Take a number and get in line.
There are dozens of players who are not coming close to meeting expectations this season. And when you factor in their salaries and how much they limit their team’s financial flexibility, it can be downright infuriating.
The Dallas Mavericks acquired loads of solid players over the summer and have put themselves in position to be successful despite losing key players in Jason Kidd and Jason Terry to free agency.
But can O.J. Mayo be good enough to become a star in the NBA? Could Chris Kaman become the best offensive center of all time in Dallas? Both are conceivable, depending on who you ask. See the chatter going on in Dallas, along with the true status of Brandon Roy and more below.
Before you do, be sure to take our poll on how many games the Lakers might win in the upcoming season:
- In a recent interview on NBATV, Brandon Roy admits his lift is not what it used to be, but that his explosion is still there, transcribed by Ben Golliver of Blazers Edge: “[Question] How will your game change? [Roy] Honestly, right now and all summer long, I’ve been preparing to not have to take a step back with my game. I’ll be honest, some of the lift isn’t what it used to be. But my explosiveness, my explosiveness to get to the basket, is good. More than anything, I think I’m a lot smarter of a basketball player. The NBA season is long and my body isn’t what it used to be. Right now I feel great. Me and coach [Rick] Adelman are going to sit down before the season and communicate throughout the year about how I’m feeling and what’s the best way to get the most out of me. I feel great, right now there’s nothing holding me back, I can go out there and play as much as I like.”
- Mark Cuban thinks O.J. Mayo can be a star, according to Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: “New Mavericks executive and Texas Legends coach Eddie Najera has been helping with some informal workouts and said O.J. Mayo has been impressive during the off-season. “You can see it in his eyes,” Najera said. “He looks like he’s really ready to move his game up.” It’s been evident in the other players participating in the unofficial workouts. “O.J. comes in with the work ethic and everybody falls in behind him,” Jared Cunningham said. “He’s a great teammate and he’s knocking shots down.“His confidence is back. He’s in the gym every day — late nights and early mornings.” Said owner Mark Cuban on Mayo: “I think he can be a star and I think O.J. knows that this is his make-or-break, who-am-I-really-going-to-be-in-this-league year. And Coach [Rick Carlisle] is going to give him that opportunity. We’ll see what happens.”
- Chris Kaman could potentially be the best offensive center in Mavericks history, which doesn’t say a whole lot about the centers the team may have had over the years. Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas has the story: “If Chris Kaman can stay healthy, he’ll be the best offensive center in Mavericks history. That’s a big if, as evidenced by his triple-digit games-missed total over the last five seasons. And it’s also faint praise, as proven by all the praise about the pick-setting ability of bricklaying Mavs centers over the years.”
- Scott Brooks had some thoughts about the popularity of the Lakers and how they still have to “play the games”, from Jeff Miller of The OC Register: “We have 36 foursomes out there … and there are 144 Lakers fans out there,” the coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder said. “They’re Laker fans, and why shouldn’t they be? … Everybody’s a Laker fan. Everybody’s excited about what they’ve done.”… ”They were a good team before,” Brooks said. “With Howard, he’s one of the best players in the league. … The league will have its work cut out. But you have to play the games. Nobody in this league is going to give anybody a game.”
- Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett may have taken pay cuts to stay with their respective teams, but got something in return in their contracts as well, from Kurt Helin of NBC Sports: “Both Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett did something for their teams this summer — the veteran superstars took huge pay cuts on new deals, making less than half of what they did before, to give the franchises some financial flexibility (and less of a tax burden). But both got something in return — no trade clauses. Mark Deeks, the man behind the fantastic Sham Sports (which has the best NBA contract info out there) reports on twitter that both Duncan and Garnett got full no-trade clauses in their new deals. They join Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki as the only four guys with such clauses.”
- Brian Cook signed a non-guaranteed training camp deal with the Washington Wizards, according to Michael Lee of Washington Post: “Brian Cook wasn’t excited about the prospect of joining the Wizards when the Los Angeles Clippers traded him last March. He sought a buyout before deciding to stick around for the rest of the season. The experience in Washington must not have been too bad, because now, Cook is headed back. Cook, a 6-foot-9 veteran big man, signed a non-guaranteed, training camp deal on Tuesday with the Wizards, his agent, Mark Bartelstein said. Cook received interest from “three or four other teams,” Bartlestein said, “but he really felt good about the way things finished up with the Wizards. He really enjoyed playing for [Coach Randy Wittman] and with the guys on the team and they kind of expressed the same thing to him. And as we were looking at different things, he wanted to go back. He had a comfort level. He’s back and hopefully, it will work out great.”
- Steve Nash joined The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Check out the interview below:
- Chris Paul said he’s glad to have been “short” all his life, but still has bad memories of Pau Gasol touching his head, from Steve Marsh of GQ: “In the waning seconds of a close game, Lakers seven-footer Pau Gasol gently patted CP3 on the head after the two had exchanged words. Paul’s ensuing freak-out led SportsCenter that night. Gasol made a tepid apology; six months later, Paul is still annoyed. “We call that sonnin‘, ” he explains to me. “Like when I take Li’l Chris to the bathroom, I’ll walk with my hand on his head. That’s my son. You know what I mean? I understand that Gasol is that tall, but don’t do to me what I do to my son.” …”I’ve been fortunate to be short my entire life.” I look puzzled, and he explains. “There’s only one position I’ve ever had to play, and that’s point guard. So I’ve always had to be that leader. And that was my job: you know, to talk.” CP3 is looking me straight in the eye. “I’m a big-time people person, too. Like, I love people. I hate to be by myself.” He repeats the phrase to himself, quieter each time: “I hate to be by myself. I hate to be by myself. I hate to be by myself.”
- Shawne Williams wants to return to the Knicks, but the team has no interest according to Jared Zwerling: “Unrestricted free agent Shawne Williams, who had his best season in New York in 2010-11, wants to return to the Knicks but the team isn’t interested, according to a source close to the versatile forward. The source told ESPNNewYork.com that the Knicks are “a good fit,” and that he’s open to taking the veteran’s minimum, which is all they can offer. The Hawks and Bobcats are also looking at Williams, who is represented by Happy Walters, the same agent as Amare Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert.”
- Carmelo Anthony has always been interested in restoring the game of basketball in Puerto Rico. He explains the reason behind the motivation to Jared Zwerling of ESPN New York: “Q: This week marked your third straight year going to Puerto Rico to restore basketball courts. How did the idea initially come about in 2010? Anthony: I had always wanted to do something in Puerto Rico. My dad was Puerto Rican and I never really got to know him because he passed away when I was two years old. So I wanted to honor my Puerto Rican heritage, and this is one way I thought that I could.”
- Darren Wolfson of 5 Eye Witness News spoke with the Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, who expressed the following about Ricky Rubio’s status:
- Check out all the highlights from Orlando Pro-AM over the summer. Notable appearances include Vince Carter, Austin Rivers, Chandler Parsons, DeShawn Stevenson and Marreese Speights:
- Shawn Kemp is a better dunker than Blake Griffin, according to Shawn Kemp:
Mark Titus and I have three things in common.
One, we both write about basketball much better than we play it.
Two, we both rely on sarcasm as the basis for our attempts at humor.
Three, we both are fascinatingly enthralled by “trillions.”
Titus is the author of Don’t Put Me in, Coach, a wonderful inside look at big-time college basketball through the cockeyed view of a benchwarmer. On the inside flap is a review from former Boston Globe columnist Leigh Montville that begins, “If Mark Titus had been able to play basketball the way he can write, he would have joined his Ohio State teammates in the NBA.”
While that may be true, it also would have significantly devalued the book, because there is no way Titus would have had the time, impetus or commitment to make Don’t Put Me In, Coach as enjoyable a read as it is.
During his AAU days and four years at Ohio State, Titus played with no less than seven current NBA players, a list that does not include Greg Oden, whom he affectionately refers to as “possibly the whitest black man to ever live.”
Titus tells the tale of Oden skipping his senior prom because it had, as Oden said, “too many black people” and for blowing off an Ashanti concert to attend a magic show with Titus and his father. He also regales us with the time Oden stalked him with a Nerf dart gun – which he carried almost everywhere he went – and moistened one of the darts with his mouth after it had been on Titus’ scrotum.
This is what Titus does – and does very well – throughout the book. He gives us considerable insight to the personality and character of a teammate through humorous anecdotes and occasionally puts the cherry on top of the cupcake in the form of a wiener joke. This was a chronicle of his college days, mind you.
While many of his teammates were using Ohio State as a mere weigh station until entering the NBA and consumed by playing basketball, Titus was doing just the opposite. His turned his days in Columbus into a personal four-year challenge to see how little he could be a part of the team while remaining a part of the team.
On various occasions, the former team manager and walk-on (a) left practices to play video games under the guise of using the bathroom; (b) left the bench during games to actually use the bathroom; (c) intentionally avoided the ball when inserted in garbage time in his quest for a “trillion”; and actually had the nerve to tell coach Thad Matta that he did not want to enter the final minutes of a blowout.
That moment ultimately became the book’s title and shed some light on Matta, whose sole reaction of bemusement proves that – unlike many of his peers – he has the temperament to coach at the next level.
It is hard to imagine any coach of a perennial powerhouse to dismiss a player’s refusal to enter a game without giving it a second thought. Most would make a mental note to prevent that kid from playing for the rest of the season, in a misguided, heavyhanded attempt to reinforce his authority. Some would even go as far to throw the player off the team, believing the kid should be eternally grateful for any scrap the coach’s almighty program throws him.
This doesn’t even factor in Titus starting a blog entitled Club Trillion that gave readers an inside look at OSU hoops during his junior and senior seasons. Could you imagine a control freak such as Mike Krzyzewski or a scream machine such as Frank Martin allowing that to exist?
But Matta’s understanding of how little things so often have no impact on the big picture makes him a player’s coach – a rarity in the college game. It also makes Titus’ book that much better, because he knows he can tell a story with impunity.
And Titus can write – certainly much better than former OSU teammate and current Oklahoma City Thunder guard Daequan Cook, who received a “big red 0%” on an English paper with this note from the instructor: “It’s obvious that you didn’t read the book and had no understanding of what was expected with this assignment. Your entire paper discusses things that are irrelevant for this assignment and this class.”
So much for the priorities of the student-athlete at The Ohio State University.
Titus has no such problems. His comparative humor – especially relating to pop culture – is outstanding. When he writes, “The key to success against VMI is to have a team full of good ballhandlers in excellent physical condition,” he quickly adds, “Coincidentally, that is also the key to running a successful brothel.”
So is his use of simile, which are countless. He recalled one postgame celebration where Oden disregarded him “like I was a condom and he was Shawn Kemp.”
Titus fully understands humor, which is supposed to have no boundaries and the potential to offend everyone and their grandmothers. He constantly pokes fun at the racial lines of basketball, even spending an entire chapter on delightfully being given permission to use the dreaded N-word by a black teammate. In this era of political correctness, he gives readers fair warning to skip the chapter, which actually is one of the book’s more intellectual sections.
Titus had perhaps the most interesting career of any walk-on benchwarmer in college basketball history. After OSU lost to Florida in the national title game to end Titus’ freshman year, there was an on-campus rally at which students chanted, “One more year!” imploring Oden not to leave for the NBA. In an ensuing interview, Titus assured folks he would be back for his sophomore season.
After his junior season, Titus declared for the NBA draft entirely as a joke, then was urged by the NBA to withdraw his application, exposing the dearth of humor at the executive offices of the Olympic Tower. And after leaving OSU, he had a tryout with the Harlem Globetrotters – giving himself something in common with Wilt Chamberlain – and revealed the administrative side of the lovable hoopsters as disorganized and inconsiderate.
Titus wasn’t much more than an on-campus oddity until doing a podcast with ESPN writer Bill Simmons that drew attention to Club Trillion. He is not the only web scribe consumed by disappearing acts on the court; Basketbawful has been at it for a while, and my Sunday column has a Trillion Watch.
But Titus takes the “trillion” – a boxscore line of any amount of minutes followed by all zeros – to an art form, using an entire chapter to explain how, for lack of a better phrase, to become a trillionaire.
Here’s some of Titus’ tidbits on other current and former NBA players with whom he crossed paths while at OSU:
Greg Oden: The former Blazers center was a generally good guy, although after the title game loss to Florida told a teammate, “It’s only a game. Stop crying like a little bitch.”
Joey Dorsey: Prior to a Memphis-OSU tourney matchup, Dorsey made clear he had no understanding of the David and Goliath fable, likening himself to Goliath and Oden to David. Pretty much what you’d expect from someone who has thrown punches at players, fans and innocent bystanders during his journeyman career.
Joakim Noah: According to Titus, the Bulls center is “the greatest women’s basketball player of all time.”
Kosta Koufos: Recently called “Cous Cous” by TNT’s consistently underprepared Charles Barkley, the big man of the Denver Nuggets spent his lone season in Columbus alienating virtually all of his teammates by being a ballhog who was only concerned with his NBA career.
Evan Turner: Dubbed “The Villain” by Titus, who also described the current Sixers swingman as “insecure, socially feebleminded and possibly bipolar.” Turner often dribbled in front of a locker room mirror wearing nothing but his sneakers. He spent three years at OSU constantly at odds with Titus, who conspired with Matta to make Turner lose his marbles over throwing a bounce pass during a free-throw drill.
I’m among the few folks who find the college game remarkably boring. My scant free time doesn’t allow for much reading. And this is my first book review. But if you are a hoops fan, Don’t Put Me in, Coach is certainly worth the trip.
Now where’s the free Club Tril T-shirts, Mark?
Chris Bernucca is a regular contributor to SheridanHoops.com. His columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday. You can follow him on Twitter.