Happy Thanksgiving

First off, I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving. Though there may be no NBA games tonight, that just gives you an excellent chance to spend time with your family, friends, and loved ones and eat a whole Pek-worth of food. Of course with Thanksgiving, there are the things we have that we are thankful for. For what it’s worth, we shouldn’t rely on one day to think about the things we’re grateful for. Regardless, I’m indeed thankful for many things. First, my family and friends, especially the ones I’ve met on DDL and subsequently, DDU. I’m thankful to AndrewMontanye for letting me write stuff on here, to MontaWorldPeace for being MontaWorldPeace, and to all of DDU for picking up where DDL left off and continuing on the great tradition of talking about nothing basketball while we watch it.

But why stop there? There are plenty more things to be thankful for and I have a list full of them.

I’m thankful for:

  • The Spurs for providing a woman the opportunity to coach in the NBA.
  • Charlotte and MJ bringing back the Hornets
  • Swaggy P
  • Brandin Knight being a potential not top 10 waiting to happen,
  • The Sixers tanking their way to potential historic proportions
  • Travis Wear being on the Knicks so I can get a Christmas jersey with my name on it
  • Swaggy P
  • Kobe breaking the record for career missed FGs
  • The Knicks secretly tanking for Okafor (also known as taking a spill for Jahlil)
  • The Cavs secretly tanking for another number 1 pick which they will eventually trade for Kobe
  • The Antetokoumpbros
  • LeBron going back to Cleveland
  • Swaggy P
  • Lance photobombing Derek Fisher
  • Lance being Lance
  • Melo’s top hat
  • Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love “sharpening their mustaches”
  • Did I mention Swaggy P yet?
  • Raptors’ tribute to Vince Carter
  • RINGZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ
  • Refs forgetting how to count to 5
  • Clyde Frazier

And so much more that I can’t write them all. In summation, I am grateful for many things and lastly, I am grateful to you for taking the time to read this piece.

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Transferring to the 2: A Brooklyn Nets Preview

The previous season’s Brooklyn Nets roster would have done a fine job… in 2008. Unfortunately, I happened to check the calendar and last year was not in fact 2008, but 2014. Well, 2013 but you get the point. They were old and they were hurt. This will be the Nets’ third season in the borough of Brooklyn and for all of the hype and fanfare, ambitions, and exorbitant payroll, all the Nets have done so far is a first round exit and a conference semifinal destruction courtesy of the Miami Heat. They probably wouldn’t have even gotten out of the first round last year if Paul Pierce hadn’t blocked Toronto’s Kyle Lowry in the dying moments of Game 7.

Brooklyn lost some players through free agency in the offseason. They lost Paul Pierce to Washington, which probably won’t hurt them a lot, but the truth can hurt sometimes. Also gone is Shaun Livingston to Golden State, who is a guy I feel the Nets will miss a lot. He was a revelation for Brooklyn; the Nets being 8.5 points per 100 possessions better defensively with him on the court and at times, he was arguably the best player on the court for Brooklyn. The biggest loss of them all, though, is the Filipino Phenom, the Manila Menace, Andray Blatche himself. Baltcheball instead will take his talents to the Silk Road and play for China’s Xinjiang Flying Tigers. Go and spread your wings, Andray, and soar like all the tigers of the world do.

Brooklyn, like their cross-town rivals the Knicks, found their way into the 2014 NBA Draft by securing three second-round draft picks. Unlike New York, Mikhail Prokhorov threw all the money at the Timberwolves, Raptors, and Sixers in order to obtain those picks. With those picks, the Nets selected Markel Brown, Xavier Thames, and Cory Jefferson. Thames decided to play in Europe while Brown and Jefferson are on the current roster. The two of them are plenty athletic for a team in real need of it and both should see their share of opportunities over the course of the season to display what they can do.

The Nets also acquired Jarrett Jack and Sergey Karasev from Cleveland as part of a three-team trade, sending Marcus Thornton to Boston in the process. Jack will take’s Livingston’s role as the backup point to Deron Williams and Karasev gives the Nets another young player to develop. The Nets also signed Croatian swingman Bojan Bogdanović from Turkish side Fenerbahçe. He had a great World Cup for Croatia and will look to build upon that in his first year in the States.

The biggest move the Nets made, however, was the shipping of coach Jason Kidd to the gulag… I mean Milwaukee for a second-round pick in next year’s draft and in the 2019 draft. Kidd wanted more control within the organization and that went over well with management like a fart in church.  The Nets then hired former Memphis Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins to a four-year deal. This will be the Nets’ 4th head coach in the last three seasons. Hopefully, Hollins will able to bring some form of stability to the Nets.

Hollins’ Grizzlies teams were known for being big, tough, and defensive-minded; all of those the current Nets are lacking in. Those Grizzlies teams were also known for their play in the paint and aversion to three-point shooting, ranking dead last in percentage of FGA from 3-point range in 3 of the 5 seasons Hollins was in charge. By comparison, the Nets, using Kidd’s small ball system, ranked 4th last season. Of course, part of that can be contributed to the fact that the Nets have more shooters than the Grizzlies ever did, but surely that doesn’t change that Hollins will surely want his guys to take more shots inside the arc than outside of it.

Hollins have already committed to four starters, those being Deron Williams, seven-time All-Star Joe Johnson, Kevin Garnett, and Brook Lopez. None of these guys played a full season last year. Williams was terrible, Lopez was probably on his way to a career year before his foot injury robbed him of that chance, and Garnett looked like an empty husk and probably should have retired in April. Heck, he should have retired immediately after this happened.

*Note: I instantly remembered after this, I forgot to mention Andrea Bargnani in my Knicks preview. I am truly sorry for my regrettable action, or in this case, inaction and to atone for my transgression, I will belt out the Italian national anthem a la Gianluigi Buffon or something like these fine ragazzi here at a later date.*

The fifth starter will probably be a competition between re-signed Alan Anderson and Bogdanović at the shooting guard position. The Nets really liked Anderson enough to sign him to a multi-year contract so signs are that he is possibly the favorite to start.

As for the bench, Mirza Teletović will be called upon to stretch the floor with his perimeter shooting. Andrei Kirilenko, if healthy, should provide some of the hard-nosed defense that Hollins will appreciate. Marquis Teague and Jorge Gutierrez will most likely be called upon to do some things should D-Will miss games from injury. By the way, it seems like the Nets have some sort of Eastern European brotherhood going on in their roster with Bogdanović, Karasev, Kirilenko, and Teletović. If they develop well in Hollins’ system, I will christen them with the new name “Bloc Party”. Wait, that name is already taken? Damn it. Well, I’m sure I’ll think of something in due time.

The main guy off the bench, though, will be Mason Plumlee, who was part of the gold medal-winning U.S. squad at this year’s World Cup. He made the NBA All-Rookie team last year and with the past few months he has had, is expected to make a considerable leap this season. Hollins wants him to develop more of an offensive game, especially in the post. I expect him to eventually supplant Garnett in the starting lineup and if he can manage to expand his offensive repertoire and if Brook Lopez can stay healthy, the two can become an offensive frontcourt force for the future in the same way Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph were for Hollins with the Grizzlies.

If all goes well on Flatbush Avenue, the Nets should find their way into the playoffs again. Even if some things fall apart, the Nets should be back in the playoffs. The Eastern Conference is a forgiving monster. Still, the Nets are far from being a contender in the East and though with Hollins as coach, the roster transactions during the offseason didn’t do much for me to change that.

Tango with the Triangle: A New York Knicks Preview

Ah, to be a Knicks fan. It’s like riding Disney World’s Tower of Terror. The name itself is an apt comparison but the ride is an even better one. Subtle bumps up intertwined with staggering crashes down, those crashes being a lot more frequent and impactful than the bumps. At the end, all you feel is pain and a tinge of regret, but for some sadistic reason, you also eagerly await the next time you ride it.

Did I mention it’s also prone to breaking down? That’s also a comparison.

Anyways, last season for the Knicks was an utter disappointment. Two seasons ago, the Knicks were the pride of the town, Mike Woodson was hailed as a savior, Carmelo Anthony was on his way to his first scoring title, and #KnicksTape was in full force. Unfortunately, last season happened and the Knicks Tape became more of a Knicks floppy disk, the defense looked like five James Hardens were on the court many a time, and Woodson was shucking and ducking his way out of Manhattan. Even longstay coach Herb Williams was shown the door. April in the blue and orange side of town was bleaker than an episode of Game of Thrones. Melo going all meganova on the Bobcats for the franchise record of 63 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. dueling with Dion Waiters were awesome moments that I was excited to watch live and that’s good and all… but when your season can be summed up by the following YouTube highlights such as this, and this, and this… It’s probably not been a good season at all.

Alas, there may be a silver lining in the orange and blue cloud of despair with the arrival of Obi-Wan… I mean new team president Phil Jackson and his pupil Derek Fisher, who will be the man leading the Knicks this year. With them comes the installation of the triangle offense. Seeing the Summer League Knicks run it seemed like a breath of fresh air. It ran with regularity, with fluidity, with purpose; basically everything that last year’s offense wasn’t. Also fun and I like fun; therefore this should make the Knicks a very interesting watch this year.

The Knicks did quite a bit of roster remodeling during the summer. Gone are Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas, Phil having possibly used Jedi mind tricks to get the latter off their hands. In return, the Knicks managed to get José Calderón, Shane Larkin, Samuel Dalembert, and two of this year’s second-round draft picks, which turned out to be Cleanthony Early and Thanasis Antetokounmpo. The Knicks fared very well in this deal, I feel. Calderón is an upgrade over Felton in nearly every way possible save for defense. Larkin, completely healthy, will continue to deputize Calderón as he did in Dallas and will be that change of pace point guard. In Dalembert, you have a solid rim protector, not to the level that Chandler once provided for New York, but should still give them some defensive presence in the paint. Many people consider Early to be a steal for New York when he was drafted as the 34th pick and certainly he has impressed in Summer League. Thanasis will probably start the season in the D-League this year but he’s energetic, athletic, and can become a solid perimeter defender. The Knicks managed to get a really good haul for two players who ran their course here in New York. Chandler at times seemed like he didn’t want to be in New York anymore and Felton was a burn victim due from nightly torchings by opposing point guards. And he was fat. And there was thing with the whole “illegal possession of firearms”*cue jokes like “How could he shoot a gun if he can’t even shoot a basketball?”*. And also this moment.

To be fair to Felton, he was probably stretching his jaw muscles for the all-you-can-eat buffet later that night… maybe.

The Knicks also traded fan favorite Jeremy Tyler and Wayne Ellington, acquired in the trade with Dallas, to Sacramento for Quincy Acy and Travis Outlaw. They then used their mid-level exception to sign big man Jason Smith from New Orleans, whose mid-range game will be of great service to the Knicks’ triangle.

There’s bound to be a lot of questions asked of this Knicks team so to the benefit of those reading, I’ll do a short FAQ and answer some of them to the best of my abilities.

Q: Can Melo thrive in the triangle the same way that Jordan and Kobe did?

A: Of course he can. I think he’ll need to be more active off the ball than we’re used to seeing but let’s be honest here, Melo would be dangerous in just about any kind of offense you put him in. He’ll be fine.

Q: Will J.R. Smith finally get it together?

A: He’s J.R. Smith.

Q: Will Iman Shumpert have a bounce-back season after a disappointing sophomore season?

A: I feel that he can. He’s at full health now after missing a good portion of last season due to injury. After the Texas trip, he faded liked his high top. He should be energized under this new offense where he’ll be able to do more than just stand at the corner.

Q: Will this be Tim Hardaway Jr.’s breakout year?

A: Breakout is kind of strong, but there’s no doubt in my mind that he will definitely improve on what was a solid rookie season. He showed little problems in adjusting to the triangle in Summer League, averaging near 23 ppg. He has more to his game than the 3-ball. He can attack the rim, pull-up from midrange, is an athletic freak, and if he improves on defense, he’ll be an invaluable asset for the Knicks for years to come.

Q: Will Amar’e Stoudemire be able to play a full 82-game season?

A: Hopefully, he can. He’ll probably have a minute limit of around 25 or so and he may not be able to play the second game of back-to-backs but if that’s what it takes to keep him healthy, then so be it.

Q: Will the Knicks continue to make trades during the season?

A: I don’t know if they will or not. Pablo Prigioni and Iman Shumpert have been bandied about in trade rumors in the past months but I think the Knicks will stay put.

Q: What lineup do the Knicks roll with? Do they still try small ball and use Melo as PF?
A: I think Fisher will go with the traditional lineup. He has done so in Summer League and there’s not much reason to think things will be different in the regular season. Therefore, expect to see a lot of Melo at the 3. There will be rotation amongst the big men and the Knicks have plenty of them. The Knicks also have depth at both guard positions, especially shooting guard. Fisher is placing an emphasis on a consistent lineup.

Q: Will the Knicks make the playoffs this season?

A: It’s the Eastern Conference. Anything can happen.

Q: Fix the bloody defense!

A: Hey, that’s not a question! But yes, they very much need to, specifically their perimeter defense. Allowing 37% from 3 (4th worst in the league) is not desirable.

There’s a lot more questions but the main one that I’m sure many will be asking is “Will the triangle work in New York?” I don’t see why it couldn’t. You can draw a triangle using Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York as the three points. Go and do it! Also, a triangle is in their logo so anything is possible!

The thing with learning something new is that it takes time and effort. Some get it quickly while for others, it could take months. Look at another team from New York, the Giants, for example. They’ve introduced a brand new offense in the offseason yet it took until week 3 of the regular season to show some signs of progress. It will more or less be the same thing for these Knicks. The triangle is a rather complicated offense. It will be a learning process, both for the players and the coach. Team chemistry as well as staying healthy also play important roles towards the learning process; two things the Knicks didn’t have much of last season. However if the Summer League is anything to go by, if the triangle does come to form, the Knicks will be playing entertaining basketball. As long as owner Jim Dolan stays away from anything Phil does involving the team, the Knicks should have the city buzzing once again.