Basketball notes

Score it as a dubious block

Move by a Maverick is difficult to defend

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February 17, 2008

You really have to wonder what Devean George is thinking. How, exactly, is he watching out for his best interests by making himself persona non grata in Dallas and a league laughingstock just about everywhere else?

Yes, he had every right to do what he did. But that only becomes pertinent if there's a logical, rational reason for doing what he did. Frankly, there isn't. The next person to defend George for doing the sensible thing by blocking the trade to the Nets will be the first.

Basically, by exercising his right not to be traded, George is holding on to the hope - some might say delusion - that there's a team out there that will pay him more than the mid-level exception when he becomes a free agent this summer. This from a guy who signed for $2.369 million this season. Had he agreed to the trade, he would have surrendered the right to a huge payday and could not be re-signed by the Mavericks for anything more than the mid-level, currently around $5.35 million.

Vladimir Radmanovic went through a similar situation when he was with Seattle. He OK'd a trade to the Clippers, but in doing so, forfeited his rights to get a huge contract when he next signed. He ended up getting the full mid-level from the Lakers in free agency. And most would consider him a better player than George. In other words, you would have a hard time finding a team to pay George even the mid-level, as evidenced by what he's now making.

It might be easy to point the finger at the Mavericks or Nets for not recognizing this peculiar (but not all that unfamiliar) part of George's deal. You have to think they knew about it - and probably had a good chuckle over that particular clause torpedoing the deal.

And what is George's agent, Mark Bartelstein, thinking? Other than trying to extract a little extra dough? He already got George a 15 percent trade kicker (which he gets for many of his clients; even Scot Pollard has one). His advice should be obvious: Go to Jersey, kid, and make the most out of it.

Clearly, George can't stay in Dallas, where he is sure to be killed in print and over the air every time Jason Terry throws a pass into the loge section. (George went 0 for 11 in his first game after the trade fell through.) The prospect of getting Jason Kidd to go along with Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard, and Terry has many Mavericks fans drooling (although some are lamenting the loss of Devin Harris) and would add some much-needed toughness and grit to the team.

As Kobe Bryant put it, "Dallas won 67 games last year. An opportunity to get a player like Jason is too good to pass up."

You may recall that Bryant threw a williwaw last year when the Lakers wouldn't part with Andrew Bynum as part of the package to get Kidd to Los Angeles. While Bynum has made a quantum leap this season, that has in no way diminished Bryant's ardor for Kidd, whom he knows he'll never see in a Lakers uniform now.

"Jason Kidd is one of the greatest point guards of all time," Bryant said. "Why wouldn't you do that deal?"

While the Mavericks and Nets wait for this thing to resolve itself - as Kidd noted, it'll be sooner rather than later with the trade deadline coming up Thursday - there's another potentially sticky wicket: Jerry Stackhouse. As part of the deal, he would go to the Nets. It was also assumed he would be waived, wait the required 30 days, then re-sign with Dallas. This is what Gary Payton did with the Celtics in 2005 - only a few days after a trade to Atlanta - and the league and union agreed to the 30-day waiting period in the next CBA. During those 30 days, Stackhouse could presumably sign with anyone.

But he seemed to indicate, in comments to an Associated Press reporter, that he would chill in Dallas, and it sure sounded like a prearranged deal with the Mavericks. Which raises the obvious question: Why would the Nets agree to waive him when Stackhouse would be on the books next season for $7 million and at least another $2 million in 2009-10. In fact, Nets boss Rod Thorn said Friday, "You can't make [prearranged] deals like that. They're illegal. I'm not going to do that. I'm perfectly willing to take him."

Kidd didn't appear to be losing sleep over the whole matter (and, as Stackhouse has noted, the NBA checks can be cashed anywhere).

"This isn't the first time I've been traded," Kidd said. "There's nothing that bothers me. We'll find out soon. The game of basketball won't change, just maybe in a different city.

"If I stay, I already know everyone on the team so it shouldn't be a bad thing. There's a lot of personality in that locker room and a lot of great guys I've played with over the last seven years."

Pierce is target of threat

Earlier this month, the Boston Police Department received a telephone call from the mother of a Dorchester woman named Denise Bey.

According to the police report, entered as evidence in a hearing last week in Suffolk County Superior Court, the woman said her daughter had bought a ticket for a Celtics game and was seeking to buy a gun. According to the complaint filed in court, the reason she was looking for a gun was "that she wanted to shoot Paul Pierce."

The mother also reported to police that her daughter had not taken her prescribed medications for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

The police eventually tracked down Bey and, after hearing her tell them that Pierce was mad at her and that the FBI was after her, they decided to take her to Carney Hospital to be further evaluated.

Her picture was sent to ticket sellers at TD Banknorth Garden and, sure enough, a woman fitting her description tried Feb. 8 to buy a ticket to a Celtics game and asked for a seat near the Boston bench. She never bought the ticket, telling the seller it was too costly.

But threats like these need to be taken seriously, which is why the Celtics were in court last week, successfully arguing for a restraining order to prevent Bey from going near Pierce, and from entering the Garden on game days and the Celtics' practice facility and offices at any time.

The team will be back in court later this month to get a preliminary injunction and, down the road, will seek a permanent injunction.

NBA twists Bryant's pinkie to play

Kobe Bryant would just as soon sit out this evening's All-Star Game.

He has a torn ligament in his right pinkie, an injury that needs to be surgically repaired. But he is putting off surgery in hopes of getting the Lakers deep into the playoffs and then putting on the red, white, and blue for Uncle Sam in Beijing.

But the NBA is holding firm in its rule that if an All-Star plays in the game before the All-Star Game, which Bryant did, then he is deemed well enough to play in the big game.

"We'll do what we can to follow the rules, but it's a pretty crappy rule, to be honest with you," Bryant said. "But what can you do? I don't want to get suspended."

The Western Conference team will be coached by former Laker Byron Scott, who has a long and positive history with Kobe.

"It's going to be up to Kobe," Scott said. "I know the game is a big deal, but his long-term health is a bigger deal. If by playing it's going to be detrimental to his health, I wouldn't want to see that happen. I don't want to see the injury get worse."

An operation probably would result in Bryant being out of action for six weeks. If he were on the Celtics, there would be no question - he would have the surgery.


Baker has trouble with dough

Vinnie's Fish House in Old Saybrook, Conn., has closed. And the bank that held the mortgage on the restaurant is foreclosing, claiming that former Celtic Vin Baker, who started the eatery, has defaulted on the loan. Baker was ultra-enthusiastic about the restaurant shortly after opening it in the fall of 2005. He even delayed returning to the NBA to get the business up and running. He eventually did sign with the Clippers in the spring of 2006 and later with the Timberwolves, but he has been out of the NBA since early last season. The Day of New London reported that a court filing in Middletown, Conn., claims Baker owes the bank nearly $900,000. Additionally, the newspaper said, the restaurant is delinquent on more than $20,000 in property taxes.

DJ and Nellie back on Hall ballot

The Basketball Hall of Fame stepped up to the plate Friday and rightly nominated the late, great Dennis Johnson for induction. It will be DJ's fourth time on the ballot, and, clearly, it's time to get him to Springfield. Another no-brainer is Don Nelson, nominated for the second time. But at least one 2008 All-Star wondered about a coach who wasn't nominated: Jerry Sloan of the Utah Jazz. "Why wouldn't he be in the Hall of Fame," asked Jazz forward Carlos Boozer. "He's one of those guys who brings it every night. There aren't a whole lot of coaches who bring it every night, but Jerry has been doing it for 20 years. I don't know why they wouldn't put him in there." The shoo-ins for induction in September appear to be Pat Riley, Patrick Ewing, and Hakeem Olajuwon. Nellie and DJ are two of 12 more finalists.

Playoff exposure for Celtics?

Interesting take by TNT's Doug Collins about the fate of the Celtics in the playoffs. "Are they going to get the point guard play they need and can Kendrick Perkins give them the thing they need in the middle - defense and rebounding? And can Eddie House, James Posey, [Scot ] Pollard, and Tony Allen come in bench-wise and do what they do? The difference to me is this is a team that has never done it together yet and a lot of the other teams we're talking about have. There is no substitute for experience. When I look at Boston, come playoff time, that's when we're really going to see what their weaknesses are, because that's when they get exposed."

Suns awaiting dawn of Shaq

We've already seen what Pau Gasol has done for the Lakers. We might yet see what Jason Kidd will do for the Mavericks. But what about the other blockbuster - Shaquille O'Neal to the Suns? The Big Rigor Mortis is due to make his Phoenix debut this week and could well be on the floor Friday when the Celtics visit the Suns. Tim Duncan's take? "I don't know if [the trade] was made solely for [facing the Spurs]. People make it sound or seem like that," he said. "They've been a very good regular-season team and they've [gone] deep into the playoffs. I think they're trying to get over the hump and they think Shaq is the guy who can get them over the hump." Duncan's coach, Gregg Popovich, had some fun with the Gasol deal ("What was Memphis thinking? We all work hard and then, with one trade, the balance goes boom."), but he, like everyone else, is waiting to see what happens with the glacial O'Neal and the high-octane Suns. "They're not going to change the system and all of a sudden be rock 'em, sock 'em basketball," Popovich said. "They're going to figure out a way to slide Shaq in there just like they slid Kurt Thomas in there. It makes it tough for us in the sense that they have someone who can guard Timmy better."

Eastern play still pretty beastly

Remember all the preseason talk about how the Eastern Conference had narrowed the talent gap with the West? Oh well. At the All-Star break, the 23-30 New Jersey Nets would be the seventh seed in the East while the 32-20 Denver Nuggets would not make the playoffs in the West. Ten teams in the West had winning records, compared with five in the East. But maybe the most jaw-dropping number is 28. That is the number of games that the five teams in the Southeast Division had lost in a row as of last Wednesday morning. The Wizards and Heat had each lost eight in a row while the Bobcats lost seven straight. Alas, something had to give when Atlanta faced Charlotte that night (the Bobcats won). Washington and Orlando also won.

Peter May can be reached at Material from personal interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.

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