Greg Oden

Mark Cuban: Mavericks’ roster has included alcoholic player


NBA players live nocturnal schedules during the season. They leave work late at night, and their body clocks are programmed that way for off days, too. They’re awake when going to the bar is one of the main leisure activities available, and their salaries allow them to afford it.

Opportunities certainly exist for players to drink too much.

And, of course, there are players naturally predisposed to alcoholism. For some, a conducive schedule isn’t a prerequisite for drinking too much.

Add it all up, and the NBA – like any business – has had its share of employees with drinking problems.

Greg Oden described himself as an “alcoholic” while he was in Portland, and Jordan Hill admitted drinking limited his production. Vin Baker is one of the most famous cases of alcoholism ruining a player’s career. Keith Closs has his own horror stories.

More players than we’ll ever know have had their careers significantly and negatively impacted by drinking.

But that doesn’t mean the league should abandon anyone who’s had a problem.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, via Kenneth Arthur of Rolling Stone:

We have a team psychologist who spends time with all of our guys. While he won’t divulge specifics, we do discuss whether or not there are red flags regarding a player’s personal, professional or social life. We’ve had a functioning alcoholic on the team in the past and we put together plans and programs to help him. We’ve had other issues when we have asked the player to leave the team.

Good for the Mavericks.

Teams invest millions in dollars of players, and too often, they’ve let the players sink or swim on their own. Alcoholism needn’t be a death sentence nor a career ender. It helps when someone with the disease has support, and credit the Mavericks for providing it.

Should teams have concerns about players with a history of drinking problems? Of course. But that concern shouldn’t override everything else.

I have no idea which player Cuban is referring to, but I’ll guess two things:

1. He benefitted in life from the Mavericks’ program to help him.

2. The Mavericks benefitted on the court from having him healthy.

I hope other teams are as proactive about helping their players, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t be. In the long run, everyone comes out ahead.

67RIEFNS No. 29: Nerlens Noel’s long-awaited debut


The NBA is full of talent, personality and suspense. During the offseason, It’s easy to forget how wonderful the league can be. So, I’ve assembled 67 Reasons I’m Excited For Next Season (67RIEFNS). They’ll be presented in no particular order.

I would have drafted Nerlens Noel No. 1 in 2013.

Yes, his injury worried me, but not because he might not contribute for a full year. The Cavaliers, who had the top pick, didn’t make the playoffs anyway. What did they gain by allowing Noel to fall (all the way to No. 6, where New Orleans picked him and traded him to the 76ers).

I wasn’t even worried about Noel falling behind. The list of players picked so high since the NBA-ABA merge whose debuts were delayed an entire season, though far from perfect, is pretty impressive:

  • Jonas Valanciunas
  • Ricky Rubio
  • Blake Griffin
  • Greg Oden
  • Danny Ferry
  • David Robinson
  • Larry Bird

The only real concern was the injury robbing him permanently of even a little athleticism, a skill necessary for his game. [Interjection: As high as I was on Noel just a year ago, I had to spend time now reviewing his game to write this. I seriously forgot so much about how he played. That’s what a year off will do. It’s also why I’m so excited to see him in action].

Noel was/is a phenomenal leaper, which allowed him to block a ton of shots and finish at the rim. Add agility to guard the pick-and-roll and quick hands to get steals, and Noel has ridiculous defensive potential. His offensive game is raw, but as long as he sticks to doing what he does well – working in the paint – he should be fine. If the tanking 76ers want to let him spread his wings while they’re interested in losing, that’s fine, too.

For Noel to succeed long-term, he must show his athleticism has remained in tact. That’s the big question he can answer this season.

In time, he’ll have to refine his game, but there’s no rush in Philadelphia. As long as Noel’s athleticism — i.e., his upside — hasn’t escaped him, the 76ers can afford to be patient.

The key is getting Noel on the court so he can test his athleticism — and show off that hair.

ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 Preview: Miami Heat


Last season: A fourth straight trip to the NBA Finals resulted in disappointment, as the Heat were steamrolled by the Spurs in five games. The ease with which Miami was dispatched was troubling, so much so that LeBron James re-signing — something most believed to be a foregone conclusion — was suddenly thrown into question. And as the team scrambled to show a willingness to improve by signing guys like Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger in the early days of free agency, the underwhelming nature of those additions ultimately saw James expedite his plan to return home to Cleveland to once again play for the Cavaliers.

Signature highlight from last season: It was tempting to go with the pair of alley-ops Dwyane Wade and LeBron James connected on in the Christmas Day win over the Lakers, because the way the two consistently got out on the break like this for easy buckets in transition during their four years together was about as signature as it gets. But with a nod to the upcoming season where James won’t be present, it felt fitting to go with Wade’s drive and dish to Chris Bosh for a game-winning three against the Blazers — a contest in which James sat out due to injury.


Key offseason moves:

Keys to the Heat season:

Life after LeBron: Having the game’s best player on the roster definitely has its advantages, and it isn’t something anyone in the Heat organization would choose to change about the last four seasons. But now that James has moved on, everything is immediately different on both ends of the floor. The continuity in place with Wade and Bosh being the team’s leaders, and with the highly competent Erik Spoelstra on the sidelines should ease the transition to a certain extent. But Miami will need to reinvent itself from an Xs and Os standpoint, and just how quickly the players get acclimated to those changes will largely determine their success, especially in the early parts of the upcoming season.

The health of Dwyane Wade: Wade was on a strict maintenance program last season to keep his knee from flaring up during the playoffs as it did the year prior, and that left him a gametime decision most nights. It was part of the reason he was limited to participating in just 54 regular season contests, and for the Heat to be successful in the post-LeBron era, they’re going to need a lot more than that out of Wade — not only in terms of minutes played, but also in terms of increased production. The good news for Heat fans is that Wade is planning on doing exactly that, but it’ll be interesting to see how he holds up while pushing himself to play more than he has in any of his previous three seasons.

The return of CB4: Chris Bosh is a perennial All-Star, but since coming to Miami, his numbers have dipped due to having to change his role, while sacrificing personal levels of production for the greater good of the franchise. Thankfully for the Heat, he has proven to be capable of doing so much more. In his final season in Toronto, Bosh averaged a career-high 24 points and 10.8 rebounds, and was unquestionably the team’s best player every single night. Bosh may have to return to his Raptors form for Miami to achieve postseason success, especially in light of Wade’s recent injury history — and he may be more ready than ever to do so.

Why you should watch: Wade and Bosh are still All-Star caliber players, and the addition of another one in Deng should make the Heat consistently competitive most nights. Spoelstra is one of the game’s top coaches at the professional level, and you can bet that he’s relishing the chance to lead his team to success in spite of the loss of Lebron James.

Prediction: With LeBron out of the picture, there are no longer championship expectations placed on this Miami team, which should be a weight off of their collective shoulders. The Heat can be in an underdog role for the first time in a long time, and there’s still more than enough talent in place to make a run at the postseason.

Miami is definitely a playoff team in the East, but is probably not deep enough to claw itself into one of the three top spots in the standings. A ceiling of fourth place in the conference feels about right, with an opportunity to surprise someone in the first (and possibly second) round of the playoffs if Wade, Bosh and Spoelstra find a way to have things clicking by the time the regular season is finished.

NBA to review domestic violence policies in wake of NFL’s ugliness. It shouldn’t have taken that.


Greg Oden allegedly had a domestic assault situation last August. James Johnson was arrested on a domestic abuse charge in June and in July signed a two-year deal with the Toronto Raptors (charges against him were dropped). Former Thunder player DeAndre Liggins had an ugly domestic abuse case filed against him (he is now out of the league as well). Three other NBA players and one assistant coach had domestic abuse charges against them dropped.

That is all within the past 12 months.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver shouldn’t have needed a public scandal in another sport to make him understand that domestic violence was a serious issue and one that impacts the NBA directly. This is something the league should have taken more seriously long ago.

But the public relations disaster around the NFL and the Ray Rice case certainly caught the Commissioner’s attention. Silver spoke on Monday to announce a genuinely good New York City based NBA Cares project tied into the All-Star Game there next February (repairing a Staten Island court damage by hurricane Sandy), but when the media got to talk to him they had more serious questions and domestic violence is on that list. Ian Begley of was there.

Again, Silver doesn’t need the NFL, he can look at his own crime blotter and see the problem. There can be a culture of entitlement and being “above it all” that comes with the confidence needed to become a professional athlete, something as true for guys coming into the NBA as it is in the NFL. A discussion of domestic violence during the rookie training program is not enough.

Changes need to be made. Silver and the league needs to be more proactive than the NFL and its commissioner have been (although that’s a low bar to clear).

The NBA’s long-standing policy on all arrests and legal matters has been to let the judicial system play out then base any punishment off that outcome. Will that work anymore? (It certainly would not have been good for the NFL in the Adrian Peterson situation.) The CBA does give the NBA wide latitude if it wants on these cases. The NBA needs to be more proactive here — it can’t eliminate the situations but it needs to deal better with the ones it has. The league took no action on the cases already mentioned in this post (some charges were against players out of the league, others the charges were dropped). The problem is with the cases that were dropped (we don’t know what really happened in those situations), or in future similar situations, a player suspended without pay after an incident who then sees the charges dropped will have grounds to challenge the league. However, we also know that a lot of clear cases of abuse see the charges dropped for a variety of reasons.

Unfortunately, Silver will be put to the test on this sometime sooner rather than later. It will be interesting to see how he and the league (and teams) respond, especially if this is a name player and not just an end-of-bench guy, because there will be a much brighter spotlight on them now. Sitting back and ignoring the situation is no longer an option.

Kevin Durant has grown close with Karl Malone


Kevin Durant famously declared he was sick of being second.

He’d been second behind Greg Oden in the draft, but mostly, Durant was referring to LeBron James. LeBron had beaten him once in the Finals and thrice in MVP voting.

Karl Malone also knows a little something about finishing second to the greatest player of an era. The Jazz star lost to Michael Jordan twice in the Finals and once in MVP voting.

So, Durant and Malone can relate.

Durant in Esquire:

I’ve gotten close with Karl Malone, who’s called me numerous times when he can see on TV that I’m struggling, feeling bad after a loss. He can tell.

In related news, the Wizards and Knicks are in a bidding war to hire Malone.