Posts Tagged ‘NBA’

I’m going to assume that my post lamenting the NBA lockout was the sole reason that said lockout ended. Anyway, the sudden change of heart by players and owners (the latter of which getting pretty much what they wanted all along) has me scrambling to do an NBA preview. So, with the help of my NBA guru Mike Baker, we’re going to run a little Two Man Game to answer the questions you should be asking for the upcoming NBA season.

(Two Man Game is a term often used during a basketball telecast. It’s usually a guard working with a “big man” (center, forward) to make a play on offense. This phrase is so popular, commentators use it for women’s basketball too! (Really, they do.) Anyway, I figured that I should give you some background for where the title came from. Anyway, let’s talk some basketball!!!)

1. Did the lockout cause you to lose or gain interest in the NBA?
Mike: I love the NBA. Admittedly I was bitter (mostly at the owners) but it helped me to realize just how much life would suck had there not been a season. If anything, I gained more interest as to how the business of the NBA works.

Jordy: I think it’s a little bit of both. I was fascinated at the level of disrespect that each side seemed to have for each other, and I lamented the fact that I would be stuck with watching college basketball all season (That’s not a fair trade). But this lockout confirmed my belief that no sports league is really out to please fans. There’s no way. Case in point: NBA League Pass allows you to see nearly every game that does not come on national television. The league is playing a shortened season, and coming off a bitter lockout. Guess what? You’ll be paying the same amount for League Pass! The NBA spits in the face and LOLs at your positive press. Sure, I’m still riveted. But it’s definitely with a raised eyebrow this time around.

2. The Clippers have been terrible for 30 years. Does adding Chris Paul really make them relevant (As in, “They’re a contender!”) now?
Mike: On paper, the Clippers look GREAT! But, so did D-Wade, LeBron and Posh Spice, er, Chris Bosh. Yes, they have talent but they have yet to play ball together. Contenders? Not quite yet, I say 2nd round playoffs at best.

Yes, now the Clippers are relevant because of this guy. Really?


Jordy: (Wow, Posh Spice was a low blow!) I hate this question. Of course, I asked it…so whatever. As much as I want to dismiss this question altogether, it was fascinating to see the Clippers on the court (albeit in a preseason game). There are many different ways that they can use Chauncey Billups and Chris Paul together. However, this doesn’t change the fact that…Vinny Del Negro is the coach! So, my answer is still an emphatic “no” until there’s a coaching change.

3. Which teams will benefit the most from the shortened, frenetic season?
Mike: I’d have to say the almighty Celtics (I’m trying not to be biased even though it may seem like it because that’s my team). In all honesty, the team is not old, it’s just the main parts of the engine are a little dated. The lockout helped to get Pierce, KG and Ray a significant amount of rest and time to ready their bodies for another season, albeit a 66 game season. The team already has chemistry but the problem last season was the postseason push after a long, grueling season and losing major components to the team chemistry because of injury. The time away from the court should help them have the required energy to make a final postseason run while these 3 future HOF’ers utilize the last in their drawn out tanks.

Jordy: If I use the NFL lockout as a premise, I would think a team with an established (and proven) system in place. Also, I tend to believe that said team would have something to prove. I present to you…the Miami Heat! I’ll remind you that the Heat had the second best record in the East last season, and were two wins away from winning an NBA championship. With all the LeBron slander that took place during the off-season, I’m almost certain that he’s looking to deliver this year. That entire team has something to prove. Watch out, folks.

4. Which team(s) will suffer the most from the shortened, frenetic season?
Mike: I have to say L.A.’s team…the Clippers (go figure!!). Easy explanation: CP3 signed less than a month before season tip-off, the tremendous amount of attention and pressure brought forth by the media and fans, and absolutely zero time to mesh as a cohesive unit. Thus far, they seem pretty good in the pre-season, but how will it all work out when the games matter?

But wait, L.A.’s other team (yes, I said other), the Lakers, are in a jam because of the shortened season as well. Why? Two words: Mike Brown. He has had zero time to implement his coaching style to format the Lakers. And let’s be honest here, Mike Brown is not the guy L.A. needs. However, he’s the coach and how will he substitute The Zen’s triangle offense and disciplined defensive strategies? All I know is the Lakers will be quite frustrated this season without lack of direction from the coaching staff.

Jordy: I think I’m stealing this from someone, but I’d say…the Rockets. Remember that first Chris Paul trade? Part of it involved the Rockets getting Pau Gasol. Daryl Morey (the GM) had been lining up assets to make a move like that for the past two or three seasons. Now what? I would imagine that they’re a fringe playoff team still, but it never helps when there are three guys on your team that you couldn’t trade…and are still on the team. Another team that might suffer is Orlando. This Dwight Howard mess is going to ruin that team. And it’s not like they had a lot of mental toughness to begin with.

5. What will it take for LeBron to “bounce back” this season?
Mike: Rogaine. Oops, thought I thought I read something about his hairline in that question. Truthfully, LeBron is still someone I would not like to face down the 4th quarter stretch. Yes, he’s had his late game woes as of late, especially in games that are critical, but let’s not forget the tremendous amount of talent this young man possesses. Two-time MVP (back-to-back at that…we could also list a Biblical scroll length of other accomplishments) with a major chip on his shoulder. He’s also a two-time Finals loser…sounds like more than enough motivation to me to finally complete his championship mission.

Jordy: I was about to make a joke about his hairline, but then I looked in the mirror at my own thinning hair and thought better of it. I’m tempted to say things like “a post up game” or “a killer instinct”. But I think the main thing that would help is a defined role. Is he a decoy for Wade? Should he try to play inside and late Wade take the perimeter? Should everyone defer to him since his passing skills are top-notch? One thing that I didn’t take into consideration last year is that all of what the Heat did pretty much happened on the fly. If LeBron knows and accepts his role, then the things we’ve seen him do well can happen at the right time (specifically at the end of the game).

6. Should the Knicks be taken seriously this year?
Mike: Yes. The Knicks have two of the best young players in the league in Carmelo and Amare’ and they have put in work as a unit. The addition of Tyson Chandler helps the Knicks to establish a low post presence and help on the boards for when Melo jacks up shot after shot. Look for the Knicks to be a 2 or 3 seed this season coming out of the East. I believe they are a solid point guard away from Finals talk.

These guys are legit. The rest of the team? Uh...


Jordy: I’d say kind of. Chris Webber mentioned the Knicks as a “sleeper” team in the East. Perhaps he was asleep when the Knicks made the playoffs last year. Sure, Tyson Chandler is a nice addition. But have you seen him ever create his own shot? Also, how many times has the “player who played great in a contract year, then got a large contract” scenario worked out? I think Amare’ and Carmelo are obviously elite players, but I’m not sure if this is the most cohesive unit around. We’ll see how they play with the heightened expectations. I think they’ll finish better than they did last year, but that was probably going to happen anyway.

7. What team are people not talking about, but should be?
Mike: OKC. Look, this is arguably the best young team with the most upside in the league. Durant is a bona fide star fresh off a worldwide tour of basketball destruction during the summer (also my pick for MVP). Westbrook is one of the most athletic guards in the league, he has faults with shot selection and decision-making, but he’s young. Perkins is healthy and a defensive low post presence, and Harden is emerging as a legitimate threat. They’ve got size and athleticism in Ibaka and the Thunder bench is capable of sustaining the game when the starters are resting. They had a great playoff run last season. This team is dangerous. Since no one is talking about them now, then later in the season I will have the last laugh when everyone is.

Jordy: The Chicago Bulls! I think they have the reigning MVP, right? Also, Carlos Boozer hasn’t hurt himself shaving (yet). And they didn’t lose anyone from their rotation. I also remember that they lost in the conference finals. Surely they’re better than the Clippers/Knicks/Celtics/any other team you’ve been hearing about this offseason. I’m not saying that they’re going to win the title, but I do think that they should be taken a lot more seriously than they’re being taken at this point.

8. Finish the sentence: Because of his impending divorce, Kobe Bryant will ___________
Mike: Holler at Kim Kardashian so he can double date with Lamar and Khloe. Kobe will be with Kim for more than 72 days. Kris Humphries is no Kobe Bryant.

Jordy: Win MVP. And probably average 35 points per game.

9. Dallas Mavericks: Flash in the pan, or favorites?
Mike: I was thinking that they were favorites, but with Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea gone, the Mavs are missing a few sparks. Not to mention, they are a bit aged in comparison to other teams and Father Time just added another year onto their lives. Also with the lockout, I believe it does hinder some momentum from last year’s championship run. Defending their title won’t be easy, in fact it will be even more difficult for them, but I believe they won’t repeat. But they still will fight tooth & nail in playoff series.

That's unity, y'all.


Jordy: By default, I say that they’re the favorites until they lose in the playoffs (or don’t make it). The Game has a line in his song “Game” (so cleverly titled) where he touts the value of Lamar Odom. And he has a point. When Lamar gives a crap, he provides value with scoring, rebounding and passing. Since Barea didn’t play THAT much anyway, and since Tyson Chandler provided an inside presence only, I really think that the Mavericks having Odom balances those losses. Also, this looks like a group that really enjoyed winning it all. I tend to believe that a desire to do it all again is there. So, yes, I think they’re still a favorite.

10. Predictions!
Mike: (And his self-titled “Especially Suspect Predictions”)
MVP-Kevin Durant
ROY-Kyrie Irving
Western Conference champs-Oklahoma City over Dallas in 7 games
Eastern Conference champs-Miami over Chicago in 6 games
NBA champion-Miami over Oklahoma City in 5 games

Ladies and gentlemen, your Rookie of the Year. I think.


Jordy: (Predictions sure to go wrong)
MVP-Kobe Bryant
ROY-Jimmer Fredette
Western champs-Denver over Dallas in 6 games (Tebow magic is everywhere, guys)
Eastern champs-Miami over Boston in 7 games
NBA champion-Miami over Denver in 4 games
(Really, Jordy? Denver?!!!?)

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Somebody give Baron Davis (green plaid shirt) a hug. And a job.

You may have noticed that there are no NBA games being played tonight. Or last night. Or the night before. Or tomorrow. Or all weekend. Like many people, you may be completely apathetic toward the lockout. It’s time to snap out of that feeling.

I’ll admit it. I miss the NBA. A lot. Last season was absolutely amazing. From Derrick Rose making the big leap, to the Lakers being wiped out of the NBA like Paris Hilton out of the limelight, to LeBron taking two steps forward then three steps back in the playoffs, to the Mavericks(??!!!!??) winning it all…last year had a little of everything. Good thing holding on to memories is kind of my thing.

I’m not the only one who misses the NBA. I asked my buddy Mike for how he feels about a lack of NBA in his life: “The sound of squeaking sneakers against hardwood courts echoes throughout the arena. No, you’re favorite NBA player isn’t the chopping down the ankles of some hotshot rookie fresh of a mutli-milion dollar endorsement deal for his signature line of shoes ( “For $150 a pair, you can look cool even when getting schooled!”). Rather, those are the sounds of the broken in Chuck Taylor’s that the arena janitor wears while cleaning the floor. IF you haven’t heard, the NBA is about as non-existent right now as Melo’s distribution game. Or better yet, LeBron’s late game heroics. Or even…wait, I’m getting a little emotional at the mere mentioning of these guys. With the lockout steadfast, we won’t know if the Mavericks are one hit wonders or repeat bound (we’ll miss Dirk’s un-guardable jumper along with Mark Cuban’s antics). We don’t get to see how the Miami Heat fare in it’s hopes of claiming not 1, not 2, not 3 (you get the point) championship banners. Can the Bulls pull it together in the playoffs? We aren’t given the opportunity to see if Mike D’Antoni’s run & gun coaching approach works with Melo, Amare’ and the rest of the Knicks (besides Billups, name someone else….I’m waiting). The Celtics aren’t given another (I stress that word) season to recapture the glory of their new Big 3 days. Are the Lakers too old to contend? Will this be the year Kevin Durant wins an MVP and lead the Thunder to the Promised Land? If you ask the NBA’s owners and players, these statements and questions really don’t matter. What matters is money. What matters is greed. Ask David Stern and 53/47 odds he agrees about not caring or holds a meeting about changing those odds to 55/45. The arena workers & small businesses located within arena proximity, league & team employees, and fans have no regard as far as the NBA is concerned. NBA Cares? Hardly. No Christmas games, All-Star Weekend, late playoff pushes or dramatic 7 game series. Basketball went from a game to a business, and we all managed to lose (embrace the irony; makes perfect sense). But all these questions, our complaining and sense of loss can vanish in the blink of a last second, half court heave. If the ball falls in the basket when the buzzer sounds and an agreement between owners and players is reached, we celebrate with champagne. A salvaged season is better than no season. But if that shot misses, then we’ll be left like every other team who has ever lost: there’s always next year………..hopefully. Until then, your simulated season on NBA 2K12 will have to suffice.”

There’s probably not going to be a season. Not only did the players reject the most recent offer by the owners, there are no plans to meet anytime soon. I’m going to throw out the thought that neither side WANTS to meet. So, here we are in what David Stern calls the “nuclear winter” of the NBA season. That’s…lame.

Of course, you wouldn’t know that there was an ongoing labor dispute with one of the major sporting leagues (Thanks a lot, Penn State!) thanks to an up and running football season (Hey, have you heard of that Tim Tebow guy? Man, he sucks!). I asked on Facebook to rate how much you cared about the lockout on a scale of one to ten. I think the average score as a 2.5—and that’s being nice. What’s been most appalling to me is that people are happy to talk about how they don’t care about the lockout. Sure, you don’t have to be a fan of the NBA. You could be one of the delusional types that actually believes that college basketball is better (It’s okay, I’ll just pray for you). But that doesn’t mean that this lockout won’t have long reaching effects.

Mild digression, hang on: (I think the thing that upsets me the most about the lukewarm reaction is how much people DON’T know. I was browsing a Facebook post from a local television station based in Columbia, SC. They asked if people cared about the lockout. As expected, most of the response was “I don’t care!” Now, it’s debatable whether I should expect people from South Carolina to be smart. But the “based on no proof” responses got my blood boiling. Someone said, “I think it’s so selfish when players strike”. But…it’s not a strike. The players are being locked out by the owners. This means that the OWNERS DON’T WANT THE PLAYERS TO PLAY UNTIL THEY [players] AGREE TO THEIR DEMANDS [owners]. THAT. IS. NOT. A STRIKE. Another person noted how the players should get over it since they’re getting million dollar checks. Well, that would be nice—if it were true. Of course, my favorite comment mentioned how these were all overpaid thugs. Lines like that make me wish that they did censor the Internet. No, really.)

I’m going to try to explain the dispute in a nutshell: The collective bargaining agreement that was in place was quite favorable to the players. (Of course, that’s kind of a moot point, since we like the NBA because of…um, the players in it) The owners wanted to have more of the BRI (basketball related income—raise your hand if you knew that before I just said it) in order to create more “competitive balance.” The owners (and David Stern, who represents them as commissioner) have offered a 50-50 split of the BRI, with reductions in guaranteed contracts, among other concessions. The players have rejected every offer put forth by the owners, which doesn’t really…help. At all.

I think that both sides are full of themselves. The owners are already rich, no one on that side is going to miss a meal. It’s no one’s fault that they put idiots in charge of their teams…idiots who think it’s okay to give Joe Johnson and Rashard Lewis 100+ million dollar contracts. (Don’t know who those guys are? THAT’S THE POINT) Also, the idea of competitive balance is silly. The Bulls were good because they drafted well and made smart choices in adding talent through trades and free agency. But it took a while. The Bobcats are bad because they drafted college players who were popular in the state of North Carolina, and trade away anyone who actually contributed in multiple areas. Changing the way the money is distributed won’t change the way that the Bulls and Bobcats are run as respective franchises.

However, the players are full of themselves too. I’m not going to throw out the word “greedy”, because these are the best basketball players on the planet. Professional athletes as a whole make lots of money, yes. But…once again, they’re the best in the world at what they do. Anyway, the American public as a whole has had to make concessions over the past few years. Many companies are cutting pensions, no longer matching 401(k), (in some places) going to higher insurance premiums, (or no insurance at all) and laying off employers left and right. We’ve had to give back more and get less. Why can’t these guys do the same? Do they not realize that the offers will only get worse? Do they want to play at all this year? Some players were running a #letusplay campaign on Twitter. Hey guys, here’s a way to play: ACCEPT THE OFFER FROM THE OWNERS. Wait, too late.

Look, there are legitimate reasons to care about the lockout. The players have decided to de-certify the union, and try to take the owners to court. This happened during the NFL lockout (which could have ended with the players being forced to play without pads or helmets, yet no one would care because WE GOT FOOTBALL BACK EVEN THOUGH IT DIDN’T GO AWAY). Taking it to the courts actually made things worse in the NFL lockout. When unions don’t get their way, I’m sure they’ll think to de-certify (Maybe they won’t, BUT JUST LET ME FEAR MONGER YOU). Of course, that won’t help things. Also, there are plenty of other people (people working in the concession stands, cheerleaders, um…other people behind the scenes!) who don’t have jobs because of this lockout. More unemployment is EXACTLY WHAT THIS ECONOMY NEEDS. Oh, wait, that’s not true?

Of course, I’m an outlier. I will absolutely be there to watch when the NBA comes back. Of course, I watched when the MLB came back from the strike. In a related story, I once woke up at 4 in the morning to catch a live tennis match. Set my alarm, even. So, there’s no doubt that I’m going to be back. But what the NBA doesn’t realize is that Mike and I are in the minority. Those comments I saw on Facebook seem to be the norm. The NBA really blew it by not figuring this thing out before it was too late. If David Stern thinks that this is a nuclear winter now, just wait until things get “resolved”. The toxic nature is going to be coming from the fans that were left by the wayside.

True story: I actually have written about 17 posts this month. However, since I have an incredible ability to not finish things that I started, you’ve only seen about…two of them. Anyway, you may be surprised to know that I’m a fan of basketball. My “sports power rankings” would probably look like this:
1. Baseball
2. Football
3. Basketball
4. Tennis
5. Hockey

When it comes to sports leagues, my power rankings are something like this:
1. NFL
2. NBA
3. MLB
4. NCAA Football
5. NCAA Basketball

Why does any of this matter? Well, it really doesn’t. I suppose that I’m trying to qualify myself for writing about the upcoming NBA season. In case you haven’t heard: the Miami Heat got some new players this off-season, Phil Jackson returned to the Lakers, no major star got arrested this summer, and people suddenly realized that Kevin Durant is a good basketball player. Anyway, while I know that there are plenty of other, more reputable outlets available to get an NBA preview for this season, there should only be about five questions you should be asking this year. That is, if you actually care about the NBA as much as it cares about you. So, let’s get right to it!

1. How good will the Miami Heat be? Seriously!
On paper, Dwyane Wade the People Who Took their Talents to South Beach look to be a juggernaut. They’ll be featured on national television twice this week. ESPN has The Heat Index, which is probably the most blatant ass kissing attempt in the history of the Internet. There are plenty of new Heat fans popping up, and I’m sure

What's that? These guys play for the Heat now?!!?

not a single one of them could tell you the name of the arena “their team” plays in, or who Rony Seikaly is. Hell, there’s even a bar that will buy you drinks if the Heat lose a game this year! But will any of this matter? Quick, name the coach of the Miami Heat. Still thinking? Well, it’s Erik Spolestra. Does that name give you any confidence? Didn’t think so. Look, I’m not saying that he’s a bad coach. But if you were to take a glance at the last 15 NBA championship winners, you would see that all of the teams had a proven coach. Maybe Erik Spolestra joins those ranks this year. But if that doesn’t happen, you really should not be surprised.

 

2. Who will be the worst team in the league this year?
This question is only asked because saying “Cleveland!” would be too easy. Although, I think that they lost one of their key players, as well as the head coach. Not to be outdone for woefulness, you have teams like Memphis, (Rudy Gay is paid now, and are you really looking for consecutive good years from Zach Randolph) New Jersey, (they’re trying to trade the GUY THEY DRAFTED THIRD OVERALL THIS YEAR to get Carmelo Anthony)

Hey Kings fans: Chris Webber is not walking through that door. Le sigh.

Toronto, (it’s Canada, guys) and Sacramento (can you name three guys on their team without cheating?). Also, there is bound to be at least one team that won’t be as good as people think they will be. So maybe, just maybe, the race to the bottom will be as riveting as the race to the top.

 

3. What will I watch or do to pass the time when the NBA has a lockout next year?
Yes, there is a relatively good chance that there will be a lockout in the NBA and the NFL next year. So, I hope you guys like college sports and/or soccer! I wish I were joking. NBA commissioner David Stern wants to cut salaries by $800 million dollars. And honestly, can you blame him? USA Today has a database of the top 25 salaries in the league last season. Are these the top 25 players in the league? You answer should be, “Hell to the nah!” Now, none of those players came up with their own contract(s), so much of the blame can be given to team executives as well. But still, there are plenty of guys making way more money than they should be. And until the NBA is able to figure that out between the owners and the player union, (and they’re nowhere near close to doing that) the possibility of a full NBA season next year is pretty bleak. So, enjoy this “most anticipated NBA season ever” while you can. No, seriously.

4. Is there still a Western Conference in the NBA?
OK, so that’s a bit of a stretch. But let’s think about it: the Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Boston Celtics, and even the Chicago Bulls are considered legitimate “contenders” this year. All of those teams are in the Eastern Conference. Also, Carlos Boozer and Amare’ Stoudemire moved to the Eastern Conference. Moving West, do you really trust the Thunder? Am I the only one who remembers that they were an eight seed last season?

Your Western Conference champions?

Dallas? Well, I guess that anything is possible…but still. Not very likely. Yes, there’s Utah and Portland as well, but do you see either one of those teams actually beating the Lakers in the playoffs? No, you don’t have to answer that question.

 

5. What are your predictions for this NBA season?
I thought you’d never ask!
-MVP: Kevin Durant
-ROY: Blake Griffin (I mean, that’s not much of a stretch)
-Defensive Player of the Year: LeBron James
-Coach: Flip Saunders
-Eastern playoff teams: Miami, Boston, Chicago, New York, Orlando, Washington, Milwaukee, Detroit
-Western playoff teams: L.A. Lakers, Utah, Oklahoma City, Portland, San Antonio, Dallas, L.A. Clippers, Denver
-NBA champion: L.A. Lakers. As Ric Flair will tell you, to be the man, you gotta beat the man. I’ll believe that another team will win the title when I see it.

If these predictions are wrong, let’s pretend that this post never existed…OK? Thanks.