Eddie House still in the debate

MIAMI

   How frightening can retirement be? This frightening: Tuesday, former Miami Heat guard Eddie House found himself trying to stand as a voice of reason amid a televised debate with Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith.

   Perhaps that's why, even 34 and one year removed from the NBA, House doesn't consider himself truly retired.

   "I'm still working out. I'm waiting to get a call," he said this past week by phone after leaving ESPN's studio. "If I get one, I get one. I'll be ready. But if I don't, just trying to open up other doors. Hopefully something good happens."

   So there he was Tuesday on the set of ESPN2's "First Take" trying to make sense of Smith's rants and Bayless' snark when it came to the Los Angeles Lakers' struggles.

   The difference, of course, is House knew of what he was speaking, having lived through the chaotic first months of the Heat's Big Three experience in 2010, a 9-8 start similar to the 8-9 the Lakers found themselves as House was trying to offer cogent in the face of Smith's chaotic and Bayless' cynical.

    House, of course, wasn't around when the Heat finally got it right, cut on the eve of last season in favor of the youth of Terrel Harris.

    Yet no sooner did Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh realize their championship dream one year deferred, then House was on the phone.

    "I called everybody," he said. "Everybody who I didn't call, I left a text message, congratulating them and telling them how proud I was to see them doing that, because I knew how much hard work they put in to everything they've done. From top to bottom, I hit up the coaches, trainers, strength coach, even like the films guys. I hit everybody up to show my respect for what they did."

   All the while, the phone never rang for House, even after he moved past the knee issue that contributed to his Christmas Eve 2011 release. There was one NBA tryout last season that went well, he said, but never led to an offer.

   "It just seems like they're not calling, for whatever reason," he said. "I'm healthy right now, in good shape, feel good."

    The odds of a player being called back into service in the NBA are slim. But he sees Jerry Stackhouse thriving with the Brooklyn Nets and Rasheed Wallace finding his way with the New York Knicks and figures there still is hope.

   But he also acknowledges the numbers are against him. While the NBA veteran-minimum scale means teams pay no more than the second-year base of $854,389 for players with two or more years experience (with the league picking up the rest on the ascending scale), the cash outlay from teams for players with no NBA experience is just $473,604. That's $400,000 in savings for going with neophytes, as the Knicks, for example, have this season with the likes of Chris Copeland and Pablo Prigioni at the bottom of their roster.

    That has House and his brother-in-law, former Heat guard Mike Bibby, finding their experience, as well as their age, working against them on the job market.

     "Obviously, if you're calling me now, you're not calling me to be a huge part of the offense," House explained. "I'm going to be a practice player, a filler. But if you can save $400,000, on the business side of it, it makes plenty of sense."

   So instead of waiting, House got proactive, called ESPN, asked for the audition, figured if he could make it as a rookie under Pat Riley in 2000 with the Heat, he certainly could stand up to the scrutiny of Stephen A. and Skip.

   "More overwhelming?" House mused. "Pat. When I was young, just dealing with Pat and the history and the aura that he has, it was a little overwhelming at first."

   But he passed that audition, went on to play 11 seasons. And now, as he waits to see if there might be a 12th, he figures he might as well try to get paid for how he otherwise would be passing his time.

    "It was a great time with Stephen A. and Skip," he said, "doing nothing but stuff I do anyway, talking about sports, debating sports."

IN THE LANE

   STERN WORDS: NBA Commissioner David Stern said this past week that there never would have been a need for a $250,000 league fine of the San Antonio Spurs if Spurs coach Gregg Popovich merely would have communicated to the league office his plan to send Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green home in advance of the Spurs' Nov. 29 game at AmericanAirlines Arena. Stern essentially said he would have told the Spurs to get the players on the plane to Miami and to the nationally televised game. End of story. "I would suggest to you if we had been notified, it wouldn't have happened," Stern told reporters Wednesday in New Orleans. "So maybe from their perspective they did the right thing, but not from mine."

    PAYING DIVIDENDS: So what did the Spurs get for their $250,000? To Duncan, it was a group of understudies now playing with greater confidence. "It gave them some great time on the floor where they weren't looking around wondering if they should do things or take shots," Duncan told the Express News "They were able to put it on themselves and get some confidence and get a good feel for the court."

    CONTRASTING VIEW: While those who prefer to avoid the Michael Jordan-LeBron James debate instead choose to compare James to Magic Johnson, Johnson's former Lakers teammate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar told NBA TV he has issues with that comparison, as well. "LeBron is a frontcourt player; Magic was a perimeter player," Abdul-Jabbar said. "I think the remarkable thing in terms of his career is his maturity and the fact that he's learned every year. I really felt for him on all the negativity he absorbed when he left Cleveland. He worked his butt off. I was really happy to see all of that change, to see him mature and become a leader. That's the real gem in all of this. He has become a leader. He knows how to go out there and set the tone. They have worked out a great team ethic and tactic that enables them to dominate. I expect them to keep dominating."

    TWO PEAS IN A POD: So what do Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and apl.de.ap have in common? The two this past week were among the 11 recipients of Presidential Awards for Filipino Individuals and Organizations Overseas. Philippines President Aquino paid tribute to the designees for having chosen to "pay their successes forward." The Pamanang Pilipino Award recognizes individuals who, "brought honor and distinction to the country in pursuit of their work or profession." Allan Pineda, or apl.de.ap, is the music producer best known as a member of The Black Eyed Peas. The mothers of Pineda and Spoelstra are from the Philippines, where Pineda was born.

    OUT OF LIMBO: After a pair of largely unsuccessful seasons with the Boston Celtics, former Heat center Jermaine O'Neal, at 34, appears to be regaining his stride off the Suns' bench. "It's been a tough two and a half, three years," O'Neal, who left the Heat as a free agent in the 2010 offseason, told the Arizona Republic. "Miami was the last time I put it together like this and I didn't necessarily feel as good. It's been a while since I've been able to play at a level I’m comfortable with." O'Neal on Thursday saw an end of his streak of blocked shots in seven consecutive games, longest for the Suns since Oliver Miller in 1992-93.

NUMBER

   3. Teams former Heat center Eddy Curry has been with this season (Spurs during training camp, Mavericks first week of the regular season, and now Zhejiang Golden Bulls of the China Basketball Association, replacing former NBA center Josh Boone).

     iwinderman@tribune.com. Follow him at twitter.com/iraheatbeat.

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