It’s tough being the Orlando Magic. The Boston Celtics are like their older sibling in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics players collectively are older, more experienced, more successful, and have been playing together longer as a unit. The Miami Heat are like the younger sibling. They are new and exciting and even casual basketball fans are watching their every move to see how they grow. Then we have Orlando, stuck in the middle, crying “hey hey, pay attention to me, I’m here too!!” while the older and younger brothers are riding high and getting all of the praise and attention with 13 and 12 game win streaks respectively. So like many kids with “middle child syndrome” just fighting for some love, the Magic acted out in the most rebellious of ways and shook the core of their roster with a couple of blockbuster trades.
You could sense that the pressure was building in Orlando with their good but not great 16-10 record and an increasingly unhappy superstar in Dwight Howard. We all knew that some kind of move was gonna happen, but the magnitude of it was certainly unexpected. For Orlando (Gained: Hedo Turkoglu, Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, Earl Clark. Lost: Rashard Lewis,Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat, Mickael Pietrus), anyone who is inclined to gamble would not hesitate to bet money on the fact they are not done dealing and will try to acquire some size to either pair with or backup Dwight Howard and possibly some defensive help along with it. If they don’t make more moves this trade would be downright puzzling. Division rival Miami Heat’s glaring weakness is their lack of size and power. One of the Magic’s major advantages was its size, height, and depth at the center and forward positions. Marcin Gortat had been a very valuable talent in the playoffs when filing in for Superman and his loss will be felt. Not pursing another trade for one or more big men would be catastrophic come playoff time, since the Celtics have a roster of giants, and playing down to the Heat’s size without capable perimeter defenders is about as sound a strategy as stealing their sneakers.
On the positive side, getting Hedo Turkoglu back represents the kind of second chance most teams wish they had and don’t get. He was an absolutely integral part of their last Finals run and they obviously missed him and the matchup problems he presents in last years playoffs. It remains to be seen how they will integrate Gilbert Arenas in with Jameer Nelson, but J-Rich should provide some good scoring punch, that is if he is not just a temporary rental for a future trade. If The Baller Guru had to grade this trade for the Magic, it would be an incomplete, since common sense says another trade is coming for some size.
While we’re grading, the Phoenix Suns (Gained: Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat, Mickael Pietrus. Lost: Hedo Turkoglu , Jason Richardson, Earl Clark) get an A+ for their role in the trade since not only do they not lose any offensive production – Vince Carter’s stats could easily replace Jason Richardson’s – on top of that they got a talented big man in Gortat that they sorely desperately needed, and a very capable wing defender and shooter in Pietrus. The Washington Wizards deserve an A as well for their part, since they finally can move on from the shadow of Agent Zero and can build toward the future with John Wall, while pairing him with Rashard Lewis’s talents very nicely.
So the middle child Magic got some attention after all and are the talk of the league just like they had hoped. Now they are stockpiled with talent at every position and then some, and will probably continue to tweak/upgrade before February. Whether it all works out remains to be seen but at least the Magic can be happy that they will be part of the conversation at the Eastern Conference family dinner table.
Tags: Boston Celtics, Dwight Howard, Earl Clark, Gilbert Arenas, Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson, Marcin Gortat, Miami Heat, Mickael Pietrus, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns, Rashard Lewis, Trades, Vince Carter, Washington Wizards
Posted in Trade Talk | Comments Off
So the season isn’t going how all of the Heat fans, observers, and even haters alike thought it would. They aren’t on track to win 73 games. They aren’t dominating anyone, even the mediocre teams. So its time to start panicking, right? Time to fire Coach Spo, right? Time to re-evaluate the entire plan from top to bottom?
No, no, and no. We are only 17 games into an 82 game season and the Heat are 9-8. If the season were to end today, the Heat would be the 6th seed in the playoffs. They are not 4-13. Hell, if the season ended today, their record would even make the playoffs in the Western Conference right now! Does anyone honestly think the players are worrying? It is no real secret that the Big 3 are confident, most might say even cocky players. The only way these guys would ever get worried is if they were in danger of missing the playoffs, which in the East is as far from reality as the Winter Olympics being held in Florida. These stars know they can turn it on in the playoffs. They also knew when they put his band together that they probably wouldn’t roll through everyone in the regular season this year until they learned to adjust and play together night after night. Sure, LeBron opened the flood gates that is his mouth and predicted title after title after title, but he never once predicted breaking regular season records or finishing the number 1 seed or being 17-0 at this point in the season. Instead it seems the Heat superstars have the Shaq mentality – the regular season is just a means to get to the playoffs, where the real games begin and you finally dial your effort and intensity up to 100%. As much as they are struggling now, if you hooked up LeBron, Wade, or Bosh to a polygraph and asked them if they thought they could win a championship this year regardless of playoff seeding, chances are each one would not hesitate to answer yes and the detector needle would probably not even quiver. That is the level of confidence these stars have.
But while the players are confident, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are happy with the coaching. Rumors are bound to focus on the man with the biggest microscope on him, Erik Spoelstra. After all, much is being made of LeBron’s bump of Spoelstra during Saturday night’s loss to Dallas, which has the media signaling the unravelling of the Heat. Following that are reports from ESPN Monday morning of rising tension between the players and their coach, with the players unhappy with Spoelstra’s “tough” treatment, and going so far as to question his strategies and play calling. News flash: coaches and players don’t always get along and agree on everything, especially when things are not all hunky-dory. Phil Jackson called Kobe “uncoachable” and routinely criticizes his franchise player’s shot selection and they are only the 2-time defending NBA champions. Even if LeBron’s bump was intentional, that doesn’t mean Pat Riley is sharpening his axe and prepping his clipboard. Pat Riley may indeed have the itch to coach again, but he has repeatedly stated ad nauseum that he does not miss the daily grind of coaching and traveling that can exhaust even the workhorses. Riley as much as anyone knows that chemistry takes time to develop and you can’t just throw a team together from scratch and expect it to gel immediately. Plus, the ESPN report brings out a valid point in that Riley is known to work his players into the ground, and many players such as Wade who know this firsthand may not be ready for the ship to sail in this direction quite yet.
The Baller Guru’s Ball-Wise Bottom Line:
Losing breeds discontent between players and coaches, players and management, and even players and other players. The Heat will never be in any danger of missing the playoffs. The only way Pat Riley will return to the bench is if the players themselves begin to completely tune out Erik Spoelstra. Riley believes in his young coach but only while he has control of the team. In 2 years when the Heat will be owning the top seed in the East, regardless of who is coaching, all the folks who are panicking and worrying now will have forgotten this stretch of difficulty even happened.
Tags: Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Erik Spoelstra, LeBron James, Miami Heat, Pat Riley
Posted in Analysis, General Commentary | 1 Comment »
Now that we are a few weeks into the NBA regular season, we can get a clearer picture of who will win the major awards when the 2010-2011 is in the books since we’ve actually seen everyone play and not just imagined it in our heads or made conclusions based on preseason games. Instead of making random wild picks before the season starts, The Baller Guru thinks now is the best time to make predictions about all of the official awards such as MVP, Rookie of the Year, etc, as well as some fictional awards and even some anti-awards…
Most Valuable Player:
Allen Iverson….maybe in Turkey. This years MVP race will be more of a season long race than in the past as there are 3-5 legitimate candidates. Voters will be reluctant to name LeBron MVP again because his points per game total are lower than his MVP seasons past and due to the fact that he plays with the a mini All-Star team. Paul Gasol is by far the Lakers MVP right now, but come on, nobody will dare vote Gasol over Kobe (*gasp!*) for an MVP nod. Kevin Durant comes to mind but The Baller Guru believes he is still one year away from an MVP award. Dwight Howard will stay in contention until seasons end. But after all is said and done, it will be Chris Paul as MVP of the 2010-11 season. Thats right, CP3 is the absolute key player on a team that nobody thought would be playing this well. Add in the factors that he is auditioning for possible new teams whether through trade or free agency in 2012 (*cough* NY *cough*), and wanting to prove his recent injury issues are behind him, and he has plenty of motivation to win the award.
Rookie of the Year:
Before the season, this was billed as John Wall vs. Blake Griffin since NBA rules allow for Griffin to be classified as a rookie. John Wall is the sexy pick here but a few weeks ago The Baller Guru would have gone with Blake the Snake based his rare combination of size and athletic ability, and his vital role with LA. The problem is that the Clips are off to one of their worst starts ever, and that is saying a lot since it’s the Clippers we’re talking about here. Griffin could have all the fancy stats in the world this season but if the Clippers finish at or near the bottom of the league, it won’t matter since it didn’t help them get wins. The Washington Wizards aren’t exactly the Lakers in comparison, but they had much lower expectations going into the season and will probably be in the equation for a final playoff spot in the East. Provided he can stay mostly healthy John Wall will win the Rookie of the Year award because he will put up the stats, enough wins, and is viewed as the unquestioned leader of Wizards.
Defensive Player of the Year:
Dwight Howard – Seriously, no analysis needed, can you honestly name one player who actually can win it over him? Before you say it, no, J-Smoove will not beat out Superman. Howard may even come close to a Jordan-ian MVP/Defensive Player combo.
Sixth Man of the Year:
This is the yearly Manu Ginobili, Jason Terry, Jamal Crawford debate. This season toss in Steve Blake, and maybe even Serge Ibaka. This year’s winner will be and should be Jason Terry. The fact is, no sixth man is better or more valuable to their team’s success than Terry, who could be a starter anywhere else. Not too many other sixth men are given the ball during crunch time in the 4th quarter to close out games like Terry.
Most Improved Player:
It’s not uncommon for a trade to occur or a free agency move made that causes a 6th, 7th, or 8th man to be thrust into either a starting role or just get a significant boost in minutes. Its usually from this pool that we get our Most Improved Player candidates since they seemingly come out of nowhere to shock everybody with their game (except the coaches/management who usually figured this would happen, hence trading away the person in front of them). This years 2 standouts are Paul Millsap and Kevin Love. Millsap’s “holy crap” moment came when he dropped 46 on the Heat, including 8 points in the final 12 seconds of regulation to lead the Jazz to a win on Miami’s home floor. Love’s knock you out of your seat moment was an in your face 31 point and a beastly 31 rebound performance against the Knicks, the first 30/30 game in almost 30 years. Both players deserve this award, but The Baller Guru predicts that Paul Millsap will win it.
Most Improved Team:
New Jersey Nets – The Baller Guru knows what you’re thinking: “Well, duh, they won 12 games last year, coming in anything but last would be a success this year!” While this is true, the Nets have completely changed their entire culture. Everything from top to bottom is new from ownership to coaching to arena and 90% of the roster. The effort and heart that was missing last year is there this year and the Nets are all fight in the 4th quarter this season. If in doubt go back and look at footage of the Nets preseason game in which they came back from 7 points down in the final 15 SECONDS to beat the Sixers. Sure that may have been the preseason, but it was a strong indicator of a vastly improved team. By seasons end, the Nets will win at least 30 games and valiantly fight for the final playoff spot.
Denver Nuggets – At the time of this writing, the Nuggets are sitting at .500, pretty disappointing for such a talented team with high expectations. The problem is, this is before Carmelo Anthony has been traded. Make no mistake, Melo WILL be traded before the deadline. Palm trees will grow in Denver before the Nuggets lose him in free agency without something, anything…cap relief, draft picks, prospects…in return. After the trade is done, it will be all downhill in the Rockies this season (sorry, pun fully intended).
Coach of the Year:
Jerry Sloan – Viewed by itself, replacing Carlos Boozer with Al Jefferson should result in a downgrade for the Utah Jazz and therefore less success. However, Jerry Sloan is an alchemist that knows better than anyone how to turn the situation into gold. With a combination of Jefferson and the emergence of Paul Millsap, Sloan creates a system that commands and produces success no matter what. The fact that Coach Sloan has never won this award is an embarrassment of Jar-Jarian magnitude (thank you Comic Book Guy for that hilarious quote). That will end this year. After losing one of the years top free agents and still staying right in the thick of the Western conference race, voters will finally give Jerry Sloan his painfully overdue award.
Goat of the Year:
Every year somebody, whether a player, a coach, or a GM, undeservedly gets the blame or even the boot because things didn’t quite go as planned. Usually it happens on a team with very high expectations. Now who has the highest expectations? Hmmm, who expects not 1 title, not 2 titles……not 6 titles, not 7…you get the picture. Thanks to LeBron’s little prediction, he single handedly sent Miami’s expectations from high to astronomical. But that doesn’t mean he’s gonna be the goat if season 1 doesn’t end in a parade through South Beach though. If you take a poll, many folks would quickly pencil in Chris Bosh here because of his numbers this year so far vs years past. On the contrary, Bosh has been playing fairly solid basketball though, especially considering who his teammates are, and he alone cannot make up for the Heat’s overall size deficiency, although he could stand to bang a little more down low when needed. Coach Spoelstra? General opinion has this as just a matter of time before Coach Spo becomes the goat so Czar Riley can come back to the bench. The Baller Guru doesn’t see this happening this season either though. Instead, after all the the build up about the Heat, this season’s goat will probably not be from the Heat at all, and end up being Vinny Del Negro if the Clippers can’t turn it around by midseason. In the era of instant gratification, this is sad but true. The Baller Guru will go one step further though and proclaim that next season’s goat will be Erik Spoelstra.
Executive of the Year:
Um, hello? Do we even need to discuss this? An Oceans Eleven heist plan couldn’t have netted more than Pat Riley did this offseason.
Tags: Allen Iverson, Blake Griffin, Chris Bosh, Chris Paul, Denver Nuggets, Erik Spoelstra, Jason Terry, Jerry Sloan, John Wall, Josh Smith, Kevin Love, LeBron James, Miami Heat, New Jersey Nets, New Orleans Hornets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Orlando Magic, Pat Riley, Paul Millsap, Trades, Utah Jazz, Vinny Del Negro
Posted in Analysis, General Commentary | 2 Comments »
The start of the NBA season is finally here, so there is no better time than the NBA tip-off day for The Baller Guru’s ball-wise predictions on how the season will unfold…
Atlantic Division: Boston Celtics – Yes they are a team that should probably be playing in Jurassic Park rather than the TD Garden, and their overall record at the end of the season may be nothing flashy, but face it, they have no real competition to win the division.
Central Division: Chicago Bulls – And so ends the reign of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Without their King, the peasants will be more competitive than people give them credit for, but not nearly close enough to overtake the re-vamped Chicago Bulls. Carlos Boozer may be out for a few months, but this team has more than enough talent to make up for it until his return. Milwaukee will be scratching at the Bulls’ heels, and although the Bucks will be a playoff team, they won’t be able to win the division.
Southeast Division: Miami Heat – And so begins The Battle of Florida between the Heat and the Orlando Magic, the start of an excellent rivalry that will harken back to the great Knicks/Heat rivalry of the late 90s. This is going to be a blast to watch for years to come with plenty of highlight reel moments. But the race to win the division doesn’t just come down to a few head-to-head match-ups and Miami will win more overall games this year and take the division.
Northwest Division: Oklahoma City Thunder – The NW might be the toughest division in the league when you consider the Denver Nuggets, Portland Trail Blazers, and Utah Jazz (sorry T-Wolves, you are like the freshmen invited to the party of seniors just so they can pick on you). The Baller Guru still believes that Carmelo Anthony will fly like a G6 from the Nuggets at some point before the trade deadline, probably sooner, so Denver will lose some serious scoring power. OKC and their golden boy have nowhere to go but up and will improve on their 50-win season to top the Blazers and Jazz in the division.
Pacific Division: Los Angeles Lakers – Much like the Celtics, the Lakers have no real competition here for the division title. The Phoenix Suns will be much better than everyone thinks post-Amaré, but it still won’t be enough to win the division, even over a banged-up Lakers.
Southwest Division: Dallas Mavericks – Not quite as tight as the Northwest, but this will be a fun division to watch as well. The Baller Guru sincerely hopes Yao Ming can stay healthy to keep the Houston Rockets in the playoff picture. Chris Paul will play lights out for the New Orleans Hornets coming back from injury to maximize his free agent contract value for next summer when he bolts to NY. The San Antonio Spurs will be playoff ready come April, but will lumber through the season with one injury or another to keep them from winning the division. Dallas is just too stacked with talent and a good mix of youth and experience and will easily win the SW.
Eastern Conference Champions: Boston Celtics – Go ahead, admit it, you expected this to say Miami Heat. After all, everybody and their dog has already started fitting them for rings. The Heat’s time will come soon, but as written in a previous post, the Celtics sheer size will overcome a head-to-head playoff match-up this season. Same goes for Orlando vs the Heat, but the Magic just doesn’t have enough weapons that will come through in the clutch in a tough fought playoff series vs the Celtics. Doc Rivers will sacrifice regular season glory (if there is such a thing) to make sure all the leaves of the shamrock are in place for the playoffs.
Western Conference Champions: Los Angeles Lakers – Enjoy it Lakers fans, because within the next few years this pick will say OKC Thunder. But right now, the Western Conference consists of the Lakers…and then the 2nd tier of playoff teams that are all very competitive (Spurs, Mavs, Thunder, Suns, Blazers, Jazz), but not enough to, as the sign says, Beat LA.
2010-2011 NBA Finals Champions: Boston Celtics – Now you are pissed, aren’t you Lakers fans? You read it correctly, The Baller Guru is picking the Boston Celtics to win in another dream rematch of the NBA’s version of Clash of the Titans. The Celtics were 5 points away from a championship last season. Five. If Kendick Perkins did not get injured, this series may have had a very different outcome. Perkins may not be an All-Star or the second coming of Bill Russell, but his size and defensive presence was absolutely pivotal against the oversized Lakers, and in such a close game 7, that does make a difference. The Celtics are prepared this season with enough big bodies to field a D-line in football, and a much healthier Kevin Garnett will remind everyone that the Celtics may be geezers, but they supremely talented at all positions, well coached, and loaded with new ammo.
Tags: Boston Celtics, Carmelo Anthony, Chicago Bulls, Chris Paul, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, New Orleans Hornets, Oklahoma City Thunder, Orlando Magic, Portland Trailblazers, San Antonio Spurs, Utah Jazz
Posted in Analysis | 4 Comments »
The Baller Guru was reading a recent article by Charley Rosen called “Things I Hate About The NBA” when one point in particular really jumped out of the page. Rosen wrote as one of the things he hates:
Players who indulge in adolescent macho antics during games. The preeners, biceps-flexers, chest-thumpers and powder-puffers. Yes, we all saw your dunk/block/3-pointer/whatever. Yes, we all know how wonderful you are. But why not act as though dunking, shot-blocking, successful treys, etc. are things you have done before? Even worse, their common excuse for committing these foolish deeds is they’re psyching themselves up. Say what? Millionaire athletes need to act like fools to get their chops up to play in highly competitive ballgames? Nonsense. Actually, the only antic that delights me is Kevin Garnett banging his head against the padded backboard support before games. Hey, anything to get his brain cells working.
Ok the KG line was pretty funny, and The Baller Guru thoroughly enjoys reading your usual commentary, but Charley, you need to join us in 2010. Players aren’t just psyching themselves up like a narcissist in a house of mirrors, they are psyching the fans up too. As a Nets fan, The Baller Guru used to love how Kenyon Martin would explode in celebration after a thunderous dunk and so did the rest of the crowd. It sounded like the entire building won the lottery. The arena was so loud and raucous from the fans cheering and screaming that the other team could barely dribble the ball, let alone carry out a carefully crafted play, sometimes even calling a timeout to regroup. It is like the touchdown celebration in football. Fans absolutely love them (at least when it’s one of their team’s players), and the players loved to push the envelope in terms of creativity in the endzone to delight the onlookers. When the NFL started cracking down on these hilarious displays, it’s no wonder that people started calling it the “No Fun League”.
Mr. Rosen, The Baller Guru completely agrees that sports in their purest form are a truly wonderful thing. It is absolutely amazing watching the best basketball players in the world, as Larry Brown would say, play the right way, carry out complex offensive schemes and then hustle back to play intense lockdown man or zone defense. Fans everywhere appreciate watching an elite big man with drill-bit-like pivot moves, or a point guard that can run a flawless pick-and-roll and still crossover so well that it looks like the ball can’t make up its mind. But people don’t just watch the NBA or sports in general just for the pure game anymore, they watch for entertainment as well. They watch for an escape, stress relief, to get pumped up, or to just enjoy their favorite team in action. In other words, they watch for the basketball, and for the fun. When a player on your team flexes biceps, thump chests, wags his fingers, or screams at the top of his lungs to celebrate a dunk or a shot or a block, fans rooting for that team, whether in the arena or on tv, feel a sense of pride and love it. When it’s a player on the opposing team, they love to boo and hate them because no one can argue that a rivalry is not entertaining as well. If you think a little crowd-hyping lessens the game, then you must despise the All-Star game and weekend….oh wait, that actually is one of the points you mention in your column….hmmm nevermind.
The simple fact is that the macho antics, as you referred to it, are just plain fun. Basketball is entertaining in any form, but it is human nature to enjoy theatrics and action. Muscle flexing and chest thumping aside, from a pure basketball standpoint it is no mystery why fans adored watching the run-and-gun “7 seconds or less” Phoenix Suns more than the methodical and fundamentally sound San Antonio Spurs no matter how great they were. From an entertainment standpoint, yes, sometimes players can go to far, but some well-timed showboating has nothing to do with players being spoiled millionaires, or needing it as an excuse to play competitively. It is a symbiotic relationship where the player feeds the crowd with some playful grandstanding, the crowd responds with deafening cheers, and the team in turn feeds off the fans’ energy to raise their level of play. It is bad enough that the NBA is now cracking down so hard that Wally and The Beaver would be hit with technical fouls. While the basketball purists will always be there to watch the game, a little harmless fun will keep the casual fan interested as well and maybe draw them further in, which is good for the league. Please, the next time you see Kevin Garnett pounding his chest after a dunk, or Dwyane Wade jumping on the scorers table screaming “This is my house!” (even though he’ll have roommates now) after a buzzer-beating shot, just take a moment to look around and watch all the smiles and laughs in the stands, the sports bars, or the living rooms before petitioning to change the NBA into the Now Boring Association.
Tags: Dwyane Wade, Entertainment, Kevin Garnett, Sports Columns
Posted in Analysis, General Commentary | 3 Comments »
Love em or hate em, the Miami Heat are the most [insert your adjective here] topic in the NBA right now, so in honor of the new-look Heat’s first public spectacle…err, preseason game (LeBron – 18 pts, Bosh – 20 pts, Wade – gimpy hamstring in 3 mins), enjoy as The Baller Guru sheds his light on the subject…
This team is truly, madly, deeply drool-worthy on paper. You have 3 of the leagues current top 10 scorers that are among the best at their respective positions in just the very beginning of their primes. Make no mistake, Pat Riley is a true wizard to orchestrate this – he is the Dumbledore to the Big Three’s Harry, Ron, and Hermione (you can choose who is who). When questions about the center position come up, the natural answer is “well, the Bulls won 6 titles with such flashy names as Bill Wennington, Luc Longley, and Will Purdue” (the “Bang Gang” if you will, according to one t-shirt). It seems like you can plug Mini Me into this lineup and still win a championship.
The Big Three
The concept of a big three is nothing new, although it has probably been somewhat diluted with every team including your kid’s peewee team calling their top 3 players the big three regardless of how they stack up against the rest of the league. Boston’s trio of Garnett/Pierce/Allen and San Antonio’s Duncan/Ginobili/Parker are just the more recent examples of bona fide Big 3s. So what make’s the Heat’s version different? Superstars usually come together at the tail end of their careers when they desperately want to win a championship and know they can’t carry their team alone any longer. While this may be true of LeBron and Bosh as well, they are not even close to the end of their careers. This is a unique example of 3 proven superstar prime-talent franchise players coming together on their own to take over the league. There are no questions about age, health, or loss of productivity here as their were with KG and Ray Allen. They weren’t drafted by the same team and happen to develop together like the Spurs. This is the All-Star team as a franchise.
This leads us to everyone’s predictions. Championships? LeBron himself predicted not 5, not 6, not 7…you get the picture. Records? Fans and journalists alike have the Heat besting the Chicago Jordans’ 72 win season. The greatest team of all time? Even some haters admit it could happen although they’ll tell you it won’t.
The common thread that the layman and playman alike agree upon is that in order for any of these grand predictions to materialize, the Heat’s Big 3 will need to put their ego’s aside and sacrifice parts of their game, point totals, and any individual accolades in order to achieve championship glory.
Check Egos? Sacrifice? Why?
The Baller Guru finds the assertion that the Big 3 will have to check their egos and sacrifice their individual games to win just downright silly. This isn’t like a trade or a draft like those that forced Shaq and Kobe to coexist like a flame and a pot of water, or a max contract that ignited an “I’m the man” rift between Garnett and Marbury. This is three players that willingly took less money each to purposefully play together, not by force or accident. They are bonded through among other things being drafted minutes from each other, enjoying All-Star weekends together, and winning Olympic Gold. In other words, they are friends, and they created this merger. Like He-Man, they had the power. Rather than having to check ego’s, they will come to the table, having thought about the expectations and reality, as one combined GINORMOUS ego that will be golden for Miami, but a nightmare for other teams (and a dream for the media).
Instead of sacrificing the way they play the game, each player brings a unique skill set that will complement and strengthen each other. Each is a prolific passer as proven by their assists, especially when faced with a double team. Wade is the most gifted natural scorer on this team so chances are, he will have the highest point total. Bosh will likely face the least double-teams of the three and still average at least 23 ppg while increasing his rebounding numbers where they need him badly as well as his assists through passing out of the post. LeBron may indeed shave off a few points per game from his average, but will only increase his assist and rebounding totals to the point where he may actually pull off the O-Rob-ian feat of averaging a triple-double as many have predicted. They each will play the staunch defense that they are known for, and get their less-hyped teammates involved since defenses will all but forget they are on the court. Is is not hard to imagine each of the Big 3 averaging 20+ points and 5+ assists per game. So on the contrary to sacrifice, The Baller Guru predicts individual accolades to pile up due to the different match up conundrums they bring against each team.
A Bumpy Ride
The Heat are dancing and laughing now and have the swagger of a team that feels like it will sail through the season and sweep through through the playoffs. Lets introduce some turbulence to the flight. Yeah, sure, the Miami Heat will probably steamroll 90% of their opponents and even into the first round of the playoffs. But that is where the party will be crashed. Teams like Boston and Orlando are trash-talking the Heat with good reason. Size IS a problem for the Heat. The Bang Gang 2 of Big Z, Magloire, Haslem, Joel Anthony, and the 100-million-dollar-man Juwan Howard are not exactly the best big-man-by-committee in the league, and shifting Chris Bosh to center is a play against his natural game. What will the Heat do when Doc Rivers rolls out an oversized Celtics lineup of Shaq, Jermaine O’Neal, Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen on to the floor. This combo can get you both inside and outside scoring and make defense an ordeal for the Heat. When Miami has the ball, the Celtics big bodies will clog the lanes and are still capable of playing perimeter D. One would think that the solution is for Miami to go with a more run-and-gun, fast-paced offense to counter this, but good luck getting enough rebounds to ignite the fast break and make a difference. In situations like this the Heat will be reduced to a group of extremely high-paid jump shooters where high percentage shooting will be absolutely critical. You can echo this situation if Orlando decides to march out an ad-hoc lineup of Dwight Howard, Marcin Gortat, Rashard Lewis, Vince Carter, and Jameer Nelson while switching Brandon Bass and J.J. Redick in and out. At this point, if Miami happens to overcome these East powers, good luck handling the Lakers skyscraper front line, all while containing Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher’s hot hand. Needless to say, coaching will be the key here to make adjustments against lineups like these example scenarios, and it is these game plans that will determine whether it will be Erik Spoelstra or Pat Riley on the bench after 1-2 seasons.
The Measure Of Success
In the end for this grand experiment to be considered a success, multiple championships need to be won. The Baller Guru doesn’t think it has to be any specific number like 4 or 8 for example, but there are a few measuring sticks that the Heat will be compared against for years to come. The Jordan Bulls of course come to mind first and foremost with their 6 titles in 8 seasons. Then there are the Lakers, who are one title away from sandwiching the first decade of this millennium in 3-peats. But it doesn’t all come down to only repeats and 3-peats always. The Spurs, who at one point were winning an NBA title every other year while racking up 4 titles in 9 seasons should, if not would, receive a mention in a conversation about dynasties. And that is exactly what the Miami Heat want to be – a dynasty…no, scratch that, THE Dynasty. Could they pull it off and become the G.O.A.T? It’s undeniable that the possibility exists if they stay relatively injury-free. 2 out of the 3 stars will have to be healthy at any given time to go all the way.
Also, one factor to keep in mind is the timing of all of this: the Heat are coming together at a period when Kobe has a limited shelf life and Garnett, Pierce, and Allen aren’t reversing the clock either. The Heat’s youth and experience will be moving them upwards when many of the current powerhouse teams will be on the downward slope of the mountain. In a few years, while the rest of the league will be trying to build teams to challenge Miami, the Heat will have gelled and developed chemistry on the floor that will only make them more dominant and intimidating.
The Baller Guru’s Ball-Wise Bottom Line
The Heat will win 4 titles in the next 6 years, although probably not this season while they are still in the feeling out process. They will also win 74 games in a single season to set a new mark within the next 6 years as well. Aging elite players everywhere will constantly fill out the roster for minimum contracts and Shaq will consider trying to join in at age 40 and become the NBA’s Brett Favre. The Big 3 will sign contract extensions with the Heat and finish with 7-8 championships for their career which could last another 12-14 years. We will see a Miami Heat vs OKC Thunder NBA Finals at some point in the future.
Tags: Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Miami Heat, Pat Riley
Posted in Analysis | 4 Comments »
In a recent interview with CNN, LeBron James expressed that he thinks race was a factor in the backlash he received after “The Decision” aired on ESPN. Dude, really? Please LeBron, if during the mid-1980s Larry Bird decided to make a one-hour TV special to announce to the world that that he was leaving Boston in free agency and taking his talents to Hollywood to join Magic, Worthy, Kareem and the Showtime LA Lakers, he would have received just as much heat (no pun intended).
Earlier this week, Yahoo! Sports reported that some former Nets players were badmouthing the Nets and their home city and state to Carmelo Anthony and discouraging him from joining the team. FanHouse followed up by naming Jason Kidd as one of these “advisors”. Kidd, as expected, called the report BS and in fact denies even having any of Melo’s contact info (this The Baller Guru finds a little far-fetched). The Baller Guru will not jump to any conclusions on whether or not Kidd is telling the truth, but will offer these thoughts: Jason Kidd’s stint with the Nets made him a mega-star MVP candidate max player, gave him 6 straight playoffs and his only 2 finals appearances, and later when he wanted out they traded him to a title contender. Last season’s stinkaroo aside, the Nets have been one of the more successful teams of the past decade. For Kidd or any former player to trash the Nets or where they play after all of this, you would really put the “ass” in classless.
Gilbert Arenas ran through the Wizards Media Day without so much as cracking a joke or flashing a smile. Looks like the Hibachi went cold. This will last about as long as the Rockets playing Yao Ming 24 minutes a night.
If you haven’t noticed, ESPN’s sports talk show “Around The Horn” is now “Travelers Around The Horn…brought to you by Travelers Insurance” (just in case you didn’t realize the first time they said it). Looks like that’s how they paid for their nice little HD upgrade. Its only a matter of time before PTI becomes “Pardon The Burger King Interruption (….brought to you by Burger King)” with Reali in a King costume while judging OddsMakers.
And lets end with the most game-changing, blockbuster announcement this week — The NBA will now mandate that coaches must wear a collared shirt under their suit jacket. No more turtlenecks or mocknecks, which means Stan Van Gundy will look about 1% less like Ron Jeremy now.
Tags: Gilbert Arenas, LeBron James, NBA Rules, New Jersey Nets, Sports Shows
Posted in Analysis, General Commentary | Comments Off
When interviewed for the Denver Nuggets Media Day, Carmelo Anthony told everyone “I’ve never said I wanted to be traded.” He didn’t have to say it – rejecting the 3-year $65 million extension the Nuggets offered speaks volumes.
Everybody now knows of the potential blockbuster trade to send seemingly the only member of the 2003 draft class to not join the Miami Heat, Carmelo Anthony, to the New Jersey Nets in a four team deal involving the Charlotte Bobcats and Utah Jazz. Well, apparently that trade is now dead because the Nuggets reportedly realized that they would actually be taking on MORE salary for this season after the trade and paying the luxury tax for it as well. Can’t blame the Nuggets for balking at that, but a new trade can still happen if teams play their cards right. Before getting into the details, some important points have to be considered:
- Carmelo Anthony does not want to sign the 3-year $65 million extension the Nuggets have offered.
- Obviously the Nuggets don’t want to trade Anthony, but would rather trade him now and move on than wait to lose him for nothing/little in free agency.
- Melo’s reported list of preferred teams is the Bulls or Knicks, followed by the Nets if deals with the other 2 teams can’t be done. He would reportedly sign an extension with any of these teams.
- Melo prefers a major media market with more entertainment biz opportunities for his wife LaLa Vasquez.
- If Carmelo waits until free agency next summer, he may get less money due to the uncertainty of the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, so financially a trade now makes more sense for him.
- Any trade is completely contingent on Anthony signing an extension so he doesn’t just bolt his new team next summer as a free agent, unless the trade partner is willing to take the risk of essentially renting Melo for one season.
So considering all of the information out there lets take a look at this from the point of view of the major participants…
In a perfect situation, Melo would pull a LeBron and wait until next summer, then just take his talents to New York, but due to point #5 above a sign and trade with the 3-year $65 million extension the Nuggets offered is his best choice. The Knicks do not have any pieces Denver wants and the Bulls are unwilling to trade the main piece the Nuggets want, Joakim Noah. Carmelo is open to the Nets and if they can find a way to retool this deal, there may be an opportunity for mutual satisfaction. A recent Yahoo! Sports report does have some former Nets players discouraging Anthony from going to NJ by telling him that Newark is not NY. Well thank you Captain Obvious, but Melo would be a fool to kill a deal because of this. A new arena 20 minutes from the heart of Manhattan now, a move to another new arena in Brooklyn in 2 years, good young talent, and a billionaire owner who wants a championship within 5 years are pretty good reasons to ignore the naysayers.
The Denver Nuggets:
The Baller Guru really pities the Nuggets here. They are a perennial playoff team that has really done nothing wrong, but their superstar wants to…as Biff Tannen would say…make like a tree and get outta here. They are saying the right things about trying to convince Carmelo to stay, but in reality because of point #2 above they don’t really care about Carmelo’s preferences and will deal him anywhere that gives them the best pieces to build on without adding salary. The problem is because of point #6 above, there are just not that many suitors. Melo may not be a free agent, but he holds all of the cards here. A reportedly possible deal with Philadelphia for Andre Iguodala and other pieces might sound great to the Nuggets, but if Melo doesn’t agree to an extension with the Sixers, the point is moot.
Because of this handcuff, the Nuggets best option is to work something out with the Nets with Derrick Favors as a centerpiece along with other parts. While Kenyon Martin and Nene are a good front court, both are shaky in terms of injuries. The rest of the forwards on the roster are more suited as role players like the Birdman. Al Harrington is a good addition, but isn’t a traditional big man banger down low. Favors would be a great addition for Denver to be their featured front court player in the future. Absolute best scenario, Favors will be the next Kevin Garnett; good/average scenario, he will be the next Kenyon Martin when he is healthy; “meh” scenario, he will be the next Drew Gooden, a serviceable rotation player.
The New Jersey Nets:
The Baller Guru is a Nets fan (insert laughter here if you must) so getting a superstar in a trade would make The Baller Guru very happy since the Nets lack a dominant scorer. Trading Devin Harris as part of he deal would just be screaming for Chris Paul to join the party next year. In the meantime, Jordan Farmar is a less than stellar replacement, but brings championship experience. The Nets would be rolling out a probable starting lineup of Farmar, Anthony Morrow, Melo, Troy Murphy, and Brook Lopez with a rotation of Terrence Williams, Damion James, Travis Outlaw, Joe Smith, etc. While that lineup may not scream “champs”, remember this is the Eastern Conference and this is not nearly the same Nets team that launched a stink bomb last year. After the Heat, Celtics, Magic, and Bulls, playoff spots are wide open. With a front court of Melo, Murphy, and Lopez (who The Baller Guru predicts will be an All-Star this season) anchoring a rotation with some good perimeter players and shooters such as Morrow, the Nets have a chance at one of the final 4 spots.
That being said, while a fan of Carmelo Anthony’s undeniable top 5 scoring talent, The Baller Guru has never been a fan of Melo’s lack of defense as well as his attitude and personality, so the Nets should be wary about getting a superstar that gets whiny and difficult when things don’t always go his way. Sound familiar, Nets?
The latest reports have the Nuggets exploring other options such as acquiring Andre Iguodala from the Sixers as mentioned above, or the dynamic young Stephen Curry from Golden State. Are these better options than Derrick Favors? Of course they are!! Any team would prefer a talented young player that can contribute immediately rather than just a prospect with upside. If any of these teams are actually foolish brave enough to agree to a trade for Anthony without an extension, more power to them, and the Nuggets should absolutely take one of these offers over anything the Nets have to offer. If this happens, The Baller Guru says: expect Carmelo Anthony to be in a Knicks uniform in the 2011-2012 season.
The Baller Guru’s Ball-Wise Words:
The Nets will scour the Earth to find a new deal to present and the Nuggets and Carmelo will agree to the terms by the end of this week. Other teams will ultimately get cold feet about sending valuable talent and draft picks away without an extension in place for Carmelo. Sports shows will be buzzing for a few days about Carmelo Anthony on the Nets, then next week everybody will go back to talking about the Miami Heat.
Tags: Carmelo Anthony, Denver Nuggets, New Jersey Nets, Trades
Posted in Trade Talk | 7 Comments »