Posts Tagged ‘Jay-Z’

Trust Binds Brooks, Young Stars To OKC


VIDEO: Take a closer look at Scott Brooks’ coaching style and strategy

OKLAHOMA CITY – Scott Brooks does a bad job of bragging. As he continued to redirect credit for Oklahoma City’s ongoing success to a meticulous organizational structure and its young stars, the Thunder’s coach, self-deprecating to a fault, spotted Wilson Taylor in the distance.

Taylor is the club’s 30-year-old manager of team operations. The morning shootaround had ended moments earlier and Taylor was busily attending to some normally behind-the-scenes tasks at the other end of the team’s sprawling, immaculately lit training facility eight miles north of downtown. Like Brooks and multiple members of OKC’s staff — general manager Sam Presti, superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, roster rock Nick Collison – Taylor’s been with the team since it opened shop here in the summer of 2008.

“People don’t talk about this, but Sam has done a great job hiring, not necessarily me, but everybody in this building,” Brooks said in an interview last week with NBA.com. “You talk to Wilson right there, he understands that his job is to get our players better. And we all have the same mentality, from our therapists, from our sports scientists, from our trainers, from our equipment managers; we all understand our job is to get our players better, and I take pride in all those guys.”

Still, Brooks, 48, is the coach. And he’s overseeing one of the most unique and potentially historic team-building processes in the modern, free-agent-frenzied NBA. From the start of his career, Brooks has been coaching a rising icon (Durant), a perennial all-NBA player (Westbrook) and a roster that boasts, even after Jeff Green and James Harden‘s departures 20 months apart, seven homegrown players and six who are 25 or younger.

In the last four seasons, the Thunder have challenged the Lakers in the first round, made the West finals in 2011 and the NBA Finals in 2012 before last season’s hope got short-circuited in the West semis after a Westbrook knee injury.

Now here they are again.

The bedrock for all this success lies deeper than shrewd drafting. It lies with the bond Brooks forged early on with his two divergent stars. That put the youthful crew on a developmental fast track and put OKC on the map.

On Sunday, Brooks will coach the Western Conference All-Stars in the 63rd All-Star Game in New Orleans because his Thunder sit atop the heated Western Conference with 42 wins in 54 games. Holler if you called that following Westbrook’s third knee surgery the day after he dropped a Christmas Day triple-double at Madison Square Garden.

The only team in the league to rank in the top five in offensive and defensive rating? The Thunder. They’ve popped East powerhouses Miami and Indiana by a combined 41 points.

This is arguably the deepest OKC squad ever and, assuming Westbrook resumes his season in the coming days, the Thunder are the favorite to win the West. (more…)

So Stevenson Wants To Play With LeBron?

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – It would be the ultimate form of “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” Only not as you think.

Remember, it was the pitbull-defense of DeShawn Stevenson who helped the Dallas Mavericks throw a wet blanket over a fourth-quarter-shrinking LeBron James. Those 2011 Mavs still stand as the first and only team to beat LeBron’s Heat in the playoffs.

It was also the last time Stevenson played an integral role in a team’s success. He hit key 3-pointers throughout the title run, but left Dallas a bumbling mess after the championship and headed to the Nets as a free agent before being traded to Atlanta as part of the Joe Johnson deal.

Stevenson, 32, is a free agent again after the Hawks waived him a few days ago, as Stevenson himself let it be known via Twitter:

Stevenson cleared waivers on Sunday and if the above tweet didn’t make it clear where he wants to play a 14th NBA season, in this tweet he actually makes a plea to the team’s best player to get him there:

Hey everybody wants to play with LeBron, including Greg Oden. Shane Battier did. Ray Allen took half the pay to play. Others have said, heck yes, they’d consider the Heat. But Stevenson’s outreach is intriguing (OK, hilarious) on multiple fronts, the least being the Heat’s relative lack of need for him. What’s amazing about the plea to help him get work with the two-time champs is Stevenson’s past loathing of LeBron.

Perhaps you recall this T-shirt Stevenson wore on the Mavs’ way out of Miami the morning after winning the title on the Heat’s home floor?

Of course, Stevenson’s disdain for LeBron goes way back to his days as an antagonist with the Washington Wizards. Back in the good, old days (2008) when the Wizards still actually made the playoffs and when LeBron still played for his hometown Cavaliers.

The best part of this ridiculous little feud between a career role player who started it by calling James “overrated,” is when it really jumped the shark by LeBron saying that responding to a negative comment made by Stevenson would be akin to Jay-Z acknowledging Soulja Boy.

So, of course, Stevenson invited Soulja Boy to Game 3 of their ’08 playoff series, which Soulja accepted. Jay-Z surprisingly countered by quickly recording a little number with lyrics dissing Stevenson and reportedly playing it a hot Washington D.C. night spot.

It is slightly interesting that Stevenson then went on to sign with the Nets, a franchise that boasted a minority owner named Jay-Z until the rapper recently moved into the sports agent arena. So who’s to say that Stevenson now can’t join his former nemesis LeBron in South Beach?

For LeBron, who posterized former Mavs pest Jason Terry after a monster alley-oop slam in Boston last season, surely he’s received hundreds of “LOL” texts on his Galaxy smartphone.

But hey, this is the NBA where amazing happens, like Stevenson wearing 2011 championship bling and not LeBron. And Stevenson should be happy with that because the odds of him joining LeBron in Miami are slightly less than Chris Riley hiring Soulja Boy to play at her husband’s surprise 69th birthday party come March.

24-Second Thoughts On Game 5

24 – Manu Ginobili making Gregg Popovich look like the genius he is by starting him (much the same way Mike Miller made Erik Spoelstra look like a hoops Einstein by starting his veteran shooter in Game 4). Manu’s energy and effort early on will likely set the tone for the Spurs, who need a spark after getting handled the way they did in Game 4. Bald spot or not, Ginobili remains a champion and will show a champion’s heart in this game. Guaranteed.

23 – Tim Duncan and Chris Bosh are absolutely going at it in the post. You have to wonder how this series might have gone for the Heat if Bosh had played like this in Games 1, 2 and or 3 … he doesn’t have to get the better of Duncan. He needs only make Duncan work overtime (they are trying to front him on every offensive possession) for his offensive touches and put the pressure on him to defend Bosh in a similar manner on the other end of the floor.

22 – The Spurs’ balance is ruling the day early. They open a 10-point lead late in the first quarter bolstered by said balance and some great defensive work … make that a 12-point lead after another fantastic stop and scramble that results in a Kawhi Leonard dunk with 60 seconds to play. Their 29-17 lead was really 5-on-3. The only Heat players to score until the final seconds of the quarter were Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. Ray Allen scored the Heat’s only other basket

21 – Leonard has been exposed as a no-frills performer, rivaling Duncan for the title of the most boring (in a good way) player in this series. But how anyone can watch this guy work on both ends of the floor and conclude that he’s anything other than a star in the making is beyond me. He’s been spectacular working against LeBron basically the entire series. His 3 from the corner pushes the lead to 32-19 at the end of the first quarter.

20 – Danny Green for 3 … again. Welcome back to The Finals roller coaster folks. This series swings so wildly in one direction or the other on a given night that it’s impossible to get a feel for which team has any real rhythm. I don’t know if that’s a credit to the team that’s hot or an indictment of the team that’s getting torched. Either way, it makes for spectacular viewing. Green has tied Allen’s record for 3-pointers made in The Finals (22), with a shot over Allen, and we’ve got more than six minutes until halftime.

19 – The Spurs have absolutely no one who can cover LeBron in the post consistently, just as the Heat have no one who can cover Duncan in the post consistently. At least no one can single-cover either one of them on a regular basis. If we get another close game it’ll be interesting to see if Popovich or Spoelstra goes there on a final play.

18 – Parker with a sweet drive and finish to wrap up a breakneck first half for both teams. Spurs are shooting a wicked 62 percent in the first half with four of the five starters in double figures already and the fifth (Leonard) has nine. Loving the bounce back on both sides. Pop says it best, “this game is a big boy game.” The fact that both coaches continue to implore their guys to crank up the tempo is perhaps my favorite part of this series. It’s rare that you see teams willing to play to what could be the others strength on purpose. Supreme confidence on both sides. Splendid.

17 – Jay-Z comes up with three minutes of funky stuff, coming July 4, at the end of an instant classic first half that sends Twitter and Facebook into a frenzy.
(more…)

Morning Shootaround — April 10

Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.

The one recap to watch: Entering last night’s home game against the Suns, the Rockets needed only to win to clinch their first playoff berth in four seasons. A game against one of the West’s worst teams seemed to make that goal even easier to reach, but Phoenix showed plenty of fight all night and had the game tied with 9.1 seconds to play. The Rockets had their shot to lock up their postseason dream in the hands of All-Star James Harden, who took a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that bounced off the rim … but as that was happening, the Suns’ Jermaine O’Neal went up through the net and touched the ball on the rim. The result? A goal-tending call … which meant a Rockets victory … which meant a playoff berth clinched … which, in turn, makes it our one to watch this morning.

News of the morning

Jay-Z looking to become NBA agent | James expects to rest down stretch | Blazers, Hickson ready to part ways | Lowry sounds off on first season in Toronto

Jay-Z looking to sell stake in Nets, become agentThe Nets have perhaps the most famous minority owner in all of the league, rapper Jay-Z. Although the hip-hop mogul owns less than 1 percent of the team, he was reportedly instrumental in the design of the Nets’ uniforms and has been a key figure in the team’s mostly successful first season in Brooklyn. But Jay-Z is never one to rest on his laurels and is thinking of getting into the agent game, writes Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, and may soon sell his stake in the Nets to do so:

Entertainment mogul and rapper Jay-Z has started the process of divesting his small share of ownership with the Brooklyn Nets to extend his Roc Nation Sports representation business into basketball, sources told Yahoo! Sports.

Selling his share of the Nets is a necessary prelude for Jay-Z to obtain his National Basketball Players Association certification as an agent.

NBA rules mandate that no one individual affiliated with a player representation company can have an ownership stake with an NBA team.

Jay-Z’s Roc Nation company has partnered with Creative Artists Agency (CAA) to launch a sports representation business that recently secured New York Yankees star Robinson Cano.

The process is expected to be completed in time for Roc Nation to compete for players entering the June NBA draft, but there’s no guarantee of the timing, sources said. Those within Roc Nation and the CAA alliance aren’t “chasing a clock on this,” one source said. “This isn’t about one draft, but taking the long view of the business.”

Rival agents are anxious over the possibilities of Jay-Z on the recruiting trail, believing the lure of his iconic business and cultural standing will have a major impact on attracting top prospects and current league stars.

CAA and Jay-Z are taking time to carefully formalize the arrangement on the basketball end, sources told Y! Sports, and are sensitive to making sure he exits the Nets partnership in a way that is respectful to the organization.

LeBron likely to rest down stretch of seasonFans planning on seeing the Heat — and their vaunted Big Three — between now and the end of the season might want to save their money. Already the Heat have been without Dwyane Wade (knee) for five straight games and Chris Bosh sat out last night’s win over the Bucks as he recovers from the flu. LeBron James did play against Milwaukee and had his usual stellar night, but even he is likely to rest some games as Miami comes to the end of their season, writes David J. Neal of the Miami Herald:

LeBron James said Tuesday morning he would be a scratch for some of the last six. Dwyane Wade will travel to Washington for Wednesday’s game, but is no lock to play. Center Chris Bosh called in sick Tuesday and could miss Wednesday’s game at Washington, too.

“He has flulike symptoms, so unless he gets dramatically better [he won’t travel],” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said before Tuesday’s game with Milwaukee. “It’s something we talked about. I don’t know if we will bring him around everybody.”

Spoelstra said Wade is day-to-day with his knee and ankle injuries. Wade went through Tuesday’s morning shootaround and worked out later in the day.

James said he’s “getting back to form” and his hamstring has “reacted well the last few days.”

But as for the last six games…

“I want to play, but I’m going to go against myself for the first time in my career,” James said. “OK, probably about the third time in my career. I sat out a few games when we had it locked up in Cleveland as well, to really use those games to get healthy as well.”

James started Tuesday with point guard Mario Chalmers and forwards Mike Miller, Shane Battier and Udonis Haslem.

Hickson, Blazers set to move on separatelyBy the time J.J. Hickson arrived in Portland on March 21, 2012, his NBA stock couldn’t have been much lower. The Kings had dealt for him before the 2011-12 season with hopes he’d shore up their front line, but Hickson mostly disappointed in Sacramento. After arriving in Portland, though, Hickson’s numbers rose dramatically as he averaged 15.1 ppg and 8.3 rpg in 19 games with the Blazers. This season, it’s been even more success for the big man, as he’s averaging a double-double (12.9 ppg, 10.6 rpg) for a thin Portland team. Despite the success he’s had in the Rose City, though, it’s unlikely the unrestricted free-agent will be back in the Rose City next season. Jason Quick of The Oregonian has more on Hickson and his future:

  There are no hard feelings and no regrets, but it appears these are the final days that JJ Hickson and the Trail Blazers are together, with both sides acknowledging this week that the writing is on the wall.

The Blazers, who have given up the most interior points in the NBA, want to find a more defensive-oriented center next season, while Hickson – a power forward who bit his tongue and played as an undersized center for the Blazers – wants to start, and is eager to test his market value when he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

Blazers general manager Neil Olshey this week said he is not ruling out keeping Hickson on the roster, but he doubts the team will have the role, and the money, to pacify Hickson’s desires next season.

“For us to make a jump next season, JJ can’t be our starting center,’’ Olshey said, referencing the Blazers’ 47.4 points allowed in the paint per game, an NBA high. “I’m not saying he can’t be part of the roster. But we need to find a starting-caliber center who protects the rim and gets defensive rebounds at a high rate and that has a presence. And we have to do a better job at defending the paint. So you have to ask: Is it likely there is enough minutes to commit the kind of dollars JJ will command, when clearly there are other positions that need to be upgraded? Probably not.’’

The Blazers figure to enter the offseason with $11.8 million in cap room. A large chunk, if not all of that money, will likely be used to lure a defensive-minded starting center or to absorb the contract of a starting center in a trade. That leaves Hickson on the outside looking in when it comes to meeting his desires to find a team that can both give him chance to start as well as award him a raise from his $4 million salary this season. If he stayed in Portland, Hickson would play behind franchise player LaMarcus Aldridge, who plays close to 40 minutes a game.

Andy Miller, who represents Hickson, said Olshey hasn’t flat-out told him Hickson is not in the Blazers’ plans, but Miller said he is under the impression that the Blazers will move in a different direction than Hickson.

“I think Neil has been fairly candid to me as far as where they stand,’’ Miller said. “I don’t feel confident about the situation. Earlier in the season there may have been mood swings and perspective swings where I felt the tide swinging, to where I felt that this would be more than a rental for both sides. But lately, I haven’t felt that way at all. He definitely hasn’t misled me.’’

In the end, it was probably a win-win scenario for Hickson and the Blazers. Hickson, who was picked up off waivers last March after Sacramento released him, got an opportunity to resurrect his career, while the Blazers found a capable center to buy time for rookie Meyers Leonard to develop.

“I think JJ has had a remarkable season,’’ coach Terry Stotts said. “He showed a lot of people what he can do. The most important thing is he sustained a certain level, for the most part of the season, with his energy and his rebounding. The mid-range jump shot, I think, is the biggest area where people questioned whether he could make it, and he turned into a very capable mid-range jump shooter. And he accepted his role. I didn’t call a lot of plays for him and he found his offense through the flow of the game. Although it was frustrating at times for him he accepted it and thrived in it.’’

Hickson said having a chance to start will be at or near the top of his offseason priority list.

“That’s just me being a competitor,’’ Hickson said. “I think everyone in this league wants to start, so of course I want to start, of course I want to play a lot of minutes to help my team as much as possible. That’s definitely one of the factors going into free agency – whether I start or not. Other than that, I’m just looking to win ball games and have fun doing it.’’

Hickson is not sure it would be fun playing center again next season. He said it was difficult enough playing the position this season.

“It was hard to play center. but I took it with a grain of salt and did what I had to do for the team,’’ Hickson said. “I felt like I laid it all out on the line. I definitely was playing out of position, but I sacrificed my position for the coaching staff and my teammates to play a position that my body is not made up for. And we all knew that going into the year I was an undersized (center) and that I would have to play that much harder to make up for what I didn’t have physically.’’

Lowry on first season in Toronto: ‘Very disappointing’The good news for Toronto this season? After last night’s victory in Chicago, the Raptors have won 30 games — their most since the 2009-10 season (also known as Chris Bosh’s final season North of the border). The bad news? The Raptors will miss the playoffs for the fifth straight season and will do so despite somewhat overhauling their roster in the offseason by paying big bucks to sign free-agent point guard Kyle Lowry. Lowry has had, at best, an up-and-down season in Toronto as injuries and an early-season logjam at point guard with Jose Calderon created an ambiguous-at-times role for Lowry. After the win over the Bulls, Lowry sounded off on his first season in Toronto, writes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star:

To say it’s been a tumultuous first year in Toronto for Kyle Lowry would be one of the great understatements of the season.

He has lurched from starter to backup to starter, working for another new coach with teammates that changed frequently over the course of the season and it’s no surprise that he answers quickly and emphatically when asked what it’s been like.

“For me personally? Very frustrating, very disappointing.”

And very up and down.

When he first arrived at the cost of a lottery draft pick and a spare part, Lowry was famously “given the keys” to a franchise that fully expected him to lead it to the playoffs.

He was lauded as a “pit bull” of a defender and a leader, a point guard with scoring skills who would give the Raptors a different look they wanted from their own court leader.

It hasn’t actually panned out that way: Lowry’s been criticized by his coach for gambling too much on defence, he was injured and lost his starting job when he got healthy and the team not only floundered terribly at the start of the season, it’s basically limping home in much the same fashion.

Lowry has not by any stretch of the imagination been the sole reason for the team’s struggles but he’s the out-front guy, the major acquisition of last summer, and in that regard it’s been a huge disappointment.

He has not openly clashed with his teammates or his coaches but the overriding sense around the team is that he’s not the happiest of campers.

His own words reflect that when he’s asked what he’s learned in his first season with Toronto.

“Things just have to be different, things aren’t always going to go the way you think they should go or they may not go the correct way to you, but you’ve got to fight through adversity and keep focused on the biggest prize,” he said this week after a practice here.

Lowry’s tenure as the team’s starting point guard was cemented when the Raptors dealt away Jose Calderon weeks before the late-February trade deadline in order to acquire Gay, who arrived trumpeted as the break-down wing the team desperately needed as well as one of Lowry’s best friends in the world. The Lowry-Gay-DeRozan triumvirate hasn’t exactly thrived after getting off to a torrid start.

“It’s been a challenge for Kyle to come in and not only come into a new culture and a new situation but come in with an established veteran like Jose running the show and knowing the offence, knowing the defensive concepts and trying to fit in,” said coach Dwane Casey. “It’s been a challenge

“But he’s a veteran, he’s worked at it, he’s tried to do what we’ve asked him to do, to . . . understand what guys can do and can’t do offensively and definitely defensively.”

Lowry has one year left on a contract that will pay him $6 million next season, although only $1 million of it is guaranteed if the Raptors want to cut him adrift this summer. But having already dealt away Calderon and without significant money to spend in the summer, it seems inconceivable that he won’t be back.

And Lowry, as everyone connected with the team is, remains confident in the pieces that are in place.

“I’m confident in all my teammates, I think they’re all confident in me and I think we’re all confident in each other,” he said. “We’ve got some young pieces, some learning to do to get better in the summer. . . . We had a disappointing year but we’ll bounce back.”

ICYMI of the night: When we see this off-the-glass dunk LeBron James assists himself on, we are left wondering if the Bucks were playing defense or were watching to see what the reigning MVP would do …:

Heat Often Put Themselves On Cruise Control … Just Not Against Brooklyn

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BROOKLYN – Poor Nets.

They played the Miami Heat three times this season, and all three times, the defending champs were engaged, focused or motivated. Pick whichever of those three words you prefer to describe the way the Heat have played only some of the time this season.

The Heat completed a three-game season sweep on Wednesday in Brooklyn, blowing out the Nets in the third quarter on their way to a 105-85 victory. They won the three meetings by an average of 21 points and LeBron James has now won 17 straight games against the team owned by his friend Jay-Z.

So the Nets never got to see the Heat team that shows up at the arena and mostly goes through the motions, the team that knows it can flip the switch in the postseason, or the team that seems happy with just a game-and-a-half lead in the Eastern Conference.

The Knicks, the team trailing the Heat, saw that Heat team two times already, once in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and once when they were missing Carmelo Anthony. The Spurs, similarly, saw that Heat team when they decided to send four players home before that TNT game back in November. And the Celtics, missing Rajon Rondo, saw that Heat team on Sunday.

Yes, the Heat are in first place. But should they really be 11-10 on the road? Should they really rank 11th in defensive efficiency and allowing 4.3 more points per 100 possessions than they did last season?

The Heat have the best player in the world, two more All-Stars and maybe the best shooter in NBA history. And they’ve been relatively healthy all season. Yet, they’re barely ahead of a New York team that went 8-10 from Dec. 17 to Jan. 26 and has missed countless games to injury.

A championship team on cruise control through the regular season is nothing new. But it’s still OK to be a little disappointed in how the Heat have played this season.

“We understand that 10-10 on the road is not to our potential,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said before his team picked up road win No. 11 on Wednesday. “But we’ll have many opportunities to correct that in the second half.”

Sometimes, as it was on Sunday, the problem has been offense.

“Turnovers are the key,” Shane Battier said. “Everyone wants to kill us for rebounding, and our numbers are poor. No question. But that’s not the barometer of our success. The turnover battle is the end-all, be-all for us. When we get extra possessions and we limit giving away extra possessions, we’re going to score. We’re a high-efficiency offensive team.”

Indeed, the Heat are 17-2 when they’ve committed 13 turnovers or less. They had 21 in Boston on Sunday, their second-worst offensive game of the season in terms of efficiency. They were much sharper against the Nets.

But defense has been the larger problem. The Heat ranked fourth defensively last season and are 11th this year. Only four teams have regressed more defensively.

The Heat are at their best when they’re active and aggressive defensively, using their speed and athleticism to its fullest. And maybe it’s just not possible to play elite defense like that for 82 games. But a little more defensive effort could give them the cushion they need in case they do suffer an injury or two in February or March.

“It just required concentration, and our concentration has not been great, especially on the road,” Battier said. “Everyone knows the system here. It’s not a matter of ignorance. It’s a matter of effort and concentration. When we’re dialed in and supply that concentration, we’re a pretty darn good defensive team. When we don’t, we’re pretty porous.”

On Wednesday, the Heat proved that, when they’re “dialed in,” they’re in a class above the Nets, who had the league’s No. 1 offense in January before they were held under a point per possession by the champs.

“I think we were really aggressive against these guys all three times, both offensively and defensively,” Battier said. “It was good to see tonight on the road. We haven’t been this aggressive on the road in a while. We really attacked them and tried to take them out of their sets.”

On Friday, the Heat visit the Pacers, the team that held them to a season-low 77 points in Indiana in early January. It’s a second-straight opportunity to take one of the East’s season-tier teams and knock them down a peg. So it will be interesting to see which Heat team shows up.

For the Nets, no matter how much success they’ve had under P.J. Carlesimo and no matter what they do over their last 36 games, they’ll know that they haven’t been able to hang with the champs. Knowing that there’s no avoiding the Heat in the playoffs, they should have treated this like their most important game of the season. Maybe they did, and maybe they just caught the Heat on the wrong day … again.

“In any sport, you measure yourself up against the champions, and they are the champions,” Gerald Wallace told Newsday. “They’ve embarrassed us all three times, so what does that say for us as a team trying to be a championship team?”

Jay-Z Set To Christen Barclays Center

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The Barclays Center officially opened last Friday. The new 40/40 Club inside the arena opened with a red-carpet event on Thursday. The Nets will play their first preseason game in their new building on Oct. 15 and start the regular season on Nov. 1 against the Knicks.

But for many in Brooklyn and all around the New York metroplolitan area, tonight is the night.

Jay-Z, the Nets’ minority owner and one of the faces of the Barclays Center, will christen his new home with the first of eight concerts (in nine days) on Friday.

Nets players will be in attendance and the word is that their new black and white uniforms will be officially introduced on stage. (We’ll just forget that they’ve already been leaked by adidas employees and video game demos). (more…)

‘Melo-drama For Christmas

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – This could be Carmelo Anthony‘s last Christmas in Denver.

That means no holiday more rap videos with Rocky (the Nuggets’ mascot) and The Birdman Chris Andersen. But surely Nets part-owner Jay-Z would have time to hit the studio with the organization’s prized acquisition.

And if all of the rumblings ring true, it is the Nets — not the Knicks — that are poised to land Anthony. It’s no longer a matter of if, according to multiple sources, but when.

The Magic, Suns and Wizards have already shown that cooking up and consummating a multi-team, mega-trade can be done in a matter of days if all parties are willing to assume the risks. So if it is to be the Nets, we need someone to get the ball rolling here.

HT fave and Yahoo! Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski summed up current state of affairs surrounding Anthony, the Nuggets and the Nets this way:

Denver’s and New Jersey’s trade partners are still unclear, but league executives said the Nets and Nuggets are tweaking several possible proposals with multiple teams. For now, New Jersey general manager Billy King is preparing to send rookie forward Derrick Favors, the expiring contract of Troy Murphy, two or three future first-round draft picks and $3 million to Denver for minimally Anthony and (Al) Harrington. More Nuggets and Nets would likely be on the move, too.

Center Brook Lopez is the only Nets player not involved in any of the proposals, sources said.

The Nuggets’ sudden urgency to move the unhappy Anthony is the reason more teams have been calling lately, including two contenders who are willing to chase a championship with Anthony as a rental player, a league source said. The Nuggets could do those deals without consulting Anthony, because those teams aren’t requiring a contract extension with Anthony to make the trade. (more…)

Did You See What We Saw?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Who in the name of Naismith would be crazy enough to try to watch all 13 games on Wednesday night’s NBA schedule, completely ignoring Game 1 of the World Series, Modern Family and whatever else was going on last night?

You know we did.

The crew here at the hideout managed to view significant portions of all 13 games and we must admit, we came away impressed more often than not, even by some teams that ended up on the losing end at the end of the night.

The most anticipated season in league history? However preposterous it might have sounded to hear that in recent weeks, we’re warming up the idea now.

Back to Wednesday night’s games, though. It was an absolute embarrassment of basketball riches on display from coast to coast all night. Did you see what we saw?

CLEVELAND 95, BOSTON 87

Looking good: Now you know why the Cavaliers refused to part with J.J. Hickson last year in a proposed Amar’e Stoudemire deal. He was a force (21 points on 8-for-11 shooting) and is poised for a breakout season. Boobie Gibson rebounded from an ugly start (0-for-8) to finish with 16 points and a team-high eight assists.

Sound the Alarm: The Celtics can’t afford many off nights in the revamped Eastern Conference, where the Magic, Heat and even the Hawks plan to push the pace. There was bound to be an emotional letdown, of sorts, after Tuesday’s season-opening home win over Miami. There just can’t be many more like it.

HT’s Take: They say the best way to get over a breakup is to dive right back into the game. And the scrappy, LeBron James-free Cavaliers proved they’ll do just that by out working the Celtics down the stretch. But I wouldn’t go making travel plans for the NBA Finals yet.

NEW JERSEY 101, DETROIT 98

Looking good: All those new additions, rookies and otherwise, showed well in the Nets’ debut in their new arena. Even Jay-Z and Beyonce showed up, a rare occurrence compared to last season when, our Twitter family informed us, Jay never showed up. You expect an Avery Johnson-coached team to play a certain way and the Nets did that down the stretch. He’s already got the Nets 18 games ahead of last season’s win pace.

Sound the Alarm: The Pistons’ inability to finish this thing off, they were up seven with 1:40 to play, doesn’t bode well for a team that enters this season without a whole lot of confidence in each other.

HT’s Take: We tuned in hoping to see something from Nets rookie Derrick Favors and he didn’t disappoint. The eight points and 10 rebounds are fine, but he was much more physical around the basket than even we expected. Our initial fears about the Pistons were confirmed. They just don’t look like a team on a mission of any sorts.

MIAMI 97, PHILADELPHIA 87

Looking good: Welcome to the season, Dwyane Wade. We knew he needed more than those four minutes he played in the preseason to get warmed up. His 30-point outburst against the Sixers is much more like normal. When James Jones sinks six of his nine 3-pointers against anyone, the Heat become nearly impossible to deal with for anyone other than the league’s elite.

Sound the Alarm: As NBA.com’s Andy Jasner pointed out, the Sixers’ starting five did not attempt a single free throw all night. That’s either some sever disrespect for their games or a serious lack of force being used by Jrue Holiday, Andre Iguodala, Jason Kapono, Elton Brand and Spencer Hawes.

HT’s Take: The Heat will do the same things they did to the Sixers to most of the teams in the league. The fact is, few teams will be able to match their firepower and depth. And any team that can’t protect the rim will see Wade, James and Chris Bosh have their way attacking the basket. We did see another solid rookie debut, this one out of the Sixers’ Evan Turner (team-high 16 points, seven rebounds and four assists).

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Prime Time Mess

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Posted by Sekou Smith

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – You knew it would come to this.

A relatively zany process turned upside down by the three-ring circus that is all things LeBron James in July.

A prime time announcement on ESPN to announce (and surely not explain) where it is James will sign as the headliner of the greatest free agent frenzy/fiasco of all-time.

It was great seeing Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh beat him to the punch before James makes his way to the big stage for his 9 p.m. announcement Thursday night.

But this whole process still seems a bit too choreographed for us.

This prime-time schedule being kept by LeBron could turn into a prime mess by Thursday night — don’t you need more than a day to coordinate, prep, prime and produce a prime time special?

At least one expert in the field has some interesting suggestions for the LeBron-athon. Alan Sepinwall of HitFix.com has some theories as to how James and ESPN should fill the hour:

Obviously, the easy way to go is “The Bachelor.” ESPN and ABC are part of the same corporate family, and I’m sure they could borrow Chris Harrison to talk about LeBron’s journey and, before each commercial break, exclaim, “Coming up… the most shocking free agent announcement ever!” We fill a lot of the hour with John Paxson, Donnie Walsh, Jay-Z, etc. all talking about how well their pitch meeting with LeBron went, how they felt there was a chemistry there, perhaps CGI up some footage of LeBron hanging with them all in a hot tub, etc., before everyone’s brought out on stage in formalwear as LeBron brings out his one and only rose.

Or we could go the “American Idol” route. Ryan Seacrest would never turn down a gig, and he could spend at least half the time moving Walsh, Pat Riley and the others around and around the stage in different combinations, declaring one group “safe” and one not. Put together a panel of ESPN personalities as a judges’ table – it’s a shame Stephen A. Smith no longer works there, as he’d be an ideal Randy analogue, and given how much Michael Wilbon hates “Idol,” he’d be in a perfectly cranky mood to play Simon – to speculate on LeBron’s choice throughout. Finally, with four minutes to go, LeBron reveals his choice, balloons and streamers drop, and the losing GM’s are serenaded with Daniel Powter‘s “Bad Day” while Kelly Clarkson makes a dramatic return to greet the winning team with “A Moment Like This.”

And there’s always “America’s Next Top Model.” No need to actually call in Tyra (though I’d enjoy watching her tell Riley how to smize). Instead, put LeBron, Maverick Carter and the rest of the entourage on a dais and have the six finalists parade up and down a runway, followed by criticism of their walks, their presentations, their wardrobes (one anonymous, later redacted report said LeBron was put off by Knicks owner James Dolan‘s appearance and by Walsh being in a wheelchair due to neck surgery) and their team rosters. At the end of it, LeBron announces, “I have one team logo in my hands…”

Now, most of these shows are in some way copying “Survivor,” so I could see LeBron bringing in Jeff Probst to reside over a special Akron-based final Tribal Council, where the remaining candidates plead their case for a posse made up of LeBron and his crew. During the question and answer period, LeBron might try to keep the audience guessing by pulling the old “Pick a number” trick from seasons one and three. Worldwide Wes (if he’s still in the LeBrontourage) could ask shady, gigantic Russian billionaire Nets owner Mikhail Prokohorov to explain why the other finalists don’t deserve to win. And somebody (agent Leon Rose, maybe?) would have to trot out a variation of “My question is, I WANT AN APOLOGY!” At the end, Probst reads a list of votes from the entourage, then says that “LeBron has spoken.”

This is hilarious stuff.

And it all of that works for us here at the hideout.

Anything that has the makings of train-wreck TV works for us.

(Though we must commend James and his camp for making sure that there some charity work being done here!)

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Nets’ Pitch is All About Timing

Posted by John Schuhmann

Jay-Z is a busy man (and a business, man) but he'll take time out of his schedule to sell LeBron on the Nets. (Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images)

Timing is everything, right?

According to multiple reports, the New Jersey Nets will be the first team to meet with LeBron James in Akron on Thursday morning. And that’s a pretty good position to be in, because the Nets will get to set the bar when it comes to selling James on their team.

But does the Nets being first mean that James is seriously considering them? Maybe, maybe not. The timing of the Nets’ meeting may have more to do with Jay-Z’s schedule than LeBron’s preferences.

The minority owner of the Nets and a good friend of James, will be part of the group that travels to Akron aboard owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s Gulfstream jet. But he probably won’t be around when the Nets meet with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade on Friday, because he’ll be performing at a music festival in Belfort, France.

The Nets probably don’t want the other free agents to think they’re getting lesser treatment than LeBron, so maybe Ellen Page can help them set up a video conference with Jay in Europe. He’ll be performing at another festival in London on Sunday.

But of course, those other free agents are secondary. James is the big fish and fortunately for the Nets, he was able to accommodate them at a time when his friend was available.

There are two other aspects of great timing in regards to the Nets’ pitch, both of which the team controls. And from the looks of things, when Prokhorov and his team set the bar tomorrow morning, they will set it high.

On Tuesday, the Nets began painting an enormous advertisement in Manhattan, featuring Prokhorov and Jay-Z … high above Madison Square Garden, home of the Knicks. It was incomplete as of Wednesday morning, but you can imagine that a photo of it will be part of the presentation that Nets C.E.O Brett Yormark (their marketing guy) makes to James. Heck, the Nets could even say that it’s incomplete because they’re waiting to paint James into it as well.

Also on Tuesday, the Nets announced that they have begun pouring the foundation for the new Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn.

One of the things that might keep a free agent from signing with the Nets this summer is their temporary move to the Prudential Center in Newark. But come Thursday morning, the Nets will be able to show players that construction is indeed underway at the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush.

The other thing the Nets did Tuesday is trade Yi Jianlian to Washington for Quinton Ross, a move that gives them $2.9 million of extra cap space and puts them very close to having enough room to sign two max free agents. The deal puts them exactly where they want to be, but it has a downside.

Yi has been inconsistent at best in his three years in the league, and as far as the Nets’ depth chart is concerned, he’s excess baggage. So the trade doesn’t really hurt them from a basketball perspective.

But there’s no denying that Yi could have helped Prokhorov sell the idea of the Nets being a “global team.” Russia is the biggest country in the world, but it has about 1/10th the population of China.

James is popular in China already, but when the U.S. Olympic team was there in 2008, Kobe Bryant got a much bigger reception than any of his teammates. So James still has work to do there, and having Yi as a teammate could have helped.

Of course, James’ decision will be about more than just marketing. And when it comes to basketball, the Nets are in decent shape. Their existing core of Devin Harris, Brook Lopez, Courtney Lee, Terrence Williams and No. 3 pick Derrick Favors is pretty strong compared to the other teams trying to pry James away from Cleveland.

But this is still a team that won just 12 games last season. And it’s also a team that’s losing its well-respected president.

When it comes to timing, those are the two negatives on the Nets’ scorecard.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Follow him on twitter.