NBA AM: Will The New Faces In New Places Fit?
New Faces In New Places: There was a lot of movement this summer involving major players. With NBA training camps in full swing and preseason basketball a few days away, there are some questions surrounding some of those new faces and whether or not it will work out.
Here are just a few:
Steve Nash, LA Lakers: There is no doubting the Lakers look amazing on paper. In NBA2K they should be all but unbeatable. But, the reality is that NBA games are not won on paper or on video games, they tend to be the result of chemistry, coaching and sacrifice and for the Lakers that’s where Steve Nash comes in.
In Nash’s 16 years in the NBA his trade mark has been setting up the offense and maximizing the talents of the players he plays with. It earned him two MVPs and the praise of the NBA’s elite.
In LA the 38-year-old Nash does not have an easy road. Kobe Bryant is a ball dominating player and a volume shooter. Pau Gasol is a dominate post player, but he tends to disappear in games. Metta World Peace can be a good player, especially defensively when his head is in the game, and Dwight Howard can be as dominate a threat in the paint as we’ve seen since Shaquille O’Neal.
Can Nash bring all of that together? Maybe. Nash’s teams have always played together and played well. Lately he hasn’t had nearly as much talent to work with as he has in LA, but if the Lakers are going to challenge for a NBA title, it does come down in many ways to Nash.
Nash turns 39 in February. Nash’s legendary work ethic and physical condition have made him very reliable, having missed only a small number of games each season while being mostly healthy in his career.
Age and durability are huge question marks, but if Nash can be the same kind of player he was for years in Phoenix, the fit in LA should be very good.
Andrew Bynum, Philadelphia 76ers: Much is being made of the 76ers’ decision to shut down Andrew Bynum due to knee issues. It’s not even a full week into training camp and the 76ers and Bynum are already an injury discussion.
There is a reality to Bynum; he’ll have knee issues the rest of his career. The question surrounding Andrew isn’t his status for the first 20 games of the season, it’s the last 20 games of the season.
If Bynum is healthy as the 76ers approach the postseason, the impact he’ll have on the team could be extremely big. That’s what the 76ers bet the farm on. That’s why they took the risk to bring him in. Keep in mind it’s a short-term risk as he’s in the final year of his contract, but it’s a risk breaking apart a team that was clearly getting it done a season ago in favor of a bigger, slower squad.
Bynum is just one part of a very big 76ers frontcourt, his knee health is obviously a problem, but if he can get and stay healthy at the end of the season what happens in camp will be moot.
Jeremy Lin, Houston Rockets: The Rockets didn’t view Jeremy Linn as a franchise player and despite the way the salary camp counts his deal – the Rockets are paying Lin $5 million this season hoping he can be as good over an 82 game span as he looked in a small sample in New York.
In talking with the Rockets about their decision to sign Lin, one comment rings true – “He plays like we want to play… he attacks”
Lin may or may not be the player he’s been hyped to be. Let’s face it. He struggles with his left hand. He is not nearly as solid a shooter as his late game heroics in New York would lead you to believe and he turns the ball over A LOT! Not exactly endearing qualities of a starting point guard. However, what Jeremy does as well as anyone in the NBA is attack and get into the paint, and that’s exactly what the Rockets wanted and that’s exactly why they signed him.
Lin came into Rockets camp with a defined role this week. He came into camp with some contract security and if the first few days have been any indication, Jeremy should be a good fit for the Rockets mainly because the Rockets won’t be about just him. They have a roster full of young guys with upside and they simply need a guard that create enough chaos to get them space to work and Jeremy can do exactly that.
The Rockets didn’t sign Jeremy believing him to be a franchise player, and despite the hype from the marketing department, the basketball side doesn’t expect him to be one and managing exceptions is always the hardest part of being a high profile free agent acquisition.
Andre Iguodala, Denver Nuggets: The Denver Nuggets never struggled to score last season. In fact, they were the top scoring team in the NBA last season. The problem for Denver was they also allowed the 2nd most points per game too.
The Nuggets needed help defensively and landing Andre Iguodala wasn’t as much about Iggy’s offense as his defense.
The Nuggets opened camp with a much bigger emphasis on the defensive side of the ball and Andre will play a big part in that.
The Nuggets will still score. Their dribble-drive offense has become the rage in NBA coaching circles. HEAT head coach Erik Spoelstra is installing some of that system in Miami in attempts to get his guys more space to take advantage of one-on-one mismatches.
As the league adapts and replicates what Denver is doing offensively, they know they have to adapt defensively and when you look at what the Nuggets gave up in trade to get Iguodala – an All-Star and an Olympian – they got a lot of value for very little in return.
Andre won’t be the next Carmelo Anthony. Mainly because Denver doesn’t want him to be, but when you consider the Nuggets’ biggest and most glaring need was defense. They not only address that with Iguodala. He also has the offensive game that suits how George Karl likes to play.
The fit in Denver with Iguodala is solid, and the end result could be much better than pundits are giving the Nuggets credit for.
Joe Johnson, Brooklyn Nets: It always amusing to hear people talk about Joe Johnson, because it always starts and stops with the size and cap impact of his contract.
Johnson is a multi-time All-Star. He shot 45 percent from the field, better than 38 percent from three and kicked in more 84 percent of his free throws last season. He has missed less than 10 games a season for the past five years and is excellent in isolation. That’s his resume and it’s among the best at his position in the league, but people can’t seem to get past his $19 million paycheck.
The Brooklyn Nets needed a second star caliber player or they were losing Deron Williams and they got Johnson for what amounted to parts from the bench of a team that won 22 games last year. Remove the price tag for a minute – the Nets stole Joe Johnson.
Johnson in his career has never played with a point guard that demands the kind of defensive respect that Deron Williams demands, and the fact that both players are big strong physical guards; it really is pick your poison in Brooklyn.
It remains to be seen if Williams and Johnson can both be as good together as they are separately, but when you look at Johnson’s basketball resume, the fit is remarkable.
The Nets are substantially better talent wise and with Williams and Johnson, the Nets might have one of the best backcourt tandems in the East if not one of the best in the NBA.
The NBA opens preseason play on Friday, with many of the players and teams on this list getting action starting next week. Time will tell if the fit for these new players is genuine, but from a pre-season view, some of these teams got exactly what they wanted/needed when they started the off-season.
Sometimes as writers we stumble on to things that are so personal, that the best of us comes out as a result. HOOPSWORLD’s Tommy Beer took exception to the idea that Houston’s Royce White is somehow broken because of his anxiety disorder because Tommy suffers from the same condition. This is truly a must-read piece.
Backup Spots Is Up For Grabs: The Orlando Magic will start Jameer Nelson at point guard, but the player that backs him up in the regular season is up for grabs. The Magic brought back fan favorite Ish Smith, signed former Celtics draft pick E’Twaun Moore to a two-year deal and brought in Armon Johnson on a camp invite hoping to find a player that can deliver.
Ish Smith talks about his situation with HOOPSWORLD:
Not So Fast: The NBA announced it would be coming down hard on the checkbook of floppers in the NBA, and while at first glance more NBA players and coaches are in favor of the new rule than not, however the NBA Players’ Association says it will file a grievance against the NBA because the rule was not constructed with the Players’ Associations consent.
“The NBA is not permitted to unilaterally impose new economic discipline against the players without first bargaining with the union,” NBPA Executive Director Billy Hunter said in a statement. “We believe that any monetary penalty for an act of this type is inappropriate and without precedent in our sport or any other sport. We will bring appropriate legal action to challenge what is clearly a vague and arbitrary overreaction and overreach by the Commissioner’s office.”
The NBA’s policy will allow for play review after the fact and fines and discipline handed out accordingly. The Players’ Association objects to any rule that removes money from their players’ pocket without some kind of due process and impartial review.
There is almost no question that “flopping” occurs, players have coyly admitted to overreacting on contact to draw fouls and the NBA has said its committed to curbing what it views a deceptive actions by players.
For the NBA’s part, league spokesperson Tim Frank says the NBA has not seen anything from the Players’ Association on this issue and that the NBA feels it absolutely has the right to impose these kinds of rules.
“Although we haven’t seen any filing from the Players Association, our adoption of an anti-flopping rule is fully consistent with our rights and obligations under the collective bargaining agreement and the law,” Frank said.
The Player’s Association is unlikely to get the rule change blocked, however it does seem they will try.
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