October 19, 2019

Nets win 2019 NBA Free Agency with the acquisition of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and DeAndre Jordan; lose D'Angelo Russell, Ed Davis, and other players

The Brooklyn Nets have been struggling to obtain top-tier NBA players in what seems like forever, and shortly after 6:00 p.m. on June 30, 2019, as soon as the NBA Free Agency period opened, it was as if the Brooklyn Nets hit the lotto. For months, not only did New York City sports talk radio hype Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant going to the New York Knicks during free agency, but their national brethren also chimed in. So, when the news broke that the Brooklyn Nets signed Irving and Durant, radio personalities became punching bags and psychologists depending on the caller. Nets fans came out of the woodwork to express their joy and apprehension. Most were concerned about Durant’s Achilles injury. Some felt a little bit of trepidation about the age Durant will be when he can finally play again, losing D’Angelo Russell, and whether Irving is capable of leading. All are legitimate concerns. But when one looks at the landscape of top-tier NBA players who were free agents, it would have been malpractice for the Nets not to try to sign them. There are also reports that DeAndre Jordan will sign a four-year, $40M deal with the Nets and that Durant and Irving will both take less than the max so DeAndre Jordan can receive $40M. Jordan can also be a help to Nets center, Jarrett Allen, who is going into his third season with the team.

In the last decade, Nets fans have been on a roller coaster ride. They have watched the Nets move from New Jersey to Brooklyn. They were there when Nets management tried to reel in LeBron James, and then later, Dwight Howard in his last year with the Orlando Magic. And, no one can forget the Nets trade with the Boston Celtics for the Big 3: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry. It was at that introductory press conference presenting the Big 3 that Brooklyn Nets principal owner Mikhail Prokhorov talked about being a championship contender.

 

At the time, most reporters expressed publicly and privately that Billy King did one heck of a great sales job. And, some even laughed, particularly as the Nets’ fortunes started sinking. Truthfully, it was no laughing matter. No business-minded person wants to see red ink on a balance sheet. And to a large extent, during that time, Brooklyn’s economy was tied to the Barclays Center’s profitability. Fortunately, Prokhorov moved quickly and changed the management of the Brooklyn Nets and replaced King with Sean Marks, who brought in Kenny Atkinson, who has a reputation for bringing out the best in players, particularly point guards, as the head coach to replace Lionel Hollins. Prokhorov also did one other thing to help Marks and Atkinson, he gave them the breathing room to right the sinking ship.

Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson 750x422Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks (l) and Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson

Nets fans already see big things in store for their team. Some are talking rings and others, see this team to be the next Eastern Conference Champions, particularly if Kawhi Leonard leaves the Toronto Raptors. If the Nets with this new composition of players get to the NBA Eastern Conference Finals, this season, it will be considered a smashing success considering the Nets’ history. If it should win the East, and that is a big if, well let’s just say the City of New York will have to close down Flatbush Avenue because there will be dancing in the streets. And, some New Yorkers, because we are a bold bunch, may hold a simultaneous street party in front of Madison Square Garden.

The real NBA Basketball rivalry in New York City starts now.

In the win against the Orlando Magic, Carmelo Anthony scored 25 points in 26 minutes for the New York Knicks

For the second straight game, the New York Knicks took the floor without Amar'e Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin. They were able to get a win against Milwaukee Monday night without them as Carmelo Anthony scored 28 points, hitting all 12 of his free-throw attempts while battling a tender groin. But last night, it was the Orlando Magic with their 32-18 record taking the floor at Madison Square Garden.

Magic's guard Jameer Nelson took immediate advantage of the Knicks backcourt, scoring 11 points on 5 of 8 shooting. Orlando took an eight-point lead (24-16) with a little less than 3 minutes to go in the first period. New York finished the period outscoring the Magic 9-5 as Steve Novak scored 5 of those points cutting the deficit to 4 (29-25) as the period came to an end.

With Orlando's Dwight Howard on the bench to begin the second, The Knicks scored the first 6 points to take their first lead of the game (31-29). It started a spark that elevated New York to a shocking 16 point lead before halftime (57-41).

With crisp passing on the offensive end and suffocating defense, the Knicks finished the second period on a 26-12 run. It was capped by a Novak 3-pointer at the buzzer. Both Novak and Anthony finished with 13 points apiece to lead New York while Iman Shumpert, inserted into the starting line-up, contributing 10 points. They shot 54% from the floor while limiting the Magic to 40%. Orlando, who relies heavily on their 3-point shooting, missed 11of their first 13 half attempts (15%). Meanwhile, after a rough start themselves, where the Knicks missed seven of their first nine 3-point attempts, they made four of their last six. The momentum they took in with them carried over to the third period.

If this was a boxing match, the refs would have stopped it so Orlando would not have endured further damage. How good did it get for the Knicks? At one point, the Knicks scored 21 straight points, leading by as many as 39 points (88-49). How bad did it get for Orlando? They missed eight of their first 11 shots as they watched New York pull away.

Magic's head coach Stan Van Gundy was not a happy camper in trying to explain the lopsided loss.

"What's shocking to me is that a team that's playing over .600 basketball could get absolutely rocked by as many teams as we have been." On the 21-point explosion, he said, "we got behind, they hit a lot of shots, they got us down and then we just sort of died."

With the Magic having nothing to lose and Howard and Nelson riding the bench dumfounded by how the game got out of hand, the reserves came out and outscored the Knicks 19-8 to creep within 19 (93-74) to begin the final period. Shumpert scored six of the next eight points, putting Orlando out of its misery.

Carmelo Anthony made the most of his evening finishing with 25 points in 26 minutes, his best game so far this season. He rode the exercise bike to keep his tender groin warm when he wasn't in the game.

Said Anthony afterward, "I just wanted to come out with a focus. My shot was falling today."

The New York Knicks have now won eight of their last nine games and their last six-in-a-row at home. They will be without Stoudemire for at least the next 4 weeks and Lin and his tender knee is on a day to day basis. Interim head coach Mike Woodson has no choice but to go with a smaller line-up.

"We will stay that way for a while," he said afterward. "Teams have to match up with us." He hopes the team continues to not only rebound but to keep the turnovers to a minimum. The Knicks out-rebounded the Magic by 15 (49-34) and had seven fewer turnovers (7-18).

They travel to Atlanta Friday night before returning to the Garden to face Cleveland on Saturday night.

Nets get a new arena in Brooklyn, a city with a long history of basketball and across the river from the iconic MSG

Admit it. Most of you newly minted Brooklyn Nets fans were not shouting for Deron Williams and company in the Prudential Center when they ended their 2011-2012 NBA season, winning 22 of 66 games total.

But that's okay; new city, new team, new fans and oh... a new coach, right? You're entitled to jump on the bandwagon.

It may be too early to decide whether or not the city of Brooklyn has accepted the Nets as their home team. However, it's quite evident that the NBA has already made a rivalry between the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Knicks. The Nets continue to prove themselves as a lead contender in the Eastern Conference, with an even 2-2 record with New York. But in my opinion, the rivalry is a bit over-hyped.

Don't get me wrong, Brooklyn has raw talent; Joe Johnson is probably one of the most underrated and under-appreciated guards in the league. Brook Lopez, a great scorer, averaging 18.6 points this season so far, is still justifying Shaq's thoughts on him being better than Dwight Howard. Hopefully, if Deron Williams doesn't whisk away another coach, maybe he can lead this team to a Division championship.

MAYBE.

But for a Brooklyn girl, like myself, the tale of these two teams is more than just a bridge between boroughs; it's about two iconic territories: The Garden and The Barclays Center. Brooklyn has history, but Madison Square Garden is historic.

Every kid in New York City aspired to play at The Garden. Since 1903, The Garden has hosted the Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) basketball championships. In New York City, Brooklyn is legendary for basketball, producing an epic list of high school basketball players, such as Lenny Wilkins; Fly Williams; Bernard King; Albert King; Connie Hawkins; World B. Free; Chris Mullins; Mark Jackson; Billy Cunningham; Mike Dunleavy; Stephon Marbury; Sebastian Telfair; Gary Forbes; Lance Stephenson; and Epiphanny Prince.

In a recent interview, Telfair said regarding playing for the Brooklyn Nets one day, "I would love to if the opportunity comes, I think I would, I'm from here. I think before I get out of the league, I think I'd give it a shot."

I mean, who wouldn't want to play for Brooklyn? More than just an NBA team, it is home for many of us. Smack dead in the middle of Brooklyn, Barclays is surrounded by at least 10 high schools that are within walking distance:

Brooklyn Technical High School
Brooklyn HS of the Arts
Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School
Pacific High School
ACORN Community High School
Metropolitan Corporate Academy High School
Berkeley Carroll School
Benjamin Banneker Academy
International High School at Prospect Heights
Brooklyn School for Global Studies

The Nets' new home has paved a path for a restructured city and bigger dreams for city kids. A dream for a city kid is right--you can even take in a view of the practice court by stopping into Starbucks at the Barclays Center.

Even "go-hard" Spike Lee, raised in Brooklyn thinks Barclays "is great for Brooklyn." (Don't count on him ever rooting for Brooklyn though.)

I'm actually looking forward to the future of Brooklyn and the Nets. Once the hype dies down between the Nets and the Knicks, hopefully, Brooklyn can re-establish a tone for basketball, and maybe even street ball.

Let's thank Jay-Z for that.

For the New York Knicks at 3-4, defeating the Atlanta Hawks tonight 95-91, seven games in and 75 more games left to complete their 82-game campaign, their world is already crumbling before they can experience enough time to be wholesome. Those to blame for their less than impressive start to their season include the cheerleaders, the president, and general manager, the hot dog vendors, as well as, the vending machines.

The blame game has already begun as well as the finger-pointing. One would assume that there would be a level of confidence attached to the New York Knicks label based on the season they enjoyed not too long ago capturing the Atlantic Division Crown, and winning 54 games in the process. To the naked eye, this team hardly resembles the team that accomplished those achievements last year due to the numerous roster changes in personnel but what’s most alarming about their start is their current mindset. Last year's Knicks team, although it struggled to play defense throughout the year, a re-occurring theme for the past decade, played with a certain level of intensity, focusing on competing against all challengers no matter the match-up and the strain. Last year’s Knicks team entered the season with expectations that they placed upon themselves of what they envisioned for themselves, revolving around the prime objective of winning an NBA championship, and with wins against the Spurs (which made me feel for the first time in a decade that the Knicks had arrived), three victories against the Miami Heat, as well as, winning a game on the road against the Oklahoma City Thunder, fans, the public as well as myself believed that a championship was actually within reach. Sadly, thus far, I have not seen that same aura that surrounded the Knicks last year.

When you hear starting point guard Raymond Felton state that "I've got to play harder," team owner James Dolan requesting must-wins against the likes of the Atlanta Hawks, and star forward Carmelo Anthony having to validate the coaching of head coach Mike Woodson to the media, there is obviously a problem.

Tonight's win should grant the Knicks some breathing room until they face the Houston Rockets tomorrow night at home in an early season test against a Western conference contender. The result should indicate the direction of where this season’s destination will be.

The loss of center Tyson Chandler, out 4-6 weeks suffering a non-displaced fracture of his right fibula courtesy of a penetration dribble by Charlotte Bobcats guard Kemba Walker last week, will definitely impact the Knicks defense around the basket. The black cat has not left MSG as yet. This latest loss to their frontline makes their inside presence as soft as gummy bears relying on center Andrea Bargnani to be the last line, the enforcer. This loss to their front-court has prompted management to inquire about the services of Forward Kenneth Faried of the Denver Nuggets a rebounding demon for G Iman Shumpert, in my opinion, an absolute mistake not because of what Faried can provide but because of what Shumpert can become, and that's one of the best two-way shooting guards in the league.

All in all, I believe it is too early to panic regarding the Knicks current state due to the infant stages of this 2013-2014 NBA season. Mike Woodson is still trying to find the correct ingredients in assembling the first and second unit. J.R. Smith has just returned furthermore planning to remind us all who the reigning 2012-2013 Sixth Man of The Year is. Bargnani is not comfortable yet, although recording a double-double in tonight's affair with 20 points and 11 rebounds seem as though he’s getting his feet wet, enjoying his new role and responsibilities and at the end of the day Melo is still on the roster right? Let them play.

As for Thursday's nationally televised wine and dine between the Knicks and the Rockets, I expect a shootout, if the Knicks are willing to respond because I know the Rockets will. James Harden is only scratching the surface of becoming the best shooting guard in the league behind Lakers G Kobe Bryant and Heat G Dwyane Wade. Every player in the NBA salivates at the opportunity to lace them up against their former employers and look for G Jeremy Lin to expose the Knicks as well as Felton. I do not know who on this roster is capable of defending Rockets C Dwight Howard but it will be fun to observe the Knicks and the schemes they will entertain and execute against arguably the best big man in the NBA. The only way the Knicks will be successful this season is if they replicate the production they relished last season and that is scoring more than the other team, a feat that Anthony has to spearhead being the Numero Uno. We'll see how much the Rockets fare under the Broadway lights as well as the North Pole conditions that we love so much as natives.

Brook Lopez and Jeremy Lin set the tone from the start to spoil Paul Millsap’s return to the Atlanta Hawks lineup

On January 10, 2017, the last time the Brooklyn Nets played the Atlanta Hawks at the Barclays Center, the Hawks ate their lunch beating the Nets 117-97. Tonight, it was a different story, the tables were reversed. In fact, the Brooklyn Nets looked like it was the team headed for the playoffs instead of the playoff-bound Atlanta Hawks, as the Nets grounded the Hawks, 91-82.

What plagued Atlanta this time around? Several things according to Atlanta Hawks’ head coach Mike Budenholzer, but especially the Nets’ three-point shooting and the versatility of Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez.

“He’s become such a great 3-point shooter,” Budenholzer said about trying to contain Lopez. “We tried to stay connected to him at the 3-point line more. And Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, I think he’s shooting 20 percent on the year at the 3-point line, he had two that helped them. Trevor Booker had one and that helped them.”

Lopez scored 18 points in the first quarter and 29 points overall (12-of-21 FG) with five rebounds, five assists and five blocks in 30:32 minutes of playing time. In so doing, Lopez became the second Net in franchise history to record 25+ points, five+ rebounds, five+ assists and five+ blocks in the same game. The last person to do that was Darnell Hillman almost 40 years ago vs. Chicago on November 11, 1977. Hillman now works for the Indiana Pacers.

With Lopez scoring 18 points in the first quarter, Budenholzer saw a need to change Atlanta’s strategy.

“I think we felt like we could keep Dwight Howard around the rim, around the paint,” Budenholzer said about his center. “Brooklyn is driving the ball a lot, and really our defense is not our problem – 91 points. So of course Brook Lopez had a really good game. Generally speaking, I don’t think our defense was the issue. I think we need to look closer at our offense and how we can score more, score better.”

But, seriously, it just wasn’t Atlanta’s night.

“We were just trying to be aggressive and we got hot,” said Nets point guard Jeremy Lin. “I feel like on the back end of a back-to-back that’s kind of just setting that tone, and establishing that just felt like we were in control of the game throughout, and even though we were the ones scoring points, that our whole starting five defensively came out and did a great job.”

“When you replay the game really quickly and you feel like there were some good chances we didn’t make – everybody, lots of different guys. And at times we were a little sloppy. It’d probably be great to get to the free-throw line a little bit more. I think it was just a combination of a lot of things and we just weren’t very good offensively,” Budenholzer added.

Yes, because sometimes playoff-bound teams sleep on teams that are not headed to the playoffs. They tend to think that it may be a cakewalk when they encounter a team like the Nets (17-59) that is in the last place in the NBA standings. However, in Brooklyn’s case, they are better than their win-loss record shows.

“They denied us, they gave us a little pressure,” Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap stated. “Something we could have done a better job of was countering off of their aggressiveness.”

Atlanta’s center Dwight Howard was more pointed in his remarks, “We have to play team basketball; we can’t do it by ourselves. One person isn’t going to win us a game.”

Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson, known for his young player development abilities, has been drilling that mantra into his young team all season, that basketball is team ball. The Nets’ young players led by Lin and Lopez set Atkinson’s tone early in the game.

“That’s kind of why they’re your two best players,” Atkinson said about Lin and Lopez. “There’s just a mentality, I was saying that about Brook. Brook after a bad game or a not good shooting game like Detroit, he’s going to come back and bring it the next game. They set the tone; I thought Jeremy and Brook really set the tone. Look at Brook and we’re talking about his offense; five blocks, I thought he was monstrous defensively, helping off Dwight and just kind of controlling the paint basically. No doubt about it, they set the tone.”

“Coach always stresses, just be resilient,” said Nets shooting guard Sean Kilpatrick, who added 11 boards towards the Nets total of 51 rebounds in 25 minutes off the bench. “Make sure that you’re doing everything for the team and I think that’s something that everyone is doing on a normal basis. Down to recovery and down to the fact that everyone’s getting their work in early and making sure that we’re playing for one another.”

Brooklyn Nets players scoring in double digits in addition to Lopez were Lin with 15 points, six rebounds, and six assists; and Hollis-Jefferson with 11 points, five rebounds, and three steals.

In the loss, four of the five Hawks’ starters scored in double digits. Dennis Schroder had 16 points, five rebounds, and eight assists. Tim Hardaway Jr., who is probably grateful that the NY Knicks set him free, scored 14 points and six rebounds; Taurean Prince added 13 points and five rebounds and; Howard chipped in 11 points and 11 rebounds.

The Nets take on the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Tuesday.

NOTE:

Kilpatrick’s 11 boards marked his second-most rebounds in a game in his career (high: 14 in double OT on 11/29 against the Clippers).

Kilpatrick became just the third Nets guard to record 11 or more rebounds off the bench in a game since 1983-84, joining Markel Brown (4/10/16 at Indiana) and Stephen Jackson (12/10/00 vs. Dallas).

Brook Lopez leads all scorers with 20 points; With loss against the Hawks, the Nets fell to 8-29 overall and 7-12 at Barclays Center

“I think they’re playing excellent basketball, I think (they’re) an elite program in this league and this is one game where I’m looking at the opponent saying they’re pretty darn good.”

Those were the words of Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson at the post-game presser following a torching of the Brooklyn Nets by his former team, the Atlanta Hawks.

With the 117-97 loss to the Hawks, the Nets just lost its seventh straight game on Tuesday night at the Barclays Center. It must have been surreal for Atkinson, who last season, was an assistant coach with this up-and-coming Hawks team to now be the head coach of a team that is in the NBA basement.

“I wish we were a little more competitive, but again, I know I have an intimate knowledge of how they play and the players they have,” Atkinson said regarding playing his former team. “Again, we’re going to look at the tape and watch it to see if we can pick up some things. They set the bar high and we can look at it and say someday we’d like to strive to be a similar program, but we have a lot of work to do.”

Yes, the Nets do have a lot of work to do. The closest team Black and White came to the Hawks was in the first two minutes of the first quarter when twice the Nets were within one point. The Hawks held the lead throughout. The first stanza ended with a six-point spread, Hawks 35 Nets 29; and the Nets ended the first half with an 18-point deficit (61-43). In the Nets defense, they did try to turn things around, as they began the third quarter on a 15-7 run and pulled to 68-58 on Kilpatrick's bucket with 6:28 left. However, when the third quarter was over, the fruits from that run disappeared. The Nets ended the third down 16 points (86-70).

“They had more energy I think, especially the first half,” said a disappointed Nets center, Brook Lopez. “They just outworked us. The numbers clearly showed.”

“….we have to do a better job of taking care of the ball and have to rebound better,” Atkinson added. “I did think in the third quarter we came out with a little more aggressiveness. We were more aggressive on the ball, I thought that helped us. We came out with more energy, so that was a positive considering we’ve struggled in the third quarter, so I’ll take that. And overall in the second half, better. But we have a lot of things to work on.”

Perhaps, muscle memory will kick in soon.

In the loss, Lopez scored a game-high 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting with two blocks in 32 minutes against the Hawks. Bojan Bogdanovic added 16 points and six rebounds, Sean Kilpatrick had 14 points and five rebounds, Caris LeVert chipped in 11 points, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson contributed 10 points and seven rebounds.

For the Hawks, Dennis Schroder scored a double-double with 19 points and 10 assists. Dwight Howard contributed 14 points and 16 rebounds, and Paul Millsap had 14 points and eight rebounds.

Up next for the Nets is the New Orleans Pelicans at the Barclays Center on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

 

Joe Johnson gets fired up on bobble-head night in his honor

After a stunning loss to the Golden State Warriors on Sunday, on Tuesday, the Brooklyn Nets found a way to beat the Houston Rockets 110-105.

With this win, the Nets sweep the season series for the first time in 14 years.

The Nets scored 31 points in the first quarter and 57 in the half, giving them an 11-point lead by the end of the half. A lead that they would need down the stretch because Houston won the 3rd and 4th quarters by three points each.

Brook Lopez scored 24 points and Joe Johnson had 22 points, which ties his season-high points on a night that was the promotional Joe Johnson bobble-head night. Thaddeus Young finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds for the Nets. Bojan Bogdanovic, in for the injured Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, scored 19 points. Jarrett Jack rounding out the the starting line-up, chipped in 10 points, nine assists and five rebounds.

Additionally, Brooklyn set season highs for assists (27) and field goal percentage (55.6).

It was a good night for Johnson. He had 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting in the fourth quarter.

"That's what Joe does," Lopez said. "There's a reason his bobble-head looks the way it does. We know we can go to him time and time again in the crunch time. He's going to deliver."

Too bad it wasn’t Joe Johnson bobble-head night when the Golden State Warriors were in town. Although Johnson had five rebounds and three assists against Golden State, he only registered nine points for the evening.

Houston guard James Harden, who was in contention for an MVP last season, was 2 for 9 for 10 points, and also finished with nine assists and seven turnovers. Howard, who had 22 points and 18 rebounds Saturday in a victory over Sacramento, took just five shots and finished with 10 points and nine rebounds.

"We should've come out with a better effort. We didn't and we paid the price for it," Howard said. "Our effort was better in the third and fourth quarter, but we can't hand teams good leads and expect to come back."

What’s next for the Nets?

Brooklyn (6-15) will host the Philadelphia 76ers (1-21) at the Barclays Center, tomorrow, Thursday.

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