Let’s say you run a pro basketball team. You’re in hock for $100 million to your star player and your legendary coach.
Last week, here’s what you were getting for your money.
First Stephon Marbury (who has three years and $60 million left on his contract) declared he needed more “freedom” like “Starbury” (a name he started using during his New Jersey days) because Larry Brown’s way (the coach has four years and $40 million left) is too confining.
And things went downhill from there:
Brown said: “I’ve never given a guard more freedom than Stephon Marbury in my life. And he has the ball all the time.”
“The bottom line to me and from everybody’s perspective is, we’ve got a great team sport and the best players make everybody around them better. As long as I’ve been coaching, you don’t run anything for your best player. They usually figure it out.”
Marbury said: “I think I can play under the system, but I think also I’ve got to play the way I know how to play.”
“I don’t have that type of freedom. For me, it’s a problem. I (don’t) play nothing like how I played the years that I normally play.”
Brown said: “You want to say because we don’t have freedom, that’s why we’re losing. That’s fine. You can say that all you want.
“But the reality is we foul more than any team in the league. Since the fifth week of the season we’re the second-worst field goal percentage defensive team in the league, we turn the ball over more than any team in the league, we’re close to the fewest blocked shots as any team in the league.
“Now if you want freedom, how are you going to have freedom with those stats? You think about that.”
Marbury, fighting back, said, “If Coach is comparing his career to my career, he’s got like a 20-year edge on me. To me that sounds like a lot of insecurity going on. . . .
“He always crosses the line (with what he says). That’s not nothing new. But like I said at the beginning, certain coaches deal with certain things certain ways. He handles his things through the media as opposed to sitting down and talking with people.”
Said Brown, throwing mud back at Marbury, “I’ve been coaching how many years? A long time. I never left a team in worse shape than I got it. Not once. Think about that.
“Think about me and think about the guy who’s talking. Never left a team in worse shape. Never asked anything of my players any different than I’m doing right now. Think about that. Think about that.”
These are today’s Knicks at work.
Chris Paul and the Hornets are fading, as NBA bullies gang up on the impressive rookie point guard.
Coach Byron Scott says, “The main adjustment is they stay longer with him on pickand-rolls. It’s like they’re double-teaming.
“They just want to get it out of his hands as much as possible. That’s pretty smart, to be honest with you.
“He’s a rookie point guard. He’s going to learn, as he moves on, that teams are going to change up on him because he’s so dangerous and he’s so good.”
Darius Miles, in the second year of a six-year, $48 million contract, has taken a good share of criticism for the Trail Blazers’ sour season. When pressed, he says he feels somewhat of a fall guy for the team’s lack of success.
“I’m like the Mickey Mantle of the team,” he said.
Miles explains he recently watched the movie “61” about the 1961 bid by Mantle and Roger Maris to break Babe Ruth’s home run record.
“The fans were deep (in adoration) for one and giving it to the other one,” Miles says.
Miles is getting his New York Yankee sluggers mixed up; it was Mantle who was the crowd favorite.
It’s not often the NBA is featured in “The Sopranos.”
So it was a bit of a landmark when Celtics announcer Sean Grande’s call of Boston’s Nov. 9 buzzer-beating win over the Memphis Grizzles was included in a recent segment of the organized-crime TV drama on HBO.
Grande’s voice was heard when mob foot soldier Eugene Pontecorvo visits Boston to kill delinquent gambler Teddy Spirodakis.
Just as Pontecorvo arrives at the diner where he will do the deed, Grande can be heard on WRKO excitedly calling the Celtics’ win.
“My only criticism is that if he had used a silencer, we might have been able to hear more of the call,” Grande said. “You know, whatever. That’s a directorial decision.”
FLAPPING HIS WINGS
The Spurs’ win over the Suns in Phoenix on March 9 came exactly one year after the game in which the Suns beat the Spurs in Phoenix.
This was the game in which Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili didn’t play because of injuries.
When the Spurs took the court that night, Suns owner Robert Sarver flapped his arms and shouted, “Chickens!” He apparently thought coach Gregg Popovich purposefully held out his two stars to keep the Suns from gaining any confidence heading into the playoffs.
So, one year later, Popovich made like Sarver: He walked up to Suns coach Mike D’Antoni at midcourt, tucked his hands under his arms and flapped.
“Yeah,” Popovich deadpanned, “that was all my psychological voodoo.”
Did you know?
• The Bobcats’ Emeka Okafor finished his disappointing, injury-marred second season — he was the league’s top rookie last year — with averages of 13.2 points, 10.0 rebounds and 1.9 blocked shots in just 26 games.
As a rookie, Okafor averaged 15.1 points, 10.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 73 games.
• The Pistons, with their $59 million payroll, are paying about $800,000 per win. The Knicks, with their $123 million payroll, are paying about $5.4 million per win.
• Chauncey Billups leads the league in assist-toturnover ratio at 4.21-to-1.
Jazz’s new tune
The Jazz, gunning for the West’s final playoff spot, are nixing a conventional lineup. Instead, they’re going with their five best players.
The new lineup: Rookie point guard Deron Williams plus four forwards; Andrei Kirilenko, Mehmet Okur, Matt Harpring and Carlos Boozer. This means Boozer has to play a nominal center’s role.
Coach Jerry Sloan apparently will ride these guys hard the rest of the way: All four forwards played 45-plus minutes in Wednesday’s overtime loss in Orlando.
In his first 82 games as coach, the Mavericks’ Avery Johnson is 66-16. That tops Paul Westphal of the Suns (62-20) as the best coaching mark in one’s first 82.
The Cavs’ Alan Henderson has played in the NBA since the 1995-96 season. Henderson plans to play for at least four more years, but he has a great option when he finally calls it quits.
Henderson has been accepted to medical school at Indiana University.
The Suns visit the Jazz, then host the Trail Blazers and Nuggets this week.