AP

AP

The NBA has announced a nine-year partnership with TNT and ESPN to broadcast more NBA games through the 2024-2025 season worth nearly $25 billion, tripling its previous deal with the networks.

The deal promises 64 games on TNT (an increase from 52), 45 playoff games in the first two rounds, 85 games on ESPN (up from 70), and a host of other mutual benefits. You can read the full release here.

So how does this affect the Nets?
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Eastern Conference

Western Conference

Posted on: October 6th, 2014 by Ryan Carbain Comments

 

Projected Record: 58-24 (1st in West)

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Kevin Durant

The Thunder lean on reigning MVP Kevin Durant. (AP)

Head coach: Scott Brooks
2013-14 record: 59-23
2013-14 ORtg: 108.1 (7th)
2013-14 DRtg: 101.0 (5th)
Players in: Mitch McGary, Anthony Morrow, Sebastian Telfair, rights to Semaj Christon, rights to Josh Huestis
Players out: Caron Butler, Derek Fisher, Thabo Sefolosha, rights to Giorgos Printezis
Projected Starting Lineup: Russell Westbrook, Reggie Jackson, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins

They deal with cheap ownership, an unimaginative offensive system prone to ball watching, and some of the internet’s most derisive rotational players.

Yet, they still keep Gregg Popovich up at night.
... ">MORE →

Posted on: October 6th, 2014 by Devin Kharpertian Comments

 

Projected Record: 58-24 (2nd in West)

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Tim Duncan, Gregg Popovich

The NBA's longest-running player-coach partnership has earned five titles in 15 years. (AP)

Head coach: Gregg Popovich
2013-14 record: 62-20
2013-14 ORtg: 108.2 (6th)
2013-14 DRtg: 100.1 (4th)
Players in: Kyle Anderson, Bryce Cotton, JaMychal Green, rights to Nemanja Dangubic
Players out: Damion James
Projected Starting Lineup: Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan, Tiago Splitter

There's not much to say about the Spurs that hasn't already been overwrought with cliches in the last ten years, but there's also not much inaccurate positive coverage.
... ">MORE →

Posted on: October 6th, 2014 by Ryan Carbain Comments

 

Projected Record: 55-27 (3rd in West)

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Blake Griffin, Chris Paul

Is it finally the high-flying Blake Griffin's year? (AP)

Head coach: Doc Rivers
2013-14 record: 57-25
2013-14 ORtg: 109.4 (1st)
2013-14 DRtg: 102.1 (T-7th)
Players in: Steve Ballmer (owner), Jordan Farmar, Spencer Hawes, C.J. Wilcox
Players out: Donald Sterling (owner), Darren Collison, Jared Dudley, Danny Granger, Willie Green, Ryan Hollins, Hedo Turkoglu
Projected Starting Lineup: Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Matt Barnes, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan

No group of professionals, basketball players or otherwise, deserve to endure working for an individual as contemptible as Donald Sterling, and the Los Angeles Clippers enter this season with a higher morale from the mere fact that the NBA has disposed of him.

The team seeks to improve upon a relatively successful ’13-’14 campaign that earned them a 57-25 record, good enough to capture a Pacific Division title and a third seed in the West. The team can expect to improve based off the factors: the continued growth of its superstar Blake Griffin; a bit of continuity with its roster and coach as Doc Rivers enters his second year in LA; and an offseason theme of “addition by subtraction” with Sterling gone and Jared Dudley shipped off as well.

Still, it’s hard to see that being enough to take the top spot in the conference. The Brooklyn Game projects the Clippers to finish at 55-27, again taking the Pacific and finishing third in the West.

Offensively, they finished first in the league with a offensive rating of 112.1 points per possession. The offseason acquisition of pick-and-pop extraordinaire Spencer Hawes and former Nets guard Jordan Farmar may actually increase the offensive efficiency of a team that can flat out knock down threes.

Like any Rivers-coached squad, the focus is on defense. Rivers brought some toughness and the same defensive scheme that won him a title with the Boston Celtics, but it didn’t really change much. Let’s not disparage the defense: after all, the team remained a top-10 defense, ranking 9th in the league. But they actually dropped a spot from the year prior.

DeAndre Jordan improved as a defender, but he cannot remain on the court during crunch time because of poor foul shooting. His new backup Hawes brings a ton on offense as a pick-and-pop shooter, but little on defense. The team’s best big, Blake Griffin is smart, athletic, and strong, but has to focus mostly on offense. This group may continue to have problems with the bruising big man duo in Memphis.

Their wing defenders are solid, Matt Barnes in particular. Second-year-man Reggie Bullock projects as a better defender in the league but has seen little court time prior to this season. Starting shooting guard J.J. Redick is actually underrated as a defender. A good group overall, but can you see them locking (or even slowing) down Durant? Throwing a wrench into the Spurs superior system? I think not.

Chris Paul can still get the job done as the league's top point guard, though he still can’t handle D-Will’s crossover. Jamal Crawford is as bad it gets. Farmar will struggle on defense too. It’s a focused team but missing one piece to put it over the top.

If this team played in the Eastern Conference, it could very well win 60 games and give the Cavaliers all they could handle in a fight for the top seed. The Clippers starting five of Jordan, Griffin, Barnes, Redick, and Paul offers the type of floor spacing and knock-down shooting to put a real scare into Thibodeau’s Bulls, too. But, alas, they play in the West.

As good and as focused as this team is, it’s heading for nearly 60 wins, but no further than the Western Conference Semifinals. They should be much higher on your League Pass rankings.

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Posted on: October 6th, 2014 by Eddie L. Bolden, Jr. Comments

 

Projected Record: 50-32 (4th in West)

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Wesley Matthews, LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard, Robin Lopez, Nicolas Batum

Portland's balanced top 5 makes them a real threat in the West. (AP)

Head coach: Terry Stotts
2013-14 record: 54-28
2013-14 ORtg: 108.3 (5th)
2013-14 DRtg: 104.7 (16th)
Players in: Steve Blake, Chris Kaman, James Southerland, Diante Garrett
Players out: Mo Williams, Earl Watson
Projected Starting Lineup: Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge, Robin Lopez

In one storybook season, the Portland Trail Blazers went from bottom-dwellers in the Western Conference to a championship contender. Although they fell to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Semifinals, the Trail Blazers had officially arrived. Sure, it helps having two stars in LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard at the forefront, but a supporting cast that can perform specific roles on a nightly basis is just as important too.


Wesley Matthews, rising scorer, Nicolas Batum, versatile wing, and Robin Lopez, inside man, play good basketball together and developed good chemistry alongside Lillard and Aldridge. Their starting five finished the season with a winning percentage of .667 and a plus/minus of 211. With the recent offseason acquisitions of Chris Kaman and Steve Blake, Portland’s production from the bench should improve. Last season, Portland’s bench averaged 23.6 points per game, the lowest in the league.

Much of the Trail Blazers' success last season relied on their ability to execute their offense at an efficient rate. Head coach Terry Stotts, an apprentice of veteran head coaches George Karl and Rick Carlisle, implemented the ‘flow’ offense, a steady motion of off-ball screens that leads to cuts and open shots. It is a component of team basketball and the philosophy helped the Dallas Mavericks win a championship in 2011, in which Stotts served as an assistant coach under Carlisle.

Just as Dirk Nowitzki flourished under the system, so has LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge had a breakout season in 2014, finishing as the team’s leading scorer and rebounder with 23.2 points and 11.1 rebounds per game. The development of his mid-range jump shot, especially from the left and right block, helped elevate his game to another level. Double-team coverage from opponents often resulted in perimeter opportunities for Matthews and Batum. Matthews connected on 37 field goals assisted by Aldridge and Batum connected on 58 field goals from Aldridge.

Entering his third season in the league, Damian Lillard is set for a breakout year. During his first playoff run, Lillard stunned the Houston Rockets with a game-winning, series-clinching, three point shot that electrified the city of Portland and put his name into the mix as one of the best point guards in the league. His ability to attack the rim and mix up the defense with his ball handling, passing, and shooting make him a constant threat on offense.

It will take more than the ‘one-two-punch’ of Aldridge and Lillard for Portland to climb the standings and finish as the number one seed in the West. Portland finished the season with a defensive rating of 107.4 and gave up 102.8 points per game which ranked 22nd in the league.

Last season, no one saw the Trail Blazers coming, and that’s what made their run special. This season, expectations will be high as they look to remain one of the most elite teams in the West.

Expect the Trail Blazers to finish among the top five teams in the Western Conference as they aspire for a championship.

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Posted on: October 6th, 2014 by Devin Kharpertian Comments

 

Projected Record: 49-33 (5th in West)

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Steve Kerr

New coach Steve Kerr has no shortage of weapons in Golden State. (AP)

Head coach: Steve Kerr
2013-14 record: 51-31
2013-14 ORtg: 105.3 (12th)
2013-14 DRtg: 99.9 (3rd)
Players in: Steve Kerr (coach), Aaron Craft, Jason Kapono, Shaun Livingston, Brandon Rush
Players out: Mark Jackson (coach), Hilton Armstrong, Steve Blake, Jordan Crawford, Jermaine O'Neal
Projected Starting Lineup: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, David Lee, Andrew Bogut

Not much has changed in Golden State... So it seems.

The biggest difference is at head coach. Gone is Mark Jackson, the famously demonstrative coach, former player, and TV analyst, and in his stead comes Steve Kerr, a less bombastic former player and TV analyst. Kerr, statistically the best three-point shooter in NBA history, inherits two of the best shooters ever: Stephen Curry (who ranks third all-time) and Klay Thompson (who ranks 17th), and the team later signed Jason Kapono, who ranks second behind Curry in three-point percentage among active players.

Seeing Curry & Thompson, you might think the Warriors made their bread-and-butter on their offense. You'd also be wrong. The Warriors, led by stalwarts Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala, actually ended last season with one of the best defenses in the league, and were only one of three teams to allow fewer than one point per possession last season.

It's hard to know what the Warriors will look like defensively with Kerr, a first-time coach, at the helm. But on the other end, they'll shoot a ton, and probably lead the league in three-point attempts, especially if Iguodala (35.4 percent shooting from 3 last year) and Harrison Barnes (34.7 percent) can continue to improve their long-range shooting. When they need to go inside, they'll look to David Lee; Lee, who developed a mid-range game with the New York Knicks, shot over 82 percent of his attempts from within 10 feet last season, his highest since joining the Warriors, and averaged 19.8 points per 36 minutes, second only to Curry on the roster.

Their depth is a concern. They did lose Jermaine O'Neal, a staple of their defense off the bench for 44 games last season, and they'll have to hope that Marreese Speights can make a leap forward defensively. They did bolster their backcourt by signing Nets fan favorite and longball maestro Shaun Livingston to a three-year deal to back up Curry & Thompson, but lottery pick Barnes hasn't improved in two seasons in Golden State, and outside of their top seven, there's not a lot of talent for Kerr to use.

They're also also betting on players who've struggled with injuries: Bogut hasn't played more than 70 games in a season since 2008, Stephen Curry endured ankle problems two seasons ago, and Iguodala has missed significant time in three of the last four seasons. If they run into injury troubles, they'll tumble down the ranks in a hotly contested Western Conference.

That said: if they're on, they're explosive. Curry is on pace to shatter Ray Allen's recently-set three-point record: he's hit 905 threes and averaged 2.7 three-pointers per game through age 25, both the best in NBA history, and he's an ironclad top option on a fast team. Thompson isn't far behind as a shooter, and Iguodala is one of the league's most underrated playmakers.

They'll win a ton of games on the talent of their top players alone. But unless they make some surprising leaps forward, it's hard to see them making a deep playoff run.

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Mikhail Prokhorov

Mikhail Prokhorov (AP)

Conflicting reports came out today about the current status of the Nets franchise. They were related to the possibility that Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov may be looking to sell some or all of his stake in the franchise.

NetsDaily reported that Nets brass is in talks with the Los Angeles Dodgers' ownership group, Guggenheim Sports and Entertainment Assets, about merging assets.

NetsDaily stressed that this would not affect Prokhorov's role with the team.

"The first source emphasized that Prokhorov would continue to control the team as 'governor and controlling owner of the team 'for the foreseeable future.'"

NetsDaily's reporting also indicates that Brooklyn is being valued in the discussions at $1.7 billion with the arena coming in at $1.1 billion

Wow. That's quite a lot, huh?

So that seems all good and hunky-dory. The Nets matter and they're valuable. Where's the problem with that?

Well, the ubiquitous Adrian Wojnarowski was quick to follow NetsDaily's report with a link to his article from June about a possible Nets sale and describes Brooklyn as being "on the market."

Wojnarowski also quoted anonymous NBA executives who explain that the feeling around the association is that Prokhorov is on his way out. This is in contrast to NetsDaily's description of a situation where Prokhorov would remain the controlling owner.

NetsDaily sent out a tweet afterwards emphasizing that if Prokhorov really wanted to sell his stake in the team, he could have already done so.

However, Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated reported that the Guggenheim Sports merger talks could "evolve" into Prokhorov selling his stake completely.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN LA, who is always in tune with everything in Los Angeles sports, reported that a Dodgers source is saying that nothing is likely to come of these talks.

Shelburne also quotes Dodgers' chairman Mark Walter who says he hasn't even seen the Nets' franchise numbers.

That is information that someone who is looking to acquire an asset as large as the Nets would probably have seen at some point.

"I am the controlling owner of the Dodgers and I have no intention of selling the Dodgers. As for the Nets, I have not seen their numbers. They are a terrific franchise. I would be happy to look at their information and any proposal they wanted to make to me --- as I would with any proposal," said Walter.

It is important to note that Walter never said that he didn't have discussions, but only that he had not seen the numbers. He did not completely close the door on the possibility.

So what is going on here?

Where there's smoke, there's usually fire. Something that the reports have in common is that each is indicating that Prokhorov is soon going to own less of the Nets.

Is Prokhorov really going to be committed to this team for the "foreseeable" future or is this just a stepping stone to completely detaching himself from the team? Will this slow separation from the team affect the way the team is managed?

We can't yet speak to that, but the prospects of a partnership with the Dodgers is exciting if only because it could finally allow the Nets to use the Dodgers' iconic Brooklyn font that hasn't graced a pro-sports team in the borough since the days of Ebbets Field.

Should Prokhorov cut ties with Brooklyn, Nets fans could do a lot worse for ownership than Dodgers brass. MLB fans will know that the Dodgers have spent heavily on their club in pursuit of a championship.

There is surely more to come, but there is a lot less certainty in the Borough of Kings than there was to start the day.

Posted on: October 2nd, 2014 by Benny Nadeau Comments

 

Projected Record: 49-33 (6th in West)

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Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard, trying to stay fresh. (AP)

Head coach: Kevin McHale
Projected record: 49-33 (6th)
2013-14 record: 54-28
2013-14 ORtg: 108.6 (4th)
2013-14 DRtg: 103.1 (12th)
Players in: Jeff Adrien, Trevor Ariza, Clint Capela, Joey Dorsey, Alonzo Gee, Scotty Hopson, Nick Johnson, Kostas Papanikolaou, Ish Smith, rights to Alessandro Gentile
Players out: Omer Asik, Omri Casspi, Troy Daniels, Francisco Garcia, Jordan Hamilton, Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons
Projected Starting Lineup: Patrick Beverly, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Terrence Jones, Dwight Howard

RELATED: A Totally Real AIM Conversation Between Rockets GM Daryl Morey and Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban

Another season, another year chasing the Spurs. This is one of the best teams in the Western Conference, but will it be enough?

The Rockets are star-powered. James Harden and Dwight Howard should be able to power them through games against most Eastern Conference teams, and I fully expect Patrick Beverley to take a huge step forward in the absence of Jeremy Lin. But they've got no immediate, reliable help from the bench outside of Francisco Garcia: Nick Johnson looked great in preseason and Troy Daniels was Houston’s unsung hero in 2014, but that’s a whole lot of pressure and responsibility for a couple of kids with hardly any NBA experience.

Although Ariza’s first stint in Houston was mediocre in all senses of the word, his second stop may prove more successful. Having a reliable defensive presence on the floor should stop this from happening again anytime soon.

If the Rockets can snag Rajon Rondo from Boston, that trio might be enough to take down most teams on a given night. Unfortunately, that (or this) sharp-shooting, high-octane team will suffer from lack of depth come playoff time.

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Posted on: October 2nd, 2014 by Benny Nadeau Comments

 

Projected Record: 48-34 (7th in West)

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Spurs Mavericks Basketball

Dallas Mavericks fans know who their superstar is. (AP)

Head coach: Rick Carlisle
Projected record: 48-34 (7th)
2013-14 record: 49-33
2013-14 ORtg: 109.0 (T-2nd)
2013-14 DRtg: 105.9 (22nd)
Players in: Al-Farouq Aminu, Tyson Chandler, Eric Griffin, Richard Jefferson, Ivan Johnson, Jameer Nelson, Chandler Parsons, Greg Smith, rights to Emir Preldzic
Players out: Vince Carter, Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Wayne Ellington, Bernard James, Shane Larkin, Shawn Marion, rights to Tadija Dragicevic
Projected Starting Lineup: Jameer Nelson, Monta Ellis, Chandler Parsons, Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler

RELATED: A Totally Real AIM Conversation Between Rockets GM Daryl Morey and Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban

As always, this team will live or die with Dirk Nowitzki. ... ">MORE →

Posted on: October 2nd, 2014 by Anthony Pignatti Comments

 

Projected Record: 47-35 (8th in West)

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Marc Gasol

A trimmer Marc Gasol holds down Memphis's frontcourt. (AP)

Head coach: Dave Joerger
Projected record: 47-35 (8th)
2013-14 record: 50-32
2013-14 ORtg: 103.3 (T-16th)
2013-14 DRtg: 102.1 (T-7th)
Players in: Jordan Adams, Vince Carter, Patrick Christopher, rights to Jarnell Stokes
Players out: James Johnson, Mike Miller, Ed Davis
Projected Starting Lineup: Mike Conley, Courtney Lee, Tayshaun Prince, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol

They didn’t make headlines this offseason, their key players are all returning and, to this point, are healthy.

The Memphis Grizzlies won 50 games in ‘13-’14 with last season’s reigning DPOY, Marc Gasol, missing 23 games due to a knee injury. Oh, and they did it playing in the West.

Understand this: they’re an exceptional team.... ">MORE →