Author: Kurt Helin

2013 NBA Finals - Game Three

Charles Barkley offers to pay for funerals of Philadelphia carjacking victims


Charles Barkley is still tied to the city of Philadelphia, where he started his NBA career.

That city has been rocked by the tragic death of three innocent children, ages 7 to 15, who were selling fruit at a stand as a church fundraiser when they were run over by a car that had been carjacked not long before. It’s a sickening event that has left their mother critically wounded as well.

Barkley has stepped up and offered to pay for the funerals of the children, reports

NBA legend and former Philadelphia 76er Charles Barkley has offered to pay for the funerals of three siblings killed after a carjacking went awry in the city last week, according to District Attorney Seth Williams.

Ten-year-old Thomas Reed, his 15-year-old sister Keiearra Williams and their 7-year-old brother Terrence Moore were mowed down by a SUV and ki
lled on a street corner in the Tioga section of the city Friday while selling fruit.

Barkley the analyst can grate on you after a while (although TNT’s Inside the NBA remains must-watch in large part because of him) but Barkley the person is giving and generous to a fault. Spend time around him, hear stories of him from food servers or limo drivers or just about anyone his life has touched, and you find a guy that feels fortunate for what he has and wants to give back.

This is both a great example of that and a great gesture.

For those that haven’t followed the story nationally, the men driving the SUV have been arrested and face charges of second-degree murder, robbery, carjacking, sexual assault and a few others. These guys should not see the outside of a prison ever again.

NBA Players union elects first female executive director in Michele Roberts

Derek Fisher

Much like any legislation that comes out of Washington D.C., how this came to be was far from pretty.

Michele Roberts, a powerful Washington D.C. litigator, has been elected as the next executive director of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), better known as the players union, according to multiple reports. She is the first woman to hold the position and replaces Billy Hunter, who was forced out 17 months ago amid charges of nepotism and other concerns.

Roberts works for the firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. She is not someone with NBA ties but that seemed to appeal to the players who voted (she got 32 of the 34 votes, which included 28 team representatives). One of the other finalists was Mavericks CEO Terdima Ussery, but the union moved away from someone already connected to the league. She also has a spotless reputation.

What do we know about Roberts? Not much. Here is what her law firm’s bio page says about her:

Michele Roberts is a renowned trial lawyer and a member of the firm’s Litigation Group. Her practice focuses on complex civil and white collar criminal litigation before state and federal courts and in administrative proceedings. Ms. Roberts has tried more than 100 cases to jury verdicts, representing clients in a wide variety of areas, including products liability, white collar, racketeering, securities regulation violations, Title VII issues and premises liability. She has been called the finest pure trial lawyer in Washington, D.C. by Washingtonian Magazine.

She does have experience in labor law, which is key for the union.

Her election ended a wild week for the union.

First, Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson, who had led the search committee to find a new executive director, stepped aside before the vote. Then on Monday, a number of player agents who felt cut out of the process had a conference call to complain and pressured their clients to try and delay any vote. Then at the meeting, former player and union rep Jerry Stackhouse showed up and tried to get the players to hold off and look at other candidates.

The day was full of the disruptions that have plagued the union for years. There is an inherent difference in opinions around the unions because what is best for the star players is often not best for the “middle class” or the guys making the league minimum. Throw in agents trying to game the system to help their clients (and therefore their pocket books) and you have a frightening amount of in-fighting. In the end, the union representatives voted for the executive committee (led by union president Chris Paul) backed.

That in-fighting is what Roberts walks into and has to clean up. She needs to get a unified front before the players head into the 2017 negotiations with the NBA on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (either side can opt out that year and it is expected one or both sides will). That is when things get serious.

Kyrie Irving’s world looks pretty good right now

2014 USA Basketball Men's National Team Practice

LAS VEGAS — Kyrie Irving was doing what he does at Day 1 of the Team USA training camp Monday: bring the ball up the court, call for the high pick and then tear apart the defense no matter what it attempts to do to slow you down. Leave a little sliver of daylight and he blows by the big and is at the rim. Switch and he backs out to isolate the mismatch. Don’t stick with the roll man and he finds him with a clean pass (this worked a couple times with DeMarcus Cousins Monday in the final scrimmage). Go under the pick and pull back and he just buries the three over the top of you.

Pretty much everything he does works out well.

That’s pretty much how Irving’s entire summer has gone — it’s good to be Kyrie Irving right now.

He signed an almost max contract extension (it’s still a lot of cash). LeBron James decides to return to Cavaliers and Kevin Love may join the two of them. Now Irving is in Las Vegas where it looks as if he will be a key part of Team USA’s plans heading into the World Cup in Spain starting in late August.

It’s good to be Kyrie Irving right now.

Of course, that LeBron thing pretty much tops it all.

“At first you were speechless because you couldn’t believe it,” Irving said of finding out LeBron was indeed coming to Cleveland. “I’ve been watching LeBron for a while now and it’s nice to be going to run along side of him and be his point guard.”

The two are planning.

“I talk to him every once in a while, I talked to him just a week ago about different pieces on the team and the things we want to do and the kings we want to accomplish,” Irving said. “It’s exciting, it’s an exciting time.”

What about Kevin Love?

“We all know, on and off the floor, how great of a player Kevin is,” Irving said. “He’s just a great player to be around, he knows the game. You watch him on film and he does a ton of things well and obviously he would add a lot versatility out there at the four and five spot for our team. But like I said if it happens great, if it doesn’t we’ll go with the pieces we have.”

A number of fans looked at Cleveland, looked at NBA rookie coach David Blatt (a name they don’t know) and wonder why LeBron would choose to go there in the prime of his career. But Irving was in Las Vegas for Summer League and has talked to Blatt about the offense — and he’s excited.

“I’m very optimistic about the things that he does,” Irving said. “The Summer League was just the icing on the cake for me, just seeing the way he ran the offense and the way he coached. He’s not too hands on. He obviously is the dictator of our offense and what needs to be done, but he obviously lets players play. That’s what you want as a player….

“(There’s) a lot of movement, and he also gives the players that deserve it the iso-motion and a lot of screen and rolls, his offense is tailored to the players he has.”

And he has elite players.

It’s a lot to take in, but right now Irving is just trying to soak up and enjoy the experience with Team USA.

“It’s not every day you have Kevin Durant running your wing or Paul George as your two or DeMarcus Cousins posting up or players like that running along side you,” Irving said. “You have to cherish this opportunity.”

It’s good to be Kyrie Irving right now.

Lakers make it official — finally — and hire Byron Scott as head coach

Byron Scott

Now that wasn’t so hard, was it?

The Lakers fired Mike D’Antoni way back on April 30 and took longer than any other team to get around to picking a new head coach. The Lakers have said they want to find their next star player (they struck out on Carmelo Anthony this summer) then figure out what style of team to build around him. Which makes it hard to settle on a coach because they are all about style and systems.

But they finally made official what everyone else has known for days and chosen the guy who had been the front runner since May 1 — Byron Scott.

“After an extensive and thorough search, we’re proud to welcome Byron back to the Lakers family as our next head coach,” Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said in a released statement. “Byron has proven himself at the highest levels of the game as both a player and a coach in his almost 30 years of NBA experience. His leadership skills and track record for success make him the ideal person to lead this franchise forward.”

“I am ecstatic to once again be a Laker and to have the opportunity to work alongside Mitch and the Buss family,” said Scott in a statement. “I know firsthand what it takes to bring a championship to this city, and as someone who both grew up in L.A. and played the majority of my career here, I know how passionate and dedicated our fans are. I will give everything I have to fulfill the championship expectations that our supporters have for us, and that we have for ourselves.”

This is reportedly a four-year, $17 million deal with the last year being a team option (keep the buyout years down in case they figure out a style and it’s not Scott’s).

This is a dream come true for Scott, who was born in the Los Angeles area and won three rings as a member of the Showtime Lakers in his 11 years with the team. He believes in the Lakers brand and he can sell that to the players — and the Lakers will sell the “return to family aspect.”

Scott coached the Jason Kidd-led New Jersey Nets and was named Coach of the Year in 2008 while leading Chris Paul’s Hornets. Yet he has struggled with player development and defense in his last two stops (despite what he is preaching).

For the Lakers, this is a hire they can sell but one that feels like a placeholder until they get their star player and pick a direction. Whenever that happens. In the mean time enjoy Kobe Bryant’s last couple years and the coaching stylings of Byron Scott.

Derrick Rose: “I’ve become a smarter player, but I’m mad it took me seven years to learn it.”

2014 USA Basketball Men's National Team Practice

LAS VEGAS — During one of the last scrimmages on the opening day of the Team USA training camp in Las Vegas, Derrick Rose brought the ball up, gave it up, quickly got it back and found himself open at the three-point line. Old Derrick Rose might have put that ball on the floor and gotten to the rim.

This Derrick Rose set his feet and knocked down the three.

It was just one snippet but was a nice example of what Rose says has changed about his game — it has matured.

“I’m able to control my body a little bit more, using my speed more, being smart with my speed rather than just running wild out there,” Rose said. “I’’ve become a smarter player, but I’m mad it took me seven years to learn it.”

Rose made one vintage Rose play at the Team USA scrimmage where he drew the contact, made the and-1 shot and hit the floor hard. But he’s not seeking contact like he used to on his drives.

“Trying to use a lot of floaters, a lot of pull-ups, stuff like that so you aren’t touched as much,” Rose said.

Rose added the last comeback taught him things about patience, something that he wants to apply on the court.

“I think when I came back last time I wanted it too bad. I was trying to force the game,” Rose said, having missed a full season then getting injured on a cut just six games into his return. “This time around I’m trying to let the game come to me, of course be aggressive at times, but be in control of the game and be smarter, and be able to run the team at the point guard position.”

Run a team that brings in Pau Gasol to pair with Joakim Noah, forming the best passing front court in the NBA.

“When you think about Gasol coming in, winning championships and bringing that experience to our team, him being around our bigs like Joakim and giving them advice and talking to them, I think that’s what we needed,” Rose said.

But right now he’s focused on Team USA. When USA Basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski was asked about this kind of setting being an ideal spot for Rose to slide back in he laughed.

“Any setting with Derrick in it is an ideal setting, when he’s healthy,” Krzyzewski said. “The ideal thing is he looks like he’s healthy and he’s put a lot of work in and he really wants it and we’re excited about him.”

Rose should make a Team USA roster that runs a lot of three guard sets and often uses guys pigeonholed as point guards in the NBA as two guards (and occasionally threes) working off the ball. Rose says he is good with that and would be willing to do some of that in Chicago.

“I can just shoot it, I can do a lot of catch-and-shoot, just running off floppy,” Rose said of a common NBA play most teams run that can free up a shooter for a quick shot. “Just trying to make the game easier and find ways to score, find ways to effect the game when I’m not scoring.”

Rose still has some Chicago fans to win back. After two years of injuries a guy those same people used to call tough gets another label. Krzyzewski just doesn’t get that at all.

“He’s one of the great people and one of the great players and to get multiple injuries like that can defeat anybody mentally. I don’t see that,” Krzyzewski said. “He should be applauded for what he’s doing. I’m a Chicago person and I’ve very happy he’s back, not just for Team USA but the Bulls.”