Expectations low, but Nets no longer worry about winning now

2 Comments

NEW YORK (AP) Jeremy Lin will be urged to become a better leader. Brook Lopez will be challenged to rebound and defend better.

Kenny Atkinson believes in being direct and honest with his players, but there’s one thing the new Brooklyn Nets coach won’t discuss with them.

After all, the players already know some people don’t think very much of them.

“I think those guys are aware of it, so as a coach I don’t think I need to be putting stuff up in the locker room and motivating them that way,” Atkinson said Tuesday.

Expectations are low for the Nets, who open training camp next Tuesday. While they could be better than last season’s 21-61 record, they also could be the worst team in the Eastern Conference, now that the Philadelphia 76ers will be interested in trying to win.

Odds makers, media members and even some of their own fans don’t expect much from the Nets, and some players already have made clear they won’t be as bad as critics say.

“I don’t think we look at is as bulletin board material,” general manager Sean Marks said. “I mean, you’ve read probably a couple of pieces that some of our guys have said that they don’t agree with those odds and that’s great. That’s exactly what we want … that’s the competitor in them.”

Marks, a former assistant general manager with San Antonio, begins his first full season after he was hired last February. He hired Atkinson from Atlanta, where he helped the Hawks reach the second round of the playoffs as an assistant to Mike Budenholzer.

They made a number of additions over the summer, but not the splashy types the Nets favored during their first few years in Brooklyn, when they were trying to win new fans while also winning games. That led to trades for players such as Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Joe Johnson, and they reached the postseason in their first three seasons after moving from New Jersey.

But the mindset has changed now, with the bold predictions of Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov giving way to tempered talk from Marks, a New Zealand native. Prokhorov wanted to win fast – time expired on his goal of winning a championship within five years of buying the team – but now is backing a plan to build slowly.

“Well, it depends on what your definition of slow is,” Marks said. “Our owners know exactly what the expectations are, so they’re 100 percent on board. They’ve been on board all summer long.”

Lopez is the team’s best player and the Nets hope Lin, back in the city where he was briefly a star with the Knicks in 2012, can build on a strong season as the backup to Kemba Walker in Charlotte. Atkinson was an assistant under Mike D’Antoni in New York during the Linsanity days and believes Lin is ready to handle the responsibilities of running this team.

“It’s a heck of a challenge for him, but I think he’s prepared for it,” Atkinson said. “I think it’s the right time in his career.”

The Nets were encouraged by the play this summer of guard Bojan Bogdanovic, who was Croatia’s leading scorer as it qualified for the Olympics, then surprisingly reached the quarterfinals. And they have high hopes for youngsters such as Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Chris McCullough, Sean Kilpatrick and rookie Caris LeVert, even though none of them have played a full NBA season yet.

That’s why Marks said success for the Nets won’t be measured only in wins and losses, but by how those players improve during the season.

“This is not going to be something that’s going to turn around in two, three months,” he said. “As we’ve said before, we want something that’s done strategically and systematically that builds a strong foundation and not something that’s a fleeting moment.”

Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Briancmahoney

Watch Spurs Collins bloody Russell Westbrook with a foul, get ejected

Los Angeles Lakers v San Antonio Spurs
Ronald Cortes/Getty Images
0 Comments

Jakob Poeltl was dominating the paint, scoring 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting with nine rebounds in 10 minutes, and giving the Lakers serious trouble. Then he had to leave the game with a sore quad, meaning Zach Collins would get more run.

Collins was ejected for a flagrant foul 2 on Russell Westbrook that left the Lakers guard bloodied.

Collins plans to appeal the ejection he said after the game.

Collins will face a fine or suspension from the league, although he doesn’t have a history of this kind of foul, something the league takes into consideration. Westbrook also got a technical for going after Collins.

The Lakers went on to beat the Spurs 143-138, behind 39 points from LeBron James. It’s the second time the Lakers have defeated the Spurs in three days, the kind of wins over tanking teams the Lakers need if they are going to turn their season around.

Watch Victor Wembanyama drop 30-point double-double in France

0 Comments

Maybe you spent your Saturday afternoon watching Lionel Messi doing Lionel Messi things. Or intense college football rivalries.

In France, they spent part of the day watching Kylian Mbappe be brilliant but then flipped over and watched future No.1 pick Victor Wembanyama drop a 30-point double-double.

That’s two straight 30-point double-doubles for Wembanyama.

He will be the No.1 pick next June (barring something catastrophic), and teams are already thinking about the lottery next June.

Expect some other teams to jump in that mix at the bottom because the depth of this class goes well beyond just Wembanyama with Scoot Henderson, Amen Thompson and others. The tanking is coming people.

 

Boogie Cousins called Warriors GM Myers and got reality check on why he’s not in NBA

2022 NBA Playoffs - Denver Nuggets v Golden State Warriors
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images
0 Comments

DeMarcus Cousins didn’t understand why he didn’t have an NBA contract this season.

He thought he had proven he could help teams in need of front-line depth last season, first in Milwaukee when Brook Lopez was out following back surgery and gave them 9.1 points and 5.8 rebounds a game of solid play. The Bucks ultimately let Cousins go for financial reasons, so the Nuggets picked him up to backup Nikola Jokic. He was again solid, averaging 8.9 points and 5.5 rebounds a game (and he had a 31-point night against the Rockets).

Confused, he called one of the former GMs who brought him in, Bob Myers of the Golden State Warriors. Myers relayed their conversation on the All That Smoke podcast (via NBC Sports Bay Area).

“DeMarcus called me a month ago and he said, ‘Why am I not in the NBA?’ ” Myers told Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson on the “All The Smoke” podcast earlier this week. “And I said, ‘You want that answer? … Because people are afraid of how you’re going to act.’ And he’s like ‘Why?’ And I said, ‘Well whatever the reason is, it’s here now.’

“And I like DeMarcus. You guys may know him. He’s just, I can’t blame him for him because of all he’s been through.”

Not long after that conversation, Cousins spoke with Chris Haynes and said he learned from his past mistakes.

“Have I made mistakes? Absolutely. Have I done things the wrong way? Absolutely. For that, I’m very apologetic. But I’ve done even more things the correct way and I’ve done even more positive things compared to my negatives. I just don’t want those positives to be overlooked. And obviously, whenever it gets to the point where the negatives outweigh the positives, you should probably move away from him. That’s just how life goes. But I don’t believe I’m in that boat. I’m just asking for a chance to show my growth as a man and a player.”

Cousins also had physical issues, including a torn ACL that cost him a season with the Lakers in 2019-20. He also had domestic abuse allegations at the time (those charges were dropped a few months later).

Cousins just wants the chance to prove he is past all that and can help a team like he did last season. There have been rumors out of Taiwan that Cousins could join Dwight Howard in that league, but Cousins has not confirmed that. He still wants his shot in the NBA. So he waits, and hopes he can change the narrative around him.

Giannis Antetokounmpo says of Evan Mobley, ‘He can be better than me’

Cleveland Cavaliers v Milwaukee Bucks
John Fisher/Getty Images
0 Comments

Evan Mobley hasn’t taken the leap forward in his second season many expected, partly because he has to adjust to playing with a new, dominant backcourt in Cleveland of Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland. Mobley is getting nearly five fewer touches a game and is not getting the same chances to use his off-the-bounce skills (73% of his shots this season come off zero or one-dribble) as he did when he was a rookie.

That doesn’t mean his superstar potential has gone away. Just ask Giannis Antetokounmpo, as Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer did.

“He can be better than me,” Antetokounmpo told cleveland.com in an exclusive interview while walking out of Fiserv Forum… “I don’t see why he can’t. It’s up to him. I will always try to improve. Every day. But he has the skill set to be a very, very good player. He’s 7-feet tall. He can move really well. He can shoot. He is very smart. As you said, he watches tapes of other players, which is very, very good for a young player. If he takes this seriously, he is going to be great.”

Better than Giannis? What could possibly make him say that?

“I didn’t average what he is in my second season, so he’s already ahead of me,” Antetokounmpo told cleveland.com. “It’s in his hands. If he stays humble, continues to work hard, focuses on the game and shows love to the game of basketball, he is going to be really good.”

One of the players Mobley is known to study on tape is Antetokounmpo. Of course, mirroring the force and athleticism Antetokounmpo plays with is next to impossible, but Mobley has the skill set that could see him become a shot-creator and scorer on the wing with the ball.

The Cavaliers don’t need him to be that with Garland improving and Michell being better than advertised. Cleveland has a top-five offense and hasn’t had to turn to Mobley for more scoring and shot creation. But that can change, especially come the playoffs against the strong defenses of teams such as the Bucks and Celtics. Ultimately, how far these Cavaliers can go in the postseason over the next few years could come down to the growth of Mobley on the offensive end.

Antetokounmpo believes Mobley could be special in that role, which should give fans in Cleveland even more hope.