There’s An Interesting Twist To How Dirk Nowitzki Became No. 41

Dwain Price
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Displayed with permission from MCT Information Services

DALLAS — When it comes to NBA jerseys in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, it doesn’t take long to see someone wearing a Dallas Mavericks’ “41” on their back.

No. 41 is All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki.

However, the history behind Nowitzki’s number is not as simple as his patented one-legged fadeaway.

Nowitzki was born in Wurzburg, Germany, and grew up playing basketball wearing No. 14, including with hometown professional club DJK s.Oliver Wurzburg.

He was selected ninth overall in the 1998 NBA Draft by Milwaukee, which had arranged a trade to send him to the Mavericks in exchange for the late Robert “Tractor” Traylor of Michigan.

Upon arrival, Nowitzki discovered that guard Robert Pack was already wearing No. 14.

“I always wore 14 in Germany. I always have,” Nowitzki recalled. “And I came over and wanted 14, but he had No. 14 and I asked him if I could get it. But he said, ‘I’m not giving my number to no rookie.’ He didn’t want to shoot for it or anything.”

With his favorite number taken, Nowitzki got creative.

“I just ended up flipping the numbers and it came to 41,” he said.

On Aug. 16, 2000, as part of a four-team trade, the Mavericks sent Pack, center John “Hot Rod” Williams and cash to the Boston Celtics.

“When Pack left, I had a chance to switch back [to 14], but then I already had two years in the bag,” Nowitzki said. “So, I didn’t want to switch it. I just left it at 41.”

Forward Brandan Wright (34), center Greg Smith (4) and guard Monta Ellis (11) also had intriguing tales about their jersey numbers.

“It’s weird, man, because I wore No. 4 all the way up till my freshman year of high school,” Wright said. “Chris Webber was my favorite player. When I got to high school, my high school coach just gave me 34. I’ve just been rolling with it ever since. It’s a number that has served me well.”

Just like Nowitzki, Wright has never thought about going back to No. 4

“No man, I’m settled in and the league is strict on changing numbers,” Wright said. “I don’t know if you know the policy, but you pretty much have to buy all those jerseys [that the league had printed with the previous number].”

Smith, who is 6-foot-10, said his desire to be a guard led him to No. 4.

“No. 4 is the number I’ve been wearing since I was younger. It’s a number that stuck with me,” Smith said. “In high school, I was wearing 44 and I trimmed it down to 4.

“All bigs want to be guards, and guards wear smaller numbers, so I switched to 4 and it just stuck with me.”

For Ellis, it was a case of family and finances.

Ellis went from high school, where he wore No. 11, to the NBA in 2005. He was drafted in the second round by Golden State out of Lanier (Jackson, Miss.) High School.

At Golden State, he had to wear No. 8 because 11 was taken by second-year forward Zarko Cabarkapa. Ellis spent 6 { years with the Warriors wearing No. 8 before being traded to Milwaukee, where he regained his No. 11 jersey. After a year and a half in Milwaukee, he joined the Mavericks last season.

“I’ve been wearing this number since I was in elementary school,” Ellis said. “My mom wore it [at Lanier] and me and my mom were best friends, and so I wanted to be like her and it stuck.

“When I first got into the NBA, I had to go to 8 because 11 was taken. They told me that you can either ask or pay the guy for the number. At that time, I didn’t have the money to pay for it so I just waited and waited and finally 11 came back to me.

“It was like a new beginning. I think me going back to No. 11 really has me getting back to my old self again.”

Father Of Wayne Ellington Slain In Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA – The father of Los Angeles Lakers player Wayne Ellington was shot and killed over the weekend in Germantown, Philadelphia.

Wayne Ellington Sr., 57, was found slumped behind the wheel of a car in the 5200 block of Marion Street at 8:00 p.m. Sunday. His car had hit two parked vehicles. He was taken to Einstein Medical Center in critical condition and died several hours later.

Ellington Jr., a guard for the Lakers, received the devastating news about his father after his team’s win on Sunday night.

“He said, ‘Ball hard! Get this first win tonight,'” Ellington Jr. said as he reflects on the text message he received from his father right before his NBA game. “He played a huge role in me playing basketball. He put me in a league at five-years-old.”

Ellington Jr. was a standout basketball player at Episcopal Academy High. The hometown hero then went on to North Carolina to play before being drafted into the NBA, making his father proud.

“I’m devastated. For a son to lose his father is very tough, it’s unbelievable. It’s crazy, I went from a high to the lowest point of my life,” he said.

Ellington Sr.’s wife of 34 years got the news about her husband over the phone.

“I could hear crying, screaming and crying in the background so I knew it wasn’t good news. They called me back to let me know that it was worse than what we thought,” said Elaine Ellington.

Homicide detectives are investigating the shooting as a murder. Police say, so far, there are no known suspects or a possible motive.

“It’s going to come out, it always does. Philly is not that big of a place, people talk. Whoever did this is going to get what they deserve,” said Ellington Jr.

Ellington Jr. is now on leave from the Lakers to grieve with his family as they hope to get answers.

Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak released a statement, saying, “Our players are upset for their friend and teammate. Additionally, ownership and all Lakers employees are also saddened by this tragedy. Those of us who work with and have gotten to know Wayne have come to know what a wonderful and caring person he is. Our hearts go out to Wayne and his family, as do our thoughts and prayers.”

Ex-Toronto Raptor Alvin Robertson Facing Sexual Assault and Human Trafficking Charge

Brendan Kennedy
Displayed with permission from Toronto Star

By the time Alvin Robertson sunk the first basket in Toronto Raptors history — a 25-foot, three-point jumper — he already had a lengthy rap sheet and a lousy reputation.

The former defensive stalwart for the San Antonio Spurs arrived in Toronto saddled with baggage both on and off the court, ranging from fights with teammates and coaches to criminal charges related to multiple domestic violence incidents, bar fights and a bizarre burglary.

His recruitment to the fledgling team had already raised eyebrows when just days before starting in the Raptors’ inaugural game, Robertson was arrested and charged with assaulting a pregnant ex-girlfriend at the SkyDome hotel. The case was later dropped when the woman refused to testify.

“The things I’ve done in the past, I hoped it wouldn’t start all over again in Canada,” Robertson lamented to reporters back then, as if he was pursued by his own transgressions.

In fact, Robertson’s personal troubles only worsened in the ensuing years: criminal mischief, harassment, more violence. A rape charge was tossed, but he spent a year in jail when a judge ruled he had breached his probation — from the 1996 burglary — and had “more likely than not” committed the sexual assault.

Now 52, he is facing the most serious allegations of his life and the prospect of spending his remaining years behind bars. In February 2010, Robertson was arrested and accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl and conspiring with others to force her into prostitution. He had a court appearance Monday, but a trial isn’t expected for several more months.

Robertson — who lives in San Antonio, where the crimes are alleged to have occurred — denies the charges against him and has steadfastly maintained his innocence.

“These allegations have been, like, the all-time worst,” he told Bleacher Report this month. “I really don’t have any involvement with it. . . . This has really, really killed me. Just killed me.”

“It’s hard for me to believe that he has these charges against him,” Glen Grunwald, the former Raptors GM who was vice-president of legal affairs during Robertson’s short tenure with the team, told the Star on Monday. “He was always easy to talk to and intelligent and well-spoken and well-behaved when he was in Toronto, except for (the alleged SkyDome hotel assault).”

Robertson was never punished by the NBA during his 10-year career, which ended in Toronto. Chances are if he had faced the same charges today — in this post-Ray Rice professional sports climate — he likely would have dealt with some measure of internal discipline from the league or the teams he played on.

With regard to the alleged hotel assault, the Raptors said at the time that Robertson should be deemed innocent until proven guilty and would continue to play while the court process unfolded. Grunwald said he couldn’t remember the specifics of the team’s decision-making process back then. But he remembered Robertson as a “tough” and “competitive” player and recalled seeing him in San Antonio in 1997 or ’98, a year or two after he left the team. “He seemed to be doing okay. He had his construction business.”

That business reportedly fell apart amid Robertson’s legal and financial troubles.

On the court, Robertson was the best kind of nasty. The four-time all-star led the league in steals on three occasions. He’s also one of just four players to record a quadruple double (20 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists, 10 steals). He is the NBA’s all-time leader in steals per game.

Prior to this latest, most serious arrest, Robertson’s lawyer, Brent Delapaz, said his client had put his criminal past behind him. According to Delapaz, Robertson was in negotiations with Wal-Mart regarding a basketball instructional video that would be sold in stores.

“I think it’s safe to say he had turned a new page in his life and was doing well — until this.”

Delapaz, like Robertson himself, insists he is innocent. He says Robertson’s loyalty to old friends has led him to be unduly caught up in this case and that he is being targeted because of his high profile.

Since being released on bail, Robertson — who has three children — has been forced to wear a GPS tracker on his ankle and is subject to monitored work release and other bail conditions, with which he has struggled to adhere. This year alone he has violated his conditions on three occasions.

There have been some “misunderstandings with procedures,” Delapaz said, but Robertson has done his best to comply with the orders.

“He’s ready for his day in court. He’s anxious to clear his name.”

Dwyane Wade Feels DeMar DeRozan Isn’t Popular Because He Plays For A Canadian Team

Canadians are notorious for having inferiority complexes.

In fact, it’s a big reason for the We The North campaign and why passionate basketball fans in Canada take offense to their country only being known for hockey and cold weather.

Dwyane Wade didn’t make any friends north of the border this weekend with his comments about DeMar DeRozan.

“The only reason we don’t hear more about him is because he’s in Toronto,” Wade joked with the media when he was asked about DeMar DeRozan before his Miami Heat hosted the Toronto Raptors.

Gulp.

The easy – and natural reaction – would be for fans to recall that Vince Carter reached the peak of his popularity at Air Canada while playing for the Raptors.

It would also be easy to tell Wade to look a couple of lockers down at teammate Chris Bosh and remember that Bosh’s best years as a professional were played in Toronto.

But the reality is those comments from Wade will sting basketball fans across Canada.

It will be interesting to see what kind of reaction the fans give former fan favourite Wade when he plays at the Air Canada Centre later this season.

Oscar Robertson’s Visit Had An Impact On The Toronto Raptors

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Oscar Robertson is one of the best players to lace up his kicks and play basketball.

Despite being caught in an era where players are now only heralded for making ESPN’s SportsCenter highlight clips or creating buzz on YouTube, it’s clear that Hall-of-Famer Oscar Robertson is still revered by current NBA players despite very few grainy clips of his playing career being available online.

Robertson spoke with the Raptors’ players in Orlando Friday after Wayne Embry, a good friend of the Robertson, set up the meeting.

It was clear that the players were impressed after talking with Robertson.

“They were in awe of how big he was, how he spoke about competing, how he spoke about being a good teammate,” head coach Dwane Casey told the media Saturday afternoon.

DeMar DeRozan gushed to the media after the meeting with Robertson that, “When he throws out the names of players that he played with it definitely gives you goosebumps.”

Two Words Of Advice For The Lakers’ Kobe Bryant: Just Shoot!

October 31, 2014
Displayed with permission from Newsweek

We have seen enough. We have seen too much.

It is only Halloween and the Los Angeles Lakers, the greatest franchise in NBA history west of Beacon Hill, have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Hyperbole? Somewhat, but the Lakers are 0-2 only because they cannot be 0-3 until Friday night, when they play their co-tenants, the Los Angeles Clippers, at the Staples Center.

Shoot, Kobe, shoot.

These 2014-15 Lakers are awful and it’s not about to get better. On opening night they lost at home by 18 to the Houston Rockets and the following night they lost by 20 at Phoenix. Their first-round draft pick, would-be University of Kentucky sophomore Julius Randle, fractured his tibia in the fourth quarter of that opening-night defeat and will miss the entire season. Randle’s Rookie of the Year campaign ends with two points and zero rebounds–and a pair of missed free throws.

Shoot, Kobe, shoot.

Former two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Steve Nash will miss the season with an ailing back. Seven-footer Pau Gasol, a four-time All-Star who was a Laker stalwart the past six-plus seasons, signed with the Chicago Bulls. Guard Nick Young, the leading scorer on last year’s team and a man who prefers the nom de hoop Swaggy P., tore a thumb ligament in the preseason and probably won’t return until Thanksgiving. Seven teammates, head coach Byron Scott, and more than half the Laker Girls are in their first season with the Lakers (yes, Scott once played for them).

Shoot, Kobe, shoot.

Every aspiring and/or failed screenwriter in Hollywood knows the drill: Meet the cat, put the cat up a tree, save the cat. These Lakers are up a tree… that is about to be struck by a bus that will explode if its speed falls below 50 m.p.h…. that is being driven by Denzel Washington’s rogue narc-squad chief from Training Day… in the midst of a Sharknado. You get the feeling this 2014-2015 L.A. Lakers will end up floating face-down in Norma Desmond’s pool.

Shoot, Kobe, shoot.

Last year the LOLakers finished 27-55, and their .329 win percentage was the franchise’s worst since 1957-58, when the Minneapolis Lakers finished 19-53 (.264). They will be worse than 27-55 this season and that’s actually the most promising aspect of 2014-15, as the Lakers traded away their 2015 first-round pick to the Suns–a deal that is voided if the LOLakers finish with one of the NBA’s five-worst records.

Shoot, Kobe, shoot.

And then there’s Kobe Bryant, the iconic face (and sneer) of this franchise for most of the millennium. Now 36, Kobe has spent literally half his life as a Los Angeles Laker. The 16-time All-Star missed all but six games last season as he first recovered from a torn Achilles tendon and then suffered a lateral tibial plateau fracture in his left knee. Bryant is back and, for the first time since the start of the 2013 playoffs, he’s healthy. The only problem is that Black Mamba’s supporting cast is redolent of the cast –and the title–of Two and a Half Men.

Shoot, Kobe, shoot.

The Lakers are down and out near Beverly Hills. Veteran power forward Carlos Boozer, who was claimed via the league’s amnesty clause last July, air-balled his first shot of the season, a 10-footer from the baseline. Point guard Jeremy Lin, who signed as a free agent and was supposed to be Nash’s backup, has seven assists and six turnovers thus far –granted, we are 1/41th of the way into the season–and was already being scolded by Bryant in the Lakers’ second loss. Said Kobe to Lin during a timeout in Phoenix, “You’ve got to run the offense!”

No, Jeremy, you don’t. Kobe has to run the offense. Shoot, Kobe, just shoot. Shoot early and shoot often. Shoot from beyond the arc. Shoot from beyond half-court. Shoot left-handed. Shoot with your feet and show off what you learned after attending the World Cup. Just shoot. Your worst shot has a better shot of going in than any other Laker’s.

Shoot, Kobe, shoot.

Earlier this week, Charles Barkely, the NBA’s reincarnation of Will Rogers, “I don’t know how many games [Kobe’s] playing in, but he ain’t playing in no playoff games.”

Chuck’s right. Perhaps not even Kobe’s idol, Michael Jordan, could lead a team that starts Boozer, Lin, Jordan Hill and Wesley Johnson to the postseason. And Jordan retired after 15 seasons, whereas Kobe is entering his 19th. It’s not as if shooting often is anathema to Kobe. In six of the past nine seasons he has led the league in shot attempts. In 2005-06, when he led the league in scoring at 35.5 points per game –the highest average since MJ’s 37.1 in 1986-87–Kobe put up a career-high 27.2 shots per game.

Why not 30 this year? Kobe is signed with the Lakers through the end of next season, and the current Buss in charge of the LOLakers, Jeanie, has said that she’d like to see him play beyond that. Meanwhile, Jack Nicholson shifts uncomfortably in his court-side seat as if Lt. Daniel Kaffee is interrogating him.

Do you want the truth? Jack and Jeanie and everyone else inside Staples Center are no longer there to watch competitive basketball. They’re there to watch the equivalent of a Bruce Springsteen concert. They are there to see you, Kobe, and to see if you can still put on an epic show.

So shoot, Kobe! It is already a fait accompli that you will pass Jordan this year on the career scoring list (currently 542 points behind) and move into third place behind two men who ended their careers as Lakers: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone. Keep shooting. Go for the scoring title this season.

Shoot, Kobe. And answer questions later.

Warriors, Klay Thompson Reach Deal On Four-Year Extension

Diamond Leung
San Jose Mercury News
Displayed with permission from MCT Information Services

OAKLAND, Calif. — The Warriors reached agreement with shooting guard Klay Thompson on a four-year contract extension worth about $70 million on Friday.

The Warriors are expected to officially announce the deal to beat the 9 p.m. deadline to extend Thompson before he hit restricted free agency after this season. The 24-year-old received the maximum salary he was seeking.

The 6-foot-7 Thompson is the first player in NBA history to hit 500 3-pointers through the first three years of his career and has combined with point guard Stephen Curry to become regarded as the best-shooting backcourt in the league.

Thompson received the maximum salary at a time when the team views him as one of the top shooting guards in the NBA. Coach Steve Kerr has spoken of Thompson as a possible All-Star in the near future.

A Warriors first-round draft pick in 2011, Thompson has blossomed into a multidimensional scorer and defender while remaining durable, having never missed a game because of injury in his career.

The Warriors throughout the process had expected to pay Thompson a large sum of money. In the end, he was awarded the max after negotiations with his agent, Walnut Creek-based agent, Bill Duffy, went into the season.

Game Notes: Raptors 116 – Celtics 109

Here are some at-the-buzzer observations and analysis from The Gondola about the Raptors’ third preseason game of the year:

  • I thought it was interesting that Boston’s first points were a three-pointer by Brandon Bass and Toronto’s first points were a long two by Amir Johnson.
  • DeRozan oozing confidence. Hit a three-pointer early in first quarter from just to the left of the tip of the arc and nailed another tough three early in the second half. Avery Bradley is noted for being a strong defender but he had problems slowing DeRozan down throughout the game. Even a larger Evan Turner had his share of issues. DeRozan finished with 18 points with relative ease.
  • Boston started game 3-10 from the field and finished the first quarter shooting 42% (8-19) from the field. Throw in five turnovers and it’s the kind of defensive effort which had to make Dwane Casey smile after he blasted his team’s effort on the defensive end against the Sacramento Kings.
  • Raptors went on a 11-5 run when they went small with DeMar DeRozan, Lou Williams and Kyle Lowry at the end of the first quarter. The scoring spark was expected, but a pleasant surprise was seeing how that trio shared and moved the ball among themselves as well as with Patrick Patterson and Tyler Hansbrough.
  • Things fell apart in the second quarter as Toronto allowed Boston to shoot 5-7 from the field to start the quarter. This helped Boston steal the lead back at 37-36. Things didn’t get get better before the half ended as Boston went 12-19 from the field in the second quarter. Avery Bradley was one of the main benefactors for a lethargic defensive effort from Toronto as he went off for 17 points in the second quarter. Ouch.
  • Jonas Valanciunas had six rebounds in his first 10 minutes of playing time. He finished with nine boards in 22 minutes.
  • Kyle Lowry picked up his fifth foul early in the third quarter. Weird considering Lowry rarely found himself in foul trouble. Perhaps he was pressing too much against Boston’s relatively inexperienced point guards.
  • Greivis Vasquez grabbed the opportunity and score 13 points in his first 15 minutes of burn. He finished the game with 13 points in 19 minutes.
  • Terrence Ross has bulked up this season which will help him defend larger wing players. However, James Johnson is an even better option on the defensive end at this point. Casey has a lot more options now than he had against the Nets last year in the playoffs.
  • I loved Kyle Lowry picking Kelly Olynyk’s pocket in the fourth quarter. Despite having five fouls, Lowry went after the steal and it resulted in two easy points for the Raptors. It also gave the team a much-needed bump in energy.
  • Toronto put the clamps on Boston defensively in the fourth quarter. After allowing 93 points through the first three quarters, Toronto held Boston to six points through the first seven minutes of the quarter (a 26-6 run). Boston only scored 16 points in the fourth quarter.

LeBron James Says Another Title Likely Would Have Kept Him With Miami Heat

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Ira Winderman
Sun Sentinel
Displayed with permission from MCT Information Services

MIAMI — In an interview to air Friday on CNN, LeBron James acknowledged that with three more victories in June he likely would have remained with the Miami Heat instead of signing with the Cleveland Cavaliers in July as a free agent.

In the interview with Rachel Nichols for the network’s Unguarded program that airs Fridays at 10:30 p.m. EDT, James said a third consecutive Heat championship likely would have preempted his eventual return to Cleveland. The Heat instead lost 4-1 in the NBA Finals to the San Antonio Spurs.

“It’s a greater chance, for sure,” he said. “I mean, it would be hard to leave back-to-back-to-back championships and try to go for four. But, obviously, you really can’t live and think of what may have happened. For me, I’ve always been a person [to] kind of live in the moment.”

He said seeking his third championship after switching teams will present new challenges.

“I understand what it takes to get there,” he said of his four-year Heat tenure, which included four trips to the NBA Finals and championships in 2012 and ’13. “I understand what it takes to win. It’s so difficult. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

 

Danny Ferry Gathering Support From Around NBA

Chris Vivlamore
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Displayed with permission from MCT Information Services

Danny Ferry is gathering support from around the NBA as the embattled Hawks general manager has seen his character questioned in recent weeks following the latest firestorm that has engulfed the franchise.

“For over 30 years I have had the pleasure to call Danny my best friend,” said Nets general manager Billy King, who had Ferry in his wedding party. “He has been there for me through my toughest times as well the good. Danny, I feel as a GM, is always looking to build a team that the city he represents would be proud to support. He thinks team first as he leads.”

Ferry is on an indefinite leave of absence after it surfaced this month that he said Luol Deng had “some African in him” during a conference call with ownership and management about potential free agents in June. The comment set off an organization-wide investigation that uncovered a racially inflammatory email written by co-owner Bruce Levenson in 2012. It resulted in the controlling owner and his Washington partners agreeing to sell their stake in the team.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution spoke with several African-American coaches and front-office personnel around the NBA who have worked with Ferry to get their reaction to the comment. The support Ferry has received during the past month may not ultimately save his job with the Hawks. CEO Steven Koonin disciplined Ferry and intended to keep him in the position. However, Ferry asked for and was granted the leave on Sept. 12. NBA Commissioner has publicly said he does not believe Ferry should be fired but later said the leave of absence was appropriate. The final decision of Ferry’s future in Atlanta may well rest with the new controlling owner.

Those who spoke with the AJC spoke said they felt compelled to say that the comment was out of character. Ferry has declined comment since issuing a statement upon his leave of absence.

Ferry resigned as Cavaliers general manager after ownership fired head coach Mike Brown in 2010. Four years later, Brown is coming to his defense.

“I cannot say enough about Danny Ferry and the opportunity he gave me as a first time head coach,” Brown said. “The relationship we had at work and away from work, will be hard for me to duplicate going forward. The roller coaster ride of emotions we experienced together were easily navigated because of the blind trust we had for one another personally and professionally. We might not always agree with one another, but we could always count on having each other’s back by being on the same page when it was time to make a decision.

“And, toward the end of my first tenure with the Cavaliers, Danny never wavered in his belief in me.”

Magic Johnson sent out a series of posts on Twitter on Tuesday after the two had a lengthy meeting at Ferry’s request. Johnson, who immediately called for Ferry to be fired, said his apology was sincere and that he deserved a second chance. Ferry has also met with Atlanta community and civil and human rights leaders.

“I’m glad that Magic sat down and talked to him,” King said. “That was one of the problems I had. Everybody was attacking him without knowing him. Magic probably met him but he didn’t really know him. That’s what happens. You have to know the person before you label him something. Like Donald Sterling, everybody knew that’s who he was. That’s why so many of us came out so strongly (in support) because we have a long history of knowing (Ferry).”

Melvin Hunt, who was an assistant coach with the Cavaliers during Ferry’s tenure, also came to the defense of Ferry.

“I know this guy, I know him,” said Hunt, now an assistant with the Nuggets. “Danny’s ability to both appreciate and welcome differences was another strength of his when leading our organization. Not only did he know the importance of variety and diversity, he looked for it. Our staff over the years covered the full spectrum of diversity.

“I have said this many times. Danny Ferry can be accused of many things, but I would never use racist. Knowing his parents intimately and his upbringing, I am confident that Danny is anything but driven by a person’s color or ethnic background. I believe Danny made a mistake that he should not be characterized by.”

Tim Duncan categorized Ferry’s comment as a mistake but said he is not a racist in an interview with a San Antonio radio station Wednesday.

Duncan spoke to KZDC and defended Ferry. The two were teammates on the Spurs for three seasons. Ferry also served in the organization’s front office on two different occasions with Duncan as a player.

“Knowing Danny, he’s not what everybody’s saying about him,” Duncan told the station. “He’s not a racist. … He said something absolutely wrong and he regrets it. He’s not a racist. I know him well enough to feel comfortable saying that.”

It’s Lonely At The Top

NBA: Kevin Durant-MVP Press Conference

Most NBA teams have their media day either this weekend or on Monday so the 2014-15 NBA is officially on the cusp of starting.

After a thrilling summer which saw LeBron James bolt South Beach, Kevin Love got his wish and was traded from Minnesota and a handful of young players are poised to enter the NBA after one of the deepest NBA Drafts in recent memory, fans can soon start to watch their favorite players and teams show their worth on the court.

There are plenty of story lines to track and plenty of fun teams and players to track this season. And, if you need some help getting a grasp on how the NBA landscape has changed over the summer, there are sites you can go to for your free NBA picks.

Still, despite the flurry of roster moves this summer, there are only a handful of teams that have legit chances to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy this coming June.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are the sexy pick to win it all after adding LeBron James and Kevin Love while not needing to trade Kyrie Irving.

James is arguably the top player in the NBA while Love posted monster numbers last season and is arguably the top big man in the NBA.

Irving was named MVP of the All-Star game last season and this summer he put on an impressive performance leading America to a gold medal at the World Championships in Spain.

Still, despite having a roster built around three all-stars, the Cleveland Cavaliers will have issues protecting the rim and getting key defensive stops with the roster as currently constructed. Teams aren’t able to win championships by playing games like video games where they just need to outscore opponents.

The Chicago Bulls, Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards are all one (or two) injuries away from having their seasons decimated.

It’s lonely at the top, and it appears once again the Eastern Conference likely won’t have any teams that can truly threaten the big boys in the Western Conference.

And from the Western Conference, it looks as though the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers are the only teams who can truly compete for a championship this season.

The Spurs are reigning champs, but it’s only a matter of time before Tim Duncan starts showing his age. Another question mark for the Spurs is if Tony Parker can stay healthy for a full season and extended run into the playoffs.

Oklahoma City is lurking as the alpha dogs in a stacked Western Conference. If Russell Westbrook can stay healthy and Serge Ibaka can take another leap forward, the Thunder will probably earn the top seed in the West.

Oh, and they also have Kevin Durant who is the current MVP of the NBA.

But like any NBA season, it’s a battle of attrition and unfortunately injuries will play a huge role in determining what team is the last one standing.

Personally, my money’s on the Thunder.

Ryan Anderson And Kyle Korver Show Their Support For “To Write Love On Her Arms”

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To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) recently launched their “No One Else Can Play Your Part” campaign in conjunction with National Suicide Prevention Week (9.8-9.14) and World Suicide Prevention Day (9.10).

The goal of the campaign, according to founder Jamie Tworkowski, is to tell people “that their life matters, and their story is significant.”

NBA players Kyle Korver and Ryan Anderson have already joined by posting pictures on social media wearing the t-shirt.

Yao Ming The Philanthropist Wants More Freedom To Spend

Jonah M. Kessel / China Daily

Peter S. Goodman
Displayed with permission from International Business Times

TIANJIN, China – Yao Ming thinks China needs more freedom — at least in one regard. The former NBA basketball star complained here on Thursday that his charitable foundation is hampered by Chinese rules limiting to 10 percent the share of contributions that can go toward expenses such as salaries for executives, office space and travel.

He contrasts those strictures to the rules that apply in the United States. “They have more freedom,” he said, during an appearance at the World Economic Forum. “They can set up their own rules and principles for donations.”

In China, “the government regulations are quite tight,” Yao added. “We don’t have enough flexibility.” As a result, he said, his foundation “can’t recruit the most excellent people.” He carefully added, grinning: “It doesn’t mean the people we have aren’t excellent.”

Americans may be surprised to hear their relatively liberal mode of philanthropy held up as a model. Major charitable efforts have come under scrutiny for reportedly spending more than half of their contributions on expenses.

Yao’s comments drew looks of mild surprise from a room full of Chinese and foreign fans, many of whom used smartphones to take pictures in brazen — and delighted — disregard of multiple announcements forbidding photos.

Known globally as China’s breakout basketball sensation, the statuesque Yao — all seven-foot-six of him — has long served as a de facto Chinese cultural ambassador. He also occupies a seat in the National People’s Congress, China’s legislature, not traditionally a place for decrying lack of freedom in the Middle Kingdom.

But, as he reflected on his years in the United States, where he anchored the Houston Rockets basketball team for parts of eight seasons, and where he still counts numerous friends, Yao said that Americans enjoy an edge when it comes to philanthropy.

The nonprofit Yao Ming Foundation was launched in 2008 following the catastrophic earthquake in Sichuan province, in southwestern China. Under Yao’s guidance, his foundation has subsequently devoted funds to rebuilding schools in the affected area.

Yao has also led high-profile conservation campaigns, traveling to Africa to decry the killing of elephants for ivory that has flowed in large part to China.

“I was shocked by feelings I could not carry back with the photographs,” he said here, as he recalled a visit to an elephant orphanage where he encountered a 10-day-old baby whose mother had been killed in the ivory harvest.

Yao has also urged Chinese consumers to eschew shark’s fin soup in response to overfishing and has helped raise funds to spread awareness of HIV/AIDS.

Yao’s protestations about the limits on the spending of foundation contributions presented an apparent contrast to the spirit of charity advertised on his website, which notes that he and his wife, Ye Li, “have committed to paying the Foundation’s administrative costs so that 100% of any contribution from the public is directed to the charitable cause.”

“What we lack is flexibility,” he said Thursday. “We all want to hire people with the highest expertise, but we have no ability to recruit the top people.”

From Hoop Dreams To Hopes For Cures

Kevin Durant

September 10, 2014
Displayed with permission from PR Newswire

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., Sept. 10, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — 11-year-old Kyle Markes passed away of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) on December 24, 2013, just days before he was set to be his idol Kevin Durant’s special guest at an Oklahoma Thunder game on Christmas Day.

Every three minutes, someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with a blood cancer. Almost 150,000 Americans will be diagnosed with these cancers this year. More than 1.1 million Americans are living with, or in remission from a blood cancer. Leukemia causes more deaths than any other cancer among children, adolescents and young adults younger than age 20.

Kyle was not one of the lucky ones.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) and Behind the Bench, The National Basketball Wives Association (BTB) are determined to call a foul on cancers. They are forging a partnership to raise $1 million for blood cancer cures, with its annual NBA All-Star Weekend and “Touching A Life” Gala, February 13, 2015, in New York City. The prestigious All-Star Gala attracts popular NBA players for a star-studded evening of inspiration, philanthropy and entertainment. At the 2015 event, Kevin Durant, or one of his OKC Thunder teammates, will give the “Heart of Courage” award to Kyle’s mother, Jackque Markes.

“The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is honored to join forces with this committed, passionate group, whose efforts will shine a spotlight on the urgent need to raise funds to find cures for blood cancers and ensure patients have access to treatments,” states LLS President and CEO and Chief Mission Officer, Louis J. DeGennaro, Ph.D. “It’s especially fitting to launch our partnership during Blood Cancer Awareness Month, as we aim to create awareness for blood cancers, the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. We’re privileged to work with Behind the Bench to reach the influential and generous NBA community with our call to action. Together, we can make an impact on cancer treatments and cures, not someday, but today.”

As the first national player/wives organization, the non-profit Behind the Bench, The National Basketball Wives Association, formerly known as Women of the NBA, was established in 1993, by Deborah A. Williams, Ph.D., to address the challenges facing players’ families, especially the women and children.

To kick off the NBA wives’ activities for the 2015 Gala, Behind The Bench: The National Basketball Wives Association is set to donate laptop computers to children at Harlem Hospital in New York City, in a special community service event on September 11, 2014. This program was inspired by a child who wanted to communicate with her brother, her bone marrow match, while she was hospitalized.

“We are so pleased to announce our partnership with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in conjunction with this very special community service initiative at Harlem Hospital, which provides a lifeline to the outside world for these hospitalized children,” states, Kristina Ratliff, Behind the Bench president. “As the leading organization comprised of current and retired NBA players’ wives and life partners, we work every day to improve the lives of families, especially children like Kyle.”

“This community service event at Harlem Hospital demonstrates that Behind the Bench shares LLS’s commitment to providing comfort and support, along with medical treatment, to children with cancer and other illnesses,” states Michele Przypyszny, executive director of the New York City Chapter of LLS.

“In our 65 year history, LLS has invested more than $1 billion in research to advance cancer therapies and save lives. Survival rates since the early 1960s have doubled, tripled, and even quadrupled, thanks to research and access to better treatments. In that time, cures for many patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and Hodgkin lymphoma have been achieved and the five-year survival rate for children with ALL jumped from three percent in 1964 to approximately 90 percent in 2014. But there is more work to be done. Despite this progress, more than one third of blood cancer patients still do not survive five years after their diagnosis. With no means of screening or prevention for most blood cancers, we must focus on cures in order to achieve our goal of a world without blood cancers,” states DeGennaro.

“Harlem Hospital Center is honored to receive this generous gift from Behind The Bench: The National Basketball Wives Association. Their donation of laptops, assisted by the KINfolk organization, to the children of Harlem Hospital Center will go a long way towards improving our pediatric patients’ experience while they are in our care. We are proud of our strong performance across many areas of quality and patient safety, and we remain committed to providing high quality healthcare to the Harlem community and all the New Yorkers we serve,” says Denise C. Soares, RN, MA, Senior Vice President, Generations+/Northern Manhattan Health Network, Executive Director, Harlem Hospital Center & Renaissance Health Network, New York City Health & Hospitals Corporation.

Kyle Markes never met his hero Kevin Durant. But Durant has written Kyle’s name on his sneakers for every game as reminder that we must keep driving to the hoop for cancer cures in his honor.

About Blood Cancers
Leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma, myelodysplastic syndromes and myeloproliferative neoplasms are types of cancer that can affect the bone marrow, the blood cells, the lymph nodes and other parts of the lymphatic system. These diseases are related in the sense that they may all result from acquired mutations to the DNA of a single lymph- or blood-forming stem cell. With blood cancers, abnormal cells multiply and survive without the usual controls that are in place for healthy cells. The accumulation of these cells in the marrow, blood or lymphatic tissue interferes with production and functioning of red cells, white cells and platelets. The disease process can lead to severe anemia, bleeding, an impaired ability to fight infection, or death.

About The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society ® (LLS) is the world’s largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer. The LLS mission: Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. LLS funds lifesaving blood cancer research around the world, provides free information and support services, and is the voice for all blood cancer patients seeking access to quality, affordable, coordinated care.

Founded in 1949 and headquartered in White Plains, NY, LLS has chapters throughout the United States and Canada. To learn more, visit www.LLS.org. Patients should contact the Information Resource Center at (800) 955-4572, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET.

About Behind the Bench, The National Basketball Wives Association (BTB)
BTB is a global non-profit organization dedicated to empowering, inspiring and positively impacting the lives of children and families of global communities. To date, Behind the Bench has donated over $2 million to both national and local non-profit organizations. Each year BTB hosts its annual conference as well as host the “Touching A Life Luncheon” during NBA All-Star Weekend. This annual luncheon recognizes local individuals and organizations in support of their communities. Our past honorees have included notable dignitaries such as Muhammad Ali, Hank Aaron, Patti LaBelle, Janet Jackson, Shaquille O’Neal, Cookie Johnson, and Calvin Johnson, Jr., amongst many others. To learn more visit www.behindthebench.org.