D-League rookie Williams trying to clear new path toward NBA draft (cont.)
The Raptors. Laying a 26-point egg at home to Oklahoma City days after Chris Bosh bemoaned the Raps' lack of energy is no way to entice the free-agent-to-be. Neither is an 11-29 mark against teams above .500 this season.
Courtney Lee's change of fortune. Two years ago, Lee received the star treatment of a senior guiding Western Kentucky into the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. A year ago, Lee was in the starting lineup of a Magic team headed to the NBA Finals. This year? He's crossing his fingers not to be part of the worst team in league history. "The sense of urgency is higher than ever," Lee recently told the Bergen Record, as his Nets need two more victories to finish ahead of the 1972-73 Sixers (9-73).
Josh Smith's range. After frustrating fans and coaches for years with his errant three-point shooting, the Hawks' forward has won praise this season for taking a mere seven shots from behind the arc. But according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Smith, who's shooting a career-high 50.3 percent from the field, could be even more effective if he restricted his shots to the lane, where he is connecting on 63 percent. On jumpers, Smith is good for only 37 percent, a fact Smith reportedly is willing to ignore as long as teams keep leaving him open. Perhaps someone should point out to Smith that hitting less than 40 percent of his jumpers is why he is getting those open looks.
There has been a bright spot or two in the Nets' sinkhole of a season. A scout offers his view on one of them, center Brook Lopez ...
"You really are seeing a maturation process. He's learning where the double teams are coming from and he's shown himself to be a pretty good passer. He also has touch out to maybe 18 feet when he takes his time and doesn't force things. Most important, he's been more patient this season. He takes his time working the post and you can't block his shot. He's such a big, strong kid. I saw him in a game against Jermaine O'Neal and he makes Jermaine look like a little kid. And defensively he's learned to not try to block every shot and make a play on every possession, which could put him in foul trouble.
"When you look at great players, they play at a pace, an operational speed. They play as fast as they need to to get things done, but they don't play so fast that they're not productive. Watch Chauncey Billups. He plays at a fast rate, but he never gets out of control. That's what Lopez is learning to do."
They said it
''I don't flop; I samba.''
"He can be pissed at me or whatever, but you never leave your teammates out to dry like that, no matter what. Especially when you've lost 11 games in a row and you've got a chance to win a game. Uncalled for ... when a coach wants to teach you something and you think that you're above that because you've played 16 games, good games? I mean, I had Kevin Garnett. That guy, you'd say one thing, and he's up there, 'What do you want coach, what can I [do]?' He wanted to get better any time. He never copped that type of attitude. I mean, that's ridiculous, it really is. I am disappointed. I am the most disappointed I've ever been in 15 years in a player. The most disappointed."
"Coach [Mike] D'Antoni, he relies on his veterans more than rookies. He feels like his rookies need to learn more their first year so they could get everything down pat. I understood. I just wanted to wait patiently until my time was coming. ... Fans [in New York], they know what I can do. I just didn't have the opportunity to show it."
"Where does that come from? Seriously. It's something that cracks me up. I don't play rookies? I don't like to play bad rookies."
"Charlotte is a very, how would I call it, close-knit, arrogant, sometimes incestuous town. ... It's close-knit, and if you come to this town, and you look like you're one of those people that might break some glass ... it's going to be tough for them to relate to. ... The thing that concerns me is that I'm just surprised that the city doesn't do more for African-American small businesses. And I don't really understand that."
"For what I did for the franchise, I felt like I was mistreated, but I've moved on from that situation. ... I was kind of thrown under the bus a little bit with not having a franchise, an organization protecting me from everything that was said about me in the media. Nobody really came out and really told the truth, some of the things that were said."
"I just work here."
Salt Lake Tribune: A fascinating series of posts on a Jazz road trip from the perspective of beat writer Ross Siler.
HoopsHype: Former player Eddie Johnson decries all the affection current players show each other with some tales of old-school revenge.
Pro Basketball Talk: Lakers coach Phil Jackson opines what sets Jerry Buss apart from other owners.
Orlando Sentinel: According to GM Otis Smith, the Magic's most important player is ... Adonal Foyle?
New York Post: Peter Vecsey takes aim at agent Warren LeGarie for the surprising firing of Blazers assistant GM Tom Penn last week.
CBS Sports: In another sign that the upcoming labor talks appear destined to end in a work stoppage, union chief Billy Hunter believes the NBA's claim owners will lose $400 million this season is, to put it nicely, a lot of hooey.
1. Michael Jordan has all the makings of being a much better owner than GM. The attendance requirements and skill evaluation that doomed Jordan in many of his front-office moves are not essential to an ownership role. As the guy signing the checks, Jordan can do what Jordan does best: sell. Is there a better front man for any product than Jordan? What business will turn down the chance to partner with him? And so long as Jordan lets his basketball people do their basketball things -- religiously scout the country the way Jordan didn't, bunker themselves in the front office near the trade deadline and the draft the way he didn't -- MJ need only play the role of negotiator. And assuming he can blend the acumen that has made him one of the world's richest athletes with his desire to win, Jordan's move to the top of the corporate flow chart could be the best thing to happen to Charlotte since it re-entered the league.
2. As if the Nets needed another reason to be embarrassed, CEO Brett Yormark felt the need to get into a shouting match with a fan wearing a bag over his head during a loss to the Heat. Yormack should have been grateful someone actually spent money to watch his dismal team. But the day after arguing with the fan, Yormack defended his actions by saying he "will continue to stand up for our players, our fans and our organization." Oh, you mean like turning your back on those fans and fleeing to Brooklyn? Or not allowing a fan to express his frustration while still funding this bad joke of a season? From all reports, the bagged fan didn't start the confrontation -- that was Yormack's mistake, and for all the indignities the Nets have forced their fans to swallow this season, this incident may be the worst for all of its cluelessness.
3. It's no coincidence the best teams pay attention to even the smallest of details. Take the Nuggets, who use the locker name plates with which they travel as a tool to foster good chemistry. Banished for the most part are such pedestrian identities as Anthony and Billups and Martin, replaced by "Melo," "Big Shot" and "730." It doesn't end there, with "JR Swish" (J.R. Smith), "Rookie" (Ty Lawson), "Leek" (Malik Allen), "Birdman" (Chris Andersen) and "French 1" (Johan Petro) among the other locker room identities on display. Will it get the Nuggets past the Lakers or other contenders in the playoffs? Who knows, but we'll bet it helps make them a happier group.
NBA Truth & Rumors