The Brooklyn Nets enjoyed a dominant regular season, but the postseason offers a different beast

New York Knicks, Immanuel Quickley

The Brooklyn Nets have been smoking hot this year. Roaring to life this season and setting the league on fire with their explosive superstars, the Nets have flat-out dominated teams with their offensive fortitude and have not slowed down. Despite having one of the most inconsistent starting lineups throughout the season due to injuries, mid-season trades, and personal, off-court circumstances, the Nets still managed to somehow muster a stellar 48-24 record on the season, clinching second overall in the East to secure a big playoff berth.

But what remains to be so impressive about the success of this team is how it has been executed through not only their core big three but also from their various different role-players as well. To see returning superstar Kevin Durant average a deadly stat line of 26.9 ppg, with 6.7 rpg and 5.6 apg in 35 games played, from Kyrie Irving becoming only the 9th player in NBA history to achieve a ‘50/40/90’ shooting performance on the season, to Joe Harris who shot 50.5% from the field and 47.5% from 3-PT range in 69 games, to Jeff Green’s, Bruce Brown’s and Landry Shamet’s ability to do all the little things this team needs on the floor, the Nets found various ways to win throughout the entire season, using just about everyone on their roster to achieve that goal.

However, despite all the success this team has accomplished under first-year head coach Steve Nash, the biggest, lingering obstacle left for the Nets to hurdle, comes down to how they are able to translate their seasonal success into the playoffs. Playoff basketball is gritty and intense, where not only do you face some of the best teams and players in the NBA, but you face them 4-7 games straight per round, home and away. And that level of flawless basketball that teams need to produce in order to win becomes that much harder to execute on a daily basis, especially when up against strong defensive teams who know what to watch for and adjust to after playing their opponent a couple of times in a row.

Although the Nets have great experience and talent all over their team, there are three major factors they will need to surmount if they want a chance to make their first Finals appearance in 18 years. And considering the severity and magnitude of these hurdles, it seems unlikely that the Nets will be able to get past the Eastern Conference Finals and could potentially come up short in the Semifinals. Though the Nets have proven that nothing is impossible, overcoming all of these challenges in the playoffs is simply far too grand and difficult of a feat, even for a team that’s as strong as the Nets. Without further ado, here are the three major concerns the Nets face in the playoffs:

3. Lack Of Chemistry Between Big Three: Though injuries are hard to avoid, lack of chemistry is a presiding reality with the Nets big three that could prove to be very costly during the playoffs. Playing a total of eight games together during the regular season along with two playoff games under their belts so far, Durant, Irving, and James Harden have not played a whole lot together, which has hindered their ability to garner a resilient chemistry level between the three of them. This might not be so problematic for a big three-unit that has a greater role-playing presence than the Nets do. But because the Nets have three mega scorers and ball-possession-oriented superstars, the balance between the need to score and unselfish play amongst each other is vital for them to strengthen and maintain, which doesn’t seem realistic to achieve during such a small window of time. Naturally, this concern will only get better with more playing time together, particularly since starters tend to play significantly bigger minutes during the postseason as well. However, great chemistry is developed with time, and this big three has not gotten much of that. Just take a look at the Miami Heat when they assembled their big three; they played a lot more games together and still came up short in the Finals back in 2011. Same thing with the Cleveland Cavaliers’ big three prior to winning their first championship in 2016; they didn’t win their first title with their big three until a year after they all joined the same team. If none of these epic franchises could muster a title in their first seasons with their respective big threes, it’s hard to envision that being any different with the Nets this season.

2. Poor Defense: Quite frankly, this is debatably the biggest issue for the Nets. Outside of Durant, Harris, Green, Brown, and Nicholas Claxton, the Nets don’t have anyone else who really plays good perimeter or interior defense, and it showed all season. Finishing the year in 21st overall in points allowed with a hefty total of 114.1 per game, the Nets also allowed their opponents to shoot just about 46% from the field and over 35% from the 3-PT line (ESPN). Though DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin do provide decent support inside, playing behind guards like Irving and Harden is a very difficult task, considering how often both guards struggle with keeping their opponents in front of them. Achieving regular-season success with a defense as poor as this is one thing. But when it comes to the playoffs, more or less the Finals, defense is what wins games, and the Nets don’t have much to show for on that front. If they come across teams like the 76ers, the Bucks, and even the Hawks or Knicks, the Nets are going to have to figure out how they not only can outscore their opponents every night but, in the process, will have to do so against some of the best defenses and defensive players in the league. And even for a big three as good as this one, that’s a huge challenge and a lot of pressure to take on every time they step on the court.

1. Tough Eastern Conference Opponents: You would think this wouldn’t be a major concern for the Nets, considering they are the second overall seed in the Eastern Conference. But, believe it or not, the Nets have a handful of opponents that could thwart their run to the Finals. If all goes well against the Celtics, the Nets would be in line to face the winner of the Miami Heat/Milwaukee Bucks series. With Miami down 3-0, it appears that the Nets will be in line to face the Bucks, which is a very concerning matchup. Losing back-to-back games against Milwaukee towards the end of the season, the Bucks have an offense that is debatably just as good as the Nets and was number one in points per game this season (ESPN). In addition, they also have much better defensive players in guys like Giannis Antetokoumpo, Jrue Holiday, P.J. Tucker, Brook Lopez, and Khris Middleton. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. If the Nets manage to get past the Bucks, there’s a very good chance they’ll be in line to face the 76ers, a nightmare matchup for any team. Possessing the deepest, most complete and well-rounded lineup in the NBA, the 76ers simply have it all. From an MVP candidate in Joel Embiid, to a defensive player of the year candidate in Ben Simmons, to then an outstanding two-way threat in Tobias Harris, along with 3-PT snipers in Seth Curry, Danny Green, and Furkan Korkmaz, the Nets really don’t have an answer against this team. If the Knicks or the Hawks perchance make it past the 76ers, the Nets will certainly have better odds to make their first Finals appearance. But even then, both the Hawks and Knicks bring the offensive skill and defensive fortitude to overthrow the Nets, presenting Brooklyn with a difficult finish either way.

In short, there’s a lot that has to go right for the Nets to make it to the Finals this year, more or less win their first title. With a chemistry level that lacks the essence of time and a defensive scheme that desperately needs toughness and better skill both inside and out, the Nets will have a hard time surpassing deeper and stouter teams within their own conference and certainly want to avoid a long series with both the Bucks and the 76ers. If they somehow survive against the Bucks and avoid the 76ers, the Nets potentially have a shot at making a Finals appearance. However, despite all their success this season, the magnitude of these core concerns are far too large and imposing for the Nets to fix during the stretch of the postseason. And an early exit in the playoffs seems inevitable.

Indefinite ban meted on Knicks fan for spitting on Hawks’ star Trae Young

trae young, knicks, hawks

A New York Knicks fan has been banned indefinitely from watching at the Madison Square Garden after he was caught on TV spitting on Atlanta Hawks’ star Trae Young.

The Knicks apologized to Young and the Hawks organization for the unfortunate incident that transpired with 8:34 left in Game 2 on Wednesday night.

“We investigated the matter and determined that this patron, who is not a season ticket holder, did indeed spit on Trae Young, and for that reason, he is now banned from The Garden indefinitely. We apologize to Trae and the entire Atlanta Hawks organization for this fan’s behavior. This was completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated in our venue. We have turned the information over to the appropriate authorities,” the team said in a statement released on Thursday.

Young’s father went to Twitter to call the attention of the league and the Knicks on the incident.

It was the second incident on Wednesday night involving a fan attacking a player. A Philadelphia 76ers fan was also banned indefinitely for throwing popcorn on Russell Westbrook while he was on his way to the locker room.

The NBA immediately released a statement on Thursday to address the two separate incidents.

“The return of more NBA fans to our arenas has brought great excitement and energy to the start of the playoffs, but it is critical that we all show respect for players, officials, and our fellow fans. An enhanced fan code of conduct will be vigorously enforced in order to ensure a safe and respectful environment for all involved,” the league said in a statement.

The NBA Fan Code of Conduct is as follows:

  • Players and fans respect and appreciate each other.
  • Guests will be treated in a professional and courteous manner by all arena and team personnel.
  • Guests will enjoy the basketball experience free from disruptive behavior, including foul or abusive language and obscene gestures.
  • Guests will consume alcoholic beverages in a responsible manner. Intervention with an impaired, intoxicated, or underage guest will be handled in a prompt and safe manner.
  • Guests will sit only in their ticketed seats and show their tickets when requested.
  • Guests who engage in fighting, throwing objects, or attempting to enter the court will be immediately ejected from the arena.
  • Guests will smoke in designated smoking areas only.
  • Obscene or indecent messages on signs or clothing will not be permitted.
  • Guests will comply with requests from arena staff regarding arena operations and emergency response procedures.
  • Guests will comply with all COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
  • List of prohibited items at NBA arenas can be found here.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Why the Knicks were winners at the trade deadline

New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau

The NBA trade deadline officially came and went Thursday, and it certainly did not disappoint as there was a record amount of activity around the league, according to ESPN’s Senior NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski:

Despite all these trades, the New York Knicks stayed relatively quiet during the trade deadline. They were involved in one minor three-team trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Philadelphia 76ers that sent veteran point guard George Hill to Philadelphia. The Knicks parted ways with guard Austin Rivers, who was sent to Oklahoma City, and forward Ignas Brazdeikis, who was sent to Philadelphia, in exchange for guard Terrance Ferguson, 7-foot big man Vincent Poirier, and a pair of second-round picks.

Both players should not make much of an impact with the team and probably will rarely even seen the court barring injuries. It has also been reported by Wojnarowski that the Knicks are planning to waive Poirier, so that means they will have an open roster spot they need to fill.

So, all in all, it was a quiet trade deadline for the Knicks. They were interested in a number of players and even made offers to a few, but in the end, the asking prices were too much, and the front office did not want to ruin the strong chemistry of the current group.

Some Knicks fans are upset the team did not make more moves and felt like this was a missed opportunity to gain assets at the very least. I’m here to tell you why the approach that the team took is not a bad one and why they should be considered winners despite their lack of activity.

What has been one of the biggest reasons for the agony and pain that being a Knicks fan has come with for the better part of the last 20 years? It’s that the Knicks too often get desperate and throw away all their assets for a quick fix that ends up not fixing much of anything. Now, I’m not saying the Knicks were in position to make a move that big during this trade deadline, but apparently, teams were asking a lot for the players the Knicks were interested in acquiring.

The fact that the front office showed discipline and patience and did not rush to make any irrational decisions out of desperation is a huge positive. Who’s to say that the previous regimes would have done the same thing? Because history says otherwise. They were more likely to (over)pay up and sacrifice key parts of the future in order to bring in a guy who they think would take the team to the next level when really it ends up setting the team back. Knicks fans should be thrilled that the team has a front office in place that finally seems to get it.

Another reason to be satisfied with the Knicks’ approach is because of a fact I pointed out earlier, which is that they maintained the chemistry of the current rotation. There is no doubt that this team’s chemistry is at an all-time high, as they play hard, unselfish basketball every game and play for each other. We see the camaraderie and positive relationships that the players have with one another time and time again. It is clear that this group enjoys being around each other, and that is translating to winning basketball being played on the court.

Disrupting that by making a trade to acquire a star player could’ve negatively affected that chemistry in a big way, and it could’ve had real consequences on the court as well. That’s not to say the Knicks are set to win a championship with their current roster, but they are having fun and are very much in the playoff hunt, so why would you want to risk jeopardizing that? This season was supposed to be about establishing a culture and developing the young guys anyway, so continue to focus on that while seeing if you can get into the playoffs, then in the offseason, you can worry about plugging holes and improving the roster.

And finally, I understand the argument that the Knicks did not take advantage of their resources and add enough assets at the deadline. That is true, and it is the one area where I would’ve liked to see them maybe be more involved in, as they could have taken on bad contracts for young players and/or more draft picks. But the fact that they didn’t is not the end of the world. The Knicks did add a pair of second-round picks, which is something, but this wasn’t the only chance they had to add assets.

The Knicks will be entering this offseason with loads of cap space, and as usual, there will be plenty of teams looking to get out of bad contracts. The Knicks will have lots more opportunities to gain assets over the summer if they so choose. Plus, if they brought in a guy before the deadline, once again, they would’ve had to worry about fitting them into the rotation somehow.

This trade deadline may have been disappointing for some Knicks fans who wanted to see a guy like Lonzo Ball in orange and blue, but take a deep breath and focus on the big picture. I wanted Ball too, but he didn’t get traded to any team, so that means he’ll be very much in play this offseason since we know he’s unlikely to re-sign with New Orleans. The Knicks won’t have to give up assets for him either, since he’ll be a restricted free agent.

So relax, my fellow Knicks fans. We finally have a competent front office and a fun and surprisingly good team to root for this season. Let’s ride them out the rest of the way and see if they can make the playoffs. Enjoy it. Cherish it. Take it all in. And then we’ll worry about improving the team over the summer.

Why the Knicks should acquire Eric Bledsoe from the Pelicans

eric bledsoe, new york knicks

I don’t think Eric Bledsoe necessarily makes the Knicks much better. He’s a score-first guard, averaging only 5.1 assists per game, but there’s a caveat with Bledsoe. According to Ian Begley, the Pelicans are willing to attach a first-round pick to move off of his contract, and they have spoken to the Knicks about this. Anytime there’s a big contract that involves getting picks alongside it, the Knicks should be all over it. They have an arsenal of picks and a good team, and Bledsoe, in spite of his struggles this year, is a solid NBA player. He’s not horrible, and the veteran point guard can make the team better while bringing them a first-round pick as well.

Assembling Picks and Assets

The Knicks aren’t going to be able to just throw cash at everyone in hopes someone comes around, they also are going to need assets to make a trade. Look at all the best teams in the league, which one of them has no stars they spent draft capital on to acquire VIA trade? Anthony Davis, James Harden, Paul George, Chris Paul, the list goes on and on. The Knicks need to be ready with picks to deal for a star if they hope to build a championship team of their own. They have Randle and Barrett, but they’re gonna need more than that to win. Eric Bledsoe’s remaining three years are a small price to pay for a pick when you consider the Knicks’ cap space.

Eric Bledsoe Could Be a Player To Buy Low On

In 2020, Bledsoe’s been subpar, no other way around it, but in his prior two seasons, he was a pretty good point guard. His stats from 2018-2019 are pretty encouraging:

57.5% TS%
33.4% 3P%
10.1 RAPTOR WAR per 2,400 Minutes Played
15.5 PPG
+4.7 On-Off

Is he an elite player? No, and that’s why the Pelicans want to sell him with a pick during his rough season. Can he be an improvement over a guy like Elfrid Payton? Yea, he’s not a great shooter, but Payton shoots 25% from 3, so I’ll take the higher percentage on nearly 3 more attempts at point guard (with a similar amount of assists) over Payton. He’s a really solid guard, and he provides better spacing and plays at the position than we have right now.

Biggest Roadblock in the Deal

If you were to acquire Bledsoe, what do you do with Payton? As many people pointed out in my Lonzo Ball article, who’s actually going to take Payton? He has to greenlight any trade, and you have to figure out where you’d play Bledsoe. RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley, and Derrick Rose (when he returns) should keep every minute they have now, so you have to figure out what to do with Elfrid Payton. The Knicks would have to either deal him in this trade and hope Payton greenlights a deal to his former club or try to release him. It’s a tough situation, and it’s what will be a looming question that I’ll admit I can’t answer well.

If the Knicks can figure out the Elfrid Payton ordeal and these talks for Eric Bledsoe continue, I think it’s fair to say the Knicks should 100% pounce on this opportunity and improve as a team for now and for the future.

Deciding the fate of Knicks players on the bubble ahead of the trade deadline

New York Knicks, Austin Rivers

The All-Star weekend is officially in the books as teams are now fully focused on the second half of the NBA season. The New York Knicks are in a really good spot for a change, as they sit at the 5th seed in the East with a record of 19-18.

The fact that they are in the playoff race, let alone a game above .500 this late into the season, is nothing short of remarkable considering the expectations heading into this year. This is a huge testament to the work of head coach Tom Thibodeau and the rest of the coaching staff, as they have this Knicks team playing hard every night and outworking their opponents, especially on the defensive end as they currently rank second in defensive rating at 108.8.

Usually once the trade deadline rolls around Knicks fans are already scrolling through mock drafts and familiarizing themselves with prospects in the upcoming draft. The Knicks themselves are usually trying to sell guys for draft compensation or searching the bargain bin for anyone they can take a chance on.

This year is totally different, as the Knicks will probably look to be buyers over the next few weeks, and as usual, they have been connected to almost every name out there. This also means a number of guys on the team already have been connected to trade rumors as well, so we could possibly see a roster that looks significantly different once the March 25th deadline passes. With that, let’s dive into a few current Knicks who are on the bubble and see if they are likely to remain in orange and blue, or if their time as a Knick could be over rather quick (how did I do, Clyde?):

Four players the New York Knicks could decide on at the March 25 deadline: 

Austin Rivers

I really feel bad for Austin Rivers. I do. He went from being a guy who immediately cemented himself as a vocal leader on the team and had Knicks fans excited, to a guy who fell out of the rotation and hasn’t seen the court in weeks unless it’s garbage time.

That being said, Rivers has been playing very inconsistently for much of the season. He is a hot-and-cold type of player and is a very streaky shooter. It seemed that Rivers was trying to do too much when he was on the court, and he was failing to find the guys around him when they had open looks far too often.

After the Derrick Rose trade, it seemed like the writing was on the wall for Rivers. The second unit has largely performed much better with Rose, and even when Rose was out the last couple of games due to health and safety protocols Rivers still didn’t see any playing time.

Rivers can still be a valuable trade piece because of his experience, veteran presence, and team-friendly contract. There should definitely a few teams who are interested in bringing in a guy like Rivers to bolster their scoring off the bench, including the team coached by his father, who had also shown interest in him during the offseason along with the Knicks. The Knicks might be able to get themselves a second-round pick or two for Rivers if they move him, and it is all but guaranteed at this point that they will do so.

Prediction: Gone

Kevin Knox

Kevin Knox has suffered a similar fate to that of Rivers, as the 2018 ninth overall pick has also fallen out of the rotation and has only seen the court sparingly recently. In just over 15 minutes played he’s averaging only 5 points, 2 rebounds and under 1 assist per game.

Early on in the season Knox showed an improved shooting touch, particularly from behind the three-point line, although Coach Thibodeau must not have liked what he saw from him in other areas of his game and phased him out of the rotation pretty early on.

The Knicks have reportedly been shopping Knox, although they were unwilling to part ways with him in the Rose trade last month. Nevertheless, it’s likely that team president Leon Rose and the rest of the front office were looking to save Knox for a future trade down the line, and I doubt he is untouchable now by any means.

Knox still could provide some value to a team looking to take a chance on a young guy and see if they can try and unlock something that the Knicks were not able to. He could also be an attractive throw-in piece as part of a bigger trade, but no matter what the trade looks like the likelihood is that Knox’s time as a Knick is coming to an end.

Prediction: Gone

Frank Ntilikina

Ah, the beloved French Prince. A man who will forever unite and capture the hearts of Knicks fans across the globe. After his early-season injury and COVID scare, we thought Frank Ntilikina was pretty much done as a Knick as he was forced to the bench alongside Knox and Rivers once he returned. But alas, an opportunity presented itself once injuries struck, and Ntilikina was the one Thibodeau called on to step up to the plate, which shows that he trusts him.

Ntilikina has done a solid job this season overall, especially since he returned to the rotation the last few games before the All-Star break. He hasn’t lit up the scoreboard, but that’s never been his game. He’s shot the ball selectively but more efficiently this season, and he’s continued to affect the game greatly with his suffocating defense. The offense as a whole has also seemed to flow better when he’s on the court, as he’s been able to help move the ball around while doing a good job of getting his teammates involved.

Could this mean that maybe the Knicks won’t trade Frank after all? He is a free agent after this season, and it was thought that the Knicks were looking to move on from him. They could possibly look to trade him and then re-sign him in the offseason. However, the Knicks would lose his Bird Rights, and they might want to see if he continues to improve the rest of the season. He would probably be affordable to re-sign as well, which would be appealing.

This is really a toss-up, it can go either way, but I’m going to lean towards the Knicks holding onto him and the Frank Ntilikina experiment continuing… for now.

Prediction: Stay

Elfrid Payton

We now go from the most beloved Knick to the most criticized Knick. Elfrid Payton seems like a great guy and is a solid player, he just can’t catch a break with Knicks fans. He isn’t a starting point guard, and even though he hasn’t been terrible he hasn’t been great either. He’s been good getting to the basket and even in the mid-range with a strong floater game, but his inability to shoot the ball has limited what the Knicks have been able to do offensively. He’s held his own defensively as well, but he’s been underwhelming getting his teammates involved as he’s averaged a career-low 3.7 assists this season.

Fans have been calling for Derrick Rose to replace Payton as the starting point guard ever since he came on board, but Thibodeau keeps standing by Payton and it doesn’t seem like he’s planning on taking him out of the starting role. That being said, you never know with Thibodeau, and Rose has played well as the starter in the games Payton missed with a hamstring injury.

When you combine that with guards like Ntilikina and rookie phenom Immanuel Quickley coming off the bench, it makes Payton more expendable. Plus, there have been rumblings of Payton drawing some interest from other teams. But, at the end of the day, while it is possible that Payton could moved at the deadline, there has been nothing that gives off the impression that it’s likely to happen.

Prediction: Stay

New York Knicks: RJ Barrett’s offensive versatility is causing problems for opponents

New York Knicks, RJ Barrett

New York Knicks’ former third overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft is emerging as one of the tougher players on the young Roster. RJ Barrett’s ability to distribute and score in a variety of ways is valuable for Tom Thibodeau and the Knicks. Reid Goldsmith, the managing editor for The Knicks Wall, tweets about RJ Barrett’s performance against the Cleveland Cavaliers during a blowout victory inside an empty Madison Square Garden. RJ Barrett’s 24-points was described as “light” by The Knicks Wall in the following tweet.

Some fans are considering RJ Barrett a hero due to his recent play. The 20-year old has improved this season on both ends of the court. Even Tom Thibodeau couldn’t hold back from giving Barrett praise for his solid play. Tom Thibodeau is running the offense through Julius Randle and RJ Barrett. This was anticipated through an article shared on Twitter last July after Tom Thibodeau’s hiring.

Intensity and toughness is what Tom Thibodeau’s teams are all about. Former Duke star Barrett knows all about those characteristics due to being the son of a former international professional basketball player Rowan Barrett Sr. The RJ Barrett and Tom Thibodeau pairing is looking like a very good match. Both have the desire and thirst for winning basketball in New York City.

Overall, the young Knicks roster is on the cusps of becoming a competitive team due to a winning head coach and hard-working personnel. The Knicks already have an identity, as they currently lead the NBA in least points scored against and opponent three-point shooting percentages. The Knicks are still improving on both ends of the court, therefore, the overall upside is still intriguing for not only this year but for the next 2-3 years as well.

Brooklyn Nets: Key observations after 3 games

Brooklyn Nets, Kevin Durant

The Brooklyn Nets may not be undefeated, but after going 2-1 in their first three regular-season games, Nets fans should be extremely excited about what they’ve seen thus far.  The first two games were a breeze. Their game on Sunday night against the Charlotte Hornets? Not so much. Let’s take a closer look at how the Brooklyn Nets have performed this early in the season and what they will need to do moving forward in order to win the East and potentially an NBA title.

The Good

In their first two games against Golden State and Boston, the Nets averaged 124 points while limiting their opponents to less than 100.  We can get into the offense in a minute, but their smothering defense allowed them to pull away in both games. Against Golden State, they held Steph to 7/21 from the field and held the Golden State Warriors to 30% from 3pt land and 37% from the field. The Nets shot 32 free throws compared to the Warriors 23, and the game was over by halftime. All 5 starters were a +20 or more, and the Kyrie (26 points) and KD (22 points) tandem on offense were virtually unstoppable. Caris came in and poured 20 off the bench, and every single player that saw the floor scored, with the exception of Tyler Johnson.

Against Boston, the story was much of the same. While the 1st half was much closer than the Golden State game, the Nets held Boston to just 23 points in the 3rd and 18 points in the 4th before pulling away in the 4th quarter. The Nets’ length on defense made life miserable for Jayson Tatum, who finished 9-22 from the field with 20 points. The only other two Celtics players in double figures were Jaylen Brown with 27 and Marcus Smart with 13. The Nets held the Celtics to 29% from three-point range. On offense, Kyrie and KD continued their dominance, scoring respectively 37 and 29. LeVert was the only other Net in double figures with 10, and Joe Harris finished with 9. The intensity and execution the Nets demonstrated from start to finish prompted an extremely complimentary quote from Marcus Smart, who said:

The Bad

Obviously, as talented as this Nets team is, nobody believed they would go 72-0. It was only a matter of time before they lost a game and truly showed us some of their flaws. Many just didn’t think it would come against the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday night. From the jump, the Nets looked a step behind and lacked the intensity they played within the first two games. The Nets had 19 turnovers compared to the Hornets 12, lost in the rebounding category by 6, and failed to score more than 30 points in any quarter. The Hornets not only out-played the Nets, but they also out-hustled them, too, getting to almost every loose ball and grabbing 13 offensive boards. The Nets were unable to slow down Hayward, who led the Hornets with 28 points going 12-30 from the field, and P.J. Washington was a nightmare on the glass, grabbing 12 rebounds to go along with 14 points. Even Kyrie’s former teammate in Boston, Terry Rozier, finished with 19 points and a highlight-reel slam dunk over Kevin Durant.

Down 16 points in the 4th quarter, Brooklyn showed their resilience by cutting the deficit to just two points with less than 20 seconds remaining. Durant, who finished with 29 points, had a chance to tie the game off a baseline mid-range jumper over Biyombo, but much like the rest of the game, it didn’t go the Nets’ way and rimmed out. Kyrie poured in 25 points and 6 assists but had 4 turnovers as well. Joe Harris, who the Nets have gotten involved in the offense very early on in their first three games, finished with 13 points going 5-12 from the field and 3-7 from the three-point range. Brooklyn’s 2nd unit, led by Caris LeVert, who was a -12 on the court, was extremely disappointing in this one and let the Hornets take a commanding lead early in the 4th. To sum it up nicely, the Nets didn’t show up for this one.

The Unexpected

No professional sports season goes the exact way a team plans it will. Unforeseen events occur, and the coaches/GM/players make adjustments throughout a season. Heck, if you want a good example of this, just look at the NFC East in the NFL! The Brooklyn Nets are no different and are in the midst of seeing several unexpected events play out.

Easily the worst post-game news to come from their game against Charlotte was the loss of Spencer Dinwiddie. After going down in the 3rd quarter, it was announced shortly after the game that Dinwiddie had suffered a partially torn ACL in his right knee, requiring surgery, and he would be out the rest of the season. This is a huge blow for the Nets, as Dinwiddie had started each game this season as the #2 guard next to Kyrie, and it seemed as though he was started to play better in his new role.

With Dinwiddie getting hurt, that led to an opportunity for a Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot or “TLC,” who had been buried on the depth chart and hadn’t even received much time with the second unit. TLC got Dinwiddie’s minutes in the 4th quarter and was fantastic, playing great defense and going 4-4 from the field (3-3 from three-point range) and finishing with 11 points. If anything good could come out of this awful news regarding Dinwiddie’s knee, it is that TLC might be a guy Nash will want to give more minutes to, especially since Taurean Prince and Landry Shamet have both struggled mightily in the first three games.

Overall Summary

What we have learned so far:

-KD and Kyrie are BACK. There is not a better duo in the East than those two. They can each get to wherever they want on the court and complement each other’s games very nicely. On the last play of the Charlotte game, fans saw a Kyrie/KD pick and roll, resulting in KD’s miss to tie the game. That play may become deadly as the two become more familiar playing with one another.

-The Nets 2nd unit isn’t as dominant as we assumed it would be. LeVert has had 2 back-to-back mediocre games and needs to do a better job of leading the team when KD/Kyrie is not on the floor. Taurean Prince has been flat out awful, and Shamet has been disappointing. Jarrett Allen has been the most consistent player in the 2nd unit.

-When the Nets don’t play with urgency and focus on defense, they could be beaten by any team in this league.

-Head Coach Steve Nash has not quite mastered these rotations just yet

What we still don’t know:

-Who will start in Dinwiddie’s place; will it be Caris LeVert? Landry Shamet? Or did TLC earn the chance to start?

-Are the Nets still interested in trading for James Harden?

-Will Deandre Jordan eventually get demoted to the 2nd unit so Jarrett Allen can start?

-Will the Nets begin to rest KD and Kyrie soon to manage their playing time?

The Nets (2-1) play the Memphis Grizzlies (0-2) at home tonight at 7:30 pm EST. Kevin Durant will be sitting out this game.

Thanks for reading this article! Be sure to check out our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for your latest Brooklyn Nets news and listen to the Fireside Nets w/ Spen & Nick podcast!

MLB Analysis: The NBA has burst the “bubble,” will MLB follow suit. A discussion

Jason Collins, Brooklyn Nets

For MLB, the New York Yankees, and all the other baseball teams from coast to coast, the 2021 baseball season holds as many questions as they had as they negotiated the 2020 season. The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association took many lessons from their bubble experiment at Disney World this summer. Still, the most important was a humbling admission: There is no perfect solution to the coronavirus pandemic for an American professional sports league.

They may have learned much, but one thing that will not continue is games in the “bubble.” The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association agreed to start their 2021 season with no bubble. The MLB learned a lot, too; not the least was that by holding the 2020 baseball postseason entirely in the bubble, they prevented an outbreak of the coronavirus and completed the season on time.

The 2020-21 season begins today, December 22, 2020, and runs through March 4, 2021! After leaving the NBA’s “bubble” at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, teams likely anticipated a bit of a layoff between seasons. Early reports indicated the 2020-21 campaign wouldn’t begin before mid-January at the earliest and March at the latest. Due to financial considerations, that start date has been bumped up to today. The first game will be tonight on TNT featuring the Golden State Warriors vs. the New York Nets. There will be no bubble, but there will also be no fans in the stands at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

However, for other games in some parts of the country, a limited number of fans will be allowed in the arenas according to state and city regulations. The NBA and NBAPA have come up with strict health protocols to conduct a safe season. However, the two governing bodies will not make taking the coronavirus vaccine a demand.

Now the question is, will MLB follow the NBA’s lead? With the start of spring training, no decisions have been announced for the 2021 baseball season. The MLB owners and the MLBPA (player union) will have to come together to iron out all these details. After contentious negotiations last year, you can expect the same and maybe even greater conflicts to getting the season going. The owners have already requested a shorter season, one that could lop off the first month of the season, shortening it to as few as 130-135 games. MLBPA director Tony Clark immediately shot that down.

Clark made it clear that the players union is sticking to the CBA that calls for a 162 game season at full pay. The owners feel with so much unknown that it will be difficult to complete a 162 game season after just playing 60 games in 2020. Clark and Meyers reiterated that:

“We’ve seen anonymous quotes attributed to club sources casting doubt on the start date and length of the season, “Bruce Meyer, the MLBPA’s senior director of collective bargaining and legal, said in a statement on Tuesday. “To be clear and ass we’ve made clear to the league, players are planning on showing up on time for spring training and for a full 162-game season as set forth in the collective bargaining agreement and the leagues previously issued schedule.”

So, already disagreements are arising on how long the season will be. But there are a host of other issues to be ironed out. Not the least of which is if the universal DH will be continued, if the man on second base after nine innings, if the three batter rule, and how long the season will be. In recent years the MLB and the MLBPA have had some pretty poor relations. With all the issues to be solved before starting the 2021 baseball season, look for some sparks to fly.

Brooklyn Nets: Breaking down the Nets Final Preseason Win against the Celtics

Brooklyn Nets, Kyrie Irving

If you’re a follower of Brooklyn Nets news, then you have probably seen the video of Kyrie Irving burning sage prior to the Nets’ final preseason game against the Celtics last night. Irving explained after the game, his “smudging” was meant to cleanse the energy in the arena but to0 many Nets fans, it may have had a slightly different meaning; a fresh start. Not since the early 2000s have Nets, fans had a team with this much hype and excitement around them. With a healthy Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, returning key contributors in Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, and Jarrett Allen, and adding Landry Shamet and Jeff Green in the offseason to round out this roster, stakes could not be higher for the Brooklyn Nets as we approach the regular season.

Breaking Down the Nets Final Preseason Game

Kevin Durant Shows Out

While the first preseason game belonged to Kyrie, Durant stole the show against the Celtics last night, scoring 25 points on 9-16 from the field in 27 minutes of action. Whether it was the pull-up three, blowing by his defender for the dunk at the rim, or the un-guardable mid-range shot, Durant showed to everyone last night that he hasn’t lost a step. But elite offense wasn’t the only feature Durant showcased last night; he also led the Nets with 3 blocks, several of them coming at the rim. If this is the Kevin Durant Nets fans will get this season, barring any health setbacks, then there aren’t many teams in the East who can claim their #1 is better than Brooklyn’s.

Kyrie Continues to Lead

There have been several instances throughout the first two pre-season games where Kyrie Irving has shown his leadership among teammates. Yesterday, there were two specific scenarios. One came shortly after a Spencer Dinwiddie drive to the basket, of which there was contact with his defender but no call. This became a reoccurring theme for Dinwiddie throughout the night, as there were not many fouls called on his behalf. After a particularly physical drive, Dinwiddie was visually frustrated on the ground after not receiving the call, and an encouraging Kyrie Irving came over to him to pick him up. Seems subtle and small, but those are the types of actions that good teammates and leaders exhibit on a nightly basis.

The second moment came from Irving leading by example. After the Celtics went on a mini-run midway through the game, Tatum had just finished a sequence in which he had scored 5 straight points and rejected Spencer Dinwiddie on his drive to the rim. With the Nets only leading by 9, the smallest lead since the beginning of the game, Irving demanded the ball with Tatum covering him, immediately took him to the lane, and scored on a beautiful floater. You could feel the Celtics’ momentum vanish as the Nets would go on a scoring run of their own after that moment. These are the types of momentum swings that leaders like Kyrie and KD have to execute in order for the Nets to be dominant. Kyrie finished with 17 pts, 5 assists, and 7 rebs in 28 minutes.

Role Players who Impressed

There were several Nets outside of KD and Kyrie who performed exceptionally last night. Joe Harris had a huge “remember me guys?” moment early on in the game and finished with 14 points. Dinwiddie looked efficient with the starters, despite a 1-7 shooting night, picking his spots on when he should attack and when he should defer to the two stars on the team. And Jarrett Allen continued his excellent play in backing up Deandre Jordan (will return to shortly) with a stat line of 9 pts and 11 rebs. As for the two newcomers in Jeff Green and Landry Shamet, they have given Steve Nash some excellent minutes thus far. Shamet has looked sharp with the 2nd unit and moves well without the ball. Green, playing at the 5, has given the Nets a small-ball lineup with all 5 players on the court capable of hitting a three. TLC gave the Nets 11 solid minutes off the bench and has fought hard this preseason to crack this Nets rotation.

Preseason Summary & Remaining Roster questions

Obviously, the biggest story out of the Nets’ two preseason games has been how great Kyrie and KD have both looked. There needs to be something said about the fact that these guys complement each other’s games very nicely. KD can play with anybody, and Kyrie now feels he has an equal scoring counterpart on his team (sorry, Lebron). The supporting cast has looked exceptional, and Nash has done a great job of mixing and matching rotations in hopes of generating an optimal five players throughout the game. The Nets have dominated their opponents in both preseason games, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t questions about this team headed into the regular season.

For example, who will start at the center position, Deandre Jordan or Jarrett Allen? In two preseason games, Coach Nash has yet to insert Jarrett Allen into the starting lineup. Now, this is where many Nets fans have disagreed with Nash; anyone with eyes can see Allen has the ability to contribute much more than Jordan, both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Unfortunately, the narrative is that because Jordan has a close-knit friendship with KD and Kyrie, he will continue to start over Allen. This is something that may change if the Nets go on a losing skid early on in the season.

Another question Nash will have to answer is who will start alongside Kyrie, Spencer Dinwiddie, or Caris LeVert? Yesterday, we saw Dinwiddie get the start, who seemed to mesh well with Kyrie and KD despite the off shooting night.  LeVert led the 2nd unit and eventually would get some time with KD and Kyrie in the 3rd. While it seemed as though Nash’s strategy worked as LeVert managed to score 18 points in 21 minutes, the Nets are still unsure on who will start and who will come off the bench between the two.

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Grading the New York Knicks draft picks and UDFA signings

New York Knicks, Obi Toppin

With the 2020 NBA Draft finally, in the books, the Knicks had themselves a busy and productive night. After all the trades they made, they came away with two draft picks and one undrafted free agent. I’m going to offer my grades and analysis for each of the three acquisitions.

NBA Draft Round 1 Pick 8: Obi Toppin, PF, Dayton

The Knicks started their draft off with a bang by taking the Consensus First Team All-American and John R. Wooden Award winner in Dayton’s star big man, Obi Toppin.

When they were on the clock, there were a number of intriguing options available. Aside from Toppin, Iowa State guard Tyrese Halliburton, Israeli forward Deni Avdija, and Florida State wing Devin Vassell were all still on the board. The reaction amongst the media and Knicks fans at the selection of Toppin was mixed as usual. I would have preferred Halliburton, but you can’t really criticize the Toppin pick.

Toppin is an electric and explosive player with great athleticism. He is capable of scoring all over the floor and possesses a smooth jump shot as well. He is a human highlight-reel who dominated college basketball last season at Dayton, finishing with a stat line of 20 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.2 blocks per game while shooting 70% from the field and nearly 40% from three. Toppin should become an instant fan-favorite and provides the kind of box-office appeal that can make the Knicks a fun team to watch again.

There certainly are criticisms with Toppin’s game, which is why he fell to the Knicks. He isn’t a very strong defender, although he’s already spoken about how excited he is to work at and improve his defense under Tom Thibodeau. He also is 22 years old, which is pretty old for a rookie, but that hopefully means he’ll need less time to develop and will be ready to make a big impact immediately.

It wasn’t a secret that the Knicks wanted Toppin badly, probably stemming from his CAA connection. They were trying to trade up to draft him, but fortunately, they didn’t have to. Toppin is a very good player who should help this Knicks team on day one. Getting the best player in college basketball last season at number 8 is a steal, and Knicks fans should be happy about the pick.

Grade: A+

NBA Draft RD 1 Pick 25: Immanuel Quickley, G, Kentucky

After originally packaging picks 27 and 38 to move up to pick 23, the Knicks then made a savvy move by trading pick 23 for pick 25 and 33. So they essentially turned picks 27 and 38 into picks 25 and 33. With the 25th pick, the Knicks selected Kentucky sophomore guard Immanuel Quickley.

While this selection may have come to the surprise of some, as most people had Quickley listed as a second-round pick, there’s a lot to like with Quickley.

Arguably the Knicks’ biggest team need was shooting, and Quickley brings that. He was a sniper for John Calipari last season, putting together a solid stat line of 16.1 points, 2 assists, and 4.2 rebounds en route to being named the SEC Player of the Year.

His shooting percentages were phenomenal, as he shot nearly 42% from the field, 43% from three, and 92% from the free-throw line. Quickley also has shown promise on defense, averaging a steal a game. He is limited in other areas of his game, but Quickley’s ability to space the floor and shoot at a high level is a perfect fit for the Knicks and helps fill a big need.

As for those saying the pick is a reach, that might have some truth to it, but how many late first-round picks really pan out in the NBA? Not a very high percentage. Quickley also has a skill set that should translate well to the NBA, and the familiarity is there with the Knicks coaching staff through Knicks assistant coach and former Kentucky associate head coach Kenny Payne. Therefore, considering all those factors, is getting Kentucky’s leading scorer and the SEC Player of the Year with the 25th pick really that much of a reach at all? A solid pick for the Knicks.

Grade: B

UDFA Signing: Myles Powell, G, Seton Hall

After trading pick 33 for a 2023 second-round pick, which was a questionable move, the Knicks were done drafting after the Quickley pick.

Once the draft ended, however, they ended up snagging arguably the top undrafted free agent available in Seton Hall’s star guard Myles Powell.

Powell was one of the most dynamic players in the country over his four years as a Pirate, with this past year being his best. He averaged 21 points, 3 assists, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.2 steals as he lead Seton Hall to a Big East championship. He also won the Big East Player of the Year, was a Consensus First Team All-American, and won the Jerry West Award for the best shooting guard in the country.

Many were surprised to see Powell go undrafted, which might have to do with him being a senior and the fact he is undersized for the shooting guard position, but he is an electric scorer who has a legitimate shot to make the roster. At the very least, he can be the type of player who provides instant offense off the bench for the Knicks. If he can improve his shot selection a bit and strengthen his defense, he has the chance to be a huge steal.

This was a fantastic pick-up by the Knicks, as they grab an experienced, talented player who plays with a chip on his shoulder. Powell also has plenty of familiarity at Madison Square Garden, having played there many times in college. This is the kind of under-the-radar move that can pay off in the long run for the Knicks.

Grade: A

Overall, the Knicks had a very productive draft night, adding two talented players who will help right away and can be foundational pieces going forward. Throw in a dynamic undrafted free agent in Powell, and Knicks fans should be feeling very good about the three players they added to the team. Hopefully, this group can help the Knicks compete for a playoff spot this season and beyond.

Overall grade: A-