Sunday, October 31, 2010

Saturday Night NBA

There were nine games in the association last night and several more big performances. Some of the developments were expected. Others came out of nowhere in another interesting night in the NBA.


New coach Larry Drew and his new offensive system have Atlanta playing like a different team. The Hawks (3-0) are sharing the basketball like never before.

They put on another impressive passing display in a win against a Washington team which didn't lay down for them.


After struggling in his NBA debut, John Wall took some time to work on his game. It paid off. He came out against Atlanta and looked like an All-Star.

Watching Dennis Scott break down some plays from the game on NBA GameTime, you could tell that from game one to game two the game has already slowed down for him.

After putting in the previously-mentioned work on his game, Wall shot 9-17 from the field (2-3 from three) and had 28 points and nine more assists. He is scary good.


Chris Paul led New Orleans to a victory on the road against San Antonio with 25-7-5-2. The best part is that Paul had to play only 31 minutes to keep the Hornets unbeaten at 3-0.

His double-crossover on George Hill (2:00) was a work of art, and the runner off the glass over Hill and DeJuan Blair which followed iced the game with 27.1 seconds remaining.

Paul is going to excel playing on a deep team where he can rest and doesn't have to do everything all the time.

New Orleans has done a great job building this team, and Monty Williams is doing a great job coaching it.


Power forward Tyler Hansbrough was huge in Indiana's back-to-back wins Friday and Saturday nights, hitting clutch shots and free throws, hustling for loose balls, providing energy off of the bench and showing a good floor game.

TJ Ford has also been crucial, with good floor leadership and spectacular defense.

Indiana wouldn't be 2-1 without them.

Watch Hansbrough and Ford help Josh McRoberts welcome Evan Turner to the NBA.

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Early Impressions

The 2010-11 NBA season is four days old. These are some of my early impressions from the young season.


Luis Scola is far more productive than I thought he would be. Charley Rosen picked Houston to possibly unseat Los Angeles in the West. I wouldn't go that far, but Scola's early production has raised my eyebrow.


Al Jefferson is up to his old tricks again. The optimism of his preseason FGA:A ratio has withered away into ice-cold reality.

Through two games, Jefferson has played 68 minutes and has 24 field goal attempts and zero assists. In Utah's home opener against Phoenix he took 18 shots and didn't muster a single assist.

Among the many reasons for Utah's 0-2 start, Al Jefferson's passing inefficiency has to be one of them.


No. 7 pick Greg Monroe has yet to see the court for the Detroit Pistons. I understand that he is a rookie and all, but not one stinking minute?

It's preposterous! A good coach should be able to get a talented rookie a few early minutes without it hurting the team.

The same thing goes for Vinny Del Negro and Al-Farouq Aminu. Aminu can't be any worse than the other players who played small forward for the Clippers last night.


Cleveland over Boston -- Cleveland wasn't supposed to be able to win a game against a team this good without the "Chosen One."

Memphis over Dallas -- Dallas was the No. 2 seed in the West last year. Memphis missed the playoffs. This is a huge road win.

Indiana over Charlotte -- Another win by a non-playoff team against a playoff team on the road. A come-from-behind victory on the road against a tough Charlotte team showed a lot of character.

Los Angeles over Houston -- Los Angeles was expected to win the game, but it is how they won. It is impressive when your big off-season acquisition (Steve Blake) hits a game-winning three-pointer in his first game.


While everyone without LP had to watch the Lakers and Suns, I got to watch the Clippers and Warriors.

Golden State's new arena floor and uniforms look beautiful on television, and the blue shoes worn by Dorell Wright and Monta Ellis only added to the visual appeal of the game.

Then the Warriors came out and kicked butt. They pass the ball like Sacramento of the early 2000s and play pretty good defense too.

They were more entertaining than Run TMC until Stephen Curry re-aggravated his ankle injury and had to leave the game in the third quarter.

Golden State went on to win and go to 2-0 for the first time since 1994-95.*

*NBA GameTime

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Friday, October 22, 2010



Boston came out of nowhere last year and stole the conference. Although both Cleveland and Orlando had better records and home-court advantage, it wasn't enough.

Due to LeBron James checking out of the series starting in Game 5, Boston was able to crush Cleveland. But Orlando had no such excuse. The Celtics earned their victory over the Magic and their trip to the NBA Finals.

After the season, LeBron James announced his "Decision" to take his talents to South Beach and play with Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Miami Heat. Boston signed Jermaine and Shaquille O'Neal, and Orlando signed Quentin Richardson and Chris Duhon.

It would certainly appear that everyone else is playing for fourth place. As stated in the Western Conference Preview, there are far too many variables (injuries, coaching decisions, team chemistry, trades, etc.) to predict exact records and specific playoff seeds for an entire NBA season.

Instead, teams will be placed into broader categories to allow room for the various things which can alter the NBA landscape. This is more reasonable and still allows the intent to remain in place.

Here is how the East looks heading into the season.


The Eastern Conference champion will likely be one of these three.

Celtics -- Now that he appears to be healthy again, Kevin Garnett has to focus on improving his poor defensive rebounding numbers. As Pat Riley might say, no rebounds, no rings. It has been revealed that Jermaine O'Neal played while injured during the playoffs last season, which explains his miserable performance. Doc Rivers will have to rely on his young players to carry the team through the regular season and at the same time try to win home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. It will be a tough juggling act.

Heat -- Miami deserves all of the credit in the world for putting this team together. They are built exactly like the '90s Bulls, with not-so-talented point guards and centers but a dominant shooting guard, small forward and power forward. Coach Erik Spoelstra showed last year that he has what it takes to succeed at a high level. I think he'll be just fine.

Magic -- To win a championship, Stan Van Gundy is going to have to expand the Orlando offense beyond just (1) the pick-and-roll, (2) Dwight Howard down low and (3) letting somebody go one-on-one. This just isn't enough against good, playoff defenses. Orlando actually struggled in the first round against Charlotte's defense but was able to win the series because Charlotte didn't have any firepower and because Jameer Nelson absolutely dominated Raymond Felton. Van Gundy needs to look at coaches like Alvin Gentry, Nate McMillan, Phil Jackson and Doc Rivers and come up with (or steal) some more inventive plays for Orlando to run.


These teams will battle for the remaining playoff spots but won't seriously compete for the conference crown.

Hawks -- Charles Barkley once said that he felt like all Philadelphia wanted to do was put him out on the floor and go to the playoffs and lose every year. That is the state of the Atlanta franchise. They aren't serious about winning a championship. All they want to do is go to the playoffs and lose.

Bobcats -- Charlotte made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history last year and will probably be back this season. Gerald Wallace is just fantastic, and Tyrus Thomas is coming into his own. DJ Augustin also has gotten better. Stephen Jackson has to be more careful with the basketball.

Bulls -- This is another huge bandwagon which I am not on. The new Bash Brothers Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah will no doubt make their presence known, and Derrick Rose is all that they say he is and more. But beyond these three players, there isn't nearly enough to make Chicago anything close to an elite team.

Cavaliers -- LeBron James didn't win 60+ games by himself in each of the past two seasons. There is still some talent left. Cleveland could sneak into the playoffs.

Pistons -- Detroit will be fine, but they really need a backup point guard to make this engine purr. This is especially true because neither Rodney Stuckey nor Will Bynum has mastered the position yet, particularly in the half-court offense. Detroit may need to bring Chucky Atkins back.

Pacers -- TJ Ford can't get healthy fast enough. The sooner they get Paul George ready, the better off Indiana will be; and Roy Hibbert has to continue to improve. Indiana still hasn't picked up the rebounder/shot-blocker they need at power forward to really take off.

Bucks -- Milwuakee is the one team which can break the Boston-Miami-Orlando triangle. Unfortunately, they have already been decimated by injuries. Darington Hobson will miss the entire season with multiple hip surguries; Andrew Bogut is still working his way back from his elbow injury; Corey Maggette and John Salmons have both missed the entire preaseason so far; and Michael Redd won't be ready to go until February. Milwaukee needs a healthy Michael Redd to be elite.

Knicks -- New York is not talented enough to be declared a playoff team but is too talented to be written off completely. They are one more good off-season away from being a guaranteed playoff team.

76ers -- To become a true contender, Philadelphia is going to have to hire a better coach, upgrade the point guard position and improve their depth. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. They look like a team that can make the playoffs.

Wizards -- The pieces are there; it is up to coach Flip Saunders to put them together. Based on the way he used his rotations during the preseason, it doesn't look like he is going to be able to pull it off. Washington also looks like they are going to need a new coach.


These are the teams with the best chance to land projected No. 1 pick Harrison Barnes in the 2011 NBA Draft.

Nets -- They missed out on John Wall in 2010. They'll be back again next year, hoping to improve their luck.

Raptors -- It would be interesting to compare the talent on their first roster in franchise history to this one. They appear to be going backward.

Note: Teams listed alphabetically by city in each category.

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Friday, October 15, 2010



Last season, Oklahoma City and Phoenix put real scares into the Lakers but were unable to prevent the defending champions from eventually moving on. Los Angeles was just too much for the West and has been for the past three seasons.

Teams have rebuilt and reloaded, all with the goal of knocking Los Angeles off of their mighty throne. Some team may succeed, but most will fail miserably.

There are far too many variables (injuries, coaching decisions, team chemistry, trades, etc.) to predict exact records and specific playoff seeds for an entire NBA season.

Instead, teams will be placed into broader categories to allow room for the various things which can alter the NBA landscape. This is more reasonable and still allows the intent to remain in place.

Here is how the West shakes out.


The Western Conference champion will likely be one of these three.

Mavericks -- Having an entire season to play together and develop chemistry will do wonders for Dallas. Going into this year's playoffs, they will be more battle-tested and battle-ready. Tyson Chandler gives them a dimension which they have never had. Say good-bye to the traditional, layup-line defense we have come to expect from Dallas.

Lakers -- As if they weren't already good enough, the Lakers went out and added Theo Ratliff and Steve Blake as backups. They know everyone is gunning for them, and they are gunning right back.

Trail Blazers -- Portland is probably a year away, but they are here because they are good enough to give the Lakers a real scare, one more real than Oklahoma City or Phoenix last year, one like the scare they gave Los Angeles in 2000. All of this is dependent on Greg Oden, who unfortunately at this time has no timetable for his return.


These teams will battle for the remaining playoff spots but won't seriously challenge for the conference crown.

Nuggets -- Denver probably won't make it out of the first round again this year. Their biggest problem is that they are extremely undisciplined defensively, especially Carmelo Anthony and JR Smith. They also lack size and matching parts up front.

Warriors -- In a prior article, the exact reason why Golden State lost so many games last year was explained. The problem has been corrected, so you can pretty much take anything which happened last year and throw it out the window. Golden State has built one of the most talented and exciting rosters in the league.

Rockets -- Houston is solid at the three most important positions in basketball: coach, point guard and center. They are so solid that their backup point guard Kyle Lowry and their backup center Brad Miller could start for many teams. The problem is that they are very average at shooting guard, small forward and power forward.

Clippers -- Baron Davis, Blake Griffin and Chris Kaman will give Los Angeles three of the best players on the floor every night against every opponent, even against that other Los Angeles team.* The Clippers also have Randy Foye backing up Baron Davis, Eric Gordon and Al-Farouq Aminu. Those six players will take Los Angeles a very long way.

Grizzlies -- Memphis has a pretty good team, but the West is tough. They are probably two players away from being a guaranteed playoff team. They shouldn't take a step back but may not move forward much either.

Timberwolves -- 1-12, this is the best team Minnesota has ever had; but that doesn't mean much because players 9-12 rarely make an impact on the game. It does speak to the organization's ability to put a team together. They have all sorts of depth and versatility and could be very dangerous this year.

Hornets -- The biggest weakness of New Orleans is that they don't have a good backup for Chris Paul. Without a good backup, Chris Paul will have to play lights-out for 40+ minutes every night for the team to be competitive; and this wear-and-tear will eventually catch up to and cost him and the team. Willie Green is not a point guard; he is a short shooting guard. There is a tremendous difference between the two.

Thunder -- This is the biggest bandwagon in the NBA right now, and I'm not on it. While other teams got better, Oklahoma City appears to have stayed the same, which means they got worse. Has anyone noticed that they are still starting Thabo Sefolosha at shooting guard?

Suns -- One thing a NBA team will never miss is a scorer. Phoenix has players standing in line to take the additional shots Amar'e Stoudemire left behind. And since he didn't play defense or rebound anyway, you would think that the team wouldn't miss him one iota. But a team is a funny thing. Some things just go together, like Shrek and Donkey. This is the hardest team to pick. The safest thing to say is that they almost certainly won't make it back to the conference finals this season.

Spurs -- Tim Duncan needs help. San Antonio couldn't have imagined that they would rely on Antonio McDyess as much as they did in the playoffs last year. Now they will be counting on rookie Tiago Splitter to give them the size they need to help Tim Duncan up front.

Jazz -- The big question for Utah is did they improve enough to compete with or beat Los Angeles in the playoffs? Will Gordon Hayward, Raja Bell and Al Jefferson be able to do what Wesley Matthews and Carlos Boozer couldn't? Love Gordon Hayward but I wouldn't bet on it.


North Carolina freshman Harrison Barnes is projected as the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. Eventually, seven western teams will be in the lottery to draft him.

But there is one which stands above all others in the quest to attain Harrison Barnes and can be declared out of the running for the playoffs before the season even begins.

Kings -- It is sad to see this former conference power sink to such miserable lows. By the end of the season, we'll be calling them the Sacrament Paupers.

Note: teams listed alphabetically by city in each category.

*This method of ranking the best players from competing teams in order comes from Colin Cowherd.

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