In this week's edition of the Friday 5 with Ken Berger, the CBSSports.com senior NBA writer talks post-Linsanity, leadership, Barclays Center, and how the flops will come down. You can follow Ken on Twitter at@KBergCBS.
1. We've talked about how financially it was the right move, but I wanted to get your basketball opinion on a similar subject. Will the Knicks miss Jeremy Lin? Will Knicks fans?
KB: Well, not to make too much of preseason statistics, which are largely meaningless, but Jeremy Lin isn't exactly setting the world aflame. In his first four games as a Rocket, Lin is shooting 25 percent from the field (7-for-28) and is 0-for-8 from 3-point range. He does have a nearly 3-1 assist-to-turnover ratio (26-9), but there's a long way to go for Lin to live up to the $25 million investment the Rockets made in him. Knicks fans seem to be split on this issue, but if Lin's struggles continue and the Knicks win, he'll be forgotten. Yes, the guy who was celebrated on the back pages only a few short months ago -- remember the Kobe vs. Jeremy headlines? -- will be relegated to, "Jeremy Who?" status.
2. You've been to every NBA arena and were at Brooklyn's preseason debut. Is the arena as cool/beautiful/swag as everyone says it is?
KB: It's a cool place, in a cool place. Once you get past the oddly shaped and rust-covered exterior, the inside is truly spectacular. The highlights are the herring-bone floor and the way the lights shine on the court and leave the crowd in relative darkness -- a la Staples Center. Everything is shiny and new and smartly done. The deciding factor as far as how good an arena this is will be the crowd. The bar has been set pretty high six miles away at Madison Square Garden, which buzzes like no other place in the league when the Knicks are good and engaging a marquee opponent. Selfishly speaking, early indications are that the wifi signal made available to the media works and is super-fast. Based on how shaky/nonexistent wifi is in the majority of NBA arenas, this is the best thing about it, in my opinion.
UPDATE FRIDAY 12:00 p.m.: I spoke too soon on the amazing, fast, reliable Barclays Center wifi, which was neither amazing, fast, nor reliable in the Nets' second home preseason game Thursday night. In fact, it didn't exist or work at all in the media seats in section 115, which is my new home there. So Barclays Center can be as hipster, clubby, polished and cool as it wants, but as far as I'm concerned, if it doesn't have working internet for the media trying to cover games there, it's no better than, oh, 25 of the other 29 NBA arenas, which don't have reliable wifi, either. Major fail for a league that prides itself on being a leader in the online/social media space. While the league is busy cracking down on player introductions and flopping, it should consider what a contradiction it is to be the pro sport that is covered online and via social media better than any other yet doesn't have a reliable way for those covering the games to be online while, you know, covering the games.
3. Kobe Bryant this week posted to Facebook a response to Smush Parker (really? Smush Parker?!) about leadership, saying that sometimes you have to be willing to be perceived as the villain because it's what's best for the team. Do you think Bryant's intense demands actually make the Lakers better through the years?
KB: Absolutely. Bryant has made few friends and numerous enemies among teammates over the years, but he hasn't been doing this for 17 years in an effort to make friends. His single-minded push for greatness and championships has shaped the approach of the entire organization and everyone he's ever played with. Sometimes, you offend people when you tell them things they don't want to hear. One thing from Bryant recently disturbed me, however. Speaking of how he "almost won an MVP with Smush Parker and Kwame Brown on my team," Bryant added, "What was I supposed to do, pass it to Chris Mihm or Kwame Brown?" This reminded me of a similar statement from a former '90s era star. When asked by Fred Kerber of the New York Post why he was shooting so much, the former '90s era star replied, "What am I supposed to do, pass the ball to Jamie Feick?" That former '90s star was none other than Stephon Marbury, and Jamie Feick was sitting in the locker room 10 feet away when he said it. At least Bryant does his takedowns from afar.
4. T-Mac up and went to China to finish his career. What will you remember most from his time in the league?
KB: Well, I'm going to be very short-sighted here, because McGrady's decline has made it too easy to forget what a great player he was in his day. But given the current nature of my occupation, the first thing that comes to mind with McGrady is his status as owner of the biggest expiring contract in the league. The February 2010 deadline deal that sent him to the Knicks cleared the last bit of cap space the Knicks needed to make a run at Amar'e Stoudemire, I mean, LeBron James.
5. There's been a lot of talk that the competition committee, which features an NBPA representative, was consulted but did not vote to approve the flopping fines policy. What's the point of having that committee if they're not going to actually clear rule changes with them? Is it a rule change?
KB: Well, this is a gray area that the league is trying to use to push these guidelines through. Since fines and other disciplinary measures are technically not rules pertaining to play on the court -- such as the FIBA goaltending rule, for example -- there's no need for the competition committee to vote or the Board of Governors to approve them. There was a lot of debate on the competition committee on the issue, but one person involved in the process called it "too touchy an issue" to discuss. It's kind of shady, and it's a test of the league's power, the way the dress code and crackdown on player behavior toward referees were tests in the past. I suspect nothing will come of the NBPA's unfair labor practices charge; I'm still waiting for the National Labor Relations Board to rule on the various charges filed by both sides during the lockout. My gut feeling is, if there's enough backlash and if flopping is curbed just a little bit, this might go the way of the crackdown on technicals. We might not hear that much about it after a while.