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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T-Mac Says “I Wish I Had Stayed In Toronto”

When we reach a landmark such as retirement; we tend to look back upon our experiences and decisions we made, some good and others that did work out as we had planned. Veteran swing-man Tracy McGrady announced late last month that he is retiring from the NBA and the occasion has caused him to reflect on what he accomplished, as well as decisions he made that he has come to regret.

In a recent phone interview with the “Toronto Star,” the former All-Star admitted that among the biggest regrets of his career, was leaving the Toronto Raptors as a Free Agent in the Summer of 2000. T-Mac would sign with the Orlando Magic salivating at what he thought he and his new teammate Grant Hill would accomplish in their new home. Unfortunately, health issues for both players would prevent them from seeing their dreams come true and both left the franchise without getting close to even playing in the NBA Finals.

The two cornerstones that Toronto wanted to build their team around were McGrady and their young shooting guard Vince Carter, ironically McGrady’s cousin. Conversation at the time, was that T-Mac may have been resentful of the attention “Vinsanity” was getting, possibly feeling that his accomplishments were lost in the shadow of his cousin. Whether or not that was a factor, the small forward/shooting guard decided to leave the cold climes of Toronto for the balmy weather of Orlando.

Now that he is taking stock of his 16-year career in the Association, he confessed to the paper that if he had a do-over, he would have stayed with the Raptors. He said “In hindsight, looking back, obviously I wish I had stayed in Toronto. There’s no doubt we could have contended for a championship. I think about that often. But if ‘if’ was a fifth, you know? Had I been a little older and wiser and knew what was ahead of me, I would have stayed, no doubt, with those guys. But that was some of the best times of my life, man. Being with (Charles) Oakley and Kevin Willis and Antonio Davis, Muggsy (Bogues), Dell Curry, Dee Brown. Man. I still talk to a lot of those guys to this day. Because I appreciated how they looked out for me. They were all professionals.”

The following campaign Toronto fell just short of making what would have been their only appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals. McGrady said that there would have been a different outcome had he remained a Raptor. “There’s no doubt we would have won that series if I would have been there. We had incredible camaraderie. You can’t duplicate that, man. Big brothers, little brothers; we had a mix. And me and Vince were in the perfect situation. You’ve got the two young superstars and you’ve got these old vets. They were our force field. They protected us from anything that happened on that basketball court. They did all the dirty work. And all we had to do was just concentrate on putting the ball in the hoop and guarding who we were guarding. It was just such a great time in my career.”

McGrady had strong personal numbers throughout his career, averaging 19.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.4 assists per contest. However he leaves the Association as many have, despite his numbers he never came close to an NBA championship. Whether fate would have been kinder to him had he re-signed with Toronto is an answer we will never know.

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Former Cavaliers Star Craig Ehlo Gets Suspended Sentence For Reckless Burning

Craig Ehlo 9.13f

Craig Ehlo walked out of a Spokane, Washington courtroom on Wednesday as a free man, after pleading guilty to a charge Second Degree Reckless Burning. The charges stem from a family argument that the former NBA player was involved in last month. Ehlo was actually sentenced to 364 days in jail for the offense according to a report from “KREM.com“, however the judge suspended 363 days and counted time served on the night he was arrested to fulfill the sentence.

Ehlo and his wife were involved in a domestic dispute at home in early August. After the fight was over family members told deputies on the scene, heard unfamiliar sounds emanating near the garage. When they went out to investigate the source of the noise, they discovered that Ehlo had pulled a big pile of clothes out of the garage and had set them on fire.

When the deputies arrived on the scene, two men had pinned the former NBA player to the ground, they told the law-enforcement officials that they kept him on the ground fearing Ehlo was going to jump into the blaze.

The judge in the case also waived the no contact order, that has kept the former NBA swingman from seeing his family since the incident. According to the reports, the members of Ehlo’s family stated that they never felt that the former key member of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the Lenny Wilkens era, would hurt them in any way.

The 51-year-old had been an assistant-coach at Eastern Washington University, the past two seasons, but resigned his post on July 11.

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Should NBA Put Games On Digital Platform?

David Stern heads into his final season as NBA Commissioner this season and there are many decisions and moves he made that can be legitimately criticized. However, it is difficult to conceive that anybody could have marketed and help grow the Association better than he has during his tenure. His dream was to take a sport that had their Championship Tournament, broadcast on a four-hour tape-delay basis by CBS, into a game embraced by the planet and he has seen his dream turn into reality. Children on the other side of the globe, sport Kevin Durant and LeBron James jerseys amazing American tourists.

One of the Associations broadcasting partners told reporters earlier this week that they were planning on going full-bore to retain their broadcasting rights. “Sports Business Daily” reported that ESPN president John Skipper said that the network would pull out all the stops to sign a new contract with the NBA when the current deal expires after the 2015-2016 campaign. Skipper said that the Association is a “critical product” for the network and told media members “There are plenty of live sports rights, but the ones that make a difference are scarce.”

The network president was asked about the possibility that the Association could ink a deal with a major website to broadcast games only on the Internet in the next round of negotiations. Skipper did not give the concept much credence as he said “It is incomprehensible to me that the NBA would decide to put their games on a digital platform, and that sports fans are going to make a transformation, saying, ‘I’m going to go to Yahoo to watch my games tonight.’ I don’t think that’s going to happen. I don’t think they have any way to monetize those rights in the same way that traditional (networks can).”

It was not all that long ago that the NBA relegating Playoff contests to cable networks was looked at as madness, however the system has done very well since 2002 with most of the games on ESPN or TNT. Yet I recall quite clearly talking to Orlando Magic Senior Vice President Pat Williams after the deal was announced and I asked him if it was a step-back for the NBA. Williams correctly predicted that it would be a successful marriage and the Association would prove to be quite pleased with the results.

The NBA proved to be ahead of the curve moving their games to cable, could a website possibly NBA.com be in the mix with the next round of negotiations? Internet penetration in this country and around the world is growing at an astronomical rate, by the Summer of 2016 it will only be more prevalent. Could the Internet be a successful venue for the game and help propel it to a new level? Broadcast on your laptop in HD quality, plus with more and more “Smart TV’s” in families homes, you will most likely be able to enjoy the game on your big screen in the family room.

That day is coming; the only question is will the technology and the acceptance be there for the next round of negotiations. I would not be surprised to see the Internet, get at least a taste in next contract as the Association keeps trying to expand their fan base.

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Lin Tells Taiwan Youth Conference “I Even Cried Before A Game” Last Season

Heading into last summer, life was just a bowl of cherries for Free Agent guard Jeremy Lin after signing a three-year deal with the Houston Rockets, however by last December the young man who took the Association by storm the season before, was looking at nothing but pits. Lin became the feel-good story of the 2011-2012 campaign as the 12th man on the New York Knicks roster was inserted into a contest against the New Jersey Nets as a desperation move and scored a career high 25 points and helped New York win the game 99-92.head coach Mike D’Antoni inserted him as the starting point guard in the next game as the hosted the Utah Jazz and the former Harvard player responded by scoring a new career high 28 points as the Knicks topped their visitors 99-88.

New York would go onto win seven straight games and the legend of “Linsanity” was born, a true underdog who suddenly was playing like a seasoned All-Star. The first American born player of Chinese descent to play in the NBA was not selected in the NBA Draft, instead he entered as a walk-on player and had been previously waived by two other teams earlier in the season. The second-year player found his image on the cover of Time Magazine and being discussed by President Barack Obama.

Lin’s season ended early as he underwent surgery to repair a torn left meniscus in April. Although the Knicks appeared as if they would keep the restricted Free Agent early on, they instead turned their sights on former New York starter Raymond Felton. Lin caught the Houston Rockets’ attention, a team that had cut him previously and inked a three-year pact reportedly worth $25.1 million over the life of the deal. Having the guard who showed he could take over a contest at anytime with the Knicks, leading their roster heading into last October pumped up fans throughout the city.

The player who appeared to be ready to challenge players such as Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook to become one of the elite points in the NBA, never was on the court during the past campaign. Although Lin ended with respectable number for a starting point guard; averaging 13.4 points and 6.1 assists per contest, he fell way short of the standards he had set for the Knicks. His season started out tough as he and James Harden who was traded to Houston from the Oklahoma City Thunder, learned to play as a duo. His saw time on the hardwood diminished, being subbed for in games most critical moments. He felt he had lost his coaches confidence and he could soon be relegated to the pine once again.

Lin revealed his inner-thoughts recently according to “Sports Illustrated” at a Taiwan Youth Conference about what he considered a very disappointing campaign and the emotional toll it took on him. The guard heading into his fourth NBA season and second with Houston, told the attendees that comparing his numbers and his presence on the court to his time with New York effected his eating and sleeping habits, even bringing him to tears at one point.

He told the crowd “I felt like I had to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. That’s why I couldn’t eat or sleep. That’s why I was no fun to be around. I never smiled. In fact, I even cried before a game against the New Orleans Hornets because I was so anxious about losing my starting spot.”

He said that the way he got out of his funk, was his decision to no longer base his self-worth on what he does on the floor or how fans perceive him. He inferred that he was pressing last season and that is .why his numbers had gone down, by playing more loosey-goosey he will enjoy himself far more on the court and hopefully improve his game

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Sixers Name Spurs Assistant Brett Brown New Bench Boss

The San Antonio Spurs have provided the blueprint for teams in the Association to build a roster “naturally,” as opposed to trying to buy an NBA Title as the Miami Heat has done and the Brooklyn Nets are attempting to do this year. The Spurs have assembled their squad mostly through the NBA Draft, with an occasional trade or Free Agent acquisition, to fill a need. The Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies are two clubs that have come a long way in a short time following that blueprint; while there are other franchises that have gone that rout and are close to becoming contenders.

The team from San Antonio has not only influenced other clubs putting together rosters, they have exported former employees to bigger positions on new squads, usually successfully. Former disciples of Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich include Atlanta Hawks general manager Danny Ferry and recently re-hired Cleveland Cavaliers bench boss Mike Brown. Last month Ferry brought in another former member of the San Antonio management, hiring Mike Budenholzer to be the new head coach in Atlanta.

Yet another Spurs assistant will take over leading a team on the floor, as “Philly.com” has reported that the Philadelphia 76ers have come to terms with Brett Brown, for what is said to be four-year-pact. He replaces former Sixers head coach Doug Collins who was fired after the completion of the regular season. Brown had been a member of the Spurs coaching staff since 2002 and was on the bench as an assistant since the 2006-2007 campaign. The brain-trust in Philadelphia, hopes that the 52-year-old rookie head coach can be a good teacher for the young players on the squad, notably big man Nerlens Noel and point guard Michael Carter-Williams, both selected by the Sixers in the first round of the NBA Draft in June.

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Yo Shabazz, You Got To Follow The Rules In The NBA

Once again it is time for Your Old Pal New York Vinnie, to talk about the newest “FRICKIN PUD” in the NBA Shabazz Muhammad, the guard that the Minnesota Timberwolves selected with the number 14 pick in the draft this past June. The rookie finds himself in a kettle of boiling water, after being sent home after violating the rules of the NBA Rookie Transition Program earlier this week. According to “USA Today Sports,” the NBA busted Muhammad after sneaking a girl into his room on Tuesday night, which is not permitted during the event. Rookies had all the rules explained to them, just a few hours before Shabazz decided to play by his own rules.

If all this sounds vaguely familiar to you, you probably recall when “BUZZ-BOY Beasley” also known as the second pick in the 2008 draft, forward Michael Beasley got in trouble. “BUZZ-BOY” got in Dutch when he pulled out the weed and started toking during his time in the program, earning the ire of “The Great And Powerful Stern” and having to attend the program once again the following season. Beasley’s career has never quite recovered from the dim-wit move and the promise he showed before he was drafted has been lacking in his career, if you catch New York Vinnie’s drift.

Now in the big scheme of things, you are thinking that sneaking a girl into your room during this event is pretty harmless and New York Vinnie would not disagree with you. Except for the fact that “MY MAN” Shabazz broke the “FRICKIN RULES,” regardless if they were fair or not. You are working for the NBA Shabazz and you just made a lousy first impression to your new bosses.

Speaking of “FRICKIN PUDS,” one moron who loves controversy is Los Angeles Clippers forward Matt Barnes. Even though he is not on the same team as Muhammad, Barnes stuck-up for the rookie on his Twitter Account. For some unknown reason the veteran ripped the NBA and said that the rookie had every right to have that woman in his room. Barnes has to know that a fine from the NBA will soon be levied against him and New York Vinnie believes this half-wit deserves it for sticking his nose where it does not belong. You don’t bite the hand that feeds you; especially when it is none of your “FRICKIN BUSINESS.”

Yo Barnes, you are correct Shabazz will enter the NBA with a bad rap, but he only has himself to blame. If he couldn’t do without a little “Scratch and Tickle” for a few days, how is he going to keep up his focus to become a success in the NBA? Shabazz, take some advice from Your Old Pal New York Vinnie, apologize and be a Boy Scout in the upcoming season; it will pay off for you later on!

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The Oden Comeback, Heading To South Beach

The most accurate description of Greg Oden’s career in the Association at this juncture, may be best summed up by the “Grateful Dead,” when they sang years ago “What A Long, Strange Trip It’s Been.” Selected with the first pick in the 2007 NBA Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers the center spent most of his time with the franchise on the sidelines as his body rebelled against him. The former Ohio State big man’s knees could not withstand the wear and tear of the NBA schedule, forcing him to undergo micro-fracture surgery on both, a total of three operations in all. Oden played in just 82-games for Portland, before they released him last summer.

The center could have collected his money and gone onto the next stage of his life, most likely financially secure enough to do what ever he chose for the rest of his days. Despite the surgeries, all the pain he had gone through and realizing what would lie ahead for him, a fire still burned within the center that would not allow him to walk away quietly into the night.

Oden stayed away from the Association this past season and dedicated the year to getting his body back into shape for him to attempt a comeback starting this October. According to numerous reports, the big man has lost considerable weight and is in the best shape since his high school days. He started have negotiations with interested teams during the last part of this past campaign, however he decided to suspend his talks until the summer. Proving once again the old adage “You can’t coach big,” several teams expressed interest in the former number one pick.

The “Sun Sentinel” reported that after an extensive courting process, Oden decided to take his talents to South Beach for at least the next two seasons, choosing to stage his comeback attempt with defending NBA Champions the Miami Heat. The paper reports the deal is for two-seasons at the NBA veteran’s minimum, paying the pivot man $1 million in the upcoming campaign and $1.1 million in the following year. There is also a player only option for a third-year.

The big man could have earned more money with other franchises, as published reports state that the New Orleans Pelicans offered him a pact that would have paid him $3 million per season. However, signing with Miami gives Oden the best chance of winning his first NBA Title, while also starting with the club as a complimentary player, putting far less pressure on him. If he can consistently play at the level he did in his last attempt with the Blazers, he would be an asset in the team’s battle to win a third straight NBA Finals.

Although it is a positive sign that the big man has made it this far in his attempt to get back on the floor in the Association, it will be far from smooth sailing for Oden to show that he still belongs on the hardwood. Will the surgeries, the hard-work and the time away from the Association allow him to salvage his NBA career? The book is still open on that, but the first chapter will begin in about two-months.

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