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By Jason Keidel
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We know that the NBA has a fraction of the NFL’s traction, particularly on Draft Night. No matter how hard they try, the NBA can’t stir the media nest that you see from Radio City. All the adjectives twirled around last night’s draft, from volatile to gripping to bedlam, while boring seemed to fit best. There are no metrics to its pre-draft frenzy, no charts or algorithms or fantasy geeks lording over the process. Two rounds and on to London.
They should rename the stage the Calipari Room. With six of his Kentucky bluebloods drafted last night, John Calipari only understands reload, not rebuild. Must be tough coaching the first two picks of the NBA draft in the NCAA Tournament.
But there were two notable holes in the first round, both of our beloved basketball teams. The Nets made some peripheral moves in the second round, but it was hardly the action seen from the French Quarter, where the Hornets bagged Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers, presumably cementing 40 percent of their starting squad for the next decade or so. Davis, the obscenely gifted big man, compliments of Calipari, of course, is being branded a smaller Bill Russell. If his performance during March Madness is a portent, that sentiment may not be hyperbole.
The Knicks made big moves: they discovered that they needn’t use their mid-level exception money to sign Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak. I know, break out the defibrillator! Talk about excitement!
At the risk of sounding slightly melodramatic, do we have the right to wonder when, if ever, New York City will host an NBA champion? Isn’t it quite incongruous to be the vortex of schoolyard idolatry yet we can’t even whiff a title since ’73?
I don’t pretend to be an old man, but you know you’re not a toddler when you remember the Nets the last time they lived in New York. Just as my eyes were opening upon the world, the red, white, and blue balls were twirling like the strobe lights the decade of decadence made famous.
Replete with outsized Afros, shorts like diapers and high socks, led by the immortal Julius Erving, the Nets stunk it up once they joined the NBA and, Jason Kidd aside, have stunk ever since. The Nets seem to think hopping the Hudson will change their fortunes, banking on Brooklyn’s eminence to rub off on their moribund franchise. No doubt their karmic fortunes are commensurate to Deron Williams’s willingness to stay on board, pocket a little more money, and lose a lot more games.
Carmelo Anthony, as we well know, has the lowest playoff winning percentage in NBA history, despite his status in the stratus. Amar’e Stoudemire, who just got spanked by Stu Jackson for a savage case of potty mouth, is aging on micro fracture-repaired knees. Tyson Chandler is a sublime defender, but hardly a franchise player. Doesn’t Linsanity now seem so long ago?
So, did the Nets’ arrival in NYC just double our chances of a championship? Or, in a strict mathematical sense, is the double of zero still just zero?
Williams, the atomic point guard who’s skills would help pay Brooklyn’s bills over the next decade, has half his heart in Dallas, according to Dirk Nowitski, who knows a little something about the situation, and is praying in German that Williams goes J.R. Ewing and strikes oil in Texas. Lord knows Mark Cuban can afford him, even if he’s hamstrung by league rules, which allow the Nets to cut a bigger check.
And while Cuban’s ego is only slightly shorter than Anthony Davis’s wingspan, he has shown the will and the skill to cobble together a longtime contender and occasional champ, something eternally lost on Jim Dolan, who stole the remote from his old man and never gave it back.
If Williams leaves the Nets there’s no shot at Dwight Howard, assuming there was one in the first place. Howard, a supremely skilled player and renowned diva, has expressed interest in myriad media outlets outside of basketball, and he should easily find his fix in the five boroughs. But he wouldn’t touch the Nets with a hazmat suit if Williams bolted for the Mavericks.
Which would leave us where we began, where we’ve been for, oh, say, four decades. Forget any personal contempt I feel for the Knicks. My inner New Yorker comes first, which means we need basketball to be big again in the Big Apple. And when the Islanders command more bold ink than our basketball clubs, the Big Apple clearly needs a new core.
Feel free to email me: Keidel.Jason@gmail.com
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