David Stern to step down as NBA Commissioner Feb. 1, 2014

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Last year at the NBA finals David Stern said he only was going to be on the job for a couple more years. He wasn’t kidding.

David Stern, 70, is stepping down as commissioner of the NBA on Feb. 1, 2014, Timberwolves owner and Chairman of Board of Governors Glen Taylor confirmed on Wednesday.

That will be 30 years to the day of David Stern having led the NBA, and taking a sport that not long before he took over had its finals games shown on tape delay after midnight to dizzying new heights of popularity both nationally and internationally (and steering it to two lockouts on along the way). Stern was not perfect, but he knew how to market a sport as well or better than any pro sports commissioner in history.

“I thought one year for each of the 30 teams in the NBA was about all I could say…” Stern joked about why retiring now. “Things are in great shape, and there’s an orgainization in place, that will ultimately be led by Adam (Silver) that is totally prepared to take it to the next level. I didn’t feel comfortable leaving prior to (negotiating the new) Collective Bargaining Agreement… and this seemed to be a great time….

“Life is a journey and it’s been a spectacular journey. And each step along the way there are things that you have to do, things you wish you hadn’t done, but I don’t keep that list. I’m totally pleased.”

Stern said he plans to stay on, basically as a consultant, to work on special projects. That likely will involve working to grow the game overseas, a passion of his.

Current deputy Commissioner Adam Silver, the NBA’s lead negotiator during the lockout, was unanimously selected by the owners to take his place and negotiations will take place with him Taylor confirmed (the formal approval will come in April). Silver has worked in the league offices for 20 years.

“I told the owners yesterday in executive session, I told them that it’s been a great run, it will continue for another 15 months, that the league is in,” I think, terrific condition…” Stern said. “I like to think I did an adequate job but one of the things I did best was to provide a successor that would be able to take the kind of things we now look at as huge growth opportunities — international, digital, television rights — and have somebody place.”

Stern promised a “smooth transition.” Sterm will stay on past his retirement date as a consultant to work with teams and on international projects.

“Adam’s title will be ‘commissioner elect’ but for the next 15 months they are still going to have me to kick around, working with Adam to assure that the transition, the passing of the baton so to speak, on Feb. 1, 2014 is complete,” Stern said.

Top-10 college recruit Anfernee Simmons may go straight to NBA

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A couple of years back, Thon Maker decided to play a post-graduate fifth year of prep school ball, not go to a major college, then jump to the NBA. He could because he had graduated a year before and was 19, the Bucks took him in the lottery, and so far it has worked out for everyone.

Now another recruit, Anfernee Simmons, may follow that path. Simmons is spending this year at the IMG Academy, and the combo guard is considered a top-10 recruit in this class.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN broke the story after speaking to Simmons.

“Some people have brought it to my attention,” Simons told ESPN during an interview in Connecticut, where his team was participating in the National Prep Showcase. “As long as the opportunity is there, I will do it.

“I can see myself going to the NBA combine, if I have enough teams to actually invite me or recommend me for the combine and enough teams want to bring me for workouts. I really need to hit the weight room hard and get a little stronger.”

This is a sensible approach — find out where you roughly fall in the draft, then make a decision. Listen to the teams, not friends/family/agents. If you have a first-round guarantee, then go pro.

Givony and others describe the 6’3″ Simmons as talented but still a project for the NBA level, starting with the fact he needs to get stronger (something true of most rookies). Not that it really scares off teams any longer, many are willing to develop and wait on a player with potential (he could spend a chunk of his first season in the G-League). Simmons is fast when he drives, and has a smooth release on his jumper. If he gets stronger and his game matures, a team may take a risk on him.

Shorthanded Cavaliers now without Iman Shumpert for 5-7 days

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Isaiah Thomas is still rehabbing his hip, he should return next month.

With him out, Tyronn Lue and the Cavaliers have had to lean more on Derrick Rose at the point, except he has a sprained ankle that is going to have him out a couple more weeks.

That has forced Iman Shumpert into the starting point guard role in Cleveland, although he mostly is there for defense/shooting as the playmaking duties fall to LeBron James.

Now the Cavaliers will have to get by without Shumpert for a while with water on the knee, Cleveland announced on Saturday. He left Friday night’s Cavs win against the Clippers with a sore knee and did not return

“Additional examination and imaging today at Cleveland Clinic Sports Health confirmed left knee effusion. He will be out 5-7 days while he undergoes treatment and rehabilitation,” the Cavaliers said in a statement.

This is going to force Lue to play Jose Calderon, who he has kept glued to the bench this season despite the injuries. J.R. Smith and Dwyane Wade will need to take on more run as well.

The Celtics have won four in a row — thanks to a more focused offense — and face the Pistons, Nets, and Hornets this week.

Joakim Noah on if he can play at former level: “Probably not. Probably not.”

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For three games, Joakim Noah has been clear of the 20-game PED suspension he started at the end of last season.

For three games, he has not even dressed for the Knicks.

This is the former Defensive Player of the Year who was already on the decline when Phil Jackson gave him a $72 million contract that is now the worst in the NBA. Noah is out of the rotation, where Enes Kanter starts at center (with Kristaps Porzingis at the four) and Kyle O’Quinn coming off the bench.

Noah told Marc Berman of the New York Post he is frustrated but gets the situation.

“I’ll be all right. I’ll be all right,’’ Noah said in his first comments since being reinstated. “I understand the situation. I’m going to make the best of it.”

When asked if he still feels he can be close to the player he was in his 2013-14 campaign, Noah said: “Probably not. Probably not. You know. I can help. I feel like I could help this team and that’s just my reality. But I just want to just be the best that I can be.

“It’s not about trying to be what I was three, four years ago, because it’s not the reality.”

Noah is a smart and mature player, he understands his reality, and he has the exact attitude you want a veteran off the bench. He can help in practices, he can help because he understands how to play defense and can teach it, and eventually, he will get a chance on the court. He is not part of the future of the Knicks, but he can guide these young players.

The Knicks new management will look for a way to unload Noah’s contract, but considering the sweeteners the Knicks would need to throw in to get a team to deal for Noah, it’s unlikely we see any action on that front for a long time.

Frustrated Gregg Popovich calls all three referees “f****** blind”

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The Spurs completed an amazing comeback win against the Thunder Friday night, coming from 23 down to knock off the Thunder when Carmelo Anthony‘s game-tying three was just a two because his toe was on the line.

Gregg Popovich was into this one.

So much so that when he didn’t like an out-of-bounds call he made sure all three officials knew exactly how blind he thought they were.

The best part of this is Popovich covering his eyes, just to really emphasize his point.

We’re really going to miss Pop when he steps away to live at a winery full time.