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.

Kobe Bryant Shares ‘Dear Basketball’ Animated Short Film

Screen Shot 2017-12-18 at 6.30.41 PM.png
Via @statmuse

By | Hypebeast | December 18, 2017| https://hypebeast.com/2017/12/kobe-bryant-dear-basketball-video

As the Los Angeles Lakers get ready to raise Kobe Bryant‘s #8 and #24 jerseys into the rafters, a celebratory short film has dropped to honor the Black Mamba. Dubbed Dear Basketball, the film’s score calls upon the talents of Oscar Award-winning composer John Williams while its direction and animation comes from Disney’s own Glen Keane.

During the flick, you’ll hear Kobe narrate his love for basketball and how that feeling began for him. Talking directly to the game, Bryant also reflects on when he knew it was the right time to put his body to rest. You can take a look at the short-film in full on go90 and let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

In other Kobe Bryant news, check out Nike’s commemorative “Black Mamba” Air Force 1 and tees as well as Ice Cube’s tribute to Bean.

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.”

Reports: Jahlil Okafor, Nik Stauskas traded to Brooklyn for Trevor Booker


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.

NBA personnel types mixed on what future holds for Michael Porter, Jr.

Microdiscectomy surgery may affect career path for Missouri’s talented forward

By: David Aldridge TNT Analyst | Nov 27, 2017 10:49 AM ET


Michael Porter, Jr. played just two minutes for Missouri before his season was shut down.  How is Michael Porter, Jr.’s Draft status impacted by his impending back surgery?

The Missouri freshman forward, a one-and-done lock, has generally been considered one of the top two incoming players in college basketball this season (along with Duke’s Marvin Bagley III). Both are at the top of most NBA teams’ current Draft boards.

But Porter played just two minutes for the Tigers this season before being shut down for good, with the team announcing last week that the 6-foot-10 forward would have a microdiscectomy — removing some of the bone over the nerve root and disc material under the nerve root, to alleviate pain — and miss the rest of the season. As this is almost certainly his only season in college, NBA teams will have to rely solely on what they saw of Porter in high school and the AAU circuit to make Draft evaluations, assuming Porter, as expected, declares for the 2018 Draft.

NBA front-office types still view Michael Porter, Jr. as a top-flight prospect.

Backs scare NBA types. They tend to linger throughout a player’s career; once Larry Bird’s back got jacked up, it didn’t get better, no matter what treatment he tried. The same with Tracy McGrady and others who played despite the pain, year after year. The microdiscectomy, of course, is supposed to alleviate some of that pain.

The uncertainty of how much Porter has been in, how much he’ll be in and how much he’ll be able to tolerate once he’s banging in the paint or getting knocked down on drives, taking charges, etc., is what NBA scouts and executives can only guess at right now.

I asked a dozen personnel people how concerned they were with Porter, Jr.’s surgery and if it will impact where he’s picked. The responses were mixed.

“If it’s a standard microdiscectomy, it shouldn’t be much of an issue (lots of those procedures on NBA players),” one general manager said Sunday via text. “If it’s more than that, the result could be of greater impact. If he can do a few draft workouts, he should be just fine. It may play out like the (Joel) Embiid draft where Joel was affected by a couple picks (because of the foot), but not much beyond that.”

But another executive had a different view.

“No doubt it hurts him,” the exec said. “Obviously the medical evaluation will be more important and often times as we know, the agents with players at this level withhold information from most of the teams so it will be an interesting decision as to how they handle. Backs are like knees and serious foot/ankle injuries. Tough ones.”

All will be watching to see how Porter, Jr.’s rehab program is structured for clues about how soon he’ll be back.

“It depends obviously on the outcome of the procedure and level of rehab success,” another GM said. “But it would take a real problematic situation to cause a big draft slip. He should stay well inside the Top 5.”

The top of the 2018 Draft looks potentially loaded, with Bagley, Arizona big man DeAndre Ayton and European wing Luka Doncic all expected to be taken high when and if they enter the Draft. No one I spoke with believes Porter, Jr, will fall out of the top five, though his position within the top five could slide a little.

“Every team in the top 5 in the lottery will do their medical due diligence and see the potential long-term impact,” another GM texted Sunday. “They will also compare his talent upside to the other top players in the draft. His lack of body of work could either hurt or help him based on how well Doncic, Bagley, and Ayton play throughout the year.”

If there are no complications and he makes a complete recovery, the surgery will not have any bearing on his draft position for me. But, I believe it will change how other people and ownership look at it.”


Said another longtime personnel man: “he will still be a top five pick but might not go number 1 now. Almost like Embiid. If he were healthy, he would have been number 1 but with injury went 3. It depends where the gap is from top tier to next tier. If teams see 5 guys at the top he goes 5. If they see 3 guys he goes 3.”

And another: “it’ll be hard to take him #1, but unlikely he drops out of top 5 IMO.”

Another pro personnel man pointed out the injury will only make the input of higher-ups on a team even more acute.

“If there are no complications and he makes a complete recovery, the surgery will not have any bearing on his draft position for me,” the pro personnel man said. “But, I believe it will change how other people and ownership look at it.”

Porter posted a picture of an empty room on his Instagram feed Sunday, with a caption: “Just letting y’all know whoever said it was gonna take 3-4 months to recover lied” with two smiley faces afterward. (Porter neglected to inform that the original prognosis was delineated by Missouri, in its original Tweet about his impending surgery.)

Statement from :

Michael Porter, Jr. will undergo surgery on Tuesday, Nov. 21, in Dallas, Texas. The procedure, a microdiscectomy of the L3-L4 spinal discs, has a projected recovery time of three-four months and will likely cause him to miss the remainder of the season.

The immediate, fact-free speculation online Sunday night was that Porter was hinting at a possible return before the end of Missouri’s season. But no one knows for sure. That’s going to be a recurring theme when it comes to Porter and the NBA during the next seven months, before Draft night 2018.

“This will be like any other injury,” an assistant GM said. “You have to get as much information as possible and then determine if it is worth risk. However, back issues are generally more concerning than most. It’s gonna come down to information, information, & more information.”



Will a DraftExpress Lawsuit Change the World of Video Highlights?


You might not be familiar with DeAndre Daniels. The Toronto Raptors selected him with the No. 37 pick in the 2014 NBA draft. Now 25 years old, the 6’9″ forward has yet to appear in an NBA regular–season game. He has played professionally in Australia and Italy and most recently played stateside for the G League Erie BayHawks.

The odds of you knowing about Daniels are certainly higher if you are a Raptors fan or a UConn fan—he played a key role in the Huskies winning a national title in 2014. And if you follow high school basketball and college recruiting, Daniels’s name is likely to ring a bell. He was a five-star recruit out of Taft High School in Woodlands, California, and also played post-graduate ball at the IMG Academy.

There’s another group of basketball fans who when they hear the name “DeAndre Daniels” think, “I remember that guy.”

That group would be NBA draft fanatics.

Back in 2014, those who love to consume all things NBA draft likely came across scouting reports and video analysis of Daniels. In doing so they probably encountered a DraftExpress.com profile centered on Daniels. The profile, which is accessible for free and doesn’t require any kind of registration, includes an 875-word scouting report co-authored by Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz. The profile assesses how well Daniels projects to play in the NBA. It also includes a 12-minute, 24-second video that blends a series of short highlights of Daniels playing at UConn with graphics discussing Daniels’s strengths and weaknesses.

The DraftExpress profile on Daniels is now the subject of a federal lawsuit. And it is a lawsuit that could impact how websites show video clips of athletes.

Getty Images Sport


Wazee Digital, a technology company that licenses video footage for the NCAA, has sued DraftExpress and its founder and owner, Givony, for copyright infringement. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York back in April, highlights the DraftExpress profile on Daniels to assert that DraftExpress has knowingly—and without Wazee’s consent—used video content that Wazee had registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Wazee stresses that it derives “a substantial revenue stream from licensing game footage to various entities and media outlets, who create game highlights or other video montages and rebroadcast those videos on television and on the Internet.” DraftExpress, Wazee reasons, ought to pay for this content as well.

Benefiting Wazee is that courts have held that copyright law protects sports broadcasts. This dynamic ensures that the NCAA, as well as professional sports leagues, can earn substantial revenue from licensing rights to broadcast games.

Yet copyright protection in a broadcast does not, by itself, prevent DraftExpress from legally using portions of the content. To that end, DraftExpress asserts that its use of copyrighted broadcasts is through “fair use.” Generally speaking, the legal doctrine of fair use permits copying of protected material for certain uses. When fair use applies, the copying party need not obtain permission or submit payment to the party in possession of the copyright.

Although fair use analysis is somewhat subjective, federal law and the U.S Supreme Court have identified five basic factors. None of these five factors are necessarily more influential than the other and they are usually balanced against each another.

The first factor is the purpose of the copying. When the intent is for news reporting and sharing of information, fair use is more likely to apply. However, copying motivated by pursuit of money is less likely to gain protection. On one hand, DraftExpress can convincingly argue that its content is newsworthy and informative. Profiles of draft-eligible players educate NBA draft fans, journalists and others about those players. Accompanying video analysis only further informs readers. DraftExpress can also stress that its website offers such content for free. On the other hand, DraftExpress, like most sports websites, profits from advertisements, including pre-roll advertisements that run before videos. DraftExpress has seemingly secured a sizable audience to watch those advertisements given that ESPN recently paid for the right to publish future DraftExpress content.

The second factor is the nature of the original work. In this instance, the original work consists of videos copyrighted by Wazee. The more creative the original work, the more protection it tends to gain. In contrast, the more factual the original work, the less protection applies. The underlying logic is that creative content ought to receive significant protection in order to properly incentivize inventiveness—if creative individuals knew that their work could be easily copied, they might become less likely to invest their time, energy and money into developing those works. Conversely, works derived from facts and events are less original and less deserving of protection. Video of a basketball game requires some degree of creativity since it reflects broadcast design choices as well as studio direction. At the same time, video of a basketball game is factual in nature: it depicts a live sporting event that is controlled by the athletes, coaches and referees—not the broadcasters.

The third factor is the extent and substantiality of copying. A person who engages in unauthorized copying is more likely to gain protection under fair use if the amount of copying is relatively minimal. DraftExpress stresses that its video of Daniels consists of only 66 seconds of copyrighted video from game broadcasts that are several hours long. The substantiality aspect of the copying refers whether the material copied is critical to the original work. It seems unlikely that short clips of Daniels performing various moves on the court would be considered the “heart” of any original broadcast.

Fourth is how the relevant copying impacts the marketplace. Wazee contends that DraftExpress has caused the company to lose licensing fees that it believes DraftExpress owes. If DraftExpress can use such video without paying, DraftExpress is arguably diluting the value of Wazee’s broadcast licenses. After all, such a practice could encourage other websites to copy Wazee’s broadcasts without permission or pay. On the other hand, DraftExpress can assert that the relatively small amount of copying of Daniels and other players does not impact Wazee’s ability to license broadcasts of the entire games. Stated differently, DraftExpress featuring video highlights arguably doesn’t implicate the marketplace of selling entire game broadcasts.

Finally, the fifth factor is whether the “derivative work” (i.e., DraftExpress scouting videos) is sufficiently transformative from the original work. The U.S. Supreme Court has recognized so-called “transformative use.” The basic idea is that the derivative work uses the original work in such a distinct way that it becomes “transformed” into a different kind of work. DraftExpress’ legal filings suggest the company is confident it will prevail based on the transformative factor. In one filing, attorneys from DraftExpress’ law firm, Miller Barondess, detail how DraftExpress’ video of Daniels incorporates DraftExpress’s own original analysis and graphics:

[O]riginal graphics are followed by roughly 30-second-long clips, each illustrating one of Daniels’ strengths in actual gameplay situations. After assessing Daniels’ strengths, the Video Breakdown follows the same format to dissect and analyze his weaknesses (strengths begin at 28 seconds); (weaknesses begin at 6:01).

DraftExpress’ analysis of Daniels’ “Physical Tools” is illustrative. The “Physical Tools” segment begins 43 seconds into the video. An introductory graphic provides an overview of Daniels’ “Physical Tools,” which include “[e]xcellent size and length.”

Expect attorneys for Wazee, who have retained Adam Hirsch of Kutak Rock, to counter these points by insisting that graphic overlays and similar adjustments do not alter the underlying — and copyrighted — video of Daniels playing at UConn.

Like any lawsuit, Wazee v. DraftExpress could settle at any time. But if it proceeds toward a trial, its outcome would be important to anyone who posts highlight videos online and earns money by doing so. This is true for those who have monetized their YouTube accounts.

By: Michael McCann, November 27, 2017 | https://www.si.com/nba/2017/11/27/draftexpress-video-deandre-daniels-lawsuit-wazee-nba-draftLink to video conversation regarding the legal aspects at play here.


McCann, SI’s legal analyst, provides legal and business analysis for The Crossover. He is also the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the University of New Hampshire School of Law and co-author with Ed O’Bannon of the forthcoming book Court Justice: The Inside Story of My Battle Against the NCAA.

76ers’ Jahlil Okafor remains hopeful for quick resolution

iI had the pleasure of watching this kid for two seasons as he excelled at Whitney Young High School here in Chicago.  Jahlil Okafor is a winner, a rare talent, and he has exhibited great patience as career in the NBA has stalled in the hands of Philadelphia 76ers front office. The recognitions speak for themselves.

  • Chicago Sun-Times Basketball Player of the Year as a junior.
  • Illinois Class 4A State Champion as a senior.
  • 2014 Mr. Illinois Basketball
  • McDonald’s High School All-American (Co-MVP)
  • Jordan Brand Classic All-American (Co-MVP)
  • 2015 ACC Player of the Year (Duke)
  • 2015 United States Basketball Writers Association Freshman of the Year
  • 2015 Consensus 1st Team All-American
  • 2015 NCAA Champion (Duke)
  • 2016 NBA All-Rookie 1st Team

This is all before dropping 20lbs and regaining full health after undergoing knee surgery at the end of the last NBA season.  His resilience has helped him overcome the passing of his mother and I really hope his determination never wavers.  The potential is undeniable.  Here is a web article featuring his story about overcoming tragedy and below is a new ESPN article by Adrian Wojnarowski regarding the conundrum in Philly. As a resident Chicagoan, avid Duke fan, and proponent for deserved opportunity, I am surely rooting for this kid and I believe his future is bright!


Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor‘s strange story drags on, but nothing changes. Sixers general manager Bryan Colangelo makes rounds upon rounds of futile trade calls. Out of respect, coach Brett Brown refuses to insert Okafor into the garbage minutes of blowouts.

Time passes and Okafor waits.

He isn’t a part of the franchise’s present, nor its future. He was the third overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft and a member of the first-team All-NBA Rookie team, but that’s disappeared into the distance. The Sixers are undergoing a franchise renaissance, armed with young superstars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.

As for Okafor, he has been cast aside, a casualty of a process that has moved on without him.

“I would like for them to just send me somewhere where I can get an opportunity,” Okafor told ESPN. “I’ve done everything they’ve asked of me and I would just like to get an opportunity to play with a trade or a buyout. I just hope something happens quickly.

“This is my third year in the NBA, and I know it’s a business. I don’t know if it’s fair or not, but in talking to other people in the NBA, talking to retired players, one thing I’ve heard them say is that what’s going on with me isn’t right and they’ve never seen anything like this before.

“I know it’s business, but in my eyes, I don’t know if it’s good business.”

There are legitimate reasons why Colangelo hasn’t found a trade for Okafor. A year ago, those centered on questions about Okafor’s durability and knee surgery to end the 2015-16 season. This season, Okafor returned 20 pounds lighter, fitter and far more deft on his feet.

Colangelo’s asking price has steadily dropped for Okafor, from two first-round picks to a first and a solid player to where it stands now, a second-round pick, league sources said. As for the politics of giving up on the No. 3 overall pick, remember: Colangelo didn’t select Okafor over Kristaps Porzingis in the 2015 draft — his predecessor, Sam Hinkie, did.

“We appreciate the effort that [Okafor] has put forth, and other than a little frustration expressed recently, he’s been patient waiting for an opportunity to play,” Colangelo told ESPN. “I continue to explore opportunities with both Jahlil and [agent] Bill Duffy to find a more suitable spot for him.”

Colangelo resisted any trade proposal that cut into the Sixers’ $15.1 million in salary-cap space prior to Nov. 15, because he planned to use that as part of his contract extension and renegotiation offer to forward Robert Covington. That limited the Sixers to trades that would bring back only the equivalent of Okafor’s $5 million salary, or less.

Once Covington agreed to his deal, the declining of Okafor’s $6.2 million fourth-year contract option for the 2018-19 season further compromised the Sixers’ ability to trade him.

USA Today explores D. Wade’s “World of Wade” Brand by Li Ning

Dwyane Wade has quietly built the most eclectic brand in sports by going his own way

NEW YORK — Dwyane Wade insists this wasn’t all planned. He’s sitting across the table from a display of his wares, the eclectic mix of ties, basketball shoes, socks and leisure wear that he’s created and imprinted as part of his brand. He’s wearing a tailored suit with a bold collar bar that sets everything off. He’s already taken the photo that he’ll later post to Twitter — but not Instagram.

This wasn’t all planned, the 35-year-old says. And how could it be?

But, how couldn’t it be?

The Chicago Bulls guard is sitting in the offices of Rubenstein, the famed New York public relations firm. Wade is the only athlete represented by the firm. He might tell you he didn’t know that, and it might be true.

Wade was the first NBA player to sign with Stance, probably the first ever to sign a sock deal separate from his shoe deal. Not the last. Stance hadn’t even begun to negotiate with the NBA at the time, but it now outfits all 30 teams with their on-court socks. Wade still has his own line with the company. Dress socks, not basketball socks.

They match his ties. That deal is with Tie Bar, where he’s the only athlete with his own line. He’s the only NBA player partnered with Mission apparel, where he is listed second on the brand’s athletes page — behind only a fellow equity partner, the iconic Serena Williams. And the shoes? Those are Li-Ning, the Chinese company that gave Wade enough money and freedom that he left Nike’s Jordan Brand imprint. Ten NBA players wore Li-Ning last season, and seven of them wore Wade’s signature shoes. He also created a capsule collection with designer brand Dsquared2.


These things weren’t all planned, exactly. Wade wasn’t setting out trying to create a fashion empire, the one that now has been brought together in a partnership with Amazon Fashion. He’s the first athlete to partner with Amazon Fashion in this way, of course. Exclusivity is part of the Wade brand. He’s eschewed many of the normal channels to create a diverse portfolio, emphasizing partnerships over traditional endorsements.

“What you’re trying to do is set up a brand that is lifelong, like Michael Jordan,” Wade says. “Eight years ago — around when I turned 27— I started thinking different. It was crazy because I was right at the height of my career. That’s the prime, that’s it. But at that moment, I started thinking differently. I started thinking about life after. I started thinking about what moves I can make, what positions can I put myself in to give myself an opportunity.”


Eight years ago was 2009. Wade had led the NBA in scoring, averaging 30.2 points, 7.5 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 1.3 blocks a game in the best individual season of his career. He also was a year removed from the 2008 Summer Olympics, when he and close friend LeBron James began discussing the partnership that would rock the NBA world in 2010.

This wasn’t all planned, no, but Wade can’t deny the synergy. If he hadn’t won a championship in his third NBA season, would he have been willing to ride shotgun in his eighth? If he hadn’t brought James to Miami, would he have two more rings? If he hadn’t won those three rings, would a respected brand let him design a “Camo Conspiracy” tie?

“Everything has to work perfectly for things to work out,” Wade says. “For me, getting drafted to Miami, a sexy — even though it’s not the biggest — market, everyone knows Miami. Then I’m playing with (Shaquille O’Neal), one of the biggest entrepreneurs and personalities, really has his DNA in everything he’s doing, who I learned from. Everything worked perfectly. It’s all part of the journey.”

So it couldn’t have been planned, not exactly. But Wade took risks — like the chance of losing his “cool factor,” by joining Li-Ning, he says —and positioned himself with these companies in a way that gives him the unique ability to express himself. He’s important to Mission’s “athleisure” brand in a way that he couldn’t be with Nike, important to Stance in a way that he wouldn’t be if he were just joining.

“Dwyane Wade could not be a better partner,” a Stance spokesman wrote in an email statement to For The Win. “No matter the need — an idea, a meeting, a social post, a photoshoot, etc — he can always be counted on, and all of that hard work has played a significant role in Stance’s growth over the past few years.”


Wade has set himself up for a future that seems to be coming quickly, one where he’s simply not an NBA superstar anymore. He was not selected for the All-Star Game for the first time since his rookie year last season. He is aware that he’s moving closer to retirement than his prime.

Moving his family — Wade’s wife is the accomplished actress Gabrielle Union, and he has three sons and custody of a nephew— back to his hometown of Chicago to show them his roots is all part of this plan. Yet it couldn’t be planned because he never intended to leave the Heat. Family is crucial to Wade, who wrote a book about fatherhood not long after getting custody of his oldest two sons. It’s as much a part of his brand as the Way of Wade sneakers. But the synergy finds its way into those worlds, too — and not simply in how he uses his nephew as a measuring stick for his latest sneaker patterns.

“I’m very open with my kids,” Wade says. “I sat down with my son. My son loves basketball, and he could play basketball, and hopefully for him, his goal and dream becomes a reality and he becomes a basketball player in the NBA. But the thing I told him was, I’m building a brand. And I’m building a Wade brand. So in a sense, I’m building this for you. In a sense, if that day comes in five years, and we’re having that conversation, I already went through all the tough stuff. I’m building it for you to take over. You won’t have to come into it new like the Balls are doing. I’ve already went through 10 years of the bullcrap. So I let him know, I will sign you to a shoe contract if you’re good enough.”


On the court, Wade is entering a pivotal season. He opted into the second year of his two-year, $47 million contract despite knowing the Bulls were going through a rebuilding phase. He’ll likely be the only player over 30 on the team, and he may even be waived before the season ends, allowing him to possibly rejoin James with the Cleveland Cavaliers. After that, who knows?

Perhaps that’s why he’s chosen to enjoy himself now. He and Union have shown the world their beautiful vacations through social media. He’s cracked wise at former teammates, shut down Twitter trolls and embraced the idea of mentoring the Bulls’ youth. Moments like announcing a partnership with Amazon Fashion feel like a victory lap in the middle of an unfinished race.

“Thumbs up — 27-year-old me would give two thumbs up to 35-year-old me,” Wade says. “You took some risks, you did some things that were unpopular at the time. And maybe in five years, I’ll give it even bigger thumbs up, but I’m definitely happy with me doing it the way I’m going to do it. I got out of line a little bit, and I’m happy with it because it’s me.”

By:  | USA Today | Sports | For the Win | http://ftw.usatoday.com/2017/07/dwyane-wade-amazon-fashion-li-ning-shoes-way-of-wade-6-stance-socks-tie-bar-mission | July 12, 2017 1:46 pm