NBA Utterances With Malice

30 04 2008

Curtains close for a couple of teams today. The Mavericks ride off into the sunset, and the Suns… umm…just… err… set?

Today’s games, and what they mean:

  • Dallas failed. With the 99-94 loss to New Orleans, it’s as simple as that. To be bumped out in the first round, when earlier this season you trade the guy who’s probably your best young player – in an effort to get better now… well, it’s failure.
    As I said in ‘Failed Experiments’, I expect big changes in Dallas. Because at the end of the day, this roster, this coach just cannot get the job done.
    And they’re not going to be any younger next year.
  • Phoenix – more of the same, losing 92-87. Trade to get the Big Fella, then drop out in the first round of the playoffs.
    Worth noting that at the time Phoenix made the trade, they were situated at the top of the Western Conference. Since that point, they dropped to 6th in the standings, which placed them squarely against the reason they made the trade in the first place: Tim Duncan & the San Antonio Spurs.
    This roster is about the same in regards to youth as Dallas, but they have one big exception to that: Amare Stoudemire. Amare’s a piece to build around that the Mavs just don’t possess. He’s only 26 this year, and post moving to the power forward slot, he was a monster.
    Add to that Leandro Barbosa & Boris Diaw – and the Suns possess 3 players all born in 1982 who make the basis of a damn good team. The rest should be considered as ‘commodities’ that could possibly get in pieces to rebuild this roster. And that includes Steve Nash.
  • Detroit showed some TCB today… and business was a home game against the 76ers. And they took care of bidness to the tune of a 98-81 beat-down.
    The Pistons starting 5 were all in good form, and really took control of the game – but Philadelphia coach Mo’ Cheeks assured the Palace in Auburn Hills hecklers that “I’ll be back.”
    This Detroit team is enigmatic to extremes… they might go to Philadelphia and lose mightily… or they might win by 20+. Hard to say. Hoping the former.
  • Houston stave off disaster and beat thrash Utah, 95-69. Now, they have to do what has been one of basketball’s Herculean tasks this season – but conversely something they did but a few days ago – and go into the House of Jazz and win. Tall order… but the Jazz have to be scratching their heads at the moment.
    And we all know what the Rockets can do once they start rolling (22). Hell, just for the heck of it I hope the Rockets get it done (note: cheering for the 76ers/Hawks too!)…
  • San Antonio will play New Orleans in the next round… and egads, is that a series that will be well worth watching. Does either side have a clear advantage?
    Paul has the basketball nous to play Parker well, and Parker has the speed to stay in front of CP3. That match-up should be a beaut.
    It might all come down to how well Tyson Chandler can defend Timmy.

Tomorrow’s games:

  1. Washington in Cleveland – put up or shut up time for the Wiz. I think LeBron has them shut up by mid-way through the third.
  2. Atlanta in Boston – Wow… the Boston players don’t seem too worried given this series returns to Boston, but Doc Rivers is. I think the players should be too – the Hawks look like a team with ‘belief’. Something I cannot ‘believe’ is that the NBA Commissioner chose not to act on a variety of offenses during the last game.
    – Kevin Garnett pushes a ref and gets nothing…
    – Kendrick Perkins steps onto the court and escapes penalty…
    – Same with Marvin Williams…
    If I were the Phoenix Suns – post last season’s suspension of Amare Stoudemire/Boris Diaw – I’d be pretty upset about that [grumbles about double standards].

Failed Experiments?

30 04 2008

First round of the playoffs are done, and given their first round exit Dallas has to be wondering what they have to do to get back to being a top-flight unit. Whilst Phoenix managed to be competitive against the Spurs, it was evident that they cannot beat San Antonio in a close game.
With both series over, and although the Mavs managed to beat New Orleans in game 3, and Phoenix the Spurs in game 4… the pendulum has swung away from these franchises. Both are old, and don’t look like having what it takes – as they stand – to be competitive in the now ultra-competitive West. Surprising that they’ve reached this point – given the mid-season trades that both franchises made, supposedly to address key concerns on each roster.

Time’s fast approaching when the question will be asked: were these trades mistakes?

Hard to credit much in the losses to Shaq. O’Neal’s numbers have been relatively ok, if not amazing. Shaq brought a little over 15 points and nearly 10 rebounds per game on average.
Additionally, although Tim Duncan’s first game was great, in games 2 and 3 – Duncan wasn’t the reason the Spurs won. Shaq has of late been playing better basketball than he has for quite some time.
Yes, in game 1 it was Shaq who didn’t rotate out to take Tim Duncan’s 3 point shot away – but that’s a shot you give Timmy time & time again, and he doesn’t even take it, let alone hit it.
And yes: Duncan had his way with the Suns bigs in game 1 – most notably Shaq, whose 11 points/5 rebounds did read very poorly. Still, didn’t the Suns bring O’Neal to Phoenix to be better than Tim Duncan? Aren’t they paying more than they got in return?

However – I don’t really see Phoenix doing much better with Marion in the line-up. One of the big stories about Shaq’s presence has been the liberating of Amare Stoudemire… and but for Stoudemire – the Suns don’t even compete against San Antonio. 33 points in game 1, and the same in game 2. The fact that he can play at power forward has a helluva lot to do with that, and of all the big men on the market, Shaq was probably the guy that was ‘most available’ to do what the Suns wanted. Slot Marion back into the unit, and Amare back at center, and I don’t think Phoenix get as close.

For a very long time, I was against the Suns acquiring O’Neal – truth be told I’m not still sure that it represents the best thing that the Suns could do as far as personnel acquisition goes. O’Neal represents a fairly hefty chunk of change, and the Suns are hardly notorious for what they get in the draft.
This doesn’t work – and it’s going to take some fairly shrewd negotiating on the part of the front office to get the Suns to a position where they’re going to be competitive. Nash is 34 this year. O’Neal and Hill 36… Bell is 32. Only Amare Stoudemire of their key positions is what one would term ‘youthful’.
Trading Marion – who might have attracted quite a bit of attention as trade-bait – blew away a piece that could’ve been used to get younger, to put pieces around Amare – but find someone to take O’Neal? Forget that. Will not happen, especially now Isiah’s had the boot. O’Neal’s not going to get better, the best thing that Phoenix could hope for is that he stays plateaued. But of recent years, that’s something Shaq hasn’t done too well. Stuck with in excess of $20 million a year going to the big Shaq-tus, for 2 more years post this one. That’s one helluva millstone. Nothing, absolutely nothing we’ve seen in this post season would indicate that he’s worth anywhere near the money he’s getting.

Jason Kidd averaged 6.3 assists with 7.3 points throughout the series against New Orleans. His direct opposite, Chris Paul, averaged 11.3 assists with 24.8 points. Quite a gap there.
One could argue that it’s unfair to compare Kidd to Paul, but that’s currently where the benchmark is set, and the reason that Dallas traded to get J-Kidd. The Mavs hierarchy felt they needed to upgrade at the point, and dealt Devin Harris to the Nets to get Kidd. And markedly, Kidd’s been singularly unimpressive since joining the Mavericks.
At the time, many felt that this wasn’t an altogether wise move – the amount that they had to give up to get Kidd was just way too much. Not only Devin Harris, but DeSagana Diop and 2 draft picks – all of which will have a marked impact on what Dallas can do in the future, and it clearly had an impact on how the Mavs played this series.
Harris represented a much better defensive option on Paul, at least Harris has the pace to be able to keep up with the Hornets phenom. And Harris certainly couldn’t be worse than Kidd’s been on the offensive end… it’d be hard to imagine that Harris would be less creative than Kidd’s been too.

As with O’Neal’s contract in Phoenix, Kidd’s become the elephant in the room… no-one wants to talk about it, but everyone knows it’s there. That’s a large slab of cash going out of the Dallas coffers into his pockets, for very little in return.

As it now stands, Phoenix bowed out in 5 to what’s fast becoming their kryptonite, the San Antonio Spurs. Dallas had no answer for Chris Paul & his band of merry men. Bad news is, it’s only going to be worse next year. The young, talented squads in New Orleans, Utah and LA are already playing at a level perhaps beyond Phoenix or Dallas, and then you have to add Portland to the mix, who looked very good at times during the regular season and will add one of the better young big men to come out of college in recent years – Greg Oden. Include the Spurs, who whilst fitting into the ‘aged’ range, still seem to have what it takes. Denver have the youth, but lack direction.

What can these two traditional powerhouse (at least, of recent times) franchises do, once it becomes obvious that the squads as they are aren’t going to get a championship?
Phoenix at least have Amare. He’s young, and a very good base to build upon.  Add Boris Diaw & Leandro Barbosa to Stoudemire (all born in 1982), and that’s the basis of a strong roster.
Could be a few lean years (or less), but the Suns can make a relatively quick transition… if they pull the trigger on some difficult situations, and manage to find something to do with O’Neal.
Make no mistake tho’ – some hard decisions are there for what to do with their tradeable pieces… dare I say it – Steve Nash?
It would be a mistake for Phoenix to depart from Mike D’Antoni, as if they do, there’s no guarantee that they’ll be able to replace him with anyone better. D’Antoni is one of the very few truly elite coaches in this league.

Far worse a situation for Dallas, who traded their best young player (I rate Harris ahead of Howard) for a shot now.

Now that Dallas are out – Cuban would have to be close to showing Avery his walking papers, and the two certainly have butted heads this season.
And even despite stating the contrary, the owner of the Mavs must be wondering if Dirk is as good as advertised. Dirk himself is probably wondering if he can win a ring at Dallas too.
Maybe the only answer is to blow the team up, and start again.
As they are now, at times this squad looks old and confused – if Dirk’s not on his game.

Both teams are going to look different soon, probably starting next season.

Interesting times…

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Phil Speaks, We Listen With Malice

29 04 2008

Well… Kobe Bryant is on the brink. On the brink of getting further in a playoff series than Shaquille O’Neal. Congratulations to Byron Scott – Coach of the Year… And congratulations to Hedo Turkoglu, named Most Improved player for the NBA.

But anyway, today’s games:

  • Yay. The Lakers win through to the second round of the play-offs with a 107-101 victory against the Nuggets. And the only sweep thus far in the playoffs… but to be honest, not sure if the sweep actually counts against Enver. Definitely the junior varsity team thus far in the playoffs.
    Vodpod videos no longer available.
    (Coach Philip, Kobe, George Karl, AI)
    I really felt for Karl during that interview… ok, not really.
    But it’s not his fault entirely (despite what my learned colleague at FGK thinks! Ok, that’s not entirely fair – he agrees with me that:), there’s definitely a player or five who might find themselves traded.
    Hell, one of FGK’s commenters suggested a ‘SellMelo’ site – where do I sign up?
    So now the Lakers just sit back and wait to play Utah the winner of the Utah/Houston series.
  • How the hell do Orlando play 5 games, and finish their first round before the Lakers, if only by hours?
    Amazing how this works.
    Still… in a game where the Magic beat the Raps 102-92, the Dwighternator continues to put up absolutely amazing numbers.
    Game 1 – 25 pts/22 rebounds.
    Game 2 – 29/20.
    Game 3 – (off night) 19/12.
    Game 4 – 19/16.
    Game 5 – 21/21.
    Amazing stuff. Scary amazing.
    Now they get to sit back, and watch Detroit struggle mightily against the 76ers.
  • The OMFG story of the day: Atlanta beat down on Boston, eventually winning 97-92. I don’t know if they can continue this, but it’s been one helluva ride for them thus far – what… with NO-ONE in their right mind giving them even half a chance to win a game, let alone be 2-2 with the mighty C’s… yeee-WOWsers! (I know that Rob’s having sleepless nights over this one). anyone?
    Kinda enjoying this, you do realise who originally drafted Johnson way back in 2001, right?

Tomorrow’s games should be very, very interesting:

  1. Dallas at New Orleans – can <insert relevant team name here> stave off elimination, and live to fight another day? (seriously, I don’t see it happening)
  2. Phoenix at San Antonio – can <insert relevant team name here> stave off elimination, and live to fight another day? (nuh-uh)
  3. Utah at Houston – can <insert relevant team name here> stave off elimination, and live to fight another day? (tough one… maybe, maybe they can! I mean, if you were going to beat Utah, it’s usually them on the road)
  4. Philadelphia at Detroit – funny. It’s all bass-ackwards. Everyone thought the West would be close, and dramatic… but it’s the East that’s providing us with the most drama. West has sweeps… or damn-close-to-it series. All I’ve got to say: GO 76ers!!!

There Can Only Be One: McOozer…

29 04 2008

Didn’t McDonalds try and market those? The McOozer? Rotten, pustulant meat in a fetid bun? Oh wait… that’d be the Big Mac, my bad.
Anyway, check the NBA’s version out:

There Can Only Be One: Steve Ginobli?

29 04 2008

Hell… I think this guy used to own a restaurant in Melbourne…
Anyway, man… is the NBA going to TOWN late in the day on these match-ups…

There Can Only Be One… This one’s gotta hurt!

29 04 2008

Jason Kidd & Chris Paul. Is it just me, or is that a smirk on CP3’s face?

There Can Only Be One – Derek Fisher/Marcus Camby Clone

29 04 2008

Tenacious defender, great rebounder… and it could pass too!

You know, towards the end, I’d like this one to have Fish turn to Camby and say “See ya”.