Tag:Boston Celtics
Posted on: December 25, 2011 5:19 pm
Edited on: December 25, 2011 9:41 pm
 

Theory and Proof: Knicks beat Celts with defense

By Matt Moore

Carmelo AnthonyTheory: The Knicks are still learning defense but they have a path to it.

Proof: For a quarter it certainly looked like the Knicks were the same team they always have been under Mike D'Antoni. But excepting the third quarter 35-17 meltdown by the New York Knicks, the home team put in the effort and technique on the defensive end, and that's what led to their two-point win over the same team who swept them in last year's playoffs, the Boston Celtics. Well, that and Carmelo Anthony.

But outside of that horrific run to start the second half, the Knicks showed what you want to see if you're a New York fan. They were active defensively, especially when Tyson Chandler was in the game. They repeatedly attacked the Celtics at the rim (11 blocked shots). They held a huge advanteage on the offensive glass until the third quarter which accounts for a signifianct portion of Boston's advantage on the glass.

There was a different feel for the Knicks, who wound up winning the game by defending a Kevin Garnett fadeaway jumper well enough. The Knicks also flashed a new attitude, repeatedly standing up to Boston's bullying approach, concluding with Bill Walker getting in Garnett's grill after his miss, then taking a shot to the throat from Garnett. This is an ugly, tense, rivalry that gets nastier with every game.

And for once, it looks like the Knicks are ready to bow up to the bullies. Throw in the best scoring frontcourt in the league and the Knicks have their season off to the start they wanted. Even despite that third quarter.
Posted on: December 25, 2011 3:09 pm
Edited on: December 25, 2011 3:17 pm
 

Video: Kevin Garnett shoves Bill Walker's throat

Posted by Ben Golliver.

A spectacular down-to-the-wire season opener ended in ugly fashion.

The Boston Celtics and New York Knicks played four quarters of thrilling basketball at Madison Square Garden on Christmas Sunday, but Celtics forward Kevin Garnett swooped in to steal the headlines in the game's final moments, for all the wrong reasons. 

With New York leading 106-104, Boston inbounded the ball from the sideline to Garnett, who found himself wide open for a potential game-tying buzzer-beater when Knicks wing Bill Walker barreled into Knicks center Tyson Chandler as he chased Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo towards the top of the key. Walker's inadvertent pick left Garnett with a clean look at a 16-foot jumper -- although Walker closed late to contest -- but he was too strong, and the shot rebounded off as time expired.

The Knicks therefore escaped with the victory, but Garnett wasn't done. Walker and Garnett jawed at each other as the other Knicks celebrated, and injured Knicks point guard Baron Davis attempted to step in to separate Walker and Garnett. That move was too little, too late, as the always feisty Garnett used his left hand to grab Walker's neck and shove him backwards. Davis and others were then finally able to send the combatants back to their corners and the court eventually cleared.

There's a decent chance Garnett faces some disciplinary action from the NBA league office for his action, given both the aggressiveness and the proximity to his opponent's head. Will he get fined, suspended or neither? We all wait with bated breath. 

Here's the video of Celtics forward Kevin Garnett going at the neck of Knicks wing Bill Walker after New York beat Boston on Christmas Day.


Posted on: December 24, 2011 4:41 pm
Edited on: December 25, 2011 11:44 am
 

Paul Pierce out for Christmas opener at Knicks

By Matt Moore and Ben Golliver.

Update (Christmas morning)
: Boston.com reports that Celtics forward Paul Pierce has been ruled "out" for the Christmas Day season opener against the New York Knicks because of the heel injury. Celtics forward Sasha Pavlovic will get the start.

Original post: Maybe Paul Pierce, who has missed Celtics workouts because of a bruised heel, is just being a good teammate. Maybe he's just doing it for moral support. But given his history of saying he's out and then suddenly appearing on the floor, this news has to give the Knicks and all Celtics fans pause. 

The Celtics' twitter account posted Saturday that Pierce will join the team in New York for its opener Sunday against the Knicks. Doc Rivers had said Pierce was listed as "doubtful" for the game earlier this week. 

Pierce's absence would be devastating for the Celtics who are thin at small forward anyway, particularly after Jeff Green's heart condition was revealed to force him into missing the season. Carmelo Anthony has to be not only accounted for defensively, but matched in terms of scoring output, since the odds of shutting down Anthony are slim. The Celtics will miss Pierce on multiple levels if out, however.

The Celtics have been known in the past to say a player is out before they decide to take the floor. But the Celtics might choose to be cautious considering the strain the upcoming shortened season may have on Pierce and the other starters. The objective is to make the playoffs. The big picture has to come first for a team this thin and with this much age on its stars.
Posted on: December 24, 2011 1:19 pm
Edited on: December 24, 2011 10:03 pm
 

The 12 Things of NBA Christmas



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 23, 2011 2:53 pm
 

Pietrus headed to Celtics?

Posted by Royce Young

The Celtics have had a rough go this offseason, missing out on players they thought they'd get and losing another to heart surgery. They need some depth badly, and so they're likely turning to a player recently waived by the Suns.

According to NBA.com, the Celtics will likely sign Mickael Pietrus after he clears waivers Saturday, who was just bought out by Phoenix.

Last season splitting time between Orlando and Phoenix Pietrus averaged 7.2 points and 2.2 rebounds per game. He's a sizeable defender, can shoot the 3 and will definitely help the Celtics out immensely.

Especially considering that Paul Pierce could be battling a heel injury, adding Pietrus is something the Celtics are in desperate need of and that's even before the Jeff Green thing happened. Behind Ray Allen is Keyon Dooling, behind Pierce is Marquis Daniels and behind him is Sasha Pavlovic. So Pietrus will likely step in and really help Boston right away.
Posted on: December 23, 2011 1:32 pm
Edited on: December 23, 2011 9:46 pm
 

2011-12 official NBA season predictions

Posted by Eye on Basketball



The season is finally, mercifully, just around the corner. In two days the 2011-2012 season kicks off. For all the lockout, legality, and lost games, there will be basketball. But we find a dramatically different NBA than we left. The Lakers are in disarray, the Celtics are fading, the Clippers are a potential powerhouse, and the Raptors... okay, the Raptors are still terrible.

So how is this all going to work out? We bring you our predictions for the 2011-2012 season, along with some random predictions on how things will go according to our crystal ball. (Note: We got our crystal ball at a flea market in southern Missouri. It also says "Get 'Er Done" on it.)

Three Random Predictions from Eye on Basketball

Royce Young:
1. Monta Ellis will be the biggest name traded this season. You can probably read between the lines there. That means Dwight Howard isn't getting dealt. The Magic are going to spend the first two months of the season trying to convince Howard to go to free agency, mainly because there isn't a suitable package on the market at this point. The Warriors though have been dangling Ellis on the market for a while, coming close to trading him for Andre Iguodala last season. They want to turn the backcourt over to Stephen Curry entirely and moving Ellis is what needs to happen to both Curry and the organization's development.

2. Flip Saunders will be the first coach fired. The Wizards are sort of a mess. John Wall has a ton of talent and young guys like Nick Young, JaVale McGee and Jordan Crawford have potential. But they don't appear to be moving forward as a team. Saunders is a really good coach and him being fired wouldn't be an indictment on his ability to coach. Sometimes young players just need a new direction, a new voice to listen to. You can't risk stunting development with young players and if the Wizards start slow and more importantly, sloppy, Saunders will get the axe.

3. Kevin Durant will win a third straight scoring title. Only six players in NBA history have ever won three consecutive scoring titles (Michael Jordan, George Gervin, Bob McAdoo, Wilt Chamberlain, Neil Johnston, George Mikan). So it's not some small task. I could see Durant's scoring decrease a bit because of James Harden’s emergence as a legit third scorer. That doesn’t mean Durant won’t average 27 or 28 a game, but I don’t see him bursting into 33 or 34 points per game range. He’ll take another scoring title simply because he just can’t help it. Dude could score 27 a game if he was in a full body cast.

Ben Golliver:
1. The Lakers will land Dwight Howard. The Lakers have dealt from a position of power for as long as anyone can remember, but the last month's insanity has now pushed them into desperation mode. This group, even if perfectly healthy, can't win a title this year and there are so many dead weight contracts a handful of amnesty clauses still wouldn't be enough. Put that together with Kobe Bryant's increasing age and the Lakers have no choice but to swing for the fences and deal every last tradable asset for Dwight Howard. Magic GM Otis Smith has been taking his time, as he should, but there's so much writing on this wall it looks like a New York City subway car covered in graffiti. Gasol, Bynum and whatever else L.A. can muster will head East.

2. We'll have a tank-off for the ages. Given the weirdness of the shortened season and the absolutely loaded 2012 NBA Draft, there's never been a better time for below-average teams to write off a season in hopes of landing a top draft pick. The Charlotte Bobcats, Toronto Raptors and Cleveland Cavaliers are your top-3 contenders for tankapalooza, but the Washington Wizards, New Orleans Hornets, Detroit Pistons and New Jersey Nets are one injury away from being in combustion mode too. The smart money is on the Bobcats but brace yourself for some truly hideous basketball.

3. Erik Spoelstra will win Coach of the Year. Miami enters the season on what feels like a perfect storm: they key players are in shape, healthy, motivated, focused and extremely, extremely talented. Importantly, they bring with them a mindset of "We've been through the worst of it and we know what to expect now" and also realize that the only team that stood between them and the 2011 championship, the Dallas Mavericks, lost its most important defensive player in Tyson Chandler. Add up all of those factors and we're looking at the possibility of Miami making a mockery of the regular season, running off lengthy winning streaks and only slowing down if they get to the point where homecourt advantage is already wrapped up. A 50-win season is well within reach and, if that benchmark is met, look for Spoelstra, who dealt with rumors about his job last season, getting tapped for Coach of the Year honors.

Matt Moore:
1. The Lakers will figure something out. This franchise does not rebuild. It reloads. And with the assets they have and under the urgent leadership of the younger Buss, something will go down. Maybe it's Dwight Howard, maybe it's a solution we can't see yet that comes out of nowhere. But the Lakers have been a dominant franchise since the inception of the league. They will not go down quietly, not with Kobe Bryant facing the end of his career. Something will shake out for the Purple and Gold.

2. One of the superteams will self-destruct. It's not that superteams are inherently flawed. On the contrary, they have an obscenely high probability of success. But they are not 100 percent proof. And the very problems that can help more complete team efforts topple the superteams (chemistry, selfless play, ball movement, defense) will spell a blowup of one of the juggernauts. Maybe it's the Heat who simply find that they can win a ton of games but never be truly great with the 1-2-3 of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. Maybe it's the Knicks who find that they truly do need a creator to run an offense geared around front-court scoring. Maybe it's the Clippers and Lob City turns out to be the Wizards' Oz. Or maybe it will be the Nets who find that Deron Williams and Dwight Howard aren't enough with the horrible roster they have around them should they land Howard. But one team will find that their experiment with overwhelming firepower was a mistake.

3. Josh Smith or Andre Iguodala will be with new teams by year's end. I'm a believer that situations that reveal themselves as untenable will not hold. And both of those players have been on the trade block for far too long. Smith has wanted off the Hawks, the Sixers have wanted to move Iguodala for a scoring punch for multiple seasons. It's simply unlikely that both teams will elect to stay put the whole year through, especially since both teams are in direct competition for the mid-to-late playoff spots in the East. Where those two end up could have significant impacts on the playoffs.

2011-12 NBA Season Predictions
Prediction Ken Berger
Matt Moore

Ben Golliver

Royce Young
Atlantic Division Winner
Central Division Winner
Southeast Division Winner
Southwest Division Winner
Northwest Division Winner
Pacific Division Winner
Eastern Conference Winners
Bulls over Heat

Heat over Bulls

Heat over Bulls

Heat over Bulls
Western Conference Winners
Thunder over Mavericks

Thunder over Lakers

Thunder over Clippers

Thunder over Grizzlies
Finals Winner
Most Valuable Player
Dwyane Wade
Heat, SG

Kevin Durant
Thunder, SF

LeBron James
Heat, SF

Blake Griffin
Clippers, PF
Rookie of the Year
Kyrie Irving
Cavaliers, PG

Ricky Rubio
Timberwolves, PG

Ricky Rubio
Timberwolves, PG

Derrick Williams
Timberwolves, PF


Predictions: 2011-12 Eastern Conference Playoff Teams
Seed Ken Berger
Matt Moore

Ben Golliver

Royce Young
No. 1
No. 2
No. 3
No. 4
No. 5
No. 6
No. 7
No. 8


Predictions: 2011-12 Western Conference Playoff Teams
Seed Ken Berger
Matt Moore

Ben Golliver

Royce Young
No. 1
No. 2
No. 3
No. 4
No. 5
No. 6
No. 7
No. 8
Posted on: December 22, 2011 7:20 pm
 

2011-2012 Atlantic Division Preview



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.

2011 Standings:
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 21, 2011 1:39 am
Edited on: December 27, 2011 1:39 pm
 

NBA Power Rankings: Breakdown, Takedown

Posted by Royce Young and Ben Golliver

los-angeles-clippers

The 2011-2012 NBA season starts on Sunday, and with that comes the inaugural batch of CBSSports.com's NBA Power Rankings by Eye On Basketball's Matt Moore.

What did he get right? What did he get wrong? We're here to break it down and take it down.

1. Too High: Memphis Grizzlies at No. 7
Let's pump the brakes just a bit on the Grizzlies bandwagon right now. They look good and they made a lot of noise in the postseason, but how much of that was overachievement? How much of that was because of favorable matchups? The Grizzlies could be a really nice team, but a top eight power? I'm not ready to go there until they show they're actually something to be taken seriously. -- RY

2. Too Low: Portland Trail Blazers at No. 17 The Blazers had about as sucky an offseason as you could have. And we're talking about the Blazers here, a team that's had their fair share of sucky things. Greg Oden had his annual setback, Brandon Roy retired and the team still doesn't have a general manager. That said, Jamal Crawford is a perfect signing, LaMarcus Aldridge may be the West's best power forward and Nate McMillan seems to keep winning despite all the crap that falls down around him. -- RY

3. Most Overrated: Boston Celtics at No. 6 The roster is worse at virtually every position, injuries are mounting and Father Time is grasping to claim this group with both hands. The Celtics were dropkicked out of the playoffs by the Miami Heat, and the gap between the two teams has transformed into a canyon. The Big 4 can still get it done but they aren't scaring teams like they once did. It's possible to show the veterans too much respect, and that's what happened here. -- BG

4. Most Overlooked: Indiana Pacers at No. 12
The small-market Pacers have the best roster that no one is talking about. With talent at all five positions, a former All-Star added to the mix in David West plus expected growth from Paul George, Indiana could wind up being a top-5 team in the East. Their frontcourt has sneaky depth thanks to Jeff Foster, Jeff Pendergraph, Lou Amundson and Tyler Hansbrough, four guys who will do the dirty work and make life easier for West and franchise guy Danny Granger. More credit due! -- BG

5. Sure Thing: Toronto Raptors at No. 30 They stink. There's no way around it. I like DeMar DeRozan. I like Andrea Bargnani. I like Dwane Casey. I want to like the Raptors. But they aren't going to be good. -- RY

6. Wild Card: Los Angeles Clippers at No. 9 Take one look at the highlights from their preseason opening win over the Lakers and it's tempting to think the Clippers should be much higher than the No. 9 spot. Is No. 3 or No. 4 really out of the question for the league's latest and greatest flavor of the month? Of course, it's one thing to fill up highlight tapes and it's another to stack up wins. Where the Clippers settle in the West's hiearchy will be one of the biggest NBA questions to watch in January. -- BG
 
 
 
 
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