Ball Don’t Lie’s 2012-13 NBA Season Previews: The Cleveland Cavaliers

19 Oct

For the first time in two years we'll have an orthodox, full-length NBA season to look forward to. No lockout nonsense, and precious little obsession as to whether or not LeBron James will ever win the big one. He's won it, already, and our sanity as NBA followers is probably better off as a result. However big that shred of sanity is remains to be seen, following yet another offseason that once again proved that the NBA is full of Crazy McCrazytons that appear to take great delight in messing with us continually.

As a result of that offseason, and the impending regular season, why not mess with Ball Don't Lie's triptych of Kelly Dwyer, Dan Devine and Eric Freeman as they preview the 2012-13 season with alacrity, good cheer, and bad jokes.

We continue with the stylishly outfitted Cleveland Cavaliers.

Kelly Dwyer's Kilt-Straightener

The Cleveland Cavaliers, once again, are a farm team. But unlike the one that put up with LeBron James' growing pains and hanger-on demands before he skirted off to Miami, this one is essentially acting as a growing field for whatever the team's front office decides will come next. The team's rotation is almost entirely filled with players on rookie scale contracts, and while a good chunk of those youngsters won't bowl you over, they have enough star guard Kyrie Irving to make up for any misgivings you might have about two-through-12.

Irving is an unabashed star. You could probably score on him in a pick and roll, and he doesn't have John Stockton's career assists record shaking in its mid-cut sneakers, but the kid is an All-Star level scorer and game-changer. Because he shot so well and scored in so many different types of ways during his rookie season, you don't fear the sort of stagnation  that hampered John Wall's disappointing second season; or, to a far lesser extent, Derrick Rose's second season. To work that smoothly which such little help as a teenager while turning in the sort of rookie season he managed in 2011-12? You might want to make Cleveland one of your five League Pass selections this year.

The other youngsters have a lot of explainin' to do, though.

Tristian Thompson produced well on the glass in his rookie year last season, but he seemed awkward and ill at ease at times in ways that seemed to go beyond the usual rookie hesitancy. Perhaps switching out the horrid defense of Antawn Jamison with the well-intentioned floposity of Anderson Varejao will aid in his development, but for now it looks like the Cavs used a high lottery pick on someone who could end up as a rebounding enthusiast to bring off the bench.

Dion Waiters? We've waited all summer on making too-early declarations about the guy based solely on his summer camp play or offseason training habits, so it wouldn't be wise to leave that policy behind when he's a few weeks away from making his own declarative statements on the court. His hole is already pretty deep, though — Cavs fans are anxious for this rebuilding to bear some fruit, and drafting a sixth man from a team that isn't the Kentucky Wildcats is a tough sell.

The easy sell? Look at the guy. This dude could turn out to be one of the toughest guards dem guards are charged with guarding.

From there? The double-A team, which even includes rookie big man Tyler Zeller. All manner of youngsters — from vets like Omri Casspi and C.J. Miles to fringier League Pass sensations like Jon Leuer and Alonzo Gee — that the team will have 82 games and loads of practice anecdotes to work with while they decide to decline or pick up options in the coming years.

Leading them all, and carping about those practice habits, will be Byron Scott. Scott has a very poor reputation as a leader of youth; it's true that self-starters like David West and Richard Jefferson have improved under his watch, but the difference between a good coach and great leader is the ability to pull great things out of someone like, say, Dion Waiters. Should we be predicting the next two years of Cleveland's fortunes based on the fact that J.R. Smith's father is a real piece of work? Probably not, but Scott has some proving to do that goes well beyond his ability to improve a young team's defense and make sure its homework is turned in on time.

This is a two-year plan, by the way. Next summer the Cavs will have six (six!) qualifying offers to decide upon, as well as a spate of expiring contracts and loads of cap space. They're going to have to pounce and pounce hard in order to give something to Kyrie Irving to want to come to work with, and pull it off way better than Danny Ferry did after LeBron James' second season in 2005. Even with that hometown discount in hand, you'll recall, LeBron only signed a limited extension.

Until then, mild growth. Nothing to sell to season ticket-holders, but you tend not to care about such things when Kyrie Irving gets to suit up for 82 games between October and late April.

Projected record: 34-48

Fear Itself with Dan Devine

It is tonally appropriate that the NBA season tips off just before Halloween -- because on any given night, each and every one of the league's 30 teams can look downright frightening. Sometimes, that means your favorite team will act as their opposition's personal Freddy Krueger; sometimes, you will be the one suffering through the living nightmare. In preparation for Opening Night, BDL's Dan Devine considers what makes your team scary and what should make you scared.

What Makes You Scary: Kyrie Irving. The 19-year-old No. 1 overall draft pick and new Cleveland cornerstone responded to post-draft concern (including some from me, in our '11-'12 Cavs preview) that his 11-game college cameo at Duke had not adequately prepared him for the rigors of running point at the NBA level by promptly beginning to kick the league's ass, scoring 20 or more in seven of his first 12 games to lead Cleveland to a surprising 6-6 mark out of the gate. But while the young, relatively talent-poor and overwhelmed Cavs soon cooled and stumbled to the league's third-worst record, Irving kept up his stellar play. He finished the season averaging 18.5 points, 5.4 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game in 51 appearances -- Rookie of the Year-winning numbers that sound good on their own, but look even better in context.

According to, only seven other players in NBA history have put up equal or better averages in their rookie seasons: Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Allen Iverson, Damon Stoudemire, Tyreke Evans and former Phoenix Suns big man Alvan Adams. All seven played more than 33 minutes per game as rooks, though; Irving averaged just 30.5. Pop his pace-adjusted numbers -- 21.8 points, 6.4 assists, 4.4 rebounds per 36 minutes of floor time -- into the Player Finder, and it's just the kid and the Big O, which isn't bad company to be in.

Irving was accurate, too, shooting 46.9 percent from the field, 39.9 percent from 3-point land and 87.2 percent from the line on the season. Only 36 players in NBA history (who have attempted at least 50 3-pointers, which helps control somewhat for guys that went 1-for-2 from deep or played short minutes) have matched those splits over a full year; among them, Irving was the only rookie. If he repeats that performance just once more during his career, he'll become one of 15 players to post multiple such seasons, joining elite shooters like Ray Allen, Larry Bird, Jeff Hornacek, Reggie Miller, Chris Mullin, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Mark Price and Peja Stojakovic. Which, again, isn't bad company to be in.

And while the Cavs weren't very good in close games -- they went 10-20 in contests in which they were tied or within five points of the lead with five minutes left, according to's stat tool -- Irving was sensational when it counted. According to's tracking, the rookie led the NBA in scoring during "clutch" time (defined by the site as "4th quarter or overtime, less than 5 minutes left, neither team ahead by more than 5 points") with a staggering average of 56.4 points per 48 minutes of "clutch" play on 54.4/66.7/89 shooting splits. You name your favorite late-game killer and Kyrie outpaced him. The rest of the top five: Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul. Again: Not bad company to be in.

So yes, Irving is good; more to the point, after leading the Select Team charge to beat the eventual gold medalists from Team USA during a pre-Summer Olympics scrimmage, he knows it. (Why else do you think he's so eager to take Kobe 1-on-1?) He's not all the way there -- we'd like to see that 1.74-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio get up above 2-to-1, and to crib a thought our Fearless Leader used in discussing Rajon Rondo during our Boston Celtics preview, it's hard to be considered the best point guard in the biz when you run the fourth least-efficient offense in the league -- but he's really close for a point guard after just one season.

There are only a handful of players whose mere presence on a roster makes a team a near-lock for a playoff berth virtually irrespective of the talent that surrounds them -- James, Paul, Dwight Howard, maybe Durant, maybe Wade, maybe Kobe. (Not that any of them have to go it alone anymore, natch.) I don't expect the Cavs to achieve their goal of making the playoffs this year -- there's just not enough talent or depth on the roster to make big enough leaps on either side of the ball to bridge the gap between a 26-win pace and the eighth seed. If they prove me wrong, though, I am convinced it will be because Irving has entered that group. Not bad company to be in, and pretty damn impressive to get there during a season that begins before he can legally drink.

What Should Make You Scared: That defense, again.'s stat tool, Hoopdata and Basketball-Reference all had Cleveland ranked 26th among 30 NBA teams in defensive efficiency last season; Synergy Sports Technology's play-tracking data actually thinks that's a bit high, pegging the Cavs as last year's third-worst defense in terms of points allowed per possession. In fact, Synergy's got Cleveland as the league's worst team at defending spot-up shots, third-worst at guarding the ball-handler in pick-and-roll situations and second-worst at guarding the roll man, third-worst at checking dudes off cuts, and among the league's 10 worst on isolations, post-ups and preventing scoring off screens and offensive rebounds. (Weirdly, they ranked second-best in transition defense. Maybe the answer for Cleveland is to crank up that middle-of-the-league pace and turn every game into a track meet.)

A full (well, maybe full) season of Anderson Varejao, back from the broken right wrist he suffered in March, should help organize and solidify Cleveland's opposition. But it's not like 30-year-old post-injury Andy can be expected to impact the defense like Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett or Tyson Chandler would; more pieces are needed. No. 4 overall pick Dion Waiters excelled as a disruptive defender in Syracuse's 2-3 zone and could help on the perimeter, but what Cleveland could really use is a major defensive step from second-year forward Tristan Thompson.

The Texas product has length and athleticism for days, but posted relatively low block and steal rates, and failed to translate his gifts on the offensive glass (where he grabbed a higher share of available rebounds than noted board-crashers DeMarcus Cousins, Joakim Noah and Marcus Camby) to the defensive end (where his 16.8 percent defensive rebound rate ranked as well below average among NBA power forwards and centers). If he can't pair with Varejao to form a stronger defensive front line, Cleveland will again have a really hard time slowing opposing offenses ... and if Jonas Valanciunas, who was still on the board when the Cavs chose Thompson at No. 4 in the 2011 NBA draft, winds up being a defensive force for the Toronto Raptors in his first NBA season, it might get a little hot under the collars of Thompson, coach Byron Scott and general manager Chris Grant.

Eric Freeman's Identity Crisis

There is no more important asset for a basketball team than talent, and yet the more loaded squad does not always win. What we've seen in recent seasons isn't only that the best team wins, but that the group with the clearest sense of self, from management down through the players, prevails. A team must not only be talented, but sure of its goals, present and future, and the best methods of obtaining them. Most NBA teams have trouble with their identity. Eric Freeman's Identity Crisis is a window into those struggles, the accomplishment of realizing a coherent identity, and the pitfalls of believing these issues to be solved.

For their first post-LeBron season, the Cavs — via the astonishing actions of owner Dan Gilbert — became the NBA's loudest spurned lovers. It was not terribly attractive, an unhealthy combination of desperation and self-righteousness. Luckily for us, it was short-lived, in large part because of Kyrie Irving. The Cavs point guard is a genuinely electrifying talent: able to get into lane as adeptly as anyone in the NBA, agile in the open floor, explosive in tight spaces, etc. Assuming he improves at the expected rate, he'll lead Cleveland back to the postseason and farther away from their unfortunate past.

In other words, they will continue to define themselves positively rather than as an organization in opposition to, essentially, a void at the center of the franchise. The Cavs, to their credit, seem to have realized that complaining about one man is no way to creep back towards respectability, especially now that LeBron has become more popular than he was when the wounds of The Decision hadn't yet been cauterized.

It's necessary, too, because this Cavs team should be a lot of fun. Irving is the main draw, clearly, but watching Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters come into their own could be thrilling, too. Our job, insofar as we have one at all, is not to saddle this group with the weight of proving past Cavs wrong. They are not in moral opposition to the past — they're simply another kind of fun basketball team. Let them breathe.

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LeBron James dismisses talk of Lakers’ potential 2014 interest, which makes sense, since it’s 2012

19 Oct

Less than two weeks away from beginning the defense of his first NBA championship in a marquee season-opening matchup with the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat forward LeBron James is answering questions about where he might theoretically play in two years, because Internet.'s Brian Windhorst — a reporter who has covered James since his time at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School — wrote a story published Thursday in which he quoted several anonymous league executives who say the feeling around the NBA is that the Los Angeles Lakers, fresh off reloading with center Dwight Howard and point guard Steve Nash in an effort to compete with James' champion Heat (provided, of course, they can get past the Oklahoma City Thunder), are lining things up with an eye toward eventually draping the King in forum blue and gold. The quick-and-dirty of it: LeBron can opt out of his contract after the 2013-14 season; the contracts of every Laker not named Nash (and, presumably, an extended Howard) expire after the 2013-14 season; the Lakers, loving stars and having money, would then pitch LeBron on coming to Hollywood.

[Fantasy Basketball '12: Play the official game of]

There are problems with this, as BDL editor Kelly Dwyer detailed Thursday, including the fact that the Lakers would have to totally sever ties with Bryant to shed his $30 million cap hold. Still, though, it's possible in theory and would be sensible in practice, and someone wrote about it, so it becomes a topic of conversation.'s Michael Wallace conversed with LeBron about it, and James — shockingly! — dismissed the idle chatter as just that:

Responding to an report on Thursday that teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers already are plotting for the next time he potentially can become a free agent, James said his only focus is on helping the Heat defend their title.

"I'm here, and this is what it's all about," James said after the Heat's 105-78 preseason win over the Detroit Pistons on Thursday. "I'm preparing for this season, preparing to defend our title and that's it. This is where ... I'm here now." [...]

"That story, I don't know where it came from, but I understand why it came up because of who I am — it's going to happen," James told reporters after Miami's first preseason home game. "But I'm not going to worry about it. I've got to continue to stay focused with these guys and make sure we're ready for any challenges that come." [...]

"It's not frustrating," James said. "Guys are making stories every day. It doesn't matter to me. I'm true to my teammates. I'm here and this is what it's all about — us building and trying to get better as a team. Anyone can write a story. If you have ESPN, then it becomes credible. So do what you've got to do."

In the interest of fairness, I'd like to point out, as KD did in his analysis of the suggestion, that the guy who wrote this particular story isn't just "anyone" — it's Windhorst, a plugged-in reporter in his 10th year on the NBA beat with league-wide sources and connections, which is a bit different than the ever-popular (though now, thankfully, less so) straw man of "some dude in his mom's basement" just throwing something ridiculous against the wall to see if it sticks and if it'll generate attention. The end result, of course, is about the same — the conjuring of a hypothetical, theoretical story that bounces around like a speedball, evoking reaction and commentary and rending of garments, whether you take it seriously or not — but the generating point isn't. Rather than just a rabid fan's "NBA 2K13" roster machinations or fantasy lineup maneuverings, there are, presumably, actual people on the other side of those anonymous quotes.

That said, as Mike Prada noted at SB Nation on Thursday, those anonymous sources whom Windhorst quotes work for "opposing teams that are making their own long-range free agency plans," so it's not like we're getting a from-the-horse's-mouth scoop here (or even a "source with knowledge of the Lakers' thinking," or any of the other myriad ways of couching something an agent says). The grand takeaway is little more than, "Other teams think the Lakers plan ahead and try to get really good players," which I guess, if nothing else, shows that other teams have been paying attention these past few decades.

Also, as Prada and Dwyer and a bunch of other folks pointed out, the underlying thesis behind this discussion — the suggestion that a team would have interest in signing the best player in a free-agent class during an offseason in which they have salary cap space — constitutes roughly this level of news bulletin:

So, yeah, maybe we can just put a pin in this whole thing for two years. Until, y'know, we actually have a sense of what the Lakers' salary cap structure looks like, which other teams' rosters make them interesting enough to be in play and if LeBron coming off a run of three straight titles is still pretty OK with hanging out in South Beach for a few more years. Dwyane Wade would like that, anyway, according to Wallace:

"They [media] can leave my teammate alone, man," Wade said. "Get on with that. He's going to be here. We're straight. So they can go and mess with somebody else."

On the plus side, we now know have it on the record that LeBron is "here, and that's what it's all about," and that the Heat are "straight." Glad we could establish that.

Tags: cap, course, , , , , sense
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The Los Angeles Lakers will attempt to sign LeBron James as a Kobe Bryant-replacement in 2014, ‘several’ NBA team executives suggest

18 Oct

It seems like news intended for those who only know the names of four or five basketball players, and three NBA teams. LeBron James could become a Los Angeles Laker in 2014. Of course, he could become a member of the Memphis Grizzlies or Houston Rockets in 2014 should he decide to utilize the Early Termination Option in his contract and join one of the 29 other teams besides the Miami Heat that would want to employ his services, but it's the Lakers' potential to sign James that has some NBA executives talking.'s Brian Windhorst, who has followed James for years and knows him as well as any journo talking, discussed the options with a few high-rankers around the NBA, and they seem to be pretty convinced that Los Angeles is attempting to go after James when Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol's contracts run out following the 2013-14 season. From ESPN:

Several teams' executives have told they believe the Lakers are positioning themselves to make a run at LeBron James in 2014, when the Miami Heat star can choose to become a free agent.


"It's not a mistake that all those deals end the same year Kobe's does. They have probably been planning for their next phase for a while," said one general manager. "The Busses and [Lakers GM] Mitch [Kupchak] are always thinking about the next big deal."

It's true. The Lakers are always thinking a few years down the line, but just about any NBA GM with a scintilla of job security is always thinking one or two or three offseasons ahead.

And what is also true is the fact that, sure, the Lakers are leaving that option open. That doesn't mean James is using the Lakers as an option, or even a hoped-for destination; and it certainly wouldn't preclude Los Angeles from re-signing both Pau and Kobe for any number of years at any point between now and then. The Lakers are going to go after LeBron James in some capacity in 2014, much in the same way the Grizzlies and Rockets will when James opts out of his contract that season. Maximum cap space or not, you always have to send a feeler out.

[Related: Derek Fisher could be a Los Angeles Laker again ]

The reason for the opt-out from LBJ has nothing to do with any perceived animosity between the Heat and James, or LeBron worrying about his supporting cast (from Dwyane Wade's knee to the roster that will have to be completely overhauled when each — read that again, "each" — of the team's contracts could be knocked off the books in 2013-14 due to various player and team options.

It has to do with money, and flexibility. James can make more money from the Heat with a new contact in place of his current one -- recall that he took slightly less than the max to join the team in 2010 -- and he can wield a greater influence (either by turning down more money, again, or taking all he can, or signing for any number of years to retain free-agent flexibility) within the team's personnel structure. The Lakers, potentially free and clear from Kobe and Pau's salary, will be one of his options.

(See, editors? That is how you link to sites outside of your ESPN umbrella. Putting links inside of columns in order to further educate and entertain your readers won't cause massive public copulation in Bristol, Connecticut's High Street, we promise. You can link to CBS Sports and Yahoo! Sports, various ESPN EDs, and nothing will break.)

That's taking on the notion that LeBron James, after working for years to tone down the vitriol sent his way following the much-reviled Decision in 2010, would join the NBA's most-loathed team. It's fun to love the Lakers, we certainly do, but they're also the newest team that er'ryone loves to hate because of Bryant's haughty presence, and the way they were able to dupe lesser lights on their way towards fielding Kobe, Gasol, Dwight Howard, and Steve Nash.

Nash will still be under contract in 2014-15, and it seems close to certain that Dwight Howard will re-sign with what amounts to his hometown team (he grew up around Atlanta, but has called Los Angeles home for years) this summer when his contract expires. With several other Lakers besides Kobe and Gasol hitting the skids that summer, the team would have enough space to pair Howard (making over $20 million that season as a max player), a 40-year-old Nash, and James.

They'd also have to ensure that Kobe Bean Bryant, who has never met a bug he hasn't wanted to crush, would be A-mother[bleepin']-OK with willingly handing the reins to a team he would have called his own for 18 years over to his greatest rival. One that, if our projections are correct, he'll have faced in the 2013 and 2014 NBA Finals.

[Related: Kobe Bryant's got A-Rod's back]

Because Kobe's cap hold is monstrous, and until a team either renounces or re-signs a player after their contract expires, teams are on the hook for a "cap hold" which prevents them from using the cap space established by the divorce between player and team. This would mean the Los Angeles Lakers would have to officially cut ties with Kobe Bryant, who may or may not want to retire by that point, in the eyes of the NBA's league office. To sign LeBron, bloody, James.

And because Kobe is Kobe, the dude might just go and sign with the Clippers or a 35-win Boston Celtics team just out of spite. If Michael Jordan can play for the Washington Wizards, Kobe Bryant can find a way to get back at the team that asked him to leave in favor of the Next Big Thing.

Or, Current Big Thing. Because the Lakers aren't doing anything wrong, here.

By the time 2013-14 comes around, they'll be paying Kobe a salary over $30 million, a price that will just about match half of the team's salary cap. And this isn't exactly the same $30 million handed two different times to Jordan in the 1990s — Kobe hasn't been able to lead his Lakers out of the second round (or, most damningly, take more than one game in nine tries) for two consecutive years despite a supporting cast featuring Gasol and Andrew Bynum. We respect the hell out of Kobe and think the Lakers top contenders for the Finals this year and next, but he's clearly been on the decline for a while now, and 2014 still seems like a long way away.

For James, 29 by the time that free agency hits, it probably feels like just as long an eternity. One perhaps filled with a pair of rings between then, and now. And though we were gobsmacked by his tactlessness as he made the move from Cleveland to Miami, that mess will have been four years old at that point. The Lakers both then and now feature the NBA's second-best player — Dwight Howard, for all his foolishness — but would LeBron make a similar move, again? Even if it meant another few titles?

The Lakers certainly hope so, according to the guesswork of a few NBA executives.

And the fallback plan? It's not all that bad. Re-sign Mssrs. Bryant and Gasol, pair them with Nash and Howard, and try it one more time. Either way, we'll have a big story on our hands, and some interesting basketball to watch.

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Tags: cap, , , , option, ,
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In a move nobody asked for, the NBA is ‘cracking down’ on taking too long to get to the opening tip after intros

17 Oct

The NBA hasn't decided to limit the amount of TV timeouts it adds to games. It hasn't curtailed the lengthy player introductions that take place before contests, and it's certainly not going to reduce those extended halftimes that take place during the nationally televised NBA Finals. Unclear about a possession? The NBA still is going to take what feels like an hour and a half to set up a jump ball, following a scrum.

But should you dare to take too long to get to the game-starting tip at center court after those 47-minute player introductions? Boy howdy, are you going to be in TROU-BLE.

Because the NBA has decided to start penalizing players who take longer than 90 seconds to get to their marks around center court following introductions, a completely necessary move instituted because these games were disintegrating to the point of lawlessness just because point guards were giving fist bumps to assistant coaches and scorekeepers, and taking too long to scrape the dust from their sneaker soles. ESPN's Brian Windhorst follows up:

The guideline will eliminate or severely cut down on the routines that players from most teams go through before games, which often include a series of handshakes with their own teammates before greeting opponents. It also could legislate out individual rituals like LeBron James' famous chalk toss, which he abandoned last season during the playoffs, though James said he'll try to get it done in the limited time.

"I won't change it, I'll be able to work it in," James said. "We'll figure it out."

There will be a clock that counts to 90, and a 30-second warning. A violation of that rule means that a team is assessed a delay of game penalty, and two delay of game penalties (an occurrence that happened in a game last year, I believe, negative 22 times. Then again, it was a shortened season) result in a lone technical free throw that could possibly be worth one point. This is a long way of saying that the penalties will have absolutely no impact, but the NBA did just earn itself a few articles on the subject, a discussion of the "rule" on "Pardon the Interruption," and more unearned exposure during the baseball postseason and NFL regular season.

In their sillier days, the Phoenix Suns (with Shaquille O'Neal) and Cleveland Cavaliers (with LeBron and Shaq) often put together small team-wide skits, performed while the announcers checked in with the sideline reporter, but overall those performances are pretty rare. Usually, the bulk of the movement comes from a head coach yelling out final orders, bench players bumping chests with the starters on their way to the center tip, and starters giving out fist bumps or slapped fives with various familiar faces on the team's press row — local announcers, team employees, et cetera.

In Chicago, the starters are asked to sign autographs for young fans at center court RIGHT BEFORE THE GAME STARTS (which is ridiculous of the Bulls to ask, right before these players are charged with going into athletic competition), a practice that will surely be outlawed because of this new rule.

See what you've done to the children, David Stern?

[Fantasy Basketball '12: Play the official game of]

A weeping nation focused its eyes on Oklahoma City on Tuesday night, that heartiest of heartlands, as the Thunder had to shorten its personal pepper.

From the Oklahoman:

"Before Tuesday night's preseason game against the Charlotte Bobcats at Chesapeake Energy Arena, Thunder players noticeably rushed their routines before stepping onto the court in time for the tip. Three-time scoring champ Kevin Durant was in the middle of his on-court greetings with teammates when the ball was put in play.

"I personally don't like it," Durant said of the 90-second rule. "Every player in this league has routines they do with their teammates, rituals they do before the game and before they walk on the floor. The fans like it. The fans enjoy it. You see the fans mimicking the guys who do their stuff before the game. To cut that down really don't make no sense. Why would you do it? I really don't agree with it, but I don't make the rules."

Bad jokes aside, the fans love this stuff. They eat it up. Dwyane Wade goes and speaks with them for a few seconds before tip-off of every game. For a lot of spectators, it's the last interesting thing these fans will see all night. If they're even there, at that point, struggling to get to the arena for the 7 p.m. tip, locally, after finishing a day's work. There are so many things wrong and annoying about the NBA, and this is not one of them; but that didn't stop the league as the penalized away.

Or, to be specific, called a delay of game violation that could result in the other team earning a point should they hit a free throw, should you commit another relatively rare delay of game violation later in the contest.

Throw the book at 'em, Commish.

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Tags: , court, , , , , violation
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Spin Doctors: LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant

17 Oct
by in General

In some ways, this is a ridiculous debate. It's like discussing which richly appointed ultra-luxury car you'd like to drive. Clearly you can win your fantasy league with either LeBron James or Kevin Durant as your No. 1 pick.

Nonetheless, James vs. Durant is a fun argument, and two members of the Yahoo! fantasy staff see it differently. Let's play the feud...

Dalton makes the case for LeBron: Let's face it, you can't really go wrong here, and the difference is slight at best with these two. In fact, because of Chris Paul's higher health risk, it could easily be argued LeBron James and Kevin Durant are in a clear tier by themselves. Durant is younger and seemingly still showing growth with each passing year, but James, who was ranked as the most valuable player in fantasy according to Basketball Monster last year, is the clear best player in the league and worth the top pick.

The additions of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis at the wings in Miami could lead to an uptick in assists for James, while Dwyane Wade's continued health concerns should ensure James sees plenty of run on a team that remains not that deep. James attempted a career-low 2.4 3pt last season, and while that resulted in "only" 0.9 3pt, it also led to him shooting 53.1 percent from the field. 53.1 percent! His performance at the line (77.1 percent) was also the second best of his career, while his 7.9 rpg tied for a career high.

James is one of the most durable players in the league who only continues to get better on the defensive side of the ball. And whereas Wade's minutes need to be monitored (his 33:12 mpg were a career low last season), Durant has to contend with teammates Russell Westbrook and James Harden, who are stars in their own right and have both seen their field goal attempts increase every year they have been in the league. Again, I believe this is mostly quibbling and think Durant is a close second, but give me King James if I luck into the first pick of the draft.

Behrens gives the nod to KD: To be perfectly honest, I doubt I'll convince many of the LeBron zealots that Durant should be the top overall selection. As soon as our preseason top-100 ranks were published, I began hearing from the feistiest of the LBJ supporters, and ... well, let's just say they weren't interested in arguments on behalf of anyone else.

And I get it. LeBron is exceptional, an all-time player, dominant in multiple categories. He's a machine in terms of counting stats — perhaps not 3s, but everything else — plus he's shot over 50 percent from the floor in each of the past three seasons. If you take him first, no one is going to scoff at the selection. It's easy to build a case for James.

Still, if I happen to land the No. 1 pick, I'm making Durant the centerpiece of my fantasy roster, without hesitation.

KD's counting stats are basically as absurd as LeBron's, as most of you know (last year: 2.0 3s/G, 8.0 Reb, 3.5 Ast, 1.3 Stl, 1.2 Blk, 28.0 Pts). But the trait separating Durant from the rest of the player pool is this: He might just be the greatest volume shooter, both from the field and from the line, of the fantasy era. If you build your team around KD, you're going to find it almost impossible to screw up in free throw or field goal percentage.

Over the last 33 years — since the NBA introduced the three-point arc — there have been only 10 individual seasons in which a player has shot at least 45.0 percent from the field and 86.0 percent from the line, while attempting 15.0 field goals and 7.5 free throws per game. Kevin Durant has delivered three of those seasons. He's the only player to do it more than once, and he's done it each of the last three years. Here's the full list. No shooter over the past three decades has been as reliably accurate as Durant, while hoisting shots at such high volume. Other players may shoot a lot, but not this well. Others shoot well, but not as often.

Combine KD's freakish percentages with his extraordinary contributions in other stats, and we have clear top-pick material.

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Heat back at work after China trip (Yahoo! Sports)

16 Oct

LeBron James of the Miami Heat goes up for a hoop during an NBA preseason basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers in Shanghai, China, Sunday Oct. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

MIAMI (AP) -- LeBron James was awake at 3:45 a.m. Dwyane Wade's dogs were unhappily roused from slumber at 4 a.m. by their bleary eyed owner. Udonis Haslem was responding to text messages at 5 a.m., which classifies as a rarity.

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ESPN and Marvel made a comic to explain how LeBron James will get seven rings

15 Oct

In the summer of 2010, the Miami Heat introduced LeBron James and Chris Bosh (alongside Dwyane Wade) in an arrogant welcome party that instantly became the go-to reference for any fan looking to explain an intense dislike for the team. The worst part, according to those detractors, was that LeBron suggested they'd win up to seven championships before they'd even suited up for a real game. It was all pretty off-putting, even if the hate went overboard at the time.

Now that LeBron actually has a championship, it's easier to joke about that moment, even if he's still a ways off from the promised seven titles. And jokes we now have, in the form of a Marvel/ESPN the Magazine team-up that brings us into the future to see how LBJ will go about rewriting the NBA record books. In the image above, you'll see one example. Yes, it involves Eddy Curry, a near-death Mike Miller, and a post-death, zombified version of Shane Battier capable of playing 48 minutes per game with absolutely no drop in single-minded, brain-focused effort.

[Fantasy Basketball '12: Play the official game of]

There's much, much more. After the jump, check out another image, plus a hint at some of the other scenarios in this comic.

It seems unlikely that LeBron will join up with Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, and other aging stars when they're collecting Social Security checks, but who knows where the NBA will be more than a decade from now. I mean, this comic also predicts that Dan Gilbert will still own the Cleveland Cavaliers at that time, and he'll tell anyone who listens that his small-market business needs as much help as possible. Maybe we're heading for NBA boom times!

While the vast majority of this comic is pretty funny, I have to take issue with one situation Marvel and ESPN used. I greatly enjoy the idea that LeBron will start a trend of players mechanizing their bodies to stay healthy and relevant well beyond their physical primes, but that idea was already depicted in stunning detail by Tom Scharpling of The Classical in June. (Note: I am a founder and staffer for The Classical.) I hope Marvel cleared this idea with Tom, because he has an entire army of followers ready to attack all foes. Just ask Chuck Woolery.

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Ball Don’t Lie’s 2012-13 NBA Season Previews: The Miami Heat

15 Oct
by Yahoo! Sports Staff in Fantasy Basketball, General

For the first time in two years we'll have an orthodox, full-length NBA season to look forward to. No lockout nonsense, and precious little obsession as to whether or not LeBron James will ever win the big one. He's won it, already, and our sanity as NBA followers is probably better off as a result. However big that shred of sanity is remains to be seen, following yet another offseason that once again proved that the NBA is full of Crazy McCrazytons that appear to take great delight in messing with us continually.

As a result of that offseason, and the impending regular season, why not mess with Ball Don't Lie's triptych of Kelly Dwyer, Dan Devine and Eric Freeman as they preview the 2012-13 season with alacrity, good cheer, and bad jokes.

We continue with everyone's favorite, the Miami Heat.

Kelly Dwyer's Kilt-Straightener

Six games. That's what kills me about the Miami Heat.

The team made it to the Finals in 2011 and played very good basketball for most of the 2011-12 regular season, but we're basing nearly eight months of expected NBA basketball between now and late June (when, presumably, the Heat will repeat as NBA champions) on six games of ball from last summer.

Six scary, dominant, frightening displays of brilliant basketball. Six games worth fearing, if you're a fan of the other 29. Six games warming to fans of great basketball, fans that don't care if the Heat win or lose it all but still want to see legendary players work at peak efficiency.

Six games — starting with Game 6 of the Eastern conference finals, and moving along toward to the end of Miami's championship season while excluding Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Six games that saw LeBron James act as a dominant scorer first, unashamed and not embarrassed by how quickly and seemingly effortlessly he turned opposing defenses into a junior varsity-resembling mess. The same immediacy, worked through with economy and precision in ways we'd been begging for since his Cleveland Cavaliers squandered a 3-2 series lead against the Detroit Pistons in 2006 because he predictably tried to attack the defense from the great beyond.

That championship stretch, paired with his all-around brilliance during last summer's Olympics, have most of us assuming that the Heat will dominate the NBA once more; especially now that LeBron understands that the low post is something to warm to, instead of shy away from. The Bulls are battered, the Celtics and Spurs too old, the Lakers can't defend and the Thunder  couldn't even take a second game from the Heat last June. Why can't Miami romp, again?

Frankly, there only thing standing in the way of a romp through the 2012-13 regular season and postseason is the same thing that got in the team's way in 2011, and for parts of the squad's 2011-12 run. It's on James, again leading this top-heavy team with some of the more lacking rotation role players in the game (much less amongst championship contenders), spinning quickly and working from the inside-out. Scoring, and only passing when it becomes apparent that he has no other option but to dish; as was the case when James racked up 25 total assists in the fourth and fifth game of last season's Finals.

Stuck with a payroll that nearly hands the entire soft salary cap to Mssrs. James, Wade and Bosh, the Heat more or less stood pat over the offseason outside of adding Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis to that mix. Attempts at securing a passable center were ignored. The search for a typical pass-first point guard was called off. Even Allen and Lewis — legendary and at worst lights-out shooters in their primes — have to be considered an afterthought. Wade may limp all season. Bosh is a well-meaning afterthought, fighting for scraps.

James? As it was in Cleveland, with those lesser lights, he'll be the focus. The name recognition and all-NBA talents of Wade and Bosh hardly matter — it is James that is going to have dominate in a scoring sense, forcing defenses to collapse and calling his own number amongst a phalanx of flailing arms, knowing that an interior look from eight feet away over a double-team may often be preferable to an elbow-extended three-pointer from an NBA-famous name (Lewis, Shane Battier, James Jones, Bosh, Mike Miller, even Ray Allen at times).

LeBron doesn't have to treat every winter Wednesday like it's late May, but he does have to do it often enough to keep the touch and timing down in preparation for what again will be a hellacious postseason title defense. The East has weakened, there should be no doubt, but even an improving Heat squad will have a devil of a time getting out of its local bracket if James isn't getting to the line and losing the 1-against-5-from-25-feet-away sets that made his playoff failures from 2006 to 2011 so easy to predict.

Apologies for making this into a star turn, focusing on the biggest name above all, but even as a part of a famous triptych James is the influence that keeps this top-heavy experiment afloat. That quickness, and that attention to detail, has to sustain. He can't be embarrassed by his own strength.

Clearly, we don't think he will be.

Projected record: 62-20

Fear Itself with Dan Devine

It is tonally appropriate that the NBA season tips off just before Halloween -- because on any given night, each and every one of the league's 30 teams can look downright frightening. Sometimes, that means your favorite team will act as their opposition's personal Freddy Krueger; sometimes, you will be the one suffering through the living nightmare. In preparation for Opening Night, BDL's Dan Devine considers what makes your team scary and what should make you scared.

What Makes You Scary: Prime LeBron James and the (pretty good) chance that this year's team will be better than last year's. The Heat weren't overwhelming last year, but still had an excellent season. (Given the title run, this might seem like an understatement, but bear with me.) They turned in the league's fourth-stingiest defense and one of its eight most efficient offenses -- both Hoopdata and's stat tool put Miami at No. 6, while pegs them at No. 8 -- and lost more than two consecutive games just twice in 89 total regular- and postseason contests. They stumbled at times, trailing in three of their four postseason series, but came back each time. They weren't the league's most dominant offense (either OKC or the San Antonio Spurs) or its most suffocating defense (either Boston or the Chicago Bulls). But all told, they were its best, most balanced team, and its champions.

And this year's model will probably be even better. To wit:

-- They return the trio of All-Stars who have made them elite these past two seasons, as well the excellent young coach who took great leaps forward in the postseason and the core of role players who stepped up big-time come the title round;

-- They welcome one of the game's elite shooters (plus another who has been elite in the past, but might be done), who will be deployed to make defenses pay for devoting too much attention to the three main threats;

-- They enter the season with a clearer picture of their true nature, revealed in the success of their late- and postseason small(ish)ball turn, than they have in years past; and

-- They will again feature the league's most dominant force, only this time he's coming off the greatest year of his life, has shed any "never won the big one" pressure and, at age 27, is likely entering the peak of his prime.

("What doesn't make you scary" might be a better question.)

The Heat have won 70 percent of their games, two Eastern Conference titles and one NBA title over the past two years, all while mostly just sort of figuring things out. Now, they know what they are: A high-octane offense that generates mismatches and openings through spacing, forces you to respond, targets its talent down low when you do and strokes open 3-pointers in the corners if you don't. That's how they finished last year, and with LeBron James preparing to spend a lot of time down low, Chris Bosh making the full-time move to the five and Shane Battier reportedly slotting into the starting frontcourt alongside them, that's how they're starting this one.

This is a good idea, because the five-man unit that logged the most playoff minutes for Miami -- Bosh, James, Battier, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers -- blew away the competition, outscoring their opponents by an average of 10.5 points per 100 possessions in 160 minutes of floor time, according to's stat tool. And I do mean "outscored" -- despite facing four teams that finished among the top 10 in the league in defensive efficiency during the regular season, those five rang up 112.3 points-per-100 in the playoffs, a mark that far outstripped the team's regular-season averages and would have in fact led the NBA in offensive efficiency. Swap in reserve bigs Udonis Haslem (111.8-per-100) and Joel Anthony (111.2-per-100) and the offensive numbers stay awesome without a precipitous slide on D, supporting the theory that one big who can rebound and defend, three wings who can shoot, and one LeBron who can do anything equals a pretty solid recipe for success.

There is some conflicting data -- swap in the since-departed Ronny Turiaf and the offensive efficiency dropped to sub-Bobcats level (89.6-per-100 in 66 minutes), lineups in which other wings replace Wade are less appealing and the standard "small sample size alert" caveats apply -- but on balance, this looks like a recipe for creating potent, versatile, offensively dominant and defensively sound lineups. And Miami's offseason acquisitions -- all-time 3-point king Ray Allen, stretch four Rashard Lewis, floor-spacing five Josh Harrellson -- fit the scheme perfectly.

Miami attempted 15.6 3-pointers per game during last regular season, eighth-fewest in the NBA; that went up to 19.7 per game in the playoffs, fourth highest among playoff teams (second once you weed out teams that didn't last a round). That number will go up this year, as Miami's weapons create and exploit all those too-open looks, and with all that shooting around all those stars, that's got to have opposing coaches losing sleep. They'll leave the 73-9 predictions to others, but make no mistake: the Heat are the favorite to take this year's title, too.

What Should Make You Scared: Injury, overreliance and a rising tide. As was the case in each of the last two seasons, the Heat enter the season with relatively little depth behind their stars, especially up front behind Bosh and James, where both Haslem and Anthony looked highly shaky much of last season and Lewis has looked cooked for nearly two years.

If injuries again rear their ugly head -- Bosh with his rehabbed abdominal muscle, Wade with his surgically repaired left knee, Allen with his surgically cleaned-up right ankle, Mike Miller with his not-surgically-repaired back -- the burden on James will grow exponentially. Of course, given Miami's likely plan to run him at something approximating point-power-forward in that mutant small-ball lineup, as it did throughout his epic postseason run, that burden will already be pretty massive.

During the playoffs, when LeBron became the do-everything game-dominator for whom fans have long fiended, he averaged nearly 43 minutes a night, saw time playing all five positions on both ends of the floor, routinely checked the opposition's best scorer and led the Heat in points, rebounds, assists and steals. Even with James at the peak of his powers, can Miami ask him to be that all-encompassing guy again, for a full 82-game season plus the playoffs (after last year's title run, plus summer duty with Team USA), without some slippage or breakdown? If he does drop off, even a bit, that could be enough for the handful of teams likely to provide their stiffest competition for this year's title -- many of whom have reloaded or revamped their rosters in an effort to compete with Miami's small-spread look, as Grantland's Zach Lowe notes -- to catch up and cut short the Heat's run at a repeat.

Eric Freeman's Identity Crisis

There is no more important asset for a basketball team than talent, and yet the more loaded squad does not always win. What we've seen in recent seasons isn't only that the best team wins, but that the group with the clearest sense of self, from management down through the players, prevails. A team must not only be talented, but sure of its goals, present and future, and the best methods of obtaining them. Most NBA teams have trouble with their identity. Eric Freeman's Identity Crisis is a window into those struggles, the accomplishment of realizing a coherent identity, and the pitfalls of believing these issues to be solved.

For a season and change, the Heat's biggest problem was that they didn't quite know what they were, whether in terms of a superstar hierarchy or the basics of figuring out an ideal offensive scheme (related issues, of course). After June's championship, their identity is set: it's LeBron's team, clearly, with Dwyane Wade playing the role of gracefully aging second option and Chris Bosh acting as a sort of star role player. They know what they are, and that makes them dangerous.

The Heat's biggest issue, then, isn't necessarily keeping pace with reloading challengers, but making sure that they avoid stagnation. In the offseason, Pat Riley saw that there would be some new blood, albeit in the form of reserves well past their points of peak effectiveness. The Heat are scarier — it'd be difficult for a team with a shooter as good as Ray Allen not to be, no matter his age — but they are also, for the first time in the Heatles era, relatively comfortable.

Over time, that could become a problem — complacency tends to be a bad look in a profession dependent on competitive drive. For now, though, the Heat can be forgiven if they relax a bit during the regular season. As ever, they are the hunted. But they're also the kings, and more often than not the ruler of the land can hang back until he deems it necessary to fight.

[Fantasy Basketball '12: Play the official game of]

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Miami Heat shooters complain they are too open

11 Oct

NBA athletes are so fast that basic basketball ideas like a good or open shot mean something very different to them than to anyone at any other level. What that means, in practice, is that a player might feel lucky to have a very small window to line up his shot before the defender closes out. Eventually, that timing becomes second nature to a shooter, an aspect of their rhythm and preparation like any other.

Any change to that routine becomes problematic. When shooters come to the Miami Heat, they must face the difficulty of changing things up. Except, instead of getting less time, or having to shoot from different spots, they must deal with something that intuitively should help them: getting more time to shoot. Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel explains (via PBT):

"Got to get used to it," the veteran forward said as the Miami Heat continued training camp, "because that's the hardest shot in basketball. I may have to hold it for a couple of seconds, so I can get somebody closing out to me." [...]

"When you're playing a game, you're so used to playing instinctively," Heat forward Shane Battier said, as he snapped his fingers to mimic the typical split-second timing of NBA decisions. "When you get a wide-, wide-open three, you're naked. You have time to think and rationalize, and that's counterintuitive to how we normally play. We normally play instinctively -- time to think and time to react only. But when you have time to think in basketball, calculation often leads to miscalculation." [...]

For his part, Ray Allen, the NBA's all-time leader in 3-point conversions, has long gotten over such concerns.

"A shot is a shot, really, for me," the Heat's prime offseason acquisition said. "It's not really just the wide-open shot. It's just really how the ball's delivered to you." Allen, in fact, said the toughest part of being left open might be the waiting game. "I think if you're waiting on the 3-point line, that's probably the toughest shot," he said. "You're waiting, you're waiting, you're waiting, and then you have to kind of reposition your feet. That to me is probably the toughest shot, because there's not really a rhythm shot.

"When you catch in a rhythm, you're learning forward. So if you don't get it, you got to make sure you kind of get your momentum going back into that shot."

Other players had thoughts on why it's tougher, too, including Josh "Jorts" Harrelson remarking that he has a tendency to overthink his options when he has more time to shoot. Every bit of reasoning, though, goes back to the idea that more time disrupts a shooter's typical rhythm. Even the legendary Allen, who first says it doesn't matter, ends up arguing that having too much time to shoot can complicate things.

[Also: LeBron James might be adding the skyhook to his offensive repertoire]

Of course, while this might be an issue now, it's ultimately a really good problem to have. If the new Heatles currently have a hard time with getting more time to shoot, chances are they'll eventually adjust their expectations and get more used to it. In the long run, getting more time to shoot is obviously a good thing, and one of the perks of playing with stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh all on the floor at the same time.

While it's important not to exaggerate the amount of time the Heat get to shoot — it's not as if Ray Allen will be waiting on the perimeter for two seconds before someone closes out — this is yet another area where the Heat have an advantage on other teams. Two seasons ago, one of their biggest issues was figuring out how to play LeBron and Wade together in the best possible configuration. In the end, even their problems aren't really problems.

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Deron Williams gave Nets GM Billy King advice on Dwight Howard, which likely didn’t mean much

11 Oct

In some ways, you have to sort of admire the way Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams has elbowed his way into the sort of NBA-level celebrity pantheon we usually reserve for talents like LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul or Kobe Bryant. The first three on that list are as notorious for shifting uniforms midstream, while the last on that list is just super-famous/awesome/possibly a jerk to other jerks.

Deron? He's starting to become a mixture of the lot, even if he probably ranks a good step behind that quartet when it typically comes production and game-changing ability. He quietly did enough to force a trade from Utah to a rebuilding Nets franchise a year and a half ago, and had both Dallas and the would-be Brooklyn Nets patiently waiting out his 2011-12 season and eventual free agency before Deron decided to stick. And, as he decided to ramp up the stickiness, Williams wielded a little influence with Nets GM Billy King as Brooklyn considered a trade for Dwight Howard. From ESPN New York:

"One thing Deron did say to me, he said, 'Please, just don't wait on Dwight [Howard]. We can't wait and not have a team,'" King said during the premiere of NBA TV's "The Association: Brooklyn Nets," which will air on Oct. 16.

"The team of Brooklyn is bigger than one person. I owed it to the organization, I owed it to our fans, I owed it to Deron and the players that we have to build for Brooklyn, and we went forward and built our team."

That's all pleasant and show-offy, not unlike Deron Williams talking up Mark Cuban's apparently off-putting absence from DW's meeting with the Dallas Mavericks last July, but it's probably all a bit of "ain't Joe Johnson great?!?"-deflecting hogwash.

Had there been even a moderate chance the Orlando Magic were going to go for the Brook Lopez-led offer that would return them Dwight Howard's services in early July, the Brooklyn Nets would have held on through Labor Day for an attempt at the MVP-level center. And though the Magic ended up taking what we think is a pretty crummy deal after months of butchering their work with Howard's value on the market, and though the longer contracts the team took back from Denver nearly approximate the contract extension Lopez would have played for under the sign-and-trade guidelines, the deal just wasn't happening.

This is just King working as a GM, selling his team, selling his work. And he's done well enough with Mikhail Prokhorov's money — putting together a team around Deron, a re-signed Brook, Joe Johnson, Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace that's … eh … Pretty good?

This response is better than King going on NBA TV and basically just talking about how the Nets will be "a better version of the Knicks, probably." Which would be accurate, we suppose.

It's all part of the plan; all part of what every GM does once the Crazy Season ends and the talking up begins. Put Deron Williams on a pedestal as a LeBron/CP3/Kobe-styled front office shaker, argue away not being able to deal for Howard as some sort of response to wanting to move on. Even if you would have been at Dwight's doorstep with a year's supply with Skittles in a Brooklyn minute if it had meant you were in with a chance.

King didn't lose out on Dwight Howard; Dwight Howard lost out on the Brooklyn Nets because in a self-pitying whim he decided to opt in to the final year of his contract with the Orlando Magic last March. Every NBA observer on earth save for the Magic's t-shirt designers knew it wouldn't last, and Howard more or less signed off on that guesswork by inching back towards his trade demands a month later, but the move sealed his fate as a potential sign-and-trade option for the Nets.

As the Nets' first season in Brooklyn gets ready to tip off and Williams graces the cover of Sports Illustrated as a well-deserved result, it might be time to back off on the myth-making. For weeks at a time, D-Will will play like the league's best point guard, and he's certainly a franchise cornerstone to be proud of. Beyond that, however, we're tiring of him as a continual subject.

The kvetching about Mark Cuban's absence, bringing it up on your own and then backing away once Cuban hit you with a nicely-honed zing? The shots sent his ex-teammates' way? The hob-nobbing with ADMITTED ADULTERS?

It's a bit much; though we readily admit this is par for the course when you have a show to sell. Soon the noise will wash away, and Williams will have to push 20 points and 10 dimes while challenging for the Atlantic division title.

And like Deron, and Billy King, and Nets fans; we can't wait for the sound of that ball bouncing off of hardwood to replace any other aural discomfort we might be feeling as a result of this move.

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