In a podcast that aired Wednesday, Stephen A. Smith said it’s time for NBA fans to show “some respect” for the Brooklyn Nets, who he described as a “nice team” with a lot of cap space and maybe, just maybe an “in” with one of the top free agents this summer, Kawhi Leonard.
“We gotta pay attention to the Brooklyn Nets. The Brooklyn Nets. It is time we showed them more respect. particularly because of the cap money they’re going to have available. The question is, Can they recruit?,” asked ESPN’s Smith, then adopting a conspiratorial tone, added, “I think one of their assistant coaches was seen having dinner last week with Kawhi Leonard when they played Toronto. Look man, you can’t rule out anything.”
Smith didn’t disclose any other details about the purported dinner, but it’s fair to note that two of the Nets assistants have connections to Leonard, Jacque Vaughn who was a Spurs assistant coach and Tiago Splitter who played with Leonard on the 2014 Spurs championship team. (Frank Isola has also reported that Sean Marks has has great rapport with Leonard’s uncle and advisor, South Orange, N.J.-based Dennis Robertson.)
In his near 20-minute rant —all of it thoroughly entertaining, Smith said his eyes were opened about the Nets Tuesday night at Barclays Center, when he was on hand for their win over the Lakers.
“The Brooklyn Nets! It’s hard to believe what I am seeing before my very eyes. D’Angelo Russell? You remember him? Remember the dude that ruined the relationship between Swaggy P and Iggy Azalea? … I got news for you. D’Angelo Russell showed up last night…
“You look at the Brooklyn Nets. They got a nice team devoid of any stars. Just a bunch of solid players who coach Atkinson is getting them to play together and buy into what he is selling,” said Smith in a near shout.
The key, Smith said, was the Nets cache of cap space.
“Now, lo and behold, guess who else has enough cap space for two players? The Brooklyn Nets. The Brooklyn Nets. They’re committed to about $42 million next year. The cap is expected to be about $107, $108 million next year, maybe $109. They may have $60 million in cap space. They may have enough to pay two max players.
Moreover, said Smith, the Nets already have pieces, role players who can play with “mega stars.”
“When you look at the other pieces, you gotta remember when you have two stars, two mega-stars, all you want around them is role players … guys who understand how their turkey is gravyed, who understand how their bread is buttered,” Smith argued.
“Brooklyn has the personnel for it to fit. Dinwiddie and Harris and Allen and these boys. They got a nice team. Atkinson can coach. Sean Marks is building something!”
And as an added bonus, Stephen A. dissed the Knicks.
“We been talking about the Knicks! FOR WHAT? … “
In fact, said Smith, the Knicks situation is very unsettled. It depends on having Kristaps Porzingis (New York’s other Latvian basketball player) return to action this season and not wait till 2019-20.
“Porzingis has to come back. Porzingis has to come back. If Porzingis does not come back before the season is over , the Knicks are not going to acquire a free agent this summer. You know why? Because nobody is going to come unless they know Porzingis is going to be immediately available. They don’t want to come to New York unless they know they’re going to play with Porzingis,” he said.
Neither the Knicks nor Porzingis have indicated when the 7’3” power forward will return, later this season or next. Porzingis will be a restricted free agent this summer.
Smith said the summer looks like it’s set up for a bicoastal competition for free agents.
“Right now, it gets very interesting. In the two biggest markets in the United States of America, we have four teams who are going to have enough money for at least one max player and two teams who are going to have enough money for two max players, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Brooklyn Nets!,” he pointed out.
“The step-children to the Knicks and the Lakers are going to have cap space for two players. The Knicks and the Lakers are going to have cap space for one max player… This is getting very, very interesting, I must say, I must say. I don’t recall having this much fun talking basketball for a long time.”
He sure did.
Smith is one a number of NBA commentators who have had positive words about the Nets during their winning streak, among them Jalen Rose, Greg Anthony, Candace Parker and David Griffin.