Tag Archives: New Jersey Nets

2013 All-Star Profiles: Brook Lopez

Photo by Doug88888 via Flickr

Photo by Doug88888 via Flickr

It’s amazing what desperation can do to a person. It drove me into the giant arms of Brook Lopez. Figuratively, I mean — I’m not sure that Brook would have me, given my seething neutrality with regard to comic books, though that’s really neither here nor there.

After 20-plus years in various desert climates ranging in population density from “sardine can” to “ant farm in a big top circus tent,” I made the cross-country trek to upstate New York in December of 2010. Without a job lined up and few earthly possessions other than my laptop and bed, League Pass wasn’t really an option upon arrival. When it came to my basketball fix, the choice between grainy illicit feeds of Suns games on a 10.5″ netbook, pre-Carmelo Knicks or Nets games voiced by the golden god himself, Ian Eagle was obvious. The Nets would get the majority of my attention, if for no other reason to hear Eagle call a game.

And other than Eagle and a rotating crew of announcers with whom he had a chameleon’s sense of chemistry, The Artists Formerly Known As Phantoms Of Prudential Center didn’t really offer much. The 2010-11 Nets won just 24 games, and quite a few of those victories came by the skin of Avery Johnson’s vocal cords. More than 10% of New Jersey’s games that year went to overtime. Often when a bad team offers up the gift of free basketball, fans are quick to smack the platter right out of their hand. With those Nets, though, the disharmonious collective of the first 47 minutes gave way to a beautiful, elegant simplicity in the waning moments of a close contest.

Give the ball to Brook. Let him create in the post, be it via drawing a double team or winning a one-on-one matchup with a pure hookshot or turnaround jumper. For two or three possessions in this specific setting, Brook channeled his inner Patrick Ewing and went to work where the wild things are. It was pure old school basketball — not for the sake of itself, but to maximize the chance of victory. Brook Lopez was the best option, even if only by default, a garnet in the rough in a toxic landfill.

Yet he wasn’t an All-Star. He wasn’t capable of consistently finding that beast within, of being the throwback to a time of dominant big men around whom entire galactic basketball systems revolved. First of all, Brook wasn’t (and isn’t) nearly the defender the gentlemen of yesteryear were. The more repugnant flaw, according to most, was his sudden inability to grab a damned rebound. While Lopez posted above average pace- and minutes-adjusted rebounding numbers his rookie season (9.6 board/36 minutes, 15.8% total rebound percentage) and continued to be solid on the glass in his second year, that 2010-11 season represented a significant drop in his rebounding, largely due to a bout 0f mononucleosis during the summer before. Regardless of the cause, his offensive capabilities weren’t enough to bolster his weaknesses on the defensive end, including those rebounding woes. Lopez became a punchline, a 7-footer who couldn’t grab a missed shot to save his twin brother’s life. He might have been Patrick Ewing for 30 seconds at a time, but for the other 29.5 minutes he played per game in ’10-11, he was more likely to summon the spirit of an earthbound Spud Webb who couldn’t dribble.

After a lost season due to injury and lockout, those problems are gone. The Brookie Monster (h/t @uuords) is feasting on chocolate chip caroms at the best rate since his inaugural tour. He looks fully energized and active in his pursuit of rebounds, instead of simply planting himself in one spot and hoping that the ball will find its way there. A first time selection to the All-Star team coincides with the best year of his career by far — Lopez is 5th in the league in PER.*

*PER is a stat with its flaws, as many love to point out incessantly like students with a dyslexic English teacher who gives extra credit for correcting the things he writes on the chalkboard. It seems strangely perfect for measuring Brook Lopez, though.

The player who was once his team’s lone bright spot has fortified the most glaring weakness in his game and turned it into a strength. Whether or not he can maintain this rate remains to be seen; for now, though, Brook Lopez is scoring, rebounding and even occasionally defending like an All-Star. He’s a better player, and his team is better for it.

Correlation Between NetRtg and Quarter

What quarter deserves the most attention when trying to draw a link between NetRtg (points scored per 100 possessions minus points allowed per 100 possessions) and winning? What does it take to be number one?

In each season, beginning with the 2007-2008 campaign, the most linked quarterly Rtg (offensive or defensive) was the first quarter. A poor DefRtg in the first 12 minutes resulted in the highest Loss Correlation in each of the past five seasons.

Also, fans like to obsess over the fourth quarter scoring (How often have you heard, “Kobe is the most clutch player of all time” or early in his career “LeBron freezes up down the stretch and couldn’t finish a game is his life depended on it”?), but is that really all that important? The average Win Correlation for OffRtg (how directly tied the game result is to the number of points scored per 100 possessions) is lower in the fourth quarter than the average of quarters one through three in every single season since 2007. This stat indicates that the offensive efficiency prior to the fourth quarter is consistently more crucial to winning that what a team does in the final 12 minutes.

In fact, if you’re still going to look at the fourth quarter as the most crucial of quarters, you’re better off looking at the defensive efficiency. In three of the five seasons studied, the average Loss Correlation for DefRtg was higher in the fourth quarter than the average of the first three quarters three times.

When analyzing the data from the past five seasons, it becomes obvious that games are won in the early going, as opposed to the final few minutes. Success is ultimately determined by victories and the wins leader (Lakers with 277) has the greatest cumulative first quarter NetRtg (48.2) over the last five seasons. Coincidence? I think not.

The total number of wins by the quarterly NetRtg leader decreases as you progress through the game. But this trend isn’t only true for the elite teams, it holds true for the NBA as a whole. The top 17 teams in terms of wins over the last five seasons are the exact same 17 teams that lead the way in cumulative first quarter NetRtg. Here is a look at how each team stacked up in total wins and cumulative NetRtg by quarter since 2007.

Win Chart

 

Top 10

 

Middle 10

 

Bottom 10

Further disproving the myth of fourth quarter efficiency and its overall importance is the overall trend of the top teams in NetRtg and the bottom teams in NetRtg . Now, one must acknowledge the fact that blowouts do play a role in the late game data and not the early game stats, but with five years of games (394 games per team), the vast majority of games are competitive throughout. Even during a game which has for all intensive purposes been decided with considerable time left on the clock, both teams will turn to their reserves, thus not skewing the data a whole lot. Take a glance at the trend of the best team/worst team in terms of cumulative NetRtg by quarter.

First Place

NetRtg Last Place

As you can see, the worst team in the league (in terms of cumulative NetRtg) improves as the game progresses while the best team gets worse. The gap from the best team to the worst team shrinks from 94.5 in the first quarter to 59.4 in the fourth stanza, a 37.1% drop off.

With all of this data surrounding the fact that the best team excels early in the game, it would only follow that the best player in the world would be associated with a similar trend. Since 2008-2009, no player has won more games than LeBron James (231) and his teams have dominated in the first quarter. In the last four seasons, James’ team has had a first quarter cumulative NetRtg of 47.5, far and away tops in the league. While his fourth quarter efficiency is still very good (27.2) in those seasons, that represents a 42.7% downward trend.

 LeBron James Pie

 If your gut feeling is to blame that disparity on James’ slow developing “clutch gene”, consider that Kobe Bryant’s Lakers (the most successful franchise over the last five seasons) have seen their cumulative NetRtg drop by 72% from the first to the fourth quarter.

Kobe Bryant Pie

 What could this trend of production early in games tell us about the future?

Since the 2007-2008 season the East has gradually improved and finally overtook the West as the better conference when it comes to playoff teams. The 2007-2008 Eastern Conference playoff teams (Celtics, Pistons, Magic, Cavs, Wizards, Raptors, 76ers, Hawks) had an average NetRtg of 3.2, with four teams logging a negative NetRtg. It was a top heavy conference, as the top three seeds had the highest NetRtg’s in the NBA. The Western Conference, however, had the next eight highest NetRtg totals from its playoff teams (Lakers, Hornets, Spurs, Jazz, Rockets, Suns, Mavs, Nuggets) and averaged a far superior 5.84 NetRtg.

Since that point in time, however, the Eastern playoff teams have cut into that gap until finally passing their Western counterparts last season. Despite a minor regression in 2009-2010, the East teams have gained ground on the West in average NetRtg (trailed by 2.64 in 2007-2008, by 0.68 in 2008-2009, 0.87 in 2009-2010, by 0.37 in 2010-2011) before finally breaking through with a higher NetRtg by 1.24 last season. Instead of being a top heavy conference, the East boasted five of the top seven playoff teams in total NetRtg.

Production in the first half of games appears to be directly correlated with this changing of the guard. In 2007-2008, the Western Conference playoff teams averaged a NetRtg of 12.3 in the first half of games, a number that was 40.2% greater than the Eastern Conference playoff teams. The East gradually chipped away at that difference by cutting the disparity to 16.2% the next season and 2.8% in 2009-2010. The East broke through last season, as their NetRtg was 13.9% greater than that of the West. They were able to make these strides specifically due to their strong play in the second quarter. Back in 2007-2008, the average Western Conference playoff team had a NetRtg that was 3.1 points better than the Eastern teams in the second quarter alone. Fast forward to the 2011-2012 season, and the Eastern teams had a NetRtg 1.69 points higher than the West.

Since the 2007-2008 season, the Eastern Conference has won 14 games (five seasons) in the Finals. They had won only 17 since the Michael Jordan era (nine seasons) ended in 1997-1998. The bottom feeders in the East are as bad as ever, but are we seeing a changing of the guard at the top of these conferences?

The Lowdown: Buck Williams

“Desire is the key to rebounding; you have to want that ball,” says Williams. “Good anticipation – knowing where the ball will go- also is important.” Williams relishes the hard-nosed aspect of the pro game. “The physical play in the pros gives you a chance to play without the nitpicking fouls you see in college.,” he says. “It lets you see who’s a man out there.”

- via “Buck Williams: Nets’ rising star”, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Years Active: 1982 – 1998

Regular Season Stats: 1307 games, 32.5 mpg, 12.8 ppg, 10 rpg, 1.3 apg, 0.8 bpg, 0.8 spg, 54.9% FG, 66.4% FT

Postseason Stats: 108 games, 34.4 mpg, 11.2 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.6 bpg, 0.8 spg, 52% FG, 67.2% FT

Accolades: 1982 Rookie of the Year, All-Rookie 1st Team (1982), All-NBA 2nd Team (1982), 2x All-Defensive 1st Team (1990-91), 2x All-Defensive 2nd Team (1988, ’92), 3x All-Star (1982-83, ’86)

At 6-feet-8-inches tall and 215 pounds, Charles Linwood Williams was certainly not the most imposing figure on a basketball court at first glance. However, don’t let the slender frame fool you. When “Buck” stepped on the court, suddenly his agility would present itself. His determination and rough style would throw you off. And he may have been just 215 lbs at the power forward spot, but fight with him for position in the post or for a rebound and you’d quickly determine that all of that weight was composed of muscle.

For 17 years Williams played in the NBA and for 14 of them (1982 to 1995) he was as solid and dependable a PF you could ask for. He appeared in all but 26 games in this span. For the 1st half of this reign of dependable front court terror, he was the star anchor of the New Jersey Nets. The sometimes woeful, the sometimes surprisingly good New Jersey Nets. For the last half of it, he was the final piece of the Trail Blazer puzzle that propelled Portland from team-of-the-future to legitimate championship contender.

Buck’s NBA journey began in the 1981 draft. The top two picks were Mark Aguirre  by Dallas and Isiah Thomas by Detroit.  Next the New Jersey Nets chose Buck with the 3rd overall pick. Other notable players in that excellent draft class included Rolando Blackman, Tom Chambers, Larry Nance and Danny Ainge. Williams outplayed them all for the Rookie of the Year award. His 15.5 points and 12 rebounds a game helped propel the Nets from 24 wins in the 1980-81 season to 44 his rookie campaign. Williams was selected as an all-star that season and although the Nets succumbed to the Bullets in a 1st-round sweep, it had nonetheless been the 1st winning-season for the franchise since they moved from the ABA to the NBA in 1976.

This immediate, but qualified, success was the routine for the early Nets years of Williams’s career as New Jersey made the playoffs five straight seasons. This is something the franchise wouldn’t repeat until two decades later when Jason Kidd moseyed into the Garden State. It was the dynamic play of Micheal Ray Richardson, Otis Birdsong, Mike Gminski and Williams that turned the also-ran New Jersey nets into a perennial playoff club.

But, again, the success was qualified. The true heights of the club were never truly realized thanks to two events. First was Larry Brown’s sudden and abrupt departure right before the 1983 postseason which left the 49-win Nets in chaos. As we all now know, this would not be the last  spur of the moment departure for Brown. Secondly was Richardson’s battles with drugs that robbed Williams of a true co-star.

Still, these Nets provided the memorable dethronement and ouster of the defending-champion Philadelphia 76ers 3-games-to-2 in the opening round of the 1984 playoffs. In the decisive game 5, New Jersey won by 3 points with Williams contributing his typical, workman-like stat line of 17 points and 16 rebounds. The upstart Nets met their end in the next round against the Milwaukee Bucks and there began the inexorable decline.

Two more postseasons followed, but both were sweeps. Williams valiantly averaged 23 points, 11 rebounds and 68% (!!!) shooting from the field in these demoralizing defeats. Then the Nets’ ship officially capsized in 1987 as they finished with 24 wins. In 1988 it was 19 wins. Things “improved” in 1989 with 26 wins. Williams was now turning 30 and with his most prodigious years behind him, he received welcomed news of a trade to a contender. He’d go from coast-to-coast and to the cusp of being a champion.

oregonianphoto (flickr)

Buck Williams would spend 7 seasons as a Portland Trail Blazer and in a strange parallel with his arrival in New Jersey, Buck’s arrival in Portland catapulted the Blazers to a 20-win improvement in the 1989-90 season. The Blazers were a 59-win juggernaut that season, a 63-win behemoth the next year and 57-win leviathan in 1992. Although they fell short both times, twice the Blazers reached the NBA Finals in this span while the other year they merely made it to the Western Conference Finals. Watching Williams tangle with Dennis Rodman and Horace Grant is just a whole lot of nasty  both ways.

In my opinion, this squad of Clyde Drexler, Terry Porter, Jerome Kersey, Kevin Duckworth, Clifford Robinson and Williams goes down as the one of the great teams to never win a title. This three-year stretch would be the pinnacle of Buck’s membership with superb teams, but the Blazers did win at least 44 games and make the playoffs every season he was in Oregon . No more all-star games were in the cards for Williams but he did secure 3 All-Defensive Team selections in the early 1990s.

Off the court, Buck was also proving to be one of the more nuanced and thoughtful individuals about topics beyond what went occurred on the court. In an interview in 1991 with Sports Illustrated, Williams expressed his gratitude for men like Willis Reed, Clyde Frazier and Hank Aaron as examples of African-Americans who were steadily moving up the hierarchy of professional sports and paved the way for him. Additionally, he believed he was charged with the same duty of paving the way for future generations.

Later in the interview Williams highlights a particularly surprising, initially, choice for an idol in boxer Jack Johnson:

A lot of black athletes feel that if they speak out, their shoulders had better be strong enough to carry the burden. I idolize Jack Johnson. I talk about him all the time, because he was the first black heavyweight champ. And what I like most about him is the fact that he was his own man. He was not going to let anyone tell him what his place was in society. Anyone who speaks up today is labeled. People say you have an “attitude.” Players today are afraid to get that label. A lot of them say things in the locker room that they would never, ever say publicly.

 

True to this spirit, Williams served as the president of the NBA Players Association in the mid-1990s and after his playing career finished up with two seasons as a Knick, he has gone into the construction business while raising money for various charities. One of the more selfless but demanding teammates in the NBA’s history Williams is certainly continuing that attitude off the court.

But don’t forget how dominating he was on the court. Williams is surpassed only by Julius Erving and Jason Kidd in terms of true on-court stature in Nets history. He is currently that franchise’s all-time leader in games played, minutes played, field goals made and attempted, free throws made and attempted, offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, total rebounds, points, and win shares. His mark on the Trail Blazers isn’t as markedly, immediately pronounced, but it is certainly there. He ranks in the top 5 in defensive, offensive and total rebounds, field goal percentage, and win shares while sitting in the top 10 in games and minutes played.

And if all this still leaves you unimpressed. Well, how about this: Williams is one of only 13 players in NBA history to rack up over 13,000 points and 13,000 rebounds.

Still not impressed? Then just dig the goggles, baby…

hoopedia

The Lowdown: Swen Nater

via nba.com/clippers

“I was going to America to be a cowboy,” [Nater] recalled. “I wanted to be just like Roy Rogers. I thought everybody in the U.S. was a cowboy. I went from an orphanage to a Beverly Hills hotel in 22 hours. I had room service. I didn’t see any cowboys, though.”

Via “Where Are They Now? Swen Nater, former college and NBA center” by Dan Raley

Years Active: 1974 – 1984

Career Stats: 12.4 ppg, 11.6 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.6 bpg, 0.5 spg,, 53.5% FG, 74.8% FT

Accolades: 1974 ABA Rookie of the Year, 2x All-ABA 2nd Team (1974-75), 1974 ABA Rookie 1st Team, 2x ABA All-Star (1974-75); 1975 ABA RPG Leader, 1980 NBA RPG Leader, 3rd All-Time in RB%

The journey of center Swen Nater to professional basketball is unlike any other. Born in the Netherlands, his mother departed Holland for the United States when he was 3-years old with Swen’s stepfather and one son. Swen, along with a sister, was left behind at an orphanage, waiting for the day their parents saved enough money to send for them. 6 years passed until finally an American television show, It Could Be You, organized the reunion of the Nater family.

Despite no knowledge of English when he arrived in the U.S. and not picking up basketball until his teens, Nater made his way onto the UCLA Bruins basketball team. Again, though, he had to wait. His two years at UCLA were spent backing up All-American Bill Walton. “Back up” is used as loosely as Nater was used sparingly. He averaged 2 minutes a game. However, Bill Walton acknowledged the value of battling Nater in practice to UCLA winning its titles:

“Swen is the best center I’ve played against all year.”

The praise heaped on Nater by Walton and Coach John Wooden encouraged the Milwaukee Bucks to select Nater 14th overall in the 1973 NBA draft making him the first player ever taken in the 1st round who’d never started a college basketball game. Except there was one problem for Nater. Milwaukee had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and would undoubtedly use Nater as a backup or trade bait. Swen, while appreciative and happy with his time as Walton’s backup, was ready to showcase what he could do and wasn’t excited about being dangled about for a trade, either. Instead of signing with Milwaukee, he opted for the Virginia Squires who held his ABA rights.

His tenure in Virginia lasted only 17 games before the cash-strapped Squires sold him to the San Antonio Spurs. Finally finding stability and a healthy amount of playing time, Swen blossomed into a rebounding terror and one of the finest ABA centers. By season’s end he averaged 14 points and 12.5 rebounds while leading the ABA in field goal percentage (55%). The ultimate showcase for Nater  that season was the All-Star game in Norfolk where he uncorked 29 points and 22 rebounds.

Surprisingly, Artis Gilmore (18 pts, 14 rebs) took home the MVP award for the game. Nater however ran away with the Rookie of the Year award for 1973-74 while also making the All-Rookie 1st Team and All-ABA 2nd Team. For Swen, the whirlwind of success and recognition was refreshing, “like taking a chain off.”

Nater gave an encore performance in 1974-75. His scoring inched up to 15 while his rebounding surged to a career high 16.4, good enough to lead the ABA, and his FG% held at .540. Again he made the All-Star team and All-ABA 2nd Team. Curiously, the Spurs were about to send Nater back into the wilderness.

Suffering early playoff exits in both of Swen’s seasons, the Spurs in the summer of 1975 traded Nater to the New York Nets for Billy Paultz. Battling nagging injuries, Nater struggled with the Nets and midway through the 1975-76 season he was traded back to the Virginia Squires. His stay there lasted only through the end of that season as the Squires folded and the ABA merged with the NBA. Feeling back at full-strength, Nater finally signed with the Milwaukee Bucks, but would have to battle Elmore Smith for minutes. A battle he initially lost.

However, Smith went down with injury temporarily during the early part of the ’76-77 season and Nater made the most of it, delivering one of the more astounding single game performances of the 70s.  In mid-December, the Bucks took on the Hawks and demolished them 129-106 behind a breathtaking 30 point-33 rebound effort by Swen. Since Swen, only Moses Malone (2x), Robert Parish, Kevin Love and Kareem have achieved 30 points and 30 rebounds in a single game. Nater was unperturbed during the Bucks subsequent match against the Nets where he had 17 points and 17 rebounds:

“Rebounding is what I’m supposed to do and this was just one of those nights.”

The upper-hand had been gained by Swen and Elmore Smith would be traded later in the season, but Nater himself lasted in Milwaukee barely into the summer of ’77. Having secured the 1st overall pick in the draft, the Bucks were thrilled to select center Kent Benson and had no need, so they thought, for Nater. The veteran center was traded to the Buffalo Braves. for a 1st round pick. Luckily for the Bucks, the Braves’ first rounder turned out to be Marques Johnson, otherwise it would have been a complete disaster. Benson was lackluster and gone in 1.5 seasons.

Nater meanwhile completely regained his San Antonio form with the Buffalo Braves/San Diego Clippers franchise during the next four seasons, culminating, somewhat ironically, in 1979-80. Ironically because the Clippers had signed Nater’s old Bruin teammate Bill Walton. It appeared that Swen would either be traded to Portland as compensation or a repeat of the UCLA days was in order with Nater as Walton’s backup. Swen didn’t sound too excited about these prospects:

“I’ll probably get depressed for over a month… This compensation stuff is a lot worse than being traded,” he said. “What they’re saying, really, is ‘Here’s Bill Walton and you’re one-fourth of him. You’re one of the four players to go for him.’ I think it’s degrading.”

His worries were for naught. He wasn’t shipped to Portland and Walton’s notorious foot problems limited him to only 14 games that year and forced him out entirely for the 1980-81 and ’81-82 seasons. Had Walton been around Swen surely wouldn’t have produced his 13.5 point and 15 rebound averages that year. His rebounds were good enough to lead the NBA and he again topped off at 55% shooting.

Sadly, like Walton, Swent Nater’s body betrayed him. Injuring his kneecap in the early part of the 1981-82 season, Swen played a grand total of 28 games that season and 1982-83 combined. In his final season, 1984, Nater fulfilled the role he was apparently destined for… being Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s backup.

The Clippers traded Swen and draft-pick Byron Scott to the Lakers for Norm Nixon. The 34-year old Nater finally made the playoffs for the first time since 1975 and was within one game of a championship ring, but the Lakers fell short to Boston. His participation and production with the Lakers may have been minimal, but my goodness was he a wonder to behold in his younger days.

In the post-Wilt Chamberlain era of professional basketball (1974 and beyond), Nater has the 3rd-highest rebounding percentage with 21.4%. That means when he was on the court, Nater grabbed a little better than 1 out of every 5 rebounds available. Only Kevin Love (22.2%) and Dennis Rodman (23.4%) have been better. When it comes to just defensive rebounds, no one has done it better. His 30.7% is just ahead of Rodman and Bill Walton. He was the first foreign-born player to take home a major award (the 1974 ABA Rookie of the Year) and is the only player to lead both the ABA and NBA in rebounding average for a single season. And his bevy of well-aimed hook shots resulted in a 53.5% shooting for his career.

He may never have been a cowboy, but he still had a good shot.

The Lowdown: Kevin Porter

Porter dishing it off to teammate Bob Dandridge (#10) / Photo via arhenetwork.com

Kevin Porter tossed in 30 points and dished off 17 assists yesterday to pace the New Jersey Nets to a surprisingly easy, 106-95 victory over the Washington Bulles in National basketball Association action.

Via “Porter Paces Nets’ Victory” by the Associated Press

Years Active: 1973 – 1983

Career Stats: 11.6 ppg, 8.1 apg, 1.8 rpg, 1.4 spg, 48.3%FG, 73.7% FT

Accolades: 4x APG Leader (1975, 1978-79, 1981)

Kevin Porter was one of the purest passers the NBA has ever seen. The purity of his assists were equally matched by the chaotic turns his career took due to injury and bewildering trades. The winding path his career took conspired to obscure some of the truly masterful accomplishments of Porter. Normally, I like to narrate from start to finish a player’s career, but with Porter that’s simply not possible. Each theme must be teased and explained on its own. A simple, progressive Point A to Point B story just won’t do.

The No-Name Bullets: Disruptive to any sort of continuity is the lack of a stable name. Kevin Porter didn’t go about changing his name every day of the week, but it sure seemed the Bullets franchise was. Kevin spent five full seasons with them and they had 3 different locations: Baltimore, Capital and Washington. So, understandably, Washington Wizards fans of today may have a hard time identifying with Kevin Porter of the Capital Bullets even if he is the best pure point guard the franchise has ever had.

(Arguments for Rod Strickland can be entertained; there’s nothing pure about Gilbert Arenas)

On the move: Further obfuscating the Porter legacy is that he never stayed in one place too long. 8 full seasons and he never played for a singular location for more than 2 years. In his first three seasons, the Bullets did their Baltimore to Capital to Washington dance. Then for two seasons he was with Detroit. Then was traded to New Jersey for a year. New Jersey then traded him back to Detroit for a season. Finally Porter enjoyed free agency and returned to the Bullets. Even vagabonds don’t move around that often.

Hurt: You may have noticed that I mentioned Porter playing in 8 full seasons. Two devastating injuries obliterated an entire season and cut two others much too short. A cartilage tear in his knee derailed his debut season with Detroit in 1975-76 after only 19 games. The following year, the Motor City used Porter for a spare 26 minutes a game instead of the 36 he received before the injury. Debilitating  injury struck again during Bullets training camp in October 1981. Porter snapped his Achilles tendon and missed all of the 1981-82 season and appeared in just 11 games in 1982-83, effectively ending his career.

Dime Machine: Despite the tempest, Kevin Porter remained a top notch passer. Four times he led the league in assists per game. Furthermore, Porter was a stud in assist percentage, which is the estimated number of FGs a player assisted while on the court. 6 different seasons (1975, 1977 – 1981) Porter led the league and his career average of 37.5% is 14th all-time.  Porter is the only PG near the top of the board who played during the 70s. In 1978, his moonlight season with New Jersey, Porter decided to make the experience memorable by breaking the record for assists in a single game:

Porter dished out 29 assists… and most of those handouts went to John Williamson and Bernard King, who scored 39 and 35 points respectively to help New Jersey down the Houston Rockets 126 – 122.

“He was just magnificent,” said New Jersey coach Kevin Loughery. “I’ve never seen anyone do quite as well as he did tonight.”

Scott Skiles has since tallied 30 assists establishing a new high, but I doubt we’re sneezing at Porter’s display. Kevin’s offensive contributions were not merely relegated to dishing the ball, either. He maintained a remarkably high shooting percentage for a point guard (48%) and was known to explode in a timely fashion despite his career average of just 11.6ppg:

Little Kevin Porter went on a scoring binge in the final quarter Sunday to lead the Washington Bullets to a 98-92 victory over the Boston Celtics, clinching the Eastern Conference championship.

Porter, a 5-foot-11 playmaker, scored 13 of his 21 points in the final quarter… Porter also had 11 assists, nine of them in the first half when Washington went ahead, 55-40. “They were gambling quite a bit,” Porter said. “And when they do, you have to take it to the hoop. Hopefully, you draw a foul or they come after you and you can dish it off.”

Knowing when to dish it out, knowing when to take it to the rack to salvage victory for the team. These are the hallmarks of a great point guard. Kevin Porter is assuredly one of those being the first player to record 1000 assists in a single season and is also (as far as my research shows) the only player to record a 25 point-25 assist game. Sadly, sometimes such talent doesn’t get the appropriate stage or setting to illustrate its greatness for all to see and remember.

The Lowdown: Billy Paultz

Photo by Paul Bereswill

In a 1972 game against the Squires, [Paultz] hit his first eight shots, and finished with 13 field goals in 15 attempts. Rick Barry scored 43 points and John Roche 37 points that same evening. “I get 33 and I’m the third high scorer on the team,” complained Paultz. “Are you kidding me?”

Via Complete Handbook of ProBasketball by Jim O’Brien

Years Active: 1971 – 1985

Career Stats: 11.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.5 bpg, 0.5 spg, 49.7% FG, 69.0% FT

Accolades: 3x ABA All-Star (1973, ’75-’76), 1974 ABA Champion (Nets)

Now there’s an insightful quote into both, Billy Paultz and the ABA. The league was about flash and pizzazz, glitz and glamor. On a night where Paultz goes a-wreckin’ for 33 points on 13-15 shooting, he’s still not the brightest light shining on the court. Nonetheless, Paultz revealed his affable, self-effacing and humble personality in discussing his misfortune. Barry and Roche may have overshadowed him that night, but for someone with no organized basketball experience until his senior year in high school (1966), Paultz was doing quite well for himself.

Drafted by the NBA’s San Diego Rockets and the ABA’s Virginia Squires in 1971, Paultz opted for the ABA and was soon traded by Virginia to his hometown New York Nets. What the Nets got was an uncoordinated heap of man that would be nicknamed “The Whopper” for his well apportioned waistline and the hamburger that kept it so. Nets teammate Rick Barry quipped “I didn’t believe he could possibly make it…” and Jim O’Brien added his two cents: “An ardent surfer, but the way he moved at the outset of his rookie season it was hard to envision him keeping his balance on shore let alone sea.” The off-balance Whopper nonetheless averaged 14.7 points and 8.4 rebounds during his rookie year.

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Hardwood Paroxysm’s Incomplete 2010-2011 NBA Previews: New Jersey Nets

Yeah, yeah, we didn’t do one for every team. Not like you all won’t get your fair shake around here, for better or worse. Trust me, if you’re some of the teams out there, you don’t want to hear us talk about you.

But, with a little less than 48 hours to go before the season opener in Miami,we’re going to throw up some stuff discussing the upcoming season. And now, we bring you the Nets.

GUEST LECTURE

Sebastian Pruiti is the author of NBA Playbook, which puts our pitiful ramblings about playsets to shame. Today he delves into his former haunt, the Nets.-Ed.

Despite only winning twelve games last season, the Nets seem poised to have a bounce back year.  Although everyone seems to agree that they will win many more games this season, nobody is really sure how much better they will be though (In fact, ESPN’s experts have them finishing anywhere between 7th and 14th in the Eastern Conference).  There are few factors that will help determine how good the Nets can be this year.
The first is the new coach, Avery Johnson.  Johnson is going to really have to earn that reputation as a defensive specialist this year.  The Nets’ projected started lineup of Devin Harris, Anthony Morrow, Travis Outlaw, Troy Murphy, and Brook Lopez features four below average defenders, and even if Harris returns to his Dallas ways on the defensive side of the basketball you aren’t going to beat teams with two defenders.  Team defense is going to be the key, and he needs all five guys to buy into his system, trust each other, and help when needed.
The second factor is Devin Harris.  Harris seemed to be the player who struggled most on last year’s twelve loss team.  With no other perimeter threat, Harris’ game really dropped off as defenses loaded up against him.  This is something that Harris never really had to deal with in previous seasons, and with defenses loading up on him he really couldn’t get in the lane and create the havoc he is known to on the offensive end.  With some strong shooters on the outside (Murphy, Outlaw, and Morrow), a better Brook Lopez in the middle, and a dynamic player in Terrence Williams on the outside, teams can’t really load up on Harris anymore.  Look for Harris to return to his All-Star ways, if he can stay healthy.  Harris hasn’t played over 70 games since he was a role player on Dallas’ 06-07 team (he played just 26 minutes a game that year).
The final key for the Nets this year is Brook Lopez.  Lopez put up some fantastic numbers last year, scoring 18.8 points and grabbing 8.6 rebounds.  Lopez is just 22 and is still learning the center position, so you can expect him to have an even bigger season since he will be facing less double teams.  Much in the same way that no outside threat hurt Devin Harris, that lack of a threat hurt Brook Lopez as well.  The Nets were the worst three point shooting team in the NBA last year, so whenever the ball was entered into Brook, he would see a quick double team (and even triple teams later in the season).  Now with shooters surrounding Brook and with one at the high post in Troy Murphy, Lopez can work knowing that teams will be very hesitant to double him, because if they do, he can simply hit one of the shooters sharing the court with him.
I think that we can all agree that the Nets will improve on last year’s terrible season.  How much depends on whether or not coach Avery Johnson can get them playing team defense, whether Devin can return to his all-star ways, and if Brook can take another step towards his development.  Sure there are other factors (can Anthony Morrow add to his game, can Travis Outlaw prove he can be a starter, Terrence Williams’ effectiveness), but these are what can really take the Nets’ to next level or keep them in the bottom of the East.

Despite only winning twelve games last season, the Nets seem poised to have a bounce back year.  Although everyone seems to agree that they will win many more games this season, nobody is really sure how much better they will be though (In fact, ESPN’s experts have them finishing anywhere between 7th and 14th in the Eastern Conference).  There are few factors that will help determine how good the Nets can be this year.

The first is the new coach, Avery Johnson.  Johnson is going to really have to earn that reputation as a defensive specialist this year.  The Nets’ projected started lineup of Devin Harris, Anthony Morrow, Travis Outlaw, Troy Murphy, and Brook Lopez features four below average defenders, and even if Harris returns to his Dallas ways on the defensive side of the basketball you aren’t going to beat teams with two defenders.  Team defense is going to be the key, and he needs all five guys to buy into his system, trust each other, and help when needed.

The second factor is Devin Harris.  Harris seemed to be the player who struggled most on last year’s twelve loss team.  With no other perimeter threat, Harris’ game really dropped off as defenses loaded up against him.  This is something that Harris never really had to deal with in previous seasons, and with defenses loading up on him he really couldn’t get in the lane and create the havoc he is known to on the offensive end.  With some strong shooters on the outside (Murphy, Outlaw, and Morrow), a better Brook Lopez in the middle, and a dynamic player in Terrence Williams on the outside, teams can’t really load up on Harris anymore.  Look for Harris to return to his All-Star ways, if he can stay healthy.  Harris hasn’t played over 70 games since he was a role player on Dallas’ 06-07 team (he played just 26 minutes a game that year).

The final key for the Nets this year is Brook Lopez.  Lopez put up some fantastic numbers last year, scoring 18.8 points and grabbing 8.6 rebounds.  Lopez is just 22 and is still learning the center position, so you can expect him to have an even bigger season since he will be facing less double teams.  Much in the same way that no outside threat hurt Devin Harris, that lack of a threat hurt Brook Lopez as well.  The Nets were the worst three point shooting team in the NBA last year, so whenever the ball was entered into Brook, he would see a quick double team (and even triple teams later in the season).  Now with shooters surrounding Brook and with one at the high post in Troy Murphy, Lopez can work knowing that teams will be very hesitant to double him, because if they do, he can simply hit one of the shooters sharing the court with him.

I think that we can all agree that the Nets will improve on last year’s terrible season.  How much depends on whether or not coach Avery Johnson can get them playing team defense, whether Devin can return to his all-star ways, and if Brook can take another step towards his development.  Sure there are other factors (can Anthony Morrow add to his game, can Travis Outlaw prove he can be a starter, Terrence Williams’ effectiveness), but these are what can really take the Nets’ to next level or keep them in the bottom of the East.

AN ALTERNATE DISCUSSION

Rohan from At The Hive.com chimes in with an alternative take on the Nets.
The gap between what the 2010-2011 New Jersey Nets are and what the 2010-2011 New Jersey Nets could have been is staggering. The team entered the summer in position to challenge for multiple marquee free agents, over $20 million dollars in cap space and an extraordinarily rich owner on the horizon. At various points, New Jersey was a rumored destination for LeBron James, Carlos Boozer, Amar’e Stoudemire, and John Wall (as a first overall pick). At summer’s end, the team instead finds itself with Travis Outlaw, Anthony Morrow, and Jordan Farmar (and let’s not forget that Billy King is the new GM).

And yet, it’s not all bad. Despite Devin Harris’ struggles in 2009-2010, he figures to rebound somewhat. Derrick Favors is more a project than an immediate solution, but he’s still one of the most impressive post prospects in years (and he only turns 20 next July). Brook Lopez is already one of the league’s top centers at just 22 years old. And as wildly different as Outlaw, Morrow, and Farmar are from James, Boozer, and Stoudemire, they still bring great athleticism, great shooting, and steady bench play, respectively. This is a deep team. This is almost certainly a playoff team out East.

It’s hard to imagine last year’s horrific, injury-marred season impacting this one in too many ways. Even though the previous incarnation won a putrid 12 games, they underperformed their Pythagorean by 5 whole wins (largely fueled by their NBA-worst record of 1-13 in games decided by 5 points or less).

The team will largely be ready for the slow pace Avery Johnson brings with him. Team insiders are already citing the immediate impact Johnson is having on the defensive end with young players like Terrence Williams. And Johnson has obviously worked with Devin Harris before. It could take a while for a relatively young core to fully buy into Johnson’s system, but his defensive impact in Dallas was undeniable. There’s certainly reason to believe it’ll work again, in a much weaker conference.
The Nets are essentially in a position few teams get to experience: they’ve got the building blocks for an elite squad in place, without too much immediate pressure. Avery Johnson should get time to implement his strategy, and the team has an opportunity to be patient with Derrick Favors. 2010-2011 can essentially function as a “feeling out” period, with the added bonus of potential playoff experience for Favors, Lopez, et al. New Jersey can then move in for that final missing piece, whether through a trade, the acquisition of Carmelo Anthony, or simply the realization that Favors can indeed play at an All-Star level.

What’s currently unfolding in New Jersey feels very organic. Fans will get to watch a young team grow in front of their eyes. Maybe that’s not worth missing out on a free agent superstar. But maybe it is. With just a couple lucky bounces, New Jersey could very well send the Nets off to Brooklyn in style.

PLAYABLE TUNES

PLAYER WHO COULD BE AN IMPACT GUY BUT PROBABLY WONT’ BE:

Jordan Farmar. In the Nets’ last preseason game against the Knicks, Farmar came off the bench and went en fuego. He lit it up. Absolutely torched the Knicks from the perimeter and helped lead the team back. They were within one possession, they were locking down. And then… Farmar needlessly gambled on a steal, leading to a wide open thee. Game over.

Aaaaaaand that’s Jordan Farmar’s career, right there.

YOU SHOULD WATCH BECAUSE:

Terrence Williams, Brook Lopez, together in any capacity, is like the second Band of Horses album.

YOU SHOULD HATE THIS TEAM BECAUSE:

They couldn’t leave well enough alone to just build through the draft. They had to get all cute and fancy and sign a bunch of players just to say they spent money. It’s like putting a spoiler on a mini-van. I hate those things.

Lopez Brothers Are All Relative

I’d like to be honest about something: the idea of identical twins freaks me out.

I know they’re a lot more common than I realize and I understand the science behind the process of making identical twins. However, there is just something about the actual visual and conceptual existence of identical twins that really scares me and leaves me feeling unsettled.

My deep-seeded consternation with identical twins may be pretty easy for me to go back and track. The Shining terrified me and it wasn’t because of anything but those creepy twin girls kicking it in the hallway with matching clothes. I didn’t mind the blood flooding the hotel walkways, the creepiness of Shelly Duval or Jack being a dull boy. It was the twins road-blocking the Redrum kid when he was just trying to big wheel his way through the Overlook Hotel.

Fast-forward many years and identical twins still give me the willies. And even as entertaining as Brook and Robin Lopez are on their own and especially in each other’s presence, I still can’t shake the uneasy feeling I get from two people whom look and act alike. The different lengths of hair don’t settle me either. Sure, you can tell them apart and their games are completely different with one being an offensive force and the other a defensive specialist. But the idea that they possibly have some level of ESP between each other and will always sort of be the same really bothers me.

However, thanks to Alby Einstein and the science community I may just be able to coexist in a world with the Lopez twins and their mutually exclusive identity. According to this Eryn Brown report from the LA Times, the theory of relativity is being proved true with “lasers” and the results are showing relativity can be scaled down to even smaller degrees:

Among the oft-repeated predictions of Albert Einstein’s famous theory of relativity is that if a twin travels through the cosmos on a high-speed rocket, when he returns to Earth he will be noticeably younger than the twin who stayed home.

Now physicists have demonstrated that the same is true even if the traveling twin is merely driving in a car about 20 mph. But in that case, when the twin gets home from the grocery store, he is only a tiny fraction of a nanosecond younger, according to a report in Friday’s edition of the journal Science.

Now, I’m no science major. In fact, I struggled in science. But to me this sounds like the more a person travels and the faster a person travels while the other stays more still, the younger this “moving” person will become in relation to the stationary person. Perhaps this isn’t the most sophisticated way of explaining part of the theory of relativity – and yes, I would expect Albert Einstein is furious with me right now – but that’s essentially what this study was saying.

If this theory is true, and I believe science is telling me that it is, then the theory of relativity will help my uneasiness with the Lopez twins. Even though Brook and Robin have different hair, different uniforms and probably different versions of Thor that they enjoy, they’re still so identical that it creeps me out. It gives me some solace to know that Brook is an offensive force while Robin is the answer to many of the Suns’ prayers for a defensive presence in the middle. I’m fascinated at the idea that the two of them excelled at very different parts of the game that probably heightened their skills even more.

Brook probably became such a good offensive player because he had to score against Robin who was so good at defending. Or was it the other way around? Did Robin become such a good defender because he had to figure out how to stop Brook from dominating him in the driveway? There is something very chicken or the egg about this.

Regardless of how or why their particular set of skills got honed, the differences between Brook and Robin are going to increase over time with the current organizational philosophies of their respective teams.

The Phoenix Suns have been near the top of NBA pace over the last several years. Even with coaching changes and personnel being switched out like faulty spark plugs, they remain amongst the fastest teams in the league. This past season, they were fourth in the NBA in pace at 95.3 possessions per game. The New Jersey Nets on the other hand were quite slow with 91.4 possessions per game (good for 24th in the league). And with Avery Johnson taking over as they begin their transition from meadowlands to Brooklyn, they probably won’t get any faster out there. During his three full seasons coaching the Dallas Mavericks, Avery kept his teams at the 27th, 28th and 24th fastest paces in the league.

This means that over time Robin Lopez has found his way into an identical twin NBA fountain of youth. Robin will always be moving at a much faster pace assuming his situation and Brook’s situations remain fairly constant. Stick with the run’n’gun style of the modified SSOL and Robin should enjoy the benefits of a stylistic anti-aging cream. On the flip side of that, Brook and his franchise’s refusal to get out and stretch their legs a bit will probably age at a quicker pace.

However, there might be something to level the playing field for Brook – his franchise’s location. While the speed of the game for both of these teams seems to favor the bang for Robin’s buck throughout his career (compared to Brook’s), the location of these players may even things up.

The reverse is often said to be true for a twin who spends time high on a mountaintop; general relativity predicts that time passes more quickly at greater altitudes because objects don’t feel Earth’s gravity quite as strongly. But the physicists found that a twin who lives just about a foot above sea level will age ever-so-slightly faster than a twin living at sea level.

The city of Phoenix, Arizona sits roughly at an elevation of 1,117 feet. The city of Newark, New Jersey resides around 30 feet above sea level. So while Robin can run around and stay younger all he wants, Brook’s ability to ball close to the level of the ocean CAN have an affect on how he ages in relation to his twin. While this sounds like Brook can turn to his brother’s Benjamin Button style of play with a “take that!” in reality the elevation factor may not be enough to truly matter. According to the paper, “the second hand of a clock positioned about two-thirds of a mile above an identical clock near Earth’s surface will speed up only enough to tick out three extra seconds over the course of a million years.”

As good as Brook Lopez is he probably won’t play for a million years. Considering Kevin Willis was a big man modern marvel by playing into nearly his mid-40s, that’s asking a lot to think Brook could 7-figures in terms of the length of his career.

In the end, the Suns’ ability to let Robin play at a high pace definitely makes the duration of his career seem to be worth it more than the location of Brook’s home floor does for his longevity.

And while you’re probably wondering why you just read through this entire article and learned virtually nothing, we did learn a few key things:

1. I know next to nothing about science.
2. Sometimes, it’s good to stretch your legs a bit and delve into a subject you don’t understand.
3. Identical twins really freak me out.
4. NBA media day is today and that means training camp begins tomorrow.

Welcome back, NBA season!

Juh-Juh-Juh Jerry And The Nets

Incoming Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov doesn’t really strike anyone as the hands-off, let-the-man-do-his-job kind of guy, so how this relationship would work remains to be seen. Plus, the Daily News article goes on to speculate about Colangelo bringing in Mike Krzyzewski from Duke as coach, even though Coach K made jokes about that idea over the weekend.

But with the way the Nets season has unfolded, Coach K is the only real hope New Jersey has to luring one or two of the big three free agents — LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh — to town. The pitch is they would be coming to Brooklyn and have a great roster around them in a couple years.

via Colangelo would consider running the Nets – ProBasketballTalk – Basketball – NBC Sports.

Sorry, been waiting to use that headline since “Kenny and The Nets” popped into my head while watching the TNT crew during HORSE over All-Star Weekend.

(Side note: Being the professional that I am, I was totally cool during the surreality of the weekend, talking with players, coaches, and executives.  The one tough thing? Not immediately running over to Ernie Johnson and tackle-hugging him, screaming “ERNIE!” Also, he got an enormous ovation from the crowd when he showed up at Jam Session.)

Kurt goes into the Colangelo idea and all of this adds more to my fire of “The Nets are one big conspiracy theory that no one sees coming but me” angle. Everyone thinks I’m mad. But I would like to point out that Cleveland miraculously wins the #1 spot with James coming out with only a 25% chance and if there’s one thing you take away from how LeBron, Wade, etc. act, it’s that they are more than basketball players, that they run this game.

Colangelo+Coach K (who knows LeBron and Wade from the Olympics)+LeBron+Wade/Bosh/Amar’e+Lopez+Wall+Yi+CDR+3 first round picks and you think I’m nuts for seeing how this would be an attractive package?

I don’t think K’s in it, though. I just think he’s too smart to think his tactics will carry over to the NBA. There are college guys and pro guys and very rarely, very rarely do they intersect. Larry Brown is a great example, but in the NBA, he’s widely considered an anomaly. K is brilliant, but he’s brilliant through a forced regimen that you can’t force NBA players to adopt. You can try, but there’s too much ego due to too much money. Scheyer has no ego. Because he knows he’s nothing, without K. NBA players? Not the same deal. He and Calipari are two sides of the coin, and neither will turn the NBA video game on.

Colangelo, though, would be in a position to manage the greatest basketball organization of its time if he were to successfully court LeBron. That’s the kind of impact that cements a legacy, and that’s hard to pass up.

This is all going to end with everyone re-signing where they are and I’m going to look like the kid standing in line at the rollercoaster the’ve shut down and no one has told him.

NBA Free Agency 2010: Things Moving In The Shadows

The Nets organization is operating under the premise that the NBA Board of Governors will officially ratify Mikhail Prokhorov’s purchase of the team during All-Star Weekend in Dallas. Also that weekend, Prokhorov has his first planning meeting scheduled with CEO Brett Yormark and president Rod Thorn, according to an official who is not authorized to speak for the team.

via NJ Nets lose to Washington Wizards, 81-79, on last-second Earl Boykins shot | – New Jersey Nets Basketball – NJ.com.

The Russian Cuban is taking aim at controlling ops.

Now, let’s switch over to what some handsome young writer wrote over at FanHouse (quite brilliantly, I might add):

But the Nets are terrible! They’re the worst team in the league! They’re the team with the worst winning percentage. But they feature a good-to-great starting center in Brook Lopez, depth at guard in Chris Douglas-Roberts and Courtney Lee, and oh, yeah, another late first round draft pick from Dallas. So you’ve got a foundation, the best player in the draft, you’re moving in two years to the biggest market on earth, and all the money you can have to throw at James. James can love Cleveland all he wants, but that sounds like a very attractive offer. That’s before you bring the possibility of Wade joining him somewhere for less money. The Nets would be able to give both players, or James and another free agent (Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire) enough money to make a slight paycut not so horrid. Their new billionaire Russian owner certainly sounds like he’s willing to put the money forth to build a winner. They have Yi Jianlian to cash in on the Chinese market, which is huge.

via A “LeBron to New Jersey By Way of Wall’s Kentucky” Exercise — NBA FanHouse.

Think about all the factors we have coming together. The Chinese market. A team with enough to pay LeBron and another star. Depth. Superstar talent. The potential number one pick. A big move to the big city. An open coaching spot.  We’re looking at a confluence of forces that could reshape basketball.

It won’t happen, because, well, life’s not that cool. But I keep returning to how the league has reacted to the Pau Gasol trade. There’s this overwhelming sense of “Jesus, is this what it takes? Two mega-stars, two supporting stars and some great role support?” And if you’re LeBron/Wade, aren’t you looking at this and saying “If the old man can dominate like this with that kind of team, what could we do?” That’s why I think the possibility of them taking less money to play together is real. If Kobe can accomplish what he has with Pau Gasol, what can they do together? These guys have a very real sense of their legacy at their young age. As truly great as they are on their own, they have a better chance of being remembered as the best if they sacrifice money and ego in honor of something special.

New Jersey offers these guys what they want. It all. They want it all. Contention: I know they’ve lost a ton of games but you can’t look at their roster and say this is worse than the Pacers, Wolves, or Wizards. Upside, solid players in key positions, and reasonable contracts. No anchors. The biggest market. Endorsement and business opportunities to cover what they’d lose in salary. An easy division with Boston’s eventual slide. They could choose their coach (and conceivably their President of Basketball ops).

It’s such a special opportunity, but it’s simply unlikely to happen because of the number of moving parts. Nonetheless, I can’t say that I don’t see a pattern in the moves. Brooklyn. Prokhorov. Yi. Jay-Z. LeBron. Wall.

Camelot.