Knicks’ 2OT win over Celtics is ESPN’s most-watched Wednesday NBA opener in 18 years

It’s fun being a Knicks fan these days.

The New York Knicks have solidified their status as one of the must-watch teams in the NBA after opening the new season with an epic double-overtime win over their old rival Boston Celtics.

According to Nielsen, the Knicks-Celtics classic was ESPN’s most-watched Wednesday NBA season-opening game in 18 years.

Evan Fournier’s red-hot shooting, Julius Randle, and Derrick Rose’s clutch plays were enough to withstand Jaylen Brown’s 46-point career night.

Their riveting showdown drew an average of 1.96 million viewers, which peaked at 2.87 million viewers from 10:30-10:45 p.m. ET.

The double-overtime classic drew a 3.5 rating in the New York market, making it the highest-rated national regular-season Knicks game telecast since 2017. The game also delivered a 4.0 rating in the Boston market.

Overall, Wednesday’s telecast, which also included the Denver Nuggets win over Phoenix Suns, became ESPN’s most-watched season-opening doubleheader since 2017. It drew an average of 1.74 million viewers, up 39 percent vs. 2020, up 10 percent vs. 2019, and up 22 percent vs. 2018.

The Knicks’ resurgence buoyed by their surprising, feel-good playoff run last season has inspired the league and its broadcast partners to put them on 22 nationally televised games, including Wednesday’s season opener. It’s the biggest jump by any NBA team in the last two seasons. In 2019, the Knicks only had three games on national TV while they had six during the previous pandemic-condensed season.

The Knicks will also have seven games on NBA TV in addition to their games on ESPN, ABC, and TNT.

Fox Sport’s Colin Cowherd summed up why it’s so easy to root for the Knicks.

“When you watch the New York Knicks play, I find them so redeemable and so easy to root for because they’re winners,” Cowherd said on his Fox Sports’ show The Herd.

The sold-out Madison Square Garden crowd was electric on Wednesday night. The building was rocked to its core after every Obi Toppin slam, Fournier three-pointer, Randle’s go-to move, and Rose’s dagger.

The Knicks’ culture and impression around the league had dramatically shifted when team president Leon Rose and coach Tom Thibodeau took over last year. The players have responded well to Thibodeau’s no non-sense coaching.

Judging by fans’ reactions and the Knicks’ box office appeal on national TV, it’s safe to say that New York basketball is back!

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Knicks: Isaac Okoro’s winning style of play is needed

There’ve been plenty of draft, trade, and free agency rumors circulating the New York Knicks’ franchise these past couple of days. A ton of things could happen on draft night as well as in free agency. The one thing that’s certain is Isaac Okoro’s winning style of play is needed on a young developing New York Knicks roster.

Isaac Okoro emulates his playing style after players like Jaylen Brown, Andre Iguodala, and Kawhi Leonard. Okoro, praises Kawhi Leonard’s approach to the game during a virtual interview with an NBA analyst.

 

Isaac Okoro was interviewed by NBA Draft analyst Mike Schmitz of ESPN. Mike Schmitz is also a contributor to a private scouting and analytics service by the name of DraftExpress. The two completed a virtual ESPN film session comparing Isaac Okoro’s style to other current and former NBA players.

What would Okoro bring to the New York Knicks? 

The intangibles that Okoro brings to the game on a nightly basis was evident during the entire virtual film session. Okoro’s motor, defense, defensive IQ, finishing ability, and Okoro’s underrated playmaking ability showed that there could be a case made for him to potentially end up being the steal of the 2020 NBA Draft. The prospect out of Auburn has tremendous upside and he’s shown time and time again on the basketball court that he’s a bonafide winner during his freshman year at Auburn.

Tom Thibodeau along with the rest of the current Knicks coaching and developmental staff would be an ideal opportunity for Isaac Okoro. The Knicks staff consist of experienced teachers from the Kenny Paynes’ to the Mike Woodsons’ and Johnny Bryants’. Combine the knowledge of the Knicks’ developmental staff along with Isaac Okoro’s desire to play defense and learn the game, and the potential to become a two-way star for years to come is suddenly a strong possibility.

Overall, The New York Knicks are in a position to select a strong defensive-minded young player filled with potential. The question is whether or not a team selecting before the Knicks will reach for the young talented prospect out of Auburn University.

New York Jets RB Le’veon Bell laughs off spot in Top 10 rushers’ poll

Le’veon Bell of the New York Jets appeared in an ESPN poll ranking the league’s top rushers but didn’t appear satisfied with his slot.

An appearance in a top-ten list organized by ESPN would be cause for celebration for many NFL running backs. As Le’veon Bell has proven, however, he’s not like most professional rushers.

The New York Jets starter showed up on the list organized by the network, polling 50 NFL personnel to determine the league’s top rushers. Such a list was bookended by New Yorkers, with Saquon Barkley topping the list and Bell rounding things out. The rankings premiered on ESPN’s morning talk show Get Up!.

Bell was smiling upon learning his spot…but only in the form of sarcastic laughter.

Bell’s reaction was mocked by some, some of whom felt the slot should’ve gone to someone else (Green Bay’s Aaron Jones was a popular proposed substitute). The second-year Jet responded by expressing hope that this season will be played and vowing to right the wrongs of 2019.

Added to the Jets on a four-year, $52.5 million deal last offseason, Bell, 28, ran for only 789 yards last season, his lowest full-season tally since entering the league in 2013. That came after he sat out the entire 2018 season due to a contract dispute with his original employers from Pittsburgh. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler noted that Bell channeled his inner Bart Scott and texted him “can’t wait” after the Jets selected Mekhi Becton in the first round of April’s draft.

The 2020 outlook is a bit brighter for Bell after the Jets upgraded their offensive line. He currently ranks sixth amongst active NFL rushers in career yardage (6,125). The leader of that list, Frank Gore (15,347) joined the Jets as a spell option earlier this offseason.

New York is currently slated to open their season on September 13 at Buffalo.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Brooklyn Nets: Spencer Dinwiddie Tests Positive for COVID-19 a 2nd time, Will Not Travel to Orlando with team

Spencer Dinwiddie, Brooklyn Nets

You ever have one of those days where nothing seems to go your way, and you find yourself asking, how can today possibly get any worse? And then low and behold, something else terrible happens and it immediately gets worse? That has been the last several months for our Brooklyn Nets.

Spencer Dinwiddie, who was hopeful to travel with the Nets to Orlando despite being infected with COVID-19 and showing symptoms, tested positive for a 2nd time on Monday, thus ending any hopes of returning to the hardwood once the season resumes. Dinwiddie updated fans and commended the Nets organization in several tweets earlier on Tuesday afternoon:

Dinwiddie is the 6th player on the Nets roster to have tested positive for COVID-19 since March and the 2nd Net in the last two weeks, as DeAndre Jordan also tested positive for the virus. Unlike Jordan, who immediately stated he would not be playing in Orlando, Dinwiddie’s goal was to rehab as much as he can and see where things stood before the team left to Orlando. Unfortunately, Dinwiddie fell short of his goal and will be watching what’s left of the Nets compete from the comfort of his home. The Brooklyn point guard did leave fans on a positive note by tweeting out the following:

With Dinwiddie officially out, the team has some tough roster decisions to make. Who will start at point guard? Which players will step up and attempt to match the production that was given to the Nets on a nightly basis from Dinwiddie, DeAndre, and Wilson Chandler? As NetsDaily pointed out, here is what the remaining roster looks like for Brooklyn:

It seems as though newcomer Tyler Johnson will get big minutes now, paired with the likes of Chiozza and Temple backing up Caris LeVert and Joe Harris. TLC will also be in that mix. Reserves such as Jeremiah Martin and Dzanan Musa could see an increase in playing time if there is any injury to the guards mentioned previously.

It will be interesting to watch how interim HC Jacque Vaughn handles this new roster and what lineups he decides to use in Orlando. There are several fans out there (myself included) that believe Vaughn is coaching for the Nets HC job next year, which could be a motivating factor for this team to perform well and exceed expectations. The Nets may not be the team they were when the season ended in March, but this team still has some fight left in them.

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Former Net Vince Carter Officially Retires: One of the Greatest Athletes to ever put on an NBA Uniform

Brooklyn Nets, Vince Carter

In the history of the NBA, how many players can say that their career spanned over 4 decades? The answer is only one: Vince Carter. The 8 time All-Star officially retired earlier today on The Ringer’s “Winging It” podcast. The decision did not come as a surprise, as Carter has been hinting at his retirement all season and the Atlanta Hawks were not invited to participate in Orlando when the NBA resumes in late July. You can see his official retirement statement in the tweet below:

Recapping Vince Carter’s Prolific NBA Career

Vince Carter was selected #5 overall in the 1998 draft by the Golden State Warriors, but was instantly traded to the Raptors for his teammate and the #4 pick in the draft, Antawn Jamison. Carter bust onto the scene with Toronto, averaging 18.3 ppg and 5.7 rpg in his rookie season, and quickly became known for his high flying, earth-shattering finishes at the rim. These finishes would usually result in a highlight-reel dunk but occasionally, Carter would opt for the acrobatic layup instead. Carter instantly became one of the most popular players in the league among young fans and garnered the nickname “Air Canada.” He was responsible for one of the greatest Slam Dunk contest performances of all time and also delivered one of the most disrespectful in-game dunks of all time during the 2000 Olympics, both videos can be seen below:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OJMLCF5oK4&w=560&h=315%5D

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_uZeCymShQ&w=560&h=315%5D

In Carter’s second year, his ppg ballooned up to 25.7 and alongside his cousin Tracy McGrady, and the two brought the Raptors to their first ever playoff appearance. After McGrady was dealt in the following season, Carter established himself among the top #2 guards in the league, averaging a career best 27.6 ppg in just his 3rd season. Carter even had a cameo as himself in the movie Like Mike (2002), as the player Calvin Cambridge (main character in Like Mike) had to make a play against in order to send his fictional team, the LA Knights, to the playoffs, despite losing his ability to play basketball “like Michael Jordan.” Like Michael Jordan, Carter had played his college ball at North Carolina, and the two (at their peaks) shared an elite athleticism trait rivaled by few in the NBA. In 2003, Carter gave up his all-star spot so Michael Jordan could play in the final all-star game of his career.

After 6 stellar seasons in Toronto, Carter was traded to the New Jersey Nets in the after 20 games into the 2004 season. The Nets, coming off back to back Finals appearances the two years prior, needed to fill a scoring void after losing Kenyon Martin to the Nuggets, and believed Carter was the man to do so. While the Nets never returned to an NBA Finals with Vince Carter, the combination of Carter/Kidd/Jefferson proved to be a dominant force in the East. VC benefited substantially from Kidd’s play-making ability and the two connected on so many beautiful ally-oops, as seen below:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VRV2MW8XpnA&w=560&h=315%5D

Nets fans fell in love with “Vinsanity” since they had never been witness to such an athletic monster on their team. In other words, Carter was the closest thing to MJ that Nets fans would ever have the privilege of watching. Carter would go on to play 5 seasons with the Nets, averaging 23.6 ppg over that span. The Nets made the playoffs 3 out of the 5 seasons Carter was there, but unfortunately the team fell apart after the 2006-2007 season, as Jason Kidd was traded to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2007-2008 season and Carter was dealt to the Magic in the summer of 2009.

While many believed Carter’s career to be over after his tenure with the Nets, VC continued to defy the odds. Carter was able to be a great complement to Dwight Howard and in two seasons with Orlando, managed to average 16.3 ppg. In the 2009-2010 playoffs, Carter helped the Magic reach the Eastern Conference Finals, before losing 4 games to 2 against the Boston Celtics. It was the only time in Carter’s career he would reach conference finals series.  After his stint in Orlando, Carter would go on to play for 5 more teams, including the Suns, Mavericks, Grizzlies, Kings, and Hawks.

While he never won a championship, he was always viewed as a great teammate and an overall positive contributor to every team he’s ever been a part of. Carter was able to last as long as he did in the NBA due to his ability to adjust his role according to whatever the team he was playing for at that time needed. Even in the last several years, he developed into a great 3 and D player, mixing in the occasional highlight reel dunk/layup. He is no doubt a 1st ballot Hall-of-Famer and will be go down as one of the greatest athletes to ever play the sport of basketball.

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Brooklyn Nets: Tyler Johnson In, Theo Pinson Out

Tyler Johnson, Brooklyn Nets

Late last night, the Brooklyn Nets made one of the first big moves of pre-Orlando free agency by signing veteran Tyler Johnson. The 28-year-old guard, who has played for the Heat and the Suns in his 7 year career, will continue his journey as a key player in the rotation for the Nets. Johnson was having a down year for the Suns before play was suspended, averaging only 5.7 points in limited playing time, but Net’s fans hope he’s able to capture some of the same magic he had early in his career with the Heat.

Nets Have Had their Eye on Tyler Johnson for a While

This isn’t the first time the Nets showed interest in Johnson. Back in 2016, the Nets had put out a $50 million offer sheet for Johnson, that was matched by the Miami Heat. Now a guard has been added to the mix, general manager Sean Marks has a decision to make on Chris Chiozza. Chiozza gave the Nets some great minutes down the stretch as a backup option to Spencer Dinwiddie but is currently a free agent. He is not guaranteed a spot on the roster but many Nets fans feel bringing Chiozza back would be in the team’s best interest, especially with Kyrie Irving sidelined until next season.

With Tyler Johnson coming in, the Nets also decided to permanently waive fan-favorite Theo Pinson. What Pinson lacked in on-court production he made up as a motivator on the bench. Whether it was celebrating big baskets by dancing on the sidelines or constantly hyping up teammates after significant plays, Pinson helped create the culture in Brooklyn that helped propel the team to a playoff run last year and made the team attractive enough for two of the biggest superstars in the league to want to play here. Every great team needs a hype man and Pinson for the last few years was that guy.

Unfortunately in attempting to build a championship roster, Marks has had to make certain sacrifices along the way. In cutting Pinson, allowing David Nwaba (another fan favorite) to sign a two year deal with the Rockets, and trading away the Net’s best player from a year ago in D’Angelo Russell, Marks has shown he’s willing to make the tough decision to take this team to the next level.

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Brooklyn Nets: Kevin Durant Buys 5% Ownership in MLS Team Philadelphia Union

Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets

Kevin Durant is a 2x NBA Champion, 10x NBA All Star, one of the most dangerous scorers of all-time, and now, a part owner of the Philadelphia Union. Durant purchased a 5% ownership stake in the club, with possibility to add another 5% in the future. For those unfamiliar with the Union, they are Philly’s official MLS team.  The Union were added to the MLS in 2010 as an expansion team and plays their home matches at Subaru Park in Chester, Pennsylvania. The club officially announced their partnership with Kevin Durant on Twitter earlier today in a series of several tweets:

Durant also tweeted his excitement to join the Philadelphia Union ownership team.

 

KD has had an interesting (and somewhat scary) last few months. After rehabbing for the majority of the year from his Achilles Tendon injury suffered in last year’s NBA championship, Durant was one of several Nets diagnosed with COVID-19 shortly after the season was suspended in March. Thankfully, KD and the other players infected were able to recover 100% from the virus.

In the last few weeks, many fans and members of the media began speculating whether Durant would return to the court when the NBA resumes play in late July. Durant set the record straight in an https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js“>interview with Marc Spears earlier this month, stating he has no intentions to play basketball until next season.

With Durant’s basketball return set in stone for next season, it seems he has been mainly focusing on building his off-the-court business, and who could blame him? Durant has already acted in the movie “Thunderstruck,” is heavily involved with Thirty Five Media and their show, “The Boardroom,” and has endorsement deals with Nike, Sprint, Gatorade, Panini, General Electric, and 2K Sports. Now that he has added “owner of a professional sports team” to his list of accomplishments, I am sure he is already focusing on his next big off-the-court endeavor.

The NBA Set to Approve Return of 22 Team Format and Finish Regular Season

New York Knicks, Steph Curry

Finally, the announcement basketball fans have been waiting months to hear. The NBA WILL continue the 2019-2020 season. The season will begin on July 31st and the last game of an NBA Finals would be played on October 12th. While insider Shams Charania has noted in a tweet that “there is a lot of work still to be done…still protocols, health and safety measures that need to be addressed,” it seems as though Adam Silver has finally figured out a unique way to bring back the NBA. Check out the full Adrian Wojnarowski tweet below:

The Format of the NBA’s Return

The plan features 22 out of the 30 teams that will be returning for the rest of the season, with 13 teams from the Western Conference and 9 teams from the Eastern Conference. There will be 8 regular season games left for each team and they will all be played in a Orlando. Players will be able to eat at outdoor restaurants and golf in the area as long as they maintain social distancing.

Along with the 16 teams that currently hold playoff berths, 6 additional teams will have a chance to make a desperate push for the playoffs: the New Orleans Pelicans, Washington Wizards, Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings, and San Antonio Spurs. Here is a graphic of every team returning:

The plan is as follows: if the 9th seed is 4 or more games behind the 8th seed, then the 8th seed will retain their spot in the playoffs. If the 9th seed is 3 or fewer games behind the 8th seed, there will be a play-in tournament which will feature single-elimination for 9th and double-elimination for 8th.

The Winners

Teams on the cusp of the playoffs (listed above) will have a legitimate shot to get into the playoffs. There have been many rumors that the NBA would love to see a Zion Williamson vs. Lebron James round 1, which in part, motivated them to create this format. It also encourages a superstar such as Damian Lillard, who has been questioning whether or not he would return to the hardwood if he wasn’t playing for a postseason opportunity, to come back since the Trail Blazers are only 3.5 games behind the 8th place Grizzlies. It gives these teams a glimmer of hope to make a postseason push in 8 games.

The Losers

Unfortunately with this 22 team format, you have a few more losers than winners. The 8 teams (Knicks, Hawks, Timberwolves, Bulls, Warriors, Pistons, Cavaliers, Hornets) that were not invited to return for this season will miss out on valuable time to develop their (for the most part) young rosters and gain momentum leading into next season.

Atlanta Hawks Coach Lloyd Pierce, expressed his disappointment regarding the decision for the NBA to not include all 30 teams back. Pierce, who was recently on The Jump with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, said: “I coach the youngest team in the NBA. And the biggest thing we can benefit from is playing basketball, and the game has been taken away from all of us at this point. If the season is going to resume and we’re still not a part of it, it hurts our growth, it hurts our product, it hurts our ability to continue the momentum that we need going into next season. They need game experience and so we need to play basketball, we want to play basketball.”

The Reality

We have officially entered the “return of professional sports post the COVID-19 outbreak” time period. Will the eventual return of this NBA season be perfect? Absolutely not. This is a learning process for all sports, especially given the restrictions due to the still-ongoing global pandemic. Kudos to the NBA for at least formulating a sufficient plan to give several teams who’s seasons ended prematurely a chance to fight their way into the postseason and satisfying the majority of NBA teams. For those who are upset with this format or prefer the approach the NHL took, with all due respect, go kick rocks. Just be happy we’re getting a finish to what already was shaping up to be a great season.

 

Brooklyn Nets: Sources believe Nets Internally Discussing Trade Options for Bradley Beal

For many weeks, the rumor among Brooklyn Nets fans has been the possibility of the Brooklyn franchise bringing in a 3rd star to accompany Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. On Thursday afternoon, those rumors were confirmed by Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News in the following tweet/article:

Beal has proved to be one of the league’s most efficient scorers, especially in this most recent season without his usual running mate John Wall. Although he was snubbed from the all-star team this year due to the Wizards abysmal record, Beal was averaging a career-best 30.5 ppg on 52% from the field before the season was suspended. From an offensive standpoint, Beal would be an improvement over the young Caris LeVert and create a dynamic trio of professional shot makers in Brooklyn’s starting lineup. As an undersized 2 guard, the only critique on Beal has been his defense. Beal found himself having to defend his play on the defensive end this year after being called out by several in the media as one of the worst defenders in the NBA.

3 Factors to Consider in a Beal to Brooklyn Trade

Obviously there are several variables to consider during these discussions regarding how this trade can happen. For one, would the Washington Wizards be willing to part with Beal? He has said in the past that he would like to retire a Wizard and has a great relationship with the city of Washington D.C. He even gets along great with his co-star John Wall. But with the Wizards struggling mightily in recent years, it seems that this would be the perfect time for the team to acquire assets and get younger. Moving Beal makes sense from the Wizards perspective, assuming they don’t believe they can keep trying to build around John Wall and Bradley Beal to create a championship contender.

Two, how much do the Nets really want to give up for a Beal? Is Sean Marks willing to part with young talents such as Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen? Would Spencer Dinwiddie be involved? How many draft picks would Brooklyn be willing to give up? Sean Marks has to ask himself if he’s willing to mortgage the future of the franchise in order to acquire a player who he believes will get Brooklyn closer to a championship. It’s going to cost the Nets regardless since Beal will be in the 2nd year of a $72 million dollar deal. Hopefully, Marks can find a way to trade for Beal without giving away the farm.

And finally, does Bradley Beal want to play in Brooklyn? As the 1b to Wall’s 1a, Beal will have to accept the “Chris Bosh” role in this potential Big 3 with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the lineup. If Beal is willing to sacrifice some of his offensive production, be the 3rd cog in the system, and improve on defense, he will no doubt be an excellent fit on this team.

It will be extremely interesting to see how this plays out. Marks has been an aggressive GM for Brooklyn thus far and it has paid off. A deal of this magnitude could make or break the next five years for the Brooklyn Nets. Will Marks be willing to make the sacrifice to acquire Beal? Beal is no doubt a great player but does trading for him make Brooklyn a title contender? All I know is there has never been and will never be a professional sports league with more drama than the NBA. That’s why the NBA is often televised on TNT…their tagline is “We Know Drama.”

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Brooklyn Nets: Tyronn Lue Expresses Interest in Coaching the Nets

Brooklyn Nets, Sean Marks

It feels like it’s only a matter of time before the Brooklyn Nets bring in Tyronn Lue for an official interview.  Lue, currently an assistant coach for Doc Rivers and the Los Angeles Clippers, has been in high demand ever since he won a championship with the Cavaliers in 2016. Lue turned down a 3 year, $18M deal to coach Lebron and the Lakers in May last year. Lue has now expressed interest in coaching the Brooklyn Nets and with the team letting Kenny Atkinson go shortly before the season was suspended, it seems as though Lue will be a top candidate for yet another lucrative coaching opportunity.

Multiple Former Nets Endorse Lue as next Brooklyn Head Coach

Lue has received ringing endorsements from former Nets, Richard Jefferson, and Paul Pierce. Jefferson, a member of the Cavaliers championship team Lue coached in 2016, spoke about why he thinks Lue would be a great fit for Brooklyn: “There are so many great young coaches out there who deserve an opportunity. T-Lue, to me, is the No. 1 young coach. He can coach. He can do all that stuff. He has a proven track record. So do I think T-Lue can coach this team? Do I think he can be successful? Yes.” (quote from New York Daily News article by Stefan Bondy)

Jefferson played 17 seasons in the NBA before retiring, his most efficient years being for the Nets, and has become an excellent analyst for Nets games on the YES network pairing wonderfully with Ian Eagle and Sarah Kustok. Jefferson has mentioned in the past he would not be open to coaching currently.

Paul Pierce, who played for Brooklyn in the 2013-2014 season, also gave Lue a glowing recommendation for the position on ESPN’s “The Jump” Tuesday, saying “I think he would be a great fit. Are they going to be a championship-caliber team if you put Ty Lue in there and add (Kevin Durant) with Kyrie Irving? Yes. Can they do it? We have yet to see. Or it has yet to happen. But a great fit all across the board, I believe.”

It’s interesting to see former players giving Lue the nod to be the next Brooklyn HC. Many fans (myself included) believe Lue’s success in Cleveland was attributed to the stellar play of Lebron James and Kyrie Irving, more so than it was his coaching savvy. One can make the argument when you’re the coach of a Top 3 player of all time, success should come often and easily.

Nevertheless, Lue has had success with Kyrie Irving in the past. He will have to mesh well with Durant as well, which should be an easy task given Durant’s style of play and reputation as a “coach-able” player. If Lue becomes the Nets HC, he will have his work cut out for him in an Eastern Conference that has drastically improved in the last several years.

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