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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.

Top Five Potential Landing Spots for Brad Stevens

Dr. Stevens: Professor of Hoops

If Brad Stevens is to leave a perennial Final Four school, Butler, to move up to a bigger job, it has to be one of the traditional, iconic basketball powers. He’s proven that he can win consistently at Butler and moving to another school that hasn’t seen a Final Four in decades or ever, just for a few more dollars, doesn’t seem like the kind of well calculated decision that Stevens would make.

In the four years since replacing Todd Lickliter as the Butler head coach, Stevens has won 116 games going into Saturday’s national semifinal matchup with Virginia Commonwealth. He’s already surpassed the accomplishments of fellow national mid-major darling Gonzaga and other non-BCS schools like Xavier. Memphis is the only other non-BCS school to have comparable success to Butler over the past four seasons, but their compass of success has headed downward since John Calipari left for Kentucky two years ago.

When looking for a situation to compare with Steven’s job at Butler, the coach to look at would be Mark Few at Gonzaga. Few could probably get most, if not all of the jobs that open up every year. But Gonzaga has been able to keep him through big sponsorship money and made-for-TV out of conference matchups that bring in good money and give the program the type of national exposure needed to compete for top recruits. Butler, located in metropolitan Indianapolis, should be able to greatly exceed the revenues generated by Gonzaga, which is in sparsely populated Spokane, Washington. Butler could most likely compensate Stevens more than Few given their market size.

Assuming that money wouldn’t be the ultimate draw for Brad Stevens, which jobs might be able to entice the hottest coaching prospect to come around in years?

Indiana

This one is pretty obvious and could be realized as soon as next year if Tom Crean is still unable to register his first winning season after four years in Bloomington. Stevens is an Indiana native and grew up dreaming of playing for Bob Knight in Assembly Hall. If Crean were to leave (unlikely) or be let go, Stevens would be the first and, maybe, only call the administration would need to make.

Purdue

If not Indiana, how about Purdue? The interesting part of this hypothetical situation is that Purdue coach Matt Painter is currently flirting with Missouri and has an interview scheduled for Tuesday with the Big 12 school. While it’s extremely unlikely that Painter would leave his alma mater to go to another job, especially one that would be at best a lateral move, Purdue could call his bluff and let him go to Missouri instead of giving him a raise. Then the door for Stevens to go to Purdue would open. For Purdue to just let Painter walk now, they would have to have assurances through sources that Stevens would be amenable to taking their coaching position.

Duke

How can Stevens go from lovable underdog to hated frontrunner? He can replace Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. Coach K isn’t going to coach forever (we all hope). Who would be a better selection to fill the shoes of the soon-to-be all time leader in wins than Brad Stevens? Coach K has turned Duke into the biggest brand name in college basketball. Coach K has built the program into one that chooses recruits, not the other way around. Avoiding the recruiting cesspool could be a major draw to Stevens. In addition, Duke will be looking for a coach who understands how things work at a smaller, private school and Stevens brings that experience.

UCLA

The seat in Westwood might be lukewarm for Ben Howland right now, but another season like 2009-10 and the Bruins could be looking for a new coach. The last time UCLA hired an Indiana native with spectacles; he ran off 9 NCAA championships in 10 years and added another one to make it 10 out of 12. Based on his professorial look, persona, and on-court success, Stevens is beginning to resemble a modern day John Wooden.

NBA

What makes Stevens so unusual at the college level is his coolness under fire. He always seems to be in control of his emotions and rarely shows any on the sidelines. One of the reasons why college coaches have difficulty adjusting to the NBA is their inability to take a step back from the micromanaging world of college basketball. Most college coaches who didn’t last in the NBA, like Rick Pitino and John Calipari, have difficulty with pulling back and letting their players go and play. Stevens’ sideline demeanor is what NBA teams want on the sidelines, as opposed to the typical emotional college coach.

For the good of the college game, it would be nice if he stayed. Hopefully, with Stevens, all good things don’t have to come to an end.

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.

Don’t Sweat the Lakers

February 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Crazy Ron just needs a refill of his meds

Championships aren’t won in February and the NBA’s team based in Hollywood knows this. After back-to-back titles and a third appearance in the Finals over the past three seasons, the Lakers are most likely pacing themselves for a prolonged postseason run.

We don’t even have to go far back to find another example of a team pacing themselves during the NBA’s marathon season to prepare for the playoffs. Last season’s Celtics looked abysmal in March and April as they lost to Memphis by 20 at home and went 10-11 in their final 21 games. Most pundits felt that since the Celtics weren’t peaking in April, they were done. Well, the Celtics beat Miami in 5, Cleveland in 6, Orlando in 6 and lost to the Lakers in that epic 7-game Finals series. They might have even won had Kendrick Perkins been healthy as the Lakers destroyed them on the boards in Game 7.

For the Celtics, their main concern was health. The absence of Kevin Garnett in the 2009 Playoffs was the biggest reason why the Celtics lost to Orlando in the East Semis. Garnett was still hobbling from his 2009 knee surgery during last season and the Celtics just wanted him to be healthy for the playoffs. Paul Pierce was also dealing with injuries that kept him out of ten games after Christmas and his health was an ongoing concern.

This season, the Lakers have been pretty healthy, with only Andrew Bynum missing significant playing time. They know that there are only one or two teams in the West who can realistically challenge them. They’re not going to catch the Spurs in the standings. So fending off the Mavericks is their only concern in the second half. But why would they be worried about the Mavs anyway?

Everybody likes to feed the rumor mill and talk about potential trades. If healthy and focused, who’s better than a Kobe-led Lakers team? If they are worrying about Ron Artest, just take him to the local Walgreens to get his Adderall prescription refilled.

The Lakers were 30-11 at the halfway point. That’s a 60-win pace. This is still a great, championship quality team when rested and healthy. There are no back-to-back games in the playoffs. In fact, there are many instances where teams get more than one day off.

Staying healthy, not looking dominant is the goal here. Winning Phil Jackson his fourth three-peat is the goal here. Remember, nobody in the West has beaten the Lakers in a playoff series since 2007. Until somebody knocks them out of the playoffs is when I’ll believe that they’re not the same Lakers. Get ready for another Celtics-Lakers matchup in the finals.