NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Lethargic Nets falter again; Report: Kidd has management’s support — Another week, another round of struggles for the Brooklyn Nets. After Sunday’s loss to the Detroit Pistons at Barclays Center, the Nets haven’t won since Nov. 15 and have suffered five straight defeats. Although they did play Sunday’s game without Jason Terry, Brook Lopez, Deron Williams and Andrei Kirilenko, the Nets had former All-Stars Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Joe Johnson all active for last night’s game, but only Johnson played well. We have two reports this morning, the first from Andrew Keh of The New York Times, who says that even Brooklyn fans are growing weary of booing the team. As well, Ohm Youngmisuk and Marc Stein of ESPNNewYork.com talk about coach Jason Kidd, who has the support of team ownership despite a 3-10 start in his first season on the job. Here’s Keh on the scene in Brooklyn after the loss:
The Nets slouched to a 109-97 defeat to the Detroit Pistons, dropping another ragged game against another unexceptional opponent. It was their fifth straight loss and their eighth in nine games. It sent them plummeting to a 3-10 record.
The disquiet around the team translated to plain quiet at Barclays Center. Even the boos sounded halfhearted. “It’s very frustrating and very, very embarrassing,” said Andray Blatche, a sentiment expressed around the locker room Sunday. “We’ve got to play with more pride.”
Jason Kidd, the team’s rookie coach, seemed to send a message to his players as the Nets entered the fourth quarter trailing, 78-66. The five players he sent out — Tornike Shengelia, Tyshawn Taylor, Mason Plumlee, Mirza Teletovic and Alan Anderson — were reserves who, with the exception of Anderson, had seen limited time this year.
“They deserved to play,” Kidd said. “I should have let them play the whole game, or the whole quarter. They’re playing, you know, for one another.”
He added, “Those guys are playing hard, and they’re helping one another on the offense end and the defensive end.”
This was not what King and the front office envisioned when they engineered the Nets’ glamorous summertime overhaul — one that gave them the league’s highest payroll.
Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, the club’s marquee acquisitions, did not re-enter the game until 4 minutes 2 seconds were left. Pierce scored 19 points but shot 5 for 13 from the field. Garnett went 2 for 9 and grabbed nine rebounds. Joe Johnson was the Nets’ sole bright spot, scoring a season-high 34 points while going 8 for 10 from behind the 3-point line.
The word “championship” was thrown around with abandon during training camp and the preseason. It has hardly been uttered since, and when Kidd mentioned it during his pregame news conference, it sounded odd.
Amid myriad issues, the spotlight has inevitably turned toward Kidd. It seems reasonable to wonder, as some observers have, whether this urgent assignment — to produce a championship with an aging and unfamiliar team — could be too lofty for a former player with no coaching experience.
Last season, the Nets fired Avery Johnson as coach after 28 mediocre games. On Sunday, King noted the difficulties facing Kidd, stressed patience and mentioned the progress he has observed.
“He’s going through the growing pains of being a head coach, though I think he’s being more assertive and understanding more what he’s got to do,” King said. “But also, it’s tough with your two best players out. It’s sort of a Catch-22.”
The Brooklyn Nets’ slide has reached five straight defeats, but rookie coach Jason Kidd continues to have the support of the team’s Russian ownership, according to league sources.
Playing without the injured Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Andrei Kirilenko and Jason Terry, Brooklyn faded in the second half Sunday night and came away with a 109-97 home loss to the Detroit Pistons to fall to a stunning 3-10.
But sources told ESPN.com that Kidd continues to have the backing of his bosses with Brooklyn dealing with several injuries and other mitigating factors which have contributed to the poor start.
The Nets are in 14th place in the East through Sunday, despite the NBA-record payroll sanctioned by Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov, who is on course to spend around $190 million this season on salaries and luxury taxes.
Among the Nets’ initial concerns early in the season, sources confirmed, were some “philosophical differences” between Kidd and lead assistant Lawrence Frank. But sources stressed to ESPN.com that the Nets have been working to smooth out any issues in recent days.
“They’re fine,” one source said of Kidd and Frank.
Sources say Nets veteran players support Kidd, who has coached in 11 of the Nets’ 13 games so far. Kidd opened his first season as a head coach serving a two-game suspension, with assistant coach Joe Prunty moving from behind the bench to serve as the team’s interim coach. Frank and fellow bench assistant John Welch respectively remained in their defensive and offensive coordinator-like roles ostensibly for continuity.
The Nets, though, have seen anything but continuity on the floor. The flood of injuries has forced Kidd to use five different starting lineups in the last six games.
The Nets also have had major problems in the third quarter of games. They were outscored 34-15 by the Pistons in the third Sunday afternoon and are 0-10 this season when they have lost the third quarter. In those 10 third-quarter losses, they have been outscored by 96 points.
And when it happened against the Pistons, Brooklyn heard boos from the home crowd en route to losing for the eighth time in nine games.
“I think everybody in here is embarrassed,” an exasperated Garnett said. “You definitely don’t want that at home. Like I’ve been saying, we’re going to continue to work to try to change this as best we can.”
“Jason just questioned us in the locker room (about the third-quarter woes),” Garnett added. “But it’s something we’re obviously going to have to address. We’ve got to be the worst team in the league when it comes to third quarters, just unacceptable. As players we have to be accountable, including myself, and come out and do whatever it is that we got to do and apply it.”
No. 2: Report: Cuban says NBA should discuss allowing HGH use — The use of human growth hormone in professional sports in North America has become a point of contention and discussion for many sports fans as scandals regarding the substance have wreaked havoc in Major League Baseball. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban talked with Sam Amick of USA Today and said while he isn’t advocating the use of the substance in the NBA, he is calling attention to what he views as a lack of research on the topic as it relates to athletes who are healing from injuries:
In the wake of the NBA’s latest round of injuries to fallen stars, always-outspoken Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is proposing a possible solution: human growth hormone.
Cuban isn’t advocating the use of the controversial drug but rather calling attention to what he sees as a dearth of research on the topic as it relates to athletes who are recovering from injury. His hope, which he shared in front of the league’s owners and league officials at an Oct. 23 Board of Governors meeting in New York, is that a more-informed decision can be made as to whether it should remain on the league’s banned-substance list or perhaps be utilized as a way of expediting an athlete’s return to the court. If it were ever allowed — and it’s safe to say that won’t be happening anytime soon — Cuban sees a major benefit for teams and their fans like.
“The issue isn’t whether I think it should be used,” Cuban told USA TODAY Sports via e-mail. “The issue is that it has not been approved for such use. And one of the reasons it hasn’t been approved is that there have not been studies done to prove the benefits of prescribing HGH for athletic rehabilitation or any injury rehabilitation that I’m aware of. The product has such a huge (public) stigma that no one wants to be associated with it.”
Cuban, who unsuccessfully has tried to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Texas Rangers in recent years, hinted at his stance on HGH in an Aug. 8 appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. In the interview, he criticized Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig for his treatment of New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez and said HGH is “banned for no good reason” in baseball and basketball.
From the NBA’s perspective, the most obvious hurdle to such a cause is that the Food & Drug Administration only allows the prescription of HGH for a limited number of conditions. According to the FDA’s web site, children with various medical reasons for stunted growth can be prescribed HGH, as can adults with a bowel syndrome, a hormone deficiency due to rare pituitary tumors or a muscle-wasting disease associating with HIV.
The NBA also is sensitive to the ethical part of the discussion, as the idea that some players would return from injury sooner than others because they were willing to take a drug that may have adverse side effects raises serious concerns about maintaining a level playing field. The possible side effects, according to the FDA, include an increased risk of cancer, nerve pain and elevated cholesterol and glucose levels. If anything, the NBA is moving closer to cracking down on HGH use of any kind.
While NBA Commissioner David Stern had said that he was hopeful that a new HGH-testing policy would be in place at the start of the 2013-14 season, the discussions between the league and the National Basketball Players Association are in a holding pattern, in large part because of the continuing stalemate between the NFL and its players about the implementation of their program. The NFL is the trailblazer of sorts on that front, meaning the NBA policy isn’t expected to be resolved first. The NBA declined a request for comment from USA TODAY Sports. The union’s lack of an executive director after Billy Hunter‘s firing in February also has hindered the process.
As Cuban sees it, though, none of the obstacles should preclude the powers-that-be in the sports world from pursuing more definitive answers about the pros and cons of HGH.
“I believe that professional sports leagues should work together and fund studies to determine the efficacy of HGH for rehabbing an injury,” Cuban told USA TODAY Sports. “Working together could lead us from the path of demonizing HGH and even testosterone towards a complete understanding. It could allow us to make a data based decision rather than the emotional decision we are currently making. And if it can help athletes recover more quickly, maybe we can extend careers and have healthier happier players and fans.”
No. 3: Lakers’ Williams explains scuffle with Cousins — Late in the fourth quarter of last night’s Lakers-Kings game from Staples Center, Lakers guard Jordan Farmar was pursuing a steal and a potential breakaway layup when he appeared to be shoved from behind by Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins. (You can see the sequence at about the 1:50 mark in the video below). That touched off a small scuffle between the teams, with Lakers reserve forward Shawne Williams in the thick of the scrum. In a postgame interview with Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News, Williams explained what he thought Cousins was trying to do during that sequence:
In a sign that the Lakers’ team unity goes beyond sharing the ball and accepting roles, forward Shawne Williams believed he made a bold statement when he aggressively confronted Kings center DeMarcus Cousins after he bumped Lakers guard Jordan Farmar to the floor.
“Everybody in this locker room is part of a team,” Williams said following the Lakers’ 100-86 win Sunday over the Sacramento Kings at Staples Center. “We’re family. Anybody who tries to mess with our family or do a dirty play, I’m going to stand up for them on the court.”
Williams believed Cousins tried to do that.
After bumping Farmar to the ground, the Lakers guard appeared agitated by the contact. But Cousins offered to pick him up. Before that happened, Williams intervened and signaled to back away. Tensions increased, and both Williams and Cousins received technical fouls with 5:42 left in the game.
“I just felt like he was pushing him down,” Williams said. “I felt like it was a dirty play because he was already falling. I just stood up for him.”
What did Williams say?
“I told him he needed to knock it off,” Williams said. “He told me he was trying to help him up. I said that was BS. That was it.”
“I don’t think he went overboard,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said of Williams. “I just think he was trying to stick up for Jordan. Maybe they liked each other when they played together in New Jersey. Shawne is a standup guy.”
“If I’m on the bench, I can’t do nothing. I cannot cross the line,” Williams said. “At the end of the day, we have to be smart. I’m not trying to get ejected or do anything dumb. I just have to let them know that at the end of the day we can’t stand for that.”
No. 4: Rookie Burke faces minutes restriction — At 1-13, the Utah Jazz are off to one of the worst starts in franchise history. Things appeared to look up — at least in terms of the team’s future and growth prospects — when rookie point guard Trey Burke returned to the lineup last week. Burke missed the first few weeks of the season as he recovered from a fractured finger injury he suffered in the preseason and last night in OKC, he got his first NBA start. Burke played 20 minutes, going 2-for-9 from the field and finished with four points and four assists. Aaron Falk of The Salt Lake Tribune reports that the Jazz plan to limit Burke’s minutes for the forseeable future as he continues to recover from his finger injury:
Trey Burke is still facing minute restrictions as they work their way back from preseason injuries. Burke said his finger feels sore at times after games, but so far there have been no setbacks.
“I understand the process,” he said. “Obviously you want to get into a rhythm and flow out there. For me, I don’t want to get in there and be thinking, ‘I’m about to come out.’ So I try not to think about it as much as possible.”
The point guard, however, said his surgically repaired finger does still impact his play.
“Sometimes I try to baby it when I don’t even need to really because it’s taped,” he said. “Sometimes when a hard pass comes at me, I kind of, like, catch it more with my left hand then my right. But I think that’s mental.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Sixers coach Brett Brown is ready to give former first-round pick Daniel Orton a chance in Philly … Tobias Harris had a rough debut, but he’s glad to be back on the court in Orlando … Might the Bulls think about working a trade for Chicago native Evan Turner? … Carl Landry is still a long ways off from returning to the Kings’ lineup.
ICYMI Of The Night: Gerald Green had a great conversation with our NBA TV crew about his breakout season and he showed some of his trademark hops with a monster jam in Orlando last night …