Laker Woes Don’t Start with Defense, They Start with Effort

One of the funniest sports speeches ever goes as so, “They are who we thought they were”. This speech in no way suits the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers, who probably aren’t even half of who we thought they were. Recap: This summer the Lakers pulled off two typical Laker trades (OH MY GOD HOW DID THEY RIP THE OTHERS OFF LIKE THIS) to get Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. The Lakers started slow, but “they were just meshing”. The Lakers were going to ride out coach Mike Brown, then they fired him. The Lakers were going to bring in THE Phil Jackson, then they hired Mike D’Antoni. After the Lakers loss today to the Toronto Raptors they are 17-23 and 3 games back of 8th place. This is almost halfway through the season and the Lakers are still struggling to beat poor teams like Toronto. Hard to say the Lakers aren’t good at offense or defense, because they have players who have won Defensive Player of the Year, scoring titles, and Most Valuable Players. The plain truth is the Lakers don’t try on defense. This lack of effort leads to easy baskets and offensive rebounds. I watched the first half of the toronto game twice and here are a few plays I noticed a lack of effort on.

1. Kobe doesn’t box out:

 kobe Pau

This play starts with a Calderon- Davis pick and Roll. The initial play is covered well by Pau, forcing Calderon back to help.

Kobe Pau 2

After the reset Calderon is forced to pick up his dribble and he resets with a pass to Davis at the elbow.

KOBE PAU3

 

Calderon runs another P&R with Davis. Pau switches onto Jose to stop the drive, successfully. Kobe slides over to stop a pass by Calderon on a potential rim-run by Davis, but Bryant is lazy with it. He doesn’t gain position fully and the result will be Calderon missing the jumper, but Davis easily beating Kobe to the ball.

KOBE PAU 4

 

2. Dwight practicing his Kobe: Nash gets stuck in an unfavorable matchup here against Landry Fields. Nash recognizes the mismatch and tries to front Fields.

Dwigth no effort 2

 

As seen above Dwight is below the free throw line at the time of the pass. He is guarding Aaron Gray, center for the Raptors, Gray has taken one shot outside of 9 feet the entire season. Therefore Dwight should be fully aware that he has no need to stick with Gray.

Dwight no effort 1

 

Fields catches the ball on the left side of the hoop. Dwight is pretty close, and there is zero doubt in my mind that old Dwight comes over to swat this shot off the backboard.

Dwight no effort

 

Instead we get new Dwight, who takes on step inside the paint and yells at his teammates for not getting there in time. Good job, good effort.

3. Dwight no closeout: This is the last play for two reasons; one I couldn’t stand to watch the Lakers defense anymore nor the Raptors offense and two Dwight decided he didn’t want to play anymore either because he got kicked out for barking at officials and Raptor players. This play is more of the same “lazy Laker defense”. Dwight is now on Ed Davis, who is not a terrific shooter but at home from 10-15 feet he is shooting 48.4 percent this season. As we saw before though Dwight stayed with his man who has shot once beyond 10 feet all season. Dwight for some reason thinks Davis isn’t worth guarding in this range:

Dwight no closeout

 

Instead of closing out Dwight watches Davis shoot the 15 foot elbow jumper.

One of the other problems with the Lakers defense I noticed was Dwight’s resistance to ever come above the foul line. This must be a staple of D’Antoni’s defense, but it clearly isn’t working. D’Antoni or the back injury has turned Dwight into Amar’e Stoudemire on the defensive end of the basketball. Hopefully there is time for the Lakers to turn around and correct there lack of effort on the defensive end before trades become necessary and the first “tank” in Lakers history begins. (Just kidding the Lakers sent their picks to Phoenix for Nash and have no reason to tank now). Just in case the trades come here are some trades that make sense for LA:(Last one is SOOOOOOO doubtful)

http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=aeurpqp

http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=aljj6ua

http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=am3g7wp

http://espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=asunmxs

 

Good and Bad: Week Two 11/1 -11/8

Good:

Bobcats – The Bobcats won their home opener this year. This is a major step in the right direction. The win ended the Bobcats 23 game losing streak from last year. Although they lost their next two games they were competitive to an extent in each. This is new.

Damian Lillard – Averaging over 20 points per game, seven plus assists, and at this point is leading my rookie of the year. Yes it is very, very early but he is dominating and playing with the ball in his hands all the time.

Brandon Jennings – You think he wanted a max contract? Through three games he is averaging 10.3 assists, hit a game winner, and the team is 2-1. He is also averaging about 17 points. He looks like a different point guard and could be making his case to be the number one option in Milwaukee over Monta Ellis. GET HIM PAID.

Kyle Lowry – This guy is playing like a top 7 guard in the league. Averaging 23-7-7. He also outplayed Brooklyn’s Deron Williams who not too long ago was considered by many the best point guard in the league. Of course I wrote this before the Oklahoma City game, in which Lowry was hurt. Lowry sprained his right ankle and is day-to-day, hopefully he will be back so I can enjoy watching the Raptors again.

RocketsDaryl Morey has to be riding high right now. The James Harden trade currently looks like a steal. And Harden looks like he can lead the league in scoring. But I am not going to go that far yet cause the only elite defender he has played against was Andre Iguodala. Harden only had 15 points, but it was his efficiency that suffered 15 points on 15 shots is not efficient. Even though this team is only 2-2 imagine where they would be with out this trade.

Knicks – The Knicks are absolutely destroying their competition. How long have I been waiting for this? I can’t even comment on their play, it is that good. Melo is playing like a defensive player of the year, eye-test, and the Knicks are 1st in offensive rating. To go along with that great offensive rating they are second in defensive rating. That is scary.

Clippers and Spurs – These two teams played last evening and the Clippers dominated. There records, play so far, and future potential are not why they are here, although those all look phenomenal. They are the beneficiaries of terrible play and adjustment periods. The Lakers are going through an adjustment period and are having trouble winning, now Steve Nash is hurt, no one really knows his time-table for return either. The Thunder, last years Western Conference champs, traded James Harden who may have been their second best player. This guy killed the Spurs last year and takes a huge dimension out of the Thunders repertoire. That being said I think these two teams have a terrific shot at making the finals, solely based on the 5 games they have played.

Bad:

Scheduling – Why NBA, why? What are you thinking with this scheduling? 13 games on Wednesday, 2 games on Thursday, and 3 games on Tuesday. How does anyone person watch 13 games? Split them up please, mainly so I can maximize my game watching.

Lakers –  They got a win, but still it was against the Pistons. The Pistons are the worst team in the league. Losing to the Clippers in the battle of LA is not a good sign. Then they followed up their lone win with a poor performance against the Jazz. The Lakers cannot put the two ends of the floor together at once. One night they score and lose while the next night they cannot score but play exceptional defense.

Hello Brooklyn – The Nets blew a 22 point lead to the Timberwolves. This wouldn’t be that awful if the Timberwolves had Love or even Rubio but they had neither. The nets are still the nets with the billions spent and town change. They followed this poor late performance against the wolves with a poor all-around performance losing by 30 to the Heat.

Derrick Williams – So I think the D-Will project is over now in Minnesota. The team has played better with him off the floor including the 22 point come back against Brooklyn. Really they have no need for Williams and no room for him in the rotation when Kevin Love comes back. He is not going to take minutes from Love nor Kirilenko. Cunningham has proven himself to be the best backup for Love and brings a ton of energy off the bench. Budinger has been solid off the bench behind Kirilenko, Kirilenko is also a better option at the four than Williams. So what do you do with Williams? Trade him. He is an asset and the Wolves should be shopping him. He has already been involved in trade rumors for Pau Gasol last year and the Wolves could really use a backup 2 guard to fill it up off the bench.

Pistons - The worst team in the league is not the Magic nor the Bobcats it is the Pistons. Going into last nights game they were 25th in offensive rating and 30th in defensive rating. They lost to the Kings, yeah it is that bad. Also Stuckey through the first four games is shooting 6 for 40. Let that soak in for a minute. And last evening they lost to the Kings. Stuckey improved his shooting though, 2-6. His line last night puts him at an astounding 8-46 on the year.

Saturday Recap 11/3

A great set of games following up last night and maybe even topping it. Good match ups all around and some wonderful performances. Going to go through these in order of the time they ended, well attempt to do that at least.

First to go was Boston and Washington. For some reason Boston is having trouble wining basketball games. I really only watched the game against the Heat, where it was not a poor Celtics game just a very good Heat team. Rondo had another double-double like I said the world needs to get used to this and expect it every night. This highlight from Rondo shouldn’t be expected every night though. I really am banking on the struggles of the Celtics to be a problem with meshing all of the new pieces that they added this offseason. Doc will figure this team out and they will be good. They did win this game because of Wizard like shenanigans at the end of the game missing shots and taking poor ones.

Second to finish was the Sacramento and Indiana game. This was a good game that got put on  must watch status on the final minutes. The Pacers are another contender that is really struggling at the moment. They however are less likely to turn things around. They are without Granger right now and even with him do not have a true superstar on the roster. Paul George had a great double-double, but showed his youth leaving Marcus Thornton open from deep late to send the game into overtime, then he did the same thing in overtime allowing the game to go to double overtime. Eventually Indiana showed they were the stronger team and won in 2OT.

The Heat were outscored in the paint, out shot, and out rebounded by Denver. The Heat actually won the game despite all of the above going against them. This game had so much scoring and it was a ton of fun to watch. It went back and forth until the final few plays. Iguodala hit a shot to put the Nuggets up by one with 10 or so seconds left, then LeBron drove and kicked to Ray Allen for a three. That same three turned into a four point play for Allen which ended the game. And this wasn’t even the most exciting ending of the night.

The Brooklyn Nets opened up their new arena last night in the Barclays center. This was a very exciting game and Toronto hung around and made it a game. Toronto came right out and took it to the Nets leading for most of the first quarter. More of note than the Nets opening up with a win was the fact that Kyle Lowry outplayed Deron Williams. Williams is thought to be a top five point guard in the league, now being surrounded by better players a lot more is expected out of him. Lowry, playing on a much worse team, put up 28 points, 8 boards, and 8 assists with ease. Williams only had 19 points and 9 assists, but has a lot more help to work with.

The Hornets pulled off the upset against the Bulls, even with out their new-found star Anthony Davis. Davis suffered a concussion last game and did not play in this game. The Hornets got big efforts from bench man Jason Smith, starting guard Greivis Vasquez, and replacement center Robin Lopez all scoring over fifteen points. And I am going to continue my questioning of the Hornets drafting Austin Rivers who went 4 for 12.

Portland put an end to the Beard buzz beating the Rockets in overtime. Harden scored 24 points but made some key mistakes in overtime that cost his team the game. Portland has their own big story in rookie point guard  Damian Lillard. Lillard scored 20+ points again and had 9 assists in the win. He also hit a big three in overtime to ice the game.

If all you have watched this year is Spurs games you have watched three nail-biters . Manu Ginobili returned this game but only played 16 minutes. This game was tight until the last two minutes when the spurs began to gap the Jazz. Mo Williams had one of his games scoring 29 points to lead the game, but it wasn’t enough to out score the old and boring Spurs.

The night I pick the Bobcats to win a game they decide to allow 16 threes. It was an awful defensive game for the Cats which is something Coach Dunlap has preached to them. They had a new leading scorer on the night, Ramon Sessions came off the bench and scored 22 to lead the team. The problem was OJ Mayo went off and hit 7 threes. I am putting this one on the defensive scheme, you cannot play a zone when the other team is raining threes, it just won’t work. A good thing for the Bobcats is Michael Kidd-Gilchrist played like the second pick and filled the stat sheet, scoring 13, 5 steals, 5 rebounds, a block, and 2 assists.

This game seemed like on that Kyrie Irving would take over in the fourth quarter and he did just that. Kyrie put in 13 in the fourth quarter to lead his team back against the Bucks. Irving hit a lay up with .7 seconds on the clock to tie the game. The reason that .7 seconds is significant is because Brandon Jennings came down and hoisted up a fade away three that won the game. This was easily the most exciting game of the night. Jennings put in another double-double effort as did Anderson Varejao.

The night game was the Clippers and Warriors. This was an ugly game with a ton of fouls. The Clippers got out to a really slow start falling behind to Golden State early in the frist quarter. The Clippers fell behind again to start the third quarter and needed a huge third from Caron Butler to get them back in the game who had 16 in the third to keep them in the game. It was not enough though to overcome the Warriors who came back and dominated the fourth quarter. The Clippers put in a strong effort down the stretch and tied the game prior to the Warriors putting it away, then Curry iced the game with two free throws. Just another game that came down to the wire.

Friday 11/2/1 Recap

Last night in basketball things happened that have not happened in a very long time. It was the second big slate of NBA games, and now every team in the association has played except for the Brooklyn Nets.

The craziest thing to happen last night was the Charlotte Bobcats won a basketball game. They didn’t go out there and beat another bad team either, they went out and beat a contender in the Pacers. The Pacers were the 4th seed in the east last year and although they are missing Danny Granger, no one would have picked Charlotte to win. They also got a great performance from their second year player Kemba Walker who scored 30 points. The Bobcats also sent away a lot of Pacer shots with 9 blocks last night. This win broke Charlotte’s 23 game winning streak and put them in a tie for first place with the Magic in the Southeast. Let that soak in Orlando and Charlotte are on top the division, even if only for a day.

The Knicks did something right last night. Who knows if they ate something special or took doping lessons from Lance Armstorng. Whatever it is that they did pre-game they need to do that again. The Knicks came out firing on all cylinders, raining three pointers, and playing tenacious defense. The defense is something that should have been expected in a Mike Woodson coached defense but the spacing of the offense and the efficiency is not something you could have expected. The Knicks shot better from three than they did from two, 52% on 36 shots. They won 104 to 84 against the defending champion Miami Heat.

The Nuggets lost to the Magic last night. I personally didn’t watch a ton of this game but for the portion I did watch the Magic were on fire. That seemed to be what happened the whole game, that and the Nuggets could not make a basket. The Nuggets need to improve their three-point shooting before they can begin to compete with the good teams in the league. It is not getting any easier for them either as they are going to play the Heat last night, who can’t be happy about their loss.

Another game I didn’t watch a lot of was the Cavs and Bulls. I read a lot of upset tweets from Cavs fans and they all went something like “we cannot score or play defense”. Usually when you cannot do those things you are going to lose a lot of games. Credit the Bulls though as they have always been a great defense basketball team. Of note Nate Robinson some how had a double-double with 16 points and 12 assists. Also the Bulls without Derrick Rose shot 63 %.

Another contender lost to an ex-lottery team in the Celtics v. Bucks game. I did not watch any of this game but I can’t imagine the Celtics looked good. Rondo had a double-double which you can come to expect from him every night now. But so did Brandon Jennings who played like a player that was mad about not getting an extension. Jennings had 21 points, 13 assists, and 6 steals to cap off the 10 point win.

The guy with the big beard that wears unlucky number 13 is lucky. Not really lucky, he is good, but the Rockets are very lucky to have him. He had a career high 45 points to lead the Rockets over the Hawks. Also of note Jeremy Lin came very close to a triple-double with 21 points, 7 assists, and 10 rebounds. This back court which I thought could not mesh is meshing well.

Utah and New Orleans was not slated to be an exciting game but it was due to late game theatrics. Down three with the clock winding down the Jazz missed a three, then the ball was tipped to Paul Millsap and he knocked it down for the tie. Then Greivis Vasquez came back down the floor and hit a runner off the glass to win the game. Of note in this one was Anthony Davis getting elbowed by Austin Rivers, yes they are teammates, and getting a concussion he will not play tonight. And Rivers continued to struggle 0-4 on the night.

Kevin Durant and Russel Westbrook showed that they can score the basketball too. Durant had 23 and Westbrook had 32. Durant played a tremendously well-rounded game last night also putting up that point total to go with 17 boards and 7 assists. They played the Blazers and won. Lillard still playing extremely well and joining another elite class of LeBron and Oscar Robertson as the only players to average 21 ppg and 9 apg in their first two games.

Minnesota resurrected one of the best ten players in the world during their game. Brandon Roy came back and played extremely well for the Wolves including a great closing quarter to help lead them to victory over the Kings. Looking at the line you would not be able to tell that Roy performed well but he made plays down the stretch to help put his team in a position to win. Also saw the resurgence of JJ Barea who came off the bench and put up 21 points.

I don’t know what to say about the Detroit-Phoenix game I didn’t watch. Phoenix won in a close game. Gortat had 16 and 16 for the Suns and the box shows they attacked the scoring load as a team with five guys in double digits and no one over 20 points.

The Grizzlies were victorious against Golden State in Oracle Arena. Steph Curry played up to his new contract extension despite the loss with 26 points. Really evenly played game both teams shot the same percentage and all of their stats were in similar except the final score 104-94 Memphis.

Oh yeah there was a game in Los Angeles last night between the Clippers and the Lakers. But the Clippers are the little brother and never win those games. NOT. The Lakers were annihilated by the Clippers last night. The Clippers dominated and lead for the majority of the game. Kobe became the all time steals leader in Laker history during the game. Chris Paul played like an absolute stud last night he had 18 points and 15 assists to go with his 3 steals. There is no point guard better than him in the NBA. Jamal Crawford also continued his hot streak with 21 points coming off the bench. I know it is only two games but the Clippers have a deep bench and one of the top ten players in the league could they be a contender? The team is deep right now and they are still waiting on the return of Chauncey Billups and Grant Hill who would be starting anywhere else but will probably come off the bench for the Clippers. I personally think this team is a contender after watching them play. Oh, the Lakes are also now 0-3. DOWN WITH BROWN. That is probably what they are chanting in L.A.

The Good and Bad: Week One

  1. The Good

    1. The Rookies - This rookie class certainly lived up to the hype last night. Anthony Davis was everything that we expected him to be, not only by the numbers, but on the eye test. He had 21 points and 7 boards against the best power forward of all time, Tim Duncan. That 21 points also led the team in scoring. Damian Lillard joined a group of hall of famers (Oscar Robertson and Isiah Thomas) in his performance. He is one of three players to debut with 20+ points and 10+ assists. He also did all of that against the vaunted Lakers while leading his team to victory, he is the real deal even if he is from the big sky. Another rook putting up a double-double was Jonas Valanciunas. JV put up a solid 14 and 10 last night, oh yeah it was against all-star center Roy Hibbert. JV is not considered fully developed on offense, but more of a defensive stud.
    2.  James Harden - Yeah that guy with the big beard who was sixth man of the year and got traded 3 days before the season, he is sort of good. He like Damian Lillard joined an elite class last night, Harden became one of four players in the last 25 years to have these numbers: 37 points, 12 assists, 6  boards, 4 steals, and a block. The other three players to put up these numbers: Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Dwayne Wade. That is some pretty good company to be in for Harden in what was his first ever game with Houston. Not much more to be said about this except that Houston got the win over Detroit.
    3. Good Extensions – This one is going to be in the bad too, but some teams did have good extensions and good non-extensions. For starters the Nuggets extended Ty Lawson for 4 years and 48 million. This is a fabulous deal for the Nuggets. Last season Lawson was 8th among point guards in scoring per game, 2nd in field goal percentage, 10th in assists per game, 11th in steals per game, and averaged only 2.4 turnovers per game. He is an elite point guard and is probably worth more than 12 million over four years, great deal. Stephen Curry got a 4 year 44 million deal from the Warriors. This deal is odd in the sense that Curry has not been able to stay healthy in his time in the league, but in the two years he played over 70 games he averaged just over 18 points and 5.8 assists per game. If Curry can stay healthy, we have seen that he could be one of the better point guards in the league. The Harden extension was 5 years and 80 million, see above for why that is a good deal. I am not sure what to make of the Taj Gibson deal with Chicago, it is cheap 4 years 38 million that part is good, but he has been a bench player his whole career. I don’t know if he is a starter and if he is when are they going to amnesty Carlos Boozer? The two best non-extensions that occurred were Tyreke Evans and Brandon Jennings. It is really hard to say what the market value is on both of these players and how good they actually are. Jennings was demanding a lot of money, but Milwaukee has another player similar to Jennings in Monta Ellis. It was smart to wait and decide who had a better season, who is the better fit long term, and what the market value will be so they then can decide who they want.
    4. Houston-OKC Blockbuster Deal - The deal is great for Houston due to all of the reasons above about why James Harden is good at basketball. For Oklahoma City it was a very tough decision to make, but according to management they couldn’t pay Harden what he wanted. Having a guy on your team that is unhappy is not going to help the chemistry and chemistry is big in OKC. Now the haul that they got back for Harden isn’t half bad either, Jeremy Lamb, Kevin Martin, two first-round picks, and a second round pick. Kevin Martin has always been great at filling it up and is about on par with Harden in terms of three point shooting. Lamb in my personal view has some of the same abilities as Harden does. If he can put it all together and become consistent he is a very competent ball handler, an above average shooter, and very athletic. If the Thunder can develop him and draft well, which they will they are OKC, they got a great deal.
    5. The Association - It is so pleasing to have the NBA back. The hype around this season is similar to that around the Jordan era and it is a great thing. There were so many games that came down to end of the game and big plays were made in the last few minutes to win games.
  2. The Bad

    1. The Rookies – Yes there were good rookie performances but there were also some learning curve moments for the rooks. Austin Rivers is going to take a good bit of time to adjust to the NBA. He shot 1 for 9 last night in the Hornets loss with 3 turnovers. Thomas Robinson went 1 for 5 and also pitched in 3 turnovers in the Kings loss to the Bulls. And finally Terrence Ross was 0 for 2 in his debut against the Pacers in only 6 minutes of action.
    2. Lottery Teams - I didn’t list some rookies in either the good or bad due to just average performance. But other rookies weren’t featured because they didn’t even see the floor. If you are a lottery team and invested your high first round pick on a young talent why is he not playing? This really falls on two teams in particular; Rockets and Suns. Both of these teams drafted young talent that didn’t even see the floor. Right off the bat these players are going to take a self-esttem hit and be confused what their role is going forward. The Suns specifically added Kendall Marshall and then went out and signed Goran Dragic to play starting point guard. Why pick someone you aren’t going to play?
    3. Nets-Knicks - The news that the Nets vs. Knicks game will be postponed is bad news for the NBA and fans. Unless you are a Knicks fan,now you can actually enjoy the games without worrying about your teams terrible underperforming or horrible managing. More importantly this game was huge for the NBA to bring a second team into the New York market and hopefully have these two teams begin a rivalry. This game was also one of only two nationally televised games on this evening.
    4. Philly Fans - This is very minor and has little to do with basketball, but what in the world are you thinking Philly? Andre Iguodala was traded! He didn’t have a choice if he left or not. He was still under contract with Philly and management dealt him to the Nuggets. WHY WERE YOU BOOING HIM!?
    5. Bad Extensions – Toronto. Raptors. What. Were. You. Thinking. Toronto bid against themselves and gave DeMar Derozan a 4 year 38 million dollar deal. He wouldn’t be worth that much on the open market, there is no market for wings that can’t shoot and are not phenomenal defenders. Words cannot describe what they have invested in their wings (see Landry Fields). Jrue Holiday was the other odd extension that went down yesterday. Although not as bad as the Derozan deal it is still perplexing why they offered Holiday money similar to what Lawson will be getting. Holiday’s new deal can be worth up to 46.5 million over the 4 year deal. But what has Holiday done? Last year he averaged 4.5 assists and about two turnovers. His points per game was low at 13.5 and his shooting percentage ranked him in the bottom half of point guards. The key here is teams with uncertainty need to let guys go to restricted free agency and see what their value is.
    6. The Lakers – Last and maybe actually least is the Los Angeles Lakers. After losing to Dallas on opening night, who then got creamed by Utah last night, the Lakers came out and lost to Portland. Portland was a lottery team last year and they put a beating on this Lakers team. The Trailblazers started a rookie point guard and played a rookie center for 20+ minutes. Dwight Howard made 15 of 19 free throws and the Lakers still lost the game. They also had to play their stars extended minutes in back to back games; Kobe, Pau, and Dwight played 38+ minutes each and Dwight actually played over 40. On top of all of that Steve Nash got hurt and only played 16 minutes. Also Mike Brown is a defense of coach that is his specialty and the Lakers have now allowed 99 and 116 points two teams who I don’t think make the playoffs. This is not the team we expected. Although Dwight making that many free throws is something great to build on.

The Myth and Legend of Winning Without Superstars

Denver Nuggets logo

Denver Nuggets logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my personal opinion there are only five superstars in the NBA: LeBron, Kobe, Dwight, Wade, and Durant. Two of these players are on the Miami Heat and two are on the Los Angeles Lakers. If the myth were reality only 3 NBA teams have a legitimate shot at winning an NBA title. The myth I am speaking of is the idea that a NBA team cannot win the title without a superstar. If you look down the line of past champions you could say the Spurs teams had Duncan in his career prime, which may have classified him as a superstar. And maybe even Dirk was a superstar in his championship run, or Pierce in the Celtics run. I would argue against those and say neither Dirk nor Pierce were superstars at the time of their perspective title runs, but the argument is there. There is a team who no one could argue the presence of a superstar: the 2004 Detroit Pistons. This team with no notable superstar, many good players, but no superstars took down the almighty Lakers. The Lakers had Shaq, Kobe, Gary Payton, and Karl Malone who all will be in the Hall of Fame. Also at this time you could say that Kobe and Shaq were in their primes as superstars. So how do the lowly Pistons beat the superstar and Hall of Fame Lakers?

The Pistons won by being a team. Teams don’t have one guy who is going to shoot the ball in crunch time or a guy that is going to demand the ball. Teams instead will ride the hot hand and have everyone pitch in to allow them to win a game. Every one on a team has a role and they all execute without questioning the role. The Pistons had four guys scoring in double figures and three more averaging 9 points. The Pistons had a great group of players that year all of which were experienced NBA players. Nobody on the team averaged more than 18 points, 15 shots, or 6 assists. Rip Hamilton lead that team at 17 points a game and Ben Wallace led them with 12 rebounds a game. This to go along with the team defense lead them to a NBA title. The whole point of this is I think there is a 2004 Detroit Piston in this years NBA.

The Denver Nuggets: the Nuggets have insane depth this season and have added valuable pieces that they did not have last season. If you look at this Nuggets team from last year they had 7 guys who averaged double figure points. So would it be insane if I said they added two guys who both average double digits for their career? And can play great defense? For instance Andre Iguodala is not an emphatic scorer but he is one of the top defenders in the league. Last year just looking at perimeter players who played over 800, minutes Iguodala was second to only LeBron James in defensive rating (an estimate of how many points allowed for 100 possessions) by only one point. The other great thing about Iguodala’s defense is that George Karl, the coach of the Nuggets, can put Iguodala on any position player 1-4 and Iguodala will lock him down. This along with the presence of JaVale McGee for a whole year, who will help lock down the middle, can only improve the Nuggets who were actually one of the top teams in defensive efficiency last year at fourth. The Nuggets also have a plethora of talent around those two. Ty Lawson is a fun and exciting point guard to watch but he can also play the position at a high level. Lawson’s speed fits right into the way this team will play: FAST. The Nuggets were first in points scored last year, but also third in offensive efficiency. They are returning young wing Wilson Chandler who had a great season prior to the lockout season, where he missed the whole year due to playing in China. Danilo Gallinari is also a year older and will hopefully get back to his shooting ways, but due to his shooting struggles last year he had to learn how to attack the basket. This is now an added fold to his game and makes him that much more of a threat, OFF THE BENCH, as a guy who averaged 14.6 points last year. Gallinari was one of the best players on the Knicks before coming over in the Carmelo Anthony trade. He was averaging nearly 16 points in the D’Antoni system which is very similar to the Karl system which is very free and allows his players to run. So why is everyone holding the Nuggets out of the title talk?

They have more depth than the Lakers, Heat, and Thunder. They have a guy who can take the “superstars” out of the game. And can exploit those teams at different positions respectively. The Lakers have to play Metta World Peace and who knows what off the bench. Also to go with that the Lakers have to play Steve Nash who is great on the offensive end but has absolutely no chance of keeping up with Lawson on the defensive end. The Lakers are also old, in a seven game series how do they continually run with the Nuggets? The Thunders scoring revolves around Kevin Durant and Russel Westbrook scoring. They also have James Harden but you can’t be beat by one guy. If Iguodala can lock down Durant, which I personally think he can lock down anyone on the planet, how are they going to score enough points to beat the best offense in the league? So why aren’t more people at least picking the Nuggets to make the finals?

Is it cause they don’t have a superstar that can hit buzzer beaters like this:

Crap that is Lawson winning a game.

There is Iguodala winning a game.

And Gallinari with a game winner.

I thought guys who weren’t superstars can’t win games? The Pistons are not an anomaly, TEAMS win titles not SUPERSTARS.

Western Conference Preview

Although the NBA title usually alternates between conferences and it could be said the east has two of the top five teams in the league, the West is clearly the more competitive of the two. Making the Western Conference playoffs in the recent years has been an incredibly tough feat, not like the East where sub .500 teams can compete. Looking at the West you could say that there are some locks to make the playoffs: Spurs, Lakers, Clippers, Nuggets, Thunder. Contrary to other people’s opinions I don’t see the Grizzlies as a lock for the playoffs, I think the loss of OJ Mayo is bigger than a lot of people do. Mayo played the James Harden role for the Grizz coming off the bench and providing a scoring threat. Their attempted replacement for him is Jerryd Bayless from the Raptors, per game over their careers Mayo averages 7 points more per game and shoots the ball with more efficiency. Mayo has also experienced the playoffs with the team and probably knows the tendencies of others on the team. With those five as locks it leaves three spots for teams to battle over. Realistically I believe the Timberwolves, Jazz, Mavericks, Warriors, TrailBlazers, and obviously the aforementioned Grizzlies battling over those three spots.

Dallas MavericksThe Mavericks fan base was dealt a devastating blow this week when Dirk Nowitzki underwent arthroscopic knee surgery. Dirk will be sidelined for 6 weeks due to the surgery. If he returns in exactly 6 weeks he could play against the Pistons on the first, but more likely will return on the 5th of December to play the Clippers barring all goes well. Of there 16 games six of them will be against playoff teams from last year, but four of the other ten are against teams on this list. Not a great schedule for a team without their best player. They added Chris KamanDarren Collison, and OJ Mayo in the offseason. This filled some of the pieces they had lost in Jason Kidd and Brendan Haywood, but to be honest the Mavericks are just old. Shawn Marion is well past his prime as well as Vince Carter their other wing and finally their best player (Dirk) is feeling the effects of being old as well. He has actually been declining longer than most people think, since the 2005-06 season Nowitzki has gone down in average points per game each year excluding 08-09. In 05-06 he was averaging nearly 27 points per game last year just 21.6. Now with the added injury of knee surgery we can’t expect greatness out of him but can probably expect more decline. I think this is the year the Mavericks fall off their normal playoff status.

Golden State Warriors: On a brief side note, I am absolutely going to love the fact that I can watch this team now with league pass. The Warriors are one of those teams that can score in bunches and are probably right behind the Nuggets in my list of favorite teams to watch. But that is not why they are on here, this is a good offensive, talented, and young team. To the dismay of the fans last year they made a terrific basketball move in trading Monta Ellis to get Andrew Bogut. Bogut is not at all an offensive power but he knows how to defend the post, which in the West with Dwight Howard is something any team trying to contend will need. The best part about the Warriors is the young back court. Probably the back court with the most upside in the league, Stephen Curry just cannot stay on the court though last year only playing in 21 games due to ankle injuries (he also rolled his ankle the other day in preseason, let breath holding commence). Upon trading Ellis it opened up time for their young scorer Klay Thompson, Thompson played in every game last year but it was not until after Ellis was gone that he got to shine. In his 29 starts he averaged 18.1 points compared to his just 8.1 points in the bench role. This showed the Warriors that they had made the right decision and they had a great replacement for Ellis. The Warriors also had a great draft partly due to the fact that the best fit for the team fell right to them. I am a homer and although Harrison Barnes didn’t perform to the level we expected him to THIS IS A GREAT FIT FOR HIM. He isn’t the first option, the second option, and may not even be the third option (David Lee). He doesn’t have to create shots for himself ever and wont be drawing double teams because Curry and Thompson are too good at shooting the basketball. This is an exciting young team that is ready to make a splash in the future (pun intended).

Memphis GrizzliesI bashed Memphis before for letting Mayo go so I cannot go onto pick them to make the playoffs, right? No. They are still making the playoffs barring an injury to one of their big guys, but I still don’t view them in the same category as the five locks. Just a few reasons I like them to return to the playoffs: Marc Gasol is large and skilled, Zach Randolph aka ZBo has a cool nickname and can flat out put the round ball in the round hole, and Rudy Gay although not a superstar is a very good and versatile three.

Minnesota TimberwolvesThis is the team everyone wants to love in the NBA. Kevin Love is the best rebounder in the league and can shoot the three like a two guard. Ricky Rubio is the next Steve Nash. Really though Rubio is an extremely fun guy to watch play, one of the best passers we are going to see in the NBA this year and for the next decade. He has also proved that he is a pretty good on ball defender with his long arms resulting in him being top twenty in steals last year. The most incredible part of that stat is that Rubio only played 41 games last year 25 less than the rest of the league he was also top twenty in assists, all of that in his first year in the league. They also added two guys who missed the NBA season last year, but prior to that were no doubt all-stars. Brandon Roy was easily one of the top players in the Western Conference while in Portland, but had the same problem every injury prone athlete does there, he could not stay healthy. Then there is Andrei Kirilenkowho took the season off to play in Russia due to the lockout. Kirilenko was one of the more versatile players in the league and is a tremendous defender, he is the last player to record a 5×5 game (points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks). So after all of that drooling why aren’t the Timberwolves a lock? Kevin Love broke his hand doing knuckle push-ups, yes that actually can happen. Ricky Rubio still hasn’t healed from Kobe tearing his ACL last year. If Brandon Roy had the knees of a 55-year-old man they would be better than his current knees. Along with the question of his health holding up the whole year, it will be tough for the team to come together with out its starting point guard and MVP candidate power forward. In the stretch without Love, which should take approximately the same time as Dirk’s knee, Love will miss 17 games. 10 of the games he will miss are against playoff teams, all the team needs to do is win the games they are supposed to and they should make the playoffs. Rubio’s return is expected later in the month of the December.

Portland TrailblazersPortland is really a reach to make it to the playoffs, yet I think they will be in contention. They have an all-star power forward in LaMarcus Aldridge and a great young point guard. But that is one of the problems, Damian Lillard seems to have all of the physical tools to be a point guard in the NBA yet he didn’t play in one of the big six conferences, so this is a huge jump in competition level for him. And he is going to be one of the go to players on this team because they don’t have a terrific wing scorer. Batum is now being paid like a legit wing scorer but he hasn’t shown signs of being that yet. If he can step up they are a sneaky good team but they will need some injury help to overcome the tough road ahead to the playoffs.

Utah JazzThe Jazz are loaded on the front line, too bad those guys can’t play guard nor can they all play at the same time. Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson are studs on the front line, Derrick Favors has progressed well and it probably helps to practice against these guys everyday. There has been a ton of hype surrounding Enes Kanter and his new-found body this summer, Kanter has dropped weight and claims to be in much better shape. The problem: who scores in the back court? You can only rely so much on Mo Williams and the Jazz really have no other back court stand outs. It is a steep climb for the Jazz who threatened to break into the playoffs last year. I think they will have a repeat of last year and fall short again but be around the playoff hype until the last week. Something to look out for though is the prospect of the Jazz trading one of those four front court players to get some back court help. If they can bring in a big name they could make a strong surge.

The team everyone has challenging that I don’t think has a chance is the Phoenix Suns. The Suns swung and missed on two big signings this offseason with OJ Mayo and Eric Gordon. They instead added a duo from Houston with Goran Dragic and Luis Scola. To go along with those two they added Michael Beasley from Minnesota. Beasley is the Beas, he shoots a lot and is not very efficient. He can’t play the four that well cause he wants to be outside and can’t defend the three, he is a one trick pony. Everyone loves the addition of Dragic and Scola, but if they couldn’t get a Houston team, with Kevin Martin and some other attractive pieces to the playoffs, how do they get a less loaded Phoenix team to the playoffs?

My last three playoff spots go to: Golden State, Memphis, and Minnesota. Who you got? Comment below.

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Bobcats Season Preview: A New Era

Everyone in their right mind knows that the Bobcats can’t go anywhere but up or…? no they can only get better from last year. They have finally began to make the right moves under new GM Rich Cho. Since Cho has taken over as GM the Cats have added Brendan Haywood (at a discounted price off the amnesty wire), point guard Ramon Sessions, and made the two best draft choices of the MIchael Jordan era: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeffery Taylor. Both of these players were the best players available when taken and fill a need that they Cats had heading into the season of forward depth. Taylor has a great build but is new to the game, he can stroke it from deep, and is a phenomenal defender one of the best in the draft. But you could say the Cats drafted the second best defense player in the draft 2nd overall. I would probably say MKG is the best defender in the entire draft, but many would call that blasphemy due to Anthony Davis’ block numbers. When you watch MKG play defense he might remind you of the best defender we have in the league right now Lebron James, because he can defend any position on the floor and absolutely take that player out of the game. The style of play of both of the players drafted identify perfectly with the new style of play new coach Mike Dunlap wants to implement.

New bobcats MKG and Jeffery Taylor

You could say this was the first not so great movie that new GM Rich Cho has made. Dunlap was an assistant college coach and had never been an NBA head coach, he also had never coached at the division one level. Dunlap despite all of the criticism that has been thrown at him has done a lot to improve the team. He came in and coached the summer league team which is rarely done in the NBA. He also has exclusively worked with MKG to increase his shooting efficiency and the form behind that shot. He has also pledged to play a new up tempo style which will make up for some of the youth and lack of shooting in the Cats lineup. All things are looking up for the Cats this year and although the team wont be competing for a playoff spot, they probably won’t be the worst team in their division see: Orlando Magic, I think the team has a maximum potential of a thirty win team but ultimately will end up with about 24 wins. This is a great improvement and will still leave the team with a good pick in a weak 2013 draft.

 

A Different Kind of Discrimination

In sports we have come to recognize through the years that there is a lack of equal treatment toward females and certain races. We have realized that the discrimination against these athletes and their minds is unethical and unequal. Yesterday afternoon there was an article written that discriminated against another group of people. Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman (article was published on the web at newsok.com) called Royce White a “head case”. In his article Mayberry paints a picture of White as an athlete with a checkered past, which led to his drop in the draft from a top ten pick to being drafted 16th by the Houston Rockets. White does have a checkered past, as so many athletes who grew up in rough rural neighborhoods do, but that wasn’t the reason for White’s fall in the draft. He fell in the draft because he has a mental illness. White was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder which has led him to have a fear of flying. He was told at the age of eighteen by his doctor that he should probably quit basketball, and that the industry is meant to “break people like him”. He, to this day, has learned to cope with the disorder and was named to the All-Big12 team and an honorable mention All-American. White was also the only player in the country to lead his team in five statistical categories last year. Mayberry makes an incredibly uneducated and rude remark in his article by calling White a head case. Mayberry also puts the Thunder under the microscope for the line he writes in his article stating that, even if given the opportunity, the Thunder would not have drafted the forward due to the “risk” involved with White. This is the type of behavior that should be taken out of the industry. Well then should the Thunder not consider resigning star sixth man and shooting guard James Harden? Harden has spent the summer touring Europe partying on yachts and “making it rain” at gentlemen’s clubs. Is he also too much of a risk for the Thunder organization? Or maybe the Thunder should have strayed away from Perry Jones III who received impermissible benefits in college causing him to be suspended from tournament play. He was also injured coming off of his last season in college, but did this stop the Thunder from selecting him? No. These are true character problems and injuries that one can control.

In sport we notice that people of different races or colors are no different and that females are no different from males. The industry is finally starting to learn that all humans are equal, except in two categories: mental illnesses and homosexuality. There are over 400 mental disorders in the world and according to MSNBC America has the highest rate 26.4% of the population having a mental disorder. Over a quarter of the United States has a mental disorder and we still treat people with the issue differently  than we would any other. One common factor in all of the areas we discriminate against is none of these people are given the choice to possess these traits. I am sure if White had the choice he would choose to love flying and not have panic attacks on flights or in high pressure situations, but he does not have the choice. This situation is very similar to the issue of homosexuality in sport that has come up recently in football. In this case many players rushed to the defense of this young student athlete, as many people in the media have today for White. Not only does the sport industry need to stop discriminating against things that are out of someones control but the entire world needs to obtain this view. I was recently diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder which is considered a mental illness,having the ability to accept yourself after you are informed you have a mental problem like this is difficult, I have become a huge fan of Royce White  and his story since this. He stated in a recent article that he wants to face his problems head on and not be known as someone who drank or took drugs to deal with his disorder. His story, perseverance, and effort to make us aware is the type of story journalists and media members should be covering, not replacement referees or Tim Tebow.On top of us needing to change or scope and cover more stories like this, more athletes need to make like White and bring their issues to the foreground to help others fighting the same battle.

Recovering From the Blues: The Road Ahead

As upsetting as it is to lose in the NCAA tournament the week could get worse, much worse. The heels according to many draft boards have 4 lottery picks and at least two in the top ten, with the potential that 4 could be in that top ten. This not including the likes of Kendall Marshall who is projected by many to be a top 20 pick. James Michael McAdoo although not being a starter is expected to be drafted 7th by Chad Ford of ESPN. Roy Williams like always has done an incredible job recruiting players for next years team, but his toughest recruiting job is still to come in the next week. Roy has the task of trying to convince four of these five guys to stay (Zeller is out of eligibility) for another year.

Roy has done this before like last year and before that 2008. In 2008 the team went to the final four and lost to a Kansas team that later won the NCAA championship. That team had Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, and Wayne Ellington. All major prospects at the time and we saw all of them return and complete the job. Last season this team made it to the Elite Eight and was defeated by Kentucky. Barnes, Zeller, and Henson were all projected as high draft picks in a weak draft class. Roy convinced them to stay and he can do it again, replacing Zeller with Marshall. After seeing all of these guys come back last year it makes you think that maybe they have unfinished business, still. Also the way the team acted yesterday in the locker room shows how invested these guys are in North Carolina. Barnes sat with a towel over his head for fifteen to twenty minutes with nothing to say to the media, while other players like Henson, Zeller, and Marshall are all visibly upset (63-69 are especially heart wrenching, 66 for Marshall). So the fate of the program according to the NCAA will be defined by the tenth of April when players must have declared for the draft. The season outlook for next year looks good and potentially great barring the decisions of these guys. Along with the recruiting class you are going to get back a healthy Lesile Mcdonald and Dexter Strickland. Both of these players will be true seniors bring leadership to potentially the point guard and shooting guard/small forward position. Also coming in is Marcus Paige of Iowa who many believe is the number one point guard prospect, Brice Johnson a similar style of play to Henson in his length on the defensive end, J.P. Tokoto who is thought by many to be the best dunker in the entire class, and Joel James a wide center from Florida.

What could be is a team filled with depth that even with the definite loss of Zeller, a second team All-American, could compete with anyone. What I think happens: optimistic view is that everyone stays, after seeing the way Barnes reacted post game it reminded me of Hansbrough from 2008 after his loss to Kansas but Barnes is most likely gone he isn’t of the same build as Hansbrough mentally, who wanted nothing more than to win here, with the students and that team. Marshall should stay and I truly feel he will. He is not quick enough to guard many point guards in the NBA, this next season will give him the opportunity to prove he can score and defend as he had begun doing before the injury. McAdoo should stay and has a good support system that should be able to parlay that information to him. He is not comfortable enough with the college game yet, he is still stuck in high school and jumping from that to the NBA is illogical. When I watched him play last year he put up 35 against Hargrave Academy which had 6 D1 player, and he made it look easy, his potential is there. Henson might be the toughest of all of these guys to figure out. John Henson just looks like the kind of kid that loves every minute of college, but his pro potential is threw the roof. For the sake of expecting the worst I think Henson will leave as well, although deep in my heart I see him staying. This also doesn’t include the Heels losing Stillman White to a mormon mission for two years (dude had 13 assists and no turnovers give him credit as at least a back up guys).

Potential lineup for next year:

PG Kendall Marshall

SG Lesile Mcdonald

SF Reggie Bullock

PF Brice Johnson

C James Michael McAdoo

First four off bench:

1. Dexter Strickland

2.Marcus Paige

3. P.J. Hairston

4. Joel James

That is still a lineup to reckon with and with Barnes draft stock falling after every second of tape scouts watch from the last 2-3 games he could be back, as well as Henson. Prepare for the worst, pray for the best.

 

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