Monday Bullets

  • Blazers GM Rich Cho has been fired. When Portland GMs assert themselves in a Paul Allen world, these things happen. The Blazers are a turbo-charged GM merry-go-round -- the more it spins, the more executives fall out. Hold on tight, acting GM Chad Buchanan.

  • Rick Welts tells great, uplifting stories about how his coming out has been received. Suns executives stood and applauded when he returned to work. His teenaged niece says her friends think she is now way cooler than ever, just for being related to the basketball executive who came out of the closet. And in the stacks of mail, amazingly all of it has been positive so far.

  • The other day I learned from Luc Richard Mbah a Moute that one of the toughest realities of guarding LeBron James is his handle. Size, power, quickness ... we all knew that. But the handle element was interesting, and I have been watching ever since with an eye to how he handles the ball. It's no joke. I'd also add that Game 3 included some of James' best passing ever -- a number times he got the defense all out of whack, then fired a laser right to the hoop.

  • Russell Westbrook misses some opportunities to pass. He is ridiculed as if that's intentional. David Thorpe asks a different question: What if he lacks vision? "On one play, Nick Collison was open for a dunk, but just for a millisecond. Westbrook didn't make the pass, and it might be because he didn't see it," says Thorpe. "That's a tougher thing to learn."

  • See the Thunder offense not moving.

  • So Danny Ainge, you assembled the team that leads the league at not pointing fingers at each other, in public, when things get tough. So, whose fault is it your team isn't still playing? You wouldn't point fingers, right? Hayes Davenport on CelticsHub: "In making the media rounds after Game 5, Ainge explicitly assigned blame for the season’s end to his players, and nobly declined to leave any for himself, the person who brought those players together. Articles like these are riddled with quotes about how Ainge believes the Celtics lost because the players didn’t play as well as they could have. His tone, throughout, is that of a disappointed father whose son didn’t practice enough for his piano recital and missed out on a piano scholarship. ... The buck is supposed to stop with him, but Ainge is snowblowing bucks out of his office."

  • The Warriors are doing some aggressive things to court season ticket holders. One of them is a straight bet against a lockout, offering your money back plus five percent on any games that end up being canceled. They're also going to give ticket holders some valuable goodies if the team fails to win at least 26 of 42 home games, make the playoffs or have an All-Star on the roster. They say they have had the highest renewal rate of any non-playoff team. During the season, if you renewed your season tickets at the arena you got to take a half-court shot with a chance to win $25,000. Worked like crazy, the team says, with 17 percent of fans renewing on game nights.

  • The highest level basketball in the world and every now and again everyone watching on TV and in the stadium knows something that the guy with the ball does not: That the shot clock is just about to expire. That's kind of a silly moment, huh? Very often it's after an offensive rebound. A player might think the clock reset, but in fact it didn't. Then, instead of attempting a heroic buzzer beater, we see some poor guy on the baseline dribble his way into a dead ball turnover. Awesome. So, here's a radical idea: Make the lights go a little crazy. Talk to experts. With technology these days, a lot of the lights around the court, or even built right into the floor, could get progressively lighter or more colorful as the buzzer approaches. (We could create a real hoops "red zone.") It's a way to make the game a lot more fun and interesting, without harming it in any profound way.

  • Lots of mock drafts mashed together in a cool graphic.

  • An argument against the Wolves' trading the second overall pick.

  • Back when Lucious Harris was outplaying Manu Ginobili in the Finals.

  • ESPN the Magazine's Player X, who calls himself a big-name NBA veteran, writes that in a lockout a lot of NBA players will head overseas (Insider): "A guy like the Pistons' Chris Wilcox -- who can barely dribble or shoot after all these years -- simply wouldn't slip through the cracks over there. Had he grown up in Europe, Wilcox, with his size and athleticism, would be a serious force. Players are beginning to realize that if they go overseas, even for a season, they'll come back with more skills, and that translates into greater success and better contracts back here. I'm a big-name veteran, so my situation is a little different from Chris'. But if there's a lockout, I'm going overseas. A lot of guys are telling me they'll do the same. I've even heard a few top-10 stars, including Kobe and LeBron, are open to the idea. Whether or not those guys go, I predict that at least 15 percent of the NBA will be playing somewhere else if we call off the season. And some of them will stay there."

  • Joakim Noah's passing forces the Heat to play him like a lot of teams play Steve Nash -- closing down his passing lanes and encouraging him to shoot more.

  • Derrick Rose has once again stopped getting to the line. The Bulls' success more or less rises and falls with his free throw attempts.

  • If the market is open for Brandon Jennings -- a super talent who takes way, way more shots than he makes -- what's a fair price?