Welcome to my Blog. I have been notoriously known among my closest friends to be highly argumentative.
One of my best friends, Lasalle Thompson (ex NBA great) had this to say about me "Eddie will always take the opposite of side of an opinion or argument just so he can start a debate, if the sky is blue Eddie would argue it was red". Lasalle went on to say that "he would argue his point so aggressively that the person he is debating with will start to agree or give up."
I have always thought my calling was to be a high profile lawyer, but somehow basketball got in the way.
There are five people I have encountered in my life besides my Mom and wife (who by the way, are always right) that could debate me and sometimes turn the table and have me back pedaling at times. Their names are on my wall of fame.
- Mike Woodson - head coach of the Atlanta Hawks
- Mark Jackson - former NBA great point guard
- Bill Delgado - Business Partner and friend
- John Keating - Business partner and friend
- Jeff Carter - family friend
The challenge for you the reader is to make your argument for or against what I have to say in my Blog. I will take a stand on basketball and social issues bi-monthly.
I will answer and start dialogue by email firstname.lastname@example.org with the best responses on both sides of my opinion.
The challenge for you is can you make my wall of fame for the month on either side of my opinion.
No profanity please - no matter how much you disagree with me. Respect for each other's opinions should be considered before debating.
wall of fame
1.Michael Bennett (loves the number 23)
Lets get this Blog started
The San Antonio Spurs have won their fourth title in nine years. I can’t say that is a dynasty, but they are definitely a true team and organization in every sense of the word.
The Game 4 sweep went as expected. Although the Cavaliers made a nice run in the fourth quarter, it was obvious based on their inept shooting that it was just a matter of time before the Cavaliers came back to earth. This was the ugliest Finals I have ever seen.
We experienced no great plays to talk about, no unbelievable performances from individual players, no physical confrontations that you should see when a title is on the line, no complaining about the officiating and jockeying from game to game. Just plain boring.
The only fans in the country that thought this series lived up to Finals were probably Spur fans.
The shooting in this series was the worse I have ever seen in any series, not just the Finals. Tony Parker won the MVP, but his performance was not the star quality that we expect on the biggest stage.
I marvel at how consistent and smart the Spurs play year after year. But if you just focus on their leader, Tim Duncan, I think you learn to realize why they are so consistent. He has given the Spurs a foundation that has sprouted players like Parker and Manu Ginobili and there is no reason to think it will not continue.
During this playoff run, the Spurs were like a runner going up hill starting with Denver and Phoenix and then they just cruised down hill against Utah and Cleveland. I thought that should be the other way around. But when Dallas got upset and Detroit underachieved against Cleveland, the clean easy road was laid out for them and they took advantage just like great teams do.
I do applaud the Cavaliers and what they accomplished this year as a team. I don’t care what conference you are in, you have to have total team effort to get to the Finals and they did. The Cavaliers will learn from this loss and hopefully continue to grow because they have perhaps the best basketball specimen that has ever played the game, but the challenge for LeBron James and the Cavaliers is to get better both individually and as a team.
Gregg Popovich simply outcoached his pupil Mike Brown in every facet of the game. I don’t think one time in this series did the Spurs have to make an adjustment to what Mike Brown did with his strategy. Popovich has the respect of his players to the point they should call him surrogate dad. I have never heard or seen a dispute among Popovich and his players since he has been coach and that in itself is unbelievable. Phil Jackson, Jerry Sloan and Popovich are the three best coaches in the league and any player should want to play for them.
Mike Brown did not fight enough for his team, in my estimation. He praised his former employer too much in this series. He respected Duncan, Ginobili and Parker too much as well. The reason I make that characterization is because I never saw him complain and ride the officials from game to game, especially about how they were manhandling LeBron, or anything the Spurs did whether it was wrong or not. I would have complained big time about the foul attempt by Bowen on LeBron in Game 3. He looked intimidated and it was obvious to anyone that Brown’s friendship with the Spurs brass hindered him. I still applaud him for what he accomplished this season and he definitely has the ability to bring them back. I am pretty sure he hopes the opponent is not the Spurs.
Tony Parker proved that he is fast becoming one the most unstoppable point guards ever at getting to the basket. He has a toughness that equals Isiah Thomas and that right there is the best company he could ever be in. He took over this series from the start and had his imprint on it until the sweep was complete. He also has become Duncan’s equal in terms of leadership and that should make David Robinson proud of Duncan in that the transfer of leadership that he started when TD was drafted has continued.
Tim Duncan is a model for any young basketball player wanting to emulate an NBA player. He is the consummate pro, although he has a minor flaw of complaining too much with officials. But it does not even amount to a visible dent in Duncan’s armor. His footwork and ability to create any shot off the post is so far ahead of most players that it is not even comparable. Add his unselfishness and you have a coach’s dream. I rate Duncan and Karl Malone as the greatest power forwards ever and Duncan gets the edge because of four championships to Malone’s zero.
Bruce Bowen is the most important player on the Spurs regardless of the Big Three. He guarded Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson, Steve Nash, Shawn Marion, Deron Williams and LeBron James during the playoffs and still found time to concentrate and knock down open jump shots consistently. Bowen gets a lot of attention for his defensive tactics, but he is one the classiest players in the league and is well respected off and on the court. The Spurs would have been beaten if they did not have Bruce Bowen before they got to Cleveland.
LeBron James is without a doubt the future of the NBA, but only if he continues to work at the feverish pace his predecessors did. Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and now Kobe Bryant had and have a tremendous desire to be the best. James can be them and more with continued hard work. I have never seen a player with his size and speed ever in an NBA uniform. He can become virtually unguardable, but as I have said during these playoffs, James has to work on his mid-range game. He has serious mechanical issues that can be corrected, but only if he is committed to getting it done. The memory of shooting 10 for 30 in Game 4 and not making a mid-range shot until after 60 attempts in the series is reason enough for James to seek help and change his bad habits. When he learns to shoot the ball, watch out NBA!
Zydrunas Ilgauskas looked very old in this series. His ability to jump is gone and foot problems over the years obviously are the culprit, but Z did not have enough fight for me – especially when he guarded Duncan. He had one good game with 18 rebounds, but his shooting went south and that’s something the Cavaliers needed in this series.
Larry Hughes was hurt most of the series, but he struggled this year even before the injury. I wrote when they signed Hughes that it was a mistake because Hughes needs the ball and that will not happen with LeBron. They will try and shop Hughes this offseason, but foot problems and contract will not allow Cleveland to get rid of him.
Look for the San Antonio Spurs to go after Grant Hill and a backup point guard to bring more versatility to their team. They are the oldest team in the league and it will surely start to show next year. Robert Horry wants to come back and I surmise they will allow him to, but only out of respect because Horry was not a factor during this championship run other than starting the confrontation against the Suns that led to Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw being suspended. The Spurs realize it will be extremely hard next year with Dallas, Phoenix, Houston, Utah, Golden State and Denver around, but they are the champs and everyone wants what they have consistently gotten over the last nine years.
Cleveland should have one mandate and one only. Go find shooters. Heck, I honestly thought about flying to Cleveland and hanging around the locker room after the first three games. James will become a magnet for shooters now that he has shown an ability to carry a team to the Finals. The Cavaliers have all the other ingredients except that ability to make open shots. I think Daniel Gibson and Sasha Pavlovic will continue to grow, but the Cavaliers should not invest all their stock in those players just yet. I look for Cleveland to win 50-plus games and make another run next year and James hopefully will have at least improved that mid-range jumper, thus becoming the most unguardable player in the league.
The San Antonio Spurs are the overwhelming favorites against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Spurs have a ton of experience and the best low-post player in the league in Tim Duncan. This series on paper should be over quickly, which is not something the league would like to see happen for a number of reasons. The Spurs will try and take advantage of the Cavaliers early with physical play and a defense that will force LeBron James to encounter Duncan and a maze of Spur defenders waiting to either draw a charge or force a bad shot or errant pass. The Spurs are the best team in the league at taking away the three-point shot and Daniel Gibson will not see daylight.
Remember I am making this statement even though the Cavaliers beat the Spurs twice this season and statistically had a sincere advantage as well. So now should I start to waver a little? Should I dig deeper and see if the two Cavalier victories are a sign of consistency and not luck?
Hmmm, let me see. Hold up for a second, let me make sure I say the right things and get my facts right. I am not a favorite in Spur Land and the diehards have taken offense to my article on Robert “Body Block” Horry during the Suns series. So I will take my time and make sure I don’t ruffle any feathers down in Texas.
OK, I am back from my two-mile run and I did a lot of thinking back and forth. I had a lot of time to think because unlike when I was in pristine shape, I only worry about finishing the two miles and not the time it took me to run it.
Here it goes.
The Cavaliers have a sincere chance to win this series. The two games in which they beat San Antonio were done on the defensive end. They held the Spurs to 40 percent field goal shooting and beat them by a plus 9 on the boards. They also got to the free-throw line 10 more times as well. These are the things the Spurs excel in, but still the Cavaliers were the dominant team in these categories.
Factor in the improved play of Daniel Gibson and his ability to get to the free-throw line. Those numbers on paper look better.
So why should we think the Spurs will waltz through the Finals?
We look at the inexperience of the Cavaliers and say, “Well, that’s enough.” But isn’t that what we heard in the Pistons series? What did the Cavaliers do to that experience? They basically outplayed the Pistons in every game. I am not convinced the Cavaliers will win, but I am not convinced the Spurs can’t be beaten either.
Defensively, if I am Cavalier head coach Mike Brown I would be studying tape of the Detroit series and devising a way to treat Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili like Detroit treated LeBron. The Cavaliers have no one on their roster that can guard Parker and Ginobili head-up and negate their forays to the basket. So you trap both and make them give it up. Yes, they will escape at times. But they will run into some extremely physical defenders that can take charges and change shots.
The Cavaliers need to take a page from the Suns and guard Duncan without doubling down. Anderson Varejao and Drew Gooden with Zydrunas Ilgauskas on the weak side for rebounding will have to accept the challenge. The Cavaliers will use Scot Pollard for fouls as well.
This will force Michael Finley, Brent Barry, Bruce Bowen and Robert Horry to beat them with perimeter shooting. Can it backfire? Of course. Just go ask Detroit. But this will be their only chance to win this series.
Gregg Popovich is not excited about playing someone that knows his players’ weaknesses and vulnerabilities and that is why it will be harder for San Antonio to prepare for Cavaliers more so than the other way around.
Offensively, the Cavaliers will have to run LeBron off down screens, back screens and two-man games to free him up for quick scoring attempts before the Spurs can set their defense to load up against him. The Cavaliers will struggle if Brown allows LeBron to consistently start with the ball behind the three-point line. The Spurs might be the best ever at loading up on an offensive player when all five defenders have two eyes on him. Also, Ilgauskas will have to be a factor against Francisco Elson and Fabricio Oberto. He has to score 15 to 20 points for the Cavaliers to have a chance.
Drew Gooden, Daniel Gibson, Larry Hughes, Damon Jones… Two of those players will have to score in double figures.
Cleveland beat Detroit with a stifling physical defense so the Spurs will not intimidate the Cavaliers because Detroit arguably had a better offensive arsenal than what they will face with the Spurs.
With all that said and done, I think the Spurs will win in six. But Cleveland will not go away quietly.
Get ready for a very good series.
The San Antonio Spurs have proved again that good team play and extreme luck is the foundation to move to the NBA Finals. Last year with Tim Duncan hobbling on a bad foot, they were ousted by Dallas. But this season they were rewarded with an abundance of good fortune.
In Game 1 against the Suns, Steve Nash goes down with a cut nose with three minutes to go. Game 4 Robert Horry gets a flagrant on Steve Nash and thus forces a reaction from Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw.
They get suspended for Game 5.
In the Conference Finals, they draw Utah when they thought they would have to go through Phoenix and Dallas. Then Utah, after gaining momentum with a Game 3 victory, had to battle first a stomach virus from Deron Williams and then Williams sprains his foot and struggled in Game 5. To top it off, Derek Fisher did not show up until half time of Game 5 because he was in New York tending to his daughter, who is battling an eye disease.
San Antonio probably still could have won each series, but lady luck has sure been on their side this postseason.
WHINING AND FLOPPING
I am so tired of the flopping and complaining that has taken the NBA by storm. It seems like every time an official blows his whistle he has to explain himself or the cameras catch the facial expression of a player. When does a player commit a foul and then turn and get ready for the next play or better yet when does a player make a mistake and it’s his fault and he just points the finger at himself and play on?
NBA players promote how big and strong they are, but yet a little bit of contact and they fall. I like the added circle under the basket for deciding charging calls, but the players are now using it to get constant charging fouls. Also you have jump shooters falling and flailing every time they take a contested shot. That’s one reason why we don’t see a lot of three-point plays on jump shots any more – because players lose their concentration in trying to fake like they have been fouled.
Here are my top whiners and floppers left in the playoffs.
Rasheed Wallace: If I was an official, I swear I would see a therapist before every game I officiated with Wallace playing. He not only complains about calls against him but teammates as well. Heck, I even saw him dispute a call against the other team one time! He is a wonderful person off the court and extremely courteous. But man, during a game he is never happy. In Game 6 he got the benefit of the doubt when he blatantly fouled LeBron late in the game, but went ballistic when Anderson Varejao contested his shot late in the second overtime.
Tim Duncan: I swear he is going to cry before his career is over during a game after a call on him. He grabs his head and folds his arms and reminds me of a little boy that just got caught but says, “I didn’t do it”. I understand why Joey Crawford tossed him earlier in the year for laughing on the bench. He got so used to him frowning and giving him a hard time on the court he couldn’t stand to see him enjoying himself on the bench.
Manu Ginobili: This guy really irks me. I have never seen a player that plays so physical on one end of the court and then turns around on the offensive end and acts like someone is doing cruel things to him. I am beginning to think that either he thinks Americans are not capable of analyzing a situation or that he is David Copperfield and creates illusions. He complains virtually on every call and just like most international players he looks to the coaches and fans as if to say, “Why is he picking on me?” I played in Europe and I saw this behavior from players every game.
Tayshaun Prince: I know some of you might think this is a surprise, but watch him. He has something to say after every call and his expression is equal to Duncan’s. He threw the ball away late in Game 5 along the baseline and complained like it was someone else’s fault. Heck, even after he scores a basket he has something to say to a teammate about something he didn’t or should do. They say he does not talk much off the court, but his expressions and verbal rants during games could be why.
Anderson Varejao: First let me say I love this guy. I thoroughly enjoy his energy and wild hair swinging all over the place, but he should never complain about any whistle called on him. “What did I do?” is his favorite response. Well, let me see… You grabbed his jersey, pulled him into you and fell like you where hit and run over by a train. He probably fouled Rasheed Wallace late in Game 5, but I think this guy fouls every time he guards someone.
Manu Ginobili: Reminds me so much of Sarunas Marciulionis, who played for Golden State years ago. I used to go into a game against Sarunas saying that I would use two fouls on him and I made sure they hurt. He would play what I called “karate ball”. He would fly into you and flail his feet and arms, thus kicking you in the shin and slapping you in the face. I told him one time that every foul I commit on him was revenge. I look at Manu the same way. This guy just beats you up. Then falls. He is so lucky he did not play in the 80s. He would have looked like a boxer back then with the fouls guys would have put on him to justify his flopping.
Anderson Varejao: I played golf last week and we had biting flies in the area. This is what he reminds me of. Sometimes you get so mad you want to kill every fly you see. I believe before his career is over he will have fallen more than 30 players combined. Does he think officials are stupid? Sometimes I wonder because he falls like he got hit by a car doing 100 mph. Rasheed Wallace big shot in Game 2 was made easier because he bailed out on the play. Mike Brown I am sure has reminded him that officials in the NBA for the most part allow the players to win the game and flopping will not be rewarded.
Bruce Bowen: Bruce has a look that says “Why is everyone picking on me?” He guards you extremely close and reacts like he did not do anything when a player tries to remove him from inside his jersey. He reacts with the movements of someone who has been violated. The advantage I give Bowen is that he keeps the same facial expression. He is like “What? I am just doing my job and he is mad because of it, Mr. Official.”
Richard Hamilton: Rip has taken a page from Reggie Miller although Reggie never fell after jump shots as much as Hamilton. I know he tries to get everyone feeling sorry for him because he looks frail running around the court. Please, Hamilton is the best conditioned player on the floor and pound for pound extremely strong. He just gives you the look that someone is doing something to him and he also uses the mask as a crutch to show that his nose is vulnerable.
Game 5 was the best performance I have seen in a long time. I have always said good offense will overcome good defense and last night was great offense. The key to it all was LeBron’s ability to knock down shots. It forced Detroit to extend their defense and that is when he is at his best. He was in a zone and 29 points later it was over. I have said this before and I will say it again: If he gets that jumper going on a more consistent basis (like he has in the last few games), he is virtually unguardable and only then is the league his kingdom. Last night, he was on the highest throne and the Pistons have their back up against a huge wall in Game 6. The Cavaliers remember last year. With Detroit having those old legs, I sense they will suffer the consequences and lose Game 6.
The dictionary definition of King is “a male sovereign”, “a chief among competitors”. My definition is “The Man, unstoppable, pure and close to perfection in the art of dominating”.
LeBron, you are not that yet and if you don’t start to work on your deficiencies you will be removed from the title of King that should not have been bestowed upon you at such young age – especially when we still have Kobe Bryant, who is the best player on the planet.
I really love your upside. I think you have the ability to become one of the best players in the history of this league. I also think you have a chance to become one of its biggest failures.
LeBron, you refuse to work on the most difficult part of the game. I have no clue who your shooting coach might be, but he has not helped you.
I still see the same mistakes in your jumper that I saw when I watched you during those ESPN high school games. The Pistons have studied film and they know your weaknesses. They have exploited you and sadly you and your team are slowly fading away because of it.
The Pistons have decided to pack the paint so deep with defenders that you have no choice but to shoot or pass. You have decided to pass, which has added up to 16 assists in the first two games. The problem is your team needs you to score and the Pistons have thrown the kryptonite at you and it’s working.
LeBron, in order to become a player like Air Jordan or Kobe Bryant you must master the skill that set those two apart from everybody else. MJ and Kobe had and have an unbelievable mid-range game to go with excellent free-throw shooting. With that, you wouldn’t allow any defense to stop you in your quest for excellence on offense.
Let me give you a war analogy – thus using the History degree I received from the University Of Illinois… The airplane and missile were the best inventions ever for war because they allowed you to strike from far distances and achieve great benefits without exhausting your troops and putting them in harms way consistently. The plane and the missile are also the most laborious to perfect because of cost and the time it takes to build them.
This use of weaponry softened up the defensive tactics of the enemies and made them come out in the open. Then the enemies would be taken advantage of.
That’s what the jump shot does in basketball. It forces the defense to extend itself, thus allowing you to penetrate and still achieve success – but in a more devastating and precise manner.
LeBron, you have no consistent ability to achieve that on the basketball court. I have to believe that whoever coaches you on shooting is constantly reminding you of one fatal flaw. Every time you shoot the ball, you are off balance. You are either fading away or leaning sideways. What that does is force you to shoot at a moving target. Your mechanics are not the greatest, but if you would just eliminate those off-balances flaws you would have a better result.
Think about it. All you needed was two more of those jumpers to fall and the Cavaliers would be up 2-0 instead of down 2-0. But it was obvious to me in Game 1 – when you had a layup and passed it to Donyell Marhall – that you were occupied with the thought of maybe having to go to the free-throw line and then having to hit two shots.
At the end of Game 2, you had a 10-foot jumper at your leisure over Richard Hamilton but you executed a half-hook off-balance shot and wanted a foul – which you know officials will not call to decide a game. Just look at the hit Rasheed Wallace put on noted flopper Anderson Varejao. He did not get called. (And he should have).
Bottom line with my war analogy… The planes and missiles are laborious and expensive. It takes hours upon hours to perfect the best weapon. Well, the jump shot is the same way. You need to put more quality time on perfecting that jumper or you will be dethroned.
LeBron, also please tell your coach that he will not win the series unless he rolls the dice and puts shooters on the floor. That means Donyell Marshall, Damon Jones, Daniel Gibson and Sasha Pavlovic. That might allow you to shake loose like you did for a short stint in the first half of Game 2.
LeBron, I did write an article a while ago about Danny Ferry’s big mistake: not supplying you with enough shooters. Larry Hughes was not the answer (6-22 in the series). This is not Hughes’ fault. He is just not a shooter. We saw Hughes’ awkward fade away at the end of Game 2. A real shooter would have used the glass to soften the touch on a shot like that. So because of the lack of long-range snipers, you are shooting 12 for 34 after the first two games and things look very bleak.
Your kingdom is very much exposed and taking a beating. Take my advice and toughen it up by developing that mid-range game like Mike and Kobe did and then you really will be King.
Robert Horry has been viewed as one of the best clutch players in NBA history. He has been a part of six championships with the Rockets, Lakers and Spurs. He has made a number of late-game changing shots despite not being a big-time scorer, but Monday’s might be the best assist to win a series he has ever made.
The flagrant assault Horry put on Steve Nash in the Game 4 lost against Phoenix could possibly propel the Spurs to the Western Conference championship.
In one play when the game was seemingly over, Horry could have eliminated Amare Stoudemire, Boris Diaw and limited Steve Nash if he woke up this morning bruised and sore from the cheap shot Horry laid on him. I am extremely disappointed in Horry, but the true colors of individuals will always come to light when faced with embarrassment. Horry basically acted like the guy who brings his ball to the park and didn’t get picked to play, so he takes his ball and goes home.
I understand why he was disappointed. The Suns beat the Spurs at their game and especially when San Antonio thought they had control with an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter. The problem I have with Horry is this is the precise reason why he is considered to be one of the best clutch players ever. He has broken hearts of opposing fans and sent opposing teams to the locker room with despondent thoughts after making late-game winning shots when they thought they had the game won. Now when the shoe is on the other foot, he resorts to taking out the smallest and most important player for the Suns. I wonder… If that was Kurt Thomas, would he have sent that message to him?
I must admit Horry was one of my favorite players, but only based on his unselfishness. Suns fans have never liked Horry, though, because he forced a trade to the Lakers after the Suns acquired him and Sam Cassell from Houston for Charles Barkley. I will have a hard time understanding his meltdown and why a player who had no impact or confrontation in the game causes such an uproar at the end of it.
Because of it, the Suns are in deep trouble if Stoudemire and Diaw are suspended. Stoudemire’s argument is that he was checking into the game. Well, we will see if Stu Jackson believes that argument and what he decides.
Is it fair? No way. Will it be an even tradeoff, Horry for Amare and Diaw? No way. The league has a zero tolerance policy for leaving the bench area, but they have made adjustments before and in this case they should. If they don’t, then why shouldn’t Pat Burke or Kurt Thomas provoke Tim Duncan into a confrontation or fight in Game 5. This series is about to get real ugly and the league better set a precedent soon. We have seen some flagrant acts get overlooked in a number of series so far without suspensions and to finally suspend two players for doing nothing will ignite the bonfire that’s been building in every semifinal series so far.
If the Spurs are rewarded with these suspensions, Robert Horry will add another clutch moment to his career and the Suns will have to beat a very good San Antonio team in Game 5 without their top scorer. I think that, at best, is wishful thinking and the Suns would have to get a second win in San Antonio to get to the next round.
Remedy for a Suns Win.
The Phoenix Suns face the most important game of the last three years tonight against the Spurs. The Suns slogan this year was "eyes on the prize" and the prize is tonight game 4 against the Spurs. The Suns will win tonight if Amare stays out of foul trouble and Steve Nash scores 20 and gets 10 assists. Top that off with near equal rebounding and less than 12 tournovers will even the series. Anything less the Spurs will go up 3-1 and thus force the Suns to win three games in a row which will be almost impossible against the Spurs.
Mike D’Antoni is extremely close to a crossroads concerning how to deal with Tim Duncan and who will play the pivotal role in doing it. The answer has to be Kurt Thomas. Although he might slow down the Suns fast-paced attitude, Kurt Thomas gives them the antidote to solving the Spurs ability to slow down the game.
The Suns must face facts and realize the only way they will speed up the game is to get a lead playing at the Spurs pace first. And the only way that will happen is on the defensive end, because the Spurs will run their offense through Duncan every time when he is on the floor.
The reason why the Suns play James Jones and Boris Diaw is that they want to play fast. Well, if those players only produce 7 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists in 34 minutes combined in Game 1 the argument could be made that Kurt Thomas should have gotten a bulk of those 34 minutes, instead of only 13. Maybe he could have held Tim Duncan to 25 points and helped negate the 14 offensive rebounds the Spurs had in that game. But most importantly, he could have defended him one-on-one, thus taking away key three-point shots made by Robert Horry and Michael Finley – who by the way cannot and will not put the ball on the floor to create anything. So those two players only contribute if the Suns do help out on Duncan and give them open standstill shots. Also, it will allow Amare Stoudamire, who had 18 rebounds, to dominate the weak-side glass and stay out of foul trouble.
Key for the Suns if they are too win this series… Make Duncan score 50 and don’t allow Finley, Horry and Brent Barry to have an impact on the game. The Suns have too many offensive weapons to allow Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili to beat them alone. Phoenix will win this series in six games if Thomas is allowed to be a factor.
I saw this coming, but I did not think it would happen. I thought the inexperience of the Warriors would not allow them to pull one the greatest upsets ever in the NBA. When I saw the way the playoff ladder was shaping up the last two weeks of the season with Golden State and the Clippers fighting for the eighth seed, I thought “This is not fair.” Here you have a club in the Clippers that made the semifinals last year with the same identical team and the Warriors who also underachieved early, but were playing the best basketball in the NBA to end the season.
The Mavericks really set themselves up by trying to avoid playing the Warriors in the playoffs by basically throwing a game away at the end of the regular season, hoping that they would move up to the seventh spot. Avery Johnson sent a message to the Warriors and his team by sitting Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard and Jerry Stackhouse in that key game for Golden State.
When the Warriors clinched the eighth seed, they entered the series with the psychological edge over the first seed – a team that won 67 games.
Here is why the Warriors had that edge and I wrote it a few months ago when I said the Suns were a better team than the Mavericks…
The Mavericks are a jump-shooting team with no inside scoring whatsoever. I have never seen a team win a title that had no inside-presence scoring. That’s why the Heat figured them out last year and eventually won four straight to get the title. They just took away their ability to make jump shots.
The Mavericks top four players are all jump shooters. Nowitzki, Howard, Stackhouse and Jason Terry get the majority of shot attempts and most come from 15 feet. The reason it has worked the last two years is because DeSagana Diop and Erick Dampier provided very good interior defense and offensive rebounding – thus giving a very good shooting team more opportunities.
The reason the Mavericks were so dominant this year is because they used their shooters differently than, for example, the Suns or Warriors. They used them in a half-court slow-down pace with one-on-one clearouts, two-man games and post-ups around the free throw line.
This allowed them to play non-scorers like Diop, Dampier and Greg Buckner, who would not have survived in an uptempo game. Thus we have the defensive and rebound presence.
This system was great against 27 teams during the regular season, but not so much against Phoenix and Golden State.
Those two teams force the tempo and play small with serious inside-the-paint scoring.
Avery Johnson changed his lineup and went small to start the series and was criticized – which I thought was unfair. He did the right thing, but realized something he already knew… His small guys could not compete with Golden State’s.
The Warriors not only have shooters, but their shooters are multi-faceted and that is something the Mavericks could not deal with.
Stephen Jackson, Baron Davis, Jason Richardson, Monta Ellis and Mickael Pietrus can all shoot from the perimeter, drive to the basket and post you up inside. That advantage and the Mavericks inability to post the smallish Warriors inside caused this massive breakdown.
So how do you fix the Mavericks?
Ask Mark Cuban again if he misses Steve Nash. A pass-first point guard who can score is what the Mavericks need. They waste too much time and energy getting off shots. A guard that can get Nowitzki and Howard wide open shots without having to bang and dribble would help. Terry and Devin Harris are off guards and always will be.
They also need to find a post player that can defend and rebound, but also with a good post-up game to command a double team every now and then. Having an enforcer that can score on the other side would do wonders for Nowitzki.
The Mavericks will see how Utah takes advantage of the smaller Warriors inside players with Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur and forces Don Nelson to play Andris Biedrins and maybe even Adonal Foyle – especially if Al Harrington continues to be the weak link as he was in the Dallas series.
(Utah in seven, but I am pulling for the Warriors).
The 2006-07 NBA season is coming to an end and I am extremely excited for this postseason more than any in quite a long time. Taking a quick look at some possible matchups would get anyone excited.
The best matchup scenario if it could happen would be Golden State playing the Dallas Mavericks in the first round.
Why? The Warriors have beaten the Mavericks twice this year and five out of the last six times they have played. Don Nelson also knows Maverick personnel inside out and will force Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard to be involved defensively on every play. The Warriors also have the best combination of scorers in the NBA. They will make life difficult for the top seed.
Miami against Cleveland or Chicago will be a great series. Either one of these teams could win the East. How many times have we seen a matchup of potential conference champions in the first round?
San Antonio or Phoenix facing a rejuvenated Denver team that has hit the stride everyone thought they would when they acquired Allen Iverson… That would also be a great series.
This is why every round will have intrigue and surprises and whatever team can make quick work of its first round opponent will greatly enhance its ability to move on to the Finals – especially if you are Dallas, Phoenix or San Antonio.
The Suns could have the best matchup of the three playing the struggling Los Angeles Lakers.
MY SURPRISES AND DISAPPOINTMENTS DURING THE 2006-07 SEASON
This season has given us a number of surprises that warm our hearts and a few of them will continue into the postseason.
The Toronto Raptors, led by Chris Bosh, have developed into one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. They were on no one’s radar before the season started. Head coach Sam Mitchell has brought a no non-sense approach to his team and it has paid dividends. Mitchell was on the hot seat before the season and now he’s in the catbird’s seat as the Raptors enter the playoffs with the Atlantic Division championship and the third seed in the upcoming playoffs.
The Utah Jazz led by Carlos Boozer, Deron Williams and Mehmet Okur won the Northwest Division and placed Boozer and Okur in the All-Star game. Williams is fast becoming one of the top point guards in the league, but a lot of the credit should go to Jerry Sloan, my pick for Coach of the Year. He has continued his old-school approach to the Jazz despite having one of the youngest teams in the league and it has paid off fast. The Jazz are still fighting for playoff positioning with the Rockets and have a great chance to make it to the second round and a possible date with the Dallas Mavericks.
When I first saw Kevin Martin shoot his jumpshot, I cringed. But when I saw the result and the high percentage of his makes, I said ‘OK.’ Martin is the poster child for my JumpShotClub DVD. I am a firm believer that the result is more important than the mechanics. Martin, like Reggie Miller and Michael Redd, has taken a different shooting form and created a positive result. Martin is the shining light for a Sacramento ball club that has underachieved all season long with a multitude of veterans, led by Ron Artest and Mike Bibby. Martin should get the Most Improved Player award this season after averaging a career-high 20 points this year.
Amare Stoudemire is two games away from playing in all 82 games for the Phoenix Suns. If you saw Amare during the preseason or read quotes coming from the Suns organization concerning his health, no way would you have thought this would be possible. Amare not only has a chance to play all 82 games, but he also promised that he would become an All Star – which he did – and should be at least a 2nd Team All-NBA selection. How important is Amare? In the games he’s played the last two seasons, the Suns are 123-39.
How would Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler look in a Chicago uniform now? The Bulls are 49-32 and have one of the most talented young rosters in the league, but they let go the low-post presence of emerging stars Curry and Chandler – who looks like a better and cheaper version of Ben Wallace. There is something to say for teams that drafted high school players and did not practice what they preached in the patience department.
Leandro Barbosa is not only the best sixth man this season, but he has become maybe its most unguardable player. Teams have changed their defenses to stop not just Steve Nash and Amare, but to negate the quickness of Leandro in the open court. Barbosa is the fastest player in the NBA. I don’t know the stats, but he has to lead or be near the top in fast-break layups. He just outruns his opponents. Then add the lethal high percentage shooting from everywhere else. Barbosa clearly will play a significant role in the Suns quest for a championship.
Hey Mikki! I love watching Mikki Moore play. He reminds me of a kid that just watched his favorite player play on TV and runs out to emulate him. He has this scowl that to him might intimidate, but it makes me laugh. Moore has taken advantage of the injury to Nenad Krstic and has evolved into a very important part of the New Jersey Nets playoff run. He has played on seven teams and has finally found a home with his constant hard work and energy.
With surprises, there are always disappointments and here are the ones that stand out like a sore thumb…
The Miami Heat leads the way as the biggest failure this season. They showed up this season not ready to defend their NBA championship. They looked unorganized and disinterested in competing for the best record and home-court advantage in a weak Eastern Conference. Dwyane Wade was given most of the credit for the Heat’s accomplishments, but this team did not start winning until Shaquille O’Neal came back from injury – something Wade couldn’t do early in the season. They could be eliminated in the first round if they face Cleveland.
New York should have been a playoff team this season and had a chance until the mental toughness of having to win home games took over. 19-21 at home in one of the most energized arenas is a major disappointment for a team that talked about showing they were a playoff team last year under Larry Brown. This talented underachieving team should at least have secured the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference. Yes, the injuries to Jamal Crawford and Quentin Richardson hurt, but going 2-8 with a berth on the line is a major disappointment.
The Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers are in the same boat. They have underachieved together. Both teams stretched the Phoenix Suns to seven games last year in back-to-back series and came into this season with high hopes. The Lakers were thought to make a run at the Pacific Division crown and now face the chance of not even making the postseason.
The Clippers are battling for the eighth and final spot with a team that was upgraded with addition of Tim Thomas and went backwards. The Clippers look like a team that was happy with success and new contracts and played this year with no focus and not understanding that teams would attack them with respect this year. Elton Brand and Sam Cassell have not had the kind of year this team needed to excel and now we have re-entered the Clipper zone.
Ben Wallace has definitely helped the Bulls this season. But the question is… To what extent? And was it worth $16 million a year? Wallace is arguably the fifth or sixth best player on the Bulls, so Chicago may start to wonder if they gave up too soon on Chandler to get a player that averages 10 rebounds and 2 blocks, but shoots 41 percent from the free throw line. Wallace is a good and serviceable addition to any team. But when you are paying him all that money, he becomes a serious disappointment with his stats.
Antoine Walker has fallen and can’t get up. Players at the end of their career tend to go out in two different ways: gradually or they just fall off the table like a rock. Walker is a boulder right now. He looked at times on the court like a rookie for the Heat this year. Here is a player that seemed to have the most confidence of any player in the league. He is now hesitant and extremely low on ability and confidence.
Why does this seem to happen to certain players? Well, the major cause with most players is lost of athletic ability, which takes away their ability to create opportunities with the ball. Walker was a player that needed the ball. His fundamental skills of posting up and shooting have always been substandard. So now that Wade and Shaq dominate possessions, he has been exposed. 40 percent from the field, 27 percent from the three-point line and an embarrassing 43 percent from the free throw line… Walker is probably hoping the Heat stop playing him and subjecting him to constant booing from Heat fans.
Danny Ferry, I hope you read HoopsHype’s articles? Here is some advice… Go get some catch-and-shoot players for LeBron James, arguably the most talented player in the game.
I wrote an article when you acquired Larry Hughes a couple of years ago. I said it was a mistake then and it still is now. Joe Johnson could have been had from the Phoenix Suns, but you were so desperate to get someone after missing out on Michael Redd and Ray Allen that you chose a guy that was the opposite. Larry Hughes is on this list because of you. He can’t relate to LeBron on the court. Look at his numbers: 39 percent from the field, 31 percent from beyond the three-point line and a horrible 68 percent from the free throw line. Terrible for a shooting guard. Hughes will be the reason the Cavaliers don’t reach the Conference Finals again this year and it’s not all his fault.
Every time I look at Mike Dunleavy, I shake my head. Just look. He is 6-foot-9, athletic, can shoot, pass and defend. So what is the problem? He has no desire to excel. He has a laziness about him that drives me crazy. He is Darius Miles without the scrutiny. This guy should have been an All-Star a couple of times already. I watch him make two great moves and then pass the ball six straight times without even trying to build on the rhythm of the game. He has failed to realize that being selfish can go two ways. When you pass open good offensive opportunities, it hurts your team. The Pacers are seeing why the Warriors grew tired and shipped him out quickly after Don Nelson took over coaching the team. Dunleavy’s numbers are good for an average player (12.7 and 5 rebounds a game). But really, who is he kidding? I know not Larry Bird, who has to watch the meekness of his game daily.
Isiah, why didn’t you call me before you signed Jared Jeffries? I know it wasn’t an Indiana thing, was it? Zeke, Dennis Rodman was a freak of nature. Just like you might not ever find a point guard with your mental toughness, I don’t think you will ever find a Dennis either. Jeffries probably is the biggest free agent bust this season. He has never held up physically since he’s been in the league and his offensive skills are at NBADL levels for a player making 5.2 million a year. He shoots an astounding 44 percent from the free throw line for a small forward. How can he be aggressive offensively when he fears two free throws? Renaldo Balkman, a rookie, outplayed him for most of the year and finally took his playing time.
How can you pass up a multi year contract that would have paid you millions, sign with a contending team and then show up out of shape and eventually get suspended for the remainder of the year. Well, if you are Bonzi Wells, it can happen.
Chris Kaman, I want to congratulate you on getting paid and then taking the year off. This is the same guy that looked like a wild man with his hair swinging and physical presence. Now he is a movie star and realizes it’s not cool to be the wild man anymore.
Andrei Kirilenko and Boris Diaw would make this list, but if you dig deeper you will see why these two players have struggled this season to live up to expectations. Kirilenko has taken a back seat to Mehmet Okur, Boozer and Deron Williams and has struggled mightily. Diaw is a victim of Amare Stoudemire returning and taking back the position Diaw played last year within the Suns offense. Although the Suns would like Diaw to up his intensity level on the offensive end, he should have a major impact once the playoffs start.
Suns have edge over Mavericks as NBA’s Best Team
I know even before I write this article that I will be accused as being a homer. I can just imagine the types of e-mails I will get from Maverick Fan’s about my honesty because I happen to broadcast for in my estimation the best team in the NBA and the most exciting team I have ever seen. The Phoenix Suns are indeed the best team in the league and although the Mavericks have beaten them twice this year. I will go on record and say the Suns will beat them handily when they meet in the Conference finals in May and here is why, but again before I start Maverick fan, hear me out!
I have never been accused of being a great defender, but yet I carved out a 17 year career. I heard a story Larry Bird once told at a camp about the importance of great offensive. He said take a look at that gentleman standing underneath the basket on the other end of the floor. He was one of the best defenders I have ever seen play basketball Bird said. But, Guess what? He never played a minute in the NBA now let’s talk about shooting and scoring the basketball.
My message to all these guru’s of how to win a championship, you need to settle down and stop looking at what the Pistons of the 80’s did and what the great Bulls teams did on the defensive end and take notice of what they did on the offensive end of the court.
Offense creates good defense not the other way around. The Pistons and the Bulls controlled tempo with the way they balanced the floor offensively. They always knew where the shot was coming from and because of that they had a balanced floor so when they retreated defensively they were not vulnerable to a fast break or high percentage shots.
The great Lakers and Celtic championship teams led by Bird and Magic Johnson were exactly the same but they were up tempo like the Phoenix Suns are today. They ran with a purpose and had assignments based on the position they were in on a fast break which enabled them to keep a balanced floor.
So when I hear about the Suns can’t win with their style of play I say go ask Larry Bird and Magic Johnson if that is so? I say that because they know the secret to fast break success.
Here it is!
You must first have a point guard who is a born leader and who is a threat to score 20 plus points and add 8 to12 assists every night, but most importantly you must have another player who plays the frontcourt that has similar skills. This allows continuation and flow of the break especially when the fast break moves to the secondary stage. You see most breaks fizzle out after the first thrust, but those Lakers and Celtics teams hit you hard on the secondary movement of the break.
That’s the secret to the success of the break and that is why teams might want to play like the Suns, but they can’t because that selfishness creeps into their game thus surprising teammates and creating an unbalanced floor for defensive breakdowns on the other end.
One important note is that the point guard does not have to be a speed demon and here is my first example.
Dennis Johnson played point guard for the Celtics and most players could out-run him going three quarter speed when he played with the Celtics, but he and Larry Bird gave the Celtics two passers that kept things in motion and made their break extremely dangerous and with Bird normally handling the ball in the frontcourt during the secondary break the ball always found the right hands with a balanced floor, thus the good defense on the other end.
The Lakers had Magic Johnson the best point guard in NBA history with good speed, but not blazing to go along with James Worthy and Kareem Abdul Jabbar to start and continue their potent fast break to the tune of five championships. The Lakers happened to be blessed with the best passer ever and two more excellent passers in Worthy and Kareem. The scouting report for most teams before the game against the Lakers was retreat and retreat fast thus ignoring any offensive rebound attempts. Which was basketball suicide because the Lakers normally led the league in field goal percentage which meant teams had no chance to win if they attempted less field goals against them.
That’s why the Kings of the 90’s were so good with Mike Bibby, Chris Webber and Vlade Divac But the Triangle offense and inside -outside Dominance of Shaquille Oneal and Kobe Bryant was too much for the Sacramento Kings to overcome as well as the historic last second shots from Robert Horry .
But here is the difference there are no inside-outside dominant combinations in the Western Conference and definitely not in Dallas and that is why the Suns are the best team in the league and will beat the Dallas Mavericks in May.
The Suns have the blueprint for fast break success to a championship. Steve Nash and Boris Diaws excellent passing ability have given the Suns what the great fast breaking Lakers and Celtics teams had in the past.
Yes Mavericks beat the Suns in the conference finals last year and are up 2-0 so far this season, but when you dig deeper you will find out why the Suns are the best team and will win the Western Conference this season.
The Maverick success over the last few years has come against a Suns team affected by injuries and in the back of their mind they know that they have not beaten the Suns at full strength.
Amare Stoudemire did not play Last year and was rounding into shape the first two encounters. Kurt Thomas was coming back from a foot injury and Raja Bell pulled a calf muscle and struggled after game two of the series. Yet the Suns took the Mavericks to game 6. I find it hard to believe if the Mavericks lost Josh Howard or Jason Terry that they could win a game in a series against Phoenix.
The Mavericks have no answer for Amare Stoudemire. They have to stay big because Dirk Nowitski can not and will not guard him fearing foul trouble. So the Mavericks lose the extra scorer they need on the floor because they have to play Eric Dampier and DeSagana Diop.
Suns have the bodies (Shawn Marion, Boris Diaw, and James Jones) to wear down Dirk over a seven game series especially with Amare and Kurt Thomas in the paint to negate him from posting up freely and rolling to the basket.
The Mavericks will be the tired team because they depend on three players (Nowitski, Howard and Terry) to put up big numbers while the Suns have seven players on their roster that can score 25 points any given night and their scoring comes off the catch and shoot instead of the bumping and grinding Dirk and Howard goes through every night.
Finally the Steve Nash Factor, the Mavericks have no answer to negate him. If they double off the screen and roll the Suns will get open three point attempts. If they switch then Amare gets 40 Points. Finally if they go under the screen and roll Nash scores 30 plus.
Everyone says including Charles Barkley that the Mavericks are a great Defensive team and that’s why the Suns can’t beat them well let’s look at the numbers.
The Mavericks allow 92 points a game and score 99 – (7 point differential.)
The Suns allow 102 points a game and score 111- (9 point differential.)
The Suns and Mavericks both hold the opposition to 45% field goal percentage.
The Mavericks Average 42 rebounds per game.
The Suns average 41 rebounds per game.
The Mavericks allow the opponents 6 less rebounds, but the Suns have taken over 300 more three point shots thus giving the opposition more attempts at rebounds.
The Mavericks and Suns Both average 5 blocks and 6.5 steals per game.
The Suns Force one more turnover a game than the Mavericks.
Here is the scariest stat of all for you defensive gurus. When the Suns play in a game when both teams are below 100 they are 5-1 with that loss being to Dallas on a buzzer beater by Dirk Nowitski in Dallas.
Dallas on the other hand is 5-6 when teams score over 100 points against them.
Both teams are truly the class of the NBA and Avery Johnson and Mike D’Antoni should be truly admired for what they have accomplished so far this season. It is truly remarkable how two teams can be this focused especially after sub-par starts to the season. The Suns could be going for their 32 win in a row in Washington if the Snow didn’t hold them up in Denver before losing to the Wizards and a buzzer beater by Dirk Nowitski beat them a few days later. Dallas is just plain ridiculous as well; they are 34-4 since starting the season with 4 straight losses.
But the Suns get the edge.
2007 Mid Season Awards
MVP Steve Nash Suns
Nash does more for his team than any star in the league Dirk Nowitski is his closest competitor, but Dirk does not make Josh Howard and Jason Terry any better than they already are. They do not depend on Dirk to help them get numbers like Amare, Marion, Raja Bell, Boris Diaw and Leandro Barbosa does for the Suns. Most MVP winners had a multitude of skills. Nowitski can score and rebound. If he defended, passed or blocked shots like past winners Karl Malone or Hakeem Olajuwon he would have a chance. Nash can score five points and still dominate the game. Dirk scores 5 points the Mavericks lose!
Defensive Player Alonzo Mourning - Heat
He goes after every shot although he does not lead the league in blocks (currently second at 2.9 per game) he changes and alters more attempts than anyone in the last ten years. Mourning’s comeback from a Kidney replacement is simply amazing based on his energy and ability to change the game when he is on the floor defensively.
Sixth Man Ben Gordon -Bulls
Gordon has the edge on Leandro Barbosa (16.6) by a small margin. Gordon has proven to be virtually un-guardable when he is on the floor. He is starting to get superstar respect by being double teamed on a nightly basis. He is trying to become the third player to average over twenty points a game (21.3) off the bench in NBA history. The other two to accomplish the feat was Ricky Pierce and your’s truly.
Most Improved Monta Ellis - Warriors
Ellis (17.7) has the edge over Kevin Martin -Kings (20.6) just based on where he came from in terms of playing time from last year. Ellis did not play much for Mike Montgomery last year. I basically thought he was a bust the few times I saw him play, But ex NBA Player and Assistant coach for the Warriors last year(Mario Ellie) told me he would be a big factor this year and he has not disappointed. Ellis is fearless attacking the basket and has a jumper to go with it.
Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy - Trailblazers
Roy (14.7) is starting to look like the player every one thought he would be after last years draft. He play’s like a veteran of 5 years. Adam Morrison (Bobcats) could get the nod if he grabbed a rebound every now and then.
Best Team Phoenix Suns
Suns get the edge over Mavericks because they have the longest winning streaks between the two 15 and currently 13, they also put on an offensive show like no team has since Showtime in Los Angeles led by Magic Johnson. They lead the NBA in virtually every offensive category (See my blog on why I feel the Suns are better than the Mavericks)
Most exciting Teams - Suns, Wizards and Mavericks
I would pay to see these three teams play on a nightly basis. Agent Zero Gilbert Arenas is the best pure scoring guard in the League. Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison is icing on the cake for the Wizards. The Mavericks are poetry in motion when Nowitski and Howard has it going and the Suns as i said is the best ticket in Sports.
Most Boring Teams - Memphis, Indiana and Philadelphia
Memphis has sped up now that The Czar (Mike Fratello) has been fired. Now they play faster, but they still lose. Rick Carlisle is the new Fratello and Philly just doesn’t look the same since Iverson went to Denver. i would rather go to the dentist then watch these teams play. I bet they go to sleep when they watch film of their games.
Most Disappointing Team- Clippers
I guess once every five years is good enough for a team that has played no where near like the team that took the Suns to a seventh game last year in the second round of the playoffs. The Cavaliers are in the running to overtake the Clippers. The Cavs play and act like they are a great team. Would someone please tell them that they are not that good!
Best Coaching Job- Phil Jackson
Jackson is the best coach in the history of the game and he is really proving it this year with a young team and a injured star out of the line-up in Lamar Odom. Jerry Sloan would get this award if they end up with a better record at season’s end. You also have to consider Eddie Jordan for how he has made the Wizards the Suns of the East.
Eddie Johnson answers some pertinent questions as we approach midseason
Who will be the Rookie of the Year ?
– Guillaume (Vannes, France)
Eddie Johnson: The Rookie of the Year is down to a three-horse race between Brandon Roy, Andrea Bargnani and Adam Morrison. I picked Morrison before the season, but it seems like Bargnani is improving at a faster rate every game. He is going to be a special player in a few years. Roy's outside game is suspect and Morrison's all-around game is mediocre.
What do you think about superstar calls in the NBA? As a player, did you
EJ: There is no such thing as superstar calls. Superstars deserve the extra attention from officials because they get extra attention from the defense of the opposing teams. They force the official to make calls because they are aggressive by the way they play the game. Example: Shaq gets fouled every time down the court. You cannot penalize him just because he is bigger
than everyone else, can you?
I am an Aussie and a big fan of Andrew Bogut. Since he was chosen as the No. 1 pick, he has played some very solid basketball but has not yet dominated like some people had hoped. Most fans (me included) are happy with the way he is progressing, but some people are starting to bring out the 'bust' chants already. What do you think people should expect from a No. 1 pick in regards to personal stats and also their teams' results?
– Matthew Devitt (Adelaide, Australia)
EJ: Good question. I think Bogut is too unselfish. I see a plethora of skills in his game, but the one he needs to get more aggressive with is his scoring. Give Bogut a few more years. I like what the Bucks are doing and I see them being a force in the Eastern Conference in the future. Patience is a virtue – just look at what Eddy Curry is doing for Knicks right now.
What does LeBron need on his team in order to get to the championship level?
– James (Mountain View, California)
EJ: He needs catch-and-shoot players like Raja Bell, Shane Battier and Luther Head who can play defense to go with their plethora of inside players. LeBron can make players like Steve Nash. But players like Larry Hughes, who need the ball to have success, will take away his ability to carry his team like Nash does for the Suns. Joe Johnson would have been the perfect complement to James, but the Cavaliers thought Phoenix would match an offer. Well, Atlanta has Johnson and so Danny Ferry gambled and lost out on the piece that would have made them a championship contender this season and last.
I see Baron Davis go against the elite point guards in the league and roast them. My question is... How come he doesn't get more attention as being one of the leagues best point guards?
– Matt (New Jersey)
EJ: Because he does not win by roasting other players, as you state. The NBA rewards stars that make the playoffs. Davis also has a bad body because he carries to much weight. It's hard to depend on him because he stays injured. Davis could be one of the most dominant point guards in the league, but he leaves the impression that he is not a good leader and that perception has cost him so far in his career. Personally, I love his aggressiveness and ability to just outright gangster anyone on the court with his size and strength. But I want to see wins.
You have got to admit it. Even though it's still early in the season, Eddy Curry has been playing very well and finally starting to live up to potential. Please tell me I'm not crazy and agree with me that he deserves and earned a spot on the All-Star team this year?
EJ: Yes, he does deserve a spot on the All-Star team right now and he will get it if the Knicks keep winning and Shaquille can't play because of injury – which I suspect he will not. Curry, at 25 years old, is finally living up to
expectations. The Bulls might say Ben Wallace is a great addition for them. But trust me... Quietly somewhere in Chicago, John Paxson and Scott Skiles are saying to themselves "What if?" There is no center in the league right now that can command the post better than Curry and once he improves his passing he will be an All-Star every year. And with all that young talent, the Knicks will grow to be a power in the East. Give credit to the Knicks coaching staff for his improvement – especially assistant coach Mark Aguirre, who was one of the best post players ever.
You were the man back in Seattle and came so close to winning a championship alongside superstars Kemp and Payton. Now it seems like Seattle will never quite reach there. What do you think Seattle needs to do to get back there? Trade Allen? Tank games now that Rashard is gone and prey for Oden? Or do we try and get involved in the Vince Carter sweepstakes at the end of the season?
– John (Sydney, Australia
EJ: The Oden sweepstakes sounds nice. Can you imagine a front line of Chris Wilcox, Oden and Rashard Lewis with Ray Allen and Luke Ridnour in the backcourt? That is downright scary. The Sonics have a good nucleus in Allen and Lewis and with the improvement of Nick Collison, they have a chance to become a solid team next year with free agent pickups and the draft.
With the big trade going through of AI moving to Denver, can you see any other blockbuster trades happening involving KG or Artest or maybe even the Knicks attemping to shift some of their extremely large contracts?
– Luke Gibbons (England)
EJ: The only trade I thought might happen after Iverson was Garnett, but the Wolves are winning and Garnett is not asking for a trade publicly. So don't expect a trade to happen with Garnett unless he asks for it. You see how fast the Sixers reacted when Iverson came forth. The Wolves will move even faster if the Big Ticket requests one. Why? Salary cap and public knowledge that Garnett wants out. Artest could be moved, but it will be a mistake if the Clippers took him. They have enough to win, but they don't work hard and seem to be leaderless – especially while Sam Cassell was injured.
I hear a lot of people talk about Kobe Bryant and what he should or shouldn't do to help the Lakers. People talk about him being selfish and shooting the ball too much and not making his teammates better. However, I'm not convinced that the Lakers would win more games if he averaged 20 points and 10 assists. I don't think the answer is for him to average 40 a night either. What do you think he should do to make the Lakers the best team possible?
– Brandon (Austin, Texas)
EJ: Do a Steve Nash impersonation, which is what Kobe is doing right now and the Lakers are winning. I love the way he is playing. How many players in this league can take one shot in the first quarter and still finish the game with 42 points like he did last week at Sacramento. He is the best basketball player in the league. The Lakers are playing absolutely great. Yes, they have lost two in a row, but what they have done with all the key injuries is
unbelievable. I have been saying this for years and hopefully people will start to listen: Phil Jackson is the greatest coach ever.
In all of your years traveling as an NBA player, analyst, etcetera, you must have had some interesting experiences on planes, trains, automobiles – as well as all the hotels and arenas. I was just hoping you could share at least one good travel experience, and (for balance) one bad travel experience. It seems to me that flying to all the NBA cities must make for some amazing experiences.
– Brian (Los Feliz, California)
EJ: My best traveling experience is when the plane lands and the remove seatbelt light comes on. My worst happened twice and I thank god every night that he gave me more time on Earth.
The first one was in Sacramento in 1985. We took an Eastern Airlines shuttle flight from New York to Washington DC. The pilot undershot the runway and was about to land in the water. I never will forget teammate Terry Tyler screaming that we were about to go down. I woke up and saw the wing almost hit the water and then the plane shot straight up like a rocket.
The second was a few years ago with the Suns. We were traveling to Houston and flew straight into a nasty storm. It culminated into the worst 20 minutes of my life. We still talk about that flight. The plane must have
dropped 200 hundred feet five times. The engine sounded like someone threw a wrench in it. Dan Majerle had his kids on the flight and he was screaming every time we lost altitude and I was screaming just as loud. When the plane landed, our pilot came out and said he never saw it coming. I didn't care. I was just glad I got another day.
Sometimes people look at the positive side of what we do, but they have no idea or even think about the hazards of what we have to go through because of our jobs. Whether it's traveling, injuries, etcetera.
I guest I will miss my next road trip now.
The 2006-07 NBA season is upon us and I am really excited. The Miami Heat proved to be the best team last year, but they will have a very tough time repeating in 2007. The major reason will be the improvement of the Eastern Conference.
Miami and Detroit will be favorites, but Cleveland, New Jersey, Indiana and Chicago will all be major roadblocks. My surprise teams in the East are Orlando and New York.
The key for Miami or Detroit to come out of the East will be the play of their young guys during the regular season, thus allowing Pat Riley and Flip Saunders to rest the veterans for the postseason.
The West will become the most competitive conference we have ever seen in 2007. The talent level in the West is unbelievable, with the exception of the Blazers because of their youth. Every game on the Western Conference schedule will be competitive. The top teams will not change. The Spurs, Mavericks and Suns are the clubs to beat, but don't sleep on the Rockets, Clippers, Lakers and Nuggets. My surprise teams in the West are Utah and New Orleans, but I must admit Golden State will get my attention early.
Here are ten things I am looking forward to seeing during this upcoming season.
1. Can Miami two-Peat? I love Miami for one big reason and his name is Shaquille O'Neal. Shaq is hands down the most dominant player in the NBA. Still. But the key will be the good health of Dwayne Wade and Jason Williams. Both seem to be injury prone. Also very important will be the infusion of youth in the Heat rotation during the regular season to rest the veterans.
2. Watching Steve Nash make it difficult for voters to not give him back-to-back-to-back MVP trophies. Nash has the perfect scenario to keep the trophy because the reason he got it was his ability to make everyone better. Well, the Suns got even better during the offseason with the additions of Marcus Banks and Jumaine Jones and the return of Amare Stoudemire. And then add the improvement of Leandro Barbosa and Boris Diaw. Nash will look even better than the first two years.
3. Seeing the Detroit Pistons not missing Ben Wallace as much as people think they will. Wallace was the perfect complement to what the Pistons offered, but he was not the main cog. If you break down the skill level of each of the Detroit starters, Wallace was fifth. Yes, he stabilized the defense, but last time I checked the object of the game was to score the most points. So can Nazr Mohammed, Rasheed Wallace, Dale Davis and Antonio McDyess make up for Big Ben by committee? I say yes and with better numbers overall.
4. Isiah Thomas proving the Knicks roster can win and make the playoffs. I believe the Knicks have one the most talented rosters in the league. The key for Thomas is to get Stephon Marbury and Steve Francis on the same page. Those two should shut up the critics that say the Knicks will fail. Something tells me the Knicks will win 40-plus games and sneak into the playoffs – and possibly pull off a first-round upset.
5. Amare Stoudemire regaining his health and confidence to give us thrills with his athleticism as well as his ability to make people his size look silly on defense. The key to any Suns championship runs through Amare and his ability to give the Suns high-percentage shots when the three-point shooting is wayward. Patience will be the main issue with Amare all season long; regardless the Suns are the most talented team from top to bottom in the NBA.
6. Darko Milicic finally arrives as the player Detroit thought they had, but Orlando will enjoy the coming-out party. Darko should and will have his best season mainly because he will play consistent minutes for the first time in his career. If Grant Hill stays healthy, the Magic will make the playoffs. Dwight Howard or Darko could be All-Stars in 2007.
7. Kobe Bryant will score 100 points or at least try. I know the thought is to anoint LeBron James as the best player in the league, but people please pay attention: Kobe Bryant is the most talented player in basketball. There is nothing he cannot do on the court. The Lakers will win 40-plus games, make the playoffs and scare any team that has to play them in the first round.
8. LeBron James will be given the MVP trophy because it's his time. Well, I believe you give it to him if he puts up the same numbers as last year and the Cavaliers win 55 games. He is young enough to garner 6 MVPs. The mistake is to anoint him before his time. Let LeBron stay hungry because we want him to stay focused so we can enjoy his unbelievable talent for the next 10 years.
9. Don Nelson turns the Golden State Warriors into a team that actually plays like one for 82 games. The basketball talent is there in Golden State. Although I disagree with the constant merry-go-round of recycled coaches, Nelson was the best man for the job. If Baron Davis finally decides to do the necessary things to keep this young team in gear, the Warriors will become the most improved squad in the league.
10. Kevin Garnett finally going public and saying, "Get me out of here." Minnesota will trade Garnett this season because the Wolves have little chance to make the playoffs. It will be an East Coast team. So suitors place your order to pick up the most versatile big man in the NBA.
Get ready for a great season and enjoy the ride.
Ramblings of a play off junkie
The Lakers showed me something and then they showed me something else. Well they showed me that they could be a pretty good team come next year with a few more additions and they also showed me that Luke Walton, Kwame Brown and Smush Parker are what they are and that is bench players! Phil and Kobe if you want to win you better convince some free agent with some toughness to come calling. Did i say Alonzo Mourning.
The Nuggets were a poor sight. How could something good go so bad for the team that i picked to do very well this year. Well cohesion might be a good word or better yet they hate each other including the coach. Well i am sure that's what Kenyon Martin told George Karl in the locker room of game two. Why is it that Karl always has run ins with his players. Gary Payton, Glenn Robinson, Ray Allen. Sam Cassell and now Martin. Maybe it's not just the players. Oh and good move firing Ki Ki Vandeweghe. He was the only logical person in the organization.
I saw the Memphis Grizzlies blow game 3 against Dallas. I started to call the FBI and have someone investigate the whole team. That was the worse nightmare choke job i have ever seen and yes even worse than the Suns blowing a 7 point lead to the Lakers in the last minute. I guess they wanted to continue their streak of being swept out the playoffs three years in a row.
The Sacramento Kings made the right move in firing Rick Adelman, but they made the wrong move in not hiring Elston Turner. I guess we will see some dried up recycled ex coach who has been fired 10 times already get the job. Maloofs don't get caught up in bringing someone elses problem child in, just look at what Isiah Thomas is dealing with now in New York. Isiah should have known something was wrong when Joe Dumars couldn't wait to get rid of a coach that won a title the year before.
The Kings have a very good nucleus to build on next year. I hope the Maloofs don't blow it by hiring coaches who are only looking for more pay and not serious about the longetivity of the job. Hint -Hint
What excuses will all the Steve Nash Haters have for picking on the two time MVP the last two years. People face it, the boy is good. He is downright sick! I don't know about you, but i would pick him on my team every time if i was playing ----i like to score. Now trust me Lebron is un real. I am just tired of everyone wanting to annoint young players before their time. Remember these players after getting off to great starts in their career. Larry Johnson, Penny Hardaway, Austin Chroshere (uggg) etc. Let the young man grow and feel like he totally earned it. That will guarantee us a full career of greatness instead of a few.
The Suns and the Clippers will be a great series. I expect the Suns to win in 6 or 7 because they know how to win come crunch time. i sense a mental breakdown of Kamen, Ross and Livingston when it matters.
The Mavericks will beat the Spurs. Why, Because they are better. The problem with Dallas is i wonder if they know it. The Spurs are looking old and Duncan is not the Duncan of old. The Mavs will win in 6
The Pistons will win in 5 games. They have the Cavaliers scared to death. It's amazing that the only one who seems un affected is a 21 year old kid who is soooo good!
The Heat was my pick to win it all before the season and that was when Van Gundy was coaching, but i have not wavered. I know Shaq Is looking kind of old, but he is still my man. I think his mere presence can get the Heat pass the Pistons this season. The Bulls and the Nets are fast, but just fast will not beat the Heat. You have to be able to shoot from the perimeter and the Nets don't shoot well.
They have no answer for Wade and his ability to finish at the rim. Heat will win in 6.
Whose the blame for the Knicks struggles
The New York Knicks are a prime example of mixed chemistry. On paper as individuals they look quite impressive, but mixed together they are just down right disgusting to watch. History has shown us that just because a couple or a group looks good together does not mean it will mix well. We are always surprised by the perfect couple that gets divorced and we wonder why a team with the highest payroll in the NBA is among the worst in the league?
Unlike couples who we deem as the perfect match and are surprised when we hear of separation or divorce. The Knicks do not have the luxury of hiding behind closed doors. We see their blemishes and boy do they have them.
But lets limit it to the three principal players at the top. Isiah Thomas, Larry Brown and Stephon Marbury.
I believe Thomas is getting a bum rap for the Knicks total misgivings. Critics are focusing in on his mistakes more than his accomplishments. He has done an excellent job of moving bodies which is very difficult to do with the NBA salary cap and let's remember he can't play for them.
His draft class this season deserves an A+ . Nate Robinson and David Lee have been very pleasant surprises, but Channing Frye will battle Chris Paul all year long for Rookie of the Year honors.
Trades for Jamal Crawford and Eddy Curry were excellent moves. These two young players are extremely talented. Ask the Bulls if they would take them back right now?
Calculating that Alan Houston would retire and thus using the buyout clause on Jerome Williams saved the Knicks alot of cash as well.
Three moves in my estimation has put the spot light on Zeke (Thomas) as i refer to him from our childhood days. Yes we grew up together on the west side of Chicago.
I remember his uncle made Zeke play me one on one when he was about 13 i punished him, but he remembered it and boy did he make me pay for it in later years!
The reason i mention that is because Isiah has always been a risk taker and three moves he has made i am sure he would love to take back because in my opinion it did not help the chemistry of the team.
The trade of Stephon Marbury was good for a public relations boost, but the mistake Isiah made was not recognizing that Stephon is a me first player that does not understand on the court leadership. Which is crucial at the point guard position.
The second deal was trading Keith Van Horn for more athletic Tim Thomas, But the problem was that Thomas might be the most talented softest player i have ever seen and wouldn't fight his way out of a bag of feathers. Van Horn is David Lee with more experience and was mixing well.
The third move and probably will go down as his worst and that was signing Jerome James to a free agent contract. I was on record as saying during the 2005 playoffs when James was playing out of his mind for Seattle. "I don't trust him". I have a problem with any player that takes off from no where in his free agent year and plays like an all-star. Isiah should have noticed that the Sonic's were not killing themselves to keep him. James makes Benoit Benjamin look like Kareem. I once saw Isiah punch Rick Mahorn which was kind of crazy, but James should be in his sights next.
I played for this great coach for two years in Indiana and what i found out early is that he is the smartest, moody, stubborn, unmoving, my way or the highway coach i have ever seen. Do i wish i had him at 22? yes. Did he drive me nuts as a 36 year old player? yes
What Brown does is breakdown your strengths and weaknesses and really focuses in on your weak points or parts of your strong points that he wants to change. It is enough to drive you crazy at times.
He wants to take credit for improving what you have not shown as a player up to date so you can play his way. If you fight him and don't show a willingness to change, he will break down your confidence to rock bottom by berating you and playing you inconsistent minutes until you have no choice but to adhere to his wishes and try and change your game to the right way. If you continue to fight he will try his best to get you off his team.
Now you know why Larry likes playing rookies. Rookies come in hungry and will listen and be taught his way. Veterans fight the urge.
One wonders why Brown wanted to leave the Pistons? well now you know, he likes the unstable life, but now it's at the expense of the New York Knicks.
How else can you explain the inconsistent line-ups and rotations that he employed early in the season.
Quite frankly he has dug a hole with the confidence level of this team and now he is struggling to get it back.
Example, Stephon Marbury taking Seven shots against Orlando last week and missing all seven after the game Marbury explained that he was concentrating on getting the ball to Eddy Curry and playing the way Brown wants him too, but Brown the next day said they can't win if Marbury doesn't shoot.
Welcome to the world of Larry!
Since Stephon Marbury Proclaimed that he was the best point guard in the NBA last year. The Knicks have gone 25-57. He recently also said when asked who are the toughest point guards to defend. " He said Baron Davis and Gilbert Arenas were tougher to guard over the MVP Steve Nash.
The reason Marbury made that statement is the same reason why he has struggled every where he has played with his teammates on the court.
He can only relate to talented guards that take alot of shots and who have not made it past the second round of the playoffs as of yet in their careers.
If he would assess the hardest player to guard as the one that makes every body in the arena better. Teammates, Coaches, Announcers, Fans, then Nash should have been his choice. The Suns have dominated the Warriors and The Wizards record over the last few years and yet he rewards their guards with his comments. That's the beauty of Marbury he does not realize that supporting your teammates with constant leadership like Nash does is the part of his game that he is lacking tremendously.
The question is- Who will take the fall for the Knicks Struggles?
I expect Marbury will be moved again once the Knicks find a Taker which will be extremely difficult and
Larry and Isiah will have a few more years to straighten out the mess that is the New York Knicks and they will. This team will be a factor for years to come once they move Marbury or he changes his game like Billups did for Brown in Detroit and now is in the running for the MVP.
Pistons will fall short of 70 wins.
The Pistons will not win 70 games and here is why. They have played deep into the playoffs the last few seasons and they will hit a wall right before the ALL-STAR break and somewhat after. This will cost them a run at 70 but might get them back to the FINALS. Unless one of their starters gets injured. The Pistons bench is a joke. Antonio McDyess and Maurice Evans only get consistent minutes and quite frankly McDyess can only be counted on come playoff time. If this happens they could lose home court advantage throughout the playoffs and allow Miami to win the East.
Steve Nash is Magic Johnson of the new millennium
I know some might say this statement is biased because i work for the Phoenix Suns, but i don't care. Because if you remember i was one of the only people to go on record and say the Suns would still make the playoffs and win the Pacific Division after Amare Stoudamire went down.
Steve Nash is so good at making his teammates better it's sick. I am so mad that i was not born late enough to play with him.
Magic is a friend and my all-time favorite player to watch, but right now Steve Nash is the best player i have ever seen at setting up his teammates for high percentage shots and if he ever wins a Championship he will no doubt be mentioned in the same breath as Bob Cousy, Pistol Pete Maravich and Magic Johnson as one of the best passers ever.
Ron Artest has successfully canceled out two seasons in a row, but at least he is getting paid this time.
Do you think Sacramento wishes they kept Chris Webber now? especially after the Sixers smoked the Kings last night.
Seattle players complained that Nate McMillan was too hard on them after they won their division and made it to the second round of the playoffs. I wonder what they will say now that Bob Weiss was fired because he allowed the inmates to run the Asylum. I said when Nate left the Sonic's that the players should be careful for what they ask for, but then again you have to wonder if players today care more about winning or being comfortable with their coach.
I thought the Utah Jazz saw enough of other teams trying to find a mirror image of Karl Malone, well i guess they felt they would give it a try and paid big money to a look alike in Carlos Boozer, but they didn't factor in that he would miss over 80 percent of his games. That's very unlike Karl who played in over 98 percent of games available to him in his long career.
The Houston Rockets are really proving to be a two man team. How can they even think about making it to the playoffs going two on five.
I assume Tim Duncan was mad at his wife and decided to not comb his hair until she screamed and said do it. Because i was interested to see if he would go the whole year with that nappy fro. Instead she must have cut his hair while he was sleeping.
I swear i saw Eric Dampier and Kwame Browns knees start shaking when they saw Amare Stoudamire shooting free throws before recent Suns games.
somebody asked me the other day who was the best jumpshooter i ever saw i picked up a mirror and said there he is!
Bulls need to Give Jordan and Pippen their just Due!
The Chicago Bulls retired Scottie Pippens number the other day. I have often wondered why two of the greatest players I have ever seen in Pippen And Michael Jordan look out of sort when they venture back into the United Center.
What the Bulls did for Jordan by building a statue in front of their stadium and retiring both he and Scotties number was something they had to do.
The Bulls have failed in every other area of gratitude. These two players should be running the Bulls organization.
Jordan should be President and Scottie should be coaching them just like they did when they were players.
Its so funny to me that when the Bulls were winning titles this is what we heard.
Jordan is the Leader and boss while Pippen was the coach on the floor making sure everyone was in position to help Michael succeed.
Why is John Paxson Running the Bulls and Scott Skiles Coaching?
Last time I checked the Bulls have won nothing since these two Players left to flounder with other organizations.
I look around the league and see Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Isiah Thomas, Danny Ainge, Joe Dumars, and Danny Ferry, running franchises.
I see Ex Players like Scott Skiles, Doc Rivers, Sam Mitchell, Mike Woodson and Nate Mcmillan coaching teams.
From what I remember Jordan and Pippen were not only considered to be better (Exception Bird same category) than any of these players, but also known as the smartest players to ever play.
I got it first hand when I played with Scottie on the Houston Rockets. He was the first player at practice and the last to leave, always helping young players like Cutino Mobley and Michael Dickerson in the process.
So why on earth are they not running the Bulls? Ownership of the Bulls need to step up and reward these two by allowing them to bring this team back to the level the Chicago fans enjoyed for so many years.
Pacer Bad Boy Wants Out!
Ron Artest wants to be traded. Boy what a surprise. This guy does not get it. Ron don’t get me wrong I agree that your coach smothers players with his constant play calling. I agree that your team could play like the Phoenix Suns. I also feel like you could be the focal point of that boring offense more than you do.
This is the problem I have with you.
Shut up and stay out of the news in a negative light for at least a month.
Allow your agent to work behind the scene to get you to another team if you want, but you my friend, you just need to be quiet and play basketball.
News and Notes
Suns and Clippers are battling for first place in Pacific Divison. Who would have thought this would be occurring? Especially since everyone except me gave up on the Suns when Amare had knee surgery and no one ever picks the Clippers regardless if they are talented or not.
Pat Riley is finally back on the bench in Miami. It was clear as day that he would take over again eventually. I guess he is taking a page from San Antonio head coach Greg Popovich who took over the coaching reins when the Spurs finally put David Robinson and Tim Duncan on the floor together.
Hmmm--- didn’t Shaq finally come back last night after being out for a month?
Anyway in my opinion good move. Too many egos on that team so why not put the biggest ego in the locker room. You know that saying, be careful what you wish for; well Heat players get ready for boot camp during the season.
If Toronto or Atlanta fires Sam Mitchell or Mike Woodson as coaches then shame on you.
How can anyone win with what you have provided these two bright young coaches? I have always said the only thing young players know about basketball is nothing! So how do you expect these two coaches to train and teach them in a short amount of time?
Do you think Gene Keady or Bob Bender will turn it around? Give me a break. The only thing that will turn these two teams around is the addition of veteran players to mix in with the youngsters.
12/1/05 Blame Van Gundy
Tracy McGrady was back in the Houston Rockets lineup Tuesday against the Atlanta Hawks. He scored 25 points and helped stop a seven-game losing streak. McGrady has missed eight games this season and all of them were losses.
I agree that without their leader and top scorer, the Rockets should struggle... But not collapse every time he cannot put a uniform on. Houston has too much experience and size to not be able to compete and win a few games without its star.
I picked this team to finish among the elite this year. Yes, it's early and they still have a chance. But after watching them lose to the Suns last week, I sincerely doubt they will make the playoffs. And if they do, they will not be the factor I thought they would be.
Who's to blame for this slow start?
I know the easy answer is McGrady's bad back. I would go much further than that. I say the finger should be pointed at head coach Jeff Van Gundy.
When I played, the one thing NBAers longed for was to play for a coach that made the game fun. I believe that same thought still exists today.
There are feelings that I have taken from this game that will forever be a part of me and one of those feelings is knowing when a teammate or opponent is playing the game happy or sad.
That is the worst feeling to have. Who wants to get up and go to a job situation, regardless of the benefits, knowing that they will not be happy until it's time to go home?
I have been there and incidentally it was in a Rocket uniform at the end of my career, but that's another article.
When I saw the Rockets last week, I saw a team that was going through the motions and played like it was burdened with serious problems. That's alarming considering the season has just begun.
When I heard Jeff Van Gundy has a playbook the size of a phone book and observed the Suns put small forward Boris Diaw on the tallest player in the NBA – Yao Ming – and yet he got only two touches and one field goal attempt in the first seven minutes of the first quarter, that made me realize the playbook might be too complicated for Van Gundy.
I will take a line from Hakeem Olajuwon, one of the best teammates I've had: “Keep it simple, and throw it to me and I will make life easy for you.”
He was right!
The first sign I always look for in young players is improvement from year to year. And Yao Ming is regressing – which is a scary thought, especially for an organization that has invested a lot of money in him. He is not the loose daring rookie that played under Rudy Tomjanovich. He has become very mechanical and hesitant.
Van Gundy needs to chuck his playbook and just keep it simple. First of all, McGrady and Yao are taking the majority of the shots already... So why do you need that big of a playbook? And why do you need to stand up and call every play, especially when you have arguably the best scorer in the league – when healthy – in McGrady?
Van Gundy needs to take a page from head coach Tony Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts, who runs only a few plays and allows his star player Peyton Manning to change. The great thing about only having a few plays is that the Colts have perfected them and no matter what defense is thrown at them, they are successful. Why? Because players practice and perfect it instead of going from one play to the next with half the players still not knowing how to run the last play.
I have seen players in my career forget their own play to get a shot. So how are they going to remember a phone book's worth?
Phil Jackson won nine titles because he had great players, but he also made it simple with one play – triangle offense – and allowed the role players to play off of his stars.
So here's my message to Van Gundy:
- Find five or six offensive sets and throw the rest away.
- Allow Tracy McGrady to be your coach on the floor since you already want him to take most of the shots.
- Find a shooter – whether it's Jon Barry, David Wesley, Derek Anderson or Luther Head – that can pass the ball into the post, which would allow Yao to operate with a spaced-out floor instead of having players cutting and moving around him. Yao is so tall it takes 10 seconds for the ball to come up to his hands again, so it's difficult for him to dribble in traffic. Plus it will allow these shooters to get better looks from the perimeter and improve their shooting percentages.
- Let Stromile Swift use his athletic ability by giving him some rope for mistakes. I thought that's what you signed him for, right?
- Oh, and yeah, please sit down sometimes. Players feel calm when they know the coach is calm.
Will these suggestions turn your team around? I can't answer that, but maybe some of these things will start to happen:
- Your offense will reach the fifth option because everyone on the floor will know his responsibilities and not be watered down trying to remember 100 plays.
- Tracy McGrady will become a leader able to conduct your offense like Peyton Manning.
- Yao will become a more dominant scorer instead of becoming more mechanical every game.
- Your jump shooters will start shooting above 40 percent, taking the pressure off your two stars.
- And finally, you can sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor like Phil Jackson did for nine championships while running one offensive set.
Get ready for another explosive NBA Season!
The 2005-2006 NBA Season is upon us and if you are not a Spur or Piston Fan then you are hoping your team will do what the Phoenix Suns did last year and that is come from no-where to win 62 games and become the most watched team in basketball.
The Suns brought back memories of Magic Johnson and the Showtime Los Angeles Lakers.
Steve Nash Garnered the MVP trophy and Head coach Mike D’Antoni won coach of the year honors.
The Suns eventually lost to World Champion San Antonio, but they have changed the way coaches and players want to play the game.
Look for a number of teams like Golden State and the Milwaukee Bucks to try and play the fast paced game the Suns employed so well last year.
It should be FUN!
Here are my predictions for this coming season.
- Spurs (The addition of Finley and Van Excel was very significant but only if Duncan can stay healthy for most of the 82 games.)
- Suns (Amare Stoudemire's Knee surgery was devastating, but this team knows how to win and Steve Nash will lead them until Stat is back around February.)
- Rockets (Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming will finally gel and get this team to the next level.)
- Nuggets (Geaorge Karl will get a full year to turn this collection of fine athletes into winners.)
- Kings (They have one of the best starting fives in basketball. Bibby, Wells, Miller, Peja and Abdul Rahim.)
- Warriors (Could be higher if they had more veteran players who knew how to win. They will one of the most exciting teams to watch this year!)
- Mavericks (Dirk and Jason Terry willhave to be counted on to score at least a combined 50 to 55 points every night for this team to make the playoffs.)
- Lakers (Kobe will have a great year and they could over take the Mavs and Warriors if Kwame Brown and Lamar Odom have good years.)
- LA Clippers (The addition of Sam Cassell and Cutino Mobley will bring a winning mentality to this young talented team.)
- Heat (Shaquille and D. Wade will have to lead a collection of talent and egos to win 60 plus games this year.)
- Pacers (Artest will stay focused all year and the Pacers will finally play up to their potential.)
- Pistons (Head Coach Flip Saunders will allow this team to do what i enjoy seeing and that is run and shoot.)
- Cavaliers (Lebron James will have close to 20 triple doubles this season and finally get the Cavs into the postseason.)
- Bucks (The addition of Jamal Magloire automatically moves this talented offensive team into the playoffs.)
- Wizards (I still like this team although they lost Larry Hughes to Cleveland. Arenas and Jamison will have great seasons.)
- Nets (The trio of Kidd, Carter and Jefferson should be enough to at least get them a spot at the bottom.)
- Knicks (One of the biggest teams in the league with Curry, James and Channing Frye and if Marbury plays Unselfish they could be tough in the playoffs.)
- Bulls (Could make a run if they recover from the lost of Curry.)
- East - Heat vs Pacers
- West- Spurs vs. Suns
- Finals- Heat vs. Spurs
- Champion- Heat
- Top Scorer- Allen Iverson
- Top Rookie- Andrew Bogut
- Sixth Man- Donyell Marshall
- Best Defensive Player- Ben Wallace
- Most improved – Mehmet Okur
- Coach of the Year- Mike D’Antoni
- All NBA first team (Shaq, Duncan, Garnett, Nash, Kobe)
- All NBA Defensive team ( Ben Wallace, Bruce Bowen, Shawn Marion, Adrei Kerilenko, Ron Artest)
- All Rookie Team ( Deron Williams, Marvin Williams, Chris Paul, Andrew Bogut, Rashad McCants)
Now that Rita has passed let's hope the Hurricane season is about over. It's amazing when we are reminded that the most powerful force on earth is Nature and not a well-armed country. There is no defense against "Mother Nature" What these dangerous storms have thought us as a country is that we don't have it all together, we are still vulnerable to a lot of issues, but it was good to see that the lessons learned from Katrina were put to use with Rita.
I am busy working on my preview for this coming NBA season and I do promise a surprise prognosis or two that will spur you readers to write me in anger (-:
I am not a big baseball guru, but I do love the fact that Barry Bonds is back hitting home runs and is moving in on Babe Ruth, also I like the fact that baseball has put us through 159 games in the American League to get to the point we expected all along and that is the Yankees and Red Sox battling to secure Division Championships and a berth in the play offs. I am being sarcastic to the tenth degree. Am I the only one that thinks 162 games are too many?
Kudos to hockey for coming off a long vacation, I still say get rid of the blue line and fast break. A score of 15 -11 will get me to sit in a arena that's 10 degrees for two hours and cheer!
We are entering the sports nut dream time of the year, where all four sports will intercede in the next few weeks.
I can't wait.
It's been a busy summer of basketball with all the free-agent signings and trades.
The Spurs proved last year that they were the best team, by closing out the Pistons in June for their 3rd NBA championship. And after signing Nick Van Excel and Michael Finley this fall. One would think that the Spurs have positioned themselves to add a fourth in 2006. But - I say No and here is why.
It does not mater to me who the Spurs added this off -season. The scary scenario for head coach Greg Poppovich is will Tim Duncan stay healthy this season or start to show signs of wearing down from carrying his teammates on his back over these last few years of going deep in the play-offs against stiff competition.
This scenario reminds me of Hakeem Olajuwon who seemed to fall off a table very rapidly after being the focal point of a one dimensional offense that involved him in virtually every play, during the Rockets back to back title run in the 94 and 95 seasons
I know people will mention Manu Ginobli as the second go to player, but he has yet to prove to me that he can put up consistent All Star numbers that could carry this team if Duncan went down for a period of time.
Finley and Van Excel are good veteran pick-ups, but they will not take enough major time away from Parker and Manu to make the Spurs any more better than what they are if Duncan stays healthy.
Basically what I am saying is because of their declining skills they will need Duncan on the floor to have success anyway. Without him their numbers will continue to fall.
Watch for my NBA basketball 2005-2006 previews in a future Blog.
I will give my thoughts on who improved, declined and who will be in the play-offs come April.
Thoughts on ugly Katrina and Rita
I can't even imagine what the residents of the Southern Gulf States have gone through.
They have not only lost loved ones, homes and possessions, but they have virtually had to watch a great city that they were a part of go back to almost the state it was when the French discovered it in 1682
My prayers continue to go out to the countless families that have been devastated and up-rooted to a new city by Hurricane Katrina.
First of all I am so proud to live in a country that has so many loving people. We sometimes lose sight of the goodness in people's hearts. It has been a joy to see the caring we have witnessed throughout our country with the many volunteers and cash donations the Katrina fund has received for the benefit of the citizens of the Gulf States
The blame for the handling of the evacuation and aftermath has been spread over a number of entities.
Here's my take!
The responsibility to begin any process of protection rests with the Local Government. In my opinion after watching hours and hours of coverage they did not handle the initial thrust of making sure their citizens were out of harms way.
They dropped the ball by not planning for the worst possible scenario. It was pretty obvious why they were non aggressive at first. They have planned before for a terrible storm only for it not to affect their city, but because of they took a semi-aggressive stance the people of New Orleans paid a heavy price.
The state and federal government showed major flaws as well, but in order to build a solid house, the foundation must be stable. That rested and will always rest with the local government.
During the aftermath the State and Federal government should be ashamed with the disorganized slow response and lack of compassion from some neighboring Parishes that would not allow the suffering to enter their towns.
Now they must spend billions to repair a city, when it could have taken far less to repair and complete a fragile levy system that has virtually put New Orleans back to the state it was when the French discovered it.
Finally, its nice to see the press finally covering the goodness of celebrities and athletes instead of the bad mistakes we have made. The fan's needed to read more about the warm-hearted endeavors our most recognized citizens are doing.