Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Loose Balls- Tuesday

Cleveland's sitting purty atop the Central at 10-3 but a closer look at their schedule shows that they've beaten up on patsies (Charlotte, Indy) while losing to the league's elite (Boston, New Orleans). Sure, they defeated Utah, but only because the Jazz were playing without Deron Williams, Memo Okur and AK47. The Cavs November and December calendar is softer than tissue paper but we'll know after a tough stretch in January that features the Lakers, Hornets and Jazz whether or not Cleveland's legit.

The Zach Randolph for Cuttino Mobley/Tim Thomas trade has apparently hit a snag because of questions over Mobley's heart, SI reports. Certainly the irony isn't lost on hoops fans who've watched Z-Bo meander through eight full seasons of basketball with absolutely no heart whatsoever.

This article in the Oregonian perfectly sums up the shitfest that was last night's Portland/Sacto 'contest.' Brandon Roy- good. Everything else in this game- putrid. Greg Oden looked completely lost trying to guard the Kings bigs (Brad Miller and Spencer 'Lil' Brad' Hawes) out on the perimeter. And is it just me, or is Lil' Brad pulling a 'Single White Female' and totally stealing Big Brad's look?

Pictured: Big Brad & Lil' Brad jump around against NO

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The NBA: Where Belt-Tightening Happens

On the surface, the big stories so far this season are the continued Lakers/Celtics rivalry and the free agent status of superstar Lebron James. But what�s really on everyone�s mind is how the current financial crisis will impact the league long-term. Allow me to indulge is some gloom and doom for a moment�

With attendance dwindling and many small market teams hemorrhaging cash, we might be witnessing the end of the big-spending era where players got 100 million dollar contracts based on potential. The Knicks just basically gave away Jamal Crawford and Zach Randolph for the opportunity to sign James in 2010. According to league reports, as many as 14 teams are lining up to spend their money on Lebron. Yes, he�s one of the best players in the game but he�s also a proven commodity. He�ll sell tickets and help you win games. Practically speaking, that�s a good investment.

Gone are the days when Atlanta would give Jon Koncak 10 mil a season to get 5 points, 8 boards and a block. Gone are the days when Juwan Howard got a six year deal for being Washington�s third best player. In fact, if ticket prices ultimately go down based on poor attendance (makes sense, right?), it�s entirely possible that we�ll see the elimination of the well-paid role player (guys like James Posey or Lamar Odom). To stay profitable, each team would consist of two maxed-out stars and a bunch of minimum wage CBA guys. All those mid-level exception guys would either have to take pay cuts to stay in the league or go look for better deals overseas. Another possibility is that all of the role players play for one-year, non-guaranteed contracts, kind of like the special teams guys in the NFL.

Well paid coaches would probably also get the boot, unless they were winning titles, of course. Mike Dunleavy- gone. Scott Skiles- gone. Rick Carlisle- gone. Now I know this sounds pretty fucking bleak but with the unemployment rate getting higher every day, the average consumer is likely to make cutbacks on spending and I seriously doubt whether even the most hardcore fan would choose hoops tickets over paying the rent.

David Stern, the epitome of corporate douchebaggery, has been frantically trying to set up shop in China so he can jump ship the second it starts sinking. Great leadership there, you prick.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Heading For A Lakers-Celtics Rematch?

I know, I know- it's early. Seven games does not a season make. But seven games DOES give you a pretty good idea of how players are going to mesh and whether or not they'll fit in to new systems and roles. It's also a good sample size for plus/minus and margin of victory. And after three weeks of basketball, it's apparent that last season's finalists, the Lakers and Celtics, are the class of the league. What a surprise. Thanks, Captain Obvious. What IS shocking is how much better they are than anyone else.

LA, the league's only remaining undefeated at 7-0, is absolutely crushing teams. With Andrew Bynum manning the middle, they're currently first in the league in scoring AND points allowed. Unheard of. Obviously, their +18 differential won't hold up for an entire season but I can't recall a start this impressive on both ends by any team since the 72-win Bulls. The difference between this year's team and last? Bynum's improved health and skill level, mainly. But Phil also moved Lamar Odom to the 6th man spot and replaced Luke Walton in the rotation with Trevor Ariza, both shrewd moves that were second-guessed at the time.

Boston's picked up right where they left off, playing stifling D and relying on clutch shooting from Paul Pierce. The Celts only loss off the season was a fluke to Indiana, for fuck's sake. Tony Allen's done an admirable job filling in for the departed James Posey. KG's anchoring a defense that's holding opponents to 39% shooting. Ridiculous.

When you factor in that several key competitors, namely San Antonio and Detroit, have taken big steps backward so far, things are looking pretty good for another Lakers-Celtics Finals. But again, it's very early.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

WTF? Headscratching Galore

Portland's off to a slow start this year and one of the key reasons is Nate McMillan's decision to play Steve Blake at point and move Roy to 2. If you'll recall, just last season, with the team mired in mediocrity, Roy went to McMillan and pleaded with the coach to let him run point and handle the ball more. The result? 13 game win streak. So what happens this year? Nate opens the season with Blake at point. I don't get it. Especially when Blake is a career backup, for fuck's sake.

And who could possibly envision the Spurs starting 1-4? No Manu, no Parker, no bench. Michael Finley and Kurt Thomas look positively ancient. And their D sucks- they're giving up 105 a game. I fully expect them to turn it around and finish somewhere in the 5-6 seed neighborhood. But what if they don't? Could it be possible San Antonio misses the playoffs? We know that LA, New Orleans, Utah, Houston and Phoenix will be there. And Dallas, probably. That only leaves two spots for Portland, Denver and the Spurs to fight over. Pop's teams always start slowly, but not usually THIS slowly. Strange days, indeed.

None of this week's oddities freaked me out quite as much as watching Joakim Noah and Anderson Varejao guard each other in the Bulls/Cavs game. Yuck. I've sung Varejao's praises in the past and also predicted that Noah will someday be a serviceable, if not great, player. But seeing the two of them go against each other? Wow. The horror, the hair, the baby fat. Disgusting.

Speaking of disgusting, how much of a steaming shitpile is the Golden State organization right now? The players hate the coach, the coach hates the GM, the GM hates the owners. Their best player (Monta) won't see the court until midseason. They let Baron go and replaced him with Cory Fucking Maggette. What a botch job. Stephen Jackson has to be wondering whether or not it's a good idea to stay there long term.

The only team in deeper doodoo than GS? The Clips, who've spiraled down to 0-6 and appear to have thrown in the towel exactly two weeks into an eight month season. My buddy Big Ben thinks that Elgin Baylor put a curse on Dunleavy for the backstabbingly rude dismissal. My theory is that any team with Ricky Davis on the roster immediately sucks balls. Let's call it the Ricky Davis Effect- dramatic weakening through sheer exposure. Like Kryptonite for Superman. Or Palin for McCain.

Not all of this year's early surprises are disaster movies, however. The Atlanta Hawks, despite having absolutely no bench whatsoever, are undefeated and just beat the Hornets on the road. Joe Johnson is playing MVP basketball. Horford and Smith are legit. They're beating teams by double digits. I'm genuinely impressed. One injury and they're sub .500 again but Hawks fans (bwaaahaaahaaa!) should enjoy this cohesion while it lasts.

*Note- Josh Smith sprained his ankle against Toronto and is out 2-4 weeks. Sorry, Hawks fans (bwaaaahaaaahaaaa!)

My take on the AI/Chauncey trade: Detroit immediately loses their contender status this year but puts themselves in position to sign Lebron/Wade/Bosh after the season. Good move for them. Denver is slightly better than they were but still has no center and little to no chance of coming out of the brutal West. And they just committed to more money long term. Way to go, Kroenke!