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When honesty is the most expensive policy

March 04, 2007|Mark Heisler

After years of hearing players say anything, I'm beside myself with admiration for Vladimir Radmanovic, who told the truth even though it meant admitting he lied, not to mention putting his $30-million contract at risk.

More typical is what Phil Jackson said Kwame Brown told him when Phil asked about the birthday cake:

"It's all taken care of."

This isn't the best time in Lakerdom and Radmanovic deserved a big fine, but my bet is if he were averaging 12 points instead of 6.9, they'd have taken $100,000 and congratulated him on his courage.

If Kobe Bryant had done it, they would have skipped the fine, congratulated him on his courage and sued the snowboard maker.

Is it March already?

Shaquille O'Neal, famed for hibernating, just emerged from his cave and went back to levels people didn't know he still had, averaging 23 points as Miami went 3-1.

"He's got to decide what the No. 1 one factor is in his life," Coach Pat Riley said. "It's about his legacy."

O'Neal probably didn't even realize how much he had gotten used to letting Dwyane Wade carry them. Wade's injury was the wake-up call Riley was looking for.

"I'm the baddest big man in my age bracket," O'Neal said after getting 31 points, 15 rebounds and six assists against Detroit. "I came in, I was the baddest at 20. Now I'm the baddest at 35."

He won't be 35 until Tuesday, but always has new material ready. He's still Shaq, or pretty close.

Detroit (shudder) ball

The Pistons have finished 1-2-1-1 in the East under three coaches amid speculation that if Flip Saunders doesn't make the NBA Finals, there'll be a No. 4.

Meanwhile, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported Saunders has a deal to coach the University of Minnesota. Saunders denied it heatedly -- amid speculation that the Gophers will wait to see if Flip is available.

Saunders also noted, "When I'm old -- and I'm not that old yet -- I could see myself coaching a high school team or a small college team."

He's 49 but may be aging fast.

Owner Bill Davidson, their beloved/feared paterfamilias, has offed a lot of people, such as Isiah Thomas, who were closer to him than Flip.

Remembering DJ

Dennis Johnson ached to coach in the NBA -- former teammate Bill Walton said he "died of a broken heart" -- but he was as remarkable for his humility as anything he did in a great career.

Suns assistant Alvin Gentry: "There are a lot of guys who played in the NBA who say they want to be coaches, but he was one who really meant it and was willing to pay that price."

Former Portland general manager John Nash, who hired Johnson as a scout: "I gained a lot of respect for the guy.... It was tough. He kept an apartment in Portland, but his family was in Los Angeles. It was a strain not only physically and professionally but with his family life, but somehow he did it."

When David Kahn, owner of the development league's Austin Toros, hired Johnson, he had two interns drive him to the airport in their little clunker. Kahn says they came back marveling at "how engaging, how regular a guy he was."

Famous last words

New Jersey's Jason Kidd, on hearing that Bryant said he'd love to play with him: "Unfortunately, it didn't work out."

-- Mark Heisler

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