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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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Headlines 1/9/2013

Woody and RexAfter another season of disappointment and playoff-absent football, the Jets big two of Rex Ryan, and Woody Johnson stepped to the podium finally to answer questions and the media surely got some answers.  Conor Orr of the Star Ledger writes that the sales pitch for their future was unveiled yesterday by the men in the white shirts and green ties. Gary Meyers of the Daily News says that Rex is a good enough coach that he deserves one final chance, but that’s all he should be guaranteed by Woody.  Woody’s Wrecks describes Steve Serby of the Post after hearing about the Jets game plan for next year. Ben Shipgel of the New York Times writes that the more pressing concern than rebuilding his image, is rebuilding his staff, Mike Westhoff retired, Mike Pettine is gone, and Mike Tannenbaum was fired.

On twitter, beat writers were complaining about lack of room to tweet out minute by minute updates of the press conference.  I’m sure they wouldn’t have been able to type fast enough with the way that the front office came out and put on a show.  The Jets were their usual clownish selves.  Selling the fans and the media a product that only the two at the podium can’t see because they are too close.  Yesterday was about a renewal.  It felt like Rex was being hired for the first time.  It felt like 2008.  Promises about what the Jets were going to do.  How they were going to fit the image of their head coach.  The offense will attack and nobody is gonna wanna play the New York Jets next season.  

I almost feel sorry for Jet fans who had to be thinking the same thing when the press conference was over: “we’re in deep doo doo next year”.  It almost felt surreal to hear Woody stand up there and give a full fledged vote of confidence to a head coach who has done nothing more than give him headlines in the backpages; good and bad.  Let’s not sweep the two conference championships under the rug, but I’ve said it for years now.  The Jets transitioned from that team in both philosophy (choosing to pass more without checking whether the QB was ready to shoulder a greater load) and in personnel.  They let several clubhouse leaders and veterans go like Tony Richardson, Thomas Jones, and Jerricho Crotchery and brought in guys like Santonio Holmes and unproven rookies.  In order for the QB to take on a leadership mantle, he has to set the tempo in practices and show up in every single meeting prepared and also, and most importantly, show up on Sunday ready to give his team a chance to win.  On so many Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the season, that opinion of whether Mark Sanchez gave the Jets that opportunity to win began to change.  His confidence dwindling by the minute Rex continued to bet big on him.  And as more and more was expected of him, Sanchez continued to disappoint.  His low point was the butt fumble, but I think the low point of his professional career may have been when fans were outwardly pining for Tim Tebow to take over.

I THINK, I’m a better QB option than Tim Tebow, so I dont know what Mark Sanchez was feeling.  He of the 2 AFC Conference Championship games under his belt.  Rex spoke mostly of his offense and rightfully so.  His defense held up their end of the bargain, once again finishing as a top 10 unit even without their best defensive player on the field.  They won 6 games which sometimes doesn’t even seem right considering how media folk came with pitchforks and knives like they had just went winless this season.  The Jets still have a ways to go.  They have to undo the mess they created for themselves the last two seasons.  Their defense is good enough to keep them in games.  If they have to return to the conservative offense that kept them out of mistakes and away from Mark Sanchez’ turnover issues then that’s what they will have to do.  The Jets have plenty to work on but now comes the more pertinent question: how much longer does Rex have?  Woody sounded resolute that he will have say in matters going beyond the coaching sphere.  Whatever GM gets hired, he will have to keep Rex for this season.  But its clear that whatever GM comes, will only have one year of Rex to deal with and it certainly sounds like whoever comes in had better not have his sights set on firing Rex without Woody’s blessing because that may be a problem.  Woody and Rex are joined by some voodoo black magic that doesn’t allow either to blame the other for their problems because they certainly don’t have restrictions blaming everyone else around them.  So more and more people are leaving.  Goodbye Mike Tannenbaum.  Goodbye Tony Sparano.  Goodbye Mike Westhoff.  Goodbye Mike Pettine.  Hello new unnamed GM who will certainly be starting from a point of non-favor because he doens’t fit the paradigm that Rex and Woody have created.  God bless whoever comes in.  

We won’t even get in to the tatoo conversation. 

KG AND MELO via TMZ

It seems the Carmelo Anthony/Kevin Garnett beef that escalated to Melo waiting like a school bully after school outside of the cheese bus will be investigated by the league and possible sanctions may land on Anthony for being so aggressive at, according to Anthony, “just wanting to talk with KG about what was said.”  The internet speculated about what KG said to set off such a heated response by Anthony but its understandable to assume that its something that no man should say to another man.  Tony Williams of the Star Ledger writes that Melo must keep his cool as teams now may look to take Anthony out of his game by employing similar dirty tactics.  Mitch Lawrence of the Daily News puts it best “its 10 years in the league and NOW Melo is deciding to let KG’s taunts bother him?”  Nate Taylor of the New York Times writes that Melo agreed that he played Monday’s heated game against the Celtics way out of character.

This is the fourth such game that I’ve seen a team take Carmelo Anthony completely out of it by their physicality.  Memphis, Chicago (Twice) and now Boston on Monday.  They all bumped him, grabbed him, got away with a ton of physical play and left Melo with the tab.  The only reason Carmelo Anthony didn’t get thrown out of that game, and trust me he was begging to,  was because the game was in NY.  Melo started playing defense with his hands.  He began rushing shots.  He was more focused on hitting KG and trying to set off an altercation rather than play basketball.  It was so clear that it was working and kudos to Doc Rivers for installing a game plan that would make the Knicks switch Melo to guard KG who he was not in the right mind to guard.  That’s what smart teams do.  They saw Melo melting down and went for the kill.  I know Doc had to be thinking to himself “what do I have to do to get this guy fouled out? I already got KG to say the most disrespectful thing you can think of to his wife.”   Whatever the case may be, the league may not wind up suspending Carmelo Anthony since there wasn’t any physical altercation and nothing really happened once Melo got to that area where KG was.  The TMZ clip shows more of the Melo/KG argument with KG putting his hands up as if to say “Yo, the game is over, what do you want now?”  And that’s what Melo has to realize.  KG will go to that length to beat you and after the game will forget what he did.  Its not something I exactly applaud but its the attitude that Melo has to have.  You war with the team during the game but after, its just another game.  KG has always been a trash talker of extremely low character calling Charlie Villanueva who has alopecia a cancer patient.  So this is the kind of stuff you will hear from KG.  Melo has to be tougher mentally to handle those things and tune those people out.  I found myself yelling at the TV at other Knick players to get Melo out of there but there was no one to save Melo from himself and his anger towards Garnett.  Whatever the case may be, look for more teams to try this strategy and especially in the playoffs where its win or go home.  If a game in January could make KG say that, imagine the kind of reckless conversation he’s having in May and June.  

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Headlines 1/8/2013

After a day’s vacation, I come back to you knowing that you were all withheld from critical information regarding the sporting universe.   So here I am back to give you the news with my opinion as only I can.  Saturday opened with the news that renowned orthopedic surgeon, Dr. James Andrews never cleared Robert Griffin the third to come back into the game in which he originally injured his LCL despite the opposite coming from Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan.  Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports wrote that he did himself and his team a disservice by keeping RGIII in that game.  Les Carpenter of Yahoo Sports writes that maybe Mike Shanahan needs a no man.  Jarrett Bell of USAToday wrote that perhaps this is what life with RGIII will always be like: Risk vs. reward.

I will write more about this subject later on today, but the fact is, most people agree that RGIII should’ve been taken out at some point in the game, long before he was ever actually scraped off the field.  When we finally saw his knee buckle and RGIII lying motionless on the ground it only served to confirm everything the viewing public had seen.  He wasn’t right at any point of that game and he was becoming a liability.  On the other hand, this is the playoffs and suddenly being down 21-14 probably called upon your best player to rise to the occasion which he really tried to do.  What most people won’t understand is Shanahan’s motivation for keeping him in the game.  During the game, I tweeted at 14-13 that if Seattle scores, maybe it should turn to Kirk Cousins because after the first two series, the Redskins just were never the same and the momentum had squarely fell on the Seahawks who had got back to playing sound defensively.  

Much of yesterday was spent breaking down what role Mike Shanahan played in RGIII’s knee being destroyed.  Today will be spent in analyzing the results of RGIII’s MRI which Dr. Andrews will take a look at.  Dr Andrews not wanting RGIII back in that game speaks volumes about how injured RGIII was and how Shanahan is either lying to himself to keep RGIII out there or he just doesn’t care how he wins or what it costs.  Either way, Shanahan will get ripped apart in the greater DC area.  Not only did they lose, they may have lost their franchise for a good portion of the 2013 season.  One important thing to remember is that they have a capable QB in Kirk Cousins who is more than capable of coming in and winning a few games.  He may not offer the team the chance that RGIII would on a game by game basis, but he isn’t a terrible option and unlike the Eagles who had three healthy QB’s in McNabb, Vick and Kevin Kolb and decided to ship the other two out and throw all their chips on Vick.  This may have been the best thing that happens to the Redskins.  If Cousins does perform very well, he may be able to build up value and the Skins would, in theory, be able to recoup some of the lost draft picks they sent to the Rams in order to draft RGIII.  

 

Carmelo Anthony lost his cool and the Knicks lost the game.  Tell me if you’ve heard that script before.  The Knicks have and did.  Nate Taylor of the New York Times writes that Garnett and the Celtics showed they can rattle Melo and beat the Knicks.  George Willis of the New York Post writes that if the Knicks aren’t careful they can begin to pick up a reputation of being easily thrown off their game.  Dave D’Alessandro of the Star Ledger writes that Doc Rivers and the Celtics pride themselves on championships not on small goals like winning the division.

Last night’s game was awesome from the perspective of the atmosphere in the Garden (the fans were terrific), and atmosphere.  New York is a city full of transplants and there are plenty of shamrock-rocking folk in this town to know that a full home crowd is NOT to be expected but the fact that they were so into this game, it probably ratcheted up the intensity ten fold and probably added to Carmelo’s frustrating evening.  His shots weren’t going in, but KG’s mouth was running and Melo unable to hurt him where it counts decided that the only way to get the last word was to chase KG down in the visitor’s locker room after the game, a place he purposefully he went to without even hesitating for a moment following the final horn.  

I wrote this after the game, but the book on the Knicks is out there.  Rattle the superstar.  Get them complaining to the refs and they will be mentally distracted enough that they won’t be able to recover.  Play them physically and force them to return the aggression, because they can’t do it with control, and they will be completely duped.  The Knicks are becoming that team with a very quick temper and unable to control themselves in situations.  Those that cry that Melo doesn’t get the superstar calls, that’s why.  He spends so much time complaining to refs that most of them don’t ever want to satisfy Melo because nothing is ever enough.  Yes, does Melo get fouled a ton?  Sure.  But basketball is physical when you enter that five feet area between player and basket.  That’s where grinders and maulers have to be bigger than the foe in front of them and impose their will.  Melo has the body, but he does not have the temperment to spend too much time boxing out and setting up shop.  I’m not implying that Melo is weak or soft underneath the basket, but he has to stop being so angry everytime a whistle isn’t blown.  The refs can call that foul every single time but when he doesn’t you keep working.  

Melo plays the kind of physical basketball that you want to see but is so difficult to officiate.  Its not in the same league as Shaq who walked a fine line everytime he swung that arm around and the elbow almost always seemed to miss the defenders face by a whisker.  Its tough to match him physically down there but when a team can, its time for Melo to do other things.  His 18 foot jumper is almost always a good decision.  His turnaround jumper is getting better.  Getting the bigger defender away and driving past them is a skillset he is putting more to use this year.  These are the kind of decisions that you want to see Melo make.  Decisions based on who’s guarding him.  Every team throws multiple defenders on him.  Last night, the Celtics put Bradley on him at times, Paul Pierce, Jeff Green.  Mixing and matching big with small.  It can’t be easy for Melo but he has to understand that his best skill is to draw multiple defenders away from their man so his teammates can get a better shot.  By the time that Kevin Garnett had taken him completely out of that game, he was jacking up threes with 18 left on the shot clock and doing things that old Melo used to do.  Anthony just can’t play mad and its becoming a liability when he gets into those modes where he’s playing out of pure spite for the guy in front of him.  He forgets teammates and the game plan and Woodson needs to have a sit down with him.  

There’s no doubt that Melo is the MVP and nothing about yesterday’s game is going to disprove that, but last night’s game is a continuing novel being written by perennial playoff contenders, teams who have played in the games that the Knicks are making a strong case they will play this year, that if you want to get to that level you must play physical and if you aren’t willing to match the physicality and you are more willing to swing than actually play ball then you don’t belong in the discussion and you probably aren’t ready for the primetime that teams like the Bulls, the Grizzlies and most importantly the Celtics have been to.  

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Daily Rounds 12/26/2011 Part 1

So there’s plenty to get to.  Giants.  Jets.  Knicks.  Opening night of the NBA.  Christmas.  Plenty.  And we’ll get to them all.  This is Part 1.  Part two will be up later tonight as I break down the Giants/Jets game and where I feel like both teams are going from here.

In their regular season opener, the New York Knicks defeated the Paul Pierce less Celtics 106-104 at the Garden.  Marc Berman writes that Carmelo Anthony saved Christmas for the Knicks.  “I made a game-plan mistake,” said head coach Doc Rivers. “We didn’t go get the ball out of Carmelo’s hands and I thought we probably should have.”  That was an excerpt from Frank Isola’s piece in the Daily News this morning including more in depth analysis of Carmelo’s amazing 4th quarter.  Jonathan Lehman of the Post wrote about Tyson Chandler and the Knicks defensive effort in the fourth quarter limiting the Celtics to 7-20 shooting including two critical stops in the final minute.  Mike Vaccaro writes that despite all the things that went wrong for this team yesterday, they responded.  Howard Beck of the New York Times writes that for one game, the Knicks were better.  

Ok, let’s put everything into perspective here.  The Knicks won.  A “w” is a “W”.  Can’t complain about who was and who wasn’t there.  BUT, there were several things that need to be pointed out about this game that should temper expectations about this Knick team.  Yesterday, if there EVER was a reason when the Knicks needed some semblance of a reasonable point guard effort it was yesterday.  Toney Douglas was ineffective and Iman Shumpert has a green light to shoot it seems everytime he touches the ball.  Then there’s Mike Bibby who was out with a back spasm but was available to play but wasn’t available if you catch my drift.  Then there’s Baron Davis who won’t be eligible to play until a month from now.  The Knicks didn’t have ANY answer for Rajon Rondo.

Part of the problem was their transition defense.  NOBODY leaked out once the rebound was snared, and we’ll get to the rebounding as well.  NOBODY rotated to Rondo who went uncontested atleast 5 times on the other end for easy layups.  Rondo had 30 points and for the first time I kept thinking to myself, WOW, the Knicks need a good point guard.  Who i STILL think could be Iman Shumpert but he needs to look for others more than his own.  Yesterday, if Rondo had a competent jump shot (Which he did shoot 11-19) he would’ve been unstoppable.  He was a one man wrecking crew with a little bit of help from Brandon Bass who has historically given Amar’e Stoudemire fits because of his size and thickness down low.

I was a bit disappointed in Stat who scored a very quiet 21 points.  He was comfortable in playing the one on one isolation game a little too much and never tried to get involved in the flow of the offense.  He was the definition of a ball stopper and that HAS to stop.  For the Knicks to be successful both Melo AND Amar’e have to carry the team and do it in tandem.  Bass outplayed Stat in many ways and looked like the tougher player.  HOWEVER, I did like Stat’s determination on defense.

Look, I liked the Knicks opening statement on defense.  Yes there were spurts where it looked like nobody knew where to rotate at all and there were times where this team played excellently.  They showed emotion and communicated well.  They had an idea on who was guarding who and where they should leave spacing.  They had an identity and a game plan.  The Knicks have the ability to have a few one on one defenders and its clear that teams on the pick and roll will try to switch up and get Amar’e.  That’s the match up that teams will play and try and until Amar’e gets comfortable D’ing up then teams will continue to force the issue.  What I feel comfortable in knowing is that guys who are crazy athletic like Amar’e and who are naturally gifted in basketball like Carmelo (also the two guys who get the most blame for their deficiencies on d) can learn on the fly and rely on their natural abilities to make offenses pay.  They can learn how to do that.  As opposed to guys who don’t have that kind of natural ability like say a Jared Jeffries who looked as if he had suffered that injury during warm ups.

Eventually the Knicks will put together more than just sporadic 15 minute shifts on defense and will put in a total 48 like the Celtics do.  I think that the shorter regular season puts them in the fire more and because they have guys like Carmelo and Amar’e who can score whenever they want, they WILL win games on the strength of that, but they can also get better on defense much quicker thanks to the grueling schedule.  The thing is, the Knicks don’t have depth and we saw that yesterday.  Iman Shumpert is out 2-4 weeks and thankfully not longer.  I thought that was an ACL tear and from reports that are coming out, its just an MCL sprain which is a much lighter injury.  I think during rehab, the Knicks can focus Iman on becoming a better ball distributor.  What my fear is that he comes back and Baron and Mike Bibby are in, where does he go from there BUT become a combo guard in the mold of an OJ Mayo.  While I would be fine with having an OJ Mayo on my team, I think his athleticism suits us best if he were becoming a pass first point guard.  He has the ability to cut into the paint area and his vision has to improve.  From everything I’ve read about the kid he is a willing student and loves getting advice.  I’ve seen Baron Davis give him advice as well and he’s always willing to listen.  I hope he uses that and becomes better at his court vision.  IF he becomes a better ball handler, he’ll have much more wide open looks because teams will have to close out passing lanes leaving the middle of the paint wide open.

I have this crazy belief that Iman Shumpert CAN be that great point guard we need.  Ok, maybe saying great is getting ahead of myself.  I’m just saying that the Knicks need a guy who has athleticism, can push the ball and can get inside the paint area and allow guys on the Knicks to cut.  Douglas doesn’t have that yet and his first instinct is to shoot it.  Maybe that’s part of the D’Antoni offense.  Maybe that’s his own decision making which again would be an area where he would have to improve.  Douglas needs to be pass first but I feel like his ceiling is as an on the ball defender.  That’s where he’s best.  He disrupts passing lanes.  He is active on the defensive end and that’s what I love.  He needs to work on his corner three.  If he can develop those strengths I think he’d be a better fit.  That’s a more realistic ceiling in my opinion of Toney Douglas.

Did anyone see Landry Fields?  I mean I could’ve swore he was introduced last night.  I could’ve swore I saw him on the court last night.  Man, his sophmore swoon started after the Melo trade and its continued.  He couldn’t fit through screens, he was taking the wrong route and he was lucky that Ray Allen was having an off night shooting.  He just looks lost and its unfortunate.  I dont want to see anyone succeed more than Landry.  At this point he’s in the starting line up as a default, just like Keith Bogans was in the line up for the Bulls, just like Mario Chalmers was in there for the Heat, just like Derek Fisher for the Lakers.  These are guys that are occupying roster spots because they HAVE to not because its a decision that the team feels they are fit to be starters.  If they could find better players they would.  That being said, I’d take any of those guys over Fields right now.  His mind just isn’t there and he isn’t enjoying himself.  He’s overwhelmed by the moment.  Its one thing to play for a team with no realistic expectations but its another to play AT the Garden, for a team that’s expected to contend.  The fact is, Landry needs to see the Wizard of Oz or just man up and play like he did the first half of last season.  I mean Spike Lee is still rocking your jersey, at some point he may switch to Iman who has gotten the rookie confidence meter on high.

46-37, 54-56, and 41-31, the opponent’s rebounding total is the first number and the Knicks rebounding total is the second.  So far they have been outrebounded 141-124 and its pretty disappointing.  This is not on Tyson Chandler, but this is an indictment on the Knicks overall ability to rebound.  They seem more intent on getting back on defense rather than contesting a rebound.  The Knicks need to do a better job rebounding.  I cant begin to explain how important it is to give Amar’e and Melo more opportunities to score.  If they get in a rhythm and knock down shots, trust me there will be few teams that can compete with the Knicks.

Melo, there really isn’t a word anymore to describe him.  Talent personified.  He’s on the verge of having such a stranglehold on this city.  Lord help him if he hits a game winning shot during a huge playoff series or leads his team through a series.  This city will go goo goo over him.  They already are.

If only the Knicks had a competent backcourt player who could distribute the ball.  Having Melo as the point forward while it being an awesome position would wear him down as the season progresses.  That’s a lot of pressure.  Melo needs to get his offense in different ways.  Melo can and Melo must.  I’d rather have Melo play point forward during stretches rather than the whole game.

Boston fans can only wonder what Rondo COULD BE if he had a jumpshot.

By the way, in case you were wondering: Boston wins by 8 if Paul Pierce is in this game.  He plays his best at MSG and with that Rondo run where everything came so easy for him, Boston would’ve erased that 17 point lead and would’ve been up 15 themselves.  They just didn’t have enough offense from Jesus Shuttlesworth and KG to sustain them.

At some point KG is going to realize that NOBODY buys his tough guy act.  He’s a great player without all his bullshit.  Please stop.  Nobody is afraid of you.  He’s a skinny tall guy.  If he werent black, we’ be making Shawn Bradley jokes about him.  True story.  But he’s a good player with some athleticism.  Hence he’s black and he is a good player.  That wasn’t racist enough for you was it?

I dont know how pissed Rondo IS at Celtic management.  All I can say is, for that contract, he’s the guy you rebuild around.  The guy has a motor.  He’s aggressive and he’s tough.  He’s Tyronn Lue back in that Laker/Sixer series, only with ACTUAL talent.  He’s the agitator but with real skill.  Real potential.  I can’t begin to explain how badly I want to see Rondo injured because of how good he plays.  He seems to come up with huge plays in almost every game and I think everyone is realizing that without his maturity and growth the Celtics DONT win that championship in 08 and his development doesn’t go ten notches faster without KG, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce there to guide him.  They have needed him just as much as he’s needed them.  If the Celtics are going to rebuild after this year, I wonder what that does for Rondo.  That’s why I felt the Celtics handled this poorly.  Now the Celtics HAVE to rebuild with a guy that they openly left out to be traded.  I get that the guy they wanted was a better player in CP3, but they need to smooth over that situation if they ever want Rondo to sign another extension.  Rondo is the key for their future and the guy they will build around but let’s see how much of a willing participant he will be.  His contract expires after the 2014-2015 season.  By then he’ll be the last of the big four left.  Hmmmm

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