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Deron Williams

The NBA’s biggest surprises, halfway through the season–Part 1

There are only three teams over .500 in the Eastern Conference. Lance Stephenson is somehow not just a rotation player, but a…great one? I still barely know who Lance Stephenson is. The casualty list of serious injury to franchise cornerstones is higher than usual: Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose, Russell Wesetbrook, Chris Paul, Marc Gasol, Brook Lopez and Al Horford, amongst others. Derek Fisher is still getting major minutes for one of the best teams in the league.

It’s been a weird NBA season. Very weird.

Somehow, we’re almost at the halfway mark of the year and I’ve been astounded at every turn. Just to round up how we’ve gotten to where we are, here are some thoughts on some of the biggest surprises of the year:

The Brooklyn Nets are getting better, but have generally been pretty horrible

Pretty easy to summarize: a ton of injuries + a bad coach = a bad team.

However, what’s most surprising is how none of us saw this coming. Even this prestigious blog predicted the Nets would finish third in the Eastern Conference. I would have locked that in knowing just how completely barren they are of competent teams east of the Mississippi. Most of us figured that adding the defensive monstrosity of Kevin Garnett, the late game shot making of Paul Pierce and adding pieces like Jason Terry and Andre Kirilenko to the bench would make this one of the toughest, most physical teams in the league.… Read more...

The Final Countdown: Brooklyn Nets Season Preview

Starting Five: PG Deron Williams, SG Paul Pierce, SF Joe Johnson, PF Kevin Garnett, C Brook Lopez
 
Key Bench Players: SG Jason Terry, SF Andrei Kirilenko, PF Reggie Evans, C Andray Blatche
 
Notable offseason additions: C/PF Kevin Garnett, SG Paul Pierce, SG Jason Terry, SF Andrei Kirilenko, Head Coach Jason Kidd
 
Notable offseason subtractions:  SF Gerald Wallace, SG Keith Bogans, SG MarShon Brooks, PF Kris Humphries
 
FACT OR FICTION: The Nets will be legitimate title contenders to challenge the Miami Heat
 
FACT. Their starting five and sixth man are All-Stars. ‘Nuff said.
 
Last year, the Brooklyn Nets were the new, cool kid on the block. They moved into the neighborhood, took your lunch money, stole your girlfriend, beat you up, and did it all while Empire State of Mind blasts forth from the hulking Barclays Center in the heart of Brooklyn. Coming off the closeout year at the Prudential Center and New Jersey Nets as we knew them, riddled with injuries and trade rumors, the Nets staked their claim in New York and even saw a playoff berth. They were fresh, fun and exciting to watch, but underneath all of the glitz and the glamour the true nature of the Nets reared its ugly mug causing even the most diehard Brooklynette’s fan to look away.… Read more...

NBA Playoffs: Eastern Conference First Round Predictions

It’s Christmas kids. Except instead of Jesus being born, we’re celebrating a bunch of overpaid athletes play a game we’d all happily do for a fraction of the money. It’s pretty much the same thing, right?
 
Let’s get right to it–MAMBINO official predictions and commentary from the whole team:
 
1) Miami Heat vs. 8) Milwaukee Bucks
 
Why is this a clean sweep for the Heat?

 
El Mariachi: LeBron James.  … Read more...

Seeing is believing, as the Lakers take an unreal victory in Brooklyn

(A MAMBINO live report from Brooklyn for the Nets-Lakers game last night)
 
“Unreal. Just…unreal.”
 
I slumped back in my seat time after time, stunned at the game that was taking place in front of me. Quarter after quarter, the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers continued to shake convention in a contest that couldn’t be any less believable. Still, I whispered in amazement for 48 minutes, sometimes with a smile on my face and others with a bewildered scowl, hands atop my head.
 
The Los Angeles Lakers beat the Brooklyn Nets in their first visit to the Barclays Center last night, 92-83, in a game the Lakers had to have, Brooklyn couldn’t have tried harder to give away and ultimately, Pau Gasol would love to have back.
 
The Barclays Center is merely a 30-minute train ride away from my apartment. This gigantic iron behemoth is brilliantly located in the middle of New York’s second most heralded borough, crossing almost a dozen subway lines and the Long Island Railroad. It stands out from the surrounding environ of a typical urban center, as if Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum lost the war on July 4th and a spaceship landed in the middle of the BK. The Barclays Center is convenient, marvelous, and most importantly, thanks to its NBA tenants, cheap.
 
Despite a move out of the swamp in New Jersey to a brilliant, shining, $1 billion dollar arena, the now Brooklyn Nets are struggling to find their place in NYC. Attendance is up to 16th this season, a solid upward trend from finishing no better than 25th in crowd support since 2009. However, like with any expansion or relocation franchise, it’s been difficult to find a fervent, dedicated fan base when a team has little tradition, few marketable stars, and generations of followers tied to another organization. New Yorkers are still very dedicated to their beloved Knicks, and the ticket price to see the now contending Bockers is sky high. For the playoff-bound Nets? There’s a far smaller mortgage to be paid for attending a game in Brooklyn. Knowing all of this before showing up to Barclays tonight, I shouldn’t have been so surprised by the swath of Lakers fans in front of me.
 
Still, even high fives from strangers clad in Lakers hats and headbands couldn’t distract me from the task at hand–defeating the then 28-19 Brooklyn Nets. LA came into the game short-staffed, with Dwight Howard missing his second consecutive game due to a re-aggravated shoulder injury and Metta World Peace due to a bogus suspension for “punching” Brandon Knight during Sunday’s Pistons game. Chief amongst my concerns were how anyone would be able to check the 6’7″ Joe Johnson, if Reggie Evans would now gobble up 25 boards instead of 16 now that Dwight was ruled out and if Steves Nash and Blake would just spot Deron Williams the 20 he would eventually score.
 
Amazingly–unreal-ly–this never came to pass.
 
(Read the rest at Silver Screen and Roll after the jump)… Read more...

Out of the Swamp and Into the BK – Brooklyn Nets Preview

Starting Five: PG Deron Williams, SG Joe Johnson, SF Gerald Wallace, PF Kris Humphries, C Brook Lopez

Key Bench Players:
PG CJ Watson, SG MarShon Brooks, F Mirza Teletovic, PF Reggie Evans, PF/C Andray Blatche, G Tyshawn Taylor


Notable offseason additions: SG Joe Johnson, F Mirza Teletovic, PF Reggie Evans, PF/C Andray Blatche, G Tyshawn Taylor


Notable offseason subtractions: PG Jordan Farmar, SG DeShawn Stevenson, G/F Gerald Green, G/F Anthony Morrow, PF Johan Petro

It was a huge factor,” Williams told us about the Nets moving to Brooklyn. “I don’t think I would have even thought about staying if it (the Nets franchise) was staying in New Jersey.Yahoo!

I had never been to Brooklyn until the press conference, and that was something like I’ve never experienced before. It was unbelievable — all the fans coming out to welcome us. It was something I’ve never been a part of.  I had a great time.“–Joe Johnson from SI.com

The one thing Brook [Lopez] always said was he wanted to play in the building [the $1 billion Barclays Center] when it opens“–Nets GM Billy King from ESPN

Whether or not you believe that the wholesale changes to the Nets franchise will make them into a title contender, there’s no doubt that the Nets are made better this year merely by moving out of the New Jersey wasteland and into a civilized country. 

The team recently made their debut on the Barclays Center hardwood, a sparkling, state of the art arena located right on top of one of the busiest public transportation hubs in all of New York City. The Nets were the ugly, toothless, red-headed, lice-ridden step-sister of metro area sports; from their location in the decrepit IZOD Center (formerly Continental Airlines Arena) and later the Prudential Center in Newark, both located well out of city limits to tepid fan support even at the team’s early decade zenith. The former New Jersey franchise had the least cache out of any professional sports team attached to the back page of the Post, including the anonymous New York Islanders

(All of that was very politically correct–the summary is that no one gave a shit about the Nets. Last year, BockerKnocker and I went to a Houston Rockets/Nets game for $2.50 a seat. That wasn’t a typo. Two dollars and fifty cents. Needless to say, I happily footed the entire bill)

Ever since the team‘s move to Brooklyn was made official with the ribbon cutting ceremony at Barclays, the striking black and white BK Nets gear has been ubiquitous around town. With their ownership attached to the greatest rapper alive and their location in the hippest part of town, the Nets somehow became a source of…credibility, a noun that has rarely been associated with a franchise that ranks amongst the country’s most disgraceful. So far, fan support has followed, as evidenced by full arenas in preseason games and general excitement throughout the five boroughs. 

However, like any major market with several competing teams vying for front page attention, the Nets have to actually put it on the floor and churn out consistent victories to matter. To do so, they’ve fortified a team that’s won 58 games in the last three years combined. This past summer, the Nets managed to re-sign four of their starters, including Deron Williams, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and the Shaquille O’Neal-endorsed “best big man in the NBA” Brook Lopez, as well as traded for six-time All-Star shooting guard Joe JRead more...

Instant Trade Analysis: Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets

Brooklyn Nets get: SG Joe Johnson

Atlanta Hawks get: SF Anthony Morrow, G Jordan Farmar, G DeShawn Stevenson, F Jordan Williams, PF Johan Petro, 2013 First-Round draft pick (via Houston)

The casual NBA fan might not know who Joe Johnson is, but (and I hope I’m not overstating this) this trade changes the face of the NBA as we’ve predicted it.

Too much? I don’t think so.

Looking first at the two teams involved, this has to be considered a win-win situation. The Nets now get another multi-time All-Star to pair potentially with Deron Williams, in addition to a newly re-signed Gerald Wallace. Joe Johnson is hilariously overpaid ($90 million over the next 4 seasons), but regardless of the unintentional comedy of his deal, there’s no denying he’s a great talent, especially when put aside one of the top three point guards in the league in a second-option role. JJ hasn’t played with a legitimate point since he was traded by the Suns in 2005, so it’ll be interesting to see how he adjusts seven seasons after being with such imposters such as Jeff Teague and Mike Bibby. Brooklyn badly needed more talent to surround Deron Williams with, and after a doomsday scenario of watching their one All-Star walk away to Dallas after essentially using three lottery picks to acquire him in the first place, the Nets could be keeping three All-Stars. Teaming Johnson, Deron and Wallace with Brook Lopez, MarShon Brooks and perhaps a capable power forward like Kris Humphries, the Nets might have just turned themselves into a four-seed. Miraculous.

For the Hawks, this is a pure salary dump, plain and simple. Farmar, Stevenson and Morrow are all solid rotation players, but truly nothing more than that. New GM Danny Ferry is doing what we here at MAMBINO have criticized the wayward Hawks have always implored them to do; choose a direction. The Hawks have come back with the same exact squad that’s gotten bounced in the second round for four seasons now, with minimal changes or improvements. In short, they’ve gone nowhere for several seasons. Their inability to garner a legitimate point guard or center for the past four years has been maddening as an objective observer. What Ferry has done is escape the AWFUL contract that former GM Rick Sund penned Joe Johnson to, and will now be able to make moves towards building a more complete, competitive and deep team. The Hawks could either stick with some of the pieces they have and build around them, seeing as they’ve now have the ability to extend Josh Smith to keep him with Al Horford and Jeff Teague for the near future, and then bring in another piece that makes this into an actual contender. Conversely, they could trade Josh Smith, blow up their core, keeping Horford and start over while the Heat, Celtics and Knicks get older. They weren’t going to be able to do either with with Joe Johnson’s cap-murdering deal on the docket.

Moving past the actual teams in the deal, this trade sends shockwaves throughout the league. Here they are:

Orlando Magic: Dwight Howard had “one team on his list”. And now that’s no longer a reality. With Gerald Wallace’s new deal, as well as Joe Johnson’s and presumably a Brook Lopez extension, the Nets no longer have room for a salary of Dwight Howard’s magnitude.

Some critics might point to the fact that Dwight wanted to go to the Nets, and that had they waited it out, he’d eventually be on the Brooklyn roster. However, a couple mitigating factors complicated that approach.

1). With Der… Read more...

BQ#5 – Can the Nets Go to Brooklyn Yet?

It would have been simple, convenient, and expected for me to have become a New Jersey Nets fan. First and foremost, I grew up in the great state of New Jersey. In fact, the first NBA game I ever attended was at the swampy Brendan Byrne Arena, and only recently can I say that I’ve seen more games at Madison Square Garden than wherever the Nets called home. Second, I could have spared myself some early childhood ribbing from “real” Knicks fans who thought that being born and raised in NYC was a pre-req. And last, but certainly not least, former Net Kendall Gill gave an inspiring, fan-attracting performance in Nickelodeon’s “My Brother and Me” — so in other words, it’s a miracle that I’m NOT a Nets fan.

That miracle took the form of the Sportschannel New York, later known to us as Fox Sports Net New York and now known to us as MSG+. The problem was that Nets games were broadcast on a paid cable channel, one that my parents chose not to buy. Lo and behold, that led me to watch another enterprise on the Madison Square Garden network, the New York Knickerbockers. The Knicks were good in the 1990s, making two Finals appearances under the tutelage of Pat Riley and the play of Patrick Ewing. As I latched onto the orange and blue, however, I was still a Nets sympathizer…until 102-76.

You know that feeling you get when you hate something associated with sports? And even better, when you’re aware that such hatred makes no sense, either because the object of your anger doesn’t deserve it, or because you realize that sports means too much to your life? Well, the late Drazen Petrovic was my first hate moment. When the first-place Bockers crossed the Hudson into Jersey in the 1992-93 season, Petrovic diced the Knicks to the tune of 28 points and 6 assists. I will never forget that Croatian smile after he drained a 3 in the face of fan favorite John Starks (granted, Starks probably deserved it since his choice of trash talk to Petrovic implied that Croatians were responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing). That smile bred hate in my 7-year-old face. I would never forgive the Nets for that.

So when the news came out that Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov would be moving the franchise to Brooklyn, I was ecstatic. I’ve already said my goodbyes. Go fail elsewhere, guys. Not in my state. So how will the team say goodbye to New Jersey?

Due to the lockout, the preseason consisted of a home-and-home series for all NBA teams. Each squad was scheduled to play one home game and one road game with another franchise in geographic proximity. I caught the Prudential Center game on TV, and attended the MSG game, thanks to an absurd connect from Mambino friend El Miz. I noticed that the best part of this home-and-home series was to see the adjustments made from either team in the second game. For instance, after Nets rookie MarShon Brooks had himself quite the debut in the first contest, Knicks guards defended him more aggressively in the second, forcing him out of his comfort zones. Tyson Chandler figured out that Brook Lopez is scared of…well, everything, so a little nudge here and maybe an “inadvertent” elbow there, got The Punisher off of his game.

The Nets, on the other hand, did not make any discernible adjustments from the first game to the second. What made matters worse was the obvious lack of professional talent on New Jersey’s roster, which was apparent from the opening tip, as journeymen Sundiata Gaines and Shelden “The Landlord” Williams log… Read more...

Burning Question #16: Dwight, Deron, CP3: Who gets traded?

Everybody loves a good rumor. In every scenario, the thought of something possibly happening always gets us amped up. The NBA is no different. Rumors have percolated about everyone and everything for as long as we can remember, but the uber-rumor era started rather recently:

Where is LeBron James going?
-Is he going to re-sign with Cleveland?
-What about New York? He loves the big city and Nike will pay him more money!
-I heard he wants to play with D-Rose!
-How come he hasn’t re-signed with Cleveland yet!?
-Who the eff is “Worldwide Wes” and why are we talking about him?
-“I will be talking to LeBron James.” -Amar’e Stoudemire, after signing with the Knicks
-WHY ISN’T LEBRON ANSWERING DAN GILBERT’S PHONE CALLS!?
-Huh? He’s meeting with the Clippers?
-“Wade resigns with Miami, brings Bosh with him.” Okay, so the Heat are out of the sweepstakes.
-Wait, they’re not? :(

Of course we all know that this led to “The Decision,” but the rumor mill hasn’t stopped. All of last year, the media preyed on Carmelo Anthony’s impending trade to YOUR New York Knicks. This year, we have three sets of rumors. Three contracts with the dreaded opt-out provision. Three players who want to defeat the trio in Miami. So who gets traded?

Why is this even a question?

I would have skipped this section were it not for the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. My whole intro basically told you why this is a Burning Question, but to get you more in tune with my noise, the new CBA will affect all trades, as follows:

Trade Percentage Rule:
Before this season, the number to remember was 125. If a trade involved putting at least one of the involved teams over the salary cap, that team could only acquire players whose current year salaries were no more than 125% + $100,000 of the current year salaries of the players that team was shipping out. (Hypothetical example: BockerKnocker plays for the Knicks and earns a salary of $15 million. KOBEsh plays for the Lakers and earns a salary $490K, the league minimum. If the Lakers want to acquire BK, and doing so would put them over the cap, they would have to add more players to the deal so the salaries would abide by the 125 percent rule.) This season, the 125 percent rule remains in effect for teams that are so far over the salary cap that they pay a luxury tax. However, if a team is over the cap, but not in the luxury tax window, a new 140 percent rule will go into effect.

How does this affect Dwight, Deron, and CP3? Glad you asked.

DWIGHT
Orlando has approximately $75 million committed in player salaries for the upcoming season. This is above both the cap ($58 million) and the luxury tax threshold ($70 million). However, unless ownership re-ups their dosage of crazy pills, The Albatross Formerly Known As Gilbert Arenas will be taken off Orlando’s books as a result of the Amnesty Clause (wherein a team can shed one contract off of their books). If Arenas’ $19M figure is amnestied, then Orlando would be under the cap. As a result, any team that wants to land Dwight won’t be forced into giving the Magic as many “filler” players just to abide by the 125 percent rule. Ultimately, this could shift leverage away from the Magic, as teams will want to pry Dwight for about 50 cents on the dollar.

DERON
New Jersey has a ridiculous amount of cap space, with only $39 million committed to players for 2011-12. The number will drop even lower if they decide to use the Amnesty Clause on the Mambino-hated Travis Outlaw, who sports a nifty $7 mRead more...

Deron Williams…#8, New Jersey Nets

About two weeks ago, my roomate Andrew forwarded me an e-mail promoting New Jersey Nets tickets. I was, at first, disgusted with the prospect of even opening any e-mail having to do with the New Jersey Nets. But, to my hilarity and instant enjoyment, I saw that it detailed a deal selling nosebleed Nets tickets for $2.00 a piece. Yes. Two whole American dollars.

Four days later, Deron Williams got traded to the Nets. We saw an instant rise in the price of Nets tickets. A 250% increase to…$5.00. I was enraged at the prospect of having to pay that kind of mark-up.

Regardless of my feelings of consumer betrayal and anger at such outrageous inflation, with the addition of Deron and with Steve Nash coming to town, I relented and paid such exorbitant prices to watch YOUR…New Jersey Nets in beautiful, scenic Newark, a town known for it’s fine cuisine and cleanliness (though those two adjectives are not necessarily tied together)

I’ve been to a Nets game before. Earlier this season, I came to watch the world champion Los Angeles Lakers visit the tri-state area. The game miraculously appeared to be a near sellout (the Nets regularly have one of the lowest attendances in the league), and the arena was littered with purple and gold. In a casual, yet scientific and unexaggerated estimation, I’d say 65 percent of the crowd were Lakers fans. I scoured those in attendance for NJN gear, but as I walked through the Prudential Center, saw maybe (no joke) two dozen or so people in Nets gear. It really is that desolate.

Last Monday was Deron Williams’ first home game as a Net. I expected to see a few people in newly minted Williams #8 jerseys or shirts, but by extrapolating what I knew about the fanbase, I didn’t expect much more than that. We walked through the doors and I was blown away, as I instantly saw 4 or 5 people wearing white “Williams #8” shirts. “Wow” I thought, “Jersey really stepped up. People actually might be a little fired up for this. Holy shnikes”. As we strolled through the concourse to our extravagantly and outrageously priced seats, I saw more and more “Williams #8” shirts and realized “Oh…this has to have been a promotion. People who are buying $2 seats are not buying $25 Nets merchandise”. And I was right. Apparently the Nets stepped up and gave Williams #8 shirts to the first 10,000 “fans” in attendance.

(This kind of situation happened to me once before. When I was a freshman at Boston College, a Jesuit institution of the finest and highest of learning, I walked around campus one fine April morning and saw a girl with some dark smudges on her forehead. I did a double take as she passed and thought “Man, that is EMBARRASING! That girl has make-up all over her forehead! What a goon!”. Then I saw that another girl. And another with smudges. And another. And then a couple guys. And a nun. And a dog. And another nun. So even with all the testosterone and masculine instincts that pulse in my veins that run through my well-muscled body, I betrayed my manly nature and asked what was going on – someone replyed “Ash Wednesday. They put crosses on your forehead from ashes…You don’t know this?”. Jesus, 1. Blake, 0)

We sat down to watch a game (which ended up being a good one – the Nets came back late to force OT and ended with a Channing Frye 3 and a Kris Humphries tip-in that was waved off after the buzzer) and after a few Sasha Vujacic-directed “MACHINE” cracks, I couldn̵… Read more...

Instant Trade Analysis: Deron Williams to the NJ Nets

NJN Gets: Deron Williams

Utah Gets: Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, NJN 2011 first rounder (non-lottery protected), GS 2011 first rounder (partially protected) and cash considerations

Much like the Knicks deal for Carmelo Anthony, you have to look at this deal in ths light: will the guys that NJ gave up ever be as good as Deron Williams be right now? In other words, will four unknown assets ever be as good as the known asset?

Unfortunately for this trade, it’s all complicated by Deron’s contract situation. Unlike Melo, Williams has not signed a contract extension. So, if he wants to walk, he can opt out of $17 million in 2012. In essence, everything that the Nets gave up could be for nothing in 2012.

The Nets had to do this trade. Their best player was Devin Harris, who has most likely hit his ceiling. The second best player on the team was probably Brook “The Punisher” Lopez, who rebounds less than Landry “The Punisher” Fields – a guard. The third best player on this team is questionably Jordan Farmar (who also questionably has the worst tattoos on the team, though Devin Harris is giving him a strong run) or Kris Humphries – which, in either case, is a really really bad situation. They are planning a move to Brooklyn after next season, and they certainly weren’t gonna sell tickets with Travis Outlaw not hitting threes, Derrick Favors maybe being productive and Quinton Ross somehow still having a job in this league.

Deron Williams is the best point in the league. I think he would have more of an impact on the Knicks than Carmelo will have, had he gone there instead. That all being said, this trade is only a win if they can convince him to stay. If Prokorhov works his Russian magic (which probably involves a cattle prod, Deron’s family, sunny D and vodka…..lots of vodka) and Deron stays, then the Nets win this deal, hands down. He took a Utah team with Memhet Okur and Carlos Boozer to the Western Conference Finals. What says he couldn’t do that with Lopez and another free agent (maybe David West?).

As for the guys he gave up, Devin Harris is who he is – a good scoring guard with some passing ability. The pick they gave up will be in the top-10, which would normally be a bad thing, but might not hurt them as much as it could considering this should be a terrible draft. The consideration that really could end up hurting the Nets is Derrick Favors, who could be an all-star PF in three seasons.

Overall, I love this trade for the Nets. They had to do it.

As a sidenote, tickets for the Suns/Nets game on Monday were $2 yesterday and after a 250% markup…are now $5. I love the Nets.… Read more...