Kurt Helin

Here’s an early look at Shaq’s statue going up outside Staples Center

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The statue garden outside of Staples Center in Los Angeles is getting crowded. Already there are Lakers Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West, and broadcaster Chick Hearn. And that doesn’t touch on Wayne Gretzky and Luc Robitaille from the NHL’s Kings, or Oscar de la Hoya’s boxing statue.

Come Friday Shaquille O’Neal’s statue will be flying high above them all.

The Lakers’ legend sent out a photo of his statue going up.

The Lakers have already retired Shaq’s jersey inside the arena. When the statue goes up Friday Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson and others are expected to be on hand for the ceremony before the Lakers face the Timberwolves.

Big 3 legends basketball league reaches broadcast deal with Fox Sports

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Are people going to tune in to watch legendary basketball players of their youth lace them up again for a three-on-three, half-court game?

Fox Sports is betting that they will.

Big3 — which will tip-off this summer and features Allen Iverson, Jason ‘White Chocolate’ Williams, Chauncey Billups, Kenyon Martin, Charles Oakley, and other former NBA stars — has inked a deal with Fox Sports to broadcast the games on FS1, the two sides announced on Wednesday.

“This is a big day for the BIG3,” league founder Ice Cube said on UNDISPUTED. “We are very excited … we’ve been waiting for this day. It’s extremely exciting to be here with FOX Sports. They definitely see the picture and see the great things we are trying to do.”

“This is an ideal fit for FS1,” said Charlie Dixon, FOX Sports EVP of Content/Original Programming. “It will be appointment viewing for any basketball fan, showcasing star-power, fiery personalities and classic matchups on the court.”

It’s going to be interesting. Names we all know but guys well past their prime playing a 3-on-3 halfcourt game similar to what you and I have played in pickup games on the blacktop. Well, except the Big 3 has a four-point shot. There will be games packed into 10 cities on sort of a barnstorming tour, with the teams playing all games back-to-back each in the same venue. FOX will broadcast the games the following night. The league championship airs Aug. 26 live on FOX.

Big3 is well funded and went and got big names to take part. It’s an interesting concept. Will it catch on with fans? Fox thinks it will.

Steve Kerr said he would take less money to shorten NBA schedule. So that’s one.

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Every time you get in a serious discussion about fixing the NBA’s issue of marquee players getting rested for big games, the topic will come around to “the NBA’s regular season schedule is too long.” Everyone nods in agreement with that statement, the league doesn’t really need 82 games and then a couple months of playoffs.

However, changing that would change to the core how the NBA’s financial model. How many people around the league are willing to make less money to have fewer games?

Steve Kerr would. Here is what he said, via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“I wouldn’t be opposed to it, even at the expense to my own salary, but it’s something that everyone would have to agree to,” Kerr said before Tuesday night’s 112-87 win over the Dallas Mavericks. “I think even just going down to 75 games, I think that would make a dramatic difference in schedule. Now I don’t see that happening because there is money at stake for everybody.”

Kerr makes one. With some work we might be able to get up to five people willing to take less for more rest.

Shortening the NBA schedule, even by seven or 10 games, would require a restructuring of every NBA contract — with the players, with the television broadcasters both national and local, with national NBA sponsors, with individual team sponsors. That’s just the first step. And again, you’re doing all this so that the players and owners can both take a pay cut (both gate and television revenue would go down).

The league is going to take steps to make sure that the league’s biggest names play in its showcase games if healthy (although let’s be honest, DNP-Rest will simply be replaced by DNP-back or DNP-ankle in plenty of cases). That has to start with how the NBA schedules games — if you’re going to hype a Saturday night game like it was a playoff game, then treat it like one with rest on either side for the teams involved.

“I do think this (rest issues) can be remedied though — maybe not remedied — but I think it can be dramatically helped with what the league is already working on for next year and the consideration of geographics when it comes to the schedule,” Kerr said.

Rumor: Nets will target Pistons’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope this summer

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This much we know: The Brooklyn Nets are going to have $33 million or so in cap space this coming summer. Last summer when the team had space, Nets GM Sean Marks tried to poach restricted free agents Tyler Johnson away from Miami and Allen Crabbe out of Portland (both clubs matched).

Who will the Nets target this summer? Otto Porter? Mason Plumlee? Kelly Olynyk?

Put the Pistons’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at the top of the list, according to a report in the New York Post.

Both scouts and former teammates told The Post that Caldwell-Pope, who had 19 points and four rebounds in a 98-96 loss to the Nets Tuesday, has become the most important piece on a Pistons roster that features All-Star Andre Drummond, and young standouts Reggie Jackson and Tobias Harris. That’s why Brooklyn is expected to make the two-way wing a top priority this summer….

Caldwell-Pope, 24, will be a restricted free agent, after he demanded more than $20 million annually and no deal was reached. The Vertical reported Detroit doesn’t want to give him a max contract, but it may not have a choice. The Post has confirmed the Nets’ interest and ESPN intimated they would go that high to get him.

“I’m impressed,’’ Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said when asked about Caldwell-Pope. “I love how he competes, how he competes on the defensive end. That’s really the essence of what I see when I watch him play. He plays with force, he competes on the defensive end.”

Next year’s salary cap is expected to be $102 million, with a luxury tax line of $122 million. The Pistons already have $94 million in guaranteed contracts on the books. While they can shift some money around (trading Reggie Jackson and his $16 million comes to mind), adding $20 million or more to the payroll right now takes them into the luxury tax area. Which means if the Nets come in with a big offer, the Pistons have some thinking to do.

That said, the Pistons almost certainly match. Caldwell-Pope is too key to what they do.

A lot of players in Caldwell-Pope’s position would have taken the security of the Pistons’ offer, but he bet on himself and this summer it’s going to pay off.

Report: Kevin Garnett was almost traded to Warriors in 2008, not Celtics

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No big three era in Boston? No banners at The Garden since 1986?

According to former Warriors GM Chris Mullin, it almost worked out that way because he was on the cusp of a trade that would have brought Kevin Garnett to the “We Believe” Warriors until one of the worst owners in NBA history killed the deal.

Mullin spoke to Ric Bucher about it for a story on those Warriors for Bleacher Report.

“It was basically done,” Mullin says. “I was doing an extension with [agent] Andy Miller on Kevin Garnett’s deal. KG liked Baron enough, and we had talked enough. He said, ‘Yo, I’ll do it.'”

A 2007 draft-night three-team deal with the Timberwolves and Charlotte (then the Bobcats) would’ve sent Garnett to the Warriors, Richardson to the Bobcats and picks and talent to the Timberwolves. It fell apart, Mullin says, when then-Warriors owner Chris Cohan dragged his feet and ultimately said no….

“We were making moves to get KG, and then we traded J-Rich for Brandan Wright,” says Matt Barnes, one of the few players aware of Mullin’s plan at the time. “We won more games, but it just wasn’t the same anymore. It all shifted so quickly. The magic was gone.”

This can lead to a lot of fan fiction NBA, what might have been different. Could KG have motivated the mercurial Davis, who at his best was brilliant but was never motivated to bring it — or put in the work needed to bring it — nightly? Would it have mattered with the Kobe Bryant/Pau Gasol Lakers who both won the West (65 games) and the NBA title? What would Boston have done had KG not joined Paul Pierce and Ray Allen?

The one thing this should remind us? Cohan was the second worst owner of his era (Donald Sterling still takes that honor) and Warriors fans should appreciate what they have now because of the desert they went through to get there.