NBA@2: Brooklyn Nets’ Master Plan Taking Shape?
Moscow is not everyone’s idea of an ideal vacation spot. It’s certainly not where we imagine professional athletes going to get away from it all. Yet that’s exactly where Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams, this summer’s biggest free agent, took his family to start the offseason.
The best way to win someone over may just be to wine them and dine them, and what better way to do that – if you’re a billionaire Russian aristocrat – than to bring your prize over for the ultimate home-court advantage?
And make no mistake about it, Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is absolutely trying to win over Williams.
Prokhorov is pulling out all of the stops, also bringing over Nets GM Billy King and calling upon former Utah Jazz teammate and Russian national Andrei Kirilenko to help seal the deal. The Nets have big plans for next season, plans that may include Boston Celtics All-Star forward Kevin Garnett or Milwaukee Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova, according to the New York Post.
The Nets can already offer Williams the most lucrative contract, in the form of a five-year, $109 million deal, but Williams has been clear in saying that he will put winning over money if it comes to that. His other primary suitor is expected to be his hometown Dallas Mavericks, but for all of the talk about Mavs owner Mark Cuban having deep pockets, Dallas can only offer Williams four years and $81 million and would seriously jeopardize their ability to fill out their roster by signing Williams to that kind of deal.
That said, the Mavericks’ stated goal is to make Dirk Nowitzki the second-best player on the team next season.
“That’s certainly our goal,” Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said in a recent interview with 105.3 The Fan in Dallas. “I’m very confident that if you talk to (Dirk) that would be his goal, too, because that’s a situation where it just takes some of the load off his back in terms of what he has to do game-to-game. We’ve been doing it with a roster really built on one great superstar and kind of a strength-in-numbers philosophy. That’s how we won the Finals last year and that’s how we’ve competed at a very high level here and how the franchise had competed at a very, very high level many, many years before I got here. I think in this day and age of the league, depth is one of the things that you’ve got to have, so that’s going to continue to be part of the thought process.”
The only 2012 free agent who even comes close to making Nowitzki the second-best player on a team that share is Williams, but the Mavericks have their work cut out for them convincing Williams that they can put a better team around him than the one Prokhorov is hoping to assemble in Brooklyn. Brook Lopez, Kirilenko, Ilyasova or Garnett, Gerald Wallace, MarShon Brooks and Anthony Morrow are a solid cast already, and that’s before the Nets use a draft pick expected to be near the top of the 2012 NBA Draft and address free agency.
Brooklyn clearly has the upper hand in the Deron Williams sweepstakes, and they might even emerge as an Eastern Conference contender by the time the 2012-13 NBA season gets underway.
That is absolutely the gameplan in Brooklyn. Now, they just have to execute it.
Meet NBA Draft Prospect Malik Cooke
South Carolina swingman Malik Cooke talks about how competing in the SEC helped prepare him for the NBA, identifies his strengths and weaknesses and talks about what he’s working on to improve his game leading into the pre-draft process. HOOPSWORLD caught up with Cooke at IMG Academies, where he’s working with some of the best in the business to get ready for the biggest month of his life.
In talking to the media in San Antonio before his Los Angeles Clippers took on the Spurs, head coach Vinny Del Negro had to put some things in perspective. First of all, when it was suggested that he was the reason the Spurs had their beautiful new arena, he quickly pointed out: “I think David Robinson had something to do with that.” Del Negro was a key member of the team from 1992-98, just missing the team’s first championship in 1999.
Second, while Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has been an important adviser to Del Negro now that he’s a head coach himself, he admitted that the flow of information has been temporarily suspended for this series.
The Spurs are a team on a mission, and while the Clippers did a nice job of eliminating the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round, Del Negro understands that the challenge ahead of them is of an entirely different nature. He also admitted that he will be outcoached in the series.
“Absolutely,” said Del Negro. “Pop has done it. He’s hung banners, he’s been doing it for a long time. He’s a guy that I have a tremendous amount of respect for, he’s helped me tremendously as a young coach in the league and I’ve bounced things off of him or a phone call here and there, but what I have to tell you is he gave me all of the best restaurants, so I’m eating well. We’re both very competitive guys and that’s the way it is, but there’s obviously a mutual respect there when he coached me and then obviously to get into the coaching.”
Del Negro was also quick to dismiss the talk of the Spurs being an old team.
“They’ve been saying that for like ten years, ‘They’re old’. They’re not old,” Del Negro said. “Everyone says that because Tim Duncan’s got a lot of mileage on him, but Tim knew his knee wasn’t great, he went and lost 20, 25 pounds or whatever it was, and they’ve done a good job with their depth, their draft picks, who they brought in to fit the system. Like I’ve said before, what Pop does really well is, it’s easy to get guys to talk about their role, but he gets guys to accept their role and everyone knows that Tim, Manu and Tony drive the ship. He guides it and the other guys accept their role and do their job and I think that’s why they’ve had consistent success. They’ve been able to do all those things whether it is free agency or they have the good depth all the time and they build the team around those three stars.”
One of the challenges Del Negro has faced this season is establishing the same kind of role acceptance in LA.
“Some guys (accept their roles). Not yet all of them. I would say as we move forward here and build the team around Blake (Griffin) and Chris (Paul), the things that I learned here, whether it was on the court or off the court, obviously you want to use because they’ve had consistent success for a long time and it’s about winning. It’s tough to say any organization in the last ten, twelve, fifteen years that has had more success or as consistent success as San Antonio, so why wouldn’t you want to do that?”
The Clippers’ size and physicality up front is something Del Negro feels can be a strength as they look to even the series tonight in San Antonio.
“We always want to play physical. We have to rebound the ball and things like that, but you also want to play your game. We have athletes up front and we want to use that to our advantage. We get out and run when we can, but I think at playoff time you have to be physical and we’re built like that. With the guys we have up front we should be able to do that, which we did in the Memphis series.”
Normally teams like to get out and run, and with Chris Paul running the show that would seem like a logical plan of attack for the Clippers. That hasn’t been the best offensive gameplan for LA this season, as they were ranked 27th in the league in transition offense. Their most effective attack by far was to run isolation plays, where they were the best in the NBA, send cutters to the rim, where they were second and then run the pick-and-roll, where they were fourth.
“You just don’t run up and down. San Antonio with their depth, Tony (Parker) is very difficult in the open court. They have a lot of three-point shooters, they score the ball at a high rate. The way they’ve played all year speaks for itself and the statistics speak for themselves, but we’ve just got to manage, have a game plan going in, take some things away as best as possible, know they’re going to hit some tough shots and execute ourselves.”
The two areas that killed LA in Game 1 were points in the paint, where the Spurs held a 42-30 edge, and in three-point shooting, where the Spurs drilled 13 of 25 treys.
“They spread you out, especially when Manu (Ginobili), (Matt) Bonner and (Gary) Neal come in. They can really spread you out, so we’ve got to do a good job with our closeouts, running them off the line a little bit but not just giving up twos to the basket, just making them thing that we’ve got a sense of urgency to get out there. We’ve got to start it tight in order to get out to them. It’s easy to talk about, but you’ve got Tim diving down the lane or (Tiago) Splitter, who does a good job diving on the basket. Obviously, Boris (Diaw) is very skilled and he can find players so we’ve got to be smart on our attack, change up the coverages a little bit but they shoot it so well and so many of them, Stephen Jackson, you’ve got a lot of guys that can shoot the ball and that puts a lot of pressure on you.”
Sound like Del Negro has his work cut out for him, keeping up with all of those guys?
Game 2 tips off tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @jfleminghoops, @TheRocketGuy, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @alexraskinNYC, @SusanBible, @DPageHoopsWorld , @stephenlitel , @stevesraptors, @TommyBeer and @YannisHW.
NBA Chats:NBA Chats: There are two NBA chats today starting with Steve Kyler’s weekly NBA Rumors Chat at 10:30am EST. Mark Nugent will round out the day with his weekly NBA Chat at 6pm EST. You can always find the next NBA Chat here: http://www.hoopsworld.com/upcoming-chats and if you are looking for Previous Chats try here: http://www.hoopsworld.com/previous-chats