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?