Kurt Helin

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Wizards unveil “Baltimore Pride” alternate uniforms for this season

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For 10 seasons from 1964 to 1973, the team currently known as the Washington Wizards was the Baltimore Bullets.

The current team is going to honor that heritage and teams — which featured stars such as Walt Bellamy, Earl “the Pearl” Monroe, and Wes Unseld — by wearing a “Baltimore Pride” alternate uniform for six games this season.

This is not exactly what the old Bullets wore, in part because the colors needed to be updated to the current Wizards’ red, blue and white. The shorts back then were not this long, either (thank Buddha that style changed).

The reaction on Twitter was basically how you expect Twitter to react to anything, we’ll see if people come around over time. Myself, I don’t mind it, then again I tend to like soccer kits.

Gregg Popovich reiterates he’ll coach past when Tim Duncan retires

Gregg Popovich
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As he always seems to do, Tim Duncan is flying under the radar. When you talk about all-time greats, lock future Hall of Famers who may be playing their final season this go around, the conversation focuses out West on Kobe Bryant (who doesn’t know what he is going to do). This could be Duncan’s final season as well, he’s not sure, but it’s not drawing the same spotlight.

Whether Duncan (and Manu Ginobili) go or not, Gregg Popovich is staying.

He’s said that before, and after just recruiting LaMarcus Aldridge into the fold Pop isn’t going to just bolt, he told ESPN’s Sage Steele in an interview (hat tip SI):

“Signing LaMarcus [Aldridge], I had to make a commitment,” Popovich said. “I couldn’t say, ‘LaMarcus, we would love to sign you, see you later.’ So I committed to those guys and I committed to LaMarcus. So, I’ve got to fulfill my promise.”

Popovich has four seasons left on his contract that he said he would coach through the end of the deal — much to the delight of sideline reporters everywhere.

The Spurs have set themselves up beautifully to transition to a post-Duncan world, in part through smart front office work and in part because Duncan took far less money ($10 million this season) than he could have demanded to give his franchise flexibility.

As Duncan fades away, this will be Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard‘s team. Tony Parker will hang around a few more years (although his skills are fading). They will remain a powerhouse, Popovich will be there to make sure of that.

Pau Gasol had nasal surgery this summer, says he’s breathing better

Spain Basketball Team Celebrations
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Derrick Rose isn’t the only Bull who had some unexpected surgery.

Pau Gasol had nasal surgery this summer to aid his breathing, he told media after the Bulls training camp practice Monday. From our own Sean Highkin who was at the practice:

If how Gasol played at EuroBasket – where he was the tournament MVP, led Spain to the title, and dropped 40 in the semi-finals on Rudy Gobert and France — the surgery has worked. He was forced to take on a heavy load for Spain and was able to handle it.

Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time Gasol looked fantastic playing for his country and less so when the NBA season started up again. Taking on a heavy load for one tournament is one thing, doing so for an 82-game regular season plus playoffs is another. New coach Fred Hoiberg was hired in part to reduce the physical load on players.

What the Bulls need is that EuroBasket Gasol come the playoffs (and a healthy Derrick Rose, and Gasol and Joakim Noah to blend, and a few other things). Gasol thinks his game ages well.

Derrick Rose’s surgery successful, he may return for opening night

Derrick Rose
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Derrick Rose has had his surgery to repair his fractured orbital bone in his face, and like every athletic operation ever it has been declared a success by the team.

More importantly, coach Fred Hoiberg thinks Rose might be able to play opening night.

Hoiberg spoke after Bulls practice Wednesday he’s optimistic despite no official timetable. Here is what he said via our own Sean Highkin, who was on hand, and Bleacher Reports’ Kevin Ding.

Recovery from this kind of surgery has taken anywhere from two to four weeks on players in the past. The determining factor is where the fracture was around the eye socket — if it’s close to the eye and could lead to vision issues, the player is out longer.

Rose will return likely wearing a mask, which is an adjustment for players. The other adjustment is a mental one — being able to drive and risk contact again without hesitation.

Aaron Brooks and Kirk Hinrich are the backup point guards behind Rose, and both are a drop off from what even a 75 percent version of the former MVP brings to the court. The Bulls need Rose to be closer to his old self (and a lot of other things) if they are going to threaten Cleveland in the East.

Michael Jordan says George Raveling was key guy pushing him to Nike

Michael Jordan Celebrates the 30th Anniversary of Air Jordan At Palais de Tokyo In Paris
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Last year, 58 percent of all basketball shoes sold were from the Jordan brand.

It’s been 17 years since Michael Jordan played a meaningful NBA game (I have repressed the memory of the Wizards years) and yet his shoes and brand remain by far the most iconic in basketball. We almost all own a pair (or two in my case). He made more than $100 million last year off his deal with Nike. Jordan lifted Nike to the top of the American shoe market and got crazy rich in the process, it’s the most profitable athlete/shoe company collaboration in history.

Who should get credit for getting these two sides together?

In an entertaining read at the USA Today, Jordan names recent Hall of Fame inductee George Raveling as the man.

“In all honesty, I never wore Nike shoes until I signed with Nike,” Jordan said. “I was a big Adidas, Converse guy coming out of college. Then actually my parents made me go out to (Nike’s headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.) to hear their proposal.

“Prior to all of that, Sonny (Vaccaro) likes to take the credit. But it really wasn’t Sonny, it was actually George Raveling. George Raveling was with me on the 1984 Olympics team (as an assistant coach under Bob Knight). He used to always try to talk to me, ‘You gotta go Nike, you gotta go Nike. You’ve got to try.’

It was Raveling — the Iowa coach at the time, his team on a Nike contract — that introduced Jordan to Vaccaro, according to Jordan (who now owns the Charlotte Bobcats). Then it was Vaccaro that helped finalize the deal after Jordan was blown away by the Nike presentation.

Vaccaro says that everyone in the story — Jordan, Raveling, Nike CEO Phil Knight — are all lying to destroy his name. I can only assume he did the interview while wearing a tin foil hat. (Vaccaro was fired from Nike in 2001.)

Raveling backs up Jordan’s story in the USA Today piece, adding that Vaccaro had pushed him to try to set up a meeting with Jordan. However, Raveling said it was not the first meeting with Vaccaro over dinner that won Jordan over; it was the “Air Jordan” line pitch up at Nike HQ that changed Jordan’s mind.

The rest is history. Very lucrative history.