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image via Dime Mag

Tonight, the Brooklyn Nets play the Oklahoma City Thunder, led by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. It's sure to be a great game for the Nets and test their strengths and endurance. Westbrook is a member of the Jordan Brand, though the company hasn't been known for making too many big cultural waves when it comes to making news, and Westbrook is stylistically as counter-culture as NBA players get is. I'm mildly surprised.

Even more surprising? Westbrook will debut Jordan's latest model from its signature collection, the Air Jordan XX8, tonight against the Brooklyn Nets.

I think the shoe's equal parts brilliant and retro status quo. I don't know what to think of Westbrook being in the shoe, beyond it being a flip on his usual fare, but he is an endorser and Jordan Brand member (as is Brooklyn Nets forward Gerald Wallace and guard Joe Johnson).

One of the great things about the Jordan basketball shoe legacy is that it either expounded on the culture of sneakers, or zigged when the industry zagged. In a sense, the Air Jordan XX8 does both, but it also stays aesthetically neutral. As techy and technical as it is (and there is a difference), the XX8 is par for the course. While the build of the XX8 is innovative, the look isn't as advanced or pronounced as Jordan says. Certain characteristics of the XX8 have been seen in various ways, and it doesn't really change the way footwear is seen, as a landmark. Experts and niche audiences will view Air Jordan as the best, because of its impact in performance, but its look is what makes the tech more relevant to players on the court.

In this case, Westbrook playing in an 8"-high sneaker is unique for him, but it doesn't say much else for the aficionados of today.

(But hey, black looks great on the Nets. Maybe "G-Force" Wallace and "Iso-Joe" Johnson can make the shoe look a little cooler on the herringbone.)

Joe Johnson, then and now

Posted on: August 17th, 2012 by Sandy Dover Comments

 

Joe Johnson Draft Night

Welcome to day five of Joe Johnson Week.

Joe Johnson has been in the NBA for 11 seasons, and I’m not sure many fans really know who he is. Not that they don’t know that he exists, or that they should know him away from the court, but that they don’t know what he is as a player. Fitting, because when he was drafted by the Boston Celtics with the 10th overall pick in the 2001 NBA Draft, many observers didn’t know who he was then, either.

I was 17 years old when the Celtics drafted Johnson, and though I was already an expert in my own mind about the NBA, even I wasn’t sure who he was or what to expect. All I knew about Joe was that he was considered a very promising player and that he had great size, at 6'8” and 235 lbs., and had the ability to play all three perimeter positions. That he could maybe become what Scottie Pippen was, if he had a scorer’s mentality. Sounded great to me!

And true enough, Joe has been promising – and he’s delivered. He’s never failed expectations (unless you’re the Celtics and you give up on your top rookie after a half-season of play behind Paul Pierce) – in fact, he’s surpassed the overall projection of what most thought his career could be, Pippen comparisons and all. He’s become a perennial All-Star, one of the highest-paid players in league history, and is now considered a savior for an NBA basketball team; if I were asked five years ago about Joe achieving any of those feats, I would’ve given a firm negative to any and all of those possibilities.

What most people think of when they think of Joe is either about his brief, meteoric run with Steve Nash’s Phoenix Suns, or either of the insane contracts that the Atlanta Hawks offered him as a free agent in 2005 ($70 million) and again in 2010 ($120 million). I’m not one to judge players on the contracts that they sign, because they have to make the most money that they can, since they have sensitive (and sometimes short) career arcs, and I don’t judge Joe for making his money, fair and square. But his bad rap came because he hasn’t been superstar-transcendent. 18, 4, and 4 is excellent for anyone playing in the best basketball league in the world, but most would assess his value as inflated. Granted, he’s a hard worker, he’s consistently been one of the top 10% of players in the league for the last seven years, and he is skilled as heck –- he’s just not one of those superstar talents that say, leads his epically flawed team to the 2007 Finals, and for that, he’s been set aside and undervalued for what he is: a really, really, really good basketball player.

I feel like he should’ve signed with Phoenix if he wanted a championship run, but what guy turns down $70 million? I also felt that Atlanta did the right thing in keeping Joe around when he became a free agent in 2010, but why offer him $120 million to start out? The answer to that first question is pretty obvious, but the latter query makes less practical sense from a strategy standpoint (and the Hawks’ front office has long made little practical sense), but even that narrows to this truth about Joe – he is so consistently good, that you can guarantee that he’ll win you games and take teams into the playoffs. Maybe $120 million is worth that to some ownership folk.

For the Brooklyn Nets, the reminder of that salary for “Iso-Joe” is a drop in the bucket for the current ownership, and really, when you can guarantee that a talented player will work hard, shoot the lights out, and almost assuredly take your team to postseason competition, somewhere in there, it all makes sense.

And that’s just it – when you look at Joe, questions may abound (“Does he fit?”, “Is he worth the money?”, “Will he change the game?”), but at the end of it all:

Joe just makes sense.

 

Manhood is a tough thing. It comes with it a lot of responsibilities and a standard of being independent, which regardless of the various times of the world, isn't easy. Being 26 years and being a multimillionaire comes with it tons of weight - the weight to be responsible, to do well, to placate and appease, to be strong…but those are qualities most befitting for a man. Maybe Howard hasn't really reached the peak of manhood yet. Perhaps, he is still a child.

I'm sure Howard knows the following verse from 1 Corinthians 13:11 of the Holy Bible: "When I was a child, I thought like a child, and acted like a child; but when I became a man, I put away those childish things." Children gossip, children often tattle and tell tales, children often are indecisive, and children are susceptible to becoming petulant.

One of the most important aspects of being a man is owning up to what you do and standing up for what you believe. That's called maturity. Take away the worldly aspect of manhood and narrow it down to the scope of being a man in the NBA. Outside of the mundane routine of playing, practicing, and preparing for the nights' entertainment, it's all about being accountable. If you can't be accountable for your actions in the league, your chances for being an all-around success plummet. Your word should be your bond, but hey, when you change your mind about that (and we all have the right to do so, no matter our depth of our commitments and obligations), that's what the agents are for. The agents and publicists can handle all of your handiwork, your PR, your brand management, but a high level of consistency in word and in action are concentrated in view of your integrity in the public, and a perceived lack of it does way more harm that being honest. Honesty divides your lovers from your antagonists; people-pleasing sometimes creates haters from your own supporters.

--Sandy Dover, "Dwight Howard: Krypton's Impostor"

Image courtesy of The Starting Five

Almost a month ago, I composed a piece on Dwight Howard for The Starting Five that delved into the dynamics of how his desire to leave the Orlando Magic affects his legacy and changes the way that he originally intended to be viewed in the NBA -- an intentional facade that held ground within the first two or three seasons of Howard's career, as a God-fearing, bright-smiling 'boy next door' and easy-going human caricature of Mickey Mouse...

Until he got tired of being criticized as 'one-dimensional'.

Until he got sick of being derided as a Shaq wannabe.

Until he tired of Stan Van Gundy, the very coach who facilitated his ability to become the defensive force he has now become.

Until he looked around and decided that he deserved to have an offense ran through him, even though his first six years in the league were spent without more than one post move (and zero counter-moves).

Until he and his agent decided that he needed to be the next LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Paul, manifesting their destinies (while the latter two proceeded to do so while still under contract).

The piece, "Dwight Howard: Krypton's Impostor", is my observation of Howard's behavior and his public trifles which have led to his infamous ongoing saga known throughout the media as "The Dwightmare". If you care at all about anything involving Howard, the Brooklyn Nets' mirage superstar center, maybe give it a good look -- I hope it will be worth your time spent reading.

(Much sincere thanks to Michael Tillery, founder of The Starting Five -- and Philadelphia 76ers beat writer -- who exclusively featured the piece.)

***

Meet Eric Gordon

Posted on: June 15th, 2012 by Sandy Dover Comments

 

Meet Eric Gordon, one of the most promising young players in the NBA from the past four seasons. Gordon, a natural shooting guard (who can play point guard in a pinch), made his name in the league as the starring (and starting) two-guard of the Los Angeles Clippers from 2008-2011, before a trade to the New Orleans Hornets just before the 2011-2012 season.

Gordon is known primarily as a shooter, and was known as such for several years before, dating all the way from high school in his native Indiana, to the crimson and cream of Indiana University, to his tenure in Los Angeles and New Orleans. With a career 3P% of .370 and an overall FG% of .452, Gordon has become one of the most efficient shooters currently stepping foot on the hardwood, but almost immediately since becoming a professional, Gordon has made his name as a devastating threat as a penetrator, making him one of the best scorers throughout the NBA.

A future All-Star in the making, Gordon's distinguished by his triple-threat ability, skill versatility, offensive firepower, and size. For a guy that goes 6’3” and 222 lbs, one thinks of players like the former Charlotte Hornets backcourt, Baron Davis and David Wesley, both of whom were fairly formidable because of their powerful, muscular builds. Combined with their lower center of gravity, quickness, and shooting, that made them some of the most unusual and talented players of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Gordon is similar, but an improved version of the two. Posting up Gordon isn’t easy, and his wingspan is impressive enough that he ‘plays bigger’ than his height would suggest as a defender. The fact that Gordon is ‘only’ 6’3” and plays off the ball normally would present problems with his ability to guard and be guarded, but considering his immense talents, he can neither be guarded too closely, nor too far away.

A former point guard in high school (and sometimes at IU), Gordon’s ability to shoot, pass, and dribble always make his next move a guessing game, and as unselfish as he is, the Indiana native is even more treacherous to guard. His 18.2 PPG career average, combined with his efficiency, speaks for itself. If John Wall could shoot, he would probably look similar to Eric Gordon (albeit a couple of steps faster, which is no knock on Gordon, who also possesses fleet feet).

Posting a PER escalation from 15 to 18.5 to 19.2, Gordon has become more efficient each season. His shot selection is sound, his decision-making is playing off of the ball is high-level, and even while playing on the ball, he makes the right kinds of plays, and though he’s not often seen as such – a product of soft bigotry from his pudgy face, and stocky build and stance – Gordon compares somewhat close to Ray Allen as a shooter/scorer/playmaker. With the rate of progression that Gordon is taking (hoping he can fully recover from the knee injury he suffered soon after the trade to New Orleans), it’s likely that Gordon will become one of the best players of the current generation of the league.

Net Worth: Kris Humphries

Posted on: May 9th, 2012 by Sandy Dover Comments

 

Stats:

62 GP, 62 GS, 13.8 PPG, 11.0 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.2 BPG, 0.8 SPG, 53.9 TS%, 17.98 PER

Preseason Outlook:

After a career season, Kris Humphries went into free agency expecting a big contract and ended up re-signing with his old team for just one year. I think this only works to the Nets benefit. Not just because it keeps their payroll flexible for other, “bigger” acquisitions, but it keeps Hump from getting too complacent. Was last year a fluke? Was it a contract year performance? Doesn’t matter as much now since Humphries is going to end up doing this all again next summer. The thing is, the Nets do need the Hump of last year if they’re going to compete for a playoff spot this year (and that’s not even considering the long-term implications of being without Brook Lopez).

Evaluation

Well, Kris Humphries had another career year. Almost 14 PPG and 11 boards were both career highs for him, as well as minutes played, field goals attempted and most other moderately meaningful stats. Yes, it was a contract year, and yes, he played a lot of minutes, but that doesn’t mean that Humphries wasn’t playing for a future investment – it was the first time in his NBA career that he received all the minutes he could handle, and after about a good seven years of being seen as an immature project, Humphries found his niche and his groove. He became a bonafide NBA player with the New Jersey Nets.

Here’s what Humphries displayed definitely about himself – he’s a legitimate rebounder and defensive presence with some ability to operate offensively out of the post, which is more than what half of the power forwards and centers in the league can do. At 27 years and now an eight-year veteran, what’s amazing is that he still have real ability to grow. He’s still unpolished when it comes to scoring around the basket, and his footwork isn’t the greatest, but he managed to be a threat within five feet of the basket, as his strength and mass allowed him to gain a discernible position in the post against the vast majority of opposing players. A running hook and a more reliable 10-foot jump shot would serve him well, and I’m not worried that he might not add those to his repertoire.

If the Brooklyn Nets know what’s good for them, they will lock up Hump to a long-term deal, hire him a shooting coach, and let him keep growing. Mind you, it’s not out of the question that he played out of position as a center, but the great thing about the Nets is that they have the roster room to give him space to operate at both positions, depending on their future acquisitions.

Final Grade:

Note: Justin DeFeo also contributed to this piece.

 

 

I remember the good ol’ days of the S. Carter line from Reebok, back when Jay-Z was just a legend who retired at the top of his game, before his comeback story, before his post-definitive music (which has thus fallen short), before marriage to an icon, before a baby…well, before the former New Jersey Nets.

Since 2003, the Nets have basically spent the last nine years waiting for change, and have received said change, made official on Monday. Jay-Z has spent the last nine years (disappointingly) in Michael Jordan’s Washington Wizards territory as an artist (while he’s dominating the business world simultaneously, as should be noted), but I digress…the Nets and Young Hov have a new shoe!

Per Hypebeast:

West Coast footwear brand Gourmet has unveiled a special sneaker for none other than Jay-Z himself, honoring the Nets’ historic move to Brooklyn. Dressed up in a sleek black colorway with the new Nets logo on the tongue, an all-too-familiar patterned fabric appears on the heel along with Jay-Z’s name. Key detailing comes in the form of tonal laces and expert stitching that gives way to a small “Gourmet” label just above the white soles. While there is no word on a release date, many speculate that the 22 L “Brooklyn Nets” is a one-off edition.

As a footwear expert and aficionado, my opinion of the Gourmet for Jay-Z 22 L “Brooklyn Nets” model is a positive one. Obviously, the new Nets logo sets the tone for how well the shoe can be engineered with its color scheme, and nothing says top-notch like black premium leathers and a stark white sole. As of standard footwear fashion trends, the shoe can be easily dressed up or dressed down casually, which speaks the kind of style that Shawn Carter himself conveys. The waxed laces are an added touch of character, as is the Achilles’ heel patch that uses multicolored embroidery to highlight Mr. Z’s rap name. Of course, adding to the celebration of many a New Yorker is the new Nets logo.

There’s not a lot to the shoe, but what's there is good. Sounds familiar.

Net Worth: Gerald Green

Posted on: May 3rd, 2012 by Sandy Dover Comments

 

Season Stats

31 G, 2 GS, 25.2 MPG, 12.9 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.5 BPG, .548 eFG%, .574 TS%, 15.8 PER, 9.6 PIE

Evaluation

Gerald Green finally showed the league why he belonged in the first place. After having spent time in Russia and the NBADL (after first missing his mark with the Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves, Houston Rockets, and Dallas Mavericks), Green became a kind of focal point for the Nets as an offensive player after his D-League call-up in March.

Showing solid effort defensively, Green shined when he was given the opportunity to play extended minutes. Electrifying as a finisher, Green displayed a respectable shooting touch and was quickly embraced as a high-quality player for the Nets. Though understated here, it’s fair to say that had the Nets had Green from the season’s start, the playoffs might have been a more authentic team goal.

His nearly 13 points per game doesn’t really explain the sort of enthusiasm and energy that he brought to the team, but he was fairly efficient. His output went beyond stats, as his energy heightened the expectations of the fans and almost single-handedly made the Nets worth watching late in the season.

Final Grade:

Net Worth: Gerald Wallace

Posted on: May 2nd, 2012 by Sandy Dover Comments

 

Season Stats:

16 G, 16 GS, 35.8 MPG, 15.2 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.7 BPG, .465 eFG%, .528 TS%, 17.2 PER, 11.3% PIE

Evaluation

As a Net, Gerald Wallace really didn’t have enough time to establish himself, and considering that he only played for New Jersey for a month, that's understandable. Still, there were flashes of good performances that have made him so valuable in the league in the first place. Having averaged just over 15 points and nearly 7 rebounds a game, “Crash” lived up to his nickname, hitting the floor with intensity in every single game. He was a massive upgrade to the team's small forward position, plagued with inconsistency over the past three years, but it was too late for him to make the kind of difference that the Nets desired earlier in the season.

The Nets traded for him while surrendering their top-10 (protected top-3) pick for the 2012 NBA Draft, which would have been the Nets’ first draft selection (and a high one) as they move to Brooklyn; unsurprisingly, Wallace declared soon after the season ended that he will opting out of his contract to become an unrestricted free agent, thus opening the possibility of him departing from the Nets after just sixteen games.

Fairly or not, Wallace’s legacy as a Net is based on the team foolishly giving away an opportunity to select what possibly could’ve been a new, young star for the new Brooklyn team. The Nets have to hope they can convince Crash to stay while their lottery luck strikes gold.

Final Grade:

 

So many changes are forthcoming for the New Jersey Nets. A move to a familiar city. The change in ownership and in the front office. Players have continually changed, and that has stayed the same for the Nets (one of the few things that has stayed the same for New Jersey). Even losing is a familiar change in the past decade for the team, after having earned a place of respectability in the 2000s.

And then there’s Deron Williams.

For reasons unknown to many, the Dwightmare (the now-fitting name of the NBA’s latest version of the Cuban Missile Crisis) came and went with the March 15 trade deadline. The speculation that Orlando Magic superstar Dwight Howard would force his way out of the city to align with Williams in New Jersey or in Brooklyn at the start of the 2012-2013 season roared with a fury that many assumed would come to an apex of league realignment and new dynasty talk. After all, with Superman 2.0 and D-Will on a basketball team, who could possibly beat that?!... MORE →

 

Simply put, with Dwight Howard’s stance to stay in Orlando, the Nets are likely to lose Deron Williams without compensation. Here are my prospective deals that could be made for the Nets in trading Williams, using the ESPN Trade Machine.... MORE →

 

TrueHoop creator and principle writer Henry Abbott said this about Dwight Howard’s potential jump to the New Jersey Nets from the Orlando Magic via trade:

If the Nets have to trade for Howard, they'll have to gut his next team, which will make winning in Brooklyn tough and hurt Howard's brand.

To keep it as concise as possible: I disagree, for three reasons…

Note: none of these trades are actual rumors, merely speculation and concocted ideas.


Superman 2.0 to New Jersey, via Sacramento

New Jersey gets…
Howard, Francisco Garcia, and J.J. Hickson

Orlando gets…
Mehmet “Memo” Okur, Tyreke Evans, and Jason Thompson (with two unprotected first-round picks, one each from New Jersey and Sacramento)

Sacramento gets…
Hidayet “Hedo” Turkoglu, Kris Humphries{{1}}[[1]]Presuming he waives his no-trade clause[[1]], and Brook Lopez

Why It Works

In this set-up, the Nets only lose Okur (who has been a total non-factor for New Jersey), Humphries (having a career year, but easily expendable for Howard), and Lopez (who hasn’t exactly gotten better with each year that he’s been in the league).

Besides that, the Magic get Tyreke Evans (!), a star talent with lots of room to improve and make Orlando his own, while the Magic get lots of cap room and extra picks to start anew and attract free agents to a new arena, a promising team, and a city with lots of attractions and great weather. The Sacramento Kings get two very talented big men who can compliment DeMarcus Cousins and cover for his weakness and they get to bring back fan favorite Turk for giggles. Everyone’s happy!

--


Superman 2.0…via Los Angeles (Lakers)

New Jersey gets…
Howard and Turkoglu

Orlando gets…
Andrew Bynum, Jordan Farmar, Okur, and Lopez (and two unprotected first-round draft picks from New Jersey)

Los Angeles gets…
Jameer Nelson and Humphries

Why It Works

Well, let’s see – New Jersey gets Howard with Turkoglu at the Magic’s “fee” for acquiring Mr. Howard, and the Nets only lose Okur, Lopez, Humphries, and Jordan Farmar, all of whom are very expendable, regardless of Howard’s trade to the Nets anyway. Still a huge get for New Jersey.

The Magic get the non-Humphries Nets and Bynum, who would essentially be the offensive Bizarro to Howard’s defensive Man of Steel, plus cap room and new picks for prospects…success, especially considering that Bynum is the second-best center in the league behind Howard and the gap is significantly close between the two players.

Los Angeles gets the point guard that they've long needed in former All-Star Nelson and an elite-lever rebounder in Humphries that can replace Bynum at center and still complement Pau Gasol in the post. Essentially, the Lakers gain another All-Star talent and retain defense and size, even in letting Bynum go.

--


Superman 2.0…via Minnesota

New Jersey gets…
Howard and Turkoglu

Orlando gets…
Michael Beasley, Darko Milicic, Okur, and Lopez (and three first-round draft picks; two unprotected picks from New Jersey and a protected pick from Minnesota)

Minnesota gets…
Anthony Morrow and Humphries

Why It Works

Losing Morrow, Okur, Lopez, and Humphries is nothing for the Nets if they can secure the beloved Howard. It’s literally like a non-issue, and the Nets wouldn’t have to give up MarShon Brooks and certainly not Deron Williams.

Orlando would be able to continue keeping its free agent options open with cap room, build with draft picks, and see what Super Cool Beas can do; in Beasley’s case, he’ll be playing for promise of a contract that will secure his future, which is still somewhat uncertain, considering his talent. Orlando would be Beasley’s proving ground.

The Minnesota Timberwolves would be able to alleviate the pressure at forward and bring home the hometown hero Humphries, who would move to center behind Nikola Pekovic as a sixth man; even better would be Minnesota acquiring a true, sweet shooting wing that in Morrow that would fit perfectly in the Timberwolves’ starting lineup.

In all three scenarios, the Nets would depart with very expendable parts and gain a more perfect roster in the process without robbing the Nets of the requisite talent to compete immediately as a playoff threat in the Eastern Conference.

 

MarShon “Martian” (ask his mom about it – seriously…word to mother) Brooks has a new website (!) and it’s probably one of the coolest, cleanest sites that you might find of any of the league players, let alone of a layperson or web professional. Quite simply, it’s all about MarShon doin’ work.

Upon the visit, you’ll notice that the layout space of MarShonBrooks.com is wide and spacious, downright artsy in scope and space. Widescreen page layouts, hi-res photos of him scoring on every page, and generally MarShonBrooks.com looks like something that’s owned explicitly by its namesake’s mark of identity. He’s all over the place without it looking tacky. It really does put the “home” in homepage.

I love his stylized logo of his first and last name initials; the M & B kind of remind me of a font that Eddie Murphy and Robin Givens would’ve designed in the movie “Boomerang."

You can flip through seven main pages of his website: the M-insignia’d home page, the Bio, the News, Community, the Photos, the Videos, and the image Downloads. Each page caters to the clean, distinct likeness of Mr. Brooks, without MarShon at all coming across as a ham; it’s like you’re walking through his virtual upscale apartment (that he maybe owns in real life??).

One thing that I found interesting, and thus, has made me appreciate Mr. Brooks a bit more, is that though he was first born and lived in New Jersey in the first few years of his life (he’s a bit of a hometown kid for the Nets, it seems), he actually was raised in Atlanta and attended school in a suburb of Atlanta (Tucker); it’s significant to me, personally, because not even two years ago I lived in Atlanta, and it’s somewhat of a second home to me geographically.

(Very good, MarShon…)

In all, check out MarShonBrooks.com and see what he’s about there. It’s not a waste of time, and actually, it’s a visual sweetness for the eyes with its motion and penchant for color (there’s no dead white space anywhere and not blacked out in the background, which is fairly common for athlete websites for some nebulous reason).

Enjoy yourself.