September 17, 2009
Each weekday morning, Ball Don't Lie serves up a handful of NBA-related stories to digest with your red wine.
Howard Beck, The New York Times: "In a last-ditch effort to avert a lockout, the NBA's 57 referees have instead locked themselves in, setting up camp indefinitely at a Chicago airport hotel until they reach terms on a new contract. The referees met for seven hours Wednesday and unanimously rejected the NBA's latest offer. But they apparently sensed enough progress in the talks that they decided not to leave town. 'The referees are locking themselves in, in an effort to get a deal done as soon as possible,' Lamell McMorris, the referees' chief negotiator, said just after midnight, following the marathon meeting. He characterized the lock-in as a symbolic gesture that showed the referees' commitment to getting a deal done, even if it meant spending several days in a hotel, rather than with their families. 'Every referee is here, from all around the country,' he said. 'They're not leaving.'"
Brian Windhorst, The Plain Dealer: "It isn't an infallible rule, but quite often in professional sports winning can make a franchise recession proof. As the shockwaves from last year's financial meltdown slam the NBA — the teams were insulated to a certain degree last season because season tickets and sponsorships had mostly been sold before the September crash — the Cavaliers find themselves cautiously above water. The team is doing relatively well financially and officials are saying it is not planning any layoffs or salary reductions. In fact, over the last year the Cavs have been adding to their staff. 'We have been very fortunate, our fans have continued to show us tremendous support,' said Len Komoroski, the president of the Cavaliers and Quicken Loans Arena. 'We have seen it in many different levels from record ticket sales, television ratings and Web hits.' Komoroski said the team has also been helped by strong regional support, especially from the Pittsburgh and Columbus areas. Last season, 23 percent of the team's individual ticket sales came from out of state."
Bob Kravitz, The Indianapolis Star: "The Simons' stewardship of the Pacers always has been driven by the best intentions. NBA franchises aren't money trees, not until you sell them. This is a small market, and generating revenue is an annual, uphill battle. There are a million business propositions out there that are far more profitable than ownership of an NBA team. In the past year, we've seen Herb take a more active, hands-on role with the franchise, helping repair the reputation of a franchise that was once a model, only to fall into temporary disrepair after The Brawl. The Simons were (are) the best kinds of sports owners: Low-key, background sorts who have left the basketball to the basketball people and have given those basketball people the financial help they need to build a team. 'Mel was a giant of a man, and I suspect he was more responsible for making Indianapolis a big-league city than anybody,' said Morris, who is now the Pacers Sports & Entertainment president. 'His generosity, his unselfishness, his love for Downtown. It's an extraordinary story how Mel came here, chose to live here, built his business here. He could have lived anywhere in the world.'"
Mike Finger, S.A. Express-News: "I came armed with earphones and a paperback, the usual defenses against airline conversation. But as I plopped down in a seat next to a traveler who required even more legroom than I did, I realized resistance was pointless. Fabricio Oberto(notes) needed to talk. I didn't know him well. We'd met at his first public Texas appearance, the day he was introduced as a member of the Spurs four years ago, but it's not like he was a popular locker-room interview subject. More often than not after games, he'd slip out past the crowds of cameras and microphones surrounding Tim Duncan(notes) and Manu Ginobili(notes) without saying a word. But this day was different, and you didn't need to be a psychoanalyst to figure out why. We were bound for San Antonio — the city he and his family had called home since 2005, the city where he was recently told he was no longer needed, and the city where the house he'd always figured he'd retire in now stood half-empty with a 'For Sale' sign in front of it. Understandably, Oberto had a few things on his mind. Most of us never dream we'll end up feeling sympathy for millionaires, particularly professional athletes. They live a recession-proof, jet-setting life of luxury, with ego-stroking admirers and work days that look like recess. Sure, they have their problems, but we'd trade ours for theirs in a heartbeat. So it's jarring, then, when you find yourself in the curious position of trying to cheer up a guy who spent your approximate net worth on his guest room."
Frank Dell'Apa, The Boston Globe: "[Rajon] Rondo said the Celtics 'made a commitment to come in a little bit early, and pretty much everyone is doing it, so far.' Asked if he was optimistic about an upcoming contract negotiation, Rondo replied, 'Not really. I'm just playing it out, trying to get better every day.' A league source said the Celtics plan to hold talks with Rondo before the start of training camp later this month. Rondo has one year remaining on his contract. 'I'm excited, definitely, to be playing with Rasheed [Wallace], an excellent 'big' who plays defense,' said Rondo during an appearance in Mattapan for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. 'And Marquis [Daniels], as well. I don't know about Lester [Hudson], but he's showing he can really play. I like his game and he's playing well in pickup games.' [...] 'I'll probably be more vocal this year. I'm more confident, obviously. I stepped up a little and I want to take advantage of this opportunity.'"
John Reid, The Times-Picayune: "With enormous expectations to start this upcoming season as a rookie with the Golden State Warriors, Stephen Curry(notes) sought out [Chris] Paul for help this summer. They worked out together this past week at the Alario Center. [...] 'To come in and learn from an All-Star and Olympic gold-medal winner is pretty special,' Curry said. 'You see how hard he works, and I picked up things and competed with him one-on-one. I just feel like it's a head start for me to start my career off right.' Curry likely will play point guard, although he played shooting guard for two seasons at Davidson. 'I've known Stephen for awhile,' Paul said. 'He grew up in Charlotte, and I was down in Winston-Salem. We've been working out all summer, and I think he's as prepared for his rookie season as he can be.'"
Eddie Sefko, Dallas Morning News: "Mavericks forward Tim Thomas(notes) found out Wednesday that he has a cartilage injury of undetermined severity in his right knee that will require arthroscopic surgery on Tuesday. The 6-10 Thomas was examined by team physician T.O. Souryal, who is likely to perform the procedure to clean up the debris in Thomas' knee. A timetable for Thomas' return won't be known until after the surgery, but a Mavericks official was optimistic that sometime between three and six weeks would be a fair estimate. Training camp opens Sept. 28, and the season starts Oct. 27, giving Thomas six weeks to recuperate before he would miss any meaningful time. Thomas suffered the injury recently while working out at his home in southern California. He remains very much in the Mavericks' rotation plans."
Jimmy Smith, The Times-Picayune: "Facing the possibility of a roster with about a half-dozen new faces, New Orleans Hornets Coach Byron Scott figured some early bonding might be in order this season. What better way to accomplish that than having his team be a captive audience at the outset of training camp, where closeness for a week in Lafayette, Scott hopes, will breed brotherhood. 'With six or seven new faces, I just wanted us to get away,' Scott said Wednesday at the announcement that the Hornets will spend six days working at Louisiana-Lafayette's Leon Moncla indoor practice facility. 'I didn't want practice to end and everybody go home. I wanted us to be in a hotel close to one another. 'We're going to be at the hotel after practice having lunch together and then dinner; they are basically on their own. But you know when you've got guys in the same hotel, they'll start calling each other to see where they want to go for dinner, and that's just to speed up the camaraderie and the togetherness.'"
AFP: "Menk Bateer, the first Chinese to start an NBA game, has urged his injured countryman Yao Ming(notes) not to rush back into action, advising the star Houston Rockets centre to skip the 2009-2010 season. 'He is higher and heavier than most of the NBA players and has more duties during the off-season. It's better for him to take a rest next season,' he told the Oriental Sports Daily. [...] Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said last month that Yao was improving and that his career was no longer at risk, adding that there was a chance he could return this season. But Bateer, who played for the Denver Nuggets and San Antonio Spurs, among others, said it would be a mistake to push Yao too hard. 'Health is the start of everything,' he said."