Mark Madsen's Blog

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Billy Hunter, Union leader, NBA, new nba ball, New York Times, David Stern
few days ago that our Union leader Billy filed a legal action with the NBA over the new nba ball and i wanted to see if there was any update. Billy has done an excellent job of getting the feedback from pretty much every single NBA player in the NBA about this issue. Photo:
The New NBA Ball Update: Today is honestly one of the happiest days of this NBA season for me. As I was sitting here at my house, not able to sleep because I’m on the late night NBA shedule, (we fly in places in the AM and our games go late into the evening and after getting so wound up for games it’s tough to sleep) I typed in “Billy Hunter” into the Google search engine. It was a few days ago that our Union leader Billy filed a legal action with the NBA over the new nba ball and i wanted to see if there was any update. Billy has done an excellent job of getting the feedback from pretty much every single NBA player in the NBA about this issue, so it’s safe to say that this legal action was almost unanimous.

Well, Google spit out an article from the New York Times where David Stern was quoted as saying: “I won’t make a spirited defense with respect to the ball,” Stern said. “In hindsight, we could have done a better job. I take responsibility for that.” He also added that everything was “under review” and that he was really listening to what the players had to say.

A lot of people might look at the NBA Players Union and say “Why are they complaining so much about a ball?” and “Why did they file a grievance in a court of law over a ball?” The reason is simple. This is not only a game that we love to play but it is our employment. When I compare the old ball to the new ball, it is like comparing Windows XP to the software used on a Commodore 64 over eighteen years ago. If an accountant at Deloitte was given software that did not perform well or was archaic, that accountant would be stupid not to bring it to the attention of the IT department. In essence, that is what we are doing as a union.

I knew all along that David Stern would listen carefully to the feedback of the players. I’ve said it here on this blog before and I’ll say it again: When I first joined the NBA, David Stern gave out his email address to every Rookie at our initiation training and he invited us to email him at any time. I’ve emailed him maybe five times in my career about various things and he has responded every time.

I think what happened was this: Spalding came out w/ a new technology for a synthetic ball. I truly believe that in the Laboratory the synthetic ball tests came back very positive because the NBA would have never switched balls unless there was some sort of empirical data. The problem is that the laboratory cannot produce game like conditions of sweaty palms, etc. A lot of guys have been complaining lately that the New synthetic NBA ball is cutting up their fingertips. Today Trenton Hassell told me that in our locker room. I guess last week Steve Nash was wearing bandages on his fingers from cuts caused by the new ball.

I have huge hands and I can barely palm the new ball when it’s been broken in. When it’s wet there is no chance of me being able to palm it well. The old ball, I could palm with ease and swing it around with one hand. Most big guys in the NBA say that they can’t palm it like the old ball. Mark Blount and Kevin Garnett have pretty much told me the same thing in that it’s just much harder to control with one hand. Even though we don’t dribble the ball as much as guards, we have to go up more inside with one hand and need the control of the leather ball.

Most guards say that the ball doesn’t bounce right or doesn’t go off the backboard right. Dwayne Wade went as far as speaking out in the Miami Sun-Sentinel:

“My bank shot is no longer existent,” said Wade, who feels the ball sticks against the backboard. “My game-winning shots, I’m telling you, it’s past. But it’s an adjustment we’ve got to keep trying to make.”

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Russian spy, Dallas, Mark Cuban, Ivanka, Donald Trump,
Mark Cuban is an American businessman, investor, and owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks,Landmark Theatres, and Magnolia Pictures. Photo:
Some of the conversations on the team bus are pretty interesting. On our recent trip to Dallas, while we pulled into the American Airlines arena, I was pretty interested by the topics. The first topic was the former Russian spy who died from plutonium 200 poisoning in London. The next topic was a bit more out of People magazine.

You see, when you get 15 athletes on the road physically exerting ourselves at away games and away practices we get really tired. So when we get to the hotel we flop down on the bed and watch a little TV to unwind. So we all become current event junkies.

So after the Russian spy situation was analyzed, the conversation turned to a recent interview by Donald Trump. I must say that I have come to LOVE the interviews that Donald Trump gives. In the last two years, I’ve seen two different interviews with Trump on Larry King live–Trump is a great personality and a brilliant business person. Forget the Real Estate business Donald, you should be an entertainer! I used to be totally indifferent to Donald Trump but now I love listening to him because everything he says is so full of conviction and so opinionated.

So going over on the bus to the Dallas game, it was KG, Ricky Davis, Trenton, Troy Hudson and me in the back. The guys were re-hashing the Trump interview. Here’s what they were saying on the bus. Apparently Trump said a few things of interest including the following:

1) Mark Cuban (Dallas mavericks owner and founder of many companies) is not a “real billionaire.” But somehow I guess Trump later recanted this statement or said he was mis-quoted. [After all, it is tough to argue with Forbes magazine]

2) His daughter Ivanka (Currently single) who is a model turned Wharton School of Finance graduate (top MBA school in the world) “should date a winner” according to her father. Maybe someone who is a professional athlete like Tom Brady. (New England Patriots quarterback). [I have to admit, I feel like I know the entire Trump family from the various interviews that I’ve seen on late night TV over the years!]

It’s cool to sit there are hear KG talking about what Donald Trump said on TV or what Trenton has learned about the British-Soviet connection in the Spy’s death. Of course within the world of the NBA when someone from the outside world goes at one of our own, (We consider Mark Cuban one of our own), we always stick with our guy and even though I love Donald Trump, Mark Cuban is well-loved in the NBA fraternity and he’s our guy. Once Trump buys the New York Knicks he’ll be on par with Cuban within the circles of NBA players.

We almost won the Dallas game that night. Once again, we saw Randy Foye come inches away from leading us to the promised land in the 4th quarter. After the we lost the game by a few points and we were crossing the court to go to the tunnel Mark Cuban came up to me and said “Hey, come to my blog anytime and post another comment!”

I had posted a comment on one of his posts about the new NBA ball a few weeks ago.

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Sam Cassell, Clippers, Dwayne Wade, Fred Hoiberg, Kevin Garnett, Minnesota, Randy Foye
Sam Cassell is anAmerican professional basketball player. He one of the best players this game has ever seen. Photo:
In warmups before the game Sammy told me I needed a haircut. I told him I would get him a bottle of Rogaine for his bald head. We both had a good laugh out of it. Sam Cassell is one of my all-time favorite teammates. At halftime of tonight’s game against the Clippers, he walked by Trenton Hassell and I, grinned and said, “I’m hot fellas.” As if his 20 first half points wasn’t evidence enough. Sam Cassell almost put the Clippers on his back and beat us at the Target Center last night. Luckily for us, Randy Foye rose to the ocasion and saved us in the fourth quarter.

I wanted to talk about Sam for a second though because not only is he one of the best players this game has ever seen, but he rubs off on his teammates. From a basketball standpoint, Sam has the ability to raise his teammates’ scoring averages by big jumps. He just makes everyone around him better. When Sam was here in Minnesota, Fred Hoiberg had a great year, Sprewell was at the top of his game and Kevin Garnett was the MVP of the entire NBA. It was almost like our entire team all had career years. Now he is doing the same thing with the Clippers. Sam has such a huge personality, I think the fans loved watching Sam interact with the refs almost as much as watching the game. When we lost Sam we lost not only a great floor leader but we lost a good friend.

I was sad to see him go. I’m not sure Sam could have done anything more to help the Clippers win tonight. But despite his 31 point night, we got a huge lift from an up and coming future star in Randy Foye.

Randy has been patiently awaiting his opportunity to perform in the clutch. Tonight we caught a glimpse of a player who can shoulder some of the load that Kevin Garnett takes on a nightly basis. Randy is built like a tank and his much stronger than most guards in the NBA but is still quicker than most guards too. Randy reminds me of a lot of what I see in Chauncy Billups and Dwayne Wade. Tonight Randy stepped out and hit threes, finished shots around the basket and he came up with some huge rebounds. Randy scored 15 points in the fourth quarter alone!!! The thing that makes Randy the most unusual for a rookie though is his calmness and his level of poise in a big game like tonight’s. Composure is one thing that coaches can’t teach and Randy Foye has it in spades.

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Happy Thanksgiving, Holiday, Minnesota, Ricky Davis, Oklahoma City, St. Louis Park
Thanksgiving Day (Jour de l'Action de grâce in Canadian French) is a national holiday celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada as a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year. Photo:
Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite Holidays. Last year I had my brother and his wife living in St. Louis Park in Minnesota, but this year they took off to germany for a fellowship as he is a doctor. I’m headed over to Ricky Davis’ house for Turkey day and I’m looking forward to it. I just hope that Ricky isn’t the one cooking the Turkey and the stuffing. He can shoot the three and go to the hole with the best in the world, but I’d never trust him to cook me anything….maybe that’s why he has a full time chef! No, but in seriousness, Ricky is having a lot of us over to his house that don’t have family in the area so we are all grateful for his hospitality. I’ll be sure to let you’all know how the food is!

We beat the Knicks last night, and so many guys on the team played well. Mark Blount had a huge game even though he only played about 18 minutes due to foul trouble. Blount is one of the true professionals in the NBA. He is always at practice early working on his shooting and he stays late with KG to shoot some more. Once again, Craig Smith continues to be a dominant force in the paint. Tonight he had a monster dunk in the second half that reminded me of Charles Barkley. I’m still shocked that we got Craig in the second round. He’s going to have a very long and storied career in the NBA because he is a GREAT player but more importantly he is a great human being.

The thing I’m most grateful for today is for the blessing of family. I’ve got the two greatest parents in the world and nine siblings and we’re all close. Of my six married siblings, there’s sixteen neices and nephews so the things I’m going to miss most today is hanging out with them and messing around playing some games and stuff. At 6pm I’ll be on a flight w/ the rest of the team going down to play against the Oklahoma City Hornets!

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Break Loosing Streak, Ricky Davis, Kevin Garnett, NBA Players, Kobe
We Broke our loosing streak and win against portland. Photo:
Tonight we broke our losing streak and Ricky Davis was a big part of the reason why. Ricky had been in a slump for a couple of games and he did what great players do during such a hard time. Ricky Davis would get to practice extremely early and take jumper after jumper after jumper. It’s nice to see an NBA player like Rick who is so gifted also have such an intense work ethic.

The other day in the locker room, Ricky and I were talking and he told me that he was actually drafted into the NBA when he was 17 years old!! I was shocked! Ricky actually attended University of Iowa for part of his freshman year in college and then he declared for the NBA that summer. Unfortunately, that was the summer of the NBA lockout, so Ricky had to wait for a little while before he was able to showcase his abilities and heady play.

I’m glad that young players are able to come to the NBA if they are ready. But, it is amazing how players like Ricky, Kevin Garnett and Kobe are able to make the jump at such a young age. When I was 17 years old there is no way that I was mentally capable of thinking about going up against people like Shaq, Patrick Ewing, and Karl Malone. It is a testament to the competitive greatness of high school players who successfully make the jump because the NBA has some TOUGH players!

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First Win, Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns, Jason Terry, Arizona Wildcats Men's Basketball Team, TNT
Watching the Phoenix Suns game vs. the Dallas Mavericks Photo:
I just finished watching the Phoenix Suns game vs. the Dallas Mavericks. They interviewed Jason Terry at the end of the game on TNT and he talked about how he was literally “on his knees praying” for Dallas to get their first win of the season which they finally got tonight. At the end of the interview Jason talked about how the Arizona Wildcats Men’s basketball team (his alma mater) would be #1 in the country by the end of the year! It was fun to hear that. Jason and I competed together against each other in college. One time, in a game at U. of Arizona, (Back when I played college for Stanford) both Jason and I got hurt and needed stitches after the game. We were both sitting in the training room for about two hours after the game and we really got to know each other. I remember that my parents were at that game and a lot of Jason’s family was there too. So there were basically two families in the training room at 11pm at night and we’ve been friends ever since. Jason is a class act who is really leading the Dallas Mavericks this season and last season.

We practiced today here at the Target Center in MN, and we are all upset with our slow start. Today’s workout session was very heated which is great because it shows how much all of the guys care about winning. I think we are beginning to see the emergence of Randy Foye. Randy Foye is one of the few players in the NBA who seems to be able to get to the Free throw line at will. It helps because he is a 90% free throw shooter also. Looking forward to seeing you guys at the Target Center soon!

Lastly, a few of the guys on our team have been frustrated with the fact that the NBA has given the refs a mandate to call technical fouls on a “zero tolerance” pollicy. Because of this, great players are getting thrown out of games all around the league. From Carmello, to Rasheed, to Mike Bibby, players in the NBA are getting tossed from arenas really fast. I’m not in favor of berating officials under any circumstances, but players must be allowed to speak to refs in heated moments without fear of getting tossed. I think in the end, the fans are getting the short end of the stick. Fans come to games to be able to see passionate basketball played very hard. Kevin Garnett is an emotional player; Rasheed Wallace is emotional; Sam Cassell is the most emotional player I’ve ever played with. I really believe that fans enjoy the passion and emotion that these players have. I know that when I’m around town here in Minneapolis, fans always talk about how much they love the emotion and passion of KG…..I think that the old system was pretty good. When a player got out of hand he was ejected. The new system is that if a player shows any sort of abrupt emotional/angry body language at a call he could be at risk to himself and his team. But I’m not a fan paying for the seats……..if any of you could give me feedback to pass on to the Union and eventually the NBA, please post in the comments section below what your honest thoughts are. Do you want to see NBA players not to be able to react much after a bad call? Or do you like it when the emotion is shown? I do think that the NBA officials are the best in the world, but it would be nice if they had a little bit more leeway from their own set of rules so less technicals are called.

ON Wednesday we are meeting with Billy Hunter (He’s with the Players Union) and I’m sure we will be talking about the issue of technical fouls. We’ll also be discussing the new nba ball and the slippery surface when wet. One reader of this blog sent a link to a published physicist who did a study on the new NBA ball—A PHYSICST

Even LeBron James (early in the season he said he could play with any ball) came out publicly AGAINST the ball recently. I mean when Shaq, Allen Iverson, Kevin Garnett, Steve Nash, leBron etc. voice concerns over the ball, there might be something to it. We don’t care if it’s synthetic. Just make it so that it’s not so slippery when it gets wet. I’m sure with today’s technology this is possible.

Ultimately, I think some sort of compromise will take place with both issues so that all sides involved will be happy. If we do get to go back to leather as the NBA has indicated publicly is a possibility, we must ensure that the leather used is only from trusted sources that do not employ harsh or cruel treatment to the animals providing the leather. In my opinion the only leather that should be used is leather from an approved list of ethical beef producing companies/entities. Most of those would probably be domestic where stricter policies are in place. It think this was one of’s concerns with the old ball and the use of international leather sources where bad treatment of animals is prevalent. I think we should open a dialogue with PETA also to ensure that we get this right.

Stay tuned for the article from the Physicist about the NBA ball. I am going to contact him personally and hopefully link him up with the Player’s Union so that we can get his feedback and article dissmenated throughout the NBA players so they can say “Yea, or Nay”. If we’re lucky, I might be able to interview him in addition to publishing his scholarly piece here on this blog. It would be interesting to hear what a real Physicist says about the new NBA ball who has already written a paper on it after exhaustive testing comparisions to the older ball.

I feel like this has become part of my role as the player rep for my team. Fans ask me about the new ball in differnet places. One bagger in a grocery store was asking me all about it. My neigbor and former President of my homeowner’s association in Eden Prairie was asking me why the ball was changed in the first place at a Halloween Party. ON a flight after a game last month, Kevin Garnett and Ricky Davis basically came up with the idea to contact all of the other player reps directly around the league to band together to get some momentum going to give the NBA feedback on the new synthetic ball. Ricky kind of asked me to spearhead this. Unfortunately with my knee injury I haven’t gotten as much done as I should. Hopefully we can begin this in the next few days after talking it over with Billy.

I may get in touch with my alma Mater and see if the Stanford Econ Department has any undergrad or grad students willing to do a statistical analysis on turnovers, shooting percentages this season as compared to last season. It would be a nice senior project for a thesis that would be passed on to other players. Shaq felt that turnovers would go up and shooting percentages would go down. Hey he might be right, he might be wrong……It would be interesting to quantify this mathematically and see if there is any sort of correlation or not. Maybe Mark CUban has already done it…..have you done it yet Cube? I actually suspect that shooting percentages might go up b/c the ball has a softer bounce. BUt unfortunately I predict turnovers to go up due to the slick nature of the ball. Steve Nash one of the best ballhandlers in the world had 10 turnovers tonight in the game. I think fans like more scoring but I think they hate turnovers as much as my coach does! The NBA always does things for a good reason and I do agree the new synthetic balls are more consistent across the entire league when they are new so that is a positive.

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Craig Smith
Craig Smith!
Last night against the Chicago Bulls I think that we showed some flashes of what is to come. First of all, Craig Smith threw down a thunderous dunk in the first have that had people on the bench remembering what Charles Barkley used to do on the court. Craig Smith has had a phenomenal training camp and pre-season. Trenton Hassell compared Craig’s jump hook to the way Antawn Jamison is able to score on much taller defenders using the same un-blockable shot. Craig and I have become good friends. I didn’t realize it, but he was in High School at Fairfax High in Los Angeles at the same time that I was in my first few NBA seasons with the Lakers. I think that Craig is going to be a big time contributor this season as a rookie and it is clear that we got a steal by getting him in the Second round of the draft. One of the reasons why Craig slipped is because he had a wrist injury around draft time and he wasn’t able to workout for teams so they didn’t want to take the risk. The funny thing is that I’ve had a similar wrist surgery and the only bad thing about it is that it just takes a long time to get better (3-6 months). Once it’s better though, you are as good as new.

We’re staying in “The Lodge” hotel close to Moline, IL and on the border of Iowa getting ready for our game tonight. Every time we get close to Iowa, Fred Hoiberg always sings the same tune: “Iowa is the best state in the union.” Freddy, I like Iowa too, but I just hope that Iowa State doesn’t have to face Stanford in the NCAA tournament!

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Adam, Allen Iverson,, Kevin Garnett, Mark Blount, Timberwolves
I want to thank Photo:
I wanted to thank Adam for his comment (see below). His input poses a great question about our locker room dynamics. Is anyone in the lockeroom hurt from ticket’s [Kevin Garnett’s] excitement over the chance to bring in [Allen iverson]?

10:16:01 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)
Yeah, I can see how you might wonder what it would be like for any timberwolves players to turn on the T.V. or read and hear KG saying that he wants A.I. in Minnesota. Because by deduction, that means that someone (or many players) from the Timberwolves has to get shipped out.

I really don’t think there was much of an upset feeling in the locker room over it. The main thing is that this is one of those rare moments when a superstar is being shopped around the league. Allen Iverson getting traded is right up there with Shaq being traded from the Lakers to the Heat. All of us know how good A.I. is so I don’t think any of us took it as anything more than the “business side of basketball.” The other thing is that KG is such a great teammate and stand-up guy that he always speaks from his heart. He’s just as likely to tell us the same thing behind closed doors that he tells the media. That’s one of the reasons why everyone respects him so much.

I sit next to Mark Blount on the plane trips. He and I were talking about the Allen Iverson thing and Blount basically said that Allen is such a special talent that our organization really has to look at the trade scenario.

I guess the good news for us is that it really looks like Denver is going to win out on the A.I. thing. They have two draft picks in 2007 and Philly really wants those picks. The other thing is that I don’t think there is any way that the Timberwolves organization is going to trade Randy Foye or Craig Smith. That’s who Philly really wanted from us anyway. I’d like to see these two young guys filling up the Target Center for many years to come.

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NBA Basketball, New Basketball, NBA Players UnionBig Issue
One of the big issues right now in the NBA is the new composite basketball Photo:
One of the big issues right now in the NBA is the new composite basketball that is now being used. Let me share a few thoughts about this.

The new ball is a huge issue because it affects the experience that the fans get when they come to games. On a personal note, it also slips out of my hand in ways that the old one never did. I am not going to speak about what my teammates’ views are about the ball or about how the decision was made to replace the old ball. The truth is that I haven’t gone to each player on the team to ask them, and I have no information on how the “new ball decision” was made.

Let me just say this. In my opionion the ball is much more slippery when it gets wet and I can’t really control it nearly as well as the old, leather one. I also understand that when my employer hands down a decision, I am going to embrace it and try to make the best of whatever the decision is. So that being said, I am going to do everything I can to do my best with the new ball even though I view it as far inferior to the old ball in my opinion.

I also believe that the very best organizations and businesses encourage dialogue from the top to the bottom. Bad organizations seem to encourage a lot of “yes-men/women.” Great organizations are hungry for feedback. The NBA is a great league and a great organization. I truly believe that they will listen to the feedback that the players give.

I am going to do everything in my power to get the ball changed back to the old one. As one of two “player representatives” on my team to the NBA players union and ultimately to the NBA, I am going to do everything in my power to determine my team’s consensus about the ball and go into action to bring back the old ball. If all of my teammates love the new ball, then I will drop the issue completely and move on and find a way to love the new ball. But, based on some informal discussions with teammates I believe there are already some that would like to see the old ball back.

Regardless of the ball, training camp is going phemomenally well here in Mankato. I look forward to our upcoming scrimmage this saturday night!

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Training Camp, Craig Smith, Randy Foye, NBA Players, Glen Taylor, Newcomer
We have just finished day #2 of training camp and how good our two new rookies are. Photo:
We have just finished day #2 of training camp and most of us are exhausted. The biggest surprise so far to me is just how good our two new rookies are. Randy Foye is a scoring guard who seems to be able to go around anyone on the perimeter at will. Craig Smith is a beast. Craig is about 270 pounds and he is really light on his feet and he scores really well inside with both hands. It’s hard to think of who you might be able to compare Craig Smith to. Part of me wants to compare him to Charles Barkley, but I think a comparison to Elton Brand could be a good one too. As far as Randy Foye, I would compare him to Baron Davis or Chauncey Billups. Both of our rookies are extremely strong and continue to impress everyone.

Our first day here in Mankato started with having an awesome dinner at our team owner’s house (Glen Taylor) in Mankato. Glen has really done a lot of interesting things with his life. The one thing he told us at our meeting was that if we ever wanted to just crash and get away from our hotel in Mankato that we could go over to his house anytime and crash, watch TV, play video games, etc. I’ve never heard of a team owner giving an open invitation to his home to his team of NBA players but it was well received by the team. The only problem is that none of us has been able to take him up on it because we are going two practices a day and we mostly just try to recuperate at the hotel between practices.

During our first team meeting, newcomer, Mike James told the entire team something like, “We’re all grown men here….if somebody has a problem go to the person directly and say what’s on your mind and let the repurcussions follow.” Mike is a GREAT guy to be around and has been playing really well.