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The State of the NBADL, with D-League Digest’s Steve Weinman – Part II

February 3, 2010

NBA D-League

By Brian Spencer

Last week we hit you with Part I of our two-part interview with D-League Digest brainchild Steve Weinman, who had just returned from this year’s D-League Showcase in Boise, Idaho, with a fresh perspective on the state of the NBA’s “minor-league system.” This time around, Weinman talks attendance, potential for growth, and the possibility of the NBADL one day attracting premier overseas talent.

Empty the Bench: You spoke with a number of NBA team presidents during the Showcase. Who stood out as the most enthused about the D-League’s potential and what did you talk about?

Steve Weinman: While all the people I spoke to were (predictably) quite positive about the D-League, Daryl Morey likely set the record for most uses of “great” and “fantastic” in a 3-minute span to describe the Rockets’ relationship with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, with whom the team shares a hybrid affiliation (the Rockets don’t own the team, but do oversee the basketball operations).

The most intriguing point that came out of my discussion with Morey was his confirmation of something I discussed with Vipers Head of Basketball Operations Alex Del Barrio: the idea that Joey Dorsey wasn’t in the D-League to expand his game so much as he was to focus on becoming more consistent at what he already does.

I think a lot of time there’s a tendency to think of the D-League as a place for players to expand their skillsets, and certainly that’s a big part of it for a lot of players. (I know I’m guilty of thinking of it this way.) But some guys simply need to be more focused on doing what they do best. Dorsey is who he is: a banger who hammers the glass, plays defense, and will be capable of getting his share of points off second chances. As Morey said, “We’re never looking for him to shoot a mid-range shot or have any post moves. That’s not something we see in his role at the NBA level.”

ETB: Is the NBA not overly concerned with attendance? And if they are, shouldn’t there be more teams in bigger markets, as well as more marketing dollars behind the league? If you asked 50 NBA fans off the street to name three D-League teams, I’m guessing most of them couldn’t even name one.

Weinman: I’m sure the NBA would love to see D-League attendance increase, and I wouldn’t doubt that eventually, putting more money toward marketing the league will be a part of that. But while I’m sure I sound like a broken record on this, I think part of it is time. Remember, 9 years isn’t a long time for a sports league to exist.

The league totally overhauled itself after spending its first years based largely on the Southeastern seaboard, and several of the league’s teams have only been in their current location for a very short time. As the number of call-ups increases and the number of productive former D-Leaguers at the NBA level increase—dand likely as single-team affiliations increase—the D-League will gain prominence, and I think that will be big in helping attendance grow.

As for the issue of big markets, I would be cautious of getting too wrapped up in that. This country has supported minor league baseball in a lot of areas that didn’t exactly come next on the list after New York City, LA, Boston and Chicago. For a pertinent D-League example, the folks up in Portland, Maine, are selling out every night and absolutely killing it in merchandise sales.

More than just finding big markets, I think it’s important to find locations close enough to a parent team to have a strong connection to a NBA fan base, but far enough away to make going to D-League games not only more affordable but a significantly more convenient alternative to having to travel all the way to NBA team’s city.

More from D-League Digest’s Steve Weinman after the break…

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1 CommentPosted by Brian Spencer on Feb. 3, 2010 at 10:32am in ETB Articles, Interviews, NBA

The State of the NBADL, with D-League Digest’s Steve Weinman – Part I

January 21, 2010

NBA D-League

By Brian Spencer

The NBA D-League is a good thing that has the potential to be a very good thing for professional basektball in the United States. We want to see it thrive, expand, succeed. Unfortunately, like most people, we rarely get to see anything from these games beyond the brief late-night highlights on NBA TV. ESPN and Fox Sports barely touch it, which means that casual b-ball fans barely even know it exists.

Enter writers like Steve Weinman, the thoughtful wordsmith behind D-League Digest who’s helping introduce the D-League to a wider audience and revealing its teams, players, and coaches through comprehensive coverage and analysis on the everyday happenings in the NBA’s still-developing minor-league system. The guy knows his stuff, and in the wake of the recent D-League Showcase in Boise, we’re fortunate to have a two-part Q&A with him here on Empty the Bench.

Let’s get to it… stay tuned for Part II.

Empty the Bench: I read a report that said NBA executives left this year’s D-League Showcase in Boise saying it was the worst crop of talent they’ve seen yet. What’s your take?

Steve Weinman: I saw that line from Marc Spears as well, and truth be told, I’m not sure what to make of it. As someone who followed the D-League peripherally in previous seasons and has become much closer to it over the last 2 years or so, especially now that I’m covering the league on a regular basis, I’m not I’m the best person to compare the overall talent distribution between this year’s Showcase and previous ones.

But what I do know is this: the executives I spoke to certainly sounded positive about the way the D-League is moving. With the Rockets’ use of the hybrid model in Rio Grande Valley, GM Daryl Morey and his crew from Houston have been very involved in bringing in the players there, and Morey said the situation with RGV has been fantastic from his perspective.

Between Morey and other executives I spoke with, there was plenty of chatter about an expansion of the D-League’s role and a desire to have NBA teams hold player rights outside of their 15 roster spots. One would think some of that excitement would have been tempered if the player crop were all that uninspiring.

None of that, however, is meant to dispute Spears’ report. One of the great things about the Showcase is that it simply crawls with team staffers, and I don’t profess to have had a chance to speak with all of them. Marc is a terrific reporter, and I have no doubt he talked to plenty of sources on this. Still, I didn’t leave the conversations I had with the same vibe that he did.

As for what my own eyes tell me about this year’s group of players, I think there are several players around the D-League capable of being at least fringe NBA players right now if the roster spots become available, and a few youngsters who will be at that point before too long as well. Speaking of which…

ETB: Spud Webb, the President of Basketball Operations for the new team in San Francisco that debuts next season, recently said he thinks there are “four or five guys [in the D-League] that are pro players.” Name the four or five guys you feel have the best shot at not just getting called up to the NBA, but making an impact and sticking around.

Weinman: Anthony Tolliver would be the easy front-runner for this list, but let’s rule him ineligible since he received his second call-up of the season last week, this time to Golden State. Tolliver is a do-it-all big man who posts up, crashes the glass, and defends, but can also handle the ball a little bit and shoot from the outside. Love watching him play.

Of players currently in the D-League, Mike Harris from Rio Grande Valley (he of the recent 48-24 performance) already received one call-up this season (to Houston) and will likely be back sooner or later. He’s a bruising forward who loves to bang around inside, pounds the glass (8.9 per game this year in the D-League) and is also developing his offensive arsenal from mid-range and beyond. The big question for Harris right now is position: playing in RGV’s three-guard lineup, he’s played something of a big-man role at times this year, and he’s been successful at it, but he’s also just 6-6. Whether Harris has the quickness and whether he will develop the outside game to be a successful small forward remains to be seen, but he does too many things too well to not get another good shot to stick in the Association.

Carlos Powell of Albuquerque is a terrific offensive player who can score from inside and out, and isn’t a liability at the defensive end either. In our last edition of the Randy Livingston Memorial Call-Up Rankings, hosted at Ridiculous Upside, I was the only one of four panelists to rank the southpaw as low as second on the list.

Sitting on top of that call-up rankings list before Powell usurped the top spot was Dontell Jefferson from Utah. Widely expected to fill the Jazz’s need for a backup point guard before some late-breaking concerns about the health of his knees led to Idaho’s Sundiata Gaines getting that call (and please remember to go ahead and ask the Cleveland Cavaliers how that one turned out), Jefferson is a 6-5 point guard with the skills and size to play both backcourt spots. He’s a dynamic slasher who also scores from the outside, gets to the foul line with regularity, and distributes the ball unselfishly. His height, length, and quickness allow him to defend ones and twos, and that would allow an NBA team to use him to cross-match defensively if need be.

While four people does not a complete list make, and there are several other guys who deserve to be in this discussion – Rod Benson (Reno) has been around and offers size and defense (though I’m not enamored with him), Morris Almond (Springfield) is a super-dyanmic scorer who we’ll get to later, Mustafa Shakur is doing a terrific job in Tulsa, Dwayne Jones (Austin) has NBA size and eats up offensive boards, and I’m sure there are a few noteworthy folks I’m omitting here to boot – I’ll stray a bit from the beaten path with a personal favorite for my final selection here: Rio Grande Valley’s Antonio Anderson.

He may not be at the top of the call-up list right now, and he has slumped through January after earning performer-of-the-month honors in December, but Anderson’s versatility makes him really promising. He’s a 6-6 off-guard by trade, but he handles the ball plenty for RGV and is a terrific passer. In fact, Vipers brass believe he’ll even be able to get a spot at the next level as a second or third-string point guard.

That’s not to mention that the guy who garnered all sorts of defensive accolades during his collegiate tenure at Memphis has made a successful transition to the D-League game at that end of the floor as well. AA needs to become a more consistent outside shooter, but his mid-range game is already improving, and he’s just a smart decision-maker on the floor. I’m buying him as a permanent NBA player within the next two seasons.

Much more from D-League Digest’s Steve Weinman after the break…

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2 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Jan. 21, 2010 at 10:33am in ETB Articles, Interviews, NBA

Seven Quick Questions with ESPN2′s SportsNation Co-Host Michelle Beadle

November 16, 2009

ESPN2 SportsNation

Photos Courtesy of ESPN

By Brian Spencer

We were flattered to be featured as the “Site of the Day” for the Friday, October 16, broadcast of ESPN2′s SportsNation, which has built up a relatively hardcore following in the 4 short months since it debuted. Credit some of the show’s success to its loose, conversational format that’s largely centered around fan-generated content (polls, Twitter posts, emails, etc.), but the driving forces behind its appeal are affable cohosts Michelle Beadle and Colin Cowherd, who do a fantastic job of keeping the show light and entertaining. (Recent Twitter posts include “Who do you want delivering your baby, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning?” and “What does it say about the Skins that a fake FG helped them to their best offensive game of the season?”)

Beadle was kind enough to sit down with us over email for a quick Q&A and talk about her experience on the show, her days as a sideline reporter for the San Antonio Spurs, and more. She’s also the woman behind the curtain of the growing Akron Hammer movement. Follow her on Twitter here.

SportsNation airs from Monday to Friday at 4pm & midnight on ESPN2.

ETB: With about 4 months or so under your belt as co-host of SportsNation, what’s been most challenging about doing an hour-long TV show 5 days a week?

Beadle: Honestly, it has been so much fun I’d be hard-pressed to say anything has been too difficult. Our crew works hard, but it’s always a good time. The hardest part has been moving from New York to Connecticut. That is still taking some getting used to.

ETB: How has the experience so far matched up (or not matched up) with your expectations coming into it?

Beadle: It has been even more fun than I expected. I met Colin for the first time on the day of my audition. I’d been prepped for this “character” that I’d be meeting. And he is certainly a character. But the guy works hard, and has such a way of looking at the world. I’m happy with the freedom ESPN has given us to do this show the way we want to. Very liberating.

ETB: When did you first know you wanted to get into broadcasting? How has the sportscaster job description changed since your first gig?

Beadle: I honestly had no idea that I’d be doing this for a living. It all came about almost accidentally while I was interning for the San Antonio Spurs. I was given a shot to do a story for the team’s children’s show. I was horrible. But they gave me another shot, and as it turns out I loved it. I honestly haven’t seen too many changes during my time. People still expect you to show up, having done your homework and prepared for the job.

More from SportsNation’s Michelle Beadle after the break…

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No CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Nov. 16, 2009 at 2:22pm in Interviews, NBA

Magic Johnson and Larry Bird on the Detroit Bad Boys, Bill Laimbeer, and Kurt Rambis

November 2, 2009

Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas

Magic Johnson & Isiah Thomas Photo Credit: Icon SMI

By Brian Spencer

When you think about NBA all-time greats Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, most NBA fans think about those unforgettable NBA Finals battles between their Boston Celtics and LA Lakers.

Growing up as a Pistons fan, however, when I think about Bird, I think about his heartbreaking steal of an errant inbounds pass by Isiah Thomas in Game 5 of the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals that turned the series’ tide in Boston’s favor. When I think about Johnson, I think about his tense pregame kisses on Thomas’ cheek during the 1988 NBA Finals and the brutal battles that ensued. It was a Golden Era of NBA basketball, one that Bird, Johnson, and Thomas played huge roles in cultivating, and it was that era that helped hook me and millions others onto this sport for life.

Today Bird and Johnson looked back on and talked about their careers, their rivalries, and about today’s NBA as they promoted their new book, When the Game Was Ours, on a conference call with NBA writers. More excerpts from the call later, but here’s my Q&A with these two NBA legends. The questions shouldn’t surprise you.

Empty the Bench: There’s a lot said in the book about Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer, and the playoff battles you two had with the Bad Boys era Detroit Pistons. I know you both didn’t really agree with the level of physicality those teams had–at one point, Magic, you said the Pistons “crossed the line all the time”–so I’m wondering if despite all that you have respect for what those teams accomplished, and if you feel like they deserved those championships.

Earvin “Magic” Johnson: They definitely deserved them. They played so well, and that three-guard combination was probably one of the best we’ve seen in basketball when you think about Joe Dumars and Isiah and Vinnie Johnson. And then when you add in guys like Dennis Rodman, John Salley, [Bill] Laimbeer, and [Rick] Mahorn, and then when they got Mark Aguirre.

They were just a tremendous team and we’re never going to take anything away from them. The main thing is that it’s okay to get fouled up top–and Larry can talk about this more because he had to play them more–but when you get fouled up top, they should have just left it there. But then they loved to hit you on the way down another couple of times, so that’s what I was talking about.

Larry Bird: You can’t take anything away from a champion. They were true champions. They played the game differently at times than you’d like, but it was a rough game. The Finals are rough. We knew it was going to be a tough series. But they were a very talented team… always felt like sometimes they might have went over the line a little bit, but you have to be man enough to step up and take care of yourself.

As far as the team, they had great teams. Bill Laimbeer was a very heady player, a very smart player, and one helluva coach too by the way. You can’t take anything away from those guys, they’re champions and they should be talked about like champions.

Magic Johnson talks about the Kurt Rambis/Bill Laimbeer pairing in Minnesota after the break…

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1 CommentPosted by Brian Spencer on Nov. 2, 2009 at 9:20pm in Interviews, NBA

ETB’s Exclusive One-Question Twitter Interview with Jazz Forward Kyle Korver

March 20, 2009

For the record, Korver is listed at 212 on NBA.com while Vujacic is listed at 205.

And there’s also this to consider


3 CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Mar. 20, 2009 at 1:03pm in Interviews, NBA

ETB’s Scribes of the NBA Interview Series – Natalie Sitto of Need4Sheed.com

October 1, 2008

Natalie Sitto talks Detroit Pistons hoops with ETB

Rasheed Wallace Photos Credit: Icon SMI

Love him, hate him, frustrated or endlessly entertained by him–or all of the above–there’s no denying that the Detroit Pistons and its fans have been taken with the conundrum that is Mr. Rasheed Wallace ever since he arrived in the spring of 2004. No matter where you fall in the great ‘Sheed debate, however, Natalie Sitto’s Need4Sheed.com has become a must-visit for all Pistons fans.

That’s because despite the namesake, Need4Sheed.com is hardly just a ‘Sheed fansite. Sitto perfectly meshes her insight on everything Pistons with a unique cartoonish talent that makes the site as colorful as the words spewing from ‘Sheed’s mouth after a particularly bad call by a referee. On top of exhaustive coverage of everything Pistons, Sitto also offers her readers free, downloadable wallpapers, screensavers, and icons; you’ll also find a solid selection of custom-made Pistons merch.

Without further ado, it’s time to hear from Need4Sheed.com’s Natalie Sitto as our NBA Scribes of the NBA Interview Series rolls on.

Empty the Bench: When did your fascination with Rasheed Wallace begin, and what is it about him that resonates with you more than other NBA players?

Natalie Sitto: “Fascination” is a bit of a strong word when it comes to how I feel about ‘Sheed. I have liked his game since he was at North Carolina, and appreciated him in Portland, but his turnaround in Detroit made me realize just what a special player he really is.

The fact that Rasheed could possibly be a better player than he actually is frustrates so many fans. Sure, we would like to see him live up to what he
knows he can do, but that’s just ‘Sheed. He brings something to the court that no one else in the league does. He’s the wildcard. That can be either good or bad, depending on the day.

ETB: New head coach Michael Curry made headlines this past week by insinuating that ‘Sheed needed to get in better shape. Do you think his conditioning, or lack thereof, played a big part in his disappointing performance in last year’s ECF?

Sitto: That’s a tough question; he did start the season in better shape than he had in years. Rasheed is not the only one who may slack off conditioning wise, but I don’t know if that affected his performance in the playoffs. He could have been worn down from shutting down Howard in the Magic series.

Regardless of the real reason, you can’t blame Detroit’s meltdown against the Celtics on Sheed’s conditioning. You can blame the whole team for Game 3 at home… a game I have tried to forget.

ETB: What is the single most underrated aspect of what ‘Sheed brings to the basketball court, and why doesn’t he get more recognition for it?

Sitto: He does get some recognition for his defense, but Ben Wallace got plenty of the credit when he played with him and Tayshaun gets talked up as being the stopper in red, white, and blue now. He moved over to the center position last season and played the bulk of last season trying to lock down opposing bigs.

He can shut just about anyone with no help and can block shots with the best of them. Forget putting up 25 a night: Sheed prides himself in shutting down the best the league has to offer.

More from Natalie Sitto of Need4Sheed.com after the break…

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4 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Oct. 1, 2008 at 8:29am in Interviews, NBA

ETB’s Scribes of the NBA Interview Series – Matt Watson of AOL FanHouse and Detroit Bad Boys

September 30, 2008

Matt Watson talks Detroit Pistons and NBA hoops with ETB

Detroit Pistons Photo Credit: Icon SMI

It’s unofficially Detroit Pistons Week here at ETB, with one or two random videos on tap as well as tender fireside chats with two of the most well-recognized names in the blogosphere when it comes to covering anything and everything that is the Pistons.

Kicking things off as the latest writer to be front and center in our ongoing Scribes of the NBA Interview Series is Matt Watson, mastermind behind Detroit Bad Boys and one of the leading columnists for that sports behemoth known as NBA FanHouse. Watson got his start writing for The Roto Times and Fantasy Hot Sheet, moved on to penning fantasy sports columns for USA Today online, and launched Detroit Bad Boys back in ’05.

We’re thrilled to have him–as you’ll see, the man knows his Pistons (and his NBA). Later this week we’ll feature another Pistons expert, Natalie Sitto of Need4Sheed.com. We’re psyched for that one too, but first things first: let’s hear from Mr. Matt Watson.

Empty the Bench: Despite the six straight appearances in the Conference Finals, the core of this Detroit Pistons team has gone to the NBA Finals only twice and won it all just once. Is it a fair to say this group has developed a reputation for choking under pressure?

Matt Watson: This is a difficult question to answer. On the one hand, yes, this team has definitely squandered some opportunities; that’s impossible to deny. But on the other hand, it’s really, really hard to win a title. In the last 25 years, only seven different teams have done it. Think about that: seven teams in 25 years.

Since the Pistons last won in 2004, they’ve gone on to lose to the eventual champion three times in four years. Did they choke, or were they simply not the better team? Considering teams simply don’t win on accident in this league, I think it’s the latter.

In a perfect world, I’ll admit that the Pistons should have at least one more ring on their fingers–I’m still in shock that Rasheed left Horry open–but I can’t hold it against them. Since losing to Detroit in 2004, the Lakers missed the playoffs completely in 2005, lost in the first round the next two years, and lost again in the Finals last year. After beating the Pistons (and in turn the Mavericks) in 2006, the Heat proceeded to lose in the first round the following season and posted the worst record in the league last year. From a fan’s perspective, who’s been the most fun to cheer for? (The correct answer, of course, is San Antonio, but Detroit has to be second, right?)

ETB: At times seeming disinterested and often being outhustled and embarrassed by Kevin Garnett, what do you make of Rasheed Wallace’s disappearing act in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals?

Watson: I wish I knew the answer. Considering he averaged his fewest minutes per game in a decade during the regular season, I figured he’d have something left in reserve for the playoffs. Instead, the more the Pistons needed him, the more he faded.

His showing in the final game against the Celtics was a complete disaster. I know some people have tried to use his strained relationship with Flip Saunders as an excuse, but if anything Saunders erred by giving Wallace too much respect. Wallace clearly didn’t deserve to play 32 minutes in Game 6, especially after showing up late to shootaround and the arena before the game.

ETB: Is this Sheed’s last season with the Detroit Pistons? Any chance he calls it a day next summer?

Watson: I think it is. There’s talk that Rasheed will see even fewer minutes this season… but he averaged only 30.5 minutes per game last year. How few does he have to average to still be effective come playoff time? To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if Joe Dumars pulls off a blockbuster at the trade deadline; between Wallace’s expiring contract and Rip Hamilton’s early-termination option, that’s $24.2 million of potential cap space. That’s enough to make a play for, well, anybody.

As far as next year and the future, I just don’t think he wants to battle for 36 minutes a night over an entire season anymore, which is what most teams will want if they’re paying him anything close to what he’s making now. If he does play next year, I’m guessing he goes to a team where he’d complement a dominant big man and doesn’t have to carry the load. Maybe home to Philly, next to Elton Brand? Or maybe Orlando, next to “his intern” Dwight Howard?

Much more NBA hoops talk from Matt Watson after the break…

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2 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Sep. 30, 2008 at 8:39am in Interviews, NBA

ETB’s Scribes of the NBA Interview Series – Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (Part 2)

September 18, 2008

Adrian Wojnarowski from Yahoo! Sports talks NBA hoops in Part 2 of his ETB interview

A certain well-known head coach from the collegiate ranks found his hide slightly more tanned yesterday following Part 1 of our interview with best-selling author and Yahoo! Sports columnist Adrian Wojnarowski. In the second part of our virtual fireside chat with this titan of NBA writers, it’s certain recycled–and unnamed–league GMs taking a few jabs to the chin.

Of course, that’s just our juicy, gossipy hook: these interviews with Wojnarowski have mostly focused on the positive aspects and developments in this league we all love so dearly. As with all of the interviewees we’ve featured in our ongoing Scribes of the NBA Series, we owe a hearty thank you to Adrian for taking time out of his busy schedule to talk hoops with us.

Alright, let’s get to it: Part 2 of ETB’s interview with Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski.

ETB: There’s been lots of moving and shaking going on this summer. Between the draft, free agency, and trades what are your favorite moves on paper so far?

Wojnarowski: Elton Brand changes so much for the Sixers. Ed Stefanski did a great job to exploit that wedge between David Falk and the Clippers, create more cap space, and get that deal done. Philly adds Brand to such an intriguing, young nucleus in Philly.

Obviously I love New Orleans’ signing of James Posey. They had to overpay a little, but that’s the only way they were going to get him out of Boston. He’s exactly the winning, veteran presence that they needed on those two long off days between the Hornets’ Games 6 and 7 against the Spurs. And while he didn’t play much a year ago, the talent and growth of Julian Wright in New Orleans will be dramatic. He was a great pick late in the lottery for GM Jeff Bower and his assistant, Brian Hagen, a year ago. Once Wright blossoms this year to bolster that Hornets bench they are going to have a frightening array of weapons.

With a motivated Jermaine O’Neal, Toronto will return to the elite in the East. This was a good gamble by Bryan Colangelo. He is getting O’Neal at the right time in his career and the fact that he can play off Chris Bosh—and no longer needs to be the star—is a huge benefit for him.

A couple of smaller pickups that are underrated:

- The Spurs grabbed Roger Mason, who can score the ball off the bench.

- Marc Gasol is going to be a good NBA player for Memphis. I really was surprised by his versatility at the Olympics. I had thought he was just a bruiser, but he has some ‘stuff’ in his offensive game.

- Also, I think Darius Miles has done a lot of maturing. His knee appears better. Danny Ainge had nothing to lose bringing him into Boston. Finally, Miles will have some real peer mentoring around him. He had spent most of his career with knucklehead crews with the Clippers, Blazers, and Cavaliers. That said, Darius was one of the leading knuckleheads, so we’ll see.

- The move that DIDN’T happen that still blows me away: Why didn’t the Knicks give Zach Randolph’s contract to the Clippers when the Clips were far enough under the cap to not have to return any salary to New York? Donnie Walsh had a chance to shed that deal, take back no money, and he didn’t do it.

More good stuff in Part 2 of ETB’s interview with Adrian Wojnarowski after the break…

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3 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Sep. 18, 2008 at 8:06am in Interviews, NBA

ETB’s Scribes of the NBA Interview Series – Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (Part 1)

September 17, 2008

Is Mike Krzyzewski getting too much credit for Team USA's success?

Mike Krzyzewski Photo Credit: Icon SMI

We have a real treat for you today, loyal readers and NBA fans.

There are few NBA writers we hold in higher regard than Mr. Adrian Wojnarowski, the backbone of Yahoo! Sports’ excellent NBA coverage. He also just happens to be the author of the New York Times bestseller The Miracle of St. Anthony: A Season with Coach Bob Hurley and Basketball’s Most Improbable Dynasty, which is being made into a major motion picture. (Buy the book on Amazon.)

We’ve broken Wojnarowski’s interview into two parts, with Part 1 focusing on his thoughts and experiences from Beijing in covering Team USA’s run to gold-medal redemption. Part 2 will follow tomorrow, and boy howdy is it ever juicy–don’t miss it. Without further ado, we welcome Adrian Wojnarowski as the latest subject of our ongoing Scribes of the NBA Interview Series.

Empty the Bench: You spent a few weeks in Beijing for the Olympics. In covering the U.S. team as they played and lived in a much different environment than what they’re accustomed to, what did you learn about a few players on the U.S. team and their personalities, skills, etc. that was surprising?

Adrian Wojnarowski: Spending a lot of time around that team mostly reinforced some things that I already believed about the players. Here are a few:

Kobe Bryant is calculating, smart, and maybe the league’s most ‘aware’ player of circumstances, surroundings, and angles. LeBron James doesn’t like when things aren’t all about him. Dwyane Wade is never too impressed with himself. Carmelo Anthony will always tell you the truth.

To me, the biggest surprise was how much credit that people wanted to give Mike Krzyzewski for this team. The least surprising? The fact that he has already sold another ‘motivational’ book that will detail his leadership of the gold-medal winning team.

As one NBA GM said to me, “I guess K didn’t have time to do a book after ’06.” Those were the world championships when Krzyzewski couldn’t make an adjustment to stop the Greece pick and roll and didn’t prepare enough to know the names of the Greek players. The insistence after that semifinal loss was that the team was too young and too inexperienced. They had enough to win in ’06, but obviously they were much better by ’08. Still, putting that loss in the Worlds on the players was typical of the college coaching establishment. They want the credit when it goes well, and none of the blame when it doesn’t.

Krzyzewski said it himself: This was an easy team to coach. It really was. They were motivated. They were focused. They were determined to be unselfish. The biggest thing of all was this is that they had been together for most of 3 years. He had the best talent. The best preparation time. And to his credit, he made the most of it.

But I’ve been around that program enough the past two years to know this: The leadership on this team came primarily from two places: Jerry Colangelo and Jason Kidd/Kobe Bryant. Listen, Colangelo gave Coach K an excess of talent, and he still needed every last superstar—Kobe, Wade, LeBron, etc.—to beat Spain in that gold medal game. It’s kind of typical of the college culture and its enablers to make sure the coach gets all the credit.

Jerry Colangelo and the USA Basketball staff—which includes behind-the-scenes guys like Jim Tooley and Sean Ford—gave this national team the structure it needed to succeed. Colangelo convinced everyone that for a true national program, Team USA needed to turn to a true European model. David Stern gets a lot of credit, too, because he gave Colangelo the resources and autonomy to make this work.

Yet, understand this: mostly, they had great, great players. A-list NBA stars. The B-list guys won’t do it anymore. Unlike in college, they don’t let the coach stand on the ladder and cut down the nets. In the pros and the Olympics, they know the truth: you win with the players.

More on the Team USA Olympics experience from Adrian Wojnarowski after the break…

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16 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Sep. 17, 2008 at 9:48am in Interviews, NBA

ETB’s Scribes of the NBA Interview Series – Scott Carefoot of Raptor Blog

September 4, 2008

Raptor Blog's Scott Carefoot talks Raptors

Jose Calderon, Sam Mitchell Photo Credit: Icon SMI

We didn’t know much about Scott Carefoot, author of the snappy, inciteful Raptor Blog, until recently. Okay, to be honest we’d never heard of him until he recently dropped us a note that said his formerly in-hiatus site was now back in business and that we might want to give it a read. We’re glad we did.

Ostensibly dedicated to the Toronto Raptors but touching on the NBA in general nearly just as much, Carefoot’s Raptor Blog is a great example of why some of the best, most unique opinions and analysis on the NBA are found within this so-called blogosphere. His commentary is crisp, clean, and well-informed, and the humor is smart without being snarky. Yep, we’re fans.

So without further ado, it’s time to play 10 questions with Raptor Blog’s Scott Carefoot for our latest installment of ETB’s Scribes of the NBA Interview Series.

Empty the Bench: What is this Toronto Raptors team most lacking heading into 2008-09? Do they have a realistic shot at an Eastern Conference Finals appearance this year?

Scott Carefoot: Losing T.J. Ford, Rasho Nesterovic, Carlos Delfino, and Jorge Garbajosa means that this team would appear to be lacking in bench strength. Of course, that’s what I thought about the Celtics going into last season. As for an Eastern Finals appearance, this team should definitely be able to compete with the Pistons, Magic, or Sixers in a second-round matchup – which is certainly an upgrade from how they laid down to the Magic last season.

ETB: Is Chris Bosh the all-around most likeable star in today’s NBA? Or, perhaps more accurately: should he be?

Carefoot: He’s definitely up there. If I was a Magic fan I’d probably nominate Dwight Howard for that title. Bosh’s videos are fun but in terms of NBA moments that actually made me smile for days afterwards, Howard’s “Superman dunk” is tough to top. Regardless, Howard and Bosh are a couple of good examples of guys to point to when ignoramuses claim that the NBA is a “league of thugs.”

ETB: How worried are you that Bosh will opt out of his current deal in the summer of 2010 and head for greener American pastures, where the opportunity for more endorsement deals might be greater?

Carefoot: I think the endorsement argument is a little bogus when it comes to whether or not star players want to play in Toronto. In terms of North American media markets, Toronto is only behind New York, L.A. and Chicago.

As for worrying about what Bosh will do in 2010 – what’s the point? A lot can happen between now and then. I certainly don’t want Bryan Colangelo to kowtow to his every whim to keep him happy. I remember how well that went with previous management and Vince Carter. The Milt Palacio Era is still a haunting memory.

Much more from Raptor Blog’s one and only Scott Carefoot after the jump…

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No CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Sep. 4, 2008 at 8:29am in Interviews, NBA

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