Tag: New Jersey Nets

Deron Williams

Nets as title contender? Billy King thinks it could happen.


I’m not sold the Nets are the best team in New York. They are not the best team in the Northeast. Nobody sane thinks they are the best team on the East coast, or in that conference.

Yes, they are going to be much better than last season’s train wreck in Newark. This version of the Nets — with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez and Gerald Henderson — should be entertaining. That’s a start.

But Nets GM Billy King thinks they could be more than that. He was asked in a Tuesday press conference if these Nets could win an NBA title, as reported at ESPNNewYork.com.

“Can we win a championship? Yeah. But it takes luck in an NBA season to do that. You’ve gotta be healthy, get some breaks and the ball has to bounce your way sometimes.”

Sometimes? The Nets would need every bounce to go their way. The breaks would need to include the legs of LeBron James and Kevin Garnett.

Seriously, Billy King did watch the Heat win an NBA title, then go out this summer and land Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. Does he think the Nets roster is better than that?

“I don’t know. … Miami’s very good. They’re the defending champions so that’s who everybody’s trying to beat, but I look at when we play them. For once, we’ve got pieces where we have a chance to beat them,” King said. “When we play the Lakers, we’ve got a chance to beat them. Every night we step on the court we’ve got a chance to win every game.

“We’re new to the party, but we’re going to be knocking on the door.”

If it’s a good party, do you ever hear the guy knocking at the door trying to get in?

I don’t want to just bash the Nets here because they are going to be a pretty good team. They are going to win more games than they lose. We do praise them in the PBT season preview.

But any Nets fans that think they are contenders are more delusional than Knicks fans… hey, maybe that is one battle of New York they can win!

Tuesday And-1 links: The Nets dancer uniforms are… pretty fly?


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 the twitterverse loves making fun of replacement referees.

• The photo to the right shows off the new Brooklyn Nets dancer uniforms. They were going for urban, I guess. I think The Big Lead said it best — they look like the In Living Color-Fly Girls.

• Paul Millsap says he can’t worry about Derrick Favors starting for the Jazz, he just has to be the best player he can be. Tyron Corbin needs to find a way to get both of them on the court together a lot.

• From our long list of “he’s going to do great this season” reports that come out this year, here is Brook Lopez saying he wants to live up to his max contract. Not sure he can do that unless he can morph into Dwight Howard, but there you go.

• Then there is the report John Wall improved his strength and jump shot in the offseason. He’ll get the chance to show that jumper off.

• Next, Billy King said Andray Blatche “is in the best shape of his life.”

• Along the same lines, Udonis Haslem says he’s improved his jump shot.

• John Wall showed up to watch RG III play this weekend in Washington.

• The Bobcats marketing slogan this year is “TougherFasterStronger.” Not sure they could do worse in those categories than last season, so let’s hope they live up to it.

• Kevin Durant’s movie Thunderstruck comes out on DVD on Dec. 4. Just in time to fill your Christmas stocking.

• Yi Jianlian has signed to play this season with the Guangdong Tigers in China. In theory he can come back and play in the NBA when the Chinese Basketball Association season ends in February (as Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith, among others, did last season).

• While we’re at it, D.J. White signed a one-year contract with the Shanghai Sharks in China.

• Two rookies, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jared Sullinger are now part of the Jordan brand (meaning Nike). Good gets for the shoe line.

• Michael Jordan (and a lot of other celebrities) show up singing a Beatles tune to raise money for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

• Agents Dan Fegan and Happy Walters are teaming up at a new agency.

• Dan Gadzuric worked out for the Sixers on Tuesday and should get a training camp invite.

• The Jazz are bringing in veteran big man Brian Butch as training camp fodder.

• Raptors have signed Chris Wright for training camp.

The Inbounds: The Chicago Bulls can defy expectations again. Is that a good thing?

Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson, Ronnie Brewer, Joakim Noah
Leave a comment

Welcome to The Inbounds, touching on a big idea of the day. It could be news, it could be history, it could be a tangent, it could be love. OK, it’s probably not love. Enjoy.

The Bulls were supposed to be a middle-seed in 2011, maybe a 4 or a 5 seed. They took the No.1 overall seed in the East.

Chicago was supposed to be hampered by injuries, particularly those to Derrick Rose in 2012, falling back maybe to a 2nd or 3rd seed. Again, No.1 with a bull-et. (Get it? Because they’re the Bulls? And it’s a Bull-et? Get… OK, sorry.)

This year, Rose is out recovering from ACL surgery, as highlighted extensively by Adidas, and most are not targeting them for a top-four seed, expecting a fall back to the pack. They revamped their roster in terms of the bench and many feel not for the better. Carlos Boozer’s another year older, Luol Deng had a long, hard summer, and Kirk Hinrich is starting at point guard.

But let’s think about this for a minute. Is it really smart to dismiss not only what the Bulls accomplished, but how? The Bulls the past two seasons have not succeeded based on superior talent, in truth. Yes, Luol Deng has really improved offensively and put himself in the top 5-10 of players defensively. Carlos Boozer is so overrated hes’ underrated, and suffers from the same kind of misconception that Joe Johnson deals with. Joakim Noah is very quietly, ironically, one of the better centers in the league at both ends of the floor. They have the talent, but they also have the system. Thibodeau relies on veterans making veteran plays offensively and a barbed-wire trap surrounded by landmines as his defensive construct. Anyone can be good defensively in Thibodeau’s system, or at least invisibly poor, because all you must do is what you’re taught and do so with emphasis and effort. You can be as unskilled or slow as any player in the league, and if you learn the things he teaches, you’re going to be good enough to not be a problem on the floor.

Put it this way, the Knicks can’t put Steve Novak on the floor for stretches because if they do, he leaves them vulnerable defensively, despite Woodson’s excellent defensive coaching. Novak could exist in the Bulls’ system, and while still a liability, be less of one.

So if your liabilities aren’t really liabilities and your strengths are still strength, why are we so quick to shove the Bulls off the top rungs of the Eastern ladder? The Heat will be resting stars as they always do, the Celtics, much the same. Indiana is certainly a threat but it’s hard to argue they’re better than the Bulls at their best. So why can’t the Bulls win the division, and get a top seed?

There’s no reason. That’s how good Tom Thibodeau is. (Which makes the Bulls’ continued all-too-typical wrangling with him over his contract all the more maddening, and that’s all I’ll say about that for now.)

But there’s a question beyond that. Is that what Bulls fans should want? Is that what the Bulls organization should want? Is that the best outcome for them?

It’s hard to say that the Bulls are overachieving if this is the third year they would reach that kind of height, but it’s still true. They’re playing at a level which defies pretty common rational analysis of how good they are, as a sum of their parts. A team can definitely reach higher as a composite and is more than just the individual talents. But is it this much? The results of the playoffs would indicate no. You can toss out last year, sure, if you want to go with Rose’s injury and the emotional impact on the team leading to the loss to the Sixers, but remember, that same team had problems with Indiana, always in close games in a short-but-fierce five-game series, then really had some emotional swings vs. Atlanta, before finally winning Game 1 vs. Miami and looking unstoppable, then getting railroaded like Wile E. Coyote. They just needed a little white ACME sign.

The Bulls need so much to go their way, for Boozer to play as an elite player he’s never really been, for Deng to shoot the lights out when he’s a good but inconsistent mid-range shooter, for the bench mob to constantly overwhelm opponents with hustle (or veteran savvy, I suppose, this year, with the bench significantly different). They can still look really good but eventually, they’ll run up against a mirror that shows how good they really are, and when that comes, they tend to mix down to about the team we thought they’d be in the beginning. It doesn’t take away from what Thibs has done, if anything, it emphasizes it. But we also can’t realistically look at this team as a title contender, and if that’s the case, what’s the point?

The maddening part is that Rose’s injury leaves so much in the air. If the team gels and plays together, it’s going to excite the team and its fans, prompting more belief. If they don’t somehow reach the impossible dream, then it will be crushing, but still be filled with “Well, Derrick wasn’t really back yet.” Rose’s injury causes a constant level of self-doubt, not only towards any positive regard for the team, but for any criticisms as well.

There’s no real way to evaluate the Bulls, other than “really good, but probably not a title team.”

A year in which they did not reach expectations, did not exceed them, just kind of slumped to a close could bring another lottery miracle, a younger player with talent at the least. It could force changes from the front office desperate not to waste Rose’s youth, and a move to amnesty Boozer. There could be change and progress, versus the current results which are just good enough to be able to justify not making any sort of bold move. How do you say “we have to get better” when you were the best team in your conference?

And the answer to that is “by examining the level of superstar talent you need to win a title in today’s NBA.” Rose is a special talent, regardless of his limitations, and has a remarkable future ahead of him. But another year of taking a hammering in the playoffs, fresh off his recovery, would work contrary to the long-term goals.

The Bulls are stuck between a Rose and a hard place, and the only way to facilitate change may be for them to not do the thing they’re best at: playing at a level far beyond what may be sustainable in the playoffs long-term.