Dan Feldman

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 15:  Basketball star LeBron James takes a photo prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield on October 15, 2011 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

LeBron James producing Muhammad Ali documentary for HBO

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — King James is set to tell the story of The Greatest.

HBO says Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James will be the executive producer of a documentary on Muhammad Ali for the network. The film will be directed by Antoine Fuqua, who also helmed the boxing drama, “Southpaw,” and “Training Day.” Fuqua will also produce.

James says in a statement announcing the still-untitled project that Ali “transcended sports and used his platform to empower people, which paved the way for all athletes and people of every race and gender that came after him, myself included.”

HBO says it will combine archival footage with cinematic recreations to tell Ali’s story.

Ali’s family is also participating in the project

Ali died June 3 at the age of 74.

D-League experimenting with larger referee crews

kenny mauer
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Mavericks owner Mark Cuban – while calling for Ken Mauer to be suspended or demoted for missing a Bojan Bogdanovic travel/double-dribble – made a wise point about officiating:

Referees miss calls because there’s too much happening simultaneously.

The NBA wants to try giving each ref a little less to watch, starting with a D-League experiment.

NBA release:

The NBA Development League will experiment with four- and five-person officiating crews for nine games this season, it was announced today.  The nine-game trial, which is being conducted by NBA and NBA D-League Referee Operations, will begin on Dec. 26 when the Westchester Knicks face the Long Island Nets at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.  The initiative will allow the NBA to gather live-game data on the larger officiating crews, continuing its use of the NBA D-league for research and development.

 

“We are committed to finding ways to better serve our game and provide the highest levels of training for our officials,” said Bob Delaney, NBA Vice President, Referee Operations & Director of Officials.  “We are confident in how our three-person system works and are constantly thinking of ways to improve our game.  The four- and five-referee initiative is a prime example of that focus and will help the NBA with research and development.  The NBA D-League provides the perfect opportunity to conduct this test.”

The four-person experiments will be run in two configurations.  The first will feature two officials in the lead position and two split between the slot and the trail.  The second is highlighted by two officials in the slot position with the additional two as a trail and a lead, respectively.  In the five-person tests, the existing three-person system will rotate typically with the two additional officials taking lead stationary positions on each end of the court.  The testing comes on the heels of similar experimental four-person crews tested during the 2016 Utah Jazz Summer League.

The full slate of games in the trial will take place at Barclays Center and will feature the Long Island Nets and nine different NBA D-League Eastern Conference opponents between Dec. 26 and March 19.  The first five scheduled experimental games will be officiated by four referees, while the remaining four contests will feature five-person crews.

The initiative is the latest test conducted for the NBA by the NBA D-League, which has experimented with rules changes, technological advancements and equipment research.  Among the experimental rules being utilized in the NBA D-League this season are the Coach’s Challenge, the Reset Timeout and a three-minute overtime period.

This is a step in the right direction. The less referees have to watch and run, the easier time they’ll have getting calls right.

But while adding human eyes helps, the league should think bigger. The NBA should focus on leveraging technology to improve officiating.

For example, the league can track the location of players and the ball on the court. Automate three-second violations. If referees didn’t have to watch for that, they could focus on more subjective calls like fouls and ideally get those correct more often.

Report: Byron Scott kidded staffers he’d need a contract extension if Lakers drafted project Kristaps Porzingis

New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6), of Latvia, battles Los Angeles Lakers forward Thomas Robinson (15) and teammate forward Larry Nance Jr. (7) for basket during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)
AP Photo/Gus Ruelas
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Karl-Anthony Towns was the consensus No. 1 pick last year, and he has emerged as the best player from the 2015 NBA draft. The second-best player from that draft, Kristaps Porzingis, went No. 4 to the Knicks.

Why did Porzingis fall past the second-picking Lakers (who saw their mistake firsthand last night) and third-picking 76ers?

Porzingis wouldn’t meet with Philadelphia. What’s the Lakers’ excuse? After intriguing them in a league-wide workout, Porzingis conducted a private workout with the Lakers.

Kevin Ding of ESPN:

Kupchak structured Porzingis’ private Lakers workout as essentially a challenge of his manhood rather than a validation of his gifts.

In so doing, the Lakers lost sight of how truly unique this 7’3″ player could be, with skills at a size already forcing the NBA to adjust to him rather than vice-versa.

The Lakers, though, wanted to test Porzingis’ physicality, and especially his “bigness,” in that workout. They overvalued Porzingis’ need to prove he could play in the low post and wrongly equated his shaky stamina with his overall NBA readiness.

Then-Lakers head coach Byron Scott, whose outdated mindsets have been well documented, even kidded Lakers staffers after watching Porzingis wilt with exhaustion that Scott had better get a contract extension if the club decided to draft Porzingis and wait for him to grow up.

There’s often a degree of truth to jokes. Scott established himself as out of touch, and nobody would be surprised if he were unable to recognize what makes Porzingis special in the modern game. The Lakers also stumbled into all their young talent despite trying to fast-track their rebuild. Perhaps those flawed outlooks contributed to them passing on Porzingis for D'Angelo Russell.

But I think there’s a degree of assigning a narrative to fit the facts here (not a new concept with Porzingis and the Lakers).

Teams should conduct workouts to challenge players. Maybe the Pistons wouldn’t have drafted Darko Milicic if they tested his toughness in workouts rather than just salivated over his strengths, and there are numerous other examples.

The 76ers were as forward-thinking as any team in the league, and they passed on Porzingis for Jahlil Okafor.

And the Knicks – who drafted Porzingis – could be described as just as backward as the Lakers. At least their president, Phil Jackson, keeps making himself look that way. It sounds as if their Porzingis workout was similarly strenuous. Ding:

Yet Jackson, despite his age and the pressure to win now with Carmelo Anthony, had his mind open enough to endure the draft-night boos and choose Porzingis. Jackson did it even though Porzingis hurt his leg early in his private workout at the Knicks’ practice facility three days before the draft and couldn’t even continue…with Anthony among those watching with frustration.

This jibes with a report Anthony was upset the Knicks drafted Porzingis. (Anthony downplayed a problem with the pick.)

The simple truth: Not the Lakers, not the 76ers, not the Knicks, not Scott, not Anthony knew how good Porzingis would be. Drafting is hard. Maybe the Lakers’ process prevented them from realizing Porzingis’ ability. But the 76ers missed it, too. And Jackson reportedly considered trading the No. 4 pick on draft night.

Credit Jackson with getting the pick right, but also consider plenty of hindsight is necessary to ding the Lakers for passing on Porzingis.

Report: Pelicans making Omer Asik ‘very much available’ in trade

Golden State Warriors v New Orleans Pelicans
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The new Collective Bargaining Agreement reportedly won’t contain an amnesty clause, which will be fine by most teams. With the salary cap rising so rapidly under the new national TV contracts, it became difficult for a couple years to sign bad contracts.

But one team that could use an amnesty clause: the Pelicans, who are tied to barely productive, ill-fitting and declining Omer Asik.

So, it’s little surprise they want to trade him.

A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN New England:

Omer Asik, the rim-protecting big man who has not been nearly as impactful in the Big Easy as he was in Chicago, is very much available a league source has told CSNNE.com.

The 30-year-old Asik is due $33,859,548 over the three years following this season. He has negative value, meaning New Orleans would have to attach a positive asset to move him.

He’s not worth his cost, but Asik can still help a team inside. He just doesn’t fit Alvin Gentry’s fast-paced offense, and the Pelicans are better off with Anthony Davis at center.

But they’re likely stuck with him until they send out more to move him or he becomes a salary-matching aspect of a larger deal.

John Legend to headline 2017 NBA-All Star halftime show

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 08:  Artist John Legend performs onstage at Pandora Presents: John Legend on December 8, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Pandora Media)
Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Pandora Media
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After setting the bar impossibly low last year, the NBA improved its headliner for this year’s All-Star halftime show.

NBA release:

The National Basketball Association (NBA) announced today that 10-time Grammy® Award-winning recording artist John Legend will headline the 66th NBA All-Star Game halftime show on Sunday, Feb. 19 at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans.

Legend is fine, but I’m going to quibble. The game is in New Orleans. The league should have gotten someone from that city’s incredible musical legacy.