At the New York Times, David Halbfinger on what part owner Jay-Z has meant for the Brooklyn Nets: "He helped design the team logos and choose the team’s stark black-and-white color scheme, and personally appealed to National Basketball Association officials to drop their objections to it (the N.B.A., according to a person with knowledge of the discussion, thought that African-American athletes did not look good on TV in black, an assertion that a league spokesman adamantly denied). He counseled arena executives on what kind of music to play during games. ('Less Jersey,' he urged, pushing niche artists like Santigold over old favorites like Bon Jovi.) He even coached them on how to screen patrons for weapons without appearing too heavy-handed. ('Be mindful,' he advised oracularly, 'and be sensitive.') In the two and a half years since groundbreaking, as taxi-roof advertisements promised 'All access to Jay-Z,' and sponsorship salespeople trumpeted how 'hip and cool' he and his wife, Beyoncé, would make the arena, he and the Nets have effectively written a new playbook for how to deploy a strategic celebrity investor."
David Thorpe says Jacque Vaughn has an important role to play in deciding Orlando's future (Insider): "Indeed, the Magic's draft picks still remain the key to their future. But what Vaughn can do is manufacture better value for his veterans if he can get them to play their best basketball. Then Hennigan can work to package his nonlottery picks with these solid veterans to perhaps acquire a lottery pick, or even just better picks. The same can be said for Moe Harkless and Nikola Vucevic, two young players with significant upside. Two years from now, will they be "players" or "teasers"? Vaughn will need to make sure they are the former."
You might know Stephen Jackson raps ... but did you know he did a track with Kevin Durant?
SI's Sam Amick exhaustively profiles new Magic GM Rob Hennigan, who said this about the Dwight Howard deal: "'I think if you can hit the mute button as much as possible and try to stay focused on making decisions that are rooted in principle, I think your chances of making a good decision increase exponentially. Our goals going in were to remain flexible, create a chance to have some long-term sustainability, and the avenue to that is a mixture of what we were able to get back.'"
On 48 Minutes of Hell, Aaron McGuire tells us why Tim Duncan is as essential as salt: "Much like refrigeration made salt-curing a less valuable method of preservation, the rise of small-ball and the slow decline of the traditional center has made his skillset less desirable as well. For sure, there isn’t a team in the league that would reject a prime Duncan if he came to call. But unlike the early 2000s, teams aren’t actively aiming to get a Tim Duncan. Teams are aiming to get LeBrons, and Kobes, and versatile next-generation big men like Chris Bosh and Amare Stoudemire. Old-fashioned defensive bigs have, in some sense, gone out of style. So too has Duncan’s skillset. As for the oil beneath the salt-domes, I prefer to think of that thusly — people looked past the salt to find the black gold underneath it, ignoring the fact that it was the salt that helped them find it in the first place. So too have teams abandoned Duncan in search of the next “Big Three”, somewhat looking past the fact that the Parker/Manu/Duncan Spurs of 2005-2007 were the original Big Three, and (as of yet) quite arguably the most successful."
From Valley of the Suns: According to Jermaine O'Neal, the Suns' training staff is quite the draw: "'I always knew that training staff was phenomenal,' O’Neal said Wednesday on a conference call after officially signing a one-year, $1.35 million minimum deal with the Suns. 'The word around the league to most players is the training staff can really take the body and kind of put three, four years onto [their career] just by the things that they do to the body. That did have an impact on my decision as well. I wanted to be able to take what I did this summer and continue to build on it with the great training staff, and I felt like I was getting that with the Suns. Your health is everything. It doesn’t matter what you can do physically on the court if you don’t have that health and you don’t have people that can really address the health issues then it doesn’t really matter what you can do physically, and those are some of the things that [Grant Hill] talked about.'"
"Small Market, Big Heart" -- a film about the Sacramento Kings and the work the team's fans have done to keep the franchise in town -- is on the big screen in Sacramento.