That seems to be the prevailing thought on the hire of Mike D’Antoni as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. Many – including yours truly – thought that the job was former coach Phil Jackson’s to turn down. But when I heard the news while listening to “Mike and Mike in the Morning” on ESPN Radio, I was – once again – stunned as hell.
Let me tell you all what this means.
First of all, the Lakers brass – namely vice president Jim Buss – still hates Jackson. If what was said about Jackson’s demands were true (namely having final say over basketball matters over GM Mitch Kupchak AND Buss), then the Lakers must have figured “the hell with Jackson, let’s just move in another direction”.
Plus, the notion that the Triangle Offense would have been hard for the current roster to pick up is garbage. You can’t tell me that Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Ron Artest’s (sorry, I refuse to call that fool Metta World Peace) crazy ass would not have taught Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to principles of the Triangle Offense? Really?
Speaking of Kobe, I think this is the beginning of the end of Bryant in LA. There is no secret that Buss and Bryant do not see eye-to-eye. Look at the hiring of Mike Brown last season. Bryant was not consulted at all by Buss on that hire – nor the D’Antoni hire. What does that mean when the team’s brass do not give two damns what the star player thinks?
I also think D’Antoni is not the “perfect fit” as the Lakers head coach.
Sure D’Antoni is an offensive mind. Sure Bryant grew up a HUGE fan of D’Antoni’s during the early part of his childhood in Italy.
However, not only is D’Antoni allergic to defense, his pick-and-roll style offense does not fit the Lakers’ personnel. It may do wonders for Howard and Nash, for both are pick-and-roll players. Where does that leave Bryant? That will be the intriguing storyline for the rest of the 2012-2013 NBA season.
I think that Jackson would have been the better hire. His offensive system is more conducive to the Lakers’ personnel. He also believes in defense. And finally, the players loved – and more importantly, BELIEVED – in Jackson.
I know that Bryant is thinking the end of his time as a Laker is near. It now may be much sooner rather than later.
I also know this: the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder are smiling their asses off right now…
First of all, as a lifelong New York Knicks fan, it is my birthright to not only despise the Lakers (and the Celtics), but to HATE the Lakers (and the Celtics). The times the Lakers have lost in the NBA Finals in the 80s and the last decade were moments of pleasure for me. The fact they are 1-4 now makes me downright giddy.
I am also not a big fan of Kobe Bryant. Besides the fact that he is obviously beyond arrogant, I did not like the way he ran Shaquille O’Neal out of town. Plus, I do not anyone would want to emulate Michael Jordan. Bryant takes that shit to another level.
So pardon me for having a hard time containing myself while composing this Laker rant.
Here’s the deal, the Lakers are not a good team right now. The 1-4 record speaks for itself.
The parts they have brought in – Dwight Howard and Steve Nash – have not meshed well thus far. There is usually a period where it takes new pieces – especially high-profile new pieces – to mesh with their new teammates.
However, the point of the preseason is to alleviate such concerns. The Lakers were winless in the preseason. While the preseason is not generally a big deal, the Lakers’ body language during that time spoke of pressure – as in feeling the pressure to live up to lofty expectations. Remember how uncomfortable the Lakers players were in addressing the fact that they finished the preseason winless?
Well I’ll give the Lakers this: Mike Brown was not the right coach for the team. Dude appeared in over his head at times last season. Even though the Lakers did win their division last season, it was apparent that it was Bryant – not Brown – who was the REAL coach of the team.
As for last season’s playoffs, the Lakers was only the third best team in the Western Conference. They struggled against the Denver Nuggets in the first round, going the full seven games. And then we all remember what happened against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the second round – losing 4 games to 1.
People were questioning the Lakers under Brown’s direction then, and the 1-4 start didn’t help Brown’s cause.
Bottom line: the Lakers are a friggin’ mess. They are too old, do not have enough depth, and do not have the right personnel to run their offensive system. Nash, Bryant, and Howard in the Princeton offense? Really?
No matter who they bring in as coach – and let’s stop with the Phil Jackson rumors, dude is done – LA needs to hit the reset button. Thankfully it’s early (remember it’s an 82-game season), but it’s not looking good for the home team right now…
The 2012-2013 NBA season will kick off tomorrow night (WHOO-HOO!!!). This is a season of change in the NBA. There was some player movement for a lot of teams, from free agency to trades – namely a certain trade that I didn’t like. There will also be another team in New York City tipping off this season with the Nets moving to Brooklyn – my original home.
I have already given you all my conference-by-conference previews. Now it’s time for everything else from individual award winners to the next NBA champions…
- Miami Heat
- Boston Celtics
- Indiana Pacers
- New York Knicks (GO KNICKS!!!)
- Brooklyn Nets
- Chicago Bulls
- Philadelphia 76ers
- Atlanta Hawks
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Oklahoma City Thunder ( I REALLY hate that James Harden trade for OKC)
- San Antonio Spurs
- Los Angeles Clippers
- Memphis Grizzlies
- Denver Nuggets
- New Orleans Hornets
- Dallas Mavericks
NBA Champion: Heat over Lakers
MVP: LeBron James (gee, that was hard)
Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard
Coach of the Year: Monty Williams, Hornets
Sixth Man of the Year: J.R. Smith, Knicks
- San Antonio Spurs*
- Memphis Grizzlies*
- New Orleans Hornets*
- Dallas Mavericks*
- Houston Rockets
Analysis: The Spurs are still the class of the division, though the Grizzlies are closing in quickly. Memphis is really a younger, more athletic version of San Antonio. That said, both are deep and tough. I also expect both to advance deep into the playoffs.
The team to keep an eye on is New Orleans. The Hornets drafted well the past two seasons, including this years’ draft that netted Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers. They are now well-coached by Monty Williams and have a good GM in Will Demps. It’s funny how things improve once George Shinn skipped town eh?
Poor Dallas and Houston. They are two teams who would compete in a lesser division like, say the Southeast Division? But as the saying goes, it is what it is. Mavs owner Mark Cuban is not going to be making too much noise anytime soon. Then again…
- Oklahoma City Thunder*
- Denver Nuggets*
- Minnesota Timberwolves
- Utah Jazz
- Portland Trailblazers
Analysis: This is OKC’s division, and the rest of the crew are looking for scraps. Denver is talented and good enough to earn a playoff spot, but let’s be real about something: the Nuggets are NO WHERE CLOSE to the Thunder’s level.
If Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio are 100% healthy, the Wolves will contend for a playoff spot. Otherwise, brand new year, same old shit.
The rest of the division stinks. Hey Jazz fans: Karl Malone and John Stockton are not walking through that door. And while you’re at it, GIVE NEW ORLEANS THE JAZZ NAME BACK!!! There is nothing Jazzy about Salt Lake City.
- Los Angeles Lakers*
- Los Angeles Clippers*
- Golden State Warriors
- Phoenix Suns
- Sacramento Kings
Analysis: The Lakers-Clippers battles are going to be REALLY fun to watch. As much as I despise the Lakers – especially Kobe Bryant – I have to give them props on upgrading the roster. Sure they are older with Steve Nash in the fold, but that Dwight Howard acquisition was epic. While I am still unsure that he will stay in LA long-term, Howard gives the Lakers a defensive presence they lacked with Andrew Bynum last year.
Here’s another thing I never thought I’d see myself type: the Clippers are going to make some major noise this season. Once you give Chris Paul and Blake Griffin a full offseason together, you gotta look the hell out. One thing I really admire about the Clippers is that they are not afraid of the Lakers. This race will come down to the last week of the season.
The rest of the division is D-League level. Here’s hoping the coaching staffs of the Warriors, Suns and especially the Kings are renting and not buying. Speaking of the Kings, just go ahead and move to Las Vegas already.
Note: * denotes playoff teams
- Boston Celtics*
- New York Knicks*
- Brooklyn Nets*
- Philadelphia 76ers*
- Toronto Raptors
Analysis: This division will easily be the most competitive in the Eastern Conference. Hell I could easily see four playoff teams coming out of this division. I think it will be a dogfight between the damn Celtics, my Knicks, and the Nets.
The Celtics still have the best coach in the NBA in Doc Rivers. They still have the best point guard in the league in Rajon Rondo. They still have superstars – albeit aging ones – in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. They have young legs to supplement that core, so look for Boston to repeat as division champs.
As old as Boston is, New York has usurped the Celtics as “Team Geritol”. Jason Kidd, Rasheed Wallace, Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas? Are you kidding me?! The good news is my Knicks had a FULL offseason and preseason with a credible head coach in Mike Woodson. And I think Amare and ‘Melo are going to be REALLY eager to prove some folks wrong.
I cannot believe I am about to type this: I love what the Nets are doing. First of all, as a guy who is originally from Brooklyn, I love the Nets coming to the borough. Hell, I love it more for the borough! Now if Dwight Howard had landed with the Nets, not only would it have created a lot of hype, it would have struck fear in the hearts of Knicks fans everywhere. As for now, I think the Nets will fight the Knicks for second place in the division.
I love what the Sixers are doing as well. I love the trade for Andrew Bynum. When healthy, Bynum is the best center in the NBA (yeah I said it). I think the Sixers is one more alpha dog away from contending in the East. Should be a playoff team.
God bless Toronto. They are going to stink it up this season.
- Indiana Pacers*
- Chicago Bulls*
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Milwaukee Bucks
- Detroit Pistons
Analysis: I think this is the Pacers’ time to take the division. Indiana is too young and too good to not take that next step. I think the Pacers have gained a lot from their playoff run from last season – particularly in how they played against the eventual Miami Heat in the second round of last year’s playoffs. The Pacers came away hungrier, and will ride that momentum into a division title.
The Bulls will be there in the end as well. I just don’t trust Derrick Rose’s knee. That’s one of the reasons why I have Indiana winning the division. The Bulls are still well-coached, and they still play hellafied defense. It’s too bad they are sharing the division with the Pacers.
The rest of the division stinks. Cleveland is an up-and-comer, but since I hate its owner Dan “Danny Boy” Gilbert, I hope they stink up the joint as they did last year. As for Detroit and Milwaukee, why bother competing?
- Miami Heat*
- Atlanta Hawks*
- Washington Wizards
- Orlando Magic
- Charlotte Bobcats
Analysis: This division really, REALLY sucks. The Heat should win this division by at least 20 games this season. You think I’m playing? Check out the rest of the so-called “talent” in this division.
You have the Hawks without Joe Johnson. Atlanta will be no more than an 8th seed. You have the Magic without Howard. There are the improving, but still a season or so away Wizards. And who could forget those hideous Bobcats. Damn, I wish I could.
Memo to the Heat: try not to get TOO overconfident in winning the division again.
Note: * denotes playoff teams
In exchange for Howard, the Lakers will acquire Earl Clark and Chris Duhon, the Nuggets will acquire Andre Iguodala, the 76ers will receive Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson, and the Magic will get Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Nikola Vucevic and one protected future first-round pick from each of the three teams. And for those of you who care about the minute crap, the draft picks the Magic will receive are Nuggets (2014), 76ers (2015) and Lakers (2017).
Now the question is, does this make the Lakers the team to beat? My answer: not quite.
Before you all ask to have me drug-tested, follow me on this one. The only player the Lakers gave up was Andrew Bynum. So in what was essentially a center swap, the Lakers didn’t really upgrade as much as you’d think.
Bynum is a better offensive player than Howard. Bynum can hit his free throws a lot better than Howard (69% to 59%). And more importantly, Bynum is a pure 7-footer and has more muscle. Howard is listed at 6’11″ and is leaner.
And here’s the capper: the Lakers lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder with a pure 7-footer with a good offensive skill set. You think Howard would improve their chances next season?
It’s still going to be Miami Heat-Thunder II in next year’s Finals.
By the way, no one is talking about how much better the 76ers are with Bynum. They have the best pure 7-footer in the Eastern Conference.
Meanwhile, things have gotten a bit harder for my New York Knicks. First the Nets keeping Deron Williams, trading for Joe Johnson and moving to my home borough of Brooklyn, and now this? Damn…
The Miami Heat lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder 105-94 last night. While the Heat are not exactly favored in this series, that loss may come back to haunt them for one reason.
They blew an opportunity of a lifetime.
Miami led the entire first half. It led by seven at halftime. In fact, the Heat led by as much as 13 points. The Heat looked as though they were going to win easily over a Thunder team who obviously were nervous and overwhelmed at the notion of being in the Finals.
Then the second half happened. OKC regained its confidence, turned up the heat, and beat the Heat at their own game.
Now the question is what will the Heat do next?
The Heat played well in the first half, then had to watch it slip away in the second half. What more could they do against the Thunder?
Not a lot if LeBron James continues to carry the load. Not a lot if Dwyane Wade continues to struggle. Not a lot if coach Erik Spoelstra keeps getting out-coached. Not a lot if the Heat do not get more out of its role players.
If the Heat won Game 1, then I would have given the Heat a chance to win it in six. I wouldn’t have flip-flopped on my Thunder pick, but I would have given Miami a chance to win.
Not now. I’d be shocked if this series goes past five games.
Remember when the small market owners were trying to strong-arm the players into taking a lesser deal? Remember when those same small market owners were bitching over stars joining forces on teams in major media markets?
And here’s my favorite: remember that “woe is me” bullshit that Cleveland Cavaliers owner and noted dipstick Dan “Danny Boy” Gilbert spewed during the lockout, mainly because LeBron James spurned his ass for the Miami Heat?
Now let’s fast forward to the 2012 NBA Playoffs.
The Western Conference finals has two small market teams vying for a spot in the NBA Finals. So why have the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder been so successful you ask?
Three words: good basketball business.
The Spurs and Thunder do things the right way. Both draft well, both scout well, and make wise investments in free agents. Those are testaments to how the basketball operations are run in both organizations. Both have smart general managers who invest time in scouting and work in concert with their head coaches to decide what types of players fit in their program.
More importantly, ownership in both franchises let the basketball folks make the basketball decisions no matter what.
It’s not just limited to the Spurs and Thunder. The Indiana Pacers, Utah Jazz, and Denver Nuggets have shown what it takes to be a winner in today’s NBA. All of those teams exhibited the traits the Spurs and Thunder share.
Meanwhile, teams like the Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, and Charlotte Bobcats (yuck!) show us all why some teams – small market or otherwise – have a hard time fielding a winner in the NBA. All those teams run things ass-backwards.
You have one team with an owner who cannot STFU (the Cavs’ Gilbert), another who willingly waves the white flag in selling its best players just to reduce payroll (the Warriors’ group), and an absentee owner who doesn’t put the work in and therefore doesn’t know what the hell he is doing (Bobcats’ Michael Jordan).
Speaking of Jordan, it’s no wonder that he is considered the worst owner in all of pro sports. Not only does he spend more time on the golf course than in the meeting rooms breaking down film on potential players, he overrules his basketball people and surrounds himself with “yes” men. Not shocking to see his Bobcats finish with the worst winning percentage in NBA history this past season.
Now I may not be a Republican, but I will vouch for one of the GOP’s principles here: as long as you work hard enough, you will be successful. If the Spurs, Thunder, Pacers, Jazz and Nuggets can do it, then the Bobcats, Cavaliers and Warriors can do it.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Los Angeles Clippers
Analysis: The Spurs are a team on a mission. They have won 13 in a row counting the last series sweep. They may be “Team Geritol”, but they are focused and more importantly: healthy.
The Clippers are in rare territory as a franchise as they reached the second round in only the third time in franchise history (what the hell?!). Props to the Clips for showing heart and grit in Memphis, but they are too banged up to match the rested and playoff-savvy Spurs blow for blow. This should be a short series.
Prediction: Spurs in 5.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Analysis: This should be one exciting series. Old school vs. new school. I’ll tell you what, I would love to see how the Thunder will react to the playoff-tested Lakers in the clutch.
I think the Lakers will give the Thunder its best shot in Game 1. They want to put as much pressure on the young Thunder in taking home-court advantage. I think OKC will be rusty and lose tonight’s game. That will be just enough for the Lakers to steal this series.
Prediction: Lakers in 6.