League finds way to make bad PR situation worse by killing trade


The only public relations move worse than the league allowing Chris Paul to be traded to the Lakers after a five-month lockout allegedly about “competitive balance” is to have David Stern come in with an iron fist and kill the deal because owners complained.

Well done NBA. Well done indeed.

David Stern and the league painted itself into a corner here by trying to be rational — if we learned one thing from the lockout it is that the NBA owners are not rational.

Stern let Hornets GM Dell Demps try to work out the best deal for his team. After talking to anyone and everyone that called, Demps came up with a three-team deal that would have netted the Hornets Lamar Odom, Luis Scola, Kevin Martin and a draft pick for Paul. That’s not a bad haul — those are guys that can make the team competitive now and be good trade chips going forward as the team will start to rebuild. This was the first move of many in the Hornets rebuilding.

But all some owners saw was Chris Paul going to the Lakers.

We just missed a couple months of the NBA season because Stern was telling us small market owners didn’t want to just keep sending their big stars to big markets like some kind of glorified farm system. “Competitive balance” was the owners’ mantra through this entire labor dispute.

Those owners saw the trade as a black eye and pressured the league to kill it.

What they did was make things worse. And made themselves look foolish in the process.

The league denies this is how things went down, with league spokesman Mike Bass saying the owners never discussed it as a group and the decision to kill the trade was made for “basketball reasons.”

Wrong. Demps made the trade he did for basketball reasons. He looked at about 100 trade options teams put before him and selected (and helped create) the one that he thought helped his team the most. He wanted to trade Paul for basketball reasons — he watched what happened to the Nuggets last year and didn’t want that to happen to his team.

But the league killed the deal anyway. Good luck finding a better one. Or any deal for that matter.

And while we’re at it — this Pau Gasol trade was a bad one, but Pau Gasol for Kwame Brown was OK? Really?

“Competitive balance” was always smokescreen, a myth that could not be obtained by any new Collective Bargaining Agreement. No system can save bad owners from themselves. Put simply, smart management wins in the NBA, and by smart management we mean smart drafting to start. You can win and be profitable in a small market, as San Antonio and Oklahoma City have and are proving, as the Memphis Grizzlies showed us last playoffs.

But the biggest stars will always gravitate toward the brightest lights. Los Angeles, New York and Miami have inherent advantages as a destination that Indianapolis cannot match. Small markets can overcome that, if they are managed well. The Hornets were not for years — thanks again Gorge Shinn! — and now Demps has to clean up the mess.

But the league wouldn’t let him do his job. They listened to whiny owners.

Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch said the league looked like it was run by the Keystone Cops tonight. That sounds about right.

James Harden scores 34, Rockets hold off Timberwolves 129-120

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — James Harden had 34 points and 12 assists, and Houston held off a fourth-quarter rally to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 129-120 on Sunday night for the Rockets’ 26th win in 28 games.

The West’s top team led by as many as 25 before the Timberwolves, holding on for dear life in a tightening playoff race, pulled within five in the fourth. The loss dropped the Wolves into the eighth playoff spot after they started the day in a three-way tie for fifth.

Harden had 11 points in the final 6:34, including a 3-pointer with 58 seconds left that effectively secured the win.

Chris Paul and Clint Capela each had 16 points for the Rockets.

Jeff Teague led Minnesota with 23 points, Andrew Wiggins had 21, and Karl-Anthony Towns and Jamal Crawford each added 20.

The Wolves got a burst of energy after a fourth-quarter scuffle between Gorgui Dieng, Paul and Gerald Green. Green was ejected for coming to Paul’s defense after a frustrated Dieng pushed him down after a foul. With the pumped-up crowd chanting “Gor-Gui!,” Derek Rose had back-to-back layups to pull the Wolves to 109-102. But Paul hit a jumper with Crawford in his face, and Harden easily drove past Dieng for a layup to give the Rockets some breathing room.

Minnesota’s 19-6 run made it 115-110 with 3:58 to play before Trevor Ariza hit a 3, and the Rockets were able to answer every Wolves bucket to hold off the rally.

The game was seemingly over by halftime; Houston shot 63 percent, hit 11 3-pointers and led by as many as 24 in the first half while turning the ball over only three times. Harden had 10 assists in the first half, when the Wolves were as close as three before Houston reeled off a 12-0 run and didn’t allow Minnesota to recover.


Jimmy Butler targeting return to Timberwolves before end of season

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Jimmy Butler could return to the court for the Minnesota Timberwolves before the end of the regular season, if he stays on track with his rehabilitation from knee surgery.

Butler spoke to reporters Sunday for the first time since the meniscus injury he suffered Feb. 23 at Houston . He confirmed an initial recovery estimate of four to six weeks. Even on the long end of that timetable, he’d likely have two games with the Timberwolves before the postseason.

Butler said he’s confident in both his ability to heal in time and the team’s ability to hang on to a spot in the playoffs. The Wolves entered their game against the Rockets in a three-way tie for fifth place in the Western Conference, but no room for a slump.

For more AP NBA coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

Gerald Green ejected for pushing Gorgui Dieng into stands (VIDEO)

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I don’t know why everyone in the NBA is so geeked this weekend. Coaches are getting fined, referees are throwing dudes out left and right. Maybe it’s because most of us recently saw the sun for the first time in five months, although I couldn’t tell you for certain.

As the Minnesota Timberwolves and Houston Rockets went head-to-head on Sunday, something had players on both sides itching. Early in the fourth quarter, Timberwolves big man Gorgui Dieng got into it with Houston’s Chris Paul and Gerald Green.

The incident came as Dieng was being defended by Paul in the low post. Paul was whistled for a foul while trying to get the ball away from Dieng, but even after the whistle blew the Rockets guard did not stop trying to get the ball. Dieng responded by pushing Paul, who fell to the ground as if someone cut the strings on him.

That prompted another whistle from the refs, and a crowd of players ensued. Green rushed to push Dieng, sending the Timberwolves center into the stands.

When the scene settled, Dieng was issued a technical foul and Green was ejected.

After the game, Dieng told reporters he thought Paul’s constant digging for the ball was a cheap shot, so he responded in kind.

Minnesota, energized, tried to make a late push on the top team in the Western Conference but came up just short. Houston beat the Timberwolves, 129-120.

Alvin Gentry, Stan Van Gundy fined $15,000 each for criticizing officials

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All is not right between NBA players, coaches, and the referees. What else is new?

After contentious games on Saturday night, both Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy and New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry expressed their opinions about what they felt was a poor officiating.

Van Gundy — whose team lost to the Portland Trail Blazers as they continued on to their 12th straight win — complained that his players were being “screwed” as they were knocked down, hammered, and hit. Gentry was especially infuriated after a late foul call went against his team as James Harden was hit on the hand while shooting a 3-pointer.

Now, the NBA has announced that both coaches have been fined $15,000 each for public criticism of officials.

Things were slated to get better between the NBRA and NBPA after the All-Star break. The two sides were supposed to have a meeting which discussed some of the more concerning trends that players and coaches have publicly complained about this year. That meeting got moved up to December, with more talks to come later. It’s not clear if they’ve done any good.

Right after All-Star Weekend guys like LeBron James were still making waves about how they are being officiated. Coaches like Doc Rivers continue to openly complain about the referees and draw fines. Van Gundy and Gentry are just the latest additions to the list, and it’s unlikely they’ll be the last before the season ends.

Hell, the end of the game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Toronto Raptors was just about as bad as we’ve seen all year. In that game, Raptors coach Dwane Casey was ejected after a comment made by a fan sitting near the floor was incorrectly attributed to him.

The NBA lost a lot of veteran officials due to retirement in the changeover to this season, and the transition has been rough. They’re going to need to figure some things out over the summer. I expect bigger announcements about those efforts to come out after the NBA Finals as a means to restore public faith in the officiating crews.