The Opening Tip: Friday, Feb. 11

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  • Brian T. Smith, Salt Lake Tribune: “As the one Jazz player besides [Raja] Bell with a strong public voice, [Deron] Williams made numerous critical comments throughout the season, complaining about everything from [Jerry] Sloan’s lack of flexibility to a new cast of teammates that were united in the locker room but clearly failed to mesh on the court. Meanwhile, a Jazz team that started 15-5 and moved to 24-13 spiraled downward, bottoming out in mid-January with an 0-4 East Coast road trip. It was at this point that other Jazz players, besides Williams, began questioning the direction of the team and Sloan’s coaching decisions. Williams wanted change — more autonomy, control and freedom for himself and his fellow Jazzmen. But the highly competitive guard also simply wanted to win. The balance — coupled with the similarity in Williams’ and Sloan’s unrelenting nature — was sometimes volatile. Williams respected Sloan and the longtime coach often offered high praise for his All-NBA guard. But the like-minded duo also battled. Williams and Sloan engaged in at least three heated arguments this season, sources said. … [W]ith Williams — the face of the franchise who can become a free agent after the 2011-12 season — alternating between criticism and vows of silence, Sloan’s already dimming energy for the game began to flame out.”
  • Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports: “[Jerry Sloan] never changed, but everything else did. As much as this was a blessing for him, it was a curse too. ‘The player isn’t always wrong,’ one respected GM said Thursday.  No one wants to hear that with Sloan, one of the greatest ever, but no one thinks stars are dying to play for him anymore. Everyone respects, admires Sloan, and has a hard time thinking about an NBA without him. Yet, it is hard to coach without a partnership with your best players, and Sloan hasn’t had that in a long, long time. Everyone can make [Deron] Williams the scapegoat because of some ideal that Sloan represents — and he does represent the best ideals of basketball.  Yet, this is an unmerciful sport where talent trumps everything, where the best players always beat the best coaches. He’s lost most of his star players, and eventually Williams will leave the Jazz in 2012 the way small-market stars are leaving everywhere else. They’ve been a model franchise, disciplined in drafts and trades, but they’re no longer a contender. This ate at Williams, and it made for a combustible environment in Salt Lake City. ‘People need to leave D-Will the [expletive] alone on this,’ Kobe Bryant told Yahoo! Sports on Thursday night. Bryant and Williams have competed in the Western Conference for years and won an Olympic gold medal together for USA Basketball at the 2008 Beijing Games. ‘Leave him alone. He doesn’t deserve to be at the front of this. … Enjoy the 23 great years that Jerry Sloan gave them, but don’t put this on Deron Williams.’”

  • Julian Benbow, Boston Globe: “It was Ray Allen’s night, but the Lakers were fine with spoiling it. Allen needed two 3-pointers to move past Reggie Miller and become the NBA’s all-time leader. He got them quickly, drilling two in the first quarter.   Having made it his personal duty to ruin the night, [Kobe] Bryant still offered a congratulations to Allen after going for 23 points on 9-of-17 shooting.  ‘For the fans, I’m sure it’s sweet,’ said Bryant, who came in to the league the same year as Allen. ‘But for me, I’m truly happy for Ray. That’s just unbelievable.’ Bryant applied all the fourth-quarter brush strokes.”
  • Mike Bresnahan, Los Angeles Times: “How physical were the Lakers?  They even hurt each other.  After [Lamar] Odom scored on a third-quarter tip-in, he turned quickly to run downcourt and smacked into [Pau] Gasol. Both players were momentarily dazed, Odom needing attention from trainer Gary Vitti.  Odom returned with a bandage on his forehead and received eight stitches after the game. ‘My grandmother used to say, ‘Scars give you character,’ Odom said. ‘I guess I’ve got a lot of character now.”‘
  • Bob Cooney, Philadelphia Daily News: “Since [Doug] Collins said he wanted [Andre] Iguodala to be his ‘point forward’ and labeled him a ‘triple-double player,’ Iguodala has been terrific. Fans never will warm to his on-court body language, and that’s understandable. But if you can just watch his playing, and absorb all the different things he does for the team, you will see why he makes the Sixers much better. No doubt, the way he’s played has upper management scratching its collective head about what to do with Iguodala. Do you trade him to get something of equal value just for the sake of unloading him, or do you stick with him for the rest of the year and see how far he can help take the team in the playoffs? That is why those guys with the offices in the higher parts of the building get paid a lot of money.”
  • Marc Berman, New York Post: “Mike D’Antoni heard the ‘We Want ‘Melo’ Garden chants during Wednesday night’s depressing loss to the Clippers, and it was painful to his ears. One day after D’Antoni’s scathing postgame press conference, the Knicks coach yesterday confessed that the chanting, and all the Carmelo Anthony trade reports, have hurt his club’s focus. And he’s begged his players to tune it all out. … ‘It’s not good,’ D’Antoni said of the ‘Melo chants. ‘There’s no doubt about it. It affects some of the players, without a doubt.’”
  • Frank Isola, New York Daily News: “Kobe Bryant may be willing to return to his Italian roots if he doesn’t agree with the terms of a new collective bargaining agreement. According to one of Bryant’s teammates, the Lakers All-Star recently threatened, “I’ll play in Europe” when they were discussing the potential of an NBA lockout this summer and the ramifications of a new CBA. ‘Kobe understands what the players before him did and he feels a responsibility to do the same to the younger guys,’ said the Lakers player, who did not want to be identified.”
  • Paul Coro, The Arizona Republic: “[New Jazz coach Ty] Corbin was Tom Chambers’ favorite NBA teammate.  ‘He was a guy who you wanted to hang out with and a guy who was selfless on the court,’ Chambers said. ‘He was always telling me to push a guy right or left on defense because he couldn’t guard my guy both ways for me. He was a likeable, high-quality guy. The consummate professional.’  [Alvin] Gentry hates playing a team after a team meeting or some upheaval so Friday’s case is extreme.  ‘I don’t know what to expect,’ Gentry said. ‘I don’t know if anybody knows what to expect. He’s been there through two buildings. Just not having him on the sideline is going to be very weird.”‘
  • Eddie Sefko, Dallas Morning News: “Dallas Mavericks guard DeShawn Stevenson has some vivid memories of former Utah coach Jerry Sloan. He won’t ever forget the John Deere hat that Sloan always wore to practice.  And he’ll never forget how tough and demanding the legendary Sloan could be. ‘He had one style, and it was hard,’ Stevenson said. ‘He was real hard. But either he was going to break you or he was going to make you. He made a lot of people in the league who, if they didn’t know him, would have been out of the league. A lot of guys feel like, if you can make it with him, you can make it with anybody.’  Sloan resigned Thursday after 23 years as coach of the Jazz. He was the longest tenured coach in any professional sports league. And it wasn’t even close.”
  • Mike McGraw, Arlington Daily Herald: “The Bulls are interested in an upgrade at shooting guard, but they have no interest in trading center Omer Asik to Houston for guard Courtney Lee.  This possibility was suggested in the Houston Chronicle. With Yao Ming’s career possibly over, the Rockets have a clear need for another center. But the Bulls like Asik’s potential too much to give him up in this sort of deal, a league source confirmed.  Asik showed his value in each of the last two games when the Bulls’ defense struggled to stop Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge and the Utah duo of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. Asik’s size and quickness made it tougher for those opponents to score.  The Bulls are still looking for options as the Feb. 24 trade deadline approaches. But they are more interested in dealing draft picks than moving a key player right now. They should have several shooting guard options this summer.”‘
  • Chris Tomasson, FanHouse: “During a game in that 2001 first round, [Mark] Cuban’s first full season as Dallas owner, he said he ran into [Jerry] Sloan when Jazz guard John Stockton was at the free-throw line.  ‘Right when I got to the league, nobody knew what to expect from me,” said Cuban, one of the NBA’s more freewheeling guys while Sloan has been one of the more conservative, said before his team faced Denver on Thursday night at the Pepsi Center. ‘It was in a situation where it was in a playoff series that we ended up winning (with) Calvin Booth (hitting a late jumper in Game 5 to win 3-2). John Stockton went to the line with 2.7 seconds to go.  While he was shooting his second free throw, I noticed there was 2.0 seconds to go. So I got a little upset. So I went over and I was like, ‘What the hell is wrong with the scorer’s table?’ And (Sloan’s) like, ‘Look at him. What is he doing?’ So I blew him a kiss.’  What did Sloan do?  ‘He just shook his head and walked away,’ Cuban said. ‘You don’t deal with a crazy guy. That was my first encounter. But I’ve always had a ton of respect for him.”  Cuban certainly has.  ‘Jerry Sloan is a beast literally,’ Cuban said. ‘His personality on the court as a player with the Bulls (in the 1960s and 1970s) translated as a coach and helped define Utah’s franchise. It’s been the hardest place in the league to play since I’ve been around the NBA. That’s a testament to the type of person Jerry is.’”
  • Published On 8:50am, Feb 11, 2011
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