FOCO releases Brooklyn Nets 75th anniversary collection

FOCO released an exclusive Brooklyn Nets 7th anniversary bobblehead collection on Friday.

Whether you are an OG fan who rooted for the New Jersey Nets in East Rutherford or a new breed of a fan when they moved to Brooklyn, there is a bobblehead collectible for you.

The collection features past and present stars Jason Kidd, Kevin Durant, and James Harden.

A 10-time NBA All-Star, Kidd spent seven seasons with the New Jersey Nets and led them to two NBA Finals appearances in 2002 and 2003. Durant and Harden are part of the team’s current superstar trio. Oddsmakers have installed them as the favorites to win the title this season.

All three Nets players were recently named to the NBA’s 75 greatest players.

Each bobblehead stands on a diamond-themed base with the Nets logo front and center and an NBA 75th logo behind them while holding a diamond basketball.

Kidd’s bobblehead sport the throwback Nets home jersey of the 2000s. Durant and Harden are clad with the classic black and white Brooklyn jersey.

They are being sold on FOCO’s official website for only $75 each. The bobbleheads are limited to just 275 individually-numbered units making them a sought-after collectible.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

How much do the Brooklyn Nets stand to gain from the return of Kyrie Irving?

Brooklyn Nets, Kyrie Irving

The Brooklyn Nets have been playing exceptionally well this season. Sitting in first atop of the Eastern Conference standings with a 23-9 record, the Nets have produced a remarkable balance of success predicated on their high-octane offense and elite defense.

Currently ranking Top 10 in the league in points per game (110.5) and field goal percentage (46.8), the Nets have arguably been even better defensively despite their lack of size inside.

Conceding an average of only 106.6 points (10th in the league) on 91.6 field goal attempts allowed per game (28th in the league), the Nets are somehow tied in first in opponent field goal percentage (42.7) and are also first in opponent three-point percentage (31.1).

However, these last few COVID-stricken weeks hampered the Nets’ starting lineup considerably. With three straight games already postponed prior to their 122-115 Christmas Day victory against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Nets at one point had eight of their players enter league and safety protocols for COVID-19, including the likes of Kevin Durant, James Harden, and LaMarcus Aldridge.

Due to this setback, the Nets have found themselves in a bit of a desperate situation. And as the saying goes, ‘desperate times can call for desperate measures’ and well, the Nets have done just that. On December 17th, ESPN NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski announced that Kyrie Irving was going to be reinstated with the Nets as a part-time player for games outside of New York.

Irving, who hasn’t played a single game all season, is still not vaccinated. And because of such, the Nets decided earlier this season that he would not be allowed to be a part of the team’s practices and games until he was eligible to be a full participant.

Understandably, the Nets are not in much of a position when it comes to picking and choosing players they should bring in, seeing how afflicted their lineup was across the board.

That said, considering how well this team was doing without Irving along with the fact that Irving is a very ball-dominant type of player, the Nets are taking a significant gamble with bringing him in, and in the process, are risking the balance that this team has been able to establish.

As one can imagine, this begs the question of just how much do the Nets stand to gain from bringing Irving back. And though it might seem a bit complicated addressing this kind of situation, the answer is rather straightforward and for a few key reasons.

First and foremost, Irving’s offensive role would greatly impact the scoring dynamic Durant and Harden have been able to develop with the rest of the team. Over his career, Irving has illustrated a linear style of play that’s heavily predicated on scoring the basketball and not so much on embracing the playmaking role that comes with being a point guard.

As a result, this poses a major dilemma because instead of fitting into the role the Nets need from him, Irving has shown that he expects the Nets to adapt to the strengths he provides, which, over his short stay in Brooklyn, has not proven to be very effective. And with the Nets finally reaching a nice balance with their two high-scoring playmakers in Durant and Harden, adding Irving would significantly alter the balance the Nets have been able to achieve so far.

Back in late November, when a reporter asked Harden if he’s had to assume more of a greater scoring role due to Irving’s absence, Harden gave a genuine answer and explained that he’s not only trying to figure out his role still, but that it’s been difficult to determine what he needs to do when, be it scoring, playmaking, or running the offense. Just a little over a month later, we’ve seen substantial progress from Harden on that front. But with Irving hopping back into the mix, things would have to change once again after Harden finally got accustomed to his role on the team.

In addition, Irving has yet to show he can be a good perimeter defender. Defensively, the Nets have improved tremendously this season, and Irving’s return could jeopardize that anchoring stability on the perimeter. The Nets have finally found a way to slow down their opponents with really sharp defensive play, and it’s proven to be much more effective than having to rely on their offense to have to outscore opposing teams in a shooting slugfest.

Lastly, Irving’s still not vaccinated. And seeing how rampant this COVID surge has been in the NBA, the Nets are only going to increase their chances of having their team suffer more COVID setbacks with his return.

In all fairness, the Nets have not found it easy to assemble a lot of their key players due to this recent COVID outbreak, and bringing back Irving was a move that was understandably made out of desperation.

But ultimately, the success and equilibrium that this Nets team has been able to accomplish with its play and chemistry is of far greater value and importance than the desperation the Nets have found themselves in. And bringing back Irving would throw off the dynamic of this team significantly.

In short, the Nets should stick to their original decision and refrain from bringing Irving back onto the team until he can fully participate. And as we saw firsthand against the Lakers and now more recently against the Clippers, the Nets have been doing just fine without him.

Evan Fournier relishes first taste of Knicks-Nets rivalry: It felt like a home game

Evan Fournier almost ended up as the hero for the New York Knicks when he sank a game-tying triple with 17 seconds left. But unheralded Brooklyn Nets’ forward James Johnson had other plans.

The Nets drew the first blood in the Battle of New York this season with a gut-wrenching 112-110 win over the Knicks Tuesday night before a sellout crowd of 18,081. It was the largest attendance to a Nets’ home game in franchise history. Thanks, in large part, to the Knicks fans who invaded the Barclays Center in Atlantic Avenue.

“That was my first time playing Brooklyn as a Knick. It was fun. It felt like a home game,” Fournier said after Wednesday’s practice. “The atmosphere was great. It’s too bad we couldn’t get a win.”

It was jarring to watch Kevin Durant and James Harden, two of the league’s superstars, getting booed at their homecourt. But the Knicks fans made it happen, drowning the Nets’ fans at times. Even Julius Randle got MVP chants in his lone trip at the line.

“It was cool,” Fournier said. “We would have won like nobody cares when you lose.”

Fournier said they were all upset they lost a big game. But they were encouraged that it was just a one-possession game against the preseason title favorites.

“So the difference between winning and losing in a lot of games is very, very small. In a lot of games, we were up 15 and blew up leads. So, I think we can be really good and you know, I’m talking about elite, but we have to do it for 48 minutes,” Fournier said. “And when we start doing that, we’re going to take off.”

Inconsistency had been the Knicks’ biggest woe this season. But 20 games into the season, Tom Thibodeau made a drastic change to the lineup, dropping the 6-foot-1 Kemba Walker from the rotation in favor of the 6-foot-6 Alec Burks. After two games, the Knicks look more like last season’s team that grinded out wins with Thibodeau’s signature defense.

They held the Nets to just eight triples on 28.6 percent shooting. But Durant took over down the stretch with 11 points in the final 5:45 of the game. The Nets entered the game averaging 12.9 3s on a 37.5 percent mark. The Knicks perimeter defender is much improved with Burks in the starting lineup. In Burks’ first starting gig, they limited the Hawks to only nine triples on a dreadful 24.3 percent clip.

One of the upsides of the Burks experiment is his size which gave them versatility on switching defense. It threw off Trae Young and the Hawks over the weekend. But the Nets posed a different challenge.

“We didn’t get to switch much really because just the way [Brooklyn] played,” Fournier said. “They played so much isolation and that they don’t really screen so much so it didn’t really have an impact [Tuesday night].”

Their third showdown with the Chicago Bulls this season Thursday night at home will offer a different challenge to the refurbished Knicks’ defense. The Bulls have more weapons offensively than the Nets, with the trio of Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic. Add defensive-minded guards Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso to the mix, who can also hurt on offense.

“They give you a different challenge because DeMar is such a unique player. He operates out of the midrange which is a lost art nowadays. Zach is extremely explosive. They’re just a well-built [team],” Fournier said.

“They have Vooch, who is back, that can really stretch the floor as a big. And they play hard. We owe them one and [Thursday’s game] will be interesting. The first two games in Chicago were intense, hard-fought battles and I expect that [on Thursday].”

The Bulls will be without key reserve Coby White, who has entered the health and safety protocols after testing positive for Coronavirus. White had 14 pts, hitting big shots in the fourth quarter, against the Knicks in the Bulls’ 109-103 win last month.

The Bulls and the Knicks enter Thursday night’s showdown with a winning record after at least 20 games for the first time since 2013, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

It will be a defensive slugfest as the Bulls currently sport the fourth-best defensive rating in the league (105.4). On the other hand, the Knicks are starting to regain their defensive identity after the recent change. It’s one of Thibodeau’s primary considerations when he made the bold move to yank a well-respected and accomplished player like Walker. 

Fournier said the chemistry of the starting lineup is fine. Except for a lackadaisical start in the third quarter where they dug a 16-point hole against the Nets, the starters looked more compact and engaged for the most part since the lineup change.

“I thought we started the game well. You know, AB is a really good player. He’s smart. We’re basketball players. We know how to make plays for each other. We’re gonna get a feel for each other and keep growing.”

Burks is an instant hit with the staring lineup recording season-highs in scoring in two consecutive games. Over the last two games he started, Burks is averaging 24.0 points and four triples on a 42/47/73 shooting split along with 6.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 2.0 steals.

Perhaps in respect to Walker, whom he shared a bond dating back to last season in Boston, and with just a couple of games in, Fournier deferred giving his judgment on the new makeup of the starting lineup.

“It’s kind of hard to answer because you need to see a bigger sample and get lessons from it. Kemba and Alec are different players. They bring different things to the table,” Fournier said. “So it’s a wait-and-see, really.”

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Nobody roots for Goliath: Shaq tells Knicks’ Randle to stop whining

In a game, they lost by only two points, New York Knicks‘ All-NBA forward Julius Randle rued the lack of calls on his strong drives to the basket.

In his postgame presser following a Knicks’ 112-110 loss to crosstown rival Brooklyn Nets, a visibly pissed Randle vented his ire on the officiating crew of Scott Foster, Mark Lindsay, and Jason Goldenberg.

The 6-foot-8 and 250-lb Randle scored 24 points but only made two trips at the foul line. In contrast, the Nets’ superstars Kevin Durant and James Harden combined for 19 free throw attempts and hit 18. Overall, the Nets had 13 more free throw attempts than the Knicks.

The Nets are sixth in the league in free throw attempts averaging 21.3 per game. The 11th-ranked Knicks are not that far behind, attempting 20.7 free throws per game.

Randle was hit with a technical foul for incessant complaining over a non-call in the game’s crucial moment. He felt James Harden fouled him in a tough fadeaway jumper that he missed in the previous play. With 1:37 left in the game, Durant hit a jumper and the technical free throw that gave the Nets a three-point cushion.

“I don’t know what they’re watching or what they’re seeing. As aggressive as I played, attacking the paint, I can’t be penalized for just being stronger than people. And that is an answer that I got today. “[The referees] said because certain contact doesn’t affect me like it affects other players. Because I am stronger, they miss the calls,” Randle said.

“It pisses me off even more. To be honest with you, because that is not how you officiate the game. With basketball, usually, [when] the smaller players are guarding bigger players, they get away with a lot more, but certain things are a little bit more blatant. You just slap a guy. I don’t care who it is, [but] it’s going to affect him.”

New York coach Tom Thibodeau sympathized with his All-NBA big man.

“I don’t care how the game is called,” an irate Thibodeau said. “I really don’t. You call it tight, call it loose. But it’s got to be the same.”

“I want to watch the film. But something’s not right. I’m watching what’s going on both ways. [Brooklyn’s] a good team. But I know Julius was driving the ball pretty darn hard. And I’m pissed. Thank you,” said Thibodeau as the postgame presser was cut short abruptly.

NBA Hall of Fame big man Shaquille O’Neal though, wasn’t as sympathetic as Thibodeau.

The 7-foot-1 O’Neal had his fair share of non-calls against smaller and lighter defenders during his playing days. Speaking from his experience, O’neal gave Randle unsolicited advice during the Inside the NBA postgame show on TNT.

“Listen, Mr. Julius (Randle). Nobody roots for Goliath. Nobody cares,” O’Neal said. “Play through it, big man.”

O’Neal said Randle is correct that he is strong. He felt the same way throughout his 19-year career. But O’Neal quickly added, “[The referees] are not going to slow down the game for us.”

“What you’re going to do, big dawg, is just make [your defender] call the foul. When you got [smaller guy] on the block, punish him. When somebody is reaching, just take this elbow right here,” said O’Neal motioning to elevate his elbow to a 90-degree angle, “just lift it up three to four inches. And you just got to keep playing.”

“Remember, nobody roots for Goliath. Nobody cares. The little guys don’t care about us, big guys. But you can do it. Other big guys did it,” O’Neal said. “Stop whining. Stop complaining.”

Randle is averaging five free throw attempts per game this season. On Thursday, the Knicks will face the Chicago Bulls, whose star DeMar DeRozan is one of the best in the league in getting to the line. DeRozan averages 7.5 free throw attempts per game, third in the league behind Jimmy Butler (8.6) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (10.1).

Harden and Durant are tied for fourth with seven free throw attempts per game.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

 

Julius Randle, Knicks left fuming as Nets escape in rivalry game

In a rivalry game that had a lot of twists and turns, James Johnson emerged as the unlikely hero.

The defensive-minded forward Johnson canned a pair of pressure-packed free throws with 2.2 seconds left that allowed the Brooklyn Nets to escape with a 112-110 win over the New York Knicks Tuesday night at Barclays Center.

Kevin Durant wisely milked the clock and found a wide-open Johnson who drove to the basket and fished a foul from Knicks center Mitchell Robinson. Evan Fournier missed a prayer at the buzzer as the Knicks’ first game without Kemba Walker in the rotation had a promising start but ended in heartbreak.

Randle charged at the official fuming after the loss.

“I’m not going to talk about [the officiating], I’m going to talk about the game, what the players are out there doing,” Randle said. “I’m not going to talk about [the referees] because they clearly don’t understand the game.”

The rest of the Knicks points guards — Alec Burks, Derrick Rose, and Immanuel Quickley — took turns in guiding the Knicks’ offense. After a hiccup in the middle quarters, the Knicks looked poised for a win when they stormed back from a 16-point third-quarter deficit.

An Obi Toppin dunk gave the Knicks a three-point lead, 98-95, midway in the fourth quarter. Then Kevin Durant carried the Nets on his back, firing 11 points down the stretch.

After the game, Durant said he wanted to take Randle one-on-one for the last shot, but Rose who came to double him, scuttled his plan. Luckily for Brooklyn, Johnson was up to the task.

Durant started the game with an ugly 2 for 9 shooting from the floor. He came back with a vengeance in the second half. Durant had 21 points on 7 of 14 shooting, mainly against Randle, who was hit with a crucial technical foul with 1:36 left.

Durant sank the bonus free throw to extend the Nets’ lead to three. After a Randle-Durant back-and-forth, Evan Fournier fired a game-tying triple with 17.7 seconds left off the Knicks’ final timeout. It turned out to be the Knicks’ last stand.

Burks led the Knicks with a new season-high 25 points, eclipsing his 23-point game in his first start in Atlanta two nights ago. Rose dropped a 16-point, 9-assist gem off the bench in his return from sickbay while Quickley added 12 points.

The trio’s production negated James Harden’s 34-point performance that came with 10 rebounds and eight assists.

Harden went 9 for 10 from the line. Durant was a perfect 10 for 10. The Nets took 25 free throws, 13 more than the Knicks, which had New York coach Tom Thibodeau also upset during his postgame interview.

“My thoughts overall, we did a lot of good things. We didn’t close it out. I want to take a look at the film,” Thibodeau said. “There’s a big discrepancy in free throws. I can tell you that. Julius is driving the ball and he gets 2 free throws?”

Even with Randle taking only one-fifth of Harden and Durant’s free throw rate, he still came up with 24 points on 11 of 22 shots.

If there was another silver lining from this loss, it was Randle’s return to his All-NBA form.

Randle flirted with a triple-double as he added nine rebounds, eight assists, and two steals.

With 3:30 left in the second quarter, Randle held the ball at the right elbow. He sized up Durant.

A day earlier, Randle proclaimed Durant is the best player in the league.

“Have you even seen a 7-footer with that skill? He can do anything on the court,” said Randle after Monday’s practice. “No weakness.”

Hyped up in their matchup, Randle poked a hole in Durant’s armor.

Randle took a jab step. And in one quick motion with little hesitation, he lost Durant. Randle attacked the basket with Durant trailing. LaMarcus Aldridge came to help. It was too late.

Randle completed a three-point play off Durant’s foul. He added two more baskets off Durant.

The Knicks held a 61-60 lead at the half after blowing an eight-point lead in the opening quarter.

Randle dominated Durant in the first half. But Durant had the last laugh. And Randle went home fuming.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

3 keys for the Knicks to dismantle strong Nets team

julius randle, james harden, knicks

The New York Knicks are gearing up to take on the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday evening, just a day after announcing they would be starting Alec Burks as the primary point guard moving forward. With Kemba Walker struggling defensively, the Knicks ultimately had to make a big decision to spark the starting unit.

“It’s a tough decision to make,” Thibodeau said after announcing Kemba Walker would be pulled from the rotation, “but you always have to do what you think is best for the team. … I’ve got great respect for who Kemba is as a person, number one, and all that he’s accomplished in this league.”

Walker has struggled considerably this season, especially in the month of November. When he’s not scoring and facilitating, Walker is virtually useless on the floor, given his poor defense. Head coach Tom Thibodeau relies on discipline and aggressive defense to put pressure on opposing teams, but his team has lost their identity early in the year.
The Knicks will look to mount another victory over Brooklyn after taking down the Atlanta Hawks this past weekend.

Three keys for the Knicks to take down a strong Nets team:

1.) Double Kevin Durant

One of the best scorers in NBA history is Kevin Durant, so stopping him is incredibly difficult. Durant is leading Brooklyn with 28.6 points per game over 35.6 minutes. He’s also contributing 5.4 assists and 7.6 rebounds. When you have a player like Durant who is capable of driving to the rim but also knocking down three-point shots at an incredible rate, it makes things a bit more difficult.

Durant is hitting 41.1% of the shots from deep and 54.8% from the field, showcasing one of the best all-around scores in the league currently. The Knicks essentially have to double-team him as much as possible and force the Nets’ other players to win the game for them. Without Nicolas Claxton and Blake Griffin being dropped from the rotation, the Knicks have an advantage on the boards, but they have to guard the perimeter well.

2.) Lockdown defense on the perimeter

The Knicks have done a solid job guarding the perimeter the past few weeks, but Brooklyn ranks 2nd in three-point percentage as a team, landing at 37.5%. However, they are only attempting 34.4 per game, good for 20th in the NBA.

Aggressive defense on the perimeter will force Brooklyn to go inside, where they’ve struggled this year. Hopefully, the team will have Nerlens Noel back, who is questionable for the contest. Mitchell Robinson will have to step up and play solid defense and dominate the defensive rebounds.

3.) Hit open shots

The Knicks can’t let opportunities go to waste against Brooklyn. When they have open shots, they need to be knocking them down consistently, otherwise, it will be a long evening. Against Atlanta, New York hit 37.9% from three-point range and 43.9% from the field, holding the Hawks just 24.3% from deep.

When the Knicks are hitting their open looks from range, they’re an incredibly difficult team to beat, especially when their defense is on point. As stated before, limiting Kevin Durant is virtually impossible, but making life incredibly difficult for him is something they can achieve. Hopefully, the newfound reliance on Burks to operate as the starting point guard will increase their production out of the gates.

GM Sean Marks explains how Nets arrive at the decision on Kyrie Irving’s situation

Brooklyn Nets, Kyrie Irving

The Brooklyn Nets have had enough of the Kyrie Irving questions.

Less than 24 hours after a tough preseason loss to their Eastern Conference rival Philadelphia 76ers that were missing seven players, including Ben Simmons, the Nets officially put to rest Irving’s status with the team.

“Given the evolving nature of the situation and after thorough deliberation, we have decided Kyrie Irving will not play or practice with the team until he is eligible to be a full participant,” Nets general manager Sean Marks said in a statement. “Kyrie has made a personal choice, and we respect his individual right to choose. Currently, the choice restricts his ability to be a full-time member of the team, and we will not permit any member of our team to participate with part-time availability.”

“It is imperative that we continue to build chemistry as a team and remain true to our long-established values of togetherness and sacrifice. Our championship goals for the season have not changed, and to achieve these goals each member of the organization must pull in the same direction. We are excited for the start of the season and look forward to a successful campaign that will make the borough of Brooklyn proud.”

A strongly-worded statement sent a clear message to Irving: get vaccinated or stay away from the team.

Under the current mandate in New York, Irving, if he remains unvaccinated, would be ineligible to play for Brooklyn in their 41 homes games and two road games against the New York Knicks. The Nets don’t want a part-time player.

While Marks said it was a collaborative process involving the players and Irving and his people, he and team governor Joe Tsai ultimately made the tough decision.

“It’s what’s best for the organization at this point in time,” Marks said. “We had everything on the board. We look at everything. When you make a decision like this, it’s one that you don’t want to do hastily. Again involve all the parties. Think about all the variety of outcomes. I think we all know what are our objectives this year and how a decision like this may be able to affect that.”

The Nets made the tough decision of losing a player of Irving’s caliber in a season where they are the overwhelming favorites. Irving’s absence or even his presence on away games makes their title hopes combustible.

The mercurial guard has left the Nets with no choice but to put their foot down.

“Kyrie made it clear that he has a choice in this matter. And it’s ultimately going to be up to him where he [would go from here], what decides. We respect the fact that he has a choice and he can make his own right to choose. And again, what’s best for the organization is the path that we’re taking.”

“Without a doubt, losing a player of Kyrie’s caliber hurts from a talent perspective. No question. I’m not going to deny that but at the end of the day, our focus — our coaches’ focus, our organization’s focus — needs to be on those players that are going to be involved here and participating fully.”

Marks clarified that Irving would only lose out paychecks on their home games. Irving stands to lose roughly $380,000 per game that could reach up to $17 million.

When asked how Irving received the decision, Marks doesn’t want to second guess his star player’s feelings right now. He said he would let Irving and his teammates address the decision in their own words and at the right time.

The Nets general manager hopes that the decision will somehow put the issue to rest, and they move on with the season.

“We have goals and aspirations to go and achieve out there. I don’t think we want to be focused entirely on an individual that is not with the team right now,” Marks said.

Will it be the case? The media won’t stop asking questions about Irving’s whereabouts and updates.

Will Irving finally relent and get the vaccine? Will the Nets trade their superstar guard? These would be the subsequent speculations that will bug the team.

Marks hopes it would not reach a point of no return where he would have to pull the trigger on a trade involving Irving.

“This is pretty raw, pretty fresh. We’ve got to let the dust settle. The hope is we have Kyrie back,” said Marks but with a caveat. “We’ll welcome him back in open arms under a different set of circumstances. So we need to wait and see how that transpires.”

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

BetUS survey reveals Knicks with most die-hard fans, Nets with most bandwagon fans

new york knicks, julius randle

One of the most interesting storylines in the Eastern Conference this season is the battle of New York.

It has been three summers since the Brooklyn Nets had emerged from the shadows of the New York Knicks when they scooped up superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. The Nets have become a title contender overnight after adding James Harden to form a super team in Brooklyn last season. Across the bridge, the Knicks have transformed from a laughingstock into a virtual playoff lock with the hiring of veteran coach Tom Thibodeau.

The gripping battle for the city’s stranglehold will reach fever pitch this season if their paths cross in the playoffs.

The sideline battle could be hotter as a recent survey conducted by BetUS.com revealed that the Knicks have the most die-hard fans while the Nets have the most bandwagon fans. 

The online gambling company’s study had the Knicks (81.9 percent) coming in a close second behind the Boston Celtics (82.7 percent) as the most followed team in the NBA. The Nets rounded up the list of the top 10 most followed teams with the major boost from their superstars, particularly Durant, the third-most followed player in the NBA (behind LeBron James and Stephen Curry), according to the survey.

BetUS came up with their loyalty meta rankings after calculating the weighted average of the following key metrics of fan behavior:

  • Time spent following favorite team as a percentage of total time spent following the NBA (Weight: 50%)
  • Average percentage of team’s games watched per season (Weight: 25%)
  • Percentage of fans who have bought team merchandise (Weight: 5%)
  • Percentage of fans who have bought tickets to a game (Weight: 5%)
  • Percentage of fans who have followed their team on social media (Weight: 5%)
  • Percentage of fans who have a tattoo of their preferred team logo (Weight: 5%)
  • Average dollars spent on merchandise by fans each season (Weight: 5%)

The Knicks’ fans’ long-time loyalty to their team is unmatched. They have the most die-hard fans (63 percent) but the Nets are starting to gain ground with their star power drawing the most bandwagon fans (45 percent).

According to the survey’s metrics, die-hard fans are those who have followed the team for more than five years and more than half of the time spent following the NBA. In contrast, the bandwagon fans are those who have followed the team for less than two years.

 

In addition, more than half of the Nets fans who responded to the survey have only started following the team in 2021. Winning a championship in the next year or two could sustain their ascent as fan favorites.

The good news for the Knicks is that they did not land in the top five among teams with the biggest loss of followers despite a long stretch of incompetence in the last decade.

 

While Irving’s reluctance to get the COVID-19 vaccine is threatening Brooklyn’s title hopes this season, the Nets still have enough star power and a deeper bench this year to mitigate his possible prolonged absence.

On the other hand, the Knicks have reloaded to keep in step, slowly building a serious playoff contender. The addition of four-time All-Star Kemba Walker and France’s best swingman Evan Fournier addressed their weakness that was exposed in the playoffs. A second straight playoff appearance and a deeper run will certainly help their appeal to more NBA fans to counter the mainstream media narrative that they own New York, but the Nets are more popular outside the city.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

NBA GMs pick Brooklyn Nets to win title, Kevin Durant to pick up second MVP

Despite the threat of Kyrie Irving sitting out Brooklyn Nets‘ home games due to his reluctance to get the COVID-19 vaccine, the NBA general managers still overwhelmingly picked them to win this year’s crown.

In the annual NBA GM survey released Tuesday, the Nets received 72 percent of the votes, with the Los Angeles Lakers coming in as a distant second with just 17 percent. Defending champion Milwaukee Bucks got 10 percent votes.

The NBA GMs are bullish on the Nets primarily because of Kevin Durant, who showed no ill effects of the devastating Achilles injury he suffered two years ago. They predict that Durant (37%) will pick up his second regular-season MVP award over Dallas Mavericks’ fast-rising superstar Luka Doncic (34%).

Durant is also the second most popular choice among GMs behind Stephen Curry as the player who forces opposing coaches to make the most adjustments.

Quicker and more agile than most power forwards and taller than perhaps all small forwards, Durant possesses the combination of size, talent, and high basketball IQ that tips the scale for the Nets. The NBA GMs view Durant as the best small forward and the third-best power forward behind Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James.

Durant, who came a couple of inches away from eliminating eventual champion Milwaukee in the playoffs, was the GMs’ top choice as the player they would want to take a shot with the game on the line. He was also ranked third in the most versatile player poll and received votes for the best pure shooter in the league, a recognition that went to Curry.

Even with the looming absence of Irving, the Nets have insurance in James Harden, another MVP caliber guard. Harden was voted as the best shooting guard by the NBA GMs and also collected votes in the best passer poll.

The Nets also made several low-key offseason moves but are expected to have a pronounced impact on their championship aspirations. The addition of veterans Patty Mills and Paul Millsap, plus the return of LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin, gives Brooklyn the depth they never enjoyed last season. Nets’ GM Sean Marks’ efforts received the third most votes for the best overall moves this offseason from his peers.

The Nets are pegged to be the most fun team to watch this upcoming season.

With their Big 3 resting, the Nets were still fun to watch at the start of the preseason with their livewire rookie Cam Thomas leading the way. Last Sunday at the Staples Center, the Nets obliterated the LeBron James and Russell Westbrook-less Lakers, 123-97.

Thomas’ red-hot shooting from the Summer League spilled into the preseason as he finished with 21 points on 50 percent from the floor. The Net’s 27th selection received votes in the poll of the biggest steal at where he was selected in the Draft.

Mills, who is coming off a bronze medal run in the Olympics, was voted as the second-best underrated player acquisition in the offseason. The Australian guard also received votes in the poll of active players who will make the best head coach someday.

Steve Nash landed fourth on the list of coaches who run the best offense while he also received votes for the coach who is the best manager/motivator of people. David Vanterpool, whom the Nets added to Nash’s coaching staff in the offseason, was tied with Scott Brooks as the third-best assistant coach in the league.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Knicks fully vaccinated, take cautious approach on Mitchell Robinson

knicks, mitchell robinson

New York Knicks GM Scott Perry announced Friday that the entire team, including their coaching staff, are fully vaccinated.

It is an important first step for the Knicks as they look forward to building on their surprising playoff run last season.

“This was all internally driven, and a lot of credit goes to our players, our medical staff,” Perry said via News Daily. “It is something that we’ve been on top of really the entire year.”

“They took this thing very seriously and took the responsibility to get that done. So, we’re very proud of that fact, and we’re gonna move forward,” Perry added during a media briefing with team president Leon Rose and head coach Tom Thibodeau.

New York is one of the two NBA markets that require home teams to show proof of vaccination to access indoor dining, fitness, and entertainment and playing venues. San Francisco, where the Golden State Warriors play, is the other market that has the same health and safety protocols.

The Knicks’ announcement came after the Brooklyn Nets said that they have a couple of players who are still unvaccinated. But Nets GM Sean Marks noted that they are expected to meet the NBA and the state requirements before the season starts.

Fox Sports reported Thursday that Kyrie Irving is one of the Nets players who have yet to receive a vaccine. However, Irving was also seen seated courtside at the Staples Center, a section that requires a vaccination pass, earlier this month in a WNBA game.

The vaccination protocol, along with the continued threat of the COVID-19, will again be a swing factor in the upcoming NBA season.

As of Thursday, the NBA said the league is 90 percent vaccinated.

Last season, many playoff teams missed multiple players at one point due to the COVID-19 protocols that put a huge dent in their campaign. Fortunately, the Knicks dodged that, although Derrick Rose and Alec Burks have contracted the virus at different stages of the season.

The Knicks, except for Mitchell Robinson, are ready to plunge into what is expected a competitive training camp starting next week.

Robinson, who put on some serious weight and looked brolic in the offseason, will not be rushed to come back from his broken foot injury though he’s medically cleared. The Knicks are taking a cautious approach after the young center suffered two injuries that required surgeries last season.

“We love Mitchell Robinson and look forward to seeing him play,” said Rose via New York Post.

Rose spoke to the media for the first time since Thibodeau’s introductory presser or exactly after 421 days.

“We’re following what our medical people say and not going to rush it and going step by step,” Thibodeau said via New York Post. “That’s the great value of having Taj [Gibson] and Nerlens Noel. We love the depth at that position. (We’re) excited about season and not going to rush.”

With this development, Nerlens Noel could continue to start with Taj Gibson backing him up as Robinson will be eased back into the rotation.

This will be a critical year for Robinson contract-wise as he will become a restricted free agent if the Knicks don’t extend him. The former second-round pick is eligible to sign a contract extension up to a maximum of four years, $53 million. But the Knicks want to see first how he looks on the court after two serious injuries.

“Mitchell was just starting to take off when he got hurt,’’ Thibodeau added.“This summer, he’s put in a lot of time, conditioning-wise, strength training. He’s a big part of what we’re going to do.”

So the waiting game continues, which the Knicks can afford to do owing to their depth.

Thibodeau and his staff will also have a decision to make on Luca Vildoza whether the team will guarantee his contract on or before opening night.

Vildoza is back in New York after suffering a foot injury during the NBA Summer League, just a week after his Olympic stint.

Thibodeau will have 17 active bodies at his disposal in next week’s training camp, with Robinson not expected to participate in full-court, 5-on-5 drills.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo