First of all, he is one of the NBA’s biggest stars – who happens to play for one of the sorriest disappointments in my New York Knicks. Second, he is eligible to opt out of his contract after this season and test the free agent market. While Melo says his heart is in New York and is his first choice is to remain a Knick, why in the hell would he return to this mess?
And finally, Chicago’s Joakim Noah has been openly recruiting Melo to become a member of the Bulls next season.
Allow me to be ESPN’s Chris Broussard and analyze this for a bit. As I said earlier, why in the hell would Melo remain a Knick after this season? As looney and inept as Knicks’ owner James Dolan has been since he assumed ownership, he had to have been beyond delusional in thinking that Melo would not walk away from New York at season’s end. Sure Melo will make more money staying in New York, but will the possibly of losing night in and night out be worth the extra loot?
As much as it pains me to write this, I think Melo would be better off in Chi-town. First of all, the Bulls are a better team than the Knicks – and that’s without superstar point guard Derrick Rose. And while the Bulls would lose a few pieces to make the salaries fit (Taj Gibson, Mike Dunleavy, and possibly Jimmy Butler would have to be moved), there is still much to love about a Melo-Rose-Noah triumvirate.
The Bulls have the coaching staff lead by Tom Thibodeau would ensure Melo that Chicago will always be in the mix year in and year out. The Knicks’ coaching staff? Hell, who would want to coach this bunch in New York next season? John Calipari? I don’t think so.
My advice to Melo: run like hell to Chicago homie.
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.
Yup, the same Dwight Howard who while a member of the Orlando Magic kept saying how much he wanted to leave for bigger media markets and greener pastures – only to inexplicably OPT IN to what was the final year of his contract with the Magic. Oh, and he also managed to get his head coach (Stan Van Gundy) and general manager fired before deciding, “you know what, I STILL want out!”
This is also the same Dwight Howard who in and out mentally during his first (and maybe his last) season as a Los Angeles Laker. His capricious and buffonish attitude did not sit well with Kobe Bryant. Howard’s style of play is not conducive to coach Mike D’Antoni’s offense (I’m still baffled by that). And frankly, Howard never felt comfortable in Los Angeles.
And more importantly, Howard is more preoccupied with being liked than doing what’s best for him. He’d be a member of the Brooklyn Nets (where he wanted a trade to early that season) by now if he didn’t opt during his final year of Orlando.
Now having all of that, Howard makes damn near perfect sense for one team: the Houston Rockets.
The Rockets have the talent around him that would give him his best chance of winning an NBA title. They already have already with James Harden as the playmaker and good role players around him such as Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin. And while the Rockets will be contending with the runner-up San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies in the Southwest Division as well as the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference, Houston would be a heavy favorite to at least reach the NBA Finals.
Houston also has strong ties to the Chinese market (from the Yao Ming era and now with Lin), a lot of their games are still shown there, which would be good for Howard’s branding. Howard could also lean on Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler for advice and practically anything he may need help on the court. And if that is not enough, Howard would be coached by Kevin McHale – arguably one of the best big men to play in the NBA.
Most of all, Howard would be happier playing at a place where he WANTS to be instead of where he HAD to be (L.A. last season).
I mean sure, L.A. could pay Howard the most money to the tune of five years and $117 million while other teams can offer $87 million. L.A. also has the allure, the sexiness, the media exposure any player would probably crave.
But being that Howard doesn’t want to be the big fish in an even bigger pond, I think that he would thrive in Houston. He would have a more talented supporting cast who would love to have him. Howard knows that McHale would be more than willing to help him succeed.
No matter how much more money the Lakers will throw at Howard, he knows deep down it will not buy him the happiness he has long craved.
The Nets acquired Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce (and Jason Terry) from the Boston Celtics. In return, Boston received three first-round picks (2014, ’16 and ’18) along with Kris Humphries’ expiring contract, Gerald Wallace, Kris Joseph, MarShon Brooks and a sign-and-traded Keith Bogans.
On paper, it appears Brooklyn made a HUGE upgrade to its roster. They got two superstars in Garnett and Pierce, and while they are on the downsides of their careers both can still play and contribute. It was painfully evident from Brooklyn’s playoff loss to the Chicago Bulls that it needed a big change in attitude and heart. Garnett alone will give the Nets both. Pierce would serve as a reliable go-to scoring threat, perhaps off the bench? More importantly, the Nets did not have to give up Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, nor Brooks Lopez in making the trade with Boston.
Having said all of that, there will be some growing pains while making all of the parts work.
As we all have seen time and time again in sports, having the most talented players does not always equal championships. Exhibit A: the 2003-2004 Los Angeles Lakers. When they acquired Karl Malone and Gary Payton, everyone (including yours’ truly) thought that the Lakers would eclipse Michael Jordan’s 1995-1996 Bulls’ 72-10 record. While the Lakers did make the NBA Finals, they were crushed by the less-talented Detroit Pistons four games to one.
Exhibit B: the 2010-2011 Miami Heat. That was Year One of the Big Three Era. Most thought that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh would lead the Heat to an easy NBA title that season. Like the Lakers, the Heat made the NBA Finals, but was beaten by the less-talented Dallas Mavericks four games to two.
Look at the Nets’ new roster for a minute. Do you think there will be no problems sharing the basketball? Williams and Johnson are proud players who want their touches, as will Pierce and perhaps Terry. Plus, I am still not sold on Jason Kidd being a head coach in the NBA. Will he really be able to get all of those proud egos to buy into the team basketball concept? I am not so sure.
So for now, I’d still have the Bulls and the Indiana Pacers as the top threats to the Heat in the Eastern Conference. In fact, here is how I would rank the contenders in the East:
- Miami Heat
- Indiana Pacers
- Chicago Bulls
- Brooklyn Nets
- New York Knicks
As for Boston, they are officially in rebuilding mode. To the coach who has to follow former coach Doc Rivers and lead the now less-talented Celtics, you are in my prayers. You’re (and Celtics fans) are going to need it.-