Sports Outside the Beltway

Six is it- Charlotte beats NY 114-105

With the win the Bobcats pull within one game of the last Eastern playoff spot. From AP-

They have compiled the longest winning streak in franchise history. Not only that, but the Charlotte Bobcats also own the longest streak in the Eastern Conference.

“The second. It’s got to be, because we’re a team that has aspirations of trying to backdoor our way into the playoffs and so it’s really important that we’re doing it right now,” guard Raja Bell said. “It’s great that it’s a franchise record, but the timing couldn’t be better for us.”

Gerald Wallace had 23 points and 13 rebounds, and the Bobcats beat the New York Knicks 114-105 on Saturday night for their franchise-record sixth straight victory.

Boris Diaw added 22 points for the Bobcats, who have won nine of their last 13 in hopes of landing a playoff berth in Larry Brown’s first season as coach. Charlotte pulled within a game of Chicago for eighth place.

A six game winning streak being the high note for a team with just six years in the league isn’t unsual. Should a 28-35 team be worthy of a playoff spot? You have to remember Cleveland, Boston, and Orlando are so dominating the East that it skews the records for the last playoff qualifiers.

Charlotte won’t last long in the post season who ever their opponent ends up being. If they make it.


New York Knicks Center Eddie Curry sued for sexual harassment

His driver claims he tried to solicit gay sex from him. From the New York Post-

Knick center Eddy Curry was slapped with a shocking sexual-harassment suit yesterday by his former driver, who claims the 6-foot-11 hoopster tried to solicit gay sex from him.

Stunning court papers charge that Curry, a married father of several kids, repeatedly approached chauffeur David Kuchinsky “in the nude,” saying, “Look at me, Dave, look” and, “Come and touch it, Dave.”

Curry, 26, also made Kuchinsky perform “humiliating tasks outside the scope of his employment, such as cleaning up and removing dirty towels [into which Curry had ejaculated] so that his wife would not see them,” the Manhattan federal court suit says.

Kuchinsky, 36, who is straight and Jewish, also alleges racism, saying Curry hurled slurs at him, including “f- – - ing Jew,” “cracker,” “white slave,” “white devil” and “grandmaster of the KKK.”

I won’t speculate if Kuchinsky’s allegations are true or not. The gay angle certainly gives it a different spin from the usual troubles pro athletes find themselves off the court or field.

Hat tip- Rhymes with Right


76ers fire coach Maurice Cheeks

Another NBA case of blame the coach.

The slumping Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday became the fifth NBA team to make a coaching change before Christmas this season, deciding they had to fire Maurice Cheeks despite extending his contract twice in the past year.

As reported by ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, citing sources close to the situation, Cheeks was informed of his dismissal Saturday morning after the Sixers suffered their eighth loss in 10 games Friday night at Cleveland and dropped to 9-14.

The move was officially announced by the Sixers later Saturday. Assistant general manager Tony DiLeo will replace Cheeks on an interim basis. Philadelphia defeated the Washington Wizards behind Elton Brand’s season-high 27 points on Saturday night in DiLeo’s first game.

Philadelphia who isn’t a very good shooting team, has to contend on a regular basis with teams like Boston and Cleveland who are tearing up the league at present. When someone is 22-2, that makes it difficult for other teams to play .500 ball.

The firing of Cheeks is dumb in light of this.

NBA coaching sources told the Sixers were determined to give Cheeks every chance to halt Philadelphia’s slide after picking up his option for this season in February, extending his contract again in September and spending big money in the offseason to sign Brand away from the Los Angeles Clippers and re-sign Andre Iguodala.

No matter how often I see it done, I remain dumbfounded by pro sports franchises and universities to fire coaches with time remaining on their contracts. You pay for someone not to coach.

In light of the way the NBA recycles coaches, I expect Cheeks to pop up somewhere else in league. After all didn’t half the NBA keep rehiring Kevin Loughery in spite of his mediocre track record.


NBA player Cuttino Mobley forced to retire due to heart ailment

His 11-year career in the NBA ends with a whimper. From AP-

New York Knicks guard Cuttino Mobley retired from the NBA on Thursday because of heart disease that he said has gotten worse.

Mobley said doctors told him he faced significant risks if he kept playing. The 11-year veteran said by walking away now, he could live a long life.

Mobley, 33, announced his decision at a news conference at the Knicks’ training center, where he confirmed he has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. The condition causes the heart muscle to thicken, making it harder to pump blood, and he said he had no choice but to end his career.

“The specialists I’ve seen made it clear that my heart condition has gotten worse and I couldn’t continue to play professional basketball without putting my health and life in serious danger,” Mobley said. “As much as I want to keep playing in the NBA, I have no choice but to follow the advice of my doctors and step away from the league.”

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the leading cause of sudden cardiac death in people under 30 years old and was linked to the deaths of former Boston Celtics forward Reggie Lewis and Loyola Marymount star Hank Gathers.

Your health is more important than basketball Cuttino. Good luck in retirement.


Concern over Cuttino Mobley’s heart holds up Clippers-Knicks deal

He was supposed to be part of a four player trade between the two NBA teams. From ESPN-

Zach Randolph was in the Los Angeles Clippers’ locker room Tuesday night. He just wasn’t in a Clippers’ uniform, as the trade between Los Angeles and the New York Knicks was held up by what a source said were concerns about Cuttino Mobley’s heart.

Mobley and Tim Thomas were sent to New York in exchange for Randolph and Mardy Collins on Friday in a deal that gives the Clippers a low post presence in Randolph and gives the Knicks more cap space for the 2010 free-agent market.

Mobley’s and Thomas’ contracts expire before the 2010 season.

The source said Mobley would see a heart specialist on Tuesday. Normally players have 48 hours to report to their new teams and take a physical examination, followed by another 24 hours for all the test results to come in. Because this trade was completed after business hours on Friday, the teams agreed to an additional 24-hour period, which ends at 6:30 p.m. ET Tuesday.

When asked about’s report by reporters after the Clippers game on Monday, coach Mike Dunleavy said: “From the standpoint of Cuttino’s concern, there’s nothing they have or don’t have that hasn’t been known to us or hasn’t been approved by us and all the other teams he’s played for. Neither one of those guys has had any issues with any of the things that are even being talked about.

As someone who lived with a heart defect for 47 years before needing it to be repaired, I can say a heart issue shouldn’t automatically cancel any deal. The Knicks are just being careful, as they don’t want to spend 9 million dollars a year on a player who can’t take part in any games.


NY Knicks fire coach Isiah Thomas

This news hardly comes as a surprise.

NEW YORK – Isiah Thomas couldn’t win as coach with the players he assembled as president. Now, he’s lost both jobs. Thomas was fired as the New York Knicks coach Friday after a season of listless and dreadful basketball, a tawdry lawsuit and unending chants from fans demanding his dismissal.

Thomas lost a franchise record-tying 59 games this season, and along the way seemed to lose the support of his players, who didn’t always play hard for him the way they did last season.


Thomas was hired as the Knicks’ team president on Dec. 22, 2003, and he acquired Marbury from Phoenix weeks later. The Knicks made the playoffs that season, getting swept by New Jersey, but haven’t gone back despite their annual spot atop the league’s highest payroll list.

Though the salary cap was already out of whack by the time Thomas arrived, he didn’t help matters with some questionable moves. He gave a $30 million contract in the summer of 2005 to center Jerome James, a career 4.3 points per game scorer who hasn’t been healthy or productive, and seems bothered by neither. A year later, Thomas used his mid-level exception on Jared Jeffries, who has limited offensive skills.

Still, Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan remained confident in Thomas, even making him coach in June 2006 after firing Larry Brown following one season. But that came with an ultimatum, as Dolan warned Thomas to show “evident progress” in one season or be fired from both positions.

The Knicks went 33-49 last season. Dolan rewarded Thomas with a multiyear contract extension with more than a month left after New York moved into eighth place, but the Knicks collapsed under a series of injuries and missed the postseason.

Things went poorly this season from the time training camp opened.

The jury came back with its verdict that day, finding that Thomas and MSG sexually harassed former team executive Anucha Browne Sanders and ordering the company to pay $11.6 million in damages. Criticized by Al Sharpton and Rutgers women’s coach C. Vivian Stringer for comments he made in his taped deposition, Thomas seemed downcast during most of training camp — and never had much reason for better spirits when the season began.

The Knicks started 2-1, then dropped eight in a row as the Thomas-Marbury feud sent the season spiraling out of control. Marbury responded to Thomas’ plans to bench him by skipping a game in Phoenix, and the players reportedly voted to make Marbury sit out a game when he returned. Instead, Thomas played the point guard more than 33 minutes off the bench in a game in Los Angeles against the Clippers.

It soon became obvious that Thomas’ draft night acquisition of Zach Randolph had set back Curry, who lost his confidence and later his starting job. Speculation was rampant by Thanksgiving that Thomas’ job was in jeopardy, and it only heated up after the Knicks’ nationally televised 104-59 loss at Boston on Nov. 29.

The Thomas era in New York was unquestionably a debacle. The team struggled on the court and had problems off. If a team is successful, the later will often be ignored or brushed aside. Not so with the underperforming Knicks, the NY area media helped magnify the disarray going on with the team. I grew up in New York and the Knicks were the basketball team I followed. The teams were led by Willis Reed, Walt Frazier and Dave DeBusschere. After they were gone, there was Toby Knight who my father once coached in a youth basketaball league on Long Island. There’s nothing about today’s Knicks to help me regain the interest I once had in basketball. Here in South Florida we have more than our share of dysfunctional sports franchises.


New Jersey’s Jason Kidd wants a trade

What will the Nets do with the malcontent point guard? From AP-

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Jason Kidd says he wants to be traded from the slumping New Jersey Nets. “We tried to make this work. We’ve found out it doesn’t,” Kidd told ESPN The Magazine on Monday. “It’s time for us all to move on.”

The Nets, losers of nine in a row, were scheduled to play the Milwaukee Bucks at home Tuesday night. Kidd attended the team’s morning shootaround but did not talk to reporters.

Nets president Rod Thorn did not immediately return a phone message Tuesday.

Trade speculation has followed Kidd since last February when the Nets reportedly were close to making a deal that would have sent him to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Last month, Kidd sat out a game against the New York Knicks with a migraine, a move suspected by some to be a one-day walkout to try and force a trade or new contract.

At a news conference, Kidd denied those were his motives, saying, “I am having one of my best seasons — why would I want to be asked to be traded? And as a team, we are doing better than last year.”

New Jersey was 9-10 at the time. Since then, the team has dropped 16 of 25 games to fall to 18-26.

Truthfully I’d trade Kidd. He isn’t helping the Nuts as much as he is hurting the team. Trade the idiot for two good players. New Jersey won’t be the NBA’s worst afterwards. The Miami Heat have a headlock on that at present.


NBA Mock Draft

ESPN’s Chad Ford offers the Sports Leader’s take on the impending NBA Draft.

It’s almost draft day, and the picture is getting clearer and fuzzier simultaneously.

We’ve been able to narrow down the list of prospects that each team is considering, but two things stand in the way of getting a complete picture.

One, this is a time when many GMs are notorious for dropping smoke screens. A source in Memphis swears the team is taking Joakim Noah. Another says to bank on the Grizzlies’ taking Mike Conley. Someone is misinformed or bluffing.

Two, there is a flurry of trade conversation, starting with Memphis, Boston, Charlotte and Chicago all talking about trading away their lottery picks. Meanwhile teams such as Golden State, Phoenix and the Lakers are trying hard to move up. Others — like Portland, Indiana and Toronto — are trying to get in or grab another pick.

The talk in Phoenix about trading up in the draft has gotten so hot that the Suns have gotten Noah, Jeff Green and Corey Brewer to agree to a workout on Tuesday. They’ll try to add Brandan Wright as a fourth. That shows you how much players want to play in Phoenix — they’ll drop everything just for the chance. It could be the most competitive workout of the draft.

Their consensus draft board:

    1. Portland TrailblazersGreg Oden – C
    2. Portland TrailblazersKevin Durant – SF – Texas
    3. Atlanta HawksAl Horford – PF – Florida
    4. Memphis GrizzliesMike Conley – PG- Ohio State
    5. Boston CelticsYi Jianlian – PF – China
    6. Milwaukee BucksJeff Green – SF – Georgetown
    7. Minnesota TimberwolvesJoakim Noah – PF – Florida
    8. Charlotte BobcatsCorey Brewer – SG – Florida
    9. Chicago Bulls (via New York Knicks) – Spencer Hawes – C- Washington
    10. Sacramento Kings- Brandan Wright – PF – North Carolina
    11. Atlanta Hawks (via Indiana Pacers) – Acie Law – PG – Texas A&M
    12. Philadelphia 76ersAl Thornton – SF – Florida State
    13. New Orleans Hornets – Nick Young – SG- USC
    14. L.A. ClippersJulian Wright – SF – Kansas
    15. Detroit Pistons (via Orlando Magic) – Rodney Stuckey SG – Eastern Wash.

Click the link for more in-depth analysis and for the second half of the draft.


Jeff Van Gundy Leaving Rockets

Jeff Van Gundy’s stint as head coach of the Houston Rockets is over after four years and zero trips to the second round of the playoffs.

Saturday’s Game 7 loss to the Jazz was the last for Jeff Van Gundy as the Houston Rockets’ coach, according to the New York Post. Citing an “impeccable source,” The Post reported that Van Gundy is leaving NBA coaching for the forseeable future. According to the source, Van Gundy’s decision isn’t based on the first-round series loss to the Jazz.


Van Gundy wouldn’t discuss his future when asked in the postgame news conference Saturday. When reached by The Houston Chronicle, Van Gundy strongly denied he has decided to leave his job as Rockets coach. “I haven’t even thought about that yet,” Van Gundy said. “It’s just 12 hours after we lost. There has been speculation about my job going on the whole year. Anybody that saying that [he has chosen to step down as Rockets coach], I have no idea why they would say that. “There is no significance to anything other than we lost. That’s the only significant thing.”

Rockets owner Leslie Alexander told The Chronicle that he hasn’t made a decision on Van Gundy, who has one non-guaranteed season remaining on his contract.Alexander told the newspaper that he doesn’t plan to fire Van Gundy. “There is absolutely no truth to that. That’s false, totally false. That decision has not been made,” he told The Chronicle.

The Rockets have missed the playoffs just once in Van Gundy’s four years with the Rockets, but Houston has also failed to make it out of the first round each time.

Given the presence of the most dominant center in the NBA in Yao Ming (now that age has finally caught up to Shaquille Oneal) and a geniune star in Tracy McGrady.

And here’s a stunning stat that demonstrates the volatile nature of the NBA coaching game:

Although he was hired by Houston less than four years ago (June 10, 2003), only two NBA head coaches have a longer continuous tenure with their current team than Van Gundy: Jerry Sloan (with Utah since December 1988) and Gregg Popovich (with San Antonio since December 1996).

That’s just amazing.


Greatest NBA Centers Ever

For Shaq’s 35th Birthday ESPN saw fit to rank the top 10 centers of all time and I can’t disagree with #1 at all.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

As for his achievements: 1967-68 USBWA College Player of the Year; 1969 Naismith Award; Six-time NBA MVP; Six-time NBA Champion; Two-time Finals MVP; NBA Rookie of the Year (1970); and NBA Hall of Fame (1995).

Like no other player, Abdul-Jabbar embodied the maestro team brilliance of Bill Russell and the individual excellence of Wilt Chamberlain. His NBA cup runneth over: six championships, a record six MVPs and a Finals MVP award … at 38 years old!

Possessed the single most unstoppable shot in NBA history — the sky hook — but more than that, he was clutch, consistent and underrated in the toughness department.

He was the starting center on six championship teams and had the presence of mind to cohabitate with stars like Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson and James Worthy.

He’s the all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points; was named to the All-NBA Defensive team 11 times; and is the only modern era player to lead the league at least once in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots, minutes played, field-goal percentage and PER.

However, in their explanation of choosing Kareem as #1 I believe they left out on of the most amazing things about Kareem’s career. His expected arrival in the college ranks led to directly to a preemptive rule change by NCAA when they banned the dunk after the 1967 season and reinstated it shortly after his departure from UCLA. No other player that I can think of recieved the same treatment. While the rule was made mostly to limit his size advantage, it didn’t slow Kareem down as UCLA went 88-2 while he was a player.

The other thing to ponder about this list would is where Bill Walton would be if he hadn’t the chronic injury problems.

As for the complete list:
1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
2. Wilt Chamberlain
3. Bill Russell
4. Shaquille O’Neal
5. Hakeem Olajuwon
6. Moses Malone
7. Bill Walton
8. David Robinson
9. George Mikan
10. Patrick Ewing


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