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3/27/12

Why The Miami Heat WON’T Win A Title

I think it was safe to say that in this lockout, shortened-season the Miami Heat was the favorite to win the NBA Finals. A lot of people figured that they had all the pieces (two superstars, one star, and a deeper bench), but now people are starting to question whether this team has what it takes to win it all. With back-to-back double-digit losses to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Indiana Pacers, the Heat seems to be reeling at a time when their schedule doesn’t get any easier. But not making the playoffs isn’t going to bother coach Erik Spoelstra. What is going to bother him is his roster come playoff time. Let me tell you why the Miami Heat will not (yes, I said “will not”) win the NBA Finals.

When you have two players like Dwyane Wade and LeBron James on the same team you figure to be in the championship discussion for as long as they play together. Even individually, having one of those guys gives you a chance to do something special. Add in Chris Bosh and Vegas has them as the favorites to be the NBA champions. But as we saw last year, it wasn’t so easy for the Heat. Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks beat the Heat in six games.

But let’s not relive past memories.

The point is, come playoff time, it’s not always about which team has the best player, rather it’s about the team that is playing the best as a team. Playoff games are more intense and more meaningful (obviously). Veteran teams always have the advantage over younger teams because it’s the old cliché “they have been there before and know how to act and react to things that go on during an intense and grueling series.”

But that’s not to say that the OKC Thunder can’t win it all this season.

Sorry, getting side-tracked.

Back to my point.

Does the Heat have veteran players? Yes (James, Wade, Bosh, Shane Battier, Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, and James Jones even though he hardly played in last year’s postseason).

Here is my issue with the Heat.

We all saw that LBJ came up small every time in the 4th quarter against the Mavericks. Yes, he had a triple-double in one game, but did they win that game? The answer is no, they didn’t. I feel like he might come up small, again. I wasn’t impressed with his performance against the Thunder on Sunday night. That game was nationally televised and everyone who was watching it saw Kevin Durant play harassing defense on LeBron and it looked like he didn’t want any part of it. He is in his 9th season and it seems like he is never “mentally there” when it matters most. So if he hasn’t figured it out by now, he probably never will.

Another problem I have is Wade. He has been hurt some this season and his numbers are down. He is averaging 22 ppg and shooting a little above 50% from the field. I give him credit for not settling for three-pointers like he used to. But he is 30 years old now. If the Heat was to make it to the Finals and their opponent happened to be the Thunder or Los Angeles Lakers, I don’t think he would be able to keep up with Russell Westbrook, James Harden, or Kobe Bryant (even though Bryant looks to be aging before our eyes as well). As great of an athlete as Wade is, Father Time takes his toll on everyone and Wade is starting to feel that.

I don’t have much to say about Chris Bosh.

My biggest problem comes after the three guys I named above. They say they have a deep bench? Good joke, Pat Riley.

[Mike] Miller is always hurt, [Shane] Battier can’t find his jump shot, Ronny Turiaf (with all due respect) was a terrible pickup, Eddy Curry has played (in what) three games this season? I will say that [Udonis] Haslem and Norris Cole will be the only key contributors off the bench for the Heat in, not just the Finals (if they make it), but in the entire playoffs. Do Miami fans really think they can win with James, Wade, Bosh, Haslem, Cole, Mario Chalmers (forgive me, Chalmers will also contribute), and Battier? Joel Anthony is a non-factor on offense and players have shown the ability to score on him when he plays defense. If anything, I feel that Anthony has regressed this year.

Look at the Chicago Bulls roster. Assuming everyone is healthy, you have Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer, Richard Hamilton (if he is ever healthy again), Omer Asik, Taj Gibson, C.J. Watson, and even John Lucas! That’s 11 solid starters/backups to Miami’s 6-8 solid starters/backups (if you want to count Miller and Anthony). Grant it, Chicago doesn’t have a LeBron or Wade to go with Rose, but I feel that this year is different than last year. I feel that this year, Miami has less room for air because it’s their second year together and should be asserting themselves as the best team in the league. I feel that if they meet Chicago in the playoffs, both James and Wade are going to have to be “lights out” for them. They can’t get away with one of them playing poorly the entire series (like Wade last year), not this year anyway.

Everyone thought that when the Heat went on their streak, winning 12 of 13 games in February, they were the team to beat. Since then, Miami is 8-6.

But who am I kidding? We all know that it’s the Larry O’Brien trophy the Heat is after, not regular season victory totals.

Miami fans better hope that James shows up this time, when it counts.

3/25/12

Feelin’ the ‘Love’

Ok, it’s starting to get ridiculous. I am about to lose my mind most nights when the Minnesota Timberwolves. I don’t know how I can even talk basketball with anyone anymore, but I still do. I am starting to convince myself that I have created a monster. I never expected it to end up like this, but I would rather have it happen like this because he plays for my hometown team and it enhances my reputation, ha.

But it’s just sick. How good is Kevin Love? Well, the answer is simple: GREAT. He has taken his game to an entirely new level, with many unseen performances, hard work, count-less hours in the weight or yoga room, and of course, hours and hours of gym time.

After his 51/14 performance against the Oklahoma City Thunder, followed by a 30/21 game today against the Denver Nuggets, Love is averaging 26.3 ppg (4th) and 13.8 rpg (2nd). Not to mention he shoots 38% from three, 81.6% from the line, and he leads the league with 42 double-doubles. But it’s not just about his outrageous numbers; it’s about what he doing when it matters the most.

Love is averaging 8 points in the fourth quarter and overtime this season. He is getting to job done when it matters most. He has hit game-winning shots against the Los Angeles Clippers and Philadelphia 76ers. A home game against the Clippers (for the second time), he came up with two big baskets in the closing minutes, another Timberwolves win. According to basketball reference.com (a great website), Love has won 28 matchups against opposing power forwards this season while only losing seven matchups and earning a draw in 10 of them. Some of the power forwards he out-played include the likes of Pau Gasol (twice), LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin (twice), Dirk Nowitzki (twice), and Chris Bosh.

Including today’s game, Love has three 30-20 games, eight 30-15 games, 16 30-point games, one 40-point game, and one 50-point game this season. The Timberwolves are 10-8 when Love scores 30 points or more this season.

Since he entered the league, a lot of people including myself, didn’t think Love would amount to anything more than a 15-10 type of guy. He could always rebound, but offensively he wasn’t quick enough to go by defenders consistently and his jumper was inconsistent. Defensively, he couldn’t guard anyone because he wasn’t (and still isn’t) the most athletic or agile player. Some even thought that he was a bit over-weight.

In his second season, he managed to average 14 and 11, but that was nothing special. Special comes in his third season when Love averaged 20 and 15, including 30-30 game against the New York Knicks. He had many games where he hit five 3-pointers in a game while grabbing 15 boards in the same game. He was awarded the NBA’s “Most Improved Player” and everyone in Minnesota thought that if he could even come close to putting another season like that again, it would be a surprise.

Has a player ever won two “Most Improved Player” awards? It might happen this year.

All jokes aside, Love is absolutely unconscious. Check out some of his ranks throughout the league in key categories:

First in Free-Throws Made

Second in Efficiency Recap

Second in Rebounds

Second in Defensive Rebounds

Second in Free-Throw Attempts

Fourth in Points

Fourth in Offensive Rebounds

Seventh in Field-Goals Made.

He also ranks highly in three-points made, attempted, percentage, and is first in minutes per game.

Is he an MVP candidate? Yes. I will go so far as to say that Love is a Top 3 player in this league behind Kevin Durant and LeBron James. I am not here to disrespect Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, or Kobe Bryant, but Love is having a better season than all of them. Flat-out, Love has been nothing short of amazing and comes up big when it matters unlike LeBron, but LeBron is having such a good season that I will give him the benefit of the doubt.

I watched Love and Durant go at it on Friday night and it was the most-compelling, entertaining, and thrilling game I have seen in a long while. Despite Love taking the L, he went for 51 points on only 27 shots and Durant went for 40-plus.

I know all these outrageous numbers don’t mean anything if they don’t win, but it has to be a sign of good things to come.

People said that Love would never be a franchise-player. He is.

People said that Love isn’t a crunch-time player. He is.

People said that Love wouldn’t amount too much in the NBA. 26 and 14.

People believe that Love’s 2010-2011 season was a fluke. It’s not.

Does Love need to take this to the playoffs? Certainly, that’s the only thing he needs to do now. And good thing he has some help. Nikola Pekovic, Ricky Rubio (even though he is out), and head coach Rick Adelman have made things simpler for Love. Do they need to add another piece or two? Yes, they most certainly do. But I love what I am seeing and since Rubio has gone down, the Wolves have been hanging around for the last playoff spot.

If the Wolves make the playoffs this season, it will be because of one man and one man only: Kevin Love.

3/10/12

Ricky Rubio Out for the Season

If you haven’t heard about it by now, here you go: Minnesota Timberwolves rookie point guard Ricky Rubio is out for the season with a torn ACL. Rubio suffered the injury in Friday night’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. The injury occurred when Rubio jumped out to guard the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant. They ended up running into each other, Bryant hitting Rubio in the knee and drawing the foul to add insult to injury. Rubio had to be carried off the floor with the help of two teammates. He tried to walk it off on the bench but couldn’t put any pressure on his leg. An MRI today revealed that his ACL was torn and his rookie season done. Rubio instilled a lot of excitement and awe into a Minnesota team that has been nothing but boring to watch over the past few seasons. While he wasn’t the complete reason for the turnaround, he created a buzz that left when Kevin Garnett was traded to the Boston Celtics.

So where does Minnesota go from here? With no Rubio and Kevin Love having back spasms, Minnesota will need its young guns, (Wes Johnson, Nikola Pekovic, and Derrick Williams) to step up and shoulder the load. Rubio’s injury also means that the Wolves have only one healthy point guard, Luke Ridnour. Their third point guard, J.J. Barea, is out with a sprained ankle. This injury could not have come at a worse time for a young team that is battling for a playoff spot in the deep Western Conference.

Playoff teams always have players that step up when their number is called. This is just another test.

3/6/12

The Best Power Forward in the NBA

There has been a lot of debate about who is the “best” power forward in the NBA. Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge get a lot of the press. Griffin gets his attention because of his high-flying dunks, but he doesn’t have much more than that. His free-throw shooting is poor (55.4%) and there is not much else to his game. He has no mid-range game and his post-up game is not polished for a guy who, technically, is in his third season. On the other hand, Aldridge became an All-Star for the first time in his career. Aldridge had a great season in 2011, but his numbers are even better this season. He is shooting the highest field-goal percentage of his career (50.6%), ppg (21.9), and apg (2.7).

But there is one power forward who towers over them all. Kevin Love.

Love came into the NBA as a big-bodied, white guy with no athleticism and real skill, except that he can rebound. He didn’t get much tick in his rookie season (25 mpg), but he managed to average 11 and 9, while starting 37 games for a terrible Minnesota Timberwolves team. He missed 22 games in his second season due to injury. He finished the season averaging 14 and 11. In his third season, I saw, and the NBA saw, Love’s career take off. From expanding his range on his jump shot to breaking Moses Malone’s double-double streak to leading the league in rebounding, Love had a season for the ages. He average 20 and 15, was named to the All-Star team for the first time in his short career and was named Most Improved Player.

People didn’t think his numbers meant anything because his team wasn’t winning. The latter part of that was true, but his numbers meant something. His numbers said that he was here to stay.

Love has done nothing but give 100% effort every time he is out on the floor this season. People didn’t think he could get better, but he has proved them wrong. While the majority of his numbers are down, his scoring is up five points per game and his team has already won three more games than they had all of last season. The addition of Ricky Rubio and Rick Adelman have something to do with that too, but Love has transformed his game into an inspiring brand of basketball showing that hard work really does pay off.

It all started when he lost 20 pounds in the off-season. He came into camp in-shape, focused, and ready-to-go. People said he couldn’t be a go-to player in crunch time. This season, he hit a game-winning three pointer in Los Angeles against the Clippers and against the Philadelphia 76ers, he drew a foul with .7 seconds left, making both free-throws to win the game. Last night against the Clippers, Love scored 11 points in the fourth quarter, two big buckets with inside two minutes to propel Minnesota to victory. With all the work he has put in, it is starting to pay off. His team is above .500 (20-19) and the Timberwolves have beaten teams such as the Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs, 76ers, Clippers, and Houston Rockets.

For the first time in years, Love has Minnesota in playoff contention. They are a game and a half out of the eighth and last spot in the playoff picture. To give you a picture of how great Love has been this season, here are his power forward and league ranks in important statistical categories:

Power Forward                                  League

PPG: 25.4                  1st                                                  4th

RPG: 13.7                  2nd                                                2nd

FT-A: 308                  1st                                                3rd

FT-M: 257                  1st                                                 1st

FT-AG: 8.5                 1st                                                 3rd

FT-MG: 7.1                1st                                                  1st

FT %: 83.4%               5th                                                34th

PTS-PER-Shot: 1.37   1st                                                 9th

PER: 24.96                  1st                                                 6th

3-PT-M: 60                 3rd                                                23rd

3-PT %: 36.1               5th                                                72nd

2/28/12

Two is a Couple, Three Wins a Ring

I was talking with a few friends of mine yesterday, and a simple discussion turned into a heated debate within minutes. We were talking about the NBA and what team we thought would win the championship come late June. I think nearly everyone was convinced that both the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat are in the NBA Finals, so it was between those two teams. But this is where it started to get heated.

I made the claim that if the Thunder is to make it to the finals, James Harden will be the deciding factor no matter who the Thunder plays. I also said that Harden is the best player on the Thunder and that if he was on any other team he would be averaging 25 ppg. Maybe I went a little too far with the first part of that argument, but the dude can flat-out ball. Here is why I think the third-wheel player, not necessarily the third best player on a team, makes more of a difference on a team that already has two superstars.

Let’s go through every team that  has two bona-fide superstars:

Los Angeles Clippers: Blake Griffin and Chris Paul

Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol

Miami Heat: LeBron James and Dwyane Wade

New York Knicks: Carmelo Anthony and A’mare Stoudemire (but not if he keeps playing like he is this season)

Oklahoma City Thunder: Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook

We have five, count ‘em five out of 30 teams, in the NBA that have two bona-fide superstars, and that’s with me giving Blake Griffin the benefit of the doubt because I don’t think he is a superstar, yet. Now, let’s go back to those five teams and look at their third best player (no Jeremy Lin is not the Knicks third-best player, so don’t bother giving me grief).

Los Angeles Clippers: Caron Butler

Los Angeles Lakers: Andrew Bynum

Miami Heat: Chris Bosh

New York Knicks: Tyson Chandler

Oklahoma City Thunder: James Harden

PER or Player Efficiency Rating and WS or Win Shares are two main factors that I will be using. PER measures a per-minute production of a player while he is on the floor. The league average is 15. Win Shares is an estimate of the number of wins that is contributed by a player.

Ask yourself, “Who is the best player out of these five players?

Caron Butler is a nice player. He knows his role and has the ability to knockdown the three-pointer. But when you actually look at his numbers, they are less-than impressive. His PER is 13.9, ranking 4th on his team and his WS is only 1.8. Meaning that Butler’s significance to his team is rather small. Chris Paul leads the Clippers in win shares with 5.1.

Andrew Bynum is one of the best centers in a league where there is one other dominant center, Dwight Howard. The game is played out on the perimeter more, but it’s nice to have an inside presence . But even when the Lakers won their back-to-back championships, Bynum was not much of a factor in the postseason. This season he has started to develop into what the Lakers wanted him to become. His PER is second on the Lakers behind Kobe Bryant at 21.9 and WS is 4.0. On a team that has three good players, like the Lakers, Bynum has more of impact because the other nine players are very, very suspect.

Chris Bosh was a stud in Toronto but not many people knew about him or paid attention to him. Since leaving Toronto for Miami, Bosh has endured a lot of criticism and has been labeled as “soft” and a “cry-baby” when Bosh cried after losing in the NBA Finals. He is viewed as the third-wheel and the newly named “Big Two and a Half” with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Last seasons, his WS was 10.4, but has dropped to 4.5 this season. I think that has something to do with this shortened-season. His PER is up to 19.7 from 19.4 last season and ranks third on his team. If the Heat makes it to the finals, and it happens to be against the Thunder, I could see him being the difference-maker.

When I looked inside Tyson Chandler’s numbers, I was surprised at what I saw. His PER is second on his team behind Jeremy Lin at 19.5 and his WS is an unreal 5.9, but yet the Knicks are only .500? I will agree that Chandler was significant reason as to why the Dallas Mavericks won the championship last season. His defensive intensity could not be matched by any other player on the Heat. But the reason Chandler’s numbers are outstanding is due to the fact that he takes six shots a game, four of them being dunks. In turn, his shooting percentage is at 70% with one block and steal a game. If the Knicks can get Anthony and Stoudemire to pick up their production and efficiency, the Knicks will become a contender in the Eastern Conference.

Lastly, James Harden. Harden is averaging 17 ppg off the bench with nearly four assists and rebounds a game. He shoots 47% from the field, 37% from three, 86% from the line and plays nearly 32 minutes per game. He is a shoe-in for the Sixth Man of the Year award. His PER is 21, third on his team, but his wins shares is second on the team behind Kevin Durant, 5.0. His usage rate is 21% and a reason for why it’s so low is because he is on the floor with either Durant or Russell Westbrook or both, at one time or another.

You know that superstars are going to get “theirs”, meaning that they will get their usual scoring, rebounding, and assisting totals throughout the course of the game. But it’s the production and consistency of that third player that can end up making the difference. A consistent third scoring option that can go above his average more times than not, can help make up for the lack of bench or (a) superstar’s production for that night.

Look at the past few NBA champions: Dallas had Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry and Chandler; Los Angeles had Bryant, Gasol, and Metta World Peace in 2010 and Bryant, Gasol, and Lamar Odom in 2009; Boston had Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen; San Antonio had Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.

Two is a couple, but Three wins a ring.

2/27/12

First Half Review; Second Half Expectations

With the conclusion of the All-Star Game on Sunday and Monday being an off-day for NBA players and fans, it’s time to look ahead to the second half but not before we look back at some of the highlights of the first half of the NBA season.

First, let’s be thankful that the labor deal got done. Without that happening there would have been no season. Common sense. Paul Pierce passed Larry “Legend” Bird on the Boston Celtic all-time scoring list and is now in sole possession of second place behind John Havlicek. Speaking of scoring, Kobe Bryant became the Los Angeles Lakers’ all-time leading scorer when he passed Jerry West in Bryant’s home state of Pennsylvania.

Just recently, Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder had his first 50-point game of his life. As great of a scorer as he is, it’s amazing to think that he has never scored 50 points in a high school, college, or NBA game.

No one ever thinks of the San Antonio Spurs when they talk about the best teams in the league. The Spurs hold a 24-10 record heading into the second half of the season, despite losing Manu Ginobili and Tiago Splitter to injuries and stubborn Gregg Popovich resting vets Tony Parker and Tim Duncan several games this season.

Now, what do you expect in the second half of the season?

At this point, it looks like the Chicago Bulls, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Miami Heat are the favorites to win or, at the very least, make it to the NBA Finals. The Los Angeles Clippers are a game and a half up on their rival (Lakers), but can they hold on? The Clippers have a deeper squad than the Lakers, but never count out Bryant.

Have you forgotten about the Dallas Mavericks? Remember that they got blown out by the Heat on opening day? Well Dirk Nowitzki has gotten himself back into shape and has the Mavericks in position to make another playoff run. Their roster is filled with veterans and I expect the Mavs to be a tough out in the playoffs.

With the NBA draft just a few months away, I expect the Anthony Davis sweepstakes to come into play. I hoped teams don’t tank the rest of their season in hopes of getting the number one pick. Toronto, New Orleans, and Washington are the teams that have single-digit wins this season.

Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love currently have the Minnesota Timberwolves in good position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004. If they make the playoffs, they could be a tough out in the first round.

There are currently 12 teams (six from each conference) that have 20 wins or more.

Seven teams in the Western Conference are within four games of the fifth playoff spot.

The sprint to the finish line starts tomorrow. It should be an exciting two and a half months until the regular season is over.

2/12/12

Jeremy Lin: What in Thee . . .

The phenomenon of “Lin-sanity” has taken the NBA and world by storm this past week.The Harvard-grad was not drafted in the 2010 draft and spent the majority of his rookie season in the NBA Developmental League, except for the 14 games he played with the Golden State Warriors.

Somehow he ended up in New York City. And, as they say, “the rest is history.”

I wrote an article about the Knicks cutting ties with Chauncey Billups being a big mistake. The story held true until this past week when Billups tore his Achilles tendon. But no matter how you look at it, the Knicks had no point guard to run the team and thus the struggles and below .500 record.

This last week, Jeremy Lin has absolutely “blown-up”. On Twitter, Facebook pages, YouTube, and SportsCenter, Lin has been the main focus and for good reason. He had led the New York Knicks, a team without superstars Carmelo Anthony (injury) and Amar’e Stoudemire (death of his brother), to five straight victories and has elevated a group, where Tyson Chandler is the only proven player, to play at a high level.

Who is Steve Novak? From what I remember, he was one of the best shooters to ever play at Marquette University, but has bounced around the league during his first five seasons. Novak is very limited, skill-wise, at the NBA level. He is a spot-up shooter that can’t create anything for himself. This month, Novak has averaged 12.4 ppg and is shooting 51.6% from the three-point line since Lin entered the lineup. Lin’s ability to create open shots for his teammates gives a guy like Novak a chance to get into the rotation.

During this five-game winning streak, Lin has averaged 26.8 ppg and 8 apg. Very good numbers for a guy, who went undrafted and over-looked. But I have a feeling if he wasn’t playing in New York, the people and media would not be making a big deal of his recent performances.

Think of all the media outlets that are in New York. It’s the biggest city in America. Things are bigger in New York, but things are also made bigger and, at times, blown out of proportion.

Has Lin been very good over his last five games? Yes.

Did Lin take center stage against Kobe Bryant on Friday on ESPN at Madison Square Garden? He certainly did.

Has any player in the history of the NBA, made a career off of five games before Lin? No. Has he changed that? Maybe?

I am not saying Lin is not a good player. His five-game stretch has been fun to watch. He is inspiration to the average person in this world. If you put your mind to it and heart in it, you can be successful and Lin has proven that. What I am saying is the sample size is too small. In a shortened, game-filled season, teams have had little to time to prepare, get healthy, and practice. I believe that’s why Ricky Rubio and Kyrie Irving have been successful so far this season. But if you have watched those two play over the last few games, teams are starting to get familiar with Rubio and Irving and are forcing them into doing things they don’t want to do during the course of a game.

Last night, I saw Lin go 8-24 from the field. That proves that it’s only a matter of time before the law of averages catches up with a player.

Back in 2006, the Detroit Tigers had a first baseman by the name of Chris Shelton, who was coming off a solid 2005 season, in which he batted .299 with 18 home runs and 59 RBI in 388 plate appearances. By the end of the first month of the 2006 season, Shelton had already hit 10 home runs and driven in 20 runs and had a .326 batting average. Over the next four months of the season, Shelton batted .256 with six home runs and 27 RBI. He went from being the starting first baseman to hardly playing in September.

It might not be the greatest comparison, but it’s one that comes to my mind when I think of quick success. A guy gets off to an unbelievable start but it quickly fades and, more times than not, that player quietly disappears.

With Anthony and Stoudemire coming back in the next few days, I don’t believe Lin will keep up this pace. His numbers will level off and he will average 14 ppg and 7 apg for the rest of the season once the two stars return. But I will not deny the “shot in the arm” that he has given the Knicks and the city of New York.

Lin has revived The Garden.

2/6/12

Kevin Love suspended two games for ‘stomp’

Some people say that basketball is not a physical game. But those people would be wrong. In fact, basketball is one of the most physical games in professional sports. We saw some physicality that went “too” far, on Saturday between the Houston Rockets and Minnesota Timberwolves. Timberwolves’ power forward Kevin Love and Rockets’ power forward Luis Scola got into it in the second half of Saturday’s game.

Before we get to that, let me take you back to Monday’s game between these same two teams. A ball was going out-of-bounds, Scola grabbed the ball and as he was about to fall out-of-bounds, Scola threw the ball into the midsection of Love while Love turned away to protect himself from getting hit in the face with the ball. If you watch basketball, you would know that is a typical play, but most players aim for the knees or feet. Now whether it was intentional or not, it wasn’t too big of a deal. The Timberwolves ended up winning that game.

Back to Saturday. Love had the ball in the post and was surrounded by three Rockets, one of them being Scola. Love stepped into Scola, Scola flopped to the floor in the hopes of getting a charge call on Love.

No dice.

Love missed the jump-hook, got the rebound, was fouled by Samuel Dalembert, but it wasn’t called. Somehow, Love got the ball back, and was fouled again by Dalembert and Scola, who reached-in as Love shot and made it on the third attempt.

The next trip down the floor, Scola got the ball in the post, spun baseline and was stripped of the ball by Love and fell to the floor. The ball bounced to Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio who started the fast-break. As Love started to make his way back down the floor, he had to go through Scola, or, in this case, over Scola. It looked like Love could have stepped around Scola, but instead he stepped on Scola’s chest, sending Scola’s head bouncing off the floor. You can check the play here ESPN.com (this is the direct link).

Now, should Love be suspended for two games for this? Was it a dirty play? Keep in mind that this is the THIRD time these two teams have played each other since January 23rd and the second time they have played this week. Do you think this was Love’s payback for Scola throwing the ball into his midsection earlier in the week?

I have something to say about this.

Kevin Love is my favorite player in the NBA. Do I think he gets fouled more than any player in the NBA during the course of a game? Yes. Did the referees miss multiple foul calls on the possession prior to Scola getting stomped on? Yes. Does a player, who is fouled a lot during the course of a game, get frustrated? Yes, just ask Dwight Howard. Do I think the NBA has gotten soft on some of the calls they make? Yes. Should Love get a pass for what he did to Scola? NO! To be honest, I am disappointed in Love. The Timberwolves are 12-12 this season and in contention for a playoff spot. Thankfully, the two games Love will miss will be against the Sacramento Kings and Memphis Grizzlies. They should beat the Kings, but now it will be tough for them to beat the Grizzlies.

It’s clear that Love was frustrated, but there is no need for that. Just go about your business like the professional you have been over the past two years.

1/31/12

Finding A New Role?

Everyone has talked about how much talent Minnesota Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley has. The past three seasons, people have said that he could be one of the best scoring players in the league. I didn’t believe those people, until last night.

What I saw last night, against the Houston Rockets, gave me some hope for the future. Before Beasley got hurt, I was not impressed with his inability to let the offense run its course. In the opening game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Beasley took 27 shots, making only 11 and missed a lay-up in the closing seconds that would have tied the game. His defense was still suspect, but I will give him a break because he was going against Kevin Durant, who is the best scorer in the NBA.

In the second game of the season, with coach Rick Adelman gone because of personal reasons, Beasley’s attitude was out of control. His actions on the court and toward acting-coach Terry Porter were disgraceful, inappropriate, and uncalled for.

I wanted him gone after that game. Honestly, I did. I never wanted to see him in a Minnesota Timberwolves uniform ever again. Over the next five games, Beasley didn’t shoot the ball well, was booed at times, and his defense was still inconsistent. But there was one positive: rebounding. He was averaging 7.4 rpg in those five games.

Then he got hurt. A mid-foot sprain forced Beasley to miss the next 11 games. The absence of Beasley wasn’t really noticeable though. The ball moved more fluently on offense without him and the Wolves were winning games. They went 6-5 without Beasley and gave up 100 points or more only three times in those 11 games.

Beasley returned Friday against the San Antonio Spurs. I was hoping there was a change in Beasley. I hoped that he would focus more on defense and letting the offense come to him. I didn’t get my wish. Beasley went 3-11, scoring 7 points and, once again, heard boos from the Minnesota crowd. On Sunday, Beasley came off the bench for the second game in a row and posted 18 points, 12 rebounds three assists and two steals against the Los Angeles Lakers while playing 30 minutes.

O.K., so I was happy to see Beasley play more of a “team” game this time around. He didn’t force too many bad shots, moved the ball well, and played in the passing lanes on defense. Maybe Adelman is starting to get through to him.

It all came together last night. Beasley scored 34 points off the bench against the Houston Rockets. While he only had three rebounds, he shot 10-14 from the field and got to the free-throw line 12 times, making all 12. He helped the Wolves overcome early struggles and beat the Rockets 120-108. Beasley was efficient, smooth, and aggressive (when he needed to be).

Between Kevin Love averaging 25 ppg and Ricky Rubio posting double-doubles, I hope Beasley can find his niche on this team. At 10-11, the Timberwolves are in the playoff hunt, which is more than could be said last year.

But maybe becoming a sixth-man is more of Beasley’s calling? When he is on, you keep him in the game. When he isn’t playing well, then you treat him like another bench player. I feel that his ability to dominate second-group players is more beneficial to the Timberwolves than him starting.

This might be a once-in-ten-games thing for Beasley, but if I have found renewed hope.

For now.

1/22/12

The Gap Between Griffin and Love: It’s Wider Than You Think

One player is featured nightly on SportsCenter, while the other player accumulating 53 double-doubles in row and could barely make the All-Star team. One player has “Dunk Alerts” and the other “Double-Double Alerts”. One plays above the rim and the other plays below the rim. One player plays in Los Angeles, while the other plays in Minneapolis. On Friday night, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love squared off for the first time this season and these two young stars didn’t disappoint, either. Even without All-Star point guard Chris Paul, the game still featured Ricky Rubio, Love, and Griffin. In case you missed it, the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Los Angeles Clippers on Love’s three-point buzzer-beater as time expired. But who is better, Love or Griffin?

Griffin is a stud. He has all the tools to become a superstar. He is athletic, can handle the ball, rebounds, and passes well. But other than catching alley-oops and dunking on people, what is Griffin good at? His free-throw percentage is at 52.6%. His field-goal percentage is at 50.9%, but he doesn’t take any jump shots outside of the paint and doesn’t have a mid-range game. His post-game is inconsistent and sometimes non-existence. He is a pretty good rebounder (11.7 RPG), but he blocks less than one shot per game. Griffin solely relies on his athleticism to get by with what he lacks: an overall game.

Griffin was the first pick in the 2009 draft. There was no question that he had serious potential coming out of Oklahoma after his sophomore year. He averaged 22.7 PPG and 14.4 RPG in his second year at Oklahoma and was a human-highlight reel. A knee injury in his rookie season put him out for the entire season. Last season was his rookie season and he didn’t seem to lose any of his athleticism. He averaged 22 and 12 in his rookie season, but the Clippers were still a very bad team.

Coming into this season, I expected, or was hoping, Griffin would add something new to his game, something that would make him a better player. If he has, either I missed it or nothing was added. He is still the same player that he was last season. If anything, he might have gotten worse. His PPG is down more than one point per game, free-throw percentage, free-throw attempts, rebounds, and assists are all down. The Clippers have a better record because of the additions of Chris Paul and Caron Butler.

So, let me ask you this: what is Blake Griffin good at on an NBA-level? Besides that he sells tickets and hit an occasional jump shot, I would have to say that Griffin is extremely over-hyped and I blame it on ESPN. ESPN loves to over-hype players and teams that make highlights for their show. The majority of NBA players can catch alley-oops or dunk. Now, I am a fan of watching cool dunks and watching players get dunked on. That’s all “fun and games”, but when ESPN shows Griffin highlights, nightly, it persuades public opinion because it gets people thinking this guy is really good, when in all reality, he is not as great as they make him seem. Jumping over a mid-sized car in the Slam Dunk contest is something that probably 50 players in the NBA could do.

If you want my attention, jump over a Chevrolet Silverado or make a jump shot.

The other side of this argument is [Kevin] Love. In his four years in the NBA, how good has Love become? I am not going to talk about his double-double streak, or his 30-20 games, or 20-20 games, or that he averaged 20 and 15 last season. All you need to know is that Love has been snubbed over the past two seasons. He barely managed to make the All-Star team last season, an honor that he greatly deserved. This offseason, he got into the best shape of his life, losing 25 pounds so he can endure the rigors of a shortened-NBA season. He can score, whether it’s on the block, mid-range, or three-point range, he rebounds, and his defense is improved. While he isn’t the most marketable or athletic player in the league, Love still has many star qualities. He works hard, has a positive image, and has already accomplished more than most NBA players in the league.

A lot of people say that Love could never be the #1 guy on a championship and that may be true, but he would be a bigger factor on a championship team that Griffin would, at this point. Griffin has more natural ability, but Love has made the most of his abilities and should only get better over the next few seasons.

I know one thing: both Love and Griffin will never settle or be satisfied with where they are at with their games. They will continue to find ways to evolve their game and get better. But if you want to compare Griffin and Love at this point in their careers, you are almost insane.

While Griffin is busy doing Kia car commercials, Love is busy working on his game. While Griffin is practicing his dunking, Love is finding a way to get a max contract. Griffin might get there someday in the near future, but Love is ahead of Griffin, right now.

And it’s not even close.

1/17/12

The Closest Thing to Michael Jordan? It’s NOT About the Numb3rs!

No one will ever be what Michael Jordan was to the Chicago Bulls, NBA, or basketball in general. Several great players have been compared to Jordan, most notably Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Everyone thought that James was going to be the next Jordan when he entered the league. Nine years later, James hasn’t accomplished anything more than a couple of MVP awards and two appearances in the NBA Finals, both resulting in losses. Most of the James-Jordan comparisons stopped when James decided to “take his talents to South Beach” to become Robin to Dwyane Wade’s Batman. That leaves Bryant, the last standing talent of the late 1990′s.                                                                                               

While former-superstars Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Kidd, and Steve Nash have slowly deteriorated over the past few seasons, Bryant has seemed to stay the course or get better. Since Shaquille O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat in the summer of 2004, Bryant has managed to average 28.8 points per game over the past seven seasons, and is off to a great start this season (30.8 ppg). Bryant has several qualities that Jordan has when he played. Bryant’s intensity and fearlessness can only be matched by that of Jordan’s. While Jordan battled sickness during playoff games and other many injuries throughout his career, Bryant has been an ultimate warrior as well, battling through many finger, knee, and wrist injuries. Out of a possible 1,198 games (before this season), Bryant has played in 1,073 of those games.

While playing along with superstar Shaquille O’Neal, Bryant managed to win three championships with the Los Angeles Lakers. Many people have said that Bryant would not have won those rings without Shaq and Shaq would not have won those rings without Bryant. But long after Shaq left Los Angeles, Bryant won two more rings (back-to-back in ’08-’09 and ’09-’10) with some help from Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. But I believe that both Jordan and Bryant would not have won their rings without the help of Phil Jackson. Much of the success that both Bryant and Jordan achieved, in terms of winning championships, should go to Phil Jackson. It doesn’t hurt when one player plays with one of the greatest rebounders and defenders of all time (Dennis Rodman) or when one player plays with the most dominant player of all time since Wilt Chamberlain (Shaq).

The triangle helped Jordan and Bryant excel at the offensive end of the floor. It ran through them and allowed them to make plays either for them self or a teammate.

Athletically, Jordan was one of the most athletic and graceful finishers the game of basketball has ever seen. I don’t need to tell you about it. If you want to, you can go on YouTube and check out Jordan’s dunks or amazing lay-ups. Bryant was the same way when he entered into the league. Athletic and explosive, Bryant could jump with the best of them. Bryant had no trouble dunking and jumping over Dwight Howard in Howard’s rookie season with the Orlando Magic. Nobody, who has ever played the game of basketball, had the ability to put on an aerial show like Jordan and Bryant. In my mind, they are the greatest athletes to ever play in the NBA.

While the three-point shot and highlight slam dunks are the “new” thing in this generation of “me”, nobody has a mid-range game like Jordan except for Bryant. One dribble pull-ups, two dribble fade-aways, turnaround jumpers, or anything within 20-ft of the basket is money in the bank for Jordan and Bryant. I have never seen any player, besides those two, who could create their own shot while knowing where the double or triple-team is coming from and still having the instinct to find the open man or calmly knock down the jumper. Their iso games are off the charts and are almost unstoppable.

Bryant’s intensity is the greatest I have seen since Jordan played. Whether it’s battling through injuries or coming off a disappointing performance, Bryant brings the same intensity every night, whether he is healthy or not. His offseason regiment is second to none. The work he puts in, whether it’s in the gym, weight room, or training room, to get his body into the best shape possible is unbelievable.

When you compare players, it’s not always about the numb3rs. We all know that Jordan has six championships, Bryant has five. We all know the individual accomplishments Jordan achieved during his career with five MVP awards, 10 scoring championships, and all that other good stuff. His amazing playoff performances are something that will never be matched.

But if you want to compare someone to Jordan, you’d better be comparing Bryant to Jordan. Since Jordan retired, for the last time, in 2003, Bryant has been the best player in the league. Yes, Bryant has been better than James, Wade, Durant, O’Neal, Duncan, Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, and everyone else in the league. Bryant has been criticized throughout his career because of his inability to make game-winning shots. Now, Bryant has had his fair-share of game-winners, but he has failed way more than he has succeeded. Bryant has probably failed more than any other player in the league when it comes to making clutch shots. That being said, how come every coach would want to have Bryant take the last shot? Jordan failed just as much as Bryant has in his career, but that’s what makes both of them so great.

Failure didn’t bother Jordan. Failure doesn’t bother Bryant. Failure made these guys into who they are. As Bryant has aged, he has gotten better while Jordan started to tail-off in his two seasons with the Washington Wizards. The more Bryant fails, the hungrier he becomes. I feel that he still has another two or three years left in him to play at a high level.

When it’s all said and done, Bryant might be the greatest player to ever put on a Laker jersey and will be the closest to Jordan that we will ever see.

1/3/12

A Problem Child?

It didn’t take long for the DeMarcus Cousins to voice his opinion in Sacramento, again. Cousins is in his second NBA season after being the 5th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft after spending one season at the University of Kentucky. Cousins has had a problem with keeping his mouth shut. It has come back to bite him in the butt, again.

Cousins was sent home before Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Hornets after he had, supposedly, requested and demanded to be traded because he didn’t like the direction the team is headed. When asked if he had either requested or demanded a trade, he said “no”. Since the ’06-’07 season, the Kings have a record of 137-273, a 33% winning percentage. However, the future seems somewhat bright for a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since the ’05-’06 season. They have been able to draft Tyreke Evans and Cousins, both could be stars some day. They also drafted Jimmer Fredette in the 2011 draft, traded for power forward J.J. Hickson, and signed free-agent defensive-specialist Chuck Hayes. The Kings have also made their fair share of bad monetary decisions like signing Marcus Thornton to an outrageous contract (4 years and $33 million) and picking up Travis Outlaw (4 years and $16 million). Not to mention the fact that they have not drafted well prior to drafting Evans in 2009.

Back to Cousins, though.

Paul Westpahl, apparently, has had enough of his antics, but not so much as to let him suit-up for tonight’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies. Cousins was kicked out of practice and sent home last season for poor attitude and yelling at teammates. At Kentucky, he had a few run-ins with some of his teammates as well and was sent home by John Calipari.

He needs to figure it out quickly because he is running out of time in the NBA. Since when does a second-year player get to demand anything? As “The Rock” use to say “Know you role and shut you DAMN mouth!”

DeMarcus, you need to do that. Don’t waste your potential just because your team isn’t winning games every single night. The Kings are 2-3 this season and have beaten the Los Angeles Lakers. The Kings have some talent but they need to get a lot better and Cousins is in the plans of re-building a franchise that was, at one point, very good. Even though there have been reports that Westpahl said Cousins “can start over on another team”, I highly doubt that Kings will shop the young man. He has too much ability to be traded away, unless they can swing a deal and receive a superstar in return.

Know your place and role. You can’t demand anything unless you have already proved yourself. Just play basketball.

12/29/11

Just PLAY The Game

Only three games into this shortened-NBA season we are talking about the immaturity of LeBron James, again.

If you caught highlights of the Heat/Bobcats game last night, you know what I am talking about. Besides the fact that James played very well (35 pts, 6 reb, 7 ast, 3 stl, and 2 blk), he did something that caught my eye and, quite frankly, pissed me off. Before the season, he was interviewed by ESPN’s Rachel Nichols and talked about how he didn’t want to be the “bad guy” anymore and that he just wanted to play basketball and if he could, he would do “The Decision” over again. But what he did last night was completely uncalled for and immature.

In the waning seconds of the game, Dwyane Wade had the ball on the left side of the floor and took it to the basket, stopping on a dime. The defender flies by and Wade calmly kisses it off the glass for the game-winning shot. It was a home game for the Bobcats and rookie star quarterback, Cam Newton, was sitting court-side. It’s important to know that every time Newton scores a touchdown, he puts two fists up to his chest and then pulls them apart. It’s called the “Superman”. So Wade hits the shot and as he is walking back to the bench, after Charlotte called a time-out, he stared down Newton and did the “Superman”. But that wasn’t the end of it. James decided to get into the act and you could see that he was trying to communicate with Wade so they could sync-up and do it at the same time. I have a few problems with that.

1. Dwyane Wade – I am wondering why Wade would even disrespect someone like Newton, who was doubted by NFL experts and who has had a PHENOMENAL rookie season in the NFL. Wade, you are a former-NBA champion and you lost last season in the NBA Finals. Act like you have been there before.

2. LeBron James – WHAT ARE YOU DOING? First off, Erik Spoelstra still must not trust you to take a game-winning shot, because he had Wade take it instead. Second, you have won NOTHING in your NBA career. Newton has two national championships (JUCO and Auburn). You say that you don’t want people to hate you, but then you go and do something like that? C’mon man, you didn’t make the play so don’t act like you did. You are still the second option in South Beach.

3. Immaturity – The same thing happened last season in Game 2 of the NBA Finals. Wade hit a three-pointer that, most people thought, would put the game away. Wade and James stared down the Dallas Mavericks and started to show-boat. They ended up losing the game.

4. You almost lost to the CHARLOTTE BOBCATS – No disrespect to the Bobcats, but they are not that good of a team. For them to start the game on an 11-0 run and be up 15 points at halftime is unacceptable. I know that the Miami Heat won’t win every game this season, but I didn’t expect the game to be close at all. Who is the second best player on the Bobcats? That’s a good question.

I am sick of what the NBA is becoming. Some star players don’t treat the game the right way anymore. It’s the culture that we live in nowadays. Acting tough and big has replaced “being there before”. I hope some former players saw that last night and cringed like I did. I hope James doesn’t revert back to his “old ways”. Bur only three games in, it looks like he already has.

12/26/11

A Few Thoughts On The NBA

In case you weren’t paying attention, the NBA kicked-off its season yesterday with a five-game slate. Here are a few things I took away from the some of the games that I saw:

For the most part, the overall game it-self, was not that bad. Most of the players seemed to be in pretty good shape and the shooting, for the most part, was good. There were a few exceptions. Stars such as Dirk Nowitzki, Stephen Curry, and Dwight Howard struggled for the field and their respective teams got blown out. I know the Dallas Mavericks only ended up losing by 11 points, but they were down 30 at one point in the game. Their bench finally got their act together in the 4th quarter and they were able to cut into the lead. Rajon Rondo could be an MVP-candidate this season. From what I saw, Rondo has improved his shooting and free-throw touch. He is already a great defender and even though his team lost, he did what he needed to do: 31 points, 13 assists, 5 rebounds, and 5 steals. Grant it, the Knicks have a weak back-court right now but Rondo was more of a factor on both ends of the floor.

The Miami Heat is pretty good. I think LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have heard enough about last season and they are going to take their frustration out on every opponent they play this season. Hopefully they save some of that frustration for the playoffs. I noticed that LeBron has a little bit of a post-up game now. When he faces up an opposing defender on the wing, he will put the ball above his head for a split-second before he shoots it. The times that he has done that, he has not missed. Perhaps he should keep doing it?

“Lob City” is the pathetic name that Chris Paul gave the Los Angeles Clippers when he found out that he was going to be playing with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. So I ask you this: How many “lobs” were thrown last night? Anyone? Well I have the answer: ONE. I know that Paul took the game over in the 4th quarter, but that’s what he should be doing. He should not be giving the team new nick-names, he should be playing basketball and helping his team, the CLIPPERS, win. Also, rookie head coach Mark Jackson implemented a new strategy that I had never seen before. It happened in the 3rd quarter. Whenever DeAndre Jordan was on the floor and the Clippers had the ball, the Golden State Warriors would foul Jordan. This happened at least 4 times. It ended up working, too. Jordan went 3-8 from the line and it kept the Warriors in the game until mid-way through the 4th quarter when Paul decided that he had had enough.

If you watched the Chicago Bulls/Los Angeles Lakers game, you would have noticed that no matter what, Kobe Bryant can still get the job done, even with torn ligaments in his shooting wrist. That being said, the Lakers lat-game execution was not up to par and it ended up costing them the game. With 4 seconds left in the game, Bryant took the in-bounds pass and dribbled down the lane on the right-side of the basket where he was met by Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, not to mention Luol Deng was already guarding him. Deng ended up blocking Bryant’s shot as time expired, giving the Bulls the win. If Bryant’s wrist was even 75%, do you think he would have taken a pull-up jumper for the win? I certainly do.

One last thing. If you heard whistlin’, it wasn’t from the sleigh bells. It was from the referees blowing their whistles every 10 seconds to call a foul on someone. There was a total of 236 fouls called over the course of five games. That equates to 47.2 fouls per game and 23.6 fouls per team. But that’s O.K. I think the referees are a little bit rusty and games should be a lot sharper as we get further into the season.

That’s all I have for now. Hope everyone had a great holiday with their families!

12/20/11

What to watch for this NBA season

With the holidays just around the corner, that means the NBA will be making its return. I think it’s safe to say that the majority of avid NBA fans are happy that opening day will be on Christmas Day. We have long-awaited the arrival of Ricky Rubio, who is now back page news to most of league, and want to see the growth of the young teams in this league such as Oklahoma City and Memphis. Questions from “Can Lebron win his first ring?” to “Will the Knicks be a legitimate threat this season?” to “Will the Clippers be better than the Lakers?” are being asked about basketball circles. Here are some things that I think will be important to keep an eye on this season, but first things first.

Personally, I don’t mind that the NBA is starting its shortened-season this late in the year. I know that there is going to be a mad scramble of games, close to four games a week for all teams, because it adds to the excitement. Most of us complain that the season is too long anyway. I am an advocate for shortening the season from 82 games down to 70 games, take off roughly a month of the season. The season starting on Christmas Day would become a tradition; the All-Star break would take place in early March and the playoffs in early May. Shortened the first and second rounds of the playoffs, go back to the best-of-five scenario they had before, and then have the conference finals and finals be best-of-seven. The playoffs would end in the middle or third week of June. Take a week off, then have the NBA combine for draft participants, and then have the draft over the 4th of July weekend. Training camp would start at the beginning of November, with preseason games starting after Thanksgiving. Ten preseason games over the span of a month, leading up to eventual return of the regular season. That’s a rough draft of my idea for a typical NBA season. If you don’t like it then I guess you don’t like it. But back to my original post: What to expect from the NBA this season.

1. Where Dwight Howard will end up - Ever since training camps opened on December 9th, Howard has been in talks with the Lakers, Nets, and Knicks, but those talks with the Lakers have since diminished. Now it’s looking like the New Jersey Nets are the front-runners to get Howard, even though he said that he wants to stay with the Orlando Magic. I don’t know what to make of this anymore. No one can work anything out or make up their mind. But I remember that Orlando had a guy by the name of Shaquille O’Neal and he ended up leaving for L.A. My gut tells me that he will go to the Lakers, via free agency or sign an extension Orlando.

2. A revitalized Boston Celtic team - You can’t deny the fact that the Miami Heat made the Celtics look really old in the playoffs. LeBron James and co. ran past the former Eastern Conference champs. They looked defeated before the series even started. Thanks to this extended-offseason, the Celtics should be a healed-up, rejuvenated group that is looking to reclaim prominence in the east. The addition of Brandon Bass should help their team defense and offense more than Glen Davis. He can fill-in for Jermaine O’Neal at center and Kevin Garnett at power forward. They also added Chris Wilcox, a younger, big-bodied post to help them out. Kenyon Dooling will be an effective backup point guard to Rajon Rondo if Avery Bradley is not mentally and physically ready to play consistent minutes in the NBA this season. A team like the Celtics is only worried about making the playoffs, no matter if it’s getting the first or eighth seed. There will always be a threat because they have been there before.

3. The Clippers finishing above the Lakers in the standings? - For the first time in years, there is reason for Clipper fans to come out from hiding. After what the Lakers tried to do (acquire Chris Paul) and what they did (trade sixth-man Lamar Odom for two second round picks), Laker fans are steaming mad, especially superstar Kobe Bryant. The Lakers are left with a messing roster full of oft-injured players (Andrew Bynum), players that don’t show up in the playoffs (Pau Gasol), and players with unusual names (Metta World Peace. Really?). That’s O.K. though; I can’t wait to see Ko-being-Bryant again. The other side of this story is, of course, the Clippers. They signed Caron Butler, re-signed DeAndre Jordan (even though they over-paid him), and traded (a lot of assets) for CP3. Did I mention that they picked up Chauncey Billups off the waiver wire? The Clippers already have Eric Bledsoe and Mo Williams at the point guard spot, but now I am hearing that Bledsoe will backup Paul and Williams or Randy Foye will backup Billups at the two spot. They still have that guy that can jump over cars (Blake Griffin), but what NBA player, besides the entire Toronto Raptors’ roster (with exception to DeMer DeRozan), can’t jump over a car? The Clippers have a legitimate chance of being better than the Lakers this season.

4. Can the Oklahoma City Thunder make it to the NBA Finals? - There is no question about the Thunder’s chance to compete in the Western Conference. They made it to the Western Conference Finals last season, losing to the Dallas Mavericks. I have a feeling that the Thunder might run over the Western Conference this season. Kevin Durant looks like he has improved his overall game, which I didn’t know was possible, and the Thunder has one more year of experience together. They have a solid core of players that include Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kendrick Perkins, and Serge Ibaka. The only thing that worries me about OKC is the Durant-Westbrook tandem. If you remember in last year’s playoffs, Westbrook tried to take over games and hurt his team with his bad shot selection. It got so bad that Westbrook had to be benched in the 4th quarter in one of the games. If Westbrook has learned anything from that, he should know that Durant is the main guy in OKC’s quest for a title and being a point guard it’s his job to distribute and set guys up during crunch time. As Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson would say “KNOW YOUR ROLE AND SHUT YOUR DAMN MOUTH!” So to put it in basketball terms, “PASS THE BALL TO DURANT IN THE 4TH QUARTER!”

5. Will LeBron James win his first ring? - The tables are certainly in James’ favor to win the title this season. A shortened season and the addition of Shane Battier combined with another year with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh gives fans in Miami all the hope in the world. After making it to the finals last season and losing to the Dallas Mavericks in six games, largely due to James’ inability to be a game-changer in the 4th quarter, the Heat are looking to bounce back and win the second championship in team history. James has had to endure a whole offseason full of criticism and uncertainty (NBA lock-out) so you have to figure that he is hungry and ready to shut people up. It’s not going to be an easy task, but if anyone deserves 2-1 odds to win the championship, it’s the Miami Heat.

12/19/11

After 13 seasons, Stojakovic calls it quits9/11

One of the best shooters this decade has decided to call it a career today. After 13 seasons of draining three-pointers, Peja Stojakovic has decided to retire. If you don’t remember, Stojakovic played on all those great Sacramento teams in the early 2000′s. He had his best season in ’03-’04, when he averaged 24.2 ppg, shooting 44.3% from the three-point line. Stojakovic averaged 17 ppg for his career and is a career 40% three-point shooter. He spent time with five different teams (Indiana, Sacramento, New Orleans, Toronto, and Dallas) throughout his career. He won his first ring with the Dallas Mavericks this past season. He will go down as one of the best three-point shooters to ever play in the NBA.

12/16/11

Over-paid Centers in the NBA

Watching the NBA free agency period this season is something that I find rather amusing. First, teams only have two and a half weeks to go through training camp, re-sign their own players and sign free agents. Second, some of the contracts that players, in particular centers, have been receiving have been somewhat outrageous. I know that some of these players are key players for their respective teams, but are you serious on some of these contracts? Let’s take a look at some of the contracts that NBA centers have received and see whether they are worth that amount of dough.

Nene, Denver Nuggets – 5 years, $67 million - In my mind, Nene is one of the most under-rated centers in the league. He doesn’t get enough credit for what he has done the past few years. He averaged 14.5 ppg and 7.6 rpg, led the league in field-goal percentage (61.5%), and is an under-rated on the defensive end, as well. Now, is he worth an average of $13.4 million a year? I think he is for the first two years, but I don’t know about the next three years. Once a player gets his money, he seems to fall off the map, unless he is a superstar and Nene is no superstar. Is he under-rated? Yes. But is he worth it? No.

Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies – 4 years, $58 million - I am wondering how Gasol got all this money. I know he had a great playoff run, averaging 15 ppg, 11 rpg, and 2 blocks per game in 13 games. But are the Grizzlies going over the edge with this deal? Gasol’s deal averages $14.5 million a year for a player that didn’t blossom until the playoffs. The Grizzlies were without Rudy Gay for the majority of the season and playoffs, but he is back this season, so who is to say that Gasol’s numbers don’t go down this season? In the regular season he averaged 11.7 ppg, 7 rpg, and 1.7 bpg. Gasol is a nice role player, but he is not some guy to give this type of money to. Unless he averages 17, 12, and 2 per game over the next four seasons, he might never live up to this contract. The one thing I like about this deal is that it’s only for four years.

DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers – 4 years, $43 million: This is a deal that I don’t understand. Jordan averaged 7 points and 7 rebounds per game last season and now he will average $10.75 million a season for the next four. He played 25 minutes per game, partly because the Clippers had Chris Kaman, too. But Kaman played in only 32 games last season, so why didn’t Jordan play more minutes? I don’t have an answer for that. All I know is that the Clippers went 32-50 last season, but they have some nice pieces coming in this season, most notably Chris Paul and Caron Butler. Back to Jordan though. Jordan is mainly a dunk-player. He has no mid-range game and no post-moves. He is a decent defensive player (1.7 blocks per game), but averaged 3.2 fouls per game. I don’t like this deal at all. It’s nice to spend money on players that are proven like [Caron] Butler, but when you give a guy like Jordan this type of money, you don’t know what you are going to get.

Kwame Brown, Golden State Warriors – 1 year, $7 million: The biggest bust in NBA history gets, yet, another chance. Since the Warriors were unable to get the DeAndre Jordan, they settled (and I mean settled) for the Brown. Brown has career averages of 6.8 ppg and 5.5 rpg. But this deal doesn’t really surprise me. I remember when they signed another player (who is not that good), Andris Biedrins. Biedrins is set to make $9 million this season. I can understand the Warriors need to beef-up their front-line, but any guy out there, except Dwight Howard; they are going to over-pay for. This might Brown’s last chance to play in the NBA. Even if he averages 10 and 10 this season, he is going to get an outrageous deal next year by a desperate team. I don’t like this deal.

Tyson Chandler, New York Knicks – 4 years, $56 million: I think a lot of people would say that one of the reasons the Dallas Mavericks won the NBA championship last season was because Chandler changed the culture of the Mavericks. Dirk Nowitzki also had something to say about it, too. But is this a bad deal for the Knicks? Chandler is a good defender, but he is no Dwight Howard. He doesn’t impact the game like Howard, doesn’t have the offense that Howard does, and is not as young as Howard. Can Chandler really make a difference in New York? Don’t forget that Dallas had DeShawn Stevenson (tough dude), Shawn Marion, and Jason Kidd (still a good defender). The Knicks have Mike Bibby (not even close to as good as Kidd), Landry Fields, Carmelo Anthony (could be a good defender if he tried), and Amar’e Stoudemire (not that good either). They got rid of a solid defensive player when they acquire Chandler: Ronny Turiaf. Turiaf was a tough, hard-nosed defender. So, can Chandler really change the culture in the Big Apple? It’s going to be tough, but at least Chandler got paid (average of $14 million a year).

The only center that has proven he worth any absurdable amount of money is [Dwight] Howard. He is a reliable force in the middle. He is always part of the MVP-conversation, First Team All-NBA, Defensive First Team, and Defensive Player of the Year. He is consistent, night in and night out.

The center position is not the only position that had outrageous contracts. Every position has their outrageous deals. But I feel that [Tyson] Chandler is the main reason that all these centers are getting these big-time contracts without the credentials.

12/14/11

On the move: Chris Paul to L.A.

The Chris Paul saga is finally over. It was announced Wednesday night that the New Orleans Hornets and the Los Angeles Clippers have reached an agreement on trading the star point guard, Paul, to the Clippers in exchange for Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, and Al Farouq Aminu and the Minnesota Timberwolves unprotected 2012 first round pick.

The Clippers will receive Paul and two second round draft picks from the Hornets. This deal comes nearly a week after Paul was reported to go the Lakers, sending Lakers power forwards Pau Gasol to the Houston Rockets and Lamar Odom, along with Houston’s Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, and Goran Dragic, to the Hornets. Also, this deal comes nearly two days after the Clippers claimed Chauncey Billups off waivers from the New York Knicks.

In my opinion, the Clippers would have been just fine without Paul. Billups is still more than capable of playing at a high level. So, with the Clippers acquiring Paul, they now have four point guards (Paul, Billups, Mo Williams, and Eric Bledsoe). I have a feeling that David Kahn might be the new general manager of the Clippers, with having all these point guards. They will, in no way shape or form, play four point guards. My gut feeling is that someone is on the move. Bledsoe has the most trade value at this time, because Billups is past his prime and has a big contract. Williams could also be moved. He is 28 years old and can help a team that is in need of a point guard. I don’t know if Billups will be accepting of taking a back seat to anyone, even at this stage of his career. I know he still has some game left in him and, he too, can help out a team that is lacking an experienced point guard. I have a feeling that he might end up in Miami or with the Lakers before this is all said and done.

Let’s compare lineups, with and without Paul on the Clippers:

With

PG: Chris Paul

SG: Randy Foye

SF: Caron Butler

PF: Blake Griffin

C: DeAndre Jordan

Without

PG: Chauncey Billups

SG: Eric Gordon

SF: Caron Butler

PF: Blake Griffin

C: Chris Kaman

Now, I don’t know about you, but I like the lineup without Paul. Their overall team is better. Without Paul and with Kaman, Gordon and Faruoq Aminu, that gives the Clippers a better team. Their bench would consist of (Mo) Williams, Randy Foye, Aminu, Ryan Gomes and Jordan. They still have Bledsoe, who might get more tick than Williams this season.

With Paul, their bench doesn’t become as strong. They would have to move Foye into the starting two-guard spot, Gomes would back up Butler, forcing rookie power forward Trey Thompkins into the rotation and Jordan enters the starting rotation at the center spot.

I am all for improving a team, but when you have to pay a steep price, like Kaman, Gordon and Aminu along with a guaranteed lottery pick, for a player that might not re-sign with you next season makes no sense to me.

With that being said, it will be fun to watch Paul throw alley-oops to Griffin, even if it’s only for 66 games and maybe the playoffs.

12/12/11

Are the Minnesota Timberwolves the “next” Oklahoma City Thunder?

The Minnesota Timberwolves have been one of the worst teams in basketball over the past few seasons. Ever since they traded the franchises best player, Kevin Garnett, in 2007, the Timberwolves have struggled. Since 2007, the Timberwolves have gone through three head coaches (Dwayne Casey, Kevin McHale, and Kurt Rambis) and have a record of 78-250. They have not been very aggressive in free agency and have made a number of “bad” trades. This year seems to have a different feel to it, not because it’s a 66-game season, but because there is a different vibe in downtown Minneapolis. It’s a happier, more excited feeling as oppose to the sad, gloomy feeling that has been the last few seasons. For the first time in five years, the Timberwolves look to become relevant in the Western Conference again.

There are numerous reasons to feel optimistic if you are a Timberwolves fan.

1. Talented roster - The Timberwolves have Kevin Love, Michael Beasley, Derrick Williams, Wes Johnson, Ricky Rubio, Anthony Randolph, and recently added J.J. Barea. Every player, besides Barea, was a lottery pick, but most have yet to find themselves in the NBA. Beasley has been inconsistent offensively and plays no defense, Johnson can’t create a shot for himself but has all the athleticism in the world, Randolph has yet to be given consistent minutes but maybe he has found a home in Minnesota(?), and Williams and Rubio haven’t played in an NBA game but figure to get significant minutes and become building blocks for the future. Barea is the only player on the team that has won an NBA championship. He helped the Dallas Mavericks beat the Miami Heat in the finals last season.

2. Roster depth - With the addition of Barea at point guard that gives the Timberwolves three point guards (Rubio and Luke Rindour are the other two). Shooting guard Martell Webster will be out a few weeks recovering from back surgery that he had back in September. The Timberwolves have Johnson, Wayne Ellington and un-signed rookie Malcolm Lee. The small forward position features Beasley, Williams, and Lazar Hayward. Love anchors the power forward spot, backed up by Randolph and Anthony Tolliver. The center spot features Darko Milicic, Brad Miller and Nikola Pekovic. With 16 players currently on their roster, the Timberwolves will, more than likely, need to cut someone. That someone might end up being Hayward, Lee or Ellington. Ridnour’s spot might also be in jeopardy, but if Rubio or Barea were to get hurt, Ridnour could back them up. It’s nice to have depth at every position.

3. Young-budding stars - If Rubio, Williams, Johnson, and Beasley reach their potential this season, I think we could see the Timberwolves in the playoffs. One thing that helps them more than anything is the fact that this is a shortened season. Love is their best player, but they are looking for the pieces around him to step up and deliver. Of course, there is going to be bumps along the way, but consistency is the main thing. This team needs to bring defensive intensity every night. The offense will come around. I have a feeling that a lot of people are sleeping on Rubio, whether it’d be fans or players. Williams will be R.O.Y., Johnson will be able to create for himself a little bit more this season, and Beasley’s defense will lead to more wins. It’s all about commitment.

4. New head coach - The addition of Rick Adelman could not have come at a better time for the struggling franchise. Yes, their offense is nice, but their defense is terrible. Adelman addressed that right away during media day on Friday. His Houston Rockets scored 121 points the last game of the season against the Timberwolves. He looks to shore up their defense. Eliminating easy baskets and forcing teams to go to the second or third option on offense is what will win basketball games. They will have no trouble scoring, but if they pick up their defense, they can make a run at the playoffs.

5. Comparison to OKC Thunder - Even the Thunder will admit that they got lucky when Kevin Durant fell to them when they had the #2 in the 2007 draft. Even after the addition of Russell Westbrook, it took the Thunder until the 2009-’10 season to make the playoffs. But now they are reaping the rewards that come with drafting smart and building around their young nucleus (Durant and Westbrook). Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, and Thabo Sefolosha give the Thunder a defensive presence while James Harden and Eric Maynor provide offense off the bench. Nick Collison is the glue-guy. The Timberwolves have done the same sort of thing; they just don’t have anyone like Durant, a leader. Love figures to be that guy, coming off a spectacular season in which he averaged 20 ppg and 15 rpg. Love needs help though. That’s why I expect Beasley to step in and become that second leader. Adelman will make sure the rest of the team know their role and that they fulfill that role. If they don’t, then they won’t see much floor time.

12/10/11

Knicks Waive Billups; Big Mistake

The New York Knicks acquired center Tyson Chandler in a 3-team sign and trade with the Washington Wizards and Dallas Mavericks. The Knicks sent Ronny Turiaf and a 2013 first-round pick to the Wizards and Andy Rautins to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Chandler. In the process, the Knicks waived veteran point guard Chauncey Billups, leaving the Knicks with only one point on the team: Toney Douglas.

Billups was set to make $14.2 million this season and I can understand why the Knicks wanted to save that cap space, but why are you saving that cap space? You don’t have a point guard on your roster that has shown the ability to run the offense in big games. Billups was the second “Mr. Big Shot” next to Robert Horry. A NBA Finals MVP with the Detroit Pistons, Billups is nearing the end of his career, being 35 years of age, but he still has some basketball left in him. He averaged 17.5 points a game last season, but only hit 33% of his three-point shots. He is a 39% three-point shooter for his career. But why waive a man who can help your team compete with the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics? It doesn’t look like you are going to get Chris Paul and you don’t need Dwight Howard anymore if you have committed money to Chandler. You used all your assets to acquire Carmelo Anthony last season.

So you hand the reins over to Toney Douglas. Don’t tell me that Mike D’Antoni expects to play rookie guard Iman Shumpert, or does he? Maybe they will make a move that I didn’t think of. But if you take a look, there are not many point guards out on the market that you would want to sign. Delonte West, J.J. Barea, and Mike Bibby are the only point guards out on the market that have any real experience in the NBA playoffs or Finals. Waiving Billups to save money, in the hopes of getting Paul, is outrageous. Paul is more than likely going to be traded to the Lakers, since they re-submitted the trade to the league earlier today. I don’t know what the Knicks are doing.

Somebody help me out.

My Take on the Vetoed Chris Paul Trade

What is David Stern thinking? If he knew anything about basketball, he would know that the New Orleans Hornets didn’t get shafted in this trade. If anything, the Los Angeles Lakers were getting worse, not better. Even the Houston Rockets were satisfied with losing a lot of their offense. Not letting the trade go through due to it being a “basketball decision” is complete BS. If anything, the Hornets got the BETTER of the deal and here is why:

Chris Paul said that his “heart” is in New Orleans, but yet he didn’t want to be there. I can understand that. You have been in the league for six seasons, entering your seventh, and are one of the biggest stars in the NBA. You put people in the seats at home games. But you have only made the playoffs three times and gotten out of the first round one time. You helped the city of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. You might go down as one of the best point guards of all time. To me, this is sort of like Albert Pujols surprising the world and going to Los Angeles, except that Paul has not won two titles because you need at least two main players on a team, nowadays, to win a Larry O’Brien trophy. The city of New Orleans has known that Paul has been somewhat frustrated with New Orleans management and their inability to give him some help. New Orleans is also at a disadvantage because they are a smaller market team. Not many stars want to play in a small market. The best player Paul has played with has been David West, who might be headed to Boston in the next few days. No offense to West, he was an all-star, but he is not someone who can be the second option on a title-contending team. So why didn’t Stern let the Hornets become a BETTER team? Answer is simple:

Currently, there is no owner of the Hornets franchise. That being said, the Hornets are owned by the NBA (aka Stern). Stern’s case for vetoing the trade is that “no one would buy the Hornets if Paul was not on the team. Paul being on the Hornets makes them a more ‘desirable’ team to buy.” Ok Stern, we understand that logic, but Paul is going to leave New Orleans after this season is over so don’t you think the Hornets would be better suited to trade Paul and get a more “complete” (my word) team? Look at what each team was receiving:

Los Angeles Lakers: Chris Paul

New Orleans Hornets: Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic, and a first-round pick

Houston Rockets: Pau Gasol

Let’s be honest: Kobe Bryant has maybe three years left of being a “game-changing” player. Andrew Bynum has not shown that he can be healthy for an entire season. Chris Paul comes in and revives the Lakers for the first two years, and maybe there is a slim chance of the Lakers acquiring Dwight Howard, but the Lakers have no assets left to trade for him. The Lakers were not able to re-sign Shannon Brown. If the Paul trade had become “officially” official, their current roster would be this: Bryant, Paul, Bynum, Derek Fisher, Jason Kapono, Darius Morris, Metta World Peace, Steve Blake, Derrick Caracter, Devin Ebanks, and some unsigned rookies. That roster doesn’t have nearly the depth it would if Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom were still on the team.

The Hornets roster would become more complete: Scola, Dragic, Odom, Martin, Trevor Ariza, Brian Butch, Patrick Ewing Jr., Jarrett Jack, Emeka Okafor, Quincy Pondexter, DaJuan Summers, Terrico White, and unsigned rookies. I like that team a lot more because they don’t have just one player (Paul). They have Martin, who can score with the best of them, Scola, one of the most efficient players in the league, Odom, a supreme 6th man, and Dragic, can either start or be a backup.

I feel the Rockets even got a great deal in this. They have a lot of young talent that was behind some of the players they would like to dispose of. Patrick Patterson has serious potential to become a solid power forward in this league. They acquired Jonny Flynn last season and I feel that he could be really good. Chase Budinger came on strong late last season. Terrence Williams still has potential; they drafted Marcus Morris, Dontas Motiejunas and Chandler Parsons. Don’t forget, they still have Jordan Hill and Courtney Lee. When you add Gasol to that team, I feel they would be very competitive and could even make the playoffs. Gasol still has a lot of basketball left in him and he would bring a lot of much-needed experience to a young team.

Every team in the trade got better, for the time being, and what they wanted. O.K., I am sure that Gasol and Odom didn’t want to leave the Lakers, but they could vastly improve the teams that they were going to. Bill Simmons said it best “I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the end for David Stern. He really caved in.”

NBA Free Agency: Deals and Releases

There has been a lot of activity on this first “official” day of the new NBA season. Training camps opened and so did the free agent market. Let’s take a look at who got a contract and who got, well, released.

Deals

Atlanta Hawks signed Tracy McGrady

Boston Celtics signed Marquis Daniels, Chris Wilcox, and Greg Stiemsma

Charlotte Bobcats re-signed Derrick Brown

Dallas Mavericks signed Brandan Wright

Los Angeles Clippers signed Caron Butler

Los Angeles Lakers signed Jason Kapono

Miami Heat re-signed Mario Chalmers and James Jones

Oklahoma City Thunder re-signed Daequan Cook

Orlando Magic signed Larry Hughes and Gabe Pruitt

Philadelphia 76ers signed Thaddeus Young

Phoenix Suns re-signed Grant Hill and signed Sebastian Telfair and Shannon Brown

Portland Trail Blazers re-signed Greg Oden

Sacramento Kings re-signed Marcus Thornton and signed Chuck Hayes

Toronto Raports signed Jamaal Magloire

Utah Jazz re-signed Earl Watson

Waived/Released

Cleveland Cavaliers waived Joey Graham

Golden State Warriors waived Jeremy Lin

Orlando Magic released Gilbert Arenas

Phoenix Suns waived Vince Carter

12/9/11

Brandon Roy to Retire

This has been a big week for *BREAKING NEWS* in the world of sports. First Albert Pujols heads to So. Cal, then we thought Chris Paul was headed there too, before commissioner David Stern stepped in and blocked the trade, and now Brandon Roy is retiring.

It’s a sad day in the world of basketball. If you have ever watched Roy play, you’d know why. The dude was special. Roy was drafted with the 6th overall pick in the 2006 draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Timberwolves were and, to this day still are, criticized for trading Roy to the Portland Trail Blazers for Randy Foye. Roy flourished in Portland, winning R.O.Y. (Rookie of the Year) when he averaged nearly 17 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists per game. His best season came in ’08-’09, when he averaged 22.6, 5 and 5. He was at his best when the game was in the balance. He was known for being clutch and hitting big time shots. His most memorable performance came this last April, when he scored 18 points in the 4th quarter to beat the Dallas Mavericks after Dallas claimed a 23-point lead earlier in the game. Roy has had a history of injury problems, most notably his knees. He had surgery done on both knees before he was 25 and has not gained much of the strength back. Roy was a 3-time All-Star. It was announced earlier today on ESPN.com that he would retire some time before the season starts.

12/8/11

What the Knicks SHOULD Do

With all this talk about the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers, and Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, it has been getting to me. The Knicks were in the running for Howard and Paul but since talks have cooled, the Knicks seem to be out of the running. Here’s one thing the Knicks don’t know: they don’t need either one!

Perhaps the Knicks should consider an alternative plan. Let’s take a look at their roster:

PG: Chauncey Billups – Solid veteran point guard, that can hit big shots and has won a championship with the Detroit Pistons.

SG: Landry Fields – Came out of nowhere last season. Very productive player, good defender.

SF: Carmelo Anthony – The Knicks traded all their assets to acquire Melo. It will be a good move in the long run, but I feel they lost too much.

PF: Amar’e Stoudemire – Big free agent signing in ’10. Showed he was ready for the “big city” lights by having a stellar first season in New York.

C: ? Options: Tyson Chandler, Nene, Samuel Dalembert.

6th: Toney Douglas – Solid backup PG that can score

7th: Bill Walker – Showed some good spurts of potential in the playoffs.

8th: ?

The Knicks’ biggest needs are center that can score a little, play tough defense, and doesn’t need the ball all the time. They also need to shore up their bench. You can’t win a championship with Jared Jefferies, Shawne and Shelden Williams, and Anthony Carter. You have two stars (Melo and Amar’e), an experienced PG (Billups), and two serviceable bench players (Douglas and Walker). Signing Chandler or Nene, instantly makes the Knicks a formidable team in the East. Even Dalembert is a better option than playing Stoudemire at the center spot and having a guy like Jefferies playing the power forward position.

Now about their bench.

If he doesn’t re-sign with the Phoenix Suns, Grant Hill would be a nice backup to Melo at the small forward position. Hill played under D’Antoni before he left for New York a few years ago. Hill plays solid defense and can still knock down open shots.

Under-sized power forward Reggie Evans would be a nice back up for Stoudemire. Evans has a reputation of being a great rebounder for his size and plays tough defense.

Small forward Al Thornton is an unrestricted free agent and is coming off a disappointing season with the Washington Wizards/ Golden State Warriors. Thornton has fallen off the map since leaving the Los Angeles Clippers. He has shown the ability to score in his four-year career (17 ppg in ’08-’09). He would be a nice bench player for the Knicks.

Joel Przybilla had been a valuable asset to the teams he has played for in his career. He plays defense and rebounds. What more do you want from a backup center? Oh, he could also be a starting center (377 starts in 553 career games).

It will be interesting to see if the Knicks are, somehow, able to land either Howard or Paul, but they also have viable backup options. They better act fast though.

12/7/11

Five Teams To Watch This NBA Season

As the NBA season draws closer and the anticipation increases, let’s take a look at five teams to watch this season.

5. Boston Celtics - A veteran team always plays better on two days rest as oppose to one days rest. So what do you think two months more of rest will do for one of the oldest teams in the NBA? Given they are in shape, I think the Celtics will get off to a hot start right from the get-go. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Rajon Rondo are ready to get back at it. Now, they still need to iron some things out via free agency because they only have eight players on the roster and six under contract. Danny Ainge always seems to figure it out. If this team wants to be a threat to the Miami Heat, forward Jeff Green is going to need to step his game up.

4. Los Angeles Lakers - I feel that the Lakers are going to be out for revenge this season, and they should be. They got blown out, embarrassed, crushed, destroyed, exposed, and laughed at while the Dallas Mavericks advanced to the Western Conference Finals. I haven’t heard much from Kobe Bryant, besides the fact that he almost went to go play in Italy, but I have a feeling that he has been up to something this extended offseason. Even with a new coach in Mike Brown, I expect the Lakers to compete in the Western Conference for a chance to go to the NBA Finals. If they get Dwight Howard, they will win the championship. It’s a wrap.

3. Los Angeles Clippers - They have a nice, young core. Blake Griffin is going to be a monster, if he ever decides to develop a jump shot. Eric Gordon is coming back from injury and he could end up being the best player on that team by the end of the season. DeAndre Jordan is a defensive force, but needs to improve his rebounding numbers. Chris Kaman, Eric Bledsoe, and Al Farouq Aminu are serviceable players that can make a difference on any team. With the shortened season, the Clippers are now a contender for the playoffs. They are better than, at least, seven teams in the West, but only time will tell.

2. Philadelphia 76ers - The 76ers have a nice group of players. Head coach Doug Collins got them to battle the Miami Heat in the playoffs, even though they lost the series 4-1. Jrue Holiday grew up during the playoffs and I expect him to have a big year. Lou Williams, Andre Iguodala, Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner, and Jodie Meeks got valuable experience in the playoffs and should use that to their advantage in this lockout-shortened season. I expect the 76ers to make it back to the playoffs.

1. Minnesota Timberwolves - The Wolves are loaded with young, talented, and unproven players. Kevin Love is the only established star, but Anthony Randolph, Michael Beasley, Wes Johnson, Ricky Rubio, and Derrick Williams are bubbling with talent. The addition of Rubio and Williams will put people in the seats because fans are excited to see what these guys can do under new head coach Rick Adelman. There is no doubt that this team can score, but the reason they lost so many games last season was because they played zero, and I mean ZERO, defense. Adelman should change that culture a bit, and make this team a little more efficient offensively. I don’t expect them to make the playoffs, but I expect them to make strides this season.

Caron Butler to San Antonio? Spurs to cut Jefferson?

The San Antonio Spurs are, reportedly, pursuing free agent small forward Caron Butler. Butler, who missed the second half of the season and the entire playoffs with a torn ACL, would be a perfect fit for the Spurs. The Dallas Mavericks showed that they didn’t “need” Butler on their way to winning an NBA title, but they sure would have loved to have him. There are questions whether he can return to form. The 31 year-old small forward was averaging 15 ppg and shooting 43% from three-point range. The Spurs are looking for a serviceable three-man who can hit three’s consistently and play tough team defense. The Spurs are seriously considering letting go of Richard Jefferson. Two years ago, the Spurs thought Jefferson was their man when they signed him. Jefferson only averaged 12.3 and 11 ppg in his two years with the Spurs. He had an unproductive playoffs, averaging 6.5 ppg. Butler would improve the aging-Spurs immensely. It will be interesting to see if Butler re-signs with the defending NBA champs or if he goes to the “dark-side” and joins the Spurs.

Why the L.A. Lakers should want Howard more than Paul

Point guards are like quarterbacks. They run the offense, make sure everyone is in the correct position, and have to know the entire playbook. But in a sport like basketball, where if you have two big-time players, point guards are not the most valuable players on a team. Now you might argue, “Derrick Rose was MVP last season, what are you talking about?” Yes, I know Rose was MVP last season, but what did he do against the Miami Heat in the playoffs? He averaged 23 points, 6.6 assists and 4 rebounds per game, but he shot 35% from the field, 23% from three and 81% from the line. He also lost the series 4-1. My point being, you can’t expect to win championships without having another star or a dominant big man.

The Heat has LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, so why didn’t they win the title last season? Besides the fact that James disappeared, the Heat lacked an inside presence. Joel Anthony, Erick Dampier, and Jamaal Magloire are not viable solutions to winning a championship. Also, Bosh was over-hyped and completely over-matched by the more crafty and skilled Dirk Nowitzki. When you break it down, James disappeared, Bosh was soft, so Wade and Mario Chalmers were the only ones ballin’ when it came down to winning a championship. End result, Heat loses the series 4-2.

When was the last time you saw a team with a great guard/forward win a championship without a dominant big man. Let’s rewind through the last 13 NBA champions:

2011: Dallas Mavericks – Dirk Nowitzki was an absolute baller in the Finals, but I think most of us will agree that the reason Dallas won was because it was a total “TEAM” effort.

2010: Los Angeles Lakers - Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom

2009: Los Angeles Lakers - Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol

2008: Boston Celtics – Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen

2007: San Antonio Spurs – Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili

2006: Miami Heat – Dwyane Wade, Shaquille O’Neal

2005: San Antonio Spurs – Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili

2004: Detroit Pistons – Chauncey Billups, Tayshaun Prince, Richard Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace. This was another defensive and “TEAM” effort.

2003: San Antonio Spurs – David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker

2002: Los Angeles Lakers - Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal

2001: Los Angeles Lakers - Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal

2000: Los Angeles Lakers - Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal

1999: San Antonio Spurs – David Robinson, Tim Duncan

1998: Chicago Bulls – Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen

Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were the last team to win a championship without a dominant big man. Last time I checked, Jordan was the “greatest” player to ever play. While I might not go that far, personally, I will say that Jordan was the most competitive player to ever play basketball and probably the most clutch of any player, ever.

Now to my point:

If the Los Angeles Lakers are serious about winning a championship, they should go after Dwight Howard, not Chris Paul. Yes, they will probably have to give up Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom and, maybe, another piece, but look at what they are receiving! Howard is a better defender than Bynum and Odom combined. Howard is a best low-post threat than Bynum. Howard is more durable than Bynum. Howard is a better fit to play with Kobe Bryant than Bynum. Acquiring Howard makes up for the loss of Bynum and Odom, and then some. Imagine the Lakers having a starting lineup of Bryant, Howard, Pau Gasol, with a point guard and a small forward that are serviceable. They drafted Darius Morris out of Michigan and I would like to see the Lakers use him. Make Derek Fisher a backup point guard that comes off the bench, plays tough D, and knocks down three-point shots. I wouldn’t mind if the Lakers keep Metta World Peace (Ron Artest) if the Lakers get Howard.

Paul is a great player, but he is not going to be throwing alley-oops to Bryant anymore because Bryant is not that type of player anymore. Also, I think that Howard and Bryant playing together would make them better players than if Paul and Bryant were to play together. If the Lakers are serious, they would be going for D12, not CP3.

12/6/11

Dwight Howard and Chris Paul to L.A.? How?

So it has been reported by numerous NBA Insiders that the Los Angeles Lakers are going are both Dwight Howard and Chris Paul. But just exactly how are they going to get both of them? In 2010, the NBA salary cap was set at $58.044 million. Now with the new labor agreement, there has been no say in what the salary cap will be. All we know is that it will be a soft cap. A soft cap allows teams to go over the salary cap. So, let’s say that the salary cap for the season will be $60 million. The Lakers have ten players under contract, worth a total of $89,207,027. So, they are almost $30 million over the cap and they will own Luke Walton $11.5 million this year so that number is actually $95,027,027 now. They won’t be able to sign either Howard or Paul, so the most likely scenario would be trading for both players. Now the Lakers are more than likely going to use the amnesty clause on Walton and let him go, and if he retires, then that $11.5 gets wiped clean off the books. Now they are back down to $83,527,027. The Lakers are also thinking about cutting Ron Artest, but they have to deal with Walton first. The Lakers do have some trade assets, but do they have enough? Perhaps, they could send Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom and, possibly, a first-round pick to Orlando in exchange for Howard. The Magic, more than likely, do not want Pau Gasol. They would need a “true” center, such as Bynum, for the deal to go anywhere. Let’s say the Lakers trade both Bynum and Odom, along with a first-round pick to Orlando for Dwight Howard. Who do they have left to trade for Paul? The New Orleans Hornets would want Gasol, for sure, and maybe 2011 first-round pick Darius Morris, along with a future first-round pick and cash. If the Lakers made those two trades and amnestied Walton, that would leave them with a roster of eight players, with a mid-level exception left to sign another solid free agent. They would have their three stars, but it would come at a price. Dealing for one of them would be wiser than making a push for both of them.

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