Posts Tagged ‘ Basketball ’

THE UNFATHOMABLE JR SMITH

JR Smith is a superstar player. JR Smith should be a superstar player. JR Smith could be superstar. JR Smith has the ability to be a superstar player. JR Smith has the physical talent to be a superstar player. I think that’s enough modification. Should and could are words typically reserved for players who haven’t figured out the league yet. More times than not that’s players who have been in a professionally athlete for less than three or four years. JR Smith has been in the NBA since he was 18 years old. That’s nearly 10 years of experience on how the league works. I’ve never played 1 minute in the NBA, but I know that if my coach and the league warned me not to untie someone’s shoe during a game I wouldn’t do it the very next night. Therein lies the biggest problem with JR Smith. For all of his talent and ability, for all of his physical exploits and shooting prowess and “potential” he proves time and again that he can’t be that superstar player that he should, could or has the ability to be.

This of course goes far beyond untying shoelaces. That act itself, under other circumstances, probably wouldn’t warrant much negative attention especially if a player was making significant contributions between the lines.  But JR Smith has always had character issues while in the league. His ability to get hot and play like an all-star for stretches of games kept him in teams’ rotations for a lot of years, specifically in Denver and definitely in New York. But JR’s play is way down this season compared to what he did just a year ago. Last year JR Smith had his best season on both ends of the floor. He averaged 18 points per game,  had a player efficiency rating of 17.6 and turned the ball over at the lowest rate of his career. Defensively he was just as stellar averaging career a career high in rebounds (4.5) and tied his second career high steals (1.3). All of this was done with Smith coming off of the bench for the Knicks and it helped them win over 50 games.

But ever since he elbowed Jason Terry in the first round of the playoffs he hasn’t even been close to the player who won the Sixth-Man of the Year award in 2012. He finished the playoffs shooting 33 percent and 27 percent from 3-point range. Just to illustrate how far he has fallen you can look at his advanced stats. Offensive Win Shares measure how many wins  a player has contributed to his team with his offense. Last year his number was 4 (the highest in his career) this year…it -0.4. He’s literally cost the teams wins with how bad he is playing this season. Oh and his OWS in the playoffs last season…-0.5!

JR Smith was ejected and suspended an additional game for elbowing Jason Terry during the playoffs. (GIF via SB Nation)

So if you couple JR’s terrible play since April with his many mental mistakes it becomes clear that he isn’t proving to be the “changed man” that people were painting him as last year. There is a third piece to this puzzle though. When a player doesn’t perform well for a significant, that player typically loses playing minutes. If a player shows that he isn’t focused on basketball he can lose playing games. So why hasn’t JR seen any changes in his playing time? Head coach Mike Woodson. Mike Woodson has been a very public supporter of JR Smith and sometimes to a fault. Him believing in JR Smith was a big reason for JR elevating his play last year, but Woodson also claimed when he became a coach that he would hold all of his players accountable. In a game against the Houston Rockets JR Smith took an ill-advised 3-pointer with 19 seconds left and the game tied. JR said he thought the Knicks were down by two (which makes no difference), but to make it worse Woodson blamed Beno Udrih for passing Smith the ball. Woodson has become JR’s enabler. You can’t possibly expect a player to become better if you constantly make excuses for every foolish thing he does.

But at the end of the day it comes back to JR Smith. He’s a grown man and shouldn’t need to be reminded of what that entails as much as he does. I’ve been begging for the Knicks to trade him practically all season. With Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway Jr. on the team you could easily make up what you would miss from a fully functioning JR Smith. The Bockers are reportedly looking for trade partners, which has brought up the question: Who would want him? It’s a valid question because after 10 years all he’s shown fans is that he probably won’t be all the things that should, could and has the ability to be.

RAMBLINGS OF A MAD BLOGGER PT 1

NBA AND IT’S RELATED ROUNDBALL TOPICS

In the time since my last blog post a lot has happened in the sports world. So to make up for lost time I’ll hit on a number of topics in each sport until my conscience is clear or I get carpal tunnel syndrome..

I should preface this post by talking about how the season ended. LeBron James led the Heat to their first title of the Big 3 era, in spectacular fashion. He defeated the the Pacers without Bosh and half of Dwayne Wade and had that amazing 45 point game against Boston to keep the Hear alive in the Conference finals.
Then with a healthy Bosh and a resurgent Wade (and role players) the Heat went on to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in 5 games. James won Finals MVP after a triple-double in the close out game, gets the monkey off his back and all is right in the basketball world.

Meanwhile….

Dwight Howard is lurking somewhere in the state of Florida awaiting his turn to own the headlines. Then suddenly, Superman turns into Bizarro and does the most villainous thing possible. Howard asks for another trade after signing the extension last season, which opens up the “where will Dwight land” conversation for everyone to chime in.
Dwight was traded to the Nets via Sports Center at least twice, once in a four team deal, before teams realized only the Nets and Magic would benefit from the deal. As it stands now the teams making a real push for the NBA’s premier big man — that’s right Dwight Howard is better than Andrew Bynum and it’s not even close – are Houston and the Lakers. If either of those teams lands Dwight it could be a huge game changer in the west. Let’s face it a healthy Dwight Howard will dominate any other big man he faces. Put him with Pau Gasol and he could do serious damage. Put him in Houston and you could build a solid team around him. The determining factor is will he stay beyond one year. Dwight was rumored to only want to play in Brooklyn, which is why a deal has yet to be made, but could warm up to LA.

Brooklyn has been making some headlines of their own. They resigned point guard Deron Williams (using an iPad, which is pretty awesome by itself) and made a trade for my second favorite shooting guard, Joe Johnson (cool story bro). They inexplicable and very foolishly over paid to keep Brook Lopez for 60 million dollars — real money, not monopoly money — for sticking around during the Dwight saga. A noble move for team in a cut throat business, but still bad business. It appears though that the Russian Bruce Wayne, Mikhail Prokhorov will spend whatever he has to in order to be the best team in NY.

Which brings us to the ever puzzling, always entertaining, NY Knicks.

The Knicks have had an eventful off-season with what they’ve done and haven’t done. They have signed 39 year old point guard Jason Kidd, 38 year old center Marcus Camby and traded for former point guard Raymond Felton and center Kurt Thomas.

However, they are making headlines for willingly letting Jeremy “Linsanity” Lin sign with the Houston Rockets. Lin, a restricted free agent, was originally given a verbal contract from Houston worth about $20 million with the third year being worth about $9 million, prompting someone in the Knicks’ organization to say they would “match up to $1 billion”. The Rockets then upped the offer to $25 million with the third year being worth almost $15 million to try and scare the Knicks away. It worked. The Knicks weren’t sure if Lin was good enough to make top 10 money and also didn’t want to pay luxury tax penalties that could go as high as $40 million.

Money aside, it seems like the Knicks (James Dolan specifically) felt betrayed by Lin. Linsanity may have started with how Lin played on the court, but the frenzy was created by the NY Knicks’ marketing department. The shirts, the signs, and everything else, was created by the marketing team. And to be fair, they squeezed every dollar they could out of it. Lin doesn’t owe NY anything and the Knicks had the right to not match.

From a basketball standpoint Lin had some very good games – with and without the other two best offensive players Melo and Amare – and proved to everyone he could play. The Knicks needed his spark to help them get out of the funk they were in last year and as I fan I would have loved to see him back in the blue and orange.

One thing that seems to be overlooked is Linsanity didn’t win the Knicks a championship. All it did was make people who didn’t care about basketball, care a little bit more than usual.

Die hard Knick fans who have taken all the disappointment they the Knicks have dished out in the past 10 years alone shouldn’t been to hurt. The future is actually brighter than some people are forecasting. Raymond Felton was on a team that people seem to forget was doing as well as the Linsanity team was doing prior to the trade for Carmelo Anthony. He was averaging 17 points and 9 assists with a bruised wrist. Last season he fell way off, but in 2010 he was playing with the heart and passion that old school Knicks fans loved to see. If he comes in ready to play like he did back then and Carmelo, Amare and Tyson are committed to doing their jobs consistently, the Knicks won’t miss Lin at all. Sure they’ll lose a couple of bandwagon fans, but they can make up for that by just getting back to winning basketball.

Speaking of bandwagon fans, the Lakers pulled off the one of the bigger moves of the offseason, by pairing Steve Nash with Kobe Bryant. The Lakers send four future draft picks to Phoenix and in return they get a hall of fame player to run the show. The move has its risks though.

Nash is 39 years old, and usually lies on his back by the bench when he’s not in the game. You could also throw in that Kobe isn’t the best example of how to share the spotlight. I won’t go as far as to say Kobe is a bad teammate, but he hasn’t had the best track record i.e. Shaq, talking smack about Gasol through the media and about the beating spain in the Olympics, Phil Jackson..Did I mention Shaq? I digress. Kobe is an all-time great, Nash is an all-time great, Mike Brown is a good head coach and the Lakers have a very solid team, but they have to win now. The window is closing very quickly and adding a guy nearing 40 means you want results ASAP. Can they get past OKC with that roster and then overcome LeBron and the Heat? Nash hasn’t always been the best defender and those two teams are young and hungry to be at the top.

Miami pulled their own surprise move by landing Jesus Shuttlesworth, Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, which bolsters their bench. Both players are deadly from three-point range and Rashard Lewis has the size to cause match-up problems for a lot of teams, including their rival the Boston Celtics. I must say I was surprised to see Ray Allen leave New England, especially for the Heat. I was even more surprised to hear there was a rift between Rondo and Allen. The Heat still look like the favorites to win the title next year just by virtue of having the best player, but the two moves they made make it even more likely.

You know who else has the best player, 1992 Dream Team (Michael Jordan, duh). So I would have to pick them to beat this year’s team in a match-up of the two teams. Partially because this team doesn’t have all of the best players in the NBA on it and also because I don’t think everyone on this team cares that much. LeBron, Kobe and Durant would have something to prove, maybe Chris Paul and Deron Williams as well, but I think the rest of the guys are just happy to be there. Now a team with Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard, a healthy Blake Griffin, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh might be able to take it. But this team looks like it may have to fight to win the gold medal – especially since Pau Gasol wants to Kobe to leave him alone. Poor Gasol.

Stay tuned for part’s two and three of this series, which will cover NFL and MLB storylines.

THE NUMBERS GAME

Lockout continues as the NBA cancels regular season games

There have been a lot of numbers thrown around as far as the NBA lockout goes, but as of Monday night the most important number is two. That is the number of weeks in the regular season that Commissioner David Stern has canceled after the league and players union left the negotiating table with no deal.
The next number fans will probably see is 103, which is the number of days the players have been locked out as of Tuesday. The two sides have yet to come to an agreement on issues regarding the salary split, luxury taxes and contract lengths. Stern told reporters he believed what was being proposed was fair and he is sad to see that both sides cannot agree. Union head Billy Hunter doesn’t see it that way at all.
“I’m convinced that this is all just part of the plan,” Hunter told reporters on Monday. “I think everybody’s waiting for the players to cave. They figure that once a player misses a check or two, it’s all over. I’m saying … that would be a horrible mistake if they think that’s going to happen, because it’s not going to happen. The players are all going to hang in.”
With the two sides significantly apart from each other in negotiations and no signs of an end in sight players are starting to put their eggs in other baskets. Several European born players like Rudy Fernandez (Spain) and Danilo Gallinari (Italy) have already signed up to play for their home countries. All-star point guard Tony Parker made headlines signing with a French team for less than $2000 a month. Deron Williams made his stunning announcement earlier this year by deciding to play in Turkey.
Meanwhile players stateside are keeping busy doing celebrity basketball tournaments for fans. LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony were just a few of the big names to play in the latest charity basketball game in Miami. But everyone involved, including the fans, knows that these are only temporary distractions. If the “significant gap” that has kept the players and owners from making a deal doesn’t close soon the next number we will see is 2012 as in the next time we will see NBA basketball.

 

Information from an ESPN.com report was used in this story.

Photo credit: Getty Images

WHAT CAN BROWN DO FOR YOU?

Last year Mike Brown lost his job as a head coach. He was tossed away like a kid throws away the crust of the bread on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Coaching vacancies were filled and Brown’s name wasn’t called. He was the kid who didn’t get pick to play ( the kid theme is coincidental). Now after a year away from the game and the departure of the NBA’s most accomplished head coach, Brown has been summoned to coach the NBA’s signature franchise, the Los Angeles Lakers.

Sidenote: For those of you who are thinking what about the Celtics..The Lakers have won more rings in the modern NBA era (80s and 90s).

Anyway, some fans and analysts think Brown to the Lakers is not a good move and they couldn’t be more wrong.

Here are a few reasons why..

1. They’re the Lakers:Mike Brown is going to a team that is loaded with talent and has already won two NBA championships together. The Lakers may have lost to the Dallas Mavericks this year, but they have played 100 plus games for the last three seasons. Not only do they get to rest, but they also get to have the “chip on their shoulder” driving them back to the finals. And Mike brown, who also has a few Lays on his shoulder, will drive that point home.

Former Cleveland Cavaliers coach, Mike Brown, will become the next head coach of the LA Lakers.

2. DE-fense: Everyone knows that Mike Brown’s specialty is defense. He was an assistant coach under Greg Poppavich — coincidentally the only other Western Conference coach to win a title during the 2000 era — and while he coached the Cavs he had his team in the top ten defensively every year. People criticized Brown for being too defensive minded and not knowing how to coach offense, but that’s where point number one comes into play.

3. He’s a winner: This is where many will disagree, but it’s the truth. 272 wins in his career, 42 playoff wins, two trips to the Eastern Conference finals and one finals appearance. He won coach of the year during the 08-09 season when his team had 66 wins. Of course people will say “Well he didn’t win a ring”, but that isn’t the only way to measure a coach’s success. Taking the Cavaliers to NBA finals with only one superstar and beating the Detroit Pistons to get there was an amazing accomplishment. Losing to the Spurs doesn’t mean he isn’t a good coach, it just means he got out-coached by his mentor.

Brown has done more with less in his career. He should have taken his team to two or three finals appearances, especially in the 08-09 season, however he still has time to prove to the league that he is a good coach. Remember nobody thought Doc Rivers was a good coach until he won with the Celtics. Brown is in a similar position to prove his doubters wrong and by the end of the 2012 season he could be LA’s golden boy.

MELLOW ON MELO..

Melo says "Dueces" to Denver as he makes his way to the Garden.

After months of speculation and rumors flying the basketball world, the “trade of the century”, has finally been completed. Brooklyn born Carmelo Anthony, one of the NBA’s premiere scorers and notable icons, is headed to The Big Apple to team up with friend and fellow superstar, Amare Stoudemire — just as Stoudemire predicted at Anthony’s wedding. Coming along with Melo from the Denver Nuggets are point Chauncy Billups, former Knicks forward Renaldo Balkman, forward Sheldon Williams, and the young swing man Corey Brewer from the Minnesota Timberwolves.

What New York gave up is the problem I have. The ‘Bockers gave up three starters; point guard Raymond Felton, forwards Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Anthony Randolph (to Minnesota) and centers Timofey Mozgov and Eddy Curry.

Originally reports stated that the Knicks’ front office was only willing to part with Randolph, Curry and either Chandler or Gallinari, because they didn’t want to “gut the roster”. However, as the deadline moved closer, Denver kept demanding that more pieces be added to the deal. There were even rumors that the Nuggets threatened to trade Anthony to the New Jersey Nets if their demands were not met.  But Denver was never going to trade with New Jersey because they had already tried twice and rumor has it that Carmelo would not have signed his 3-year $65 million extension with anyone but New York.

With all of that said, New York overpaid for Melo. Sure he’s a top 5 player and a dynamite scorer, but the other pieces don’t add up to what the Knicks had. Especially at point guard. Billups is more experienced, but he’s much older and may not be on the team beyond next season, which means the Knicks have to go out and get another point guard.

Carmelo Anthony..The Newest Knickerbocker

The other problem I have is the Isiah/Dolan factor. Donnie Walsh built this team from the ground up and James Dolan forced the issue to get Melo instead of trusting Walsh’s gut. Somewhat of a slap in the face to the man who ressurected the franchise.

The move could turn out to be a huge success and the Knicks could go on to win a championship within the next 3 years. But they could also under-achieve severely and that is the cardinal sin in NYC. We’ll just have to wait and see what Carmelo Anthony does in a Knicks uniform. One thing can be said for sure, all eyes will be on NY from here on out.