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NBA AM: Health Is Key For Brooklyn Title Hopes
Posted By Lang Greene On August 14, 2013 @ 9:40 am In Main Page,NBA | No Comments
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Health Is Key For Brooklyn Nets’ Title Hopes: On paper the new-look Brooklyn Nets have the resume that should land the team in, at the very least, the Eastern Conference Finals next season. The roster is armed with an assortment of All-Stars, future Hall of Famers, a former Defensive Player of the Year and a former Sixth Man of the Year.
But as we learned last season, after the Los Angeles Lakers’ talent overhaul, games aren’t won or lost on stacks of loose leaf.
The Nets acquired Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry in a blockbuster deal with the Boston Celtics earlier this summer. All three players already have an NBA title on their respective mantles. The team also named former player Jason Kidd as their newest head coach. Kidd won a championship as a player (along with Terry in Dallas) and is virtually a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame. Brooklyn also managed to convince former All-Star forward Andrei Kirilenko to leave money on the table in free agency and join the team’s championship quest.
The newest additions will join a Nets core featuring center Brook Lopez and guards Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, all who arguably rank in the top eight at their respective positions.
But with all of the talent on the roster, the Nets’ hopes for greatness hinges on the team’s ability to stay healthy over the course of the season.
Lopez has missed 69 games over the past two seasons, Garnett was absent 20 contests over the same span, Kirilenko missed 18 games this past campaign and although Williams hasn’t missed as much court time, the veteran guard has battled numerous injuries himself the past few seasons.
Lopez’s health may be the key. The center had surgery this offseason for the third time in less than two years on his right foot. The latest surgery was needed to replace a screw in the foot, which had become unstable.
All signs point toward Lopez being ready for training camp, but there still should be cause for concern, even if the big man is singing the tunes of optimism.
“I think I was more disappointed than anything,” Lopez told Tim Bontemps of the New York Post. “I wasn’t concerned. I was disappointed, but it was best to do it when we did it, in the week after the season, to give myself the most time to get back in shape and to get ready for the season.
“I’m not fully working out. I’m not jumping or running or anything like that, but we have a good month-and-a-half just until training camp starts, so we’ll definitely be all right by then.”
Brooklyn has over $100 million in salary commitments on the books for the 2013-14 season. The club is projected to spend an additional $80 million in luxury tax, giving even more meaning to the phrase championship or bust.
Rockets’ Howard Soaking In Advice From Legends: All-Star center Dwight Howard shook the balance of power in the NBA this summer when he announced his decision to sign with the Houston Rockets in free agency. Part of Howard’s decision was based on joining a younger core consisting of James Harden and Chandler Parsons, but the center also shares a great deal of respect for Rockets head coach Kevin McHale. The presence of former Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon, who was recently hired as Houston’s big man coach, doesn’t hurt as well.
Earlier this week, both legends had a training session with Howard at the Toyota Center and it’s obvious Howard is soaking up all he can during their time together.
“I just feel like having guys like Hakeem and Kevin McHale on my side, I can’t lose,” Howard said according to Jason Friedman of NBA.com. “They’re going to really stay on me and that’s what I want. I want Coach to hold me accountable. I want my teammates to hold me accountable and to push me, which in turn will make everybody better because I’m going to push these guys the same way they’re pushing me.
“Having these guys in my backyard and have them pushing me to the limit is just going to make me better. It’s not about emulating Dream. That’s the thing. We get caught up in comparing players, trying to do what this guys does just because you work with him. The thing is, when you workout with a guy like Hakeem or Kevin McHale, you take away certain things. You don’t try to do everything they can do. I could workout with Michael Jordan, but I’m not going to be able to shoot the fadeaway like Michael Jordan.
“We’ve been working out for years and I’ve never tried to be Hakeem Olajuwon. We made jokes about the Dream shake – he’d call mine the milk shake – but I don’t want to say I’m going to be like Hakeem Olajuwon. The moves we’re doing and how we’re doing them, it’s not about doing it just like Hakeem or doing them just like McHale. It’s about understanding why and how you do certain moves.”
Howard averaged 22.9 points per game in 2011, but has seen his scoring production decline each season since. The 17.1 points per outing Howard averaged for the Los Angeles Lakers last season was his lowest since the 2007 campaign, as a member of the Orlando Magic.
Olajuwon believes Howard is just scratching the surface of his potential and believes the center’s willingness to work will take his game to the next level this season.
“Standing there with Coach McHale, for me as a big guy, it was incredible to listen to what he was teaching and to see the look in his eyes, realizing his basketball IQ and understanding of the game,” Olajuwon said. “I was just thinking, ‘Wow, how lucky (Howard) is to be with two Hall of Famers, adding true value to his development.’
“As good as he is right now, he’s still very raw. But he has all the tools so I’m like a kid in a candy store. That’s why we give him the fundamentals of these moves. There’s a rhythm. And once he sees it, then it’s easier to emulate and then incorporate with power. He has the power. Now we’re adding finesse to the power. The best big men in the game – they’re game-changers. That’s what he is. And he’s in the right situation where the coach understands it, he demands it, and Dwight can give it.”
Brad Stevens Embracing Celtics’ Past: The Boston Celtics shocked most by digging into the collegiate ranks to hire Brad Stevens as their new head coach. Stevens did a marvelous job propelling Butler into the national spotlight but his job won’t be an easy one replacing Doc Rivers, who led the franchise to a NBA title and two Finals appearances.
Making matters more complicated, is the fact the Celtics are at the start of a rebuilding project as the team parted ways with future Hall of Famers Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett this summer.
But one area where Stevens is already making strides in Boston is public relations.
According to Jay King of MassLive.com, Stevens has been proactively reaching out to former Celtics players, via letter, inviting them to the team’s practice and games (home and away).
Former All-Star guard Kenny Anderson, who played for the Celtics from 1998-2002, mentioned Stevens’ letter on his personal Twitter account and thought it showed a touch of class.
The Celtics have reached the postseason the past six campaigns, but making another playoff run in 2014 will be a stretch as the team awaits All-Star guard Rajon Rondo’s (torn ACL) return to the lineup and the loss of so many key pieces from last year’s edition.
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