Who could have predicted this? Portland’s combo of LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard with some pieces around them is enough to contend for a playoff position, even in one of the toughest western conferences NBA fans have seen in a long time. Just check out the standings: only three teams in the west are below .500 but one of them is Minnesota, only 1 game under. Quick shout out to Utah and Sacramento for not shying away from the tanking sweepstakes this season. But we’re talking about the other side of the standing. Right now Portland, San Antonio and Oklahoma City city lead the conference, all with 3 losses each but Portland and SA have the slight edge with two more wins than OKC. The first couple of weeks Portland seemed a bit like one of those lucky teams, getting their difficult games when it’s in a favorable situation due to injuries or other factors. As the days went on and the sample size grew, Portland kept chugging out their wins and a month’s worth of games proved that their hot start wasn’t a fluke at all. I’m actually still finding it hard to believe that two of Porland’s three losses have come at the hands of the Phoenix Suns. Yes, the Suns are performing much better than most have predicted but they’re not even a playoff team in the western conference. Portland’s losses have been somewhat forgotten because they have had some big statement wins. The last of which came against Indiana just a couple of days ago. How is Portland doing so well? Like I stated previously, it starts with Aldridge and Lillard, who seem to compliment each other so well on offense. Feeding off of each other for a great 1-2 punch. I like how fearless Lillard is and if Aldridge keeps shooting this well from outside, watch out. Let’s not forget about the rest of the cast because Wesley Matthew’s hot shooting (.546 from the field, .510 from 3) has been critical. Nicholas Batum has also been solid while Robin Lopez was a sneaky-good signing this summer. Their defense still has plenty of questions but right now it’s doing enough. Tonight’s game against the Thunder should be a good test for both teams. I’m just upset that this game isn’t being broadcast nationally.
What else is going on around the NBA? I’d just like to say that as well as Paul George has been playing, there’s no reason for anyone to start making claims that he’s on LeBron’s level and should be seriously considered for MVP. Don’t get me wrong, I love George’s game and I think he’s proven that he’s a top 3 forward in the league. Carmelo Anthony has been booted out of contention. But is Paul George a better MVP candidate than even Kevin Durant? Durant has been the consensus #2 for a couple of years now so for George to be on LeBron’s level, he first has to have passed Durant. I don’t feel that he has but so far this season, it’s definitely a real debate. George defense and his team’s record give him the upper hand but if were my team, i’d rather have Kevin Durant. Meanwhile LeBron is just chugging along, shooting nearly 60 percent from the field (60!) while he leads Miami through the drone of the regular season. Can both Indiana and Miami break the record for most wins in a regular season? Just take a look at the eastern conference. Only three teams above .500 with the Celtics, who are supposed to be in rebuilding mode, are in the top half the of the conference. That’s partly due to the NBA terrible division leader position rules. Out west the battle for the 4-8 seeds gets better everyday but each of those teams seem to have a glaring problem. The Clippers and Rockets have chemistry issues, the Nuggest don’t seem to have a “best player” consistently, my Mavericks are inconsistent on offense and the Warriors have lost some of their key players to injuries. Right now those are the remaining playoff teams in the west and I don’t see any of those making a real run to challenge Portland, San Antonio or OKC for a spot in the Finals come summertime.
By the way, why is TNT showing the Knicks at Nets game on Thursday night? I know this was all scheduled before the season started but couldn’t the NBA flex it two weeks ago when we knew these teams weren’t going to get better anytime soon? Maybe Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Marcus Smart all have court side seats for the game and i’m not aware. Either way, i’d rather be watching the Clippers in Memphis during that time slot. Same goes for Friday night when ESPN is showing the Nuggets in Boston. Let’s flex that to the Warriors in Houston and go about our day.
News hit a couple of days ago that Derrick Rose would once again need knee surgery and once again would miss the entire season. It’s a tragic story that can’t help but make basketball fans feel bad for Rose, the Bulls and their fanbase. Even the biggest Rose critic can admit that the NBA is better with him in the league. It’s still questionable how Rose, out for basically two years straight, will be able to perform once he’s completely healed again. Will he ever get back to his MVP level? Will he even get to 80% of that form? It’s a gloomy situation in Chicago but despite missing their franchise player, their season and the rest of league must move on. The show must go on, as they say. But what kind of show will we be watching? The western conference is as good as ever but aside from the Heat and Pacers, is any other franchise in the east worth watching on a regular basis? Every team is going to one of “those nights” where they play well enough to upset a superior opponent, that’s just the way the league is. Aside from those nights is where the problem arises. Can fans rely on quality basketball on a regular basis knowing that the eastern conference has very much turned into a two-team race? It’s almost astounding how much better the Pacers and Heat (1 and 2 in the conference) are than the rest of the conference. If the playoffs were to start right now, I don’t see any team giving Indiana or Miami more than a five game series. A lot of the problem lies with the New York teams. The Knicks are usually towards the top of the conference and the new-look Nets were supposed to contend for the top spot in the conference. Right now the Knicks and Nets are a combined 7-20. Astonishing. Could they turn things around? Well they’re going to have to get 100% healthy before their fans can get excited.
On the other side of the country, things are more competitive. The Spurs are doing their usual thing of playing fundamental basketball while taking care of business. Portland, surprisingly enough, is still staying among the best in the west. The Thunder, Clippers and Rockets are fighting to keep up with the elites and then there’s the dogfight for the rest of the spots in the west. But the biggest news around the conference this week was Kobe signing another contract extension to essentially stay with the Lakers for the remainder or his career. The Lakers didn’t officially announce the exact details of the deal but plenty of sources have suggested that it’s an extra two years for $48.5 million. Those details bring up some inevitable questions. If all Kobe really does care about is more championships, why sign for that much money? Yes, we all know that Kobe means much more to the Lakers than what he earns, but does that leave room for anyone else? Most superstars that are hitting tail-end of their careers tend to take less money, knowing that it’s best possible way that they will continue to be on a championship level team. Can Kobe lead another team to a title? Well, i’m not so sure anymore. I’m skeptical because of his age and because of the severity of the injury that’s he is coming back from. That’s taking into consideration that Kobe is a machine and the hardest working player in the league. It wouldn’t surprise me if he reached the same level he left off at but I also wouldn’t be shocked if Kobe only reaches about 75-80% of what he used to be. And if it’s the latter, how room does Kobe’s contract leave for another big free agent to come join him?
Key games this weekend: (tonight) Lakers at Nets; Heat at Cavs; Nuggets at Wolves; Spurs at Thunder; Warriors at Mavs (Friday) Nets at Rockets; Warriors at Thunder; Wizards at Pacers (Saturday) Bulls at Cavs; Wolves at Mavs; Rockets at Spurs.
A lot of the country’s basketball fans weren’t focused on the NBA last night. In fact, most of the attention was put on the game at the collegiate level. There were some marquee match ups featuring what figures to be three of the next superstars in the NBA. I’ll be honest, I didn’t watch much of Duke, Kansas or Kentucky mostly because i’d rather watch my Mavericks. I don’t have much interest in basketball at the college level unless it involves joining a pool for brackets come March. Chances are that Wiggins, Parker and Randle will all be great players at the NBA level but until I actually see it, let’s pump the breaks and worry about what’s actually going on at the NBA level. Who’s dominating the league so far in this early season? So far this season, the Pacers have looked like the most dominant team in the league on a nightly basis. The defense and coaching is going to be there without a doubt. That’s one of the staples of Indiana’s game. But let’s add Paul George, second in a lot of early MVP races, who is continuing to play at the level everyone expects him to after his performance in last season’s playoffs. Let’s also look at the bench, much improved during the offseason and it shows on a nightly basis. Their offense still looks a bit stale sometimes but it’s not a glaring problem, just their style of basketball. What’s also interesting is that Danny Granger is set to return to his first game sooner than later. How will that affect a Pacers team that’s off to a franchise best 8-0 and the only undefeated team left in the league? I can’t imagine the train stopping anytime soon. Their schedule gets a little more challenging in the next few weeks but I could see them winning out the rest of the month barring an upset. The real challenge for this great Pacers team comes in December when their month starts with a five road games in 8 days against some of the top teams in the western conference, followed by the Heat at home. Until then let’s just enjoy what they’ve currently doing because despite getting almost no attention, the Pacers are the best team this season so far.
Speaking of no attention, the Spurs just seem to do what they do every single year. Play good basketball and win games. Right now they’re 7-1 and atop the western conference and I don’t know anyone who would bet some serious money on San Antonio giving up that position. Who would take their position if they slip for a few games? Well the obvious answer is OKC, especially now that Russell Westbrook is back and continues to look healthier as the games go by. To no one’s surprise, Durant leads the league in scoring (30.2/gm) but it’s going to rest of the supporting cast that I feel will ultimately make a difference. How the rest of the west shakes out is going to be fascinating to watch. From the Suns (how are they still there?) on down to the Lakers, all of those teams will be fighting for 3 through 8. Out east it continues to look like only the Heat will keep up with the Pacers, at least until Rose and the Bulls get themselves together and are 100% healthy. Most impressive players this season? These are aside from the obvious ones like LeBron or Durant. I’d have to go with either Kevin Love and Anthony Davis. Love finally looks healthy again, second in scoring behind Durant and leading the league in rebounding. And with Anthony Davis, well I think we’re all being reminded why he was the consensus #1 overall pick just a couple years ago.
Only one week into the NBA season and fans have much to discuss because there are been lots of surprises. First let’s get past some of the not-so-surprising things about this season: the Celtics and Jazz are going to the battling it out for worst record in the league. AKA the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes. Now there are other bad teams who have started off hot and will eventually crash down to earth but Boston and Utah seem to be adamant on leading the race. I’ve seen some early Wiggins highlights and from the looks of it, he’s everything that you would want in a #1 overall pick. Good luck to both the Celtics, Jazz and other teams in their tanking endeavors. While it’s very early on, something else that doesn’t surprise me is that the Pacers and Heat look like they’re going to meet again in the eastern conference finals. Indiana is the only undefeated team left (4-0) and while Miami has looked shaky for stretches, everyone knows the Heat are looking to make the playoffs and then turn it up a notch. Plus, they have the best player on the planet. Out west the conference looks pretty stacked like it always does, all of the top 8 only have one loss with Houston leading the way at 4 wins. The Clippers, Spurs, Warriors, Mavericks and Thunder belong up there. The Timberwolves have looked well but with them, it’s always a matter of how healthy they can stay. The Kevin Love-Ricky Rubio is so fun to watch but in the back of mind i’m just thinking “please don’t get injuried.” But wait, what in the world are the Suns doing there among the one-loss teams in the west? Well that’s our first surprise of the season.
Before the season began most people put the Suns down there in the “Riggin’ for Wiggins” group but they’ve gotten off to a surprisingly hot start. They’ve been fortunate because of who their opponents have been to start the season but tonight’s game against the Spurs should bring them back down to earth, if only for one night. Phoenix has a cupcake schedule for the rest of the month but December will be much tougher for this young team that has a lot to prove. Speaking of a lot to prove, how about the Sixers? Sure, Philadelphia’s been surprisingly good to start the season but here’s something that’s not a fluke: Michael Carter-Williams. There’s a young man that is going to have a bright future so let’s all just sit back and enjoy what he’s done so far and what he’s going to do. Switching gears to Chicago because there’s lots of debate to whether or not the Bulls’ (specifically Derrick Rose) slow start is just rust for an injury-plagued team or if there’s some real concern. If I were among the Bulls fanbase I wouldn’t start panicking anytime soon. Chicago is going to win a lot of games this season but when your team is as injured as the Bulls were last season, it’s going to take some real time to get back to their elite level. If we’re still having this discussion a month from now, then i’d start to worry. Also causing worry are Moe’s Knicks. Or is Moe more of a Heat fan still? Anyways, the Knicks are dealing with issues on the offensive side of the ball. Melo is going to be the main weapon but he’s not getting much help. Add Tyson Chandler’s injury last night and this might go south pretty quick for the Knicks.
Games to watch this weekend: (Wed) Bulls at Pacers; Warriors at Wolves; Mavs at Thunder (Thu) Clippers at Heat; Lakers at Rockets (Fri) Cavs at Sixers; Nets at Pistons; Mavs at Wolves; Warriors at Spurs; (Sat) Pacers at Nets; Clippers at Rockets; Warriors at Grizzlies.
It feels really good to have the NBA regular season back. A midst the NFL season reaching it’s regular season peak, it was quite refreshing to see some basketball back on the screen. Of course it’s great to have the “Inside the NBA” crew back for another season of the greatest pre/post game show in all of American sports. Even though he didn’t have a good game (thanks to Miami’s defense), it’s really good to have Derrick Rose back in a Bulls uniform. Miami’s swarm defense spoiled his comeback, limiting Rose to just 12 points on 4-of-15 shooting. The Heat went on to rout the Bulls and after the first half, it looked like Miami wasn’t going to take it easy on the Bulls at all. The Big 3 did their part but it was the combination of their bench (Cole, Allen, Battier) that was the clear difference.
Something else that was clear after last night’s games? The Orlando Magic are only one game into the season and they’re already tanking. I understand that this upcoming draft is supposed to be among the all-time greats but c’mon Orlando, at least have a respectable season. The Pacers took advantage of the situation and to no one’s surprise, they went on to win the game in a comfortable fashion. The Magic and Pacers are teams that will end up on opposite sides of the conference. Speaking of teams that are supposed to finish quite opposite, how about the Lakers surprising the Clippers last night? This is a Clippers teams that’s supposed to finish among the top seeds in the west and this gutted Lakers team isn’t supposed to amount to anything this season. At least until Kobe returns and is at 100%. But don’t tell the other Lakers players that. Enter Xavier Henry (career-high 22 pts) and the rest of the Lakers bench. They simply out-hustled the Clippers, extending their lead in the 4th quarter when it mattered most. Props to the Lakers showing some heart and not rolling over just because of some silly pre-season rankings.
Now it’s only one game so let’s not consider a Heat-Lakers Finals a complete lock just yet. The regular season is a marathon, not a sprint but it’s the type of marathon that you watch all along the way. Every team has hopes that this is their year, despite going against overwhelming odds. Well unless you’re the Magic, 76ers or Suns. Then you’re just looking to get a top 5 pick in the draft. There are in fact 14 games tonight so chances are your team is playing. I’ll be doing a weekly post about the NBA every Wednesday unless something crazy happens. Good to have NBA basketball back. And of course, on my part, go Mavs.
while eating a Bastardly Certified lunch by Bowser0
Headline news from the NBA in the middle of August? Yes, it’s true. NBA fans actually have something to talk about during the least interesting time of the year for the league. That’s what happens when one of the league’s all-time greats is finally going to hang up the sneakers. Allen Iverson, despite not having played in the NBA since 2010, is set to officially retire in the coming days accoring to SlamOnline. Iverson’s last official game as a professional basketball player was back in 2011 while playing in Turkey and despite several offers (China, D-League etc.) he always wanted to play in the NBA once again. But it was simply past his time and there was never serious consideration from any NBA team to sign him to a contract. What can we look back at when it comes to Iverson’s career? Well, simply put: there will never be another like him. I think that the biggest thing that i’ll remember is that Iverson always left it all on the court. His actions off the court (practice?!) weren’t always the best but Iverson’s ability to play so hard for so long will always resonate with fans. I mean, the man averaged just over 41 minutes a game over his entire career. Add that to the fact that he was barely 6’0″ but drove past guys a foot taller than him to the rim on a regular basis. From his crossover on MJ early in his career to his step over on Lue in the 2001 Finals and everything in between. I’m going to miss Allen Iverson as one of the true warriors this game has ever seen.
In more official news, Clippers’ point guard Chris Paul has been elected as the president of the National Basketball Players Association. Or the Player’s Union as more people tend to call it. Paul has been an executive vice-president for the past four years so this is a logical step for him but lots of people are still a bit surprised by it. Not because Paul isn’t capable, he’s a natural leader off and on the court, but mostly because it seemed so sudden and it’s not exactly the most sought-after position in sports. The Union has been dealing with a tumultuous past year and half, starting with the lock out and ending with various firings, lawsuits and anything else you can think of. It’s a great move for Chris Paul but it’s going to be a challenge heading forward in trying to right the ship. Other than Paul, only LeBron was considering running for president as a big name around the league. LeBron discussed the position with Paul and other players but ultimately decided not to run for the position. How will Paul do as president? Most likely well because he’s really smart and his personality seems to fit perfectly but it will be very interesting to see how things go after David Stern is no longer commissioner (tenure ends in February) and Adam Silver takes over. Best of luck to Paul and the league as they move forward.
If you’ve got an hour to spare, here’s a nice documentary on Iverson
while eating a Bastardly Certified lunch by Bowser0
I’m all for confidence in sports and as a matter of fact, life in general. Confidence is something that can’t really be taught formally. You either have it naturally or it’s developed through life experiences. It’s a massive plus for an athlete to be confident, especially when reaching the professional level where their every fault is picked apart non-stop. Bulls’ young star Derrick Rose is certainly no exception to that standard, subject to much scrutiny this past season for taking so long to come back from the ACL tear he suffered April of last year. Could Rose’s comeback during this past season have done something to stop the Heat freight train? It’s an argument worth having but until Chicago is actually able to Miami, Derrick Rose can’t be considered the best player in the league. Why has this been such a hot topic the past couple of days? Well, Rose did a quick-question style interview (see below) with CNN a couple days ago, answering some token questions about himself as a professional athlete on and off the field. Among the answers were that his idols are Michael Jordan and Malcom X, being a father is the best feeling in the world and other things. But what has gotten lots of attention was when Rose was asked who the best player in the league is. His answer: Derrick Rose.
Now let’s be honest for a second. Rose is getting attention for saying himself but wouldn’t he be getting even more negative attention had he said “LeBron James” when asked that question? That’s almost rolling over or in a way, admitting defeat. Let’s not forget that since 2009, LeBron has won the MVP award every year except for season (2010-11) when Rose became the youngest ever to win the award. So he’s certainly capable of being in the discussion for the best player in the NBA but at this point, I wouldn’t bet against anyone taking that crown from LeBron. Mostly because LeBron is playing at a completely different level and he’s been taking home the hardware to prove it. This is all without being completely sure of well Derrick Rose will finally come back from his injury because at this point doesn’t he almost HAVE to be at his super elite level? Not initially but eventually Rose will have to show that all that time spent getting ready for this year’s comeback will produce a great season. If that happens then I can see the Bulls joining the elite of the Eastern Conference to try and dethrone Miami. I’m all for confidence but for now, let’s just go with LeBron when asked who the best player in the league is as the real answer.
Even though the Maverick’s chances of actually getting Dwight Howard to play here were slim, I was still holding out some hope come this past weekend. There’s a reason so many teams with cap space were trying to acquire what some people regard as the best big man in the league. Or at least that’s what Howard is supposed to be because the past couple of seasons he’s been underwhelming with his performances. Coming off back surgery, Dwight Howard still had a solid season and wasn’t to blame entirely for the Lakers’ woes but one has to wonder if he’ll ever be his dominant self again. Was the pressure a little too much for Howard in LA? I’ve never been to Los Angeles but it’s clear that the Lakers dominate sports in that part of the country. Much like the Cowboys do here in Dallas and even though the Texans aren’t on that level, Houston and the rest of the state is football country by far. Is the Rockets’ less demanding culture one of the main reasons Howard chose them? Many seem to think so. Dwight comes off as very child-like with his personality and has never been considered as a “basketball is my life” type of player like his former teammate Kobe Bryant. Howard can also be very indecisive, as witnessed in his last actions last week but how much will that be magnified in Houston?
From a basketball standpoint it’s going to be very interesting how well Howard can work with James Harden. Yes, there’s going to be early miscues and adjustments to be made but I see real potential. This isn’t a case like the Miami Heat before the 2010 season where it was title or bust. Harden and Howard have time to compliment each other’s games over this season and next but the Rockets are now a contender in the western conference. Can they take down Miami? Too early to tell but then again, i’m not taking any team over Miami at this point. Harden was VERY effective in the pick-and-roll offense this past season and that was with Omar Asik. Dwight being part of that offense gives it even more potential. But at the same time, Houston will have to slow down some and Harden will have to give up touches on the ball pretty often. There’s also the fact that Harden is probably going to have to give up driving to the rim so much, something that he loves to do. Lots of people see a better version of the 2008-09 Magic with this Rockets team but it’s much too early to tell. Houston is probably a move or two away from being REAL contender for the title but as of right now, the future looks pretty bright for the Rockets. They just have to hope that the “Dwightmare” won’t come back to haunt them in the end.