Monday, November 29, 2004

Stuck in the middle with you

It is definitely early in the season, but one man who needs to begin
stepping up again is Mark Blount. He worked hard to get his contract.
Now that he has it he should be working harder. It is entirely
unacceptable that he is averaging only 5 rpg. With his size and the
lack of competition he faces in the paint in the East, this number
should be up closer to 8.

Boston needs a closer

Another tough loss for the Celtics yesterday. They were able to hang
with a much more talented Miami squad and had a chance to win things
down the stretch. It again comes down to execution, execution,
execution. Too much dribbling leads to a defense that is set. Worse
yet is that the Celtics crunch time defense is not what it could be.
Of course, Dwyane Wade (aka The Flash) is pretty hard to handle. He
gave Celtics defenders headaches with his crossover and atheleticism.

In other news, the Bulls finally won. They beat Utah. At least
they're off the consecutive loss schnide. For now.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Mr. Pierce goes to Washington

The Celtics. Ugh. I've complained about this a million times and I
thought it was one of Coach O'Briens bigger flaws, but all the crucial
possessions down the stretch and every overtime possession amounted to
isolations for Paul Pierce. He was clearly pretty gassed and was
being defended by a much younger and taller Jared Jeffries who was
also fresher because all he was in to do was defend Pierce. Pierce
took step back jumper after step back jumper and missed shot after
shot. The Celtics almost didn't score in five minutes of overtime.
Just pathetic. I'm a big proponent of attacking a defense. Why let
one guy stand around, dribble out the shot clock, and then take a
difficult shot? Pierce is a great shooter so why not get him a good
look? I would prefer to see Payton get the ball (did I just say
that?) and either penetrate and kick to Pierce or initiate an
offensive set where Paul gets to come off a few screens that leave him
with the option of a quick catch and shoot or a better chance to drive
towards the tin. Pierce knows how to get to the line and is
profficient when he gets there, so why the coach does not put him into
a situation where he will have that chance is beyond me. Pierce is
not Allen Iverson. He cannot out-quick a guy one-on-one and that
showed as Jefferies made Pierce look like a fool time after time with
his defense.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Rookie Report

1. Emeka Okafor is doing great. He rebounds strong and I watched him
put some nice blocks on people tonight. Very good weakside help. And
his turn around jumper is proving to be a nice offensive move on the
low block.

2. Luol Deng. I believe I wrote earlier that I thougt Luol would be
very good and that he was being widely underestimated. He now leads
all Rookie scorers with 18.5 ppg and is also getting 7 rpg coming off
the bench. He has a very smooth effortless game with good perimeter
shooting and savy moves to the tin.

3. Dwight Howard. I underestimated this kid dramatically. He is
rebounding like a beast and could be in the midst of an Amare type
year. I think Grant Hill is really raising everybody's play on
Orlando so without him Dwight would be lower.

4. Chris Duhon. I frequently fail to understand why the NBA avoids
four year seniors who were leaders from good teams and displayed good
skill. Boozer comes to mind. And this years pick is Duhon. I wanted
the Celtics to draft this kid. He's coming off the pine to average
5.8 assists a game and is playing good hard man defense. I think he
would have been a better pick than Delonte West to be the Celtics
point guard.

5. Nocioni. He is the leading rebounder on the Bulls right now. This
tells you two things. He has a nose for the ball at the small forward
spot, but also that the Bulls twin towers are soft as hell.

Wait and See:

Celtics trio. Delonte West comes back this week. Al Jefferson looks
to be a mean rebounder and Tony Allen is very atheletic and appears to
be a very good rebounder. Problem is each is playing only 9 minutes a
game. This hurts the C's rookies a lot in the evaluation because
they just don't get the playing that Okafur and the rest on this list
get. We'll see how they keep contributing in limited minutes though.

All together though I have to say I think this was a really strong draft.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

All is not lost

Barring evangelical nation deciding to ban games as wicked, at least the NBA is hear to apply salve to my mental wounds incurred on November 2nd and 3rd.

Some Quick hits. The Pistons looked great. The Mavs seem good and have given the keys to their Rookie Harris. L.A. is not going to be as good as they looked last night. Kobe Bryant won't be content to just shoot 14 times a game.

The Celtics are having a very good opening night. The shots are falling, and Pierce is dominating. The Rookies are not getting much burn either. We had to wait until well into the 3rd quarter to see Al Jefferson. Payton is playing well too. He's dishing assists with the broken thumb and everything. Philly looks a little rough around the edges. Iverson is gunning a lot and nobody else is doing much. Their defense isn't playing all that well either which is a mild surprise considering Obie gets his teams to play good defense. Iverson is one tough cookie though. He just hit a very difficult double clutch floater from the wing. Wow. But then Tony Allen just skyed to cram back a rebound. What a hammer. I'm excited. If nothing else this team should be exciting.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Three the hard way

The Western Conference had a slight brown out during the finals, most
likely due to the soap opera that is the Lakers. We all know that
most of the talent is still out West, but there were some moves that
brought things a little bit closer. Let's see who the performers are
out West from first to worst:

1. San Antonio - Timmy Now! still anchors this team with solid
fundamental play. They were upset by the Lakers after going up 2-0 in
a stirring series, a lead that probably woke the Lakers up and got
them to start playing a little bit. I liked the moves they made in
the offseason: 1. Ginobli is back, coming off a gold medal experience
with Argentina 2. Brent Barry is in. Having Barry is huge. He has
great 3pt% and overall field goal percentage too. He plays smart with
the ball and has plenty of experience. He is going to be what the
Spurs needed to get over the hump last year. The Lakers dared
Turkoglu and Bowen to hit threes and they didn't. Nobody is going to
be able to pull that garbage with Barry. Plus with Shaq and Malone
gone, who will defend Duncan? Nobody. Malone was actually the most
effective defender on Duncan. He was physical and quick on him. He
was "pulling the chair out" from under Duncan at least two times a
game and getting travelling calls on him. Malone also saved O'Neal
from getting in foul trouble. Nobody else out west has proven capable
of defending Duncan, not K.G., not Webbs, not Amare, and certainly not
Gasol. I see an MVP and a trip to the finals for Timmy and Co.

2. Minnesota - They got over the first round curse in a big way. They
made it all the way to the conference finals but Sam Cassell was too
banged up when they got there. He didn't even play in some of those
games. They really needed his outside shooting and leadership. They
also had no answer for Shaq. Well, nobody does, but now they won't
have to worry about that issue until possibly the finals. This team
kept all the pieces it needs to make another deep run. They just need
to keep Golum healthy for the playoffs. As an added boost though,
Troy Hudson should be a contributor this year which will go a long way
towards keeping Sam off the I.L. If KG gets just a little bit more
aggresive (less fadeaway please, you're 7' freaking-1" for godsakes!)
then Minny is in for a great year.

3. Denver - This could be a bit of a stretch, but let me defend this
placement. They had a nice offseason with the addition of Kmart and
the resigning of Camby. Carmelo has another year of seasoning and a
chip on his shoulder because he didn't play much during the olympics
(even though he might have been USA's best shooter). Kmart I think is
big because he gives this team a tough-nosed defender and rebounder.
They now have a front court of Nene/Camby, Kmart, and Melo. Throw in
Veshon Lenord at the two spot and Andre Miller and Pedros Midget (aka
Boykins) at the point and you have a talented team top to bottom.
They tasted the playoffs last year and had some success which they are
going to build strongly on this year.

4. Dallas - Okay, they lost Nash, Jamison, Najera, and employee #8.
They gained Erik Dampier, Jerry Stackhouse, Jason Terry, Devin Harris
(r), and found out last years rookies (Daniels and Howard) are for
real in the playoffs. Losing Nash hurts but they were wise not to
overpay for him. He's getting up in years and it would suck to be
handing out cash to an injured guy. Dampier gives them a big physical
presence in the middle which they sorely needed. He'll help make up
for some of their defensive problems on the perimeter and should be a
good rebounder. Jason Terry brings a scoring guard/pg who can light
up a scoreboard ala Van Exel but won't dish like Nash. But none of
that should matter because everything hinges on Dirk becoming a
superstar this year. He's going to be the offensive focal point so
his assists should go through the roof. He showed some defensive
prowess in the playoffs. And those rookies from last year can
really, really play. Stack brings some instant offense, but lets see
how much he pouts. Maybe playing for a winnner will help. He's
mainly there to keep Finley's minutes down. I like this group a lot
and think they can go far in the playoffs. But there's a big team
chemistry change and we'll see how they survive it.

5. Sacto- Well, Peja is GREAT until the pressure is on. And Webber is
pretty much done physically. He was hobbling all over the place in
China. Vlade left town, and he was Peja's best friend. Oh, Peja
demanded a trade and Webber called him out for not stepping up (excuse
me Mr. Webber, where were you?) after another dissapointing playoff
run. Perhaps this group will unite once more to make their final stab
at the title now that Shaq is out of town. But it seems like the
clubhouse will be poisonous this year. They'll still make the
playoffs, but I think they'll wimper out again. Oh, and watch out for
Songalia when Webbs is out (and he will be). The kid can play and is
great insurance for Webber. I wonder which team had the smarts to
draft him? Hmmmm.....

6. Houston - Van Gundy got what he wanted, which was to be done with
Stevie Franchise. He gets one of the NBA's best players in return,
albeit a guy who dogged it last year big time. Yao continues to
impress and should be the most dominant pivot man in the West this
year. In the playoffs Shaq got motivated playing against Yao and
destroyed him. This year, Yao is the man who should be doing the
destroying. This team is similar to last years Lakers in that the
role players are total garbage. Charlie Ward at the point? Bob Sura
working on his tan? Dikembe Mutumbo growing roots in the floor? Jim
Jackson and Juwan Howard are the only bright spots here. Whenever Van
Gundy goes to his bench, "Houston, we have a problem." will be the
catch phrase to use. Still as the Lakers showed two Superstars can
shine, even in the West. It only remains to be seen if Tmac can bring
his level of play back up and be more than a scorer.

7. Utah - You know, I'm probably underestimating them by placing them
here. They had an amazing infusion of talent this offseason. Memhet
Okur and Carlos Boozer added to AK47 equals one of the NBA's best
front courts. They drafted two very atheletic and talented players in
Kris Humphries and Kirk Snyder who will have the luxury of learning
from a coaching master and not having to shoulder too much of a load
their first year in the league. Back from the I.L. is Matt Harpring,
their best player two years ago when nearly averaged a double-double
from the 3spot. Carlos Arroyo has his confidence up after dismantling
the U.S. in international play at the point and again, they have the
BEST coach in the league right now. Jerry Sloan almost got the Jazz
into the playoffs last year in the west with a motley crew of players
(AK47 excluded). With this kind of talent I expect some big things
from this group. I don't see any reason why they can't be higher on
this list of teams, and they probably will be. This team is a reason
to get NBA-League pass in my opinion because they are going to be a
well coached thing of beauty. Sloan gets coach of the year this year,

8. Lakers - I'm not sure what to make of this team. Kobe is going to
be allowed to shoot as much as he wants. Whether or not that's a good
thing, I dunno. I can't wait to see what happens the first time he
demands the ball and doesn't get it. I see some fist-fights on this
team, with Lamar Odom winning. Lamar can't be happy about being #2
man on the totem pole again after really flourishing in Miami and
playing a very team oriented game. I was tempted to leave them out of
the playoffs, but I think Kobe has a lot to prove after forcing Shaq
out of town. I don't think he let's them miss the playoffs. But for
the sake of team-chemistry it's a good thing most NBA players can't
read. Phil's book could have really cemented the opinions of some of
Bryants new teammates.


9. Memphis - They played the most team oriented game last year and
broke their streak of futility since entering the league in Vancouver.
Gasol is a stud and they just maxed him out. Hubbie Brown showed
that coaching isn't all about relating to the players, it's about
coaching them up which he did. He rightly deserved coach of the year
honors. However, the offseason was less than productive. The only
major addition was the human swiss army knife that is Brian Cardinal.
He'll do anything to help a team win, making him a perfect fit for
Hubbie's system. But the Logo really wanted Erik Dampier. He wasn't
willing to pay the asking price in talent or cash so maybe Dampier
isn't worth it. Still, Memphis has a lot of talent stock piled on
their roster and they should be active come trading deadline time. I
think Memphis could bump the Lakers out of the playoffs.

10. Phoenix - They sure did load up their back court with free agent
signings of Steve Nash and Quentin Richardson. I can see Nash, but
why Q? Joe Johnson really broke out at the end of last season and now
they've got a higher paid less atheletic version of him in the
presence of Q. Amare Stoudemire really regressed last year and he
looked totally lost out at the Olympics. I think he's bought his own
hype and isn't really working on getting better. I don't like
anything about Phoenix's offseason and I don't like this teams

11. Seattle - Rumor has it that Ray Allen's back is already an issue
and he could miss substantial playing time again. Rashard Lewis is
decent, but has clearly hit his talent cap after signing a fat
contract. Seattle was wise not to give him the max. They lost a great
team player and a leader in Brent Barry and got nothing in return.
What they do have is rookie Nick Collison coming back after a
dissapointing first year in the L when he missed every game due to
injury. I thought Collison was really going to help this team last
year, and I think he will this year. I look for him to have a decent
year. But this team needs another dip in the lottery after drafting
first round token white-bust Robert Swift. He sure will look goofy on
that bench.
12. New Orleans - Not only did George Shinn screw the city of
Charolette over, he screwed his own team over. Welcome to the Western
Conference you idiot. Here are Charolette's problems: Masburn ain't
coming back. Ever. B.Diddy is good, but plays recklessly and is
going to break down physically. A bad back is hard to get rid of in
the NBA. Magloire wants out of Charlotte because he hates the owner
and doesn't want to be in the West where he is not going to be making
any All-Star teams, that's for sure. Look for this team to be moved
again too because the last thing the residents of a city below sea
level need is to watch another overpriced group of gentlemen dog it on
the court/field.

13. Portland - They pushed for a playoff spot because Maurice Cheeks
is a great coach. During the offseason Qyntel woods was arrested for
arranging dog fights, Zach Randolph got caught with pot and harrassed
a police officer, they drafted a small high school point guard who was
over hyped and will be out of the league soon, and they failed to move
a very disgruntled Shareef-Abdur Rahim. The Chemistry is going to be
explosive with this bunch and not in a good way. I feel bad for
Cheeks, he deserves better. More importantly, the good people of
Portland deserve much, much better than this group of players.

14. Da Clips - Another year, another trip to the lottery. Elton Brand
is on track to put up hall of fame numbers and never even taste
playoff action. There's not much to say about this team. Maybe
Dunleavy can coach 'em up, but this half of the NBA is too talented to
get by with a bunch of pretenders.

15. Golden State - They resigned Adonal Foyle to a ridiculous contract
and let in successive years both Gilbert Arenas and Erik Dampier walk.
Mully has a lot of work on his hands, this team doesn't really have
many prospects.