Archive for July, 2007

31
Jul
07

Kevin Garnett and the Bulls

Now that everything is official and real let’s look at this situation from the Bulls perspective.

Right now Skiles and Paxson should be thinking that they’re team certainly isn’t in a better situation than it was last week, but there’s nothing to worry about.  The Bulls match up well against this new Celtics team.  Ben Wallace, Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas will provide a nice Garnett stopping team, especially since none of them will need to cover Kendrick Perkins.  Luol Deng’s defense came a long way last year and he should be able to match up well against Pierce.  As long as BG7 can carry the scoring load on nights they play Boston (Ray Allen isn’t known for his defense) Hinrich can focus on covering Allen.  They’ll have Thabo coming off the bench as a defensive stopper with length to shut down Pierce, as he’s done to Kobe, and Allen, as he’s done to D.Wade.  Rajon Rondo’s game even should be limited enough – at least for this coming season – that Ben Gordon will actually be able to cover him. 

This is where the Celtics weakness will show.  They will have 2 of the three best players on the court almost every night and they’ll likely have 3 of the top 5 every night.  Their problem is they’ll also have the two worst players on the floor on their team at all times.  They’ll also have 8 of the twelve worst active players on game night on their roster nearly every night. 

The Bulls on the other hand, as I’ve pointed out here, have one of the deepest teams in the NBA.  Garnett is an intimidating defensive presence down low.  Problem for the Celtics is that the Bulls don’t go down low very often and if they do it’s with a flying Tyrus.  Not even Garnett’s going to stop that once it’s off the ground.  Beyond KG the Celtics will be a weak defensive team and the Bulls will simply have too many weapons for them to cover, even if they don’t have any 27 ppg scorers, former MVP’s or 3-point champions (yet, Gordon will wear this crown someday).

31
Jul
07

Team to beat in the East? It’s just hype.

Again, once the Garnett trade happens the Celtics will be a successful regular season team and probably win one or two playoff series.  They HAVE NOT, however, become “the team to beat” or favorites in the East.  Yes, the trade is exciting.  Superstars don’t change teams everyday.  But people need to calm down and look at this situation realistically.  Everywhere I look I’m reading that if LeBron could take the Cavs to the finals last season with no supporting cast then this Celtics team will go undefeated in Eastern Conference competition.  There are so many flaws with that logic I don’t know where to start.  LeBron last season was a more dominant player than any of the three players who will be on the Celtics were last season or will be this season.  Also, LeBron didn’t have much of a supporting cast but he had a hell of a lot more than the Celtics will have beyond Pierce/Allen/Garnett.  LeBron had Zydrunas Ilgauskas while the Celtics will have Kendrick Perkins.  LeBron had Donyell Marshal, Anderson Varejao, Daniel Gibson and Damon Jones coming off the bench.  Now these guys aren’t going to win any sixth man of the year awards but the Celtics will have . . .oh yeah, they won’t have a bench left after this trade.  Under contract the Celtics will have Brian Scalabrine, Tony Allen (coming off of knee surgery), Leon Powe and Brandon Wallace.  Cleveland’s supporting cast sounds pretty good now, huh?


Now that the deal is done Brian Scalabrine
is poised for greatness in his new role as
the Celtics 6th man

The other problem with the logic if LeBron could do it with that Cavs team then the Celtics will reign supreme is that people are forgetting that the Cavs path to the finals was only so easy because of luck.  First they faced the Wizards without Arenas who was at least as valuable to his team as LeBron was to the Cavs.  Then they faced a Nets team that didn’t really care.  Once Vince Carter beat his old team in Toronto he accomplished all he cared to.  Why put off the summer any longer.   Finally they faced one good team in the Pistons.  However, the aging and arrogant/apathetic Detroit team was worn down from from an energetic Bulls team and believed they were so good they didn’t have to try in order to win the series.  Overall the Cavs only had to play one out of the 5 best teams in the East on their way to the finals.  That will not be the case for the Celtics in the ’08 playoffs.  The team to beat in the East will probably still be the Pistons but it’s a Conference that’s very much up in the air.  I don’t believe the Pistons will win the East nor do I believe the Celtics will. 

There are too many talented young teams in the East for old teams like those two to make it to the Finals.  Even a team like the Magic, if it somehow reached the the conf. finals, could take that Celtics team. Howard would negate KG, Lewis would match Pierce and Redick or some other one dimensional shooter would match Allen.  Ray Allen is a great player, but with the talents that Garnett and Pierce bring Allen is not going to have more of a role than a spot up shooter.  With each team’s big 3 doing the same things the thirty-somethings would simply tire out before the twenty-somethings.  Not to mention the Magic would have a good coach in VanGundy while Boston is putting up with Doc. 

The new look Celtics are very exciting but lets see them in action before crowning them Eastern Conference Champions.   

31
Jul
07

Who wins with a “big 3”?

After reading this insanely positive article by SI’s Ian Thomsen I have ask, when was the last time you can remember a team winning their conference or the championship with a “big 3” and nothing else around them?

I remember the Wolves had a big 3 with Garnett, Sprewell and Cassell but they lost in Western Conf. finals to a deeper Lakers team.  I remember when the Mavs had a big 3 of Nowitzki, Finley and Nash but they lost twice in the Western Conf. semis and once in the Conf. finals.  The Nets had a big 3 last season with Carter, Kidd and Jefferson but they lost in the Eastern Conf. semis.

Garnett, Pierce and Allen have more combined talent than Garnett’s last big 3 and certainly more than New Jersey’s.  They’ll also be playing in the Eastern Conf. which, although improving, is not as strong as the Western Conf. that those Mavs teams lost in.  Nevertheless, it’s a team game and short of having Michael Jordan on the court it takes a team to win a championship.  This will not be a team.  These three superstars will most likely fit well together.  However, after a season of playing 44 minutes per game because they have absolutely nobody on the bench to help will these three guys – all of whom are over 30 – have enough left to carry this team to a championship?  When young, deep teams like the Bulls and Raptors are pushing the tempo on them in a 7-game series are they going to look like the Heat did in last season’s playoffs, old and slow?

I expect this team to win 50 or so games in the regular season and be extremely fun to watch but they’re not going to win any championships.    

UPDATE:  ESPN’s John Hollinger made a similar point about a big 3 not being enough.  He noted last season’s Wizards as another team with a big 3 who didn’t go all the way.  I’d say they’re more of a big 1 and medium 2 but you get the point. 

30
Jul
07

Garnett to Boston makes sense but . . .


Just give Joakim Noah a couple of years in
the NBA and he’ll look pretty like this too. 

Things are still slow out there in the world of NBA news.  At least there’s a new rumor today that doesn’t have anything to do with Tim Donaghy.  Kevin Garnett might be traded to the Celtics!!!  Essentially it’s the same trade that was on the verge of happening prior to the draft but with a couple more players thrown in to replace the pick. 

The details vary based on the report but Minny would definitely be getting Ratliff’s expiring contract and Al Jefferson.  Beyond that, reports are all over the board.  The Boston Globe’s reports seem very optimistic for the Celtics.  One even has Al Jefferson not included in the deal, being replaced by a #1 pick.  Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Rajon Rondo and Gerald Green are the other names floating around. 

Basically the deal is all of the Celtics young talent and maybe a future #1 pick or two for Kevin Garnett.  It’s a high price for the Celtics to pay.  Garnett is one of the premier players in the game and with someone to carry the scoring load he’d be even more valuable.  As sad as it will be for Minnesota fans to see a loyal, hard-working fan favorite go, this is an opportunity that Kevin McHale has to jump at. 

If McHale can get back 3-4 quality young players, an expiring contract and maybe a pick or two he will have gone a long ways (well, maybe just a ways) towards making up for all the terrible, terrible general managing he’s done in Minneapolis.  Sure, nobody wants to lose KG but McHale has put the team in such a bad spot that he could never surround him with half of what the Wolves will have if they make this trade. 

The situation is a bit more complicated for Boston.  They’d be giving up every asset they have for the future (beyond the next 2 years) and possibly any ability to rebuild if draft picks are included.  If they make this trade they are taking a one year shot at an NBA title.  The team they’d have will only be worse in ’08-’09 than they will be in ’07-’08 and they’d continue to decline from that point while other strong young teams in the East (Bulls) improve.  Because of the bleak future beyond the next season or maybe two it seems like it would be a bad idea for the Celtics to make this trade.  However, Danny Ainge already jumped on board the bad idea bus when he traded for Ray Allen and as long as he’s already stuck he may as well take KG along for the ride. 

Ainge gave up on building a team around the wealth of young talent he had when he traded the #5 pick and Delonte West for Ray Allen.  Ainge had been trying to keep veteran Paul Pierce around while slowly building a young contending team.  Pierce finally had enough of it and made his feelings known this past season.  At that point Ainge should have traded Pierce and continued with his youth movement.  Instead he decided to make the team older and picked up Allen.  

Once he made the Ray Allen trade there was no turning back.  He had to try and win it all with Pierce and Allen in the next year or two.  He probably figured because of his poor track record he’d be fired before his young team came around anyway.  Once you know you’re on the edge of losing your job why think about the future?  Therefore if Ainge gives up everything on his team that will have any significant value in 5 years he’ll have a one year window and a decent shot to win the Eastern Conference.  There’s no turning back, he needs to make this trade desperately.  The team as it currently stands won’t beat the East’s best.  The price he faces for Garnett is high – especially if they don’t work out a contract extension prior to completing a trade – but it’s Ainge’s last and only shot at success. 

 As we’ve said, McHale has to make this trade.  However, letting Garnett slip away from Timberwolves fans will go down as his biggest failure.  Garnett is the ultimate team player and the wounds this trade would leave on Wolves fans can not and should not heal quickly.  What we want to know is, if Ray Allen was available prior to the draft why didn’t McHale go after him?  Sure, his pick was two lower than Boston’s (#7 vs. #5), but he could have sweetened the deal with other pieces.  Allen and Garnett would have been a better duo than Sprewell and Garnett ever were.  Most importantly Minnesota could keep Garnett while giving him some help.  Ultimately rebuilding with what youth they have combined with what they get from Boston will probably be best for the Wolves.  Nevertheless, you have to believe that there was something that could have been done to keep KG in Sota with his faithful.

With the trade Minnesota will join Portland and Seattle as teams in the West that are extremely young but have very bright futures.  Those three teams should be able to peak right around the time the current powers in the West start to go downhill. 

 Assuming Boston is able to hold on to a halfway decent point guard they should be a very fun team to watch as well.  Allen, Pierce, Garnett at the 2, 3, 4/5 will be hard to stop.  They’ll need to jell soon however because the East is getting better.  See any other entry on this blog for the current improving state of the Bulls.  The composition of the Knicks is flawed but they’ll have enough firepower to cost some good teams regular season wins this year.  Atlanta may finally have enough pieces to make something out of their tremendous depth of talent.  The Pistons look to have one more good year in them.  We have to assume the LeBron will only be better this year than he was when he single-handedly carried the Cavs to the Finals last year.  Orlando might be better than last season, with an improved Dwight Howard and added help from Lewis.  The Wizards remain intact and if Arenas can fully recover from his injury they should regain the strong form they showed the first half of last season.  Toronto is bound to be a top tier team for the next several years along with the Bulls.  The Heat and Nets are on their way down, but other than those two the East is getting stronger.   The Celtics better win now if Ainge’s master plan has any chance.

The Kevin Garnett trade probably will happen because it makes sense and will help two teams in desperate situations.  With Kevin McHale and Danny Ainge running the show, however, you never know if the move that makes sense is the move that will happen.

26
Jul
07

Upside to the Donaghy Scandal

Will the Donaghy scandal ultimately help the NBA more than it hurts?  In David Stern’s opinion probably not.  He feels that the quality of the officiating up to this point has be very strong.  We, however, very much disagree. 

Many have pointed out that one of the big downsides to this whole scandal is that it will make the jobs of the remaining NBA referees even harder because they will be under such intense scrutiny and pressure.  To us that scrutiny is a good thing.  

NBA officials work within the parameters of a star system.  Michael Jordan wasn’t supposed to foul out of the game.  35,000 fans who paid to come see Jordan play would not be happy if he sat down for good early in the 4th quarter with his 5th foul.   David Stern knows that the lifeblood of the NBA is the fans and the refs probably know that also.  The refs don’t call too many fouls on star players and Stern doesn’t complain.  In Jordan’s day the fans left happy after most of his games because they watched his phenomenal cross-overs, dunks and fadeaways for 40+ minutes, including the game’s final few. 

The Donaghy scandal may positively impact the NBA by forcing the officials to call the game as they see it.  The casual fan who only came to see LeBron James may not like it when he fouls out, but the true basketball fans will enjoy a game where every player is competing on a level playing field.  When rookie Joakim Noah is hacked by Dwayne Wade this coming season the ref will have to call the foul, and, call it on Wade instead of nearby Dorell Wright.  Instead of giving the superstar a no-call at the expense of a rookie as refs are known to do, or instead of calling the foul but putting it on the next closest non-star instead of Wade as they are also known to do, the ref will feel obligated to make the right call.  Last season he or she would have known that they wouldn’t be scrutinized for protecting Wade because that’s how the NBA works.  However, that ability will be, or at least should be, taken away from them this season because everyone will wonder, “Is he protecting Wade or protecting a point spread?”

This scandal may leave an embarrassing smudge on David Stern’s legacy but hopefully it will lead to better product on the court, at least as far as us true basketball fans are concerned.

26
Jul
07

Remember these days . . ?


We don’t like to.

Better days are ahead.

25
Jul
07

Would Donaghy trade Kobe if he ran the Lakers?

If you follow the basketball/sports media closely like we do you have to be tired of all the Donaghy coverage by now too.  90% of what’s out there is talk about how much trouble the NBA is in, how many fans they’re going to lose and what could happen if this or that group is implicated along with Donaghy. 

Enough already.  Things may get worse for the NBA.  They’ll eventually get better.  Regardless, unless you’re David Stern or somebody who works for him things aren’t any worse for you than they were before.  If your team was screwed by Donaghy they didn’t get screwed any worse when news came out about his so far still alleged illegal actions.  Your team still lost and it’s not going to change. 

What’s worse is that the media forgot anything else happens in the NBA besides gambling scandals.  Should the basketball media be covering the Donaghy story?  Absolutely.  But shouldn’t they continue to cover other basketball news?  I know it’s the offseason so there’s not much going on but still, throw us a bone.  What happened to the Kobe and KG speculation?  We’d even settle for a fantasy basketball outlook at this point and we’re not fantasy players.  Give us something other than Donaghy to think about for 5 minutes!

In this desperate time Marc Stein at least took a less somber/comical approach to the issue and gave us a much needed change of pace

How do you say Donaghy?
Admit it: If you were watching David Stern's news conference Tuesday, you
thought that he was mispronouncing Tim Donaghy's last name on purpose. 

You figured that was Stern's shrewd way to spite the allegedly crooked
referee he can now only pray was operating as a "rogue, isolated
criminal."

I can certainly admit it.

The true story, sadly, isn't that sinister. Turns out that the way Stern
kept saying it -- DAHN-AH-GEE, with a hard G -- is the correct
pronunciation of Donaghy's last name.

All of us who have been using DAHN-AH-HE for days have had it wrong.

 Let’s get back to talking about basketball and basketball teams instead of gambling.  This is David Stern’s problem, not ours.  If you only watch the NBA because you believe Stern when he says his league has the best refs in the world of sports then you’re not a basketball fan.  If Stern wants to trade jobs (and more importantly salaries) we’ll take on the scandal.  Otherwise can somebody tell us where Paxson is at in extension talks with Deng and Gordon?  Is Joakim Noah’s shoulder healed yet?  Anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller . . . Bueller . . .

24
Jul
07

Credibility???

Everybody is talking about how the NBA’s credibility has taken such a huge hit because of this Donaghy scandal.  All I have to say is, what credibility?

Look, you’re not going to find a bigger NBA fan around.  I don’t even like college basketball beyond watching it for NBA prospects.  But who in the world was watching the NBA on a regular basis and thinking,

“These referees really are doing a good job.  I have faith that the team that best combined effort and ability on a given night won every night I watched.  I don’t remember watching a game where the refs influenced which team won by doing more or less than officiating the game exactly as it was played.”

Honestly, I can’t remember watching a game where I didn’t feel the referees intentionally ignored a foul that happened or called a phantom foul on purpose at least once.  People who love watching the NBA watch it in spite of the officiating, not because they have faith in the refs.  Basketball is the most entertaining sport in the world to watch and the NBA has the best basketball players and many of the best athletes in the world.  That’s why I’ve watched the NBA my entire life.  That’s why I’ll watch on opening night of the ’07-’08 season and for the foreseeable future.  Will I begin to have faith in the referees?  Something drastic would have to change (something I can’t even imagine happening) for me to believe they’re calling the game like they see it.  Will I trust them any less after this Donaghy scandal?  No.  I never trusted them to begin with so why would I trust them any less now?

24
Jul
07

Donaghy influenced Bulls vs. Warriors

The New York Times reported:

As F.B.I. officials, the news media and fans pore over video footage of
games refereed by Tim Donaghy, looking for curious foul calls and other
such behavior, several seconds of a game between the Chicago Bulls and
the Golden State Warriors in February could attract attention.
Donaghy, who resigned recently after completing his 13th season with the
N.B.A., is under federal investigation for suspected betting on games in
which he officiated and for an association with organized crime.

The Bulls-Warriors game of Feb. 9, played at Golden State and broadcast
on ESPN, was tied, 112-112, with 23 seconds remaining. While a Bulls
guard dribbled between midcourt and the 3-point shot line — clearly
working the clock down for an attempt at a final shot — Warriors center
Andris Biedrens stood in the lane without guarding anyone for about
seven seconds, which is grounds for a defensive three-seconds violation.

Donaghy, stationed behind Biedrens on the baseline, clearly stepped
forward and tapped Biedrens on the waist with 16 seconds left. Biedrens,
by then at the edge of the lane, then immediately moved clear of the
paint, and play continued.

The penalty for defensive three seconds is the assessment of a technical
foul and retention of the ball. Golden State could have faced a 3- or
4-point deficit before getting the ball back.

Instead, the Bulls had a shot blocked with six seconds left, and Golden
State missed a half-court heave to leave the score tied as regulation
time ran out. The Warriors won in overtime, 123-121. According to several
gambling Web sites, the odds opened with the Warriors favored by a point
and a half.

A veteran official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because speaking
with the news media violates the referees’ collective-bargaining
agreement with the N.B.A., said that in such a situation he would not
have blown the whistle because the violation was too trivial in a crucial
moment. “I would let the players determine the game,” he said.

The official added that touching a player or providing any sort of a
warning that a whistle is imminent — from either that referee or another
on the floor — is forbidden.

“I would never touch him — it would show up on tape,” the official said.
“We used to be able to say something like ‘Get out! Get out!’ But they
said that was cheating. We considered it game management.”

Fans of every team that have reason to think Donaghy may have caused their team to lose a game it had a legitimate chance of winning have a right to be upset.  However, as Bulls fans we have more right than most given that the Bulls finished the season just one game behind the Cavs and owned the tiebreaker between the two teams.  Had the Bulls won just one more game, such as this game against the Warriors, they would have had the second seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs and at least have been in the Eastern Conf. finals.  The Bulls fell to the Pistons and still would have had to play them in this scenario.  However, they would have faced the aging Pistons one round later and thus maybe caught them a with less energy.  A trip to the Finals wouldn’t have been out of the question and the Bulls match up much better with the Spurs than the Cavs do.  We’re not saying what would and wouldn’t have happened with this one win, we’re just saying . . .

 However, Suns fans may have to most to be upset about.

24
Jul
07

Donaghy and Hinrich

There are only two big NBA stories out there right now.  Tim Donaghy and Team USA.  If we approach these stories from a Bulls point of view we have the “Headbandgate” game and Kirk Hinrich.  Let’s look at Headbandgate first.

The Tribune’s K.C. Johnson informs us that Donaghy worked three Bulls games last season.  Of those three the Headbandgate game clearly stands out.  For anybody who doesn’t remember the game that came to be known as Headbandgate (it’s an annoying name, we know) was a Bulls vs. Knicks game on November 25.  Ben Wallace had apparently become upset with both Skiles and Paxson in the preceding days.  He knew the Bulls had a rule against wearing headbands (a terrible rule by the way.  there’s no way to explain it other than they don’t want their players to look like thugs).  Wallace brought a headband to the game and put it on.  Skiles pulled him and told him he had to remove it.  He removed it but was benched again soon.  The Bulls new $60 million man played under 30 minutes that game and wasn’t happy about it.  When he did make it back into the game he put the headband back on in a direct defiance of Skiles’ orders.  Skiles soon pulled him and he didn’t see the floor again.  Interestingly this game served as a turning point for the Bulls season and Wallace’s relationship with the team.  He became much more involved after that game and the Bulls turned around from their awful start to the season.  Wallace made a statement to team management that he was a veteran and 4 time Defensive Player of the Year.  He would not be treated like a rookie.  The Bulls listened and shortly after the incident Wallace was saying he knew it would help the team.

Lost in all the headband hype was the fact that the refs made some quirky calls during the game.  The Bulls were up by 22 at halftime, but the Knicks attempted 16 free throws in the first 5 and half minutes of the third quarter while the Bulls attempted only two.  Skiles was called for two techs in that span and thus ejected by Donaghy’s crew.  Donaghy’s crews called more technical fouls last season than any other crew.  Without seeing the footage we can’t tell which ref called Skiles for the techs, but we do know that Skiles thought one was fishy. 

That night he said, “The ejection, I deserved. I deserved the second technical. I didn’t care for the first one that much. He was joking with me, I joked with him and he gave me a technical. Technically, you’re not allowed to comment.”

Was Donaghy trying to bring the scores closer together to cover a point spread?  Who really knows, but that game could very well go into a handful of games that will be used as evidence against him. 

NBullsA was upset to find out that an NBA ref was involved in a gambling scandal, however not surprised to find that a ref may have been intentionally influencing the outcome of games for personal or private reasons.  The biggest problem in the NBA is the inconsistency of how the games are called.  The inconsistency is so glaring that we have no doubt that it’s not random.  We never thought of gambling interests before.  Instead we assumed NBA league office mandates that playoff series should be extended whenever possible and stars SHOULD NOT foul out of games.  Also, we were pretty sure that certain refs had issues with certain players and let their whistles settle the score.  Whether it’s personal vendettas, league mandates or mob influence the NBA needs to fix the officiating problem. 

On to Team USA.  Kirk Hinrich started in the Blue vs. White game for the Blue team.  He had one nice alley oop pass, but that was about all he did.  He played the second fewest minutes of anyone on the team (two more than JJ Redick), shot 2-7 with 3 turnovers to his one assist.  However, both Hinrich and Chris Paul played very well and had outstanding assist-to-turnover ratios in last summer’s competitions.  With a team featuring so many other explosive scorers you figure they’d need a passing point guard who is a great defender. 

However, this year’s team features Jason Kidd, Chauncey Billups and Deron Williams, all of whom are bigger than Hinrich and Paul while providing similar skill sets.  Paul is unavailable this summer, but you still have to figure that the eventual 12-man roster won’t feature 4 point guards.  Will Hinrich make the team over the bigger names, perhaps receiving credit for participating last year as well as this year?  At least if he doesn’t make the cut he’ll have more time to recuperate for the upcoming Bulls season. 

Another new addition to this summer’s team is former Bull Tyson Chandler.  Many have speculated that Team USA needed a player like Chandler because they didn’t have a true shot blocker last season.  Chandler did have 2 blocks and led all rebounders with 13 in the exhibition, but Dwight Howard had 2 blocks as well.  We think Tyson is a great player and defender.  He could help the team a lot but he’s a bit overrated as a shot blocker.  He’s never averaged over 1.8 blocks per game despite being a defensive specialist who is over 7 feet tall.  Last season he averaged a career high 35 minutes per game but was unable to top his blocks average from ’04-’05 when he played 27 minutes per game.  We feel Team USA should keep him on the roster because they’ll have plenty of scoring and his defense would be key.  However, with player like Amare Stoudemire, Howard and Chris Bosh all looking like locks it’s very possible Chandler will be cut. 




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