Gameday Dish: Kings at Nets

While the old adage “everything happens for a reason” applies to all walks of life, it may resonate more loudly with sports fans. For example, baseball fans in Philadelphia and New York have no choice right now but to believe that the failure of the Phillies and the Yankees to reach the World Series simply means that the Eagles and Giants are going to have better years than expected. How quickly fans adopt this mode of thinking merely reflects how quickly they experience the four stages of denial. Similarly, fans of the World Series participants might well be thinking that their success is well-deserved given the miserable starts of the Cowboys and the 49ers.

This brings us to the start of the basketball season. Bitter baseball fans throughout the country can now turn their attention to the NBA, thinking something along the lines of, “Thank God baseball is over just in time for the start of the hoops season.” An outside observer may view this as an obvious rationalization, but others might say it further supports the notion that everything happens for a reason. Perhaps more than either the NFL or MLB, the NBA does not need to rely on fantasy teams to maintain fan interest in the broader league.

This is not to say that fans of a particular NBA team are not as fanatical as other sports fans; it is more an observation that the various story lines around the league (this year arguably more than any other) and the individual star-power pervading the league make the NBA Finals interesting to its viewers even if the home team is not playing (it’s hard to make that same argument for this year’s World Series).

Right now the biggest star of the revitalized Nets franchise may be their new majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov, a Russian billionaire who has been the central character in one of the NBA storylines generating headlines over the past year. Prokhorov has voiced his ambitious intentions to make the playoffs this season and win an NBA championship within five.

While it remains to be seen if the Nets season will have a fairytale ending, they have already improved upon last year’s start. Prokhorov made it to Wednesday’s season opener along with part-owner Jay-Z, his wife Beyoncé, NBA Commissioner David Stern, Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker, New Jersey Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek and over 15,000 fans who were treated to an exciting come-from-behind 101-98 win over the Pistons. The Nets made shots, came up with defensive plays and showed determination.

The Nets will need to keep winning games in order to sustain our interest and keep fans returning to the spiffy Prudential Center. Tonight Proky’s footmen will battle the Kings, another team hungry for a turnaround. We’ll see the NBA’s 2010 Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans make his first regular season appearance, having missed Sacramento’s opening night win due to a one-game suspension. Samuel Dalembert might also be reactivated tonight if the medical staff determines that his strained left adductor has healed. The Kings have added some new faces to their roster, including the fifth overall draft pick DeMarcus Cousins out of Kentucky and Carl Landry who returns from the Rockets. I’m anxious to see how far this young, talented team has come since Summer League.

Prokhorov is staying in town until Sunday afternoon so he’ll get to see the Nets in action against the Kings followed by LeBron and the Heat on Halloween. Ian Eagle and I have the call tonight at 7:30 PM EST on YES Network. I’m sure Marv will tune into tonight’s game from home to critique our performances and that I’ll hear all about it on Sunday when we’re back together for the Heat at Nets at 1:00 PM EST on YES.

Czar Asks You

A lot of people thought after Blake Griffin that last year’s was a shallow draft class.  But the freshman pool has proven deep and 40 games in, it looks like this may go down as one of the top drafts for guards in NBA history.

We have Tyreke Evans in Sacramento threatening to work his way into the 20/5/5 club — the current three members of that club: the Big O, Jordan and LeBron — doesn’t get any more exclusive than that.

Last night I had the chance to see Evans’ fellow Rookie of the Month Brandon Jennings in action against the Nets and a couple of things come to mind:  incredible speed and quite a haircut. Back in the eighties I managed to grow a couple inches thanks to my ‘do as well.  Jennings went for 55 points earlier in the season usurping LeBron as the youngest player ever to do so. A lot of teams will be kicking themselves for years for letting this guy slip. He has the quickness and vision to break down a defense along with a surprising jump shot.

When the Wolves took Jonny Flynn sixth in last year’s draft it raised a few eyebrows after taking Ricky Rubio the pick before. Well that selection is looking pretty good now with Flynn averaging 14 ppg and 4 assists — and along with Jefferson, Love and Brewer forming a promising core in Minnesota. Now they have to figure out what to do with Rubio and all the cap room next year.

On draft night Stephen Curry thought he was going to join Rubio in Minnesota, but ended up going one pick later to Golden State. He’s shooting 46 percent from the field and 42 percent from the arc this season. In Tuesday’s game against Denver, he hit six consecutive 3-pointers en route to 26 points. I like Curry’s game and his demeanor on the court; he’s going to do his dad proud in this league.

And finally don’t overlook hard working, hard playing Taj Gibson.  Back in the Bull’s starting lineup, he’s improving day by day and could be a sleeper in the Rookie of the Year race.

I anticipate a photo finish.  Who do you like for Rookie of the Year?