Saturday, July 19, 2014

Report Card Grades for the Top 2014 NBA Free-Agent Signings

Not every free-agent signing made during the NBA's frenetic off-season is a good one.

Then again, it sure seemed as though the league was getting smarter during the frenzy of the summer of 2014, as the overpays largely involved role players and shooters. Many of those even made sense given the relevant rosters and team options included in contracts.

Fear not, though. I'm not handing out straight A's, much as I'm sure the league's GMs would love my across-the-board approval.

Given the length and size of the contracts, as well as the fits of some of these players, not every marquee signing made sense this offseason. Some were excellent, the majority were quality deals and a select few stood out in a negative way.

That said, let's avoid discussing the order of this countdown. It's taken straight out of Bleacher Report's D.J. Foster's rankings of the top 50 free agents, with those who haven't signed removed from this particular article.

Indulge me, and let's have the focus center around the merits of each signing, or lack thereof, not the order in which these 20 players appear.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Clippers' Paul hopes to play in All-Star Game

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul says he hopes to play in the All-Star Gamebut it's too early to know whether he'll be healthy enough to return for the Feb. 16 contest in New Orleans. 

Paul was announced as an All-Star reserve Thursday. He earned MVP honors after leading the West to a victory over the East in last year's game. 

Paul played his first six seasons in New Orleans. He has been out since separating his right shoulder in a win against Dallas on Jan. 3 and is expected to return sometime around the All-Star break.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers said before his team played at the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night that he has no problem if Paul's first game back is the All-Star game.

Source: http://www.nba.com/2014/news/01/30/clippers-paul-all-star.ap/index.html

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

NBA: New York Knicks to ensure colour clash won't happen again


It did not take long on Saturday night for fans and commentators at Madison Square Garden to realize something was amiss between the New York Knicks and the Atlanta Hawks. Their uniforms looked alike. Too alike.

The Knicks have worn their new orange alternate jerseys four times already this season, but in each previous outing, the other team arrived wearing a contrasting shade. Not the Hawks. The result was a jumble of blood red versus burnt orange that became an exercise in facial recognition, looking twice, squinting, guessing: Which ones are the Hawks?

According to the NBA rule book, the home team is mandated to wear light color jerseys, and the visitors dark jerseys, unless otherwise approved. This would explain Atlanta's uniform choice.

"Neither team was at fault," Tim Frank, the NBA's vice president for basketball communications, said. "The Knicks orange has been designated as a light alternate home uniform. Going forward, we'll ensure that the opponent wears a more distinguishing color uniform when the Knicks wear orange."

The color scheme drew mostly critical notice from fans via Twitter and the MSG Network broadcaster Mike Breen, who said he thought even the players might have been having a difficult time telling one another apart. The first half especially was filled with sloppy play and errant passes.

Carmelo Anthony dismissed a question that the uniforms had any effect on the game, which the Knicks lost 110-90. He referred to the suggestion as "nitpicking."

"That ain't got anything to do with why we're losing basketball games," Anthony said, albeit with slightly more colorful language.

The Knicks have already worn the orange jerseys four times this year (all losses) and plan to wear them at least six more times. The NBA has had other games in which teams have worn single-color uniforms - with separate shades for each team. But ESPN's Paul Lukas, the founder of Uniwatch.com, which tracks and analyzes aesthetics in sports, wrote in an email that Saturday's game "definitely had less uniform contrast than any NBA game in recent memory."

It is not the first time this fall that on-field attire by teams made headlines. On September 8, the Arkansas State football team was assessed two penalties - one at the start of each half - for wearing dark gray uniforms at home against Auburn, which wore navy blue.

Arkansas State coach Bryan Harsin told reporters after the game that wearing the uniforms was his decision.

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said of the penalties, "You don't hear about that very much."

In September, two baseball games featured opposing teams wearing dark uniforms: the Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers, each in red; and the Tampa Bay Rays and the Minnesota Twins, each in blue).

Basketball, with its close confines and fast pace, is a different form of sport, and uniform colors would perhaps play a bigger role in helping fans, broadcasters and even players keep pace.

In 2004, Wisconsin and Illinois met at Assembly Hall in Champaign, Illinois, both wearing dark jerseys in a memorable matchup of bright orange versus bright red. Wisconsin committed 17 turnovers. But the uniforms were probably toughest on those fans straining to discern one team from the other.

New York Times

Friday, September 27, 2013

Rose back for Bulls, says he wasn't ready in 2012-13

CHICAGO (AP) -- Derrick Rose's long-awaited return is just about complete.

The former MVP point guard was back wearing his familiar uniform No. 1, looking ready to lead the Chicago Bulls back to contention in the Eastern Conference after sitting out a season following knee surgery.
He said Friday at the team's media day he understands why fans were frustrated he didn't return last season, but he had to be careful.

"Of course, I would want my favorite player to be back out there," Rose said. "At the same time, I have to be selfish with the idea. The thought of me injuring myself again, I don't want to put myself in that position. I just tried to stay far away from it and just think everything through and stay positive."

One big concern for him was his ability to handle double teams, particularly in the playoffs. He never felt ready to face them.

His confidence is not an issue now, though. He has said he sees no reason why he can't dominate again, and he has no regrets about the way he handled his recovery.

He's expected to suit up for the first time at Indiana on Oct. 5, and general manager Gar Forman anticipates him playing in every preseason game.

That hinges on how Rose feels, and the same goes for his minutes once the season starts.

"I think with Derrick, it'll remain fluid as we go," Forman said. "I think it's difficult at this point to look ahead and say where his minutes will be two weeks from now, four weeks from now, whatever time frame you want to put on it. I think it's something that from a medical standpoint, from a front-office standpoint, from a coaching standpoint that we'll evaluate day to day."

Forman said he expects some "ups and downs as we go" but has little doubt Rose will overcome them. He also said the decision not to play last season "absolutely" was the right one.

Coach Tom Thibodeau called the criticism Rose absorbed unwarranted, saying he followed chairman Jerry Reinsdorf's orders by taking a cautious approach.

"You talk about a guy who's as loyal as they come to his family, to his teammates, to our organization, to the city - he's already done a lot and will continue to do a lot," Thibodeau said. "That's who he is.

"When I look at it, when I look back and I've been thinking about it, he followed Jerry's orders exactly. Jerry made it very clear from the beginning as to how he wanted him to approach it: to be cautious, to be cautious, make sure you're completely healthy. He told him he didn't want him to come back until he was 100 percent, and that's exactly what he did. And then, he got criticized for it."

Rose tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in Game 1 of the 2012 playoffs against Philadelphia, sending the top-seeded Bulls toward a first-round exit. His recovery became a running soap opera, particularly after he started practicing with the team in midseason.

The Bulls never publicly ruled out a return by Rose, and as injuries and illnesses to teammates mounted, his image took a hit. If he dominates again, that would go a long way toward repairing it.

The Bulls are aiming high after winning 45 games and a playoff series last season. With Rose, they believe they can challenge Miami for supremacy in the Eastern Conference. After all, they captured the NBA's top seed the last two seasons he played.

While his health figures to be scrutinized, particularly in the early going, it's not the only story line.
There's Joakim Noah's plantar fasciitis in his foot, an issue for him two of his past three seasons.
There's Luol Deng, coming off a season that ended with him in the hospital after complications from a spinal tap to test for viral meningitis. He has an expiring contract and will likely hit the market at the end of the season.

"I just have to go out there and do what I've been doing, just play basketball," he said. "We have a great opportunity ahead of us. Derrick is back. Everybody's healthy. We love the makeup of the team. The potential is great."

NOTES: The Bulls filled out their training camp roster on Friday, signing of free agents Patrick Christopher, Mike James, Dahntay Jones, Kalin Lucas, Dexter Pittman and D.J. White.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Top 10 PR Blunders in NBA History



I love the NBA just as much as the next guy. I would even go so far as to say I’m an ardent, die-hard fan. I am dazzled by the physical prowess and skill of the players and the brilliant minds of the coaches. I’m devastated when my team loses and am filled with fiery vengeance during the rematch. But one of my most favorite aspects of the sport doesn’t even take place on the hardwood—it’s the press conferences.

Public relations in sports is a tricky lady. On one hand, you’ve been hired to play, coach, or officiate a game at an exceedingly high level—not much talking required. But on the other hand, you’re expected to be a role model. Dealing with a scandal or other PR blunder can be more difficult than shooting free-throws is for Shaq. Here are 10 PR blunders from the past few decades that made an already bad situation even worse.

10. Kobe Bryant’s Sexual Assault Case
When you’re on top of the basketball world, everything you do is analyzed under a microscope. So when superstar Kobe Bryant was accused of sexual assault and eventually sued for the same charge, the public, the press, and each of his sponsors knew his days on top would be short-lived. Or so we thought. Ever the clutch player, Bryant attempted to shoot his way out of this scandal by not only admitting adultery, but by also purchasing a $4 million, 8-carat diamond ring for his wife (you know, to show there were no hard feelings).

Maybe in the long run, this wasn’t so much a blunder because he somehow managed to get us all to like him again. He retained all his sponsorships, his wife dropped the divorce claim, and he went on to win a couple more rings for himself.

9. Tony Parker Cheating Scandal
All-star point guard Tony Parker seemed to have met his match when he married the beautiful actress Eva Longoria in 2007. The prenuptial agreement the pair signed at the beginning of their marriage, while smart, should have reminded us all that celebrity marriages tend to have short shelf-lives. Not only did Longoria discover her husband’s infidelity, but she also learned that he had been cheating with Erin Barry—wife of former teammate, Brent Barry.

This story might not have gotten Parker such bad press had he cheated on someone a bit less pretty than Eva Longoria.

8. Kevin Garnett, Kevin Garnett, and Kevin Garnett
KG is one mean dude. Both on and off the court he’s simply not to be messed with. A veteran of the game, he is not above getting creative with his trash talk. In Round One of the 1999 Western Conference Playoffs, Garnett’s Timberwolves squared off against Tim Duncan and the Spurs. As Duncan was preparing to shoot a free-throw, Garnett yelled out, “Happy Mother’s Day.” This might’ve seemed like an innocent jest had Tim Duncan’s mother not passed away from breast cancer when Duncan was only 14-years old. And the insensitivity continues! Something similar occurred in 2010 when Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva, accused Garnett of calling him a “cancer patient.” Villaneuva suffers from alopecia universalis, an autoimmune disease that results in hair loss. Most recently, KG told Knicks guard Carmelo Anthony that his “wife tastes like Honey Nut Cheerios.”

In other words, if you really don’t want people to like you, take a page from Kevin Garnett’s book.

7. Rodman (Need I Say More?)
It should come as no surprise that Dennis Rodman finds himself on this list. The first real “bad boy” of the NBA could all but escape the tabloids—that is, if he even wanted to escape. Long after his myriad of drug and alcohol abuses, marriages and divorces, and legal troubles, the Worm once again found a way to crawl into the limelight by forming a most unlikely and taboo friendship with North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un. This alliance came at a dangerous time between North Korea and the U.S. as the supreme leader announced that North Korea had conducted its first underground nuclear test that very month. Rodman later said that Kim was a “friend for life.”

6. LeBron: The Decision
With unrestricted free agency in his sights, then rising star LeBron James would soon face a decision common among all unrestricted free agents: renew his contract or get a fresh start with a new team. Trades are a big part of professional sports. Without trades, Dirk would never have gone to Dallas, Wilt would have stayed in Philly, and Bill Russell would have won his record number of championships somewhere other than Boston.

But there’s a classy way to go about a trade, and then there was LeBron’s way, which involved a 90-minute live TV special in which James would not reveal his decision until the very end, keeping everyone—his own team included—in the dark. At the words, “I’ve decided to take my talents to South Beach,” Cleveland fans all but rioted in the streets.

Three years and two rings later, most would agree that he made the right move for his career.. Most.

5. Ron Artest’s (Metta World Peace’s) Courtside Brawl
Kobe Bryant once said of his now former teammate, “he’s the one guy that I can rely on night in and night out to compete and play hard.” This is true. Whenever Metta World Peace sets his mind to beating you, he usually accomplishes that feat—even if you’re not necessarily wearing a jersey . . . or are a member of the opposing team . . . or a member of any team.

Towards the end of a heated game between the Pistons and the Pacers, an altercation erupted between Artest and Pacers center Ben Wallace. After the fight broke up, Artest retired to the scorer’s table in an effort to calm down. An allegedly drunk spectator threw a drink at him, then all hell broke loose. In one of the worst melees in basketball’s—and probably any sport’s—history, players, fans, officials, coaches and police squared off in an all-out war. This free-for-all resulted in several suspensions, probations, and even a few hospital bills. It also revealed key insight into just how unstable Ron Artest can be.

While Artest’s name change to Metta World Peace in 2010 came as a bit of a shocker, all of his subsequent assault charges did not.

4. Jason Kidd’s DWI
There are few things more awe-inspiring than seeing an NBA veteran making plays with the same ease as the rookies half his age. On the other hand, there are few things more disappointing than seeing that same veteran player-turned-coach being arrested for a younger man’s misdemeanor—namely driving while intoxicated.

3. Jayson Williams’ Manslaughter Case
In 2002, Jayson Williams officially established himself as one of the dumbest people alive.

While giving a tour of his 30,000 sq. ft. mansion to his NBA charity basketball team, the former New Jersey center shot and killed Gus Christofi, the team’s limo driver. Now, before you start mentioning Williams in the same breath as OJ and Aaron Hernandez, you should know that this tragedy was in no way premeditated—it wasn’t even meditated! Williams shot Christofi by accident. Accidents happen all the time, but he brought even more bad press upon his head when he attempted to cover up the incident by tampering with evidence.

Why Jayson Williams thought it was necessary to carry a shotgun during the tour, we may never know.

2. Tim Hardaway, Sr. and the LGBT Community
Sometimes what a person says in the public arena can easily be taken out of context. In the case of Tim Hardaway, Sr., well, read this statement from 2007 and you can decide for yourself:

”Well, you know I hate gay people, so I let it be known. I don’t like gay people and I don’t like to be around gay people. I am homophobic. I don’t like it. It should not be in the world or in the United States.”

Kudos to Tim for his honestly. He did later apologize for his comments, but this statement has taught me at least one lesson: ignorance is not bliss.

1. Tim Donaghy Fixes Games
Remember those awful replacement refs from last year’s NFL season? Well, at least they were unintentionally awful. In the case of NBA referee Tim Donaghy, there was a definite method to the madness. After steeping himself in massive debt resulting from a gambling addiction, Donaghy was approached by a low-level mob representatives who told him there was a way out: fix the games. From 2003 to 2007, Donaghy placed bets on games that he himself officiated.

When this story broke, all the positive PR in the world could not have saved him; his decision not only ruined his career, but also tarnished the reputation of the entire league.

Jake Magleby has written extensively about effective sales and financing strategies to help small business owners succeed in the fast-paced and ever-changing business world. He also helps Calgary SEO companies with marketing strategies.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Oden chooses to sign two-year deal with Miami Heat

MIAMI (AP) -- Greg Oden still needs some time to get ready for the rigors of playing in the NBA.

He no longer needs a new team, however. The former No. 1 overall draft pick has chosen to sign with the two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat, ending months of suspense over where the center whose career has been decimated by a series of knee problems would be attempting his comeback. The Heat were long perceived as the frontrunners to land Oden, and now have a 7-footer to help them try for a third straight title.

Mike Conley Sr., one of Oden's agents, said Friday night that the former Portland center accepted an offer worth about $1 million for this coming season and would have a player option for 2014-15.

"He just thought that it was the best fit for him, where he's at and especially for how it relates to him coming back," Conley said. "He can be on a winning team and be working his way in slowly."

The contract is expected to be formally signed early next week, Conley said.

"I think a 7-footer can help any team," Heat point guard Mario Chalmers said. "They're hard to find. I've known Greg since our high school days, talked to him a couple of times about this and you just hope for the best."

Oden told ESPN.com on Friday night that he still has "a lot of work to do."

And during their recruiting process, the Heat were obviously cognizant of that. Oden has not played in the NBA since fracturing his kneecap in a game on Dec. 5, 2009, but the Heat surely will not expect him to play big minutes right away, given that they are bringing back most of the rotation that won the last two league titles and will almost certainly be favored to win a third next season.

When meeting with Oden last month in Indianapolis, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra laid out what Miami's plans would be as far as potential roles and the former Ohio State star's ongoing rehabilitation, and whatever got said in that conversation resonated throughout the remainder of the decision-making process.

"The fact that Coach Spoelstra said all the right things, understood where he was at and what he wants, that impressed Greg quite a bit," Conley said.

Oden is the second No. 1 pick on the Heat roster, joining LeBron James, the top overall draft selection in 2003 - and someone who developed quite an affinity for Oden's game when the center was at Ohio State. Oden wound up leaving college after one season, then was taken by Portland at the top of the 2007 draft.

It was a spectacular failure, thanks to an array of injuries. Oden played in just 82 games - the equivalent of one full NBA season - during his four-plus years in the Blazers' organization, averaging 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks on 58 percent shooting.

Oden's health issues have dogged him since he was drafted. Right knee microfracture surgery - a procedure used to develop new, healthy cartilage - ended what would have been his rookie season before it ever started. He made his long-awaited NBA debut on Oct. 28, 2008, and sprained his right foot in that game, sidelining him for two weeks.

His next major injury issue came in February of that season, when he chipped his left kneecap and missed about a month. Oden returned for the final 21 games of that season - 15 before the playoffs, then six more in the postseason, when Portland was ousted by the Rockets.

He's played in a total of 21 games since, and the fractured kneecap in 2009 came just as he seemed to be hitting his best NBA stride. Another microfracture surgery awaited him in November 2010, and a third one was needed early in 2012, essentially ending his career with the Blazers. He was waived in March 2012.

"Time will tell," Heat president Pat Riley said earlier this summer, when asked if Oden could still be effective.

San Antonio, New Orleans, Dallas, Atlanta and Sacramento also were believed to be seriously vying for Oden this summer, with a handful of other clubs expressing a lower level of interest.

"The scenario at San Antonio made sense for him also," Conley said. "You have a coach there in Gregg Popovich that's used to bringing players back slowly and Tim Duncan to learn from. He was definitely impressed with Mark Cuban in Dallas and meeting him, and he's really good friends with (coach) Monty Williams at New Orleans. It wasn't cut and dry across the board for Miami."

Still, the Heat won out, and did so at a bargain price.

Miami used the amnesty provision on Mike Miller last month, a move that could save the team more than $35 million in luxury-tax payments over the next two years. Oden likely could have gotten more money elsewhere, but the Heat have shown many times over the last three summers that they can get players to take less money in exchange for being part of a title-contending team.

"He wants to compete for championships," Conley said.

Original post @ http://www.nba.com/2013/news/08/02/oden-to-sign-with-heat.ap/

Saturday, July 27, 2013

LeBron voted NBA's most popular player; Rose fourth


Kobe Bryant, take a backseat because LeBron James is once again the most popular NBA player.

According to an ESPN fan poll, the Miami Heat forward has unseated the Los Angeles Lakers star for the first time in four years.

Nearly 13 percent (12.9) of NBA fans said James was their favorite player this season, while 12.5 percent said Bryant was their favorite.

The Bulls' Derrick Rose placed fourth in the poll.

James had been the most popular player until "The Decision," when he announced he would leave Cleveland and be "taking my talents to South Beach."

Two NBA championships and a couple of Finals MVP awards have changed fans' perceptions, although casual followers still don't like him as much as when he was with the Cavaliers, according to the poll.

Rounding out the top five in the poll are: Kevin Durant, Rose and Dwyane Wade.

Source: http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/basketball/bulls/chi-lebron-james-nba-most-popular-player-20130727,0,3327032.story