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Holiday Gift Guide

Anthony Davis

Jeremy Lin

NOV/DEC 2012

AN OFFICIAL NBA PUBLICATION

W i t h o n e o f t h e b e st sta rt i ng f i v e s i n h i sto ry,* t h e L a k e rs h av e

STRUCK GOLD * B ut w i l l t h ey b e g o o d e no ug h to m a k e h i sto ry ?


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9/20/12 3:28 PM


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9/20/12 3:28 PM


warm ups

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10/9/12 4:40 PM


DAVID SHERMAN /NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

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Kevin Love is one of the best at zipping outlet passes to start a break, but throwing a baseball from a raised mound to a target about 60 feet away is a whole other ballgame. His ceremonial ďŹ rst pitch at a Minnesota Twins game was far from pinpoint perfect (he was high and away) but at least he demonstrated good form. And good hosiery.

10/9/12 4:40 PM


warm ups

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10/9/12 4:40 PM


GARY DINEEN /NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

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“Ball, Not War” was essentially the theme of the Peace Basketball Tournament that took place in Chicago in September. After a tragic summer filled with murder and violence in Chicago, a basketball tournament was organized to help bridge the differences by bringing together youths from rival gangs to play with one another. Many NBA players past and present hailing from Chicago, including Isiah Thomas, Antoine Walker and Quentin Richardson came out in support to serve as coaches, as well as current Bulls Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson.

10/9/12 4:41 PM


WARM UPS

NOAH GRAHAM /NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

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Few guys in the NBA can match Blake Griffin vertically, but Denver’s JaVale McGee, with his 7-foot height, combined with a reported 7-6 wingspan and big hops, can. As you can see here, McGee has a few inches up on Griffin. Not sure what the outcome was, but we’re impressed.

10/10/12 10:47 AM


Are we there yet? The question of every road trip. And the one we continually ask. Are we at the technological cutting edge? The pinnacle of design? Are we at the place which separates a Mercedes-Benz from everything else on the road? Introducing the all-new 7-passenger GL. The question has been answered.

MBUSA.com/GL

2013 GL 550 shown in Lunar Blue metallic paint. May include optional equipment. No system, regardless of how advanced, can overcome the laws of physics or correct careless driving. Please always wear your seat belt. Available in dealerships September 2012. Š2012 Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC For more information, call 1-800-FOR-MERCEDES, or visit MBUSA.com.

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9/5/12 10:28 AM


WARM UPS

NATHANIEL S. BUTLER /NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

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It’s a good thing the NBA champion Miami Heat chose a place called the Spacious Pavilion (on grounds of the Summer Palace) in Beijing, China, for the team photo; as big as they are stateside, the Heat are just as popular in China. As part of the 2012 NBA China Games, the Heat played the Los Angeles Clippers in a preseason game in the country’s capital city.

10/10/12 10:47 AM


MAGIC LASTS 75% LONGER THAN TRADITIONAL SHAVING*†SHEA BUTTER FORMULAS SMOOTH AND SOOTHE

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9/12/12 10:33 AM


The Gameplan

nov/Dec 2012

Features

50 hot Thunderstorms Global warming predicts that temperatures will rise and the frequency of violent storms will continue to go up. The same thing is happening in the NBA. As the last two seasons have shown, the NBA is going through its own global warming phenomenon. Expect to see plenty of Heat and Thunder dominate the League for the next few years.

61 position To Win 70 Fantastic voyage The Lakers have put together a starting lineup of “Dream Team” proportions (OK, not quite, but almost). Will the addition of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to a Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace trio result in another victory lap for the championship-rich Lakers, or will they just be Team Hypebeast?

Never before have the lines between the different positions in the NBA been so blurred. Forwards are lining up for the opening tip, 6-9 guys are setting offenses up, 7-footers are bombing away from distance. NBA coaches have been getting more bold and innovative in their use of personnel— or is the trend dictated by the flexibility and varied skill sets that today’s player offers?

40 Young, proud and loud Another crop of rookies is arriving to the NBA. Some will play significant minutes and roles for their teams, a select few will change the fortunes of their franchises and one will win the Rookie of the Year trophy. All will be asked to fetch donuts and collect balls after practice. As they learn the NBA ropes this season, learn a little about each one of them.

80 The oak Speaks Charles Oakley was known during his playing days as a no-nonsense, rugged, rebounding and defending power forward whose toughness was matched only by his ability to intimidate. So when Oakley sits down to speak his mind about basketball and today’s NBA, you pay attention.

Poster Jerry West might not be too happy that he’s sharing a poster with a Celtic, but at least Rajon Rondo wasn’t part of those Boston teams that broke West’s heart almost every postseason. 010

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ANDREW D. BERNSTEiN; iSSAC BALDizON; ANDY HAYT/NBAE/GETTY iMAGES

10/10/12 4:08 PM


Alcohol Reference Blood Mild Language Suggestive Themes Use of Tobacco Violence

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BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY ARMORED EDITION software © 2012 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Wii U Version developed by WB Games Montréal and the original game developed by Rocksteady Studios. All other trademarks and copyrights are the property of their respective owners All rights reserved. Wii U is a trademark of Nintendo. © 2012 Nintendo. All other trademarks and copyrights are the property of their respective owners. All rights reserved.

BATMAN and all characters, their distinctive likenesses, and related elements are trademarks of DC Comics © 2012. All Rights Reserved. WB GAMES LOGO, WB SHIELD: ™ & © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. (s12)

™ ™

9/24/12 4:57 PM


ThE GamE PlaN NOv/DEC 2012 Departments

2 Warm-Ups 16 The Point 19 Jumpball Starting 5: Miami’s Shane Battier takes a look back at his five best teammates of all time; Head2Head: Best young power forward—Kevin Love or Blake Griffin?; Celeb Row: Kevin Hart has learned two valuable lessons: girls can ball and partying with NBA players can be detrimental to your savings account; Transition Game: Despite playing almost 20 years, there’s been little change to Grant Hill; First Five: Kenneth Faried, Patty Mills, Derrick Favors, Norris Cole and Gerald Green; Dance Life: Portland BlazerDancer Leisel; Peripheral Vision: Nike footwear designers Leo Chang and Jason Petrie; Brack-it: Which players are on the spot this season?; Numerology: Rhe 123s of the NBA; Bread ‘n Butter: Dirk Nowitzki’s one-foot fadeaway; Best of Five: Josh Smith matches wits with Community’s Alison Brie; 24 Seconds: Can Jeremy Lin beat our 24 Qs before the buzzer goes off?

106 Stepback That Rookie squad during the 2004 Rookie Challenge was kind of good.

89 Check It 107 Call-Out Props to the 2012 Hall of Fame class and other good deeds around the League.

Holiday Gift Guide: What to give (and hopefully receive) this holiday season; Gear: A breakdown of what to wear on the court from adidas, Nike, Jordan, Reebok and Under Armor; Spin Moves: J.R. Smith’s media consumption; Game On: Dissecting the merits of NBA 2K13.

108 Final Exam It’s been a while since someone scored a perfect 100 on our backpage quiz. Can Al Horford do it?

012

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10/10/12 4:09 PM


Performance likes this.

Te 429-hp, 8-speed automatic 5.0L V8 Genesis R-Spec. Facebook.com/Hyundai Trade-In Value Guarantee - Know the future trade-in value of the Genesis you buy today. Premium fuel only. Guaranteed Trade-In Value of qualifying vehicle based on independent source. Consumer will get the higher of the Guaranteed Trade-In Value, less mileage charges and damage costs, or market value which will be assessed at time of trade in. Applicable to new Hyundai Genesis sedan, Genesis Coupe and Equus vehicles purchased on or after January 4, 2012. Not available on leased vehicles. Valid only during months 24-48 of ownership. Must show proof of vehicle maintenance through an authorized Hyundai dealer at time of trade in. Customer must pay mileage fee of $0.20 per mile over 15,000 miles per year. Customer responsible for all damage to vehicle. Trade-in value dollar amount must be applied toward a new Hyundai vehicle and must be Änanced through Hyundai Motor Finance (HMF). This program is not to be considered a guaranteed “trade-in” value or range of guaranteed “trade-in” values as deÄned by the state of Texas. See Hyundai.com or your Hyundai dealer for full details. Hyundai is a registered trademark of Hyundai Motor Company. All rights reserved. ©2012 Hyundai Motor America.

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9/24/12 4:55 PM


SUPPORT OF A HIGH. FEEL OF A LOW.

The UA Charge BB works exactly when you need it, exactly how you need it. This shoe does the impossible by combining total stability with total mobility, freeing you to drive hard and cut quick. Super-high, ridiculously light, with full-length Micro G速 foam for comfort and cushioning.

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9/12/12 10:41 AM


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Volume 41, No. 1

Editor-in-Chief Ming Wong #2 Design Director Kengyong Shao #31 Assistant Editor Phil D’Apolito #14

The PoinT

I know who we have on the cover of this season’s first issue. That type of commitment must mean we’re picking the Lakers to win it all. No. I’m not denying that the addition of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash improves Kobe’s need of requiring a second hand to showcase his rings.1 But does it make them the favorites? No. It wasn’t too long ago that the same franchise, coming off a championship-less season after a run of three titles, signed two aging, but still very capable and hungry Hall of Famers in Karl Malone and Gary Payton2 to reinvigorate3 the team to another title run. This was a Lakers team with an emerging Kobe4 and a still-very-dangerous Shaq5 that was coached by Phil Jackson.6 Everyone predicted another victory march down Figueroa.7 Despite battling some injuries to key players in the lineup, the Lakers managed to win 56 games9 with relative ease, making it to the Finals without ever seeing a seventh game in any series. Five games later it was over. The basketball team of the Detroit Pistons, the complete antithesis10 to the Lakers, showed the world that basketball is won through a team playing together11 and not based on which roster has the most Facebook likes. That Lakers’ core was subsequently blown up.12 Only Kobe remained.13 To their credit, they re-tooled a few years back and unfurled two more banners in their crowded rafters.14 Which brings us to now. Again, the Lakers have showed their front office genius, netting the game’s best center15 and one of the greatest PGs, who’s showing little sign of slowing down. So am I reconsidering the Lakers’ championship candidacy? No.16 I don’t subscribe to that often-used notion in the NBA that suggests teams need to take their lumps before they win it all. But I do believe that teams, however great they may be, need to play together before they can win together. Individual players weren’t born with greatness; they had to work at it. Teams are no different. It takes mundane hours on the practice court, shared court time during games, pressurefilled moments, time spent on the plane, team meals, locker room jokes and laughter, pats on the back during tough times, post-practice shooting games, game-winning shots, respect-earning plays, long conversations, unspoken understanding—bonds that forge a team. It’s those reasons why the Lakers make the cover. Not because they’ll win it all this year,17 but because they’re beginning a journey with that goal in mind. Will they get there? N...I don’t know. But I’ll be watching.18 016

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BONUS POINTS 1. Having seen and shaken Kobe’s hands a few times, he might be able to wear all his championship rings on one finger. 2. it was kind of like superman and Flash moving into the Bat Cave with Batman and robin. 3. if nothing, they would serve as buffer between shaq and Kobe. 4. A 25-year-old basketball maniac with three rings and visions of more. 5. 2003-04 saw the beginning of shaq’s decline, but he was still good enough to be the game’s best center. 6. it was Jackson’s most trying seasons as head coach, prompting an offseason tell-all book. 7. me included. 8. Only Payton and devean George played 82 games. 9. some predicted they would challenge the Bulls’ 72-wins. 10. when all said and done, that team might be the only nBA Champion to not feature a single Hall of Famer. 11. two months later, that same lesson would be learned on the Olympic basketball court in Athens as team UsA finished with bronze, leading to a new teambuilding philosophy from UsA Basketball. 12. shaq was shipped off to miami, Payton to Boston and malone retired. 13. Beginning a dark age for the Lakers where they won little but Kobe scored a lot. 14. Brought back Phil Jackson in 2005, developed Andrew Bynum, had a motivated Lamar Odom and capped it off by trading for Pau Gasol. 15. think about it: George mikan, wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, shaq and Howard have all been Lakers. 16. this whole concept was inspired by my 4-year-old son’s favorite reply to any request. 17. Unless something major happens, it’ll be the Heat again. LeBron is that good. 18. if you managed to keep reading this, odds are you’ll be, too.

Online Editor Darryl Howerton #21 Editor-at-Large Jeramie McPeek #4 Copy Editor Trevor Kearney #8 WNBA Editor Lois Elfman #40 Senior Writer Michael Bradley #53 Contributing Writers Russ Bengtson #43, Myles Brown #37, Christopher Cason #24, Jon Cooper #10, Jim Eichenhofer #12, Anthony Gilbert #1, Brian A. Giuffra #17, Melody Hoffman #34, Andy Jasner #27, Holly MacKenzie #32, Brett Mauser #25, McG #93, Jeff Min #12, Rob Peterson #9, Earl K. Sneed #23, Duane Watson #7 Illustrator Matt Candela #52 Retired Numbers #6, #11, #13, #30, #99

Professional Sports Publications 519 8th Avenue, New York, NY 10018 Tel: (212) 697-1460 Fax: (646) 753-9480 Executive VP Operations Jeff Botwinick Executive VP, Business Development Martin Lewis Executive VP, Sales Steve Farkas Executive VP, Sales Mitch Gibbs Executive VP, Team Relations Dave Gerschwer Executive Administrative Director Julie Wong Manager, Marketing Services Aron Sawyer Production Manager Jaime Ziegler Production Assistant Tara Malloy

NBA Publishing/NBA Photos Executive VP, and Executive Producer, Production, Programming, and Broadcasting Danny Meiseles Senior VP, Multimedia Production Paul Hirschheimer Senior VP, Entertainment & Player Marketing Charlie Rosenzweig Senior VP, Marketing Communications Mike Bass Senior Director, NBAE Production John Hareas Executive Vice President, Global Merchandising Group Sal LaRocca Manager, Global Media Programs Felecia Groomster Senior Directors & Senior Official NBAE Photographers Andrew D. Bernstein, Nathaniel S. Butler Vice President, NBA Photos Joe Amati Director, Photos Imaging David Bonilla Official NBAE Photographer Jesse Garrabrant Senior Photo Editor Brian Choi Photo Coordinator Kevin Wright

All NBA photos appearing in this magazine, unless otherwise indicated, are copyright of NBA Entertainment. All WNBA photos appearing in this magazine, unless otherwise indicated, are copyright of WNBA Enterprises. All NBDL photos appearing in this magazine, unless otherwise indicated, are copyright of NBDL Enterprises. HOOP is published monthly, December through June, by PSP. © 2012 Professional Sports Publications. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or part without permission of publisher is prohibited. To subscribe to HOOP, call (800) 829-3347. PRINTED IN THE USA

Andrew d. Bernstein/nBAe/Getty imAGes

10/9/12 5:56 PM


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LIVE NBA ACTION

ON ALL THREE PLATFORMS BUY NOW AND DON’T MISS A MINUTE! TO ORDER CALL 855-NBA-LPLP OR GO TO NBA.COM/LEAGUEPASS TM & © 2012 Turner Entertainment Networks, Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.Photo: Getty Images.

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10/10/12 9:38 AM


JuMPBall

as Told To Jon cooPer #10

Starting 5

Shane BattIer MIAMI HeAT Shane Battier has seen a lot in his 11 seasons in the NBA, both highs and lows. The former sixth overall pick in the 2001 NBA Draft has seen 50-win seasons and 50-loss seasons. He experienced the high of a franchise’s first playoff appearances—three straight in Memphis—but then the low of straight-set eliminations each time. He was part of the high of the first streak of three straight 50-win seasons in Houston Rockets history, but also the crushing disappointment of a pair of Game 7 defeats and the lingering questions of what might have been had it not been for injuries.

Finally, last season, in Miami, he reached the ultimate height, winning an NBA Championship and tying a Finals record for most threes made (11) through the first three games and shooting .577 from three (15-for-26) in the series with the Thunder. That completed the special double of winning an NCAA Championship (2001 with Duke) and an NBA Championship and, tangentially, led to his going on stage and playing congas with his musical hero Jimmy Buffett. Over the course of his career, Battier has played with an amazing array of talent. The 34-year-old native of Birmingham, Mich., took time out to reminisce and put together his dream starting lineup from the players with whom he’s shared the court. We even allowed him to throw in a wild card sixth man.

Center: yao MinG teammates in Houston from 2006-2011

SmaLL Forward: leBron JaMes current teammate

ShootinG Guard: dWyane Wade current teammate

“If our rockets teams would have been healthy with Tracy and Yao, we would have had a good chance to compete for a championship and I think we would be talking about Yao Ming at that level of one of the best centers to play this game. When he was healthy and in shape there was no one that could stop him. He had jump-hooks with left and right hand and if he caught the ball there wasn’t anything anyone could do to stop him. for a guy who went on to become the most recognizable person on planet earth he had an amazing sense of humility and a great sense of humor. He was a great teammate. There wasn’t another player, who was a superstar like that, who took delight in the successes and the achievements of his teammates like Yao did. He was genuine. I haven’t met a guy yet who played with Yao who doesn’t have the best things to say about him. He really is one of the greatest.”

“I’m coaching, so I’m not putting me in the starting lineup [laughs]. I’m going, obviously, with leBron. leBron’s the best player I’ve played with. When I played him, you could get away a little bit with giving him the jumper, but last year he had the jumper rolling; he really doesn’t have any holes in his game. The thing about leBron that’s fun to see is his knowledge of the game. He’s one of the smartest players I’ve played with. He understands space, understands balance. When you add that to his obvious physical talents you have the best player in the world. Game 6 of the Boston series in Boston, he had one of the great all-time games in NBA history. He had a look of determination. I think he finally figured out, ‘You know what? I’m going to do something about the outcome of this game and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop me.’ He understands that he’s the baddest dude on the block and there’s not much anyone can do to stop him when he wants to go for it. When he’s coming in transition, just get out of the way [laughs]. I have taken a charge from him in transition. It was not one of the smartest moves of my career but I lived to tell about it. In transition, that’s the closest to an ‘oh lord’ moment you’re going to have.”

“The guy can just flat-out score. He and leBron [James] are similar in respect to transition. They’re pretty impossible to stop. If there’s a fastbreak they’re either going to draw a foul or they’re going to score. d-Wade has amazing body control and is really, really good finishing at the rim, especially in transition. I think his post-up game has gotten better as he’s gotten older and he’s realized he can make his money on the block as a tough post-up guard and is only going to get better at that part of the game. But he’s still super-explosive.”

Point Guard: Tracy McGrady teammates in Houston from 2006-2010

Power Forward: Pau Gasol teammates in Memphis from 2001-2006

wiLdCard: Jason WilliaMs teammates in Memphis from 2001-2005

“I’m going to go with a big lineup and I’m going with a guy that could have been a point if he really wanted to: Tracy McGrady. To this day, he has the best vision that I’ve played with. At 6-8, he could make any pass. That was the most underrated part of his game. People obviously talked about scoring and about dunking, but I think that he was an unbelievable passer and still is. He saw everything.”

“Pau and I came into the NBA together. We were both rookies in 2001 and led a struggling Memphis Grizzlies franchise to three straight playoff berths, which, at the time, seemed like an impossible task. Pau was just a great teammate, a fantastic passer for a big man, an unselfish player. You put him on the block, his length, made him so difficult to stop. I feel bad that we couldn’t win more in Memphis. He’s the best power forward I’ve played with. His length, he’s 7-1 and there’s not much you can do against 7-1. You have to make him run. When he’s away from the basket, he’s a really good jump-shooter, you have to be smart because he’s a very intelligent basketball player.”

“I’m going with J-Will because he’s the funniest guy I ever played with and was a great teammate. I think that lineup’s going to sell out every arena we go to, but [Williams] would make sure every seat is filled, too. J-Will was the most exciting player that I’ve played with in my career and I really enjoyed playing with him. When I played with J-Will, I did get hit with some passes in the back of the head [laughs].”

IssAc BAldIzoN; dANNY BollINGer; NATHANIel s. BuTler (2); BrIAN BABINeAu/NBAe/GeTTY IMAGes; Jeff Gross/GeTTY IMAGes sPorT

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019

10/9/12 4:37 PM


jump ball Bread ’n Butter

BeSt OF FIVe

JOSH SmiTH VS. AliSON BRie One-on-one between an NBA baller and a celebrity in a game of five questions where we play judge. Best three answers take it. What was the first car you bought new? Alison: The first car I bought brand new was the Toyota Yaris. It was the first car I bought after college and I loved it. It was super affordable and pretty adorable. Unfortunately, when I got in an accident it crunched up like a soda can so I decided that my next car would be a little sturdier. Josh: I was in boarding school, so we walked straight to school, we walked straight back to the dorm. In 2004, when I first got drafted [I got] an Escalade. I had the spinner rims, where you know, when I stopped, they kept going. I had those [laughs]. I had all that going on. Score: Josh 1, alison 0. as cliché as the escalade with spinners are, admit it, you wanted that exact one in 2004.

DiRk NOWiTzki’S one-Foot FaDeaWay JumPer Kobe Bryant has admittedly swagger-jacked him for it, although in Kobe’s opinion, his version is “sexier.” Kevin Durant has even added it to his arsenal. Heck, the guys at ESPN’s Sports Science even tried to study what it is that makes Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki’s vintage one-legged fadeaway one of the most unstoppable moves in the NBA today. Now, he describes the unblockable shot in his own words, learning to use the stepback jumper as a German teenager while working with mentor Holger Geschwindner. “How’d I come up with my fadeaway? Well, it’s pretty easy [all said with a sly smirk on his face]. You know, I’m 7-feet but very un-athletic, so I had to find a way to create a little bit of separation between me and the defender, cause obviously I can’t go by nobody. The defender is always playing you really close, so to kind of create a little separation, I just lean back a little bit. And since I’m 7-feet, I still can shoot over him and he can’t get to it. That was really the reason why I did that and it seemed to work. The off-the-one-foot, it kind of created itself. I never practiced it. I kind of created it during games, and it was just a way to get a quick shot over the defender. “[Working with Holger] we always shoot some runners off one leg in practice, but we never really shoot that fadeaway stepback that I actually shoot now. Holger doesn’t actually like that shot. It kind of came out of nowhere, really. Once you get older, you don’t really feel like dribbling 100 times and making those long moves. All this really is, is creating a little separation and still get the shot off. Really, that’s all that is. Usually, I’m taller than my defenders. Once I create a little separation, I’m tall enough to get my shot off. That’s really where it came from. It’s not like we practice that shot a million times. I guess it came out of nowhere.” Earl K. SnEEd #23 020

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Where did you go on your first date? Alison: In high school the first real date I remember going on was to dinner at JJ’s Steak House in Old Town Pasadena. My high school boyfriend and I hadn’t really been on any proper dates before that and it must have been a special occasion because I remember us getting all dressed up and going to what we thought of as a really grown-up restaurant, meaning we knew it was expensive. It was great. We had so much fun pretending to be adults for the night. Josh: My mom told me if I didn’t have my own money I couldn’t take anybody out on a date [laughs]. I had my first date, probably, when I got to the League. I was able to have my own money and be able to sponsor my own function. I’m from Atlanta. There are all these good restaurants. I probably took her to a place called Fletcher’s on the East Side. It’s a nice little spot. Had the Escalade, picked her up in the Escalade. Score: Josh 2, alison 0. no disrespect to alison’s grown-up night, but the thought of Josh’s first date in the escalade with the spinners going to a place called Fletcher’s sounds all too awesome.

What was the first concert you went to live? Alison: Alanis Morissette was the first concert I went to live, but I was still pretty young, middle school age I think, so my mom had to come with me and I don’t think she enjoyed it too much. The first concert I went to on my own was The Beastie Boys’ Hello Nasty tour. My friends and I were so excited to go. We slept outside the mall to be the first to get tickets and we totally scored. We got to be right in the front against the stage. I actually remember being so excited at the concert that I fainted and security had to bring me backstage and revive me. It was awesome. Josh: Prince. It was at Philips Arena. I’m a Prince fan. It wasn’t last year’s tour. It had to be about seven years ago (the concert was April 30, 2004). He pulled a girl up on stage, started singing to her and she went crazy. They had to yank her off the stage. I was like, ‘Prince is that man.’ I salute him. Prince is the man. Score: Josh 2, alison 1. Prince is the man, but so are the Beastie Boys. and she fainted. alison gets on the board.

What is your favorite guilty pleasure TV show? Alison: The Real Housewives of New Jersey. I love it! The funny thing is, it’s the only Real Housewives show I watch but as long as they keep going back to New Jersey I will keep watching. Those ladies crack me up! Josh: Family Guy. I love that show, but I have to watch it by myself. It’s definitely not for kids. I can’t let my kids watch it with me so I have to go downstairs by myself to be able to enjoy it. Score: Josh 2, alison 2. Family Guy does not require a quick channel switch when someone enters the room. But TRHONJ? you need to make sure no one is home and lock the doors before watching, and mute it when you pick up the phone.

What is the first R rated movie you saw without an adult? Alison: I think it was Kevin Smith’s Mallrats, but we didn’t see it in the theater. My friend rented it and we watched it at her house after school when her parents weren’t home. It started a tradition for us, renting all the Kevin Smith movies as they came out and watching them on our own. It felt kind of dangerous because the language they use is so raunchy and so excessive we knew our parents would never be okay with it. In fact, I think my parents had confiscated Clerks from us, which is why we had to wait and watch it at my friend’s house. Josh: Saw. Saw was good until they started getting out of hand and started making like Saw 5, Saw 6. They kind of dragged it out a little bit. I thought after three they were done. But they kept going on and I was like, I’m done. I can’t keep going on. Final score: alison 3, Josh 2. come on, Josh...you do know that at 17 you can watch r-rated flicks. Saw came out when you were almost 19.

jon CoopEr #10 and loiS Elfman #40

Danny Bollinger (3); Scott cunningham/nBae/getty imageS; FerDauS Shamim/Wireimage

10/9/12 4:24 PM


first five

By Jim EichEnhofEr #12

The list of the top 10 scoring averages at the 2012 Olympic Games featured household names such as Kevin Durant, Pau Gasol and Carmelo Anthony. It also included three-time NBA titlists Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. The man at the very top of the group, however, has started a grand total of three games over his three-year NBA tenure.1 The Olympicsleading scoring average of 21.2 ppg came from a man who’s scored more than 21 points in an NBA game only three times—and two of those outings came in the final pair of regular season contests at the end of last year. Patty Mills may not boast the pro credentials of the world’s most well-known players,2 but if his performance this summer for Australia was any indication, the 6-foot, 185-pound point guard could be on the verge of a breakthrough. The 24-year-old native of Canberra, Australia, authored the most eyeopening effort of anyone in London.3 “Patty Mills just seems to get better and better,” praised Kobe Bryant after Team USA needed a second-half surge to repel Australia in the Olympic quarterfinals. “Every time we face them and every time I see him, he seems to improve.” You had to be paying close attention, but there were signs this past spring. As teams readied for the postseason, Mills poured in 27 and 34 points, respectively, in late-April wins over the Suns and Warriors.4 “He’s learning how to be a point guard and a leader,” assesses Spurs assistant coach Brett Brown, who also happened to be Australia’s head coach at the Olympics. “I feel like he can contribute at a higher level in San Antonio.”5

BONUs POiNTs 1. He came off the bench in all 74 of his appearances over his first two seasons with the Portland trail Blazers. 2. Mills was drafted in the second round (55th overall) after playing collegiately at St. Mary’s in California. 3. He sank a game-winning three-pointer to beat russia, two days after scoring an olympic record 39 points against host Great Britain. 4. at 50-16, San antonio secured the Western Conference’s best record. 5. an unrestricted free agent, Mills was re-signed by the Spurs to a two-year contract.

Evan GolE/nBaE/GEtty iMaGES

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8

Patty

Mills

Guard - San antonio SPurS

021

10/9/12 4:27 PM


jump ball head 2 head

Kevin love vs. blake Griffin the two are pretty tight with one another so we feel bad that we have to draw lines between kevin love and Blake Griffin. We have little choice, really. the two are the forefront of young power forwards in the nBa today, so we took it upon ourselves to make the call on which burgeoning 20-10 forward is the best.

01

02

Scoring: If this were a dunk contest, it’d be a non-discussion. Griffin’s missed dunks generate more YouTube views than Love’s best throwdowns. On the flipside, if this were a three-point contest, Love would shoot circles around Griffin—even if he were hoisting from halfcourt. So while each guy excels in one of the two most exciting offensive plays in basketball, there’s much more to scoring than dunks and treys. The knock on Griffin has been his lack of diversification on his offensive portfolio. He’s got a few pet moves that he turns to: the little baseline spin and dunk, the catch-the-ball-in-midtransition and dunk, the putback dunk and the ever dependable jump over/through defender and dunk. Sarcasm aside, Griffin needs to expand his game beyond shots where he touches the rim (or throws the ball through it). But let’s not be so hasty in the Blake backlash. He is, after all, just entering his third full season (he missed his entire rookie year to rehab from injury). As is, he’s still pretty effective at getting points at an obvious high percentage. But something as simple as a 10-15 foot jumper would do wonders for his scoring average. Same goes for an improvement on his dubious free-throw shooting. Love is pretty well-rounded offensively, even for today’s power forward standards. Outside of Dirk Nowitzki, few bigs can shoot the rock like Love who owns a three-point percentage that would make many guards jelly. His strong work on the offensive boards gives him plenty of easy gimme layups or free throws. A knock on him might be his lack of a post game as he prefers to face the basket. But, like with most players, that’ll probably be the last thing to develop. Advantage: love

Floor Game: Like many new-breed power forwards, Love is more than just the bruising rebounder of years past. He is an above-average passer and handles the ball well enough to get by his man. Where he is a throwback is something that doesn’t usually show up in the boxscore: the outlet pass. Like the man whose name was the inspiration behind Love’s middle name, Wes Unseld, Love is one of the masters of the trigger pass to a fastbreak. He’ll rarely get credited for the assist, but those precise passes he zips to the outlet man often lead to scores. The other unheralded part of Love’s game is his effective screening. He’ll use his big body to pin down opponents, freeing up teammates. When Griffin was picked with the No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft, the Clippers and every NBA team knew he was raw and not very skilled. He was drafted first for all the things that cannot be taught: his package of size and speed and ability to elevate and play above the rim. The skills can be taught later. As a passer he’s more effective with his back to the basket and not so much when he faces up, likely because many times he just commits to going to the basket and stops seeing the court. Players might fear getting “Blaked” by Griffin around the rim, but if he ever puts the ball on the floor, they pounce on him like piranha to bleeding prey due to his suspect ballhandling. On a bright note, there is no one in Griffin’s size or position (unless you count LeBron) who can fill a lane and finish in transition better. And he’s not simply a runaway truck; Griffin is pretty nimble, able to spin and sidestep defenders and still get good vertical height for a finish. Still, this is another lopsided win for Love. Advantage: love

Kevin love Forward, 6-10, 260 pounds minnesota timberwolves

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03 Defense: For a guy blessed with 6-10 height and jumping beans in his knees, Griffin is not much of a shotblocker (not that you need either to be one). Some critics point to his lack a T-Rex-like wingspan, but it’s probably more an effort thing than physical. Having DeAndre Jordan next to him playing that role might make Griffin more focused on getting out in transition. What Griffin does do pretty well is guard the pick-and-roll, especially on switches where his lateral mobility allows him to keep up with perimeter players. But for a guy blessed with so many physical gifts, Griffin tends to rely on refs too often, opting for flops instead of real challenges at the ball. Love has improved his defense greatly as his gradual trimming of baby fat since becoming an NBA player has helped his lateral movement. Like his offensive game, Love also plays under the rim on defense, preferring to swipe down at ballhanders or step in for charges, rather than challenging them in the air. On pick-and-rolls, Love will hedge a bit, sometimes too much, allowing for shooters with space. That said, he’s very smart on defense and knows his limitations. What they both do well (but Love does to a better degree) is rebound. While it’s easy to consider Love the more obvious elite boardman because of his 15.3 average two seasons ago (his 13.3 mark last season wasn’t too shabby either), Griffin is almost as good when you consider he snags 17.8 percent of the rebounds when he’s on the floor, compared to Love’s 19. Results withstanding, Love is superior because of his obsessive technique (rebounding students: Take heed of how Love always looks for a body to box out once the shot is up, and his quick decisions to pick a spot on the rim based on the trajectory). Advantage: love D. Clarke evans/nBae/Getty ImaGes

10/10/12 2:01 PM


By Ming Wong #2

Blake griffin Forward, 6-10, 251 pounds Los Angeles clippers 04 Intangibles: It’s never easy to gauge this category (hence the name) but we’ll try. Love is a product of having been around the game since an early age. His father, Stan, was a former NBA player and exposed him to tapes of Larry Bird and other NBA players at an early age. The result is a basketball game and mind honed from years of preparation. While not blessed with tools like Griffin’s that make scouts drool, Love makes up for it in his cerebral approach to basketball. Last year Love showed a developing penchant for clutch, hitting a memorable gamewinning three at the buzzer and carrying the team in the final moments. Griffin’s otherworldly attributes, while gaining admiration and awe from onlookers, also open him up to criticism (guilty as charged) since things can look so easy for him. But beyond those “Mozgov” and “Ka-Pau!” dunks lies a very competitive person who’s striving to improve, no surprise given his father who was a basketball coach, and a big brother who used to overshadow him. You can see the competitiveness come out when he sees the rim and refuses to let anyone or anything get in his way. It’s that same fire that can one day drive him to reach the potential that he is just surfacing at. Advantage: griffin

05 Leadership: Love is the de facto leader of the Timberwolves based on his tenure with the franchise and being their best player. Even the arrival of Brandon Roy this season won’t change things much. Love is the voice the team rallies around and with each passing year, he gains more respect. He can occasionally speak his mind too frankly, but that’s the case because everyone is paying attention to him. Beginning just his third season playing in the NBA and with an established point guard like Chris Paul means Griffin cedes some leadership duties. But leadership isn’t always the obvious, in-your-face, rah-rah type of stuff you see in movies. Griffin’s role on the Clippers is to provide levity to the locker room. One of the funniest guys in the League who’s not afraid to show it off (Griffin has almost as many comedic videos on the Internet as dunk videos), Griffin keeps the Clippers relaxed despite the scrutiny that comes with playing in a big market that competes with the Lakers. Too different styles, but right now, it’s Love. Advantage: Love

PPG

APG

RPG

BPG

SPG

FG%

3PT%

FT%

PER

Love

26.0

2.0

13.3

0.5

0.8

44.8

37.2

82.4

25.4

Griffin

20.7

3.2

10.9

0.7

0.8

54.9

12.5

52.1

23.4

Based on 2011-12 stats

The Verdict Like a carom off the glass, Love uses his technique and smarts to outmaneuver Griffin for the title of best young forward stud. But here’s the thing: Although Love wins in blowout fashion, the ceiling for Griffin remains high. Love will see improvement with time, but for the most part, he’s at his peak production (a testament to his hard work that’s he’s done it so quickly). Griffin, on the other hand, while a notch or two below Love now, can one day surpass him with the addition of a jumper, a commitment to defense, and better form at the line. It’d be interesting to revisit this matchup in a few years because of this, and also because these two will likely be the two best forwards in the NBA.

Andrew d. Bernstein; steve smith; JuAn OcAmPO/nBAe/Getty imAGes

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10/10/12 2:01 PM


juMp Ball By Brett Mauser #25

Derrick

FavOrS FOrWarD - Utah jazz

first five

15

Some draft picks make a mental note of which teams passed up on them; for Derrick Favors, the Georgia Tech product1 who was third off the board in 2010,2 it was a trade just 56 games into his pro career that intensified his desire to carve out a name for himself. In February 2011 as the trade deadline loomed, the Nets rookie was all over the sports news shows—not on the highlights, but as a major chip in major trade talks. He was just getting to know the folks at the local donut spot. However, when the Knicks traded for Carmelo Anthony on Feb. 22, Favors knew he wasn’t going to Denver. He thought he wasn’t going anywhere. Two days later, though, Favors’s bags were packed as he was sent to Utah as part of the deal that brought Deron Williams to New Jersey.3 “I was kind of surprised and mad at the same time,” Favors recalls. “It’s only added motivation for me to be able to come to the game, get the ball and score and make plays whenever I want to.” The Jazz got a taste of Favors when he registered 10 double-doubles in the final 23 games of the regular season, including a 23-point, 17-rebound night in beating Golden State.4 The surge continued into the first round of the playoffs when he averaged 11.8 points and 9.5 rebounds against San Antonio. “I like to play in big games,” Favors says. “I just tried to go out, play hard and do everything I could to help us win.” There would be no winning—the Spurs swept the series5—but, like Favors, Utah is poised to make the jump in the Western Conference, featuring one of the League’s up-and-coming frontcourts in Favors, Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and offseason acquisition Marvin Williams. “We’re all different players who can do a lot of different things,” Favors says. “We’re looking to have a good season, get back to the playoffs, and get past the first round.” 024

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BONUS POINTS 1. the yellow jackets are more known for their point guard alumni—Mark Price, kenny anderson, travis Best, stephon Marbury—but between john salley and chris Bosh, the frontcourt grads have the edge in titles. 2. Before Favors went third to the Nets in 2010, Washington selected kentucky product john Wall first overall, and then Philadelphia drafted evan turner out of Ohio state. two picks later, the kings took Wall’s college teammate, DeMarcus cousins, who played with Favors in the 2009 McDonald’s all-american game. 3. Utah acquired Favors, Devin harris, two first-round picks and cash by dealing Williams, who averaged 21.0 ppg and 8.7 apg in his first full season with the Nets. Williams was also part of team Usa that won Olympic gold in london. 4. in his first full season in Utah, Favors averaged 8.8 points and 6.5 rebounds while also registering one block per game.in the six regular-season games in which Favors logged 30 or more minutes, the jazz were 5-1. 5. the spurs won the four games by an average of 16 points.

Melissa Majchrzak/NBae/Getty iMaGes

10/9/12 4:27 PM


IS A 30-WAY TIE FOR FIRST PLACE.

GO TO NBA.COM TO SEE

NBABrand.indd 1

ALL SEASON LONG

10/10/12 9:39 AM


JUMP BALL

Who’s bigger, you or Earl Boykins? I got Earl! I’ll power Earl, no contest. That YouTube video from the set of Think Like A Man against Shannon Brown and your MVP showing from the All-Star Celebrity Game showed the world you can play. Who would you compare your game to? If I had to be honest about it, I’m probably like a Deron Williams or Derrick Rose because I’m pretty vicious man. I’m small, but physical. I know how to control the ball. People fear me, cause that’s what it’s about. I give that energy off: “Fear me, I’m real!” What else do we expect from you before 2012 is up? I’m a series regular on Modern Family. I have my stand-up tour Let Me Explain, which is doing amazing and my company HartBeat Productions is producing our first movie, Quick & Easy, that I will be starring in, so it will be a big year.

CELEB ROW

KEVIN HART Don’t let Kevin Hart’s Muggsy Bogues frame (actually, at 5-4, Hart has an inch on Bogues) fool you, the actor/comedian is a huge basketball fan. Raised in the City of Brotherly Love, his passion for the game runs deep. Hart has established a reputation for making people laugh, in films like Think Like A Man, the TV show Modern Family, and even Jordan Brand commercials with Dwyane Wade. But make no mistake, he takes his basketball very seriously. Just ask Phoenix Suns guard Shannon Brown. What happened after your show at the University of Connecticut back in January? The women’s basketball team was there. They said they were fans and wanted to come back and say hi. I had my assistant go grab them, they came back and me being silly, I just started talking trash to them. In talking trash to them one thing lead to another and they said “We got access to the gym, 24 hours.” I said “Well let’s get access then,” and we set it up and had a 5-on-5. Me the other two comedians that travel with me and both my assistants played them. Then what happened? These girls beat us four games, they beat us 11-3, 114, 11-5, the last game was 11-8. Bottom line is this: I’ll be the first to say, as a man who can play basketball, I didn’t really respect women to be competitive with men. I really didn’t. I figured: Yeah, they can play, but if I get out there and I start really playing, they don’t want that problem. I’m a man! These women can play basketball, I’m not talking about in a girly way, they know the game of basketball. They were running plays on us—pick-and-rolls, zone defense—it was disgusting! They’re a team! They beat the [crap] out of us, man! 026

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Who is your favorite NBA team? I’m from Philadelphia, so everything is Sixers. They’re looking like they’re on the come-up... We are and it’s scary. I don’t like talking about it because this is when the Sixers will do something like trade somebody. We wait till we’re doing amazing and then say, “Maybe we should get rid of our starting five?” That’s how dumb the Sixers are. I don’t like acknowledging the good that we can do, because this is when we do dumb. I’m hoping that our GM and the rest of the Philadelphia staff realize that we have a young team that’s jelling and playing together and can potentially be a force to be reckoned with in the League within a couple of years to come, so hopefully they keep it together. Any particular 76ers memories over the years? I was raised when Dr. J was Mr. Philadelphia, when Charles Barkley was Mr. Philadelphia, Moses Malone—I’m familiar with those days because of my dad. My dad was a Sixers fan, so that’s how I got to be a Sixers fan. And when we got Allen Iverson, it was like the biggest thing ever. Him and Jerry Stackhouse—I thought were going to be the biggest thing that hit sports in history. And well we came close, they gave me glimpses of greatness and I’m happy for that, but now, I need more. I’m an adult, I put my years in, I need a world championship. I believe that the city of Philadelphia will bring it to me. If you were playing 2-on-2 against your kids and you had to pick another “little big man” from the NBA past or present, who would it be? Earl Boykins. Yeah, that way it’s fair, I can’t go too big, I got to keep it simple. Earl Boykins will be the same size as my kids.

Most memorable experience you had at an NBA game? Two years ago in the playoffs. Lakers against the Hornets, Game 5. Me, Jeremy Piven, David Beckham sitting courtside. Kobe Bryant’s dunk—on Emeka Okafor—in front of my face. It was disgusting! How did the D-Wade Jordan commercials come about? I was in the right place at the right time. I have great relationships with Jordan Brand. They asked me to do something for them, I agreed, it turned out being amazing. What’s your favorite sneaker commercial of all time? Got to go Spike Lee and Michael Jordan with Mars Blackmon. The way it came across on camera was amazing. As a child growing up, that’s what Jordans were about, that’s what the commercials were about, that’s made it amazing. Besides the Sixers, is there another team that has your attention? I got great relationships on Miami between Dwyane, LeBron and [Chris] Bosh. I’m a guy that goes and roots for the people that everybody says bad things about. The team has talent, I love the decision that they made, I would love to see them get [another] one. Against? It would be great to see Kobe Bryant go up against LeBron or Dwyane, but I don’t think the Lakers can get there. It might be OKC. Are you still sticking to your promise of not partying with ballers? No, my bank account is a little better now. I can handle it. DUANE WATSON #7 JACK ARENT/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

10/9/12 4:24 PM


Numerology

$67,500,000

553

the amount Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss agreed to pay for the team, along with the Los Angeles Kings, the Forum and a 13,000-acre ranch from Jack Kent Cooke in 1979.

the number of days since Brandon Roy last stepped on an NBA floor, spanning from April 28, 2011, to the Timberwolves’ first 2012-13 game on November 2.

$82,269,160 The combined annual salaries of the lakers starting five of Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, metta World Peace, Pau gasol and Dwight Howard for 2012-13.

33 The number of All-Star selections combined between the quintet. 8 the number of seasons it’s been since the Minnesota Timberwolves made the playoffs in 2003-04, currently the longest drought in the NBA. The Spurs have made a postseason appearance in each of the past 15 seasons, the longest active streak.

55

the number of years it’s been since Brooklyn has had a professional sports franchise, which ends this season with the Nets’ move to NY’s most populous borough.

1311 the number of combined games played by Kurt Thomas and Marcus Camby since they last suited up together as Knicks in 2001-02. At 40, Thomas is the oldest player in the NBA, while Camby is sixth oldest at age 38.

70,000 lbs.

THe WeigHT of THe THree-STory, HD jumBoTroN HaNgiNg iN THe BarclayS ceNTer, THe NeW Home of THe BrooKlyN NeTS. COMPiLED BY PHiL D’APOLiTO #14

H1112-Numerology.indd 27

6 the number of players selected from the University of Kentucky in the 2012 NBA Draft: (L-R) Doron Lamb, Terrence Jones, Anthony Davis, Michael KiddGilchrist, Marquis Teague and Darius Miller (not pictured). It was the most draftees from one school since the NBA Draft went to two rounds.

3

the number of active players from the 1994 draft—Grant Hill, Jason Kidd and Juwan Howard (a free agent as of presstime). No one drafted before ’94 is still in the League.

32

the number of nationally televised games (TNT, ESPN, ABC, NBATV) set for the New York Knicks in 2012-13, most in the League, followed by Miami (31), Oklahoma City and L.A. Clippers (tied; 30). 027

10/9/12 4:35 PM


Jump Ball first five

By Jon Cooper #10

A quarterback mentality is a good thing for a point guard. Norris Cole’s use of that mentality, however, is a little different. He can deliver the ball effectively to teammates,1 but Cole best used his quarterback instincts to withstand contact. His specialty was drawing charges.2 “I played football so I’m not afraid of contact, being able to stand in there and take the hit,” says Cole. “In order to win a championship and be on a team like the Miami Heat3 you have to be tough and be willing to make those types of plays. We have a lot of scoring already.4 We have shooting.5 We have guys that can rebound and jump and be athletic. We have to be able to contribute in other ways. That was another way that I felt that I could contribute.” His hard-nosed approach earned him his place on the team, but he always felt he belonged. He put aside his initial admiration of the Heat’s star-studded roster, especially fellow Ohioan LeBron James. “As soon as I got down there I snapped out of it because I’m a competitor myself,” says the Dayton, Ohio, native and former Horizon League Player and Defensive Player of the Year at Cleveland State. “I realized we’re teammates. They’re going to expect me to perform at my highest level and I can’t be performing at my highest level when I’m star-gazing.” Cole never saw stars, not even after taking all those charges—and he took some big ones.6 His fearlessness impressed teammates. “He’s a tough kid,” says Heat forward Shane Battier, one of the NBA’s masters at taking the charge. “As he grows and learns how to run the point guard position offensively he’s going to be a handful because he competes.” Cole has learned he doesn’t have to stand up to stand out7 and promises to be even stronger in ’12-13. He began working out about 10 days after the Finals ended and hasn’t stopped. Something Heat opponents should consider when they drive into the paint.

BoNUS PoINTS 1. Cole’s six assists in the fourth quarter against Charlotte on New Year’s day last year tied LeBron James for the Heat season-high for most dimes in a quarter. He set his career-high with nine assists in the game. 2. during the regular season, only forwards udonis Haslem (25), shane Battier (19) and center Joel anthony (8), all at least 6-8, 225, took more charges than the 6-2, 175 Cole (7). during the 2012 postseason, only Battier (10), Haslem (4) and starting point Mario Chalmers (4) took more charges than Cole (3, tied with forward Mike Miller). the Heat drew 33 charges during the postseason to 10 for opponents. 3. Norris got to Miami via a pair of draft-night trades. He was originally drafted by Chicago with the 28th pick. they traded his rights to Minnesota, which, in turn, dealt his rights to Miami. “once i heard my name called, to be honest, it didn’t really matter about all the other trades,” he says. “But then once i heard i was going to Miami, that was great.” 4. Cole was able to score as well. He needed only two games to score 20 in a game, doing so 12/27/12 against Boston. He tied Kevin edwards (11/8/88 at dallas) for the fastest to 20 by a Heat rookie. 5. especially since the Heat inked the NBa’s all-time leader in three-pointers made, ray allen, during the offseason. 6. Cole says the hardest and biggest charge he drew last season came in the first quarter of Game 5 of the Finals against oKC’s James Harden. on the ensuing possession, Cole took a pass from James and buried a three, extending a six-point lead to nine. 7. Cole’s flat-top hair cut earned him some attention last season. He wore the cut in college to stand out, and in tribute to his dad, then brought it back for the Finals. He expects to wear it all season.

30

Norris

Cole

Guard - MiaMi Heat

028

H1112-First Five.indd 28

10/9/12 4:28 PM


Untitled-5 1

10/10/12 3:50 PM


JUMP BALL BRACK-IT

EIGHT THINGS. ONE UNDISPUTED CHAMP.

Which Player Has The Most To Prove This Season?

DWIGHT HOWARD VS. CARLOS BOOZER In a way, it feels like Dwight Howard is just starting his NBA career. The national Dwightmare lasted so long that it seems to have retroactively wiped out his entire time with the Orlando Magic— something which his former coach Stan Van Gundy possibly would have welcomed. And with Howard landing on the Lakers and just coming off of back surgery, the intrigue is almost as high as it was when Dwight was trying to orchestrate a trade to Houston, er, Brooklyn, um, Los Angeles. In comparison, Carlos Boozer trying to lead the Derrick Rose-less Bulls and avoid being amnestied (do the Bulls really want him to end up in Miami for cheap?) isn’t even Page 5 news. Dwight in a walk.

JOE JOHNSON VS. RAJON RONDO Look, Joe Johnson will never actually earn his contract. To be fair, a gene-spliced hybrid of 1962 Oscar Robertson and 1988 Michael Jordan probably couldn’t earn Joe Johnson’s contract. But he still finds himself getting a fresh start in Brooklyn alongside Deron Williams, where at least he won’t have the same load to carry. Meanwhile, in Boston, the Big Three are down one, allegedly in part because Doc Rivers vowed to turn the team over to Rajon Rondo. Which makes sense, since Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are getting a little creaky. Both of these Atlantic Division guards have something to prove, but seeing that Rondooooo has proven himself more most recently, it’s Joe Johnson moving on.

KOBE BRYANT VS. RUSSELL WESTBROOK You wouldn’t think Kobe Bryant would have anything to prove anymore. Seventeen years in, he has five NBA titles, two Finals MVPs, is still easily one of the top 10 players in the League, and is an absolute lock for the Hall of Fame. Then again, this is Kobe Bryant we’re talking about. The comparisons to Michael Jordan shouldn’t end with Kobe’s play—he’s equally good at inventing conflict. Not winning a title seems to reset Kobe’s mindset to back before he won any. But given his mileage and wear and tear (and new teammates), can he take a step back, cede some glory to Steve Nash and Howard? As for Westbrook, all he really needs to do is learn to develop better chemistry with that tall, skinny #35 guy. After all, this is their fifth year playing together, and as the PG, it’s on RB to bring things together. Don’t worry, Kobe, you got this one. CARMELO ANTHONY VS. JEREMY LIN No, this isn’t the title of last year’s Knicks season wrap-up DVD. That said, it’s a pretty compelling story. On the one hand, you have Carmelo Anthony, the latest in a long line of would-be Knicks saviors cashing huge checks and not winning much come spring. The media and the fan base can turn on him at any moment, and as the anointed “next one”—by the ravenous New York media, anyway—it’s win or else. Then there’s Jeremy Lin, who went from the feel-good story of the year and no-brainer Knicks point guard of the future to, well, Houston Rocket. Apparently the Knicks would match any contract offer except the one he actually signed. Now as the showpiece of the team, will Lin keep fans Linsane? This is a close one, but as always, the ball goes to Melo. 030

H1112-Brackit.indd 30

KEVORK DJANSEZIAN; HARRY HOW; ANDY LYONS/GETTY IMAGES SPORT; JOE MURPHY; STEVEN FREEMAN; NATHANIEL S. BUTLER; ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN; BILL BAPTIST/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

10/10/12 11:49 AM


DWIGHT HOWARD VS. JOE JOHNSON Here we have a pair of All-Stars who switched teams (and divisions) this past offseason, which is pretty much where the similarities end. Joe Johnson helps kick off the Nets’ inaugural season in Brooklyn, playing for a team that hasn’t won anything since the last time they played in New York. Dwight? He gets to join the Lakers—and yes, play with Kobe and Steve Nash and Pau Gasol—and follow in the footsteps of Shaq, Kareem and Wilt. Yes, it’s still Kobe’s team. For now, anyway. But the pressure to win starts right away, if not sooner. Good luck, Dwight— you’re gonna need it. But on the bright side, you just made it to a finals.

BY RUSS BENGTSON #43

DWIGHT HOWARD VS. CARMELO ANTHONY The thing about being “next in line” in the NBA—or any professional sport—is that you might never actually get to take that last step. Just ask Patrick Ewing or Karl Malone. Or LeBron up until June 2012. And given the possible domination and relative youth of the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder, there’s a chance that neither Carmelo Anthony nor Dwight Howard ever win anything, let alone next season. That said, Dwight is going to be under a bigger microscope than anyone else in the NBA next season. On a new team, off a major injury, and with a new reputation as a malcontent, Dwight has as much personal rebuilding to do as LeBron did post-Decision. And he has to do it with a franchise whose rafters are filled with championship banners and retired numbers of great centers. The question isn’t whether Dwight has more to prove than anyone else in the NBA next season as much as it is does he have more to prove than anyone else in the NBA ever?

PLAYER WITH MOST TO PROVE THIS SEASON: DWIGHT HOWARD

KOBE BRYANT VS. CARMELO ANTHONY On some level, Carmelo Anthony must look at Kobe Bryant and wish he could have had his career. Too bad not everyone can start out on a team with the most dominant center of his generation. That said, Melo doesn’t appear to share Kobe’s all-encompassing drive. Whatever gene there is that produces a feeling of satisfaction, Kobe doesn’t seem to have it. He does the opposite of rationalization—he invents reasons why he can feel terrible. But hey, at least Kobe has won. Until Melo does the same, he’ll always be in that “next” group. Whether he actually cares or not is a whole other question. Rest easy (or not), Kobe—it’s Melo’s turn.

KEVORK DJANSEZIAN; CHRIS CHAMBERS/GETTY IMAGES SPORT; NOAH GRAHAM(3); STEVEN FREEMAN; NATHANIEL S. BUTLER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

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10/10/12 11:49 AM


JuMp Ball By Jeff Min #12 first five

KENNETH

FARIED

DENvEr NuggETs - ForwarD

35

After being drafted 22nd overall by the Denver Nuggets, it was almost a given that rookie Kenneth Faried would be spending a majority of his playing time learning the NBA ropes. After all, it’s not often late first-round picks get much burn, especially those who play behind established centers like Nene. That rite of passage, however, would take an unexpected turn with a midseason trade. In an unexpected trade deadline deal, the Nuggets shipped Nene to Washington,1 leaving Denver with a gaping hole at the power forward position. They looked to Faried to fill the void. “It was a big shocker because [Nene] was one of the leaders on the team,” says Faried on his initial reaction to the trade. “He had just signed a new contract2…the play and leadership he brings…it shocked me.” It was clear that Denver was looking to the future with Faried, and the news didn’t keep him shellshocked for long. He accepted the challenge, and has stepped up in a big way. In his first year, Faried was as good as any of his donut-fetching peers. Amongst rooks he finished in the top-10 in rebounds, points, blocks and field-goal percentage, all while only averaging 22 minutes per game.3 In Denver’s playoff series against the Lakers,4 Faried was a consistent force down low and helped push the series to seven games. The magical run fell short, but it showed just how much of a matchup nightmare Faried is. He runs the court like a guard, crashes the boards like a big, and—most importantly—plays efficiently within a system that rewards effort. “What he has is a knack for making an energy play when it counts,” head coach George Karl says. “He has that energy that as the game fatigues, he doesn’t.” His high motor and swinging dreadlocks have earned him the nickname “Manimal,”5 which can be found on T-shirts in the Pepsi Center, where he is a fan favorite. The Nuggets surprised many folks last season with their enthusiastic young roster and things are looking Mile-High6 in Denver, especially with a full season of Manimal slotted. “I’m just going to stay focused on what I have to do,” Faried adds. “That’s getting better, staying in the gym late like I always do, staying after practice, and staying focused.”

BONUS POINTS 1. In the deal the Nuggets acquired Javale Mcgee and ronny Turiaf. 2. Prior to the 2011-12 season, Nene inked a five-year extension. 3. among rookies, Faried was ranked 14th in minutes per game. 4. Faried averaged 10 rpg against the Lakers—three more than his regular season average, which is impressive for the 6-8 Faried, considering L.a.’s big frontline duo of 7-footers andrew Bynum and Pau gasol. 5. Manimal also happened to be the name of a short-lived 1983 Tv series about a crime-fighting hero who would turn into an animal. 6. The potential is high for this young Nuggets squad. aside from andre Iguodala and andre Miller, the most experienced players on the team are Corey Brewer and wilson Chandler, both with six years of tenure.

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10/9/12 4:28 PM


PeriPheral Vision

LeO CHAng And JAsOn PetrIe

five years ago, 99 percent of basketball shoes were made of leather. Now, 90 percent isn’t leather. It’s all these new composite materials and a great shift away from traditional leathers and we’re just looking to push innovation on that front. In the past, it used to be about “Is it the air bubble?” or “Is it the Shox?” or whatever it is. It’s everything and that’s been our approach and we’re finding solutions and new innovations across the entire shoe. While most squads are jockeying for a “big three,” nike Basketball has been doing fine with its “big two” of Leo Chang and Jason Petrie. Collectively and respectively, What do you think is next for footwear? the basketball footwear design director and basketball designer have almost two decades of experience at the swoosh. during that time, they have been crafting Jason: I think heat for the signature lines of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin durant. intelligence is probably Oh, and Chang also is the architect behind the innovative nike Hyperdunk and what’s coming. How do Hyperfuse. With their fingerprints all over nike Basketball’s dnA, they share some you start to learn from the insight on their jobs, their process and their favorites. shoe? How can there be a sharing of information, from your body to the shoe, back to the user? How can How does designing footwear for an athlete differ you translate that and make improvements to your from working on a regular shoe? game and footwear? So I think the next wave is going Jason: That’s your fuel. With a shoe that’s not to be that kind of artificial intelligence, computerlinked to an athlete, we still link it to sport or maybe aided, augmented, kind of man and machine coming an athlete we’re watching. It just depends on what together. problem you’re trying to solve. We’re always looking Favorite shoe that you’ve personally designed? at an athlete of some sort or style of play, but with LeBron, it’s about LeBron, through and through, Jason: I’ll probably say the first LeBron that I worked from start to finish, whether it’s personality, game, on, the LeBron 7. Just because that was a real big mentality—all that kind of stuff fused in. moment in my career and obviously coming together Is designing for an athlete more about catering to with an athlete like LeBron is super special. I grew their needs over your own? up drawing sneakers for fun, and I’d be doing this probably at night after I got home from work anyway. Jason: Absolutely. LeBron may say, “I want a So to be able to do it, and to make a living and interact pinwheel on top of it.” If that’s something he feels he with not only an amazing team at Nike, but with needs to play better, then he’ll have it. He will say, athletes like LeBron or Amar’e or Chris Bosh, it’s really “Can you make this lighter? Can you give me a little inspiring. It’s really amazing and that shoe is really more support here?” or “What if the swoosh was kind of a huge culmination of those things for me. here?”—those kind of things. So really it makes it easier, cause you’re not driving it. It’s driven by him; Leo: If I were to choose one shoe, probably the you use sensibilities as a designer to make it work. original Hyperfuse was one of my proudest moments. Any interesting design requests from athletes? Just being able to work internally with our innovation team and just the purity of that design. Really bringing Leo: We do a really good job of listening to the voice that to life in its purest execution of this incredible, of the athlete, which is Nike’s mantra anyway. For us, durable mesh upper and it’s a new innovation. Even we embrace that stuff and we actually sometimes to this day, a lot of people still wear it and like it, so I surprise the athletes where we take it. As designers thought that was pretty cool. from a performance standpoint, we’re always looking What’s your favorite shoe of all time? to solve problems. What’s been the biggest tech advancement that’s Jason: Favorite shoe of all-time is Jordan III, just like helped the design of footwear? pretty much everyone else who grew up with Michael Jordan, but that’s kind of a boring answer. I’ve been Leo: For us in basketball it was interesting—four or

saying it long before it was cool. Are you finding athletes are more in tune with the design process, or do they just leave it to you guys? Leo: It depends on the athlete, they each bring a little something different. They each grow different. KD started out really quiet, but now he’s started learning the process a bit more. Last summer, when he was doing his China tour, we actually stopped by the factory that was making his shoes. So he got to see his shoes on the line and he was like “Whoa!” and sat next to some of the factory workers and took pictures with them. That experience helped him understand the process a little bit more. So each year, they get sharper because they know more about our process. Jason: They’re all kind of interested one way or another. If you listen to Kobe, he could almost be a designer. He’s that into technologies, he knows what he wants, and he brings in the outside influences. To where KD is learning and young and Leo is actually teaching him in effect and bringing him along. Before long he’ll probably be the same way as Kobe is. Leo: [Durant] is already dropping some crazy stuff on me. Now he’s like, “I want this inspiration, this and this,” and I’m like, “Yeah, keep it coming, man.” The last several shoes have got more insightful for him and more and more personal. We want them to feel like they own it. Everything about it is so personal, that’s our goal, that’s the point of signature. Jason: That’s when I think we’ve done our job well, when athletes love it and feel that connection to it. That’s the best feeling for us as a designer. How does it feel when you see other athletes wear signature product? Leo: We know that if one athlete is thinking about this type of product that they want, it’s probably applicable to many. Sometimes it can be a far-fetched idea like the Kobe IV being a low top. At that time it was absurd, who wants to wear a low-top basketball shoe? Steve Nash had been wearing it, but you get a guy like Kobe. It just opens up people’s eyes, “He’s playing in a low? Let me try that out.” It’s really just capturing those special insights from our athletes and thinking that can be a broader appeal to other athletes, too. Jason: Sometimes players just want to rep players they’re friends with. I know LeBron’s shoes are a little more specific, so you see less guys wearing that. But KD has made a huge crossover, where you even have Amar’e wearing KDs. I know that’s a cool flip that I never expected, but I think it’s just a testament to how good the shoes are. When a player is willing to wear another player’s logo in order to feel good on the court, that just means you’re making incredible shoes when you have those other guys wearing it. Leo: It is funny when you see guys wearing Kobes playing against Kobe. He’s probably like “I owned you in my own sneakers, son!” Duane Watson #7 033

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10/10/12 4:10 PM


JUMP BALL FIRST FIVE

There have been a lot of twists and turns in Gerald Green’s basketball career. But the winding road from high school phenom1 to playing for five different NBA teams2 has led Green to the Indiana Pacers, where he feels right at home. “Everything I’ve been through has gotten me ready for this,” says Green, who signed with the Pacers in July after a productive3 half season with the Nets last year. “It was good to come here and get with a group of guys who are young and talented and are eager to win. This is the same group that gave Miami a run for their money.4 Since I’ve been here…everyone has been willing to help and everybody wants each other to get better.” With Green’s athleticism, he believes he will be able to fill multiple roles with the Pacers, including playing the two and three spots. Either way, the 6-8 leaper is excited to contribute and is raring to go this season. Since being drafted out of Gulf Shores Academy in Houston in 2005, he admits his NBA career has been sort of an afterthought,5 aside from his showstealing6 windmill7 dunks. Yet, it was what he learned playing overseas8 and earning the NBA D-League All-Star MVP award9 in February that has kept him motivated to make it back to the NBA. “When I entered the Development League and went to the Los Angeles D-Fenders,10 that was one of the most humbling experiences for me because that was actually the first time I was scrambling for a job and just scrambling to finish out my dream, which is to play professional basketball. At that point I told myself I was never going to give up and if I can get through this, I can get through anything.” BONUS POINTS 1. With the 18th overall pick, Boston drafted Green in 2005 out of high school. 2. He’s also played for the Timberwolves, Rockets, Mavericks and Nets. 3. In Green’s 31 games with the New Jersey Nets last season, he averaged 12.9 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. 4. In the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Pacers were up 2-1 against the Miami Heat before losing three straight games. 5. In his career, Green has averaged 8.3 points and 2.2 rebounds. 6. Green’s aerial creativity earned him the 2007 Slam Dunk Contest title. A year later, one of the most popular came when he blew out a candle on a cupcake mid-air during a twohanded slam. However, that year he was upstaged by Dwight Howard’s Superman dunk. 7. One of the best dunks of last season was Green’s spectacular, YouTube-worthy windmill off an alley-oop. 8. In 2009 Green left the NBA and began playing in Russia and China, where he worked on his defense and jump shot. 9. In the showcase game, Green scored a game-high 28 points. 10. Last December he joined the L.A. D-Fenders and averaged 19.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.

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BY MELODY HOFFMAN #34

GERALD

GREEN

25

INDIANA PACERS - GUARD/FORWARD

10/9/12 4:29 PM


NBACares.indd 1

10/10/12 9:39 AM


JUMP BALL DANCE LIFE

LEISEL

PORTLAND BLAZERDANCER How did you get into dance? Leisel: When I was 3 years old my mom took me to my first dance class. I didn’t have much choice in the matter, but I was okay with it so it worked out. Growing up in Portland did you follow the Trail Blazers at all? Leisel: Of course, it was our only professional sports team, so it was the only sport to follow for a long time. Who were your favorite players? Leisel: Kevin Duckworth, Clyde Drexler, of course. I remember in the third grade we had a big huge blow-up of Clyde Drexler in our classroom, so yeah, definitely. What’s been your top highlight since becoming a BlazerDancer? Leisel: Our team was asked to represent the Blazers in China last year, and we were able to go to the Great Wall of China, that was incredible! You’ve been dancing your entire life; if you weren’t dancing what would you be doing? Leisel: I have a community health degree, so I probably would be working in the health field. Any fun or crazy experiences with the Blazer fans you can recount? Leisel: We have some super fans and everyone in the crowd knows them. They’re always on the big screen and they make it to every single Blazer game. Sometimes we pull them out on the floor and do dance routines with them and it is so much fun because the crowd knows them and they’re pretty much like celebrities at our arena. So when they get on the court with us, the crowd goes crazy. What’s the most memorable or exciting Blazers game that you witnessed? Leisel: The Brandon Roy comeback in 2011. We played Dallas, it was incredible, cause the fans were supportive. It was Game 4 of the series and the fans were going crazy. You’re going into your seventh season, but left the team and came back twice. What seems to always bring you back to the BlazerDancers? Leisel: I like to go and do my dance adventures, I danced on a cruise ship for a couple of years, and I’ve danced overseas or in different cities, but I always end up coming back to the Pacific Northwest. My family is here and when you dance for a crowd like the Portland Trail Blazers it’s an incredible experience that is unlike any other that I’ve experienced around the world. DUANE WATSON #7 036

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GRANT HILL 1994

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COURTESY PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS; DOUG PENSINGER; STEPHEN DUNN; JONATHAN DANIEL; OTOO GREULE JR./GETTY IMAGES SPORT; FERNANDO MEDINA (5); ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN (2); NBA PHOTOS; WILLIAM SALLAZ; ROCKY WIDNER (3); BARRY GOSSAGE; LAYNE MURDOCH; JORDAN JOHNSON/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

10/9/12 4:26 PM


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10/4/12 12:01 PM


JUMP BALL 24 SECONDS

with JEREMY LIN BY JERAMIE MCPEEK #4

HOOP: You have been compared to Jets QB Tim Tebow, who is very vocal about his faith. Have you gotten to know him? LIN: I got a chance to meet him, but I don’t really know him all that well. We talked a little bit at the ESPYs.5 HOOP: You opted for the bowtie that night. LIN: That was my friend’s. He’s a big bowtie guy. He wanted me to rock it, so he brought a bunch and I chose one to wear. HOOP: How would you describe Jeremy Lin’s look? LIN: For the most part, I like to be sporty. But I like to dress up once in a while and look sharp, but always bring a little bit of youth into it. HOOP: You were suited up for the TIME 100 event recognizing the 100 most influential people in the world. What did that mean to you? LIN: Going to the reception and seeing everybody there, and all that they have accomplished... I was very honored and humbled to be there with all of those people. You had big-time politicians6 and inventors, musicians, entertainers. It was just a crazy group of talented and successful people. HOOP: Did you ever get sick of all the Lin puns? LIN: I was fine with whatever, but I didn’t let any of my friends or family call me any of those. There were definitely some funny ones, though.

HOOP: How does it feel to be back in Houston? LIN: It feels good. I’m familiar with everything, but it’s exciting because it’s a new challenge. Obviously, I know I’ll be here for a little longer1 this time around. HOOP: What do you miss most about the city of New York? LIN: My brother and sister-in-law live out there. And just the fans when they used to fill up the Garden. They’re a different breed. HOOP: What was the most surreal moment of the last year for you? LIN: Just some of the on-court experiences,2 whether it was certain plays or certain games. They were all pretty surreal. Everything was pretty bizarre, to be honest. HOOP: Speaking of bizarre, we thought you were going to say the most surreal moment was the Lin jersey you were given that was made of Fruit Roll-Ups3. LIN: Oh, that was pretty sweet [laughs]. That was pretty cool. I hung that up in my apartment. HOOP: Did you ever surprise yourself at all, maybe when you dropped 38 on the Lakers, or hit that game-winning three-pointer in Toronto? LIN: I always felt like I could play, but I didn’t fully expect that type of performance. It’s just one of those things, I’m grateful for everything. It was a blessing. HOOP: You’ve said that it was tough to handle all of the attention, the glitz and glamour. Was it too much pressure?4 LIN: Yeah, there was a lot. But it was one of those things where I had to remind myself that I was playing for God. I just had to block everything else out and not let it affect me. HOOP: What does “playing for God” mean to you? LIN: It’s about who you give your glory to and who you play for. Who’s your audience? What’s your motivation? Where is your heart at? Basically it means that basketball is my job, but it’s not my identity. 038

H1112-24 Seconds.indd 38

HOOP: What was your favorite? LIN: Super Lintendo. HOOP: Did you play Super Nintendo growing up? LIN: Yeah, I played NBA Jam. I don’t think I really had a favorite team or players. Maybe Scottie Pippen. HOOP: You sent a tweet last November that said, “I have a job again, YESSS!!!” How close were you to being out of the League for good? LIN: Oh, I was very close. They were about to waive me, New York was, so very close. HOOP: At what point would you have decided it was time to get another job? LIN: If I had been waived again in New York, I probably would have taken a break, at least a year off. HOOP: You studied economics at Harvard. Would you be an economist right now if it wasn’t for basketball? LIN: No, no, no. I’m more interested in non-profit work and social work, so I always wanted to understand how money works and how to bring revenue to underprivileged communities. HOOP: After seeing that giant marlin you caught this summer, we thought you might want to be a fisherman someday. That looked like something from the Deadliest Catch. LIN: I like fishing, but not for a full-time job [laughs]. That was awesome. It was fun. It took about 20 or 30 minutes to reel it in. I needed some help once I got it to the boat. BILL BAPTIST/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

10/9/12 4:23 PM


HOOP: We’re running out of time on the shot clock, so we’ve got to ask. What’s the deal with you and couches? LIN: If you don’t have a place to stay, you can just stay with your friends and family. I don’t need a lot to get a good night’s rest, so a lot of times I end up on the couch. HOOP: Who had the most comfortable couch7, your brother, Landry Fields or Chandler Parsons? LIN: My brother. I was there for a month. You know it was comfortable or I would not have stayed that long. HOOP: Do you prefer the sleeper sofas, futons, a chaise or what? LIN: The L-shaped sectional ones. I sleep on one of the sections. HOOP: Your brother had the best couch, but Chandler had the best pantry for late-night snacking? LIN: Yeah, it was solid. I’m a big gummy fruit guy. He had fruit snacks, gummies, Pop Tarts, all sorts of things. HOOP: Now that you’ve made it big, are you going to have friends and young teammates come over and sleep on your couch and raid your pantry? LIN: Of course. Of course. I’m going to have a lot of friends visiting and they crash at my place when they’re in town, and I crash at their place. That’s just how we’ve always been. HOOP: So next time we’re rolling through Houston, we can come crash on your couch? LIN: [laughs] All right, sounds good.

BONUS POINTS 1. lin signed a three-year deal with the Rockets this offseason, the same team that had cut him during the preseason a year ago. 2. after stepping into the Knicks’ starting lineup last February, lin became the first player in NBa history to contribute 20 points and 7 assists in each of his first five games as a starter. 3. it’s true. Go look at lin’s photo stream on twitter, if you don’t believe us. 4. then-Knicks head coach mike D’antoni told reporters he was going to ride lin like secretariat. Jeremy says he’s never seen the Disney movie about the thoroughbred. 5. lin even posed with tebow and Jessica Biel in a photo booth backstage at the Espys. 6. the Harvard grad was particularly impressed by the speech given by U.s. secretary of state Hillary Clinton. 7. Jeremy says he didn’t find any money in between the couch cushions.

Bill Baptist/NBaE/GEtty imaGEs

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039

10/9/12 4:23 PM


Young, Prou The rookie class of 2012 speaks ouT By Brian a. giuffra #17

anthonY Davis new orLeans hornets, cenTer

What was it like playing in the Olympics? It was a great experience for me playing with those guys, a great opportunity. I had fun with everyone on the team and I learned a lot from them. Did you think you’d be an Olympic gold medal winner this young? No, not at all. What’s it like to have that gold medal? You get a lot of love from everybody everywhere you go. Even all the other rookies have been congratulating me. I know I have something that everybody else doesn’t have at a young age, so it’s an honor and a blessing. What did you learn from playing on the national team that can help you in the NBA? I just learned a lot about how those guys are professionals. I learned how to deal with the fans, how to deal with all the pressure, just how to be an NBA player. That’s a vital part for me coming into the League. What advice did they give you heading into your rookie year? All you have to do is play ball. If you try and worry about playing good or worry about what everybody else is saying then it’s going to mess with your head.

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Brian BaBineau/nBae/Getty imaGes

10/9/12 4:50 PM


oud and Loud W

ho said rookies should be seen and not heard? It wasn’t us. They’re far too interesting for that. From an Olympic gold medalist, to a Twitter legend, to a hip-hop mogul in the making, this year’s rookie class has some interesting characters in it, and they’re all here to tell you about themselves. Just don’t ask them to be quiet.

MichaeL KiddGilchrist charLotte BoBcats, forward

What’s it like being the No. 2 overall pick and getting the exposure that comes with it? It’s been hard for me but I’m loving the whole thing. From the media standpoint to on the basketball court, I’m loving everything about being a pro. What about it have you found challenging? Just the adjustment, you know adjusting from being a kid to being a man. I’m only 18 so it’s been hard. But I have to do what I have to do and I’m ready to get started. What was it like being drafted to Michael Jordan’s team? It’s crazy because Mike is such a mentor to me. He’s one of the best of all time and he’s helped me a lot. What kind of advice has he given you? To always work harder than your opponent and always put in the time. Has he worked out with you yet? Not yet but I’m hoping he does. What did you take away from the conversations you’ve had with him? I’m just listening to what he has to say. I take everything he says and I try to put it to work. Everything he says means a lot so I try to learn as much as I can from him.

Steven Freeman/nBae/Getty ImaGeS

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10/9/12 4:53 PM


Bradley beal

Thomas Robinson

harrison baRnes

WashingTon Wizards, Guard

sacramenTo Kings, Forward

golden sTaTe Warriors, Forward

How good of a backcourt combo can you and John Wall be? I think it can be pretty good, obviously. But it’s not just us. There’s also Jordan Crawford and Shelvin Mack and A.J. Price. We have a great backcourt. Hopefully we can all come together and play as a unit. Have you sought advice from veterans on what playing in the NBA is like? From my team basically Shelvin Mack, Chris Singleton and John Wall; all those guys really took me under their wings when I came in and I’ve been cool with them since day one. The chemistry is there and I think they’re all doing a good job of helping me. How much do you want to give Washington something to cheer for? I want to help them out a lot. I think it’s the best fit for me and it’s where I wanted to be. With John and the rest of the guys, it’s going to be terrific. I think we have a good young team who understands one another and has the potential to be a great team at the end of the day. Since being the third overall draft pick, have you become more easily recognizable on the street? Sometimes. It really depends on where I am. Back home, I am. Around here [New York], every now and then I am. In Washington everyone knows who I am so I have to be lowkey when I go out there. It’s fun to have people know who you are. It doesn’t bother me at all because I’m just a normal person.

What was the feeling you got when you were drafted? It was amazing. Going from the table to meet David Stern, it was like I had a flashback on my entire life, so it was a great feeling knowing I had made all my dreams come true. What are your expectations for this year? I just want to help my team get better. Hopefully we can take advantage of our opportunities and just have a better season than we did last year. I think we can be one of the better teams in the League this year, or at least be in the discussion as one of them, so I just want to go out and help them win. What are you hoping to bring to the Kings? The same things I’ve been doing: banging down low, grabbing rebounds and scoring. Whatever the team needs me to do to win I will. What’s your favorite social media device? Twitter. What’s your favorite part about Twitter? The fact that you can express yourself on there and people give you feedback. If I’m ever bored I just go on Twitter.

What’s been the biggest transition since you got drafted? It’s a whole new lifestyle. You’re responsible for your finances are now. You’re responsible for how much time you put in. It’s your job. Have you found a veteran mentor? I’ve found a few mentors, none that I like to speak about. But I have people who look out for me, teach me the ropes, people who have been in the League for a while, who talk to me about how to be professional. Have you lived on your own before this year? No, so it will be a new experience. At college you’re away from home but you’re with a core group of guys. This time I’ll have my own apartment, my own furniture, my own car, everything. So have you already moved into a new place in northern California? Yes and it was the absolute worst experience. The delivery trucks didn’t show up on time and when they did they didn’t bring the right things, so I had to worry about that stuff. Did you have to buy everything new for the place? Yeah, I had to buy everything new and my mom helped me. When I purchased everything I realized how expensive furniture shopping is and everything that goes into it. It was like a growing up moment.

042

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Brian BaBineau; Steven Freeman (2)/nBae/Getty imaGeS

10/9/12 4:50 PM


Dion Waiters

Damian LiLLard

terrenCe ross

ClevelanD Cavaliers, Guard

PortlanD trail blazers, Guard

toronto raPtors, Guard

What does it mean for you to have gotten out of the rough south Philly neighborhood you grew up in and made it to the NBA? I can’t even put into words how it really feels. Everything I’ve been through in life, all the hard work and dedication, it paid off. You’ve overcome a lot of obstacles including the death of several close people to you. How special is it to have gotten to this point? I’ve had the right people around me: My mom, my dad, my family, they’ve been there with me through thick and thin. I’ve overcome a lot of things, just in life growing up in Philly and how tough it is down there. To be able to escape that life and be here, I’m just grateful. How do you think your experience in south Philly, having lost three cousins and a best friend, prepared you for this moment? It’s just added more fuel to my fire knowing they’re not here. But I know they’re watching down on me. Just knowing they couldn’t escape that life and I was able to do that, I just have to take full advantage of it. If they were here, that’s what they would want me to do. Do you have any plans to give back to your old neighborhood? Yeah, I definitely want to give back. I want to do something for my old school, Stanton, that’s where I first went, first through sixth grade I was there, so I definitely want to give something back to them first and then whatever I can do I will.

You weren’t a hyped player in high school and you went to a small college. How has that impacted you? It’s that unappreciated feeling that’s made me who I am today. Being underrated, underappreciated, that’s been me, so I took that and made it a chip on my shoulder. If I had all the love and all the hype at a young age, I probably wouldn’t be here right now, so I embrace it. When you have that type of feeling, you feel like have to outwork people and be that stand up person, so I’m happy I had that role. Did you always believe you would make it in the NBA even though others didn’t? I figured I would. After my sophomore year, that’s when I knew I had a chance. For my body of work and how hard I work and the type of person I am on and off the court, I thought all those positive things would come back to me and it did full circle. What do you think you can accomplish in the NBA? I’ve always been a team-first player and I want to win. Losing makes me sick, so I want to win first of all. I also want to be an All-Star by the time my career is over. I want to help my team get into the playoffs and hopefully win some championships. How much confidence did you gain from your exceptional summer league performance? It gives me a lot of confidence. I’m a naturally confident person and player but when you go out there and play well in an environment where everybody is a really good player, it kind of gives you that sense of stability. You know that you belong. But I also know it’s another level from summer league to the NBA so I’m confident but I’m also anxious to see what this next challenge is going to be like.

You grew up in the Pacific Northwest and went to college there, too. What’s it going to be like moving to Canada? It’s going to be different. Basically everything I’ve known will be different. But it’s something I’ll get used to quick. Have you been to Toronto before? I’ve been there four or five times. I’ve been around the city a lot and I like it. It’s beautiful around there. I read that you adopted a stray dog when you were in college. Is that true? Yeah, at the end of my freshman year, I adopted a pit bull, a little puppy I took home and it’s still at home right now. What made you want to do that? I love dogs. Even in college I got another dog. Me and [then-Washington Huskies teammate] Tony Wroten both had dogs, so we had two dogs and everybody would be scared to come in the house. But they’re really good dogs and they’re fun. Do you still have the stray dog? Nah, it’s at my mom’s house. What made you keep the second dog and give the first one to your mom? My little brother at home loved the dog so I just wanted to give it to him. He just loved it so much, so I just got another one.

Steven Freeman (3)/nBae/Getty ImaGeS

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Andre DrummonD

Jeremy Lamb

JoHn Henson

detroit Pistons, Center

Houston rockets, Guard

milwAukee Bucks, Forward

What are you expecting of yourself in your rookie year? The coaching staff and I aren’t trying to move too fast. We’re not looking for a superstar season. I’m just looking to this season to get myself ready as a player and help my team win a lot of games. What kinds of goals do you have set for this year? To block a lot of shots, grab rebounds and finish around the rim. What did you learn in summer league? Summer league was a great experience for me because I was able to get a good vibe with my teammates and learn new things about the team. Have you spoken with Greg Monroe to get a few pointers from him? Yeah, I speak with him on a regular basis. I love to pick his brain and learn what I can do to get better. Do you think you can be a dominant big man duo for the Pistons? I just think we’re going to have a great season this year and we’re going to come together as a team and be a family. I think as a team we could surprise some people.

How much are you looking forward to playing with Jeremy Lin? I think it’s going to be cool. It’s crazy to think that I’m playing with him because I followed his whole rise last year. What was it like watching that happen? It was exciting. It was such a great run for him and I was happy for him. He showed what he could do so hopefully he can do the same things this year. What do you think you can bring to the Rockets? I’m just going to play as hard as I can and do whatever it takes to help us win. What kind of a teammate are you? I’m a funny dude. I like to play around. I’m not a prankster. I just like to have fun and joke around. How much of an influence was your father [former Virginia Commonwealth guard Rolando Lamb] on you? He was huge. He was always there for me growing up. I spent a lot of time with him and he was always right there urging me on.

What’s been the biggest transition from college to the NBA? Well the last few weeks I’ve been paying bills and paying rent and buying new furniture and getting insurance and all that stuff, so that’s kind of been the moment when I realized this was all real and I’m becoming a man. What are you looking forward to heading into this year? I’m just hoping to help the team win. We have pretty good team. It’s all about turning that potential into reality and hopefully we can do that. Did you seek out any former Tar Heels for advice? They give us advice all the time, even when you don’t seek it. They’re always around and you can always ask them anything. It’s a group of mentors for us. Now that you’re in the NBA what do you want to do to give back? I love fishing and I would love to have a charity event where we fish and get the kids out to fish. That’s one thing I can see myself doing. Do you prefer saltwater or freshwater fishing? I like both. I was out saltwater fishing a couple of weeks ago and then I came home and went freshwater fishing and both were fun. Where does your love of fishing come from? My dad. He used to wake me up when I was little and we’d go out really early and it was just something I always enjoyed doing. Ultimate fishing question, what’s the biggest fish you ever caught? Actually I just caught a 40-pound black drum the other day, and that’s probably one of the biggest I’ve ever caught.

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Steven Freeman (3)/nBae/Getty ImaGeS

10/9/12 4:51 PM


Austin RiveRs

rOyce White

KendAll MaRshall

new OrleAns HOrnets, Guard

HOustOn rOcKets, Forward

PHOenix suns, Guard

You grew up around the NBA with your father [Celtics coach Doc Rivers], but what’s it like being a part of the League on your own now? It’s indescribable. It’s something where it’s been a tease my whole life. I got to see it firsthand but I never actually have been an NBA player. So I just tried to work hard and now that I’m here I’m going to use this opportunity to go out there and prove I can play. What did you learn being around the NBA for so long that you can use as a player? What I’ve learned is never to settle. That’s one thing I learned from my dad. Everybody looks at him now and they look at him as a champion and all that. But I’ve seen him go through tough times. I’ve seen him go through losing seasons and getting fired. And when most coaches would stop and not want to coach anymore, he just kept going and now he’s regarded as one of top coaches in the League. Is there anything your father taught you that you can use against him when you play the Celtics? I don’t know. He’s a smart dude. Even with me he doesn’t share anything or give away any information because he knows he’s going to be facing me now. All I know is if we do beat the Celtics he’s going to hear about it a lot. Away from basketball what other things are you interested in? I love cars. It’s a passion of mine. Do you work on cars in your spare time? No. I could because that’s how much I know about them. I just don’t have the time. Basketball is my life. I do love cars and I can name every model and tell you what engines they had in them though. So what kind of a car are you pushing now? A Porsche Cayenne S. Is it the turbo? No, we have to take baby steps you know.

What are your interests away from the court? Well I’m an entrepreneur and a writer and those are the things I really focus on along with philanthropy. I base my life around that. Basketball is something I do. It’s a job for me. But at the same time I use it as fun and a release for the rest of my life. I’ve been playing for so long that it’s like a safe haven. What types of entrepreneurial work and writing do you do? I’m very involved with the mental illness community, raising awareness and trying to change the stigma surrounding mental illness. I’m also very involved with the community I came from, a lower middle class community. And then writing, I write anything. What’s your favorite form of writing? Music and movies. I went to school for screenplay writing and I’m a songwriter as well and I own my own label, IAMU Records. How important is your music label to you? It means a lot to me. It’s just as important as anything I do. Everything I do I take very seriously and I’m very competitive, so whatever industry I get into I want to be the best. Just like I want Houston to win the championship this year, I want to win a Grammy as well. Why is the mental illness community so close to you? I suffer from an anxiety disorder and OCD, so it’s definitely something that hits home for me. I don’t have it as severe as some people have it. But the stigma and bringing the stigma down is something that’s important to me.

I understand you’re a Twitter legend because you were the first NBA player to use the acronym BTB on your account. Is that true? Yeah, I didn’t even know what that meant. It was new to me. For like a month people would just say it and finally after a month I just asked, ‘What is BTB?’ and everyone just kept writing BTB, BTB, BTB, and I was just like ‘that’s not making any sense, just tell me what it is.’ But I think it’s hilarious because when you say it, people keep saying it. How it all originated, I have no idea. But I started to do it and it’s something fun to play around with. So for everyone who doesn’t know, what does BTB stand for? I don’t even know if I can put that out there. I’m not the originator so I don’t have the copyright to it. I don’t want to say something wrong here. Has your popularity on Twitter increased because of that? I don’t think so. I don’t think too many people know about BTB yet. There were only like 20 people who were so excited about it. But I’m looking forward to keep using it and get other people to use it. How important is Twitter for you? Twitter is extremely huge, not only in a social media aspect, but living in new cities, playing basketball, you don’t really have a social life. So for me, Twitter is my social life, you know being able to connect to people and talk to people. Then from a basketball aspect, you get to show them your personality. What are you looking forward to as a rookie? The main thing is just getting better. This is a very cutthroat league. There are a lot of great players in the NBA that aren’t in the NBA the next year. So I just want to keep competing and working to be able to help my teammates.

Steven Freeman (2); Brian BaBineau/nBae/Getty imaGeS

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Fab Melo

Kyle Singler

tyler Zeller

boston CeltiCs, Center

Detroit Pistons, Forward

ClevelanD Cavaliers, Forward/ Center

The Celtics have historically had good big men on their team. How much do you want to be the next great Celtics big man? I’m really excited to learn from one of the best [Kevin Garnett]. That’s what I want to do when I get there: learn, learn and learn. And hopefully I will be on that list as one of the greatest big men in Boston Celtics history. Have you had a chance to speak with Bill Russell at all? No, not yet. What are you going to ask him when you meet him? I’ll ask him how it is to be in the NBA, what he went through to get there. That’s the question I ask all of the players. How much do you want to help Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce win another NBA championship? I’m very motivated to do that and help the team win. That’s what I came for and that’s what I’m going to try and do. You moved here from Brazil four years ago; what’s that transition been like? The hardest part was the language. When I first came here I couldn’t speak English at all. It was hard to learn. But now I’m kind of used to it. How much do you want to be on the Brazilian national team for the 2016 Olympics in Rio? That’s four years looking forward, but I’m definitely looking forward to it and I really want to play on that team.

You opted to play in Spain during the 20112012 lockout. What did you learn? It’s a completely different way of life over there, but basketball-wise it’s basically the same. Guys are older, you’re in a different culture where guys have families and speak a different language. But once you got down to basketball, the main thing I took away from it was the experience of playing professionally. What did you learn from playing professionally? The travel and being on your own. You have to manage your time, take care of your body and make sure you get the work done that you have to get done. What was your coolest experience away from the court in Spain? Spain is a great country and there are a lot of great things to do there. But I would say just getting to know the guys on the team and getting to know the different people over there. Once you get away from America, you learn a different perspective on things. That’s why I really enjoyed getting to know the different people. Getting to see a lot of cool sights and lot of great museums was fun too. Did you enjoy the Spanish food? I did. I love tapas, paella, the seafood was great. I’m not too big of a seafood guy but theirs was fantastic. Did that year over there make you anxious to get in the NBA? It did. I’m really excited because since I was little I always wanted to play in the NBA. Finally being here, it’s been a long time and I’m really looking forward to the season getting going.

What does it mean for you to be in the League? It’s a great feeling. It’s something I’ve put a lot of time and effort into so I’m very proud to be here. What are you looking forward to most? I’m really looking forward to opening night and putting on the jersey and going and playing against the best players in the world and seeing where I’m at and what I need to work on. You come from a family full of great basketball players. What does it mean to be the first in the NBA? It’s great. My family has always pushed each other and always helped each other. My older brother has been unfortunate the past couple of years. He played in Europe and the D-League but he just hasn’t gotten over that hump yet and made it in. But I think he’ll make it in eventually. And my younger brother, everybody knows about him at Indiana. He’s a fantastic player. Whenever we’re at home we always play against each other and we have fun. What are those games like? It’s very fun. My family did a great job raising us. We’re very competitive on the court, but as soon as we step off the court it’s nothing but respect and love. We know that on the court we’re going to get after each other. We’re not trying to hurt each other, we’re trying to help and teach each other. But one-on-one we’re going to get after each other. Are you looking forward to getting back to the Midwest after spending four years in North Carolina? Yeah, the winters are going to be a little rougher but overall I’m definitely excited. North Carolina winters are fabulous. But I’m really looking forward to playing in Cleveland. The fans there are crazy.

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Steven Freeman (3)/nBae/Getty ImaGeS

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Game Time.indd 1

9/12/12 10:50 AM


Jared Sullinger

Perry JoneS iii

QuinCy Acy

Boston CeltiCs, Forward

oklahoma City thunder, Forward

toronto raPtors, Forward

What did it mean to you to be drafted? It was a dream come true. But it’s not a dream that’s going to stop me from striving for more. I’m just gonna try to turn this dream into reality now. Were you disappointed that you fell in the draft because of your back injury? Someone saying I ‘fell’ to the Celtics is like that line, “Damn baby girl where’d you come from, you must have fallen from heaven and I’m trying to catch you.” It was a perfect fit. I fell and the Celtics caught me and now I feel like I’m in a better situation than anyone else. Do you think you can be the same kind of consistent player in the NBA as you were in college? I’m going to bring a consistent mentality, that’s for sure. As far as being able to produce at the rate that I was in college, probably not. You have players like Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett on the team, so I’m not going to get a lot of shots. But I’ll just try and do whatever I can to help the team win.

You dropped in the draft because of concerns over your knee. How did you take that? I just use it as motivation for me. I’m gonna play like I have a chip on my shoulder now and I’m going to bring it for my teammates. Were you surprised or upset that you dropped so low in the first round? No, I wasn’t upset. Me being upset went away when I heard my name called to Oklahoma City. I couldn’t be at a better place and when they called my name I was surprised. I thought they weren’t going to pick me because they didn’t need a player like me. But they did and they’re my favorite team so it’s perfect. What do you hope to add to what Oklahoma City has already built? Anything I can. Any little thing they need I’ll do. I just want to help somehow. I just want to learn a lot and add to my game and hopefully I’ll be able to help on the court, whether it’s 30 seconds or 15 seconds or 30 minutes. You’re playing on a team that came very close to winning an NBA title. How motivating is that for you? I think it will motivate the whole team. I know they’re going to bring it every day in practice because they know what it’s like to win and I know they want to win so they’re going to push everyone else to reach that level too. Have you had a chance to speak with Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook yet? I have. They’re great guys. They’re normal guys. They just know how to bring it. Have you gotten any advice coming into the League? Eric Maynor gave me the best advice. He told me to just play basketball and don’t think too much because if you think in this league it’s going to mess you up.

How long have you been cultivating your beard? I tried to start in high school but our rules said we had to have a shaved face, so as soon as I got to college I just let it grow. Do you have the best beard in the NBA? I don’t know that I can take that. James Harden has been around for awhile so he has that title. His [beard] is a little different than mine because he has his everywhere. But I like how my beard is. People have different opinions. Do you shave it yourself or does someone do it for you? I cut my own hair and my beard. I’m bald so my hair isn’t hard to cut. But I line up my beard myself. How do you think you can help the Raptors? I think I’ll be able to come off the bench and provide a spark and a toughness with rebounding and defending. Whatever it is they want me to do I’ll do it. What’s one thing about yourself that most people don’t know? I have a one-year-old son. I love him to death. I see him every day. He lives with me, so he means everything to me. How much does he motivate you? He motivates me every day. My father wasn’t really there growing up and so I made a commitment a long time ago that I wouldn’t follow in the same footsteps, that I would be in my son’s life every step of the way. He’s the reason I smile every day and he’s the reason I go so hard.

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Steven Freeman (3)/nBae/Getty ImaGeS

10/9/12 4:51 PM


Mild Lyrics NBA 2K13 for iOS and Android not rated by ESRB

© 2005-2012 Take-Two Interactive Software and its subsidiaries. All rights reserved. 2K Sports, the 2K Sports logo, and Take-Two Interactive Software are all trademarks and/or registered trademarks of Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. The NBA and individual NBA member team identifications used on or in this product are trademarks, copyrights designs and other forms of intellectual property of NBA Properties, Inc. and the respective NBA member teams and may not be used, in whole or in part, without the prior written consent of NBA Properties, Inc. © 2012 NBA Properties, Inc. All rights reserved. “PlayStation” and the “PS” Family logo are registered trademarks and the PlayStation Network logo is a trademark of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. KINECT, Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox LIVE, and the Xbox logos are trademarks of the Microsoft group of companies and are used under license from Microsoft. Nintendo trademarks and copyrights are properties of Nintendo. The ratings icon is a trademark of the Entertainment Software Association. All other trademarks are property of their respective owners.

2K Sports.indd 1

9/12/12 10:47 AM


The NBA forecast for the remainder of the decade calls for

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BY ANDY JASNER #27

The Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder can conceivably be vying for the NBA Championship for the next few Junes.

N

othing is guaranteed in professional sports. Just because you have the best team on paper doesn’t mean it will come to fruition when it’s game time. Injuries can derail a dream. Free agent acquisitions can underachieve. A surprise team or two can sneak up, such as the 2001 Philadelphia 76ers,1 who advanced all the way to the Finals before losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in a hard-fought five-game series. In the end, it usually comes down to talent. The defending champion Miami Heat2 and runner-up Oklahoma City Thunder3 sure have loads of talent. They have superstars, youth and the flexibility to become annual contenders. LeBron James,4 Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have made good on their championship bravado since coming together in 2010 and look poised to add to it in the coming years. The Thunder and its youthful core4 of Kevin Durant,5 Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka have set themselves up as prohibitive favorites in the West for the foreseeable future. If everyone stays healthy, these two teams could and should be competing in the Finals for years to come, if not through the rest of the decade. Is everyone else in the League simply playing for third place? “I don’t think that’s necessarily the case,” says Ed Stefanski, executive vice president of basketball operations for the Toronto Raptors. “Miami is aligned with three megastars and arguably the best player in the world in LeBron James.6 They filled in a very nice supporting cast around LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Bosh. The same goes for the Thunder with their stars built around Durant, Westbrook and Harden. They are both extremely talented teams and probably considered the favorites for this season. “One question with the CBA is: Will the franchises be able to retain all their players and role players for years to come? It will get increasingly harder to do that and maintain financial flexibility. That’s always a challenge in this league. But I do think they’re both set up for good runs if they can stay healthy, of course, and keep playing at such a high level.

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“Teams are going to be excited to play them and they’re going to have to bring that intensity every single night, much like the Lakers used to see with Magic Johnson and the Celtics with Larry Bird. But I do think Miami and Oklahoma City are extremely talented with young stars and a solid core built around them.” There’s little question about each team’s foundation of stars, but a scan of each team’s roster shows thought to assembling a squad filled with role players and versatile pieces that every championship contender is built upon. Much like the team’s architect, Sam Presti, who plied his trade under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio before joining the then-Seattle SuperSonics as general manager, the Thunder roster is built through shrewd drafting and high-value trades with an eye on cap flexibility. The Durant/Westbrook/Harden/ Ibaka core was built entirely of stockpiled draft picks, joining other handpicked draftees Nick Collison, Cole Aldrich, Reggie Jackson and Perry Jones III. Defensive ace Thabo Sefolosha, backup PG Eric Maynor and three-point specialist Daequan Cook were trades that didn’t make big NBA headlines, but saw great dividends. The one big trade the Thunder made was for starting center Kendrick Perkins, which cost the team one of its former foundation pieces in Jeff Green. Other than longtime Sonic/Thunder Collison, the roster is comprised of young legs in their 20s. While the results have been similar, the Heat employed a different strategy in assembling its roster after the Big Three. A believer in veterans and experience, Heat team president Pat Riley opts more for seasoned help, signing vets like Mike Miller, Shane Battier, Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis to spot up from the three-point line. Pre-LeBron mainstays Udonis Haslem, James Jones, Mario Chalmers and Joel Anthony 052

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each play a valuable role on the team. Riley has even shown faith in some youth, giving guys like Norris Cole and Dexter Pittman a look. Both teams, while loaded upfront with stars, are just as complete in spots four through 12, making for units that have the lead over the competition. If every other team is playing for third place, is that good for the League? Doesn’t there need to be six or eight teams with a legitimate chance at winning a championship? Not necessarily. Since 1991, the NBA has seen the Chicago Bulls win six titles followed by the Lakers with five, the San Antonio Spurs with four, the Houston Rockets and Heat with two, the Boston Celtics with one and the Dallas Mavericks with one. Look for the Heat7 and Thunder8 to pile up some more hardware over the remainder of this decade. “If that happens—and I’m not saying it will happen that way—I think it’s healthy for the League because it’s all about competition,” says Orlando Magic senior vice president Pat Williams. “I think competition pulls the best out of all of us. We need healthy competition to make us better, to make us work harder, to make us compete at a level even higher than we were thinking of. “I think Miami and Oklahoma City have set a pace for the rest of the League to follow and that’s not a bad thing at all. Through the years, rivalries have been the lifeblood of the League—Magic and Bird, Moses [Malone] and Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar], Sixers-Lakers, Celtics-Lakers and so on. I think that’s good because we all strive to get to that point. It’s not an easy mountain to climb and even harder to complete the climb. “You know what? When the Heat and Oklahoma City come to your building, the fans are going to be excited and the players will, too. Everyone wants to be the best and you always want to beat the best. We’re a star-driven league and always have been. It’s been that way for years and years and years. Different teams have won titles, but there have always been superstars such as Jordan, [Hakeem] Olajuwon, [Tim] Duncan, GARY BASSING/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

10/9/12 5:49 PM


Shaq, Kobe [Bryant] and so on. “Good for Miami and Oklahoma City for building their franchises. They’ve done a great job and deserve all the accolades. It’s up to us in the League to do our best to get our franchises to that level. But I do think, for now, the Heat and Thunder are at a level above with the young stars they both have.” Yes, the Heat are still the favorites in the Eastern Conference and the Thunder are still the favorites in the Western Conference. That gap is slowly being shut. The Sixers haven’t celebrated a championship with a parade down Broad Street since 1983, when the likes of Julius Erving, Maurice Cheeks and Moses Malone, among others, won it all. They haven’t even advanced to the Conference Finals since Allen Iverson took them there in ’01. But the Sixers added center Andrew Bynum in the offseason, the result of a huge four-team trade that sent Dwight Howard9 to the Lakers. “I think we’re already getting more and more parity,” Sixers president Rod Thorn says. “I remember the Atlantic Division just a few years ago was the worst division in the NBA. Now look at it. Teams have all gotten better and it didn’t take that long for it to happen. I like what we’ve been able to do. In getting Bynum, our best center since Moses Malone, we’ve upgraded in a major way. We added other pieces like Jason Richardson and Nick Young and believe we’re on the way. “All the other teams in our division are much more formidable. The Celtics are a force to be reckoned with. The Knicks and Nets are much, much improved. I think the League as a whole is very strong and lots of teams are ready to be knocking on the door.” Leo Rautins analyzes NBA games for a living for the Raptors. He sees how good the Heat and Thunder will be this season and the rest of the decade. Yet he doesn’t necessarily see a dynasty in the making. “I think it’s natural to say that Miami and Oklahoma City will be the RONALD MARTINEZ/GETTY IMAGES SPORT; NATHANIEL S. BUTLER/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

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favorites,” Rautins says. “Of course, with all their talent and star power, I think you have to put them at the top of the League. But I do see wannabees. I think the Spurs, while they have gotten older, always have to be kept in the mix. They just seem to be there every year and never go away. Coach Popovich does such a great job with that team. I think the Lakers, while older as well, are going to be very tough this year with the pickup of Dwight Howard. “In the East, I think the Sixers, Knicks and Bulls, depending on Derrick Rose, will be mixed in there. One injury can change everything. It can happen in a hurry, too. Say one of the star players goes out for an extended period of time, it just changes the dynamics of everything. If that happens, a lot of teams can have the opportunity to move up the chart and state their case. “Any time the Heat come in with LeBron, Wade and Bosh and they come in healthy and hungry, look out. The same is true of the Thunder with Durant, Westbrook and Harden. You’re talking about young players for the most part determined to win. They have tremendous heart and desire and you saw that last year. I think it’s going to be a fascinating season all the way around because I think the rest of the League has really started to catch up.” For the Heat, every regular season game seemed liked a Finals Game 7. They entered every arena as the villains of the 053

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League. Opponents came out with incredible intensity and the box office numbers reflected that. The Heat got used to the challenge and it actually pushed them. They reveled in the adrenaline rush. Having the star-studded lineup to combat those pressures certainly helped. It’s a journey they hope to repeat. “It felt so great to win the title last season because of everything we went through as a team, all the criticism we took about buying a championship and stuff like that. I mean, we didn’t listen to it, but at the same time, we sort of did, too, because it motivated us,” says Haslem, the Heat forward who, along with Wade, is one of two members of the Heat to have won titles in ’06 and ’12. “I went through so much personally with injuries and I kind of used all the talk and all the criticism as motivation. We were all very disappointed how it ended the year before with the loss to Dallas. We came back hungry and with so much to prove. I think repeating in this league is very, very difficult. It’s a long season and you have to pace yourself. “At the same time, you have to keep that hunger and that fire in your belly to want to fight for another ring. You know teams are going to be coming after you. I hope we can string together a number of championships. That’s the goal, to win a title. Otherwise, why are you playing? But doing it is

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another thing. This much I’m sure of—we have guys on this team who are hungry and who remain hungry. I know we’re coming back with the passion to do it again.” Despite the numerous times that NBA champions have repeated,10 in the past 10 seasons, only the Lakers have gone back-to-back. While it’s easy to focus on the goal of the initial championship, it’s much harder to fend off the teams that have the eye on the throne. As the Heat themselves have famously said, they have the eyes on not just one title. “We have great leadership, a great coaching staff and a great organization here. Everyone is committed to winning. We know the League has gotten stronger and we’re taking nothing for granted,” Haslem says. “All I know is we’re going to fight and scratch and claw to win as many games as possible and then make our push in the playoffs. Hopefully, we’ll stay healthy and we’ll be able to accomplish that goal.” Much like the Celtics and Lakers in the ’80s [see sidebar], the Heat and Thunder sure seem primed for numerous battles this decade. From the Thunder’s point of view, they’re ready to make their move and go that one last step. “I know teams are chasing us and that’s very cool because it will make us stronger,” Thunder center Kendrick Perkins11 says. “I love the competition. The Lakers think they’re going to do it with Dwight Howard. The Spurs think they’re going to do it. I believe in our team. I believe in our leaders and our players. We believe we’re the team to beat in the West. I think we’re chasing one team, the Heat. They got the best of us last season. “I think we’re all very, very hungry to get better and do whatever it takes to get the job done. Rivalries are only rivalries if each team gets the best of each other. Miami got us last season. Our goal is to get them back and take it back, assuming they’re there and we’re there in the Finals. If that’s the case, we’ll be ready. If that’s not the case, we’ll still be ready. I know, me personally, I’m hungry, man. I want to win, man. I want a ring. “When the season starts, we’ll be ready. I’m sure Miami will, too. And I know a lot of other teams have gotten better. Within our organization, we’re about preparing what we can control. I’m hoping that takes us to the promised land of an NBA championship.” Preparation is something the young head coaches from both teams know something about. In Miami is Erik Spoelstra, the go-getter who parlayed a video coordinator position in the Heat organization to the guy who now calls the shots. While Spoelstra doesn’t have an NBA player background like his counterpart in OKC, he is seen as an excellent tactician who’s been under the expert tutelage of Pat Riley for some years.12 Leading the way in Oklahoma City is head coach Scott Brooks,13 who agreed to a four-year contract extension in the offseason. Brooks is the perfect coach for this exuberant and ultra-talented team in Oklahoma City. And he doesn’t want to hear any talk about dynasties. Rivalries, yes. Dynasties, no. “I think healthy rivalries are a great thing, and if you’re mentioned in the conversation, even better,” says Brooks, who owns a .582 winning percentage in four years with the Thunder. “I think you always strive Andrew d. Bernstein; GArrett ellwood/nBAe/Getty imAGes; ronAld mArtinez/Getty imAGes sport

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LAKERS-CELTICS REDUX

During the 2012 Finals, we saw the Heat triumph over the Thunder in a five-game series between two squads that were among the League’s elite all season long. Everywhere you looked, storylines were fruitful. The prohibitive favorites in Miami faced the intense pressures of getting the job done after dropping the previous Finals, while the young guns in Oklahoma City embraced the role of the endearing underdog looking to take down Goliath. With each side, of course, claiming their fair share of superstars to not only bask in the added glory when all ends well, but also draw the heat when things go askew. Needless to say, the Heat-Thunder matchup piqued many an interest. And it got us thinking: Is it a sneak preview of more to come? Could this developing EastWest rivalry be in the initial stages of budding into something special? One would almost be remiss not to be reminded of the chief rivalry that encapsulated the NBA 20 years ago. In the ’80s, either the Los Angeles Lakers or the Boston Celtics made an appearance in every single Finals. The Lakers made the NBA tick and the Celtics made it tock. They were the League’s engine. Not to mention they hated each other. L.A. won the title five times (’80, ’82, ’85, ’87, ’88), Boston took home three (’81, ’84, ’86) and the two franchises clashed in ’84, ’85 and ’87. Seemingly every game, even in the regular season, had the potential for an instant classic. Drafted in 1979 and 1978, respectively, the Lakers’ Magic Johnson and the Celtics’ Larry Bird highlighted and fueled the rivalry, which was not short on star power by any means with fellow Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish as their supporting cast throughout the years. It was a battle between Hollywood pizzazz and blue collar Boston. There are certainly parallels with the budding Miami and Oklahoma City rivalry. Miami is all South Beach and sunshine, while OKC is heartland and tornadoes. Like Magic and Bird, James and Durant have ascended into arguably the NBA’s top two talents. LeBron has three of the past four MVPs while Durant has been the MVP runner-up two times and copped the League’s scoring title for three straight years. Bosh and Wade in Miami and OKC’s core of Westbrook, Harden and Ibaka are the bandmates to the lead vocals of James and Durant. Both rosters are fairly young and look to have a shelf life that extends into 2019. The obvious difference is that the off-the-court animosity that existed throughout the League and certainly between the Lakers and Celtics in the ’80s is largely extinct in today’s NBA (LeBron and Durant actually train together in the offseason), but that doesn’t mean the games itself have lacked intensity. The 2011 Finals might just have been an appetizer. A small taste of what’s on tap for the remaining seven years of the 2010s. For Miami and Oklahoma City, the pieces appear to be in place—the table is set, so to speak. Whether it matches the global impact of Magic vs. Bird two decades ago, we cannot say. But spearheaded by James and Durant, the best is still yet to come between the Heat and Thunder. —#PHIL D’APOLITO #14

ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN; NATHANIEL S. BUTLER; D. CLARKE EVANS/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES; MIKE EHRMANN/GETTY IMAGES SPORT

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to being mentioned among the best. You do that by working hard, building your franchise and winning. I think we’ve done a great job here in building this team. It’s been a work in progress and I think we have the right pieces and the right personalities here. “But I also think you have to want to get better. You can never be satisfied. You have to keep practicing hard like you always have. You have to watch film like you always have. You have to want to improve. I talk to coaches all the time and I always look for ways to get better as a coach. I know I’m never satisfied and I’m sure my players feel the same way. “There is such a long journey in the NBA each year, and if you have rivalries, that’s a very good thing. For us, it’s a matter of improving, taking what we’ve learned each year and use it as another building block. If, at the end of the day, it’s Miami and Oklahoma City, we’ll do everything we can to win the series. But there is so much in between to work on. My goal is to bring a championship to Oklahoma City. That will always be the case.” Nothing is guaranteed in sports. Well, almost nothing. In ’83, Moses Malone’s famous “Fo-Fo-Fo” prediction wound up being “Fo-Fi-Fo,” but it was prophetic indeed when the Sixers swept the Lakers in the Finals. The Sixers haven’t won a title since. While the Heat and Thunder are primed for a long run, it’s hardly a given. 055

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“I think the Lakers are right there on the step,” Malone says. “I know they’re older, but they have Steve Nash, Kobe and Dwight Howard in the middle. They can do it again. The Spurs can do it again. The Sixers are much, much better in the East. Don’t count out the Celtics. I remember back to my time with the Sixers, and we came in with a chip on our shoulders. We were sick and tired of not getting over the hump. It was our time. “It didn’t happen again. You just don’t know. I think Miami and Oklahoma City are two of the elite teams. I agree with that. I don’t agree that they’re going to win titles every season. Injuries are always a problem. It depends how hungry they stay, especially the Heat since they have won. The Thunder are trying to get to that point. When you win one title, you think you’re going to be there every year. Not true. It wasn’t true for us. I thought we’d win many titles, but it didn’t work out that way. “If LeBron, D-Wade on Miami and Durant and Westbrook14 on OKC keep that hunger and fire going, I could see titles going to both teams in the years to come. The best thing is watching the season play out. That’s why they play the games. Other teams such as the Lakers and Spurs, for instance, are very proud franchises with a lot to play for. “The Sixers, Celtics, Knicks, Nets and Bulls in the East are much improved and will want to knock off the champs. I think it’s going to be fun to watch.” While everyone will be watching the Heat make a bid for a repeat, they will have competition for eyeballs this season. The spotlight15 will be on the Lakers and for good reason. Adding the game’s best pivot and a two-time MVP to a team 056

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with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, and only two seasons removed from a championship, makes them an intriguing pick to challenge the Thunder in the West and meet the Heat in the Finals. The star power in Hollywood is undeniable, but there are questions about them this season and beyond. Will the Lakers be able to mesh together this season? With free agency still looming for Howard this summer, will he be back? How much longer can Steve Nash16 and Kobe17 keep going? Will it be salary-cap feasible for the Lakers to keep all those stars together? While many continue to predict their demise, the Spurs have just continued to win, pushing OKC to six games in last year’s Conference Finals. Their power trio of Duncan (36), Manu Ginobili (35) and Tony Parker (30) are all 30-somethings, but Popovich has always been a master at helping his stars find rest throughout the marathon season while injecting youth into the rotation. Chicago might be missing its heart and MVP for the first half of the season, but even without Rose, the Bulls feature a stingy D, thanks to head coach Tom Thibodeau’s genius at stopping opposing offenses. With a healthy Rose expected back for the second half, the Bulls could pose a challenge to the defending champs. So don’t just start booking flights to and hotels in Miami and Oklahoma City in the month of June just yet. Is it probable? Yes. Is it an absolute certainty? Hardly. “I think in this star-driven league, it’s natural to think the best teams will be there at the end,” Williams says. “Miami and Oklahoma City have the stars and the pieces around them. They will be facing teams which are so much more improved. Even a team like New Orleans with the kid Anthony Davis. If all falls right, he could turn out to be the next star. He could elevate that franchise if everything comes into place around him and he turns out to be the player everyone thought he would be. “The Heat and Thunder are proven teams now, especially Miami with the title last season. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Lakers and Spurs RONALD MARTINEZ; POOL; MIKE EHRMANN/GETTY IMAGES SPORT

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BIG GAMES. BIG MOMENTS. TM & © 2012 Turner Entertainment Networks, Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved. © 2012 NBA Properties, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Photo: Getty Images.

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make their pitch. All those other teams, who improved here and there, are going to want to make a statement when the star-power teams come to their town. It makes the League fun. “Now, if it is Miami and Oklahoma City again in the Finals, I think it’s good. It will make everyone else, as I said, work so much harder to reach that level.” The Celtics nearly accomplished the feat last season. They were one win away from another trip to the Finals before James took over the series and ultimately carried the Heat to a championship. The pieces are still in place for the Celtics to raise another championship banner. “We’re in it to win it,” says Boston coach Doc Rivers. “We don’t believe in third place. We have veteran players who have been there and know how to win. We gave it a great run and just came up a little bit short. That happens sometimes. Hopefully, it will be motivation for us to come back stronger and hungrier. “There are too many good teams and too many good players and anything can happen. I’ve seen it a thousand times over the years. What’s supposed to happen doesn’t always happen. An injury here or a play there and it can change everything. When you have Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, you have guys who are hungrier now than they were as rookies. I think that rubs off on down to the line. It’s what you want as role models on your team. “Looking at Miami and OKC, of course they’re going to be mentioned as contenders because they are. We think we are, too. It’s why we play. We’re vying for that ring along with everyone else.” Nothing is guaranteed in professional sports. “The beautiful part about the NBA is that games are won on the court, not on predictions,” Williams says. “The games are all played and that’s when you see things play out. Teams who you think aren’t going to be as good, start to play better. Teams who are good take another step toward being very, very good. It’s a league with the best players in the world. The Heat 058

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BONUS POINTS 1. Despite being one of just three teams in the Eastern Conference to top 50 wins, the Sixers were underdogs to almost every team in a Western Conference that featured seven 50-win teams. 2. Miami became just the third team to sweep the middle three games at home in the 2-3-2 format. Detroit won all three from the Los Angeles Lakers in ’04 and Miami did the same against Dallas two years later in ’06. 3. The Thunder’s four-game losing streak to end the season was their longest. They had dropped three straight (to Memphis, Miami and Indiana) during the regular season from April 2-6. 4. All are signed long term with the exception of James Harden. 5. By the time you read this, Durant will have probably notched his 10,000th career point, as he entered the 2012-13 season just 22 points shy of the mark. 6. James notched a triple-double in the clinching game of the 2012 Finals—26 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds—on his way to becoming the MVP, becoming the first player to notch a trip-dub in a Finals clincher. 7. Miami coach Erik Spoelstra tied Pat Riley for the franchise record with 34 playoff victories. Riley was 34-36 while Spoelstra improved to 34-22 in the clinching game. 8. More than 4,000 fans greeted the Thunder upon their return to Oklahoma City following the Game 5 loss in Miami. 9. Like Shaq, Dwight Howard comes to the Lakers as a perennial All-Star who has never won a title. 10. The NBA has seen 10 teams win consecutive titles. 11. Perkins knows what it takes. He has appeared in the playoffs six times, including a championship with the Celtics in ’08. 12. Spoelstra also holds the distinction of being the youngest NBA head coach to win a championship. 13. Brooks played 10 seasons in the NBA with the 76ers, Timberwolves, Rockets, Knicks, Mavericks and Cavaliers. He averaged 4.9 points and 2.4 assists per game. 14. Westbrook was part of the 2012 gold-medal Team USA, but two summers ago, Westbrook helped guide the USA Men’s National Team to a gold medal during the 2010 FIBA World Championship. Westbrook was named player of the game in the clinching win over Lithuania. 15. See our cover. 16. Nash turns 39 in February. 17. Bryant is 34, plays a position loaded with young athletes and has logged over 51,000 (regular season and playoffs combined) minutes entering the 2012-13 season.

and Thunder have those star players. “So do other teams. It’s going to be a great season and worth watching on any given night. Competition fuels teams and it fuels players. The rivalries are built because of those star-driven teams. It’s a great thing. The other teams are going to build on it and do all they can to get there.” And right now, the Heat and Thunder are sitting at the top waiting for them. GLENN JAMES; GARRETT ELLWOOD; DAVID SHERMAN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

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POSITION TO WIN BY MICHAEL BRADLEY #53

With versatility being increasingly stressed in the NBA, positions like SG, SF, PF and C might soon be DOA.

D

on’t worry, Oklahoma City fans, Pat Riley isn’t predicting a Heat-Lakers Finals series when he describes the growing propensity for NBA teams to use smaller, quicker, versatile lineups instead of more traditional units built around centers and power forwards. But you can tell he has thought about the intriguing possibilities of a matchup between his Heat and Lakers.1 It’s kind of hard for him to ignore it, after Miami subdued OKC last year using LeBron James as a four man and Chris Bosh in the middle. So, how does that configuration deal with the Lakers and their classic interior tandem of Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol? That’s what has Riley’s fertile mind at work. He thinks back to the Celtic teams of the ’60s, which orbited Bill Russell—a glorified power forward at 6-9, 220—with flexible players able to assume different roles.2 He remembers Don Nelson’s3 Milwaukee, Golden State and Dallas clubs. He remembers his own experiences with the Lakers, when Magic Johnson was essentially a four man, despite his ballhandling responsibilities. In an NBA that is adhering less and less to convention, Riley is wondering whether the quick can beat the big.

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It didn’t hurt that one of those four was the best player in the world,4 but Riley isn’t the only person in the League thinking this way in light of the Heat’s success. Is it better to be big, or is it more profitable to have a smaller lineup filled with people who can do many things. “You don’t play big just to play big,” Golden State GM Bob Myers says. “You have to be good. You need to have big men who can show on the pick-and-roll and move their feet. Can you be successful going big when Miami plays small? You have to punish them.” The NBA has been moving in this direction for a while. Players all over the court are abandoning traditional job descriptions for more elastic roles. Teams are looking less for people to fill specific roles and more for skilled “basketball players” capable of defending multiple positions and playing all over the court offensively. The old-fashioned off-guard has been replaced by a two/three hybrid that can sometimes defend the power forward spot. Small forwards are being asked to handle the ball. Four men need to defend the post. Only the classic point guard, who is capable of organizing it all, remains a somewhat fixed commodity, although teams often deploy more of a multipurpose person in that role off the bench. Riley is right that the idea of using hybrid players is nothing new. It’s just that its influence is far more pervasive in the NBA—and that was before the Heat won last year. Now that Miami has been successful with Bosh in the middle, James as a “stretch” four and some good shooters behind them, expect to see just about every team employ that strategy throughout the year. “You will see it more and more, unless you have a team that has players like Gasol and Howard,” Riley says. “Then you have to find a way to counter them. You do that with quickness.”

Defensively, few players in the League can match the versatility of Dallas’s Shawn Marion. During last year’s Western Semifinals against Oklahoma City, the Mavericks gave Marion the tall responsibility of guarding explosive scorers Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.

“The key is that you take a chance when you go small against a big team,” Riley says. “Can small get to big with quickness before big gets to small and bludgeons it? If you can stay with it, quickness usually prevails.” Riley isn’t about to concede the paint completely to any team. That’s why Miami’s Chris Bosh spent the offseason pounding iron in the gym and throwing back extra grilled chicken to add heft for his growing role as a center. It’s also why the Heat entered training camp with six players on the roster who could be described as pivotmen. You still need size. It’s just that winning teams no longer must rely on defined roles to succeed. Versatility is the new normal in professional basketball, and last year’s Heat victory proved it. Using a lineup that often deployed four perimeter players around a non-traditional middle man, Miami forced opponents to bend its way. 062

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It’s hard to tell exactly when big men began wanting to play like smaller guys. Maybe we can blame it on Ralph Sampson,5 a 7-4 giant from the 1980s who preferred to shoot long-range jumpers. Perhaps the feeling has always been there, but because of the rigidity of basketball until the 1970s and ’80s, if you were tall, you were put in the post, period. Wilt Chamberlain always said, “Nobody roots for Goliath,” so maybe the tall people always harbored dreams of playing guard, if only to get more people to cheer for them. Whether it’s due to a desire for more love or just a preference to have the ball in their hands, rather than wait for someone to feed them, players who would have been traditional pivots before are not filling those roles today. As fewer players emerge who can handle life down low, particularly offensively, teams turn to different methods of scoring. It’s no longer a case of throwing the ball to the big fella, waiting for the double-team and then finding the open man. “We have 30 teams in the League, the most we have ever had, and we don’t have as many dominant post players as we had in other eras,” Memphis GM Chris Wallace says. “With more teams, the talent is distributed further out, and it’s not as concentrated.” Last year, the Celtics didn’t start playing like a championship contender until Doc Rivers inserted four man Kevin Garnett in the middle. Before the move, Boston was a mediocre 17-17 and looked old. After KG moved to center, Boston charged home with a 22-10 record in March and April and extended Miami to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals. “The Celtics were dead in the water,” Sixers president Rod Thorn says. “They moved Garnett to center—kicking and screaming; he didn’t want to do it6—but he became a much better offensive player, and the team took off.” The dilution of talent plays a big part in the lack of post players, but so have the rule changes designed to open the floor. With an emphasis on movement and athleticism, there is more work for versatile players. “There isn’t a premium on size and brawn,” Wallace says. As the League has Brett Deering/getty images sport; Danny Bollinger/nBae/getty images

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Just a rookie last season, Kawhi Leonard quickly developed into the role of former Spurs defensive ace Bruce Bowen, given the assignment of trying to stay in front of the likes of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin during the playoffs.

done more to promote flow on the court, younger players are less prone to choose a life in the post. Wallace says they look at an assignment to play center as being akin to offensive line work. It’s life in the trenches, and it isn’t fun. When the Sixers acquired Andrew Bynum as part of the Howard-to-theLakers deal, the organization boasted that it had received one of the “topfive centers” in the League. One would hope so, since a look around the NBA reveals about 10 or so (maybe) true pivotmen—not big forwards being asked to fill that job on a regular basis. Of the best, Memphis’ Marc Gasol is from Spain, Golden State’s Andrew Bogut is an Aussie, and while Tim Duncan (NBA execs consider him a center) is from the U.S. Virgin Islands, he is not a product of the American youth basketball complex. In other words, kids in this country aren’t growing up with the skills necessary to play in the middle. “By the time you get to the college level, you have to have some of that with you,” Wallace says. “When you’re 18 or 19, it’s hard not to have the skills and then develop them. It’s one thing to be taught skills and another to be able to apply them to game situations.” Since they’re not learning drop-step moves and hook shots, young big men face the basket. They handle the ball. They develop skills that are translatable to a variety of situations, and since they have size, they can still be middle men on defense—provided they’re willing to mix it up inside. Consider Anthony Davis, last June’s top draft pick. Portland GM Neil Olshey says that when scouts and executives saw him at practices for the McDonald’s High School All-Star Game in April, 2011, they swore he was the next Kevin Durant. (He, by the way, is a 6-9 shooting guard.) Then, Davis went to Kentucky, and the Wildcats had him go inside and block shots. “He was going to be a three, and then he became a five,” Olshey says. “He can play the three through five spots. What, do you not take Anthony Davis because he doesn’t fit into a specific box?” The answer, of course, is no. You take Anthony Davis and create a style of play that fits his many skills. He’s not Shaquille O’Neal; nobody in the college game has that kind of size or pure interior game. But it’s better to choose him and move him around than it was to choose Michael Justin Edmonds/GEtty imaGEs sport; andrEw d. BErnstEin/nBaE/GEtty imaGEs

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Olowokandi, Lorenzen Wright or Melvin Ely,7 as the Clippers did from 1996-2002, just because they had center bodies—and limited NBA skills. Of course, when Thorn came into the League, in 1963, as a hotshot guard from West Virginia, the NBA had only nine teams, and it was a lot easier to find traditional centers for all of them. Plus, high school and college kids learned the spot. Thorn is excited that the Sixers have a classic pivotman in Bynum, but he also understands that such a commodity is now a luxury. “Back then, very few guys played two and three positions,” Thorn says. “It’s very common now that many will do that. The athleticism keeps getting better.” It used to be that NBA teams who assessed draft prospects absolutely required them to have a defined position. Collegiate power forwards who measured only 6-8 were dismissed as too small for interior work but too slow for the perimeter. Big guards who didn’t have a great outside shot were liabilities on the offensive end. And so on. If you didn’t fit a certain mold, you were deemed a “tweener”8 which didn’t bode well for a long career. There were, however, some exceptions. Some of the best include all-time greats Charles Barkley9 and Scottie Pippen.10 Despite their obvious skills, they were considered question marks coming into the NBA because they didn’t fit the scouts’ physical M.O. of a traditional small- or power forward. Within the past decade, the League’s tolerance for skilled athletes without easily identified positions has grown considerably. Ten years ago, some in the League might have wondered if Davis was worth the top overall spot, because he wasn’t a “true” center. Not anymore. “It’s not a negative now to ask, ‘What is he?’” Thorn says. “Now, we say, ‘He’s a player. We’ll find a spot for him.’ “There has to be skill. If you’re just an athlete who has no skill, you’ll be phased out quickly. Every now and then you have someone who’s such a good defender or rebounder that they can be good players without skill. But that’s rare.” The good news is that these versatile players do have more in their 063

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PG – Magic Johnson: Who ever heard of a 6-9 point man? Up until his arrival in 1979 as the No. 1 pick in the draft, the NBA was primarily filled with 6-footers who were given the keys to the offense. Despite his power forward build, the Lakers wisely let Johnson handle the ball, run the offense, score from the post and defend every position on the court. In return Magic delivered five championship banners and forever broke the taboo of big point guards. Inspired: Penny Hardaway, Tracy McGrady, LeBron James

Positional Pioneers

SG – Tiny Archibald: Listed generously at 6-1, Archibald looked like a point guard but scored like a machinegunning two man. Only three players have since topped the 34.0 ppg he put up in 1972-73. But teammates will be quick to not dismiss him as a point man who only called his own number. During that same 34-ppg season, Archibald also led the League in assists (11.4 apg), making him the only player in NBA history to lead both categories in the same season. Inspired: Kevin Johnson, Tim Hardaway, Derrick Rose

SF – Paul Pressey: The 6-5 swingman could play off guard, small forward and thanks to coach Don Nelson’s system, the point. He initiated the offense but also handled chores on the wing. While his overall ledger might not statistically overwhelm, a look at Pressey’s career indicates an all-around game befitting the versatility that Nelson saw in him. His 16.1 ppg/6.8 apg/ 5.4 rpg/1.6 spg line in 1984-85 was a precursor of things to come in the NBA. Inspired: Scottie Pippen, Grant Hill, Lamar Odom

The NBA is loaded with players who can handle work at many positions. But it wasn’t always that way. Here are some of those whose trailblazing skills set the stage for today.

toolboxes these days. Big guys handle and pass much better than their predecessors did, even just a generation ago. And smaller players can play up front, provided they have a big man beside them, and provided they have the toughness necessary to defend. Last year in the playoffs, the Clippers used 6-4 Randy Foye at the four spot. It gave the Clippers an edge on offense, but only because Foye held his ground at the other end. “If you do that, you have to ask if the guy is tough enough, or is he going to get beaten up,” Olshey says. As Wallace says, a lot of the move toward versatility happens at the earliest ages and is in part due to the three letters that have become synonymous with lack of basketball discipline: AAU.11 “It’s a different game now,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro says. “Coming up through AAU ball and even into college, you see more guys who are 6-10 and 6-11 handling the ball and doing things on the perimeter, rather than in the post. You look at Kevin Durant and his size (69), and you see him on the perimeter. Kids see that and want to do it.” So, can we add the lack of traditional big men and the disappearing of established on-court roles to the list of things to blame AAU basketball 064

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for, along with global warming and unemployment? The polarizing hoops culture that infuriates high school coaches and is built on a culture of endless games and few—if any—structured practices does indeed encourage an all-court game that eschews classic responsibilities. But is AAU really bad for basketball or merely a convenient target? Olshey is well aware of the problems that come with AAU ball in terms of power-hungry coaches and the opportunists who are trying to profit from their associations with teenage sensations. He understands also it’s how participants broaden their talents. “We all know the negative impact of AAU basketball, but the positive impact is that you don’t have guys put into boxes, where they are asked to play just one position,” Olshey says. “You have guys playing more games and building versatility by handling the ball. They have more versatile skill sets and are not pigeon-holed into one position at an early age.” By the time those players reach college, coaches have no choice but to create motion schemes that emphasize basketball skill, rather than systems designed to fit five pieces together neatly. Look at Kentucky’s dribble-drive offense. The object is to move the ball off the bounce, rather than relying

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C – Ralph Sampson: Maybe he didn’t like banging his head on door jambs or trying to find adequate leg room, but the 7-4 Sampson was much happier on the perimeter than the pivot. To the Houston Rockets’ credit (or perhaps due to Hakeem Olajuwon’s immense talent), they were bold enough to see past Sampson’s prerequisites for the center position and still took Olajuwon in the 1984 draft, forming a short-lived “Twin Tower” lineup (spawning many bad bootlegs around the League). He was the original reluctant big man, a 7-footer who could dribble the ball the length of the court and find an open man or pull up for a 20-foot jumper with the ease of a person a foot shorter. Back and knee injuries robbed him of what could have been, but many of today’s players share his DNA. Inspired: Chris Webber, Kevin Garnett, Kevin Durant —#53

PF – Dirk Nowitzki: When Nellie traded for the 7-0 German on draft day, people laughed. A rookie year filled with struggle only served to justify the snickering. However, things turned around by Nowitzki’s second year. After watching him torment smaller defenders with his turnaround jumper and beat up on the big guys on the perimeter, the one-time doubters began to scour the globe in search for the elusive sweetshooting big man. Inspired: Chris Bosh, Andrea Bargnani, Kevin Love

on players’ understanding of a complex system that relies on passing and choreographed movements. That fits the skill sets of incoming (and, in the case of the Wildcats, outgoing) freshmen12 and attracts them to Lexington. When they enter the NBA, they have little or no experience functioning in a structured setting that relies on precision patterns. That’s why so many offenses throughout the League appear similar. “Most of the NBA offenses have morphed into similar beings,” Riley says. “Everybody runs the same kind of stuff. If you’re going to be a high-octane team, you want to have good defense, great rebounding and get out and run to try and score in transition. The secondary part of the offense is the pickand-roll. You have multiple pick-and-rolls coming at you from every angle. “At the end of the offense, on the last 10 seconds of the shot clock, it comes down to getting the ball to your best player, so he can create offense, with great spacing around him.” The only position that remains inviolate is the starting point guard spot. Teams need someone there who is committed to that role, not looking for a mix-and-match lifestyle. He must impose some structure on the whole

free-flowing offensive parade, make good decisions to protect possessions and manage his teammates. That is a pretty well-defined job description, no matter what kind of scheme a team prefers. “One position we’re locked into is the point guard,” Wallace says. “You can get by with combo guys as your backup, but all teams must have a defined first-string point guard.”13 Anybody surprised by James’ success as a power forward in the Finals doesn’t know much about the player or NBA history. First off, he has proven his on-court supremacy. Second, his ancestors set the stage for his play. Though the term “stretch four” didn’t exist in the 1950s and ’60s, the Celtics sure employed the strategy, first with 6-5, 220-pound “Jungle” Jim Luscutoff and then with Tom “Satch” Sanders, who went 6-6, 210. “By today’s standards,14 those guys are stretch fours,” Riley says. Nelson, who played the power forward spot with the Celtics at just 6-6 during the early ’70s, was a big believer in using versatile players around an established post. His Bucks teams employed Marques Johnson,

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No PositioN, No Problem Many players are round, square or other specific-shaped pegs that can only slot into its corresponding hole. The following quintet are the game’s best “Play-Doh,” able to morph into whatever shape necessary to fill the void. And for obvious reasons, none of these guys are given any position labels.

LeBron James Whether you agree or disagree with the belief that LeBron James has firmly supplanted himself as the game’s best, there’s little argument that he is without peer when it comes to versatility. A coach’s dream, James can be slotted anywhere on the floor and be a top five player at that spot (seriously, undertake this exercise and you’ll agree). Even beyond the present, LeBron will likely be the player that NBA historians in the future will point to as the reason behind the shift in the League to position-less players who are versed in every aspect of the game.

Andre Iguodala Never fully embraced by fans in Philadelphia due to his superstar-level contract, the City of Brotherly Love might someday look back and realize what a talent it had on its hands. Iguodala might not excel in any one area (not counting his defense) but he also doesn’t have any major flaw to his game. He’s the one man in the NBA who might have the physical tools and mental makeup to guard LeBron solo. On offense he can find a variety of ways to score or find a teammate. A genius at making parts work, George Karl might be the perfect head coach to really harness Iguodala’s versatility.

Pau Gasol He’s become the forgotten man in Tinseltown these days, what with the arrival of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, the ever looming presence of Kobe Bryant and the antics of Metta World Peace, but Gasol remains the most flexible big man in the NBA. Don’t forget it was Gasol’s ability to shift over to center during Andrew Bynum’s absence that fueled the Lakers to a title. Few centers in the NBA possess his package of passing/scoring from the high and low post and ability to power smaller defenders inside and take bigger foes outside.

Lamar Odom Discounting his lost season in Dallas last year, the do-it-all Odom is a matchup nightmare. At 6-10, he can hold his own in a Skill Competition Challenge against all guards, but is still long and smart enough to handle some spot duty in today’s increasingly smaller frontlines. In his peak years in Los Angeles (both teams), he was the perfect utility guy, providing whatever need depending on the personnel on the floor. As a bonus, Odom has proven he can ply his game off the bench, providing more flexibility to any roster.

Josh Smith When not shooting long jumpers, Smith is a coach’s and fantasy player’s dream. The 6-9 long-limbed, jump-out-of-thegym player can seemingly do everything (except shoot long jumpers we want to reiterate again). Smith made a jump last year and should see more improvement this season as he assumes more of a focal role for the Hawks. Able to gobble up rebounds, block shots, pounce on steals and score (with an ever improving passing eye), Smith is always a threat to accomplish something as elusive as the Yeti in the NBA: the quadruple-double.

a pure three man, as a power forward, thanks to Johnson’s great leaping ability. It was Nelson who coined the term “point forward” to describe 6-5 Paul Pressey, who could play any of the three perimeter positions. Magic Johnson played just about everywhere15 for the Lakers, giving them tremendous lineup flexibility. But during the 1970s and ’80s, the NBA experienced a rigid period. Players were still taught specific position skills and entered the League expected to handle one job. There was a starting five and a backup for each spot. As the pivot became harder to fill, and big men began With its many mix-and-match players able to play multiple roles, the Denver Nuggets might have the most flexible roster in to move further away from the basket—a result the NBA. Oh, and this season they’re adding one of the most “do-it-all” guys in the NBA: Andre Iguodala. as much from the growing ranks of tall, skilled Europeans as anything that was happening within American borders—coaches found that they had more options. With more four and five. And Erik Spoelstra changed his strategy to go with his more versatility at their disposal, and a conscious effort by the League to open elastic lineup combinations. the game up after the rugged ’90s, coaches began to experiment with “He did a great job,” Olshey says. “When they went small, he cranked it lineup combinations designed for specific opponents and game situations. up. They scored earlier in the offense, and it all worked.” The Heat’s championship showed that a team could thrive over the Will it be successful for others? And will it be successful for a whole course of many games with a group of players capable of filling many season or just in shorter bursts? We’ll find out this year, as teams commit roles. James’ success has been noted, but Mike Miller swung between the to using more flexible lineups. For instance, Olshey’s Trail Blazers have two and three. Shane Battier was all over the place. Bosh spent time at the just one center—Meyers Leonard, a rookie, no less—on the roster. So, 066

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In the old days of the NBA, 6-9 players like Kevin Durant would be asked to play in the paint, but they can now be found pushing the ball in transition.

don’t be surprised if 6-9 J.J. Hickson is in the middle often. Jared Jeffries is 6-10 and will likely play every frontcourt position, thanks to his size and excellent skill. And look out for 6-5 rookie Will Barton, whom Olshey doesn’t even classify by position. He’s simply a basketball player. As generic as it may be sound, “basketball player” describes a majority of the Denver Nuggets’ players. Other than a few guys, the roster is filled with shape-shifting players—Andre Iguodala, Corey Brewer, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, Anthony Randolph—who can each play a different role depending on the situation. Even their center, JaVale McGee, is a nimble 7-footer who can masquerade as a perimeter player. This gives head coach George Karl a lot of flexibility; he can essentially throw out a number of permutations of five onto the floor, forcing matchup problems. The Sixers plan to use a variety of players in multiple positions up front this year. It begins with Bynum in the middle, but Spencer Hawes will see time at the four and five. So will Lavoy Allen. Thaddeus Young will be at the three and four. The key is to create as many combinations as possible to handle whatever situations arise. “We’ve had three or four guys who can play two or three positions,” Thorn says. “They get more minutes because they are versatile, and it allows us to play different styles.” Doing away with specialized players and roles also helps teams survive the inevitable injury during the season. Losing a player, even a key one, won’t hurt as much if the roster is filled with modular parts that can slide over and make up for the absence. A final component to the allure of a roster packed with adaptable players is a financial one. Teams can improve their cap flexibility by filling their bench with multitalented performers and not have to spend big money on the 10th-through-14th players to fill specific roles. Plus, if teams have younger players with potential, they can take up a roster spot and learn while elastic veterans play a couple different positions ahead of them. “Coaches want solutions,” Olshey says. “The more solutions he can provide, the more [a GM] can build a relationship with a coach so that he can say, ‘We have a second-round player that we want to develop, so we’ll give you Player X, who can play the three or four or the four or five, and we can develop the young guy into something for the future.’” Chances are that second-round pick will become somebody who can do a lot of things. That’s the way it is in the NBA today, even if you don’t have a player on your roster like LeBron James. 068

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(clockwise from top left) Tom “Satch” Sanders, Marques Johnson, Ralph Sampson and Charles Barkley were all players who, while not fitting the traditional physical mold of their positions, found success in the NBA.

BONUS POINTS 1. It also happens to be the two teams he’s had the longest ties with and where Riley has coached teams to NBA Championships. 2. The role at the end of the season on a Russell-led club usually meant Champagne douser responsibilities. 3. The recently minted Hall of Famer was never afraid to mix it up, employing a forward as point guard and encouraging centers to shoot the three ball. 4. If you’re reading this to figure out who we’re referring to, we’d like to be the first to welcome you to the NBA. It’s a fascinating league and sport to be a fan of. 5. Another 2012 HOF inductee. 6. Garnett has famously insisted on being listed at “6-11” despite his obvious 7-foot status. 7. Combined, the trio was about 20 feet and 9 inches worth of disappointing centers. 8. The term had a negative connotation to it, describing players who didn’t have a true position in the traditional sense. 9. At 6-5, Barkley is the only player under 6-6 to be in the top 20 in career rebounds. 10. Entering the League as a skinny 6-8 player from a small program, Central Arkansas, many scouts didn’t know where to place him. 11. Amateur Athletic Union 12. Over the past three drafts, eight Wildcat freshman (nine if you count Enes Kanter, who never actually played for the program) have been first-round picks. 13. Interestingly enough, OKC and Miami, two teams that don’t rely on a traditional point guard, were the two Finals teams in June. 14. Players in the NBA were much smaller then. 15. Most famously jumping center in the title-clinching Game 6 of the 1980 Finals.

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By Darryl Howerton #21

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tic The Los Angeles Lakers begin a magical ride that will have everyone watching. Where it ends, no one knows. Andrew d. Bernstein/nBAe/Getty imAGes

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t feels like the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers are locks to be NBA Champions. Or coming off one. But they are neither. The buzz started in July when they acquired point guard Steve Nash, and the excitement went into fever pitch with the import of Dwight Howard. A combined 14 All-Star selections worth of players to join 14-time All-Star Kobe Bryant, four-time All-Star Pau Gasol, two-time All-Star Antawn Jamison and one-time All-Star Metta World Peace.1 The fervor totally justified a pyrotechnic introduction2 where multiple championships are boldly predicted, but the Lakers, being old hands at this championship thing, played it cool. As great as the Lakers looked on paper, they know championships aren’t won in July. Hell, they don’t even think they’re won in June when the Finals takes place. The coronation might happen then, but they know the road to the crown is a lengthy process that happens from October through May. They may or may not get there. They’re not making any predictions (and neither are we), but they will expand on how they got together and about the journey that lies ahead. 072

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itch Kupchak, general manager: “I did not imagine that Steve Nash would be a Laker. I didn’t think: No. 1, there would be any interest on his part; No. 2, I didn’t think Phoenix would be a willing sign-and-trade3 partner. We made the midnight call to Steve on June 30, kind of because you just have to. You just take the chance on a lark. But when you have a trade exception—like we did this summer—it gives you that chance. When you make a trade like we did with Lamar Odom last December, where we got back a first-round pick and the trade exception—well, that’s what trade exceptions are eventually used for, to acquire another player. Keep in mind, we weren’t just going to use our trade exception just to use it. We have to be sure when we add payroll like that we’re making a significant move and that it makes sense. We’re by far the highest payroll team in the NBA. In general terms, we’re not adding a player that gets paid, let’s say, $9 million. We’re adding a player that’s costing us probably upwards of $20 million a year because of the luxury tax. It would have to be something that was in the minds of ownership and basketball ops as something well worth using an exception like that. On the other hand, the Dwight Howard trade4 we knew was always a possibility. In Andrew Bynum, we had the second-best center in the NBA, in a lot of people’s minds. We knew there might be a trade there, with all the valleys and peaks and the rumorville that was constant in Orlando the whole year. We always thought that deal was possible because the pieces were there.”

anything can happen. Then when I heard we got Dwight, I was sad to see Andrew Bynum go. He’s a good friend. He’s been a great teammate. But I was happy to have Dwight on board and for me to remain here. Like I said, I always feel privileged and lucky and I want to continue to be very productive and to contribute as much as I can for this team to reach its goal, which we all know is a championship.”

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wight Howard: “I don’t know what the Miami Heat really went through when they added LeBron James and Chris Bosh because I wasn’t in their locker room. But every team goes through different things. We have a lot of vets on this team. We all understand what our goal is. We know that there will be rough patches where we don’t play as good. But you just got to remember: It’s not about that day. It’s a journey. It’s a process. It’s about getting better every day, getting stronger every day, working extremely hard. I think I’m going to have an awesome year and it all starts with making sure my back is 100 percent6 after surgery. There is no timetable for when I will return at the start. I just want to be 100 percent for the season. I don’t want to play a couple games, then sit down because of another injury. I owe that to myself and my team.”

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teve Nash: “It’s obviously going to be a big challenge for us. There are so many personalities and dominant players here. So many challenges for the coaches, finding the best way for us to play. And it’s going to be a challenge for me. I’ve played one way, more or less, for eight years with the Phoenix Suns. To come in and play a different way will be new, but I’m thrilled to be a part of something as challenging as this. Whatever the journey7 presents, I am looking forward to it. We got good players, good people, good personalities. It’s all there for us. We just got to find a way to make it work. “

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ike Brown, head coach: “I want to give credit to Dr. Jerry Buss, Jim Buss5 and Mitch Kupchak for putting a product on the floor like they have this year. And it didn’t just stop with getting superstars like Steve and Dwight. They continued to understand where they could change the weaknesses into strengths of our team by bringing in guys like Antawn Jamison, Jodie Meeks, Chris Duhon, Earl Clark and so on. Not only did we strengthen our starting lineup, which everybody can’t help but notice, but we’ve also really strengthened our bench.”

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obe Bryant: “This organization has done so much for me. I’m so thankful. That’s one of the things, the conversations that Jimmy and I had over the summer. It was like, ‘If you have the opportunity to get Dwight, get him,’ because I want to see this organization continue to flourish and continue to be successful long after I’m gone. We have an opportunity to get it right here.”

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au Gasol: “Last year is behind us. All the trade rumors I was in are now behind us. We learned. We grew. Now we move on and we’re here. It makes playing a lot easier. You have fewer distractions to worry about. You do your job better. That’ll be good. So obviously when I heard the news, I was excited to get Steve. But I couldn’t get too excited. In this business, you can’t really get too excited because you know pretty much, at any time, Noah Graham (2)/NBaE/GEtty ImaGEs

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ryant: “I got a question about whose team this is. I don’t want to get into the, ‘Well, we share …’ No, it’s my team. But I want to make sure with Dwight, ‘When I retire, this is going to be yours.’ I want to teach him everything I possibly know, so when I step away, this organization can ride on as if I never left.”

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oward: “It’s a process. I’m willing to go through that process, learn from one of the greatest to ever play the game. I think it’ll be great. We have many conversations about that. Learning from a guy like Kobe, I know 073

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he’s going to be tough on me. But I expect that and I want him to do that. I want to be that guy. I’ll take all the heat that he’s going to give me because I know at the end of the day that’s going to make me a better player and a better person. Kobe is Kobe and I am who I am. I think we’re going to have fun. We all want to win. We’ll be fine.”

a league full of robots that all had the same talent, you’d be best off running the Princeton offense.8 In my opinion, the hardest offense to defend was Eddie Jordan’s offense when he was head coach at Washington. You really had to respect your person defensively, and stick by him, because if you get beat for a simple layup or wide-open layup, it can frustrate you and destroy you as a unit. The preparation that we had going into each of those playoff series, the preparation we had going into a regular season game with Washington, was the most difficult because of the spacing of that offense and there also are so many counters that are built in the offense. Now that Eddie is coaching here, this team can really do well in that offense because

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asol: “I think Kobe and Dwight will mesh well. Obviously, we haven’t been through enough to know that. But we’ll find out soon enough. We understand here we need everyone on the team to make this a successful journey, a successful season. We need to understand each other. Stick by each other and do our job in the process. The challenge is there are a lot of big names, big players. I think we have to make it work no matter what. We’re a family. We’re a team. We’re not going to be happy unless we reach our goal.”

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ash: “I think Kobe and Dwight both feel very blessed to play with each other. I think Kobe, especially at this stage of his career, has an unlimited amount of appreciation to have a center of Dwight’s ability that can control the paint. I think for Dwight, it’s a pleasure to play with somebody who can take the pressure off him, who can create his own shot, who can take the shot at the end of the game. Dwight can concentrate on being a center that racks up big numbers and makes it difficult for the other team. And he can rely on Kobe to do all that he does. Bottom line, I think this is Kobe’s team. From the media’s perspective, this is Kobe’s team. But anyone who’s ever played on a basketball team knows it’s our team. The team needs to share in that responsibility. Kobe can’t do everything. He’s going to be great at what he’s great at, and the rest of us got to pick up the pieces that get to us. This is undoubtedly Kobe’s team. He’s been here his whole career. He’s won championships. And he’s the best player on the team. We got to be there for him every day, so it’s essentially our team as well.”

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ryant: “I don’t see Steve handling the ball being an issue at all. We do different things. Having Steve helps tremendously. It’s a different dynamic than when I was here with Shaq. I had to do something that I naturally don’t do, which is be a quarterback, making plays for other people and score. So the responsibility of him getting the ball fell on me and it was like, ‘This is not what I do.’ But I figured it out. But here, that’s Steve. Steve’s the quarterback. He has a great system in the Princeton offense to kind of play around with and manipulate. I just slide to my natural spot.”

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rown: “I’ve always been a fan of the Princeton offense. In my days of Cleveland, the years we played the Washington Wizards in the first round [the 2006 through 2008 NBA playoffs] were always tough battles. Take away the individual talent of players around the League and if you had 074

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THE L.A. ELITE

With apologies to New York’s Madison Square Garden (a.k.a. the “Mecca of Basketball”) and its newfound citymates, the Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles seemingly has taken over as the basketball capital of the world, with its Staples Center now becoming the game’s cathedral. The Los Angeles Lakers, who have won five NBA championships since moving into Staples in the 1999-00 season, are the city’s top draw, but you have to give a lot of credit for the city’s NBA takeover to the upstart Los Angeles Clippers, an organization that toiled in futility for the most part for 26 years until Blake Griffin and Chris Paul and arrived on the scene to change everything. Both the Lakers and Clippers advanced to the second round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs, and it was right around that time, when both L.A. basketball squads were playing back-to-back-to-back nights at Staples Center during playoff time, that basketball fans began to realize all eyes were on L.A. Six months later, both the Clippers and Lakers now find themselves ranked in the top six of most 2012-13 NBA preseason polls, coupled with the likelihood that L.A. will host more playoff games than any other city in America again this season (sorry again, New York City). For the Lakers, this is par for the course; evidence of that requires a look up to the rafters during a Lakers game. But the Clippers are sailing in unchartered territory, and it is this newfound success that has made L.A. elite when it comes to entertaining basketball. Paul said he just wanted to make strides in the right direction during his first season in L.A., and the Clippers did just that in 2011-12, going from a .390 squad to a .606 team in their first year together. Now Paul is shooting for his next goal of “being the best team in the West.” Griffin explains, saying, “Chris is obviously the best point guard in the League. I’m just trying to learn as much as I can and gel together as quickly as possible.” Same was true last year of past NBA champions Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler, who both assisted in leading the Clipper youth while meshing their skills with future sky-high talent like center DeAndre Jordan and point guard Eric Bledsoe. It will be déjà vu all over again when future Hall of Famer Grant Hill, two-time

we have a really intelligent group. They’re used to playing a motion-type offense and I just thought it would add to the dynamics of the pieces that were already on the roster.”

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ntawn Jamison: “I’ve played with Steve before in Dallas and I’ve played with Eddie’s Princeton offense at Washington. So I am really looking forward to how his Princeton offense runs here, with great players like Kobe, Dwight and Pau to go with Steve and this offense. When I was in Dallas, I gave all credit to Steve for my success9 because whenever I Noah Graham/NBaE/GEtty ImaGEs

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put my hand out, the ball was right there. I just had to make layups after layups after layups. People don’t understand what he brings to the table. He makes the game so much easier. He’s one of those old-school point guards. He’s a winner. He sets up his teammates before anything else. So when he’s running our Princeton offense, what are you going to do if you’re the other team? What do you do? It’s going to give our opponent headaches, because you’re pretty much feeding off your opponents’ mistakes. Getting what they’re giving you. Who do you help off of? Who do you leave? You can’t help off Dwight. Steve will get him a dunk. You can’t leave Steve Nash open. That’s a done deal. Kobe—same thing, of course. Metta World Peace

NBA champ and former Sixth Man award winner Lamar Odom, along with fellow Sixth Man winner Jamal Crawford bring in even more talent and guidance to a Clipper ship destined to go far at playoff time. “I’m excited about being a part of something pretty special here with the Clippers,” says Paul. Historically, the Clippers franchise have never been known to spend lavishly, now the team has a payroll of $69 million, just under the luxury tax number. It is the most money the CLippers have ever spent on the team, and for good reason. Come playoff time, this team has a chance to make back at least $10 million with two or three or four rounds of postseason home games. Maybe even more if it’s an all-L.A. Western Conference Finals (The city might need to look into broadcasting a live feed at nearby Nokia Theatre L.A. Live to meet demand). The Clippers free-agent pursuits may have even forced the Lakers hand at spending even more, if they wanted to hold on as L.A.’s most dominant team. The Lakers this season are on pace to spend a record $132 million on their players—combined with luxury-tax penalties—just to try to stay ahead of the rapidly-rising Clippers. But it’s not always about the dollars. Steve Nash took less money—offered by the Toronto Raptors—just to play for the L.A. Lakers. And Hill, Nash’s former Suns teammate, also sacrificed some money just to play for the L.A. Clippers this season. I guess it’s not just young actors who gravitate towards LaLa Land these days. It seems old hoopheads can’t get enough L.A. in their system. “Los Angeles is going to be a great city to watch basketball again this year,” says Nash. “And I got my eyes on old Grant Hill for sure.” It just goes to show what a couple Phoenix Suns would do to become favorite sons in the new City of Basketball. —#21

can score. Pau Gasol—I call him the second-best fundamental big man next to Tim Duncan because he can do it all. He can pass, he can shoot, post moves—he has it all. You can’t leave nobody on our bench open either. With myself incorporated into the bench, you’ve also got Jodie Meeks, who is a shooter. Chris Duhon, Steve Blake, Jordan Hill can hurt you. It’s one of those things.”

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ash: “The new offense will give us an opportunity to space the floor, give us an opportunity to have balance, read and react off each other,

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make it difficult for the defense to load up on any one or two players. I think it’s an offense that can fit very well with our talents because it can make us unpredictable, difficult to gameplan against. The Princeton offense will allow us to hopefully have an understanding where we’re flowing, instead of being regimented and predictable. It’s a good opportunity for us to build something together.”

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rown: “You look at Steve Nash and he has to be one of the best passers,10 if not the best passer at the point guard spot. There are others out there, like Chris Paul. He makes the game a lot easier for teammates. Pau Gasol, for being a power forward, he’s another guy who is a top passer at his position. We played at the elbows quite a bit last year and Spain did that at times with him in the Olympics. So to let him facilitate the offense from that area has always been a positive. He definitely is a great passing big man. And then you talk about Kobe Bryant who has a great feel for the game. He’s more of a scorer, but he knows and understands the game. That’s what makes him an effective passer. I definitely think it can help us out in this new offense, with their ability to pass the ball. But more than that, I think the intelligence level of the three guys, plus the rest of the guys on the squad, are going help more than anything else.”

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amison: “How Steve affects the Lakers offense will be similar to how Dwight impacts the Lakers defense. When you incorporate how detailed Mike Brown is on defense. Then you add one of the better defenders in the League in Dwight Howard. It can be really scary how good we become on D. Incorporate that with some veterans who have been in a lot of situations who can incorporate a lot of things quickly. Just the mix of the guys they had on the team last year, I think defensively we can definitely be up there among the top five teams as far as field goal percentage, points allowed and so on.”

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rown: “I’m excited about a lot of different things about having Dwight be a part of our ball club. And this is no knock on Andrew because Andrew is on his way to being a great defensive player. Remember, in the first round against the Denver Nuggets, Andrew basically won the game for us at that end of the floor, with a triple-double. Andrew just has to continue to grow into the superstar that he’s going to be. Dwight’s a guy who’s already there. Dwight has been a guy who has played significant worthwhile minutes ever since he got into the League. For the first time last year, Andrew was depended on. He was being counted on throughout most of the game. Prior to that, Andrew played less than Lamar Odom and 075

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Pau Gasol, who finished games a lot of times. So Andrew was kind of an afterthought. But now Andrew is a guy who’s on his way to being where Dwight is on both ends of the floor. It’s going take a little bit of time for him to get there. Dwight, on the other hand, has been shown into the spotlight from day one and he has accomplished a lot of things at a high level on both ends of the floor. Defensively, you don’t see many multiple-times Defensive Player of the Year at that size and athleticism and explosiveness, feel and understanding. Dwight is great to have, protecting us on the backside and weakside of the floor. He’s a great guy on the pick-and-roll games. He knows that he’s got to bring it for us every possession, in order for us to have a chance.”

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ordan Hill: “Oh, it’s going to be crazy playing alongside Dwight in the paint, and I’m not just talking about defense. I’m talking about rebounding alongside him, both offensively and defensively. I hope he don’t try to steal all my rebounds,11 man [laughs]. I got to box him out a couple times. That’s definitely a scary thought if you’re the other team—going on the offensive boards against Dwight. He is such a great offensive rebounder. He’s so strong. You can’t box him out. What do you do?”

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asol: “We understand how great Dwight is defensively. He’s so physically gifted, among the best in the League. Offensively, he’s improved as well. He’ll continue to grow into that better player he can be. He’ll be in great shape once he’s 100 percent. And we’ll be in great shape defensively. You have to want it more than anybody else, regardless of what your roster looks like. As we continue to work, we will get better as we go along.”

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hris Duhon: “Having Dwight back there changes a lot for any team. He’s just so good down there. He’s won three Defensive Player of the Years, and if he didn’t get hurt, it could have been a fourth. He’s just a game changer, a shot changer.12 It makes it easier on everybody else. I knew in Orlando that I could be a little more aggressive knowing that he’s back there protecting.”

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amison: “The thing I like about this team is that we

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know why we’ve been assembled here. It’s not to win 60 games. It’s not to go to the Finals. It’s to win an NBA championship. And everybody has that mind frame. Nobody is worried about All-Star appearances. Nobody’s worried about becoming scoring champion. It’s about winning an NBA championship. When you incorporate the things we can do defensively to offensively having guys who want to see others succeed, guys who are willing to sacrifice to compete at the highest level—I can’t wait. We got a lot of time to get things going in the right direction. It’ll take some time to understand the terminology of what we want to do both offensively and defensively. Once we start peaking, once we start striding, it’s going to be difficult to play against us.”

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etta World Peace: “Of course, I’ll be sacrificing, but it’s the same sacrifice I do every year. If they need me to step up, I’m ready. Do what it takes to win together. I’m ready for any situation I’m put in, whether I got to take it over on defense, offense, on the post or whatever. We just got to put in that work and I think we can. We got Dwight, Steve Nash, Jordan Hill, Antawn Jamison, Duhon. We got a squad. We got a squaaad.”

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evin Ebanks: “I think our bench is one of the best benches in the League this year. We’re very deep, even down to our 10th and 11th guy.”

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odie Meeks: “For me, I’m all about winning. This franchise definitely matches what I want to do and that’s win. The Lakers have been a winning franchise for a number of years. I wanted to go to a team that can win a championship and that’s here. My job is to keep Kobe’s minutes down as much as possible, so that when the playoffs come around, he’s fresh. I think last year that didn’t happen. It would be nice to play alongside him at times, me at shooting guard, him at small forward and see how that works for opposing matchups. But mainly I’m here just to win championships. For sure. That’s a good plan, right?”

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ryant: “I see myself playing for the Lakers for another two years. Three years max. As it gets closer to the end, the more excited I get. The more rejuvenated I get. I can’t wait to see what we’ve got here this year.”

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upchak: “We don’t ever expect the team to win a championship. It’s just too unpredictable. I knock on wood here as I say it. There’s the injury factor that you can never predict. You always need the ball to bounce a certain way. In the playoffs, the games are really tight. You have a lot of road games, and one call, one free throw, a loose ball— those kinds of things just have to roll your way. We don’t ever sit in a room and say, ‘Listen, we’re going to win this year and if we don’t it’s a failure.’ One thing I would say about this team, we’ve bettered our chances in the hunt. You always want to be in the hunt, because if you’re in the hunt, it gives you something to hope for. And your fans know when you’re in the hunt. And they know when you’re not. It’s not a good feeling to not be in the hunt. Especially in Los Angeles. There are a lot more external demands here than there might be in other cities. In terms of market. In terms of sport. In terms of entertainment dollar. In terms of expectations. Not that the job is any harder than it is in Milwaukee, but we’ve had some really, really good years and our fans have been rewarded. And they have certain expectations.”

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BONUS POINTS 1. Don’t forget the three MVPs; two from Nash and one from Kobe. 2. Lakers media day had so many press corps, team officials, workers and support staff that it might’ve rivaled some Hollywood productions. 3. The Phoenix Suns executed a sign-and-trade with the Lakers for Nash in exchange for two future first-round picks and two future secondround picks, while Nash signed with L.A. for three years, $27.9 million. 4. In the other Lakers blockbuster deal, Howard, Chris Duhon and Earl Clark arrived as part of a four-team deal that saw the Lakers give up Andrew Bynum, Josh McRoberts and Christian Eyenga, along with a future first-round pick. 5. Dr. Jerry Buss is the Lakers owner, while son Jimmy is heir apparent, currently serving as Lakers vice president of player personnel. 6. Howard underwent back surgery in April and says he will not step back onto the court until he is 100 percent, which may or may not force him to miss the season opener. 7. As a collegian, Nash played in Santa Clara, Calif., roughly 345 miles from Los Angeles. 8. Legendary former Princeton head coach Pete Carril invented the motion-heavy, back-cutting Princeton offense. Lakers assistant coach Eddie Jordan learned the offense from Carril when both men were Sacramento Kings coaches in the ’90s. When Jordan became the Washington Wizards head coach from 2003-04 through 2008-09, he brought the Princeton offense to D.C. 9. Jamison won the NBA Sixth Man Award in his 2003-04 season with Steve Nash and the Dallas Mavericks. Jamison averaged 15 points and 6 rebounds in 29 minutes per game with a career-best 21.2 Player Efficiency Rating that season. Jamison then played with head coach Eddie Jordan’s Washington Wizards from 2004-05 through 2008-09. With Jordan gone, Jamison played half a season more with Washington in 2009-10 before being traded to head coach Mike Brown’s Cleveland Cavaliers. 10. Entering this season, Nash is 84 dimes short of the 10K assist club and if all goes accordingly, should pass Magic Johnson and Mark Jackson to sit in third place on the all-time assists ledger. 11. He probably will, Jordan. Howard ranked second in the NBA in rebound rate last season, grabbing 21.9 percent of all rebounds, while Hill ranked ninth, grabbing 19.5 percent. 12. Turning just 27 in December, Howard is already at 1,344 blocks entering this season and has a legitimate shot at breaking Hakeem Olajuwon’s record of 3,830.

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harles Oakley rarely takes a day off. Raised in Cleveland by a family that exemplified hard work, Oakley, overlooked by Division I schools, grinded his way to stardom at Virginia Union. A top 10 pick in 1985 (in a draft stocked with similar hard-nosed players, Xavier McDaniel, Joe Dumars and Karl Malone), Oakley’s pro career lasted 19 years, where he was loved by teammates including Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing,1 and hated by opponents, especially power forwards who had to jostle with Oakley all night for rebounds and those who dared to venture into the paint for points who, more often than not, were met with the bruising Oak. His post-playing career has been marred by back injuries—Oakley had to leave the Bobcats as an assistant coach in 2011—but he’s working hard to get back his mojo and return to the sidelines. Though he’s been away from the game on the court for a while, Oakley doesn’t bite his tongue when it comes to the League today.

By McG #93

The Oa Spe

HOOP: In today’s game you see a lot of people at your position, almost what you would call a stretch forward, as opposed to someone like you who made their living down on the block, grabbing rebounds, getting physical. Do you think power forwards these days, while more versatile, are as important to the team? : They changed the position. You’re almost throwing out the small forward and making the power forward just forwards. You see more Europeans in the game who are just shooters. They just run and shoot, not going to the basket. That’s why they say a lot of players aren’t tough because they don’t put the ball on the floor. And that’s one reason why the U.S. team beat Spain [in the 2012 Olympic Games], because Spain didn’t have anybody who can create—the U.S. had more playmakers, like some teams like Miami.

Oakley

HOOP: Did you think Team USA would do as well with only really having Kevin Love and Tyson Chandler as real big men? : I didn’t know how they were going to do. You play against these guys all year. You know their strengths and weaknesses. We just have better athletes. Europeans have shooters. We’re slashers and dashers and jumpers, so that’s why we won the game, the creation of the guys who knew their skills.

Oakley

HOOP: You made your mark in the NBA as a rebounder who also possessed a good midrange shot, and one of the best now is Kevin Love. You’ve come out and praised Love and said in comparison to Blake Griffin you like Love more.2 : I like Love because of what he can do; how he got himself and lost weight, his body’s fine-tuned. He can shoot it, he can put it on the floor. Not a great jumper, but once he lost weight he’s a better jumper now. He got his mind right, his body right, got his game right, and understands that for him to be a successful player in this league, he had to do things to change the way he was when he first got in the League. So I show him the utmost respect.

Oakley

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e ak eakS

Just as he did throughout his NBa playing career, Charles Oakley pulls no punches when it comes to talking about today’s game

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HOOP: Griffin’s game is based around explosiveness and getting to the rim. Can a guy his size flourish for 10-15 years playing that way? : I think he needs to stop worrying about dunking all the time and add the shot to his game. If he’s going to be a power forward, he definitely has got to get his jump shot down. Shooting is a feeling, a touch. When you’re gonna be a barber, a beautician, even though you’re holding clippers or a hot curling iron, your hands gotta have the feel. You gotta practice what you do. Everyone can’t do everything. I think Love got his shot together, he had to work at it, and Griffin’s gotta do the same thing. We’ll see this year. I’m not counting Griffin out, but that’s his weakness.

Oakley

HOOP: What’s your take on the whole Dwight Howard saga? : I think it was a mess from day one. If you’re an organization, don’t let a guy dictate if he’s staying or leaving. Pull the trigger. At the end of the day, they got the short end of the stick. He got hurt, they lost in the playoffs. It was just bad for management.

Oakley

HOOP: In Orlando he had Patrick Ewing helping him. What differences did you see in his game from when he first came in the League? Is he the most dominant big man in the League? : No. I mean for his defense, yes. Offense, no. He’s got the blocked shots and rebounds, he’s probably the best in the game at that, but his offense is still shaky. Why? Because he doesn’t work on it. I just told you about Griffin. You can know when somebody works on their game. His free throws are bad, he doesn’t have any good post moves—not to talk bad about him, but he hasn’t gotten any better.

Oakley

HOOP: Why don’t you think big men put enough time in to work on that? : I don’t know what Dwight does, but there’s been a lot of times where he wants to do kiddie stuff, he wants to be funny. Get your game together. A lot of guys are good now because there aren’t a lot of good players in the League, so they put him in the front of the class. He’s got some ability, but on offense he doesn’t. The guy’s shooting under 50 percent3 from free throws, I don’t believe in that. Shaq got away with that. He’s probably the only guy that will get away with that, shooting bad from the free throw line and win championships.

Oakley

HOOP: Does L.A. have enough to win the title? : I picked them to win it.

Oakley

HOOP: How has the culture of the game changed from when you played the game until now? From flopping to playoff blowouts, soft fouls… : It’s not about fouling harder. The game is about contact. When you come to the basket and you’re not a post player, you’re supposed

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to get hit. You’re gonna get hit. You should get hit. The game has changed because it’s more global now. They gotta protect the European guys. It’s an investment. It’s all about the dollar. HOOP: Do you like the idea of super teams? : Get what you can get and play who you can on your team. I’m not mad at it. People were mad at LeBron because he went to Miami and to not be mad that Dwight went to L.A., what’s the difference?

Oakley

HOOP: As a coach4 did you try to train players to adapt to your style or tailor them to today’s game? : I tried to teach their style. My style—they couldn’t play like me. So it would’ve been bad to teach what I did to them. I just tried to teach around the skills I saw from them and try to build a scheme around what coach Paul [Silas, head coach of the Bobcats at the time] wanted in his system. It ain’t hard. You look at a guy, know he can shoot, pass—why have a guy who can’t shoot threes to shoot threes? I’m real detailed. So when I do something, I know what I’m doing.

Oakley

HOOP: Charlotte has had a rough few years. How much longer until they turn it around? : Charlotte’s got a while. You gotta be consistent, get a system. You can’t keep going through coaches every two years. You gotta get a foundation. The team made the playoffs one year, but when you make the playoffs, you’re supposed to be better the next year. They made the playoffs and went the other way. Now they’re trying to get back uphill again and hopefully this year’s draft and last year’s draft can be the beginning of something. So hopefully within the next two or three years, they should start making the playoffs.

Oakley

HOOP: Michael Jordan5 was known as a fierce competitor on and off the floor. How much do you think it eats at him to not see this team get to where it should? : Sometimes in life no matter how much money you got and what you did in life, something humbles you. This is a humbling point for him. He’s not gonna turn his back on this. I’ve known this guy for a long time. Sooner or later this team is going to win. It might not be with the players on this team today, but he’s going to have a winning team.

Oakley

HOOP: How long before we see you back in the coaching game? : I don’t know. I’ve been getting a lot of calls, people ask me if I want to coach again and it’s fun to me. When you do something and have a love for it and you know what you’re doing—like these young guys on the Bobcats, I didn’t try to beat them in the head or tell them to do this or that, I let them do wrong and then told them what’s right. I’m not against what they’re doing, but someone is telling you things about this and that, you should listen.

Oakley

HOOP: Patrick Ewing has been trying to get a head coaching job for a while. Do you think he breaks through in the next year or two? : I don’t know the situation with that. I know he’s a top 50 player in this league, he did a lot for this league. He’s been assistant coaching for about 10 years and been granted three or four interviews. I think Patrick will look in the mirror and realize if he’ll get the chance. Phil Jackson and Bill Russell might’ve been the two tallest

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coaches, Wes Unseld, that’s three coaches over 6-8 and you got 30 teams. Over the last 40 years that’s like three guys out of hundreds of coaches. HOOP: With the Nets’ move to Brooklyn, do you now see a real rivalry between the Nets and the Knicks? : Yeah, just like the Mets and Yankees,6 Giants and Jets. It’s here now. It’s been here, they’re just getting closer and closer. You’re living five, 10 minutes apart—when there ain’t no traffic. I think the Nets have a good team. Their owner is trying to make something and get the right players to win in that system.

Oakley

HOOP: After winning his first one, do you think LeBron James finally gets what it takes to win? : I’m a LeBron fan. I like the way he does things. When he left Cleveland I was happy for him. The city didn’t do what they were supposed to do. They had Jim Brown, too—I mean Cleveland, I just don’t know. They want the athletes but they don’t take care of them like they should. When he was in Cleveland, they didn’t get him no help. When you offer him $120 million and he only accepts $60 million, you know something’s up then. He told you then and there: “I’m turning down $60 million for a three-year deal, something’s gonna happen in three years.”

Oakley

HOOP: Is LeBron the best in the game right now? : Yes.

Oakley

HOOP: Who else do you like? : Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, [Kevin] Durant is good. I like Love, he doesn’t just play one end of the court, he plays both ends. Old school guys like Tim Duncan, a solid guy. I like the Knicks’ guys.

Oakley

HOOP: Do you think Andrew Bynum will do well in Philadelphia? : I don’t know. Bynum’s a guy you watch—and I don’t watch a lot of games like I used to—but they tell me he only plays if he gets his way. I don’t like stuff like that. I don’t like guys like that.

Oakley

HOOP: When you were playing, what was your workout regimen like? : No special workout, never had a trainer, just knew how to get myself together, just be ready to play 30, 40 minutes, whatever. I just had to be ready at all times.

Oakley

HOOP: How many days a week do you work out now? : I walk five days with the Moore-Trainer band.7 I exercise and am trying to rehab from my surgery last year.

Oakley

HOOP: How would you compare the technology today to when you were playing? : People are more into it and there’s more stuff. There are gimmicks coming out every week. But we try to make something everyone can use. Some things people can’t do. You don’t have to go to the gym to use the Moore-Trainer band. You can sit in your house and watch TV, do laundry, jumping jacks, slides. People always say they can’t get to the gym, but this band is a gym in your house.

Oakley

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HOOP: What drew you to this technology as opposed to other things on the market? : There’s always stuff on the market, that’s why it’s a market. You have to choose what you believe in, trust in. They say when you’re old and with your heart rate, you need to keep it up. I think this band is probably the best thing besides running hard. You can walk or do jumping jacks, lunges and in five minutes you will be sweating with the Moore-Trainer band.

Oakley

HOOP: If you had this kind of technology when you were playing, do you think it could’ve added time onto your career? : Well I had my time. [laughs] Maybe it would help me athletically on the floor, jumping like that, but I did what I did with what I had and made the best of it, no excuses.

Oakley

HOOP: How much does it help to be able to get 1 to 2 inches on your vertical or a tenth off your 40-yard time? : Oh, it helps a lot. You’ll have more blocked shots, you can attack the rim better. I think that’s a key question you’re asking.

Oakley

HOOP: Do you think today’s players get babied too much with the advent of modern medicine, treatment and training? : I think they’re babied more now, because everybody has a personal trainer, a nutritionist, a chef, everybody’s got somebody to open the door for them. But my thing, in life, there’s stages you gotta go through. That’s part of winning. Getting out of your car and parking in the parking lot and walking across the street to the Garden. Shaking people’s hands on the way to the game instead of parking inside. It’s a mindset. All these little things, you never know what can motivate you going across the street to the Garden. Now guys park inside. I don’t like that. Make them go through life. You’re babying these guys.

Oakley

HOOP: What ingrained that mentality in you? : Just hard work. Seeing my grandfather get up and go to work, do stuff in the field, walk two to three miles to work, you had to do it. There are just so many easy ways out. I think sometimes if you give a guy an easy way out, that gets in their game and they look for easy ways. If it gets hard, what do you do?

Oakley

HOOP: You were always known for your style and fashion sense. What do you think of the fashion sense of today’s players? : I don’t know, they got some colors all the way up the chart. Some of these guys look like somebody just threw some colors on their shirt. I’m not mad at them, I just try to be a bit more classy, presentable. I’m not gonna wear no tight jeans or none of that stuff. You can forget that one. My guy Mr. Ned8 makes all of my clothes. Sometimes I’ll stop by Rochester Big & Tall and get some stuff, little knick-knacks. I’ll go to Saks, two or three places. When I go somewhere I know what I’m getting.

Oakley

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BONUS POINTS 1. Patrick Ewing, a future teammate of Oakley’s, was selected first overall by the New York Knicks in the NBA’s first ever Draft Lottery. 2. @CharlesOakley34 tweeted on March 26: “Love is better than griffin…” 3. Dwight Howard shot 49.1 percent last season from the charity stripe. 4. Oakley was an assistant coach for the Bobcats during the 2010-11 season. 5. Jordan played with Oakley for four seasons, three in Chicago and one in Washington 6. Citi Field and Yankee Stadium are approximately 10 miles apart. Madison Square Garden and the Barclays Center are approximately 6 miles apart. 7. Earlier this year, Oakley came out with the Moore-Trainer band, which provides leg resistance while working out to improve speed and jumping ability. 8. Mr. Ned is a custom tailor in Manhattan who has made more than 100 suits for Oakley.

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hooP hoLiDAy Gift GuiDe Gift Guide 01

incase DSLR Pro Sling Pack

For the photography enthusiast, you know how quickly the equipment can overtake your bag, not to mention the special needs photography paraphernalia requires. Made with that exact person in mind, the Pro Sling Pack is outfitted with enough adjustable padded nooks and crannies for all kinds of camera bodies, lenses, flashes and other shutterbug accessories. It also features a quick release harness system that gives quick access to gear, a hip belt that helps distribute weight, a notebook compartment that stows a 150inch laptop, tripod carrying straps and a waterproof rain fly to keep the entire pack covered during wet weather.

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$169.95

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Nike Sportswear LeBron Varsity Shawl collar cardigan

Part of the LeBron James Diamond Collection, this cotton cardigan is a new take on the classic varsity sweater. Timeless details like the arm stripes and signature chest embroidery combine with modern touches like metal snap buttons, a woven cotton lining and a slimmer cut to make a new original.

$100 02 03

Jordan Air Jordan 1 Phat

This holiday season, Jordan Brand is dropping four colorways of the Air Jordan 1 Phat (a slightly re-tooled Air Jordan 1 model, the main difference being a more padded upper and ankle area) that would look great either on or under the Christmas tree. We are particularly fond of the pictured yellow and olive pairs that each sport a panel of nylon in the upper quarter.

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$105

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c.P. company Down Jacket

Staying warm in the winter just got lighter. This parka maintains thermal performance with a generous injection of down while the outer shell is constructed of Airshell fabric with thermo-coated seams to help keep rain and wind out while keeping warmth in.

$733

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Samsung ES8000 Smart Series LED TV

The excitement of a flat-panel TV might have died down as the technology has become so accessible, but the 8000 Series from Samsung still manages to wow with new features like voice (“Hello, TV”) and gesture (hand swipes) controls, and smartphone integration (via app). Built-in apps and its camera capabilities bring some Internet content to your TV (Netflix, Hulu, Facebook, Skype) and a modular upgrade solution (Evolution Kit) gives you the ability to upgrade the TV’s hardware in the future. This is all encased in a 1.2-inch thick unit with a screen that looks like a floating picture (thanks to a display that stretches almost to the edge of the bezel) when wallmounted.

$2,699.99 (46” model) 08

Samsung HMX-W300

The W300 is the perfect vacation mini-cam, especially if the destination involves water and action. The rubberized and reinforced body of the compact shooter can take some abuse and drowning with decent end results. The quality of the 1920 x 1080 video and 5.5-megapixel stills compare to a basic smartphone, but given the environments and stress it’s meant to withstand, it’s the best tool for the job. Dedicated buttons make operation a cinch and the switchblade-style USB connection makes charging just as easy.

$159 08

07

Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Post

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Converse re-ups the classic trainer from the 1970s with a modern flavor. A sleeker silhouette, heather wool upper and a leather heel patch lend the new premium touches.

$125

Where to Buy: adidas D rose Collection: adidas.com adidas originals AC Padded Vest, Winter Boot: shoporiginals.com; Apple iPhone 5: applestore.com; Beats By Dre executive: beatsbydre.com; Brompton P6r: brompton.co.uk; Converse Chuck taylor All Star Post, Chuck taylor All Star Classic Boot hi: converse. com; C.P. Company Parka, Sweater: cpcompany.com epson XP-800: epson.com; Flight 001 F1 Spacepak Set Color: flight001.com; Incase DSLr Pro Sling Pack: goincase.com; Jordan Air Jordan 1 Phat, Craig redman x Melo tee, Franklin St. Short: jumpman23.com; LeGo tIe Fighter: lego. com; Lytro Camera: lytro.com; Nest Learning thermostat: nest.com; New Balance revlite 574, 1300: newbalance.com Nike Sportswear LeBron Varsity Shawl Collar Cardigan: nikesportswear.com; Nokia Lumia 900: nokia.com; No Label oG Grey: nolabelwatchs.com; reebok Answer IV, eS22, Pump omni Lite,Pump twilight Zone: reebok.com Samsung eS8000, Galaxy Note, Galaxy SIII, hMX-W300: samsung.com; Six Star Pro Nutrition Whey Protein Plus: sixstarpronutrition.com; Sonicare AirFloss: sonicare. com; the North Face Catalyst Micro Jacket: thenorthface.com.com under Armour Bedstock Jacket, Big Logo hoody, Call Me hoody,Freak tee, I Do It Big tee: underarmour.com

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Don’t be the guy who haphazardly crams everything into your carry-on bag. The Spacepak packing system compartmentalizes your travel necessities—clothes, shoes, toiletries—for the short trip. The spacious clothing bag is double-zippered, one side for clean, the other for dirty; the shoe bag keeps your footwear properly sequestered; and the mini toiletry houses all your grooming supplies.

Starting with its unique and gorgeous form factor (imagine a square-shaped toilet paper roll made up of rubberized and anodized parts) and simplistic controls (power button, shutter and basic touchscreen), the Lytro camera is unlike any camera we’ve ever tried. The camera’s most distinguishing feature is its ability to focus after you’ve taken the photo. Imagine a photo of a player in the air dunking with defenders and a crowd in the background. The camera (through its proprietary software) can then refocus the image. If you want to focus on the dunker, you just click him. If you want the attention on a defender or the background crowd, a click turns that into the focus. These pictures you take can be shared via Lytro’s desktop client (embeddable on Facebook, Twitter or HTML), allowing your friends and family to refocus to their desire. Pretty slick since this is impossible even with the greatest DSLR in the market, and opens up many possibilities. But here comes the bad: images are square format with not the highest resolution (1080 x 1080), are saved in a proprietary format and take a bit of time to transfer to a computer. We hope to see better versions in the future, but for now it’s a niche—but very fun—photography accessory.

Flight 001 F1 Spacepak Set Color

$98

Lytro Camera

$399

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Gift Guide 01

Apple iPhone 5

The latest iPhone gets its biggest facelift to date, more specifically, a bigger face. The folks at Cupertino keeps up with the larger displays of smartphone competitors by bringing theas screen size to 4 inches. The 640 x 1136 pixels might on paper lag behind some competitors, but its Retina Display makes up for it. iOS 6 brings back the usual features of iPhones (yes, Siri is still around and somewhat improved) and Apple’s App Store still means the most app support on the planet. The new lighter design is great for those who like less weight in their pocket; not so much for those who question its durability. Previous iPhone users who invested in accessories involving the previous charging port have legit gripes with the new Lightning connector (a $29 adapter can somewhat alleviate the problem). One thing universally agreed upon: the included ear buds are an improvement in terms of fit and audio quality.

Brompton P6R

With bicycles becoming increasingly a transportation choice for commuters in urban environs, the demand for compact stow-able rides is growing. The P6R has that specific rider in mind, as multiple handlebar grips allow a cyclist to customize their comfort (lower grips are perfect for long stretches of unimpeded road; upper grips for better control and maneuvering through traffic). The compact package (the bike weighs a bit more than 27 pounds) when folded up means storage and parking is relatively easy.

$1,492 and up (price varies by configuration) 01

02

$199 (with two-year contract) 03

converse chuck taylor All Star classic Boot hi

Classic Chucks get winterized with boot details like a sawtooth outsole, a rubber All Star heel patch and red laces.

$80

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the North Face catalyst Micro Jacket An update to the classic, the improvements to the Catalyst Micro Jacket include new baffling that does away with cold spots, and The North Face’s new FlashDry technology, which speeds up the dry time while increasing breathability. The 800-fill down insulation gives the wearer maximum warmth in a lightweight package (16 ounces).

$299

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Six Star Pro Nutrition Whey Protein Plus

Not just for those who weight-train, Protein Plus is also beneficial for endurance and team sport athletes. Pre- and post-workout, Whey Protein Plus offers up the necessary protein requirements to aid in building and repairing muscle, and comes in four flavors (chocolate, strawberry, vanilla and cookies and cream).

$18.97

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adidas Originals Winter Ball

Is the Winter Ball a sneaker masquerading as a boot, or a pair of snow boots trying to get on the court? Resembling adidas’ classic Conductor, the Winter Ball is kitted with northern state necessities from December through March: weather repellant upper, Primaloft insulation, faux fur lining, metal loop eyelets and a rugged dual compound rubber outsole.

$120

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Jordan x Craig Redman x Melo T-Shirt

Using various swatches of patterns, New York City pop artist Craig Redman pieces together his interpretation of Carmelo Anthony onto the most expressive piece of apparel: the T-shirt.

$36

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Under Armour Big Logo Hoody

Like T-shirts, socks and underwear, no guy can ever have too many hoodies. Under Armour does it big, featuring the big “UA,” bright colors and a bold electric print on the logo and inside the hood.

$54.99

06

Jordan Franklin Street Air Jordan Short

Named after the prominent street that serves as the center for social congregation for all students at North Carolina, the Franklin St. Short is a refinement of the traditional basketball short. The chunky waistband is swapped out for a flat one (no drawstring, so make sure to size properly) and flat-seam Dri-Fit construction results in a modern fit with full range of motion and reduced chafing.

$70

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check it Gift Guide 01

Reebok Pump Omni Lite

When Reebok first dropped the Pump, sneaker enthusiasts were enamored with the air-filled bladder that gave wearers a customized fit, but it wasn’t until Dee Brown wore the Pump Omni Lite and “pumped” his way to a Slam Dunk crown in 1991 that it started to take off.

$115 02

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New Balance 1300

Part of the Daytripper collection, this 1300 starts with domestic craftsmanship and draws inspiration from details of the great American road trip: sunsets, worn leather jackets, motorcycle chrome and road signage.

$159.95

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Under Armour Freak tee

Let your freak flag fly by wearing the word across your chest.

$24.99

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1

For all of Apple iPad’s strengths (display, numbers of apps and design), it’s not a tablet that’s geared toward work and productivity. If you’re a power user who needs your tablet to get things done, the Note might be where you should turn. Operating on Android (version 4.0.4, but with possible upgrade by the time you read this), the Note offers up a pressure sensitive stylus, enabling real note-taking and drawing (it comes with a PS Touch, a tablet version of Photoshop). Limited multitasking (only certain apps—Polaris Office, S Note, video player, photo gallery, email and web browser—can run together) is available by splitting the screen into two. There’s a rear main camera (5-megapixel) and a front (1.9 MP) camera, an IR emitter (making it a handy universal remote), and a microSD slot on a 1280 x 800 LCD screen that, whileit trails the latest iPad, is still pretty good when viewing video and photos.

$ 499.99 (16 GB) $549.99 (32 GB)

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Reebok eS22

This year has seen Reebok open up its vault and re-release a bunch of its classic joints from the storied ’90s era back to the public, and the ES22 is just another example of “Reebok Back.” Last seen 16 years ago on the feet of Emmitt Smith, the signature model for the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, the ES22 will come back to life in a plethora of colorways, but we’re most fond of this “New York Knicks” make-up with the yummy gum bottoms.

$139.99

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New Balance Revlite 574

The always-in-style 574 silhouette gets the New Balance Revlite treatment. Ounces are shed with the use of a lighter fused synthetic upper and lighter midsole and outsole foam, resulting in a healthier version of a familiar standby.

$74.95

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adidas DRose 3 Collection

Much like the man that the apparel is named after, the DRose collection is an understated array of casual wear with comfort in mind. At the heart of everything is the Derrick Rose logo. Drawing inspiration from two of the most important things that made Derrick Rose, family and Chicago, the logo consists of three jagged rose petals. Each petal represent one of Derrick’s older brothers, Dwayne, Reggie and Allan, while the rough edges are a nod to Murray Park, the outdoor courts where Derrick honed his game as a youth. The No. 1 in the center (which also has a hidden “D”) is Rose’s jersey number and also stands for his mother Brenda.

Nokia Lumia 900

Not happy with Android and iOS getting all the mobile operating system love, Windows has revamped its mobile platform to compete. One of the best hardware packages to show off the new OS is the Lumia 900. Those who equate weighty smartphones as sturdy and durable will appreciate the heft of the 6-ounce Lumia. The 4.3 inch bright AMOLED screen (800 x 480), with its ClearBlack technology (the increased contrast makes colors pop and look sharper), allows the phone to be viewed outdoors at virtually any angle. An 8-megapixel Carl Zeiss lens is found on the main camera, 1-MP front camera and an expandable microSD slot round out the pertinent hardware. The colored tiles of Windows Phones (we tested the Windows 7.5 version; a possible Windows 8 upgrade might be in the works by the time you read this) takes some getting used to if you’re uninitiated, but with time, you’ll learn how every app is tied together, making for less “clicks” and menu-navigating. And at $49, it’s one of the most feature-packed smartphones at such an affordable price point.

$49 (with two-year contract)

DMR Court Hoodie: $80 Fleece Jacket: $75 Fleece Pant: $65 Tech Short: $45 Story Tee: $30 Snapback Cap: $28

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chEck IT Gift Guide 01

LEGO TIE Fighter

01

Star Wars nerds will appreciate the attention to detail in this new incarnation of the classic TIE Fighter of the Imperial command. LEGO fanboys will dig the new construction that improves on the starship over previous versions. Kids will hate that the aforementioned two groups will likely not let them get their hands on it for play.

$54.99

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Reebok Answer IV

The black and white ones he rocked in the 2001 Finals were more memorable, but these red, white and grey Answer IVs are every bit as fresh. The wave design gives them flavor, the zippered upper keeps the foot in place and AI’s image on the outsole heel provides some edge. These re-issues look like a faithful interpretation of the originals, but we’re not sure. We need to confer with Tyronn Lue for that.

$125

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Nest Learning Thermostat

Founded by former Apple engineers, the Nest Learning Thermostat takes a page from the Apple playbook by taking a basic utilitarian object and elevating it with design and tech, making it lust-worthy. Gone is the old beige rectangular box filled with tiny buttons, replaced by the Nest Learning Thermostat’s sleek puck-shaped design which essentially serves as a giant dial, button and display. As beautiful as the Nest is, the longer you use it, the less you’ll have to directly interact with it. As its name suggests, the Nest will slowly learn the patterns of your heating and cooling needs, adapting to you. A mobile app gives you more control even when away from the nest (unintentional pun) and serves up detailed metrics of your energy use. In a world filled with $20 programmable thermostats, the Nest might be a hard sell at its price point, but for those who value aesthetics and control, it’s a value.

$249

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No Label OG Grey

Seen on the wrists of NBA players, No Label’s line of watches is all about understated style. In simple monochromatic hues, the watches let the simple silicone bodies sporting bold digital faces and the signature color-blocked buttons tell the story—and time.

$75 096

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Under Armour Bedstock Jacket and “I Do It Big” Tee

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The Bedstock Jacket is a lightweight outer layer to keep you dry while wicking away sweat and retaining heat; the T-shirt is pretty self-explanatory.

Bedstock Jacket: $69.99 Tee: $24.99

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C.P. Company Cardigan

The hefty and generous 7-gauge knit of the merino wool sweater will guarantee to stave off the chill of a cool day, but what we really dig with this piece is the detachable hood that elevates the simple cardigan sweater into something more.

$538

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Reebok Pump Twilight Zone

Dominique Wilkins first laced up Pump Twilight Zones in 1990 while he was still windmilling balls through the hoop. It was one of the most technology-filled shoes for its time, featuring the ill Pump system and ERS (Energy Return System) on the heel. Like its name, the shoe mysteriously disappeared for the next 20 years, resurfacing again in 2010. It’s resurfacing again, but there’s no telling when it’ll come again.

$120

Epson XP-800

As much as a paperless world is ideal, the need for printed media is not going away any time soon (look at what you’re reading for proof). For all your printing needs (vibrant photos, dualsided pages of sharp text, DVDs) and more, the all-in-one XP-800 should have you covered. In addition to printing, the XP-800 serves as a multifunctional office tool—faxing, copying, scanning (the latter two can be fed up to 30 pages for batch jobs)—all controlled with its touchscreen interface. The XP-800 connects wirelessly to your home network, enabling any user to print to it, and Epson Connect (mobile app) lets you print from any mobile device. The wireless story continues with Apple AirPrint and Google Cloud Print (both are cloud-based printing solutions) support.

$279.99

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Gift Guide

Under Armour Call Me Hoody

A hybrid hoody/storm jacket, the Call Me Hoody is equal parts hooded sweatshirt and rain gear. The standard fleece sweatshirt gets a layer of UA Storm treatment that serves to bead up any raindrops and roll them off your shoulder.

$69.99

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Sonicare AirFloss

With tooth-brushing having long gone the high tech route, it’s only natural that Philips, being a big player with the Sonicare line of electric toothbrushes, will turn its attention to another facet of dental hygiene: flossing. The AirFloss does away with traditional—and by the time you’re done with it, gunked up—floss, instead relying on a jet of highpowered air and water to power away bits of the last meal making home between your teeth. It was definitely easier, faster, more sanitary and eco-friendly to floss with the AirFloss, but it does take some getting used to. The learning curve will mean sprays of water on the mirror (also requires a mirror to use) and the occasional stubborn chunk will require manual extraction, but it is less effort to use and leaves your mouth cleaner.

$169.95

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Samsung Galaxy S III

There’s no shortage of Android-based phones in the marketplace, but the best one is the Galaxy series. In its third iteration, the S3 tops the list with a feature that runs across everything you do on the phone: the gorgeous and spacious 4.8-inch, 720 x 1280 Super AMOLED display. While some might complain it’s too exaggerated, we happen to like the vibrant colors displayed. Upgrading to the S3 from a different smartphone might cause some initial adjustment due to the bigger size, but its polycarbonate body (our lone complaint about it: while durable, it did make it feel a tad flimsy) doesn’t weigh it down; after a week, you won’t notice the added dimensions and in fact, will start seeing every other phone as “small.” The touted sharing features (Share Shot, S Beam, AllShare) are great, but require another S3 or being on the same network. Where we think the S3 shines is web browsing and media consumption. The extra screen real estate doesn’t give an overly compact Internet experience and movies don’t look like you’re watching through a peephole.

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$199 02

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The bubble down vest is a classic because of its versatility. It can stand alone to ward off autumn chill, be paired with a sweater for winter outdoor activities, and be worn as a mid-layer when the temperatures really dip. adidas Originals didn’t mess with tradition in its version, adorning it simply with handwarmer pockets and the Trefoil.

With headphones running the gamut of colors and graphics, it’s nice to know that there are options for the mature consumer who still needs good personal audio in a more discerning aesthetic. No shiny car paintjobs on the Executive, just a classic brushed steel and black configuration with the same BBD audio experience. Generously padded earmuffs and headband provide a comfortable and longwearing fit; other features include active noise cancellation, autoshutoff and rotatable ear cups and a compact fold-up design.

adidas Originals AC Padded Vest

$80

Beats by Dre Executive

$299

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CHECK IT

Nike

GEAR

Quick Take: Much like LeBron the player, the X is a brute shoe that is equal parts of speed and brawn. Compared to others on the marketplace, it’s not a lightweight shoe, but it is still nimble enough to satisfy most players. On the heels of the popular 9, the X is a worthy follow-up. Premium touches abound as the price reflects, but it’s really the addition of the Nike + Basketball system that makes the shoe shine. The added dimension of technology to a basketball shoe really adds to the “fun” factor of competing against yourself and your friends by quantifying the game.

LeBron X Weight: 17.5 oz. Price: $180 (LeBron X); $200 (LeBron X +); $270 (LeBron X + Sport Pack) The lace loops are actually the ends of the internal Flywire system. As you tighten the laces around your foot, the Flywire wraps around your foot, ensuring further lockdown.

There was initial confusion and controversy surrounding pricing for the LeBron X. Officially, the LeBron X comes in three tiers or packages: The “LeBron X” is akin to the base model. It’s just the sneaker itself. It’s not Nike + Basketball ready and is priced at $180. It’s the same shoe with the same construction, just minus the Nike + experience. The next level up is the “LeBron X +,” the same LeBron X shoe, but with the embedded Nike + sensors and priced at $200. This still requires the Nike + pod that hooks everything up with your smartphone, making this a logical choice for someone who’s coming from a previous Nike Basketball + shoe. The top tier is the “LeBron X + Sport Pack,” essentially the Nike + ready LeBron X along with the Sport Kit that has two Nike + pods (one for each shoe) and the charging dongle, and is $270.

The upper is essentially comprised of four stages: the thin Hyperfuse skin (for lightweight construction), mesh (for breathability), Flywire beneath that (for lightweight strength) and the inner bootie. Being the 10th signature shoe between Nike and LeBron, the X marks the diamond anniversary. Taking another step further, the diamond, which like LeBron leading up to his first championship, is forged by time, heat and pressure. The motif is carried out throughout shoe: diamond mesh panels, the raised diamond pattern on the Swoosh (which is only found on Nike + models; base models won’t have the diamond texture), the lion-head lace lock An exposed full-length Air unit is nothing new for Nike, but the visible full-length Zoom is a first for the Swoosh. Visually, it’s cool to get a detailed peer into Zoom Air. Putting pressure on them, you can see the fibers of the Zoom unit slacken and upon release, tighten up. With Zoom, the shoe doesn’t ride as high (like the LeBron 7) while still offering similar cushioning with added responsiveness.

Inside the shoe is a full-foot internal sockliner bootie for a snug fit.

Reebok

Wall Season 3: ZigEscape Weight: 15.5 oz. Price: $114.99

The shape of the suede overlays on the upper look to be a nod to the classic Reebok Kamikaze.

Speed lacers make swapping out shoelaces a less tedious affair. The main upper is comprised of a thin synthetic skin.

The third iteration of John Wall’s signature line with Reebok continues the use of ZigNano in the sole. A re-tooled version of Reebok’s proprietary cushioning/energy return system, ZigNano is a lower profile version that suits the needs of a basketball player more. Quick Take: Like Wall himself, his shoes have been inconsistent and had room for improvement. The improved ZigNano is a big start and a huge improvement from the ZigTech from the debut. Much lower to the ground, especially in the forefoot strike, there is much more natural movement to the shoe. A source of complaints in the past on the Zig used by Reebok is the lack of court grip. Reebok took notes and increased the surface area and depth of the herringbone pattern of the outsole, making up for the loss of real estate caused by the ZigTech. Aesthetically, this is easily the best Wall signature shoe to date. It still has the look of a boot (due to the rugged Zig sole) but we like the hat tip to the Kamikaze and the colorway possibilities the shoe will offer.

Midfoot plate maintains structural balance between the outsole and chassis.

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The internal bootie encases the foot and shields it from any chafing with the rigid outer upper and also prevents no-show socks from slipping. The windows found throughout the upper serve as flex points, allowing the shoe to move with foot. The exposed mesh in each maximizes ventilation of the foot.

The heel pad in the rear conforms with the natural shape of the foot, keeping the heel locked in, while the pull tab (always a welcome low-tech feature) helps with putting the shoe on. The cut of the CP3.VI is on par with the Kobe VII, giving the ankle optimal freedom.

The upper is made up of Hyperfuse construction. Synthetic layers combined with mesh to form a composite material that is lightweight, strong and breathable. With its pebbly feel and shiny look, the photographed Clippers colorway reminded me a lot of Spider-Man’s costume from the recent reboot of the movie franchise.

The CP3.VI was inspired by the dragonfly, hence the diamond patterned windows and veins like wings of a dragonfly.

Jordan

The paw-like outsole was a nod to the Air Jordan XIII, one of Paul’s favorite Air Jordan models that were stolen from him as a youth.

CP3.VI

Weight: 12.75 oz. Price: $125 Quick Take: While we like the look of high-top basketball shoes, we don’t think they serve any real benefit to ankle protection. Low cut shoes are actually preferred when hooping and we wish more true lows (chopped down high versions don’t count in our book) like the CP3.VI were in the marketplace. Lateral movement is always better when your foot is not fighting the shoe for movement. While it may work for Paul, we’re not entirely sold on Podulon beneath our feet, but the CP3.VI is a solid shoe for perimeter players for its good lateral movement.

An external TPU shank in midfoot provides torsional intergrity.

It was the CP3 series that debuted Podulon (beginning with the CP3.III), and it is still found three models later. There’s been a slight tweak to the system, but it’s still essentially strategically placed pillars of higher density cushioning for custom responsiveness to areas of the foot that need it more.

Reebok

Sublite Pro Rise Weight: 10 oz. Price: $100 At a tad under 10 ounces, the Sublite Pro Rise is the lightest basketball shoe from Reebok to date.

The notched outsole gives the Sublite Pro Rise flexibility. Each coutout serves as a flex point for the foot.

Mesh can be found on the lateral and medial panels for ventilation.

Cushioning is made up of Sublite midsole foam.

The shoe is constructed with a inner skeletal system that forms the basis of the shoe while reducing weight with minimal use of materials.

Quick Take: Hands down, the Sublite Pro Rise takes the cake for the lightest shoe in this issue. Compared to the LeBron X, the Sublite Pro Rise is almost half the weight. While the trend for basketball kicks is to continue diving to neverbefore-seen weights, we might be hitting a point where we’re seeing diminished returns. The lightweight feel was no doubt nice, but our foot never felt stable in the shoe. It gave the feeling of playing in light running shoes. Lateral movement was slow as you feel your foot moving before the shoe responds. Traction was another problem as the lack of surface area and the shallow traction pattern wasn’t enough to grip the floor. Those two things combined made for a shoe that, while light, was not enough to make it something we’d recommend.

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CHECK IT GEAR

Behind the tongue of each D Rose 3 will tell a different story. A different graphic or detail can be found with each colorway. The padded tongue is designed to pop out when worn with jeans, a prerequisite of Rose’s.

The D Rose logo (which represents his mother, three brothers and Chicago playground roots) is reflective.

adidas

D Rose 3

Weight:13 oz. Price: $160

While it may be Derrick Rose’s third official signature shoe (not counting the “pointfive” updates he’s seen in the past), this is essentially Rose’s first true signature since it breaks away from the adiZero line.

The ankle collar is made with molded memory foam, ensuring comfort and a custom fit, and the flex opening of it allows for the optional adiZero Speedwrap ankle brace that Rose favors. adidas’s mainstay lightweight tech features SprintWeb and SprintFrame make their way onto the D Rose 3 to keep the shoe light.

The Three Stripes branding on the D Rose 3 can be found on the heel to the outsole again, but this time it is carried over entirely to the front of the shoe to represent Rose’s north-south style of play on the court. It was also placed there to show that opponents don’t get in front of him and only see his heel and outsole as they give chase to Rose or see him go up for a dunk.

A compression-molded EVA midsole provides lightweight cushioning. The D Rose 3 is miCoach (adidas’ system of tracking performance metrics) ready (requires additional purchase of the miCaach Speed Cell).

Going against the grain of basketball shoes getting lighter and lower cut in the ankle, Under Armour’s radical Micro G Charge BB goes heavier (almost 18 ounces) and higher, almost 8 inches (based on a size 9) up from the ground.

The articulated rear heel is designed to give the wearer free range of motion in the ankle, and at the same time, offer stability and foot lockdown.

Micro G foam cushioning can be found in a full-length midsole unit and a full-length molded sockliner.

Midfooot TPU shank gives the shoe structural rigidity.

Quick Take: It is with some irony that the D Rose 3 will start the NBA season on the sidelines as it is the best shoe in the series so far. Previous versions either played or looked clunky, neither a good descriptor of the player it was designed for. The D Rose 3 is a much-needed reboot of the line and the resulting rebirth is a sleek model that hits the key areas for any good basketball shoe: fits well, comfortable, responsive on court and looks good. If we had to find a flaw, it would be some minor slipping. The usually dependable herringbone traction pattern is used, but maybe the breakup of continuous traction from the outsole branding caused less traction. It’s certainly not something that takes away from the overall shoe.

Under Armour

Micro G Charge BB Weight: 17.75 oz. Price: $130 The upper sports areas of UA’s HeatGear material to help manage moisture and foot heat.

Quick Take: Easily one of the most radical designs in last 10 years of basketball shoes, the Charge BB is a bold statement from upstarts Under Armour. Rather than playing it safe with conventional designs, UA should be commended for such an effort. However, there are some drawbacks. For starters, the shoe is difficult to get into. Loosening the laces (or even undoing with entirely) doesn’t help much as you have to patiently force your foot into the shoe. Once in, the laces don’t really tighten the shoe since the entire upper is one piece. Tightening laces will cause excess material pinching around the tongue. Lastly, the lower heel part was uncomfortable, causing some chafing issues (the upper part, however, was surprisingly comfortable). Combined with the tongue when fully laced in, it feels like wearing an ankle brace. We’re curious to see how Brandon Jennings will play in these. We found them flawed, but appreciate UA for not simply keeping up with the staid convention.

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Padded ankle with molded internal inserts fill in the natural nooks of the foot around the ankle.

The upper is a welded mesh construction that supplies ventilation.

Molded heel counter locks in the foot.

Under Armour Spine Bionic

Weight: 14.75 oz. Price: $110

Quick Take: While UA’s Charge BB is a daring interpretation of a basketball shoe, the Spine Bionic is more the conservative little brother. We generally hate to make comparions between different brands, but the Spine Bionic was vaguely reminiscent of the Nike Hyperdunk, which is a good thing. From the way the heel counter locks the foot down to the cut of the shoe harkens back to Nike’s flagship team shoe. The Spine system does indeed provide good cushioning, but it comes at the cost of two things. The Spine system itself is pretty thick, resulting in a high ride off the ground. The design of Spine also meant the outsole traction didn’t run to the edge, leaving a perimeter of smooth material that left you slipping on toe-offs, especially the lateral variety.

Like its name suggests, Spine is a cushioning system that has structural support in mind. Essentially a dual-layered system of UA’s Micro G foam encased in a denser foam cage, the extraneous materials of this outer part is removed, the cutouts meant to promote flexibility in the shoe and shed weight. It was introduced over the past summer in UA’s running category.

Jordan

Melo M8 Advance

Not quite his official signature shoe, the M8 Advance is an update of his Melo M8 that he wore most of last season and serves as a bridge from M8 to the M9 that will debut later. Jordan has given Anthony this “Advance” treatment since the M7.

Weight: 15 oz. Price: $140

The M8 Advance made its debut during the 2012 Olympic Games when Anthony wore a Team USA colorway of the shoe.

Quick Take: As a basketball shoe, the M8 Advance is one of out top picks from this issue. While it’s a bit behind the curve of Nike’s technical features (ironic, since the “advance” moniker would suggest it being cutting edge), the M8 Advance is just a downright good hooping experience. From the fit to the cushioning, lateral movement, shock absorption, ventilation, it scores high. Maybe like tech goods, where early adopters have to deal with new kinks and bugs, Melo knows that arriving a little late means having a more refined product ultimately.

The use of Hyperfuse is a first on a Melo shoe. Last year saw the introduction of Flywire to the line (M7 Advance) and the M8 Advance demonstrates another tech evolution to Melo’s, up-until-now, low-tech approach.

The M8 Advance is cushioned with a hybrid Air/ Zoom unit. Exposed Zoom Air is in the forefoot for responsiveness while the visible Air unit in the heel handles the heavy impact.

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check it Spin MoveS

By BRian a. GiuffRa #17

J.R. Smith J.R. Smith has always been an entertaining player, and last year he didn’t disappoint under the bright lights of NYC. After signing with the Knicks in mid-February following a half-season in the Chinese Basketball Association, Smith quickly became a Madison Square Garden fan favorite, not only because he was born across the Hudson River in New Jersey, but also for his flair for the dramatic. He averaged 12.5 points, 3.9 boards and a career-best 1.5 steals for the Knicks, and wooed the crowd with big dunks and an effortless stroke that made even a 25-foot shot look easy.

Music My favorite music is R&B. Mary J. Blige, Alicia Keys, Beyoncé, some of Drake’s songs, Chris Brown, Rihanna, those are my favorites. Each one has their own unique sound to it. Rihanna has her Caribbean sound, Beyoncé and Mary J. Blige have more of a soulful sound and Alicia Keys has more of a hip sound to her stuff. I think Drake, Chris Brown and Trey Songz they add their own male voices into it. But really I like all of them. It’s all about the rhythm and what kind of a mood I’m in.

Movies I’ve always loved comedies. But my favorite movie has to be Love and Basketball, just because of the love of the game that they have and the relationship that they built. A lot of people don’t understand, it’s hard to find that significant other who has the same passion for sports and be beautiful and all of the other things as well.

Social Media

tV

Videogames

Twitter is my favorite by far. It’s so easy to connect with people. Facebook, there’s so much other stuff going on, it’s just too much. Twitter, you just put it out there what you’re doing, what’s going on with you, how you’re feeling, and people can just comment on it. Twitter is the most used app on my phone by far.

I watch a lot of TV, sometimes too much. But my favorite TV show is probably King of Queens. I’ve watched every rerun. Between that and [Law and Order] SVU I think I’ve seen every one of them. Also Son’s of Anarchy. That’s my show now.

I play Xbox. Not a lot, but sometimes on my downtime. My favorite games are College Football [NCAA Football 13] and FIFA Soccer 13. I’m really into FIFA right now. Manchester United is my team.

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IllUSTRATIoN: MATT CANDElA; JESSE D. GARRABRANT/NBAE/GETTy IMAGES

10/9/12 4:36 PM


Game On

NBA 2K13 After 13 years, the NBA 2K series has become a sports gaming dynasty with literally no contenders in sight. Yet rather than remain satisfied with being the best basketball title by default, it’s continued to take strides forward that have earned the respect of its peers as the best sports game, period. Once rave worthy features are now commonplace, the foundation upon which new layers of unimaginable innovations have been laid. At this point, the only concern should be us taking such greatness for granted. While it’s tough to note the most noticeable improvement in NBA 2K13, the first is definitely the flash and flare added to game presentation by “executive producer” Jay-Z. From the moment you turn your console on, Jay’s name is all over the place. Actually, even before that. His name is on the box, after all. The introduction is fit for MTV (you know, back when they showed videos) and the oftentimes painful musical choices of years past have been replaced by a catalogue of hip-hop’s greatest hits. Television style pregame intros have been spiced up with splices of classic performances, Brooklyn Nets home games are blessed with a particularly impressive montage of the neighborhood, and if you stare closely enough, you can even see Hov on the sidelines, cheering his team along. Of course all these bells and whistles wouldn’t mean much if we could call foul on the gameplay, but that’s far from the case. 2K does have a slightly frustrating habit of changing player controls every year, but it’s continually been for the best. The Isomotion and Shot Stick of years past have been revamped, now combined with a series of button presses to both shoot and dribble. Those heavily vested in the old controls might groan, as it will require dedicating a few hours in the tutorial to get acclimated, but the results are much

smoother and more intuitive play. Canned animations are gone, the A.I. is sharp, ball movement is crisp and nearly all of the moments of SMH glitches have been pushed aside for OMG feats of athleticism that will have you scrambling for the replay button. Newly added Signature Skills have balanced out character models, allowing specialists to excel just as their real-life namesakes. Shooters actually shoot well from their designated spots and rebounders are quicker to the ball without affecting their overall ratings, which in the past made them much better than they should’ve been. A host of other Signature Skills are included, adding considerably more to what was already intricately strategic gaming. By extension, this allows superstars to standout without being unstoppable. It truly is a stunning simulation of NBA basketball. All of our old favorites are still around, too, and even slightly improved. The “Run TMC” Warriors and Chris Webber’s Kings are included among the classic rosters of yesteryear, no longer exclusively available

by download. More importantly, Allen Iverson’s 76ers are back, righting a wrong we all lamented. As we all know, the Dream Team—the entire Dream Team—is also included, helping settle any debates of who’s best: Then or Now. The much-heralded My Player mode is even deeper this year, adding unprecedented control over everything from your daily clothing to firing your coach. Not sure if this counts as a drawback, but the only problem with NBA 2K13 is that there’s too many options. No, really. There’s too many options. From single games, recreations of All-Star Weekend, single seasons, franchise modes, playoff modes, classic teams, fantasy teams and Dream Teams to My Player mode, it’s practically impossible to enjoy all NBA 2K13 has to offer before next year’s version arrives in stores. While it might be the only NBA game in town, 2K hasn’t let that hinder it from putting the best possible product out. So put this down and get to work. By Myles BrowN #37

Shoe Game Within the Game For hardcore—or possibly OCD—gamers and sneakerheads, one of the small enjoyments in recent years of NBA 2K has been the inclusion of signature shoes from several brands. Picking out new models and colorways for our favorite players has become a pregame ritual, and with the new graphical improvements, the shoes have never looked better. This year, the Swoosh has taken things even further. Players wearing Nike+ enabled shoes in 2K receive special highlight packages, a very special surprise awaits MVP winners in My Player mode and then there’s Nike ID. The ID feature enables the customization of popular Nike models within NBA 2K (once unlocked, the legendary Tinker Hatfield will walk you through that). But for those who are particularly impressed with their digital creations, Nike provides a link to their online store, where you can purchase the exact model you created. It was in the game, now it can be in your closet. —#37

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Step back

The 2004 Rookie Challenge Rookies Team is unquestionably one of the best squads in the game’s history. It featured a class that went on to win five championships, three MVPs, two Finals MVPs and make 30 All-Star appearances. (Of course, the bulk of those achievements was on the backs of James, Wade and Bosh.)

Eight of the nine players finished the season on the All-Rookie First or Second Team. Only Kaman was not selected.

Although a rookie in the NBA sense, Haslem went undrafted in the 2002 NBA Draft, got cut by the Atlanta Hawks and spent a year playing in France before signing on with Miami in 2003.

The wheat-colored Nike Zoom Generation (commonly referred to as the LeBron 1) LeBron wore that game were inspired by him telling Nike that he would like to one day play an NBA game in classic Timberland boots.

No longer in the NBA, Jarvis Hayes was the 10th pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. In seven NBA seasons, Hayes played for the Wizards, Pistons and Nets, appearing in 427 games and averaging 8.3 ppg.

With the game securely won by the Sophomores, the game’s final minutes featured an impromptu dunk-off between Anthony and James.

James led the Rookies with 33 points to go with 6 assists, 5 rebounds and 3 steals.

Only Haslem (#40), Chris Kaman (#35) and Wade (#3) have played in the same number their entire NBA career.

As lauded as the team was, the Rookies were trounced by the Sophomores in the Rookie Challenge, 142-118.

Six of the nine players were selected to play again in the 2005 Rookie Challenge as part of the Sophomores: Anthony, Bosh, Haslem, Kirk Hinrich, James and Wade. They made up for their loss in ’04, beating the Rookies 133-106. Anthony’s 31 points earned him that game’s MVP.

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As a precursor to joining together with the Miami Heat, Udonis Haslem, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James first played together on the same squad during the Rookie Challenge as part of the Rookies Team.

February 13, 2004: Rookie challenge Rookies team


call out Freshly inducted members (left to right) Chet Walker, Ralph Sampson and Reggie Miller join the rest of the class of 2012 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame: All American Red Heads, Lidia Alexeeva, Don Barksdale, Mel Daniels, Phil Knight, Katrina McClain, Don Nelson, Hank Nichols and Jamaal Wilkes. NathaNiel S. Butler/NBae/Getty imaGeS

Members of the Minnesota Lynx strike a pose with a few female members of the 148th Supply Brigade of the Georgia National Guard during the Catwalk for a Cure fashion show fundraiser benefiting the Lynx Foundation to raise money for breast cancer awareness. david ShermaN/NBae/Getty imaGeS

Andrei Kirilenko is making his return to the League with the Minnesota Timberwolves after a being away for a year, but not before demonstrating some agility and foot speed during the ladder drill to some local kids at the NBA Basketball Without Borders Europe Special Olympics Clinic in Moscow, Russia. catheriNe SteeNkeSte/NBae/Getty imaGeS

At a reading event at Langston Hughes Academy Charter School, the kids were all smiles because of their new books. Or was it because of the presence of New Orleans Hornet Eric Gordon? layNe murdoch/NBae/Getty imaGeS

Known for his deadeye, quick-release stroke, Golden State’s Stephen Curry shows off his underrated passing game while distributing backpacks to students at Garfield Elementary as part of Warriors Backpack Giveaway. rocky WidNer/NBae/Getty imaGeS

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FINAL EXAM

DOES AL HORFORD MAKE THE GRADE?

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© 2012 adidas America, Inc. The NBA and individual NBA member team identifications are the intellectual property of NBA Properties, Inc. and the respective NBA member teams. © 2012 NBA Properties, Inc. All rights reserved.

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HOOP November/December 2012  

With one of the best starting fives in history, the Lakers have Struck Gold

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