Author: Matt Moore

Larry Bird Magic Johnson

Video: Larry Bird and Magic Johnson remind you what everyone’s playing for

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ESPN’s rafters commercials have been really good. The Kevin Durant one held the promise of future, the Paul Pierce one held the reminder of glory for a franchise that hasn’t seen a title since 2008. The new “A Champion Will Rise” commercials speak to the league’s history, and feature two of the greatest to ever play the game.

Chills, man. Chills.

It brings to light what’s at stake here. We think of champions so much in the context of the now, of this season, of this era. But that title represents so much more in the very lives of these men. For LeBron James, it’s validation, for Paul Pierce, it’s proof. For Durant, it’s a message of arrival, for Duncan, it’s joy.

The sacrifice is given in exchange for the banner, for the ring, for the title. In a month, someone’s going to have their legacy changed forever.

The Hawks are not talking extension with Josh Smith, for some reason

Hawks forward Smith reacts after a shot in the first half during their game against the Celtics in Game One of their NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs basketball game in Atlanta

Trying to figure out the Hawks’ approach to Josh Smith is a trick. They don’t regularly campaign for Smith for the All-Star teams and have never made a fuss when he’s not selected despite it routinely being pretty terrible. They wouldn’t give him a big deal when he was a restricted free agent in 2008, instead letting him hang out there despite no one signing him to an offer sheet because, well, they knew the Hawks would match. At the last minute, the Grizzlies tried to steal him away, but the Hawks matched, getting Smith at a discount. He’s openly and publicly let it be known he wants a trade. They won’t deal him.

Do they want him there? Yes, apparently. Will they pay to keep him? Apparently not.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution asked Smith about whether he would be talking to the Hawks about an extension he’s available for this summer. Not only did Smith say no, apparently no one, not even his agent, have brought it up to him. Smith doesn’t even think he’s eligible.

“I can’t get extended,” Smith said. “They didn’t give me the money; I had to go get it. That’s something I have to play it out and see how it goes from there.”

Two things stand out about that statement. The first is that Smith, who presumably got the info from his agent, is wrong about his contract not being eligible for an extension.

via Atlanta Hawks: On Josh Smith’s future | Atlanta Hawks.

Turns out he is available for extension. The Hawks just aren’t working on it. So the Hawks won’t trade him somewhere he’ll be happier and can really showcase his talents (you have to think in a stronger system his mid-range jump shooting might decline), but they won’t give him the money to keep him long-term, despite having given Joe Johnson that suicidal contract, and then extending Al Horford for the max.

What is it, exactly, that the Hawks are trying to do with Josh Smith?

No one can really figure it out. If those teams that are shopping for a major upgrade can’t find what they’re looking for, they really should try and make a move for Smith. He was a should-be All-Star the past two years, is entering his prime, and has shown flashes of brilliance. He needs coaching to curtail his worse impulses, but  could also be the difference in a championship team. They just have to figure out what to do with him.

Because the Hawks do not.

Video: San Antonio Mayor welcomes Charles Barkley to San Antonio… with rings

2010 NBA All-Star T-Mobile Rookie Challenge and Youth Jam

Charles Barkley is well known for not liking San Antonio. It’s just not his kind of town. Like a lot of towns in Texas, the people that like San Antonio love it, those that don’t are very “meh” on it. Very few hate it. It’s hard to hate it. It’s a livable city. (Note: For once I’m not just talking out my backside, having spent four years in Austin and primarily traveling around Texas at that time I got a feel for the Republic and its citizens.) But it’s definitely not for Barkley, who continues to blast the Riverwalk as a “dirty creek.”

On Friday, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro responded to Barkley in a friendly, wink-wink, nudge-nudge video that features the ultimate argument. Count the rings.


Gotta love the Mayor taking advantage of the situation to get some free publicity. Barkley and company head to San Antonio Sunday as TNT hosts the Western Conference Finals Game 1 Sunday night at the AT&T Center. Hopefully Charles can get down to the Riverwalk for some chain Tex-Mex and poorly made margaritas.


Unless there are major changes, Kyle Lowry wants out of Houston

Kevin McHale, Kyle Lowry

That sound you hear is the sound of 29 teams’ GMs heads whipping up like German Shepherds when there’s a loud noise. Houston Rockets “should-be-All-Star” Kyle Lowry sent a message loud and clear through the Houston Chronicle. He has a problem with Kevin McHale, he has a problem with how minutes were split with he and Goran Dragic, and unless things get resolved real quick, he wants out. Kaboom.

“I don’t think so,” Lowry, 26, said. “I honestly think it would be tough. Things have to be addressed. The situation would have to be addressed.

“If things aren’t addressed coaching-wise, I guess I have to be moved.”

via Ultimate Rockets » Disgruntled Lowry feels it’s his time to move on.

Check out the rest of the interview for more discussion from Lowry about how it is not working with him and his coach in Houston. This is pretty big stuff. Now, a lot of guys will express negative feelings right after a season is over and then things cool down. And Lowry’s not blasting outright. This is strong stuff, but “I guess I’ll have to be moved” is different from “It’s time” or any of the other flat-out trade demands used.

The second this came out, the Pau-Gasol-to-Houston trade talk lit up Twitter like a Christmas tree. Houston, of course, was set to receive Gasol in the vetoed Chris Paul trade last year. They have badly wanted a dominant big man to score inside with their army of talented wings. This would provide them within one, in exchange for what may be the best production-for-dollar-value contract in the league and a top 10 point guard. But with Goran Dragic available to be re-signed, that gives them options there.

But considering Kevin Martin’s struggles and Luis Scola’s downturn last year, do the Rockets seem monumentally better with a Dragic-Parsons-Gasol core?

That’s skipping several beats ahead, however. There have been no discussions, and there likely will be no discussions any time soon, as Daryl Morey will not negotiate from a position of weakness. Morey and McHale both downplayed Lowry’s comments, and the team’s not going to trade away Lowry and then try and re-sign Dragic from that position.

Nothing will happen as of now, but it’s something to put on your radar. If Lowry’s on the block, there will be callers. Lots of them.

Lakers-Thunder Game 5: Thunder all business in win over Lakers to advance to Conference Finals

Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant

The future is now.

It can be said that the Thunder have done nothing more than advanced to the same position they reached last season before falling to another team from Texas in the Western Conference Finals. But this doesn’t feel that way. The Thunder exorcised their Mavericks demons in the first round, then took out the team that bounced them from the playoffs in 2010 in the semifinals, dropping the Lakers in five games with a 106-90 win in Oklahoma City. The ghosts have been defeated, the Spurs, who the Thunder have not faced in the playoffs but who have vexed them in the regular season and who stand as the old guard complete with OKC’s general manager coming from the Spurs tree, are all that stands in their way of the Finals. The Thunder are taking care of business. They took care of business in Dallas with a chance to close out. They took care of business in Oklahoma City with a chance to finish Kobe Bryant’s season.

They’re still kids. But they’re kids who have come with business on their mind and in their hearts, and their business is winning.

In Game 5, it was a back and forth aware. The Thunder seemed to have all the momentum, getting out and running, running, running the ball down the Lakers’ throat. But the Lakers responded by slowing the game down, and behind Kobe Bryant’s valiant 42-point effort, the Lakers hung. They were scrapping. They had a lead, even, in the third. There was a chance they could grab this game, hold it this time, get a win and take it back to L.A.. Just one more win to hold on to the season, to get control back just a bit, and hope the Thunder’s inexperience would break under pressure.

Instead? The rain came.

At 5:27 left in the third, the Lakers had a four-point lead. From there the Thunder outscored the Lakers 40-20. Russell Westbrook, the maligned co-star who often took heat for shooting too much and taking shots away from Kevin Durant? He scored 18 in that stretch. Westbrook did it all. Steals for breakaways. Pull-up jumpers in the key, driving attacks at the rim. Relentless, smooth, a cold blooded killer. You might even say Kobe-like. Durant chipped in 9 points, Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison both had two offensive rebounds, and the Thunder put the Lakers on lockdown. It was over. No comebacks, no collapses. Just the better team being the better team, and cruising to a victory in front of that raucous crowd.

The Lakers turn to an uncertain futuRE> The Thunder turn to the Spurs. Kobe Bryant and the Lakers were the iconic team of NBA destiny, always one step ahead in terms of talent and execution. Now they’re just another team left in the rubble by the Oklahoma City Thunder. No more growing pains. No more maturation. No more kid games. This is business.

Thunder Up.