NBA Trade Deadline in Review

The NBA trade deadline came and went without much noise.  All week Josh Smith’s name had been circulating in trade talks, and it all amounted to nothing.  Personally, I don’t understand why they didn’t deal him, as well as why the Lakers didn’t deal Dwight Howard.  Why would teams not trade players who are going to walk away in free agency at the end of the year?  Josh Smith is definitely leaving Atlanta, so the fact that they didn’t trade him is idiotic.  Dwight Howard may stay in Los Angeles, so I understand the Lakers keeping him in hopes to re-sign him at the end of the year.  The biggest name that was traded yesterday was JJ Reddick.  The Orlando Magic traded him to the Milwaukee Bucks, along with Gustavo Ayon and Ish Smith for Beno Udrih, Doron Lamb, and Tobias Harris.  It was not a big trade by any stretch of the imagination.  However, the name of the game in the NBA is money money money.  Trades get made in the NBA once the money matches on both sides.  The Magic are in rebuilding mode (as they always are), and they were looking for some young talent which they received in Doron Lamb.  I think the Bucks got the better of this trade, with the addition of a solid perimeter shooter.  The New York Knicks did not make a big splash in the trade deadline either.  They traded Ronnie Brewer to the Oklahoma City Thunder for a 2nd round pick and a trade exception.  And we all know what the Knicks did next right?  Come on, it made so much sense.  You can’t think of it?  Okay, I’ll tell you.  They signed Kenyon Martin to a 10-Day Contract.  Yes!!!!  That is just what they need, another mid thirties player who if his life depended on it couldn’t stay healthy.  Now, if, and this is a BIG IF, he can stay healthy he will help out their front line.  He can add some much needed rebounding, defense, and toughness.  That gritty warrior’s mentality is what the Knicks are lacking, big time.  Overall, I’ll give the Knicks an average grade of a C for their trade deadline moves.  Even with the inactivity at the trade deadline, we should have some good competitive basketball to watch over the last two months of the season.  Enjoy!!

Lakers Owner Jerry Buss Passes Away, at 80

I wanted to take time out of my day to pay respects to the late Jerry Buss.  Jerry passed away yesterday, February 18th.  He was 80 years old.  Buss hadn’t been able to attend any Lakers games this season due to health complications.  It turns out that he had been battling an undisclosed type of cancer since early 2012.  My condolences goes out to the entire Buss family, as I know how difficult losing a loved one can be.  Jerry Buss had been the Owner of the Los Angeles Lakers since 1979.  During his tenure with The Lakers, they made 16 trips to the NBA Finals winning 10 Championships.  His winning ways spanned across five decades, and his teams included some of basketball’s all-time greats.  Most notably: Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’ Neal.  Jerry Buss was a great owner and was an innovator in the sports world.  Rest In Peace Jerry Buss.  The Lakers will play in your honor for years to come.  

It’s definitely better than the Pro Bowl, but the NBA’s All-Star Weekend is no slam dunk

Come Thursday night, the NBA will wind down the first half of the season with two thrillers. First, you will have a rematch of the NBA Finals from last season as Miami travels to Oklahoma City(and this could very well be a preview of this year’s finals as well), and then you will have a showdown in the city of angels. The Clippers will try to continue their winning ways against their cross building rivals(get it, I said cross building instead of cross town because they play in the same arena, well at least I thought it was funny), the Lakers. Once the final buzzer sounds on that contest, it’s off to Houston for the 2013 All-Star Weekend festivities. Now I know that the All-Star Game’s TV ratings have been climbing the past couple of years, until last year(“hey, let’s put the All-Star Game on TV at the same time as the Oscars!!” “Good idea!!”, said the two employees who were surely fired as soon as the ratings came out). However, I believe the NBA is not maximizing it’s potential throughout the entire weekend.

The game itself is not what I have a problem with. You can’t make superstars try in a game that is solely meant to be an honor. The game gets good enough ratings as is, and I still tune in because basketball is fun to watch when the score is 184-179. You get to watch the NBA’s elite throw alley oops to each other, and in the off chance that the game is close down the stretch they do actually try. The one problem that I have with the game is actually the voting process. This game is meant to showcase the leagues best players. It is not meant to be a popularity contest. I understand why the NBA allows fans to vote but it ruins the integrity of All-Star appearances. Think about it. When the talking heads debate whether or not someone is a hall of famer don’t they always bring up how many All-Star teams they’ve been on? How are you going to tell me that Joe Schmo from his couch, who doesn’t even know the first thing about basketball(he has heard of Kevin Garnett though), should have any say in who gets in the hall of fame? Most people would probably say, “you’re overreacting, it’s just the All-Star game.” That’s my point. This weekend should matter. It should be an honor for the best players in the league to say, “I’m an All-Star.” I think the NBA should allow a combination of the coaches and hall of fame committees to vote on All-Star appearances. If the committees aren’t willing to get involved with active players then the NBA should decide on a collection of well respected basketball journalists to vote on the All-Star game.

The biggest problem I have with this weekend is what happens on Saturday. These days, the slam dunk contest is essentially a joke. Remember when the slam dunk contest used to mean something? And it was more exciting then the game itself? Yeah, me too. But those days are long gone. One of my most vivid memories of any All-Star game is Vince Carter’s spectacular dunk fest of 2000. Carter threw down one unbelievable dunk after another, putting together a highlight reel for the ages. If you ask me, that is still the single greatest slam dunk performance of all time. No offense Mr. Jordan, but I’m sure you were watching the beginning of Vinsanity too. Anyone remember who assisted Carter in that slam dunk contest?? No peaking at the video, that’s cheating. Yes, it was a young Tracy Mcgrady. The most memorable moments in slam dunk history are definitely Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins in the 80’s battling it out for the title of slam dunk champion. That concept seems laughable now a days, and that’s what has me steaming mad. Michael Jordan was the best player in the NBA every time he competed in the slam dunk contest(hell, he was the best player whenever he did anything). Fans also got to see greats like Clyde Drexler and Scottie Pippen perform once upon a time. That is what the fans want to see today. They want the best players in the league to battle it out like the slam dunk contest still means something. You have to be an avid basketball fan to even know who the competitors are in this years contest.  No offense to the guys competing, but are you tuning in to watch Terrence Ross?  Nope, didn’t think so.  Lebron James and the rest of the superstars of the league are doing the NBA a disservice by not competing. They are only hurting themselves and their brand by not putting together the best show possible at a star studded weekend.  I mean, it’s not like any of the guys we want to see would be inconvenienced by competing.  They are already going to be in Houston.  Instead of tweeting little jokes to cause a stir about possibly maybe hopefully competing in the dunk contest(what a subtle way to get attention buddy), Lebron should come on TV and emphatically say, “I’m going to bring the dunk contest back to life by competing in it and winning it!” If he did that and implored other superstar dunkers like Russell Westbrook to compete, everyone else would follow suit. Listen I’ll still be watching all the events this weekend, including New York Knick James White in the dunk contest, but don’t tell me you wouldn’t rather see Lebron do a 720 dunk or watch him dunk from the 3-point line. Insert haha here…

Here’s the slam dunk roster I would like to see:

Lebron James, Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin, J.R. Smith, Javele McGee, and Josh Smith

Now tell me you wouldn’t tune in to watch that!

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The Los Angeles Lakers….Oh how the mighty have fallen

So I have this friend that is a “Big” Lakers fan.  You know the type, they talk all kinds of smack when they’re great, and they try to explain to you how they knew this was going to happen now that they’re spiraling out of control.  He’s the type of fan that probably hopped on the Lakers bandwagon around the turn of the century, you know when Shaq was still there and they started winning consecutive titles again.  So rewind to before the preseason even started, and let me recap what this “fan” had to say.  “Dude, there is no way the Lakers aren’t going to win the title this year”.  “Did you see that picture of our starting five?”  Yeah, well that “all-star” caliber starting lineup has only played 132 minutes together so far this season.  How’s that working out for you?  I’m here to tell you who’s to blame for this train wreck, and that their season, while it has been a disaster so far is not completely lost yet.  Any major problem you have in an organization, a business, or even your own family always starts at the top.  Let me see how I can say this without having a potty mouth, ummmm, okay got it: “poo doesn’t travel uphill.”  The problems in a family don’t start with the kids, they start with the parents.  The problems with a business don’t start with the $12/hour employee, they start with the owner(s).  So, why would the dysfunction that is the Lakers have started with the players?  It obviously started with ownership and upper management and trickled down to the coach and finally has effected the players negatively.  So when you watch the Lakers struggle on both ends of the floor, you can’t blame Kobe Bryant, and you can’t even blame Dwight Howard.  For the root of the Lakers struggles let’s look up, first at Jerry Buss.  Yes, I said Jerry Buss.  Who is that is ruining one of the greatest franchises in sports history?  That would be Jim Buss.  And, who is it that made Jim Buss Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Lakers?  Yes! You are correct again, that would Jerry Buss.  I’m tired of these ultra wealthy business men whom mostly created their multi-million dollar businesses on nothing but hard work and a brilliant idea, just handing over their fortunes to their self-entitled kids.  Our kids don’t always turn out to be carbon copies of the best form of ourselves(as much as we want them to).  Just because daddy was a great entrepreneur and knew how to run one of the most successful sports franchises of all time, doesn’t mean little Jimmy Buss can follow suit.  With that being said, and now that Jim Buss is making decisions in Los Angeles, we can all point our fingers at him.  Jim Buss decided this past November to hire Mike D’Antoni, not Phil Jackson.  I know that all of you reading this already knew that but let me write that again.  HE HIRED MIKE D’ANTONI OVER PHIL JACKSON!  So as hard as it was to get past that, let’s get past that.  Now am I saying that the Lakers would be 25-17 instead of 17-25?  Most of you might say no, but I’d say uh, yeah maybe they would be.  We are talking about PHIL JACKSON HERE!  He’s one of if not THE greatest coach of all time.  Again, we can’t change the past so let’s analyze the present.  Let’s keep playing the blame game(I don’t know about you, but I’m having fun with this)and all point our fingers at Mike D’Antoni.  Mike D’Antoni is not the answer for the Lakers.  With that being said, I don’t know if Mike D’Antoni is the answer for anyone in the NBA.  His style of coaching, if you can call it that, just doesn’t win championships.  See, this is isn’t the Minnesota Timberwolves who were content just getting to the Conference Finals.  The Lakers are like the Yankees, it’s championship or bust.  Everyone is asking if the players should be adjusting to their coach or if the coach should adapt to the players on his roster?  This is a very dumb rhetorical question if you ask me.  Obviously, the answer is the coach must tweak his coaching “system” to fit the players on his roster.  Players in the NBA are who they are.  That mind sound vague or confusing, but it’s true.  You can’t ask Kobe Bryant to lock down the other teams best player and then score 30 points on 65% shooting every night.  As great as he still is, he’s not 24 anymore.  You also can’t expect Steve Nash and the rest of these three toed sloths to sprint down the floor and play at a pace that’s better fit for an Olympic track.  No disrespect to Steve Nash, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, and that guy who changed his name to the most outrageous thing I’ve ever heard, but they are just too old and too slow to play at this frenetic pace.  That’s like taking a 1988 Pontiac station wagon out to the race track and expecting to blow by people on your way to the checkered flag.  It just doesn’t work like that.  Now, like I said earlier, I don’t believe D’Antoni is the answer in L.A., but I don’t see the Lakers firing another coach mid-season and carrying anymore extra payroll.  So it looks like they’re stuck with D’Antoni, for now.  I read an exchange between Grantland’s Zach Lowe and Bill Simmons last night.  It was actually pretty interesting.  They were pretty much saying how D’Antoni is so stubborn, he’d rather go down with the ship then try to adjust his own style.  Here is an excerpt from Bill Simmons:”He’s basically saying, I’m here only because of my system.  I can’t actually coach.  If you give me the wrong players for my system, it doesn’t matter – I will keep using the system anyway, because Plan B would be coming up with a more inventive way to coach these guys.  And I can’t do that.  I’m not good enough.  So if it’s OK with you, I’d like to go down in flames with my system.”  Personally I think he is spot on with what should be going through D’Antoni’s head.  I’m sure he’s already gone through this kind of inner conflict, when he was the coach of the Knicks.  If only someone in the Lakers organization had sat down Jim Buss, taped his eyes open so he couldn’t look away, and forced him to watch the first half the Knicks 2011-2012 season, they might not be in this predicament.  This is like a horrible remake of an already horrible movie.  We all know how it’s going to end.  So now that we’ve established the chain of command that put this in motion, let’s talk about the players on the floor.  Everyone is also trying to blame Kobe Bryant for the Lakers troubles.  To those critics I say, are you out of your mind?  Kobe Bryant is 34 and is having another phenomenal season.  Also, to the critics who try to call Kobe a selfish player, he is in a system that asks him to shoot as many times as possible.  People are also trying to blame Dwight Howard for their struggles.  Yes, he’s having a down season compared to his own standards, but he’s still averaging 16.7 points, 12 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game.  Man, what horrible numbers, especially on a team that has Kobe Bryant shooting as many shots as humanly possible.  What also boggles my mind is why Dwight Howard has been playing through an injury that is obviously affecting his play.  They should have rested him until he was 100% or as close to 100% as he can get before playing him.  Dwight Howard can become a free agent at the end of this season, so the Lakers should be doing everything in their power to keep him healthy, happy, and in purple and gold next season and many more seasons to come.  Now on to Pau Gasol.  He is a special talent, and can be a key component to a championship caliber team.  Don’t believe me?  Just check Gasol’s numbers and minutes from their last two championships.  This, just like every other players struggles can be attributed to one person, Mike D’Antoni.  Which leads me to another great point that Bill Simmons made yesterday, he said: “I’m glad we finally got to Pau.  Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you’re a professional basketball coach and your system is telling you, “I should play Early Clark more than Pau Gasol,” you need a new system.”  I couldn’t really come up with a better way to say that, so I let him say it for me.  Thanks Bill.  In closing, if you ask me what the solution is, you have to do what no one in the world would do, fire D’Antoni, and hire a 3rd coach in a single season.  From a purely wins and losses perspective, this is the only move Jim Buss should be thinking about.  Unfortunately we all know that owning a sports team is strictly a business venture for 99.9% of owners, and he’s not going to come out of pocket to hire a 3rd(even if it would be the right one, cough, The Zen Master, cough)coach.  Little Jimmy is probably upset that Phil’s setting up shop with his little sis.  Resentment is an ugly character trait, Jim.  Especially when it aids in your own self-sabotage.  The other fix I would make is to play to Kobe, Pau, and Nash’s strengths.  And that is to let Nash orchestrate the offense like he knows how, while favoring the Kobe side of the floor slightly in each possession.  Let Dwight Howard get healthy, and I’m sure you’ll see the production we’ve all been expecting.  Now as for Pau, get him the damn ball inside the post!  He’s a great passer for a big man so even he can find Dwight Howard from there.  And most importantly he is a great low-post player, stop forcing him to shoot 18 footers.  If you take time to look at his numbers, you’ll see that they are far better when he is inside the paint opposed to outside roaming the earth, like Quentin Richardson in that old D’Antoni Pheonix system.  How dumb are the Knicks by the way(says the Knicks fan)?  Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me, and fool me 3 times, well I don’t know what you call that.  The D’Antoni “system” got us with Quentin Richardson, Amare Stoudamire, and then Mike D’Antoni!!  Really?!?!?  Come on Man(said in a Keyshawn Johnson voice)!  Finally, let Ron/Metta I’m not calling him that scare the other teams best player into submission.  Or play physical, whichever way you want to go with it.  The Metta guy isn’t what he used to be either, but if he stops expending energy on the offensive end and focuses all his efforts to the defensive end, they might have a recipe for success.  Back to reality we go, the Lakers need to win between 25 and 29 games to have a shot at the playoffs.  Is it likely? No.  But, I’m telling you there is a chance.

Kobe and Lebron

Originally posted on : 1/18/13 @ 3:10 P.M.

So, I was listening to 98.7 FM this morning on my way to work, and they were talking about Kobe Bryant and Lebron James.  This inspired me to chime in on this debate.  Kobe Vs Lebron.  Who is better?   Now, they were asking two different questions.  Who is better now, and who was better at the time they reached the 20,000 point milestone.  Now the first question is a simple fact.  Lebron is clearly better now.  NO disrespect meant to Kobe, because he is a first ballot hall of famer and top 10 player of all time no questions asked.  However, Lebron James is clearly the best basketball player on the planet right now.  Kobe had his prime and his time, but Lebron is clearly #1.  This is coming from someone who personally doesn’t care all that much for Lebron by the way.  Now, on to question number 2.  Kobe in his prime was something special.  No matter what generation you are from, you can count on 1 hand how many guys could take over a game like Kobe while at the same time lock down the other teams best offensive player.  By now I would think that anyone who knows sports knows that Kobe’s heart, killer instinct, and closing abilities are unquestioned.  Especially in a conversation against Lebron James, a guy who runs away from the ball when the clock is running toward all 0’s.  Lebron, yes, as we all know is a “freak” of nature.  No one compares to him as a physical specimen because let’s face it you’re not supposed to be able to jump that high and run that fast at his size.  Most of us I would think would have a hard time walking and dribbling at the same time at 6’8″, 255 lbs.  But, I don’t live in the world of the knee-jerk reaction to everything.  Lebron’s greatness hasn’t been instantaneous.  Just because he hit 20,000 points it doesn’t mean he magically became better than Kobe overnight or should be put in the same sentence as MJ, yet.  He’s been a special talent since anyone who matters first heard his name, and he’ll be one of the best of all time when it’s all said and done.  But, let’s give Kobe credit where credit’s due.  Lebron can guard 4 positions at any time but isn’t the defender Kobe was, yet.  Lebron is a better passer and rebounder as well, but all of these things don’t change the most important part of the discussion.  WINS.  I’ll take Kobe’s heart and rings over Lebron’s five tools, for now.  Call me in 5 years and you want to compare them at the 30,000 points, and I’m sure my answer will be very different.