Mike James, Two-Way Contract Success Story, Summarily Waived By Suns

Photo credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Mike James was waived by the Suns Saturday, as the team prepares to reactivate Devin Booker following his recovery from a groin injury. This is an excruciatingly tough break for a guy who just two weeks ago celebrated becoming the first player in NBA history to convert one of the association’s new two-way development contracts into a standard contract.

Two-way contracts are a way for NBA teams to expand their overall pool of talent and have more roster flexibility, while providing more opportunities for fringe or developing players to stay stateside and provide value to parent teams. Their advent, in the latest collective bargaining agreement, allows NBA teams to sign up to two players per season to contracts that secure them as prospects within an organization’s developmental pipeline, and grants those players up to 45 days of eligibility with the organization’s NBA team. If a player hits that threshold, he can still stick with the organization in the development league, but in order to play again with the big club that season he must be signed to a standard contract.

Mike James hit his threshold back on December 7, having spent the bulk of the early season not only as a member of the Suns, but playing an increasing nightly load of rotation minutes, and eventually starting 10 games. James is tiny, and 27 years old, and is understandably no organization’s first choice for a future building block. But he is for sure an NBA player, and the circumstances of his exit blow, big time: Booker and Davon Reed went down with injuries, and the Suns brought in journeyman—but comparatively bonafide NBA player—Isaiah Canaan to play some of those guard minutes; Canaan played all of four games for the Suns, but now that the time has come to bring back Reed and Booker, and therefore to free up the roster spot temporarily taken by Canaan, the Suns decided to dump James and keep the new guy. The shitty truth is, it is possible to be the best bargain and the best two-way contract player in the whole world of professional basketball, and also the least valuable player on the roster of a crappy NBA bottom-feeder.

The lopsidedness of that transaction is just brutal: James has spent his adult life battling uphill to even sniff an NBA roster; finally, two-way contracts gave him the break he needed to get some actual, by-God NBA exposure; an injury to Brandon Knight and the trade of Eric Bledsoe cleared the way for a little burn; James made the most of that playing time, and the exhaustion of his allotted pro time put him in line for that elusive NBA contract. He was simply too valuable, two weeks ago, for the team to foreclose on any future NBA playing time. But that works out to have been something of a curse, too: because his standard contract tied him to a Suns roster spot, when they needed to free one up for the return of more established guys, he got axed for friggin’ Isaiah Canaan. Now, instead of being a plucky developmental guy on a dirt-cheap contract, he’s completely jobless. He is both the first two-way contract success story, and the first two-way contract cautionary tale, as the unintended consequences of a brand new roster mechanism work their way into the light.

Here, let’s enjoy a couple minutes of Mike James slicing and dicing his way to 26 points against the Timberwolves, last month:

Ex-wife of NBA player Lorenzen Wright charged in his 2010 slaying

(CNN) — In Memphis, Lorenzen Wright was a favorite son. He grew up there and was a star basketball player in high school and at the University of Memphis.

At 6-foot-11, he was a first-round pick in the NBA draft and played 13 seasons in the league, including a stint with the Memphis Grizzlies.
But Wright’s retirement ended in a shocking, violent manner.  His bullet-ridden body was found in a swampy field outside Memphis in July 2010. He was 34 and had been out of basketball a year.
The city mourned, and thousands attended a memorial service in the FedEx Forum, where the Grizzlies play. But police could not figure out who killed him. Years went by.
The Lorenzen Wright slaying became Memphis’ most famous cold case.

Two arrests made

On Saturday, Memphis Police Director Mike Rallings announced two indictments in the case.
Sherra Wright-Robinson and Billy Turner.

 Sherra Wright-Robinson and Billy Turner.
Wright’s ex-wife, Sherra Wright-Robinson, 46, was taken into custody in Riverside, California, and charged with conspiring with a Memphis-area man to kill her former husband. She was indicted on charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder.
Billy Turner, also 46, of the Memphis suburb of Collierville, was arrested December 5 and charged with the same offenses, Rallings said. CNN affiliate WREG reported that Turner pleaded not guilty on Tuesday. He remains in the Shelby County Jail on $1 million bond.
Rallings didn’t say exactly what led police to make the arrests and didn’t provide a motive for the killing. He said more people may be charged.
When asked about the relationship between the suspects, Rallings said, “It’s safe to say they knew each other.”
CNN could not immediately reach lawyers for the two suspects for comment.

Gunfire on 911 call

Wright, who had a home in Atlanta, was last seen at his former wife’s home in Collierville, near Memphis, shortly before midnight on July 18, 2010, investigators said. He was visiting his children.
A 911 call was placed from his phone in the early hours of July 19, but the call was interrupted by gunfire, police said. The 911 center in Germantown, a Memphis suburb, fielded the call and didn’t share the information with Memphis police for days.
His mother reported Wright missing July 22. When Memphis police finally got the 911 call and determined which cell tower transmitted the call, they were able to locate the body on July 28 in a field near Hacks Cross Road and Winchester Road, about 24 miles east of the middle of Memphis.
By then, the body had badly decomposed under the sun and rain. Wright was so famous in the city that hundreds of Wright’s fans rushed to the spot where the body was found.
Case of ex-NBA star's death goes cold

Gun found in a lake

Major Darren Goods of the city’s Multi-Agency Gang Unit, who helped lead the investigation, said a major break came this fall when investigators got a tip about a lake near Walnut, Mississippi. The renewed investigation was dubbed Operation Rebound.
“In basketball when you get a rebound, that gives you a second chance,” he said. “This would give us a second chance to bring some closure to this case and give this grieving family some relief.”
The lake had previously been searched, but this time the unit asked for help from an FBI dive team, which found a pistol on November 9, he said. That pistol was examined in the crime lab and determined to be one of the weapons used to shoot Wright, he said.
In a news release, police said Carter and Sherra Wright-Robinson had also tried to kill Wright between April 1 and July 17 at Wright’s home outside Atlanta. They recruited another, unidentified co-conspirator, the news release said.
Wright was a forward/center for several teams during his professional basketball career. He played with the Los Angeles Clippers, Atlanta Hawks, Memphis Grizzlies and Sacramento Kings before finishing his NBA career in 2008-2009 with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Wright, who had six children, completed his degree at the University of Memphis in 2003, according to the NBA’s website.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to miss 3 road games as part of plea deal

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said he will not be able to play in three Los Angeles Lakers‘ road games outside the state of California in the next few weeks due to a modified 25-day restriction stemming from a plea agreement he reached on a misdemeanor offense while a player for the Detroit Pistons.

If the Lakers guard complies with this new restriction, he is slated to miss the Lakers’ games at Houston on Dec. 20, at Houston again on Dec. 31 and at Minnesota on Jan. 1. The only other Lakers’ road game during the 25-day restriction — which was given to Caldwell-Pope following a court appearance in Michigan this past week — is at Golden State on Dec. 22. Caldwell-Pope will be able to play in that game since he will not be leaving the state.

Caldwell-Pope already has missed one road game due to the restrictionand was not with the team for the Lakers’ 121-112 loss at Cleveland on Thursday.

“With the court situation, we came up with the agreement that I still get to carry on with my season but only in the state of California for the 25-day restriction that I have,” Caldwell-Pope said after practice on Saturday. “I was blessed that I am able to continue to play ball.”

Caldwell-Pope was originally cited for operating a vehicle while intoxicated but pleaded guilty in May to the lesser charge of allowing someone to operate his vehicle while under the influence, which carried a 12-month probation. Caldwell-Pope left the Lakers following a game in New York last Tuesday to Michigan, where he learned he had to return to California and miss Thursday’s game in Cleveland to start an intensive program over the next 25 days with the intention of ending his probation early.

“It helps,” Caldwell-Pope said of 25-day restriction allowing him to continue to play basketball. “With the court situation, we came up with the agreement that I still get to carry on with my season but only in the state of California for the 25-day restriction that I have. I was blessed that I am able to continue to play ball.”

“It was always a possibility that I would continue to play,” the guard added. “I just had agreed to some restrictions in order for me to continue to play.”

“As a result of his professional basketball work schedule, the court has modified the sentence and released him from probation early so long as he completes an intensive program over the next 25 days. There will be some travel restrictions, but we are pleased that Kentavious will now continue with his NBA season and move forward in a positive manner from this experience.”

Caldwell-Pope, who signed a one-year, $18-million contract with the Lakers as a free agent, is averaging 14.2 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.8 steals while shooting 36.1% from 3-point range. The Lakers have leaned on Caldwell-Pope, 24, to provide veteran leadership, turn the Lakers’ defense around and at times be the team’s closer in close games.

“He is one of those guys that hits big shots for us and when you are on the road you can stall out a little bit like we have a tendency to do from time to time and he is somebody that can get it going and hit two or three straight jumpers or make a big play on defense or get a steal for us,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “There are things from both ends of the floor that we will miss from him. But it was nice having him back with us today in practice.”

On Saturday, the Lakers released a statement saying the team is “abiding by the terms of a program for Kentavious that were established for him by a court in the state of Michigan.”

Caldwell-Pope was suspended under the NBA’s personal conduct policy for the Lakers’ first two games of the season. The Lakers started rookie guard Josh Hart in place of Caldwell-Pope in Cleveland and Hart responded with a career-high 11 points and 10 rebounds in his first start.

“It has been very disappointing to me as well, as far as my teammates, I feel like I let them down as well, my coaches, the organization,” Caldwell-Pope said. “I just have to deal with this legal situation that came with it.”

NBA Agent Andy Miller relinquishes NBPA certification amid FBI probe

Adrian Wojnarowski | ESPN | 12/6/2018 11:24 AM CT


Andy Miller, one of the NBA’s most prominent player agents, has relinquished his National Basketball Players Association certification and will no longer represent players in contract negotiations, according to a union memo distributed on Wednesday.

Miller, who was representing dozens of NBA players including Kyle LowryKristaps Porzingis and Serge Ibaka, is considered to be part of the FBI’s probe into college basketball.

Miller is the president and founder of ASM Sports, and many of his former clients are expected to remain with other agents in the company, sources said. None of the company’s most prominent clients left in the wake of the FBI probe, which included the arrest of an ex-employee, Christian Dawkins, in September.

Miller, based in New Jersey, had represented several longtime All-Star players, including Chauncey Billups and Kevin Garnett.

Pitino sues University of Louisville Athletic Association

12487027-mmmainQuite frankly, I don’t understand how Rick Pitino can summon the gall to sue an institution that has supported him throughout all of his controversy at Louisville.  Although there is only one record of NCAA misconduct prior to his stint at with the Cardinals, it served as a foreshadow of the infamy to come.

In the 70’s, he served as both an assistant and interim head coach for the University of Hawaii.  While there, the program was hit by NCAA sanctions, with Pitino implicated in eight of the 64 violations.  The violations involving Pitino included giving plane tickets to a player, arranging for athletes to get used cars and giving out coupons for free food at McDonald’s.

Ironically, he would take the reigns of a troubled program at the University of Kentucky, which was facing NCAA sanctions prior to his arrival.

“This program is as rich in tradition as there is in all of basketball, but you’ve been brought to your knees with a tremendous scandal.” – Rick Pitino. 

He left Kentucky with a national championship, would go on to coach in the NBA, and then return to the college ranks at Louisville, where his third, and latest strike cost him his job and maybe his legacy.

Strike one: In 2009, he confessed that he had an affair with the wife of the team’s equipment manager and paid for her to have an abortion.  The woman, Karen Sypher, was later convicted of trying to extort Pitino for millions of dollars.  C’mon man.

Strike two: In 2015, Andre McGee, a former director of basketball operations was found to have provided strippers and prostitutes to players and recruits in a campus dormitory over several years.  The school declared itself ineligible for postseason play in 2016, and the NCAA suspended Pitino for the first five games of the coming season.

The scandal was heavily reported by ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” and YahooSports.  The allegations are detailed in a book entitled “Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen,” co-written by Katina Powell, who told ESPN she provided women for Louisville recruits in exchange for a total of $10,000 in payments.

Powell essentially served as a madam and in her book detailed about 21 recruiting “parties” with strippers and sex from 2010-2014 inside Billy Minardi Hall, an on-campus Louisville dorm for athletes and other students named for the late brother-in-law of Louisville coach Rick Pitino.  Powell gives an extensive interview with ESPN for its story and supplied information such as text messages and phone records.  One former Louisville recruit who is attending another school told ESPN:

I knew they weren’t college girls. It was crazy. It was like I was in a strip club.

Another player told ESPN that McGee…

would give us the money, just the recruits. A bunch of us were sitting there while they danced. Then the players left, and the recruits chose which one (of the dancers) they wanted.”

His lawyer, Scott Tompsett, planned an appeal of Pitino’s suspension because he said the ruling did not “identify a single specific thing that Coach Pitino should have done that he wasn’t already doing that would have either prevented or detected the illicit activities.”  Pitino has denied knowledge of the matter, to which Powell told ESPN, “How could he not know?”

Strike three: The latest scandal serves as the straw that broke the camel’s back.  In a federal complaint that I’ve previously posted, Louisville is alleged to have paid $100,000 to star recruit Brian Bowen.  That money was funneled from Adidas through Louisville in order to lure his commitment.  At the time he was recruited, Pitino told News Radio 840: “We got lucky on this one.  I had an A.A.U. director call me and ask me if I’d be interested in a player.  I said, ‘Yeah, I’d be really interested.’  In my 40 years of coaching, this is the luckiest I’ve been.”  Now, Bowen’s collegiate career, and Pitino’s coaching career are left in limbo.

Rick Pitino should use his absence from the basketball to re-evaluate his values, his purported lack of awareness, and what it means to be a leader.  He has been quick to point the finger of blame at everyone but himself.  In my opinion, even if he didn’t take part in either of the last two scandals, I attribute the consequences to blatant negligence.  How could this type of conduct continue under his nose?  Either he turned a blind eye to any instances of wrongdoing, or he elected to allow HIS team to be run behind closed doors by THEIR own devices, and not his.  That is not leadership.

ESPN reported the details of Pitino’s suit against his former employer, which made him the highest-paid coach in basketball at more than $7 million a year.