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NBA: ‘Los Suns’ Statement Changes Focus

May 5, 2010 Comments off

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On an off day in Portland, Robert Sarver went to work with his basketball team. He put on a Suns’ T-shirt and black silk shorts. And as players mingled with the media on the main floor of the Rose Garden, Sarver began sprinting up the steps of the arena, one section at a time.

Some reporters were stunned. Was he that desperate for a workout? Or was he that desperate for attention?

Like it or not, the Suns owner has caused a huge stir this time around. His team will wear orange “Los Suns” jerseys Wednesday night in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Spurs, a maneuver designed to celebrate the NBA’s diversity and illustrate his displeasure with Arizona’s new immigration law.

“It’s two-fold,” Suns General Manager Steve Kerr said. “One, it is Cinco de Mayo. And, two, it is a political statement. We felt the law, however well intended, was not right.”

Sarver is a banker by trade, and his stance is as much about money as it is about civil rights. As a businessman, he does not want to see economic boycotts, cancelled conventions and big events removed from our region. That lowers the tide for everyone in Arizona, at a time when his basketball team is struggling to sell tickets for playoff games.

It’s also brilliant public relations. The move comes during peak visibility of the NBA season. The Suns and Spurs have all the ingredients – a history, a rivalry and a stunning contrast of styles – to guarantee great television ratings. This decision will help soften the national image of Arizona, countering all the body shots we’ve received from pundits, politicians and late-night comics.

It also will mute the scene expected outside US Airways Center before Game 2.

“We hear there will be some protesters outside the building,” Kerr said. “From what I gather, there will be a march from a local church to the arena. So there was going to be some hoopla anyway.”

Kerr said the idea occurred to Sarver during a recent road trip to Portland. The Suns quickly received an endorsement from the league, which doesn’t like anything interfering with potential customers and revenue streams.

Before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, LeBron James and other NBA players said they were going to speak out against the atrocities in Darfur, and bring attention to China’s history in human rights. The league effectively stifled that banter, reminding the players that they all had huge economic stakes in China, a market the NBA and Nike both consider an untapped gold mine.

Yet even with the NBA’s blessing, say this for Sarver: He had the good sense to ask his team for permission, and not jam it down its throat.

“They were all for it,” Kerr said. “We said, ‘Look, if this is going to be a distraction, you guys tell us and we won’t do it.’ For them, it means they answer some questions (Tuesday) and they wear orange jerseys (Wednesday night).”

To the contrary, the Suns seemed stoked to make such a bold statement. Amar’e Stoudemire said it was great to “let the Latin community know we’re behind them 100 percent.”

Then again, though most professional athletes prefer the politics of richness, the Suns are a bit different this way. Especially their point guard, who tends to care deeply about things such as global warming, human rights and gun control.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Steve Nash said. “I think the law is very misguided, and unfortunately, to the detriment of our society and our civil liberties. And I think it’s really important for us to stand up for things we believe in . . .

“It doesn’t feel good to have people around the world and around the country look at our state as less than equal, less than fair. So as a proud (resident) of this state, I want us to be held in the highest esteem. I think we have a lot of great attributes and a lot of great people, and I think we need to be very cautious in how we respect our civil liberties, and the tone we’re setting, and the precedent we’re setting going forward.”

The statement doesn’t come without risk. In his statement, Sarver called the immigration law “flawed,” and that won’t endear him to people who support the measure. And if the Suns stink up the place in Game 2, losing home-court advantage in the process, the entire organization will be criticized for distracting the great focus the team displayed in Game 1.

“Look, it’s a major issue here in Arizona,” Kerr said. “It’s much bigger than a basketball game. It doesn’t mean we’re crafting a new immigration bill. We’re not claiming to be politicians and we don’t have the answer. But there were Latino people who feel offended. A lot of people feel offended. I felt offended. I don’t think we should live in a country where you have to show papers wherever you are.”

Say this for the Suns owner: It’s a bold move. And much trickier than any of those steps he scaled in Portland.

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NBA: Can Hill Stop Nash?

May 5, 2010 Comments off

George Hill is going to have to pick up his defense against Steve Nash.

Or course, first he’ll have to pick up his pride, his ego and probably a considerable number of lost uniform parts that left him so very exposed out on the floor against Nash.


If the Spurs were visitors to Planet Orange for the opening game of the Western Conference semifinals, then Hill made a side trip to the village of Black-and-Blue considering the way Nash whipped and beat him in Game 1.

“I don’t know if I struggled,” Hill said.

Everyone else does.

You could tell from the shock and awe that Hill was wearing along with a bit of windburn on his face.

It was not just the 33 points and 10 assists that Nash hung up in the Suns’ 111-102 series-opening victory. It was the way that so many of them came with so easily, like a man floating down a stream while sipping an umbrella drink from a straw.

“You’ve got to make Nash work,” said Tony Parker, which is one reason that Parker and not Hill opened the second half as a part of the starting unit.

It’s early and the history of this blood feud between Phoenix and San Antonio tells us that there are at least a handful of flammable and bizarre occurrences lurking around the corner. But the first one told you that the Spurs will not be able to ultimately prevail against the Suns if Hill is not able to compete better against Nash.

Hill has been a revelation with his overall improvement and his poise from his rookie year. He’s one of the main reasons the Spurs were able to survive this season with Parker spending so much time on the shelf due to injuries. But he has got to do better than nine points on 2-for-9 shooting in 33 minutes.

“I couldn’t make a shot today,” Hill said. “That’s why it’s a seven-game series. We’ll watch film and get ready for the next one.

“Why did I struggle? I don’t know if it was a part of just struggling. I didn’t make shots. I had some open looks and that’s how it goes. I don’t think I really struggled. It just didn’t go my way.”

Things began similarly disappointing for Hill in the Spurs in the previous round in Dallas as he was victimized by Jason Kidd for 13 points and 11 assists. In the opening minutes of the second half, Hill went on a drive to the hoop and Kidd simply reached in and swiped the ball away. Mere seconds later, Hill was removed from the game and never returned. But Spurs and Hill did return in the series, which is how they wound up here in the desert seeking to advance their cause.

“He’s a great player and I felt like I let him be the aggressor instead of me being the aggressor on defense,” Hill said. “That’s something I’m going to get better at and do a better job on Wednesday. I feel like tonight he did a great job of picking us apart and being aggressive.

“He’s the head of the snake. He was phenomenal and we have to tip our hat to him.”

The Spurs will likely make more of a team-wide effort to get the ball out of Nash’s hands on offense.

“You never can do anything by yourself,” Hill said. “It’s always gonna be a team thing.”

But it will also be up to Hill to make Nash defend more by being more assertive with his own offense.

“I have to attach him a little bit more so he just don’t conserve his energy on the defensive end,” he said. We got to make him work on both ends.”

That was the message that the second-year point guard had delivered to him by the veteran Parker.

“I told George at halftime that you have to try to get Steve tired,” Parker said. “You have to attack him, go at him and that will tire him out. You can’t be letting him come down the court with all of his energy and going full speed. Steve Nash at full speed is tough and over the course of a game he’s going to get good results. George will play better. I have confidence in him.”

A question is whether Spurs coach Gregg Popovich might make a switch and put Parker back into the starting lineup.

“I’m not worried about that. I’m not thinking about that,” Hill said. “Whatever Pop decides will be the right thing and that will be fine with me.

“We’ll come back in here for Game 2 and things will be different, a lot of things ready to be better.”

Hill will be standing at the head of that line.

NBA: Oh my (Chris) Bosh: Unleashing a twitter frenzy

May 1, 2010 Comments off

When you have 96,000-plus followers on Twitter . . . throwing out a provocative line or two is like tossing a lighted match on a pile of kindling.

On Friday afternoon, a prominent NBA player had a question for his group of followers.

“Been wanting to ask. Where should I go next season and why?

Why bother waiting until July 1? Silly, arbitrary date anyway. The author of the tweet happened to be the Raptors’ Chris Bosh, who will be one of the marquee free agents this summer.

Incredibly, Twitter did not collapse under the weight of frenzied responses to Bosh, seemingly dominated by tweeps from Houston and Chicago. And yes, a few Lakers fans.

Less than an hour later, Bosh spoke again:

“Ok … Let me rephrase the question. Should I stay or should I go?”

Never knew Bosh was a Clash fan.

The summer of 2010 has started. So what if it is a few weeks early?

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NCAAM: Is Reebok Hitching Its Future on John Wall?

April 15, 2010 Comments off

Yahoo! has a story today that likely No. 1 pick John Wall could be joining LeBron James’ marketing firm. Now the my angle: deep in the story, there’s a mention about a potential shoe deal that is likely to send a few shockwaves. First, the details:

Point guard Raleigh, North Carolina Word Of God Christian Academy AAU: D-One Sports Ht:6'4" Wt:184 lbs Class:2009 (High School)

In the short term, they’ll be negotiating a sneaker deal that promises to invigorate a stagnant market for young players. Reebok is banking that Wall can be its product’s face with the demise of Allen Iverson, and multiple sources say the company’s prepared an offer that could be worth $3 million-$4 million annually. Here’s the test for LRMR: Does it have the chops to get Wall more than the traditional shoe deal?Wall isn’t going to be LeBron, but he’s the most-hyped player to come since him,” a rival sneaker industry official said. “And, sometimes, hype is just as important as talent.”

Shock No. 1: They’re still giving out shoe deals worth this much? The last few years made it seem like shoe deals had really dried up. Shelling out that much for John Wall would be a big change of course. Judging from Darren Rovell’s tweet, it would be risky.

Shock No. 2: LeBron is going to let Wall be a part of Reebok? Wall has been a Nike guy for a bit now. He wore Hyperdunks at Word of God in high school. He switched between Hyperdunks, Hyperizes and LeBron VIIs at Kentucky this season. Now, ultimately there’s probably some division of labor. LeBron, the person, would probably love to have Wall rocking his kicks in the NBA, but LeBron, the business man who runs a marketing firm, has a responsibility to get Wall the best deal possible.


I can’t imagine Nike would pay marquee dollars to Wall. It’s not like they’re at a loss for big hoops endorsers. But Reebok? They could use Wall. Still, it’d be strange to see a Wall sneaker deal brokered by LeBron’s marketing firm with anyone other than Nike. Oh, and let’s not forget that Reebok reportedly offered LeBron more money than any other company coming out of high school, but he spurned them.

All I’m saying is this: If Reebok does spend big bucks on Wall, the first order of business should be getting him in some sort of viral video where he jumps over the EasyTone girl and dunks. I’ll wait for my check, Reebok.

Random Links

April 13, 2010 Comments off

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Congratulations to the Charlotte Bobcats cheerleaders — the Lady Cats. They just won NBA.com’s 2010 dance team bracket.

How Do His Teammates Allow This?

Florida Marlins outfielder Cameron Maybin is the early season leader for the “Worst At-Bat Song” award.

Let’s Play The Feud

A Guaranteed Laugh

TheHoopDoctors.com look at the top 10 funny/profound basketball quotes.

They’ve Come A Long Way

A few months ago, the guys from Jersey Shore were just hitting the gym, tanning and doing laundry in complete anonymity . Now, they’re doing this photoshoot with Bar Refaeli.

Videos:

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NBA: For Amar’e, Suns Tenure Could Go Either Way

January 18, 2010 Comments off

The agent for Amar’e Stoudemire, Happy Walters, will meet with Suns management soon to begin discussing a potential extension for the high-octane forward, reports Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic. The assumption from both outside and apparently inside is that the Suns and Stoudemire don’t have the same dollar figure in mind, and that could lead to the Suns thinking trade before the league’s February trade deadline.

Coro suggests Amar’e is looking for Pau Gasol, near max contract money. (Gasol recently signed an extension worth $57 million for three years during the Laker’s 30s.) The Suns have been so hot-and-cold on Amar’e that it’s almost assured that pricetag is too high. The gamble at that point is in betting that a free agent market focused on the ultra-stars this summer will leave Amar’e in a pickle, and will leave Phoenix open to bidding closer to their price come July. The flip side of that bet is that the team could lose its No. 2 player and No. 2 asset for nothing.

And while Coro comes off as pessimistic as to whether the trade offers which will come in February will be enough to entice Phoenix, I have no doubt they can only improve. By all accounts, Stoudemire’s defense is still problematic. But his rebounding has improved dramatically over last season’s rough campaign (he’s back to his career standard) and his scoring is still ultra-efficient. He’s a real catch, with less of the mitigating issues which sunk his value last season.


Pending Chris Bosh movement, Amar’e could also be the best chance for a non-2010 bonanza team to slip in and make a massive upgrade. Phoenix will obviously want talent in order to give up such a solid asset, but expiring contracts could also help the Suns become a minor player in this summer’s free agency. The Suns are on pace to have a payroll of $45 million if you don’t count Stoudemire’s certain-to-be-declined player option. The salary cap for 2010-11 is expected to fall somewhere around $55 million.

The question will be (should it come to this) just how much talent Phoenix wants to get back. I suppose that goes without saying, but after last year’s odd flirtation with trading Amar’e, it deserves to be mentioned.

NBA: Marbury to China

January 18, 2010 Comments off

NEW YORK – Stephon Marburywill play professional basketball again.

In China.

The two-time NBA-All Star has agreed to play in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) with China’s Shanxi Club, according to a Reuters report.

Marbury, 32, hasn’t played since leaving the Boston Celtics after last year. The Shanxi team website (www.sxcba.com) said Marbury would arrive sometime next week.

“The aim of signing Marbury is to pay back our fans and try to win more games in the rest of the season,” Shanxi boss Wang Xingjiang said on the team’s website.

Wang also said that Marbury wanted to promote his “Starbury” shoes in China, the world’s most populated nation.

Former NBA player Bonzi Wells played for Shanxi last season, scoring 50 points in a game. But Wells did not return to the team after a holiday break in January.

“It was a big cultural shock to me for the first few weeks,” Wells said, according to Agence France Presse.


“Since I have been here it has been all business and I haven’t had any fun yet, so I am looking for some fun.”

Shanxi is currently 15th in the 17-team league and the arrival of Marbury is expected to boost ticket sales and the team’s prospects of making the postseason.

Marbury’s Twitter feed makes no specific mention of the China deal, but he did say, “I have some things that are brewing.”