Joe Johnson says the Nets are ‘definitely’ better than the Knicks. Here we go.

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Let the Battle for the Basketball Boroughs commence. We’re headed for a new rivalry, as the Nets and Knicks face off for the soul of hoops in Gotham, and the Nets have no plans to enter the arena humbly nor quietly. At a pep rally in Brooklyn introducing Joe Johnson, Johnson told reporters that the Nets are “definitely” the best team in New York, via the New York Daily News.

And he was the tame one. the Brooklyn Borough President had a ton of things to say about the Knicks.

“For nearly 40 years the Manhattan Knicks have shown they can’t bring a championship to New York, so it’s going to take the Brooklyn Nets to get the job done,” Markowitz said. “So move over Manhattan — enough air balls. You had your chance.”

“Now that the Barclays Center is in town, the national basketball spotlight is focused on Brooklyn’s big stage and Madison Square Garden just doesn’t have the same sparkle anymore,” said Markowitz, comparing it to the old rivalry between the Brooklyn Dodgers and Yankees. “By the way, for any Brooklynites still rooting for the Manhattan Knicks: as of November and on, I’m giving you fair warning: it’s treason to support the outer borough’s team over our Brooklyn Nets.

“Besides, when it comes down to it, we all know the Brooklyn Nets will shut down the Manhattan Knicks when they play for the first time.”

via Joe Johnson says Nets ‘definitely’ the best team in New  York as Brooklyn declares all-out hoops war on Manhattan  – NY Daily News.

Comes off as a little little-brother-ish, does it not? “We’re totally better than you!” Better teams go out and show it. Like the Heat. Oh, wait. No. That’s not right. Bad example. Or the Celtics. They never talk about how good they ar… nope, that doesn’t work either. Anyway, this is going to be a beast of a rivalry for the next three years until Amar’e Stoudemire can’t walk and Joe Johnson is making $25 million and shooting 40 percent, then it’s going to seem a little sad. But for right now?

You can make the argument for either side, especially the Knicks. It’s not just that they have arguably the best overall player in Carmelo Anthony, but they have a better defensive system. Amar’e Stoudemire’s injury problems aren’t sure to repeat themselves, and even if they do, he can still contribute. Tyson Chandler may be the difference maker, though, as a better overall defensive player. The Knicks were a great defensive team last year, and with another year together, plus a full year with Jeremy Lin, there’s a chance the Knicks’ offense could come together. Compare that with the inexperience of the Nets and “Manhattan” has the edge.

But you could easily make an argument for Brooklyn.

Oh, and in that same article, Billy King’s quoted as saying Deron Williams and Joe Johnson is a better backcourt than the Lakers’ combo of Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant.

So much fun!

Report: Spurs hearing out Kawhi Leonard trade offers, including from Lakers

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The Spurs shot down Kawhi Leonard trade offers before the trade deadline. They brushed off Leonard trade offers earlier this offseason.

Then, the already strained situation got even worse.

Leonard put out word he wanted to leave San Antonio, ideally for the Lakers. He met with Gregg Popovich this week in San Diego, reportedly directly telling the president-coach he wants out.

What are the Spurs doing now?

Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports:

The Lakers are in that mix.

The Spurs can try to mend their relationship with Leonard. They could even use a super-max contract – projected to be worth $219 million over five years – to aid that process. They don’t have to trade him.

But the clock is ticking toward tonight’s draft, teams using their cap space in other ways and Leonard’s 2019 free agency.

San Antonio has no choice but to get more aggressive in handling Leonard’s future. This is a small step in that direction.

Report: Nets to buy out Dwight Howard

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The Magic, Lakers, Rockets, Hawks and Hornets all grew tired of Dwight Howard.

The Nets did it in record time.

After acquiring Howard in a trade from Charlotte yesterday, Brooklyn is moving toward shedding him.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

In the trade, the Nets dumped Timofey Mozgov‘s $16.72 million salary for 2019-20. Now, they could get a reduction on Howard’s $23,819,725 expiring contract. Brooklyn is doing a great job of unloading bad money.

Next year, the Nets will have their own first-round pick for the first time in six years. Though he has declined considerably from his Hall of Fame peak, Howard can still play some. Brooklyn didn’t need him interfering with its tanking and culture.

Instead, the Nets can focus on developing Jarrett Allen and losing enough to secure the best draft position possible.

It’ll be interesting to see how much Howard surrenders and where he goes. Again, he can still play. But the league is moving away from traditional centers, and he’s high maintenance.

Report: Cavaliers not planning to trade Kevin Love, no matter what LeBron James does

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The Cavaliers spent considerable time bemoaning a Kevin Love trade last summer falling through.

Will they deal him this offseason?

The No. 8 pick and Love are Cleveland’s best assets for upgrading their roster around LeBron James. If LeBron leaves, moving Love could jumpstart a rebuild.

But apparently the Cavs are now projecting attachment to Love, either way.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

The Cavaliers are not actively shopping All-Star forward Kevin Love heading into Thursday’s NBA draft, multiple sources told ESPN on Wednesday. Furthermore, regardless of what decision LeBron James makes about his future in Cleveland, the Cavs have interest in keeping Love next season, sources said.

File this under what else are they supposed to say? Even if the Cavaliers want to trade Love, insisting they won’t maximizes his trade value, forcing other teams to offer enough to pry him away.

But I also believe this accurately reflects the Cavs’ plans.

They just seem so determined to compete if LeBron leaves, and Love is their only other star. Love proved himself worthy of being the best player on a good team with the Timberwolves. (They were playoff quality when he played. They just completely fell apart whenever he sat.) In Cleveland, Love has fluctuated in his ability to bend his game around LeBron. If LeBron leaves, that’d no longer be a problem.

But Love will turn 30 before the season. He has declined out of his athletic peak, and I’d bet against him ever nearing his Minnesota levels again. And the other Cavs stink. It’s hard to see a LeBron-less Cavaliers team, even with Love, competing for the playoffs.

If LeBron stays, keeping Love makes some sense. With his $24,119,025 salary for next season and $25,595,700 player option for the following year, he probably doesn’t hold elite trade value. He doesn’t match up well with the Warriors, but good players who do come at a major cost.

Report: Lakers call meeting to warn employees about tampering

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Magic Johnson got the Lakers fined for tampering while still holding a ceremonial title. Once he actually took over the front office, he really got to work tampering. He got warned for blinking at Paul George on national television. Then – due to general manager Rob Pelinka’s communication with George’s agent and Johnson’s previous warning – the Lakers received one of the largest fines in NBA history. Johnson himself got the Lakers fined for praising Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo. The league investigated and cleared assistant coach Brian Shaw for tampering with George.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said the Lakers’ previous transgressions have put them under tighter scrutiny.

The Lakers just want this to end.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

Lakers co-owner and governor Jeanie Buss called the meeting, which was led by president of basketball operations Magic Johnson.

Sources said Johnson and Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka spoke to a large group of team employees, warning them about tampering.

Other employees received written notices on the matter that referenced possible termination as punishment for anyone who does not adhere to NBA rules.

Tampering often takes much more benign forms than a president or general manager recruiting a star player before free agency. It could be an offhand comment by a coach, an overzealous ticket pitch or a speculative article on the team website.

If Johnson’s and Pelinka’s tampering increases the Lakers’ odds of landing a star, that’s just the cost of doing business. If a lower-level staffer tampers, that’s an avoidable mistake.

Really, it’s comical this meeting is even newsworthy, and that’s a product of the Lakers’ previous violations.

But, as they pursue stars, they don’t want to chance the league imposing any additional restrictions.

So, the Lakers, in some ways are right back where they started.