Archive for the ‘Basketball’ Category

NBA 2006-2007 Playoff Teams

Eastern Conference1. Pistons

Although they lost Ben Wallace, the rest of the core remains. They’re still the best defensive team in the Eastern Conference and although Nazr Mohammed isn’t as dominant a post defender as Wallace, he is a solid rebounder and a more proficient offensive player. The roster still lacks depth, but the starting five is talented and focused – sans Rasheed Wallace’s projected 104 technical fouls with the new “Don’t talk back” rule having been implemented – enough to breeze through the East.

2. NetsThe up-tempo offense remains, Vince Carter is a great scorer, Richard Jefferson is among the elite small forwards and Jason Kidd, although he’s lost a step, is still the consummate point guard. Barring injury, he will move ahead of Rod Strickland for 7th all-time in assists. They lack inside presence – Kidd led the team in rebounding – but Nenad Krstic, 23, should take on a greater role in the offense and become a better rebounder. Marcus Williams, Eddie House and Clifford Robinson will provide a great offensive spark off the bench.

3. BullsAfter winning a total of 119 games in the first five years of the post-Jordan era, Chicago has become a playoff team. Already a strong defensive squad, they signed Ben Wallace and drafted Tyrus Thomas to sure up the interior defense. Their problem though is a lack of inside scoring. Neither big man can consistently put the ball in the hole and P.J. Brown, at this stage of his career, doesn‘t have much offense outside of the 12-foot jumper. Michael Sweetney, who is capable of scoring, won’t play enough minutes because he lacks conditioning and has trouble avoiding fouls (and fowl). They rely heavily on their perimeter players – namely Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon – for points, but those two combine to shoot just 42 percent from the field. Considering Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler are no longer with the team, that trade of Elton Brand isn’t looking too good now – not that it ever did.

4. CavaliersLeBron James (can‘t talk Cavs without starting the sentence with his name), in each of his three seasons has improved greatly. He’s gone from good to great to arguably the best player in the NBA, and at 21, he most likely isn’t a finished product yet. He might not get past Detroit working out in a pool or playing pickup games with the old man and pretty boy versions of himself, but with a healthy Larry Hughes (hand), Zydrunas Illgauskas and Drew Gooden, who should have a bounce-back season, he should lead his team to the fourth seed.

5. HeatTalented, but some of their key players are nearing the twilight of their careers, most notably (and importantly) Shaquille O’Neal. Shaq, who turns 35 during the season, has been on the decline for three years and it’s reflected in his production and minutes. No longer can he be counted on to shoulder the load on offense, and the big games will be fewer and farther between. Dwyane Wade will have carry them. However, they do play tough defense, rebound well and have quality depth along with a great coach.

6. WizardsUnder Eddie Jordan, a former Nets assistant, they use a run ‘n shoot offense similar to New Jersey. The difference is that the Wizards are more perimeter-oriented. And because the team relies so heavily on the jump shot – from Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison – they will be inconsistent. Also, the team considers defense the period of dormancy during which they wait to get the ball back. Although they shoot well from the field, the Wizards allow opponents to shoot 46.5 percent and 36 percent from 3-point range.

7. KnicksFew teams, if any, have as much offensive firepower. The Knicks have six players capable of scoring over 15 points per game. However, they lack defensive talent (and effort, in some cases), are undersized in the backcourt, don’t have a consistent shooter or a dominant rebounder and might turn the ball over more often than they did last season. But Isiah Thomas’ system will take advantage of the talent on offense, Eddy Curry will “man up” some, and they’ll outscore enough opponents to finish around .500. Plus it’s the Eastern Conference, where mediocre means “good enough.”

8. MagicThey aren’t a high-scoring team and Jameer Nelson, whose strength is not ball distribution, is unproven as a starter, but Dwight Howard might be one of the three best centers in the league. The 21-year-old is already one of the top rebounders (led the NBA in total rebounds) and is quickly developing a low-post game. Grant Hill, for as many games as he can play, and Hedo Turkoglu will be scorers on the wing. Also, youngsters Trevor Ariza, Darko Milicic and J.J. Redick will contribute off the bench.

Western Conference1. Mavericks

They were the best team in the NBA last year – though they have nothing to show for it – having improved defensively and found secondary (Jason Terry) and tertiary (Josh Howard) scorers to compliment Dirk Nowitzki. DeSagana Diop also emerged late in the season and during the playoffs as a rebounder and shot-blocker, giving them an inside toughness they’ve lacked. After watching his team choke a way a championship, Avery Johnson will have his foot on the throttle. And they’ll play hard, if for no other reason than to avoid hearing the coach’s banshee-like screaming.

2. SpursThe best defensive team in the league (although Memphis held opponents to 0.3 fewer points per game), they didn’t add many players, but they will have Tim Duncan (plantar fasciitis) and Manu Ginobili (various leg injuries) back healthy. With Duncan dominating the paint, if Tony Parker is as proficient at slashing to the basket as he was last season, they could be one of the higher scoring teams. That in addition to the defense will make them title contenders again.

3. SunsPhoenix was the best offensive team (scoring and field goal percentage) in 2005, and they did it with Amare Stoudemire (26 points per game) on the bench in button-down shirts and Joe Johnson (20.2) in a Hawks uniform. Boris Diaw and Raja Bell emerged as scorers while Shawn Marion and Steve Nash had their best seasons. This year, Stoudemire is back. After having undergone microfracture knee surgery, he may no longer be “The Dunk Monster,” but he is still athletic and skilled enough to be a threat in the post. Their weakness, as it was a year ago, is defense (ranked 28th) and rebounding.

4. NuggetsAll the team is lacks is consistent outside shooting and a low-post banger. Carmelo Anthony, after a tumultuous sophomore season (marijuana arrest, an alleged saliva-sparked scuffle and a “Stop Snitching” DVD), had his breakout last year, averaging over 26 points. Andre Miller is one of the better assist men in the NBA, Kenyon Martin, when healthy, gives them a fiery and athletic defender at power forward and the ever-injured Marcus Camby seems to have found panacea in the Denver water.

5. ClippersAfter winning 47 games and taking the fifth seed last season, they’re no longer the punch line of jokes. Elton Brand, though undersized for his position, has become even more of a scorer in the paint and Cuttino Mobley gives them a mid-range game. Sam Cassell, who provides leadership and a consistent jumper, and Chris Kaman (12 points, 9 rebounds) give the Clippers the two of the scariest faces in professional sports. Tim Thomas will be a scorer off the bench and if Corey Maggette can return to form, he’s another guard capable of putting up 20 points. They were ranked 11th defensively last season.

6. GrizzliesMemphis was statistically the best shut-down defense in the league and this year, they should be more potent offensively. The return of Damon Stoudamire (knee) gives them veteran leadership at point guard, Mike Miller is one of the best 3-point sharpshooters in the league and when at full strength, their frontcourt of Pau Gasol (foot), Rudy Gay (8th pick in the draft), Stromile Swift and Hakim Warrick is one of the most athletic.

7. RocketsLast season, though battling foot injuries, Yao Ming took that step from “good” to “very good,” asserting himself more in the post and averaging over 20 points and 10 rebounds for the first time. If he can continue to play at that level and Tracy McGrady’s back holds up (and he stops settling for 20-foot fadeaways), the two could be the most dynamic duo in the NBA. Their supporting cast hasn’t improved much though. Shane Battier, whom Houston traded Rudy Gay for (why?), will give them solid defense at the small forward, but he is limited offensively. They were the fourth best defensive team a year ago, but they continue to lack the scoring (second worst) needed to elevate themselves amongst the top teams.

8. LakersThey’ll once again be the Los Angeles Kobes, but Bryant, wearing No. 24 this season, will get more help from his teammates. Lamar Odom’s scoring should improve, the super-talented 19-year-old Andrew Bynum has supplanted Kwame Brown at center (what was worse, Michael Jordan’s decision to draft Brown first overall or his acting in Space Jam?), and on the bench, Ronny Turiaf, Vladimir Radmanovic and Chris Mihm will add solid depth. Phil Jackson’s hip replacement will have no bearing on the season. He’ll still be able to waddle up the sidelines with pomposity, whistle to his players and yell, “Stop being selfish…give the damn ball to be Kobe!”

Billy Donovan to the Magic: Keep your money!

After turning down the University of Kentucky job, Florida coach Billy Donovan jumped at the chance to coach in the NBA and bank $27.5 million over five years. After back-to-back national titles he had little left to prove at the NCAA level, and he didn’t do his team dirty like Nick “Paper Chase” Saban, so nobody north (or south) of Gainesville faulted him. But apparently, Donovan’s conscience was kicking his ass.

“While Central Florida, the Orlando Magic and Billy were energized with the announcement of his contract signing on Friday, we know there was a different feeling in Gainesville and people have been tugging at him since that time,” a statement from the Magic read. “Billy is conflicted with those emotions and the opportunity he has ahead in Orlando and in the NBA.”

This is a devastating blow to the Magic’s public relations score of hiring Donovan. His was a popular hire in Central Florida, even if it didn’t frighten teams around the league. Orlando general manager Otis Smith likely will turn to former Miami Heat coach Stan Van Gundy to coach the Magic.  – Yahoo! Sports

Billy, you’re a stronger and much stupider man than I. Granted, you’re already rich. 

Cleveland Rocks! (not really)

The Cavaliers, in a somewhat stunning upset, flipped the Pistons 98-82 and have reached the NBA Finals. Everyone knew Cleveland was a team on the rise, but few expected them to get this far this soon, especially since LeBron James regressed a little from 2005-06. But they took advantage of Detroit’s sub-par play, and really, could’ve swept them. The Cavs went down 79-76 in each of the first two games, due in large part to James totaling just 29 points. They would’ve probably won both if he’d made an impact offensively. The Pistons turned the ball over 74 times in the series and Chauncey Billups wasn’t able to get on track offensively. All of his shooting percentages were down and he averaged just 3.5 assists. And Tayshaun Prince shot just .242 percent – that’s not even a decent batting average – and got bullied like he was back in Compton.

Smart play by James in Game 6, realizing that he’d be the Pistons’ focus after the 48-point outburst and not trying to force up shots. Instead, he setup teammates (8 assists) and let them take advantage of the extra attention he was getting. He went 3-of-11 for the game, but some of the shots he took were in garbage time and it looked as if he was just trying to crack 20 points.

Remember the “LeBrons” commercial that aired before the season? Well, looks like Old was wrong about the benefits of training in a pool.

Rasheed Wallace is an asshole. He hauled James to the floor and got whistled for his sixth foul midway through the 4th quarter. It was a stupid foul considering the play (James was surrounded by defenders) and the juncture (his team already floundering), but Wallace couldn’t leave it there. He had to play up his bravado and bark at the referee for making an obvious call. He was still pissed about his fifth foul – a charge on Anderson “Mr. Floppy” Varejao in the post – but he acted as if he shouldn’t have been penalized for pulling James down. And notice how he got more clamorous when Antonio McDyess and Lindsay Hunter were holding him back. All he succeeded in doing was hurting his team, tacking on another technical – it’s funny when a guy gets a tech after he’s out of the game – and making a fool of himself. Not that he minds doing any of that. He got booted from the game with 11 points (on 5-14 from the field) and 2 rebounds. And for a talented 6-foot-11 power forward with star status, career averages of 15.4 points and 6.9 rebounds kinda suggest he’s overrated.

LeBron better invest in a jock strap and bicycle helmet for this series. San Antonio will be “playing him physical” – which means cheap shots. The Spurs are that sore-losing sumbitch in the pickup game who yells, “Do that shit again! Do it again and I’ll fuck you up!” when an opponent makes him look bad on a crossover. Tangent: You can’t convince me that Robert Horry checking Steve Nash NHL-style wasn’t in the playbook. Doesn’t it make sense to have one of your most worthless players attack the other team’s star and start a skirmish (it’s never a fight in the NBA, just a skirmish)? When a 6’10” guy sends your little Canadian flying into the scorer’s table, the league’s stupid rule be damned, it’s natural reaction to rush to his aid. So why not sacrifice Horry (and his 4.8 points) to suspension if it results in them not having Amare Stoudemire for Game 5? Bill Bellichick couldn’t draw up a better defensive scheme. The Spurs deserved to win the Conference Finals, but the dirty plays tainted it.

Prediction: If you’re one of those people who root against the Spurs and hate their style of play, the good news is that the Finals won’t last long. James will get all the attention going into the series and will be looked at as basketball’s leviathan, but the Spurs are a much better team than the Cavs. While nobody on the San Antonio’s roster matches up well with James (Manu Ginobili and Bruce Bowen aren’t big or strong enough, and Mike Finley wouldn’t be quick enough – if he played defense to begin with), the Cavs don’t have anyone who can slow down Tim Duncan or Tony Parker. Zydrunas Ilgauskas plays solid defense in the post, at times, but he isn’t nimble enough to match Duncan’s quick moves and footwork inside. Drew Gooden isn’t big enough. And Parker’s quickness will be too much for Larry Hughes, Eric Snow and Boobie Gibson. In fact, Ginobili should be able to get his against LeBron, who isn’t a good perimeter defender. Spurs in 5.

Race Carders Cry Foul on NBA Refs

An academic study of the National Basketball Association, whose playoffs continue tonight, suggests that a racial bias found in other parts of American society has existed on the basketball court as well.

A coming paper by a University of Pennsylvania professor and a Cornell University graduate student says that, during the 13 seasons from 1991 through 2004, white referees called fouls at a greater rate against black players than against white players.

Justin Wolfers, an assistant professor of business and public policy at the Wharton School, and Joseph Price, a Cornell graduate student in economics, found a corresponding bias in which black officials called fouls more frequently against white players, though that tendency was not as strong. They went on to claim that the different rates at which fouls are called “is large enough that the probability of a team winning is noticeably affected by the racial composition of the refereeing crew assigned to the game.” – NY Times

It all makes sense! You know why the Knicks didn’t make the playoffs? Because David Lee got injured and was replaced in the lineup by a Negro (a nappy-headed one at that). The refs screwed the team out of 15-20 wins. They’d be en route to the Finals right now. The Heat beat the Mavs last year because they had more white guys. Michael Doleac, Jason Williams, Matt Walsh and Jason Kapono offset Dirk Nowitzki, who doesn’t count as much anyway because he’s not American.

They just educated our ignorant asses. When smart folks are talking, close your mouth and open your mind.

I’m gonna assume they considered the fact that the league is 90% black and worked the statistics around that. But I’m wondering if they factored in the minutes played. Most starting lineups are all black and, obviously, the more you’re on the court, the greater chance there is of you committing or being called for a foul. They also should’ve considered the difference in play. Most fouls are committed inside the paint (that’s why big men usually accumulate the most fouls). I can’t back it up with a number, but I’m gonna say that most white guys are perimeter players. You don’t get whistled for fouls too often when spotting up for a jumper. There aren’t a lot of rugged, low post defenders who are white. Hell, a lot of the Europeans don’t play defense at all.

Both Justin Wolfers and Joseph Price are white, by the way.

Final Four Guarantees

Georgetown over Ohio State
Upset. Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green will do enough inside to offset Greg Oden, and maybe even limit him offensively. He’ll need to go off for 25 or more points in this one, and thus far, he hasn’t shown that much offensive prowess. Jonathan Wallace and Mike Conley Jr. cancel each other out. 79-74, Georgetown

Florida over UCLA
The Bruins’ only hope is for Aaron Affalo and Darren Collison go off. Otherwise, it could be a blowout. They don’t have enough size inside, nor do they have enough firepower to keep up with Al Horford, Taurean Green, Joakim Noah and Lee Humphrey. The Billy Donovan “controversy” won’t affect them. 84-73, Florida
 

“And I’ve never been wrong before.” – Stevie Soothsayer a.k.a. Me

March Madness: Sweet 16 Picks

Did I let you down with my NFL post-season picks? Of course not. So, once again, take it to the bank…or Pete Rose.

Kansas over Southern Illinois

Memphis over Texas A&M

Pittsburgh over UCLA

Ohio State over Tennessee

Florida over Butler

UNLV over Oregon

Georgetown over Vanderbilt

UNC over USC

My March Madness Post

I apologize to my readers who are fans of college basketball, but I am not a fan of college basketball. I can watch, it’s just that I don’t care. All I know is that Duke got bumped in the first round and their roster, unlike years past, was full of players you’d never heard of until a week ago. Oh, and Ohio State survived a scare and Greg Oden is really 37 years old.

Too many teams and too many games; I can’t get up for two schools I’ve never seen or heard of. I’ll get into it when Manhattan College is in the championship game. Promise.

Wait! Don’t call me an asshole and remove Best Damn from your Favorites – you can do that next month – because I will do something for the Final Four. Until then, laugh at this Joakim Noah picture.

 

Not since Adam Morrison…

Kobe Bryant: Throw Dem Bows!

Eleven inches shorter, a few shades lighter, a Caesar instead of braids, some athletic ability subtracted, and Kobe Bryant is Ludacris circa 2001. He’s a fella who likes to throw dem bows (and they both pissed off white people and lost soda endorsements in 2003).

Apparently, Kobe has incorporated the old Randy Savage elbow drop as part of his follow-through, and in doing so, made his jump shot more dangerous than ever. Giving new meaning to nailing a jumper “in your face,” he’s walloped Manu Ginobili, Marco Jaric and Kyle Korver this season, and last year he broke Mike Miller off something fierce in retaliation. If only he’d thought of this back when Chris Childs and Reggie Miller were in the league.

And I’m not the only one who’s noticed that all of Kobe’s victims have been white, right?

 Not that I think he did it.

And if that really was his accuser – we have no reason to distrust the tabloids – then… (1) The only thing worse than Kobe’s judgment is his taste. Lane Bryant wouldn’t want none of that. (2) If Britney Spears lives to see 2008, this is what she might look like at her third wedding. I keeps it real.

NBA All-Star Game + New Orleans = Trouble

On Monday, [NBA union director Billy] Hunter told Newsday that, “If the union is not convinced that the city can accommodate the All-Star game, it’s an issue that will be subject to litigation between the union and the league.” – ESPN.com

The problem won’t be in accommodating the All-Star game. In fact, it might be too accommodating.

The NBA should reconsider its decision to have the 2008 All-Star game in New Orleans, if it’s not too late. They should’ve shot it down from the get-go, and certainly now after finding out what transpired two weeks ago during All-Star weekend. The league escaped Las Vegas without any of its players getting in trouble, but what are the chances of Vegas and N.O. back-2-back without any problems? The NFL can survive the negativity – they’re an invulnerable juggernaut…like Rulon Gardner – but David Stern’s league (of “cornrowed & tattooed thugs!”) must be more mindful.

The only locale where stupid people (including athletes) are guaranteed to wild out more than Vegas is N’awlins. It’d be turned it into Mardi Gras, except with more lechery and libertinism and lewdness and Lord knows what else. The NBA would be bringing either end of the social totem pole together in one area – Scend City (sorry). That’ll be money, liquor, drugs, looseness, stupidity, youth, lascivious women, poverty, desperation and weapons all in one grief-stricken area. If those ain’t the required elements for some foul shit to go down, then Compton is the Garden of Eden.

Accentuated will be the divide between absolute affluence and destitution. And you know the ballers can’t help but floss and show out. Not only will the pauperized people be able to sense, see and sniff the money, but it’ll be flaunted in front of them. The cars, the jewelry, the clothes, the women, etcetera. That’s like slowly nibbling the new Subway pastrami sandwich while a starving homeless man watches. While most Bayou residents will either beg to be a part of the festivities or just grumble and sip their Haterade (while wishing they were part of the festivities), the rotten apples will start making shit rotten. The stick-up boys won’t be able to control themselves. It’ll be like the Cash Money videos in the late 90s. Tha block will be hot and they some paper chasers so when they see them stunnas gettin’ their shine on with bling-bling, they might shoot first. Can you imagine some ruthless, toothless, down-bottom 9th Ward dude running up on Stephen Jackson in the club?

Cheap joke that isn’t even that funny but I couldn’t help it: After suffering through Hurricane Katrina, the last thing New Orleans needs is Pacman making it rain.

Shaun Livingston Dislocates His Knee

Willis McGahee says: Oo-wee! That must’ve hurt like a mutha’fucka.

Sam Cassell says: Gotcha, bitch! Thought you could take my job, huh.