With no summer league to keep hardcore hoops fans happy in July, there was a growing excitement over the scheduled Aug. 20 faceoff between the Los Angeles-based Drew League and the Washington, D.C.-based Goodman League.
But the game's organizers are facing logistical challenges. Drew League commissioner Dino Smiley said he is still "99.9 percent sure [the game in Washington, D.C., will happen] unless some hiccups pop up," but there remains work to be done to finalize a showdown involving several NBA players.
While Smiley had said previously that ESPN was interested in showing the game, he is now in discussions with the online broadcasting site Ustream about airing the game for $6.95 per viewer. He also is still seeking more sponsors to help cover costs of flying and housing the players.
The game has presented obstacles for the players, too. While Drew and Goodman are both free for fans on a normal weekend, this will be a paid exhibition (tickets range from $25 to $60). As such, one involved agent said the players' respective contracts aren't covered by their "For Love of the Game" clause with their NBA teams and a separate insurance policy will be needed in order for them to play.
There are no hiccups on the trash talk front, though -- just more hollering. Smiley made a point to highlight the differences in the two teams' star-studded rosters, as his is full of Los Angeles-area natives while only a few of the Goodman players are from the nation's capital.
"The thing with us is all of our guys are born and bred in Compton, Watts and around here," Smiley said Friday. "Our guys wear Drew on their sleeves; their guys don't have any connection with Goodman. ... We'll just go out and beat them anyway and make it worse."
Of the NBA players expected to play for Goodman, only Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City) and Sam Young (Memphis) are from Washington, D.C. Most are from the area, though, with Maryland natives Ty Lawson (Denver), Donte' Greene (Sacramento), Gary Neal (San Antonio), Michael Beasley (Minnesota) and Josh Selby (second-round draft pick for Memphis who has yet to sign a contract). John Wall has the obvious tie to the Washington Wizards, and the Kings' Tyreke Evans is from Chester, Pa. One of the team's most imposing threats, Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins, trains in Washington, D.C., during the offseason. He was raised in Alabama and played collegiately at Kentucky.
Smiley said he will have one roster change because Golden State's Dorell Wright has a wedding to attend and will not be playing as expected. There could be Drew League additions as well. The Timberwolves' Derrick Williams, the No. 2 pick in the June draft and a Los Angeles-area native, wants to participate. Denver's Jordan Hamilton, the No. 26 pick and another L.A. native, also wants in. Fellow Nuggets rookie Kenneth Faried, who is from New Jersey, has been playing in the Drew League recently and might also take part.
The Drew League roster, as previously announced, includes eight other players who are from the Los Angeles area: Oklahoma City's James Harden, Toronto's DeMar DeRozan, Washington's Nick Young, Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings, the Clippers' Craig Smith, Sacramento's Pooh Jeter and former NBA players Bobby Brown and Marcus Williams. The one exception is the Wizards' JaVale McGee, who grew up in Michigan and played collegiately at Nevada.
I can't imagine being David Kahn.
Spare me the snickers and sneers; this isn't the latest story ripping the Minnesota president for his body of work with the Timberwolves. He certainly has had a rough go of it and deserves criticism for, among other things, the drawn-out and classless way in which he fired coach Kurt Rambis. But I'm speaking more specifically about the search for Rambis' replacement.
Kahn, a former sportswriter, is mulling over a list of candidates chock full of coaches whom he used to cover. That's the part I can't imagine, that transition from reporting on the men who run these teams to calling them in for interviews, evaluation and a possible hiring.
His reported list of candidates is a virtual Hall of Fame of the coaches he covered either at UCLA (1979-1983) or while at The Oregonian newspaper in Portland (1983-1989). Luckily for him, it includes a few names worthy of the actual Hall of Fame. It's worth mentioning that he's a Portland native as well, considering the strong Portland presence in this particular room.
The Timberwolves' possibilities include:
• Rick Adelman: The Portland coach from 1988-1994, his tenure included two trips to the Finals.
• Terry Porter: Portland's do-everything point guard from 1985-1995 and a former Adelman assistant (2002-03 in Sacramento). Porter, of course, was also a head coach in Milwaukee and Phoenix.
• Bernie Bickerstaff: He was the Seattle coach from 1985-1990, with Kahn known to have covered some Sonics action during the stint in which Bickerstaff went 201-203 and made the playoffs three times in his five seasons.
• Larry Brown: UCLA coach from 1979-1981 while Kahn was there.
• Mike Woodson: No known connection for the former Atlanta coach.
• Don Nelson: No known connection for the former Milwaukee, Golden State, New York and Dallas coach who is the league's all-time leader in wins (1,335).
I figured four out of six made this a worthy observation. As for who will get the gig, I'd been hearing for months that Adelman was Kahn's dream candidate. That being said, Minneapolis Star Tribune beat writer Jerry Zgoda likely hit it on the head when he broke down the potential financial considerations.
Adelman will come with the heftiest price tag. If Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor doesn't want to pay it (or if Adelman simply doesn't want the job), my educated guess is that Bickerstaff would be hired. Being a fly on the wall during these interviews would be fascinating. The collective experience of these coaches coupled with Kahn's battered reputation would seem to create a dynamic in which the interviewee became the interviewer.
One source close to the process commended Kahn for his willingness to bring in such experienced candidates while ignoring the age factor, surmising that it was his way of quietly acknowledging he needs help after his team went 32-132 in his first two years. The downside is that most of these incredibly qualified candidates (see Adelman, Nelson and Brown) aren't considered strong developers of the kind of young talent Minnesota has in abundance.
Brown has yet to interview and there could be more candidates to come. Even if Kahn didn't cover them.
Come Monday morning, the chairs at the NBA's bargaining table won't be empty anymore. Whether the owners and players wind up breaking bread together, however, is another matter entirely.
The chasm between the two sides hasn't narrowed at all and isn't likely to do so in this New York session that is the first to involve commissioner David Stern and union head Billy Hunter since the lockout was imposed on July 1. But progress simply can't be made without talks like these taking place, and, if nothing else, it will relieve the internal pressure that was building with every passing day of CBA silence.
While the real pressure won't be applied until players start missing paychecks in November or the National Labor Relations Board hands down a decision in the NBPA's attempt to charge the NBA with a failure to bargain in good faith (widely considered one to two months out), the lack of discussions was causing growing frustration from the agent ranks. Now that there will be talks, one agent source who is close to the process said the players and their representatives will be paying particular attention to the topic of revenue sharing.
They see the owners' refusal to discuss it as a clear sign that they're not serious about getting a deal done. The players have already shown a willingness to take a smaller piece of the pie -- their latest proposal gives them 54 percent of basketball-related income as opposed to the 57 percent they received under the old agreement -- but they believe it's time to get more creative about how the money is divvied up among the haves (the New Yorks, Chicagos, the Lakers) and have-nots (the Sacramento and Memphis types) as a possible solution to the league's problems with parity.
It's a topic that could be revealing as well, with the views of small-market and large-market owners sure to be wildly different and potentially controversial. Stern has consistently said revenue sharing will be handled independent of the collective bargaining discussions, which makes perfect sense if you didn't want the players to get an accurate read of that room.
Don't expect much to come out of the meeting, but it beats the nothingness we endured through most of July.