NBA Trade Insanity

The NBA trade deadline is fast approaching and the action this year has been, absolutely and completely, insane. 

I cannot remember a year where GM’s and Owners came out and essentially said: “I know I am going to lose this guy in free agency in two years so I may as well trade him now.” 

The number of big trades has been astounding – and several have been sort of wild: Carmelo to NYC for the Knicks starting 4 minus Amare; Deron Williams to NJ for Devin Harris and Derrick Favors; “slimmish” Baron Davis to the Cavs for Mo Williams; Kendrick Perkins to OKC for Jeff Green…

The list goes on – OJ Mayo was (obviously) on the table for Memphis; Mike Miller – the fourth Heatle was out there for Miami; and we may still see more before the night is done.

I cannot remember a time when everyone was on the table.  You could tell me Chris Paul has been traded to the East and I would believe it.  You could tell me the Clippers gave away everything they had (minus Blake Griffin) to get Dwight Howard and are henceforth going to be known as “The Dunkers”.  Seriously, how cool would that be?  It is insane, and when you factor in the in-season trades we have already seen – including the mega deal Orlando pulled off to get Gilbert Arenas and saw Phoenix finish the dismantling of last year’s Western Conference Finals team – this season has been off the charts.  Some observations…

1) If the Knicks had known Deron Williams was on the table would they have gone after Melo with such intensity? – I think the answer is a resounding “no”.  DWill helps New York win in the long term and puts a fine cap on the best-point-guards-are-in-the-East-argument.  One league, the East, now holds the the majority of great young point guards (the only exclusions being Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul).  All-Star voting is going to be rather complicated next year because out of: Melo, Lebron, DWade, KG, Amare, DRose, Rondo, DWill, Dwight Howard only 5 players can start.  Melo may have held his last starting all-star spot for a long while (maybe now Steve Nash and his 11 assists a game with comatose Vince Carter can make the all-star team).  However, the point remains: DWill makes the Knicks a much better team than Melo.  The Knicks now have a surplus of one-dimensional scorers with little or no versatility.  There will be trouble between Melo and Amare and there will be trouble soon.  Amare thinks this is his team, Melo knows it is his.  NYC may not be big enough for this ego clash.  Unlike the Heat, no one is talking sacrifices for titles – this was blatently all about the money move for Melo.  DWill would have had Amare to feed the ball to, and would have been able to handle the Amare angle because of their radically different positions and styles.  Honestly, if I am D’Antoni I am kicking myself for not knowing DWill (and his pretty good playoff record and ability to play with headcase forwards – see Boozer: Carlos) was out there for less than Melo.  Ouch.

2) Will the West to East Talent Drive ever go the other way? – Dwight Howard has already been rumored to want to play in LA.  Given the trade insanity I would not have been surprised if Orlando dynamited their team for the second time this season and traded him away.  They won’t (I think…) but the point is I believe it is possible.   The West is quickly opening up – Denver and Utah are now in rebuilding mode, and the Spurs and Lakers are getting older.  Now that there has been a talent migration, will OKC become the default champ?  Will the Clippers have a chance if they can pull in some more talent now that they have gotten rid of Baron Davis’s horrific contract?  I want to see an East – West rivalry for my Heat, not see them get bloodied in the East playoffs before destroying some West Champ pushover.

3) Baron Davis’s career was killed today – We may as well write his obituary now: his career and interest in basketball died today.  All he wanted was to play on a contender and as soon as his beloved LA Clippers turned into a respectable franchise with an actual future they shipped him to Cleveland.  He was getting into shape (sort of) and he cared about basketball again.  Now, he will balloon to 300 pounds and lead the NBA’s worst team.  For a guy this talented, and lazy, it is over.  RIP Baron Davis’s career.

4) Pokhorov has some game – The new Nets owner proved a true magician by keeping everyone distracted with one hand and the Melo card, while with his left he was pulling the Ace (DWill) out of the deck and dropping it into his lap for later.  Amazing that with Melo in play for them, the Nets end up with the true prize: one of the top three point guards in the league for a fraction of what they would have given up to the Nuggets.

5) Teams are sending a clear message about being held hostage – Many watched with growing horror as Melo destroyed the Nuggets season.  It started off like the original Saw where you felt it may not be too bad, and then around mid-movie it just becomes so horrificly tense it is unbearable.  Melo sort of made me feel that way as I watched him tell himself and anyone who would listen that he was not Lebron and he would never have a “decision”.  Then, he went out and did something, much, much worse.  LBJ never destroyed his team for a season for his own selfish demands.  Melo did and the Knicks (and other suitors) should have taken careful notes.  He will do it again.  Horrible, and truly worse than the decision (which now kind of looks quick and decisive in comparison).   GM’s do not want to see it again – DWill was shipped for that reason and I would not have been surprised if others had joined him in a “I want to get something” exodus.  Smart move on everyone’s part…except DWill who is now stuck in New Jersey. 

What do you think of NBA trade Insanity?

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Miami Thrice Title Quest Diary – February 14, 2011

For the third time this season the Boston Celtics overcame a late Miami rally to secure their place as the team to beat in the East. 

This was Miami’s game – this should have been Miami’s game and yet time and again they gave away the victory with sloppy play.  Boston  owned them in the first game of the season at the Garden when the Heatles had no idea how to play together.  In Miami, it was similiar but a little bit better.  This game?  This time it was supposed to be Miami that rose up and took the victory, seizing the mantle as best in the East. 

It makes complete sense on paper – Miami has seemingly never played better, and are coming together as a unit like  never before.  This seemed to be the perfect time for them to play a banged up Boston team that was lacking depth in the middle of the floor.  For the record, I thought Miami was going to pull it out.  Even when they were down in the third quarter, I kept thinking, “They can pull this out, Chris Bosh has been unconcious from the elbow and the Celts are just challenging him to beat them and he is going to.”  Lebron started to pick it up and Wade…

Well, if nothing else, Boston and Miami’s three game series this season has elevated Ray Allen to near mythical status for me.  Remember the job he did on Kobe in the finals last year?  The whole 6-24 game?  That is why I was horribly mistaken when I left Ray Allen off my list of “For-Sure Hall of Famers”.  After watching him manhandle DWade for the entire game I definitely have to atone for the error of my ways in recognizing Allen’s brilliance.  Wade’s 3 games against Boston:

Game 1 – 4 of 16 shooting / 13 points / 4 rebounds / 4 assists / 6 turnovers

Game 2 – 2 of 12 shooting / 8 points / 1 rebound / 3 assists / 6 turnovers

Game 3 – 6 of 17 shooting / 16 points / 5 rebounds / 4 assists / 6 turnovers

Overall V. Boston: 12 of 45 (26%) / 37 points / 10 rebounds / 11 assists / 18 turnovers

While Wade has been atrocious versus Boston, most of the credit has to go to Allen.  Why he does not get more credit as one of the best defenders in the league I will never know.  All he has done in the past twelve months is hold Kobe Bryant to 37% shooting in the Finals, and then virtually hold every 6’4 – 6’7 guard to a horrible game ever since.  While Allen cannot quite defend a guy like Lebron (too strong) his feat is pretty remarkable.  I would have lambasted Wade even more were it not for his absolute destruction of Glen “Big Baby” Davis on the game’s final play.  That was how much Wade wanted to win: he laid Big Baby out – almost like a football hit where a defender gets a penalty for taking down a defensless reciever (Watch the video below at the 3:11 mark).  This of course after he had earlier tangled with Kevin Garnett, and become increasingly frustrated by the sublime defense of Allen. 

Otherwise, could you possibly believe that the Heat could hold Paul Pierce to the single worst day of his career (0-10) and still lose?  Not a chance!  Yet, the Heatles found a way (final game tying attempt for Mike Miller in his career as a member of the Miami Heat).  Lebron played pretty well, but could not sink the free throw to tie the game.  However, in a play that displayed his ridiculous skill yet again, he nearly made up for it with a “Larry Bird on Isiah Thomas-esque” steal of the inbounds pass.  Lebron wanted this game, Chris Bosh wanted this game and no one wanted it more than DWade.  The Heat desperately wanted to get the Celtic monkey off their back before they have to head into an apocalyptic playoff series with them.  Yet, once again the Celts came away with the victory and it seems like they have some kind of psychological advantage that they just keep using to dominate the Heat. 

What does Miami have to do to beat the Celts?

1) Feed Lebron and Chris Bosh – Bosh was probably the most abused Heatle during the first couple games and he responded in a big way in game 3 by going 8 of 11 and leading the way offensively.  KG and the Celts challenged him to beat them and he rarely missed his 15-18 foot jumper.  Bosh was on fire, and every time Lebron fed him it was a rewarding experience.  Wade on the other hand, could not get loose and his struggles pulled the team back.  Lebron was, in the fourth quarter, virtually unguardable and he sank everything he took.  When he or Bosh get hot like that, Wade has to recognize his limitations and not attempt to shoot his way out of it.  DWade definitely took some positive steps in the fourth as he laid one devestating screen after another for his teammates.  At the end of the game, i thought, “that is what champions do, this can be a positive experience for Miami”.   

2) Play Four Quarters of Defense! – In the third quarter, Miami surrendered a 20 – 3 run.  In the fourth quarter, Boston scored 11 points.  What was the deal with the breakdown?  For one of the best defensive teams in the league, Miami has stretches where they appear to just give points away.  Are they worried their victories will get too out of hand?  Could the Heatles be concerned they are going to be bored blowing teams out every night?  Seriously, Heat, hold the line for 48 minutes. 

3) Get in the Celtics Heads – The Celts hold the mind-games advantage thus far and Miami definitely needs to get into that racket.  What about taunting Paul Pierce about his horrific game?  What about calling KG a fake tough guy?  What about hiding Ray Allen’s car keys so he can’t make it to the game? 

There have been other, somewhat troubling Miami developments.  I have held off until this point in the season on my varied concerns.  As long as the team was winning and still building chemistry I held off, but…there are 30 games left.  The playoffs are approaching very quickly and I do not know if the Heat are ready. 

The Heat need to start destroying teams.

There, I have said it.  Miami seems to play to the level of the team they are against.  I am sick of it.  I want to see them absolutely crush people from the first quarter all the way through the fourth.  Their slow starts have allowed some terrible teams to hang around way too long.  Even when they are up big they seem to relax to the point that they allow sub-.500 teams to make the games close.  Blow someone out for crying out loud!   Against Orlando, Lebron James had 51 points and at one point they led by 20…and they still only won by 4!  For a great defensive team, the games are much closer than they need to be.  Miami has only won a few games decided by 5 or less, obviously this will become increasingly important in the playoffs.  Four quarters of defense boys, four quarters.

Additionally – Mike Miller has to bury that shot against Boston.  Lebron drew three defenders in, DWade crushed Big Baby and KG was miles away (however, he should not even have been on the court after he should have fouled out a few moments earlier after nearly tackling LBJ when he drove to the rim) and Miller had a wide-open three.  That is the shot he signed a five year contract to hit;  he bricked it.  How badly did Wade want to win?  The game’s final image was of him rising above the entire floor and nearly tomahawking a sensational dunk off the Miller miss – this after the aforementioned assault on Big Baby which the police may wish to investigate. 

Another troubling development has been the trading of big games by Wade and James.  It seems like they are once again struggling to get into sync at the same time.  Against Boston they moved the ball well, but Wade seemed like an afterthought due to the shutdown D by Allen.  When that kind of game happens I am at least glad that the Miami Thrice superstars have begun to recognize their limitations and the abilities of their teammates.  They can go 6 for 24 and still win!   It is not like the old days of “anything you can do…” but I still want to see more of Wade and James feeding off one another.   

So, come on Miami, and blow someone out.  I am still waiting for the Big Three to outscore an opponent by themselves and it would be great if they could take out all their Boston frustrations on the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday.  How about it guys?  LBJ goes for 40, Wade for 30 and Bosh for 25?  That would probably be enough, but only if it leads to a thirty point beatdown. 

 Miami needs to look like the legit #1 seed in the East, but more than that, they need to earn the honor.  The Celtics, Bulls, Spurs and Lakers all loom in the back third of the season – Miami needs to take them all down, convincingly, to ride into the playoffs on enough of a high to carry them through to the title in June.

Random Sports Thoughts…

Here are some sports related thoughts – none of them long enough to justify their own post…

1) Melo the Lakers – These rumors of a “who wants Melo now” nature began to surface this week and chief among the participants were the LA Lakers.  The main trade bait the Lakers could offer, no not Kobe Bryant, is Andrew Bynum.  As in the same Andrew Bynum who has rarely played more than 40 (a generous number for him) games in any season and who has had about the same impact on the Lakers title runs as Luke Walton.  For the Lakers this makes absolute sense – Kobe can get a running mate to train in his own image to carry on the franchise’s winning ways.  In another year, Dwight Howard will come and join them and it might just be Lakers – Heat finals for the next decade.  For Denver?  This would be the single worst trade in the history of basketball.  They would give up a franchise guy for someone who has a surprising amount of trade value given his penchant for riding the bench and disappearing in clutch moments.  Will this trade happen?  My gut says no, simply because Kobe does not want to share the glory with anyone – especially with a guy who plays a very similiar game to his own. 

2) The Pack is Back! – A-Rodg and the Pack pulled off the Super Bowl win last Sunday and it was a nice victory.  Sure, it was close at the end and his recievers ruined what could have been an epic day but overall he is pretty happy.  Additionally, now Packers fans can forget all about Brett Favre and his embellished legacy.  They have A-Rodg and he is not going anywhere.  Best decision ever.  For the second straight year a rookie in the big game was able to pull out a tough victory.  For the second straight year a top-five QB choked in the closing minutes of the game with victory on the line.  Last year of course it was Manning and his ghastly INT that cost the Colts the game (one second, still enjoying this one); this year it was Big Ben just plain being off target all night long.  His throws sailed on him and when you need to drive down and win the game, that cannot happen.  As soon as the Steeler’s got the ball down by six, I turned to my dad and said, “now we get to witness the greatest drive in Super Bowl history and Ben’s assured status as one of the all-time greats”.  He agreed.  Then, it did not happen.  Not even close.  Instead we got to see an injured Charles Woodson raise his first trophy – few guys deserve it more. 

3) The Cavs – It really cannot get any worse for them can it?  Every game they lose is more MVP ammunition for their hated defector Lebron James. 

4) MVP Race NBA – What defines an MVP?  The term Most Valuable Player is a very loose one and often open to interpretation.  Is it Lebron, the hands down best player in the league who sacrificed (somewhat…) personal stats to team up with fellow superman Dwyane Wade?  Is it Steve Nash, who despite a rotating cast of characters (including a comatose Vince Carter) has managed to pull out 11.5 assists per game?  Is it Chris Paul who is carrying a horrible Hornets team to the playoffs at great personal cost?  Here is how it currently breaks down for me:

E) Kevin Durant – The emergence of Westbrook has hurt the NBA’s current prolific scorer.

D) Steve Nash – Wow, is all I can say.  He carries that team (and the now forever known as Comatose Vince Carter) far beyond it’s meager potential. 

C) Derrick Rose – The same could be said of Rose, who has lifted Chicago to the number 3 spot in the East with a lot of injuries.

B) Tie: Lebron James / Amare Stoudemire / Dwight Howard – Any one of them would be a deserving MVP (along with Rose) as each has carried their team to new heights.  LBJ though, has Wade; Howard’s team has struggled at times; ditto for Amare. 

A) Chris Paul – What he has done, despite being injured and with a knee that may fall off at any time is truly remarkable.  A true gamer and a gritty leader.

The Pick? The Pack!!!

The Super Bowl is here

Now the question that plagues all fans when their team is not in the game…who do I pick?  For many years I could not support the Packers in any way.  The main reason: Brett Favre.  I always disliked Favre and never enjoyed his “I can throw into triple coverage and throw a pick but it’s okay because my reciever will be blamed because I’m Brett Favre” attitude.  In his last Super Bowl Appearence in the late 90’s against Denver, I reverse cheered for him in order to secure a win for Elway and the Broncos. 

Most of Favre’s flaws were greatly exaggerated by his years in New York and Minnesota and a couple of my friend’s definitely agreed that his previous tendancies became evident when he was away from Green Bay.  Despite his enormous stats, Favre will always be overrated in my opinion – threw too many INT’s, too many years out of the playoffs, too many late game chokes in the playoffs.  Ultimately it was always tough for me to seperate Favre and the Packers. 

Today?  I will seperate them because there are a lot of guys I actually like on the team.  I think Aaron Rodgers has done incredibly leading the team out of the Favre era.  His 2011 playoffs has been a showcase in efficiency.  Another player I like: Charles Woodson who people tend to forget about.  He won the Defensive Player of the Year Award last season and he deserved it.  He remains one of the best corner’s of all time – I rank him ahead of Deion for his tackling / blitz versatility.  Additionally, my favorite college team, USC, has given the Pack Clay Matthews…and his hair.  Not to be outdone of course by AJ Hawk and his hair.  The Packers definitely win the Hair Battle in this Super Bowl.  Thus… 

My Pick: Packers by a TD

Miami Thrice Title Quest Diary – February 5, 2011

Once again, we are all witness.

Against Orlando last night, Lebron showed his ability to completely take over a basketball game and seemingly bend the events to his will.  I was pretty sure Dwyane Wade did not touch the ball for twenty minutes at one point and nor did he need to.   This was a vintage “‘Bron in beast mode” performance.  Everyone on the court just had to marvel at the ridiculous nature of what was transpiring. 

I was witness as well.  At halftime I happened to look up the game: LBJ has 29 points and was shooting 86% – most of them jumpers.  I turned it on because without a doubt I knew it was one of those games: like a “Jordan 60 point outburst”, or a “Kobe is taking over and going to hit fourteen straight” type of situation.  Sometimes it seems like Lebron just decides to do these things to amuse himself with a team that he has beef with.  When he gets angry at a team he has an ability to take it out on them with ease and score from literally anywhere on the floor at any time. 

Witness the following exhibits from earlier in the season (with the inclusion of my new TOTAL POINTS STAT or TP – a combination of points and assists, kind of like crediting a QB with total touchdowns…not an exact science as it does not take into account 3 point assists which is why it is always an inexact number, forgive me while I tinker and figure out how to subtract turnovers):

1) At Cleveland – Lebron explodes for an out of nowhere 38 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds (38 +8×2 = 54 TP)   to start off a streak in which the Heat win 21 of 22 games. 

2) At LA – Against a team most people picked to dominate Miami, Lebron throws down a triple double of  27 points, 10 assists and 11 rebounds (27 + 10 x 2 = 47 TP). 

3) At Orlando – The Magic were one of the teams to continually badmouth Miami Thrice and they paid for it.  Lebron took them for 51 points (the first player to do so in more than 1,000 games) 11 rebounds and 8 assists (67 TP!).  More impressive: only four players have ever had a 50 +/11/8 game – MJ, DWade, Kobe, Lebron.  Of that four only two have accomplished the feat in regulation time: Lebron and MJ.  At this point in his career could you picture Kobe scoring 51 while also dishing out at least 8 assists?  No chance.  Just witness:

While having Lebron angry and firing on all cylinders is key to the Heat’s eventual Championship success, just as important has been the stepping up by other players.  The added scoring depth of Mike Miller has been a new dimension for “the Heatles” to explore (they clearly have found their Ringo – expanding the analogy: LBJ = John, DWade = Paul, CB1 = George).  He has really been impressive in limited action for the Heat in that he displays a willingness to play wherever they need him and spot up for big shots.  Eddie House has also been impressive as a “do it all role player”, especially during a tough win at Oklahoma.  Why mention these role players?  These are exactly the kind of people you need on your team to win titles.  Role players have to be versatile enough to fill in the missing spaces that the stars are unable to – Miller and House have been more than willing and able to. 

Balance has been a key concept for the Heat all season and they finally seem to be finding it.  The team really struggled with one or two of their stars out but now that they have returned to play together they have been able to: close out a close game against a quality opponent (OKC); close out another tough game against a quality opponent in which LBJ goes off for 51(Orlando); score with a stunning display of balance (6 in double figures) during a game in which two players reach triple double or near triple double status (Wade with his first in 5 years, LBJ missed by a couple assists/rebounds).  The Oklahoma win showed that the Big Three have really begun to gel together and understand the role of winning in the place of personal stats.  Though the team still has a way to go in close games and at the end of nearly every game…this is a big improvement over the chaotic first couple of months of the season when everyone was taking turns and no one knew how to close out the fourth quarter.

Yet, Lebron’s 51 /11 / 8 against Orlando looms above it all.  As I have written before, with the Miami Heat it is easy to forget just how incredible Lebron is and how dominant he can be.  For one thing, this post was originally going to be about Cleveland and how even Lebron is beginning to feel sorry for their awful state of affairs.  I understand what it is like to lose 23 games straight and have no hope of anything better developing during the season- I watched the Vancouver Grizzlies do exactly the same thing.  There comes a fruitless frustration that mounts and mounts because while you want the team to build the correct way – through good draft picks and the development of young players – you also want to see them in playoffs.  The year after the Grizzlies departed for Memphis, they promptly drafted Pau Gasol and made the playoffs. 

I feel your pain Cav’s fans and this is a tough thing to acknowledge when you are a newborn Miami Heat fan.  I know what you are going through and I wish I could tell you it will get better.  The first thing: draft your Shareef Abdur-Rahim (the man who will go on the Vancouver Sports Mount Rushmore – alongside Trevor Linden, One of the Sedin’s who represents both of them, and Steve Nash because he is Canadian).  The second thing, be ready for a lot of lean years and know that your team will finally stop drafting people like Stromile Swift and Antonio Daniels after the team leaves the city. 

Cleveland’s fall from grace and NBA title contention also truly does reveal just how much of an impact Lebron can have on a team.  LBJ in Cleveland =  Cleveland is a title contender, he is the undisputed best player in the world and they win 60+ games every season.  Without him?  Cleveland loses 23 straight, looks headed for the top of the lottery, and could potentially lose 70 games this season.  Lebron is literally a one man title contender. 

For Miami the same is true: with him Miami is a title contender – without him they would struggle to make the second round of the playoffs (even with Bosh / Wade and a collection of stiffs), with him Miami will win 60 + games and be either the 1 or 2 seed in the playoffs – without they are in the 4-6 range.  With Miami, Lebron should win his third straight MVP-

Here’s why – is it more impressive for Lebron that his old team has 8 wins without him or that he has successfully maintained his status as alpha dog while playing with the second or third best player in the league?

When angry – as he was with Orlando, LA and Cleveland – Lebron takes his game to another place that few in NBA history have ever ventured and there is nothing anyone can do but watch in amazement.  He stole this post from Cleveland, just like he stole their season from them.  Hopefully LBJ can summon that same devestating anger when they play Boston or Chicago…and in the playoffs, because when he is on, the Miami Heat are near impossible to stop.