[Note: With the All-Star Break come and gone and a frenetic first half of the NBA season in the books, I decided to take a look back and give out a few mid-season awards. And because it’s not really all that fun to run down the tired list of actual awards (if you want to read 10,000 words about who the mid-season Sixth Man of the Year is, go to ESPN.com), we decided to make up our own. I enlisted the help of my friends Eric Oberland and Steve Hainlen, two of the most devoted NBA fans I know. Enjoy!]
City That Doesn’t Deserve to Have a Team Anymore
Steve: This is an easy one – Sacramento. No one on the team is playing for anything but a contract elsewhere. Their marquee player (Tyreke Evans) is the third option on a contending team at best; and their second best player (DeMarcus Cousins) will most likely burn down a bar in Sacramento before his rookie contract expires. A quick perusal of their roster shows a rag-tag collection of players who define “overreach” in the draft.
If someone asked me to guess how far a team that prominently played Jimmer Fredette, Francisco Garcia, Donte Greene and J.J. Hickson would go, I would say the Sweet 16. The fans in Sacramento may appreciate the Kings, but the rest of the NBA does not.
Eric: Sac-town? Really? That’s a great hoops town! I still have fond memories of the cowbells out in full force during those epic playoff series versus the Lakers in the early aughts. I think it’s tough to criticize a city for the players currently on the team, it’s not easy to control that as a fan base or an environment. The good folks of NorCal can’t help that the Maloof’s are the worst pair of brothers California has seen since the Menendez boys.
While it’s easy to criticize Charlotte or New Orleans, I’m actually going to go a different route here. The answer is ANAHEIM. I know they don’t have a team right now, but this is preemptive drone attack. All the relocation talk in the NBA consistently points to Anaheim as a potential locale for a team. Have you ever been to Anaheim? No? Well, here’s how you can recreate it. Go to the nearest, most generic strip mall. Make sure it’s got a fast food restaurant, some sort of drug store and a weird massage parlor. Then hit copy, paste, paste, paste, paste … and continue for about 100,000 clicks. Top it off with the corporate monstrosity known as “Disneyland” and boom: Anaheim.
I like when sports teams give American cities legitimacy and help define the town’s identity. The Steelers’ toughness as a reflection of blue collar Pittsburgh. The Lakers star power as a reflection of Hollywood glamor. The Chargers inability to win games as a reflection of the fact that everyone in San Diego is too content (or too high) to try hard.
Anaheim’s identity is sitting in traffic in your over-sized pickup truck even though you work in an office, wearing board shorts and thick black sunglasses, while sporting a soul patch. Who wants to legitimize that?
(While we’re at it – the town that absolutely NEEDS a team? VEGAS!!! Putting a pro sports franchise in that town could lead to the first on court murder in league history! Let’s pray Stephen Jackson isn’t retired by then.)
Evan: Sac-town is a very logical choice because of the ownership debacle, but at least they have an owner. New Orleans has no owner, no star player (unless you’re a huge Jarrett Jack fan) and a shitty arena. They also have the fifth-worst attendance in the NBA, the worst record in the West and are a logical candidate to relocate because they’re in the Western Conference despite the fact that they’re, you know, in New Orleans.
New Orleans is an amazing place – probably the most unique American city and one of the best places I’ve ever visited – but that doesn’t mean they deserve to have a team. It’s pretty simple – move them to Seattle or Kansas City or Vancouver and call it a day.
The Kim Jong-Il Memorial “Doing More With Less” Award (either a player who plays extremely well given sub-par physical gifts or a coach whose team is outplaying its talent)
Steve: Paul George. Indiana entered the All-Star break as the third seed in the East and Paul George stepping up his game has been one of the largest reasons for the team exceeding expectations. Indiana was a team that played with heart against Chicago in the first round last year but was over-matched throughout the entire series. The 2012 Pacers, however, are tearing through the league.
George’s numbers are substantially up in almost every category, but perhaps most impressive is the increase in minutes per game; he’s getting an extra 11.7 minutes per game, largely due to his intangibles. He has the fourth most rebounds for a shooting guard, trailing only Evan Turner, Kobe Bryant and Andre Iguodala. The other telling number for George is fouls per game. Although he averages three fouls per game, anyone who has watched a Pacers game will tell you that these fouls aren’t dumb fouls; they are either 1) smart fouls that forces a person to earn their points at the charity stripe or 2) cohesion fouls – fouls that ignite his teammates and the crowd.
Eric: While I agree Paul George is playing phenomenally, I think it’s hard to make an argument he’s not an incredibly blessed athlete. The dude is a 6 foot 8, silky smooth forward, who, after his dunk contest performance, apparently has night vision capabilities as well. Guys like him were put on earth to play basketball.
Steve Nash was put on Earth to sell office furniture. He’s a 6 foot 1 inch white Canadian playing a position that requires an insane amount of athleticism night after night. He’s 38-years-old. It’s been over FIVE YEARS since he started laying down on the sidelines rather than sit on the bench because his back was in such rough shape. I’m only 27 and can pull a hamstring just from a masturbation session gone awry. Meanwhile this guy switches to a sugarless diet and somehow doesn’t age?
Every year during my fantasy basketball draft, my co-manager and I stare at Steve Nash’s name for an eternity in the second round before both muttering, “There’s no way he can keep his pace up. This is the year he falls off” and passing on him. Guess who is leading the league in assists. Again. (Hint- it’s not Blake Griffin, who we took instead.)
Evan: No one wants to hear about your masturbation injuries Eric. Speaking of things no one wants to hear about, this year I’ve read probably 800,000 words on #Linsanity and #LobCity, the ascent of Ricky Rubio and Oklahoma City’s dominance. I’ve read maybe 300 about San Antonio. The pairing of Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan isn’t sexy, nor is it fun to watch, read about or discuss; but holy shit is it effective.
Imagine a world where Popovich’s system was exciting, if he was somehow able to be as successful as he’s been using a system predicated on alley-oop dunks and full press defense. If he used a “sexy” style of play and his record was identical he would probably be considered one of the best coaches of the modern era. But he’s Gregg Popovich, so his system is based on ball distribution and meticulous defensive spacing. On finding open layups over highlight reel dunks and taking a block over giving up easy points until the opponent is whittled down to nothing.
The Spurs are in second place in the West despite injuries to Manu Ginobli, TJ Ford and Pop’s admission that he’s going to rest his veterans more than usual to keep them fresh during the shortened season. The West has younger teams (Portland, the Clippers) and more talented teams (Dallas, the Lakers), but there are the Spurs, looking down at all of them through their plain, boring old bifocals, and Gregg Popovich deserves most of the credit
The Bon Iver “Guy We All Knew was Good for Awhile but Finally the Public is Realizing it” Award
Evan: Russell Westbrook. I realize I’m going to get ripped apart, but I think after last season most casual NBA fans would have considered Westbrook an above average point guard, just not a superstar (the fact that he looked like Teen Wolf’s inbred, ball stopping cousin during the playoffs didn’t help this).
This year the Thunder are the best team in the West and he’s averaging almost 27 points a game, plus Oklahoma City’s games have been televised a whole lot more and he got a big contract extension (which, fair or not, often steers public perception about who the league’s top players are). He always had the numbers, but it seems like people are finally putting him in the “best point guards in the league” conversation.
Delayed recognition? Yup. Unmistakable talent? Definitely. The only thing he’s missing is the Bon Iver beard and a substitute chemistry teacher tie-and-blazer combo.
Steve: Jeremy Lin!!! But seriously, Kyle Lowry. He has never been in a system that played to his strengths, but Kevin McHale seems to finally have gotten a Villanova point guard to play well (*cough* Randy Foye *cough*). His numbers, even as impressive as they are, do not tell the whole story. He gets players engaged in the game, and he does so in a way that plays to their strengths. He gets Kevin Martin the ball in places where Martin can confidently hit shots, he gets Luis Scola the ball in a way that Scola can use his impressive footwork to create separation, and, as simplistic as this sounds, he gets Samuel Dalembert the ball high on his body and low in the paint so Dalembert can use his height to score. Smart and selfless point guard play defines Lowry, and it is great to see it getting recognized.
Westbrook is a great player, there is only one small flaw in the logic of selecting him … he was an All-Star last year. If we open up this discussion to non-superstars who are asserting themselves more this year while taking their teams to the next level, then we might as well include LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love and Andre Iguodala. To claim that the public did not know of Westbrook’s play until this year belittles the average sport fan’s knowledge of basketball. This guy led his team to the Western Conference Finals last year, so pretty sure basketball fans around the country saw him play. With that said, Westbrook was unfairly blamed for OKC’s exit last year, and as a result, claiming that people realize he is a much better player than pundits gave him credit for last year is legitimate.
Eric: I’ll second Steve’s notion that Westbrook was already a star. Really, ever since he shot up draft boards in 2008 past names we’d been primed to hear for years (Kevin Love, Eric Gordon) he’s been firmly in the “that guy’s good!” section of the public’s mind. And while he struggled in the playoffs, he was IN the playoffs for multiple series. That will get you noticed much faster than posting double-doubles with ease during the drawn-out NBA season in a frozen metropolis (shout out to my boy Nikola!) Westbrook was also a first team All-Rookie team member in ‘09 and a second team All-NBA last year. He didn’t sneak up on anybody.
(Real quick tangent- how incredible is it that Westbrook couldn’t DUNK his sophomore year in high school? For a guy who is such a freak athlete to be stuck under the rim until his later teens just doesn’t compute in my brain. It also gives me false hope that maybe one day I’ll wake up, walk to my local court and tomahawk a dunk over the neighborhood bully, just as a bus full of professional cheerleaders breaks down a few feet away, at the same time that a scientist nearby creates a completely safe and needle free form of heroine. Okay … lemme stretch out my hammy and get back to the matter at hand).
Steve, my problem with Lowry is this- does the public REALLY know he’s good? I consider the three of us pretty well versed in the happenings of the NBA and I haven’t watched one minute of Kyle Lowry this season. And that includes “SportsCenter” highlights. I know his numbers are good and I wish I had him for fantasy purposes, but the Rockets are such a non-factor right now I don’t think the normal fan notices (or cares).
Meanwhile, out in NYC, Linsanity has created an opportunity for Steve Novak to show the world his sweet stroke. Now, I’m admittedly biased because Novak grew up right down the road and I watched (and semi-obsessively worshiped) him in high school. And Novak is not, nor will he ever be, an NBA star. But he IS incredibly gifted at shooting the basketball and he’s 6-foot-fucking-10.
When most people saw Novak prior to this year, lingering by an NBA team’s bench as he was prone to do, they probably assumed he was just some big-bodied stiff who was only worth six fouls a game. A shorter Shawn Bradley or less skilled Chris Kaman. But they would be wrong! Novak was the original Kevin Durant, only he’s a terrible athlete, lacks any type of swagger and left his backpack at Brown Deer High School.
Thanks to Lin, the Knicks are front page news and Novak, whether he’s draining threes or discount-double-checking, is back in the public eye. Mike D’Antoni’s offense is perfect for someone who has no problem pulling the trigger and I hope he continues to see minutes.
The Definitive “Who was the Most out of Shape Coming out of the Lockout” Award
Steve: Another no-brainer – Lamar Odom. Some players would take the ordeal that happened to him with the Paul trade debacle as motivation to play better. Odom, on the other hand, is averaging half his normal points, rebounds, blocks, steals and assists per game, while averaging statistically the same number of fouls and turnovers per game, all while playing over ten minute less per game. He does not appear to want to be in Dallas even though they are a legit contender in the West (more so than the Lakers).
Many questioned the value L.A. got out of the Odom trade, but now the Lakers appear smart for getting something for the disgruntled and aging forward. He spent the off-season filming yet another reality television show with his “celebrity” wife, admitted that he was not sure he wanted to play this season and has not really physically shown up yet for a single Dallas game.
He is 32-years-old, and should know that he cannot spend the off-season partying and expect to show up ready to be an elite forward in the NBA. The most disturbing fact is not that he showed up physically AND mentally out of shape for the beginning of the season, but that he has taken no steps to address either of these problems.
Evan: Same team, different player – Dirk Nowitzki. To be fair I think he earned the right to come into this season out of shape. He played over 4,300 minutes of basketball last year and finally captured that elusive first title, so I have no problem with him enjoying an off-season of fun (to the extent that Germans are able to have fun) and relaxation. But regardless of whether or not it was deserved, the fact that he needed to sit out four games for “conditioning” pretty much tells you everything you need to know.
And actually, he’s 33-years-old, this was his fourteenth off-season as an NBA player, he’s coming off twelve straight years of playing over 76 games. Maybe some time away from basketball will serve him well – he’s already back in shape and playing more or less to last year’s numbers. Dallas currently has the fourth best record in the West and they have a good coach and guys with playoff experience, a rested Dirk could be exactly what they need to guide them deep into the playoffs again this season.
Eric:You mean besides the guy who writes Knicks headlines for ESPN Mobile?
I have to disagree with Lamar Odom. I don’t think he’s out of shape, I think he’s suffering from a broken heart. He loved L.A., loved the beach, loved the entire vibe out west. After being fake traded and then traded for real, his feelings got hurt and now he’s moping around in Dallas. Disinterested? Yes. But I don’t think he’s completely out of shape. For god sakes, the guy has sex with Khloe Kardashian. That’s basically the Armenian P-90X workout.
I’m going to piggyback on Evan’s and agree with the Nowitski pick. He recently went on the “BS Report” and basically admitted he wasn’t in shape and had taken two months off (he had to play for the German National Team right after the Finals). He also said they partied for “three straight days” after the Finals win. At first glance, you might think that there’s no way that they partied for that long, until you realize that Deshawn Stevenson was arrested for public intoxication in Iriving, Texas on June 14 … three days after the championship win.
The Victor Cruz Award (Best Waiver Wire Fantasy Pickup Thus Far)
Eric: What the average (misinformed) fan would answer here is Jeremy Lin. And while Jeremy Lin is culturally relevant and a great story, he’s far from a great fantasy basketball player. To people who don’t obsess over meaningless fantasy basketball leagues, it’s easy to overvalue Lin’s scoring outbursts. While it’s tough to find 25-plus ppg scorers, points are only one of nine categories you need to worry about. And Lin’s poor shooting percentage and propensity for turning the ball over are murder for a squad.
Meanwhile, my co-writers Evan and Steve have been living in the same city as a fantasy savant. No, not Ricky Rubio (who has been a fine player this season), but his teammate. The one, the only … NIKOLA PEKOVIC! Since February 1, the pride of Bijelo Polje has been getting consistent minutes and delivering more consistently than an obstetrician. In that span, he scored less than ten points only one time, and that happened to be a game he exited after 15 minutes due to a sprained ankle. He also slapped up eight double-doubles in the shortened month while missing more than one free throw in only ONE game, which is great for a big man (consider- Blake Griffin missed five in his last outing).
But in the words of the immortal WCW wrestler Konnan, MORE IMPORTANTLY THAN ALL THAT – Pekovic’s attitude has been a breath of fresh air for long-suffering Timberwolves fans accustomed to seeing stat lines from Darko Milicic that looked like area codes. Pekovic puts up stats that look like a woman’s measurements (and a solidly built woman at that!). Remember that sprained ankle I just mentioned? He injured it with one game to go before All Star Weekend. While most NBA’ers would have packed it in for the break, Nikola shrugged it off, took the floor against Utah and slapped up 15 and 12 in a two point win over the Jazz. In a mere month, he’s gone from being unknown by my fantasy team’s management, to becoming a source of fights over whose table he will sit at during the post-season company picnic.
Oh, and he’s only owned in 45% of leagues right now. Go pick him up. Now.
Steve: Ricky Rubio. I know many, including me, used their last round pick to nab Rubio, but I never thought he would actually produce at this level. I was hoping for 8 points and 6 assists a game. But as any fantasy owner in a head to head league can attest to, he is one of the most valuable late round or waiver picks ups of the season. Flashy passing and alley-ops do not translate to fantasy points, but do you know what does? His numbers beyond points and assists per game. He has a very good free throw percentage, an incredible rebounding rate and is second in the league for steals per game. There are always players who average 12 to 15 points available in the late rounds or on the waiver wire, but no one else put up numbers in the other categories that are so crucial in a head to head format that Rubio is posting.
With all due respect to Nikola, without Rubio everyone would be wondering where in the world is Nikola?
And although I fully realize that has nothing to do with fantasy, anyone who has been a Wolves game will understand me. I recently went to a game where he was in China, and it was just delightful. Humor and world history all rolled into one!
Evan: I’m really, REALLY tempted to make a case for Luke Ridnour here to compete the T-Wolves sweep, but as much as I love Frodo Baggins’ reinvention as a shooting guard I can’t do it. Plus, as I scan the “percentage owned” figures on Yahoo! I can’t help but notice Pekovic’s 45% and Rubio’s 91% are both lower than the guy Eric spent a whole paragraph slamming – Mr. Jeremy Lin! Part of the fun of fantasy is gambling on a guy after one good game and grinning every time you see the box score, imagining the other owners in your league typing his name into the search bar only to see your team’s name next to him.
As a proud Linvestor, I can tell you with complete certainty that Jeremy Lin is the most fun player in the NBA to have on your fantasy basketball team. The hype, the out-of-nowhere heroics, they all reach another level when you have a vested interest in his performance. Will he level out as teams figure out his game? Maybe. Is it possible he’ll lose his job to Baron Davis once Davis is 100 percent? Who knows.
All I know for sure is that on “The Urban Achievers” Lin is untouchable, don’t even send me a trade proposal, it’s not worth your time.
Most Intriguing Potential Playoff Series
Eric: The easy answer (especially for me, as an L.A. resident) is a Lakers-Clippers showdown. While that would be a FANTASTIC turn of events (those teams already hate each other and a battle for the city crown could lead to our country’s second civil war), I feel like that potential series is going to be “predictably” exciting. It’s a classic tale with classic themes – changing of the guard, big bro vs. little bro, people accidentally ordering “Battle LA” on PPV thinking that it’s the game, etc.
For intrigue purposes alone, nothing could top a HEAT/LAKERS finals showdown. Just by typing those words, miles away David Stern finished in his Dockers, but I’m not interested in this just due to star power and market size. Even Mike Brown’s history with LeBron isn’t the main reason I’m praying for this matchup.
No, this series would be fascinating because it’s the rare “EVIL vs. EVIL” situation.
People flat out despise these teams. How many times last year did you hear someone say, “well, I don’t really like the Mavs, but I’m cheering for them because I can’t stand Kobe/LeBron/the Lakers/the Heat?” Excluding the team you root for, there are those teams we love, those teams we’re neutral on and those teams we hate. Everyone likes the feel good youth movement in OKC, just like we all happily consumed the Nash/D’Antoni/Stoudemire marriage in Phoenix a few years ago. The Memphis Grizzlies were an endearing underdog in ‘11, as were the Warriors in ‘07. No one really cares either way about teams like the Mavs or the 76ers. Most people are annoyed, but sort of respect, the Spurs.
But the Lakers and Heat? Bring them up in a room full of random sports fans and the venom spews. Kobe’s arrogance and infidelity. LeBron’s cop-out decision. The well documented Heat “welcoming party.” The Heat making fun of Dirk’s illness last year. Metta World Peace being allowed to compete despite being legally insane. Joel Anthony’s gigantic forehead. The annoying white contingent of Steve Blake/Troy Murphy/Josh McRoberts/Jason Kapono. Shane Battier’s annoying perfection at the game of life. Matt Barnes’ sneer. Erik Spolestra’s hair gel. Jimmy Buss. JIMMY BUSS!
With a series this power-packed, people are going to watch. But who are they going to cheer for? Which becomes the lesser of two evils? It’d be like watching Jeffrey Dahmer and Jerry Sandusky throw down in prison over who gets to keep the nickname “Smoov J.” Both parties can’t lose, who would the public get behind? (Additional benefit, it would give all Democrats the chance to experience what it’s like to vote in the Republican Primary.)
Really the only downside to this match-up would be having to endure weeks of, “Can’t BOTH teams just lose???” jokes from hacks.
Evan: Battle L.A. and Evil v. Evil are both incredible concepts, but one subplot to keep in the back of your mind is that almost immediately following the finals players from all over the NBA will be descending on London for the 2012 Olympics. Every time a new Team USA is assembled it’s almost like a cruel zookeeper threw 15 wolves who thought they were the alpha male into an enclosure and then sent one semi-qualified trainer (Coach K) in to try and organize them into a pack. It’s not quite that bad, but you can tell there’s legitimate bad blood, hurt feelings and a month of testing each other to figure out who is The Guy.
Imagine a grueling, hostile Thunder-Heat finals. Then imagine Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and possibly James Harden having to almost immediately turn that switch off and become teammates for a month. Practicing together, traveling together – there is going to be a feud that starts during this year’s playoffs and it is going to follow Team USA to London, that is a near-certainty. It could be Rose-Paul or Kobe-Wade, but I think a Heat-Thunder finals is the most likely to result in Coach K angrily sending a superstar to Heathrow with a one-way ticket home for cold-cocking a teammate during the USA-Bulgaria pregame walk-through.
Steve: Whoever has to play against Kobe in the first round of the playoffs. It looks likely that the Lakers will not host a playoff series and that the team’s quasi-dysfunction will continue throughout the regular season. However, come playoff-time we will see Kobe go into get-mine mode, and while that mentality may not work for 99 percent of the league, Kobe is the 1 percent. Kobe is putting up his fourth-best scoring season ever, and doing it while playing under 40 minutes a game (Kobe clocked 40-plus minutes in each of the three seasons with a higher scoring average). During the playoffs it is not out of the realm of possibility that Kobe puts in 43-plus minutes a game, and 30-plus points a game. I pity the shooting guard that has to defend him, because we will see Kobe operate in an isolation offense for the first time in the playoffs, and he is going to embarrass anyone who guards him. Whether the rest of the Lakers show up for the series or not will be interesting.
I will give a very honorable mention to the Thunder v. Heat Finals because … that … would … be … fucking … AMAZING!! The player match ups are to dream for (how do the Thunder stop Bosh with his 10-foot jumper, who does Wade guard, Westbrook or Harden, of course The King v. Durtantula), the good v. evil, the decadent city of Miami v. a team from Oklahoma! And when Durant sticks a three-pointer to win Game Six I will be popping multiple bottles of champagne, along with the rest of the country.
I would have given the Clippers a great chance at reaching the finals until Chauncey went down with his injury. The playoffs allow teams to give massive minutes to their stars, and there wouldn’t have been a better starting five than Clippers, but no one in their right mind can say Mo Williams can step up to Mr. Big Shot’s level (except maybe Ma Williams).
The Hostage Award (Player who Looks Like They Don’t Want to be Where They are at All)
Evan: Tough choice. I ultimately came down to Stephen Jackson and Corey Maggette and almost said S-Jax until I remembered this:
Which is honestly the worst turnover I ever remember seeing in an NBA game. He’s averaging 12.2 FG attempts per game despite only shooting 34.6 percent (in case you were wondering, that’s the worst FG percent for anyone averaging over 12 shots per game – and it’s not even close).
He also had the token 19-game injury that kept him out a little longer than it probably should have and his +/- is an astonishing -128 even though he’s only played in 13 games. I went to the Bobcats-Timberwolves game a couple weeks ago and in the third quarter Maggette (who was in the game at that point) sat watching the jumbotron for literally an entire timeout while Paul Silas was talking, he even chuckled at one point during the “What would you do for a Klondike Bar?” challenge.
To be fair, he probably doesn’t really want to be anywhere (besides maybe the Timberwolves’ marketing department when they’re brainstorming “What would you do for a Klondike Bar?” challenges), but that doesn’t change the fact that he very clearly has no interest in being in Charlotte.
Eric: I can’t stand Jeff Teague. He’s a starting PG on a team with finishers like Josh Smith and Joe Johnson, but he only averages 4.4 assists per game. Do you know who else averages 4.4 assists per game? Boris fucking Diaw of the heralded Charlotte Bobcats.
On top of the fact that Teague has a seeming aversion to assists, I noticed his demeanor just before tip-off of a recent game against the Lakers. He slowly approached center court with a quasi-strut and had this bemused smile on face. It’s the kind of smile the kid you hate from high school used to do. You know that type of guy. The guy who thinks it’s not “cool” to try hard or take anything seriously. The guy who has everything “figured out” and decides not to show any interests or real pursuits, choosing instead to deride everyone around him. (Those guys usually end up working at cell phone stores wearing button downs that are two sizes too big and not answering questions you ask them while they type on their computer.)
Teague doesn’t want to be on the Hawks. I don’t think he wants to be in the NBA at all. Can someone check if the Verizon in Decataur is hiring?
Steve: Really, am I seriously the first person to utter the words “Deron Williams” for this topic! I haven’t been this disappointed since I found out “Transformers: Dark Moon” got an Oscar nomination. I realize that finding a Nets game on TV may be harder than taking a road trip to Iceland but seriously, that guy wants nothing to do with the 2011-’12 New Jersey Nets. I will gladly qualify this statement by saying that this is all reversed if the Nets can successfully trade for Dwight Howard, but until that point, Williams wants nothing to do with the Nets. Did anyone else thoroughly enjoy seeing Williams smile, actually smile, at the All-Star game? Perhaps that’s because he’s playing for a team that is not filled with D League prospects (random tangent, the NBA seriously needs to rename the D League. I know it stands for “development” but these players feel bad enough being in the D League, can’t we call it something like Everyone Is A Winner or Participation Ribbon League?)
Williams might be the only NBA superstar, and yes I say superstar and mean it, who openly admits that the team he plays for has zero percent chance of re-signing him unless the roster is completely gutted and rebuilt. Deep down in his heart, Williams knows that the Nets do not have the assets to get a Howard trade completed, and therefore he is just avoiding getting injured and showing up for the games against teams he is considering signing with in the off-season; and that is a pity, because Williams is the second-best point guard in the league behind Paul (anyone who disagrees with this statement needs to shelf rooting for the home team and watch him play). Hopefully Williams goes to a team that he wants to play for next season, because it is just sad to watch him waste his talents and time in New Jersey.
- by Evan Bretzman, Eric Oberland and Steve Hainlen