Posts Tagged ‘Billy King’

Nets Going Old School For New Coach





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The sting of blowing a Game 7 on their home floor will linger for a while in Brooklyn. There is no way to dress up that debacle.

A new coach, though, one with a high profile and Hall of Fame credentials, is a good place to start. And from all indications the Nets are setting their sights high. Phil Jackson, Jerry Sloan, Jeff or Stan Van Gundy and even Larry Brown‘s name has been mentioned by a few league executives who are watching the Nets and waiting to see where they go next.

They are all on the Nets’ short list as of this afternoon.

Nets GM Billy King didn’t even let the sun rise the morning after that Game 7 loss before P.J. Carlesimo was informed that his services would no longer be needed. Carlesimo is an old pro at this. He knew what we all did when he took over after Avery Johnson was fired, that anything short of a miraculous championship run from the Nets would mean he’d be cleaning out his office at season’s end.

What makes the Nets search for a replacement for the replacement is that Sloan, who coached with and clashed, at times, with Nets star Deron Williams in Utah, is on the list of candidates to fill the job.

Much like the other candidates on the Nets’ list, Sloan’s name tends to come up whenever there is an opening. This Nets opening, however, appeals to him. He said as much to Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com:

“I’m open, I would listen,” Sloan told CSNNW.com via phone. “I haven’t done the research on their roster, but I would definitely listen if they called.”

Already linked to the Milwaukee Bucks Head Coaching gig, Sloan admits he’s interested in getting back to roaming the sidelines, but only under the right circumstances and conditions.

“According to reports, I’m interested in every job that’s out there,” Sloan said. “That’s just not the case. I don’t like being linked to every opening. If the right situation presented itself, I will look into it.”

Sloan dropping his John Deere cap and days spent on his tractor for the sideline in Brooklyn has movie of the week potential. But any team could use his wisdom and guidance, provided the players on the roster are willing to listen.

The Nets won’t have the flexibility to tinker with their roster this summer, so the most significant change they’ll make will be in the coaching ranks. There is also a temperament change that is needed, one highlighted by many in the immediate aftermath of that lackadaisical Game 7 effort.

Williams has his own ideas about what the Nets need in a new coach and it’s all about someone who demands his team play with the intestinal fortitude to win a Game 7 on their home floor in the playoffs, based on what he told Mike Mazzeo of ESPNNewYork.com:

Williams was asked what quality the Nets need more of.

“Toughness,” he replied. “I think that’s what we’ve used a lot. Toughness. I think we got out-toughed in that last series, especially [Saturday], so I think that’s the main thing.”

Williams thinks a coach like his former one in Utah, Jerry Sloan, could get toughness out of his players.

“When I played for Coach Sloan, I think he had that effect — just the way he coaches and the way he talked to us every day and the way he prepared us for games kind of rubbed off,” Williams said.

Would Williams want to play for Sloan again?

“I would love to,” he replied.

And Phil Jackson?

“Who wouldn’t want to play for Phil Jackson?” he replied.

Regardless, Williams believes the team’s next coach needs to be experienced.

“Yeah, I think so. I think somebody that’s creative on offense and has a good system on defense,” he said. “I haven’t really thought much about it. I think we just need somebody that’s going to lead us, somebody everybody respects for sure; it’s tough.”

That “somebody” could be anyone on the Nets’ short list.

But the description sounds an awful lot like Sloan …

Nets Have Much On The Line In Game 7

BROOKLYN – After a brutal loss in Game 4 of their first-round series with the Chicago Bulls, the Brooklyn Nets have fought their way back and earned a Game 7 on their home floor on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, TNT).

Game 7s are always huge for both teams, but these 48 minutes will absolutely define the Nets’ season. It will be the difference between accomplishment and disappointment.

The guys Tom Thibodeau puts on the floor will fight for every possession, but the Bulls basically punted this season with the moves they made (or didn’t make) last summer. Their star player hasn’t played a single minute and four more key players are far less than 100 percent. If they lose, we understand that they were undermanned and they retool for next season. They’ve already established a culture of defense, toughness and resilience, which will be there as long as Thibodeau is on the bench.

The Nets, however, haven’t established anything other than a willingness to spend money. There’s a lot of culture outside the Barclays Center, but not necessarily in the locker room.

But if the Nets win Game 7, they’ve at least established themselves as a top-four team in the Eastern Conference and put themselves in a conference semifinals matchup with the juggernaut Miami Heat, where no one will expect them to win more than a game. They will have proven that they too have some resilience, becoming only the ninth team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 deficit.

If the Nets lose, what are they? They’re a team that didn’t come close to making the most of their talent and lost to a depleted team held together by gauze tape.

Derrick Rose and Luol Deng are not playing. Kirk Hinrich probably isn’t playing either. Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson are banged up and Nate Robinson was throwing up on the bench on Thursday. No, the Nets aren’t 100 percent, but their issues are nothing compared to those of Chicago’s M.A.S.H unit.

So Game 7 is truly a referendum on all things Nets. Here’s who has a lot on the line Saturday:

Billy King: The Nets general manager got his contract extension, but still has a lot of work to do if he wants to turn this team into a true contender. Brooklyn was the league’s most improved team this season, because King spent a lot of Mikhail Prokhorov‘s money.

But $139 million of that money is going to Gerald Wallace and Joe Johnson, who are both on the wrong side of 30 and who both had disappointing seasons. There’s spending money, and there’s spending money wisely.

A playoff victory doesn’t necessarily validate the trades that brought Johnson and Wallace here, but the Nets aren’t necessarily done putting this team together either. A series win is something to build on and maybe something to help convince veteran free agents (and/or a great coach) that this is the place to be.

The Nets’ defense: The Bulls are a pretty bad offensive team. They ranked 24th on that end of the floor in the regular season, and that was with some of their players healthier than they are now. But they’ve been able to hang with the Nets in this series, in part because the Brooklyn defense has been rather porous, especially when trying to stop Chicago’s pick-and-roll attack.

Chicago basically has two guys who can beat you: Carlos Boozer and Robinson. And Robinson is just as likely to shoot the Bulls out of a game as he is to shoot them into one. If the Nets can’t stop these guys, they’ve got a lot of ‘splaining to do.

Deron Williams: Williams has silenced his critics, playing much better over the last 2 1/2 months and making it clear that his early-season struggles were injury-related. But if he’s truly back to being an elite point guard, he has to prove it on Saturday. He has got to be aggressive offensively, get his team to move the ball, and put it on himself to stay in front of Robinson defensively.

Talent has never been a question with Williams. Leadership, however, has. To win a Game 7 against a resilient opponent, the Nets will need a leader on the floor.

Brook Lopez: Returning from two foot injuries suffered last season, Lopez has established himself as an All-Star and the best offensive center in the league. Just as important, he has taken a step forward defensively.

Lopez has been the best player in this series, but has struggled in the second half of some of these games. He has shot 8-for-24 in the third quarter, in which the Nets have struggled most of the series (and most of the season too).

In fact, in the second half of 10 total games against the Bulls this season, Lopez has shot just 28-for-70 (40 percent). The final regular season meeting ended with Lopez turning the ball over, getting blocked by Nazr Mohammed, and missing a jumper to tie at the buzzer, allowing the Bulls to escape with a two-point victory.

It’s one thing to be an All-Star. It’s another to be a guy your team can count on to get you big buckets in a do-or-die situation. And even before we get to the closing moments of Game 7, Lopez’s pick-and-roll defense will also be in the spotlight.

P.J. Carlesimo: It seems like a foregone conclusion that the Nets’ interim coach won’t be asked to return this summer, and he probably won’t receive much credit if the Nets win this series. But he’ll clearly get much of the blame if they lose, because it’s supposed to be the coach’s job to make the most of his team’s talent.

This team hasn’t done that. The offense has been inconsistent and the defense has been mediocre, at best. Reserves MarShon Brooks and Mirza Teletovic, who could possibly have contributed more (and helped space the floor), failed to develop.

Carlesimo wasn’t put in an easy position, of course. He was handed a team that had lost 10 of its last 13 games in late December. He deserves credit for righting the ship and getting the Nets’ best players playing better. That probably won’t save his job though.

In this series, Carlesimo has been slow to adjust. His starting lineup has struggled offensively, but has played the most minutes (119) of any lineup in the postseason (no other Nets lineup has played more than 13 minutes). He has navigated his team through two elimination-game victories, but has one more to go and can’t let a bad lineup stay on the floor for too long.

Nets Extend King, Who Has More Work To Do

BOSTON – The Brooklyn Nets announced Friday that they’ve signed general manager Billy King to a contract extension. NetsDaily reports that the deal is for three years.

The timing is interesting, given how anemic the roster King has assembled has looked in its last two games against the Chicago Bulls. But Brooklyn was the most improved team in the league this season, and in his time with the Nets, King has turned Devin Harris, Anthony Morrow and Travis Outlaw into Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace.

Most improved teams, 2011-12 to 2012-13, NetRtg

Team OffRtg Rk DefRtg Rk NetRtg
Brooklyn +5.3 4 -3.4 3 +8.7
Charlotte +6.0 3 +1.2 14 +4.8
Golden State +1.2 16 -3.5 2 +4.6
L.A. Clippers +2.5 12 -2.0 5 +4.5
Oklahoma City +3.0 9 -0.8 9 +3.8

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

The problem is that King gave up a Lottery pick for Wallace, who has really regressed this season and is owed over $30 million over the next three years. And he’s the fifth-highest paid player on the team. Given the restrictions of the new collective bargaining agreement, the Nets are mostly stuck with the roster they have, a roster that had no major injuries this season and finished fourth in the weaker conference.

They do hope that they have one card to play: trading Kris Humphries‘ contract (which expires next season) to upgrade one of the forward positions. In one of King’s more interesting moves last summer, Humphries was essentially re-signed to be traded. The Nets didn’t necessarily want to bring the power forward back, but if they let him go, they didn’t have the cap space to replace him with anything but a minimum-salary player. Re-signing Humphries gave them the opportunity to eventually deal him for someone who makes similar money, but they might not have the add-ins (young players with potential or potentially high draft picks) to entice another team to trade them a real difference maker.

A(nother) coaching change could also make a difference. Multiple reports indicate that interim coach P.J. Carlesimo probably won’t be retained at the end of the Nets’ playoff run. Carlesimo has stuck with vanilla lineups despite his team’s struggles against quality opponents, and the Nets could move up a couple of spots both offensively and defensively next season with a little more innovation from the bench.

So while his roster is mostly set, King still has some work to do. He has to try to find a taker for Humphries, and he has to (likely) hire a new coach.

 

Feeling Lucky? Try 7 GMs With Decisions

HANG TIME, Texas — The clock ticks down, the trade deadline draws near and all 30 NBA general managers are burning up their phones with possibilities realistic and absurd.

Some need to make deals to solidify playoff teams, others simply can’t bear the thought of sitting still. As Thursday gets closer, here are seven GMs with big decisions to make:

Danny Ferry, Atlanta Hawks

Is it finally time to give up on the hope that Josh Smith can be more than a numbers-gatherer in Atlanta? Ferry, the first-year Hawks’ GM, wasted no time in moving out Joe Johnson’s big contract. Part of the decision was that J-Smoove would blossom without Iso-Joe taking up a big part of the offense. Instead he’s averaging 1.4 fewer points and one rebound less than a year ago, his efficiency rating is down from 21.14 to 19.90 and he’s shooting only 50 percent from the free-throw line. The sense is that it’s “just time.” Still, that doesn’t mean Ferry has to move him. He’s positioned the Hawks so that they could afford to keep Smith and still sign a pricey free agent next summer. But that won’t stop the likes of the Bucks, Suns, Celtics, Wizards and Sixers from making a run. The Rockets have long had eyes for Smith, but might be more inclined to wait to make their moves in free agency.

Danny Ainge, Boston Celtics

Despite their 8-1 record since Rajon Rondo’s season ended due to torn knee ligaments, it’s too hard to see the Celtics making a serious and deep playoff run on the aging legs of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. The obvious move would be with the 36-year-old Garnett and making that long-rumored deal to the Clippers (Eric Bledsoe). The challenge is getting K.G. to waive the no-trade clause in his contract. Can Ainge appeal to Garnett’s own best interest to get another ring or his loyalty to the Celtics organization to help them start over? Even if Rondo’s knee injury isn’t as severe as first thought and he’s able to get back on the floor for the start of training camp, the rebuilding in Boston has to start sometime. It might as well be now.

Billy King, Brooklyn Nets

If King could know for sure that Deron Williams will shake off the injuries and inefficiency and return to the All-Star form he showed in Utah, then he’d be more inclined to sit back and put his feet up. Or maybe not in the realm of Mikhail Prokhorov. The Russian billionaire owner is willing to shell out big bucks, but also expects immediate results and does not handle mediocrity well. See Avery Johnson, who was fired with a 14-14 record, a Coach of the Month title pinned to his resume. The Nets will likely try to get Paul Millsap from the Jazz and could be in the running for the popular Josh Smith. Last year’s All-Rookie team member MarShon Brooks is on the block. Would Charlotte’s offer of Ben Gordon for Kris Humphries be enough? The Nets have been so inconsistent that with the possibility of a first-round bounce due to a bad matchup looming, you have to believe King won’t sit still.

Donnie Nelson, Dallas Mavericks

“The Bank of Cuban is open.” That was team owner Mark Cuban’s declaration last month, but what must be determined is in which direction the Mavericks are headed right now. They enter the post-All-Star stretch six games under .500 and 4 1/2 games out of the last playoff spot in the West. If the Mavs decide they’re better off reloading with a fully-recovered Dirk Nowitzki next season, they certainly have a good trade chip in Vince Carter, who’d be a wonderful addition to any playoff contender. He could also bring in future assets for Shawn Marion, Chris Kaman and Elton Brand.

Daryl Morey, Houston Rockets

You put him in this slot just because Morey lives with an itchy trigger finger and might be inclined to make a deal just because he can. But with the James Harden steal under his belt and the free agency hits on Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, the Rockets will probably strike only if it’s a chance at a home run. With the youngest team in the league, a position in the West playoff race and a payroll that could make them big, big players in free agency, next summer is probably when they’ll make their move. But Houston is now big-game hunting for talent to play with Harden. If a chance to scoop up a true All-Star comes their way, Morey won’t hesitate.

Mitch Kupchak, L.A. Lakers

It’s almost obligatory to put the Lakers on any potential trade deadline list, despite Kupchak saying publicly that he’s not at all interested in dealing Dwight Howard or breaking up his All-Star group of underachievers at this point. He can’t trade Pau Gasol as long as the possibility exists that Howard walks as a free agent next summer — which it does. Besides, the Lakers problems are not about needing more players but getting the ones they have to play every night with passion.

Dennis Lindsey, Utah Jazz

Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson? Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap? With the contracts of both of the frontcourt veterans expiring, it was assumed since Day One of this season that the rookie GM Lindsey would have to deal one of them by the deadline, if for no other reason than to make room and more playing time for Derrick Favors. It would seem to make sense, but only if the Jazz can get a bonafide star in return. That’s what the 30-24 team lacks right now. But there is no reason to make a deal just to make a deal. The future is based on a young core of Favors, Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks. Millsap is the more likely one to go, but maybe only for another expiring contract in return. Salt Lake City is not a desired location for free agents. But as the effects of the new collective bargaining agreement are felt and big names teams try to avoid the increasingly punishing luxury tax, players will want to simply get paid. Don’t expect a panic move here.

D-Will In The Danger Zone?



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – A mere three or four seasons ago, the best point guard in the NBA debate was divided two or three ways. You were either in the Chris Paul camp, the Deron Williams camp or the someone else camp.

But those first two guys, both products of the 2005 NBA Draft, were staples. You either loved the leadership, craftiness and feisty attitude that Paul brings to the party or the size, skill-set and shot-making component Williams possessed.

All that was before Derrick Rose slugged his way into the conversation, and won a MVP trophy that neither Paul nor Williams has. (Older mainstays like Steve Nash and Tony Parker belong in the conversation but are rarely included in conversations about the future of the position for obvious reasons.) It was also before guys like Rajon Rondo and Russell Westbrook began to emerge and grow. And since then, All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Jrue Holiday have led the youth movement at the position.

Blasphemous as this seems to say out loud, Williams is in real danger of falling behind the pack. His possible demotion is due to a combination of injuries, uncharacteristic play and the fact that his contemporaries seem to be leading rising teams while he’s the bandleader of a mismatched Brooklyn bunch that can’t figure out exactly what they are.

No one is disputing that Williams is one of the best the league has seen during his time in the NBA. But in the what-have-you-done-lately world of the NBA, two seasons of substandard play, as judged by the lofty bar Williams set himself, makes the slippage hard to ignore.

Williams is sitting out the Nets’ final game before the All-Star break, the first he’ll watch from home since 2009, due to synovitis (an inflammation of ankle joint linings) in both of his ankles.  He received PRP (platelet rich plasma) treatment on both ankles and it scheduled to return next week.

But take a look at his work in the 50 games he’s played this season —  averaging 16.7 points, 7.6 assists and 3.3 rebounds while shooting just 41 percent from the floor. His scoring average is his lowest since his second season in the league, when he was with Utah, and his assists his lowest since his rookie season. In fact, he’s seen his assist numbers decrease in each of the past two seasons, a decline that followed four straight seasons where he averaged double-digit dimes.

Nets general manager Billy King still believes in his prized point guard, the man who immediately assumed face of the franchise status when King snatched him from the Jazz in a surprising trade deadline deal in 2011. He told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News as much, insisting that Williams can regain his status among the top two or three point guards in the league as soon he gets healthy:

“I’ve seen it,” the GM said. “He’s done it.”

King ratcheted up his defense of Williams when pressed further. .He admitted Williams has “not had the best year,” but attributed that mostly to injuries, exhaustion and a lack of explosiveness.

He compared the circumstances to Carmelo Anthony’s last season, when the Knicks forward struggled with an elbow injury and Mike D’Antoni’s system.

Amid speculation that Williams has also been slowed by weight-gain, King said the three-time All-Star is just one pound heavier than when he was dealt from Utah.

“You’re digging. You’re digging. And you’re asking valid questions, but (the inflammation to Williams’ ankles) is not a concern,” King said. “Kobe’s had the blood-platelet spinning on his knees, and guys have had it. It happens. So let’s not make this a bigger issue than it is. Let’s let him get through this, have a week off and get back to playing basketball. Let’s not put the dirt on him and say his career’s over at 28.

“I think the same questions were asked last year about Carmelo Anthony when they were struggling and people were writing him off, saying is he’s not the same player. I think he bounced back this year.”

…  “Am I confident he’s going to get back to being Deron Williams? Yes.”

Williams needs all the believers he can get. Because the Nets, a team that continues to come up in trade talks with the Feb. 21 trade deadline looming, have to get things right as the postseason nears.

They’ve spent boatloads of cash and made a splashy entrance in their new arena in Brooklyn. The expectations rose with each and every headline they made in putting this team together. If they’re going to come anywhere close to realizing those expectations, they’ll need Williams to get back being the point guard we all saw during his Jazz days.

Nets Need To Hold Williams Accountable





HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – There is nothing to indicate that Deron Williams had direct input on Avery Johnson‘s dismissal on Thursday. In their press conferences on Thursday afternoon, both Johnson and Nets general manager Billy King said that the blame can’t be pinned on Williams. And King added that no players were consulted before the decision was made.

Considering his comments last week regarding Johnson’s offense though, the timing of all this only adds to Williams’ coach-killing reputation. First, Jerry Sloan resigns shortly after an argument with Williams in Utah, and now Johnson is fired shortly after Williams pines for Sloan’s offense.

But let’s just put Williams’ relationship with his coach(es) aside for now, and focus on what he has done on the floor.

The numbers, both simple and advanced, tell the story. Williams has shot less than 40 percent from the field and less than 30 percent from 3-point range this season. Defensively, the Nets have been much worse with Williams on the floor than they’ve been with him on the bench.

Nets efficiency with Williams on and off the floor

On/off floor MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Williams on 996 103.3 106.7 -3.4 -37
Williams off 362 102.0 96.3 +5.7 +41
Total 1,359 102.9 104.0 -1.1 +4

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

When you’re the star of the team, they can’t be better without you. But that’s been the story with Williams and the Nets this season. So while the Nets hope to improve in the coaching department, they also have to wonder about the $99 million investment they made in their point guard.

Williams has been saddled with various injuries throughout his time with the Nets, starting with a right wrist problem that has clearly affected his ability to make shots. But beyond his shooting numbers, there has been a lack of leadership, both in New Jersey and in Brooklyn.

Over the last few weeks, despite all the talent on their roster, the Nets have failed to respond to adversity. And that’s on Williams as much as it is on Johnson. True stars should be able to put their teams on their backs when times get tough. But Williams has really had just one star performance this season, those 14 brilliant dimes he dished out in the Nets’ only win over the Knicks.

The Nets have players with more experience than Williams, and he’s not the only guy on the roster getting paid like a superstar. But this roster was built around him. Keeping him in a Nets uniform was the reason King traded for both Gerald Wallace and Joe Johnson. He’s the two-time Olympian and he’s supposed to be the franchise player.

Being a franchise player is about more than just points, assists and defense. It’s about intangibles, both on the floor and in the locker room. It’s also about the words that come out of your mouth, both off the record and on it.

Publicly expressing doubt about what the coach is doing is a no-no, especially when you’re not living up to your end of the bargain with your play on the floor. No matter what his intentions were, Williams’ comments last week just made it harder for Johnson to do his job. The coach tried to placate his star by incorporating some of Sloan’s offense into the Nets’ system, and Williams tried to soften his quotes later on, but there was no erasing what was originally said.

Though Johnson always had Williams’ support prior to this season, there were signs that Williams wasn’t a great locker room leader when the Nets went 22-44 in their final season in New Jersey. Still, the team had no choice to re-sign their point guard and try to build a contender around him, because the alternative would have been uglier than anything that is going on right now.

With Johnson gone, the Nets have to find a new coach. More important, they have to hold Williams accountable for both his play and his leadership.

When Johnson was asked about the next potential coach for the Nets, he had a very pointed response.

“I just know when the coach comes in, he’s going to have to be able to do it his way,” Johnson said. “Hold everybody accountable, coach true to his style. That’s the way it’s going to have to be.”

Johnson, we know, comes from the School of Pop, where Tim Duncan is treated the same as the 15th guy on the roster. Why Johnson wasn’t able to do the same in Brooklyn isn’t clear, but what is clear is that the Nets’ need their biggest star to step up and take responsibility for leading them out of the hole they’re in.

While the Nets have minimal salary flexibility going forward, they don’t lack talent. And while they need to evaluate the roster, rotation, offense and defense, what they need most is a happy, motivated and productive point guard who can make the most of that talent currently in uniform.

Williams certainly has the ability to turn things around, both individually and for his team. But there’s no other way to put it than to say that he’s been a disappointment since arriving from Utah 22 months ago. And whether or not there’s blood on his hands in the wake of Johnson’s dismissal, there are certainly stains on his reputation as a franchise player.

The D-Will, Cuban Feud … Real Beef Or Much Ado About Nothing?

 

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – In the history of NBA beefs, this budding Deron Williams-Mark Cuban dust-up could rank as one of our all-time favorites for being much ado about absolutely nothing.

Seriously, by the time Williams issued his “No-Cuban/Mavericks-Questions-Ever” edict to the reporters who followed the saga to the Brooklyn Nets’ practice Wednesday:

“Don’t even ask me about Mark Cuban. I’m not gonna answer any questions about the Dallas Mavericks or Mark Cuban for the rest of the year. Even when we go play Dallas or they come here, I’m not answering questions about the Dallas Mavericks.”

The pulse on this scrap was already fading.

Williams lit the flame Monday when he mentioned to many of those same reporters that Cuban might have helped sway his free-agency decision had Cuban attended the face-to-face recruiting pitch in July.

At first glance it didn’t seem like he was throwing darts at the Mavericks’ owner in particular, but that’s the way it played out:

(more…)

Lopez Must Put ‘Brook’ In Brooklyn

 

When comic actor Charles Grodin (The Heartbreak Kid, Midnight Run) penned his sardonic autobiography a couple decades ago, he entitled it “It Would Be So Nice If You Weren’t Here: My Journey Through Show Business.”

If Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez were to slap a headline on his journal entries for 2012, he could pretty much use the same thing, swapping “Nets organization” for the reference to show biz.

For the first six months or so of 2012, it looked like the best thing Lopez could do for the Nets would be to leave. Leave, that is, specifically as the centerpiece of a package of players and draft picks shipped to the Orlando Magic for All-Star Dwight Howard.

Instead, Lopez will be the Nets’ center piece for their dramatic first season in Brooklyn. Never mind that snazzy Maserati in the showroom, kids. We’re driving home in the Buick!

Lopez and still-teammate MarShon Brooks made an appearance at the Nets’ inaugural team store at the Barclays Center, and Howard Beck of the New York Times wrote about the big man’s reset button getting pushed:

Lopez is one of two Nets (along with Kris Humphries) remaining from the humiliating 2009-10 season, when they lost a franchise-record 70 games. He chuckled when it was suggested he had earned this moment.

“I’m pumped,” he said. “Throughout that whole process, everyone kept talking about Brooklyn and stuff like that, how exciting it was going to be. So I just focused on making myself a better player, helping my team in any way possible. And with all the talk I heard about Brooklyn, I knew it was just something I wanted to be part of. It was something that was going to be big.”

Yeah, well, that’s what Nets fans felt about Howard. When the dominating diva, early in his soap opera-ish final season in Orlando, cited the Nets as the one destination he would accept via trade, Lopez immediately became expendable. Chattel frankly, an asset to be moved, a salary to match up against Howard’s per NBA trade rules, a facilitator of greater days ahead for the franchise with which he had spent his first four NBA seasons.

Problem was, the Nets and the Magic failed to work out a trade by the in-season deadline. Soon after the offseason opened for business, Lopez signed a fat contract extension that rendered him untradeable until Jan. 15. That was that, as far as the Orlando option, and Howard soon enough wound up with the Lakers. (more…)

Some Notable Names Are Still Waiting For Their Free Agent Fury To Begin


HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS –
Not all NBA free agents are created equal.

Sometimes you’re Deron Williams and sometimes you’re not.

And this isn’t news to the huddled masses of familiar names and faces still looking for work with the start of training camps just a mere month away. They know that it’s time for the two-minute drill, when their options are dwindling and an invite to camp becomes a life-preserver for guys who are used to guaranteed roster spots and permanent spots in a team’s rotation.

This would explain the likes of Eddy Curry, who most likely will not be in Miami on opening night when the championship banner is raised but does have a ring with his name on it, auditioning for any team interested.

It’s the same reason you hear names like Josh Howard, who has worked out for his home state Charlotte Bobcats, Josh Childress, Hilton Armstrong and so many others — some former lottery picks (Childress) and some former All-Stars (Howard) — doing what millions of other Americans are doing right now, and that’s looking for work.

Curry and Armstrong worked out together for the Nets Wednesday, according to the New York Post:

Curry, along with Hilton Armstrong, worked out for the Nets Wednesday, according to Yahoo! Sports. Curry, the much maligned former Knick, spent last season with the Heat, playing 14 games and averaging 2.1 points while riding the coattails of LeBron James to his first NBA title.

Curry, 29, played a combined 10 games in his final three seasons with the Knicks before his contract was used as salary ballast in the Carmelo Anthony deal in February 2011.

Armstrong was part of the Nets’ free agent minicamp in May, when he earned some praise for his play from general manager Billy King.

“What I like about Hilton is he’s long and he knows how to play. I think the biggest thing for Hilton is doing it consistently,” King said at the time. “I think he got better each day. I like his length, because the one thing is it’s hard to find athletic size in this league.”

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Embry Honored 40 Years After GM Gig

This post might pack a little extra meaning for NBA GMs Masai Ujiri, Joe Dumars, Rod Higgins, Billy King and Dell Demps.

Forty years ago, the Milwaukee Bucks made Wayne Embry the first black general manager in NBA history. In fact, they made him the first black GM in U.S. pro sports.

That’s one of the reasons Embry will be honored Aug. 17 with the Legends Award at the annual Fellowship Open golf tournament in Milwaukee. That award goes to citizens who have demonstrated a personal commitment to helping others. Previous recipients have included baseball’s Hank Aaron, football’s Willie Davis and former Bucks player-turned-fast food entrepreneur Junior Bridgeman.

Embry, 75, a Naismith Hall of Famer, has been in and around the NBA for more than a half century, beginning in 1958 — 11 seasons as a player with Cincinnati, Boston and Milwaukee, and almost without interruption since in front-office roles with the Bucks, the Cavaliers and the Raptors. In Cleveland in 1994, Embry became the first African-American president of a sports team and twice was honored as NBA Executive of the Year. He is in his ninth year in Toronto as a senior advisor.

“Wayne’s legacy is best defined by his leadership and the example he sets for others,” NBA commissioner David Stern wrote in a letter to Fellowship Open board chairman John Daniels. “In addition to acknowledging his position as a role model whose career is an inspiration to younger generations, Wayne recognizes the importance of giving back to the game and to the community. He has taught players to use the values they have learned while competing to make a positive impact on society. The NBA has benefited greatly from Wayne Embry’s commitment to the game of basketball. I am honored to join with you to celebrate his career and to thank him for all he has given us. He is a true pioneer.” (more…)