With rosters pretty much getting set except for a few final pieces around the NBA — save for one big shakeup still to come out of Orlando… eventually — we can start to get a serious look at how rosters are shaking out.
And after all the moves the Nets made so they could open the new Barclays center — re-signing Deron Williams, trading for Joe Johnson, bringing back Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries and Gerald Henderson — you can start to ask a question:
Who will be better, the Knicks or the Nets?
The fantastic Tom Haberstroh at ESPN ran some advanced stats projections and the stats liked Brooklyn.
The Nets might have wished for a bigger splash to open their Brooklyn office, but there’s a fair chance that they’ll be the top dogs in New York in 2012-13. The Nets have the best player in Williams, a sneaky deep roster and considerably higher upside next season with Teletovic and Lopez. New York was a No. 7-seed last season, but now that Jeremy Lin is in Houston, there’s not much youth on the Knicks to help propel them to the next step.
Haberstroh is right, Williams is the best player on either team — before you start saying Carmelo Anthony know the Knicks are not playing Nigeria this season. In the NBA Carmelo scores a lot of points but takes a lot of shots to do it, he takes a lot of contested jumpers.
The stats don’t love Amare Stoudemire, they like Humphries better. And the Knicks bench additions of Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas and Jason Kidd are not game changers.
I think the two teams will be close in record. The Nets are going to score a lot of points but it is going to take years off Avery Johnson’s life as he tries to get them to defend. Mike Woodson did get the Knicks to defend but unless they find a way to get ‘Melo and Stoudemire to play together seamlessly they have a ceiling. One that isn’t dramatically better than the seventh seed they were last year, maybe a four or five seed.
And it is possible that the first round four/five matchup in the Eastern Conference playoffs next year would be Brooklyn and New York. And then the battle for New York would really be on.
LeBron James is a smart man, one who knows what his empire is built upon:
And him being better than anyone else in the world at it.
While his post-career life is in Los Angeles — his production company has “The Wall” on NBC, is in the early stages of putting together an NBC comedy about the family life of Ben Simmons, is producing “The Shop” on HBO, is making “Space Jam 2” with LeBron as the star, and more — do not suggest to LeBron that might get in the way of basketball.
“I’m a basketball player. I play ball, that’s what I do,” LeBron said earlier in his press conference. “That’s what I live by and when I do it at the level I do it at everything else takes care of itself.
“As far as my business, those things have been taking care of themselves long before I came out here to be part of the Lakers franchise.”
LeBron is right about that. His production company — led by Maverick Carter — has been working on Space Jam for a couple of years now, and if LeBron had decided to stay in Cleveland or sign in Philadephia or anywhere else that project would still be going forward. They’d still be filming next summer in the off-season, regardless of where he played.
LeBron is very good at compartmentalizing his life. The great ones are. Kobe Bryant had side projects, but it never slowed down the effort he put into the game. Same is going on right now with Stephen Curry and James Harden. Michael Jordan did it before them, and Magic Johnson before him. Those guys have brands that are empires of their own now, but they all know what the foundation of that success is.
And they don’t let anything get in the way of basketball. Not like that.
The Knicks season should be about laying a foundation. They’ll remain patient with their best player, Kristaps Porzingis, returning from injury. They said they won’t trade draft picks.
But they’ve also paid enough lip service to competing this season to, um, excite Enes Kanter.
We’ll be sure to check in on the softness of Kanter’s nipples when the Knicks miss the playoffs by dozens of games.
Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor reportedly ordered team president Tom Thibodeau to trade Jimmy Butler, who is excused from participating in media day and training camp (apparently because of his hand injury).
But Thibodeau isn’t rushing to proclaim Butler will be dealt.
Chris Hine of the StarTribune:
Kent Youngblood of the StarTribune:
If Butler isn’t traded in the next week, this could get incredibly awkward. Would Butler report? If he does, how would Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins each react?
I expect this to be moot. The odds are stacked highly in favor of Minnesota dealing Butler soon.
But, now, there’s a close deadline with even more drama looming on the other side.
The Lakers’ front office insists they’re trying to beat the Warriors.
Los Angeles’ newest star, LeBron James, isn’t there yet.
“We’ve got a long way to go to get to Golden State,” LeBron said. “They can pick up right where they left off.
“We’re picking up from scratch. So, we have a long way to go. … Hopefully, someday, we can put ourselves in a position where we can compete for a championship, as Golden State has done for the last few years.”
How will LeBron – who has won three titles in the last seven years and reached the NBA Finals the last eight years – react if the Lakers aren’t on that level this season?
“I don’t believe the only thing of success in marking a season is winning a championship,” LeBron said. “There’s only one champion. But that doesn’t mean you’re not successful.”
LeBron has made similar arguments before, and I agree with him. Championships are the most important measure of team success, but they’re not the only measure. There are plenty of ways for teams to satisfactorily grow and compete in a season.
But this sure didn’t sound like the same LeBron who said in June of the Cavaliers’ 2016 title, “It made me even more hungry to continue to try to win championships, and I still want to be in championship mode.” A key storyline in Los Angeles will be whether/when LeBron regains that hunger.