Posts Tagged ‘Stefan Bondy’

Conspiracy Theories Follow Nets

It came up again, not surprisingly, Thursday as Andrei Kirilenko was officially introduced as a member of the Nets, complete with the two-year free-agent deal that has become the stuff of international intrigue.

Talks of a conspiracy theory was an easy jump to make the instant Russian Kirilenko signed with the Nets, owned by Russian Mikhail Prokhorov, at a massive pay cut. AK-47 opted out of his 2013-14 Timberwolves contract worth $10 million for $3.1 million in Brooklyn, plus a second season at a player option. It was actually easy long before this, the way the NBA had no real chance to follow the money in the former Soviet Union. The natural connection with Kirilenko brought it to the forefront, but truthfully, there likely would have been concerns about secret deals with a non-Russian player at some point.

It was so easy that several executives – anonymously, of course – made accusations without evidence, at least evidence they would be keeping to themselves.

That’s when it became a problem. Speculation from media and fans is one thing, but being called a cheat by opponents is another. But there they were, as originally detailed by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:

“Let’s see if the league has any credibility,” one owner said. “It’s not about stopping it. It’s about punishing them if they’re doing it.”

“There should be a probe,” an Eastern Conference GM added. “How obvious is it?”

How convenient to be able to accuse someone of the serious charge of circumventing the salary cap without having to show your face. Or hand over evidence.

What I would give to be in their office the day another team drops the same insinuation on them.

History has shown that assumptions are a bad idea and that owners from the United States are perfectly capable of breaking rules. But Kirilenko faced the insinuation Thursday in a conference call with reporters, saying, as detailed by Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

“I can’t do anything with what people think. I’m coming from the facts,” said Kirilenko. “I can’t change it. I can’t control it…. Those type of rumors I can’t control. And I guess it comes from the history because of the Russian KGB. It makes it a little funny. What can I do?”

Leaner D-Will Looks Like His Old Self


HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Rarely has one dunk seemed like such a revelation.

But in the case of Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams, his first dunk of the season (above) is an indicator that he is ready to resume his elite point guard ways at just the right time for the Nets.

The playoffs are just a couple of weeks away and the Nets are getting their All-Star point guard back from the ankle issues that have plagued him since the summer.

If you need proof that the dunk (and what it signifies) was a big deal, just look at the reaction of the Nets’ bench. They went crazy when Williams used a crossover to break down the Cavs’ Wayne Ellington and slip past him for the one-handed jam. It reminded me why Williams has always occupied a spot alongside Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo, Tony Parker, Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook in the discussion of the best point guards in the league.

“When he’s right, he’s as good as anybody in the league,” a Western Conference scout said. “And there is no doubt he’s back in great shape and leaner and quicker than he was earlier this season. He’s looked great recently.”

The 20 pounds Williams has shed since the All-Star break helped rescue him from what was shaping up to be the worst of his eight seasons in the league. He went into All-Star weekend averaging 16.7 ppg and 7.6 apg while shooting 41 percent and 35 percent from 3-point range, all while laboring his way through his 36 minutes a night on those damaged ankles.

Cortisone shots that began in October didn’t help initially, but after combining those shots with platelet-rich plasma injections to both ankles, helped turn things around for the Nets’ catalyst and leader.

In the 21 games since the break, Williams is playing much better. He’s scoring at a higher clip (22.2 ppg) and shooting it much better overall (47 percent) and from deep (43 percent) as the Nets have stabilized things and ready for a first-round playoff challenge that could see them hosting the Atlanta Hawks.

“I think it’s a combination of everything,” Williams told Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News about his second half resurgence. “I’m able to do extra work now, things I wasn’t able to do before (because of the pain). All I could do is play games. I couldn’t put extra shots up. I just had to go home.”

The longer Williams keeps up his current play, the longer it’s going to take for someone to send the Nets home in the playoffs.

D-Will In The Danger Zone?


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.