Tag:New York Knicks
Posted on: February 23, 2012 10:42 pm

Coast to Coast: 1st Half Thoughts

Primetime Thoughts 

Follow David S. London on Twitter 

The first half of the NBA season which almost never happened was a roller coaster with ups and downs across the board.  From Linsanity to sub-70 point outings with plenty in between, the lockout-shortened season has been eventful to say the least.

Lockout Basketball Rearing Its Ugly Head-While a condensed 66-game season is better than no season, it certainly comes with its duds.  It’s grueling enough for teams to play back-to-backs or 4 games in 5 nights, but how about a back-to-back-to-back stretch or 6 games in 8 days?  The likely result?

Really. Bad. Basketball.

The most glaring example?  The Orlando Magic had a stretch from January 23-January 30   in which they played six games, losing five of them.  In three of those losses, they scored below 70 points, including an impressive 56 against the Boston Celtics January 23.

Dwight-A-Palooza-Speaking of the Magic, we have an unusual development, you know, the one where the star player has trade rumors following them around like flies in a dumpster, and instead of diffusing the media frenzy that results from this, the player does everything but.

You know, the development that’s becoming a troubling trend in the league.

Dwight Howard is the latest superstar to “reportedly” want out of his longtime basketball home in hopes of landing a better championship support group.  Despite recent claims in which he professes his love for Orlando and desire to bring a championship to Orlando, he has kept his options open and left the extension offered to him on the table.  The one that would keep him in Orlando and put an end to the daily discussion of where Howard will play next.

Despite the distraction, Orlando is sitting third in the east, with the fifth-best record in the NBA.  Note to Howard: you want to have a say in player personnel and management to put a better support group around you, but there’s one problem with that:

No one will bother looking at Orlando while you continue to waffle.

Why would anyone take a look at your team when you have not made any indication as to whether you will stay or go?

They wouldn’t.

Early Favorites Riding High-Two popular favorites, my NBA finals prediction, Chicago and Oklahoma City, have stormed off to the top records in their conferences.  As expected, both teams have taken advantage of the rest of their league thanks to youth and familiarity (again, lockout left teams with high turnover little time to mesh with one another).  Derrick Rose has continued where he left off last season while Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook  have become an even more formidable 1-2 punch.

Heat Index Remains High-Last season’s most popular headline has taken a backseat of late to New York’s finest Air Dumplin, the Miami Heat have come out with a vengeance, having won 16 of their last 18 games, the last 8 by 12 points or more.  LeBron James, whether by his own doing or simply not as appealing by the media (although he recently didn’t rule out a return to Cleveland), has avoided scrutiny for the most part.  Maybe it’s because LeBron doesn’t have anything to prove until playoff time, because James is currently performing at a historic rate according to his player efficiently rating.  Questions remain regarding depth and interior presence, but Miami looks poised to make a deep playoff run.

New York KnickerLins-A record of 17-18 at the break is nothing to be too excited about, but Jeremy Lin’s arrival has turned around a once-feared lost season.  Prior to the linplosion, New York was sitting at 8-15 and critics swarming around Carmelo Anthony’s field goal attempts.  Anthony went down with injury, Head Coach Mike D’Antoni figured he had nothing else to resort to.  That dark cloud you see looming around the Knicks in the distance, that’s Isiah Thomas, and Knick fans get chills at the mere thought of him.  So D’Antoni throws in Lin, the undrafted player out of Harvard just looking for playing time and the rest is history.  Nearly three weeks later, Lin has become a phenomena.  It’s a true underdog story that Knick fans are willing to cling to, but expectations should be held in check.  Lin has played out of his mind, a rate which even the elite would be hard-pressed to produce consistently.  Lin has solidified himself as a player worthy of a NBA roster with his overall skill-set.  What has impressed many is his pure point guard play and ability to consistently make the smart play, getting others involved.  That being said, Lin needs to sustain this level of play or at least something close in order to be a viable starting point guard for years to come instead of being a quality backup for 20 minutes a game.  The turnovers also need to be fixed, as good as Lin has been setting up teammates, he has averaged almost 7 turnovers a game. 

Posted on: December 23, 2011 11:35 pm

Coast to Coast: NBA Season Preview

Primetime Thoughts

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It brings me great sadness to shift the discussion from BRI and mid-level exceptions to actual basketball, like the new kid on the block in Hollywood.

Move Over Lakers-An afterthought in Los Angeles and the butt of many jokes for years, the Clippers have been the league’s doormat as long as we can remember.  Blake Griffin made the Clippers exciting for a change and looks headed for eliteness.  Even with Griffin, the Clippers seemed headed for a steady climb up the Western Conference in the next few seasons.  Until Los Angeles partnered Griffin with Chris Paul, giving the Clippers what looks to be the best duo in the league.  The Lakers, the other Los Angeles team, actually had a deal in place for Paul, but David Stern nixed the deal citing “basketball reasons.”

After years of overshadowing the Clippers, the Lakers and Clippers look to be headed in opposite directions.  Kobe Bryant is dealing with a torn ligament in his wrist, let alone degenerating knees.  Bryant intends to play through the wrist injury, but time is not on his side and he’s got some mileage, entering his 17th season.  The Lakers also had a deal for Chris Paul which was reportedly finalized, only to be nixed by David Stern/New Orleans Hornets owner.  Los Angeles is still in the hunt for Dwight Howard, but Orlando may be trying everything in their power to retain their star.  Then there’s the Lamar Odom deal which only Isiah Thomas would be proud of, as Odom was dealt to the Dallas Mavericks for a draft pick.  Not only did they trade their most versatile player, a guy close to seven feet who can defend, rebound, and score all over the court, but they traded him to the defending champs, who also swept them out of the playoffs last May.  All of this while the Clippers put together a formidable duo for the rest of the decade, and the Clippers look like they will be stepping out of the Lakers shadow.  Where these two finish it remains to be seen.  The Lakers get the nod based on experience and chemistry which the Clippers don’t have as a newly-formed roster.  But it won’t be long until Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are pushing Tim Tebow for the lead on Sports Center.

Mavericks Defend Title-They won’t open the season as champions typically do, the lockout had something to do with that, but the Mavericks will unveil their first-ever championship banner with the Miami Heat in town.  Several players are gone – Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson and J.J. Barea in free agency, Tyson Chandler in a trade, Peja Stojakovic to retirement – but the Mavericks will be locked and loaded to defend their championship.  Unlike the Miami Heat, Dallas’ roster is arguably 9, 10 men deep.  Vince Carter was signed to fill the role of “aging veteran in search of a title”, also known as the guy on his last legs who can be counted on for15-20 minutes a night.  Dallas made out like bandits, poaching Odom from the Lakers.  What his role will be with the Mavericks is to be determined, but teams will have fits handling both Odom and Dirk Nowitzki when they are on the court together.  Rodrique Beaubois will take on a bigger role with the three guards gone.

Miami Heat, Year 2-Last season’s biggest draw, the nation was overcome with joy when the Dallas Mavericks took down the Miami Heat experiment in 6 games.  Afterwards, LeBron James made it clear that all the haters who took joy in his demise will have no choice but to go back to their ordinary lives.  It was the end of a PR nightmare for James and the Heat, who never shook the target off his back after ”The Decision.”  Whether it was due to the lockout or James smartening up, there hasn’t been any headscratching moments for James.  James has done several interviews, claiming that he played angry and it took over his game, changing the way he played.  While it seems logical, James will only silence the critics, Cavs fans aside – they get a free pass - with a championship.  Not just a championship, but one where James rises to the occasion, raising his level of play during crunch time.  It makes sense, as James was only giving back 3 quarters on the dollar, a rate noone would be happy with.  The Heat come into the season as one of the favorites to win the title, but my stance hasn’t change from last season, that Miami doesn’t have enough depth to win it all.  Shane Battier was a great acquisition, providing Miami with an outside shooter, solid perimeter defense and a veteran leader.  But the gaping hole at center leaves the paint area as a giant question mark, on both sides of the court.

Knicks D Up-Rumors swirled, linking the New York Knicks with Chris Paul.  Asides from Isiah Thomas’ perspective, this was an irrational conclusion for many reasons.  This dissertation for another time, but in short: the Knicks had no assets to offer the Hornets in a trade; it would have to be a 3-team deal, and who would rush to the Knicks aid in their pursuit of Paul?  Through free agency, the Knicks have already tied down Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony with max money, leaving little money left to sign Paul and surround the three with bodies, much less quality ones.  Before I move on, if you’re wondering, Thomas’ line of thinking I believe calls for Paul, Anthony, and Stoudemire to take the court by themselves and take teams on 3-on-5.

Paul went to the Clippers and the rest was history.  New York set their sights on Tyson Chandler, acquiring him via trade from the Dallas Mavericks.  The move gives the Knicks their first legitimate defensive presence in the paint since Patrick Ewing pre-degnerative knees (Yes, I’m leaving out Eddy Curry and Jared Jeffries, two of Thomas’ prized acquisitions during his tenure with New York).  Chandler teaming up with Stoudemire and Anthony makes one of the best, if not the best, frontline in the NBA.  Stoudemire and Anthony are not known for their defense, although I expect them both to step up their efforts on that side of the court, and Chandler will compensate for the slip-ups that last season’s Knick defense was prone to.  The backcourt is a little thin, but the Knicks were able to sign Baron Davis for this season at a great rate, $1.4 million.  Davis is recovering from a herniated disk and his effort has been questioned in the past.  That being said, if Davis can stay on the court, he could thrive in an offense with two super stars and an athletic center.  Depth remains a question mark, as it remains to be seen what the Knicks will do to fill out the roster.  New York’s talent alone puts them among the East’s top 4, but it will remain to be seen if the Knicks can go far in the playoffs with such little depth.

Will he Stay or Will he Go?-It’s safe to say we’ve become sick of these type of sagas.  The one where the star player publicly claims to be weighing all his options while inside sources know the team is aware the player will not resign in the offseason.  Howard is the latest example, and let’s hope he was the last.  One of the owner’s goals during the lockout was to make it easier for small market teams to keep their star players.  The lockout eventually ended, and Chris Paul trade rumors began to swirl soon after.  Howard has said time and time again he is looking at all his options.  Most sources see Howard being traded before the trade deadline, with the Lakers as the favorite.  I’m a sucker for players remaining with one team their entire career, so I’d like to see Howard remain with the Magic.  Unfortunately, I wouldn’t bet on that.

Atlantic Division-
New York, Boston, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Toronto
The Knicks big three rises to the top while we finally see the Celtics age catch up to them after speculating for several years.  Deron Williams shows the Nets potential if they can surround him with talent, but they struggle with little talent around Williams, especially after Brook Lopez fractured his foot and will be out 6-8 weeks.

Central Division-Chicago, Indiana, Milwaukee, Detroit, Cleveland
Chicago runs away with one of the weaker divisions in the league.  Indiana came on late last season under Head Coach Frank Vogel.  They have a nice core of Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert, and newly acquired David West.  They should approach 36-38 wins.  Milwaukee, Detroit, and Cleveland will compete for .500 records, the Cavs and Pistons have their lumps in a rebuilding year.

Southeast Division-Miami, Atlanta, Washington, Charlotte, Orlando
This is based on Howard being traded early in the season.  Miami’s talent supercedes anything going on in this division.  The Hawks have seemingly cemented middle-of-the-road status.  They have a nice core, but one that seems to have reached its ceiling as a second-round playoff team.  John Wall makes strides in his second season and makes the Wizards competitive as they fight for a playoff spot.

Southwest Division-Dallas, Memphis, San Antonio, Houston, New Orleans
One of the most competitive divisions in the league, only New Orleans is lottery-bound for sure.  Dallas picks up where it left off while Memphis builds off of last season’s suprising rise to the second round.  The Spurs are aging, but have a veteran group with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, and Head Coach Gregg Popovich.

Northwest Division-Oklahoma City, Denver, Portland, Minnesota, Utah
Kevin Durant paces the Thunder with Russell Westbrook while the Nuggets do well with the bevy of talent they have.  Utah regresses in a rebuilding year while Head Coach Rick Adelman makes use of the talent in Minnesota and takes them out of the cellar.

Pacific Division-Clippers, Golden State, Lakers, Sacramento, Phoenix
The tide will turn in Los Angeles.  The Warriors under Head Coach Mark Jackson sprinkle some, key word some, defense with their high-octane offense and climb the standings.  Bryant struggles with injuries and durability as the Lakers slip.  In anticipation of Steve Nash being traded by the deadline, Phoenix will regress.

Final Four-New York, Chicago, Oklahoma City, Clippers
Derrick Rose continues to grow as his perimeter game becomes yet another facet to his game while getting more contributions from Carlos Boozer.  The Knicks trio meshes well and takes down a Heat squad similar in makeup, but not as diverse.  The Thunder return to the confernce finals as Durant leads a young, but experienced group while the Clippers duo become this season’s top story as Paul and Griffin being in a new era of Clipper basketball.

Finals Prediction-Oklahoma over Chicago in 6
Two very similar teams square off in a team-oriented series.  Durant and Rose square off as both vy for their first title.  The two of them will negate each other, but what Durant has in Westbrook, Rose does not have in anyone on his team.  Westbrook makes the difference, giving Oklahoma City more firepower.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com