Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce joining the Nets, along with Andrei Kirilenko strangely opting-out of a $10 million deal in Minnesota to sign a $3 million one with Brooklyn, obviously means the team is going to be a contender in the East. Those three players, along with a nucleus of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez, could mean the Nets have the most talented roster in the NBA. Sure, they’ll have a rookie coach (Jason Kidd), and the Heat still have LeBron, and the Pacers got better … wait a minute. Hold on a second. How is nobody talking about the biggest story on the Nets? The union of Kevin Garnett and Andray Blatche. KG has a history of being a mouthy jerk, and one could argue he’s the most intense player in the NBA. Also, he has a history with Blatche. This memorable encounter is from 2010:
He also was upset with Blatche for engaging in some fourth-quarter in trash talk with Garnett, which helped turn the game in the Celtics’ favor. “We beat ourselves by getting them energized, which got their crowd energized,” Saunders said. “Dray is wolfing the whole time at Kevin Garnett. You can’t do those kinds of things. When you’re coming up and establishing yourself, you don’t take a guy that’s been defensive player of the year and is probably the best power forward and get that guy juiced up to play against you. You got no chance.”
Blatche was noticeably upset and appeared to hold back tears as he explained his encounter with Garnett, which nearly got heated when Garnett approached Blatche and tried to wrestle the ball away from him. Blatche appeared to throw an elbow as Garnett continued to taunt him. Blatche later flung Garnett into a cameraman and sent him to the foul line for two free throws. Garnett smiled as he was helped off the ground. Reserve forward James Singleton said Garnett used his “veteran senses” to needle Blatche and get under his skin.
“I see myself as defending myself as a player. I’m a man, just like they a man. If a man is talking to me this close to my face,” Blatche said, moving his hand toward his cheek. “I’m going to say something back. He has to respect me just like I respect him. I just, ‘Get up out of my face.’ He was this close in my face – I can feel his lips touching my cheek – I wasn’t bragging saying ‘Ah we winning.’ It was ‘Back up.’ “
I tucked a couple videos from the game below.
But these are professional athletes! Sure, Blatche has a way of getting under the skin of people – Gilbert Arenas & the triple double mess come to mind. But nobody carries a grudge three years after an incident, right?
[Aside: Brooklyn, trade for Ben Gordon, please!]
I’ve spent a lot of time projecting the West, since that’s where the concentration of the best teams in the NBA is. The East is top-heavy, and the drop-off after the “Big 5″ is significant. We’re talking about a drop-off that is on par with Adam Sandler’s SNL days (excellent) to Adam Sandler’s movies (putrid).
With free agency mostly over, here’s my look at the East:
1) Miami. Would be smart to rest LeBron/Wade more than last season, unless they really think they can make a run at 72.
2) Chicago. It’s all about the return of Derrick Rose. The supporting cast is top notch.
3) Indiana. Added Granger (from injury), Chris Copeland, Solomon Hill, CJ Watson. Lost Hansbrough & Augustin. Good trade off.
4) Brooklyn. Let’s see about the chemistry, new coach, role players, and health, given the age of Pierce/Johnson/KG.
5) New York. Not the 54-win team they were last year. Maybe 45.
6) Cleveland. Vegas still has the Cavs in the low 30s for wins, so this is extremely optimistic.
7) Detroit. Playoffs will depend on how the backcourt plays. Frontcourt has the talent.
8) Washington. Reminder – the Bucks snuck into the playoffs with 38 wins last year. Washington might only need 35 to do it.
Below that … yikes. I’m slightly more bullish on Charlotte than most, but by that I mean 25 wins. Atlanta and Toronto, I guess, will be in the 35-win range and probably in the mix for the 7th/8th seeds. Boston has a lot of work to do, and could hit rock bottom if it trades Rajon Rondo. Philly, Milwaukee and Orlando will be doormats, though one could argue the 76ers and Magic are best positioned for improvement in the coming years.
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