Deron Williams

Deron Williams says Nets believe they are better than Heat


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 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.

Kevin Love unsure about opening-night return

Kevin Love
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He’s back in practice with the Cavaliers, but there’s still no clarity on whether Kevin Love will be available for the season opener. Love had shoulder surgery in April after suffering a torn labrum in Game 4 of the Cavs’ first-round series against the Celtics, and doctors initially gave him a timetable of four to six months for a return. The six-month end of that is right around opening night (October 27), but Love still doesn’t know whether he’ll be able to play against the Bulls—although he is hopeful.

Via the Sporting News‘ Sean Deveney:

“I feel pretty good,” Love told Sporting News. “As far as the opener goes, I am not completely sure. I’ll probably get with the doctors and see what they have to say. I know that my six-month post-op is coming up here pretty fast. As far as getting the strength back, getting the range of motion, I feel pretty good, so I am looking forward to getting into some more contact, getting into a rhythm and getting out there as quickly as I can.”

Love has been cleared for 3-on-3 practices, but not yet for 5-on-5. If it were up to him, he’d be back on the court, but he understands he needs to follow the rehab protocol for his injury.

“(Six months is) just a ballpark figure that has generally been thrown out there by anybody who has talked about the rehab process for this kind of an injury,” Love said. “I like to think that I am ahead of the game, but there’s different tests and the due diligence that the doctor will go through and the training staff will go through. So all I can do is go out there every day and attack my rehab and hopefully I will be able to go out there and help these guys as soon as possible.”

At the very least, the Cavs will be without Kyrie Irving (still recovering from knee surgery) and Iman Shumpert (out up to three months with a wrist injury), and probably Tristan Thompson too, unless his contract situation changes unexpectedly. So having Love available would be some much-needed good news. But it’s more important that Love (and everyone else) is healthy for the playoffs. If he’s not ready to play, there’s no need to rush back for an October game.

Greg Smith fails physical, will not join Pelicans

Greg Smith
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With both starter Omer Asik and backup Alexis Ajinca out injured for the rest of the preseason (and maybe a little longer), the Pelicans are looking for a center to put next to Anthony Davis for a stretch. That could include a handful of regular season games.

Greg Smith was going to be that man, but the 24-year-old failed his physical, reports the Times-Picayune.

The New Orleans Pelicans were set to sign power forward Greg Smith, but sources said Friday night that he failed his physical examination and will not be joining the team.

And so the search goes on.

The problem is, there are not quality big men still out there on the market, there is a limited supply and just about anyone worth having is spoken for. A few with non-guaranteed contracts may be waived as we get closer to the end of training camps, but that is likely a couple of weeks away.

With both Asik and Ajinca expected back in a few weeks, it’s not worth making a trade or some big move to bring in a center, the Pelicans are just going to have to live with what is out there.