The Opening Tip: Monday, March 14

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  • Alan Hahn, Newsday: “As everyone knows, the Knicks have a decision to make about their point guard position at the end of this season. By contractual rule, the team can save $10.5 million of the $14.2 million Chauncey Billups is scheduled to make in 2011-12 if they opt to waive the veteran point guard within five days of their last game. But a person with knowledge of the team’s thinking said the Knicks aren’t looking at that as an option and instead are considering committing to the 34-year-old Billups beyond 2012. The thinking is that Billups could be exactly what they need as a leader to direct the offense with star players Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire. And if they can sign him to a reasonable contract extension, it would allow the team to have a decent amount of money left over to make upgrades in other areas of the roster via free agency.”
  • Ray Richardson, St. Paul Pioneer Press: “Timberwolves president of basketball operations David Kahn denied a report Saturday on that coach Kurt Rambis, in the second year of a four-year contract, will be fired after the season and replaced by Milwaukee Bucks assistant coach Kelvin Sampson. ‘The notion of Kelvin Sampson is completely false,’ Kahn said, relaying his comments through Wolves media relations director Mike Cristaldi. ‘That report is not true in all aspects.’” … Rambis said he heard of the report but had not read it and dismissed the prediction of his imminent firing because of the use of unnamed sources. ‘I don’t comment on things I haven’t read, and I never comment on things that cowards say,’ Rambis said before heading to the team’s charter flight to Oakland. ‘If somebody wants to say something and attach their name to it, that’s another matter. Rumors are out there all the time. Anybody can start a rumor, but if they don’t attach their name to it, they’re a coward.’”

  • T.J. Simers, Los Angeles Times: “It’s Friday night at a highly recommended Mexican restaurant, 16 regular-season games remaining in the career of the greatest all-time NBA coach, and we’re talking Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. It begins with a question that has nothing to do with either superstar: Is there a chance [Phil Jackson] might regret retiring while the Lakers remain capable of winning again? ‘I hope I have no regrets about coming back this year. When I saw how Kobe was struggling physically last year, Fish [Derek Fisher] was getting older,’ and then he stops himself and brings the conversation back to Bryant. ‘Kobe was really hurt; people don’t give him enough credit. He’s a remarkable person, remarkable.’ ‘Do you like him?’ I ask. ‘It’s not about liking him,’ he says. ‘It’s about admiring his courage. There’s only one individual I know that’s like that, and that’s Michael Jordan.Kobe has patterned himself after Michael, and there are a lot of identical things there, but it’s one thing to hope to be like him, it’s another thing to be like him.’ So when Jackson’s next book comes out, and it will, will Jackson reveal who he thinks was best — Jordan or Bryant? ‘I’m with [ESPN's] Bill Simmons on this,’ he says. ‘We have to take Michael Jordan out of the equation. Stop comparing anyone to Michael Jordan. It’s just not fair. He was remarkable. Kobe’s in his own sphere. ‘He doesn’t shoot the same percentage [.455] as Michael [.497]. He has the same characteristics as Michael, but he’s not the same player. It takes nothing away from him — he’s a great player in his own right.’”
  • Marc Stein, “Ex-Cavs coach Mike Brown remains a strong favorite to be offered Indiana’s coaching job next season should Larry Bird return as team president. It’s likewise possible that Brown, currently working for ESPN, will receive other offers. But Indy’s recent swoon, lowlighted by a 26-point loss in Minnesota on Wednesday night after a honeymoon period under interim coach Frank Vogel, has renewed the belief in coaching circles that the Pacers will be conducting a coaching search at season’s end that starts with Brown. Lakers assistant coach and Pacers legend Chuck Person, according to our old friend Sean Deveney at the Sporting News, will also be a candidate for the job. But word is there’s another name on Indy’s radar that hasn’t circulated much yet: Mavericks assistant coach Dwane Casey.”
  • Peter Vecsey, New York Post: “It says here Larry Bird, who has sold his Indianapolis home and is moving back to Florida where his son plans to finish college, general manager David Morway and Vogel are on the precipice of becoming ex-Pacers. I’m not saying owner Herb Simon won’t try to re-enlist Bird, though that’s a distinct possibility. Should an offer be extended, however, it definitely won’t be remotely near the $5 million he will have banked for eight straight seasons — more like $1 million, tops, per year for three or four. And, you know what? Larry Legend is liable to accept such a proposition with pleasure. … For whatever reason, if Simon and Bird do part ways, the natural progression is for Donnie Walsh to return from whence he came and where his wife, daughter and dogs still live on adjoining properties.”
  • Dave Feschuk, Toronto Star: “When Larry Tanenbaum, the Raptors’ chairman, offered a public endorsement of GM Bryan Colangelo in London last week, it raised an obvious question. If Tanenbaum and his fellow directors support Colangelo — ‘Bryan has a plan and we back his plan as a board,’ Tanenbaum said — why has Colangelo’s contract, which expires June 30, not been extended? It’s because there remains at least one anti-Colangelo voice among the power brokers. That voice, multiple club sources confirm, belongs to Glen Silvestri, a representative of the organization’s majority owner, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. Since the board has seven seats, three of which belong to Teachers’, and since another one of its members, CEO Richard Peddie, is essentially duty-bound to the majority owner, Colangelo isn’t likely to ink a new contract unless Silvestri comes around.”
  • Mark Murphy, Boston Herald: “One thing we already know about Shaquille O’Neal as a Celtic is his willingness to do what it takes to play. Shaq has already taken several doses of anti-inflammatory drugs this year to treat his various ailments and make himself available. He most recently offered to take a shot of pain killer for the trouble with his sore Achilles tendon. ‘We don’t need that,’ Doc Rivers said last week of the Shaq’s willingness to take the needle. ‘It’s too early, so get healthy the natural way.’ The problem, though, is that the Celtics find themselves facing a puzzler once again. Rivers swore at the start of the season he wouldn’t get caught in last year’s trap twice — the one coined by Rasheed Wallace’s now famous blurt that the playoffs, not the regular season, are what count. The Celtics coach was convinced that a few more regular-season wins would have put Game 7 of the NBA Finals in TD Garden, and put the 18th banner overhead. And yet Rivers, asked about this season’s chase for the conference’s top seed — an advantage of paramount value considering the quality of the top four and possibly five contenders — also said last week that he’s not going to sacrifice health to chase the top spot.”
  • Bob Finnan, News-Herald: “Ohio State forward/center Jared Sullinger will soon have to make the most important decision of his young life: Stay another year with the Buckeyes or enter his name in the 2011 NBA draft. The early entry deadline is at 11:59 p.m. April 24. It’s going to be difficult for the 6-foot-9, 280-pounder to bypass the kind of money the NBA can offer. Sullinger’s draft stock continues to rise. He’ll likely be a top-five selection in the draft. If he returns for a second year with the Buckeyes, scouts could uncover some “warts” in his game and he could drop on the draft boards. Ohio State coach Thad Matta isn’t convinced Sullinger is leaving. ‘I think he will come back,’ Matta said last week. ‘I’m hoping, and I think Jared knows he has some work to do now. When the season ends, we can look at all his options, but he’s one of those kids that enjoy college and he knows talking with our former players that are in the NBA what it’s all about at the next level. It’s a different world.’”
  • Brian Schmitz, Orlando Sentinel: “Hey, who else to give out medical advice but Grant Hill? Hill, who told the Sentinel he plans on playing until he is 40, warned Magic SG J.J. Redick to be wary of his lower abdominal injury. Hill sustained a sports hernia or athletic sports pubalgia, when he played in Orlando. He tore abdominal muscles off his pubic bone. Battling a strained lower abdomen, Redick missed his second consecutive game Sunday, sitting out against Hill’s Phoenix Suns. Redick said he was feeling better. ‘I told J.J. that he can’t mess with this type of thing. I don’t know if it’s related to mine, but I’d go a few days and it would feel great and then hurt again,’ said Hill, a former Duke star like Redick. ‘I just told him to watch it.’”
  • Published On 9:10am, Mar 14, 2011
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