NBA Free Agency Frenzy Predictions

June 30, 2010

The Free Agent Class of 2010, is possibly the greatest class of free agents ever.  LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and  Chris Bosh headline a ridiculous class of talent. Other talents include Joe Johnson, Amar’e Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer, David Lee, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, and Rudy Gay.  Outside of Gay, all will be unrestricted free agents able to sign with whomever they please (that can, of course, afford them). With that said, here are some predictions on where they land:

LeBron James – Chicago: Chicago really is the perfect landing spot for LeBron. Its a great city with worldwide appeal, it has two great young talents in Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, they can sign LeBron and another max player, and they could contend instantly. Outside of going to Miami with Wade and Bosh, there is no other better choice for LeBron.

Chris Bosh – Chicago: Its assumed that Bosh goes wherever James does, so my two picks need to line up. Also, the perfect fit for Bosh too. He gets to play power forward and play next to a great defensive and rebounding center in Joakim Noah.  If it isn’t obvious yet, the Bulls are going to be the title favorites for quite some time.

Dwyane Wade – Miami: I don’t anyone expects Wade to leave Miami. In fact, he’s been lobbying free agents to join him in Miami.  The Heat can re-sign Wade and two other max contracts so the Heat look to be in good shape.

Joe Johnson – Atlanta: 24 hours ago I would have said New York. However, now Atlanta is throwing the 6 year max at Johnson so it appears that the Knicks may have to work out a sign and trade to acquire Johnson. The problem is that New York really doesn’t have any desirable talent. I’m guessing Johnson takes the most money and stays.

Amar’e Stoudemire – Miami: Stoudemire hinted in a recent tweet that he would be leaving Phoenix.  I think Miami wiffs on LeBron and Bosh, but there’s no way they end up with nothing. While Stoudemire can’t play defense or rebound, he’s an offensive force and will be a nice Robin to Wade’s Batman.

Carlos Boozer – New Jersey Nets: The Nets are actually a much more talented team than most realize.  Brook Lopez will be a stud center his entire career and Devin Harris is a talented point guard who flourished under Avery Johnson before.  Derrick Favors figures to be a talented power forward, but is nowhere near ready.  Boozer will produce until then and create a formidable frontline for the Nets.

David Lee – New York: Its highly possible the Knicks miss out on every major free agent.  David Lee is a solid 20/10 player every night, but in no way a franchise player.  The Knicks would have to renounce his rights in order to sign a second max contract, but until they are ready to do that they will retain his rights.  Doing so allows them to sign him for a 6th year and more money.

Rudy Gay – Miami: I can’t see Miami missing out on the opportunity to add two major pieces.  Gay is still only 23 and a solid scoring threat.  He probably isn’t good enough to be the 2nd option on a title contending team, but certainly good enough to be the 3rd scorer on such a team.  A Wade, Gay, and Stoudemire trio would be disgustingly athletic and with some pieces added around them ( a shooter and rebounder) they’d be a top contender.  The Clippers and Timberwolves also figure to be contenders to sign Gay.

Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce both opted out of their contracts just to resign for more in the long term.

Ultimately, the next few days are going to shape the NBA’s future for the next decade.  Nobody really knows what will happen, but it certainly be exciting.  As a Lakers fan, I just hope to avoid the James-Wade-Bosh triumvirate.


Lakers and Celtics Go To Game 7

June 16, 2010

The Lakers dominated Game 6 winning 89-67 to set up what is sure to be an intense Game 7.  There is really no point in dwelling upon Game 6.  The Celtics aren’t going to play anywhere near as laid back as they did in Game 6.  So what can we expect going in to Game 7?

There’s no point in looking back at the games in this series to make a prediction for Game 7.  None of these Games have been alike.  Pau and Kobe carried the Lakers in Game 1. Ray Allen put on a shooting clinic in Game 2 and Rondo had a triple double.  Game 3 say Ray Allen cool down like none other, with the Lakers grinding out a win in a slooooow game.  We saw Donkey and Shrek (Big Baby and Nate Robinson) win Game 4 with a fourth quarter explosion for the Celtics. In Game 5, Boston shot 56%, nobody outside of Kobe showed up for the Lakers and it was still somehow only a 6 point win for Boston.  Game 6 saw the Celtics effectively say, “Screw it, we’ll just show up for Game 7.”  Certainly a game similar to one of those six could happen in Game 7, but we’ve yet to really see a duplicate game.

It does look like Kendrick Perkins will be out for Game 7.  Perkins is believed to have strained his PCL and ACL and will get a MRI later to check for any ligament tears.  While Bynum will probably suit up and even start, both teams will essentially be without their starting centers for Game 7.  Doc Rivers has said that either Rasheed Wallace or Big Baby will start in place of Perkins, but regardless the Celtics lose frontline depth and length with Perkins injury.  This certainly will not help the Celtics cause.

Its worth noting that in the first half of Game 6, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett did all shoot well.  However, they did not get any help offensively, play defense well, or rebound well and that was how the Lakers opened up a 20 point halftime lead.  Rondo should play better in Game 7 as he was almost non-existent in Game 6.  While defense and rebounding will take a hit in Perkins’s absence, it should be better than it was in Game 6.  These will certainly help the Celtics cause.

These teams are both top quality and that’s why we’ve seen each team be able to win on the other’s court and mess up each other’s normal flow of play.  Either team would certainly be a worthy champion.  Ultimately, I believe the Lakers will win.  Losing Kendrick Perkins will be a big loss for the Celtics and the Lakers’s role players tend to play considerably better at home.

Izzo’s Indecisiveness Is Irritating

June 15, 2010

I can understand why Tom Izzo may have some difficulty deciding whether or not he wants to leave Michigan State for Cleveland.  At Michigan State, he is a legend.  He’ll never be fired and he seems to be the popular pick right now as the best coach in the nation.  Regardless of their regular season performance, nobody gets more out of their team come March.  In Cleveland, he’ll see his salary doubled and could coach the best player on the planet. Of course, said player may bolt during free agency as well.

Having said all that, Tom Izzo needs to make up his damn mind already.  This has been going on for a couple weeks now and its unfair to Michigan State, his players there, and the Cleveland Cavaliers.  The longer he waits the worse of a position he puts Michigan State in.  At this point in time, they would certainly have to just name an interim coach, but they can’t move on until Izzo makes his decision.  Until then, the school and team just sits in limbo hoping their coach returns.  Cleveland, on the hand, is seeing the list of potential head coaching candidates become smaller as they wait on Izzo’s answer.  If Izzo does choose to stay with the Spartans, the Cavaliers will be looking at a weaker pool of candidates to choose from.

The most annoying part is that Izzo clearly wants the job.  There’s no other reason for him to be still considering the job if he didn’t want it.  Izzo is said to be tired of recruiting in the college game.  His salary would also be doubled in Cleveland.  He’d also have an opportunity to add to his already sterling legacy.  And if he fails? He’d just be another failed college coach in the NBA.  He could right back to the college game and win some more.  Izzo has little to lose by going to Cleveland and obviously wants the job.

Unfortunately, I expect Izzo to keep playing the waiting game for some time.  Here’s to hoping that regardless of what decision he makes he is happy with it, because he has certainly spent enough time mulling it.  It’d be a shame to see him blow the decision with how much time he’s spent on it.

The Lakers Are Kind of Crappy For A Finals Team

June 14, 2010

Game 5 was like an old nightmare for Lakers fans.  It was like watching the old post-Shaq Lakers teams where Kobe had to put up ridiculous numbers to even have a chance to win the game.  When he’d heat up, opposing teams would double Kobe and make life a living hell.  The remaining four players would sit around, not move, and watch Kobe.  It resulted in horrible basketball and a whole lot of losses.  That was the same thing that happened tonight, except these Lakers are supposed to be talented.  They’re supposed to be champions.  Tonight, they were a joke of a basketball team.

Kobe was flat out unstoppable tonight in the second half, particularly the third quarter.  Boston came out on fire and the game was quickly spiraling out of control for the Lakers.  The Celtics had built up leads of 11 and 13 at different points.  But Kobe kept hitting shot after shot and the Lakers finished the 3rd quarter down a manageable 8 points.  It took a 19 point quarter just to keep the Lakers in the game.  That’s how horrible the Lakers were tonight.

Pau Gasol had earned the reputation of being a soft player after the way the Boston bigs owned him in the 2008 NBA Finals.  After Game 1, the media and others came to the consensus that Gasol had changed.  After tonight, its clear that Gasol hasn’t changed.  He is probably the most skilled big man in the world, but he just doesn’t have “it”.  While Gasol was the only other Laker in double digits tonight, he still only put up 12 points.  A side kick doesn’t have to dominate a game, but he does have to be an influential force and Gasol was anything but that tonight.

The Lakers don’t need offense from Ron Artest.  That was not why he was brought in.  He was brought in to be a tough, physical, perimeter defender so that Kobe could concentrate on running the offense for most of the game.  However, he was an utter failure when it came to that tonight.  Paul Pierce dominated the game and consequently the Boston offense ran like a well oiled machine.  Despite only having 92 points, the Celtics couldn’t have played better offensively and it all began with Pierce.  Not only was Artest horrible on defense, but offensively he was atrocious as well.  Artest shot 2-9 from the field, including 1-4 from the free throw line.  As badly as things went for the Lakers, had Artest made those 3 free throws he missed (all in crunch time) the Lakers would’ve been in a one possession game with just under 9 seconds to go.  On top of that, he allowed Rajon Rondo get away from him on an inbound play which allowed Ray Allen to shoot free throws instead.  Allen hit both, where as Rondo would have likely missed at least one.  These are the small things that got away from the Lakers tonight.  Unfortunately, many of the small mistakes came from one man, Ron Artest.

Derek Fisher was amazing in Game 3, where he took over in the fourth quarter to win the game damn near all by himself. Sadly, Derek Fisher is the only person in the entire world who hasn’t realized that was a fluke.  Too many times tonight he tried to create his own shot and wasted away a possession.  Derek Fisher has never been able to create his own shot.  His role on the Lakers has always to take open shots created by others.  He shot 2-9, but even worse killed many possessions that otherwise may have been successful.  If Fisher doesn’t get back to his old role, the Lakers offense will continue to struggle.

Somehow, despite how awful the Lakers were and how great the Celtics offense was, the Lakers still had an outside opportunity to win this game on the road.  It makes absolutely no sense as Boston was in control the entire second half.  The Lakers will not have the opportunity to steal away another win if they continue to play this way.  Gasol must step up and relieve the double and triple teams that Kobe saw in the second half.  Artest must play better defense on Pierce so that Boston’s offense can be limited.  Derek Fisher must get back the guy who only shoots the open shot.  The Lakers still can win this series if they play Lakers basketball.  The problem is, nobody has seen them do it this series yet.

The Funniest Video You’ll See All Day

June 11, 2010

Last night’s Lakers-Celtics game was very emotional and physical. Games 5,6, and possibly 7 promise to be even more emotional and physical.  Undoubtedly, the most emotional person last night was the mentally unstable Rasheed Wallace.  With that said, enjoy this video featuring Rasheed Wallace from last night.
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Boston Needs To Run If They Hope To Win Game 4

June 10, 2010

While the score of Game 3 may have indicated that it was a sloppy, poor played game it was much more to say that it was just a very slow game.  The play was at times both sloppy and poor, but both teams still averaged over a point per possession.  The Lakers had 83 possessions and the Celtics had 82.  In the regular season, the Lakers averaged 95 possessions in a game and the Celtics averaged 94.  Ultimately, this slow pace was very beneficial to the Lakers.  In order to win a pivotal Game 4, the Celtics must look to push the ball.

Rajon Rondo has quickly become of the league’s premier point guards.  Undoubtedly, he’s a top 4 point guard at the worst.  However, he can be limited in the half court offense.  Rondo still struggles at times to hit mid-range jumpers.  If his penetration is stopped (which, admittedly is difficult), his effectiveness is greatly reduced.  In the open court, Rondo has some of the best vision in the game.  He does a great job of setting up teammates for open shots.  On top of that, when Rondo has you one on one in the open court, odds are he’s going to make you look bad.  Rondo’s speed and quickness is otherworldly.  He’ll blow right past you for an easy two points.

Ray Allen also steps his game up in a quicker game.  In Game 2, the Celtics ran the court off misses and set up Allen for tons of open threes.  He hit 8 of them, including 7 in a row, to set a new NBA Finals record.  His ridiculous play won a must-win game for Boston in Game 2.  In Game 3, the play slowed down and Allen damn near set a  NBA Finals record for shooting futility.  While he’ll never play that bad again, Allen undoubtedly gets his best shots in the open court.

A third benefit is the easy points Kevin Garnett can gain to get him into a rhythm.  Game 3 started out quickly, with Garnett scoring 6 easy points.  It set up Garnett for one of the better games of his playoff career and he nearly earned a Finals win all by himself.  He may have done this even without the quick start, but it certainly got him into the game immediately.  Its an easy way to get the psychotic big into the game, which the Celtics need in order to negate the Lakers’s height advantage.

Finally, a break neck pace neutralizes Andrew Bynum.  Bynum started out Game 3 looking lost.  He was nothing short of awful.  While Phil Jackson worried that the quick turnaround from Game 2 to Game 3 would effect Bynum’s play, the pace of the game only compounded that concern.  However, as the game went on (and slowed down) Bynum become much more effective.  He didn’t match his play in Game 2, but he was able to provide some inside balance that the Lakers needed (partly because even Gasol’s points came from 15-18 feet out.)  As noted earlier, the Lakers have a height advantage and one way to take that away is to increase the pace of the game.

Ultimately, I still think the Lakers are slightly better than the Celtics.  The fact that they were able to slow down the game from its early fast pace is a testament to this.  That said, it is imperative that Celtics don’t allow that to happen again if they want to win Game 4 and this series.

Paul Pierce’s Struggles Are Bringing Down The Celtics

June 9, 2010

Game 3 of these NBA Finals was just different.  Kevin Garnett suddenly looked youthful, Ray Allen had the most absurd turnaround in maybe NBA history, Kobe shot like crap, and Derek Fisher took the game over by himself in the fourth quarter.  As a team, the Celtics even outscored the Lakers 50-38 in points in the paint and had 7 more assists and still lost.  Just weird, awkward stuff that probably shouldn’t be expected to happen again.

However, Boston’s biggest issue is that Paul Pierce is flat out playing awful basketball right now.  At first, it was logical to assume that this was due to Ron Artest and his defense.  Artest has played great shutdown defense in the playoffs.  He shut down Kevin Durant in the 1st round, in a series where the rest of the Thunder played well enough to win.  While Durant did average 25 points a game, it was on 35% shooting and 28% from three.  Those numbers were down from 30 points a game on 47% shooting and 36% from three.  Artest played a huge role in that 1st round series win.

In much the same way, Artest had appeared to be shutting down Pierce in Games 1 and 2.  Tonight, it became obvious that it was more than just Artest’s defense.  Artest had 2 fouls tonight within the first 2 minutes of the game.  This meant that for much of the 1st half Paul Pierce would be defended by Luke Walton, which should have been an easy way for the Celtics to get Pierce into the rhythm that he had not found yet in the 1st games of the series.  Not only did Pierce not find that rhythm, it seemed like the Celtics didn’t even bothered helping Pierce get into it.  This would have been the perfect time to force feed Pierce plenty of isolation plays and run some screens to get him some easy open shots.  Instead, the Celtics went continued playing basketball as if Ron Artest was still defending Pierce.  Pierce finished the 1st half with one field goal, and finished the game with 15 points many of which were cheap points made with the game decided.

Ultimately, the Celtics need Paul Pierce to get going.  While Rondo is the Celtics best player, Pierce is the most important one.  The offense needs him to be able to penetrate effectively and spread the court with some deep shots.  When this happens, the whole offense falls into place.  The reason why the Celtics won the NBA title in 2008 was not because they were tougher than the Lakers, but because Pierce abused Vladimir Radmonovic and Lamar Odom.  That has not been happening so far this series and its why the Celtics probably need to win the next two games to keep their title hopes alive.  If Pierce doesn’t get going, he might be right that the Celtics “ain’t coming back to LA.”