LeBron James

Winderman: Charity games show fans’ passion, market to see NBA elite

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How intense is the demand from the NBA market for product?

Tickets to the Saturday lockout exhibition at Florida International University that LeBron James is helping promote sold out within two hours Monday.

Even though there were no on-line or phone sales, and even though some windows at the school’s box office only took cash for the tickets priced at $50 and $100.

How intense is the demand from the NBA secondary market for product?

Even before the tickets went on sale, they already were being offered for resale by some outlets, with prices posted as high as $500 while ticket sales still were under way. Now Stubhub has them listed for $1,700 a pop.

Granted, selling tickets in a 5,000-seat arena for a game featuring LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony is different than trying to sell 17,000 seats in Sacramento to see the Kings play. And, granted, these exhibitions hardly have gone off smoothly, with a reported counterfeiting issue at Chris Paul’s game in Winston-Salem, N.C., this past weekend the latest snafu.

But what games such as these show is the players, at least in limited quantity, can market their own game, can push their own product.

In this case, proceeds will go to the charity organized by Florida International coach Isiah Thomas in honor of his late mother.

If anything, it should send another signal to those negotiating in New York of just how passionate the following is for their games and their stars. And how it is the stars who truly drive the product.

For years, offseason charity exhibitions had annually been staged at the Heat’s arena, with interest not quite as robust as what was witnessed Monday at the school on the west side of Miami.

Yet Monday, those negotiating a new collective-bargaining agreement in New York were dealing with proposals on how to trim the league’s highest salaries.

Tuesday, many earning those highest salaries will be back at the side of union boss Billy Hunter, facing down the owners who have taken the attitude that this is their game, their product, their show.

In a perfect world, Saturday’s exhibition will serve as a climax to the lockout exhibition season, before players return to training camps.

Otherwise, it will stand as a reminder of how deep the passion for the game, and particularly the game’s elite, runs among fans, as those $50 and $100 tickets are scalped for prices that exceed those of even the real games.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.

Stephen Curry gives high five while his shot is in air (video)

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Stephen Curry said the defending-champion Warriors would have no problem picking up where they left off.

His swagger certainly remains intact.

Knicks associate head coach: Porzingis might be combination of Gasol, Nowitzki

2015 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot

Knicks president Phil Jackson compared New York’s No. 4 overall pick, Kristaps Porzingis, to Shawn Bradley.

Porzingis resisted that comparison, but he might appreciate these ones – to Pau Gasol and Dirk Nowitzki – a little more.

Knicks associate head coach Kurt Rambis, via Marc Berman of the New York Post:

Perhaps the most successful European big men in recent times are Gasol, whom Rambis coached, and Nowitzki.

“He might be a combination of both of them,’’ Rambis said. ‘He can do so many things. You guys haven’t seen it yet. And some of it won’t come out for three, four, five years either. He’s got to grow up, mature, develop, get stronger and [get] used to the NBA game. He already understands basketball and knows what to do, and he’s an unselfish player. He makes really good decisions. It wasn’t like he was a blank slate coming here.’’

Aside from his intensive work ethic, Porzingis also has an unprecedented gift.

“He’s got 3-point range — like effortless 3-point range, too,’’ Rambis said. “It’s not even hard for him to shoot for distance.’’

I like Porzingis and think he has a bright NBA future, but is piling this level of praise on him really a good idea? Rambis adds the caveats that it could take years for Porzingis’ talent to translate, but this still sets up an incredibly high ceiling for Porzingis to reach.

Jackson and Knicks coach Derek Fisher had done a good job of keeping expectations in line, praising Porzingis’ work ethic and modest progress. Jackson might have gone too far with the Bradley comparison, but at least he limited the hype.

Rambis needs to show more perspective. Many rookies flash amazing potential before their first game. Far fewer become Hall of Famers. Ditto rookies who drill 3-pointers in practice relative to those who do it in games.

I still think Porzingis will be fine, and maybe in New York, an overhyping is inevitable. I’m just not sure Rambis is doing Porzingis any favors by contributing to it.