2010… a basketball Odyssey

27 11 2008

Enough said...

Thanks Frank (of eTrueSports)…





MVP/RoY Rankings…

18 11 2008

“The concept: Every two weeks during the regular season, bloggers are polled on their top ten MVP and top five ROY picks to date. Voters are encouraged to provide brief comments.” – Alex, Brewhoop

I’ve never been one to “provide brief comments”.  Mine tend to be quite long.  Generally.  But anyway, he’s what I thought (to Nov 15):

Always tough to do an early call on MVP/RoY rankings, but having a shot anyway.

MVP

LeBron stomping them like a biker on narc1. LeBron JamesHas been a beast thus far offensively, and doing a damn good Atlas impersonation.  Rumor is that in an effort to retain his services post 2010, Cleveland’s front office has offered to rename the team the Cleveland LeBrons.  I think they should call themselves ‘Samsonite’.
2. Dwight Howard if you do not know why this man is up near the top of the rankings, you don’t follow basketball.
3. Kobe Bryant leading the team that’s playing the best basketball in the NBA at the moment, and he is clearly leading the team.
4. Chris PaulContinued comparisons to Oscar.  No, not “the Grouch”.
5. Jose Calderon belief in this point man could really pay the Rap-pack dividends this season.
6. Joe Johnson leading the Hawks to up near the top of the East.  Guy’s for real.
7. Paul Pierce I hate that I just typed that.
8. Brandon Roy gotta give him a mention if not for anything else other than the 30 foot shot against the Pistons.
9. Rudy Gay
10. Andris Biedrins

RoY

1. Derrick Roseposting anything beyond Rose at this point in time is futile.

You should now head over and have a look at the amassed rankings over at Hoops Addict with round 1 of this – Blogger MVP and ROY Rankings – Version 1.0.





Golden State Warriors – shaved

3 09 2008

Changed the format a lil’ – it makes more sense to talk about the rosters that have gotten worse today, and talk about the moves towards clearing space for Free Agency in 2010 tomorrow.  So… switched ’em.  Today: 2 teams that find themselves worse off.

Big time free agency always has the crowd’s attention.  But rarely do we look in depth at the teams those free agents depart, and what’s the effect of their departure.  Today, we will.

The Golden State Warriors hurt in many different ways with the departure of Baron Davis for the Clippers.
On the court, Davis was the team leader, and of recent times the best performed of the Dubs players.  Davis was the guy that on any given night could be the man.  The guy the opposition couldn’t touch.
Off the court, “The Beard” was the face of the franchise.  Without a doubt the guy that you saw in your mind’s eye when someone said “Golden State Warriors”.
The crowd favourite.
Boom Dizzle.
Post the June 30th opt out from Davis, the Warriors chased their tails, offering a big contract to Arenas, amongst others.  Thankfully for Golden State, Arenas chose to stay with Washington (more on that later).

And then Matt Barnes.
Whilst not one of the key players on the GSW’s roster, Barnes had a certain rapport that he’d built up with the fans at the Oracle Arena.  Definitely that guy that the crowd love, the guy who’s most likely to do something to win the heart & soul of the fans at the game.  Headed to division rivals Phoenix?  There’s probably only one destination that could hurt more (nod to LA at this point).
Signing Ronny Turiaf from the Lakers will help a lil’ – but no where near enough to damn the torrent of talent heading out of Oakland.

It’s still hard to believe that the Warriors would be without The Beard, but move on – sign Corey Maggette, work the youth, and the opportunity for Monta Ellis to make an impact.
Ellis is one of most dynamic young players in the NBA would finally get a chance to be the centerpiece.  Ellis could lead this … ouch.
Can’t a franchise get a break?  Monta Ellis tears the deltoid ligament in his left ankle, and post surgery will be out 3 months.  The injury occurred during a pick-up game.

And Maggette?
Decent talent, and might fit in with the Golden State mindset… but Maggette’s always been a ‘me-first’ kinda guy.  We’re yet to see how he’ll fit in with “someone else’s team”.  And this team belongs to Ellis.
At least… it will when he gets back.

Cleveland faithful have been waiting.
Waiting for a long time.
Waiting for a team that could compete… then came LeBron.
Then more waiting.
Initially, it was just waiting for the pieces to be put in place around Air Apparent LeBron James that would bring them home an NBA title.
Now, they’re waiting for Danny Ferry to put the pieces around LeBron James that might just persuade him to stay in town in 2010.
For LeBron forms the centerpiece of free agents who become available in 2010. And whilst every Cleveland Blog/fan I know swears differently, every single last one of them is scared of what might happen, whether they’re willing to admit it or not. There are signs there, it’s just if you choose to read them as signs, or coincidence.

So who do the Cavs sign? Mo Williams. Now, Williams is a pretty good point guard. One of the better 2nd/3rd tier guys out there. But it’s not as if signing him puts them over the hump. Yes, some will point to the fact that Cleveland came a lot closer to beating Boston than the LA Lakers did. And this is true. But that had more to do with the way that Boston was playing than anything else.
In the East, Cleveland finished last season with 45 wins. That wouldn’t have even got them into the playoffs in a stronger Western conference.

The Cavaliers’ roster is rife with ‘just misses’ and ‘not quites’. Ben Wallace, Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West, Daniel Gibson, Larry Hughes, Drew Gooden. All good players in their own right, but none coming close to being the 2nd guy that LeBron needs/desires.

One thing’s for sure tho’, 2010 gets closer every day.





US – Road to Redemption, or Countdown to Extinction?

2 08 2008

With the Olympic basketball only a little over a week away from kicking off, the big question at the moment is, are the US good enough to finally return to the top of the podium?

Recent injuries to Dwight Howard, LeBron James and alternate Tyson Chandler have to be at least a little cause for concern.  And there’s still the spectre of the lack of big men on the roster – a decision that still has many pundits baffled.  Additionally, how is Dwayne Wade?  Quite a few speculated that it was unlikely he’d be at 100% for the Olympic tournament…

The 120-84 win over European heavyweight Lithuania answered a lot of those questions – it was more evidence that they’re close to asserting themselves as ‘Best In World’ again.  There were some fantastic highlights within that victory.  Is Dwayne Wade ok?  Sheesh… Dwayne Wade looked like the Amazing Teflon Boy that we saw in the 2006 finals again.  Kobe renamed himself ‘The Doberman’, and was just downright vicious in his demolition of Sarunas Jasikevicius – the same Jasikevicius who destroyed the US at the Athens Olympics in the opening game.  It was reminiscent of Kobe’s blanketing of Leandro Barbosa at the Tournament of the Americas 12 months ago.  LeBron looked fine, and had a couple of whalloping dunks to emphasise that.

It was an all round excellent performance from the US team… and any questions that they are the clear favourites for the gold are quickly evaporating.





Seeking redemption with a ball

5 07 2008

Redemption.
That’s the whole theme of the US Olympic basketball team, the entire program is called ‘Road to Redemption’. And after the debacle at the last Olympics, it will be every bit as arduous as it sounds.
Last time, the co-captains of the team were LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Carmelo Anthony. And as good as they are, as imperative to their NBA teams’ successes, they are not the guys to lead an Olympic squad. Who were the senior guys that those three had on their last team? Stephon Marbury and Allan Iverson. Both good players (well… at least Iverson is), but neither are exactly the types of guys you’d set as role models.

So despite Mike Krzyzewski not naming any captains for this team, it’s on Kobe. He’s the one for this Olympic undertaking.
He knows it, Coach K knows it, the team knows it.

The thing that surprises me is (as mentioned in a previous post) the selection of Tayshaun Prince over Tyson Chandler. It allows for a game plan for opponents, a weakness to be exploited – whereas if Chandler was included the current issue over a lack of bigs would be a moot point.
The recent injury to Dwight Howard (stress fracture of the sternum) only heightens the concern, and the naming of Chandler as first alternate doesn’t really alleviate the worry either.

In line with that, it has to be a little worrisome that Chris Kaman was named to the German team, paired with Dirk Nowitzki (the fact that Kaman’s eligible because his great-grandparents were German is an entirely different issue). Now armed with twin 7 footers, Germany have the length that will bother a lot of teams. Not that I’d select Kaman over Howard, but it all depends on how injured Howard is. The question over who’s better between Kaman and Chandler is a helluva lot closer.

The closer the Olympics get, the more interesting it becomes.
Bring it on already.





New York bound, but not for New York

1 07 2008

Look… I know that the interwebby abounds with people who don’t want to believe that LeBron James is headed for the Big Apple, who will even scoff at the very notion.
I’ve had friends when presented with all the information regarding why he’ll leave, and then nod knowingly, smile, and state with supreme confidence “Yeah, but he’s from Cleveland…”.

Newsflash. Cleveland doesn’t rate quite as highly for LeBron as they’d hope. On Monday, LeBron rated his top 5 cities.
1. New York
2. Washington DC
3. Dallas
4. Los Angeles
5. Akron, Ohio
Sheesh… 5th? And you don’t figure that he’s “being polite”?

When that’s all added to the fact that his contract with Nike allows a massive injection of cash (said to be to the tune of $40 million) should he end up in one of the US’s 2 biggest markets… Surely this sounds like very good news for the ailing Knicks looking to revamp their franchise around one of the sports biggest names?

Not so fast. When asked his favourite borough in NYC, LeBron replied,

“Brooklyn. Brooklyn is definitely a great place here in New York City, and some of my best friends are from Brooklyn, so I stick up for them.”

Coupled with his friendship with Nets part-owner Jay-Z, this could set Donnie Walsh’s gaze elsewhere. By 2010, when LeBron James has the option of moving on from Cleveland, the Nets will be firmly entrenched in Brooklyn.

It’s inevitable.
Just as the Net’s new arena will be the centerpiece for owner Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project, LeBron James will be the centerpiece for the Brooklyn Nets.
And he can wear his Yankees cap with impunity.





US Basketball… dreaming of Olympic gold

25 06 2008

The roster for the US basketball team for the Olympics was finalised with the addition of Tayshaun Prince. So the final roster for the Beijing Olympics will be:

  • Carmelo Anthony
  • Carlos Boozer
  • Chris Bosh
  • Kobe Bryant
  • Dwight Howard
  • LeBron James
  • Jason Kidd
  • Chris Paul
  • Tayshaun Prince
  • Michael Redd
  • Dwyane Wade
  • Deron Williams

Whilst this roster addresses the problems that the last Olympic team encountered – lack of perimeter shooting, the inclusion of Prince over Tyson Chandler means that there’s a decided dearth of big men in the team.
3.
That’s it.
Three.
This will mean that the US team will have a vulnerability against big, physical teams. If Howard, Bosh and Boozer get in foul trouble, then Team America could be in a world of hurt. Only taking one true center, and two big power forward? Umm… not overly bright.
Yes, Prince is a good perimeter defender who has length, but up ’til now Kobe Bryant’s played as the lock-down guy, so Prince is just gravy on that. The end result is that whilst having good flexibility, and generally being a more capable team – there is a frailty there that can be exploited… something that wasn’t necessary, had they included Chandler. Allowing in the very least for opponents to have a game plan – when they didn’t need to – just seems foolish.

This Olympic team will have some interesting story-lines too. Kobe Bryant will be searching for redemption in a gold medal post a stinging loss at the hands of the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals. Kobe can reassert himself here, and take out some of the pain-of-defeat on the international courts. He’ll be looking at this as a way to build towards the next season, a season that the Lakers will start as one of the favoured teams.

Dwyane Wade has gone from being the Golden Child to a bit of an also-ran. From being THE guy in the 2006 Finals to being passed by Bryant (re-invented?), James, and Chris Paul… Wade will be trying to recreate the mystique that surrounded him on his successful NBA Finals only a few years ago. The Teflon Boy, to tin-man… in 2 mere seasons. Honestly? A little surprised at his selection for this squad – it will be interesting to see if he’s actually ready.

Carmelo Anthony takes more baggage to China than any other player. And none of it needs tags. Anthony will head to Beijing as the only *star* quality player in the team with a ‘For Sale’ sign in neon lights above him. Add to that the way he departed from the NBA Finals at the hands of Bryant’s Lakers… and ugh… that’s totally ignoring the legal issues that he has… the 2 game suspension placed on him by his team… and the oh-so-obvious difficulties he’s having with the Nuggets coach, George Karl.

Add to this the uncertainties that other players will have about their own circumstances – trades, hopes that their own franchises will be looking to build a better team around them, and all the vagaries that are associated with an off-season… well… suffice to say that this team will have other things on it’s mind other than Olympic basketball.

US basketball have done the right thing with having key guys surrounded by supporting role players. And maintaining a team situation with a long-term commitment. Anything less and this team wouldn’t be in with a shot, let alone being favourites.
But their mandate is clear: this year, you win.

All this makes for an interesting Olympics, the off-season’s certainly going to be busy.
Can the multitude of those seeking redemption through wearing their nation’s colours get the happy endings they so desire? I’m guessing that many will… but some won’t. The stories will deepen, that’s for sure.
An enthralling tournament… a veritable spectacle.
Looking forward to it.