View Full Version : NBA Insider...Nov 12: Wiz without Jordan; LeBron & Ricky; Oakley

11-12-2003, 02:14 PM
Evil & SHC: I'm not a subscriber, but I can get my hands on it regularly at the moment. I'll post when I can but can't fulfill any requests.

NBA Insider...Nov 12: Wiz without Jordan; LeBron & Ricky; Oakley

Wizards relishing life without MJ

As far as the Washington Wizards are concerned, Michael Jordan is dead. Long live Eddie Jordan.

"Now, there was some luck involved, but the bottom line is they ended up getting a great young coach in Eddie Jordan," David Aldridge, ESPN analyst and Washington native said in the Philadelphia Daily News. "And Ernie Grunfeld [the Wizards new president of basketball operations] is as solid as they come. They've been able to get some good, young players. They've got some pieces. This is the first time in a long time that they have some legitimate young pieces that they can either build around or swap for other pieces. They've got a future here, and I can't believe I'm saying that."

Let me say that again. Michael Jordan is gone, adios, kaput. Or, as Washington Times sports writer Tom Knott put it, "something intriguing has happened to the Wizards since the removal of Jordan. They now have a future. They now have a style of play that is conducive to the team's young legs. They now have a genuine general manager in Ernie Grunfeld and a genuine coach in Eddie Jordan and not a lackey who was sentenced to pray at the altar of a legend."

And as a result . . .

"The new coach has no agenda other than trying to win the next game. He does not answer to a player or to a player's hangers-on. He does not have to read code or tea leaves. He is not around to satisfy an insatiable ego. The new coach can do what is best for the team, as opposed to what is best for one player."

Michael Jordan came to Wizards in January 2000 as president and part owner of a troubled franchise in desperate need of new life. The greatest player in NBA history decided a year later that the best way to do that was to put himself in the game and came out of retirement. He brought along his own coach, his own players and his own way of thinking. Two seasons later, Jordan is gone, the Wizards never making the playoffs and MJ losing his ownership stake in the team, and we are just beginning to find out how bad it really was by how good it is now.

"It's just a whole different atmosphere now," center Brendan Haywood said in the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Everything just seems more at peace. Last year, we had a mixture of young guys and old guys. It was almost like coach [Doug] Collins was scared to talk to the older guys, so they didn't respect him. Then he'd browbeat the younger guys, so we didn't like him. As a coach, you've got to be either respected or loved. Coach Collins didn't have either one because the older guys didn't respect him and the younger guys didn't like him because we were the ones being yelled at all the time."

The difference this year is that guys are a lot more positive and they want to win for coach Jordan.
Juan Dixon

Even after the Wizards loss Tuesday night to the Sixers, even after Allen Iverson scored 40 points on them, even after the Wizards benched one of their new, young stars for a short period to make a point in a previous game, the franchise is relishing the fact that Michael Jordan is gone.

Or, at least that's what they're saying now that he is no longer around running the front office.

"Before Christian Laettner entered the starting lineup, our average age was 22 years and 2 months," said Ernie Grunfeld in the Inquirer. "We're young. We're exciting, and we play very, very hard. A loss is never good to take. But it's a little bit easier when you know better times are inevitable."

And at least that's what they're saying now that he's no longer wearing the same uniform.

"Pure energy," second-year guard Juan Dixon said. "That's the slogan coach [Eddie] Jordan came up with. We're out there playing with a lot of energy because he's instilled a lot of confidence in the young players. The difference this year is that guys are a lot more positive and they want to win for coach Jordan."

We have yet to hear from Michael, himself, but no one in this particular organization may even care to listen. Last year, with Michael, they finished 37-45 and out of the playoffs a year after they started with Michael with the same ending record of 37-45 and out of the playoffs.

This year, they were 3-3 before Tuesday night and not afraid to talk after losing.

"Let's say they did a very good job of salvaging a very bad situation," Aldridge said.

LeBron wants to share spotlight

The $90 million contract from Nike may be his. The face on all of those commercials and magazine covers and newspaper articles may be his. The number on the most sold basketball jersey may be his. But LeBron James wants to make it very clear that the Cleveland Cavaliers are not.

"It's better when it comes from my mouth because everybody always says, 'LeBron James and the Cavaliers,' " James said in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "I don't look at it as that. I look at it as Ricky's and Z's team. I hope [Davis] knows that I'm not coming here to take over the team. I'm here to play a role and help him get some wins."

Ricky Davis
Cleveland Cavaliers

7 17.1 7.1 5.7 .450 .609

But statistically, you'd have a hard time telling.

Ricky Davis leads the team in scoring at 17.1 but right behind him is James at 16.9. Both have taken 109 shots and both have made 49. The articles go on to point out that James has 46 assists, Davis has 40. James has 51 rebounds, Davis has 50.

But those numbers are exactly what head coach Paul Silas is saying will make the Cavs that much better.

"Ricky is the key," Silas said. "He's playing such unselfish basketball right now, and everybody is picking up on that. He's almost coming up with a triple double every night. That's what we need from Rick, playing within the offense, very structured, not just jacking [shots] up. I just love how he's playing right now."

And at least for now, Davis agrees.

"I changed it a whole lot," Davis said. "I haven't been shooting a lot like I did last year. Fortunately, I haven't really needed to. When we need a lot of shots taken, I'll take that spot again. But now, I'm trying to play an all-around game and get my teammates involved early so we can have confidence and be rolling in the later part of the game. We're on TV a lot. People just know me for my scoring and my dunking. I'm trying to show them I can be the leader in assists, the leader in rebounds and show other qualities that can make you stand out."

Oakley speaks out

The NBA, says Charles Oakley, is in trouble and he's just the man to fix it even if he is about to turn 40 any day now and has yet to sign on with a team that needs a rugged power forward to do the dirty work.

"You got teams in the NBA that are not trying to win," he said in the New York Daily News. "They don't know how to put together a team. You can't compete with five guys who need the ball. You need someone to do the little things. The NBA has become a league of talented high school and college players. It's supposed to be high-scoring, but no one can shoot. I don't see a powerhouse team. Sacramento has too much finesse. Dallas is the Harlem Globetrotters of the NBA. San Antonio almost got beat, but the Lakers missed that one shot. I can fit in with any team in the league. I'm not saying I'm a great player. But I could fill a role."

Maybe he can become a TV analyst in the future. Maybe he can become a coach. Maybe he should have taken the job offered by his former coach Jeff Van Gundy in Houston even if it meant going to training camp and becoming the last guy on the bench.

Either way, Oakley wants back in.

"I'm about 240," Oakley said of his weight. "There is still gas in the tank."

Peep Show
By Terry Brown
NBA Insider
Wednesday, November 12
Updated: November 12
9:33 AM ET

New York Knicks: Don't ask the doctors if Antonio McDyess is ready to play. Don't even ask the coaches. Please refer all questions to the man, himself. "I can go when I'm ready," McDyess said in Newsday. "I don't need any approval. Last week, they kind of released me to do what I can. It's my call. If I do feel comfortable and I tell them I'm comfortable, I don't think they would look at me and say, 'Nah, Antonio, you aren't ready.' I definitely think they're just waiting for me to tell them, 'I feel great,' and step out there and play." The former all-star power forward injured for most of the last two seasons is slated to begin full practices with the team this week.

Orlando Magic: Tracy McGrady isn't scoring. Doc Rivers isn't winning. But second-year player Drew Gooden is ready to do his part. "I'm a power forward, but I've got to go out there and hold my own at the '3' [small forward]," Gooden said in the Orlando Sentinel. "It's the best for the team right now. Doc [Rivers] feels he can cause more mismatches with me at the 3. I'm with that." Even if the team is without a true center and already has Juwan Howard who plays a similar game. "So we're really trying to work with him staying down low," Rivers said. "With Drew at the 3, we can really take advantage of some matchups, but he has to get down there and want to take advantage of it."

Los Angeles Clippers: The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Glen Rice is ready and willing to go. "I've got a couple more days to get some practice in, but everything is on schedule," Rice said. "I think I'll be ready, knock on wood. Hopefully, nothing goes wrong in the next couple of days." Rice hyperextended his knee during the preseason and has yet to play for his new team.

Detroit Pistons: Darko Milicic hasn't had a chance to play a lot this year for the Pistons, but at least he got to eat dinner with his childhood hero Tuesday night. And this is what Vlade Divac had to say about him in the Detroit News. "It is tough on him. He's too young. Coming over here, a new system, a new style of basketball, a new culture, I am very familiar with what he is going through. It is tougher for him. I had my wife and family with me. He is by himself. But I am sure he's going to make it. He's a great kid, very talented. I watched him play last year. He's got a lot of skill. But he's just a kid. I told him to be patient, work hard and listen to what the people around him are telling him."

Indiana Pacers: The Pacers are a nice 4-2 right now in the standings with their only two losses coming at home and Ron Artest thinks he knows why. "For some reason, we have more energy on the road," he said in the Indianapolis Star. "Maybe it's because there are more fans in the seats on the road and it's more intense. When we come home, it's not as intense and we have a tendency to not give effort. But you should win home games. We should pick it up."