Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Knicks vs. Nets Season Opener Officially Cancelled

The Hugh L. Carey Tunnel, previously known as the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel,
is still flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
      On November 1, the Barclays Center will be empty. Last year, the Nets were accustomed to seeing small crowds at home at the Prudential Center in Newark during their last season in New Jersey. However, bad play is not the reason why people won't be in attendance on Thursday. The NBA has decided to postpone the Brooklyn Nets' scheduled home-opener against the New York Knicks at the request of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In a phone interview on Sportscenter earlier today, Nets guard Deron Williams expressed his disappointment that his team would be unable to play against the inner-city rival Knicks, but also addressed the situation at hand. He noted that his house is still without power and that teammate Tyshawn Taylor, a rookie guard raised in Hoboken, New Jersey, is still trapped in his house with family because of high flood levels. This will strike as a disappointment for most New York City basketball fans, but Williams is right, there are other huge dilemmas that need to be taken care of primarily.

      As a resident of New Jersey, I was able to experience the storm that maybe some of the readers didn't. The damage is truly unlike any other storm I've ever been a witness to. My favorite boardwalk in Seaside Heights, notoriously known as the place where MTV's "Jersey Shore" is filmed, is severely damaged. Most boardwalks that stretch from Long Island, New York to Cape May, New Jersey have suffered incredible damage. Atlantic City, New Jersey, known for its casinos and energetic nightlife, is practically underwater. Over two million people in New Jersey lost power at some point during the past 48 hours. I was one of the few lucky ones who didn't lose power. Most of my friends and family who live in different areas of New Jersey have lost power for days and for some, weeks. Transformers have exploded, trees have fallen, power lines have snapped and even been the causes of fires. The water is yet to recede in many locations and people are lining up at gas stations for hours because of the damage Hurricane Sandy instilled and left during Monday and Tuesday. It has been a tough past week for much of the East Coast and I wanted to explain the severity of the storm so people would have an idea of how bad it has really shaken up things in this portion of the country. There have also been several reported casualties in New Jersey, so this storm has proven to be fatal. Sandy is now weakened and classified as a tropical depression, but it has wreaked havoc and most of the damage is probably done. Here's to hoping that the families who suffered losses of lives and possessions and the places that have endured through Sandy will come back stronger than ever in the near future.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Are the Rockets Done Dealing?

James Harden is the newest Rocket, but he might not be the only star headed to Houston.

      Are the Houston Rockets done dealing? In a short answer: No. During Harden's introductory press conference, General Manager Daryl Morey said he viewed Harden as a "foundational player" who he could pair in a flashy backcourt with Jeremy Lin. Morey hopes that this summer's acquisitions could be enough to corral another big-name star in Houston. What other big names could the Rockets possibly go after? Here are a few players I think could be headed to "Space City."

Paul Millsap

Overview: Sure, Millsap isn't a marquee name, but I think building a core of one or two All Stars and players with potential -- similar to what the Denver Nuggets, Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies are doing -- can give a franchise a good shot at having long-term success. One of the reasons why I think Millsap fits in Houston is because he is a solid power forward on both sides of the court. He can score, rebound and play defense well. The Jazz might be more willing to let Millsap go, rather than star center Al Jefferson, because young phenom Derrick Favors is waiting in the wings. Favors's playing time will only escalate in Utah, so the Jazz could ponder offers for Millsap. For Houston, they have a bevy of power forwards, but not one that is a legitimate starter. Patrick Patterson is tabbed as the current starter, but I don't think he's shown enough to take command of his position. The Rockets also have rookies Royce White and Terrence Jones, two hybrid forwards, who could be used as trade bait.

The Deal:
Utah receives Patrick Patterson, Terrence Jones, Greg Smith, Shaun Livingston and a second-round draft pick.
Houston receives Paul Millsap.

Tyreke Evans

Overview: Tyreke Evans may not be a natural small forward, but he and James Harden could become a dynamic duo. Evans is a slasher and creator, meanwhile Harden is a shooter and facilitator. Their games could work well together if they developed good chemistry. The Kings have stated that they don't plan to re-sign Evans before the Halloween deadline, so why shouldn't the Rockets try to swoop in and nab him before he becomes a free agent? Marcus Morris is a hybrid forward and while he didn't perform very well during his rookie season in Houston, reuniting in Sacramento with former Kansas Jayhawk teammate Thomas Robinson could help him out psychologically in the long run.

Could Evans be on the move soon?
The Deal:
Sacramento receives Chandler Parsons, Marcus Morris, Daequan Cook and one future first-round draft pick.
Houston receives Tyreke Evans.

Andrew Bynum

Overview: This is when Houston GM Daryl Morey literally puts all of his eggs into a basket. Any deal for Bynum would probably have to happen after the season, because Philadelphia just acquired the 7" big man and there is probably no shot he would get traded mid-season. For Houston to get Bynum out of Philadelphia, he would have to underperform and have an injury-plagued season in which he couldn't put all the pieces of the puzzle together. Then, Houston would have to try trading several pieces to acquire the All Star center. This deal is a long shot, but because of the bold moves Morey has made this offseason, I wouldn't be suprised to see Bynum in a Rockets jersey next season.

The Deal:
Philadelphia receives Omer Asik, Carlos Delfino, Patrick Patterson, Royce White, Cole Aldrich and future first-round draft picks.
Houston receives Andrew Bynum.

      Is Houston a contender? No. Is Houston a playoff team? Probably not yet. However, Houston is back to relevance and that's something that cannot be overlooked. The Rockets aren't anywhere near where they want to be as an organization, but they should not be slighted by the public. Houston may have overpaid for Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, but they are no joke. General Manager Daryl Morey is determined to make them a playoff contender for the first time since the "Big 3" of Tracy McGrady, Ron Artest and Yao Ming. Watch out NBA fans, the Rockets are set for liftoff.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Winners and Losers of the James Harden Megadeal

Kevin Martin (left) and James Harden (right) are the headline pieces of yesterday's trade.

      In a deal that shocked many circles, reigning Sixth Man of the Year James Harden was traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Houston Rockets. Thunder General Manager Sam Presti seems content about the trade, albeit disappointed that his organization and Harden couldn't reach an agreement on a contract extension. In the blockbuster trade, the Thunder received shooting guard Kevin Martin, rookie guard Jeremy Lamb, two 2013 first-round draft picks and one second-round draft pick. The Rockets picked up Harden, three-point specialist Daequan Cook and big men Cole Aldrich and Lazar Hayward. Here's my edition of Winners and Losers for the James Harden trade...


Kevin Martin: Martin will finally be able to play for a top-flight contender after being dealt to the Thunder. He is a good scorer and has the ability to replicate Harden's scoring averages. Martin isn't quite the finesse passer that Harden is, but he will add firepower to an already dynamic Oklahoma City offense. If Martin can contribute well for the Thunder, he will be in position to receive a considerable contract this summer during free agency.

Oklahoma City Thunder: GM Sam Presti is known for being a decisive front-office leader, but I think he made a good move in this deal. In the short-term, subtracting Harden from the equation will affect the team's chemistry, but Oklahoma City will still be a legitimate contender because of Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Russell Westbrook. Expect this team to still be near the top of the Western Conference at the start of the postseason. In the long-term, this trade benefits the Thunder much more than the Rockets. Martin's contract will allow the Thunder to free up significant money this summer. Jeremy Lamb, their new rookie guard, was a highly touted prospect in the 2012 NBA Draft and has the potential to blossom into a very solid player. The Thunder also received three draft picks -- including two 2013 first-round picks -- that could be used to bring in growing, young players or as trade bait. More and more each day, it looks like the Thunder are starting to build a dynasty.

Cole Aldrich: Aldrich was never a big piece of the puzzle in Oklahoma City, but in Houston he might be able to live up to his first-round potential. He'll have to battle a much wealthier Omer Asik for playing time, but at least Aldrich will be able to see some minutes and possibly carve out his own role as a member of the Rockets.


Houston Rockets: Well, this is interesting. Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey has taken a lot of risks this offseason and this trade only adds fuel to the fast-growing fire. The Rockets will start a backcourt of fan-favorite Jeremy Lin and James "Fear the Beard" Harden. I like Morey's daring behavior, but I don't think he made the most beneficial deal for his team with this trade. I think Harden will produce in Houston, but can he be the first option on a team when in Oklahoma City he was arguably the fourth option? I'm skeptical about Harden being that type of leader. However, his Olympic experience might help him to become a top-flight shooting guard and establish chemistry in the Houston locker room. The other risks Morey has taken is what really makes the Rockets losers in this deal, though. We know Harden can produce -- maybe the max contract he'll receive will be justifiable -- but the backloaded contracts of Lin and Asik will prevent this team from building a true contender. Giving up two draft picks that could have been used as trade bait to acquire All Stars may also hurt this franchise in the future. Can Houston sneak into the playoffs? It's possible, but it hinges on the development of many of their "core" players. It's yet to be seen if this team can be a formidable force in the future, but as of now, this organization is dependent on the growth of their players and it's very rare that everything always works out in the end. That's why I'm tabbing the Rockets as "losers" of this deal.

Kevin Durant: This one hurts Durant emotionally, you better believe that. His team will still be a contender as long as he's prepared, which I think he is, but this is definitely a setback for the superstar's psyche. His tweet about the trade pretty much says it all.

Foot Locker: Guess we won't be seeing ads featuring Westbrook and Harden anymore.

Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place

James Harden: The main player of this trade is now stuck in the middle of things. In Houston, he'll receive the max contract he covets, but have a much, much lower chance of possibly winning a championship this season. I truly don't think Harden wanted to leave Oklahoma City because their team was so interwoven, but at the same time he just wouldn't be able to receive the money he was going to get on the free agent market in Oklahoma City. Because he will be paid like that of a top option in Houston, he will be expected to play like an All Star for the Rockets. Can he do it? Only time will tell.

      Now that the deal is done, do you think the Thunder are still as legitimate contenders as they were before the trade? How do you think this trade affects both teams going forward? Because of this trade, do you think other growing stars like Brandon Jennings or Tyreke Evans are more likely to be dealt before the Halloween deadline? Sound off in the comments section and let me know what you think!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Moves That Could Make the Nets True Contenders

Can Brooklyn's Backcourt lead the Nets to a championship?

      Over the summer, the Nets had easily made the biggest transformation in the NBA and possibly in all of sports. The hype might be overwhelming and predetermined, but to say this team won't be pushing for a playoff spot is borderline disrespectful. Plenty of NBA organizations work hard to position their squad for short and long-term success, but the Nets franchise has been completely overhauled. Despite some poor play during the preseason, Boston Celtics star Kevin Garnett said the Nets will be "a force to be reckoned with" this upcoming season. If a future Hall of Famer says the Nets will be good, then why are fans questioning them? The Nets have moved to a new location, are wearing new jerseys and have added several new pieces including Joe Johnson, C.J. Watson and Andray Blatche. Most importantly, however, they kept their superstar point guard Deron Williams. The reason why most NBA fans aren't ready to respect the Nets is for two reasons: the current Nets roster still needs to become a cohesive unit and out-of-nowhere bandwagon fans are blowing this team up out of proportion. As a longtime Nets fan, I've been content with the moves this franchise has made and the position they are now in. Nets shooting guard Joe Johnson has said continually that he thinks the Nets are a championship-caliber squad. While I adore his confidence in this team, I don't believe the Nets are there just yet. They should be in contention for a playoff spot in the growing Eastern Conference, but because of other very formidable NBA teams like the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls (when healthy with Derrick Rose), I don't think the chances of them reaching the NBA Finals are as likely as some may suggest. However, with a couple tweaks to the roster, this Nets squad could be in a better position to dethrone the Miami Heat come playoff time. Here's some moves that I think could help improve this squad.

Trade Keith Bogans and a conditional second-round draft pick for Jermaine O'Neal

Overview: This move certainly does not push the Nets into "championship contender" but it improves this team if O'Neal could stay healthy. O'Neal has regressed offensively, but that shouldn't be much of a worry with the number of scorers the Nets have on the roster. Even though O'Neal is injury riddled and a shell of his former self, he provides interior defense and a veteran presence in the locker room. Keith Bogans is an above-average defender on the wing, but MarShon Brooks is on a fiery path to gain more playing time. Joe Johnson is a suitable mentor for Brooks and Bogans could be a helpful addition in Phoenix by helping out their new shooting guard, Wesley Johnson. This is a risk-reward move, but I think it would improve the Nets come playoff time.

Trade Mirza Teletovic, Tyshawn Taylor and cash considerations for Ekpe Udoh

Overview: Unless you're an NBA junkie, you've probably never heard of Ekpe Udoh. The Baylor product is a 6'10" big man who averaged 5.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 21 minutes per game for Milwaukee and Golden State last season. However, due to the additions of rookie John Henson and center Samuel Dalembert, it will only get harder for Udoh to earn playing time. He provides a solid interior defensive presence and at 25, is yet to hit his prime. The Nets like Teletovic and Taylor, but at the end of the day, this gives Milwaukee a young point guard who will replace Beno Udrih as Brandon Jennings' backup and a shooter off the bench and Brooklyn receives a growing, young defensive presence behind Kris Humphries.

Trade Reggie Evans, Josh Childress and a future first-round draft pick for Al-Farouq Aminu

Overview: This one is a little radical, I will admit, but it could work out for both the Nets and Hornets. In one respect, Evans could provide the Hornets a tough, veteran mentor for their #1 overall pick Anthony Davis. He wouldn't push Davis for much playing time, but he could help quicken Davis' growth process. A future first-round pick would give the Hornets another asset as they continue to rebuild. So far in his career, Aminu has been a bust -- his performance for the Nigerian team in the Olympics didn't help -- but he's shown flashes of potential. I think some pressure came upon Aminu when he was sent to New Orleans in the blockbuster Chris Paul trade and that could be why he hasn't gotten his game all together. He is a young, suitable forward who would have a good mentor on the Nets in Gerald Wallace. This trade probably wouldn't happen unless Aminu doesn't improve in New Orleans.

Trade Kris Humphries, Keith Bogans, rights to Bojan Bogdanovic and a future first-round draft pick for Anderson Varejao and Daniel Gibson

Overview: Here's where it gets interesting. Varejao has spent his entire career in Cleveland and at 30, is nearing the end of his prime. However, last season he averaged a double-double and was an anchor for the Cavaliers. Daniel "Boobie" Gibson, the self-proclaimed King of Cleveland after LeBron James took his talents to South Beach, hasn't really become the King of Cleveland but is an adequate shooter off the bench who can play both guard positions. The Cavaliers are looking to unload Varejao's contract and get younger players on the roster. Kris Humphries, 27, has averaged a double-double in the past two seasons and is hitting his prime right now. Bogans was a starter two seasons ago in Chicago and although he has regressed, he could become a good mentor for Cleveland's top 2012 NBA draft pick, shooting guard Dion Waiters. During the summer, Cleveland had shown some interest toward Kris Humphries but was unable to land the power forward. Varejao, a stout defender who landed a spot on the 2010 All NBA-Defensive second team, would provide the Nets with a stable anchor down low next to Brook Lopez. This is a deal that would drastically improve the Nets' interior defense and propel the Nets into the higher echelon of NBA teams. Nets general manager Billy King, get this deal done, unless you can...

Trade Kris Humphries to the Hawks, as well as Tornike Shengelia and a future first-round draft pick to the Kings for Hawks forward Josh Smith

Overview: Here's the biggest, blockbuster, possibly most rational trade I can think of and I'll explain. This is a three team trade involving the Nets, Atlanta Hawks and Sacramento Kings. In this deal, the Nets would receive Josh Smith. The Hawks would then receive Kris Humphries, Hamady Ndiaye and Tyreke Evans. The Kings would receive Hawks guard/former Net Anthony Morrow, Nets rookie forward Tornike Shengelia, a Nets future first-round draft pick, a Hawks future second-round draft pick and cash considerations. Here is why the deal makes sense for all three teams. For the Nets, it gives them a hybrid forward who is very good on defense. Smith isn't bulky, but he's quick and agile and can match up well against most power forwards in the NBA. He is infamously known for his mid-range jumper woes, but when attacking the basket, "JSmoove" is one of the most dangerous in the Association. For the Hawks, this provides them with two young assets going forward. There's been conflicting reports about Josh Smith wanting to stay or leave Atlanta, but it has been reported that he is unlikely to sign an extension before this season's end. If Smith reiterates previous trade demands, then it should be in the best interest for general manager Danny Ferry and the Hawks to move him. Getting Humphries, Evans and Ndiaye would be a solid return for Smith. Humphries, as stated before, has been improving each of the past two seasons by averaging a double-double and is hitting his prime right now. Evans, a former Rookie of the Year, has regressed each season in Sacramento, but to be fair, the Kings have had significant turmoil the past couple seasons. Evans hasn't been in an environment where he could really thrive and show his true talents in Sacramento. In Atlanta, Evans can play at shooting guard or small forward and contribute immediately. Surrounded by shooters in John Jenkins, Lou Williams and Kyle Korver, two solid point guards in Jeff Teague and Devin Harris and workhorse big men in Al Horford and Kris Humphries, Evans would be more likely to succeed with the veteran presence and collective talent assembled on a Hawks roster that would push for a playoff spot. For the Kings, it would at least give them some prospects in return. The Kings management has even stated they don't plan on offering Evans an extension. If the Kings don't plan on re-signing Evans, why not trade him and attempt to get a good return? Anthony Morrow is a guard/forward who can shoot from any spot in the building. One of the better three-point shooters in the league, he could start or come off the bench and provide immediate offense. Shengelia is a rookie, but a small forward who will continue to learn how to translate his game to the NBA. The small forward is also a position where the Kings have little depth, so he would be a decent insurance option in case a player suffered an injury. The Kings would also receive two draft picks, one first-round and one second-round, that could be used as trade assets or to pick up young, talented pieces for the future.

      It's a whole new thing for the Nets in Brooklyn, but can they win a championship in three years like their owner Mikhail Prokhorov says they can? Only time will tell. Whatever the result, though, the Nets' first season in Brooklyn will be an exciting one.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Brooklyn Nets Win Inaugural Preseason Game

Brooklyn's Kris Humphries (left) and Joe Johnson (right) during the Nets' first preseason game.

     On a Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, history was made. Atlantic City is widely known for its beautiful beaches and extravagant casinos, but tonight, it was the city that featured the Nets in their first preseason game with the word "Brooklyn" across each of their players' chest. This has been one of the moments Nets coaches, owners and players alike have been waiting for since the summer. Their first preseason game was against an Atlantic Division rival, the Philadelphia 76ers.

      At the start of the game, the Nets came out roaring, outscoring the 76ers 30-17 through the first quarter. Philadelphia retaliated in the second quarter and cut the Nets' halftime lead to seven points. In the third quarter, the Nets responded and took a 15-point lead into the fourth quarter. However, the 76ers fought back and sent the game to overtime. Late in the overtime period, Nets reserve point guard C.J. Watson sunk two free throws in the closing seconds to give the Nets a 108-105 lead, which would turn out to be the final score. Here's some other notes from the game:

- Brook Lopez and C.J. Watson led the Nets in scoring, putting up 19 points each.

- Lopez also led Brooklyn in total rebounds, with nine.

- Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, now known as "Brooklyn's Backcourt," combined for 27 points, nine assists, five rebounds and three steals in tonight's effort.

- Nick Young led the 76ers in scoring, contributing 21 points in the loss. Young made only 5-14 shots, but converted all nine of his free throw attempts.

- Philadelphia guard Evan Turner scored 14 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out three assists while playing a game-high 33 minutes for the 76ers.

- Notable Nets that did not play due to injury include MarShon Brooks and Tyshawn Taylor. Philadelphia's Andrew Bynum was also sidelined because of recent knee surgery.

      The Nets' first preseason game proved to be a success, as well as a good experience for the team's players. The starting five seemed to be comfortable right from the start, which is an assuring sign for Nets fans. Their next game will be the team's debut at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, when they take on the Washington Wizards Monday night. The game will be televised live on the YES Network.