| ||I am amused by no end at the number of (anonymous, mostly) folk who
are lining up to take shots at Michael Jordan now that he's running the
Wizards. The latest supposed Jordanian error involves the Wizards' pursuit
of St. John's coach Mike Jarvis. The talks fell apart over the weekend, both
sides went their separate ways. But only Jordan gets slammed around by the
Let me get this straight. Jordan made a mistake by not overpaying for
a college coach who's won zero national championships, made zero Final Fours
and one Elite Eight? It's a sign of Jordan's incompetence that, with $1.7
million still due Bernie Bickerstaff and $2.4 million due Gar Heard, he
didn't just acquiesce to Jarvis' mouthpiece and give him the $4 million
annually he was demanding?
I've asked this before; I'll ask it now.
What are you people smoking out there?
Who died and made Mike Jarvis John Wooden?
It always seems like I'm defending Jordan in these (cyber) pages, but
that's only because people are being ridiculous in what they expect from
him. The Wizards are an old, capped out team, the victim of bad personnel
decisions, impatient ownership and indifferent players. Jordan came aboard
five months ago, and he's supposed to a) play; b) show up for every game
like a greeter at Bally's, as if his mere presence will will his charges to
victory; c) get first-round picks or superstar talent for the likes of aging
Rod Strickland and Mitch Richmond; d) find someone to pawn Juwan Howard's
$17 million salary on; e) give Mike Jarvis anything he wants, just so
basketball fans in D.C. can be treated to Jarvis' coaching excellence.
Here's the dope. If Jarvis wanted the damn job, he would have gone to
his agent, Rob Ades, and said 'thanks, Rob, I'll take it from here.' He
would have called Jordan on the phone and asked to meet him somewhere,
closed the door and hammered the deal out. He would have taken less base
salary (the Wiz petered out around $2 million) because he has yet to prove
himself at this level. Because he's wanted to coach in the NBA for about
10 years now!
Instead, Jarvis tried to hold the Wizards up. His prerogative, but why
should the Wizards have to pay for it? When they said no, we won't pay you
$6 million (Jarvis's initial salary demand), or $4 million, we'll hold onto
our money, the lemmings in the media that can't wait to take their shots at
Jordan, for whatever reason, lined up.
Contrast this with what's going on in Atlanta. The Hawks trade good
guy Steve Smith for team killer Isaiah Rider, implode on cue, and fire Lenny
Wilkens -- but, cowardly, wouldn't own up to it, getting Lenny to "resign" in
exchange for the $11 million still due him. Isiah Thomas, who at the very
least would sell some tickets in the worst sports town in America, all but
prostrated himself on Peachtree Street for the gig while the Hawks hemmed
and hawed. They offered Tom Izzo $3 million a year to leave college (unlike
Jarvis, at least Izzo was coming off a title and had maximum leverage). He
said no thanks, I'll stay in East Lansing.
They interviewed Minnesota assistant Sidney Lowe.
They interviewed Sacramento assistant Byron Scott.
And they hired ... Lon Kruger.
Um, Lon Kruger?
Nothing against Mr. Kruger, who's a pretty good, smart coach by all
accounts. But were NBA teams lining up to bid for his services? He winds up
signing for about $2 million a year, which is, I hate to point out,
exactly what the Wizards offered Jarvis. But Jordan is a dope
for not doubling that salary, while Pete Babcock and Stan Kasten are
visionaries for holding the line?
Did I miss something, or is John Calipari no longer coaching in the
NBA? Is Rick Pitino in the Eastern Finals? Did Jerry Tarkanian last for two
checks in San Antonio? All of a sudden, Mike Jarvis is the benchmark for how
serious the Wizards are about rebuilding?
This is getting silly. The Wizards could hire Colin Powell next year
and it's not going to change one blessed thing until they gut the roster and
start over. And that's going to take time. My guess is that they'll find
somebody to take Strickland this summer (Miami is my guess; the Wizards need
a small forward and Jamal Mashburn showed signs of life -- until Game 7
against the Knicks, anyway). Richmond will go next summer. And there's talk
that the proposal of some owners to average the salaries of big-ticket
players like Howard that the league shot down a couple of months ago may be
Michael Jordan does not need, or want, me to defend him. But he
deserves time to try and straighten out the mess in Washington. The
president gets four years. Congressmen get two years, for Barney Frank's
sake. Hey, Jordan may wind up the worst executive this side of Ted Stepien.
But how the hell can you tell already?
What's up with the Spurs?|
Gregg Popovich doesn't buy my theory that if Tim Duncan goes to
Orlando or elsewhere in free agency, the Spurs will start their rebuilding
process early and dispatch David Robinson for the best offer.
"For this year that's coming, no," Popovich said. "I would not move
him. He deserves to end his contract ($11 million next season) and that
would be the furthest thing from my mind, to trade him and start over." But
he acknowledged that Robinson might well change his mind
about staying if the Big Virgin goes elsewhere.
"He'd think about not playing much more seriously if Tim's not there,"
Either way, it's a busy summer for the soon-to-be ex-champs. Popovich
knows he needs a perimeter shooter no matter what happens. Mario Elie and
Jerome Kersey are gone for sure; San Antonio isn't counting on Sean
Elliott's return. Even if the Spurs re-sign Avery Johnson, it won't be for
long. The Spurs won't promise Antonio Daniels the starting spot currently
held by fellow free agent Johnson to keep Daniels around, Popovich said.
"If I had to say right now, I'd say (Johnson's) the starter," Popovich
stated. "Tony knows. He's going through what (Howard) Eisley's going through
with (John) Stockton, and Eisley's been doing it a lot longer. I think it's
been good for Tony. He's made great strides this year."
The Spurs will enter the third year of Popovich's three-year window
to contend next season. After that, San Antonio has just $13 million
committed for 2001-02. That number will increase, of course, if Duncan
sticks around. But if Duncan sticks around, there won't be much of a need to
"I'm not going to spend time each day with 'he loves me, he loves me
not,'" Pop said. "The organization is what it is. We'll talk at some time
and he'll go on his 'campus visits,' as I call them, and he'll make his
decision. And whatever he does, I love him."
Just a guess. He'll love him more if he stays.
Around The League
Gary Payton would like the Sonics to pursue a couple of Magic Men, I'm
told: John Amaechi and Ron Mercer. He has made his peace with the fact that
Paul Westphal is going to return, even though he doesn't think Westy is much
of a coach. But Payton is going to demand that Seattle GM Wally Walker
figure out a way to add a two, a center and re-sign up and comer Rashard
Lewis. Payton saw Lewis busting Ruben Patterson regularly in practice the
last two months and was impressed.
Lowe may have the inside track to Vancouver's job. The new GM, Billy
Knight, is a fan. And although Chuck Daly is advising new team president
Dick Versace -- and loves Pacers assistant Rick Carlisle -- Lowe may have won
him over, too.
Before the Sixers decide what they're going to do with Allen
Iverson -- it says here they'll wind up doing nothing; they can talk about
winning curing all ills as much as they want, but it wasn't that long ago
that the winning Sixers of Julius Erving's vintage couldn't sell out playoff
games -- they have to figure out what Toni Kukoc wants to do. Kukoc told me
after Philly was knocked out against the Pacers that he'll take all of July
to decide what he wants to do.
"I'll decide in early-August," he said. "What I like about being here
is that it's a good team, a young team. With a couple of right things we can
go even deeper in the playoffs. As far as other teams, I don't know if
you're talking about the Lakers or Portland or Miami (I was thinking about
them, I admit, but didn't mention any of them to the Waiter; he brought them
up). They obviously have a great chance to win the Finals or (get) to the
Since the Sixers can pay him more than anybody, I wondered aloud if
money would be the driving factor in his decision.
"Money is not the most important thing in my case," Kukoc said. "I
like to play basketball and winning a championship, it's something you can't
get enough of." That's not what the Sixers want to hear, I think.
Keep this in mind when you hear Isiah Thomas' name come up for head
coaching jobs. David Falk, agent to the stars, just happens to despise
Thomas. And Falk still has juice in all the cities that just happen to have
head coaching jobs: Vancouver (Bryant Reeves), Indiana (Jalen Rose), New
Jersey (Stephon Marbury, Kerry Kittles, Keith Van Horn) and Washington
(Howard). Not that Jordan would get within a mile of Thomas, anyway.
Speaking of old Pistons, John Salley knows that Phil Jackson's
constant whining about the officials during the playoffs has an effect. He
saw it firsthand in Detroit in 1991, the year Jackson's Bulls finally
overcame their eastern tormentors.
"Phil sat around (the previous season) and said 'that's not the way to
play basketball; these guys are thugs, they're trying to hurt our players;
that's an illegal pick they always set at the top of the key with Bill
Laimbeer and Isiah,'" Salley recalled. "Everybody in the league runs the
same pick. Next year we have a game winning play and Bill goes up there and
stands still and Isiah runs (John) Paxson off and they call a foul on Bill.
Bill did not move. But Billy Oakes had read the paper and they wind up
winning the game. I mean, the cat is unbelievable, man. He's Obi-Wan
And when Jackson says the Blazers don't have a leader other than
Scottie Pippen, it does the irritating work of a pebble in a shoe, Salley
"It doesn't have to work on Scottie," he said. "It has to work on
everyone around him who reads it. When they realize Phil is saying
'Scottie's the only leader you guys have,' that's when guys start saying
'I'm a leader, I'm a leader,' and that's when you start dissension."
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