Keith & Rory’s Halloween/Blockbuster Trade/Superstorm 2012-2013 NBA Preview Emailpalooza

Posted: November 2, 2012 by Keith Stone in basketball, NBA
Tags: , , , , , , ,

When Rory and I decided to send emails back and forth previewing the NBA season, we had no idea that James Harden would be traded right after we talked about the Thunder’s chances of winning the Title with him or that the Nets-Knicks NYC basketball megagame would get postponed due to Superstorm Sandy. So yes, parts of this email chain may be a bit outdated even though they’re less than a week old but Rory and I made sure to do our best when analyzing the burning questions heading into the season, like which player had the best Halloween costume. We even managed to poke fun at a few people and teams, and most importantly, each other.

Stone: So I’m sitting here flipping between Pablo Prigioni running roughshod over the Brooklyn Nets at the hallowed basketball ground known as the Nassau Coliseum and Michael Myers running roughshod over Haddonfield, and then it hit me: the NBA season is less than a week away. It feels like only yesterday when the Heat, well, you know.

Obviously, the trend sweeping the league has been creating these superteams and the Lakers followed suit in the offseason by adding Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. Strictly on paper, it would appear that LA has enough talent to significantly challenge Miami. Maybe I’m a sucker for a dominant big man (must be due to either Patrick Ewing or Eddy Curry) but if the Lakers remain healthy, and that’s a big 7-foot if, I like their chances. With Kobe handling the scoring and swagger, Dwight can focus on what he does best: no, not sulking and tearing a franchise apart, but rebounding and playing monster defense.

Queen James finally got over the mountain last year but are we sure that this means that the Heat are going to win not seven, not eight Titles? After the Yankees won the 2009 World Series, I would’ve sworn that A-Rod would never struggle in the playoffs again. Well, I was wrong. Couldn’t you see LeBron choking it up in a do-or-die East Finals Game 6 in Boston with D-Wade hobbled up and the Bostrich hiding his head in the sand? Is that unfathomable?

Or does LeBron go full-on Michael Jordan serial killer on us? If he has it in him, I can’t see anyone toppling the Heat. LeBron was great in the Finals but he wasn’t exactly the Shape. The refs call that foul on him at the end of Game 2, and we might not be singing this song.

The great thing about this season is that there are just so many subplots around the league. We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface. OKC has as good a group as anybody. Does their emerging superteam break through or will James Harden’s contract situation doom their chances? Can another team enter the Championship equation? The Clips, the Grizz? Will anybody on Golden State ever play defense? Will Mark Cuban miss Opening Night in Dallas to film an episode of Shark Tank? Will I ever stop asking questions? Will you answer any of them? We haven’t even mentioned either of our teams, playing in the same city for the first time ever. How do you think the first season of the Brooklyn Nets will turn out? Oh yeah, and one more thing: LINSANITY!

Rory: Man, you threw a ton of questions at me, and I’m still recovering from the drinking game I played last night during the Knicks-Nets game (drink every time Clyde Frazier made a rhyme).  So here we go:

The key words with these superstar teams is “on paper.”  It took two seasons for the Miami Heat to figure it out.  Last season, the Knicks looked like legitimate contenders…on paper.  I was even hyping up my Brooklyn Nets as a contender a few weeks ago, but the parts haven’t meshed yet and the defense has been lacking.  If there is one guy who can create instant chemistry with his teammates, though, it is Steve Nash.  And, while the Lakers will be formidable, do not count out the Oklahoma City Thunder yet.  Their young guys are just getting better each year, and they still have the assets to make a trade to get another big piece to their puzzle.  I definitely see them working things out with James Harden as well, probably getting him to take less money for the team as well.

But, this is LeBron’s title to lose.  I don’t see him being Michael Jordan now (or ever), but he’s clearly the best player in the league and is surrounded by dangerous weapons.  Whether the monkey is off his back in regards to choking is unclear, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it come back.  However, I’m not sold on the Celtics as their main rivals in the East.  I think the C’s are playing on borrowed time – despite the additions of young guys like Courtney Lee and Jeff Green, their leaders are the ancient Garnett and Pierce, and the odds of them being strong in April and May decline each year.  To beat the Heat, you need to be strong in their weakest positions (point guard and center), and have strong defenders at all other positions.  You know who fits that bill?  The Brooklyn Nets!  Gerald Wallace, Joe Johnson, Keith Bogans, and Josh Childress are solid wing defenders, and Kris Humphries and Reggie Evans could provide a total of 12 hard fouls per game to make LeBron think twice about driving the lane.  However, this is still “on paper” – I predict the Nets will struggle the first couple weeks of the season as they struggle to find their identity – right now, they have too many indians but no strong chief.

But, I don’t want to get off on a complete Nets tangent right now – I’ll just break my thoughts up into smaller tangents.  I have a feeling Mark Cuban will be at many a Mavericks game, filming a new spinoff of Shark Tank just called Tank.  Wouldn’t that make sense for the Mavericks?  Don’t rush Dirk back and pull a ’98 Spurs – get a top pick to help Dirk in his final years.  Also, I’m so glad Daryl Morey is friends with Bill Simmons.  No other general manager has done a worse job with his team the last couple seasons, but because he’s friendly with the media, nobody is calling him out for the terrible job.  And that’s great!  With Morey managing the Rockets, that’s one less team competing against the Nets.  Linsanity I think has a future in this league, but he’ll need strong teammates, and Asik and Kevin Martin won’t do the job.

But what do you think of Linsanity?  And, I know you are trying to avoid this question – but what about them Knicks?  Why do their D-League players look better than their starters?  Will Amar’e get traded or come off the bench?  Will they convert the Knicks locker room into a nursing home?

MKS: Next week on Tank: Mark Cuban, Barbara Corcoran, and Daymond John are joined courtside by a very special guest, Jim Dolan! “Well, basically, I refused to re-sign the most popular player my team’s had in the past 10 years and replaced him with someone who never met an all-you-can-eat buffet he didn’t like and a guy who’s almost as old as the Cryptkeeper. Who wants to invest?” Haha very funny.

Now that’s a show I would watch, especially if JD & the Straight Shot do a cover of Play That Funky Music White Boy. Look, the Linsanity era was a lot of fun but even when things were at the their best, the Knicks never even seriously threatened for home court in the first round. I still think back to the one game against the Heat when Lin looked like a kid playing with adults and the game against the NJ Nets (RIP) when Deron Williams scored about 173 points (all numbers approximate) against him. Plus, you never know how he’s going to play coming off an injury and once teams start to figure him out.

Would I have re-signed Lin? Yes but only because the first two years of his contract tender were so affordable. In the final year, Lin would have been easily tradable or maybe Amar’e is gone by then and the salary cap implications aren’t so severe. Worst case, the Knicks pay an extra $15 mil in taxes, and everybody’s cable bill goes up.

But Lin is gone, so let’s focus on the team the Knicks have now. The big question is whether Amar’e and Carmelo can coexist. This was supposed to be the pivotal year when they’d have a full training camp to work out all the kinks and jell. Of course, Amar’e hurt his knee and has missed most of the preseason, but it might be a blessing in disguise. The Knicks play well with a smaller lineup, with Melo at the 4. Except that would mean that the $100 million dollar man would be coming off the bench. If he’s banged up, I don’t think he would mind but that’s a mighty big sacrifice. A year and a half ago, the Garden was chanting “MVP” every time Amar’e was at the foul line. I don’t think he can subjugate his ego for somebody else’s glory. Who could?

The good thing is that the two guys who are going to be handling the ball are Ray Felton and Jason Kidd. Felton has an established chemistry with Amar’e and Kidd is smart and respected enough that no one will question who he gets the rock to. It’s still hard to see this team be ultra-successful with the contrast in styles between their two main men. While other teams took painstaking strides to make sure their pieces fit together like a Swiss watch, the Knicks are like a monster truck with a Maserati engine. Both are awesome but who the fuck knows how they’ll fit.

I don’t think Amar’e gets traded. He has too much money left on his (uninsured) contract. Regardless, I like the Knicks for 45 wins. It could be enough to compete in the East. Who else is there besides Miami? Derrick Rose is a huge question mark in Chicago. The Celtics are always going to be there in the playoffs and Jason Terry instead of Ray Allen is an upgrade, but I think we agree that there’s a cap on how well the old dudes in green can get it together. The new-look Sixers intrigue me. Is it possible that an unleashed Andrew Bynum and the good vibes from last year carry over to an Atlantic Division crown?

The one team I don’t think is going to seriously contend is your Brooklyn Nets. The black Kool-Aid may be trendy but it’s disgusting. You have a few borderline All-Stars and a Kardashian. And Billy King runs your team! If they start out slow, Proky, Ratner, and Yormark better watch out because I think this Brooklyn move is going to be a short honeymoon. The Nets are still the Nets. The Islanders will have a better shot at bringing a Title to the boro. Sorry, buddy. And don’t hate on Daryl Morey. The only you reason you ever get stand-up gigs is because you’re my friend.

What do you think about the West? I feel like there’s more competition out there. I’m also infinitely more interested in their also-rans like Minnesota, New Orleans, and Golden State than those in our time zone. I can’t wait to watch an exciting Lakers-Wolves game and fall asleep in the 4th quarter because it’s so late.

Rory: I was still impressed by Kidd in the few minutes I saw him in the preseason game – his passes looked sharp, even if they were bumbled by their recipients.  And I did like what I saw of Prigioni – he reminds me of a young Steve Blake, even though he’s three years older.

The Brooklyn honeymoon will last at least a season, but they will be hellbent on making the playoffs this year.  If the Nets start out slow, there will be a move coming.  Given Billy King’s track record, he loves to trade young guys for old guys (Courtney Lee for Troy Murphy, a lottery pick for Gerald Wallace).  A Humphries/Brooks package for a veteran power forward (Varejao?) is something I could see being explored in February.

The Atlantic Division is completely up for grabs, as I could see four teams making the playoffs from it.  If the Sixers can get a healthy Bynum for four months, they can approach 50 wins.  I know they lost a lot of talent in Lou Williams, Elton Brand, and Andre Iguodala, but this may be addition by subtraction, as it allows more minutes for Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young to play.

On the West – I’m the opposite of you.  I see it being as boring and predictable as ever, as I see seven of the eight playoff teams as locks to make the playoffs again (the only one possibly dropping out is Dallas).  I still think Golden State is what they always are – an exciting 28-win team.  New Orleans has some nice pieces, and should play hard every night, but I still think they are a couple years away from sniffing the playoffs.  Anthony Davis is great, but even LeBron and Durant played on lottery-bound teams their rookie years.  Minnesota should be fighting Dallas and possibly Portland for that final playoff spot, depending on their health.  And the less said about the Suns, Kings, and Rockets, the better.

So, who you got taking it all?  Logically, everyone will say a Heat-Lakers Finals.  But that is incredibly boring.  What’s the fun in predicting that?  So, I’m going to toss my brain out the window and go with my heart: the Brooklyn Nets beating the Los Angeles Lakers in an epic seven-game series!  How will they get past Miami?  That’s the Russian Surprise!

MKS: Well, here’s where we disagree. To me, it’s exciting when multiple teams have a chance to win. Who cares if there’s not much turnover in the playoff teams from last year in the West? The Thunder and Lakers are favorites but I could see the Spurs, Clippers, and Grizzlies causing trouble. And again, I think teams like the Warriors and Wolves are going to be exciting to watch despite the fact that they might not be very good.

The East is much more up in the air when it comes to playoff teams, but I couldn’t care less about half of them. Maybe Monta Ellis turns the Bucks into a playoff team. Maybe Kyrie Irving takes the Cavs to the next level. The Wizards made a bunch of changes. They could get in the playoff mix. That doesn’t make it exciting.

Right now, the Heat are head and shoulders above everyone in the East. I’m not saying things can’t change. A lot hinges on Derrick Rose, the Celtics’ old guard, and even our teams. But if I had to put all my money in the middle of the table Jim Fassel-style and wager on one team in the East, I wouldn’t even hesitate on Miami. Since you think the East is more interesting, what teams are you looking forward to seeing that might not be everyone’s radar?

The 2002 Finals must’ve ruined you worse than I thought. A Lakers-Nets Finals? Now I know you really are crazy. When Billy King trades the Nets’ 2013 first-round pick for Jamal Crawford and a bag of magic beans, don’t come crying to me. The only Russian Surprise that could make a Brooklyn title happen is Proky driving his Jet Ski over LeBron James.

And there’s absolutely going to be a short honeymoon. Maybe not as short as Kris Humphries’s with Kim K Superstar, but if the Nets are below .500 by New Year’s, do you really think people are going to be shelling out exorbitant amounts of dough to see them play? The difference between the Knicks and the Nets is that a massive number of Knicks fans are hopelessly addicted to their team. Being a Knicks fan is like being addicted to heroin. I remember being at Tracy McGrady’s Knicks debut. There was an ELECTRICITY in the Garden, and that was for a washed-up star on a 7th seed team. You’re getting our teams confused. For now, the Nets have no reason to get people in the seats other than the initial curiosity and winning.

As for a Finals prediction, since my balls are the size of watermelons, I’m gonna take a repeat of last year’s matchup with a different result. OKC over Miami in 7 with LeBron shooting a potential Title-winning airball in the final seconds. A boy can dream, right?

But like I said, a lot can change. If Dwight Howard was traded at the deadline, last season would have been totally different. Despite saying that he’s happy in LA now, the big man might be on the move again this year. Do you think Dwight will stay with the Lakers this year? Long-term? And what about Chris Paul? His contract is up at the end of the year. I don’t see him making a stink about leaving but if he lands in a place like Dallas at the deadline that changes everything. What do you see happening with CP3?

Rory: Woah woah woah, so many things I never said are in here!  To begin:

First, I agree that it is exciting when multiple teams have a chance to win.  However, I think the Lakers and Thunder are the upper echelon of the West.  The Spurs are (always) getting older, the Clippers are still coached by Vinnie Del Negro, and the Grizzlies couldn’t beat a team coached by Vinnie Del Negro.  I don’t see any of them as a legitimate threat to the top two.

Second, I never said the East was exciting either.  Miami is clearly the best team, but I think they rely more on LeBron than the Thunder do on Durant or the Lakers do on Kobe.  If LeBron regains his title as Queen James, Miami is more vulnerable than the West’s best.  Like you said, the East has some interesting teams that should win 30 or so games, but nothing that I see as a ’09-’10 Thunder team – a young, up-and-coming team that is a year away from being true contenders.

I think being a Knicks fan is more like being a stoner.  They live in a purple haze of reality, where Tracy McGrady is a franchise changer and one playoff win in 11 years is cause for confetti.  They clearly suffer from short-term memory loss, as they still think Amar’e Stoudemire can be an MVP player.  I expect Knicks fans this year to even campaign to legalize medical marijuana to placate Rasheed Wallace.

I think Dwight will stay, unfortunately.  But, maybe he changes his mind if the Lakers get bounced in the second round?  Maybe the Nets move Humphries to get under the salary figure needed to do sign-and-trades?  Maybe he is still in love with Brooklyn?  Like you said, a boy can dream.  However, I think that the “superstars switching teams” era has officially worn out its welcome – the fans were excited in 2010, but the Dwightmare killed it.  I don’t see Chris Paul leaving. However, the only thing I would watch out for is the Lakers in 2014, when they’ll have tons of cap room.  If the Knicks are still winning a robust 45 games a year, I could see Carmelo opting out and making the jump to LA.

MKS: We’re several emails in and neither of us has sent one while drunk. Well, that’s about to change! It’s Halloween Saturday and I’m dressed in my $6 Walgreen’s ninja costume and downing Jacks and Diet Coke.

I’m sorry for putting words in your mouth, but I’m confused. Which conference do you think is more interesting? That is, excluding Brooklyn, if you could only watch games in one conference all season long including playoffs, which one would watch?

And how dare you make Rasheed Wallace jokes. Sheed is a respected member of the Knickerbocker organization, just like Baron Davis and Jerome James before him.

I agree, Dwight stays at least for the season. After that, who knows? Can you really see him putting on the legendary black and white of the Brooklyn Nets? Don’t discount Dallas either. Mark Cuban doesn’t like to lose. I wouldn’t be surprised if he made some sort of blockbuster move by the start of 2013-14 after being silent for a while.

I don’t think the era of superstars moving is dead at all. I can’t imagine that CP3 would want to stick around the Clips with Donald Sterling running the show and their 40-plus year history of ineptitude. NBA players, like all of us, are in it for the money, but they’re also prideful and highly competitive. If Rory could make $15 million a year, but millions of people around the world thought he was a loser, would you do it?

The Knicks aren’t trading Melo. He’s Dolan’s pet project. Trading him after giving up the farm to Denver would prove that Guitar Jimmy was wrong and that’s never happening. The much more likely scenario is Amar’e going somewhere, but after the announcement that STAT got a second opinion on his knee, I’m officially worried. He’s my guy. I think most Knicks fans look to him as the reason for this mini-resurgence over the past two years and I wouldn’t want to see him go down for the sake of our 2013 hopes or his trade value.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to try and find a girl dressed as a slutty Dick Bavetta to hook up with. So that bears asking which NBA player do you think has the best Halloween costume this year?

Rory: And I’m writing this completely hung over from my time drinking as The Dude last night.

But, hold the phone – what just happened with James Harden? Did…did Daryl Morey just make a good move?  I can’t believe it. Basically, he turned a bunch of average draft picks and an expiring contract into a legitimate building block.  I think Harden is slightly overrated and may not be able to carry a team, but Morey had to do something.  This team will still be towards the bottom of the West, but now their fans have something to look forward to.

I’m not sure how the Thunder fans feel about this.  I mean, I understand their reasoning.  They needed to save money, and in return, they got a bunch of pieces that will help them in both the short term and long term.  Kevin Martin should be able to provide 60% of what Harden did, and Lamb has a promising future.  If Harden had to go, you couldn’t ask for a better package than this (it is significantly better than what Orlando got for Dwight).

However, did Harden have to go?  From what Bill Simmons is ranting about on twitter, it doesn’t seem like they were as fiscally poor as they claimed to be.  Also, their team was so close to winning a championship.  While Oklahoma City’s future looks fantastic with Lamb and that Toronto pick, it looks like they just conceded the West to the Lakers this year.  I feel that their current team was still strong, and I would’ve liked to see them try to win it again with the same pieces.  But, Presti rarely makes mistakes – so while I have my doubts, I also assume that he knows more about building a team than I do.  What are your thoughts?

Anyway, I’m excited for the season to start league-wide, but if I had to pick a conference, I’d go Eastern, just because, as clearly documented by my Nets championship pick, I’m an insane homer.  You also bring up good points about Chris Paul – I forgot about the Clippers’ remarkable incompetence.  You also bring up disturbing images – I dry-heaved at the thought of a sexy Dick Bavetta.  I think Kris Humphries will have the best costume this year, as he’ll go as Nets assistant coach Popeye Jones.  Frightening!

Rory: Scratch that – Hump actually did have an awesome costume – Kenny Powers!

MKS: Why does it look like Hump spent his Halloween weekend chilling with NYU freshman? Shouldn’t he be rolling with some Penthouse Pets or something? Gotta give him credit for the Kenny Fucking Powers costume, though. And do you have to be taking shots at poor Popeye? For sure, he went as the kid from Smart Guy.

I agree with you. I like what the Rockets did. They were irrelevant and made some noise. If I’m flipping channels and the Rockets are playing, I’d stick around for a while now. Harden’s not a franchise player, but he could be a perennial All-Star and someone the fans could get excited about. The timing was a bit peculiar since it’s right before the season, but Houston picked up two of the most-talked about young guys in the offseason. Not shabby for Dork Elvis.

On the other hand, I don’t understand what the Thunder did as well. They were three wins and a few plays away from the ultimate goal. They could’ve gone for it again with their same crew, and hoped Harden decided to stay. Or they could’ve kept him around till the trade deadline but by then their leverage would go down.

By all indications, it seems like the trade was made entirely for financial reasons. The thing I don’t get is that the sides were apparently only $4.5 million apart. It’s not that much money in the scheme of things even if the penalties would’ve “cost” OKC more than that amount. There are conflicting reports about the franchise’s profitability and I know that the owners lost a ton of money in the financial crash, but it opens up that question yet again: what is the purpose of owning a sports team — winning or making money?

It’s the nature of sports, and it sucks. You would think that if an owner of a contending team couldn’t afford an important piece of the puzzle they should sell the team, but that’s not realistic. Still, I wouldn’t count out Presti. Kevin Martin isn’t exactly chopped liver. Is it possible that they’re overplaying their financial problems as a means to trade Harden? That is, that Presti sees something that we don’t? If he can hit on one of the draft picks he acquired, the Thunder might become a super superteam.

Anyways, I’m pretty sure that you and I could go out there with Durant, Westbook, and Ibaka, and still make the playoffs. Interesting that they chose to pay Ibaka and not Harden too. Either way, I’m a man and I’m going to stick with my original prediction of Thunder over Heat in 7 for the Finals.

I wonder if the NBA could change the rules so that the salary cap implications weren’t as harsh if the contracts that put a team over the cap were of players drafted by the team. I haven’t thought it out that much but why should the Thunder be punished for drafting so many great players, as opposed to one of our teams? No chance the bigger market teams would be too happy with that plan. That’s for sure.

So I’m sitting here in the Suite, hiding out from Hurricane Sandy, and while it’s great to be in a 69th floor penthouse surrounded by beautiful ladies, it got me wondering what our favorite players are doing to prepare. In reality, they’re most likely all just smoking weed but let’s make like the Muppet Babies and use our imaginations. Who do you think would be the best and worst players to be stuck with in a hurricane?

Looks like we see eye-to-eye on the Harden trade.  Who says Knicks fans don’t know jack about the NBA?  Oh right, that’s me.

If I had to choose from all players in NBA history, I’d choose Charles Barkley.  Who wouldn’t want to chill and drink with Barkley for 48 hours?  The guy I wouldn’t want to be stuck with is Dikembe Mutumbo. Not only would that voice drive me crazy, but he’d probably start talking about his legendary humanitarian efforts in Africa, and make me feel guilty about how I’ve wasted my life.  Plus, he’s a former Knick, so fuck him.

Among current players, I’d want to get stuck with Brook Lopez.  He seems funny, and we can talk about comics all night long.  The guy to avoid at all costs is Ray Felton.  You turn around for one second, and your food rations would be completely gone.

On that note, I’m ready for the NBA season to start.  What say you, good sir?

MKS: Since we’ve last talked, it’s been a wild time in NYC. That’s right, Amar’e Stoudamire is out for the first six weeks of the season. In all seriousness, Superstorm Sandy took a lot out of the city and I’m bummed out the Knicks and Nets aren’t starting the season together. If anything, you guys deserve the chance to prove that you have what it takes to be #1 in the Greatest City in the World.

With the experience of Sandy, though, I think I’d want to ride a hurricane out with Kevin Love. I feel like he’d work hard to make sure we were safe at all times and would catch/rebound anything falling near my head. Not so sure about Barkley, though. I feel like he’d lose our last can of food in a craps game to the apartment down the hall.

And with that, fuck yes, I am ready for the season to start. I wish you the best of luck beating out Toronto for last place in the Atlantic. See you November 26th.

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