Posted on: December 24, 2011 1:19 pm
Edited on: December 24, 2011 10:03 pm
by Matt Moore
GAMES. Sweet merciful games.
The wait is over. Ol' Saint Nick has shimmied down the Christmas tree and that means the NBA has returned to our lives, kicking off with five games Sunday and a righteous quintuple it is. Boston tests an unsteady bench against the new-look Knicks (same old Knicks, except for a good rookie and one big exception down low). The Heat must watch the Mavericks' banner raised and then go toe-to-toe with the team that ousted them in the Finals. The Lakers will try to prove that Lamar Odom wasn't the whole team, Kobe Bryant's wrist is fine, and they are still the most dominant franchise in the West against the MVP Derek Rose and the league's best defense. The Magic try to pretend everything's fine while polishing silverware on the Titanic against a Western Conference favorite, the Oklahoma City Thunder. And finally Lob City premiers against the Golden State Warriors, who are looking for something new under Mark Jackson.
It's going to be fun. So on the night before Christmas, we're hear to stuff the stockings with what you need to know for each game. Here are 12 Things of NBA Christmas.
1. "Later on we'll conspire, while we lay by the fire..."
The Heat failed. And everyone pointed and laughed. After all the pomp and circumstance, the unbelievably arrogant approach to their formation and celebration thereof, followed by a somehow more outrageous backlash against three basketball players who decided to play for the same team through free agency, the Heat were left broken and tarnished by a Mavericks team which lacked neither star power nor confidence. Not that you'd know it by the storylines drawn out. Still, the Heat took a nasty fall. But during the summer and all the way through the lockout, we hardly heard a thing from them. A few appearances from Dwyane Wade. Some exhibition appearances by LeBron James. Chris Bosh went to ESPN for a day. That was it. Nothing outrageous, no outlandish proclamations or denials of the fact they had their tails kicked. Now they return to the scene of the crime, where everything started to turn for them on a warm June night in Dallas, when the series shifted on the back of their inability to stop Dirk Nowitzki.
When the Heat stumbled last season, the idea was that James, Wade, and Bosh needed more time together, and with their teammates. That chemistry couldn't be built in a day, and that even if they struggled early, it would come. Yet even in advancing to the Finals, there were so many moments where the Heat never looked like they truly belonged together, like they were thrust together without a core concept. We're still waiting for a Heat team that, for lack of a better term, makes sense. A mega-scoring, high-rebound-rate, gamble-defending shooting guard. A prolific do-it-all and rarely do enough, lock-down defender, brilliant vision in a Hummer-like body small forward. And a whisper-thin, mid-range joltin', defensively adequate power forward. It's just an odd combination. They had their trial season, and they fell only two games short of a title. But still short. This is their chance to show the world they've learned from their mistakes and that it was a rare combination of factors that led to their demise against the Mavs. With Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea gone, this isn't the same Dallas team that had the formula to stop what no one else could. The Heat can make a statement Sunday.
But we've heard that before.
2. "He's making a list and checking it twice, gonna find out who's naughty and nice..."
All this Lakers drama. You know what's lost in the talk of the Odom trade, of Kobe's wrist, of the Chris Paul trade that wasn't (and should never have been)? Derrick Rose is coming to Los Angeles and he's bringing all the fury a dissed MVP can bring. None of us have him repeating. Very few experts do. But Rose is consistently the most devastating single player in professional basketball and he's going up against a team still starting Derek Fisher, with Steve Blake backing him up. Blake defended Chris Paul admirably in two preseason games against the Clippers. But Rose's explosiveness is the stuff of legend. Plus, once he gets past his primary defender, there will be no Andrew Bynum, serving five games for being naughty in the worst (clubbing J.J. Barae in last year's playoffs in an all-time disgusting move). Rose instead will face Pau Gasol and Josh McRoberts at the rim. McBob is a good player and will pay well or the Lakers. But he ain't Bynum.
Rose sees no reason why he can't repeat as MVP. And after an offseason hearing about everyone else and how LeBron left coal in his ECF stocking by shutting him down, Rose likely has some motivation. I'm reminded of a line from "The Dark Knight." "Turn it off. He doesn't want to talk to us. God help whoever he does want to talk to."
3. "Deck the halls with boughs of holly, fa la la la LOB, la la la la"
Tis the season to be jolly in ... Clipper-land? When has that ever been the case? But Sunday means the debut of Lob City (pause for collective groan for people who quickly tire of memes and/or Lakers fans) against the Warriors. Is the pressure too high? Will they be trolled by Yuletide carols? I don't know what that means but it fits with the song; roll with it. The Clippers are facing a team that has been one of the worst defensively over the past decade or so. Mark Jackson is furiously trying to instill a new attitude, but this isn't a great place to start. Kwame Brown is a better interior defender than Andris Biedrins, but isn't good enough to defend two places at once. With Stephen Curry on a bum kneee, the Oop Outlet could be open on Christmas Day. All eyes will be on the Clippers to see if the newest superteam will live up to the billing or disappoint like so many others have. No pressure, there, Blake.
4. "I'll have a Blue Christmas without you..."
The Lakers need Andrew Bnyum. This is the first time you can really say that. They won the title in 2009 without him. They could have won the title in 2010 without him. He was the only thing really keeping them afloat for much of the last half of 2011. And now with Kobe Bryant injured for their opener vs. Chicago, Bynum's injury is even more in focus. It's his overwhelming presence on both ends that makes the Lakers more nasty and tougher to stop. Kobe Bryant can pull this game out, even with a torn ligament in his wrist. He's done it before, he'll do it again. But the Lakers are going to be sorely missing the young stud that holds the key to their future ... one way or another.
5. "All of the other reindeer, used to laugh and call him names, (LIKE PINOCHIO!)..."
I know, I know, I should have spit that one out for the Clippers. But this is also can refer to the Knicks, who for years have been dismissed first as a team terrible in every phase but recently because of their defense. But then one foggy (I don't know if it'll be foggy Saturday night in New York or not), Christmas Eve, Mike D'Antoni came to say, "Tyson Chandler, with your defense so bright, won't you dominate inside against a Celtics team which is paper thin inside tonight?"
The questions are going to continue about the Knicks. Chandler has been with the Knicks for a whole ... week. It may not work at all. But he's got a chance to help redefine what defense for the Knicks means, alongside Mike Woodson. And if things go right, the Knicks could go down in history. OK, let's just start with beating the Celtics in the opener.
6. "Please come home for Christmas."
So say Magic fans to Dwight Howard.
7. "And so this is Christmas, I hope you have fun, the near and the dear one, the old and the young"
The Celtics still have the talent, right? I mean, this is a league where older teams win. Dominate, even. Most of the champions are veteran groups. Yes, the Celtics are ... old. But Rajon Rondo's not. Brandon Bass isn't. They have some legs left. And it's not as many months. So on Sunday against the Knicks, it's not like the Celtics are going to be able to compete with the Knicks. In fact, in most of their games against the Knicks under Mike D'Antoni, the Celtics have used the same tactic employed by the Spurs against the Suns for years: They ran them out of the building. The Celtics actually are a great fast-break team, with Allen sprinting to the corner, Rondo running the break and Pierce a brilliant cherry picker.
So even if they're old, this is still likely a better overall team than the Knicks. But this first game could be relevant in showing us how big a hill both teams have to climb, and maybe who'll take early control of the division.
8. "The fire is slowly dying, and my dear, we're still, goodbye-ing. But as long as you love me so, let it snow..."
The Mavericks are going to fade off into the sunset. This is not a young team. Dirk Nowitkzi's game and condition should allow him to play until he's, oh, 60. But think about Petyon Manning. How quickly did this guy, who should have played at a high level into his 40s, see his career change? Granted, different sort of contact sport and all, my point is just that we never know when things change. And if Dirk does suffer any sort of decline because of age, the Mavericks dip too. Jason Kidd is nearly middle-aged, Jason Terry has a lot of frequent flier miles on him and Lamar Odom's no spring chicken. But on Sunday, they get to watch the banner raised in American Airlines, legitimizing Dirk's career and establishing the franchise as world champs. Yeah, it's getting cold, but the world will still love this team for their run last year and they've got enough in them to make another crack at it. Let it snow.
9. "Dashing through the snow, in a one-horse open sleigh."
Are the Bulls going to be a one-horse open sleigh, or do they have some help? Will Rip Hamilton help the Bulls space the floor against the Lakers? Can Carlos Bozer score on Josh McRoberts after struggling against McBob's Indiana Pacers last season? Can the Bulls score consistently? We know the defense will be there, but the Bulls wanted a scoring upgrade this season. The Lakers, even without Bynum and Odom, are going to be a great test of how far they've come. The Lakers will score. How much the Bulls score will determine if they start the season in a rush or a slide.
10. "Me, I want a hula-hoop..."
In this scenario, Mark Jackson is Alvin and the hula-hoop is a healthy-enough-to-play Stephen Curry. And a defense. And some consistent shooting. And smart basketball. It's a big hula-hoop.
11. "All I want for Christmas is you..."
Blake Griffin got the best Christmas gift possible. The Dunk-o-meter may get broken this season. The Clippers get to test out their new toy Sunday night. Chris Paul will make Blake Griffin the best player he can be. And that is terrifying for the rest of the league.
12. "And the boys of the NYPD choir were singing "Galway Bay," and the bells were ringing out for Christmas Day."
That's from a song about crushed dreams but sticking together because you've built your lives around one another. And after a vicious lockout that divided players, owners, fans and media, games are back. We're stuck with each other. Let's tip it off. Happy Holidays.
Posted on: December 21, 2011 10:34 pm
Edited on: December 21, 2011 10:35 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver.
Tensions are running pretty high these days in Orlando.
The Magic got blown out in their preseason opener against the Miami Heat on Sunday and got down double digits against the Heat again on Wednesday night. Heat All-Star forward LeBron James was in the process of going off for 27 points in just 30 minutes, and Magic wing Quentin Richardson had apparently seen enough.
The incident began with James shaking Richardson off the dribble to free himself up for a stepback jumper, which he celebrated by jawing in the direction of Orlando's bench and backpedaling methodically down the court to play defense. As he retreated, he happened to run into Richardson, who took exception to the contact. The two players bumped another time, just to make sure the first incidence was real, and then Richardson wound up to deliver a hard left shoulder into James' chest, which drew a technical foul and sent James reeling a bit.
Miami led 79-74 at the time of the incident, but Orlando managed to come back in the fourth quarter to win, 104-100, so it's safe to say Richardson's hard foul totally swung momentum in this game and All-Star center Dwight Howard doesn't want to be traded any more. It's a new day thanks to Q-Rich.
Here's the video of the shoving incident between Quentin Richardson and LeBron James via YouTube user DrakesUnibrow.
Hat tip: IAmAGM.com
Posted on: December 21, 2011 1:32 pm
Posted by Royce Young
Celebrate Kris Humphries, you just beat out LeBron James for something. Well, maybe you should check what that something is first.
According to Forbes, via a poll conducted Nielsen and E-Poll Market Research, Humphries was voted the NBA's most disliked player. Fifty percent voted to dislike Humphries while No. 2, LeBron, picked up 48 percent. I guess people either were really mad about the 72-day Kim Kardashian marriage or there are a lot of sympathetic people towards Kim K. I have a feeling it's not the latter.
“He’s been on five magazine covers, all in a negative light,” Stephen Master, VP at Nielsen Sports, which helped run the survey, told Forbes. “It’s all so recent, he’s gotten all this publicity for something other than basketball talent.”
It is surprising that a little reality show and Hollywood marriage would bump Humphries all the way up this list topping people like LeBron, Carmelo Anthony, Tony Parker (who divorced from actress Eva Longoria with reports of cheating), Kobe Bryant (who is getting divorced) and Chris Bosh.
I'm noticing a theme though: NBA fans don't like divorce, I guess.
Here's the full top 10:
1. Kris Humphries (50 percent dislike)
2. LeBron James (48 percent)
3. Kobe Bryant (45 percent)
4. Tony Parker (37 percent)
5. Metta World Peace (36 percent)
6. Chris Bosh (34 percent)
7. Carmelo Anthony (27 percent)
8. Paul Pierce (25 percent)
9. Dwyane Wade (23 percent)
10. Lamar Odom (21 percent)
Posted on: December 19, 2011 3:34 pm
Posted by Royce Young
It's not quite as good as having a trophy or court named after you, but getting a new rule named in your honor is pretty good. Or bad, I guess, depending on the situation. Which is what it might be for LeBron James.
Hidden in the so-called "b-list" issues in the new collective bargaining agreement is a provision that prevents players from holding stake in representation agencies. Via Sports Business Journal:
LeBron owns part of LRMR, a marketing firm founded by LeBron's friend and manager Maverick Carter. LeBron recruited Chris Paul to join the firm last year. It also represents Ted Ginn Jr.
LeBron's company may not fall under that though as it may be considered a marketing firm, not a player agency. LRMR is the company famously behind "The Decision," which kind of sort of backfired on LeBron.
Whether LRMR counts as a player-management firm or not is yet to be determined but if so, it could have an affect on LeBron's company.
Posted on: December 6, 2011 12:58 pm
Posted by Royce Young
It's a new season for LeBron James. And thank heavens, because he doesn't want to do last year over again.
It started with "The Decision," a decision he now regrets. But it ended with him watching the Mavericks party on his home floor as he turned in what can only be described as a disappointing NBA Finals performance.
He's heard all the jokes, the slams, the rips over the past few months. A season lost to a lockout would've been bad for everyone, but especially for LeBron who would've had the bad taste of Game 6 in his mouth for a lot longer, something he called one of the "worst times of my life."
But last season, and everything that came with it, was a big learning experience for the self-appointed king. He's in a reflective spirit right now and looking back, he'd love to change a lot. One thing that definitely comes to mind is his embrace of the so-called "villain" role.
"It basically turned me into somebody I wasn't," LeBron said in an interview on SportsCenter. "You start to hear 'the villain,' now you have to be the villain, you know, and I started to buy into it. I started to play the game of basketball at a level, or at a mind state that I've never played at before ... meaning, angry. And that's mentally. That's not the way I play the game of basketball."
LeBron's not saying he didn't have fun last season, but the pressure of his decision and the spotlight on his team was a lot to handle. Even when he and his teammates tried to have fun, it didn't work. For instance, Dwyane Wade mocking Dirk Nowitzki's illness during The Finals was seen more as immature and stupid rather than light and fun.
In Cleveland, LeBron was notoriously carefree. His team was really good, so that helped, but there were the pre-game antics from his team posing for pretend pictures to handshake routines that went on for so long that they almost delayed games to dancing while the game was going on. In Cleveland, LeBron was home, he was himself. It was fun.
"I got to this point by playing this game a certain way, [I'm] getting back to loving the game and having fun with the game," LeBron said. "I play the game fun, joyful, and I let my game do all of the talking and I got away from that. That's what I lost last year. Going through my first seven years in the NBA I was always the liked one and to be on the other side -- they call it the dark side or the villain or whatever they call it -- it was definitely challenging for myself. It was a situation I had never been in before, and it took awhile, it took a long time to adjust to it."
LeBron's admitted before that "The Decision" was a bad call and that if he could do things over, he wouldn't have a one-hour special announcing his destination.
"The fact of having the whole TV special and people getting the opportunity to watch me make a decision on where I'm going to play; I would probably change that," he said. "Because I can see now if the shoe was on the other foot and I was a fan and I was very passionate about one player and he decided to leave, I would be upset too by the way that he handled it."
Self-awareness has often been the No. 1 thing that LeBron lacked last season in Miami. He never seemed to have understood why people were angry with his actions or why people all of a sudden were booing him. It never made sense to him, while it made perfect sense to everyone else. But it sounds like he's getting it now. It sounds like he's starting to see the world as something that doesn't revolve around LeBron. Which is how you start to rehabilitate your image. You've got to tear yourself down and build it back up.
For LeBron, the 2011-12 season is important for a lot of reasons. He wants that title desperately, but it also sounds like he wants to find himself again. Which in this case, might be all he should be looking for.
Posted on: December 3, 2011 7:24 pm
Edited on: December 27, 2011 6:49 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver.
With their Christmas Day season opener just a little more than three weeks away, the defending Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat have released a preseason hype video to set the tone for the 2011-2012 NBA season.
The 96-second clip dubbed "The Wait Is Over" opens with a burning basketball graphic before flashing highlights of LeBron James and Chris Bosh dunking, Dwyane Wade and Mike Miller hitting jumpers, Joel Anthony blocking a shot, Udonis Haslem completing an alley-oop and a bunch of team hustle plays. The graphic ends with the words "Are you ready? Let's go Heat."
It's pretty typical "hype video" fare, although it's interesting to see that Miller, who is rumored to be waived via the amnesty clause, is included. Since he's currently under contract and it would have probably been assumed he was gone if he wasn't included in the video, it does make sense that he made the final cut. His highlight can always get edited out in the future (just like his roster presence in real life!).
The tagline "The Wait Is Over" references the anticipation the Heat bring into the season following a devastating loss in the 2011 NBA Finals to the Dallas Mavericks, but it also seems to be a nod towards the end of the lockout. Heat owner Micky Arison was fined $500,000 by the NBA when he made comments saying that fans shouldn't blame him for the labor impasse, implying that he was ready to end it and get back to work.
Given that Miami is the odds-on favorite to take home rings in 2012, their excitement is totally understandable. As always for the Heat since the Big 3 came together, the task is delivering substance in the wake of the monstrous hype.
Video uploaded by YouTube user thedwade3333333.
Hat tip: IAmAGM
Posted on: December 2, 2011 11:18 am
By Matt Moore
As much as everyone outside of the state of Florida may have wanted to enjoy watching the Heat as the Mavericks get their championship rings, it's not to be. Those interested in schadenfreude will have to settle for the Miami 3 watching the Mavericks' first championship banner be raised.
WFAA in Dallas reports that Mark Cuban has informed them the Christmas Day season opener against the Heat will not be ring ceremony night for the Mavericks. It's customary for the first home game of the season to be ring ceremony night, but Cuban says that due to so many people likely having made other plans for Christmas in light of the ongoing lockout, he didn't want to leave them out.
However, the banner will be raised to the rafters so fans can celebrate their championship team on their home floor for the first time. The Heat of course lost to the Mavericks in six games in last season's Finals.
The story should be about the Mavericks, but it will, as always, be about the Heat. How will they react watching the banner they were two wins away from obtaining be raised in front of them? Does it spell an omen or serve as motivation? Will it affect how they approach their first game of the season? A loss would leave the Heat 0-2 in season openers under the new Triad after last year's loss to the Celtics in Boston.
Either way, it's going to be a fairly brutal process for the Heat to sit and watch the title they nearly won be celebrated on their opponents' home floor. Great drama, just the thing to kick off the season with to start moving past the lockout.
Posted on: December 1, 2011 11:13 am
By Matt Moore
LeBron James and Kevin Durant were true to their word, hosting a flag football game Wednesday night. James' team blew a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter (you're stunned, I know). But he did have the game-clinching interception for the seven-point win. And during the game, he broke out the Steve Johnson "Plaxico" dance. So Bob Costas will have some stern words for Mr. James.