The Sixth Man (cont.)
The questions are fabricated, my answers are for real.
"I'm 70 years young, with a young family at home and more energy than many of these sad-sack players I've traded away over the years. I'm looking for the right job. I've been at this for almost 40 years and I've never found the place that's just right. But I feel like I'm on the verge of finding it and when I do, you won't be able to pry me out of there with explosives. All I'm looking for is a chance ... plus three or four years fully guaranteed at $5 million minimum plus full roster control and the right to hire my own front office."
-- L.B., no forwarding address available
Larry Brown, you have been a pain in the rear to just about every team that's ever hired you. They keep hiring you because few coaches are better than you. You are to your business what Stanley Kubrick was to his.
If it's another job you want -- and I'm sure you do -- you may not get to be picky. Say there's a full-blown lockout: The next full season may not launch until you're 72. Though 72 for you is like 58 for anyone else.
"Once again, my employer insists I work on Christmas Day. It happens without fail: Each year the boss makes it clear how important it is for our entire business that I work during the holiday. I'm in an administrative position, so it's not like I can ask someone to take over. What can I do to get my point across?"
-- P.J., Los Angeles
Phil Jackson, there is nothing you can do. The NBA is the third-most lucrative professional sports league in the U.S., and these Christmas Day games have become a rare niche for pro basketball on the crowded sports calendar. It's not like you're alone here: I can't think of a business that isn't pushing aggressively these days, regardless of employee sacrifice.
Next year, Christmas will be celebrated on an NFL Sunday, so maybe there won't be room for NBA games that day. Then again, there may be an NFL lockout that will open up the day for the NBA. Or there may be an NBA lockout that will shut down the Lakers and every other team. Or you may choose to retire, as planned, which will entitle you to spend Christmas as you please -- unless, of course, you become a TV commentator and wind up covering a Christmas Day game.
How can I convince somebody to make a trade with me? I need at least one more big man to give me a chance of salvaging this season, but there isn't a lot of size out there to be had. The clock is ticking down toward February, everybody knows I need to make a deal, and my success in the short-term depends on Gilbert Arenas. Now what?
-- O.S., Orlando
Otis Smith, here's all I can think of for you: As GM of the Magic you can hope that the Trail Blazers plummet so fast that they're willing to surrender Marcus Camby. You can try to take Chris Kaman off the hands of the Clippers. Or you can make a run at Boris Diaw and DeSagana Diop of the Bobcats. Apart from that, you're on your own.
How to give back as an NBA player. This comes from Celtics swingman Marquis Daniels, whose 4-year-old daughter, Syriah, was diagnosed soon after her birth with a trait of sickle cell anemia. Her condition inspired Daniels to form The Q6 Foundation to provide for underprivileged children in his native Orlando as well as the NBA cities in which he has played -- Dallas, Indianapolis and Boston. Daniels is helping to raise funds for research and awareness of sickle cell anemia, in addition to sponsoring AAU basketball teams and organizing scholarship fundraisers for high school athletes. He is also planning a charitable trip to Haiti next summer.
"My story was like anybody else's story when I was a kid. My mom and my stepdad, they did the best they could with us, but it was tough for them.
"To this day Shaq remembers me from when he was in Orlando. They used to practice at the downtown rec center and that was my neighborhood right there. I was coming home from school, I was like 12 or 13, and everybody was running up to him trying to get his autograph. And I used to hold back and talk bad to him [playfully], and he used to say, 'You're going to ask me for my autograph one day.' He still jokes to me about that, he's like, 'Man, I can't believe that was you.'
"But Shaq and Dennis Scott and all of those guys used to come through all the time and give us tickets to the games. I used to look up at those guys and it was like, man, they're tall, they're big. You don't get to see much like that when you're a kid, and back then Shaq and Dennis Scott were interacting with the neighborhood. They had their music playing loud after practice and they were there for kids to see.
"My mom was always super-giving. Now I give her stuff, and I'll be like, 'Mom, where is it?' And she's like, 'Well, I had to help those other people ...' She gives it away. She's always trying to help others. I remember some nights when I was growing up and she'd go without eating. I'd say, 'Mom, I know you didn't eat.' She'd be like, 'No, it's OK.' Just seeing her go through stuff, I wanted to be in this position to go back and help and be able to do the same things she was doing.
"I've just come to realize that my mom has the trait of sickle cell also. It was something I needed to find out more about, because with my daughter having a trait of it, it means she can't date anybody who has a trait of it because there's a chance that the baby -- if they have a baby -- will have a full trait of it. My wife's younger brother has a full trait of it and I've seen him have some crises: The first time he broke down, he was crying and he was locked up stiffer than cardboard, and they had to give him morphine and a transfusion. It's a disease that goes unnoticed, so I want to spread the word and help people be aware of it. A lot of people may have symptoms of it and don't even know -- they may have aching bones and think it's tendinitis or arthritis, but it could be a symptom of a trait of sickle cell if your joints lock up on you. It's an epidemic that affects the black community.
"But my daughter's good, she hasn't had any symptoms. She's in her little diva state right now, she thinks she's Princess Tiara. She and my son, they want everything they see on TV [for Christmas]. My son is 2 and he thinks he's [Rajon] Rondo. Every time I come home he's got his headband on, like, 'I'm Rondo, I'm Rondo!' I'm like, what about me?"
(On Christmas Eve in downtown Orlando -- the day before the Celtics play the Magic -- Daniels' foundation will partner with Kmart Kares and Little Caesars Pizza to host a holiday event providing bicycles, gift cards and pizza to single-parent mothers and their families who have children affected by sickle cell anemia.)
With Hornets coach Monty Williams. On the defense of Celtics small forward Paul Pierce: "Pierce has been a decent defender for awhile. You think about how many highlights he's had defensively. He blocks more jump shots than I've seen anybody block at that position. He's got a long left hand and he always seems to get that shot. I'm not seeing too many wings block jump shots the way he has, but he's one of my favorite players, so I'm a little biased."
With Suns small forward Grant Hill. On defending: "In college, I was defensive player of the year, though it doesn't mean a whole lot. It's something I've had an opportunity to get the appreciation for here. They have confidence in putting me on [Danny] Granger or Derrick Rose and I always come through -- I enjoy the competition, I enjoy trying to figure it out. At least they're asking me to do it. It could be worse -- they could be asking me to sit down.
"The guys that you worry about are guys you've never played against, that's the toughest thing. I'm trying to think of a good young wing player -- I don't think I'll guard him, but John Wall, I've never been on the court with him before. A guy like Granger or LeBron or Kobe -- not that you can stop these guys necessarily, but at least you know some of their tendencies, you know what you've had success with them before, and it's a chess match. You've got to figure things out. Granger's a guy who can get hot so you just never want him to get an open look, kind of jam him, he does a lot of movement. Rose is a guy who wants to get into the paint. So it's understanding tendencies and just trying to do the best you can with different people.
"When I was in Detroit, because I did so much with the ball offensively, I didn't necessarily guard the other team's best player. One of the things that was interesting back then was I had the ball so much that sometimes the best defense was good offense. I remember if I played against a Glen Rice or a Big Dog [Glenn Robinson], my mentality was I need to make them work on defense and, if I could, get two fouls on them early. You had to compete on the defensive end but you also had the advantage of doing whatever you wanted on offense."
With Boston coach Doc Rivers during a recent pregame chat with reporters. On the Celtics' Christmas Day regimen for their 2:30 p.m. game at Orlando, where Rivers makes his offseason home with his family: "I do the same game-day thing. Starting at 2:30 helps. Guys with young kids, they're up at 5:30 in the morning, if you remember young kids' Christmases. I have teenagers, we have to wake them up now on Christmas and remind them that there are gifts so that I can go to the arena. Afterward, we have a big family team dinner at the hotel, which is really nice.
"I agree with any player who says he wishes we didn't play on Christmas. But we do and it's just part of our business. I think we know that when we sign our contracts, and we all sign on, and the fact that you guys are going to be there too makes it that much better." Then he had a good laugh.
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