Posts Tagged ‘NBA’

Yup. I feel you Kob.

When I was a kid, I believed in imaginary things. I would talk about them with a vigor and reality that you would think that they were as real as air we breathe or Herman Cain’s ridiculousness. It was fun though, and somehow to me it made valid sense that Stone Cold Steve Austin could punch The Rock in the face 15 times in a row, and Dwayne’s nose did burst into a pizza sauce style platter. It made sense that the winner of Batman fighting Superman had more relevance than the Easter Bunny arm wrestling the Tooth Fairy. These things were real to me, so they really mattered.

Somewhere along the line, the NBA jumped the fence into this zone. And actually it happened in late spring when they decided to not play basketball until business became “fair” (fair remaining the most ridiculous word ever created, right before “equal”). I’ve been down this path with David Stern and his guys before. Back in ’99, when I was transitioning out of my imaginary stage still, I was a HUGE NBA fan. I sat on the edge of my seat and waited out every detail of the Lockout and rejoiced when it was worked out. I was thankful for that horrible little piece of a season they tossed us, and hoped it would never happen again.

Well, again happened, and I’m not up for playing the fool two times in a row. But this presents a huge dilemma for my inner sports fan: because the NBA has the most interesting subplots of any league. It’s easy to compare, fun to talk about (even if morbidly repetitive) and fills in the weeks between football Sundays masterfully. Eventually, it’s going to really suck not having it to both debate, complain about and be in awe at.

However, I’m grown now. I don’t believe in imaginary things, and right now the actual NBA, and any topics around it’s play, is just that: a figment of our very vivid and starved imaginations. BUT if I was going to talk about the NBA around this part of the year, this MAY be what I would be talking around…

 

1. Will the Lakers get right? Like the Yankees and Patriots, you feel like they can do it any year they take the court. Kobe is still there, he’s mad and he’s more well rested than he’s been in like the last half decade. Time for that late career push, time to go for Mike’s numbers, time to cement that legacy for good baby!!!

No, wait, it isn’t. Because the best player the game has since the Jumpman took off his kicks and put on his zoot suit pants isn’t playing in LA, rather he’s watching soccer in Beverly Hills and deciding if he wants to go hoop in Borat’s homeland. So I can’t talk about any of that other stuff, so I won’t.

2. How long will Dwight Howard be in Florida? Hell, when will his time start in Florida again?

3. Do the Mavs have that in them over a whole season? They’re the champs, but come on now, they just got hot at the wrong time. If Dirk played like that over the whole year, he’d be the best player in the game, and we all know that isn’t true…not at this point in his career. But, hey they are the champs, and they beat Kobe, Durant and Wade/Bron to do it, so let’s see if they do it again.

And wait we shall, because….

So let me get this straight: if the season doesn't start, are they the 2011 AND 2012 Champs? I mean nobody else won it in that time, so....I'm just sayin.

4. Who’s better at the point? Best debate in the league: who’s the best at the point? Well, I dig D. Will, cause what doesn’t he do? But Rondo hands the rock around like nobody else and plays the best D. But nobody since Stockton has got the ball around like CP3, and he almost took the Lakers out last year. Russ Westbrook can’t be guarded, and once he picks his shot better…man! But hold up though, you gotta miss me with all of that because D. Rose had the best record in the League AND won MVP, he gotta be that guy.

Well….guess what? We’re all right and we’re all wrong right now.

5. Is Kyrie the answer? The Cavs where flat out terrible last year, but yo, they landed two picks in the top 5 of the Draft. They GOTTA be at least fun to watch now, right? I’ll get back to you on that.

6. Why doesn’t St. Louis have a squad? I mean I’m only explaining this because I live here and a whole lot of folks don’t get why that isn’t happening until either a) either the Rams or Blues are gone and/or b) ever rolls around on the calendar. But since cities that have them already aren’t even watching their squads, I’ll chill on that too.

7. Will Melo and Amare over a whole year be a problem? I would talk about how the Knicks are putting up numbers and giving up a ton of em on the other end. I mean, with Melo and Amare, somebody’s getting cooked and they gotta be one piece away from rocking with the Heat and Bulls right? Well, actually no. No they aren’t.

8. Did you see Blake Griffin last night? Nawl, I didn’t see Blake dunk the entire Staples Center last night, including the championship banners that don’t belong to the Clippers at the roof. Nope, I missed all of that. Shoot me the You Tube link if you come across it though.

Nawl, I didn't see this last night. And you didn't either.

9. Who’s going #1? It’s going to be an amazing college basketball season, but why would I talk about if Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger, Percy Jones or Austin Rivers is going #1. Why would they go anywhere? So they can chill and play rec games and flag football? Nope. I’m just gonna let them live on their college games like they have four whole years to do it.

10. The Heat: No matter how annoying it gets or how many good points you I’d see, I won’t be able to talk about LeBron being the best player in any game he’s in until (insert your own choke line here). Or why comparing him to Kobe (or anybody else) is (insert another line of choice here) as well. I can’t talk about what would happen if the Heat and Lakers finally played a game that mattered. I can’t see them take on the Dallas again and try to pick their faces up off the ground. Nor is there any point in the constant “What if’s” about who should be doing what, who’s squad it is or if Chris Bosh even has a pulse.

 

Nope. I can’t talk about any of that. So I won’t until a gym is actually unlocked and/or a check is cut. Peace.

 

Follow me on Twitter as continue to rebel against any and all things imaginary at @CheapSeatFan.

As expected, neither side of the NBA’s power structure, the acts or the management could come to an agreement yesterday and they became the second major pro sport to “lockout” its talent. With that said, the issues that are separating the NBA are much more radical than the one’s facing the NFL. The NBA has essentially become the most segregated (financial) league in the game, even with a salary cap in place. And whenever dollars being discussed, sense goes out the window, and pushing every single issue as far as it can be shoved in order for every side to have their grievances aired is the order of the day….or month….or year.

Essentially the NBA has closed ranks on everything around it and won’t even be beginning discussions for weeks. When they do start they will be essentially be wiping the structure of the League clean and reformatting it. This could, and will, take a long time to sort out, and an abbreviated season is guaranteed. Even when they locked out for lesser issues in 1998-99 they still only played 50 games and by many accounts this one will be much tougher to sort out.

So what if it’s off the board completely? David Stern is going to be highest paid custodian in America trying to clean up the mess his league is headed into. No NBA for the next 12 months…what issues on the court get altered? How do some careers take the fall with lost time on the court…but increased age picked up in the process? Does the very direction of the League itself get altered due to what is decided in the indefinite amount of meetings that are on deck? While it’s too early to say how exactly it shakes loose, here are 10 issues and scenarios that could come to play out if the NBA debates win out over the game itself.

10. Big men rest big injuries for longer: Greg Oden and Yao Ming have been two of the biggest shadows looming over the NBA for the last few years, but haven’t given anything back at all. Combined they have played a total of 91 minutes across 5 games last year (belonging to Yao). However, height is the one thing you don’t give up on (unless it’s Eddy Curry), so both of these former #1 overall picks still have some value (and apparently its $8.8 million for Oden already). Both are due to see freedom of the restricted variety soon, and with some extra time to heal up they could manage to glue their potential back together.

With some extra time to heal, perhaps it won't be too late for Oden to deliver on promise (no guarantees though).

9. Study Abroad: Could there be more instances of Josh Childress-like moves across seas from free agent NBAers? It’s not completely likely due to the fact that it all could get resolved sometime mid contract for anybody that goes across seas, but it wouldn’t be completely unlikely to see a few guys in need of a payday head across the pond.

8. The Raptors get their guy earlier: The Raptors draft Jonas Valanciunas with the intent on waiting for him to fulfill his contract in Lithuania and join them in 2012. Well now with the NBA potentially not even starting up until 2012 itself, he could have been the steal of the Draft as he could be right on time showing up now. This could be a stroke of drafting genius, as landing a 7 footer with athleticism and the ability to stop the ball at the rim is always a benefit in today’s NBA where that is becoming more and more rare.

7. The end of the Tim Duncan: If somehow a shortened season happens, then forget all of this about him. He’ll be ready to go next year and in a leading fashion unlike he has served in the last few years most likely, due to not having to save himself for as many games. However, if this lasts over a full season, then what’s left of Timmy could be lost in time, as he definitely has a very short leash left in his reserves.

With a prolonged lockout, the chances of more Duncan become slimmer and slimmer.

6. Boost to the College Game…at the right time: Basketball fans are going to get hungry for the game. And while there are some hardcore NBA fans who could care less about the college game at all, by the time February comes around and there is no All-Star game, they thirst for some kind of basketball will be overwhelming, and the turn will go back to the college courts. With more talent returning to school this season than in any other recent season (largely because this now real lockout was looming), the college game should be better than it has been in many years.

Teams like North Carolina are returning extra talent this year, and could be the stars of the basketball universe next year.

5. Double the kids: Speaking of the youth, there could be a double dose of that hitting the league at once if this lasts into next summer. Harrison Barnes, Anthony Davis or Perry Jones could be joining Kyrie Irving as a double debuting #1 pick next year. Take the NHL for example: when their season was missed in 2004-05 they had a totally open Lottery with position based on most frequent times choosing #1 and Playoff appearances over the last three years. This would be really bad for the Cavs, but could spell money for the Clippers, Wizards and Timberwolves of the world. At any rate, that could raise the comp for Rookie of the Year to an epic level…whenever it may be competed for.

4. Kobe’s run up the record books: He reaching rarefied air in the NBA record books, but he’s also 14 years in and at over 48,000 minutes played at the demanding guard position. So while time isn’t over yet, it’s definitely nowhere near endless anymore. He just had plasma therapy done on his knee and it is the third procedure within the last year to ease what has become a constant issue for him. #24 would be best served by not having any of his time wasted away from being on the court. Plus, he’ll be charged with rallying what will be a much different Laker club around himself, and having the certainty of when he’ll need to take to that task would definitely help.

3. The balance of power in the East: The East will look really different in one way or another when this is all resolved, and either way it won’t end up like it was projected to before the books were opened and revised. The Knicks attempt at following the Heat’s talent stocking model will probably be capped (no pun intended) at Carmelo and Amare. The Heat themselves may even have to drop one of their marquee names (bye Bosh). The Celtics will feel the burn of the sands of time more than any other club that isn’t based out of San Antonio. They were biding their time already with the Big Three, and they are the only contender in the division that is pushing for the title with a completely past their prime core. Either way, the future is looking good for teams that are already set.

2. The Biggest Olympics since ’92: If no basketball happens until the Olympic tip-off in July 2012, it will be the most anticipated moment in U.S. basketball in a long time. It will be a matter of national pride on the biggest stage and the return of NBA ballers of the highest caliber. It won’t be Jordan, Magic and Bird linking up for the first time and they definitely won’t be destroying the opponents 40 points, but it will definitely be Heaven on Basketball Earth to say the least.

These guys won't be back when the Olympics tips off, but it could feel like it.

1. What really changes what would have been: The communist v. proletariat way the NBA was headed in is over. This could lead to a lot of “What if” scenarios along those lines to not happen, simply because how funds (and how much will be available) is simply an unknown. One thing that is for certain is the majority of NBA owners are going to do everything in their power to spread money out more even to ensure they don’t continue to lose on their investment (only seven teams made money a year ago). Also, the small market owners are going to see to it that it’s much, much harder for their franchise saviors to jump ship to more attractive teams and larger markets.

The post-lockout Chris Paul race could look much different than how it was looking beforehand.

The value of the dollar is going to be reshaped tremendously, and will likely favor keeping teams intact. So Dwight Howard to LA could get considerably tougher without the Lakers moving out nearly everything. The Knicks extra piece may not be Chris Paul or Deron Williams, and speaking of Williams, this could mean a definite stay in Jersey. Looking ahead at other guys not on contenders that could be looking to jump into future mixes such as Kevin Love and Blake Griffin, it won’t be as easy to go from the cellar to the penthouse, and a promotion up the ladder of success may stop with the Orlandos, Indianas and Houstons of the world.

Overall, the times are changing, both the past is very subject to the future.

If you’re a fan of big names and surefire superstars running out their first blocks in the NBA, this draft isn’t for you. However, if following the most wide open NBA debut night in many, many years intrigues you, this is a great year. The talent pool for tonight’s NBA Draft is devoid of any John Wall, Blake Griffin or Derrick Rose type of definite impact debuts, but there is a ton of movement around a group of well known college stars that makes this one of the NBA’s best soap opera nights in sometime.

From the Cavaliers having to make not one, but two, tough calls in rebuilding their team early in the night, to mixture of “known”, by name only, college ballers being evaluated nearly equally with international guys, theres a lot of everything here. So before passing judgement or being disappointed by no one player that is already a superstar in a league he hasn’t played in yet, take time and look around what may be one of the purest drafts of all-time.

Irving brings a short resume to a spot with long expectations if his name leads off this draft.

No player has ever earned any top billing in the NBA before they step foot on it’s court. And at least with this year’s class, their image can only go up. Here is my take on what goes best for each club,  with a mixture of what fits, what’s the rumors and where their talent says they should land.

 

1. CAVS: Kyrie Irving-PG-Duke

In today’s NBA, a point guard is the quickest route to turning a franchise’s fortune, outside of a once in a generation-type talent to build around. Well since they lost one of those, and felt the immediate effects, they’ll go around the safest way to build up a franchise otherwise. Forget the Baron Davis is already there talk, if he was so good the Clippers wouldn’t have traded him (and this pick) just to move him out. Having a definite floor leader to influence the game and build around is a solid way to head back up the road to respectability, and Irving is the most balanced option in this year’s pool.

2. T-WOLVES: Derrick Williams-PF-Arizona

Williams is a great talent that can contribute in multiple ways from day one. However, exactly how (and where) he does that is uncertain. What is certain is that he puts the Wolves in a tight spot of needing to add the most talent possible, but having that talent be at a position they are relatively set at already. He could be an insurance item in the case of Kevin Love leaving town, or this year’s Derrick Favors (a high talent selection held on until the right deal presents itself…either tonight or after the season starts).

Whether it is about his position or even his city after being drafted, where he fits has been Williams' biggest question mark.

3. Jazz: Enes Kanter-C-Turkey

More than just a few guys help the Jazz here, as they could use a point guard and some help on the wing. However, taking Kanter gives them something that won’t be available when they pick again at number 12: a solid middle piece to an impressive collection of front court talent.

4. CAVS: Tristan Thompson-PF-Texas

Toughest call yet, and the first true wild card of the draft. Evidently the Cavs love seven footer Jonas Valanciunas here, but he won’t be available to play next year in the NBA, and the Cavs need as much immediate help as possible. They worked on Thompson again recently and liked what they saw, so the move to add another long, athletic talent around the rim could land on him. Since they have said they’ll be staying here, the options could be limited just to him at this point. A few other guys make a bit more sense to go with what they want to build around already though.

5. RAPTORS: Brandon Knight-PG-Kentucky

This a major find here for Toronto. He is a legit play creator that can function in both positions in the back court and would give them an impressive young, athletic backcourt along with Demar DeRozan. They need a body in the post that’s inclined to improve their terrible defense, but passing on Knight’s talent isn’t an option here.

Knight looks to follow in the footsteps of his Kentucky PG predecessor John Wall as a quick impact NBAer.

6. WIZARDS: Jan Vesely-SF-Czech Republic

Vesley gives them a long athletic finisher that can run the floor and continue to better that fast break approach the Wizards have committed to building around John Wall. They need help under the rim, but waiting on Valanciunas isn’t an option here and they love what Vesley brings to the table on potential as a perimeter defender as well.

7. KINGS: Kwahi Leonard-SF-San Diego St.

Tough call here, as they are in need of a point guard since Tyreke Evans is moving off the ball next season and there are several talented ones on the board still. However, Leonard brings an athletic, versatile forward that adds another running mate with Evans in their attack and has the skill to become one of the better shot blocking wings in the League. Management loves Jimmer though, and that could overrule here.

8. PISTONS: Jonas Valanciunas-C-Lithuania

A top-3 talent with plenty of strings attached. No team wants to go through a Rubio situation and while Valanciunas’ debut is guaranteed to only last a year, all of these teams need help yesterday. The Pistons are looking for a defensive talent to pair with Greg Monroe around the rim, and Valanciunas’ promise may be worth the wait. This could be a hold pick for the Rockets as well, as they are in love with the Lithuanian big man and are willing to give up several picks to select him.

The impact won't be immediate, but Valanciunas is out to prove he is worth the wait.

9. BOBCATS: Chris Singleton-SF-Florida St.

The Bobcats need everything they lost when Gerald Wallace was shipped away, and Singleton brings many of those same tools to the table. He isn’t the freakish athlete Wallace is, but he is the best defender in the draft and is also quite familiar with coach Leonard Hamilton from college.

10. BUCKS: Alec Burks-SG-Colorado

The Bucks need another attacker on the wing, and Burks is the most aggressive scorer in a weak shooting guard class this year. His shot needs to come a long way, but he can flat score and gets to the rim and free throw line. Instant offense.

11. WARRIORS: Klay Thompson-SG-Washington State

Jerry West likes smart players, and Thompson is that. He is capable of playing anywhere from the 3 to the 1, and gives the Warriors options as they reshape and balance out their roster under their new regime. An athletic big man could also be in play here.

12. JAZZ: Jimmer Fredette-PG-BYU

This is part need pick and part fan pick. Jimmer is a legend in Utah and he is also instant offense for a team that needs to get more off it’s bench. Being paired with Devin Harris for now at the one gives him time to grow, and gives Jazz fans a reason to get excited.

13. SUNS: Marcus Morris-PF-Kansas

The Suns brought nothing under the rim that could provide any sort of threat around the rim after Amare Stoudemire left for New York, and they suffered last year because of it. Morris is a solid big that does some of everything, and while he’ll never be the All-Star athlete that preceded him, he does give the Suns a much need boost in the toughness department.

14. ROCKETS: Nikola Vucevic-C-USC

The Rockets need size around the rim and Vucevic is the last of the legit true centers in this draft. There’s more talent available, but this is a pick to fit and the Rockets learned how small they are last year with Yao out the mix. He’d be one of the quicker to start players in the Draft landing here.

15. PACERS: Kemba Walker-PG-UConn

And the slide ends here. Kemba could take a major hit if the Kings pass on him or another team doesn’t stray far from their needs to snatch him before he gets here. The Pacers made the move to solidify their PG situation with Darren Collison last year, but landing Kemba gives them another offensive threat from the point, which they lacked for a long time.

Walker brings a big name to the Draft, but could he be in for a big slide too?

16. SIXERS: Bismark Biyombo-PF-Congo

The biggest unknown in the field and will be tempting to a number of teams long before this point, starting with the Raptors at 5. However, with so little for sure talent in this year’s pool, some teams may pass on him due to concerns about him having any offensive potential at all. However, he can bang under the rim and he will add a body, which is exactly what the Sixer need to mix in.

17. KNICKS: Kenneth Faried-PF-Morehead St.

The Knicks need defense anyway they can get it, and Faried is exactly the type of guy they need. He can match up with either forward position and has a strong motor around the rim and blocking shots. He is exactly the type of defensively inspired player they need.

18. WIZARDS: Jordan Hamilton-SF-Texas

A long, rangy shooter that can step into the shoes of Rashard Lewis. Hamilton gives the Wizards the ability to stretch the court more and could live on kick outs from Wall alone.

19. BOBCATS: Markieff Morris-PF-Kansas

The Bobcats need more presence around the rim and guys that are able to rebound. The other Morris twin gives them that and is experienced and ready to go now.

20. TIMBERWOLVES: Iman Shumpert-SG-Georgia Tech

A hot rising name in the last few days before the Draft, and there are a number of teams that are interested in him before this point. If he lasts this long he makes great sense for the Timberwolves, who have an abundance of young offensive-minded talent, but need a defense first grinder as well. Shumpert is that guy, and can guard either position in the backcourt.

21. BLAZERS: Tobias Harris-PF-Tennessee

The Blazers need more help on defense around the rim, but passing on Harris may be too hard to do. He can play either forward position and gives the Blazers another tall forward that can stretch the floor with his jumper. Taking a combo guard could be the order of the day here too.

22. Nuggets: Marshon Brooks-SG-Providence

Brooks is a multi-talented guard that can slide between shooting and point guard with little effort. Since J.R. Smith most likely will not be returning and Raymond Felton could be on the move, he fits in in a number of ways here.

23. ROCKETS: Dontas Motiejunas-PF-Lithuania

Once again, more size for a team that needs it, but this time with an offensive touch. While the Rockets could be packaging this pick to move up for his countryman Jonas Valanciunas, if they don’t make that move they don’t lose out completely landing this 19 year old with definite offensive skill to be developed.

24. THUNDER: Kyle Singler-SF-Duke

Singler is just a solid, do everything needed type and fits in well with the Thunder, who don’t have one glaring need. They are said to be in love with his work ethic and ability to do what is needed between the lines. We’ve seen his kind before, and if given a manageable role, he’ll be a good asset.

25. CELTICS: Tyler Honeycutt-SF-UCLA

The Celtics are building up their bench for the soon-t0-come roster turnover due to the age of their stars, and having Honeycutt on staff helps them out at either the SF or SG spot down the road. It’s all about versatility here.

26. MAVERICKS: Reggie Jackson-PG-Boston College

Jackson hasn’t worked out once due to a knee injury suffered just before Draft camps and workouts began, but for a team that can afford to take a risk to get back a sure fire contributer, he’s a good pick. The Mavs have the depth in the backcourt to support such a pick and he makes some of their impending free agent decisions a bit easier to confront.

27. NETS: Jimmy Butler-SF-Marquette

The Nets are weak on the wings, and need a solid overall player that can step in and help immediately. Butler is that guy and can knock down the long range shot at a plus rate as well.

28. BULLS: Jajuan Johnson-PF-Purdue

Another body never hurts, and Johnson is an experience veteran that is committed to defense around the rim and is an athletic finisher to boot. He fits in perfectly with what the Bulls emphasize.

29. SPURS: Nikola Mirotic-SF-Serbia

The Spurs collapse at the end of the season and rapidly aged roster says on the surface that they need to get an immediate youth boost with this pick, but if they are anything as a franchise it’s patient and Mirotic is an investment in that philosophy. He won’t be available to come to the NBA for at least two years, but could be well worth the wait (he’d be approaching Lottery consideration if he was free to play next year) and would give the Spurs yet another international first round theft.

30. BULLS: Nolan Smith-PG-Duke

Smith is a polished contributor and ACC Player of the Year that proved over the course of his career at Duke that he was capable of filling any role needed, including defense first guard, to off ball shooter to offensive center piece. He is perfect for a Chicago team that needs help at both guard spots off the bench and needs a steady ball handler behind Derrick Rose.

The word following up the NBA Finals hasn’t been in the spirit of celebrating the victors; rather it has been towards the promise unfilled by one LeBron James of southern Florida fame. There has been a world of talk and example made about his shortcomings, and I’ve already addressed that here, so I wont’ go any further into that. Rather lets take a look back at some the fails that took place over the course of the entire season here.

Jennings couldn't recapture his rookie magic, and the Bucks couldn't continue to grow either.

From the a much discussed free agent carnival in the summer of ’10, all the way through a quite unpredictable season on the court, the 2010-11 NBA was full of all sorts of highs and lows, deliveries on promise and M.I.A. missions as well. While there were a few teams and players that came up short on what was called for them this year (the Bucks, Rockets, David Lee and Deron Williams/Jerry Sloan to mention a few), below are what I see as being the biggest “WTF?” moments and performances of the season. On Monday, we’ll take a look at the biggest surprises and overachievers from the year past as CSP moves into NBA Draft week….and perhaps some off court struggles that could be the #1 moment on this list next year.

 

5. Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers seemed like they were on cruise control all season and never really showed the flare to have the push that everybody was waiting to see out of them. Even Kobe kind of seem to go through the motions this year (which still lead to him being a top 5 MVP finalist). In the end, they caught a sweep in the Western Semifinals, and ended it in a classless manner that proved they were only the team they had been the previous two seasons in appearance only.

In the end, even Bryant couldn't will his Lakers to finding their stride for long this year.

4. Milwaukee Bucks: This was a team a year ago that made a surprisingly strong push behind Brandon Jennings major debut, and even touched the playoffs after some good trade deadline moves around John Salmons. However, a year later after adding to that core and getting a monster year out of Andrew Bogut around the rim, they got worse in a division that got much worse too…very strange.

3. Carlos Boozer: He was brought in to give the Bulls a front court scoring threat for the first time since Elton Brand was jettisoned, but often was more obstacle that asset. Running in the pick and roll based attack Jerry Sloan deployed in Utah, his jump shot based offense was perfect, but he was asked to create more of his own offense this year and struggled to do so against the variety of athletic forwards in the East. Either the Bulls have to tweak their attack or Boozer has to find a way to get new openings because he wasn’t brought over for 17 points and 9 rebounds a night.

2. San Antonio Spurs: It’s rare that you see a veteran team just absolutely lose their way like the Spurs did down the stretch; let alone one that has the championship pedigree this squad does. The Spurs raced out to what remained an insurmountable start to be the best club in the West all season. They lost 21 games on the season, but 10 of them came after March 1. By March that was just by record as they began a collapse that followed them into the Playoffs and showed them an early door. What’s more alarming, yet shouldn’t be surprising, is that the young Grizzlies pushed them to several clutch moments in their first round matchup that should have favored the Spurs, but they couldn’t capitalize on them and became the third #1 seed to lose in the first round ever. Never has a team began to look it’s age so quickly over the course of a season.

1. The 2010 Draft Class: Blake Griffin’s success in his debut masked the fact that his fellow rookies (that he wasn’t even drafted with mind you) did little to nothing. John Wall had a solid debut and shows exactly what he can be for the Wizards, but the rest of the group? It was nothing to write home about if you like to give good news. Of the All-Rookie team, Gary Neal was a free agent signing and Landry Fields was a second rounder. Of all Draft picks from last April, only Wall and DeMarcus Cousins managed to average double figures. While it’s still early to doom them to complete Bustville, they could be the first leg to the worst back to back years of new talent in NBA History. Stay tuned.

Wall showed up all season in D.C., but the rest of his fellow true rooks didn't have the best attendance.

 

 

Don’t see the biggest failure of the season from your seat here? Somebody taking an extra amount of heat they don’t need here? Comment and let me know. Also follow-up over on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan AND @STLSport360

NBA season is a wrap, but taking a look ahead is never a bad thing. So I’m taking in some of the best questions I got sent in from Twitter in the last few days and answering them here today. I may do this again, especially around Draft time next week, so if you have more you want to discuss here in the CHEAP SEATS, shoot me a Tweet over at @CheapSeatFan and we’ll chop it up here.

Until then, let’s get into it.

 

WAS THE MAVERICKS RUN A “ONE AND DONE”?

Hard to say, it will be struggle to get back to that level again for a few reasons. Number one is that they are in the West, and coming out of a division where the eight seed could have nearly 50 wins is a beast. Also they have to resign a lot of their key pieces (Chandler, Barea, Butler, Stevenson, Stojakovic), and coming off of a championship run, they’ll be able to command larger salary demands than usual. Plus the core of Nowitzki, Kidd and Terry are all over 30 and this could have been their great motivated push to justify their careers.

The Mavs took the title in the first year of Dirk's new contract...and perhaps second career peak.

However, it’s always easier to say why it can’t be than why it can. While Dirk’s show was often the big attraction, he Mavs playoff run was the finest overall team efforts in NBA history. The Detroit Pistons of the mid-00’s were written off after claiming their title over the highly favored Lakers, yet that jump started a 5 year run of being one of the best overall teams in basketball. These Mavs display all of those same elements right now. The chemistry this team displayed won’t disappear overnight, and Dirk seems to have found a second prime out of nowhere. They already aren’t the favorites in their own division in Vegas for next year already, so one of the great underrated teams ever already has another chip in place to knock off again.

 

 

WAS THAT AS GOOD AS THE MIAMI HEAT CAN BE?

Actually from a supporting cast standpoint, this was the worst team they’ll be able to field this year….maybe. Under the current (yet very likely to change) salary cap structure, they’ll have more money under the mid-level exception to add greater talent to their long-term core of LeBron/Wade/Bosh/Haslem/Anthony/Miller.

Everything around just how this team will be able to proceed, however, is up in air, as they have more money committed longer than any other club ($70 million through 2013-14), but they also will be in the position of dropping a lot of dead weight from their roster as well immediately. They may not bring back anybody from the majority of their bench, and if nothing else, they may can adjust and make another run with some more useful pieces acquired with the free money and cap alignment they could have. However, for a team that took a long time to mesh after a complete face lift a year ago, bringing in another vastly different cast could be a major concern once again. The soap opera continues on Days of the Heat…

 

CAN MIKE BROWN LAUNCH THE  LAKERS INTO ANOTHER RUN?

I’ve said it on repeat, but I’ll do it again: there’s no job I would’ve wanted less than this one. The Lakers have a world of expectation that’s in place regardless, but after a season that ended with a sweep to conclude their three consecutive trips to the Finals, the retirement of the greatest coach ever and not to forget the ugly fashion surrounding it all, there’s a lot of clean up that needs to be done here. This all hinges on if Kobe accepts a coach he apparently didn’t favor having guide him, if the team makes the necessary additions to its structure (getting faster and adding some shooters) and if they can synthesize all of this at once. Then yeah, Mike Brown can do it. But best of luck not aging double time in the process my man.

 

WHAT KIND OF IMPACT CAN RICKY RUBIO MAKE?

All eyes will meet Rubio from the moment he takes controls of an NBA game for the first time.

Well it’s the  Minnesota Timberwolves, so any type of boost offers some sort of hope. As for now, the young Spanish sensation has the brightest spotlight of any new NBA-er shining over him. Rubio has digressed some evidently since being the best non-American performer in the 2008 Olympics, but he also hasn’t played with players the caliber of even what the Wolves offer in the NBA to help him capitalize on greatest gift: making himself better by making others better. His fellow draft mate in 2009, Johnny Flynn hasn’t panned out and been able to lead the Wolves to more than 32 wins over the last 2 years, but they probably have more talent on their roster now than they have since Kevin Garnett was at the driver’s wheel, and adding a legit play creating PG to the mix is needed here.

As with all foreign guys, especially young ones, the potential for being lost in translation is always there. And despite his heavy experience at the pro level already, Rubio is still only 20 years old. However, he brings a level of professional familiarity at that age that many other young PG’s that have been saddled with franchises in bad shape upon their NBA debuts (see Wall, John and Rose, Derrick) did not have yet. Plus, in a rare wild card scenario, he’ll be spending time with the perfect example of what NOT to do every day after coming over from Europe with some amazing expectations: Darko Milicic. So maybe it’s not too late for Darko to give something back to the league…maybe. Praise Joe Dumars.

 

ARE THERE ANY FREE AGENTS THAT CAN CHANGE A TEAM LIKE LAST YEAR’S GROUP?

None. Not one whatsoever. And with the entire financial picture of the NBA up for redefinition as well, we could be in store for seeing a holding pattern on all major signings, similar to what is happening in the NFL right now. The top unrestricted, completely available guys on the market are Tyson Chandler, Jamal Crawford, Caron Butler, JJ Barea, J.R. Smith, Shane Battier, Andrei Kirilenko and the high risk, “are you sure about this?” tandem of Yao Ming and Michael Redd. Other names that could throw their hats in the ring with termination options are Tim Duncan, David West, Nene and Shannon Brown.

Crawford is a definite scoring boost, but doesn't bring a franchise direction shift.

With the exception of Duncan (who is going nowhere…we’ve been here before), none of these guys can change the entire direction of team by himself. However, it is a good year for teams that need to pick up that one piece to get over the top. So for the Knicks, Bulls, Lakers, Thunder, Heat and Pacers of the world, it’s a great year, but not so much for any club looking to redefine themselves with one player. Whenever it gets to that point, which brings us to…

 

NBA LOCKOUT: What’s going on with the NBA finances and what’s it all going to lead up to?

The NBA is in a bad place right now financially, competitively and harmonically. There are a lot of things on the table that need some adjustment and all are coming to head at once. Some teams are losing their only attraction and therefore losing money. Other teams are gathering together much of each All-Star team in one place and in a way contracting the competition in the league. Other teams are laughing in the face of the league’s “salary cap” and going around it or flat out paying luxury taxes for going over, simply because they can afford to. Well a change is a-coming to the NBA, and it seems that one half is completely fine with holding off any more tip offs until it is resolved.

Cleveland's Dan Gilbert is one of several owners that are looking for a way for top talent to stay put.

One thing is for certain, the NBA will not go to full free market, Major League Baseball “buy what you can afford” method. And although they have what appears to be the most orderly method of managing team assets and spreading the wealth around now, recent trends have shown there is much more to it than meets the eyes. Peep:

Currently the NBA has no hard, absolute salary cap. In 2010-11, the cap was just over $58 million per team. While there is a penalty for going over it, there are plenty of ways to get around it. Mid-level exceptions allow players to be signed at the average NBA salary of all other players without it counting against the cap. Bi-annual exceptions can be spread across two years and used on multiple players. First round rookie signings don’t hit the cap. But it gets even more confusing that this: teams can absorb player salaries they trade for even if it takes them over the cap for a year (which makes the “sign-and-trade” deal so crafty) and a basic minimum salary can be signed if it takes a team over the cap, as long as it is for two years. There’s a lot going on here which makes the idea of a “salary cap” transparent as it gets.

Basically, the way things are right now, it’s not overly difficult to sign a few, high talent guys to massive contracts and then figure out ways to budget the rest of the team around them. Especially if the other players, who just want to be surrounded by those main talents, are willing to be creative with when and how they are compensated.

Many owners want to wipe this away and set a hard cap that has little wiggle room, which will keep players from having as many options on where to go get their money from. Which you can obviously see would be a problem from the player’s perspective. However, it could also be used retroactively to break apart high salary teams to a small number of players so that they could manage to field a full team (pay attention Heat and Laker fans), so it would end the potential of future alliances of superstars AND break apart the ones at work right now. Basically, the times are changing and nothing else will probably go into motion until they decide what time zone they want to work in now. We may need to start praying right now for next October.

 

One of the greatest NBA Finals is in the books, and the Dallas Mavericks finished up business in a manner that belies how competitive of a series it began as. By the second half of game 6, the Mavs were in sync so well that it seemed like the everything that left their hands was dropping straight in, “Pleasantville” style. There was so much to this series that it can’t possibly be summed in just a few sections here.

But here you have it, the CHEAP SEAT’S final word on what all took place between the Mavericks and Miami Heat, and why the name with the brightest lights means nothing if it doesn’t have something behind it.

In the end, the numbers game was too much to deny the Mavericks their first world title.

TRUTH #1-ALL FOR ONE, PLUS ONE: From the outset of these Finals, my word has been that the Mavericks where the better team, however overcoming the high ceiling All-Stars on Miami would be too much of a task. Well the last two games of the Finals proved the greatest truth of the NBA: superstars shine, but the better team always wins. In the course of this series both elements proved true on repeat, with the names on the marquee taking their time shining, but it took the total team K.O. that the Mavs gathered up that in the end made the series look like a major mismatch. This was the best total team win for the ring since the Detroit Pistons took out the Lakers in 2004. Simply put, 10 determined players with a mission will always beat out three high ceiling players every time. When you combine that with an amazing run by Dirk Nowitzki, they had every element needed to take the series. Most importantly, they And while nobody picked the Mavericks coming into the season, and even headed into this series, in the end it makes all the sense in the world why they are where they are now.

 

TRUTH #2-MIND OF MATTER, MATTERS: Outside of failures to protect leads or close out, the Heat on repeat defeated themselves in another way as well: they continued to feed the Mavericks with more and more reasons to want to beat them. There has been no team that has had a bigger target on its back this season, even the formerly defending champs in L.A. But what became increasingly evident and just became laughable in the end is that the Mavericks not only were not scared of the Heat, they were driven into not even respecting them. What’s the worst part about this is that it was created by the “team leaders” of the Heat in LeBron and Wade. The Mavericks stayed in their ears while they gave them their best shot, and took the slaps across the face like Hulk Hogan going into manic mode. It just made them stronger. Jason Terry, Shawn Marion and DeShawn Stevenson basically told LeBron he wasn’t going to beat them, and in the end, it seemed like they convinced him of just that.

Nowitzki used fewer words than his opponents, but turned theirs into his advantage.

And that plays into exactly what happened in the end: one half talked the walk…and then got walked all over. On the flipside, Dirk Nowitzki, the target of much of the antics and shenanigans around the series said little to nothing and just went to work. He followed that model all the way to the end of his work year and walked right off the floor after washing his hands of LeBron, Wade and their sideshow antics…and didn’t extend a hand to either after defeating them. The example for everything the Heat need to learn was right in their face the whole time, until he was done with them. Then he had no words for them, just a few more trophies and a winner’s legacy to redefine his career. Pay attention kids.

 

TRUTH #3-WHAT ARE WE WITNESSING? Inevitably, in the end it all comes back to LeBron. Such is his place in the game that he even takes the spotlight from one of the great Playoff performances ever from Dirk and one of the most impressive runs ever to a title by the Mavericks. What was proven without a doubt is that LeBron James is not ready to win right now. His debut trip to the Finals with a team designed from the floor up around him will be characterized by perfect non-attendance in the fourth quarter, a playing up off-court rumors and the largest overall fall off in points production from regular season to the Finals in NBA history (-8.9 points difference). He looked out of it, like he couldn’t bring together all of the skills that have twice made him the best player of the first 82, and worse…it looked like he didn’t know how nor want to even.

This series made me thinking about the part in Superman II when Superman lost all of his powers and got his lunch handed to him in the bar by some trucker guy. Even saw himself bleed for the first time. That’s what we just saw here with LeBron, he got put out on front street, tried to dig down and become the guy he thought he was, only to find out in a hurry he didn’t have it in him…and got flowed for six games in a very aggressive fashion, leaving all questions and no answers.

However, that same situation can play true to what could become, on a few different levels. LeBron can let this series give him the Clark Kent, or worse…Christopher Reeves treatment, and be beaten to crippled by the beating. Or he can gut down, learn something, realize what his potential is and grow up for the final time behind this loss. Superman went back, regained his poise and confidence in his skills and then and handled the guy that knocked him down before. He either will make folks “Witnesses” or continue to be one to everybody else making the name for themselves that he is supposed to be creating for himself.

LeBron has to learn from his many mistakes in the last two weeks to make the final jump to what he is supposed to be.

 

Sincerely,

A guy that wakes up and has his own set of problems, but doesn’t get folded in by them, Clark.

 

Follow me on Twitter for more on the NBA (maybe…if this isn’t the last game for a while) and more at @CheapSeatFan and @STLSport360

The most common prediction for this series I ran across was Heat in six. The way the Mavericks played last night, that may be the right prediction, with the wrong team attached. Coming into this series, no total team had played better in the Playoffs than Dallas, yet that form hadn’t found them in the Finals until last night. Every single element of the Mavs was clicking and when combined with Dirk Nowitzki continuing his tear through the nets, it buried the Heat consistently all night.

However, the biggest story line was the rebound of LeBron James from his drought the previous game. He did bounce back in an impressive overall fashion, however in the end he still wasn’t there to fend off the onslaught the Mavericks closed out with to put them ahead going into the final phase of these amazing Finals. Today in 3 Truths, what happened to revive the Mavericks and put them in place to pull off one of the most impressive team runs in NBA history, and why once again the Heat are left with way more unanswered questions than should even be able to be asked.

 

TRUTH #1-SOAP OPERA STARS: For as great of a series as this has been on the court, it’s been just as petty off the court. A very definition of a role player, DeShawn Stevenson, has been the biggest mouth in the series, discussing the actions of players that are at least three levels above whatever it is he stands for in the NBA. That never sets right with me, because it’s like children getting involved in grown folks business. Go sit in the other room and wait for Dirk to call you for dinner; you aren’t even capable of feeding yourself, so get out the kitchen.

Instead of doing the mocking, Wade and James are one game short of being on the receiving end now.

On the other hand, the exact opposite is happening on the other bench. The leaders of the Heat, in LeBron James and Dwayne Wade, are as focused on making a mockery of Dirk Nowitzki’s injury and the coverage it has received. Is this what they should really be focused on, while Wade is giving 1000% yet still barely winning when he does and LeBron coming off a tragically impotent performance? Also, yet again rumors of LeBron’s womenfolk going under (literally perhaps) and taking him along with it? All the Heat has in the end are these two, and since they already can’t get it together on the floor, making fun of a guy that’s having one of the greatest Playoff runs ever shouldn’t be on their list of things to do. Maybe one of them should step up like Chris Bosh or Udonis Haslem has in the final 20 seconds and to attempt to stop him. That would be a role more fitting of who they fancy themselves as instead of being court jesters…that are a win away from being the laughingstock of the NBA themselves.

 

TRUTH #2-ALL TOGETHER NOW: On the floor, something that was no laughing matter in Miami happened: Dallas owned every area of the floor. The Mavericks played their game completely for the first time in the series, and the results were clear. They walked away with the biggest win of any game thus far in the series, with every element of the team coming together. Dirk led the way as usual, but this time the scoring load was from just his responsibility. Jason Terry hit 20 points for the first time, but most importantly, his accuracy improved, especially from deep.

Terry's revival capped the Mavericks getting back to the form that landed them here.

Overall, 5 Mavs hit double figures, with Jason Kidd, Tyson Chandler and JJ Barea finally breaking out of a series long slump and regaining the form that made him a major x-factor in the Thunder series. This led the top scoring performance of the series, and when combined with superb defense all night, the Mavs played the best game either team has mustered the entire series. They used their last home game of the season as best as they possibly could and gained much needed momentum as they attempt to finish the series on the road.

 

TRUTH #3-DO FOR SELF: LeBron got numbers, as a triple-double is a triple-double, either way you slice it. But what still didn’t return was his assertiveness in getting them, especially while Dwyane Wade spent much of the second and third quarter in the locker room. The Heat needed him in attack mode, going after the rim like a pit bull after a crippled mailman. It never came; not when Wade was out, nor in during the fourth quarter where he was still but a “Witness” to the action himself.

LeBron's overall numbers improved, yet the song remains the same when the spotlight was at its brightest.

His great talent has always been that he can impact virtually every aspect of the game, however what is needed now is his to narrow that focus and put up serious points. Not on three pointers and fade aways, rather flying at the rim and getting to the emphasis points and/or free throws. He seems to think the flow of the series will come to him over time and he’ll find his way. Well in the course of waiting for that to find him, the Mavericks have taken control of it for themselves and now are on the verge of keeping it. LeBron would be best served by thinking of the “I” if he really wants to help the team…before it’s too late.

(LeBron got numbers…but they came on the outskirts…Wade came back…but it was awkward and too late….the Heat need LeBron to go against his focus on enabling some and going for the rim….Wade’s health needs it, he’s not that guy anymore)