Monday, December 24, 2007

Skiles bounced

Only two things were going to bring me out of a 6-month NBA slumber: The Bulls imploding or Kobe being traded.

Since the latter is never going to happen and the former didn't seem real to me, especially since I've watched the Bulls get off to slow starts since Michael Jordan left, I guess I didn't feel the need to write.

But now, on Christmas Eve, the great John Paxson changed that for me.

Paxson fired Skiles today.

That's right. Today.


I guess it was Skiles who made no improvements to a roster that desperately still needs either a consistent low-post scorer (no, Aaron Gray doesn't count) or a go-to scorer who can take over a game late.

I guess it was Skiles who drafted Joakim Noah even though he does the same things as a healthy Ben Wallace.

I guess it was Skiles who signed Wallace to an absurd $60 million contract when everyone could see Wallace's numbers were declining each season.

I guess it was Skiles who let Tyson Chandler go when Wallace was signed, only to watch Chandler emerge as the player everyone hoped he would be once he arrived in New Orleans.

I guess it was Skiles who couldn't find a way to bring Pau Gasol, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant or anyone else to Chicago. And I guess it was Skiles who ruined Luol Deng and Ben Gordon by constantly involving them in trade rumors over the last two years.

Come to think of it, most of those things fall on the GM's shoulders.

Skiles isn't blame free in all of this.

Skiles can be blamed for a crappy offense, for being a red-ass who the players seem to have predictably tuned out, and for not really getting behind Tyrus Thomas this year.

But Skiles can't be blamed for the players' inability to shoot, for their sudden lack of heart and for the dearth of roster ineptitude his yet-to-be named replacement will inherit.

That falls on the players that John Paxson has assembled.

So, I'll ask again, when is John Paxson going to take the blame for what he has created in Chicago?

The honeymoon is clearly over now. Skiles is gone. Deng and Gordon could be next, and the team that Pax built is 9-16.

Skiles was certainly a part of the problem this season, but we're about to find out how much of this mess really was Scott Skiles fault. Maybe the Bulls only solved half of their problems this morning. Worse, they may have axed the wrong part of the problem.

Time will tell. Now, I'm going back on hiatus. Wake me when the playoffs start.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

NBA Draft Thoughts

Stay with us all night. We're back and we're excited for something NBA-related for once.

This Ray Allen to Boston trade doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me right now. I feel like there are a ton of moves still to come with these two teams. Jeff Green and Kevin Durant seem like pretty good replacements for Allen and Rashard Lewis if that's the route Seattle is going. Plus, that's a heck of a lot cheaper, which I'm sure has a lot to do with it.

Can Paul Pierce and Ray Allen win a title for Boston? Will they ever play together in Boston? My answer to both: not sure.

Here's the shock the night: Dick Vitale thinks Seattle fleeced Boston. Really Dickie V, you like the team that now has two top-5 college players from this past year? I didn't expect this of you.

OK, so the Bulls need one thing and one thing only to contend for a title: low-post scorer. So, obviously they take Joakim Noah, whose one weakness is OFFENSE. So predictable. Also, we now know that Eddy Curry= Tyrus Thomas, Joakim Noah and Michael Sweetney. I think Tim Thomas as well if I recall correctly. That seems about right to me.

If the Lakers take Josh McRoberts at #19, I may destroy something in my home. A trade for Jermaine O'Neal will also lead to smashing tonight.

Ric Bucher is reporting Zach Randolph, Dan Dickau, and Fred Jones from Portland to New York in exchange for Channing Frye and Steve Francis. Wow, I think Zeke just made a great trade. Is that possible? Strange deal for Portland. I know they want to give LaMarcus Aldridge more minutes, but Steve Francis? Another deal that I'm not sure I understand yet. I'll give that some time too, but right now I don't love that for the Blazers.

Alright, no McRoberts for the Lakers. Thank goodness. I don't know much about Crittendon, but he can't be worse than Smush Parker. Fine pick. Whatever.

The more that I think about that pick for the Lakers, the more I wonder if it's a piece for a big trade. The LA Times reported this morning that Los Angeles had an offer on the table for Theo Papaloukas, a point guard from Greece. With Jordan Farmar already on the roster, that's an awful lot of point guard help for a team that needs a big man too. Interesting.

Charlotte is reportedly trading the draft rights to Brandan Wright for Jason Richardson. Odd choice by the Bobcasts. Steven A. Smith just torched Michael Jordan. That was funny. Can we get MJ on the video phone to respond? Golden State makes a wonderful move here to get Wright. I think he's going to be special, and this is a good fit for his style of play.

On an aside, I think Detroit has done a nice job tonight getting Stuckey and Afflalo. Joe Dumars is good at what he does.

I'm starting to get excited that Glen "Big Baby" Davis is still on the board at pick 34. Can he possibly slip to the Lakers at 40? My guess is no, but I can hope.

Dammit, there goes Big Baby to Seattle, but really to Boston. That's a nice pick for Boston.

By the way, it's really nice of Henry Abbott to suspend his duties on True Hoop to announce these second round selections.

The Lakers take Sun Yue at #40. I think Kobe might re-think things now.

I'll be back when Garnett or Kobe gets traded. It's been fun.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Kobe wants out

This has really reached the point of silliness.

And who is to blame? Everyone.

Jim Buss, Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant, Jerry Buss, Mitch Kupchak, Shaquille O'Neal. I blame all of you. Four years of nonsense, and apparently this will never be over. Movies will be written. Day time soaps are scribbling ideas for the future as I type.

Kobe doesn't trust the organization, and frankly I can't say I completely blame him for that. After all, they promised him that they'd be competitive and then they wasted all of their cap space on Vladimir Radmanovic and re-signed Brian Cook inexplicably. The Lakers are a playoff team whose ceiling is reaching the second round of the playoffs. That's not going to be good enough for KB24.

However, from my point of view as fan, that doesn't mean you should go whining about it in the media. See, I'm torn when it comes to Kobe. The Lakers stood by him throughout his whole Colorado deal. That was some sideshow of a season, and the Lakers were on his side the entire way, from the same day flights to make tip time, to turning the other cheek when he shot them out of the Finals series against Detroit.

For me, it doesn't matter who forced Shaq out of town. I understand that Kobe is bent that a "Laker insider" threw him under the bus in the L.A. Times, but whether Jerry Buss was going to bring Shaq back isn't completely the point. Bryant and O'Neal couldn't find a way to co-exist, and as a fan for years, I believe that Bryant would have bailed on the Lakers if O'Neal had stayed. I might be wrong. That's how I see it from where I sit. He may not have asked for it directly, but he was asking for it for years indirectly.

So, Kobe wants to win. He wants to win NOW. He wants to be the guy. He wants to be in the Finals. That's great. I'd like the Lakers to win now too, but the fact of the matter is that they're not in a position to win NOW. Bryant makes a ton of money. The front office has made a ton of bad moves that are biting them right now (Caron Butler for Kwame Brown is the obvious one). Again, sucks for everyone.

The way Bryant has handled his media tour rubs me the wrong way as a Lakers fan. I would understand if he was adamant about the organization getting better, I'm with him when he says he'd like Jerry West back, I even agree with him that the Lakers have wronged him a bit over the last three days. However, to ask for a trade on the radio and then backpedal on another radio show all in the same day feels like someone who just wants some attention. There has to be a better way to handle this situation, and I won't be surprised if he flips back and forth a few more times before it's all over. Take a step back, be quiet, and talk to the organization that is on the hook to pay you $147 million.

After he talks to everyone in El Segundo, Bryant can ask for a trade if he wants. Hell, I'd even argue that the Lakers should consider moving him. It might work out for the best for all parties involved. I just don't want to hear about this every day. It's petty, it's silly, and it's quite frankly tiresome. Kobe made his bed one way or the other in Los Angeles, and now that he's not sleeping so well, he wants out. NOW. If only it was that easy. Who knows where this goes from here? Nothing will surprise me.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Wednesday Thoughts

I know I’m late on this, but I really can’t believe the media sometimes. Most are questioning LeBron James’ decision to pass to a wide-open Donyell Marshall at the end of the Pistons/Cavs game Monday night. The Cavs trailed by two at the time, and apparently several writers who can see into the future KNOW that LeBron had Tayshaun Prince beaten and would have hammered down a game-tying monster dunk. Uh, okay. How can a guy get destroyed for passing to a teammate who a) is so open there’s no one on the same side of the court as him when he receives the pass b) has shown he can make the shot he took and c) had the chance to win the game if he was able to hit his shot. I would be somewhat alright with this if Monday’s game had been Game 7, where the season was at stake and LeBron chose not to be the deciding factor. Even then, I don’t think I’d make that argument. But, to get all over him after a Game 1 loss, come on. It’s absurd. I’d also like to point out that if Marshall makes his shot, everyone is praising LeBron for being unselfish. Some guys just can’t win regardless of the decisions they make.

How about those Portland Trail Blazers? As loyal readers know, I’ve been on the bandwagon since the All-Star break, and now I might be joining Henry Abbott full-time (show me something Mitch Kupchak!!!). Can we pencil in the Blazers for a dynasty in the ’10s?

And for everyone bitching about the lottery this morning, please stop. The lottery works just fine. Its goal is to prevent teams from tanking every year to get the top pick. If Boston, Memphis and Milwaukee did tank part of their season, then they got what they deserved in my opinion. Sucks to be them. I really do feel for Celtics fans, though.

Saturday, May 19, 2007


I'm referring to myself with that headline.

Phoenix vs. Miami in the NBA Finals, huh?

To me, it's fitting that three of the four teams left in this 2007 NBA Playoffs are teams that I drastically underestimated all season long.

San Antonio? Ha, their bench is ancient! They can't run with the Suns and Mavs in the postseason! Well, I must have forgotten how good Tim Duncan is at this game. Why do I always forget about him?

Utah? I didn't even pick them to make the postseason. I mean, they're always hurt, right? Oops. I didn't see Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams breaking out like this, and even more amazingly, somehow I find myself rooting for Utah (UTAH!!!) to win the championship. I don't know how this happened.

Detroit? Too many deep playoff runs over the last five years. There's no way they have enough left in the tank. Wrong.

Cleveland? Well, I had this correct. However, if the Bulls had beaten New Jersey on the final day of the regular season, I would have missed this one too.

The final four isn't the casual fan's dream for sure, but it should be highly entertaining. Now, that doesn't mean it's the focal point of my excitement this week.

Tuesday night. Secaucus, New Jersey. The lottery.

I'm not quite sure when this happened, but somewhere along the way, the NBA off-season became my favorite time in sports. I've written before that we're heading to the best one ever, and now that the Suns may have to make significant changes after losing to San Antonio, it just keeps getting more interesting.

So, good luck to the final four, but bring on the off-season! I can't wait to make more incorrect predictions.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Bulls/Pistons reax

This one is really simple.

Prince + Chauncey= Good

Deng + Gordon = Not good

Billups and Prince played absolutely fantastic basketball in the second half. If Billups leaves Detroit in the offseason, it will be one million times more devastating to the franchise than Ben Wallace leaving.

I can't remember seeing the Pistons play this well (let's just forget that first half). The way they're playing, they could run the table in the East.

This series is obviously over, and the Bulls will join the boatload of teams looking for an answer in the reloading process during the summer. I hope the ping pong balls fall their way.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Saturday thoughts

I can’t imagine that when ABC, ESPN, TNT and the NBA thought out their dream scenarios for the Playoffs that a Utah/Golden State second round series was one they counted on. But it’s reality now.

Poor Tracy McGrady. Dude may never make it to the second round. It’s hard to pin that one on him though.

I’ve been writing all year that I didn’t buy into the Jazz, but that was some big time effort last night in Houston to win Game 7 on the road. Mehmet Okur keeps making big shots, Carlos Boozer keeps finding all the big rebounds, and the Jazz keeps proving me wrong.

Obviously, the key to the next series above all else will be how healthy Baron Davis is. If he’s good to go, we could be looking at another upset. There’s a great chance that whoever wins a road game first takes the series.

The Bulls laid a pretty large Game 1 egg in Detroit, but this doesn’t mean anything. Chicago never got in rhythm due to foul trouble, and if Ben Gordon gets taken out of the equation early, the Bulls are NEVER going to score enough points to win basketball games. Add in some very sloppy play and a near perfect first half for Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton, and you get a blowout.

I expect a much closer game tomorrow night. I think the Bulls are awake now, and it’s extremely rare that they play back-to-back sloppy games.

One thing that concerns me for the Bulls is that backcourt matchup of Hinrich/Gordon vs Billups/Hamilton. Hinrich and Gordon give up a lot of size in that matchup. They’re going to have to find a way to slow Billups down if they’re going to win the series.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Debacle in Dallas

Good thing we all watched that regular season, huh?

Six games is all it took for the Dallas Mavericks to go from the best team in the NBA to, perhaps, the team facing the most questions this off-season.

If you’re Mark Cuban and company, where do you go from here? The Mavs won 67 regular season games rather easily, putting them among some elite squads when it comes to best regular season performance.

But then in the postseason, that whole heart issue popped up again.

In the 2006 Finals, Dallas had the title won if they had closed out Game 3. Instead, they got punched the mouth by Dwayne Wade (and the officials) four straight times. They said they had learned, and this entire season was supposed to vindicate that collapse.


The Golden State Warriors ripped Dallas apart, leaving everyone questioning the Mavs’ toughness and Dirk Nowitzki’s leadership. What now? Do you go out looking for players with heart, like Robert Horry and Sam Cassell? Do you ship some of your young talent for a guy like Jason Kidd? Do you keep the status quo and hope you can somehow develop heart? These are tough times in Big D, but what was already shaping up to be a fantastic NBA off-season just got a little more intriguing.

For the record, I expect Cuban to try to do something huge. Could Pat Riley convince him to take Shaq off his hands and help Miami re-build in the process? Probably not, but remember, the Mavs were in play for Shaq allegedly after the 2004 season. Most likely, they’ll put a package together for Kidd, which is a move that will help them considerably.

Elsewhere, we’re finally going to get some good matchups out East. With the exception of Toronto/New Jersey, the first round was obviously atrocious with three sweeps.

I’ve been wrong most of the way this year with predictions, but I’m going to say the winner of Chicago/Detroit will meet the winner of San Antonio/Phoenix in the NBA Finals.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Playoff Preview

Sadly, I just haven't had the time to do a massive breakdown of everything. I once had high hopes for this blog, and frankly I still do, yet I can't find the time to sit down and get it done right. For that readers, I apologize.

For any of you who continue to come here everyday, here's how I see round one shaking out.

I don't think the NBA could have hoped for better first round matchups after such a lackluster regular season. I am legitimately excited for six of the eight series, and a couple of them have off the charts potential.

Let's break it down


1) Dallas vs 8)Golden State

The trendy upset special. Don Nelson knows the Mavs inside and out. The Warriors give Dallas matchup problems. This series will be a track meet, and Golden State has come into their own offensively. All valid points, but Dallas is winning this series. They're too good, and they've played all year to avenge their Finals meltdown. Let's say Dallas in six.

2) Phoenix vs 7) LA Lakers

Sure it's a rematch from last year, but this Lakers team is nothing like the one that almost shocked Phoenix a year ago. They are struggling and banged up, and unless Kobe goes to a level I don't know he has, I like Phoenix in five. It will be a VERY interesting offseason in Los Angeles.

3) San Antonio vs 6) Denver

Very intriguing series. Denver has been red-hot of late, and they'll work the double-superstar tandem of 'Melo and A.I. to their advantage. San Antonio has the pedigree of a champion, and I've learned over the years not to pick against Tim Duncan when it counts. Spurs in six.

4) Utah vs 5) Houston

Count me among the non-believers in the Utah Jazz. They haven't been playing very well in the second half, and Houston seems like a very tough matchup for them on paper. I think Tracy McGrady finally gets a playoff win, but Yao is the reason. Houston in seven.


1) Detroit vs 8) Orlando

I wrote about one of their regular season matchups when the Magic were playing brilliantly, and Detroit smoked them when they needed to in that game. Same outcome here, just multiplied by four. Detroit in five.

2) Cleveland vs 7) Washington

Would be a great series if Caron Butler and Gilbert Arenas were on the floor. As it stands, LeBron can hold back for one more round before unleashing everything he has on poor Toronto. Cavs sweep.

3) Toronto vs 6) New Jersey

Toronto's crowd vs Vince Carter is by far and away the best story heading into these playoffs. It's like a wrestling environment, with V.C. playing a great villian character. As much as I don't buy into the Jazz bandwagon, I am leading the way on the Raptors train. They win in six. Chris Bosh breaks out even further.

4) Miami vs 5) Chicago

Great re-match. I am fully convinced the Bulls lost to New Jersey Wednesday night to get this series. As Shaq said, "Be careful what you wish for." Is Dwayne Wade healthy enough to make a difference? Will Scott Skiles give Tyrus Thomas key minutes? The answers to those two questions decide the series. Champs in seven.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

We're still going, huh?

This is like the regular season that wouldn't die.

My last post focused on worries about the Lakers winning a playoff series.

(pause for hysterical laughter)

Whew. That was rich.

Part of me actually wants them to find their way into the lottery. Hey, you never know.

Here's what I do know. Dallas, San Antonio, Phoenix, Detroit, Chicago, Miami or Cleveland is winning the title, and I'm still sticking with Phoenix vs. Miami mainly because I'm stubborn.

I really don't know what to make of the Bulls. They could win the championship or lose to New Jersey. Neither would shock me at this point.

Back next week with a big playoff preview.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Lakers have me worried

That was some performance by Kobe Bryant last night.

He single-handedly brought the Lakers back from the dead against Houston with an incredible scoring display to end regulation. When it was all said and done though, it was yet another defeat for the Lakers.

Kobe's recent scoring outbursts have been a ton of fun to watch, and no one appreciates his talent more than people like me who watch him night in and night out. However, this recent run also has me very concerned for the Lakers postseason chances.

L.A. was the surprise team of the first half of this season because everyone else was contributing on a nightly basis. There were few instances where Bryant had to take a "me vs. them" shooting attitude, and the Lakers succeeded because of it. The same point can be made about last season's playoff series with Phoenix, at least the part where the Lakers surged to a 3-1 lead.

So, the fact that Bryant needs to score 50+ for the Lakers to win lately leads me to predict playoff doom unless everyone else steps it up to help him. That's the problem, though, as I'm not sure the Lakers are healthy enough to help him. Lamar Odom is one bad fall or pull from really being in trouble with his shoulder. Kwame Brown can't jump because of his ankle. Luke Walton isn't the same guy he was before he got hurt. Mo Evans can't get on the floor because of fluid in his knee. Andrew Bynum seems to have hit a rookie wall, which is a problem since this is his second year.

Now, this shouldn't read like I'm killing everyone but Kobe. That's not my point. I fear that Bryant is seeing the walking wounded and assuming he has to kick it into scoring mode because no one else will. To a large extent, he's probably right. But Bryant took half of his team's shots last night (44 of 88) to get 53 points. No one else on the team had 10 field goal attempts. As a group, they are going to have to be more balanced than this to win a playoff series.

Never say never when you have someone like Kobe Bryant to bail you out of seemingly any situation, but unless everyone gets healthier and they find a good team dynamic, I'm no longer convinced this team can beat San Antonio. I was about two months ago.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Return

So, I’m back. Thanks for your patience.

Where have I been for the last month or so? I’ve been lamenting what happened to such a promising NBA season.

It all started with the All-Star break and the let down of the entire event.

Then came the trading deadline passing with absolutely nothing happening. I would have written about that in great detail, but Bill Simmons did such a perfect job recapping it on it seemed pointless to write my own version of the same thing.

So many teams could have upgraded their rosters or started their offseason makeovers, and yet, no one did anything. For me, it made this second half of the season rather pointless, since the only thing still at play is playoff seeding and who will sneak into the playoffs as a sacrificial lamb for the Pistons and Mavericks.

As if that wasn’t enough to make me sad about the second half, Dwayne Wade got hurt and inexplicably was taken off the court in a wheelchair even though his injury was a dislocated shoulder. My prediction of a huge MVP-type second half for Wade officially circled the drain.

However, all of that would have been fine as long as my Los Angeles Lakers stayed healthy and strong headed into the playoffs. After all, they were a surprise story to many, and Kobe Bryant was positioning his squad to make a legitimate run at pulling an upset over at least San Antonio in the postseason.

Ah, but not even the Lakers could avoid the Season of Injuries. First Kwame Brown and Luke Walton sprained their ankles. Then Vlad Radmanovic decided to snowboard during the All-Star break, fell and hurt his shoulder. Oh, and he lied about it to the team, claiming he fell on some ice. And if that wasn’t enough, Lamar Odom, who recently returned from a knee injury that claimed two months of his season, went down with a labrum problem. Then, someone really decided to become spiteful and inflicted Ronny Turiaf with back spasms and Maurice Evans with fluid in his knee. Screw you Basketball Higher Powers!!

To the surprise of no one, the Lakers are now 33-30 and dangerously close to drawing the Phoenix Suns again in the postseason. The 50-win prediction is dead, and all excitement I have for the season is buried with it. Throw in that Kobe keeps punching defenders in the face while shooting, and it’s very hard to watch a team I dropped everything for earlier in the year.

In a nutshell, that’s the reason for the lack of blog entries.

But that’s about to change. I’m going to try to find the positive in the rest of this season.

For instance, can anyone beat the Mavericks? I’m not talking about in a playoff series. I’m asking if they will ever lose again, period.

Is San Antonio legitimately making a run with their winning streak, or is their bench too old for the postseason?

Do the Bulls, who stood pat at the trade deadline, have the ability to win a playoff series or two while relying solely on jump shooting for their offense? And how will they shut down Chris Bosh if they draw the Raptors? I’m openly rooting for that series.

Will LeBron kick things into high gear and have a Dwayne Wade-like postseason to single-handedly carry the Cavs to the Eastern Finals? I think he will, but that might be wishful thinking at this point.

Who will win the Oden/Durant sweepstakes? Will either guy actually enter the draft?

Has Andre Iguodala become a franchise player in Philadelphia?

Can Shaq continue to make his critics look foolish as he puts Miami on his back for a late-season run? Should he get a pass for clearly taking half the season off if he does?

And last but certainly not least; can the Knicks make the playoffs? We can only hope. As much as I love Dwight Howard and the Magic, I’d much rather see the Knicks get in at this point.

I can’t wait to find out the answers to these questions. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

Monday, February 19, 2007

All-Star Thoughts

I have to admit, I skipped the game.

You can be disappointed in me if you'd like, but I have my reasons. They are as follows:

1) I couldn't get past whatever has happened to Wayne Newton.

Seriously, what was going on there? He looked like he was 85-90% not human. It really frightened me and I had to change the channel.

2) The All-Star Game is a great theory and a terrible reality.

It plays out like a shootaround with scores. Guys are clowning, no one is really trying, and there's no incentive to truly care. I don't know, maybe perception differs from reality, but I feel like the games of the 80s had meaning since there were so many excellent rivalries across the league. It was an extra chance to see Magic vs Larry, you had Celtics teaming with Pistons, Pistons teaming with Bulls, etc.

Plus, the league wasn't the love fest that it has become. Guys got frozen out. There was legit competition in who would walk away with the MVP trophy. Again, maybe I remember this differently than it actually was, after all, I was merely an impressionable youth. I do know that these games today are void of anything substantial, and you can tell immediately that there's no point in watching. This goes for all All-Star games, with the lone argument being the mockery that the MLB game has become (frankly, I don't buy that argument).

It all makes me sad.

3) All-Star Saturday night killed my weekend.

I'll level with you. I was geeked for this event. I had planned a live blog around it. I considered having people over. But, then I realized it's 2007 and this event blows. A lot. I know I'm not close to the first or the thousandth to suggest this, but the NBA needs to blow this whole evening up and start over. It used to be special. Now, it's just boring.

This isn't a shot at the players so much. They do their part and show up.

But, the events are for the most part awful. I don't know a single person who enjoys the Shooting Stars competition. As an added bonus this year, it ended in a DQ and the Thomas and Mack Center booed the winners. That's no good. I don't know about you, but I can live without WNBA stars and living legends chucking half-court shots for a minute. There must be something better.

The Skills competition is another one of those events that sounds good in theory. They even convinced Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Steve Nash to compete. Chris Paul was a perfectly suitable replacement for Nash when he couldn't go. So, I expected some good competition. Instead, I got players moving at half speed in round one, and Kobe Bryant unable to execute a pass in the Finals. Rough.

I have nothing bad to say about the Three-Point Shootout. It was fine. My pick won. I was happy.

The main event is always the dunk contest. It has delivered some of the most memorable moments in NBA history. Sadly, it's done.

Look, if Nate Robinson can't make a dunk in two minutes (TWO MINUTES!!!), it has to be over for him. I know he's 5'7". I know he's the defending champ. But, goodness, it's brutal. It completely kills the crowd to watch guys miss that many times in a row (DISCLAIMER: unless it's Chris Andersen...then it's great). He should have been eliminated.

Also, while I'm ranting, they should outlaw homages to dunks of the past. I've seen the dunks already. I don't care that you can do it too. No more jumping from the free throw line. No more Dee Brown imititating. No more trotting out Spud Webb. No more Kenny Smith dunks. Come with something original like Dwight Howard or Andre Iguodala. If you can't, you lose.

Here's what I propose. Participants get one dunk per round. There are 6-8 dunkers instead of four. If you miss your dunk, you get a zero. The top four move on. Everyone gets two dunks in round two. You average the scores. Top two go to the finals. Each participant gets three dunks. Highest average wins.

The whole weekend can be fixed. We must rally together and make changes happen. It should not be acceptable to anyone that the highlights of the weekend were Charles Barkley racing Dick Bavetta and Shaq break dancing during a practice.

What used to be a great event has turned into a mockery, and something must be done. Let's figure it out together.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Scottie Pippen is coming back?

Well, that's what he'd like to do:
"I'm thinking of trying to come back for the playoffs," Pippen said. "Something like the last two months of the season, somewhere I can come back and play limited minutes to start, play point forward for someone and build toward the playoffs. It's something I've been thinking about for the last three months."

For Sam Smith's full story, go here.

I'm probably going to end up being in the minority on this one, but I wouldn't do it if I were Miami, Cleveland, Detroit, the Lakers or some other "contender." Pippen is 41. He hasn't played in two years. He says his body has never felt better, and I'm not going to argue with him, but the last time I saw him on an NBA roster in 2003-04, it was his body that kept him off the floor.

Pippen is one of the best ever, and if he wants to give it a try for the veteran's minimum, that's his choice. As a fan, I would hate to see this end up as another sad case of "aging great player missing the life and tarnishing his legacy in the process" syndrome.

Your thoughts?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Sunday Slams: Raptors, West races, All-Star Saturday and more!!!

It only took three weeks for the Toronto Raptors to make me look like a moron. Actually, that’s longer than it normally takes.

You see, it was 21 days ago that I wrote the following about the Atlantic Division:

“Meanwhile, everyone else has been awful. The Knicks are still a mess. The Celtics have been understandably terrible since Paul Pierce went down. The Sixers dealt Allen Iverson away and are completely rebuilding. The Raptors are the Raptors.”

Well, so much for that opinion. The Raptors have been playing nothing like the team they were at the start of the season, or the start of 2007 for that matter.

I glossed over this at the end of this column last week, but the Raptors swept the January awards for the Eastern Conference. Chris Bosh won player of the month. Andrea Bargnani won rookie of the month. Sam Mitchell won coach of the month.

Let that sink in for a second.

Now that your brain has processed that knowledge, let me blow your mind again. Chris Bosh is playing some incredible basketball right now, and he deserves to be in the MVP conversation for the time being.

Over a two-game span, Bosh made 17 consecutive field goals. In a victory over Orlando, he outlasted fellow budding superstar Dwight Howard, scoring a career-high 41 points in the process. He followed that performance up with a 75% shooting night in a hard-fought win over the Lakers.

Meanwhile, Bargnani has gotten nasty. Last Sunday, he dunked on Chris Kaman with fury and buried a three on the next trip down. He knocked down four of five from behind the arc against Los Angeles on Friday night. Bargnani is drawing so many comparisons to a young Dirk Nowitzki that I’m already tired of hearing it, and even Dirk himself got into the act saying Bargnani is better than he was at the same age.

In addition, Jose Calderon has been wonderful at the point, and with T.J. Ford getting his health back, that’s a pretty solid two-headed monster in the backcourt.

Predictably, the Raptors faltered last night in Detroit in what was hyped as a big test for both teams. Toronto might not be the best team in the East right now, but they seem to be in great shape to win the Atlantic. The Raptors are 18-7 at home, and they’ve compiled a 7-2 record within their horrible division.

It remains to be seen if they can keep this run going, but with a 14-6 record in 2007, Toronto is certainly a team to keep an eye on as the season progresses.


I know we have a ton of basketball left to play, but it sure looks like you can start creating division championship banners in Phoenix, Dallas and Utah.

Entering today, the Suns hold a seemingly insurmountable 9 ½ game lead over the Lakers. The Mavs hold a surprising eight game lead over San Antonio, while Utah owns a 7 ½ game cushion over Denver.

Because the NBA changed the playoff seeding rules, the only sure thing at this point is that Dallas and Phoenix will be one and two, with the order to be determined.

What makes the West so interesting is how well the next tier of teams is playing to this point. Utah, San Antonio, Houston and the Lakers are indistinguishable based on record, and that’s what has NBA fans excited for playoff time.

Dallas and Phoenix have separated themselves from the pack, and while a potential playoff series against the Clippers or Nuggets is by no means a cakewalk, it looks a lot nicer on paper than the options facing that middle pack of teams. That’s assuming that Denver and the Clippers don’t kick things into another gear during the stretch, which is entirely possible considering the rosters on those teams.

With the division races seemingly non-existent, the real race to watch in the West is which teams end up with the coveted third and fourth seeds. Since the matchups appear to be tough, home-court advantage should play a key factor in the opening round series.


The field is set for both the Slam Dunk contest and the Three-Point Shootout, so I think I’ll go on record with some predictions leading into what used to be one of the most fun nights in sports.

The dunk contest used to be the marquee event of the weekend, but not anymore. Tyrus Thomas said he was going for the free money, and now that the Bulls fined him $10,000 for his comments, he’s probably going for a victory so he can have more free money.

Thomas is the sleeper in the contest. His leaping ability is off the charts, so who knows what he can come up with.

Nate Robinson is back to defend a title he never should have won. In my opinion, Andre Iguodala would have won the competition if not for the emotional, nostalgic influence of the great Spud Webb.

Anyway, most are excited to see what Gerald Green of the Celtics comes up with, and I think many are confused by Dwight Howard’s inclusion in the proceedings. Howard’s size makes his entry unique, and I’m thinking somewhat prohibitive for a contest like this.

So, with all of that said, I think it comes down to Thomas and Green, and from what I’ve seen I think Thomas will impress the crowd and judges with his power and athleticism. That is, of course, unless someone has already decided that he can’t win because of his comments. Just kidding. Ahem. Let’s move on.

The Three-Point Shootout is my favorite event of Saturday night now that 2-Ball is gone, and this year’s field is deep. Defending champ Dirk Nowitzki will have his hands full trying to repeat, as he needs to hold off Gilbert Arenas, Jason Kapono, Damon Jones, Mike Miller and his teammate Jason Terry.

This is a tough event to predict, but I like Kapono based on how he’s been shooting the basketball lately. He feels the least streaky to me, which is either good or bad depending on how you look at it. I will argue that it's good, since he'll be more consistent. However, I have no evidence to back this up, so take it for what it’s worth. Mike Miller also seems like a good choice.

Everyone is a winner in the Shooting Stars competition due to the inclusion of WNBA greats, but I think San Antonio repeats, holding off Detroit.

As for the Rookie-Sophomore game, the Sophomores will blow the Rookies out in a game that has absolutely no defense, and Andrew Bynum will win the MVP thanks to Deron Williams and Chris Paul constantly feeding him the basketball.


-Just as everyone in the world predicted, the Wizards are really struggling without Antawn Jamison. They’re now 1-4 since Jamison was injured, and they’ve been blown out at home by San Antonio and Portland. On top of that, Etan Thomas and Brendan Haywood can’t stop fighting each other. Oh, and Miami is only four games back.

-There are a lot of slumping teams out there. Orlando is back down to .500 after their torrid start. The Lakers desperately need to get back to California following an ugly road trip. The Bulls are having the same issues on the left coast. Then there’s the predicament the Celtics find themselves in. Boston is headed towards a historic level of losing, but with each loss comes the increased hope of Greg Oden or Kevin Durant.

-On the flip side of the previous "putback" are the few scorching teams in the NBA. Detroit is rolling with Chris Webber, and they’re very quickly separating themselves from the pack at the top of the East. Meanwhile, Sacramento has very quietly won five straight to pull closer to a playoff spot.

-I highly doubt this will hold up, but it’s fun to consider: if the season ended today, Miami and Detroit would meet in the first round of the playoffs. Since I still consider the Heat and the Pistons to be the best teams in the East, wouldn’t it be something to see that series so early? Again, don’t bet on it happening.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Sunday Slams: All-Stars, Blazers, Wade and more!!!

The NBA All-Star Game is two weeks away, and 24 lucky players are headed to Vegas for what should be a unique experience.

Selecting rosters for this game is certainly no easy task, especially for coaches who have seven roster spots per conference to fill. All things considered, I think everyone did a pretty good job this year.

The fans actually got it mostly right with the starters, with the obvious exception being Shaquille O’Neal. While it’s unfortunate that oft-injured O’Neal is taking a roster spot of someone clearly more deserving this season, it’s supposed to be the fan’s game. If they want to see him, they’re going to see him.

Joining O’Neal in the starting lineup for the East are Chris Bosh, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Gilbert Arenas. I enjoyed reading all week that Arenas’ selection somehow had to do with the blog explosion. I guess because Arenas yells “hibachi” before shots, fans felt he was worthy of an All-Star start. To me, Arenas was a clear choice since he’s having one of the best seasons in the Conference.

Rounding out the East roster are Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler, Vince Carter, Richard Hamilton, Dwight Howard, Jason Kidd and Jermaine O’Neal.

In looking at that roster, I don’t think anyone was blatantly snubbed. I do question whether the New Jersey Nets, who have been one of the biggest underachievers all season, deserve two All-Stars. However, this is a clear case of star power perception in the NBA. It’s easy to make an argument for Ben Gordon or Joe Johnson being worthy of a Vegas trip, but I’m wondering if either is truly perceived to be an elite player around the league. That’s why Carter and Kidd get to go, even though their stats and overall record don’t necessarily reflect their worthiness. Gordon and Johnson need to keep their high level of play going, and their time will come.

For the West, the fans elected Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and Yao Ming to the the starting lineup. That’s fine. It’s odd that neither Steve Nash nor Dirk Nowitski are starters, considering they’re the clear-cut top two choices for the MVP award at this point, but this is the system for selecting starters.

Filling out the rest of this roster is no easy task. The coaches had two no-brainer choices in adding Nash and Nowitski. Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, Carlos Boozer, Allen Iverson, and Tony Parker are joining them in Nevada.

Carmelo Anthony, the league’s scoring leader, is the obvious snub of the group, but he missed all of those games after punching and running in New York. That probably hurt his case badly.

To me, it’s not right that the league’s best team, Dallas, only gets one All-Star. Josh Howard is having a year worthy of a trip to Vegas, and he should be on the team. It’s not meant as a slight to Shawn Marion, who is also having an amazing year. However, taking three players from Phoenix to only one from Dallas doesn’t feel right. I also would have selected Utah’s Deron Williams over Tony Parker, but that’s being nitpicky.
David Stern will likely add Howard and Anthony as injury replacements for Yao and Boozer, so all will be fine.

Personally, I can’t wait for All-Star weekend. It’s always a great event, unless you love defense. Plus, this year, you get Charles Barkley vs. Dick Bavetta in a foot race. It’s hard to be angry with the NBA.


The Portland Trail Blazers have had many bad moments over the last decade. There have been devastating playoff losses and countless off-the-court incidents that soured the fan base on the franchise. Nothing really seemed to be clicking, and there wasn’t much hope or excitement surrounding the team.

I dare say that’s all changing, and it’s happening quicker than I expected.

As I write this, Portland is 20-29. That’s not necessarily worthy of national media praise, but it’s a very respectable record in the brutal Western Conference.

If you heard Blazers Assistant GM Kevin Pritchard on ESPN’s Daily Dime podcast, you know that one of the key things the Blazers wanted to do in the offseason was change their culture. They were looking for guys with class, who would come in and play hard while doing everything the right way.

From where I sit as a guy with the NBA League Pass, they found their man in Brandon Roy. He was the NBA’s rookie of the month for January, when he averaged 16.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.7 steals in 16 games. He’s going to be Portland’s go-to player for years to come, and his wild game-tying three pointer Friday night in Denver was an example of why. Roy wants the ball late, and he has a knack for delivering when the team needs him to.

In addition to Roy, who by all accounts should win the Rookie of the Year award, Portland picked LaMarcus Aldridge and Sergio Rodriguez in the 2006 NBA Draft. Rodriguez is getting a lot of build up as the point guard of the future, with Pritchard hesistating before linking him in some ways to Steve Nash. I haven’t seen a lot of Rodriguez, but what I have seen is impressive. Aldridge, to this point, looks like he’s going to take a couple of years to round out his abilities. He’s shown flashes, but he was always considered as a future stud more so than an immediate big time addition.

It will be interesting to see what Portland does from here. They have Jamaal Magloire’s expiring contract as trade bait should they choose to go that route. Zach Randolph is locked up in a long-term deal, but he’s a player that several teams looking for a big man might covet should Portland choose to move him. They seem to be headed back to the lottery, which means they’re going to add another key, young piece to the puzzle.

One thing is for sure: With young players at every position and a mission to do things the right way from management, the future is looking rosy for the Blazers


I wrote a few weeks ago that the sleeper in the MVP race was going to be Dwayne Wade, and that it was only a matter of time.

Well, the time appears to be now.

Wade is single handedly keeping Miami afloat during this 2006-07 season, and he’s kicking it into high gear of late. The Heat got a big win at home against Cleveland on Thursday night, and it was classic Wade leading the comeback. He got to the foul line 24 times, and he knocked down 23 of them. Although he committed 12 turnovers, Wade carried his club down the stretch just like he always does.

Last night, following his jersey being retired in the afternoon at Marquette, Wade went out and torched Milwaukee for the second time this week. He scored 32 points and dished out 11 assists.

He’s scored 20 points or more in 14 consecutive games, which happens to be a Miami Heat record.

We all watched in awe last season as Wade took over the Finals and carried the Heat to a championship. With five nationally televised games remaining this month alone, this could be the time for Wade to again embrace his MVP-candidacy and make Miami a major factor in the NBA’s second half.


-Even without Carlos Boozer, Utah found a way to beat San Antonio and Phoenix in consecutive games. That’s impressive. Jerry Sloan is running away with the Coach of the Year in my opinion, and I think it’s time for everyone to take this team seriously come playoff time. They’re simply not going away.

-The Wizards really miss Antawn Jamison. Watch them carefully over the next three to six weeks. They play no defense, so trying to keep pace with teams without Jamison is going to be interesting. By the time Jamison is back, don’t be surprised if the Heat has crept much closer to the top of the Southeast Division.

-The Clippers are making their run right now, but it’s time to find out if they’ve really figured out how to win on the road. After a 3-9 start away from the Staples Center, the Clips are 4-1 in their last five games outside of Los Angeles, and they kicked off a seven-game East coast trip with a win in Boston on Friday night. Suddenly, they’re only four games behind the Lakers in the Western Conference and with a good road trip, they can pull themselves closer to the middle of the Western pack.

-Did you ever think you’d see the day where the Raptors would have the Eastern Conference player and coach of the month at the same time? It happened in January as Sam Mitchell and Chris Bosh won the honors.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Kobe suspended; Eddie Jones waived

Kobe Bryant has been suspended for tonight's game in New York for striking Manu Ginobili across the face in Sunday's loss to San Antonio.


There is simply no way that was intentional. How can a player be suspended for an accidental elbow that happens in the midst of hoisting a potential game-winning shot with 2.7 seconds left in regulation?

I'm baffled by this one. Can the NBA reverse a ruling on the same day said ruling comes out? Is there anything remotely close to this in the history of NBA suspensions?

Nice to see Knicks fans get cheated out of seeing Bryant during his only trip to the Big Apple this year. As if things weren't going bad enough for them.

Also, Eddie Jones is a free man. Am I alone in thinking he might be a huge help to the Bulls backcourt come playoff time?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Sunday Slams: Blogging Spurs/Lakers

It’s a special live blogging edition of the Slams. Can the Lakers get a season sweep of the Spurs or will the San Antonio exact revenge for the home loss Los Angeles handed them two weeks ago?

Let’s find out.


-The Lakers are without Luke Walton, who will miss at least a week with an ankle sprain. Bad break for the Purple and Gold since they just got Lamar Odom back from his injury.

-Interesting that Vlad Radmanovic gets the start considering he’s coming off of a DNP-CD.

-Tim Duncan goes glass to give the Spurs a 2-0 lead. Does anyone in the league do that better? Maybe Dwayne Wade, but I’d give the edge to Duncan.

-Tony Parker makes it 4-0 with an easy lay up. That’s a bad sign for LA.

-Nice passing by Kobe Bryant and Odom leads to a dunk for Andrew Bynum. That was pretty. It’ll be interesting to see if Kobe keeps his facilitator role now that Odom is back. If he does, the Lakers are going to have a lot more highlight worthy plays.

-By the way, for the record, I have no audio for this game due to my wife having company over. So, not only can I not hear, but I am also being totally rude. They understand. At least, I think they do.

-Duncan puts San Antonio up 8-2 with a bank hook shot over Bynum and Radmanovic. That was unstoppable.

-Bryant gets an assist with a nice pass to Odom for a lay up. Good sign for LA that Odom seems involved so far.

-Odom gets another basket off the dribble, followed by Duncan at the other end using a sweeping hook off of the glass again. It’s 10-6 San Antonio, and Duncan is feeling it.

-Kobe feeds Bynum with a behind the back pass, and Bynum draws the foul. Bryant is looking to get everyone involved again, and this is the main argument for his MVP candidacy. He is actually making his teammates better this year, which is something fresh.

-Off a San Antonio miss, Odom rebounds and goes coast-to-coast for an easy deuce. Make him go right and don’t let him get to the rim, otherwise, trouble waits. That’s the expert analysis you can find only here. It’s 10-9 Spurs.

-Gregg Popovich is saying something, but I can’t hear him. I hope it isn’t important.

-Odom is surprisingly aggressive today. He goes to the line after a Robert Horry foul right at the rim. Odom was far more tentative on Friday in the overtime loss to the Bobcats.

-Robert Horry. 3-pointer at the Staples Center? There’s something new and different. Spurs are up 15-11.

-Make it 17-11 as Duncan goes to a left hand floater. He has eight points early and I’m guessing he’s making Lakers fans angry due to his supreme goodness. He’s hard to dislike. He doesn’t talk much and he’s good. What’s to hate?

-Kobe beats the shot clock with one of those double pump 15-foot shots that have no business going in. He makes it look easy.

-Shooting has been hard for both teams so far. It’s 17-13 with 2:20 to play in the quarter. I would say this pace favors the Spurs.

-Bryant dribbles the ball off of his foot out of bounds. I feel like he’s been turning the ball over a lot of late. I’ll have to look up the numbers. Here are his turnovers in the last five games: 9, 5, 1, 6, and 7.

-Down 19-13, Odom again rebounds, goes the length of the floor with the left hand and draws the foul. He makes one of two to cut the lead to five. I’m assuming Popovich will get that to stop soon.

-Odom and Bryant connect on an alley-oop. Gorgeous feed from Odom, who lobbed the ball from the 3-point line.

-It’s 19-16 Spurs after a quarter. Nice to see the Pussycat Dolls take us to break on ABC.


-It’s Odom vs. Duncan so far. Each has eight points. Odom has five rebounds to Duncan’s three.

-Spurs are shooting 32%. Lakers are hitting 33%. That’s ugly.

-Bryant connects on a nice spinning lay up to cut the lead to one. Good feed by Ronny Turiaf, who is without question the most bizarre and fun Lakers player. I urge you to watch his act on the bench if you get a chance to see him in person.

-With the Spurs up 21-18, Bryant whips a no-look pass to Turiaf, who is fouled. That was tremendous court vision by Bryant. I don’t know if you’ve heard this, but he’s quite good. Turiaf misses both free throws.

-Bryant blocks Bowen’s shot, but Mo Evans misses on the other end. Tony Parker bricks a leaner, but the Lakers fail to take advantage as Kobe misses an alley-oop. Jordan Farmar is no Lamar Odom. That was the exact same play that worked before.

-Manu Ginobili is off to a rough start. He was just whistled for a charge by the one and only Violet Palmer. You know when Palmer is officiating a game, and that’s not a compliment. Close call on this particular play, but surprisingly, Ginobili and Palmer disagree. Actually, that’s not surprising at all.

-Bryant makes it a 21-20 game with another fall away jumper. That’s becoming his specialty.

-After a timeout, Odom is forced to go right and he airballs a 15-footer. Duncan takes advantage with a 12-foot hook over Bynum. Duncan is now officially abusing young Andrew. ESPN on ABC shows Kwame Brown in street clothes.

-Bynum answers back at the other end with a nice post move and basket. His drop step gets quicker and quicker.

-Michael Finley puts San Antonio up 25-22 with a jumper. No one talks about Michael Finley anymore. He can apparently still shoot well.

-Brian Cook, the master of the “catch and shoot a line drive”, knocks down an 18-footer. That’s what he does. In fact, that’s all he does.

-Finley hits again. This time it’s for three. Spurs lead 28-24.

-Tim Duncan is now laughing at Violet Palmer for her latest whistle. Bynum thanks her, and makes both free throws.

-This game is not exactly what I would describe as pretty. In fact, it’s pretty ugly. Oxymoron time, kids!

-Does anyone else find ESPN on ABC pointless? What was wrong with having a separate ABC sports?

-Smush Parker knocks down a triple, Bynum rejects Tony Parker, and Bryant hits from long distance. Just like that, the Lakers lead 32-28. That happened fast. Bynum’s block was very close to goaltending.

-Tim Duncan misses, but Robert Horry rebounds, backs out, and hammers down another three. It’s the building. You can’t stop him here, unless it’s 2004.

-Odom answers back with a three. The knee doesn’t seem to be bothering him at all. 35-31 L.A.

-Ginobili hits a baseline jumper to cut the lead to 38-33. Every time I type Ginobili, I can hear Charles Barkley screaming his name. I don’t think that’s ever going to change, and I’m fine with it.

-I missed a chance to tell you about a basket earlier. Smush Parker made a lay up after taking about six steps. Just thought you should know.

-Radmanovic hits a three from the corner following a lovely dish from Bryant. Ronny Turiaf is the happiest man in the building. He’s so great. Tony Parker may have dislocated a finger. The Lakers lead 42-33 and we have a timeout.

-Michael Finley nails another from long range. It’s an 18-8 Lakers run. They’ve had a tendency to go on huge runs against the Spurs this year.

-Kobe hits another jumper after a sick crossover dribble. Bruce Bowen had no chance there. 44-36 Lakers. Bryant has 14 points.

That’s the half.


-We start with a full minute of missed baskets until Kobe lures Bruce Bowen into a foul with a double pump, and to make it sting a little more, he hits the basket. Free throw is good as well. 47-36 Lakers.

-Tony Parker makes some free throws. At the other end, Kobe delivers a beautiful feed to Bynum for two. 49-38 L.A.

-Duncan scores again with the hook. He has 12 points.

-Bryant tries to do too much again by trying another no-look pass, but this time it’s a turnover. Duncan puts back a Parker miss. Look out.

-Bynum doesn’t get a call, and he’s angry. Swearing and gesturing=technical foul. That was easy.

-Tim Duncan hits a 16-footer to cut the lead to four. This is all San Antonio right now.

-Bryant turns it over again, this time with an offensive foul. Either way it was a turnover as he threw the ball away as well.

-Radmanovic ends the Spurs run with a tip-in off a Bynum miss. You don’t see Vlad do that often.

-The Spurs let Odom go left again, and he gets back to the charity stripe. Odom has 11 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists, but he’s been awfully quiet since the first quarter.

-San Antonio is currently on a Rodeo road trip. Good to know. Ginobili misses a three.

-Following a Lakers miss, Ginobili drives to the basket and is hammered by Smush Parker. It wasn’t close to flagrant, but it was a hard foul.

-Tobey Maguire, Jesse Jackson and Jack Nicholson are in the house. That’s a nice trio. I’m sure there are more famous faces there.

-Bryant drives to the hole for a basket, then Ginobili hits a very low percentage bank shot. That was impressive.

-The Parkers exchange buckets. First, Eva Longoria’s better half. Then, the driver of the Smushcalade. Hey, where is Eva? Have I missed her? She has to be there, right?

-Kobe nails another fade away jumper to put the Lakers up 58-51.

-The Lakers take advantage of Michael Finley by ripping the ball from him in the corner, and Odom makes them pay with a 3-pointer. Big shot. 61-52. Timeout Spurs.

-The Spurs are 7-10 vs. teams better than .500. That’s why people are down on them this year.

-Finley bangs home another three. The Spurs bench has a 29-2 advantage over the Lakers. That surprises me.

-Robert Horry tackles Bynum to prevent a dunk. Good strategy there. Bynum makes the free throws.

-Tony Parker and Ginobili are a combined 4-20 from the floor. Yuck.

-Kobe hits another jumper. San Antonio is in trouble here. It’s 65-57.

-Mo Evans gives the Lakers bench some points with two free throws. He’s been quiet tonight. Evans has been a major surprise for the Lakers.

-It’s 67-57 Lakers after three. If Ginobili and Parker don’t get going, this game is over. San Antonio is shooting 29% against a team that was torched by Memphis and Charlotte in the past week. This is not a good way to start the Rodeo trip.


-It’s a good thing the Spurs brought Finley. He hits another three to cut the lead to seven.

-The Lakers have gone to the bench to start the fourth. Turiaf, Vujacic, Farmar, Evans and Odom are on the floor.

-Odom makes a 19-footer to give the Lakers a 69-60 lead.

-Good sign for San Antonio. Tony Parker hits a shot. In fact, he hits two in a row. It’s a five-point game.

-Mo Evans misses a mid-range jumper. The next time you watch a Lakers game, count how many times Joel Meyers say mid-range game or in rhythm. This should be a drinking game. You’ll be drunk halfway thru the first quarter.

-Farmar drives right past Parker for a basket. More bench points for L.A. It’s 71-64 and we have a timeout.

-Kobe Bryant is hopping up and down as we return from the break. I hope he’s staying warm, but that may have been a Ronny Turiaf impression.

-Bruce Bowen throws an inbounds pass away, and Farmar converts a lay up to put the Lakers up nine.

-We’re in the midst of a scoring drought for both teams. Nothing to write about except for some bad basketball plays. It’s still 73-64, now with 6:22 to play. We’ve gone more than two minutes without a field goal.

-I’ve put the sound on the TV for the exciting finish. The Spurs are having the worst shooting game of any team this season. Seriously, ESPN on ABC just said so.

-Ginobili hits a floater to end the drought. The Spurs have to be happy to be in this game.

-Bynum travels. Mark Jackson says that last thing you want to do is let the Spurs hang around. That’s precisely what the Lakers are doing.

-Following another Ginobili miss, the Lakers move the ball well and Kobe gets to the line. Popovich is not happy. Bryant makes both foul shots. 75-66 Lakers.

-Ginobili knocks down a three after Bryant falls down. It’s down to six with 4:30 to go.

-Kobe and Duncan exchange misses followed by Radmanovic taking a trip to the line where he only makes one. Free throws are hurting the Lakers.

-On a second chance opportunity for San Antonio, Ginobili drops in another 3-pointer. That’s a very large shot. It’s a 76-72 game.

-Back from break, Horry blocks Bynum from behind. That’s a great play by Big Shot Rob. Duncan misses at the other end, but Odom can’t handle the rebound. The Spurs just won’t go away.

-Duncan cuts the lead to two with a left hand floater off a great pass by Ginobili. Bryant misses for the Lakers. The Spurs can tie the game.

-Ginobili tries to give them the lead from long range, but misses. However, the Spurs get yet another second chance and Tony Parker heads to the foul line. He makes them both to tie the game.

-Duncan fouls Odom under the basket. Duncan doesn’t like the call. Violet Palmer had nothing to do with it. Odom misses the first. He makes the second. Lakers lead 77-76.

-Bruce Bowen hits a wide-open three to give the Spurs their first lead of the second half. Great, great pass by Duncan out of a double team.

-Radmanovic can’t answer back for the Lakers at the other end. Loose ball foul sends Ginobili to the line. He misses the first. Unreal. Manu makes the second. Spurs lead 80-77.

-Bryant misses a dunk and whines about it. Meanwhile, Bynum rebounds and feeds Radmanovic for a clutch 3-pointer. This game is wild suddenly. We’re tied at 80 heading to a timeout.

-How are the Spurs in this game while shooting so poorly? Second chance points and bad free throw shooting by the Lakers.

-Robert Horry misses a 3-pointer from the corner with three seconds left. It looked like he might have been fouled. It would have been fitting if he had made that.

-Are the Lakers headed to their seventh overtime of the year? I’m guessing the ball is going to Bryant here with 2.7 seconds left to play.

-I was right. Bryant gets the ball, but Ginobili blocks his shot to force overtime. Ginobili got whacked in the face for his trouble. This will be the Lakers second straight overtime game. They’re 3-3 on the year in the extra session.


-Ginobili is bleeding everywhere. He’ll be a non-factor to start overtime.

-Bryant feeds Radmanovic to put the Lakers up by two.

-Tony Parker misses a jumper and Horry is called for a loose ball foul. Bryant and Bynum work the pick and roll to perfection and Bynum finishes with a jam. Pretty stuff.

-Bowen answers with a jumper for the Spurs. Bryant comes right back with one of his own for the Lakers. Kobe has 27. Lakers lead 86-82.

-Tony Parker makes some free throws, and then Smush Parker connects on a shot at the other end. 88-84.

-The Lakers force a turnover, but Bryant can’t connect. On the other end, Tony Parker makes a great move to blow by Smush, hits the basket and makes the free throw. 86-85. Tony has 17.

-Radmanovic gets a shooter’s bounce on a 12-footer. Tony Parker comes right back and hits again to make it an 88-87 game in favor of the Lakers.

-Smush Parker takes a tough spinning shot and misses. Bad shot. Ginobili gets back to the line with penetration. He makes them both to put the Spurs back on top.

-Kobe drills a pull up to give the Lakers the lead. Michael Finley can’t connect from downtown and the Lakers have a chance to put it away. They can’t as Bryant misses a runner with 31 seconds to go.

-Duncan drives past Bynum for a left-handed lay up. That was too easy. Spurs lead 93-92 with 20 seconds to play.

-Bryant hammers down a thunderous dunk, but the Spurs use their foul to give before the shot, so it doesn’t count. Kobe says no problem and nails another fall away jumper. He had Bruce Bowen all over him for that one. Kobe has 31, but more importantly, the Lakers have the lead back with seven seconds left.

-The Spurs go to Duncan, who finds Finley for a deep 3-pointer. That was clutch. It drew nothing but nylon. Spurs lead 96-94 with only 1.3 to play. Mark Jackson says it’s fitting that Finley hit the shot, since he’s the only Spur other than Duncan who hasn’t been hesitant on offense. I totally agree.

-With the game on the line, the Lakers surprisingly go to Radmanovic, who airballs an impossible turnaround 3-pointer. Spurs win 96-94.

-That was a very impressive comeback for San Antonio and a great way for them to start a long road trip. For the Lakers, it’s another tough loss to swallow considering they had a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter. L.A. now heads East for a long road trip of it’s own.

-Thanks for reading!!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Greg Oden Analysis

When you get the chance to see Greg Oden in person, you don’t pass up that opportunity.

Fortunately for me, I had that chance Wednesday night in Evanston for the Ohio State/Northwestern game.

Now, let me preface this by saying that I’m not a big college basketball guy. I don’t care for the style of play of most teams around the country, and like the majority of the nation, I don’t pay much attention until right before I need to fill out my bracket.

But seeing the much hyped potential #1 pick up close and personal outweighed the horror of having to do so at Welsh-Ryan Arena, a gym that truly made me long for my day’s attending high school games. Come on Northwestern, you’re in the Big Ten.

I didn’t care about the game’s outcome. I was zoned in on Oden and how he would fare against someone named Vince Scott.

Surprisingly, Northwestern’s zone defense actually shut Oden down for most of the night on offense. They doubled the big man constantly, theoretically cutting off passing lanes for the Ohio State guards. I say theoretically because I could have sworn I saw passing lanes that Buckeye guards chose not to take for some reason. Regardless, it may not have mattered as they struggled throwing over-the-top lob passes to Oden when much smaller defenders fronted him. Oden’s teammates also didn’t help matters by missing a ton of shots from the perimeter, which allowed Northwestern to sag their defenders even more onto Oden.

The Buckeyes sloshed their way through an ugly first half, and in my opinion it was largely due to Oden being a complete non-factor on both ends. He had seven first half points that came on a dunk, a nice face up 10-footer and three left handed free throws. The aspect of Oden’s game that seems to be lacking most at this stage is his assertiveness in demanding the basketball from his teammates. Since I don’t follow Ohio State closely, for all I know this is by head coach Thad Motta’s design. For my money, if I’m playing Northwestern, a team that features absolutely no one close in size or talent to my dominant big man, my game plan is to work it inside and establish the paint early and often. But what do I know?

One thing that stood out clearly in the first half, and really for the whole game, was Northwestern’s fear of bringing the ball anywhere near Oden when they had the ball on offense. The Wildcats did a good job of making their 3-pointers early, which forced Ohio State out of a zone and into a man-to-man defense. Because Northwestern has big men who can shoot (don’t ask me their names, I don’t know), Oden was forced to wander out to the three-point line and he struggled defending the long-range shot. That being said, as soon as Northwestern went cold from the outside, they had no options offensively since they were determined to stay away from Oden rejecting their shots inside. He only had one block in the basketball game, but his presence on the defensive end of the floor was obvious from the opening tip. He was also a monster on the glass in the first half, pulling down seven rebounds with ease.

In the second half, in the midst of surprisingly close game, Oden did what I was waiting for him to do. He completely took over the basketball game.

With 6:07 to go, he made a stunningly beautiful spin move off of a double team and sank a nice touch lay-up with the left hand. His ambidextrous ability makes him so much more frightening.

Two minutes later, with Ohio State clinging to a four-point advantage, Oden pulled down a big offensive rebound following a Ron Lewis missed free throw. He was hammered trying to put it back, and he only converted one of two free throws. It was clear he was determined to get any missed shot, and Northwestern had no answer.

With just over three minutes to go, the 7-footer grabbed another offensive rebound and finished to put the Buckeyes up five. On the ensuing trip down, Northwestern missed a shot, and Oden hauled in the rebound. Ivan Harris, who had a great game shooting, made a key shot at the other end, and the ball game was over.

Oden grabbed two more rebounds, finally blocked a shot, and finished with 17 points and 17 rebounds.

So, what can you take from a game like this? I’ve heard so much hype about Oden that I think I was actually disappointed he only went for 17 and 17 against Northwestern. But that’s not fair. He earned every one of his points, and I’m not sure any of them came off of a set play. In fact, most of his offense came off of rebounds. He owned the glass on both ends. He altered the game by standing in the paint on defense. On the negative side, he only made 5 of 10 free throws, but you can’t really fault him much for it because he’s still shooting them left handed due to his right wrist injury.

He was, without a shadow of a doubt, the difference maker in the game. He’s ready to go pro. I have no idea if he will. While watching him work for position constantly on offense and rarely get the ball, I began wondering what would happen if he played with a point guard who would find a way to get him the ball. This will sound strange, but I think he’s better equipped to play at the professional level right now. The college game seems all about perimeter shooting, and it turns Oden into an afterthought. That’s silly. The scary thing for the Big Ten is that if he stays, he’s only going to get better. I’m sure most of the league is rooting for him to make himself eligible for the draft.

I’ve watched Andrew Bynum play every game for the Lakers this year. He’s been a major surprise, and he looks like he’ll be a dominant big man for years to come. Oden’s game right now strikes me as much more polished than Bynum’s. If he played nastier, he would be the next coming of Dwight Howard. He could even surpass him. Oden needs more time to develop, and he needs a healthy right wrist, but if this is how he plays coming back from injury, he’s going to be someone I’m writing about for many, many years to come.

I can say I saw him when…

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Sunday Slams: At the Half

While we’re not quite at the All-Star break, we have reached the official midway point of the NBA season. Let’s review the first half:



As I’ve written before, I missed on this one. Sure, Utah looked talented on paper coming into the season, but their roster is chronically injury-prone, and there was no reason to foresee Deron Williams having a breakout year.

But, alas, Carlos Boozer has had an All-Star caliber first half and has completely avoided injury while his teammate Williams has played more like John Stockton than Howard Eisley.

Jerry Sloan is doing his typical great job and may actually be in position to finally take home Coach of the Year honors.

However, Utah is still a very young team with a long way to go before the postseason. We’ll see if they can maintain their early season play for a full 82 games, but the team appears to be in good shape for a top seed in the Western Conference in April.


I’ve written that the Lakers would win 50 games this year, so a 26-15 record at the halfway point doesn’t come as a huge surprise.

What is surprising is how they’ve gotten to 26 wins. So far, it’s been a collective team effort, with Kobe Bryant often deferring to a better than advertised supporting cast. Bryant is having an MVP caliber first half and for the first time in his career is embracing a role as leader and playmaker.

It should also be noted that the Lakers have earned their record without Lamar Odom’s services for two months. Injuries to Chris Mihm and Kwame Brown have also left them shorthanded in the big man department for much of the season.

For the Lakers to truly be considered legitimate contenders in the West they’re going to have to play much better on the road, stop losing to inferior teams and pick up their defense considerably.

If all of those things come together, and Odom and Bryant stay healthy the rest of the way, this will be a team no one wants to play in the postseason.


The Washington Wizards sit atop the Eastern Conference at the halfway mark of the season.

They’re still a horrible team defensively, but quietly, they’ve developed one of the best offensive trios in the game with Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison.

Arenas has carried the Wizards to this point, developing into a lethal late-game assassin who relishes having the ball in his hands at the end of a game. He deserves to be mentioned among the typical MVP candidates like Nash, Bryant and Nowitski. Frankly, he’s been the best player in the East, which is surprising considering Dwayne Wade and LeBron James play in the same time zone.

I would have a much easier time taking Washington seriously if they had more of a defensive identity. However, the East is anyone’s for the taking. With Arenas, Butler and Jamison delivering night in and night out, this could be the year they get past the first round of the playoffs.



How have the champs played so far? Pretty lackadaisically.

Is this surprising? This was a team that waited until the middle of a first round playoff series with the Bulls to kick things into gear last season.

To the shock of no one, Shaquille O’Neal has missed the majority of the season with a knee injury, and Pat Riley bailed on is coaching duties for an undetermined amount of time.

But fear not, South Beachers. There’s still plenty of time left. Shaq is coming back soon. The Heat seemed to briefly wake up on a recent West coast road trip, and Dwayne Wade is still doing his thing nightly.

They’ll make the playoffs, they’ll win at least one series, and everyone will continue to point to this group as evidence that you CAN flip a switch during the NBA season.


They both started surprisingly slowly, but to say the Mavericks and Suns have been rolling since then would be the understatement of the century.

Dallas is 34-4 since losing their first four games. Phoenix is 31-3 since their 1-5 start.

Dallas seems to be playing like a team on a mission to make amends for failing to capture a championship last season. You can tell it still eats at them. Meanwhile, Phoenix is perfecting a system that no one in the league can stop, and with Amare Stoudemire playing like it’s 2004, the Suns may be the favorites right now.

I will be very surprised if the Suns and Mavs don’t meet in a Western Conference Finals re-match. In the first half, no other teams have played close to the level of Phoenix and Dallas, and since it appears they’re going to be linked all season anyway, it seems only fitting that it will come down to the two best at the end. I dare you to figure out who wins that series.


I’m not going to waste a lot of time on this division, but let’s just say it has been nothing short of pathetic so far.

Just as New Jersey seems to have figured out they play in the Atlantic and should be running away with things, they now face a second half that includes playing without Richard Jefferson for a while, not having Nenad Krstic for the rest of the year, and having to deal with Jason Kidd’s nasty divorce. Plus, as the trade deadline approaches, I’m sure we’ll get to hear our fair share of Vince Carter rumors.

Meanwhile, everyone else has been awful. The Knicks are still a mess. The Celtics have been understandably terrible since Paul Pierce went down. The Sixers dealt Allen Iverson away and are completely rebuilding. The Raptors are the Raptors.

Someone is headed to the playoffs. I think we can all hope together that it ends up being the Knicks. There’s so much fun to be had if that becomes reality.


Before I get into my second half predictions, let’s revisit my playoff predictions from October.

Eastern Conference Top 8

1. Miami
2. Cleveland
3. Chicago
4. New Jersey
5. Detroit
6. Washington
7. Indiana
8. Orlando

Western Conference Top 8

1. Dallas
2. Phoenix
3. San Antonio
4. Denver
5. Los Angeles Lakers
6. Sacramento
7. Houston
8. Los Angeles Clippers

Well, all things considered, I don’t think I’m doing too badly. Here’s the actual playoff picture:

Eastern Conference Top 8

1. Washington
2. Cleveland
3. Detroit
4. New Jersey
5. Chicago
6. Orlando
7. Indiana
8. Toronto

Western Conference Top 8

1. Dallas
2. Phoenix
3. San Antonio
4. Utah
5. Los Angeles Lakers
6. Houston
7. Denver
8. Minnesota

Obviously, I missed badly on Utah and Miami, but so far, these predictions are way better than I expected them to be. I would truly be flabbergasted if Miami didn’t overtake Toronto for the final playoff spot before the year is over.

As stated above, I think the West is going to come down to Phoenix and Dallas. I’m going to stand by my opinion that the East will come down to Chicago, Detroit and Miami.

I picked Phoenix and Miami for the Finals in the preseason, so I’m stubbornly going to stick with it. It still feels right to me even though Miami has been horrible. If they don’t pull it together, I think the Bulls could be the front runners.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Warriors-Pacers trade

How about this? A trade that makes sense for everyone involved.

The Warriors reportedly have sent Mike Dunleavy, Troy Murphy, Ike Diogu and Keith McLeod to the Pacers in exchange for Stephen Jackson, Al Harrington, Sarunas Jasikevicius and Josh Powell.

I like the deal for both teams.

For Golden State, they’re going to fly up and down the floor now. Don Nelson is stockpiling athletes to play his style, and Chris Mullin gets Al Harrington, who he chased all off-season long.

Indiana rids itself of Stephen Jackson’s act and gets back a couple of players who desperately need a change of scenery in Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy. Who knows, Notre Dame alum Murphy might flourish during his return to the Midwest. I really like the addition of Diogu for the Pacers. He’ll help with rebounding and seems like he’ll be a nice compliment to Jermaine O’Neal.

The real reason I like this trade is that two teams who were going nowhere helped one another shake things up. Neither team is out of the playoff chase, so turning a roster over now makes perfect sense. If Dunleavy and Murphy find their games in Indiana, the Pacers may have found a way to appease O’Neal for the rest of the year. Golden State is going to play small, and that’s probably their best shot at winning right now.

C-Webb and the Pistons

Yep, we’re arrived at that point of the NBA season. Not quite the All-Star Game, not close enough to the trade deadline to truly get excited about the rumors, and certainly no where near selecting award winners or breaking down playoff matchups.

So, what’s there to get excited about?

I guess Chris Webber being bought out and signing with the Detroit Pistons qualifies. Some are equating the move to the 2004 trade that brought Rasheed Wallace to Motown. That team went on to win the championship.

I suppose that could happen again, but has anyone seen Chris Webber since he went to Philadelphia? What am I missing here? He’s a shell of his former self, and unless he’s super motivated about playing for his hometown team, what’s the big deal? Is he better than Nazr Muhammed? Yes, but is he that much better that he puts Detroit over the top of everyone else in the league? I can’t see how.

Which leads me into the best trade rumor of the season: Mohammed to the Timberwolves for Marko Jaric. Fantastic. If you read this rumor and thought, “Wow, that makes everyone better”, I suggest you step back and really think this over. The Clippers couldn’t get rid of Jaric fast enough, and amazingly once he left, they started winning. Now he can’t get out of Minnesota fast enough and there are rumors he’s not gutting out an injury. Sounds like a great fit for the Pistons. And be honest, does Nazr Muhammed put the Timberwolves among the West’s elite? Exactly.

I know the Pistons are struggling without Chauncey Billups, and I understand there’s concern about Rasheed Wallace and Flip Murray, but it’s not like we’re talking about a team in disarray.

Detroit is the only Eastern Conference team with a winning road record. They still have one of the game’s best backcourts. They know how to win in the postseason. They actually have a semblance of a bench if Flip Saunders chooses to use it this year.

And there’s the only worry for this Pistons squad. Can Flip Saunders get this team to the Finals? The addition of Chris Webber gives him some more options, but if I’m a Pistons fan, I wouldn’t be able to escape the notion that Flip’s track record indicates he can’t get it done regardless of who he has on the floor.

Oh, and those pesky Miami Heat are winning again.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Sunday Slams: Kobe passes, Nuggets struggles, Bulls/Pistons and more!

What’s gotten into Kobe Bryant?

It certainly appears that Bryant has bought into his teammates to start the New Year.

On Thursday, Bryant got the Lakers off to a very hot start in Sacramento by distributing the basketball. He took only one shot in the first quarter and dished out four assists as the Lakers took a 33-18 lead.

Then he got rolling, led the team in scoring, and when the Lakers had blown a seemingly easy victory, it was Bryant who carried them back…by passing.

Sacramento thought doubling Bryant at the three-point line was the way to go, and Bryant shocked Arco Arena, a national TV audience on TNT, his former critic and current biggest fan Charles Barkley, and most importantly the Kings by finding a wide-open Smush Parker for the game tying lay-up.

Overall, it was an amazing performance, as Kobe came up just short of a triple-double finishing with 42 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists.

The following night at home against Denver was even better for #24. He had nine assists in the first quarter. He finished the game with more assists (10) than points (8). He sat laughing on the bench for much of the second half, even finding the time to play a great practical joke on Smush Parker. And it appeared on TV as though he couldn’t have been happier.

This is a new Bryant. He’s putting trust in his teammates and is playing as though he truly wants the team concept to succeed. Frankly, why wouldn’t he? Bryant has tried it the other way, the games where he scores 62 in three quarters or takes 45 shots to keep them closes (i.e. the 3-OT loss at Charlotte), and it doesn’t work.

I’ve mentioned this before in this space, but the Lakers are a much deeper team than a year ago, even without Lamar Odom and Kwame Brown. In years past, Bryant would have had no other option than to try to do it all, since there wasn’t much around him to help. The fact that he is taking this opportunity to show his teammates he trusts them will only help the Lakers down the road. It’s maturity from Bryant that we’ve never seen before, and so far, it’s working. The Lakers are 22-11.


When Allen Iverson became a Denver Nugget, the conversation rightfully focused on what an offensive juggernaut this team would be. But what may be of much larger concern is how horrible this team could be defensively.

We won’t know for sure until J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony return from suspension, however, what I saw Friday night from Denver might very well have been the worst defensive showing of the year.

The Nuggets allowed the Lakers to connect on their first 11 shots from the floor. Hey, teams can get hot, no big deal. No. Eight of the baskets were dunks or lay-ups. There was no attempt being made to stop anything. The Lakers looked like the Harlem Globetrotters.

And it just kept going. The Lakers scored 35 in the first, 33 in the second, and 36 in the third.

This came one game after the Sixers rolled up 108 points in Denver.

Denver is going through a predictably rocky period without two of their starters. In addition to problems on defense, they're not shooting the ball very well. The Nuggets have dropped five straight and are now 2-6 since the Iverson trade after a loss to Utah last night. They find themselves 6.5 games back in the division, and suddenly, the Timberwolves and Nuggets share the same record.

We all know Denver can score the basketball at will. For Denver to join the ranks of the best in the west, they’re going to need to find a way to get stops consistently. Until they prove they can do that, they can’t be in the title contender discussion, regardless of how many points they score.


Ben Wallace played his first game against his former Detroit Pistons teammates last night. The Bulls prevailed easily with a 106-89 victory.

Get ready for a healthy dose of this storyline for the rest of the year.

Big Ben played a strong game, scoring 12 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. He also added six blocked shots. However, the Pistons were without Chauncey Billups, so keep that in mind when you analyze the victory.

Here’s what I think I know. With apologies to LeBron James and Gilbert Arenas, the Bulls and Pistons appear to be the two best teams in the East right now. If the Bulls can figure out how to win on the road, I think we’ll see a playoff series between these two teams. If that playoff series takes place, I fully expect Ben Wallace to be fouled often and forced to make some free throws. That will be interesting.

Rasheed Wallace insists that there is no rivalry between the Pistons and Bulls since the meetings have been rather one-sided in recent years. In fact, the Pistons had won 12 in a row at the United Center before Saturday night. So, for once, Sheed has a point.

But that was then. This rivalry is about to return, and for anyone who remembers MJ vs. the Bad Boys, that’s a good thing.

Ben Wallace returns to the Palace for the first time on February 25th. When the emotions of his visit wear off, he might realize that his jump from Detroit to Chicago was the spark that re-ignited one of the best rivalries in the league.

Either that, or I’ve got a case of wishful thinking.


-Allen Iverson leaves and Larry Brown returns to Philadelphia. Great. I don’t think it’s possible for me to care less.

-Take some time and vote Luol Deng onto the Eastern Conference All-Star team. He deserves a trip to Vegas. While you’re at it, punch Dwight Howard’s name repeatedly so Shaq doesn’t start. There are times when fans should be ashamed of themselves. Shaq being named a starter will be one of those times.

-Dallas has won 13 in a row going into tonight’s showdown with the Lakers. They’ve had double-figure winning streaks twice this season, and they’ve smacked down the Spurs in both meetings, yet “experts” continue to say aloud that San Antonio is the favorite in the West. I don’t see how you can say that. I maintain my Mavs/Suns conference finals prediction, and, based on their game on December 28th, I have no idea how to pick a winner in that series.

-If Sacramento is going to make the playoffs in the tough West, they’re going to need to make free throws at the end of games. They lost to the Lakers and Blazers in OT this week mainly because of their inability to close out games at the line.

-This could be the worst rookie class ever. Seriously, look at the numbers. Jorge Garbajosa is the front-runner for Rookie of the Year? Really? If Brandon Roy stays healthy, he is going to run away with the award.

-The Clippers road woes are getting absurd. Their loss last night in Atlanta is probably the low point of the season, and the playoffs are looking like a long shot right now. That must be rough for people who thought they were going to be atop the West. You may recall, I was not one of them. Sorry, I’m rarely right about anything. I have to point it out when I am.

-I’ll leave you this week with something horribly unfair. The 24-8 Phoenix Suns could have three first-round draft picks in the alleged deepest NBA Draft ever. They have the rights to Atlanta’s first pick as long as it isn’t in the top three. Right now, that would be the fourth overall selection. Then, they’d have their own pick and Cleveland’s pick in the 20s. The rich could get much richer, or the Suns could have a lot of trade assets in the off-season.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

What in the blue hell is happening in Miami?

This has been quite the little day for the Miami Heat franchise.

First, Pat Riley decided to shut things down for an undetermined amount of time to take care of some knee and hip problems. I can't say I really blame him. He can't cure the pain of watching the team play defense, so why not solve the pain that is easily fixed?

However, the big news of the night is that James Posey and Antoine Walker have been deactivated for their body fat being too high. Not their weight, their body fat!

Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinal has the entire story here.

The news obviously didn't make the players or the union too happy.

On the other hand, this story makes me SO happy. I haven't seen a defending champion have problems like this since the Pittsburgh Steelers of 2006.

If I'm Dwayne Wade or Shaq, I may claim that my injury is lingering a little longer than I expected. I wish Ron Rothstein the best of luck with this mess.

Big props to my man Steve for alerting me to this news. He also asks a great question--what ever happened to Stan Van Gundy anyway? Wouldn't this have been a good time for him to come out of hiding?