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Sports

‘NYC Point Gods’ Honors NYC Hoops In A Refreshing Way

With great anticipation, “NYC Point Gods” aired last Friday (July 29th), and New York City basketball supporters had their moment on center stage. The Showtime and Boardroom-produced documentary breaks down the Big Apple’s basketball scene of the 1980s and 1990s through the eyes of its greatest point guards– while also explaining why they’re “point gods” and their lasting impact on the sport.

With over 85 minutes of running time, “NYC Point Gods” provided a bit of everything. First, there was the energic and thoughtful narration of poet Joekenneth Mueseau. Then we heard entertaining testimonies from the likes of Stephen A. Smith and Fat Joe. And last but certainly not least, we heard from the players themselves, who were honest and relaxed while recounting their playing days and upbringings (Stephon Marbury, God Shammgod, Rod Strickland, and Kenny “The Jet” Smith were amongst those whose stories got told).

Even though documentaries about New York City basketball have and will continue to get made, this body of work by Showtime and Boardroom was different.

Instead of exploring if the city is still the epicenter of their sport or making another love story between it and music, “NYC Point Gods” simply spotlighted the people and circumstances most involved. And that, in turn, allowed for natural transitions into basketball-related conversations about music and fashion that rightfully changed the vibe of this documentary when necessary.

Since its release, viewers have applauded the documentary as it sparked feelings of nostalgia and appreciation.

“NYC Point Gods” is now available on the Showtime app and its supporting platforms.

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Sports

Is a Kevin Durant Trade Even Possible?

For the most part, Kevin Durant has enjoyed a relatively frictionless career. In Oklahoma City, Durant vaulted the Thunder into the playoffs during his third season and won at least 50 games in his last six healthy seasons in OKC. Then, thanks to an unprecedented salary cap spike, Durant decamped for Golden State, where he took home two Finals MVPs at a canter, sleepily piecing together historically great postseason runs as Steph Curry’s co-pilot. Whereas Lebron James and Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant forged images of themselves as imperial hardwood Caesars, Durant has always been content to be himself, do himself, and chill. Veni, vidi, vici? No, Ego sum, efficio, glaccio. 

As such, the ongoing Brooklyn boondoggle is the first time that Durant hasn’t been able to step into success as if it’s his birthright. Last year’s first round sweep against the Celtics is probably an on-court low-water mark for Durant and the vibes have become so odious that governor Joseph Tsai is openly pining for the days of Jared Dudley and dignified defeat. 

Accordingly, the recent report that the Nets and Celtics have explored a trade oriented around Jaylen Brown feels like the first steps towards something actually happening. At long last, there was a rumor that hinted at potential action. With Kevin Durant, the Celtics would instantly become the obvious best team in the NBA, even if it means sacrificing Marcus Smart, the honorary capo of the Boston Media Mafia. Similarly, the Nets would be able to save face by adding Brown, a budding star who sneakily outplayed Jayson Tatum in the Finals despite not being able to dribble. Never mind that the trade talks happened two-ish weeks ago or that the deal is exceedingly unlikely to actually happen (if the trade were going to happen, it would’ve happened by now), all news is good news during this fallow stretch of the offseason.

By demanding a trade, Durant has revealed the basic fact that he’s nearly untradable—the arcane legalese of the collective bargaining agreement has scuppered potential suitors such as the Miami Heat; the Phoenix Suns, an early clubhouse favorite, can’t put together a package after DeAndre Ayton grew tired of their pointless negging and signed an offer sheet with the Pacers. Whereas his talent makes him a limitless player on the court, his greatness inherently circumscribes his world of off-court possibilities; Kevin Durant—arguably the most gifted player ever—can’t simply be traded. Accordingly, barely any teams have enough ammo to trade for Durant and even fewer can do so while still fielding a contending team around him. 

For years, Durant has been the lowest-maintenance, high-maintenance player in the NBA. Sure, he’s moody and friends with Kyrie Irving, but there’s a simplicity and purity in the way he approaches the game. In Durant’s hands, basketball becomes meditative, a personal flowstate of immaculate footwork and mechanics removed from the hubbub of the NBA; Durant is fundamentally the same player whether he’s playing with Steph Curry or Kyrie Irving or Nic Claxton. But now, this summer has been one of the first times that Durant has had to confront the material costs of stardom, realizing that he doesn’t actually want to lie in the bed that he partially made. 

Although Durant is no stranger to rumor mill slop, his trade demand feels like it’s catalyzed by meta-basketball reasons while his ones in free agency were fuelled by his on-court aesthetics and values. He left OKC for Golden State because he was seduced by their style; he left the Warriors for Brooklyn because he wanted to experience sharing the court with a basketball genius like Irving. Conversely, his malcontent in Brooklyn seems to stem from a greater awareness of a hierarchy of needs beyond getting buckets. Interestingly, Durant hasn’t explicitly listed his preferred destinations—he merely wants to go to a good team. It’s undeniable that Kevin Durant is driving the bus—the question is which direction he takes it.

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Sports

Where Can You Find The Best Summer Pro-Am Leagues?

As a hoops fan, the dread of no college and NBA action can be a lot until you remember the game is currently getting played in its purest form. Across the country, fans are returning to old-school gyms and playgrounds to watch an assortment of players compete in Pro-Am leagues in gritter but more dynamic environments. And amongst those hosting competitions, a select group stands out above the rest.

Whether discussing Dyckman Basketball or the Atlanta Entertainment Basketball League, leagues of their caliber possess a “who’s who” of competing players and a memorable attending experience. The latter is why some fans don’t overly care about attending college or NBA games. Why do so when you can walk down your street and watch high-level talent up close for free?

With summer basketball approaching its halfway point, here is our list of the eight-best Pro-Am leagues.

Drew League, Los Angeles, CA

While the Drew is in the news because of LeBron’s incredible performance last weekend, the almost 50-year-old league has been a staple of nationwide summer hoops and proving ground for several upcoming and established hoopers– especially those from LA.

Dyckman Basketball, Uptown New York City

New York City is most undoubtedly known for its hoops history within the parks, and no one is currently hotter than Dyckman Basketball. From all over the world, people are making their way to Uptown to watch the game get played in its grittiest, intimate, yet entertaining way possible.

The Crawsover, Seattle, WA

Once known as the Seattle Pro-Am and run by former NBA player Doug Christie, “The Crawsover” has been entertaining and consistent like its namesake— Jamal Crawford. During its 14-year-tenure under Crawford’s watch, this league has witnessed Chris Paul and Kevin Durant, amongst other NBA stars, suit up in its uniforms.

Danny Rumph Classic, Philadelphia, PA

Despite all of the noises made within East Coast hoops because of New York City, summer hoop lovers are fans of the Danny Rumph Classic. This Philly staple proudly represents their city’s basketball movement and attracts star talent– most notably James Harden, Lou Williams, and Dion Waiters.

Atlanta Entertainment Basketball League, Atlanta, GA

Having kicked off their 10th season, the AEBL quickly made a name for themselves as a highly entertaining yet challenging league. On any given night, you’re watching the past, present, and future of Georgia hoopers compete, and you’ll never know when a star will join the party.

Miami Pro League, Miami, FL

Besides the lovely weather, beaches, and no-state income tax, plenty of college and NBA players are stopping by Florida to play in the Miami Pro League. In recent years, James Harden, John Wall, and Ja Morant have made appearances here and left an assortment of highlights that we still enjoy.

Brunson League, The State of Maryland

The DMV, short for Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, has been a hotbed for talent for a long time, with a portion of them coming from Maryland. The Brunson League became the state’s premier Pro-Am after Barry Farms, and the Goodman League held it down for quite some time.

Dreamville Chi-League Presented By Wilson, Chicago, IL

Before Dreamville and Wilson Basketball successfully relaunched the Chicago-based Pro-AM league last summer, the Chi League was one of the best leagues across the country. Once a true battleground for the city’s most immense talents, Chicago fans are now watching the next generation of hoopers take center stage, notably All-Star point guard Darius Garland of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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Sports

Flag Football Gains Greater Momentum Towards Potential Olympic Appearance

In today’s times, a new or existing sport sees an emergence that captures the sports world’s attention; pickleball, foot golf, and competitive tag immediately comes to mind. But the classic sport of flag football is also emerging, and it’s serious enough for the NFL to support its cause of becoming an Olympic sport by 2028 significantly.

With a focus on growing American football internationally, making it more inclusive, and states such as New York declaring it a varsity sport, flag football has become the helping tool the NFL and others needed. But to make it an Olympic sport?

“When we talk about the future of the game of football, it is, no question, flag,” NFL executive Troy Vincent told the Associated Press. “It’s the inclusion and the true motto of football for all.” A big step for flag football’s reemergence is currently happening in Birmingham, AL– the 2022 World Games. Between July 10th-14th, the NFL-presented flag football competition at the World Games will consist of men’s and women’s teams from eight countries.

Who would you choose if given a chance to build your flag football team, regardless of who it is and why? Below, I have my dream flag football team in a five-on-five setting.

Quarterback – Patrick Mahomes

There is literally no one else I would want at quarterback than the annual MVP candidate. Mahomes’ arm talent and above-average mobility are all I need to win.

Running back/defensive back – Tyreek Hill

It’s easy to look at Hill’s speed, but he is insanely athletic. And to have that in flag football? On both sides of the ball? Ha!

Wide receivers/defensive backs – LeBron James and Kevin Durant

I promise you; there isn’t an answer for how to defend a pair of 6-foot-8 and nearly seven-foot wide receivers who are faster, stronger, and jump higher than almost every other human on earth that isn’t in their league. And Mahomes is my quarterback? #scaryhours

Wide receiver/pass-rusher/game changer – Myles Garrett

In all seriousness, Garrett *might* be the greatest flag football player ever if he stepped into this environment. More than any player on my team, he has no real matchup from his opposition.

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What’s Next For Devin Booker and Nike?

Even though Devin Booker’s season didn’t end the way he wanted, his offseason has gotten off to a great start. Just minutes after free agency started nearly two weeks ago, the Phoenix Suns All-Star signed a super-max extension worth $224 million. Then he was named the cover athlete of the NBA2K23 video game. And now? Booker has signed another new extension– this time with sneaker giant Nike.

Having been signed to the ‘Swoosh’ since arriving in the NBA seven years ago, Booker has proven to be a successful investment. Despite what some fans say about him, Booker is well-liked and accomplished–a high-level player who is clutch, hasn’t abandoned his team yet, and is racking up endorsements at the same rate as All-Star (three times) and All-NBA team appearances (Just made his first one this year).

So when considering that and the details of Booker’s latest extension, which is rumored to be six years long, the question is, what’s next for Booker and Nike? Suppose you were to go off the company’s current handlings of their NBA stars (Think LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, for example). Would these following options be the most realistic?

Nike makes D-Book their go-to player to wear new signature sneakers

Similar to what Jordan Brand recently did with Jayson Tatum and the Air Jordan 36, Nike can make Booker their go-to player/litmus test to unveil new signature sneakers.

In his case, it makes too much sense for Booker to be the player revealing new color aways of the late Kobe Bryant’s sneaker line, given their relationship and similarities in playing style.

Does Booker receives his own shoe and collection?

While this option is closer to unlikely than likely, given his lack of a championship, I wouldn’t rule it out– even if he doesn’t win one within the next few years. Like any other shoe company, Nike is looking to build its following line of superstars, especially with LeBron James and Kevin Durant nearing the end of their careers.

A signature shoe and collection is never out of the question as long as D-Book continues playing at a high level.

Nothing changes (for now)

This option only exists because it could very well be the case. Nike doesn’t have to elevate Booker’s stature within the company. Not with LeBron and KD being their long-time acts, Antetokounmpo’s line getting pushed following his 2021 championship run, and Kobe’s on-court legacy properly preserved through his collection.

It’s going to be a lot of fun watching these two sides continue their relationship! Congratulations to Devin Booker once again.

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Sports

#nbatwitter Reacts To Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren, and Jabari Smith Jr’s Debuts

It’s not a genuine night of watching the NBA if your timeline isn’t filled with hot takes, predictions, and photoshop. Three weeks after the NBA wrapped up its highly successful 75th season, it returned with its staple of Summer League action. And as expected, all eyes were on this year’s top-three draft picks– Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren, and Jabari Smith Jr– when they made their respective league debuts.

Whether you watched them play or placed complete (and possibly questionable) trust into what your timeline said, the reactions from #nbatwitter were swift and didn’t lack personality. For many viewers, it was their first time watching Banchero, Holmgren, or Smith Jr play– an everyday reality for those who don’t follow high school or college basketball.

But regardless of how you feel about the trio’s performances, they provided highlights and a closer look at their potential. Banchero (17/4/6) and Holmgren (23/7/6) produced a pair of memorable games, and Smith Jr proved he could be comfortable doing a bit of everything on the floor.

Below are some of the reactions to the NBA debuts of Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren, and Jabari Smith Jr.

Chet even had KD talking about him!

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Sports

What Have We Learned From NBA Free Agency So Far?

As fireworks continue lighting up across the United States in honor of Independence Day, the NBA has witnessed its share of them. Since last Thursday, the 2022 NBA free agency has kept fans, media, and even players glued to their phones in great anticipation of what could be next.

Sparked by the evolving nature of player movement, the known and unknown worked together in creating the madness we experienced during free agency’s opening stretch. While fans knew of the likelihood that Jalen Brunson would sign with the New York Knicks, we were thrown a curveball upon the news of Rudy Gobert getting traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Even the broad daylight robbery of a trade done by the Boston Celtics with the Indiana Pacers threw us in for a loop.

As free agency’s opening week concludes in two days and the shift turns to the second wave of signings– while we’ll also wonder who gets traded first: Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant?– now is the perfect time to examine what has happened so far.

Here are our five biggest takeaways from the opening weekend of NBA free agency.

Why leave home when there’s a super-max deal?

Even with the combined desire by fans and media to see players leave their home teams, it’s becoming less of a reality given the introduction of super-max contracts. Fueled by incentives including All-Star and All-NBA selections, players are quickly putting pen to sheets near the end of their rookie or latest deal.

Within the first 48 hours of free agency, six super-max contracts were signed that totaled over one-point-two billion dollars (Devin Booker, Bradley Beal, Nikola Jokic, Ja Morant, Darius Garland, and Zion Williamson).

Put some respect on Brian Windhorst’s name

The long-time ESPN Insider was arguably the MVP this past weekend, given his memorable explanation behind the Utah Jazz’s way of thinking before they moved All-Star center Rudy Gobert.

All meme-worthy moments aside, Windhorst’s connecting of the dots between the Jazz suddenly moving Royce O’Neale and current team CEO Danny Ainge’s willingness to start from scratch painted a great picture of what would happen in Salt Lake City.

Productive veterans will always be paid

Even for a league that is getting younger, they will always pay productive veterans– even if it’s expensive. The Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks, two legitimate Eastern Conference competitors, both signed or resigned productive veterans, PJ Tucker and Bobby Portis, at a combined cost and commitment of $79 million over seven years.

You never know when the trade market will be active

Minus an on and off busy night from the Draft, there wasn’t much happening in the trade market before Kevin Durant’s sudden trade request last Thursday. But you still have to remember this: Even with a busy rumor mill, it doesn’t mean trades will happen right now.

In the case of KD, the Nets can let his situation play out longer due to four years remaining on his contract. Regarding a potential Kyrie Irving for Russell Westbrook trade, the hold-up can be over one thing. And if you’re the Jazz, you must be 100% certain you want to let go of All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell.

Who you got: Woj or Shams?

I’m more of a Woj guy but Shams is nice too *shrugs.

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The Five Best Teams Who Can Trade For Kevin Durant

Nearly 24 hours later, the NBA world is still in shock over Kevin Durant’s trade request from the Brooklyn Nets. The two-time NBA Finals MVP is likely to generate the kind of interest rarely seen by any player that’s suddenly available, but the questions are who will be pursuing him and at what price?

And while there’s no doubt about Durant’s ability to play at a high level— he was placed on the All-NBA second team after averaging 29/7/6 this season– it does exist regarding his soon-to-be former team. Even during this era of player empowerment and movement, the Brooklyn Nets can’t get forced to trade Durant to his chosen place.

With four years remaining on his contract and a desire to either compete for a title or land a massive haul for him, the Nets and Durant could stay together beyond this summer. But what are those odds?

Below are the five best teams who can trade for the accomplished superstar.

Phoenix Suns

After the initial shock of Durant’s trade request, another one came in the form of his most- preferred trade destination: the 64-win and No. 1 seeded Phoenix Suns.

Upon looking at their roster and assets, there’s an immediate offer that makes sense– Mikal Bridge, Cam Johnson, Deandre Ayton, and an assortment of first-round picks. The only thing to be discussed is if the Nets trade Ben Simmons elsewhere. Under the Designated Rookie rule, a team can’t have more than two players who signed four or five-year extensions after their rookie deals, and only one can be acquired through a trade.

This rule is huge because Simmons signed a massive five-year extension in Philadelphia before being traded, and Ayton is in line for a massive contract this summer.

Miami Heat

Like Phoenix, Miami is another title contender that ranks high on Durant’s list of trade destinations, yet; they have a critical asset that can’t get traded to Brooklyn because of the Designated Rookie rule (Bam Adebayo). But is that enough to stop a deal?

If anything, the Heat could offer a package of Kyle Lowry, Tyler Herro, and a third player attached with first-round picks unless the Nets decide to trade Simmons elsewhere, as mentioned in our Suns discussion.

Memphis Grizzlies

Could you imagine if KD returned to the Western Conference as a Grizzlie? It’s certainly possible given the team’s salary cap situation, their immensely talented, young superstar in Ja Morant, and a trade package headlined by dynamic-two-way big man, Jaren Jackson Jr.

Golden State Warriors

Talk about what would be a full-circle moment? But when looking beyond the jokes and chaos Durant’s return would create, the Warriors could offer a fair exchange for their former superstar— the newly-motivated Andrew Wiggins, a certified bucket in Jordan Poole, and 2020 No. 2 overall pick, James Wiseman.

Toronto Raptors

Hey, you better not sleep on the Raptors in these trade discussions. Besides the brotherhood Durant has with superstar musician and Raptors ambassador Drake and Masai Ujiri being an incredible dealer, the Eastern Conference competitor has several attractive trade assets.

Anyone between All-NBA forward Pascal Siakam, reigning Rookie of the Year, Scottie Barnes, and OG Anunoby could start a return for the Nets– especially with various picks involved.

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ONE37pm’s Sports Vertical Previews The 2022 NBA Free Agency

*This article was written prior to the news of Kevin Durant requesting a trade from the Brooklyn Nets early Wednesday afternoon.

As much action is filled on the court every NBA season, the same is said for off of it. Through the growing nature of free agency and trade talks, it’s become common for NBA fans and media to speculate about the future of players and teams. And that development will play out again as the 2022 NBA Free Agency begins at 6 PM EST tonight.

While this year’s free agency isn’t defined by its star power, it includes impactful contributors (Jalen Brunson, Zach LaVine, and Deandre Ayton) who have enticed teams that are determined to improve. Before the start of free agency, ONE37pm’s Sports Vertical came together and shared their expectations for this time of year.

Will there be any surprises? Is there a certain signing each team should make? Continue reading to find out more!

What is your biggest expectation for free agency this summer?

Justin Cohen: I think there will be a lot of player movement. I don’t expect a lot of blockbuster trades, but I expect teams to buff out their rosters and add depth with impactful role players. The CBA is set to expire at the end of this season, so I’m intrigued about how that may affect teams signing players to longer-term contracts. 

Martino Puccio: My biggest expectation is a team like the Lakers to make some sort of move that doesn’t waste time on the partnership of LeBron and AD. Whether it’s getting rid of Westbrook or adding great role players. They have the most pressure to figure it out

Which teams do you expect to be the most and least active?

Jack Tien-Dana: Considering the Knicks have already made three trades and loosened up $30 million in cap room, it’s hard to imagine a team being more active than them. To a degree, this activity is necessary—the Knicks have 22 draft picks over the next seven years and can’t possibly add that many guys to a roster that already has a critical mass of developing young players.

Continuing their decades-long trend, the Knicks will be confusing at best and smooth-brained at worst. Whereas the Knicks chronically do too much, Oklahoma City is devoted to never doing anything. With mega-prospect Victory Wembanyama looming as the prize of next year’s lottery, the Thunder are in no rush to try to be an actual team for the foreseeable future.

Justin Cohen: A team like the Miami Heat will be extremely active this free agency. Miami Heat president Pat Riley is never satisfied, and a loss in the Eastern Conference Finals surely left a fire burning in his seat.

I expect them to try and target another superstar to pair with Butler and Adebayo. I don’t think the Warriors will be active in acquiring new players but instead will focus on resigning players. 

Jael Rucker: I expect Brooklyn to be very active {laughs}.

If there’s a signing that makes TOO much sense, what would it be?

Bo Templin: You know what signing makes a lot of sense? The MASSIVE 5-year deal for the St. Louis product, Bradley Beal. Go get that bag.

The other fit that seems nice is PJ Tucker going to the Sixers. He’s played with Harden and would be an outstanding voice for that team.

Jack Tien-Dana: Mo Bamba to the Lakers. Despite having two of the very best players alive, the Lakers are a sclerotic team without many avenues to improve. Accordingly, Mo Bamba (of “Mo Bamba”  fame) is the sole realistic option who could make a meaningful difference.

An expert shot-blocker and budding marksman, Bamba was one of only four players to average more than 1.5 threes and 1.5 blocks per game. And he’s somehow rumored to be available for just the $6.5 million mid-level exception. Still only 23, Bamba offers an enticing package of immediate production and future promise.

Justin Cohen: Blake Griffin to the Clippers. Yes, this wouldn’t be the most impactful or even the best fit, but to see Blake Griffin in a Clippers jersey one more time would be beautiful.

It would also be quite poetic to see Griffin win a championship with the franchise he brought back from the dead. 

Martino Puccio: A signing that would make too much sense to me is Brunson to NYK. For the Knicks to move all these mountains and for him to get insane money for just four years is something that should be a no-brainer, IMO.

Speaking of Jalen Brunson, do you believe he’s worth a max contract?

Bo Templin: While I think Jalen Brunson is a very solid player, I’m not sold on him being a max contract player on a championship-contending team. He would help the Knicks, sure. But what would really change? A first-round exit maybe?

Jael Rucker: Yes! Give Jalen Brunson what he deserves!

Justin Cohen: When dissecting who ‘deserves’ a max contract, the context of player availability is crucial. I don’t think there are many great point guards slated to be free agents this summer and Brunson has proved he can put up wins in the postseason.

I’ve personally gotten the opportunity to watch Jalen grow since his freshman year of high school and the progression he continues to show is worth a max in my mind. 

Given the likelihood of James Harden and Bradley Beal resigning with their teams, do player options carry as much weight as they use to?

Bo Templin: This is a really interesting question. I think the player options only hold weight if the dominoes fall in your favor. Every off-season, it feels like there is a 1-2 domino falling process that really kickstarts everything else.

People with options have the luxury of waiting. So I think they still hold weight with the timing of the offseason.

Jack Tien-Dana: Player options are the most basic, effective way that players can control when and what they’re paid. Since Bradley Beal is opting out of his deal, the Wizards have no choice but to lavish him with a quarter-billion dollars to stick around—by turning down his $36.4 million option for next year, he’s now positioned to make $50 million for the next five.

Conversely, John Wall, Russell Westbrook, and Kyrie Irving all exercised their options because it guarantees them a payday they wouldn’t receive otherwise. What teams are lining up to throw a max deal at two guys who are probably bad now and another guy who’s a terminally flighty weirdo? More than Brechtian trade demands or sub-tweet melodrama or podcasting, player options are how players are empowered.

Jael Rucker: Yes and no. I think it depends on the player, the team, and the situation. I will say that I think owners are kind of starting to take control back of situations.

Justin Cohen: They do because it’s just another way to give the players more freedom. I really like James Harden taking a page out of Tom Brady’s book and taking a pay cut to allow the 76ers flexibility with their cap space.

With the collective bargaining agreement set to expire at the end of next season, we could see a change in how player and team options work. 

Martino Puccio: I think these player options don’t hold as much weight depending on the situation, but the money for these superstars after the tv deals are so great that they have so much flexibility.

Seeing what an Evan Fournier can grab via FA these guys know the leverage they have so they probably don’t stress the options.

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When Will the Real Brooklyn Nets Stand Up?

This has been a haunted Nets season, plagued by the sense that the real Nets are lurking just off screen. For 82 games, the Nets were largely uninspiring, slouching into the play-in game with a 44-38 record. Before the franchise-rearranging James Harden trade, the Nets’ Big Three of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Harden never shared the court together this year; after the franchise-rearranging James Harden trade, Ben Simmons, the newest tine of the team’s Big Three, has been sidelined by some combination of back problems and his own neuroses. Despite boasting a point differential that lags behind the Cavaliers and Hawks, the Nets still have the third-best title odds, according to Draftkings. This is a juggernaut that’s simply waiting for the right time to unveil their juggernaut-ness, or so people say. 

But the Nets have Durant and Irving, so there’s a very real chance that nothing else matters. While other teams certainly have superstar duos, Durant and Irving are unique in their capacity to create self-sustaining offense; no matter the circumstance, they’ll be able to create—and make—a shot. They’re capital-h Hoopers, in the purest, most empirical sense, shot-makers who thrive because of their skill and savvy rather than through brutish force. Durant, in particular, conveys the sense that he’s mastered basketball— Durant may not necessarily be the best basketball player in the world, but he’s the player who’s best at basketball. When Durant and Irving play together, the Nets score 125.39 points per 100 possessions, which is basically impossible; you could put the late-season Portland Trail Blazers in an empty gym and they’d struggle to equal that mark. 

In this sense, the Nets represent the NBA’s greatest strengths and weaknesses. At a time where players have bent franchises into their own personal concierge service and Adam Silver is begging players to, you know, play, the Nets are a monument to the aloofness of the NBA’s superstar class. Although he finally became a full-time player last month, Irving essentially disqualified himself from 53 games because he felt like it; Durant wantonly misses regular season games to preserve his knees and legs, which maintain a fragile, precarious equilibrium like a Calder mobile. A team with as much talent as the Nets should challenge for the league’s best record, but the Nets treated the last 82 games with such contempt that they still have to scrap just to make the playoffs. Notably, Harden, a player who isn’t exactly known for his professionalism, became so fed up by the Nets’ organizational moodiness that he forced a trade out of Brooklyn, just a year removed from forcing a trade to the Nets.  

But still, the Nets are capable of playing such magnificent basketball that all this bullshit is worth it; it makes sense why the Bucks flagrantly tanked out of a top-two seed to avoid playing the Nets in the first round. Whereas Durant and Irving are the load-bearing elements of the Nets’ goodness, the Nets are so potent because of the different ways that their  bench and supporting cast can be deployed around them. Seth Curry and Patty Mills are elite shooters who expertly slip into the defense’s blindspots for open threes; Andre Drummond gives them the interior heft to tussle with the likes of Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Bam Adebayo; Bruce Brown and Nic Claxton are shots of adrenaline, jolting the team into action with their athleticism and motor. At their best, the Nets can assume a kind of amoebic quality, rearranging themselves around their nuclear star duo. 

As such, thinking about the Nets requires ambivalence. This is a mostly mediocre team that deserves to be the seventh or eighth seed in the playoffs; this might be also the best team in the NBA. While there’s been some grumbling about this year marking the end of the superteam era, the Nets are proof otherwise—a less super team would’ve never been able to weather a season this messy and dumb. The Nets only withstood Kyrie Irving’s galactic, unvaccinated weirdness because they had Kevin Durant and James Harden; they only stayed afloat after the James Harden trade because they had Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.

By doing so, the Nets proved that they’re practically too big to fail, free to mop and pout and fight through the season because they hold the promise that they can access a level of basketball so transcendent that everything else melts away. At least, that’s been the company line. But with the team staring down the ignominy of possibly missing the playoffs, the Nets are running out of time to realize their purported potential. Eventually, this team will make good—unless they don’t. Famously, Godot shows up at the end and justifies all that waiting, right?