Posts Tagged ‘Billy King’

Making A List, Checking It Twice …

We’re making a list, checking it twice. On Christmas Eve, it’s time to remember who’s been naughty or nice in the first two months of the 2013-14 season:

Naughty — Nets — There isn’t enough coal in Newcastle to fill up the deservingly drooping stocking that hangs over a forlorn and underachieving mantle in Brooklyn. Why would anyone think it would make sense to trade for 37-year-old Kevin Garnett, 36-year-old Paul Pierce, 36-year-old Jason Terry as part of $102 million-payroll and put the whole thing in the hands of a guy who had never coached a game in his life? Then Jason Kidd gets extra naughty by intentionally spilling a drink when he doesn’t have a timeout against the Lakers. They have a mediocre offense and the 29th-rated defense. Now they lose Brook Lopez to a broken foot. So it won’t be a Happy New Year either, Billy King.

Nice — LaMarcus Aldridge — From Damian Lillard to Nicolas Batum to Robin Lopez to coach Terry Stotts, there are many contributors to the rousing start to the season by the surprising Trail Blazers with the best record in the league. But no one has done more to elevate his game and his team to the elite level than Aldridge. He labored faithfully through seven seasons with a roster that virtually fell apart around his ears, listened to so much talk of trades and has come back to deliver a magnificent season that has him firmly in the MVP conversation.

Naughty — Knicks — Remember when they used to play basketball in New York? The Manhattan edition of the NBA can’t shoot, doesn’t rebound and Carmelo Anthony is saying the Knicks’ troubles are all in their heads. Would that be the heads of the players and the coach who can’t think to call a timeout in the final seconds to set up a shot? If things don’t turn around fast, Mike Woodson’s going to be the fall guy even though there have been enough injuries to fill an ER and the myth of the Knicks as true playoff contenders entering the season was no more real than a team of flying reindeer pulling a sleigh across the sky.

Nice — Suns — If you went to a Las Vegas sports book during training camp and plopped down a sizable lump of cash on the Suns to beat the over/under prediction of 21.5 wins, you’d probably be only a week or two away from returning to book a penthouse suite with your winnings. First-year coach Jeff Hornacek has his club riding the backcourt pairing of Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic with a rotating cast of other contributors to a 17-10 record and a spot right in the thick of the tough Western Conference playoff race. When the Spurs were in town last week, the entire Phoenix roster had played the same number of NBA games in their careers combined as 37-year-old Tim Duncan.

Naughty — Ricky Rubio — Sure, it’s fun to sit in front of the big screen TV and keep hitting the rewind button on the DVR to replay all of those behind-the-back, no-look, over-the-shoulder, through-the-opponent’s-legs, thread-the-needle, oh-my-gosh, how-did-he-do-that, head-on-a-swivel, slicker-than-a-greased eel passes that get his teammates easy layups and dunks. But come on, two years plus into your NBA career, you’ve got to be able to knock down a wide open jump shot when teams give them to you. Which they do and which you don’t. Which is a big part of the reason why your Timberwolves are healthy and still underperforming.

Nice — Kevin Love — After missing 91 games over the past two seasons to injury, Love’s return to good health and a nightly spot in the lineup has been a sight sweeter than sugar plums dancing in the Timberwolves’ heads. How does a guy who is always a threat to score 30 points and pull down 20 rebounds get better? He becomes a better passer, nearly doubling his assists to 4.2 per game. Outside of The King down in South Beach, there’s just nobody in the league you can count on more every night.

Naughty — Grizzlies — There are more excuses than places to hear the blues in Memphis. But the bottom line is that even before Marc Gasol was sidelined with a knee injury, the Grizzlies were going south. They simply haven’t bought into new coach Dave Joerger, still can’t shoot from the perimeter and Zach Randolph seems to have lost his inspiration. The Grind House was a fun place while it lasted.

Nice — LeBron James — Maybe the only thing that stops him from winning MVP No. 5 — and third in a row — is boredom. Not his. Ours. He’ll never completely win over the entire public the way Michael Jordan did simply because of the times in which we live. The age of social media allows critics to throw stones and pick nits. There has simply never been anyone this big and this strong and this fast and this complete with still such a large part of the meat of his career ahead of him.

Naughty — Westbrook critics — Now that Russell Westbrook has recovered from two surgeries, returned to the Thunder lineup and shown not the slightest loss of his swagger, is there anyone who still thinks Kevin Durant and the OKC franchise would be better off without him?

Nice —Kendrick the Bouncer — It had to bring a smile to the face — if not a tear to the eye — of every old school scrapper who’s ever laced up a pair of sneakers and just gone after it when Kendrick Perkins unceremoniously ran Joakim Noah out of the Thunder locker room. That’s enough of the 21st century touchy-feely, we’re-all-buddies atmosphere that persists these days. Not enough get-outta-my-face growling between rivals. A team’s locker room is its castle and the only thing that could have made it better is if Perk dumped him into a moat.

Naughty — Omer Asik — Let’s see. For two seasons in Chicago you were averaging just 13 minutes per game and getting relative peanuts. The Rockets signed you to a free agent contract that pays $25 million over three years and last season you started all 82 games and averaged a double-double. That’s nice. But then they signed All-Star Dwight Howard in July. He’s much, much better. You’re still getting your $25 million. Didn’t you read the line about you better not pout? So we’re making our list, checking it twice and — ho-ho-ho — you’re definitely on it.

Summer Dreaming: Executive Of The Year

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HANG TIME, Texas – Never mind that the weather map says it’ s hurricane season. This is the time of year when there are nothing but blue skies over every NBA franchise from Miami to Portland to Los Angeles to Toronto.

Draft picks have been chosen and brought into camp. Free agents have been signed and trotted out for the TV cameras. Trades have been made to fill holes in the lineups. It’s a time for championship planning among the elite class and fantasizing about moving up by the wannabes.

But the truth is that, despite so much spin doctoring that comes out of all the front offices, there are a handful of team presidents and general managers that made the most of the offseason. That’s why we don’t have to wait till next April — or even the season openers — to know who’ll be taking bows for their work. They’re our summer dreaming picks for Executive of the Year:

Daryl Morey, Rockets – Unless Dwight Howard wakes up one morning and declares it was all a mistake — that he really loved having Kobe Bryant as a playmate, that he thoroughly enjoyed Mike D’Antoni’s offense and that he never, ever meant to leave those clever recruiting banners in L.A. — this is as sure a thing as Usain Bolt outrunning a lead-boot-wearing Charles Barkley. If Howard stays healthy, he and fellow All-Star James Harden will team up to make the Rockets instant challengers for one of the top four seeds in the Western Conference and could even be a dark horse contender to advance all the way to The Finals. But before they even chalk up one “W” in the standings, Morey has put a headlock on the award simply by making the Rockets franchise relevant again for the first time in years. After drifting on a sea of anonymity and mediocrity since the star-crossed Tracy McGrady-Yao Ming pairing came undone, the Rockets are back in the spotlight. A year ago, they were on national TV once. Now they have 10 appearances on ESPN, nine on TNT, one on ABC and even made it into the Christmas lineup with a date at San Antonio.

Billy King, Nets – It’s like walking into a casino with a sack full of money, walking straight to the roulette table and plopping it all down on red. Or black. Either way, it’s a 50-50 gamble and you live with the results. King certainly has the cushion and the endorsement of Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokorhov and the understanding that paying the luxury tax bill of nearly $100 million is no problem. Still, it takes considerable nerve for King to bet it all on the hope that a 37-year-old Kevin Garnett, 35-year-old Paul Pierce, 35-year-old Jason Terry and a rookie head coach in Jason Kidd can take down the two-time defending champs from Miami along with the rest of what has become a strengthened Eastern Conference lineup. Deron Williams and Joe Johnson were enough to make Brooklyn a postseason sports destination for the first time since the Dodgers left town, but now it’s the old Celtics who’ll be expected to show them how to win a series or more. To get Andrei Kirilenko to walk away from a guaranteed $10 million to sign a cut-rate deal was probably the second-best move of the entire NBA offseason, trailing only Dwight Howard’s move to Houston. Kirilenko adds a tough defender and a slashing finisher to a lineup that hopes to have Brook Lopez improving on his first ever All-Star season. If he’s accomplished one big thing already, King has jumped the Nets over the Knicks as the headlining team in New York, which is signficant.

Chris Grant, Cavaliers – Things have changed considerably since that first summer on the job as GM when LeBron James took his talents to South Beach and the temptation might have been to turn out the lights and simply declare the NBA party in Cleveland over. Grant has steadily reassembled the franchise one piece at time to a point where people are whispering that it’s not out of the question to think James could return next summer when he becomes a free agent. Before that, the Cavs figure to have a resurgent seasons between their splendid young point guard Kyrie Irving and all the other pieces that Grant has put around him. Anthony Bennett may have been a bit of a surprise on draft night, but should fill a need on the front line and free agent signee Jarrett Jack will be both a firecracker lift off the bench. Of course, the big bonanza would be if free agent Andrew Bynum can overcome the knee injuries that left him notable only for sitting on bench modeling outrageous hairstyles last season in Philly. A return to the form that once made him an All-Star with the Lakers makes Grant a genius and, even if Bynum falls short, the Cavs have not made a long crippling financial commitment to the gamble. And don’t forget to give Grant credit for not listening to the suggestions that he should have traded Anderson Varejao. The Cavs will likely make a playoff push in the Eastern Conference and, depending on how bright the future looks next spring, could turn the head of a familiar figure to come home.

Joe Dumars, Pistons – Let’s face it. The Hall of Fame guard-turned-GM has taken his fair share of abuse through recent seasons for allowing the once-proud franchise to drift way out of the playoff picture and even have trouble drawing crowds to The Palace. Was it a curse for making Darko Mlicic the No. 2 pick in the 2003 draft, ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade? Then there was that disastrous free agent splurge on Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva in 2009. But lately Dumars has been making a comeback, drafting a pair of big men in Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond who have the potential to anchor the Pistons front line for years to come. He made his biggest play in signing free agent Josh Smith, hoping that the stat-line filler can step into the role of No. 1 option and even team leader. Then Dumars traded for Brandon Jennings with hope that he can be both reined in and unleashed and brought home former Finals MVP Chauncey Billups to show him how. Mo Cheeks gets his third shot as a head coach and it’s all a mix that could put the Pistons back in the playoffs.

Dell Demps, Pelicans – The easier path for Demps would have been to keep Nerlens Noel when the big man fell into his lap at the No. 6 pick and keep on selling a theme of acquiring young assets and building for the future. But with a new team name, new franchise colors and a new owner (Tom Benson) writing the checks, it was a time for a new and bolder direction. The young and oh-so-slender Noel was deemed too much duplication on the front line with 2012 No. 1 pick Anthony Davis and was trade to Philly for 23-year-old guard Jrue Holiday, who puts the only All-Star credentials in the New Orleans lineup. Demps then kept dealing to bring more firepower into the lineup with former rookie of the year Tyreke Evans. Of course, that immediately brought talk of a crowded backcourt with Eric Gordon still on hand, but Demps and coach Monty Williams are betting that a three-man rotation cannot only thrive, but put some punch into what was a thoroughly mediocre offense last season. Assuming Davis takes another big step forward in his second season, the Pelicans could contend for one of the final playoff spots in the West.

PREVIOUSLY: Comeback player | MVP | Coach of the Year | Sixth Man of the Year | Defensive Player of Year | Most Improved Player | Rookie Of Year

Pierce Ready To Embrace A New Reality

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BROOKLYN, N.Y. –
It’s unclear which idea is easier to believe: A tornado of sharks or Paul Pierce playing for the Brooklyn Nets. The former (“Sharknado”)was just a terrifically bad TV movie, while the latter became one step closer to reality on Thursday as the Nets introduced Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry on the floor of the Barclays Center.

We forget that it was just three years ago that the New Jersey Nets completed one of the worst seasons in NBA history and that the following season, they were starting Travis Outlaw at small forward. Since then, general manager Billy King has turned Devin Harris into Deron Williams, Courtney Lee into Joe Johnson, Outlaw into Pierce, and Kris Humphries into Garnett, all while keeping a young and talented All-Star center in Brook Lopez.

And it’s not like this new team is only five deep. They should have one of the better second units in the league with Terry, Andrei Kirilenko and Andray Blatche also in the fold. And with franchise hero Jason Kidd taking over as coach, Nets fans might feel the need to pinch themselves.

Pierce looked like he needed to do the same. After 15 years with the Boston Celtics, the idea of playing for another franchise was not easy to swallow. And it was clearly written on his face as he sat on that dais that he wasn’t 100 percent ready to start repping Brooklyn. As evidenced by the amount of Boston media that made the trip down, this day was almost as much about the end of an era in Boston it was about the superteam that Nets have put together.

But it was Pierce who sold Garnett – over a 90-minute phone call – on the idea making this change. He knew where the Celtics were heading when they were discussing Doc Rivers‘ departure earlier in the summer and he knew that he’d be making  a big adjustment whether he stayed in Boston or not.

“You sort of kind of felt it coming,” Pierce said. “You figured if Doc was going to be leaving, you figured that was going to be the end of an era of me, Kevin and [Rajon] Rondo together.”

And though he still clearly needs some time to get used to his new reality, Pierce said Thursday that he’d rather be winning in Brooklyn than rebuilding in Boston.

“When you get that taste of success, you get that good meal or a taste of something good, you don’t want to go backwards,” he said. “That’s how I felt. I think Doc felt the same way. Kevin felt the same way. And that’s why all of us put ourselves in these situations where we can try to win.”

So here they are. Two guys that have bled green for the last six years wearing the black and white of a franchise that has seemingly reinvented itself twice in the last 13 months. And if you had any doubts that Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov wasn’t afraid to spend money, realize that he just flew across the world in his Gulfstream to show up late for a 90-minute press conference.

But even Prokhorov knows that it takes more than a willingness to pay $80 million in luxury tax to win a championship.

“In the NBA, money, it’s important,” he said. “But you can’t buy a champ only spending money. The most important is to put pieces together and to create championship contender.”

The next step is getting Brooklyn’s Big 8 together on the floor. Right now, they’re a great team on paper. But so were the Lakers last season. Garnett and Pierce will be 37 and 36 years old respectively when the season starts, and LeBron James still resides in Miami.

For the Nets to challenge the Heat this season, they will need to stay healthy, play defense and develop chemistry. Pierce and Garnett did just that in Boston six years ago. But though they came a few minutes away from another championship in 2010, they’re still seeking a second ring.

“I felt like the difference in the years we spent in Boston when we won vs. when we didn’t,” Garnett said, “was just how we dealt with each other and how we communicated with each other.

“That’s going to be the biggest question mark for this team, how well are we able to jell and how quickly are we able to jell.”

The good news is that Pierce and Garnett bring six years of chemistry with them, and having a partner in this transition was critical for both of them. Though leaving Boston was difficult, they know that they have the potential to win big in Brooklyn. They wouldn’t have come if Williams, Johnson and Lopez weren’t already here.

It’s just a shame that we have to wait more than three months to see how all of this will work out.

“I’m here to try to create some kind of legacy here in Brooklyn,” Pierce said. “It’s sinking in and I’m liking what I feel right now.”
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Payroll Not A Taxing Problem For Nets

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ORLANDO, Fla — There were many different things that could have stood in the way of the Nets making the blockbuster moves to trade for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry.

Money wasn’t going to be one of them. While so many teams are desperately running away from paying the luxury tax next season, the Nets practically sprinted into taking a financial bath, raising their potential tax bill from just under $13 million last season to almost $80 million for 2013-14.

“I think it’s great for our fans and for our organization that we have an owner (Mikhail Prokorhov) who is willing to spend the money and spend it wisely,” said general manager Billy King while waiting for the start of play Wednesday at the Orlando Pro Summer League.

“We didn’t just spend the money to spend it, we feel like we’ve advanced our common goal to win a championship. (Prokohov) believes in what we’re doing, we talk about it and map it out going forward as far as our strategy for the next couple of years and what we want to get to for the next couple of years.

“When we did this deal we mapped it out … We have a couple of year window to do what we’ve set out to accomplish and then we can reevaluate it. I think the way the contracts are set up now you have a chance to set it up for three or four years, with the length of contract, to reshuffle very quickly.”

The Nets were scrambling after they found that Turkish forward Bojan Bogdanovic will not be be joining the team. No agreement could be made on a buyout with his team in Turkey. King said there was another option available, though free agent Andrei Kirilenko’s price would definitely be out of the Nets range.

“I wanted him in Brooklyn, there was no about about that,” said coach Jason Kidd. “But now we go to Plan B and move on.”

A year ago, on the eve of their relocation to Brooklyn, the Nets thought they were also making a big move up into the level of playoff contenders when they committed big money to re-sign free agent Deron Williams and then traded for the expensive contract of Joe Johnson. But they were still knocked out of the playoffs in the first round by an injury-depleted Bulls team.

The increasingly punitive luxury tax provisions of the new collective bargaining agreement kick in this season and even such perennial heavy hitters as the Lakers have pulled back on spending due to the repeater clauses that will kick in down the line.

“It’s not a goal of mine to hit the repeater tax, but that’s not the main concern,” King said.

Prokorhov has let it be known that his only goal is winning a championship with both his words and opening of his wallet. Thus, Garnett, Pierce and Terry, all veterans with championship experience.

“I think with our roster and the guys we have it’s not about scoring titles, it’s about winning,” King said. “That’s the great thing when you have guys leading and thinking that way it makes it easy for you to win. When you have guys worried about getting their shots then the common goal of winning is not the most important thing.”

Howard To Houston Is A Two-Fisted Gut Punch For Mavs

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – If the Los Angeles Lakers recoiled at the sobering prospect of dealing Dwight Howard to an already rising divisional foe, imagine the steam clouds that spewed from the ears of Mark Cuban as if his head was an erupting Mount Vesuvius when he learned the big man had agreed to join the aspiring Houston Rockets.

Cuban seemed to take the news in stride Friday afternoon when the Dallas Mavericks’ owner was notified that his team was out of the running for the summer’s most coveted free agent. At the time, he said he was not told with which team Howard would sign.

“Got word we are out of the DH sweepstakes,” Cuban wrote in an email to various media outlets. “We gave it a shot and it didn’t work out. It was truly an experience. At some point I will post our video and presentation we made.”

The Rockets, Golden State Warriors and the incumbent Los Angeles Lakers remained in play. But only a short time later, USA Today, followed by TNT’s David Aldridge confirmed that Howard will leave the Lakers and join the Mavs’ Southwest division rival.

This one will deeply burn the Mavs, now two-time losers trying to lure a big-name free agent to pair with a now 35-year-old Dirk Nowitzki.

All the while Cuban controversially, yet strategically was dismantling his 2011 championship club in anticipation of re-building a contender by creating cap space to lure a superstar (or two) under the guidelines of the new collective bargaining agreement, his in-division, in-state rival in southeast Texas was scheming just the same.

Daryl Morey, the gambling Houston Rockets’ general manager, set in motion a number of trades and transactions over the last two years to ultimately acquire players, cap space and other assets that would position the Rockets to strike when opportunities arose, to swing for the fences through both trades and free agency.

The Rockets should give Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti a tip of the cap for making this behemoth agreement possible. Before the start of last season, the Thunder’s salary-cap-strapped GM dealt rising star James Harden to Houston as Morey dipped into his collection of assets. Harden became an All-Star and delivered the Rockets back into the playoffs. Now Morey has Howard, too, his longtime target.

Aside from the Lakers, who practically begged Howard to re-sign, no team will find this harder to swallow than Dallas. The scenario of Howard to Houston was always the Mavs’ worst nightmare, leaving the franchise third in pecking order in its own state behind the Rockets and the ever-resilient San Antonio Spurs.

The Warriors cleared out cap space Friday and added another top-flight free agent in Andre Iguodala – a Mavs target in the case they whiffed on Howard — to a young and talented roster that challenged the Spurs in the second round. Golden State won’t be too disappointed in not landing Howard. They were always a long-shot in this race and even without Howard they look to be putting together something special.

The Atlanta Hawks, flush with cap space, never seemed to elevate their hopes too high that Howard would reverse his long-held thinking and decide to play in his hometown. General manager Danny Ferry will now attempt to piece together the best team he possibly can for new coach Mike Budenholzer.

This was Strike Two for Dallas. A year ago, it chased native son Deron Williams, but was rebuffed. It signed a slew of players to one-year deals to keep their free-agent “powder dry” — as president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson is fond of saying — and to go after Howard or Chris Paul this summer.

Williams’ Nets now have the look of a contender after general manager Billy King pulled off the stunning trade that brings Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn. CP3 got Doc Rivers and is staying put and now the Rockets with Howard will vault into the top four or five in the West with Warriors, CP3’s Clippers, the Thunder and the reigning West champion Spurs.

And Houston might not be done. They have long been reported to seek Atlanta free agent power forward Josh Smith, a childhood buddy of Howard, who’s reluctance to join the Mavs leaves the franchise reeling. Two seasons ago they were swept out of the first round by the Thunder and this season failed to make the playoffs for the first time in 13 seasons.

Nowitzki, understanding his years are numbered, has repeatedly called this a “big offseason for us.”

Yet on the roster at this moment with him is Shawn Marion, 35, Vince Carter, 36, two 2012 second-round draft picks Jae Crowder and Bernard James, plus 2013 first-round pick Shane Larkin and newly signed Israeli guard Gal Mekel. 

As Howard’s drama dragged on, Dallas missed out on other free-agent targets, most notable Iguodala. The Clippers re-signed role player Matt Barnes and on Thursday center Al Jefferson signed a lucrative deal with the Charlotte Bobcats.

So where do Cuban and the Mavs go from here?

Dallas, 41-41 last season with Nowitzki playing in only 53 games after preseason knee surgery, has glaring holes at point guard, shooting guard and center. They can seek a trade but possess few assets to entice a team into dealing a player of stature. They learned that quickly in reported talks with Boston for Rajon Rondo.

Cuban said after the season that he doesn’t want to go through another year of one-year contracts, preferring to find players that are core-worthy. Now he and Nelson must decide if, for instance, still available guards Monta Ellis, Mo Williams or Jarrett Jack are building-block players they want to commit years and dollars to at the risk of cutting into cap space for next summer. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant and Zach Randolph, among others, could be on the market.

But the Mavs have twice seen what a crapshoot that strategy can be.

A Day Of Change In The Atlantic

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NEW YORK – The new Atlantic Division is going to take some getting used to.

It’s just a couple of months removed from the Boston Celtics not winning the division for the first time in five years. And now, we have Boston playing a season without Paul Pierce for the first time this century.

In a blockbuster deal that can’t go through until July 10, Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry are coming to Brooklyn in exchange for Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Reggie Evans, Keith Bogans, Kris Joseph and three first-round picks. The deal has to wait until the 10th – the end of the free agency moratorium period – because Bogans has to be signed to a new contract first. (Nets GM Billy King met with the media Thursday night, but when asked about the moves he made, only spoke of draft pick Mason Plumlee.)

After a somewhat disappointing first season in their new home, the Nets are pushing forward and willing to pay a huge luxury tax bill. Their new starting lineup – Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Pierce, Garnett and Brook Lopez – is set to make more than $82 million next season. Mikhail Prokhorov’s bankroll knows no limits and King isn’t afraid to pull the trigger on major deals.

As long as they’re mostly healthy and kept fresh throughout the season, Pierce and Garnett will make the Nets better. Pierce gives them much better spacing and shooting at small forward than Wallace did, and Garnett is obviously a huge defensive upgrade for a team that ranked 19th on that end of the floor last season. Along with new coach Jason Kidd, the old Celtics will give the Nets some much-needed character and toughness.

The Celtics are obviously taking a huge step backward. Danny Ainge has finally hit the reset button on his roster, and rightfully so. Boston was a mediocre squad (and rather dreadful offensively) even before Rajon Rondo tore his ACL in late January. With no guarantee that Rondo will be 100 percent next season, no way to make significant improvements with Pierce’s and Garnett’s salaries still on the payroll, and a strong draft class coming up in 2014, now is the right time to be bad.

The Philadelphia 76ers are clearly ready to be bad, too, sending 24-year-old All-Star Jrue Holiday to New Orleans for the draft rights to Nerlens Noel (the No. 6 pick in Thursday’s draft) and the Hornets’ 2014 first round pick. So, Philly will rebuild with (likely) four Lottery picks in two years, including Michael Carter-Williams, who they selected at No. 11 on Thursday and who replaces Holiday at point guard.

With how bad they’ll be next season, the Sixers will have a decent chance to get the much-hyped Andrew Wiggins with next year’s No. 1 pick. New GM Sam Hinkie was quick to put his imprint on the franchise and is clearly willing to wait to see his plan come to fruition. Just 10 1/2 months after trading for Andrew Bynum, Philly is going in a whole new direction. And it may be the closest any team has come to replicating the method in which the Oklahoma City Thunder built a championship contender.

For now, the Celtics and Sixers will be buried near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, while the Nets and Knicks reside somewhere near the top and the Toronto Raptors hope that a full season of Rudy Gay can get them back to the playoffs.

It will be a very different Atlantic Division come October, but it’s hard to argue with the moves made by the three teams in question. Brooklyn’s success obviously hinges on the health of Pierce and Garnett, but they didn’t give up much in terms of warm bodies to get them, they upgraded at both forward positions, and the picks they gave up will likely be in the 20s. They’re always willing to buy additional picks if they need to.

The Celtics are taking a step backward at the right time. And the Sixers weren’t going far with Holiday and Thaddeus Young as their best players. No one knows how good either team will be three or four years from now, but hitting the floor now gives them higher ceilings down the line.

In one day, the Atlantic Division underwent major changes that will be felt for a long time.

Report: Kidd In Negotiations With Nets



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Jason Kidd‘s retirement party won’t last another week at this rate. The future Hall of Fame point guard, who announced his retirement from the league last week, is reportedly in negotiations to become the next head coach of the Brooklyn Nets.

Kidd is in line for a three-year deal and has, according to John Mitchell of the Philadelphia Inquirer, already an agreement in principle to replace P.J. Carlesimo in Brooklyn. Carlesimo finished the season as the interim replacement for coach Avery Johnson, who once coached Kidd in Dallas.

Nets boss Billy King is going in a radical direction by even pursuing Kidd, whose brilliant playing career included a championship in Dallas in 2011 and back-to-back trips to The Finals with the Nets a decade ago. Kidd’s lack of coaching experience is offset by 19 years of playing in the league, many of those as one of the top point guards in the game.

How Kidd fills his staff out will also be of significant intrigue. A source confirmed to NBA.com this afternoon that former Nets and Detroit Pistons coach Lawrence Frank is expected to be a part of Kidd’s staff, potentially as his lead assistant. Frank coached Kidd from 2003-04 to the trade deadline of the 2007-08 season, when Kidd was dealt to Dallas.

The Nets were considering a long list of candidates for their vacancy, including Pacers assistant Brian Shaw and recently fired Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins. Both men remain candidates for the open job with the Los Angeles Clippers. Kidd rising to the top of the Nets’ list in such short order is a development few saw coming, especially on the heels of his retirement announcement last week.

Perhaps the most interesting wrinkle of this entire affair, though, is what impact Kidd’s hiring will have on the current face of the franchise: veteran point guard Deron Williams. An All-Star and Olympic gold medalist, Williams and Kidd already have a relationship from their playing days. How they work together will likely determine the immediate on-court fortunes of the franchise.

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.