Category Archives: NBA
Will anyone challenge the Miami Heat in the East? Will the Pacers get their shit together in the playoffs? Should I give a damn about the other teams in the East? Will the Spurs avenge the collapse in last season’s NBA Finals? Could anyone stop the Thunder in the West?
I could go on and on, but let’s get this 2014 NBA Playoff preview started, …shall we?
#1 Indiana Pacers vs. #8 Atlanta Hawks
Analysis: The Pacers have struggled headed into the playoffs and split the season series 2-2 with the Hawks. In fact, I would not have been but so confident that the Pacers would advance out of the first round if their opponents would have been the Bobcats, Nets, or even the Wizards. Fortunately for Indiana, the Hawks are so God-awful that it could moonwalk its way into the second round.
Prediction: Pacers in 5.
#2 Miami Heat vs. #7 Charlotte Bobcats
Analysis: The Heat won the season series 4-0 vs. Charlotte, and had over a 10-point margin over the Bobcats. Keep in mind that LeBron James once dropped 62 on the Bobcats’ defense. Don’t sleep on the Bobcats. They play great defense, grind, and have a top-level interior player in Al Jefferson. Unfortunately, Charlotte has a hard time scoring – not good news when facing the two-time defending champion Heat. The Bobcats are good enough to win a game (maybe two) in this series, but Miami is just too damn good.
Prediction: Heat in 5.
#3 Toronto Raptors vs. #6 Brooklyn Nets
Analysis: The Nets and Raptors split the season series 2-2. The Nets obviously tanked down to grab this matchup. In spite of both teams splitting the regular season series, Brooklyn has some cats that are playoff-tested in Paul Pierce, Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Kevin Garnett. Toronto is a talented team with a nice story, winning their second Atlantic Division crown in franchise history. However, the Raptors are in for a rude awakening when they learn what post-season basketball is all about.
Prediction: Nets in 6.
#4 Chicago Bulls vs. #5 Washington Wizards
Analysis: The Wizards won the season series 2-1. Like the Raptors, the Wizards are playoff neophytes compared to the more playoff-grizzled Bulls. I think the pressure of the playoffs coupled with Chicago’s intensity on defense will overwhelm the young Wizards.
Prediction: Bulls in 6.
#1 San Antonio Spurs vs. #8 Dallas Mavericks
Analysis: The Spurs won the season series 4-0. The Spurs and Mavs are two of the best perimeter attack teams in the NBA, and are extremely playoff-seasoned. Both are well-coached – while Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich is one of the best in the business, Rick Carlisle is no slouch himself. I think this will be a very competitive series, but the Spurs are just a bit better.
Prediction: Spurs in 6.
#2 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. #7 Memphis Grizzlies
Analysis: The Thunder won the season series 3-1. These teams are meeting for the third consecutive year in the playoffs. While the familiarity should help the Grizzlies in this series, we are all seeing a different Kevin Durant. I mean, who on the Grizzlies is capable of keeping him in check? Who will be able to score at a relatively similar clip to keep pace with this Thunder team? The bottom line is that Memphis simply can’t score, and that will play in OKC’s hands. Plus, Durant is on a mission.
Prediction: Thunder in 5.
#3 Los Angeles Clippers vs. #6 Golden State Warriors
Analysis: The Clippers and Warriors won the season series 2-2. This is a different Golden State than what we’re seeing now, thanks to the Andrew Bogut rib injury. This Warriors team is going to rely heavily on Jermaine O’Neal and probably David Lee at the five. Not a good thing knowing that they would go up against an athletic and brawnier frontcourt led by Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Plus that Chris Paul dude is not bad and will probably make a little noise in this season. All and all, this should be one entertaining series. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, aka the “Splash Brothers”, will light it up from the outside. But I think Clippers’ Doc Rivers will out-coach Mark Jackson in the end.
Prediction: Clippers in 5.
#4 Houston Rockets vs. #5 Portland Trailblazers
Analysis: The Rockets won the season series 3-1. If you like 3-point shooting, this is the series for you. The Rockets and Blazers are one and three, respectively, in 3-point attempts per game. The only difference between these teams is that the Rockets are a bit better defensively. Dwight Howard will be a difference-maker down low, with Omer Asik coming off the bench. And James Harden is a bonafide superstar who is on a mission. The Blazers are good, and have a bright future. They are just too green for the playoffs right now.
Prediction: Rockets in 6.
First, he came back from an Achilles injury he suffered near the end of last season before Christmas – only to get hurt again with a knee injury that sidelined him for the remainder of the season. The experts – and haters – all said that Bryant came back WAY too soon from his Achilles injury. Some of those same haters thought that Bryant wanted to stay relevant – which I thought was ridiculous.
Second, when he signed 2-year $48.5 million ridiculous extension, Bryant was criticized left and right for hamstringing the Lakers’ salary cap for the next few seasons. It will be harder for the Lakers to bring in more than one superstar a la the Miami Heat and be salary cap compliant. Hell, even I gave my two cents on the matter.
And last – but not least – Bryant gave perhaps the controversial quote of the year. When asked by a reporter from The New Yorker about the Miami Heat’s hoodie photo in support of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old kid who was gunned down by a wannabe vigilante/neighborhood watchman, this was what Bryant had to say:
“I won’t react to something just because I’m supposed to, because I’m an African-American. That argument doesn’t make any sense to me. So we want to advance as a society and a culture, but, say, if something happens to an African-American we immediately come to his defense? Yet you want to talk about how far we’ve progressed as a society? Well, we’ve progressed as a society, then don’t jump to somebody’s defense just because they’re African-American. You sit and you listen to the facts just like you would in any other situation, right? So I won’t assert myself.”
Let’s examine Bryant’s comments.
First of all, I understand Kobe’s sentiments. Kobe’s thoughts were aimed at fellow black people. Too many of us label our own “Uncle Toms” for not going along with our way of thinking.
For example, when Mike Vick got busted for dog-fighting, a lot of black folks thought that dog fighting was not such a big deal and Vick should not have been thrown in jail. The problem with that thought is dog fighting is not only a crime, it became a federal felony when he and his crew crossed state lines while orchestrating the dog fighting. During ESPN’s Town Hall in Atlanta, many black folks in the audience showed their asses and booed Bryan Burwell (a black sportswriter) who had the nerve to disagree in saying Vick should do his time.
I also feel that just because some issues pertain to Black America, it doesn’t mean we all as Black Americans have to react a certain way. Here are some good examples: Tawana Brawley and the Duke lacrosse case. Look it up – Google it.
I live by what my dad used to say: black people are not sheep.
However, I think Kobe used a bad example in the case of Martin’s murder. Even though the prosecution failed to convince a jury beyond the reasonable doubt of George Zimmerman’s guilt, I believe that the young brother was racially profiled and led to him being murdered. In making those statements, Kobe appeared out of touch – and frankly condescending – with folks in the African American community.
A lot of Black folks are coming out in droves against Kobe. A had the pleasure of conducting a podcast with Lawrence Watkins (younger brother of the great activist Dr. Boyce Watkins), founder of the Great Black Speakers series. He called Kobe one of the “safe negroes” for those comments.
I think that is a case of the sentiment being there, but the execution being piss-poor at best.
Phil Jackson has been officially hired as president of my New York Knicks, where he won two NBA titles as a player. His deal is for five years and is expected to pay him $12 million annually but does not include an ownership stake.
Good news for Knicks fans everywhere, right?
Well, there are some naysayers. Some folks think Jackson is not ready for life in the front office. A person in Jackson’s position typically puts in several hours a week, and there is talk that Jackson will split time between New York and Los Angeles where his fiancee Jeanie Buss – who should be running the Lakers, not her bumbling brother Jim – resides.
Others wonder why Jackson would want to take on such a challenge. He has more money than he could spend. He has 11 championships and a legacy that second to none, late Celtics’ legendary coach Red Auerbach notwithstanding.
I think Jackson always relished the challenge of running a team. I am willing to bet that Jackson saw the job his old nemesis Pat Riley has done in running the Miami Heat the last decade-plus (two NBA titles as an executive). Jackson would love to challenge Riley and add that to his legacy.
You also have to figure that Jackson has heard enough of the talk of him always walking into ideal situations. After all, the Chicago Bulls had Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen before Jackson arrived. The Lakers had Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant before Jackson arrived there. The thing that those naysayers conveniently forget is this: neither the Bulls and Shaq’s Lakers won titles before Jackson arrived.
Which is why I think the Knicks will greatly benefit from Jackson’s arrival. Not by winning an NBA title right away – my Knicks have WAY too much work to do to get a championship level.
What I mean is that Jackson is a necessary first step in changing what has been a dysfunctional culture in New York. There is a reason that bumbling owner James Dolan gave Jackson that $12 million per year contract – to bring his winning ways to New York as an executive.
There is something to be said about perception. Again, the Knicks will not turn into winners overnight. However, with Carmelo Anthony wanting to test the market as a free agent this summer as well as the free agent bonanza in 2015 with cats like Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving becoming free agents, just the thought of rubbing elbows with Jackson would be enticing. Plus it helps that the Knicks will have enormous cap room in 2015 (Amare Stoudemire’s, Andrea Bargnani’s and Tyson Chandler’s contracts are scheduled to come off the books).
As a diehard Knicks fan, I have been longing for the Knicks to at least get back to their glory years of the 1990s – no NBA titles notwithstanding. I think that Jackson coming back to his old team is a huge step towards bringing the Knicks some much-needed credibility.
Trust me, New York needs all the credibility it can get…
When I first heard the news that the Indiana Pacers traded Danny Granger to the tanking Philadelphia 76ers for Evan Turner and some other scrub, I liked the trade for the Pacers. After all, they were getting a young up-and-comer in Turner and had rid themselves of Granger’s $13 million contract. No sixth man should be paid $13 mil.
Now when I think about it, I’m not so sure.
I know that Granger was a sixth man playing behind a soon to be superstar in Paul George. I also know that Granger is still working his way back from an assortment of injuries, namely patellar tendinosis that caused him to miss all but five games last season.
But I do know that you should never ruin a good thing – especially if that good thing had championship potential. The Pacers had the best record in the horrific (the Miami Heat notwithstanding) Eastern Conference heading into the All-Star break. Granger had already settled in as a sixth man and did not do anything to upset the Pacers’ chemistry.
Plus, George really loved Granger. He took to twitter and Instagram to convey his sadness over Granger leaving the Pacers.
Indiana gets a player in Turner, who while has a big upside, has not done a lot to justify being the second overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft. To me, the trade was too damn risky to fuck up what might have been a championship season. For the sake of Pacers fans, let’s hope that Turner catches on quickly and not be a big drop off from Granger.
Speaking of Granger, don’t feel to bad for him. Even though the wretched Sixers traded for him, Granger may buy his way out of Philadelphia and land on a title contender – say, the Heat?
Sucks for the Pacers…
David Stern ended his stewardship of commissioner of the NBA January 31st. The date was significance because he became commissioner of the league on February 1, 1984 – that’s right, he ruled the NBA with an iron fist for exactly 30 years.
So the question is this: how will Stern be remembered?
First of all, let’s take into account how the NBA was before Stern became commissioner. The NBA was at an all-time low in terms of popularity. It was perceived as a “black league” where half its players were on some type of drug. Hell, I remember when the NBA Finals were tape-delayed (yes, I’m old – 40 years old thank you).
I think it’s safe to say that Stern brought the NBA back from the dead. Let us count the ways:
- Stern also oversaw the creation of the WNBA.
- Stern helped the NBA expand by seven teams (Charlotte Hornets [now New Orleans Pelicans], Minnesota Timberwolves, Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Vancouver Grizzlies [now Memphis], Toronto Raptors, and Charlotte Bobcats [soon to be renamed the Hornets]).
- He helped create the NBDL, the developmental league for the NBA.
- He made the NBA a more global league, expanding into markets in Europe, South America and China.
- The NBA’s annual television revenue around the time Stern took over was less than $30 million; today it’s roughly $1 billion.
- NBA Dress Code.
Of course, Stern had his fair share of controversies:
- There was the relocation of six franchises (Clippers, Kings, Grizzlies, Nets, Hornets and Sonics).
- Four NBA lockouts (1995, 1996, 1998–99, and 2011).
- Stern vetoed a three-team trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers, Lamar Odom to the Hornets (now Pelicans), and Pau Gasol to the Rockets for what a spokesman would only say were “basketball reasons”.
- There was that “Malice at the Palace” thing…
Look, it’s obvious that Stern has a mixed legacy. A lot of folks think that Stern is the greatest commissioner in all of professional sports. One prominent writer went as far as to call Stern a “bully“.
I just think that Stern has done more good than bad for the NBA, and has set the league up rather nicely.
I like it when a team rewards a veteran who gave his blood, sweat and tears to his organization. Loyalty is such a lost art in professional sports, so when I see a team hook its player up with a new contract, I usually applaud it.
In the case of Kobe Bryant’s new contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, not so much.
No one is saying Kobe Bryant is turning into an “okay” NBA player before our eyes. Before he suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon late last season, Bryant still averaged 27.3 points, six assists, and 5.6 rebounds per game. And that was during a season where he played through a variety of injuries.
It’s just that I do not believe in investing in risky commodities.
Bryant is coming off that aforementioned ruptured Achilles tendon last May, and the timetable for rehabbing that injury is at least a calendar year. How could the Lakers be sure that they will be getting the same Kobe who is one of the best players in the NBA last season? Will they even get Kobe back by the end of this calendar year?
And now with various stars destined to hit the free agent market next season (LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwyane Wade to name a few), the Lakers could not afford to have too much of their salary tied up. That changed when they re-upped Kobe to that ridiculous two-year, $48 million extension.
And yeah, I know that the Lakers have media deals that help them to more than afford that extension. However the last time I checked, professional sports is all about winning championships than making the most loot (ask the Dallas Cowboys’ Jerry Jones how that is working out for him).
And speaking of the dollars, what that signing did was send a message to the rest of the league which said that the Lakers is STILL Kobe’s team until he retires. That’s not such a good message to sell to potential superstar free agents looking for a new home.
And it seems to me that Kobe has made more than enough money in his career, and that he would take less in order to bring in the right cats to help him win that coveted sixth championship. But as usual, Kobe’s super-sized ego trumped common sense.
I will say this: that is good news for this life-long Laker hater. That signing just reaffirmed that Kobe and the Lakers will not be winning another championship any time soon.
And thank God it’s almost here.
I’ve lined up my predictions for y’all by division, along with analysis for all the divisions. Enjoy, and feel free to rip me a new one (as most of you tend to do)…
- Brooklyn Nets*
- New York Knicks*
- Toronto Raptors
- Boston Celtics
- Philadelphia 76ers
Analysis: This is going to be a two-team race between the Nets and Knicks. I’m afraid that my Knicks peaked last season, which led to a second round exit in the playoffs. I also wasn’t happy to see Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce arrive in Brooklyn via trade from the Celtics. That alone should add some spice to an already budding rivalry between Brooklyn and New York. The rest of the division is irrelevant, though I will take perverse pleasure in watching the Celtics suck during their rebuilding project.
- Chicago Bulls*
- Indiana Pacers*
- Cleveland Cavaliers*
- Detroit Pistons*
- Milwaukee Bucks
Analysis: This will be easily the toughest division in the NBA. While the Bulls and Pacers will fight it out for the Central, the Cavs and Pistons will make plenty of noise not only during division play, but also during playoffs. You know the Bucks (and their fans) will be in the fetal position all season long.
- Miami Heat*
- Washington Wizards*
- Charlotte Hornets (not calling them the “Bobcats” anymore)
- Atlanta Hawks
- Orlando Magic
Analysis: This is easily the weakest division in the NBA. The defending champion Heat could literally moonwalk their way to another division title. I will say that this is the year that the Wizards will make the playoffs. When John Wall was healthy near the end of the season, Washington played better. I think a healthy Wall, Bradley Beal, Nene and newly acquired Marcin Gortat will get the Wiz (I wish they were called the “Bullets” again) over that playoff hump.
- San Antonio Spurs*
- Houston Rockets*
- Memphis Grizzlies*
- New Orleans Pelicans
- Dallas Mavericks
Analysis: I will have the most fun paying attention to this division because each of the top three teams have a legit shot of winning this division. While I am tempted to go with the Rockets (thanks to the free agent acquisition of Dwight Howard), I gotta roll with “Old Faithful” a.k.a the San Antonio Spurs. Sure they may be older but I do not trust Howard with anything of importance on the line.
- Oklahoma City Thunder*
- Denver Nuggets*
- Minnesota Timberwolves*
- Portland Trailblazers
- Utah Jazz
Analysis: I have a feeling that whenever Russell Westbrook comes back from injury, the Thunder will seek to avenge last year’s playoff failure. It’s obvious that Kevin Durant missed the hell out of Westbrook after he injured his knee in the first round of last year’s playoff. The Nuggets are playoff contenders, and the Wolves may a playoff run of their own, but OKC should easily win this division. Meanwhile, Jazz fans are still longing for the next “Stockton to Malone”…
- Los Angeles Clippers*
- Golden State Warriors*
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Sacramento Kings
- Phoenix Suns
Analysis: This is the Clippers’ division to lose. They are not only a year better – especially after re-signing Chris Paul to a max deal – they have brought in former Celtics coach Doc Rivers to lead them. Rivers is one of the two best coaches in the NBA (the other being the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich), and he will get the most out of Blake Griffin and the rest of the team not named Chris Paul. I love what the Warriors are doing, and love their new downtown digs in San Francisco. Meanwhile, the Lakers will be one interesting soap opera this season. When will Kobe come back? When will the Lakers fire coach Mike D’Antoni? When will Phil Jackson stop picking on Jim Buss?
* – denotes playoff teams
Eastern Conference champs: Miami Heat
Western Conference champs: Los Angeles Clippers
2013-2014 NBA Champions: Miami Heat (what the hell do y’all think?)
I normally would look back on a superstar’s career and extol the athletic exploits of such an athlete upon his/her retirement. Though with Iverson, his career from my point of view could be summed up with two words: what if.
What if Iverson embraced the coaching he received (notably from Larry Brown during Iverson’s prime with the Philadelphia 76ers) that would have made him arguably the greatest player in NBA history? What if Iverson put in the work – notably by attending practice – what also would have made him the greatest?
For the record, I am a HUGE fan of Iverson. He was one of the two best small players (the other being Isiah Thomas) to play the game. I admired his courage and willingness to put a team on his shoulders and take them to the promised land. The Sixers team that played the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2001 NBA Finals would have been a lottery team without Iverson.
For his career, Iverson averaged 26.7 points per game, 2.6 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game. Check out Iverson’s other career accomplishments:
- NBA Most Valuable Player (2001)
- NBA Rookie of the Year (1997)
- 11× NBA All-Star (2000–2010)
- 2× NBA All-Star Game MVP (2001, 2005)
- 4× NBA scoring champion (1999, 2001–2002, 2005)
- 3× NBA steals leader (2001–2003)
- 3× All-NBA First Team (1999, 2001, 2005)
I think that even with the aforementioned accomplishments, Iverson should have accomplished more. When Brown coached the Sixers, he pushed and propped Iverson into being the best – but Iverson was usually not but so receptive to it. Keep in mind that Iverson was never one for believing in practice, let alone going to practice. Remember this gem (which also happens to be one of my favorite press conference meltdowns)?
I could also go on about how Iverson cost himself tens of millions of dollars by tatting himself up and portraying himself as being “thugged out”, but that would focus on the ancillary stuff instead of what matters most.
Iverson had the game to be the greatest baller of all time. He had the will to be the greatest of all time. He had the heart to be the greatest of all time.
Iverson didn’t have the DISCIPLINE to be the greatest of all time. If he had Kobe’s discipline and work ethic, Iverson would easily have at least two NBA titles, not to mention a greater legacy.
But for now I am left to wonder, “what if?”
Well, it’s official: Dwight Howard is a member of the Houston Rockets. (or as Ice Cube calls him, “Dwight COWARD”)
Last week I suggested that he should chose the Rockets over returning to the Los Angeles Lakers. Why? It’s because Houston is a better fit for Howard than LA.
And I am not only talking about a better BASKETBALL fit. I’m talking about a better emotional fit as well.
Playing for the Lakers requires a special type of player – a player that does what it takes to deliver a championship. A player who is able to block out the distractions from the media and focus on his craft. A player who is never afraid of big stage and the storied championship history of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Magic Johnson fit that mold. So did Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West, Shaquille O’Neal and of course Kobe Bryant. Not Howard.
Howard left LA because he wanted to take the easy way out. He did not want the pressure of delivering a championship to the Lakers. He did not have the stomach to be the face of a storied franchise after Kobe retires. Hell, he did not want Kobe to show him how to become a champion.
Let’s face it, Howard was never going to cut it in LA. He has the emotional fortitude of a mustard seed.
Besides, Houston is not the media monster that LA is. He will be a big fish in a smaller pond (similar to his Orlando Magic days), and will not be as pressured to win in Houston as he would in LA. He’ll be surrounded by better players – namely James Harden and Chandler Parsons – and have a better support system in coach Kevin McHale and former Rocket great Hakeem Olajuwon.
Now that he chosen the Rockets, Howard is running out of excuses. It was never his fault in Orlando. It was never his fault in LA.
Is Howard finally going to maximize his awesome talent and deliver a championship to Houston? Will he man up to the challenge?
Given Howard’s history, I’d be surprised if he does.
I mean sure, Stevens brings to the table a VERY successful college coaching career. During the past six years coaching Butler, he led the Bulldogs to back-to-back national championship games in 2010 and ’11. He has a career winning percentage of .772 and never won fewer than 22 games in a season.
However, I think the combination of the lack of NBA coaching experience and his age (dude is only 36 years old) are potentially HUGE roadblocks to a successful NBA coaching career. Stevens is five months younger than the recently traded Kevin Garnett!
And here is one more nugget to ponder: if Rajon Rondo was so bull-headed and stubborn with a universally respected coach in Doc Rivers, how would he jibe with a young dude fresh from the college ranks? Do we REALLY expect Rondo to diligently accept Steven’s leadership and become more coachable?
My money is on “no” and “hell no”.
There is a reason why only a handful of college coaches – if that – are successful in the NBA. Specifically I only know of ONE who has been successful in the NBA: Larry Brown.
Most college coaches fail miserably in the NBA. The list of successful college coaches who failed in the NBA is stunning. Jerry Tarkanian: fired from San Antonio. Rick Pitino: fired from Boston. P.J. Carlesimo: fired from two teams and choked by one player.
Hell if Mike Krzyzewski, the Hall of Famer who coaches Duke and USA Basketball, hasn’t made the leap to pros (though it has been reported that he came THIS CLOSE to in the past), what does that say for college coaches’ ability in the NBA?
Pro players are not going to listen to a college coach. And I hate to say this, but Stevens will suffer the same fate.
I expect this experiment to last no more than two years.