The conspiracy theories are coming out in force with the Celtics' signing of Darius Miles. Before signing with the Celtics, Miles worked out with the Nets, Celtics, Suns and Mavericks and reports out of the workouts were very positive.
In the midst of the workouts, the Portland Trailblazers organization was doing everything it could to discourage teams from signing him. They released confidential medical information on his knee injury. They engineered a 10 game suspension to start next season for using what has been described as a diet drug. They would have loved for Miles to fail and not return to the NBA because if he plays in just 10 games this season, the Blazers are on the hook for the last two years of his contract at $9 million per year.
When Miles injured his knee, the Blazers petitioned the league for cap relief because at that time, Miles' injury was considered to be career ending. This is a sore spot for the Celtics because when Reggie Lewis died, they also petitioned the league for cap relief and were refused. It doesn't get any more career ending than death, but yet the Celtics were refused any relief after the death of their captain.
Now, with the Blazers trying to keep Miles out of the league, the Boston Celtics have signed Miles to a non-guaranteed contract and there are conspiracy theories surfacing as to ulterior motives that the Celtics might have in signing him.
One article suggests that Danny may have signed Miles as a personal vendetta against the Blazers going back to Danny's playing days with them. After the 1992 season, with his kids settled in school in Portland, Danny Ainge was a free agent but looking forward to finishing his career as a Trail Blazer. Oregon was home to him and grew up a Blazer fan and he wanted to stay there. But, the Blazers didn't make Ainge feel wanted and didn't make him a serious offer and Danny ended up signing with the Suns and finishing his career there. Could he still be holding hard feelings toward the Trailblazer organization?
There is also an article that suggests that Danny is trying to sabotage the Trailblazers' salary cap flexibility by signing Miles. Does Danny really feel that Miles can contribute or is he just trying to stick it to the Blazers and be sure that they don't have any cap flexibility to add to their great young core of players, including Greg Oden that the Celtics should have had a shot at if the lottery didn't shut them out once again.
Other theories being floated: Could Boston be angling for a free agent handled by Miles agent? Could another Western Conference team be encouraging Ainge to make this happen to keep the Blazers down? Certainly at times, Danny has earned a reputation of doing whatever it takes to win both as a player and as a GM. Let's not forget that Antoine Walker called him a snake in the grass and so there could be something to all these snake-like theories that are being floated.
But, how about this one. We know that other players have come back from microfracture surgery, Jason Kidd and Amare Stoudamire come to mind, and have been very effective. Could it be that Danny simply sees a player who has worked very hard to rehab his knee and will be able to contribute to the Celtics this season? The Celtics were looking for a player to fill the void left by James Posey, mostly on the defensive end and if healthy, it seems as though Miles might be able to do just that.
Miles is signed to a non guaranteed, make good contract. It is a low risk move with a potential high reward. If he can't play on a day in day out basis, the Celtics can just move on. But, if he can come anywhere near where he was before the injury, the Celtics will have gotten a steal. The Mavs felt that on a scale of 1-10, Miles was at about an 8 and much better than they expected so it isn't just Danny who is taking a chance out of nowhere. It certainly seems worth taking a chance, with no ulterior motives included. But, if Miles plays in just 10 games and then is cut, maybe we should revisit these theories again.
The Celtics were busy on Friday, first with the news that they had signed Darius Miles and then Bill Walker. This gives the Celtics 15 players under contract, the maximum number allowed. So, the roster is complete. There will be some pretty good battles in training camp as several unproven players try to prove that they can do the job. The fact that Miles is able to play again after what was considered a career ending injury shows that he has a lot of motivation and is working hard to make it back to the NBA. Bill Walker, like Leon Powe, has overcome much to make it to the NBA and also has a strong work ethic to come back from injury. Good signings.
Rajon Rondo is back in Boston and working out twice a day to get ready for next season. He is working on his shooting and his conditioning. Bill Walker has been working out here all summer and with a new contract in hand, I expect he will work even harder. JR Giddens is supposed to be in town this week also. Now that he has signed a contract and has much to prove I expect Darius Miles to be in town to work out also. It is just over a month to training camp so hopefully they are all getting serious about working out.
The New Orleans Hornets signed former Cavalier Devin Brown on Friday. Brown played with New Orleans two seasons ago and was brought back to bolster the depth in the backcourt. The move was made following the departure of backup guard Jannero Pargo, who joined a team in Russia. Brown is a versatile player who can play both guard spots (not that they will need him there very much) and can also play both forward spots. Brown averaged 7.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 2.2 assists in 78 games with Cleveland last season.
Qyntel Woods, a former first round pick of the Blazers, has agreed to a deal with Italian League team Fortitudo Bologna, the same team that signed former Heat center Earl Barron. Woods also played for the Knicks and was a Celtic briefly but was cut before ever playing for them. Woods was also involved in a dog fighting investigation when he was with the Blazers and he pleaded guilty to a animal abuse and was given probation. He also is remembered for offering a police officer his rookie card as ID when he was pulled over for speeding. In spite of all his off court antics, Woods is a talented swingman with decent range.
The Denver Nuggets re-signed guard J.R. Smith to a a three-year deal worth a guaranteed $16.5 million on Friday. Smith was a restricted free agent but didn't have much interest around the league. One of the reasons for the Nuggets dumping Marcus Camby and his contract was to have enough money to keep Smith in the fold.
The San Antonio Spurs officially re-signed Michael Finley on Friday. Finley was one of only 2 players to appear in all 82 games last season for the Spurs. He averaged 10.1 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.4 assists and was an important part of the Spurs' rotation last season. Another Spur had a much rougher day as Manu Ginobili was injured in the game against the USA and is not expected to play in the Bronze medal game against Lithuania.
When Spain meets the USA on Sunday, Jose Calderon will be on the sidelines. A slightly torn adductor muscle kept the Raptor point guard out of Friday’s win over Lithuania and will sideline him for Sunday’s gold medal game against either the United States. Raptors officials are checking up with the Spanish team doctors to find out just how serious the injury is but as of now, it isn't expected to interfere with training camp.
Pistons' GM, Joe Dumars, is saying that the Pistons are done dealing. He doesn't expect any more changes before the season starts. The main core of that team has been together for quite a few years and their chemistry has been one of the things that has made them successful. However, they have come short of the Finals for the last couple years and there was talk of them making big changes by trading Hamilton or Billups. Now it seems that the players have convinced Dumars to keep them together one more year and give new head coach Michael Curry a chance to win with the team as it is.
Darius Miles isn't the only player who is looking to come back from a serious knee injury this season. Shaun Livingston has been working for 18 months since his injury and is expected to be ready to play by training camp. Few point guards have the potential of Livingston as few point guards are 6'7" tall. The team that takes a chance on this kid will reap a big reward if he is indeed healthy again. There are rumors that the Heat may be interested. They have been working out centers, but they definitely could use a point guard as well. There has also been talk of the Lakers taking a look at him.
Just after the Globe printed a nice story about how Shaq's marriage is better than ever and things are on the mend, there comes a story that just makes you shake your head. An Atlanta-area woman took out a restraining order on Shaq on Thursday alleging that he stalked her, threatened her with bodily harm and made harassing phone calls in which he breathed heavily into the phone before hanging up. She said that they ended an affair last month and since then, Shaq has stalked her and harassed her. And to think that Shaq wants to be a police officer. Kind of strange.
Danny was busy today, first signing Darius Miles to a non-guaranteed contract and now we get word that Danny also signed second round pick Bill Walker. From the Globe:
The Celtics announced today that they have signed 2008 second round draft pick Bill Walker. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Walker, a 6-foot-6-inch, 220-pound forward from Kansas State, was taken with the 47th pick by the Washington Wizards and was acquired by the Celtics for cash considerations. He ranked second on the team in scoring with 16.1 points per game which also was good for fifth in the Big 12. Walker scored 20 or more points nine times and topped the 30-point mark twice. He posted career averages of 15.3 points and 6.0 rebounds in 37 games over two seasons for the Wildcats.
“Bill’s hard work and skill development this summer has given us the belief that he can be in our short-term plans as well as our long-term plans.” Celtics GM Danny Ainge said in a press release.
Walker will wear No. 12 with the Celtics.
There had been talk of Danny stashing him overseas to keep a spot open and still retain his rights. But, he has been working all summer in Boston and apparently Danny saw something that makes him think Walker can contribute this season. I like him because of his attitude and his work ethic. Even without a contract, he was working hard all off season in Boston and you have to like that.
That brings the roster to 15. If both Miles and Walker make the team, it doesn't leave room for signing anyone in the middle of the season as they did with PJ Brown and Sam Cassell last season. But, there doesn't seem to be a hole like there was last season, either. I can't wait for the season to start!!!
The Celtics announced today that they have signed 6'9" free agent forward Darius Miles to a non-guaranteed contract. He was originally drafted with the third overall pick in the 2000 NBA draft by the Los Angeles Clippers. After 2 years with the Clippers, he played 1 year with the Cavaliers and then was traded to the Portland Trailblazers 67 games into the following season. He averaged a career high 14.0 points and 4.6 rebounds in the 40 games before his injury. He missed all of the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons after having microfracture surgery on his right knee.
It was determined that the damage to Miles' knee was severe enough to be classified as career-ending, prompting the Blazers to request waivers for his release. They were given relief by the league from the $18 million left on Miles' contract. This had to grate on every Celtic fan as when Reggie Lewis died, the league refused to give the Celtics any cap relief. Now that he signed with the Celtics, all he has to do is play in 10 games next season and he will be guaranteed the $18 million that was left on his contract with the Blazers.
Miles has been the subject of some controversy in his career and there was one incident in Portland when he reportedly insulted coach Maurice Cheeks with racial slurs. If he impresses the Celtics and makes the team, he will face a 10 day suspension to start the season as the result of failing a drug test for what has been speculated to be a performance enhancing substance.
It says alot about Miles that he was able to come back from the injury. He had to have worked incredibly hard to get to where he is at. This could show that he has also outgrown the immaturity that caused the problems early in his career. This from Miles, as reported in the Globe:
“I’ve watched the Boston Celtics play a lot last year and loved what I saw in their teamwork and chemistry on the court and it’s the team that I want to try to resume my career with.” Miles said in a press release. “I am excited about having an opportunity to play on a team that I feel my personality fits with and a team that can have great success on the court.”
And this from Danny:
"He's coming to training camp and he's going to try to prove that he can make the team," said Celtics general manager Danny Ainge. "He has come in for a couple of workouts. He'll try to make the team somehow."
"He's healthy. He has a great attitude. He's ready to resume his career," said Ainge.
This is a good move by Danny. The contract is non guaranteed and he will need to show he can play to make the team. Miles was on his way to being a very good player before the injury and reports from his workouts have been very positive.
After weeks of trying to make up their mind on whether to sign Petteri Koponen, the decision has been made. Koponen signed a four-year-contract with Italian team Virtus Bologna. This means that Koponen will not play with the Blazers next summer. He has played on their summer league team for the last two summers and they were considering signing him for this upcoming season, but as with so many others, Koponen will be going to Europe. His contract does have a good buyout clause so that if he wants to go to the NBA, it won't be prohibitive. In Bologna, Koponen will fight for playing time with former NBA point guard Earl Boykins.
The Milwaukee Bucks can breathe again. In Australia's game against the US, Bogut heard a pop in his ankle and after the game, some Australian team officials were quite concerned about the injury. The Australian coach had said that the injury didn't look good. But Bogut underwent an MRI in China yesterday and the results showed that the injury was only minor. I am sure visions of Pau Gasol's broken foot were gong through the minds of the Bucks' powers that be. Glad to hear that he is ok.
It took some red tape from the US government, but Iranian center Hamed Ehadadi has been cleared to sign with NBA teams. The NBA sent out an email on Wednesday to all 30 teams that they were free to enter into negotiations with the 7-foot-2 Iranian Olympian, as well as one of his teammates on Iran’s national team: guard Mohammadsamad Nik Khahbahrami. Signing Khadadi would be ok for the Celtics, but they better stay away from the guard if they don't want to give Tommy a heart attack trying to pronounce it. Even with the clearance, the NBA ordered its teams Wednesday to contact the league office before signing either player to a contract. Rumor is that the Grizzlies are the most likely to sign Khadadi.
Former Maverick and Clipper power forward, Nick Fazekas, is working out for the Spurs and has several teams interested in him. The Clippers originally gave him a qualifying offer, but later renounced his rights, making him an unrestricted free agent. If he doesn't get any offers from the NBA, he would consider playing in Europe next season. It seems as though someone would take a chance on a young 6'11" power forward who averaged 4.1 points (on 57.1 shooting) and 3.9 rebounds in 12 minutes per game last season.
The Bulls recently re-signed Demetris Nichols,a 6'8" SG who played 11 games for the team last season, to a one-year, partially-guaranteed contract. Nichols was the team's second-leading scorer at the Orlando summer league, averaging 13.6 points. The Nichols signing brings the Bulls to 12 players under contract for next season. Ben Gordon's status with the team is still in question. He said last week that he felt he had played his last game as a Bull. But, there is nothing out there in the rumor mill to suggest that there are any sign and trade deals imminent or that he has any intent to go to Europe. The most likely scenario is still that he will take the Bulls' qualifying offer and try again next year.
Free agent center Jamaal Magloire visited the Heat on Thursday and Center D.J. Mbenga has a workout scheduled for Monday. Mbenga averaged 1.4 points and 1.3 rebounds in 26 games with the Lakers last season and has said that he will likely choose between the Lakers and the Heat for this season. With Mark Blount as their main option at center, the Heat need all the help they can get. In discussing the opportunity in Miami, Mbenga's agents said that he is the perfect fit in size and the opposite style of Mark Blount. I guess that means he can hold onto the ball and actually tries to rebound. Veteran center Lorenzen Wright met with the Heat earlier this week and so they will choose between Wright, Mbenga and Magloire for their back up center spot.
With the signing of Dorrell Wright, the Heat have 13 players under contract. They are planning to sign one of the centers they are working out and that will put them at 14. Chris Quinn has a qualifying offer that he can sign at any time and that makes 15. Alonzo Mourning is working out and plans to resign with the team and return by December. That puts them at 16. They also have a qualifying offer out to Kasib Powell and that will give them 17 players with guaranteed contracts. They will have to make some cuts or find a 3 for 1 trade somewhere. They may opt not to re-sign Mourning as well. He would make a nice late season pick up for the Celtics just as PJ Brown was last season, assuming he comes back healthy.
As I write this, Spain and Lithuania are playing for a chance to advance to the gold medal game. When this game is over, the USA will face Argentina to try to exact a measure of revenge and face either Spain or Lithuania for gold. With the scare that the Bucks got from the injury to Bogut and memories of Gasol's broken foot a couple of years ago, teams are anxiously watching their players as they compete in the Olympics. Many players were discouraged by their teams from participating in the Olympics because even without an injury playing for much of the summer has to take a lot out of a player for the following season. Dwyane Wade has said that the grueling training schedule, exhibition tour and every-other-day schedule of games in Beijing has been energizing and that it won't affect his energy in the regular NBA season, even though it will be just over a month from the time the Olympics end until he has to report to training camp. I can't help but feel that he may feel differently about 70 games into the season.
Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce, hiding behind sunglasses and a big hat while playing blackjack at $500 a hand in the high roller salon at Wynn Las Vegas on Tuesday and Wednesday.Also in the house: Antoine Walker of the Memphis Grizzlies, with friends.
So, Pierce is still out and about celebrating. Last year at this time he was in Boston with KG and Ray Allen along with most of the young players working on their games with a common goal of winning a championship. There have been reports of the Timberwolves and Nets all working out together to get a jump on the season. Yes, the Celtics won a championship, but they can't rest on their laurels if they expect to win again. Too many teams have improved considerably and they will all be aiming for the Celtics. They have only 2 months till the season starts and it is about time they get back to work and start thinking about next season instead of celebrating last season. I will be very surprised if the Celtics are as dominant this season because they don't have the hunger they had last season and it seems that the other teams they will face are the hungry ones. I wonder if Antoine is celebrating his trade to the Grizzlies?
The Timberwolves aren't the only team who will have new uniforms this season, the Hornets unveiled their new look uniforms on Wednesday. They will not only have new uniforms this coming season, but also new colors, a new logo, and a new floor, which will be unveiled Friday. And, let's not forget that they have a new player with a new championship ring in James Posey.
Oklahoma City has waived 14 year veteran Donyell Marshall. Marshall is in the final year of a contract that would have paid him $5.9 million. Oklahoma City must pay Marshall the remainder of his guaranteed salary and it will count against the team’s salary this season, but it opens up a roster spot for him. Including restricted free agent center Robert Swift, who they haven't signed yet, Oklahoma City will have 14 players under contract when they sign their two rookies.
Devean George and the Dallas Mavericks have reached an agreement on a new two-year contract worth approximately $4 million. George's refusal to be included in the trade for Jason Kidd almost prevented Kidd from becoming a Maverick. George's refusal cost Mavs owner Mark Cuban more than $11 million last season in additional payroll and luxury-tax payments. It seemed as though his days in Dallas were numbered but new coach Rick Carlisle was eager to keep him with the team and now he will remain with the team for another 2 years/
The Miami Heat and forward Dorell Wright have agreed to terms on a two-year deal. It is expected to be finalized this week. A restricted free agent, Wright had been given a qualifying offer of $2.9 million for 2008-09. His new contract will start at roughly the $2.9 qualifying offer. This gives the Heat 13 players under contract for next season. The Heat are also in talks with Jamaal Magloire who postponed his visit to Miami because of Tropical Storm Fay. Magloire would definitely be an upgrade over Mark (I'll get the rebound if I don't have to work for it) Blount. Heat free agent center Earl Barron agreed to a one-year deal with Fortitudo Bologna of the Italian League. The Heat had not attempted to re-sign Barron, who will make close to $2 million in Europe.
Shaun Livingston's rehab is progressing. Reports are that he has been playing five-on-five, for at least the past week and a half, at fitness trainer Tim Grover’s facility in Chicago. It was also confirmed Wednesday that Livingston has progressed to playing full-scale, full-court pickup games with the contingent of 20 or so NBA players that work out regularly at Grover’s site. He is an unrestricted free agent and if healthy, could become one of the league's top point guards and a top defender. Some team is going to take a chance on him and be rewarded big time if he gets back to pre-injury playing form.
Team USA will play Argentina for the gold I guess it is fitting that the two teams with the most NBA players should be still playing at the end. Argentina has Luis Scola, Manu Ginobili, Fabricio Oberto, Carlos Delfino and Andres Nocioni and may give the US more of a challenge than any of the others they might have faced in the gold medal round. NBA teams always hold their breath when they have key players on the Olympics teams because there is always the chance of an injury. Pau Gasol comes to mind as he broke his foot playing on the Spanish National Team a couple of years back. In their last game against the United States, Andrew Bogut injured his ankle and that has to have the Bucks wringing their hands. He said that it popped and that can't be a good thing. The Raptors' Jose Calderon was also injured in Spain's win over Croatia. It was described as a strained adductor. I can see why an NBA team would try to discourage players from participating in the Olympics. I know it is an honor to play for their country, but it has to take a lot out of them even if there isn't an injury.
Brandon Roy is anxious to play basketball again. Six days after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, Brandon Roy arrived at the Blazers' practice facility without crutches or any noticeable limp. He says that he will definitely be ready for training camp. Bill Walker had a similar surgery and has been working out in Boston since his surgery. The Celtics haven't signed him yet, but I think they will because Danny went out of his way to get him from Washington. I think he will be able to contribute this season if given the opportunity.
The Sixers have officially signed Theo Ratliff to a veteran's minimum contract. They needed another big man when their second year center Jason Smith went down with an ACL injury. Ratliff's agent said that the former Celtic passed on 2 more lucrative offers to sign for the veteran's minimum as a backup center. He said that he chose Philly because he wants to help win the Eastern Conference. I wonder if that means that he harbors some kind of ill will toward the Celtics. He played only 2 games for the Celtics before he and his expiring contract were shipped to Minnesota for Kevin Garnett. He said that he also liked Philly because he knows coach Mo Cheeks and knows the city and he believes that the team is going to be good. I think they are going to be good too. Philly should give the Celtics a run for the division title.
With new point guard TJ Ford in Indiana, Larry Bird is still hoping to trade Jamaal Tinsley but so far hasn't has much luck. Bird said earlier this week that he thinks things will pick back up after Labor Day because a lot of league officials are either on vacation or at the Olympics in Beijing. Ford is expected to workout with teammates Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy this week.
The Suns finally have their point guard in their second round pick, Goran Dragic whose contract will be worth close to $8 million over four years. His deal will start at about $1.8 million with at least $1 million of that going to his Tau Ceramica buyout. If he is as good as they are saying he is, they may have a steal. Although, I expect the bigger steal in the draft will be Bill Walker who was grabbed by the Celtics at #49. Guard D.J. Strawberry's status is still in flux for the coming season. The Suns have until Oct. 31 to exercise his option for a $711,517 salary, $200,000 of which is guaranteed once he makes the opening night roster. Without him, the Suns would need to sign a 13th player.
The US Women's team advanced to the finals by beating Becky Hammon and the Russian team in a hard fought contest. They fell behind early but pulled ahead in the second half. There were several hard fouls that resulted in technical free throws and the game was much closer than any they have played so far but the Americans pulled it out 67-52 in the end. They will play on Saturday for the Gold Medal.
At the beginning of the off season, Sam Cassell was planning to return to the Celtics this season as a player/ assistant coach in training and then join Doc's staff next season. With the resigning of House and Allen and Danny's expectations that Pruitt will contribute more this season, it seems that Sam will need to find employment elsewhere. After signing Giddens, the team has 2 spots left. Hopefully one goes to Bill Walker and the other would go to either a veteran back up small forward or center and not to a back up point guard. Rumor is that Sam will sign with Denver and fullfil his plans to play one more year as a player at the veteran's minimum and get some coaching training under his former Milwaukee coach George Karl.
In spite of being mentioned in rumors tied to several teams, Shaun Livingston still hasn't been picked up by a team. He is still working hard on rehab, but in spite of 18 months of hard work, he is still unable to play five-on-five despite extensive rehabilitation. Teams are going to wait until they know for sure that he will be able to play. Livingston has a ton of potential as a 6'7" point guard, but injuries have derailed his career and teams are going to wait to see if he can play again before offering a contract.
Delonte West has proved that he can play in the league but he has also been plagued with assorted injuries in his career. I mean, how many players get sidelined with a toe infection? Much of what fuels his injuries is his way of playing all out all the time as he throws his body into bigger players. He is a tough player and deserves better than what teams have done with him. He was key to getting Ray Allen in Boston, but the Sonics didn't give Delonte a chance. Then he finally got a chance to play in Cleveland and did so admirably, but they have pretty much thrown him by the wayside, giving their back up point guard a bigger contract than they offered him. Delonte should take the qualifying offer and see what he can get next season on the open market. I would love to see the Celtics bring him back.
Another former Celtic (although very briefly), Luke Jackson has been working out for the Blazers and reports are that he will sign with them and become the 15th player on their roster going into training camp. Jackson can score and is good from beyond the arc, but he is a defensive liability. Still he would be good for a team that needs instant offense off the bench.
With Alonzo Mourning still rehabbing and his situation uncertain and Mark Blount as their main option at center (better them than us), the Heat are looking for some help at the center position. Jamaal Magloire is scheduled for a Wednesday visit in Miami. Magloire has averaged 8.6 points and 7.2 rebounds in his career but played in just 31 games last season, joining Dallas after New Jersey cut him in February. But if you're Miami, anyone has to look better than Skippy (I'll get the rebound if I don't have to work for it) Blount.
The Knicks' first round draft pick, Danilo Gallinari, is still hurting. Gallinari played in just one summer-league game, injuring his back in his only outing. He has now withdrawn from the Italian National Team, which begins its Eurobasket Qualifier tournament vs. Serbia today. The Knicks are hopeful that Gallinari will be healthy and ready to play by their training camp, but questions still remain as to whether he will be sturdy enough to withstand the rigors of playing in the NBA.
Yesterday, the Nets had 14 players in their practice facility working out and preparing for the upcoming season. They are getting an early start at building chemistry with so many new faces on the roster. As reported previously, the Wolves have 9 players working out on a regular basis. Last season it was the Celtics all in Boston early and working out together. But this season, Paul Pierce is still celebrating. KG hasn't been heard from but is probably workout out somewhere and Ray Allen is getting married. Only a few of the young players have been in Boston working on their game. Other teams are working hard to try to jump past Boston and if the Celtics think in the least that they can rest on their laurels, they are going to be very much surprised by these other teams who have the hunger that we saw in the Celtics last season.
Team USA was back in action this morning in a rather chippy game against Australia that got pretty rough at times. Although the Australians stayed with the Americans early, Team USA pulled ahead for an easy 116-85 win to pull within 2 wins of their goal of winning the gold. Kobe lead 6 players in double figures with 25 points. They will face the winner of the game between Argentina and Greece in the semi-finals. Beating either team would give the American team some degree of satisfaction and revenge.
Croatian guard Gordan Giricek, who has averaged nearly 10 points per game since joining the NBA in 2002, has become the latest player to leave the league for a bigger payday. Giricek finished last season as a member of the Phoenix Suns. On Tuesday, the 6-foot-6 shooting guard signed a two-year contract -- with an option to return to the NBA next summer -- with Turkey's premier club, Fenerbahce. He passed on an offer from the Spurs that was much less than he will earn with the Turkish club.
Goran Dragic is another step closer to signing a contract with the Suns as he passed his physical Tuesday, but has to go back home without signing a contract because he still needs to work out the formal details of his buyout and obtains a work visa to return to the USA. The Suns offered Dragic a contract that is usually reserved for lottery picks instead of second-rounders but most of the money he’ll make this year (about $1.4 million) is going toward securing his release from his Spanish club. His goal this season is not to become rich, but to prove that he can play in the NBA. The Suns certainly are keeping their fingers crossed that he can. Their last attempt at finding Steve Nash's back up and eventual successor didn't work out so well as Marcus Banks ended up a bust. But then again, the Celtics could have told them that and saved them the trouble. And they must still be kicking themselves for passing Rondo on to the Celtics. Dragic will get plenty of opportunity to prove he belongs as he will be Nash's main backup and will get plenty of minutes as they try to keep Nash fresh for the playoffs. With the sudden departure of Dragic, Tau Ceramica is looking at former Knicks guard Fred Jones as a replacement.
Ray Allen got a second ring this off season as he married his long time fiance Shannon Walker Williams on Saturday, August 16 in a private home on Martha's Vineyard. Grammy Award Nominee singer and songwriter, Brian McKnight performed a special musical number for the wedding. Guests included their three children Tierra, Ray III and Walker as well as close family and friends. Walker, as you remember, was diagnosed with diabetes during the Finals. Shannon walked down the isle to Brian McKnight's "Never Felt This Way" which was the song Ray proposed to her with. They walked down the aisle barefoot and on rose petals. This is so romantic. And the new Mrs Allen is very beautiful.
Former Celtic, Theo Ratliff has found a new home with a divisional rival. Word is that he had offers from 4 different teams and settled on a 1 year, veteran's minimum contract with the Philadelphia 76ers. Ratliff played 4 years in Philly from 1997-2001 and will return to a team that scored one of the top free agents this season in Elton Brand. Ratliff's year in Boston consisted of playing 2 games for the Celtics in an injury plagued season, but his expiring contract was instrumental in bringing KG to Boston. He played in 10 games for Minnesota before being released and then finished the season with 16 games for Detroit.
The Suns got their man in that Goran Dragic has agreed to a buyout with his Spanish club, which will cost him approximately 3/4 of his rookie salary, and will sign with the Suns to fill their back up point guard role. It may not be until September that the deal is signed because he must first finish all the details of the buyout before signing. Reports are, that even though he was a second round pick, the Suns will use part of their MLE and sign him to a contract similar to the one they gave their first round pick, Robin Lopez. He will received a 4 year contract with 3 of those years guaranteed. The moves to acquire Dragic cost the Suns about $3.7 million this season with a draft-night trade payment, a buyout contribution, his rookie salary and a luxury-tax hit. And, chances are, Rajon Rondo, the draft pick they gave to the Celtics, will still be better.
The Clippers re-signed unrestricted free-agent center Paul Davis, giving them three players named Davis on their roster. They lured Baron Davis away from the Warriors and signed former Celtic Ricky Davis as a free agent. Maybe they should go to first names on their jerseys instead of last. The only other Davis listed in the NBA.com players list is the Celtics' own Big Baby Davis. The Clipps seem enamored with players named Davis and I wonder what the chances are of the Clippers making a play for Big Baby. Paul Davis averaged 2.5. points and 2.1 rebounds in 22 games with the Clippers last year before a season-ending injury to his right knee Dec. 21.
Things are still pretty ugly between Seattle and Oklahoma City. The newest challenge comes from the Sonics' fans who want free tickets for the next two seasons of basketball at the Ford Center. The Sonics had made a promise to their season ticket holders to promise to provide tickets for the same guaranteed price at Key Arena through the 2009-10 season. The season ticket holders have been offered tickets at the same price in OKC, but they have presented a case that travel from Seattle to Oklahoma City would cost more than the tickets so they want the tickets free. They also want additional monetary damages paid because their costs to attend the games cannot be adequately covered by the provision of free season tickets. Good luck...
Former Celtic Antoine Walker is in the news again. Chicago Police are investigating whether the shootings of two men near the Rock ‘n’ Roll McDonald’s on Monday morning were the result of a fight that spilled out of the club Excalibur, where Antoine Walker had his birthday party. Last year, he was robbed at gunpoint and now he has a birthday party and someone is killed afterwards. We all remember the legal troubles that Tony Allen had stemming from a shooting after a party that he had celebrating Will Bynum's signing by the Celtics. Must be something about Chicago. After a not so stellar stint with the Timberwolves, Walker was traded to the Grizzlies and will try to get his career back on track. He has gone down hill rather quickly since his championship year with the Heat. I guess he shouldn't have taunted Pierce about staying with the Celtics.
Along with the trade of Kevin Garnett to Boston and a new crop of young players that the Timberwolves hope will usher in a new era of success for the team, they have changed the look of the uniforms for this upcoming season. They officially unveiled the new unis yesterday. Here is a look at the official duds, which are somewhat different from the ones that were circulating previously.
And here is a look at the back of the Uniforms. The Minnesota on the shorts is a nice touch. Big Al looks good. Even with the championship and the excitement KG brought to the Celtics, I sure miss Big Al.
We all know that it is hard for teams to repeat as champions. None of the Celtics championship teams of the 70's or 80's repeated as champions. They won in 1974 and 1976 and in 1975 and 1977, they didn't even make it to the finals. They had some lean years from 1977 until 1981 when they won their next championship, Once again, after winning in 1981, they failed to make the finals in 1982 and 1983. They won the championship once again in 1984 but in 1985, they lost to the Lakers. They won once again in 1986, but then came the 22 year drought until they won again last year. They had very good teams the year following each of those championships, but still weren't able to repeat as champions.
The Celtics are favored to win the East again next season. Here is what Marty Burns said in his Eastern Conference preview:
1. Celtics: The loss of veteran forward James Posey (via free agency to the Hornets) could hurt, especially come playoff time, but for now Boston has to be considered the East favorite again. General manager Danny Ainge re-signed key reserves Eddie House and Tony Allen, and Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen should be even better with another year together (assuming they're not too worn out from last season's long playoff run). The bottom line is that the defending champs didn't make any significant moves ... but they didn't need to.
Even without James Posey, the Celtics should be better this season. As Burns said, with a year together under their belt, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett should be better together. Ray Allen finally figured out where he fit in the scheme of things in the Finals and I expect him to pick up where he left off last year. The domination in the finals was the result of the three of them having the experience of the year together.
Not only will the three stars play better together, but Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins will be a year better. Tony Allen was finally coming on in the Finals and this could be the year he puts it all together. Eddie House returns and is determined to be better this season. Both Big Baby and Leon Powe are working hard this summer and will be improved. Just the experience of the playoffs and the Finals will make this team better. Add to this the addition of two very promising and athletic draft picks and on paper it seems as though the Celtics should repeat as champions.
But, there are several things working against any NBA champions repeating. One is the fact that all the other teams spend their summer trying to match up with the champions and make moves with an eye toward how they can beat the champs. Every team in the Atlantic Division are making big moves. The Raptors brought in Jermaine O'Neal to give their team a defensive presence to match up with the Celtics front line. The Sixers brought in Elton Brand to try to match up with Kevin Garnett. The Nets may have gone backwards by going young with Yi and breaking up their big three of Kidd, Carter and Jefferson. The Knicks are still making changes but will be a much different team than they were in 2007-08.
The Cavs have brought in a veteran point guard who can share the scoring load with LeBron. They came close to beating the Celtics in the Eastern Conference semi-finals and it is possible that the moves that they made this off season could be enough catch up with the Champions. The Pistons haven't made any major moves, but there are rumors swirling around them that they still may make a trade. The Bulls added the number one pick to a team that underachieved last season. The Heat should be much tougher with a healthy Dwyane Wade and Shawn Marion along with the addition of Michael Beasley. So, the competition will be much stronger and the Celtics will be playing with a bullseye on their backs. Every team is out to defeat the champions and will play their best against them.
Even with the improvements in the other teams and the fact that they go all out to defeat the champs, the biggest challenge may come from within the Champions themselves. Last year at this time, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen were all in Boston and working out along with the majority of the younger players who had been there much of the summer. They had a hunger right from the beginning to get that ring that had alluded all three of them throughout their careers. They were on a mission to win the title right from the beginning.
Fast forward to this off season and from all the reports, Paul Pierce is still celebrating the championship. He is in Las Vegas coming home from a club at 3:30 PM. He is hosting Mike and Mike. He is working out some, but no where near the extent he worked out last off season. There has been no word from Kevin Garnett and knowing him, he is already deep into his off season work out regimen. But, he isn't working with the other two as a team like they did last season. Ray Allen has been taking it easy and playing a lot of golf and that in itself isn't a bad thing. He needs to get some rest after the playoff run, but the point is, there just isn't that drive and that hunger like they had last summer.
Starting today and continuing for two weeks, the Timberwolves will have nine of their top players -- including Al Jefferson, Sebastian Telfair, Kevin Love, Randy Foye, Ryan Gomes, Corey Brewer, Chris Richard and Mike Miller -- working out every day at Target Center. They will be around until Labor Day, take 10 days off, then resume workouts out until training camp opens.
It was the Celtics last season who had the majority of their players in town working out together. This season teams like the Timberwolves have that hunger for a ring and are getting an early start. There have been a couple of the Celtics' young players in town all summer working hard, but where last season they were all there, this season the 3 stars have had their hunger satisfied with a championship and they don't have that urgency that drew them all together last season and that is bringing teams like the Timberwolves together now.
Finally, there is luck. The Celtics had a couple of minor injuries, but nothing major that would knock a major player out for a long time. Injuries can knock a contender out of the race no matter how good the team is or how many stars it has. If they can't play due to injury, they aren't going to win. The 1986 Celtics were virtually injury free with just a few minor setbacks. The 1987 team was beset with injury after injury as their aging stars struggled to stay healthy. For some reason, it is difficult for contending teams to remain free of major injuries two seasons in a row. The Celtics did it last season, can they do it again this year? Only time will tell.
On paper and in most of the rankings, the Celtics will be favored to win it all again. But, will they have the hunger to put it all out there on the court every game like they did last season? So far, they aren't showing the same hunger they did last season to come together early and work as a team toward that goal. Can they get past the improved competition? Can they stay healthy a second season in a row? A lot of questions must be answered before the Celtics can be crowned repeat champions.
HoopsAddict is running a Floor Burn tournament and Leon Powe is up against Jason Maxiell. Leon dominated the first two rounds, but is in trouble and needs your help. Don't let the Pistons fans beat him out. If any player in the league personifies hustle and the willingness to do the dirty work to help his team win, it is Leon Powe. As for Maxiell, He was posterized by Rajon Rondo with a nasty dunk over him. Leon stepped up and pulled out game 2 of the Finals for the Celtics, now step up and help him pull this out over Maxiell. Show your Celtic Pride and go vote for Leon here.
It appears that the Phoenix Suns' back up point guard drama is about to be solved. Goran Dragic said he wouldn't leave his European club to join the Suns and the Suns they felt they could get him to Phoenix anyway. It appears that the Suns won out as Dragic reached a buyout agreement with Spanish club Tau Ceramica and is en route to Phoenix to sign a contract to play for the Suns this season. Dragic has been pegged 34 year old Steve Nash's back up this season and the Suns see him as the franchise's point guard of the future. Although he was their second round pick, they had considered taking him with the 15th pick and they had him ranked as the 2nd best point guard in the draft, right behind Derrick Rose. The Suns feel they have something very special in Dragic. He is a lefthander who is 6 feet 4 and 181 pounds with a 37 1/2-inch vertical leap and a 6-foot-7 wingspan. His reported 4 year deal is expected to start at nearly $2 million, using part of the Suns' midlevel exception. The Suns' payroll now exceeds the luxury-tax threshold, something they have been trying to avoid for the past few years and the reason they were eager to give up the draft pick that became Rajon Rondo.
The US Women's team beat New Zealand 96-60 on Sunday to stay perfect in the Olympic games. They have been absolutely dominant, winning their five pool play games by an average of 43.0 points. The elimination rounds begin on Tuesday night with a matchup against South Korea, who finished fourth in Group A with a 2-3 record. After that, the U.S. will likely face Becky Hammon and Russia, who are 4-1 after pool play, in the semifinals on Thursday. And if the U.S. gets through Russia, they should face Australia, the only other unbeaten team in the competition, in the gold medal game on Saturday, Aug. 23.
It's official. The Philadelphia 76ers re-signed Andre Iguodala on Sunday to a six-year contract worth a reported $80 million. The Sixers will be greatly improved this season with Elton Brand to play alongside Iguodala. The Atlantic division won't be a pushover any more as every team the Celtics will face in their division, except maybe the New Jersey Nets have greatly improved.
There has been quite a bit of interest in the 7-foot-2 center on the Iranian National team named Hamed Ehadadi. In response, the league office has sent a letter to its 30 teams instructing that they are forbidden to even discuss a contract with Ehadadi. The NBA is applying to the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control for a license that would allow teams to negotiate with the Iranian center but until then, no franchise is allowed to do so. When asked if he had been in contact with NBA teams Ehadadi said that he had talked to two or three. One team believed to be interested is the Memphis Grizzlies. In Iran’s four losses in Pool B in Olympic play, Ehadadi has averaged 16.5 points, 10 rebounds and 2.5 blocks. The Iranian basketball federation wants him to go to a team where he will play and not sit on the bench. They feel that those conditions would be very important for Iranian basketball and also for Khadadi. Sounds like the conditions that were put on teams wanting to draft Yi last year.
There are several rumors floating around that the Cavs could be talking to the Knicks about a big man. We know that the Knicks are trying to jettison Zach Randolph, but at almost $15 million this season and 3 years left on his contract, he may be too much money for the Cavs who already committed to a big salary to Mo Williams and are balking at giving Delonte $5 million. I'm not sure who else the Knicks would want to give up that the Cavs would want. Personally, I would love to have David Lee. I love his hustle, but the Knicks would be pretty dumb to give him up. If, as I suspect, the Knicks are trying to sever all ties with Isiah Thomas and the team he built, they may consider it.
There is a lot of talk about Ricky Rubio. He has been impressive in the Olympics, in spite of his team's trouncing by Team USA. Many expect Rubio to be a top 5 pick in next year's draft. He is also being compared by some to Pete Maravich because of his style of play. In my opinion he has a long, long way to go to be anywhere near Pistol Pete. Pete was one of a kind and I don't see anyone, including Rubio, coming close to his abilities any time soon.
There's chaos atop the Great Wall of China, and it's all Dwyane Wade's fault. Well, maybe not all his fault. But the Heat's international superstar is among the more impatient in his group as a painfully slow line for the final segment of the tour — a dicey toboggan ride that certainly wouldn't pass Disney safety standards — is threatening to turn a once-in-a-lifetime afternoon into a near-torturous experience.
Wade tries a diversion tactic to slip his way to the front of the pack.
"Look, it's Kobe!"
No dice. Not even a mention of China's adopted basketball hero Kobe Bryant could budge this pack.
It's hopeless. Unless, of course, the trusty celebrity card works at this high an altitude.
Has it ever failed? Within moments, Wade and his entire crew, which includes fellow Team USA members Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets and Deron Williams of the Utah Jazz, are being ushered to the side entrance. Apparently even the Mutianyu portion of the Great Wall has a VIP section.
The troop of nearly 20 has to avoid incoming chairlifts, trust rickety equipment and withstand pushy employees who are trying to get this covert operation completed as quickly as possible.
Only, there's no way to keep it a secret, so the crowd that was once begging for pictures with Wade is now actually booing him. Kind of loudly.
Wade tries to diffuse the situation by doing his best Arnold Schwarzenegger impression — "Do it now! Get in the chopper!" — until finally a petrified publicist, Lisa Joseph, kicks off the Great exodus by screaming her way down the mountain.
It's a priceless Olympic moment for Wade, who is actually enjoying these Games — the second for the 26-year-old — and enjoying a personal renaissance following a tumultuous last 18 months..... Back at the bottom, autograph and photo seekers appear to be multiplying, but it doesn't keep Wade from bartering for better prices on a Chinese peasant hat and an "I climbed the Great Wall" T-shirt.
Wade's celebrity gets him no special treatment down here, where people making a living pleading for fair prices from tourists. Not even from an older woman trying to sell him a bottle of Gatorade with Wade's likeness on the bottle.
"Hey, that's me," he says, sounding very much like his fans on the Wall when they first saw him.
Then his tone changes when the woman quotes him a price: 10 yuan.
"For a Gatorade? This is me on this. I can get this."
He can also afford it. So 10 yuan it is (about $1.53).
Reminds me of Larry Bird talking about his Olympic experience in his book. He would sneak out of the hotel and go to cheer for the USA baseball team. He just fit in with the crowd and was one of the guy's and had the time of his life. He also balked at paying what they asked for a beer there. Larry was always the frugal one.
The long awaited announcement of Oklahoma City's team nickname, colors and logos is expected before the end of the month. The team doesn't want to officially introduce their new players at a press conference until it has jerseys for each player to hold up so none of the players they have acquired in trades, Desmond Mason, Joe Smith and Kyle Weaver, have been introduced in a press conference yet. It is all but certain that their nickname will be the Thunder as it has slipped several times, but the colors and uniforms have been kept under wraps until the official unveiling.
Starting today, the Timberwolves will have nine of their top players, including Al Jefferson, Sebastian Telfair, Kevin Love, Randy Foye, Ryan Gomes, Corey Brewer, Chris Richard and Mike Miller, all working out every day at Target Center. They will be around until Labor Day, take 10 days off, then resume workouts out until training camp opens. The Wolves haven't decided whether to sign free agent Kirk Snyder but it seems unlikely that they will bring him back at this time. This is the kind of work ethic and enthusiasm that the Celtics had last season and part of what won the title. I think that is one of the hurdles to repeating as champions. Teams don't have the drive and the urgency once they get that ring. I would love to see them all back in Boston and working out. Big Baby has been there all summer so far. Rondo is going to be there this week, as will rookie JR Giddens. Bill Walker, although not signed as yet, has been there all summer. Hopefully the other players will be in town soon and will get serious about trying to repeat as champs.
Team USA completed preliminary play by soundly beat Germany 106-57 this morning. They have won each of their games by an average of over 32 points. LeBron James had a monster dunk over Chris Kaman that had to have rocked the stadium and he finished with 18 points. Dwight Howard led Team USA with 22 points and 10 rebounds. On hand to return the support that the US Men's team showed him by cheering him on to his 8th gold was Michael Phelps who was cheering and having fun watching the game.
Kobe Bryant mania has reached another level in China. The Herald reports that he has been virtually a shut in because everywhere he goes, he causes a near riot.
Bryant takes plenty of ribbing as a one-man Jonas Brothers sighting. USA guard Jason Kidd says he hates traveling with Bryant. USA power forward Carlos Boozer said they can’t take Bryant anywhere. “Yeah they do leave me,” Bryant said. “We go to the village and I look up and they’re nowhere to be found while I’m standing in the middle of a crowd of people.”
I guess there is no accounting for taste. It's definitely because he is the best player on the USA team, either. Maybe Kobe should consider playing in China next season instead of Italy. All those adoring young female fans has to be tempting for him.