Shaq, Iverson, Ming headline ‘extraordinary’ Hall class

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame will soon welcome two of the sport’s game-changing stars – one big and one small.

Shaquille O’Neal and Allen Iverson headline the Class of 2016 which will be enshrined Friday night. Joining them in the 10-member class will be NBA and international star Yao Ming, longtime Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, WNBA star Sheryl Swoopes, NAIA coaching legend John McClendon (posthumous), former referee Darrell Garretson (posthumous), executive Jerry Reinsdorf, ABA star Zelmo Beaty (posthumous) and early African-American pioneer Cumberland Posey (posthumous).

Hall of Fame chairman Jerry Colangelo, a 2004 inductee, said it might be one of the top five classes he has seen.

“I think it’s an extraordinary class,” Colangelo told The Associated Press. “It’s true that each year we think it’s a great class. But some years some of them do stand out.”

O’Neal, a four-time NBA champion and seventh on the all-time scoring list, was always must-watch television for what the 7-footer did both on and off the court. He again drew all eyes to him during Thursday’s jacket ceremony for the inductees.

After he slipped on his custom orange blazer, Shaq theatrically waved off Hall of Fame president and CEO John Doleva, clearing the way for the man who once called himself “The Big Aristotle” to strut solo across the stage as camera bulbs flashed.

Then, when he was seated on the dais, Shaq sprung to his feet and relieved Doleva, who was struggling to reach the massive shoulders of the 7-foot-6 Ming. Shaq grabbed the jacket and gleefully assumed the role of impromptu butler for his fellow big man.

His antics started much earlier. Swoopes told a story of Shaq promising her $1 million if she would fake a fall during the class’ walk to the stage. She declined, but only because she said Shaq wouldn’t “show me the money.”

Later, Shaq explained that his bravado was only his attempt to savor every moment of the experience. He said his speech Friday will be a love letter to those who helped him achieve a basketball dream that didn’t seem real when he was a teenage army brat.

“I don’t memorize a lot of stuff, but I have this one memorized,” O’Neal said of his speech. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world. I bought about 1,000 tickets to each event. All my family, everybody will be there. It’s just great.”

He said being in the same class with a guy like Iverson was appropriate for two players who brought their own unique styles to the NBA – Shaq as an imposing force in the middle and Iverson as a small player whose skill and personal bravado still resonate today.

“He had a lot of heart,” O’Neal said of Iverson. “We’re similar in the aspect that we did it our way. … I was only going to do it my way. He did it his way. Cultural icon. A lot of things were implemented because of his style – with the dress code – and the way he wears chains and big tattoos and all that stuff. He made it cool for that to happen.”

Iverson missed Thursday’s jacket ceremony, arriving late to speak with the assembled media. He got emotional when he was asked about the people who he credited for his success and highlighted John Thompson, his college coach at Georgetown, as well as Larry Brown, his longtime NBA coach with the Philadelphia 76ers.

“That’s the only thing that gets me here, is my teammates. My teammates and my coaches,” said the former NBA Rookie of the Year and 2001 MVP. “That’s the only reason I’m here. All those guys sacrificed their games and sacrificed things for me.”

Shaq said Iverson’s crossover of Michael Jordan during his rookie season in 1997 was the definition of the kind of player Iverson was.

“Everybody talks about his move against Michael Jordan,” Shaq said. “You got to have (guts) to pull off a move against a legend like that.”

Yao ushered in a new era of international basketball when he left China to become the top pick of the NBA draft in 2002. As a member of the Houston Rockets, he earned All-Rookie honors and would go on to be an eight-time All-Star. He was named a three-time FIBA Asian Championship MVP.

“When I’m walking through the Hall, for the first time I feel I’m so small,” Yao said. “I look up to the roof top and all the pictures around … I really sense all the people before me that Mr. Naismith made possible with the life he had.”

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Warriors GM Myers reiterates he would like to extend Green, Poole, Wiggins

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Andrew Wiggins is entering the final year of his contract and the Warriors want to extend him. Jordan Poole is up for a contract extension and if it isn’t worked out by the start of the season he becomes a restricted free agent next summer. Draymond Green is eligible — and wants — a four years, $138.4 million extension (the max they can give him).

Bob Myers said again this week that he wants to keep all three of those players — all critical parts of the Warriors run to a title last season — but financial reality could intrude upon that dream. Here’s what Myers said Thursday, via Kendra Andrews of ESPN:

“We want all of those guys,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said at a news conference Thursday. “Can we get all of them? I don’t know.

“It depends on what the money ends up being. What the ask is what we can end up doing. We’re not at a point to make those decisions yet. Some of these decisions may be made in the next two weeks, some might be made in the next seven, eight months.”

The Warriors turned heads around the league paying more than $350 million in player salaries and luxury tax last season — and this season they will be in the same ballpark. Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob has said even with the cash cow that is the new Chase Center, this is not a team that can spend $400 million. Some expenses are locked in, such as Stephen Curry and his $215.4 max contract extension. Klay Thompson is at the max for a couple of more years.

Poole is part of the future in Golden State — along with Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, and maybe Jonathan Wiseman — and they can’t let him go. Wiggins was the Warriors’ second-best player in the postseason last year. That has led to some speculation Green could be the odd man out — something Myers has denied. Green will make $25.8 million this season but is  expected to opt out of the $27.6 million player option he has next season. It leaves the Warriors and Green with a choice.

Something’s got to give, but the Myers and the Warriors seem ready to kick that financial can down the road until next summer, and for this season get the band back together and chase another ring.

Poole would be the first up (there is an Oct. 17 deadline to extend him). Whatever happens, this will be an undercurrent of a story all season long in the Bay Area.

C.J. McCollum inks two-year, $64 million extension with Pelicans

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After helping New Orleans return to the playoffs for the first time since Anthony Davis was traded to the Lakers, C.J. McCollum earned a two-year, $64 million extension with the Pelicans. He will remain under contract with the team through the 2025-26 season, and there isn’t a player or team option in the deal. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news Saturday afternoon.

New Orleans traded Josh Hart, Tomas Satoransky, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Didi Louzada, a 2022 protected first-round pick (turns into 2025 first-round pick that is top-4 protected), and two future second-round picks for McCollum, Larry Nance Jr., and Tony Snell.

New Orleans now has their core of McCollum, Zion Williamson, and Brandon Ingram under contract for the next three seasons.

The expectations will be high for the Pelicans for the next few years. After starting last season 1-12, first-year head coach Willie Green helped turn the team around, and they finished 36-46 before beating the Spurs and Clippers in the play-in tournament. Their season ended after losing to the Suns 4-2 in the first round of the playoffs.

McCollum averaged 24.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.3 steals, and 2.7 triples per game after the trade to New Orleans.

The return of Zion this season, along with the success of last year’s team, has the team expecting a return to the playoffs. Locking up their star guard in McCollum emphasizes that their rebuild is over. After missing the playoffs during their first three seasons in the post-AD era, they don’t expect to return to the lottery for a long time. The big question surrounding their potential success will be Zion’s health.

Reports: Suns push for Jarred Vanderbilt derailed Bojan Bogdanovic trade

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Utah traded Bojan Bogdanovic not to one of the contenders pushing for him — Phoenix, Miami, even the Lakers — but to rebuilding Detroit. It’s a move that caught the NBA off guard.

News has come out now that part of what hung up the Suns’ effort to land Bogdanovic was their push to make promising young forward Jarred Vanderbilt — who the Jazz got from the Timberwolves in the Rudy Gobert trade — as part of the deal. The well-connected John Gambardoro first had the report.

If the Suns had not pushed for Vanderbilt it doesn’t mean they would have landed Bogdanovic using a Jae Crowder-based package ( with another player, maybe Landry Shamet, and some picks). Reports have also suggested the draft package that was part of the Suns offer was not impressing the Jazz, so Utah moved on to a cost-cutting move rather than one where they took back more salary than they preferred.

The Pistons may decide to trade Bogdanovic again closer to the February deadline and maybe the Suns can get in the mix then. But for now, the Phoenix target is in the Motor City to start the season.

 

 

Knicks’ Leon Rose plays it safe with media, Mitchell trade: ‘We’re thrilled with where we are’

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Leon Rose continues to play it safe.

He’s played it safe with the New York media since he arrived — he doesn’t meet with them. Instead, he again turned this week to the MSG Network — owned by Knicks governor James Dolan — so he doesn’t have to face hard questions or defend decisions.

He also played it safe in the Donovan Mitchell trade talks, not going all-in to get the All-Star out of Utah. Mitchell is now in Cleveland and we will see over the course f the next 12-24 months if playing it safe was the right call. Here’s Rose’s explanation of the situation in that MSG interview (hat tip Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News).

“We went through that process and at the end of the day we made a decision to stay put. And we’re thrilled with where we are. Taking a look at the summer, we feel great about what transpired.”

As every GM does this time of year, Rose said he likes his team and its chances this season.

“One of our main goals has been to create internal stability. Signed RJ Barrett, first extension of a player since Charlie Ward. We retained Mitchell Robinson. He’s a player who has developed the last few years and we feel very fortunate that we were able to keep him. We got the No.1 point guard in free agency this summer in Jalen Brunson. So we feel really good about the summer.”

In the interview, Rose also defended Tom Thibodeau and his decisions as coach, despite rumors of him being on the hot seat. Rose said Thibs is not under pressure.

The Knicks should be better this season with Brunson, plus Barrett should take another step forward. New York’s problem is much of the East got better — Cleveland, Atlanta, Washington and others — and this roster likely still leaves the Knicks fighting to make the play-in.

Rose deserves credit for being patient, trying to build culture and foundation, and not just throwing Dolan’s money at an aging superstar. He hasn’t done anything stupid, which is a step forward in New York. But he also hasn’t done anything bold yet, he’s just played it safe.

At some point, Rose and the Knicks will have to push their chips in and make a bold, all-in move. But for now, they are playing it safe.