Monday, April 27, 2009

Where Amazing Happens: The Detroit Pistons Have Lost Their Relevance


How many eyes
Have seen their dream
How many arms
Have felt their dream
How many hearts, oh darlin'
Have felt their world stand still

“If I Should Die Tonight” – Marvin Gaye

We’re talking Motown here, and the Pistons’ season is officially over; they died Sunday Afternoon on their own home floor. Everybody in The Palace knew from the beginning they wouldn’t survive Game 4 when King James finished a breakaway windmill jam in the first quarter. In fact, Pistons fans already lost their pride and joy and gave up on the season before Game 4, since a lot of tickets for the home game were actually being sold to Cleveland season ticket holders. I’ve been following the League for almost two decades now, but I’ve never heard of anything like that before. I’m not going to write a recap of the game, if you saw the game, you know that Joe Dumars will have a lot of work to do in the next couple months.

The contracts of Allen Iverson, Rasheed Wallace, and Walter Hermann are all coming off the books this summer. Antonio McDyess made it clear that he wasn’t sure what to do next, because he wants to play for a contender. So unless something drastic happens, the Pistons aren’t amongst the elite next season. McDyess or Wallace would be a great fit in either Cleveland (assuming Sideshow Varejao will be a goner), or San Antonio. The latter might not happen, since it would make the Spurs a really old group of guys. You have to wonder what Sheed wants at this point of his career. He has always made big bucks, but will he accept a Joe Smith kind of role for the veteran minimum in order to win a championship? Will he still demand a long-term contract paying a large amount of money? Would he be willing to help out a young team desperately searching for a power forward (Nets)? We’ll have to wait and see what this stubborn kind of fellow will do next.

Joe Dumars has to build a team around Rodney Stuckey, Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince. I like Arron Afflalo, Will Bynum and Jason Maxiell, and if they are able to keep them all; it would set a nice basis to work with. Next is trying to acquire a big man via trades or fee agency, and the first player that comes to mind is Chris Bosh. If it doesn’t happen in 2009, they should try to get him in 2010. The question is: do Hamilton and Prince have the patience to play through a season of mediocrity? The Pistons have a lot of questions coming for them that need to be answered, and one thing is for sure: a different line-up will enter the floor at the beginning of next season. Many eyes have seen their dream in the past five years, now it’s time for Joe Dumars to get back to reality, because his team is in trouble man.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

NBA Playoffs, First Round Preview: Portland Trail Blazers (4) vs. Dallas Mavericks (5)

Point guard: Steve Blake vs. Aaron Brooks
Both play well within their systems, but neither are accounted on being the X-factor for their teams. Advantage: none.

Shooting guard: Brandon Roy vs. Ron Artest

It could also be Roy vs., Battier, but for the sake of argument we’ll keep it at Roy vs. Artest. We all know that Roy is a star, and if he continues to play like this, he will be one of the best players in Blazer history. A great ball-handler and he can score against anyone. But can Roy also do it against Artest? And if Artest takes a break, Houston will switch Battier on to him. Tiring. Besides being a great defender, Artest is now the main scoring option next to Yao Ming. Artest will still have some bad shooting nights, but is one of the few stars in this League playing at a high level on both ends of the court. However, I’m a big fan of Roy, and I believe that this match-up will bring out the best of him. Advantage: Blazers.

Small forward: Nicolas Batum vs. Shane Battier

Batum doesn’t play a whole lot of minutes before either Fernandez or Outlaw being subbed in, but the young guy can learn some tricks from the veteran. Advantage: Rockets.

Power forward: LaMarcus Aldridge vs. Luis Scola
Aldridge keeps getting better and better, and will have to bring it all out against Scola, a talented and physical player who just won’t give up. Aldridge has some inches over Scola, and is well-rounded offensively so I believe he’s able to deal with the constant pressure. Advantage: Blazers.

Center: Joel Przybilla vs. Yao Ming
There are only a handful of legitimate seven-foot centers in the NBA nowadays, and there are three of them in this series. Obviously Yao is by far the better player here, but at least Przybilla can make it Yao a little bit more difficult, being the long defensive player that he is. Advantage: Rockets.

Bench:
Travis Outlaw and Rudy Fernandez often play starter minutes, and when Przybilla comes out, Greg Oden comes in. As a back-up point guard you can insert Sergio Rodriguez. Not much of a defender, but a superb passer. I hope to see Jerryd Bayless getting some playing time too. And if all of that doesn’t work, they even have Channing Frye at the end of the bench. There aren’t many teams who are this deep. Von Wafer won’t make Houston feel safer. Advantage: Blazers.

Coaching: Nate McMillan vs. Rick Adelman
Adelman has done a splendid job with the Rockets this season, but I’m even more impressed with what McMillan has done with the Blazers. They’re a loose bunch in the locker room, but these young guys are all business on the floor. They are confident and play at both ends of the floor, while sharing the ball on offense instead of padding up their own numbers. A joy to watch. Advantage: Blazers.

What I’d say:
Blazers in seven. The Rockets are strong defensively, but don’t have a ten-man roster like the Blazers do. I think Houston is one player away from being a serious contender, but it’s not that one player who’s injured right now.

NBA Playoffs, First Round Preview: San Antonio Spurs (3) vs. Dallas Mavericks (6)

Point guard: Tony Parker vs. Jason Kidd
As a Nets fan I always enjoy watching Kidd on the court. But I also know that Kidd isn’t a kid anymore, and lost some of his quickness on D. And “quickness” is exactly what Parker does have. A lot. A whole lot. Advantage: Spurs

Shooting guard: Roger Mason jr. vs. Antoine Wright

When Wright was with the Nets, I didn’t envision him being a starting shooting guard for a playoff team, but that shows you what I know. He’s a good defender and will have to stay close to Roger Mason jr.. With Ginobili out, Mason jr. is expected to score more, and being the deadly 3-point shooter that he is, he has to take the burden off Parker and Duncan’s shoulders and become that efficient third scorer which he showed during the regular season he can be. Advantage: Spurs

Small forward: Michael Finley vs. Josh Howard

Finley turned 35 last month, played in 81 games this season, and started 77 of ‘em. He hit some buzzer-beaters too, so you couldn’t ask anything more of him. And now he has to go up against Josh Howard, who showed his importance when he came back from injury at the end of the season. Howard’s versatility gave Dallas the boost it so desperately needed. Advantage: Mavericks.

Power forward: Tim Duncan vs. Dirk Nowitzki
You have to wonder how much trouble Duncan’s knees are causing him. San Antonio needs him to be able to play at his usual high level, especially dealing with such a great scorer like Nowitzki. Duncan is one of the best power forwards the League has ever seen, but Dirk will always get his points, even though he’s shooting less 3’s this season. Interesting match-up. Advantage: Spurs.

Center: Matt Bonner vs. Erick Dampier
Who could’ve guessed that The Red Rocket would be starting center of the Spurs this season? Bonner can shoot, Damp can rebound. Advantage: none.

Bench:
No Manu, but certainly enough big men on the bench of San Antonio, with Kurt Thomas, Drew Gooden and Fabricio Oberto all capable of putting up some quality minutes. It also opened up some playing time for Bruce Bowen, who’s probably in his fifties by now, but still wouldn’t complain if he has to run after Josh Howard all night. Expect to see Ime Udoka getting some minutes too. The Mavs have some firepower in J.J. Barea and even more important, Jason Terry. James Singleton and Brandon Bass both bring some extra energy off the bench, whether it’s by a dunk or by a hustle play. Advantage: Mavericks.

Coaching: Gregg Popovich vs. Rick Carlisle

Pop has won four championships, and still makes sure his team stays competitive. He’s been doing that for the last dozen years, so expect no difference in that. Carlisle had a pretty decent season with Dallas, and throughout his career he always got the most out of teams who you might not expect to go really far. But this time he has to do it against the Spurs. Advantage: Spurs.

What I’d say:
Spurs in seven. The loss of Ginobili is a big one, and like I already wrote: how is Duncan feeling? But you can never count the Spurs out. This will be a long series, with the San Antonio winning it in the deciding game.

NBA Playoffs, First Round Preview: Denver Nuggets (2) vs. New Orleans Hornets (7)

Point guard: Chauncey Billups vs. Chris Paul
Now this is a match-up I’d like to see. The arrival of Chauncey Billups is the primary reason that the Nuggets finished second in the West. And now they’re meeting a Hornets team with a season behind them that was kind of a letdown. Now a lot can be said about Billups, but Chris Paul has had a season which could land him a top 3 spot in the MVP race. Even with all the injuries happening to the Hornets this season, CP3 carried them from beginning to end. Advantage: Hornets.

Shooting guard: Dahntay Jones vs. Rasual Butler
Jones is athletic, a pretty good defensive player, but plays less than 20 mpg. Rasual Butler is a 3-point shooter who accidentally took the starting spot by surprise, and had a great season appearing in all 82 games. A perfect complimentary player next to Paul. Advantage: Hornets.

Small forward: Carmelo Anthony vs. Peja Stojakovic
Stojakovic has had a difficult season, and isn’t the shooter he once was. Anthony on the other hand might not have had his best season statistically, but from his team’s point of view, he performed better than ever. Melo remains one of the most dangerous small forwards in the L, and since Peja isn’t the best defender out there, the Hornets will have a difficult time containing him. Advantage: Nuggets.

Power forward: Kenyon Martin vs. David West

West has been playing through nagging injuries, and Martin had his usual fair share of pains and aches too. Now going into the playoffs, Martin will have his hands full with West. David West is a power forward who can score from the inside, but also takes the jumpshot if his man gives him that room. Advantage: Hornets.

Center: Nene vs. Tyson Chandler

Two totally different players. Nene is a banger, who has dunked on more grills than George Foreman could ever sell. Chandler is a shot blocker, rebounder and scores about 99% of his points as the receiving end when Paul throws him a lob. Nene had a strong season, and I don’t believe he will stop now. Advantage: Nuggets.

Bench:
J.R. Smith, Birdman Anderson. That sums it up. Advantage: Nuggets.

Coaching: George Karl vs. Byron Scott
Both did a fine job this year. Karl’s team finally defends but that also has a lot to do with the arrival of hometown hero Chauncey Billups. Scott kept his team in the running all season long despite all the injuries and a weak bench. Advantage: none.

What I’d say:

Nuggets in six. The Hornets have a great starting five, but that’s not enough.

NBA Playoffs, First Round Preview: Los Angeles Lakers (1) vs. Utah Jazz (8)

Point guard: Derek Fisher vs. Deron Williams
The mentor vs. the student. They’ve played together during Fisher’s brief time in Utah, but since then Williams has become one of the top point guards in the nation. There’s not much Williams can’t do offensively. He’s strong, can shoot from range, but going to the rim will be somewhat more of an adventure with Gasol and Bynum waiting for him. It also wouldn’t surprise me if Kobe or Trevor Ariza are asked to defend Williams on some plays. Williams must find a way to get it done, because he’s the Miles Davis of this Jazz ensemble. Advantage: Jazz.

Shooting guard: Kobe Bryant vs. Ronnie Brewer
Good luck, Ronnie. Advantage: Lakers.

Small forward: Trevor Ariza vs. C.J. Miles

Actually, Miles is listed day-to-day because of a dislocated finger. Miles doesn’t give the Jazz all that much on either end of the floor, while Ariza is mostly known for his defensive prowess. Ariza can shoot the 3-pointer if he’s open and is a strong finisher around the rim. Advantage: Lakers.

Power forward: Pau Gasol vs. Carlos Boozer
Boozer isn’t entirely back. He’s not 100% healthy and Pau Gasol is. Both are very skilled players, but Gasol’s height could cause some problems for Boozer on both ends of the floor. Advantage: Lakers.

Center: Andrew Bynum vs. Mehmet Okur
Bynum is back, still huge and already has put up some impressive numbers during the final games of the regular season. Phil Jackson still is critical of Bynum’s defense, but his presence alone changes a lot. Okur’s shooting touch will lure Bynum out of the paint, widening up the lane for Utah’s guards or wings to penetrate. It’s a tough choice. Advantage: Lakers.

Bench:
The Jazz have in Paul Millsap a power forward on the bench who proved that he could start on most teams, probably as early as next season for his current team. Then you have Kyle Korver, a 3-point gunner, and the do-everything Andrei Kirilenko, who could see a lot of minutes against Kobe. The Lakers can bring in Lamar Odom, Luke Walton, and recently Shannon Brown got some more minutes over Jordan Farmar. And let’s not forget about The Machine, Sasha Vujacic. Aside from Brown, these guys were all here last season, so they know what it takes to win. Advantage: Lakers.

Coaching: Phil Jackson vs. Jerry Sloan

This seems unfair to Sloan, but if I have to choose between coaches and one of them has won nine championships, who do you think I would choose? That’s right. Advantage: Lakers.

What I’d Say:
Lakers is five. Utah will give them a brief scare, but the Lakers won’t flinch. The Jazz aren’t adept defensively to contain all of L.A.’s fire power.

NBA Playoffs, First Round Preview: Atlanta Hawks (4) vs. Miami Heat (5)

Point guard: Mike Bibby vs. Mario Chalmers
The Heat finally solved their point guard problem by drafting Mario Chalmers, the perfect running mate alongside Dwyane Wade. Mike Bibby is a seasoned veteran with a lot of playoff experience during his days as a King. He loves the 3-pointer, but isn’t only a trigger-happy point guard. With a player like Josh Smith on the break, be sure Bibby gets his assists too. Bibby does have to work on defense though. Chalmers might have quickness, but Bibby is far from done. Advantage: Hawks.

Shooting guard: Joe Johnson vs. Dwyane Wade
You have one of the leading candidates for the MVP award against another top five shooting guard, because Johnson certainly is no slouch either. But despite his height advantage, his deft 3-point shooting and more than decent ball-handling skills, Johnson won’t be able to keep Wade from getting what he wants. It will be interesting to see how the Hawks will stop him. Advantage: Heat.

Small forward: Maurice Evans vs. Jamario Moon

Marvin Williams is back, but from what I know he’s coming off the bench, so it’s Moon against Evans I suppose. Evans is known as a strong guard / forward and will be asked to help out on Wade. Moon is a somewhat skinny ├╝ber-athletic forward which gives the Heat another player to run with on the break. But still: Advantage: Hawks.

Power forward: Josh Smith vs. Udonis Haslem

Haslem returns from his thumb injury and is the ideal power forward for the Heat. He can shoot, he can rebound and is a good defender, which sorely is needed against the talented Josh Smith. My problem with Smith is that he thinks he’s a shooter sometimes, something that must drive coach Mike Woodson crazy. Smith actually took a step back since last season, but for this series: Advantage: Hawks.

Center: Al Horford vs. Jermaine O’Neal

Some time ago I said about Horford that as he goes, the Hawks go. A good rebounder who also can score, to me has the edge over Jermaine O’Neal. O’Neal has showed some flashes of his former self this past season, but his health remains a concern. I’m going with the young buck. Advantage: Hawks.

Bench:
Flip Murray has played a lot this season, and earned it too. Marvin Williams is finally back from injury, so when it comes to scoring the Hawks don’t really have letdown by putting them in. When it comes to big men on this roster, all you have is Al Horford, because I don’t expect Zaza Pachulia to have a huge impact coming in (stating the obvious here). The Heat’s Daequan Cook is a shooter but doing that under 40%. Luckily they also have James Jones who can hit the trey, and Jamaal Magloire to make the hard foul. But the key player here is of course Michael Beasley. The rookie is having a fine season, and the Heat made a great decision bringing him off the bench. The Hawks don’t have answer for that. Advantage: Heat.

Coaching: Mike Woodson vs. Eric Spoelstra
For a rookie coach, Spoelstra got the most out of his team this season. The Heat kept playing well despite a young roster, injuries and mid-season trades. That’s not to take away credit from Woodson, but I’m going with the rook here: Advantage: Heat

What I’d Say:
Heat in seven. The Hawks are a good team, and they will push the Heat to the brink of elimination, like they did with the Celtics last season. But with Wade’s flair for the dramatic, I expect some huge games of him in the first round.

NBA Playoffs, First Round Preview: Orlando Magic (3) vs. Philadelphia 76’ers (6)

Point guard: Rafer Alston vs. Andre Miller
Alston has done well in Orlando since he was brought over from Houston, replacing the injured Jameer Nelson in the starting line-up. But Andre Miller is just one of the better point guards in the League. He and Andre Iguodala are Philly’s most important players. His ability to score, but most of all his crisp passing to his relatively young teammates, really benefits players like Thaddeus Young or Marreese Speights. Advantage: Sixers.

Shooting guard: Courtney Lee vs. Willie Green

With these two I think they’re starters by default. If you would look at their numbers, there’s nothing that stands out and will blow you away. Lee is primarily used as a defender, while Green…. I just don’t know. He isn’t a great shooter, so that explains why he only plays 22 mpg. Both will not be the difference maker anyway. Advantage: Magic.

Small forward: Hedo Turkoglu vs. Andre Iguodala
They have a different playing style, but Turk and Iguodala can do it all. Turkoglu might the better shooter, and Iguodala is a better finisher on the break and far more athletic. They can defend, can make the pass, but there’s one huge difference: for Philly to have a chance, Andre must be the best player on the court. Advantage: Sixers

Power forward: Rashard Lewis vs. Thaddeus Young

Both aren’t power forwards, who are we kidding here? But both work well in the current make-up of their respective teams. Young is a slasher, and you could say the same for Lewis, but he’s even more of a true scorer. Lewis is one of the most prolific scorers in the NBA, and let’s not forget he almost shoots at a 40% clip from 3-point territory. Advantage: Magic.

Center: Dwight Howard vs. Samuel Dalembert
Dalembert has seems to have lost the trust of his coach, and isn’t seeing too much playing time at the moment. It will get increasingly more difficult to stay on the floor trying to stop Flight Howard. Howard is so athletic and such a ferocious rebounder, the Sixers just won’t have an answer for him. Howard will dominate this series from the start, on both ends of the floor. Advantage: Magic.

Bench:
This won’t matter in the first round, but whoever advances to the second round (Orlando), this will be a problem. Both of them have a bench that lacks depth. The Magic have Michael Pietrus, Marcin Gortat, No-Neck Johnson, Tony Battie and J.J. Redick who all get some minutes most of the time. But aside from Pietrus, there isn’t much of a difference maker in that group. This also applies to the Sixers. They have Lou Williams who one day could shine in this League, but other than that? The athletic Marreese Speights had a decent rookie season, but is not always reliable. Reggie Evans is Reggie Evans. He gets you some rebounds, and has a nasty-looking beard. That’s it. So who else has to defend Howard when Dalembert is out? Theo Ratliff? This isn’t 2001 anymore. Advantage: Magic.

Coaching: Stan Van Gundy vs. Tony DiLeo

SVG is one of the frontrunners for the Coach-of-the-Year award, and made it a magical (lame, can’t help myself) season with a team that performed better on defense than it should (much credit to Howard), but we also we also saw progress in Jameer Nelson as a true floor leader. Van Gundy keeps them levelled and if health allows it (since Turk and Lewis both missed some games at the end of the season), it will be interesting to see how far they can come. Advantage: Magic.

What I’d Say:
Magic in five. I like the Sixers, but again, what can they do against Howard? Turkoglu and Lewis are back, so you have three legitimate 20-point scorers out there. Good lucking stopping that.

Friday, April 17, 2009

NBA Playoffs, First Round Preview: Boston Celtics (2) vs. Chicago Bulls (7)

Point guard: Rajon Rondo vs. Derrick Rose
Two young, very exciting point guards are going at it. Rondo might be better defensively, Rose better offensively, but the one thing they have in common is blazing’ speed. This will be an interesting match-up, and especially great for Rose to experience the playoffs as a rookie against the reigning champions. But which team has the advantage at this position? Rondo has seen it all last year, but Rose is so damn talented. You tell me, because I’m going with: Advantage: none.

Shooting guard: Ray Allen vs. Ben Gordon
If we know one thing for sure it will be that we’ll have no short in 3-pointers made / attempted. Allen and Gordon aren’t the best defenders either, so expect big numbers from the both of them. But you can’t hate on me for picking the veteran. Allen is such a smart and experienced player, with Gordon on him as an undersized shooting guard, you see where I’m getting at: Advantage: Celtics.

Small forward: Paul Pierce vs. John Salmons
Throughout his career, I always kept my eye on John Salmons. A talented but to me, sometimes unhappy player (not uncommon in Sacramento these days). Now that he’s in the Windy City, we really see what he can do. Besides the obvious fact that this guy can shoot from every range, he’s also a capable defender. I must admit that Paul Pierce on the other hand has stepped up his defense since the arrival of Kevin Garnett last season, so I can’t wait to see them go at each other. And like I said with Ray Allen, experience weighs in on this too. I don’t think a confident player like Pierce will lose any sleep because of Salmons. Advantage: Celtics.

Power forward: Leon Powe vs. Tyrus Thomas
No KG. Sigh. As a fan of the game you hate to see injuries to any player, especially such a vital piece of the Celtics, an anchor on defense, a leader and a man who screams himself to victory. But I’m also a fan of Leon Powe, who is by no means comparable to Garnett, but sure knows how to put the ball in the basket. But if Tyrus Thomas keeps on playing without too many errors in this series, altering shots, rebounding and just catching Rose’s oops, then I can only say: Advantage: Bulls.

Center: Kendrick Perkins vs. Joakim Noah

It’s a crapshoot really. Both can be clumsy on offense, but at least they rebound and defend; just don’t expect too many buckets from either of them. Perk takes up so much space though, and without KG he really has to hold the fort down in paint. And since he’s built like a fort too, let’s just say: Advantage: Celtics.

Bench:

Kirk Hinrich, Tim Thomas, and a player who will see a lot of court action: Brad Miller. I like Eddie House, Mikki Moore, Starbury, Big Baby and Tony Allen (who isn’t 100% yet), and you could argue that the Celtics have more depth than the Bulls. However, Hinrich and Miller are starter material who could both have a great impact on this series. Luol Deng is out for the season, but still: Advantage: Bulls

Coaching: Doc Rivers vs. Vinny Del Negro

I’ve stated it often on this blog: I’m not a fan of Vinny Del Negro, but apparently he’s doing something right because the Bulls a back in the playoffs, Noah is more active than he ever was, and Tyrus Thomas finally matured this season into a full-time starting power forward. Doc Rivers was in the Finals last season, and came back to coach his team to 62 wins, 25 of them without Kevin Garnett. Advantage: Celtics.

What I’d Say:
Celtics in six. The Celtics still played great after Garnett was out, but I think they will really miss him against Chicago. I can’t imagine it being a sweep, five is possible, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the Bulls pull out a second win somehow along the way. But that’s about it; they won’t be last year’s Hawks pushing the Celtics to seven games.

NBA Playoffs, First Round Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers (1) vs. Detroit Pistons (8)

Point guard: Mo Williams vs. Rodney Stuckey
If would’ve asked me to choose between these two during the first half of the season, Stuckey would be my pick. I’m not sure what happened, but he didn’t finish the season strong, while Mo Williams has been quite consistent throughout the year. Williams will often be used as a spot-up shooter feeding off LeBron’s creativity. Stuckey will be asked to push the ball up front, either creating for his teammates, or creating for himself. If the Pistons want to have any chance against the Cavs, Stuckey must play his best basketball of the season. But to choose between these two, I’ll take the easy route: Advantage: none.

Shooting guard: Delonte West vs. Richard Hamilton
West is a perfect fit in Cleveland’s system, but he will have a tough time defending Hamilton. West can do it all: shoot, pass, bring up the ball, but his focus in this series shouldn’t be on offense, but trying to contain to the always moving Rip Hamilton. Whether the masked man has the ball or not, he’s dangerous every second that he’s on the court and a master of the mid-range game. Advantage: Pistons.

Small forward: LeBron James vs. Tayshaun Prince
Prince with his long limbs is a great defender, but we’re talking about LeBron here. James is unstoppable, but if LeBron decides to pull up for the J every now and then, Prince could make it a bit more difficult for him because of his Doc Ock arms. Other than that, there isn’t much more you can do. Advantage: Cavaliers.

Power Forward: Antonio McDyess vs. Anderson Varejao
One player that has really impressed me this season was Antonio McDyess. The man has been in the League for quite a while now, but is still scoring and especially rebounding with the best of them (had a career-high 22 boards last month). “Chosen 2” Andy has put up a decent season, showing that he is more than just an energy guy, by providing points and always being active on the boards and on defense. But skill-wise, I think the old man could still beat the young guy. Dice still knows his ways around the basket, and can also shoot the rock if the opportunity presents itself. Advantage: Pistons.

Center: Zydrunas Ilgauskas vs. Rasheed Wallace
Big Z vs. Mr. T. Wallace can’t have games with 9 points and 6 rebounds during the playoffs. Ilgauskas is a skilled big man, not very fast, but knows how to score with baby hooks and his little jumper. He also has a height advantage over Wallace, yet Sheed is the better defender, so he could still cause some problems for Ilgauskas. Another important thing for Detroit is that Wallace stays as long on the court as possible. He must find a way to stay out of foul trouble, and you know that’s a difficult thing when you’re a big man and LeBron is on the other team. Advantage: Cavaliers (but a very, very slight advantage).

Bench:
No Allen Iverson for the Pistons, and I’m wondering which player off Detroit’s bench can give them some buckets. Will Bynum? In fact, when you look at the roster, he’s one of the few guys who actually did that in the last couple of weeks. The Cavs have former Piston Ben Wallace, but as far as I know it’s not sure yet whether he’s playing or not, but it would be nice to have him around. Daniel Gibson can be streaky sometimes, but when he’s open to shoot the three, you know the Pistons will collectively hold their breath. But the x-factor for the Cavs is Joe Smith. I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets a lot of minutes in the fourth quarter, and that makes it easy for me: Advantage: Cavaliers.

Coaching: Mike Brown vs. Michael Curry

Brown has playoff and finals experience, and Curry is having tough first season as a head coach. Advantage: Cavaliers.

What I’d say:

Cavs in five. This just isn’t Detroit’s season, and the Cavs won 66 games with something the Pistons used to excel in: defense. And their offense isn’t too shabby either. Just eleven months ago the Pistons were battling the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, but the run is over, which was obvious when Billups boarded a plane with Denver as his destination.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Rating the Nets, 2009 Edition

The first couple of months of the season made me into a believer, gave me hope for the future, and to be honest: it’s still there. I’m still moderately happy about the future of my team, but something’s gotta give. Rod Thorn was right when he said that the team needs a “moose”. A rugged power forward that brings defense and rebounding to the team. Someone like Udonis Haslem or Luis Scola. Not that they are available, but they need players like them. Anyway, the final post about the Nets this season:

Lawrence Frank: C
If you’re players are not giving the effort, do not have that sense of urgency, can you blame it all on Lawrence Frank? Is it that the players have tuned him out, can’t he motivate them anymore, or is this an easy cop-out and should we blame the guys on the court? The Nets decide whenever they choose to come out and play, and if this means Frank gets axed, that’s the business side of it. Maybe it is his fault, I don’t know. I do know that he’s under contract for another year for 4,5 million, so if there would be a new coach hopefully named Eddie Jordan, this could cripple the franchise even more. Frank did well in developing Brook Lopez and Devin Harris, and you could make an argument that the material he had to work with can’t bring you to the playoffs. And it’s true, but the lackluster play against teams like the Timberwolves or Bucks when your season in on the line, is something to worry about. In the past couple of days Bruce Ratner openly backed Frank, and as far as we can tell, Rod Thorn does too. But if the defense doesn’t improve by the end of this year, it wouldn’t surprise me if Frank doesn’t make 2010 as a Nets head coach.
Maurice Ager / Eduardo Najera:
Can’t rate tCursiefhese guys, they hardly played this season.

Ryan Anderson: B-
It’s hard to rate a guy who’s been in and out of the line-up so much this season. He’s a hard worker with a long career ahead of him, and his numbers will be more consistent if his playing time would be more consistent. But when Yi went out injured, the rookie came in from DNP’s to being the starting power forward, and maybe should’ve gotten the nod way earlier.

Josh Boone: D
Last season Boone averaged about 8 and 7 as the designated starting center of the Nets, and through the first five games of this season, his numbers were the same. But he hurt his ankle in the sixth game, prompting rookie Brook Lopez to start for the Nets. Boone came back, but his confidence was shattered. Boone can be a serviceable player for the Nets, but has to get stronger mentally.

Vince Carter: B+
Almost 21 ppg, 5 boards and 4,5 assists per game. Great numbers, but he’ll never be a great defender, and those fade-away 3’s are still so frustrating to watch, I’m starting to believe that VC’s the reason that I’m balding while I’m not even 30 yet. But he only has missed two games this season, is well-respected around the team, and does everything that has been asked from him To (most recently) switch over to the small forward spot, or being the primary ball-handler when Devin Harris was out, Carter will do it all without ever complaining about it. He’s a pro’s pro, and you couldn’t ask for a better leader on a team filled with young guys.

Keyon Dooling: A+
What more can you ask from him? A ball hawking point guard, shooting the 3 at a high percentage while playing a great deal of minutes behind Harris, or even with Harris. It doesn’t matter: put Dooling in and something will happen. Great off-season acquisition.
Chris Douglas-Roberts: B. The emergence, if we may call it that, of CDR came recently when Harris was injured for a couple of games. The guy is a scorer, and is no way a finished product. But like Anderson, I wish he got some minutes way earlier into the season. He showed that he can play, so it’s a safe bet we will see plenty more of him next year.

Devin Harris: B+
I’m afraid what’s happening to Devin Harris is what we could call the “RJ-effect”. Being a primary offensive weapon on this team made defense merely optional for the face of the franchise. When he came in from Dallas last season he was known as a feisty on-ball defender, but like the rest of the Nets, the effort isn’t always there. He was a great player the first half of the season, but slightly more inconsistent in the second half. He started settling for jumpshots instead of using his brilliant speed to get to the rim, which gives him easily 20 to 25 points on a nightly basis, half of them coming from the free throw line. Tony Parker has been using that speed for years to get easy buckets, and is having a career year by doing so. Devin Harris should watch some tape of Spurs guard this summer and learn from it. If he does, who knows how good Harris can be.
Trenton Hassell: C
He doesn’t give you much offense, but when he does play, he’s one of the few Nets who always will play some D. Can shoot the 3 too if necessary.

Jarvis Hayes: B+
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Hayes when the Nets signed him, but he proved to be a great addition to this team playing extended minutes. And when his jumper is falling, he proves to be a valuable weapon being out there with the starters more often than not. We shouldn’t forget that he’s been playing with basically one hand since he torn the ligaments in his left thumb in mid-February. The guy can’t even lace his own shoes at the moment, yet he kept on playing, even when the Nets were mathematically out of the playoff contention.

Yi Jianlian: F
When something is not there, you can keep on looking but you will never find it. The problem is that Yi plays twelve months a year because of his demanding home country, which might be one of the reasons why his young NBA career has been nothing less of a disappointment. He had exactly one stretch this season where he had three good games in a row, showing flashes of brilliance of what the promising player he can be. He got injured, and when he returned he had just three games where he scored in double figures. Maybe it’s not entirely his fault. Again, he’s young, he’s not very strong physically as well as mentally, but for a guy heralded as a good shooting big man, 39% is not enough. Lawrence Frank should’ve brought Yi off the bench throughout the season, let him play about 20 minutes a game, and work from there. Yi wasn’t starter material from the beginning, he one day might be, but not now. It took the Nets brass more than 70 games to find that out. Well done.

Brook Lopez: A
Sure, like any first-year player he makes those typical rookie mistakes. Yes, he doesn’t always finish strong. When the “Dwyane Wade Highlights DVD ’08-‘09” comes out, they will include the game in early January where Flash blocked Lopez twice, both dunk attempts, both were deciding for the outcome of the game. But next to the point guard position, the center position is the hardest one to master for a rookie, and we can say without any doubts that Brook Lopez has embraced the task at hand, and is it’s not more than fair that his name is being mentioned among the Rookie of the Year candidates. True old-school NBA centers are dying breed in the L, but the Nets have one for years to come. If the kid keeps playing like this, keeps improving, he’s an All-Star within two years.

Bobby Simmons: D
The Nets hoped to have the Bobby Simmons of ’04-’05, yet they got the regular Bobby Simmons: a small forward who rebound a little, defend a little, knows how to shoot the ball with great range, but in not a starter by any means. If you would combine his and Yi’s numbers, which would make 17 and 9, I would be impressed. But no, that kind of production is coming from two starting forwards (for a great part of the season), which unlikely brings fear into any opponent.

Sean Williams: F
I wish I could give this guy a better grade. When he came back from the D-League, he seemed to be a changed man. He did what he knows how to do best: block shots and rebound. A player who seems to be so calm during interviews, loses his cool which ended up in throwing a computer monitor in a cell phone store. You just don’t know what’s going on in his head. Being a distraction to a team during a time when they need you the most just can’t happen. A likeable guy, who, to me, deserves one more chance. Hopefully with the Nets.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

No Breaks Allowed, Part 8

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.

-Biggest news? Manu not coming back until next season. But I still believe that with a healthy Tim Duncan (let’s hope his knees will hold up) the Spurs are still able to make the Western Conference Finals. If you don’t believe it, Pop will make you do push-ups ‘til you do.

-I wish I saw more of the Blazers this season. What a fun team. I’m impressed by how this group of players is really working well together; everybody knows their role, everybody is happy to be there. I really hope that their season will go on for a while. They’re probably playing the Rockets in the first round, who are obviously a tough match-up. But who knows, maybe the Blazers can impress me even more.

-What’s the deal with the Nets? My team’s season is almost over, and what happens? Two good games: beating the Pistons and demolishing the Sixers. By the way, I don’t know why, but the Nets are 4-0 against Philadelphia this season, including the incredible half-court heave by Harris, and Sunday’s 29-point bashing. But they also lost against the Bulls between those two wins, yet I try to remain optimistic.

-The channel that’s airing NBA games in The Netherlands has three NBA broadcasts a week. As far as I know, they’ll bring it back to two during the playoffs, and trust me, I’m pissed. Now I have to find low-quality streams, and even if they’re alright, my laptop doesn’t like it when I watch streaming videos on the internet very much, so that means a lot of lagging. Horrible.

-Shaq to the Mavs? If that happens, and Jason Kidd stays, these are two players who could bring Dallas its first NBA title ever. If it was 2002.

-Speaking of Shaq: I might be one of the few people in the world who doesn’t give a damn about twittering. I don’t twitter, I don’t follow any, and am not planning to. I’m the Jerry Sloan of twitter. Players claim it to be a wonderful thing, communicating with the fans in a direct way, saying things you want to say instead of using a reporter to do that. Isn’t that why they invented blogs a couple of years ago? What’s even worse is that people like me and you are on twitter. Who the hell wants to read that? “Doing groceries” “Got a haircut!” etc. So what?

-I miss Leon Powe. And KG of course, but Powe really is my kind of player. Hope they’re both healthy in a week or so.

-The Kings gave up 120 ppg in the last eight games (winning only one of them). That’s a sad thing if you’re a Kings fan, because I doubt there will be huge changes this summer. Unless they have the first pick in the Draft.

-I gave it a lot of thought, but I can’t see a single team being a good fit for AI at this point in his career. I love Iverson for everything he has done, especially when he was a Sixer, but what should he do now? Post comments below if you’ve got a great idea.