In this week's edition of what used to be the Friday 5 with Ken Berger, the CBSSports.com senior NBA writer talks about parity, the worst play he's seen this week, LeBron's politics, and how the Lakers do suck. You can follow Ken on Twitter@KBergCBS.
1. You wrote about possible parity in the NBA in this week's Post-Ups. Doesn't that go directly against what the NBA has wanted historically with dominant teams being so popular?
KB: Yes, that seems to always have been what the NBA has wanted. And through the CBA talks, I was dubious that the league really wanted competitive balance. Who wants a league of 20 .500 teams when you can have super teams in big markets? It's obviously too early to tell what, exactly, we have under this new CBA -- especially since the Lakers were formed with tactical moves that will be prohibited for tax-paying teams going forward. But it's interesting that attempts by the Lakers and Nets to replicate the Big Three model that worked for the Celtics and Heat haven't exactly worked out so far. It's early, though. The really interesting thing is whether the Lakers and Nets will be willing to cough up enormous tax payments for teams that aren't winning championships. Last week, Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov said the stiffer luxury tax concerned him "only to the level that we can reach championship or not." So if the Nets and Lakers are busts, there will come a time when it's man-overboard -- even for a Russian oligarch and a Hollywood team with a $3 billion local cable deal.
2. You also talked about LeBron James' politicization through the election and how you could do without it. But in this day and age, isn't it better to be open with what you think than be found out? That seems to be the bigger part of this. Getting found out by Deadspin or another site as far as what you actually think gets you the heat for the criticism and the heat for hiding it. Jordan never had to worry about that.
KB: True. But unlike, say, Muhammad Ali, LeBron isn't exactly taking a courageous, life-or-death stand here. He's simply publicly supporting a presidential candidate he likes better than the other guy. That's fine; I don't begrudge him that. And in fact, I think fans have come to appreciate that kind of honesty and personality from their athletes. But while Jordan was too protective of his brand to dabble in even a small political contest in his home state, LeBron isn't really taking an unpopular position by backing President Obama. Let's see him go on the Mark Levin Show and support Paul Ryan for president in 2016. Now that would be courageous.
3. Miami annihilates the Nets after Brooklyn loses to the Raptors earlier this week. First week-plus of play belongs to the Knicks in the battle for New York, right?
KB: No question. It's too early to judge, but the Nets are the clear underdogs in this so-called battle for New York, and so the onus is on them to take the spotlight away from their rivals across the East River. So far, they've taken nothing but the Raptors for granted and a beating from the Heat. They have a long way to go. Having said that, the Knicks are going to hit their share of adversity, too. The difference is, people care about the Knicks when they're winning and when they're losing. (Sometimes, more so when they're losing.) They'll only care about the Nets if they're winning.
4. What's the weirdest play you've seen this week?
KB: I loved the Nick Young, behind-the-backboard fadeaway with 10 seconds left in the quarter. Don't ever change, Nick Young.
5. So ... the Lakers ... uh .... well ... how can I put this ... what in the name of Magic Johnson is going on?
KB: Well, I can't wait to touch base with Mark Cuban when the Mavs (4-1) visit the Knicks, (3-0) Friday night. It was Cuban, you may recall, who said he hoped that this Lakers team would suck. Well, to paraphrase Karl Malone: It DO suck. First we had the Kobe faux frustration, and now we have the Kobe real frustration, and of course, the obligatory vote of confidence for Mike Brown from Jim Buss. Such statements don't always prove to be the kiss of death, but they certainty start the kiss-of-death countdown. I'm puzzled and concerned about what I saw from the Lakers on Wednesday night in Utah. Very slow on defensive rotations ... no cohesion on offense, as if they were half-heartedly running the Princeton sets for five to 10 seconds and then going 1-on-1 ... turnovers ... lack of focus ... lack of toughness ... and worst of all, Dwight Howard moving very poorly. It's as though he either A) came back too soon from back surgery, B) doesn't have his conditioning yet, or C) both. This six-game homestand starting Friday night is very important for the Lakers' confidence, and for Brown's credibility with the players. Because if this team isn't ready to play more effective, cohesive basketball when Steve Nash comes back, that vote of confidence for Brown from Buss could turn into something much worse.