The Nets came into last night’s Toilet Bowl having allowed 107.5 points per 100 possessions, the very worst mark in the league. They outdid themselves against the struggling Knicks, allowing the equivalent of 130 points per 100 possessions in a game that began as something of a snark spectacle and gradually became a serious embarrassment for a team with absolutely no clue right now on either end of the floor.
The Knicks did nothing special, though they did come out in the second half clearly committed to running more motion-based plays and generally playing the kind of offense an NBA team should play. They ran a few Carmelo Anthony–Andrea Bargnani pick-and-pops, and they thrived whenever they posted Anthony up against the game but overmatched Alan Anderson. Anthony loves to catch the ball, face up in one-on-one situations, and take midrange jumpers off the bounce. That is glamorous, highlight stuff.
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.
If there was a Year 1 winner when the Nets moved to Brooklyn, it was the Modell's on Flatbush Avenue that sits across the street from the Barclays Center. What was formerly a rundown sporting goods store with little on the shelves transformed itself into a bright beacon of fluorescent light featuring row upon row of apparel sporting the logo of the borough's newest franchise.
Ninety minutes before Brooklyn opened its 2013-14 home schedule against the Miami Heat, a few dozen people milled about Modell's. I asked a casher if Nets stuff was selling fast. "Of course. It's the first day of the season. They are going to buy it all," she told me in an optimistic tone that sounded like the party line. I looked around. They were not buying it all. One guy inquired about two Nets hats; almost everyone else seemed more interested in purchasing soccer balls or asking about the length of the crew socks. An employee stocking the shelves said it wasn't nearly as busy as the season opener last year. His take: The jerseys were too expensive and no one had any money. If the Nets won, however, the fans would come back after the game to buy something.
In case you were busy frantically shorting Arian Foster futures, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday:
Mike Napoli hit a monster home run as the Boston Red Sox got to Anibal Sanchez and beat the Tigers, 4-3, to take a 3-2 ALCS lead back to Fenway Park. When asked how big a moment the home run was for him, Napoli shrugged, scratched his hairy face, and said, "Smallish? Scale of 1-10? I honestly don't care enough to rate it." When asked where he'd place the team's win in the context of Red Sox franchise history, Napoli yawned, drooled a little into his mustache, and said, "I couldn't care less about history. The only thing more boring than new baseball is old baseball." When asked why he has devoted his life to a pursuit he apparently thinks little of, Napoli stroked his beard and said, "Duh, beards." When told he didn't have to play baseball to grow a beard, Napoli chortled, filling his beard with spittle and sunflower-seed detritus, and asked, "Now who's being naive?" Napoli then ignored a text message from his girlfriend and said, "Now if you don't mind, my beard and I would like a little alone time," before walking into a supply closet at Comerica Park carrying a gilded comb.
Imagine you're at a party. It's a pretty midsize affair; there are enough people — say 20 — that you can legit call it a party, but it's not like it's raging. You know these people and you like them, but you're ultimately a little bored with them.
Then some guy wearing streetwear that hasn't been cool since 2009 comes storming in, carrying a case of Grey Goose and a bag of mixers, and announces that everyone is eating pizza for free. He screams, "WE IN THIS BITCH." This guy is an idiot, but you are charmed and intrigued because at least he's new.
In Part 1 of 2, Bill dials up ESPN's Matthew Berry to talk about Dwight Howard leaving the Lakers. Then Bill's dad comes on to talk about rebuilding the Celtics and the Boston sports scene. In Part 2, Bill talks to Grantland's Zach Lowe about the moves in NBA free agency before the two recap the NBA Finals.
To listen to these podcasts, download them on iTunes here, or to listen at the ESPN.com Podcenter, click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2.
It's the most wonderful time of the year. NBA free-agency season is officially got under way. Consider this a clearinghouse for all the rumors floating around. Loose lips may sink ships destroy cap space, but they also sure as hell make for interesting reading.
This Year's Model
The Subject: Tyreke Evans
The Players: The Pelicans, the Kings, the Pistons, the Hawks, Tyreke Evans's business manager, that guy who was hoping Tyreke Evans would invest in his Korean BBQ taco truck
The Gist: This seems like seller's market hysteria to me. The Pelicans reportedly offered Evans a four-year deal between $40 million and $48 million. Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Greivis Vasquez, and Austin Rivers. Keeping Austin is an obvious decision, but someone else has to go. Eric Gordon has shown nothing but Pelican passion and Greivis is named "Greivis," so I guess that means amnesty Jrue. In the meantime, the Pelicans' interest in Evans has sparked a little bit of a bidding war, with Detroit, Atlanta, and Evans's current/former team, the Kings, all wining and dining the combo guard.
I can’t even imagine how you’re feeling this morning. The fact that Ainge went ahead and did it last night — blew up the Boston Celtics — is hard enough for a fan like me to stomach. Like any other C's partisan with two eyes and a heart, I long ago fell in love with you both. Paul: Our relationship was epic, stormy, spotty, often bittersweet. But it revealed itself, in the end, to be triumphant and true. Kevin: I’ve known you for only six years. Six years! Can you believe it? It feels like forever. And that’s because, in that time, you taught me it doesn’t actually have to take decades for an unbreakable bond to take root; sometimes, it only takes the span of a few emphatic forehead blows to a thinly padded stanchion. And so the fact that you won’t be retiring as Celtics is something I’ll have to process for a bit.
But for you, this is real life. I presume the two of you, at some point last night, huddled together and conjointly decided whether Kevin would waive his no-trade clause and allow this to happen. Surely, you wanted to stay in Boston; surely, you knew doing so might have been detrimental to both yourselves and the team. You didn’t want it to end this way. But you knew it had to. And now here come the particulars: calling the movers, figuring out new school districts for the kids, saying good-bye to friends who’d become as close as family.
Amid all that hullabaloo, as you make your move to Brooklyn, I’d like to try simplify one thing for you: Would you like to come and live with me?
"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.
In case you were out tasting wine with other beautiful people in France, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
In a surprising turn of events, the Cleveland Cavaliers selected Anthony Bennett with the first pick of the NBA draft. Victor Oladipo went second to the Magic, and Otto Porter Jr., Cody Zeller, and Alex Len rounded out the top five. Nerlens Noel, who many thought would go first, dropped all the way to sixth, and the Kentucky big man vowed to "make them pay" for the snub. He was as good as his word; just hours later, he filed a lawsuit seeking $20 million in emotional damages from all five teams.
Sources reported that the Celtics and Nets have worked out a blockbuster deal that will send Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn in exchange for future draft picks and a smattering of players that includes Gerald Wallace. "I didn't want to be the oldest guy on the team," explained new Nets coach Jason Kidd. "It makes me feel insecure and gross."
Derek Holland hurled a two-hit shutout, and the Rangers beat the Yankees, 2-0, to win the three-game series. Good news, readers: This is a "choose-your-own-reference" joke! It's totally up to you whether the pun-based punch line involves a reference to "Mr. Holland's Opus," the Holland Tunnel, or famed English musician Jools Holland. Once you've decided, more good news: It's also a "write-your-own-joke" joke! So take that reference, use it to construct your own joke, and then send it in to win a prize. (I'm just kidding, there's no prize. Once you're done writing the joke, just sit around feeling the oppressive emptiness of life.)
Let the record show that we always made fun of Ubuntu. The gradual disintegration of the Celtics’ Big Three era — which hit another milestone this weekend with Doc Rivers bouncing on Boston to try to make sure the denizens of Lob City play nice — might lead you to believe it’s only in hindsight that the rallying cry of the 2008 champions seems dopey as hell. Trust me: It always seemed dopey as hell.
Let’s travel back in time. The year is 2007, the city is Rome, and Ubuntu has just been born. From ESPN The Magazine’s cover story on the newly minted power trio: “‘Ubuntu!’ the Celtics shout as they break their huddle after practice. Coach Doc Rivers says he chose the chant over the typical ‘1, 2, 3, Celtics!’ after reading about Bishop Desmond Tutu over the summer. ‘Ubuntu,’ from the African Bantu language, stresses collective success over individual achievement. And maybe it's already having an effect. Boston's starting five all sported shaved heads in Rome, and Garnett bought each rookie three custom-made suits. The players hung out together nearly every night, cracking on one another for hours one evening on the Spanish Steps.”
Then, on opening night, when the new Big Three romped all over the Wizards, the heretofore unproven ameliorative effects of the work of Archbishop Tutu on basketball psychology appeared to have been confirmed, with much Úlan. As the team rattled off wins (8-0, 20-2, 29-3), these were, for Celts fans — grounded, after years of Vin Bakerisms, into sunken-eyed indifference — heady times. A manufactured all-star patchwork wasn’t expected to jell this quickly; this was almost an embarrassment of goodwill. But two things helped them avoid the post-Decision vibes that hurt the Heat. One was that KG, Paul, and Ray were just past their primes, which meant their team-up felt noble and selfless rather than craven and calculating. The other was that the big-grinning Doc, the ultimate players’ coach, had been handed his appropriate mound of clay and appeared to be molding it into elite, defense-first, team-basketball perfection. So yeah, sure, why not: Ubuntu, motherfuckers.
There are two fairly recent precedents for what happened with the Clippers and Celtics and Doc Rivers over the past 10 days. The first began on June 5, 1995, when Pat Riley, while still under contract with the Knicks, sent a secret 14-point memo to the Miami Heat outlining his contract demands, which included a 20 percent ownership stake, plus "$300 per diem expenses, credit cards, limousine service to and from games and a $15 million salary over five years."
Apparently that worked for Micky Arison and the Heat, because 10 days later Riley faxed a letter of resignation to the Knicks. Three months later, after the Knicks accused Miami of tampering and all this evidence — of, uh, blatant tampering — became public, the Heat agreed to send $4 million and a first-round pick to the Knicks as compensation. That's trade no. 1, and there are two lessons to be learned.
1. Never, ever trust Pat Riley.
2. In 1995, it was good to be negotiating contracts as Pat Riley.
Daniel Lopatin wears a lot of hats in the metaphorical sense — he and Joel Ford are the masterminds behind the eerie accuracy of ’80s synth-pop revivalists Ford & Lopatin, as well as the Brooklyn-based boutique label Software. But Lopatin’s best known for his work as groundbreaking and critically acclaimed electronic act Oneohtrix Point Never, a restless creative conduit for hours worth of noisy drones (2009’s Rifts), odysseys into the dark, subzero recesses of space (2010's Returnal), and his 2011 masterwork, Replica, a haunting, affecting collection of aural experimentations built on outdated synthesizers and commercials dubbed from VHS cassettes.
But if you’re talking about a hat he wears in the literal sense, it’s almost always a Celtics cap. If you couldn’t tell by the pun of his name (based on Magic 106.7, Boston’s adult-contemporary station), Lopatin reps his hometown to the fullest, an outré artist with the knowledge and passion of an NBA insider. In an interview I did last year for Pitchfork, nothing brings him more excitement than having “one fucking fantasy basketball window open and Ableton in the other monitor, going apeshit.” Considering the instability of the C’s right now, if he’s poring over bootleg recordings from Germany these days, it’s more likely to be grainy highlights from Dennis Schroeder workouts rather than some lost recording from Cluster.
It might not be Jay-Z using Game 5 of the NBA Finals to announce Magna Carta Holy Grail, but in anticipation of 0PN’s upcoming LP R Plus Seven, out later this year on Warp, Lopatin took the time to give his laptop-GM view of the Celtics’ current offseason strategy and the proposed blockbuster deal with the Clippers. He also describes “Nil Admirari” as the feeling of losing out on Tim Duncan in the 1997 lottery and will offer Ableton lessons to Danny Ainge free of charge.
In case you were busy learning hard lessons about hubris and foosball but mostly hubris, here's what you missed in sports on Monday:
Tuukka Rask had a shutout and Daniel Paille had his second goal in as many games as the Boston Bruins seized a 2-1 advantage in the Stanley Cup final with a 2-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. Ageless right winger Jaromir Jagr, who was held scoreless again but had a critical assist in his team's win, said after the game, "I can't believe I'm here trying to win my first Stanley Cup in 21 years. I could have had children after my last Stanley Cup win who would be almost old enough to drink." Jagr then narrowed his eyes and said, "No, seriously, given how that night went almost 21 years ago, I could have had children after my last Stanley Cup win who would be almost old enough to drink. Let's say the Cup has a lot of volume, I was 19, and if we do win this, there are some mistakes that Lord Stanley and I will not repeat."
Max Scherzer struck out 10 and improved to 10-0 as the Detroit Tigers beat the Baltimore Orioles, 5-1. "But am I an ace?" a concerned Scherzer asked after the game. "Please tell me! Am I an ace on a staff with a pair of aces, or the best no. 2 in the game? Or am I an ace in the making who still has something to prove? Do I need to escape Justin Verlander's shadow, or do we make each other better by pitching back-to-back? Won't someone please debate these designations and render a verdict based on a meaningless quote from my manager?" Detroit manager Jim Leyland then added, "He's at the top of his game pretty much," which pretty much settled the ace question once and for all.