The Fundamentals

» August 3, 2009 11:42 AM | By Brandon Hoffman

Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer:  “This week Dan Gilbert will be putting on yet another hat. The Cavaliers owner has been given an important responsibility by NBA Commissioner David Stern, who has named Gilbert as a member of the Board of Governors’ Labor Relations Committee. The group is scheduled to begin talks with the National Basketball Players Association on Tuesday about a new collective bargaining agreement. That’s a lot of verbiage and capitalized words. Basically, Gilbert is one of the five new members on the committee representing the 30 owners against the players. And it isn’t going to be easy. The CBA doesn’t expire until 2011 and owners possess a rollover clause to 2012. Normally new talks wouldn’t begin until a year from now and maybe later if the owners picked up their option, as they did the last time it was an option in 2003. But expecting some sticky issues, both sides have decided to begin now. Stern put Gilbert and several other young owners on the committee — including Phoenix’s owner Robert Sarver and Oklahoma City’s Clay Bennett — in part because they represent new blood and a new attitude that have come into the ownership circle over the last decade. Gilbert, Sarver and Bennett have more than a combined $1 billion invested in their teams, unlike some of the veteran owners who bought cheaper many years ago.”

Richard Sandomir of The New York Times:  “For more than 30 years, Madison Square Garden has been controlled by a succession of corporations, from Gulf and Western and its successor, Paramount Communications, to Viacom and then the partnership of ITT and Cablevision. In 1997, Cablevision bought out ITT for $650 million to gain full control of the Garden — ushering in a frequently bleak era for the arena’s two primary tenants, the Rangers and, especially, the Knicks. On Thursday, reversing the trend, Cablevision’s board authorized a tax-free spinoff of the Garden into a stand-alone company. Before speculation begins that the solo Garden will operate differently or be suddenly vulnerable to a takeover, it should be noted that the stock of the Garden will be controlled by Cablevision’s ruling family, the Dolans, and that the Cablevision executives who now oversee it, James L. Dolan and Hank Ratner, will continue to run it. Cablevision said that it was not considering selling the Garden or any of its assets ‘at this time.’ It is impossible to say if the Garden’s becoming a separate entity will affect the Knicks’ financial pursuit of LeBron James after the coming season, or have an effect on any other big-ticket purchases companywide.”

Geoff Calkins of the Memphis Commercial Appeal:  “Last season, the Grizzlies had five full-time amateur scouts. David Booth, Ryan West, Ed Manning, Ray Jones and Marin Sedlacek. This season, the Grizzlies will have no full-time college scouts. Booth, West, Manning, Jones and Selacek are all gone. A couple of them fled the building; a few more were let go. The Grizzlies will use a part-time scout to help them keep on eye on players in Europe. They do not plan to make any hires. ‘We had a restructuring,’ said Wallace, and I guess you could call it that. The Grizzlies restructured their scouting department the way the city restructured the old Baptist Hospital. With well-placed dynamite. To be sure, it’s highly possible that a vacant scouting department could do just as well as the former scouting department. Wonder where Troy Bell is today? Wallace makes the point — a fair one — that scouting in the NBA is not like scouting in the NFL. A team makes a couple of picks a year. Any moron can identify the top few players. Wallace, Tony Barone, Tony Barone Jr. and Kenny Williamson — all still with the franchise — can get out there and see those players themselves. But it’s hard not to look at this move as additional evidence that the Grizzlies care less about basketball than the bottom line. No scouts? For a team that has said it is committed to building through the draft?”

Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press:  “While Minnesota Timberwolves President David Kahn continues his methodical search for a new head coach, owner Glen Taylor says it now should be clear why it didn’t work out with the old one. Taylor said on Sunday that the financially motivated trades Kahn has made this summer that have jettisoned veterans Mike Miller, Randy Foye, Mark Madsen, Craig Smith and Sebastian Telfair probably would not have sat well with former coach Kevin McHale, who brought all those players to Minnesota when he was the boss. Kahn told McHale in June that he would not return to coach next season, but he refused to divulge his reasons for making the decision in a news conference after it was announced. ‘It’s probably a little bit more obvious why he would have had trouble with Coach McHale,’ Taylor said Sunday after a visit to Vikings training camp in his hometown of Mankato. ‘Some of those guys were really his favorite guys. I think David knew he was going in that direction. I think he talked that over with McHale. So I think now you have a better understanding why they both agree that it probably wasn’t going to work out in the long run because David was going in a different direction than probably McHale would want to go.’”

Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:  “A key, perhaps the key, to Pat Riley’s plan to bridge the Heat’s growth from last season’s resurrection to next summer’s free agency is the contribution of Jermaine O’Neal this coming season. O’’Neal, who has been a regular in the weight room and on the court at AmericanAirlines Arena the past two months, showing up about four times a week, is poised to take the next step, with eight weeks of work planned with noted Chicago trainer Tim Grover. Yes, the same Tim Grover who last summer so reinvigorated Dwyane Wade. While appearances can be deceiving, O’Neal has impressed those in the weight room with his physique and appearance. Granted, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll ever be able to again explode off both knees. But with Lamar Odom out of the equation, and with no one else out there beyond Carlos Boozer who could truly energize the Heat’s front line, these next two months could be critical for both O’Neal and the Heat. Had the Heat not dealt Shawn Marion’s expiring contract to Toronto at last season’s trading deadline for O’Neal, it would have had a bit more cap room this summer, possibly upping its bid for Odom.”

Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times:  “It had taken all month for Lamar Odom and Mitch Kupchak to reach this point, with the free-agent forward and the Lakers’ general manager sitting side-by-side at a news conference Friday. Odom agreed to return to the Lakers, but Kupchak noted that the contract negotiations ‘took many twists and turns.’ Odom called it ‘a tedious time.’ Still, Kupchak and Odom were finally together at the team’s El Segundo training facility. ‘I guess it’s a little late to ask him for a little bit more,’ joked Odom, who then signed his contract — a four-year deal worth about $33 million, with a team option for the final year. ‘You can ask,’ Kupchak answered, getting laughs from reporters. Odom acknowledged he kept weighing his options, ‘even today when I woke up.’ Yet despite interest from the Miami Heat that Odom described as aggressive, the lure of winning another championship with the Lakers prevailed in the end. ‘At this point in my career, all I want to do is win. That’s how we’re going to be remembered as, winners or losers. Right now I want to be remembered as a winner,’ Odom said.”

Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:  “Matt Barnes’ first visit to Central Florida as a member of the Orlando Magic lasted only 19 hours, from late Thursday into mid-afternoon Friday — barely long enough to visit team headquarters at RDV Sportsplex, speak with Stan Van Gundy and talk face-to-face with local reporters. But in that brief period, Barnes learned what his new role with the defending Eastern Conference champions will be. Van Gundy told Barnes that he’ll be asked to guard dangerous scorers such as LeBron James and Paul Pierce. And, if Rashard Lewis continues to start at power forward, Barnes will compete with Mickael Pietrus for the starting job at small forward. ‘I feel that I’m going to bring a lot of energy, a lot of toughness, a defensive mindset, someone that can make plays and knock down open shots,’ Barnes said. ‘This is all the qualities I have in my game, and all the things that the Orlando Magic stress. So I feel that this will be a good fit.’ During his 13-minute news conference on Friday, Barnes, a former star wide receiver in high school, spoke often about the toughness he hopes to bring to the Magic.”

Jan Hubbard of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:  “They will not be the same old Mavericks, however. Gooden will give them a different look inside with his consistent physical play. For three years, he was LeBron James’ bodyguard in Cleveland and when Gooden was traded by the Cavs, James was critical of the move. Gooden has a bit of an edge to him, and that appeals to the Mavericks’ brass. Thomas is a prolific 3-point shooter and Rick Carlisle undoubtedly will spread the court with Thomas, Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki stationed in different areas at the 3-point mark. ‘We will be able to score better,’ Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said by e-mail. Plus a few of the Mavericks will have extra incentive this season. Thomas and Gooden signed one-year contracts. Erick Dampier is in the last year of his contract. Josh Howard is also in the last year of his, although the team has an option for the 2010-11 season. There are few greater incentives than playing for a new contract. Guys tend to be good teammates, mind the bosses and play hard. ‘All these guys have got something to prove and something to play for,’ Nelson said.”

Frank Dell’Apa of The Boston Globe:  “During the NBA draft in June, Celtics coach Doc Rivers gave his take on the offseason strategies of teams. Rivers noted about one-third of the league’s 30 teams seemed confident of going for the championship next season. Those teams are willing to spend money on free agents, the others shying away, believing they do not have a realistic chance of contending. ‘Nine or 10 teams think they can win the championship next year, and you can see by the moves,’’ Rivers said. ‘Because of the economy, 20 or 21 feel they can’t. A group of nine looked at the Finals last year and said, ‘We can do this,’ and they are going for it.’ Rivers’s assessment is playing out, but not just because of the economic downturn. Most of the league’s teams simply cannot compete with the elite, so they are undertaking long-term rebuilding programs, or setting themselves up for next year’s free agent extravaganza. But there are other factors muddling the free agent market. Agents have struggled to judge the level of demand for players.”

Michael Lee of the Washington Post:  “DeShawn Stevenson displayed a pretty decent attitude about the changes the Washington Wizards have made this summer, especially the talent influx at shooting guard. But he had a lot more to say about the state of the franchise, his role with the team and his rehabilitation. Stevenson said that he thought the Wizards trade to acquire Mike Miller and Randy Foye ‘was good for us. It makes us deeper. It makes us a contender.’ But he followed up that comment with the worst kept secret regarding the franchise — the team will only be as good as its best player. ‘This whole team revolves around Gilbert Arenas. Everybody knows it. Nobody wants to say it, but I’m going to say it,’ Stevenson said. ‘I’ve been on this team four years — it depends on Gilbert Arenas. We can make as many trades as we want to. When he’s healthy and he’s playing, we’re a dangerous team. When we don’t have him, it makes it harder to move the ball; it’s hard to get things easy. That’s my point of view. If Gilbert is 70 percent, we’re going win a lot of games. If Gilbert is 80 percent, we’re going be No. 1 in the East. If he’s 100 percent, we might win a championship.’”

Don Seeholzer of the Pioneer Press:  “Where Ricky Rubio will play basketball this season is still uncertain, but it probably won’t be for his current Spanish team. DKV Joventut president Jordi Villacampa seemingly closed the door on that possibility over the weekend, when he released a statement to the media that read in part: ‘It is obvious that his career as a player in our club has ended.’ El Mundo Deportivo reported that the Rubio family was ‘surprised’ by the statement and wants a solution ‘as quickly as possible.’ The newspaper speculated that could clear the way for Rubio to sign with Regal FC Barcelona, his hometown team, perhaps this week. Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor said Friday that he isn’t worried about such reports because the team has been in direct contact with the Rubio family. ‘His comments (to us) have been that he wants to come here,’ Taylor said. ‘He has no conditions. He would just like to get his buyout resolved so he can afford to come here. You know, he wants to play. He just wants to play.’”

Mike Baldwin of The Oklahoman:  “Sam Presti repeatedly has used terms like ‘methodical’ and ‘build for sustained success.’ That’s why salary cap savings — OKC is $14 million under the cap — aren’t burning a hole in Presti’s pocket. The primary reason Presti prefers to save his money is he wants to assure he has cap space to pay Durant, Green, Westbrook and other young players when their contracts kick in for sizeable raises in the near future. But there’s another reason Presti didn’t throw a lot of money at free agents he could afford. Presti wants to make sure young players have ample playing time this season so he can evaluate what he has as he tries to build a roster that evolves into a viable playoff threat in the rugged Western Conference. If Presti aggressively pursued a veteran guard like Ben Gordon or a forward like Paul Millsap, that would have cut into playing time for Weaver or James Harden on the perimeter and White and possibly Serge Ibaka in the frontcourt. What’s most revealing after Presti’s off-season makeover is the Thunder most likely will be the youngest team in the league.”


3 Responses to “The Fundamentals”

  1. Tsunami Says:

    Drew Gooden has NEVER been anyone’s bodyguard. And LeBron was not at ALL critical of the trade of Gooden from the Cavs to the Bulls.

  2. Erick Says:

    Good to see you back, Brandon.

  3. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    Tsunami: I thought that was a stretch.

    Erick: Thanks. It’s good to be back.

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