December 12, 2012
The Golden State Warriors have long been an afterthought as true NBA contenders, but that time is officially over. The Warriors are the real deal this season for reasons never associated with the franchise before.
For years the team was coached by one of the game’s greats, Don Nelson. While his coaching style was wide open, run-and-gun, full throttle and a blast to watch, defense was nearly absent in Oakland for seemingly decades. If the team couldn’t score 120-plus points on any given night, the odds of winning were minimal.
Now, a new day is upon the Warriors and their future is mighty bright. The team is now coached by long-time NBA veteran Mark Jackson, who is in his second season as the team’s coach and is the right man for the job. Like a former catcher becoming a manager in Major League Baseball, the ex-point guard is a recipe for success in the NBA.
Jackson knew that installing defensive fundamentals would be priority No. 1 and the team isn’t defensively superior quite yet, but they are well on their way. The Warriors are winning with young talent and are sure to continue to improve. The squad is now a team from the top spot on the roster to the bottom.
Their 14-7 record currently has them in the No. 5 spot in the Western Conference. What is most impressive is that the team has won four straight road games in which they’ve scored 100-plus points in each contest. Winning teams in any professional sport not only take care of business on their home court, but they win consistently on the road. Collecting W’s away from home now will serve the Warriors well come late in the season when they are jockeying for home-court advantage for the playoffs.
Wait, the Warriors will be in the playoffs?
Led by all-world playmaker Stephen Curry, the Warriors are an up-and-coming juggernaut. No one man in the NBA can do it by himself and Curry has help in double-double guru David Lee and scorers Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes.
So what makes this team different from all of the promising Warriors lineups in the past that were loaded with top-tier talent?
The franchise now has a coach that predicates his teachings on defense and his team is taking a liking to being victorious more times than not. They are beginning to gel and look good in doing so. With Curry running the show, opposing teams are left to guess what is up his sleeve.
Sure, they will have to overcome injuries as the injury bug has already bitten them this season, but better that happen to them now than late March, early April.
The Warriors take to the road once again against the defending NBA champion Miami Heat on 12-12-2012. Maybe that will help them get the attention they deserve.
December 23, 2011
Boston at New York
The weekend starts off with Boston traveling to New York to face the team they swept out of the playoffs last year. New York has a bad taste in its mouth from that exit, and has retooled their team a bit since then. The Celtics kept their core group and will look to get off to a quick start to combat some fatigue that could set in down the stretch for their aging group. New York would love to start the season off by avenging their losses last year, but I don’t think they win this one. New teammates mixed with a veteran opponent don’t sound like a good combination. I think Boston capitalizes on early mistakes by New York and start their season with a win.
Miami at Dallas
Forget first round rematches, the second game on the schedule goes right to last year’s NBA Finals. Dallas will still be in celebration mode as they receive their rings and raise the championship banner, and it will only fuel the Heat’s fire having to be there to watch it. Miami knows how costly it can be to get off to a bad start and they will be dialed in from the opening tip. Dallas picked up Vince Carter and Lamar Odom in the offseason, while Miami added defensive specialist Shane Battier. This is a hard game to pick, because Miami’s starters match up well against Dallas, but Dallas has a deeper bench. My gut says Miami takes this game and starts the season off strong.
Chicago at Los Angeles Lakers
Two more teams that shook it up this offseason, Chicago and Los Angeles are both hoping their offseason moves help them get into the Finals. Chicago added SG Richard Hamilton from Detroit, hoping to add another scoring threat to free up PG Derrick Rose. The Lakers traded SF Lamar Odom in a move that could be associated with their efforts to get C Dwight Howard from Orlando. On top of that, Kobe Bryant has a torn ligament in his wrist, which could affect him in the game. Even without Odom, the Lakers frontcourt could be trouble for the Bulls. However, I still think Chicago comes away with this game. Look for a high scoring game that stays close, but Chicago pulls away in the end.
Orlando at Oklahoma City Thunder
Speaking of high scoring, this game should be a shootout. Oklahoma City has a pair of stars in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook that will keep the tempo at a solid pace. While the Thunder had a relatively quiet offseason, Orlando has been all over the trade rumors. Star C Dwight Howard has asked for a trade and while he hasn’t gotten it yet, the thought has to be on the minds of his teammates. Thunder C Kendrick Perkins will have his hands full with Howard, but I think the young backcourt of Oklahoma City will be too much for the Magic. The Thunder get the W in this game.
Los Angeles Clippers at Golden State
The only game featuring teams that didn’t make the playoffs last year is one of the more anticipated ones. The new look Clippers are the talk of the NBA since they landed Chris Paul in a blockbuster trade. Now, everyone will look to see if Paul and Blake Griffin can lead the Clippers to the playoffs. The Warriors have a young team as well, led by Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis. The tempo in this game should make the previous game look like a snail’s pace. Golden State has pushed the ball for years, and with a backcourt of Paul and Chauncey Billups, the Clippers might look to do the same. The Clippers are going to have to adjust, having so many new starters playing together for the first time in the regular season. The Clippers want to make a statement with this game though, and I think they will put on a show and start their season off with a 1-0 record.
February 14, 2011
The NBA trade deadline is just around the corner, and while some teams will be merely trying to dump salary, others will be legitimately trying to make themselves better for the playoffs. This is always one of the most frustrating times for fans hoping their team will make a big deal, but the fact is that blockbuster trades are always extremely difficult to put together due to salary considerations. Still, here are some stars that might have new homes come February 19th.
Melo is the biggest fish out there and for good reason. Though Anthony is an eight-year NBA vet, he’s only 26 and in the prime of his career. This season, he’s averaging just under 25 points and eight rebounds per game and is one of the league’s premier forwards. Carmelo’s goal, if we can believe the rumors, may be to play in New York – potentially setting up another ‘Big Three’ along with Amar’e Stoudemire and, later, Chris Paul. But the Nuggets reportedly don’t like what the Knicks have been offering and may not send him there.
As recently as last week, Anthony’s name has also surfaced in potential trade talks with the Los Angeles Lakers. According to earlier rumors, Carmelo may only want to be traded to New York, but the thought of playing for the two-time defending champions could change his mind. He would have to take a back seat to Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles, but playing for the Lakers might be his best chance to win a ring. The Lakers likely wouldn’t trade for Anthony unless he committed to a long-term deal with the team, so that may be a sticking point in any deal.
It hasn’t been a particularly good year for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Cleveland set the all-time record for consecutive losses in all of major professional sports with 26 last week, and things have been dismal with the departure of some key players, including LeBron James. With that kind of ‘success’, the team could be in a position to move some of its more expensive players. At the top of that list would be Antawn Jamison, who is scheduled to make about $15,000,000 next season.
At 34, Jamison is still a productive player in the league, averaging more than 17 points and six rebounds per game and would be a real help to nearly any title contender. Jamison is also in the final year of his deal next season and can offer prospective teams the always-desirable expiring contract. The only problem is that his salary for next year may be more than some teams are willing to take on. Still, the Cavs could be looking to trade him and may be willing to take on quite a bit of his salary in return.
The Lakers’ center is normally not the type of player that would get traded. He’s a young, emerging big man that has shown flashes of brilliance but has yet to reach his full potential. At only 23, it’s conceivable that he could have ten more years of his best play still ahead of him if he can remain injury free. Unfortunately for him, he’s rarely been fully healthy in any given season and has had various injury issues throughout his career. Still, he could become one of the league’s best centers and is a desirable trading chip. The Lakers may be willing to part with him in order to land Carmelo Anthony or another established star who might be able to help them right away. And with Pau Gasol able to man the center position, the Lakers may be able to manage without him.
Realistically, I don’t expect Ellis to be dealt. He’s one of the best young shooting guards in the league and averaging more than 25 points and five assists per game, is having possibly his best season as a pro. But the Warriors are not performing as well as they envisioned and are under .500 on the season. Management could be forced to make a move, and Ellis is the team’s best chip. If he is indeed traded, Golden State will almost assuredly need to get another shooting guard in return as the team would be thin in that area without him.
Crawford isn’t the best guard in the league, but he can provide instant offense for a team off the bench, as evidenced by his 15 points per game. He struggles at times with his shot and is only a career 41% shooter from the field, but Crawford can be a good fit for a contender looking for a quality backup off the bench. With Mike Bibby and Joe Johnson, the Hawks have a great starting backcourt. But Jamal is their best guard off the bench, and if they aren’t able to get a guard in return, trading him could leave a huge void. Since the Hawks are still one of the East’s better teams and will expect to compete in the playoffs, it will probably take an overwhelming offer for them to move Crawford.
The Bobcats had high hopes for the season but are struggling through another tough year. The team lost its head coach, Larry Brown, in December, and may be looking to start over. Gerald Wallace is the team’s best player, but he’s having one of his worst seasons in recent memory. His numbers (15.5 points and 8.1 rebounds per game) are down from previous years and, after shooting nearly 50% over the past two seasons, he’s making only 43% of his shots from the field this year. Wallace, however, is still a young player at 28 and may benefit from a change of scenery. If the Bobcats decide to start over and go into full rebuilding mode, he could be the first to go.