Regrets? LeBron James does indeed have a few with how he handled the announcement of his free-agency decision over the summer.
The superstar forward wound up signing with the Miami Heat, picking the team over the Cavaliers, Nets, Knicks and Bulls. The way he made his announcement, with an hour-long special on ESPN, was not well-received nationally and particularly incensed Cavaliers fans since James is a native of Akron in northeast Ohio.
"If I had to go back on it, I probably would do it a little bit different but I'm comfortable," James said. "I'm happy with my decision that I've made to come to this team."
Already, James is being asked about what he will do the next time he become eligible for free agency although that can't happen until 2014 at the earliest if he exercises the early-termination clause and option year written into his six-year contract with the Heat. James, though, isn't ready to get into any discussion about it.
"I'm here with the Heat so we'll see what happens," James said. "I'm happy I'm in this uniform."
Though most people around the NBA felt they were a longshot, the New Jersey Nets felt they had a shot at James, particularly because his close friend Jay-Z is a part-owner of the team. James said he was intrigued by his meeting with the Nets.
"It was a great meeting," he said. "(Coach) Avery Johnson and (owner) Mikhail Prokhorov, those guys they were unbelievable. I responded to it very well, and it was a great process. I'm in Miami. But it was a great meeting, and I left with a definite respect for their organization."
One team who did not make a pitch for James was the Timberwolves. However, he has a lot more incentive against them after Minnesota forward Anthony Tolliver made a homemade video, complete with ESPN's jingle, that spoofed' James' TV special, which was called "The Decision."
Tolliver called his video "The Decision, Part Deux," and explained how the inspiration to pick the Timberwolves as a free agent over the summer came one morning while he was in the bathroom. The clip has generated more than 275,000 views on Youtube.com.
James said he hadn't seen the video it but those close to him said he did not appreciate Tolliver's humor. James had 20 points and 12 assists as the Heat routed the Timberwolves 129-97 on Tuesday night. Tolliver scored four points in 16 minutes.
"If a little lighthearted video like that can get somebody like that's attention ... hey, so be it," Tolliver said.
Nuggets Not Worried About Expectations
Many prognosticators believe the Denver Nuggets' string of 50-win seasons will end at three this year. In our book, Pro Basketball Prospectus 2010-11, the SCHOENE projection system has the Nuggets falling just short at 49-33.
Those who doubt the Nuggets point to forward Carmelo Anthony's unsettled contract situation. He has yet to sign a three-year, $64.47 million extension and can opt out of his contract and become a free agent next summer. That makes him a potential trade candidate this season. Furthermore, two of Denver's big men, Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen, are sidelined as they recover from off-season knee surgeries.
However, coach George Karl believes the Nuggets have what it takes to win big again.
"Everybody wants to talk about the negativity," Karl said."There is a strengthening that comes from tough times. There's a strengthening that comes from a difficult understanding, and sometimes you got to be more focused. Sometimes you got to be tougher minded. Sometimes you got to be more disciplined. With our injuries and maybe the turmoil we have, we've got to stay focused."
Karl certainly understands adversity. He missed the final month and a half of last season while battling throat cancer and the Nuggets, in his absence, were upset by the Jazz in the first round of the playoffs.
Denver, though, reached the Western Conference finals in 2009 before losing to the eventual champion Lakers. Karl believes the current team stacks up favorably to the one of two seasons ago.
"I think now we're a little deeper than we were on that team," Anthony said. "Now, we can rotate everybody. We got the bench (players) that are coming off and playing extremely well."
Hollins Having Success in Memphis
More than a few eyebrows were raised when the Memphis Grizzlies named Lionel Hollins their coach prior to last season after he finished 2008-09 as the interim coach following the firing of Marc Iavaroni. In three separate stints as the Grizzlies' interim coach, including when the franchise was still based in Vancouver in 1999-00, Hollins compiled a 31-72 record.
Hollins led a young team to a surprising 40-42 finish last season and the Grizzlies players believe Hollins he is the perfect coach for their team. Even veteran forward Zach Randolph, who has had runs-in with coaches during other stops in his 10-year career, is a backer.
"He knows how to talk to guys and get guys motivated and get guys to believe," Randolph said. "He gives us faith that we can win games and go to that next level."
Hollins learned his coaching philosophy when he worked as a Suns' assistant under former coach Cotton Fitzsimmons.
"He said to always be honest with the players," Hollins said. "They may not like it, but they'll always respect you for it."
It is a formula that is working.
"We have Coach's respect, and he has ours," forward Rudy Gay said. "I've been on teams that didn't respect the coach."
Legend Lucas Passes Away
Hollins is mourning the death of former All-Star Maurice Lucas, who died at 58 following a two-year fight with bladder cancer. Hollins and Lucas became close friends when they were teammates with the Trail Blazers, including playing together on the 1976-77 team that won the NBA championship.
"He was a tough guy, a very solid guy who did his job every night but more than just a basketball player, he was a great human being," Hollins said. "He was my friend. I was the little brother he never had and he was my big brother that I never had. He protected me. We shared a lot of joy. I'm happy he no longer has to go through the suffering that he experienced the last 2 1/2 years battling the disease. He's at peace now."
Raptors guard Jarrett Jack was also saddened by the news of Lucas' death. Jack spent three seasons with the Trail Blazers when Lucas was an assistant coach and has fond memories of their time together.
"I just remember back when I used to watch the little basketball DVDs, I'm like, 'Who is this dude No. 20 that wants to fight everybody?'" Jack said. "I remember he wanted to fight Magic Johnson one time. Magic Johnson? Obviously, he was a guy who had our respect from the jump just because of the amount of work he put in the league, the type of player he was known to be. He just tried to instill a lot of wisdom and knowledge into all the young players."
John Perrotto is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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