Magic Johnson at 1992 NBA All-Star game, selected by David Stern
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Magic Johnson memorializes David Stern: 1992 All-Star Game ‘saved my life’

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NEW YORK — David Stern was remembered Tuesday as a mentor and a leader, a Little League parent and a loyal friend.

To Magic Johnson, he was an angel.

Johnson tearfully recalled Stern’s firm support after the Hall of Fame player learned he had HIV, and how it was the former NBA commissioner allowing him to play in the 1992 All-Star Game despite some players’ fears that kept his spirits up during the darkest time of his life.

“That game saved my life,” Johnson said.

Johnson was one of the speakers at a memorial service for Stern, who died Jan. 1 at age 77 after suffering a brain hemorrhage a few weeks earlier.

Radio City Music Hall was filled with what Commissioner Adam Silver called one of the greatest collections of basketball talent in one location, from mighty big men Bill Russell and Yao Ming to dazzling distributors such as Johnson and Isiah Thomas.

They listened to stories hailing Stern not only for his brilliance as a businessman, but for his commitment to social responsibility and his love of his family. Speakers, ranging from colleagues in the league to friends from before he arrived there, talked of how Stern would help people arrange doctor’s appointments and score All-Star tickets, and how he loved to offer his assistance – especially, Silver noted, when it hadn’t been asked.

Stern spent 30 years as commissioner, the league’s longest-serving leader, and Silver noted that few people in the room would have had the opportunities they did in life without Stern, whose longtime office at NBA headquarters was just a block away.

“He belongs on this big stage,” Silver said. “He changed the world.”

The 2+-hour ceremony began with Silver and ended with remarks by Stern’s two sons. Eric Stern revealed his father’s love of crude jokes, while older brother Andrew recalled how Stern refused to part with his wood-paneled station wagon, even long after he could afford BMWs.

They both noted Stern’s desire to be at their events, even if long hours at the office meant he had to miss the beginning.

Of course, not everybody saw that side of Stern. Few escaped a foul-mouthed tirade if they didn’t meet Stern’s high expectations, and Pat Riley got tongue lashings and fines for criticizing referees, saying Stern would constantly tell him he needed to be better.

Making things better was a mission of Stern’s. The more the NBA grew and the further its reach expanded, the more that Stern insisted it increase its commitment to help others. Pictures and videos shown before the speakers seemingly depicted as much footage of NBA Cares events as of basketball events, with Stern helping to build houses or read with children in libraries.

“Shame on us, he would say, if we don’t do all we can with the platform we have,” said Kathy Behrens, the NBA’s president of social responsibility and player programs.

Stern began at the NBA at a time when the league was fighting for attention, plagued by drug problems in the 1970s and struggling to gain the interest of mainstream America when nearly three-quarters of the players were black.

But Stern drove employees at the league and on its teams to work through that, to turn the league into what he thought it could become.

“No one had a better crystal ball than David Stern,” said Val Ackerman, the commissioner of the Big East who previously was an assistant to Stern at the NBA.

Ackerman choked up when discussing Stern’s dedication to women’s sports, how he was at the first WNBA game in New York in 1997 and remained a champion of the league even when there were early detractors.

“For all the advances in women’s team sports since that auspicious night, I hope historians will write that it was women’s basketball and the WNBA that did it first and blazed a trail,” Ackerman said. “I hope they’ll write that David, while always quick to deflect credit, was the most important figure in the women’s sports movement since Billie Jean King.”

Then, with King in attendance, Ackerman wrapped up her remarks by reading from a email Stern had sent her touting the WNBA’s accomplishments.

“As usual, I’m unable to say it better,” she said. “We broads truly owe him.”

So does Johnson, who said Stern would constantly check up on him to make sure he was healthy, and ask Johnson’s wife if he was eating right.

“I’m going to miss my friend. I’m going to miss my angel,” Johnson said, “and now who’s going to be there at the All-Star Game to make sure I’m OK?”

Kevin Garnett on Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor: ‘I don’t do business with snakes’

Kevin Garnett and Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor
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Kevin Garnett despises Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor.

DESPISES.

Garnett, after retiring, planned to join Flip Saunders in the Timberwolves organization. But when Saunders died, that plan fell apart. Garnett blames Taylor.

So, Garnett keeps taking shots at the Timberwolves. Most visibly, Garnett – who’ll have his number retired by the Celtics – refuses to participate in having his number retired in Minnesota, where it’d make even more sense.

Garnett, via Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Glen knows where I’m at, I’m not entertaining it. First of all, it’s not genuine. Two, he’s getting pressure from a lot of fans and, I guess, the community there. Glen and I had an understanding before Flip died, and when Flip died, that understanding went with Flip. For that, I won’t forgive Glen. I won’t forgive him for that. I thought he was a straight up person, straight up business man, and when Flip died, everything went with him.

There’s no reason to complain. Just continue to move on. My years in Minnesota and in that community, I cherish. At this point, I don’t want any dealings with Glen Taylor or Taylor Corp. or anything that has to do with him. I love my Timberwolves, I’ll always love my guys, I’ll always love the people who [f—] with me there. I’ll always have a special place for the city of Minneapolis and the state of Minnesota in my heart. But I don’t do business with snakes. I don’t do business with snake mu’[f—]as. I try not to do business with openly snakes or people who are snake-like.

I don’t know what Taylor promised Garnett. So, it’s impossible to evaluate whether Garnett is being fair in his grudge. Maybe Taylor lied and deserves all Garnett’s scorn. Maybe Garnett heard what he wanted to hear.

But time heals most wounds, and I suspect it’ll eventually heal this one. Garnett has too many fond memories of Minnesota to let Taylor undermine all of it. The Timberwolves will eventually retire Garnett’s number.

That said, there’s clearly still plenty to overcome first.

Fans to be refunded for Team USA-Australia games last summer

Team USA-Australia
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Russell Crowe disliked his view for the Team USA-Australia exhibition games in Melbourne last August.

He wasn’t the only one.

Many fans griped about the sightlines from their floor-level seats. Even Australia upsetting the U.S. in a pre-World Cup tune-up didn’t satiate the Boomer fans who wanted a better look at the action – and paid plenty for their seats.

But those fans will get compensated.

Jake Michaels of ESPN:

Around AU$5 million ($3.08 million U.S.) will be refunded to spectators of last year’s Boomers vs. Team USA two-game series at Melbourne’s Marvel Stadium after the Australian consumer watchdog found that promoter TEG Live made false claims about its seating plan.

The 20,000 refunds will be paid out to those who purchased floor-level seating for the games. Despite a mock-up depicting tiered seating, the seats used were in flat rows, lower than the court and, in some cases, more than 30 metres from the action.

That comes to $154 per ticket – not cheap for an exhibition game.

Now, who do American fans see about restitution for their team not meeting expected standards?

2020 PBT Awards: Executive of the Year

Clippers executive Lawrence Frank with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George
AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu
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The NBA regular season might be finished. Heck, the entire NBA season might be finished. Even if play resumes with regular-season games, there’d likely be an abridged finish before the playoffs (which will also likely be shortened).

So, we’re making our 2019-20 award picks now. If the regular season somehow lasts long enough to reconsider our choices, we’ll do that. But here are our selections on the assumption the regular season is over.

Kurt Helin

1. Lawrence Frank, Clippers

2. Sam Presti, Thunder

3. Danny Ainge, Celtics

Lawrence Frank gets his name called but the Clippers operate more like a team in the front office than a top-down dictatorship. Michael Winger, Mark Hughes, Jerry West, Trent Redden, Lee Jenkins, Dee Brown and the rest of the team pulled off the incredible Kawhi Leonard/Paul George double last July and around that have built the deepest, most dangerous roster in the NBA. Maybe Frank can write up a report for Jason Kidd on how he pulled all this off. Oklahoma City’s Sam Presti also deserves credit for pivoting and lining up a rebuild while keeping the Thunder a winning and competitive team on the court.

Dan Feldman

1. Lawrence Frank, Clippers

2. Sam Presti, Thunder

3. Pat Riley, Heat

Oklahoma City improved… while adding an incredible haul of future draft picks. Sam Presti had a special summer. But the game is winning championships, and the Clippers went from feisty upstart to title contender by completing an ambitious plan to add Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Maybe the Clippers will never win a championship. Perhaps, the Thunder set themselves up to win multiple titles down the road. But the Clippers’ big strides took them far closer to the finish line, and I’ll reward the more-known quantity.

Pat Riley got third place primarily on two moves – improving from mediocre to quite good by landing Jimmy Butler and creating significant salary-cap flexibility in the Justise WinslowAndre Iguodala trade. That topped Nets general manager Sean Marks, who lured Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving but faced complications in overseeing his team’s new direction.

Keith Smith

1. Jon Horst, Bucks

2. Lawrence Frank, Clippers

3. Sam Presti, Thunder

For a second straight year, Jon Horst put together a dominant and deep team. Milwaukee lost Malcolm Brogdon, but got a first-round pick for a free agent. That’s solid work. He also re-signed Khris Middleton, George Hill and Brook Lopez to fair contracts. And around them Horst added Wesley Matthews, Robin Lopez, Kyle Korver and Marvin Williams to fill out the roster. Milwaukee goes 13-deep in legitimate rotation players for the team with the league’s best record.

Lawrence Frank built the Clippers on the fly. When Kawhi Leonard said he’d sign if LA traded for Paul George, Frank didn’t hesitate and made it happen. Frank also re-signed Patrick Beverley, Ivica Zubac and JaMychal Green, while adding Marcus Morris and Reggie Jackson in- season. The result is a team that is 10-deep in playoff players and one of the Western Conference favorites.

When the Thunder traded away Paul George and Russell Westbrook, it was assumed that Sam Presti would eventually move Chris Paul too. Instead, Oklahoma City has been one of the league’s best surprises. All of the trade acquisitions have played a big part in that. Paul has had another great season Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari have turned in good years. And rookies Darius Bazley and Luguentz Dort look like keepers too. Oh, and Presti has up to seven extra first-round picks and a couple of years of swap rights coming too.

Ben Wallace not sure Pistons would have won titles if they drafted Carmelo over Darko

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Carmelo Anthony said recently if the Detroit Pistons had drafted him No. 2 instead of Darko Miličić, he would have won two or three titles. Chauncy Billups agreed with him.

Ben Wallace isn’t buying it.

Wallace appeared on the on the 120 Watts podcast and said if the Pistons had taken Anthony the team would have developed differently and might have come together in a way that it did not win a title in 2004 or any others (hat tip to NBA Reddit):

“If we would’ve drafted Carmelo, I honestly don’t think we would have ever won a championship. Melo wanted to play right away. It would have had the potential to disrupt the team chemistry… By drafting Darko, he came in and said that he is not ready to play on this team. Who I am going to play in front of. I’m not ready, and by him doing that and accepting his role, it allowed us to build and grow and get stronger and eventually win a championship…

“If we drafted Carmelo, Tayshaun [Prince] wouldn’t blossom to be the type of a player that he way. We won that championship on the back of the best block I’ve ever seen in my life, and I blocked a lot of shots. That is the type of grit and grind that the team had.”

It’s an interesting point and Wallace is right about this: We never know how a team would have developed differently if ‘Melo had been a Piston. Maybe it wouldn’t have worked, perhaps it would have thrown off the team chemistry and softened up that elite defense.

Still, put me in “the more talent the better” camp. Anthony is a future Hall of Famer who came into the league knowing how to get buckets. That Pistons team had some of the greatest defenses the league has ever seen, but the question was always could they score enough. Anthony would have had to accept more of a role, but he fills that scoring need. And, on a team of players he respects, Anthony is willing to play his part.

Count me with the group that thinks the Pistons win more with ‘Melo than they did with Darko. Or, frankly, Chris Bosh (fourth in that draft). Or Dwyane Wade (fifth). But the Pistons made their bet and they still got a ring.