Will the Nets or Rockets make a Finals splash?

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Flash back to April 26, 2012.

The Nets closed the season with their six straight loss, missing the playoffs for the fifth straight year. The Rockets picked up a meaningless win that day, but they had just lost seven of their previous eight games to ensure they’d miss their third straight postseason.

Both teams had plenty of reason for despair, but there were faint signs of hope.

The Nets were moving to Brooklyn that offseason, a figurative fresh start if not a literal one. And the Rockets had their sixth straight winning record, an impressive accomplishment if it could be viewed without the sting of repeatedly barely missing the playoffs.

Then-Nets coach Avery Johnson was hopeful:

“This is our farewell, for good,” Nets coach Avery Johnson said. “Now we embark on a new opportunity, and it starts when the clock strikes midnight tonight. Even though we lost this game this is a new era in Nets basketball, and that’s what we’re focusing on.”

Johnson said Brooklyn fans will see a better team next year than this season’s 22-44 squad that finished by losing six straight.

“We like a lot of our guys,” Johnson said. “We definitely need to upgrade in some areas and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Rockets coach Kevin McHale, not so much:

“There’s no way we shouldn’t be in the playoffs this weekend, but we’re not,” McHale said. “That’s the bottom line.”

Both teams were stuck in different places, but both could see cracks to break through into the next level.

And, boy, did they break through.

A year-and-a-half later, both have followed solid steps into the playoffs with monster offseasons that have them holding legitimate NBA Finals aspirations.

Just 15 players have appeared in most of the last 10 All-Star games. Among that select group, only three changed teams this offseason, and all three now play for the Rockets or Nets: Dwight Howard (Houston) and Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce (Brooklyn).

Though neither team even won a playoff series last season, that type of talent infusion changes the goals considerably.

Yet, as much as the teams seem linked by their stellar summers, Brooklyn and Houston face different challenges now.

The Nets’ aging core – Garnett (37), Pierce (36), Jason Terry (36), Reggie Evans (33), Joe Johnson (32), Andrei Kirilenko (32) and Deron Williams (29) – and their ridiculously high payroll point to a team that has a very short, but very open, championship window. The Lakers’ struggles last season after they splurged to build around old players should give Brooklyn pause, but the Nets are deeper than that Los Angeles team ever hoped to be. If Brooklyn uses that depth to limit minutes  and save players for the playoffs, the results could be tremendous.

On the other hand, the Rockets are not quite as deeply talented. When the Heat dipped far below the cap to sign LeBron James and Chris Bosh, it took them a couple years to re-stock the roster by using their cap exceptions. The Rockets probably faces a similar timeline, and thankfully for them, they seem young enough to wait. James Harden (24), Chandler Parsons (25), Jeremy Lin (25), Patrick Beverley (25), Omer Asik (27) and Howard (27) should give Houston a chance to add pieces and tinker.

The Rockets need time. The Nets are probably already running out of it.

But the fact that we can even reasonably discuss both teams’ championship windows is astounding considering where they were just 18 months ago.

Dikembe Mutombo says he is putting together a group to buy the Rockets

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It appears as though Houston billionaire Dan Friedkin will have some competition if he decides to bid for the Rockets. Namely, former NBA big man Dikembe Mutombo.

Mutombo played in the NBA from 1991-2009, ending his career with five seasons in Houston. The franchise apparently made an impact on the Hall of Fame center, as he is apparently looking to buy the franchise per an interview with USA Today.

Speaking with Adi Joseph over at FTW, Mutombo would not give out names of his partners but said that he will be able to make a bid in the coming weeks.

Via FTW:

“I’m putting together a group to buy the Houston Rockets, and we’re getting close,” he said. “Getting close in the next couple weeks, maybe I’ll have a chance. Lot of people, lot of people and good people with a lot of money.”

With Leslie Alexander’s decision to sell the team, it certainly would be interesting to get another NBA player as part of team ownership in this league.

Watch the 10 best 360 plays from last season (video)

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The NBA’s top-10 highlight packages have been pretty enjoyable. This one is oddly specific – but still dizzyingly fun.

Kevin Durant on White House visit with Donald Trump: “Nah, I won’t do that”

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It’s not much of a surprise, but at least we have confirmation. If the Golden State Warriors are invited to the White House for a championship visit with Donald Trump, at least one star won’t be going: Kevin Durant.

Speaking in an ESPN article published on Thursday, the 2017 NBA Finals MVP said he didn’t respect who currently held the office of president.

Durant was interviewed as part of his Kevin Durant Day in his local Washington D.C. area suburb of Seat Pleasant, Maryland.

He is not the first NBA player to come forward and speak out about Trump in the aftermath of Charlottesville. LeBron James, Jabari Parker, and other NBA players have denounced the tone of Trump’s politics and positions in the public sphere.

The Warriors star had a lot to say on the subject, but I think this was most poignant.

Via ESPN:

“Nah, I won’t do that,” said Durant, the 2017 NBA Finals MVP. “I don’t respect who’s in office right now.”

“I don’t agree with what he agrees with, so my voice is going to be heard by not doing that,” said Durant, who said it wasn’t an organizational decision. “That’s just me personally, but if I know my guys well enough, they’ll all agree with me.”

“He’s definitely driving it,” Durant said. “I feel ever since he’s got into office, or since he ran for the presidency, our country has been so divided and it’s not a coincidence. When [Barack] Obama was in office, things were looking up. We had so much hope in our communities where I come from because we had a black president, and that was a first.

“So to see that and to be where we are now, it just felt like we took a turn for the worse, man. It all comes from who is in the administration. It comes from the top. Leadership trickles down to the rest of us. So, you know, if we have someone in office that doesn’t care about all people, then we won’t go anywhere as a country. In my opinion, until we get him out of here, we won’t see any progress.”

Durant also mentioned the need for more sports stars to come out and voice their opinions as a matter of leadership and as role models in the community.

That is definitely a huge part of the impact that sports stars can have. We all know how important NBA players are to pop culture and the culture of basketball itself. Couple that with how much influence they have as individual brands, as major players in the corporate sphere, and hopefully it will help them make a positive impact.

It’s great that NBA players are coming out and standing up against this kind of violence, and good on the NBA for making sure their voices as individuals aren’t silenced.

Chris Bosh to ‘host’ players-union awards revealed via tweets

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The NBA didn’t reveal its major regular-season awards until after the playoffs and draft – until most fans had turned the page toward the offseason. But at least the league got a revenue-drawing nationally televised award show out of the delay.

What is the players union doing, and how does Chris Bosh come into play?

National Basketball Players Association release:

CHRIS BOSH TO HOST NBPA “PLAYERS VOICE AWARDS”

11-Time All-Star to Reveal Awards Via Social Media

The National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) announced today that 2017 Players Voice Awards will be revealed exclusively via social media tomorrow beginning at 11:00 a.m. ET.

The Players Voice Awards are voted on solely by NBA players

The awards and videos will be revealed via @theNBPA on Twitter, and NBPA.com will curate all of the content throughout the day.

Voting took place at the end of the regular season and did not consider postseason performances.

The full list of Players Voice Awards includes:

  • Best Rookie
  • Comeback Player of the Year
  • Best Off the Bench
  • Best Defender
  • Hardest to Guard
  • Player You Secretly Wish Was On Your Team
  • Best Dressed
  • Home Court Advantage
  • Coach You’d Most Like to Play For
  • Clutch Performer
  • Best Social Media Follow
  • Most Influential Veteran
  • Global Impact
  • Most Valuable Player
  • Best Teammate (one per team)

I’m still not sure how Bosh is hosting tweets or what took so long for the union to get to this. The players-union awards, which debuted two years ago, haven’t gained much steam. I don’t think this will help.

On the other hand, not much is happening this time of year. Diehard basketball fans are thirsting for activity, and this provides some.

But they’d care at any time. I don’t think this moves the needle at all for casual fans.

As a hardcore basketball follower, though, I am curious who wins – and how Bosh fits into all of this.