Author: Kurt Helin


Nets coach Lionel Hollins: ”Deron is healthy, Brook is healthy.”


In an Eastern Conference that is wide open after Chicago and Cleveland at the top, Brooklyn could still make some noise. They may be trimming some payroll but they still have Kevin Garnett, Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Brook Lopez, which is a lot of firepower.

That is, if the latter two are healthy.

Williams was in-and-out of the lineup last season, getting shots in his ankles and starting only 58 games on his way to his worst production since his rookie season (both in terms of points and efficiency). Lopez appeared in just 17 games before a broken foot ended his season.

New Nets coach Lionel Hollins likes what he sees from those two on their road to recovery, he told Newsday in a phone interview from Africa where he is taking part in the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program.

“You can’t be where you want to be unless you’re healthy, and you can’t get in shape unless you’re healthy. If you are injured all summer, there’s no way you can work out. Deron is healthy, Brook is healthy and they are both able to work out.”

That’s a good sign.

The challenge for Hollins will be limiting their minutes and keeping them fresh next season despite a depleted bench.

The good news is that behind Lopez is Mason Plumlee, who has shown during Team USA camp he is ready to take on a larger role.

It’s a little more challenging at the guard spot. The Nets can play some Jarrett Jack at the point behind Williams but Jack is going to play some at the two so Marquis Teague will get minutes. They are going to miss Shaun Livingston.

But Hollins has no choice here — Williams ankles are made of paper mache at this point and while he is good during the summer he needs plenty of rest to stay that way during the season. As for Lopez, well, the history of big men and foot injuries is troubling. Controlled minutes will be key, even if it costs a couple wins along the way.

PBT Extra: Does Kevin Love to Cavaliers make them title favorites?

Kevin Love

Cleveland won big this summer. First LeBron James decided to return and now Kevin Love is set to be traded to the Cavaliers on Aug. 23 in exchange for Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a future first round pick.

Does this make the Cavaliers the favorites to win the NBA title next year? (Not in my book.) Is this a win-win for Minnesota and Cleveland? (I’m not sure I’d call this a win for Minnesota, just not a bad loss.)

All of these are topics myself and Jenna Corrado cover in the lastest edition of PBT Extra.

NBA suspends Mavericks’ Raymond Felton four games for weapons charges

Indiana Pacers v New York Knicks

The Knicks traded Raymond Felton to Dallas as part of the Tyson Chandler deal this summer, but there was something hanging over Felton’s head during that deal — felony gun charges.

He had been arrested in New York after he allegedly pointed a gun at his estranged wife. He eventually pled guilty to attempted criminal possession of a weapon and criminal possession of a firearm, as well as knowingly having a large-capacity ammunition magazine and a pistol that was unlicensed. Felton was sentenced to 500 hours of community service and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine.

On top of that, the NBA has now suspended Felton the first four games of next season without pay, the league announced Thursday.

“I demonstrated poor judgment and I take full responsibility for my actions,” Felton said in a statement released by the Mavericks.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban noted in his statement that Felton is allowed to serve is community service hours outside New York and can do them around Dallas.

Snarky Dallas fans took to twitter saying the suspension was a blessing for the Mavericks — Felton struggled mightily last season in New York (which now has Jose Calderon running the point, a much better triangle offense fit).

Felton is going to be fighting for minutes in Dallas with Jameer Nelson and Devin Harris, and if he plays like last season Felton isn’t going to get a lot of them.

Once the suspension ends Felton (rarely the best conditioned athlete in the league, to be kind) will get the chance to turn his career around under one of the best Xs and Os coaches in the game in Rick Carlisle, someone who will put Felton in good positions to succeed. Whether he does anything with that chance remains to be seen. Color me skeptical.

Let’s give a golf clap to Flip Saunders for handling Love trade well

Flip Saunders

Flip Saunders couldn’t win.

You simply cannot trade a superstar, an elite talent and get equal value back.

Kevin Love is an elite talent (if you don’t see that it speaks to your hoops IQ) and he was forcing a trade — Love wasn’t coming back and everyone around the league knew it. That wasn’t Saunders’ fault — it was all the previous GM David Kahn who screwed up picks to put players around Love (drafting Jonny Flynn over Stephen Curry and Wesley Johnson over DeMarcus Cousins) then insulting Love by not giving him a five-year max rookie contract extension — but Saunders could not repair the relationship. It was too far gone.

By the time of the playoffs and Finals this summer Love’s agent was working hard to get his client out of Minnesota and to a destination of his choosing, using he hammer of where he would and would not re-sign after this current deal is up. That started the build up.

By the time of the draft in June there a buzz and the feeling of pressure — the naive on twitter and some talking heads said, “Saunders needs to trade Love right now, the market is never going to get better.” But teams were low-balling Minnesota, thinking there really was pressure and they wanted to get the deal done sooner rather than later.

So Saunders walked away. He was patient. He knew the low-ball offers would always be there, he could wait for better.

In any negotiation, the guy with the power is the guy more willing to walk away from the table. Saunders was that guy. He took a page out of Masai Ujiri’s book when he had the same situation with Carmelo Anthony in Denver — be patient, let a trade market really develop, wait for someone to give you something you really want.

Better offers did come in, slowly. Chicago came in with Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler and future picks, but that was not enough. The Celtics had a nice package of potential picks and young players, but Minnesota wasn’t ready to go that route.

Then the Warriors came in with a tempting offer but Saunders held out for their most prized rookie contract — Klay Thompson. Golden State wouldn’t do it. A team who has great former shooting guards in key decision making positions — consultant/owner Jerry West and coach Steve Kerr — did not want to give up on Thompson and pairing him with Curry. So Saunders waited.

Eventually, Cleveland threw Andrew Wiggins in a package. Most likely because LeBron James told them to — part of the reason he returned to Cleveland is he and his guys have a lot more power in the organization there. Once Cleveland got LeBron back they became a win-now team and Love fits that better than the developing Wiggins. Credit LeBron for being a smart GM here.

Now the Wiggins for Love deal is set, it just can’t be executed until Aug. 23.

But that worked for Saunders. If not an outright win, it was as close to it as he would get.

Saunders got what he needed — a potential elite player back. We don’t know how good Wiggins is going to turn out to ultimately be — he is incredibly talented but has a long ways to go — but Saunders got a young player who at the very least will be part of the future core of this team. If not it’s leader and cornerstone. And he got a guy on a rookie deal that he can control for a while (Wiggins will eventually sign some kind of rookie contract extension in Minnesota and likely be there at least seven years, maybe more).

Saunders also got Anthony Bennett, a former No. 1 pick who will never live up to that billing but showed at Las Vegas Summer League this year he can become a solid rotation big in the NBA. And he got a future first round pick.

Combine that with the potential of Zach LaVine (athletic but a lot farther to go in terms of game feel than Wiggins), plus the still young Ricky Rubio and others you might have something to build on in Minnesota. Saunders will look to move players of some value for assets now — J.J. Barea, Alexey Shved and others — and start to build for the future. In the deep West there is no reason for them to get vets and try to get the eight seed, rebuild the right way. It’s about player development in Minnesota.

But the key part of rebuilding is getting the cornerstone piece, and Saunders got that.

Saunders couldn’t win, but he played this all about as well as one can. He deserves a nice golf clap for that.

Hall of Famer Alonzo Mourning’s best blocks (VIDEO)

Houston Rockets v Miami Heat

Alonzo Mourning heads into the Hall of Fame this weekend.

He was a better offensive player than he gets credit for, averaging 17 points, 8.5 rebounds a game for his career, but what he’s really known for is defense. The seven-time All Star was twice named NBA Defensive Player of the Year, also twice he finished in the top three in MVP voting.

So to celebrate his induction, enjoy watching him shut some people down.