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Author Topic:   NBA - 2004/05 Season
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posted November 01, 2004 12:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
This season, the T-Wolves will triumph
Minnesota's balance, depth — plus having KG — will be too much for Detroit to repeat

By Michael Ventre contributor
Updated: 2:17 p.m. ET Nov. 1, 2004

Sometimes an NBA fan can get caught up in the Kobe-Shaq feud, the Qyntel Woods’ dog-fighting disgrace, the Phil Jackson book, the Michael Jordan comeback rumors, the Jason Kidd trade demand, the Vince Carter trade demand, the Baron Davis trade demand, the Peja-C-Webb rift, the Carmelo Anthony marijuana incident, the Gary Payton DUI, the Allen Iverson handicapped-parking fiasco and various tantrums involving anything from playing time to contract extensions to extra game tickets for auxiliary posse members and forget completely that they play an entire season of basketball, and somebody eventually wins the championship.

It’s understandable if that little detail fell underneath the radar. The NBA is a cornucopia of activity happening among colorful individuals, and the pursuit of the sport’s ultimate goal sometimes seems bland by comparison.

But if you’re old school, and you eschew the police blotter and focus on the standings and later the playoff bracket, this might be a good time to discuss the team that will be taking a champagne shower next June.

Let’s hear it for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

I’m not going out on a limb here, I’m hugging the tree trunk. If you gathered all the nation’s NBA pundits and polled them — and if you want to try that approach, you’ll discover the words “all you can eat” work wonders — the results will probably be Minnesota, San Antonio and Detroit as Nos. 1, 2 and 3, in varying combinations.

On paper, there are really no other contenders worth discussing. The Indiana Pacers are in the mix, but they did little in the offseason to suggest they’ll upset the East's balance of power, such as it is. The Miami Heat will be worth watching for the exploits of The Big Vendetta, but it is not a complete enough team to gain the NBA Finals.

In the West, the Lakers went from the penthouse to the outhouse to the place where they dump out the outhouse. Teams like Sacramento and Dallas are fading. Clubs like Denver, Phoenix, Utah, Memphis and New Orleans are rising, but none is strong enough yet. Houston could be a player, but again, it’s a reach to expect a team with a reconstituted roster to solidify in one season and contend for a championship.

That leaves the T-Wolves, Spurs and Pistons.

The Timberwolves will prevail because they’re ready. Their offense is loaded. Their defense is disciplined and consistent. They have a superstar leader with an MVP on his shelf and a rapacious desire for team glory. They’ve got the complete package, including the nagging torment left over from last spring that, if healthy, they should have eliminated the Lakers in the Western Conference finals.

If you’ll recall, the T-Wolves, behind Kevin Garnett’s magnificent and powerful all-around game, gave the Lakers all they could handle. If not for some crafty, rugged and at times chippy defense by Karl Malone, Garnett would have decimated the Lakers. Instead, he was merely incredible.

Also, the T-Wolves suffered two major injuries, which held them back. Sam Cassell had a bad wheel and a sore back, and was effective early in games, and only in spots. And the T-Wolves played that series without shooting guard Troy Hudson, who had a bum ankle.

When the Timberwolves are at full strength, they’re a handful, even for defensive-minded clubs like San Antonio and Detroit. Minnesota can send out any combination of guns that includes Garnett, Cassell, Hudson, Wally Szczerbiak, Latrell Sprewell, Trenton Hassell, Fred Hoiberg and Eddie Griffin, with Michael Olowokandi, Ervin Johnson and Mark Madsen.

But coach Flip Saunders does not preside over a lopsided franchise. For most of last season the T-Wolves consistently ranked among the NBA’s top 10 in both offense and defense. Garnett is one of the league’s top shot-blockers, and considering that he has so many other duties, that’s worthy of kudos. When they need to, the Timberwolves can play clamp-down defense as well as anyone.

Their chief rivals in the West this year will be the San Antonio Spurs. To pick the Timberwolves is not to trash the Spurs. They are neck-and-neck, and it wouldn’t be even a mild surprise if San Antonio makes it to the Finals.

But while the Spurs are terrific defensively, they’re not as stocked on the offensive side as Minnesota. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and newcomer Brent Barry will get their share, but San Antonio’s margin of error on offense is slim. If any of them struggle on a given night, they don’t have much in reserve. Robert Horry is past his prime, and Bruce Bowen, Tony Massenburg and Malik Rose aren't the answers, either.

The Western Conference finals will likely see Minnesota and San Antonio battling in a doozy of a series, which will probably go the full seven. Detroit, mightier and more confident this year with the additions of Carlos Delfino and Antonio McDyess, won’t have much trouble emerging from the East.

As a result, the Timberwolves will play the Pistons in the NBA Finals, with Minnesota prevailing. That will make fans forget the days when the T-Wolves couldn’t get out of the first round. And it will cause them to ignore all the other issues that permeate the league, at least for a day or two.

Michael Ventre writes regularly for and is a freelance writer in Los Angeles.

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posted November 04, 2004 01:31 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message
It's a beautiful night in Charlotte. Tonight the Charlotte Bobcats become an NBA team (Wizards at Bobcats, 7 p.m. ET). And tonight they begin their "quest" to sport the worst record in NBA history.

With a lose-now, win-later strategy, the Cats have put together such a motley crew of NBA castoffs and young players that they have a chance to tie or even break the record for fewest wins ever in an 82-game season -- 9 wins, 73 losses, by the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers. Two of our ESPN experts think they'll get it done (see sidebar), though ESPN Insider Chad Ford disagrees.

See the chart below, and bookmark this page and return all season to follow the "progress" of the Bobcats as they chase the record. We'll have game-by-game standings for the Cats and the worst teams in NBA history.

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posted November 22, 2004 09:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message
Appeals Expected in NBA Suspensions


NEW YORK (AP) - The basketball players union on Monday is expected to appeal the suspensions of NBA players involved in a melee that broke out after Friday's game between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons.

Overall, the NBA issued some of the harshest penalties in its history by banning nine players for more than 140 games. The Pacers' Ron Artest was suspended for the rest of the season, making it the strongest ever levied for a fight during a game.

"We have to make the point that there are boundaries in our games," said NBA commissioner David Stern said. "One of our boundaries, that have always been immutable, is the boundary that separate the fans from the court. Players cannot lose control and move into the stands."

Players union director Billy Hunter, calling the penalties excessive, said an appeal would be filed Monday.

Indiana's Stephen Jackson was suspended for 30 games and Jermaine O'Neal for 25. Detroit's Ben Wallace - whose shove of Artest after a foul led to the five-minute fracas - drew a six-game ban, while Pacers guard Anthony Johnson got five games.

"I'm sick about that for Indiana. I'm devastated for them," Pistons coach Larry Brown said. "And we lost our heart and soul."

Four players - Indiana's Reggie Miller, and Detroit's Chauncey Billups, Elden Campbell and Derrick Coleman - were suspended one game apiece for leaving the bench during the initial fracas.

All of the suspensions are without pay. Artest will lose approximately $5 million in salary, while O'Neal's suspension will cost him nearly 25 percent of his $14.8 million salary for the current season.

Artest, O'Neal and Jackson began serving their suspensions Saturday.

"I respect David Stern, but I don't think that he has been fair with me in his situation," Artest said in a statement released by the players' union in which he also expressed his regrets.

Artest's penalty was the most severe because of his checkered history. Artest being provoked into running into the stands by a fan who threw a drink did not appear to be a mitigating factor in Stern's decision.

"It was unanimous, one to nothing," Stern said. "I did not strike from my mind the fact that Ron Artest had been suspended on previous conditions for loss of self-control."

The Pacers will be able to place Artest, O'Neal and Jackson on the suspended list and sign players to take their place. Limited to just six players Saturday, Indiana dropped an 86-83 decision to Orlando.

Billups, Coleman and Campbell served their suspensions Sunday. Wallace will be eligible to return Dec. 3 against San Antonio.

Stern took the unusual step of calling a news conference at Madison Square Garden prior to the Knicks-Cavaliers game to announce the suspensions, commenting that Friday night's fracas represented "the worst" of the 20,000 to 25,000 games he has presided over in his more than two decades as commissioner.

"To watch the out-of-control fans in the stands was disgusting, but it doesn't excuse our players going into the stands," Stern said, promising a wide-ranging review that will encompass everything from security procedures to alcohol sales at arenas.

"We have to do everything possible to redefine the covenant between players and fans, and between fans and fans, and make sure we can play our games in very welcoming and peaceful settings," he said.

The NBA also has to "redefine the bounds of acceptable conduct for fans attending our games and resolve to permanently exclude those who overstep those bounds," Stern said.

For Sunday night's home game against the Charlotte Bobcats - Detroit's first outing since the melee - the Pistons doubled the number of armed police to about 20 in the arena and increased other arena security personnel by about 25 percent.

When some spectators lined up to take pictures with Pistons guard Lindsey Hunter on the court before the game, two police officers stood just a few feet away.

Friday night's brawl was particularly violent, with Artest and Jackson bolting into the stands near center court and throwing punches at fans after debris was tossed at the players.

Later, fans who came onto the court were punched in the face by Artest and O'Neal. Players who entered the stands and tried to act as peacemakers were not penalized.

Nine people were treated for injuries, and police are investigating possible criminal charges.

Wallace began the fracas by delivering a hard, two-handed shove to Artest after Wallace was fouled on a drive to the basket with 45.9 seconds remaining. After the fight ended, the referees called off the rest of the game.

The initial skirmish wasn't all that bad, with Artest retreating to the scorer's table and lying atop it after Wallace sent him reeling backward. But when a fan tossed a cup at Artest, he stormed into the stands, throwing punches as he climbed over seats.

Jackson joined Artest and threw punches at fans, who punched back. At one point, a chair was tossed into the fray.

"Mr. Jackson was well into the stands, and certainly anyone who watched any television this weekend understood he wasn't going in as a peacemaker," Stern said. "Jermaine, I think it's fair to say, exceeded any bounds of peacemaking with the altercation with the fan in which he was involved.

"His penalty actually would have been harsher if he had succeeded in getting into his stands, which he tried to do but was restrained from."

The most recent example of an NBA player going into the stands and punching a fan came in February 1995, when Vernon Maxwell of the Houston Rockets pummeled a spectator in Portland. The league suspended him for 10 games and fined him $20,000.

Among the harshest non-drug-related penalties in NBA history was a one-year suspension of Latrell Sprewell - later reduced to 68 games - for choking Golden State Warriors coach P.J. Carlesimo at practice.

Kermit Washington of the Los Angeles Lakers drew a 60-day (26-game) suspension in 1977 for a punch that broke the jaw of the Houston Rockets' Rudy Tomjanovich during a game, while Dennis Rodman was suspended 11 games for kicking a courtside cameraman in the groin and six games for head-butting a referee.

Artest was benched for two games earlier this month for asking Pacers coach Rick Carlisle for time off because of a busy schedule that included promoting a rap album.

Artest was suspended twice by the NBA last season, once for leaving the bench during a fracas at a Pacers-Celtics playoff game; the other for elbowing Portland's Derek Anderson. During the 2002-03 season, Artest was suspended five times by the NBA and once by the Pacers for a total of 12 games.

Artest also once grabbed a television camera and smashed it to the ground after a loss to the Knicks two years ago.

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posted November 23, 2004 10:30 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for 1stPlayer   Click Here to Email 1stPlayer     Edit/Delete Message
Boycott the lionizing the individual and marginalizing the Team, the NBA has no one but itself to blame for the horrendous state of affairs which exists now in that "sport."

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posted December 01, 2004 11:00 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
Two men banned from Palace

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- Two men were banned from events at The Palace for what the Detroit Pistons say is their involvement in last month's NBA brawl.

John Green and Charlie Haddad were sent letters informing them of the ban, which also includes events at DTE Energy Music Theatre in Clarkston, Pistons spokesman Matt Dobek said Wednesday. The Clarkston site is another holding of the Palace Sports and Entertainment organization.

Apart from Pistons games, the Palace hosts figure skating competitions and concerts. The DTE Energy Music Theatre holds concerts.

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posted December 08, 2004 03:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message
Charges filed against Pacers, fans

By SARAH KARUSH, Associated Press Writer
December 8, 2004

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) -- Five Indiana Pacers and five fans were charged Wednesday for fighting during the melee that broke out at the end of a nationally televised game against the Detroit Pistons last month.

Players Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson, David Harrison and Anthony Johnson were charged with one count of assault and battery in one of the worst brawls in U.S. sports history. Jermaine O'Neal, a three-time NBA All-Star, was charged with two counts of assault and battery.

All the fans were charged with misdemeanor assault and battery, including Pistons star Ben Wallace's brother, David. Bryant Jackson also was charged with felony assault for throwing a chair into the fray, Oakland County prosecutor David Gorcyca said.

The misdemeanor carries up to three months in jail and a fine of up to $500, and the felony carries up to four years in prison. Gorcyca, however, said the players and fans would probably face probation and fines if convicted.

Gorcyca singled out spectator John Green, who faces two assault counts and, the prosecutor said, ``single-handedly incited this whole interaction between the fans and players and probably is the one that's most culpable.'' Green is accused of throwing a cup at Artest, splashing him and sparking the brawl.

John Ackerman and William Paulson, each facing an assault charge, also were accused of throwing cups in players' faces. In addition, two men were charged for walking onto the court at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Police said other fans could be charged, too.

Pacers chief executive Donnie Walsh said the team would not comment until the case is resolved. ``In the meantime, we will continue to support our players in every possible way,'' he said.

James W. Burdick, Stephen Jackson's lawyer, said it was ``unfair and inappropriate'' to charge his client.

``The problem is this: a few crazed drunken fans who created a chaotic situation,'' Burdick said. ``Steve responded in a way that he thought was necessary to protect himself and protect his friends.''

Walter Piszczatowski, Harrison's lawyer, said: ``David was acting as the peacekeeper throughout that evening. He was trying to make sure everybody was safe.''

With less than a minute left in the Pacers-Pistons game Nov. 19, Artest fouled Ben Wallace from behind on a drive to the basket. Wallace responded with a hard, two-handed shove to Artest.

That sparked an initial skirmish, and Artest retreated to the scorer's table while the referees restored calm. But then Artest was hit by the cup, and he stormed into the stands, throwing punches as he climbed over seats.

Jackson joined Artest and threw punches at fans, who punched back. O'Neal and Artest also hit fans who later came onto the court.

NBA commissioner David Stern suspended Artest for the rest of the season. Jackson was banned for 30 games, O'Neal for 25, and other players received shorter suspensions. The players' union is appealing the longer suspensions, and a grievance hearing is scheduled for Thursday in New York.

The NBA had no comment other than to say it cooperated in the investigation and did not plan further discipline.

Gorcyca said the players and fans are required to surrender to authorities because arrest warrants were issued. He said some of the accused or their attorneys contacted his office about doing so.

Bryant Jackson appeared briefly in court Wednesday afternoon to sign papers related to the charges. He did not comment to reporters.

Some of the players said the case has become a distraction for the Pacers.

``Sitting on the phone with lawyers for an hour-and-a-half or two hours basically every other day, that kind of gets frustrating,'' Johnson said. ``You've got to try to eliminate as much as possible, but it is definitely there and it is definitely a focus each and every day.

``We kind of lost our heads a little bit collectively as a unit. It's unfortunate because it's been played over and over and over again, and we're shown in a bad light. ... If we could turn back the hands of time I'm pretty sure we would handle it differently.''

Jeff Foster added: ``The whole thing has become such a circus. Something that no team's ever dealt with before. Everybody's just trying to put it behind themselves and just go on to playing basketball.''

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posted December 10, 2004 04:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message
This was f-ing amazing!
McGrady puts on finish for the ages against Spurs

By JOEL ANDERSON, AP Sports Writer

HOUSTON (AP) -- Tracy McGrady needed only 35 seconds to turn a sure loss into an improbable win and a listless 20-point night into one of the league's most memorable clutch performances.

McGrady summoned the late-game magic of Reggie Miller on Thursday night, scoring 13 points in a final flurry, including the game-winning 3 with 1.7 seconds left to send the Houston Rockets to their biggest last-minute comeback in franchise history.

``I swear, I've never been a part of anything like that,'' said McGrady, who finished with 33 points, eight rebounds and five assists in the 81-80 victory. ``I don't realize what I did.''

What the sleepy-eyed, 25-year-old All-Star did was put on a virtuoso finish that rivaled any of the top down-the-stretch performances in league history.

``We got a chance to see firsthand why he is one of the greatest players in the world,'' Rockets guard Bob Sura said. ``To pull something like that out ... amazing. It was unbelievable.''

With just over a minute left in what seemed to be another ugly home loss, the Rockets were being roundly booed following Sura's airball on a 3-point attempt left Houston with a 74-64 deficit.

By that time, much of the crowd of 16,170 at Toyota Center had cleared. The rest were heading for the exits.

McGrady looked into those emptying stands, and for a brief moment, conceded defeat.

``I was like ... we had our chances of winning the ballgame,'' McGrady said. ``But, hey, we played a great team and we kind of gave it away at the end.

``But, I like to say, those fans that walked out ... there were thousands of them ... they missed a good show.''

They sure did.

McGrady's closing burst seemed to come from nowhere, especially considering he had scored only 20 points on 8-of-25 shooting up to that point and had briefly went to the locker room earlier in the quarter with stomach pains.

He returned, and with 35 seconds left, hit a 26-footer to cut the San Antonio lead to 76-71.

Spurs forward Devin Brown calmly sank two free throws to seemingly put the game out of reach, but McGrady responded with perhaps his most jaw-dropping basket of the night.

He pump-faked Tim Duncan off his feet, leaned into him to draw contact and tossed up an off-balance 26-footer as he tumbled to the court. The shot was good, and McGrady made the free throw for a rare four-point play to pull Houston within 78-75 with 24.3 seconds to go.

``I don't know how I got the ball up, because he's so tall,'' McGrady said. ``After that shot right there, that shot really got me going so far as my confidence. Every time I came up the court (afterward) I just felt like whenever I shot it (would go in).''

Duncan, who had a season-high seven blocks, couldn't come up with an eighth when the Spurs needed it most.

``It was a great play,'' Duncan said. ``He just made tough shots.''

And McGrady wasn't done.

Duncan hit two free throws to give San Antonio an 80-75 lead, and McGrady quickly followed with a 3-pointer over Bruce Bowen with 11.2 seconds to go.

San Antonio called a timeout to set up the last play, hoping for a foul. But Brown fumbled away the ball under the basket, and McGrady scooped it up.

As he raced down the court with his eyes focused squarely on the basket, McGrady was thinking just one thing.

``I was going to take my chances going for the 3 and go for the win,'' he said.

There was little doubt his running 27-foot jumper was going to go in. McGrady turned around, pumped his fist and soaked in the cheers.

San Antonio guard Tony Parker missed a final desperation heave, and McGrady was mobbed by teammates near midcourt, while red-and-white confetti poured from the roof. The Spurs watched the celebration then walked off the court in stunned silence.

``I haven't seen anybody do something like that before,'' Brown said. ``He was just hitting shot after shot. He was fantastic.''

Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy had seen a finish like McGrady's before, but from the losing bench.

Van Gundy was an assistant with the New York Knicks in 1995 when Miller scored eight points in the final 8.9 seconds to send the Indiana Pacers to a 107-105 win in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

But even Van Gundy was stumped for a comparison to McGrady's night.

``Sometimes when you work, you get miracles,'' he said.

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posted December 24, 2004 03:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
Hubie Brown Is ABC's "Christmas Gift"

Hubie Brown will make his debut as an ABC-TV analyst on Saturday's NBA telecast of the Miami Heat-Los Angeles Lakers game, which will pit former Lakers teammates/rivals Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant against one another for the first time. The telecast is expected to draw one of the biggest audiences of the year. In an interview with today's (Friday) San Francisco Examiner, Mike Pearl, ABC Sports executive producer, indicated that he began courting Brown as soon as Brown, who spent 15 years in front of the mike before joining the Memphis Grizzlies as coach two years ago, announced his retirement from the Grizzlies last month for unspecified health reasons. "It was a no-brainer," Pearl told the newspaper. "It was a Christmas gift on a platter." ABC also announced that Bill Walton and Steve Jones will serve as analysts on the studio show, hosted by Mike Tirico. The 3:00 p.m. Heat-Lakers game as well as the earlier 12:30 p.m. Detroit Pistons-Indiana Pacers game on ESPN are being packaged as the "NBA Christmas Day Special Presented by American Express." At Staples Center, the home of the Lakers, plugs for the new Fat Albert movie will be shown on the arena's Jumbotron screen and arriving fans will receive placards reading "Go Lakers" on one side and "Hey! Hey! Hey! On Christmas Day, Fat Albert the Movie" on the other.

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posted February 01, 2005 01:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message
Coach bothered by health, team's play

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- news services

Rudy Tomjanovich will step down as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers after tonight's game against the Portland Trail Blazers, sources told ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher.

His health, although not a relapse of bladder cancer, and dissatisfaction with the way the Lakers are playing contributed to the decision, sources told Bucher.

Tomjanovich missed Sunday's game because of a stomach virus, and did not attend practice on Monday.

Assistant coach Frank Hamblen will become the interim coach.

The Lakers hired Tomjanovich on July 10, replacing Phil Jackson. They are 23-19, in seventh place in the Western Conference.

Tomjanovich left the coaching ranks over a year earlier to fight bladder cancer. He previously coached the Houston Rockets for 12 seasons, winning NBA championships in 1994 and 1995.

"It's just excitement, nothing but excitement," Tomjanovich said about his return. "It's a positive. I've been like a young school boy since this has happened. At times I haven't gotten to sleep, but it's not anxiety. It's excitement."

After losing to the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Finals, the Lakers ended their successful partnership with Jackson and traded Shaquille O'Neal to the Miami Heat.

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posted February 21, 2005 04:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message
NBA Wants To Renew TV Contracts Three Years Early

Although its contracts with Disney's ABC and ESPN and Turner Broadcasting's TNT don't expire until 2008, National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern said Sunday that it plans to begin negotiations to extend them as soon as next month. The ABC/ESPN contracts net the NBA $2.4 billion; the TNT, $2.2 billion. Stern and Turner Sports President David Levy also announced that Turner would distribute the NBA's own high-definition cable network through its sibling Time Warner Cable.

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posted March 21, 2005 08:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for indiedan   Click Here to Email indiedan     Edit/Delete Message
AP Newsbreak: Cavaliers fire Silas

By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) -- Paul Silas was fired as coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday with his team fighting for a playoff spot after being in first place earlier in the year.

Silas told The Associated Press he was called in Monday morning for a brief meeting with general manager Jim Paxson and new owner Dan Gilbert.

``They released me,'' Silas said. ``They didn't think the team was performing as well as it should be and they wanted to make a change.''

Despite having league superstar LeBron James, the Cavaliers have struggled since the All-Star break, losing seven of 10 and nine straight road games, including Sunday's 105-98 loss to Toronto when James scored a franchise-record 56.

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posted May 19, 2005 09:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for NEWSFLASH   Click Here to Email NEWSFLASH     Edit/Delete Message
NBA labor talks take turn for the worse

By CHRIS SHERIDAN, AP Basketball Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- Anybody ready for another lockout? The NBA may be moving toward being put on ice, just like the NHL.

Labor talks between the NBA and the players' union broke off Wednesday, with the league accusing the union of backing off several earlier concessions while also insinuating that a group of agents was exerting pressure on union director Billy Hunter.

The collective bargaining agreement expires June 30, and the league sounds unwilling to return to the bargaining table soon. If no new agreement is reached, a lockout could begin as early as July 1 -- three days after the draft.

The league and union went through an acrimonious seven-month lockout in 1998 and 1999 before agreeing to the current seven-year agreement.

With very few exceptions, the same attorneys that negotiated the old agreement are working on the new one.

A lockout beginning July 1 would force the cancellation of summer leagues and offseason conditioning programs at team facilities. Training camps are scheduled to open in early October.

If a lockout stretched into the fall, many arenas around the country that are home to basketball and hockey teams could go completely dark. The NHL still hasn't settled its own lockout that started last September and wiped out the season -- the first time a North American sports league lost a full playing year to labor strife.

The sides had been publicly optimistic over the prospects for reaching a new deal until last Friday, when commissioner David Stern downgraded his outlook to ``hopeful.''

That came just hours after two union attorneys gave an oral outline of the union's new offer and, according to the league, changed its position on several key issues.

``They've taken major steps backward on all the key elements,'' deputy commissioner Russ Granik said in a telephone interview. ``We still have more than six weeks until July 1, so I don't want to predict what will or won't happen, but based on the way things have gone here it's hard to see where an agreement will be reached any time soon.''

In its statement, the league indicated a belief that player agents had coaxed Hunter into backing off some of the concessions he had agreed to in previous negotiating sessions since mid-February.

``At the conclusion of a bargaining session on Sunday, April 17, we thought we were very close to a deal, with only a few items remaining to be compromised,'' Granik said. ``On April 19, a day after the players association met with a group of player agents, we were informed that the players association could no longer agree to a previously committed five-year rule on length of contracts.

``Then, last week, after promising a written proposal to form the basis of a new agreement, the union instead advised us orally that it needed to backtrack on several other essential terms that had already been resolved.''

The league claims the union changed its position on the length of long-term contracts (current rules allow a maximum length of seven years), the size of annual raises in long-term contracts (current rules limit those increases to 12.5 percent annually for players who re-sign with their teams; 10 percent for players changing teams as free agents), and changes to the escrow and luxury tax systems designed to limit salary growth and penalize the highest-spending teams.

The first sign that talks might be breaking down came when the league canceled plans for a bargaining session between a large group of owners and players that was to have taken place Tuesday.

``We felt we had to tell people what was really happening. It's not like it serves a beneficial purpose,'' Granik said. ``I would prefer we not have to air this, but people were asking reasonable questions and we owed them a responsible answer.''

Hunter told he resented the league's implication that a group of agents had pressured him.

``This was the same approach used by the league seven years ago,'' Hunter said. ``At that time, the word was that (agents) David Falk and Arn Tellem and others were actually orchestrating and managing the negotiations. I thought it was repugnant and offensive at that time, and I think it's even more so now -- the fact the inference is that me, as a black man, cannot operate an institution such as the union without having some white man oversee and (legitimize) whatever it is I'm supposed to be doing.''

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posted June 19, 2005 09:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message
What a great game! Too bad nobody cares.

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posted June 21, 2005 05:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for fred   Click Here to Email fred     Edit/Delete Message
No lockout — NBA labor deal reached
Pact includes new age limit,requirement of 4 random drug tests

The Associated Press

NEW YORK - The days of jumping from the preps to the pros — the route to the NBA chosen by LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady and others — are almost over.

A one-year increase in the minimum age was part of a new six-year collective bargaining agreement tentatively reached Tuesday by owners and players.

Commissioner David Stern and union director Billy Hunter finalized the deal in principle in New York and immediately flew to the NBA Finals to announce it prior to Game 6 between San Antonio and Detroit. The agreement will replace the seven-year pact expiring June 30.

“We’re gratified that we were able to avoid a work stoppage,” Stern said. “This agreement creates a strong partnership with our players, which is essential for us.”

Other facets of the new deal will make trades easier, increase pensions for retired players, impose harsher penalties on drug violators and offer teams the option of sending young players for minor-league seasoning.

The salary cap will be raised from 48.04 percent of revenues to 51 percent, increasing the amount of money each team can spend on player salaries, and players will be guaranteed 57 percent of revenues.

Active rosters will be expanded from 12 to 14, and players will have the right to an arbitrator’s review of any suspension of more than 12 games for on-court misconduct.

On the age limitation, American players will have to wait one year after their high school class graduates before they can become draft eligible. International players will have to turn 19 by the end of the calendar year in which they become draft eligible.

“This will encourage our scouts to spend time in D-league gyms rather than high school gyms,” Stern said.

Next Tuesday’s NBA draft will mark the final time, barring future changes, that high school players will be draft eligible.

A lockout could have begun July 1, and the likelihood of a work stoppage seemed to increase last week after a round of posturing from both sides. But significant progress was made in almost 12 hours of meetings Friday, and the final gaps were closed Tuesday morning.

“We decided it was time to back away from the abyss and see if we could get a deal,” Hunter said.

The agreement still must be ratified by the league’s Board of Governors and by the players’ union at its annual meeting in Las Vegas next week.

Because of the time needed to put the agreement in writing, the upcoming start of the free agency signing period has been moved from July 14 to July 22.

Over the final days of negotiations, the sides reached agreement on several key issues that had held up a settlement since serious talks began in late February.

Among them were the age limitation, a reduction in the maximum length of long-term contracts from seven years to six, and reductions in the size of annual salary increases in those long-term contracts from a maximum of 12½ percent to 10½ percent.

Veterans will now be subject to four annual random drug tests for performance-enhancing and recreational drugs, an increase from current rules calling for one test at the start of training camp. Penalties for steroid violators were raised from five to 10 games for a first offense, 25 games for a second offense, one year for a third offense and a lifetime ban for a fourth.

Players with less than two years in the league will be eligible to be assigned to the minor league NBDL, where the minimum age will be reduced from 20 to 18.

Minimum salaries and benefits will increase, but Stern said it was uncertain how the new deal will affect the pensions for the small number of recipients who played in the NBA prior to 1965.

Players agreed to reduce the number of guaranteed contract years for rookie first-round draft picks from three to two.

The NBA has a system known as a “soft” salary cap, allowing teams to exceed the cap threshold to retain their own free agents, and to sign free agents under the so-called midlevel exception that was added to the labor agreement in 1999 after the sides went through a 7½-month lockout.

All salary cap exceptions from the prior deal will remain, and several rules that made trades difficult have been relaxed. Previously, the salaries of players being traded for one another had to be within 115 percent of one another, plus $100,000. That first number has been increased to 125 percent.

A variety of regulations have been eased regarding restricted free agents, players falling under so-called base-year compensation rules, and the amount of time players with career-ending injuries will continue to count against a team’s salary cap.

Owners also withdrew their idea for an extra penalty — a so-called supertax — against the highest-spending teams. They also agreed to the union’s request to have luxury tax revenues divided in a more equitable way.

Also, there will be a gradual reduction from 10 percent to 8 percent in the so-called escrow tax under which a portion of each player’s salary is withheld if the amount of league-wide revenues devoted to salaries exceeds specified percentages.

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posted June 23, 2005 05:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for jollyjoe   Click Here to Email jollyjoe     Edit/Delete Message
It's a big night. Game 7! I think Detroit will do the improbable - beat the Spurs twice on their own court. Unless big shot Bob comes through again. Should be a good game!

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