Posted on: December 28, 2011 2:00 am
Edited on: December 28, 2011 2:12 pm
By Matt Moore
The Lakers get off the schneid, the Heat win by the hair on their chinny-chin-chin, and the Blazers look better than last year. All this and more in Tuesday night's report card.
A: Portland Trail Blazers: On the second night of a back-to-back, the Blazers trounced the Kings in dominant fashion, including holding them to just 14 points in the fourth quarter. There's a lot to like about this Blazers team along with the usual suspects, LaMarcus Aldridge, Marcus Camby, Nicolas Batum, and Wesley Matthews. Mostly, the defense, lead by Gerald Wallace. Wallace was an absolute demon Tuesday night, covering wall-to-wall and making every play you can imagine. The Blazers blocked three shots on one possession at one point, and wound up with eight blocks and six steals. A dominant showing on a night when their guards struggled. Blazers look good early.
A: Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers played so well I'm handing out two A-grades. On the third night of a back-to-back, the Lakers came out at home and put away any talk of their losing streak stretching to 0-3 in the first quarter. The Utah Jazz looked like the worst team in the league Tuesday night, but the Lakers' dominance was great enough to overcome the challenge of a terrible opponent bending the curve. Defense was the key here. Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace were everywhere. Gasol played extremetly strong both at the rim and in space against Al Jefferson. The Jazz were a wreck, but the Lakers steered them there. Great first win for Mike Brown and company.
B: Norris Cole: The Heat rookie was the fourth quarter closer the Big 3 could not, would not be. 20 points for the rook who was aggressive at every turn. Cole not only took the game by the horns and drove the Celtics into the ground to bring back for supper when they made a furious fourth quarter run behind a zone defense, he was pivotal on defense and made good decision making. He would nail a big shot, then fist pump his way to the bench without turning around for Dwyane Wade or LeBron James' approval. So why the B? He was a bit too aggresive at times and still struggles with finishing like all rookies do. Wouldn't want the kid to get too big a head on his shoulders. The kid simply stepped up, did his job, and helped get the win for the Heat when they needed someone to step up and hit the shots. And now everyone gets to ask, "They have MORE talent?"
C: Boston's comeback: Great adjustment by Boston coach Doc Rivers to go to the zone, which the Heat will now be seeing in every game for the remainder of the season. That, combined with some great shooting, particularly from Keyon Dooling, helped the Celtics bring the Heat to the knife's edge before Cole turned it around on them. The Celtics made the push they needed to, and showed why they are still dangerous. So why the C? They lost, are 0-2, with two losses to teams they are likely to encounter in the playoffs. It was a good comeback effort, but ultimeately, it wasn't enough, and you have to wonder if it would have been that close had it not gotten so out of hand in the third so as for Erik Spoelstra to start screwing with lineups. The Celtics get a D, but the comeback is a C.
D: Heat's composure: How many times is this team going to melt down in the fourth? They had to turn to a rookie to save them late in a key game against arguably their biggest rival. It should never have gotten that close. Oh, and Paul Pierce didn't play. The Heat won, and they played incredibly well in the third, but man alive, they need to learn to close better.
F: Utah Jazz: So, you know, this draft class, it looks great...
Other Notable Grades:
Withdraw: Heat as invulnerable: Best team in the league right now? No question. But after looking like a flying death machine in the third, the Celtics drew blood on Heat before falling to their own mortality.
E For Effort: Kevin Love: 31 points, 20 boards in a three-point loss to the Bucks. Love was a monster and gave it his all in a badly coached game by Terry Porter with Rick Adelman absent due to a death in the family. One complaint? His final shot was either badly drawn up or executed, a pull-up 35-footer a la Kevin Durant in last year's playoffs vs. the Mavericks. But that stat line is part of what we missed during the lockout.
Gold stars: Pau Gasol (5 blocks). LaMarcus Aldridge. Brandon Jennings. Jon Leuer. Chris Bosh. MarShon Brooks. Vlad Radmanovic.
Posted on: December 22, 2011 7:36 pm
Edited on: December 22, 2011 11:12 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver.
The New Jersey Nets wasted no time plugging the hole created when starting center Brook Lopez went down with a broken foot earlier Thursday.
The Utah Jazz announced in a statement that the team has traded center Mehmet Okur to the Nets in exchange for a future second-round draft pick.
Utah Jazz general manager Kevin O’Connor announced today that the team has acquired a future second-round draft pick and a trade exception from the New Jersey Nets in exchange for center Mehmet Okur.ESPN.com reported that the draft pick is a 2015 second rounder.
A back injury ended Okur's 2010-2011 season in March and he reportedly considered retirement before opting to return to Utah to play out the final year of his contract. Okur is on the books in 2011-2012 for $10.9 million, meaning the Jazz acquire a trade exception for that value in this move.
Okur had been part of a very deep frontcourt in Utah, which also included veteran big man Al Jefferson, power forward Paul Millsap, second-year power forward Derrick Favors and 2011 first round pick Enes Kanter. There clearly weren't enough minutes to go around and Okur, 32, is well past his best days. His departure should open up playing time for Favors and Kanter, who represent Utah's future.
New Jersey, meanwhile, couldn't have a bigger need. With Lopez expected to be sidelined for more than a month, their frontline rotation included the likes of Kris Humphries, Johan Petro and rookie forward Jordan Williams. Good luck with that. Okur isn't a franchise-altering addition by any means but he has a familiarity with All-Star point guard Deron Williams, can knock down a face-up shot, doesn't require a long-term salary commitment and was essentially acquired for no cost other than his salary.
Posted on: December 21, 2011 11:22 pm
Edited on: December 21, 2011 11:37 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver.
Wednesday night's preseason game between the Utah Jazz and Portland Trail Blazers was all fun and games until Jazz forward Jeremy Evans decided to start jumping over people.
Evans, 24, is a second-year player out of Western Kentucky. It won't matter If he never has a better play than this during his NBA career because this was top-shelf.
Jazz forward Josh Howard found Evans trailing in transition, dishing the ball to him just inside the free throw line. Taking a gather step, Evans sprung into the air as Blazers forward Gerald Wallace moved in to take a charge. Evans catapulted over the top of Wallace -- striking a pose reminiscent of Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard's "Superman" dunk during the Slam Dunk Contest -- and threw the ball down into the rim from outside the protected circle.
Unfortunately, this early candidate for "Dunk of the Year" was called off as the referee whistled Evans for a charge. The call erased the two points but the memories will live forever. Jiminy Christmas.
Here's the video of Utah Jazz forward Jeremy Evans posterizing Portland Trail Blazers forward Gerald Wallace.
Posted on: December 19, 2011 7:07 pm
Edited on: December 19, 2011 8:30 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver.
We're less than one 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 continue with the Northwest Division.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder, 55-27, lost in Western Conference Finals
Best team: Oklahoma City Thunder
Worst team: Minnesota Timberwolves
Biggest surprise: Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets qualify as the biggest surprise because... who are they? Coach George Karl, point guards Ty Lawson and Andre Miller and re-signed center Nene Hilario are the known quantities, but otherwise it's plenty of question marks. Will new addition Rudy Fernandez finally evolve into an emotionally mature NBA player? Will any of the Nuggets trapped in China find their way back to the Mile High city? Karl is a master at pulling together difficult situations and he certainly has his hands full.
Durant drew some MVP whispers last season and yet still had to fight off critics who believe he is actually the second best player on his own team, thanks to Westbrook, the NBA's most dynamic and explosive point guard. It's a potent 1-2 tandem and the pair have said all the right things about working together towards a title rather than competing for the limelight.
New point guard Raymond Felton landed in Portland thanks to a draft day trade that sent Miller to Denver. Felton's higher-octane game will be a new look in the Rose City, where the Blazers have been most comfortable as tortoises in recent years thanks to the deliberate play of Miller and former guard Brandon Roy. Felton's desire to push tempo must mesh with coach Nate McMillan's demand to keep turnovers at a minimum and his desire to create his own offense must mesh with shoot-first guards Wesley Matthews and Jamal Crawford, while still ensuring that Aldridge gets plenty of touches. Felton is in a contract year so, while the demands are many, the potential rewards are great, too.
1. Oklahoma City Thunder
Posted on: December 16, 2011 3:26 pm
Posted by Royce Young
Fall is here, hear the yell, back to school, ring the bell ... Wait, we're almost to winter. What happened? Who cares, there's a season! The NBA season is right around the corner, and NBA training camp starts in just a couple weeks. To get you ready for the season, we've put together some pop quizzes. Pencils ready? We continue our Pop Quizzes with this question...
Who gets the last two seeds in the West?The Western Conference is wide, wide open. And I don't just mean at the top. There are a pretty set top six teams in the West -- Oklahoma City, Memphis, Dallas, San Antonio, the Clippers and the Lakers. Nobody's really going to argue too much with that.
But my question is, what is going to happen with spots seven and eight? Here are the remaining teams: Minnesota, Denver, Phoenix, Portland, Utah, New Orleans, Houston, Golden State and Sacramento. Two of those have to go to the playoffs (assuming of course the top six go as planned). Who, I mean who, has the edge there?
Let's start with teams that were there last postseason. That includes Portland, New Orleans and Denver. Obviously you can cross the Hornets right off, but of those nine teams vying for the two spots, you'd have to think Denver and Portland have the best shot. The Blazers took a massive hit with Brandon Roy's retirement, but that team made the playoffs pretty much without him anyway last year. And with Jamal Crawford coming in, Craig Smith beefing them up a little inside, Ray Felton running the show (as long as he's not 300 pounds), Gerald Wallace doing all the little things and a legit star in LaMarcus Aldridge, I'd say Portland will probably punch one of those spots.
The Nuggets? That's iffy. Bringing back Nene to go team with Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson gives Denver a solid core, but this team was ravaged by the lockout. J.R. Smith -- gone. Wilson Chandler -- gone. Kenyon Martin -- gone. It wasn't a guarantee those guys were coming back anyway, but Rudy Fernandez and Corey Brewer aren't really ideal replacements. Plus, this team is breaking in a lot of new stuff and with just 66 games, there's not a lot of time to get it sorted out. But among the contenders for No. 8, Denver will definitely be in the mix.
The Middle Class
The teams that are consistently solid, have a star or at least a quality roster and can compete with pretty much anyone on a night-to-night basis. I'd put Phoenix, Houston and Golden State in this group. Steve Nash gives Phoenix a chance every night, Houston went 43-39 last season and if the Rockets can add a big man -- granted, only Samuel Dalembert is really left -- they could be a solid seven or eight-seed and Golden State has too much offense to ignore.
It's a question with the Suns whether or not Nash can hold up in this schedule, if the Rockets will in fact get that big body they need and if the Warriors will just be themselevs and only play on one side of the floor. But any of these three could make a run one of those two spots and it wouldn't surprise me.
The Hornets are intentionally lowering their bar, despite getting a decent haul of talent from the Clippers. Really, Jarrett Jack, Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu, Emeka Okafor and Chris Kaman isn't a horrible core. But not being horrible doesn't mean you won't still struggle against the depth of the West. Because the Hornets currently have six or seven D-Leaguers on the roster, all with a pretty good shot at the final team. That's not good.
The Jazz just aren't there yet either. They need a scorer badly. Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors give them a nice frontcourt, but Devin Harris, C.J. Miles and Gordon Hayward aren't really going to light it up.
I like what the Jazz are doing, but they are built entirely around four frontcourt players. They need to dump Mehmet Okur and maybe even Millsap or Jefferson to get a scorer (Danny Granger?) unless they aren't sold on their lottery pick Enes Kanter. It's a rebuild post-Sloan and post-Deron and they're likely to be a whipping boy this season.
By process of elimination, you can figure out who are leftover and I'm even scaring myself with this. But the Kings and Timberwolves could both be set up for a quiet playoff push this year.
Start with the Kings. Tyreke Evans is finally healthy. He's finally in a real position playing shooting guard. Who knows what Jimmer will bring, but if all that fails, Evans can take over handling duties and bring Marcus Thornton in, who is instant offense. DeMarcus Cousins could be dominant if he keeps his head straight, Chuck Hayes is a classic scrapper, Jason Thompson and J.J. Hickson give them some depth. Who knows, in a 66-game schedule where crazy things happen, maybe the Kings start hot taking advantage of teams that didn't get a full camp together and use their youth to stay fresh through the crammed season. I could see it happening.
The Wolves? It's time for them to show some sign of improvement. It has to happen. Rick Adelman is a major addition because he's going to get these young players at least focused on a system and structure. David Kahn has built a mess of a roster but give him credit for one thing: It's got talent. There's a big if in Ricky Rubio and how much of a contributor Derrick Williams will be, but Kevin Love, Anthony Randolph, Wesley Johnson, Michael Beasley -- I can't believe I'm saying it, but I don't completely hate this roster.
It's all about Adelman though. I'm really believing that he makes a difference in figuring out how the pieces fit. Because if not, the Wolves could win 15 games. But if things click a bit and Rubio and Luke Ridnour run the Adelman offense well, could this team win 30 games? And with the back end of the West looking so iffy, could it be enough to sneak in? I'm not saying I believe it, but I could see it.
Posted on: December 9, 2011 2:23 pm
Edited on: December 12, 2011 4:00 pm
Posted by Royce Young
Al Jefferson's live-in girlfriend has been charged with assault for hitting and biting the Jazz big man, according to the Deseret News.
Shirley Lewis, 38, was arrested about 8:30 p.m. Thursday after she called police from the couple's home near 8000 South and Highland Drive, Cottonwood Heights Police Sgt. Mark Askerlund said. Police determined that it was a domestic violence incident and that Lewis was the aggressor.According to the report, alcohol evidently was not involved in the incident, but it isn't known what sparked the argument. Jefferson and Lewis have been dating for several years.
(Also, she's 38? What?)
Lewis was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail Thursday night and was later released. An arraignment on the charges was scheduled Friday morning.
Posted on: December 6, 2011 8:21 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2011 12:47 pm
Posted by Royce Young
When you have a season, you have to have a schedule. That's how it works, right?
Though it's abbreviated and not every city will see every team, the NBA put out its 66-game schedule Tuesday night.
And as it typically goes, within each schedules there your usual dregs and ho-hum matchups and there are big, storyline-filled mega showdowns. So let's get to it. What are the can't-miss games for this NBA season? Here are 21 you need to clear the calendar for, excluding the obvious can't-miss slate of Christmas games:
Dec. 26: Memphis at San Antonio:
It was stunning at the time, but after watching the Grizzlies rip through the Spurs before bowing out to the Thunder in seven-game, it felt like we should've seen this coming. And this was with the Grizzlies missing their best scorer in Rudy Gay.
Dec. 26: Los Angeles Lakers at Sacramento Kings
Jimmer Mania will finally get off to its NBA start and the league was kind enough to let it begin at home. You can be sure Sacto will be buzzing with the hated Lakers coming to town and Jimmer's debut, but there could be more to the hype than that. There could be a little optimism for the Kings are Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins and company might have a little something brewing this season.
Dec. 26: Oklahoma City at Minnesota
Before there was Jimmer Mania, there was Rubio Fever. We've just had to wait a while for it. Anctipation! Kevin Love will finally be able to believe what he sees as the floppy-haired Spaniard takes the floor with the Timberwolves for the first time against Durant, Westbrook and the Thunder.
Dec. 27: Boston at Miami
The first meeting between the Heat and Celtics since last season's playoff series. It's no secret that LeBron and Wade don't really get along well with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. The more teams don't like each other, the better.
Dec. 29: New York at Los Angeles Lakers
Maybe the two most visible franchises in the league with two rosters full of stars. Amar'e Stoudemire head-to-head against Pau Gasol is an awesome matchup, but if we're lucky, it'll be iso battles between Melo and Kobe for the last couple minutes of the game.
Dec. 29: Dallas at Oklahoma City
The first Thunder opportunity for payback and redemption would've come almost two months into the old season, but now it gets to happen right away. You can be sure the Arena Formerly Known As The Ford Center will be amped about this one. The last time the Mavericks were in Oklahoma City, they broke the Thunder’s heart with that ridiculous 15-point comeback. No way Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Thunder fans have forgotten.
Jan. 1: Cleveland at New Jersey
Top pick Kyrie Irving will have a handful of games under his belt by the time he heads to New Jersey, but this will be his first game against an elite point guard. How will he hold up against Deron Williams? This could be a quick welcome-to-the-NBA moment for the Cavs new franchise kid.
Jan. 5: Dallas at San Antonio
The old champs versus the new ones provides a new twist to an old rivalry. These two Texas titans have never gotten along and have had some pretty awesome games over the past decade or so. You can be sure that for once, Dirk and the Mavs will have a bit more swagger in Dallas as the Mavs take the floor against Tim Duncan and the Spurs. Funny how a ring can do that.
Jan. 13: Chicago at Boston
It's the Thibodeau Bowl. The Celtics might be aging but you know they aren't going to just hand the East over. The Bulls are rising and you know they want to rub last year's triumph over the Celtics in the regular season in their face.
Jan. 14: Lakers "at" Clippers
By no means have the Clippers caught up to the Lakers, but there is a chance that this team could be pretty decent. After a horrific start to last season, the Clippers put together a solid last four months of the season. Some might be looking at this game as a changing-of-the-guard type of affair -- which it's not -- but the Clippers could definitely raise some eyebrows.
Jan. 14: New Jersey at Utah
It'll certainly be more unceremonious as LeBron's return to Cleveland, but Deron Williams coming back to Utah will definitely have the attention of Jazz fans. There's some that still blame Jerry Sloan's retirement on Williams and that whole situation didn't sit well in Salt Lake. Williams will likely feel some anger from Jazz fans, even if it's not entirely deserved.
Jan. 19: Los Angeles Lakers at Miami
I'm not totally sure, but I think Kobe is still in American Airlines Center shooting. Kobe loves beating LeBron and you know the feeling is mutual. Two of the league's biggest, most visible teams with the two biggest, most visible stars. If you aren't watching, I have to wonder what the heck you could possibly be doing.
Jan. 20: Los Angeles Lakers at Orlando
The first time the Lakers visit the Magic. The question is, will Dwight Howard be playing home, or away?
Jan. 29: Chicago at Miami
A rematch of the Eastern Finals. Derrick Rose's last memory of the Heat is LeBron and Wade storming back in Chicago and stealing Game 5 when the Bulls had it all but won. These two teams will likely be the class of the East and with this being the first meeting of the season, somebody's going to make a statement.
Feb. 9: Los Angeles Lakers at Boston
It's the league's best rivalry, maybe sports' best rivalry. Every Celtics-Lakers game is an event. I don't think I even need to give you reasons why this game is huge.
Feb. 17: Miami at Cleveland
LeBron returns, again. It's the third time he's played in Cleveland since "The Decision" and some of the sting certainly has worn off, at least in that fans won't be buying tickets ONLY to yell at LeBron. But you can be sure that an unusual amount of Maverick blue will be littered throughout Quicken Loans Arena.
Feb. 17: New Orleans at New York
Take a good look at Chris Paul and wish, Knicks fans, assuming CP3 still is in NOLA. You know he's a free agent in 2012 and you know he'd look pretty nice alongside Amar'e and Melo. But he's on the other side right now and there's a pretty good chance he's going to drive you crazy, at least on this night.
Feb. 23: Lakers at Oklahoma City
The Lakers always bring out the best in Thunder fans, and that's saying something. Kobe, Durant, Westbrook, Bynum, Gasol, Harden, Perkins -- the names are there and the games are always good.
March 25: Miami at Oklahoma City
LeBron and Kevin Durant. Two of basketballs most enjoyable, explosive talents that are always easy on the eye. The Thunder have always been painted as the anti-Heat, but the young kids from OKC don't care about making a statement for the little guy. There may be a good storyline, but it's more about a really good Eastern team versus a really good Western team.
April 1: Miami at Boston
LeBron and Wade return to the scene of one of their greatest crimes. The Heat opened the season in Boston and took an embarrassing, humbling loss at the hands of the Celtics but got revenge in the postseason, besting the Celtics in five with the final game coming on the parquet. It's not exactly a rivalry, but again, the Heat don't enjoy the Celtics and the Celtics certainly don't enjoy the Heat.
April 15: Miami at New York
The two supposed "super" teams meeting in Madison Square Garden with potential Eastern seeding implications? Yes, please. LeBron against Melo is good stuff no matter what, but you can be sure the Knicks will be trying to push the Heat with a stronger roster by this point.
Posted on: November 21, 2011 9:57 am
Edited on: November 21, 2011 9:59 am
By Matt Moore
Whatever your feelings are on competitive balance, market economics, or parity in the NBA, it's hard to dispute the fact that pro basketball in certain markets is an institution. There's a million things to do in Los Angeles, a million different options of how to spend your time. New York is the cultural center of the modern world. Those cities love their teams and take pride in the teams representing their respective metropolitan goliaths. But in places like Portland and Salt Lake City, it's a different feeling. In short, the fans are completely insane. It's a way of life in those places, it's part of their heritage, it encapsulates a lot of people's lives and their families.
And both of those teams could wind up getting sold if the current trends continue.
Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen was rumored to be pushing for a deal in pursuit of selling the team months ago, an allegation the Blazers strongly denied. Now comes a report from the Deseret News that the family of the late Larry H. Miller could be considering selling the Jazz:
In fact, one source with intimate knowledge of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies inner workings speculated that small-market-related economic hardships could force Jazz ownership to place a "For Sale" sign on the franchise. The source told the Deseret News that the Jazz were expected to report losses in the $17 million range for the 2010-11 season.via Could bad deal mean end to Jazz in Utah? | Deseret News.
It's unfathomable to think of the Jazz being moved. They can clearly be successful, there. You have to wonder how much of this relates to overreactions to the current economic environment, and how much of it is purposefully leaked information to help in various legal and negotiating processes.
But if the group is serious about getting out of the business, it would be the cap on a depressing year for Jazz fans. They've lost the patriarch of the franchise, their coach for the past 25 years resigned, and their star player was traded before he could leave in free agency. And now there could be new ownership. The most likely scenario if they are sold is to another group out of Salt Lake that would keep them in the city. Burning down the bridge of one of the most successful small markets, the home of Stockton and Malone, doesn't seem like something the league would be willing to tolerate.
Then again, ask the fans in Seattle how that worked out.