Tag Archives: NBA

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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Lakers

The Lakers just finished up what has to be one of the most impressive runs to the NBA Finals I’ve ever seen. This year’s Western Conference was just about the best ever. LA started the season in an incredible amount of turmoil and lost their starting center in February. Their star, Kobe Bryant, has been playing since the All-Star break with a torn ligament in his finger. Yet they still managed to fight through and win the top seed in the playoffs.

Their first round opponent Denver won 50 games and was one of the most explosive offensive teams in the league. LA sped up, ran with them and just blew them out of the gym.

In the second round they faced what is probably the most physical team in the NBA bar Detroit, banged with them and took the series in a relatively easy 6 games, despite Utah’s home record, which was the best in the NBA.

Then they faced the defending champs, who had won 56 games.They fell behind by 20 in game 1. Then the Lakers, and Kobe in particular, just took over the series. Excepting the Spurs blowout in game 3, the Lakers were just plain better in every game. They were faster, more determined, played harder and were just in control.

Will the Lakers beat Boston or Detroit? It will be tough, I have to believe so. Neither of the Eastern Conference contenders have looked great in the playoffs, though both did have a better regular season record than the Laker. The difference in my mind will be that neither of them will have any way to guard Kobe. It could be a tough series, but LA has just been so good since they got Gasol in February that I can’t really imagine them losing.

One thing the playoffs have done thus far is to obliterate the thought that anyone other than Kobe is the best player in the NBA. Yes, he may no longer put up the best statistics in the league, but he is utterly unguardable when he wants to be. Throughout the playoffs Kobe has just gone off every time his team needed him to. With a torn ligament in his shooting hand. You can’t play off of him because he can hit the outside shot. You can’t crowd him because he will go right by you. You can’t double team him because he will invariably hit the open man. There hasn’t been an offensive juggernaut like this in the NBA since Michael Jordan. Lebron is good, don’t get me wrong. But the Celtics guarded him. Kobe can’t be stopped.

The truly frightening thing is how good this team is going to be the next couple of seasons. Kobe probably isn’t at his physical peak anymore, but it doesn’t matter. The Bulls didn’t win a title in any of Jordan’s best statistical seasons. Plus, Kobe is still only 29. Pau Gasol is 27. Lamar Odom is 28. Next season they’ll get Andrew Bynum, a 20 year old center who would easily be a 5 pick in the draft, back. That is easily the best core in the NBA. Beyond that Derek Fisher is the only LA role player who is over the age of 30. Twenty-Eight year old Luke Walton is the oldest of the rest of the contributors. Jordan Farmar is only 21.

The Lakers will easily have 5 more years to play together before anyone but Fisher begins to seriously decline. To put it in context, the 91-92 Chicago Bulls, Jordan’s first title team, had 4 key contributors who were at least 30 and only one under the age of 25.

Thats not to say these Lakers will walk away with the next several championships. They certainly have as good a shot as a team ever has, but at a minimum the Hornets, Jazz and Trail Blazers will be formidable competitors, as will the Cavaliers, Bulls and Celtics in the East. But these Lakers have a chance to be scary, scary good.

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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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