Sheridan’s MVP Rankings: March 26 Edition — LeBron Now Fourth

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Jackson-MettaNominations for the ultimate Theater of the Absurd are now closed. It doesn’t get any stranger than it did Tuesday night at Staples Center, so nobody should even try to top it, OK?

Phil Jackson’s new team allowed 51 points in the third quarter to his old team, with Jackson watching from a luxury suite where he was joined by another former Knick and Laker, Metta World Peace.

Meantime, down in the second row, Jeanie Buss took it all in with a wonderful, gorgeous smile on her face.

And the Oscar goes to …

Well, I guess it would be the Oscar for Best Documentary. Because this was all so real Tuesday night, so very, very real and so patently absurd it made you want to laugh. Or cry. (Yes, Knicks fans, your pain is understood). Fifty-one points allowed in the third quarter? Don’t you wish you were a fly on the wall in that luxury suite listening to the Zen Master and the Nut Job discussing this one?

Jackson: “Metta, how exactly did coach Woodson teach defense in practice?”

World Peace: “Teach? He didn’t teach anything other than “Get the ball to ‘Melo as much as possible.’”

Jackson: “No, seriously. What about in the team huddle. Didn’t he even tell guys to put their arms up when someone blows by Felton?”

World Peace: “I really didn’t listen to Woodson. He was a hater. That old team of mine might be the worst defensive team I’ve ever been a part of, so I just tuned him out. Why do you think they waived me, anyway, Phil? I’m capable of giving them the one thing they need, perimeter defense, and I couldn’t even get my warmups off.”

Jackson: “You going to play again this season?”

World Peace: “Yeah, at Rucker.”

Jackson: “Isn’t there a playoff team out there that needs a little of your juice?”

World Peace: “Hey Phil … The Knicks would be a playoff team if they had used me correctly. I’m all about summertime now. The summer started for me a month ago. Can I come over to your pad and sit out on the deck the next few nights as the sun sets into the ocean? Love that view from your deck, Phil.”

Jackson: “I’ll have to ask Jeanie. She’s really getting on my nerves with her texts. In her last one she asked me who I was going to draft this June.”

World Peace: “What’s so bad about that? Seems like a legit question.”

Jackson: “We have no draft picks, Metta. Our second-rounders for the next four drafts have all been traded away. The Nuggets own our first-round pick this year, and the Raptors fleeced my predecessors for our 2016 first-round pick last summer in the Bargnani trade.”

World Peace: “Who’s Bargnani?”

Jackson: “He was your teammate, Ron. You taking your medication?”

World Peace: “Oh, that Italian dude? Tall skinny guy? Damn! All along I though he was our defensive coach. Every single guy on the Knicks was told to do what he does on defense. Woodson was saying that way back in training camp.

Jackson: “Metta… don’t you think Woody was saying that in jest?”

World Peace: “What does ‘in jest’ mean?”

PhilandJeanieJackson: “OK, that explains a lot. If the rest of these Knicks know as much about vocabulary as you do, Metta, I’ve got this thing half figured out.”

World Peace: “Damn! This Robert Kelly is like the best passer I’ve ever seen. He’s kind of big for a point guard, no?”

Jackson: “He is not a point guard. And his name is Ryan. And he shouldn’t even be in the NBA.”

World Peace: “What did Jeanie just text you?”

Jackson: “She offered me Kelly for Felton and our 2018 first-round pick.”

World Peace: “You gotta do that, Phil! Kelly has eight assists, man. And Felton couldn’t even guard you with your artificial hips and knees.”

Jackson: “You talking to Jeanie behind my back? She just texted me the same thing.”

OK, enough of that. Gotta give y’all something entertaining since the MVP race is over. The only battle left is who will be No. 2. And maybe No. 3, because Joakim Noah is riding a wave right now. And if LeBron James loses in Indiana tonight …

So on to the rankings we go …

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Kamenetzky Bros. Power Rankings: The Phil Jackson Effect … On Both Coasts

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Phil_Jackson_3In the eyes of many, the unbridled mess that is the New York Knicks just received the most drastic makeover this side of Ally Sheedy in “The Breakfast Club” upon hiring Phil Jackson as team president and Zen Master Extraordinaire. Hopes are high in the Big Apple, but plenty of question marks linger, even for a man with 11 rings.

It remains to be seen whether Jackson’s arrival provides enough confidence and stability to convince Carmelo Anthony to re-up. (A cynic, however, might suspect Jackson provides the Knicks cover should Melo bolt.) It remains to be seen whether Jackson has the acumen to build a team from the ground up with no front office experience. It remains to be seen whether Jackson, nearly 70 years old, has the energy for this gig’s daily grind and the patience to build the right way.

Most importantly, it remains to be seen whether Jackson can work under owner James Dolan, famously viewed as an egomaniacal and idiotic lunatic seemingly out to destroy Madison Square Garden’s biggest attraction. (He does play a mean guitar, though.)

Still, Jackson oozes gravitas, and that alone could be enough to lure A-list free agents, which is half the battle. Plus, that basketball brain ain’t inconsiderable. A turnaround is hardly a given, but it’s certainly easy to understand why New York would roll the (very expensive) dice.

kobeIn the meantime, Jackson hasn’t held a position with the Los Angeles Lakers since retiring as coach in 2011 and was unlikely to become their employee again. But for some Lakers front office types, players and fans, it feels like an asset and a member of the family has left them.

And that’s precisely why this development might actually be a positive for the Lakers in the long run.

To a very palpable degree, Jackson’s presence has been a paralyzing element for the Lakers. Internally, he’s been a point of contention between Jim and Jeanie Buss (who’s often passive-aggressively exacerbated the situation), and between Jim Buss and Kobe Bryant.

Externally, he is the prism through which fans and media evaluate every decision. Had the front office not foolishly allowed expectations for Jackson’s third stint as coach, Mike D’Antoni likely would have been warmly received. Instead, he became regarded as the guy who should have been P.J.

Jackson’s absence has been blamed for Dwight Howard’s departure, as if other factors (namely, Bryant’s presence) weren’t obvious deterrents as well. And with Jackson theoretically available to be brought into the front office, Buss has been continually crushed for not hiring him. Never mind that Buss would likely have had to surrender his own job for The Zen Master, not to mention alter plans set by the late Dr. Jerry Buss.

If you want to argue keeping Jackson at arm’s length is foolish, fair enough. But it’s nonetheless impossible to deny how the setup is inherently problematic.

Thus, if Jackson wasn’t going to be hired by the Lakers, it’s actually best for him to be officially off the table as an option. For better or worse, he is no longer available to serve as a wedge, and all the important principals have no choice but to truly move forward.

Kobe has a responsibility to support the owner who gave him an exceptionally generous (and cap-clogging) extension. Jeanie has a responsibility to put the franchise first and avoid taking this development personally. And with Jackson no longer casting a shadow, Jim has a responsibility to deliver. Even as someone who thinks Jim has taken some unfair lumps, there’s no question he’s got a lot to prove.

Time for everybody to get to work.

On to the rankings.

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SH Blog: Bryant still a few weeks away from fully running, how Kerr received a black eye from Jordan

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Kobe BryantRemember all the talk throughout the summer about where Kobe Bryant stands in terms of being able to play in the season opener?

The superstar guard gave us great optimism when he confidently jumped into a pool from 40-plus feet above the ground last month. However, we are now just 36 days away before the Los Angeles Lakers play their first game of the season, and there is still no concrete news on when Bryant will resume basketball activities. The only thing we know at this point is that he is still a “few weeks away” from being able to run without any limitations, meaning he is not anywhere near caught up to speed in terms of basketball activities. Team trainer Gary Vitti explained the situation to the best of his knowledge, from Mark Medina of Daily News:

Los Angeles Lakers trainer Gary Vitti explained “This guy hasn’t had a lot of time off over the last few years,” Vitti said of Bryant, who had competed in two Olympics and in three NBA Finals appearances in recent seasons. “To attribute it to a certain number of games where he played more minutes is being short-sighted.”

He estimated Bryant remains a “few weeks away” before advancing to full-weight bearing running and then basketball-related activities. Vitti also said “there’s no projected date” on whether Bryant will play in the Lakers’ season opener Oct. 29 against the Clippers or in any of the team’s eight exhibition games through Oct. 25.

“I thought he was going to be worse with pushing, pushing, pushing,” Vitti said of Bryant. “But he’s been very, very smart about the entire process.”

Almost.

Bryant jumped off a 40-foot high dive, something he soon posted on Vine, a social media video player.

“I wasn’t real happy with it,” Vitti said. 

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SH Blog: Lakers want Kobe to be a Laker for life; 2015 ASG in NYC, but where?

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Lipofsky-Karl-Malone-32727NFL training camps opened this week, and, living in Baltimore, it’s hard not to notice the glaring absence of two Ravens legends, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. Lewis retired, of course, but Reed is still in the NFL, with the Houston Texans. It kind of leaves a weird metaphorical taste in my mouth, like when Karl Malone (a personal favorite for obvious name-related reasons) went to the Lakers. Of course, this is nothing new in sports. Michael Jordan played for the Wizards, Joe Montana finished up with the Chiefs, Bobby Orr left the Bruins for the Blackhawks, and if you want to go way, way back, who remembers Babe Ruth as a Boston Brave?

There’s also the counterpoints: John Stockton never left the Jazz, Steve Young retired as a 49er, Mario Lemieux was always a Penguin (even after his comeback), and of course, Lou Gehrig was the “luckiest man on the face of the earth” as a lifelong Yankee.

This year in the NBA, there will be some familiar faces in new places, and it might be a bit of a shock to the system to see Paul Pierce in black and white instead of Celtics green. One hacker had a little fun with that. Type “nets.com” into your browser bar right now. If it hasn’t been fixed yet, it should point to the Celtics official website (hat tip to Dime Magazine).

And yes, there’s also the players who are still with the team they’ll always be attached to in the minds of fans, even as the team fades from its glory days. A while back on this site, Chris Bernucca argued that the Lakers should amnesty Kobe Bryant. They ended up using the provision on Metta World Peace instead, and now they’ll keep paying Kobe $30 million as he recovers from a torn Achilles tendon. Time will tell if keeping Kobe in purple and gold is worth the money it’ll cost, but they certainly seem to want to avoid him ending up wearing another uniform. And maybe the Lakers’ financial situation isn’t all that dire. Check out our salary cap analysis index and decide for yourself.

Now let’s get to the latest news and rumors from around the basketball universe:

  • Kobe Bryant won’t be leaving the Lakers at all if Jeanie Buss is to be believed, writes ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Ramona Shelburne: “Los Angeles Lakers executive Jeanie Buss wants Kobe Bryant to know one thing: He should be a Laker for life. “I want Kobe to take the time that he needs to get healthy,” Buss said Thursday in a radio interview with ESPNLA 710. “I don’t want to see him come back any sooner than when he’s ready, and I know he’ll know when that is. There’s no reason for him to do anything that compromises his health.” Later, when asked by ESPNLosAngeles.com to expand on that comment, Buss said, “Kobe is part of the Laker family and he always will be. There’s not many players who play 18-19 years with the same franchise, and it’s important to us that he has a chance to play his entire career with the Lakers.” “
  • Brett BrownThe Sixers might finally have a coach, reports Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Inquirer: “So far, the 76ers have taken more than 110 days to find a head coach, though it now appears they are close to hiring a candidate. A source close to the situation said yesterday that the job “is Brett Brown’s if he wants it.” Brown has been an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs since the 2006-07 season and was the head coach of the Australian national team from 2009 through the 2012 London Olympics. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of Brown to the Denver Post when Brown was a candidate for the Nuggets job a couple of months ago: “We all know him as a lifer basketball guy who lives and breathes the game. He is an idea guy daily, just bubbling over, and we all know that about him. But he’s also a wonderful, humor-filled person who is filled with kindness.” The source yesterday also said that while Brown has been offered the job, there is no time frame for the team to expect an answer. Even if Brown decides to take the position, there most likely won’t be an announcement by the team before Monday, the source said.”
  • Before coming to San Antonio, Brown worked for several years in Australia’s National Basketball League, and as Shams Charania of RealGM writes, the NBL is luring talented Americans away from the more prestigious European leagues by promising them something European teams won’t: “As teams in Germany, France and Russia pursued him with lucrative contracts, James Ennis’ agent worked with Heat management to find a club that allows him to leave for Miami next season with an opt-out clause: Australia’s Perth Wildcats. Now when the luxury tax becomes less stressful and injuries could impact the Heat, Ennis has a “good opportunity to get called up next season,” agent Scott Nichols told RealGM. Ennis went 50th in June’s NBA draft to the Atlanta Hawks, and the Heat acquired him in a trade, have been enamored with his talent and let him know all along that playing overseas never was a knock on his ability. Miami has desperately tried to maintain salary flexibility while rounding out its roster. Still, the Heat have 13 players under guaranteed contracts and made clear to Ennis that his deal in Australia gives him a strong chance to receive attention when salary space could open. “No other overseas team would give us a complete NBA out like Perth did, on top of guaranteed salary for the whole year even if James leaves,” Nichols said by phone.”
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  • The Pistons are interested in Jason Collins, according to Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein of ESPN.com: “The Detroit Pistons have expressed exploratory interest in signing free-agent center Jason Collins, according to sources close to the process. Sources stressed to ESPN.com that, while no formal offer has been made, Detroit has opened a dialogue with Collins, who in late April became the first openly gay athlete in North America’s four traditional major sports leagues. The Pistons have aggressively remade their roster since the end of last season, highlighted by the acquisitions of Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings. One guaranteed contract shy of the league’s limit of 15, Detroit is said to be intrigued by the veteran know-how Collins possesses and views him as a potential insurance signing in support of its two blossoming big men: Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. Leaguewide interest in the veteran center has nonetheless been somewhat tepid during the first six weeks of NBA free agency, sources said, but that was not wholly unexpected given Collins’ recent play.”
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  • BarclaysThere could be an interesting arrangement for the 2015 NBA All-Star Game, writes Tim Bontemps of the New York Post: “The 2015 NBA All-Star Game almost certainly will be played in New York. The only question remaining for the Knicks, Nets and the league is in which arena the game will be played. Despite the sometimes rocky relationship between the two franchises, they are working with the league to jointly host All-Star Weekend, which would mark the first time the event would be held in the metropolitan area since it was played at Madison Square Garden in 1998. “There is progress in that the teams are working together … recognizing that it’s in both of their interests to create a basketball festival-type atmosphere around All-Star in New York, and so things are going well,” NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver said this week. The key stumbling block will be which state-of-the-art arena — the Nets’ new Barclays Center or the Knicks’ refurbished Madison Square Garden — will host the game. It’s likely the solution will feature one building playing host to the Saturday night festivities, including the 3-point and Slam Dunk contests, while the other will host the game Sunday night.”

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Dan Malone is about to begin his fourth year as a journalism student at the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and spent this summer as a features intern at the Cape Cod Times. He blogs, edits and learns things on the fly for Sheridan Hoops. Follow him on Twitter.

Rosen: Total control in Seattle may be appealing to Phil Jackson

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Phil Jackson has been considered for the in-season vacancies with both the Lakers and the Nets. Both teams opted for an alternative to the most successful coach in NBA history.

There were reasons why Jackson did not return to coaching, including this possibility: Could it be that Jackson wants to change his game plan and build a championship team from scratch?

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