Hall of Fame may alter election process

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This year Bobby Leonard was selected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame by the ABA committee — he was a former college star at Indiana (he hit the game winning free throws to give Indiana the 1953 national championship) who after a seven year NBA playing career went on to coach the Pacers to three ABA titles. You probably know him as the Pacers’ color commentator on broadcasts.

Nat Clifton, the former Knick who was the second African-American ever to sign an NBA contract and play in the league, who went on to be an All-Star in 1957, was elected directly to the HOF by the Early African American Pioneers Committee. Sarunas Marciulionis will be in the Hall thanks to a vote by the International Committee.

Do those guys deserve to be in the Hall? Do they deserve a direct election by subcommittees?

A few years back the Hall of Fame election process was opened up to allow a few “direct elections” by committees who could help bring in guys overlooked by the current system, to help out guys who deserved recognition. But now some are questioning if those committees have run their course.

Jerry Colangelo, the guy in charge of the Hall of Fame now, may be one of those guys. He talked with Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com about it.

“Let’s put it this way,” said Jerry Colangelo, the chairman of the Springfield, Mass., basketball museum. “This year, for the first time, we brought that up, to say, ‘You know, when we did this, we said it’s not forever.’ The concept was we felt people had slipped through the cracks. This was a catch-up kind of a thing, so we’re not locked in. We need now to review it each year, to say maybe we’ve taken care of what needed to be taken care of in this category or that category. But it’s just too early to say what we’re going to do.”

The current format with the direct-elections will “probably” remain in place for at least one more year, Colangelo said, because the Hall would prefer to phase out categories rather than make an abrupt end. That leadership is having conversations now, though, indicates internal questions have already developed about whether enough deserving candidates exist for the specialized categories beyond 2015.

Understand that this doesn’t mean guys from the ABA (or whatever category) couldn’t make the Hall of Fame, they just would have to go through the usual process — be voted in as finalists then get elected via a final round of voting (where nobody knows who is doing the secretive voting process).

It also does not mean guys finishing their careers now will go through a different process, nothing is changing for Alonzo Mourning and other current candidates.

We will see how this plays out.

I will not use this space to go off on another personal rant about ow we need a separate NBA Hall of Fame. But I should.

After Thunder win, Russell Westbrook trolls Joel Embiid, waves goodbye, tells him to “go home”

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Joel Embiid was making friends all over the court on Friday night.

First, he got into a jawing match with Carmelo Anthony. Also during the first overtime, Embiid blocked Russell Westbrook‘s driving attempt at a game winner.

After the Thunder, Westbrook trolled Embiid by waving goodbye to the Sixers’ center, who was yelling back at him.

When asked about it, Westbrook said Embiid was talking a lot so he told the Sixers center to go home.

That can have some serious connotations — Embiid was born in Cameroon. Westbrook may have meant “go to the locker room” or “go to where you live,” but considering Embiid is an immigrant it comes off very poorly for Westbrook.

Embiid threw a little fire back at Westbrook.

The league office is going to be looking into this one.

DeMarcus Cousins doesn’t expect Pelicans to trade him at the deadline

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The New Orleans Pelicans have a decision to make as they approach the trade deadline: Do they think they can re-sign DeMarcus Cousins next summer to stay in the Big Easy with Anthony Davis?

If the answer is no, then they have to consider trading Cousins at the deadline to at least get something back. There is a lot of context, however, that makes this seeming binary trade/keep decision far more complicated.

Cousins himself doesn’t think he is going anywhere, as he told Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated.

While the Pelicans have a lot to consider with the unrestricted free agent, Cousins says he is confident that he will still be playing for New Orleans after the Feb. 8 trade deadline.

“I am confident in my team,” Cousins said. “I am starting to understand this business a lot more than I did before. You can kind of tell when things are about to come about. We’re a very competitive team. A talented team. I don’t think that will be the case at all….

“A.D. hits me with little jabs about free agency all the time, but he also understands,” Cousins said. “It was Jrue in that situation last [offseason], and we understood his situation. Of course, they throw their little jabs. They throw their little jokes. But they are serious at the same time. They are respectful about it at the same time.

The Pelicans are 15-14 and the seven seed in the West entering Friday night’s games, and if New Orleans has a shot at the playoffs come the deadline there is no way he gets moved. Ownership and management want a playoff appearance. They have greenlit adding one of the game’s top centers (Cousins) to go next to Davis, and last summer they paid big to keep Jrue Holiday at the point in New Orleans. If the Pelicans don’t make the playoffs (and possibly even if they do squeak in and get swept out in an ugly fashion), everyone in the organization expects a housecleaning. They have been on edge all season. With jobs on the line, they are not trading Cousins and getting worse short term even if you could argue it was the right basketball move long term.

Will Cousins re-sign with the Pelicans next summer? That will be about the money — what the Pelicans offer, and what other teams will offer in what is expected to be a tight free agent market, especially for centers.  DeAndre Jordan will be on the market as well, not to mention second-tier guys who will be more affordable for teams such as Brook Lopez. In that market, Cousins may want to stay where he likes his teammates and seems happy.

But first he has to get past the trade deadline.

Joel Embiid scores over Carmelo Anthony, then they exchange words (VIDEO)

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Joel Embiid gives zero… well, you know where I’m going with that.

Embiid trolls the world and backs down from no man, and that includes Carmelo Anthony. Late in the fourth quarter of the barn burner between the Thunder and 76ers Friday night, Embiid backed ‘Melo down and scored over him, then did a little jawing — which Anthony didn’t appreciate.

I love that Embiid egged on the Sixers crowd after this. He knows his audience. After the game he said this.

Embiid talks a lot — A LOT — but he is backing it up.

For example, in the first overtime Russell Westbrook thought he made a drive that was going to win the game, and Embiid rejected him.

If you did not watch this game, go find a replay. This is the new best game of the season.

Rudy Gobert leaves game vs. Celtics with likely knee sprain. Again.

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Rudy Gobert missed 11 games this season due to a bone bruise in his knee. While the Jazz defense suffered as should have been expected with their anchor gone, their offense found a groove without him — and with more Donovan Mitchell and Derrick Favors — resulting in Utah going 7-4 with their star center out.

Now the Jazz will be without him again for a while — he seems to have sprained his left knee just minutes into Friday night’s game against the Celtics when Favors fell back into him. That is the same knee he injured before. Gobert was forced to leave and will not return to the game.

If that diagnosis holds, it will be weeks again the Jazz will be without Gobert.

The Jazz know how to play without Gobert. Favors moves to center and while he’s not near the same defender his offensive skills got them buckets and opened up the floor. The rookie Mitchell, as well as Ricky Rubio at points, took advantage of it to give the Jazz a top-10 offense with Gobert out. They need to find that groove again.

Still, Utah needs Gobert back and himself to really reach the heights they are capable of.