I spent a few hours at Quicken Loans Arena yesterday working on a few stories, some of which you'll be seeing in the paper and online this week leading up to training camp. Most of the players have been working out for a week or more. Larry Hughes was on the court working on his jumper and he seemed to be in good shape. Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejao were working together. Sasha Pavlovic was there, he's put in a lot of work in Cleveland over the summer. Luke Jackson is working his way back into shape after last spring's back surgery. I've also seen Donyell Marshall and Eric Snow working out along with the rookies (Shannon Brown and Daniel Gibson) plus some of the free agents who will be in training camp.
I got a tour of the re-designed front offices, which I am told Dan Gilbert spent $3 million on. The old offices were very nice and all, but Gilbert said he felt it was too much like a law office so he re-did them. Basicly, he took all the bosses who had large offices along the windows and moved them to smaller offices in the interior of the building. Then he ripped down all the walls and put the majority of the employees into desks with natural light coming from the windows. There are lots of flat screen tvs everywhere and lots of sleek conference rooms done in a basketball theme. There's even a spiral staircase with lighted glass steps that will change colors. There are lots of murals on the walls featuring teamwork themes and, as a special touch, basketball hoops on walls throughout the building. Damon Jones will be glad to find out there's a huge picture of him getting piled on after he made the shot to beat the Wizards in last season's playoffs.
Downstairs the Cavs have a brand new floor (pictured, click on it for a full-size view), which is supposed to not be as reflective. Fans watching on TV complained about the new LCD boards causing moving reflections on the floor during the game. I think for the third consecutive year, the lounge for players' families and friends is being totally remodeled. Also, they've put in new underground suites that don't even have a view of the court and are under the stands. To make room, the media was booted from its long-standing courtside seats and from its media room (they gave us a much smaller one with no bathroom). Sort of tells you what the Cavs think about us, eh? They don't need us as much when things are going well.
Just wanted to give you an update. Look for a story tomorrow on Anderson Varejao and one this weekend on Shannon Brown, who allowed Beacon Journal columnist Tom Reed to hang out with him and his family earlier this summer at his house near Chicago and at his old high school.
I did an ESPN chat this afternoon. There were only a few questions on the Cavs, but here's the transcript for those who are (mildly) interested.
Scott (Salem,Il): By 2010 will Greg Oden and OJ Mayo have just as big of impact as LeBron, Carmelo, and Dwayne Wade had on their franchises and the league as a whole.
Brian Windhorst: I first met Greg Oden in Vegas at Team USA traning camp in July and I was taken back. The sheer size he has is incredible and I'm someone who is used to being around 7-footers every day. I think he has the potential to be a force in the league because he could be as unguardable as Shaq in his prime. I've seen Oden on film and he appears to have all the athletic ability he needs, it just depends on hard word and seasoning.
As for Mayo, I don't know as much about him. But I've heard from scouts that he's leveled off in the last year or so in terms of his development.
Dave, Motown: Hey Brian Where do you see my Pistons in 2010??? Do you still see Billups, RIP, and Tay as our core then or do you see Joe D making alot of changes in the next few seasons???
Brian Windhorst: I think Prince will eventually be the Pistons franchise player. But Rip and Chauncey still have some good years left in them. The question will be what sort of contracts Joe Dumars signs them to, because they will both probably be past their primes five years from now.
It may have been a mistake to trade Darko. I saw him play in Japan at the World Championships and it sure looked like he's on track to become a good post player in the league. That deal (just getting salary-cap relief in return) may haunt the Pistons
Chris (Lancaster,Pa): What has Billy King done to prove he still deserve 1 job with the Sixers, let alone the president and general manager positions he's holding down now? How do you turn a respected franchise into a laughing stock in a matter of months and then have nerve to announce the signing of Alan Henderson like it's a step closer to a NBA Championship. Would it hurt to go after Bonzi Wells before Denver gets a hold of him ?
Brian Windhorst: The Sixers remind me of GM. They are stuck paying for the past and too jammed up in current commitments to rip it down and build for the future. I realize much of this is Billy King's doing but it is hard to get out of it.
It appears the Sixers are about to be sold. If that happens I'd expect the new owner to probably attempt to clean house.
Mike PHX AZ: Hey Brian, Whats up with our SUNS for the 2010 ?????? Do you see Stoudamire leading us to the promise land ?
Brian Windhorst: Mike, I wrote for ESPN today that the Suns could be in the lottery in a few years. Not because I think it will happen, but it could. I don't like selling off draft picks as they've been doing. But they do have an extra first round pick next year (the Cavs via Boston) and it will be a deep draft.
I watched Amare in Vegas with Team USA and in summer league. He's got a long way to go. There is no way to predict what he'll be by the end of this season much less 2010
Jon (Indianapolis, IN): What do you think of the Cavs moves this summer? Do you think Varejao will end up being their starting PF by the end of this season?
Brian Windhorst: The Cavs held down the fort and added veteran backups David Wesley and Scot Pollard. It should help their depth. of course they badly need help at point guard and I'm sure they'll be on the lookout constantly. But they feel good about the way they finished and are hopeful Larry Hughes will stay healthy. As of this moment, I'd predict them to improve slightly on their 50-32 record.
J.E. Skeets (Toronto): Will Hubie Brown will be completely translucent by 2010?
Brian Windhorst: J.E. is a funny guy. You hardcore basketball fans should look up his blog.
As for Hubie, a few years ago someone gave him a makeover with that fancy haircut with bangs. He might consider another. But his commentary is still right on the money and I assume he'll only get smarter by 2010.
Todd (Fargo): Are the Wolves the only team in history to have 7 gaurds under contract? Will this lead them to a Championship?
Brian Windhorst: In history? Probably not. But they are assets. People need guards and as the season goes along they will be willing to trade for them. Kevin McHale will step back and wait for offers.
But after seeing Randy Foye in Vegas I believe you've got to give that kid major minutes.
Trent (LA): See any improvement by Kobe and the lakers next season? do you see them being a serious contender by 2010? Thanks
Brian Windhorst: I think the Lakers have some cap space coming, which could help in the long run. They finished strong last season despite having some injury issues. If they can carry that over they have a chance to improve. It will be interesting to see if Radmanovic and his outside shooting ability will have a major impact.
Casey (Laurel,MS): Hey I hope my question goes through, but I was reading the article about the Bobcats winning the championship in 2010, well even tho they MIGHT have V.C. they still need a bench and uh, Sean May isnt that good of a bench if you ask me.
Brian Windhorst: Well, some of these young Bobcats have to work out and they've been carefully clutching their salary cap space to make a run in the future. Whether going after an aging Vince Carter is the answer, I'm not sure. They do need to sell tickets and I hear they have a North Carolina fan running the show now.
Raymond Felton impressed me last season in fact he was right behind Chris Paul on my rookie of the year ballot. And I firmly believe Adam Morrison will be able to score in the league, even if he can't defend. There are some pieces to get excited about.
Chad: Minneapolis, MN: You sated earlier that Foye needs major minutes. In 2010 who will be the best player from this past draft? Foye???
Brian Windhorst: Both Foye and Brandon Roy impressed me in Vegas Summer League. We'll have to see how these young big men like Tyrus Thomas and LaMarcus Aldridge develop before we know the pick of the class.
San Antonio, Texas: Brian,considering the Spurs current salary cap situation where after next only Manu, Tim and Tony Parker will be under contract. Would it be fair to say that if SA reloads with the right talent that they still could be amongst the elite in 2010?
Brian Windhorst: I firmly believe the Spurs will be a serious contender for the foreseeable future. I'm giving away one of my pieces for later this week, but I really think Beno Udrih is an unknown value and the Spurs usually draft very well.
Kevin(Chicago): Will the Bulls have won a championship by 2010??
Brian Windhorst: Hard to say, it depends on what they do with their young guys. They can't sign them all to deals so proper decisions have to be made. Big giving Ben Wallace that huge deal sure makes it seem like they are trying to win it all way before then.
Woytek (Cracow, Poland): Is LeBron mortal lock in Cavs for whole carrer?
Brian Windhorst: No, he's signed thru 2010. After that anything is possible. Are any of us mortal locks for anything?
Jake (Denver): Without some production from the young bigs (Al and Perk), do the C's spin their wheels until 2010?
Brian (Milwaukee): What city will the Bucks be calling 'Home" in 2010???
Brian Windhorst: Opps, took two questions.
It would be nice to see some of the Celts never ending parade of new fresh faces take the step from prospect to great pro. For various reasons it hasn't happened and Danny Ainge keeps importing a new group every year. Supposedly Jefferson is healthy and has lost 30 pounds so he'd be worth watching. They must like Perkins because he just got a four-year extension, which surprised many in the league.
As for Milwaukee, I love that city and there's a good tradition there. As long as Herb Kohl owns the team they will be in Wisconsin, but if he sells, Oklahoma City, Kansas City and Las Vegas are all lurking.
ryan Childersburg Al: how do you think the new york knicks be like in 2010 could thy run a open court like the suns do
Brian Windhorst: It depends on what happens this year. Many people think the Knicks need to blow it up and re-start with the idea of clearing cap space for 2010 when LeBron and DWade become free agents. I think the Knicks will actually be better this season by running more because that roster has depth and talent. But if they win, let's say, 38 games, it will be improvement and James Dolan will be under pressure to keep the momentum going and, thus, the massive overspending. Or Isiah's systems falls flat and he's fired and a new era is ushered in. I believe they call this a "tipping point."
Adam (Philly): I dont see Cleveland ever winning a championship with Lebron. He didn't really impress me with his playoff performance, because he got a lot of lucky breaks (against the Wiz and Pistons). He just doesnt seem like to guy that you can give the ball to down 1 point and say "win me this game." Kobe Wade and Melo can do that.
Brian Windhorst: I guess you didn't watch the last half of the season when LeBron led the Cavs to like 18 wins in 22 games decided by four points or less.
Whether or not he can get enough help to win a title is a valid point. But it isn't a talent issue.
Dave (Chicago, IL): Do you think the Magic are going to unload Keyon Dooling due to their logjam at the point? Who do you think they might get back for Dooling? You hear a lot about a Dooling for Michael Doleac swap with Miami. Any truth to that?
Brian Windhorst: Keyon Dooling is worth more than that, no?
David (Gainesville, GA): How will the Hawks young kids be in 2010?
Brian Windhorst: Everyone keeps telling me Marvin Williams come around and I'm willing to give him time. But I'm certainly in the chorus that thought passing on Chris Paul was foolish. Josh Smith is coming around a little, he's turned into quite a shot blocker but I'd like to see more skill development. Shelden Williams has decent upside, but I think they could've done better at that spot in the draft.
I guess, um, I'm not all that excited about them.
Sarbjit Singh (New York): Hey Brian Where do you see Houston Rockets in 2010? Do you think they can make the championship with T-mac & Yao?
Brian Windhorst: Everyone wants to know. When the they had it going two years ago they balanced those two with good outside shooters. It looks like they are going to try to go back to that because they've signed a boat load of them with the hopes that a few pan out. They play in such a meat grinder division that they really need McGrady to be healthy for an entire season to get in good position for the playoffs. It will be interesting to see how their upcoming general manager Daryl Morey, a stats-based guy, makes changes. He was the influence behind the Battier deal and I think it will work out for them.
Eduardo (San Jose California): Sup playboy, How are my Clips going to be looking like in 2010?
Brian Windhorst: I'm no playboy, Eduardo, I live in Cleveland. I like the Clippers. They played with confidence last season and it was refreshing to see. They are big and athletic and have a great leader in Cassell. Shaun Livingston sort of underwhelmed me at the Vegas Summer League, I really expected him to be dominant and he needs to step up to get ready to take the reigns. I liked the Tim Thomas signing as well. They appear to want to move Maggette and how that eventual deal works out could make a major impact.
Yorkis (Philly): Will Danny Fortson become the Jose Canseco of the NBA and open up everyone's eyes to the steroid use that's been going on in the league for the past 20 years before 2010?
Brian Windhorst: I don't know. I've been in MLB, NFL and NBA locker rooms and I can tell you NBA players have the most muscle and best bodies of them all. Perhaps it is because the NBA lends itself to more freak athletes. But let's all be honest, there are probably players using performance-enhancing stuff. How wide spread it is or if it will ever become something the league gets into isn't known right now. I think David Stern is happy no one is making a big deal about it.
Steve (Seattle): What changes do the Blazers need to make to be in playoff contention by 2010?
Brian Windhorst: Well the Blazers are a big bucket of change. They've gone from being a free-spending huge budget team to one that is looking for baragins and young players. If they want the makeover to be complete, they really need to move Zach Randolph and Darius Miles but that will not be easy. They are in for lots of growing pains ahead and it may take five years for them to make the right moves to become serious contenders again.
Derrick Concord NC: How many african american owners will be in the NBA by 2010?
Brian Windhorst: I think everyone is hoping more than one. But Bob Johnson hasn't exactly been thrilled so far with his investment in Charlotte.
JB (Atl): Is it possible for ESPN writers to write about the Hawks without mentioning Paul? Stop rubbing salt in our wounds!
Brian Windhorst: OK, OK. I keep getting questions from all the Hawks fans (Why don't you guys ever come to the games?). Yes, they have some potentially good young players. But the organization is a total mess from the ownership on down and they have consisently made poor decisions over the last four years or so. Until there's a change in that course then people like me are going to be skeptics.
Joe (Brantford, Ontario): Hey Brian! For the first time in a long time, Raptor fans are very hopefull of this upcoming season. Where do you see them in 2010? Thanks!
Brian Windhorst: Chris Bosh is someone to get excited about. I think the combo of T.J. Ford and Jose Calderon could make them a good fast-paced team and I think Bargnani will be able to contibute in some way right away. Also you have an excellent decision-maker at the top now. In fact, I think Wayne Embry should've been Exec. of the Year last year for what he did in his short time. There is reason to be excited in T.O. No reason no to hope for a serious shot at the playoffs.
Brian Windhorst: Thanks for sending me all the questions. Keep coming back and reading the 2010 series for the rest of the week. There's some good stuff coming.
As you may have read over the weekend, Greek national team player Nikos Zisis is still pretty upset about the elbow he got from Anderson Varejao in the FIBA World Championship and wants to sue him. Considering he had to undergo surgery last week after spending a week in the hospital in Japan, it is understandable he is trying to get some measure of revenge because it isn't likely the two will ever seen each other on a basketball floor again.
Based on some of my e-mail and some things I've read on message boards, I want to address a few things about this issue.
I'm not smart enough to be a lawyer so I can't even begin to guess how Zisis would successfully sue Varejao considering the event happened in a country neither player lives in nor works in. However, ultra-bright University of Nebraska law student Zach Hemenway informs me this case set the precedent that an athlete could sue another athlete for something that happens outside the rules on the field of play. However even Zach doesn't exactly see how Zisis can win without direct evidence of intent and everything seems to be circumstantial.
I had extended conversations in Japan with members of the Greek media. Now I must point out that these guys were hardly objective, for example they cheered from the press box, waived Greek flags during the game, and hugged and kissed players following the victory over the U.S. But they painted a picture of how Zisis and Varejao were battling back and forth. How after Zisis was angry after Varejao supposedly flopped -- and let's be honest, he's known to do that -- and how supposedly Varejao warned him not to come into the paint when he was standing there.
For his part, Varejao doesn't not say he's sorry. I cannot verify the exact translation because I do not speak Portugese, but a poster at RealCavsFans says he translated this story from Brazil where Varejao said the following: "I've learned from the press what Nikos Zisis has been saying and I was surprised and sad with it. Zisis accused me of being disloyal and a bad character, he said I hit him on purpose and named me an "animal" and "murderer". I hadnt answered anything so far because I did not want to make a big deal out of it and because my conscience is clean that it was just his bad luck in that play and because I understand that he's upset at this time because of the injury.
But I think Zisis has crossed the line with this thing. Because of everything he's been saying and because the way things are shaping. Now I have to watch Zisis sue me, claiming an "murderer act" by my part. It's clear to me what he really wants with all this. Zisis shoud know that bball is a contact game. It was on one of this contacts that he got hurt. It was a normal game play, but he ended up getting hurt.
That is so true that the referees, and there were three of them, ruled as a normal foul and no one claimed anything at that moment. Because I saw the injury was bad I came to him to apologise but he turned his back on me. It's an absurd that he keeps blaming me. Accusing me that it was intentional. I've always been a loyal, clean player. A player that respects the opponent and that plays eyeing the ball.
Last season, I had a bad injury playing for Brazil that kept me from playing for six months and I didnt have to seek for people to blame to justify my injury. I think Zisis should do the same and focus on his rehab. He should stop feeding tabloids and talking sillyness."
I feel like I know Andy and his game. I know that sometimes it appears he plays absent minded, but actually I think he's fairly sharp. If you remember last season he took a shot at Rasheed Wallace and got ejected in Detroit and did it without looking like he was trying to. I've watched the Zisis video numerous times and I think that play in Detroit is comparable. I don't think Andy wanted to inflict such damage to Zisis' face and certainly he didn't mean to him him as hard as he did. But I there's a good chance he came in high with his elbow to send a message.
So that makes his name mud in Greece, but after being called soft many times last season I predict Cavs fans won't mind at all.
Tokyo -- I haven't been in the States in three weeks, so I'm not sure how the U.S. bronze medal performance came off back home, where I'm headed now. I've written about it and talked about it a great deal. I'm not going to rehash it. It was a quality win over Argentina and it is a good basis to build on.To read more or comment...
Saitama, Japan -- Yesterday I experienced my first-ever earthquake, a 4.8er that shook me up good on the 10th floor of my hotel. Tonight I saw Team USA get rattled in a loss to Greece that pretty much ended their FIBA World Championship.To read more or comment...