League sources told SI that Ming was talked out of entering the draft by both U.S. and Chinese basketball contacts, who feel he needs more heft (he weighs 270 pounds) and more experience. There were also concerns about Ming's deal with Evergreen. Two sources who have read the contract say that it calls for over half of Ming's earnings to go to Evergreen and the Sharks. The agreement was forwarded anonymously to the players' association, and sources there say executive director Billy Hunter proclaimed it invalid because Coyne is not a certified agent.
Coyne says Hunter has no jurisdiction over his deal with Ming precisely because he's no longer an agent. Coyne says he will provide comprehensive management services for Ming, such as assisting him in arranging his departure from China, helping him adjust to a new culture and learn a new language, finding international tax consultants for him and placing him with a certified agent.
Coyne denies Ming backed out because of his contract with Evergreen. "I think we disturbed the plans of bigger powers here," says Coyne. He declined to say whether those bigger powers were the NBA, the People's Republic of China or an even more formidable force in sports, Nike.
Of course it's also possible that Ming just wanted to wait another year before going to work for Coyne.
The Case For Casey
As Nets officials begin their search for a permanent successor to deposed coach John Calipari, the best choice may be right under their noses. When Calipari was fired, assistant coach Don Casey inherited a 3-17 team that was a pale imitation of the group of swaggering young turks who made the playoffs in 1998. Casey had no illusions that he was anything but a stopgap replacement, but that was before he led the Nets to a 13-17 record despite losing center Jayson Williams (fractured right leg), forward Keith Van Horn (surgery on left thumb) and forward Scott Burrell (right knee injury) along the way.
The irony is that Casey didn't want to be in New Jersey last season. Calipari no longer trusted him or consulted him, and he forbade Casey and others in the organization, including senior vice president Willis Reed, from socializing with the players. Knowing all this, Casey began negotiating with Detroit during the lockout to become Alvin Gentry's righthand man. He was on the verge of joining the Pistons when new Nets owner Lewis Katz, who had met Casey years ago through friends, asked him to stay on. "I guess sometimes things happen for a reason," Casey says.
After his ascension the players gleefully dubbed Casey the King, and many of them, including Williams and guard-forward Kendall Gill, ardently hope he'll be named the permanent coach. Point guard Stephon Marbury says he wouldn't mind having Casey back—but only after Phil Jackson says nyet to the Nets.
Sources close to the former Bulls coach say that while he finds the Nets situation "intriguing," he doesn't know Katz or New Jersey's other owners, and he needs to have a better feel for them before gauging his interest. Those same sources say that if the Lakers were to have an opening, L.A. would be Jackson's first choice.
In other words, Casey will be in limbo until Jackson decides where to land. If it's New Jersey, Casey says he'll pack his bags and be thankful for the 30-game tryout he was given. Jackson, after all, has seven championships on his r�sum�. "Even I," says the King, "can understand that."