Mike Ganter's Courtside: All-Star lessons

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:50 PM ET

TORONTO - Take the 24 most talked about basketball players in the league, put them in a single city for an extended weekend, force them to sit down with the world media and you can’t help but learn some things about them you didn’t know before.

For instance:

David West is not just a clutch shooter and integral member of the New Orleans Hornets, he’s one of a rare breed of player who is willing to take less to ensure his team can be better.

Turns out West’s current contract is constructed in such a way that he will make less in its final years than he did in its first year.

It is for that reason that negotiating an extension based on that final year is not all that attractive to him even with the unknown of a new collective bargaining agreement on the horizon.

“Obviously, from a business standpoint it’s not a good decision for myself to lock into an option just because of the way the contract ended,” West said ... That’s fine. I don’t mind the way it happened. We did that because there were some things we needed to do in order to get some guys in here.”

Now that’s a team player.

KG on the defensive

Kevin Garnett apparently has no problem with people disliking him or disparaging him for his often times foul on-court demeanour. Just don’t call him “dirty”.

“I’m far from dirty,” Garnett said during his media day scrum. “Dirty is like hate,” he said. “I don’t use that word. I’m competitive and I play hard but don’t call me dirty. If you dislike me, dislike me, but hate is a very strong word. But it is a different league, it is a more free flowing offensive league. The league likes to promote Doffence, that’s cool. But at the same time, there’s two parts of the game and defence is one of them, and I play it.”

Just to be clear Kevin, no one is saying you don’t play defence. It’s the “dirty” way you do it that bothers people.

Duncan rights a wrong

Tim Duncan is the one guy at all-star weekend that isn’t going to surprise. Duncan is, who he is, and for the San Antonio Spurs that means he’s one of the best teammates a player could have. He also happens to have a pretty good sense of humour.

This was what Duncan was wishing while he was in Los Angeles while deserving teammate Tony Parker didn’t get the invite.

“I wish Tony (Parker) could be here. He deserves to be here, he’s had an excellent year so far. I think if he can grow a couple of inches the next couple of days, I’d trade (spots) with him.”

Pop has his way

And while Duncan is clearly a huge part of the Spurs success, head coach Gregg Popovich has a little to do with it as well. Popovich, who was in L.A. coaching the Western Conference all-stars treats his players, young and old, like the men they are. Pop actually sounded surprised when he was asked what rules he has for his team in light of the recent spate of in-team fights that have cropped up over gambling debts and the like.

“We have basically no rules,” Popovich said. “If I gave my team rules, they’d be offended. For the last 15 years, they’ve conducted themselves in an exemplary manner, and I wouldn’t humiliate them by making them believe I had to give them rules like they were children.”

Of course when you have solid citizens like Duncan leading the way, there is a natural tone set that makes a lot of rules unnecessary.

Crossing the line

For TNT’s courtside reporter, Craig Sager, it really is all about him. The ridiculous look-at-me get-ups are one thing but Sager went overboard even for him when he took an unnecessary shot at rookie DeMarcus Cousins following the rookie-sophomore game.

This is no defence of Cousins who has done some really immature things in his rookie year, but Sager seemed to have forgotten where he was when he referenced Cousin’s meltdown after a recent game when a teammate didn’t pass him the ball. Talking to John Wall, the game MVP and Cousin’s former Kentucky teammate, Sager said: “It’s been well documented he’s (DeMarcus Cousins is) not happy when his teammates don’t get him the ball ...” It left Wall tongue-tied and the audience wondering what Sager was trying to prove and reinforced Sager’s ultimate goal. Use whatever means to put the spotlight on himself.

Food on the brain

It’s not like Amir Johnson had a heavy itinerary all-star weekend. A couple of passes off the side of a backboard to DeMar DeRozan in the dunk contest was about the extent of it, but Johnson likes to keep people informed of what’s he’s doing via twitter and as far as we could tell, the majority of his weekend was about food.

First he tweeted this beauty: “You think Roscoe’s gone (sic) run out of chicken and waffle batter this weekend???,” referencing the L.A. breakfast eatery that is very popular with the NBA crowd. But later that night came another tweet about another U.S., and predominantly west coast fast food institution: “In ’N Out,” he tweeted. Make fun of him if you must, but know that the In ’N Out burger is one of the must-try’s if you have not already been introduced. Best thing we can say about them: They taste as good at the beginning of a lengthy evening out as they do at the end when your thinking might not be as clear.

Rose can talk some trash

OK, this one we kind of suspected. Derek Rose has a well-earned reputation as one of the more guarded quotes in the league. But all-star weekend can bring out the extrovert in just about anyone and Rose was no exception. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Rose revealed he’s not always the mild-mannered competitor he comes across on the basketball court. Rose revealed that during a little recuperative time off to deal with stomach ulcers he, his girlfriend and his mother got into a little Monopoly and his trash-talking side came out.

“I actually made my girlfriend quit (Monopoly),” Rose said. “She had eight properties or whatever. She owed me $21. All she had to do was mortgage one of her properties and give me the money. One property! But she quit and messed up the game because I was talking so much stuff.

“I’m mean when it comes to that stuff. I like getting people mad for fun in those kinds of games. It’s fun. But in basketball, I let my game speak for itself. That’s just the way I’ve always been.”

Melo deal needs a conclusion

It’s the first bullet that has to be fired before the NBA trading season really gets underway and as of press time it was getting awfully close.

But with the Carmelo Anthony saga it has been close so many times, who can really say what close is?

The tweak to the saga yesterday had the Nets involved one way or the other.

According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard, even if the Knicks agreed to a deal that would send Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler and Timofey Mozgov or a first-round pick to Denver for Anthony and Chauncey Billups, the Nets would then deal Denver two of the first-round picks they have been shopping to the Nuggets for Mozgov and one of Gallinari, Felton or Chandler.

The best package for Anthony still appears to be the New Jersey packagae which would include Nets rookie Derek Favours, point guard Devin Harris, Troy Murphy and his expiring contract, Ben Uzoh as well as four first-round picks.

The problem is that deal is contingent on Anthony agreeing to a three-year $65-million contract extension.

Eventually Melo will be dealt or signed and the rest of the league can get on with its business.

Noah set to return

Joakim Noah is making his return in the same arena where he bid his team farewell.

The hard-working Chicago Bulls centre returns to the lineup Wednesday in Toronto a little more than two months after he played his final game.

Noah missed 30 games after having surgery to repair a torn ligament in his thumb. The team went 22-8 in his absence and appears to be at the very top of its game right now.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau, in an interview with ESPN Chicago expressed some concern about the team re-adapting to playing with Noah at centre.

“That’s the challenge,” Thibodeau said. “Just like at the start of the season (when Carlos Boozer missed the first four weeks), the challenge is how quickly everyone can get on the same page. When someone comes back, it’s the same thing. You don’t want it to be a long adjustment.”

The Bulls can ease into Wednesday’s return at Toronto but will be immediately tested with Miami in town on Thursday.

Games of the week

Thursday

Miami at Chicago

Bulls already up 1-0 in the season series. Payback?

Friday

Heat at Raptors

Clippers have stolen some of Lakers cred. Look for Lakers to take it back.

Saturday

Celtics at L.A. Clippers

You can never have enough Blake Griffin in your week.

Jack charged with DUI

Apparently not all the NBA partying went on in Los Angels this weekend.

Former Raptor, now New Orleans back up to point guard Chris Paul, Jarrett Jack was arrested in the wee hours of Sunday morning for DUI, speeding, and failure to maintain his lane according to a story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Jack, who owns a home in the Atlanta area blew under the legal limit of 0.8 an hour and a half after he was stopped.

The arresting officer did not have a working Intoxilyzer in his vehicle so the test was performed at the County Jail.

Jack, however, did fail the field sobriety test.

He was released Sunday night and is expected to re-join the Hornets for Wednesday’s game in New Orleans against the Clippers.

Superman feeling the heat

LeBron James and Chris Bosh went through it and have paid the price with a chunk of their popularity.

Leaving a franchise, when you are the franchise, is never an easy thing.

Dwight Howard could be doing the same thing in two years down in Orlando.

Already the talk of Superman taking his cape and flying elsewhere are out there. Stories have mentioned the Lakers and the Knicks.

Howard is telling anyone who will listen all of this talk is just way too premature.

“There’s no contract for me to sign for two years,” Howard said. “So, to me, it’s like: ‘Why are people even talking about it?’ The only thing I’m concerned about is winning a championship. It’s nothing about playing for the Lakers or New York or whoever it may be. When that time comes, then that’s when we can discuss that. But, as of right now, I don’t want to be thinking about playing basketball in another city.’’

mike.ganter@sunmedia.ca


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