Posts Tagged ‘nba fans’

The Miami Heat Are Quickly Becoming the Bizarro NBA Team

July 17th, 2010

When ESPN columnist Bill Simmons wrote The Book of Basketball  he referenced the idea of the Secret, a team first mentality that helped players succeed. Few players have fully grasped the concept of the Secret, but all indications point towards a successful understanding of the concept by the new members of the Miami Heat.

This league that so many people have come to know and love has been traveling down the path towards selfishness for a long time.

Players are obsessed with being the focal point of a team, a me-first attitude that goes directly against every fiber of the Secret’s being.

Players want to make as much money as possible, deserting better teams, friends, and fans alike in the elusive pursuit of what was once called the “root of all evil.”

Lastly, players have turned the game into an offensive showcase of sorts; most players throw the word defense out of the dictionary. Defense isn’t as glamorous and self-serving as offense and thus defensive stoppers like Ron Artest have become few and far between.

While most of the league is relentlessly hurtling down that road to a me-first, money-first, offense-only destination, the Miami Heat are somehow using their bright red jerseys to become a traffic light in that road.

You could say that they have become the Bizarro NBA team. 

Let’s take a look at some things that have happened so far this offseason pertaining to NBA fans’ newest favorite team to hate.

Dwyane Wade actively recruited players to his team and those players weren’t just role players: they were fellow All Stars, one of whom won the MVP award last season.

Those two players, Chris Bosh and LeBron James, suppressed their egos and signed with the Heat, putting aside their need to be alone in the spotlight for a chance to win multiple championships.

All three of the aforementioned players took significantly less money. Therefore their new—or in Wade’s case, old—team would be able to sign better players than originally expected.

Next, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Mike Miller, and Udonis Haslem all signed with the Heat for less money than most expected to make room for even more players.

Everyone on the team is grasping the Secret.

Finally, with the offensive firepower on the court, James, Bosh, and Wade alike won’t have to expend quite as much energy. Previously on that side of the court they were carrying their teams on their backs with their scoring prowess. They can actually use some of that extra energy to be defensive stoppers.

We haven’t seen a team like this in quite some time. When the Celtics put together their Big Three, the egos all clashed at first. Up through the 2010 Playoffs, the Big Three still seemed resentful of the newest great player, Rajon Rondo.

It hasn’t been like that in South Beach yet.

Isn’t it great?

John Wall: Washington Wizards’ Guard Flashing Potential

July 17th, 2010

Get used to seeing the No. 2 jersey blaze down the hardwood, leaving defenders in its wake. You’ll be seeing it a lot over the next few years.

The first overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, John Wall, is an electrifying talent and a point guard that the Washington Wizards will be glad to make the cornerstone of their offense for many years.

In college for the University of Kentucky, Wall was simply one of the most dynamic players in the country. He could shoot well, pass well, had great court vision and poise, and ran the fast break better than anyone else.

When Wall had the ball in his hands, the crowd held their collective breath as he would drive down the court as fast as lightning, pull off a spiffy spin move, and either lay the ball in the hole or dish it off to a wide-open Wildcat teammate.

So the question on many NBA fans’ minds going into the Summer League was whether or not Wall’s game speed would be able to translate with him to the higher level of competition. 

The resounding opinion is yes.

Thus far, Wall has without a doubt showed off the tantalizing potential that leaves Wizards fans drooling over the prospect of watching him for the next however many years. But his Summer League experience has not been without road bumps.

In Wall’s Summer League debut on July 11th against the Golden State Warriors, he experienced the rockiest start he could possibly imagine.

Instead of coolly dropping in his first shot attempt for two points, Wall missed badly from the free throw line, failing even to hit the rim before the backboard. Shortly thereafter, he displayed his trademark fast break spin move but had his shot rejected.

He would settle down to score 24 points and dish out eight assists. And while those numbers are high, they look worse when you see that he only shot seven-for-15 from the field and turned the ball over eight times. His free throw shooting impressed many though, as he made 10 of 11 from the line. 

This trend would continue.

Wall’s second professional-level game would see him matched up against fellow rookie Eric Bledsoe, a player he knew quite well from their communal time at Kentucky.

In this game, Wall finished with 18 points, 10 assists, and five steals. From the charity stripe, he shot a perfect eight-for-eight, but once again his points came on an inefficient five-for-12 shooting performance from the field and he turned the ball over eight times.

Nothing exemplified Wall’s play better than one series of possessions in the first quarter. The rookie point guard turned the ball over at the top of the key on one end, chased down the thief and stole it back, drove down the court, and found an open man who knocked down the three. Inefficient but effective.

Throughout the game, he was careless with the ball but still put together numerous plays where he made perfect passes to teammates and displayed nice fast break skills.

The third game, this time against the Dallas Mavericks, was no different.

Wall looked like a superstar at times and had a near triple-double with 21 points, 10 assists, and seven rebounds. He also minimized his turnovers, only giving up the ball three times, and shot well from the free throw line with a 13-for-15 mark. But he was inefficient yet again, going four-for-19 against the tenacious defense of the rookie from South Florida, Dominique Jones.

There was more of the same in Wall’s fourth professional game.

Against the New Orleans Hornets, Wall had a personal-best 31 points on 10 of 23 shooting from the field and 10 of 13 shooting from the free throw line. He also drained his first three-pointer of the still-young Summer League season.

In addition, Wall had six rebounds, three steals, and three assists. He also kept with the trend of diminishing turnovers, only handing the ball over twice in nearly 36 minutes.

Though Wall has not even played in his first real NBA game, he is already showing the Wizards that they made a good pick when they selected him first overall. He may be playing with some inconsistency and inefficiency, but that does come with being a rookie.

Most impressively, Wall has a plus-39 plus/minus through his first four games, meaning that his team has scored 39 more points than it has allowed with him on the floor.

Wall will be fun to watch this season, so keep an eye on that Wizards jersey that will inevitably be streaking down the court. Or at least try to. 

Why Would LeBron James ‘Quit’ on the Cleveland Cavaliers?

July 14th, 2010

NBA fans have been trapped in a free agency world of preposterousness these past two weeks.   

We've gone from "The Decision" to "The Letter."  We've gone from Amir Johnson's five-year, $34 million contract to Joe Johnson being the highest paid free agent in LeBron James', Dwyane Wade's, and Chris Bosh's class. 

And yet, one of the most preposterous ideas in all of this free agency hysteria has been that of LeBron James, The Royal Quitter. 

It started with his owner, Dan Gilbert, who ranted about LeBron quitting in every big game in an interview with the Associated Press .  He advised us to "go back and look at the tape" of the Orlando-Cleveland Game Six from 2009, asking us to check how many shots James took (he took 20 shots, for the record).

So, in other words, we can discount Gilbert because he's a bitter owner who's lashing out like a 13-year-old girl after a breakup.   What else should we have expected?  (To his credit, the Fathead stunt was hilarious.) 

Then we had the bloggers, who swarmed in with the "James = Quitter" argument by saying a true superstar would never want to join forces with other stars; instead, they'd create a decade-long rivalry on the court and maintain their friendship off the court.   

By joining Wade and admitting that he sometimes wanted another player on his team to be able to take over and dominate a game, LeBron showed a supposed weakness that he's never revealed before.

Then again, joining Wade and Bosh isn't so much quitting on the Cavs as it is quitting on the chance to become one of the all-time greats.  Therefore, it's not entirely relevant to this particular discussion. 

Finally, we get to Jay Mariotti. 

Mariotti suggested the possibility that LeBron would "deliver less-than-maximum effort at times" because he "was planning all along to bolt the Cleveland Cavaliers."  This appears in a column in which Mariotti practically begs the league to investigate the SuperFriends' decision for tampering and/or collusion. 

Moving beyond the fact that Mariotti's become a caricature of himself at this point, the mere suggestion of this conspiracy theory should cause FanHouse to ban Mariotti from writing for a week, for his own sake.

Imagine, for a moment, that Mariotti's right, and that LeBron, Wade, and Bosh had agreed to head to Miami months, if not years ago.  Why would that cause LeBron to deliver less-than-maximum effort in the last playoff run he'd ever have with his hometown franchise? 

Would LeBron really give up a chance at his first NBA championship just because he wasn't planning to stay with Cleveland long-term?

To put it plainly, not a chance. 

How can you argue that a guy who just passed up $15 million on his new contract for a better chance of winning doesn't value championships before all else?  (Including loyalty to his hometown?)  And if he's got such an obsession with titles, why would he intentionally sacrifice his shot at a championship when he's on a team that had the best record in the NBA? 

If anything, wouldn't Cleveland be (a little) less upset with LeBron had he brought home a championship before callously dumping them on national TV? 

No, LeBron's apparent lack of effort in the final two games of the Celtics series didn't stem from the underlying knowledge that he'd be leaving his hometown after the season. 

Instead, as Sports Illustrated's Joe Posnanski points out , LeBron hit a breaking point with the Cavaliers during the Celtics series: 

"But, well, if James did quit, then WHY did he quit? Why does anyone quit anything? It’s because they think there’s no point. I think LeBron simply came to the realization that his team wasn’t good enough. The coach wasn’t good enough. Ownership wasn’t good enough."

"He realized (rightly or wrongly) that no matter what he did, this team was not going to win a championship. And once he realized that, he lowered his intensity level and finally, in the last minute of his Cleveland career, watched the clock tick down." 

LeBron didn't quit on the Cavaliers.  LeBron felt like the Cavaliers quit on him. 

LeBron doesn't need Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman around him to win a championship.  All he needs are teammates that can knock down wide-open shots when he passes to them out of a double-team.   

Year after year, the Cavs came up short in that department. After seven years, James finally decided that he'd seen enough Mo Williams bricks for one lifetime.   

So he left.  A "quitter." 

To his credit, Mariotti did promise that we'd remember Game Five against the Celtics—the night that LeBron turned into LeGone , as he called it. 

But why suggest that James would intentionally forfeit his last shot at a championship in Cleveland, knowing that he'd be heading to Miami in a few months anyway?   

We may be able to place Dan Gilbert's letter in the "Most Preposterous Idea From the Summer of 2010" category after all. 

Kobe Bryant’s Doin’ Work: Mamba Recruiting For the Los Angeles Lakers?!

July 14th, 2010


As recently as last season, during the regular season, I openly detested Kobe Bryant. 

I could write a book on why I hated Kobe Bryant.

I hated that he was shooting the Lakers out of games, taking an NBA high 22 shots a game on a team that had the league's best offensive center. 

I hated that he was basking in glory for hitting game winners against teams the Lakers had no place being down against:  Miami, Memphis, Toronto, a then-mediocre Boston. 

It was, to me, a rehash of the Shaq-Kobe "Combo" years, where Kobe would ditch the triangle offense in search of personal glory.  As Kobe climbed up the All-Time Scoring list this year, the Lakers posted eight less wins than their previous championship season, finishing 57-25.

But you know what ended up happening in those Shaq-Kobe Combo years?  Kobe learned to play as a teammate come Playoff time, and the Lakers managed to Three-Peat.

Kobe's silence during the free agency period was his greatest P.R. asset.  Kobe would never dream of running a self-celebrating one hour special on himself; it's not that he's not narcissistic enough to do it, it's that he's always been too smart to expose his deepest emotions on a one hour television special. 

Kobe wants to be the greatest to ever play the game, and so his life revolves around the game itself, not the fame and the celebrity that comes with it.  With bile tickling my throat, I will admit that he is the second best two-guard to ever play the game.

If Bryant were to die tomorrow, he would certainly go out as the heir to Michael Jordan, and rightfully so.  What we need to do, as NBA fans, is to appreciate the fully-developed, maturing, frozen-blooded assassin that this man has become.  I will say it once and for all; you don't have to like Kobe Bryant. 

Despite his attitude, his past incidences of petulance, his brush with moral crucifixion, his squabbles with different players, his trade request, and his near-signing with the Clippers, it's still very possible to like him. 

Like him or not, however, we as NBA fans have no choice but to respect his abilities, his accomplishments, his undying love for the game, and his new-found maturity.

First of all, Kobe is much, much more cerebral than the media likes to give him credit for.  Take, for instance, that Kobe and the Lakers managed to recruit Ron Artest from the Rockets, their single biggest Western Conference threat in the 2008 Playoffs. 

With Battier, Artest, and the pesky Brooks, the Rockets had one of the most hellacious perimeter defenses in the league.  Kobe pretty much took that tripod and ripped off one of its legs, and what's more, brought that tenacious defender to his team to contend for a title.  Despite the comical amount of missed jumpers, Ron Artest came out in an absolute dog fight Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals as the game's most valuable player.

As for Kobe's shot selection in the regular season, who can blame him?  As long as the Lakers get enough wins to make the Playoffs in some fashion or form, and establish home court advantage, is there any other point to winning in the regular season?  Kobe should be permitted to chase individual accolades in the regular season, as long as he keeps the perspective to lift his team to victory in the postseason.  He did just that-- the Lakers won the 2010 NBA Finals in particularly grueling fashion. 

Kobe has learned to trust his teammates, particularly his friend Derek Fisher, and (sometimes at the Lakers' expense) Ron Artest.  Kobe personally lobbied for Fisher to return to the Lakers under a less-than-savory contract, inevitably to meet the salary cap while pursuing their sixth championship ring in eleven years.

In another move showcasing his increasing maturity, he has reached out to Raja Bell to sign with the Lakers in free agency.  Raja Bell, some of you might remember, is infamous for his on-and-off court spats with Bryant.  Few people know that the seeds were planted when Bell was a rookie for the Philadelphia 76ers, facing Kobe in the 2001 NBA Finals.

Bell described Kobe as a "pompous, arrogant individual", and in 2006, Kobe responded in pompous-as-advertised fashion by basically refusing to acknowledge Bell by name in his response.  Of course, in Game 5 of the Suns-Lakers series in the same year, Raja Bell clotheslines Kobe, setting off a firestorm of "Kobe probably deserved it" rants.

Fast forward four years later, where Kobe is now attempting to tickle Raja's fancy and trying to recruit him to the Lakers.  

Shaq did something similar at this stage in his career, convincing Gary Payton and Karl Malone to come to the Lakers to chase rings in what ultimately resulted in a failed 2004 campaign. 

Here's the difference:  Shaq wanted pure firepower on a team that had more than enough firepower.  Kobe, on the other hand, is assuming all primary-option scoring duties, and is looking to add tenacious defenders who can hit open shots if, and when, Bryant draws a double team.  It's the type of move that showcases Kobe's astounding basketball IQ, something the brutish-yet-personally-savvy Shaquille O'Neal never possessed.

The Lakers don't need another scoring option to complicate things; offensively-skilled Pau Gasol and his affable, meek disposition was a welcome foil to Bryant, and a complete godsend to the embattled Lakers. 

The Lakers already have their leaders; they now need soldiers who are willing to go to war. If all-out hardwood-hell-on-earth like Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals are any indication, the Lakers' true floor general is going to need more bodies.

Southeast Shake-Up: How LeBron To Miami Affects The Southeast Division

July 13th, 2010

The past days have seen constant drama surrounding LeBron James, and unfortunately not enough of it has been about the actual game of basketball. 

As NBA fans we've been witness to a wide range of strange and wonderful spectacles. 

From the mourning of Cleveland, to the outburst and subsequent punishment of Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, the league has been like a soap opera as of late. 

The Reverend Jesse Jackson even managed to get his foot in the door and start yet another controversy, this one regarding racial matters. 

Now that the dust has settled, we can finally analyze the impact of the LeBron signing on the bigger picture. 

Let's start with the Southeast Division. 

Impact #1: The LeBron signing makes the Southeast dominant

For starters, the arrival of LeBron in South Beach makes the Southeast Division the most dominant division in all of the Eastern Conference. 

Last season the Boston Celtics, Cavaliers and Orlando Magic all ruled their respective divisions. The franchise-transforming moves by the Heat undoubtedly change that. 

While the Heat were the fifth seed last season, bringing in LeBron as well as Chris Bosh definitely catapults them a few steps up the ladder. 

The Southeast Division now contains two of the top three teams in the East, and coincidentally both are from Florida. 

Throw in the Atlanta Hawks and now the divisions arguably contains three of the top four teams in the entire conference.

Talk about a power struggle eh? 

Impact #2: The LeBron signing makes the Southeast "Home of the Stars"

First of all, is this really a significant impact? The answer is no.

This impact is definitely more trivial, but intriguing nonetheless. 

With the arrival of LeBron, the Southeast is now the most star-studded division in the league. 

Seriously though, the Southeast could make its own All-Star team. 

I can see it now, the "Southeast Superstars" featuring LeBron, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Gilbert Arenas, Rashard Lewis, Josh Smith, Stephen Jackson and John Wall. 

Hell three-fifths of the All-NBA First Team is in the Southeast! 

Anyway, moving on...

Impact #3: The LeBron signing thwarts Orlando's hold as Southeast champion

The Magic have been the Southeast Division champions for three consecutive seasons. 

In recent years the organisation has found a way to surround Howard with a wide array of talent, resulting in successful results. 

With James and Bosh joining the Heat, the Magic could be knocked from their perch. 

The Heat will be a better regular season team than the Magic, mainly because their superstar power will allow them to dominate the majority of opponents they face. 

Arguments about the Heat lacking depth can be put forward, but the recent signings of Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem reflect the fact that veteran help is on its way. 

If the Heat can lock up another three or four quality veterans, they will have a ten-man rotation that is on par with the best teams in the league. 

The Magic won 59 games last season, and I expect the Heat to win in the 62-66 range next season. 

Whether the Heat can win the NBA Championship next season is a different question, but in the regular season only a handful of teams will be able to come away victorious.

Impact #4: The LeBron signing increases historical significance of the Southeast

The Southeast Division is a mere baby, formed in 2004 as part of an expansion.

Since then only the division has only won a single championship, with the Heat claiming the prize in 2006. 

Even the legacy of the other franchises in the division is limited. 

The Bobcats were created in the same year as the Southeast Division, and the Magic were formed one year after the Heat in 1989. 

The more prestigious Hawks and Wizards have greater history, but only two NBA championships between them. 

In terms of measurable success, the Southeast is the weakest in the East and does not fare much better on a league-wide scale. 

However the construction of this South Beach dynasty could change all that. 

The promising trio of James-Wade-Bosh has set the bar high, publicly stating that they will win multiple championships for the city of Miami.

This would do wonders for the historical significance of the Southeast Division as a whole, catapulting them a few spots higher in comparison to other divisions. 

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