On Tuesday, after the NBA has sued its players in order to either preemptively block decertification or, if you're feeling cynical, to dare the union into action, David Stern took to TV studio to talk to the nation about the NBA lockout. Consider how many times you've seen David Stern appear live on SportsCenter, and then determine whether the media 'blitz' was planned around the lawsuit. This was very obviously a coordinated effort to make the players look like jerks, something Stern has said (with a straight face) he didn't want to do.
In that SportsCenter talk, Stern addressed the "threat" of NBA players signing deals to play overseas during the lockout. As we mentioned on Wednesday, Stern said he was only worried that the deals would fracture the union. Here's the quote:
"It threatens to split the union because only the high-paying stars, only the superstars, will be able to get any significant number of dollars, and those dollars are so small compared to what they're leaving on the table in the U.S. that it just means they're going to be making a few more dollars than the non-superstars, and I think it's going to split the union."
Here is, to date, a full list of players under NBA contract who have reportedly signed deals to play overseas during the lockout, along with their 2011-12 NBA salary and team and the country in which they signed.
- Deron Williams ($16.3 million, Nets; Turkey)
- Nicolas Batum ($2.1 million, Blazers; France)
- Jordan Farmar ($4 million, Nets; Israel)
- David Andersen ($2.7 million, Hornets; Italy)
- Magnum Rolle ($973,000, Hawks; South Korea)
- Timofey Mozgov ($3.3 million, Nuggets; Russia)
- Ersan Ilyasova ($2.5 million, Bucks; Turkey)
(Thanks to Scott Schroeder and Mark Deeks for helping to flesh out that list. Just before this story was published, reports began to circulate that Trevor Booker, under contract to the Wizards for three more seasons and due $1.2 million in 2011-12, signed with an Israeli team.)
You have one star in Williams, one strong starter in Batum, three rotation players in Farmar, Mozgov and Ilyasova and two fringe NBA players in Rolle and Andersen. Seems like a pretty balanced crew to me. For every Kobe Bryant drawing attention, there are two Keyon Doolings. For every D-Will, there's a Farmar. If anything, the Euro process has been pretty equitable for stars and the mortal alike. Stern's concern trolling is, to date, completely off-base.
We'll see if it continues, or whether the stars will bring along their lower-spotlight buddies if exhibition tours get cranking. Maybe Stern will be proven right. Maybe someone like Dwight Howard will bitch to the media that the Timofey Mozgovs of the league are taking all the damn European jobs, leaving nothing for dudes like him. That seems more likely than what Stern is worried about as of now.
Remember: David Kahn wanted to replace Kurt Rambis with a coach more devoted to the fast break. To date, Kahn's interviews for the job have included Mike Woodson (who ran a slow team in Atlanta), Terry Porter (canned for putting the brakes on the post-D'Antoni Suns), Larry Brown (this can't be life) and Bernie Bickerstaff (relatively down-tempo in Charlotte). Now reports suggest Kahn will interview Sam Mitchell and, ahem, Mike Fratello.
Choosing to interview Brown was a serious belly laugh; the guy's a legend, but he's also allergic to up-tempo basketball and he's a complete GM-killer. He'd be able to teach the young Timberwolves a thing or two ... but the product on the court would be slow like Stanley Roberts running in quicksand.
I would have loved to see Bryan Colangelo's face when the Mitchell reports surfaced; Smith is a fine coach with obvious ties to 'Sota, but the last time his GM tried to foist an up-tempo system with up-tempo players on him, it didn't exactly work out. The Raptors' '100 Shots Or More' offense died faster than a laundromat in a nudist colony.
But Fratello? The Czar?!
Kahn should be forced to take field trips to Atlanta, Cleveland and Memphis and talk to fans who watched Fratello's teams play. Bless him; he was a fine coach and I like him as an analyst. But he's like a fuzzy facsimile of Brown. His offense is frozen molasses; he learned at the feet of slowmeister Hubie Brown, who never met a shot clock violation he didn't like.
Interview Brown? Fine, he's a legend. Interview Smitch? Fine, he has deep local ties. Interview Fratello? This must be performance art, for something is amiss. Maybe David Kahn isn't the clown prince of GMs ... maybe he's the James Franco.
The Hook is a daily NBA column written by Tom Ziller that runs on SBNation.com Monday through Friday. See the archives.