02-01-13 Nets vs. Bulls Pre-Game Notes

    Friday, February 1, 2013, 6:45 PM [General]

    Still stinging from the 105-85 loss to Miami on Wednesday night, the Brooklyn Nets kick off their abbreviated February slate by hosting the Chicago Bulls tonight at Barclays Center.

    It’s a new month for the Nets, who finished January 11-4, tying a franchise-high for wins in that month and also making 2012-13 the first season in franchise history featuring multiple 11-win months. As they start off February, they get a Bulls team that interim coach P.J. Carlesimo called “one of the best defensive teams in the league,” but it’s one that will definitely be playing without both Kirk Hinrich and All-Star forward Joakim Noah and may also be without Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah.

    Hinrich, who has a burst bursa sac in his right elbow, has returned to Chicago to have the elbow evaluated, while Noah (right foot) told the media before the game that he won't play. Boozer (hamstring) is a game-time decision, but even if all three are out, interim coach P.J. Carlesimo still knows the Bulls will be a battle.

    “It’s significant (if they’re out), but it doesn’t change the game plan; Kirk didn’t play when we played in Chicago, and Marquis (Teague) lit us up,” Carlesimo said. “He’s playing well, Nate Robinson is playing out of his mind…there have been nights where absences have benefitted us, and some where you can’t catch a break.”

    Chicago has held each of their last seven opponents to 88 points or less, going 5-2 in that span, and Carlesimo credited Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau’s system for their surge even in the face of injury.

    “They’re relentless, they’re consistent from possession to possession, and they’re able to execute a defensive game plan better than maybe any team in the league,” Carlesimo said. “They have a system that they tweak depending on the matchups, they have three aggressive bigs and great length, and Thibs (coach Tom Thibodeau) has a lot of good players for the system that are defending better than they have anywhere else.”

    This is the second meeting of the season between the Nets and Bulls, the first being a nailbiter in the Windy City on Dec. 15 that the Bulls pulled out by a single point. That so far is the Nets’ only loss in 17 games this season where they’ve held their opponent under 90, but Carlesimo looks back at that loss as an opportunity for improvement.

    “That was one of our better games, and if I recall correctly, that was something like our fourth game in five nights, so it was a great performance,” Carlesimo said of that December loss. “We were up four with the ball with about 1:20 to go, and we turned the ball over a few straight times and their last three shots of the game were layups, but I would absolutely take the first 46 minutes of that game without hesitation. Both teams are different now, and we need to play the way we played in the first half the other night.”

    Carlesimo said that Deron Williams, who has been plagued by flu-like symptoms of late, will once again “play big minutes,” and it’s possible that with a huge night D-Will could pass the 5,000 career assists benchmark. He is 13 away from that milestone, and would become the seventh man to do it in less than 600 games, a factoid that brought high praise from the interim coach.

    “There are aspects of Deron’s game that he doesn’t get credit for. Everyone knows he’s a good scorer, but he’s a way above average defensive point guard, and a way above average creator,” Carlesimo said. “It’s a tribute to him as well with how he’s handled dramatically different situations. If you watch Deron last year versus this year, it’s a dramatic difference with what he can do; so much of what he did with the Utah teams looked effortless because (Jerry) Sloan’s system was so good, and because he had different weapons.”

    One of the guys who may not play big minutes, however, is MarShon Brooks, who has gotten inconsistent minutes of late; according to Carlesimo, Brooks’ role is heavily dependent on matchups and Carlesimo said that tonight’s isn’t in MarShon’s favor.

    “Matchups – and how he handles them when they’re not good – determine a lot,” Carlesimo said. “There’s really not a favorable one tonight, even with Hinrich out. He’ll get out there, and when he gets his chance, if he plays well, particularly on the defensive end, he’ll get his minutes extended – but going into the game, I wouldn’t call this a good matchup.”

    One other thing that Carlesimo will be looking out for is production from his power forwards. Reggie Evans has struggled of late, and Kris Humphries, who hasn’t played 30 minutes in a game since December 4, is down as well, but P.J. said that the “need for more” from his fours doesn’t boil down to a specific set of numbers or assignments.

    “It’s not like we need, say, 14 points and 11 rebounds (from them) every night; unfortunately, it’s a combination of a lot of things,” Carlesimo said. “Tonight, for example, we need them to handle a hellacious matchup in Boozer or Joakim or Taj Gibson and defend a good scorer who can rebound. We need physicality tonight, and/or when Mirza comes in tonight, it could help us space the floor if he can come in and knock down a couple shots.”

    Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES

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    01-30-13 Nets vs. Heat Pre-Game Notes

    Wednesday, January 30, 2013, 7:16 PM [General]

    The Brooklyn Nets square off against the Miami Heat tonight at Barclays Center, looking to extend their home winning streak to nine games and avenge the two losses they’ve already suffered at the hands of LeBron James and company this season

    The big news of the day on the Nets front centers on Brook Lopez, as NBA Commissioner David Stern has selected the Stanford product to replace the injured Rajon Rondo on the Eastern Conference All-Star Team. Lopez was considered as perhaps the preeminent snub when All-Star selections were announced last week, given that he is the only player in the NBA averaging 18 points, seven boards and two blocks per game and is currently fourth in Player Efficiency Rating.

    Lopez was unavailable before the game to speak to the media, but interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo praised his All-Star and said that Lopez believes it was a team effort to get him into the game.

    “I think it’s great; when Rajon went down, we were hopeful (to get an All-Star),” Carlesimo said. “We had three candidates, two if (Stern) wanted a guard and obviously Brook. The first thing (Lopez) said to me is that so many of his points this seasonare results of double teams and (Deron Williams and Joe Johnson) finding him. … I don’t think, honestly, Brook gets selected if we’re not having the kind of year we’re having, so the team feels good about it.”

    Joe Auriemma will have more on Lopez’s selection to the All-Star Team later tonight here on YESNetwork.com, and you can check out the team’s official release on the site as well.

    The other big news of the day is the war of words between the teams, foremost the comments Nets forward Reggie Evans, who told the New York Daily News that he doesn’t consider the Heat “true champions” because of the lockout shortening the 2011-12 season and had some strong words for the reigning NBA MVP.

    “Our team is defending the Miami Heat. If our team has to defend one person, LeBron isn’t going to score nothing. …LeBron is no different from Joe Johnson or Andray Blatche; no different,” Evans said. “People need help (on defense). Some people don’t need help. Everybody has to be double-teamed, it doesn’t matter who you are. You just have to stop LeBron in transition.”

    James refused comment about that subject at this morning’s shootaround, instead weighing in on the Nets’ current coaching situation and questioning the team’s motivations during Brooklyn’s resurgence under Carlesimo.

    “They’re not doing anything different; they’re playing with I would say more passion. They’re playing more together and like they want to play for the coach,” James said. “It sucks that Avery had to take the hit at them not wanting to play at a high level but that’s what it looks like to me.  They just picked it up in intensity level and you can tell they like to play for P.J.”

    In his press conference, which had its share of lighthearted moments, Carlesimo was asked about James’ comments, and sat silent for a few seconds before offering his take on what he called his “Jekyll and Hyde” team.

    “I think that LeBron is entitled to his opinion…but the first thing we said to the team that Friday morning (after Johnson’s firing) was that collectively, all the players and assistants, had we done a better job, Avery would still be coaching,” Carlesimo said. “We believed that then, and we believe that now; I’m certainly not going to disagree with LeBron before we play them, but no one liked the situation.”

    As for the game itself, Deron Williams is still a true game-time decision with flu-like symptoms, and Carlesimo admitted he hadn’t even inquired about his point guard’s services 90 minutes before tipoff.

    “I haven’t seen him, but I think he’s going to try; (Nets trainer) Timmy (Walsh) probably would have told me if he couldn’t,” Carlesimo said.

    The coach also said that Williams, who didn’t practice on Monday, looked “lousy” at Tuesday’s shootaround and couldn’t do a lot, but he didn’t rule out Deron playing and having a big game.

    “He’s under the weather to put it mildly, but he’s been there before and played through it, so we’ll see,” Carlesimo said. “It could be anything from he’ll shock us and look like normal Deron Williams to he’ll try but there’s nothing there…we’ll see what happens.”

    Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is also in attendance for tonight’s game, as well as Friday’s tilt with Chicago, and questions about that attendance and his own job status led to the comedic highlight of Carlesimo’s mostly upbeat pre-game media meeting.

    “From the beginning (Prokhorov) has made me very comfortable and said ‘just go coach the team,’ and I don’t feel the need to (meet with him). … I don’t think he’s coming in to see me, I think Miami and Chicago had a little something to do with it,” Carlesimo joked, adding that “I don’t think he was sitting in Moscow the other day saying ‘you know, I have to go see P.J.’”

    On Monday, Nets GM told Billy King that he would be meeting with Prokhorov this week, with Carlesimo’s future one of the potential topics.

    And, in one other piece of big news, the reigning Miss America, Mallory Hagan, is here at Barclays Center tonight and will be singing the National Anthem prior to the game.

    Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES

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    Remembering The Babe and The Boss

    Thursday, January 3, 2013, 4:57 PM [General]

    According to canon, January 3, 1920 is the official date that Babe Ruth was sold to the Yankees for $100,000, and we’ve chronicled the anniversary with a list of great Ruth moments that is currently running here on YESNetwork.com.

    However, January 3 is a big day for the Yankees organizations in more ways than one, as it was also 40 years ago today that a group led by George M. Steinbrenner III bought the team from CBS for $10 million.

    For the next 37 years, from the day he took over until his passing in July 2010 just after his 80th birthday,  Steinbrenner was undoubtedly the most hands-on owner in Major League Baseball. His tenure may have been quite tumultuous, but there’s no denying his success; the Yankees won 15 American League East titles, 11 AL pennants, and seven World Series from 1973-2010, and over the last two seasons, they team has won back-to-back AL East crowns with son Hal Steinbrenner in charge.

    There are myriad great moments in Yankees history, so many that even a Top 100 list would likely omit some famous ones, but January 3 is the anniversary of one that turned a potentially-fading dynasty back into a prominent piece of sports lore.

    And so, today, we salute two men enshrined in Monument Park forever, The Babe and The Boss.  

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    NFL Week 17: New York Giants Playoff Scenarios

    Friday, December 28, 2012, 1:15 PM [General]

    What a difference (almost) a year makes.

    On New Year’s Day, 2012, the 8-7 Dallas Cowboys traveled to a cold Northeast to face a division rival on Sunday Night Football, with a simple ultimatum: Win and you’re the NFC East Champions and No. 4 seed in the playoffs, lose and you go home.

    They lost, they went home, and that division rival, the New York Giants, went on to win Super Bowl XLVI.

    Flash forward 365 days, and on Dec. 30, the Cowboys are once again in a similar situation. This time, however, the opponent is the Redskins and the locale is Washington, D.C. – but once again, they may be the Giants’ last hope for a playoff berth.

    Standing at 8-7 themselves, the G-Men are currently the No. 9 team in the NFC, and need to beat Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon to even have a shot at making the playoffs. But, even if they do that, situations look bleak, as they also need Minnesota to lose to Green Bay, Chicago to lose to Detroit, and Dallas to lose to Washington as well.

    If the first three are all accomplished by the time Sunday night rolls around, then Giants fans will actually be rooting for the Washington Redskins to win the NFC East. Then, should the Skins win to finish off the superfecta, the Giants’ 8-4 conference record would give them the tiebreaker over the Vikings and Bears and earn them the sixth and final NFC playoff berth.

    Funny how Week 17 being one full of intra-division games makes for strange bedfellows, eh?

    Should the Giants make the playoffs, they can only face one of two familiar opponents in the first round:

    GREEN BAY: The Packers have clinched the NFC North, and can clinch the No. 2 seed with a win or losses by both the 49ers and Seahawks. Should they lose to Minnesota and watch either Seattle or San Francisco win, however, they will be the No. 3 seed at 11-5, and would host the No. 6 seeded Giants on Wild Card Weekend.

    SAN FRANCISCO: The 49ers currently lead the NFC West at 10-4-1, will clinch the division with either a win or a Seattle loss, and could be the No. 2 seed with a win and a Packers loss. However, if the Packers get the No. 2 seed, then San Francisco as NFC West champion would be No. 3, sending the G-Men cross country to face the Niners for the third time in the 2012 calendar year – and as Giants fans certainly remember, those first two wins were an overtime win in last year’s NFC Championship Game and a convincing 26-3 win for Big Blue in Week 6 of this season.

    Seattle could also technically be the No. 3 seed, but to do so, they would need Green Bay to lose to Minnesota – a scenario that would give the Vikings the final playoff spot and eliminate the Giants.

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    12-23-12 Nets vs. Sixers Pregame Notes

    Sunday, December 23, 2012, 1:56 PM [General]

    Today marks the first matchup of the season between the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers, who clash in a matinee at the Barclays Center this afternoon.

    Owners of a three-game losing streak, the Nets enter the game at 13-12, still in second place in the Atlantic Division but in danger of falling to .500 for the first time since they beat Orlando on Nov. 11 to go to 3-2. Brooklyn is coming off a three-day break, however, suiting up for their first game since Wednesday’s loss to the Knicks at MSG, and Avery Johnson says his team is ready to go after the much-needed respite.

    “It’s been valuable on a lot of different fronts; the big one is rest, coming out of a series of back-to-back fronts,” Johnson said during his pre-game press conference. “We also got to practice and take a look at how we’re functioning, and our staff got a chance to watch a lot of video, but now it’s back to work.”

    The break also gave Johnson a chance to see things in action and make some tweaks, one of which he hopes comes to fruition is more consistency with ball movement and execution.

    “I’m anxious (to see what we look like today); that’s part of this whole experiment, and one of the main things is, when you talk about our offense, it was too much one-on-one,” Johnson said. “I don’t mind that at the end of the shot clock, but we’ve been doing it too much, so we’ve taken a look at how we function in those situations, and hope to have a little bit more continuity.”

    The Nets have recalled both Tyshawn Taylor and Tornike Shengelia from the D-League, so they have their full 15 in uniform today, and Johnson was happy with both men’s performance in their line D-League game on Friday.

    “I thought it was a good experiment to get them down there, they played a lot of minutes and had some highlights,” Johnson said. “Obviously they made some mistakes, but they did what we sent them down there to do: get some minutes and make plays in our system. Tyshawn ended up with probably a few too many shots, but he did a good job, and Toko did exactly what we needed him to do; he’s a multi-skilled young player, and his line (22 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists) showed it.”

    Mirza Teletovic and Josh Childress are the team’s inactives today, meaning that Jerry Stackhouse, who has been inactive for the last five games because of a sore knee, will see his first action since Dec. 11 – and Johnson is happy to have one of the sparkplugs of the “Bench Mob” back.

    “I think that during the stretch when we won some games, Stackhouse was pretty good for us in his role,” Johnson said. “There were times I had to overuse him because of the lack of production in other places, but he’s feeling pretty good; he had a good practice yesterday, and he’s been doing a lot of shooting. He’s also been good about spending a lot of time with our other guards before practice (to help them) as well.”

    As for the Sixers, Philadelphia comes in at 13-14, sitting in fourth place in the Atlantic but mathematically just a game behind the Nets in the standings. Boston, who will be Brooklyn’s opponent on Tuesday, is right in the middle at 13-13, and Johnson knows that these next two games could be very important in the race to break out of the pack.

    “We’re kind of all lumped together; the Knicks have a pretty good lead, but it’s nothing that’s insurmountable,” Johnson said. “Everybody has their share of challenges and concerns, and just like us, I’m sure Boston and Philly expected to win a few more games so far, but it hasn’t happened.”

    Philadelphia is still without their big offseason acquisition, center Andrew Bynum, who has yet to play this year while battling knee issues, and in his place at the five will be 6-foot-9 Lavoy Allen, who was just re-inserted into the starting lineup on Friday and is averaging 6.2 points and 5.6 rebounds as a starter.

    Allen will have his hands full with Brook Lopez down low, but despite the size disadvantage for the Sixers, Johnson knows that his opponent does rely heavily on one facet of the game that has been tough for the Nets to stop at times this year.

    “They’ve become a pretty good three-point shooting team, they really look for threes and have a lot of guys who can hit them,” Johnson said. “They’re a quick team, and Thaddeus Young has given us problems since I’ve been here because he’s a tough cover, so I think they’ve decided to spread the floor and play to their strengths.”

    Something will have to give for the Nets, who are 5-2 against the Atlantic Division this year (with boss losses to the division-leading Knicks) but are just 1-5 at home in December after a 7-1 November.

    “There’s no sense of entitlement, especially with us, because we haven’t won anything yet, and I think we’ve struggles sometimes when we’ve been talked into thinking we’re the favorites because of all our changes,” Johnson said. “The way you become a favorite is by being really consistent. We have to play well, and what other teams respect is consistency.”

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    12-19-12 Nets vs. Knicks Pre-Game Notes

    Wednesday, December 19, 2012, 6:40 PM [General]

    Round 3 of the Battle of the Boroughs tips off tonight, as the Nets make their first trip of the season to Madison Square Garden to take on the Atlantic Division-leading Knicks.

    Losers of two straight games, Brooklyn will once again be without Josh Childress and Jerry Stackhouse, who are both inactive while battling foot and knee injuries, respectively. For the Knicks, Carmelo Anthony (sprained ankle) was still a “game-time” decision for Knicks coach Mike Woodson about 90 minutes prior to the game, while sharpshooter Steve Novak will be out because of the flu.

    In his pre-game press conference, which you can watch in its entirety here, Nets head coach Avery Johnson said that he was focused on doing a better job of defending the three-point line tonight, which he felt was one of the biggest issues in their 100-97 loss to the Knicks eight nights ago.

    “They play to their strengths, and we play to our strengths…they’re a high three-point shooting team, and they have a guy in Anthony that they can get the ball to in a number of ways,” Johnson said. “It’s been a tale of two games in how we’ve defended the three-point line; we did well in game one, but not so well in the second.”

    Carmelo Anthony had a game-high 45 points in the Knicks win, and should the league’s second leading scorer be ready to go, he will be the other main focus on the defensive end.

    “If he plays, that’s a serious threat, because he plays at a high level all the time; they can throw the ball to him and he can score in a variety of ways,” Johnson said. “He kind of got away from us a little bit in game two, and we have to do a good job of defending him at the basket.”

    For Knicks coach Mike Woodson, however, his main focus was on stopping Brook Lopez, who is averaging 14.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game since returning to the lineup last Friday. Johnson has said that any minutes restrictions he may have had on Lopez prior to tonight are off, and Woodson praised the opposing center when asked during his own pre-game presser how the Knicks would handle Lopez, especially if they were shorthanded up front if Anthony is a no-go.

    “Lopez is a big target; he can post the basketball, he can play face up, he rebounds all four sides…he’s a load,” Woodson said prior to the game. “We have to deal with that, and Tyson (Chandler) just has to play him and we’ll get him help where and when we can.”

    Chandler is the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year, but Woodson said that playing a multi-faceted center like Lopez won’t necessarily change what his big man does within the Knicks’ system.

    “Every center, in every game we play, is different, so we prepare differently anyway,” Woodson said. “(Lopez) can score, and he can do a little bit of everything (defensively), so we have to watch him everywhere.”

    Woodson also had nothing but praise for Nets guard Joe Johnson, whom he coached while both were in Atlanta from 2005-10.

    “(Johnson’s) still an All-Star, still a player that can make big shots and get them in bunches. He hit that game-winning shot against Detroit, and he’s always capable of doing that,” Woodson said. “We’ve got to make sure that we try to keep him down as much as possible, especially in those situations.”

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    12-14-12 Nets vs. Pistons Pregame Notes

    Friday, December 14, 2012, 6:48 PM [General]

    The Nets return home after a successful trip to Toronto on Wednesday night, and they’ll have their big man back for Friday’s tilt with the Pistons.

    Center Brook Lopez is officially a go tonight, back in the starting lineup after missing the last seven games with a sprained foot. Coach Avery Johnson said that Lopez will play about half the game, and it will be constant communication during those minutes to see how he feels and try to avoid losing Lopez once again.

    “We don’t know what will happen tomorrow or going forward, but we’ll take it day by day, and see where he is at all times,” Johnson said. “The idea is not to have any setbacks, and I think we’ve done everything under the sun and taken every precaution to make sure of that, but now it’s time for him to get out on the court and try to get back to where he was, and we’ll talk about tomorrow when tonight is over with.”

    Lopez will start up front alongside Reggie Evans, who will be the starting power forward for the fourth straight game. Evans, who had nine points and 11 rebounds in Wednesday’s win, will also get some minutes with the second unit alongside Andray Blatche – with Johnson saying he might sub Evans out early to accommodate that – but the coach was also quick to say that Kris Humphries’ move to a reserve role is more of a comfort issue than a performance one.

    “Reggie has been in the lineup and is in a pretty good rhythm, so we didn’t want to come out and have two guys now starting that haven’t been,” Johnson said of the lineup shuffle. “We’ll see how it goes; it’s early enough that we can give it a game or two or three to see how we like Brook and Reggie starting, and we can always go back to Hump. He’s been solid for us, but we just want to try something else.”

    The Nets will try to snap a four-game home losing streak that has sent their Barclays record spiraling to 7-5. Johnson said he believes that having Lopez back will help the Nets control the pace and break out of their malaise.

    “Our defense has kind of regressed a little bit, we’ve given up more points, and we’ve taken some bad threes,” Johnson said, “so there’s a drastic statistical difference, but hopefully we’ll get back to playing our pace. We have a certain pace that works for us, and when we play faster, we’re less effective.”

    Although Lopez is back, he is replaced on the injury report by Jerry Stackhouse, who will be inactive tonight because of a sore right knee. Stackhouse did not play Wednesday – a planned “off-day” for the veteran – but Johnson said he did in fact “tweak” his knee during Tuesday’s loss to the Knicks.

    “When he woke up on Wednesday, Jerry wasn’t feeling too good either way,” Johnson said, but he was coy when asked if the tweak may have come on Stackhouse’s frantic attempt to defend Jason Kidd’s game-winning shot on Tuesday, only saying that “it was a rough tumble.”

    In one final note, this game marks former Nets coach Lawrence Frank’s first visit to the Barclays Center, which was in the infancy of its planning stages when he was let go 16 games into the 2009-10 season.

    Frank was born and raised in Teaneck, New Jersey, and had nothing but praise for Barclays Center – and the Nets’ move to Brooklyn – in his pre-game press briefing.

    “When I was here, this was just a thought, but you see all the hard work that went into it becoming a reality,” Frank said. “(Barclays Center developer and former Nets owner) Bruce Ratner stayed the course, they invested in the team and in the city, and it’s a beautiful building.”

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    Thursday's Ichiro Suzuki Update

    Thursday, December 13, 2012, 7:06 PM [General]

    Ichiro Suzuki is still “on the verge” of re-signing with the New York Yankees, although the framework of their agreement has now apparently changed; now, it looks like the 39-year-old outfielder will be getting a two-year deal to stay in the Bronx, reportedly worth around $12-$14 million.

    Earlier in the off-season, it was posited that Ichiro would be getting a one-year deal worth somewhere in the range of $5 million. However, as the New York Post’s Joel Sherman Tweeted Thursday afternoon, the Yankees learned that it would require a two-year deal to keep Suzuki in pinstripes.

    Later in the afternoon, CBSSports.com insider Jon Heyman Tweeted that Ichiro had told the team he wanted to remain in New York, and that he had turned down a pair of larger two-year contract offers from other teams to do so.

    According to ESPN's Buster Olney, one of those deals was a $14 million deal from Philadelphia, with the Daily News’ Mark Feinsand reporting that the other is believed to be a $15 million offer from San Francisco.

    Either way, Ichiro seems to be bound for right field in Yankee Stadium in 2013, but it now appears as if he could be there in 2014 as well. As always, stay tuned to YESNetwork.com as further details emerge.

    Ichiro aside, the Yankees did reportedly get one official piece of good news on the free agent front Thursday; as Jack Curry Tweeted, according to sources, Kevin Youkilis has passed his physical, and the team will officially announce his one-year deal soon.

    Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES

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    12-11-12 Nets vs. Knicks Pregame Notes

    Tuesday, December 11, 2012, 6:26 PM [General]

    The season’s first matchup between the Nets and Knicks went Brooklyn’s way, but the Nets will look a little bit different when they host their intra-city rivals at Barclays Center once again tonight.

    Center Brook Lopez will sit out tonight’s game for Brooklyn, the sixth straight game he’s missed since spraining his foot in the Nets’ Nov. 28 win at Boston. Andray Blatche will once again get the nod in Lopez’s place, and both Nets GM Billy King telling reporters at this morning’s shootaround that Lopez is all but out for the second half of their back-to-back.

    "We don't want to rush him; we want him to be 100 percent confident when he goes on the court,” King said of Lopez, who took part in a 5-on-5 practice Monday but hasn’t gone further. “There's nothing wrong with his foot MRI-wise; it's just him getting ready to play in an NBA game. It's a long season and we want to get him back where he's the best to play."

    Coach Avery Johnson confirmed in his pre-game press conference that Lopez would indeed be out both tonight and tomorrow – saying he would stay in Brooklyn for treatment instead of going with the team to Toronto – and while Blatche has averaged 17.2 points and 9.8 rebounds while starting the last five games , Johnson knows the team will need to pick up the slack defensively somewhere.

    “In a lot of games, Brook has been our best players, and our most consistent player, so not having him in the lineup, with the blocked shots and helping us at the basket, we’re going to need to be better defensively,” Johnson said. “Brook’s not going to be there for us when we gamble defensively.”

    In addition to Blatche starting for Lopez, Reggie Evans will once again start at the power forward spot for the Nets, relegating Kris Humphries to a reserve role. Avery Johnson first made this change in the lineup for Sunday’s game against Milwaukee, although both men played roughly equal minutes, and Johnson hopes that moving Humphries around will help assuage the struggles the second unit has undergone since Blatche moved into the starting lineup.

    “Look at our defensive numbers; sure, Blatche has played pretty good offensively, but you’re going from a guy (in Lopez) who blocked a lot of shots, and we’re not getting those blocks to correct a lot of mistakes,” Johnson said. “And with Brook, it’s the blocked shot attempts that have an affect on opponents. A lot of times, when a starter is being replaced, you can’t just look at his numbers; you have to look at team numbers…and Lopez helps slow our team down when we get into a helter-skelter mode, so we have to figure that out.”

    The Knicks are also banged up in the frontcourt, as both Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace are dealing with left foot issues; Wallace is probable for tonight with Camby questionable, but New York will have Jason Kidd, who missed the first meeting between the two teams with back spasms, in the starting lineup.

    “Jason is a terrific passer, he understands where the ball should be offensively, and he’s a good ballhandler,” Johnson said. “Defensively, he’s very crafty, and he has a lot of experience, so he knows where a lot of teams’ strengths are defensively.”

    Kidd will be part of a smaller Knicks starting five with Raymond Felton, Ronnie Brewer, and Carmelo Anthony in front of Tyson Chandler, and Avery Johnson reiterated an old mantra in explaining how the Nets would deal with a small lineup.

    “Like I’ve said all along, Brewer in our mind is the four, and Carmelo is the three,” Johnson joked. “But for us, we need to play at our pace offensively and take care of the basketball.  There are times when they’re really, really, really small, but we have a lot of versatility with our roster, so you’ll see Humphries or Reggie playing some center for us, because they try to put you in a bind with the way they spread the floor.”

    Hopefully, all of that will help the Nets get back on track, as they are mired in a four-game losing streak that has seen them drop their last three at home, including Sunday’s 97-88 loss to Milwaukee that saw them trail by as many as 29.

    Brooklyn is 4-0 against the Atlantic Division this year, and they hope to continue what is their best star against the division since a franchise-best 6-0 run in 2003-04 by ending their four-game homestand with a win.

    “It’s going to be a dogfight, literally, in this division all year,” Johnson said. “Right now, we haven’t been so good in our last four games, and we need to find a way to snap out of it; It’s going to be an electrifying and energetic night, and it’s always good to leave home with a win, so this would be a great night to do it.”

    Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES

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    Josh Hamilton and the MLB Luxury Tax

    Friday, December 7, 2012, 3:10 PM [General]

    If you’ve ever played a game of Monopoly, then chances are you’ve paid the “Luxury Tax,” a nice little docking from your wallet for landing in between the two richest properties on the board.

    For the Yankees, every baseball season since the tax was instituted in 2003 has paralleled that scenario, as they’ve been forced to pay the tax for having their payroll exceed whatever the threshold has been set at. The Yankees plan to stem that tide come 2014, when the tax threshold is set at $189 million and some of their top prospects are closer to the Majors, but for now, it’s business as usual.

    So what does this have to do with Brian Cashman’s winter 2012-13 shopping list?

    Josh Hamilton, that’s what.

    As you may have read, USA Today writer Bob Nightengale Tweeted the following this morning:

    Throughout the winter, Hamilton has been purported to get an expensive multi-year deal somewhere…but since reports broke of the Yankees’ link, many in the social media universe have asked why the Yankees don’t either offer someone like Hamilton a huge one-year deal (as in A-Rod money), or just structure a front-loaded contract (again, like A-Rod’s) so that they pay less money in the future.

    Answer: The Luxury Tax.

    In the long-term, it matters not because the luxury tax isn’t a one-year qualifier. For one-year deals, yes, what you see is what you get – but for players under long-term contract, the “tax hit” is calculated using the average annual value (AAV) of the guaranteed money remaining as its base number, similar to the NHL’s salary cap.

    Basically, what that means is that if a player was signed to a two-year, $10 million deal, his value against the tax threshold is $5 million in both seasons – regardless of how the actual money is paid out. For example, Alex Rodriguez’ contract says he will make $29 million in 2013 and $26 million in 2014, but his tax hit in both years will be $27.5 million, because that is the AAV of his deal ($275 million divided by 10 years).

    So, even if the Yankees signed someone like Hamilton to a contract that is front-loaded (or even back-loaded), their tax hit would be the same every year no matter what.

    In the short-term, there’s two dilemmas. For one, the Yankees know they’re going to pay the tax again in 2013 for sure; the threshold is set at $178 million and the Yankees have over $150 million worth of “tax hit” invested 10 players (plus what they owe Pittsburgh for A.J. Burnett), so it’s almost inevitable that the final 30 who fill out the 40-man roster will push them over the threshold.

    But secondly, the tax percentage actually increases this year, which means that the Yankees could pay more than ever before. This year, teams who exceed the threshold for at least the fourth time will pay a 50 percent penalty – a steep raise from the 42.5 percent the Yankees will pay for 2012; that means that for every million dollars they exceed the threshold, they will pay $500,000 in tax on it.

    Translation: If they gave someone like Hamilton a one-year, $20 million deal, it would eventually cost them $30 million in actual dollars.

    And so, what you’re left with is Brian Cashman and the Yankees brass in perhaps their most challenging off-season so far, trying to find the balance between adding the right pieces and keeping the future payroll manageable enough to meet the $189 million goal in 2014.

    And you thought baseball was just a game?

    Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES

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    12-04-12 Nets vs. Thunder Pregame Notes

    Tuesday, December 4, 2012, 6:58 PM [General]

    The Nets will put their six-game home winning streak on the line tonight when they take on the defending Western Conference Champion Oklahoma City Thunder at Barclays Center.

    Brooklyn will once again be without the services of Brook Lopez, who is still day-to-day with a mild foot sprain, but they will also be without Reggie Evans tonight, who has the flu and is inactive. Between the two, they’ll be missing their leading scoring and rebounding presences down low against Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka (14.4 points, 7.6 rebounds per game, and coach Avery Johnson said that it’s all hands on deck tonight against one of the better frontcourts in the NBA.

    “We pride ourselves on having depth; those guys are very important to our team, so tonight you’ll probably see some lineups you haven’t seen, and see guys play a little more tonight that haven’t played as much recently,” Johnson said. “Everything’s on the table tonight, because those two guys are a major part of what we’re all about.”

    The Nets are coming off a 13-point loss in Miami Saturday, one that came in a game they led by nine at halftime, and Johnson was adamant that the Nets have to play their game tonight and not get caught up in chasing the Thunder.

    “We’re going to have to play more of a 48-minute game tonight than we did last night; playing one half won’t cut it,” Johnson said. “We have our own pace, and we’re not going to be very good playing at the Thunder’s pace; we tend to be a better fast-breaking team in the first half, but if we can play really good defense and get out on the break early, we’re a much better team.”

    That was the final game of a three-game trip that saw Brooklyn play thrice in four days, and Johnson hopes some home cooking will help the Nets rebound; they have won six straight and seven of eight overall at Barclays Center, and the crowd will surely be a huge sixth man against the Thunder again tonight.

    “Any time we can have a chance to play at home, it’s great for us, because it’s a great atmosphere; the fans are really into the game, and we get a lot of energy here, and that’s what we aspire for,” Johnson said. “Tonight, this is the game we’re focused on, and it’s a pretty monumental task playing against a team that’s been together and represented the Western Conference (in the NBA Finals).”

    Deron Williams could be a key tonight for the Nets;  D-Will is fourth in the league in assists per game this season with 8.9 – just ahead of OKC’s Russell Westbrook – and is averaging 24 points and 11.4 assists in his last six games against the Thunder. Most of those games came with a Nets team that Williams often had to carry at times, but Williams played this summer with Durant and Westbrook in the Olympics, so he knows his enemy and Johnson isn’t worried about Williams’ transition.

    “(This season) has been a little bit of an adjustment, trying to figure out when to take the game over, when to pass and get other guys involved,” Johnson said, “and I think there’s been a fine line with that this year, but he’ll figure it out more and more.”

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    A 10-question chat with Brian Cashman

    Friday, November 30, 2012, 2:03 PM [General]

    On Friday morning, Brian Cashman addressed the media atop the Landmark Building in Stamford, Conn., moments before doing a practice run for his weekend rappel. Below are the GM’s quotes on a few of the subjects broached in the early-AM chill.

    On Russell Martin signing with Pittsburgh: “This isn’t something that caught us off guard. It’s something we were very well aware of. The agent was very honest with us, as well as the player, Russell. The best shot we took at retaining him was in spring training and obviously it was more difficult and now he’s moving on.”

    On the catching situation: “We have people that can handle and run the game…and at the very least, that’s our fallback. The offense is an area that, currently with what our roster provides, will be a downgrade from what we’re used to, but (it’s not) the most important aspect. We are going to have to pursue a lot of areas on this club – the bench, right field, potentially catching, maybe not – (and) it’s possible that our catchers are right here on this roster right now. That is very possible, and more likely than not, to be honest. But we’ll see. Patience is a virtue and good things come to those who wait.”

    On top catching prospect Austin Romine: “I think he’s on the outside looking in, but when you get this close to the big leagues, things can come quick. If you’ve got a lot of talent, things can come quick. That talent, it can close the gap very quickly. At this planning stage, the plan would be for him to be at Triple-A everyday and having a full year at Triple-A, but we’ll see.”

    On adding to the bullpen: “On top of Mariano? I don’t think that’s necessary. I’m not opposed to it, but it’s not on the need list. If we get something added to the bullpen, it would be something that presented itself that made too much sense in the marketplace, whether it’s trade or free agency or what have you. It wouldn’t make much sense given the team needs and the remaining dollars that we have.”

    On searching for infield depth: “It’s an area that I will focus on, but (I can’t say) whether anything materializes from that area. We have people on the roster currently; it’s just, what’s the ability to upgrade on it? What’s the availability in terms of what’s in the marketplace, both free agent and trade? Does any of that make sense with the cost associated with it, whether it’s your assets as a player or a dollar amount? And if you do anything in that capacity, how does it take away from all the other areas on the field that we need to address as well?”

    On whether Eric Chavez wants to return or will retire: “I haven’t really talked to him; I’m not aware either way.”

    On Derek Jeter’s recovery: “He had a checkup a couple of weeks ago in North Carolina and everything is going very well, so he’s going to be ready for us by Opening Day. He’ll be a restricted player early in camp, but all indications are very strong for a full and healthy recovery. He just has to wait it out, that’s all.”

    On the New York Post’s unflattering back-page photo in Friday’s edition: “The one thing you don’t have to worry about is Derek Jeter. Bottom line is, the most important thing Derek can do right now is rest. … I saw that the picture said he’s heavy. I can’t tell you he’s heavy. Even if he was, I’m not worried about Derek Jeter in that capacity in any way because you’re not going to find anybody more committed to being the best that he can be than Derek Jeter.”

    On the trade market: “I’m engaged. I’ve talked to everybody on several occasions to make sure that there’s no opportunities that we’re going to miss out on. If there’s a chance to match up, you explore those options, but matching up is difficult.”

    On the offseason going forward: “We obviously have more work to do; the priority has been pitching, and step by step, we’re getting that piece back together again. I think we’ll feel really good about the staff as we start. There’s two sides of the ball, you’ve got to do defense and an offense. The defensive side, I think is getting addressed pretty strongly, and the offensive side we’re going to have to start focusing on.”

    Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES

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