Saturday, April 30, 2011

Lakers Recap: I'm sorry mom

Well, as my mother always said, Better late than never.

She actually never said that, she just yelled at me and told me that I'd better turn my shit on time. Sorry mom.

The good news for Lakers fans is that your team played well on Thursday night. The better news is that they could have won by 30 if they wanted to.

The Lakers won this series for a few reasons, but none that everyone doesn't know at this point - they are the biggest team in the league, they pound you to death with their inside offensive game, they outrebound you on both ends of the court...and that's before me even talking about Kobe Bryant.

The Lake Show scored a relatively low 98 points (though, not surprising against a suffocating and well-coached NOLA defense), but had pretty balanced scoring; Kobe with 24, Bynum with 18, Lamar with 14 and Pau with 16. And that's what is the most problematic part of the Lakers' offensive attack - sure, you "held" Pau to 16, but Drew had 18. Kobe shot 6 for 16, but that attention you paid to him helped Shannon Brown score 8 points in 18 minutes. It's a "pick your poison" problem with the Lakers. Locking down on one player just means another one will pick up the slack.

But besides the dominance of the bigs inside and the varied Lakers offense, one of the primary reasons that the Lakers won this series is that they have one of the best disruptive perimeter defenses in the league. Even with Derek Fisher's well-chronicled defensive shortcomings, the Lakers play the passing lanes to perfection, which enabled the Lakers to get pall to turnover the ball 3.7 times during this series, as opposed to 2.2 during the regular season. Also, after watching a healthy dose of NBA basketball this year with my new favorite/spare-time-crippling service, NBA League Pass, I can safely say that maybe only the Celtics drive perimeter players into two man defensive traps than the Lakers do. How many times during this series did you see CP3 or Jarrett Jack or Carl Landry stuck in the corner with the ball, with an impenetrable wall of human in front of them? A lot. And even if that sentence sounded strange to you, or maybe even creepily and oddly familiar, that's why despite the incredible play of the inside, the Lakers are the most multi-dimensional teams in the league.

Bring on Dallas.

If I were GM...of the Phoenix Suns

The Phoenix Suns went from the Western Conference Finals to under .500 in a year. A lot of their regression has been pretty well covered - they essentially switched Amar'e Stoudemire and Jason Richardson for Hakim Warrick, Josh Childress Channing Frye, Marcin Gortat and this old, fat slow guy who kind of resembled Tracy McGrady's cousin. It's not hard to see why they got worse. Let's take a look at their payroll going forward:

Steve Nash: 11.7 million
Childress: 6 million
Gortat: 6.8 million
Mickael Pietrus: 5.3 million (player option)
Channing Frye: 5.6 million
Warrick: 4.3 million
Jared Dudley: 4.2 million
Aaron Brooks: 2.9 million
Robin Lopez: 2.8 million
Gani Lawal: 788,000
Garret Siler: 788,000
$48.39 million = about 9 million in cap space.

Vince Carter 17.3 million
Grant Hill: 3.3 million
Some other bums: 500,000

1). It's time
Trade Steve Nash. He's 37 years old and a future Hall of Famer. It's time to trade him.

I'm not just saying this because I like Nash and I want a better future for him, although that's part of it. I'm saying it because they just don't have the leeway to build another team around him. I've heard Nash in some interviews, saying "I don't want to be traded. I want to stay right here...look at us two years ago after we missed the playoffs. We came right back the next year and went to the Western Conference finals". And I believe that. They were totally out of the playoffs, but then they got Jason Richardson, made a couple more moves and pushed the Lakers to a tough (but never really in doubt, in my opinion) 6 games last season. However, at this point, I just don't see that type of move there for them and more importantly, it's not like they are building around Nash-Hill-Stoudemire. They are building around Nash-Dudley-Gortat. And maybe even more importantly, there is going to be a lockout this season, which may spell the end of Grant Hill's star-crossed NBA career and add another year onto Steve Nash's body. It's time to trade him.

In a perfect world, they would trade him for a couple of draft picks, a decent point guard prospect and a big man. Dallas (Beaubois, Jason Terry and Mahinmi?), New York (Toney Douglas, Landry Fields and Chauncey?), Orlando (Jameer, Brandon Bass?) Portland (Nic Batum, Oden?) and the Clippers (Mo Williams, Eric Bledsoe?) might all be potential destinations.

2). I'd kindly ask Alvin Gentry to ask his players to start playing defense
With Nash and his defensive shortcomings gone, I would kindly ask coach Alvin Gentry to try and get his guys to play defense. And by "kindly ask" I mean "do it or be fired".

Jared Dudley, Robin Lopez, Pietrus and Gortat (all rotation players) can all be good defensive players - they just play in a system that doesn't demand that from them. I think the switch could be thrown easily.

3). Resign Vince Carter at all costs
Obviously not. Don't be stupid. Just seeing if you're paying attention.

4) With the number 14 pick, draft for talent, not need
Because the Suns have every need imaginable. They are somewhat set at the center position with the rotation of Gortat, Sideshow Lopez, Warrick and Channing Frye, but they lack a true power forward, shooting guard, and if they trade Nash, a point.

5). Brace your fans for a rebuilding process
Obviously owner Robert Sarver isn't big on spending money. In the last several years he's given away Luol Deng, Andre Iguodala and Nate Robinson's rights for cash or future draft picks. He didn't spend money when the team was winning 60 games a season, so I don't think it's fair to expect him to spend the money now. The Suns need to be straight up with their fans and brace them for the future to come. Phoenix is a great town to play in with a rich tradition - they're small market in many ways, but have a consistent, winning franchise. With pieces like Gortat, Dudley and whatever they could get for Nash, I can see them making the playoffs again in a couple years.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

I've Got My Eye On You, Chris Sheridan

"Amare Stoudemire listed a big man as the team's No. 1 need in the offseason, and the 2010-11 season demonstrated that when Stoudemire has to play out of position at center to expend energy defending an opposing big man, he is less effective on offense. Ronny Turiaf is under contract for one more season, but he is not a great fit for the team chemistry-wise and is one of the most injury-prone players in the NBA. The Knicks do not want to reduce the cap space they have available for the summer of 2012 free agent class, which means unrestricted free agents such as Nene, Tyson Chandler and Samuel Dalembert will be beyond their means.

The list of restricted free agents includes Marc Gasol of Memphis and DeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers, Spencer Hawes of Philadelphia and Jason Smith of New Orleans, whose teams have the right to match any offer and would presumably do so if that offer was for only one year. Stopgap choices from the unrestricted free agents ranks could include Kurt Thomas, Shaquille O'Neal (who has a player option for next season), Nazr Mohammed, Jason Collins, D.J. Mbenga and Jeff Foster."

Where have I heard that before?

Full Sheridan article here.

If I were GM of...the Golden State Warriors

Despite Golden State finishing below 40 wins for 3 seasons in a row, I really do not think that they are entirely too far off of being a legitimate playoff contender - maybe even title contender. They have two, young, explosive guards that can score on anyone in the league and create shots for themselves and others in Monta Ellis and college hoops LEGEND Stephen Curry.  They have a big man in David Lee and could potentially get something from former Latvian basketball superstar Andris Biendrins. Dorell Wright, Reggie Williams, and Lou Amundson all have varying  but legitimate ranges of usefulness. Jeremy Lin and Ekpe Udoh are two young potentially good players, or at the very least, intriguing trade chips. They have new billionaire owners that seem committed to winning and spending. Golden State is in a surprisingly good place right now, despite the failures of the past few seasons.

Tell me, what is the difference between the OKC Thunder and the Warriors? Curry and Wright can equal Durant's offensive output, though you can't replicate KD's presence no matter how many good guys you have. I think if you replaced Russ Westbrook with Monta Ellis, you wouldn't miss a beat. When healthy (if that ever happens again), Biendrins is no worse than Serge Ibaka, and David Lee's versatility is more valuable than James Harden's and Krstic's production. Both teams are young, hungry, exuberant (a strange adjective that doesn't get used enough) and can put points up in a hurry. The true difference? Defense. OKC cares and GS does not. Simple as that.

Here's what their financial obligations for next season looks like:

Monta Ellis: 11 million
David Lee: 11.6 million
Andris Biedrins: 9 million
Charlie Bell: 4 million
Dorell Wright: 3.8 million
Ekpe Udoh: 3.3 million
Stephen Curry: 3.1 million
Louis Amundson: 2.4 million (player option)
Jeremy Lin: 788,000
Total: 49 million

Troy Murphy: 11.9 million
Vladimir Radmanovic: 6.9 million
Total: 18.8 million

1) Fire Keith Smart

(I wrote this one a couple of days ago - it's not like this was a sage prediction or anything. The guy was on a one-year deal with an option for a second. That's like skydiving with half a parachute and someone saying "It's cool man, you'll get the second half on the way down!")

I really don't think that Keith Smart is a terrible coach, but there is a reason that this team put up 103.7 points a game this season and somehow had a negative point differential - it's because they gave up 105.7 points for playing no defense.

I know that Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis, Dorell Wright and David Lee weren't signed for their defensive acumens - they were all signed, drafted and traded for because they could put up points on the board and in a hurry. But (and this is for another, longer post for another day), in the last 30 years of NBA basketball, every single title team has been considered at least good defensively. A team simply cannot win in the playoffs by outscoring their opponents alone.  You have to get your players to CARE about defense, to hustle and play hard. Look at Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, for example -  both were considered poor to mediocre defenders before Kevin Garnett and Tom Thibodeau came to town. Now? Two of the better defenders in the league.

To name a few candidates, Jeff van Gundy, Dwane Casey, Lawrence Frank and even Mambino whipping boy Mike Brown are considered great defense-first coaches. Just a couple of guys for Oaktown going forward.

2). Do not trade Monta

For all the reasons I've already listed - he's one of the best scorers in the league, being able to make shots for himself and his teammates. He's the prodigal Allen Iverson, a tough as nails little man who never misses a game and is the first guy in the opposing team's face after a hard foul. He's young, relatively cheap and most importantly, still underrated. He won't get value for what he's truly worth and unfortunately, won't provide appropriate value until  the Warriors are too good to consider trading him. Considering how close I think the Warriors are to contending, there is no way I would trade this guy.

3).  Sign Tyson Chandler

The Warriors will have about 10 million dollars to spend next season - I would blow most of it on Tyson Chandler. The guy has shown in every stop in his NBA career that his teams play better defensively. I said a few days ago in my Dallas GM column that I'd let him walk - I do think he's a game changer defensively, I just didn't think that with Haywood on the roster they could afford to also sign Chandler and be able to fix the other parts of their roster.

Chandler could make a KG and Thibodeau-like difference on defense - A platoon with Biendrins and Chandler, who would take defensive pressure off of David Lee and Curry and Ellis using their speed to disrupt passing lanes? You can't tell me that team would be any less efficient on the defensive end the Thunder.

4). Draft someone who can get a rebound and/or block a shot

I can't pretend like I know a lot about the draft or even watched a lot of college hoops this year - the NBA season was just too good and we had league pass in my apartment. I just don't have time for amateur hour basketball. So I'll just charge the scouting office with finding a rebounder than that can share time with David Lee. I can only do so much at one time. I'm just a man.             
5). Embrace your fan base

The Bay Area has one of the best fan bases in the entire league. Please embrace them further Golden State. Every single game in Oaktown should have a discernable home court advantage, just like there has been in Portland and Salt Lake City for the past 30 years. As the team gets better, new millionaire owners should keep ticket prices low, take the loss and understand that the people will show up (see Yes We Can 2007).

I believe in the Warriors. OKC 2.0. It's happening.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Lakers Recap: Arrogance is contagious

Maybe this is arrogant, but I am writing this in the third quarter of the game. I consider myself a typical Laker fan, at least as far as extremely dedicated fans go. And speaking for my peoples, I think our attitude towards our team mirrors the team's attitude in themselves - extreme arrogance. As soon as the Lakers heard they drew the New Orleans Hornets in the first round, a team let out a collective snicker and I wouldn't be surprised if someone wrote on the locker room white board "HANDLED". They absolutely owned NOLA in the regular season and they just lost their second best player to injury. The show let their overconfidence take over. They took this team extremely lightly and everyone, including the fans and the media, forgot that Chris Paul is one of the best players in the league. They played without passion and let guys like Aaron Gray, Willie Green and Jarrett Jack beat them.

But that's all in the past now. The Lakers didn't play their best last night, but forced enough turnovers and played excellent defense after the first quarter to win. The Mamba Monster was awakened and Kobe unleashed a couple of dunks now reserved for only a few precious times during the year. Pau and Andrew were once again playing 7-footer volleyball and Derek Fisher is slowly morphing into Playoff Derek Fisher. Most importantly, the Lakers have pushed the Hornets to the brink. And since losing game 6 to the Celtics in 2008, the Lakers have played 9 games in which they could close out the series. They have gone 8 - 1 in that span, with the only loss coming against the Houston Rockets in 2008, who I have compared these young Hornets to in the past. Hopefully the Lakers look at this game as an opportunity to end the series and rest up before a potential dog fight with Portland or Dallas.

And yes, I finished writing this before the end of the third quarter. We won by 16. It's not arrogance if you're right - it's confidence.

Good thing this is the internet, otherwise I'd probably just have gotten punched in the face for that line.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

If I Were GM of...The Los Angeles Lakers

You've seen it before. When a song like that gets the green light, at least half of the girls at the club show The Face. "I can't BELIEVE they're playing this song! This is my jam!" Facers unleash an I-haven't-done-The-Face-since-last-weekend vibe. The Face is then usually coupled with fingers being pointed in the air, maybe a "Woooo Girl" moment, and obviously some inapprops dancing. Simply put, the Face is awesome. It exemplifies genuine happiness at a time when Facers don't expect to feel that way.

YOUR Los Angeles Lakers don't make The Face anymore. They've won too many titles, hoisted too many trophies, been fitted for too many rings, and raised too many banners. I mean, would you make The Face anymore? My friend Kato was so excited that Chipotle unveiled new chorizo burritos the other day. His version of The Face was using caps lock for a status message that definitely didn't need it. After burrito number 8, I'm hopeful that caps lock will be reserved for the next time the Mets win a game.

The Lakers believe that they should be reserved a spot in the Finals, and rightfully so. They are the two-time defending champions of the greatest sport in the world. Therefore, The Face only comes out when confetti drops from the rafters or when Shannon Brown defies the laws of gravity. This would be my ultimate goal as Lakers GM: restore The Face to every player, not just at the end of the tunnel, but for all the bumps in between. This is only possible if you tweak (but not change) the recipe. The finished product should hopefully taste better, but nonetheless remind you that you're still eating kobe beef. See what I did there?

Intangibles: The man I'm really looking to help out is Dr. Jerry Buss. Any guy with a daughter doesn't exactly dream of a scenario where Daddy's Little Girl gets involved with a guy other people call "The Zen Master." I mean, what do they do behind closed doors, really? I would watch that reality show as if my life depended on it. If you wouldn't, then we're probably not homies. And Jeanie...homegirl oozes cougar...except her squeeze is the one doing the coug-ing! Wasted opportunity! Anyway, I'd put my millions of dollars into some R&D thinktank in order to get a real-life Men in Black toy. You know, the one that erases memories. Everytime Phil Jackson parades the relationship in my face, I would press the button and make sure Kupchak created a new memory for me. Or better yet, flash it in front of Jackson and tell him to coach the Knicks next year.

Coaching Staff: Big issue here. I'm not just picking a new Laker coach. I'm picking Kobe's Next Coach. This is not a figurehead position; this is a title-changing position. Sure, the Lakers are so overloaded with talent that Rick Adelman or Mike Brown could easily win 50-60 games, but the trust will not be there. Trust between head coach and star player is essential to winning a championship. Therefore, there are two choices I would dig for KNC:

1. Mike Krzyzewski: Yeah, he probably won't leave Duke. Yeah, the Lakers already went down this road before. Doesn't mean it's still not the best choice. Let's paint this picture. Team USA assembles the Redeem Team to go to Beijing and reclaim gold for American basketball. LeBron, Wade, Melo, Dwight, Paul, Deron, and Bosh. That just made me giddy, and I didn't even mention Kobe. Kobe was our country's most valuable Olympic athlete not named Michael Phelps. He became the ultimate defensive stopper and guarded the best wing player on every team. He let the other big names score baskets while he suffocated people on the defensive end. You know why Amar'e is nearly unstoppable on offense? Because he doesn't expend any energy playing defense. Olympian Kobe was Real-life Amar'e, just on defense.

How many other coaches would Kobe do this for? I get that he was motivated by patriotism and playing with the best players in the world, but this is still a guy that refuses to do things in any way other than his own. Love him or hate him for it, but that's just who he is. Kobe respects Coach K. They can figure out Xs and Os later.

2. Morice Fredrick Winter: Two words - triangle offense. Better known as "Tex," Winter is the genius of the famed triangle offense. Tex originally innovated this strategy for the 1990s Bulls, but Kobe has been Jordan-ing this offense his whole career. The trust should be there.

However, it's valid to ask whether Tex can handle the spotlight after being Phil Jackson's bitch all these years. He also suffered a stroke two years ago, but it's 2011, we got stuff for that, right? Well, this could end in disaster, but regardless, even Kobe will have to admit that without Tex Winters, he'd have less rings.

I guess Brian Shaw is a possibility, but I really don't know anything about him other than the fact that he's been a Lakers assistant for years. Plus, I'm not a fan of coaches who used to play with the guys he's now coaching. It works every once in a while (think Girardi), but it's always such an awkward match (think Girardi).

Talent: Mitch Kupchak has done a bang-up job. He swindled the Grizzlies to get exactly what the Lakers needed, only the riches didn't stop there. Marc Gasol has evolved to the point where one of the Lakers' biggest roadblocks to the title, the Spurs, are now in danger of peacing out. Kupchak is laughing right now as he reads this blog. (Wet Dream.)

2011-12 Roster Projection:

Derek Fisher - 3.4M
Bryant - 25.2M
Ron Artest - 6.8M
Pau Gasol - 18.7M
Andrew Bynum - 15.1M

Lamar Odom - 8.9M
Steve Blake - 4M
Luke Walton - 5.7M
Devin Ebanks - 736K

Doesn't take an Asian to figure out that we're over the salary cap here. Dr. Buss will be paying the luxury tax for a couple more years, but the Lakers are a cash cow. He doesn't give a crap. So I won't address the need to get under the cap, because it's not exactly a "need" in Lakerland. I also won't address the Draft since we all now know that this year's class is weak. This post is already way too long as is. I have one move to make this summer, and it's risky:

Trade Pau Gasol for J.J. Redick, Ryan Anderson, Brandon Bass, and a #1 Pick.
I have to go on the assumption that the Lakers will not win the 2011 title. Not because they can't or won't, but because this entire post becomes unnecessary if they do. If they three-peat, then I'm not gonna tinker with it. Danny Ainge ain't running this franchise.

1. Everybody knows that Khlomar fills in admirably when a frontline member can't play. Whether it's for Gasol, Bynum, or even Artest, Lamar is a monster when he gets starter's minutes. He'll step in at PF and get his well-deserved first All-Star selection.

2. Ryan Anderson and Brandon Bass provide some frontcourt depth. I mean, what are the Lakers gonna do when Joe Smith retires? Besides, these dudes are essentially a two-headed Power Forward. Need bench offense and more Caucasian consumers of your product? Anderson. Need bench defense and general thugitude? Bass.

3. J.J. Redick gives the Lakers what they need: a bullseye shooter that will stretch the court. Additionally, and what most people have failed to notice, Redick's defense has improved every year. He won't exactly be a Chris Paul stopper, but he's also not Derek Fisher. Seriously Fish, hang em up. Bonus points if my plan actually comes to fruition by getting my top pick for KNC. Redick has slammed, and likely continues to slam, so many Duke chicks that he will run through a brick wall for Coach K.

To address the potential haterade: Yes, I know Pau was an indispensable part of two straight titles. But if the Lakers lose the 2011 title, couldn't you see yourself blaming Pau? I always get the feeling that most Lakers losses are due to the fact that Pau didn't game up. The guy is about 4-5 Kobe death stares away from owning a starting spot on the "I'm Afraid of the NBA" All-Stars, alongside fellow Spaniard Ricky Rubio and Frederic "They Picked Me Instead of Artest" Weis.

Remember, we're trying to tweak the recipe. So let's have a little fun with it. I don't want to trade Bynum because his value is too low. The guy would be a superstar on most other teams if he could stay healthy. I have to bank on the fact that Bynum will be better every single year; if I don't, then I'm selling an asset far below what it could be worth. Odom does too many things on a basketball court to help the team, so he's here too. Artest is slowly understanding his role: he takes less shots and punishes his opponent on both ends...he stays. The easy thing to do would be to trade Blake, Fisher, Walton, et al., but I'm in real-life GM mode. I wish I could be a 12-year-old playing videogames again so I can trade all the studs to the Knicks, but I'm not.

This leaves Gasol, who has plenty of value. If you don't like the Redick-Bass-Anderson-1 combo, then do this post yourself. I guess I could have found superstars, instead of role players, to get in return for Pau, but wouldn't that be boring and overplayed? I wrote this mainly to express the concept of trading Gasol, and not necessarily what the Lakers would get back.

Every Lakers-oriented question is irrelevant until their season is over. As long as another banner is in play, table everything.

Note: I always thought that doing a GM column on the Lakers would be impossible. Blake would probably have found a way to deport me to the Philippines if I just randomly posted it. Oddly enough, I got the go-ahead to do this because I have enough Laker friends who wanted to see the outsider's perspective on them. To those guys and girls, I hope I munched on Kobe's proverbial dong for enough of this post to quell the potential anger you may have for trading Gasol.

Beat Boston. Please.

If I were the GM of...The Portland Trailblazers

My respect for Nate McMillan notwithstanding, this Portland team is at a crossroads - they are very good team, but not yet a contender. Infamous no man's land in the NBA. Here are their salary obligations for next season:

Brandon Roy: 14.9 million
LaMarcus Aldridge: 11.8 million
Gerald Wallace: 10.6 million
Marcus Camby: 9.5 million
Andre Miller: 7.8 million
Greg Oden: 8.7 million (qualifying offer)
Wesley Matthews: 6.1 million
Luke Babbit: 1.7 million
Elliot Williams: 1.3 million
Rudy Fernandez: 2.2 million
Nicolas Batum: 2.15 million
Armon Johnson: 788,000
61 million

Fabricio Oberto: 992,000
Patty Mills: 937,000
Some other bums: 500,000

On an aside, it's a crime that Nico Batum, Rudy Fernandez and Andre Miller play for less than what Eddy Curry made this season. Grand larceny.

1). Find a Gilbert Arenas-Rashard Lewis deal for Brandon Roy 
As Charles said last night on Inside the NBA on TNT, this is a physically tough tough situation for Brandon. He's hurt, supposedly he's bone on bone in both knees and that problem is not getting any better. Mentally, he has to be having such a tough time with this because all these guys he was better than and he used to play over are now beating him in every single conceivable way. And that is very difficult for a guy to take - he was the number one option and franchise player on the pre-Thunder Thunder less than one year ago! And now, he's being reduced to playing 15 minutes a game off the bench, behind Wesley Matthews, Andre Miller and Rudy? I'm not sure a guy like that can thrive on this team.

So, if possible, you try to find a bad contract for bad contract swap. Maybe Rashard Lewis himself? Baron? I think the Trailblazers have to realize that they're not going to get value out of this. However, they do have to realize that Roy could become toxic in their locker room. Another team could possibly take him because he's young and smart, and couldn't be any worse than their current situations.

I obviously wrote all of this before he dropped 23 on the Mavs two nights ago and single-handedly swayed the game in the Blazers' favor. My opinion still stands.

2). Sign shooters, immediately

Without question, the Blazer's greatest weakness is distance shooting. Wesley Matthews is their only player that shot over 40% from long range and no other player was over 35%.  They need to go after a guy that can stretch the floor and will not demand much money. Options are Shane Battier, Mike Redd (maybe on a 1-year, make good contract), Shannon Brown or Eddie House.

3).  Sign a backup big man

This is less pressing because Camby, Wallace and LaMarcus form a pretty formidable trio up front - but Wallace is undersized, Camby is in his late thirties and LaMarcus can't play 48 minutes a game. But they need some size. How could they accomplish both 2) and 3) on my agenda?

4).  Trade Greg Oden

Too many bad things have happened in Portland with this guy. Look at it this way: if you were a bank teller and your bank got robbed 4 times - even if they were from circumstances that are out of your control, wouldn't that place of employ become somewhat tainted for you? It would just become really difficult to come to work every day I think. And that's how I think life is for Greg Oden. Also, I just watched "Set It Off" with Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett and Vivica A. Fox. They were bank tellers turned bank robbers. And in case you're wondering, yes that was a "Set it Off" reference, yes I liked the movie and no, I'm not sorry.

Even if this guy has a productive career, I just don't think he'll be able to realize fully whatever he can become at this point if he's still in Portland. There is no question that there will be a market for a man of his pedigree, size and talent. Kwame Brown got traded for Caron Butler once. Kwame has the body of a Greek God and the hands of a T-Rex. You can get something for Oden.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Lakers Recap: The Houston Hornets

With every game taht passes in this series, I am reminded more and more of the Lakers Western Conference Semifinals series against the Houston Rockets two years ago. They were a team the Lakers took extremely lightly - who played excellent team defense and lost their best big man to injury. They had great penetrating guards and somehow confounded LA's bigs with undersized, yet dense forwards like Chuck Hayes and Luis Scola. The Lakers played lethargically and without passion and got pushed to the brink by a team many people expected to be swept. This seems to be the same situation.

Except in this situation, we are replacing Aaron Brooks with Chris Paul. This is my nightmare.

I want to be clear - the Lakers didn't play awful. But no one Laker played great. Lamar and Kobe had terrible nights, Andrew seemed non-existent at times and Pau went in and out of being effective. The Lakers missed BIG shots and made some bonehead plays in the last few minutes, including a Pau turnover on a perfect Kobe pass - which led to Kobe giving a dirty look the likes of which I have not seen in YEARS. It was something like this. Not good. It was the type of scowl normally reserved for when you show up to your girlfriend's apartment shitfaced at 1 am on a Saturday night after you've been partying in Murray Hill with a bunch of your Freshman year roommates, with only one shoe on and a little bit of ketchup in your armpit from the hot dog you just bought from a street corner vendor. I'm not speaking from experience, just theoretically speaking, of course.

The Lakers' defense was passable enough, but the Show just couldn't put up enough points on the board, and in a timely manner at that, to keep up with Trevor Ariza's great first half and Chris Paul's monster night(On an aside, I think after a full season of people calling Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose and Deron Williams the "best point guard in the game" for different stretches of time, CP3 got really fed up and decided that it would be a great time to singlehandedly give the Lakers all they can handle on national television. Thanks everyone).

As a Laker fan, I am still not worried - we've sadly done this before and are much much much more talented than this team. We can play pretty poorly, and with one less mistake, we would have won the game. I am kind of discouraged that I have to watch yet another game with the Hornets. Aaron Gray, Willie Green and Jason Smith aren't exactly the most electrifying players in the league.

Lakers in 6. Please let me be right this time boys.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Knicks Recap: Happy Easter

A good head coach doesn't win you the game. A good head coach prevents you from losing a game.

While even some of the diehard troopers stressed over the general New York basketball malaise, Anthony Carter's play told a story. The 35-year-old vet played with the amount of moxy for which the city had begged, and my friend Crapapples had texted me to admit that the Garden looked "electric." (See? I can't be totally lame if others share the sentiment.) However, in between some monster chest bumps, I took time to read between the lines of AC's tale.

Why wasn't he given the PT earlier in the series? Well, it hit me after he buried a shot clock-beating jumper. When the ball hit net, Knicks fans were overjoyed not because of talent, but because of surprise. To put it plainly, points aren't AC's bag, baby. The guy is just not an offensive dude. But you know who is? Mike 'Antoni. AC never portrayed the offensive prowess or potential of Billups or Douglas, so he never got time. This is the same reason why Corey Brewer got cut. It's the same reason Amar'e played Center all year long. It's the same reason why Shawne Williams guarded guys like Glen Davis. You are useless to Mike 'Antoni if you can't produce on offense.

Good head coaches make adjustments. Doc Rivers frustrated Melo on every possession after Game 2. Mikey Antone just sat there...hoping...waiting...praying. Ball's in your court Dolan. Do the right thing.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Lakers Recap: 7 Footer Keep-Away

My assessment of last night's contest between YOUR...Los Angeles Lakers and the New Orleans Hornets? Exactly what should have happened in game 1 and what will happen in the next two games - exploit the inside and overwhelm the New Orleans front line with size. Carl Landry, Emeka and Aaron Gray can play us tough for a little while, but after a couple of quarters, there is something extremely demoralizing about seeing two 7 footers play keep-away with the basketball above your heads for 48 straight minutes. Add in the fact that Lamar has the same length, you have 3 guys that are bringing you back to your formative childhood years - your older brother takes the basketball and hold it over your head, too high for you to get it. Pretty sure Emeka's therapy bills are going to be through the roof next week.

I noticed that New Orleans absolutely packed the paint for the first quarter and a half, making it hard for Pau and Andrew to gain inside position on them. However, midway through the second, that dissapated a bit - because they were doing this in hopes that it would dare us to shoot. Kobe was more than happy to oblige. He dropped 30 last night. That might have helped.

Also, saw a little bit of Playoff-Time Derek Fisher last night. He miraculously finished lay-ups and made his jumpers last night. I'll be more than happy to stomach 82 games of 37% field goal shooting if he plays like that for the next two months.
Defensively, we did exactly what we needed to do - we let Chris Paul take his outside shots, played the defensive lanes as well as we could and provided pretty good defensive rotations to force turnovers - essentially, we allowed CP3 to try to beat us on his own, which has to be the game plan considering NOLA's next best player is Trevor Ariza (who had a great first quarter, but nothing else to speak of).

Lakers in 5.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Knicks Recap: We Need You JVG

This morning I had a question for my cousin Andrew. It centered around nutrition. Even before the Big Man answered my question, I knew that I could trust that what he said would be true. The kid's majoring in Kinesiology, and has used it to shed tons of excess in the past couple years.

As the Knicks were losing their grasp on the game tonight, ESPN showed a clip of Mike 'Antoni begging his team to show more energy on defense. The speech was all style and no substance, solely because of the speaker's credibility. This is truly important when one strives to inspire others in a moment's notice. For example, when the Celtics look into Rivers' eyes, they see their leader. When the Knicks look into 'Antoni's eyes, they just see their coach. The Knicks lost tonight because they weren't prepared to raise their game. A better coach would have done something, anything, besides resting on his laurels.

Yes, injuries made this series more difficult for 'Antoni, but the MSG faithful had more energy than the millionaires tonight. More often than not, it's the coach's fault. It's time, Dolan. Take him out back and Old Yeller his ass.

$30 mil over 4 years for Jeff Van Gundy. Get it done. Now if you'll excuse me, tonight seems like a good night to blackout.

If I were GM of...The Denver Nuggets

Let me get this out of the way - despite the Nuggets winning near 50 games and them having a better season than their trading partner, the New York Knicks, I still think the Bockers came out on top of this trade. In the end, the Nuggets traded for one year of Raymond Felton, and unless they give him an extension, one year of Wilson Chandler. At 7.5 million and 3.1 million, respectively, both players represent reasonable to bargain prices for men of their caliber and production. However, I'd offset most of their one year loss of Felton with the one year of production Chauncey Billups will give New York. So in the end, the Nuggets traded Carmelo for one year of WIlson Chandler and whatever Gallinari and Mozgov will be. Lets say, best case scenario, that Gallinari goes from a one-legged, diabetic, toothless homeless man's Dirk Nowitzki to just a poor man's Dirk Nowitzki, and that Mozgov turns into not just the guy that Blake Griffin dunked on (I mean...the guy dunked on a CAR and Moz's facial was even more memorable than that). Two (best case scenario) potentially borderline all-stars, for Carmelo Anthony, a fringe 1st Team All-NBA guy? Who just dropped 46-16-7 on the Celtics? Yeah. I'll take Melo.

Regardless, this post is about the Denver Nuggets and what I'd do if I were their GM. Next season, they have the following salary obligations:

Nene: 11.6 million (player option)
Felton: 7.5 million
Al Harrington: 6.2 million
Birdman: 4.23 million
Gallinari: 4.2 million
Mozgov: 2.56 million
Wilson Chandler: 3.1 million (qualifying offer)
Aaron Afflalo: 2.9 million (qualifying offer)
Ty Lawson: 1.6 million
Kosta Koufous: 2.2. million
Total: 40.17 million

The following players have expiring contracts:
Kenyon Martin: 16.54 million
JR Smith: 6 million
Melvin Ely: 1.2 million
Gary Forbes: 473,000
Total: 24 million

1). Do not, under any circumstances, resign Kenyon Martin
K-Mart is a 33-year old undersized power forward who's had microfracture surgery on BOTH knees. For those of you that don't speak NBA, that means that the guy is an old, short guy with bad knees. I actually like Kenyon Martin - he's a good post defender who can shoot a 10 to 15 foot jumper. He's gone from total loose cannon to a total team player, albeit an insane one. But he'll try to command a 3 or 4 year deal in excess of 35 million - not something you want to do, because, well, he's an old, short guy with bad knees.

2). Lock up Nene
One of the most underrated players in the entire league. A bruising, 6'11" center who can also play power forward with at least 4 or 5 different post moves. He's a gigantic dude and an incredibly difficult cover. He is capable defensively and best yet, he's only 28. Not quite a franchise player, but he could be just as good as Zach Randolph (I can't believe we're in an era in which that's a compliment and not a sarcastic joke). I think a 5 year, 55 to 60 million dollar deal should about do it.

3). Resign JR Smith to a REASONABLE deal - if he doesn't agree to something around the 4-year, 28 million dollar range, let him walk
Well GM Masai Ujiri certainly doesn't want to lose the title of "Most Tatted Team to a Comical Effect" to anyone else, right? Seriously, look at Chris Anderson! Even when I had seen this picture, the first time I saw him in person with the new ink I thought he was wearing a Brooklyn-made turtleneck.

I actually really like JR Smith's game - but he's insane. He's a trouble-maker that vacillates between extremely lethal and efficient bench scorer to the guy that takes 35-feet 3 point shots with 23 seconds left on the shot clock when the Nuggets are up 2 with less than a minute left in the game. BUT the reason why I would sign him to a reasonable (only) deal is....Zach Randolph (I can't believe we're in an era in which everything comes back to Z-Bo). Randolph reminded me of JR Smith in his Portland, NYK and Clippers stints - absolutely zero discipline on both the offensive and defensive ends; making foolish fouls and costly turnovers at seemingly the crucial points of every other game; saying the exact wrong things in the press and conducting a personal life that would make Dennis Rodman say " it dudes". However, something happened to Z-Bo - no, it wasn't living in a small market like Memphis (he started his career in Portland, mind you) or being the first offensive option (as he was in New York and with the Clips) - it was that he grew up.

Sometimes I'll go back and read things I wrote in college, or old e-mails I wrote to friends and you know what? I wasn't funny. I made bonehead references and unclever jokes. I wrote dramatically to no affect and I conveyed messages that had no real meaning. The point is that things that were funny when I was 23 just aren't funny anymore. I look back on what I laughed at and the value I placed in certain things and can only think about how dumb I was. This happened to Zach and look at him now. He's the best player on a good team and he just made $71 million dollars. I think JR can make the same leap - he just has to grow up.

4). Extend Arron Afflalo and give Wilson Chandler a one-year deal
Afflalo (U clap clap clap C clap clap clap L clap clap clap A clap clap clap UCLA FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT) isn't a star and he probably won't average more than 12 points during any season of his career. But he does all the little things right - he's the anti-JR Smith. He gets the most out of his talent, says all the right things, defends and makes great decisions. He could be a starter on a championship-caliber team, a good dude and won't cost much. 4 years, 20 million?

As for Wilson, I'd give him a one-year deal until they can find a better solution at small forward. If I'm coach George Karl, next season I'm going with:

PG: Ty Lawson
SG: Afflalo
SF: Chandler
PF: Gallinari
C: Nene

Bench: Harrington, Bird, Felton, Smith, free agents and draft picks

If you have Lawson for the next few years, as well as Afflalo, Gallo and Nene locked in, you want to lock in Chandler as well? I think not. That's a nice team, very capable of making the playoffs for a few years to come, but certainly not a contender. You have to maintain flexibility with the small forward spot.

Looking at this line-up, you know what the Denver Nuggets need to get over the hump? A high-volume scoring small forward, who can rebound to make up for the deficiencies of Gallinari. Yeah...they need Carmelo Anthony.

5). Be patient.
If I was Masai Ujiri, I would use their high teens picks to do the following - in this incredibly shallow draft, I'd try to pick up a couple of shooters. Then I'd use no more than 5 million to sign a backup center or PF to play with Nene and Birdman - a Joel Przybilla/Jeff Foster/Kurt Thomas type of player. As for any big trades or signings? Be patient. There isn't a franchise changing trade out there right now. The Nuggets have all of the complimentary pieces, they just don't have that one, very good player and scorer to put them over the top. Be patient Denver, your time will come. In the meantime, enjoy making the playoffs and scoring 120 a game. And still being the "Most Tatted Team to a Comical Effect" in the NBA.

Knicks Ramble: You Have a Duty to Tune in

Before the trade deadline, my favorite team acquired Carmelo Anthony from the Denver Nuggets. In Mr. Anthony's first game, an adrenaline-fueled team devoid of any chemistry won a ho-hum regular season matchup. It was a 6 point win over the Milwaukee Bucks, a lottery team. The Knicks could have played anyone that night. It just didn't matter, because it was the franchise's most important game in a decade.

A couple of days later, I attended a Nets-Suns game at the Prudential Center with Kobash and Herzog. I told them about the importance of Mr. Anthony's first game (at length, as you could probably imagine). Their response?

"The Knicks have had 'the franchise's most important game in a decade' about 5 times this year."

I mean, crap, that was true. The Apostrophe's first game, Knicks-Heat I, Knicks-Celtics I...the list goes on and on. I started to even remember that I touted those games as being so. It's just been that type of season, and tonight is another one of those nights. At 7:00p.m. EST, the new-look Knicks will take the stage for their first home playoff game this year.

I promise you, this one is truly different. I live in New Jersey (yawn) and I feel the electricity from here. I hate myself for being lame enough to actually say that, but I really believe it.

If you live in the tri-state area, you have to find a way to catch the game. You just have to. Sneak away from dinner for a couple of minutes. Put the drink down for a second. Let this one Friday night of the year be about this team. I don't care if you don't like the NBA, or even sports, for that matter. If you have any affiliation with New York, you owe it to NYC. When the Knicks play well, scientific evidence suggests that life is generally much better. Don't fight science. You'll lose.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Knicks Recap: Be Proud of This Team

So Carmelo Anthony had a brainfart...but don't sit there and actually be mad at the guy. No Billups, no Amar'e, and no rest. But he was everywhere: scoring bucket after bucket, snaring rebound after rebound, as he carried a city on his back. Melo was fearless. He was the best player on the floor the entire game, and it wasn't even close. This is what we've been waiting for.

We are playing with house money. I am not at all taking anything away from the importance of winning this series. After what we've suffered as fans, it's just more fun to be optimistic.

"I can't wait to feel the crowd on Friday night." -Breen

If I Were GM of...The New Jersey Nets

Didn't the Nets seem so trendy and up-and-coming a while back? Mikhail Prokhorov, Jay-Z, Brooklyn, swagger, dirty blood money? Well after a year, they're still a lottery team. A better lottery team, but a lottery team nonetheless. In this week's episode, I'll switch places with Billy Queen, Nets GM.

Intangibles: Queen, I'm still not sure why you still get to make decisions about anything, let alone help decide the fate of a basketball franchise. In the summer of 2003, you gave Kenny Freaking Thomas $50 million over 7 years. That worked out so well for the 76ers that some of you have no idea who I'm talking about. (KFT certainly doesn't pass the Erin Kobash test.) Yet somehow, the billionaire owner decided he wanted you to help lead the Nets into Brooklyn. Well, first things first:

You gotta learn Russian, bro. Put it this way, Queen, couldn't you see this scenario happening any day now?

(Queen walks into a meeting with Prohkorov. In attendance are three men: Prohkorov, Queen, and Prokhorov's bodyguard, who is decked out in fatigues.)
Prokhorov to bodyguard: This guy couldn't get me Melo. Now I'm worried he might sign Travis Outlaw for $28 million.
Bodyguard to Prokhorov: Boss, he already did that last summer.
Prokhorov: (puzzled) Will America let me eliminate him if I fire him before next season? I've got sharks with laser beams attached to their heads. They're in the next room.

Got news for you, Billy Queen. They're not gonna be saying that mess in English. If you became fluent in Russian, you'd be one step ahead.

Coaching Staff: Avery Johnson is a former Coach of the Year. He's actually just "eh" in my book, but the Nets aren't going anywhere soon. Might as well keep him on board and save some cash.

Talent: Yikes. Take Deron, Brook Lopez, and Kris Humphries Kardashian off this team and I'd be fairly confident that a squad of ragtag D-Leaguers could run with them. Some of these dudes may work hard, but the talent just isn't there. For example, Brook Lopez has tons of range for a big man, but he can't get a rebound to save his life. Even the biggest Nets fans would probably admit being a tad disappointed. And Sasha Vujacic entertains me, but not necessarily in a good way. He's still worth a roster spot, however, because Prokhorov digs the wifey. Most importantly, while Deron may be the best point guard in the league, what exactly did he do in Utah? His Jazz mates were far more talented than his current bros, so why should the Nets make any noise now?

Projected 2011-12 roster:

Deron 16.4M, 1 year player option for 2012-13
Anthony Morrow 8M, 2 years
Outlaw 21M, 3 years
Humphries Free Agent
Lopez 3.1M, 1 year hits restricted free agency in 2012-13

Damion James 1.2M, 1 year team options for 2012-13 and 13-14
Jordan Farmar 8.3M, 2 years
Johan Petro 6.8M, 2 years

1. Sign Kris Humphries if it's financially feasible
The guy worked his ass off for me, and as long as he's willing to accept his market value, I would reward my own guys. If he wants more money, I'll let him walk. The guy grabs a ton of boards, but those numbers are slightly inflated due to Brook Lopez's fear of jumping.

2. Hope that David West exercises his player option to stay with New Orleans for one more year
This could go two ways. With the free agent market pretty thin, West could take advantage of teams who still have needs (the Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon plan). To do so, he would have to opt-out of his Hornets contract. Then, because Queen has struck out on every free agent in the Western Hemisphere, I would be forced to give West a multiyear deal, regardless of the fact that West may be hopping around on a pegleg for all I know.

On the other hand, West could also look at the imminent threat of a lockout, and combined with his injury, choose to exercise his 1-year option. This would give him a chance to prove himself worthy of an even bigger deal next summer. The Nets need to hope this happens, because David West is not the type of player to whom I want to throw max money.

3. Sign Wilson Chandler to an offer sheet
The Nets will be approximately $20 mil under the cap, but there isn't a marquee free agent worthy of spending all of that money. However, if I sign a B-level free agent, this will leave me with enough space to offer Deron a max deal the following year. As of now, the Nets are set (relatively speaking) at point guard and center, and I guess power forward with Humphries. Chandler is the best swingman on the market. It's not saying much, but I have to make lemonade at this point.

I am definitely not saving my cap space for a 2nd max player after the 2012 season. This is simply because a 2nd max player won't come to the Nets, even if they're in Brooklyn. LeBron, Wade, and Melo knew the Nets were going to Brooklyn, and they still didn't give a crap. Also, as good as Deron is on the court, he's not the best recruiter. He'll be the first to admit that he tried to get players to come to Utah, but to no avail. Making matters worse, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard would choose the Knicks and Lakers, respectively, before signing 4-7 years of their life to waste away in Nets Universe. Therefore, the #1 goal is to win NEXT YEAR. I'm gonna put the best foot forward and pray that we're relevant enough to keep Deron beyond next year.

Oh, and remember that billboard the Nets draped right across from Madison Square Garden? Remember how the Nets leveraged the Knicks into paying more for Melo? They're clearly not above sticking it to the Knicks whenever possible. Who better to add to the fray than a scorned ex-Knick who begged to stay? Wilson Chandler is my boy, and he's my #1 free agent target. Denver can match, and maybe they will, but I'm gonna take my chances anyway.

4. Pick the best available player with the #27 pick
I've detailed in this space before about how the draft class is super weak. Since that time, Harrison Barnes has announced that he'll return to Carolina. With the lockout looming, some predict that more players will follow suit. I'll just grab a dude and be happy here.

5. Fill out the rest of the roster with D-Leaguers
Seriously, don't underestimate an athlete hungry for a job. Energy sells.

I don't see the Nyets challenging for a title anytime soon, but a full season of Deron Williams in the Eastern Conference makes them a playoff contender. If Brook Lopez provides better returns on the investment...if the Nets sign a vengeful Wilson Chandler...if D-Will resigns...who knows?

See you at Barclays.

Monday, April 18, 2011

If I were GM of...The Dallas Mavericks

Britney Spears has a new song out. It's like stupid people. It's everywhere and you can't avoid it. It's called "Til the End of the World". It's your basic 2011 pop tune - a frantic, electro-pop song that sounds like it comes out of the hottest club in Bratislava. But the musical layering is actually complex; there's about 7 different synthesizers, including Britney's voice which is messed with a dozen different vocal filters to the point where she sounds like an electronic instrument.

Say what you want about the song - It'll make money, it will get people excited, and then in a few months, maybe even a few weeks, it'll be gone. But at the core of the song, beneath all the synthesizers and effects, there is one core tenant - the bitch can't sing. She just does not have a good voice. The foundation of the song is awful. And in my opinion, it's one of the reasons why she can't be taken seriously and it will go away. Cosmetic changes over something fundamentally awful will show in the long term. And this is the way that I feel about the Dallas Mavericks.

Now was this a good analogy? Was this just an attempt at an intriguing hook? Was this my inner gay trying come out in the guise of sports talk? Do I use too many rhetorical questions as literary pivots in my writing? To all those questions, maybe yes, maybe no, but I think it has legs.

For years, the Mavericks have kept on piling on and on superficial and cosmetic changes to their team, all surrounding Dirk Nowitzki. Now, I'm not saying that Dirk is fundamentally flawed - far from it. He's one of the greatest players of all-time, certainly the greatest non-American player of all-time (I don't count Tim Duncan as foreign because he's from a place called the U.S. Virgin Islands - please study that name closely and stop being stupid). The problem is that he alone is the core they are trying to surround with players. He just isn't enough. Year after year, they get players like Shawn Marion, Jason Terry, Jerry Stackhouse, Caron Butler, Erick Dampier, Keith Van Horn, a 34-year old Jason Kidd, Antoine Walker, the list goes on and on. But NONE of these players have ever made a 1st or 2nd All-NBA team (save Kidd, of course), and none have made the 1st, 2nd or 3rd All-NBA team while a Maverick.

The Lakers tried this for a couple years and surrounded him with guys like Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, Kwame Brown, and a 17-year old Andrew Bynum. Again, no one that has ever made a 1st, 2nd or 3rd All-NBA Team. And that didn't get them anywhere. There really only progressed when they high-jacked/traded for Pau Gasol from Memphis and won two titles. Dirk is on a time table. He IS the Dallas Mavericks and his window as an elite player is closing, so I think that Cuban has to mortgage the farm to try to win NOW. With all this in mind, finding another core player to surround Dirk with would be the basic tenant I would take if I were the GM of the Dallas Mavericks.

(Next season, the Mavs have 30 million dollars coming off the books, but will still be 4 million over the cap. They won't be able to sign any major free agents, so all their acquisitions will have to come through trades and a midlevel exception signing of 5 million)

1). Trade Roddy Beaubois now.
Well....that ship might have already sailed. Word is that Roddy would have been key to trades to Denver, Utah, et al in regards to getting another key guy to play with Dirk. Would the combo of Roddy, Caron's expiring, a couple of draft picks, Mahinmi and Tyson Chandler have gotten it done for Deron Williams and Kirilenko? Yes, this would might have deep-sixed the Mavs' title chances this year, but with an extension to Deron, they could have maximized Dirk's 3 to 4 year window he has left. Could this same package have worked for Melo as well? Could Senor Cuban used his business guile to convince him to sign an extension? That's all in the past now - the key here is trying to get someone good for Beaubois, and a combination of Jason Terry's expiring, Ian Mahinmi and some draft picks. Targets include Chris Paul, Monta Ellis, Steve Nash and Dwight Howard (maybe he asks out of Orlando if they get bounced in the first this year and they get off to a slow start next year).

2). Let Tyson Chandler walk
This is actually just to minimize the damage after the Mavs foolishly signed a guy that Shaquille once refused to call "Brendan" and instead "Brenda" Haywood. I know Haywood is ridiculously overpaid, but the damage is done. There is no reason to compound their situation by signing a somewhat redundant player like Chandler to the same contract while he plays the same position. I know that Chandler is the defensive anchor of a good defensive Dallas team, but Haywood is still a pretty good center who puts up more than serviceable per 36 minute numbers.

3). Turn a soon to be 35 year-old Jason Terry into someone else big or a cheaper version of Jason Terry.
Basically, they need to turn Jason Terry into front court depth or a cheaper version of what Terry does. Terry has an $11 mil expiring contract and Dirk's backup is the Immortal Brian Cardinal. As I detailed months ago, the Immortal Brian Cardinal looks like someone who should be in my dad's rec league, not on an NBA team.

4) Use the midlevel exception to find a cheaper shooter or backup power forward
Whichever trading Jason Terry doesn't accomplish, use the midlevel to sign a guy like Fat Glen Davis, Kris Humphries or crazy JR Smith.

5) Don't sign Andrei Kirilenko for $25 million dollars
I just feel like this is a terrible signing the Mavs would do. See Marion, Shawn.

Note: Many of these predictions are dependent on the current Collective Bargaining Agreement - so maybe we're just flapping our digital gums and throwing out strategies that will not apply in a year. But for now, this is what we have to go with. And it's our blog. Get out of here.

Laker Recap: It's not just Derek Fisher

Every time that the Lakers lose, especially when they get eviscerated by a point guard, as they did yesterday by Senor Paul, all of Lakerdom likes to come down on our man Derek Fisher. A lot of that is warranted - Fisher's defense was akin to Dr. Stephen Hawkings', as CP3 went for 34-7-14 (with 3 steals and only 2 turnovers). But there are two big reasons why the Lakers lost -

1). Poor, poor, POOR, poorpoor perimeter defense

The Lakers allowed 52% shooting for 109 points. Incredible work for the Hornets, especially against one of the better defensive teams in the league. However, what is even more incredible is that it wasn't Emeka Okafor (4 points in 21 minutes) or David West (out for the playoffs) scoring on the block - it was Marco Bellinelli, Jarrett Jack and Willie Green were responsible for over a third of those points. There is no scenario in which those three should account for their team's points, unless those teams have names that rhyme with "Shmobcats" or "Kavaliers". Shannon Brown, Derek Fisher, Matt Barnes and yes, even perennial All-NBA Defensive team stalwart Kobe Bryant were rendered immobile on high screens and allowed all three of those guys to beat them both off the dribble and on the fast break ROUTINELY. Chris Paul got wherever he wanted and set everyone up with perfect shots. The Hornets got 52 points in the key, most of which was from those 4 guards and some tall forward named Aaron Gray, whose name sounds more like a paint brand than it does an athlete.

Maybe more importantly, LA's pressure defense was turrible; the Lakers only forced 3 turnovers from a Hornets team that aren't exactly the most careful in the league, yielding the 12th most turnovers this season.

2) Pau was only the second best Gasol who played last night

And I'm not even counting his little brother, who plays high school ball in Memphis. I guess I gotta go use the internet.

I dont even need to justify this with statistics - Pau was abused last night by Emeka Okafor, Jason Smith (who?) and the paint brand guy. Ridiculous for someone who might be 2nd-team All-NBA this season.

I'm not going to say stuff like "take nothing away from the Hornets" or "you've got to respect New Orleans" - Eff. That. That team is terrible. They don't deserve to be in the playoffs. The Lakers absolutely gave this game away by playing carelessly and without passion. As Lamar said after the game, they were arrogant and took the Hornets lightly. The Hornets were allowed to win because the Lakers didn't move their feet on defense and one man, Chris Paul, set the tone for the game. So take nothing away from Chris Paul, but the Lakers lost this one, not the other way around.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Knicks Recap: Home Court Advantage Has Sunk To A New Low

Terrible call.

If you saw the game you could probably guess which one I'm talking about. Yet my keen basketball eye saw too many to even count. The worst was actually a non-call on the Garnett inbounds alley-oop, when Ray Allen decided that a double forearm shiver to Ronny's chest would suffice as a screen.

The Knicks didn't really deserve this win. They didn't box out. They didn't dive for loose balls. They were slow on defensive rotations. But tonight, they were a better team. The fact that they have nothing to show for it is embarrassing.

On the plus side, I will remember Amar'e's 360 layup for the rest of my life.

Oh, and Blakeshow, my 7-game prediction is looking pretty sweet right now.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Western Conference First Round - Predictions

(For our Eastern Conference predictions, see yesterday's post)

Spurs in 6
Why the Spurs will win: I like when me and Blake agree on things. It makes him feel validated as a human being. Memphis is playing well, and they have a lot of decent, likeable players. But Gregg Popovich and Mr. Fundamentals win first round matchups in their sleep. In the past 10 years, the Spurs have only lost 1 first round matchup, a 2009 5-game exit mainly due to the loss of Manu Ginobili. The bald-spotted Argentinian actually hurt himself last night, so I decided to give the Grizz an extra game.

Why it could be 7: I too do not think this is going more than 6 games. But Memphis could extend it for a lot of reasons . Losing Manu for a game or two could be a huge factor, but overall, it's hard to scrape together reasons why they could win. Memphis is not a particularly great 3 point shooting team, which is one of the weakness they could exploit on San Antonio, which does some of the league's worst work defending the 3, percentage-wise. Memphis can make this into a long series if they defend adequately and pound the ball into Z-Bo and Marc Gasol. We live in a world where fat Zach Randolph and Pau's fat brother are the only hope for a team against San Antonio...signs of the apocalypse.

Lakers in 4
Why the Lakers Will Sweep:
The Lakers won all four games against the Hornets this season. They won the first three games by an average margin of 8 points - all of which featured David West starting at power forward for the New Orleans Hornets. They played 3 weeks ago and the Show blew them out by 18. As Bill Simmons said today, Kobe Bryant is standing next to Marco Bellinelli. Pau Gasol will be guarded in the post by Carl Landry. Lamar Odom's NO bench counterpart is Jason Smith. I've got the same playoff experience as Monty Williams. This is over in 4. Don't be ridiculous.

Why the Hornets could take a game: Fresh off of unleashing a double F-bomb on national television, the GLBT society chloroforms Kobe after practice and throws him in a van.

DALLAS in 7 OR Portland in 6
Why Dallas will win: Ah, a disagreement with the writers on THE GREAT MAMBINO. Make no mistake, this will be an incredibly tight series, but I see both teams winning their games at home. Dallas is one of the best defensive teams in the league - they're extremely physical and with Tyson Chandler and Brenda Haywood guarding the paint, they negate one of Portland's strengths, which is getting to the rack with their bevy of slashers. It's weird to write that Dallas has a hard time scoring, but they do; they can go minutes without hitting a shot, as most of their players are streaky as hell. Portland, likewise, cannot shoot from long range (Rudy Fernandez or Wes Matthews is their best distance shooter?). Both teams have weaknesses the other can exploit, and I see this one going 7, with Dallas taking a tough one at home for the series.

Why the Blazers will win: When the Mavs play Tyson Chandler and Shawn Marion at the same time, defenses will take chances. More double-teams, more gambles, more ugly Dirk Nowitzki faces. Furthermore, the 2007 Golden State Warriors' blueprint for shutting down Dirk and Co. still holds today. Put an athletic, defensively-capable swingman on Germany's finest, and he will be rattled. Enter Nicolas Batum, who will not give Dirk room to breathe. Blazers in 6.

Thunder in 6
Why the Thunder will win: Denver finished as the highest scoring team in the league and can exploit pretty much every single team by playing on the break for nearly 48 minutes. BUT, the Thunder may be the only team in the league that can keep pace with them, both defensively and offensively. I expect a shootout every single night, with an average of 240 combined points for two weeks. I can't believe I'm excited for a series between a team from Oklahoma and Colorado. I've got the Thunder finishing up in front of a crazy (but oddly respectful, as a I found out a few months ago) Denver crowd, enough to stop the series before a deciding 7th game and a triple bypass for my buddy Stolte, Thunder fan #1.

Why the Nuggets could make it a 7 game series: The Nuggets are one of the most athletic teams in the NBA. They also play hard, so they will never lose because of a lack of effort. The Denver situation is like a playground sandbox: when the most popular toddler (Melo) leaves, all the other kids feel better about themselves and have more self-esteem. They're not fitting square pegs into round holes anymore. Unfortunately, it's not 2004 anymore, so superstars win in the end. Best non-Knicks series of the first round.