It’s that time of year again.  You know, that point in which NBA center Andrew Bynum’s name finds its way back into the headlines with a seemingly purposeful mission to smear the person and talents he once possessed.  For example…

Kobe’s grocery store insult.
The clothesline.
Bad knees.
Operator-error car trouble.
Bad hair day(s).
Bowling.
Crappy neighbors.

The list goes on and on, which brings us to the present.  Bynum,  a former All-Star and two-time NBA Champion has been suspended indefinitely by his current team, the Cleveland Cavaliers for conduct detrimental to the team.

Gotta love how Bynum was able to sneak one last scandal in before 2014.  Kudos.  

Anyway, Yahoo Sports is reporting that a big issue with the 26-year-old is the fact that he just isn’t interested in playing basketball anymore.  The game isn’t his cup of tea, a notion those of us in L.A. who watched Bynum with the Lakers have considered for years.

The man who perhaps best understands this situation is Laker-legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  One of the best big men to ever play the game, Abdul-Jabbar coached Bynum from the time he was drafted by the Lakers right out of high school in 2005 until 2009, when the organization reduced the six-time NBA Champion’s role with the team

Abdul-Jabbar took to his Facebook page Sunday, addressing the situation surrounding his former pupil.

"I believe Andrew has always had the potential to help a team when he puts his heart into it. He just doesn’t seem to be consistent with his commitment to the game. That can lead to a lot of frustration for any team that has signed him.

"When I worked with Andrew I found him to be bright & hardworking but I think he got bored with the repetitive nature of working on basketball fundamentals day in and day out… but they are the keys to long term success.

"In my opinion Andrew is the type of person who walks to the beat of "a different drummer". So we won’t know the facts until Andrew decides to tell us what actually is the issue and shares his thoughts. @KAJ33"

This strikes a few chords.  Abdul-Jabbar had the reputation of beating to “a different drummer” for decades and like Bynum, hails from the East Coast.  While playing for the Lakers, Abdul-Jabbar buried himself in books and literature while Bynum spent free time building computers in the home he shared with his mother. Both men were considered unconventional NBA players when it came to off-the-court personality.

A fundamental difference between the two is love for the game of basketball, which became apparent to Abdul-Jabbar while working with Bynum (and doing a damn fine job if I may editorialize).  

After Bynum was shipped to Philadelphia in the Lakers’ trade for Dwight Howard in 2012, Abdul-Jabbar told Lakers beat writer Mark Medina, “Andrew has been up and down on that issue [of commitment and winning]. There are times he wants to play, do a great job and he goes out and does it. Then there are other times where it seems like he’s not focused.”

Any professional athlete will tell you that without the proper incentives (enjoyment of the sport, public notoriety, and big-time paychecks, just to name a few), the strenuous physical and mental dedication to the craft just ain’t worth it.  

It appears that the benefits of being a professional basketball player are no longer worth the time and effort for Bynum.  For the sake of his teammates, fans, and Bynum himself, hopefully the still-young man will set his sights on a new, more enjoyable career that keeps him out of the headlines for all the wrong reasons.  

 


One thing we’ve learned from the Dwight Howard sweepstakes is that no deal is a sure thing until it’s done.  Signed, sealed, delivered. 

First it was the Nets.  Then it was the Rockets.  Then it was the Lakers.  Now it’s the Nets.  Again.

In the last 24 hours, Yahoo! Sports hoops gurus Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc Spears have reported a proposed deal revolving around the Magic center that would involve movement of more than 10 players between four teams. 

While the Lakers are still interested in a trade that would send Andrew Bynum to Orlando in exchange for Howard, Bynum’s hesitation to sign a long-term contract with the Magic has significantly hampered L.A.’s ability to strike a deal, according to a source (as well as several previously published reports).

As a result, Bynum’s reluctance left the door wide open for the Brooklyn Nets, who along with the Magic, would lead the way in this four-team deal, according to Y! Sports.  When doing a deal with so many moving parts, its only natural that there will be a few hiccups in the process. 

One piece of this gigantic puzzle, as reported by Marc Spears of Y! Sports, would send Kris Humphries (sign-and-trade) to the Cavaliers with a one-year contract.  Problem is, the Hump is interested in a four-year deal, which is understandable.  Who doesn’t want some job security?


One guy who has a LOT of power in this situation is agent Dan Fegan, who represents both Howard and Humphries.

Awwwwkwaaaard. 

How do you convince Humphries to go against his own best interest, basically for the sake of another one of your clients?  Humphries (along with several other players said to be on the trading block) would have to agree to a sign-and-trade for the deal to happen. 

As an agent, a multi-year deal for Humphries would certainly be in Fegan’s best interest as more years equals more money (and mo’problems, no doubt).  But it seems like this is quite a predicament for Fegan and his clients, Humphries in particular. 

Plus, if TMZ’s reports of Humphries’ impending fatherhood are accurate (http://tinyurl.com/cevmfze), the financial security of multi-year contract will be of even more importance. 

Moving forward, it will be interesting to watch how this part of the deal plays out.  If Humphries refuses to do a sign-and-trade to the Cavs for a measly one-year contract, can the teams involved get creative and find a way around the Hump?

As if we weren’t already glued to this damn story, the Howard-Humphries connection just adds one more element to this so-called Dwightmare. 


To read the Yahoo! Sports’ story on the proposed mega-deal involving the Magic, Nets, Cavs and Clippers, click this link:  http://sports.yahoo.com/news/nba—nets-emerge-again-as-strong-contender-to-land-dwight-howard.html 

Ahhhh yes, the so-called “coronation of King James” finally happened Thursday night as the Miami Heat beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 4-1 for the NBA Championship.  LeBron James, the self-proclaimed King, earned his crown in his ninth season in the League, leaving everyone asking questions like “is this redemption,” and “does a title signify the pinnacle for James and will it quiet the haters?”

With one notch on his Championship belt comes a level of respect for James that even the toughest of the haters must acknowledge.  You don’t have to like the guy or forgive some of the crappy choices he’s made in the past, but with this title comes the confirmation that LeBron is more than just a superstar; he’s a winner. 

James has experienced a true career evolution, but in reverse.  As a high school phenomenon, James was, without earning them, handed the keys to the kingdom -based on talent, not results- before making an NBA roster.  While he was a celebrity from Day 1 and showcased an arsenal of offensive skills in his very first season as a Cleveland Cavalier, it took James a few years to get his defense up to par, which elevated his game and reputation significantly. 

Since becoming the complete package circa 2009, the question seemed to be not “if” but “when” James would win a Championship and enter the elite ranks of the NBA.

For years, nobody doubted James’ talent, instead, using non-basketball reasons to pick the man apart.  From the rumored affair between ‘Bron’s mom Gloria and Delonte West, to Handshake-gate vs. the Magic, to The Decision and The Heatles, much of the James-hatred was self inflicted. 

The criticisms of being unable, and even worse, unwilling to take “big” shots tainted James’ on-court image just enough to change the question to, “will he EVER win a title?”

Individual talent is no longer good enough for those playing team sports.  The debate exists, “can you be at the most elite level without a Championship ring?”

Look at Dan Marino, or Peyton Manning before he finally led the Colts to a Super Bowl victory in 2006?

With career averages of 27.6 points, 7.2 rebounds, 48 percent shooting in 39.9 minutes per game, PLUS a host of hardware including three MVP awards, four NBA All-Defensive First Team honors and eight All-Star appearances, all that remained was a Championship to put a bow on an already-Hall of Fame worthy career. 

John Stockton & Karl Malone, TOGETHER, never won a championship.
Eglin Baylor never won a championship.
Charles Barkley never won a championship.
Reggie Miller  never won a championship.
Dominique Wilkins never won a championship.
Patrick Ewing never won a championship.

These guys are some of the best to EVER play the game of basketball, an opinion backed up by the fact that each one is a member of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame.   Had James failed to win a title during his career, he would still be in great company.  That said, he would be haunted forever, just like the men listed above remain, to this day. 

Michael Jordan won his first of six Championships in his seventh season.  It took Shaquille O’Neal eight years, and poor Dirk Novitzki toughed out 13 seasons before winning it all. 

While second place is indeed the first loser, there is something to be said for the fact that James had already been to the Finals twice, with two different teams.  Neither the Cavaliers nor last year’s Heat team would’ve made it there without James on the roster.

Every great individual basketball player needs a good team surrounding him (or her) to win at the highest level.  It took James a LONG. ASS. TIME. to get the right people around him on the court, clipboarding on the bench and sitting in the front office before he could possibly put on a ring. 

After Miami’s Big Three went through all kinds of trial and error in its first season together, the players finally fell in place this year as the Heat figured it all out.  Miami completely dismantled a Thunder team that looked unstoppable, losing a mere three playoff games heading into the Finals. 

There would be no taking a backseat for James in the Finals this year, no sir.  He did not defer to his teammates.  James was the first option, period.  That says a lot when Dwayne Wade is on the court as well.  I don’t care if Wade looked old and beat up at times, he’s still a damn good basketball player who was dwarfed by LeBron in this series, a few specific moments aside.  James averaged 28.6 ppg and 10.2 assists in the series, earning him the title of Finals MVP.

After the series-clinching Game 5 win, Wade said of James, “I don’t know if I could be happier for another guy, another man to succeed in life as I am for him.”

Talk about a different tune.  Not so long ago, word would occasionally leak from Cleveland depicting a young, cocky and often times selfish player who was so untouchable that the head coach was afraid to discipline him, causing resentment among fellow Cavs players.  Now, it sounds like James is clearly adored by his Miami teammates, including Wade, the brightest of stars in his own right.

The haters will keep on hating.  “Well, how many rings will he get?  I mean, Mark Madsen has more rings than LeBron.” 

True.  But who cares? 

In my book, all it takes is one, therefor James can finally rest on top of the mountain and enjoy the view. 


No wonder that Miami Heat vs. Minnesota Timberwolves game was so close the other night!  Perhaps LeBron James had a case of cold feet and shaky hands during the Heat’s game in Minneapolis on Friday, but if he did, James didn’t show it as the South Beach star logged 34 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists in a near-loss to the Timberwolves.   Less than 24 hours after Miami’s 103-101 victory, James proposed to the mother of his two children and girlfriend of eight years, Savannah Brinson on New Years Eve.

Eight years LeBron? Sounds like this was the real decision. 

After pondering the possibility for nearly a decade, Brinson said “yes.”  According to website theybf.com, Brinson was surprised by the proposal which came in front of a large group of the couple’s friends at a New Years Eve party.  The photo posted above came from theybf.com and if you look closely, you can see some bling on Brinson’s ring finger.

Oh hey Chris Bosh, is that you wearing a funny top hat behind the bride to be? I think so!

Of course, the congratulatory tweets started rolling in soon after James popped the question.  Here are a few:

@MickyArison (Micky Arison, Miami Heat Owner):  Congrats to Lebron. @KingJames and Savannah so happy 4 u guys.

@CP3 (Chris Paul):  Happy for my brother @KingJames and sis @SavannahRB on their engagement!!! Extremely happy for them and the good times to come #HappyNewYear

Jada_AP (Jada Paul, wife of CP3):  CONGRATULATIONS to 2 of my favorite people @SavannahRB and @KingJames! SO happy for you guys! LOVE you!!

Between an early undefeated record, celebrating his 27th birthday on Friday and getting engaged on Saturday, 2012 could finally be LeBron James’ year.  After receiving pretty good press during the offseason, including stating his regrets over “the decision” in an interview, the dust seems to have settled and people are jumping back on the James bandwagon. 

The truth is that it’s hard to hate on beautiful basketball, regardless of what you may think of the players on a personal level.  If the Heat build upon what we’ve already seen them do thus far and stay consistent, LeBron and Savannah better keep their schedule open through late June and play it safe with an August wedding. 

                                      

Update - 11:00pm est : Apparently, the NBA read this blog post and got the message, loud and clear, from the media and fans regarding the confusion surrounding the league’s latest collective bargaining agreement offer to the Players Association.  Check out a summary of the owners’ latest offer, from the NBA itself… http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/11/14/sports/basketball/20111114-nba-proposals.html?src=tp

I don’t know what to believe anymore. 

Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher are fighting.  No they’re not.

Players can be sent to the D-League and have their salary dropped to $75k in their first five seasons.  Not true.

Players have no idea what is going on and team reps aren’t effective.  Yes they are, everybody is informed.

If they players don’t take this deal, the league will stop negotiating. Not true.

Well which is it? What the hell is going on with this lockout? 

Chris Sheridan attempts to clear the air in his piece, “Lockout Update: Misinformation Rules,” by exposing allegedly false reports that nobody has bothered to correct (read his entire piece here, it is quite enlightening: http://shar.es/onN4z ).

I say “allegedly” because I don’t know who to believe at this point.  It seems like neither side can be trusted, nor have their words taken at face value. 

One point of contention is the story about the owners’ right to send players down to the D-league during their first five NBA seasons and drop their salaries to $75,000.     This notion had twitter abuzz as fans, media and players alike openly criticized this part of the owners’ latest proposal.

But according to Sheridan, this clause is nowhere to be found in the owners’ current proposal.  HUH!?!?!

Sheridan cites a New York Times article by Howard Beck (that includes comments from NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver) in trying to make sense of this nonsense.

From Beck’s story, “These and other concerns filled Twitter timelines on Friday, a day after labor talks concluded. They turned out to be unfounded, speculative or simply false. The D-League is not mentioned anywhere in the seven-page proposal that was delivered to the union on Friday — a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times. Nor are there any measures that could curtail “Bird” rights. While some provisions might crimp the N.B.A.’s middle class, others could boost it. In the absence of official documentation — neither the league nor the union released the proposal publicly — the rumors have prevailed.”

I’m at the point of becoming a nutty conspiracy theorist.  Since the documents have not been made public, how can the New York Times be positive they have the actual proposal given to the players?

Meanwhile, some players are skeptical of the owners’ alleged need to split basketball related income 50-50.  Months ago, NBA Commissioner David Stern said that 22 of the 30 teams in the league were losing a combined $300 million.

Check out this tweet from Omri Casspi of the Cleveland Cavaliers:

@Casspi18 : I have a question! I wasn’t really involve in all the talks between the Nba and the players… My question is…If the NBA claim loses of 300mil dollars, why they aren’t opening the books to the players and letting us see it?

Casspi is saying quite a bit in this tweet.  First of all, the union has representatives for a reason, but I get the feeling A LOT of players are in the dark and don’t know any more about the situation than the public does. 

Casspi went on to tweet about his desire for union decertification as well as the public relations mess caused by the lockout:

@Casspi18: It’s sounds like we are the bad guys here after we agreed to 50/50 which means 2.8 billion dollars to the owners in the course of 10 years.

I’m pretty close to giving up on this situation considering I can’t believe any of the information, rhetoric or gossip coming from either side.  I wish the mediator (who has been present during some of the negotiations) could disseminate information to the public so we could trust somebody, anybody to tell us the truth.

In the mean time, thousands of working and middle class families are without paychecks as the lockout not only keeps players off the court, but leaves every day employees struggling to stay above water.

Kudos to Sheridan for attempting to sort it all out.   http://shar.es/onN4z .  Hopefully the league and it’s players will soon do the same. 

**In case you were wondering, I went as the “NBA Lockout” for Halloween.  Sad, but true.**

                             
The truth hurts sometimes, doesn’t it?  In excerpts from Shaquille O’Neal’s autobiography, “Shaq Uncut: My Story,” the Big Diesel plays a game of kiss and tell with his friends and foes from the hoops world through the years.

Deadspin released juicy excerpts about Shaq’s rocky relationship with Kobe Bryant and Pat Riley a few days ago ( http://deadspin.com/5854904/in-new-book-shaq-explains-how-kobes-sexual-assault-charges-destroyed-the-lakers ), and now hoopsworld.com has released the next batch of gossipy goodness from the book which hits stores November 15. 

Shaq and writer Jackie MacMullan take you inside the Cleveland Cavaliers film room where things got a bit testy between central characters LeBron James, Delonte West and head coach Mike Brown.  Shaq takes aim at James’ inability to bring his ‘A game’ when it matters, the fact that Coach Brown’s rules did not apply to James and that Brown, the new Lakers head coach, might have similar problems with Kobe Bryant.

Read and enjoy, care of hoopsworld.com and the Chicago Tribune:

"Our coach, Mike Brown, was a nice guy, but he had to live on edge because nobody was supposed to be confrontational with LeBron. Nobody wanted him to leave Cleveland, so he was allowed to do whatever he wanted to do.

“I remember one day in a film session LeBron didn’t get back on defense after a missed shot. Mike Brown didn’t say anything about it. He went to the next clip and it was Mo Williams not getting back and Mike was saying, ‘Yo, Mo, we can’t have that. You’ve got to hustle a little more.’ So Delonte West is sitting there and he’s seen enough and he stands up and says, ‘Hold up, now. You can’t be pussyfooting around like that. Everyone has to be accountable for what they do, not just some us.’ Mike Brown said, ‘I know, Delonte. I know.’ Mike knew Delonte was right.

“I’m not sure if Kobe (Bryant) is going to listen to (new Lakers coach) Mike Brown. LeBron never really did.”

O’Neal also addresses James’ failure in the 2011 NBA Finals, comparing it to his infamous disappearing act in the 2010 playoffs against the Boston Celtics:

“There’s no question in Game 5 LeBron was kind of out of it… .  I always believed he could turn it on at any moment, but for some reason he didn’t. Not against the Celtics in 2010 and not against the Mavericks in 2011. It was weird. It’s one thing to be a passer, but you are supposed to be the One.

“I’m watching him play against Dallas, and they’re swinging the ball and they get him a perfect open look — and he’s kicking it to Mario Chalmers. Makes no sense. I told people, ‘It’s like Michael Jordan told me. Before you succeed, you must first fail.’ ”

For many years, I felt that LeBron James was crowned The Golden Child, receiving a free pass from the media enabling him to say and do things that other players couldn’t get away with.  When James stormed off the court, refusing to shake hands with the Orlando Magic after the Cavs were defeated in the 2009 playoffs, that was the first time I saw any media members publicly criticize James. 

Obviously, the flood gates opened with “The Decision” and people finally got to see that not-so-golden side of James.  One would think that at his age, after all that Shaq had dealt with through the years, LeBron would be the least of his concerns at that point in his career.  Clearly Shaq was still competitive, wanted to win and didn’t appreciate James getting special treatment. 

Especially with Jackie MacMullan behind it, this book is a must-read.  I’ll put it on the shelf next to my autographed copy of “Shaq Talks Back,” which I waited in line for a few hours to get signed by the big man when I was a teenager.  Those were the good old days!