• There is a ton of good stuff in this piece in The New York Times by David Halbfinger on Jay-Z’s influence with the Nets. Among the goodies: details on the miniscule size of Jay-Z’s ownership stake; his role in coming up with the team’s new Brooklyn color scheme and logo; his anti-Bon Jovi stance on arena music; and the revelation that best-selling author Mary Higgins Clark is another minority owner of the team.
• Jonathan Tjarks, writing at RealGM, on how Dwight Howard helps the Lakers:
All this talent should lift much of the offensive burden Kobe has carried over the last few years, as he can pace himself and play a role similar to the one he had on Team USA this year. With a big man commanding defensive attention at the rim and two players who can pass and shoot as well as [Steve] Nash and [Pau] Gasol, Kobe [Bryant] could become more of a finisher than a shot-creator. He may receive more open three-pointers in 2012 than he has in his entire career.
• Nets are Scorching’s Justin DeFeo examines video and the numbers and concludes that Joe Johnson is a solid defender overall – especially in one-on-one situations. I agree. But as DeFeo notes, Johnson is not an especially dynamic defender when it comes to plays on which he has to run around the court, make several changes of direction and cover a lot of ground. And that’s the crux of the worries about Brooklyn’s defense. The interior, with Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries, is shaky. The Heat just won a title with a smallish interior, but they did so in part because they have two of the most dynamic wing defenders in the game in LeBron James and Dwyane Wade — guys who can crash into the lane on a pick-and-roll, bump somebody and recover to close out on a shooter before that shooter can release on open shot. James can defend big men, too.
The Heat aren’t necessarily the model for everything, but if you don’t have a single above-average big man defender (and the Heat have more than one), you either have to have an airtight scheme and/or some game-changers on the outside. Johnson and Gerald Wallace are nice defenders, but they aren’t quite game-changers anymore. Can Brooklyn find enough defense?
• Bradford Doolittle, writing a series at ESPN Insider on potential threats to Miami, doesn’t think so:
How bad do the Nets project to be on the defensive end, where they will have nothing resembling a basket protector? Only Sacramento projects to allow higher shooting percentages in the coming season. Even if the Nets can force a few misses, they are forecast to be in the bottom five in defensive rebounding. So not only will the Nets give you good shots, they’ll give you plenty of second looks on the off chance that you actually miss.
• Hakeem Olajuwon tells Howard Beck of The New York Times that Amar’e Stoudemire is really taking to Olajuwon’s post-up tutorials:
“His spin is becoming so sharp and crisp,” Olajuwon said. “He could spin all day. He loves it.”
• A nice profile of Dion Waiters, who says he’ll be a regular presence in Philadelphia even though his childhood there was (to put it mildly) rough.
• Tom Ziller of SB Nation says that despite all the attention to the Dwight Howard deal, it was the Steve Nash sign-and-trade that signaled the Lakers weren’t going to live in fear of the luxury tax. The new collective bargaining deal will ban teams over the tax from executing sign-and-trades beginning in 2013-14, meaning the precise sort of transaction the Lakers used to get Nash will be prohibited starting next summer. Ziller isn’t convinced that matters:
That [Nash] deal is why I think the so-called fixes to the NBA’s caste system are weak. Sign-and-trades will soon be prohibited for teams over the tax. The high-dollar teams will find ways around that. They always do. Mark Cuban’s staff in Dallas has found every salary cap loophole imaginable over the past decade, and until 2011 spent to the hilt to exploit them. [Lakers GM Mitch] Kupchak, the Nets’ staff and the Heat’s front office are brilliant, and they’ll all find ways to get around the sign-and-trade restrictions as well. And the goal would be to leverage their revenue advantage to create a better team. It’s the smart business move and it proves to fans (who generate the revenue) how much you care about winning.
The Lakers are an interesting case. They will have enormous tax bills, perhaps $50 million or more, atop their already enormous payrolls in each of the next two seasons — a signal the CBA isn’t changing the habits of a team that might earn something like $200 million annually just from its TV deal. But the Lakers only a few months ago dumped Lamar Odom and then Derek Fisher in cash-saving moves, and, despite all this spending, they’ve positioned themselves to clear the books other than Nash and (presumably) Howard in 2014-15. That set-up that will help them duck the extra-harsh repeater tax penalties. It’s possible the Lakers are only willing to outspend the world in short stints when a title window is open, and not all the time. Even if that’s the case, is that good enough for “competitive balance”?
• The smart people at 82games.com take a snap shot of competitive balance across the four major U.S. sports (plus Premier League soccer) and find the NBA to be a bit less competitively balanced than all except the EPL. As I’ve written before, long-term studies of the four major U.S. sports, including both the NBA and the defunct ABA, have consistently found basketball to be the “least balanced” of the four. The 82games.com piece gets at why that is.
• Dave at BlazersEdge revisits the “franchise tag” debate by proposing a sort of mandatory “SuperMax” contract that could tether a player to a team for much longer. It’s an interesting proposal, especially the once-a-decade rule, but as Dave himself notes, the players’ union would never agree to it — even if it would only affect a tiny subset of its membership (i.e., superstars).
• Oh, to be a Bobcats fan: An in-depth analysis of whether Charlotte might finish with the 29th-best record in the league instead of the worst.
• New York fans really, really, really love Josh Harrellson, who was waived by the Rockets recently.
• John Schuhmann of NBA.com takes a look at the most exciting international prospects set to debut in the NBA next season.
• Doug Collins discusses how Andrew Bynum fits within Philadelphia’s roster, and says he may try to use Dorell Wright in stretches as a small-ball power forward. There’s a funny anecdote in here about a dinner in London with Doc Rivers. (Hat tip: Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk.)
• An in-depth look, with video, at Chris Singleton’s defense. Does he look like the stopper the Wizards hoped they were getting in the first round of the 2011 draft?