NBA Sunday: Nets Snap Skid, Brook’s Back
Nets Snap Skid, Lopez Coming Back
New Jersey’s eight-game losing streak coming into Saturday afternoon’s game was, at the time, the longest current losing streak in the NBA. The good news, then, after a pretty decisive matinee win, was not only that the streak was broken, but also that Brook Lopez would be returning to the lineup Sunday against the Milwaukee Bucks
Lopez, who has been out since December and hasn’t played a single regular season game yet, hopes to help change the fortunes of the utterly frustrating 9-23 Nets by adding what in 2010-2011 was a team-high 20.4 ppg. The rest of the team isn’t lost on how much this can change their season.
“We’re excited to have Brook back, and he’s excited to be back,” said Nets guard Deron Williams. “He’s put in a lot of work while he’s been out to get back and get healthy. He’s in great shape, added about ten pounds of muscle, so I know he’s ready to go.”
That ten pounds of muscle should help him get his rebounding average back up. It dropped to 5.9 rpg last season after having been up over 8 rpg his first two years in the league. Teammate Kris Humphries, who has led the team in rebounds this year with 10.5 per game, is also excited about getting a little help on the glass.
“It’s exciting,” Humphries grinned after beating the Chicago Bulls. “The pressure’s on him. We’ve got to win the next game.”
They’ve got to win a lot of next games, and Lopez has to come in and play pretty well for that to have any chance of happening. Of course, beyond that, the same could be said if New Jersey hopes to have any chance to trading Lopez for Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard.
So now, New Jersey’s season is back on. They’re coming off an important win against one of the better home teams in the league (so what if it was without Derrick Rose?), and they’re getting their second-best player back tonight. If anything could turn around their season, this would be it.
“I’m so proud of our guys,” Nets head coach Avery Johnson said after the win. “Even through some of our tough times, they’re just a good group of guys… It means a lot.”
“We’re just happy the streak is over. It’s not fun losing,” Williams added. “To be on an eight-game losing streak then come in here in this building and win, it’s definitely a good one for us. Hopefully we don’t come in here and lay an egg tomorrow. We have to be ready against a scrappy Milwaukee team. We’ve got to pick our energy up, and be ready to go again.”
It’s halfway through the season for most teams, but the New Jersey Nets are just getting started. Their playoff odds are pretty low, but playing well enough to convince Williams to re-sign, or to convince Dwight Howard that Brooklyn will be better? That’s still in play. There’s still a season to salvage, even if the playoffs aren’t part of it.
Gasol Tied to Bulls, Again
When Pau Gasol was traded to the L.A. Lakers in February of 2008, it came after a whirlwind of trade rumors that had the Spanish forward headed to a number of different teams. One of the more serious rumors at the time was a deal that centered around Bulls forward Luol Deng, but Chicago at the time balked at giving up too many young pieces to acquire Gasol.
The asking price was then, as it is now, very high for one of the most gifted offensive post men in the game, and Chicago backed off of trade talks long before Memphis grew desperate enough to dump Gasol to L.A. in what seemed at the time to be one of the more lopsided trades in league history.
Of course, this year Deng and Pau’s little brother Marc, for whom he was traded, are both All-Stars while Pau himself is not, but that’s not the point. The point is that, according to Jesus Sanchez of the Spanish sports website Marca.com, Gasol’s agent Arn Tellum is trying to facilitate a trade to Chicago. Again.
Gasol is averaging a career-low 16.6 ppg for a struggling Lakers team, and Tellum also works with Derrick Rose, so it’s not an entirely outlandish idea. It’s actually not even the first time this season that the Bulls have been rumored to have had interest in Gasol. An internet rumor earlier in the season suggested a Boozer-for-Gasol swap, but the reality of that suggestion was discovered when the rumor didn’t really pick up steam, let alone actually find its way to consummation.
So what about now? Expect the same thing. With the Lakers struggling, rumors involving Gasol are going to be pretty rampant as fans are looking for ways to dramatically improve the team. What they really need, however, is help at the point guard position. Neither C.J. Watson, John Lucas III, or Mike James are big enough improvements to warrant moving Gasol for Boozer, who is also struggling.
It seems like the kind of deal Chicago would consider making, but it just makes too little sense from L.A.’s standpoint. If they’re going to offload Pau, they’ve got to get more value in return than what Chicago is likely to offer. It’s a fun idea, but doesn’t seem likely to come to fruition.
McGrady Not Happy With Role in Atlanta
You know how to tell when a player is frustrated with his role on a team? He starts using curse words in post-game interviews.
“I’m tired of this [bleep],” Atlanta’s Tracy McGrady told Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal Constitution after Saturday’s loss to Portland. “You can put that in the paper, I don’t give a [bleep].”
Sort of takes away any doubt about how things are going for T-Mac in Atlanta, doesn’t it?
Of course, a player of his pedigree who proved last year in Detroit that he still had some gas left in the tank wouldn’t take too well to playing only 4:39 in the twenty-point loss to the Blazers. None of those minutes came in the second half.
“If you don’t feel I can help, come tell me that,” McGrady said. “[Hawks head coach Larry Drew] ain’t told me nothing. I just want to help these guys win, man, which I know I can. But, damn, four minutes?”
So what does this mean for McGrady’s future with the team? Well, the Hawks can’t actually trade him until March 1 because he was just signed this past offseason, but there’s been no indication that this is what either side wants. Drew has said all year that he wants to be careful about using McGrady because of his age and injury history, and McGrady has missed some games this year with back spasms, anyway.
Despite everything, McGrady actually intimated that he’d like to stay with his current team. But, understandably, he’d like to see some more minutes.
“Hopefully, I’m here,” he said. “I like it here. I like the guys. That’s what I love most about it. I like the guys in this locker room. But at the same time, I still can play. No doubt in my mind.”
This could get interesting if the McGrady minutes continue to be minimal, but for now it looks like he just boiled over in a moment of frustration. If that frustration mounts, however, this could get ugly. Let’s hope that it doesn’t, though.