Posted on: December 27, 2011 1:58 am
Edited on: December 27, 2011 2:02 am
By Matt Moore
The first full night of games and it was a doozy. Rookie debuts, buzzer-beaters, and some vomit. The NBA is back in all its glory. Here are your grades for Monday, December 26th, 2011.
A: Denver Nuggets: Yeah, it was against the same team the Heat ran out of the building Sunday, this time on the second night of a back to back. But the Mavericks are still the defending champs and the Nuggets ran them out of their own building. It wasn't just the offense, either, though they were en fuego (49 percent from the field, 56 percent effective field goal percentage). Denver was also dialed in defensively. The best wins are those in which your offense allows you to set your defense to attack, which creates opportunities for your offense and it becomes a vicious cycle for your opponent. The Nuggets were like a race car wheel roaring down the track. They forced 19 turnovers, creating 20 percent more opportunities for themselves, and they took full advantage. Ty Lawson was a speed demon and when the Mavs did get in front, he smoked them from the perimeter (3-6 from the arc, 27 points). Al Harrington not only provided a huge offensive lift off the bench, he was engaged defensively. At one point he created a steal which bounced to Danilo Gallinari, who ran the floor then stopped and shoveled it back to a sprinting Harrington for the dunk. The Nuggets played so wel they could mess around on fast breaks. Dominant performance in their first season opener since 2003 without Carmelo Anthony.
B: San Antono Spurs: A little bit of revenge after the Grizzlies eliminated them from the playoffs last spring. The Spurs, six months removed from a season where they were an offensive juggernaut but couldn't stop anyone, especially down low, got back to their roots. They held the Grizzlies to an 86 offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions),which is elite status. They got back to defending, rebounding, and grinding their opponent to dust. Throw in a surprising performace from Richard Jefferson and an impressive debut for Kawhi Leonard, and all of a sudden, the "past their prime" Spurs look like they might be getting back to what made them great.
C: New Jersey Nets: Well, they were down 21 points at one point to the Washington Wizards who were playing without the fifth pick in the draft, Jan Vesely. The Nets looked lost, inept, ridiculous. And then they turned it on. Outscoring the Wizards 53-39 in the second half, they fought their way back into it and watched Flip Saunders' team self-destruct. Deron Williams was the exerienced All-Star. And Kris Humphries, man of the hour. 21 points and 16 rebounds, cleaning up misses and killing the Wizards down low. This was a game that's hard for either team to feel good about because of the opponent, and being down 21 to the Wizards is madness. But they won, and they'll take it.
D: Kobe Bryant: Here's what is working for the Lakers right now, without Andrew Bynum, and why they fell apart in a loss to the Kings. Ball movement, hustle and intelligent, efficient play. And the Lakers, after a lackadaisical game had them out of reach, fought their way back with that exact kind of play. And once again, Kobe Bryant went hero mode and once again, an opportunity to win was squandered by the Hall of Famer. The entire Lakers get a "D" here for failing to play any on the perimeter. (Seriously, Mike Brown, what's it going to take for Derek Fisher to get yanked? How many times must Tyreke Evans blow past him or block him?) But the Lakers keep getting within range through team play, and then Bryant attempts to take the team on his shoulders like he used to. That Kobe is gone, at least until the wrist heals. 24 field goal attempts for Bryant, who leads the league by a mile in usage percentage (percent of possessions used -- tricky stat that), and two turnovers, including an offensive foul late. A bad month for the Black Mamba gets worse.
F: Dallas Mavericks: You have GOT to be kidding us.
Other notable grades:
Incomplete: Chicago Bulls: Are they as bad as they have looked in the first two games after a loss to the Warriors on the road to open the season? No. But they do look bad. Really bad. But with a 1-1 mark, considering the schedule (two West coast road games to start the season on consecutive nights) and the opponent (a Warriors team with confidence after nearly nailing the Clips, even if they were on their own second game of a back to back). The Bulls fought back in and made it a game late, but if they don't make up their homework to the teacher, bad grades are coming.
E for Effort: Minnesota Timberwolves. Open the season with a narrow loss to the Thunder? Rubio looks great. Derrick Williams looks promising. Kevin Love is an All-Star. The effort was there for the Wolves, and they're only going to get better.
Gold stars: Eric Gordon (CLUTCH). Alonzo Gee. Ed Davis. Danilo Gallinari. Sean Williams. Roy Hibbert. Manu Ginobili. Marcus Thornton. Stephen Curry. Tristan Thompson. Tyreke Evans. LaMarcus Aldridge.
Posted on: December 22, 2011 7:20 pm
By Matt Moore
We're less than a week away from the start of the 2011-2012 NBA season. After an interminable lockout and a rushed free agency period, here's a first look division-by-division preview at how the league is shaping up. We finish with the Atlantic Division.
Boston Celtics, 56-26, lost second round of Eastern Conference Playoffs to Heat, 4-1
New York Knicks, 42-40, lost first round of Eastern Confernce Playoffs to Celtics, 4-0
Philadelphia 76ers, 41-41, lost first round of Eastern Conference Playoffs to Heat, 4-1
New Jersey Nets, 24-58, NBA Lottery
Toronto Raptors, 22-60, NBA Lottery
Best team: Boston Celtics
One more year. That's what the Celtics get. One more year to rule the roost. The Celtics have one more ride left with this core and then it's a sail off into the sunset while the team tries to figure out how to rebuild around Rajon Rondo. But with the extra time off, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce should be in good shape to make one more run at a title in order to validate themselves as one of the truly great teams of this era. (Pierce is already questionable for Sunday's opener vs. the Knicks.)
Without a second title, the Celtics have to be considered a disappointment. Winning a championship is supposed to validate everything, yet the Celtics were supposed to win multiple titles when the Big 3 formed. Good enough for the rest of the league is not good enough for the Celtics. But injuries and then a slow fade has denied them, as well as improvements in star power for the Heat and Lakers. The Celtics are still a dominant team, built around defense and reliable offensive weaponry. Their veteran experience helps them dismantle younger teams and their toughness helps them outlast weaker, more explosive teams.
But there's no stopping age, and this team is at the end of its run. They've got once chance, with a phenomenally weak bench, tougher competition, and continuing injury issues to try and surprise everyone and go out on top. One more chance to ride off into the sunset. Saddle up.
Worst team: Toronto Raptors
The Nets are hanging above this spot by a thread. A thin thread. A very, very thin thread. They have questions at every position except point guard and coach Avery Johnson has not taken the team by storm. But Deron Williams and the possibility of getting Dwight Howard keeps them out of the bottom.
We know who the Raptors are. They don't rebound. They don't defend. They struggle with toughness. They don't have a star. They don't have any complete offensive players. But there's reason to believe they might shake this bottom spot. Dwane Casey comes from Dallas with a determination to change the culture defensively. DeMar DeRozan has the chance to take the next step. Ed Davis looks like a beast in the making. There are good players on this roster. Unfortunately, everything hinges on everyone's least favorite Raptor, Andrea Bargnani. The fans are done with Bargnani for his lack of defense and rebounding. Unless he comes out dominant in the paint, he'll continue to be the object of scorn. With no real center on the roster (Jamal Magloire is starting), it's hard to see any real improvement for the Raps. They'll likely be at the bottom of the division, but there's always a chance they can surprise.
Biggest surprise: New York Knicks
The Knicks are going to surprise one way or another. Because if they fail to secure a top-five pick this season, it will be a letdown. Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler can't make a top-four seed? And if they do make a top-four seed, it means that the Knicks have started to play defense, which is a stunner all its own.
The Knicks are at once a title contender and a non-factor in the Eastern Conference. It's just a matter of which side of the Hudson you're on. Melo is either going to be an MVP candidate, or fail miserably at point forward. Tyson Chandler is either going to make all the difference, or be an injury-prone non-factor who can't cover for all the other weaknesses. There's little in-between. But the Knicks in a full season together with a better combination of talent should take a step forward. This is a super-team that has not been built with a clean carving. It's rough, it's wild, and it operates for the most inventive head coach in the league. The Knicks may wind up exactly where they were last season.
But the ride should be full of surprises for someone, anyway.
Three Best Players: Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett, Amar'e Stoudemire
I couldn't win here. I left off Carmelo Anthony, which is going to drive Knicks fans batty. I included Amar'e Stoudemire, which is going to light the fires on half the people who read this. I excluded Ray Allen, the best pure shooter in the league. Paul Pierce isn't on here despite being the clutchest of the clutch. Kevin Garnett's on here, and some people think he's past the point of no return. Andre Iguodala is one of the best all-around players in the league and he's not even close to being on here. Deron Williams' team may win 20 games this season and he's on here. And Andrea Bargnani... no. Andrea Bargnani would not be on here. But the point is this division is long on players with top level ability. There are seven to eight names you can put on here as "the best."
Biggest Question: Can the Knicks gel?
Putting together a three-headed monster all in the frontcourt is a risky proposition. There's not a player to bind it all together. No creator. The absence of a viable point guard for the Knicks, at least until Baron Davis gets healthy, means that the frontcourt has to run an offense itself. It's like asking a plane to fly itself without navigation. The Knicks were up and down all season, including during the stretch with Melo and STAT, mostly on account of not knowing how to work with one another. But with one being a high-usage small forward and the other being a high-usage power forward, can they work together? Is this a combination of players that makes sense?
The Knicks can win with this group because stars win games. But can they win the big games, can they make the jump to an elite team? More importantly, can they establish an identity going forward? The Knicks have tossed together two of the best players in the game and then added one of the best big men in terms of rebounding and defense out there. But can talent alone spell greatness? And if not... what does that mean for Mike D'Antoni?
2012 Projected Standings:
1. Boston Celtics
2. New York Knicks
3. Philadelphia 76ers
4. New Jersey Nets
5. Toronto Raptors
Posted on: December 22, 2011 2:41 pm
Edited on: December 22, 2011 3:40 pm
By Matt Moore
The New Jersey Nets announced Thursday that center Brook Lopez has a broken foot and will undergo surgery. His listed recovery time is 4-6 weeks, but the injury is also similar to the one that sidelined Mavs' guard Roddy Beaubois for months and which SI.com says doctors have said can take up to 4 months to heal.
So no, this is not good news.
But as bad as it is for Lopez, it also has huge ramifications for the Nets and their pursuit of Dwight Howard. Lopez was the centerpiece of any trade to Orlando, giving the Magic a young center to at least take the sting off losing the league's best big man. At 4-6 weeks, there's time for Lopez to recover and get back on the floor to show himself still worth the Magic's investment (I'm sure that's No.1 on his list of priorities). But that assumes his surgery goes perfectly, his recovery is without flaw, and that his return has no issues.
At that point, the Nets may be one of the worst teams in the league. Howard will be staring at going to a team he'd have to claw out of the cellar alongside Deron Williams with, after having had to likely give up even more assets to account for the instability of Lopez' situation. While Howard would be looking at the big picture with regards to playing in Brooklyn the next six seasons, these superstars want to win now, every year, and don't want to risk missing the playoffs even a single season. The Magic would be then trading for a seven-foot center with a foot injury, which hasn't gone well in the history of the NBA. That damages the Nets' leverage in the package they'd have to give up, which would mean Howard would be giving his commitment to a team with nearly nothing on roster outside of Deron Williams.
Which isn't wholly different from what Carmelo Anthony did. But the Knicks were at least in playoff position at the time of the trade. Without Lopez, we see more of Johan Petro. The Nets' frontcourt, even with productive big man Kris Humphries, is going to be a near-disaster. Deron Williams is one of the top five point guards in the league, but there are limits to what even he can do.
Lopez meanwhile is faced with the balance of wanting to compete and do his job, wanting to get back on the floor as quickly as possible, and leveraging that against his long-term health. Throw in how the Nets have treated him for the past year, both in terms of his relationship with Avery Johnson and in his inecessant involvement in trade rumors, and Lopez will be rushing back from a serious injury to help a team that is clearly not invested in his future. Maybe he pushes himself just to get out of the situation, but it's not an unpleasant one, and that's before you deal with the mental and physical damage from undergoing this kind of injury process.
The Nets still have a chance at pulling off the trade which would set them up long-term in the future. But after making a huge gamble in trading for Deron Williams last season and surrendering nearly half their talent base, the Lopez injury makes the odds even worse. There's really only two ways this works out. The Nets pull of a miracle trade for Dwight Howard because he simply wants to play in Brooklyn that much, or they lose everything.
Meanwhile, Andrew Bynum looked spectacular in preseason play Wednesday night.
Posted on: December 11, 2011 12:56 pm
Edited on: December 11, 2011 12:59 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver.
The public backlash against NBA commissioner David Stern over his handling of recent Chris Paul trade talks just got an added boost of superstar juice.
New Jersey Nets All-Star point guard Deron Williams slammed, calling him a "bully" repeatedly, in comments made on Sunday, one day after the Lakers pulled out of extended 3-team trade talks that would have landed the New Orleans Hornets All-Star point guard in Los Angeles.
The New York Daily News has a rundown of Williams' public critique, which could very well end up drawing a fine from the commissioner's office.
"You’re fighting a bully. David Stern is a bully, you can’t really go up against him,” Williams said.It's hard to dispute Williams' sentiment given how harshly the NBA lockout played out and how authoritarian Stern's stance on the Paul trade appears from the outside, although this type of candor is rare in the NBA as the league office tends to respond harshly to even the slightest criticism from amongst its ranks.
Williams is an obvious ally for Paul, who saw a great chance to leave behind a disorganized Hornets organization to play for the league's premier organization explode over the last 72 hours. Williams and Paul are friends, were drafted in the same year, led small-market teams against the big dogs for years and are now anxiously looking forward to flex their muscles and improve their NBA situation with free agency approaching. Of course Williams will stand by Paul publicly: he realizes that if something like this can happen to CP3, it can happen to D-Will too.
The outcry over Stern's decision to step in and veto the Paul-to-the-Lakers trade on Thursday also led Indiana Pacers forward Danny Granger to joke that he was considering changing his last name to "Stern's B****." Paul threatened not to show up to training camp and Lakers forward Lamar Odom, who was also involved in the trade proposal, did not participate in Lakers camp on Friday and was promptly traded to the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday.
Stern's heavy-handedness towards players was a hot topic during the lockout. Television commentator Bryant Gumbel criticized Stern for acting like a "modern plantation overseer" and NBPA attorney Jeffrey Kessler said that Stern treated the players "like plantation workers."
Posted on: December 6, 2011 3:39 pm
Edited on: December 6, 2011 3:50 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver.
Hours after Magic CEO Bob Vander Weide stepped down after admitting he drunk dialed All-Star center Dwight Howard, reports have surfaced in Orlando that the Magic are exploring their trade options in hopes of acquiring a second All-Star to placate Howard.
BHSN reports that Magic have lofty goals.
Source in Magic front office confirms the Magic are attempting to acquire Deron Williams from the New Jersey Nets to help Dwight Howard. Magic front office source confirms Chris Paul and Monta Ellis are on team's radar. Howard confidante told me Paul and Ellis were on Dwight's wish list. Magic will try to acquire another superstar to help him out.Vander Weide said similar things to the station before the door hit him on the way out.
He told BHSN he believes the Magic might be able to cater to Howard's needs and acquire another NBA superstar. "It is certainly possible, teams like our assets," said Vander Weide in regard to a question about the potential to acquire either Chris Paul of the Hornets or Monta Ellis of the Warriors.As Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reported Tuesday, Howard has not formally told the Magic whether he would re-sign with the team or elect to pursue his options by requesting a trade or entering free agency after this season.
What to make of these rumors? Well, first, they are a desperate attempt by the Magic organization to shift the discussion from the unprofessional conduct of one of their chief decision-makers during a critical time in the franchise's history. The sooner everyone starts talking about rumors -- any rumors -- the more quickly everyone forgets that the guy employed to keep the only player worth more than a damn happy was too busy drinking wine and "paddling" to remember the basics of the boss/employee relationship. The bigger the name in the rumor, the better right now. Anything to restore some element of hope following a lockout and prior to the start of the 2011-2012 season.
Once the dust settles, the Magic will find themselves where they've always been: in a ridiculous cap situation with mediocre talent and a small market that doesn't appear to be enough to satisfy Howard's demands. Recently, Magic GM Otis Smith admitted that he is open to entertaining trade offers for Howard. That's smart. Put that all together and we should expect the Howard outbound rumors to replace these All-Stars inbound rumors in no time. Given how weak the Magic look right now, we should also expect the volume and velocity of Howard outbound rumors to increase dramatically over the next few weeks.
Posted on: December 5, 2011 1:42 pm
Posted by Royce Young
There was an understandable amount of panic and chatter when Deron Williams decided to turn down an extension with the Nets last week. Though the news wasn't surprising, it still meant that Williams would be an unrestricted free agent next summer with the option to leave the Nets and go anywhere.
This of course is a big deal because the Nets already made a major investment in Williams by trading away a couple of their top assets to Utah last year to get him.
So with a level of uncertainty surrounding Williams' future in New Jersey -- er, Brooklyn -- his name has started to be included in the "should they trade him?" conversations that currently are engulfed by Chris Paul and Dwight Howard.
Answer: Doesn't sound like it.
On WFAN Monday, Williams said, "My plan is to stay. Hopefully we can get some good talent to where I can stay."
And when asked what the percent change he would be staying with the Nets is, Williams didn't hesitate in saying "I'd probably say like 90 percent." That's a high percent.
Billy King just fist pumped in his office.
Williams tried to quell some of that distress last week about not signing an extension with a tweet that said, "Don't know why people are tripping just bc I'm opting out doesn't mean that I won't resign with the nets! W/ new CBA it makes sense." He's right. A new deal makes more sense and plus, he wants to see what the Nets do.
Last week when King was asked if he'd consider trading Williams, he answered, "Absolutely not." He probably already knew how Deron felt, but this has to be music to his ears.
Williams did leave open 10 percent though. And in that 10 percent is probably what the Nets do this season to impress Williams about their future. He even said, "Hopefully we can get some good talent to where I can stay." He's thinking about the roster and the future of the team. King and company have probably sold him on the fact that they're going to be major players in free agency, but they're going to have to prove it.
Posted on: December 1, 2011 1:08 pm
Edited on: December 1, 2011 4:20 pm
Posted by Royce Young
Not surprising news in the slightest, big big nonetheless: According to The Record, Deron Williams will not sign an extension with the Nets and will just plan to play this season out.
Big news because that basically means it'll be open season on Williams in 2012 and the Nets will have to convince him he should stay. Not surprising because the Nets haven't done anything yet to impress him. Just talking about Dwight Howard and Nene really doesn't do a whole lot. Actions, not words, are what are going to impress Williams.
"Deron will not be signing the extension,” Jeff Schwartz told The Record. “Based on the new rules it doesn’t make any sense for him to sign the extension. It has nothing to do with how much he likes New Jersey. Because of the rules, he’s going to play the season out and probably opt out of his deal.”
But this just illustrates what a risk the Nets took last year when they decided to trade Derrick Favors, draft picks and Devin Harris for Williams despite not knowing if he'd stay with the team. The Nets wanted to make a big splash for when they moved to Brooklyn and wanted that cornerstone piece.
Problem is, that cornerstone piece might just be with the organization for one and half lame duck seasons before taking off and signing with Dallas, or someone else. Again, a serious risk taken by Billy King and the Nets.
It could still pay off though. This isn't the Carmelo Anthony situation. The Nets aren't going to be dealing Williams and still have a full season to bring him around. Their eggs are in his basket so they're going to be pushing for another big name to pair with him and won't just pull back and deal him. At least I wouldn't think that would be the plan.
King was asked Wednesday on WFAN in New York if he'd consider trading Williams if he didn't sign an extension. King's response: "Absolutely not."
“Fortunately I was around him quite a bit before July 1st and I felt pretty good," King said. "I still feel pretty good because we have a lot of things going for him. We got a brand new building that will be opening next season. He can be the face of a franchise in a major market, so I think there is a lot of positives in our situation for him. In the other situations those guys have been with those teams for awhile. They may want to look. They may not. I don’t know.”
If Williams makes it painfully clear he doesn't want to stay with the Nets though, shouldn't they just cut their losses and get something back? You'd think so, but again, King and the Nets are planning on Williams be their man for the future.
It could happen still. Don't think for a second that Williams passing now is a death sentence. Lots of time left, but Williams just wants to wait and see. Which is what he should do. In fact, Williams understands that himself. He tweeted this Thursday after all the noise broke earlier in the day:
He's right: He can make more in free agency than he could signing an extension. So why wouldn't he opt out and in the meantime, give himself some options?
Like I said, Williams was never planning on signing an extension before the season. The Nets had to do the due diligence and make the effort, but it wasn't happening. Not until Williams can be convinced that's an organization he wants to commit to long-term. And it very well could be. Billy King's got a year to make it look that way. The clock starts ticking now.
Posted on: November 30, 2011 12:39 pm
Edited on: November 30, 2011 9:55 pm
Posted by EOB Staff
On a shortened schedule with the conclusion of the NBA lockout, free agency is going to be fast and furious. To keep track of all the wheelings, dealings, rumors, and reports, check Eye on Basketball daily for the Free Agency Buzz.
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