By Lang Whitaker, NBA.com
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — During last night’s Knicks/Nets game, cameras caught several members of the Nets looking as though…well…let’s just say something appears to smell bad. Shake your head, Joe Johnson…
By Lang Whitaker, NBA.com
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — During last night’s Knicks/Nets game, cameras caught several members of the Nets looking as though…well…let’s just say something appears to smell bad. Shake your head, Joe Johnson…
By Jeff Case
One of the most anticipated homecomings of the season took place last night when the Boston Celtics hosted the Brooklyn Nets. It marked the first game ex-Celtics Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce played at TD Garden since being traded to Brooklyn last summer.
Both players have deep emotional ties to the franchise, with Pierce being drafted by the team in 1999 and playing 15 seasons there, helping the Celtics go from Eastern Conference afterthought to a title-winner (2008) and perennial contender. A big key to those contending days came via of the addition of Garnett in the summer of 2007. KG won Defensive Player of the Year honors in his first season with Boston (2007-08) and was arguably — with Pierce — the heart of those contending Celtics clubs.
None of those feats were lost on the Celtics as a franchise, as they had been planning a big video tribute for the duo for weeks, per the Boston Globe. Even before fans got to see those tributes, KG and “The Truth” got plenty of love from the hometown fans during the player introductions …
Then came the in-game tributes for KG and Pierce, both of which stirred up plenty of emotion for Boston fans.
KG’s tribute was first:
And then, after the first quarter, Pierce was honored:
The reaction from the crowd was appreciated plenty by the duo, who saw the Nets win the game 85-79.
(h/t to The Brooklyn Game)
Any time you have Kris Humphries and Rick Mahorn in the same sentence, you know something special happened.
They couldn’t be more different, in perception and on-court presence. I mean, could you imagine this happening to the former Pistons and Sixers bruiser?
But that may not be completely fair. Humphries gives decent effort and has a knack for the timely defensive play or two. He didn’t disappoint Sunday night against his old team in Brooklyn. While the electricity pivoted around the return of Hall of Famers to-be Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, Humphries had his own bit of motivation and dipped into his old-school bag of tricks to make Mahorn proud:
Instead of being the post warrior, he was the post magician. It’s a brilliant maneuver and has a 100 percent success rate. How isn’t this move pulled off more? Perhaps because subterfuge in battle is most effective when used seldomly? I’m not sure, but it needs more application. The look on Andray Blatche’s face while looking at a fired-up Humphries from his keister afterward was priceless.
It’s fitting that Humphries’ poster mate Blake Griffin fell victim to the same tactic almost two years ago:
Long live the old school.
VIDEO: Turner’s Game Winner
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — And the hits just keep on coming. It feels like it was just yesterday that I wrote about this flurry of game-winning buzzer-beaters (GWBBs) that we’ve seen of late. (That’s because it was just yesterday that I wrote about this flurry of game-winning buzzer-beaters (GWBBs) that we’ve seen of late.) The news never stops, you guys.
Before we get too far into this, we should stop and explain: What is the Horry Scale? For those who are new around these parts, the Horry Scale examines a game-winning buzzer-beater (GWBB) in the categories of difficulty, game situation (was the team tied or behind at the time?), importance (playoff game or garden-variety Kings-Pistons game?) and celebration (is it over the top or too chill? Just the right panache or needs more sauce?). Then we give it an overall grade on a scale of 1-5 Robert Horrys, the patron saint of last-second daggers.
With the rules in place, tonight we look to the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, where Evan Turner doesn’t care how many Horry Scale entries it takes to get a win for the Sixers…
In terms of the shot itself, it goes down in the game log as “Turner Driving Layup Shot.” But in actuality it was so much more. Evan Turner is actually the player who inbounded the ball on this play. Sixers C Spencer Hawes released away from the basket and caught the lob pass, at which point Turner took off on a sprint. He ran to Hawes for a dribble hand-off and basically used Hawes as a pivot point, U-turning back in toward the rim. At this point the Nets had two guys on Turner — Brook Lopez and Shaun Livingston. Turner adroitly gives a little hesitation and then fires down to the left block for a layup. Just as Turner leaves his feet, Paul Pierce slides in and takes the contact from Turner. Is this a charge? Is it a block? We’ll leave that for Joe Borgia, because in this case it’s officially neither: No call is made. Turner releases the ball with about 1.4 seconds remaining. The ball then bounces around the rim, kissing the iron three different times as the clock expires, before finally dropping through for the 121-120 Sixers win. It wasn’t a long shot, but there were many things that broke Philly’s way on the play.
Not only was the game in overtime, but Pierce had hit a three-pointer a few seconds earlier to put Brooklyn ahead 120-119. With six seconds left to play in overtime, the Sixers had to inbound the ball under their own basket. Inbounding the ball under the basket is always tough — the backboard itself limits several passing angles that would be available from any other spot on the court. The play the Sixers came up with, which we broke down above, was pretty great — the Nets obviously didn’t expect Hawes to be the target on the play, and once Hawes had the ball, the Sixers used a sneaky backscreen to free Turner. Also worth noting is that the Sixers had lost seven straight games coming into this one and are about to leave on a six-game road trip to the West Coast. So not only did they need the win, but losing their eighth straight in an overtime game would have made things even more difficult to stomach.
I counted nine members of the Sixers who get involved in the initial celebration, mobbing Turner. That’s seventy-five percent of the night’s active roster, an important threshold to hit for our grading purposes. I feel like the celebration was also a bit subdued because whenever there’s a GWBB where the shot is released so close to the buzzer, there’s always that moment of indecision where you’re not sure whether or not the shot will actually count until the referees review the replay. In this case it was rather obvious, but it’s not official until it’s official.
I’m trying to go more with my gut on these, after I had to admit I underscored Jeff Green‘s season-opening shot. So for this shot, with the creative inbounds play, the contact on the shot, the dramatic bounces on the rim, the game being in overtime and the Sixers ending the seven-game L streak, I’m going with Four Horrys.
What say you? How many Horrys would you give Evan Turner’s game-winning buzzer-beater?
BROOKLYN – Earlier this week, I spent an evening shadowing Nathaniel Butler from NBA Photos as he photographed the Trail Blazers-Nets game in Brooklyn. During the game, Butler gave me a camera and let me shoot the action. What follows are some of the images I took that night, with my thoughts and comments below each picture. These pictures have not been cropped or color-corrected or anything else. This is what I shot … for better, or for, probably mostly, worse.
As the Blazers took the floor to warm up directly in front of me, Nic Batum started hoisting 15-footers from the right wing. I picked up my camera, zoomed in a bit, half-pushed the button down to make sure the image was focused, and then fired off the shot. What I didn’t account for was that Batum would jump when he shot, so my photo chopped off his arms and the ball.
Once the game started, sure enough the Nets ran a play to get Kevin Garnett a shot at the top of the key. I saw the play developing and as soon as KG caught the ball and squared up, I took this picture. Unfortunately, as you may notice, I managed to capture all of the players out of focus. But the basket support and the fans in the front rows are crystal clear. Also, terrific job by me to cut off the shot clock. (more…)
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — How old school are the Brooklyn Nets? So old school they’re willing to bring back short-shorts, Chuck Taylors and afros. At least, that’s what they would have us believe in this new video from Funny Or Die…
VIDEO: Nets Go Old School
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Paul Pierce has only been a member of the Brooklyn Nets for a few months, so it’s perhaps understandable that he hasn’t had much time to get out and explore the neighborhood. In this new video from American Express, Pierce hits several Brooklyn hotspots, from Brooklyn Bowl to Juliana’s Pizza. As Pierce says in the video, “It feels like I’m home.”
VIDEO: Paul Pierce In Brooklyn
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Here in New York City, plenty of celebrities pop up in the front rows at Knicks and Nets games, although it’s not always clear just how many of them are actual NBA fans. New York-based chef and television personality Mario Batali fits both bills. Batali grew up in Seattle as a Sonics fan, but these days has allegiances to — gasp! — both the Knicks and Nets. As Batali explains, “I’m not such a fierce Geo-specific fan.”
In between running his acclaimed restaurant empire and appearing daily on ABC’s “The Chew,” Batali says he finds time to not only follow the NBA but even plan family trips to out of town games. I caught up with Batali last week on the set of “The Chew” where he was posing with the crystalized “BIG IS ON” basketball that is currently making its way around New York City.
ME: I know that a lot of NBA players have eaten at your restaurants. For example, Emeka Okafor has told me he loves your food.
MARIO: I’ll tell you one thing about Emeka: That guy can eat enough to make every kitchen happy in the world. Like, he’ll have two appetizers, two pastas, and then he’ll have a steak for two. He eats it and he loves it, he gives you goosebumps. He’s just delightful.
ME: And you’re a big NBA fan?
MARIO: Huge NBA fan.
ME: You’re originally from Seattle, right?
MARIO: (laughs) Back when we had a team!
ME: So you grew up a Sonics fan?
MARIO: Definitely. For me, the greatest thing to collect right now is original, vintage Sonics hats and shirts. They’re beautiful. That logo — come on. They hardly did one better.
ME: So that was, like, Lenny Wilkens-era Sonics?
MARIO: Spencer Haywood…
ME: Slick Watts?
MARIO: Absolutely! Downtown Freddie Brown! Come on, we had the guys.
ME: I know you lived in Italy for a while. Was basketball as popular in Europe then as it is today?
MARIO: I was there in the ‘80s, and it was already — after soccer — the biggest sport. Absolutely, no question about it. We got great players who either had problems or didn’t quite make the team and they were over there playing basketball, going crazy, living in these tiny little towns. It wasn’t like all Rome and Milan, you know. Here all the teams are in major, major cities. They were in Venice, they were in Verona, towns with like 200,000 or 300,000 people. It totally changed the way Italians looked at American sports. And for the positive. The world loves American sports. We do it better than anybody else, except soccer.
ME: I’ve seen you at Knicks games. Are the Knicks your team?
MARIO: Knicks and Nets.
ME: Both? Can you have two rival teams?
MARIO: Yes! Here’s the story. Since I’m from Seattle and I’ve been disenfranchised, I can have two teams. I take a lot of heat from The Original Fan. The Original Fan says I can’t like the Jets and the Giants, but I like Eli and I like Geno. And I like Mark Sanchez. And in basketball, I like Paul Pierce. How can I not go for Paul Pierce, right? He’s a Boston guy, but he’s on my team now.
ME: You have two teenage sons. Are they fans of both teams also?
MARIO: They’re Carmelo fans. They were Mike D’Antoni fans. But they’ll be happy to go see the Nets, too. They go to school in Brooklyn so they drive right by the Barclays Center, which is an impressive building. And the Garden is also impressive, but you can drive by and not even notice sometimes. I take my sons each year on an NBA trip. We traditionally go somewhere for a long weekend with Dad, and we’ve gone to see the Hornets — this year we’re going to see the Pelicans. But we’ve been to Cleveland, during and after LeBron, we’ve been to Dallas, we’ve been to Los Angeles to watch the games. We’ll travel for basketball.
ME: Which athletes eat the most when they’re at your restaurants? Do football players eat more than basketball players?
MARIO: Linemen. Nick Mangold, baby (laughs). But no, actually I would say Nick doesn’t eat more than, say, Emeka. In terms of water displacement Emeka might displace more water than even Nick. But there’s a respect in the sports world, particularly the basketball world, where they totally dig our field, and they’re totally into what we do as well.
ME: Last thing: If you had to cook and serve a basketball, how would you prepare it to make it even semi-edible?
MARIO: The best way to cook a basketball would be to slice it into paper-thin strips like spaghetti, and toss it with a little Bolognese.
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — The addition of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry has pushed the Brooklyn Nets to the top of the Eastern Conference, but it’s also given the franchise a little more swagger, some giddy-up in their step. And having KG around, one of the NBA’s most intense players, doesn’t seem to be dulling anyone’s edge, either.
During last night’s preseason game against the Wizards, Nets F Mirza Teletovic drained a three-pointer, and as the camera cuts to the sideline, we see Deron Williams hustle over to the bench, where KG and the other players clear room for Deron to do a couple of push-ups, right there as the game is going on. Not sure if this is the equivalent of a college mascot doing push-ups after each score or what, but you can’t say the Nets bench isn’t engaged in the game.
As Teletovic himself tweeted, this is something he’d like to see more of…
ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Going into the the 2011-12 season, the Knicks saw popular point guard Jeremy Lin sign with Houston, and they replaced him with Raymond Felton, a former Knick coming off a down season in Portland. While Lin and the Rockets had a nice season, Felton helped coalesce Carmelo Anthony, JR Smith and Tyson Chandler and lead the Knicks to a 54-28 record, their best since ’96-97, and into the second round of the playoffs. This season, Felton says the Knicks have their goals set a bit higher.
I caught up with Felton last week in New York City, where Felton was at an event for Under Armour to help launch its newest basketball shoe, the Anatomix Spawn (right), which he’ll wear this season.
ME: So, what are you doing this summer?
FELTON: I’ve just been training, working out. Trying to spend a little bit of time with family and friends, but for the most part, just really been grinding, just getting after it.
ME: No travel or vacation? You don’t get to take some time off?
FELTON: You know, only traveling I did, when the season ended and we lost, I went to the Bahamas for like four nights, and that’s it. I went to Vegas, but I don’t really count that because that was business. I went down there to watch the team play at Summer League, and I got some workouts in there. I stayed down there an extra week because my AAU Program was coming down to play in tournaments, so I stayed down there to do that. So really, vacation? I haven’t had any.
ME: When you say your AAU program, what do you mean?
FELTON: Team Felton. I’ve got like 5, 6 teams, a legit program.
ME: Is that something where when you played AAU as a kid, you thought, “One day I want to be able to sponsor a program and give other kids this opportunity”?
FELTON: Yeah. You know, the AAU business can be a real crooked business, and I hate to see kids get taken advantage of, man. So I just try to give back. I have a nephew who’s pretty good, so it started with his age group, and I’ve just added teams up from that. It’s been good, my team’s doing pretty good. My highest age group, which is his age group, they finished in the top eight in the country this year. The 14-and-under group, they finished fourth. My other young teams down there, they actually won nationals this year. It’s been pretty good, man.
ME: And are you in the stands cheering during the games?
FELTON: Yeah, I’m in the stands, trying to coach a little bit. You know, get on the referees when they’re making me mad, be like Mark Cuban a little bit. But it’s all fun. I just like to see the kids compete and then try to do the best they can.
ME: For a student of the game and fan of the game, what is it like being the point guard of the New York Knicks? Is it cool?
FELTON: It’s great, man. To be the point guard of the New York Knicks is like being the point guard of the University of North Carolina. When you put that jersey on, everybody will know who you are, everybody will recognize you. It’s a good feeling, it’s a good feeling. I feel like when you play here in the city of New York, if you play hard, they’ll love you. When you’re slacking, they’ll let you know. That’s one thing I do know about New York — these fans, they’ll let you know if you’re not playing up to the part. Which is a good thing.
ME: It’s kind of like Carolina, right? The standards are set pretty high.
FELTON: Yep. If you’re not playing up to the part, they’ll let you know. But it’s fun. I love it.
ME: When the Knicks signed you last summer, a different point guard in the NBA, an All-Star, told me that he thought you would be the perfect fit for the Knicks, because the Knicks were a team with a lot of options and strong personalities, and you’d be able to sort of direct everything and take control.
FELTON: I feel like I’m somebody that Melo and those guys, they respect me. So if I tell them something, they’re not going to get mad, they’re not going to look at me crazy. They respect my game, they respect me as a point guard. I’m going to get you guys the ball. I know that you and JR need to score this basketball for us. I think those guys, they saw that last year, and this year there’s going to be even more of a respect level, because we had a good season as a team. So I think those guys respected me, just like I give them that same respect back. That’s a big part of having a good team — if you’ve got that respect for each other, it’s easy to play with each other.
ME: Last season you guys had a lot of new parts. How long did you feel like it took you guys to kind of get on the same page?
FELTON: It really took the preseason, and we really tried to click, and we got our bumps and bruises out of the way. Because when the season started, we were rolling.
ME: Right, you guys were red-hot, started 15-5.
FELTON: The biggest thing we wanted to do, we wanted to get off to a great start because we looked toward the end of the year, and our schedule was tough. But we ended up with that tough schedule killing it, won 13 in a row, with all those back-to-backs, back-to-backs, travel, travel. Just the mental toughness that we have a team, after all of that, as a team, and as individuals, and just how we trust and respect one another, I think that’s really big. If you trust and respect one another, I think that takes a team a long way.
ME: What’s it like playing with Carmelo Anthony? Because he’s such a great player, and he kind of gets overshadowed a bit by guys like LeBron or Kevin Durant. Even though he might be the best scorer in the NBA …
FELTON: Without a doubt. Without a doubt. Because he scores in so many ways. There’s a lot of guys who can score the basketball in this league. Kevin Durant, by far, is one of the top ones. Him and Melo could be neck-and-neck — those guys can score in a lot of ways. But Melo can score in more ways than KD, because Melo can post up, he can score off the dribble, he can score in the mid-range, he can score finishing at the rim, and he can shoot threes. You’re talking about a guy who has a total, complete game, and he’s big and strong — 6-8, big body, strong body. A lot of people like to talk about how he takes a lot of shots, this and that. Listen man: We need him to score. It gets maximized because if you’re having an off night and you take thirty-something shots, it’s like, “Aw man, he’s shooting too much.” If you’re having a great night, he’s got 40-something points and he took thirty-something shots, ain’t nobody saying nothing. I just tell him, “You do what we need you to do. As a team, we know what you’re going to do every night.” So we gotta adjust our games to that. Me as a point guard, I have to adjust my game to that. I hate when people say about him, “He takes too many shots.” People try to compare him and LeBron — two different games. Melo is who he is, LeBron is who he is. So I hate when they try to make those comparisons. You can’t say Larry Bird and Michael Jordan had the same game. They’re different, but they both got chips. Add Magic Johnson in there. Those guys all had totally, completely different games. But they all got rings. That’s all it is. I support Melo 100 percent. He knows that. We all do. And we want to continue to keep working and get better.
ME: You spent last season playing with Jason Kidd. What kind of coach do you think he’ll be this season in Brooklyn?
FELTON: I think he’ll be a great coach, but at the end of the day, he’s not going to have to do too much coaching. He can do like Phil Jackson did — he might have drawn something up out of the timeouts, he might have talked about a couple of things during halftime, but Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, those guys ran the team, they made the game. You’ve got Deron Williams, one of the best point guards in the league, you’ve got Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Brook Lopez, those guys understand the game and they’re veterans, so there’s not too much coaching you can do. But he’s going to be great for Deron. He was great for me last year. He made my game better. He made me look at a lot of things a whole lot differently, as far as on the court and off the court. So mentally, he’s going to be great for D, without a doubt. He’s going to make him better mentally, and make him better when he’s on the court. The team themselves? Really, they’re going to be fine on their own. As far as a coach, he’s going to be a great coach. A guy who knows the game the way he does, played the game at the level he played, he’s going to be a great coach. Especially as a point guard, because as a point guard you have to understand every position. Say a coach has 50 plays, you’ve got to know 50 plays, but you’ve got to know every position for every play. That’s something a lot of people don’t understand. So he knows every position. It’s going to take him time to get used to going from playing last year to being a head coach this year, but I think overall he’s going to be a great coach.
ME: I live in Manhattan and I know people in the city and the boroughs love the Knicks. But the last few years, with the move to Brooklyn, it feels like people are starting to talk a little more about the Nets. But do you feel like this is still a Knicks town?
FELTON: Oh, without a doubt. I still feel like it. We’ve still got New York on our chest. We’re still the New York Knicks. We’re still the city’s team, without a doubt. Brooklyn can do whatever, and we’re still going to be the city’s team. There’s nothing like having New York on your chest. Brooklyn is going to be a good team, and I think it’s good for the city, for the state, to have the Nets in Brooklyn. It’s going to be a good, big rivalry, well talked about, which is great. I’m loving it. I don’t care that they’re here — I’m happy they’re here, actually. It’s going to be fun.
ME: So this season is just weeks away now — what are your expectations for the Knicks?
FELTON: Same thing as last year. I feel like we should grow and try to capitalize on what we did last year. We didn’t finish the postseason as well as we wanted, but as far as the season that we had, we had over 50 wins, we won our division, finished second in the East. That says a lot right there, we had a great year. Best season we’ve had in 13 years. So we’ve got to capitalize on that, try to get better from there.
ME: And how do you get better from there?
FELTON: As far as the overall season, all you can do is win more games. (Laughs.) There’s nothing else you can really do as far as that. In the postseason, that’s the biggest thing for us. You’ve got to take care of those 82 games, but if you do that and advance to the postseason, we’ve got to try and advance further than we did last season, and get past that second round, get to the Eastern Conference Finals, and go from there. One step at a time. I feel like if we do better than we did last year, it’s an overall successful year. But it’s one step at a time, one game at a time.