Posts Tagged ‘New Jersey Nets’

By Phil Bausk

“The Cold War isn’t thawing; it is burning with a deadly heat. Communism isn’t sleeping; it is, as always, plotting, scheming, working, fighting.”- Richard Nixon

It is kind of weird to think that the late Richard Nixon’s words referring to Communism bare such an eerie resemblance to the current events of the National Basketball Association and its 2011 Trade Deadline.

Over the past couple days, both the Knicks and the Nets have made Rasputia (First Norbit reference!!) type splashes at this year’s deadline. The Knicks were first to dive in by trading a sizable amount of their roster (Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov, and a few picks and cash) for Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Corey Brewer, and others. Usually after such a big splash, there are ripple affects, and these were expected to occur throughout the league over the next few days. Instead, the Nets made an even bigger splash, sending Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, 2 first round picks, and cash to the Utah Jazz for disgruntled PG Deron Williams, among other smaller pieces.

While both of these deals are good for each franchises on an individual level, it is hard to ignore the idea that the Knicks and Nets are going to now be in direct competition with one another, not only on the court (maybe a year or two down the road), but also in the war rooms, fighting for players to help fill their respective rosters. This is all assuming that Deron Williams agrees to some sort of an extension, keeping him in NJ/Brooklyn for the next few years.

While the Knicks are helped by their location and the team’s history, it has been let down over the past decade by management, and rumblings that Isaiah Thomas was involved with the Carmelo Anthony trade only further proves that perhaps the culture in the front office, while shifting, isn’t completely out of  the woods quite yet.  On the other hand, the Nets have Mikhail Prokhorov, as Bill Simmons calls him, the “Russian Mark Cuban,” or as I will refer to him from now on, RMC.

RMC has struggled in his first full year as the NJ Nets owner. He was unable to lure any big name name free agents this summer, though The Akron Scammer said his presentation was one of the best he saw. Along with the Scammer, RMC whiffed on Carlos Boozer and Chris Bosh, and ended up paying Travis “Where’s my GED” Outlaw $7 mil. a year over 5 seasons, perhaps one of the worst contracts in the league. He was then unable to get Carmelo from the Nuggets, even though his Nets had the sexiest package to offer to them.

This has a  remarkable parallel to the first half of the Cold War. While post-World War II Europe was being both reprimanded and reassembled, Russia and The United States proposed different approaches on how to go about this process. Russia wanted to spread its Communist influence, while the U.S. wanted to rebuild the democratic governments in Europe. This caused much tension between both parties, resulting in roughly a decade of speculation, with many skirmishes along the way, including the Koren War and the Warsaw Pact, which were significant moments, but in the long run, were ultimately unsuccessful, much like the Travis Outlaw and Anthony Morrow signings.

It was at this point that RMC duped us all and pulled his own version of the Cuban Missile Crisis, by swooping in out of nowhere and acquiring Deron Williams. By doing this he has moved his artillery in position, much like Khrushchev did in Cuba, and is pointing his ammo right at the heart of Manhattan. The next question is whether RMC will push the proverbial button, by signing a Dwight Howard type, or if he’ll emulate Khrushchev again, and become unsuccessful not only in signing another free agent, but in retaining Deron Williams.

It would be harder pressed to make James Dolan and Co. into looking like John F. Kennedy and any other U.S. presidents, but if I am going into this analogy, I really don’t have much of a choice. Dolan and GM Donnie Walsh have done a good job putting NYC basketball back on the map. Much like the American presidents, they have done well, but still have their critics, though I don’t think anyone is going to be gunned down at a state school over the ‘Melo trade. Their next task is to bring in one more piece to finalize the NBA trend of having 3 All-Stars to fill out a starting lineup, and banking on someone else to step up and play well (There will never be another Rajon Rondo, or at least a man who can capture my heart like he has).

As of right now, RMC and his Nets have the upper hand in managerial/political decision making, but the Knicks, much like America at the time, has a better product on the court. They have history on their side as the NBA superpower, and will use whatever resources it may take to keep it that way. We all know how the Cold War turned out, as things in Soviet Russia dissolved, and America was back on top of the world. Does RMC have what it takes to make this Cold War end differently? Or is he going to be remembered as that crazy Russian owner whose money meant nothing in a league where the salary cap is going to be at an all-time low?

Only time can really tell us how this NBA feud is going to conclude, but one thing is for sure, there is a renewed hatred of those over in Jersey, and you can be the feeling is mutual. Better yet, does this Cold War turn into a Civil War when the Nets make their way over to Brooklyn, and start referring to themselves as the Brooklyn New Yorkers.

There is so much left to be answered, and so much time for it all to be answered in. This tension between both clubs is going to last for a few years, and it is going to feel like a few decades. Perhaps Russia would still be the Soviet Union if RMC were around 50 years ago.

By Phil Bausk

After one of the more hectic off-seasons in  the history of the NBA, it is weird to think that we are already nearly halfway done with the season. As the NFL playoffs have distracted many of us from what’s going on in the NBA, there will come a point soon where all we will have to watch is basketball. Starting in February, football season will be over, leaving us with basketball and hockey. Clearly hockey doesn’t count for anything, which means we have to substitute it with something people will actually watch like College Basketball. So until April, when baseball season starts and most Americans are still so bored by baseball that they would rather spend time with their families, there is really only one sport to watch, basketball.

Well before we can look into our crystal ball and see what is going to happen in the world of basketball, lets take a look back and see what has transpired so far in the first half 2010-11 basketball season.

NBA 1st Half MVP: Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls

I am sure a lot of New Yorkers are going to say that Ama’re should be the first half MVP and he definitely has a case for it. However, Derrick Rose has been playing at an extremely high level this season. He is the main reason the Bulls have been able to get to a 25-12 record, despite missing many games from players such as Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. In addition, Rose has to spend an inordinate amount of time with Brian Scalabrine. This has to to be the toughest task that Rose has faced in his young career. Imagine sitting on the team flight to LA getting ready to player the Lakers, and some big, red-headed doofus takes a seat next to you to try and talk to you about his daily observations. While Timofey Mozgov surely presents a similar problem for Ama’re, Scalabrine has a track record for this sort of thing. Listening to Scalabrine talk is almost like looking at a two legged dog and wondering why it hasn’t been put down yet. Rose deserves more credit than he has received for both his play on the court, and his patience off the court.

NCAABB  1st Half Most Outstanding Player:  Kemba Walker, UConn Huskies

Walker has had a monster year for the Huskies. His season is better than many previous UConn guards such as Ben Gordon, Richard Hamilton, and Ray Allen. The Big East is quietly becoming better every year and I am sure no one knows that better than Jim Calhoun and his Husky team. Walker has led his team to wins over Michigan State and Kentucky, and was the main reason for their latest victory in Texas. There is a certain swagger to being a part of some of college’s premiere programs in college basketball. UNC, Duke, UConn and others carry themselves differently from the teams that aren’t quite there yet. Walker embodies this characteristic every time he walks out onto the court. He struts around the court with a Tony Stark like confidence before every game, but still maintains the same focus Charlie Sheen seems to have every time he meticulously destroys a hotel room. Walker and the Huskies will make a big run in this years NCAA tournament and he will garner much consideration for player of the year.

The First Player To Try (And Fail) And  Replace Lebron James In Cleveland: Jared Sullinger, Ohio State

It is obvious that the Cleveland Cavaliers are going to finish the year with the worst record in the NBA. The loss of Anderson Varejao for the season is the final blow to an already miserable 2010-11 season. I would say the people in Cleveland have something else going for them but the Browns stink, the Indians made zero moves this off-season, and The Akron Scammer is on his way to a number 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Assuming the ping pong balls fall the right way for the Cavs, they will get the number 1 pick in the draft and have a tough selection to make.  Jared Sullinger has been dominating the Big 10 so far this season, giving us shades of Greg Oden, only without the noticeable limp and the wear and tear of Father Time.  Sullinger would fit perfectly alongside JJ Hickson and Varajeo as a big body who can score in a lot of different ways and even play some defense if necessary.  If he is the first pick overall, there will be lofty expectations for him to try and replace LBJ, but he will fall short, no matter how good he becomes at the next level. Sullinger could have a very solid NBA career, but if he is unable to turn that Cleveland franchise around, hell be remembered no more than guys like Tyrone Hill or John “Hot Rod” Williams.

As for the rest of the NBA and NCAABB seasons, here is a list of 10 predictions that I think will occur over the next few months:

10. The Memphis Grizzlies will trade OJ Mayo and snag the 8th spot in the Western Conference

Both before and after his recent scuffle with teammate Tony Allen, Mayo has missed a couple games and has performed miserably in the ones he has played in. Meanwhile, Allen has been playing out of his mind, averaging 3 steals per game over his last 6 contests. The Grizzlies are getting back to the formula that helped them become a decent team last season. Let Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph control the paint on the offensive side of the floor, and pressure the wings on defense to force turnovers. Rudy Gay and Allen have done a great job on the defensive side of the ball and will help the Grizzlies make it it to the playoffs, where they will be swept by some team with uglier jerseys.

9. UNC SF Harrison Barnes will break out during ACC play

Barnes, who was projected by many to be next year’s number 1 pick in the NBA draft, has struggled so far in his short college career. He has struggled with his decision making and his ability to consistently put the ball in the basket, the two things he was recruited to do. There is still a lot of the season left, and while I do not expect Barnes to put up Evan Turner and Kevin Durant type numbers, I do not expect him to keep putting up Brian Scalabrine type numbers (if you’re counting, that’s two). ACC play generally opens the door for a lot of scoring, fast paced basketball, a lot different from the slow paced Big 10 games I suffer through once a week or so.  Expect Dick Vitale to be raving about Barnes come ACC tournament time.

8. The Knicks and Celtics will face each other in the 1st round of the NBA Playoffs

Bill Simmons tweeted this today, but I have been thinking about this for quite some time now. The Celtics are doing what they always do. They win a ton of games, get beat up a bit, rest their stars, let the Luke Harangodies of the world dominate, and then end up with a 3 or 4 seed in the playoffs. The Knicks are playing at a very consistent level, one synonymous with a potential 6 seed, which is where they stand right now. This would make for a great series, and I am sure David Stern is smiling somewhere with that same smug look he had when fielding questions about The Akron Scammer this summer.

7. Butler will miss this year’s NCAA Tournament

Last year’s March meshuganas are struggling so far this year in the Horizon League without star Gordon Hayward. The only way they can  get in this season is if they win their conference tournament.  A lot of the major conferences have numerous good teams who will have impressive enough resumes to push themselves into the tournament, rather than mid-major schools with sparkling win loss records. Either way we won’t have to look at some really young coach making us seem like all of our life accomplishments are nothing compared to his.

6. The LA Lakers will NOT make it to the NBA Finals

This is a team in trouble. The Lakers haven’t had this much drama within their organization since back in the Shaq and Kobe days. The Zenmaster’s family is growing apart as Ron Artest clearly has his own mantra in mind, and I am sure it has very little to do with peace and love. The Spurs, Mavericks, Jazz, and Thunder are all legitimate foes to the Lakers and at least two of them will stand in the way of the Lakers path back to the finals. I am just hoping something really crazy happens, like Artest calling Pau Gasol an ostrich and then chasing him around the court with a tranquilizer gun. (Is that really more crazy  than him attacking an entire arena?)

5. Michigan State will MISS the Final Four

This is something that doesn’t happen too frequently. While they have a similar team to last year’s squad, Michigan St. has struggled this year due to a deeper Big 10, and inconsistent jump shooting. Tom Izzo’s teams always play great defense and are not unfamiliar with going through scoring slumps. They tend to make shots when they need to, and win games by minimal margins. After their most recent loss to Penn State, it is obvious that a lot of work has to be done by Izzo and his coaches. Don’t expect to see the Spartans wherever Duke may be, come the end of March.

4. Carmelo Anthony will NOT turn any team into a title contender in the next 2 years

Well it seems he’s either going two places, New York or New Jersey. If he were to go to the Knicks, I don’t see him bringing much more than what they already have. The Knicks are the highest scoring offense in the league. Their offense is also efficient, as it is currently in the top 11 in FG%, 3PT%, and FT%. While Melo will bring them a crunch time scorer, he will not help on the other side of the ball, the one area where the Knicks need to improve on vastly. I am pretty sure a team of me and 4 friends can go out against the Knicks tonight and put up an 80 spot. Perhaps in 2 years or so, the Knicks will develop a player or two to become their stoppers, or they will sign someone to do that job. Until then, the Knicks will be a very good playoff team, but perhaps nothing more.

In New Jersey, Melo would bring a lot of excitement to a franchise struggling to put people in the seats. Their roster would take on a whole new look, and the Nets would become a playoff team in the Eastern Conference. However, their roster would not have the look of a championship contender for a few years. They would need to build through the draft and make a splash or two in the free agent market (Calling Chris Paul). Melo would give them the centerpiece that the team has been looking for since Jason Kidd skipped town, as Brook Lopez is no more than a secondary player and is not able to carry a team with the likes Devin Harris. I am pretty sure that means he can’t do it on his own either.

3. Duke will repeat as National Champions, Kyle Singler will get a statue in front of Cameron Indoor Arena

There really isn’t much competition for Coach K and crew this year. After Duke, the next best teams in college are Kansas, Ohio State, and Syracuse. Kansas and Syracuse both struggled with the mediocre Michigan Wolverines, while the Buckeyes are led by freshman and role players, not the best mix for a National Championship (Jared Sullinger is no Carmelo Anthony). Duke should be able to cruise as a number 1 seed throughout the tournament and they should start seeing some real competition by the time they reach the Elite Eight.  Another title would cement Kyle Singler’s legacy at Duke, not only as the ugliest white basketball player of all-time there, but also as one of the oddest looking winner’s of the Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player Award.

2. The Boston Celtics will defeat the Dallas Mavericks for the NBA Championship

Yes, I am a homer and will be picking the Celtics to win the championship until all of their players can’t walk and smell like cabbage. The Celts are built for the playoffs and I think the Miami Heat are one year away from completely dominating the East. The Mavs on the other hand are in a bit of a tougher situation. This prediction is only assuming Dirk Nowitzki comes back from his knee injury and can play in the playoffs. They are extremely well balanced with him, even without Caron Butler. Their defense has been at its best since they made the finals in 2006 and I think they have enough to fend off either the Lakers or Spurs in a 7 game series. Either way, the Celts need to send Scalabrine (that’s three) a ring because the guy clearly doesn’t have much going for him in life and can always use a pick me up.

1. Lawrence Frank will NOT read this blog

I have spent years of my life trying to get his attention. Whether it be screaming his name at games, or showing up to his two-story colonial house in the suburbs of Boston, Lawrence Frank has done his best to ignore me. I made this site as an homage to him, but so far there has been no feedback on his part. I set the bar low, hoping that maybe he will call me and tell me to stop driving by his house as he goes out to get his mail. 5 months have gone by and still no phone calls. Maybe a text message to deter me from rummaging through his garbage for something he may have held. 3 months and no text message. I still have time before the season is out to get him to notice me and I will do what it takes to make that happen. Until then, I guess I’ll have to settle for a half eaten orange, or a never used  coach’s clipboard.