Author: Rob Mahoney

Portland Trail Blazers v Dallas Mavericks

Rick Carlisle could face league fine after radio slip

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Team and league employees have embraced a veil of feigned ignorance during the lockout, as if a refusal to speak the names or sport the images of the players changes any bit of the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the current lockout. The league itself has imposed some hefty fines for any who violate the terms of their public denial, with even so much as the public utterance of a player’s name by a team or league representative punishable by a massive financial penalty.

All of which is pretty ridiculous, and potentially quite costly in the case of one Rick Carlisle. The head coach of the reigning champs was kind enough to do an interview with Oregonian columnist Joe Canzano on a Portland radio station, but a few slips of the tongue may put quite a dent in his wallet if the NBA decides to go the fire and brimstone route. Jeff Caplan of ESPN Dallas explains:

The interview then touches on expected topics like, “Did you sense non-Mavs fans were pulling for you guys against the Heat?” Carlisle said he did and that he felt fans were rooting for Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd with Carlisle calling them “great, great players, two all-time great players that didn’t have the ring.”


Carlisle was later asked what the Blazers can do to become a better team. Carlisle naturally said it’s not his place to tell coach Nate McMillan or Blazers management how to run their club, and then in the natural flow of the conversation, Carlisle went here:

“[LaMarcus] Aldridge took a quantum leap this year. I voted for him for All-Stars; I have no idea how he didn’t make the All-Star team, and he’s a great player.”


Carlisle also mentioned Blazers guards Brandon Roy and Wesley Matthews, and how the draft-night trade with Portland to acquire Rudy Fernandez was a good move for the Mavs. Carlisle said he liked getting a veteran player instead of a rookie. The interview continues with neither party thinking gag-order violation flags were being thrown in New York. And so the conversation meandered on and at about 11 minutes in, as Carlisle is talking about how changes to NBA rules over the last decade have enhanced the game, he finishes a rambling thought by suddenly detouring to, “John, I’m sorry, I’ve got to run. I’ve got something I’ve got to do here.”

If fines result from such casual name drops, Carlisle would have plenty of reason to shake his head and roll his eyes at the league’s inflexibility. Hopefully that won’t be the case; Canzano reported soon after that Carlisle was likely contacted by someone with the league or the Mavericks mid-interview, and perhaps his pulling of the plug was enough to appease the NBA’s disciplinarians.

On Deron Williams and the NBA players who likely won’t be following him overseas


Deron Williams, in his decision to suit up for the Turkish club Besiktas next season should the lockout continue, has officially opened the door for other locked out NBAers to seek employment elsewhere. The notion that top NBA players could jet across the Atlantic to play in European leagues is no longer a mere possibility; those reluctant to be the first to make commitments overseas now have their lockout role model, and could follow Williams to Turkey, or to China, or to any team in any country willing to temporarily invest in NBA talent.

But perhaps the oddest element of Williams’ exodus is how his unique circumstances enable him to make the jump. He’s not exactly a typical NBA player — Williams is the centerpiece of his current team, and holds a considerable amount of power as a result. He’s not even a typical star — Williams has more influence and leeway than most due to both his incredible skill and his impending free agency. The Nets are trying to convince Williams to stay with the franchise for the long haul, and — lockout or not — aren’t in any position to contest his bid to play overseas nor to void his contract. In this case, Williams holds most of the cards, if not all of them. Once he decided on playing in Turkey, there weren’t many actors capable of stopping him.

All of that makes Williams’ act a tough one to follow. How many players can command the kind of impunity that Williams does? Fringe NBA players — those likely most interested in securing some extra coin during the season by playing elsewhere — risk simply having their deals voided. The league’s top players hold the same sway that Williams does, but would only earn a fraction of their NBA salaries while playing overseas and risk possible injury in the process. Essentially, those for whom it makes the most financial sense to play in other leagues may be limited from doing so, and those who have the least compelling motivations for seeking that kind of employment hold all of the power to do as the please. There are dozens of shades of gray in between (Zaza Pachulia, a solid but unremarkable NBA big man, will join Besiktas along with Williams, for example, and will likely suffer little consequence), but the enabling and limiting factors on the extremes of the NBA spectrum create a pretty strange dynamic.

The potential wild card: rookie scale players. The threat of a contract void (and it may be little more than a threat; it’s unknown just how seriously teams would consider cutting their players loose) doesn’t seem to apply to team building blocks, a convenient fact which would theoretically offer young, talented players a bit of protection. However, players on their first NBA deals could still have the financial motivations to play overseas, depending on their individual situations and their expectations for their 2011-2012 NBA salaries. If anything, it’s the players on rookie scale deals — particularly former mid-late 1st round picks or second rounders — who would seem to have the most to gain. They could supplement their income, continue playing professional-level basketball, and further refine their skills in a different setting, all with seemingly little risk.

But outlining possible motivations and benefits for young players heading overseas is very different than that outcome actually occurring. There are a million legitimate and half-legitimate reasons NBA players could use to talk themselves into staying the course and trudging through the lockout, and many will be kept stateside as a result. The power structure of the NBA already restricts the sensible candidates for overseas contracts, but the wide variety of interests and caveats across even the viable options should dwindle those who intend to play overseas to a minimum. Williams may have opened the door, but many can’t even cross the threshold, and some would rather he close it and not waste what’s left of the A/C.

Cleveland open to making another deal before the lockout officially begins

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At midnight tonight (or tomorrow, if you really want to be difficult), the NBA world as we know it will come to a grinding halt. Contact between players and teams will be reduced solely to a negotiative process that will determine the league’s short and long-term future, and all of the other off-season festivities — free agency, the summer trade market, Summer League — will be scrapped or delayed until all collective bargaining issues are resolved. It’s going to be a long, cold, lonely summer.

But in the meantime, the Cleveland Cavaliers are staying busy. According to Marc Stein of, the Cavs are open to the possibility of making a second trade today before the lockout officially begins. The motivating factor: a $14.6 million traded player exception acquired in the LeBron James sign-and-trade that would be otherwise almost impossible to use given the unique nature of this off-season.

The exception allows the Cavs to take back salary in excess of the the league’s standard trade rules, and though the Cavs don’t have all that many attractive trade chips, they do hold the ability to take on unwanted salary. Chris Grant, the general manager of the Cavs, has been afforded an opportunity to trade a player with a smaller annual salary in exchange for an overpaid one, and in the process perhaps add draft picks or other interesting young pieces. It’s feasible that a team itching to cut salary in anticipation of the collective bargaining agreement to come could take up Cleveland on such an offer, but there hasn’t yet been any indication of serious trade negotiations stemming from the Cavs’ trade exception.

Still, this is our last hope. There are but a few hours left of a real NBA off-season; once the clock strikes 12, it’s all over. This could be the last bit of relevant roster news, and though Cleveland’s reported openness to making a deal tonight may yield no actual transaction, the team’s mindset still grants the possibility of a final potential move before the NBA goes dark.

Eddie House opts to re-join the Heat

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Sleep easy, Heatians: Eddie House isn’t going anywhere. According to Mike Wallace of’s Heat Index, House has accepted his player option for next season and will spend the 2011-2012 campaign — in whatever length the lockout allows — with the Heat.

House’s option is worth approximately $1.4 million next season, per Storytellers Contracts — a reasonable cost for an effective spot shooter. House’s skill set is quite limited, but Miami will retain him on the cheap and have another backcourt option in case their other plans (namely, the recently drafted Norris Cole) go sour. This isn’t the kind of move that alters any sense of the team or the league’s balance (as good as House is at what he does, shooters of his breed are a very replaceable NBA commodity), but one that nonetheless makes a decent amount of sense for all parties involved.

Mario Chalmers may or may not be with the Heat next season. Cole is an incredibly intriguing prospect, but still unproven as an NBA-caliber player. Mike Bibby likely won’t be re-signed. All of that leaves House as a possible fail-safe; even if Chalmers ends up on another roster, Miami will — at the very least — have Cole and House to fill in minutes alongside Dwyane Wade in the Heat backcourt. Free agency will undoubtedly bring an entirely new set of options to the table, but House is the safe incumbent. He’s far from ideal, but he can manage to be productive in limited minutes if need be, and will fade into the background without consequence if Miami comes up with a superior rotation player.

Sacramento, Toronto will futilely attempt to lure Tyson Chandler in free agency

Tyson Chandler of the Dallas Mavericks c

With the NBA a bit short on Dwight Howards these days, the prototype for an effective center has shifted to a slightly more attainable model: Tyson Chandler. The Mavericks’ center anchored an impressive half-court defense that could switch from man-to-man to zone and back effortlessly and fluidly, and has for the moment Chandler has become exactly the kind of mobile, athletic big man that any team would love to have.

Coincidentally, those very teams will have their chance to chase Chandler, an unrestricted free agent, this off-season. From Marc Stein of

Besides big-spending rivals such as Miami and New York that sources say would love to try to steal Chandler from the Mavs if they had any financial flexibility, sources likewise indicate that at least two teams projected to have some salary-cap space in the NBA’s new frontier — Sacramento and Toronto — are already making plans to go hard after Chandler when they are finally granted that opportunity.

The good news for Dallas is that Chandler, by all accounts, wants to stay in Big D and would presumably have little interest at this point in playing for any team that isn’t in the championship mix. The teams with the lowest projected payrolls for next season (Sacramento, Indiana, New Jersey, Washington, Los Angeles Clippers and Toronto) are all lottery teams.

Free agency rests on a somewhat faulty premise; the teams with cap space are typically those coming off of poor seasons, and thus have the means to sign players but little else in the way of a lure. There are obvious exceptions — market, talented young players, prominent roles, and piles of money can bring great players to not-so-great teams — but for the most part we’ve seen quality players sign with teams in a position of strength.

Chandler would make a lot of sense for a team like the Kings or the Raptors. Both are aching for the kind of smart interior defense that Chandler provides, to say nothing of his leadership and intensity. Unfortunately, as Stein mentions, that likely won’t be enough. Fit is incredibly important when it comes to potential free agent signings, but it’s more of a facilitator than a motivator. Most big-minute players won’t sign with teams that aren’t ready to grant them immediate playing time, and while that puts franchises like Sacramento and Toronto in the running from a need standpoint, it doesn’t do much to balance the stink that surrounds non-playoff teams.

A return to Dallas is hardly certain for Chandler, but it’s considerably more likely than the possibility of him signing with an up-and-coming club. The Kings and Raps can daydream all they’d like about how a long, athletic center would change everything for them, but they’ll likely have to find that misleadingly rare commodity elsewhere.