Work in Sports
Conspiracy theory far-fetched
Posted: Friday June 02, 2000 12:20 PM
Can we all just stop with the conspiracy theories, please? There's no question that the league and NBC would love to see Los Angeles and New York in the Finals, but there's also no question that they wouldn't tamper with the integrity of the sport in order to fulfill that wish. It's just not worth the risk. Does anyone really think the league would send a message, unspoken or otherwise, to the referees telling them to make sure the big market teams survive and the small market ones don't? If that was the case, and evidence of it ever got out, the league would lose the trust of the fans forever. With that as the downside, the prospect of getting a few more ratings points in the Finals just isn't a worthwhile gamble. And everyone, especially the Miami Heat whiners, should stop looking at the refs so suspiciously. The calls they have to make are too instantaneous for them to take care of some hidden agenda. When they have to decide whether it's a charge on Reggie Miller or a blocking foul on Allan Houston, they don't have time to stop and think about which team they're supposed to be favoring. And if they were out to make sure New York got by Miami, would they have let the series go down to the last shot of the seventh game? Would they have allowed Anthony Carter' s disputed game-winner in Game 3? People who put forth conspiracy theories almost always consider only the evidence that supports their beliefs. But having said all that, I think the NBA is somewhat to blame for the suspicions of the public. When a league bends over backwards for television, when it elongates the schedule and treats the postseason like a made-for-TV movie, it's not surprising that some people start to wonder whether there's a secret script lying around somewhere. Here's something that commissioner David Stern and Co. should think about: maybe the conspiracy theories arise because the public thinks the people who run the league are more concerned with entertainment than competition, that they care more about ratings points than the points on the scoreboard.
Phil, do you think that the Lakers are shooting themselves in the foot by not getting Glen Rice more scoring opportunities? After all, he is still one of the top jump shooters in the league. It is amazing how he can go from being a 20-plus scorer to the third, or sometimes fourth, option with the Lakers. Imagine the Lakers if Rice, Shaq, and Kobe scored 20 per game.
I don't think it's a case of the Lakers shooting themselves in the foot, I just think that although Rice is a great shooter, he isn't the right kind of shooter to be the third option for the Lakers. He needs to have plays run for him on a consistent basis so he can get into a rhythm, and with Shaq and Kobe, that's just not a smart way for L.A. to play. The Lakers need a shooter who can roll out of bed and hit, the way Jeff Hornacek used to, for instance. The third option for the Lakers has to be kind of like a pinch hitter in baseball, the type of player who can handle long periods of inactivity and be ready when called upon. They need a guy who can be effective even when he doesn't know when or where his shots are going to be coming from. Rice just isn't the same shooter when he goes 10 minutes without a shot, then gets four or five looks, then goes seven or eight more minutes without one. Nothing against Rice -- that's a hard role for a player to get used to. But that's the way it's going to have to be with the Lakers.
I've heard a certain NBA insider say that the 76ers are considering trading Allen Iverson because of his constant run-ins with Larry Brown and distracting behavior during the playoffs. Is this true and, if so, what teams are interested in Iverson?
The Sixers aren't actively shopping Iverson, but they are keeping their eyes open for a possible deal. If the Pistons find they can't keep Grant Hill, for instance, you could see the Sixers trying to get Hill to agree to come to Philly in a sign-and-trade for Iverson. They could pursue the same thing with Charlotte and Eddie Jones. The Sixers love how hard Iverson competes on the floor, but they're not crazy about his behavior when he's not in a game. He's habitually late, they're still somewhat worried about the people he hangs out with, and he hasn't shown a willingness to hit the weight room in the off-season, which might keep him from getting some of the injuries he so valiantly plays through. Still, a trade is far from a sure thing, because the Sixers would have to get a star in return. I'd say there's a 50-50 chance that the Answer will be somewhere else next season, but he's far from being the untouchable commodity that you'd expect the league's second-leading scorer to be.
If the Portland Trail Blazers fail to make the NBA finals is there a chance they might trade Rasheed Wallace? They already have the underused and extremely talented Jermaine O'Neal who could fill Wallace's position.
Portland's not giving up on Wallace by any means. He may never shake his temper problems completely, but they think he'll behave better as he gets older, and I think they're probably right. His shenanigans on the floor are childish and stupid, and some of his teammates have told him so privately, but he's talented enough that the Blazers are willing to put up with his blowups. It's much more likely that O'Neal will be sent elsewhere because the minutes just aren't there for him.
I realize that the Knicks made it all the way to the finals last year and have gone at least as far as the Eastern Conference Finals this year, but the question remains: Will they deal for a primetime point guard? Gary Payton is getting itchy feet in Seattle and Terrell Brandon has been on the hot seat for some time. There are big name point guards out there. Are the Knicks interested?
They're interested, but only for the right price. Although they'd like to upgrade at the point, the Knicks don't think their situation is as bad as most other people do, certainly not bad enough to part with Latrell Sprewell or Allan Houston, which is what it would take to get someone like Payton. They talked to Seattle about a Sprewell-Payton trade last summer, but I don't think they would make the deal today, not after Spree was so clutch for them in the playoffs for a second straight year. New York considers its biggest needs to be up front. The Knicks are the worst rebounding team in the league and they're going to need a replacement for Patrick Ewing eventually. The bottom line is that it's more likely than not that Charlie Ward and Chris Childs will still be the Knicks' point guards next year.
I appreciate your column and I thought your defense defending Fred Hickman was a stand-up thing to do. My question is this: Is New Jersey going to blow their lucky pick on Chris Mihm just because they don't yet have a true big man, or will they take Kenyon Martin, by far the tougher and more skilled player?
I've heard a lot of draft experts saying that Mihm will be the top pick. I hope, for the Nets' sake, that they have more sense than that. It's hard to say what they'll do because they don't even have a front office right now, but I agree with you -- Martin should be the top pick, and Marcus Fizer should be second. I wouldn't be surprised if the Nets went for Mihm, though. NBA teams have often made the mistake of going for true centers instead of smaller guys who are more talented. That's why Sam Bowie was drafted ahead of Michael Jordan and why Shawn Bradley went ahead of Penny Hardaway. If the Nets are looking for someone to make an immediate impact, Martin is their guy, not Mihm.
Is there any truth to the rumor that the Tornto is contemplating a deal that would pur Glenn Robinson in a Raptors' uniform next season? I have also heard rumors of a deal involving Antonio Davis.
It's the Bucks who are considering moving Robinson. Davis has been mentioned as the kind of player they would want in return, but Toronto's not going to go for that deal. They love Davis, they don't have anyone else to play center, and they don't need a small forward since they already have a pretty good one named Vince Carter.
What are Utah's chances of picking up someone decent to replace Hornacek? Is the media making too much of players not wanting be in Utah? I would think with the caliber of players (John Stockton and Karl Malone) they have, most guys would be interested in joining the Jazz. Am I being too naive? Is money the major factor?
Money is still the most important factor, but I don't think the issue of players' willingness to live in Salt Lake City is overblown. I know that coaches of other teams half-jokingly threaten to trade players to Utah if they don't play better, and guys like Derek Harper and Rony Seikaly turned down chances to play for the Jazz, even though they might have gotten a championship ring as a reward. As for playing with Stockton and Malone, Stockton may only have one more year left, and Malone isn't exactly the most popular guy in the league among other players. I think Utah has a chance to trade for a Hornacek replacement, like Doug Christie , but it's hard to see them ever being major players in the free agent game. Put it this way, the pool of potential players for the Jazz is smaller than it is for most teams, not just because some players don't want to play there, but because the Jazz are very selective in the kind of players and people they pursue.
I was just wondering why P.J. Brown is coveted by so many teams? I don't get to see that many Heat games, so I do not see him much. Looking at his stats, he's not that impressive. What's the buzz on him?
It might sound like a cliché, but P.J. is the kind of player whose value can't be measured by stats. He's kind of a young Charles Oakley in that he's an excellent team defender -- great at providing help on D for his teammates. He doesn't always get a lot of rebounds, but he tends to get more than his share of the big ones. Defense and rebounding are his strengths, but he's still a good enough offensive player that if you ignore him, he'll hit the 15-foot jumper on you. Brown won't amaze you in any one game, but watch him for 10 or 20 and you'll see all the subtle ways he helps a team. Now that I've sung his praises, I'll turn around and say that I can't see why Pat Riley loves him so much that he passed up chances to get guys like Sprewell and Rice because he would have had to include P.J. in the deals. But it looks like Riley has finally figured out that he needs another scorer so badly that he'd be willing to trade Brown if that's what it takes.
I haven't paid close attention to his career, but why has Larry Johnson declined so greatly? In the mid-90s with Charlotte, he appeared to be a premiere NBA player (I enjoyed the Grandmama commercials), but now he is a role player. I've read comments about his diminished quickness. Has he failed to condition and develop himself, or is he just not durable?
Two words: Bad back. Ever since L.J. had disk surgery about six years ago, he hasn't been nearly the explosive player he was before. He's actually worked very hard on his conditioning and on changing his game in order to still be a fairly productive player, but he's just physically unable to do the things he used to do. I can't even remember the last time I saw L.J dunk. He'd be the first to tell you that he's just a shadow of his former self. If his body continues to deteriorate, I could see him eventually going the way of Sam Perkins and becoming a spot up three-point shooter.
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