Hibbert Wrong, Just Wrong
By TERRY LYONS
June 3, 2013 -- Roy Hibbert, an emerging NBA star on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court, now needs to work on his all-around game and that should start with his off-the-court game and knowing some of the facts.
While Hibbert sat at the NBA's version of the highest pulpit - the globally televised official post-game media news conference table - he decided to use what can be referred to as an immature reference by using a "gay/lesbian" slur in a lengthy response to some simple questions. Earlier, he ripped the media for neglecting to recognize the Indiana Pacers team because of its lack of nationally televised games or national print/electronic media attendance and attention devoted to attending Pacers games throughout the year.
The whole fiasco was in response to a question about why he wasn't thought of more highly and voted upon more frequently for NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
So, in essence, Hibbert was far too ... well ... DEFENSIVE!
Hibbert issued the obligatory apology and was subsequently fined $75,000 by the NBA - nearly all of it due to the gay slur and a bit for calling the media one of comedian George Carlin's "not acceptable" words. (M.Fers).
I'm giving Hibbert the benefit of the doubt on the immature slur. He apologized and was fined and paid a pretty heavy cost. But, on the basketball and media criticism side of the equation, I'm sending up a flare.
Truth be told, Hibbert received more support from the media than he did from the NBA's head coaches when you compare the voting for the NBA Defensive Player of the Year to that of the NBA's All-Defensive first and second place teams.
In the media voting, Hibbert earned 3-5-6 or 14 selections from some 120 media members who regularly cover the league (note: 3 first place votes; 5 second place and 6 third place). That was good enough to rank 10th in the voting by media, well behind winner Marc Gasol (from small market Memphis) who finished only on the second team All-Defensive when the coaches voted.
In a more "in-depth" analysis, one might look to the NBA's All-Defensive team voting for some perspective. In that voting - conducted by the league, administered by an independent accounting firm but decided by the head coaches of the 30 NBA teams, Hibbert garnered 2 of 29 first team votes but totaled only six voting "points," meaning he received only support from two other coaches in the league, both for the second team. That means, he impressed 4 coaches, not including Indiana's Frank Vogel.
The official NBA release reads:
The voting panel consisted of the NBA's 30 head coaches, who were asked to select NBA All-Defensive First and Second Teams by position. Coaches were not permitted to vote for players from their own team. Two points were awarded for a First Team vote and one point was awarded for a Second Team vote.
The results for the 2012-13 NBA All-Defensive Teams balloting. The balloting was tabulated by the independent accounting firm of Ernst & Young LLP:
2012-13 NBA ALL-DEFENSIVE FIRST TEAM
LeBron James, Miami
Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City
Tyson Chandler, New York
Joakim Noah, Chicago
Tony Allen, Memphis
Chris Paul, L.A. Clippers
2012-13 NBA ALL-DEFENSIVE SECOND TEAM
Tim Duncan, San Antonio
Paul George, Indiana
Marc Gasol, Memphis
Avery Bradley, Boston
Mike Conley, Memphis
Other players receiving votes, with point totals (First Team votes in parentheses):
Andre Iguodala, Denver, 16 (2); Larry Sanders, Milwaukee, 16 (4); Thabo Sefolosha, Oklahoma City, 15 (2); Luol Deng, Chicago, 11 (1); Dwight Howard, L.A. Lakers, 9 (3); Kobe Bryant, L.A. Lakers (6 (1); Roy Hibbert, Indiana, 6 (2); Kenneth Faried, Denver, 4 (1); Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City, 4 (1); Shane Battier, Miami, 2; Nicolas Batum, Portland, 2 (1); Corey Brewer, Denver, 2; George Hill, Indiana, 2; Mike James, Dallas, 2 (1); Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio, 2, (1); Tony Parker, San Antonio, 2 (1); Dwyane Wade, Miami, 2; Metta World Peace, L.A. Lakers, 2 (1); Eric Bledsoe, L.A. Clippers, 1; Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City, 1; Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia, 1; Andrei Kirilenko, Minnesota, 1; Iman Shumpert, New York, 1; David West, Indiana, 1.
Earl "The Pearl" Monroe: Tells, "My Story"
By Terry Lyons (Special to Digital Sports Desk)
The rivalry was intense and it grew from yearly meetings in the NBA Playoffs when only eight teams qualified for postseason play. It made Chicago (Michel Jordan) vs. New York (Patrick Ewing), or New York (Spike Lee et al) vs. Indiana (Reggie Miller) look like a day at Saratoga Raceway.
In 1969, it was a 4-game sweep by New York over Baltimore. In 1970, the New Yorkers won a tough seven game series. In 1971, Baltimore reversed the decision and triumphed in the seventh game. In 1972, the Knickerbockers were back on top, 4-games-to-2 winners.
The match-ups were so good, many an NBA fan can recite them without the need to look up the rosters or the archived boxscores.
At center - two under-sized behemoths - Baltimore's Wes Unseld against New York's Willis Reed.
At power forward - the two best power forwards of the time - Baltimore's Gus Johnson against New York's Dave DeBusschere.
At small forward - two of the best scorers/shooters of the day, both relentless - Baltimore's Jack Marin against New York's Bill Bradley.
At the guard positions - in that era, there was no clear distinction of point guard or shooting guard, as most good backcourts had skilled ballhandlers and shooters, all the same. For Baltimore, the "one" slot had some interchangeable parts whether it was Kevin Loughery, Fred Carter or reserve Eddie Miles. Fred "Mad Dog" Carter stands out in my mind as the man who teamed-up with one of the greatest ballhandlers, shooters and scorers of all-time - and that was Earl "The Pearl" Monroe.
In New York, Dick Barnett, a jump-shooting marvel who double-kicked both legs when he popped off the dribble, played the shooting guard role alongside Walt "Clyde" Frazier, one of the best combo point-defensive-scoring guards in the history of the game. The Frazier vs. Monroe match-up was the key factor and one of the all-time best with Frazier's "best defensive player" status versus Monroe's "Earl the Pearl reverse spin" and "one-on-one" barrage of offense.
Monroe was reared in Philadelphia and schooled in Winston-Salem while Frazier's road to fame started in Atlanta, then traveled via Southern Illinois collegiate roots to New York City via a trip to the National Invitational Tournament when that postseason tilt mattered greatly. Monroe was "Black Magic and Black Jesus" while Frazier was the ultra cool, Clyde of "Bonnie and Clyde" silver screen fame.
Somehow, in 1973, they became teammates.
The backbone of the NY Knicks and one of the best two-way guards in history in Frazier, was now attached to his arch rival, the master of the spin and fall-away, the artist of NBA one-on-one, in Earl :The Pearl" Monroe. And, it was mainly Monroe who needed to adapt his game to the "hit the open man philosophy" instilled in all of the Knicks by Coach Red Holzman. To do so, he first met with the legendary Knicks coach in a meeting to formally sign his contract, a two year deal worth $300,000 which, at the time, seemed like livin' large. The figure was a surprise to Monroe, even as he stepped to the table to sign a contract that had been negotiated by the late Larry Fleischer, the first executive director of the NBA Players Association.
"I told Red that I didn't want to start," said Monroe to his biographer, Quincy Troupe. "Instead, I wanted to earn my way into the lineup. Besides, Dick Barnett was the starter and was a very good player, even at this part of his career," noted Monroe. "Coach told me that was okay with him, that he just wanted me to feel comfortable."
Monroe then spoke with the Knicks about what uniform number to wear, being that his Baltimore Bullets #10 was already designated for all-time New York greatness on Frazier's back. Monroe settled for #15, which would later go the rafters of Madison Square Garden in both "The Pearl's" and Dickie McGuire's honor. Then, the interesting side plot was explained by Monroe to Holzman.
"I think I need an operation to fix bone spurs because they've been hurting real bad. They're on the top of my left foot, so when I run or jump, the spurs hit each other and it's very painful."
Damaged goods? Not with Holzman's workmanlike manner as head coach.
"Red said," retold Monroe, "we just made this trade for you because we need you and want you with us. Willis (Reed) is out and we need to have you on the floor. Plus, we don;t want to have any letdown at the guard position. That's why we brought you in. So, you might have to just play through the pain this season," concluded Holzman.
"Well coach," said Monroe, "I'm cool with that."
Monroe and his new coach then went down to the official press conference to announce the trade (Dave Stallworth, Mike Riordan and $450,000 went from New York to Baltimore - the team who would soon become the "Capitol" Bullets, then the Washington Bullets and now are the Washington Wizards. The second question of the press conference was the one you would expect, namely "Can you play with Walt Frazier?"
"I can play with anybody," said Monroe, "but especially someone as good as Clyde."
Then, "how many balls will the Knicks need to keep you two satisfied?"
"One," smiled Earl, "I don't think they play the game with two."
"Who is going to start?"
"The same five players that have been starting (Frazier, Barnett, Reed, DeBusschere and Bradley). I'll be coming off the bench."
With that, Monroe joined the New York Knickerbockers, setting the tone for a complementary role to Frazier and establishing himself with both his new coach and the tough-minded New York media contingent that he was ready to play team basketball and accept the role as a reserve, albeit one of the greatest guards in history.
Monroe's biography, "Earl the Pearl - My Story," plays the rest out, although it often grinds to a halt with tedious play-by-play or game-by-game description and a tone of court-reported transcripts, rather than prose coming from Troupe, an award-winning biographer of Myles David, among others. To that end, Troupe cracked Monroe with a back-court foul and hurt the effort for The Pearl to unearth many a story that would be best read in the context of the bio, not in one man's look into the life and times of one of the most compelling hardcourt entertainers who brought a generation of spinning, palming, travelling guards into the forefront of pro basketball for all-time to come.
Marathon: "Michael's words"
By BOB DELANEY (Special to the DigitalSportsDesk)
As we learn more about the Boston Marathon bombings and those who carried out the terror attacks, additional details will become available. We know one is dead and the other has been arrested. We are impressed by the law enforcement investigation and the Boston community response. As I watched the news reports; words spoken to me years back came to mind.
Decades ago, I was assigned to the New Jersey State Police Training Bureau after a long-term undercover assignment infiltrating traditional Organized Crime.
I started the Institute on Organized Criminal Groups within the Criminal Science Unit to broaden the understanding of organized crime. For years, law enforcement was focused on La Cosa Nostra, the Mob, Mafia or whatever term you wish to use. The bigger picture added outlaw motorcycle gangs, drug cartels, terrorism and others. The Institute gained international prominence and law enforcement from around the world attended.
Deputy Chief Constable Michael McAtamney of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, now known as the Police Service of Northern Ireland, participated in 1981 and during a lunch one day we spoke about the subject of terrorist bombings.
“You are not where we are,” he said, “however, one day, I think you will be. You see, every call to our police department – a domestic dispute, vehicle accident – has to be treated as a possible set-up for violence, a bombing, an attack by terrorists.”
Michael’s words echoed in my ears as I watched the ongoing reports coming out of Boston after the bomb explosions at the marathon’s finish line. It seems he saw coming to our shores what his and other countries have been dealing with for quite some time.
My wife, Billie, is a marathon runner and she’s run the Boston Marathon four times since 2000. She knows the feeling of running across that finish line and I know the feeling of being at that finish line waiting for “your runner” to cross.
The Boston Marathon is a special event where all that is good in our world is on display. People from so many countries are united by a sporting event that allows the weekend athlete to be on the same stage as the world-class athlete. Marathons are the only competition that allows that mix.
Spectators line the route and the cheers near the Boylston Street finish line are as loud as those in any arena where I’ve worked during my 25 years in the NBA. Many people are running to raise dollars for charities, to honor friends or a family member. There are so many causes and reasons for participating that I can’t list them. All the best of the human spirit becomes evident every step of the way at “Boston” and at so many marathons around the country.
Our memories from the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and terrible images from other terrorist attacks have been reignited in our minds, yet we will come together as we did then – remembering the victims and their families, pursuing justice and moving forward. I wrote this in my book Covert speaking about life after working undercover:
“Changing how I want to live my life, or hiding from the bad guys, would be giving them a power over me that they certainly don’t deserve. It would be the same as saying to the mob: “You won,” and that has never been, and never will be an option for me.” – or for Boston and for us as a nation.
Bob Delaney is highly decorated former New Jersey State Trooper, a 25-year veteran and now retired NBA referee, presently an NBA CARES Ambassador and author of Covert: My Years Infiltrating the Mob and Surviving the Shadows: A Journey of Hope into Post Traumatic Stress. He presents before military and first responder groups around the world.
Boston 2013: End of Innocence
By TERRY LYONS (Editor-in-Chief, Digital Sports Desk)
BOSTON, April 16, 2013 -- I am sick of giving my thoughts and prayers. I am sick of standing for a moment of silence. I am sick of it all. Whether it was the catastrophic events of September 11, 2011 or the lone-wolf criminal acts of Oklahoma City in April of 1995 or bombing of Centennial Park in Atlanta at the 1996 Olympics, I'm just sick and tired of it all.
When I feel like this, my writing always comes up empty, because I just can't reach for my feelings. It hurts too much.
It hurt too much this past December 14th, as a senseless act took the lives of 20 young children and six brave adults at the Sandy Hook elementary school in nearby Newtown, Connecticut, a town I literally drove through that very morning when returning from my native New York to my new hometown of Boston. That crime hurt so much because of the little children robbed of their lives and taken from this earth in the years of their absolute innocence.
Now, here in Boston, we mourn again. We were enjoying a wonderful holiday in the Commonwealth and we were all celebrating in a day where the Boston Marathon weaves its way from Hopkinton through Wellesley and up the hills of Newton right on through Brookline and into Boston. The day was aptly described by weathermen everywhere as "perfect."
The elites ran off at 9am for the women, leading some 11,000 fellow females on to one of the most challenging marathon courses a runner will ever see. The elite men ran off at 10:00am and they chased the women and the physically challenged runners all the way toward Copley Square, some 26.2 miles away on a glorious spring day when the very best of Boston was on display under a clear blue sky.
Out in Lexington and Concord, tributes were paid to the men and women who fought for the American Revolution. They are the Patriots we hold forth and celebrate each year on Patriots' Day in Massachusetts and even though I'm only a newfound Bostonian, Patriots' Day is in my blood. I wake and I feel it every year. It is part of the fabric of the Boston community and put simply, you just can NOT feel it.
And talk about fabric, like non-other, the Boston Red Sox are this community and the Red Sox toss the ball out at 11:00am on Patriots' Day every year and it is the toughest ticket in town, especially on a glorious spring day when the temperature pushes 55-degrees fahrenheit and the Sox are off to a great start. To be at Fenway on Patriots' Day is as good as it gets, unless you have a front row seat for the Boston Marathon.
And guess what?
We ALL have that!
Whether you make your way out to Hopkinton, as I like to do, or you take your lawn chairs up the block to Commonwealth, as I have done many a time, or you head downtown to take in the sights along Mass Ave or in Brookline, it just doesn't get any better than cheering on the runners. Runners like 66-year old Amby Burfoot who I had the pleasure of working with all this past week as he prepped for the 45th anniversary run of his 1968 Boston Marathon victory. Amby - nobody calls him Burfoot or Mr. Burfoot - was quite the story this year and he made the rounds on all the radio and TV circuits, he spent time with the Boston Herald and the Boston Globe and he was a gracious guest on all of the shows, inviting the average guy, the average runner to join him and his family as they ran the race with two things in mind - to have fun and to finish healthy.
Amby was stopped short of that goal on Mass Avenue in Boston because there was a terrible disturbance in the force, the force that guides all runners and marathoners, the force that guides most of us. The force of sportsmanship, competitiveness and the force of reaching deep into the human spirit was ransacked by a cowardly criminal act. As some of the thousands of runners were crossing the finish line at Copley, two bombs detonated and the world changed again, sadly to the extreme far opposite side of righteousness and into the depths of hell where the cowards will exist in the afterworld.
The terror was extreme and the death toll rose from two to three souls overnight, as the police and authorities worked every waking hour to try their very best to restore order and to track down the criminals responsible for this act, but overnight the worst of the worst of the worst news surfaced.
The face of this criminal act is that of an innocent eight-year old boy and his family.
At this early point in the criminal investigation, we do not know why. We lash out against why, we try to figure out why, but we just don't know why. The anger is not healthy, but, we must recognize that it exists.
Runners and fans, athletes and their families are as far away from political figures as you can get. They compete and they entertain us. They are sportsmen and, ever increasingly, sports women. They are global citizens, especially at a world class marathon where people from all over the world come to celebrate their sport and test their endurance in a race where they must qualify to do so. Boston is history, it's the Wimbledon of running. It is classy and it is beautiful, even on a 96-degree day like last year or a 32-degree day like so many before.
Hundreds of innocent people stood in Copley Square, many smiling and celebrating as their loved ones crossed the finish line. Then, like New York in 1993 and 2001, like Atlanta in 1996, like countless other cities and towns - in the USA and worldwide - we experienced the cowardice of crime and terrorism that was inserted, once again, into our daily lives.
That is the question my little girl looked up and asked of me yesterday afternoon when she didn't know an 8-year old was murdered. Now, today, with the news that this crime has the name and face of an 8-year old, that is the question every parent is being asked again, many by a youngster who will relate to the late Martin Richard.
None of us have an answer and unfortunately, there's a good chance we never will.
The Human Spirit ...
By DigitalSportsDesk.com Editor-in-Chief TERRY LYONS
There is an amazing human spirit in all of us and sports often brings it out. We relate. We enjoy. We laugh. We think. We cry.
Sometimes, we agonize and sometimes we sympathize and we do it with the winners and with the losers. Sometimes we jump on the bandwagon of the winners, front-runners are we? But other times we root against the favorites and knowingly side with the underdogs. And that is where the human spirit just loves to be.
Except this year.
Louisville's Kevin Ware jumped out to defend the perimeter and he jumped high. But his landing was not smooth and it caused the bone of his right leg to break in a terrible way, a way that is not often seen on national tv, unless you are watching a Spielberg war movie. Ware suffered a compound fracture of his right tibia and was removed from the gym in Indianapolis by highly trained medical and EMS staff, rolled out on a stretcher, the way no athlete wants to leave a game - any game. On his way, he asked the technicians to stop so he could speak to his teammates with a message any one of us would provide to our friends and loves ones, digging deep within ourselves to let our friends know "everything will be alright," and "don't worry about me, I'm okay."
But, that's only half the story of what was buzzing inside the injured Kevin Ware's mind as he suffered an unimaginably horrific injury live and in color in front of the cameras of CBS Sports which recorded the injury in super-slo motion, and thankfully, chose not to air the gruesome footage.
The rest of the story is about that human spirit within an athlete, the human spirit within Ware as he gathered himself from the floor to the stretcher, heading towards an awaiting ambulance that usually goes home without as much as a single passenger in tow. Somehow, within the pain, the hysteria and realization of what a terrible injury he had just suffered, somehow in the full state of shock the human body automatically goes into when it experiences the jolt of pain and trauma suffered, young Ware processed thoughts that only true competitors process.
He reassured his teammates that he'd be okay, but he asked for just one thing.
He wanted a "W."
As Ware suffered the injury, the NCAA tournament outcome might've shifted on its axis. The "Cinderella Story" of FGCU was swept away to the beaches of Ft. Meyers while the Wichita St. Shockers, a worthy underdog Final 4 participant for sure, just haven't captured the imagination of the average basketball fan. So, that's leaves us with the favorite ... the Rick Pitino-led Louisville Cards, somehow now are America's darlings, all because of that human spirit inside a young guard named Kevin Ware who has brought out the human spirit inside all of us.
Where Have All the Kricksteins Gone?
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the flowers gone?
Girls have picked them every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?
-- Pete Seeger
By TERRY LYONS (Special to DigitalSportsDesk)
NEW YORK, MARCH 4, 2013 -- With all due respect, let's take a shot at this just as the tennis world is about to celebrate "Tennis Night" in Hong Kong and at New York's Madison Square Garden where Rafael Nadal will headline a night of exhibitions along with Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro on the men's side while Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka square-off on the women's side right in the big top of New York City's spotlight.
Where have all the Aaron Krickstein's gone?
Long time passing shots,
Where have all the Aaron Kricktein's gone?
Long time ago.
Where have all the Andre Agassi's gone?
Charming personality for everyone,
Where have all the Andre Agassi's gone?
Long time ago.
Where have all the Michael Chang's gone?
He's won Roland Garros for Hoboken,
Where have all the Michael Chang's gone?
Long time ago.
Where have all the Paul Annacone's gone?
Wimbledon quarters and coaching a ton,
Where have all the Paul Annacone's gone?
Long time ago.
Where have all the Andy Roddick's gone?
A U.S. Open Champion,
Where have all the Andy's Roddick's gone?
Long time ago.
During my lifetime, I had the great pleasure to witness the glory years of several sports and sports franchises. It's been well documented that I worked my way through the Larry Bird-Magic Johnson era of NBA basketball, arguably the greatest time period in league history. I was also lucky enough to see the New York Mets win their "Miracle Mets" world championship in 1969, the New York Knicks in their most glorious era where Willis Reed, Walt Frazier and the Red Holzman-led Knickerbockers played a team-oriented, pleasing brand of basketball that forged two NBA titles and created a legion of "make the extra pass" basketball fans that grew-up with "The City Game" and a "Hit the Open Man" mentality.
I was hand-delivered a New York Islanders franchise that struggled mightily as an expansion franchise but soon after upset their New York Rangers rivals ('75) and went on to win four consecutive NHL Stanley Cup championships when Bryan Trottier personified the perfect two-way player maker, Denis Potvin took a lesson from the NHL's all-time greatest defenseman, Bobby Orr of the Bruins, to mold the NYI team around his very intimidating defensive presence while he quarterbacked the offense and power play to perfection. The Isles, with super-sniper Mike Bossy (50-in-50 was the norm), Clark Gillies and a host of muckers and fan-favorites, like Bobby Nystrom, Butch Goring, John Tonelli, complemented by rock-solid goal-keeping by Billy Smith. Not bad fort a high school sophomore, eh?
Them there was tennis.
On the women's side, every summer at the U.S. Open, we were there to witness Chrissy Evert going up against the greatest tennis player of all time in Martina Navratilova, a singles, doubles and mixed doubles ultra-champion and 18-time Grand Slam title winner. On the men's front, the list is ridiculous and I'll rip through it in no particular order ...
We were there to watch John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Andre Agassi, Arthur Ashe, Stan Smith, Pete Sampras - all American-born and bred. Meanwhile, Bjorn Borg, Ivan Lendl, Roger Federer, Rod Laver, Boris Becker and Mats Wilander were the international opponents, to name just a few.
Undoubtedly, it was the greatest era of tennis in history and it might never ever be duplicated.
So what happened?
Where did all the tennis players go? And, specifically, where are the American tennis players?
Let's ask Johnny Mac?
"Andy Roddick's now gone and we haven't won any slams in 10 years since Pete Sampras quit other than Roddick's one (2003 U.S. Open), so obviously there's some concern here. There's a lot of work to do and I think people remember the old days a bit," said McEnroe to a media contingent assembled to see the John McEnroe Tennis Academy housed at Sportime at three different locations in New York and its suburbs. "It was a great time for me and it was sort of a golden era for American tennis -- Jimmy Connors and myself, then Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier.
"So, yes, there's something that's missing and hopefully we can fill that niche and maybe inspire some younger kids as well."
What happened to the talent pool? Did the kids all start playing basketball and lacrosse, because they're certainly not playing baseball and (American/NFL-style) football. Ask President Barack Obama about that, eh?
"I've seen them all," McEnroe chimed in. " What Billie Jean King has done for the game and the way she played was more like how I played, Then, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert won a billion tournaments, Steffi Graf. And, when Serena (Williams) is on, she's the best I've ever seen play. She has the whole package as far as what she can bring to the table.
"Hopefully for us, (meaning American tennis), we're wondering where the next American guy is? For the next American woman, we're still looking pretty sharp. Hopefully this will inspire some other people to get out there," noted McEnroe.
And, he's backing up his wish with a venture sure to create a few new stars, right from the New York metropolitan area because McEnroe's academies help train more than 300 young prospects, who get first-hand training from Douglaston's favorite son, along with his brother, mark, and Peter Fleming - Mac's longtime doubles partner who heads up a gaggle of 30 of the top tennis coaches in the country, all packed into facilities on Randall's Island, Westchester County and out on Long Island. Because of Johnny Mac's heavy travels and TV commentary gig, his academy is managed by his brother after it was created by New York entrepreneur Claude Okin.
So where's the beef? Where's the next American champion?
"You look at John Isner, he's big and athletic and he played four years of college tennis," said McEnroe. "That's the type of kid, an athlete, that will become the future of tennis and I think, here, in a city like New York, we can find those type of kids."
Six Degrees of Harbaugh
By TERRY LYONS, Editor-in-Chief Digital Sports Desk
It's Super Bowl Sunday and all is well in the world of sports today.
Two weeks have passed since the NFL's best weekend of the year, the AFC and NFC championship weekend where the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Atlanta Falcons and the Baltimore Ravens defeated the New England Patriots for the right to meet in New Orleans today for all the gumbo the NFL coffers have to offer. Since that Sunday a fortnight ago, much has been written and said about the Super Bowl coaching match-up today, featuring San Francisco 49ers coach John Harbaugh and Baltimore Ravens coach Jim Harbaugh, the first brother-combo to ever coach against each other in the biggest game of them all. The stories often focus on the football environment the two coaches grew up in as the sons of father, Jack Harbaugh, a career football man.
The father has been asked a million times who he will root for in the big game. Just this morning, in the Boston Globe and its online mega media outlet, Boston.com, columnist Dan Shaughnessy stepped away from his column for a second to be a parent, something we all must do now and then, if we are fortunate enough to be graced by the hands of a higher being and to be lucky enough to be the "Mom's and Dad's of our children.
"You’re only as happy as your saddest child.’’ Jack Harbaugh — the dad of John and Jim — spoke to this adage last week when he said, “All the millions and millions that are parents ; they know that our thoughts will go to the one who comes up a little short.’’
Shaughnessy then wrote, a few lines later, "There it is. The dad of the Super Bowl coaches is telling you that if Jim and the 49ers win the Super Bowl, the first instinct of the Harbaugh parents will be to feel bad for disappointed John. You are only as happy as your saddest child.
So, with that in mind, I wanted to learn a little bit about the father, not the sons, so I asked the one person in the world that I know that would know. I reached out to Mike Broeker of Marquette University in Milwaukee.
"I had the great fortune to work with Jack for five years and although I didn't realize it then, each time we talked he left me with a takeaway to consider regarding leadership," said Mike Broeker, a Harbaugh family insider by way of (former) Marquette head coach and current Indiana Coach Tom Crean. Said Broeker, one of the up & coming college administrators in the land from his hotel room in Louisville where the Golden Eagles will take on Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals, "I certainly can't speak to Jim and John's football acumen, but having myself been influenced as a leader by Jack, it doesn't surprise me in the least his two sons have LED their franchises to the Super Bowl."
That's LED... as in led, marched to the finish line, dragged on their backs.
So the six degrees of separation are as interesting as the Super Bowl story line. Broeker is to Crean as Crean is to Joani Harbaugh as Joanie is to Jim and John and as Joani, Jim and John are to Jack. You see, Crean is married to Joani Harbaugh and the two met while Crean was an assistant coach to Ralph Willard while at Western Kentucky University. The couple met through a mutual friend when Ms. Harbaugh was an aerobics instructor while her father, Jack Harbaugh, was the head football coach at Western Kentucky. Crean's coaching led Marquette to the 2003 NCAA Final Four as Dwyane Wade's head coach. He has since moved on to Bloomington, Indiana where he is the coach of the No. 1 ranked Indiana Hoosiers, winners over previous numero uno, Michigan just last night. Crean and his wife are the parents of three children, Jack Harbaugh's grandchildren Megan, Riley and Ainsley.
Jack Harbaugh was an Associate Athletic Director at Marquette from 2002-08 when his son-in-law was putting the once proud Marquette basketball program back on the map in a big way.
So, why is this important on this Super Bowl Sunday?
Well, I count four different sports programs now considered and proven to be ultra successful because of the tutelage of one Jack Harbaugh. Yes, the Baltimore Ravens, the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL and the Marquette Golden Eagles (Warriors to most of us) and the Indiana Hoosiers, once led but then wrecked by a fould-mouthed bully named Bobby Knight who stayed on too long but now watches from afar in awe of a program resurrected by coach Tom Crean.
The stories today are all about Jim and John, of course and as they should be. And, as I noted, they touch upon Jack Harbaugh the family patriarch, but rarely do they go deeper to mention the former Jacqueline "Jackie" Capiti (Harbaugh), mother of the two NFL coaches and a woman universally known in the collegiate world as the wonderful wife of Jack. The parents must be proud of their two sons and they're proud of their son-in-law and his wife who have brought the religious experience of collegiate basketball back to the midwestern roots it must thrive in for all to be right in this world. They are proud parents and grandparents in a life blessed by good family, good friends and, frankly, some good luck, too, which is all to often forgotten in the world of sports.
My guess, is the family will all be happier later this week when the Super Bowl is in the books and they can all focus on the Indiana Hoosiers. That'll be until the Hoosiers meet up against the Marquette Warriors and the six degrees of separation branch out to one of Jack's other proteges. And that is where this column was going all along.
Here's to Mike Broeker, a loyal front office man in the Marquette Golden Eagles athletic department. If I had to put all my eggs in one basket to save the NCAA from itself. I'd make one phone call, to the guy influenced by Jack Harbaugh.
2012: YEAR of the ATHLETES of U.K.
By TERRY LYONS, Editor-in-Chief & Founder of Digitial Sports Desk with a fitting tribute to our friends in Great Britain as 2012 turns to 2013 and we hope for a great year ahead
BOSTON, DECEMBER 31, 2012 -- They were down and out, a nation of hard-working people delving deeper into recession. Yet the Diamond Jubilee was to be staged and it culminated in events on June 5, 2012, marking the 60th year of reign for Queen Elizabeth, the daughter of King George VI and his bride, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mum. Yes, way back on February 6, 1952, Princess Elizabeth acceded to the throne of England's monarchy, and she was crowned Queen Elizabeth II on June 2, 1953 with the 900-year old tradition of coronation at Westminster Abbey.
Now what does that have to do with Digital Sports Desk's Sports Story on the Year?
Read on, sportsmen and sportswomen, read on.
The Jubilee, as it's known to most, jumpstarted a series of events, continuing a feel-good era for Britain that began with Adele's six-Grammy grab for her hit album, "21" and its smash-hit song of the year, "Rolling in the Deep," among others. The monumental year for the United Kingdom continued into the realm of international intrigue as James Bond celebrated his 50th anniversary since Sean Connery took to the big screen as Agent 007 in the film "Dr. No," created in 1962. British "hits" continued as 1962, an epic year in Britain, was to be celebrated properly, especially because of the July '62 debut of The Rolling Stones, one of the top three rock 'n roll bands of all-time.
The 50th anniversary of that monumental time in entertainment history might've crept up on the American movie goer, music fan or royal family enthusiast, but one thing is for sure; as the hits kept coming, the momentum for the people of Great Britain built to a new and wonderful crescendo. It was August and time for the Games of the XXX Olympiad, the Summer Olympics in London.
It seemed as though it were yesterday, but the Beijing Olympics of 2008 gave way to London with a vivid memory, as we recalled Jacques Rogge stating:
"And now, in accordance with tradition, I declare the Games of the XXIX (29th) Olympiad closed, and I call upon the youth of the world to assemble four years from now in London to celebrate the Games of the XXX Olympiad."
Fast-forward a full four years later, the London Olympic Games finished and with the extinguishing of the Olympic flame, the world stopped and paid tribute because it had just been treated to the very best that Britain had to offer.
With that as the headliner and dozens of supporting facts to serve as back-up, the DigitalSportsDesk and its online site, DigitalSportsDesk.com have named the People of Great Britain, the Athletes of Great Britain, the Volunteers of the London Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games as Sports Person(s) of the Year 2012.
This past August, Sebastian Coe, head of the organizing committee and athlete extraordinaire himself, rightfully said, "We lit the flame and we lit up the world. For the third time, for the third time in its history, London was granted the trust of the Olympic movement, and once again, we have shown ourselves worthy of that trust."
You're damn straight!
The sheer excellence not only was apparent at the London Olympics, where the athletes of Britain stepped up in 2012 like never before. In fact, they stepped up BIG-TIME! (Note the fact Brit rock star Peter Gabriel celebrated his 25th anniversary of the multi-platinum album "So," this summer).
So, fact-seekers, let us count the ways: 2012: The Year of the United Kingdom:
2012 Summer Olympics - London
- The volunteers of the London Olympics and Paralympics Games
- The participation in athletics by the British, a 750,000 person increase in regular weekly sports participation
2012 Ryder Cup - Seven from the U.K. anchor victorious European Team
- Luke Donald - England
- Paul Lawrie - Scotland
- Graeme McDowell - Northern Ireland
- Rory McIlroy - Northern Ireland
- Ian Poulter - England
- Justin Rose - England
- Lee Westwood- England
Rory McIlroy - Northern Ireland - PGA Champion; PGA Player of the year and leading money winner on Tour.
Andy Murray - U.S. Open tennis champion and Olympic gold medalist
David Beckham - Retires from MLS soccer with a Cup for LA Galaxy
Athletes of the UK - 65 Olympic Medals, including 29 Gold Medals
- Men's super heavyweight boxing
- 7 golds in cycling
- 4 golds in rowing
- Chris Finch and Great Britain Olympic basketball qualified for the Men's Olympic tournament
- Strong showing, including games by Luol Deng
- The only Olympic team to represent all of Great Britain
- Leeds Rhinos Win Rugby Super Challenge
- Chelsea FC claimed the 2012 UEFA Champions League Cup
The Grande Finale:
- The crowning moment – Sir Bradley Wiggins, knighted this weekend, was the winner of the British Broadcast Corporation (BBC) Sports Personality of the Year as Britain’s first-ever Tour de France winner and its most decorated athlete of all-time, winner of seven Olympic medals, including gold at London 2012.
So-says the Editor-in-Chief of DigitalSportsDesk: “When the year was complete, many Brits couldn’t believe their very own eyes. The success was astounding, and the applause came from a truly global audience who witnessed the Olympics and Paralympics being staged at a level of expertise unfathomable to the sporting public. The timing was perfect, and it came as the Games opened to such splendor only days after American presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, head of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, decided to lob a rather unpleasant stink-bomb into the planning cycle of his Olympic brethren.
"The Olympic Games were followed by outstanding performances on a global stage, including Andy Murray winning the 2012 U.S. Open tennis championship and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy becoming, well, the best damn golfer in the world,” said Terry Lyons, the founder and head of DigitalSportsDesk.com and the journalists of the world agreed."
“Brits tend to be quite insecure as far as sports concerned, especially internationally” said longtime Brit journalist Ian Whittell, one of the most widely respected and knowledgeable reporters on the planet. “Our soccer team disappoints in every major tournament as we’re still waiting for our first World Cup win since 1966, as you know.
“Like the United States, the country is struggling from the recession, times are hard, and there was a genuine feeling of foreboding about the Olympics from a long way out. The critics claimed, ‘stuff wouldn't be ready, the infrastructure wouldn't cope, we'd bankrupt ourselves, we wouldn't win enough (gold) or any medals.
“That criticism intensified the week before, when the private security company hired to do the security for the Games admitted they had screwed up and weren't ready. (Editor’s note: Whittell did not mention Mr. Romney’s comments). Whitell continued, “But the mood changed dramatically with that incredible opening ceremony that graphically reminded people of why we're Great Britain. He noted, eloquently, “From day one, everything was fantastic. Our public transport ran without a hitch, the volunteers were amazing, everything worked and was on time. The TV coverage was superb and, after a couple of minor disappointments, we had our best ever Olympics. For a country used to so many shortcomings in international sport, the seemingly never-ending list of successes went beyond anyone's wildest dreams.”
The most skeptic critic of the Olympic movement or the most analytical curmudgeon of a journalist could not find a single thing wrong with the Games of the XXXth Olympiad. And, from the list of both Olympic and non-Olympic accolades, one must be singled out to conclude this tribute to the People of Great Britain.
That is the fact that Chris Finch, the coach of the British Olympic basketball team, gathered a group of basketball wannabes, folded them into a single unit complete with a few NBA stars (Loul Deng), current and future prospects to represent the entire United Kingdom as one. For that, Sir Finch, you deserve special mention.
So, to the People of the U.K., to the Queen and to William and Kate (Godspeed, Kate!), to the entertainers, the sportsmen, the Olympians and Paralympians, to the tremendous passion of the volunteers for both Games, to Mick, Sir Paul, Roger & Pete - the rock stars, to the .007 Spies fueled by the imagination of Ian Fleming. And, lastly, to the collection of British Rock ‘n Roll bands who descended upon New York’s Madison Square Garden for the culminating moment of 2012 – the 12.12.12 Concert for Sandy Relief, we simply say, “Thank you.”
U.K. OLYMPIANS IN NEW YEAR HONOURS
Knighthood: Ben Ainslie - sailing, Bradley Wiggins - cycling
CBE: Katherine Grainger - rowing, Jessica Ennis - athletics, Mo Farah - athletics, Victoria Pendleton - cycling
OBE: Charlotte Dujardin - equestrian, Jason Kenny - cycling, Andy Murray - tennis, Laura Trott - cycling
MBE: Nicola Adams - boxing, Tim Baillie - canoeing, Laura Bechtolsheimer - equestrian, Scott Brash - equestrian, Alistair Brownlee - triathlon, Steven Burke - cycling, Luke Campbell - boxing, Peter Charles - equestrian, Katherine Copeland - rowing, Helen Glover - rowing, Alex Gregory - rowing, Carl Hester - equestrian, Philip Hindes - cycling, Sophie Hosking - rowing, Jade Jones - taekwondo, Anthony Joshua - boxing, Peter Kennaugh - cycling, Dani King - cycling, Mary King - equestrian, Ben Maher - equestrian, Ed McKeever - canoeing, Joanna Rowsell - cycling, Greg Rutherford - athletics, Louis Smith - gymnastics, Heather Stanning - rowing, Etienne Stott - canoeing, Anna Watkins - rowing, Peter Wilson - shooting.
U.K. PARALYMPIANS IN NEW YEAR HONOURS
Dame: Sarah Storey - cycling
CBE: David Weir - athletics
OBE: Sophie Christiansen - equestrian, Ellie Simmonds - swimming
MBE: Jessica-Jane Applegate - swimming, Natasha Baker - equestrian, Danielle Brown - archery, Mickey Bushell - athletics, Hannah Cockroft - athletics, Mark Colbourne - cycling, Josef Craig - swimming, Deborah Criddle - equestrian, Aled Davies - athletics, Neil Fachie - cycling, Jonathan Fox - swimming, Heather Frederiksen - swimming, Oliver Hynd - swimming, Helena Lucas - sailing, Craig MacLean - cycling, Nigel Murray - boccia, Jonnie Peacock - athletics, Josie Pearson - athletics, Pam Relph - rowing, Naomi Riches - rowing, James Roe - rowing, David Smith - rowing, Lily van den Broecke - rowing, Sophie Wells - equestrian, Richard Whitehead - athletics.
2012 - NOT a "VERY GOOD YEAR"
BOSTON, December 24, 2012 - (Staff Report) - In 2012, the sports world experienced a wide-ranging array of topics and occurrences prompting conversation in nearly every aspect of life.
Here are a few to consider when you think of "What They're Talking About" in 2012:
1. The outcry of grief and support for a nation in mourning after the senseless murder of 20 school children in Newtown, Connecticut touched the sports world when a photo of young Jack Pinto revealed his love for the NY football Giants and wide receiver Victor Cruz. Of course, Cruz and many athletes like him, stepped up to support the families of Pinto and the other victims' families. Nearly every athlete in every sport stepped up to do the right thing.
2. Only days apart, the KC Chiefs Jovan Belcher shot and killed his live-in girlfriend and then turned his gun on himself and committed suicide and then, Dallas Cowboys practice squad player Josh Brent was arrested on criminal charges of alledged driving under the influence to cause the death of teammate Jerry Brown, Jr., who died when Brent's car flipped over after hitting a curb at 2:21am.
In KC, the police reports showed the fact Belcher shot the 22-year-old Kasandra Perkins multiple times at their home. Police reports noted Belcher and Perkins previously had been arguing. Belcher then drove to Arrowhead Stadium, where he thanked coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli for all they'd done for him. As police arrived, Belcher slipped behind a car and put the gun to his head.
3. Tim Tebow and the J-E-T-S have dominated the NFL season-ending airwaves, as the NJ Jets stumbled to loss after loss in the waning weeks of the 2012 NFL season. Head Coach Rex Ryan benched starter Mark Sanchez after Sanchez's debacle performances from Thanksgiving Day and throughout December. Instead of activating Tebow, Ryan opted to start Greg McElroy to further fuel the sports talk. Can you say disaster?
4. Lance Armstrong, who was stripped of his seven Tour de'France bicycling titles because of alleged PED use, was sued by the Sunday Times of Britain for his 2004 libel lawsuit against the paper.
5. The NHL and its players remain embroiled in a work stoppage, caused when the league owners invoked a league-wide lockout against the players who are now considering a legal maneuver to dissolve their union to force an anti-trust suit, soon to come. The NHL and its Commissioner Gary Bettman will soon decide whether to fold the entire 2012-13 season.
6. In 2012, the Summer Olympic Games fueled the most conversation and the most buzz for the sports world.
7. In America's most popular sports league, the NFL Most Valuable Player of 2012 conversation is largely revolving around Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning and Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson while the Digital Sports Desk zeroes-in on Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan, the best player on the best team in the NFC.
8. The actions, arrest, prosecution and sentencing of former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky stunned a nation of college football fans as an entire program, State University and Nittany Lions patriarch, the late Joe Paterno, were all brought down amongst the serious accusations. Sandusky was sentenced in the fullest extent of the law and will remain behind bars for the rest of his natural life.
9. NFL mayhem, with the incompetencies of "Replacement Refs," the "Bounty-Gate," scandal and a litany of concussions, post concussion syndrome cases, multiple player deaths and felonies underlined the dysfunctional aspects of pro football at the highest level.
10. "Christmas Day is a time of reinforcement and the essence of tomorrow. And children playing with toys are the finest examples of what that tomorrow looks like." - Shelby Strother
DREAM a LITTLE DREAM COME TRUE
The Other Dream Team documentary premieres in New York City
NEW YORK, September 24, 2012 -- You've heard of Red Square, right? If you were around in 1992, you might've heard the rallying cry of the '92 Lithuanian Olympic team, "Better Dead than Red." Surely, if you were an active sports fan, you remember the Lithuanian team parading into the Olympics in their Grateful Dead-funded tie-dye T-shirts and the memorable medal ceremony after the USA thrilled the world and accepted their gold medals, but the bronze medalists stole the show as "The Other Dream Team."
Just like their counterparts who are often called the "greatest team ever assembled," the Lithuanian dreamers have a documentary film of their own and, to many, it's a more interesting and compelling story. Tonight, all of the lucky attendees, including the Consul General of the Republic of Lithuania in New York, Mr. Valdemaras Sarapinas and his wife, Mrs. Vytė Sarapinienė, had similar thoughts as they beamed with pride after a private screening of the documentary film “The Other Dream Team” at 7 pm at the Scandinavia House in New York. Hundreds of attendees applauded Mr. Marius Markevičius producer/director of the film, who flew in from last Tuesday's world premier in Vilnius to attend the screening, along with 1992 Lithuanian bronze medalist Arturas Karnisovas, a multi-time European player of the year and a former star and Final Four participant with Seton Hall University. They were joined by NBA officials, past and present, UN dignitaries, film critics and sponsors at the event.
In case you haven't heard of the roaring success of the story, one that garnered significant praise at the Sundance Film Festival this year. the "Other Dream Team" is the amazing story of the 1992 Lithuanian Olympic basketball team, a group of trail blazing athletes who won the bronze at the Barcelona Olympics and left an indelible mark on the history books.
Led by the impressive and aggressive skills of guard Sarunas Marciulionis and the legendary Hall of Fame center Arvydas Sabonis, along with many other familiar names, the '92 team helped inspire their country break free from the shackles of Soviet rule and Communism. Many of the Lithuanian players led the (former) USSR to a gold medal (and victory over the USA) at the '88 Seoul Olympics, But, only four years later, after the fall of the Soviet Union, the Lithuanian hoopsters emerged as symbols of freedom and democracy, literally willing newly-independent Lithuania to the medal stand in Barcelona after an emotional victory over the former USSR, who competed as the "Unified" team. The film documents the Lithuanians' experiences behind the Iron Curtain, where elite athletes were subjected to traditional training methods and stifled by Communist rule.
As they smuggled VCRs on road trips and hid from team leaders and KGB security agents, Lithuania's basketball stars always shared a common goal—to utilize their athletic gifts to help their nation bloom. The '92 Lithuanian team won fans around the world for its hard-nosed play—and its unusual connection with the Grateful Dead. Band leader Jerry Garcia Inspired by the team's message of freedom and coaxed by the late Larry "RamRod" Shurtliff, often called the "heart and soul" of the band, the Dead provided a hefty dose of financial assistance and helped create a distinctive tie-dye warm-up for their friends, complete with the Dead's symbolic skeleton, creatively drawn dunking a basketball. Ramrod had often watched Marciulionis at Golden State Warriors games and was a regulat at the NBA All-Star Game and NBA Finals often with the great Bill Walton, Basketball Hall of Famer and self-proclaimed "Deadhead."
In addition to the obvious endorsement of Walton and the remaining band members of the Dead, the film has been championed by some of the greatest names in professional basketball, all of whom appear in the film. From NBA All-Star, '92 Dream Teamer, recent Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Chris Mullin to Hall of Famers Patrick Ewing to NBA Commissioner David Stern, the messages are all-inspiring.
"Freedom," exclaimed Walton. "Let's go!"
The "Other Dream Team" open in theaters across the country this week. For information, please visit the Facebook page for the film at: https://www.facebook.com/otherdreamteam?ref=ts Or the official site of the film at: http://otherdreamteam.thefilmarcade.com
See the official movie trailer, posted as a DigitalSportsDesk salute to "The Other Dream Team"
NFL 2012: What Keeps Me Awake at Night
By TERRY LYONS
BOSTON - This is the most wonderful time of year. The NFL is in full swing with great match-ups like this Sunday’s New England Patriots versus Baltimore Ravens game and 13 other contests that dominate autumn Sundays just a day after hundreds of college football rivals battle crisp Saturdays all across the nation. Yet, as football couch potatoes watch our favorite games, we are, unfortunately, forced to watch dozens of political ads purchased with millions in campaign funds wielded by those who spends hundreds of millions to obtain a job that pays $400,000 a year and they have the brass to promise they can balance the budget. Over the years, a few of those TV spots have posed interesting questions about 3:00 AM phone calls to the White House and one, simply states, “What keeps me up at night?”
Well, as one who regularly chronicles the National Football League, there are a lot of things that keep me up at night, especially in the early weeks of the NFL season of 2012.
So, what keeps me awake at night?
THE REFS: Most obviously and importantly, the ongoing lockout of the NFL’s regular officiating staff is the most troublesome issue of the season. While Commissioner Roger Goodell rightly backed his cadre of replacement refs and even patted his organization on the back for their assumed ability to promptly sign and train the substitute staff, the truth of the matter is that the sub refs are just that; “sub-par, “ “sub-standard” and “sub-ject” to ridicule and manipulation by the shark tank mentality that is the NFL’s coaches, scouts, players, fans and media machine.
After a preseason with plenty of leeway and barely a few real or imagined issues, then an opening weekend which went surprisingly well for the officials and the league, the tides turned when football operations scoured the scouting tapes which was coupled with the natural rise in intensity. Like the Sox falling in Septembers past, the young NFL regular season morphed into a debacle of epic proportions this past Monday night when the officiating crew for the Denver Broncos versus Atlanta Falcons nationally television game turned a single game into an embarrassing, unwatchable variation of what used to be referred to as professional football. You know you’re in big trouble when NFL lifers like Jon Gruden trashed the on-field product as though it was New Coca-Cola and former NFL referee and on-screen/third screen social media guru Mike Pereira threw his former employer under the “Jerome Bettis” with an online mea culpa to the tune of. “There is no way to keep with your tweets. Just know I feel your frustration. This is not the NFL I worked for. Don't care whose fault it is.”
What else keeps me up at night?
BOUNTY-GATE: It is the story that won’t quit. Like steroids in baseball or the Spygate issue which haunted Coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots in 2007 and for seasons upon seasons, the NFL’s suspension of New Orleans saints Coach Sean Payton and his merry band of mayhem-makers who allegedly pooled huge pots of cash as reward money for leveling knock-out hits against opponents.
Prior to the first week of football, an independent committee ruled that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell did not have jurisdiction to suspend players Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Scott Fujita, and Anthony Hargrove, mainly focusing on a lack of concrete evidence in the case. While the players were immediately reinstated, the “quicker picker-upper” scandal remains in the public eye since rumors swirled in 2010 and the NFL acted in March, 2012. What is the combined after-effect for the NFL, its teams and players through the whole fiasco? Zero.
What else keeps me awake at night?
WES WELKER: The over-reaction to the fact that wide receiver Wes Welker has under-performed for the Patriots in the first two weeks of the 2012 regular season is as bad as the speculation that the artist formerly known as Ochocinco had a bad summer.
The truth of the matter for Welker, QB Tom Brady and the Patriots is that there are 17 weeks to the NFL season and the increased depth of New England’s wide-outs is a massive check in the plus column, as opposed to the negative vibes coming from the fact Welker has no touchdown catches on 109 yards and eight receptions in two weeks of action. The Patriots’ acquisition of Brandon Lloyd was made to reduce the wear and tear thrust upon Welker over a long, 17+ game season. Welker’s 13.6 yards per catch still leads the team.
DwightMare Continues with Van Gundy's Comments
By Terry Lyons
I've had enough of Stan Van Gundy.
The former coach, fired by Orlando last season and also mysteriously banished from the Miami Heat back in the middle of the 2005-06 campaign, has been leaving a wake of negativity by taking his 'low road' approach towards his former organization after his dismissal by the Magic.
The target of his 'disgruntled former employee' rants are usually Dwight Howard and Magic team President Alex Martins, who worked his way up to team CEO from his starting position as the director of public relations in 1989. So, while the 'Dwight-Mare" summer of 2012 is concluding with Howard finally traded to the LA Lakers, Van Gundy continued to open the sores of days gone by with an appearance on Orlando sports talk radio.
Van Gundy told Mike Bianchi and his side-kick Brian Fritz, “It’s a typical lack of understanding from someone who has no sports knowledge, who has never coached, who has never played, who has never been in a lockeroom….it’s a naivete,” Van Gundy said of Martins Monday morning on the Mike Bianchi show on AM 740 in Orlando, Florida.
“I think Alex’s comments are based on the fact that Dwight and, maybe others, didn’t like me…and thinking somehow that’s important.” Earlier in the interview, he said, "A lot changed in the make-up of our organization. When Bob (Van der Weide) was there, when Bob left, it really became Alex over everything. Otis had to report to Alex. What happened to sum it up, and I have, I'll take my share of the blame, we had developed a very good culture. Team first, hard work, preparation. Otis and I were on the same page. The Dwight thing was so big, in an effort to make Dwight happy, we compromised a lot of the culture we had before. When you compromise those things, it was no longer a team first thing."
I say, "Muzzle it, Stan."
Yes, excuse me for disagreeing with the second-coming of Coach John Wooden or Dean Smith, here... the new Dr Naismith Jr.?
Yes, the head coach at UMass Lowell and the assistant at Canisius learned much, much more about the game than the rest of us mere basketball mortals, especially those who didn't spend our formative basketball years at Castleton State College but, instead, were being instructed by the likes of Hubie Brown, Dick Harter, Mike Fratello, Billy Cunningham, Alex Hannum, Red Auerbach, Pete Newell, Jerry Sloan, Rudy T, KC Jones, Doug Moe, Chuck Daly, -- I could go on....
Oh, yes, don't forget Stan Naismith got to sit in the 2nd chair next to Rick Pitino disciple Stu Jackson while he was at Wisconsin. And, they made it to the NIT!
Stan? Just because the guy came from PR, he was never in the locker? No sports knowledge? Never on the mountain top, like you? In NFL terms, rather than NBA, the Ph D. in public relations, the very core of an organization, seemed to work for Pete Rozelle? Roger Goodell?
Stop disgracing the game and your profession with the constant bickering, Stan.
USA Today's take on the story:
If you ask Stan Van Gundy a question he gives you his unvarnished opinion. The former Orlando Magic coach, fired by CEO Alex Martins after last season, said the man who released him had no grasp of the situation. Van Gundy and superstarDwight Howard had a prickly relationship. "You can't always be comfortable and accomplish a lot...not everyone is going to be happy all of the time." Van Gundy insists Howard went to management to get him ousted. "It's a typical lack of understanding from someone who has no sports knowledge, who has never coached or played, who has never been in a locker room….it's a naivete," Van Gundy said of on Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi's show on AM 740. "….I'll stand on the relationships with players based on the results we got. I think Alex's comments are based on the fact that Dwight and maybe others didn't like me…and thinking somehow that's important." Van Gundy, who said he's "too young to be sitting around doing nothing" is discussing doing some television work. However, he made it clear that his goal is to get back into coaching. "It's a matter of timing," he said pointing out that he still has children in Orlando schools. "I'm missing it right now....There is a big part of me that would like to coach again."
Olympic Memories: The Dream Comes True
By Terry Lyons
The Dream Team had flown from San Diego, California to Portland, Oregon after its celebrated training camp against a group of collegiate hotshots. I was exhausted but somewhat invigorated by the fact that we had just staged the first NBA Draft event held outside of New York City. On the road since mid-April, it was time for a new ballgame. I was one of a handful of people in charge of media relations and, really, the overall operation of the pre-Olympic qualifying event, the Basketball Tournament of the Americas.
Yes, the United States had to qualify for men’s basketball at the 1992 Olympic Games, and as it turned out, we had a pretty good team. Scratch that. We had the greatest team ever assembled.
I didn’t realize just how good we were until that qualifying tournament began. Although I was intimately involved in every personnel announcement, including the naming of Detroit Pistons coach Chuck Daly to head up our adventure, I was pre-occupied with my NBA assignments and hadn’t really focused on the massive impact about to be made. No one involved with the NBA nor the nation’s basketball governing body, ABA-USA, realized the juggernaut we held in our midst. It hit me at the first game in Portland.
We were working in the old Portland Memorial Coliseum, and I knew the building well. Capacity was 12,666, a figure I will never, ever have to look up or double check. It was chosen because of its intimate attributes and the fact the NBA and its new business partner, now called USA Basketball, doubted their ability to mass market tickets to six basketball games featuring the US national team and 24 others involving the countries from the “Americas,” teams from North, Central and South America attempting to qualify for the Barcelona Olympics.
As the first game was about to tip off, I found myself shuffling in press seats down the far side of the arena, as someone had conveniently acquired a handful of chairs assigned to media sitting on press row. After counting up the number of chairs and being assured every reporter had a place to work, I glanced up just as the United States team began to take the court.
Chuck Daly juggled the starting lineups throughout the tournament and the Olympics, but, as I recall, when the huddle broke, Larry Bird, Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan took off their USA shooting shirts and walked towards the center circle for the Dream Team’s first official jump ball in international competition. The opponent was Cuba, and they didn’t know what was about to hit them.
As the players headed out from the bench, their names emblazoned on their uniform backs, years of hard work all came together in a moment. Dating back to some light lifting at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics when collegiate basketball players representing the USA at the Olympics while every other nation utilized its (non-NBA_ professionals, I had worked in some capacity to help our federation. In 1990, I was one of a half-dozen sports executives who attended a conference in Colorado Springs to lobby for and eventually create the first “PR” job for USA Basketball. Now, it was late June 1992, and our work had come to fruition. On April 8, 1989, the international governing body for basketball, FIBA, conducted a vote to create a fully “open competition” for basketball at the Olympics, World Championship and other major competitions. The USA and then-Soviet Union were amongst the “nay” voters, but the rest of the world federations voted their conscious and the resolution passed overwhelmingly, 56-13 with one abstention.
I was on the phone with David Raith, Turner Broadcasting’s head of the Goodwill , and I relayed the message and the vote totals from Munich, Germany to NBA Commissioner David Stern in our midtown Manhattan offices. Stern was lukewarm on the whole concept. He had been happy to have a selection of the college stars represent the US and then come to the NBA as hand-delivered household names, mostly for their efforts in the NCAAs but partially due to their Olympic triumphs. Stern realized that there would be a long, long road from the ’89 vote to the ’92 Olympics, and he assigned NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik, Stern’s trouble-shooter extraordinaire, to the task of negotiating through the mess.
Granik’s work was, indeed, extraordinary, and it resulted in the Dream Team taking the court in Portland to tip off what would be a 136-57 dismantling of Cuba, working towards a 6-0 record and, obviously, a Tournament of the Americas gold medal and successful qualification for the Barcelona Olympic Games. Even then, I don’t think anyone associated with the inner workings of the team realized what exactly was ahead.
Comparing the Dream Team to the Beatles is a common statement, and in my view, Portland was the Cavern Club, and Barcelona was Shea Stadium. And, just like The Beatles, the best had yet to come.
Olympic Memories: '84 to '88 to '92
The Road to Barcelona
By TERRY LYONS
The twin-propeller airplane was the first flight out from LaGuardia Airport in New York to Providence, Rhode Island. My destination was the Providence Civic Center, site of the very first in a series of pre-Olympic tune-up games between the 1984 Men’s Olympic Basketball team and a group of National Basketball Association stars thrown together in each city leading up to the opening ceremonies of the Los Angeles Olympics.
Upon arrival at the small arena in downtown Providence, I dropped my bags in the locker room designated for the NBA stars, and John Bagley, a prominent Boston College shooting guard and then-starter for the Cleveland Cavaliers, shouted out, “Hey, what size d’you wear?”
I wore size 11, larger than the average 20-something male, but tiny in terms of the needs of most NBA stars. Bagley wore 15s, and he grabbed my cheap pair of PONYs and squeezed his ‘big dogs’ inside as best he could. He was ready.
As I counted some 9-10 NBA stars scattered around the locker, I remember walking down the small corridor to check in with my ABA-USA colleagues whom I knew distantly. The head of the federation, Bill Wall, was busy hanging a small ABA-USA banner on the scorer’s table, while production assistants from ABC Sports tacked up wrinkled ABC Sports banners in strategic locations courtside. The banners were the type cheesy sports bars would steal and mount to their ceilings or bar room walls. I shook my head. This is sports marketing at the highest level? The Olympics?
Next step was to check in with our opponents, the 1984 USA Olympic Team, mainly to see my college buddy, Chris Mullin, who had just been named to the team. The players were all dressing, pulling on athletic socks and preparing for the Sunday afternoon game. I figured the “right” thing to do would be to introduce myself to USA head coach Bobby Knight, then the vaunted coach of the Indiana Hoosiers.
“Coach,” I exclaimed with some bravado and confidence, “I’m Terry Lyons of the NBA, and I’m helping out with our players for today’s game. If there’s anything I can do to help you out, please let me know.”
Simple enough, right? Knight’s response was classic.
“If we need any help from you, we’re in big bleepin’ trouble,” he said.
I looked him dead in the eye, pivoted, and never looked back. I didn’t speak a word and haven’t said a word to him ever since. I’m sure he realizes it’s his loss, right?
The USA played its series of games against the NBA stars, and all was well as they took the gold medal at the Games with the likes of Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing and Mullin - all fresh out of college – leading the way. Standing in that locker room in Providence, I would never have imagined that eight years later, I would be inside the USA locker room in Barcelona, preparing the 1992 USA Basketball Dream Team to walk out to accept their gold medals, minutes after their resounding victory over Croatia and completing a month-long frenzy that was the birth and coronation of the greatest team in team sports history – The Dream Team. Just like it was yesterday, I recall the Barcelona volunteer from Olympic basketball operations handing me the official Olympic Games boxscore, a pink page from the “triplicate” hand-written and old-school form.
Four years earlier, I had worked with the 1988 team as it trained throughout the USA before its trip to the ’88 Seoul Olympics under Coach John Thompson, the legend of Hoya Paranoya at Georgetown, the BIG East powerhouse. My lasting memory of that team was some quality time with then College Player of the Year, Danny Manning, who admitted to me that he thought the team was in trouble and that he honestly doubted their ability to bring home the gold. It was a combination of his honest review of their roster and its lack of scoring/shooting and a feeling of total burn-out, even before the team had left U.S. soil.
Indeed, he was right. The then-Soviet Union defeated the USA and won the gold medal with the likes of the late Coach Alexander Gomelski, future Hawks forward Alexandre Volkov , future Golden State Warriors shooting guard Sarunas Marciulionis , center Arvydas Sabonis, legendary Naismith Hall of Fame inductee and sharp-shooter Rimas Kurtinaitis, who shot the lights out in ’88 and scored from three-point range at will, as USA defensive specialist Dan Majerle couldn’t stop nor contain him.
Whether it was those early days in ’84, the challenge of the ‘88 Games or the pinnacle in 1992, I was very proud to have “USA” on my polo shirt and honored to have played a small part in bringing the NBA players to the 1992 Barcelona Olympics medal ceremony. What many didn’t realize was that I was just as happy to see Lithuania’s Marciulionis accepting his bronze and, even happier for Croatia’s Drazen Petrovic as he accepted his silver. I was extremely proud of my friend Mully, who was now wearing his second Olympic gold.
The times had changed and, because of my job as the NBA Vice President of International Communications. I was thrust into this amazing world of international basketball intrigue. From the heights of ’92 to the “near scare” in 2000 in Sydney to the lows of 2002 (in the World Championship) and 2004 in Athens when we managed only a bronze, it was a long, strange trip. Even as current USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo and the great Duke coach and multi-year head coach of the senior national team Mike Krzyzewski took to the helm to re-build the USA Basketball men’s teams and, more importantly, their pride, I had a front-row, courtside seat at the table.
This is the first post in a series of blogs on the Olympic Games. Most will focus on my personal experiences at the Olympics (1992 to 2004), while some entries will come from working alongside the teams in ’84. ’88 and 2008. I will also post interesting viewpoints from the non-basketball Olympians, all gold medal winners. I will post some insights from the Dream Team, conduct a give and take, back and forth Q&A with Jack McCallum, the author of a great 20-year reflection on the Dream Team, and I look forward to providing some insight into the current USA athletes, all representing the USA with the dream of winning an Olympic medal.
Please stay tuned to the Huffington Post and to my online magazine, http://www.DigitalSportsDesk.com for commentary beginning today and going through the closing ceremonies of London2012.
ALL DOLLARS, NO SENSE
By TERRY LYONS, Editor in Chief of DigitalSportsDesk
NEW YORK, June 21, 2012 -- The story won't quit, it won't go away.
Just this week, the powers that be in world basketball, minus any comments or input from FIBA, the international governing body for the sport, spoke about changing the landscape of the two biggest international tournaments in the sport, the men's basketball competition at the Olympic Games and the FIBA World Championship of Basketball.
Of course, the "powers that be" were the voices of NBA Commissioner David Stern and Dallas Mavericks team owner Mark Cuban. In a nutshell, Stern key-noted to the assembled scribes, hacks and TV types at the NBA Finals that the NBA was planning to meet with FIBA's head-honcho, Patrick Baumann, to discuss limiting eligibility in the future Olympic competitions to players 23 years of age and under, following a concept employed by FIFA, the governing body for football or soccer, as it is known in one small spot on the map.
Instead, the NBA and FIBA would work together to put more emphasis on a new "World Cup" of Basketball where all players, any age and any level, would be eligible to play for their countries. Soon after the news broke, Yahoo Sports ran a column that the impetus of such a move was a financial windfall to be "shared" by both the NBA and FIBA, coming at a loss to the organizers of the Olympic Games and their many TV partners and future organizing committees.
Cuban told Yahoo Sports, ""The question is: Why would we partner with a current tournament rather than start our own?" Cuban said. "If done correctly, it can be NBA-owned and operated and have the potential to be just as large as the World Cup of soccer. That is a product, in my opinion, we want to own, not share. I don’t know what the NBA plan is, but the above is what I will be pushing for.
"I do know that USA Basketball should have no say in the matter," Cuban stressed to a prominent Yahoo columnist. "It’s completely separate from the NBA. They are a different financial entity. They would just be another country that could play in our tournament. Just like FIFA does the World Cup, the NBA could do a global tournament. There’s no more reason to deal with USA Basketball than there is to work with the Peruvian Basketball or Kazakhstan Basketball Committee."
The story reminded me of a blog I wrote in January which I've updated (slightly) and have re-posted with this missive.
I love reading the opinions put forth by Mark Cuban. He plays the NBA media like a fiddle. He plays his loyal Mavericks fan-base like the pied piper of propaganda. He purports to have deep basketball knowledge from his days as a student with a nose pressed p against the gym at Indiana and years of holding seasons tickets at Dallas which was long before he timed the market and the dot.com boom and cashed in his lottery ticket, then called Broadcast.com, for billions in Yahoo's stock.
Congratulations and may God bless him for that stroke of business genius and his timing. Aside from Bill Gates, Cuban made the play of our lifetime by identifying an opportunity, grabbing online broadcast rights before many realized their value, timing the Internet boom, selling and cashing in.
Ever since his found fortune and the purchase of one of the three NBA teams in Texas, Cuban loves to speak from his pulpit as the owner of the Dallas Mavericks. Very few businesses in this world other than pro sports have more media assigned as beat writers or broadcasters, all needing to file reports on a daily basis. The NFL and Baseball have legions of such media that even outnumber those who cover the White House and the NBA is not far behind. The basketball media feed off Cuban the way the New York tabloid media feed off Donald Trump. Meanwhile, most executives in the 'real' business world avoid the headlines like the plague, except when The Wall Street Journal might talk-up their favorable quarterly reports.
Cuban takes full advantage of his position and loves to control his interviews by limiting most of them to e-mail exchanges. He rarely gives interviews in person, except for his "availability" while riding a stationary bike prior to most Mavericks home games, and that is his right. However, as we all know, much is lost in electronic transmission and translation or the lack of candor in group interviews gathered around a bike workout, may Edward R. Murrow not do a cartwheel in his grave. I believe Cuban doesn't care about that very much, as he looks at the media as pawns in his chess game and his emailed quotes to national media outlets are the messages that end up in print because the reporters have little chance to challenge him and they dare not misquote him or they will be mocked in his webblog, aptly entitled, Blog Maverick.
Just like ESPN's Sports Guy blogger, Bill Simmons, Cuban walks like a fan, talks like a fan, writes like a fan, dresses like a fan, screams at refs like a fan and he relates with the fans like no owner in team sports before him. His popularity soared because of his fan-like antics when he bought the Mavericks, a team that had nowhere to go but up. Fans adored the fact he was accessible (by email), was outspoken, sat by the team, shot with the team, spent money on the team and was truly living a dream. What fan in the world hasn't dreamed of hitting the lottery and owning his local team?
He doubled his popularity when he began his tete-a-tete with NBA Commissioner David Stern and attacked the Achilles heel of every sports league - officiating. Then a rookie owner, Cuban kept harping to the press and the public about the NBA's officiating woes and the NBA responded with fine after fine after fine, totally some $1 million. Cuban kept pressing and claiming that every fine was well worth the money. He found the many hot-buttons for the league and he kept pressing them, time after time, which fueled his ego as it did his growing global popularity while only draining some $250,000 a pop.
Aside from officiating, Cuban's other constant gripe has been about the fact that the NBA and its Players Association allow the NBA players to participate in the Olympic Games and the World Championship (and sometimes other international competitions, like the various qualifying tournaments, Asian Games, etc.). Cuban's stock quote to media is, "We take all the risk and get none of the upside." His other recent quotes to CBS Sports' Ken Berger which can be found by clicking HERE are so ridiculous that I am surprised Cuban would tap them into his smartphone. Sadly, many of Cuban's views screamed of the ugly Americanism that rubs the world the wrong way, nevermind his misguided and hypocritical views.
Why is his viewpoint hypocritical, you ask?
Exhibit 1-A is Dirk Nowitzki of Wurzburg, Germany. Nowitzki is the Mavericks' 7-foot power forward who has one of the sweetest jump shots in basketball history. Cuban's Mavericks have been riding Dirk's coat-tails for more than a decade. Dirk often plays for the German national team during the Olympics, the European Championships and FIBA World Championship.
Exhibit 1-B is Steve Nash of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Nash was the starting point guard for the Mavericks from 1998 to 2004. Nash played for Canada's national basketball team at several Olympic qualifying tournaments and the 2000 Olympic Games. Nash, then on the Mavericks, helped transform the Mavericks before he moved on to his MVP years with the Phoenix Suns.
While Cuban claims there is "no upside" for the NBA or his Mavericks, it is very clear to those who follow the sport of basketball that Cuban was grossly overlooking his own team roster as both Nowitzki and Nash benefited greatly from their experiences with their national teams and growing up within the national basketball programs of their native countries. Cuban seems to dismiss the fact that two of his best players rose to the level of the NBA's elite because of their practice time and experiences on the international stage. While Cuban erroneously moans about General Electric (NBC's former parent company before NBC was purchased by Comcast) making all the money because of NBA players participating in the Olympic Games (broadcast in the USA by NBC Sports), he conveniently overlooks the fact that the two players who put the Mavericks on the map are products of the international game, although Nash took off for Phoenix long before Dirk was able to will the Mavericks to an NBA title.
Cuban likes to talk business when it comes to the world of sports and the NBA. He is all about the bottom line. He only likes his stock-holdings when they pay dividends and he's long been screaming from the mountaintop, calling for the NBA or his Mavericks to benefit in some monetary way from any and all NBA assets, especially the players who hold valid NBA contracts. To some extent, he is right. The NBA's rules from its Collective Bargaining Agreement with its Players Association call for a team to pay star players a ton of money which is guaranteed to the player in case of injury. When players compete for their national teams, the NGB (national governing body) or basketball federation must secure expensive insurance policies to cover the player salaries in case of injury. The players' NBA team is at risk of losing the player to injury, although the player's contract would be insured. A loss of an All-Star player because of injury might hurt a team greatly in the season (or multi-seasons) following the Olympics or Worlds. Cuban might look at the fine lines of those nasty player contracts, rather than complain about the Olympics, but that is a story for another day.
There is another simple side to the discussion, though, and it has been overlooked by Cuban because he likes to think he is the smartest guy in the room or the only guy in the room and he certainly doesn't take a liking to things that are bigger and more important than he is. The Olympic Games are bigger and more important than Cuban. They are bigger than the NBA, any team or any player. The Olympics are not bigger or more important because of money, contracts, NBA championships or NBC Sports. They are more important because of the fact they place competing for one's country over competing for money. The Olympics exist because of an athlete's right and desire to wear his/her country's colors and compete for a medal of gold, silver or bronze.
Now, don't get me wrong, the Olympics are not only about national pride and they are not without major blemishes. The Olympics and the so-called Olympic ideal have suffered greatly in modern times with IOC corruption, drug scandals, inept or corrupt officiating - you name it. If the IOC were to adopt a rule that every sport in the Games were only open to players aged 16-21 or even 23, I would applaud the decision. But that is not the case.
Then why is competing in the Olympics at risk of injury or worse so important to sportsmen? To explain properly, my point of view can best be illustrated when Magic Johnson or Charles Barkley gush over the fact the 1992 Olympics Games in Barcelona were, by far, the best and most important experience of their basketball careers and maybe their lives. My point can be illustrated by the fact that Steve Nash became an NBA most valuable player candidate after he put Team Canada on his shoulders in the 1999 Olympic qualifying tournament in San Juan and beat Puerto Rico on its home court to take one of the two berths available to move on to Sydney. At the 2000 Olympic Games, Nash again lead Canada and played well until an upstart team from France that finished fourth in the knock-out round upset the top-seeded Canadians.
What price can you put on the improvement of Nash and Nowitzki -- and scores of other players, American and non American -- because of their experience with their national teams at the Olympics? Tell me Australia's Andrew Gaze's contract with the NBA's San Antonio Spurs or his NBA championship was more important to him than his international career? Tell me if Gaze or China's Yao Ming would place their NBA experience over that of carrying their country's flag into the Olympic opening ceremony on their own home soil? How much is the added pride, confidence, success and high level competition worth?
What price can you put on the entire 2006-2008 Olympic experience for USA Basketball, led by Jerry Colangelo and Coach Mike Krzyzewski? Every player on the USA Basketball senior national team benefited in ways that are impossible to measure. In fact, at the very first team meeting, Coach K said to all, "This is about being part of something that is bigger than all of us, something bigger than anything we've ever been a part of."
What price can you put on the images of Doug Collins on the free throw line in Munich in 1972 or with tears welling in his eyes as he talked of the 2008 Olympic experience as a broadcaster and how he felt when he spoke to the group of NBA players as they began to train for their competition in Las Vegas, then won a couple months later in Beijing?
The answer is simple. You cannot put a dollar figure on any of the examples that come to mind as I write this blog entry. All of the experiences are priceless. They are worth much more than Cuban's billions can buy. However, Cuban will never understand that fact and he yells "Moron" towards anyone who disagrees with him. But, he wasn't in the gym in San Juan in 1999 when Nash turned into an MVP and he didn't grow up in Germany with Dirk, in Australia with Gaze, in Shanghai with Yao, or in Lansing with Earvin "Magic" Johnson. He grew up in Pittsburgh in the United States of America with an American dream to be a successful business man. He realized that dream to an unbelievable extent but, for some reason, he wants to quash the dreams of young basketball players in the USA, Canada and around the world. He doesn't want players with NBA contracts to compete for their country. He wants his own selfish business dealings to be more important than the rights of a citizen of a country to represent his or her country in an international sports competition that draws millions of fans to watch in person or on their TVs. Cuban doesn't believe that his Mavericks or the NBA benefit from the global exposure of the Olympics (off court) or the global basketball competition (on the court). He doesn't realize that hundreds of highly rated, over-the-air networks from all over the world are airing the basketball games that feature the NBA players. He is only focused on a very small and short-sighted view regarding NBC and the viewers in the United States. I don't think Cuban knows the difference between being on BBC-1 in primetime or on cable or satellite TV at 3 o'clock in the morning. He should think about doing some research and focus groups while attending the 2012 games in London where the popularity of basketball is a bit like the popularity of the sport of cricket here in the USA.
And, as long as I'm on a roll, I guess Cuban doesn't believe that Kevin Durant, Kevin Love or Russell Westbrook and the majority of the USA 2010 team are far better NBA players today than they were before they put on a USA jersey and won gold medals in Istanbul, Turkey and after they competed against the very best players from 24 other countries while also being coached by some of the best basketball minds in the world -- especially Coach K.
No. To Cuban, it's all about his own selfish viewpoint, his own pocket money, his own team and the zero-sum game of global business. It's too bad because until he stops, listens and learns -- just the way the players on the USA teams of 2008 and 2010 did -- he is not likely to win another NBA title without the aide of his German-born, bred and nurtured, 7-foot sharp-shooting, rebounding machine Nowitzki.
A few notes on the suggestions for an NBA owned international tournament proposed by Cuban to CBS Sports' Ken Berger:
- Cuban has proposed to 'buy out' the IOC/FIBA within the past few months, however, the events the organizations run are not on the market for sale.
- The IOC isn't going slice-off the men's basketball event at the Olympics and sell it off to the highest bidder. That is absurd. As for FIBA, the men's and women's world championship is their #1 event. All of the federations that belong to FIBA, the international governing body for basketball, would have to be bought out as well for both the men's and women's events at all levels of play (juniors, U17, U18 etc.)
- Cuban, himself, noted FIFA and its role in the World Cup, the most popular and profitable sports venture in the world.
- He said to CBS Sports: He'd tell his fellow basketball nations, "We'll split it with all of you. And we'll sell the TV rights. And we'll own it. And so then it's owned by the NBA or whoever, and GE doesn't make all the money."
- Sure, no problem. (Mark, have you ever met people like Aldo Vitale of Italy or Yvan Mainini of France, among many others on the FIBA board?) They care as much about the NBA and Mark Cuban as Cuban does about Patrick Baumann. the head of FIBA.
- Even if the rights were to be sold, for a select period of time (say 4, 8, 12 or 16 years) or in perpetuity, those rights would be worth far more than the NBA or Cuban are worth.
- Believe it or not, the NBA and FIBA actually worked together to create a world championship of club teams. It was called the McDonald's Open from 1988 through 1993 and the McDonald's Championship from '95 (Hou), '97 (Chi) and '99 (SAS) when the NBA champions represented the league vs. champs from the likes of Europe, Australia and South America. The event barely broke even, was viewed as contrived and a preseason exhibition and it went nowhere, even though it included the reigning NBA champs and dozens of world class pro players on their club teams.
- Let's turn this discussion on another side and use Baseball as an example: If the powers that be and one team owner from Japan's pro baseball league decided to buy-out MLB's World Series and run their own baseball tournament for pro players, would American baseball fans suddenly change their viewpoint and viewing habits to recognize that competition as Numero Uno?
- How can Cuban dish this garbage out and have an iota of credibility left?
- NBA players can be injured at anytime in the off-season. Ask former Duke guard Jay Williams. NBA players scrimmage and work-out all summer long to stay in condition. The odds of being injured in the work-outs is similar to or greater than the odds of being injured at the Olympics.
By JAN HUBBARD (Special to DigitalSportsDesk.com)
Perhaps the most amazing part of the NBA’s documentary of the Dream Team that aired this week was that we discovered Isiah Thomas news never gets old. A significant part of the show addressed the exclusion of Thomas from the Dream Team, and you would think by now it’s ancient news.
Hardly. The issue, in fact, is apparently still so strong that Thomas felt compelled to release a statement after the show aired.Now I have to say my reaction was pretty straight forward:
A statement in 2012 about not making a team in 1992? Are we still talking about this?Beyond that, I kind of felt sorry for the guy. The fact that it’s an issue 20 years later is nutty. But I guess it is part of the cultural phenomenon that was and is the Dream Team.
I had the good fortune while I was at Newsday in 1992 to be one of only a handful of American reporters who covered the team from the first day of training camp until the last day of the Olympics. Others who were there from Day 1 in San Diego to the gold medal game were Jack McCallum of Sports Illustrated, David DuPree of USA Today, Mark Heisler of the Los Angeles Times, the late Bill Barnard of the Associated Press, Skip Myslenski of the Chicago Tribune, Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe and I’m pretty sure Ailene Voison, then working for the Atlanta Constitution-Journal.All of us covered the selection of the team and the exclusion of Thomas. But even though most of the issues have been thoroughly dissected, in honor of the the 20-year anniversary of the Dream Team, here are 20 points/thoughts/comments on the Isiah Thomas issue.
1. From Day 1 when the story broke that the selection committee had not invited Thomas, the speculation was that Michael Jordan kept him off the team. In the Dream Team documentary, however, Jordan said he was told even before he committed that Thomas would not be on the team and “I was getting strong innuendo that it was coming from higher places that didn’t want Isiah Thomas on the team.”2. And that is true. It wasn’t only the enemies that Thomas had made. He had as many friends on the selection committee as anyone, including Detroit general manager Jack McCloskey. But he had little support. No one fought for him to be on the team.
3. In what has to be one of the greatest misjudgments by any member of any front office in NBA history, when the first 10 players were announced, McCloskey said not being on the team would not be that big of a deal to Thomas. I was at the NBA league meetings in Palm Springs and after they ended, I found McCloskey at the pool and asked him about Thomas’s exclusion."Isiah is above all of that,” McCloskey said in an interview that was tape recorded. “He can handle it. There's going to be some great players that are not going to be on that team . . . It may be a disappointment to some, but they've got to learn to live with those things."
4. Later, McCloskey discovered how wrong he was because Thomas was incensed. So McCloskey resigned from the committee in protest because it was an insult that Isiah Thomas had not made the team! McCloskey simply was not going to take that! It was a matter of principle!It was, however, a grandstand play that was really not grand at all.
5. The late Chuck Daly was the Pistons coach and head coach of the 1992 Olympic team. He did not have a vote on the selection committee, but one influential member of the committee told me, “If Chuck had come in and demanded Isiah to be on the team, he would have been on the team.” Daly did not do that.6. I wrote a column at the time saying that it wasn’t enemies who kept Thomas off the team, it was friends. The next time I saw Dave Gavitt, who was the head of USA Basketball, he pulled me aside and said, “You hit that right on the button. I made copies of your column and faxed it to every member of the committee.”
7. Rod Thorn and Russ Granik, both high ranking NBA executives at the time, pointed out in the documentary that the selection committee began making decisions shortly after the 1991 NBA playoffs. That’s when Thomas led a group of Pistons off the court when it was obvious the Bulls were going to win their Eastern Conference Finals series. It was repugnant sportsmanship and who could have possibly been excited about that sort of mentality on an Olympic team?8. Ah yes, we have heard and witnessed so much of the Michael Jordan competitiveness and there were several funny moments in the documentary. But after writing all of the above, I do have to report that in Jack McCallum’s book on the Dream Team, which will be released next month, Jordan takes full credit for keeping Thomas off the team.
9. That is vintage Michael. He and Thomas have despised each other since 1985 and the infamous All-Star freeze out. After being eliminated for three straight years by Detroit, Jordan and the Bulls won in 1991 and Thomas and the Pistons did their little walk-off, which proved to be quite large. At that point, Jordan gained the upper hand. And when Michael has the upper hand, he’ll use it. So now he revels in keeping Thomas off the team.10. No doubt that Thomas was not invited for a variety of reasons and Jordan not wanting him there was certainly a major one. But the fact is that during his career, Thomas had made a lot of enemies on opposing teams.
Scottie Pippen was very open in saying he did not want Thomas on the team. Larry Bird could not stand Thomas and made that clear years later when his first act as the Pacers GM was to fire Thomas. If Thomas had been invited, Bird might have passed. Charles Barkley, who is close with Jordan, might have not played, either.And Patrick Ewing had the same agent as Jordan and could have passed also. Like Jordan, Ewing already had a gold medal from the 1984 games. And you can be sure that the selection committee knew all of that.
11. Although Thomas had been a key part of two championship teams, from a basketball standpoint, he was a shoot-first point guard and that style of play did not fit into what the Dream Team needed. Daly, of course, knew that better than anyone. Magic Johnson and John Stockton were classic pass-first point guards. Pippen and Jordan could also handle the point. So a third point guard was not needed.12. Of the first 10 players chosen, which is when the Thomas controversy began, eight of those had made better than 50 percent of their shots from the field in their careers. Only Bird (49.7) and Pippen (49.2) were under 50 percent.
13. Thomas had made 45.2 percent of his shots in his career and often dominated the ball. No one on the committee or coaching staff wanted to get into a game where a player tried to take over as an individual and put on a show.14. The first 10 players to make the team were announced in September 1991. The last two players – Clyde Drexler and Christian Laettner – were announced in May, 1992 season. Thomas was not given strong consideration.
15. John Stockton broke a small bone in his leg at the Tournament of the Americas in Portland when the Dream Team was qualifying for the Olympics. Daly, who was so paranoid that he was known as the “Prince of Pessimism,” started worrying that if there were other injuries or foul problems, the U.S. could actually lose a game. He wanted to replace Stockton and Matt Dobek, his public relations director with the Pistons, was assigned to get a phone number for the replacement.16. Dobek was told to make sure he knew how to contact Joe Dumars.
17. Although he has made some choices that didn’t seem to be that great, Thomas is a smart guy. But he had a tremendous lapse in judgment when he walked off the court against the Bulls. If he had thought about the selection process being close at hand and how walking off the court would look, he would have never done it. Imagine if he had gone and congratulated Jordan graciously and said all the right things later. He might have been on the team.18. But then again, maybe not. The feelings about him were very strong and ran very deep.
19. Although Thomas was a cutthroat player and conducted himself in such a way that he was not welcome on the team, the way he conducted himself was also how he was a key part of two championship teams. So if he had been different, the Pistons might not have won titles. For better or worse, he was who he was.20. If we’re still talking about Isiah Thomas not making the Dream Team 20 years later, he must be a pretty significant figure in NBA history.
(This column originally appeared on SheridanHoops.com)