Former coach with George Raveling's name is almost synonymous with "Nike influence in grassroots basketball." But once upon a time he was a young Villanova basketball player, and a volunteer security guard at the Lincoln Memorial when Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. When it was over, Raveling asked King for his written notes, and King handed them over. Douglas Brinkley writes in TIME: "King ended his oration with the unforgettable line: 'Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.' With sweat pouring out of him, he stepped back, blotted his forehead with a handkerchief, and waved farewell as he headed off the crowded makeshift platform. That's when Raveling made his move. 'I was only about four people off to the side of King,' he remembers. 'I don't know what possessed me but I walked up to King and calmly asked 'Can I have that copy?' Without hesitating he turned and handed it to me. And just as he did a rabbi on the other side came and said something to him, congratulating him on his speech and that was essentially the end of it as far as me acquiring the speech. Of course nobody, including myself, realized that this was going to take on the historical significance that it did. ... I have no idea why I even asked him for the speech ... But I'm sure glad that I did.'" (Via MoneyPlayers)
Last year Dwight Howard's best dunk confused the panel of judges, in part because they apparently didn't realize he was putting a sticker high on the backboard. This year he is in the contest again (along with Rudy Gay, Jamario Moon, and champion Gerald Green) and pledges to alert the judges to some fancy plans he already has in the works. That'll fix the judging problem. The only thing is, the NBA has also fixed the judging problem -- by changing the contest so that in the finals fans around the world get to do the only voting that matters. Does that mean that Howard is going to tell all of us what he's going to do before he does it? And isn't Howard breaking some kind of unwritten rule by admitting that he's taking the contest so seriously?
The finger-pointing is well underway for the Clippers, owner and coach both dishing to the media. T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times: "[Owner Donald] Sterling said he expects more from his coach. 'I want to see him win. I don't want to tell him how to do it. I'm just interested in the conclusion. My whole philosophy is hire the best people and let them do their jobs. There is no alternative, you have to rely on them, and if it doesn't work out, either you're patient or make changes, right?' [Coach Mike] Dunleavy, asked about the owner's frustration, said, 'I'm very frustrated too. But I'm also frustrated with the organization. I saw this coming, but had two deals out there that they didn't want to do. It contributed to where we are now.'" Dunleavy is owed $17 million over the next three years.
Chris Webber, in the eyes of his former coach, Jim O'Brien, as reported by Dan Gelston of the Associated Press: "Speaking openly about Webber for the first time since he was fired at the end of 2005, O'Brien said before Indiana's game at Philadelphia that the forward was never interested in practice or truly committed to the offensive scheme. 'Webber didn't practice at all that year prior to coming to us,' O'Brien said. 'He didn't practice at all the previous six weeks. I think he was just at the point where he didn't necessarily feel where he was in need of practice, or could practice, or couldn't practice and play at the same time.' O'Brien said he wanted to actively use Webber, who had lost some mobility and agility after microfracture knee surgery, in the low post to open up shots for three-point threat Kyle Korver. 'He said, 'Coach, I don't do the low-post thing anymore,'' O'Brien recalled. 'We just made a major trade to bring in this 6-11 guy and he said, 'No.' I said, 'Yes, you do.''" (via Sactown Royalty)
Michael Wallace of the Miami Herald: "Mourning, 37, tore two tendons in his right knee while attempting to block a shot during the Heat's Dec. 19 game against the Hawks in Atlanta. He confirmed that a report posted on the Heat's website last week that quoted him as saying he would retire was premature. Mourning said there are several issues he must first sort through before he makes a decision. He said the cast would be removed in three weeks. He then faces three to four months of rehab. 'I wouldn't retire that way,' said Mourning, who participated in Monday's pregame ceremony to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 'I'm focused on my recovery. I'm going to have to get over the hurdle of whether I'm going to run, walk and jump again. The first 12 or 13 days was some of the most miserable pain I've ever experienced.' Mourning is limited in what pain medications he can take because of his 2003 kidney transplant." The same article points out that ESPN has dropped some Miami games from their national broadcast schedule.
Jason Friedman of the Houston Press quotes Shane Battier on basketball teams with leads: "You talk about a team keeping the lead in football; you always wonder why a team scores in the last two minutes, it's because people play a passive, prevent defense. Same thing happens in basketball."
More love between Knick security, the media, and Knick fans at the Garden.
Tracy McGrady suggests he won't play in the All-Star Game.
I have been wondering this same thing. When Jason Kidd told reporters his team was mediocre, was that reverse psychology? Because it just doesn't square with the fiery competitor we know Kidd to be.
One thing the NBA has on Europe's major basketball leagues: The teams don't go insolvent and shut down on short notice.
The Lakers looked good with Kobe Bryant passing like crazy, huh? I know that there are people out there who think that Phil Jackson's nine championships -- that's nine -- are some kind of fluke of good personnel. I am certain he has his flaws, and his teams always seem to involve a some turmoil. But let's just agree right now that this year is his chance to prove every doubter wrong. Even Kobe Bryant wanted to leave this team for dead. If Jackson's team -- lacking Michael Jordan or Shaquille O'Neal -- makes it to the Conference Finals this year, then it's hats off to Jackson.
Ira Winderman on Cleveland's win in Miami: "Wade outscores LeBron James 42-28, and the Heat still loses by seven. Is there any doubt who has the better supporting cast now?"
SuperSonic Wally Szczerbiak reportedly refuses to talk to an Oklahoma paper. It's unclear to me why.
Checking in on Pau Gasol trade talks. If I were the Bulls, it would be hard for me to part with Andres Nocioni. Whenever I watch the Bulls, it seems like Nocioni is in the mix whenever the team is playing well.
Jonathan Abrams of the Los Angeles Times: "All the right things were said beforehand, Kwame Brown's first game since the boos cast around Staples Center displaced the injury being mourned by those around the team. Brown committed too many turnovers, missed too many easy shots and permitted the crowd's cascade of boos affect his play too much. It shouldn't have happened. 'It's over with,' Brown said. 'I'm just a little upset with myself that I let it bother me as much as it did. It kind of got me into a cycle of turnovers. I've got to just come out and play hard.'"
This is what it looks like when the Timberwolves win on the road. Tim Kawakami of the Mercury News on lessons from Golden State's home loss to Minnesota: "If you wanted the Warriors to win 50 this year, well, they're not. This tells you that. If you expected Baron to make the All-Star Game ... well, again, sometimes things don't line up right for stuff like that." On the other hand, if you wanted the Warriors to make a trade this season, maybe this game doesn't hurt.
Britt Robson of the Rake on Minnesota: "Ryan Gomes takes what the defenses give him, and Golden State gave him a lot this afternoon: Gomes racked up a career high, incredibly efficient, 35 points to go with 11 rebounds, shooting 11-15 FG and getting to the line 12 times while missing the free throw just once. During the telecast, Wolves color commentator Jim Petersen said that over the past six weeks Gomes has been Minnesota's second-best player. Okay, sure, but for the last month, since December 21, he's been the best player, period, on the team: Nearly as valuable as Al Jefferson in terms of offensive flow and synergy, and better on defense."
Jayda Evans of The Seattle Times: "Sonics guard Kevin Durant played against his role model, Tracy McGrady, for the first time on Monday, yet McGrady was noticeably not himself. The All-Star recently returned from a left knee injury, having missed 11 games, and didn't start for the second consecutive matchup. ... 'He was limping up and down the court a little bit,' Durant said of McGrady. 'All of his quickness wasn't there because his knee is hurting or something like that, but it was fun. He is somebody I tried to pattern my game after. I didn't get to say anything to him. During the game, you don't have too much to say. We were just playing and I thought about it, like, 'Wow, I'm checking McGrady.' It was pretty cool.'"
Dan Steinberg of the DC Sports Bog: "Nick Young's postgame outfit featured a striped dress shirt under a large gray sweater. Gilbert's eyes popped when he saw the ensemble. 'Hey man, talk about my sweater and my shirt you've got on,' Gilbert shouted as Nick did his postgame interviews. 'Talk about that, how you stole it. Yeah. You ain't got no answer for that. You came in and stole it.' 'How'd you notice it Gil?' Young asked, amazed. 'You've got so many sweaters and shirts.' 'He always takes Gilbert's clothes, he goes over to his house and takes 'em,' DeShawn Stevenson said. 'I took it, I went into his house and took it,' Young confirmed."
A little video of shooting coach and Wizard assistant Dave Hopla. He's really passionate about keeping track of makes and misses during shooting exercises. I have to admit, my mind quickly tires of that amount of counting. After a while, I start thinking about food. My mind does something like 34 out of 53, 35 out of 54, burritos are good, 35 out of ... oh shoot. Where was I?
Matt Harpring's doctors want to get a better look at his colon, which is always worrisome.
Watch Chauncey Billups travel! This is one of those things someone from the league should explain, or eliminate. I'm really glad Orlando won anyway.
Pretty good photo of father playfully slapping son.
Memphis blogger Paul Ryburn: "Heard a good story about the new Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace last night. My friend Sam took a kid who is a St. Jude patient up there last night. Chris Wallace comes in the restaurant where Sam works a lot, so Sam approached him, introduced the kid, and asked if he might be able to get some autographs for him. 'I'll do you one better than that,' Wallace replied. 'He's invited to practice tomorrow.' That was a very cool gesture."