Brooklyn Nets kajillionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov has gone and done something even more audacious than erect a billboard outside Madison Square in the battle for the hearts, minds and pocketbooks of Gotham and far beyond:
The NBA’s new collective-bargaining agreement be damned, he has shown sometimes money really is no object — and then some — by approving a $100 million-plus payroll and a dizzying luxury-tax bill that approaches another $90 million, all for the sake of chasing a championship and preventing Miami from advancing out of the East.
That $190 million bill is three times the Timberwolves’ salary cap figure. So what does all that money buy? Two future Hall of Famers (Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce), four current or former All-Stars (Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson, Andrei Kirilenko), one former Sixth Man of the Year (Jason Terry) and a whole lot of expectations.
And it’ll be rookie coach Jason Kidd’s job to fit all the puzzle pieces and ensure a roster with six principal players in their 30s is well-rested for the playoffs in a suddenly contentious Eastern Conference in which both Indiana and Chicago also have set aim at the Heat. There are 190 million reasons to ask: Can you say the future is now?
2 Rocket Man, Burning Out His Fuse Up Here Alone
This isn’t quite as melodramatic as LeBron James’ “The Decision” in 2010, but nonetheless Dwight Howard’s two seasons of histrionics — he’s opting out, no he’s not; he wants to be traded, no he doesn’t — are over and he’s landed in Texas.
Houston, do we have a problem?
Rockets GM/mathematician Daryl Morey crunched the numbers and compiled assets for years and now within nine months of each other has traded for a starry Howard-James Harden combo that may challenge Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook pairing as the West’s best duo.
Now all former Wolves executive/coach Kevin McHale must do is get the big guy — the league’s top defender when he’s at his best — to play like he did for Stan Van Gundy in Orlando.
Now all Superman — doesn’t that caped stunt at All- Star Weekend seem so long ago? — must do is restore his image.
Oh, is that all?
3 Is a cornered Black mamba even more dangerous?
Kobe Bryant recently changed his Twitter avatar to simply “1225.” That’s either the Black Mamba’s expected date to return from last year’s season-ending, ruptured-Achilles injury or a swipe at ESPN, which ranked the Lakers 12th in the Western Conference and dropped Bryant from sixth to 25th in their ranking of 500 NBA players.
Three weeks ago, he said he needed to get his big butt into shape, then days later tweeted that he dropped five pounds in a day. Opening night is definitely out — right? — but perhaps he’s back by Thanksgiving, determined to show he’s still great.
4 Back In Bloom Again
While the Lakers wait for Bryant, Chicago gets former league MVP Derrick Rose back for opening night after an entire season away because of ACL knee surgery.