Saturday, December 14, 2013

NBA Pull-ups

It’s so hard to get a full post out of one game in the NBA.  In the NFL, it’s (primarily) a one day a week gig, in the NBA there are multiple games daily, with teams playing 2-3 times a week for months.  So in order to avoid fatigue (mostly my own) I’ll lightly touch on NBA hot topics happening around the league.

  • ·         The idea of contraction has never looked so good. In the entire Eastern conference there are two teams worth watching nightly.  I felt that teams wouldn't be interested in winning because of the desire to get in to the lottery (which has more jackpots at the top of the draft than any since 2003), but I didn't know the Bobcats at 10-12 would be a game out of having home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs if the tournament started today.  It’ll be a hilarious shift of power when all of the best rookies are in the East next year, though.
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  •  Speaking of the Bobcats, they signed Chris Douglas-Roberts to a contract.  I’ve been a fan of CDR since his days alongside Derrick Rose at the University of Memphis.  While he led that NBA-laden college team in scoring (and nearly to a title), he hasn’t been able to catch on in the NBA despite some insane games in the D-League. No one else cares about this story, but I love that a team that has historically struggled to get points, has added such a dynamic scorer.  Good for him and the franchise.
  • ·         Kobe’s back.  I wasn’t sure he’d be back. For real.  I was in Virginia at an NBA pre-draft tournament filled with pro hopefuls when I got back to the hotel and caught the end of the Lakers game—and what I thought may have been the end of an all-time great player.  When I found out exactly what the injury was (torn Achilles), I immediately thought of Elton Brand.  Before his injury, Brand was a 20 pts/10 rebounds player who was in the discussion for best power forward in the league. Afterwards? Brand has been a role playing journeyman since he tore his Achilles; and he got hurt at 28 and not 34. I know all about the will of a champion and all of that, but seeing Bryant play with any real success only eight months after a devastating injury is impressive.  What he will actually mean to the Lakers squad this year is another story for another post.
  • ·         Portland’s hooping.  Ok, part of the hype and surprise surrounding the Trailblazers is because of how poorly they played last year.  There was talent on this team last season, but because of a bench that was thinner than a Lethal Weapon plot, they caught a lot of L’s that they probably wouldn’t have otherwise.  With the addition of Robin Lopez (who enjoys doing the dirty work of rebounding and protecting the rim that LaMarcus Aldridge has never shown an interest in) and Damian Lillard’s consistent play, the team is good.  They ate through some poor teams early, but recent wins over the Pacers and Golden State Warriors means their success may have more substance to it.  They’ll be tough at home all year because of that fantastic fan base, but I don’t think they’ll be a factor in who comes out of the West because no one on that team has won anything.  That said, that lowly win/loss record from last year netted them CJ McCollum in the draft; so we may not have seen the best this team has to offer as the rookie works his way into playing shape following his offseason injury.
  • ·         Jason Kidd’s coaching tenure hasn’t gotten off to a great start in Brooklyn.  With so much turnover in the roster and so many injuries (Brook Lopez, Deron Williams, and Andrei Kirilenko have all missed significant time) even an experienced coach would have issues.  Kidd never coached at any level before taking over a team that General Manager Billy King admitted to having a 1-year window; but Kidd’s former top assistant, Lawrence Frank, had.  Kidd recently demoted Frank after a blowup on the bench. Kidd may have felt that his assistant didn’t know his place in the pecking order.  When I went to the Nets training camp, frank led most of the drills and the camp, generally.  When I saw the players crowded around the white board as a play was drawn up, it was Frank orchestrating the set and the huddle.  If Kidd was really upset with Frank’s senses of entitlement, he should recognize his own culpability for enabling it.
  • ·         Across town, the New York Knicks are dreadful.  It’s an odd roster missing its defensive anchor in Tyson Chandler. The best synopsis of the dissonance of the season comes from Carmelo Anthony, who feels the need to take it on himself when the offense isn't going well. Melo’s understanding the real problem with the ball-stopping offense plagued by isolation plays. I don’t know if Melo will return after he opts out, but I want to see him play with a talented, pass-first point guard once in his career before his scoring talents fall off.  I think it would make all the difference in his effectiveness.
  • ·         Miami Heat just lost to Indiana Pacers so naturally I’m going to write about…Michael Beasley? The team missed Beasley and his scoring punch off the bench.  I underestimated his early impact because of Coach Erik Spoelstra’s penchant to adhere to his rotation.  He probably won’t get any 6th man of the year votes, but he really should if his play keeps up.   
  • ·         Indiana Pacers give hope to fans of small market teams everywhere.  The core of that team is home grown (with David West being the exception), and all of them have improved. That’s nuts. This isn’t college, that doesn’t happen in the pros.  Lance Stephenson, Paul George, and Roy Hibbert have all improved dramatically over multiple years.  I don’t know what they’re doing with their coaches or scouts, but its easily one of the best run organizations in the NBA.

I miss anything?

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