Tag Archives: Dwight Howard

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/Rockets postgame

A few thoughts about the Knicks following yet another narrow loss to the Houston Rockets:

Howard and Bargs battling

Howard and Bargs battling
Courtesy of Washingtonpost.com

1.  I fully expected this game to be a blowout considering Tyson Chandler’s absence and a true legitimate big man at the 5 playing across from Bargnani.   So pardon the collective surprise of the NBA viewing republic when the stat sheet came out and Bargs was outplaying the “last real center alive”.  Dwight ended the game with 7 points and 15 rebounds while Bargnani finished with 24 points and 5 rebounds.  While points and rebounds won’t completely tell the tale, consider that Bargs was a +7 for the night while Dwight was a -1 on the all important +/- scale of measuring one’s importance to a team’s outcome on any given night.  Bargs was not shy of bodying up with Howard who seemed surprised by Bargs aggressive and effective play.

2. I’m a fan of Chandler Parsons as are any folk who know anything about basketball.  Parsons has an innate sense of cutting and passing and has a great ball fake that almost always causes defenders to leave their feet.  On this team he’s a perfect third and even fourth option on most nights.  He’s also a willing contributor, a term I give to players who are happy to be around better players and completely understanding of their position on the pecking order.  While Parsons usually gets stats-heavy geeks frothing at the mouth, any NBA fan can tell you that you need one of those guys on your team.  His ball fake and extra pass on the final HOU possession (not counting the last two where they had to hit free throws) led to the James Harden foul on the three point shot.  He easily could’ve shot that after the ball fake pried him loose of the defender but he knew to get the ball to the open star of the team because that’s what you pay them to do: hit big shots when it counts.  Parsons wont ever earn a max extension but he’s a vital cog on any team hoping to contend.

3. Which leads me to the guy who fouled Harden on that fateful play.  Ray Felton has taken a step back in his defensive ability this season; an ability that was played up too much last season.  Felton has deceptive speed for a guy who looks like someone who walks into the gym and sits by the juice bar the entire time.  Felton fell straight into Harden when all he had to do was to do a swing by.  This is the problem with the switch-happy, help heavy defense that Woodson employs.  It forces players with bad defensive reactions to make you guessed it, bad defensive reactions.  To fall straight into Harden, a guy who will fall to the floor if a breeze blew hard enough, gave him the authority to initiate the contact necessary to force the zebras to blow the whistle.

4. Bargnani has played three consecutive good games which leads to the eventual fateful decision that Woodson has to make when Tyson Chandler returns.  Does he stick with the big frontcourt of Chandler, Melo and Bargs?  Or does he make Bargnani the sixth man and keep only two of Melo, Bargs, and Chandler, on the court at once?  It would make sense that they not combine the three.  I’m not going to fault Woody for going to the super big line up for a few more games before making an astute decision but there’s still almost 4-6 weeks to go before Tyson is slated to come back so there’s plenty of time for Woodson to stew and make up his mind.  In the meantime consider that since Tyson went out  in the home loss to the Bobcats, Bargs is averaging 21.3 points, 6 rebounds and a +1 rating.  If you take out that atrocity of a Spurs loss his averages would look even better: 23 ppg, 7.7 rebounds, and a cumulative +27 rating or a +9 rating average.  Many would blame it on the spacing that a defensive minded center like Tyson takes away from the Knicks offense (the same reason that many thought the Amar’e, Tyson and Melo front court couldn’t work), but its worth wondering if this four game sample is indicative of how this offense will continue to go if you remove ONE of the three from the line up.

5a.  Metta World Peace continues to struggle offensively that its difficult sometimes to watch him with the ball without

Knicks and Rockets get testy

Knicks and Rockets get testy

screaming at the television to pass the ball.  At the end of the day though Metta’s impact on the floor won’t be offensively, though whatever he gives will be a plus.  Metta’s impact will be on both establishing a tougher mindset by being an intimidating presence on the court, and also being a defensive presence.  In years past the Knicks would’ve raised arms and admitted defeat by the second quarter of that T-Wolves game when after the first quarter the Knicks were down 41-19, but the Knicks made a game of it once Metta came in the game.  I’m not saying he was the reason the Knicks almost won the game but he was a big presence on the court that slowed the Wolves down and forced some turnovers.  His +17 in that game is eye opening.  Even in games like the ones with the Bulls where their physicality would’ve normally forced the Knicks into submission they hung in there until D. Rose hit that impossible floater over two Knicks to give the Bulls a one point game.

5b. Last year the Knicks were 22-17 in games decided by five points or less.  Which was good for 15th in the NBA.  This year they are 2-4 which is good for 17th in the NBA.  Last year most observers would agree was the best of almost every possible scenario for the Knicks which led to their 54 win season.  This year their early season struggles are being attributed to regression to the mean.  While its still early one of the things I expect to happen is for the Knicks to win more close games.  Of course this has as much to do with health as anything so in the next 4-6 weeks they may pile a few more losses without a defensive presence like Tyson Chandler who says this year he’s healthier than he was last year.  Call it more of a guess based on a gut feeling rather than any statistical measure.

5c.  Which brings me to the recent conversation started by Matt Barnes in-the-heat-of-the-moment tweet with the n-word included.  Barnes expressed frustration at his teammates and having to constantly come to their aid and in a roundabout way called his teammates soft.  Which, if you wanted to make the case about the Knicks- was also true last year.  Teams often played aggressive with Melo hoping to take him out of the game with no real enforcer to tell them to knock it off which necessitated the Kenyon Martin grab at the end of the season.  The Knicks doubled down with Metta this year and though the record may not reflect it, have reaped some reward out of Metta and Kenyon’s presence.  With Chandler out teams may see fit to treat the paint like the runway at JFK, but having guys like Kenyon and Metta can atleast be some point of resistance for lesser tough guys to just use and abuse the painted area of the court.  While most celebrate KG’s toughness as a necessary component for the Nets to really make noise this year, its important to use Metta and Kenyon in spots where necessary- like now.  To play zone and have them guard the rim and let people know that if they must drive to the paint, expect a few hard fouls.  If you’re foolish enough to repeatedly absorb that kind of punishment do so at your own discretion.  The record may not show it, but time will ultimately prove these two free agent acquisitions right.

6. Tough losses early in the year are a little easier to stomach for a number of reasons.  Usually teams are nursing stars back from injuries so their usage stats will show that they aren’t really playing a high volume of minutes.  Despite having a pre-season teams are still figuring out lineup configurations like the Knicks.  Players who aren’t physically ready for the season need time to round themselves into shape.  Bad teams don’t know they are bad and jump on good teams who aren’t expecting it.  The Knicks really only fall into one of those categories but its easy to get caught up in an early season swoon given how quickly the Knicks jumped out of the gate last year.  Their quick start helped them weather the expected mid-season swoon and ultimately led them to a solid stretch run-run.  It will be interesting to see if the Knicks catch fire in the middle of the season and still have a late season surge.

7. James Harden doesn’t seem like the most popular player on his team.  While he was down on the court not too many teammates came to check on him.  Add that to Dwight Howard’s fake ass routine you can see why the Rockets haven’t jumped out the gate.  Clearly the OKC/HOU trade worked out more for Houston because it helped convince Dwight to choose the Rockets over the Lakers last summer.  But one has to wonder if Harden’s ability to win championships wouldn’t have been served better by being on OKC’s roster.  Both front offices are forward thinking organizations who don’t operate under burdensome ownership groups.  Both have several assets at all times to make a huge trade and both teams are not shy at making big deals if it serves the interest of winning a championship.  Houston’s game plan of accumulating assets has now worked in their favor again.  Omer Asik is demanding a trade and according to the sage Adrian Woj, the Rockets are shopping Asik for either “an impact player or a lottery pick”.  If they get either consider it a steal but its worth noting that its the right move to make.   You have to ask for the sun, moon and the stars when you have an asset the likes of Asik- a young cost controlled defensive center.   Imagine they get a 2014 first round pick from a team that may wind up in the lottery thanks to an ownership group desperate to make a run at the playoffs?  Think Charlotte who have two 2014 protected first round draft picks (they traded their own to Chicago- Lord help them), or Memphis who have opened the season rather sluggish and may need to reconfigure their roster and send a bad contract out (think Zack Randolph).  Keep an eye out.

8.  Speaking of the Dwightmare, its almost inexcusable how much he struggled against the defense of Andrea Bargnani.  Don’t adjust your screen you read right!  Dwight wasn’t able to muscle in the paint and very rarely plays aggressive.  He plays mad and usually that leads to inexcusable turnovers or very poor decisions.  Charles Barkley’s disbelief that now playing for an organization that has Hakeem on the payroll and Kevin McHale as his coach was a tad bit early though.  McHale and Hakeem had more post moves than a mailman working during Christmas time, but that kind of foundational training takes time.  But now this would make those two the third and fourth Hall of Fame post players who Dwight has had access to on a daily basis since he came into the league and he’s STILL this bad?  Patrick Ewing (Orlando), and Kareem Abdul Jabbar (Lakers) haven’t helped Dwight realize his potential.  At some point the whispers and rumors that Dwight is as bad and overrated as we are seeing off the floor as on the floor may in fact be coming true.  He has to get something going.  In my opinion, he and Lebron James are the only two players who can physically overwhelm opponents.  It took time for Lebron to figure out how and when and it may be that Dwight just needed the right complement of superstars around him.  Lets see if Dwight figures it out when we check back in later this year.

9. I would be remiss and not fulfilling my journalistic duty if I were to ignore the return of Linsanity to Madison Square Garden.  Look, I’m on record as saying that letting Lin walk was dumb for virtually every reason you can wonder.  But let’s not rehash the past.  Its nice to see him develop at the old age of 25 and mostly its his jump shot that has developed.  Looks pure and just so much more polished.  He also saved his best for last shooting 4 of 6 in the final quarter to help lead the Rockets to the win.  Lin is out of the starting line up and ultimately it will be the best thing for him to develop his game playing with either Harden or Howard rather than in tandem for now.  He’s shooting better than 50% from three which will eventually come down but if his 3pt FG% steadies at over 40%,  it will be much tougher to clog up lanes and defend both Lin and Harden who’s first inclination is to drive to the basket and score.  If you keep Lin, Parsons, Harden and Howard, all you need is a competent 2nd big who can grab rebounds or have soft hands to collect easy passes in the paint that will result when the defense collapses to close on one of Harden or Lin driving to the hoop.  The home run move would be Houston picking Phoenix’s pocket for Channing Frye a big who can stretch defenses even further because of his ability to stroke the three.  Of course that would be a perfect scenario for Houston but not that unrealistic.  Phoenix’s GM Ryan McDonough is doing what Darryl Morey would in his position: accumulate assets, draft well and stock up for a big move.  With potentially four first round picks in 2014, a draft being  compared to the one in  2003 draft in terms of depth of impact talent the Suns are positioned to really rebuild very quickly.  Getting an Asik for Frye deal would be great but that won’t happen because McDonough is looking to shed salary rather than take on more.  Frye for a 2014 first round pick would be glorious for McDonough but I doubt Morey is looking to trade out of this draft of all places.  Doesn’t seem like a match but based purely on basketball, it makes all the sense in the world.

10. And still i say #KNICKSTAPE

More coming later….

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The Mystery and beauty of not knowing…that’s Showtime

The news this morning that Mike D’Antoni took the job as the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers certainly raised eyebrows across the Association’s landscape.  For one, it was NOT the name that Los Angeleans had expected to hear be announced as the replacement to Mike Brown.  Most thought that Tuesday morning, when they held the press conference, Phil Jackson would come limping into the room and commandeering the super team that the Buss family and Mitch Kupchack had assembled.

Most NBA fans know that there’s only ONE guy who is truly qualified to deal with this many egos and one, Kobe Bryant.  There’s only one guy who can go death stare for death stare with Kobe and there’s only one guy that can truly hold Bryant accountable for his demeaning attitude towards teammates.  Phil Jackson has made a career of coaching the best and intertwining their massive egos and massive talents into a championship concoction and most automatically assumed that this was the perfect job for him.

But as we all know, sometimes the best laid plans wind up staying in the meeting room, never to see the light of day.  Most Laker fans assumed Phil would be their coach because usually this kind of stuff just falls into their lap like pigeon droppings do for others.  But the most interesting part of the next few days will be figuring how this all fell apart and why.  Because in the end, there are too many characters in this drama for it not to be a fun reconstruct for the avid basketball fan.

First, Mike Brown.  Brown was hired after Phil Jackson left the Lakers in 2010 winner of back to back championships the year before and having gone to the Finals 3 years in a row.  He won five titles in two separate stints with the famed franchise and was revered in L.A. as the guy who was the missing piece and quite possibly the greatest head coach in all of basketball.  Mike Brown was the guy who had won a ton of games with Lebron, but no NBA championship.  Brown came from the San Antonio Spur organization, a franchise run so well that I’m ESPN’s 30 for 30 crew is already working on interviews set for five years down the road when we will be seeing all the links to that team talk about how they became champions as a result of being a part of that organization.

Immediately from the start, many questioned LA’s hiring.  Curious to many since the players, fans and even Phil gave the head nod to Brian Shaw, longtime assistant head coach and Triangle disciple.  What many didn’t know is that Jim Buss, brother of Jeanne (Phil’s long time girlfriend) and son of Dr. Jerry Buss, wanted to move away from the slow down pace of the Triangle.  An offense too boring for a town too hip.  Its why they hired Rudy Tomjanovich the first time Phil left and its why they hired Mike Brown the second time Phil left because both promised a different style of basketball.  A more fun style.  Except, neither performed the task ownership set them out to do: recreate showtime and win championships.

Brown was known as a defensive minded coach, except the stats don’t bear that reputation out.  The Lakers went from the 8th best defensive team in Phil’s last season to 15th best defensively in Mike Brown’s first full year.  This season, Brown decided to change the offensive philosophy to play the Princeton offense.  There was a good news/bad news aspect to this change.  The good news is that philosophically it could have worked given what the team had: the Princeton offense’s main goal is to keep the ball moving and for points to be made through players taking advantage of the mismatch by doing back door cuts and executing flawless passing.  They had Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant who all are above average passers (Kobe haters, stop laughing at the notion that Kobe’s not a good passer.  Now, whether he wants to pass or not is a discussion for another day), and they had Steve Nash, a former two time MVP and top 5 point guard on the roster.  In the Princeton offense, there aren’t PG’s, G’s F’s or PF’s.  The concept is to keep passing the ball until there’s an open man found.  It depends on the passing ability of its players.  They hired Eddie Jordan, the guru of the Princeton offense, to run it.  The bad news was that meant limiting the ball in the hands of Steve Nash which is maybe NOT such a good idea considering he’s one of the best ball handlers in the NBA.  Even at age 38.

Brown came into the job on a work shortened season.  And then lucked out by having this super roster and even more super expectations placed on the team by both its fan base and its impatient ownership.  The Buss’ wanted a winner and an exciting one to boot.  Brown failed to do that and as they saw the team suffer they couldn’t continue watching it.

The next character is Phil Jackson.  As the Lakers opened the season up at 1-4, the fan base and the media began buzzing for Phil to return.  Looking at the roster, it was immediately clear to everyone that only Phil Jackson could come and save this team from itself.  Phil, for his part, had built a reputation for being able to coach the best players and guide them to titles through his Zen-like qualities.  His ability to massage egos and win at a remarkable rate was all the cred he needed to deal with those who came to clash with the super coach.  The spin from the Laker end will be that he asked for an ownership stake and for more say in personnel decisions, undercutting Jim Buss’ authority, and the spin from Phil’s side (already released) would be that he was willing to take the job as long as the money was right.  But the more I read it, the more it comes down to that the power struggle between he and Jim Buss would be too much of an elephant in the room for even Phil to figure out.  The Zen master does indeed want more power in his next location but perhaps asking for it from the Laker franchise was just a tiny poke at Jim Buss and to see how desperate they were to make this team work.

The third character would be those Buss’.  Its hard to figure who’s on Phil’s side and who wasn’t, but one thing is for sure:  Jeanne is still his girlfriend making her on his side.   That’s all we know, everything else is purely hearsay but there were plenty of whispers that Jim Buss and even Dr. Jerry Buss wanted to move away from the slow paced style of the Triangle to a more Showtime-esque offense that dazzled the NBA and the greater Los Angeles area in the 1980’s.  Of course it was led by Magic Johnson, who at 6’9 was as unique a point guard as there was in the NBA.  Dr Jerry Buss is as close to George Steinbrenner as you will get in the NBA.  An owner used to winning; accepting nothing less and paying whatever the cost to field a winner was not happy with the landscape of the NBA.  The Lakers seemed to be heading into the sunset of the Kobe Bryant era without being close to title contention, and that wasn’t acceptable.  So he, through Mitch Kupchack engineered the stunning Dwight Howard trade (as a result of the Nets falling out), and got Steve Nash for a bunch of second round picks and a bunch of basketballs.

And yet, even as the roster constructed seemed to put the Lakers in the drivers seat in the Western Conference they had entrusted Mike Brown to do so.  The moves may have started the clock on Mike Brown’s tenure because of the next two characters:

The next two characters are time and Dwight Howard.  This time last year, it seemed as though Dwight Howard was headed to Brooklyn one way or the other.  He was excited about teaming up with Deron Williams and playing out their careers together.  The Lakers wanted in on Dwight but were getting lukewarm responses from the former Orlando center.  Of course, as fate would have it and somehow it manages to all the time, Dwight put himself in a situation where he gave his team very limited time to work out a deal with Brooklyn, and ultimately wound up going to Los Angeles in a three team trade that saw the Lakers give up their own young big man, Andrew Brynum, but keep Pau Gasol.  Suddenly Dwight was in LA, and the Lakers had assembled a team capable of battling the OKC’s and the Miami’s of the world and were thrust into the championship chatter.

The problems are three fold:  Dwight is not a 100% at the moment.  Its clear that he hasn’t recovered from offseason back surgery and will probably require more rehab before we see the real dominant Dwight Howard.  Second, he’s a free agent in July of this year having not signed an extension with Los Angeles just yet.  Which makes this a probationary period in Los Angeles for Dwight.  With an 0-8 preseason and a 1-4 start, the early reviews were probably not good.  Third, the Lakers know that Dwight is the link to another great run.  They can’t afford to let him walk this offseason given the advanced age of the rest of their roster.  Kobe is in his 17th season, Pau is 32 and has been playing internationally since 18, and Steve Nash is 38 going on 51.

That leads us to the obvious character of time and time is NOT on the Laker’s side.  Time was cut short on Mike Brown thanks to a quirky 66 game schedule that was more a game of attrition for an old team like the Lakers.  Many people had fun poking at the Knicks for their advanced age and yet, the average age of their starting five is 30.4 (that’s without Amar’e, which would ultimately alter their line up and replace Kidd who’s 39 with Amar’e who’s 30 on 11/16 and would give them an average age of 29) while the Lakers average age of their starting five is 32.8 (that’s with Steve Nash, but even replacing him with Steve Blake would still make them 31.6).  That’s significant when understanding the urgency to win a championship this year which would convince Dwight to stay for the long term.  If all Dwight knows is complete and utter chaos, then his Laker career will be short lived and all those good tidings that came with his trade to LA will disappear.  We’ve seen how Dwight can flip flop between allegiances and loyalty and anything is fair game.  Besides, judging by their advanced age, they have a two to maybe a three year window to win.  Oh and by the way, that window coincides with Lebron James entering his physical prime, which by the way could also result in the greatest statistical 5-7 year run in all of basketball.  EVER.

And in my opinion, Dwight’s future is the impetus in all of this.  The coaching change so quickly into what promises to be an 82 game marathon showed the Lakers inability to wait for the team to adjust to each other.  The Lakers signed a brand new lucrative television deal that will ultimately pay them royally thanks to the Kobe Bryant era.  In order to keep them interesting and keep the rising Clipper team in their place, the Lakers have to ensure that the transition from the Kobe Bryant Lakers to the Dwight Howard Lakers go as smoothly as the other ones have: with rings.  The Lakers are at another moment in their franchise’s history where they had to make an important decision for the sake of the team.

But ultimately this will show that as much as winning is a priority in the Staples Center, its not the ONLY thing.  Its about selling tickets and merchandise and keeping them relevant in a very crowded marketplace.  In a few years a football team will join Los Angeles and with their co-tenants having two superstars in tow, the pressure is mounting on a very old Laker team to be champions again.  Was Phil Jackson pricing himself out?  Or was it that the Buss’ were tired of being held up by Phil without a gun.  Any opportunist would see this moment in Laker history and understand the significance of having a winner.  While the Lakers will be good without Phil, everyone knows they can be world champions WITH him.  And that was done WITHOUT the kind of star power they have now.  So what to make of the D’Antoni signing?

Simple.  In the end, ownership is always the final say.  Forget the fans.  Forget the players.  While the influence can be strong, a very strong ownership can ultimately override all of them.  The Buss’ were not willing to give Phil what he wanted because what he wanted was theirs.  All of the credit, and all of the love would have gone to Phil had this pre-assembled lineup won a championship.  And that in the end was not something Mitch Kupchack, or the Buss’ wanted.  This ownership group survived one power struggle with Phil and Shaq against Kobe and they feel they can survive another.

Mike D’Antoni will open up the offense and will utilize the team’s talent to make them into a great offense.  It will make them into as close to the Showtime teams used to be which should appease the fanbase. They will win a ton of regular season games, but that goes without saying.  But what will they do when they get into the playoffs and teams with great front court depth begin wearing them out and slowing down the pace.  We’ve seen this with the D’Antoni Suns of the mid 2000’s.  The only problem is, they were dealing with an early 30’s Steve Nash leading the break and had young, quick playmakers who could run up and down the court and wear teams out.  Who’s running this team at a breakneck pace?  Kobe Bryant with his young legs at 34?  Maybe Antawn Jamison at 36 off the bench? Maybe its Dwight with the bad back.  Or Metta World Peace who will somehow be confused into letting go of this self held notion that he’s a prolific 3 point shooter and he’ll run.

Unfortunately the statistics have held that the problem was not the offense.  It was the defense.  The problem is they gave Mike Brown 5 games in the regular season to make them into a team when that’s never going to work especially given the team they’ve assembled.  The problem is that Dwight’s not at 100% and Steve Nash has played exactly one game with this team.  So before people begin to wonder about the Lakers and Phil Jackson, remember that the problems don’t end because they shut the door for Phil to return.  No, they opened the door to the more obvious problem that now circles the Lakers should they be unable to win a title this year, and lose Dwight Howard in free agency (which would be worst case scenario): maybe the Lakers don’t want to win anymore.  May be they are just ok with competing and being competitive and selling out their arena and collecting the rewards of all those Phil Jackson-Kobe Bryant-Pau Gasol-Shaquille O’Neal titles.  Maybe the Buss’ don’t want to give control to a guy that knows how to work around their present problems.

Or maybe Mike D’Antoni will re-work this line up and figure out what he did wrong in Phoenix and NY and become a great coach.  Maybe this will work out for the Lakers like it always does.  Maybe Dwight will re-sign with the Lakers and the Lakers will have one more major move to make before the trading deadline that will make them younger and more dangerous.  Who knows?  The fantastic part is, the less we know the juicier the story becomes.  At the end of the season, none of the build up or the hype will matter because we will know the ending.  The best part of the story is now.  The best part of the story is not knowing how the movie ends.  That’s LA!  That’s Showtime!

 

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Daily Rounds 12/15/2011

 

 

Finally we can all pack away the tents we used for those Black Friday Deals and waiting on line for those IPhones at the local Apple Store. Chris Paul is finally a Clipper thanks to a trade finalized and announced last night by the NBA.  Here are the pertinent details:

Clippers Receive:  PG Chris Paul
                                           Two 2nd Round Draft Picks 2015

Hornets Receive:  SG Eric Gordon
                                     SF Al Farooq-Aminu
                                       C Chris Kaman
                                     Minnesota’s Unprotected first round draft pick in 2012

TJ Simers of the Los Angeles Times wonders if there’s any room for the Lakers in L.A. anymore.  Mike Breshnahan said the Lakers organization were still fuming over their trade being nixed by the NBA.  John Reid of the Times-Picayune writes that David Stern believes he made the right deal.  The better deal.  For the Hornets.  Bill Dwyre wonders what the NBA did with Donald Sterling.  This can’t be the Clippers!  JA Adande writes that these are not your daddy’s Clippers or even your older brother by one or two years’ Clippers.  Finally, long time Clipper fan and my favorite basketball scribe Peter Vecsey still only gives the co-tenants of the Staples center second billing and explains why.  Chris Sheridan says there are ONLY losers, and not winners in this Chris Paul trade.  

At first, I was firmly against this trade.  Giving up Eric Gordon before he reached his potential or the age of 25 (he turns 23 on Christmas day), and a potential lottery pick in Minnesota’s unprotected number one was potentially huge.  Throw in cap relief in Chris Kaman’s expiring contract and some young players the Clippers were thought to be blowing up the team in hopes of excavating a playoff contender.  Of course with the Clippers luck, they would’ve found a way for Chris Paul to trip over a banana peel on his way to the podium for today’s press conference announcing the trade.  Paul has apparently agreed to opt-in to 2012-2013 so the Clips aren’t getting a one season rental.  But the door is open for Paul, if he doesn’t like it there, to explore his trade options at age 28 when barring catastrophic setback to his knees, will still be a very intriguing option for any NBA team during that offseason.

But as I looked closer at the deal I realized one thing, I was banking on a lot of unknowns panning out.  There’s a lot of people who think the Clips vault themselves into contention automatically with this trade.  Alot of people who believe they are better than the Lakers by virtue of this trade (they should have their heads examined).  A lot of people who think that the Clippers are now up there with the Grizzlies and even the Oklahoma City Thunder by making this move.  And if they are correct then yes, this is the correct move.

But let’s take a look at how the Clippers would’ve looked had they NOT made a move.  The unprotected pick has a very good shot at being a lottery selection and this year’s draft promises to be one deep in talent.  With Eric Gordon, free agent signee Caron Butler and Chauncey Billups gained through the Amnesty auction, have a mix of youthful talent and experience at several key positions.  That’s the kind of upside/experience you want on a team and the Clippers were BUILDING a team and not manufacturing it.  Yes this sounds very zealous of me to say and I may be clouded in judgement knowing that CP3 may have had an easier time convincing himself that he could join the Knicks at the end of the season.  But the Clippers had an assemblage of talent and had two other assets to play around with.  They had the 2012 pick which would’ve beefed up the team even more and they had Chris Kaman’s expiring contract to use as a trade chip to add a veteran F/C during the stretch run.

Now, the Clippers have CP3 and Blake Griffin and a bunch of other players.  They have four point guards (in reality 3 with Chauncey used as the 2 guard which might help explain his need to do the stop and pop from long distance at a rate of five times a game) and will most certainly have to give up Mo Williams unless their plan is to go small a lot and use Mo as a SG.  The biggest reason for doing this CP3 trade is because of Blake Griffin.  Blake changes everything for the Clippers.  He gives them credibility and a player that has stolen alot of the public love in Los Angeles away from Kobe Bryant, the Lakers longtime superstar.  The Kobe era is fading and the Clippers wanted to take advantage of that by not only getting the best player to help prop Blake up that extra level, but also to speed up that aging process.  Imagine Kobe looking despondently as his Lakers are escorted out of the playoffs by the CLIPPERS!  Imagine the state of catatonic shock Jack Nicholson will be in when Frankie Muniz (Malcolm in the Middle) is pointing his finger laughing at him.  The world will probably start coming to an end.

This move is to ensure that Blake resigns which means the pressure is on for the Clips.  If they don’t do well this season and head into next season with a lot of questions as Chris Sheridan expects them to (he doesn’t expect them to even make the playoffs) Paul might already be booking his exit flight and Blake may view the situation in Clipper land untenable.  And trust me, with Donald Sterling as your owner that scenario is in play.

So again I asked myself why would the Clips make this move?  After all, by signing Chauncey off the amnesty auction, they sent a direct message to the NBA, who were conducting negotiations on the CP3 sweepstakes, that they didn’t need him and were moving on; even if that turned out to be a ploy to get the NBA back into the bargaining table.  If so, then WHY give up that much?  You did all this to keep Eric Bledsoe?  Bledsoe is certainly a well liked player in the Clipper locker room and projects to be, at his best, a Rondo prototype but he’s the guy you are claiming victory on by keeping?  Bledsoe?  The Clippers seemingly had the upper hand in negotiations and the NBA still suckered Donald Sterling into providing three of his best assets for Chris Paul.

I’m not saying that CP3 isn’t worth it.  Would I do it if I were the Clippers?  Maybe not, but is it worth considering and a long second look?  Yes.  More so than I cared to admit when I first heard about the trade.  Chris Paul can make good teams great and great teams elite, as he would have for the Lakers.  But this was AS much to do with Blake Griffin and shedding the label of losers that the Clips have had since Sterling took over as it was anything else.  It was about building a culture of winning, independent of all the history that suggested otherwise.  In the backdrop of the huge shadow that the Lakers cast, this was such a wonderful master stroke: imagine, if you will, the Lakers getting outbid and outsmarted for an elite player by the lowly Clippers.  Sterling won the PR battle today and provided that CP3 remains his normal self, the Clippers will certainly invite more favorable comparisons.

The Clippers are not the better team in Los Angeles.  They still have Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.  They got a very underrated scorer in Josh McRoberts.  Most importantly they still have Kobe Bryant.  They have a motivated Kobe after being swept in the Finals.  They have a Kobe Bryant who will WILL his team to victories some night on the back of his pedigree and desire to be great.  The Clippers don’t have that but they are darn close.  Will is great but being youthful and supremely skilled like Paul and Griffin are, means great things as well.

We won’t know who got the better end of the deal until later on, but kudos to David Stern for sticking firm and getting the young players, cap flexibility and high draft picks he sought when he originally shut down the Laker deal, and credit the Clippers for looking good.  And how many times can they have said that in their history?

Meanwhile, these t-shirts will be available for sale soon and I think they are going to be a huge hit.

Despite all the evidence that would point otherwise, the Magic effectively ended trade talks with other teams in hopes that they can somehow persuade Dwight Howard to stay and re-sign with the Magic according to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel.  Bill Simmons wrote in his column that Dwight’s will he won’t he drama pretty much sums up his promising yet uninspiring career.  Dave D’Alessandro of the Jersey Star Ledger says he’s seen this script before and isn’t buying this end of trade discussions.  

I’m with Billy on this one.  Dwight Howard caused this whole mess when he back pedaled on Tuesday and decided that IF the Magic had listened to his suggestions and IF they had shown a more eager willingness to win or IF they had moved heaven and earth then he wouldn’t have demanded a trade.  Its a load of garbage and I PRAY that the Magic don’t buy it.  Not for the fan base.  It doesn’t deserve it.  Dave D’Alessandro is right, this is yet another ploy by another superstar who can’t be bothered with the burden of leading his own team and would rather invoke his right of using his name and clout to get his wish, to put himself in a better situation where he’ll have considerably more help and can be given a lot of the credit (as the missing piece) or only SOME of the blame as opposed to ALL of the blame when the light is brightest on the best player on each team.

If the Lakers offer up Bynum and Gasol, which they might have to if the Clippers start off hot and steal headlines and momentum from the Lakeshow, the Magic will listen.  I think the prospect of Brook Lopez and Gerald Wallace and FIVE FIRST ROUND DRAFT PICKS apparently didn’t please the Magic.  Getting back known quantities are more enticing to the Magic who can show the fans that while they lost their young superstar center, they gained a young center who has a mean streak that is no where in Dwight’s game (yet) and a power forward who can dominate games offensively and shoulder the burden of being the number one option on the offense.  Plus he’s a very good passer out of the paint and for a team filled with slashers and shooters, it would be very much a similar situation except Gasol can make free throws and Bynum can offer the defensive/mean streak offense that Dwight offered (minus the mean streak).

Look, if I were as talented as Dwight I’m sure there would be a part of me that yearned to dictate where I went.  But Dwight like every other babied superstar has been given a silver spoon and been treated like royalty and spoiled with so much attention that its hard for them to figure out what exactly they are doing wrong when they are doing it.  Asking for a trade then back pedaling may not sound wrong to Dwight but he’s removed from the context of the whole situation.  This is a fan base that he himself promised he would not disappoint like others.  He told them he wouldn’t bolt like that, and yet here’s his first opportunity to do so and he is leaving.  Yes Dwight got them to a Finals on his back while Shaq had Penny (don’t giggle, you just don’t remember how dominant Penny was during those first few years- you remember Penny in a Knick uniform, two completely different players.), but its not enough for Dwight to get them there.

When he first came into the league there was this feeling like he was different.  His parents were strict.  He was a devout Christian and a young man who came out of high school more prepared mentally to handle all the rigors that come with fame and fortune.  I’m not here to judge him as a person but let’s take this back and forth for what it is.  There are conflicting interests here.  He wants to be a superstar and the attention and fame.  He also wants to be seen as a hero to Orlando, a city I think he genuinely loves.  There are forces working here and only one group will win.

My bet is that Dwight will end up with the Nets somehow but not until the end of the season.  I think he will need a commitment from Deron Williams but I can see Dwight and Deron deciding that its enough to start their legacies in Brooklyn and battle the Knicks for rights to New Yorker’s heart and wallet.  I think he stays put this entire season and gives Orlando the chance to woo him and show him that they are thirsty for winning.  Of course if the Magic don’t, and there’s a good chance that they go nowhere this year then Dwight leaves and the Magic fans are left with Shaq times two.

Dwight Howard knows that if he were direct with management a lot of this indecision and back and forth would end.  He needs to make up his mind.  At some point he has to be a man.  He can’t keep thinking that his smile will get him through the tough questions:  Is he invested in Orlando’s long term plans?   Is he that invested in the city?  How big are his goals for his after-basketball career?  Is he really thinking about becoming an actor?  Does he need the brighter lights of a bigger city to feel truly in place?  These are questions Dwight must answer and must answer fast.  Its not fair what he’s doing to Magic fans.  And its not fair to himself.  His life can either go forward or he can be like me trying to parallel park: reverse, shift, go forward, reverse, shift, go forward and repeat a few hundred times before finally getting out and being a solid five feet away from the curb.  Basically all that effort for NOTHING.  Dwight just needs to park his behind somewhere and be happy with his decision.  But he needs to make a decision.  For everyone’s sake.

The Knicks are down to three options now to augment their lineup.  According to Marc Berman of the New York Post Shawn Williams will make up his mind today and if he clears waivers the Knicks and Baron Davis have mutual interest in bringing the once star PG to the Knicks.  News also rains down that Amar’e Stoudemire doesn’t foresee himself playing all 66 games this season.  

I find it shady that Baron Davis a notorious slow starter but fast eater would complain about a bad back and IF that were truly the case, it wouldn’t make sense to hold on to that contract in hopes that he will come and rescue the knicks.  Yes, when motivated he can light it up on offense and CAN be a playmaker but those days are long gone in my opinion and according to my eyesight.  Replaced is a man who has lost his passion and would rather clog up passing lanes and effectively changed his style to rather suit the stylings of a post presence.  Something very dubious for a small guy to do but there is the rub.  Baron Davis is an enigma and a question mark.  He’s a head scratch.  And if the Knicks are seriously in the business of being taken seriously they need to resolve this fancy of bringing in every 2007 All-Star and try and build a team around the likes of Amar’e and Melo.  They have two guys who can take over games and quite possibly the most clutch player in all of basketball next to Paul Pierce, and Kobe Bryant in Carmelo.  They need role fillers and guys who can play defense and Shawn Williams can do that and provide you size and the inevitable knock down corner three.  Something he worked hard to perfect in order to resurrect his fledgling career.

He owes the Knicks a debt of gratitude but the Knicks have been busy diverting their attention on any number of options for the two guard, a position they don’t want to just GIVE to Landry Fields.  And I agree.  They shouldn’t take Landry’s word that he went out and practiced hard at the mental aspects of the game, which he was sorely lacking last year after the plug in of Carmelo Anthony into the everyday line up.  If he’s smart he’d take the Knicks one year offer or perhaps multi year offer and stay with the franchise.  But he may crave a starting spot in New Jersey which may prove to be a great opportunity if the chips start stacking up with Dwight Howard and Deron Williams being resigned.  But those are major ifs and its looking like they won’t have the ability to do that anyway.  I would bet that Shawn Williams resigns with the Knicks for one year and yes, we take a flyer on Baron Davis once he passes the amnesty auction.

I don’t trust Baron, but I believe the Knick staff thinks that he is worth the investment.  He had better be.  He can elevate this team or bring it down.  That’s the conundrum of Baron Davis.

If the Knicks signing of Tyson Chandler said anything its that the Knicks are done waiting and are done waiting on scenarios to play itself out.  They’d rather have a known quantity.  Shawn Williams is a known quantity in D’Antoni’s system and on this team.  Baron Davis isn’t and his reputation precedes himself.  I hope the Knicks know what they are doing.

Hey guys, the NFL is rich.  I mean really rich.  The NFL just agreed to a record extension with their three broadcast partners in NBC, FOX and CBS, which would have them pay 50% more in rights fees from 2014-2022.  Incredibly, the networks jumped at the chance of doing so.  

What’s that saying again?  The rich keep getting richer and the poor…well.

Here is the only savior that can come and rescue the Mets from themselves.  

Here is an interesting read about problems the Celtics have with Rajon Rondo.  

Speaking of which, troubling sense is setting in that Ndamukong Suh doesn’t get it.  Doesn’t get why people were disturbed by his actions and further more doesn’t get why people want to know if he’s learned anything by it.

Its not by accident that I bring up Tebow, Rondo and his meltdown and Suh’s complete lack of understanding all together in one hodgepodge.  Tebow is the golden child and its as much for his play as it is for his Christian beliefs.  Tebow’s intensity here can be compared to Suh’s intensity here.  They are one in the same and yet ONE of those guys controls his emotions and thinks straight and the other can’t.  There’s a fine line in sports and its crossed from time to time.  But I can’t understand for the life of me unapologetic players who don’t understand the consequences of their acts.  James Harrison straight up sounds like a complete IDIOT when he tweets LOL and warns that if he wanted to, he could’ve knocked Colt McCoy out.  That’s a threat and as close to a promise.  But you know what that isn’t?  That isn’t an apology.  That isn’t a promise to try and explore different ways on hitting.  That isn’t Harrison complaining and making a valid case about why the sport isn’t clear on hits to the head and why he’s being looked upon as a head hunter.  Because people like Harrison relish the fear that he brings on to a football field.

Harrison is a menacing player and so is Suh.  But they are both headed down a path that leads to nothing but shame and discorn.  They are both capable of being great NFL players but with indifferent attitudes about safety and showing composure.  Harrison has a legitemate gripe, not only did Colt throw that football at the last minute, he put his head down ensuring that Harrison’s helmet would go right into the face of Colt.  That’s not his fault.  No human alive could’ve avoided that.  But that’s what he should’ve said.  Not, “LOL”.  That’s not an adequate response, that’s a tease.  That’s a slap in the face of players who are now barely able to walk on their own power.  Guys who have paid the price physically and have their bodies betray them 10-15 years after they played their last game.  Harrison doesn’t get it now but he will.

But worse still is that Suh’s reputation is going down hill.  He’s not the humble kid that the Chrysler ads depict him to be.  Its getting to that time where not even Goodell, desperate for Suh to be a superstar and face of the league, can’t even save him from himself.  Goodell will be forced to give him the James Harrison treatment.  Every single thing he does, he will be hit with a substantial fine or suspension.  Every single comment he makes that draws the ire of its fan bases, Goodell will hit Suh with a fine.  His battles with the media are now becoming laughable.

How can a kid who sounds that intelligent, be THAT stupid?  How can he think that by arrogantly claiming the situation to be in-house that the media won’t further question that bogus statement?  The people who cover him and the league have been around far longer than Suh has or even before he wore his first pair of cleats in Pop Warner.  You think this is the first athlete trying to shut them down?  They are numb and immune to such foolish talk.  They and the fans have the right to know.  All Suh had to say was that he apologized and accept blame for a foolish moment.  That didn’t have to define him up to this point but right now it does.  His press conferences are bizarre.  He sounds like a little child that doesn’t want to be found out for breaking the vase in the living room.  He is scared and would rather try and dictate the terms of the conversation when that won’t happen.

You think the Detroit Lions PR staff want him in front of a camera anytime soon?  But you know who will?  Every single media member will descend upon him like a plague.  They will fire questions at him that question his character and question his ability to keep cool and until he proves otherwise those concerns will follow him.  Why is it so hard for these athletes to acknowledge their mistakes?  Why is it so easy to dismiss Tim Tebow and write off his performances?  Why is he so polarizing?  A person who stands up for his beliefs and goes about the game the right way?

Is he perfect?  No.  In fact he acknowledges his short comings and always points to every other direction but at himself for any credit he may get thrown his way after another game winning drive.  Yes, the QB gets the love, but his love goes to Jesus and God.  Why is it so hard to accept being like Tebow?

Why is it so hard for Dwight Howard to just come out and say he wants to leave and get ownership to find the best possible deal for the organization in the long run?  Why is it so hard for people to do the right thing?  And why is it that when someone DOES come along who does ALL the right things, that he is polarizing?

Why world why?

 

Editor’s note:  I will be leaving for Denver tonight to visit family and see the town that Tebow (re)built.  So expect posts to appear in west-coast time.  I will try to get them in as early as I can.  Don’t blame me though.  

 

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Daily Rounds 12/07/2011

A day after losing their franchise player the Mets went on the offensive and you may or may not like the moves.  The Chris Paul sweepstakes got sweeter and the Dwight Howard sweepstakes got even weirder.  Then there are those pesky Marlins who are making news during baseball’s winter meetings.  Plus more in today’s links links links links!

The Mets decided to be aggressive on the trade and free agent front and made a few moves a day after officially losing Jose Reyes to the Miami Marlins.  According to multiple reports, the Mets traded Angel Pagan for Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez and signed Jon Rauch to a one year deal and Frank Francisco to a two year deal.  

Ok, these aren’t earth shattering deals meant to make everyone forget that one of their franchise cornerstones just left for one of their division rivals.  But the thinking, I believe, is to spread the money they would’ve allocated to Reyes on several parts which they need.  The Mets don’t have depth on the major league level and in a move to address that they traded and got a two for one.  They got pretty much the same player in Andres Torres for Angel Pagan.  Torres can hit for more power and is more patient and will take walks and is a nice prototypical leadoff man while Ramon Ramirez is a hard throwing righty who instantly upgrades their bullpen.  All three players in the deal are up for arbitration but the 31 year old Torres is under team control for another year beyond this one.  The Mets meanwhile addressed the closer situation somewhat by adding two candidates who will evidently compete for the job.  Jon Rauch is the former Washington National so Met fans will be familiar with him.  Frank Francisco is the former Texas Ranger closer who famously threw a chair into the stands and went and attacked a fan.

Pagan was regressing last year after a breakout 2010 campaign which gave Met fans hope for a future that never was.  Hear that Sandy?  Hope that never was.  But he is a very able lead off man but he doesn’t draw walks, isn’t patient at the plate and is very wild in his approach.  Sometimes he takes weird angles at the baseball and its difficult to make a case that they absolutely had to keep him.  Now, could the Mets have gotten a better offer during the year?  Possibly.  But you don’t bet on someone like Pagan to get better.  I thought the front office did a great job here by getting a power relief arm and a comparable Center field option who most scouts believe is a better defensive solution there than Pagan with a bit more pop.

Look, it is what it is.  The Mets are operating under a small market philosophy and business wise I get what Sandy is saying.  If the Mets win and attract gate receipts the ability to expand payroll will come but they have to get out of the negative first and that’s a legitemate concern for an ownership group that is obviously bleeding money and need to save wherever they can.  Of course the Mets have no wiggle room this season if indeed they hope to compete seeing what the Marlins are doing and what the Phillies are already doing and what the Nationals have in store for the future and beyond.  The Mets are in trouble and had better fix this thing going forward.

As always for more analysis, you can go to Metsblog.com and read up on all the latest Met news as it relates to the Winter meetings.

Get ready for what I’m about to tell you.  The Miami Marlins have made a legit 10 year offer to Albert Pujols which is rumored to be more than $200 million which he is mulling over as we speak.  Joel Sherman of the New York Post says the Marlins have hijacked the Winter Meetings with their spending spree, but Ken Davidoff of Newsday is highly doubtful that the Marlins can sustain this model.  Brian Burwell of the St Louis Post Dispatch says that the Cardinals are playing a dangerous game with the face of their franchise and Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald says that this offer to Pujols needs some perspective.  

Most people were pretty curious as to whether the Marlins were for real after talking about making a splash this winter and boy have they been.  After getting their closer Heath Bell signed to a 3 year/$27 million deal, they went and stole former New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes for 6 years/$106 million.  The news making its rounds yesterday was that the Marlins had made a 10 year offer to Albert Pujols and had even went to the Commissioner’s Office to submit their proposal and perhaps run it by them to see if it worked under the parameters of the new CBA.  The buzz was that Albert would decide last night but as of 7:30 AM EST, he had not decided on either club.  This obviously forced the Cards to up their former 9 year offer to 10 and over the $200 million mark that they had not budged on prior to the Marlins major sales push.  Also adding to the intrigue is that the Cubs have made a mystery offer which most folks speculate is not nearly as long as either the Marlins or Cardinals offer but offers more per year than both deals while a mystery team has also put in a deal north of $200 million which seems to be the market for the best slugger not linked to steroids of this generation.

Look, in the end I think he resigns with the Cardinals because he understands that his legacy would take a hit by leaving St Louis and doing it for the money.  The Marlins and Cardinals share the same spring training facility which would make things pretty dicey and interesting come February if he were to switch teams.  I think the Marlins have to outbid the Cards by atleast $20-30 million for Pujols to ever realistically consider their offer which is what most think he’s doing.  I think the Cardinals offer isn’t that much better and may be feeling a bit peeved that he’s even in this position.  He’s helped this team win two World Series, 3 MVP trophies and had a better first ten years to his career than any player in baseball history.  Are we all surprised that he even made free agency?  Yes.  But the fact that he was looking at Alex Rodriguez’s 10 year/$275 million contract for comparison may have scared off the Cardinals who probably could play within that framework but don’t want to.  And if its a will issue then the representatives for Pujols, Dan Lazano may tell Pujols that maybe his services would be better appreciated in a warmer climate with a much bigger Latin fan base and a team that is clearly making an all out push.

Here’s the thing that will ultimately hurt the Marlins.  They did not offer Pujols a no-trade and as per company policy will NOT do so for any player.  Even Albert Pujols.  Which given their history should be troubling to any free agent.  There is no certainty that they will be able to draw in that market and so the possibility that they will have to sell off parts is very high considering that this is a franchise known for doing so.  They did it in 1997 after winning a World Series and did it in 2003 after using those parts received in 1997 to win.  But again, they wound up winning the World Series so there is SOME good news if you are a Marlins fan.  You can expect a World Series, pending all these acquisitions, in about two years max.  But I think Pujols won’t go, and I think he stays in St Louis but begrudgingly.

The Cubs are there to drive the price up obviously as I believe their main focus is Prince Fielder who has a history with their new manager Dave Sveum and is atleast four years younger than Albert Pujols and is very sturdy.  Sources however indicate that the Mariners may be in the lead to acquire Prince.  Their GM Jack Zrudineck drafted Prince originally in the Milwaukee system.  The mystery team in the Pujols sweepstakes is rumored to be the Angels who have denied that they are despite reports indicating the opposite.  Meanwhile within Joel Sherman’s news and notes he indicates that the Yankees are unlikely to move one of their major prospect pieces for either John Danks (whom officials close to trade negotiations with the White Sox believe are asking for a Ubaldo Jiminez like package) or Gio Gonzalez who suddenly have new suitors in the…you ready for this?  The Phillies.

Day two of coverage of the Winter Meetings can be followed on the usual websites or MLBTradeRumors.com

The NBA schedule for all 30 franchises was released and obviously the Knicks are a front burner team who will appear nationally 27 times.  Chris Sheridan of Sheridanhoops.com lays out the entire schedule while Howard Beck of the New York Times dissects the schedule for the Knicks.  

The Knicks will open the season of course on Christmas as part of the NBA’s national opener with the Celtics at noon.  They go out west and play teams with losing records from last year 7 out of the next 8 including Los Angeles after Boston.  The Knicks one back to back to back features a meet with the Chicago Bulls on February 2nd, a trip to Boston on the 3rd, and back home against the Nets (who may have Dwight Howard alongside Deron Williams at that point).  The Knicks play four games in five nights four times and appear nationally a healthy 27 out of 66 times which should feed the consensus that the league is very top heavy and friendly towards the big markets.

There are ways to go about this free agent process if you are the Hornets or Magic.  One way is to explore all trade options and according to Adrian Woj of Yahoo Sports the CP3 trade talks are heating up with Stephan Curry’s name, Eric Gordon’s name and Rajon Rondo’s name being thrown as possible chips being dangled.  Another is to have your now former CEO drunk dial your superstar center in the hopes of convincing him to stay.  

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Ok what?  As deals are pretty much finalizing before making them official on Friday, teams with superstars are holding on to them for dear life.  The rumor mill is buzzing that the Lakers make a play at both CP3 and Dwight Howard.  My thinking is that they get Dwight Howard after offering Odom and Bynum and a number one pick which I think the Magic would take.  The CP3 sweepstakes is a bit tougher to understand because now stories are coming up that he will think about signing an extension if a team that acquires him signs Tyson Chandler.  That would take a long term commitment which I’m not sure any team would be willing to do.  Don’t get me wrong Chandler is a great defensive presence to have and obviously he and CP3 are close from their New Orleans days but how can any team go in blindly on Chandler without securing the services off CP3 who is destined to explore the free agent market and sign with a team of his choice.  No matter what, I don’t believe his lust to go to New York has died down, but if its true that Eric Gordon is off the table for the Clips and the Warriors are not willing to trade Stephan Curry those teams don’t stand a chance and it may come down to taking an offer from New York which would be considerably worse than an offer from Los Angeles who could give them Pau Gasol.  Here’s why I believe the Lakers have a small chance at landing both.  The Lakers are motivated to make a move and I think if Magic GM is realistic, he will see that he has less than a 5% chance to keep his star center so he had better get another one now.  Don’t let them lose Dwight for nothing like they did with Shaq a generation ago.

Didn’t get time to put up all the links so get ready for part two later on today.

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Daily Rounds 12/6/2011

We’ve got Jose Reyes reaction, and some NBA and a brand new title for the daily blog posting, here goes:

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Like any morning after something major happens people begin reflecting and beginning the phase of rebuildi  patching up what’s left.  That’s what Met fans are left to do and mostly what Sandy Alderson and co. will be left with as they face a new era minus Jose Reyes.  Joel Sherman of the New York Post says the time is right to deal David Wright.   Meanwhile John Harper and Andy Martino of the Daily News say that money issues have put Sandy Alderson in a tough position to find results while being limited in what the front office can spend.  Ken Davidoff of Newsday wants to cut a deal with Mets management: if the Mets aren’t contending by July, start selling off assets like a rockstar in bankruptcy court.   Then there’s Mike Vacarro of the New York Post that asks the question that I’ve been asking Why believe anything the Wilpons are pushing Sandy Alderson to say?

There isn’t a good way to spin this Jose Reyes deal.  In fact, Sandy Alderson said ALL the right things because they were the only things to say.  In New York, like it or not, the word rebuilding can NOT appear anywhere close to the vicinity of your team otherwise its like a black mark that won’t go away.  The Mets have been going down this road for the last few years so it was no surprise that Jose Reyes was sent out with nothing, not even an offer because well, the fact is that the Mets didn’t have the money to give him that offer.  You can even say that if this was the plan all along, to just wait for the market to play itself out for Reyes and hope against hope that there wouldn’t be some hard pressed fool willing to give Jose Reyes the Carl Crawford money, it was a stupid plan.  In fact, it hurt the franchise more than anything.  Sandy Alderson played the market wrong just like the Wilpons have done for so long.  And you know what?  Not for a minute do I believe Sandy was that dumb.

Last season prior to the trade deadline rumors circulated that the Tampa Bay Rays contacted the Mets about Jose Reyes.  They would’ve had to offer them some kind of gravy boat offer, much better than Victor Zambrano for Scott Kazmir anyway, that would’ve netted the Mets something in the vicinity of decent prospects to work with.  But the Mets held on because there was some faint hope of a playoff run.  Then they got this deal for Carlos Beltran for a top prospect that the front office drooled over and pulled the trigger.  The Mets may have never gotten such an offer for Reyes, but you have to believe that the Wilpons put a kibosh on any Reyes trade talk because they hoped the Mets would make a run deep into September that would’ve given them a few extra dollars.  You know.  To pocket for the long term.  Because every single article pertaining to the Wilpon finances are right.  The Coupons are facing a cash crunch and moves like allowing your homegrown player to leave without nary a call to check in leave you wondering exactly HOW these guys are even running a New York franchise.

I would appeal to Bud Selig to put an end to this reign but Selig is the Coupon’s biggest enablers.  The Coupons have been milking Selig’s favor into interest free loans that by the way they STILL haven’t paid Major League Baseball back on.  They have pending litigation in the Madoff trial that will force them to pay some kind of settlement but not in the hundreds of millions that Met fans had hoped that would’ve left them in no other financial position except to sell.

The Mets are a profitable team if run the right way.  In fact, if the Coupons sold the franchise today to someone say the reputation of Mark Cuban the gates would be pouring in with new customers and a revived fan base; confident that ridding the Wilpons would be the equivalent of getting a star franchise player.  Yesterday I woke up resigned to the fact that Reyes was gone, today I woke up angry.  Angry that the franchise I love is run by a bunch of ass clowns that hold on stubbornly to a team they should’ve let go of a few years ago.  A whole family of morons who blindly invested in a guy that gave them hand written statements but only when they asked for it because they thought he was good for it.  A family of idiots who built a shrine, not for the team they own, but for a team that left 50 years ago and relocated to Los Angeles.  That is if the Coupons even recognize the existence of the LA Dodgers.

Somehow baseball ran off Dodgers former owners the McCourts rather quickly citing concerns that he was using moneys gained from the baseball operation to fund his own wild lifestyle.  But here the Coupons are, still plowing forward selling us on an impossible dream.  Ready?  The Mets think that Ike Davis and Johan Santana won’t regress following their surgeries and won’t see any DL time.  They believe that Jason Bay and David Wright will hit 25-30 home runs each now that the walls have been brought in closer.  They believe that Mike Pelfrey will get better in basically his last chance in a Met uniform.  They believe that with $15 million to spend virtually they can fix the bullpen, get two quality back end of rotation starters and then some bench support including back up catcher.

I’m not kidding.  That’s the Mets plans.  Those are the lofty dreams that the Mets front office is pitching to Met fans.  This may be coming from a place of anger.  But don’t bother sending me offers to buy packages this season.  I’m done.  If you win, then I’ll come and partake but don’t bother selling Met fans on something that has NEVER happened.  Is there a remote possibility that this all can play out?  Sure.  But these are the Mets.  We know how this story will play out.  The Coupons are playing us for fools.  I won’t be played.  I can’t be.  I say after the third inning, Met fans stage a walk out of every single home game.  That is, whoever still decides to support the franchise.  Nobody believes for a second that whatever team occupies Citi Field next season will have any real hope of doing anything closely resembling productive.

I am in agreement with Sherman and Davidoff.  I say start trading guys left and right.  Screw it.  You’ve given up on the season already.   Don’t sell your fans hope that isn’t there.  Don’t insult them with talk about optimism that isn’t there.  I could understand if this were a team in Wichita, Kansas or Duluth, Mississippi.  But it isn’t.  This is a New York team.  Unfortunately no matter where this franchise would be, I wouldn’t believe the Coupons to lead it.

As NBA free agency sure to heat up, the Knicks are still in on Grant Hill according to Marc Berman of the New York Post.  Also within that report, Kurt Thomas and the Knicks (namely Assistant GM Allan Houston, his former teammate) talked and the game that was supposed to bring Carmelo back to Denver was not rescheduled within the context of this new 66 game schedule set to be released by today.  Nets PG Deron Williams said he would guarantee a contract extension if the Nets were to trade for Dwight Howard according to Stefan Bondy.  Zack Lowe of SI writes about how players will test the new CBA in many ways. In Bill Simmons second post to his twelve days of Christmas series of articles, he looks at the list of available free agents and who is destined to be overpaid.  Then there’s Adrian Woj’s  Yahoo Sports column about two GM’s making a race to trade for Chris Paul AND Dwight Howard.   As reported in the Newsday blog Knick Fix, Alan Hahn says the Knicks are undeterred by reports that New Orleans will do no deals with New York because of their lack of assets believing they can pull off a trade to land CP3 and complete the trifecta that CP3 toasted about at Carmelo’s wedding prior to last season.   Finally, a story that may interest only me, but the amnesty clause will NOT be used on Brandon Roy, one of my favorite non-Knick players according to Jason Quick of the Oregonian.  

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Here’s the thing, I don’t think a Chris Paul trade to the Knicks is going to happen.  I give it a less than 5% shot of actually occurring.  Why?  Because it doesn’t make sense.  The Knicks have NOBODY to give up outside of trading the rest of their team for Paul which would leave them with 3 players making roughly all of their cap.  Remember two players, by themselves will take up 40 million and if you’re reading this right, CP3 will probably opt out as a token thing just to reup with the Knicks for the max 5  year 100 million contract that Deron Williams was alluding to when he said he was definitely opting out.  So you have three guys making 60 million and oh by the way, the cap will remain set at $58 million next season with the luxury threshold being at $70 million much like this season.  So where exactly are the Knicks going to fill in the rest of the roster spots?  No, the Knicks and its fanbase have to be patient and I for one am willing to do that.  We can not throw all our money at three players as great as that sounds.

But I’ll give you another reason why a trade to the Knicks or a super team forming in Los Angeles isn’t realistic.  Its not good business.  If the labor deal pushed to prevent big market teams hoarding small market teams for talent then you have to understand that a Knick trade for pennies on the dollar OR the Lakers getting BOTH Dwight Howard and CP3 will not look good in any way.  What makes it worse is that the NBA owns the Hornets and you can believe that every small owner will NOT push for EITHER trade to EITHER coast which ultimately leaves the Hornets in a no-win position.  I think you allow CP3 to make it to free agency and no matter what kind of influence CAA has over the process and getting Paul traded the fact is, I believe CP3 will not sour on the Hornets and he will play his hardest and play out his time with the Hornets and give an honest effort.  He’s been class his entire time in the league and will not allow trade rumors to negatively deflect from his purpose which is to win a championship.

With that being said, the Knicks pursuit of Grant Hill?  I love it.  I’ve been a fan of his for quite some time since his days on the Pistons when I thought he was going to become Scottie Pippen 2.0.  Hill’s injury history are no doubt a part of his legacy but this second life in Phoenix has been revelatory.  Now if the Knicks can somehow get the Phoenix training staff along with Hill in that deal, it would be fantastic.  As far as the trade rumors go, it makes for good business but the fact is until December 9th, anything and everything in a fan’s mind is fair game including Dwight Howard and Deron Williams in NJ or Dwight Howard and CP3 in LA alongside Kobe OR alongside Blake.

Last note before I go, like I said, one of my favorite players will not be amnestied.  Brandon Roy will be a Blazer this upcoming season.  Makes sense, given that they don’t know how his legs will react and one would argue that this shortened season could be worse on his legs given the back to back to back that the Blazers will likely have to sit him in atleast one game and then rest him up in two of those games for extended periods of time.  Tis a shame since I wanted to see him on the Knicks.  Ahh well, dream another dream a different time.

More news coming later in the day as I give you a daily double dose today with some NFL notes and thoughts regarding week 13 and some important fantasy news.  Stay tuned sports fans.

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