Saturday, February 26, 2011


And Trade Deadline Review

This will go down as the wildest week in NBA trade-deadline history.

It's hard to imagine more headline players changing teams in such a short period of time as there were this week in the association.

After Carmelo Anthony muscled his way to New York, teams started seeing things very clearly.

The lack of a signed contract extension, or an expected tough negotiation, was rightfully taken by teams as a sign that the player didn't want to be there; and teams started unloading them left and right.

Deron Williams and Jeff Green were promptly booted, and it seemed everybody else jumped into the fray just because they could.

When it was over, we had a deadline day that was so crazy news sites could hardly keep up with the fast-moving transactions.

Looking at where we stand heading into the home stretch, very little has changed at the top or bottom of the league standings.

San Antonio and Boston are still the top two teams, and all of the top 10 teams from the Mid-Season Power Poll are still the same, only in a different order.

Dallas made the most ground. They were number seven in the last power poll and are now three. And the Lakers fell from three to six, the biggest fall of any team in the top 10.

(1.) San Antonio (48-10)
(2.) Boston (41-15)
(3.) Miami (43-16)
(4.) Dallas (41-16)
(5.) Chicago (39-17)
(6.) Los Angeles (41-19)
(7.) Oklahoma City (36-21)
(8.) Orlando (37-22)
(9.) Atlanta (35-23)
(10.) New Orleans (35-25)


I agree with everyone else that this looks like an extremely weak draft class.

My research hasn't been much, but I haven't seen a NBA-ready player yet, someone who has all of the tools to be successful before he enters the draft.

But that doesn't mean the draft is worthless, and no one will develop into a star with some good coaching, a strong drive and some good, veteran leadership.

The following teams will be competing to take that chance and hope someone can grow into the face of their franchise for many years to come.

(1.) Cleveland (11-47)
(2.) Minnesota (13-46)
(3.) Sacramento (14-42)
(4.) Washington (15-42)
(5.) Toronto (16-43)
(6.) New Jersey (17-41)
(7.) Detroit (21-39)
(8.) Los Angeles (21-38)
(9.) Milwaukee (22-35)
(10.) Charlotte (26-32)


The Carmelo Anthony trade was covered earlier in the week, so let's take a look at the rest of what went down as teams prepare for the final games of the season and the playoffs.

Jeff Green to Boston: Are you kidding me?

Los Angeles and Dallas can step aside because they now have some company at the top of the NBA. This move makes Boston as deep and as talented as anybody, the clear favorite in the East and possibly the favorite to win it all this year.

Not only that, it secures their future and gives them a possible franchise cornerstone to play with Rajon Rondo for many years to come.

Before this trade, Boston was looking at a closing window of opportunity as a serious title threat. Now they are as well positioned as anybody to compete for titles after the end of the 2011-12 season.

Jermaine O'Neal is better than Kendrick Perkins could ever dream of being, and it was reported during the game Thursday night that they expect O'Neal back one month before the playoffs.

So Boston has a potential franchise player coming off the bench now that they have traded Perkins for Green and someone better than Perkins coming back for a playoff run.

Green has been playing out of position as a power forward for a couple of years. Back at his natural position, he could end up being as good as any small forward in the NBA.

From the Oklahoma City side, this trade is so horrendous that it almost makes you question their sanity. Who in the world would trade a possible franchise player for a role player and a backup point guard?

Make no mistake, they will be better as a team because they are no longer starting a small forward at power forward but don't mistake that as getting anything close to equal value for Jeff Green.

Nate Robinson is the only thing which can prevent this trade from going down as one of the all-time worst in NBA history.

Because Russell Westbrook is big for a point guard, Oklahoma City can play Robinson at shooting guard, which may be best for him, and match him up against the other team's point guard on defense; and a lineup of Westbrook, Robinson, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka would give them one of the most athletic of any in the NBA of guys who can actually play.

Let's see the Lakers keep up with that. But other than that, this trade is more than a head-scratcher.

A huge Celtics fan growing up, Thunder general manager Sam Presti is doing his best to pass Kevin McHale and become the man who traded his beloved Celtics the greatest number of assets at the cheapest possible price.

And with the Ray Allen trade and now this one, he may have topped him.

In a separate trade with Charlotte, Oklahoma City picked up Nazr Mohammed to boost their front court; and Boston got Nenad Krstic from Oklahoma City with Jeff Green.

Knicks to Denver: Everyone keeps saying that you have to have superstars to win, but few have ever really tested that theory. I have always believed that there is strength in numbers and that a team of eight to 10 really good players could be just as good as, if not better than, a team with a few superstars but other players not as good as that eight to 10.

Don't forget that George Karl is an outstanding coach.

I won't call him great because he hasn't won two championships, but you give a really good coach a bunch of good players, and there is no telling what can happen.

As for New York, they'll be fine as soon as Don Nelson Jr., I mean Mike D'Antoni, stops playing small ball.

Amar'e Stoudemire is not a center.

The sooner D'Antoni makes this adjustment, the better off New York will be.

Gerald Wallace to Portland: Gerald Wallace is a really good player. He has a lot of skills, will fit in nicely with what they are trying to do ('We'll use him ...') and is good insurance for Brandon Roy.

It will be very difficult to score on a front court featuring him, LaMarcus Aldridge and Marcus Camby, a definite step in the right direction for Portland.

Wallace puts them one step closer to contention.

Deron Williams to New Jersey: I'm not nearly as blown away by this move as others are. So New Jersey upgraded from a borderline-outstanding point guard to an outstanding one?

They still don't have any players and now, fewer draft picks. And I'm not even sure how much of an "upgrade" this really is.

Devin Harris can play.

Any boost they get from people wanting to come and play with Williams, assuming he is still there, could be offset by them not wanting to play for Avery Johnson, a coach who yells at his players like he's their daddy.

Mike Bibby for Kirk Hinrich: I've been down with the Jeff Teague Movement for a few weeks now.

Why these teams have talented players rotting on their benches will never be understood. Atlanta giving him more playing time was long overdue.

Hilton Armstrong is a nice prospect who should be better than any center on Atlanta's roster.

I'll believe Kirk Hinrich is an upgrade over Mike Bibby when I see it.

Baron Davis to Cleveland: This is the first mistake under Vinny Del Negro.

The Clippers should have traded for Jamario Moon and left Mo Williams in Cleveland. It's a bad sign because it is the first sign of the Clippers being the Clippers, meaning they were being cheap and made the move to save money and not win basketball games.

It does look like a weak draft, but in their position at this point in the season (no shot at the playoffs), you never opt out of the draft without seeing how the board lines up after the draft lottery.

And certainly not for Mo Williams, the guy who played about 12 good minutes in six games against Boston in the playoffs last year.

Marcus Thornton to Sacramento: This was a good move by Sacramento.

The last thing they need is a power forward with the front court that they have. They filled a position of need by trading a player who wasn't needed in Carl Landry.

I'm not sure what New Orleans was thinking here. Some games will have to be watched to find some answers.

Shane Battier to Memphis: Ishmael Smith, the throw in, may end up being the real key to this trade. He could fill Memphis' need at backup point guard.

What impact Battier will have on this team is unclear, but a talent upgrade always helps.

In Houston, this frees up playing time for Terrence Williams, Courtney Lee and Chase Budinger. I would have traded Kevin Martin too, but that's just me.

Hasheem Thabeet is a project, one most would say should be scrapped; but Houston has nothing to lose in seeing what he's got and trying to develop him.

Aaron Brooks to Phoenix: The impact of this trade can't be measured either.

Houston got Goran Dragic in return, one backup point guard for another. I need to see some games to come to any conclusion.

Finally, Chicago absolutely should have made a move for a shooting guard.

You don't go into the playoffs with just enough to try to win it all; you go in with more than enough, then you try to get some more after that.

Their margin of error is too close for comfort.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Instant Analysis: Anthony To The Big Apple

Isiah did it, baby!

No, I'm just kidding. My first reaction to this trade is that I'm glad it's over!

One week is about all of the emotional energy I have to spend on a trade rumor. And this Carmelo Anthony nonsense has been going on for about a year now.

As much as I tried to escape it and tune it out, I couldn't because every time I looked up someone was writing or talking about it; so I'm just really glad it's finally over!

I usually try to avoid snap judgments on moves like this because my initial reaction will always change one week later. But I'll go ahead and say something in the moment for a change.

A few days ago, when it started looking like the trade to New York was really going to happen, I started doing my due diligence. I went back and looked at film on Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire, Anthony Randolph, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari and others and reviewed some stats.

Carmelo Anthony is really good.

Most people will say "duh" to that statement, but going all the way back to the 2003 draft, I've never been all that high on him compared to other stars in the league.

There was a brief time, at the start of the 2006-07 season, that he caught my attention and looked like the greatest player I had ever seen. Then he got suspended for sucker-punching Mardy Collins and never really got back to that level of play and hasn't been on my radar since.

But he has game.

My only criticisms of him are defensive. He loses track of his man from time to time when playing off the ball, and as Zach Lowe pointed out, his constant switching on defense can be described as somewhat lazy.

Other than that (and not addressing the shame of him not playing his entire career with the same team), what a steal!

To think that the Knicks gave up "too much" to get Carmelo Anthony is ludicrous.

Are you kidding me? Have you looked at this roster?

Without giving up Stoudemire, it would be impossible for New York to give up too much to get Anthony.

New York could have traded their entire roster other than Amar'e Stoudemire and invited people to walk in off the streets for open tryouts at Madison Square Garden to fill out the rest of the team, and they still wouldn't have given up too much to get Anthony.

This team is 28-26 and struggling to survive at the bottom half of the Eastern Conference playoff race. The rest of their roster and $6 might get you a good cup of coffee at Starbucks.

Looking at their potential starting lineup now, I love it: Chauncey Billups, Landry Fields, Anthony, Stoudemire and Ronny Turiaf.

Fields and Turiaf are key because they are hustle players who don't demand shots. Those qualities will go a long way with this group.

The potential issues, like coachability and chemistry between the two stars, will be addressed at a later time.

For now, this looks like a huge win for New York and the NBA and a huge loss for Denver and other second cities around the league.

Like Michael Douglas famously said in Wall Street, "Greed is good!"

The league has clearly gotten greedy here. It's no longer enough to have some of its big-market teams on the map; they want all of them on point and all at the same time.

They see the TV ratings and the media attention and the attendance when the "Heatles" go on the road, and they want more!

More! More! More!

Minnesota is another winner in this deal. I was high on Corey Brewer at one point, but getting rid of Brewer and his costly gambling on defense is addition by subtraction, and Anthony Randolph looks like possibly the best player leaving the Big Apple to me.

But keep in mind that I may feel differently 10 days from now.

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Saturday, February 12, 2011


Not very much was gained from the two meetings between Boston and Los Angeles this year.

Boston won the first game in Los Angeles, and Los Angeles won the second game in Boston.

On the positive side for Boston, they were able to beat the Lakers when the Lakers had all of their key players available.

On the negative side, they were able to trim only one point off of a four-point deficit while Kobe Bryant sat on the bench for the first half of the fourth quarter in their defeat on Thursday night.

And Boston is 5-5 in its last 10 games and no longer the top team in the East.

It's hard to cover the Jerry Sloan resignation without getting into the whole Sloan-Deron Williams feud. And I don't work for TMZ, so I really don't want to get into it.

From a basketball perspective, it's hard to imagine Tyrone Corbin being the equal of or an upgrade over Jerry Sloan.

But you never know. Stranger things have happened.


When I wrote about the best point guards in the NBA earlier this season, Derrick Rose wasn't included with the top point guards in the game.

He was quickly becoming one of the best but wasn't there yet because he hadn't shown the court vision and didn't execute Chicago's offense to perfection in his first two years in the league.

But fast don't lie.

Without question, Derrick Rose has elevated his game and is one of the best point guards in the NBA. I can't say which one is best, but no one is better than Rose.

There may not be a player at any position better than Rose.

He makes passes now that remind me of Chris Paul and Andre Miller. A defender has to be only one step out of position for Rose to zip a pass to his man and make him pay for slipping.

And his silly handles and ridiculous athleticism make his all-around game so sensational that even his toughest critics turn into adoring fans.

Rose does something awe-inspiring almost every night and makes the Bulls appointment viewing when he plays with Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer.

And behind all of the crossovers, shakes and hanging, double-clutch, reverse layups and three-pointers is a will to win matched by few in the NBA.

Using a little trick I learned from reading Zach Lowe, I was able to use Basketball Reference to provide the list of others who averaged at least 24 points and eight assists in a season, starting in 1960.

Hint: It is very exclusive company.

Derrick Rose is almost beyond description.

Note: Marc Stein did a similar comparison of Rose through the first 10 games, when he was averaging 25 points and eight assists.


David Aldridge came up with one of the stories of the season when he wrote about how Richard Jefferson worked with Gregg Popovich and other San Antonio coaches to improve his game.

Because I am a big Jason Kidd fan, I've been watching Richard Jefferson since he came into the league as a rookie with the New Jersey Nets in 2001.

And all the way back then, he still couldn't shoot.

But it really didn't matter because all you wanted to see was him catch an alley-hoop off of the backboard anyway.

But by the time the 2010 playoffs rolled around, Jefferson, with his absentee jump-shot, was getting old.

I mean, damn.

How many years is he going to miss these shots?

It was getting ridiculous.

That's where Aldridge and his story pick up, one of the greatest stories in the NBA this season.

There is nothing greater than a player who gets better, and the home improvement by Richard Jefferson and the San Antonio coaching staff has helped lead San Antonio to the best record in the NBA.

It shows that you don't always have to get a lottery pick, make a big trade or sign a big-money free agent to improve your team.

Sometimes you can take what you already have and make it better.


The race for the final playoff seeds looks like it is going to be a dog-fight from now until the end of the season.

In the West, only five games separate the No. 5 New Orleans from the No. 10 Phoenix, with Phoenix and Memphis coming on strong.

In the East, six games separate No. 6 New York from No. 10 Milwaukee.

Frank Vogel has Indiana playing inspired ball, and Doug Collins has had Philadelphia balling (small-balling) for months now.

Current playoff teams Utah and New York are struggling.

The dark horses in the West are Houston and Golden State, and in the East it is Detroit. The teams in the East seem to change places daily.

Players possibly returning from injury who could lead their teams into the playoffs are Emeka Okafor, Brandon Roy, Marcus Camby, Michael Redd and Drew Gooden.

These races will be closely monitored and updated until the last day of the season, which is how long it may take for all of this to be settled.

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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Dunks, Drive-Ins And Dives

At what point does Boston start worrying about its backup centers Jermaine and Shaquille O'Neal?

Rasheed Wallace played a huge role for this team in the playoffs last year, and these two guys were supposed to replace him.

Instead, we are left with Semih Erden.

The O'Neals are going to have to perform at the highest level, not only with their physical conditioning but with their knowledge and execution of the team concepts, with their teammates to win a championship.

It's looking more and more challenging as each day passes with each of them missing time due to various injuries.

The Milwaukee Bucks might be the most interesting story down the stretch.

They are 1.5 games out of eighth place in the East (5.5 games from sixth place) and are starting to get their players back.

They could have a full roster by the end of March, including Michael Redd and Drew Gooden.

I've been very critical of Al Jefferson, but I have to give him credit for some plays he made last night against Denver.

He made 1 ½ crucial stops as a help defender on Carmelo Anthony in the final 3:30 to help Utah get the victory.

Lack of help defense for years has been one of his biggest weaknesses.

It was a great job by Jefferson of playing tough defense when his team needed it most.


Henry Abbott released some numbers last week which, at least in his mind, finally proved once and for all that Kobe Bryant isn't as clutch as some think he is.

The funny thing is (I'll pretend I don't know why here), for some strange reason the numbers run all the way back to 1996, when Bryant was a rookie who barely played.

As I remember it, Bryant didn't become clutch until 2000, when he hit the game-winner to beat Phoenix in Game 2 of the first round of the playoffs and had that heroic Game 4 at Indiana in the Finals.

The raw numbers Abbott provides really don't mean much. In order to know what to make of this, we need to see the split statistics.

We need to know what Bryant shot in every game, every year against every opponent.

For all we know, Kobe Bryant could be shooting 80 percent against the best teams in the NBA and have all of his misses against the worst teams because they are harder to get motivated to play against.

And for all we know, he could be more clutch as his team advances further into the playoffs, peaking in the NBA Finals when he is at his absolute best.

But we don't know any of this because the splits aren't provided.

And we still don't know what Kobe Bryant shoots in game-winning situations in the last 10 seconds, with game-tying information removed from the data.

An article came out this season showing Carmelo Anthony was the best in game-winning or game-tying situations at .455, and Bryant had the most game-winners with 21, but Bryant's percentage wasn't provided.

Abbott wrote about Bryant's game-winners last season and gave some information which showed that Bryant has been awfully impressive recently. So it certainly appears that the numbers are trending in Bryant's direction.

But without the splits, there is just no way to tell one way or the other.


A funny thing happens when you predict a team to do well.

Because we all want to be right, you sort of adopt that team as your foster team and root for them to win; so they can make you look good.

And let me tell you, rooting for these teams has been such a gut-wrenching roller coaster of emotions that I don't know what to do with myself.

John Kuester fumbled the start of the season by not playing Greg Monroe as much as he should have, and at the start of the season Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince weren't playing with enough passion.

Minnesota had me on the high part of the roller coaster during the preseason. Then Martell Webster had to have back surgery and miss the start of the season.

Jonny Flynn's mid-November return from off-season surgery turned into mid-December.

In between, about every player on the roster had to miss time with injuries.

Darko Milicic sprained his ankle one game on the opening tip.

Anthony Tolliver is a 12th man who takes shot attempts like he's the franchise player. And Kurt Rambis keeps giving him playing time.

As soon as Los Angeles got cooking, Eric Gordon hurt his wrist and hasn't played since.

Jim O'Brien barely played Tyler Hansbrough and benched Paul George for almost two months, and TJ Ford has played a total of 10 minutes in the past nine games.

New coach Frank Vogel has Dahntay Jones higher in his rotation than James Posey, a highly-underrated basketball player with two championship rings, and has AJ Price higher in his rotation than TJ Ford.

Keith Smart just won't stop playing Vladimir Radmanovic at power forward.

Golden State assigned Jeremy Lin to the development league even though in his last action against actual NBA players, Golden State trailed 70-75 when he entered the game; and the score was tied 96-96 when he left it.

And even though Kevin Durant tried to score on him two times when Golden State played Oklahoma City and ended up with nothing but a turnover and a ball deflected out of bounds.

David Lee let the unstoppable Boris Diaw muscle him in the post, along with David West and just about everybody else.

The price we pay to be correct.

Like real foster kids, these teams drive you crazy because they are bad as hell. But you love them anyway because you adopted them, so they are yours.


About the only time I enjoy being wrong is when a player or team turns out to be better than I thought they would.

And that is the case with the Toronto Raptors.

In my "Eastern Conference Preview" I suggested that their original, expansion roster might be more talented than their current one.

And while praising Jose Calderon in "The NBA's Best Point Guards," I called them a cast of "scrubs, losers, cast-offs and wannabes."

I got this one wrong.

I have an iron-clad rule when it comes to losing teams: at least be entertaining.

And Toronto is fun to watch.

DeMar DeRozan and Sonny Weems get after it on pretty much a nightly basis, and Andrea Bargnani can light it up at any given moment.

Because of injuries, they are not nearly as bad as their record indicates.

There is a future in Toronto.

Note: Al Jefferson was given a stop for drawing an offensive foul on Carmelo Anthony and ½ of a stop for his blocked shot on Anthony. Raja Bell got the other ½ of a stop for recovering the blocked shot.

For more information on how to figure stops and fractional stops, see my article on advanced defensive statistics.

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