Notebook: Nets Prepare for Melo-Drama, Avery Sounds Off, Warriors Eye Kerr
The first-year New Jersey general manager is on the road with his young and struggling team, and Saturday night's game in Denver will be the first time his Nets face the Nuggets since the Melo-Drama that coincided with the start of training camp in early October. The reported four-team deal that would have sent Carmelo Anthony to Newark might be dead in its original form, but that doesn't mean the reporter queries coming King's way aren't alive and well.
And with his plan in place to avoid the spotlight amid what will be a one-track-minded media contingent in the Mile High City, King practiced his best deflection tactics before tip-off Friday night at Arco Arena.
"No Melo questions," he said when approached courtside.
Well, then how about that rookie forward who was offered as part of the deal?
Georgia Tech product and No. 3 pick Derrick Favors remains a walking subplot because of the Nets' dogged interest in Anthony, although a league source with knowledge of the Nets' discussions said Denver has pushed instead for third-year center Brook Lopez in the outdated dealings when it comes to seeking a premier young talent. And as has always been the case, that topic appears to be a nonstarter as far as the Nets are concerned.
So while the Nuggets, by all accounts, remain patient on this front and are holding out hope that they can use this time to convince Anthony to put his name on the three-year, $65 million extension while they continue surveying the trade landscape, Favors' development remains a relevant part of the equation as well. He is still one of the possible pieces on this popular table, with two dates looming large on this Carmelo calendar -- Dec. 15 is the first day free agents signed last summer can be included in deals, thereby expanding the possibilities; and, of course the Feb. 24 trading deadline.
Thus far, Favors has earned a firm spot in first-year Nets coach Avery Johnson's rotation, coming in after forward Kris Humphries and starting well before fading of late. He had just three points (1 of 3 shooting), two rebounds and one block in 16 minutes in an 86-81 loss to Sacramento, marking the sixth straight game in which he scored seven or fewer points (5.2 rebounds and 18 minutes per game in that span). In the first six games, he averaged 9.5 points, 7.3 rebounds and 22.1 minutes per game).
Talent deficiency and 4-8 start aside, King and Johnson appear to have steadied the ship that was teetering at the outset.
"Avery talked to them (at the start of the season) and said, 'What you read, don't believe, just focus on what you're doing,'" King said of the entire team. "The first week or two I think it did bother them.
"(Favors) has been great. At first, I think it was a shock to him to see his name there, but they've been focused on getting better."
Favors, whose best statistical night remains a 13-point, 13-rebound outing in a loss to Miami on Oct. 31, said the distraction of the Anthony reports is a thing of the past.
"At first, it was pretty hard," he said. "But then coach talked to me, a lot of the guys talked to me, and they were like, 'Hey look, it's a business and your name is probably going to be in a lot of trade rumors so just don't pay attention to it. If the GM isn't saying nothing to you, then it's not going to happen.' It felt good that somebody else wanted me ... to think a team would trade its superstar to get me.
"It was hard, though. I was just getting comfortable with the team, just getting along with everybody, and all of a sudden trade rumors started. About a week in, I just stopped paying attention to it, stopped watching TV, stopped reading it, stopped answering the phones, text messages, everything. I just started concentrating strictly on basketball."
That will be much harder on Saturday night, though, unless Favors follows King's elusive lead.
A few final thoughts as we head into the weekend ...
• Despite new Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov's well-publicized proclamation that New Jersey will win a championship in the next five years, Kings said there is no heat on him to turn this team into a winner at this early stage.
"There's no pressure, man," King said. "(Prokhorov) knows where we are. He understands where we're trying to get to, and with the rules the way they are you can't just do it overnight. Everybody reads that he says we're going to make it to the playoffs and win a championship in five years, and those to me are great goals. They should be our goals that we all want to attain."
• Johnson lived up to his reputation as an outspoken sort who just might grind on a player or 12 after the loss to the Kings, calling out Lopez for the second time in one day after he failed in a key late sequence.
With 1:15 left, the Kings up 81-79 and DeMarcus Cousins at the line after a Lopez foul, Cousins missed the second free throw. The ball went right through Lopez's hands, doing nothing to help his case after Johnson had chastised him before the game for not being aggressive enough on the glass recently. The Kings capitalized on the second chance, as Tyreke Evans buried an 18-footer with 59 seconds left to stretch the lead to four.
"(Lopez) wasn't as aggressive as he needed to be," Johnson said afterward when asked if he was encouraged by Lopez's 10 rebounds. "Again, (he had) 10 rebounds but the biggest one we didn't get, which was on the free throw."
He certainly didn't stop at Lopez, calling out the entire group for a lack of focus in a second half in which they were outscored 43-35.
"We came out of the locker room for the third quarter, and it was just unbelievable our body language, our attention to detail, we had so many miscues," said Johnson, whose team downed the Clippers on Monday and fell 98-88 to Utah on Wednesday on this trip. "But again, I'm trying to convince my team that we should be 3-0 on this road trip, but they just don't believe me."
Johnson was then asked what his team is lacking.
"Better leadership from within," he said. "We can scream and holler all we want, but we're going to have to have better leadership from amongst the troops. These losses are going to have to be painful, painful to where you don't even sleep (and) your food don't even taste good. So that when we get in these situations again, we'll get a free throw rebound.
"We love our guys, but I'm very, very disappointed tonight. ... (I'm) not pointing fingers, but we've got guys who need to step up and hold each other accountable on the team. ... We'll get it."
• This certainly counts as a subjective view, but anyone rooting for the blue and gold who stopped short of the finish line while reading Friday's Q&A with new Golden State owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber should finish the marathon.
While "Warriors and Peace," as one colleague hilariously dubbed it, is a long read, Lacob was candid on how he saw the futures of general manager Larry Riley and guards Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry. That being said, I stumbled on a bit of insight after the interview that would have been interesting to throw their way.
In regards to Riley, the owners' support came with a qualifier from Lacob that they had his back "right now" and that they simply needed more time to work together before final conclusions are drawn. But two sources close to the situation expect Riley, eventually, to be supplanted by a bigger-name executive and placed in a supplementary role. A name that is atop Lacob's wish list, I was told, is Steve Kerr.
The former Phoenix president of basketball operations abruptly resigned in mid-June and is now a commentator for TNT, a development that, Lacob said on Monday, railroaded the plans of his Stanford graduate son, Kirk Lacob, to join the Suns' staff during the summer. Kirk's safety net came when Dear Old Dad beat out Larry Ellison to buy the Warriors and he was hired as Director of Basketball Operations for Golden State. The senior Lacob, the sources said, is enamored with Kerr and would be thrilled if he could convince him to head for the Bay Area.
Here's to hoping the Turner folks book Kerr for the Warriors' TNT game at home against Phoenix on Dec. 2, if only because the commentary might take on new meaning.
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