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THIS AND THAT… AROUND THE BASKETBALL WORLD

Random thoughts from a variety of sources around the basketball world…

NORTH CAROLINA BASKETBALL

This is why North Carolina is North Carolina and the rest of the ACC is just trying to “Be like MIke.”

North Carolina is hosting a year-long celebration of the 100th year of Carolina Basketball.  There is no disputing the numbers… 17 of the last 21 years the ACC Championship address has included Durham or Chapel Hill.  This recent event was stunning.

North Carolina unveiled its 2009 national championship banner during its SOLD-OUT Professional Alumni Game at the Smith Center.  the Smith Center holds 21,750 for a basketball game.  So basically, 21,750 people came to watch the former Tar Heels pro-players play pick up and look at the 2009 banner.  Fan support?  That’s crazy.

It gets better.  Earlier in the week there was a draft held to select the teams.  There have been so many pros from UNC they couldn’t just put the team together.  Phil Ford and Pat Sullivan drafted the squads.  The top picks were Antawn Jamison and Vince Carter according to The News & Observer of Raleigh. Where was Mike?  I thought he said he was making a comeback to the NBA at age 50 the other night at the HOF induction.  Hmmmm.

The list of players included:  Bobby Frasor, Danny Green, Raymond Felton, Jackie Manuel, Marvin Williams, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, Jawad Williams, Rashad McCants and Sean May according to The News & Observer .

MIAMI HEAT PAY CUTS

Miami Heat President Pat Riley and Head Coach Eric Spoelstra are taking pay cuts for Heat. Miami Heat basketball operations employees have accepted up to a 20 percent pay cut in order to avoid layoffs.

The cuts affect everyone in the department, including team president Pat Riley, head coach Erik Spoelstra, assistant coaches, scouts and others. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel first reported the salary reduction in its Tuesday editions.

Player salaries are not being affected.

The Heat laid off 20 members of its business operations staff in May as a result of the economic downturn. In 2003, the franchise asked employees to accept 10 percent pay cuts because of falling revenues.

Lower ticket prices and scaled-back sponsorship deals have decreased revenue around the NBA, which is projecting further reductions over the coming year.

BYRON RUSSELL AND MICHAEL JORDAN

Russell issues direct challenge to MJ. Bryon Russell took it as a compliment that Michael Jordan called him out during his Hall of Fame acceptance speech, and Russell responded on ESPN Tuesday with a direct challenge to the game’s greatest player.

“Mike, if you want this, come get it,” Russell said on the “Waddle & Silvy” show on ESPN 1000. “I’m out here in Calabasas (Calif.). You have the private jet, come on and fly out here.

“The second game can take place in Chicago. I’ll fly out there. Let’s make a nice, little challenge, have some fun with it and entertain once again.”

It did not appear that Russell was being pompas or boysterous, he seeme dto be having some fun.  It would be a great charity event if they could pull it off.  Style is much like the recent Shaq vs. programming.

During Jordan’s speech on Friday, he said Russell told him in 1994 that he wanted to guard Jordan. During the 1998 NBA Finals, when Jordan’s Chicago Bulls faced Russell’s Utah Jazz, Jordan reminded Russell of his wish and said it was about to be realized. Russell was the defender Jordan shook before rising to take the clinching shot in Game 6.

“My response was after all this time I’m still on Mike’s mind,” Russell said. “I must have done something to leave a good impression, because he’s still talking about me to this day, about giving me what I wanted.

“I challenged him [in 1994]. I got him out of retirement, and if I did, it was good for the game.”

Russell said Jordan’s recollection of the ’94 challenge was correct.

“I think that’s when he was doing baseball,” Russell said. “I ran into him and was like, ‘Hey man, why did you retire? I wanted to get a chance to stop you. Say I stopped the greatest.’

“He just smiled is all. Come ’96, he said, ‘Hey Russell, remember what you said to me?’ I was like, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘You’re about to get your chance.’ I got my chance. But when you break down every possession I was on him, I guarantee you I didn’t get the bulk of all the points he had. I’m pretty sure I played better defense than anyone who played defense against him.”

Russell, 39, said he’s confident he could beat Jordan, 46.

“He likes challenges, so I’m challenging him once again,” Russell said. “I’m always going to be forever tied to him, so why not give fans what they want again?”

And what would be at stake? “Put up our egos,” Russell said. “Bragging rights.”

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