Larry Legend Rolls The Dice In Turner/Granger Trade

There has yet be a player since the Association formed, who possessed more competitive drive than Larry Bird. While the “Basketball Hall Of Fame” forward had incredible talent on the hardwood, his never surrender mindset was a huge factor to him leading the Boston Celtics to three NBA championships. Bird ripped his team in the 1984 NBA Finals for not showing adequate toughness against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Celtics captain either touched a nerve or inspired his teammates, but the “Green Team” defeated their long-time rivals in that series and got Larry Legend his second Championship ring.

Although he hung up his sneakers for good after the 1992 Olympics, Bird still has that same fire in the belly as the Team President of the Indiana Pacers. He displayed some of that drive on Thursday afternoon, as he traded a player he called “my favorite,” longtime Pacers star Danny Granger to the Philadelphia 76ers for swingman Evan Turner. Although the Indiana exec hated to part with Granger, Bird believes that Turner gives his team a better shot at defeating the Miami Heat and have a chance to win their first NBA Title.

Indy Star.com” reported that the Pacers completed a trade before the NBA trade deadline kicked in on Thursday, that sent Granger and a second round Draft pick in 2015, to the Sixers for Turner and big man Lavoy Allen. That was the final move of the season for Philadelphia, a team that has held a “Going Out Of Business, Everything Must Go” attitude for the last month. The 76ers have basically gutted their club intent on starting from scratch at the conclusion of the current campaign.

The Sixers reportedly reached out to Indiana on Thursday with the trade proposal, a move that the Team President admitted caught him by surprise. Bird told reporters “I didn’t think there was going to be anything there, that we’re really looking for, but when this came up and caught our attention, and we thought maybe we should do it. Try to stabilize that second unit. Obviously, Lavoy Allen’s another big body that can play and Evan Turner; I like guys who can play multiple positions. You can talk all you want about how he can’t hit an outside shot, can’t do this. I always look at the positive side of it. I think he’s a kid who can come in right away and help us.”

Bird also revealed his personal feelings about Granger to the media. The Pacers executive said “It’s just a tough deal. Danny’s always been my favorite. I understand the disappointment. A lot of people say that I’ve been trying to trade him for a year and I haven’t been doing that. I even told Danny that. I did tell him if a great opportunity arises, you can’t say you’ll never trade somebody.”

Unfortunately, injuries have gotten the best of the former All-Star throughout the last couple of seasons. Granger was coming off the bench for his club and his numbers were far below his career averages, in 29 games he put up only 8.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.1 assists per contest. That is a huge contrast that the numbers that Turner has produced in what has been his best campaign in the Association. The swingman has been a starter all season for Philadelphia and has averaged 17.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. That’s a lot of fire-power coming from the man who anchors a team’s second unit.

On paper the deal looks great for Indiana, but that does not always translate into good chemistry in the locker room. Danny Granger was a team leader and a mentor for Indiana, giving Evan Turner big shoes to fill.

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Could Hawes Help Cavaliers Make The Playoffs This Spring?

The Cleveland Cavaliers informed the rest of the Association, that they have yet to give up on making the Post Season this spring, completing a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers just prior to the NBA trade deadline Thursday afternoon. The “Cleveland Plain Dealer” has reported that Cavaliers interim General Manager David Griffin acquired Sixers center Spencer Hawes, in return for veteran forward Earl Clark, backup center Henry Sims and two future NBA second round Draft picks. Although acquiring Hawes, most likely will not set Cleveland fan’s hearts aflutter; they filled a position of need with a player that should be up to the task.

The new Cleveland pivot-man is a multi-dimensional player, a true seven-footer who knows his way around the basket, but also is quite comfortable taking an outside shot. The 25-year-old big man has held his own so far in this campaign, as he has averaged 13.0, 8.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists in his 53 games for Philadelphia. If he can keep up those numbers in his new home, it would greatly elevate the club’s chances of making the Playoffs in April.

Perhaps the best aspect of this eleventh hour transaction, is that Cleveland did not lose any core players in the deal. Clark did a nice job as a forward off the bench, while Sims showed very little during his infrequent time on the hardwood. It is similar to the deal that brought starting forward Luol Deng from the Chicago Bulls earlier in the campaign; low risk which could reap some pretty high rewards.

Although Anderson Varejao has earned tons of respect manning the center position over the last few seasons, his lack of size and strength leads to frequent stints on the injured list. This move gives Cleveland the luxury of playing Varejao off the bench as a backup center; making him far more effective against the lesser competition he would face. The Cavaliers could also allow him to play more minutes at his natural position in the four slot.

This move will not cause Cavaliers fans to set off fireworks in Public Square, however it could turn out to be the difference between heading home after 82-games, or making their first Post Season appearance since 2010.

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How Long Will K-Love Stay With The T-Wolves?

Minnesota Timberwolves former Team President David Kahn, is like the gift that keeps on giving. Not only did the former executive turn his club into a perennial cellar-dweller during his tenure, he most likely cost the franchise their superstar, big-man Kevin Love. In yet another move that proved he lacked the “Right-Stuff” to satisfactorily fill the position, he decided to play hardball with the All-Star during contract negotiations. K-Love was eligible for a five-year max-deal with the T-Wolves, however for some inexplicable reason Kahn declined to offer more than a four-year pact.

The negotiations did not sit well, with the player the T-Wolves should have built their franchise around, so he had his agent put an opt-out-clause at the end of year three, which will occur in July of 2015. According to “CBS Sports.com“ the petty tactics used by Kahn in the contract discussion and the lack of progress that Minnesota has made since the club drafted the big man, could be the factors that would choose the player to exercise the opt-out and bolt from the team via Free Agency in the Summer of 2015.

Although money is a factor in which team decides to sign with; for most great players it is not the primary objective of putting his name on a contract. The two main reasons that upper-echelon players choose a franchise; are viability of winning a Championship and a loyalty, or at least a belief that the people in charge can get the club to a point that they can contend for a Title.

So through no fault of his own Flip Saunders, who took over for Kahn at the conclusion of last season finds himself in the middle of a high-stakes game of “Chicken,” with Love and his agent. The earlier he trades his team’s centerpiece player, the higher the value in a package from another team. The other option of course is using the next year-plus to convince the big man, that the T-Wolves are on track to become legitimate contenders to make and win the Finals in the next few years.

There is no disputing that Minnesota has a talented young roster that includes shooting guard Kevin Martin, point guard Ricky Rubio, small forward Corey Brewer and center Nikola Pekovic. However the team has yet to turn into a cohesive unit and currently the whole is not playing up to the individual parts capabilities.

Although they pummeled the Indiana Pacers Wednesday night with Love recording a double-double, with 41 points and 16 boards, they ended the night with a record of 26-28, five and a half games behind the final Playoff seed in the Western Conference. There is a better than even chance that the club’s campaign will end yet again at the conclusion of the regular season, meaning Love will go yet another year in his career without ever sniffing the Playoffs.

The NBA trade-deadline takes effect on Thursday and there currently are no credible rumors of an impending deal that would send the talented big man to a new home. So it seems that K-Love will finish this campaign in Minnesota, what we will find out a year from now is whether Love is still in a T-Wolves jersey at the end of the 2014-2015 campaign?

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LeBron Should Let His Game Speak For Him

Remember during his playing days when Michael Jordan told a reporter he was among the finest players ever to lace them up in the history of the Association? How about when Larry Bird and Magic Johnson  said during a TV interview, that their images should be on the NBA version of Mount Rushmore? If you answered yes to either or both question, you are either a liar, or you were doing some mighty fine drugs in the eighties and nineties. Those three members of the Basketball Hall Of Fame would have felt mortified had statements such as those been attributed to them.

It turns out that the player many NBA observers consider the best player on the floor in this era LeBron James, feels no need to hide behind false modesty. According to “ESPN.com” the Miami Heat forward in an interview which will be broadcast Monday on “NBA-TV,” proclaimed loudly and proudly that he should be perceived on the same level that Bird, Johnson and Jordan are.

James told the reporter “I’m going to be one of the top four that’s ever played this game, for sure. And if they don’t want me to have one of those top four spots, they’d better find another spot on that mountain. Somebody’s gotta get bumped, but that’s not for me to decide. That’s for the architects.”

The four-time winner of the NBA MVP Award, immediately named Bird, Johnson and Jordan as three of the players who deserve the recognition that he does. It took him a while, however he named Oscar Robertson as the fourth player that should have his face etched in stone.

Former Celtics forward Larry Bird was amongst the biggest trash-talkers ever to step onto an NBA court. One year he walked into the locker-room before participating in the NBA Three-Point Shot Contest. He smiled at his competition and asked “Hey Boys, whose going to come in second-place today?” He of course backed up his boasts with his performance in the contest, winning with ease.  However, he never would have told a member of the media he believed he belonged with the best players in the Association and either would Michael or Magic. They were way above singing their own praises to the media and in turn the fans.

James started expressing his value mid-way through his rookie campaign, after the Cleveland Cavaliers traded away talented but troubled forward Ricky Davis to the Boston Celtics. From that point on he referred to the squad as his and veteran center’s Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ team. He constantly would refer to himself as one of the best young players in the game. What would have come off as hubris from another rookie, was just confidence when expressed by the number one pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, as far as we members of the eyes of the Cleveland media who covered him.

The question that first popped into my head when I read his statements, was is he that insecure about the perception people have of him that he is now going around tooting his own horn? For a player who has accomplished as much as he has in his career; why is he coming off as so needy? Is he still having flash-backs of the 2010-2011 season when he was the villain of the NBA. Does that still haunt him four-years later?

The comparison between LeBron and the three legends, is reminiscent of the way Kaye West and Jay-Z conduct themselves. West is always self-promoting, no matter what the subject is he consistently turns it into a vehicle for touting how important figure he is in the history of R&B. Mr. Carter never boasts like that; Jay-Z lets his music speak for itself because he has enough confidence in his work. Perhaps LBJ can learn a lesson or two from his long time friend and allow his exploits on the hardwood to do his talking.

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Cheeks Slapped, Pistons Fire Coach After 50 Games

There was definitely “Panic In Detroit” on Sunday, or more accurately Auburn Hills, Michigan as the “Detroit Free Press” reported that the Detroit Pistons fired bench boss Maurice Cheeks on Sunday, just 50-games into a multi-year contract. The move came after the club had a strong victory over the Denver Nuggets Saturday night, winning the contest by a 126-109 margin.

The former All-Star point guard for the Philadelphia 76ers, dismissed with a lackluster record of 21-29, however in a campaign in which the Eastern Conference could be mistaken for a Division Two college conference, they were just a half game out of the eighth and final Playoff seed, currently occupied by the Charlotte Bobcats. Which begs one to question whether the man who runs the franchise Joe Dumars, made the move due to fear of his own future with the team?

During the first decade of the new millennium Detroit Pistons President Of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars, was one of the bright, young, talented executives in the Association. They won the NBA Finals in 2004 and were among the elite teams through the 2007-2008 campaign.

The Pistons fall from grace emanated from one of the worst trades in the recent history of the Association, as Detroit sent Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess to the Denver Nuggets for Allen Iverson. Billups immediately became a spark plug and team leader for Denver, while Iverson became a clubhouse cancer and major distraction for the Pistons. The club barely made the Post Season that spring and were swept by their former chief rival the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round. That was the last time Detroit was even close to qualifying for the Playoffs.

The Pistons made no attempt to re-sign Iverson, who became an unrestricted Free Agent at the end of the season. Although that move was a no-brainer for Dumars, he then proceeded to blow the team’s salary cap space on two Free Agents that had the same skill-sets as players already on the roster. They signed former Bulls shooting guard Ben Gordon as a backup to Richard Hamilton, even though he had shown that he was ineffective coming off the bench.

Their other acquisition was veteran forward Charlie Villanueva, who was basically an older and more expensive version of their own player Jason Maxiell. Although many long-time observers of the Association criticized the signings; Dumars thought he had the makings of a roster that would propel his team deep into the Post Season. Instead they went deep into the cellar of the Central Division for the next few years.

The coaching carousel for the franchise has been rocky ever since they fired former head coach Flip Saunders in the Spring of 2008. Michael Curry held the reins for one campaign, while John Kuester lasted through two agonizing seasons on the bench. Former Nets head coach Lawrence Frank, could not turn the team around in his two years with the team, now they have given up on Cheeks, just 50-games into his first season.

The team went into the campaign with the highest hopes that the franchise has had in years. They acquired former Milwaukee Bucks point guard Byron Jennings and along with talented young big men Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond they expected to field a vastly improved roster this season. That disappointment was most likely a factor in the early firing of Maurice Cheeks.

There is another factor involved though, even if it is never mentioned by anyone on the Pistons. That would be that Dumars contract runs out at the end of this season and the club’s performance over the last few years, does not make a strong case for bringing him back.

Dumars’ fate now rests in former assistant Jon Loyer, who will be the interim coach for the rest of the season. Loyer has a strong chance of getting Detroit into the eighth seed in the upcoming Playoffs; the real question is can he do enough to save Dumars from the firing squad?

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Is It Time To Restructure The NBA Playoff System?

Even casual fans of the Association over the last few years, are well aware that the Western Conference has fielded a far stronger selection of teams than their Eastern counterparts for a while. The disparity however, is rather embarrassing this season as only the Indiana Pacers and the Miami Heat have records that are substantially over the .500 mark.

The Toronto Raptors sit at two games over the break even mark, while the current fourth seed the Atlanta Hawks, ended Saturday night with a 25-24 record. That means the last four teams in the Eastern Conference Playoff picture are below .500, more than halfway through the campaign.

If we set the bar of mediocrity at a record of .500, there are currently two franchises headed to the Post Season with records that barely exceed that level and another four teams rewarded for playing less than mediocre. From this vantage point, that seems to be an unjust system that needs to be tweaked. Especially in a campaign that has four teams in the West with better records than eighth seed Charlotte, that would be heading home if the season ended right now.

I have gone back and forth in an internal debate over whether the Playoff System needs to be overhauled for years, however the lackluster performance emanating from the East this season, has convinced me the system needs to be restructured. With new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver now running the Association, it would be a great way to show that there is a New Sheriff in town by adopting a new system starting next October.

Ideally the way to rectify the problem would be to cut back the number of Playoff spots; but anyone who believes that would be an acceptable scenario for the Association, most likely believes the Earth is flat. Which means that we turn to the next alternative, that being picking the best 16 teams in the NBA by record, regardless of Conference. By going in that direction, you most likely would have a far more competitive first round of the Post Season, than what will most likely take place this year.

If the new system were in effect this spring, we would be looking at a Post Season that includes all eight seeded teams in the West, six seeded teams from the East with the Memphis Grizzlies and Denver Nuggets getting the last two berths. Memphis, currently has a record of 27-22, while Denver with a mark of 24-25, is even with the Washington Bullets and the Chicago Bulls, who occupy the fourth and fifth slots in the Eastern Conference. It would knock out Brooklyn with a 22-26 record and Charlotte sitting at 22-29, regular season records that should not be mentioned in the same breath as the Playoffs.

The system I am proposing may also be an incentive for some of the lesser lights of the East to improve their rosters, realizing that the days of slipping into the Post Season by being the best of the bad has come to an end. If they want to get a share of that Playoff revenue, they will have to get their house in order.

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Welcome To The “Silver Age” For The NBA

They passed the torch  in the Association, without much fanfare on Sunday, as David Stern stepped down from his post as Commissioner, handing over the reins of power to his former Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver. The changing if the guard was far from a surprise, as an announcement was made a year ago that Silver would become the Head-Honcho in the NBA at this time. The former Commissioner reached a milestone in this campaign, serving as the top-man in the NBA for 30-years and he thought it was a fitting time to step down.

There can be no debate that Silver took over the Association in far better shape than the reclamation project his predecessor had inherited. Fans turned off by NBA players being in the news for being busted on cocaine charges abandoned the game. Attendance was scarce and television viewership was in even worse shape. The NBA Finals were being broadcast on a tape-delay basis; shown at 11:30pm local time on each coast. That meant that an East Coast game broadcast in California, would begin seven-hours after the actual tip-off. Continue reading

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Have The Cavaliers Become A Losing Battle For Grant?

Sitting on the sidelines so far in this campaign, as PRO HOOPS CENTRAL has been on sabbatical, there have been some interesting stories emanating from the Association as we near the halfway point of the season. However, the story that has been most troubling from this corner, is the lack of progression taking place with the club I covered as a Radio Reporter from 1995 through the 2007 NBA Finals; the Cleveland Cavaliers. In a mediocre at best NBA Eastern Conference, the club started out Monday with a record of 16-28; amazingly just two games out of the final playoff seed in the Conference.

Cleveland fans filled with hope when back in April, Team Owner Dan Gilbert had a “Dallas Type Moment,” as he walked into the team’s locker room and saw head coach Mike Brown sitting at his desk; meaning the last three seasons under former bench boss Byron Scott were just a bad dream. After dismissing Brown back in the Summer of 2010, Gilbert realized that defense wins championships and brought his former coach back into the fold. This time around, Brown had himself an elite NBA point guard to run his offense in All-Star Kyrie Irving, an option he never came close to having in his first tour of duty with the team.

The Basketball Gods blessed the club with their second number one selection in three years, in last June’s NBA Draft and the team’s General Manager Chris Grant was expected by most pundits to select Kentucky center Nerlens Noel, a player who was injured at the time of the Draft, but was said to have a huge upside as a future big man in the NBA. Most longtime NBA observers thought that the big man from Kentucky would be a natural fit for a club run by Mike Brown, but apparently the team believed otherwise.

The Cavaliers have needed go-to players at the small forward and center slots since the Summer of 2010, however Grant pretty much shocked the World Of Basketball when he selected power forward Anthony Bennett out of UNLV. The move perplexed fans of the squad as the four-slot was being ably manned by Tristan Thompson, taken with the fourth pick in the same Draft the club acquired Irving. Talk of a trade surfaced immediately in the media; but the team still has both players on the roster.

To say that Bennett has underwhelmed with his play as the first selection in the NBA draft would be far more than kind. The rookie is playing in the Association at the small forward position and the only impression he has made so far is a bad one. He has played in 32 of the team’s 44 games, always coming off the bench and averaging 2.4 points, 2.3 rebounds and 0.2 assists in 10.2 minutes per contest. Those are unacceptable numbers from a first round pick and so far there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

In a recent private conversation with a veteran Cleveland reporter, who has covered the club since the nineties;  I learned that the Cavaliers locker room is not a happy place currently. Irving reportedly is making his displeasure with the team’s lack of direction known off the record and it is not surprising he feels that way. The young man is going to be a force to be reckoned with in the Association for years to come and does not want to spend his career on a team in the basement.

Grant took a low risk/possibly high gain gamble this summer, signing veteran center Andrew Bynum to a contract. The move did not work out as Bynum has already been shipped along with some low value future draft picks to the Chicago Bulls, for veteran small forward Luol Deng. The veteran has done a nice job since moving into the starting three-slot for Cleveland, averaging 16.7 points, 4.7 boards and 2.2 assists per game. However he is a Free Agent at the end of this campaign and may not be a great long-term fit for the team. Deng is only 28-years-old, but he has taken a beating in the Association and does get injured quite often.

Chris Grant was a Danny Ferry disciple and Gilbert hoped that he could fill the position long-term. I think it has been proven that he is incapable of building a team. I would love to see them get a Donnie Walsh type guy, who would come in and shake things up like he did with the Knicks. You can have all the ones, twos and fours you want, but this team NEEDS a Three And A Five and have since the Summer of 2010.

Back in 1980, Ronald Reagan during his campaign for the Presidency; asked the American People if they were better off than they were four-years before. As we reach the Summer of 2014, Cavaliers fans and Dan Gilbert will have to answer the question whether the club is better than it was four-years previously. The answer to that question should determine Chris Grant’s fate as the General Manager for the club.

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Loss Of A Legend, Hall Of Fame Center Walt Bellamy Passes

Back in the days when Behemoths ruled the NBA hardwood, center Walt Bellamy was a player considered one of the elite big men in the Association by his peers and opposing coaches alike. He would be a member of the Team USA Olympic basketball squad that brought back the gold to the USA. He would be the first player selected in the 1961 NBA Draft, as the former Chicago Packers saw a player they hoped would be a man they could build a franchise around and the center would be named the NBA Rookie Of The Year in 1962.

The Atlanta Hawks announced that the 74-year old big man passed away on Saturday, cause of death has yet to be announced. Bellamy would play a total of 14 campaigns in the Association, making the NBA All-Star Team four times in his career. The North Carolina native averaged 20.1 points and 13.7 boards during his stint in the Association. Perhaps even more importantly, he earned the respect of two of the greatest big men to ever lace them up in the Association; Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain.

The Hawks issued the following statement on Saturday: “The Atlanta Hawks family is saddened to learn of the death of Walt Bellamy at the age of 74 earlier today. The Hawks and the National Basketball Association have lost a giant. As an Olympic gold medalist, the first overall pick in 1961, Rookie of the Year in 1962, a four-time All-Star and a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, his on-court accomplishments were overwhelming. Off the court, he was equally impactful as a family man, leader in the community, mentor and friend to many.”

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Forbes Names 13 NBA Team Owners To List Of 400 Richest Americans

When NBA Commissioner David Stern and the team owners in the Association declared a “Lockout” during the 2011-2012 campaign, management claimed that they needed a more “Owner Friendly” Collective Bargaining Agreement, because too many franchises were in tough financial shape. Whether or not that statement was correct, it turns out that there are some very successful men among NBA team owners, as “Forbes Magazine” revealed on Monday. The magazine published its annual list of the “400 Richest Americans,” which included 13 owners of NBA teams.

Leading the list of franchise owners is the Orlando Magic’s Rich DeVos, who sits at number 60 and the magazine’s statistics state he has a net worth of $6.8 billion.  Rounding out the top five, is Micky Arison of the Miami Heat, said to be worth $5.9 billion, Stan Kroenke Atlanta Hawks owner who according to the list has a net worth of $5.3 billion, Cleveland Cavaliers head honcho Dan Gilbert, said to be worth $3.9 billion and New York Knicks head man Charles Dolan who comes in at $3.3 billion.

Still plenty more billionaires among the NBA franchise owners with Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores said to be worth $2.7 billion, Mark Cuban of the Dallas Mavericks and Sixers main man Josh Harris tied at $2.5 billion, while Memphis Grizzlies owner Robert Pera and Herb Simon of the Indiana Pacers each said to be worth $1.95 billion.

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling according to the magazine valued at $1.9 billion, Glen Taylor who owns the Minnesota Timberwolves is said to have a net worth of $1.7 billion and Tom Benson who owns the New Orleans Pelicans and the New Orleans Saints is on the list with $1,3 billion.

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