Wednesday, November 29, 2006

My ongoing theory about Jamal Crawford

I haven’t had a lot of chances to sit down and watch the Knicks this season.

I’ve read a lot about the lineup shuffles, the feuds and the booing at home, but I wanted to see for myself how bad this team really is.

I wrote in this week’s Sunday Slams that Isiah should use Jamal Crawford in spurts rather than playing him for 30+ minutes a night, and that Zeke should just concede and use Steve Francis and Stephon Marbury at the same time.

Well, tonight, Thomas used all three on the floor to close out the game, and it worked. The Knicks beat the Cavs 101-98 in Cleveland.

Crawford only played 15 minutes leading up to the 4th quarter, and this was brilliant strategy.

For my money, Crawford is incredibly frustrating to watch. He’s got tremendous ability, but he makes a lot of bad decisions. This game was the perfect example.

Crawford and Eddy Curry executed the pick-and-roll to perfection for much of the final quarter, leading to either easy baskets or free throw attempts. It’s a side of Crawford’s game that I rarely see, but one that worked very well with his good friend Eddy Curry. This is precisely how the Knicks’ point guards should be using Curry, and while I assumed it would be Francis who would be best suited to maximize Curry’s game, it was Crawford who perfected it down the stretch.

But for every nice pass, there was still the Crawford trademark: a questionable shot attempt.

With the Knicks trailing 84-82, Crawford missed a terrible 3-pointer without passing or setting up the offense at all. After a Cleveland miss, Crawford again made no passes and missed an 18-foot jumper on New York’s next possession.

In addition, for every made shot on offense, Crawford gave the points right back defensively. Literally. There was a series where he drove right to the basket offensively for an easy lay-up, then immediately let Eric Snow go right by him with ease on the other end. Two series later, Crawford drilled a 3-pointer but didn’t rotate properly on defense and allowed Damon Jones to answer with a triple of his own.

But, on this night, Crawford’s good play outweighed the bad. Thomas intentionally saved him for the 4th quarter, and Crawford answered the call by scoring all 11 of his points and racking up all two huge assists to Curry.

He played a total of 27 minutes, which follows my theory for victory. I am thoroughly convinced I’m on to something here. Jamal Crawford always seems to be a work in progress. I think finding ways to make him successful are critical to the success of the Knicks. We’ll see how it all evolves.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Sunday Slams


If you peruse the papers today, there appears to be some shock around the country about how awful the Eastern Conference has been this season.

Is this really a new thing?

Sure, the Pistons and Heat have won two of the last three titles, but at no point during those two seasons was the East the better Conference.

This season, the East appears even worse. The Atlantic Division doesn’t have a winning team right now, and Orlando looks like they might run away with the Southeast.

However, coming into the season, I thought the Central was the only strong division in the Conference, and so far it’s living up to that billing, sort of. The Pistons and Cavaliers are two of three teams in the East with winning records.

You read that right. There are three teams in the Conference with winning records.

As I wrote yesterday, I think the Bulls will turn things around once they get back home. If that happens, you’re looking at a pretty strong division race, and I will be willing to go out on a limb and say the Central will provide the East’s Finals representative this year.

I know, what a limb.


For the five of you that have been reading since prediction time, you’ll recall that I picked the Clippers fourth in the Pacific Division. Even I thought I was crazy when I did it.

But if the Clippers can’t win on the road, they’re actually going to fulfill my prophecy.

The Clip Show dropped another road contest last night, giving away a game in Minnesota by scoring two points down the stretch.

It wasn’t a good week overall for Mike Dunleavy’s crew.

They lost a ‘road’ game to the Lakers on Tuesday when they couldn’t stop Kobe Bryant.

Then, the Clippers came out sluggish the next night and got smoked by the Seattle Sonics.

And there’s more bad news to accompany a 0-3 week.

Chris Kaman is out indefinitely with a sprained ankle. Plus, the road trip continues tonight against red-hot Denver, and then Los Angeles heads to Sacramento to wrap up the trip.

Before the Minnesota game, Mike Dunleavy told the Los Angeles Times, "I know we can play better, and I know we have the right guys. We just need the light bulb to come on, and I don't know when it will. I keep hoping it's going to be the next game."

If that light doesn’t come on before this mini-trip is over, the Clippers could very well find themselves in last place heading into a re-match with the Lakers next Saturday night.

In a division this good, that’s never a place you want to be.


The Knicks are a difficult team to sit and watch. I tried Saturday night when they hosted the Bulls.

What I saw was a horrible first-half, an inspired run sparked by Renaldo Balkman of all people, a lot of sloppy play (N.Y. had 25 turnovers), and a smattering of boos from the Garden faithful.

The Knicks are not good, but in an Atlantic Division that’s completely up for grabs, they have as good a shot at the playoffs as anyone else.

So, let me help Isiah Thomas, who can’t figure out what his backcourt lineup should be.

Stop jerking with Steve Francis and start him. Start Stephon Marbury as well to avoid the inevitable blowup (whoops, too late) and bring Jamal Crawford off the bench in spurts.

To me, too much is being made about Francis and Marbury, and not enough is being made about the constant inconsistency of Crawford.

There’s no question Crawford has tremendous talent and athletic ability. I would never take that away from him.

However, Crawford’s decision making has always been questionable, and that’s being polite.

The Knicks looked great when they put the ball in Steve Francis’ hands and let him make plays last night.

But when Crawford has the ball, he’s always looking to score, even in impossible situations, and this Knicks team has way too much talent to put up with that kind of mentality.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that when Crawford plays less than 30 minutes, the Knicks are 3-2, and when he plays 30 or more, they’re 2-8.

Maybe that’s not fair, and maybe I’m trying to defend an argument, but in my opinion, Crawford is best as an energy spark off of the bench. Isiah Thomas needs to realize this once and for all and limit his playing time to maximize his efficiency.


-Is it really fair to blame the Grizzlies’ problems on Mike Fratello? What is he supposed to do without Pau Gasol?

-Ben Wallace apparently really likes wearing a headband, so much so that last night he defied a Scott Skiles’ team rule that says Chicago players can’t wear one. This led to a benching and a team meeting after the game. This is something to keep an eye on.

-My belief is that you can pick out the championship contenders by looking at road records. In other words, teams that win on the road are legit. So, who’s legit right now? Detroit, Utah, Denver, Dallas, San Antonio and Houston. The Nuggets are the only team on this list that surprises me.

-My five MVP candidates from the first month of the season: Dirk Nowitski, LeBron James, Deron Williams, Carmelo Anthony and Carlos Boozer. I’d give it to Dirk if you made me choose right now.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Quick thoughts on Friday's games

Ho Hum, another come-from-behind fourth quarter victory for the Jazz. This contest with the Lakers was a heck of game, but in the end it was offensive rebounding and the great play of Carlos Boozer that gave the Jazz the victory.

From the Lakers' side of things, this wasn't close to a bad loss. They had multiple chances to win the game, and the shots just wouldn't stay down. In particular, Lamar Odom had one of those fourth quarters where the ball seemed destined to go through the net, yet somehow found a way not to.

I know Kobe Bryant had a very quiet fourth quarter, but let's not start the "he should have been more active" discussion.

For one, he's still not 100%, so fading on the road has to be somewhat expected.

Also, and this is a key factor to the team's overall success this year, Bryant saw that Odom and Kwame Brown were hot offensively, and he smartly tried to keep them involved.

The Lakers can't win a title without the "supporting cast" winning some ballgames, so there's going to be some trial and error in the process. Hopefully, Bryant and his teammates will find the right balance.

Elsewhere, Dallas keeps on rolling with a big win in San Antonio. Dirk Nowitski continues his MVP-like play, recording his sixth straight double-double. Suddenly, the Mavs are the team to beat out West.

The East is an unmitigated disaster right now.

I thought John Hollinger was nuts earlier this week when he wrote that Miami was headed to the lottery, but then I sat down and watched them play twice. When Pat Riley is inserting Jason Kapono into his starting lineup, there are serious problems in Heatville.

But honestly, what choice does Riles have? He can't continue to use Antoine Walker when he can't make a shot from anywhere (inside the arc, outside the arc, the free throw line).

I feel bad for Dwayne Wade. Hopefully, Dorrell Wright can emerge as an option for Miami, but even that will be an up and down proposition.

And what in the world is going on with the Bulls. Look, they do this every year, and they blame it on the circus trip. Then, they'll come home and rattle off eight in a row, and everyone will be excited about them. But, to me, something is different about this horrible road trip. This was the team that was supposed to instill fear in their opponents with their defensive intensity, rise above the horrors of five games out West and show they had championship mettle.

Instead, they look worse than last year's team.

123 points to Philadelphia? Are you kidding me? How about the performance of Ben Wallace last night? Zero points, zero rebounds in 20 minutes. I could get that stat line, and I don't make anywhere close to the $60 million they're spending on him.

The Bulls might want to wake up. I know the East is bad, and there's plenty of season to be played, but right now, Chicago is performing like the worst team in the Conference, and you can't blame it entirely on elephants and clowns.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Today, I'm thankful for my DVR, a device that allows me to watch games like Utah at Sacramento a day later.

I simply wouldn't believe this start for the Jazz if I wasn't seeing it for myself. They erased a 21-point deficit last night by scoring 75 points in the second half, and they're now 11-1 on the young season.

Utah never quits, and they're playing like the most complete team in the league. The sight of their bench jumping up and down following a Mehmut Okur triple was fun to witness. They're all having a blast out there.

Should we book the trip to Vegas for Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer?

Never in a million years would I have guessed I'd be enjoying watching the Jazz, but I really am.

I can't wait for tomorrow night when Kobe and the Lakers get their shot at the NBA's best. That's going to be a lot of fun.

Have a tremendous holiday.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Mavs are awake!

That's seven in a row for the defending Western Conference champs, and they're doing it without Josh Howard.

Granted, they've beaten Phoenix, Portland, Chicago, Memphis (x2), Charlotte and Washington, but you still have to be very impressed with what's going on in Big D.

The first thing that pops out is the defense. The Mavs have held opponents under 100 points in five of those seven contests. Just nine days ago, Dallas was allowing 105 points a game. Coming into tonight's play, it was down to 99 points a game, and that's going to drop further. Tuesday against the Wizards, a team that came into the game as the sixth highest scoring group in the NBA, the Mavericks only gave up 80 points and held the Wiz to 7 of 33 shooting in the second half. Very impressive.

The other factor in the winning streak is the play of Dirk Nowitski. He's merely averaging 28 points and 11 rebounds during the run. He's playing aggressively again, getting to foul line for double digit attempts in five of those games. This is the Dirk that was borderline unstoppable in the postseason last year.

So, big shock, the Mavs have returned to their winning ways. Now, I'm still waiting for Phoenix to join them. Maybe Steve Nash's winning 3-pointer last night was all they needed.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sunday Slams


Well, if the thought was that Andrei Kirilenko’s injury would stop the victory train in Salt Lake City, so much for that theory.

The Jazz is now 9-1 after sweeping the week with wins over the Los Angeles Clippers, Seattle SuperSonics and Phoenix Suns. I watched at least the decisive quarter of all three of these contests, and if you’re still denying this team’s start, you must stop.

This team is good.

I still believe they’re too young to be taken seriously as title contenders, but there’s no doubt they’re headed towards great things soon if they stay healthy.

One thing that immediately jumps out at you about the Jazz is hustle. This week alone, Utah pulled down 45 offensive rebounds in three games. 45!! I don’t care what kind of roster you have, if you’re pulling down 15 offensive rebounds a game, you’re going to win a lot of games.

Deron Williams continues to be the genuine surprise of the young season. He has been absolutely outstanding. Williams spent time in the off-season learning from John Stockton, and suddenly, he’s playing like him. In addition, Williams is comfortable with his teammates, especially old Illini friends Dee Brown and Roger Powell, and that comfort has translated onto the court. He’s also emerging as the team’s go-to scorer down the stretch, hitting clutch buckets against Seattle and Phoenix to put games away.

One other reason for Williams’ and the Jazz success this year has been the addition of Derek Fisher to the roster. Fish knows how to lead in the locker room, and he knows a thing or two about winning from his time in Los Angeles. His veteran leadership will only make this team stronger the more they keep winning.

I could go on and on about how well Utah is playing, with Matt Harpring contributing huge off the bench and Paul Millsap doing all of the little things, but I don’t want this to be a weekly feature. If they keep winning in the fashion they have been, I may not have a choice.


I still believe the Suns will figure this out, but they’re inability to finish teams off is becoming distressing.

Phoenix completely collapsed on the road in Utah on Saturday night. They blew a 16-point lead and did so in an incredibly sloppy manner. On two separate occasions Saturday night, Phoenix fouled Mehmut Okur while in the act of shooting 3s. Then, Leandro Barbosa missed not one, but two uncontested lay-ups. If that sounds familiar, it’s because Barbosa missed a lay-up that hurt the Suns in their loss to Utah in the first week of the season.

Blowing leads isn’t a new phenomenon for the Suns. They’ve always seemed to have trouble closing teams out, and I think a large part of it is their constant up-tempo style. The Suns almost never slow down and play a half court game. When behind, Phoenix can erase seemingly any lead due to their offensive bursts, but I’m beginning to wonder if the same tempo hurts them when they’re ahead.

All I know for sure is that Phoenix has lost the fourth quarter six out of nine times already this season, and only two can be attributed to garbage time. That’s not good news for a team with championship aspirations.


Anytime a team is blown out on their home floor by the New York Knicks, the question can be raised.

However, the Miami Heat may be in big trouble now that Shaquille O’Neal is out for an extended period of time.

The Heat is off to a not shocking 4-5 start, but what is surprising is how poorly they’ve played on their home floor. The Heat lost all three games in Miami this week, including two blowouts (to Houston and New York) and a surprising defeat to a depleted Denver Nuggets squad.

One of the main reasons Miami has struggled at AmericanAirlines Arena is the shooting woe of Antoine Walker. Employee #8 has hit a mere 6 of 34 shots from behind the arc at home, a heinous 18%.

Without Shaq, someone will need to help Dwayne Wade out offensively, so either Walker will have to start hitting his shots from deep or he’ll need to eliminate it from his game and become the dribble penetrating scorer he has proven he can be.

Regardless, times are tough on South Beach for now, and they don’t look like they’ll get any better anytime soon.


I bet the Hornets wish they had stayed in the East.

With Utah, Golden State and New Orleans off to great starts, what was surely going to be a crowded playoff picture appears as though it could include 12 of the 15 teams in the conference. At this point, only Memphis looks like a lock for the lottery.

If you have any doubt about how good this conference is in the first two weeks, Portland is 5-6 and no one is talking about them even though they’ve beaten the Lakers, Hornets and Nets convincingly, and they’ve done it without Brandon Roy.

Yes, it’s still early, and some teams will fall back to the pack, but teams in the West may have more competition than normal to get to the postseason. For example, Phoenix is currently looking up at 13 teams. Yikes!


-Dwight Howard put up yet another 20/20 night this week. That’s already two this season, and Orlando has won four in a row. They are certainly a team to keep both eyes on.

-Cleveland’s loss to Washington means I wasn’t totally right in my prediction that they’d go on a major tear, but the Cavaliers still look like the class of the East so far. LeBron is putting up King James-like numbers, and Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden are providing the help that Cleveland needs to be contenders.

-The Clippers got waxed in Utah on Tuesday night, but they’ve taken care of business when they’ve played at the Staples Center. The Clippers are 6-0 at home and 0-2 on the road so far. The Clip Show has four of their next five on the road, although one is Tuesday night against the Lakers in their home building. We’ll see if they can adjust to the different lighting.

-If the Bulls decide they need another big-time scorer, and Seattle can’t work out a contract extension with Rashard Lewis, wouldn’t he make sense in Chicago? Hmmm.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Doug Collins possesses the Rockets?

"I don't like my point guard inbounding the basketball"- Collins on Rafer Alston failing to get the ball in and needing a timeout.

"I can live with my superstar driving to the basket in that situation to try to draw a foul"- Collins on Tracy McGrady

So, the question here is clearly either a) does Doug Collins believe he is Jeff Van Gundy or b) is he setting up an alternate form of commentary to compete with Hubie Brown's second person?

For the record, I love Doug Collins on commentary.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Surprise, surprise...I was wrong

Friends, the game of the year sadly did not a) have any hype or b) live up to the billing I gave it.

This Utah Jazz team is playing some very inspired basketball. Mehmet Okur and Matt Harpring are doing their part in the offense, and Deron Williams seems to have come a long way since his rookie year funk. Can it last? Of course it can. Will it? I still don't believe in it. However, Jerry Sloan better win Coach of the Year this year. He's deserved it about five times in his career, and he's never won it, which is an outrage.

More than anything else involving Utah, I am still waiting for an official to give the Jazz crowd a technical for disrespectful complaining. This must happen before the year is over. It's just something else inside that arena.

Also, I was thrilled to see Bill Simmons (I get the feeling he's unhappy with Doc Rivers) jump on the Paul Pierce to the Bulls bandwagon. This has been a point I've been making long before this blog existed. Pierce is the perfect piece to the Bulls puzzle: a go to scorer with size who can compliment both Kirk Hinrich and Ben Wallace perfectly. Plus, it works well for the Celtics since the Bulls have any number of tradable assets to choose from.

Finally, sucks to be Denver. I wrote in the season preview that injuries would be a big key to the team's season. Kenyon Martin managed two games this year before being shut down for good. Bad times in the Rockies. It's a shame too, since 'Melo is playing outstanding basketball.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Game of the Year is near

I just want to get a jump on all of the hype.

Los Angeles Clippers (5-1) at Utah Jazz (6-1). Tomorrow night. Salt Lake City.

Brand vs. Boozer. Livingston vs. Williams. Kaman vs. Okur. Goose bumps.

Winner takes over the coveted top spot in the West, assuming of course that San Antonio loses at Houston.

November games don't get much bigger.

Make your predictions in the comment section.

For the record, I like the Clip show. Put your money on the Jazz.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The debut of Sunday Slams

Since Sunday seems to be the day NBA columnists check in with their own unique takes on what’s happening in the Association, I figured I should jump into the fray with my own version of a Sunday column. I present you loyal few with Sunday Slams, my new weekly view of what’s happening around the league.


The season is less than two weeks old. Keep reminding yourselves of this fact when you look at the standings and see the Utah Jazz with the league’s best record at 6-1.

The Jazz was the expert’s darling coming into the season, and so far, they’ve made everyone look smart. Well, except for me. Carlos Boozer has been a monster early, averaging 22 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Jazz.

However, you can hear Salt Lake holding it’s breath waiting for the injuries to come, and, sure enough, Andrei Kirilenko sprained his ankle midway through the first half last night in Milwaukee. Apparently, he sensed it was coming.

From the Deseret News: "Milwaukee," Kirilenko said as he lay on a training table, his propped-up right foot in a walking boot. "Second injury in Milwaukee. Start thinking about bad-lucky. How you say that, like Friday 13th — something like bad things you're thinking about."


Kirilenko is the quiet leader for Utah. He does a bit of everything, and does it all well, so Jerry Sloan will keep his fingers crossed. The good news has been the early play of Deron Williams, who looks like he’s going to live up to the hype after an inconsistent rookie year.

This will be a big week for the Jazz, as they’ll square off with the Clippers, Sonics and Suns. If they can survive that without Kirilenko and stay hot, I’ll continue to eat crow.


The Suns and Mavs have struggled mightily at the start of the season, but there’s absolutely no reason to panic.

Both teams are trying to find their collective chemistry, with Phoenix working Amare Stoudemire back into the rotation and Dallas trying to find the right mix of players with Greg Buckner, Austin Croshere, Devean George, Anthony Johnson and Maurice Ager needing minutes.

The bottom line for both teams is that they’ve forgotten how to play defense. Phoenix is giving up a whopping 108 points per game, while Dallas isn’t much better, allowing 105 per contest.

The Suns took a step in the right direction last night against Memphis, allowing a mere 87 points. With Avery Johnson running the show in Big D, I have to assume the Mavericks will get back to the basics and stop opponents from shooting 50% from the floor.

Both teams are still stacked with talent, and their slow starts are not indicative of where they’ll end up. Chemistry takes time in the NBA. Ask the NBA Champion Miami Heat whether early starts truly matter.


Lamar Odom started the season looking like a lock for the All-Star game in Las Vegas.

But then Kobe Bryant returned, and Odom lost his aggressiveness. There are many who feel the two can’t play on the same floor together, but I’m still not sold on this argument.

Odom is one of the most unselfish players in the league, almost to a fault in some cases, and he goes through patterns where he doesn’t take the ball to the basket, instead either deferring to teammates to shoot or settling for long-range shots. For example, he took only six shots against Seattle in a loss, and then followed that performance by attempting seven 3s in a win over Minnesota.

Odom’s successful when he drives to the bucket, and his aggressiveness can be measured by how often he gets to the foul line.

In the first three games of the season when Odom looked like the MVP, he attempted 26 free throws. In the four games since, he’s taken 12.

Until Bryant gets back to form, the Lakers can ill afford to have Luke Walton and Smush Parker carry the offense. It’s time for Odom to be the team’s second option for good and maintain a me-first attitude on the offensive end.


-Ben Gordon started the week with a 37-point performance against Milwaukee, but he followed it with two atrocious shooting displays. In Cleveland on Thursday, Gordon shot 1 of 10 from the floor, and last night against Indiana, he shot 1 of 9 and was benched. The Bulls need Gordon’s scoring, but he’s a liability on the floor defensively. I would not want to be Scott Skiles trying to put together a lineup right now.

-Zach Randolph is out of his mind so far. The Blazers are 4-2, and Randolph is the reason why. He averaged 34 points and 12 rebounds this week, and he’s registered a double-double in five of six games. Those are some scary numbers. I don’t think anyone was expecting this.

-The Joe Johnson for Boris Diaw swap actually looked like a steal for Phoenix last season. However, things are evening out. Johnson has the Atlanta Hawks off to a surprising start, while Diaw looks out of shape and is way off his pace from last year.

-Kevin Garnett’s numbers are as strong as ever, but was anyone else concerned watching Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard put up big numbers against the Timberwolves this week? Granted, that can’t all be pinned on K.G. (hello, Mark Blount), but it makes you wonder if Garnett is losing some of his edge on the defensive end.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

LeBron leads wild comeback

There's an ancient theory that NBA fans don't need to watch games until the last two minutes of a game.

Well, if you subscribed to that theory tonight, you missed an amazing comeback by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Their opponent, the dreadful Boston Celtics, had everything working for them through three quarters. They held a 76-60 lead even without Wally Szczerbiak and Theo Ratliff. Nothing made sense in this game, as Paul Pierce had zero points in the first half, yet his team went on not one, but two 11-0 runs in the half.

But the Celtics forgot to show up for the fourth quarter.

LeBron took over. He finished with 38 points, but more importantly, he invited his teammates on his back for a classic comeback. Sasha Pavlovic nailed two big 3s along the way to assist.

I saw the Cavs dismantle the Bulls on Thursday night, and now, after seeing this tonight, I'm convinced they're ready to go on a major tear.

The league has always feared a killer instinct in LeBron James. He showed it tonight, and with the Cavs sitting at 4-2 looking at New York, Portland, Minnesota, Washington, Memphis and Toronto next, this comeback could be the spark of something they never look back from.

Elsewhere, Dwight Howard went nuts tonight for 21 points and 22 rebounds. He did it against Kevin Garnett for much of the night. Wow.

Things are starting to become normal again in the NBA. Thank goodness.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Nellie gets over in return to Big D

A bit of the wild and wacky in Dallas on Monday night. If only Marv Albert had been there!

First, Don Nelson and his Golden State Warriors were successful in Nellie's first game back in Dallas with a 107-104 victory. The mood was very friendly, at least from Mavericks fans, who greated Nelson with a standing ovation.

However, Mark Cuban seemed to have a different opinion if you are to believe what Mark Heisler wrote in the L.A. Times over the weekend. That is awesome. You have to love Cuban saying there is no grudge. OK, Mark.

Meanwhile, Avery Johnson didn't stick around for the entire reunion, getting himself tossed in the second quarter. Worse news for the Mavs is that Josh Howard left the game with what is being called an ankle sprain. Howard is a guy the Mavs can't afford to lose for very long, especially now that they're off to an 0-3 start.

Elsewhere, San Antonio held off the Knicks late charge to win in the Garden. The Knicks playoff bandwagon is pretty light right now.

The Bulls got a huge night from Ben Gordon en route to a 110-85 win at home over Milwaukee. Gordon made 15 of 25 shots for 37 points. That's a lot of shots for Ben Gordon. If the Bulls are going to live and die with Gordon's shooting, this is going to be a seesaw year for sure.

Carlos Arroyo sparked Orlando's victory over Washington. I'm still waiting for the dominant Dwight Howard to return. Where has he gone? Nice win for the Magic.

And in Utah, the Jazz move to 4-0 with a big time 103-101 win over the Pistons. Great finish as Rip Hamilton tried to tie the game with a lay-up, but Mehmet Okur and Andrei Kirilenko rejected it as time expired. Utah, Philadelphia and New Orleans are still the only unbeatens in the league.

One question regarding the fans in Utah: Is it possible to give them technicals under the new "no whining to the officials" policy? I'm just asking.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sonics get revenge on Lakers

On a night when Sonics legends including Xavier McDaniel and the one and only Shawn Kemp were in the building, Seattle handed the Los Angeles Lakers their first loss of the year 117-101.

Both teams started at a torrid pace, with the Lakers hitting their first seven shots and the Sonics shooting 62% in the first quarter.

From that point on, it was all about turnovers. The Lakers committed a ton of them, 22 total, and the Sonics capitalized. The Sonics used a 15-0 run in the first half and a 16-2 run to start the second half to turn a competitive game into garbage time.

Seattle also continued to shoot the basketball well, hitting 60% of their shots from behind the arc. Ray Allen led the way with 32 points. Rashard Lewis had a big night, scoring 25 points and making 6 of 10 3-pointers. Earl Watson sparked the Sonics off the bench with 12 points and four steals, while his point guard counterpart Luke Ridnour continued his hot start to the 2006-2007 season with 22 points on 9 of 13 shooting.

For Los Angeles, this game was a major departure from their three victories. On offense, Lamar Odom lacked the aggressiveness he had in the previous three, when he averaged 28 points per game, finishing with 11 points on only six shot attempts. Kobe Bryant was also quiet, scoring only seven points in the first half and finishing with 15 for the game on 4 of 10 shooting.

However, the killer for the Lakers was settling for 3-point shots. In their three victories, the Lakers moved the ball well and got balanced scoring from unlikely sources like Luke Walton, Andrew Bynum and Ronny Turiaf. Tonight, L.A. settled for the long-range shot, and they lost because of it. They are not a team that can survive shooting 8 of 25 from behind the 3-point line.

So, what have we learned about these two teams in their home and home series? Well, they can both score with anyone. The keys to success for both teams will be how effectively they defend, and how well they move the basketball. We’ll see how things progress in week two.

Kyle Korver can't miss!

The Sixers are still unbeaten with a 107-98 win over the Heat. I certainly didn’t see this coming.

As the headline mentions, Kyle Korver is out of his mind right now. He’s hit nine of his last ten shots from long range, and he’s making it hard for defenses to contain Allen Iverson. A.I. loves to penetrate, and teams have to respect him due to his great scoring ability, so that’s leaving Korver and Iguodala wide open for outside shots. If they keep hitting them, the Sixers will keep winning.

Iverson is such an incredible talent. He’s scored 30+ points in every game so far, and he has that ability to beat you from anywhere. However, he’s also registered two double figure assists games so far, so he’s looking to get everyone else involved.

In other unbeaten team news, I fear I may have been wrong about Carlos Boozer and the Jazz. They certainly have been impressive so far during their 3-0 start. Great starts don’t always amount to great seasons though. Remember the Bucks red-hot start last year?

Phoenix is off to a rough beginning. I think everyone knew that getting Amare Stoudemire back into the flow was going to be a work in progress, but to see him get two points last night against the Clippers is still surprising. The Suns are 1-3 and in last place right now.

The Dallas Mavericks have also looked sluggish as they work their new pieces into the rotation. Houston torched them from the opening tip last night, as Jason Terry couldn’t buy a basket, and no one could stop Yao Ming. Avery Johnson doesn’t seem to be using Devon Harris as much as I expected. I guess he’s still feeling his roster out, but Harris was a spark during their playoff run last year, so it’s a bit surprising he’s not getting more minutes.

Tim Duncan and Spurs had a nice bounce back effort this afternoon in Toronto. Duncan simply dominated Chris Bosh in this game. The Big Boring did whatever he wanted on the offensive end, scoring 26 points on 10 of 15 shooting. Fabricio Oberto and Francisco Elson are adding some new life to the Spurs frontcourt. Elson is really a breath of fresh air since all he does is run the floor and clean up garbage. I still worry about their depth once playoff time rolls around.

The Magic looked sloppy again in Atlanta this afternoon. Dwight Howard got himself into early foul trouble and was a complete non-factor for most of the game. In fact, Zaza Pachulia dominated him at times on both ends of the floor. Where has the Dwight Howard from opening night gone? The good news for Magic fans is that Darko Milicic looked strong on the defensive end and was able to get to the foul line. The problems occurred once he shot his free throws. Ugly. Orlando had 14 first-half turnovers, so they haven’t fixed that problem yet.

By the way, the Atlanta Hawks are leading the Southeast division right now!

Just remember, it’s early. Nothing in this league is for sure until it’s all said and done. The only thing I’m confident in writing right now is that Doc Rivers is officially on the hot seat in Boston. His Celtics look like the worst team in the league so far. Like I wrote in the Atlantic preview, at least they have a dance team now.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Game blog: Sonics at Lakers 11/3/06

Before we get to the Lakers/Sonics game, I must thank the people who put together the League Pass. The four games at once channel is awesome.

This is the first of a home and home weekend series between the two teams. It should be fun.


Well, I’m still sitting here waiting for ESPN. If Tirico is calling the game, I can wait all night.

Lamar Odom comes into this game averaging 28/11/7. He’s the MVP thru two games.

The Lakers jump out to an early 5-0 lead. Kobe hasn’t scored yet, and I haven’t seen a play yet.

Guess who’s on the board. 7-0 L.A. I don’t think this Cleveland/San Antonio game could possibly have a longer finish.

Luke Ridnour and Rashard Lewis hit back-to-back threes to answer right back. This Seattle team has some serious offensive weapons.

Wow, Lebron’s dunk on Duncan was something else. I guess that’s worth missing the start of the Lakers/Sonics game. I hate stupid national coverage.

Who is Becky Hammon? Where does ESPN find these women to ask inane questions? GO TO THE SECOND GAME!!!


No Tirico! Life is good.

It’s 13-8 after a Rashard Lewis bucket.

After a Kobe jumper, Luke Ridnour buries another three. He usually kills the Lakers.

Bryant delivers a fancy pass to a wide-open Lamar Odom for another three, and then off a turnover, the duo connects again for an Odom lay-up.

Luke Walton buries another from long range to give the Lakers a 27-11 lead. Bob Hill wants to talk about it. So far, Walton has 10 points, Odom has 9, and Kobe has 3 assists. I’d write something about the Sonics, but this isn’t looking like a bounce back effort to this point.

Back from the timeout, Bynum blocks a shot, which leads to a beautiful give-and-go between Bryant and Odom. This is really ugly for Seattle. 12-0 run for the Lakers.

Kobe looks really odd wearing #24.

Smush Parker converts a three-point play to further the dominance. The Lakers are shooting 83% so far.

Ray Allen and Earl Watson lead the Sonics on a mini 7-0 run. Allen’s shot is still as smooth as ever.

After Odom's free throws put the Lakers up 38-22, Allen hits a three and is fouled by Ronny Turiaf. Bad idea. That’s a rare four-point play. Where’s Walt Williams? The Sonics have made this respectable to end the quarter. 38-26 Lakers after one.


Turiaf hits a jumper to start the quarter. If you’re a Lakers fan, it’s impossible not to love him.

Wow, did Sacramento just steal one in Chicago. The Bulls blew a four-point lead with 15 seconds left. Impressive.

Odom knocks down a triple to put the Lakers up 45-30. It seems as though he can’t miss early in the year.

I love the way Mo Evans hustles. He’s always around the ball. How did he not fit in Detroit? I know the Pistons have a great starting lineup, but Joe Dumars seems awfully quick to move bench pieces. However, he’s smarter than I am so there has to be a great reason.

Watson dishes a gorgeous alley-oop to Damien Wilkins. Very highlight-film like. The resemblance is uncanny.

Speaking of highlight worthy, Odom goes behind the back to Evans for a bucket. The Lakers have 50 points at the 7:32 mark of the second quarter. Seattle’s defense doesn’t seem very improved in the early going.

Odom has 14 points and 5 assists already and the Lakers are shooting 71%.

Kobe takes his first ridiculous shot of the season, a spinning left handed shot put that surprisingly winds up an air ball. That was horrible.

Here come the Sonics. It’s a 12-0 run to cut the lead to four. Earl Watson is hitting everything and has 10 points off the bench. I should point out that Lamar Odom is not on the floor during this run and that is not a coincidence. By the way, the Lakers still have 50 points at the 5:06 mark.

Phil Jackson puts Odom right back on the floor and he misses. At the other end, Chris Wilcox keeps the run going with an offensive rebound and put back.

Kobe, the playmaker, throws a great bounce pass to Walton for a lay-up. L.A. goes back up by six.

Ray Allen buries a fall away shot with two on the shot clock. You can’t possibly defend that. He has 13 points.

After some Walton free throws, Allen throws an incredible pass to Lenny Wilkens. Sadly, this isn’t 1970 and Wilkens is working as a TV commentator, therefore making it impossible to get Allen his assist. It was still a perfect pass.

Odom goes left for an easy lay-up. Teams should really work harder to make him go right.

Kobe Bryant and Mickael Gelebale start a trading baskets war. Kobe wins after converting a three-point play to put the Lakers up by nine. Kobe looks a little ginger and rusty, which isn’t surprising considering he missed the whole preseason.

The Lakers lead 65-56 at the half. Kobe has 11 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 5 turnovers. He tells Jim Gray he needs to “get in his groove.” He played 19 minutes in the first half, which seems like a lot. We’ll see if Jackson goes with Evans more in the second half.

Seattle has to feel pretty good to only be down by nine. They only shot 42%, while allowing the Lakers to shoot 60%. This could be way worse and I feel a Ray Allen onslaught coming.


I just realized the great Mouhamed Sene has no points and two rebounds so far. I hope his cousin is watching.

Rashard Lewis starts the half with a basket. He’s been quiet.

Odom hasn’t been. He nails another three. He’s made all four he’s tried from downtown.

Ray Allen goes right to the basket for an easy lay-up. And so it begins.

Seattle runs a brilliant fast break that Sene can’t finish. He shot his lay-up into the bottom of the backboard, but the good news is that he was fouled. He then missed both free throws. I miss Robert Swift.

The Sonics get three chances on the offensive end, and Ray Allen makes the Lakers pay for it. You can’t give him multiple chances.

At the other end, some nice passing leads to an Andrew Bynum dunk. The Lakers continue their excellent team basketball.

Ray Allen hits two more shots. He has 24 now. It’s 75-69 Lakers.

Kobe answers with a spin move for an easy basket. He seems to lack his normal explosion though.

This game has gotten very sloppy. It’s 77-71 and nothing is really happening, especially for the Lakers offensively. The ball movement seems to have completely stopped.

Rashard Lewis bangs down a three, and this is a three-point game. The Sonics are hanging tough here.

Kobe air balls a lay-up. I think he could use a rest.

Ray Allen buries a jumper and is fouled. Tie game. It’s a 12-2 run for the Sonics. Allen has 12 in the quarter. See, I knew it.

Smush Parker hits from long range to give the Lakers the lead again, until Lewis answers right back. Both teams are feeling it from behind the arc.

Kobe goes to the rim for an easy hoop. Danny Fortson didn’t scare him apparently.

Fortson puts back his own miss on the other end. He’s a load, which Tom Tolbert also points out.

We’re tied at 82. Seattle has never led in this game. The Lakers have led by 20.

Bynum makes two free throws. Kobe isn’t on the floor, so let’s see what happens. Odom hits from 17-feet. He has 21.

Ray Allen is left wide open for a triple. That’s not a good idea defensively. Allen has 30, 15 in the quarter, and he’s only warming up. 86-85 Lakers.

Earl Watson gives the Sonics their first lead with another three-point basket. What a display of shooting by Seattle. They lead 88-86 after three quarters. They won the quarter 32-21. I’m impressed and not surprised one bit.


Bryant starts the quarter with a missed jumper. The Lakers look totally listless.

Wilkens hits a runner in the lane to give the Sonics a four-point lead. Seattle has all of the momentum right now.

Turiaf hits two free throws. The Lakers have Turiaf, Bryant, Farmar, Evans and Radmanovic on the floor, so they’re going small to counter the Sonics, who have Allen, Lewis, Ridnour, Collison and Watson playing.

Lewis scores in the post for Seattle, then after Mo Evans runs down another loose ball, Kobe nails a free throw to cut the Sonics lead back to three.

Wilkens blows by Bryant for an easy dunk. That was totally uncontested.

Vlad Radmanovic hits a wide-open three following Kobe’s penetration. Turiaf blocks Earl Watson’s shot and Jordan Farmar converts a nearly impossible lay-up to tie the game at 94. Turiaf then hops down the court. He’s an emotional fellow. This is quite the little game.

Odom gets back to the line following a timeout and hits both free throws to give the Lakers the lead again.

Whoa, Ray Allen missed a three. A Lakers turnover leads to a Chris Wilcox jam. We’re tied again.

Ridnour blows by Farmar for a lay-up. Phil Jackson isn’t thrilled about that one and wants to talk it over.

Back from the break, Ronny Turiaf throws a horrible pass that bounces off the official. That’s turnover #18 for the Lakers.

Ray Allen misses another three, barely, and Kobe Bryant takes advantage with another three-point play to give the Lakers the lead 99-98. This is a seesaw battle.

Ridnour hits a floater, Luke Walton answers with a free throw and we’re tied again.

Lewis gives Seattle the lead again with a fast break basket. The Sonics decide inexplicably to double team Walton, which allows him to dish to Turiaf, who gets to the foul line for some free throws. 102-102.

After a Lewis miss, Turiaf gives the Lakers the lead from 18-feet. He has 10 and the crowd is alive. This is hard to keep up with it’s so back and forth.

Wilcox hammers home a Ridnour miss to even the score at 104. This is anyone’s game with 3:22 to go.

Walton misses another free throw, but gets the back end to give the Lakers the lead.

Lewis finds Wilcox with a nice little pass to draw the foul. Wilcox misses the first, makes the second. Guess what? We’re tied.

Luke Walton gets a lay-up after a near turnover. Walton has 20 points. Allen misses on a drive to the hoop and Walton grabs the rebound.

The Lakers move the ball well, but Kobe can’t finish. Rashard Lewis hits a tough shot with one on the shot clock to tie the game at 107.

Smush Parker goes to the left hand for a lay-up. That was pretty.

At the other end, Allen misses a shot he should make and Ronny Turiaf battles for the rebound. Wilcox fouls him to send him to the line. The crowd loves Turiaf. They chant “Ronny, Ronny.” He makes both free throws to put L.A. up 111-107 with 56 seconds left. Timeout. Turiaf has 12 points and 5 rebounds off the bench. Great balanced scoring for both teams.

This has been a heck of a game.

Back from the timeout, Turiaf makes two INCREDIBLE blocks. Well, one incredible block on Wilcox and one with a lot of arm on Lewis. Kobe only hits one free throw. 112-107 with 40 seconds left.

Rashard Lewis gets a tip-in to cut the lead to three. Odom makes only one free throw, but it’s still a two-possession game. Good thing for the Lakers, as Lewis hits a three immediately.

Odom goes back to the line. The first is good. The second is also good. 115-112.

Allen gets a good look from straight away, but his triple is short. Odom grabs the board with 15 seconds left. It looks like the Lakers will escape here. Odom hits the first. He has 27. Make it 28 with the second.

Lewis misses the three, and fittingly Ronny Turiaf grabs the game icing rebound. The Lakers are 3-0. Seattle gave it everything they had.

Your final: 118-112.

Odom leads the way with 28 points, Kobe finishes with 23, and Walton has 20.

Ray Allen finishes with 30. He didn’t score in the fourth quarter, so he wasn’t warming up after all.

See you Sunday for the rematch.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Around the League 11/3/06

The Philadelphia 76ers are 2-0.

Granted, they’ve beaten Atlanta and Orlando, but 2-0 is 2-0.

Allen Iverson had another great night, scoring 39 points and hitting a beautiful game-winning runner off of the glass. Kyle Korver had an unbelievable shooting night, hitting 10 of 13 shots, including all four triples he tried to finish with 28.

Orlando is going to have to stop turning the ball over. They have 46 turnovers in two games. That’s not going to get the job done. It’s nice to see Grant Hill playing like the year is 1996. I hope he stays healthy. The Magic will need him if teams are going to triple team Dwight Howard, which is precisely what Philly did tonight.

Elsewhere, Chris Paul and the Hornets also improved to 2-0. Tyson Chandler had the type of game NOOK was anticipating when they traded for him. He didn’t do much offensively, but he grabbed 15 rebounds. On a team with Paul, Peja Stojakovic, David West and Bobby Jackson, that’s all Chandler needs to do every night.

The Miami Heat woke up and took down the New Jersey Nets. They’ll be fine. Shaq poured in 21 to lead the way, which is shocking considering he was defended by Jason Collins and Mikki Moore all night. I would hate to be a Nets fan, since they have no answer for Miami.

The Knicks lost to the Hawks. So, they’ve beaten the lowly Grizzlies in triple-overtime and they’ve lost to the Hawks. Great start. Josh Smith had a dunk where I swear he was so high his feet were above the rim.

I didn’t see much of the Pistons/Celtics game, but when I was tuned in, it sure seemed Nazr Muhammed was active offensively. All five starters finished in double figures, which must be a nice change of pace for Detroit. I would like to know why Doc Rivers was using Michael Olowokandi.

We’re back soon with live blogging of Kobe’s debut against the Sonics. Can the Lakers keep playing great team ball with Mamba back? We shall see.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Fast Breaks 11/1/06

I’m still worn out from last night’s live blogging, but sitting here listening to Mason introduce the Pistons, I know that life has never been better. I must interview him. This will happen before the season ends. His Nazr Mohammed intro didn’t disappoint.

So much for the Bulls undefeated season. They gave up 66 points total to Miami last night, and then tonight they allowed the Magic to get 63 in the first half. Very interesting. Dwight Howard had a great start to the year with 27 points and 11 rebounds.

The Celtics are making a habit of furious comebacks when I watch them. They did it against New Jersey in the pre-season, and then tonight they gave NOOK a scare. Peja Stojakovic earned his money by knocking down a clutch shot with 46 seconds left. To the surprise of exactly no one, Tyson Chandler fouled out in his Hornets debut. Chris Paul is a special talent. He carried the load tonight with 20 points and 10 assists.

The Bucks surprised the Pistons in the Palace. This is going to be a mighty interesting year in Detroit. In the first game under the new “Rasheed Wallace” rules, Rasheed Wallace was thrown out of the game after scoring zero points. I actually only predicted one T tonight, so I guess I underestimated Rasheed. That will never happen again. I can’t wait to see what happened.

If anything happens in the late games, we’ll cover it in the morning.