Tag Archives: Boston Celtics

NBA Season Preview Part II (Teams from 30-16)

The NBA season is upon us and with that, its time to preview the season.  You can find part one here.  For this preview I decided rather than write some long winded thing about how Kobe Bryant is ruining the Lakers franchise (more on that later), I would rather structure it in a crowd pleasing way: go reverse order in rank of all 30 NBA franchises heading into the season and list one player to watch and one subplot over the course of the season.  Hope you enjoy it and hope you learn and hope you care enough to curse me out over the internet and tell me I don’t know crap.  Here is part I:

30. Sixers logoPhiladelphia 76ers-

Player to Watch- Nerlens Noel (C)- Noel is in his second year out of the NBA training academy in Kentucky known as the Wildcat collegiate program.  He’s a long armed, afro-d rim protector sent to the Sixers to play with the emotions of players hoping to score in the paint.  Obviously this season is lost in the midst of the biggest, most open tanking party known to sports (as the NBA Twitteratzi will have you believe), so the most important story on the court will be Noel’s development along with MCW’s development playing with Noel and then maybe if we’re lucky we may even see a Joel Embiid sighting!

Major Subplot of the Season- Tankapalooza- Technically the Sixers won their first game of the season when major lottery reform was shot down by a vote of 17-13.  Zach Lowe of Grantland expertly outlined what was at stake for this vote.  The NBA and its righteous police will surely devote thousands of words and twitter memes to symbolize what a horrible thing this is, but I’m all for any careful, thought out process of becoming good again.  Fans will come back once the team starts winning.  Suffer for a few years, but beware when the tag of losers are ripped off.  That’s when the fun starts.

29. jazz symbol Utah Jazz-

Player to Watch- Dante Exum (PG?)-  I put a question mark because the Jazz and rookie coach Quinn Snyder will likely use him in a variety of roster spots.  But he’s a natural point guard.  Exum is the baby of a youtube highlight clip, reared by Twitter GIF’s and raised by the blessing of the NBA Twitterverse.  Which is to say he’s a completely digital creation.  Now comes the human element: actual games.  I like what i’ve heard, and I’m more intrigued by the few highlights I’ve seen from Jazz preseason games.  I’m not going to venture a guess on his ceiling because nobody knows, but a point guard that can fly and has court vision?  Should be fun.

Major Subplot of the Season- How Toure Murray and Steve Novak will save the Jazz!  Young and the Restless- The Utah Jazz have the youngest roster in the NBA.  Twelve of the 15 players that will suit up for the Jazz are 25 and younger.  Talent wise, they have three Top 5 Picks (Exum, Kanter, and Favors), six lottery picks (+ Hayward, Burks and Burke), and nine first rounders (+Booker, Hood, Govert), pedigree which suggests they should be good.  They are like Philly three years into their tanking program, but the feeling is that there will be more losses piling on for the Jazz.  They play in the ultra-competitive West where there are legitimately 10 teams vying for the 8 playoff spots.  So it gives Utah liberty to continue piling on assets before they have to make their first big move, which likely will mean either Kanter or Favors is on their way out.  Bet on Kanter, but definitely lay money on the fact that the Jazz will look very Spurs-ian on offense (don’t we all aspire to) while running exciting rotations which should keep hoop nerds in the East up long hours watching this young 20 something line up explore themselves like a young teenager watching porn for the first time.

28. Lakers-Logo Los Angeles Lakers-

Player to Watch- Kobe Bryant (SG)- C’mon, as if there was anyone else.  I honestly don’t know how Kobe’s season will play out but after this article by Henry Abbot (a journalist of the highest order) where he lists anonymous sources within the Lakers organization who believe that Kobe is the reason they are bad and will continue to be bad.  Not helping matters was Jeannie Buss going all Steinbrenner-ish by publicly criticizing these anonymous sources and calling any player who doesn’t want to play with Kobe a loser anyway, I can’t help but feel uneasy about predicting anything but a ton of back and forth between Kobe’s fan base (long one of the most fierce in NBA history) over Twitter that could get nasty.

Major Subplot of the Season- Byron Scott and the National Advanced Stats legion- Not only are advanced stats here to stay, but they have crept into every crevice of NBA operation and major NBA writing which will likely skew your thoughts on the matter.  Fact is, Byron Scott is wrong based on all the statistical evidence we’ve seen (see!  its happening to me!).  To be fair, Scott came to Cleveland on July 2nd, 2010.  We all know what happened on July 8th when Lebron tap danced on Cleveland fans hearts and went to Miami.  Well, he comes to Los Angeles, the place of his greatest trumps RIGHT as Kobe is entering a “prove you’re still great” season where he’ll launch a ton of shots while playing a bunch of one on two or threes and giving below average defense and demanding minutes.  Also, the best free agents the Lakers got were Jeremy Lin, who will now be pushed into more minutes with Steve Nash being done for the season, and Carlos Boozer who’s biggest contribution the last few seasons was this.  Things could get bad in Tinseltown fast.  But hey, at least they will sell out!

27. bucks logoMilwaukee Bucks-

Player to Watch- Jabari Parker (SF)- Carmelo Anthony clone.  Number two draft pick in a loaded draft.  Thought to be a franchise player.  There’s tons of things here to like, but let’s call it what it is.  Here is the season for the Bucks right here:

Major Subplot of the Season- Jason Kidd dealing with a young roster- In Brooklyn he was a rookie coach trying to get the most out of a veteran roster.  He flipped the script, jumped ship (there’s really no other way of saying it) and went to a team with a bunch of young pieces.  Kidd had plenty of lows in Brooklyn but the fact is, he did it his way which is how you can accurately describe his NBA career.  He’s a natural leader and he will be the voice the players turn to when they are down in a crunch time situation and youth and inexperience will drive them to the Fountain of Kidd.  This may not be a good team, butut expect them to be hungry and give teams a good scare down the stretch.  Expect them also to be very busy come trade deadline.  Shoutout to John Henson who I saw give everyone elbows because he still hasn’t figured out how freakishly long his limbs are.  You can’t teach that.

26. Magic logoOrlando Magic-

Player to Watch- Elfrid Payton (PG)- Many expect Payton to challenge Jabari Parker for the Rookie of the Year.  Payton is that mix of rangy athleticism with a good body that compares well to Exum, only he played in the States.  While he did play in the Sun Belt Conference, the experience of playing States-side players is very critical when seeing how he projects and he’s proven in both Vegas (7.2 APG) and in 27 MPG in the preseason (5 APG) that he’s up for the challenge.  It also helps that everyone has been glowing about how mature and wise beyond his years he is.

Major Subplot of the Season- They can play but can they shoot though?- The stats suggest not.  Jacque Vaughn is in a weird spot.  They already have lost Victor Oladipo for an extended stretch when he broke his orbital bone.  They brought in Channing Frye to help spacing but you can almost make the case that 60% of their starting lineup not only can’t shoot, but are historically bad.  Aaron Gordon doesn’t project well as a shooter, and neither does Tobias Harris who the Magic have to make a decision on whether to extend.  How can you create space for Payton to drive, or Oladipo to drive or Gordon to roll to the basket if NOBODY is afraid of them from 10 feet and beyond?  That’s the question for them to  ponder.

25. CelticsLogoBoston Celtics-

Player to Watch- Rajon Rondo (PG)- In my 10 bold predictions for the upcoming season, I wrote that Rondo would not be traded and that Jeff Green would be.  Most may think I dislike Rondo which is far from the truth.  I love Rondo.  I think having a competitor like him can only help your team and he has the playoff chops to take your team over the top.  Even if he isn’t a fit in the triangle, I would welcome him to my Knicks.  But this season the Celtics, who drafted Marcus Smart specifically to take over the mercurial yet talented point guard of the Celtics mantle that Rondo held firm for so many years,  are continuing their rebuilding and transition.  They have quality pieces to give away in trades and Rondo being the big chip.  I just don’t see it happening, unless the Celtics find a very anxious bidder who’s willing to overpay which is exactly how Danny Ainge wants to play it.  But Rondo isn’t the cookie cutter and he comes with hard edges that will make him a very tough add to any team hoping to add Rondo to their team easily.

Major Subplot of the Season- Can Danny find a home for Rondo?- I realize I’m doubling up on this but let’s face it, the Celtics will try like heck to trade him.  Getting back value will be completely up to Danny Ainge.  Will he hold on to Rondo even though he knows retaining him will take repairing their relationship?  We still have yet to see Rondo and Brad Stevens collaborate in an 82 game season which is something that could be fascinating.  But Ainge’s responsibility first and foremost will be to trade Rondo and get back draft picks, salary relief, and young players.  I don’t know that he will accomplish that goal but the season will likely be in limbo until Ainge either trades him or pays him. You know who’s the x-factor on how this plays out?  Rajon Rondo.  Who knows if he wants to stick it to Celtic management?  Who knows if there’s resentment or bitterness on how the Celtic saga ended with the smearing campaign when Ray Allen left?  Coming to NY won’t help that but you can see how a change of scenario will help.  If Ainge has Rondo after the trade deadline, all the leverage will return to Rondo and that’s the scenario that Ainge does NOT want to see played out.

24. Timberwolves logo Minnesota Timberwolves-

Player to Watch- Andrew Wiggins (SF)- He said all the right things about how he was looking forward to the challenge.  How he’s motivated.  How he wants to play for a team that wants him.  Those are all fine and well.  He and Anthony Bennett will be compared in the impossible microscope of the Kevin Love trade.  That’s tough for any rookie, no matter how heralded.  Now comes the proving ground.  There’s no question about the defensive ability already.  His offensive game still needs a lot more work and he will get plenty of minutes to develop it.  Now’s the time rook.  Now.

Major Subplot of the Season- How does Flip Saunders deal with making a good deal?- Look, when you’re losing the quality of big man in Kevin Love, the fact is, there is no such thing as equal value.  So reality has to set in and accept the best deal possible.  Saunders did as decent a job as he could given the position the team was in.  They got a guy in Wiggins who could wind up being a generational talent, another number one pick who could be who knows what, and wound up with a quality NBA big man in Thaddeus Young.  Its not perfect, but its something.  They drafted Zach Lavine.  The Love departure will open up minutes for Gorgei Dieng who in limited minutes and then in international competition opened eyes.  There’s plenty to like about what the Love trade did for the franchise, but really it opened things up for a young group.  Now, Flip has to make sure Flip can coach them up.  This is the roster Flip gave Flip.  This is the roster that Flip will die with even if Flip doesn’t like it.

23. Kings logoSacramento Kings-

Player to Watch- Boogie Cousins (PF/C)- Count me in on the Boogie bandwagon.  The question becomes: is he a franchise player?   The Kings extended him, but that’s a referendum on a small market team desperately holding on to its best talent by offering him the most any team can offer, rather than the seal of approval by a brand new ownership/front office.  Talent has never been the question.  Its his inability to keep his emotions in check or be a leader that folks can draw from.  Well, I’m all in on the Boogie breakout season, which is saying something because he’s one of 5 players to average 20 and 10.  I’m all in on the goal of ONLY drawing 5 technicals.  Let’s go Boogie.

Major Subplot of the Season- Does Mike Malone have the pieces and/or time to make this work? Malone was a highly regarded assistant and son of Brendan Malone who served as a Knicks assistant in the Warriors when Vivek Ranadive, majority owner of the Kings, was a minority owner in Golden State.  So, it seems curious when the Kings head honcho came out and said now its about wins and losses. Regardless, the Kings will struggle by sheer virtue of geography (maybe they should’ve moved huh?).  They won 28 games and while improvement would be winning 30, that’s not the kind of improvement this Kings team wants.  Their cap is pretty clean and they have all their draft picks which is the good news.  The bad news is again, they play in the Western conference.  Dave D’Alessandro, the Kings GM, has turned this roster over aside from two players, and sees the turnover as a way to get better.  Losing Isaiah Washington was tough but I understand them not wanting to devote too much cap room for too many years to him.  Rudy Gay posted some of his best numbers playing alongside Boogie and they didn’t want to kill each other which is a major plus.  The Kings are a match for the Celtics if they are looking for draft picks and salaries to throw in a trade without too much of a long term commitment.  Add in the fact that Rudy Gay and Rondo are buddies, there’s definitely smoke there to start a full on fire.  But adding Rondo without the assurance of a contract being signed would be silly.  But with an edict like the one given to the Kings from ownership- do they have a choice if Ainge comes calling?

22. Hawks logo Atlanta Hawks 

Player to Watch- Al Horford (PF/C)- He’s quietly been one of the best PF/C’s.  People forget that he came from back to back national titles in Florida playing alongside Corey Brewer and Joakim Noah on those great Gator teams.  But he’s playing on a team that has been playing for the 6th-8th spot in the league since the days of Iso Joe offense.  Horford is due $12M this year and the next.  It will be interesting to see how both the Hawks and Horford play contract negotiations after a terrible winter.

Major Subplot of the Season- Change is coming- The Hawks under Danny Ferry have done a good job in retaining flexibility while signing solid veterans to decent deals.  How Danny Ferry’s racist rants and owner Bruce Levenson’s racist email plays into the Hawks future is clear: change is coming and its going to come quick.  Once Levenson’s email was leaked, and audio of Ferry making racist remarks were made, the clock officially began on their collective tenure expiring in Atlanta.  But this is a particularly interesting case.  Atlanta is a semi-big market that players love coming to because of its, umm, night life, and when the salary cap explodes in two years, this will be a team with almost 3 max salary slots available- one of them that will likely be filled by Horford unless something funky happens during negotiations.  There will be plenty of offers from more rich white guys (including a group headlined by Chris Webber) and a presence by Dominique, the former Hawk great, which is all but a certainty given how much positive press that would generate for any incoming group.  Until there is a new owner, plenty is up in the air about this franchise.

21.Pistons logoDetroit Pistons-

Player to Watch- Josh Smith (PF)- With Stan Van Gundy as the head coach and GM, its likely that Josh Smith will really have to mind his P’s and Q’s.  But here’s where Stan Van has the edge.  He’s already dealt with Josh Smith’s old pal Dwight Howard and knows how to get the most out of a talented big man who may just need direction.  Smith signed a 4 year contract worth $54 million last year when Detroit threw money around like a 24 year old with daddy’s new Black card.  Smith will be asked to play closer to the basket which goes against Josh Smith’s version of events that sees him as a stretch 4.  Of course real world statistics don’t bare that out, and that’s Stan Van’s mission: to convince Smith of who he is. There are talks about putting Smith as a sixth man In the end, this is more about developing Smith so that Stan Van can develop Andre Drummond into Dwight 2.0, only one that’s nicer to Nickelodeon stars they have relations with.

Major Subplot of the Season- Can Stan Van the exec agree with Stan Van the coach? SVG has long been regarded as one of the brightest minds in coaching.  His looks and personal style have left much to be desired but we haven’t minded.  He singlehandedly outed Dwight Howard as the biggest D-bag on the planet after we were duped with all the stories of farting and those big smiles that made us all think he was a swell guy.  So he has a history in player management.  But a coach can convince himself that he can right a player.  This is Stan’s first go-round as the top of the food chain.  No longer will he be told from execs within the organization about a player’s dislike of him, the information will have to be funneled through him.  Don’t think that teams won’t reach out to pull a fast one on him either.  Greg Monroe signed a qualifying offer but only because nobody else came calling with a max offer which shouldn’t shock him.  Nothing about Monroe’s game screams max-contract guy.  His skill set takes a backseat to the stylings of Andre Drummond and Monroe may seek greener pastures elsewhere where teams don’t have an Andre Drummond to shine light on his physical failings.  Bringing him in as a sixth man to help spacing, which was discussed as well with Josh Smith, could be the final nail unscrewed to make Monroe walk through the door, but there’s reason to believe he was headed out anyway.  Plenty of decisions for Stan Van the coach and Stan Van the GM, but can they both agree to help the team?

20. Pacers logoIndian Pacers-

Player to Watch- Paul George (SF) Roy Hibbert (C)- Last season’s fun ride and good times stopped because Roy Hibbert forgot how to be Roy Hibbert from the Knicks series.  The Great Wall of Roy who swatted everything with ferocity the likes of which had not been seen since Patrick Ewing roamed the center position for the Georgetown Hoyas.  So it goes without saying that this season will be extremely important to his development.  This season will likely feature Hibbert a whole lot (possibly in hopes that they can deal Hibbert for some financial freedom).  Frank Vogel may even run the offense through him.  If he wants to procure a big contract during the suddenly scorching Summer of 2016- he had better develop this year into the guy he showed in the Knicks series in 2012.

Major Subplot of the Season- Will the band be broken up?  My guess is that they will trade pieces, go for the lottery and then try their luck with a young piece next to a recovering Paul George.  George is their everything.  So if they go this route, it will allow Indiana to bring George back slowly rather than rushing him back.   They have seen in their division how a roster full of complementary pieces without a bona fide superstar and a very good coach can only achieve so much in the Chicago Bulls. It remains to be seen what it would do to a fan base that was only beginning to fill up the stands again, but its understandable and in my opinion the right move.  My guess is that David West gets moved and they shop Hibbert  as well, dangling George Hill with both players to net the best possible return.

19. Knicks logoNew York Knicks-

Player to Watch- Iman Shumpert (SF)- Phil likes him.  We know this because he told Charley Rosen as much.  Shumpert’s athleticism helps him play on both ends.  His defense is at times overrated and his offense is nowhere near where it is.  Last season his minutes began to get slashed because of some reported rift between he and Coach Woodson so its important that he get off on the right foot with rookie head coach Derek Fisher.  Entering Restricted Free Agency, Iman could play himself into bigger bucks, a trade that could bring back a huge package or an enigma that has the tools to be great but none of the actual stats to back that up.

Major Subplot of the Season- Will the Triangle be a success in NY?- There are enough questions about Derek Fisher being able to handle the media spotlight of New York, and handle a star laden lineup that features several players that think they should have the ball a lot, but implementing a system that has been a failure everywhere else but when the current GM was the coach?  I worry for Fisher.  He played in Los Angeles which is a different type of pressure than the one that New York presents.  But if Fisher is going to be successful, and believes 100% in the triangle, and I believe he does, he will have to be patient.  Yes, players are who they are and many won’t change, some like JR Smith may even find the transition a lot more difficult than they ever thought,  and there are others in the basketball community who believe that it isn’t about system that its about the players at the end of the day.  All are true and a reality of the Knick season.  How quickly they adapt to the system will be the true test.

18. nuggets logo Denver Nuggets-

Player to Watch- Jusuf Nurcic (C)- He’s 20 years old, from Boznia and he’s got the Nuggets fan base buzzing along with several personnel folk.  Zack Lowe gave a shoutout during the Grantland NBA hour.  He’s intriguing enough but this speaks more to the rest of the roster more than Nurcic’s potential.  There’s so many B+ guy with one A- in Ty Lawson that its tough to pinpoint one player, so we go with the unknown here in the spot.  At some point these Eastern European giants will put together a season right?

Major Subplot of the Season- Is now the time to break up the roster or do we keep playing this game that the Nuggets can be a contender in the West?- Judging by the level of snark in that sentence you get the sense of where I’m going with this.  I don’t think so.  As a matter of fact, I think that the Nuggets with all of their traceable pieces could go so many different directions.  They could make a trade, and still be a mid-tier contender status.  They could trade a Gallinari and Foye for a pick that could eventually be a lottery pick if things end up right.  There’s so many different ways this could play out for the Nuggets a.k.a. the Knicks of the West, but the truth here is that in a stacked Western Conference, it will be very difficult for THIS version of the Nuggets to make noise.  Just so its clear, I tried really hard NOT to put Wilson Chandler and Danilo Galinari in the players to watch section.

17. Brooklyn-Nets-logo Brooklyn Nets-

Player to Watch- Brook Lopez (C)- No team’s destiny is tied to one player’s health like Nets to Lopez.  If he’s healthy, and the rest of the roster, this is a playoff team that can give a top 4 seed a scare in the East.  They have a solid front line in Garnett, Lopez and Plumlee that can cause problems.  But if Lopez doesn’t play, this is a lottery team.  Again, the Eastern Conference is chock full of mediocre to below average teams that could eventually make this a moot conversation.  But Lopez’s health will ultimately decide the fate of the Brooklyn Nets.

Major Subplot of the Season- Are there bigger shakeups in store?-  They don’t have the assets to get a big superstar so they may have to stand pat.  But there are enough signs that point to a major shake up of the entire organization including rumors popping up that Mikhail Prokhorov has begun gauging interest in selling the team in the wake of Steve Ballmer paying $2 Billion for the Clippers. I don’t blame him.  He has political aspirations for 2016 and sees the NBA’s latest TV deal as a sign that he could fetch a very healthy sum for his team.  Add that to reports that the Nets lost $144 million due to operating costs and there’s motive.  Prokho has been silent for some time which leads people to believe that he’s already planning his exit.  If so, it could potentially lead to large scale changes.  Billy King might be asked to sell off assets to make the books look a lot cleaner than it is and who knows what could be had and for what.  King has never struck me as an awesome deal maker, save for the Deron Williams trade which was an all time hammer move.  Either way, Brooklyn’s activity come deadline time could be a sign of potential ownership changes to come.

16. Suns logoPhoenix Suns-

Player to Watch- Eric Bledsoe (PG)-  All that needs to be said.  And to think, they were playing a staring contest over a contract extension:

Major Subplot of the Season- Can a two point guard system work full-time?  The Suns are betting on it.  Big time.  They re-signed Eric Bledsoe.  They signed Isaiah Washington, and drafted Tyler Ennis.  Initially you could’ve said that the last two moves were in case Bledsoe left, but when the restricted market was a dry patch of pavement, Bledsoe came back to the Suns at a reasonable price for both sides.  Looking at that contract from the perch of a huge TV deal that could make the salary cap explode to close to $100M that means the Suns could be major players for free agents with all the assets they have and the cap space.  Consider they still have Minnesota’s 1st rounder protected 1-12 in 2015 or 2016 and the Lakers 1st round pick protected 1-5 in 2015 and 1-3 in 2016.  Add to that the miracle workers that is their training staff, and a young smart head coach its easy to see why this can be a destination for would be free agents or a good trade partner for teams trying to get young guys and unload veterans. The Suns who streaked their way 48 wins running a fast paced offense surrounded by shooting might want to look at the advanced stats that show that when Bledsoe or Dragic played with Miles Plumlee, Channing Frye, PJ Tucker, and Gerald Green, their offense flew.  Maybe they see another market inefficiency that they can exploit and try and go two point guards and pick up the pace.  Either way, Hornacek’s rotations, coaching and outright defiance against tanking have led me to lay upon them the unenviable title of my favorite Western Conference team.  Let’s see how this plays out!

Part II coming soon.

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NBA Season Preview Part I (10 bold predictions for the 2014-2015 NBA season)

With the NBA season on the horizon I figured I would take a stab at the foolish exercise of making 10 bold predictions rooted in reality as I could.  This is part I of the NBA season preview.  These are ten reasonably based yet bold predictions I’m guessing will come to pass after staring at that crystal ball I have:

1. The Celtics won’t trade Rondo, but will trade Jeff Green- I’m working without any knowledge of how the television deal will affect the salary cap moving forward but I expect an announcement will come midseason.  The trade deadline will either be super busy with teams absorbing big salaries from teams trying to add cap space for the future, or teams hoping to gather assets to make a bigger trade down the line.  In theory, most teams could use a Rondo.  When healthy and motivated, he can hold his own with the best the league has to offer and is NOT afraid of the spotlight.  You can thank Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen for ultimately helping him flourish.  However its clear that his time in Boston is about to come to an end.  He may go to New York or go to Sacramento, or even Houston who would love to add Rondo as their third star, but the question remains who will bite the bullet to trade for such a mercurial spirit Rondo?  Boston’s asking price for the point guard is pretty high and teams have shied from giving up future number ones without any assurances Rondo would re-sign with them.

Green on the other hand, is owed $9.2M this season and next.  His salary would definitely make a team bite on an expensive asking price and I think the Celtics could get back more.  When Green is on, he’s a force that can play big and constantly attacks the rim.  The Cavs are all in for the next few seasons so trading away future first round picks will be nothing for them.  I think the team that makes the most sense for Green in the East would be Atlanta as Al Horford insurance and another quality big to help space out for Budenholzer’s scheme to have every person on the court be a threat from deep.  Atlanta perpetually maintains flexibility and they have picks to throw at Boston too.

2. Dwight Howard will re-emerge as an MVP candidate- Howard has gone from superstar center, perennial defensive player of the year candidate, and Top 3 player to, not even mentioned at all in these kind of discussions.  The popular name to throw into MVP discussions is Anthony Davis, the soon to be best player in the league in 3-4 seasons.  But I think Dwight is poised to have a breakout season in his second year in Houston.  For the first time in three seasons, he’s not exploring ways to skip town or avoid Kobe’s death stare or playing on a bad back.  Howard’s entering age 29 where he should be at the peak of his powers and playing on a team that will likely boast at least two to three players at a time that shoot 35% or better from beyond the arc.  That was the kind of roster he played with in Orlando.  When Dwight is playing regular minutes without any distractions, he’s a Defensive Player of the Year candidate.  I’m betting on Dwight to have a big year.

3. The Indiana Pacers will NOT make the playoffs and subsequently will trade David West- Technically this is TWO bold predictions for the price of one.  Consider yourselves lucky.  The Pacers lost their best offensive threat when Paul George went down in a scrimmage for Team USA and Lance Stephenson took his services to Charlotte to play for Michael Jordan.  My guess is that when Paul George starts practicing with the team, he won’t recognize 40% of the roster.  The fact is, the Pacers are still a very solid defensive unit but I think Larry Bird, Kevin Pritchard and co know that the best way to make this right is to start over.  HIbbert will be off the books after 2016 and chances of him signing a long term deal for big money are slim; the Pacers just aren’t built that way.  They have enough smart people to know that they don’t stand a chance this year with the roster as constructed.  Wanna know how I know?  They basically gave the keys to the offense to Rodney Stuckey.  West is their best trade asset and every playoff team will be angling to get him.  The Pacers will likely take a bad contract back if they can recoup a decent draft pick.  A team like the Suns, with extra first rounders may make a play here if they are in contention.  When he initially signed with Indiana, he was coming off a torn ACL- and he’s mostly answered his injury concerns with solid play over the last few seasons as the heart, soul and muscle of an Indiana team that for most parts of last season looked like the best team in the East and a top 4 squad.  But if Indiana is willing to take a lesser deal, he could shift the balance in either division.

4. The Top 4 in the East will be Cleveland, Chicago, Washington and Toronto- in that order.  I had a hard time picking between Washington and Charlotte.  Bradley Beal is set to miss the first month of the season at the least after breaking his wrist, and I’m STILL picking the Bullets to win the division.  I don’t trust Toronto’s young guns to take a step forward and I don’t expect them to make a crazy trade, even with Masai at the helm.  Cleveland, and Chicago will be the toast of the Eastern Conference and my hunch here is that Chicago will limit Derrick Rose’s minutes.  Knowing Thibs that means someone else will feel the whip and I”m guessing its Jimmy Butler.  Lance Stephenson vaults Charlotte into serious consideration for one of the top 4 spots in the East but that transition will take some time and losing Josh McRoberts will hurt.  I think Miami is a lock to make the playoffs as well.  That’s six spots with the remaining two to be fought between Brooklyn, the Knicks, Atlanta, and the Pistons.  If I had to pick two today, I think the two New York teams round out the eight but don’t sleep on Stan Van Gundy and the Pistons, and I could be totally wrong on the Pacers.

5. Kobe will be top 10 in scoring this season- Have you seen the Laker roster?  Have you heard that ESPN ranked him as the 40th best player in the NBA?  Shockingly Kobe took neither thing very well and there’s little doubt that Kobe will shoot himself into some conversation.  Whether its the analytics folks talking down to Kobe as a black hole of efficiency or the Kobe fanatics flooding ESPN’s comments sections with not so polite things to say about ESPN’s columnists and their lack of basketball wisdom, trust and believe that Kobe will shoot through the season with no remorse.  I want to see Byron Scott try and make a power move on Kobe and try to bench him for not making the extra pass to Jeremy Lin in the corner.  I want to see it.  Even if it happens, I won’t believe it.

6. The Knicks will trade Iman Shumpert- I don’t think this is a crazy bold prediction but one that will surely make Knicks fans upset.  Look, I like Shump.  I think with his physical gifts, he can grow into a very good sixth man and defensive stopper but he is also an asset.  He and Hardaway are the two guys that everyone asks for with the Knicks but I believe the Knicks love Hardaway’s offense more than they love Shump’s defense.  In the end, he will be the one traded and it may be to a Western conference team looking for a guy to guard the wings in the West and who knows what Uncle Phil will look for when it comes to trade time.  I do know that if the Knicks trade anyone Shump is going in the deal and that includes an Amar’e or Bargnani trade that would rid the team of an expiring contract which recently hadn’t been something teams were willing to do but now would be the quickest way to free up the most amount of money in anticipation of the Summer of 2016.

7. The top four in the West will be the Spurs, Clippers, the Warriors, and the Thunder- in that order.  I like the rivalry brewing between the Clippers and the Warriors and I think that battle will come down to the final three weeks.  Losing Kevin Durant for at least a month and a half will slow the Thunder down in that race and the Spurs know how to get to 55 wins in their sleep.  Its the Warriors I’m extremely high on who I think will make a play to be one of the best teams in the entire league.  I think Steve Kerr is a bright coach and he comes into a great situation with a loaded team.  The one thing that worries me about them is when they go through an extended slump or an injury and then the Kevin Love what-if scenarios start playing out in post game questions.  This is a team full of young guys with a rookie head coach.  Expectations will be high for a young head coach and as easy as it is to talk about doing the right thing, its another thing to coach it.  Let’s see what happens.

8. Four head coaches will be fired this season; and one of them in season- My guess on the coach who will see the ax midseason?  Mike Malone.  Which is fascinating because Vivek Ranadive the majority owner of the Kings knows him from his time as a part owner of the Golden State Warriors and took him to Sacramento.  But Ranadive hired him before hiring a GM which can make for an uneasy co-existence.  Add to that the quote recently by the owner that the “team will be judged by wins and losses,” and you can already see that the stage is being set.  One can only wonder how much time will be given to coaches to make their mark here but it won’t be long.  The other three?  I think Jacques Vaughn in Orlando will get the heave ho.  I also see  Brian Shaw getting the early ax as he has two more guaranteed years remaining and in a tricky ownership situation Mike Budenholzer getting the pink slip once new ownership group gets settled but that likely won’t happen until after the season.  Budenholzer will naturally go back to San Antonio to make a great coaching team even stronger.  Awesome!

9. The Nets will be sold- Based on everything I”ve read, and the fact that Mr. Prokhorov has already tested the waters, and the promise of a huge payday given how much the Clippers were sold for (THE CLIPPERS!), Prokho may already have five people blowing up his assistant’s phone chomping at the bit.  The fact is, the new television deal makes owning an NBA team even greater than it already was and with a market like Brooklyn behind it, its easy to see why the possibility of an insane bidding war would make Prokho look at this as the best possible time to sell everything and move!  Once he realized he wasn’t winning a title anytime soon, you have to figure that the White Russian basically lost all interest and had his sights set on selling it.  This would be the best time to sell.

10. The Minnesota Timberwolves will be the 2014-2015 version of the Phoenix Suns-  The Suns were the biggest winners of last year when given the amount of draft picks they had, rookie head coach Jeff Hornacek installed an ultra aggressive two point guard system that scored at a crazy pace.  This year, Minnesota has the young guns to run up and down the court for days.  While Flip Saunders isn’t my idea of a great head coach, his handling of the Kevin Love situation was something I agreed with.  He got Andrew Wiggins and drafted Zach Lavine who’s more than just a dunk show freak.  Look for them to make noise for the 8th seed, but fall short.

I should get extra points for not writing the names of Lebron James or Kevin Love at all in this article about the upcoming NBA season.  OH wait…

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Knicks Hawks postgame

If some of you thought that watching the Knicks/Hawks on Saturday was rough, consider this cruel and unusual punishment: knowing what happened, I still went to the DVR and dug out the game and watched it.  Of course I did that to give you all the crucial 10 random thoughts about the game so let’s get to it.

Melo driving on the Hawks via yahoosports.com

Melo driving on the Hawks
via yahoosports.com

1.  The Knicks fifth straight loss at home, came in probably the most embarrassing fashion yet.  In a game against a team they had beaten just three days prior the Knicks looked unable to stop the Atlanta offense from doing whatever they wanted.  Which brings us to Carmelo Anthony’s postgame assertion that the Knicks are not showing the effort necessary to cut it.  I think every Knick fan sees it in the lackadaisical way they go about it on defense and how teams are so easily able to get into the paint where many times you will find one to zero defenders commandeering that valuable piece of real estate.

Melo’s “lack of effort” rant came on the heels of one of his better performances.  Smart.  You can’t watch Saturday’s game and say that Melo was the cause.  He fought for rebounds.  He went inside and he truly battled out there.  He was not the guy lacking in his effort.  I’m not saying that Melo’s accusation is off base, I just find it curious that he be vocal about his team’s effort in probably his best “effort” game.  Carmelo was the only player on the Knicks starting five to NOT record a +/- in double digits.  Rebounding last year was a huge problem and an even greater cause for concern with Tyson Chandler out but Saturday’s concerted effort on the glass was the lone encouraging sign for the Knicks.  Its clear that the Knicks are going to have to start collectively doing things that they left for Tyson to handle like rebounding and protecting the rim.  For a team with a collective group of bad one on one defenders, the Knicks can not afford to lose a guy like Tyson for an extended period of time.

2a. In the latest bit of Daily News vs. New York Knicks drama unfolding on an almost daily basis comes this little nugget: Apparently the Daily News knows what Iman Shumpert did this summer.  In the second such move the Knicks elected not to disclose for public consumption, Iman Shumpert had a second arthroscopic procedure on the same knee that he injured.   This will obviously effect any trade value he may possess which is important because it seems as though the Knicks are determined to trade him for two reasons:

A. He’s their only asset that teams will be interested in.

B. The Knicks are tired of waiting for his offense to develop and some within the organization feel as though his defense may have regressed.

While it may be true that he is one of the few assets the Knicks have that teams would think twice about, his value isnt anywhere close at this point to being able to bring back something meaningful.  According to the latest, the Knicks are trying hard to get Rajon Rondo from the rebuilding Celtics.  Its a nice thought but I doubt Danny Ainge, the Celts GM, will budge on the package that is rumored to be on the table of Shump, Ray Felton and Amar’e Stoudemire.  While Shumpert’s early stats don’t show vast improvement the eye test says his form has vastly improved and virtually every wide open look has seemingly been a make.  Eventually his 40.1% rate will improve but that has more to do with the changes the Knicks must make to the offense, and not anything Shump is or isn’t doing.

Secondly, the problem with the development argument is that this iteration of the Knicks have been unwilling to wait for young players to grow and more or less have treated draft picks like goodies to wave in front of teams looking to get younger and rebuild.  James Dolan feels this team can win a championship now and that means they need to get better players in here and the only way to do that is via trade.  Even if Shump were to show the improvement necessary to make that leap the Knicks brain trust would like, it seems like the Knicks have talked themselves into trading Shump away.

2b.  While most Knick fans are fiercely loyal to Shump- and there’s a lot to like- Shumpert is one of those players that are overrated and underrated at the very same time.  He’s overrated by a fan base that looks at Shump- the only young player that can play defense which happen to be the two things the Knicks don’t have much of- as a homegrown talent they envision being a superstar.  Last year the Knicks had the oldest collective roster in the NBA which made Shumpert’s absence sad and return a much needed gift.  New York basketball fans are split into two warring camps: the group of snarly veterans who wonder where the 1970’s Red Holzman style of basketball went and the group of fans who bring the playground mentality to the professional game.  Shump pleases both segments of the population but I wonder if they both overrate his ability as a defender.

His wingspan allows him to invade passing lanes just by having his hands up or spread wide.  His size allows him to defend multiple positions.  He rarely leaves his feet and does a good job of staying in front of quick guards.  Those are the positives.  The negatives are that he hasn’t played like that guy yet.  The obvious go-to excuse is that he’s another Knick  recovering from injury and that’s a major part of the equation.  The other part is that Shump seems to take more responsibility for the defense on his shoulders because of Tyson Chandler’s absence.  He wants to be the anchor but its not easy for a perimeter defender to be the defensive anchor.  Shump lost a bit of athleticism that we can’t be sure he will ever recover after his ACL tear.  And for a guy who uses his freakish athletic ability to defend other players, its going to take some time for Shump to get back to where we thought he would be.  Call this a case of a guy who has put a ton of added pressure to be the man on himself and by a team that probably views him as expendable.

3.  I hate to say it but Amar’e Stoudemire has a point.  Prior to Saturday’s game he voiced his displeasure at the minutes distribution he was receiving by Coach Woodson which to be fair is what he should say.  Remember, he’s a $20 million player with a ton of pride and it can’t be easy to be playing five to nine minutes a game when he was once a cornerstone player.  No matter what you think, one day we may look at the Amar’e tenure as one of promises not kept but not the way in which you think.  Amar’e was the sole prize of the two year tank job that Dolan was somehow convinced to go through in hopes that Lebron James would come to New York to rescue basketball here.  But when the smoke cleared it was Amar’e standing in front of the Mecca screaming to the basketball world that the Knicks were back.  And the first half of his first season as a Knick he played his heart out and was a MVP candidate.  Then came the trade for Carmelo Anthony and since that time its been one lowlight after another and its been a steady decline for Amar’e.  Yes, injuries have decimated and destroyed the remaining bits of athleticism he once had but the Knicks haven’t done him any favors.  Their personnel decisions have done him no favors by tying up their salary cap with guys  who either need the ball all the time (Melo) or need someone to create for them (Tyson Chandler) leaving Amar’e as yesterday’s news.  Think about it, even Andrea Bargnani is a higher priority in the Knick offense than he is and he just walked in the door five minutes ago.  A far cliff to fall off for a guy who just three years ago was the Knicks.

This falls on Woodson.  His coaching decisions have bordered on horrible this year and he now needs to rectify this.  I don’t think Amar’e is done but I do think he needs to rest Amar’e till he’s fully healthy and regains some explosion  (he had a few instances where old Amar’e came back which holds promise) rather than throwing out the ghost of Amar’e past for five to nine minutes a game.  Its not fair to Amar’e who’s right, you can’t expect a player to gain any type of continuity by being put on the floor for such limited reps.  It does him no good and does Kenyon Martin no good, the other guy sentenced to playing time time-out.

4. Speaking of coaching that needs to happen, Woodson needs to begin to entertain the possibility of going to a zone defense.  The current scheme of having players rotate and switch on the pick and roll isn’t working because a lot of the Knicks aren’t good individual defensive players which makes it tough for them to excel with such a physically demanding defensive scheme.  Simplifying the defense to a zone for the time being while Tyson is out may have to happen for the sake of the Knicks defense and the players who have to play it.  I’ve spoken to Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal via Twitter timelines about Woodson’s stubbornness and lack of willingness to adapt to his team’s situation which is frankly troubling and sad.  Last year’s success had a lot to do with Woodson’s second half adjustments and that just hasn’t happened this year.  Its still early but another few more games of the same matador D as Clyde likes to call it, and Woody may need to think up something.

5. J.R. Smith is in the midst of a historically bad shooting slump.  Last year he was magic off the bench and many times carried the Knicks through large swaths of Carmelo-less time.  This year, inserted into the starting lineup, his effectiveness has been limited.  Add to it his ineffectiveness during playoff time, his increasingly annoying twitter feed, and his start this year, its easy to see why even Coach Woodson easily his biggest supporter (clearly not in the organization- thanks Chris Smith) has said that nobody will want to deal with him.  The problem is, with shooters you ride the highs and lows. While he doesn’t have the rep of a great high volume shooter he is judged by those standards and so I expect him to get out of this rut.  One way to do it may be to get him back in a familiar role so he can rediscover his big play potential.

6. I want every Knick fan to stop dreaming of a Rondo deal.  Its not going to happen.  You hear me?  Not.  Gonna.  Happen.  The Celts would never deal a former franchise star to the Knicks.  The Knicks dont have anything past Shump and Hardaway Jr to offer.  And frankly, I don’t know how Melo and Rondo would play nice with each other.  Also, why would you want to trade an asset like Amar’e Stoudemire who will turn into a $20 million expiring which could be used to make a massive trade deadline deal (hey Kevin Love) next year.

7. Who would’ve thought that Andrea Bargnani’s one on one defense would actually be impressive?  True story.  He did a pretty solid job on another elite big man in Al Horford.  He once again bodied up a big man who thought Bargs would just relent, but that hasn’t happened yet.  Obviously his reputation as a lackluster defensive player and his European background (black players look at Euro players as soft- right KG?) make players feel as though they can abuse Bargs but he’s been giving it as good as he takes.  Horford had 12 points and 2 rebounds while Bargs dropped 16 and grabbed 9 rebounds, (4 offensive!!).  Steady improvement.

8.  Again, I’m not overly concerned with the recent losing streak as most are.  I see good signs.  The offense is still stagnant and it has too many one on ones but that can all be worked out.  The Knicks will have a run this season in which they look competent.  The stuff in the background that’s happening is good.  Melo and Bargs seem to play well off each other.  Woodson just needs to put Amar’e in there for more minutes and use Kenyon Martin in the middle to impede the foot traffic through the painted area and the Knicks will start seeing a lot less paint jobs and force teams to play for perimeter shots.  Tim Hardaway Jr is getting valuable playing time and he’s not disappointing- as cocky as his father was.  Thinks he can make every shot.  J.R. will make his shots as the season goes on.  If you get the Melo that was setting up shop under the basket like he did on Saturday the Knicks will be good.  Expecting that on a daily basis is a bit much but Melo is such a talented offensive player that some nights he won’t need to work so hard for shots underneath the basket, the greater return on his hard play will be the impact it has on his teammates to exert similar effort.  Just please, ABORT the hideous orange unis.  PLEASE!

9. The Nets lost, which means the Knicks are one game out of first place in the Atlantic Division.

1o.  AND STILL I SAY #KNICKSTAPE!

 

 

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Its a team game

The adage is simple: you let a team as crafty and veteran as the Boston Celtics lay around they will find a way to beat you.  And that’s what happened last night.  With every single minute passing and Miami unable to pull away on one of its patented runs that usually destroy lesser teams, the Celtics looked up at the scoreboard.  Never panicked.  And then put a few baskets together and cut the lead.  Again and again, everytime the Heat tried to pull away the Celtics reeled them back in and it was almost amusing at times to watch.

The Miami crowd, if that is even a real thing, was shocked at the end of the game and rightfully so.  They are not a basketball crowd.  They are a bunch of stray cats that had nothing better to do than be lured into a big arena.  They were given free t-shirts and told to make noise when given cue.  They were told by several green shirts peppered into the crowd that those guys with the jersey number six and 3 were good and that number 1 hadn’t played in about two weeks because of an abdominal strain.  They were given this information under the premise that they should cheer the boys in white and boo the men in green.

But last night’s game wasn’t simplistic enough for the novice to understand fully.  To appreciate what had just occurred.  The Boston Celtics have been the better team since they first left Miami.  They have played harder.  They have played tougher.  And they have controlled the tempo.  One of, if not THE BEST, players in this series is a man going on 37 who everyone forgets had a reputation for not being clutch.  Don’t act like everyone forgets the Minnesota years.  And it wouldn’t be ridiculous for one to ask: how is that possible?

Every single announcer made it sound as if the Celtics had zero chance of beating the Heat.  Everyone figured five games would be enough for the Heat to vanquish the Celtics.  Its not their fault.  Supernatural talent makes people forget logic.  Dwayne Wade and Lebron James’ performance against the Indiana Pacers had us all convinced that the Heat were going to steamroll their way into the Finals and the inevitable matchup against the Spurs- who they themselves have fallen on hard times.  Lebron is the best player on the planet.  Dwayne Wade, aka Prince Charming, is one of the five best players in basketball and they both play for the same team.  This is a star heavy league and teams with superstars win championships.  One can argue that with two superstars of almost equal talent (if this series has proven anything- that’s not even true, Lebron is far away a better player than Wade), they should be better than an old, aging group of veterans.

But the blinding light of talent has clouded our judgement about the fundamental premise of a team game.  Its a team game.  Its five players playing as one.  Knick fans that grew up in the late sixties and seventies will NEVER EVER forget those Knick teams because they were the embodiment of team.  No superstars.  No one hogging the ball or wanting more attention.  Just a collection of very skilled basketball players who understood that in order to beat the mighty Lakers or Celtics or anybody you had to play for each other and as one.  That there couldn’t be star gazing or standing around.  Everyone had a role and last night, Doc Rivers crystallized that when he declared Rajon Rondo as the leader of the Boston Celtics and gave us one of the best quotes that symbolize the difference between a good coach and a great coach.

“I think they kind of understand that Rondo’s the leader everybody else plays with Rondo.  Kevin is still a great player, and Paul is still our best scorer. But they’ve gotten out of each other’s way with roles. I think all the new guys have added a great competitive energy to our basketball team. So, early on when we were losing, I kept saying people were getting conditioning messed up with age. They kept looking at our team and saying, ‘We’re too old.’ I kept saying, ‘No, we’re out of shape and let’s find out how good we are later.’ Sometimes, as a coach, you have a feel about a team. I don’t know how good this team is. I’ve said that, but I know it’s a team. We can play with anybody.”

So Rondo is our leader.  Kevin is a great player and Paul is still our best scorer.  The three best players on the Celtics and all have clear distinctive roles on the team.  Rondo leads.  Pierce scores.  And Garnett is just great.  All different in their own ways but all come together to form a great team.  Yes, Paul Pierce hit the dagger three pointer- because that’s what he does.  Right in Lebron’s face even.  Yes, everyone will talk about Chris Bosh’s four minutes of game time in the second half despite playing decently for a guy who missed the last eight games.  But it was Mikael Pietrus who hit critical threes. It was Rondo who continuously tapped the ball into the waiting hands of green jerseys.  It was KG who enforced the middle as a no fly zone for Miami’s gifted scorers.  It was KG who kept his defender honest by knocking down 20 footers with consistency.  All three with great performances individually but under the umbrella of their role.

That is the definition of team.  A group of players playing with a common purpose.  A control of all things even as the game gets late and the situation gets tense.  Its not that they have been here before literally.  Yes, they have been together as a group playing under this kind of pressure but never in this specific situation.  But great teams ultimately control their circumstances.  Great teams forgo the individual pressure that they carry and know when to strike.  They know that the situation calls for someone to step up and they all know who it is without even talking about it.

I had a discussion on Facebook a few weeks back when Lebron James passed a three pointer over to Mario Chalmers who had a decent look and we debated the decision of Erik Spolestra to use Wade and Lebron as expensive props for Mario Chalmers to get a chance at a three pointer.  Most believed that it was the right play.  And yes, the computer will spit out that in that specific context giving the ball to your best 3 point shooter is in fact the right call.  But my common sense couldn’t help but think to ask this simple question: if Lebron James and Dwayne Wade are your best players and you have lavished upon them boat loads of money based on that logic, how then can you possibly NOT include them in the final seconds of a game where it means win or loss.  Those are the players you want deciding the game.  Mario Chalmers missing IS NOT the point.  I’m not insinuating that Lebron or Wade would’ve definitely made that shot because we can’t possibly know that.  But what I can know is that you have entrusted them with this belief that they are the best players on the team, how then can you possibly leave the outcome of the game to your fifth, sixth or seventh best player?

The name of the game is team.  A team who understands each player’s role within the context of the situation and the moment.  Its ok if this were game 23 in the middle of the season but the Heat lost a playoff game because Mario Chalmers missed a three pointer at the end of regulation.  That could’ve been disastrous.  That’s what I want people to understand.  How can you possibly say that this team knows itself when they don’t know what to do at the end of a game?  Poor execution because they are defended well is one thing, but poor execution because the play selection was terrible and the play was stupid is something else entirely.

The Celtics don’t need to be reminded.  That quote personified what they are.  They have been honest with themselves this entire season.  Doc Rivers has a feel for this team because he’s locked in just like every player is right now.  Ray Allen didn’t moan or piss about Avery Bradley being the starter when he returned, it was all part of the bigger plan.  Rivers doesn’t have to mind his words or hope that what he says won’t destroy the confidence of his players.  He says what he wants because it needs to be said.  He lashes out because things need to be lashed at.  Because the Celtics are a team, not a collection of individuals.  The best quote on twitter, often a forum for great creative one liners, was that  last night an NBA team beat an AAU team.

The Heat can still win this series.  But they have to figure out what they are exactly.  They have to get the ball into the hands of their best players at the end of games.  Even the young OKC Thunder figured that out.  Kevin Durant scored 16 in a row at one point during OKC’s victory in game 4 because they understood that he’s their best player and when he’s starting to hit circus shots that you MUST feed him the ball and get him as many touches as possible.  The hierarchy must be present.

For the Heat to be successful now, everyone must fall into line.  Lebron must realize he’s the top dog and make sure that everyone follows him.  The Heat will go only as far as Lebron will take them, but not when everyone, including themselves are unsure if its he or Wade doing the leading.

 

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Winners, Losers and the Unknown of the Trade Deadline

Hope doesn’t just spring eternal in Florida and Arizona this time of year, its a geyser in MSG as the Knicks wiggled enough cap room to sign two max free agents.  That much we know.  What we don’t know is how everything will play out.  Like many, I was refreshing ESPN.com, SI.com, and Yahoosports.com constantly to see if any updates came through.  As Mark Cuban tweeted it was probably a better idea to “follow NBA Trade Deadline on twitter,” but I’m stuck on archaic methods.

Regardless, the trade deadline has come and gone and we have winners and we have losers of this trade deadline and much to process on both ends:

WINNERS:

KNICKS: Of course I begin with the hometown team and the fact that they were able to move the Jared Jeffries salary, and they were able to move Nate Robinson and move a few guys to get the cap space needed to go after two max free agents.  They mortgaged the next few years on the hope that LeBron makes MSG his home for the next 7 years and calls another one of his super friends to come and help out.  Of course being a Knick and Met fan I’m doomed to be pessimistic about it, but in theory this deal makes them the big winners.

ROCKETS:  Yes, they did make out.  Sure they took on another salary for next year but you always get the sneaking suspicion that Darryl Morey the stat guru MIT grad GM of the Rockets knows just a little bit more than the rest of us.  He swapped first rounders with the Knicks in 2011 and got their 2012 pick (from everything I’ve been reading on it, only the first pick of the draft would be protected in 2011 and top 5 protected in 2012 (thanks to NBA.com)) and managed to set himself up nice with a proven scorer in Kevin Martin a guy that the Kings had been telling everyone was unavailable.  Morey is banking on LeBron not going to the Knicks next summer and the Knicks being bad for the next few years and God help us if he’s right.

KINGS: I think it worked out on all ends here.  The Kings acquired cap space for this offseason where they will attract absolutely nobody but hey, its a nice thing to put on the resume.  They were able to snag two really tough physical players in Carl Landry and Joey Dorsey to play the post and be the mashers and grinders and they are staring down the barrel of a lottery pick this summer again which should help them if they pick as well as they picked last year.  Also throw in Jason Thompson and they have a developing nucleus of young guys and bigs that could make the Kings a minor contender sooner rather than later.  Only, they need another coach, sorry Reggie Theus, he wasn’t even a good coach on their TV show.  Think about that.

BOBCATS:  They got Tyrus Thomas and Theo Ratliff at the trade deadline and managed to keep DJ Augustin a guy they loved.  Larry Brown’s team will be a tough out in the Eastern Conference whomever they face in the first round.  Ten out of their 14 guys are 6’8′ or taller which gives them such an inside presence that it will be tough for teams to score on them in the low post.  They just might sneak up on a few teams in the first round.  Too bad the first round isn’t 5 games anymore, it might have been fun for this team to play a high seed under that format.

CAVALIERS: As much as the Knicks moves were geared towards getting LeBron James, the Cavs decision to trade for Antawn Jamison was to keep LeBron and they did a hell of a job in doing so.  They managed to get the better deal in getting Antawn, that coveted stretch four they were seeking, than Amare- a deal in which they would’ve had to give up J.J. Hickson, something they were not willing to do.  Amare while being more of a physical presence is only that on the offensive end, on the defensive end they are very similiar.  Where Antawn has the advantage is that he can pull a 20/10 night consistently and in more ways than Amare can and that’s what you have to love.  This move was facilitated towards keeping their young guys and also making LeBron happy.

ARN TELLEM:  Why an agent?  Easy.  Tellem had as much to do with the Knicks getting T-Mac as Donnie Walsh.  Let me explain.  When most of us woke up this morning the reports coming out of the Houston Chronicle were that T-Mac had been traded- to the Kings.  I had to stop everything I was doing to make sure I read right.  Of course the following paragraph made me breathe easier when it said they were working on getting the Knicks involved in making sure T-Mac, and more importantly the expiring contract, went to the Knicks.  But the Kings with all their leverage decided to ask for everything the Rockets were asking for, but not Jordan Hill and not the 2012 first rounder, but David Lee.  That put a speed bump in there.  Arn Tellem being the high powered broker he is, and this is just purely guessing on my part, may have called Geoff Petrie’s office in Sacramento and warned him of the dangers of stalling this trade with the Knicks.  He is after all the agent for Tyreke Evans, the guy most responsible for Kevin Martin no longer being a King.  The Kings GM being the wise man he is, decided against making the agent for his franchise player mad and decided to play nice and made sure the trade went down as it went down sending Sergio Rodriguez also.  What’s lost in this is also Tellem being the agent for Danilo Gallinari, one of the players that will be here if and when the Lebron era begins in New York and judging on how he makes every player on his team better it stands to reason that Danilo might be staring down the barrel of a nice little jump in his salary with Lebron’s arrival.  Winners all around.

LOSERS:

CELTICS: I know this may seem a bit biased but Eddie House fit the culture of Boston and the locker room Ubuntu they had going in 2008 when the Celtics won it all.  Now, they bring in Nate Robinson who among other things brings a certain flair for the dramatic and I’m not talking about game winning shots.  The goal for the C’s were to get Kirk Hinrich and send Ray Allen’s expiring contract with it but I’ve always been under the impression that you keep your best guys if you have a legitemate chance to make the playoffs.  I’m basing this rating on the fact that I’m not a huge Nate Robinson fan like every other Knick fan.  Just because he was the best player on the team for the last few years doesn’t make me automatically a fan of his, and the fact that he was should absolutely disgust Knick fans to no degree.  The Celtics just seem to be getting older and not better.  Its time to seriously think about breaking that team up and build around Rondo and Pierce.

HEAT:  In my opinion this trade deadline had to be about convincing Dwayne Wade that the Heat were going somewhere and they didn’t do that.  Now the Heat will have to sign a player a semi star first to properly convince D-Wade that Miami is a place that will be able to compete for a championship if he signs long term.  I’m not too sure they will be able to sign that guy especially when his hometown team the Bulls will have enough cap space to sign him and already have Derrick Rose in place.  Its a tempting offer and as much as South Beach offers I’m sure Wade is tired of giving up his body for a team that seems to be staying in place while everyone else seems to be getting better.  Also its never a good idea when your GM is offering up quotes on how sure he is that a player will stay when nothing has been decided.

UNKNOWN:

DONNIE WALSH:  We will see if he’s either a genius or an idiot come July 1st.  That’s when basically his fate will be decided.  Now its not fair to say that Donnie is a total idiot for giving up picks and much more to secure enough space to make those moves because let’s face it, he had to make sure he had the room to pull this off so doing that was absolutely essential but now it becomes a waiting game for Donnie and for Knick fans.  Also the free agent class of 2011 isn’t too shabby either and with Eddy Curry’s 13 million off the cap it will give them even more space but I don’t think Knick fans can wait another year for another superstar to be available if we strike out on LeBron this summer.

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