New York Knicks Fail Sunday Test

The New York Knicks still can’t get past the Boston Celtics

The New York Knicks lost a heartbreaker today in Boston, 115-111 in overtime. Despite being a deeper, more athletic team that should be running the aging Celtics off the court, the Knicks could not get the job done. Until they start winning games against playoff caliber teams on the road, they are going to flounder between the 7 and 8 seed and set themselves up for a likely first round exit.

When it came down to it, Paul Pierce was just a little more clutch than Carmelo Anthony. Rajon Rondo was much better than Jeremy Lin, who now has two ugly performances in the last three games against big time Eastern Conference opponents and Amare Stoudemire just wasn’t good enough…again.

The talent is there. The depth is there. The mental toughness and ability to consistently win big games is not yet.

Jeremy Lin must protect the basketball. Between him and Baron Davis, who does seem to finally be getting his stroke back, the Knicks can’t sustain so many turnovers from the point guard position. It is hard to get on Carmelo Anthony too much for today because of how many big shots he hit down the stretch but they still need more from him on defense and in the leadership department. Amare must be more physical on defense around the rim and has to start finishing at the basket especially if Tyson Chandler’s wrist becomes a bigger issue.

There were positives today, notably Iman Shumpert who was terrific at both ends of the floor, especially on defense. If he has a few more performances like he did today, it won’t be long before he is in the staring lineup. The rookie isn’t shy in a big spot and is a great offensive weapon when he is attacking the basket.

The Knicks remain what their records says they are, a .500 team who now has two tough road games coming up in Texas against the Mavericks and Spurs. We know how brutal the upcoming schedule is but the clock is ticking on the Knicks making their move to catch Philadelphia.

They couldn’t get the big road win they needed today, hopefully they will be up to the challenge on Tuesday.

Black Spring – NFL Combine & All Star Clownery

Justin breaks down the NFL Combine and what we learned from the NBA All-Star Game

Tequila is not for the faint of heart. Neither is getting whipped with a belt about 20 times as a crowd of drunken lunatics scream for more. Both things happened in conjunction Friday night at the always classy Coyote Ugly, so my attempt to cover the start of the 2012 NFL Combine was simply reduced to me trying to put enough meat in my body that blinking felt like an Olympic exercise while I heard Mike Mayock and Bucky Brooks ramble on about Indy without Peyton, the beauty of the 3 cone drill, and the various difficulties of switching guards to tackles and back again.

Still, I carried on. The best thing about the combine is the back and forth that ex-players and analysts have about the combine being worthless, pointless, having nothing to do with football, yet glancing over the fact that the newest iteration of the hideous workout uniform combined with super HD cameras create an almost uncomfortable level of voyeurism as GM’s and coaches stare in the stands like they’re at some bizarro slaughterhouse or bull auction, scanning each player for body fat, wobbly knees, nose hair, tattoos, and for the Raiders – telekinetic ability. And when they’re done looking from afar, they bring them into a room with various astrological charts, gypsy psychics, polygraphs, Rorschach blots and Friendly’s style color ins.

That’s the process. So who WON the combine? RG3! The great hope for whatever god awful franchise he goes to. While Griffin can run, throw, run, run, and throw a deep ball pretty good, he played at BAYLOR. Baylor. You know what I know about Baylor? That Phil Taylor is from Baylor. And they play against some of the worst defenses in college football. Not the biggest challenge for a quarterback who is going against corner backs, linebackers, and defensive lineman that aren’t even being invited to the combine.

Before going further, I’ll admit I’ve developed an SEC bias when it comes to skill players. AJ Green, Julio Jones, Trent Richardson, Patrick Peterson, Morris Claiborne, Mark Ingram etc. etc. Why the bias? Because it’s been proven time and time again that the new conference of power is the SEC, and it’s not even close. The PAC 12 is great except for the fact that they have Washington, Utah, Arizona, Arizona State, and Oregon State. The Big 12 is full of “traditional” powers that have weakened substantially and the Big 10 is old power that may or may not see some sort of resurgence in the next 10 years. Go watch Michigan State vs. Alabama in their bowl game two years ago.

But does the combine even matter any more? The combine, like the NBA and NFL all star games, is slowly being taken over by player agents, as many agents for prospective first round picks advise their players not to even bother with running or throwing. There is no upside they say, except to satisfy a bunch of analysts that have absolutely no effect on that players draft status. Too much money to risk, too little incentive to perform.

So concerning the combine, what’s the counterargument against the pro day passing against the combine passing for quarterbacks specifically? Think about this. Is a quarterback prospect going to have his college players to throw to when he gets to training camp? Is said player going to tell his offensive coordinator “I’ve never really thrown back shoulder throws, so let’s just keep things simple and maybe I can work on that stuff in the next off season”? Having something that tailored to a players skill set is almost comical when you talk about a guy who is going to be a first round pick, so he sure as hell better be able to make every throw, even if it’s with a set of scrubs in a flag football game.

So the freakshow is over, and it’s time for the truly insane to come out with 4398 mock drafts, but before that, a brief note on the NBA All Star Game. I don’t care if it is a clown-show at heart, things got SERIOUS in the 4th quarter. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook made me weep tears of joy as they drained 3’s from the corner and dunked like they were in the Colosseum scene from Escape From LA. And to cap off my childlike joy Lebron James FAILED. Again. But I’ll say this, it’s the All Star Game, not the Finals. Oh, about that.

I’m still trying to come to terms with the perceived mental weakness of James coupled with the most athletic physique to ever play basketball. Maybe he will win 2 or 3 championships, but the Kobe and Jordan era is over for good, and no one will ever challenge them again, especially when the best players are on a team consisting of 3 of the top 10 players in the league that was artificially created to win a championship in the cheapest and most sacrilegious method in the history of sports. CHEATING THE SALARY CAP SYSTEM.

As I’ve said all along, Miami has no soul. So if they want to ever get to that mountain of the immortals, they better win 7, and they better start this year.

New York Knicks Second Half Preview – Championship Contenders?

TOJ previews the second half of the season for the Knicks. Are they championship contenders?

Nobody loves football more than me but in terms of the New York City, straight up, there is nothing that gets people more excited than when the Knicks are playing well. This is a basketball town that is starving for a team to take seriously and this season they have it…in a big way.

17-18 isn’t good enough at the All-Star break. Yet let’s remember a few key realities, this team has not had a single second to practice together as the unit they will be in the second half of the season. These first 35 games have been a mish-mash of: playing without Carmelo Anthony or Amare Stoudemire, being led by three different primary point guards and having new additions like JR Smith and Baron Davis learn on the fly.

The fact that the Knicks play one game between now and March 4th is a godsend. They could have a mini-camp and get some type of cohesion going. They may be 17-18 but they are 3.5 games out of first place in their division and 3.5 games out of the 6 seed in the East. Without question, the primary goal is to avoid a 7 or 8 seed and match-up with Chicago or Miami in the first round. There is no reason the Knicks, as currently constructed can’t accomplish that, they have the ability to assert themselves as the third best team in the Eastern Conference and work towards being on Miami and Chicago’s level.

We saw last night, the Knicks are still a clear cut behind Miami. That is okay and understandable. Hopefully, they aren’t worrying about getting on that level until the 2nd round of the playoffs or the Eastern Conference Finals. Right now it is about proving they are better than the 76ers, Pacers, Hawks, and Magic and I believe they are, especially once they get some practice time under their belt.

March is going to provide quite the test for this team. Their schedule is nothing short of brutal. 17 games from March 4th to March 31st, with at least 10 of them being against sure fire playoff teams. They need to come out with a 10-7 or 11-6 record and make their move up the standings.

There are no excuses for this team. Amare Stoudemire needs to pick his play up and be the All-Star power forward he has been his whole career. Carmelo Anthony needs to be the top five player in the league he is capable of being. They have more than enough of a supporting cast now, led by one of the best centers in the NBA in Tyson Chandler, a rising star at point guard in Jeremy Lin and a deep, high-powered bench led by JR Smith, Steve Novak, Iman Shumpert and Baron Davis.

Is this a team a championship contender? You are damn right they are. They are going to get into the tournament and once they do, anything can happen especially with the players on their roster. There is no reason this has to be a Cinderella run from the 7 or 8 seed, this team should be able to claw their way to a 3 or 4 seed and gear up to take down one of the big boys of the East in round two. Chicago can be beat in a 7 game series. They don’t have a second scorer. Miami can be beat in a 7 game series. LeBron James will disappear the bigger the moment gets and they don’t have a half-court offense…even though they play some kind of defense as we learned all too well last night.

Either way, get excited New York City the next few months should be fun.

New York Knicks: Sign JR Smith, Depth No Longer An Issue

The New York Knicks just might have added the final piece of the puzzle today by signing shooter JR Smith

The New York Knicks signed JR Smith today, potentially adding the final piece to the puzzle of a team who all of a sudden looks like a very real contender in the Eastern Conference.

Smith provides a needed knock down shooter at the guard position and offensive firepower off the bench. There aren’t anymore valid questions about the Knicks depth right now. Even if Baron Davis doesn’t come back healthy, and by all indications he is coming back for the second half of the year, Iman Shumpert and Smith provide an explosive, athletic duo off the bench at guard. Up front, the Knicks have defensive depth with Jared Jeffries and offensive depth with Steve Novak and Josh Harrellson returning from injury in the coming weeks.

Let’s not act like the Knicks haven’t dug themselves out of a big hole with their recent 7 game winning streak. A win tonight puts them ahead of Boston in the standings and within 2.5 games of Indiana for the six seed in the East. They are also only 5 games behind a Philadelphia team in their division that is bound to cool off eventually.

That being said, we are going to learn everything we need to know about this Knicks roster in their first nine games of March. When they play nine straight against viable playoff contenders, including games in Boston, Dallas, San Antonio, Chicago, and Indiana. Right now, I think there is no reason the Knicks can’t assert themselves as the third best team in the East. They have a chance to prove it during that stretch of games.

I don’t buy into the Carmelo Anthony can’t fit hype. People talk about Anthony like he has been a loser his whole life and like he didn’t win a National Championship and a Gold Medal. Anthony was the best player on that Gold Medal run and managed to share the ball fine with his teammates. A quality point guard a dream come true for him. It will only provide easier looks for him and take pressure off him on the offensive end. You really think the Knicks are downgrading by moving Bill Walker out of the starting line-up for Anthony?

As for Smith, he prevents us from ever having to see Mike Bibby or Toney Douglas on the floor again and he is a more natural scorer than Landry Fields or Iman Shumpert. I am a little concerned about how backcourt minutes will be distributed when Davis comes back, but ultimately in this system and in this shortened season, you can’t have enough weapons.

New York Knicks: Are All The Pieces Falling Into Place?

Could the discovery of a point guard put all the pieces into place for the Knicks?

I want to expand on a point made by Rob Celletti in his Thursday article. Here in the aftermath of Jeremy Lin seemingly cementing his place in the New York City headlines for the rest of the basketball season, with a thrilling 38 point, 7 assist performance en route to the Knicks fourth straight victory, this one over Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.

The discovery of a point guard changes everything for this Knicks season. Mike D’Antoni’s system can’t function without a point guard, much like the Green Bay Packers offense couldn’t function without a quarterback. Lin appearing out of nowhere, gives the opportunity for the Knicks to run out a deep, well-balanced line-up with everybody set up in their proper roles.

When everybody returns, Amare Stoudemire will have a point guard to who can execute the pick and roll, which will make his game that much better. There is much hysteria about Carmelo Anthony fitting in, but he is too smart of a basketball player not to recognize the advantages of having a playmaking guard like Lin, as Kobe Bryant pointed out yesterday. Tyson Chandler is already playing at an All-Star level at center.

Landry Fields can remain in the starting line-up and has been playing much better. He is confident again on offense and is strong on defense. More importantly the Knicks now have the makings a strong second line, which is an absolute must in this shortened season. If Baron Davis returns healthy, him and Iman Shumpert provide an explosive backcourt off the bench. Shumpert is now free to embrace the role of defensive stopper and an aggressive offensive player who attacks the basket. Jared Jeffries, for all the grief he receives, is an excellent defensive and intangibles player to bring off the bench. Steve Novak and Bill Walker provide 3 point shooting wings, who can score in spurts. If there is an injury, Toney Douglas, Mike Bibby, Renaldo Balkman, and Josh Harrellson (when he comes back) provide emergency depth players who have experience.

There is no denying the league is wide open this year. If you get into the playoffs anything can happen, especially if you are ten deep. The Knicks might have just stumbled into that, with the emergence of Lin as a starting point guard, Novak as a sharp shooter off the bench, Shumpert back in his proper role, and Fields playing confidence again.

The show continues tonight in Minnesota and then with a very manageable slate of games next week, which could see the Knicks finally get back to and over .500.

The Dead Zone – A Brief Review Of the NY/Boston LoveFest

Justin takes a look around the state of the sports franchises in New York and Boston in the slowest sports time of the year

Sometimes it’s great to be a New York sports fan. Especially when you’re doing tequila shots in a NY located “Boston sports bar” and the bartender is wearing a Celtics shirt, the Celtics of course losing to the god awful Lakers (Nobody likes World Peace) only minutes before. I have to admit I felt a momentary lapse of sadness for this guy, who has in the last 5 days probably been bombarded with drunk Giants fans issuing proclamations that Boston sports are about to undergo a nuclear winter.

Which they are.

The Celtics are in the middle of a Ainge vs. Fans battle that is going to lose hearts, minds, and general optimism for about the next 2-3 years. The Boston Red Sox are being managed by Bobby Valentine (SERIOUSLY? METS MAN BOBBY V?), and are going to be the biggest target in baseball coming off a series of articles that paint the locker room as something out of Blue Mountain State and Animal House combined, the Patriots are going to undergo the “Belichick as GM” annual scrutiny, and anything less than using at least their two first round and two second round draft picks is going to turn away die hard Pats fans until Ryan Mallett starts suiting up and Tom Brady has a touch of gray in that hair, leading to a civil war between Mallett fans and Brady fans, and even a few ancient Bledsoe fans who will issue bible proclamations “for he who taketh that which is not his, that much will be taken away”.

So everything’s good in NY right? Maybe for the Giants, who are going to most likely dump guys that didn’t play this year and possibly trade Osi if they take a defensive end/outside linebacker in the first round of the draft. Jason Pierre Paul is doing his best impression of someone whose genuinely happy just to play for the Giants. Oh yeah, and he is doing the unthinkable in mastering a professional sports position in about 2 years, and will probably go to the Pro Bowl between 7 and 10 times in the next decade while Vernon Gholston starts a football summer camp and contemplates partial ownership opportunities of the IFL.

I’d like to add a general thank you to the Giant fans who gave me a couple bud lights and a few shots of tequila on the 7:16 AM train to Penn Station from Deer Park this past Tuesday (The day of the parade). Really helped me start my day right.

Meanwhile, the Jets have Wayne Hunter and Vlad Ducasse. Jealous yet? They have a half decent (no pro bowls, no all pro nods) receiver who may undergo the Burnett syndrome (who the Yankees are trying to shop as we speak, but are having a GlenGarry Glen Ross moment, Jack Lemon specifically) the next year as he and Mark Sanchez have a Days Of Our Lives style back and forth exchange of opinions, strategies, while everyone wonders why in god’s name the Jets have decided to completely revamp their receiving core every year of Rex Ryan’s tenure.

I’ll tell you why. Because Rex Ryan frankly has little to no interest on the offensive side of the ball. The case stated as thus: If he did, their line wouldn’t have been complete garbage, they wouldn’t have passed 63 times in a game, and they wouldn’t have signed someone like Derrick Mason because he was great 6 years ago.

All Rex Ryan cares about, genuinely lives or dies by, is his defense. And even that didn’t get it done, so for those of us who continually asked, “WHY IN GOD’s NAME IS CROMARTIE NOT PLAYING PRESS COVERAGE?!?!?!?!?! DENNIS THURMAN SAID HE NEEDS TO PLAY PRESS COVERAGE!” we got a whole lot of Mike Pettine, which is fine, except for the fact that the head coach is one of the best defensive coordinators in football. That’s like Mike Martz being your head coach, and having the offensive line coach call the plays.

So what do I make of Jeremy Lin taking over the Knicks? Fear, love, joy, apprehension, etc. etc. Why? Because for the first time in two years I saw glimpses of the D’Antoni system, which is going to die for a while once Carmelo gets the ball back in his hands. And pivots. Pivots back. Pivots again. Ball fake. Crossover. Stop. Pull up jumper. Basket. At times, Carmelo might work better with a bunch of cardboard cutouts stationed at various points throughout the floor, because no point guard is going to run this system while Carmelo is around.

What could fix this? Dumping Amare with a first round pick and getting Deron Williams/Brandon Jennings/ anyone not 38? (sorry Steve) Maybe. That would at least let Lin start off the bench and Shumpert go back to being “anything but a point guard”. So what’s stopping it? James Dolan’s heart of pure evil. That and the fact that Mike D’Antoni is probably going to be coaching the Clippers next year. (Just a strange thought).

I frankly don’t care what happens with the majority of the Yankees roster, as long as they kick the piss out of Bobby Valentine’s Red Sox at least 8 times next year. To add to this wish list, I and others will hope that Kuroda and Pineda keep their ERA under 4, A.J Burnett will play for the Pirates, and Bob Lorenz gets real loose on air and admits his hatred for the amount of corporate advertising around the new Yankee stadium.

Despite the inherent ugliness, I will be at Yankees stadium, where for every pregame I will find myself looking out at the beautiful rooftops of the projects from the Target shopping center parking garage, wondering if I’m going to be walking/crawling/running out of the stadium and hoping my record improves from last year’s 0-3.

For now, it’s winter? (49 in February). Time to be productive and attempt to crawl upwards in my analysis of the 4-12 Buccaneers and Browns. At least there are serious changes coming to both organizations.

New York Knicks: Complete Linsanity

Jeremy Lin has brought life into a previously lifeless Knicks season. How long can it last?

What is going on here? In a fairly joyless past few months of sports watching, this Jets/Knicks fan finally has something to feel positive about. Out of nowhere, it appears the starving for a point guard Knicks have found their man buried on their own bench. Of course I am talking about Jeremy Lin, who turned some heads Friday night, nearly brought the roof of the Garden Monday night and led the Knicks to their third straight victory tonight.

I am sorry but it is hard to buy any fluke talk about Lin’s talent when he goes for a minimum of 20 points and 8 assists in three straight games, especially with two coming against DeRon Williams and John Wall. Tonight he racked up 23 points and a career high 10 assists en route to a 107-93 win over the Washington Wizards. For the second straight game, the Knicks were without both Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire but still found a way to win.

I am aware two of the three previous wins have come against the lowly Nets and Wizards. Yet, it is admirable how scrappy the Knicks have been the past two games without their two superstars. It is exciting to imagine the possibilities of this offense when they are at full strength. Having a point guard who produces like Lin, makes a world of difference especially for a team who was so inconsistent in that area like the Knicks.

In the immediate future, the Knicks are going to have a hard time this weekend facing the Lakers and Timberwolves without Anthony and Stoudemire. If they could find a way to split, they will be in good shape to make a run back to .500 when they return the following week. The absence of Stat and Melo has forced the Knicks to discover how to move the ball again on offense, spearheaded by Lin. Also spearheaded by Lin is Tyson Chandler playing his best basketball of the season, Steve Novak turning into a major weapon off the bench, and Landry Fields playing with a ton of confidence.

If…if Lin keeps playing at this level, the Knicks could have a very solid backcourt rotation to compliment their big three up front in the second half of the year. Lin, a healthy Baron Davis, an improving Iman Shumpert, and Fields playing like the first half of last season isn’t half bad.

There appears to be hope in a season that was once looking hopeless for the Knicks. Like a quarterback in football, a point guard can change everything.

Let the Linsanity continue.

Accepting The New York Knicks Reality

Justin with a look at the reality for the New York Knicks

The Knicks are attempting to implode midseason instead of waiting till the end of the year like the Jets. At least they can talk about real pressure being in Madison Square Garden and not in the swamps of Jersey, but at this point it’s semantics. Amare can’t own the paint because Tyson Chandler plays Center, Carmelo doesn’t want to pass, and if I have to watch another six seconds of him giving jab steps before throwing up a bogus three again I’m going to personally find James Dolan and whisper something to the tune of “you know Chris Paul isn’t going to win a championship with the Clippers, Carmelo wants to go solo, so um, Jimmy, just imagine Chris Paul in the run and gun D’Antoni system. It’ll be 105 a night, and I hear Phil Jackson is getting bored out there if it all falls apart”.

At this very moment, I’m getting to watch some weird bizarro foursome going on in the NBA right now. I have NBATV, but because Dolan The Emperor is a fascist you can’t watch that feed, and you watch the MSG feed. Thank god I have Optimum or I would be forced to go illegal in my watching of the least together team in basketball (excluding the Wizards, whose antics are akin to a halfhearted light comedy show and may in fact actually turn it around if they toss out about 60% of their roster). The Knicks are playing the Nuggets, who should go ahead and beat on the Knicks in the fourth quarter as Knick fans get to look forward to stepping in puddles of slush for the next two days. That’s right folks, the Knicks are 20-27 since the Carmelo trade, and paying for Tyson Chandler who has approximately 0 all star appearances has only compounded the need for something better than an 8 seed in this years playoffs. That’s if they MAKE the playoffs.

Meanwhile George Karl looks healthy and feeling like he’s got a team that could make a legitimate run to a playoff appearance. Who got the better deal? Maybe Donnie Walsh is going to reappear in Denver and retool that franchise while bragging to the press about how he worked over that Blues Daddy Dolan. I can hear it now: “Oh yeah well I told Jim they want MORE! More players. Italian. Russian. American. They want players from every continent.”

And then you have the antithesis of the Knicks. The Thunder. A thing of purity and beauty NO ONE WILL BE ALLOWED TO TALK ILL ABOUT. Every time I hear someone criticize Russell Westbrook I remind them that he is 23 years old, as is Kevin Durant, and that they will be together for the next five years. I’m not a holy man, but I pray to whatever god exists that they both play their whole career together and they get at least one NBA championship to offset the pure evil that teams like the Heat and the new look Knicks represent. I’m still trying to figure out what the Miami Heat are, and how anyone can create any sort of narrative regarding them without invoking the book of revelation at least five times.

The fact that Russell Westbrook didn’t want the extra $10 million and strong arm the franchise makes it clear they want Harden to get a long time deal as well. If they can keep those three, and keep Perkins, I’ll give this team a shot at a title every year. And that’s the greatness of it. Small town. No commercials. No crazy business ventures. Just basketball. All day every day.

Let me make one thing clear. If I ever see Russell Westbrook in a Lakers Jersey I will never watch a single Lakers game for the rest of his career. It’s bad enough watching that blur of purple and yellow stomp out everyone in the league for the last five years, but I can’t get on board with that sort of soul crushing power play that would only be hatched because of a potential Durant/Westbrook fallout.

New York Knicks: Important To Win Ugly

It was important for the New York Knicks to win ugly last night but can they keep rolling against the first place Sixers tomorrow?

I made it out to Madison Square Garden for the first time this season to see the New York Knicks take on the Charlotte Bobcats. The Knicks have been inconsistent en route to a 5-4 start, however last night they showed an ability to win despite Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire having an off night and the bench providing no scoring. Mike D’Antoni coached teams generally don’t win games where they score 91 points but the Knicks found a way yesterday.

Their recent three game winning streak hasn’t came against an impressive slate of opponents, which will make it interesting to see if they can raise their overall level of play with a tough four game stretch on the way, starting tomorrow night against the first place Philadelphia 76ers.

The consistency on defense needs to be better but they do seem to be trending in the right direction. Tyson Chandler is starting to have a trickle down effect on the rest of the roster and had a monster night with 13 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 blocks and 20 points to boot. As a team, the Knicks came up with 11 steals last night, which helped them manufacture points in the open court to compensate for their half court struggles.

Iman Shumpert made his second straight start at point guard and you really can’t say enough about the rookie so far. I am not sure he can keep up such an impressive pace for the entire season but Shumpert runs the offense like a seasoned veteran and provides a ton of energy to the Knicks on both sides of the court. His contributions have helped mask the struggles by Toney Douglas and Landry Fields, who both aren’t playing with any confidence at the moment.

Nobody is sure how the Knicks will handle the return of Baron Davis, which is rumored to be approaching by the end of the month. Yet, whatever starting line-up the Knicks eventually settle on, they need more from their bench. At the moment, they are relying on Mike Bibby and Bill Walker to knock down shots on a consistent basis, which is a risky proposition.

The goal for the Knicks should be to gain home court advantage in the first round, especially with the Atlantic Division there for the taking. Tomorrow night against the Sixers is a big chance for them to make an early season statement by defending their home court against their top two competitors for a division title since they already knocked off Boston.

Answering The Call: An Early Look Around The NBA

Justin takes an early look around the NBA

The NBA started, on Christmas, what was an unbelievable set of games. First game. Celtics, aging yet gaining BRANDON BASS? Rondo plays like he’s on fire. Ray Allen can still drop 3’s, and BRANDON BASS? WOW. They can still play. Just don’t watch them any time on a back to back. Which will be a lot. Jajuan Johnson and Etwaun Moore will have their hands full trying to sub in throughout the back half of the season. But for reasons I can’t explain, the Celtics can still throw up points and shut down opposing offenses for long stretches of a game.

Given, the Knicks had Iman Shumpert trying to shut down Rondo, Mike Bibby and Baron Davis didn’t play and to be honest, the chemistry of the Knicks is about 10 games away where it needs to be. But if the Knicks can figure out a good combination of Davis, Bibby as the starting point guards, Toney Douglas coming off the bench and Iman Shumpert putting time in between shooting and point guard, the rest will take care of itself.

As if the world wasn’t going to end, it looks like Miami is going to have a legitimate point guard out of Norris Cole, their first round draft pick out of Cleveland State. Cleveland connection? Who knows. Do they deserve it? Of course not. Miami should not get draft picks for the next 3 years and give them to the 76ers. Lets see. Udonis Haslem is healthy. Shane Battier is one of the smartest basketball players in the league (went to Duke), Mike Miller is focused, and the Wade/James duo looks like they added a few tricks and shed a few pounds over the lockout. Go watch the workouts between James and Durant if you want an explanation for some of what happened yesterday.
Miami singlehandedly set the Mavericks about 10 games back. Which means they aren’t going to take over the West like everyone thought they should after a championship a la the Packers in the NFL.

To be fair to the Mavericks, they have one of the wildest rosters in the NBA. Vince Carter? Seriously? Lamar Odom is a legitimate 6th man, Delonte West is going to have his meddle tested unlike his time with both the Celtics and Cavaliers. He will knock down 3’s, but don’t trust him as an everyday playmaker. Shawn Marion and Brendan Haywood are getting old and Jason Terry is going to be a one trick pony by the end of the season. I trust the Mavericks to make it out of the first round of the playoffs, but they already look worn out after a ridiculous run which got them a ring last year. Scratch that if it happens to be Oklahoma City they face in the first round.

Best showcase of the day? Oklahoma City meets Orlando. Kendrick Perkins may be the scariest dude in the NBA, and despite Dwight Howard’s Iron Man physique, Kenrick ain’t taking shit from nobody. He’s calling out his own guys, namely Thabo Sefelosha, and busting up everyone from Anderson to Turkoglu. Perkins knows the show revolves around Harden, Westbrook and Durant, so he’s there to do the dirty work. Add the regular efforts of Ibaka and Maynor, the Thunder are probably the most complete team in the West.

On a side note, the Magic are going to crumble under the pressure of moving Dwight before the trade deadline. If you take Dwight off this team, you’ve got a bunch of old guys, a couple 30 something veterans and some B level talent. They need to get something big and at least a first round draft pick if they’re going to try and compete next year. Need I remind that the Knicks and the Heat both have their big 3 for the next five years in place?

The last game of the night was probably the best illustration of the next five years in the NBA. Steph Curry and Montae Ellis trying to bring David Lee and the other Warriors to the playoffs. There are no all stars besides West, but there will be 3 by the end of the year. It’s going to be tough, but the Warriors will be in the top half of the league by the efforts of Ellis and Curry alone. They’ve got a bright spot in their draft pick Thompson, and if Rush can help through the stretch they might even creep into the playoffs.

The Clippers are the most hyped team in the NBA, which is probably going to be their downfall. If either Blake Griffin or Chris Paul get hurt, it’s going to be tough to compete with the rest of West on a nightly basis. I do like Chauncey Billups splitting time with Paul to keep him healthy, or sliding into the 2 guard, but Mo Williams is going to have to prove something if he wants to see significant time. There’s too much ego to split up time evenly between the 3, but splitting Chauncey and Mo at the 2 while occasionally sliding Moe into the point on Chauncey’s nights off will help ease the transition.

I’m gonna try and watch the Nets on a nightly basis, which is good because I need something to remind me that not all basketball is good basketball. Sticking to the primetime games is probably sufficient. Even at 66 games, the season seems too long.