A seven-foot phenom may be China's second hoops star, and the search is on for the third
The spindly, silky-smooth forward from the University of Texas sat down with TIME's Sean Gregory to discuss the draft, a taskmaster parent, and the doubters that drive him
No, the Utah Jazz has not disbanded since John Stockton and Karl Malone took their short shorts and their pick-and-roll precision into retirement. Quite the contrary. The Jazz has reached the Western Conference finals, its furthest incursion into the postseason since 1998, when S&M lost to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the Finals.
When Phoenix's Boris Diaw leaped off the bench after teammate Steve Nash was hip-checked to the floor in the waning seconds of Game 4 on Monday night, he was more likely to be delivering croissants than seeking retribution against San Antonio's Robert Horry, the player who committed the foul on Nash.
Rasheed Wallace, the self-appointed deejay of the Detroit Pistons' locker room, had a tough time settling on his musical mood on Sunday at Chicago's United Center. To prepare for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals -- and an expected sweep of the Bulls -- he first selected a high-energy Nas tune, but after nodding to the beat for several measures, he abruptly switched to a mellower cut. Then, following the Pistons' 102-87 loss, Sheed cranked up Chaka Khan singing Tell Me Something Good to ear-splitting decibel levels, only to emerge from the shower and switch to the Lipps Inc. classic Funkytown, shaking his booty to the bass line.
There's no point in trying to get inside Jeff Van Gundy's head, trying to anticipate his next move or moving into guesswork territory with the Houston Rockets' front office. If either side had made a decision regarding Van Gundy's future with the Rockets, the press release would have already been issued.
NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Guard Brandon Roy of the Portland Trail Blazers and forward Andrea Bargnani of the Toronto Raptors headline the NBA All-Rookie Team, which was announced on Tuesday.
When I am introduced to someone new and asked what I do for a living, I explain I am writer who covers sports, specifically the NBA. The next question asked -- with nearly unfailing inevitability -- is if I have a favorite NBA team. Answering that the Atlanta Hawks are my team seems to encourage a pause in the conversation. Nobody knows anything about the Hawks. A basketball fan proclaiming allegiance to the Hawks is like a politico asserting their support for Kucinich in '08 -- there will always be more questions than answers.
There's a difference between being a "playoff upset victim" and a "playoff disappointment." As the first top seed to lose a seven-game first-rounder to an eighth seed, the Dallas Mavericks, obviously, are both. But they are much more disappointment than upset victim.
The NBA has released its list of early-entry candidates for the draft, and that means it's time to crunch some numbers.
As I watched a replay of last week's absurdly overcrowded, absurdly premature Democratic presidential debate at South Carolina State University, my thoughts suddenly turned to the NBA playoffs.
Here he comes now, the Sultan of Small Ball, the Maven of the Mismatch, the Pioneer of the Point Forward, the hottest new old thing in coaching, a 66-year-old, white-haired man with a cup of coffee in one hand, a stubbed-out stogie in the other, a belly that spills over the lip of his khakis and only one nickname that will stick: Nellie. But what a nickname it is, one that can describe a style of play (Nellieball) or be inserted into a tired headline (whoa, nellie!) or, these days, be spit out like an epithet, at least around Dallas -- particularly, one imagines, in the lair of a certain hyperactive, media-savvy owner who just 25 months ago was paying Nelson to coach his team.
NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Who is the NBA MVP? According to the league's general managers, it's Dirk Nowitzki.
Few words need be expended on the departure of Ohio State man-child Greg Oden to the NBA. He announced in a statement on Friday that it "was a very tough decision," but it was also a move that everyone expected and no one begrudged. He came, he took the Buckeyes to within one win of a national title, he left to become the No. 1 pick in the draft. What more could OSU ask of him -- other than that he remain in class 'til June so as not to injure the team's Academic Performance Rate with the NCAA?
With the six-month "preseason'' complete, we now enter the two-month real season: Sixteen teams, as many as 105 games, and the best basketball on the planet. Here are a few things to watch for as spring approaches summer:
As he leads his Cavaliers into the playoffs against the Washington Wizards on Sunday, Cleveland coach Mike Brown will measure the moment against his NBA beginnings in 1992, when he broke in as a video guy with the Denver Nuggets. He equipped a cubicle off the weight room in McNichols Arena with a pillow, toothbrush and change of clothes, and grabbed catnaps on the training table. When he finished an edit he'd taxi the tapes out to the houses of coaches, who might slip him a twenty as a thank you. "I was going 'deck-to-deck,' all by myself," says Brown, referring to the clunky technology of that era. "But I wouldn't swap the experience for anything. There's been a carryover to everything I've done in this business. Breaking down tapes, I had to be meticulous."
Sooner or later it always happens: The Phoenix Suns run a pick-and-roll against the Dallas Mavericks, leaving Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki to face off at the top of the key. They have been there countless times before, Nowitzki in his awkward defensive crouch, his right arm extended as if a lion tamer's chair, his mouth guard protruding. Nash is in front of him, waiting for the help defense to clear out, for his teammates to space themselves, until it is just the two of them near the three-point line: the two-time MVP and this season's favorite, the two best players on the two best teams in the NBA, two men whose lives diverged but remain intertwined. This time they are playing in front of 18,422 at US Airways Center in Phoenix, but the setting could be anywhere. A YMCA in Dallas. The Western Conference finals. Nash's backyard.
With apologies to John Lennon: Imagine there's no conference/It's easy if you try.... In such a world, NBA playoff teams would be seeded 1 through 16 without regard to conference affiliation, meaning that the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks could meet the Phoenix Suns or the San Antonio Spurs (the second and third seeds, respectively) for the NBA championship. In such a world, we would not have to concern ourselves with the likes of the New Jersey Nets and the Orlando Magic, the bottom-feeders of the (L)Eastern Conference bracket.
DALLAS (Ticker) -- The Dallas Mavericks on Thursday signed center Kevin Willis for the remainder of the season.
You could make a strong argument that the high point of the history of professional sports in Memphis was when Andy Kaufman and Jerry "the King" Lawler staged a series of professional wrestling matches there in the 1980s that have become part of pop culture legend.
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- The trial for Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Jackson, accused of shooting a gun during a fight at a strip club, was shifted from Thursday to May 10.
Isiah Thomas, if you're reading this, it's time to end the season. This is the part of the movie where Old Yeller gets taken out back and shot.
It happened two nights before Christmas. Six minutes into a game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets center Yao Ming jumped to block a shot. As he did, teammate Chuck Hayes toppled toward him. Yao remembers a great weight bearing down on his right leg, then a sharp pain. He sank to the floor at Houston's Toyota Center, clutching his right knee.
NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Two-time MVP Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs earned his first Player of the Week honor of the season. Gerald Wallace of the Charlotte Bobcats has one more than that.
Also in this column: • Wizards at a loss without Butler • Chinese 7-footer the No. 3 pick? A lot of uncalled-for hot air is being exhaled on rumors that Billy Donovan will leave NCAA champion Florida to coach in the NBA. This much I can tell you: If an NBA team hires Donovan, it will mean that its owner either doesn't know what he's doing, or that he's infatuated by the short-term buzz generated by the hot college coach of the moment.
With about five minutes left in Sunday's game at US Airways Center in Phoenix, the Dallas Mavericks went to a matchup zone, their dozenth defense of the afternoon. The Suns appeared confused, but eventually forward Shawn Marion darted to his left across the lane and put up a righthanded floater that was nearly blocked. It was an awful-looking shot. It also went in, giving Phoenix a 109-96 lead that all but sealed its 126-104 victory.
The NCAA tournament may have been a showcase for the Florida Gators to win their second consecutive championship, but it also provided the final national stage for collegians to impress their potential future employer, the NBA. Given that everyone this side of Mars agrees that Ohio State's Greg Oden and Texas' Kevin Durant will be the top two draft picks should they choose to leave college after one year, SI.com spoke to an NBA scout to ascertain who else helped improve their draft stock -- and who didn't -- throughout the 2006-07 college season.
One of the ways scouts try to evaluate young players is to compare their skills to an older player who has some similar characteristics. If the older player is an established star, and the younger player has some of the same attributes his elder did at the same age, such a comparison can help in projecting the younger player's future.
Basketball was never meant to be played to the thumping, mechanical cadence of hip-hop; the NBA is best suited to the impulsive rhythms of jazz, and that is what Kobe Bryant played to last Friday night in the cradle of jazz, New Orleans. From the troubled drama of Bryant's past has emerged a blissful eloquence that, like Dixieland, is both disciplined and liberating. His jump shot is an elaborate riff that holds an audience rapt: Shoes squeak in panic around Kobe as he gathers his breath, his shoulders swaying to the ball-beat at his fingertips, a distracting glance this way as he bursts there into space, corkscrewing as he rises up and up, his right leg splayed like a clarinetist leaning back in full-blown solo.
NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Kobe Bryant, who is on the greatest scoring binge since Wilt Chamberlain, was named NBA Western Conference Player of the Week on Monday for the second straight week.
One week from now, the NCAA champion will be crowned, brackets will go back to being the metal things that hold shelves together and you'll no longer have a good excuse to put off cleaning out the garage.
There's a lot of talk lately about either the National Basketball Association or National Hockey League moving a team to Las Vegas.
NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Kobe Bryant's latest scoring explosion earned him NBA Player of the Week honors.
It's a question raised every year around this time, usually via an e-mail from my Dad or a friend: Could the best team in college basketball team beat the worst team in the NBA?
Also in the Weekly Quiz: • MVP race is still Nowitzki's to lose • Pistons sometimes hard to figure
There doesn't seem to be a shortage of candidates for the NBA's Most Improved Player award this season.
With the memory of Wednesday's scintillating double-OT Phoenix-Dallas game still fresh in my mind, and anticipation rising about a San Antonio Spurs team that has won 13 straight and shows no sign of stopping, I'm going to reverse direction and talk about the Eastern Conference.
The NBA's hottest team plays in Texas, it owns the league's longest winning streak, and you get the feeling that the San Antonio Spurs are just starting to figure things out.
NBA commissioner David Stern has said several times that he wants to avoid the perception that college basketball is just a glorified farm system for the his league. But by establishing an age limit that requires kids to attend at least one year of college, that's exactly what NCAA hoops has become. And instead of talking about an Ohio State dynasty or the advent of the Pac-10, people are arguing about Oden versus Durant.
Not every team playing in the NCAA Tournament has a legitimate NBA prospect, but most have players who will play professional basketball on some level. Remember, not all NBA players come from the power conferences, and some of them have names you will hear for the first time (Trey Johnson?) during this year's tournament.
As the Dallas Mavericks quietly chase history -- emphasis on quietly because they are the least-noticed great team in quite a while -- thoughts turn to the best teams of all time. Could the Mavs, 51-9 as this is written, join that list? Old-timers may demur, but what Dallas is doing this season is remarkable. Even if you dismiss the Eastern Conference -- and please do -- take a look at the West, against which the Mavs have a 32-6 mark.
It's a long season, we wholly submit, and that's usually enough justification for the players who play the game and the media who cover it to lose their collective focus and concentrate on the flavors of the month that usually turn up in February, March and April. If that means scribes end up picking the team that finished with the best record down the stretch to win it all, fine -- nobody gets hurt with a semi-educated guess. But when deserving players are passed over for well-earned hardware, it's time to raise some hackles.
John is, by trade, a secretary, a friend, a manager, a wingman, a middle man. John knows people who know things. Actually, his name is not John, but I cannot tell you his real name. I know several people who work in a similar field as John, but I can't share their names, either. John is that doorman with long braids and a faux-European attitude, deciding exactly who does and does not get behind the velvet rope. Maybe the easiest way to describe what John does is to say that John gets things done for people who hire him. Specifically, for NBA players who hire him. Need a car? A house? Someone to take care of your stuff? Tickets for your wife and girlfriend? John's job is to be their fixer.
Dirk Nowitzki was rewarded for lifting the Dallas Mavericks to the top of the NBA.
Also in this column: • Checking on midseason predictions • Notes on one-time NBA All-Stars • Cliff Robinson's brush with greatness
On a cold winter morning in 1986, Dennis Johnson and his Boston Celtics teammates stood outside of Market Square Arena, unable to get inside for a shootaround before their game that night against the Indiana Pacers. Johnson bundled his coat around him and pulled down his ski cap over his ears.
Rockets general manager Carroll Dawson has seen a lot of trade deadline days come and go in his 27 NBA seasons. He knows that some years are busier than others. But even Dawson was surprised this year's deadline passed so quietly.
As potential trades go, the best ones were either dehydrated, prostrate or about to have their plugs pulled. But with less than 24 hours to go, the Cleveland Cavaliers were making a final all-out attempt at reviving their candidate patient.
LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- Two-time MVP Steve Nash will return on Tuesday when the Phoenix Suns visit the Los Angeles Clippers.
I picked him up at the airport in Bangor, Maine, and I asked him, 'How many bags have you got?' He said he had four. I said, 'Good. That will take you only two trips to get it in the van.' And I walked off and left him. Let him make two trips carrying the bags by himself."
The year was 1992. Another NBA trade deadline day was in full swing. My phone rang every five minutes with another rumor, some fantastical and others with an element of truth. A few calls came from people inside the league who had very good information, and others were from my basketball fanatic friends, who had absolutely no information, but plenty of imagination.
With the NBA All-Star Game hitting Las Vegas this weekend, it's only a matter of time before an NBA franchise relocates to Sin City for good. This, of course, comes after commissioner David Stern and his fellow sporting chiefs have spent years decrying the evils of gambling. But hey, if that's the way they want to play it, the 10 Spot is happy to jump aboard. Here's an early line on potential bets for that inaugural season of the Las Vegas Grizzlies, Hornets or SuperStrippers:
For the millions of Americans who gamble on sports, predominantly with illegal bookmakers or nefarious Web sites, the arrival of NBA All-Star Weekend to Las Vegas is equivalent to the Berlin Wall coming down.
LAS VEGAS -- NBA commissioner David Stern has asked Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman to come up with a compromise on sports betting -- the strongest signal yet of the NBA's intention to place a team in Las Vegas.
NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Carmelo Anthony is finding his game again.
BRISTOL, Connecticut (Ticker) -- It appears two-time MVP Steve Nash will be sidelined for the All-Star Game in Las Vegas.
Also in this column: • Role players who make an impact • Three out-of-nowhere contributors • Notes from around the league
One night in September 2000, on a makeshift stage in a resort ballroom on Sanibel Island in Florida, Cablevision Systems CEO Jim Dolan stood before a captive audience of subordinates -- six or seven dozen senior managers from Madison Square Garden and its sports properties -- and began to sing. It was a lark, one of those gags designed to blow off steam after a day of meetings. Still, barely a year had passed since Dolan had taken full control of the Garden and its two main tenants, the New York Knickerbockers and the New York Rangers, and many in the room had had only glimpses of an owner who, for his entire adult life, had been overshadowed by his father, cable-TV pioneer Charles Dolan. The tales of Jim's drug-and-drink-addled past, his volcanic temper, his shifting moods, were already legendary, fueling the image of a spoiled boy who had been handed the keys to perhaps the most prized property in all of U.S. sports. No one expected a song.
NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Miami Heat guard Gary Payton on Monday was suspended one game without pay by the NBA for his actions in Saturday's game against the Milwaukee Bucks.
NEW YORK (Ticker) -- The NBA has rewarded Mehmet Okur for picking up the slack for the Utah Jazz.
Also in this column: • One key for running teams • Best players in the Euroleague • Notes from around the NBA
In the NBA, the playoffs are the holy grail. Jobs are dangled based on whether a coach can guide his team into the postseason and whether a general manager has acquired the right talent to guarantee an owner at least two home playoff date. Failure to do so (repeatedly) usually results in firings and a major roster overhaul.
I can hear the protests right now. How can you compare the two teams? One of them is immortal; the other one has never even been in the Finals. You must be nuts.
A year ago the Minnesota Timberwolves were 19-21 and hoping to surge into the playoffs when they sent forward Wally Szczerbiak to Boston as part of a seven-player, three-draft-pick deal in which they received swingman Ricky Davis, center Mark Blount and guard Marcus Banks. But their newcomers had a hard time fitting in, and Minnesota went 14-28 thereafter, missing the postseason for a second straight year, which brought ever more criticism upon vice president of basketball operations Kevin McHale.
When Charlotte Bobcats forward Emeka Okafor leaps to block a layup, he often turns sideways, like a waiter navigating a crowded room, so that he can extend his right arm as far as possible. When he leaps to block a dunk, however, the 6'10", 252-pound Okafor tries to go straight up, the better to neutralize his opponent's momentum. Considering that a blocked dunk is one of the rarest feats in basketball -- at week's end there had been only 113 in 603 NBA games this season -- this is easier in theory than in practice.
College seniors played a big part in the first round of the past two NBA drafts. That isn't likely to be the case this June.
Also in this column: • The NBA's up-and-down nature • Big key to the Clippers' playoff hopes • International prospects to watch
NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Injured Houston Rockets center Yao Ming, who may not be able to play in next month's NBA All-Star Game, still leads all players in the latest returns of fan balloting announced Thursday.
We want to glide into the new year nicely, so this first five-pack of 2007 singles out players, five from each conference, who are overachieving, or, at least, playing above what some people thought they might, at least one of those people being me. This doesn't mean they are bad players playing well; in particular, I don't want one of them -- identified later -- to get mad at me. Note that I have left out rookies: Who really knows what to expect from them?
National Basketball Association star Shaquille O'Neal has signed a five-year contract with Chinese sportswear brand Li-Ning, the company said Monday.
The National Basketball Association, which stirred some controversy earlier this season with a new dress code for its players away from the court, has licensed a new line of men's dress apparel.
The NBA has committed its share of fouls in recent years -- it's never a good thing for a player to go after a fan in the stands -- but franchise values keep rising and corporate sponsors are jostling to get into business with the league. A big reason why is China.
The National Basketball Association's controversial new dress code has some clothing manufacturers offering players free clothing in an effort to land endorsement deals, according to a published report.
What if they held an NBA finals and none of the stars came?
The playoffs start this weekend for the NBA, which only seems like it stands for "No Broadcasts on ABC."
In less than two years, Yao Ming has gone from being a cult sports hero in his native China to one of the world's most-recognized athletes. And he's only 23.
National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern said Wednesday it would be good for the league if Michael Jordan were to become a franchise owner, and he believes it will happen sooner rather than later.
They lurk outside every sporting event and concert in America: "Psst. Anyone need two tickets?" Scalping might just be the second-oldest profession. No one enjoys playing on this forgery-fraught bl...
Remember Ping-Pong diplomacy? Thirty years ago a series of international table-tennis matches helped smooth the way for Richard Nixon to open diplomatic relations with China. Now, in the wake of th...
David Stern, his tie loosened and askew over a crisp white shirt, is sitting by a picture window in a conference room at the National Basketball Association's Fifth Avenue headquarters. Outside, sn...
Words no longer suffice when the subject is Michael Jordan. You need numbers. Call him the very best basketball player who ever lived, and no one puts up much of a fuss anymore: Five championship r...
Forget about going to Disneyland. Now that the NBA season is over, basketball's big stars are headed for more exotic locales: Shaquille O'Neal to South Korea, Karl Malone to Hong Kong, Allen Iverso...
Peter O'Malley sounds like a man who's tired of the fight. His family has owned the Los Angeles Dodgers for 47 years--a longer tenure than any other ownership group in Major League Baseball--but ea...
The owners of sports franchises are finally doing what the corporate world has done for ages--paying grotesque salaries to their top management guys. Rick Pitino's new ten-year, $50 million contrac...
Look through the Florida Panthers' official merchandise catalogue, and you'd think every possible way to own a piece of the Fort Lauderdale-based hockey team is being exploited. After all, once you...
TO MANY NATIONAL BASKETBALL Association players, forward Charles Barkley of the Philadelphia 76ers is no sweetheart. They know that trying to stop Charles when he is charging toward the basket is l...
At 5 feet 9 inches, he's the biggest man in a land of giants. David Stern, commissioner of the National Basketball Association, is hitting nothing but three-pointers. Since Stern, 46, took the job ...