Sometimes, franchises need to change from the ground up.
That’s what the New Jersey Nets are doing — new owner (a billionaire Russian playboy), a new star player in Deron Williams (who they are trying to keep) and a new building.
The Nets were showing off that new building — the $1 billion Barclay’s center, set to open in the fall of 2012 — this week, with GM Billy King singing the praises of moving to Brooklyn, according to the Daily News.
“Players say they want to be in New York. Well, we’re going to be in New York,” King said Wednesday during a tour of the construction site with reporters. “We have the best owner, and we’re going to have the best building. We’ll have all the tools. If a guy doesn’t want to play here, he doesn’t want to play in the city…”
“You have (Madison Square) Garden and you have this,” King said. “I would equate this to the United Center in Chicago, and what this did for the area of Chicago. Or the Staples Center, and what it did to that part of L.A. I think this will do the same thing for this area. A lot of people fought it. But I think once it’s built, they’ll realize five or six years from now this area will be booming.”
It’s a good sales pitch. If it will work is another question. There is a lot of history and a reputation to overcome among players, but if the Nets can lure one more star to play with Williams for when they open the new building in the fall of 2012 they may have something.
Let’s just hope the next time the Nets take the court it’s not in this half-built arena.
Giannis Antetokounmpo makes incredible chase-down block on Jayson Tatum (video)
In the Rockets’ loss to the Lakers last night, referee Scott Foster called James Harden‘s third and fifth fouls – both offensive. The third came in the first quarter and sent Harden to the bench early. The fifth set up Harden to foul out a short time later.
Foster also called Chris Paul‘s sixth and disqualifying foul. Then, Foster gave Paul and Houston coach Mike D’Antoni technical fouls.
In all, Foster called 12 fouls on the Rockets and six on the Lakers. In the second half, he called 10 fouls on the Rockets and three on the Lakers.
“Scott Foster, man. I never really talk about officiating or anything like that, but just rude and arrogant,” said Harden, who finished with 30 points to extend his streak of 30-point performances to 32 games, the second longest in NBA history. “I mean, you aren’t able to talk to him throughout the course of the game, and it’s like, how do you build that relationship with officials? And it’s not even that call [on the sixth foul]. It’s just who he is on that floor.
“It’s lingering, and it’s something that has to be looked at for sure,” Harden said. “For sure, it’s personal. For sure. I don’t think he should be able to even officiate our games anymore, honestly.”
It’s impossible to escape the timing of this. Former referee Tim Donaghy received renewed attention this week as more evidence emerged he fixed games. Donaghy and Foster frequently spoke by phone while Donaghy was still an NBA official, which only raised suspicions about Foster. But he explained the calls as simply friends conversing.
Fair or not, Foster isn’t particularly well-liked within the league. Paul also made pointed comments about him last year.
Does Foster have a personal vendetta against Harden, Paul and the Rockets? Were Foster’s calls last night erroneous? I’m not sure.
Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) Lakers activated, come from 19 down to beat Rockets — now can they sustain it. Led by “playoff mode activated” LeBon James, Thursday night was exactly the kind of win the Lakers need if they are going to climb back into the postseason in the West.
But only if can they build on it. Remember that the Lakers’ biggest win of the season, on Christmas Day over the Warriors? That was followed up by losing 5-of-6. LeBon lifted up his teammates and his team on Thursday night — now he needs to do it again. And again. One good win is not enough at this point.
However, make no mistake: Thursday night was a good win for Los Angeles. Trailing by 19 midway through the third quarter, LeBron James (16 points in the game’s final 18 minutes, 29 for the game) and Kyle Kuzma (18 points on the night) sparked the comeback.
Los Angeles won 111-106, moved back to .500 (29-29), are just 2.5 games back of the Clippers, and it helps that the Kings lost, too (now just one game up on the Lakers).
James Harden kept his streak of 30-point games alive with a floater late in the fourth (32 in a row now at 30+), but he shot just 2-of-7 overall and 0-of-4 from three in the fourth quarter and fouled out late in the game. Harden was frustrated with the calls — and had a right to be. Harden picked up three offensive fouls late, one on a nothing contact at midcourt with Rajon Rondo that Rondo sold, and one on a charge call where Kuzma slid under Harden while he was in the air. The Rockets are convinced referee Scott Foster is out to get them (Chris Paul fouled out, too) and the game film from this one will fuel their paranoia for a while.
Of course, the referees didn’t force the Rockets to miss wide open shots down the stretch, either. The Rockets finally had their full team back — Clint Caplela and Chris Paul played — but looked like a team rusty after a week off.
LeBron and the Lakers got an aggressive, attacking game from Brandon Ingram — something else that has come and gone this season — on his way to 27 points. Reggie Bullock knocked down a key three and — in something incredibly rare for the Lakers — hit his free throws when it mattered on his way to 14 points. Josh Hart looked healthy and moved well, he had his best game in a while.
The Lakers’ next two games are winnable — at New Orleans and at Memphis — and if they are serious about making the postseason, those are games they have to pick up. For a night playoff mode was activated, but the real test for LeBron and company remains ahead of them.
2) Giannis Antetokounmpo looks every bit the MVP — especially on defense — and the Bucks remind everyone they are for real. In an often-sloppy one-point game every play matters, and Giannis Antetokounmpo not giving up on this one and getting the chase down block on Jayson Tatum was one that mattered a lot.
That was an MVP-level play. Antetokounmpo had 30 points and 13 boards on the night and was just rock steady on a night little else was.
With the 98-97 win in a sloppy game, the Bucks improved to 8-3 this season against the other elite teams in the East (Toronto, Indiana, Philadelphia, and Boston). Milwaukee has won 15-of-17.
It’s fair to wonder what happens in the playoffs when the defensive pressure is cranked up on Eric Bledsoe (he’s struggled before), and will the Bucks’ shooters keep hitting through the smaller windows afforded them in the postseason. But don’t doubt this — they are capable of hitting those shots and playing under pressure. They are more than capable of winning. The Bucks are real contenders and want to show that on the biggest of stages.
Boston was frustrated not getting some calls, including thinking the Greek Freak fouled Tatum on that breakaway dunk above. Then on the final play, with Boston down one, Brad Stevens drew up something where Kyrie Irving set a backscreen and Marcus Morris cut to the rim and he was coming open — until Khris Middleton fouled him. The Bucks ended up just getting the ball to Irving, who drove and put up a wild shot that missed, but Morris was hot after the game about the no-call. He was right. However: 1) The Bucks had a foul to give so it still would have been ball out of bounds; 2) That one play was not why they lost the game — Irving was 9-of-27 shooting and the Celtics as a team shot just 38.2 percent on the night. The Celtics had their chances but just missed.
3) Stephen Curry dunks! Oh, and hit 10 threes in Warriors win. Stephen Curry had zero dunks this season (according to Basketball-Reference), but he ended the All-Star Game in Charlotte with a reverse throwdown, then on Thursday night he did this.
Curry also did Curry things — 10-of-16 from three on his way to 36 points.
The Warriors won 125-123 and swept the season series from the Kings — but every game was close, every game hard-fought and the Kings made the Warriors work. It would make a fun first-round playoff series. Sacramento had a chance to steal this game but Buddy Hield passed up a three from a spot he’d hit one 12 seconds before to drive the lane and miss the floater to tie. If the Kings are going to get into the playoffs and face the Warriors in the first round they can’t hesitate — Hield has to take that shot.
The Kings are now 1.5 games behind the Clippers for the final playoff slot in the West, and LeBron and the Lakers are one game behind the Kings. It’s going to be a wild ride the rest of the way at the bottom of the West.
DeMar DeRozan expected to receive warm welcome in Toronto return
TORONTO (AP) — From fellow athletes to star entertainers, DeMar DeRozan has seen plenty of celebrities soaking up an extended round of appreciative applause from fans.
“When they get that long standing ovation, I always thought that was the coolest thing in the world,” DeRozan said Thursday. “I’ve never received one.”
Friday night, it could be his turn.
DeRozan is back north of the border for the first time since the Toronto Raptors traded him last summer. His new team, the San Antonio Spurs, face the Raptors on Friday. A four-time All-Star in Toronto who helped the Raptors to five straight playoff appearances, DeRozan is likely to receive a warm welcome when he is introduced.
“If it’s one of those long standing ovations, it’s definitely going to be overwhelming,” DeRozan said in a news conference at the Spurs’ team hotel. “It’s crazy when you get a whole arena on their feet just showing appreciation. I’m looking forward to it, to feeling the love.”
Friday’s game will be the first following the All-Star break for both teams. Toronto (43-16) has won six straight, and is is one game behind Milwaukee for top spot in the Eastern Conference. San Antonio (33-26) beat Memphis in its final game before the break to stop a four-game slide. The Spurs are seventh in the West, nine games behind leaders Golden State.
There wasn’t much love on offer when the Raptors visited the Spurs in January. Toronto forward Kawhi Leonard endured chants of “Traitor! Traitor!” and “Quitter! Quitter!” from the capacity crowd that adored him during his seven seasons in San Antonio.
“It just felt like a road game, but more boos when I have the ball,” Leonard said after the Raptors practiced Thursday. “Environments like that can only get us better, being able to have the fans up in their seats excited, wanting the team to lose, it just prepares us for the playoffs.”
Leaving Toronto last summer was difficult for DeRozan. Still a teenager when he was drafted by Toronto in 2009, he turned into an All-Star by 2014, building his game year after year. He left town as the franchise leader in points (13,296), field goals (4,716), free throws (3,539), and games (675).
DeRozan compared the emotional wounds left by the end of his Raptors career to a breakup, albeit one with a happy ending.
“She moved on and I moved on,” he joked. “Now we’re both happy.”
Toronto coach Nick Nurse worked with DeRozan for five years in his role as a Raptors assistant, and called him “the best dude ever.”
“He was easy to coach,” Nurse said. “He was easy to talk to. And he was a great performer.”
DeRozan certainly performed when the Spurs routed the Raptors in January, recording 21 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists for his first career triple-double. It was the first home triple-double by a Spurs player since Tim Duncan in 2003.
The visit to Toronto also gives DeRozan the opportunity to compete against former teammate and friend Kyle Lowry, who missed the game in Texas because of a sore back.
“I’m looking forward to playing against him,” DeRozan said. “Kyle gave me a sense of a different side of understanding basketball. I learned so much from him being my point guard, being my best friend, just everything hat came with that.”
DeRozan said he misses plenty of things about Toronto, but not its winter weather. He conducted his news conference while wearing a furry aviator hat and said he planned to stay in for the night, joking that he hoped Lowry would bring him some food.
Friday’s game will also feature a matchup of the Gasol brothers, Pau, 38, with San Antonio and Marc, 34, with Toronto.