When Paul Pierce persuaded Kevin Garnett to play for the Nets—and for rookie coach Jason Kidd—it clinched the deal of the summer. Now the clock is already ticking on a group of highly paid but aging stars as they strive to lead the franchise to its first NBA championship and give new meaning to the Beastie Boys’ addage, “No Sleep Till Brooklyn.” Writes Chris Mannix, “Perhaps the most persistent concern is what Garnett, 37, and Pierce, 36, have left, a question that was raised after the Celtics lost in the first round last spring. “Don’t read too much into that,” says then Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “When [Rajon] Rondo went down, we asked them to do too much. They went from trying to mesh into the team to having to carry it again. But Paul can play forever; he never uses his athleticism. And Kevin—as long as you watch his minutes—can still be Kevin Garnett.”
Kidd is as attuned to the modern game and player as any, even though he is lacking in procedural aspects and experience at the helm. Last season he was a veteran player. This season he will be the boss, but not so far removed from his fraternity of brothers in the locker room. “Unlike most first-year coaches, Kidd isn’t expected to develop talent, but rather to make full use of a surplus of it,” writes Mannix. “Kidd understands that on a team loaded with stars, he is potentially its biggest liability. Still, his philosophy will blend the approaches of the men he played for.” | SI senior writer Chris Mannix
A year and a half after he tore his left ACL, 2011 MVP Derrick Rose is back. But will he be as good as new? Rose is one of 12 top NBA players who are attempting to return from knee surgery. Vrentas writes, “According to a 2010 article in the Sports Health journal that tracked the league’s injuries through a 17-year period, no other body part causes more missed games in the NBA than the knee. As players continue to get bigger with each passing season, and as the game has become more acrobatic, their bigger and stronger bodies place a greater strain on the knee as they twist and turn and jump. This applies to ACL injuries as well as tears to the meniscus, the C-shaped piece of cartilage in the knee joint.”
Rose was criticized by fans and media for sitting out last season instead of making a speedy recovery as did Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who returned to play nine months after tearing his left ACL. “NBA players recovering from knee surgeries face unique demands, including an 82-game season,” writes Vrentas. A sustained pace with dozens of sharp, abrupt movements; up to 12 minutes per quarter; and little margin for error in the essential skill of shooting. Returning to the court after knee surgery may take longer in the NBA than in other professional sports, like the NFL.” | SI writer Jenny Vrentas
Class is in session for Dwight Howard in Houston. The topic? Offense. Despite being a seven-time NBA All-Star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year, Howard’s inside game is built on power and little else. That could change under the tutelage of the most balletic pair of old-school big men the game has ever seen: Hakeem Olajuwon and Kevin McHale. Writes Jenkins, “While Olajuwon methodically expanded his repertoire through 17 seasons in Houston, showcasing his speed with a balletic array of spins and counters, Howard’s routine remained fairly constant, forcing up those baby hooks.”
Olajuwon, who won two NBA titles with the Rockets, believes versatility is the one thing preventing Howard from being great. “You can’t have one move,” Olajuwon says. “It’s like having one outfit. I’m not going to wear the same thing to the party that I do to the gym.”
Howard worked with Olajuwon while he was with Orlando. Soon after Howard signed with the Rockets last July, McHale invited The Dream to once again become part of the team to help coach Howard and several of the team’s other big men, including 7-foot center Omer Asik. “How can we get Dwight better?” McHale asks. “That’s what we talk about. If we did nothing, and he played the way he has his entire career, he’d still be the best big guy in the NBA. But if Hakeem and I can give him a couple more tools, and he can master those, what a complement that would be.” | SI senior writer Lee Jenkins
Sports Illustrated is set to premiere Pro Football Now presented by John Hancock, a new live, weekly talk show for SI.com, on Thursday, Sept. 5, 10:30 a.m. EST. Host Maggie Gray and lead analyst and Super Bowl Champion of the New York Giants Amani Toomer will be joined on set by SI writers and experts for provocative discussion on the latest football news as well as preview the upcoming week’s games. For the premiere episode, Gray and Toomer will sit down with New York Giant Victor Cruz to preview the upcoming season. PFN will broadcast from Time Inc.’s new state-of-the-art Manhattan studio, which debuts on Thursday. After each weekly episode premiere, the show will be available on-demand at SI.com/video.
“We’re excited to expand our digital video portfolio with the addition of this new live video talk show,” said Paul Fichtenbaum, Editor, Time Inc. Sports Group. “Sports Illustrated is a leading source of in-depth NFL coverage and we believe our top-notch reporting will translate very well to PFN.”
“I’m excited to join the broadcast team at Sports Illustrated,” said Toomer. “I think the viewers are going to enjoy our candid conversation. We’re going to have a lot of fun this season.”
PFN adds to a growing number of original SI live productions created in 2013. Others include SI Now powered by Ford – Time Inc.’s first live daily talk show, which debuted in June, SI Swimsuit Live from Las Vegas – a 30 minute red carpet and 3D video experience and specials devoted to the NCAA college basketball tournament and NFL draft. These productions are also part of Time Inc.’s company-wide commitment to growing digital video offerings across its portfolio.
“The new Time Inc. video infrastructure with its cutting-edge studios and robust distribution network is an important statement to the advertising community that we are going to be a major player in the video space,” said Mark Ford, Time Inc. EVP, President Sports Group. “We have proven our ability to create award-winning and popular video as our Underdogs series and Swimsuit videos demonstrate. Now, we can offer the marketplace significantly more original content and audience scale which is a major differentiation to our clients.”