Sports Outside the Beltway

Denver Nuggets Coach George Karl has cancer

He was already a prostate cancer survivor. From ESPN-

Denver Nuggets coach George Karl informed his team Tuesday afternoon that he is in another fight for his life with cancer.

Karl, who had been cancer-free since prostate surgery in July 2005, discovered a worrisome lump on his neck about six weeks ago. A biopsy determined that it was “very treatable and curable” form of neck and throat cancer, Karl said, but it will still require an intense program of radiation and chemotherapy that will probably force him to miss some regular-season games.

“Cancer is a vicious opponent,” he said. “Even the ones that are treatable, you never get a 100-percent guaranteed contract.”

Treatment will consist of 35 sessions over the next six weeks, for what the Nuggets Web site called squamous cell head/neck cancer. The sessions are expected to leave his throat extremely raw, requiring him to be fed through his stomach in the final weeks. “Keeping up your nutrition is a big part of the challenge,” he said.

While the condition is treatable, his doctor, Jacques Saari, said Karl faces a taxing treatment regimen.

I’m a cancer survivor also. If the above account is true, I’d be surprised if Karl coaches at the same time he gets treatments. No matter I wish him success in his latest cancer battle.


First ever Seattle Supersonics announcer, Bob Blackburn, dead at 85

In addition to being the voice of the SuperSonics for 25 years, Blackburn also worked Oregon and Oregon State basketball games during his career. RIP.

Bob Blackburn, the Seattle SuperSonics’ first broadcaster and for 20 years the lone voice of Sonics history, died Friday after a lengthy illness, his wife Pat told The Associated Press. He was 85.

Known for his smooth voice and simple, colorful descriptions, Blackburn educated two generations of basketball fans in the Pacific Northwest. From Lenny Wilkens to Jack Sikma, Blackburn was the narrator for Sonics basketball, including the team’s lone NBA championship in 1979.

“That beautiful voice. I fell in love with that voice,” Pat Blackburn said Friday night.

A year ago Blackburn fell and suffered a severe head injury requiring surgery, his wife said. There were complications following surgery, but Pat Blackburn said her husband of 61 years bounced back. He eventually fell ill with pneumonia.

“He was a gentleman, and he said he wants to be remembered as a kind person,” she said.


Oklahoma City Thunder fire coach P.J. Carlesimo

It didn’t take long for the recently moved NBA franchise to fire its first ever coach.

The Oklahoma City Thunder, off to a league-worst 1-12 start in their new home town, have fired coach P.J. Carlesimo.

Assistant coach Scott Brooks has been named interim coach.

The Thunder dropped their 10th straight game on Friday night, a 105-80 home loss to the New Orleans Hornets. Sources told that Carlesimo was fired before the team boarded a flight to New Orleans for Saturday’s game against the Hornets.

I can’t fault Thunder management for blaming Carlesimo after a 1-12 start. Brooks will certainly improve on that record, but it won’t take much to do it.


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.


College Athletics

Editorial Boards of college newspapers, even ones with good J-schools, are not often the place to begin a discussion of the merits and failings of the current revenue centric world of college sports. The University of North Carolina’s Daily Tar Heel took a stab at that topic in today’s edition. And they took issues with a son of Carolina without cause.

Former UNC baseball player Adam Greenberg was beaned in the head by an errant pitch in his first major league at-bat.

Suffering from vertigo and diminished hitting skills, he was sent to the minors in 2005. Greenberg chose UNC for baseball, switched to an easier major to accommodate practices, then turned pro before graduating.

That same year, Georgetown basketball head coach John Thompson III recruited Marc Egerson despite his 1.33 grade point average and an SAT score in the 600s.

Both of these indicate a problem in college athletics: allowing players to drop the “student” from student-athlete.

One problem is that when athletes coast through college, they risk losing it all if they become injured, as Greenberg was.

Adam Greenberg will become a very popular topic of discussion, thanks to the wonderful profile of him in the New York Times Magazine from March 25th. Alas, that profile has been walled off from the world of commentary but not before a few folks commented on it. Most marveled at Greenberg’s determination. Not a single comment on the piece that I found mentioned anything about him “losing it all” as the editorial board of the DTH implies.

In the interest of full disclosure, graduated from UNC-CH in 1997. I found the DTH unbearable then and it seems that even a decade removed, the ability to editorialize has not yet been discovered in the paper’s offices. I posted the point on their website, this morning, that Greenberg is more than just an athlete who sped through his time at Chapel Hill in pursuit of his career of choice – baseball.

There is much that is wrong with college athletics. The fundamentals of games are not taught in the major revenue sports, especially in basketball. And the graduation rates at many major programs have become more humorous than the editorials that attempt to decry them.

If the Editorial Board of the Daily Tar Heel wanted a real example of a player at UNC who gamed the college athletics system, they would have done a little digging to find Joe Forte.

Enters his sophomore season looking to improve on an outstanding freshman campaign • Is a preseason candidate for the Wooden Award and the Naismith Award, which are given to the National Player of the Year • Preseason first-team All-America, as named by Dick Vitale/ESPN • Joins Troy Murphy (Notre Dame), Terrence Morris (Maryland), Jamaal Tinsley (Iowa State) and Shane Battier (Duke) on the first team • Set a number of UNC freshman scoring records and was selected the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA South Regional • Scored 28 points in the regional championship against Tulsa to lead the Tar Heels to the Final Four • Showed remarkable poise and savvy as a young player, leading his team in scoring the entire season • The 2000 Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year

This Joe Forte

After a 2-year college career at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (highlights which included winning the 2000 ACC Rookie of the Year as well as 2001 ACC Men’s Basketball Player of the Year) that was marked by flashes of both brilliance and temper, he was selected by the Boston Celtics with the 21st pick in the 2001 NBA Draft. His most memorable moment with the Celtics came when he wore a Scooby-Doo shirt on the sidelines during the playoffs. In two seasons with the Celtics and the Seattle SuperSonics, Forte averaged 1.2 points and 0.7 assists per game, struggling to convert from his natural shooting guard position, to point guard. He was eventually waived by the Sonics due mostly to attitude and legal problems. While with the Sonics, he was arrested on gun and drug charges in Maryland, as well as an assault charge in which he allegedly punched a man in the face during a pickup game. After being released by the Sonics, Forte could not find a roster spot in the NBA.

Forte played two seasons in Chapel Hill. His failure in the NBA is hardly a surprise. Flashes of brilliance and temper are not the way to garner success in major professional leagues – even the notably dysfunctional NBA. When fusing vast sums of money with raw, immature young men, who have trouble with self-control, chaos is a natural fellow traveler.

A so-called success story is found in the more recent short term Tar Heel, Marvin Williams. His one season in the Southern part of Heaven ended with an NCAA title and a ticket to Atlanta when he declared for the NBA Draft after just one year in college. Marvin Williams, averaging 12.6 points per game in his second professional season. He turns 21 after this season ends in June.

Though his career is more of a success, Marvin Williams exudes the get out of school quick attitude that the Daily Tar Heel decries. Notice they overlook Williams in their list.

It’s problematic when athletes clearly aren’t enrolling in college to get an education. Increasingly the Kevin Durants and Carmello Anthonys of the world are looking to college basketball as a place to show off for NBA scouts instead of a place of learning. Athletes like these are sure to only increase in number with the new NBA rule requiring players to be at least 19 and a year out of high school before entering the draft.

But the problem doesn’t lie only with the athletes. The culture existing in college athletics denotes athletes as sources of entertainment, not as students at a university.

We aren’t suggesting that athletes be required to graduate from college. Clearly that isn’t an option for everyone. The allure of the NBA, NFL and MLB and their million dollar signing bonuses is hard for a poor college kid to turn down. The problem arises when college teams become farm teams.

The reality is that NCAA basketball is an enormous revenue generator. If the Daily Tar Heel wants NCAA basketball to cease to be a developmental farm league, it will require colleges to forego the cash from the heavily marketed and wildly successful tournament. Good luck getting that changed.

Athletics are a means to an end for many college attendees. The players use the universities for exposure. The universities use the players for their talent. Both use each other for the money that their union generates. Fans get the benefit of entertaining rivalries and another entertainment option on a winter’s night or a Saturday afternoon. As such, the fundamental purpose of college basketball and football has become a cog in the world of sports marketing, instead of a part of a university community. The athletes, due to their fame, are isolated from their fellow students, accorded special privileges, and held to a lower standard. Once athletes were students. Many still are.

But for all the failure, there are many successes. In spite of the disparaging comments about Adam Greenberg’s academic achievement, Greenberg has been very smart with his investments and business options outside of baseball. Even if he never gets back to the show, he has much to look forward to going forward with his life, post-baseball. Similarly, Brian Barton, a graduate of the University of Miami and minor leaguer in the Indians farm system, stayed for his entire college career with the University of Miami, earned a degree in Aerospace Engineering and interned at Boeing for good measure. His contract, as an undrafted free agent called for $100,000 in salary and $100,000 for his education.

The success or failure of a team often comes down to abilities of the players and the skill of the coach. So is it with the sports we watch. If teams and leagues and Athletic Associations are eager for short term payout without serious development of their sports, they will suffer in the long run. The NBA has been diminished by an emphasis on talent over character in the game, leading to the dysfunction I alluded to before. One hopes college athletics chooses not to follow that path, but it is their game, their moneymaking venture and their choice. We the fans as always will vote with our wallets and our time.


Supersonics’ Hill remembers cancer scare

the head coach of the NBA’s Seattle franchise is a malignant melanoma survivor.

About the same time he celebrated his five-year anniversary without cancer, Bob Hill began his first full season as Sonics coach. His melanoma is in remission and all that remains is a scar on the small of his back, which is a constant reminder of the day when time stopped.

Hill’s wife Pam noticed a small black spot on his back when he got out of the shower and told him to have it looked at.

“I didn’t think anything of it,” Hill said. “I went to my physical. They took it off. Had a biopsy, and I forgot about it.”

Until his oldest son, Cameron, took him aside before a scrimmage and told him he had melanoma.

“The first thing you think about is: Is your portfolio in place?” Bob Hill said. “All of your thoughts are all bad. It’s just awful.”

It was Oct. 31, 2001, and he was coaching at Fordham University. The team was preparing to start a scrimmage against Marist, but the rest of the details are fuzzy, Hill remembers. He paid little attention to the game, and most of his thoughts focused on his wife and their three sons.

“You want to go and have the operation right now. Let’s do it now … ,” he said. “But I take two baby aspirins every day and that thins your blood, so I had to wait 10 days to two weeks to have an operation. Fortunately, it didn’t get to the lymph nodes. I forgot all of the numbers, but it was weird because you go to the hospital for an operation and you don’t feel sick. You don’t feel bad. I felt fine. I was in shape. It was a scary, scary thing.”

On Nov. 12, the night Fordham opened against DePaul, Hill underwent surgery to have the malignant mole removed. After digging deep for the cancerous cells, doctors needed 12 stitches to close the wound. Two nights later, Hill tore open his incision, which prolonged his four-month recovery.

Upon arriving to Seattle in 2005, Hill, 58, received a clean bill of health. His five-year anniversary was special.

“Doctors say that if it doesn’t come back within five years, then you’re in the clear,” Hill said.

Ten years without a recurrence is actually considered the big milestone.

I’ve been a MM survivor since 1993. Like Hill, I only had only local disease and metastisis. We’re both stage II patients. The “I’m feeling well.” aspect of Hill’s story is very familiar to me. My diagnosis in Dec 1993 came as a complete shock. How can I have cancer.

Yesterday another melanoma patient lost her battle. Her name was Jamie, she was 29 years old, and her mother Donna was a regular on the Melanoma mailing list I’ve been subscribed to for many years. I’ve lost too many friends to this awful disease. God bless Bob Hill and all the melanoma warriors.


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


Former NBA Player Dennis Johnson dead at 52

He was a part of three NBA Championship teams I remember Johnson when he played for the Celtics. The mid-eighties being about the only time I followed basketball. After his playing days were over, Johnson was an NBA assistant coach and for 24 games the head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers. RIP Dennis.

AP- AUSTIN, Texas – Dennis Johnson, the star NBA guard who was part of three championship teams, died Thursday at 52. “He is deceased and is in our building. He will be autopsied,” said Mayra Freeman, a spokeswoman for the Travis County medical examiner’s office.

Johnson, a five-time All-Star and one of the great defensive guards, played on title teams with the Boston Celtics and Seattle SuperSonics. He had been coaching the Austin Toros of the NBA Development League.

Johnson played 14 seasons, retiring after the 1989-90 season. He was the NBA Finals MVP in 1979 with Seattle, with his other titles coming with Boston in 1984 and 1986.

He averaged 14.1 points and 5.0 assists. When he retired, he was the 11th player in NBA history to total 15,000 points and 5,000 assists. Johnson made one all-NBA first team and one second team. Six times he made the all-defensive first team, including five consecutive seasons from 1979-83.

Johnson was born Sept. 18, 1954, in Compton, Calif. He played in college at Pepperdine and was drafted by Seattle in 1976. Johnson was traded to Phoenix in 1980 and Boston in 1983.


Austin Croshere – Scoring Machine

Poor Bob Hill. The Seattle Supersonics coach draws up a game plan that tries to contain Dirk, force Jason Terry into situations where is uncomfortable and hope that the Sonics could take advantage of Josh Howard’s absence from the team only to get beat by a bench warmer who had only played 27 minutes the entire month of January. I wonder if Austin Croshere, who clocked in nearly 24 minutes against Seattle on Tuesday night, was even mentioned in the pregame meetings.

Croshere, who normally doesn’t get off the bench enough to score more than a basket or maybe some free throws, scored a career high 34 points in an incredible display of scoring prowess. In his first seven minutes of play Croshere scored 11 points. According to the Fort Worth Star Telegram, Croshere went on to have the second highest points-to-minute ratio in Mavericks history.


Super Sonic Junior Varsity

Watching the Mavericks game last night against the Sonics was like watching a high school JV game. With Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen injured the Sonics had their JV team out there. The Mavericks had their JV team out there too until about mid-way through the third quarter then their Varsity showed up again.

Earl Watson: He is playing with the JV because he can’t get along with the Varsity head coach or with anyone for that matter. He is talented but he thinks he is an elite player when really he is just a good player that needs to fill his role and make the most of it.

Luke Ridnour: He is too good for his own good. Quick, smart, slight of hand ball maneuvers, and funky runner seem so effortless that no one notices too much. “That is just Luke,” they say. He is like Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation - a curiosity for sure but no one takes him seriously.

Mickael Gelabale: He just started playing organized basketball last year after coming over from the track team where he was District Champ in the long jump. He is the most talented guy on the team but doesn’t know a pick and roll from a “pick and pocket.”

Chris Wilcox: Huge, mean, and loves to dunk. After JV practice, instead of working on his free throws he practices two hand slams and sees how far he can swing his legs up on the dunk. He destroyed two goals at the local Baptist church gymnasium.

Andreas Glyniadakis: He is the classic big-white-stiff that all the lower classmen talk up because they have never seen anyone taller than him. Regrettably, his ability, other than drawing fouls, does not match his height. He goes on to play for the local junior college before marrying his high school sweetheart and working at Lowe’s.

Damien Wilkins: One of the only freshmen on the JV, some say because his dad shows up to every practice and intimidates the varsity coach. He has tons of basketball ability but wants to put on a human highlight film every time he touches the ball. He ends up scoring 30 in a JV tournament championship game but by the end of the season he isn’t starting. The dad has made multiple calls to the school principal for the firing of the JV coach.

Nick Collison: Another Varsity player who is making a cameo with the JV because he isn’t getting off the bench with the varsity. Unfortunately, no one can really figure out why he is on the Varsity because he plays so mediocre as a JVer. With the Varsity he is a solid glue guy who can score six and get six rebounds but with the JV he looks lost.


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