Jason Kidd, Brooklyn Nets come up empty against Chicago Bulls

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The Brooklyn Nets and Chicago Bulls woke up early, left on their sleeved Christmas pajamas and opened the NBA’s Christmas Day slate.

Jason Kidd probably wishes he never got out of bed.

A game after blasting his team for “kind of getting comfortable with losing,” Kidd oversaw Brooklyn’s 95-78 loss to Chicago on Wednesday, an embarrassing – and nationally televised – display for the most expensive basketball team of all time.

Down nine points with 4:26 left in the third quarter, Kevin Garnett already on the bench, Kidd pulled his other four starters.

“I’m going to go with the same group, go with the reserves right now until we get back into the game,” Kidd told ESPN’s Chris Broussard before the fourth quarter, moments after boos reached their peak volume.

Eventually, Kidd reneged on that pledge, because the Nets never got back into the game. By the time Deron Williams and Mirza Teletovic returned with 8:45 left, Brooklyn trailed by 21 points.

Kidd is shifting blame, placing it on an accomplished group of veterans who don’t deserve the public shaming from a rookie head coach.

Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry – who’ve each won a championship – and Deron Williams comfortable with losing? I don’t think so.

The Nets don’t accept losing. They’re incapable of winning.

Their best player, Brook Lopez, is out for the rest of the season, but that’s just an unfortunate break. There are just as significant structural problems with how Brooklyn was assembled.

Last May, the Nets were upset by Chicago in the first-round of the playoffs. Not even eight months – and 10s of millions of dollars added to their payroll – later, the Nets are even less equipped to run with the Derrick Rose-less Bulls.

Brooklyn is older, less cohesive and more poorly coached.

For all Kidd’s showmanship about sitting his starters, it didn’t work. The Nets, in a 17-point loss, played Chicago even with all five starters in the game. In the nine minutes no starters played, Brooklyn was outscored by nine.

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Even with the prospect of falling to 9-19 with a four-game losing streak, Brooklyn had a chance entering this game, because the Bulls had similarly underwhelmed this season. Despite the Eastern Conference falling further behind its Western counterpart, these teams are no longer close to last year’s versions that fought through a seven-game series in the 4-5 matchup. Instead, they hold the conferences ninth- and 12th-best records.

But disappointment is relative, and with Tom Thibodeau at the helm, the Bulls limited theirs.

Both teams started sluggishly until Thibodeau used a two-point guard lineup featuring D.J. Augustin and Kirk Hinrich for the first time all season. With both players capable of pushing the ball and initiating the offense, entry passes suddenly coming from either side of the court, the Nets were lost and surrendered a 12-0 run.

The final results of the Augustin-Hinrich combo, though in just five minutes, were stunning. Offensive rating: 133.3. Defensive rating: 51.2.

It was the type of crafty adjustment Kidd rarely makes, allowing the rigid Thibodeau to run circles around him in even creativity.

Teletovic scored 10 points on five Brooklyn possessions early in the third quarter to briefly give the Nets the lead, but the Bulls overwhelmed Brooklyn without doing anything fancy. Chicago just defended as it always does, and six Bulls scored double digits.

Until the boos rained down during the final seconds – with a few spattering of jeers in between – the Nets fans were mostly quit during the fourth quarter. Only Taj Gibson’s powerful putback dunk really had them buzzing.

Garnett, Pierce, Terry and Williams were similarly quiet. Cameras caught them multiple times sitting on the bench, looking forlorn. In fact, it took a while for any Net to speak up.

When Kidd did, his words ran hallow.

Kidd frequently hangs his head on the sideline. If his team is following his lead, it’s here.

And nowhere else.

PBT Podcast: All-Star starters mock draft, picking reserves

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The votes are in, and LeBron James and Stephen Curry are your All-Star captains.

For the first time in NBA All-Star history, that means they are picking their own teams, playground style, first from the pool of starters, then the pool of reserves. Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports take on the roles of LeBron and Curry and pick their All-Star starters, from James Harden through Kyrie Irving.

Then the pair gets into who should be the All-Star Game reserves — and choosing among the Western Conference guards is brutal. Do they leave out Damian Lillard? Lou Williams? Klay Thompson? And that’s not even getting into Paul George being a bubble All-Star in a deep West.

Kurt and Dan break it all down, plus talk some Kemba Walker trade scenarios.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

Aaron Gordon forgoes desperation attempt to win, sinks halfcourt shot instead (video)

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The Magic were in dire straights near the end of their game against the Cavaliers last night. Orlando trailed 104-103 with 0.2 seconds and a jump ball to be tossed at center court. By rule, the Magic didn’t have time to catch-and-shoot, let alone recover the jump ball then shoot. Aaron Gordon had to tip the jump ball through the hoop from halfcourt – nearly impossible, but technically possible.

Instead, Gordon grabbed the jump ball – a violation – then sank a halfcourt shot. What an ironic end.

Cleveland then harmlessly inbounded the ball to seal the win.

Can Kemba Walker save the sinking Hornets? He doesn’t want to jump the ship he’s (barely) keeping afloat

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DETROIT – Around this time last year, Kemba Walker‘s reputation peaked.

The season prior, he led Charlotte to its first playoff-game wins since the franchise reemerged as the Bobcats. The Hornets were on pace to make the playoff again, which would have been their first back-to-back postseason appearances in the second Charlotte era. And Walker made his first All-Star team.

While basking in his personal and team success, Walker found one downer: The NBA moved the All-Star game from his home arena to New Orleans due to North Carolina’s anti-gay law.

“It would have been really special if this had been in Charlotte,” Walker said.

The Hornets have gone south since.

They stumbled in the second half and missed the playoffs last season. They’re even worse this season, 18-25 and 11th in the Eastern Conference. As a result, Walker’s stock has tanked. He’s treated as a fringe All-Star candidate at best.

Yet – as trade speculation emerges – Walker has come to a conclusion similar to his a year ago: His experience would be more special in Charlotte.

“I would definitely be devastated if I was to get traded,” Walker said. “I do want to be here.”

Walker is one of the most intriguing cases as the trade deadline approaches. The 27-year-old is earning $12 million this season and is due the same salary next season before his contract expires. It’s not clear the Hornets would trade him. It’s not clear they should trade him.

Charlotte is bad around Walker, not because of him. The Hornets have played better with Walker on the floor (+5.2 points per 100 possessions) than the Cavaliers have with LeBron James (+0.3), Bucks with Giannis Antetokounmpo (+3.7) and Pelicans with Anthony Davis (+5.1).

Put another way, using Pythagorean win percentage, Charlotte has played like 55-win team when Walker plays and a 12-win team when he doesn’t. That 43-win-pace drop is the fourth largest league-wide (minimum: 20 games):

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The Hornets have struggled with Michael Carter-Williams at backup point guard and even more with rookie Malik Monk (a natural shooting guard) in the role while Carter-Williams was hurt. Backup point guard was a glaring weak spot last season, too, and Charlotte signed Carter-Williams to stop the bleeding.

But he was a budget choice. The Hornets’ mid-level exception sits mostly unused as they duck the luxury tax.

Using starting shooting guard Nicolas Batum as the primary playmaker when Walker sits has worked better than most alternatives. Staggering those two more often could right Charlotte.

However, even if Batum is the solution to the micro problem, he’s central to the macro problem.

The Hornets’ payroll has become bloated with prohibitive long-term deals. Several players are owed major money after this season:

With those constraints, it will be difficult to build a winner around Walker without paying the luxury tax, which Charlotte has never paid.

Walker is the Hornets’ most valuable asset, and trading him could make their second-most valuable asset – their upcoming first-round pick – even more valuable. Charlotte also use Walker as enticement to unload a bad contract, a tactic Adrian Wojnarowski reports is being explored. Still, the Hornets are in so deep, it’d be difficult to escape salary-cap purgatory, even while shedding Walker.

Because he signed his rookie-scale extension before the national TV deals carried the salary cap into the stratosphere and before he rose into stardom, Walker has a low salary for his status. That could open the door for trades not possible with other stars, especially if the Hornets want to attach an albatross.

Only Isaiah Thomas has a lower salary among reigning All-Stars:

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Of course, teams looking to upgrade at point guard for the stretch run – Pistons? Pacers? Jazz? Nuggets? Cavaliers? Spurs? – would be interested in Walker. But because he has an another season left on his contract, other teams – Knicks? Magic? Suns? – could trade for him as a head start on next year. The best analogue: The Jazz getting out ahead by trading Deron Williams to the Nets before his contract entered its final year.

A team must also prepare to pay Walker in 2019, when he’ll be 30 years old. Though the $48 million over four years he’s earning now is nothing to sneeze at, free agency will be his first opportunity to really cash in on the new TV money. In the extremely likely event he doesn’t make an All-NBA team next season, the largest extension he could sign (starting July 1) would be four years, $64,512,000. That probably won’t cut it. So, Walker’s team – unless it has cap space to renegotiate-and-extend his deal – will likely have to ride out his unrestricted free agency.

“Of course, it would be nice to get a big contract like a lot of the guys around the league are getting,” Walker said. “But, at the same time, I just try to take it one day at a time.”

All these discussions have thrown Walker for a loss. Charlotte drafted him and built around him. He’s not quite sure how to handle this.

“I’ve never really been in trade rumors like that, like I’ve been hearing lately about myself,” Walker said. “But I mean, I don’t know. I don’t even know. I don’t know.

“This is very new, and I really just don’t know.”

Walker said management hasn’t told him anything, and he won’t ask. It’s easy to read the writing on the wall: Walker is a good player on a losing team, and those players are always ripe to get dealt. On the other hand, a team owned by Michael Jordan is probably less inclined to enter rebuilding voluntarily.

“I’m here,” Walker said, “and I’m just trying to play and trying to win and trying to do what I can for this organization and try to get back in the playoff hunt. That’s the main priority.”

The Hornets have won two in a row, and head coach Steve Clifford is back. A surge into playoff contention isn’t out of the question.

If it happens, it’ll probably be on Walker’s shouldeers.

“We put so much pressure on Kemba to do so much,” said assistant coach Stephen Silas, who served as acting head coach in Clifford’s absence.

Too much pressure?

“At times, it can be,” Silas said. “But that’s what he signed up for, and that’s how we’re built.”

For now, at least.

Joel Embiid whacks Jaylen Brown in face while celebrating basket (video)

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Joel Embiid‘s antics – the Instagram victory laps, trash-talking and taunting – can rub people the wrong way.

With Jaylen Brown last night, literally.