Monday, December 3, 2007

Nets Epilogue

Again, I have to do this, I have to write this. I already explained two weeks ago that the Nets are my team, so although I try to keep an eye on all the thirty teams in the NBA, but always one in particular. So as a fan, when I have the opportunity I try to watch their games whenever I can. If for some reason it’s not possible, first thing in the morning is checking the box scores of last night’s game. So you can understand that a lot of my mornings don’t start of well. I really don’t like mornings anyway, but having a job often means getting up and go to the office, or wherever you work.
The last time I wrote about the Nets they were 4-5, and they were about to play one of the worst teams in the East, the Miami Heat. For some reason, I thought that game was a “must-win” situation for them. To play in front of your fans against a team which is struggling, when you’re struggling yourself winning a game like that could work as a confidence-builder. They lost by four points. Then they went to Salt Lake City, to play a strong Jazz team, and playing against a good team can bring out the best of you, but the Nets lost by 27. After that even Kidd was in a bad mood, didn’t know how to fix the problems the Nets have. So the team travelled to Portland where they narrowly beat the Blazers, and also edged the Sonics in Seattle, before heading off to L.A. The game against the Lakers was a rollercoaster ride, once again playing inconsistent, but played well enough to hold them off in the end. Three wins in a row, confidence is built? You would say, wouldn’t you? You must feel good about yourself finally winning some games, and knowing the lousy Grizzlies are visiting the Swamp, so let’s make it four. But they didn’t, and ended up November by also losing to the Grizzlies. December arrived, month full of festivities. Narrow win over the Sixers, then losing in Detroit by 23 damn points. Jason Maxiell killed them. Not Rasheed, B-B-B-Billups, Rip or Prince, not even McDyess, nope: Maxiell.

So now what? It’s a mess. I’m not hating on coach Lawrence Frank. He is a hard-working man, but if there is one thing he needs to do now is stop reshuffling the starting line-up. In fact, like some Nets beat writers say, and I wholeheartedly agree with: get Magloire into the game. Everybody is already saying he was a bad signing for the Nets, but he hardly gets any minutes out there. They need his rebounding, and that’s what he’ll do for you. Start him alongside Sean Williams. The latter will swat shots, dunk, grab some boards and provides a spark the Nets need so badly. At least try it with those two for the next five games or so, with Kidd, Carter and Jefferson. The Nets are now 7-9, something is wrong, and it needs to be fixed. I’m not a coach; I don’t have the solution, but at least try it with these five guys for a while. Who knows, next time I write about the Nets they’re above .500, and I can finally be more positive about the way things are going this season.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Another30Days - November, Western Conference

1. San Antonio Spurs: Tony Parker is playing at a level so high, the Eiffel Tower got nothing on him. Once again it must be said: the Spurs should be seen as the blueprint on how to successful build a championship team. A joy to watch.

2. Phoenix Suns: The problem remains: no defense. Trading away Kurt Thomas wasn’t the wisest move by Steve Kerr. Once again this team will win a shitload of games during the regular season, but probably won’t get to the Finals because they bump into the Spurs (Horry pun intended)

3. Utah Jazz: Carlos Boozer is playing for MVP this year. He might not say it himself, but his teammates do. Andrei Kirilenko got his head straight this season, and Deron Williams is the fourth best point guard in the NBA. Nice team you got there, coach Sloan.

4. Dallas Mavericks: And they only will get better. Brandon Bass is playing nice for them off the bench, and since we’re speaking about bench players, Avery Johnson is back with the usual starting five, bringing Terry and Dampier back into the line-up. The result? A win. And many more to come.

5. New Orleans Hornets: After they started at 9-2, they’ve gone 2-4 since. Still, the Hornets are capable to beat any team in the League. Chris Paul will lead these guys into the playoffs. Yeah I said it (I try to be a bad-ass on some days. I fail in my attempts most of the time).

6. Los Angeles Lakers: Did you see that move by Jarvis Crittenton against the Rockets? Jesus F. Christ that was awesome. Kobe distributing the rock, scoring when needed, playing ferocious defense, still the best.

7. Denver Nuggets: Maybe I’m wrong. I expect so much more from this team, but they need to win some more before they can be considered as an elite team. They’ve got all the pieces, so I’m wondering what is going wrong over there.

8. Golden State Warriors: The Stephen Jackson effect is undeniable. 0-6 without him, 7-1 with him. The most fun team to watch, and most likeable too. Baron Davis is playing like a superstar right now, and Monta Ellis is heating up after a slow start.

9. Houston Rockets: Same shit every year. People call them a contender, as they should be, but they’re not proving anyone they are. Rick Adelman needs to find out why the Rockets aren’t winning games they are supposed to win.

10. Los Angeles Clippers: Injuries keep haunting this team. We all knew Livingston and Brand were out, but Cassell can’t stay healthy either, and Mobley and Maggette are playing with pain everyday. The bright side? Chris Kaman is better than last season. But otherwise consider this season as a lost season already.

11. Sacramento Kings: When you look at their roster, they should be able to win some games. Too bad I haven’t seen any of them to figure out why they aren’t winning. Ron Artest seems healthy, and they still have Kevin Martin’s scoring. Expect a trade coming up in the next couple of months, whether it’s Bibby, Artest or Miller.

12. Memphis Grizzlies: What can be said about the Grizzlies? In my opinion they are a team without identity, they’re not very good in anything specific. Rudy Gay is a true player though, and Navarro keeps getting better. Watch out for that guy later this season.

13. Portland Trail Blazers: Talking about lost seasons; when I learned that Oden would be out for the season, I still thought the Blazers would win more than they would lose. Apparently I was wrong, because young Brandon Roy and his crew aren’t getting the job done so far.

14. Minnesota Timberwolves: Will Al Jefferson basically travel the same career path as KG? Call me in ten years, Anyway, if you are on the Timberwolves, you can always keep the following in mind: at least you’re not in Seattle.

15. Seattle Supersonics: As expected, Durant can’t do it all. Having Chris Wilcox on your team helps though. And if you are on the Sonics, keep the following in mind: there’s a chance you won’t be in Seattle in the near future. And that would actually be sad if Seattle was left without a franchise.

Another30Days - November, Eastern Conference

I’ll try to write a blog on the first of every month to take a look at both conferences and see where every team is at, and what they have done in the past 30 days. Sure, you can just go to and check the standings, but my blog is more fun. Did I say fun? I lied. Hanging around with Phil Jackson is fun, if you like comments about calling your own player a leper, and comparing games to Brokeback Mountain. I’m glad this guy signed on for another two years in L.A.. Bring on the quotes Zenman! Enough about him, let’s take a look at the East, and ask ourselves what Paris Hilton asks a different guy every night: who’s on top and who’s at the bottom?

1. Boston Celtics: Damn man. We all knew they would probably win some games, but personally I didn’t think they would gel this quickly. Watching them is knowing you are seeing something special.

2. Orlando Magic: I’m afraid I’ll jinx them when I’m writing too positive about Stan Van Gundy and his guys. But I’m overestimating myself, so here goes: second place in the east is unexpected, and I’m impressed with all of them. Dwight Howard might be the best big man in the League right now. Not only the East, the whole League. Turkoglu, Lewis, even Nelson are benefiting from playing with him. I hope they can continue this far into the season. I like ‘em.

3. Detroit Pistons: Do they need Webber or not? The Pistons aren’t themselves so far, they aren’t dominating. Injuries don’t help though. So far Rasheed Wallace missed some games, Rip Hamilton isn’t 100%, and rookie Rodney Stuckey is still out with a broken hand. I won’t be surprised if they take over the second spot at the end of December, though.

4. Toronto Raptors: Jorge Garbajosa is out indefinitely, Bosh still isn’t himself, T.J. Ford hasn’t played for over a week, which is concerning to say the least when you at his history. Bright spot for the team is of course Jamario Moon, who does a little bit of everything, and a lot of things right. You can’t say the Raptors are disappointing; the just got bit by the injury bug.

5. Cleveland Cavaliers: The only reason the Cavs are in fifth place is…. Drumroll please…. LeBron James! How surprising. If you had to pick the MVP after one month of play, the only right choice would be James. He also picked up his defense this season, but I’m wondering how in the world he can keep this up for a full 82 games. Four triple-doubles already; Jason Kidd got competition.

6. Indiana Pacers: They play better without Jermaine O’Neal, so what does that mean? Trade him? Wait and see if he’ll improve (health-wise)? Tinsley sometimes looks like he can be a good point guard, Danny Granger might be an All-Star one day, and Mike Dunleavy shows he’s capable of putting up decent numbers on any given night. A player just needs an opportunity and the right system to play in. At least he proved Don Nelson wrong. Not that the Don cares, but still.

7. Milwaukee Bucks: Another surprise, but if you look at their roster, it makes sense. A lot of players can flat out score the ball, Yi is struggling a bit right now, but that’s only fair after a strong start of the Chinese rookie. Michael Redd is playing the best ball of his career so far, saying playing against Kobe Bryant during the summer on Team USA made him a better defender. Scary though, now he can do it all.

8. New Jersey Nets: Jason Kidd is really getting frustrated (but still has four triple-doubles already). Could this season be the end of the Kidd-era? RJ is playing like an All-Star, Vince isn’t, rookie Sean Williams is getting in highlight reels both offensively and defensively, and the rest of the Nets are reminding me of The Four Tops: it’s the same old song.

9. Washington Wizards: Gilbert Arenas will miss three months. Worst case scenario? He would miss the rest of the season. Is Washington doomed? Yes, but that has more to do with George Bush than the Wizards. Not all hope is lost, because Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison are playing at such a high level, along with the always useful Antonio Daniels, this team will eventually win more games than they will lose.

10. Charlotte Bobcats: So far I don’t think I saw even one game of the Bobcats, but I thought they would have a better record than they have right now. When I think of the Bobcats I always think about Jason Richardson. If I ever had a chance to ask him one question, I would ask him: “Do you feel you were getting screwed by the trade?” I think being on the Warriors would be better than to carry the Bobcats.

11. Atlanta Hawks: For some reason, I have doubts it will get any better than this. They might win one, they might lose two after that. They’ll surprise some teams, but eventually will lose some more. I can imagine Hawks fans having hope for this team, and there are good reasons to show for it, but when April comes they won’t be in the top eight.

12. New York Knicks: When they played the Celtics in Boston Thursday night, Marv Albert said that he never saw a loss like that in his broadcasting career. When Marv Albert says that, you know the Knicks have problems. First of all (I’m sounding more like Barkley everyday): This man saw more basketball games than The Netherlands as a whole. I’d like to add that Marv was also did a lot of Knicks games a few years back, so he knows what he’s talking about. This was embarrassing. For the Knicks as an organization, for Isiah, the players, us as fans, and even the NBA. This was a nationally televised game, how can you lose by almost 50 points? Are you kidding me? Something’s gotta change – fast.

13. Philadelphia 76’ers: The Sixers are frustrated, although I hope Andre Iguodala will have enough patience and also broad shoulders to carry this franchise. Recent rumors tell that Andre Miller will stay in Philly for a while, so that’s probably good news. The bad news? The team sucks more than Paris H…. nah, too easy.

14. Miami Heat: Shaq seems to be playing a little bit better, but Dwyane Wade isn’t entirely back though. He even says so himself, because he can’t get up. Forget about his spectacular lay-ups, he isn’t dunking right now, not finishing strong, and he said it will take some time to get that explosiveness back. But having Wade back at least gives the Heat a chance to win a game every now and then. But they are as unpredictable as Denzel’s character in American Gangster.

15. Chicago Bulls: Scott Skiles will be out before the All-Star break. Skiles got the skills, no doubt about it, but it just doesn’t work anymore with the players. It must be stated that it isn’t entirely his fault, because his players give a lacklustre effort, which in no way should be allowed. This should’ve been one of the top teams in the East, and winning only three games is just sad.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Can I Keep My Jersey?

I’m worried. Already. Yes, I know it’s early, but I’ve got every right to be worried about my favourite team; the New Jersey Nets. When I started to write this blog, I decided that I didn’t wanted to be just some fan who only blogs about his own team. That wouldn’t seem interesting to me, it wouldn’t be interesting to you (who?) and I’ve got plenty of basketball love to spread around. There are 29 other teams in the NBA who I’m keeping an eye on, I watch more than only Nets games, plenty more. I read everything, about every team, every player, every game recap. But my love for the Nets is like Shakira. There are plenty of women in this world who got curves, but there’s only one where the hips don’t lie. In retrospect: yes, I do realize that lines like that will never, ever make me a successful writer. There goes my hope in being the next Paul Shirley.
The state of the Nets is a reason for concern, because after nine games, they are 4-5. Their first game of the season was a win against the Chicago Bulls, who went from contenders to pretenders in a matter of weeks. But since then, four of five losses were by 20 points or more, the worst one against division rival Toronto. Boston already beat them twice, and Orlando smacked them like Shakira’s booty, winning by 25 points. And of course the heartbreaker against the Hornets, a team that makes me glad that they are in the Western Conference. Chris Paul and the gang are downright scary.

It’s frustrating, I’ll tell you that. I’ve been following the Nets since ’97 (reading assignment: first ever blog, summer ‘07), and with this team it’s always a rollercoaster ride. If there is any team that is more inconsistent than the Nets in recent, let me know about it, because I can’t think of one right now. Watching the game against the Hornets, getting behind, battling back, getting a nice lead, losing it again, and get beat by Chris Paul in the end certainly leaves me with mixed emotions. And even though it’s that early in the season, it’s easy to see that it is now more than ever time to shake things up a little bit. And I don’t mean trading one of their stars. Who would you trade? You don’t trade Kidd, Carter can’t be traded because of his contract, and the one that is always talked about on being traded, RJ, well, that’s insane. The guy started the season by absolutely playing the best ball of his career so far (if you forget about the last two games, it’s hard, but just try), and he’s the one who has to carry the Nets offensively. So far, even a healthy Vince Carter isn’t producing right now, and who knows how long it will take until he finds his rhythm after he comes back from his ankle injury. So barring trades, start the rookie, Start Sean Williams. Of course he won’t win games for the team, but at least he gives them fresh legs, inside presence, athleticism, and another option for Jason Kidd to throw lobs to. And yes, he was a non-factor too against the Magic last night, but I’d give it a try if I was Lawrence Frank.

So Carter is injured, Nenad Krstic is back but not really back. It will take a while before he will give you 15-20 points every night, maybe even a couple of months. In a couple of hours the Nets once again play at home, and the Miami Heat (with Dwyane Wade playing) will pay them a visit. Reasons to be optimistic? Yes, because the Heat really have problems. They are 1-8, everybody is criticizing Shaq, and the rest of the team is awful. Then again, Wade is back, and Carter won’t be playing tonight. I hope I’m able to watch this one tonight. Why I’m using the word “able”? Because I have to rely on p2p sites to see it, and that doesn’t always work, and also because sometimes I have to close my eyes when the Nets lose another 10-point lead with just a few minutes to go and then lose the game. Can I get my Nets back? The team that gave me two Finals appearances, the team which once again gave me hope that this could actually be the season where they will crawl back into the select group of teams in the NBA that we call “elite”. The Nets don’t belong in the lower half of the NBA. The only good lower half in the world is the lower half of the aforementioned lady. Kidd and the gang lost four games in a row now, but tonight is a new night, a new opportunity to regain respect, only to be accomplished with a win.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Super? Bad?

So every team has played a couple of games so far, and it’s time to put down some first thoughts on the new season. Some teams are playing above expectations, and other teams just downright suck. It happens every season that teams that are supposed to be contenders, start off 0-4 in the first week, but still manage to get 50 to 60 wins at the end of the season. So I’m not putting down any predictions here, but just boring the people with some random observations.


New Orleans Hornets: Chris Paul will be the League’s best point guard within the next few years. Setting a career-high in assists (21!) against the Lakers is quite a feature for that young man. In that same game, Peja Stojakovic was playing like it was 2004, while he was still jacking 3’s for the Kings and scoring 25 a game. Although he got 10 three-pointers against L.A., he’s still quite inconsistent. Understandable, because he’s missed a lot of time in the last couple of seasons, so let’s hope he stays healthy. With Tyson Chandler and Paul getting double-doubles every night, paired with promising forward and leading scorer David West, this good start is no coincidence. The Hornets are for real.

Boston Celtics: Wow. Obviously everybody thought they would be good. I’ve seen a couple of games now, and they are really, really good. No need to say more.

Indiana Pacers: They proved me wrong. At least so far. I didn’t expect them to start off 3-1. I didn’t expect Danny Granger to put up all-star numbers, and I really didn’t expect Mike Dunleavy to average 20 points, with almost 9 rebounds. Even Ike Diogu did well before he got injured. Other than that, the Pacers aren’t that bad after all, and who knows how good they can be when Jermaine O’Neal starts playing well.

Los Angeles Clippers: 4-0? Without Elton Brand? Sam Cassell scored 35 points the other night? Cuttino Mobley had 33 a day earlier? I’m impressed.

Kobe Bryant: For an unhappy guy he still puts up the numbers: 30,5 ppg (on 50% shooting), almost 8 rpg (career-high) and 4,5 apg. I an earlier blog I wrote that Chicago should “get Kobe”, but Kobe belongs on one team, and one team only, he’s a Laker. And he always should be a Laker.

Manu Ginobili: Manu? Yes Manu. He is doing it all. Sure, LeBron James might have better individual numbers, but shining on a championship team like the Spurs, where nobody is a “superstar” due to their winning formula by winning together in a total team effort, Ginobili really stands out. Give him the Sixth Man award already. Manu was playing like a superstar in the playoffs and Finals of 2005, and this year he shows he’s still there.


Disappointing teams so far: Washington, Denver, Chicago, Miami and Cleveland. With the Heat and the Cavaliers, I can understand they have trouble winning their games. They simply don’t have the personnel that will help Shaq or LeBron to win more (if any, in Miami’s case) games. But the Wizards, Bulls and Nuggets all should be able to do more than their mediocre outings so far. Are the Bulls distracted because of all the trade rumors, or that Deng and Gordon didn’t get new contracts? Agent Zero’s knee is still a problem And: is Eddie Jordan a problem? And the Nuggets have everything to be top team in the League. It’s still early, so there’s a lot of room for improvement.

Vince Carter: Come on Vince. Come on! You know how to score, in every way possible, so do it, shoot it, hit it. Do whatever, but put up some points my man. A high percentage is preferable. Luckily you got teammates who are picking up the slack, but you’re too good to be playing like this.

Chris Bosh: Everybody hates Chris? Of course not. Everybody loves the guy, simply because of the fact that he’s one of the top big men in the Eastern Conference. But it’s not showing in the first couple of games. Like Carter, he’s got the team around him to pick up the slack, but Bosh isn’t himself at the moment. Are injuries still hampering him?

Pat Riley: Classy move of calling out Shaq. Yeah, that helped. If that’s his way of motivating a 16-year veteran, I’m not sure it’s the right way. Besides that: Pat Riley shouldn’t have signed that extension, there’s no way in hell that he will coach another three years. His team is a mess, with a superstar who yet has to play his first game of the season, an unhappy center, and a roster made up out of guys being at the end of their careers, or who are nice complimentary players who can’t pick up the slack when needed. Oh, and Tricky Ricky Buckets. Riley’s career was all “Magic” in the eighties, but now with 2008 in sight, the magic seems to be gone.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Southwest Division Preview

1. San Antonio Spurs: Who else? You tell me, because I don’t know who else should be in first place. We are talking about the reigning champions, and for all the bullshit that they receive that they’re too boring, or beat some easy teams to win it all (insert Cavaliers here), they did win it four times since ’99. And although the team is another year older, they still have Tim Duncan, and Bruce Bowen doesn’t seem to slow down either. And even if he does, they signed Ime Udoka is his backup. Not bad, right? Then there’s the energetic Manu Ginobili, and the man who scores more points in the paint than most starting centers: Tony Parker. Gregg Popovich still leads these guys, so until someone beats the champs, they are number one.

2. Dallas Mavericks: The reigning MVP, J5, Terry, Stack, Harris, coached by Avery Johnson; it’s time to forget the Golden State playoff series and play with the swagger they had during the regular season. They know they can win it all. Anything less than reaching the NBA Finals should be considered as a disappointment. In fact, if they don’t win the trophy, now that will truly be a disappointment in Dallas. Not as disappointing as seeing Mark Cuban dance, but it’s almost as bad.

3. Houston Rockets: I wonder how many games Yao and McGrady will play together this season. A lot? Great season. Not much? The usual. They might win some, they might lose some. I do know one thing: the Rockets got a lot of point guards now, and although Rafer Alston will remain the starter, Steve Francis and Mike James are back too, in the city where they were the happiest in their careers. But how long will that last, if new coach Rick Adelman can’t find playing time for Francis? Adelman will open up the offense for the Rockets, which should make them more exciting to watch, and they could have a very nice regular season. With some help from Shane Battier and a fresh Bonzi Wells, this could be another good season for the Rockets. But health will determine if they are more than just good.

4. New Orleans Hornets: Chris Paul is the third best point guard in the NBA, and has a very nice team around him. Tyson Chandler really is in the right place playing for the Hornets, and can have a Camby-like career (hopefully with fewer injuries). Other big guys like David West and Hilton Armstrong are good to have on the roster too, they both can play. If Stojakovic can’t stay healthy, the organization made a smart move in getting Morris Peterson. For Peterson this will be a good opportunity to revive his career. It might be harsh to say it was dead, but Peterson can really help out this somewhat unproven team. Another young team which will be very interesting to watch.

5. Memphis Grizzlies: Dunk. Dunk. Dunk. Dunk. What? The four dunks can be replaced by the names Gay. Warrick, Swift and Gasol. Great trade in getting Navarro, and drafting Mike Conley. Although it’s still a bit weird because they also have Kyle Lowry, and veteran Damon Stoudamire. Don’t be surprised if one of them is used as trade bait. Probably not Conley, but one of the other two is a possibility. Mike Miller always finds ways to score, so there will be no problems on the offensive side in Memphis. But I doubt they will win more than 30-35 games this year.

Pacific Division Preview

1. Phoenix Suns: Shawn Marion won’t be a problem in Phoenix. It’s a veteran team, so they will deal with this within the team. If he’s traded, GM Steve Kerr will make a good trade for him. I liked the signing of Grant Hill. Not only because I hope he can finish his career on a high note, but also because I think he can get the Suns over the hump. And then Amare Stoudemire had knee surgery. Surprisingly enough STAT claims he feels really well, and we will see him return to action soon. But I have to seem him in the regular season dunking on domes to really convince me he’s healthy. If he is, the sun will be shining bright this season (lame comment, I know), with Steve Nash once again running the show.

2. Golden State Warriors: Who knew? And with that question I mean: who knew they would rise from underdog of the NBA to second place in this ranking, and probably the most fun team to watch? It’s still a damn shame they traded away Jason Richardson, but making Stephen “Whoo!” Jackson the team captain, get ready for some real leadership. I’m sorry, I couldn’t stop smiling writing that. As long Baron Davis is healthy, the Warriors will go. Need I say more? No. You shouldn’t talk about the Warriors. We all talked and talked after they defeated Dallas in last season’s playoffs. But talking about them ain’t worth a dime. You should just watch them doing their thing, and if you don’t like that, you don’t like NBA Basketball (the Pacific Division Preview has already won the award for most cheesiest phrases).

3. Los Angeles Clippers: Third, fourth and fifth place could be anyone’s guess. I’ll say Clippers for now. If only if it was because they drafted Al Thornton, who had an excellent preseason. Since Elton Brand sadly enough is injured and will be out for a (long) while, Thornton will get plenty of minutes. Maggette will be the go-to guy for now, because he is one of the few scorers on a team which won’t do anything much this season. Cassell is getting older, and it’s a good thing they signed Brevin Knight to help out at the point guard spot (still baffles me that the Cavs didn’t get him). Can’t imagine them making the playoffs will all those other strong teams in the West.

4. Los Angeles Lakers: The brain says “Kings”, the heart says Lakers. Not that I’m a Lakers fan, but I always keep my eye on Kobe. I’m not gonna ramble on what he should and shouldn’t do, or why he should keep his mouth shut sometimes, I just hope that he will play yet again at an elite level, and how corny it may sounds: let his play do the talking. He is simply the best player in the NBA, no doubt about it. He is cold as ice, but lately his emotions get the better of him. His team won’t win anything this year, and the only help he has is Lamar Odom. Coach Jackson criticized Kobe this week, so maybe he will end up somewhere else sooner than later. Well, at least they have Mr. 0.4 back. Go Fish.

5. Sacramento Kings: Bibby is injured. Might be traded this season. Artest is suspended. Might be traded this season. But the one guy who will win basketball games for the Kings is of course Kevin Martin. The Maloof brothers should be really happy that Martin stays. But the Kings have to start over and build a team around him. I miss the Webber-led-winning teams. The fans probably too. Wait, isn’t Webber looking for a job? Regardless, the exciting plays of the old Kings are long gone, so I’m wondering what will happen next in Sacramento.

Northwest Division Preview

1. Denver Nuggets: People criticize this team for not having a true point guard. And I’m not talking about the scrubs that are on the roster, but other than that, I don’t really see the problem. There’s this guy, a proven veteran, one of the top guards in the League, who also might have the biggest heart. His name is Allen Iverson, averaging over 7 assists per game in the last 3 seasons. Averaging 6,2 in his career. The man can still drop 30 points on whoever is guarding him, but being on the Nuggets, he has embraced the role of a playmaker even more. I expect him to average 8 assists this season, playing alongside another superstar in Carmelo Anthony, and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Camby. I like this team, and to win this division and at least get to the second round of the playoffs, is something they have to accomplish. And maybe even more.

2. Utah Jazz: I don’t know how they did it, but the Utah still has a team that should scare the crap out of everybody in the Western Conference. A young and uprising team, well-coached, and…. Andrei Kirilenko. I really wonder how he will perform this season, and if he’s still there in February. I bet coach Jerry Sloan will lead this bunch again deep into the playoffs. Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer are a terrific duo. So the Utah Jazz are set at point guard and power forward for years to come. Kind of reminds me of something.

3. Portland Trail Blazers: If only if only if only. If only Greg Oden wasn’t out for the season, then the Blazers would’ve been the team to watch this year. But hey. LaMarcus Aldridge is still around. Channing Frye will do well in Portland, and R.O.Y. Roy is obviously still there. Expect the unexpected with this team, but I can imagine Blazer fans can’t wait ‘til next year.

4 Seattle SuperSonics: Kevin Durant. One of the few reasons I don’t place them any lower. I have a hard time believing this team will do anything much this year. Durant will have great nights, but a lot of times it will tough on him. Being defended by the Artests and Bowens of this League will be interesting to watch, because he doesn’t really have any help. Wilcox? Ridnour? It will be a long year in Seattle, and the question is: for how long will Durant and the Sonics even be in this city?

5. Minnesota Timberwolves: Al Jefferson will put up monster numbers, and will be the new cornerstone of this franchise. But Kevin McHale is holding a garage sale. It’s now AKG (After Kevin Garnett), and even Tricky Ricky is gone. To quote Red from That 70’s Show: “Funtime is over!”. Although I don’t remember any fun out there in the last 3 years.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Southeast Division Preview

1. Washington Wizards: For one month it looked like the Wizards had the best player in the League. Gilbert Arenas was hitting game winners without even looking at the basket. Confident? Very. Overconfident? Sometimes. But if I would have to make a top three list with players who have to take the last shot when the game is on the line, Arenas would be definitely in it. But there’s more to the Wizards than just the funniest guy in the NBA. They also have Caron Butler, maybe one of the most underrated small forwards right now. He’s a perfect compliment to Arenas, knows his role, still finds ways to average 20 points a game, rebounding, defending, and does it all. The perfect small forward. And with Antawn Jamison at power forward, the Wizards have their own veteran “Big Three”. Etan Thomas will, sadly enough, probably miss the whole season, and with an already undermanned center position this team will miss him. They’re still good enough to win the Atlantic though.

2. Miami Heat: the Heat are one of those few teams who really, absolutely didn’t do anything to get better. They are supposed to be one of the top teams in the East, along with Cavaliers, who also didn’t do shit this offseason. And then finally something happened in Florida. Hurricane? No, something similar though. Ricky Davis is back. Man, he probably really has to adjust to the climate change. Being out of Minnesota and now being able to do his thing in Miami must have him all giddy. Why do I think so much of Davis? Because the Heat needs another scorer next to Shaq and Wade. The latter won’t be ready for opening season, and we all love Shaq, but he can’t do it all on his own. Udonis Haslem still is there to help the Diesel in the rebounding department, and if Wade and O’Neal are able to stay healthy the rest of the season, the Heat might have a decent season after all.

3. Orlando Magic: Rasheed Lewis got a whole lot of money, can score a whole lot of points, will play next to a whole lot of Dwight Howard. That young man is a beast, will lead the League in rebounding, will get a career high in points and now he’s got Lewis on his side. They also have Turk, Nelson, and Arroyo, and a high flyer in Trevor Ariza. But other than Howard they hardly have any big men who can play, since Tony Battie will miss the entire season. Who will be the leader of that team? If it was only for Howard this team is still interesting to watch, and they probably will make the playoffs, but they won’t get out of the first round, and there’s still a lot of work in Orlando before this team can do some serious damage.

4. Atlanta Hawks: Sometimes I wonder what Joe Johnson is thinking. Being part of a wonderful Suns offense, winning 50 to 60 games every season, or being a member of the Atlanta Hawks. But now there is something in the state of Georgia that every Hawks fan has been searching for years: hope. They did well in the draft, because getting Al Horford was an excellent choice. Picking him along with point guard Acie Law, might solve a lot of problems this season. Josh Smith keeps getting better, and we’re still waiting for the emergence of Marvin Williams. They will surprise some teams this year.

5. Charlotte Bobcats: A young team with a bright upside. Why? Well, they’ve got Adam Morrison and Sean May who are both capable of…. Whoops, they’re out for the season. Then again, their starting line-up still has Emeka Okafor, Raymond Felton, Gerald Wallace and former Warrior Jason Richardson in it. Golden State made a huge mistake trading him. It won’t be easy for Jason. Season after season missing the playoffs in California, then finally making it, getting past the first round, and after that “Thank you for your patience and your services but you’re out!”. Classy. Now he has to start over in leading this young bunch to success. It won’t happen overnight, but if the 4 aforementioned names stick together, in the next few years Charlotte will have a team that might be as interesting as they were when Grandmamma and Zo were the sheriffs.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Central Division Preview

1. Chicago: First place in this division is a toss-up between the Bulls and the Pistons. But having Deng, Hinrich, Nocioni and Gordon who continue to improve every year, I have to give this team a slight edge in winning the Central Division crown. And if Tyrus Thomas is willing to learn, he could be a force in the L. But Paxson overpaid for Ben Wallace. You have to respect his defense, but the man is not getting any younger, and you have to wonder if he fits in with these young guys. The Bulls are good, Luol Deng is on the verge of stardom, but they are missing one thing to be the best team in the East: Kobe.

2. Detroit Pistons: All summer long people were talking on how Dallas was beat by Golden State. I thought Cleveland beating Detroit was equally as bad. I hope these guys had some sleepless nights this off-season, and that they will return with a chip on their shoulder that wasn’t there last season. I missed certain poise when I watched the Pistons-Cavaliers series. One of the best defensive teams looked as if they were struck by lightning, when LeBron lit them up by scoring 25 points in a row, and winning Game 5 of the ECF series, one win separated of getting to the Finals. The Pistons have all the goods to go very deep into the playoffs, once again. Rodney Stuckey was a good pick in the draft (although he won’t play ‘til December because he broke his hand), Rasheed worked hard and is in excellent shape, and even though they won’t have Webber, the rest is back once again. And when Rip Hamilton gets healthy, they’re still one of the top teams in the East, now they just need to go out there and do it.

3. Cleveland Cavaliers: Wild guess here. Hell, the Bucks have a better team than the Cavs. But then again, there’s no LeBron in Milwaukee. And that’s why I ranked the Cleveland Cavaliers third. But besides LeBron James, this team basically sucks. There isn’t a single player in the NBA that is more frustrating to watch than Drew Gooden. Can he be the Boozer replacement and put up 20 and 10 every night, or will he forever be the underachieving power forward who will never show what he really can do? And then you have ‘Z’. Sleepwalker Ilgauskas is still around, at least that’s something. But there’s no true point guard, no real shooting guard, and no…. I could go on for a while. The only thing Larry Hughes is being consistent in, is being inconsistent. And that basically sums up the ’08 season in Cleveland.

4. Milwaukee Bucks: The Bucks spent some serious bucks to keep Mo Williams on their roster. They probably felt the “heat”, and did everything they could to keep Mo’ Money. Williams, combined with Michael Redd, are a backcourt duo who might average 40 points a night between them. They also prevented Charlie Bell from going to Miami, and Charlie V, when healthy, can be more than a decent player. Not sure if Bogut can get better, but just in case they brought in another big man: Yi. The young man from China can score, can play, but can be stopped. Bu the Chinese Government. Bastards. For patriotic reasons I just hope Dan Gadzuric finally will get some regular minutes again. I like it that they brought Desmond Mason back, but I really haven’t got a clue what this team will do this season.

5. Indiana Pacers: Is Jermaine O’Neal still there at the end of the season? Will Bird let him fly away to the Nets? New coach Jim O’Brien won’t have a relaxed season where he can sit back and let his players play. This bunch will be very unpredictable. Danny Granger is one of the few bright spots on the roster, but this year will be one who won’t get into the history books of Pacer fans. At least Reggie Miller isn’t playing for the Celtics, so that’s a positive.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Atlantic Division Preview

I know I did a “preview” in August, but you can’t do a preview in August. I was just very excited on how one of the worst divisions in the NBA, could easily turn into one of the most interesting, competitive divisions in the League. So with the season starting this Tuesday, let’s roll the dice the next couple of days and take a few guesses on who will do what this season. I’m not gonna be all Barkley saying “I may be wrong, but I doubt it”, because what can a Dutch guy know about the NBA, right? Well, not more or less that some of those fools at ESPN, Yahoo, SI, or whoever else is writing previews. Whether you’re an “NBA Insider”, or just a fan of the game, no one knows how a season will turn out. Neither do I, but it’s fun to think about it, so here goes.

1. New Jersey Nets: call me a Simpson, call me a Homer, but yes I ranked my beloved Nets first. Above everybody’s love infection called the Boston Celtics. To me, if I have to rank teams, I’m thinking “Who will win in a seven game series?” When healthy, the Nets can beat the Celtics. But I shouldn’t compare them to teams. From what I think: if Nenad Krstic’s knee holds up through the season, and if Jamaal Magloire will fit in, it will be an interesting run in East Rutherford. Carter is back, Jefferson is finally healthy, Nachbar will be an excellent sixth man, and Kidd is Kidd. Mr. Triple-Double. Only the Nets can stop the Nets, when they stop defending, when they aren’t aggressive, that’s when the problems begin. With effort, this team could have an excellent season.

2. Boston Celtics: the Raptors might have a deeper team, but you can’t argue with the “Ceatles”, like KG would call them. Kevin Garnett in another jersey. A green one. Playing next to Paul Pierce, and oh yeah, Ray Allen too. Are you kidding me? I saw these guys playing together in the preseason, and it was nuts, I think the man with the sweetest jumper in the NBA (Ray) will lead them in scoring. Pierce will do a whole lot of everything, and who can stop Garnett when you can’t double them? You can’t leave Pierce and Allen open, that’s for sure. Although the rest of the C’s squad aren’t very exciting, they will benefit so much from playing with those three superstars. Why didn’t I put them in first place? Because I want to see what they will do in the regular season. They might have me eat my words. Who knows?

3. Toronto Raptors: A really interesting team has been put together around Chris Bosh. A lot of shooters, and a very deep bench. Last season was good; this season will be even more interesting. They’ve got two young but good point guards in Ford and Calderon, and don’t forget Bargnani. That guy will score 20 points a season soon, from every range, while Bosh will hurt defenders with his quickness from the inside. Maybe not know as a “banger”, Bosh is one of the best big men in the East, and it seems he will only get better. Canada should be proud of this team. Playoffs are once again inevitable.

4. New York Knicks: There are only two options. Either they’ll be good, win over 50 games and make the playoffs, or everything will fall apart like lepra, the Randolph-Curry connection won’t work, Isiah Thomas will lose control over this bunch, Marbury will disappoint, etc. etc. At least they have David Lee, that’s a bright spot. And Nate Robinson had a very good preseason, if he keeps it up, there’s hope in New York. And that’s at least something, because they don’t have any defense.

5. Philadelphia 76’ers: I like Andre and Andre. But that’s about it for this team. Sure they’ve got some young guys who will have a nice career, like Louis Williams, Willie Green, Rodney Carney, but the time for this team is not now. Management needs to make it a top priority to sign Iguodala for a long time. This guy can do it all, and although the Eastern Conference is full of good forwards and guards, this A.I. of the East should make the All Star team every year.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Endless Summer

Two weeks ago on a Saturday morning my alarm clock went off at 8:30. I got up half an hour later, but still, it was early. For some people that’s late, but to me, after five days of working, I like to sleep ‘til at least 11. And more often I get up even later. During the weekend I just need to catch up on my z’s, but not on this specific morning. Something else had to happen. There are only a few good reasons to break up R.E.M., and I’m not talking about Mr. Stipe and his posse (note: the following is in completely random order):
1) Food (breakfast, or in my case lunch maybe)
2) Sex
3) Basketball
Basketball? Yes. Besides the fact that I have to get up in the middle of the night to watch a NBA game, on this Saturday I was actually going to play some ball myself. But me playing basketball is like watching Mark Madsen (or Mark Cuban) dance. It ain’t pretty.

One of my best friends, Niels, arrived at my place at 9:30. The sun was shining, and it was one of the few and final good days of the summer. Laced up the black adidas sneakers, grabbed the worn-out Spalding, and walked to the (rather small) court. We started to shoot a little bit, maybe going for a lay-up, maybe not. The thing is: we’ve been doing this for years, and a lot of times we would always go 1-on-1 on Saturday morning. Because of the circumstances, we hardly play anymore since 2006, but we both do miss it. After the game you actually feel like for the first time in the whole week, you did something useful. It’s almost therapeutic. Before we start the actual game, we talk like we’re some old hags at a tea party. Everything has to be discussed, from goals in life (or lack there-of) to women (or lack there-of).
And then, ladies and gentlemen, then the game starts. Two guys in their late twenties, no stamina, no athleticism to be found, 20% shooting percentage at the most, battle it out until someone scores the winning basket and is king for a day. I think when you count back all the games Niels and I played against each other, it’s 50-50 when it comes to wining and losing. Niels is definitely quicker than I am, a better ball-handler by far, and a better defender, but I’m taller, weigh a bit more than he does (which can be helpful) and have a slight rebounding edge. Overall, we match pretty well. We’ve been playing since the mid-nineties, and there were times I experienced some difficulty in trying to beat him, maybe he won several games in a row and I would be wondering if he really was the better player, and if I would never win a game against him anymore for the rest of my life. But whoever had a so-called winning streak; it never was a long one.

The summer of 2007 was awful in The Netherlands, and when you’re waiting for the NBA season to start again, the summer sometimes seems endless. Usually I love the summer, but when it’s that fucking bad like it was this year, you just want the new season to start already, focus on something else. The weather on that morning however was great. No wind, warm but not too warm, perfect basketball conditions. I can’t even remember the last time we played a 1-on-1 game, but it was months ago. We decide who starts the game by shooting free throws. The first one who misses loses the ball. I missed, so he started the game. We always play “losers out”. When he scores, I get possession, and the other way around (needless to point that out, I suppose, but just to be sure). In the end the only thing I possessed was an imaginary crown, because I was king for a day. I beat him 11-5 (yes, we only go to 11, we’re sad, old geezers), and I felt pretty good about myself. Happiness is not a constant state of mind; it’s the small victories in life that provide happiness. Scoring the eleventh point did it for me.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Alarm Bell

Now that the new NBA season is nearing, there are only a few remaining free agents who are actually interesting to have on your team. To me, one of the most underrated free agents (although restricted) was Charlie Bell. Yup. I wrote “was”. Apparently the Milwaukee Bucks matched the offer sheet the Miami Heat presented to him last week. This means the Bucks now have one, unhappy basketball players on their hands. Sounds like fun times for everybody!

I’m not sure what to think of this situation. Now here’s a guy who can definitely play, do a little bit of everything, doing it last season for 82 games in Milwaukee, but during the summer got unhappy about the talks that he had with the Bucks and basically wanted to be traded. He probably felt disrespected, and wanted that respect in the form of more money, who knows. So here came the Heat to the rescue, and signed him to an offer sheet worth $18 million for five years. In earlier negotiations the Bucks offered Bell $9 millions for three years, so if they would’ve let him go to join Pat Riley and friends, he would get $600.000 per season more. That, and playing with Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal are better odds to do some damage in the East than staying with the Bucks. Nice team, but won’t compete for a championship soon. Oh how nice it would be to move from the chilly Wisconsin to the warmer climate of South Florida, how nice it is to dream. This became a nightmare, since Milwaukee decided to keep him.

Then again, a nightmare? When Bell’s alarm clock goes off every morning, he wakes up with the feeling knowing he will make $18 millions bucks (pun intended, sorry) in only five years, damn it. 18 million dollars! I know he said he said his heart isn’t in it anymore (when talking about the Bucks organization), but it’s not that he’s on the worst team in the League anyway, so I truly hope he will make the best of it. Charlie Bell is a good player, and a lot of teams need someone like him. And the Bucks decided they needed him the most.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

GO goes KO

Training Camp is only three weeks away? Did the summer go by that fast? Wait, I live in The Netherlands, we didn’t have a summer in 2007. Unless you call grey clouds and rain summer. This means you are one depressed person. The first NBA game of the 2007/’08 season is October 30th, and to be seen on TNT. The reigning world champion San Antonio Spurs, led by veteran big man Tim Duncan, will take on the Portland Trail Blazers, and rookie big man…. Josh McRoberts. No disrespect to Mr. McRoberts, but damn, it should the number one draft pick, maybe the best center coming out of the draft since Shaquille O’Neal, a guy who along with Bill Russell could be the NBA’s version of the Olsen Twins; ladies and gentlemen I am obviously talking about Greg Oden, aka The Man Who Wasn’t There. Sadly enough.

I wonder what’s going through David Stern’s head right now. Obviously, after the ref-scandal the League had a lot of negativity to deal with, but now with a new season nearing, with the huge trade that landed Kevin Garnett in Boston which also made Stern very happy, life was getting better again. And on that evening, late October, Tim Duncan, who portraits the NBA the Stern way, would square off against Greg Oden, a humble rookie. Now that would be good for the ratings, wouldn’t it? Arguably the best team in the whole League versus an exciting up-and-coming team should generate some interest, so desperately needed since no one watched the Finals last June. The Trail Blazers would be on National Television (TNT, ESPN and NBA TV) 18 times this season, with even a game on Christmas Day, where Oden would play against number two pick Kevin Durant and the Seattle SuperSonics. Let’s just hope Kevin Durant (R.O.Y. ’08) will be there, or else we would be better off setting fire to our Christmas trees for no specific reasons (not that I’m a pyro, but who doesn’t like a nice fire in the middle of the winter?).

I read people comparing him with Sam Bowie, or Ralph Sampson, but that’s ridiculous. Oden is still very young, and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t fully recover from microfracture surgery. But as a fan of the game you feel bad. I would love to see him finally play. Watching him donning the black Blazers jersey, and living up to the hype that has been surrounding him for years. A true center giving a city, craving for some success, finally something to cheer about. Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard rightfully so admitted he was disappointed about the whole situation, but also mentioned the future is “incredibly bright”. When you look at players like LaMarcus Aldridge, most recent rookie of the year Brandon Roy and Channing Frye, of course Pritchard has all the reasons to be optimistic about the future of the franchise. But with a healthy Oden the bright future he spoke of would’ve been right now, instead of next year.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Got Mike?

They didn’t get Mo Williams, they didn’t get Mike James. Maybe taking a risk and get Steve Francis? Nope. Hell, they didn’t even go after pass-first veteran Brevin Knight. So what do you do trying to fill the need of a pure point guard? Well, if you’re the Miami Heat you sign Smush Parker. Somewhere, Tim “The Homophobic” Hardaway is rolling over in his grave.

Did I forget about Jason Williams? Of course not. The man who’s got more highlights when he is not scoring, but only by dishing the rock still can play, that’s for sure (is it just me or does anyone else still get goose bumps watching clips when he was still playing for the Kings?). The question is an obvious one: can he play for 82 games with his shaky knees? In fact, when Miami’s most durable player is Udonis Haslem (79 games last season) you’ve got a problem. Even Alonzo Mourning played 77 games, turned 37 last February), but the rest of those guys aren’t very durable. I understand injuries can happen to anyone at anytime, but when your two main players only play a combined 91 games, you need help, because I don’t believe that either Dwyane Wade, or Shaquille O’Neal will play more than 70 games this season. And as much as I like Williams, he needs a backup. Since good ol’ Gary Payton is looking for a new home other than a retirement home, the Heat are still in search for a PG coming off the bench.

So in comes Anfernee Hardaway, 36 years of age, on the verge of becoming a great player in the mid-nineties, but ultimately had a career defined by injuries, and basically hasn’t played a meaningful game since 2005. He and Smush aren’t the solution and won’t take Miami back to the Finals in ‘08. I truly hope Penny will close out his career with some dignity, that he can provide some valuable minutes, but he is not the missing link Miami has been searching for.

That missing link, in my opinion, is Mike Bibby. Rumors around Bibby have been swirling around forever, so if the Heat have any chance to make a trade and land him in Florida, they should do whatever it takes to get him. He would flourish playing alongside Dwyane Wade, or dishing the ball to Shaq in the paint, and Mike himself can score 20-25 points if needed. We’ve heard about the talks before, we know Miami wants him, and I can’t imagine why Bibby himself wouldn’t want to play alongside Shaq and Wade, and have a legitimate shot at the title, something that won’t happen while staying in Sacramento in the forthcoming years. The fans in Miami got their championship in 2006, and Miami isn’t that far off in doing it again, but they just need that one piece to bring the franchise back to the elite level they were on not too long ago. And no disrespect to Chicago, but getting eliminated in the first round of the playoffs after winning the trophy one year earlier, is nothing less than embarrassing. So do the right thing Miami: get Mike.

Friday, August 10, 2007

I've Got 5 On It

It took me a couple of weeks to let it all sink in. Try to understand it: I’m a Nets fan. If you have been following the League the last 10 years or so you might know that being a Nets fan is not easy. Okay, beats being a Hawks fan, but still, it was a rollercoaster ride. I mean: Two Finals appearances, winning the Atlantic Division multiple times ain’t bad. But also injuries, sloppy play, a 41-41 season, something’s gotta give when the East is getting stronger, and the Nets stay…. The same, basically. Is that a good thing? Or not? More on that later.

So what needed to sink in? Seeing a great player wearing number 5 on a Celtics jersey, a Knicks team that just might be more competitive in recent years, and the Raptors could be one of the elite in the East. And Philly? Uhm, well, at least they have two good players, which must be worth something. So let’s take a very premature look on the 5 teams that will battle in the ’08 season for the Atlantic crown. Premature obviously because it’s August, and there probably will be even more changes coming up than Eddie House has switched his last name.

Boston Celtics
What will happen: The feel-good story of the year. Three guys racking up 60 points against whoever is playing them, creating some excitement for the die-fans probably as hungry for some wins as this trio. It must feel good to be a fan of the Celtics right now. Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett both are playing alongside Paul Pierce? Wow. A winning season is in the works, and the playoffs will be back in Boston.
What won’t happen: A 17th title. Come on now. Can Pierce, Allen and Garnett play 40 minutes every night? Not for 82 games they can. No bench, no decent point guard, no money to sign quality players, no championship.
Why am I writing about this too early?: Because goddamn, Ray Allen is one of the best shooters in the League, Kevin Garnett is still one of the greatest players, and Paul Pierce is just a warrior out there. They can easily make me look like a fool in 2008, winning more than I think they can.

New Jersey Nets
What will happen: Another up-and-down season. Maybe 45-50 wins. Jason Kidd again getting a bunch of triple-doubles, Vince Carter getting some highlights, and a good chance that the ‘Big Four’ (Kidd, Carter, RJ and Krstic) again won’t play for an entire season with each other, because of injuries. The bench is so-so. Bostjan Nachbar proved that he sure can play, and Jason Collins, now on the bench because of newest Net Jamaal Magloire, will provide some defense. Other than that? Young guys who still have something to prove out there. On a more personal note: I’m still angry that they let Hassan Adams go. Mentioning that adds nothing valuable to this analysis, but had to be said.
What won’t happen: go far in the playoffs. Not with this team. I love these guys, but if they couldn’t do it last season, why would it work this season? Because of Jamaal Magloire? He’s okay, but just replaces Mikki Moore in my opinion. Yes, they are two different types of players, but both have something to offer. Calling it like Lauryn Hill: You might win some but you just lost one.
Why am I writing about this too early?: Sometimes teams just have luck on their side. Look at the Eastern finalists of the last two seasons. Miami won the Championship on free throws. A whole lot of them. Cleveland got into the Finals because the Pistons really, really disappointed. They should’ve swept the Cavs, but they choked as a whole. So with just a little luck, which also means a healthy Nets team for the first time in years, they actually could sneak up on some people in the playoffs. Or good ol’ Larry Legend will trade Jermaine O’Neal straight up for Mile Ilic, and the New Jersey will be the best team in the East.

New York Knicks
What will happen: The energy will be back in the Garden. Stephon Marbury is saying all the right (and sometimes funny) things during the off-season, and even Nate Robinson is making name for himself in the Summer League. Quentin Richardson is healthy again, and I don’t see why they can’t make the playoffs. If Isiah Thomas can make this team jell, get players to sacrifice for one another for the sake of winning, anything other than a 50-win season and playoffs should be considered as a huge disappointment. Stating the obvious, but I’m wondering if there are enough balls around for all those guys who are used to scoring 20-25 points every game. Eddy Curry and Randolph (odd to pair these two players together – both aren’t to keen on D) on the inside, Crawford from the outside, I’m not sure.
What won’t happen: A Finals appearance. I know it’s good for the League when big market teams like Boston or New York goes all the way, but I highly doubt New York has what it takes to go all the way. I remember the Blazers of the late nineties playing really, really good but not making it the final round. The Knicks might be better than last year, and probably better than a whole lot of other teams, especially in the East. But they aren’t to be considered as an elite team.
Why am I writing about this too early?: All this talent, don’t forget, they also have David Lee. If I had to pick one player from the Knicks to place on my own team, he would be the man. They got the goods, and they can go really far, and even get to the ECF. This will be an interesting team to watch from the start.

Philadelpia 76’ers
What will happen: What can I say about the Sixers? They’re screwed, basically. Andre Iguodala is a future all-star, Andre Miller is a pure point guard, but those two aren’t enough to make some noise in the Atlantic Division.
What won’t happen: Playoffs.
Why am I writing about this too early?: As you can see I’m not saying much about this team, because there isn’t much to say. They just aren’t very good, and the rest of the Atlantic is better. Way better. And that not only goes for this Division, it goes for the whole League, really. If either Miller or Iggy gets injured, what’s left? I hope this team amazes me, that they will win some games, but they’re rebuilding, starting over. Patience is needed in Philly.

Toronto Raptors
What will happen: It almost hurts me to write this (not literally, because that would be unhealthy), but the Raptors might be the best team in the Atlantic Division. They seem to have it all. Good bench, promising young guys, a star player in Chris Bosh, good management, so let’s throw in a cliché: the sky is the limit. They should win the Atlantic, and go deeper in the playoffs than last season. It would be nice if T.J. Ford could stay healthy somehow, but they also have Calderon as his backup. Who knows, could be the other way around someday. I hate / like this team. “Hate” because the Nets is my team, “like” because it really seems to be a good group of guys.
What won’t happen: They could go all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, but I think they are still very young. If they can keep the core group of this team together for another year, then they might be able to get to the Finals. But not just yet.
Why am I writing about this too early?: Yes, I am positive about the Raptors. But they did not play very well in the playoffs against the Nets. Blame it on youth. Blame it on something. You might even wonder if they’re tough enough. Sam Mitchell is, but can he get this team to be great team, instead of a good team?

When the playoffs begin in 2008, and I read this again, I will be laughing at myself for taking all these wild guesses and actually believing that I know what I talk about. If I do know one thing, it’s this: the Atlantic Division is back, and is the most interesting division in the NBA.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Killer Expectations

It was Bill Maher who recently said: "The problem with kids (in the U.S.) today isn't that they lack confidence; they are overly confident". Now Kobe Bryant isn't the kid anymore like he was when he came into the League 10 years ago (that long already? I'm getting old), but maybe that was, and still is the case with him today.

The man is confident, some might call him arrogant. Truth is: if you want to make it in the NBA you need to have some arrogance in you, because you are battling over 350 guys a year who all want to dunk on you, swat your shots, pull that rebound away from you, make you shoot 2 for 20, make your coach sit you on the bench with a towel over your head. Nice guys can't take that shit 82 games in a row, let alone the playoffs. Get ready for a cliché here: nice guys finish last (well, okay, David Robinson not included). How affable and charming Michael Jordan was during interviews on national television, he was a beast on the court, out to destroy anybody who got in his way, grabbing every opportunity to make you look like a fool, with only one goal: to win every game he played in. Even Magic Johnson, maybe one of the most charismatic players ever to grace the NBA hardwood, was all business as soon as the game started.

Call Kobe anything you want. Anything, because it won't matter. Call him selfish, call him a whiner, but he is the one you will watch when he's on TV, and you know it. He was the one who scored 81 damn points in a game, he was the one who made 12 threes in a game, he dropped 62 points in just 3 quarters in a game against Dallas, and the list goes on and on and on and on and.... on. I hate it when I post on a forum and people call out the guy on what he says and does off the court. In all fairness, yes, Bryant has made his mistakes, more than one. But since this guy is not in jail, but out on the court let's judge him by what he does on that court, and not mix his personal life with his professional one. And whether you're a Laker fan or not, if you look at it objectively Kobe Bryant might the best player in the NBA today. Hell yeah I said it. If you would compare him to Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, Bryant is better-rounded offensively, but most importantly, he actually is an above average defender; an art James and Wade still need to master. The only other player who is great at both ends of the court is Tim Duncan. And although Duncan is the best big man in the NBA, the killer-instinct that Bryant has is matched by no one.

So hate him for all his boneheaded comments about wanting to be traded, blame him for running Shaq out of town, because the real fan knows better. They see Kobe going up for a shot in a scrimmage held between the players of Team USA. They see Tayshaun Prince with his Go-Go-Gadget Arms reaching out, trying to make the shot maybe a little bit more difficult. They see the perfect arc of a perfect jumper, and we all know what followed after that. A pick-up game played by some of the best players in the world, and one ending the game like you expect him to do. How can you hate on that?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Tip-Off

This had to happen. Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing, and so is the internet. I'll tell you this: no one is waiting for another moron blogging all of his random thoughts about the NBA. I understand this, but again, it had to happen. I've been bottling up this feeling for too long.
You know, when you're in love with that cute girl you've know for ages, and that finally becomes something, you want the world to know about it. Who cares if anyone listens? As long as you can get it out, all will be good.

My love for the NBA started in the early nineties. Growing up in The Netherlands, in a small village, your friends either play soccer or do judo. I'm dead serious. Judo? I never understood that, nor have I tried it. A former colleague of mine shared the same feeling, wondering why two guys in their pyjama's are "fighting", and after a while one dude is on top of the other, and he wins. That's not fighting, that's not a sport, that just a random Saturday night which involves red wine, lubricant, and two people who both are able to grow beards. And soccer? I just didn't care about that.

So on one day I was at a friend's place and he had a basketball. I think I was 11 years old. We were watching a Bulls-Blazers Finals game. Not live, because due to the time difference that game was played in the middle of the night (I can't write "in the middle of the night" and not sing the Billy Joel song). Michael Jordan? Who? Playing against who? Clyde Drexler? Hm? Since we were young and we didn't have the patience to watch an entire game, we went outside and played some basketball ourselves. And for the first time in my life: I liked a sport. Not that I was a fat little boy, but before that I hardly did anything outside. Yup, I was one pale kid.

In 1992 you had the Dream Team wrecking havoc in the beautiful city of Barcelona. This provided me the opportunity to learn about the greats of the game: MJ, Magic, Bird, Pippen, Barkley, and all those guys who demolished every team who happened to stand in their way. After that, with a little help from CNN and some basketball magazines, I tried to follow the NBA as much as I could. Not an easy task, because there are only two televised games per week over here. To compare it with the US: to watch those games it's sort of a pay-per-view thing in The Netherlands. Long story, too boring. Of course I was a teen back then, and couldn't afford that. In 1999 I was financially able to watch those two games every week. I mentioned the time difference earlier, so watching a game meant setting your alarm clock at 3 a.m. and be kinda tired at the office the next day. Hell, I didn't care. The channel showed the same game the next day too, but I needed to see it live, at 3 a.m., and checking all the other boxscores on the internet the next day on - that's love in my opinion.

Yes, I was a Bulls fan during the nineties. My favorite player in the League was Scottie Pippen, but in 1997 a young and interesting team, called the New Jersey Nets, grabbed my attention. Sam Cassel, Kerry Kittles, Kendall Gill, Keith Van Horn and Jayson Williams - I thought they would take over the East in the next few years. They got their asses whooped by the Bulls during the '98 playoffs, but I had hope. And man was I wrong. Year after year they started to get worse and worse. Maybe it was the coach (John Calipari), and later on career-ending injuries (Williams), or failed expectations (Van Horn). Bringing in Stephon Marbury didn't really help either, although he played pretty good, the team was far too mediocre to make some noise in the Eastern Conference. And suddenly it was 2001. Jason Kidd arrived on the scene, and with Van Horn, Kittles, a young man athletic forward called Kenyon Martin and Richard Jefferson the Nets went all the way to the 2002 NBA Finals. Although being sweeped by the Lakers, New Jersey proved their appearance in the Finals wasn't a fluke, and battled against the mighty San Antonio Spurs in the 2003 Finals, but after six hard fought games the Spurs grabbed the trophy, and sent the Nets home.

So here we are, in 2007. My interest in the NBA is still sky high, but there isn't a single person over here who shares that feeling, so it was time to vent, time to release my thoughts on the League, on its players, on whatever the hell is going on at any giving time during the season (and off-season). Because when the season starts, I know I have to get up again when the rest of the country is sleeping (or drinking, or having sex, or both), sitting through another game which last for 2,5 hours, another 48 minutes of actual basketball, hoping for that one moment during the game when you think: "Fuck yeah, glad I set my alarm clock tonight!"