Friday, August 9, 2013

Paul Pierce Says It's Time For The Nets to Start Running New York

This Summer the Brooklyn Nets made a trade with the Boston Celtics in which they acquired veterans Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.  This move was considered one of the best, if not the best offseason move this year in the NBA, and many people believe that the Brooklyn Nets have immediately been vaulted into title contention.  One of those people is newly acquired small forward Paul Pierce.
Well, it didn't take long for Paul Pierce, who has more than a little familiarity with a Knicks rivalry, to turn up the heat from Brooklyn. "I think the hate [for the Knicks] has grown a little. Everybody knows how much I disliked the Knicks when I was with the Celtics, but I think it's grown to another level," Pierce said on ESPN NewYork 98.7 FM's "The Michael Kay Show" on Thursday. "I think it's time for the Nets to start running this city." Pierce later told reporters at a Sprint H-O-R-S-E event in Manhattan: "The only thing that separates the two teams is a bridge. And both of them are in the same division and both of them are considered contenders. You can't help but say this is probably gonna be the best rivalry in sports next year."

I love this, I absolutely love this and let me tell you why.  First of all, since the Nets acquired Deron Williams, and subsequently moved to Brooklyn Nets management has been doing everything possible to turn the Nets into a title contender.  They acquired Joe Johnson last season and though Johnson didn't have his most productive year the Nets did improve immensely from their 22-44 record that they posted in the 2012 season.

With the addition of Joe Johnson, and the acquisition of Gerald Wallace from the season before the Nets looked like they had a pretty solid core between Williams, Wallace, Johnson and center Brook Lopez.  Many outlets, including ESPN were dubbing them immediate contenders, and many began to speculate on a great rivalry with the Knicks.  Brooklyn would go on to split the regular season series 2/2 with the Knicks.  

Though hopes were quite high the Nets struggled early in the season and head coach Avery Johnson was fired, and replaced by PJ Carlesimo.  Deron Williams had a slow start, but managed to put together one of the more brilliant years of his career as the season went on.  Unfortunately, Gerald Wallace seemed to lose all semblance of his game after the all star break, and power forward Kris Humphries who had a breakout 2012 season struggled to replicate that production and live up to his 2yr/$24M contract.
The Nets would eventually limp to the playoffs as the four seed where they were bounced from the playoffs in the first round by the Chicago Bulls who were missing Derrick Rose and who didn't have Luol Deng for the better part of the series.  The series went seven games, but the Nets never really looked in sync, and apart from game one every game was close.

The Nets responded to their playoff failure in the way that everyone expected new owner Mikhail Prokhorov to do and immediately sought high priced talent.  They were ultimately able to make a deal with Boston, who are in the beginning stages of rebuilding.  The deal showed that the Nets are clearly in win now mode, as they should be with the huge contracts they already had as they sent Humphries, Gerald Wallace, Kris Joseph, journeyman shooting guard Keith Bogans, talented prospect Marshon Brooks and first round draft picks in 2014, 2016, and 2018.  The Nets received Garnett and Pierce, but also acquired veteran sixth-man Jason Terry who is sure to add some firepower off the bench.  Obviously, the move makes Brooklyn better, but are they now contenders?

Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett have won on the biggest stage before, capturing the Larry O'Brien trophy against the Lakers in 2008.  They also made a return to the NBA Finals in 2010 before falling to the Lakers in seven games.  The point is, they've been there, they've won there, and they know exactly what it takes to get back there.  While the Celtics may have struggled last season and only ended up the seventh seed in the playoffs, just two years ago they gave the Miami Heat all they could handle in the Eastern Conference Finals before losing to LeBron James and the Heat in seven games. 

Jason Terry is no stranger to the big stage either, as he was a key player in the Mavericks win over the Heat in the 2011 NBA Finals.  Terry was called out by LeBron following a game three loss, and then responded in kind, averaging 21.7 points per game through the finals three games of the series.

The point is, these guys are veterans, and they're very, very good.  They've been very good for a long time, and while they may be older their production hasn't dropped off that much.  Pair that with the fact that they won't have to be the go to guys all the time on their team and that makes Brooklyn that much scarier of a matchup.

There is no doubting by any means that the Nets have gotten better, but there is one question that remains.  How are all of these alpha personalities going to co-exist with one another?  Deron Williams was signed to be "the guy" for this Nets team before they had their arena in Brooklyn, and when the Nets were preparing to build for the future.  Joe Johnson was "the guy" in Atlanta before he came to Brooklyn, and he seemed to mesh decently well with Williams, but can the same be said about Garnett and Pierce? I think so.

Pierce and Garnett are both competitors, and they want to win at least one more before they retire.  Because of this I think that they will both be willing to give up personal statistics in order for the team to win.  However, that is not the issue.  Ultimately the issue comes down to how many alpha personalities there will be on this team.  

Brook Lopez is probably not going to be someone who is going to clash with his teammates over the way things are going, but could Deron Williams and Kevin Garnett? Absolutely.  There's also the possibility that Pierce and Garnett may take each others sides in certain issues and that could obviously be very devastating for locker room chemistry.

Not helping this matter is the fact that Jason Kidd is a head coach after only just a year of playing against every single one of these players.  Kidd himself will obviously have his ideology, and his system, that he is going to put in place because he is the head coach.  The question remains though as to whether or not a roster full of veterans is going to listen to a man they were just competing against.  Sure, these guys all have respect for Jason Kidd, but that doesn't mean that they're going to want to take coaching advice from the man.

Jason Kidd himself is also an alpha personality, and should players and the coaches not agree on things it could end up poorly for Brooklyn.  I'm not saying this is necessarily going to happen, but there's always that possibility.

Of course, everything mentioned above is merely speculation as to whether or not the team will be able to function correctly.  Should the team have zero chemistry issues, well, then the Nets could very well end up representing the East in the NBA Finals.  Obviously Johnson, Williams, Pierce, Garnett, and Lopez are the guys who are going to be getting attention, but this team has bench depth to rival any team in the league.

One signing the Nets made this offseason that got somewhat lost in the wake of the Garnett/Pierce trade was the signing of Andrei Kirilenko who opted out of his contract with Minnesota and is playing for Brooklyn for considerably less money.  Kirilenko proved last season that he still has a lot to bring to the table, and is still the same staunch defender that he's always been.  Kirilenko will provide great minutes off the bench, as he's a multi faceted player and can significantly impact games.

The Nets' other big time player off the bench is Jason Terry as mentioned earlier.  Terry is a hybrid forward who over the last several years of his career has embraced his role as a very efficient sixth man off the bench.  Terry can score at will, and is a great shooter from the outside.  He's instant offense, and much like Kirilenko gives you 100% every time he steps on the court.  Terry has shown that he can go off for 30 on a given night, and anytime a team has someone capable of doing that you can never count them out of any games.

Quite obviously Terry and Kirilenko are the big names, but Brooklyn has even more depth.  Reggie Evans and Andray Blatche will both be coming off the bench, and both of them are very solid defensive players, and both of them can grab rebounds in bunches.  Blatche has a much more polished offensive game, and he looks like he's finally matured since his time in Washington.  Blatche is 6'11 and can play either the center of power forward positions.  Though Reggie Evans is not very skilled offensively, he's a bruiser and a force to be reckoned with underneath.  Evans is not hesitant to bang with any player underneath, and may very well be the most physical player in the league.  I personally like to compare him to a poor man's Dennis Rodman as he busts his ass all night long, and grabs rebounds like it's nobodies business.

Other role players on this team include guys like Jerry Stackhouse, Shaun Livingston, and Alan Anderson.  I don't expect Stackhouse or Anderson to get much more than spot minutes, but both of them can shoot from the outside and should be able to contribute.  Livingston will get minutes at the backup point guard, but some of those will be eaten up by Terry.  Though he may have limited minutes Livingston can contribute on both ends of the floor and should be a solid bench piece for Brooklyn.

When it comes down to it, Brooklyn may struggle to find chemistry early on in the season much like Miami did when they acquired LeBron James and Chris Bosh.  However, I don't expect that to be long lasting if it even is a problem, as I have no doubt that every player on their very loaded starting five.  While I ranked them fourth in my way too early Eastern Conference preview that's more a testament to the strength of the top teams in the Eastern Conference as opposed to how good I think Brooklyn will be next season.

Make no mistake, this team became serious contenders this offseason and if anyone is going to dethrone King James and company, Brooklyn may very well be the team to do it.  Either way, this team is definitely going to be a fun one to watch next season, and I can't wait. 

Follow me on Twitter - @DbRedickulous

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Pac-12 Commisioner Calls One-and-Done Rule "Inappropriate"

I'm a little late to the party with this story, but I couldn't not write about it.  The current NBA rule is that players must be 19 years old in order to play in an NBA game.  Let me state that again, the current NBA rule is that players must be 19 years old in order to play in an NBA game.  I reiterate that because too many people frequently refer to this as the "one-and-done rule" as in, the NBA says that players must play at least one year of collegiate ball before coming.  This is not the case, and I point to Brandon Jennings who did not play in college, but rather played professionally for a year in Italy before coming to the NBA.  The reason that I'm clarifying this is because I hate listening to people complain about the supposed "one-and-done rule."

Anyway, to the point, Larry Scott who is the current Pac-12 commissioner bemoaned the current NBA age requirement rule last week during Pac-12's football media day.  First of all, why the hell are you bringing this up during football media day? Second, why the hell are you bringing this up during FOOTBALL media day?  Here's the report from Doug Hollander of the the Arizona Republic:

But with college sports on the brink of overhaul, Scott feels it's time to alter a system that lets student-athletes “be on our campuses for less than 12 months.”
“Anyone that's serious about the collegiate model and the words ‘student-athlete' can't feel very good about what's happening in basketball with one-and-done student athletes,'' Scott told a small group of reporters at last week's Pac-12 football media day.
“We've managed with the NFL and football to have a reasonable policy that allows kids to go pro at the appropriate time. We've managed to do it in baseball. Basketball's the only sport where we haven't managed to come up with a responsible policy and the blame is with the NBA, the NBA Players Association and the NCAA, so now's the time to take ownership of it. We've got time. We've made major changes in football. Now there's time to make major changes in basketball.”

Alright Larry, there are several issues with your points here, but I'm going to start with the most glaring one.  First off, comparing football and basketball immediately makes your point irrelevant.  Collegiate football players are allowed to enter the NFL draft following the completion of their junior year of college.  This means that if you are a redshirt sophomore that you are eligible to enter the draft as you've completed three years of college.

Here's where the fundamental differences lie.  In the NFL, these athletes are absolutely punishing each other.  These are grown men going out and lighting each other up, I can tell you right now that there are absolutely zero 18 year old kids that can go out there and strap on pads and play with guys like Clay Matthews, Calvin Johnson, Ed Reed, and any other player in the NFL.  Hell, there are 22 and 23 year old kids who can't make it in the NFL because of this.  The NBA is completely different.

Yes, the NBA also requires a great deal of skill and athleticism to play, but unless you're a center who's going to be doing a whole lot of banging underneath, you're not really going to get hurt that much.  Sure, there are torn acls, and hurt ligaments, separated shoulders etc.  But there aren't 275 lb. men flying around trying to truck stick you in the NBA (unless your JJ Barea in which case watch out for Andrew Bynum).

This brings me to baseball.  Here are the baseball eligibility rules straight from

  • High school players, if they have graduated from high school and have not yet attended college or junior college;
  • College players, from four-year colleges who have either completed their junior or senior years or are at least 21 years old; and
  • Junior college players, regardless of how many years of school they have completed
Ok, so there you have it.  High school players can go straight to the big leagues, and so can junior college players.  Though I do understand his point in that they force kids to commit to playing major college ball 'til at least 21 I think this is an absolutely unfair rule.  I get it, you want kids to come play for you in college, and you want to get something out of recruiting them, and that's fine.  The thing is basketball is a completely different animal when you compare it to both football and basketball. 

Basketball is certainly a team sport, there is no arguing that, but teams that are successful generally have a marquee player who does a lot for the team overall.  You can win in basketball by having a couple very, very good players and then some fairly average players surrounding them.  Yes, there are teams that win because they have very complete teams, but there are also teams that win because they have "one and done" guys who can dominate.  

Also, why sell these kids short?  Why shouldn't they be allowed to go play professionally if they believe they can make it?  I understand that these institutions are giving these kids scholarships in order to get a degree, but I can tell you right now I'm graduating in a semester and I'm hoping that I make $40K coming out of college next year.  If you told me I could have left after my freshman year to sign an NBA contract I, and almost everyone else in this world would leave that institution in a heart beat.

There's also the fact that many coaches know what they're getting into when they recruit these players.  John Calipari knows that of the class he's recruited this year that nearly everyone of them of are going to the NBA after this season.  Does Calipari care? Well considering in the past four years Calipari has lost 10 freshman to the NBA draft I don't think he's terribly concerned.  Instead, he reloads each year, and this year appears to be his best class ever with seven of his players ranking in the top 25 ESPN prospect rankings.

The thing is, that when it comes to basketball you can be a force at a young age.  Examples include LeBron, Kobe, Kevin Garnett, etc.  Even then, there have been plenty of other players who have emerged from the high school ranks and had solid careers, guys like Rashard Lewis, Monta Ellis, JR Smith, Al Jefferson and several others.  There are also plenty of guys who came from high school and although they're not superstars or even great players they're still solid role players, guys like DeShawn Stevenson, Martell Webster, Amir Johnson, and many more.

 Pictured: T-Mac, Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant from 1998 all three came from high school and have been solid NBA players

I'll be honest, there are always going to be people prodding at the so called "one and done" rule, but ultimately it has been good for both collegiate players and the NBA.  While I listed several players who were quite successful NBA players there have also been many who didn't cut it in the NBA and were unable to play in college having played professionally.  Now, there are players who think that they can succeed in the NBA, but they must go to college or play in the D-League or overseas before they can do so.

This essentially allows players who think they're good enough to find out how good they really are when playing against a tougher degree of competition.  This also aids colleges in their recruiting as they're now able to go out and recruit the best of the best instead of fearing losing them to the NBA.  The system might not be perfect to some people, but I'll tell you now it's about as close as we're going to get.

Overall, the system has shown that it works, and that it will continue to work.  Allow me to close with these words.  Shut up, Larry Scott.


Follow me on Twitter - @DbRedickulous


Suns' Michael Beasley Arrested For Marijuana...Again

Via USA Today
Phoenix Suns forward Michael Beasley was arrested in Scottsdale on Tuesday morning and could be facing charges for drug possession, according to Scottsdale police.
Police stopped Beasley in Scottsdale at 1:15 a.m. Tuesday for a traffic violation in the area near Scottsdale and McCormick roads, according to the Scottsdale Police Department.
According to police, officers searched his vehicle after smelling marijuana coming from the car and confiscated narcotics located in the driver area.
Beasley was arrested on suspicion of marijuana possession and released from custody. He could be facing charges for drug possession.
The incident is not related to sexual assault claims made against Beasley earlier this year. Police said that the case is still open and no formal charges have been brought against Beasley.
In February, police cited Beasley for several offenses including speeding, driving on a suspended Arizona license, and driving without a vehicle license plate or registration.
Here is the Scottsdale Police report:

On 08/06/13 at 1:15 am SPD made a stop for a traffic violation in the area of Scottsdale and McCormick Roads. As the officer approached the vehicle he could smell marijuana emanating from within the car. A search of the driver's area recovered marijuana that was impounded. The driver, identified as Michael Beasley, was booked pending charges for possession of marijuana and released.

Ok, I'll admit it I have been a Michael Beasley apologist for awhile now.  I've always thought he was just a guy who needed to be in the right situation for him to succeed.  However, after this arrest I don't know that I can believe that myself anymore.

Beasley was an absolute beast in college during his one year at Kansas State averaging 26.2 ppg along with 12.4 rpg on 53% shooting.  Those numbers were so impressive that many people thought he would be the number one pick in the 2008 NBA draft.  Beasley ended up going number two to Miami after Derrick Rose was selected by his hometown Chicago Bulls with the number one pick.  Since being selected Beasley has had a very tumultuous career.

Beasley had a rough start to his NBA career when, during the rookie transition camp he was found with fellow rookies Darrell Arthur and Mario Chalmers in a hotel room that smelled strongly of burning marijuana.  Chalmers and Arthur were both dismissed from the camp and fined $20K each.  Ultimately, Beasley was not fined nor dismissed, however Pat Riley would force Beasley to confess that he had slipped out the door when police arrived.  Beasley would be fined $50K by the NBA thus marking the beginning of his many off the court issues.

In 2009 following a very strong rookie campaign Beasley checked himself into rehab for "stress related issues" but many speculated that it was for his marijuana usage.  Beasley completed his rehab and returned to Miami for his sophomore season where he appeared to have improved.  Beasley managed to stay out of trouble during this season, and it appeared he may have things on track. 

In the Summer of 2010 Beasley was traded from Miami to Minnesota in exchange for draft picks which would allow the Heat room to sign both LeBron James and Chris Bosh.  Beasley seemed to embrace his role for the Timberwolves as he was the 2nd leading scorer as well as the 2nd leading rebounder.  Beasley averaged 19 points and 5 rebounds during his first year with the Timberwolves, and although it wasn't the most efficient year he'd ever had Beasley looked poised to finally live up to his potential.

Unfortunately this was not the case, and Beasley had an abysmal 2011-2012 season.  Beasley ended up only playing in 47 games that season and averaged a career low 11.5 ppg and 4.4 rpg.  During this year Beasley was pulled over while speeding through Minnesota suburb Minnetonka.  When he was pulled over marijuana was allegedly found in Beasley's vehicle, and he was subsequently fined and ticketed for the marijuana after claiming that it belonged to a friend whom he had just dropped off.

Though Beasley struggled during his last year and seemed to be reverting back to his old ways the Phoenix Suns decided that they wanted to make Beasley a cornerstone of their organization.  Phoenix recognized his immense talent and believed that if they brought him on he could finally live up to his potential.  Yet again, this was not the case.

Beasley had the worst year of his career, averaging career lows in points, rebounds, and shooting just barely over 40%.  Phoenix's hope for Beasley's resurgence were quickly dashed, and he started in only 20 of the 75 games in which he played.

Phoenix did not make the playoffs this past season, and were one of the worst teams in the league.  Beasley was inked to a 3yr/$18M deal which means that he may still be around for two more years which will handicap the Suns a bit financially.  However, there is actually a chance that Beasley's contract may end up being voided whether by amnesty or by what else? More off the court issues.

In May of this year it was reported that Beasley was being investigated for a sexual assault charge that occurred in January.  The alleged assault occurred in Phoenix and is still under investigation by authorities, and has yet to be resolved.  While Beasley may not have committed the crime, it doesn't matter at this point.  His image as a serious player in the NBA is going to take a beating from this whether he's acquitted or found guilty.

This brings us to his most recent marijuana charge. The police report and all of the details are listed at the beginning of this article so I'm not going to discuss that, but I do have one question.  How in the hell does Michael Beasley continue to screw up like this?  This is his job, this is what pays his bills.  Should he be waived by the Suns it will most likely be quite difficult for him to find work with another organization.  He may still be signed by someone, but those lucrative contract offers are not going to be coming anytime soon.  

The NBA cares a lot about it's public image, and teams do too.  Teams will take second, and even third chances on a lot of players hoping they can turn their image around.  Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't.  Most teams however, don't gives guys 4th and 5th chances and that's where we are with Michael Beasley.  Like I said, this is the guys livelihood and I can tell you right now there's not a real high demand for people with only a year of college completed.  At the end of the day, Beasley needs to get his head on straight, though it may be too late should he turn himself around he may still be able to be the player he could have been, and he may find himself another roster spot.  

I used to be a Michael Beasley apologist, but not anymore.  There comes a point and time where you can no longer defend a guy, I'm officially at that point.  I'll root for him if he can turn it around, but until then, I don't really care, and really, the NBA probably doesn't anymore either.

Follow me on Twitter @DbRedickulous