The Fundamentals

» June 25, 2009 1:26 PM | By Brandon Hoffman

Ken Berger of  “One of them showed up with floppy hair and eyebrows as thick as his accent, then left with a camera crew filming his every move as he explored the city. The other came in with sort of a half-fade, half-Mohawk thing going on and left about a half hour later than he wanted to. ‘How long do I have to do this?’ Brandon Jennings said Wednesday as he sat down for pre-draft media interviews in the ballroom of a luxury Times Square hotel. One thing Jennings does not lack is confidence. Quietly, Ricky Rubio has it, too. Asked to respond to Jennings’ recent comment that Rubio is ‘all hype,’ the 18-year-old Spaniard didn’t blink.  ‘I don’t listen to people who say, ‘You want to be on the top,’ or, ‘You’re all hype,’‘ Rubio said. ‘I don’t care. They’re going to see what I do on the court. I talk on the court.’  By the time you read this, the time for the talk to end will be only hours away. The NBA Draft is Thursday night, and how strange it is that these two kids — neither with a college education, one born an ocean away and the other one having crossed that ocean for his apprenticeship — hold the keys to the whole thing.”

Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal:  “Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley almost sounded like a toddler on Christmas Eve. He has a wish list for the NBA Draft. But the Chicago-based billionaire insisted he’ll be as surprised as anyone by what the Grizzlies finally unwrap with the No. 2 overall pick. Heisley, in town Wednesday preparing to oversee the Grizzlies’ draft war room, contended the organization’s next move still was up in the air just hours before draft proceedings were set to begin. They’ve haven’t come to a consensus on a player if the Griz exercise their top pick. They’re still talking about trades. Heisley, though, guaranteed this: The Griz will wake up Friday morning a much better team. ‘We’re going to be better,’ Heisley said. ‘We will get a very, very good player out of this draft. Our team will be better. We’ll make a bigger jump this year than what we did last year.’”

Doug Smith of the Toronto Star:  “The NBA draft remains as clear as mud but the Raptors appear to reaching some clarity in their search for an appropriate pick at No. 9. According to league sources, the Raptors are now concentrating more on three players – 6-foot-4 UCLA guard Jrue Holiday, 6-foot-7 USC guard DeMar DeRozan and 6-foot-8 Wake Forest forward James Johnson – with Syracuse guard Jonny Flynn and Duke forward Gerald Henderson dropping further out of favour but not entirely out of the picture. And with no one certain who might get chosen where in the eight picks ahead of Toronto’s, there’s a chance two of them will be on the board, giving the Raptors a choice of their top three hopes. Johnson, who played power forward in college but is seen as an NBA small forward, is a 22-year-old many scouts say is the most NBA-ready of the three while Holiday, 18, and DeRozan, 19, are seen as longer-term prospects with more potential.”

Dave D’Alessandro of The Star-Ledger:  “Following months of scouting, film study, workouts, interviews, vetting, and consultation, the Nets have whittled their short list down to roughly a half-dozen players. In all likelihood, Syracuse point guard Jonny Flynn and Arizona power forward Jordan Hill top that list, but nobody in their area codes believes that either player will pass all the way down to No. 11. That leaves power forward Tyler Hansbrough of North Carolina, swing guard Jrue Holiday of UCLA, and wings Terrence Williams of Louisville and Gerald Henderson of Duke.  ‘It’s more likely that our pick will be decided by who goes ahead of us,’ said Thorn, whose team is preceded by Toronto at No. 9 and Milwaukee at 10. ‘We have three or four guys we like. At least two of them are going to be there. Two of them may not be there, but somebody else may come down.’ And in a reference to Hill, Thorn added, ‘There are guys that they talk about in the top three or four in the draft who could be available at 11.’”

Brad Rock of the Deseret News:  “It’s unsurprising the Jazz would want to land someone with an ornery disposition in tonight’s NBA Draft. Picking a guy who isn’t afraid to take names and crack noggins is usually good policy. Besides, when you’re drafting 20th, the pretty guys aren’t likely to be around. If you can’t get a sports car, get a work truck. ‘Public perception-wise, and within the organization, we know we need to be a little tougher physically and mentally,’ said player personnel V.P. Walt Perrin. Thus, the Jazz ran a string of tough guys through workouts this month, hoping to line up someone who might help their notoriously spongy defense. One rampaged at opponents as blood poured from his broken nose during a game two years ago, then scrapped his protective mask shortly after being fitted. Two others appeared for Jazz workouts despite injured knees. A fourth arrived after impaling himself on a measuring stick a few weeks earlier. Another was a martial arts veteran before puberty. You want tough? These guys make Vin Diesel look squeamish.”

Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times:  “‘There is a better than even likelihood that we’ll move one of our picks,’ Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said Wednesday. That means the Lakers, who have a first-round pick (No. 29) and two second-round selections (Nos. 42 and 59), could make a trade in a package with a current player or move the draft pick for cash. At this time of the year there are always trade rumors, and one involving the Lakers has them shopping backup point guard Jordan Farmar. The Lakers contacted the Houston Rockets about acquiring Farmar or buying the Lakers’ first-round pick, but the Lakers were turned down, according to two NBA sources who are not authorized to speak publicly about their team. If the Lakers sold their first-round pick, they would get a future pick in return, as well as cash. In today’s market a 29th pick probably would fetch $500,000 to $1 million.’”

Sekou Smith of the Atlanta Journal Constitution:  “One by one the texts and phone calls started coming in late Wednesday afternoon. Hawks players wanted to know if what they were hearing was true. So did other team’s players, scouts, coaches and an assortment of other people. ‘Are we really going to get Jamal Crawford?’ one player asked via text. ‘Is this serious?’ ‘You really think this is going to happen?’ another asked. ‘Man, he gets buckets. Major buckets. We could be explosive with him and all our other cats coming back.’ ‘This is a crucial move for them,’ a Western Conference scout told me, ‘because it was obvious in the playoffs that they needed another scorer with some size that could create a shot.’ Not a single player, coach or executive from anywhere that I communicated with Wednesday objected to the move for the Hawks. Not one person. Truth be told, they were going crazy about it, with one guy calling is a ‘master stroke’ since the Hawks moved two for one without sacrificing draft picks now or in the future.”

Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle:  “It’s conceivable that neither of the new acquisitions will even be on the Warriors’ roster when the season begins. Expiring contracts are attractive to most NBA teams, especially in times of economic crisis, and each player fits into that category (Claxton at $5.2 million, Law at $2.2 million). Claxton, who played for Golden State in the 2003-04 and ‘04-05 seasons, has been stifled by a left-knee injury for two years (playing two games last season) and doesn’t figure into the Warriors’ plans at all. The 6-foot-3 Law has a reputation to resurrect, but he could be a different story. Nelson was a big fan of Law’s during the 2006-07 collegiate season, after which the Hawks made him the No. 11 pick in the draft. A first-team All-American on several lists, Law became known as ‘Captain Clutch’ as he led Texas A&M into the NCAA Tournament in his senior year. His 26 points keyed a second-round victory over Louisville and a trip to the Sweet 16, where the Aggies lost to Memphis 72-69. Law was strictly a bench player in Atlanta, where Mike Bibby and Joe Johnson dominated the backcourt minutes.”

Bob Ryan of The Boston Globe:  “Let’s go back to draft time three years ago. When Rondo declared for the draft, the coaching staff at Kentucky wasn’t exactly what you would call heartbroken. Tubby Smith & Co. appreciated his immense raw talent, but they had grown weary of the packaging. Rondo was known to be something of a coaching handful. The inference we’ve been drawing of late is that he still is. He’s not some awful person, but let’s just say he has his ways, and he sometimes grates on teammates, coaching staff, and management. Ainge has even taken the unusual step of confirming a rumor that Rondo had been late for practices this past season. ‘There were just a couple of situations where Rajon was late this year,’ Ainge says. ‘I don’t know if he was sitting in his car, but he was late. The rest of the team was there. We have team rules, and you have to be on time. He was fined for being late, said he was stuck in traffic, and it’s just not acceptable.’ Common sense tells us that the reason Ainge is copping to this is that there were surely more transgressions of a higher nature.”

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:  “Rockets general manager Daryl Morey described other teams’ pursuit of Tracy McGrady and the final season of his contract as ‘very aggressive.’ Morey seemed more interested in finding a way into the draft. But unlike last year, when he considered McGrady untouchable and even had him in Rockets owner Leslie Alexander’s office on draft night, Morey said he would consider offers. ‘We’re getting a lot of interest on Tracy, and I do have to listen,’ Morey said. ‘It’s my job to make this team as ready to win the title as possible. I think the reason we are going to have a pretty high bar on moving him is because he still provides exactly what coach (Rick Adelman) and I thought we were missing, which was a guy who can get a high-quality shot at the end of the game. That said, we want to position ourselves for the playoffs, it looks like it’s going to be hard for Tracy to be here for a good chunk of the year, so if we can get a talented player who helps us all season, I think we have to look at it.’”

Chris McCosky of The Detroit News:  “The league will announce the adjusted salary cap and luxury tax threshold sometime in early July. But after trading Amir Johnson to Milwaukee on Tuesday, Pistons president Joe Dumars expects to have no less than $19 million of available cap space at his disposal, certainly enough to land two top-tier free agents. ‘That was always the plan for this summer,’ Dumars said. ‘We hope to get at least two players out of free agency, plus add another player with our draft pick (No. 15 overall). We went into the summer saying we had to add three new guys to our mix.’ … When asked if he had a short list of target free agents, Dumars joked, ‘I think the (free agent) list itself is short.’ He’s right. This isn’t a banner year for free agents. Some of the top names like Kobe Bryant, Trevor Ariza, Lamar Odom and even Hedo Turkoglu are expected to return to their current teams. Utah power forward Carlos Boozer, who is expected to opt out of his contract, has long been linked, along with Chicago’s Ben Gordon, as the Pistons’ primary targets.”

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:  “Nearly seven weeks after the Rockets were shocked by the injury that ended Yao Ming’s season, they were as stunned Wednesday to find it has not healed.  A bone scan late Wednesday evening showed that the immobilization of Yao’s left foot has not healed the hairline fracture he suffered May 8 during the Rockets’ second-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers.  A statement released by the team said Yao and his doctors will consider other treatment options. Those could include anything from wearing a cast, rather than the walking boot used since the injury, to surgery.  ‘Yao is not experiencing any pain in his left foot. However, the results from the CT and bone scans we performed over the past two days indicate that the hairline fracture has not responded to the degree that we expected,’ Rockets team physician Tom Clanton said in a statement. ‘We will review a variety of treatment options before proceeding.’”

Joe Freeman of The Oregonian:  “As the franchise continues its evolution from embarrassment to championship contender, one potential pitfall is starting to emerge for the Blazers: It could be difficult for owner Paul Allen to hang onto the people who have orchestrated the transformation.  The NBA draft, where Pritchard, Penn and the rest of the Blazers’ management group has distinguished itself as an up-and-coming force in the league through shrewd trades and spot-on talent evaluations, starts today at 4:30 p.m. in New York. The event highlights a hidden byproduct of the Blazers’ success. The behind-the-scenes stars — specifically vice president of basketball operations Penn, director of NBA scouting Michael Born and director of college scouting Chad Buchanan — are gaining more respect and recognition around the league. Penn was the first target last month but he likely won’t be the last, and there are only so many bottles of wine to go around. ‘I know any day, at any time, I can get a call from another organization asking permission to interview one of those three guys,’ Pritchard said.”

Harvey Araton of The New York Times:  “Rubio, this year’s leading European draft luminary, turned pro at 14. He said he attended classes in the morning, arranged by his club team, and practiced in the afternoon and at night. When he traveled, he packed his notebooks and corresponded online. He got his high school diploma and said he would choose a college course of online study next year. Maybe he forgets about that by the time he is on his first long road trip, but that will be up to him. It’s all about choice and now American high school players are realizing there’s a big basketball-mad world out there beyond the month of March. Stern has said he does not mind, but Vaccaro predicted he will. ‘There’s going to be a day soon when the next LeBron James will go over there and not come back when David wants him to,’ Vaccaro said. Hard to fathom, but Vaccaro and I did agree that the N.B.A. missed its calling on this vexing issue when it didn’t invest enough to make its developmental vehicle — the D-League — a more embraceable alternative for players disinclined to play, or pose, in college.”

Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic:  “Like many of the Suns’ recent NBA draft days, this one will be more about who the Suns are sending away with Phoenix agreeing Wednesday night to a trade that will ship center Shaquille O’Neal to the Cleveland Cavaliers. In exchange for the 37-year-old, 15-time All-Star, the Suns will get about $10 million in savings by acquiring Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic and then releasing Pavlovic, who has only $1.5 million of his $4.95 million salary guaranteed. Phoenix also gets the 46th pick in Thursday night’s draft and $500,000. A buyout of Wallace’s contract is also possible after injuries reduced his effectiveness and caused him to ponder retirement. He is due to make $14 million this season and had to be in the deal to match O’Neal’s expiring $21 million salary-cap number. The Suns could also trade Wallace and have not ruled out the possibility that the 34-year-old former defensive star could play for them.”

Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer:  “The Cavs are not done. They still are going to be looking for a wing defender (or two) and I think also a stretch power forward, aka a player who can go out to the 3-point line. This is why I believe they will still consider signing Rasheed Wallace with their mid-level exception. You need to surround Shaq with shooters and stretch the floor, just like you do with LeBron. Look how effective a player like Robert Horry was with the Lakers when Shaq was there. When the Heat won their title Antonie Walker played about the same role as the stretch four. So in addition to the formula to pair Shaq with a great wing scorer (Kobe, DWade) also you need the other big to be able to stretch the floor. Not to mention it would help the Cavs in matchups with the Lakers and Magic as well. It is not easy to get used to Shaq. All of training camp will probably be an exercise to re-learn how to operate with him in there. There will be issues, Shaq demands the ball, he slows down early offense and sometimes he will clog the lane. But think of the matchup issues the Cavs will give teams with LeBron and Shaq on the floor.”

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:  “Yes, the Rent-a-Shaq tour hits Cleveland now and the commissioner is the most relieved man of all. His dream Finals – L.A. and Cleveland – could be the most anticipated in the NBA’s history. Now, Shaq is salvation from the tedium of a lousy draft. He was the salvation in the Finals between his old teammates and coaches. He was the salvation of a lost All-Star weekend in Phoenix, where he did the dance of the Jabberwocky and raised a co-MVP trophy with Kobe. He is like the aging prom queen forever finding a younger beau for his arm: From Kobe to Dwyane Wade to LeBron now. As Yahoo! Sports first reported, the trade came down in the late hours of Wednesday, when Cleveland GM Danny Ferry finally realized he couldn’t pry Vince Carter out of New Jersey for his expiring contracts and junk players. The Cavs didn’t do this trade without some reservation. ‘They aren’t sure how he’s going to roll with being LeBron’s sidekick,’ says an executive source close to the Cavaliers’ front office. Yet, the Cavaliers made this trade without apology: Whatever LeBron wants, LeBron gets.”

2 Responses to “The Fundamentals”

  1. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    More on the Shaq trade this afternoon…

  2. Tsunami Says:


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