Kurt Helin

Brooklyn Nets Deron Williams Paul Pierce Kevin Garnett

Nets finally taking responsible path to rebuilding, don’t expect another spending spree next summer

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A few years back, Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov knew he needed a winning team to open the Barclays’ Center, a team that could get New York’s attention. He ordered his GM to spend without concern for the luxury tax, he openly laughed at that demarcation line. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, trading for Joe Johnson, and the list goes on — Brooklyn bought a pretty good team, one that made the second round of the playoffs, but at a ridiculous price tag.

Now, times have changed — the Nets waived Deron Williams, traded Garnett, let Pierce bolt to the other coast, and made moves to get under (or at least close to) the luxury tax. Prokhorov is sending out letters to season ticket holders touting a younger, more athletic team. They are going to try and build in a more traditional way. Well, except without draft picks for a while.

That means next summer, when they have cap space again, don’t expect the Nets to spend like mad on one big free agent, reports Nets Daily.

One league source told NetsDaily it will be a long time, if ever, before the Nets pay the luxuy tax again. Part of his thinking is that they will go into next summer with $40 million in cap space, enough to pursue a star or more likely, pay two of three good players … some of whom may be their own. The other reason is they think with a longer term strategy and some good fortune, they can win while being fiscally frugal. They’re putting a LOT of stock in continuity, particularly with the coaching staff. (The insider said that he could foresee the Nets maxing out only one of their current playes, Bojan Bogdanovic, two years from now if he breaks out.)

They are going to act like 29 other teams.

The general rule of thumb around the league is not to go into the tax — especially avoid the dreaded repeater tax (for being above the tax line three out of four years) — unless you are in a window of title contention. The Cavaliers are about to do it to keep LeBron James happy, but they should — with him they are contenders for the next five years (at least). But you don’t  see even the big market money machines like the Lakers and Knicks willing to spend way over the line right now, at least until they get somewhere near contender status again. You can’t just buy a team.

What this likely means for the Nets is some short term pain. They certainly still have the talent to make the bottom half of the playoffs in the East — they did spend this summer to retain Brook  Lopez and Thaddeus Young — but the rebuilding is going to take a little time. Especially considering all the draft picks they sent away during the “win now” era (Boston will be picking for the Nets a lot in the coming years).

The Nets have learned how to build patiently, while their owner has learned how to dodge marriage promises. They may be getting things right, but there is still a price to be paid for their win-now era.

Report: Dwight Howard to attend Team USA mini-camp after all

Dwight Howard
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Apparently Dwight Howard still might want a trip to Rio next summer.

USA Basketball’s mini-camp is coming up and players who do not attend are not likely to be invited to the tryouts for the Rio Olympics next summer (unless your name is LeBron, then you can pretty much do what you want). A few players frustrated with the USA Basketball process and decisions — Damian Lillard and John Wall in particular — have been hesitant in saying they would go.

Dwight Howard, on the other hand, seems to have had a change of heart, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Howard, because of his defense and mobility, would stand a good chance to make Team USA because he fits Mike Krzyzewski’s style of play. Howard protects the paint, can cover out on the perimeter on defense, and knows how to run the floor and finish on offense. Tyson Chandler was on the roster in London, Howard could slide right into that slot.

Predicting who will be available a year from now is next to impossible, there’s an entire NBA season still to be played. But if you don’t show up to the mini-camp this season you probably miss out next year, so it doesn’t hurt to show up (even for guys like Kevin Love and Kevin Durant, who cannot participate due to injury). This is the smart play for Howard.

Watch Karl-Anthony Towns highlights from Summer League

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Karl-Anthony Towns impressed at Summer League.

You don’t get to be the No. 1 overall pick with physical talent, but he turned heads with the high basketball IQ he showed. He recognized the double teams being thrown at him and made clever passes out of them. He showed the ability to score a variety of ways, from back-to-the-basket to 18-foot jumpers. He and moves well off the ball.

Maybe most impressively, he handled himself like a veteran off the court.

He’s still a rookie, and he’s got a lot of work left — he picked up fouls at an alarming rate, and he needs a diversity of post moves. But Timberwolves fans should watch videos like this and smile.

Pelicans waive Toney Douglas, still await Norris Cole decision

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Toney Douglas had a couple stints with the Pelicans last season. He first signed on Feb. 4 for a couple of 10-day contracts, but wasn’t picked up for the season at that time. Then on March 24 things changed and the Pelicans picked him up for the rest of the campaign. He added some guard depth to an injury-riddled New Orleans roster, played some decent defense, and he got in a dozen games for the team (but none in the playoffs).

But he was never expected to make it back in the fall, and that became official on Friday — the Pelicans waived Douglas.

That leaves the Pelicans with a dozen guaranteed contracts on the roster.

There is one big question remaining — what happens with Norris Cole? He is a restricted free agent who was hoping to get an offer larger than the qualifying one the Pelicans extended — he’s had talks with the Sixers — but so far nothing.

Cole played some of the best ball of his career for the Pelicans late last season — he averaged 9.9 points and 3.2 assists a game and played good defense, then continued that solid performance in the playoffs against Golden State. The Pelicans want him back, which is why Cole has struggled to get an offer from another team because they all assume the Pelicans would just match.

 

It’s official: Kings hire Hall-of-Famer Nancy Lieberman as assistant coach

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It’s an impressive resume for an NBA assistant coach: Two years as the head coach of the D-League’s Texas Legends making the playoff the second year, then becoming general manager of that team. Before that she was a two-time college champion and an Olympian as a player. That is somebody with the background to understand and coach the game.

Nancy Lieberman’s credentials should not be in question — she’s in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame for a reason.

The Kings made it official, announcing that she has been hired Friday as a member of George Karl’s coaching staff in Sacramento.

Sam Amick of the USA Today got a short quote out of her on the topic.

In a late-night text message to USA TODAY Sports, Lieberman called Thursday, “a crazy, wonderful day.” For at least the past year, Lieberman had been interested in joining an NBA team as a coach and has worked at high-profile camps last summer instructing NBA players.

Lieberman becomes the second full-time female assistant coach in the NBA, behind the Spurs Becky Hammon.  What’s impressive is that Lieberman was one of the real pioneers of women working in the NBA, and she helped open the door for Hammon. Now Lieberman herself is walking through that same door.

The Kings — with Rajon Rondo, DeMarcus Cousins and Karl coaching them — have a lot of strong-willed people in the same room. It’s potentially combustible. If Lieberman can navigate that locker room and win the players over, she will be able to do it anywhere.