The Sixth Man (cont.)
The questions are fabricated, my answers are for real.
"Is John Calipari going to be running my team next season? I skipped college to turn pro, and now a decade later, am I going to be working with a college coach?"
-- A.S., New York
Amar'e Stoudemire, the speculation -- reported Friday by the New York Post's Peter Vecsey -- of Calipari's move to New York makes sense, and not only because he is represented by CAA, which also represents Carmelo Anthony and Knicks exec Mark Warkentien. It's also because Calipari is a terrific recruiter who could have helped the Knicks last summer, when they failed in their pursuit of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
But there are also reasons to question whether the Knicks would consummate the relationship. Calipari's credentials as a bench coach will be questioned: Even though he has experience as a head coach for the Nets, he has failed to win an NCAA championship with Memphis or Kentucky. Coaching in the NBA is far more difficult than in college, and anyone who wants to shoot down the speculation can make the case that Calipari would represent a bench downgrade from Mike D'Antoni.
Will the next collective bargaining agreement maintain free-agency in its current form? How important will recruiting be in future?
This story is going to generate a lot of discussion, but it's hard to imagine the Knicks taking such a risk unless they're absolutely convinced Calipari's presence will deliver a third star to New York.
"People say I'm too nice, and the referees say I'm too mean. Which is it?
-- D.H., Orlando
Dwight Howard, you know you have to earn fewer technical fouls -- you've received No. 18, forcing you to sit out Sunday's game against the Bulls. More important is your continuing development as the most intimidating physical presence in the paint since Shaquille O'Neal. You are developing your on-court personality, and the way you behave now, at 25, is different from how you'll be at 28. There has to be a way for you to channel your emotions against opponents without creating friction with the referees. Seeing how much you've improved your low-post game offensively, you ought to be able to do something to fix this irritating issue with the officials.
"Why do you and others continue to believe we can't win the NBA Finals this season?"
-- D.R., Chicago
Derrick Rose, you could not have been more impressive while scoring 30 points in your 97-81 beating of the visiting Celtics on Thursday. However, when Kevin Garnett spoke of developing "some more fight" in the playoffs, you can take him at his word. The Celtics have the ability to raise their level in the playoffs, as they've shown repeatedly in recent years. We know what they can do in the postseason, but we don't yet know what you and your teammates will be able to do. Can you win it all? Yes. Will you? Probably not this year.
Via Bobcats' forward Boris Diaw of France. Friends back home ask Diaw how the NBA can appear to be succeeding at such a high level of popularity and yet be accelerating toward a destructive lockout. "I just explain to them that because of our profession, we don't have regular work laws and so that's why we created a union, so that we can find laws that are pretty much custom-fitted to whatever we are doing," he said. "It's not the sports aspect of it; it's the business part of it -- that's where people have a disagreement."
They're asking the right person. Last summer, Diaw bought majority ownership of his former club in France, JSA Bordeaux, at close to $100,000. He views it as a wise purchase. "It's the same team where I played when I was growing up," he said. "So it's going back to my hometown and trying to help the team, because they needed some help."
Bordeaux (24-4) is currently No. 1 in the French third division (Martin Diaw, Boris' brother, plays for the team). Diaw's ultimate goal is to elevate the team through the second division and up to the French Pro A. "When I was a kid, I always dreamt of my hometown playing in the first division," he said. "Bordeaux is the fourth biggest city in France. We should have enough to be able to go to first division, but it's tough."
Sponsorship is the most consuming issue. "We have averaged about 1,000 people for the games, and the tickets are like 8 Euros (approximately $11.50), so that's not bad," he said. "With the sponsoring, it's not like here where we are on TV every week -- for us it's very local, so you try to find some national companies that are based locally and are trying to help the team locally."
Diaw wonders how NBA teams would manage if the worst one or two of them faced relegation. "If the worst team in the NBA will go down to the NBDL?" he said, smiling. "Then people would get angry quicker and they would try to change things around quicker, instead of saying, 'Oh, it's all right, it will be better next year. I don't know if it could work, but it would be interesting."
Diaw became a minority owner two years ago. Fellow countryman Ronny Turiaf of the Knicks is a minority owner in Bordeaux, and the Spurs' Tony Parker owns a piece of the first-division club in Lyon. But neither is as vested as Diaw, who is on the phone or email every day as the owner of a small business. "It's always something," he said.
If there is an extended NBA lockout next season, he is certain his business back home will improve. That's because he'll plan to return home: The owner of Bordeaux will instantly become his team's best player.
Payrolls. There are currently seven teams that will be paying a luxury tax this season, which means they'll have to send to the league office a check -- dollar for dollar -- for the amount they spent above the tax threshold of $70,307,000.
Does outspending the rest of the league pay off? Teams with records of .500 or better (as of Friday) are in boldface, and potential tax payers are noted by *asterisk.
Team Payrolls (in millions)
*Los Angeles Lakers -- $90.4
*Orlando Magic -- $89.9
*Dallas Mavericks -- $86.6
*Boston Celtics -- $76.7
*Utah Jazz -- $75.3
*Portland Trail Blazers -- $74.8
*Houston Rockets -- $70.8
San Antonio Spurs -- $70.1
Atlanta Hawks -- $70.1
Memphis Grizzlies -- $70.1
Toronto Raptors -- $69.2
Golden State Warriors -- $69.0
Milwaukee Bucks -- $68.9
Philadelphia Sixers -- $68.4
New Orleans Hornets -- $68.3
Denver Nuggets -- $67.5
New York Knicks -- $67.1
Phoenix Suns -- $66.8
Miami Heat -- $66.7
Charlotte Bobcats -- $66.0
Indiana Pacers -- $65.1
Detroit Pistons -- $65.0
New Jersey Nets -- $59.3
Oklahoma City Thunder -- $58.0
Washington Wizards -- $57.2
Cleveland Cavaliers -- $55.9
Chicago Bulls -- $55.6
Minnesota Timberwolves -- $54.3
Los Angeles Clippers -- $52.7
Sacramento Kings -- $45.3
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