Deron Williams says Nets believe they are better than Heat

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You want your team to believe in itself, believe it can beat anyone — especially if you are the Brooklyn Nets, a team with a one (two tops) year title window with this core.

Having them say it publicly, that’s something else entirely.

Deron Williams did just that speaking with ESPNNewYork.com in advance of the Nets hosting the Heat Friday night.

“I don’t know if we felt we were a better team than the Heat last year,” Williams said during a sitdown with first-year Brooklyn coach Jason Kidd for ESPN’s “SportsCenter” conversation. “And so I think in order for us to be able to beat them this year, we have to feel like we are a better team and we can beat them. And I think we do.”

What did you expect him to say?

Here’s the thing — this game means far more to Brooklyn and their building of a team identity than it does Miami. Brooklyn needs to believe they can beat the Heat. Miami is the championship bar to clear now, Brooklyn has to think they can clear it.

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On the other side, the Heat know who they are and what they have to do to win another title, and they know a November win or loss to Brooklyn matters no more than the opening night win over Chicago or loss the next day in Philadelphia. For the Heat there are no statement games in November.

Brooklyn may not see it that way.

“I think it will definitely be a statement game,” center Brook Lopez said Thursday. “It’s going to be a great benchmark for us. We absolutely believe we’re capable of competing with them and that’s something we’re going to want to be doing down the line, obviously, in the playoffs. So we’re definitely anticipating a high-energy, important game.”

In the end, the outcome of a game in November is an incredibly poor predictor of what could happen if these teams meet in the playoffs. But for a Brooklyn team trying to believe it matters a little more.

Celtics’ Brad Stevens said early September tests will show if Thomas ready for camp

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Isaiah Thomas said he expects to be ready for the Celtics’ training camp next month. The guard’s All-NBA season came to an early end in the playoffs when he aggravated a labral tear in his right hip initially suffered back in March. At least the injury did not require surgery.

Players are also about the worst judges of when they will recover from an injury. They pretty much all think they are invincible and will be healthy faster than doctors predict.

Coaches tend to be more pragmatic. Take Boston’s Brad Stevens, who told Chris Mannix on The Vertical Podcast that tests in a couple of weeks will show if Thomas is ready for camp.

“He has another follow-up and another scan in the early part of September. Obviously, it’s been a lot of appropriate rest, a lot of rehab. There have been some good strides here certainly in the last month or few weeks, but we’re not going to know that until after that early September timeframe.”

The Celtics are understandably going to be cautious with Thomas, while Thomas wants to prove he is healthy and has no ill effects from the injury as he enters a contract year (one where he expects to get PAID). Also, the Celtics could use him in camp as they start to figure out how he and Gordon Hayward can share playmaking duties.

Still, from the outset, the timelines have suggested he should be ready for camp in late September. Coaches are just cautious on these things by nature.

Allen Iverson predicts LeBron James will win MVP

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LeBron James has four NBA MVP trophies in his case. (Does he keep that case in his home in Akron or the one in Los Angeles… that’s a question for another day.) Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six) and Michael Jordan (five) have more.

Could LeBron James add a fifth to his case this season?

Allen Iverson said yes at last weekend’s Big3 playoffs in Seattle.

LeBron was fourth in preseason odds to win the MVP at 15/2, behind Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard.

To me, LeBron could be a good bet. If/when Kyrie Irving is traded, the chances of LeBron getting the MVP go up. If LeBron puts up impressive numbers (again) and leads a depleted Cavaliers team to a top two seed in the East, he is certainly going to be in consideration. And should be.

It’s a long season, and personally, I think you need to get midway through the season before seriously considering the year-end awards. But history says LeBron will be in the mix, and Allen Iverson could be proven prophetic.

Phoenix Suns with quality solar eclipse joke on Twitter

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With the cooler-than-I-expected solar eclipse on Monday came a lot of bad solar eclipse jokes on Twitter. Because that’s what Twitter does. Especially the NBA Twitterverse. We knew a lot of “where on the flat earth will Kyrie Irving watch the eclipse?” jokes were coming.

There were a couple of good ones, however.

Appropriately, the Phoenix Suns won the day.

One personal favorite here, an old meme that never goes out of style.

Report: Other small-market teams championing Pacers’ tampering allegation against Lakers

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The NBA, at the Pacers’ request, is investigating whether the Lakers tampered by making impressible contact with Paul George.

Bob Kravitz of WTHR

In fact, there’s word that other small- and mid-market team officials have reached out to the Pacers and told them, “Good for you. Fight the good fight.”

Small-market teams whine too much about the disadvantages they face, but tampering isn’t really a market-size issue. Remember, under Mitch Kupchak, the Lakers were known as the only team that didn’t tamper.

The Lakers have advantages because George is from the area, and Los Angeles offers immense marketability. That’d be true whether or not they contacted George or his agent before he officially became a free agent.

I understand the desire to take down the big, bad Lakers – especially now that they appear poised to become truly big and bad again. But it’s hard to find a team that can cast a stone at them from anywhere other than a glass house.