Adam Silver: I’ll Meet with LeBron and Kill Sleeved Jerseys If Players Insist

NEW YORK — The men who dribble, pass and shoot for a living enjoy a generally pleasant existence. They work seven to nine months. They take the summers off. The pay is good. But they do have some grievances.

Ask Google what “NBA players hate,” and it will produce the following objects of scorn: Toronto, Blake Griffin and “sleeves.”

Ah, those dastardly sleeves. The ones that suddenly sprouted from NBA jerseys on Christmas, constricting shoulders and shooting strokes. The ones that turned NBA uniforms into kiddie pajamas and triggered relentless mockery across the basketball blogosphere.

“Awful,” the Dallas Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki tweeted Dec. 25.

Portland’s Robin Lopez called for a “mass burning.”

A bonfire is probably out of the question. But NBA officials are seriously reconsidering the efficacy of those extra inches of mesh, and they just might clip them entirely—if the players demand it.

Commissioner Adam Silver told Bleacher Report he intends to revisit the issue after the season. He plans to meet with LeBron James, one of the loudest critics of the jerseys. The NBA could decide to curtail the use of the sleeved jerseys, leave it up to individual teams or simply kill the program for good.

“Ultimately, if the players don’t like them, we’ll move onto something else,” Silver told Bleacher Report. “I don’t regret doing it for this season. But it’s intended to be something fun for the fans and the players. And if it becomes a serious issue, as to whether players should be wearing sleeves, we’ll likely move onto other things.”

The matter took on an added urgency, at least from a public relations standpoint, when James, the league’s four-time MVP, trashed the jerseys after a loss to San Antonio on March 6. James shot 6-of-18. He blamed the sleeves.

“I’m not a big fan of the jerseys, not a big fan of them,” James told reporters that night. “I’ve got to figure something out the next time I wear the short-sleeved jerseys.”

The comments, coming from the NBA’s greatest player, reverberated at Olympic Tower. The NBA could brush off the barbs from writers and role players. But when LeBron speaks, the league listens. Silver admitted the remarks struck a chord.

“It did,” he said. “I’ve had conversations with LeBron about the jerseys, and we agreed that we would park the issue until the end of the season. And that once the season is over, he expressed an interest in sitting down with me and Sal LaRocca (the NBA’s president of merchandising) and discussing his point of view.”

James is hardly alone in his opinion. Although some players have praised the sleeved jerseys, many have complained about the look. Several have claimed the short, tight sleeves affect their shooting form.

The NBA disputes that claim, citing statistics that show a nominal difference in shooting percentages in games played with sleeved versus unsleeved jerseys.

Through March 20, teams were shooting .456 from the field while wearing the sleeved jerseys, according to the league. Those same teams produced a .461 field-goal percentage in games played with their regular, tank-top jerseys.

Still, some players say the tight sleeves are uncomfortable, that they can feel a tug when they go into their shooting motion. On Christmas, television cameras caught the Knicks’ Beno Udrih pulling his sleeves up over his shoulders after missing a three-pointer. The unsubtle message: It was the jersey’s fault.

“The one thing that annoys me about the fit (issue) is that guys do select the size that they wear,” Silver said. “The players could wear a larger size.”

This may be a vanity issue. Some players simply like the tight look, to show off their muscular torsos and shoulders. They could, as Silver suggests, simply ask the equipment manager for a bigger jersey.

Some have. On the same day that James blamed the sleeves, the Spurs’ Manu Ginobili told reporters he had moved up one jersey size, “because I need the freedom.”

It’s not uncommon for players to wear T-shirts, and even long-sleeve workout shirts, under their jerseys on practice days. But those shirts are generally looser.

The snug, short-sleeve jerseys—which have been likened to pajama tops, volleyball jerseys or, more recently, a bike cop uniform, according to Cleveland’s Jarrett Jack, via The Plain Dealer‘s Jodie Valade—actually made their debut last season. That’s when the Golden State Warriors trotted onto the court with them, to the chagrin of self-appointed fashionistas everywhere.

But the NBA ramped up their use this season, with 13 teams adopting the sleeved jerseys as part of their rotation of “alternate” uniforms, or for special occasions, including St. Patrick’s Day and the NBA’s Latin-themed nights.

The teams that have worn the jerseys this season are Chicago, Brooklyn, Oklahoma City, New York, Miami, Minnesota, Houston, San Antonio, Golden State, Phoenix, Boston and both Los Angeles teams.

“Hated them,” Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said after the Christmas games, telling ESPNDallas.com’s Tim MacMahon the jerseys made NBA players “look more like a high school wrestling team.”

The league was thinking more about its merchandise-buying fans than its players when it adopted the new uniforms. The rationale: Not all fans want to wear tank tops to show off their allegiance.

On that front, the sleeved jerseys have been a success. According to the league, the Christmas Day jerseys sold out at the NBA store two weeks before the games. Sales of the sleeved All-Star Game jerseys are up 14 percent over the non-sleeved 2013 All-Star jerseys. And sales of the sleeved Latin nights jerseys are up 37 percent over last season’s non-sleeved version.

Those figures do not necessarily reflect a significant increase in profit, though, because of the way the NBA’s contract with Adidas is structured, league officials said. So while the league is pleased with the popularity of the new jerseys, it does not view them as a major source of revenue.

Silver also dismissed a common conspiracy theory: that the sleeved jerseys were designed to make room for eventual sponsor logos. There is already ample room on the tank-top jerseys, as well as on shorts and warm-up gear, if the league decides to add sponsorships, Silver said.

“That was not a consideration,” Silver said of the sponsorship possibility. “It was based entirely on trying something new and making something available to our fans that they would feel more comfortable wearing.”

Even if the NBA ditches the sleeves for official competition, it might still sell them to the public. Silver also said the league could market looser shooting shirts, instead of the tight-fitting jerseys.

“I appreciate the fact that the players were open-minded in trying them this year,” Silver said. “We’ve had some fun with the program. Fans have enjoyed wearing them.”

The players union has taken no official stance on the sleeves, although the matter will be on the agenda for its summer meeting. Silver said he will decide the jerseys’ fate on a more subjective basis—how many players raise their voice, and how strenuously they object. The feedback so far, he said, has been mixed.

“I take the feedback from all the players very seriously,” Silver said, adding, “We’re not going to do anything without taking into account how they feel.”

So it’s now up to the players: to sleeve or not to sleeve.

 

Howard Beck covers the NBA for Bleacher Report.

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John Calipari: ‘If you kill one of mine, I burn your village’

UK coach John Calipari has some strong sentiments in his new book, “Players First.”

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Kobe Bryant Continues To Kill It On Twitter

Now that the Lakers are out of the playoffs, and have been for some time, Kobe Bryant has really let loose on Twitter. The latest piece of gold from the Black Mamba’s account is just brilliant.

[RecordsandRadio, via Hot Clicks]
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NBA Playoffs: Russell Westbrook’s Injury Doesn’t Kill Oklahoma City Thunder

As a fan, a gambler and a pure admirer of the Oklahoma City Thunder, I’m just as devastated as anyone by the news of the day. According to an AP report, Russell Westbrook is out for the playoffs with a torn meniscus. 

Before you jump off of the OKC bandwagon, remember a few important things:

First of all, LeBron James led the 2006-07 Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals. Only three other players from that team (Daniel Gibson, Anderson Varejao, Drew Gooden) are still in the NBA. All of the others didn’t deserve to be in the first place. This could be Kevin Durant’s chance to put the Thunder on his back just as LeBron did in Cleveland.

Second, the rest of the Western Conference isn’t exactly healthy. Denver is without Danillo Gallinari, Golden State no longer has David Lee, the Lakers don’t have Kobe and the Spurs haven’t really been fully healthy in two years. Only the Clippers and Grizzlies are both at full strength and present a real threat to the Thunder. 

Speaking of the Clippers and Grizzlies, despite LA’s 2-0 lead, they will likely beat each other up pretty badly in their series. Even without Westbrook, beating the Thunder after dealing with each other will prove a difficult task.

There’s another important factor to consider as well. It sounds almost blasphemous, in fact, I feel stupid for even bringing it up, but are we sure the Thunder wouldn’t be better off without Westbrook anyway?

Think about it, he completely monopolizes the ball. On most teams this would be fine, but Kevin Durant is his teammate. Now, without Westbrook, Durant will be able to control the team. He’ll be able to shoot as much as he wants. Sure, it will make the OKC offense far more predictable, but until they reach Miami in the NBA Finals, I don’t think there’s a Western Conference team who can really exploit that.

Kevin Martin is a passable second scorer. Serge Ibaka can pick up a bigger load on offense. Kevin Durant will step up. It’s not a perfect situation, but the Thunder are far from dead. Oklahoma City is still my pick to win the Western Conference. All this does is make Miami’s road to a second straight championship that much easier. 

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LeBron James may kill pregame dunk show

There is little doubt that LeBron James likes to entertain people. Recently he has caught flak for how he entertains people.
LeBron’s self-styled dunk contest that has taken place before Miami Heat games has started to become a popular attraction thanks to the power of the internet.
As such, his tricks have become more intricate. 
They have gone from basic free-falling displays of skill to involving teammates.
It has given his critics one more reason to wolf about some thing that in the big picture is not that serious.
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Mike D’Antoni’s Stubborn Use of Pau Gasol Will Kill LA Lakers’ Ceiling

Los Angeles Lakers power forward Pau Gasol is one of the most versatile big men in the NBA. He’s an exceptional passer, has a plethora of low-post moves and can finish with either hand around the basket.

However, you wouldn’t know that if you were only introduced to Gasol this season. Under the watchful eye of head coach Mike D’Antoni, Gasol now spends most of his time roaming the perimeter, robbing the 7-foot star of much of his effectiveness.

The 32-year-old forward is shooting a career-worst 41.2 percent from the floor, and is becoming increasingly disenchanted with each passing game. Gasol’s poor play has led to him being benched four times in the fourth quarter since D’Antoni took over just prior to Thanksgiving.

Now that Gasol spends much of his time 10-15 feet from the basket, his rebounding totals are suffering as well. Under former head coaches Mike Brown and Bernie Bickerstaff, Gasol had five double-doubles in the Lakers’ first eleven games. With D’Antoni on the bench, Gasol has grabbed 10 rebounds or more only once in 13 contests. Through 24 games, Gasol is averaging just 2.2 offensive rebounds per night—the lowest figure of his career.

Gasol may be frustrated with his role with the Lakers, but he won’t go so far as to ask for a trade.

“No, oh, that’s radical,” Gasol told ESPN. “I still have faith that I can be a big part in helping this team succeed.”

The head coach of the Lakers has faith as well, and in order to get on the same page with his star forward, D’Antoni invited Gasol out to dinner in late December.

“It was to make sure we’re in the same boat,” Gasol told the Los Angeles Times the day after the late-night meeting. “Hopefully, we can meet halfway on some points.”

Nearly three weeks later, the two parties still haven’t found much common ground. Gasol continues to hang around the foul-line extended area, spotting up for jump shots instead of rolling toward the basket and/or posting up at the start of each possession. And just as Gasol struggles to find his niche is D’Antoni‘s system, the Lakers are still trying to find some level of consistency on both ends of the floor.

The most consistent thing about the Lakers offense is the way that they’ve miscast Gasol this year. This season, 51.1 percent of his field-goal attempts have come from 10 feet and beyond. By comparison, 44.3 percent of Gasol’s shots came from the same distance in 2011-12.

To help illustrate this point better, here is a chart showing the distribution of Gasol’s shots this season:

As you can see, 26.1 percent of Gasol’s shot attempts come from the top of the key, and only 10.3 percent come from either side of the paint. On the surface, that doesn’t appear to be the most practical way to utilize a 7-footer.

“It’s difficult sometimes because it’s not up to me to get involved,” said Gasol in an interview with ESPN on Jan. 4. “I’m trying, but the times that I am at the elbows are the times that I get more involved and can make more plays from there, but it’s not consistent.”

Obviously, the offseason addition of Dwight Howard means that Gasol can’t post up as often as he used to. But when one of the league’s best big men is relegated to running pick-and-pop plays with Steve Nash much of the time, something is wrong with the system, not the player.

D’Antoni begs to differ, however. And if his recent comments are any indication, he won’t be changing his schemes to accommodate anyone anytime soon.

“He’ll be good in any system,” D’Antoni told the Los Angeles Times when asked if Gasol can work in the Lakers’ current offensive structure. “There can’t be a system out there where, if you’re really skilled and know how to play, it doesn’t work for you.”

That statement doesn’t appear to be entirely true, given the Lakers’ 15-17 record and the overwhelming talent that they have on the roster. Yet despite all of the issues that the team has had this year, Los Angeles is still capable of winning the NBA title.

That said, there won’t be a parade through the heart of downtown L.A. unless D’Antoni puts his players in the positions where they’re most able to succeed. And for Pau Gasol, that position is much closer to the basket than where he’s been standing for most of this season.

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Dirk Nowitzki Delaying Surgery Will Kill Dallas Mavericks’ Momentum in 2012-13

You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone, much less a professional athlete, who’d ever want to go “under the knife.” Expenses aside, the whole thing’s quite a hassle—going under anaesthesia, spending hours on an operating table and, of course, enduring a grueling recovery thereafter.

It’s certainly understandable, then, that Dirk Nowitzki would want to put off surgery on his swollen right knee, if not avoid it entirely, and explore his other options in the meantime. Nowitzki’s knee started acting up again during Dallas’ Eurotrip earlier this month, following a win over Alba Berlin in Dirk’s native Germany. As he told Tim McMahon of ESPNDallas.com after missing the Mavericks‘ home game against the Houston Rockets on Monday:

I’m doing everything I can not to have surgery. I guess that’s obvious that I really don’t want it done now. If I want to do it, I would love to do it after the season, get through the season somehow, but the swelling came back three or four times now. That’s obviously not good news.

If it’s going to keep swelling up on me, that’s obviously not a way to go throughout an 82-game season and hopefully long playoff run.

 

Obviously not, though the Mavs would be fortunate to embark on a “long playoff run” of any kind this season, with or without Dirk. Dallas may well be in the “danger zone” this season, teetering between a low playoff seed and a spot at the bottom of the NBA Draft Lottery, after whiffing on Deron Williams and Dwight Howard this summer.

GM Donnie Nelson did well to maintain financial flexibility for 2013 while reloading in the interim with the likes of Darren Collison, OJ Mayo, Chris Kaman and Elton Brand. Still, the 2012-13 squad, as currently constituted, is a far cry from the one that shocked its way to the title in 2011.

In fact, Dirk, Shawn Marion, Rodrigue Beaubois and Dominique Jones are the only holdovers from the group that hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy in Big D not a year-and-a-half ago.

The longer Dirk’s out, the longer it’ll take the revamped Mavs to figure out how to play together. Despite his advancing age—he turned 34 this past June—Nowitzki remains the central figure around which Dallas’ entire operation is organized. After all, he’s the future Hall-of-Famer, the team’s leading scorer and the go-to guy in crunch time, with the cojones and the know-how to make the proper play.

There’s simply no replacing a guy like that. The Los Angeles Lakers would be in a bind without Kobe Bryant, the heart and soul of their squad, but could certainly survive in a pinch, with Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol picking up the slack.

Dallas has no such superstar reinforcements, to say the least. Elton Brand was an All-Star power forward once upon a time, but injuries and the normal wear-and-tear of an NBA career have left him little more than a shell of his former self.

And don’t even get me started with Brandan Wright, for whom Dirk once offered advice that some believe he’d do well to heed sooner rather than later:

 

If arthroscopic surgery is, indeed, the way to go for Dirk, then he’s bound to miss the start of the season. Whether he calls up the surgeon now or decides to weigh the alternatives a bit longer will determine how much of the campaign he sits out. Dirk, for his part, understands this (per Tim McMahon):

I’m usually a pretty fast recovery guy, but you never know. Once they look in there, it might be a lot worse, might be a lot better. I guess that nobody really knows [the recovery time]. No doctor in the world can tell you.

I guess if we do decide next week to do that, it’s not looking good for the beginning of the season. 

Luckily for the Mavs, their early-season schedule should be relatively navigable sans Dirk. After opening salvos against the Lakers and the Utah Jazz in late October, Dallas will have to dance with the Bobcats (twice), the Trail Blazers, the Raptors, the Knicks, the Ricky Rubio-less Timberwolves and the John Wall-less Wizards during the first two weeks of November.

Should Nowitzki have to sit out longer, the Mavs would run into a much tougher portion of their schedule—five out of seven against returning playoff teams, plus a home game against the Warriors—without their franchise superstar.

Hardly ideal. Then again, neither is knee surgery, though that may well be the way to go for Dirk. Let’s just say, it’s never a good sign when a player has to have his knee drained twice in any two-week span.

Much less during training camp, before the rigors of the regular season have set in.

There’s still hope for Dirk and the Mavs, though, that he won’t need to have his knee scoped after all. Nowitzki encountered similar discomfort in his right knee last season, which contributed to his horrific first half (17.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists), by his standards. But, after taking a week off to work on his conditioning in January, Dirk went the rest of the way without any knee troubles of which to speak while averaging 23.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists.

It’s likely that experience from which Nowitzki is drawing his present resolve, to stay the course without winding up in a hospital bed.

At this point, the Mavs can only hope that Dirk is “right” to refuse the knife, lest it be their fading hopes in the West, along with some of Nowitzki’s cartilage, that are trimmed as a result. 

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Darko Milicic Willing to ‘Kill Someone on the Court’ in Order to Help Celtics Win

Darko Milicic is a wild card entering this season. And while the former No. 2 overall pick will probably never live up to his draft hype, he’s ready and willing to do whatever is asked of him in his first season in Boston. “I’m done trying to prove I’m the No. 2 pick and that [expletive] stuff,” Milicic said, according to CSNNE.com. “This year, it’s all about Celtics, to show that I am a team player. It’s not about me. It’s about us as a team. Milicic is so focused on succeeding with his new team — the sixth of…

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Milicic will ‘kill someone’ for Celtics

Since being released by the Minnesota Timberwolves under the NBA’s amnesty provision, Darko Milicic has signed a one-year deal with the Boston Celtics. Many skeptics, including myself, have questioned what exactly it is that Milicic brings to the table. Having been largely unable to contribute as a member of five different teams over the past nine years, most of us have come to the conclusion that Darko, despite his obvious physical gifts, will simply never turn himself into a productive NBA player.
Milicic feels differently, of course, and he’s recently vowed to do “whatever it takes” to make the Celtics a better team. Courtesy of CSNNE.com, here he is stating that he’ll go as far as to “kill someone on the court.”

“I’m done trying to prove I’m the No. 2 pick and that [expletive] stuff,” Milicic told CSNNE.com. “This year, it’s all about Celtics, to show that I am a team player. It’s not ab…

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Jason Terry Ramps Up Rivalry Talk With Celtics, Says ‘My Mission Is to Kill’ Heat, Lakers

Jason Terry is a veteran of the game, from knowing how to play to what words to say as he gets ready to take the court with a new team. Terry broke out the bravado again this week, saying he already has his eyes set on perennial Boston Celtics targets: the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers. “My mission is to kill,” Terry said at the Celtics’ annual golf tournament, according to ESPNBoston.com “Whoever that is, whether it’s the Heat, whether it’s the Lakers — hopefully both. That’s my mission, and that’s what I’m here to do.” The sharp-shooting Terry…

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