The NBA fined Kidd $50,000 on Thursday after determining that Kidd intentionally spilled his cup onto the floor to delay the game and buy his team some huddle time.
Losing to the Philadelphia 76ers apparently makes folks lose their cool. After Friday’s loss to the surprising 76ers, Wizards coach Randy Wittman lost his and was fined $20,000 by the NBA on Monday. The fine was announced by NBA president of basketball operations Rod Thorn. Wittman was fined for using profane language in his comments following a 109-102 loss in the team’s home opener. Washington led throughout the first half, by 11 points midway through the third quarter and by seven with less than nine minutes to play before collapsing down the stretch. Philadelphia, which is supposedly rebuilding, scored 65 points in the second half. Asked by a reporter what he thought the problem was, Wittman replied, “Well, you tell me what you thought the problem was. You watched the game. Commitment to bleeping playing defense. It’s what it is. It’s what it boils down to, all right? It’s a thing our guys haven’t learned and I’ve got to figure out a way.” Washington is 0-3, and Wittman is in the final year of his contract. If you want to read a bit more about the Wizards’ situation, it’s addressed in my column this week.
After more than 13 years on the job, it has been confirmed that executive vice president of basketball operations Stu Jackson will be stepping down from his post.
One day after the NBA implemented a new anti-flop rule to penalize players with fines for flopping, there were plenty of reactions around the league, from happy campers to those that weren’t quite sure if it was the best of ideas. See what was said around the league about the change along with other news around the league on Thursday:
- Blake Griffin thinks the flopping rule is a great way for the league to make money on, from Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports: “The NBA announced Wednesday it will fine players for repeated acts of flopping, and at least one player says it’s no more than the league’s brass trying to get paid. ”It’s not going to win or lose games for anybody. It’s a good way for the NBA to get more money,” Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin said… ”I guess it’s good in a sense that it stops any of it from happening,” Griffin said after the Clippers’ open practice and scrimmage at the Galen Center on Wednesday. “But now you’re telling me if it’s Game 7 of the NBA Finals and a guy has a chance to make a play he’s going to be like, ‘Well, do I want this $10,000 or do I want a championship?’ ”
- Nicolas Batum, Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler all chimed in on the rule change, from Howard Beck of The New York Times: “It’s going to clean up the game a little bit,” Nicolas Batum of the Portland Trail Blazers told The Oregonian. “Everybody flops sometimes, and if this cleans up the game, that’s great.” The Knicks’ Amar’e Stoudemire called the crackdown “a great thing,” adding, “It takes out some of the acting on the court.” His teammate Tyson Chandler said, “There are a lot of guys in the league that are in trouble.”
- Luis Scola and Jared Dudley shared their thoughts on the new rules on flopping, from Vince Marotta of Arizona Sports: “The players themselves will have to adjust, including newly-acquired forward Luis Scola, who developed a bit of a reputation as a flopper in his days with the Houston Rockets. ”It’s a good weapon defensively for me and it has been very productive in order for me to be good on defense,” he said. “I will try to see if I can continue to do it and then if the rules don’t allow it, I will find some other way.” Suns swingman Jared Dudley seemed to be on board with the new regulations, claiming he “doesn’t flop that much.” But the veteran does have a plan of action if he’s fined. ”If I lose money, I’m calling (NBAPA executive director) Billy Hunter straight up,” Dudley said. “But you know what, if LeBron (James) and Kobe (Bryant) don’t get fined the most, it’s riduculous, because out of everyone, even the Ginobili types, they have the ball in their hands 30-40 times a game and they flop all the time.”
- Joe Johnson will enjoy the new rule on flopping, from Rod Boone of Newsday:
- The members of the Timberwolves chimed in on the rules as well in a video from Star Tribune.
- Mark Cuban isn’t so sure about whether the rule change will make the game better, from Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas: “Cuban is uncertain whether the fine system will improve the on-court product. ”It depends on whether or not it changes how flopping in game is called,” Cuban replied in an email from Berlin, where the Mavericks are playing an exhibition game this weekend. “If it just causes the refs to give floppers the benefit of the doubt knowing the league can deal with it after the fact, it could have some unintended consequences. ”A big question is going to be how much depth of explanation is going to be given when a fine is [assessed] and whether or not the league will enforce teams paying the fines for the players who get caught flopping.”
- Metta World Peace feels sorry for those that flop, according to Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: “Even to Metta World Peace, whose tirade against flopping (exaggerating contact in an attempt to draw a foul on an opponent) included a dismissive description of guys who simulated being “hit by a shotgun,” it wasn’t so clear that the NBA’s newly announced directive was the best way to stop it. ”For the players that do flop, I feel bad,” World Peace said Wednesday.”
- Is it really a good idea to implement an anti-flop rule? Shaun Powell of Sports on Earth has three reasons on why the rule itself may flop. Here is one: “The league is coming at these criminals armed with straws and spitballs. A fifth violation — fifth! – is worth a whopping $30,000. Plus, the league stopped short of guaranteeing suspensions. Already, the players’ union is in a snit over the potential for fines, calling the rule a “vague and arbitrary over-reaction” and an “over-reach,” and says it will file a grievance and unfair labor practices charge over the rule.”
- Brook Lopez and Avery Johnson responded to Shaq, who said Lopez is better than Dwight Howard on Wednesday. Based on Johnson’s comments, it’s safe to say that he doesn’t agree, from Mike Mazzeo of ESPN New York: “That’s definitely a huge compliment from one of the most dominant big men of all-time,” Lopez Thursday. “So it’s a great compliment. I definitely think Dwight’s a great center … Bynum as well is one of the best centers in the league. They’re all great challenges for me.” Said Nets coach Avery Johnson: “I think it’s great. Brook is a skilled center. There are very few centers in this league that can do what he can do on the floor — especially offensively. He can pass; he can score inside; he’s got a good jumpshot; he runs the break. “I think for Brook to take that next step, there has to be more of a defensive presence in the paint, he has to increase his rebound attempt percentage; hard foul when he needs to hard foul; and then at the end of games — when we go to him against mismatches — to get us buckets and if not make the correct pass. “But I understand what Shaq is saying. Brook is a very talented player. We are hoping it all comes together this year, but it’s not gonna come together by him trying to do it on his own.”
- The Knicks are still looking to acquire the services of Josh Howard, according to Jared Zwerling of ESPN: “According to a source close to free agent Josh Howard, the Knicks are still interested in the 32-year-old swingman and have had recent conversations with his representatives. The Knicks first inquired about Howard last month, but if they’re serious about adding him now, they’ll have to cut one of their players with a non-guaranteed contract, which applies to training camp only. Currently, the Knicks have 20 training camp invites (including Wallace), which is the maximum amount allowed per team.
- Deron Williams explained why he and Joe Johnson will not have chemistry issues, from Stefan Bondy of Daily News: “There are only so many shots to go around, after all, especially with another productive scorer at center in Brook Lopez. But Williams proved his unselfishness during five-plus seasons in Utah, where he was a pick-and-roll point guard who turned Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur into All-Stars. Last season in New Jersey was an aberration, he said, because dominating the ball “was the only chance we had to win.”…“Everybody talks about we both need the ball in our hands,” Williams said. “But No. 1, in Utah, I didn’t always have the ball in my hands. The system we ran, I’d give it up and get it back at the end of the shot clock. I like coming off screens. So I think we’ll be a great fit.”
- Andrea Bargnani felt he played his best basketball last season and has shown up to camp 15 pounds heavier and stronger, according to Lori Ewing of The Globe and Mail: “Last year, definitely,” Bargnani said, when asked if last season was the best basketball he’s played. “Not much for the offence because I always play good in the offence, but I was playing very good on defence, that’s why it was the best.” That made his season-ending injury even tougher to take. “It was tough mentally, because I had to sit out and watch my teammates play,” he said. The seven-footer went home to Italy in the off-season and has come back healthy and strong. “Really happy that he’s come into camp in great shape, 15 pounds heavier, stronger but he’s playing at that high level that we saw last year and I’m excited about it,” Casey said.”
- Rod Thorn declared that the Atlantic Division is the best in the league, from Marc Berman of New York Post: “One of the obstacles will be Rod Thorn’s revamped 76ers, who now have Andrew Bynum at center. Thorn, the ex-Nets president, said he believes the Atlantic will be a beast, and the best. “Oh my goodness, I think the Atlantic Division is the best division in basketball right now,’’ Thorn, the Sixers president, told The Post. “Every team is better. Jersey (Brooklyn) got way better. Even Toronto will be better. I think Boston also got better. Every team in the Atlantic got better, and until someone beats Boston, they should be favored.’”
- The TNT crew chimed in on the future of LeBron James, and of course, Charles Barkley had some interesting things to say, from Ira Winderman of Sun Sentinel: “I do think he can be better than Michael. I thought I would never compare somebody to Michael Jordan. But this guy, LeBron James, he does everything well. Michael did everything well. LeBron James is just bigger, stronger, faster. That’s the only difference.” Shaq on James’ future: ”Unfortunately for LeBron, now that the monkey is off his back, he is going to be compared to two people: Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. So now the question is how many championships can he get? We all know he is a competitor.” Miller on James and what to expect from him now that he has a championship: ”It’s interesting what winning does, getting that championship and getting that monkey off his back. What’s scary is what lies ahead for him. He’s already won three MVPs. He’s considered by all of us to be the best player on the planet right now. I think his best basketball is yet to come because of that one championship.”
- Mike Dunlap wants to use Ben Gordon as a closer for the Bobcats, according to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: “I don’t want to reinvent him – I want him to come in and make game-winning shots and work back from there. He can carry you sometimes,” coach Mike Dunlap said. Dunlap hasn’t decided whether Gordon, entering his ninth NBA season, will start or come off the bench. But it seems a given he’ll be in the game in the fourth quarter, when the stakes rise and some players’ nerves fray. Gordon feels validated that Dunlap already recognizes him as a closer. When did he first take on that persona? “All the way back to CYO,” said Gordon, referring to youth basketball in New York City. “Making that last shot is something I’ve come to expect.” And if he misses? “Frankly, I don’t even think about missing. It does you no good to dwell on that,” said Gordon, who has averaged 16.5 points over his career. “Facing that risk/reward question is a lot better than just sitting there, and not doing anything to help.”
- Joakim Noah feels more confident about his offensive game after working with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, from Joe Cowley of Chicago Sun-Times: ‘‘I feel a lot more polished offensively,’’ Noah said. ‘‘I worked with Kareem for a couple of weeks, but just because I worked with Kareem doesn’t mean I’m going to be throwing skyhooks from everywhere. I feel like I learned a lot from him, someone who has an unbelievable knowledge for the game and very interesting guy. ‘‘But you know how it is — you work with him and people think, ‘Oh, he’s going to come back with a skyhook.’ Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. But I’ll tell you what: At 65 years old, though, his skyhook is still nice.’’
- The New York Knicks will play the Detroit Pistons in London for a regular season game, according to Jared Zwerling of ESPN New York: “Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler will return to London early next year — and this time, they’ll bring their Knicks teammates along for the ride. The NBA announced on Thursday that the Knicks will square off against the Pistons in a regular-season game on Jan. 17 at The O2 arena. It will be a nice treat (and reunion of sorts) for Knicks coach Mike Woodson, who was a Detroit assistant when the Pistons won the championship in 2004.”
- Avery Bradley hopes to return early from his shoulder injury, from A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE: “I feel great,” said Bradley, who is recovering from surgery on both shoulders and has not yet been cleared for contact. ”A lot of working, but I have to continue to get my shoulder stronger.” C’s coach Doc Rivers said it’ll be eight more weeks before he starts to concern himself with Bradley’s return. But Bradley is optimistic he’ll be back sooner.”I’m young and the healing process has been going well,” Bradley said. “I’ve been listening to the doctors. So I definitely think I can be back early.”
- Chuck Person had some high-praise for Dwight Howard after watching him in person, from Sam Amick of SI: “This week has been a reminder of that reality, as Lakers players and coaches alike have been showering Howard with the sort of praise that is rarely seen at this level. Lakers assistant and 13-year pro Chuck Person has been among that group, having worked with fellow assistant Darvin Ham and Howard recently, and he quickly came to the conclusion that the big man is more than capable of being remembered as one of the greats. ”I’ve been teammates with David Robinson, Tim Duncan, obviously Shaq was around, Jermaine O’ Neal, and I worked with [former Lakers center Andrew] Bynum,” Person told SI.com. “But I tell you, he has the best feet combined with explosiveness and power that I’ve ever seen. And I can say that with conviction. ”I’m totally shocked by how good his feet are. If you have a big man with feet as good as his, with the power, strength and quickness, you could potentially have a legendary post player.”
- Check out the latest video from Derrick Rose:
- And here is a video of Blake Griffin hitting a very long-range shot:
Perhaps the most amazing part of the NBA’s documentary of the Dream Team that aired Wednesday night was that Isiah Thomas has now become a sympathetic figure.
Thomas actually released a statement after the show aired and addressed not making the Dream Team in 1992.
Now I have to say my first reaction was pretty straightforward:
A statement in 2012 about not making a team in 1992?
Are we still talking about this?
Beyond that, I kind of felt sorry for the guy. The fact that it’s an issue 20 years later is outrageous. But it is obviously part of the cultural phenomenon that was and is the Dream Team.
I had the good fortune to be one of only a handful of reporters who covered the team from the first day of training camp until the last day of the Olympics while I was working for Newsday in 1992. So in honor of the 20-year anniversary, here is the first in what could be a series of 20 memories about various issues surrounding the Dream Team.
Part One: The Isiah Thomas Exclusion.
1. From Day 1 when the story broke that the selection committee had not invited Thomas, the speculation was that Michael Jordan kept him off the team. In the Dream Team documentary, however, Jordan said he was told even before he committed that Thomas would not be on the team and “I was getting strong innuendo that it was coming from higher places that didn’t want Isiah Thomas on the team.”
2. And that is true. It wasn’t only the enemies that Thomas had made. He had as many friends on the selection committee as anyone, including Detroit general manager Jack McCloskey. But he had little support. No one fought for him to be on the team.
3. In what has to be one of the greatest misjudgments by any member of any front office in NBA history, when the first 10 players were announced, McCloskey said not being on the team would not be that big of a deal to Thomas. I was at the NBA league meetings in Palm Springs and after they ended, I found McCloskey at the pool and asked him about Thomas’ exclusion.
“Isiah is above all of that,” McCloskey said in an interview that was recorded. “He can handle it. There’s going to be some great players that are not going to be on that team. … It may be a disappointment to some, but they’ve got to learn to live with those things.”
4. Later, McCloskey discovered how wrong he was because Thomas was incensed. So McCloskey resigned from the committee in protest because it was an insult that Thomas had not made the team! McCloskey simply was not going to take that! It was a matter of principle!
It was, however, a grandstand play that was really not grand at all.
5. The late Chuck Daly was the Pistons coach and head coach of the 1992 Olympic team. He did not have a vote on the selection committee, but one influential member of the committee told me, “If Chuck had come in and demanded Isiah to be on the team, he would have been on the team.” Daly did not do that.
6. I wrote a column at the time saying that it wasn’t enemies who kept Thomas off the team, it was friends. The next time I saw Dave Gavitt, who was the head of USA Basketball, he pulled me aside and said, “You hit that right on the button. I made copies of your column and faxed it to every member of the committee.”
7. Rod Thorn and Russ Granik, both high-ranking NBA executives at the time, pointed out in the documentary that the selection committee began making decisions shortly after the 1991 NBA playoffs. That’s when Thomas led a group of Pistons off the court when it was obvious the Bulls were going to sweep their Eastern Conference finals series. It was repugnant sportsmanship and who could have possibly been excited about that sort of mentality on an Olympic team?
8. Ah yes, we have heard and witnessed so much of the Michael Jordan competitiveness, and there were several funny moments in the documentary. But after writing all of the above, I do have to report that in Jack McCallum’s book on the Dream Team, which will be released next month (and can be preordered here - you’re welcome, Jack) , Jordan takes full credit for keeping Thomas off the team.
9. That is vintage Michael. He and Thomas have despised each other since 1985 and the infamous All-Star freeze-out (which colleague Mark Heisler wrote about here). After being eliminated for three straight years by Detroit, Jordan and the Bulls won in 1991, and Thomas and the Pistons did their little walk-off, which proved to be quite large. At that point, Jordan gained the upper hand. And when Michael has the upper hand, he’ll use it. So now he revels in keeping Thomas off the team.
10. No doubt that Thomas was not invited for a variety of reasons and Jordan not wanting him there was certainly a major one. But the fact is that during his career, Thomas had made a lot of enemies on opposing teams.
Scottie Pippen was very open in saying he did not want Thomas on the team. Larry Bird could not stand Thomas and made that clear years later when his first act as the Pacers GM was to fire Thomas. If Thomas had been invited, Bird might have passed. Charles Barkley, who is close with Jordan, might have not played, either.
And Patrick Ewing had the same agent as Jordan and could have passed also. Like Jordan, Ewing already had a gold medal from the 1984 games. And you can be sure that the selection committee knew all of that.
11. Although Thomas had been a key part of two championship teams, from a basketball standpoint, he was a shoot-first point guard and that style of play did not fit into what the Dream Team needed. Daly, of course, knew that better than anyone. Magic Johnson and John Stockton were classic pass-first point guards. Pippen and Jordan could also handle the point. So a third point guard was not needed.
12. Of the first 10 players chosen, which is when the Thomas controversy began, eight of those had made better than 50 percent of their shots from the field in their careers. Only Bird (49.7) and Pippen (49.2) were under 50 percent.
13. Thomas had made 45.2 percent of his shots in his career and often dominated the ball. No one on the committee or coaching staff wanted to get into a game where a player tried to take over as an individual and put on a show.
14. The first 10 players to make the team were announced in September 1991. The last two players – Clyde Drexler and Christian Laettner – were announced after the 1991-92 season. Thomas was not given strong consideration for the last NBA spot that went to Drexler.
15. John Stockton broke a small bone in his leg at the Tournament of the Americas in Portland when the Dream Team was qualifying for the Olympics. Daly, who was so paranoid that he was known as the “Prince of Pessimism,” started worrying that if there were other injuries or foul problems, the U.S. could actually lose a game. He wanted to replace Stockton, and Matt Dobek, his public relations director with the Pistons, was assigned to get a phone number for the replacement.
16. Dobek was told to make sure he knew how to contact Joe Dumars.
17. Although he has made some choices that didn’t seem to be that great, Thomas is a smart guy. But he had a tremendous lapse in judgment when he walked off the court against the Bulls. If he had thought about the selection process being close at hand and how walking off the court would look, he would have never done it. Imagine if he had gone and congratulated Jordan graciously and said all the right things later. He might have been on the team.
18. But then again, maybe not. The feelings about him were very strong and ran very deep.
19. Although Thomas was a cutthroat player and conducted himself in such a way that he was not welcome on the team, the way he conducted himself was also how he was a key part of two championship teams. So if he had been different, the Pistons might not have won titles. For better or worse, he was who he was.
20. If we’re still talking about Isiah Thomas not making the Dream Team 20 years later, he must be a pretty significant figure in NBA history.
Jan Hubbard has written about basketball since 1976 and worked in the NBA league office for eight years in between media stints. Follow him on Twitter at @whyhub.