Posted on: November 29, 2011 2:05 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2011 2:16 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver.
The Miami Heat's redemption question will commence with the highest possible expectations.
Bodog.com lists the Heat as the odds-on favorite to win the Eastern Conference and considers the Heat the top bet to win the 2012 NBA Finals.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and company are the favorite to win the 2012 Finals at 9/4 with the over/under on their regular season win totals set at 48.5 during the 66-game season. They are 1/1 odds to win the Eastern Conference.
After Miami, the rest of the top-5 title contenders include: the Los Angeles Lakers (5/1), Chicago Bulls (7/1), Oklahoma City Thunder (15/2) and the defending champion Dallas Mavericks (17/2). After that group, the next tier includes the Boston Celtics check in at 12/1, the New York Knicks at 20/1, the Orlando Magic at 22/1, both the Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs at 25/1 and the Portland Trail Blazers are at 30/1.
The teams with the worst odds are the Charlotte Bobcats, Cleveland Cavaliers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Sacramento Kings and Washington Wizards, all listed at 150/1. The Toronto Raptors are dead last, listed at 200/1.
The defending Eastern Conference champion Chicago Bulls are listed as 5/2 odds to repeat in 2011-2012. The defending Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs are listed as 10/1 odds to repeat.
With last year's Finals appearance, another year to gel and a Mid-Level Exception with which to add a serviceable center, it makes sense that Miami, who blew fairly easily through the Eastern Conference playoffs, is listed as the best bet. The Lakers and Bulls are both right about where you would expect them, with the Celtics taking a hit due to questions about their hole in the middle and overall depth and age concerns.
The Mavericks drop a bit because of questions circling how many of their important free agents -- Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea, Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson -- will return. The Thunder, who appeared in the Western Conference Finals and bring their entire rotation back intact, might be the best value on the board, given their combination of superstar talent (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook), valuable role players (Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison, Serge Ibaka) and an excellent tertiary scorer in James Harden.
Posted on: November 27, 2011 12:19 pm
Edited on: November 27, 2011 1:55 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver.
It's over. The 2011 NBA lockout is finally, mercifully over. Let's hail the victors and pity the vanquished in this rundown of the NBA lockout's winners and losers.
Over the next six years, the owners succeeded in shifting more than 1 billion dollars into their pockets by negotiating their share of the Basketball-Related Income split from 43 percent in the old deal to a 49 percent to 51 percent band in the new deal. That number could grow to more than 2 billion if both parties agree to continue the deal through to its full 10-year length.
In addition to the players' 10-figure financial give-back, the owners received major concessions on virtually every important issue governed by the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Contract lengths are getting shorter from a maximum of six years to a maximum of five years for players who are re-signing and four years for other free agents, meaningfully reducing the level of financial security players feel while also reducing the burden of bad contracts on a team. The mid-level exception system is shrinking, which hits the middle class free agents hardest while helping to keep owners from overpaying for mediocre talent. The luxury tax system is getting tougher, which limits the very highest-spending teams’ ability to compete and/or set the market for free agents while theoretically creating a slightly more level playing field between large and small market teams.
Whether or not you agree with the logic behind these major changes, their collective impact combined with the clear financial victory makes this negotiation a strong-arm highway robbery. And all it cost: less than 20 percent of the games in one season (and some hurt feelings among die-hard fans).
Losers: NBA Players
Any time you leave a negotiation thinking, “Well, this is bad, but it could have been worse,” you lost that negotiation. National Basketball Players Association executive director Billy Hunter even admitted that a recent NBA offer was “not the greatest proposal in the world", yet he and the players tentatively agreed to a deal very similar to the one he bashed publicly. This happened because the players never had real leverage or good alternatives. They were squeezed and had no escape route.
But, it could have been worse. The mid-level system in the agreement provides more spending power for teams (and thus more money for free agents) than in previous proposals. The luxury tax system is significantly tougher than the one in the previous CBA, but not as draconian as a hard cap – something that the owners maintained that they wanted for the longest time – and not as punitive as earlier reports indicated it might be. The NBA also increased its spending floor for all of its teams, providing additional suitors for free agents and theoretically helping to prevent players from getting stuck on teams that totally slash-and-burn their rosters with no intention of actually competing.
Losers: Miami Heat
Despite the salary cap good news, the Heat are also short-term losers. The 2011-2012 season now officially bears the historical taint associated with an abridged schedule. The 2012 Finals winner, no matter who it is, will bear the asterisk of being “lockout champions.” That’s fine if you are the Dallas Mavericks defending your 2011 title or the Los Angeles Lakers adding to your stockpile, but if you’re James, Wade, Bosh and company, your first title needs to be clean or critics will mercilessly work to invalidate it. Winning in 2012 will require Miami to win future titles to prove that their triumph wasn’t a short season fluke. In other words, James and company will carry a burden into the 2012-2013 season even if he finally wins his first ring.
Until a recent minor knee tweak by Fernandez, all four NBA players made it through their international excursions in good health. No NBA player made more money playing hoops during the lockout than Williams, who took a risk in broadening his family’s horizons and staying active that paid off in game checks and lack of boredom. Parker and Batum returned home to France, garnering a hero’s welcome, while Fernandez did the same in Spain, where he is extraordinarily popular. All three put up big numbers and gave their fans a chance to see them during their peak years rather just a victory lap when their NBA careers are through. That’s got to be an incredibly fulfilling feeling.
Losers: Anyone that gets stuck in China
The Chinese Basketball Association insisted on preventing NBA opt-out provisions in its contracts, theoretically tying any player who signed with a team in that league through March, when the regular season ends. Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith, Yi Jianlian, Aaron Brooks, Patty Mills and others agreed to play in China and now their future is uncertain. Best case: their Chinese team agrees to release them so they can return to the United States. Worst case: they remain stuck until March, when finding a good NBA landing spot, not to mention salary number, could be significantly more difficult. The major consolation here is that Chinese teams were reportedly offering seven-figure deals, so guys that are trapped until March won’t be leaving empty-handed.
Saving The Season
We’ve been saying for months and months that no player needs a 2011-2012 season more than Kobe Bryant. At 33, losing a year of his career would have been a disaster, and not just because he would have lost more than $25 million in salary. Bryant is embarking on dual epic quests: passing Michael Jordan in total number of championships and passing Michael Jordan on the all-time points list. Salvaging a season gives him a much better chance at both goals.
Loser: Greg Oden
The Portland Trail Blazers center has not appeared in an NBA game since Dec. 2009 and is now a full year removed from his most recent microfracture surgery. Even so, The Oregonian reports that Oden still doesn't have a firm timetable on an expected return to the court and hasn't yet been cleared for basketball activities. Oden is a restricted free agent and now must enter contract negotiations without the ability to prove he can play again. Contract aside, a lost season would have helped delay the return of the enormous pressure he faces as a former No. 1 overall pick; now, Oden will likely come back to Portland, where expectations are still gigantic, after hiding out for most of the lockout, only to face another round of jokes and barbs about his health.
The best way for a player to improve his standing with basketball die-hards is to show off his own unrequited love of the game. James, Durant and Jennings stood above the crowd in their dedication to playing in organized events across the country, connecting directly with fans and providing hope even when the lockout turned ugliest. Twitter and savvy sneaker campaigns – “Basketball Never Stops” and “Are You From Here?” – helped keep the positive momentum going. There’s no question all three guys made lifelong fans with their actions over the last six months.
Loser: Michael Beasley
Beasley got busted for marijuana, threw an "All-Star Classic" charity game in which all the All-Stars bailed, shoved a fan in the face during a New York City exhibition, and sued his former agent and AAU coach – his surrogate father during high school – alleging major NCAA rules violations. He also hired and was then dropped by a PR firm that was working to help improve his image. To top it all off, he spoke out against his players union, saying that it was "kind of retarded" for the players to be fighting over a few BRI percentage points. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Timberwolves now bring to camp the No. 2 overall draft pick, Derrick Williams, who will be an instant fan favorite and figures to compete for his minutes.
HoopMixTape.com and other highlight-reel videographers saw major upticks in traffic and interest during the summer pro-am and fall charity league circuits. Their ability to take high quality, professional footage and cut it together seamlessly in a matter of hours feeding the hoops need for basketball's year-round global audience in nearly real-time.
Losers: NBA Online
The NBA’s decision to strip its websites of references to players and to start a Twitter account to aggressively push its labor message to media members, and even players, came off petty, heavy-handed and way too Big Brother in an arena that is supposed to be about fun, not business. The league has some serious fence-mending to do, especially with its core audience. It’s unclear whether the league knows that or not.
Posted on: November 21, 2011 8:45 pm
Edited on: November 22, 2011 10:46 am
Posted by Ben Golliver.
How long has the NBA lockout lasted? The NBA lockout has gone on so long that Miami Heat All-Star forward LeBron James has finally realized that "The Decision" wasn't the best idea.
Less than six months ago, the 2011 NBA Finals just lost, James took a hard line against those who criticized him in the aftermath of the television special in which he announced his intention to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat during the summer of 2010.
"At the end of the day," James said, "all the people that were rooting for me to fail, they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. They have the same personal problems they had today. I'm going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want to do with me and my family and be happy with that... They can get a few days, or a few months, or whatever the case may be on being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal. But they have to get back to the real world at some point."
That was June. Now it's November, and James has criss-crossed the country and traveled the world, bringing basketball to all sorts of far reaches and raising loads of money for charity, all while spending the longest amount of time away from the court since he entered the NBA in 2003. All that time off has him singing a different tune.
In an interview with The Guardian, James says he totally understands why people would have been upset by the decision and goes so far as to apologize for hurting people.
Was James taken aback by the ferocious criticism of his screening of "The Decision"? "Um, yeah. I was surprised by it because I was making a decision for myself. I was doing something that I believed was going to make me happy and freshen me up. But looking back I can understand why a lot of people were upset. That definitely wasn't my intention: to upset people."What's more, absent the postseason pressure and with some time and space to reflect, James even says he misses the negativity that followed him from arena to arena during the 2010-2011 season.
James even claims to miss the booing that usually trails him. "I miss it right now with the lockout, feeding off the opposing crowd and them booing you – in a good way. Some of 'em, they boo you because they don't like you personally – but they don't know you personally. They haven't had the opportunity to sit next to you. If they did, they might have a totally different idea about you."Just to recap: Five months ago, James encouraged his haters to enjoy their pointless lives because he wasn't going to change. In November, James misses their criticism, realizes those critical of him aren't doing so blindly, and says that he's sorry if people were hurt by his actions. He refuses to directly express regret, but all the ingredients are there. This isn't a total personality transplant, but it's definitely a makeover.
It's always been said that absence makes the hard grow fonder. Who would have guessed that phrase applied to superstars and their haters too?
Posted on: November 20, 2011 2:32 pm
Edited on: November 20, 2011 2:55 pm
By Matt Moore
For those of you uninitiated, we've been having a little fun with the idea that LeBron James is cursed, for whatever reason ("The Decision," karma, his various public-comments-related disasters, the voodoo doll, etc.). It's not serious, though that hasn't stopped people from losing it over the suggestion it might be. To review:
This picture was grabbed by @WhitneyKBlaine on Twitter, showing LeBron with the Ducks mascot. The Ducks were in a position to move into the national title game after all the teams in their way outside of Alabama which already lost to LSU and Arkansas, who plays LSU next week. It took a remarkable set of failures to put them in position, but a win put them back in the driver's seat for a national title game appearance.
38-35 USC. That's the sound of a duck with a championship belt going down the toilet.
And to make matters worse:
We've tried to make it clear in previous posts on this subject we're just messing around. Maybe. Kind of. But seriously. The man appears and teams suffer inglorious fates and massive failures. He's the harbinger of FAIL. The Black Angel of LULZ.
This is all in jest but man, it has not helped for teams to be associated with the two-time MVP.
Posted on: November 19, 2011 4:50 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver.
One thing we know about 330-pound defensive linemen: they love piling on.
MySanAntonio.com reports that Warren Sapp -- a monstrous former All-Pro defensive tackle and current television analyst -- decided to jump on top of the massive pile of NFL players who have questioned whether Miami Heat All-Star forward LeBron James is tough enough to play professionall football.
“How about LeBron do one-sixth of what Jordan did, let’s see him go win a championship,” Sapp said.Sapp made the comments on an NFL Network broadcast.
The idea that James, who was a high school football stand-out, might be interested in the NFL arose back in October, when Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll started recruiting him on Twitter.
The backlash from football circles at the time was swift and furious.
Cincinnati Bengals corner Leon Hall said: “It wouldn’t be easy. I recommend he keep his NBA contract and just play the Madden video games if he misses football.”
"He's the mentally weakest person I've ever seen," added former All-Pro linebacker Chris Spielman.
Sapp's comments are another indication that James is respected as an athlete but not feared. While he plays hard, James lacks a certain ferocity, not to mention a championship, that would serve to insulate him from this type of macho criticism. Sapp's analysis boils down to one part football provincialism and one part psychological challenge.
Sapp knows as well as anyone that his critique will be rendered moot if and when James wins a title. He's just getting in his shots while he can.
Posted on: November 16, 2011 7:33 pm
Edited on: November 17, 2011 12:03 am
Posted by Ben Golliver.
During the ongoing NBA lockout there is plenty of blame to go around, but very few people who are willing to accept it.
Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh is used to being criticized, so perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that he is one of a very few major figures in professional basketball to admit that his actions played a key role in the current labor impasse.
Bosh, who left the Toronto Raptors to join Dwyane Wade and LeBron James in Miami during the summer of 2010, told the Sun-Sentinel that he believes the hard-line stances taken by owners during the current collective bargaining agreement negotiations are motivated in part by the Big 3 teaming up.
He said it would not be a stretch to believe the Heat's signing of himself, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in the 2010 offseason contributed to the league's belief that the work rules had to change.Is Bosh correct? Definitely.
If there's one mantra that has been preached by the NBA throughout the negotiations, it's competitive balance. What could be more of a competitive imbalance than three All-Stars agreeing to join together to form a superteam core and then actively recruiting role players to produce a perennial title contender in the NBA's most desireable market? Pretty much nothing.
Same thing goes for the New York Knicks. What could be worse for competitive balance than Amar'e Stoudemire heading to the Big Apple, followed in short order by Carmelo Anthony forcing his way there during a midseason trade, with buddy Chris Paul just biding his time, waiting for his opportunity to hop on?
What's more, such talent consolidation only exacerbates the inherent monetary benefits that go with being in large or desireable markets. If an entire generation of superstars wielded its power to determine where they played as successfully as James, Bosh and Anthony, there is little doubt the gap between the NBA's haves and the have-nots would increase.
Examining the NBA's most recent proposal, it's clear that the owners have taken a number of steps to help incumbent teams keep their stars and to create an environment in which those teams, stars in hand, will be able to build around them. Severe luxury tax penalties, a severe restriction on the mid-level exception for tax payers, shorter contract lengths and continued Bird Rights all combine to limit a player's options in free agency and tip the balance towards the home team. Players could still leave once they hit unrestricted free agency, of course, but they would take a bigger hit, relatively, than they did in the old agreement.
The upside, the league would argue, is that their incumbent teams would be better able to compete for talent to build around the stars because they wouldn't be tied up by as many burdensome, useless contracts and there wouldn't be high-end competition from luxury tax payers for free agents. Most everyone concedes that there aren't enough stars to go around to ensure total parity in the NBA, but the league's proposal would appear to take meaningful steps in that direction.
Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Obviously that depends on your point of view. For Bosh, or fans of his star-laden team, the NBA's proposal would represent a major step back. Disgruntled fans of the Raptors and Cavaliers, though, might have a different opinion. One thing is for sure: If everyone involved in the labor negotiations was as honest and willing to implicate themselves as Bosh was here, the negotiations would be in a far better place.
Posted on: November 15, 2011 1:22 pm
Edited on: November 16, 2011 5:30 am
Posted by Ben Golliver.
We can't count on the NBA these days, but it's good to know that basketball legend Shaquille O'Neal will keep right on dissing Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh, lockout or no lockout.
The Palm Beach Post reports that O'Neal takes a swipe at Bosh in his new autobiography, Shaq Uncut, which is set for release on Wednesday.
“Some guys come into the league without a ton of props, so there’s not a whole lot of pressure on them. Then they sign a big deal and all of a sudden they’re thrown into the spotlight. Chris Bosh is like that. He’s getting all this attention, so he starts believing he’s really good. C’mon now. We know better. He’s a player who can put up some numbers, but he’s not an elite player. He was in Toronto eight years and they were never a factor, never a playoff team. Don’t get with those other two guys and start pounding your chest. I ain’t buying it, and I’m not the only one.”Bosh's Raptors twice made the playoffs but did not advance out of the first round.
All things considered, this is a disappointingly tame criticism from O'Neal, at least by his own standards.
In 2009, the Arizona Republic reported that O'Neal had much harsher words for Bosh after a dispute over his free throw shooting technique.
After Shaquille O'Neal scored 45 against Toronto on Friday, Raptors star Chris Bosh said O'Neal had benefited from officials ignoring his three-second lane violations.RuPaul is a well-known drag queen.
Then, back in July, O'Neal was quick to slight Bosh in his analysis of the 2011-2012 championship contenders.
"The Miami Heat, they've got a lot of great players, the 'Big 2.' They will be back," O'Neal said from Louisiana during the broadcast, when discussing the NBA Finals and how Dallas was able to beat Miami for the title. "LeBron James is taking a lot of criticism, but I know LeBron very well. He hears everything that everyone is saying, so I think he's going to come back and have an MVP year this year."And that's essentially the theme he has going in his book. James and Wade are great; Bosh is an afterthought. It's not a particularly original assessment -- millions of casual fans reached the same conclusion last year -- but it is interesting to hear it from O'Neal's perspective.
At various points of his career, O'Neal was a talented rookie looking up to established Hall of Fame centers, the best player in the league leading a title contender, a second fiddle on a title contender, and a broken down big man who couldn't stay healthy long enough to get on the floor. That's a lot of different roles and they combine to shape a uniquely qualified perspective. The truly elite players in the game have each other's respect, even if it's begrudging. O'Neal, for example, threatened to kill Kobe Bryant when the two were Los Angeles Lakers teammates, but the Palm Beach Bost notes that O'Neal compliments Bryant in his book: "Kobe is a scientific dawg. He works out every day, practices every day. Most of the other stars are just dawgs, not scientific dawgs."
I guess this all comes down to that old adage about respect being taken and not given. Whether because of his personality quirks or the nature of his face-up game, it's clear Bosh has not compelled respect from O'Neal. The interesting question to watch going forward: Will O'Neal's tune change if Bosh contributes to a Heat title?
Hat tip: ProBasketballTalk
Posted on: November 13, 2011 2:35 pm
Posted by Royce Young
Here's something that may shock you: LeBron James thinks LeBron James could take Kobe Bryant in a one-on-one showdown. He told the HoopsFix during his trip to London that he'd take himself in a one-on-one matchup with Kobe when he was asked about it.
Last year, Kobe was there and was asked the same question and answered the same way: Kobe was taking Kobe. And he'd do it "in my sleep," as he said.
I like the way LeBron answered it more. "I'm not going to not take myself against anybody." That's the correct attitude for anyone, but it's especially the correct one for a guy that most fancy as the top player in the league. I mean really, can you imagine LeBron saying, "Yeah, I'd have to go with Kobe."
LeBron's entirely correct though: He's not really a one-on-one guy. That's one of the strongest aspects of his game and it's also one of the weakest. LeBron's involves teammates, creates scoring opportunities and is extremely unselfish with the ball. He'd rather make a great pass than take his man off the dribble. It's what makes him such a nightmare. You have to worry about him scoring as much as you have to worry about him creating for his teammate. He makes the other four players on the floor with him equal weapons.
But at the same time, there are moments where LeBron really does need to evolve into a one-on-one player and take over. He's done it before -- the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals against Detroit comes to mind -- but it's not a consistent thing he does. The 2010 Finals are the obvious example. Instead of LeBron just taking over, he was too passive and deferred too often.
Again, it's what makes him great. But it's also what holds him back sometimes.
LeBron finished it this way: "We won't see it. Nobody will ever see it. So y'all can stop asking that question." OK then.