Would the NBA be better without the New Jersey Nets? LeBron James seems to think so, telling reporters last week that today's NBA is "watered down" and that the league would be better served if young stars currently stuck on losing teams such as the Nets instead played for winners.
On Sunday, Nets coach Avery Johnson responded. "I disagree. Maybe the league would be better if we didn't have three stars on one team. Who knows? I just disagree with that comment."
James made his comments before his Miami Heat faced the Phoenix Suns Thursday, advocating for contraction while at the same time refusing to use the exact word.
"Hopefully, the league can figure it out one day to go back to the situation it was in the '80s, when you had three or four All-Stars, three or four superstars, three or four Hall-of-Famers on the same team," James said. "The league was great. It wasn't as watered down as it is. You had more (All-Star) players on a team, which made almost every game anticipated -- not just a Christmas Day game, not just a Halloween game."
James later added: "Just imagine if you could take Kevin Love off Minnesota and add him to another team. Or, looking at some of the teams that aren't that great, you take Brook Lopez or you take Devin Harris off these teams that aren't that good right now and add them to a team that could be really good. Not saying let's take New Jersey, let's take Minnesota out of the league. But hey, you guys are not stupid. I'm not stupid. I know it would be great for the league."
What does Love think of James' comments? Not much, apparently. "That was just something he said," he told The Associated Press. "I didn't really pay too much attention to it. I just figure that when the time comes with the CBA (collective bargaining agreement), the owners and players and everybody involved will make their decision. I didn't really think much of it."
The possibility of contraction (resulting, of course, in the reduction of potential jobs for players) has been a controversial talking point during CBA discussions -- even if David Stern himself has admitted it's not a likely scenario.
Johnson, who personally recruited James to sign with the Nets in July, hadn't heard James' exact comments and refused to respond in depth. "I have a lot of respect for him," Johnson said. "We met with the guy. The guy looked (at) us face to face. I'm only going by what you guys are telling me (about his contraction comments). I haven't heard it.
"Whenever I run into LeBron, we always say hello to each other. Down the road it may be a discussion that we need to have. I'm not going off the cliff because of some comment he made and I don't know the exact tone of it."
It'll be some time before Johnson and James run into each other on the basketball court -- the Heat don't travel to New Jersey until April 3. Either way, Johnson added a reminder that contraction is the last thing on the Nets' mind.
"We're not there yet, but we're going somewhere," Johnson said. "And we're going to Brooklyn. We're not going to contract. We're going to Brooklyn."