Turn On The Jets NFL Wild Card Round Best Bets

Chris Celletti with his weekly NFL Rant and Best Bets for Wild Card Weekend

Texans_Vs_Bengals_Wild_Card_Preview_Johnathan_Joseph_AJ_Green

Let me start my column with some killer football insight, to keep up with the excellent, best-Jets-stuff-on-the-Internet precedent that’s been set this week by the entire Turn On The Jets staff –

Rex Ryan definitely lost a bet. TATTOOGATE is so obvious. Before the season, Rex Ryan and his lovable twin brother Rob, defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys, got together over pork rinds, Skittles, and bourbon and made a bet: Whoever’s team finished with a worse record in 2012 would have to get a tattoo of their wife wearing nothing but the jersey of their starting quarterback. That also explains why Rex Ryan refused to go to Tim Tebow early on this season. God, this all makes so much sense now.

In related news, all I had to do was throw “SOURCE:” in front of my theory, make up a quote or two and BANG I just knocked out a Daily News exclusive.

Before we take a look at this week’s playoff games, I thought it would be fun to look back at my preseason gambling picks. I did three team Over/Unders, which I went 2-1-0 on. I missed by a hair on Baltimore at under 10, and was right on Jacksonville under 5.5 and Denver over 9. This quote on the Broncos stuck out when I re-read:

“Peyton Manning throwing with his left hand could win 10 games if he gets half the support Lefty Jesus got last year from this defense, special teams and running game.” Welp, that’s about right.

What I whiffed on were my “good bets” for MVP and Super Bowl Champs. I thought Eli Manning had a chance to have an incredible year, and thought at 18/1 for MVP was worth taking a crack at. Instead, Eli reminded us that he just isn’t in the same stratosphere as his brother, Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers. That isn’t to say that if I had to win one game tomorrow, I wouldn’t take Eli. I may; he’s certainly at the top of the discussion. The Giants could have won the Super Bowl again if they snuck in this year because he would have been the 2nd best quarterback in the NFC playoffs, plus he’s beat Aaron Rodgers in the playoffs on the road before. But his 2012 season was pedestrian at best. I’m not going to go all Ian O’Connor, who offered this drab after the season ended:

“In his heart of hearts, Eli Manning knows this was a winning season in record only. He knows he had a chance to do something no New York Giants quarterback had ever done, a squandered chance that might haunt him for the balance of his career and beyond.”

Yup Ian! You got it! Forty years from now when we interview an old, shriveled Eli Manning (gross image alert), he’s not going to talk about the legendary wins in Green Bay or the Super Bowl titles. Nope. It’ll be a sad tale of the 2012 season, the one that has kept him up countless nights over the years, with nightmares of throwing 26 touchdowns and finishing a dire 12th in the league in passing yards and winning a putrid nine games (the same amount he won in the regular season a year prior when winning a Super Bowl, mind you). How horrifying. Nevermind that Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora combined for 16.5 sacks, with Tuck having 1.5 less than Quinton Coples.

Eli’s legacy is secure. If he never throws another pass for the Giants, he’s a true New York sports legend, in the conversation with Mark Messier, Derek Jeter, Clyde Frazier and of course Jeff Cumberland. But let’s also understand that Eli’s legacy is what it is for a reason, and that’s his clutchness. People scoff at those who say he’s not “elite”, but if your definition of “elite” is “dominant, transcendent, consistently excellent over the course of many seasons”, then you know what? Maybe he isn’t. That doesn’t mean he isn’t great, or isn’t a legend. You can be one but not the other.

And then there was my 18/1 pick of the Saints as Super Bowl Champs. I blame it on going to New Orleans twice in nearly a year from May 2011-July 2012. When you go there, you’ll believe anything. Crawfish? Why not. Open container anywhere? Great idea. Jazz? Still relevant. Voodoo? Not totally unreasonable if you think really hard about it!

So we’ll close the book on what was a pretty weak season by me picking games, and unlike the Jets I have a chance to redeem myself in the postseason. Let’s just go ahead and pick them all:

Cincinnati +4 at Houston – My thought all year has been that the Texans would lose at home in their first playoff game. I always thought it would be during the Divisional Round, after a bye, but some late season stumbling has them playing on Wild Card weekend. I’ll stick with my guns and say Cincy pulls the upset. Plus, AT LEAST one road team is winning this weekend.

Packers -8 vs. Vikings – The Adrian Peterson story is amazing, but I think last week was the Vikings’ Super Bowl. If it’s even ever possible for there to be a letdown in a playoff game, the Vikings might feel it. This has a very 2001 Jets/Raiders feel, with the dog beating the favorite in the regular season finale in dramatic fashion to set up a rematch the following week. I don’t like the chances of the Vikings beating the Packers twice in as many weeks, and with Aaron Rodgers at home, I think it’s a pull-away-late type of game for Green Bay. Who knows…maybe Charlie Garner will come out of retirement and salt the game away for the Pack on an 80-yard touchdown run on 3rd down in the final minutes.

Indianapolis +6.5 at Baltimore – The Ravens lost three of their last four to close out the season. It’s going the wrong direction for them. And the last thing America really wants is some memorable Ray Lewis swan song. Whoever wins, I think it’s a close one.

Washington +3 vs. Seattle – Home dog in the playoffs? I’m taking the points. And with no real GREAT team in the league this year, anyone without a dog in the fight has to be rooting for a Luck/RGIII Super Bowl, right?

Bonus Non-Football Bet of the Week – Hockey! Wait, what? I thought they canceled that sport forever? Well, even though the NHL has decided to sever any thread of relevance they were hanging on to, there is hockey being played in Russia: The World Junior Championships! And the USA is in tomorrow’s final against Sweden after blasting the favorite Canada 5-1 in the semis, which probably put all the Dougies and Gordos and Scotties and Stevies and Jonesys in Canada in mourning. Good. If you’re hanging your national pride on the backs of a bunch of 18 and 19-year olds, you deserve to lose and realize how ridiculous you are. With that being said, USA! USA! USA! at -190.

TOK – New York Knicks Through 20

A look at the New York Knicks through 20 games of the regular season

In the coming months we are going to be starting up “Turn On The Knicks” – Job descriptions for writing positions will be released in January along with our new openings for Turn On The Jets. However, I will be contributing to both sites as will Chris Celletti, who does terrific Knicks work over at SB Nation as well. Outside of Twitter commentary, we want to keep our pulse on what has been a thrilling Knicks season so far. Hence, every 10 games moving forward we will review what we have seen and what we think moving forward 

Current Record: 15-5, first place in Atlantic Division, first place in Eastern Conference

Most Impressive Win: How can you top winning in Miami by 20 points without Carmelo Anthony? The early season comeback win in San Antonio is a close second. Yet what might even be more impressive is how the Knicks have routinely blown out their inferior competition. There have been no let-down losses against the Detroits and Orlandos of the world.

Worst Loss: The only one that stands out as a truly brutal one was the beating they took in Houston by 28 points. Obviously the overtime loss in Brooklyn stung a little bit from a bragging rights perspective but it isn’t like the Knicks laid a complete egg that night.

Best Player: Of course this has to be Carmelo Anthony, who is right in the middle of the MVP discussion. Anthony is averaging 26.8 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists per night while shooting 43% from downtown. More importantly, there is a greater all around urgency to his game, particularly on the defensive end. He seems to be finally fully embracing every aspect of being both a team’s leader…and their leading scorer.

Most Pleasant Surprises: Despite being more of his usual sporadic self as of late. JR Smith remains a viable 6th Man of the Year Candidate with 13.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.7 assists and strong defense off the bench. Smith has been more reliable than expected and of course had that gem of a game winner in Charlotte. Tyson Chandler’s offense (over 70% from the field!) has been a huge boost and the amount of quality minutes from Rasheed Wallace has helped tremendously on the defensive end.

Biggest X-Factor: Stats don’t do justice to what Jason Kidd has brought to the Knicks backcourt. He is a knockdown three point shooter (50% from behind the arc), facilitates the offense and is averaging nearly 2 steals per game. His ability to comfortably play two-guard has been enormous in settling down the Knicks rotation.

Other Mentions: The next time somebody says “Man, the Knicks really miss Jeremy Lin” will be the first. Raymond Felton has been solid from day one as the starting point guard. For the record, he is outperforming Lin in every major statistical category.

Biggest Disappointment: Marcus Camby has been unable to stay healthy and when he has been out there, hasn’t been able to contribute much. Considering that Chris Copeland has handled his limited minutes well and that Amare Stoudemire will be back soon enough, it is hard to see him making much of an impact at all this year.

State of the Union: Could you have really asked for a better start? The Knicks have the best record in the Eastern Conference, remain undefeated at home and have blown out the Miami Heat twice. Despite their often joked about advanced edge, they have shown tremendous depth, energy and outside shooting. Can they sustain this 60 win pace? It is hard to expect that but they are firmly in the mix for a #2 seed in the conference and the current favorite for an Atlantic Division title.

What is even more exciting is that both Amare Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert will be returning in the coming month or so from their respective injuries. Stoudemire has publicly claimed he is comfortable coming off the bench and he better be because that is where the Knicks need him. He should be able to provide a down low scoring punch off the bench and step in to take the offensive lead on nights when the 3 pointers aren’t falling or Anthony isn’t shooting well. Shumpert is a terrific on-ball defender who will likely take Ronnie Brewer’s (who has been very good) place in the starting line-up, allowing him to become part of the second line with Amare.

The Knicks have ten games throughout the rest of December and have a real chance to put some distance between themselves Brooklyn and Boston (currently 3.5 and 4 games back respectively). There are some fun ones coming up starting tonight in BK. After that Mike D’Antoni and the Lakers come to MSG on Thursday, Lin-Sanity is in the building this Monday and then Brooklyn plays their first ever game here next Wednesday.

Recommend Knicks Reads

 

Turn On The Jets 2012-2013 NBA Predictions

The TOJ staff gives their NBA picks for the 2012-2013 season

We love our New York Jets here at Turn On The Jets (shocking, I know) but that doesn’t mean we don’t talk about other sports from time to time…particularly the NBA. Here are our staff picks for the upcoming season, supplemented by a few guests. Feel free to leave your picks in the comments section –

Joe Caporoso

Eastern Conference

  1. Miami Heat
  2. Boston Celtics
  3. Indiana Pacers
  4. Atlanta Hawks
  5. New York Knicks
  6. Brooklyn Nets
  7. Chicago Bulls
  8. Toronto Raptors

Western Conference

  1. Los Angeles Lakers
  2. San Antonio Spurts
  3. Oklahoma City Thunder
  4. Los Angeles Clippers
  5. Denver Nuggets
  6. Memphis Grizzlies
  7. Utah Jazz
  8. Dallas Mavericks

Finals – Lakers over Heat

Awards – Rajon Rondo (MVP), Anthony Davis (ROY), Ray Allen (6th Man)

Moke Hamilton

Eastern Conference

  1. Heat
  2. Celtics
  3. Pacers
  4. Knicks
  5. Sixers
  6. Nets
  7. Hawks
  8. Bulls

Western Conference

  1. Lakers
  2. Thunder
  3. Spurs
  4. Clippers
  5. Nuggets
  6. Grizzlies
  7. Trailblazers
  8. Mavericks

Finals – Lakers over Heat

Awards – Chris Paul (MVP), Anthony Davis (ROY), Wilson Chandler (6th Man)

Chris Gross

Eastern Conference 

  1. Heat
  2. Celtics
  3. 76ers
  4. Bulls
  5. Knicks
  6. Nets
  7. Hawks
  8. Pacers
Western Conference
  1. Lakers
  2. Thunder
  3. Nuggets
  4. Spurs
  5. Clippers
  6. Rockets
  7. Mavericks
  8. Timberwolves

Finals – Lakers over Heat

Awards – LeBron James (MVP), Anthony Davis (ROY), Ray Allen (6th Man)

Matt Oliveira

Eastern Conference
  1. Miami
  2. Boston
  3. Indiana
  4. Brooklyn
  5. Philadelphia
  6. New York
  7. Chicago
  8. Atlanta
Western Conference 
  1. Thunder
  2. Lakers
  3. Spurs
  4. Denver
  5. Clippers
  6. Memphis
  7. Utah
  8. Minnesota

Finals – Lakers over Celtics

Awards – Kevin Durant (MVP), Damon Lilliard (ROY), Jamal Crawford (6th Man)

Dan Donohue

Eastern Conference 

  1. Miami
  2. Boston
  3. Nets
  4. 76ers
  5. Pacers
  6. Knicks
  7. Bulls
  8. Bucks
Western Conference 
  1. Lakers
  2. Thunder
  3. Spurs
  4. Nuggets
  5. Clippers
  6. Grizzlies
  7. Warriors
  8. Wolves

Finals – Lakers over Heat

Awards – LeBron James (MVP), Anthony Davis (ROY), MarShon Brooks (6th Man)

Sean Santagato

Eastern Conference
  1. Miami Heat
  2. Indiana Pacers
  3. Boston Celtics
  4. New York Knicks
  5. Chicago Bulls
  6. Brooklyn Nets
  7. Philadelphia 76ers
  8. Milwaukee Bucks

Western Conference

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder
  2. San Antonio Spurs
  3. Los Angeles Lakers
  4. Denver Nuggets
  5. Los Angeles Clippers
  6. Memphis Grizzlies
  7. Utah Jazz
  8. Minnesota Timberwolves

Finals – Heat over Lakers

Awards – LeBron James (MVP), Anthony Davis (ROY), Jamal Crawford (6th Man)

Turn On The Jets Stock Watch 7/17 – Jets Hype And NBA Edition

TOJ’s weekly Stock Watch looks at the negativity surrounding the Jets heading into the season and recent NBA headlines

Welcome back to TOJ’s Weekly Stock Watch by Mike Donnelly…make sure to give Mike a follow on Twitter here and give Turn On The Jets a follow on Facebook here – 

With this being a bit of a dead period in the NFL, this week’s Stock Watch is going to focus mainly on the NBA offseason, but there are two Jets related Buys and Sells I’d like to start the column off with:

SELL: This article on TheJetsBlog.com – I’d like to thank the dozen or so people who pointed this out to me. Now, full disclosure here: I’m a big fan of that site and read it pretty regularly. I’m also fully aware that there are very few original ideas left out there when it comes to blogging or sports writing, but this is quite a coincidence here, isn’t it? I mean right down to the intro:

In my very first Stock Watch in which I bought and sold Jets players, I wrote this: “That got me thinking. What if we could buy and sell players and teams the way we do stocks?” before getting into the under and over valued player stocks I’d invest in.

In this TJB article? Slightly different: “If you woke up this morning thinking Football players are a helluva lot like publicly-traded stocks, you’re right!  Obviously.”, before getting into the buys and sells.

You can check the whole thing out yourself and let me know what you think, as it’s still a pretty good read. I mean after all, it was good when it was posted here on TurnOnTheJets.com two months ago, so why wouldn’t it still be good now, right? Ok, perhaps that was taking it too far with the self-praise. That ends the “patting myself on the back” portion of today’s column. Let’s move on.

BUY: All the Anti-Jets Sentiment out there – I’m not buying this nonsense because I agree with it or think that the Evan Silvas of the world are right; I’m buying this because I think it’s exactly what this Jets team needs to hear. Back when this team was at it’s best it was when they were the underdog facing uphill battles. They were the only ones who believed they could march through the playoffs and pull off upsets week after week. They need to get back to that “Us vs. the World” mentality and rally around each other. The media and football fans everywhere are just lining up waiting for the Jets to fail so they can mercilessly rag on them. I don’t think it’s going to happen.

(If you’re not an NBA fan or just came here for the Jets content, then this is where we should probably part ways for today. You’ve been warned.)

SELL: Kobe Bryant saying the 2012 Olympic team could beat the Dream Team – I want to just fill up this whole paragraph with “HA HA HA’s” but I’ll refrain from doing so. The notion that this team with Tyson Chandler as their only center could beat the famed 1992 Dream Team is so ridiculous on so many levels, that I don’t even know where to begin. We could start with the Tyson Chandler and Kevin Love vs. Hall of Famers Patrick Ewing and David Robinson in the post; Or maybe we can mention that the ’12 team would have no answer for Charles Barkley and Karl Malone; Maybe we can start by saying this year’s team nearly lost to BRAZIL last night and were actually down by double digits at one point. All would be great starting points in picking apart Kobe’s statements, but I choose this one: They had MICHAEL FREAKIN’ JORDAN. Sorry Kobe, you’re no Michael, and your team would learn a painful lesson in that fantasy matchup.

BUY: The Dream Teamers responses to Kobe – The way members of the Dream Team came out to basically laugh in Kobe’s face through the media over his comments was downright hilarious. From Magic Johnson taking to Twitter to Michael Jordan literally laughing out loud and basically calling Kobe an idiot while playing golf and smoking a cigar (Is there anybody cooler than Michael Jordan?), it was all very awesome, and I’d expect nothing less. Especially since they were all right. My favorite response, though, came from Scott Pippen, who was guest commentating during a USA team game the other day and casually started they’d win by at least 25 points in a head-to-head matchup.

BUY: The Knicks Bench Moves – I know a lot of people were down on adding two veterans pushing 40, but the Knicks picking up Jason Kidd and Marcus Camby, while retaining Steve Novak and JR Smith were pretty excellent moves for a team that lacked depth big time last year. When Iman Shumpert comes back from his knee injury during the season, this team is going to be very deep and potentially explosive. It’s easy to forget how great they were playing down the stretch last year before being wiped out by the Heat in the playoffs, but this team can absolutely make some noise next year.

SELL: Jason Kidd getting a DUI already – And then Jason Kidd goes and does something like this that makes you question bringing him into the fold. If the reports from TMZ.com are true that he had to be carried to his car after leaving the party he was at, it makes him an even bigger idiot. These guys really can’t just call a taxi? Really?

BUY: Carmelo Anthony’s comments on Jeremy Lin’s contract – I’ve seen a lot of fans and media talking heads jumping on Carmelo for saying Lin’s offer sheet was ridiculous… and I just don’t get it. It WAS ridiculous for the Rockets to offer him that much and it WOULD be ridiculous for the Knicks to match it with the luxury tax implications hanging over their heads. I agree with Carmelo, and JR Smith’s comments about Lin’s contract causing a problem in the locker room were very telling. It’s time for Linsanity to move on.

SELL: Linsanity – With Mike D’Antoni gone, there was a good chance “Linsanity” as we knew it was over anyway, but with his move to Houston, we will all forget his name soon enough. He can still be a good quality NBA point guard, but all the publicity and hoopla are finished. By 2014, Jeremy Lin will be a good punch line to many jokes, and I’m sure the “30 for 30: Linsanity” on ESPN will be cool to watch in five years.

NBA Finals Preview: Why We Love Sports

Turn On The Jets previews the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder

The NBA Playoffs have been great theater in both conferences. Ultimately, we have ended up with the match-up most people both predicted and wanted: the Miami Heat versus the Oklahoma City Thunder.

How couldn’t you want it? A team built the “right” way around a big three of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden versus the team built the “wrong” way around a big three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. A superstar small forward everybody loves in Durant against a superstar small forward everybody loves to hate in James. Arguably the weakest fan base and home court advantage in Miami (unless you count white t-shirts as fans) against the most electric home crowd in the NBA right in Oklahoma City.

Are the Thunder too young? Their big three are all under 25. None of them have been to the NBA Finals. Yet, they have Finals tested supporting pieces in Derek Fisher and Kendrick Perkins. Miami was here last year with all the same key parts returning. Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem already have a Championship under their belt for the Heat.

The focus will inevitably be on LeBron James and Kevin Durant, battling for alpha-dog status in the league. If LeBron isn’t going to get a title now, when is it going to happen? How are the Heat’s big three going to win 6…7…8 championships if there is a younger big three who has already bested then on the NBA’s biggest stage? We all love Durant and how he plays the game but make no mistake, James is the best player in this series. If he plays like he did in Game 6 of the Boston series, Miami will be bringing the trophy back to South Beach.

Of course that is always the question about James. How often will he really bring it? A timid, passive and scared of the moment James is going to equal an ugly series for the Heat. Oklahoma City is too athletic and too deep. They have an advantage at point guard. They have a better bench. They don’t have players like Ronny Turiaf and a beaten down Shane Battier playing key roles for them. They have a sizable home court advantage that Miami lacks.

Dwyane Wade isn’t carrying Miami to this title. Chris Bosh can hit all the mid-range jumpers he wants. This is about LeBron rising above the challenge of Durant or falling short to a player who just might resemble Dirk Nowitzki in these NBA Finals.

Two superstars vying to start a legacy of championships. A Hall of Fame two guard looking to add another title to his resume. The most athletic guard in the NBA looking to show he isn’t the headcase who will prevent his team from becoming a dynasty. The best beard in sports. Great theater. Great basketball. Let’s enjoy the ride.

NBA Playoffs: Beards, Rings and Old Legs

Justin Fritze breaks down what we have learned so far in the NBA Conference Finals

Justin Fritze breaks down what we have learned so far in the NBA Conference Finals. Who are you Knicks fans pulling for out there? Personally, the wave of tears in Boston has led me to hope Miami beats them but is then promptly disposed of by the Spurs in 5 games. – JC 

THE WEST: EQUAL AND OPPOSITE

Was I, a diehard Thunder fan, nervous about going 0-2 to the Spurs with the potential of going down 0-3 last night? No. I was already resigned. Yes I know it’s sacrilege, but every person watching the two games in San Antonio could do nothing but marvel at the efficiency and ease that the Spurs displayed with their old school offense.

If you’re going to lose, you better lose to the best. You better not get outworked or outhustled, but getting outsmarted by a team with 4 rings in the past 10 years (and quite possibly the second or first (if you factor in the Jordan/Kobe thing) greatest coach in NBA history) is nothing to be scoffed at. Yeah, Dirk got them with an inhuman playoff performance last year, but this year was different. It was the sum of the parts working at 110% efficiency.

It was with that in my mind that I sat, stone sober, in front of my television and watched the Thunder quite literally dismantle that machine, piece by piece, and use their transition offense to beat on the Spurs. Case in point? Kevin Durant skying over Tim Duncan with an alley oop as Duncan decides not to even attempt a block. For that night, for that fanbase, the Thunder decided that they weren’t going to go quietly, and a single question stood out in my mind. Were the Spurs, with 19 straight playoff wins, getting tired?

My hope? Yes. The Thunder are going to use their momentum (and the fact that they are undefeated at home in the 2012 playoffs) to turn game 4 into a track meet. Will it work? Who knows. I’m a fan of the team, so trying to get any sort of unbiased opinion out of me on this series is going to be as useless as getting “elpresidente” to give a level headed assessment of Game 2 of the Boston/Miami series.

Why am I a Thunder fan? I’ve been trying to come up with reasons beside the obvious: the relative anonymity by which the team as a whole carries itself, the young coach, the city still trying to deal with its scars, the 22 year old shooting guard coming off the bench, the 22 year old power forward, the 23 year old point guard, the 23 year old small forward….etc.

The Thunder, simply put, are the Anti-Heat. No Armani GM, no collusion in their “Big 3”, no ring proclamations, no star treatment. Enough gushing. Let’s talk after Saturday night.

THE EAST: THE END OF THE ROAD

I’m here to give great pity, great condolence, and great admiration to the Boston Celtics. Why? Because I was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, and most of my family still resides in the New England area. Because my grandpa has hats for every Celtics championship, because there is just something different about coming from New England. People there never get much credit, and most of the industries in Connecticut and Massachusetts have all but dried up. Textile mills, steel mills, paper mills, all but gone. Go read Kerouac, and look at modern day Lowell. It’s a testament to a time gone by.

That’s what I see with the Celtics. Old men exchanging stories about the good old days. Ray Allen trying to play on two bad ankles, Paul Pierce getting absolutely 0 calls, Rajon Rondo trying to carry the load of not just the Celtics team of 2012, but all the ghosts of Celtics past. Those banners carry weight, and Rajon Rondo tried to do everything short of fly around the court to get the Celtics a win. He may be completely insane, but Rajon Rondo has the heart of 10 Lebrons.
Despite the incessant banshee screams of Bill Simmons, the Celtics are not going to win this series. This is the end of the road, and if I can pick a favorite moment of this Celtics squad, it was the crippling of Kobe’s dynasty with a title and a 30 point blowout a few years back. Kevin Garnett, Paul Piece, Ray Allen, thanks for the memories.

As a last thought, imagine if Jeff Green was healthy this year.

NBA Draft Lottery: Winners, Losers, and Billy King

Mike Donnelly breaks down the winners and losers from last night’s NBA Draft Lottery and ponders how Billy King still finds work

Mike Donnelly looks at the winners and losers from last night’s NBA Draft Lottery. By the way, while we are discussing the NBA, save your river of tears about officiating Boston fans. Let’s not act like your stars have never received the benefit of a quick whistle. You are going to get swept because you are vastly inferior to Miami on the court not because of the referees. – JC

Winners

New Orleans Hornets – Obviously. They had the lottery rigged for them defied the odds, and improbably landed the #1 overall pick, and with it, the chance to draft Anthony Davis. They already have a few pieces in place, with Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu, Chris Kaman, and Trevor Ariza, so adding Davis will speed up the rebuilding process. They won’t be competing for a title any time soon, but now they have something to build on, which is something they couldn’t really say after David Stern screwed them with the whole Chris Paul fiasco last year.

Anthony Davis – Davis knew all along he would be the #1 overall pick, so his stock didn’t go up or down last night. The reason he came out as a winner was because he doesn’t have to go play in Charlotte for that abysmal Bobcats team. I mean have you seen that roster? It would be a shame to see him waste away there. He’s much better off in New Orleans, especially if David Stern is going to continue rigging things for them to succeed. Err–I mean, especially since he has a better supporting cast. Yeah, that’s it.

Conspiracy Theorists – What a day for NBA Conspiracy Theorists everywhere! 27 years after David Stern allegedly rigged the 1985 Lottery so the Knicks could land Patrick Ewing, something even more fishy occurred last night. After absolutely screwing the Hornets last year with the Chris Paul situation, and after a solid year of Tom Benson low-balling him with offers to buy his team that nobody wanted, David Stern somehow magically convinced Benson to up his offer and meet the asking price just a few weeks before the draft. Hmm. And then, despite having the 4th best chance to land the #1 pick, the Hornets and Tom Benson–I hope you’re sitting down for this one–land the #1 pick! Shocking!

So to recap: David Stern owned this team for a year, single-handily set them back a few years with the Chris Paul thing (and owed them one as a result), and somehow sweetened the pot for Tom Benson to pull the trigger on the purchase. Was the #1 pick that sweetener? We’ll never know…

(Yes, yes it was)

Losers

The Brooklyn Nets – Oof, what a disaster. Due to a stunningly bad trade last year (we’ll get to this later), the Nets needed to land in the top 3 of the lottery last night or else lose their 1st round pick to the Portland Trail Blazers. They pulled #6. Ouch. So now, the Nets have basically nothing to trade for Dwight Howard and are almost definitely going to lose Deron Williams to free agency. I’m sure people will be lining up to watch Jordan Farmar and Gerald Green go 20-62 next season in their brand-new stadium…

Michael Jordan – Poor Michael will now actually have to do a little work now that his Bobcats landed the #2 pick instead of the slam-dunk choice of Anthony Davis at #1. If GM Rich Cho can track him down on the golf course or casino, or wherever Michael spends his time these days, the choice will likely come down to unpolished UConn center Andre Drummond or Kentucky small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who may be the next Scottie Pippen. It’s almost a guarantee they’ll make the wrong choice and take Drummond, and that’s why they’re the Bobcats.

Billy King (Couldn’t think of a category name worse than “Loser”, so we’re gonna just name this the Billy King group)

Billy King – Seeing Billy King continue to get high-level jobs in the NBA blows my mind. Are there zero other qualified candidates out there that teams feel the need to recycle proven failures like Billy King? Is it his fault the ping-pong balls didn’t fall the Nets’ way and they didn’t land a top 3 pick? No. Is it his fault they made one of the most indefensible trades in recent NBA history putting them in a position that they needed a top 3 pick? Yes! Including a 1st round pick that was only Top-3 protected in a trade for a soon-to-be-30-year-old free agent Gerald Wallace, when the Blazers were supposedly only asking for a mid-to-late 1st round pick in return is completely and totally asinine. And his logic defending the trade–that they only liked 3 players in this draft so they didn’t mind losing the pick if it was after that–only shows him to be even more incompetent. Newsflash, Billy: Just because you don’t think a pick from #4 on is valuable, doesn’t mean other teams don’t. In fact, just knowing you thought that would make me jump through hoops trying to land a pick after #3 in this draft if I were an opposing GM.

It’s mind-boggling he even got this job with the Nets in the first place after his comical performance running the 76ers. Let’s take a look at some of his greatest hits:

  • Signing Theo Ratliff and Matt Geiger for a combined $108 million in 1999
  • Trading 1st round picks on multiple occasions for: Mirsad Turkcan, Jumaine Jones, and Kenny Thomas (so there is a precedent here for him making indefensible trades of 1st round picks)
  • Signing 35-year-old (but probably older in actuality) Dikembe Mutombo and Aaron McKie for a combined $117 million in 2001
  • Gave Samuel Dalembert and someone named Brian Skinner a combined $85 million
  • Inexplicably traded for a declining and injured Chris Webber in 2005, crippling their salary cap. Less than two years later, Billy King negotiated a $25 million buyout, basically paying Webber NOT to play for his team. Savvy!
  • Traded franchise player Allen Iverson for Andre Miller, Joe Smith, and 2 late 1st round picks that he used to select Daequan cook and Petteri Koponen. Nice!

It appears as though Billy King learned absolutely nothing from his tenure in Philadelphia and is intent on flushing the Nets down the toilet as well. They’re likely to lose Deron Williams, Gerald Wallace is a free agent (don’t think for a second Billy King isn’t about to overpay him big time to justify the trade, though), and they have no other real assets. When asked after the lottery if he would re-do the Wallace trade knowing he would lose his 1st round pick, he stunningly replied, “Absolutely”.

I’d agree with him, if only the question instead was: “Should you be fired?”

NBA Playoffs: Why Clippers vs. Spurs Will Be Great

Justin Fritze on why Spurs/Clippers will be a better series than people expect

Lakers/Thunder. Good matchup. Revenge. Kobe. Durant. Fisher. Got it.

Spurs/Clippers? Seriously? Kings/Clippers/Lakers all having playoff games in the same building for potentially two weeks? The potential of a LA vs. LA Western conference final? People in that climate don’t deserve that type of confusing joy, which is why it won’t happen.

The Spurs. All that is calm, cool and collected. The Clippers. All that is angry (Chris Paul), small (Chris Paul again), big (anyone seen a lost DeAndre Jordan?), floppy (Blake/Paul), swaggy (@NickSwagyPYoung) and poorly coached.
Is there anything more oppositely constructed headed for a sweep in one of two ways? Can you imagine the Spurs using the naivete of the Clippers against them and constructing plays to get an extra pass to the perimeter while Tim Duncan grinds Blake Griffin down to a pulp “old man style” and getting 10 guys in double figures? Can you imagine Chris Paul running the break with Nick Young who starts the “Mo Young” tandem with Lebron’s old sidekick and shooting the lights out while Reggie Evans goes berserk to get 18 rebounds?

As an unabashed Thunder fan, I hope this thing goes 7, with overtime required in games 5,6 and 7. That’s just me. For basketball fans, we can look at three things that will determine the outcome of the series.

The coach. Pop owns Vinny. Don’t try and debate it. Don’t go to wikipedia. Don’t defend Vinny, he’s a clown amongst clowns. Remember the Del Negro Bulls? Neither does America.

The point guard. Gotta give the edge to little man of the year, Chris Paul. But it’s close. If Chris Paul is a 10, Tony Parker is a 9.5

The power forward. The recipient of inside feeds, rebounder of missed 3’s. Tim Duncan, at 55 years old and as Dylan once sang “but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now” is looking like a man making dinner for his very successful wife, pausing for a moment to reflect on what to add to his garden salad, and realizing it all in a manner of 10 seconds without so much as a frown. He’s Tim Duncan. Flustered/Determined/Excited do not exist in his dictionary.

Blake Griffin, robot to the core, is looking like he wants to dunk on someone and proceed to melt him with his eyes. He can’t shoot, he can’t make free throws, but he can leap. He’s going to need to leap quite a bit if he’s trying to keep up with the scoring of the Spurs.

I still give the edge to Duncan, only because he’s seen everything in his 120,000 playoff games and can piss off Griffin to the point where he starts forcing things and get into foul trouble early.

To the final point, are the perimeter shooters of the Clippers consistent enough to make 3’s in clutch moments or create their own shot? Are the Spurs so team oriented that they will end up relying on guys that are not the “right guys” (Ginobili/Parker/Duncan), backfiring when Paul/Griffin/Young start heating up?

I’m taking Spurs in 6, but wouldn’t put it past the Clippers to take this in 5 if they fire Vinny and hire Mike D’Antoni ASAP.

NBA Playoffs: An Appraisal Of The Oklahoma City Thunder

Justin breaks down the Thunder’s beatdown of the Lakers last night and what to expect moving forward

The Lakers big men were pounding the glass. Nick Collison and Nazr Mohammed were getting beaten on by Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. LA up by 4. Then it happens. The trigger is pulled and OKC starts to get crazy, the sort of youthful controlled crazy that says “I’m coming to take you out old man”. Kobe Bryant, unfortunately, is meeting the Playoff Thunder.
The playoff Thunder are much like the regular Thunder, except they have a trick up their sleeve. It’s called the (much awaited) 2nd line. Harden at the point. Derek Fisher at the 2. Thabo at the 3 while Nick Collison and Serge Ibaka take the 4 and 5. It’s controlled chaos.

When Fisher takes the ball up the court with Harden flying in and out of the paint, Ibaka running up to set a screen and Collison setting himself up in the low block. Even Scott Brooks admitted “There’s a point when we put Russell and Kevin on the bench, and we just let James run the show”.

Get Harden a top hat and a velvet jacket, because this guy can break ankles and give sartorial advice while simultaneously dunking it over your head. This, (after what may have been the greatest thing that could happen to the Thunder in a Dallas playoff rematch), is the end result of the 10,000 hour rule.

How did it start? It started with Kevin Durant prodding the zone of the Mavericks, with Russell Westbrook getting his jump shot going in games 1 and 2 of round 1 while everyone waited for the 3x scoring champion to start feeling it. It started with overcoming the ghosts of last year (a 4-1 series loss to the Mavericks), something that can make or break (Grizzlies) a young (average age of Thunder starting 5: 24) team trying to make its mark in the NBA playoffs.

The Thunder have the physical gifts to beat just about every NBA team in a one game series, but it needed the extra preparation of the playoffs to understand the value of every possession. More often than not, it was the breakaway speed of the Thunder that allowed them to be last in turnovers (16 per game) while somehow running away with the second best record in the NBA. They knew they could get it back, and when the opponent got tired, they used legs and length to get to the basket at will while opposing Centers stood around and watched.

Last night? 4 turnovers. I am almost certain that is some sort of record for a playoff game. Last night? 32 point lead halfway through the 4th quarter. Last night? Shooting 54% from the field. Last night? 25 from Durant. 29 from Westbrook.
I’m not going to go ahead and crown the Thunder champions of the West. I predicted the first round series to go 7 (Thunder swept in 4), and I predict this one to go 6 if for nothing else than the most obvious size advantage that the Lakers will figure out to use against the duo of Collison and Mohammed. Perkins (who is questionable with a hip) and Ibaka are a different story.

I also have a sneaking suspicion that the Lakers are going to work harder on defense against the pick and roll, which is going to lead to some serious eyeball work from the refs. The Thunder aren’t going to shoot 54% again, but I can see high 40’s as an average. What is going to determine this series is speed vs. size, and big men don’t run marathons.

Survival Mode: The Mess That Is The Eastern Conference Playoffs

Justin breaks down the messy Eastern Conference Playoffs

A brief review of the first round series before we get into the real matchups:

Bulls vs. Sixers – When you lose Derrick Rose to a torn ACL, a few things begin to cross your mind. You lost your floor general, but luckily you still have guys like Rip Hamilton, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer to help make up for the loss. When you lose Joakim Noah (the undisputed heart and soul of the Bulls), things start to get real shaky. Rip Hamilton having to create one on one? Carlos Boozer having to take some sort of leadership role? Not good. Not good at all.

There’s a reason the Sixers won this in 6, and it has much less to do with the Sixers talent than it does to do with the downfall of the Rose legacy. Now I’m not going to write off the Bulls for good…but something metaphysical died when Rose went down with a torn ACL. For a guy who literally lives off planting (sometimes very awkwardly) and driving to the basket, a torn ACL is like a voice in your head that whispers all your fears every time you try to do something highlight worthy. Quite literally, Rose is never going to be the same. Did I think they could win the East at full health? I’d give them a 50/50 shot with Miami, but can they win it next year? I have my doubts. Especially if “that’s all that matters, yo” Carlos Boozer is still here. Amnesty please.

Magic vs. Pacers – No Dwight Howard = No Chance. It wasn’t even close, despite the efforts of Glen Davis, the Richardsons and Ryan Anderson. This entire team has been predicated on the notion of getting the ball to Dwight Howard in the low post, so when he’s gone there’s really no point in attempting a breakdown of how the Magic can adapt their style to suit their sharpshooters. As Dwight Howard does his rehab, the Magic are reportedly giving him the cold shoulder. This team will look nothing like it has in the past, and Howard is most likely gone before the next Magic training camp.

As for the Pacers, they seem to be the more experienced version of the Sixers. Danny Granger stepped it up in the playoffs, as did Roy Hibbert and my favorite UNC alum PSYCHO T. We will discuss them more in the next round preview.

Hawks vs. Celtics – You had them Atlanta! You had them and it all fell apart. Well, that and you have Joe Johnson and Josh “no all star appearances” Smith as the pillars of your franchise. Game 4? Yeah only down by 25, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce looking 10 years younger. Al Horford coming up huge in game 5. Then the owner called Kevin Garnett the dirtiest player in the league and the floodgates hath open. So what’s the upside for Atlanta fans? Your team is still pretty nice in 2K12.

Knicks vs. Heat – The Knicks recent postseason accomplishments make the Jets look like a perennial powerhouse. So let’s just do a quick review of the Knicks second half of the season leading to the postseason. D’Antoni exits, Baron’s back flares up, Landry Fields regresses, Shumpert goes down with a torn ACL in game 1, Amare slices his hand punching the glass case of a fire extinguisher after game 3, Baron’s knee and ACL tear in Game 4, topping it all off with Carmelo reverting to his one man show, getting no one else involved in game 5,ending the series at 4-1 in favor of Miami. It’s going to be a long offseason in New York, and the excuses will come fast and furious.

With all that said, let’s move onto the real excitement of the playoffs…the semifinals –

Boston vs. Philly – There’s an ideological battle that is going to be waged in this series. Do you hang on to aging veterans or piece together a team of young 20 somethings, hoping for a few breaks as you try and use speed to get your way through tough playoff games. The only issue? Boston is feeling like 2008 again and the 76ers have no answer for the combination of Rondo and Ray Allen. Do I see 76ers giving them a tough run at home? Sure, but Boston is coming in rested and full of confidence, especially after they proved that they can absolutely demolish teams like the Hawks at 90% strength. Celtics in 6.

Heat vs. Pacers – I would personally enjoy nothing more than the Pacers taking this 7 games off the pure effort of Roy Hibbert and PSYCHO T, but I can’t help but realize the Heat haven’t even had a real challenge yet and got to mostly coast through the Knicks series (which could at some point work against them into a false sense of confidence). The Heat are going to win this series, it’s just a matter of how long it’s going to take them. Heat in 6.

Now, there is something amazing brewing in the East. It’s the heart and soul of the blue collar heroes against the flash of the Heat. Big 3 vs. Big 3. Short of OKC winning the West, nothing would give me as much joy as seeing Boston win the East. Celtics/Spurs finals? OKC/Heat finals? Or…Lakers/Celtics re-rematch? This is why the playoffs are great.