I had seats next to Billy Crystal.

I’m sure it’ll take awhile for all the Clippers new pieces to gel. (Almost lost in the buzz over the Paul move are prior signings of Caron Butler and Chauncey Billups). But in the meanwhile, “Showtime” has a new address, and by the end of the season, I predict the hungry, on-the-rise Clips will go further in the playoffs than the near-the-sunset Lakers.

Of course, my “out” is that given what’s transpired so far since we were all spared yet another gloomy-faced press conference to discuss the state of collective bargaining negotiations, about a gazillion trades could (and probably will) transpire before the trade deadline.

And no doubt, we’ll likely see an overabundance of nagging injuries due to the short training camp and preseason.

Nonetheless, in the end, Baby Brother will payback Big Bro’ for all the butt-whippings they’ve received in recent seasons.

The tide has shifted.

Who Wins this NBA Season? Everyone! (Hopefully)

Who benefits most from the 66-game, lockout-shortended ’11-12 NBA season?

Everyone.

The Players: Losing 12 games of physical and mental wear-and-team is nothing to scoff at. Sure, “mature” teams like Boston, Los Angeles and even Dallas will have a chance to be spry for the long, arduous playoffs, which should help them a tad more. But this morning, the knees of every player are screaming, yeah!

The Owners: This really becomes a guinea-pig season that will determine just how well the new CBA works. Big market owners will do well enough financially, while small-market teams will “lose” less $, if they lose at all.

Fans: The 66-game season essentially becomes a “sprint” to the playoffs–okay maybe a 400-meter run. Either way every game becomes more meaningful, more compelling, more critical. That had been one of the knocks NBA critics like to trot out. At least for this season, keep that one in your pocket.

Season-ticket holders: I’m not crying over having to pay for 16 fewer games at the newly-renovated Madison Square Garden. Jim Dolan jacked-up prices an average of 10 percent for this season.

NBA workers: On this one, my fingers are crossed. I’m hoping that after all the T’s are crossed and I’s dotted, once the players and owners have ratified the agreement – that both parties will do their best to make the working-class segment of the NBA “family” whole – paying them for an entire 88-game season rather than a shortened one.

Overseas Reality Check

The plethora of NBA stars considering taking their talents overseas to locals such as Turkey, Russia and Asia should the lockout slice into the 2011-12 regular season might want to reach out to fellow superstar Diana Taurasi for some been-there, done-that advice.
Taurasi, probably the best female basketball player on the planet, played for Turkish club Fenerbahce last winter (before a screwed-up positive drug test, of which she was quickly absolved, cut the season short). She previously played five years in Russia, and has signed to return to Turkey following the current WNBA season.
Her message to the Derons, Dwights, Kobes et al who are pondering playing on other shores? “It’s a culture shock, a different world,” she told me this week. “If you’re used to doing things one way, living a certain lifestyle and jumping on and off charters, you’ll be in for a shock. Sometimes you’ll take a three-hour flight then a three-hour bus ride to some of the smaller cities not because the teams are cheap but because it’s he only way to get there… You cannot [join an overseas team] and say, ‘This is how we do at, say, UConn or in the NBA.’ They don’t care.”
Some players will likely negotiate better-than-typical accomodations, but they’ll still be nothing like the Ritz or other five-star venues teams and the league typical use when traveling-domestic or especially internationally.
And if they think they’ll only have to sweat through one practice a day, as is done here, forget it. “There’s standard two-hour morning and afternoon practices. And that’s for women’s basketball, men’s basketball, volleyball, handball, whatever.. It’s just the European way of doing things, and there’s no [collective-bargaining agreement] to help.”
Earlier this month, Josh Childress of the Phoenix Suns, who played two seasons in Greece said his experience was no day on the beaches of Mykonos. “No, I wouldn’t,’ he told ESPN’s Rich Bucher when asked if he’d play overseas should games be cut by the lockout. “And I don’t know why guys would. I understand that guys really want to play. But you sometimes have to look at what you have and treat this as a business. The only way I could see it making sense is if you’re a player from a particular country going back. But for an American player with a good-sized guaranteed deal here, I can’t see why you’d do it.”
Taurasi says the difficulties and differences for Americans aren’t limited to life off the court. The former WNBA MVP and four-time scoring leader also led the Turkish league in scoring (24.6 points per game) but says the way the game is played overseas is different and requires outsiders to adjust. “They have a different mindset,” Taurasi said. “All their philosophies about offensive and defensive basketball are completely different. They have their own style of play, more team-oriented. The coaching style is different; they don’t want you to average 30. They want you to fit into their rotation and scheme. You have to adjust.”
Now, Taurasi wasn’t being discouraging, just offering a bounce-pass of advice. “First, really educate yourself about where you’re going to play. See what kind of resources they’ll have for you–like a translator, people who can help you off court. Check to see if there’s an American coach and a trainer that can work out with you separately.
“Most of all, keep an open mind and enjoy it.”
And yet: “They’re paying you the big bucks, so you just do what they say.”

Butler Can Still Do It

Butler was bad. Really bad. Historically bad. Yeah, they played hard. Yeah, they didn’t quit. But they stunk. The Bulldogs couldn’t shoot (just 18% overall, and only three 2-point FGs), couldn’t even get close to the basket (zero points in the paint until late in the game), and in the end they couldn’t keep up with maybe the red-hottest team in sports, UConn, losing 53-41 in the national championship game.
And Butler picked the worst time to look so lame-during their second turn on college basketball’s biggest stage.
On Twitter and elsewhere, critics were understandably out for blood. Some called the Bulldog’s performance an affirmation that while we all like Cinderella, we don’t really want her at the dance. Others said it was a loss for mid-majors everywhere, after making so much progress in recent years that the nom itself was becoming inappropriate. Still others just said they choked under the glare of the moment.
My before-one-shining-moment take was simply this: I do not want to hear another peep from the guys at my neighborhood bar who always whine about how much better college basketball is than the NBA. That argument is done!
But I won’t dwell on last night. Nor should the critics.
Butler was reached back-to-back championship games, an accomplishment not to be diminished.
And they did elevate the status of mid-majors, as did the likes of VCU, Richmond and even Morehead State this year.
They’re here and because their players tend to stay for at least three and in most cases four years, they’ll remain legitimate Final Four contenders. Cinderella will be back. Get used to it.
As for Butler, its legacy should not be tarnished by one miserable moment.
Let’s see if Brad Stevens can build on the climb and not crippled by the fall. Let’s see if he can recruit a Kemba Walker, the player who can actually break down a defense and get his teammates free for open looks. Let’s see if he can recruit a Jeremy Lamb, an athletic shot-blocker with a deft shooting touch. Let’s see if he can recruit an Alex Oraikhi, a clog-up-the-paint stud.
And this isn’t just on Stevens and Butler. By deciding to stay at VCU (albeit after collecting a 400% raise), had coach Shaka Smart-and other mid-major coaches-will play a part in shaping the Butler legacy. If they can not recruit the young man who might have otherwise gone to a school with the big name on the uni, then what Butler and their peers did this season will not go unrecognized.
In fact, it would have changed the game-and for the better.