SALT LAKE CITY ÑÊIf you had the ability, or the technology, to intercept cell phone conversations, you'd have a lot of fun parked outside the Salt Lake Community College gymnasium during the Rocky Mountain Revue summer league.
With it being open season on free agents and trades coming down by the day, the NBA officials in the gym spent as much time gabbing on their phones as they did watching the action. It's a fun place for a pro basketball fan Ñ just sit back and gossip a bit, and wait for the trade rumors to sweep through.
There, at a baseline seat under one basket, was new Indiana Pacers President Larry Bird, alongside his friend, Quinn Buckner. Everyone in that organization is walking on eggs right now because of Bird taking over. This is a man who's dedicated to winning Ñ and if you can't help him do that, it doesn't matter if you're a friend or not, you're out the door.
'He has Isiah (Thomas, the team's coach) scared to death,' said an official for another team. 'He's going to be very good for that team.'
Meanwhile, in the bleachers, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, dressed casually in shorts and T-shirt (hey, when you just won an NBA title, you don't have to impress anyone with your gear), laughed it up with his No. 1 assistant coach, P.J. Carlesimo Ñ who was trying very hard to give new Portland General Manager John Nash some advice on where to live in his new city.
'I know they told you Lake Oswego,' P.J. said. 'But if you're a bachelor, the only place to live is downtown.'
There was a lot of talk about a man sitting near Bird on the baseline. 'That guy looks familiar,' one coach said to another.
'That's Kevin Mackey,' said another. 'Bird hired him to scout for Indiana.'
Mackey, as you may recall, once coached at Cleveland State before drug problems cost him his job.
Former Utah Jazz coach Frank Layden held court in a hallway near a locker room, as only Frank can. Jermaine O'Neal, weighted down with enough jewelry to stock a Tiffany's Christmas window display, was here to watch the Indiana rookies perform, still giddy after signing a new contract with the Pacers.
'I built a new home outside of Portland,' he said. 'I'll always think of Portland as my home. I just spent about a month up there.'
Of course, he has a home near Miami and just built one in Indiana, too. Yeah, this kid sure is missing that college degree he could have gotten if he hadn't signed with the Trail Blazers out of high school.
Speaking of the Blazers, after Zach Randolph returned to Portland because of a sore foot and Qyntel Woods sat down because of a sore back, there wasn't much left for coach Dan Panaggio to put on the floor. Local kids David Jackson and Ime Udoka played hard and well throughout the schedule, though.
'I think Udoka could play for someone in the league,' said one team official. 'But they're both just a little undersized.'
Jerome Kersey looked at home on the Portland bench as an assistant coach. This was an audition for Kersey, who seems to really want to get into coaching. I hope he knows what he's doing because it's a whole lot more work Ñ particularly for No. 3 assistants Ñ than you might imagine. Then again, if he brings the same dedication to coaching he brought to playing, there'll be no problem at all.
Problems, however, seem a long way away during summer league. The temperature was over 100 degrees in Salt Lake City for 10 days in a row, and nobody complained. It may have been hot, but at least at this time of year, there's no pressure.