What’s going on at All-Star Weekend? A machete, and more

ORLANDO — We’ll begin this morning by offering our congratulations to Sam Smith for receiving the Curt Gowdy Media Award, which means he gets to join our own Mark Heisler and former AP colleague Jim O’Connell in the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

Smith, like Heisler a victim of the Tribune company’s talent purge, now writes unfiltered for Bulls.com. You should read his column every Monday. He gets to write without being edited, which can be a blessing and a curse. (Usually it is a blessing).

I’ve known Smith for nearly 20 years, and I have one Smith story to tell from back in the day.

Back in the early 1990s, when the NBA was still holding annual league meetings at which practically every employee from every team joined every employee from the league office for three days of revelry, meetings and revelry, I covered those meetings right here in Orlando at Disney World, the world’s ultimate tourist trap.

Smith and I decided to play golf  the morning after the meetings ended, and both of the resort’s 18-hole courses were fully booked, so they put us on the 9-hole course where novices are sent. The cost was 70 bucks.

Three hours and five holes later, we gave it up. When it takes 40 minutes to hit a golf ball four times because the novices in front of you have no concept of how to hit a golf ball, or what constitutes golf etiquette, you are at the wrong golf course. That was a $70 life lesson.

Afterward, I tried driving out of Disney World and had difficulty doing so. It seems they designed the place with the idea of not installing any “Exit” signs, all the better to make you stop at one or two extra diversionary points so they could pull an additional Benjamin or two out of your wallet.

The whole point of Disney World is to get you in there and keep you there, wandering around. Which also happens to be the defining strategy of ESPN.com, which is obsessed with how much time each user spends on the site. I know this because they told me so when I was a vendor/writer for them.

Anyway, Smith never had the misfortune of selling his soul to the Evil Empire like I did. Gladly, I have mine back.

A bit of biographical info on Smith and his fellow recipient of the Gowdy Award, courtesy of NBA.com:

“Smith started with the Chicago Tribune in 1979 and eventually focused on the NBA full-time for the newspaper in 1983, becoming a major voice in the game for over two decades covering one of the most dominant franchises during that period. After 28 years with the Tribune, he joined the Chicago Bulls full-time covering the team on Bulls.com. “Unquestionably, Sam Smith is one of the most influential writers in basketball history,” said Jerry Reinsdorf, Chairman, Chicago Bulls. “For almost three decades, Sam has been and continues to be a must-read for anyone following the Chicago Bulls and the NBA. I can’t say I always agreed with everything he wrote, but I assure you I read it all with interest. I congratulate him for the much deserved Curt Gowdy Media Award. Sam is a great journalist that never forgot to also be a gentleman.” Smith is the author of the best selling book The Jordan Rules, which was in the top ten on the New York Times Bestseller List for three months, as well as Second Coming: The Strange Odyssey of Michael Jordan. Smith also co-authored the Total Basketball Encyclopedia. Smith served four terms as the President of the Professional Basketball Writers Association. He received an undergraduate degree from Pace University in New York City and a master’s degree in journalism from Ball State. Prior to joining the Tribune, Smith worked as a public accountant in New York City and a congressional and White House reporter in Washington, D.C. He was also the winner of the Phil Jasner Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011. Bill Schonely, the 2012 Gowdy Award winner representing the Electronic Media, was the original voice of the Portland Trail Blazers starting in 1970. He called the play-by-play for 2,522 Blazers radio and television broadcasts all the way through the 1998 NBA Playoffs missing only the first 25 games of the 1982-83 season due to heart surgery.”

Smith, by the way, believes the Lakers will trade Pau Gasol — but not to the Bulls.

So here we are in Orlando, except Kissimmee is really not part of Orlando, but it has a lot of hotels and a Waffle House right next door to the place where I am staying, and next door to that is a big building shaped like an orange where you can buy T-shirts and other tourism-related merchandise.

Traffic is already a nightmare, as it is at nearly every All-Star Game (no city will ever top Atlanta for mismanaging traffic), and anyone who was brave enough last night to venture out to any of the multiple parties that were being held at various points within 30-40 miles of the Amway Center likely had a better view of headlights on the highway than they did on the dance floor.

Downtown, weaponry was in fashion:

Myself, I was unable to make it to a party sponsored by Li-Ning at the Peabody Hotel, where I had spent the afternoon waiting out the competition committee, saying hello to various general managers and finally interviewing Stu Jackson on the rules changes that NBA will be instituting, including a permanent 13-man roster and the threat of delay-of-game warnings for players who spend too much time slapping hands with teammates and wandering around in between their first and second free throws. Click here to read my report.

The news of the day from Friday is that Rasheed Wallace is prepared to come out of retirement and join the Los Angeles Lakers.

From A. Sherrod Blakeley of CSNNE.com: “Wallace hasn’t played in an NBA game since Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals, alerting the C’s shortly before the game that he planned to retire. Although he had two years remaining on his contract, Wallace and the Celtics came to terms on a buy-out of the remaining years believed to be worth about $1 million. His return to action has been rumored for weeks, fueled by a decent showing at  Pro-Am tournament in North Carolina this summer. It only became heightened by, according to league sources, a renewed conditioning regimen that apparently has him looking better than he has “in years.” With a roster of 14 players, the Lakers can add Wallace and not have to worry about waiving a player to make room. His addition will likely fuel rumors that the Lakers will become even more aggressive in their decision to trade away Pau Gasol. However, a front office executive whose team has had both internal and external discussions about Gasol, said the addition of Wallace will only be to strengthen their bench. “His days as a starter in this league are gone,” said the source. “I think he knows that, and so do the Lakers. But think about it. Of the big men that are available, is there one that’s really better? And if he’s gotten himself in shape, adding him becomes a huge get for them.” As for the Celtics, Boston had no interest in reuniting with Wallace when word spread that he was planning to make a comeback. And that lack of disinterest, CSNNE.com has learned, was mutual.”

Last night’s main event was the rejiggered Rookie-Sophomore game, with Kyrie Irving earning MVP honors for going 8-for-8 from behind the 3-point line and 12-of-13 overall for a game-high 34 points with nine assists.

Other box score lines of note: Greg Monroe: 19 points, 10 rebounds, five steals, four assists.  Evan Turner: 16 points (on 8-of-9 shooting), 11 rebounds, seven assists. Tristan Thompson: 20 points on 10-of-11 shooting. Jeremy Lin: 2 points and a minus-19 in 9 minutes of burn.

From Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune: “Did you see this one?

While Cleveland rookie Kyrie Irving delivered an MVP performance featuring his near-perfect shooting in Friday’s Rising Stars game that kicked off All-Star weekend, Timberwolves rookie dazzled with his usual bag of unusual tricks, including the above bit of trickery in which he dribbled the ball through big DeMarcus Cousins’ legs and then when he cleared the Sacramento center on the side lobbed the ball to Blake Griffin for a dunk. He also provided another exhibition in behind-the-back and no-look passes and around-the-waist, ball-handling dribble drives even though his Team Shaq lost to Irving, teammate Derrick Williams and Team Chuck 146-133 at Amway Center. HIs 12 points and 7 assists didn’t compare to Irving’s 34-point, but it sure did have its highlights: A behind-the-back bounce pass on the break to Phoenix’s Markieff Morris for a running slam, a nifty pass fake he turned into a layup and his answer to Derrick Williams’ only points of the night, a slam set up by John Wall: Williams’ dunk was no sooner through the net than Rubio grabbed it and heaved an inbounds pass the length of the court nearly discus style to Griffin, who threw it off the backboard to himself for a slam that trumped Williams’ slam. You can find video of both Rubio and Williams talking about their nights right here on an evening that seemed to lack the intensity of the former rookie-sophomore game. And that’s saying something, isn’t it?”

Over at ESPN.com, John Hollinger was a harsh grader when it came to Jeremy Lin and Derrick Williams. (Click here to read his report cards, but don’t get lost in there and let them play you for a sucker.)

Today’s festivities include the annual All-Star practice, which happens in the morning and gives you a chance to judge which players stayed up late partying and which got a full night’s sleep.

Tonight, Commissioner David Stern gives his first press conference since announcing the end of the lockout, and he’ll undoubtedly try to spin his veto of the Chris Paul-to-Lakers trade as a good thing because the Hornets are now on the verge of being sold. Around here, a certain member of the staff believes differently.

But it does indeed appear someone will soon be known as George Shinn 2.0, with plans to keep the team in New Orleans at least through 2024.

From Kaare Johnson of WGNO-TV in New Orleans: “Although there is no word yet from the state, city, NBA, or new ownership, the New Orleans Hornets, owned by the NBA, will be sold within the next 10 days to 2 weeks to an out-of-town owner.  The bad news is it’s not a local owner with New Orleans ties. The good news is the new owner of the Hornets is buying the team to keep them in the Crescent City, at least until 2024, and that’s great news for New Orleanians, even if you’re not a basketball fan. NBA commissioner David Stern kept his promise of finding an owner who would keep the team in New Orleans. The new out-of-town owner will pony up $340 million for the team.  Well, actually a little less.  He’ll have some New Orleans based minority owners putting up some of the $340 million price tag. The arena will get some cosmetic upgrades and the state will even chip in in the form of inducements for the team.”


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