Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I Voted

You know what annoys me? A lot of things. Rude people, that curling is an Olympic "sport", going out with friends but then there's always one friend who just left five minutes ago when it was his turn to buy drinks, Nickelback, VC-for-Wally trade rumors (because that just won't happen, folks!), the Eurovision Song Festival, Don Nelson, and I could go on and on. But what really annoys me is that a few weeks into the new NBA season, I can already vote for the All-Star Game which doesn't happen until three months later. So there's always one rule when it comes to voting for the All-Stars: I’m going to wait 'til January. Then I'll decide. I also vote for the guys who I think deserve it. I try to be objective, but I must admit that two of my picks are more subjective than objective.



Dwyane Wade: We all know him for what he does on the offensive side, but let's not forget he's the only guard in the top 25 amongst league leaders in blocks per game. I was watching him during the Olympics, where he looked like the healthy Wade who led the Heat to the Finals in '06. And this season is his best in the NBA so far, because he is more committed to defense.

Vince Carter: As I said earlier, I had two players who I just had to vote for, regardless if there are better players at their positions. One of them is VC. If I didn't vote for Carter, Joe Johnson would've had my vote, but since I am a Nets fan, and since Carter is truly leading this team to a record which is better than everybody imagined, while taking young players under his wing (Lopez), and giving Harris enough space to shine, there's no doubt in my mind that Vince should be in Phoenix next month.


LeBron James: With him it's the same thing as with Wade. He got way better defensively, and while he’s so young and there is still room left for improvement, but he’s dominating the League, scoring at will and filling the Daily Top Ten with his tomahawk jams and come-from-behind blocks. Dude is made for the All-Star Game.

Danny Granger: What? I should've voted for Kevin Garnett? KG always puts up great numbers, but Granger…. Man…. That's just ridiculous what he's doing to opponents this season. He's such a prolific scorer and a good rebounder too. He is the prototype of a small forward (along with Caron Butler). The Pacers don’t have a winning record, and like Barkley always said: "you should reward players who are winning". That's true, but you just can't ignore what Granger is doing this season. At least I can’t.


Dwight Howard: Who else?



Chris Paul: The Hornets aren't the team I expected them to be this season, at least not yet, but you can't blame it on Chris Paul. Still putting up the numbers: first in assists per game, first in steals per game, second in assist-to-turnover ratio, third in double-doubles (behind Dwight Howard and David Lee, and the only guard in the top ten); all of this means that's he's once again the best point guard in the NBA, and a warranted starter for the West. We all know that, but T-Mac will start in place of him. That’s how it goes.

Kobe Bryant: Maybe not scoring in a dominate way as we've seen so many times in recent years, but there are few superstars in this League blessed with so many talented teammates. There's no one in the NBA who plays as good as Kobe at both ends of the floor. And the eerie thing is: I think Kobe enjoys physical pain. What does it take for this guy to not play? I’m going to do a first in the blogosphere: is Kobe the new Mailman?


Tim Duncan: In the beginning of the season I read some negative articles about the Spurs. The usual: too old, the glory years are behind them, etc. But good ol' Timmy wasn't having any of that, and led his Spurs to the second-best record in the West.

Dirk Nowitzki: His Mavericks are 24-17, tied for the eight spot in the West along with Utah. But if it wasn't for Dirk, the Mavs would be a below .500 team, and even that might be an understatement.


Shaquille O'Neal: Along with Vince Carter, this is my second player who just needed to vote for. I understand Yao Ming has better numbers, and without a doubt Yao is the starter for the Western All-Stars, but Shaq seems rejuvenated this season, a legend who has entertained us for so many seasons and now showing that when his body finally agrees with his mind again, he's one of the best centers of the NBA. One who turns 37 three weeks after the All-Star Game.

Write-in vote:

David Lee: I did this without giving it much thought, but I do know this: if the Knicks trade him, they are still morons. They should build around him, Duhon and Chandler (and maybe Harrington), and that’s it.

Dunk participant:

Joe Alexander: The sad thing is, Alexander hardly played this season, but when I saw his nose against the rim during a promo video on, I was convinced. Russell Westbrook has showed us he has hops, but I still think Alexander could be better. Rudy Fernandez had some nice alley-oops, but does that make him a creative dunker? I think it will be embarrassing to watch, but I hope I'm wrong. The fans wanted him in, and they got their wish.

Role call:

To all the players that went through my mind but didn’t vote for: Devin Harris, Chauncey Billups, Joe Johnson, Al Jefferson, Rashard Lewis, KG, Pierce, Ray Allen, Tony Parker, Yao, CB4, Marcus Camby, Deron Williams, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison , and last but certainly not least: Brandon Roy. I could name more for the sake of naming names, but all these guys actually went through my head at a certain point.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The First Day of 2009 – Reflections on the Western Conference

Happy New Year everybody. May all your hopes and dreams come true. Now we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about something more significant, at least on this blog: basketball. With the season already into the new year, time goes by faster than a Chris Paul bullet pass on the break. So without further ado, take a look at the Western Conference and see who’s doing great, and who’s doing…. Not so great.

Records and standings are through December 31.

1. Los Angeles Lakers (25-5): The scary thing is that this team isn’t even playing at its best right now. Their defense could be better, Odom and Bynum aren’t performing up-to-par, and Derek Fisher doesn’t have a real back-up anymore with Jordan Farmar out, yet the Lakers still lead the West. Trevor Ariza is quietly emerging as one of the best sixth men in the NBA.

2. New Orleans Hornets (19-9): Just like the Lakers, the Hornets also could be slightly better than they are right now. Peja Stojakovic is shooting at only 40%, and both he and Tyson Chandler have missed some games due to injury. The Hornets have now the fifth best record in the League, while I was expecting them to be in the top three.

3. San Antonio Spurs (20-11): Like always, so-called journalists are so quick to write somebody off, so when in November the Spurs were struggling to stay around the .500 mark, people wrote that this was finally the year that the Spurs were getting too old. Remember, this was without Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. And now? They are third in the West, and by the way: getting Roger Mason might be one of the best off-season signings last summer.

4. Denver Nuggets (21-12): Speaking of writing teams off, I really thought the Nuggets had no chance of being a top team in the West, especially after the Camby “trade”. But since the arrival of Chauncey Billups the whole team went through a transformation into something I haven’t seen in years in Denver: they play defense. In a League where Steve Nash won the MVP two years in a row, Billups should at least be considered at the end of the season.

5. Houston Rockets (21-12): Why is it that I still don’t believe this team? Why is it that I still think that they, once again, won’t do a whole lot in the playoffs, although it’s still very far away? Maybe it’s because T-Mac will never be 100% healthy this season. Maybe it’s because Ron Artest is shooting only at 37%. Maybe it’s because their 7’6 center isn’t rebounding in double figures. Only time will tell if I’m right or wrong.

6. Portland Trail Blazers (20-12): It must be fun to be a fan of this team. Rudy Fernandez is a true player, Brandon Roy is someone we must see next month in Phoenix, and Greg Oden shouldn’t worry so much. There are rumors that they might trade Travis Outlaw to Memphis in exchange for Mike Conley. That would be fun for Oden, but guys like Outlaw are great to have on your bench, since he can do a little bit of everything. If it was up to me, I wouldn’t change a thing and see how far they can go with this roster.

7. Dallas Mavericks (19-12): A team without a starting shooting guard, that’s the first thing I notice when I look at the Mavs’ roster. Josh Howard is manning that position right now, but only by default. Jason Terry should already receive the Sixth Man of the Year award, but Dallas has to watch out. Utah, currently ninth in the West, will only get better, and it’s weird to think that either the Mavs, Jazz or Suns might miss the playoffs this year (unless the Blazers or Rockets totally collapse in the next couple of months),

8. Phoenix Suns (18-12): In two months, Shaq will turn 36. I am in disgust by the many websites, even the ones I hold in high regard, who are so overly negative of O’Neal, a living legend and still a top five center in today’s NBA. Shooting at 60%, scoring 17 points and grabbing nine boards along the way in less than 30 minutes per game in the winter of his career is something that hopefully will bring him back into the All-Star Game when February comes around.

9. Utah Jazz (19-14): How good could this team be if Carlos Boozer was healthy? Paul Millsap is playing great in his absence, and recently Deron Williams said that he was finally playing pain-free for the first time this season. Expect the Jazz to climb up in the standings.

10. Memphis Grizzlies (10-22): A huge leap from the ninth, to the tenth team in the West. When Memphis traded Pau Gasol to the Lakers last season, everybody thought it was a joke, a case of bad management, not knowing his “little” brother Marc Gasol would turn out to be such a fine player. He, Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo will find some ways to win some more games this season.

11. Golden State Warriors (10-24): Don Nelson shouldn’t be in this League anymore. Embarrassing to see what he puts his team through this season.

12. Los Angeles Clippers (8-23): I hope that Baron Davis is right when he says this is a transition year, and I also hope that management acknowledges that. I still believe with this roster the Clippers are way better then what their record shows, despite the fact that they have no bench. Never expected Zach Randolph to fit in so well before he got injured.

13. Sacramento Kings (8-24): At least Reggie Miller 2.0 is finally back, but other than Kevin Martin and the rookies Thompson and Hawes, damn near everybody is on the trading block for Sacramento.

14. Minnesota Timberwolves (6-25): Kevin McHale shouldn’t be in this League anymore. Without Al Jefferson the Wolves wouldn’t have won a single game this season.

15. Oklahoma City Thunder (4-29): There are some bright spots with this team that make me wonder why they are this bad. The roster isn’t that awful (Durant and Green are playing great), and if newly acquired center Nenad Krstic is somewhat healthy, they finally get some scoring from a big guy other than the erratic Chris Wilcox. Expect some trades within now and six weeks involving either Wilcox, Nick Collison, Joe Smith or Earl Watson.