Category Archives: Sports Blogging

Philly Makes Its Move

Out of the blue, Philly just signed Elton Brand, breaking up the new look Clippers before they ever hit the court.

The Sixers definitely are looking to compete now, and adding Brand makes them a formidable force in the East. The starting five of Andre Miller, Andre Iguodala (assuming he doesn’t pull a Brand and go elsewhere, though that is unlikely given that he’s a restricted free agent), Thaddeus Young, Brand and Samuel Dalembert is pretty formidable starting lineup, which probably compares favorably with just about any starting lineup in the East.

The new look Sixers have a real problem though. They don’t have anyone at all who can shoot. Their projected 1-2-3 combination shot 30 precent from outside last year, but all but 53 of their 360 shots came from Iguodala. Miller is a career 20 percent three point shooter who knows not to even try and Young is probably most at home at power forward and only shot 19 threes last year. That group of players simply can’t be a winning combination. A half decent defense will just double Brand on the block and sag in to prevent Young and Iguodala from cutting and there is nothing the Sixers can do about it. Louis Williams can kind of shoot, but he’s not a real answer, given the total lack of outside shooting on the Sixers roster. Iguodala is at least versatile enough to hurt you if you leave him wide open, which really can’t be said for Miller or Young. The Sixers would be wise to take a long, hard look at Ricky Davis or Brent Barry, the best outside shooters on the market, if they are really interested in winning.

This is a team that’s total of 31 percent three point shooting last year included quarter seasons each from outstanding outside shooters Kyle Korver and Gordon Giricek. They were the worst in the leage by a full percentage point and 5 points below the league average. A solid inside player like Brand will improve their shooting a little by giving them better looks, but not by that much. If they can’t find a way to space the floor and hurt teams for collapsing on Brand and Iguodala, they won’t go anywhere. But if they do, they can beat anyone. They have the personel to match up with Boston or Detroit and with some shooting they look like real contenders. But only with some shooting.

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How good are the Clips?

Baron Davis going to the Clippers certainly makes them a much better team. The Davis-Brand inside outside combo will be one of the best in the leage, but overall, I don’t know how much better this Clips will really be next year. They’ll certainly be a lot more exciting and will improve from last year’s 23 wins, but are they a playoff team? Given the strength of the Western Conference next year I’m really not sure.

The new look Clips certainly won’t be approaching the top tier of the conferece, the Lakers, Spurs, Hornets group. They probably can’t really challegene the next group of teams, consisting of the Jazz, Rockets and probably, based on last year’s trends, the Trail Blazers. They may be able to get into the third tier, with the Mavericks, Suns, and Nuggets and possibly, depending on who replaces Davis in Golden State, the Warriors. To get into that group they’ll also be fighting with the Kings, leaving 12 teams fighting hard for the 8 playoff spots out West.

The Davis-Brand Clips just don’t seem to be that well constructed. Davis is an elite point guard, but he’s a career 32 percent three point shooter who won’t do much to stretch the floor. Brand and center Chris Kaman are both traditional, back to the basket type players, but neither is a great high-post player. Projected small forward Al Thorton is an exciting player in transition, but he doesn’t have a consistent outside shot either. Cuttino Mobley is the only Clipper who is a decent outside shooter, but even he has declined in terms of percentage since got to LA 3 years ago. Also, the bench will be painfully thin, consisting of a declining Tim Thomas, Shaun Livingston’s reconstructed knee and rookies Eric Gordon and DeAndre Jordan. That is a pretty incoherent group. They seem like a slow it down, post-up team with Brand and Kaman, but their perimeter players are best in transition and aren’t shooters. Yet they can’t run with Brand and Kaman in the lineup.

Maybe in a couple of years the Clips will be better. If Gordon and Jordan develop up to their potential (a big question with the Clips) they’ll pair effectively with Davis and Thorton to create a team that is a terror on the break. On the other hand, if they add a couple of good outside shooters they could be a devastating half-court team. But right now, they seem like a team without a philosophy who won’t be able to keep up with the Lakers or bang with the Spurs. As currently constituted, I think they’ll be lucky to compete for the 7th or 8th playoff spot. That’s not how I’d spend my $100 mil, but if Donald Sterling wants to, so be it.

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Count All the Points

Via Andrew Sullivan, a statement from Joe Dumars:

Yes, Boston has won four games and Detroit only two. But it’s hard to imagine a more arbitrary and undemocratic way to determine this series’s outcome than “games won.” It is, after all, a bedrock value of the game of basketball that all points must be counted. But how can that be the case when every point beyond the winning point is ignored? There are literally dozens of layups, jumpers, free throws, and (yes, even) dunks that our opponents want to say don’t count for anything at all. We call on the NBA to do the right thing and fully count all of the baskets that were made throughout the course of this series. Once you abandon the artificial four-games-to-two framework that the media has tried to impose on the series, a very different picture emerges, with the Celtics leading by a mere 549 points to 539. Yes that’s right, the margin between the two teams is less than one percent—a tie, for all intents and purposes.

While I see Dumars’ point here, he’s fighting the wrong battle. Detroit shouldn’t have had to play Boston at all. You see, when you take away the media imposed “four-games-to-three” framework that handed Boston their victory over Cleveland and look at the popular score, Cleveland came out on top 596-588. Like Bill Clinton, I’ve never seen a team get so relentlessly hounded out by the media, just because they lost more games. David Stern and the NBA need to step up and count all the points, or else we’re going to fight this injustice all the way to New York and the draft.

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Really? Doug Collins

So it looks like the Chicago Bulls picked Doug Collins to be their next head coach. This is a puzzling move. Not only did the Bulls fire Collins back in the 80s, but he’s been a coach who has been terrible at developing young talent, which is all the Bulls have. Plus, they’re going to be adding yet another talented young piece to the puzzle with the number one draft pick.

John Hollinger lays out the case against Collins here, and its pretty impressive. Hollinger’s argument is that Collins teams play at an incredibly slow pace, he hasn’t been able to develop young talent and his temperament is too similar to Scott Skiles’, the coach the Bulls quit on after just three years.

The pace issue seems to me to be the most damning. Next year’s Bulls team, whoever they draft, should be the most exciting in the league. They have an astounding collection of athletic, young talent and should be an offensive juggernaut. But Collins teams play like Jeff van Gundy teams. Slow down, grind it out, place great defense. While the Bulls should be a great defensive team (between Noah and Thomas they have shot blocking down and most of their perimeter players play good on the ball defense), the rest of the Collins formula is utterly alien to what the Bulls should be.

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The Spurs Dynasty is Over

Now, you might think this post should have gone up last night, after the defending champs lost to the Lakers (ironically, because the guy taking the last shot refused to flop). But this is the news that will really put a nail in the Spurs coffin.

The NBA announced to its teams this week at its annual pre-draft camp that fines will be imposed on players starting next season for clear cases of “flopping,” ESPN.com has learned.

The league office has yet to determine exact fine amounts for offending flops and how fines might escalate for repeat offenders, but in-game arena observers and video reviewers will be instructed to report instances of theatrical flopping for potential punishment as part of postgame reports on officiating and other matters.

The league’s pledge to crack down on flopping was conveyed to team representatives at Tuesday’s competition committee meeting in Orlando.

NBA executive vice president of basketball operations Stu Jackson confirmed the new policy Wednesday night saying: “What was clearly expressed to the committee is that we would begin imposing fines next season for the most egregious type of flops. When players are taking a dive, for lack of a better term.”

Now, its not just the Spurs. The NBA is full of masters of the art of the flop. But the Spurs are at the head of the NBA’s flop-ternity. Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker are probably the worst offenders, but the team that invented the Duncan face are the current champs of flopping.

Will the penalties against flopping actually be enforced? Maybe not. A year and a half ago the NBA said it was going to crack down on flopping. That certainly hasn’t happened. Hopefully we’ll soon see a flop free NBA. But don’t get you hopes up too high.

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The Celtics vs. Everyone Else

So the Boston Celtics should be the best team left in the NBA playoffs, right? They won the most games this year, had the best point differential and have three experienced stars. However, they have looked far shakier than any of the other team left thus far in the playoffs. The question is why?

I think this post gets at the problem. Boston Coach Doc Rivers has never settled his team into a pattern and gotten his players to understand their roles on the team. Take any of the other teams left in the playoffs and you can immediately see what the role of almost any player on the team is.

With the Lakers, Kobe Bryant is the leader, the scorer, the creater and the crunch time performer. Pau Gasol is the second option offensively, matches up with the other team’s best big man and provides soft hands around the basket for Kobe to dish to when he drives to the hole. Lamar Odom is the third option, providing rebounding, defense and occasional scoring. Derek Fisher and Vlad Radmanovic, the other two starters, provide outside shooting and tough defense. The bench is incredibly deep, with Sasha Vujacic, Jordan Farmar, Luke Walton and Ronny Turiaf all providing the Lakers with key minutes. Everyone on the team knows exactly what their job is and they do it well.

The Pistons and the Spurs are the same way. They have leaders, in Tim Duncan and Chauncy Billups. They have their second/third scoring options down pat, in Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker and Richard Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace. They have lock down defenders in Tayshaun Prince and Bruce Bowen. They have guys who come off the bench who know exactly what their role is and what they have to do for the team to win.

Boston doesn’t have that. Who is the leader and top scoring option? Is it Kevin Garnett, the clear emotional leader? Or is it Paul Pierce, who has gotten the ball in important situations in the playoffs. Who do they go to when the game is on the line? Who is their creator, their point guard, who needs to distribute the ball to the rest of the team? Is it Rajon Rondo or Sam Cassell? What are the roles for Big Baby Davis, Leon Powe and Kendrick Perkins? Who will be on the floor at crunch time? What is Ray Allen supposed to do? Should he stand outside and look for shots, drive and create or something else all together? How does he fit in with Garnett and Pierce?

Nobody knows, not even the players themselves. One night Cassell doesn’t play in 4 straight games, then is back getting 17 minutes. They go to Garnett with the game on the line one night, then Pierce the next. Simply put, it is impossible to win an NBA Championship if players don’t know their roles. If the Celtics somehow pull it off this year it will be a miracle. They will have triumphed due to their shear talent and defensive abilities and in spite of their coaching. If the Celtics don’t win it all this year, Doc Rivers probably has to go. He had all season to get this team ready to go for the playoffs without much pressure at all. Yet they still don’t know what they are supposed to do on the court. That just shouldn’t be acceptable for a coach.

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Michael Beasely or Derrick Rose?

So the Chicago Bulls struck gold. The Bulls are a pretty good team who collapsed this season. They were a playoff team with a bright future at this time last year and now they get to add Michael Beasley or Derrick Rose. Mike D’Antoni can’t be pleased. But who should Chicago take.

If the Bulls take Beasley they will be getting a 20/10 big man who will give them the post scoring they have always lacked. He is athletic and can run and would fit in pretty well with the Bulls existing talent. He would create a little big of a log jam at the 4, with Drew Gooden, Tyrus Thomas and Beasley all competing for time, but a starting lineup of Beasley, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Ben Gordon and Kurt Hinrich would be frightening. Beasley could dominate on the block, Gordon and Hinrich are outstanding long range shooters who can space the floor and Deng is a good slasher. Noah provides energy and rebounding. The bench of Larry Hughes, Drew Gooden, Andres Nocioni, Chris Duhon and Tyrus Thomas would be one of the best second lines in the NBA, providing the same mix of post scorer (Gooden), shooters (Duhon, Nocioni), slasher (Hughes) and energy man (Thomas) as the front line. Thats a pretty damn good team.

On the other hand, Rose would necessitate a bigger rethinking of the Chicago strategy. A starting lineup of Rose, Gordon, Deng, Gooden and Noah would be pretty solid, but Gooden isn’t really mobile enough to run the kind of fast paced game that the rest of that lineup is built for. On the other hand, Thomas is built for it and would make the team a nightmare on the break, but a front court of Deng, Thomas and Noah wouldn’t provide the low post scoring the team would need. Also, that starting lineup would lack a consistent long range shooter beyond Gordon. To run the break really effectively they’d need to find another spot up shooter who could trail the play and hurt teams that collapsed on the lane. Hinrich or Duhon would certainly have to go, probably Duhon, given that he’s a free agent and not as good a shooter. Nocioni and Hughes would fit in well on the team, providing solid shooting and dynamic scoring on the break. Overall, its not as strong a team, but it would be more fun to watch and have a bigger potential for growth, especially if Rose grows into a Chris Paul type point who can bring out Tyrus Thomas’ potential. The biggest issue would be Gooden, who is not a great fit for this type of scheme and already seems to be on the downside his career, having regressed each of the last three years after his breakout 2004 season (though his numbers did improve once he landed in Chicago).

The Bulls will be good with either player. They are both unique players who will be major contributors in the league. The Bulls would be scary good with Beasley as currently constituted. He’d be a better fit with the team they have now and would make them Eastern Conference contenders again immediately. Rose is a little tougher. They don’t have someone who can effectively give them what they need from the power forward position if they get Rose. Gooden is too slow and Thomas doesn’t have the offensive skills yet. But a Bulls team with Rose has a much higher potential. He will jump start the development of Thomas, improve the games of Gordon, Deng, Nocioni and Noah and give them an overall higher ceiling. Its a tough call, but I’d guess Derrick Rose makes the most sense for the Bulls.

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