There was no time to print new programs before last night’s game between the Nets and the visiting Nuggets: There, on page 28, was Lawrence Frank’s name, first among the six assistant coaches listed. Good-bye to all that. Just a few hours earlier, Frank had been reassigned from bench duties “to doing daily reports,” which presumably means he will now be undermining Jason Kidd’s authority in writing on a daily basis. It’s easy to make up some reason Frank lost his place in Kidd’s inner sanctum — perhaps it was all those times Frank rolled his eyes and air-jerked during Kidd’s halftime team talks. Or maybe the “philosophical differences” that divided Frank and Kidd boiled down to the fact that Frank actually had a philosophy. The harder part to process is why Frank remains in the building at all.
Just a few months ago, I would have never cared about any of this. I was perfectly content watching the Nets from a safe, neutral distance. The only person in the organization I was remotely curious about was Mikhail Prokhorov, mostly because of my hobby fascination with post–Cold War economies. But shortly after the Nets torpedoed the future to acquire two-fifths of Ubuntu, I found myself on their team website, studying ticket packages for the upcoming season. I remember looking out my office window and regarding the fine, possibility-rich glint of a summer day, and convincing myself this was a totally reasonable investment in my future happiness. I convinced my friend Reihan that Nets tickets would improve his life as well and, a few bank transfers later, an official Brooklyn Nets thumb drive and a card loaded with all our tickets arrived in the mail. I began to give a shit about Mason Plumlee and Tyshawn Taylor, I saw wisdom in the signing of Shaun Livingston, I parsed the enigma that is Andray Blatche. I looked forward to Jason Terry doing the jet thing and punching his chest within seconds of his Brooklyn debut. I couldn’t wait to watch Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce again on a consistent basis. I began to receive weekly emails from the Nets and Barclays Center gauging my emotional responses to sponsors, security companies, party supply outlets.
"You can add it up. I don't want to do your job, but for me it's most important to have a championship.”
Those are the words of Mikhail Prokhorov from last September, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for his new billion-dollar arena, in regard to his Nets paying the luxury tax. Last offseason, Brooklyn made a series of headline-stealing, big-money moves to assemble a core of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Brook Lopez, all of which came with a hefty price tag (the Nets' payroll was $87.65 million last season), but one that also clearly stated the boss’s intentions. And if Prokhorov’s win-now approach was already on display then, it’s really on display now.
On our first full day in Houston, Jacoby, Zach Lowe, and I had the pleasure of talking with a few of the NBA's brightest stars. Jacoby spoke with Kyrie Irving about video games, 3-point shooting, and Uncle Drew. I got a chance to talk with Chandler Parsons about the Rockets' rivalry with the Warriors. I also chatted with comic-book fan (and Nets center) (and All-Star) Brook Lopez, who told me about who hogs the stereo in the Brooklyn locker room and where The Dark Knight Rises stands in the Batman canon. Finally, Zach Lowe got an incredibly detailed account of who sits where on the Blazers' team plane from LaMarcus Aldridge and heard from Warriors guard Klay Thompson about what it was like to give up 140 points in one game. Check out the full podcast, as well as the video clips, below.
It’s bad for your health to care about All-Star selections. The selection process is flawed in minor ways, and with only 12 spots, deserving players will be left home every year. Still: All-Star selections matter, perhaps more than they should, when it comes time to assess a player’s place in NBA history. Rajon Rondo just made his fourth All-Star team. Here is the total list of point guards who have made at least that many All-Star appearances since the league adopted the 3-point shot: Magic Johnson (12), Isiah Thomas (12), John Stockton (10), Jason Kidd (10), Gary Payton (9), Steve Nash (8), Chris Paul (6), Chauncey Billups (5), Tim Hardaway (5), Tony Parker (5), Maurice Cheeks (4), and Mark Price (4).
So with four All-Star selections, Rondo has now zoomed passed most of the “very good” point guard crop of the past 30 years, and is a couple of appearances away from jumping into the “certain Hall of Famer” group. As Rondo ages and folks debate his Hall of Fame credentials, his number of All-Star appearances will come up as evidence of his Springfield worthiness.
Let’s not mince words here — the Lakers are boring. Sure, they’re a flaming train wreck from which we can’t avert our eyes, but their actual on-court product (and even some of the drama off it) is far from enjoyable, in the traditional sense. If you stripped away the star power and franchise mystique, all you’d be left with is a basketball team that’s losing far more than it wins, and there’s not much fun about that. (Again, in the traditional sense.)
But given there isn’t any way to not talk about the Lakers, I went to the ESPN Trade Machine (at least in part) and tried to figure out a deal that, in an alternate reality, would make the team more palatable. The trade I came up with is both realistic (based on some real rumors I’ve heard/read and players’ fair market value in mind) and totally effing bananas (five-team, 15-player trades and unicorns tend have a lot in common). I’d still like to think at least some parts dabble in the vicinity of the plausible.
In the end, I came up with a Lakers team (as well as a Cleveland one) that I would actually enjoy watching on a nightly basis. Of course, it’s built along the lines of my own personal views — fit over star power and great offense over any type of defense — but I think it would make the struggling L.A. team, as well as a couple of the others involved, more interesting.
Either way, there’s enough in there to get people yelling at each other (or at me), which is easily the best part of fake trades anyway. So here ya go:
Before Jay-Z took the stage September 28, on the Barclays Center's opening night — before he christened the building, before he consummated his home borough’s ascendance — we got a short video ticking off a selective list of Brooklyn’s accomplishments. “1862: BROOKLYN RAILROAD BEGINS OPERATION” and “1893: BROOKLYN BRIDGE COMPLETED” and “1895: BROOKLYN MUSEUM FOUNDED.” We saw “1913: EBBETS FIELD OPENS” and “1945: JACKIE ROBINSON JOINS THE BROOKLYN DODGERS” and “1949: MARCY PROJECTS BUILT.” And then the jouncy jazz riff playing under the montage cut out for the bone-crunching guitars of “No Sleep Till Brooklyn,” and a string of Brooklyn babies were trumpeted: Basquiat, Biggie, Jordan, Aaliyah, Tyson, ODB, and Adam “MCA” Yauch, born in downtown Brooklyn in 1967. Twenty seconds later — before the montage picked up speed beyond decipherability, as if to suggest the borough’s simply overwhelming success rate — we saw Yauch again, along with The Beastie Boys: “1986: LICENSED TO ILL RELEASED.”
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Wednesday.
Since July 11 was the slowest sports night of the year, we hired renowned Dutch digital abstract artist E.V. Emmmph to change things up and make visual representations of each item. Please enjoy it — he was very expensive and very difficult to work with.
The latest reports of a Dwight Howard trade now include the Clippers as the elusive fourth team necessary to land the All-Star center in Brooklyn. If those reports are accurate, and I haven’t yet completely lost my mind, it appears as if the missing piece Orlando needs to complete its desired haul for Howard is a lottery-protected, first-round pick from Los Angeles.
With that pick from the Clips, the terms of the deal ESPN.com has reported would bring Brook Lopez, Luke Walton, Damion James, Shelden Williams, Armon Johnson, and three first-round picks to Orlando. Let’s think about that for a moment. The best center of his generation and one of the three most valuable players in the league is traded for one guy likely to be in an NBA rotation (Lopez), a bunch of roster fillers, and three picks guaranteed to be in the 20s.
To be fair, I have to reserve some judgment, only because I don’t know who Armon Johnson is.
The initial collective reaction to the Joe Johnson–to-the-Nets trade was laughter. The Nets are taking on one of the worst contracts in basketball while seemingly limiting their chances of landing Dwight Howard. Let's look at how Johnson can fit with the Nets on the court.
Joe Johnson, or ISO-Joe, as he has been affectionately called by bloggers for a little while now, needs the ball in his hand and holds on to it, almost always to the detriment of the team. But there is still hope for a core of Deron Williams (assuming he stays, of course), Joe Johnson, and Brook Lopez, if Johnson is willing to play off of the basketball a little more. He never did that with any consistency while he was with the Hawks, though it's not clear if that was by design or not. Thirty-five percent of his total possessions were isolations (Synergy Sports labeled 22.7 percent of his possessions isolation plays and 12.2 percent as post-up plays).
But just because Johnson didn't play off the ball often (only 16.7 percent of his possessions were spot-up plays) doesn't mean he can't. Last year, he scored 224 points on 188 spot-up possessions, which translates to a PPP of 1.191 and the 94th percentile. Johnson is a big guy with a high release point on his quick shooting motion. He has range and the ability to find the open area when his man turns his back on him.