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#pounditMonday, October 3, 2022

Basketball

Shaq interested in joining ownership bid for 1 NBA team

Shaq looks on

Nov 22, 2017; Paradise Island, BAHAMAS; NBA former player Shaquille O’Neal during the first half of the game between the North Carolina State Wolfpack and Arizona Wildcats in the 2017 Battle 4 Atlantis in Imperial Arena at the Atlantis Resort. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Shaquille O’Neal never turns down a good investment opportunity, and there may be a new one that is piquing his interest.

The retired NBA icon O’Neal said this week an interview with TMZ that he was recently eyeing the opportunity to join the bidding for the Phoenix Suns. But O’Neal pumped the brakes a bit once he heard that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was named as a potential buyer for the team. Now instead, O’Neal would like to join Bezos’ group if given the chance.

“Nobody on this planet can compete with Big Man J.B.,” said O’Neal. “I’m not gonna be in there tryna go up against Big Man J.B.

“[But] if he wants me for it, I would gladly like to talk to him,” O’Neal added.

O’Neal, whose net worth TMZ estimates to be roughly $400 million, played for the Suns for two total seasons from 2008 to 2009. He was previously a minority owner for the Sacramento Kings and recently hinted at interest in buying another one of his former NBA teams.

Now-disgraced Suns owner Robert Sarver, who purchased the team in 2004, has begun the process of putting them up for sale. Bezos was among several wealthy figures listed as initial candidates to buy the Suns.

Blake Griffin signs with Eastern Conference contender

Blake Griffin warms up before a game

Apr 25, 2022; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Blake Griffin (2) warms up before game four of the first round of the 2022 NBA playoffs against the Boston Celtics at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Celtics have been exploring ways to bolster their frontcourt depth in the wake of injuries to Robert Williams and Danilo Gallinari, and they are hoping a six-time NBA All-Star can help address that need.

Blake Griffin has agreed to a one-year contract with the Celtics, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports. The deal is fully guaranteed and worth the veteran minimum.

Griffin, 33, was most recently with the Brooklyn Nets. Nowhere near the player he was in his prime, the former first overall pick averaged 6.4 points and 4.1 rebounds per game while appearing in 56 contests. He played 17.1 minutes per game.

Gallinari, whom the Celtics signed this offseason, tore his ACL last month while playing for Italy in the FIBA World Cup qualifying. He will miss the entire 2022-23 season. Williams underwent knee surgery last week and is expected to miss 8-12 weeks.

Though he had the worst statistical season of his career in Brooklyn last year, Griffin’s lack of production may have had something to do with reported issues between him and Nets head coach Steve Nash. The Celtics are hoping he still has more to offer than what he showed last season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo wants to be like 1 Hall of Famer in retirement

Giannis Antetokounmpo warming up

Oct 23, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) warms up before the game against the San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Giannis Antetokounmpo has become one of the most well known players in the NBA. He’s made six All-Star teams and won two MVP awards and a championship.

The Greek Freak has worked extremely hard to become as good as he is, which has led to tons of recognition among basketball fans. But Antetokounmpo hopes that will all go away once he retires.

Antetokounmpo spoke with SiriusXM NBA Radio’s Frank Isola and Brian Scalabrine and talked about his retirement goal.

“When I retire from this game, I want to disappear,” Antetokounmpo confessed. “I want to go somewhere where they’re not going to know me.”

Antetounmpo then shared how he took a trip to Sweden and nobody recognized him. The 27-year-old enjoyed blending in and not being recognized.

“I want to be like Tim Duncan. Where the hell is Tim Duncan? I want to play the game … and then you forget about me. You don’t talk about me,” Antetokounmpo said of his retirement desire.

Duncan was always a humble, low-profile player even while he was with the Spurs. Social media wasn’t a big thing for most of his playing career, and he has avoided it in retirement. But the 46-year-old Hall of Fame forward did coach the Spurs in 2019 and 2020, so he has been around in the game of basketball.

Giannis is just too fun, too friendly, and too beloved to disappear like Duncan. Maybe he’ll go retire in Scandinavia, because in America, nobody will forget him.

Rachel Nichols lands new sports media gig

Rachel Nichols holding a microphone

Mar 19, 2015; Portland, OR, USA; truTV broadcaster Rachel Nichols (center) interviews Arizona Wildcats head coach Sean Miller (left) against the Texas Southern Tigers during the first half in the second round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Rachel Nichols has laid low for most of 2022, but now she is officially back.

Showtime Basketball announced on Friday their hiring of the former ESPN host Nichols. The network said in a release that Nichols will serve as both a host and a producer for them, contributing to multiple programs and projects across multiple platforms (per Awful Announcing).

SI’s Chris Mannix further reports that the plan is for Nichols to eventually host a monthly basketball program for Showtime Basketball.

Showtime’s basketball wing, best known for the popular podcast “All The Smoke” hosted by former NBA players Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson, is rapidly growing. Retired Basketball Hall of Famers like Kevin Garnett, Allen Iverson, and Paul Pierce have also done projects with the network.

As for Nichols, this is the first that we have heard from her since she officially parted ways with ESPN in January. Though she had spent over a decade with ESPN and become one of their most prominent personalities, the network removed her from their programming following controversial leaked comments Nichols made about former colleague Maria Taylor.

After a roughly nine-month absence though, Nichols has returned and looks poised for a major role with Showtime Basketball.

Dwight Howard issues message for NBA teams

Dwight Howard looking on

Jan 15, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) arrives at Toyota Center before a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Dwight Howard remains 0-for-30 with NBA teams this offseason, but he is not quitting just yet.

The eight-time All-Star center Howard took to Instagram on Saturday with a message for the entire league. Howard posted a video of himself vigorously riding a stationary bike and put in the overlay caption “when you’re in the best shape of your life but still a free agent.”

“It’s okay because I BELIEVE in me,” Howard wrote in his post caption. “#trusttheprocess #motivation”

Howard, who will turn 37 in December, had fairly gracefully transitioned into a full-time bench role in recent seasons. He averaged 6.2 points and 5.9 rebounds in 16.2 minutes per game for the Los Angeles Lakers last year (all career-lows) but was still efficient and unselfish with the touches he did get.

But Howard gained a reputation in past years as a bad teammate and has had six separate one-year stints with all different teams (the Lakers twice) since 2016. The payoff may not be worth it anymore to give Howard an NBA roster spot. But rest assured, you will still be seeing him on TV regardless.

Kevin Durant criticizes media for trade demand questions

Kevin Durant looks up

Apr 23, 2022; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) looks up at the scoreboard in the third quarter against the Boston Celtics at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Durant continues to face questions about his offseason trade drama, and the Brooklyn Nets forward clearly is not enjoying addressing it.

Durant was asked Friday about inaccuracies in reporting around his offseason trade demand, and he tried to cut off the questioning then and there. Durant conceded that it was an “interesting story,” but that he did not miss any games or practices, and that it was time to “move on past that.”

Durant cannot really have it both ways here. After all, there was some belief around the league that one of his strategies to try and force a trade was to cause as much drama as possible. Part of that would have certainly involved using the media to draw attention to certain things. It’s tough for him to try and quiet this down now after he arguably spent most of the offseason trying to fuel it.

Durant blinked first in his standoff with the Nets and withdrew his trade request. Eventually, everyone will move on to a certain degree, but without clear answers from Durant, the chatter will never go away completely.

Klay Thompson reveals 1 big obstacle he is still facing after injuries

Klay Thompson with a headband

Jun 5, 2022; San Francisco, California, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) warms up before game two of the 2022 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics at Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Klay Thompson managed to win another NBA title after returning from his injuries, but he is still not quite all the way back from them.

The Golden State Warriors star Thompson spoke with reporters this week and revealed one major obstacle that he is still facing — a mental block that kept him from playing pickup basketball all offseason.

“It was really hard for me to get out there,” said Thompson, per Anthony Slater of The Athletic. “Just mentally, it was hard. It’s hard to explain. It’s like a mental block in a way.

“I’m gonna face it one day, but this [past] season was just so taxing,” added Thompson. “Just coming back, it was hard to win a championship, then a month later, [look to] play. It was a lot. But I’ll be [back]. I look forward to playing summer basketball again [eventually].”

The context here matters. After he suffered a torn ACL during the 2019 NBA Finals against Toronto, Thompson looked poised to return for the 2020-21 campaign. However, he then tore his Achilles tendon while playing in a pickup game in Nov. 2020 and missed another whole season of action.

That rotten luck would be enough to make anybody hesitant to return to playing pickup, especially a top NBA star with tens (if not hundreds) of millions at stake. We already saw another notable player suffer a season-ending injury during a pickup game this summer. Meanwhile, Thompson, who is looking to play in his first full season since 2018-19, is still trying to overcome the mental hurdles from his own pickup mishap two years ago.

Ex-Blazers coach Terry Stotts could land on staff of top contender?

Terry Stotts coaching

Jan 20, 2020; Portland, Oregon, USA; Portland Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts watches from the sideline during the first half at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Terry Stotts took a gap year in 2021-22, but it may be time for him to return.

Veteran NBA reporter Marc Stein said this week in a post to Substack that the Boston Celtics have shown interest in the former Portland Trail Blazers coach Stotts to be the top assistant under new interim coach Joe Mazzulla. Stein does note though that the Celtics are ultimately “pessimistic” about their chances of landing Stotts.

Additionally, Stein reiterates the Celtics’ interest in another former NBA coach that they had been previously linked to.

Boston continues to search for a new assistant after Mazzulla was abruptly elevated to interim coach amid the scandal and subsequent suspension for the entire 2022-23 season of head coach Ime Udoka. At 34, Mazzulla is set to be one of the NBA’s youngest coaches and could use a veteran coach’s voice to guide him.

Stotts, meanwhile, sat out last season after spending the previous nine as head coach of Portland (leading them to two division titles and a conference finals berth in 2019). He did interview for a prominent NBA head coaching job this offseason but did not get it. With bigger-name candidates like Quin Snyder and Frank Vogel as well as an ascendant new generation of younger assistant coaches to contend with, perhaps it makes the most sense for the 64-year-old Stotts to take a job as a top assistant at this point of his career.

Ex-rival player takes shot at Giannis Antetokounmpo

Giannis Antetokounmpo wearing headphones

May 13, 2022; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) shoots during warmups prior to game six of the second round for the 2022 NBA playoffs against the Boston Celtics at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the most likable guys in the NBA to most … but not to all.

The Milwaukee Bucks star went viral for his comments this week on what he would like to do after he retires. Antetokounmpo said that he would like to enjoy a quiet retreat from the spotlight and mentioned one particular NBA player as an inspiration.

Those comments sparked a derisive response from former NBA swingman Evan Turner, who tweeted, “Buddy like attention too much for that lol.”

Turner, still only 33, retired in 2020 after 11 seasons in the NBA. He spent most of those seasons as Eastern Conference rivals with Antetokounmpo, playing for Philadelphia, Indiana, Boston, and Atlanta. Turner also later became an assistant coach for the Celtics in 2020-21, the year that Antetokounmpo and Milwaukee went on to win the NBA title.

The two-time MVP Antetokounmpo has a fun and outgoing personality, which has made him a darling of NBA fans. Perhaps that is why Turner finds it so ironic that Antetokounmpo supposedly wants to lay low after he retires.

Report: Ime Udoka used ‘crude language’ with Celtics worker

Ime Udoka looking on

Dec 25, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka looks on during the second quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

A new report published on Friday shared information about the big rule Ime Udoka violated that led to his suspension from the Boston Celtics.

Last week, we learned that Udoka was having an “improper intimate but consensual relationship” with a female staff member of the Celtics. The team suspended Udoka for the entire 2022-2023 season and named Joe Mazzulla as their interim head coach.

The Celtics hired an independent law firm to investigate the matter. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the firm’s investigation found that Udoka “used crude language in his dialogue with a female subordinate prior to the start of an improper workplace relationship with the woman.”

The use of crude language with the woman prior to their relationship apparently was a significant factor in the length of his suspension.

The power dynamic for the improper relationship was the big rule violation cited by the law firm in their report, which apparently was completed last week.

Udoka, 45, is set to receive a pay cut while he is suspended. He reportedly is unlikely to get his job as head coach of the Celtics back when his suspension ends.

A former NBA player, Udoka led the Celtics to the NBA Finals last season in his first year on the job.