Tag Archives: NETS

Brook Lopez: Class Act

It’s crazy to think that back in 2008 the New Jersey Nets selected Brook Lopez in the first round of the draft.  Lopez has never gotten the credit he deserved while on the Nets.  Mostly because playing for the Nets is generally a curse to those who are doomed to play for the franchise – but mostly because Lopez was consistently under-the-radar his entire career.  Maybe it’s because he’s a finesse-type center, soft-spoken, kind of doofy looking – whatever it may be, the spotlight was never on Lopez.  Even at times when it was obvious he was the best player on the Nets roster, the spotlight was always on somebody else: Kris Humphries (for all the wrong reasons), Deron Williams (for all the wrong reasons), Kevin Garnett or even Joe Johnson.

Lopez was a guy who came to work and enjoyed what he did, with whoever was around.  It’s a rare quality in people – let alone a professional athlete.   Brook Lopez somehow managed to be an  unassuming seven footer.  This, as well as his price tag which came with an injury history, is why his name has come up in trades for the last three or four seasons.  On paper trading Lopez always made sense: a finesse-center, with a big salary, lower leg issues, who can’t run the floor – seems like the type to be a welcoming issue on a good team, instead of a player it’s fan-base looked at as “holding back.”  To be fair to Lopez, he was never, holding back this team – the team, eh and Billy King, have put the Nets in a perennial moon-walk avoiding the big dance – but anyhow. . .

The day has finally come for Lopez to be traded.  Reports have come out that on draft day, the Lakers and Nets have agreed to a trade in which the Lakers give up D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov and the Nets give up Brook Lopez and their 27th pick in the first round.  The Lakers relieve themselves of the Mozgov contract and get in return assets – and for the Nets their big takeaway from this is acquiring D’Angelo Russell – a young player with the potential to become a very promising piece to the Nets much needed rebuild.

With Lopez now gone, the Nets have nothing but young guys trying to prove they can hand in this league, and veterans filling in spots and collecting pay-days.

Nets players went on to social media to show love to Brook Lopez as soon as the news came out.

Sean Kilpatrick posted a touching picture of him hugging Lopez during a game followed by: “First player I met once I became a Net & said do what you do best. Thanks for making sure I was always alright. Good luck in LA big fella”

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson posted a video of him and Lopez reinacting theme song from the television show The Wayans Brothers, and you can tell RHJ was really hurt by this move: “Couldn’t sleep… I’ve had a lot of teammates throughout my life and I loved and embraced every single one of them. But this guy right here became a best friend, biggest critic, big brother, smart ass, goof ball, turned me into a Disney lover and more. But the one thing that always meant a lot to me is no matter what we went through on or off the court we always talked to each other. You will be truly missed “BROTHER” good luck with everything and remember “We ride together We die together……. Bad boys for life”

This is what made Brook Lopez special in the Nets community.  Sure, the Nets are on nobody’s radar – ever.  They are the worst team in the NBA today but there are two things nobody can take away from them.  One is, the re-brand is a much better look (from New Jersey to Brooklyn, new uniform, new home) and that Brook Lopez was always a class act.

Back to the trade itself.

As previously stated, for the Nets this was a small price to pay to get someone like D’Angelo Russell.  CBS Sports’ Chris Barnewell says this is good for Russell, in that he gets a “fresh start” in Brooklyn.  Russell bumped heads with Byron Scott, then had that infamous “snap chat controversy” with Nick Young – there was definitely a need for change.  Brooklyn has a bunch of young guys on the squad, but none came into the league with more potential than Russell.

It’s a shame Brook didn’t get a chance to be traded to a contender though. Personally, I’ve always been a fan of Brook Lopez and I always said that he deserves better, he deserves to be on a winner.  There is no telling what the Lakers plans are with Lopez, but my guess would be to have his veteran presence in a locker room full of young guys – to help them along the way.  Or maybe, ultimately, to be used as a piece for another trade before the draft or mid-season before the trade deadline.

Regardless, it’s officially the end of an era for a franchise riddled with errors.  Lopez leaves the Nets as the team’s all-time leading scorer and one of the most over-looked stars in the last decade of New York area sports.

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

 

 

NY Sports Today, Pt. One: The NBA

New York is pretty much the center of the universe.  Us citizens in New York acknowledge that fact and we ride with it.  Even those who aren’t from the great city of NY – when they compare our city to any other, it usually ends in a defeated mutter: “. . . but nothing is like New York.”   Yes, it’s the city all others love to hate and for good reason.  We stick our noses in the air,  and we are all in a rush because we all have somewhere to go or someone to meet.  Another reason this city is the one most love to hate, is because of it’s sports fans.  Personally, I get it.  Growing up in New York, I grew away from the fan bases of all the metropolitan franchises and mainly because the fans were just awful.   It’s not the fans’ fault though.  They grew up in the city that the world revolves around, so why wouldn’t the sports world revolve around their teams as well?

For the next few weeks I’ll be breaking down exactly where the professional franchises in this great city are in respect to the leagues they’re in.  This week we’ll tackle the NBA.  Here is where on one side you have a team that’s holding on to some imaginary greatness in the Knicks, and on the other side is one of the more forgotten professional franchises in the Brooklyn Nets, who are (unfortunately) the only team I care about in this great city. . .

The New York Knicks:

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Since the start of the new millennium, the New York Knicks have been a downtrodden franchise, who have been the focal point of frustration for most New Yorkers. Some blame Donnie Walsh.  Others blame Mike D’Antoni or Isiah Thomas.  The truth is, it was a cluster of stupid mistakes combined with ill-timed trades that had the Knicks in a perpetual state of hopelessness.  Since appointing Phil Jackson as the team president, the fan base has gone through  many ups and downs, in what is now – just about two years.  Phil Jackson hasn’t done much to re-ignite hope in the fan base until (let’s be honest) he got lucky and drafted Kristaps Porzingis with the fourth pick in the draft.  Why, lucky?  Because, in all truth he wanted Towns or Okafor – everyone did.  When he drafted the 7-footer out of Latvia, nobody knew what to expect.  And in true New York Knicks fashion – their fans expected the worse.  Much to their delight Porzingis has shown enough flashes in his rookie season that Knicks fans are comfortable moving forward with him.

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Things don’t get easier for the Knicks though.  Phil Jackson’s first choice as head coach, Derek Fisher was released this year and he has been replaced by Kurt Rambis.  Rambis, by resume or sheer looks is not the guy Knicks fans want.  To complicate things even further with the Knicks this year is they don’t know what/who they are.  They should be a team looking to groom it’s young star in Porzingis and even give more playing time to the youngsters Langston Galloway and rookie Jerian Grant but it seems like Jackson and Rambis want to “push for the playoffs.”  For what?  To get swept by the Cavs in the first round?  What does that do for you?  As it stands right now the Knicks are the 12th seed.  Last time I looked this wasn’t the NCAA Championship Tournament so being a 12th seed does you no good here.  In the Knicks’ weak attempt at trying for the playoffs, they are consistly playing with a back court of Aaron Affalo and Jose Calderon – those are two guys you couldn’t package in a deal even if you threw in all the Beatles masters and the sword of Gryffindor.

So, when it comes to the Knicks they have this one piece to build with in Porzingis.  A fading star in Carmelo Anthony.  And three interesting role players.  Oh and they’re all being coached by a guy who looks like this:

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and when he played, he looked like this:

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Someone needs to tell Phil Jackson to pump the brakes.

The Brooklyn Nets

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If there was ever a “wrong” team to root for – it might be this one.  You have to search high and low to find true Nets fans in New York.  Unfortunately for me, I see one in the mirror everyday (albeit it’s not a horrible sight, but I digress. . .).   When Mikhail Prokhorov bought the Nets in 2009, he brought with it a re-branding, a fresh start and an excitement rarely seen by this fan-base.   That lasted all but 3 years.  Give Prokhorov credit though, it’s not like he didn’t try.  He wasn’t shy with his money (as he had the most expensive and over-paid back court in the history of the NBA with Deron Williams and Joe Johnson) and he was quick to pull the trigger on a trade to bring Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn (which resulted in the NETS giving the Celtics every first round pick from now until I’m in my 40’s.)   “The Mad Russian” tried to bully his way into the league and he realized the err of his ways.  This brings us to the present day where the NETS are the fourth worst team in the NBA.  Put that into perspective they have only 15 wins, which is currently only one game better than the Phoenix Suns – a team that fights with itself on the bench.

The Nets have hired Sean Marks to be the team’s new general manager.  This got the fan base excited because he comes from the San Antonio Spurs offices and he waived Andrea Bargnani right away.   Marks has his work cut out for him though.  There are no draft picks to speak of and the entire roster from top to bottom needs to be reworked.  The NETS should’ve traded Thaddeus Young at the trade deadline because his stock will most likely never be higher than it is right now.  And although everybody loves him, it’s time to part ways with Brook Lopez.  Besides the injury bug that always haunts him, it’s the fact that the NBA is moving in a different direction.  Big men like Lopez still have a place in this league, but not on a team like the NETS that really can’t do anything to protect his weaknesses as a player.  Joe Johnson should’ve found a spot on a playoff team at the trade deadline, but that didn’t happen either.

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The good thing about being a NETS fan is that you really don’t expect much. . . ever.  So Sean Marks has more than enough time to put something together, and if he doesn’t – oh well, we’re the NETS. . .

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

What Happened to the Slam Dunk Contest?

Once upon a time, the NBA Slam Dunk contest was the highlight of the NBA All Star Weekend.   The slam-dunk, might be one of the most electric, exciting and exhilarating actions in all of sports.   It doesn’t matter how much a team is ahead or behind by, a dunk always gets the crowd excited.  So of course when the ABA introduced the first slam dunk contest in 1976, it was a huge success.   Julius Erving was crowned the winner of the first contest, over other hall of famers like David Thompson and George Gervin.

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After the ABA was over and done with, the NBA brought the Slam Dunk Contest back to life in 1984.  Fans went crazy seeing their favorite high flyers take off and try to dazzle the judges with their aerial artistry.   Fans were presented one of the best ever  slam dunk competitions in 1988  when Dominique Wilkins of the Atlanta Hawks  and Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls, squared off in a duel that led to Jordan wearing the crown.  It was something to see to men, who were of Hall of Fame destiny, to compete so hard against each other – all the while smiling – in trying to impress, judges, the crowd and their peers.  It meant something for these men to not only compete, but to win.

When the the Dunk Contest went through the 90’s it became more of a marketing tool for stars on the come-up.  It was pretty much a sure thing that if you won the Slam Dunk contest, you would be achieving some sort of fame – a standard had been set in the Slam Dunk contest,  and now if you won – you were put in this class of athlete.  You would at least get a sneaker-deal out of it.  Dee Brown, Isaiah Rider, Harold Miner – all of them gained fame through the dunk contest.  They sold jerseys and weren’t terrible ball players – just not All Stars.

After the Kobe Bryant and Vince Carter Slam Dunk wins in the late 90’s and early 2000’s the contest became lame.

Secondary players started to fill in the ranks: Jason Richardson, Josh Smith, Terrance Ross. . . Sure we had Dwight Howard (when the world loved him) and that one year Blake Griffin had to jump over a car to win the contest (literally) – but for the most part, people have lost interest in competing and watching the Dunk Contest.

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As fans, we’ve seen all the dunks already.  Off the glass, behind the back, under the legs, the alley oops from team-mates, high-self-bounce-pass, jumping over another player’s head – oh, and did we already mention jumping over a car!    There’s not much left to do that hasn’t been seen.   Maybe as fans we’re just spoiled.  You can watch a sports show that will re-cap the best dunks of the night.  You can YouTube the And-1 Mixtape players doing ridiculous dunks just to show off their talents.

Mostly, though it’s just lost it’s star power.  Nobody who is important cares about being the Slam-Dunk Champion.   This could be an instance in which us as fans, have have built up these players so much that they don’t think it’s important to entertain us anymore.  Competing with someone for a trophy that says “SPRITE” on it, means nothing to them.  Not even for the sake of competitive spirit.  Last year feature two All Stars John Wall (who won) and Paul George – it was great to see them compete, but it would’ve been great to see them be competitive, instead of seeing them with the “Ugh, okay. . . let’s see how this one goes” face. . .

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To be honest,  fans are more interested in the Three Point Contest and the Skills Competition more than the Slam Dunk contest.  Keep this in mind:  Instead of watching athletes fly in the air and deliver thunderous slam dunks, they’d rather watch guys shoot open jump shots, dribble around a cone and attempt a bounce pass threw a car tire.  The stars will show up for the other two events, but not for the Slam Dunk Contest.  For example, this year’s Skills Challenge features names like Kyle Lowry, Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague and John Wall – All Stars.   The Three-Point Shoot Contest features All Stars, Kyrie Irving, Stephon Curry, James Harden and Klay Thompson.  Who does the dunk contest have this year?  Thought you’d never ask: Victor Oladipo, Zach LaVine, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Mason Plumlee.   These names don’t exactly scream “slam-dunk-contest,” but more so sounds like the “who’s last name is harder to spell contest.”

Antetokounmpo is labeled “the Greek Freak” for a reason, he’s a young tremendous athlete with tremendous size (6’11”, 217) but he’s not a household name yet, mainly because he plays in Milwaukee and his last name is Antetokounmpo. Victor Oladipo was a great college player who looks like he’ll be a nice NBA player and that’s about it.  The Orlando Magic don’t have much to be proud about at the moment so this might be their big shot this weekend. . . Mason Plumlee of the Brooklyn Nets was a member of last year’s Team USA and has worked himself into the starting lineup of a disappointing Nets team this year.  Plumlee is a good player, but much like his association with his college coach Mike Krzyzewski may have gotten him on the USA team, it looks like his association with Brooklyn (NBA All Star weekend being in New York) has helped earn him a spot in this competition.  The last name is Zach LaVine. . . yeah, let’s not even pretend as if we know anything about him.

Obviously all four competitors are high flyers and great athletes – it’s also obvious they all play for teams that nobody generally cares about.  Plumlee may be the fan favorite because of his college days at Duke and he is the hometown guy in this year’s event but the truth is, after a long night of All Star festivities, the last thing fans want to see are three un-relatable players doing dunks we’ve seen a million times over.

Nobody wants to see the dunk contest go away and nobody would ever suggest that.  It would be nice to see players that we as fans actually  give a damn about competing in it – and in turn, it’d be nice to see those players give a damn about the competition once again.

 

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio