Tag: New Jersey Nets

Knicks Media Day Basketball

Tuesday And-1 links: Felton starts but does Kidd close for Knicks?


Here is our regular look around the NBA — links to stories worth reading and notes to check out (stuff that did not get its own post here at PBT) — done in bullet point form. Because bloggers love bullet points like old people love In The Heat of the Night.

• Raymond Felton will start games at point for the New York Knicks, but don’t be shocked if Jason Kidd closes them.

• Every time some player says “I don’t care about my next contract” I think they are lying, but Manu Ginobili may be the exception to that rule.

• Watch Kevin Love go yard while taking batting practice before a Twins game.

• Rockets camp is getting off to a tough start, and the next three posts show why. First, Jon Brockman has an eye injury severe enough to keep him out of practice all week.

• Royce White has not been at the first two days of Rockets training camp as he deals with ongoing anxiety disorder issues, something that was a concern of some teams during the draft.

• Chase Budinger sat out some drills at Rockets practice due to a tweaked left hamstring.

• Zach Randolph says his knee is just fine, thanks for asking.

• Zaza Pachulia was held out of some drills at Hawks camp due to knee concerns Tuesday.

• There is plenty of buzz around the league that Monta Ellis will opt out of his deal in Milwaukee after this season and test the free agent market.

• The Nets are going to use Andray Blatche as a backup five, not so much at the four.

Another story about how James Harden is confident he will work out a contract extension with the Thunder. Everyone says that but at this point I’ll believe it when I see it.

• Magic Johnson says the Miami Heat are the team to beat for the NBA title. Like a broken clock that is still right twice a day, Magic is correct here.

• The Mavericks waived center D.J. Mbenga Tuesday, and that made me a little sad.

• Little shake up in the agent ranks — following LeBron James leaving CAA, four other players have filed to do the same according to ESPN: Denver’s Ty Lawson, Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson, the Los Angeles Clippers’ Eric Bledsoe and the San Antonio’s Cory Joseph.

• A nice recap of Denver Nuggets media day. They are my early favorite for “most fun team to watch” this season.

• New Yorkers, you can hang out in one of the Jay-Z designed Vault Suites at the New Barclay Center — oh, and get to watch a Brooklyn Nets and meet Deron Williams — by submitting a short video “demonstrating their commitment as the ultimate fan of sports, music or entertainment” to this site at American Express.

• Mark Cuban dancing Gangnam style at a bar in Indiana. Just because we can.

NBA Preview: Washington Wizards

Bradley Beal, Ernie Grunfeld, Randy Wittman

Last season: It wasn’t pretty, 20-46 never is, but the Wizards made some moves to push this team in the right direction. This was as dysfunctional a locker room as there was in the league, so trading JaVale McGee and firing coach Flip Saunders made sense. The team needed to bring in professional players and an old-school coach to change the culture. That started to happen.

Key Departures: The Wizards threw in the towel on the Andray Blatche experiment and amnestied him. They stuck with him longer than they should have. Also gone was athletic but erratic backup two guard Nick Young, and not much missed Rashard Lewis. We can mention JaVale McGee here, even though that happened last season at the trade deadline (a move that was part of the culture change).

Key Additions: Washington took on money to get the stabilization they wanted, trading for solid veterans Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza. They will pay those two a combined $43 million over the next three years, so they better bring something to the table. Remember they got Nene for JaVale McGee late last season, too.

The Wizards also drafted Bradley Beal, who they picture as the future two guard playing next to John Wall. That was a smart pick.

Three keys to the Wizards’ season:

1) When will John Wall be healthy, and can he make the leap? There are two more keys discussed below, but this is THE question for the Wizards. If you’re going to be a title contender, an elite team in the NBA, you need one of the dozen or so elite players in the NBA. When drafted No. 1, it was thought Wall might be that guy. So far he hasn’t been.

Wall will be out until around Thanksgiving (maybe a little earlier) with a stress fracture in his patella. This is something he should come all the way back from. However, missing that month, that 10 or so games, could be the difference between the Wizards making the playoffs and missing out. Again.

Whenever he returns, Wall has to prove he is the promised franchise player. If he can’t, the Wizards need to treat him like a role player and not keep paying for potential. But we want to see him bust out. Wall hasn’t had a reliable jump shot, has been slowed by injuries, couldn’t seem to lead the team. He has to push the tempo and make plays in transition, he needs to hit jump shots consistently, and he needs to really be more of a force in the half court offense and work better off picks. He has to step up his game. The time is now.

For a couple seasons he has been good. The Wizards need great.

2) Their defense should be good, will they get enough offense? With Nene in the paint, Okafor lurking around there too and now Trevor Ariza on the perimeter, plus old-school Randy Wittman as coach, you can bet the Wizards will play pretty good defense.

The question is where do the points come from and do they have the shooters to stretch the floor when Wall drives. Wall has to get and create points, and he should get help inside from Nene and Okafor. But the Wizards need Ariza to bury corner threes consistently and they need the rookie Beal to be a sharpshooter. Do that and they will get enough points to win some games. If they remain a bottom 10 offense it’s going to be a long, long season.

3) How much does the culture change mean? Gone are McGee, Blatche, Young and before them Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton. Let’s just say that the Wizards locker room was not the most professional in the league before and preparation was not their forte. Wall could not lead that group. Now they have a team of real professionals, guys like Okafor and Ariza.

It matters, in part because with the contracts now on the books these are their guys — this roster is basically their team for a couple years.

What Wizards’ fans should fear: If Wall does not pan out to be a superstar No. 1 pick you can build a franchise around, you still need to go get one of those guys. But they will have a team with veterans who can play and so they are not going to fall to the bottom of the lottery. What is scary is moving into the league’s middle ground, where the Wizards consistently finish between 7 and 10 in the conference, never get a game-changing lottery pick but are never real threats to contend either. The Wizards could slip into that realm.

How it likely works out: The Wizards are going to be better. How much better really falls to Wall, and how good you think the Wizards will be this year really depends on how good you think Wall can be. If he can leap up into the tier of top point guards in the league, the Wizards become a playoff team and a tough out. If not, if he just improves a little, they likely miss out.

I think they are going to be a good defensive team, not great but good, and the nights the points come they can be dangerous. I’m not totally sold on Wall. But they are going to be solid.

Prediction: 35-47 and like the 9 or 10 seed in the East, hanging around the playoff hunt but just missing out. Their playoff chances are really damaged by not having Wall for the first month of the season. They do not have a lot of margin for error. They are going to be better, they are going to be more entertaining, but if they are going to surprise us it’s on Wall when he gets back.

Nets are talking championship. And they mean this year.

Kris Humphries

It’s not just owner Mikhail Prokhorov and GM Billy King talking grandiose plans of he Nets winning a title this year — their coach and players are as well.

The Nets may well not be the best team in in New York City, but moving into a new building in a new market with some new (and now healthy) players has the Nets talking big. As big as it gets.

Here are some quotes from media day, via John Schuhmann at NBA.com.

“Where we are now, the goal is to win a championship,” head coach Avery Johnson said. “At the end of the day, that’s what we all play for. I couldn’t say that about the team the last two years, because we weren’t there on any level….

“We’re not a championship team today,” Johnson said. “Hopefully, we’ll be one as we move on in training camp and get on into the regular season, and as we move into the playoffs. But the goal is to win a championship this year.”

And how about you, Joe Johnson?

“I think we’ve got everything that you could possibly want on a championship-caliber team,” Joe said. “So now we just have to come together as one and just make it happen. The sky’s the limit for us, honestly.”

I get it, you want the Nets to say this. You don’t want them saying they just want to take a step forward, you want them to sell this and hopefully both the community and they will buy it.

But the Nets are not a championship team. Not with a roster filled with guys who are questionable on the defensive end (Brook Lopez is not your anchor in the paint, Joe Johnson does not lock down guys on the wing. Even if everything went their way this year they are probably the third or fourth best team in the East. Certainly not better than a Miami team that won the title last year then added Ray Allen and other parts.

We’re just trying to keep it real in Brooklyn.