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The Opening Tip: Thursday, March 31

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  • Bill Reiter, FoxSports.com: The exiled [Isiah Thomas] speaks of contemporaries who have not been banished with unusual candor. Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson — all of these men remain intricately involved in the league, respectively, as owner, general manager, color commentator. In Miami, Magic sits next to Pat Riley at games in full view. Isiah, when he goes, does so in the anonymity of a luxury box. Unseen. So, when asked about his place compared to such men, this is the response:  “I have no problem saying this at all,” he says. “They’re all 6-(feet)-9 and Jordan was 6-6 and a half. If they were all 6-1, it wouldn’t even be a question. They wouldn’t even f—ing rate. If they were all my size, s—, they wouldn’t even be talked about. I beat the s— out of them when they were that big. If we were all the same size, f—.” He stops to laugh good-naturedly. “Make them 6-1 and let’s go on the court.” Pride, hope, anger, frustration, self-belief and self-doubt, a flurry of facts and an ability to see things a certain way — all of these things mark a life in limbo.
  • Michael Lee, Washington Post: In many ways, John Wall really had no choice. In this league, reputations are formed quickly, and once they are established, they stick. So when Miami Heat center Zydrunas Ilgauskas was casually peppering Wall’s face with errant elbows, he responded the only way he knew how — by defending himself. He initially tried to show some restraint. Wall said he was shaken by the first elbow, which hit him square in the face, but he responded by going harder after the ball. But when Ilgauskas swung his arm around to hit him again with the left, he snapped. Wall wasn’t merely trying to protect his face, but also his reputation — since he doesn’t want to be seen as someone who will back down. “Second one, I got hit and I reacted,” Wall said. Wall threw a punch at Ilgauskas’s midsection, which led to an automatic ejection, and now the Wizards will have to wait and see if their best player will be available for the next game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. A suspension is likely, considering present within the NBA league office, but as he got ready to leave the locker room after the Wizards’ 123-107 loss to the Heat, Wall tried to not to ponder his future. “I can’t worry that about that right now, just try to keep practicing and try to get ready for the next game and see what decision the league makes,” said Wall, who had two points and five assists before getting tossed with 8 minutes, 46 seconds left in the second quarter. “I’m disappointed with how I reacted to it. I let my teammates. I let my organization down.”

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  • Published On 9:42am, Mar 31, 2011
  • JaVale McGee wins Block of the Year

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    I’ve poked my share of fun at Wizards center JaVale McGee this season, for his desperate (but team-approved) pursuit of a triple-double; his ridiculous hot-dogging during one blowout loss; and his tendency to commit crazy goal-tending violations.

    But credit the man: This is the block of the year:

    And here’s a re-mix of the play from Tuesday’s game in Portland, with a close-up of the stunned looked on Wesley Matthews’ face as he processes what has just happened to him. As Jared Wade pointed out on Twitter, McGee’s block/catch looks a lot like something LaPhonso Ellis — an old Point Forward favorite — pulled before knee problems derailed his career. Maybe getting so many kudos for this stuff will remind McGee — a guy with enormous potential — that blocking shots to his teammates is usually better than blocking them 10 rows into the crowd.


  • Published On 12:23pm, Mar 23, 2011
  • The Opening Tip: Friday, March 18

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    • Mark Medina, Los Angeles Times: If there was any such exercise that’s the equivalent of throwing red meat to the masses to devour, this would be the perfect item. Sure, there are plenty of Laker stories that cause division and uprising. There’s an Andrew Bynum injury, questioning of Kobe Bryant’s shot selection, debating the Lakers’ all-time greatest players, Luke Walton’s contract and any praise for the Boston Celtics or Miami Heat. But this one surpasses them all — questioning the Lakers’ fanhood. The latest issue of GQ Magazine ranks the top 15 worst sports fans in the country and to no one’s surprise, Lakers fans are on that list. … “I think they’re accustomed to success,” [Phil] Jackson said in amusement about the rankings. “That’s kind of a natural reaction when you have a lot of success. People enjoy the show rather than feeling they have to encourage the team in an element of fanatacism.” But by no means are Lakers fans simply star-gazers [OK, GQ put it a little less delicately]. That’s all part of the show of course. There’s no atmosphere that can duplicate Laker games, where you’ll see Jeanie Buss allowing Justin Bieber to wear Jackson’s championship ring, Ron Artest chatting up Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg courtside about a possible collaboration and Dustin Hoffman appearing in every Kiss Cam segment. But to pin Laker fans as mindless celebrity-crazed socialites is simply wrong on every level.
    • Matt Steinmetz, CSNBayArea.com: When Warriors owner Joe Lacob says publicly at the end of the season he’s not bringing back Keith Smart as coach — which seems very much a foregone conclusion at this point — he’ll certainly have some reasons. Right at the top of the list will be Smart’s relationship with second-year point guard Stephen Curry. There is no feud, no profanity-laced shouting matches or even any dislike, really. There’s not even really a “problem.” But something’s amiss between the two. If you’ve been watching the Warriors all season long you’ve seen it. To say Smart has had Curry on a shorter leash than Don Nelson did a year ago would be an understatement. You’d have to be watching a different game to not notice all those times Smart showed his frustration after a Curry mistake or misplay, which was typically followed with Acie Law at the scorer’s table.

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  • Published On 9:43am, Mar 18, 2011
  • Wizards build (or engineer) new traditions

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    Among the Wizards' new fan traditions: Holding up "A" signs for every John Wall assist. (Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

    I was surprised when a string of folks on Twitter joked Monday night that Wizards fans, standing until their team scored a bucket, might be standing for quite a while, as the Thunder built an 8-0 lead over the first few minutes of the game in Washington. I had not known that the Wizards have one of those “stand till we score” traditions, a college thing that has caught on mostly in Oklahoma City and New Orleans in the NBA.

    It turns out the Wizards don’t really have that tradition. The team is trying to create it as part of an overhaul of the in-game experience for fans — and a larger image makeover that (as Henry Abbott pointed out today) also may involve redesigning the Wizards logo

    The man behind a lot of this is Greg Bibb, the Executive Vice President of Business Operations for the Wizards and the WNBA’s Mystics. Bibb took his position with the Wizards when Ted Leonsis assumed control of the team from the Pollin family, and he set about immediately to change the way fans experienced a Wizards game, Bibb said. The standing tradition, new this season, is part of that mission. “It’s part of a larger theme of trying to create an environment where, win or lose, fans leave the venue saying, ‘That was time and money well spent,’” Bibb said. “When fans are engaged and interactive, they are much more likely to say, ‘Yes, that was time and money well spent.’”

    Also Bibb’s idea for this season: Having someone in the crowd hang a huge “A” along one of the Verizon Center’s facades for every John Wall assist – similar to the “Ks” fans hang in baseball stadiums for a strikeout. In Washington, though, the guy hanging the letters is a part-time employee paid to do so, and not a fan. The “stand till we score” thing isn’t exactly organic, either, Bibb says. The public address announcer and an in-arena DJ, Big Tigger, exhort fans to stand during that downtime between the starting lineup introductions and the opening tip — and there is an accompanying message on the big scoreboard above the floor, according to Bibb and some Wiz fans I spoke with. 

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  • Published On 2:17pm, Mar 17, 2011
  • More stat-padding shenanigans from the Wiz

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    The Point Forward is a bit of a stat-padding watchdog, I realize. This season alone, I’ve taken issue with Rajon Rondo’s blatant pursuit of assists at the expense of easy shots; examined the legitimacy of Dwyane Wade’s (totally legit) monster rebound game; and examined who does and should get credit for steals.

    The latest instance worth examining comes from the Wizards, a hopeless team that went out of its way to get JaVale McGee a rare points/rebounds/blocks triple-double late in a hopeless game Tuesday night in Chicago.

    McGee could have ended the suspense at the 3:43 mark of the fourth quarter, when he dunked and drew a foul to give himself nine total points. But McGee is a career 63 percent free-throw shooter, and this is the Wizards, so McGee of course missed the free throw, leaving himself a point short of the triple-double.

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  • Published On 10:23am, Mar 16, 2011
  • The Opening Tip: Wednesday, March 2

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    • Michael Lee, Washington Post: “About 90 minutes before the Washington Wizards played the Chicago Bulls on Monday night, Coach Flip Saunders ruled out playing Al Thornton since he was unable to practice after missing the previous three games with a sprained left ankle. Inside the locker room, Thornton was lacing up his sneakers, preparing for the game and was stunned when he was informed that Saunders didn’t plan on using him. ‘I’m playing,’ Thornton said. ‘Far as I know, I’m playing.’ When the Wizards submitted their roster about an hour later, Thornton was on the inactive list. At the time, Thornton was unaware that his agent, Bill Duffy, was already deep into buyout negotiations with Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld, who decided that it was best not to risk the fourth-year small forward getting hurt before he was eventually released.  Thornton ended practice on Tuesday with a baseline jumper and grimaced while holding his recently dislocated right middle finger. It would prove to be his last shot as a member of the Wizards, because Thornton agreed to a buyout with the team later in the afternoon. … Thornton would’ve become a restricted free agent next summer, but the Wizards did not consider him to be a part of their plans going forward. They acquired him from the Los Angeles Clippers in a three-team trade involving Antawn Jamison at the trade deadline last season.  According to two people with knowledge of the situation, Thornton agreed to give back $400,000 to hit the free agent market now. Another league source said Thornton plans to sign with the Golden State Warriors – whom the Wizards host on Wednesday at Verizon Center – when he clears waivers on Thursday.”
    • Gary Washburn, Boston Globe: “[Troy] Murphy has played in 639 regular season games without a playoff appearance, the longest streak in the NBA. That will end in April as Murphy heads to Boston to become potentially a key contributor off the bench. ‘It was a very tough decision,’ said Murphy, who played in 18 games with New Jersey this season. ‘It came down to the Celtics and Heat are both great organizations that really do play the right way. Going to the Celtics, I feel like I could help them, being another piece that could help them. They have had a lot of success over the past couple of years in the playoffs and I look forward to being out there.’ Murphy was traded to New Jersey from Indiana in the offseason in a four-team deal with New Orleans and Houston. The Nets dealt him back to his original team, Golden State, for Dan Gadzuric and Brandan Wright as a salary dump. The Warriors quickly bought out what was left of the $11 million Murphy earned this season, making him available to join a contender.  … For the first time in his career, Murphy will play important minutes for a playoff contender, but he had to decide between the Heat, Celtics and Magic. ‘It was like (being recruited in college) and I was hoping to get a decision done pretty quickly unfortunately it took me a day or two longer,’ he said. ‘I went back and forth and it was a tough decision. But I’m excited to be going to Boston and I’m very happy and can’t wait to get up there and start working out and being with the team.’  With five seasons of averaging a double-double, Murphy was one of the league’s more underrated players but nagging injuries have hampered him the past few seasons. But that didn’t stop him from averaging 16.1 points and 11.3 rebounds in 72 games last season.” Read More…

  • Published On 8:36am, Mar 02, 2011
  • The Opening Tip: Tuesday, March 1

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    • Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports: “Miami president Pat Riley and Boston general manager Danny Ainge planned to make recruiting pitches to Troy Murphy on Monday night, and the free agent will soon choose between the Eastern Conference rivals, a league source told Yahoo! Sports. ‘He’s still torn,’ a source close to the process said Monday night. Riley and Ainge both planned to call Murphy. Murphy could make a decision as soon as Tuesday, but hasn’t ruled out taking until mid-week to make his decision. Murphy, a 6-foot-11 forward, secured a buyout from the Golden State Warriors on Sunday night and has narrowed his choices to the Heat and Celtics. His ability to shoot the ball and spread the floor on offense made him appealing to most contenders, and Riley and Ainge are eager to sign him to the veteran’s minimum salary for the stretch run and playoffs.”
    • Ira Winderman, South Florida Sun-Sentinel: “A pair of independent sources have confirmed to the Sun Sentinel that veteran point guard Mike Bibby is leaning toward signing with the Miami Heat in the wake of Monday’s buyout from the Washington Wizards. Bibby, acquired last week from the Atlanta Hawks at the NBA trading deadline, agreed, according to multiple reports, to bypass his $6.2 million 2011-12 salary from the Wizards in order to move to a contender. Tuesday is the deadline for players to be waived in order to appear on another team’s playoff roster. If released by 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, players can sign with new teams at any time before the season finale and become playoff eligible. Bibby, 32, with his playmaking and shooting, would provide the Heat with an instant upgrade over current starting point guard Mario Chalmers, although he would not address the Heat’s lack of defensive deterrence at the position. … Bibby must clear the 48-hour NBA waiver cycle, which would leave him free to sign with the Heat by Wednesday night. The Heat next play Thursday night at home against the Orlando Magic. Bibby is the brother-in-law of Heat guard Eddie House and also is close with Heat forward LeBron James, who spent time with Bibby following last Friday’s Heat victory over the Wizards at AmericanAirlines Arena.”
    • Marc Berman, New York Post: “To make room for Jared Jeffries and another player, the Knicks are working on a buyout for Corey Brewer, an NBA source confirmed. They also announced Monday they have cut Kelenna Azubuike. The Knicks will sign Jeffries once he clears waivers Tuesday, and he is bound for Orlando. But his status for Tuesday’s game against the Magic is unclear, depending on whether paperwork is completed, according to a source. Brewer was acquired from the Timberwolves in the three-team trade that brought Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups to New York from the Nuggets. Azubuike never played for the Knicks after coming from Golden State in the David Lee trade. Azubuike had major knee surgery 16 months ago. Only Rony Turiaf remains on the Knicks roster from the Lee deal. Another Knicks target, Earl Barron, signed a 10-day contract with Milwaukee.

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  • Published On 7:44am, Mar 01, 2011
  • The Opening Tip: Friday, Feb. 25

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    • Gary Washburn, Boston Globe: ”The Celtics offered [Kendrick] Perkins four years and $22 million, but he was looking for about double that. So there was going to be an impasse in the summer, and it’s apparent that [president Danny] Ainge chose to focus on impending free agent Glen Davis and perhaps using the team’s mid-level exception — if it still exists under the new collective bargaining agreement — to attract a new big man.  But he will be hard-pressed to replace the toughness and defensive prowess of Perkins, whose exit brought exhalations of relief in Miami, Orlando, and Chicago.”
    • Ronald Tillery, Memphis Commercial Appeal: ”After spending all of the time and energy it took to convince Griz owner Michael Heisley to agree to trade O.J. Mayo to Indiana, the deal fell through because the teams didn’t make the NBA’s 2 p.m. deadline.  Here’s why: Memphis and Indiana agreed to swap Mayo for forward Josh McRoberts and a first-round pick but Indiana insisted on making it a three-way trade to make the deal work financially.  In the final minutes leading up to the deadline, the New Orleans Hornets pulled out. Indiana recruited another team to keep it a three-team transaction. And there’s the rub. By the time the “other” third team got involved and everything was agreed upon everyone missed the deadline.  The NBA trade deadline is a hard one. Missing it by 30 seconds might as well be missing it by 5 hours.”

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  • Published On 8:27am, Feb 25, 2011
  • Analysis: Hawks trade Bibby for Hinrich

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    Kirk Hinrich (12) will help Atlanta while Mike Bibby is leaving a solid playoff team for the last-place Wizards. (Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

    After 48 hours of blockbusters and superstars changing teams, the Hawks and Wizards have given us a normal NBA trade — the kind of incremental thing you do when you’re not quite ready to part with one of your core players, or you’re dead set against going over the luxury tax, or you owe Joe Johnson a gazillion dollars, or you find teams aren’t willing to take on the long-term deals you’d really like to give up. 

    The main thing in this five-player trade is that Washington sent Kirk Hinrich to Atlanta for Mike Bibby. The less newsy parts of the deal matter to both teams, though: Atlanta received a big man it might actually use in Hilton Armstrong, and Washington obtained a 22-year-old scoring guard with questionable NBA potential (rookie Jordan Crawford), a swingman with a small expiring contract (Maurice Evans) and Atlanta’s 2011 first-round pick. (The financial impact for both teams is minimal. The Hawks stay under the luxury tax while taking on an extra $500,000 or so this season and next. Hinrich and Bibby have their contracts expire after next season.)

     This probably isn’t a game-changer either way, but it’s a nice little move by both teams. You wonder if Washington could have gotten a bit more for Hinrich, coveted leaguewide, but they seem to have approached the Celtics and other clubs in recent days before ending up with the Hawks. 

    Nabbing Hinrich doesn’t make the Hawks a title contender, but it feels like the kind of move that could have a bigger impact on the court than many anticipate. Start with this: Hinrich can defend point guards. Very well. And that addresses the main problem with Atlanta’s defense, which ranks about average despite the Hawks’ having faced the easiest schedule in the league. It isn’t just that Bibby can’t defend point guards; it’s the degree to which the Hawks have had to compensate for the 32-year-old’s defensive issues. They’ve had to tire out Johnson by assigning him point guard duty. They’ve gone to zone defenses that haven’t really worked. They’ve switched too often, though less so this season under rookie coach Larry Drew. 

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  • Published On 9:13pm, Feb 23, 2011
  • The Opening Tip: Monday, Feb. 14

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    • Jason Jones, Sacramento Bee: “The Kings aren’t as good without DeMarcus Cousins. But for the sake of the team, management believed the Kings would be better off with their prized rookie remaining in Sacramento. After Saturday night’s loss to Oklahoma City, Cousins wasn’t allowed to join the team for its charter flight to Phoenix because of a postgame altercation with teammate Donté Greene. Minus Cousins, the Kings defeated the Phoenix Suns 113-108 Sunday night to end a five-game losing streak.The team said Cousins hasn’t been suspended and the altercation was ‘under review.’ … This is the fourth known incident in which Cousins has been disciplined.”
    • Fred Kerber, New York Post: “The trading deadline is 10 days away. Despite [Nets] owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s deal derailment, many around the league consider the Nets very alive in the mix [for Carmelo Anthony] because of their boatload of assets. While some within the Nets organization fully expect the Nuggets to call back to re-engage talks, the calls have not happened yet, multiple sources contend. They’ll wait. They plowed through four-plus months of this stuff, what’s 10 more days?”
    • Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports: “The Celtics are still waiting for [LeBron] James and [Dwyane] Wade to rise up and unleash the fury on them that’s overpowered the rest of the league. They’re still waiting for James and Wade and Chris Bosh — the three stars flexing and preening on that smoky July party platform in Miami — to trundle down off the stage and wrest away the Eastern Conference championship. Forget all this back-peddling Miami talk about Boston as a big brother, about themselves as some kind of neophytes trying to overcome the Celtics like Michael Jordan did the Detroit Pistons. Forget it all. The Heat need to be accountable for their expectations, for their mandate: Win now and win it all.”

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  • Published On 7:41am, Feb 14, 2011


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