The Sixth Man (cont.)
The questions are fabricated, my answers are for real.
"I look in the mirror and what do I see? The NBA's biggest bargain."
-- S.O.N., Boston
Shaquille O'Neal, the Celtics spent $1.4 million on your salary, and now their championship hopes depend on you. It is amazing how the game always comes back to you. The Lakers won with you, the Heat won with you, the Cavaliers hoped to win with you and now the Celtics can't win without you. You are going to be 39 early next month, and all of your greatest former teammates -- Dwyane Wade and LeBron James in Miami, Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles -- are lining up to greet you in the playoffs. I foresee the makings of a tremendous book in your future.
"This is a strange league. I worked at a place where nothing changed for 23 years. Then everything changed. Now I'm on the other side of the country and people want me to commit long-term? I don't even know where I'm going to live."
-- D.W., Newark, N.J.
Deron Williams, all you need to do is remind people that Carmelo demanded a trade to New York, but you were surprised by your trade to New Jersey.
But there is an opportunity with the Nets for you to explore. In Utah, you were the best player on the last of the coach-driven NBA teams. Sloan defined that franchise, but now the Nets are inviting you to define their team. You are a demanding, bottom-line star, and now you have a chance to create an environment to your liking. Will you lead an eventual championship contender? You have more say in the future than you have ever known.
"When can we expect to begin beating the best teams? Shouldn't we have turned the corner by now?"
-- L.J., Miami
LeBron James, you are going to look back on the Heat's current 1-7 record against the Celtics, Mavericks, Lakers and Bulls -- following your 93-89 loss in Chicago on Thursday -- and recognize that it helped you. Name another championship player in modern times who wasn't humbled along the way. Hunger enforces the discipline that made champions of wing players or playmakers like Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Isiah Thomas, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. As smart as you are with the ball, I bet you've never learned more about basketball than you're learning this season.
How to keep your local team from moving to another city. This comes from Amber Williams, who heads the grassroots campaign to keep the Kings in Sacramento. The website SacDeflated.com was launched last Sunday, the day after NBA commissioner David Stern disclosed that Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof had been in talks to move the franchise to Anaheim. Williams is president of Glass Agency, a Sacramento-based advertising firm that has led the way in funding the pro bono $150,000 campaign to support the development of a new arena. This week, the Maloofs asked the NBA for an extension of the deadline to permit them to move to a new market this year. "This means one thing," Sacramento mayor and former NBA All-STar Kevin Johnson said. "They are trying to cut a deal to leave."
"We had been planning this campaign for a couple of weeks," Williams said, "and then we heard the rumor that something was going on last weekend. I was born and raised in this city, I went to college locally, I love Sacramento and I love the Kings. They're a part of our city, they have been here for more than 25 years.
"I think -- I hope -- that the final decision hasn't been made and that there's room to negotiate. What has been missing is the citizens' voice, and our intention is to rally that voice for the Kings and carry that voice through the city and the government. Our power is in the numbers, and the more people who come to our website or show their support, the more voice we will have. We need to rally the community to help create a new arena, and we need the support of citizens -- we need the citizens to unite and make that happen.
"The economics of a new arena are difficult, and that's a huge challenge. Being economically tight creates fear in people, and it becomes hard to think of an idea like this as an investment. There are a lot of people -- and they're vocal people -- who might look at the negative side of things and might not be as supportive. We have a lot of voices here in Sacramento that will voice their opinion through local media, and the thing I keep noting is that these people say these things and don't put their names to it. They use an online handle and they can say these things that are just terrible, they are disparaging to people, and it's just unfair. I hope deep down in my heart it's a smaller group that believes they can do this because they never have to show their face. If people have to put their names behind what they say, I hope they'll think twice about it and see the Kings as part of the fabric of our city.
"What we've seen already on our SacDeflated site is that so many people are stepping up. I can't tell you that people never stepped up before, but I have to believe that many of them now are stepping up maybe for the first time, and it's 99 percent positive. It's really exciting and wonderful, and maybe these people had not felt the urgency to express the positive, or maybe they didn't have a place to express it. They haven't had a place where they could feel they have a voice as sports fans.
"We've also put up four billboards with a headline that reads "GAME OVER." The 'O' is a deflated basketball representing how we think Sacramento will feel if the Kings do leave.
"We don't have any other professional sports teams in Sacramento, but we're one of the top 20 media markets. If the Kings were to leave, we'd be fine in terms of having the other great things that people love about our city. But in terms of being taken seriously as a city in a national context, that would be taken away if the Kings were to leave. In my business I seek out clients on a national stage, and when I go out to pitch an advertising campaign and I say I'm from Sacramento, it's hard to be taken seriously because Sacramento is not seen as a top-tier city. Losing the Kings would make that worse. People want to move to a place that's thriving and alive, and Sacramento is all of that. But to lose our professional sports team would take away a lot of the appeal of people moving here.
"I think local government is behind us. I feel there's still hope that the Kings will stay. But if the writing is already on the wall and they're going, the way I look at it is that we couldn't later on complain about it if we hadn't stepped up and tried to do something about it while we could. That's what we're doing right now."
With a GM. On how a new collective bargaining agreement could help small-market teams hold on to players: "You talk about a franchise tag for players, but wouldn't that only keep them for one year? Maybe we're looking at rookie contracts that go four years, and then a three-year extension with restricted free agency built in."
But that amounts to seven years -- which is no longer than the length of service LeBron and Chris Bosh provided to their former teams before leaving last summer.
"I don't have a good answer for you," he said. "I don't know what the answer is."
With an agent. Responding to speculation that coaches' and executives' salaries will be capped in some way by the owners starting new season: "It's not going to happen because it would be a blatant violation of anti-trust laws. This is the same way things have been communicated to the players. There are a lot of scare tactics toward the players, and they've been very effective. I'm sure there's a little truth in that coaches' salaries will come down, but it can't be outright collusion. If high-powered teams like the Knicks and Lakers are competing for a coach, do you think they aren't going to pay the money it takes to bring him in if they think he can do the job for them?"
With another GM. On concerns about the new CBA affecting this year's trading season: "Last week everybody was talking about upcoming labor issues? Didn't we all know about this in July, when all of those contracts were being handed out? I don't see how you hand out a big four- or five-year deal in July and now all of a sudden you're worried about labor issues."
It turns out he was right: The anticipation of a lockout and a new CBA didn't have a chilling effect on trades at the deadline.
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