July 18, 2013
By NOAH TRISTER
AP Sports Writer
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- Joe Dumars and the Detroit Pistons had been waiting a while for this offseason - and it showed.
The Pistons have finally been able to give their roster a significant makeover, adding Josh Smith, Chauncey Billups and Italian star Luigi Datome. It remains to be seen how much the team will improve, but for the first time in a while, there's a bit of a buzz surrounding this struggling franchise.
After four straight seasons without a playoff berth, Detroit entered the offseason with plenty of space under the salary cap. Dumars, the general manager, said this week he's accomplished what he wanted to via free agency.
''The only thing left now is trade possibilities, and that door will continue to be open,'' he said.
Detroit's rebuilding process has been slow. First, Tom Gores became the team's new owner in 2011 following a drawn-out sale that added to the sense of gloom hanging over the team. Over the next couple years, the Pistons parted ways with Richard Hamilton, Ben Gordon and Tayshaun Prince, giving themselves flexibility they would put to use in 2013.
Smith is the key free agent addition. The 6-foot-9 forward joins a front line that already includes promising big men Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.
''We spent a lot of time preparing for this offseason,'' Gores said. ''Our folks put the pieces in place to make some important moves that will make this team more competitive immediately, while at the same time nurturing our nucleus of young talent.''
Detroit hired Maurice Cheeks as its new coach in June, but when the Pistons drafted guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope later that month, passing on local favorite Trey Burke of Michigan, it looked like they would again struggle to win back the support of an increasingly apathetic fan base.
The free agent moves have added some much-needed intrigue to the coming season.
The popular Billups was the MVP of the 2004 NBA Finals with the Pistons. He was traded four years later, and bringing him back as a free agent gives the team a veteran who may be able to help mentor young guard Brandon Knight.
''Obviously, the team and the organization have kind of struggled for a few years. It's not what it used to be when I was here, and I just want to be a part of bringing it back to respectability,'' Billups said. ''I think we've got some really good young players on the team.''
The 25-year-old Datome, meanwhile, is a bit of an unknown commodity. The 6-foot-7 forward could give Detroit some quality outside shooting if he can adjust after arriving from Europe.
''I'm curious to see how I can fit in the NBA game. For sure, it looks more athletic, more physical,'' he said. ''I know that maybe I will need some time to adapt myself and my game for the NBA game, but I know that I have veteran players who can help.''
Dumars remained open to the possibility of more changes, but the roster that starts the season may look similar to what's already been assembled. Dumars said the team didn't use its amnesty waiver on forward Charlie Villanueva because Detroit didn't need more cap space. Dumars also said Villanueva's skill set - he's a 6-foot-11 forward who made 90 shots from 3-point range last season - could still be of use to the Pistons.
''I'm really comfortable now with this roster,'' Dumars said. ''But as I was saying a little while ago, you can't shut the door now and say, 'OK, we're done.' It's the middle of July right now.''
There is still plenty of room for improvement, but as promised, the Pistons have been busy this offseason. They couldn't afford to wait any longer.
''We're on our way to fulfilling our promise to revitalize this franchise and make the Pistons competitive again,'' Gores said. ''We're not finished yet, and we still need to prove it on the floor. But I'm pleased with the moves we've made so far. Joe Dumars and the basketball operations team have put a lot of pieces in place to move this team forward.''
July 11, 2013
By BRIAN MAHONEY
AP Basketball Writer
Just about every NBA team would like Dwight Howard.
Only the Houston Rockets could get him, and on Wednesday a couple of his other suitors announced their backup plans - while one lost out on another big target.
Paul Millsap is headed to Atlanta. The Golden State Warriors acquired Andre Iguodala. But the Dallas Mavericks missed out on another center when Andrew Bynum agreed to sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Los Angeles Clippers never had to look beyond their top target, with Chris Paul committing to stay on the first day of free agency. They also added Darren Collison, Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick to a team that won the Pacific Division last season, surpassing the Lakers as the best team in Los Angeles.
“We’re loaded at every position,” said Matt Barnes, who re-signed with the Clippers. “Who doesn’t want to play with Chris? He’s arguably the best point guard in the game. It just shows this organization has come a long way. They’re making the right moves.”
It’s hard to see anything changing in Los Angeles next season after Howard passed on re-signing with the Lakers and instead opted for the Rockets in a deal that still hadn’t become official as of Wednesday night.
That was the first day transactions could be completed and contacts signed following the completion of the NBA’s moratorium period. The Rockets couldn't wait to talk about their All-Star center, getting fined $150,000 by the league on Tuesday for premature comments about Howard on TV and in social media.
The rest of the league waited until rules allowed Wednesday.
The Clippers held a press conference for Paul, the three new players and the re-signed Barnes and Ryan Hollins on what Paul called “one of the biggest days in franchise history.”
While they were celebrating, Bynum was meeting with Dallas, another team that wanted Howard. But he went with a previous two-year offer from the Cavs, according to a person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet announced.
Bynum was part of the four-team trade that sent Howard from Orlando to Los Angeles last summer, but never played a game for Philadelphia because of knee problems.
Charlotte got bigger by adding Utah center Al Jefferson, while his former Jazz teammate Millsap is also bound for the Southeast Division with the Hawks.
Atlanta missed out on Howard, and forward Josh Smith left for a $54 million, four-year deal with Detroit, but the Hawks bounced back by giving Millsap a two-year, $19 million contract.
“We’ve been following Paul for a year, hoping for the opportunity to have him on our team,” general manager Danny Ferry said. “His competitiveness, night in and night out, is unique. He’s not like most players.”
The Jazz also got involved in the deal that landed Iguodala with the Warriors, who gave him a four-year, $48 million deal last week. Golden State cleared more than $24 million by sending Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins and Brandon Rush to the Jazz along with four draft picks and cash. Denver received guard Randy Foye from the Jazz.
Chris Andersen signed a $1.7 million, one-year deal to stay with the Miami Heat, who will have to hold off some stronger challengers next season in the Eastern Conference. Indiana re-signed power forward David West and added C.J. Watson as a backup point guard, while the Chicago Bulls improved their outside shooting by signing Mike Dunleavy.
The New York Knicks hope they did, too, with the acquisition of Andrea Bargnani. However, the former No. 1 overall pick from Italy struggled during an injury-plagued 2012-13 season for the Toronto Raptors, who shipped him to New York for Steve Novak, Quentin Richardson, Marcus Camby and three future draft picks.
The NBA’s other big deal of the offseason, the trade sending Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce from Boston to Brooklyn, will be completed Friday. The Nets could pay more than $70 million in taxes in the first season of the NBA’s harsher penalties for teams who exceed the limit.
By James Clingman
Let me make a “pitch” (pun intended) for Black sports agents. Watching the NBA playoffs and finals was more than an exercise in pulling for my favorite teams; it was also a very frustrating experience for me because I tend to look at most things from an economic perspective.
While Black athletes dominate football and basketball, and have a major presence in baseball, relatively few of them hire Black attorneys, accountants, and agents, thereby, putting as much as 5 percent of their contract amount into someone else’s economy.
For years now, we have seen this intriguing phenomenon. In 1995, Black Enterprise magazine ran an article titled “MVPs,” that shed light on this subject R. David Ware, noted for negotiating the largest non-quarterback (Barry Sanders) contract in the NFL, voiced his frustration about the situation this way: “It is so disheartening that so few African Americans are given the opportunity to represent African American players… they wear Kente cloth and talk about pride in their heritage, but when it comes to business affairs, they don’t use African American lawyers, agents, or accountants.”
You would think African American college graduates would know better. But, in my opinion, they lack a consciousness that would have them act otherwise, and many have virtually no knowledge, or interest for that matter, in Black business history and the role they play in this nation’s economic system. They are noted more for their shoe, soft drink, and fast food commercials, rather than their commitments to conscious capitalism. They have become fashion icons instead of paragons of Black empowerment. My suggestion to one of my students who played basketball at the University of Cincinnati was to develop a relationship with a fellow student who was majoring in finance, law, or business, and hire that person as an agent when he turned professional.
Let me pause here and say, I am not using a broad brush to paint all Black athletes (and entertainers). I know many of them are doing very positive things when it comes to supporting African American business persons and causes. In addition, far be it from me to dictate to anyone how to spend their money. So, please, as you read this, just take it as a recommendation for economic empowerment for Black people.
There are too many Black athletes who refuse to hire other African Americans. Considering how much money these guys earn, if they used Black professionals, it would have a huge effect on the African American economy. Imagine how many Black real estate agents could earn commissions on the mansions purchased and sold by Black athletes. It makes no sense for us to keep crying over what we do not have, while we are steadily giving what we do have away to others.
As our young boys and girls are practicing their sport of choice, they should also spend some time learning how to practice collective economics. It is one thing to have millions of dollars, but knowing what to do and not to do with that money is far more important. Just ask Allen Iverson, Kenny Anderson, and Antoine Walker. Twenty year-olds need good advice on how to spend and invest millions of dollars. And they must be exposed to the fact that Black professionals can provide that advice. The Jerry Maguire’s of the business must get up every morning and thank their lucky stars for Black athletes.
I read a magazine article about one of our mega-millionaire ball players buying 22 pairs of shoes from a famous store that many Black athletes patronize. Of course, the store is not Black-owned, but what else is new? Anyway, the shoes cost $16,000. Throw in about 10 suits for a couple of grand each, and multiply that by 30 other Black professional athletes who frequent the store, and you’re talking about a serious positive cash flow. You know how we like to look good. Unfortunately, other groups know it much better than we do – and they sure do take advantage of it. They make it; we buy it – no matter how it looks.
I know there are competent White agents out there, but as Ware said in the article, “It’s no longer a question of ability, but one of opportunity.” Some White agents were crying foul when more African Americans got into the game. In a television special, a White agent accused Black agents of “playing the race card” to get Black athletes to sign with them. He suggested Black athletes should select their agents and others who work for them solely on the basis of talent. Ironically, he was asking for a “level playing field.”
If Asian athletes comprised 70 percent of NBA players, we would see nearly 70 percent Asian agents. A similar scenario would prevail if there were a majority of Jewish or Hispanic players. Why are we accused of playing the race card when we suggest African American athletes hire Black agents? (I wonder how many White athletes are represented by Black agents.) If we play it right, one day not only will we win the game, we win the championship.
Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his Web site, blackonomics.com.
Read more: http://www.nnpa. org/news/sports/black-sports-agents-strike-out-with-black-athletes-by-james-clingman/#ixzz2YhRco1Rn
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) -- Kobe Bryant is working hard to get back on the court and not wasting any time thinking about Dwight Howard.
Bryant said Wednesday his surgically repaired Achilles' tendon is ''progressing faster than anybody expected,'' though he won't start shooting again until next month.
''I could shoot right now, but you just don't trust that the tendon's holding yet,'' the Lakers' All-Star guard said. ''Typically it's four months minimum until the tendon's holding and it's not going to overstretch.''
Bryant spoke at a brief press conference at the start of his annual youth basketball camp at UC Santa Barbara. He said he will be on the court with the campers and walk through some drills.
"I'm not going to be able to go out there and do too much without the Lakers having a heart attack,'' he said.
Last week, he joined the Lakers in their meeting with Howard, who eventually chose Houston instead of re-signing in Los Angeles.
Bryant said he doesn't know why Howard left.
''You think once a guy decides to go someplace else I'm going to waste my time trying to figure out why that happened?'' Bryant said.
Bryant created a stir shortly after Howard's decision when he stopped following the center on Twitter.
''It's just me. It's just how I am,'' Bryant said. ''I have a hard time following people that, you know, want to beat us. I have a hard time doing that. Not to say we're not friends, I don't respect him. It's just hard for me to do that.''
Bryant and Steve Nash sat in on a meeting with Howard and Lakers executives three days before the center decided to leave the team. Nash took Howard's rejection harder than he did, Bryant said.
''Steve's like a quintessential teammate. Steve takes that stuff to heart. I didn't really care,'' Bryant said.
Bryant implied that Howard was not a good fit with the Lakers, who offered a contract worth about $30 million more than Houston.
''Everybody's cut differently,'' he said. ''He has his way of leading that he feels like will be most effective and work for him. Obviously, the way we've gone about it with this organization, the leaders we've had - myself, Magic (Johnson) and Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar) - we've done it a different way.''
Of the Lakers' struggles during the past season, Bryant said, ''It was a lot of moving pieces going around, a lot of things that happened.''
He repeated a word Nash had used to characterize it.
''Nightmare's a pretty good description,'' Bryant said of a season that ended with a first-round sweep against San Antonio after his late-season injury.
The Lakers recently agreed to a deal with veteran center Chris Kaman. Bryant said the team needs ''a couple guys with length and the ability to cover ground at the defensive end of the floor.''
Asked if he might be writing off the 2013-14 season, looking ahead to next year when the free-agent market and the draft will be more favorable to rebuild the team, Bryant responded sarcastically
''Fold the tent. White-flag it. We have no shot,'' he said. ''Come on, guys. Jeez.''
July 04, 2013
Seth Jones, the son of former NBA player Popeye Jones, became the highest selected African American in NHL draft history when the Nashville Predators have drafted the young standout with local connections.
The Nashville Predators took Jones fourth in the first round of the NHL Draft. He is the son of Ronald "Popeye" Jones, who was a basketball standout for Murray State University in Kentucky and went on to play in the NBA.
Seth is considered a top defenseman. At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, Seth scored 14 goals and had 42 assists in 61 games for the Portland Winterhawks this past season. Popeye Jones was playing then for the NBA’s Denver Nuggets, who shared their arena with the city’s NHL team, the Avalanche, when his son developed interest in the sport.
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