Archive for October, 2011

deron williams

Deron Williams, from Turkey: “Rivalries are big over here. If you know anything about European soccer, you know that fans take their rivalries very seriously. It’s the same in basketball. I had no clue, and my backpack almost got me in trouble. I have this backpack that I made on Nike ID a while back and it’s black, red and yellow. Black and red are my favorite colors, and yellow is in there for the black and gold to represent the Steelers. But apparently black, red and yellow are the colors of one of our biggest rivals, Galatasaray. I’ve been hearing about it since the day I got over here; as soon as I got to the airport. Right then, like five people told me I had on the wrong color.”

More D-Will: “I still wear the backpack because it’s my backpack. I like it and I haven’t had a chance to get a new one. Every day they tell me to take it off; that I have to get a new one. Our other big rival in the Turkish League is Fenerbahce and we play them coming up in a few weeks here. They’re the two-time defending Turkish Cup champions and last year they beat Besiktas in the finals, so that’s a big game. I’m told the fans always get amped up for those games. We don’t play Galatasaray until December. If I’m still here, I might have to bring a new backpack that day.”

– Reported by Jared Zwerling of ESPN New York

David West

After six months of rehabilitation on his surgically repaired left knee, New Orleans Hornets forward David West has been fully cleared to return to basketball, his agent told Yahoo! Sports.

West, who will be one of the top free agents once the NBA negotiates a new labor agreement with the players, was given complete clearance after an exam with Dr. David Altchek at the Hospital for Special Surgeries on Thursday…

West, 31, opted out of the final year and $7.5 million on his contract in New Orleans to become an unrestricted free agent.

– Reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports

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Representatives of NBA owners and the players union met again Thursday with the mediator, but apparently no real progress was made, and negotiations have broken off for now.With David Stern sick with the flu, Adam Silver led things for the owners side today.

Adam Silver and Spurs owner Peter Holt after the meeting said:

1) Players are now willing to drop their BRI (basketball-related income) demands from 53% to 52.5%. But owners are still offering players 50% and are not willing to go higher. So there’s just a 2.5% difference.

2) There continue to be system issues, meaning the way free agency works, mid-level exceptions or other exceptions, salary cap and other items that need to be worked out. The two sides still have a lot to work on in this regard aside from the big BRI issue.

3) Silver said that as of tonight (Thursday), the league is not ready to announce that additional regular season games have been canceled yet. They aren’t saying when the next set of two regular season weeks may be canceled, but it won’t be tonight.

4) San Antonio Spurs owner Peter Holt says his team has lost money two straight seasons.

The owners side, as it has done before, suggested that the players union isn’t really open to negotiation.

Players Union president Derek Fisher after the meeting said:

1) “You guy were lied to earlier,” said Fisher to reporters. It appears what he means is that the owners reps were implying that the players union is unwilling to negotiate and be flexible, but Fisher says they are. That’s a general paraphrase.

2) Fisher says that the above is extremely frustrating.

3) Billy Hunter said what he’s said before, that he feels this has been the NBA’s plan for two or three years now, to totally break the union, and that owners really want the NHL system applied to the NBA.

4) Hunter confirmed what is pretty well-known, that the big-market owners are looking to get a deal done, but he feels the small-market owners are the ones who are playing harder than the rest and really going for a homerun deal. He thinks there’s a sizable gap between the big vs small-market owners.

5) Hunter says owners are still saying that the deal needs to be a 50/50 BRI (basketball-related income) split, or else a deal is simply not going to work, regardless of the other issues that still need to be resolved.

Billy Hunter ended with: “We’re open to negotiate. We’re ready to go back to the table anytime — without any preconditions, though.”

It turns out that the players union says that owners have again made it clear that players have to agree to a 50-50 BRI split or else there’s simply nothing else to talk about at this time.

And that, the NBA lockout continues.

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Dirk Nowitzki

Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki will be throwing out a World Series first pitch after all.

After it emerged earlier Wednesday that the Rangers’ desire to have Nowitzki throw out the first pitch before one of their home games against the St. Louis Cardinals had been rejected by Major League Baseball, league officials reversed course and announced hours later that Nowitzki would be invited to throw the ceremonial pitch before Saturday’s Game 3.

MLB spokesman Pat Courtney, after earlier in the day confirming that the Rangers’ request to bestow first-pitch honors on Nowitzki had been denied, said commissioner Bud Selig was not involved in the original veto and ordered the reversal.

Nowitzki quickly accepted the fresh invite Wednesday night, not long after taking to Twitter to thank fans for their backing in the wake of ESPNDallas.com’s original report that the NBA Finals MVP was not deemed to be a suitable first-pitch thrower.

– Reported by Richard Durrett and Marc Stein of ESPN Dallas

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kris humphries

Rumors are swirling that Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries are on the brink of splitting, just two months into their marriage.

Star reports that Kardashian may have already consulted a “top divorce lawyer,” as she was spotted on said lawyer’s floor in a New York office building. The magazine claims that Kardashian is fed up with Humphries’ partying while he is out of a job thanks to the NBA lockout. It reported that Humphries has been spotted partying in both Miami and New York without Kim, getting flirty with multiple women and “acting like a single man.”

“Kris takes other girls’ cell phone numbers all the time,” a source said. “To be honest, I don’t think Kris truly loves Kim. And I don’t think he ever really did.”

– Reported by Page Six of the New York Post.

Jameer Nelson

Nelson, one of Howard’s best friends, says he has no idea what Howard will do next summer. But he isn’t concerned about the magazine interview.

“People ask me every day what he’s going to do,” Nelson said. “I don’t know what he’s going to do. I don’t know what I’m going to do tomorrow. One thing I know is the guy is preparing to be the best player he can be this season, and that’s all I can say. I don’t know what his decision is going to be.

“Whatever he’s going to do, he’s like my little big brother. He’ll definitely have support from me. But obviously, he’s definitely wanted here in Orlando.”

– Reported by Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel Blog. Full article is here.

Pistons fire sideline reporter Eli Zaret

Eli Zaret, who has spent the last five years with the Pistons organization, doing sideline reporting and other television assignments, has been let go by the team’s new management.

“The new guys are very smart, the direction that they’re going in, a plan that’s different than the one that is in place,” said Zaret, who has been part of the Detroit sports scene for more than 30 years.

Pete Skorich , who had been with the franchise for 30 years and most recently executive vice president of broadcasting, parted ways with Palace Sports and Entertainment a couple of weeks ago. It was then that Zaret saw the writing on the wall.

– Reported by Vincent Goodwill of the Detroit News

The NBA and Players Association have made progress on the proposed revenue split between owners and players, an important element in settling a new collective bargaining agreement and ending the lockout, league sources involved in the ongoing labor negotiations told Yahoo! Sports.

As long expected, the two sides have moved closer to a “50-50 split, give or take a point with ranges based on revenue performance,” one source said.

While the league’s owners and players made progress in Wednesday’s 8½-hour mediation session, one source involved in the talks was hesitant to characterize it as a “breakthrough” moment, saying system issues could again derail talks. The two sides will resume mediation at 2 p.m. ET following the conclusion of the owners’ board of governors meetings. The owners are meeting to discuss a new revenue-sharing plan, and what type of proposal they present to the players on Thursday will determine whether the labor talks continue to gather momentum.

Still, the biggest hurdle between the two sides remains the luxury tax proposals to punish big-spending teams and discourage them from overpaying players.

– Reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports

NBA owners and players are meeting for a second straight day, shortly after finishing a 16-hour marathon with a federal mediator.

The sides resumed talks about 10 a.m. Wednesday, about eight hours after they broke for the night.

No bargaining had been expected Wednesday or Thursday, since the owners have board meetings. But instead their labor relations committee came back for further discussions with the players’ association executive committee.

– Reported by Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press

Bryant Gumbel invoked images of slavery in a scathing attack on NBA Commissioner David Stern, saying he is acting like a “modern-day plantation overseer” in his treatment of players during the league’s lockout.

Gumbel, during a closing segment on HBO’s Real Sports, said Stern is standing in the way of a solution to the league’s labor dispute…

“His efforts are typical of a commissioner who has always seemed eager to be viewed as some king of modern-day plantation overseer, treating NBA men as if they were his boys. … His moves are intended to do little more than show how he’s the one keeping the hired hands in their place.”

He called Stern’s poor treatment of the players “palpable and pathetic.”

– Reported by Joel Provano of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Video of Bryant Gumbel talking about David Stern

InsideHoops.com editor says: This is absurd nonsense, and an unrealistic, crazed exaggeration by Bryant Gumbel. There certainly is some truth in suggesting that the men of the NBA do get treated like boys in some ways (dress code — though almost every company has dress codes one way or another — and some other stuff), but Gumbel went completely over the top with this. Pretty silly stuff. If getting $5 million USD a year to play basketball, travel and live the life of a rock star means sometimes having to not post on Twitter around game-time, dress a bit more corporate sometimes, and avoid bashing the refs and saying a few other things is the equivalent of being a “plantation worker,” then sign me up.

Hamed Haddadi signs in Iran

hamed haddadi

Memphis Grizzlies center Hamed Haddadi joined Melli Haffari basketball team on Tuesday.

The Ahvaz-based basketball team signed Haddadi on a short-term contract for an undisclosed fee.

Following the North America’s National Basketball Association (NBA)’s ongoing lockout, the Memphis Grizzlies center joined Melli Haffari to play for the Iranian Basketball League and will return to Memphis in December to take part in the training sessions.

– Reported by the Tehran Times

Udonis Haslem still working his way back

Udonis Haslem

Miami Heat forward Udonis Haslem continues to work himself back into playing shape after missing most of last season because of ligament damage in his left foot. He returned for the playoffs, but battled conditioning issues. The lockout is giving him opportunity to “get himself in shape” after undergoing offseason ankle surgery.

“That’s what I was lacking, conditioning,” said Haslem, speaking Tuesday at a charity event at Miami Northwestern High School. “I can pedal a bike all day, but it’s nothing like being out there on the floor and getting up and down and actually shooting and jumping.”

Haslem has yet to play competitively since the Heat lost to the Dallas Mavericks on June 12 in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

– Reported by Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Like many of the people he serves, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker is a huge Utah Jazz fan.

He attends a few games each year. He TIVOs and watches most Jazz telecasts, and is a daily follower of the franchise for six-plus months a year.

And, yes, he wants the NBA lockout to be over.

That’s why Becker and 13 other mayors, including ex-NBA standout Kevin Johnson of Sacramento, recently co-signed an open letter to NBA owners and players, hoping to persuade the two sides to resolve the labor-deal impasse and get the ball rolling on the 2011-12 season.

Call it their “Occupy NBA Arenas” movement.

“I want to be able to enjoy the Jazz,” Becker said Tuesday afternoon while owners and the players’ union negotiated with a federal mediator.

“I hope on a personal level they get going, because I love following them (the Jazz) and seeing these players develop and the coaching and all the dynamics that goes on — and I hope for their success.

“But,” Becker continued, “it’s also really important in our community.”

– Reported by Jody Genessy of the Deseret News

76ers say goodbye to GM Ed Stefanski

Yesterday morning, not long before the sale of the 76ers was set to be announced at the Palestra, Stefanski, the Sixers’ general manager, was informed that he was being relieved of his duties. The new ownership group, headed by Josh Harris, had decided to give president Rod Thorn full charge of the duties he and Stefanski had shared last season. Instead of Stefanski going to the place where he played his college ball, he was left uncertain about his future.

Stefanski had 1 year remaining on his contract, while Thorn, who was brought in in August 2010, after a dismal 27-55 season, has several years remaining on a hefty contract.

Said Stefanski, who came to the team in December 2007: “This is the new ownership’s day. I wish them all the best. Having met with Josh and Adam [Aron, the new CEO], the Sixers are in capable hands.”

Among the more noteworthy moves Stefanski made in his four seasons were giving maximum contracts to Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand, firing fan-favorite Maurice Cheeks, hiring and firing Eddie Jordan after one season, and bringing in current coach Doug Collins. The team made the playoffs in all but one of Stefanski’s four seasons.

– Reported by Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News

stephen curry

Curry, 23, is back on his old stamping grounds at Davidson, finishing up a degree in sociology.

“It’s about finishing what I started,” Curry said.

Going back to school may sound noble considering the pampered, diva label often affixed to NBA players. But in Curry’s world, such a decision was “not a big deal.” And that probably explains why transitioning back into school has been as smooth as his jump shot.

“I was excited, but I really wasn’t surprised,” said Curry’s mom, Sonya. “It’s a big deal to get a Davidson degree. And that’s the expectation that (Davidson) Coach Bob McKillop set — that his players graduate. I didn’t want my baby being the
only one who didn’t.”

The lockout has afforded Curry a rare opportunity to knock out a bulk of classes at Davidson, which is in Charlotte, N.C. So instead of signing to play internationally, where he could make money and expand his fame globally, Curry is back on the scholastic grind.

Offseason surgery in May to repair two ligaments in his right ankle made the decision to avoid full-time basketball easier. Curry’s ankle is still not 100 percent, though he was cleared for full activity on Sept. 14.

– Reported by Marcus Thompson II of the Bay Area News Group

NBA players and owners spent a marathon 16 hours meeting with a federal mediator and planned to return early Wednesday to continue the talks.

They didn’t emerge with the deal Commissioner David Stern wanted Tuesday, but things went well enough that owners decided to alter their plans after previously saying they weren’t available Wednesday.

The sides met beginning at 10 a.m. Tuesday and went late into the night, finally breaking after 2 a.m. Wednesday. It was more than twice as long as any previous negotiating session since owners locked out players when the old collective bargaining agreement expired June 30.

Both sides left the meeting without commenting at the request of federal mediator George Cohen…

Although the fact that talks didn’t break off is good news, one person with knowledge of the process said not to presume there was any serious progress. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because of Cohen’s request.

– Reported by Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press

NBA owners and players will resume their labor negotiations with a federal mediator on Wednesday following a 16-hour session that generated minimal progress, a league source involved in the talks told Yahoo! Sports.

The league and players union emerged from their longest labor meeting of the 111-day lockout “still not anywhere near a deal,” a league source said. Representatives from both sides refused to comment publicly on the nature of talks, citing a gag order from mediator George Cohen.

Asked if the sides had closed any gaps between them, a source in the meeting told Y! Sports: “On small stuff. Hard to see where this is going.”

– Reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports

kobe bryant

The Italian club Virtus Bologna says “unexpected engagements” have made it impossible to sign Kobe Bryant(notes) this month, but both sides will keep working toward a deal in November.

Bologna President Claudio Sabatini told The Associated Press this month he had reached a tentative deal with Bryant’s agent or a 10-game contract worth more than $3 million.

– Reported by the Associated Press

Philadelphia 76ers officially sold

76ers Practice

Comcast-Spectacor today announced that the sale of the Philadelphia 76ers to a group led by Joshua Harris, Co-Founder of Apollo Management LP, was approved by the National Basketball Association’s Board of Governors, signifying the completion of the sale. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.The acquisition does not include the Wells Fargo Center or the Philadelphia Flyers, which are owned by Comcast-Spectacor.

The 76ers sale price was reportedly $280 million.

The team will remain a long-term tenant of the Wells Fargo Center and will have a long-term cable broadcast agreement for its games with Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia.

“We are delighted that the NBA’s Board of Governors has approved Josh Harris and David Blitzer’s purchase of the 76ers,” said NBA Commissioner David Stern. “Comcast-Spectacor, led by Ed Snider, has been an exceptional owner for the Sixers, continuing the team’s rich history and tradition. Josh and David bring vast business experience that will greatly benefit the team as it continues to grow both on and off the court.”

“On behalf of my partners, I genuinely want to thank Ed Snider and Comcast-Spectacor for choosing us to steward the Philadelphia 76ers, a storied NBA franchise. We are excited to be writing a new chapter in Sixers lore,” said Josh Harris, the new Managing Owner. “I also want to thank Comcast-Spectacor for their gracious assistance during the transition.  Knowing that the 76ers will continue to play at Wells Fargo Center and that our game television broadcasts will continue on Comcast SportsNet, our new ownership group looks forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship with Comcast-Spectacor for many years to come.”

Harris’ investment is a personal one and Apollo Management LP is not involved in the transaction.  The new Sixers ownership will hold a press conference in Philadelphia on Tuesday October 18 to meet the media, and further share its thinking on assuming leadership of the Sixers.

“This is one of the hardest business decisions I’ve ever had to make,” said Comcast-Spectacor Chairman Ed Snider. “The Sixers are family, and it is very difficult to say goodbye to an organization of great people with whom we have worked so closely over the last 15 years.

“I am very proud of the team and the progress that the organization has made, especially last season under Coach Collins,” Snider said. “I think the foundation is in place for the Sixers to make a great run in the years to come, and it has been a privilege to be involved with a team that is such an important part of Philadelphia’s outstanding basketball tradition.”

Snider said that the decision to sell the team was cemented only after learning about the new owners’ longtime ties to Philadelphia and their commitment to the Sixers’ future.

“Over the last 15 years, a number of different individuals or entities have inquired about purchasing the Sixers, and to be honest, I was not looking to sell the team,” Snider said. “But in discussions with Josh and his partners, it became clear that this was an offer that made sense for the franchise and for the future of Comcast-Spectacor.

With the sale of the Sixers, Comcast-Spectacor will continue to focus attention on growing its other assets, which include a public assembly facility management firm (Global Spectrum); a food and beverage concessionaire (Ovations Food Services); a full-service ticketing company (New Era Tickets); the leading developer of ticketing solution software (Paciolan); and a commercial rights group specializing in ancillary income for arenas and stadiums (Front Row Marketing Services). Comcast-Spectacor currently operates in 46 of the 50 United States and abroad in Singapore, Abu Dhabi and Lyon, France.

“It’s important to remember that even though there will be an ownership change, the new ownership will still be our partners as tenants at the Wells Fargo Center and on our network, Comcast SportsNet,” said Comcast-Spectacor President Peter Luukko. “So we are committed to helping them in any way possible.”

Comcast-Spectacor acquired the 76ers during the formation of the joint venture between Comcast Corporation and Spectacor which was established in March of 1996.

“My partners and I are thrilled to have become owners of the Sixers,” said Harris. “It is an honor to be a part of this storied franchise – we have a lot of work to do but we have a rich history, a strong foundation and a bright future.  My partners and I want to thank Ed Snider and the Comcast-Spectacor team for all their efforts to make this outcome possible.  As we move forward, we want to build on the team’s momentum and be world class and cutting edge in everything we do.”

The new owners have named Adam Aron, a native Philadelphian and the former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Vail Resorts, Chief Executive Officer of the Philadelphia 76ers.

“Adam is a superb executive with deep and broad experience, and we are very pleased he will be returning to Philadelphia as CEO of the Sixers and a member of our ownership group,” Harris said. “Adam and I both have strong ties to the Delaware Valley, and we are committed to providing an exciting, high-quality experience to the great fans in Philadelphia in the years ahead.”

“Being named CEO of the Philadelphia 76ers is truly a dream come true.  Having grown up in Abington, I have always been a fan of this team,” said Aron.  “I’m excited about celebrating and building on the extraordinary heritage of the 76ers, the third winningest team in NBA history.  We will work tirelessly to make Philadelphia sports fans proud.”

The investor group is led by Harris, who will serve as Managing Owner of the 76ers and as the team’s Governor on the NBA Board of Governors.  Other investors include David Blitzer, who will serve as Co-Managing Owner and an Alternate Governor of the NBA, CEO Adam Aron who will also serve as an Alternate Governor of the NBA, Martin Geller, David Heller, Travis Hennings, James Lassiter, Marc Leder, Jason Levien, Michael Rubin, Will Smith & Jada Pinkett Smith, Handy Soetedjo, Erick Thohir and Art Wrubel, all of whom have made personal investments in the team.

About Josh Harris

Joshua Harris, 46, is Managing Partner of Apollo Management, L.P. which he co-founded in 1990.  He graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business with a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and received his MBA from the Harvard Business School where he was named a Baker and Loeb Scholar.  Among other civic activities, Harris serves as a member of The Federal Reserve Bank of New York Investors Advisory Committee on Financial Markets and the Undergraduate Executive Board of The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

About Adam Aron

Adam M. Aron, 57, is Chairman and CEO of World Leisure Partners, Inc., a consultancy he formed in 2006.  From 1996 to 2006, Aron was Chairman and CEO of Vail Resorts, the world’s second largest ski resort operator, which under his direction became one of the nation’s premiere ski destinations.  From 1993 to 1996, he was President and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line, then the fourth-largest cruise company worldwide.  He was previously Senior Vice President of Marketing for United Airlines.  A graduate of Abington High School, Aron holds a Bachelor’s Degree cum laude from Harvard College and an M.B.A. with distinction from Harvard Business School.

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At the end of last week, the NBA approved Comcast-Spectacor’s sale of the Sixers to a group of investors led by New York billionaire Joshua Harris; at that time, the news conference was tentatively scheduled for Tuesday.

Tuesday’s news conference will be the first time the new ownership group - which includes Harris, David Blitzer, Art Wrubel, and Jason Levien - will speak publicly about their $280 million purchase of the Sixers.

The news conference is scheduled to commence at 11:30 a.m.

– Reported by Kate Fagan of the Philadelphia Inquirer

The NBA Board of Governors has approved Comcast-Spectacor’s sale of the 76ers to a group of investors led by New York billionaire Joshua Harris, an NBA source confirmed.

The sale is expected to officially close early next week; the new ownership group is expected to hold a news conference, possibly as early as Tuesday.

Terms of the sale were agreed upon in July: $280 million for 100 percent of the franchise. Completion of the sale has been pending league approval for more than two months while the league is mired in a labor dispute with the NBA Players Association.

– Reported by Kate Fagan of the Philadelphia Inquirer

The sale of the 76ers to a group headed by Joshua Harris was approved yesterday by the NBA Board of Governors, according to an NBA source.

The organization is expected to hold a press conference in Philadelphia sometime next week to formally announce the sale.

Though the NBA is currently in the midst of a lockout, Harris will now be able to fill in fans as to what his plans are with the future of the team, at least somewhat. Because of the lockout, Harris will not be alowed to discuss players or team personnel issues.

One of the bigger questions surrounding the team is if current general manager Ed Stefanski will hold on to that job title. Stefanski has interviewed with the Toronto Raptors and is said to be a leading candidate for their GM position. Stefanski is held in very high regard by coach Doug Collins, who came in last season and improved the team from 27 wins to 44 in his initial season.

– Reported by Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News

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