Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Barnes to Orlando

On Sunday I posted a blog mentioning that Matt Barnes might sign with the Magic. Today we have learned that both parties agreed “in principle” that Barnes will be going to Orlando for two years.

Assuming Pietrus will start, the bench now consists of Gortat, Johnson, Bass, Redick and Barnes. Any NBA fan around the League has to agree that Orlando is clearly doing everything they can to get that Championship next season. While many NBA teams are reluctant to spend money, Rich DeVos is reaching deep into his pockets to make Dwight Howard’s supporting cast better and better, and we might see sooner than later that C.J. Watson will join Barnes in the trip to the Sunshine State. I tip my hat to the Orlando Magic organization. In fact, even though I’m a Nets fan, I think I have a Magic hat somewhere that I bought in the nineties that I can tip. Then again, that might be weird.

Anyway, this might sound I’m jumping on the bandwagon, but that’s not the case; I’m just impressed by what some teams are doing this off-season, in these tough economic times and still finding ways to improve is something we should admire. It will keep the fans interested in the NBA that will be very competitive in the ’09-’10 season. And when it comes to the Magic, will be a lot of fun to watch.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

They’re Spending This Summer in Orlando

When I take a look at the NBA as of right now, I think there are five legitimate contenders for the NBA Championship: in the East there’s Boston, Cleveland and Orlando, and in the West you have the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio. And to me the most interesting part of the off-season is that four of these teams all have significantly improved during the summer with the jury is still being out on the Lakers (Odom needs to stay). Who of these teams did the best so far? My opinion? So far it’s the Magic. But that all could change in a few days…

It was only a few weeks ago when they traded for Vince Carter, and losing three players because of it in Courtney Lee, Tony Battie, and Rafer Alston. This also meant that Hedo Turkoglo would leave, and it was widely assumed that Marcin Gortat would end up with the Dallas Mavericks. Magic GM Otis Smith insisted in the Carter deal that promising young big Ryan Anderson was included, and his play in the Summer League made Smith look like a genius. They also pried Brandon Bass away from Dallas, and did (to me) the unexpected: they matched Dallas’ offer for Gortat, paying him 34 million in the next five years. Owner Rich DeVos’ team got richer by spending a lot of money. I read that Orlando is close to signing free agent point guard C.J. Watson, a gunner and a good back-up for Jameer Nelson. Last week there was also a rumor that Matt Barnes might go to Orlando. Whether or not if it that will actually happen, the reigning Eastern Conference Champion is still the team to beat.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Grant Hill Puts his Dukes Up for Another Two Seasons

I lost some basketball stuff during the years. My favorite item is my black Scottie Pippen jersey, where did that one go? Anyway, I also used to have some VHS tapes of Michael Jordan, some random highlight videos, and Grant Hill’s video of his first few years in the League. I have no idea where they are. Maybe I can still find them in some boxes somewhere sheltered in my parents’ house; I’m not sure. Maybe I should go and look for it the next time I visit them, although videotapes are hard to stuff into a DVD player, so that could cause some problems. I loved that Grant Hill video. I remember that one of his first plays as a rookie in one Detroit’s first games of the ’94-’95 season (or was it an exhibition game?) he had this ridiculous alley-oop, immediately putting his stamp on what we though would be the next superstar in the NBA. And for a while, it did look that way. Grant was great off the court as he was on the court. He reminded me of Clyde Drexler in that way: a gentleman without a basketball, a do-everything player whenever he was on the floor. He averaged 21,6 ppg, 7,8 rpg and 6,2 apg through his first six seasons as a Piston. We all know what happened after that.

I was in Orlando for a week in 2001, and saw Hill playing against the Houston Rockets in an exhibition game. To be honest, I don’t remember much of that game, but I do remember him making a quick spin along the baseline, and it looked all so simple, effortless, reminding me how much I suck at basketball. When I try to mimic anything NBA related in the gym it looks…embarrassing. Anyway, Hill was about to start his second season with the Magic, after his first was a fiasco since he only played four games because of his bum ankle. He looked great as far the untrained eye could see, but eventually only played fourteen games in the ‘01/’02 season.
Fast forward to present time. Shaquille O’Neal praised the team doctors when he played for Phoenix, and the same thing could be said for Grant Hill (who will be 37 by the time the season starts): he played in 70 games in ‘07/’08, and 82 games last season, for just the first time in his career. He will try to do it again since he signed a new contract to stay with the team for another two seasons, while he also could’ve gone to Celtics where he would have a bigger chance to win that elusive Championship than staying in the desert.
It all depends on what Steve Kerr will do from here. Along with Hill the Suns also signed Channing Frye, and as of now they still have Jason Richardson, Amar’e Stoudemire, Leandro Barbosa, a good young fella in Jared Dudley, and possibly Steve Nash (stated as the main reason why Hill decided to stay). They also did well in the Draft picking up Earl Clark, who can really blossom in Alvin Gentry’s system. If these players will still all be here after the summer, there’s still a chance the Suns will miss out on the Playoffs for a second consecutive season if they don’t get some help soon under the boards. I liked the idea of Tyson Chandler playing in Phoenix, but that might be too expensive for this franchise. We’ll just have to wait and see, because they’re far from the team that was so much fun to watch during the ’04-’05 season. But as long as Grant Hill is here, and he again and again finds ways to make some moves that still look effortless, things could turn around for Phoenix, and Grant’s season could be even longer than last season’s 82 games.

Monday, July 6, 2009

No Breaks Allowed, Part 10

The “No Breaks Allowed” posts are my way to write about all the stuff that happens around the League which finds a place in my peanut-sized gray mass (also known as my brain), and sometimes it has to come out. Why are these posts numbered? I don’t know, but might as well keep it going.

-What is Joe Dumars’ plan with Richard Hamilton now that Ben Gordon is a Piston? Will he really deal him to Utah for Carlos Boozer? It would be a great trade for the Jazz, but Detroit has a power forward that probably will be gone next summer. This will make them a major player on the free agent market next summer, but would they have enough to woo one of the big names too join them?

-Another thing I don’t understand: why oh why is Portland so desperate to sign David Lee? He will be too expensive to come off the bench, and they also have Greg Oden, Joel Przybilla and LaMarcus Aldridge. How does Lee fit into that?

-Rasheed Wallace will sign with the Celtics. Imagine him and Kevin Garnett on the court yelling and bitching at everybody not wearing green. Annoying for opponents, a dream for teammates and a nightmare for referees.

-Did Turkoglu pull a Boozer? Or isn’t that a fair assumption to make? Turkoglu is a talented player, but I think now that Portland missed out on him, it’s the best thing that could happen to them, instead of spending 55 million for 5 years on a guy who won’t be the player he is now in a few seasons.

-Good luck Trevor Ariza, you chose the wrong team at the wrong time. Ariza is a great player, I love small forwards who can do it all, but he’s a supporting player, a great fit next to guys like Kobe and Gasol. In Houston there’s…well, probably nobody next to him.

-My guess is Mitch Kupchak signed Ron Artest as a persuasion for Phil Jackson to come back. You have to keep it at least moderately interesting for Phil X. As long as Artest keeps passing the ball instead of chucking up shots after dribbling for 23 seconds, the Lakers will be fine.

-Orlando Magic, incoming players: Vince Carter, Ryan Anderson. Outgoing players: Hedo Turkoglu, Marcin Gortat, Rafer Alston, Courtney Lee and Tony Battie. That leaves the current roster with only eight players, and if Michael Pietrus would be a starter, the bench would be made up out of Anderson, Anthony Johnson and J.J. Redick. Their needs? A third point guard as insurance, a veteran big man who can defend and rebound, and a swingman like Anthony Parker maybe? Can they even afford him?

-And finally, I’ve watched parts of the second half of the Summer League game between the Nets-Sixers against the Pacers in Orlando. Of course was the commentary done by Dante & Galante, which is basically the only reason to watch a Summer League game at all. Some excerpts of their on-air banter:

-“Roy Hibbert takes a ten foot jump shot, which is about eight feet out of his range.” (And Hibbert clanked it)
-After asking to come up with a nickname for Hibbert, one viewer e-mailed “Hungry Hungry Hibbert”, which they used for the rest of the game.
-Since the game actually went to overtime, the two gentlemen were exhilarated: “Aaaand the game goes to overtime…unfortunately.” “I have the rules here concerning overtime in Summer League Games.” “What is it, sudden death?” “It’s actually three minutes” “I wish it was just three seconds.”
-“Eddie Jordan has his head in his hands and thinking ‘just shoot me’.”
-Since they couldn’t use a certain word on air, they read a viewer’s e-mail like this: “The Summer League; where ‘blank’ happens.” They agreed with the viewer though. So did I.
-E-mail from viewer: “Dionte Christmas should ask Santa to get him some game.”
-“Hey you know what I just realized? We have a Holiday and a Christmas in the same game.” (Jrue and Dionte).