NBA Draft Preview

My thoughts on the NBA draft are simple. You draft the best player available, especially in the lottery. Chances are, the reason your team is drafting in the lottery is because they aren’t any good (unless you’re the Thunder, then you’re drafting in the lottery because the Raptors were run by a moron.) So don’t draft for need, you have too many and there are only two rounds. Draft the best player available and fill needs through free agency via trades.

That being said, there is an exception to that rule, if the best player available plays a position/style that you’re franchise player plays (clarification, not every team has a franchise player) in that case draft the next best player.

So here’s how I would draft tonight and since these are my picks you can guarantee that the exact opposite will happen.

Cleveland Cavaliers – Otto Porter.

Personally, I think that Trey Burke is the best player in this year’s draft, but the Cavaliers already have a franchise player at the PG position in Kyrie Irving. So it works out perfectly that Otto Porter is a SF, he’s the next best player in the draft and fills a big need for the young, talented Cavaliers. Much like MKG was looked last year, Porter is NBA ready right now. He’s capable of contributing on both the offensive and defensive side of the basketball starting day one. He’s player that presumably has a high floor and a high ceiling.

Orlando Magic – Ben McLemore.

McLemore is probably the biggest boom/bust potential player in the 2013 NBA draft, and while it’s always a risk drafting a player like that, the Magic have to take that chance. Their best player is Jameer Nelson, but he is the PG and has no scoring options to dish the ball to. If McLemore can capitalize on his athleticism and improve his shooting he could be star in this league and you can’t pass on that, especially if you’re team is nowhere near making a playoff push in the next year or two.

Washington Wizards – Alex Len.

The Wizards already have a star PG that needs to gain experience and learn how to slow things down and a potential star SG than needs to become a more consistent shooter and improve on the defensive end of things. Alex Len is a far more complete player than Noel, and could benefit with a SG spreading the court and PG that knows how to get his teammates the ball. Len will allow the Wizards to establish a much need half court offense.

Charlotte Bobcats – Nerlens Noel.

The Bobcats have needs at every position and it doesn’t look like that is going to change anytime soon. What Noel needs the most is an opportunity to develop by playing, and the patience and time that only a bottom dweller with no improvement in sight can provide. The advanced metrics prove out that Noel is a very effective and efficient defensive player, but he has no offensive game and needs coaching, time and the work ethic required to develop into a NBA player. His incredibly high ceiling makes it difficult for the Bobcats to pass on him at four.

Phoenix Suns – Anthony Bennett.

Bennett’s versatility and athletic ability make him the ideal pick here, considering who’s already been drafted. The suns have a log jam and PG, and while I maintain that you draft the best player available, a fifth PG would just be absurd. Bennett can play in transition and in the half court, and his ability to play both in the post and perimeter will give the Suns some much needed depth. He’s not a player you build your team around, but it seems that the Suns are attempting to recreate the Steve Nash days around Goran Dragic and Bennett could fit that style pretty well.

New Orleans Pelicans – Trey Burke.

This is a best of both worlds situation for the Pelicans. Burke is not only the best player in the draft he fills a major need for the Pelicans. The Pelicans have a decent grouping of players that could be made better by a PG that has the ability to both create his own shot and create offense for his teammates. Burke is a lights out shooter, from NBA range, has great court vision and is an excellent on ball defensive player. He’s a Chris Paul clone, and for those that say he’s too small, they should note that he is bigger now than Chris Paul was coming out of college.

Sacramento Kings – Victor Oladipo.

The Kings have talented players at PG and C, but they lack direction and discipline. Oladipo gives them a defensive presence on the perimeter, but also a mature player with experience and talent. He also provides the Kings with a legitimate scoring option at the SG position.

Detroit Pistons – C.J. McCollum.

The Pistons have an excellent combination at C/PF with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, they also have a good scorer in Brandon Knight who should be playing SG and not PG. McCollum is a very good player, and best scorer in the draft. He can create for himself and with his high basketball IQ can create for Drummond and Monroe both of whom are athletic and can spread the floor out along with Brandon Knight.

Minnesota Timberwolves – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.  

With a stud at PG and PF and developing Derrick Williams, the best player available at an open position for the Timberwolves is SG Caldwell-Pope. His length gives him a high ceiling on the defensive side and his shooting ability pairs him perfectly with Rubio and Love.

Portland Trail Blazers – Michael Carter-Williams.

Take the best player available! Damian Lillard was this year’s Rookie of the Year award winner, and will remain the starter at the position, but in a changing NBA where we are seeing more teams playing multiple players that play the same positions together, having two PG who can score and distribute isn’t a bad thing. Carter-Williams has great court vision and his length would make him a nightmare for anyone trying to guard him, or trying to take him off the dribble.

Philadelphia 76ers – Cody Zeller.

With Noel and Len off the board, Zeller is the most athletic and talented Center left. With Bynum a massive question mark, Zeller’s defensive skills, his ability to play both in the half court and move in transition would make him pairing with Jrue Holiday and could potentially create a very athletic front court with Hawes and Zeller.

Oklahoma City Thunder – Sergey Karasev.

Seriously Toronto, WTF bro?! Here is the other exception, already a championship contender what the Thunder have the flexibility to do is fill needs, and what they need is a third scorer after Durant and Westbrook. The 19 year old Russian is a prolific scorer, and a sniper from beyond the arc. Will his game translate to the NBA, I don’t know. Very few European players can, not because of their ability but because of style of play. For all the fans that complain about the NBA being soft, it is not, it’s a very physical league and international basketball is a finesse game.

Dallas Mavericks – Steven Adams.

This team seemingly has stopped trying since winning a title, but I have to assume a future Hall of Famer like Dirk Nowitzki won’t go away with a whimper. I expect the Mav’s to fight hard this season and to make a playoff push. Center is a need for the Mavericks, and luckily for them Adams happens to be the best player available and 19 year old 7 footer gives the Mav’s what they need, second chance opportunities. Adams offensive rebounding ability should translate well to the NBA, and if you can get Darren Collison and Dirk Nowitzki more opportunities to create and score, it’s going to make your team dangerous.

Utah Jazz – Mason Plumlee.

There is literally no one on this team that I like as a player, and with no PG left on the board and with Jefferson and Milsap likely leaving for greener pastures, Plumlee is best player available at a position of need. Plumlee is experienced, athletic and Duke graduate, so I’m assuming he’s smart. The Jazz are likely going to get a lot worse before they get better, but Plumlee will add depth to their bench in the future. Also Lucas Nogueira could go here, if the Jazz just say screw it and hope for boom in this boom or bust 20 year old Center from Brazil.

Milwaukee Bucks – Lucas Nogueira.

J.J. Redick will serve as Ellis’ replacement, and the Bucks will remain a volume shooting team. “Bebe” will serve as their version of Noel. With Dalembert, Nogueira could be a potential menace in the low post and his rebounding ability can create multiple opportunities for a back court that doesn’t know the meaning of passing up a shot for a better shot.

Boston Celtics – Dennis Schroeder.

The Celtics are blowing things up; Doc is gone and Pierce and Garnett could be next. Chances are the Celtics will ask Schroeder to stay overseas one more year, thus keeping him off of the salary cap, letting him develop and giving them the opportunity to try and move Rondo during the season.

Atlanta Hawks – Shane Larkin.

Larkin is exciting and he was fun to watch in Miami. The Hawks have not shown that they have any philosophy or plan in building their team, so why not take a guy that will at least be fun to watch. He’s a talented player, but might be too small and light of frame to be able to play in the NBA. However, he is talented and at the end of the day I believe that talent and hard work will always win out.

Atlanta Hawks – Shabazz Muhammad.

This is not a typo. The Hawks previous pick was attained from the Rockets. It’s all about risk vs. reward, and this is about the point where the reward of Muhammad’s scoring ability outweighs his character risk and lacking athletic ability.

Cleveland Cavaliers – Tim Hardaway Jr.

I believe that the Cavaliers are headed in the right direction, and surrounding your stud PG with shooters and scorers is always a good idea. Hardaway has excellent pedigree, solid work ethic and can shoot from NBA range. Another option could be Giannis Antetokounmpo. The 18 year old from Greece is a 6’9” 215 lbs SF. If the Cav’s do draft Antetokounmpo, they would most likely stash him away overseas for the next 2 – 4 years and allow him to develop and wait for his body to mature, and bring over to the NBA in a time when they feel they will be ready to compete in the playoffs.

Chicago Bulls – Reggie Bullock.

Now that Derrick Rose is finally ready to play, the Bulls will look to add shooters around him. This would spread the court out and open up the lanes allowing Rose to do what he does best, drive and dunk or drive and dish. Most likely the Bulls will try to move up and draft Karasev, but if they can’t they will take Bullock and his 44% shooting from 3-point range.

Utah Jazz – Isaiah Canaan.

Canaan is the last PG left that is good enough and has enough of ceiling to be drafted by a team like the Jazz. I had them taking big man Mason Plumlee at 14, so adding decent depth to the PG would be the next logical move.

Brooklyn Nets – Kelly Olynyk

Olynyk needs to add weight to his body, but he’s only 22 so he has plenty of time to do just that. He was a good scorer and rebounder at Gonzaga and if that can translate to the NBA this could be a steal at 22. If he can show strength at the NBA level the Nets could have quite a prolific combination in the front court.

Indiana Pacers – Jamaal Franklin.

This is a tough one, I think Tony Mitchell would be a great fit for this team, but with a log jam at SF with Granger, George and Green what they need is PG and SG. Franklin fits the Pacers philosophy of gritty, versatile players. They need a better shooter, but if they stay at 23 spot and Franklin falls to them, the Pacers mostly likely won’t pass on him.

New York Knicks – Ricardo Ledo.

The Knicks will add another shooter to their ranks. It’s the Knicks, it’s what they do and with J.R. Smith likely gone the Knicks will need a replacement. Ledo is best scorer available and the only reason he would drop this low is because of his off the court issues, something the Knicks never seem to take into consideration. South Dakota State’s Nate Wolters could be an option here too, because after all they are the Knicks.

Los Angeles Clippers – Tony Mitchell.

With his size, body, tools and elite athletic ability Mitchell would fit right in with Lob City.

Minnesota Timberwolves – Allen Crabbe.

You can never have too many shooters. Crabbe and Caldwell-Pope could be two excellent additions to go along with Rubio, Love and Williams. It’s small ball, but its offensively centric and could be fun as hell to watch.

Denver Nuggets – Tony Snell.

Losing Igoudala’s length on the perimeter will hurt, but adding a lengthy shooter will fit in perfectly with their transition heavy offense. What the Nuggets lose in defense more than make up for in shooting with Snell.

San Antonio Spurs – Gorgui Dieng.

The Spurs need to add size and while Rudy Gobert is bigger, his lack of athletic ability makes him a poor fit in an offense and defense that are constantly moving. Dieng will likely drop here because of his bad knees, but the Spurs have shown before that they aren’t worried to take a risk like that.

Oklahoma City Thunder – Nate Wolters.

The Thunder is already great and need to add another scorer so why not give Nate Wolters a shot, what’s the worst that could happen? His scoring doesn’t translate to the NBA? Fine, then you just dump and lose nothing, but if it does translate the Thunder just drafter a legitimate scoring option off the bench.

Phoenix Suns – Rudy Gobert.

The Suns have shown a proclivity to add guys with size to their roster, and no chance you can pass on a guy that’s 7’2” and only 20 years old with the 30th pick. Phoenix can stash him away overseas so that he doesn’t impact their salary cap until they feel he’s ready to contribute to an NBA team.

The Playoffs are HERE! Part 3

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Game 1

Man, LeBron is the best defensive player in the NBA. I mean wow! He’s absolutely smothering Tony Parker on this play. I can’t believe down two, he’s going to force that Frenchie into a shot clock violation. Wait! WHAT?! NO! He went down to one knee! That’s a travel right? No! Double dribble then? No? It counts? Fuck Tony Parker!

Game 2

That’s what’s up! That’s how we do! 19 point blowout bitches!

Game 3

Wait what? 36 points? What was that? Fuck me!

Game 4

Yeah! That’s how the best in the world makes a comeback!! 16 points! EAT IT!

Game 5

WHAT? Ginobli? 24 and 10! How? Screw that Argentinean bastardo!

Game 6

30 seconds left – Oh man, I can’t believe this is how it all ends. Oh, I think I’m going to be sick, the haters are going to come out in droves tomorrow and I’m probably going to punch someone square in the face. I should turn the TV off…no, I can’t do that, this team’s given me 3 amazing seasons, I’ll stick it out, then go cry myself to sleep.

5 seconds left – WHAT THE AKDFJLADKFJDL JUST HAPPEN?!! BOSH! ALLEN! BOSH! ALLEN! JESUS SHUTTLESWORTH!!

OT – Man, LeBron is the best defensive player in the NBA. I mean wow! He’s absolutely smothering Tony Parker on this play. I can’t he’s going to force that Frenchie into a shot clock violation. Wait! WHAT?! NO! STEP BACK 3???

No! Not Tony Parker again…BOSH!!!

How is that not a foul on Danny Green? This is bullshit!

Good call, no foul, no foul, Manu clearly travelled.

NO! Who left Danny Green open for a corner 3…BOSH!

Game 7

Fuck it, I just love basketball, and love both these teams.

BOSH? BOSH? Where are you Bosh?

LeBron, Battier and Wade are in ZFG mode (Zero Fucks Given). This isn’t 2005, running under the screen won’t work anymore, LBJ is the best mid range shooter in the league.

Why won’t the Spurs just retire already, seriously! Stop being so good at basketball! (There’s nothing to hate about them, so I had nothing else to scream.)

It’s over! it’s finally over! Re-HEAT!! I’m going to be a zombie at work tomorrow, and I don’t care!

It’s not a joke, it’s a threat

Three years ago a 25 year old kid got together with his best friends, moved to Miami and put on a rock concert. The lights, the fireworks and the celebration got the best of him and he said something stupid.

Not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six…

And America had a collective stroke. They spewed bile and vitriol at him, how dare he be so arrogant? How could he think it would be so damn easy? How dare he act like a 25 year old?

So when he failed, America rejoiced, and took pleasure in his short comings, in his failures and in his sadness, and the 25 year old responded like a 25 year old.

All the people that were rooting for me to fail… at the end of the day, tomorrow they have to wake up and have the same life that (they had) before they woke up today. They got the same personal problems they had today. And I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things I want to do. – LeBron James

So the character assassination began once again, and carried all throughout the 2012 NBA regular season, the playoffs and the Finals. It’s easy to forget now that Durant and the Thunder were favored to win not only the series, but all five of the individual games that were played. At the end however, it was impossible to deny the King his throne.

His charity work, involvement in the community or the fact that he’s never been any kind of trouble wasn’t enough, but a NBA Championship and a Finals MVP is what it took for all of pungent hate to simmer down.

All it took was a MVP, Championship, Finals MVP, another MVP, Championship and Finals MVP for the mob of haters (for lack of a better word) to be silenced and disperse. Now the mob, looks like nothing more than a grouping of cranky old men still holding on to the good old days, consumed by their myopic views and too tunnel vision to realize, that the good new days are here. This is the best the NBA has been since the Jordan years, legitimate competition for the King to have to battle in the Pacers, the Spurs, and the Thunder. Maybe the Lakers can regain some of their bluster, maybe the Celtics can rebuild quickly, maybe the Bulls – okay let’s not get carried away, the Bulls still suck.

Every team that has an owner that’s worth a damn is trying to load up, they’re not taking the Heats reign sitting down. They’re taking the fight to Miami. Not everyone is doing it successfully, but they’re all trying, they’re all spending money and doing what ever they think will help. Miami’s on coming hoard isn’t going unchecked, but will it matter?

Three years later, the 25 year old kid has grown into a 28 year old man, and the King sits haughtily on his throne, leading his armies and expanding his empire.

Not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six. In 2010 it was a joke, in 2013 it sounds more like a promise. No, it sounds more like a threat.

- Sunny D

The Playoffs are HERE! Part 2

The Western Conference Finals are underway and the Spurs are ahead 2 games to 0, coasting through the first game, winning by 22 points.

And thanks in part to the Pacers and Knicks trying their hardest not to win and a scheduling snafu the Spurs and Grizzlies have played their first 2 games, while the Heat and Pacers have yet to lace up their sneakers and hide their retreating hairlines from their advancing foreheads.

Before I get too ahead of myself and talk about the Conference Finals thus far, and the games remaining, I want to reflect on the last round (just a little bit, because for the most part it was dreadful).

For the first time in three years Kevin Durant is starting to understand why LeBron James did what he did by going to Miami, aligning himself with his best friend Dwayne Wade and All-Star big man Chris Bosh and forming the Super Friends featuring Flat Top Norris Cole and the Horse-tronaut Shane Battier.

Kevin Durant looked around his team and realized that everyone comparing Serge Ibaka to Chris Bosh clearly had no idea what they were talking about. Everyone that said Kevin Martin would be an excellent scoring option clearly was still living in 2008. Everyone that said Russell Westbrook was holding both Durant and the Thunder back from greatness clearly is nothing more than an asshat.

Durant looks at his coach and sees a man void of innovation, a man who continues to play Kendrick Perkins even though every metric, advanced and otherwise, would tell you to bench him and to do it permanently. He sees a secondary scoring option in Martin who can’t rebound, doesn’t play defense and manages a measly 14 points a game. He sees a big man in Ibaka who relies far too much on his athleticism and is void of any semblance of fundamentals or basketball IQ.

What Durant doesn’t see is his uber-athletic point guard Russell Westbrook to take some of the scoring load off Durant’s shoulders. A man so polarizing, with his Dr. Seuss-esq t-shirts and his sans lenses, massive framed, hipster glasses that the media tends to forget just how valuable he is on the court and focuses only on the one or two knucklehead moves Westbrook makes in each game. What he doesn’t see is the faux-hawk sporting, running beard James Harden who averaged almost 17 points a game as the third scoring option, and a career high 25.9 points per game as the first scoring option in Rockets Red.

Durant in one 5-game span has done his best decepticon impression and transformed from the quiet, humble superstar who not only says all the right things but does all the right things, into Skip Bayless’s latest target of disappointment. Durant now is the one who isn’t clutch, he’s overrated, and he can’t do it by himself. A man who clutched himself into America’s hearts last year by dominating the 4th quarter and winning 4 in a row against the romping Spurs. “As is his way, Durant lifts OKC to a new level of success” was the headline to an article written by Sekou Smith on NBA.com after the Thunder vanquished the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals last year. No such praise exists this year. Durant, a man who announced his extension with the Thunder quietly on twitter on the same day that LeBron hosted the infamous “Decision,” now is the brunt of the same absurd “analysis” that LeBron was the victim of, during his last days as a Cavalier.

Now though, at this very moment as the Spurs stampede the Grizzlies and the Heat scorch the entirety of the Eastern Conference, Durant is the reason OKC’s season ended unceremoniously and with a whimper. It wasn’t the fault of a GM who didn’t have the patience to negotiate a reasonable contract with a young, rising star. It wasn’t the fault of a supporting cast who threw up all over themselves the moment Westbrook’s knee gave out. It wasn’t the fault of a head coach who wouldn’t know an adjustment if it wore a low cut top and open toed espadrilles and introduced itself while holding a glass of 18 year old Dewar’s and platter of thick cut bacon.

Durant’s contract will expire in 2015, and I expect one of the following two things to happen before then. 1. Durant will get Scott Brooks fired, as many superstars have done throughout the history of sports, and the GM will do everything he can to bring in a viable scoring option for fear of losing his job too; 2. Durant will start his own super team, preferably with the Lakers.

Okay, now back to the Conference Finals.

The Spurs/Grizzlies series has, for the most part, conducted itself the way you should have expected. The Spurs is up 2-0 going to Memphis and will most likely come back to San Antonio 2-2. The series has been an exhibition in tough, sound, fundamental basketball. Boring to the average viewer? Probably, but an excellent display of basketball, tickling the hairs on the chiny-chin-chins of basketball fans; Heat fans should have a healthy fear of the Grizzlies.

The Heat’s biggest strength is the ability to limit their turnovers, force their opponents into turnovers and score on those forced turnovers. Memphis has been just as successful in limiting their turnovers and forcing their opponents into turnovers this season. The Heat has turned the ball over 13.3 times per game this season, Memphis has turned it over 13.2 times per game. The Heat has forced 14.7 turnovers per game and Memphis has forced 14.7 turnovers per game. Moreover, Memphis’ strength is their low post offense and defense, which is the closest thing to a weakness that the Heat has.

The Spurs on the other hand is too old, too slow and turn the ball over too often, without turning the ball over often enough. They are still an excellent basketball team, but cannot keep up with the pace that the Heat set during games and I don’t think the Spurs defense is imposing enough to deter the Heat from executing their game plan.

You might have noticed and that in the previous few paragraphs I made no mention of the Pacers, yep. What am I supposed to say? That Baby Dragon Paul George will give the Heat trouble? Or that Roy Hibbert is going to be a dominant force down low? Well he isn’t and he isn’t. Are the Pacers better than they were last year? Yes. Are they good enough to beat a domineering Miami Heat team that is laying waste to all these supposed “tough” teams that try to “beat up” LeBron James? No.

The Pacers turn the ball over more than 14 times per game, falling directly into the Heat’s trap. The Pacers will out rebound the Heat, so what? Everyone out rebounds the Heat and it’s had no impact on any of the games. Indiana cannot score with the Heat, and they can’t shoot with the Heat. Miami is averaging 98.6 points per game on 49.1% shooting and 34% from beyond the 3-point line in the playoffs. Indiana is averaging 92.0 points per game on 42% shooting and 30.8% from beyond the 3-point line.

So here’s what I’m predicting, the Grizzlies will win in 7 games, and the Heat will advance in 5. Then I will have the dirty pants throughout the finals because the Grizzlies scare the crap out of me.

The Playoffs are HERE! Part 1

First let’s go over my preseason playoff predictions. In the Western Conference for the most part I was right, but where I was wrong I was wrong big, but so was everyone else. So I can take some solace in that.

Let’s work through it:

I had Oklahoma City as the 1 seed and I was right (Oh, I’m liking writing this post).

I had the Lakers as the 2 seed and I was so wrong. The Lakers ended a dismal season as the 7th seed (disregard previous side note).

I had the Clippers as the 3 seed. They ended up as the 4 seed so I was close and they still got to keep home court in the first round.

I had the Spurs as the 4 seed claiming home court in the first round; they ended up as the 2 seed.

I had Memphis as the 5 seed…RIGHT ON THE MONEY! WHAT UP B—-!

I had Denver as the 6 seed. I greatly underestimated them as they finished the season as the 3rd best team in the Western Conference, securing home court (which for them is a huge advantage) in the first round.

I over estimated Houston and had them as the 7 seed, they ended the year sneaking into the playoffs as the 8 seed.

And here I was just a moron as I picked New Orleans (the Pelicans…really?) to make the playoffs and they ended just missed out finishing 28 games below .500.

The team I gave no real chance to was Golden State who finished the year as the 6th seed, surpassing both Houston and the Lakers.  Now in my defense I did say they would be a playoff team sooner rather than later, I just didn’t think it would be this soon.

New Predictions:

I said OKC would win in 4 games and I still think that’s true. I had the 2 seed winning in 5 games, I’m changing that to 4 games and the Lakers will be on the losing end as the Spurs advance with ease. I had the Nuggets beating the Clippers in 7, well now I have the Nuggets beating Golden State in 5, they will be 5 close tough fought games, but it will end in 5. I also have Memphis taking out the Clippers in 7.

Round two will see: OKC, San Antonio, Denver and Memphis.

Eastern Conference:

I picked the Heat to finish in first place…I was RIGHT!

I had Chicago as the 2 seed (assuming Derrick Rose wasn’t a giant baby) I was sooooo Wrong as they finished 5th in the Eastern Conference.

I had Boston in the 3rd slot and again I was WRONG! The creaky knees world tour finished the season as the 7th seed.

I had the young, emerging Pacers as the 4th seed and I was close (I’ll take it) they won their division and finished as the 3rd seed.

I had the newly branded Brooklyn Nets as the 5 seed and again I was close as they keep home court in the first round, finishing as the 4th best team in the Eastern Conference.

I had the 76ers as the 6th seed and boy did I overestimate that hot, pile of smoking garbage. Atlanta finished with the 6th best record in the Eastern Conference and the 76ers finished 18 games under .500 and 4 games out of the 8th spot.

I had the New York Knicks in the 7th spot, and they massively overachieved and finished with the 2nd best record in the Eastern Conference, securing home court…for the time being.

I had Atlanta sneaking into the playoffs, I was wrong the Bucks at 14 games under .500 did that. Which I wasn’t totally off on…here’s my quote from the season preview (tooting my own horn!) “They could sneak into the 8th spot this year in the East, but in the long run it would be better for them to finish with another lottery pick so they can get better. In order to make any sort of leap. They have to add a player, preferably a swing player that can slash to the basket and play defense (Easier said than done.)”  And BOOM GOES THE DYNAMITE!

New Predictions:

I had the Heat in 4 games, and even though Brandon Jennings thinks the Buck will win in 6 I’m going to go ahead and stick to my prediction. I had the Bulls beating the Knicks in 6 games, but the real matchup is NYK vs. Boston and I have the Knicks winning in 5 now. I had the Celtics beating Philly in 7 games, but with Philly not in and Boston losing to New York I have Indiana sweeping Atlanta in 4 games. That leaves Brooklyn and the Bulls and without even a star in their lineup I have the Bulls losing in 5 games.

Round two will see: Miami, NYK, Pacers and Brooklyn.

To Be Continued…

 

Why I’m a Wal-Mart Wolverine

Throw aside a history filled with winning. Put back on the shelf the recognized brand whose reputation is only surpassed by its academic standards. Ignore the winged helmet and the fantastic fight song. Forget about the long line of amazing athletes ranging from Cazzie Russell and Glen Rice to Zack Novak and Stu Douglass (what?) and put out of your mind the countless memorable moments that Football and Basketball have provided.

And ask yourself why you’re a Michigan fan. Maybe for you, it is only the sports and the athletes, and there’s nothing wrong with that. For me however, it is so much more, and I’m not going to bash any other programs. Although it is quite tempting, this is just about why I could never imagine supporting another D-I University’s athletic program.

Over the latter half of the last decade, I have been humbled; yet my support never wavered. My fandom never faltered and my love never waned.

I watched as a football program collapsed and is rebuilding. I watched a basketball be victim to the wrath of a corrupt system and come out on the other side just as mighty.

I saw a giant step down, disgruntled and craven, and watched a man condemned hold his head up high amongst kings and men.

I was witness to a leader devoid of followers make believers out fans spanning many generations.

Most recently, I watched as kids in the wake of heart break grew into men. Not just any men however, I saw with my eyes and heard with my ears as these young boys grew into Michigan Men. Soaked in strength and filled with integrity, their resolve shone through their hearts and minds.

That, is why I am a Wal-Mart Wolverine and proud of it. That term has been thrown at me as if my fandom or opinion is made invalid by it, but I wear it proudly on my sleeve as a badge of honor.

Integrity, coaches that care about the development of their players as athletes and adults, and doing it all the right way is why I’m a Michigan fan. (That, and I really love condescending fans of that other team – told you I wouldn’t bash any other programs….by name)

(Was this post a little dramatic? Yes, but so is sports. Also, F you, that’s why.)

Where in the World is Derrick Rose?

I hark back to the days of watching the cartoon and playing on my school computer the “Where in the world is Carmen San Diego” video game. I also hark back to the days where people used the phrase “hark back”.

I want you to remember sitting at a BW3’s or a Uccello’s or any other sports bar in your area (the location isn’t important I’m sure the scene is the same everywhere) watching a NFL game, a receiver goes up the middle, gets crushed by a middle linebacker that is twice his size and just as fast, comes up limping and heads to the sideline and on cue the bar goes nuts!

“Pussy!” “What a wuss!” “Get your spoiled millionaire ass back on the field bitch!” And other iterations of the same sentiment. You, cowardly, spoilt, undeserving rich kids need to get off your ass and get back out there. Killing yourself in the process for my righteous entertainment for I am Caesar.

LeBron hurts his shooting elbow a few years ago when he was still with Cleveland and tries shooting free throws with his left hand and the media at large and fans in general opine about his perceived and unrelenting need to stand out and capture the attention of the camera.

These are just a few examples of our inability to empathize with millionaire athletes who put their bodies on the line everyday doing what they love to do and what we love to consume. We don’t care about their hurt or their pain; we just want to be entertained.

So here’s my question; where in the world is Derrick Rose and why aren’t we more up in arms about his unwillingness to return?

We’ve heard it before, an athlete claims to be 70% ready and fans shout for him to get back in the game that 70% of him is better than a 100% of his backup. Derrick Rose was medically cleared more than a month ago and is presumably close to a 100% by now. 100% however, isn’t good enough for him. He’s made it clear that he has no intention to return till he’s a 110% ready. First I know he didn’t actually take the SATs when he got into Memphis but someone should explain to him that it isn’t actually possible to be a 110% ready (Yup, I took an unnecessary shot at him.)

So why aren’t we screaming and shouting and calling him names? Why aren’t Chicago fans calling him out, and expressing their rage at his unwillingness to return to play and earn his multi-millions of dollars? (And let’s be clear at this point its unwillingness not an inability.)

Okay, let me start by attacking the first question; why aren’t we upset? Well I think the answer is a lot simpler than maybe we’d like it to be. We just don’t care. At this point we have seen Derrick Rose made inept by LeBron James on multiple occasions. We’ve seen the Heat cruise past the Bulls vanquishing them in 5 games twice in playoffs. We’ve seen LeBron defend Rose to the point where Rose went 0 for at the end of games with more turnovers than points scored. A performance that left Rose teary eyed in the post game, reflecting on the futility of going up against a cyborg.

Fans of the Heat and LeBron James and objective basketball fans have come to the same conclusion that clearly Rose himself has reached. He’s not on LeBron’s level. He’s nowhere near it. Derrick Rose is a lesser version of Russell Westbrook (think I’m being too harsh just check out their stats and realize that Westbrook is the second option while Rose is the 1st and only option on his team.) Their career numbers are basically the same, with one guy having to defer to Kevin Durant and the other having to defer to no one.

Derrick Rose: http://espn.go.com/nba/player/_/id/3456/derrick-rose

Russell Westbrook: http://espn.go.com/nba/player/_/id/3468/russell-westbrook

Now, the second question; Bulls fans have come to the same conclusion as the rest of us, and instead of facing reality they’ve chosen to delude themselves. It’s easier to invest yourself and believe in a team with no star player. To cheer for a gritty team that is led by tough guys and coaching and is willing themselves through the season, because this way when they lose in the playoffs it’s easier to handle as fan. The excuses flow more easily; “Our best player was out, we would’ve won if he was healthy.” “We’ll be at full strength next, then we’ll win it all.” It’s easier to believe that you have a chance next season when the reason you lost is because Deng is your best player and you can look forward to Rose being your best player again.

The truth is, they don’t want Rose to come back, because the idea of who Rose is as a player is much more magnificent than whom Rose actually is as a player, which is a very good, athletic, scoring point guard who’d be an excellent second fiddle on a title contending team. When Rose comes back, probably next year, Bulls fans will get a face full of the truth. The Bulls are no closer to winning a title than they were in 2013 without Rose, but the regular season will be a lot more, so there is that.

NBA Trade Deadline: What are the Magic doing?

I would say that the Orlando Magic went from bad to worse at the close of the 2013 trade deadline but the truth is they were already worse. So I guess it would be more accurate to say that the Orlando Magic went from worse to worse.

The Magic is one of the worst offensive teams in the NBA. Ranked 25th in the league the Magic is averaging only 94 points per game. And it is fair to assume that this number is going to take a considerable drop as they traded away J.J. Redick who is second on the team in scoring averaging 15.1 points per game and replacing him with Beno Udrih, Tobias Harris, and Doron Lamb who combined are averaging 15.0 points per game. The math works that is until you realize you can only play 5 guys at a time and three players combining to give your team the same production that one player can provide on his own is not a recipe for success.

J.J. Redick is also the best three point shooter (39%) on a poor three point shooting team (33.7%) is being replaced by three guys two of whom are shooting close to 25% and the third is shooting a placid 33%. Oh and by the way all three averaging less 1 three pointer made per game compared to Redick’s 2.3 three pointers made per game.

On the other hand we have the Milwaukee Bucks, who on paper are adding a good three point shooting, scorer to a team that’s averaging 97.6 points per game and is ranked 12th in the league, and are adding a player who is close to shooting 40% from beyond the arch to a team that already boasts two players shooting well over 40% from three.

The Bucks also have two point guards averaging more than 5 assists a game which indicates that they have players that can get their newest shooter the ball. Here’s the problem though, when is he going to play? So far this season as the Magic’s primary shooting guard Redick was averaging 31.5 minutes per game. Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis are both averaging more than 37 minutes per game, so when is J.J. Redick going to play? He’s too small and not nearly good enough defensively to play small forward other than during the shortest of stints and isn’t nearly as dynamic as Jennings and Ellis and neither should fear of losing playing time to Redick. So again I ask; when is he going to play?

The Bucks acquired a young player who has vastly improved his offensive game. They acquired a player who is a good three point shooter and a capable scorer. They acquired a player they can’t play.

I assume both teams have plans in place to improve their teams, to increase revenue and to develop into entertaining and competitive teams. I also assume both teams are run by individuals who don’t understand the industry they are in or their target audience.

This is why the Magic are who they are and why the Bucks are who they are. This trade is purely financial on part of the Magic and it’s purely…well I have no idea what the Bucks are doing.

Another trade deadline, another opportunity for teams like the Heat widen the gulf between them and teams like well…the Magic and Bucks.

P.S.

In case you’re wondering why I didn’t cover any of the other players involved in this trade, it’s because who cares that’s why.

Is Vince Carter a Hall of Famer?

The short answer is yes.

I’ll address the one argument I’ve heard against him being a Hall of Famer later in this post, but first why is he a Hall of Famer?

First and foremost, the basketball Hall of Fame is already a joke; just take a look at who is in it.

Anne T. Donovan…who?

Alex English, Sandra Yow, Harry Gallatin and a guy named Charlie Murphy are in the Hall of Fame! Tell me again how Vince Carter doesn’t belong.

More than 21,000 points, more than 5,000 rebounds, almost 4,000 assists, more than 1,000 steals and almost 700 blocks.

He’s top 30 all time in scoring, recently passing Larry Legend.

Oh let’s not forget that he was the star of one of the most memorable dunk contests of all time. VC pulled off a reverse 360 windmill! Got up 35 inches and put the ball between his legs on a dunk!

Now the only real argument I’ve heard against Vince Carter getting into the Hall of Fame is that he doesn’t have a Hall of Fame moment in his career. So for everyone that actually believes that I ask, what’s Dominique Wilkins Hall of Fame moment? What’s Alex English’s moment? What’s Charlie Murphy’s Hall of Fame moment? Getting slapped across the face by Rick James? And who the hell is Anne T. Donovan? I swear I looked her up and still have no idea why she’s a Hall of Famer.

Oh and as far as Vince Carter Hall of Fame moment is concerned…THE MAN…PUT HIS HAND…THROUGH THE HOOP! That’s it boys and girls, that’s the list, that’s ball game.

So if you still don’t think Vince Carter should get in, well then at least we can agree that his right hand needs to be bronzed going through a hoop and that needs to be in the Hall of Fame.

Vince Carter is a Hall of Famer; I don’t even understand how it’s a discussion. He’s not an all time great player, not by any stretch of the imagination, but the basketball Hall of Fame has already made it clear that being an all time great is NOT a pre-requisite to be immortalized.

The LeBron James Conundrum.

Lebron_Dunk
I know I haven’t posted in a long time, but I’ve been really busy with my day job, you know the one that pays the bills, but that’s no excuse and I promise more posts for the rest of the season. So here we go, I’m going to take you down a path covered in sci-fi themes and cookies.
A short, stocky, slightly overweight guy in a terrible yellow hoodie steps to half court. He turns away from the basket and calling on the strength of Odin himself launches a flailing hook shot.
Everything slows down. A look of sheer terror mixed with indigestion falls on the shooters face as he watches the ball soar. The ball slices through the air and 20,000 Miamians hold their breaths. I laugh out loud, because there is no chance this ball goes in. I don’t even think that the ball going to make it within 5 feet of the rim.
Then, just as I take a drink of my Bud Light (sponsor me please) the unthinkable happens. The ball hits the rim, the ball rolls in, the falls out from the bottom of the net. My beer dribbles down my chin and on my lap (dramatization.)
IT’S GOOD!
The shooter throws his arms up! LeBron comes leaping into the screen, launches himself at the elated and unsuspecting fan and they both fall crashing to the ground in a pile of pure surprised joy.
Now stop time. Hop into my blue Police Box and let’s go back to 2010. Everything I described is still true, LeBron leaps onto the fan and celebrates this amazing moment.
Twitter explodes! “LeBron is such a media whore!” “He’s only excited cuz he could never hit a clutch shot like that.” “LeBrick James should hire this guy to teach him how to make a clutch shot!” And some other nonsensical tweets with poor spelling and even worse grammar (having made that jab I’m really nervous I missed something during editing and now this post has a speeling or grammar error.)
Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless create a weeks’ worth of “debate” on First Take about LeBron constantly needing to be loved and constantly seeking media attention. The story stops being about a fan that made an amazing shot and becomes yet another moment the media takes to bash LeBron.
Now fast forward to the moments immediately after the shot went through.
It’s 2013, and the story now is about how much fun LeBron has. What a great guy LeBron is for making this fans year! The story is an incredible shot, the story is an incredible player, and the story is an incredible moment.
The question is what has changed? It’s been 3 years, 2 and a half seasons. LeBron hasn’t changed, circumstances haven’t changed, and scenarios haven’t changed. LeBron’s fans are just as ardent in defending his greatness as they have ever been. His teammates are just as adamant in defending his selflessness as they have always been. He still over answers interview questions. He is still active on social media, he still jumps out of the gym and he is still responsible for incredible Magic Johnson-esq passes and powerful Dominique Wilkins-esq dunks.
What hasn’t changed is that’s he’s still anywhere between 6’8” and 6’10” 240lbs and 270lbs. He’s still faster and more in control than anyone in the league and he’s having another MVP caliber season.
So what changed? He won a NBA Championship, and on a team with former NBA Finals MVP DeWayne Wade and perennial All-Star and Olympian Chris Bosh he was the clear stand out. It was obvious that the Heat could not have beaten the Thunder last year without LeBron and with Bosh and Wade hurt for most of playoffs they wouldn’t have made it past the Pacers.
Nothing else has changed. His personality is still packed with that same childlike wonderment; his game is still an unbelievable combination of subtle agility and over handed power. He can kill you with kindness by dishing out incredible, make you do double-take passes, or if you’re Reggie Evans he can do you dirty like Django on a mission to rescue his wife.
So what has changed? Fans changed. Fans love a champion, and are willing to let champions get away with just about anything (double murder anyone?) Champions can be cold, brash and unsympathetic and fans chalk it up to a killer instinct necessary to become champion. Champions can feint humility and unleash the more braggadocios sides of their personality and fans claim that it is earned hubris.
And in LeBron’s case what was once seen as a lack of Public Relations IQ and a hunger for attention is now seen as fun. Actions that once led fans to believe that LeBron wasn’t taking the game seriously enough is now seen as LeBron playing with a sense of levity now that the burden of winning a title has been lifted off of his shoulders.
What hasn’t changed is LeBron’s ability and the ferocity with which he attacks the game. What hasn’t changed is LeBron’s work ethic as he continues to improve.
With 9 years experience LeBron is having the best season of his career. Shooting a career high 56% from the field, 42% from beyond the arch, LeBron is also averaging 8 rebounds a game and a career low 3 turnovers per game. On top of which he is averaging 27 points, 7 assists and close to 2 steals and a block a game. And let’s not forget the record he just tied scoring 30+ points in 5 straight games, shooting 60% or better.
As the other superstars in the NBA try to catch up and nip at the ankles of the leagues Alpha Dog (where you at Jon Barry?) The King continues to widen the chasm between him and the rest of the league. And he eats all your cookies (Hi, Kobe.)
Whether you believe in advanced metrics or the eye test it’s fairly obvious LeBron is the best player in the league and it isn’t close.
No conundrum there.

Cramp Game 2.0

Miami Heat vs. Boston Celtics 10/30/2012 – Opening Night Review

For six years the 2006 NBA Champions banner sat alone amongst the rafters with only an ill placed, giant, retired Michael Jordan jersey to keep it company. For six years that banner watched and looked on in disappointment as the defending champs got destroyed by the Chicago Bulls on ring night by more than 40 points. For six years that banner saw the likes of Michael Beasley, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Jamal Magloire, and Antoine Walker walk onto its court, disappoint, and walk off into obscurity. For six years that banner watched as Coach Spoelstra, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Pat Riley were ridiculed, and their integrity and ability was questioned on a regular basis.

But no more. No more will that 2006 Champions banner will look down onto its court alone, no more will the franchise that helped raise it be known as a one hit wonder. Last night, the 2006 Champions banner, met its soul mate, and it was amazing how different they are and yet how much in common they have. Last night, the 2006 Champions banner met the 2012 Champions banner. Raised on the back of a once known, fool King, raised on the strength of an extinct, reptilian Center, raised on the broken body of the jester who just wants to “Let It Fly” raised on the wallet of a white-haired billionaire and on the guile of a slick, well simply put a slick Godfather.

The banner was raised, the ring embedded with 219 glistening diamonds, molded from malleable white and yellow gold. The word “Family” etched into the gaudy piece of jewelry symbolizing greatness, but more importantly etched into their hearts and into their every action, was presented.

The banner was raised, and then just like that it was forgotten, because it was time to start a new. It was time to welcome the newest members of their family, to bring in Rashard Lewis a man forgotten by the world, once a star now an after thought, to bring in a future Hall of Famer, who has been shunned by his friends, by former brothers in arms, for simply making a decision that he felt was the best for him.

The banner was raised, and then just like that it was forgotten, because it was time to start a new. For teams like the Dallas Mavericks, whose stars had fought and clawed for a long time, a championship is a destination. For LeBron James and the Miami Heat it is merely a starting point.

The media and ESPN won’t ever let them forget, “Not one, not two, not three…” I don’t think you have anything to worry about there, this team isn’t going to forget. “Not one, not two, not three…” was a moment lost to adrenaline, excitement and braggadocio. “Not one, not two, not three…” is now a war cry. Something to be worn on their sleeves. Something fans, coaches, executives, and players a like can hold in their hearts and on the tips of their collective tongues. “Not one, not two, not three…”

Game time.

The game was close at two points, the first quarter, before Heat hopped onto their speed boats and left the Celtics duck, paddle boats in their rearview, and in the fourth quarter, when LeBron had to once again leave with cramps, but the second run only lasted as long as the reptilian Chris Bosh would allow it to.

The Heat looked exactly as you would expect a team in its third year of playing together to look. Smooth, efficient, and almost unstoppable. Erik Spoelstra’s position free, Oregon Duck, offense was working so brilliantly that they only way to describe it would be as a genius of Phil Jackson-like proportions.

The same can be said of the Celtics, not that they also performed with a Phil Jackson-esq dominance, but that they also looked exactly as you would expect, a gritty, veteran team to look. They played hard, their will to win was never extinguished even when they were down by more than 15 points early in the fourth quarter, and slow.

HEAT

Shane Battier/Mike Miller:

Both of these players are responsible for contributing in similar manners, hit open threes, play defense and grab rebounds. Starting in the playoffs last year, it appears that Shane Battier has clearly separated himself as the superior player. Not only is this evident in Battier’s role as a starter, but also because Miller still looks broken. He stands hunched over whenever he isn’t running after the ball, his first step to rebounds, or open spots on the court are not what they used to be as recently as a few years ago, and so not surprisingly Miller isn’t getting the minutes that he or the Heat expected.

Battier on the other hand, is proving that even at his advanced age he can adapt, playing Power Forward for long stretches on defense, and has found his range again, hitting open 3’s the way you expect Shane Battier to. Battier has  also become somewhat  of cult hero to Heat fans, just look up #BattierTrashTalk on twitter. (You’re welcome)

Ray Allen:

The future Hall of Famer made his regular season debut for the Heat, and against his former teammates, the team he saw his greatest successes with, the Boston Celtics. Both before and after the game, the adults handled the situation amicably, exchanging dap and pleasantries. The children however chose to pout, even when Allen tried to acknowledge his old friend with a tap on the shoulder, Garnett pouted and ignored Allen giving him the proverbial cold shoulder.

Too bad for the Celtics and Garnett, this didn’t seem to affect Allen in the least. His ankles, and knees looked healthy as he cut and slashed to the basket with ease and drained three’s with the ease that only the greatest three-point shooter in the history of the game can. In 30 minutes he scored 19 points on 5/7 shooting, 2/3 from beyond the arch. He also contributed 2 boards and 2 assists and got to the free-throw line 8 times. Not to mention his ability to bring the ball up the court and the defense he played against the Celtics guards.

WE GOT RAY!

Dwayne Wade:

Wade’s night was highly inconsistent, full of highs and lows, something Heat fans might have to get used to this year, as Wade gets older and struggles with wanting to consistently do the types of things he’s done his entire career; exploding to the rim, finishing with jaw jacking dunks, and hitting mid range jumpers with ease.

Wade scored 29 points in 35 minutes shooting 10/22; a vast majority of the 10 makes coming from inside of 15 feet, he also got to the line 11 times. The surprising aspects of Wade’s performance was not that he missed layups and shots around the basket that we’ve seen him make a thousand times, those things happen from time to time, but it was the 4 turnovers which is what the rest of the team had combined. 

Wade was also hindered offensively by the younger and what seems now similarly explosive Courtney Lee who did an excellent job of keeping Wade away from the rim in the instances he found himself one on one with Wade and when Wade did get past him, it was always with a wide-angle forcing Wade to take and make difficult shots.

Mario Chalmers:

Chalmers led the team in minutes with 36 and seems to be settling into his role perfectly. I expect the days of the Big 3 incessantly yelling at Chalmers after his guaranteed 4 or 5 bonehead mistakes a game to be a thing of the past. I only noticed one truly knucklehead moment last night, early in the first quarter when Rio tried to force his way to the basket instead of making the right play and dishing the ball out to a slasher or a shooter. Other than that he did exactly what is expected of and needed from him.

He scored 8 points on 3/7 shooting with a couple of freethrows. Where his game stood out was in how aggressive he was on the defensive end against Rondo. He took a lot of chances going after the ball, because he trusted that his teammates would be in the right position to cut Rondo off in case Rio missed. He ended the night tallying 3 steals, and an assist to turnover ratio of 11:1!

Chalmers is turning into the efficient player that the Heat need him to be, and if this transformation is permanent, well that’s just scary.

Chris Bosh:

Bosh led the team in minutes along with Mario Chalmers at 36, in rebounds with James at 10 and in blocks with 3. Bosh was aggressive against Bass, Garnett and Sullinger going after rebounds, something he was criticized for not doing during the regular season last year. Bosh seems to have bought into his role as the big man on this team, and it is never more evident than when the Heat go with their small, 3 guard lineup of Cole/Chalmers, Wade and Allen.

Bosh also score 19 points on 8/15 shooting getting to line only 4 times. The most impressive part of Bosh’ game last night was that on a team with LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Ray Allen, he was the closer. Bosh scored the last 7 points (not including Rondo’s cheap shot on Wade leading to two Flagrant Free Throws) for the Heat and put away the game just as the Celtics were rallying and brought the game within single digits.

LeBron James:

The Flying Death Machine of Death! What do I really need to say about his performance? It was dominant. LeBron got the rim at will, his mid-range jumper fell no matter the angle it was taken from, oh and he added a couple of threes for good measure, scoring 26 points on 10/16 shooting in 28 minutes with 10 rebounds and 3 assists.

Why only 28 minutes? Well it’s because LeBron started cramping up again, but like all superstars he did deliver on the dramatic end by staying in the game and hitting a three (not as important or impressive as the cramp 3 he hit in the finals, but dramatic none the less) before being taken out for the rest of the game. He was taken out earlier in the game, taken to the locker room, worked on and re-entered the game. Is it me, or does this stuff only happen to LeBron and only happen when he plays teams like the Celtics and Thunder. (I love this game).

CELTICS

Kevin Garnett:

Garnett was surly, and angry before the game, slow and creaky during and cranky after. It’s official KG is my grandpa.

His inability to act professional for even a moment was evident during the pre-game festivities as he refused to even acknowledge Ray Allen’s existence. His inability to keep up with the athletes of the Heat was evident as he only scored 9 points in 31 minutes on 4/8 shooting and only went to the line once. He did lead the game in rebounds with 12 and led his team in blocks with 2.

He couldn’t get to the basket, and had a really hard time finding the soft spots in the defense for him to line up and drill his mid-range jumper. Also his defense was non-existent as Wade, Rio, Allen and James got to the basket at will and Brandon Bass guarded Bosh on most one on one situations. He also had 5 turnovers.

I don’t think this is a sign of things to come. He’s one of the best ever, and will have a great year (or maybe this is it for him and he’s done, one game won’t tell us) but Bosh is a massive mismatch for him since they have a similar game and at this point Bosh is much younger and more athletic.

Brandon Bass;

I’m a fan, I know he’s a Celtic and I hate the Celtics, but I’m a fan of this guy. He’s an excellent role player, that does all of the little things. He’s a good rebounder, a good post-up defender, a good shooter and a smart ball player.  He contributed 15 points in 28 minutes on 6/11 shooting, making it to the line 4 times and he added 11 rebounds.

Courtney Lee:

Lee is an efficient and athletic scorer, who did and will make the most of the limited opportunities he should continue to get this season. He scored 11 points on 5/6 shooting and he went 1/1 from three. He did have 5 fouls, but that will happen when you’re defending Wade, and even with the fouls Lee did an excellent job. Wade didn’t have any easy opportunities when Lee was on the floor.

Rajon Rondo:

He put on a stellar performance once again, finishing just 3 rebounds short of a triple-double. Rondo scored 20 points on 9/14 shooting (going 0/2 from three) with 7 rebounds and 13 assists.

Where he struggled last night was with turnovers. He finished with 4, as Chalmers harassed him all night. Rondo still doesn’t have a consistent mid-range jump shot and if the defense collapses (which is difficult to do against him because he can make any pass regardless of difficulty) when he drives, his only options are to take a difficult layup or make a difficult pass.

But he’s so damn good at making those difficult layups and difficult passes, I’m not sure how much it matters. (Well it clearly matters against the Heat, but not against anyone else in the East.)

Paul Pierce:

Pierce played well last night, directing traffic both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball, he finished with 2 steals, 5 assists, 5 rebounds went to the line 9 times and had 0 turnovers. Pierce also scored 23 points in 40 minutes with 2 three pointers, unfortunately it was on 6/15 shooting.

At this point in his career Pierce is limited to using his intelligence on defense, and mid-range and three-point shots on offense. Pierce can’t get to the rim anymore and missed a layup when he did.

Leandro Barbosa:

Instant offense! 16 points in 15 minutes on 6/8 shooting and 3/3 for three. Barbosa singlehandedly brought the Celtics back to within single digits in the fourth quarter. He looks like he’s in shape for the first time in a few years and isn’t the same guy that couldn’t get past me in the playoffs last year.  

It was a fun as hell game and I’m so happy that the NBA is back. And if you’re a Heat fan, just smile because you get 82 games of this. 82 games of Flying Death Machines, of wide open threes, of Reptilian Centers, and of Norris Cole flat tops.

-Sunny D