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2 09 2008

This piece is a continuation of the ‘Impact on the hardwood‘ up yesterday… tomorrow we’ll put up a bit on the Free Agent market of 2010.  Additionally, we’ll talk about teams that have gotten worse, and why – on the following day.

July 9th, when Elton Brand officially signed with the Philadelphia 76ers was a gut-wrenching experience for anyone who wears the oft-frustrating label of “Clippers fan”. The day before, Clip-fans were excited as hell about having perhaps the best roster they’d had in many a year. Brand had seemingly persuaded Baron Davis to come home and join the Clippers. The Clips had reason to celebrate, for only the second time in many, many years, it looked like LA’s second best had a team that might… just might compete with the co-tenants of the Staples Center.

Brand’s mutiny quickly scuppered the Clippers’ dreams of fair sailing. His departure left not on the fan-base – but the franchise itself – dazed and confused, hurt and bitter. The LA Clippers seemed doomed for another year of non-competitiveness.
It’s been very impressive the way they’ve rebounded from the mess they woke up to on July 10th.
Regardless of the Brand move, the acquisition of Davis is a step up from what they had at the position. Baron Davis brings a veteran wiliness that the Clip have lacked for a damn long time. He’s a natural leader, tough, and a natural for LA… if he can stay healthy.

The addition of Marcus Camby will give the Clippers a pretty scary frontcourt. Alongside Chris Kaman, scoring should be pretty hard for opponents of this team. Al Thornton’s a young guy who’s improving every time he takes the floor, and Cuttino Mobley could easily have made the underrated list posted here a little while back.  Camby’s not Brand, that’s for sure.  But with him in – if he can stay healthy, the Clippers’ defense should be stronger than with Brand.
Adding Jason “White Chocolate” Williams to the roster was gravy – this is a team that could be playoff-bound. Maybe not near the top, but they’ll compete.
And that’s good news post July 9th.

The New Orleans Hornets made some mid-level moves that could have high-level repercussions. They came within a game of making the Western Conference Finals, losing to the Spurs in a series that many thought they could’ve won.
Should’ve won.
This year, Chris Paul’s crew’ll be a little older.  A little better for the experience.

Add to the fact that New Orleans will be better merely by being a year older, they’ve added some important pieces to the puzzle.  There’s no doubting – the loss of Jannero Pargo hurts, but James Posey’s presence more than counters that. Posey has the same skillset as Pargo, and then some. Additionally Posey brings a presence to the Hornets that was pretty much why they lost the Western Conference semi-finals to the Spurs. Whilst they are overpaying Posey, the Hornets needed him like they needed no other free agent on the market. He addresses the reason they weren’t in the Finals. Experience.
Additionally, adding Bonzi Wells to the roster offsets that… although in different ways.
Wells is a talent, there’s no denying that.  The only issues that Wells has is a somewhat erratic temperament, and a like performance. If he could retain focus better, Wells would be hellishly difficult player to guard.

Whilst Sean Marks is pretty much just a big body that will collect fouls, he does allow some minutes of rest to Tyson Chandler.  That’ll be Marks’ job.  Be big.

This Hornets’ roster got a lot better by adding two key mid-level pieces… but they’ll have to be. The West’s still going to be wild ‘n’ wooley, and their own conference got a helluva lot tougher with Houston stepping up their game – but expect the Hornets to be amongst the cream.
It’d be awful to be Dallas fan at the moment.

The LA Lakers must be all smiles with the return of Andrew Bynum. It’s a mistake to look at this as LA merely getting a better center. In effect, they are getting not only a better center, but a better power forward, and a better player at what’s likely to be the 3 slot.
Gasol’s game is more suited to the 4 than at center, and with Bynum’s return it means that Gasol can play his more natural game. He’s not a banger, never has been. He’ll still see minutes at the 5 – Phil Jackson won’t throw Andrew Bynum in the deep end.

I’d expect Bynum to play 20-28 minutes a game initially, and Jackson might step it up from there. At least early on, Gasol and Odom might just play quite a few minutes at he positions they had last year.  Not necessarily a bad thing: that tandem made a lot of other bigs in the very deep West look foolish.
A lot of critics chastise Laker excitement on Bynum’s return, declaring him not to be the second coming of Wilt or Kareem. And that’s true. But Andrew Bynum’s clearly a better, tougher option than playing Gasol at center. And having players of that size and quality on the court at the same time is a roster option that very few other teams in the league have.

Lamar Odom would seem to present a quandary for the Lakers. He doesn’t appear to be a natural 3 – which is another area the Lakers got beaten in the finals (destroyed?). But it’s too enticing a notion not to try – a guy with an almost point guard handle who’s 6’11 playing at the 3? Ok, so he doesn’t have range… but there’s also the option of playing Odom at the shooting guard spot, and Kobe Bryant at the 3. Or alternatively starting Radmanovic and having Odom lead the second unit.
This is the kind of ‘problem’ that other franchises dream of having.

Another team welcoming a big guy back to the fold is Portland. The Trail Blazers have eagerly awaited Greg Oden pulling on a game jersey for over a year now.
Oden joins a roster that was amongst the most improved last year, and narrowly missed out on making the playoffs – without the most anticipated draft pick since LeBron James.
Travis Outlaw has made huge ground, LaMarcus Aldridge must make Bulls fans cringe, and Brandon Roy is a leader with nous beyond his years.
Add to that a rookie signing in Jerryd Bayless who’s perhaps the most underrated of the last draft’s crop – and with Oden joining them you have a team that’s going to be very good, for a very long time.
This mightn’t be their year – expect teething issues – but Rip City’s back.




2 responses

3 09 2008

Right now my beloved Celtics have to go in the “worse” column…. losing Posey hurts and no one has been signed to fill the gap. With the Sixers and Raptors improving big time the East is going to be harder to win this year….

I wonder what Danny “Hey, I was exec of the year” Ainge is going to pull out of his hat this year? Does Kevin Mac have anything left to give away???

21 10 2008

Lookin forward to the start of the season. Definitely love the great coverage of the NBA from this blog.

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