Archive for June 6th, 2013

The Phoenix Suns today announced a series of moves within the team’s basketball operations department.  Pat Connelly has been named to the role of Assistant General Manager and Trevor Bukstein has been promoted to Assistant General Manager.  Ronnie Lester has been named a scout and Emilio Kovacic has been named International Scouting Consultant.  John Treloar will remain the team’s Director of Player Personnel; John Shumate and Bubba Burrage remain scouts.

Connelly joins the Suns following seven seasons in the Washington Wizards organization, most recently as the Director of Player Personnel where he was one of the team’s top scouting sources of collegiate and international talent.

Similar to Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough, Connelly has worked his way through the ranks.  Before joining the Wizards, Connelly was a graduate assistant at Baylor University while earning a Master’s degree in speech communication (2004-06).  That followed a stint as an assistant coach of the Bright Bears in England during the 2003-04 season when he helped lead the club to a league title.

Also like McDonough, Connelly comes from a successful sports family; his brother, Tim, is the assistant general manager of the New Orleans Pelicans.  A native of Baltimore, Connelly earned an undergraduate degree in business from Mount St. Mary’s in 2002.

Bukstein, 31, has spent the last three seasons as the Suns’ Director of Basketball Administration, aiding Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby with interpretation and application of the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, salary cap management, and trade and contract negotiations.

Bukstein joined the Suns after six years as an athlete representation specialist at Williams and Connolly, LLP, where he assisted the sports law practice with its NBA, WNBA and MLB clients.  Bukstein earned his law degree from the Georgetown University Law Center and did his undergraduate work at the University of Michigan.

The Suns’ scouting staff will be buoyed by the addition of Lester, a standout college player whose NBA career led to a 24-year run in the front office of the Los Angeles Lakers.  A seven-time NBA Champion (one as a player, 1985; six as an executive, 1988, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, 2010), Lester was a top talent scout for the Lakers from 1987-2001 before being named the team’s assistant general manager, a role in which he served for 10 seasons (2001-11).

A two-time All-American at the University of Iowa who finished his career as the program’s all-time leader in both points and assists, Lester was selected 10th overall by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1980 NBA Draft before a draft-day trade sent him to the Chicago Bulls.  Lester, 54, played the final two seasons of his injury-shortened career with the Lakers, winning the NBA title in 1985.

For six years, Kovacic has been the European General Manager of Synergy Sports Technology, a scouting service used by all NBA teams.  After stints as a player development coach in Europe, Kovacic joined the scouting ranks using an expertise established over a 20-year playing career, including 12 years as a professional in Europe.

A member of the international basketball community for more than 30 years overall, the 45-year-old Kovacic is a native of Zadar, Croatia.  As a freshman in college, Kovacic attended Grand Canyon University in Phoenix and under then-head coach and Suns Ring of Honor member Paul Westphal, won the 1988 NAIA Championship.  After transferring and graduating from Biola University in 1992, Kovacic was a member of the 1992 Phoenix Suns summer league squad.

Bringing fans even closer to the game, the WNBA announced today that “Ref Cam” will be used for the first time during the broadcast of a U.S. professional basketball game on Saturday, June 8, when the Phoenix Mercury meet the defending champion Indiana Fever in a nationally televised game on ABC at 3:30 p.m. ET.

The use of the new angles and points of view provided by “Ref Cam” was part of the recent announcement by the WNBA and ESPN regarding the extension of their partnership through the 2022 season.

During Saturday’s live telecast from Indianapolis, Ref Cam – a wireless high definition (HD), mini point of view camera paired with an HD mini transmitter – will be positioned at eye-level on one of the game’s three officials, allowing viewers to virtually be on the court as the referee’s first-person perspective is incorporated into the live broadcast in real time.

In addition to the camera headgear, the fully remote system – designed by Maryland-based Broadcast Sports, Inc. (BSI) – includes a vest, which will be worn underneath the official’s shirt. The vest will contain the transmitter and batteries that provide the power and video. BSI will have two engineers on-site at Bankers Life Fieldhouse to assist in the deployment of the gear and to help the game official with the fit. An industry leader in wireless point of view systems, BSI previously provided “Ref Cam” equipment for use during the telecast of a rugby match in France this spring.

Denver Nuggets fire coach George Karl

George Karl

Coach George Karl fired by Denver Nuggets

Coach George Karl will not return for the final year of his contract in 2013-14, Denver Nuggets President Josh Kroenke announced today.

Hired on Jan. 27, 2005, Karl orchestrated one of the most successful eras in Nuggets history. He guided Denver to nine consecutive playoff appearances and a regular-season record of 423-257. His victories rank second in franchise history to Doug Moe (432).

It’s a surprise to most observers that the Nuggets aren’t keeping Karl. The team had a successful season. Karl did a great job getting the most out of his squad. It’s a weird move to say goodbye to the man who just won the league’s Coach of the Year award.

“George has been an instrumental part of our success over the past decade, and we appreciate everything he did to keep us among the top teams in the Western Conference,” Kroenke said. “He is a Hall of Fame coach whose legacy in Denver will last for years to come. George is a legend in the game of basketball and I could not have more respect for him as a person and coach.”

The Nuggets will begin the search for a new coach immediately, and an announcement will be made when the process is concluded.

Karl, 62, was named the 2012-13 NBA Coach of the Year after leading the Nuggets to a team-record 57 games and the No. 3 seed in the West, but Denver lost to the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the playoffs.

The Nuggets advanced past the first round once under Karl, reaching the Western Conference finals in 2009.

According to Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post, “Team president Josh Kroenke informed Karl on Thursday morning that he would not bring him back. He said the combination of Karl pushing for a contract extension, and the uncertainty surrounding Karl’s possible interest in the Los Angeles Clippers job this week, led him to believe it was best to go in another direction and bring in a new coach. Karl has one year left on his contract. Karl did not return calls seeking comment, but sent out a tweet: “I want to thank Nuggets fans for their support over the past 8 yrs. The karma on the street was incredible. Denver will always be home.” The Nuggets are expected to target two primary candidates to replace Karl: Indiana Pacers assistant Brian Shaw and Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins, according to a league source. Hollins has been given permission by Memphis to look at jobs around the league, although his preference is to return.”

Heat vs Spurs NBA Finals Game 1

lebron james

Before reaching the top of basketball, LeBron James was run over by the San Antonio Spurs.

The Spurs swept James’ Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2007 NBA Finals, so long ago that the winning game plan focused on exploiting James’ weaknesses. Those are nearly impossible to find now, and James essentially warned the Spurs that they shouldn’t bother looking.

The Spurs already know.

”He’ll be a lot more of a problem than he was in ‘07, that’s for sure,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Wednesday.

Tim Duncan told the beaten James minutes after that series that the league would someday belong to him, and he was right. The NBA’s MVP guided Miami to last year’s championship and the league’s best record this season.

Now the Spurs will try to take it back.

But James is now the best player in the game, is surrounded by more talent in Miami than he ever had in Cleveland, and still carries the memory of the beating the Spurs laid on him six years ago.

”I have something in me that they took in ‘07. Beat us on our home floor, celebrated on our home floor. I won’t forget that. You shouldn’t as a competitor. You should never forget that,” James said.

He joined the Heat in 2010, experienced more finals failure a year later, then was finals MVP last year when Miami beat Oklahoma City in five games. Another title now would put him halfway to the four that Duncan and Popovich have won together.

”That’s what I’m here for,” James said. ”I’m here to win championships, and you’re not always going to be on the successful side. I’ve seen it twice, not being on the successful side.”

Reported by Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press

Chris Bosh

Conference championships are nice, but rings are the only things that matter in Miami. Simply put, for the Heat to defeat the Spurs in The Finals, and repeat as NBA champions, Wade and Bosh will have to rejoin the triumvirate alongside LeBron James. The Big 3 was put together to make history, and it is going to take a historic effort to knock off a San Antonio team that has gone 12-2 in the playoffs, rolled through the Western Conference finals in four games and has had nine days to rest and prepare. Wade’s knee is a constant bother and Bosh’s ankle, which he sprained against the Pacers, still isn’t right, but the confidence had better be back.

“I thought [Bosh’s] mind-set of being aggressive was a change to hopefully bring into this series, and my mind-set as well,” Wade said. “So hopefully there was a turning point. If not, doing whatever we can to make sure we’re part of the team and helping our teammates to win this championship that we’re trying to get.”

Wade is averaging 14.1 points per game in the playoffs and Bosh’s average stands at 12.3. Both are career postseason lows. And while Wade and Bosh limped through the Eastern Conference finals, the Spurs were busy dissecting film on what Indiana did so well to limit two-thirds of the Heat’s core. Of course, that’s no secret. The Pacers closed the talent gap with physical play and a big front line.

The Finals will be the height of competition in professional basketball but don’t expect it to get nasty like the Eastern Conference finals. The Finals Media Day at AmericanAirlines Arena on Wednesday was a love fest. Both teams displayed a level of respect for their opponents that bordered on fandom.

Reported by Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald

Roy Hibbert

Yes and no.

Big Roy Hibbert demonstrated during the Eastern Conference finals what most everybody suspected all along: If you’re going to challenge Miami, you’ll do it with height, length and muscle.

Hibbert, and frontcourt mate David West, provided some of all three.

The Spurs have size, but neither Tim Duncan nor Tiago Splitter is Hibbert, a 7-2 shot-blocker whose presence tested the Heat.

The Spurs, like the Heat, will spread the floor more, with Parker’s ball handling creating space for three-point shooters Danny Green, Manu Ginobili, Gary Neal and Matt Bonner.

“It’s going to be a little different,” said Heat center Chris Bosh, who struggled to find his way against the Pacers. “It’s kind of like our practices playing each other.”

Reported by Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune

Chris Andersen

They’re lifted out of their seats by an uncontrollable pull, some sort of gravity defying physics involving euphoria and anticipation and feeling 10 again. They’re experiencing Birdmania, the sensation that makes adults pop out of their seats and flap their arms like wings while cheering this bizarre being who seems to be something from an action film, a cartoon or Neptune. Miami Heat fans adore the colorful Chris Andersen the way Nuggets fans did, notably during Denver’s run to the 2009 Western Conference finals.

Well, starting Thursday, “The Birdman” will be in his first NBA Finals — this after a journey detoured by a two-year drug suspension and legal troubles at the end of his Nuggets career. A transformation from superhuman to human to superhuman.

“I haven’t sat back and actually pondered upon it,” Andersen said in a phone interview Wednesday. “Being in the Finals is great, but I didn’t work my (butt) off for all my career, risk all these injuries just to get to the Finals. I sacrificed my time, blood and sweat and put everything I have into winning a championship, man.

“I think once we win the championship, that will be surreal to me, and that will be the time to reflect. The journey’s not over yet.”

Reported by Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post

Nets

After waiting several weeks for his season to end, the Nets are set to speak with Brian Shaw.

The Nets formally requested — and were granted permission — to speak with Shaw about their coaching vacancy, according to a Yahoo! Sports report.

Shaw, who spent the past two seasons as the associate head coach of the Pacers, has been widely regarded as one of the NBA’s top assistant coaches for some time. His stock has only heightened in the wake of several other assistants getting tapped for head coaching jobs this offseason.

Shaw’s agent, Jerome Stanley, declined to comment on the matter to The Post when reached by phone, but he told ESPN Los Angeles several teams have reached out to the Pacers about his client’s services.

“The season has ended and now he plans to speak to a few teams about potential opportunities to be a head coach,” Stanley told the website.

Reported by Tim Bontemps of the New York Post

There are no guarantees for draft prospects auditioning with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Literally.

Bucks director of scouting Billy McKinney said Wednesday it’s not a tactic the team has used.

Some NBA teams do offer guarantees to players that they will be picked at a certain position in the draft. The thinking behind that is to prevent a player from working out for other teams before the draft, while also providing the player and his agent certainty of a draft floor.

But the negative side is a guarantee can severely limit a team’s flexibility on draft night.

“We haven’t done it,” McKinney said. “In fact, a couple years ago when Larry Sanders came in and worked out, somebody thought we had given Larry a guarantee.

“I talked about it after the workout that we hadn’t guaranteed Larry, and we didn’t guarantee Brandon (Jennings), either.”

Reported by Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Basketball blog