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The Miami Heat Will Win At Least 60 Games in the Shortened Season

December 25, 2011 Leave a comment

 

Battier's unique qualities will provide a calming influence to the Heat stars

As Jimmy Johnson would say, “You can put it in three-inch bold headlines”! Yes, there it is; a strident anti-Heat fan predicting the most dominating season that the NBA has ever seen. When the regular season ends, the team that wears fiery red and black can call on Moses Malone for a playoff prediction: “Fo, Fo, Fo, and Fo”. Like it or not, but fans of the NBA are about to embark on a season of epic proportions.

When the Heat last left us, they had been out-hustled, out-game planned, out-played, and certainly, out-classed, by the Dallas Mavericks last June.

It looks like Dwyane Wade wasn’t pretending to cough after all before Game 5 of the Finals. Wade and his teammates were just showing preliminary signs of a team about to choke away the NBA Championship.

But that was last season. Pre-lockout. Pre-Lebron post-up game. But most importantly, pre-Shane Battier.

The Heat’s signing of free agent Shane Battier seems to be running way under the proverbial radar on the eve of this season. It shouldn’t be. Battier is going to be the superglue, mentor/leader that LeBron James has been seeking for his entire career (life?).

The garbage behavior that has been associated with the Heat should diminish significantly this season. That’s because whenever any of the entitled, Big Two, superstars of the Heat begin to get flustered or get out of line, Battier will be there to take charge and deflect from the antics and actions. Unlike any other teammate in LeBron’s past, Battier has the rare leadership qualities that often goes unnoticed on a day-to-day basis, but will be felt over the course of the season.

During those moments when LeBron is having difficulty being in the media spotlight, Battier will be there to keep him from moments like he had in Cleveland after he returned last December and also when he spoke after the Finals about the fans that disliked him, saying “All the people that was rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today.”

What makes Battier different is that he’s not a superstar player, but carries himself like a superstar person. He’ll be a major influence on both LeBron and Dwyane Wade and keep them focused on being great. And great is what this team will be this season.

Everything that was accomplished last season was with barely any kind of cohesion between the hastily assembled stars and rent-a-role players. Now they’ve been together for a season of trials and tribulations. Now add the calming influence of Battier and 10-15 minutes of Eddy Curry and this team is much better going into the season. Give LeBron a role model as a teammate that he can strive to emulate, both on and off the court and this team can be special.

Needless to say, LeBron will roll to the MVP.

Look out NBA.

LeBron Now Has a Cold, What’s Next?

Charlie Sheen craves less attention than this guy

It’s not the flu, pneumonia, or even a dislocated left elbow that slowed LeBron James in the opening days of the Eastern Conference Finals. It’s the common cold. His eyes aren’t watering because of the loss; it’s because of his sickness.

Imagine if the world’s most self-absorbed athlete had something besides the sniffles? The good news for LeBron is that he’s now the leading candidate to receive an endorsement from Kleenex. Think of all of the ways that LeBron can use the soft tissue. He can use it when he’s got a cold, after losses, and while looking at pictures of himself. He’s a natural fit for this endorsement.

Game Two could potentially expose LeBron’s ingrown toenail if he ends up getting twisted around while guarding Derrick Rose. After that, LeBron can angle for a Tylenol endorsement by stealing Dwyane Wade’s headache excuse. Finally, isn’t a book on coming back from adversity in the works if he ever wins a championship?

The newest LeBron charade shouldn’t be surprising as the Heat were just called out by Charles Barkley yesterday for being whiners. He said this BEFORE LeBron’s cold became public. LeBron’s guilty conscience regarding his former team was on display again today as he congratulated the Cavaliers and the city for winning the draft lottery.

Whiner, sensitive, and self-absorbed

Whatever day of the week it is, LeBron has something to say in order to return the spotlight to his fabricated kingdom. If you thought the NFL lockout was annoying for made-up coverage, wait until LeBron is locked out this summer. Although, instead of hopping on a bull for a split second, LeBron will just continue to spew his self absorbed bull-bleep.

LeBron better get it in gear tonight for the Heat, or the focus of offseason scorn from Heat fans won’t be directed at lightning rod Chris Bosh, but at the King.

Next Season and The Heatles are Biggest Losers in NBA’s Push for Hard Cap

Done so soon?

The word earlier today was that NBA Commissioner David Stern and the owners are seeking a hard salary cap and non-guaranteed contracts in the upcoming collective bargaining agreement. The current CBA expires at the end of June and the owners are expected to impose a lockout of the players like the NFL currently has and what the NBA went through back in 1998-1999.

The NBA wants a hard salary cap of $45 million in order to help their teams get their costs under control. This is sure to affect the start of the 2011-2012 NBA season as there is no way that the players will roll over and accept an initial offer that would severely limit their earning power.

What remains to be seen is whether the NBA is willing to ”go to the mattresses” like the NHL did and cancel an entire season. A lost season would damage the league’s relationship with not only their fans, but partners like ESPN and TNT, along with anybody who covers the league in the media.

As the NFL is learning, an offseason of court appearances with the threat of missed regular season games can incite a fan base that is dealing with a bad economy and the employment problems that go with it. Nobody likes to hear about millionaires and billionaires whining over a few million dollars when people are stressed out about their lives in these current times.

 

It could be a Midsummer’s Night Nightmare for the Heatles

Another effect of a hard salary cap will be the dismantling of high salary teams and the potential for a team like the Miami Heat to have to break-up their Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.

If the salary cap for next season was only $45 million, then the Heat would be forced to renegotiate one or all of those players’ contracts or cut one of them to comply with the cap. Next season, the Heatles are set to make over $47.5 million between the three of them. Even if the cap was at, say, $48 million, the Heat would still have to maneuver to fit another 9-12 players onto their active roster.

Of course, the Heat aren’t the only team who will have players facing the chopping block in this situation. The Lakers have over $25 million tied up in Kobe Bryant all by himself. I’m sure he’d be thrilled to play with $20 million worth of teammates next year.

The Celtics have over $21 million wrapped up in Kevin Garnett and the three other all stars will make over $35 million next season. Rajon Rondo played with one arm after his injury against the Heat; would he be willing to play for half the money next season? These are the hard questions that will be posed and many players will have to check their egos and bank accounts at the door if they want to remain with their current teams.

How this plays out is anybody’s guess. But the first shot has been fired in the upcoming labor dispute in the NBA and it looks like the owners are going to put extreme pressure on the players to help them drastically change the current system. Think of it as a full court press. Former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson used to describe his team’s style as “40 minutes of Hell”. Well this upcoming labor dispute could be many months, if not a year of Hell for everybody involved, especially the fans. Expect this dispute to last longer than the NFL’s and expect a hard cap between $52 and $55 million to start next season.

The Heat Will Tame the Bulls in Six and How About Noah for Bosh?

Bosh and Noah might be better fits on the other team

The absence of a second closeout player will be the downfall of the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals starting tonight. Even with the home court advantage, the Bulls are going to have problems outscoring the Heat in each game as the Heat matchup really well with the Bulls scorers.

The Heat will matchup underrated defensive star Dwyane Wade on Derrick Rose at key moments in this series and Wade has shown the ability to shutdown quick penetrating point guards (see Rondo, Rajon). Rose is going to have to get help from Carlos Boozer, matched up with Chris Bosh, and Luol Deng, matched up with LeBron. Those are both matchups that favor the Heat when the Bulls have the ball when LeBron and Bosh are motivated defensively. Bosh’s length is going to wreak havoc on Boozer and LeBron’s outrageous athleticism and size will be too much for Deng.

So can the other supporting players for the Bulls step up and help Rose? Joakim Noah just isn’t a talented enough offensive player to have plays run for him and Kyle Korver, while a great shooter, can’t create his own shot. Unless Carlos Boozer is spurred by the sight of LeBron and dominates Bosh physically, this series could be a huge mismatch in the end.

My pick is the Heat in 6, but that’s because I see the Bulls taking the first game and either game 2 or 5 at home. The first game will be the Heat’s wakeup call, which they always seem to need and the Bulls will win another game because of their defense and Rose will go off for 40-something. Otherwise, the Heat should have a relatively easy time as their stars are more talented and physically superior to their Bulls counterparts.

One intriguing storyline of this series is a potential matchup between Joakim Noah and Chris Bosh. Bosh is most likely going to be on Boozer defensively, but Noah could be asked to guard Bosh.

Based on how these two teams are assembled, wouldn’t it be better for both teams if they were to swap Noah and Bosh following the season? Think about it. Bosh is being asked to do a lot of what Noah does best, play defense, rebound, and get put backs on misses by LeBron and Wade. His offensive skill set isn’t being utilized and for good reason. Why would you give Bosh the ball instead of the two other stars?

For the Bulls, Bosh could play more like Robin to Rose’s Batman where as he’s more Arnold to LeBron and Wade’s Batman and Robin act. Bosh could easily get 15-18 shots a night in the Bulls system and revert back to his 25 and 10 numbers that he got as a Raptor. A swap of these players could make both teams better and would be an intriguing subplot if they were to meet in next season’s playoffs and help fuel a potential rivalry.

Petty Comments Are Beneath NBA Commissioner David Stern

March 10, 2011 2 comments

The Commish

Sometimes you just have to bite your tongue and take the high road, especially if you’re the leader of the NBA, David Stern. On Thursday, Stern decided to take to the airwaves to snipe back at Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy.

In those comments, Stern insinuated that  Van Gundy might be becoming unhinged, saying that he “seems to be fraying” as a result of his team’s recent poor play. Are these the words that the commissioner of the NBA should be saying publicly about one of the head coaches in the league?

Yes, Van Gundy started the war of words by comparing Stern to some of the dictators of the world when discussing Dwight Howard’s technical foul problems and subsequent suspension. He’s not the first person to use poor judgment when trying to make a point in the heat of the moment and won’t be the last. He surely would have articulated his views better had he taken the time to think about the message that he wanted to send.

This is where Stern is at fault. He had time to listen to, think about, and lead in this situation. When asked about the comments, he should have just said that he was going to discuss the comments with the team ownership and front office and ended it right there. But Stern couldn’t resist, like he’s a Zen Master, to take a swipe at the performance of the Magic and to criticize Van Gundy’s coaching ability.

Van Gundy’s comments were an unfortunate selection of words to articulate built up frustration over policies that many in the league feel that the commissioner determines with little or no input from the players, coaches, and front offices of the league’s teams.

Stern is supposed to be a leader and should be mature enough and thick skinned enough to let Van Gundy’s comments roll off his back. He wasn’t. If Stern isn’t mature enough to take criticism about his policies, how is he supposed to expect his players to take criticism regarding their play and behavior on and off the court?

Stern needed to keep this issue in-house and if he felt the need to punish Van Gundy, then a heavy fine could have been levied. But petty sniping over poorly constructed criticism from an emotional head coach in the middle of a playoff race should be beneath him. Especially since Stern wasn’t even correct in his analysis of how the Magic are playing, the Magic have won 5 of their last 7, with one of the losses in the game Howard missed.

With leadership like this at the top of the NBA, it’s little wonder that players like LeBron and others have such a difficult time dealing with the fallout from their inappropriate comments. Everybody in the NBA has to have the last word. Real mature Comrade, um, Commish.

Mike Bibby Truly Wants to Win and I Believe Him

February 28, 2011 Leave a comment

How refreshing!

Hearing athletes state their undying passion for winning has evolved into one of the most overused clichés in sports. You hear it all the time. “I just want to go somewhere and win.” Sure, it sounds great, but who is willing to give up guaranteed dough for that opportunity to win? Well, Mike Bibby just has.

Bibby was bought out of the final year of his contract by the Washington Wizards, days after being acquired from the Atlanta Hawks for Kirk Hinrich in a multiplayer deal. Bibby was set to earn $6.2M next season and forfeited that guaranteed payday in exchange for his freedom today.

Once Bibby clears waivers on Wednesday, he will be free to sign with any team. He’s reportedly looking at the Miami Heat, LA Lakers, and other title contenders. No word yet on if San Antonio would be interested with today’s news regarding Tony Parker’s strained calf. Parker will be out 2-4 weeks.

While the on-court impact of Bibby’s decision is interesting, it’s the financial aspect off the court that is fascinating. By forfeiting his final year on a guaranteed contract, Bibby is doing something that hardly ever happens with athletes. Obviously, Bibby hadn’t spent enough time in D.C. to know how things work there. In our country’s capital, it’s all about greed and sticking your hand out for more. Both in sports and in the governmental bureaucracy that is Washington, D.C.

Fellow D.C. pro athlete, Albert Haynesworth, has been embroiled in a battle of wills with the Redskins and their coach, Mike Shanahan. Clearly the Redskins would like to be rid of the troublesome Haynesworth and the large financial commitment still owed to him. But the Redskins paid Haynesworth $32M in the first 13 months of the deal and a total of $41M is guaranteed to him.

Haynesworth continues to badger the Redskins into releasing him so he can pursue another big payday and play in a system that might utilize his talent better. But Albert doesn’t want to give up anything to get his freedom. Undoubtedly, the Redskins would like something to show for the incredible financial investment that they have committed to Haynesworth and feel that a resolution to their relationship should be mutually beneficial to both sides.

But in this day and age of $100K bar tabs, million dollar Vegas weekends, 5-figure party girls, and untold child support payments (hello Antonio Cromartie), today’s entitled athletes NEVER leave a penny on the table that can be wasted on frivolity later.  Mike Bibby just proved to be the exception to that rule. Don’t expect to see this aberration again soon.

Breaking Down the 2011 NBA Trade Deadline Insanity

February 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Perkins takes his tough physical play and T's to OKC

Breaking Down the 2011 NBA Trade Deadline Insanity

After spending most of the afternoon hyperventilating due to the frenzied final 2 hours of the NBA pre-trade deadline action, I attempted to take a look at how the important deadline trades shakeout:

Boston Celtics:

Nobody, including the Nets and Jazz, turned heads like the Celtics did on deadline day. Doc Rivers likes (or used) to say that “nobody had beaten their starting five in a playoff series.” Well, that view is now history with the trade of Kendrick Perkins to the Thunder.

Why did the Celtics make the moves they did? The Celtics were 8-4 this season with Perkins in the lineup and 33-10 without him. While the C’s have needed Perkins for his stout defense and toughness in past seasons, this year he hasn’t been there and the Celtics are a more rounded team than in the past. Dealing Perk for Green and Krstic gives the Celtics more offensive weapons and the ability to five offensive players on the floor at all times. Perkins is awkward, at best, offensively.

What about Perkins’ D? The team that Perkins was most effective against in the East is the Magic because Garnett isn’t a good matchup with Howard. Garnett already covers Bosh, Stoudemire, Boozer, and all of the other power forwards the Celtics face. If the Celtics miss the Magic in the playoffs, then it doesn’t make a difference.

We are not going to know the true ramifications of this trade until all of the buyouts take place and the Celtics fill their 3 roster spots opened by trading Harangody, Erden, and Daniels. There already are rumors of Troy Murphy and/or Leon Powe coming and don’t be surprised to see Richard Hamilton as well if he gets bought out by the Pistons. Jason Kapono is another option for them.

Grades:

This Season: Right now C+, could be B or B+ depending on how they fill those roster spots

Future: B+

Perkins wasn’t going to be re-signed at the price he wanted. They now have a core of Rondo, Green, and Davis to go into the post-Big Three era. Would Dwight Howard like to join those 3?

New Jersey Nets:

The Nets get one of the top 10 players in the league. Something they NEVER would have been able to pull off in free agency as a sub-20 win team. They traded a lot for Deron Williams, but they have point guard and center covered and can use whatever cap space they have to entice scorers who want to cash in on D -Will’s double-digit per game assists.  If Williams doesn’t take to the Nets and hasn’t signed an extension by next February, then the Nets will move him for a similar package that they gave up for him. It’s a one-year rental that they hope to buy. It’s at least some cause for optimism in Jersey, um, I mean Brooklyn.

Grade for future: B+ turns into A+ if Williams stays

New York Knicks:

This situation is more nuanced than the talking heads are saying. The overall success of this deal is predicated on the Knicks ability to upgrade the rest of the roster and find a way to get both Carmelo and Amare enough touches per game. Both players want 20 shots each. That’s tough to provide. Billups is a solid player, but he’s going to be 35 in September and while still productive offensively, he can’t run with the Rondos and Roses on the defensive end in the East. They also won’t be able to upgrade significantly through free agency now. The Knicks will need to make good use of the mid-level exception to add free talent to their roster. Right now the Knicks aren’t a top 4 team in the East, can they add the quality pieces in the offseason to make the jump? I guess only Isaiah knows.

Grade: B+

Oklahoma City Thunder:

The Thunder made a bold move in trading Durant’s buddy Green away to bring in Perkins. Perkins will be relied on to play great defense and to also be “The Enforcer” in OKC. Playoff basketball is different than the regular season and things get more physical when the calendar turns to late April and May. Any expectation that potential Thunder opponents had of bullying Durant and Westbrook will be met forcefully by Perkins and Nazr Muhammad. This team got “playoff tougher” in a hurry with their trades. Look for James Harden to take a step forward in his development as well because of Green’s departure.

Grade: A+, Like Perkins in Boston, Green appeared heading out of town due to contract demands and the Thunder now will pay Perkins to play in the middle. Perkins will be much more effective than Krstic on defense facing big guys like Bynum and Duncan in the playoffs.

Denver Nuggets:

The only players in the league younger than the 22-year old Danilo Gallinari who are scoring more than him are Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, and DeMar DeRozan. But that was before he got traded to the Nuggets where he’s going to get more than the 10.6 shots per game that he’s been getting. With at least 15 shots per game, Gallo should easily top 20 points per game and take his scoring to an All Star level. If he can improve his rebounding by 3-4 boards per game, then you’re looking at a 20 and 8 or 9 guy who is still a few years away from his prime. That’s a pretty good haul for a player (Anthony) who was leaving no matter what after the season. Wilson Chandler is another young player who could benefit from George Karl’s coaching style. The Nuggets might end up better in two or three years than they would have been with Melo.

Grade: B+, The Nuggets had to do something and got solid players and picks that could turn out well.

Utah Jazz:

Everybody is wondering what’s left in Utah now. Well, how about a front line with Okur, Jefferson, Millsap, Kirilenko and now Favors? Not bad. It’s a lot easier to trade big for small in the NBA. At PG they now have Devin Harris. Is he THAT bad? Oh, and the Jazz picked up two first round picks that could both be in the lottery. The rumors were flying in LA during the All Star weekend that D-Will was going to want out in a year and a half and the Jazz made a preemptive strike to move their franchise forward now. This trade is going to turn out a lot better than most people think. Harris is pretty solid and might flourish on a better team with offensive weapons.

Grade: A

 

Other Teams:

Memphis gets Shane Battier from Houston for Hasheem Thabeet: B for this season, but they either misjudged Thabeet’s talent or he’s going to make them pay for this deal later.

Portland gets Gerald Wallace from Charlotte for Joel Przybilla and picks: A as the Blazers upgrade their talent and find Brandon Roy’s potential replacement should his injury problems continue. Michael Jordan continues to challenge Elgin Baylor for greatest player turned worst executive.

Phoenix gets Aaron Brooks from Houston for Goran Dragic and pick: B+ as this is the first domino to fall. The key for the Suns now is what will they get for Steve Nash over the summer? If they can get some good talent, this could work out well for the Suns.

Biggest Losers:

Baron Davis: Is there another choice as Biggest Loser in all of this?

Houston: They better hope that the Grizzlies were just too impatient with Thabeet and that Brooks doesn’t shine in Phoenix.

Charlotte: Maybe MJ was serious about that comeback? He’s as bad an executive as he was good as a player.