February 19, 2014
The NBA’s All Star break is officially in the rear view mirror and the trade deadline is just a couple days away. So now seems like a good time to take a look at what lies ahead this season.
Once again, the trade deadline will be a lot of talk and a lot of disappointment for the fans hoping their team will make a big splash. Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love, Pau Gasol and other big names have been rumored as possible trades. But they aren’t going anywhere. As always, we’ll have a few solid players finding new homes but nothing that is franchise altering. Everyone is waiting for that to happen in the draft.
Milwaukee is well on its way to having the most balls in the draft lottery. The real “battle” will be between Philadelphia, Orlando, Sacramento, Boston, Utah and the Lakers so make sure they get the second or third best chance to win the first pick in the draft.
Indiana will finish with the best record and home court advantage in the Eastern Conference. Miami will not care. The Pacers want to play at home. Miami wants to be healthy for the playoffs. Both teams will get their wish, setting up a tremendous Eastern Conference Finals.
Miami will not pull off the three-peat. Sooner or later their ability to turn it on and off at will will be over. They are next-to-last in allowing a 51.6 effective field goal percentage. Defense wins championships right? There is no D in Miami right now and it will come back to haunt them in the playoffs.
The other stroll (I can’t call it a race when all the teams are under .500) to watch is whether Michael Jordan’s Bobcats can hold off the Knicks and Cavs to make the playoffs. These teams have been unintentionally terrible and need to reach the postseason as they try to gain some much needed respect (Bobcats), try to keep Carmelo (Knicks) and lure LeBron James (Cavs).
In the Western Conference the Thunder have been the best team and are about to get Westbrook back. They’ll be the top seed. But the Spurs, Rockets, Clippers and Blazers are going to be in a fight for the 2-5 seeds. Meanwhile, Dallas, Golden State, Phoenix and Memphis are all playing well, but someone’s going to be left out.
Kevin Durant will be the MVP. He’s led the Thunder to the best record in the league – and done it without Russell Westbrook for just about the whole season. Durant is having a career best season in scoring, assists, and shooting. He is on a mission.
In the NBA Finals, I’m seeing the Indiana Pacers taking on Oklahoma City and as long as Westbrook is healthy and returns to his old form, the Thunder winning the title.
November 19, 2013
We’re just 10 games into an 82-game NBA season so obviously there’s a lot of basketball left to play. But now that the games are for real, its time to take a look at what has happened so far compared to what we expected to happen.
Philadelphia was supposed to be the worst team in the league and the 76ers are leading the division. They have Michael-Carter Williams to thank for that. The rookie is making everyone forget they traded Jrue Holliday during the offseason and led the team to shocking wins over the Heat and Bulls. The future looks bright in Philly with Williams, Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes (averaging a double-double), injured rookie Nerlens Noel and probably a high draft pick coming in the summer.
Brooklyn is supposed to be a threat to Miami and is in last place at 3-7. The Nets have been dealing with injury problems and that makes life even tougher with a first-time head coach. Good thing they are a veteran team and have an owner willing to do whatever it takes to win. Once they get healthy, the Nets should get back on track.
Indiana has picked up where it left off in the playoffs when it nearly knocked off the Heat. The Pacers ought to be better this year.
In Cleveland its starting to look like the Andrew Bynum addition isn’t going to be the move that gets the Cavs back to the playoffs. They are going to need a lot more than six points and four rebounds from their big man.
Charlotte is off to a pretty good start (for Charlotte) at 5-6 and that is with Al Jefferson only playing three games so far. He should improve their 30th ranked offense.
What’s wrong with Washington? Weren’t the Wizards supposed to be a playoff team? Not at 2-7 they aren’t.
Portland is the hottest team in the league with seven straight wins. This appears to be a much improved team and another contender to battle for a playoff berth in the stacked Western Conference.
Utah is running away with the race for the most lottery balls in the draft. The Jazz already have 11 losses. That’s four more than the next highest. Will it be Wiggins or Parker?
Phoenix may be the biggest surprise so far at 5-4. The four losses are by a combined 13 points and that includes games in San Antonio and Oklahoma City. Impressive start, but will it last?
New Orleans is a Wednesday night win over the terrible Utah Jazz from getting to .500 and they’ll still be the worst team in the best division in basketball.
San Antonio has nine players averaging at least seven points a game. Some teams don’t even have nine guys they will put on the court.
June 3, 2013
Grant Hill retires: In a somewhat expected move, forward Grant Hill retired from the NBA last season. For many, Hill will be remembered for the injuries that ate up much of his career. Injuries again kept him down this year as the forward appeared in only 29 games all season with the Los Angeles Clippers, and at 40, it’s clear he should have retired. But Hill should never be forgotten. He was the 1994-95 Rookie of the Year and a seven-time All-Star. Hill wasn’t always healthy, but when he was, he was one of the NBA’s best forwards earlier in his career.
Rangers coach John Tortorella fired: Shortly after being ousted by the Boston Bruins in the NHL’s Eastern Conference semifinals, the New York Rangers dumped head coach John Tortorella. The Rangers had hopes of reaching the Stanley Cup finals this season, but actually regressed after making the Eastern Conference finals last year. Tortorella had some success in New York, but was rumored to have rubbed some of his players the wrong way. After not advancing past the first round in each of his first three seasons with the Rangers, Tortorella had done better each of the past two seasons. It wasn’t enough to keep his job, but as a former Stanley Cup winning coach in Tampa Bay, he should get another chance down the line.
Steve Smith (the other one) retires: New York Giants receiver Steve Smith (not to be confused with the Carolina Panthers‘ Steve Smith) has decided to hang up his cleats. Smith was a former Pro Bowler and just signed a deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason. He was always a bit underrated as a receiver and finishes with seven 1,000-yard seasons under his belt. He nearly had another in 2009 when he finished with 982 yards and there’s little doubt he had something left in the tank. Smith had nearly 2,600 receiving yards over the past two seasons with 11 touchdowns. At 34, he probably still has some football left in him. It will be interesting to see if he changes his mind when training camp rolls around.
Phoenix Suns hire Jeff Hornacek as head coach: Jeff Hornacek, a former shooting guard in the NBA, will head back to Phoenix to serve as the team’s new head coach. Hornacek played for the Suns from 1986 – 1992 and also had stints with the Philadelphia 76ers and Utah Jazz. He helped the Jazz to two trips to the NBA Finals alongside Karl Malone and John Stockton. After retiring, he became an instructor with the Jazz and then an assistant. Hornacek will come in somewhat unproven with only a few years of experience as an assistant. And considering the mess that is the Phoenix Suns right now, that will make it even harder to succeed.
Everett Golson suspended for 2013: Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson was suspended by the team due to ‘poor academic judgment.’ There hasn’t yet been confirmation on what exactly that means, but one thing is for certain – he won’t be suiting up for the Irish this fall. It’s a blow to a team that went to the BCS Championship with him at the helm last year. Notre Dame must now turn to another option – most likely senior Tommy Rees. But Malik Zaire could have an outside shot at the job as he comes in as a highly touted freshman this year. But without Golson, the team’s stock is taking a significant hit.
Kansas City Royals hire George Brett as hitting coach: Stuck in the middle of a long losing streak, the Kansas City Royals have turned to perhaps the best player in the history of their franchise – George Brett. Brett will assume duties as the team’s new hitting coach. Let’s face it – giving the job to a franchise icon who just happens to be one of the best hitters in the last 50 years isn’t a bad idea. But stars generally have a difficult time coaching and often, aren’t able to teach others how to play the game as well as they could. Still, for just taking a shot in the dark on a midseason hire, the Royals could have done worse.
Floyd Mayweather to fight Saul Alvarez: Floyd Mayweather, Jr. recently announced that he would fight Saul “Canelo” Alvarez on September 14th. The match will pit a pair of unbeatens as Mayweather is 44-0-0 while Alvarez is 42-0-1. While this is a big deal and surely a fight that Mayweather will trumpet, Alvarez isn’t Manny Pacquiao - the fighter many would like to see battle Mayweather. In the announcement on (where else) Twitter, Mayweather made sure to tell us that he’s ‘giving the fans what they want’ by participating in the fight. Thanks, I guess?
NCAA Golfer penalized for car washing: Yep, you heard that one correctly. The NCAA penalized an unidentified women’s golfer for washing her own car. The reason? She reportedly used water on the campus that technically belonged to the university and was forced to pay the school $20.00 – the approximate value of the water and hose that was estimated by the organization. I’m all for following the rules and I think the NCAA gets a bad rap sometimes. They’ve got a difficult job in trying to police schools and student athletes, and I get that letting smaller things go can easily escalate into bigger problems. But seriously, can’t we have a common sense clause that allows for a warning in some instances?
May 15, 2012
The first round of the NBA playoffs became survival of the fittest with player after player going down with an injury. The list looks like an all-star roster. The Bulls, Hawks, Magic and even Knicks could all blame injuries for their first round exits. As the conference semi-finals get underway, the playoff picture is much different than I expected with the 50-win Bulls and everybody’s “sleeper” team (Memphis) eliminated. Time to reassess and rank the eight teams still standing.
No. 8 Philadelphia 76ers
This young team took advantage of an injury-riddled Bulls team and became the fifth No. 8 seed to advance to the second round. They have stolen home-court advantage against the Celtics with a game two win and showed that they will make Boston earn a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.
No. 7 Los Angeles Clippers
The jam-packed NBA schedule has been tough on players and coaches but the group that may be the most exhausted by the whole thing is Clipper fans. These people are usually in wait-till-next-year mode by New Years and here they are in round two after a thrilling seven-game series against Memphis. How much more can they take?
No. 6 Los Angeles Lakers
This team looks like a championship contender. But only about once a week. They should be better than that with Kobe Bryant and two 7-footers. That was an embarrassing loss in Oklahoma City. It’s only one game, but the Lakers are in trouble.
No. 5 Indiana Pacers
Indiana has quietly been one of the best teams all season. Only four teams had more regular season victories than the Pacers. But they don’t seem to get much respect. Here’s their chance to change that. The Dwight Howard-less Magic didn’t give them any trouble in the first round. Can they challenge the Heat?
No. 4 Boston Celtics
It’s now or never for the Celtics. They caught a break with the Bulls going down after the Derrick Rose injury. They ought to be able to use their championship experience to get by the up-and-coming 76ers and likely have one more showdown with Miami. They know this is probably their last shot as a group. The question is how much is left in the tank?
No. 3 Miami Heat
Miami leads the Pacers 1-0 but it looks like the big three is down to a big two with Chris Bosh out “indefinitely.” Without Bosh, the Heat could be in trouble against Indiana. They are still the favorites but it may take six or seven games. They won’t win the NBA championship without a healthy Bosh back in the lineup.
No. 2 San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs have home court advantage as long as they are in the playoffs. It seems like they have had about two weeks off after the sweep of the Utah Jazz. A lot of people expected them to have a tough matchup with the Grizzlies after losing to them in the playoffs last season. But instead they get Chris Paul and the Clippers. This should be a good series.
No. 1 Oklahoma City Thunder
Oklahoma City has the look of a champion. Trailing by double-digits in game four against the defending world champion Mavericks, the Thunder could have easily let that game go and finished off the Mavs in another game. But Durant and company would have none of that and finished off the sweep. Then they absolutely destroyed the Lakers in game one. They look like they are on a mission.
May 7, 2012
Despite assembling a trio of some of the league’s biggest stars last year, the Miami Heat were unable to win the NBA championship, falling to the Dallas Mavericks. They received a bit of a pass since it was their first season together, but that won’t be the case if Miami fails to bring home the franchise’s second title this year.
The Heat may not have been the Eastern Conference’s best team this year, but there’s little doubt they are the favorites to advance to the Finals because of the huge rash of injuries to key players.
Miami’s already on the brink of disposing of the New York Knicks, leading their series 3-1 in the first round. The Knicks might have been in better shape against LeBron & Company if they were a bit healthier. New York was already without rookie sensation Jeremy Lin (knee injury) since late March. But then came Iman Shumpert’s torn ACL and a bizarre hand injury to starter Amare Stoudemire, who somehow thought punching a fire extinguisher case out of frustration after the team’s Game 2 loss was a good idea. After sitting out the third game, Stoudemire returned for Game 4. But missing Lin and Shumpert has definitely hurt the team in this series.
The Chicago Bulls, perhaps the best team in the entire league with a 50-16 record, were dealt a cruel blow in their first round series. With only a little over a minute to play in their first playoff game against the Philadelphia 76ers, star point guard Derrick Rose tore his ACL and, just like that, his season was over. Rose was the team’s leader in scoring and assists and without him, the Bulls have been a shell of their former selves. Chicago won that first game, but has fallen short in the past three without Rose. And as if that weren’t enough of a hurdle to overcome, the Bulls lost center Joakim Noah in Game 4 to an ankle sprain. Even if they can somehow fight back and make it a series against Philly, there’s little chance they could do much more in the playoffs.
The Orlando Magic were another team expected to contend for the title. That all changed, though, once star center Dwight Howard went down with a back injury late in the season. Power forward Glen Davis has stepped up in his absence, scoring 20 points a game in the playoffs and pulling in nearly ten rebounds. But the team clearly misses Howard, who was their regular season leader in points, rebounds, blocks, and steals. Howard’s defensive impact is just as important as the one he makes on offense and the Magic are a weaker team on both ends without him.
There are also the aging Boston Celtics. The Celtics have been relatively healthy, but shooting guard Ray Allen missed the first two games of their opening series against the Atlanta Hawks. He’d been out for the past month with bone spurs in his foot, and even though he’s back, is still trying to get back into game shape.
Miami isn’t a lock to win the East by any stretch of the imagination. The Indiana Pacers are having a strong season and as one of the league’s best rebounding teams, could give the Heat some trouble. And the Atlanta Hawks’ sixth-ranked defense might be able to challenge Miami’s explosive offense as well. The Heat are a combined 6-2 against those two teams in the regular season, but in the playoffs, the intensity will be ratcheted up significantly. Despite all that, though, it’s clear that with all of the injuries to the Eastern Conference this season, Miami has a clear shot at reaching the Finals again.