Basketball Notes

No reason that Boston can’t join Star system

By Gary Washburn
Globe Staff / June 13, 2010

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As television ratings show, those in the NBA community love the Lakers and Celtics. They love the rivalry. They love the East Coast-West Coast matchup. They love the contrast in cities.

But the NBA appears to embrace Los Angeles more than Boston in one very beneficial way. The league awarded Los Angeles the 2011 All-Star Game, the second time in eight years it has hosted the game. Meanwhile, Boston has not hosted an NBA All-Star Game since 1964, despite having one of the league’s newer arenas and a team re-emerging as one of the elite.

And it’s not for lack of trying. According to Celtics majority owner Wyc Grousbeck, the city has submitted applications several times, only to be denied.

In past years, commissioner David Stern has rewarded cities that have new arenas with All-Star Games. Orlando is set to open its new venue next season, and Stern quickly handed Central Florida the 2012 All-Star Game, its second in 20 years. Atlanta, Houston, Denver, Philadelphia, Washington, and Oakland were presented with All-Star Games after constructing new arenas.

But even though the Boston venue opened in 1995 (as the FleetCenter), the city has been passed up. All-Star Games generate millions of dollars of revenue for cities but also can be costly, so some cities do not even apply.

According to Stern, there is a tight rotation of cities because many of the smaller-market teams — such as Milwaukee, Memphis, and Portland — have no interest.

Last February’s All-Star Game was at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, in front of 108,713 fans, and given the success there, Stern said he would not be against playing another All-Star Game in a football stadium.

“If the new model is football stadiums indoors, which it might be, we don’t fit,’’ said Grousbeck. “I’d like to have an All-Star Game in Boston. It’s been difficult in the past because of the convention center schedule and the fact we have to write a $1 million check to the league, and not letting all of our season ticket-holders have tickets has been an issue.’’

Even though the NBA has held All-Star Games in Philadelphia, Washington, New York, and Cleveland in the past 15 years, Stern cited potential weather issues with Boston.

“I don’t even know if they applied for one,’’ Stern said. “I haven’t seen any applications; they don’t get copied to me.

“We would consider one in Boston, sure. It’s a great city to visit. It’s got great hotel stock, great convention facilities. I think we’ve been tending more to warm-weather climates lately.

“But I guess if you can have a Super Bowl outdoors in February, you can have an All-Star Game any time. So it’s a subject that I’m sure will be under consideration.’’

Stern has more important issues, to be sure, including the collective bargaining agreement, but he has yet to choose a site for the 2013 All-Star Game. In the 46 years since Boston has hosted one, several cities have hosted an All-Star Game twice, while Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Phoenix have had three.

Whether it’s an oversight or a personal issue with the city, there has to be some explanation as to why Boston has gone two generations without an All-Star Game.

Grousbeck, who is preoccupied with the NBA Finals right now, did not want to elaborate on the situation other than to say the city is quite interested.

“Hopefully we’ll have them here someday,’’ Grousbeck said. “But I’d rather have the Finals. Maybe we can have them both.

“But it seems like it’s bigger than 18,000 [the TD Garden capacity] right now. It’s a 100,000-person game. Really, it is. They sold out 100,000 tickets. It’s bigger than 19,000 seats. I really don’t care where else it is. I’d like to have it here.’’

Stern denies that the league is leaning more toward football stadiums, but the success of the Arlington experiment has him open-minded. So there appears to be no timetable for when Boston will return to the All-Star rotation, if ever.

“I like the idea that you might consider using a [football stadium] in conjunction with [an NBA venue] because in Dallas we did the All-Star Game at Cowboys Stadium but did the Friday and Saturday night events at American Airlines Center,’’ he said. “In LA, we’re going to be using Staples Center. In Orlando, we’re going to be using the new Orlando Arena. So there’s no movement towards favoring large buildings.’’

Therefore, there should be no reason why Boston shouldn’t be included in the NBA fun. With other cities dropping out of the running, Stern should embrace one that is willing to make the commitment, regardless of the so-called “weather’’ concerns.


Van Gundy not in a hurry

While Tom Izzo keeps the entire Big Ten region at bay as he decides whether to take the Cavaliers job — and he is expected to — Jeff Van Gundy remains in the coaching background while he works as a commentator for ABC.

Van Gundy wants to return to coaching but is waiting for the most suitable job at the most suitable time. He is one of the best at his job on TV, but the itch to coach has returned after his stint in Houston ended unfavorably after two 50-plus-win seasons in three years.

Van Gundy has a solid .575 career winning percentage and just one losing season in nine years, so he will be an attractive candidate, perhaps next summer.

“It’s a well-paying job, but you have to go back at the right time for the right reasons,’’ he said. “And that’s because you want to get back into the competition and live the life that’s dictated around the schedule.’’

During his time in New York and Houston, Van Gundy was viewed as a brooding man whose style eventually wore on his players. In the broadcast booth, he appears to be much more content, but the challenges are fewer.

“The more rewarding [life] would be coaching,’’ he said. “Because it’s competition, and it’s your team versus their team, and it’s just different. The competition part is special.’’

The key for Van Gundy is the situation. Veteran coaches are snapping up jobs to get back in the game (i.e. Avery Johnson in New Jersey), but many of those take over bad teams and are already beginning a new position with major adversity. Van Gundy realizes that good teams generally don’t hire new coaches, but he wants the right team to approach him.

“Let’s face it, Lon Kruger is a great coach but if he takes over a bad team, it doesn’t work,’’ Van Gundy said. “Rick Pitino was an assistant and went to the Knicks and did great. People say he wasn’t successful; were they watching? No one is going to be good at any level without players, and the difference is you can’t go recruit them.

“I’ve been very fortunate. I don’t have a plan. And it’s a great way to go. My father always told me, ‘Don’t worry about your next job, do the job you have now.’ That alleviates all the stress and worry about what’s next.’’


Sixers, James in his thoughts

Hall of Famer Julius Erving, one of the league’s distinguished elder statesmen, has closely observed not only the chaotic situation of his former team, the 76ers, but also the LeBron James free agent chase.

The 76ers hired former Erving teammate Doug Collins as coach in an attempt to resurrect a team that has made one NBA Finals appearance in the past 27 years. Erving is confident in Collins’s ability to make changes.

“The team has still not recovered from the post-Allen Iverson era,’’ said Erving. “And that’s been a difficult transition. They have drafted a lot of young guys but haven’t adopted one style. I played with Doug and have no doubt that he can help bring the franchise back. He is a good coach, and the city of Philadelphia deserves a winner.’’

James’s decision could forever alter the NBA, just as Shaquille O’Neal’s decision to opt out of his contract with the Magic and sign with the Lakers shifted the power west for 10 years.

Erving chose to sign with the ABA’s Virginia Squires after his career at UMass, and several years later had his contract sold to the 76ers by the New York Nets. He never truly got an opportunity to enjoy free agency, and he believes James should relish the process.

“It’s obviously something that could change the balance of the league,’’ he said. “A lot of teams will be waiting for his decision, Cleveland, Chicago. And not only teams he’s playing for, but the ones he’s playing against. Those teams in the East that will have to compete with James.

“It’s an exciting time for him and I think it adds excitement to the league and it is something he has earned.’’

Erving said he has no intentions of being a general manager. He spent some time with the Magic organization in the early 2000s and was considered for the Raptors GM job but the organization hired Rob Babcock in 2004.


Price was right for the Hawks

The Hawks are expected to hire former NBA guard and assistant coach Larry Drew as their coach, ending a rather curious search. It was apparent they were not looking to shell out millions, yet they interviewed Avery Johnson twice, and one of the primary reasons Johnson was without a job — and didn’t get the Hornets position — was high salary demands. So the decision in Atlanta came down to Dwane Casey and Drew. NBA sources say the Hawks set the bar at the salary of Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry, a longtime assistant who had had two unsuccessful coaching stops before the Suns gave him another shot. Gentry earns approximately $1.7 million. The Hawks have agreed to a three-year deal with Drew for $1.2 million-$1.5 million per season, which would make him the lowest-paid coach in the NBA. It’s Drew’s first head coaching job and he is being plucked from Mike Woodson’s staff, so he didn’t have much negotiating power. But for an organization that wants to be considered among the Eastern Conference elite, it’s curious that they would invest so little in a coach. Drew has been an assistant with five teams and is regarded as a solid choice, but one of the reasons he was attractive to the Hawks was his low price. Atlanta could lose unrestricted free agent Joe Johnson this summer, and the hiring of Woodson’s top assistant likely won’t encourage him to stay. Casey, meanwhile, has now missed out on the Chicago job (two years ago) to Vinny Del Negro and the Atlanta position. He is quickly becoming the Susan Lucci of NBA assistants. There are two remaining NBA jobs, and Casey has a legitimate chance at the Clippers position. Los Angeles has done little toward hiring a coach and could be waiting for the draft and free agency. But there is a reason Larry Brown is waffling in Charlotte, and the Clippers are interested in bringing him back. Casey would be a good choice for Los Angeles, but he will have to wait for that unpredictable organization to make a decision, and it could be weeks.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is 63 but still looks like he can drain an open skyhook. Although he and every other Laker was considered an enemy in Boston, he has fond memories of those three NBA Finals matchups with the Celtics in the 1980s. “It was a very special rivalry because it had so much history,’’ he said. “Bill Russell’s Celtics used to terrorize the Lakers. They couldn’t get over the hump in that circumstance but finally in 1985 we were able to do it. It was very interesting times. I think it was interesting because of the way things happened because the Lakers won a championship [in 1980 and ’82] and the Celtics won a championship [’81], so it was a nice lead-up. I think all the fans got into it and just enjoyed the contrasts in styles. But in either case it was excellent basketball.’’ . . . Amar’e Stoudemire said he will opt out of his contract and become a free agent unless he reaches terms on an extension with the Suns. General manager Steve Kerr told the Globe last month that the team is definitely interested in re-signing Stoudemire. Paul Pierce also has to decide whether to opt out of his contract by July 1. He is owed $19 million next season if he exercises the option and would become a restricted free agent if he opts out. He does have the option of declining the final year and renegotiating an extension with the Celtics. Pierce has made it clear he would prefer an extension and may be willing to sacrifice money for long-term security. There is sure to be plenty of franchise-altering decisions made between now and July 1, with Stoudemire, Pierce, Dirk Nowitzki, and Yao Ming holding early termination options.

Gary Washburn 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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