It took about 15 hours for the first fallout from the Nets’ disappointing Game 7 loss to the undermanned Chicago Bulls in the first round of the NBA playoffs to be felt. Nets general manager Billy King announced that interim head coach PJ Carlesimo would not be offered a contract.
Given the way the Nets choked away a 14-point lead with three minutes to go in the fourth quarter, combined with their putrid performance in the decisive Game 7 — trailing by 17 points at the half before making a too little, too late run — it was inevitable that Carlesimo would get his walking papers.
What is inexplicable is why team owner Mikhail Prokhorov decided to give King a contract extension while the Bulls-Nets game was still going on. King did make some sound decisions, signing backup center Andray Blatche and re-inking center Brook Lopez, who had a far better season than Dwight Howard, the man King would have traded Lopez for in a heartbeat had Howard committed to the notion of playing in Brooklyn.
The reality, however, is that most of King’s moves flopped, considering the big bucks that he lavished on talent, unless you believe merely qualifying for the playoffs is an unqualified NBA success story.
King acquired Deron Williams in a trade with the Utah Jazz in February 2011. He was an All-Star point guard whom King craved and then signed to a five-year, $100 million contract last June. Williams only showed rare flashes of greatness this past season.
King was so worried about Williams leaving the team as a free agent after the 2012 season that in order to placate him he traded a first-round draft choice to the Portland Trailblazers for forward Gerald Wallace, and followed that up by acquiring forward Joe Johnson from the Atlanta Hawks, who were thrilled to rid themselves of his hefty contract.
Wallace was inconsistent, though he was the one Nets player who was clutch in Game 7, while Johnson spent over half the season battling plantar fasciitis, and even when he was healthy rarely turned in two good halves in the same game.
King’s worst decision, however, was giving forward Kris Humphries a two-year, $24 million contract. Humphries was so awful Carlesimo rightfully anchored him to the bench for most of the second half of the season.
The Nets face the same problem with King that the Knicks had to deal with when Isaiah Thomas was their general manager. They are so contractually committed to their current roster that they have very little flexibility to make personnel changes for next season.
When Prokhorov announced that he was relieving Avery Johnson of his duties as Nets head coach last December, he expressed strong belief that Carlesimo would be successful filling his shoes. “If not, we’ll look at the usual suspects,” he told the press. Prokhorov strongly implied that he would call Phil Jackson or either of the Van Gundy brothers, Jeff and Stan.
I don’t have a problem with Prokhorov going after any of that triumvirate, but if none of them agree to come to Brooklyn, he should consider asking Jerry Stackhouse to become coach instead of yet another NBA retread.
Stackhouse just completed his 18th year in the league and was a de facto player-coach for the Nets. Whereas most of his teammates made themselves unavailable to the media during pregame locker room access, Jerry was almost always available. I know he enjoyed the give-and-take with the media but I also think he saw it as part of his job. You can be sure that he would not let Williams act like a prima donna and that he would get in the face of any player who showed little effort.
Even if the Nets had beaten the Bulls on Saturday night, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the guys would not have broken a sweat against them in the second round of the NBA playoffs. The Nets have lost 17 straight games to the Miami Heat and the odds are that it would have risen to 21 in about 10 days. My feeling is that if the Nets won even one game against the Heat in a playoff series, Booklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz should have thrown a ticker tape parade down Flatbush Avenue for them.
The Knicks survived their soap opera-like first-round series with the Boston Celtics, which will always be remembered for head coach Mike Woodson blasting his guys for dressing in black before Game 5 as if they were attending their opponents’ funeral. The Celtics won that night and then threw a scare into the Knicks two nights later by nearly overcoming a 26-point deficit.
What I can’t fathom is the large number of people I saw at Madison Square Garden who were more interested in playing with their so-called smartphones than watching the action on the court as Game 5 was taking place.
Jason Collins made history by becoming the first professional athlete in a team sport to admit that he was gay. Jason began his career with the New Jersey Nets, and I admired the way that he carried himself with teammates and the media. He laughed heartily when I once caught him using bad grammar in a conversation. “A Stanford man using double negatives in a sentence!” I chided. “You got me on that one!” he quickly replied.
Collins has lasted a dozen years in the NBA despite having limited offensive skills. He is a hard worker in practice, a tireless rebounder, and someone who knows how to set a screen so that better shooters can hit outside jumpers.
The Mets will surely lose 100 games this year if nominal ace Jonathan Niese doesn’t start to pitch better. He was knocked around by the Braves in Atlanta this past Sunday and he hasn’t won a game since April 12. The Mets cannot just depend on Matt Harvey to win games for them.
In a bid to boost some offense from their shoddy outfield, the Mets sent Opening Day hero Colin Cowgill down to their Las Vegas farm team and called up Andrew Brown. There is little doubt that Brown can hit. The problem is that he is a complete menace in the outfield. Lucas Duda is a Gold Glove winner compared to him.
The Yankees looked shaky last weekend, dropping two out of three to the low-payroll Oakland Athletics. CC Sabathia was outdueled by AJ Griffin Friday night. That match was over for all intents and purposes when A’s outfielder Adam Rosales hit the first pitch of the game into the left field bleachers.
Mariano Rivera continues to pitch as well at 43 as he did at 23. Nonetheless, the Yankees bullpen is not the strength that it used to be, thanks to injuries to both Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson.
Floyd Mayweather made a successful return to the ring Saturday night as he won a decision against Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero to keep his undefeated record intact. The fight was the first under his contract with CBS, estimated to be worth $200 million for six bouts. Alex Rodriguez’s contract with the Yankees looks like minimum wage compared with Mayweather’s compensation.
Under the follow-the-money-trail logic, I think that it would be nearly impossible for any boxer to win a decision against Mayweather. My guess is that if a fighter were able to land a knockout blow on Floyd, the referee would slowly count to 10,000 before stopping the bout.