The Sixth Man (cont.)
The questions are fabricated, my answers are for real.
Here is my dilemma: Everyone says I am strong. If now I change my mind and say I want this guy Carmelo Anthony, do I look weak?
-- M.P., Moscow
Mikhail Prokhorov, your ownership of the Nets enables you to do whatever you please. If you are able to acquire Anthony, you will look stronger and smarter than ever. You will be viewed as seizing command of the negotiations, you will have prevented Anthony from moving to New York and you will have a star to help attract others to your franchise. Opinions of your strength will be based on your ability to attract players. You can make all of the strong pronouncements you like, but if you don't acquire stars then someday your bravado will be viewed as a weakness. You should have no problem understanding the NBA view of these shenanigans: So long as you're improving your team with star power, the end will justify the means.
Should I have faith in my guys, or do I make a trade to shake up our team? We look horrible.
-- M.K., Los Angeles
Mitch Kupchak, this is a matter to be resolved by you and your therapist, Phil Jackson. He will understand better than anyone whether this roster can resolve its problems and win a third straight championship.
My own view is that your team is defined more by your victory last week at Boston than by the subsequent losses at Charlotte and Cleveland. Your team looked tired and stale in those defeats, but during the playoffs there will be plenty of rest in between games and the players will be as focused and energized as they were against the Celtics. You can look forward to continuing improvement in Andrew Bynum's knee over the next two months, and the imminent return of Matt Barnes will make you less dependent on Ron Artest. The one concern has to be either developing a productive role for Steve Blake, or else acquiring a point guard to share minutes with Derek Fisher.
Otherwise you can look forward to entering the playoffs with Bryant in partnership with the NBA's best front line. You can't afford to mess with that formula with so little time to reinvent your team before the playoffs. So have faith.
When I'm in public with David Stern, should I treat him like my enemy or my friend?
-- B.H., New York
Billy Hunter, you should -- and I believe you will -- present yourself as the arbiter of reason and common sense when you appear in public with commissioner David Stern. Every time he talks about how the sky is falling financially, you can point out that the current system of free agency has made the NBA more popular. Didn't the offseason move of LeBron James lead directly to the upsurge in TV ratings this year? Isn't the public showing its love for the super-power rivalries of L.A., Boston, Miami, San Antonio, Dallas, Orlando and Chicago (yes, the Bulls belong in this conversation)?
You need to argue less on behalf of player salaries and more on behalf of what is best for the game and its fans. Tell the public that a hard cap and restrictions on player movement will make the NBA less interesting.
Stern has valid reasons for wanting to create a new system, and his owners have the financial might to prevail should there be a lockout. Your best hope is to present yourself as advocate to the fans. Public statements by you about money for the players will earn you no support from the public.
With Celtics coach Doc Rivers. On his experience in coaching the Eastern All-Stars in 2008: "I was very, very surprised with how focused they were in timeouts. I was shocked by that as a matter of fact. I actually looked up in one [timeout] late in the game and there were five guys, [their] heads were down [looking at the whiteboard], and I was like, wow, I'd like this in my huddle -- especially when the five options are all pretty damn good. That's the other thing you find out -- man, all of us can be good coaches in this situation."
With an international NBA scout. On 18-year-old Enes Kanter, the 6-10, 250-pound Turkish center who was banned from playing for Kentucky this season after receiving money from his club in Turkey: "This is a little unfair because Kanter is so much better offensively, but he's like Tyler Hansbrough with more athleticism and a better game. He could play some '4,' but he's a beast on the boards and he's only getting stronger. He is very coachable, he plays with enthusiasm and passion, and his motor is tremendous. I think teams will be very impressed with him in the pre-draft workouts, and everyone will be watching how he performs in the Hoop Summit in April, if he decides to play there."
With Celtics forward Paul Pierce. On defending his title in the three-point contest: "I want to beat everybody, because I still feel like people didn't believe last year. I still think people thought that was a fluke last year, so this will solidify it this year if I come out and win it. This will put the stamp on Ray [Allen] and me being in an elite class from everybody else as far as shooting goes in NBA history. I'm the three-point champion, he is the [all-time] three-point king, so something has to give."
How to create a sculpture of Jerry West. This comes from artists Julie Rotblatt Amrany and Omri Amrany, the married couple who has created sculptures of 65 athletes. Their bronze of West -- an interpretation of his famous silhouette that became the NBA's logo -- was unveiled at a Staples Center ceremony Thursday, where the Amranys met West in person for the first time.
Omri: "Everybody knows that he is Mr. NBA -- 'The Logo' -- and we had to deal with that. The sculptor has to find the 360-degree perspective and find the element that is not explained in the [two-dimensional] pictures.
"You have to create something that will be in public for a very long time. We want it to be like the David of Michelangelo, to be around for 500 years. When we made the sculpture of Michael Jordan we hired a construction engineer, who computerized the effect of weather. He found that if there was to be a tornado in Chicago maybe the United Center will fly away, but Michael will stay there where he is."
Julie: "A lot of elements and phases go into creating sculpture. It is very labor-intensive.
"You build an armature and then weld it, which means you're welding metal rods together to form the skeleton -- like the human skeleton. Once you have that skeleton and it's stable, then you start to build in the wood and the wire and the nails.
"And then on top of that you start to pound clay, and you get everything into kind of a rock form and you figure out the proportions.
"Then you start to put up different photos of him, because you need to see the front, you need the sides, you need the back. We had photos of his uniforms, and we used some of the piping of cloth that we imbedded within the clay. It's weeks and months of this clay work, and we hired assistants to help us on the detail.
"Then once the piece is done in clay, then you start to make the mold. The mold is painted on, it's a liquid polyurethane -- rubber -- and it's a quarter-inch thick. When the rubber dries, you put on another layer and that's made out of plaster or fiberglass.
"The mold is taken off in 20 sections, and those sections are sent to the foundry -- we used a foundry in Michigan. The wax gets poured into those molds. And then the sections of wax are put together -- the head and the shoulders and the arms -- and then you go into the foundry and you work on the waxes to get the quality of the wax so it looks like the original clay.
"Then a second mold is made over all those waxes -- a very thin mold which is made out of plaster and stone that has been very pulverized so that it is thin. That mold hardens like a shell, and it goes into a kiln so that the wax melts out.
"Once the wax is gone, then liquid bronze is poured into those shells. When the bronze has cooled off and the shell is cracked, you have your sections of bronze. And then those 20 sections of bronze all get welded back together.
"In this particular piece, because he's leaning forward at such an angle, we had to have the foundry put steel rods up through the legs and up into the body to hold it together. Aft that's done, we work with them on the patina, and when the color gets finished then a lacquer gets sprayed on.
"The base was made by a company in Michigan. It's basically a hollow, steel structure and it's got wheels in it if they need to move it in the future.
"It was fun to do this piece because it's in-action with a lot of motion and emotion. We were looking at so many photos of him through the decades. He had a lot of different expressions when he was playing, and we tried to convey his focus. His mouth was open in a lot of the photographs taken of him during the games, and that shows an intensity, a passion in the moment and not being self-aware."
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