Author: Ira Winderman


Winderman: New NBA head of officials doesn’t mean change, technology does


Since the Tim Donaghy fiasco, we’ve had the NBA offer up a former referee and a retired two-star U.S. Army general to oversee officiating. Now, former NBA player Mike Bantom, a long-time NBA executive, takes over.

Granted, Ronnie Nunn (the former referee) and Ronald Johnson (the retired general), mostly remained in the background as officiating supervisors, with Johnson taking over shortly after the Donaghy gambling revelations.

But the greatest advances in officiating are not “people” issues. And that means the Bantom hire ultimately will not alter the landscape.

Where the NBA has made its greatest strides since Donaghy are the technological advances, extending replay to include out-of-bounds and flagrant-foul situations, now moving into the goaltending realm.

While there can be no guarantees that another rogue official doesn’t make his way into the pipeline, or turn rogue while in the system, the greater the amount of secondary oversight, the greatly diminished chances of a referee unduly influencing the outcome of a game.

Or even trying, knowing his whistle might not be the ultimate whistle.

For those concerned about the “fix being in” (yes, that is David Stern’s blood you hearing percolating at the very mention), what the NBA has done is largely eliminate the chance of a game’s “ultimate” call being influenced by a referee’s personal influence. The camera, the NBA hopes, doesn’t lie.

If anything, establishing a “replay official” on site would go even further to diminish concern about bias, perceived or otherwise. Instead of having the officials who make the calls review the calls, there instead could be a qualified, perhaps older, official, one not necessarily up to the rigors of full-court sprints, making the ultimate decision. Retired referee Steve Javie showed us the value of an outside officiating view during the NBA playoffs on ESPN and that experience certainly could be brought back into play, even with the knees no longer willing.

Mike Bantom likely will do just fine as an officiating administrator, just as Ronnie Nunn and Ronald Johnson did.

But officiating questions don’t start in the executive suite, they start on the court, with the whistle.

The best way to clean up that whistle, or, in fairness to the current officials, keep that whistle pure, is to layer enough at-the-moment oversight so such issues don’t fester.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at @IraHeatBeat.

Winderman: NBA’s new fiscal reality has veterans considering minimums

Andray Blatche
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More than 20 teams still have all or part of their mid-level exception, be it the full $5 million, the $3.1 million taxpayer version or the $2.6 million post-cap-space variety.

More than 10 still can put their $2 million bi-annual exception into play.

And yet, now a month from the start of training camps, veterans are starting to accept invitations without any such guarantee, be it James Anderson with the Hawks, Donte Greene with the Nets or others simply looking for a make-good deal.

This annually is the point where the game changes, with teams such as the Clippers, Heat and Knicks out of any type of exception space beyond the veteran minimum.

While the luxury tax will remain dollar-for-dollar for one final season before rising exponentially in the third year and beyond of the new collective-bargaining agreement, we’re already seeing prudence even from teams that previously placed a priority on depth, such as the Bulls.

The concession from the NBA at the end of the lockout was the addition of the $2.6 million post-cap-space mid-level, so teams that filled out their roster using cap space could still be active in the mid-level market. Yet, for the most part, those exceptions largely remain unused.

So now we see if the blinking starts from players who previously would have had a place at the mid-level market or beyond, current free agents such as Andray Blatche, Matt Barnes, Kenyon Martin, Josh Childress, Derek Fisher, Chris Andersen, Darko Milicic, Mickael Pietrus, Leandro Barbosa, Josh Howard, Anthony Tolliver and Louis Amundson.

For some, it will come down to weighing overseas guarantees that previously could not compete with the mid-level market. For others, it will be accepting a one-year deal, without even as much as a player option for 2013-14, with the looming jump in the luxury tax creating commitment issues from some teams.

In coming days, we will be hearing agents, executives and coaches expressing, “He deserves more.”  In this new NBA economy, as the countdown to camp begins, so does the countdown to the make-good reality for many who previously would have arrived with cash in hand.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at @IraHeatBeat.

Winderman: CBA rules grind NBA player movement to a halt

Miami Heat v Sacramento Kings

Donte Greene to the Nets, Martell Webster to the Wizards . . .

If it seems like the NBA is in a bit of a personnel limbo, it is because, well, it is.

For as much as the floodgates open with the July start of free agency, and for as much as things can change on a Dwight Howard whim, there also are plenty of regulations in the collective-bargaining agreement that can just as quickly stem the tide of transactions.

To a degree, the NBA’s personnel calendar is a time-release process.

The Howard trade has been the NBA’s only trade during August. Why? The rules, that’s why.

Foremost, teams are not allow to trade a player for the later of three months or Dec. 15 after signing him as a free agent or matching an offer sheet. Under the new collective-bargaining agreement, the trade ban extends to the later of three months or Jan. 15 for players re-signed as free agents with Bird Rights or Early-Bird Rights for teams over the cap (with a few caveats to that process).

So for those wondering why there has been no follow-up move from the 76ers with Kwame Brown, Lavoy Allen or even Spencer Hawes after obtaining Andrew Bynum, the reality is nothing can happen with any of those three until Dec. 15 at the earliest.

Similarly, for those wondering exactly what the Lakers are still doing with Chris Duhon on a roster that already features Steve Nash and Steve Blake, the rule is that a player acquired in a trade cannot be combined with another player in a trade by a team operating above the salary cap for two months. (And it’s safe to say there hardly is a stand-alone market for Chris Duhon and his contract.)

One restriction that largely already has been overcome, though, is the ban on trading draft picks for a month after they sign.

By and large, the NBA personnel market, particularly the trade market, is designed to be on hiatus during periods such as these.

So, instead, we’re left to chronicle the movement of Donte Greene and Martell Webster, play out the final days of free agency with the likes of Andray Blatche and Darko Milicic, while waiting, essentially, for the trade restrictions to ease and the pre-Christmas shopping to begin anew.

To be continued . . . in December.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at @IraHeatBeat.

Winderman: Olympics far more compelling than Stern’s World Cup of Basketball dream

(From L) US gold medalists Kevin Durant,

Imagine if Sunday’s compelling doubleheader of United States-Spain and Argentina-Russia wasn’t the Olympics. Imagine if it was David Stern’s got-to-have World Cup of Basketball, the you-bet-it’s-on-the-way NBA-proposed tournament.

Would the play have been as gripping? There is no reason to believe otherwise.

Would national pride have been as paramount? National colors resonate no matter the venue.

But here’s why it wouldn’t have been the same:

Because it wouldn’t have been woven into an international carnival of sports.

Take the world’s premier national-team basketball championship out of the Olympics (some say the World Championships already mean more, but we know better), and all you have is, well, the world’s premier national-team basketball championship, something you’d be likely to find on some Fox Sports regional network or with ESPN commentators calling games off monitors in Bristol.

What the Olympics give us is LeBron and Kobe and KD marching behind a fencer carrying the United States flag, alongside wrestlers, weightlifters, kayakers.

What the Olympics give us is LeBron and Kobe and KD in the stands at tennis or soccer or volleyball.

What the Olympics give us is that rare moment when NBA elitists are merely part of the program, willing parts of the program, appreciative of their place in the greater sporting landscape.

Yes, the accommodations were separate and upgraded, but the gold medals were exactly the same as those for Misty and Kerri and others even lesser known who soon will return to day jobs out of financial necessity.

And that’s part of why we watched, because Sunday’s men’s basketball gold was bigger that just basketball, it was another check mark in the gold column, another part of the ledger that put this country ahead of other countries, at a time when our politicians only seem to be telling us what’s wrong with our country.

For two weeks, these NBA stars were part of something bigger than not only themselves, but also bigger than their sport.

Reduce the Olympic basketball competition to something along the lines of soccer’s 23-and-under and you’ll wind up with the men’s Olympic soccer tournament, a competition so nondescript that Spain seemingly couldn’t even be bothered by competing.

Basketball fans weren’t the only watching LeBron and Kobe and KD on Sunday. So were, well, sports fans, and Olympic fans.

That’s something you won’t get from a World Cup of basketball.

Because that only will be about basketball.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at @IraHeatBeat.

Winderman: Summer shows love of the three not NBA fad


Well, this was quite unexpected, but apparently we’ve arrived in the summer of three love.

It started with the Heat dropping a championship-winning barrage of 3-pointers on the Thunder in the deciding game of the NBA Finals, Mike Miller somehow displaying anguish and rapture at the same time while hobbling from arc to arc on that late-June evening.

It has continued with a shoot-’til-you-drop approach from the U.S. Olympic team, which has been on a record-setting pace from beyond the shorter international circle.

And now, as the final coaching vacancy of the offseason is filled, Terry Stotts arrives in Portland with the proclamation that the 3-point line will stand among the lines of attack for his Trail Blazers.
And to think, only months ago, many, apparently including Dwight Howard, were deriding the Magic’s approach of loading up from beyond the circle.

Then again, among the offseason’s biggest moves was the Heat, already armed with the longball from Miller, Shane Battier, James Jones and Mario Chalmers, opting not to go for needed size, but instead for a pair of all-time 3-point marksmen in Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis.

Nearly as surprising, at least in terms of dollars, was Ryan Anderson’s shift from the Magic to the Hornets in a sign-and-trade, a power forward coveted for his 3-point range.

This isn’t to say that coaches won’t continue to stew when the attempts from beyond the arc outnumber the attempts from the foul line.

But when the likes of Mike Krzyzewski, the somewhat stodgy Trail Blazers and the very stodgy Heat are approving of offense from distance, the Mike D’Antoni and Stan Van Gundy fad of recent years, even in their coaching absences, appears to have morphed into a full-fledged trend.

From an aesthetic standpoint, there is plenty to be said about the 3-pointer. Arguably, the most exciting plays in the game are the 3-pointer and the dunk. With the spacing provided by the 3-pointer, the dunks often follow, as witnessed by the Heat’s performance in the NBA Finals and much of USA Basketball’s play in the Olympics.

Inevitably, coaches will get back to talking about grinding and defense, because that’s what they always do, a controlled game perceived as a better-coached game.

But this offseason has presented possibilities for something really fun, something that should be given the opportunity to endure.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at @IraHeatBeat.