Ron Artest trade evaluation and a few other NBA thoughts

I don't know if you all have been keep count, but every team with the exception of the Phoenix, Charlotte, and Oklahoma City have made roster changes this offseason whether it was through a trade or free agency. Phoenix already made their blockbuster move for Shaq and Oklahoma City moved from Seattle (if you want to count that as a move). Can you remember a time when there were this many roster changes in such a short period of time? As we all know, these have been very significant moves. It all can be traced back to the February Pau Gasol theft by the Lakers. The movement in the NBA currently favors the West, heavily.

The Ron Artest trade contributes to the Western Conference arms race. My initial reaction to this trade is favorable. It shoots the Rockets up to one of the top 3 defensive teams in the league behind Boston and San Antonio. Ron Artest really likes playing for Rick Adelman and it will be interesting to see the different lineup combinations that Adelman throws in there with Battier and Artest eligible to play the small forward. My guess is that they will push Artest up to the 4 at some points of the game to allow Battier and Artest to get in the game at the same time for defensive purposes. Artest might be undersized for play the 4, but he is as strong as they come in the league, and Charles Barkley at 6'5 did not have much trouble playing the 4. The Artest trade immediately put the Rockets at the top half of the Western Conference with the Lakers, Spurs, and Hornets.

With Yao Ming healthy and T-Mac as a go-to scorer coupled with Ron Artest's and Scola's help, it will be a pretty tough matchup every night for any team that goes up against Houston. This takes pressure off of the point guards Alston and Head from having to score in bunches like they had to do a lot last year for the Rockets to be successful. Artest and Battier are an amazing 1-2 punch on defense that can stop the two best players on a team each night, and that is an amazing asset. Few teams have a lockdown defender, but to have 2 of the best defenders in the league is amazing. All of this comes with Artest's clearance sale price tag of just over $7 million dollars. Better yet, if it somehow does not work, they let him go at the end of the season. It does not get much better than that for the Rockets. This will be the year they get past the first round. A friend of mine told me that "they are still the Rockets, and he is still Tracy McGrady." That is true, but their main problem is getting big stops when they need to, and if Yao was playing in the playoffs this past season, it would have been a different story. It will be a much different story when the Rockets can throw a player like Artest and Battier at the other team's best player and make the offensive player work hard on both ends of the floor because Artest is a credible offensive threat.

Jim Rome said that there will be problems with Artest, and if you don't think there will be problems you must be kidding yourself, but I don't see any problems with Artest. He has put those days behind him, and he is a changed person (he is not Michael Vick). Just look at this picture:

He has played for Adelman and has been around Tracy McGrady since their high school days when they played in AAU tournaments and the famous ABCD camp. They complement each other incredibly well and will be able to work well together. Artest will not mind taking a back seat to Yao and T-Mac as long as the team is winning. He knows that his role will change, and he will be able to fit into the offense well. This trade works all the way around for the Rockets and they just sent Bobby Jackson back to Sacramento where he made his career, gave up a good prospect in Donte Green, and a first round pick. That is not too shabby for the Rockets who need success immediately or risk pushing the self destruct button on their team next season, and a Kings team that the Maloofs have been trying to rebuild for years.

Thoughts on Pistons:
I told one of my friends how crazy I think Joe Dumars is for signing Kwame Brown and he used the line that Joe Dumars is one of the best GM's in the league. That might be true, but Kwame Brown being signed on potential is a smoke screen for 'we had $8 mil lying around and decided to sign whatever was left.' I do think Dumars is a good GM, but I do not think that this was a good move. Kwame Brown is unfairly judged because of where he was drafted, not on how good he is. Nonetheless, I haven't seen worse hands on a professional athlete since...I have no clue, Kwame probably has the worst hands I've ever seen, but at least he can still throw cakes. I'm surprised he still has a job in the league because I was sure that he would be done after Memphis. Yeah, maybe I am a little bitter because the Lakers had to live through his horror story, but giving a warning to Detroit fans is the most I can do. He got a significant amount of money for being the backup to Jason Maxiell. In the end, will it improve Detroit? No. Will it hurt them? Only if they pass the ball to him. More in-depth analysis on the Kwame Brown trade here.

Thoughts on Ricky Davis:
The Clippers have gone through an incredible face lift and adding Ricky Davis is putting the final touches on everything. He does shoot the ball almost every time he has it, but he does shoot 40.5% from 3 point range and is a pretty good hustle player. He has a good all around game and will provide the Clippers stacked front line with a little extra firepower. A solid addition for the Clippers and as long as he can find his way in Dunleavy's offense and control his itchy trigger finger, the Clippers will be a solid team.

With the West pretty much set (and a lot more relevant than the East), here are my predictions:
1. Lakers
2. Hornets
3. Rockets
4. Jazz
5. Spurs
6. Blazers
7. Suns
8. Mavs
9. Clippers

*spots 8 and 9 are subject to change.

The room with the Larry O' Brien trophy is getting very dark for the Suns, Spurs, and Mavericks. The quick turnaround by teams like the Lakers, Hornets, and Rockets show what a great league the NBA is and how fast the balance of power can shift with a few good signings, a crafty GM, and a willing owner.


Wow, what a great bet! I couldn't wait to see who would win this one! I can't wait till Gooden and Stevenson make another drunken bet at the pool table this summer!

There is no real story behind this article, but it is just a rare picture of 3 very high profile people at the top of their industry brought together by the game of basketball.

The NBA keeps losing its best to Europe.

Agent Zero's million dollar pool is suppose to be one of the biggest residential pools in America. Life is not too bad when you are Gilbert Arenas.

Kristic probably could have made more if he stayed in the NBA.

College players making money for the corporations and colleges that they play for, and getting paid...zero.

Paul Pierce...are you kidding me?

If you haven't been to the site ibeatyou.com you need to go. A handful of celebrities are on the site including Jessica Alba, Baron Davis, and Steve Nash. The premise of the site might sound a little weird at first, but it is actually a very clever concept. Here is a video of Steve Nash and Baron Davis making a video for the latest competition in Santa Monica for the site.

Picture sources: thebasketballjones.net (first), deadspin.com (second), helpinganimals.com (third), washingtonpost.com (fourth)


Offseason to do list: Magic

A lot of people forget about the Magic when they think about the Eastern Conference. It makes sense as to why people don't think about them because they are a mid sized market and have not made much noise in the league recently. When the Magic made it to the finals with Shaq and the supposed superstar Penny Hardaway, they had the one-two punch combination we have seen work so frequently for past championship teams. When looking at this Magic team it seems like they have all the pieces. They have one of the top 2 centers in the league in Dwight Howard and a supposed sidekick in Rashard Lewis. They even have a credible third option in Hedo Turkoglu. I say they have a sidekick in Rashard Lewis, but he isn't really a side kick. He is the highest paid player on the team at $17.2 million this year and he makes more each year than Dwight Howard will until the end of the summer of 2013. No one knows how Lewis was able to get Rich DeVos to cut him that kind of check, but he sure is not playing like a $100+ million plus player.

Rashard Lewis gets paid superstar money. He is solid player without question. Lewis is a versatile 4 who can be a spot-up shooter or a creator. He stretches defenses and creates serious matchup problems. Although he makes the most money on the team he wasn't even the team leader in scoring. He was not even the second leader in scoring. Yes, he was the third. He averaged 18.2 ppg and grabs 5.4 rebs a game. He is third on the team in rebs too. He has hit some big shots for the Magic and shows up when they need him to, but there does not seem to be the 'it factor' in his game. He makes superstar money, but has no superstar quality about him. Could he be another Penny Hardaway in the making? A player who thrives off of the big man in the middle? He is clearly incapable of leading a team himself, just ask the former NBA team the Seattle Sonics how that went for them. The problem for the Magic would not be Lewis himself, if it weren't for his enormous contract. He eats up a huge portion of their salary and since he is signed to the end of the 2012-2013 season, he is going to sit on Orlando's books and be completely content every time they get knocked out of the second round of the playoffs. Stan Van Gundy runs plays for Lewis, but that is only because a guy with Lewis' talent should be able to deliver. He is a marginal defender and gets lost during stretches of the game. He did lead the team in steals at 1.22 a game which shows a little life in his defense, and aggression. He holds the key to the Magic's success. If he can improve his defense the Magic can have a good shot at getting deep into the playoffs. If the Magic do not get some results at the end of this coming year expect them to try and dish Lewis elsewhere, but expect there to be few to no offers for his massive contract.

Dwight Howard is the franchise player. If there was a way to switch contracts between players on a team, it would be no more justified than in the instance of Lewis and Howard. At least it would be a little easier to trade Lewis. Howard is one of the last pure centers in the league. He is the poster boy for the next generation of centers. The speed of the modern game has called for Centers to be versatile in more than one area. The 90s glory years for centers that included Shaq, Mourning, Ewing, and Hakeem were strictly post players. They were moderately good athletes, but Dwight Howard represents the future evolution of what NBA centers will be. He is listed at 6'11 and 265 lbs and covered in muscle. He can jump out of the gym, well, at least to the top of the backboard. He is the most credible shot blocker in the game today and poses a huge inside presence that discourages shifty guards from getting easy layups. His numbers are just as big as his physique. He is the leading scorer on the team at 20.7 ppg, 14.2 rebs and 2.15 blks. People forget that Howard won't even turn 23 until December. If his career continues on this upward trend, he will be a Hall of Fame player before it is all over. His career has turned out a little bit different than fellow draft classmates, Sebastian Telfair and J.R Smith, both of which he played against in high school. Dwight Howard played all 82 games this past season and needs rest which means the Magic need some good backup for him. They have Tony Battie who did not play a game this season but made $5.2 million. They also have Colgate's professional sports claim to fame in Adonal Foyle who averages 9.5 minutes a game and an amazing 1.9 ppg and also squeezes in time to grab 1.2 rebs. The Magic need a serious upgrade for the backup center position, but Howard is young enough to carry the load right now.

We have all seen Dwight Howard's ridiculous dunks from the dunk contest from the 2008 All-Star game so I thought posting that would be a little boring. Here is a Vitamin Water ad showing him practicing for the dunk contest.

Hedo Turkoglu had an absolutely breakout season. He showed that he can make it in this league and is further evidence (not that we need it) that they breed NBA stars. Hedo put up 19.5 ppg, 5.7 rebs and 5 assts in 36.9 minutes a game while only commanding $6.8 million a season. That is a pretty good deal for a player of his caliber. He is deadly when left open and is the beneficiary of defenses that overplay Lewis and Howard. If he continues to produce at this level and Howard continues to grow, the Magic will be a serious threat in the Eastern Conference. Like Lewis, Hedo's deficiency is at the defensive end because he lacks the athleticism to match up to the top players at his positions like Lebron, Tayshaun Prince, and Luol Deng.

The Magic have a pretty solid front court. Their back court is a little less deep, but they have potential. At point guard they have Jameer Nelson and Carlos Arroyo. Arroyo is a free agent now and not under contract, but he made about twice as much as Nelson by cashing in a $4 million check at the end of the last season. Nelson made $1.9 million the last season, but is due to make $5.5 next season and locked in under contract till the summer of 2013. Nelson is a solid point guard who can produce more, and will need to if the Magic want to compete harder in the Eastern Conference. He averages a modest 10.9 ppg and 5.6 assts. Keith Bogans is the 2 guard along with Nelson and doesn't do much else to help the backcourt of the Magic. He averages 8.7 ppg and 3.2 rebs, and gets paid fairly for that production at $2.4 million this past season and will get paid $2.9 million in the coming season. With that kind of salary, don't expect too much out of Bogans.

The Magic's bench does not go too deep. Along with defense, depth is probably the second problem plaguing the team. JJ Reddick, the former Duke legend has not had the opportunities to shine in the NBA. He has only been able to get in for 8.1 minutes a game and averages 4.1 ppg during that stretch, most of which is garbage time. Reddick can offer something to an NBA team, but the Magic do not seem to like what Reddick brings. It seems like they drafted him based on his star power. That is, they drafted him in 2007 for the sole purpose of putting people in seats. Unfortunately for the Magic and Reddick, no one cares about the former Blue Devil and Magic fans want wins, not former college stars. The bad news continues for Magic fans, JJ is locked in under contract until the summer of 2011, but JJ says that he wants out. The Magic aren't going to budge, but that is more due to the fact that no one wants Reddick's services. If JJ got on the right team, he could be a huge asset. There will always be jobs in the NBA for pure shooters. JJ is one of them. He will never be a star like he was in college, but he is good enough to stay in the league if given the opportunity.

The Magic drafted Courtney Lee out of Western Kentucky. I'm not going to act like I know much about Lee or watched him play outside of the tournament. The most I know about this guy is that he busted my bracket when he led Western Kentucky to an upset over Drake (12 over 5's... they get you ever year). The Magic just signed Lee to a $9 million dollar contract that has him until the end of the 2013 season. From what I have heard, Lee was amazing in his pre-draft workouts and has an incredibly work ethic. From those reports, I can make the judgment that he probably has that underdog mentality. He went to a small D1 program, managed to shine during the tournament, make it to the big leagues, and now he wants to prove that he is worthy of all of it. You can't help but root for the guy. If he becomes a credible 2 guard for the Magic, they have a solid team.

The defense and depth of the Magic hurt them. They probably won't be winning conference titles in the coming years, but they will always be around that 3rd or 4th spot in the East. It will be interesting to see how it plays out. I expect the Magic to give his one more year, and then seriously explore trade options and dumping players to get cap room. The city of Orlando has been deprived of championship hopes for far too long.



Who says the Bucks play in a small market? Well...is it as small of a market as DC? Here is an article that answers that age old question, is DC better than Milwaukee?

Why does no one want J.R Smith? Tremendous article by Hardwood Paroxysm on why J.R Smith has superstar talent, but needs to get on a team that will guide him.

Haven't you ever looked at an NBA player or coach and said, "Hey, he looks like..." Well, SLAM did too, and some of these players have striking resemblances.

Picture Sources: nba.com (first), slamonline.com (second), bleacherreport.com (third), dwighthoward.com (fourth), orlandosentinel.com (fifth), nba.com (sixth), deadspin.com (seventh), sports.espn.com (eighth)


Capitalism and Josh Childress

We have heard about the reports that Josh Childress will leave for the famous Greek team, Olympiacos. The deal includes incentives such as a house and tax breaks that will earn him a bit over $20 million dollars. That is more than any NBA team could pay or would pay for Childress. This is a little worrisome for the NBA in the short term, but hopefully the problems will be fixed after this.

We have seen 7 NBA players go overseas this offseason including relevant players such as Juan Carlos Navaro, Bostjan Nachbar, and Tiago Splitter. This has to be a little bit of an eye opener for the NBA. The NBA is half right that there is no competition for the league, in America. We have now seen two very high profile players go overseas in Brandon Jennings and Josh Childress. Jennings is a little different because he is expected to return after a 1 year stint. As much as we want the "1 year rule" to change, it won't because it does not hurt the NBA. Childress' case does. Here is a reason why this hurts the NBA right now, but allows for a progressive change in the league.

Collective Bargaining Agreement: If any of you have ever read the CBA, it is extraordinarily complex. There are many restrictions on players and teams. As a whole, it is pretty fair. The problem is that it assumes no league can compete with the financial power of NBA teams. The league has been right on this issue since the ABA merger, until now. The growing power of European basketball is driving players and their agents to explore the offers from foreign teams. The reason is simple and obvious. We can use Josh Childress' case as an example. Childress was a restricted free agent this season which has meant that players usually don't get many offers from other teams because the owning team will just match the offer. The Hawks did not give Childress an extension last offseason and did not come at him with a strong enough offer this offseason. There are other teams in the league with the cap room to make an offer at Childress, but the CBA prevents this from happening. The CBA is a restrictive capitalist tool (in this case it is the salary cap) that creates a great competition among NBA teams, and until now, that domestic competition was all that mattered. Now, seemingly out of the blue, Olympiacos has made an amazing offer at Childress that he accepted and sent him on his way. This will hopefully be an eye-opening experience for the NBA and the players union, and hopefully this will be changed in the near future to prevent players like Josh Childress from going overseas. Clearly, NBA teams are going to pay almost whatever is necessary for superstars to stay here, but the cap prevents them from paying valuable swingmen such as Childress top dollar. The times have changed and the NBA must adjust to this evolution before we have every superstar complaining about the lack of support around him because all of the role players went to Europe.

The restrictive nature of the CBA allowed Josh Childress to be bought at a much higher price than he ever would have received in the NBA. The NBA, as well as other professional leagues, are incredibly bad at preventive measures. It is perplexing to see how many lawyers, economists, marketing experts, etc. be employed by the NBA and not foresee that Euroleague teams could compete with the NBA. That is only one example of how the NBA did not prevent a potential problem from happening. Surely the NBA could have taken preventive measures from something like the Palace Brawl from happening, or at least minimizing it. The 'players cannot enter the stands rule' could have and should have been in place before November of 2004. The NBA could have minimized a Tim Donaghy scandal by allowing referees to talk to media after games, and especially after controversial calls, or even raising salaries. Sadly, there are changes that should be made, but won't because it takes a long time to make any sort of change, but with finances like player salaries and league revenue at stake, you would think the NBA would at least study the competition to the league. It takes a long time for leagues to predict or even react to changes. This is no different, but when the NBA prides itself on saying it has the best basketball players and athletes in the world, it better do all it can to keep it that way.



Very fitting to the topic. The NBA and MLB combined are not even worth as much as the NFL.


Malice at the Palace Part 2

The WNBA keeps trying to be like the NBA, maybe now more people will watch.

(From the Associated Press)

Parker was one of three players ejected along with Detroit assistant coach Rick Mahorn after an ugly scuffle with 4.6 seconds left in Los Angeles' 84-81 victory.

"To be honest, I don't recall exactly what happened,'' said Parker, who led Los Angeles with 21 points. "I'll have to watch the tape.''

The skirmish started moments after Parker and Detroit's Cheryl Ford had to be separated after Ford fouled Parker.

On the next possession, Parker got tangled up with Detroit's Plenette Pierson and fell to the ground. As she was getting up, Pierson intentionally ran into her, setting off the melee.

Parker threw a punch at Pierson before being tackled by Detroit's Deanna Nolan. Players and coaches from both teams joined in, and Mahorn knocked Lisa Leslie to the court at one point.

"I was trying to protect the whole game, the integrity of the game,'' he said. "The WNBA is very special to me because I have four daughters. I don't even raise my hand to them, and I would never push a woman. This game, I love this game too much.''

Leslie did not talk to the media, but Los Angeles coach Michael Cooper said he felt Mahorn was trying to stop the fight.

"I think Rick was trying to play peacemaker, but he's just too big,'' Cooper said. "I was only trying to grab my players, and I didn't see exactly what happened, but he apparently gently tried to push Lisa away.''

DeLisha Milton-Jones shoved and punched Mahorn after the incident with Leslie, and was ejected, along with Mahorn, Parker and Pierson. Nolan and Shannon Bobbitt received technicals.

"That was unfortunate, but things like that happen in basketball sometimes,'' Milton-Jones said. "The league is going to have to decide what kind of action to take.''

Ford sprained her right knee while trying to restrain Pierson, and left the floor in a wheelchair. Her status is unknown.

Photo Source: Yahoo Sports


Evaluating the Marcus Camby trade

My cousin and I were talking about the recent trade and have come up with the following conclusion. Denver is screwed and the Clippers are going to make the playoffs next year. What are the Nuggets thinking? They just happened to be on the better end of the tightest Western Conference in the modern era and they give away the one player who can give them some sort of defensive presence because they did not want to pay luxury tax. Nugget fans, that is a classic example of a team managing by the plus and minus of the accounting ledger instead of with a commitment to the W/L column. How ironic that the Nuggets trade Camby to a team that is notorious for a front office that has not pulled the trigger on a deal because Donald Sterling didn't want to cut those checks. Clippers fans, things just got a whole lot brighter. Yeah, there is no Elton Brand, but Camby is not half bad and it works out well for the Clips and here is why. (Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby left)

For starters, the Clippers have had some of the absolute worse drafting in basketball, and I would say worst, but we all know that Minnesota is the winner of that one. The Clippers give up a second round pick that would have been a complete waste of a pick anyway. It would be one of those picks where management finds out they are on the clock, throw a bunch of pieces of paper with names on them and Donald Sterling and Elgin Baylor throw darts at the pieces of paper and see what name they hit. Don't believe that is how they draft? How about their draft records of Yaoslav Korolev, Melvin Ely, and Michael Olowokandi, the player who is in those drunken NBA debates about who was the worst #1 pick of all time, Kwame Brown or Kandi man? The Clippers could have given up a first round pick and this deal would have been heavily in the Clippers favor. Bottom line is, Clippers got great value for giving up nothing. The LA teams are stealing...errr...I mean, trading really well!

The Clippers shouldn't be too disappointed for losing Brand. I am a firm believer in a player doing what is best for himself. I can sympathize with Brand (or maybe it was David Falk) with his decision to go to Philly. The guy has a devastating Achilles injury and no one knows how he is going to come back and play. I see Clipper fans rolling their eyes, but would you really want to invest $80 million+ in a guy who hasn't played in a season and might not be up to where he was? If he came back and couldn't produce like he used to, it would tie up finances for a long time. Err on the side of caution and move in a different direction. Camby is a one year rental, and if you are Mike Dunleavy that is something you can easily work with.

Lets just think about if Brand came back, the Clippers don't have the cap room to sign Camby, and Kaman becomes less productive. Obviously a healthy Brand > Camby, but Kaman needs the ball to produce. Kaman averaged 15.7 ppg this past season compared to the 06'-07' season where he averaged 10.1 ppg and increased his field goal percentage to 48% from 45%. Clear proof that he needs the ball to be effective. This is clearly a plus on Kaman's end.

Camby is an excellent complementary player next to Kaman. He was slow on the weak side rotation, but he played on the Nuggets. There was a reason he was a defensive player of the year and why he was such a coveted asset when he played for the Raptors and Knicks. I expect Camby to help Al Thornton grow and having a promising player like Thornton as your backup is something I'm sure Mike Dunleavy likes to see when looking down the bench. Camby can play the 4. I would not be surprised if Dunleavy used Camby as the 5 and put Thornton in at the 4 and tried to play some small ball that B.Davis is used to. It makes the options very problematic. Two seven footers in the front make it a pretty tough matchup for a lot of teams. Camby can play outside more instead of having to matchup down low like he had to do in Denver. It will leave him to shoot the 15-18 ft jumpshots that he loves and leave Kaman a lot of room down low to do what he does best, posting up. Camby doesn't need the ball to score, he will find his way. If Camby isn't spotting up for a mid-range jumper, he is crashing the boards for an offensive rebound. Defensively, both Camby and Kaman will be great. The mere presence of both in the lane will be enough to discourage opposing guards from driving in the lane and make it tougher for opposing bigs to just power the ball inside. Mike Dunleavy is going to be a very happy coach with a lot of options.

If you are worried about Camby's 9.1 ppg not being enough. Al Thornton averaged around 18 points in the last month of the season and will get his reps in the summer league and be ready to continue that upward trend into the 08'-09' season. To add to all of this, if Eric Gordon can be an effective scorer, it will lighten the load even more for Camby and he can focus on the defensive end. The Clippers losing Maggette was the biggest blow to their rotation. It is hard to find a player right now who can match Maggette's contribution, but it isn't devastating. The Clippers are coming out next year as a clear playoff contender. If they live up to expectations they should be the team that replaces the Nuggets in the playoff seeds. The Nuggets hurt themselves from that perspective too. They fueled a Clipper team that is desperately trying to make moves, and when the Clipper faithful thought it would be a long shot, the Nuggets said, "Here, take our 8th spot."

And the Western Conference arms race continues...


Picture Sources: nba.com Getty Images (first), hoopsvibe.com (second), nba.com (third), daylife.com (fourth)


Offseason to-do list: Rockets

People can talk all they want about how T-mac hasn't gotten past the first round in his career. The failures of the Rockets are not enough for them to ship Tracy McGrady out of Houston. Face it people, he is not going anywhere. Not to Detroit, not to Denver, not to anywhere. His failure to get his team to the playoffs when he played in Toronto, Orlando, or Houston has been well documented and very public. Is it really T-macs fault? No. There is no doubt in anyone's mind that if Yao Ming was healthy during the playoffs this year, it would have been a much different story. I also don't think anyone in Houston is blaming McGrady for the offseason failure again this year. It is understood that with Yao on the floor, it becomes a different story. With that said, the Rockets need to make a few tweaks and they will be right up there with the elite teams in the West.

The cornerstone of the Rockets are obviously T-Mac and Yao Ming. When the Rockets drafted Yao and made the trade for McGrady, it was said to be the next coming of Kobe and Shaq. As many of us know, this didn't work out as expected, yet. Yao Ming had an injury that was accumulated over time and forced him out for the rest of the season. He will be playing in the Beijing Olympic games next month which should scare the Rockets a bit. His injury was functionally a stress fracture that occurred because of the immense pressure put on it day after day. Of course, Yao will have medical clearance from doctors to play, but it has to worry Adelman and the rest of the Rocket organization. If his condition does not improve and he further injures himself in Beijing, the Rockets could be staring into a long dark tunnel. In Beijing, Yao is not only playing for China, he is in a sense, playing for the Rockets. Obviously the Rockets don't benefit off of this, but lets say he gets hurt, that puts the Rockets in a very tough position. They have put all of their eggs in the T-mac and Yao basket and the fans of Houston have been waiting patiently for years to see it manifest itself. To see Yao go down, or have recurring problems with this injury, would send the Rockets into another 5 year rebuilding plan and force them to pay out his contract of $15 mil, $16.3 mil, and $17.6 mil over the next three years. This obviously means they are tied up financially and would be limited in their free agent power, and only have trade possibilities as a real option. Of course, you can't tell a guy to not play for his country, it is the greatest honor an athlete can have. It is just something the Rockets have to bite their tongue on, cross their fingers and hope for the best. Now, one might say, any of the players who play for their respective international teams have the same potential to hurt themselves just like Yao does. Yes, that is true, however, this is the first time Yao has come off of injury and is testing it with little practice and rehabilitation time. It will be one of the story lines for NBA fans watching the Olympics to keep their eyes on.

Tracy McGrady has had some off court problems this offseason, but no one even dares to count McGrady out of next year's playoff hunt. Expect him to be the superstar we have always known him to be. I predict that this will be one of his best years, if not the best, of his career. The previous years he has struggled with injury or team chemistry, but the Rockets have put together the pieces and have proven themselves a dangerous team in the West. When Yao went down and they were about 7 or 8 games into their historic streak I predicted that they would not make the playoffs. They demolished that prediction and proved to me that you cannot bet against a player like T-Mac, the superstar who leads this team, and a great coach in Rick Adelman. T-Mac averaged 21.6 ppg and 5.9 assts, but those numbers don't reflect his impact on the court. We have all seen him literally put his team on his shoulders and carry them to the finish. He is so good that there are some games where he only scores a point or two in a quarter and plays lock down defense on the opposing team's best player. He can do it all and if Yao can come back healthy and produce like he did last year, T-Mac will finally get to that elusive second round of the playoffs and he will not longer be referred to as the superstar who almost won. You can't help but feel for the guy even if you aren't a Houston fan. It is hard to see a guy putting everything he has into the game against all odds and still coming up short.

For whatever reason, Luis Scola doesn't get the press he deserves. He was obviously in the ROY discussion this year, but that didn't do his impact justice. Unlike the vast majorities of rookies, Scola is in his prime upon entering the NBA at 27 years old. He was a major reason the Rockets went on their 22 game win streak last season. He is an absolute steal because he is still bound by his rookie contract that paid him $2.9 million and will pay him $3.1 million and $3.3 million through the end of the 2010 season. He is 6'9 and 230lbs which gives him the size to go up against some of the bigger forwards in the league. No one is calling him a great defender when he averages .23 blocks a game and .73 steals, and he probably will never be, but he will learn. He is naturally gifted and can improve to make himself as good a defender as he wants to be. His real value is on offense. It is up to debate about whether Rafer Alston or Scola is the third option, but I think Rick Adelman can live with that problem. Alston averages 13.1 ppg while Scola averages 10.3 ppg. The difference is, Alston shoots only 39.4% from the field while Scola shoots a solid 51.5% from the field. It also doesn't hurt that Scola grabs 6.4 rebs a game to go along with those numbers. This was only his first year. Expect him to be one of Houston's coveted assets in the coming years. If he continues to improve, he will be one of the best forwards in the NBA without a doubt.

Scola is Houston's first, and arguably most important role player. The next player that Houston likes is the former And-1 star, Rafer Alston. Alston has always confused me because I can't decide whether he can be considered one of the best point guards in the league or he was a beneficiary of a team riding emotion and momentum during the season. I do know he is extremely talented, but whether he is translating that into wins in the NBA is suspect. He is more of a streaky type player. If he is on, his box score is gonna be high, but if it is an off night, he doesn't shoot himself out of it very easily. He averages 34.1 minutes a game but only averages, as previously stated, 13.1 points. The amount of time and his average supports the argument that he is a streaky shooter. He has games where he is scoring 25-30, but he also has games where he is scoring under 10 points. He was the main catalyst in Houston's 22 game run this year. At one point he was clearly one of the top 5 point guards in the Western Conference, but the playoffs proved that he could not hang with the best of them when it counted. He does make about what he should for a player with his skill set. He is set to make $4.9 million next year and $5.2 million in in the 09'-10' season which is not unreasonable at all. The backup for Alston, Luther Head, plays almost the exact same game as Alston but at what a backup should produce. Head averages 7.6ppg and 1.9 assts playing an average of 18.9 minutes a game and getting paid $1.9 and $2.8 million, respectively, through the next two seasons. Not much more you can ask for with a guy getting paid that much.

The Rockets have a deeper bench than most people think. Dikembe Mutumbo is not under contract for next season, but the 42 year old might have a year left in him. He led the Rockets in blocks this year at 1.23 a game and played 15.4 minutes a game. The Rockets do have one of the top defenders in the league in Shane Battier. Everyone knew he was an amazing defender, but no one knew just how good this guy was until the Rockets played the Lakers this season and beat them to extend their win streak to 21 games. Battier locked down Kobe on national television and made everyone believe that Kobe could at least be slowed down if played correctly. He earned a lot of respect that day and he deserves all of his $6.3 million dollar contract next year and lasts till the end of the 2011 season. The other two players that are commonly overlooked are Bonzi Wells and Bobby Jackson. Both of these players bring instant offense, energy, and toughness the second they hit the floor. Wells was lost in Sacramento and New Orleans, but has really shown he can be a solid role player on Houston's club. He averaged 9.2ppg and 5.1 rebs, the exact numbers as Shane Battier, a starter, except Battier averaged .1 ppg than Wells did. That is about as good as a team can ask for in a guy off the bench (unless you are the Spurs who consider Manu Ginobli a bench player). Wells is not under contract next year, but any team that signs him will pay top dollar for his service. Bobby Jackson is set to earn $6 million next year and no one questions his game play. He is consistently one of the last guys to leave practice and shoots 300 jump shots a day after practice. That is the kind of dedication an owner and GM love to see when they are cutting a $6 million check. His averages don't tell the whole story for him and he is worth more than his 8.8 ppgs and 2.4 assts would suggest. His contribution off the bench shows why teams are willing to pay him as much as they do without putting so much emphasis on his stats.

The Rockets have a loaded back court now with the addition of Brent Barry who will probably be playing more SF than SG. Barry's value skyrocketed when he had an amazing Game 4 against the Lakers in the playoffs and was involved in one of the most controversial plays of the year. The Rockets have 4 players under contract who can play point guard. Alston, Head, Steve Francis, and Aaron Brooks. There will not be enough minutes to go around for all four players and Aaron Brooks, the for Oregon star, is too good of a prospect to let go even if he is a little undersized to play in the NBA. He showed a lot or promise and played a bigger role than many would have expected the second round pick player to play. He logged 12 minutes a game and had 5.2 ppg during that time. Steve Francis is back with the team he started his career with and the player Houston used in a trade to get McGrady, but his disappointing career has shown teams that he is a backup point guard at best in the league. Expect him to be a possible trade chip for the Rockets as he is due to make $2.6 million dollars this coming year that can come off the books.

The Rockets will be an elite team for years to come as long as their core of T-Mac, Yao, Battier and Scola can be kept together. If the back court of the Rockets improves and consistently produces what we have seen they can produce when it counts, they will be a tough team to beat. Houston has built a contender in the West and that is saying a lot with the current arms race going on in the stacked Western Conference. I think this is the year they get over the hump and at least make the second round. If they don't, it is going to be time to think about a new approach to this whole playoff thing.



You may not have heard of James Felton, but getting dunked on by a little-known player by the name of Tracy McGrady never quite healed. This is a very sad and tragic story of a prep star who didn't like to be in the spotlight and spilled over to problems off the court that led to his death.

What is it with Duke and NBA contracts? I don't get it either...

Brad Miller's recent suspension for marijuana hasn't caused that much rustle in the media these days, and The Sporting Blog asks the question of whether it is a racial thing. It is an interesting question posed to a situation that many people might not immediately think it applies to.

Great read: rufusonfire.com, the Charlotte Bobcat blog writes about the worst NBA all-stars of the last two decades.

What would an offseason without Lamar for Artest trade rumors be? Well, here is what the Lakers are dealing with financially. You can make your own prediction of what will happen. You can see if the numbers work out in the long run for yourself. The beginning of the article is for all you economics nuts out there and breaks down the Lakers business side from an economic perspective.

The next big NBA market is...India?

If you haven't read Marc Stein's ESPN report about free agents this offseason...you should.

Picture Sources: nba.com (top), espn.com (second), chinadaily.com (third), nbaloud.com (fourth) espn.com (fifth), nba.com (sixth), daylife.com (seventh), espn.com (eighth), nba.com (ninth), nba.com (tenth)


Offseason to-do list: Nets by guest writer Charlie Falck

Charlie Falck is one of the few people you can talk to who can talk about the NFL, MLB, and NBA and actually have a well informed and coherent argument with. Although he calls New Jersey home his mother's former residence in San Diego gives him a connection to root for the San Diego Chargers. He is also as much of a Knicks fan as you can find these days. It is a person like Charlie that will give you one of those wake up calls telling you that you do not know as much about sports as you think you do. He can switch the conversation from the NFL to the NBA on a dime and with his radio-like voice, unlike many sports arguments, can actually persuade you. He has some interesting thoughts about what the Nets need to do to be successful. He concedes that they won't be good this year, but he writes this piece under the assumption that the Nets will go after/get Lebron in the 2010 free agency market. He says that if you don't think that will happen, he doesn't want you reading this column anyway. His analysis and prediction for the long term future for the Nets and, for a franchise that has constantly been in limbo, it actually makes sense.

The New Jersey Nets have made a commitment to change this offseason, having transformed Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson into a flashy bunch including Devin Harris, Mo Ager, Bobby Simmons, Yi, Brook Lopez, the memory of Keith Van Horn, a future first rounder, 10 million in cash, and whatever else will comprise Lebron James’ second substandard supporting cast in as many franchises in 2010. Although the Kidd trade will go down as a victory for New Jersey over Dallas, the deal did little to alter the Nets’ course for the future. There are, however, a couple intriguing subplots surrounding this team prior to King James’ arrival.

The Search for Scottie

Until I see anything different, no team built around a star player can win a championship without at least one competent sidekick Although Lebron does his best every spring to combat that theory, considering even the development of a mid-range/post-up game couldn’t possibly elevate his all-around numbers much more (can they?), the Nets should spend the next couple summers looking for a suitable Robin while simultaneously keeping adequate cap space. There are two in-house candidates with the potential to provide that. The obvious choice is Mr. Carter. Barring trades, Lebron and Vince would both be Nets for at least the 2010-2011 season. That will provide Carter a chance to show how well he can really play if interested, as well as give a gauge as to how well Lebron plays with another proven scorer. That is a potentially fascinating season for numerous other reasons, but it deserves its own column. The second candidate is Sean Williams, mainly for the fact that he’s only been playing organized basketball for five years. He and Lebron could combine for the most athletic 3-4 combo in NBA history, and considering Lebron tends to at the least give his teammates every opportunity to contribute, Williams could easily end up as an All-Star caliber forward in the East in a few years (provided he grows up). However, if Carter appears so disinterested the Nets would rather just free up more cap and Williams doesn’t improve, they must decide whether to explore outside options or just wait and build around Lebron after he arrives. It would be wise for New Jersey to exercise some patience for several reasons.

1. Outside of the Nets becoming a worse team than both the Knicks and Cavs, Lebron is coming. Once he gets there the Nets can work out the kinks and suit the team a little more to his interests.

2. At best, making a move for a sidekick would culminate in the Nets committing to a player that Lebron may or may not approve of before he arrives. At worst, it would most likely saddle the team with a bad contract, mess up whatever chemistry the current team might cook up, and create another weak supporting cast that Lebron will valiantly lead to playoff elimination for years to come.

3. Given the state of the team now, the Nets can afford to be patient. In addition to hiding behind the laughable moniker of “Eastern conference contender,” the Nets will be able to attract fans and make decent money in the next two years. They’re team isn’t good, but as long as Yi is marketable and not awful he’ll put fans in the seats, and New jersey still has star power with Carter. The Nets will figure to play an exciting, up-tempo style (more on that below) and should have no problem at least matching what sales have been the last two years.

Split Personality

As of today, the Nets roster is bloated to the point where you could form two wonderfully average teams. While this does not add up to anything good, the collection of players does provide options for a style of play. The opening night depth chart could go something like this:

1-Devin Harris, Marcus Williams
2-Vince Carter, Bobby Simmons, Mo Ager
3-Yi, CDR, Bostjian Nachbar
4-Sean Williams, Ryan Anderson
5-Josh Boone, Brook Lopez

Once you all collect your breath after viewing that Murderer’s Row, consider the contrast in styles evident in an rotation of Harris, Williams, VC, Simmons, Yi, CDR, Williams, Boone, and Lopez. Harris is built to push and would do so with athletes like Carter, CDR, and Sean Williams, and maybe even Boone. Williams is built to plod, as are Lopez, Yi, and Carter if he feels like it. The more effective strategy would be to run. This team will not finish above .500 and probably not even make the playoffs (it’s extremely depressing to rank those statements that way), and focusing on defense and half-court offense not only doesn’t cater to the strengths of the principal players, it probably won’t lead to anything because the only way the team would be any good next year is if they became more acclimated to Harris and his preferred pace. No matter how many times Lawrence the Leprechaun calls Vince Carter a leader, this is a team of largely passive basketball personalities. Whenever that happens, leadership deflects to the primary ball handler.

Prediction: As always, these predictions are useless. .500 would be a dream for this team, and it would take a 2000 Vince Carter to get them there. Assuming a few injuries take their toll, look for the Nets to start very slow but show some promise after the All-Star break. As long as Vince doesn’t mail it in, look for Devin Harris to emerge as a leader once he gets a full year running the team under his belt, as well as flashes from Williams, general idiocy from Lopez, and one-dimensional scoring performances from Yi.

MVP: Harris
Surprise: Boone
Disappointment: CDR
35-47, 10th in East



Links: Brandon Jennings is going overseas. I wrote about this issue last month and expected this to happen. This seems like a very slippery slope that no one seems to care about.

The Big Lead links us to two stories, one by the Toronto Star and another by ESPN the Mag, and they talk about how NBA players dry up their fortune. The Big Lead raises an interesting question on the story by asking the question why NBA players are always the ones that are mentioned in wasting their salaries? Is is that we have a preconceived stereotype that NBA players are inherently incapable of managing their small fortunes to a much lesser extent than any other athletes?

Remember Anthony Mason? Hoops Addict recaps his career and gives a little update on him.

Lebron, CP3, Darnell Jackson, +2 others, lost in a pickup game at Lebron's bball camp?!

Doc River's oldest son played for Georgetown last season and has announced that he will transfer to Indiana, but Rivers' youngest son has already agreed to play for Billy Donovan's Florida Gator's. He will be starting his sophomore high school season next year.

Picture sources: armchairgm.com(first), askmen.com (second), xxlmag.com (third), nydailynews.com


Offseason To-do List: Portland Trailblazers

The Portland Trailblazers arguably have the most promising future (5-7 years) of any NBA team in the league. Funny thing is, the Blazers most promising pieces have yet to play an NBA game. Portland has a lot to look forward to especially after waiting since 2004 to return to the playoffs and 1990 1992 to compete for a championship (where they went to the finals in both years).

With number 1 overall pick in last year's draft, sitting out the season with micro fracture surgery on his knee, the Blazers are hoping that Ohio State Center Greg Oden turns out to be Hall of Famer he has the potential to be. But even if the young big man ONLY becomes an all star caliber player, all might not be in vain with Portland having so many young and talented pieces including rising star Brandon Roy. Roy and Oden will be the cornerstones of this franchise...and yes Big Men are marketable...

Portland really does not need to make to many moves this off season other then wait and see how the pieces fit together. The pieces being there though, is much in thanks to GM Kevin Pritchard who helped bring in key pieces like Greg Oden, Brandon Roy, traded away Zach Randolph, and acquired Jerryd Bayless.

They'll be great...we think
Two other key pieces to this Portland team has to have yet to play an NBA game as well. Jerryd Bayless and Rudy Fernandez. Jerryd Bayless was arguably the best point guard behind #1 pick Derrick Rose in this years draft projected being picked as high as #4. Bayless has a little bit of a scoring point guard mentality, but in Arizona he had to be the man. Now in Arizona, between him and Roy being able to handle the ball, they'll be able to play off each other for lots of ball movement and easy buckets. Bayless' strengths are his quickness, athleticism, and intelligence, combined with his confidence will lead him to be a credible scoring threat.
Depending on how the Blazers use/develop him, we'll get a glipse of how good he'll be. Steve Blake is still there who is solid in all aspects of his game.
And despite being undersized we saw how we helped bring Maryland an NCAA championship.

The other intriguing prospect is Spanish Basketball Player Rudy Fernandez. Fernandez is the prototypical European guard, with good shooting, slashing, scoring abilities, and averaging defense and athleticism. For Rudy however, he's done it big, showing his composure helping Spain win the 2006 World Champions and take Silver in 2007 European Championship and winning several MVP champions which I can't read because they are in Spanish.

With a backcourt of Blake, Bayless, Fernandez, and all star Roy and reserve Sergio Rodriguez (also from Spain), Blazers have the depth and youth to be strong in the backcourt for a long time.

The SF position is a little more trickier for the Blazers as they won't be resigning reserve James Jones but instead replacing him with skinny but highly skilled frenchman Nicolas Batum. This kid has a lot of skills and potential but will need some time to develop. For the time being however, Martell Webste and Travis Outlaw didn't do a terrible job last year together putting up 24 points 8 rebounds, however their average 42% shooting and isn't really going to strike fear into any teams hearts. However, with so many scorers Outlaw might be able to focus on being a quick, athletic defender, while Martell could find himself losing his spot in the rotation. Otherwise, hopefully these players can continue to develop, or a perfect situation would be to trade these young pieces for the one year Ron Artest rental with hopes he'd love to stick around on this championship caliber team...unfortunately I just remembered this is no longer the Portland Jailblazers.

In the front court, we've mentioned Greg Oden but behind him is the incredible defensive Big Man Joel Pryzbilla. He is a great backup, being one of the best defensive big men in the league, 28th in blocks per 48 minutes last season, and he lead Blazers in rebounds and FG%. However with glaring weakness on something called offense with his 68% free throw shooting .4 assists per 24 minutes his contract of $32 million for 5 years might be just right or a little over doing it. On the plus side he's a bigger contributor then Raef Lafrentz whose had some servicible years in the league, but just won't crack the rotation in Portland.

At the other block LaMarcus Aldridge he a terrific young big men being second in scoring on the team last year with 17.8 points. He's still trying to find his own rebounding and defensively, but he has a repoitare of skills in his still developing body. Plus put him next to Greg Oden or Pryzbilla and his defensive inabilities will be masked. Channing Frye from Arizona is a similar mold of Aldridge, skill long Power Forward with phenomenal offensive capabilities and limited defensive abilities. He in essence does a lot of thinks Aldrge does just hasn't been given the time, so he's been doing it on a limited basis. Frye may be gone next year so he's going to really have to prove himself if he's hoping to stick around.

With a rotation of Aldridge, Oden, Frya, and Pryzilla the teams front court is solid offensively and defensively . The team will be able to throw out different players depending on the matchup and collectively these players will learn and grow together to make their way to be a championship contenting team.

This off season may look boring for the Blazers from the normal fans perspective, but for Blazers fans this may be the most exciting off season yet (if Greg Oden doesn't miss next season too).

Picture Source: Answers.com, cache.dailylife.com, draftexpress.com, si.com, espn.com.


Off season to-do list: Knicks

Nowadays there are few people outside of Spike Lee with the courage to admit they are Knicks fans. Forrest, happens to be one of the true New York faithful left that I know. He is on top of all things Knicks and what I would consider a pretty good NBA historian. He has interesting thoughts about the Knicks, and the NBA (but we won't get into those), anytime you talk to him about it, including ideas such as keeping Isaiah Thomas in a front office position because he is one of the best talent evaluators in the NBA, Nate Robinson as one of the most athletic players in the league, and Danilo Gallinari being a good draft pick. While he doesn't defend those positions in this piece, he does give us a pretty good look into the present situation for the Knicks and the optimistic future outlook for the team.

Let’s be honest. Despite the recent hiring of proven winners in the coaching spot as well as in the front office, this is a franchise in shambles. The Knicks have not been a playoff team since 2001, and no, no one should count the 2003-2004 team which had a losing record and was swept out of the playoffs by the Nets in humiliating fashion as a “playoff team”. As if the on-court troubles weren’t enough, recent estimates say that the Knicks lost over 187 million dollars under Isaiah Thomas, which would easily have been enough money to lock up Allan Houston and Antonio McDeyess through 2012 with max deals.

Any discussion of what the Knicks need to do to get back to being an elite team has to begin with the summer of 2010. Lebron James has indicated that he might be leaning towards signing with the Brooklyn Nets instead of the Knicks. Regardless, this class could potentially include Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Rip Hamilton, Amare Stoudemire, Manu Ginobili, and Carlos Boozer. One can already see that the Knicks are looking forward to that summer, signing Chris Duhon to a two year deal so he could come off the books in 2010 where the Magic were offering him three.

So, keeping that in mind, let’s go through the Knicks roster and determine each player’s value as a combination of their talent, fit in D’Antoni’s system, and their contract.

Stephon Marbury’s career is done. We already knew from his stints with Minnesota, New Jersey, and Phoenix that he was not the type of player who was able to carry his team to victories on a consistent basis, but at least he was putting up All-Star caliber numbers. His numbers have declined each year with the Knicks to the point where he is now averaging just 13 points and 5 assists per game. Respectable numbers, but not good enough considering that during the 2008-2009 season he will be the second highest paid player in the league. Throw in his off the court antics, and Marbury’s impact on the team is solidly negative. However, it is essential that the Knicks do not trade Stephon. They will probably receive plenty of enticing offers given the $21 million that his contract will bring off a team’s payroll after next season, but the biggest problem with recent Knick’s personnel moves has been trading away such expiring contracts and tying themselves up with overpaid, mediocre players.

Another failed experiment is Eddy Curry. Curry refuses to get in shape, attempt to play defense, or pull down rebounds (Even in his best season, he was a 7 footer crashing the boards at a pathetic 1 rebound per 5 minutes rate). He can’t shoot, dribble, or run the break, so D’Antoni can’t have much use for him. The Knicks should just hope that they can somehow get rid of Curry for a player of less value but with a better contract. Another intriguing option might be to just cut him. Curry is terrible, but it is almost guaranteed that another team will at least sign him to the veteran minimum, meaning that the Knicks could reduce the amount that his contract is counting against the cap.

Zach Randolph is not such a clear-cut case. Although he is due to make much more than he is worth ($14.5 million next season, over 17 million in 2010-2011), he is obviously an extremely talented player. I don’t care how bad the team was, anyone who can average 23 and 10 in the Western Conference can play. There are some character and work ethic issues, but there are plenty of instances of players who ended up being successful after the media and their fan bases had written them off as selfish head cases that would never really “get it” (see Stephen Jackson and Paul Pierce). Randolph is also a mobile big man with handle who has decent outside range, which could work out well if D’Antoni does in fact try to implement his run and gun offense with the Knicks. While Quentin Richardson is another player who has underachieved in a Knick uniform, he has had success under D’Antoni before. So it might be wise, knowing that he is a player who thrives in a fast paced offense, to withhold judgment on Q until his contract, which is $10 million coming off the books in 2010, expires.

Jamal Crawford is another player who, given his shooting prowess and his excellent ability to handle the ball (only 2.4 turnovers in 40 minutes per game last season, and a devastating crossover), could shine for D’Antoni. He is also the only player on the Knicks not in his rookie contract that one could make the case is making about the amount of money he deserves. Jamal has been one of the few bright spots on this team for the last few years.

Malik Rose is an expiring contract that could potentially be used as a trade chip at some point this season. Jerome James and Jared Jeffries are both bad players who the Knicks are just going to have to let ride the bench until their contracts are up.

The rest of this roster is made up of pretty talented young players who could potentially make a great set of role players when the Knicks start contending for the playoffs. Nate Robinson, David Lee, and Renaldo Balkman have all proven that they can play at a high level off the bench. Wilson Chandler and Mardy Collins could fall into this category if given a few more opportunities over the next couple of years.

Now no one is suggesting the Knicks just stand pat and do nothing until Lebron comes along and saves the franchise. There are a few holes that could be filled to at least make this team competitive in the Eastern conference this coming year.

There are rumors that Monta Ellis has expressed interest in playing for the Knicks, and that the Warriors are open to losing Ellis in a sign and trade. Monta is one of the most talented young guards in the NBA. He had flashes this season where commentators were describing him as the next Dwyane Wade, which means that if you listen to John Hollinger, the Knicks could bank on getting the greatest finals performance in the history of the league if they could get their hands on Ellis. Honestly, if the Knicks could acquire Ellis one could make the argument that they could get out of Lebron mode and try to build around Ellis, Crawford, and Randolph. But this just seems like a fantasy. The Knicks simply could not give the Warriors comparable value for Ellis. On top of this, after losing Baron Davis, I can’t see Chris Mullin dealing Ellis unless he is getting truly amazing value for him. The only things the Knicks have to offer are a couple of young players and Marbury and Rose’s expiring contracts, which would put the Warriors solidly into rebuilding mode, a place they don’t want to be. Moreover, the Knicks just signed Chris Duhon, so it seems they might have already made their decision on a point guard for this upcoming year.

The Knicks need a true center, badly. One option would be trying to pry Nenad Krstic from the Nets. The Nets have given Krstic a qualifying offer, which means they have the right to match any contract another team offers him. This is irrelevant to the Knicks, because after signing Chris Duhon they could not offer Krstic a deal the Nets would not match anyway. However, Krstic is reportedly looking to force a sign and trade. The Knicks could potentially try to make a run at Krstic, as long as they don’t give up the expiring contracts of Marbury or Rose.

Other needs for the Knicks include shooters, for D’Antoni’s system, and defense, for a team that was 29th in the NBA in points allowed per 100 possessions. Good shooters that are available this offseason include Ben Gordon, Brent Barry, Juan Dixon, DerMarr Johnson, and Bostjan Nachbar. Good defenders include Mickael Peitrus, Carl Landry, Matt Barnes, and Devean George. The problem with all these players is that the Knicks just don’t have the cap room after the Duhon signing to make a reasonable offer and would have to negotiate sign and trades which would most likely hamper them financially in the long term.

Thomas left the Knicks in a state where they are not going to be serious contenders even for home court advantage in the playoffs for the next couple of years. The best course for this team is to be patient, let their young talent develop, and not reinforce the same problems they have had over the last decade by mortgaging their future just on the hopes that they can grab a seventh or eight seed in the East.

Picture Sources: thegarden.com (first), theonion.com (second), nydailynews.com (third), sportsillustrated.cnn.com (fourth), nydailynews.com (fifth), rotorob.com (sixth), nba.com (seventh), hoopsvibe.com (eighth)

intro by Izzy

Off season to-do list: Nuggets

The Nuggets are an incredibly confusing team, to say the least. They have incredible talent on the team, but underachieve every single year. Most Denver fans will point to George Karl, but it has less to do with George Karl's coaching than it has to do with the chemistry of the team. There are a few things that the Nuggets could do that does not have to do with cutting George Karl from the head coaching position.

When AI was traded from Philly everyone thought putting him alongside Melo was going to create an unstoppable offensive force. Those predictions were true, and one of the few predictions about the Nuggets that came through. Melo and AI are obviously two incredible players who know how to score. It was sort of strange to hear Melo's name being thrown around in trade rumors. My theory on that is the Nugget's did that to scare Melo after his off-court troubles instead of actually trying to trade him. I have reason to believe that theory, other than the fact that trading for Chauncy Billups would have been a side step for the Nuggets and made them smaller in the front which would have made no sense for the Nuggets. The other name that came up was Rasheed Wallace and if the Nuggets were looking for a player that doesn't have off-court trouble, Wallce probably wasn't the right way to go anyway. Melo is staying in The Mile High City period.

The Nuggets got ousted by the Lakers 4-0. It was a sad reminder that this current Nugget team cannot get this done. A lot has not been said about this, but AI is in the last year of his contract and he is due to make $21.9 million this season. That is an unbelievable trade asset that the Nuggets have. I doubt that something happens before the season starts, but come February, if the right team puts together the right package, AI could be shipped out very quickly. Obviously AI has had a remarkable career, but his aging body has logged a ton of minutes and he has taken more punishment and injuries through his career than some team's starters combined have gone through. He did average 26.4 points, 7 assts, and 2 steals, but those numbers are down from his glory days in Philly. AI is one of the quickest players in the history of the NBA and no one is denying that. The pieces of the Nuggets are the main road block preventing them from doing damage in the Western Conference. The Nuggets could get great value back for AI because keeping him just causes problems. It would be foolish to sign him to another long term contract after this one expires in the summer of 2009 because he is an aging guard and it has not been working thus far. It is time for the Nuggets to part with AI. With AI's $21.9 million salary, a team could put together a very nice package. A team who needs a quick fix short-term fix in the back court, one of the best offensive assets in the league, quickness, toughness, and wants to secure sellouts every night could attempt to acquire his services and might explore trade options. No team immediately comes to mind, but just expect teams to be interested in his expiring contract and expect the Nuggets to listen intently.

The Nuggets seem to lack the strength and mental toughness needed to succeed in the West. AI has the mental and physical toughness and is a good defender, but this is where things get murky for the Nuggets. Outside of AI, it doesn't seem like any of the other players have that. Kenyon Martin made an astronomical salary of $13.2 million in this past season and is due to make $14.1 million in the coming year and it rises about $1.2 million over the next 3 years. This super athletic forward out of Cincinnati has had times where he has performed up to his salary, but not when it counts in the post season. He averaged 12.4 ppg, 6.5 rebs, and 1.2 blks. Those numbers are not terrible, and he was the third highest scoring Nugget by .1 point above J.R Smith, but those numbers are not living up to his salary. His contract is usually for a 20pt/10 reb/2.5 blks type of guy. He is an amazing defensive asset and he has the ability to shut down whoever he is guarding, but his offensive production might be hindered by Melo and AI taking 38 of the teams shots. To Martin's credit he does get a lot of clean up opportunities and shoots the highest field goal percentage on the team at 53.8%. He seemed to crack under the pressure of the playoffs and seems to be a little of a hothead on the court and his emotions dictate how he plays which is a huge liability for any NBA team, but K-Mart is by no means the only Nugget guilty of these flaws.

After Carmelo Anthony was drafted out of Syracuse he was hoped to be the franchise savior for the Nuggets. He has been able to keep them above water for the past few years, but never anywhere near what his 03' draft class buddies Lebron James and Dwayne Wade have done for their franchises since being drafted. The Cavs are consistently at the top of their conference as well as Wade bringing home a championship for Miami. Bosh and Melo have performed up to expectations individually, but have not been surrounded by the right mix of talent to finish the job. Melo is locked up under contract for the next 4 years with a salary that increases from $14.4 million and increases up to $18.5 million until the summer of 2012. This means that the Nuggets have put their franchise on Melo's shoulders and he needs to produce something besides a first round exit or the Nuggets will try and move in a different direction. Melo has been productive in his role as the team's cornerstone. He averaged 25.7 ppg and 7.4 rebs in the past season. The biggest flaw in Melo's game is not going to the rim enough. He too often settles for a mid-range jumpshot instead of using post moves that could utilize his size and strength. He also plays almost no defense which is probably the Nugget's biggest problem as a team.

J.R Smith is exploring different opportunities in different places and may not be in Denver next year. If he does happen to return to Denver he will make $2.3 million and his offensive production will be good enough to justify that contract. Smith needs to go to a new team. His personality is better suited to be on a team of veterans who are proven winners. The first team that comes to mind are the Spurs. Surrounding himself with teammates who can show him how to get to the elite level will be the best thing for his career. He is an incredibly talented player and would be a starter on 80% of teams in the league, but coming off the bench for Denver doesn't allow him to establish a rhythm early and has to rely on streaky shooting in order for him to be effective. His offensive performance against the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs will be remembered and teams will be willing to cut big checks for that kind of performance from Smith. If he gets on the right team, his underperforming 12.4ppg average will drastically increase. I have a lot of respect for his game, and he is an undervalued player because of the team he is on. At this point, he is not in a role where he can make the Nuggets a winner, and this may be one area where George Karl's misuse in utilizing his skills to their full capacity may be one area where George Karl has failed in.

The Nuggets collectively play little to no defense which explains why their opponents put in 89.1 field goals a game which is about 5 more field goals than the league average of 84.3 field goals from opponents per game. They have good defensive players on their team like Marcus Camby who was a former defensive player of the year in 2006 and averaged 3.61 blocks this past season. K-Mart is also a solid defensive player and AI has always been quick enough to stay in front of his man, but collectively the Nuggets look confused on defense and are slow on rotation and have terrible weak side help. The Nuggets lack the mental toughness and focus to be an elite team. It was almost every game against the Lakers in the first round that they lost their cool down the stretch when it was tight and their play just went downhill from there.

The squad they have assembled undoubtedly has the talent, on paper, to be one of the best teams in the league, but their constant underachievement implies that there is a problem somewhere. Some point at George Karl, some point at AI and Melo, some point at chemistry, and the list goes on, but it is a combination of all of it. The Nuggets are limited by the salary cap in what they can do this summer. Any movement for them will come via trades. If J.R Smith stays the Nuggets have a salary of $76.9 million dollars which is well above the salary cap. I wish I could say more to what they can and should do, but realistically, improving defensively and mentally are the only things they can do. Roster upgrades cannot come through the free agency period this year and that hurts a team who is constantly battling for the 8th spot in the playoffs every year. They have tried pairing one of the greatest offensive players of all time in Allen Iverson with one of the league's young superstars in Carmelo, but have failed to see any positive results. It may be another long year for Nuggets fans, as they continue to be just as confused by the lack of results as the Nuggets' front office. At this point, all the Nuggets fans can do is cling to the memories of the 90s success and hope this is just a lull in a franchise that is desperate for results.


This is a glimpse of Allen Iverson's workout and strength training program during the season.

Here is a close up look at the new Nike Hyperdunks at the low price of $240, and Kobe was even nice enough to sign a few pairs for those lucky enough to grab them in a releasing in Santa Monica.

Josh Smith got the star treatment in Philly and he could very well be a star there by July 9th.

My cousin and I were wondering who on Team USA was not sponsored by Nike. I named Dwight Howard because I vaguely remembered something about him being sponsored by Adidas. He is in fact sponsored by Adidas and the amazing photoshopers at Nike were able to do a great job at the old 'blackout-the-adidas-logo-in-team-photos' trick.

A friend and I were talking today about how many athletes go broke after they stop playing professionally. Right on cue, Vin Baker's house was filed for foreclosure because he was not able to make the payments on it. Here is a list of Vin Baker, and Lattrell Sprewell and other professional athletes who are in financial trouble.

I don't really know why this is news, but I guess for those incredibly interested in any breath the new rookie class is taking, here is the latest from the Miami Heat's early practices with Michael Beasley.

Picture sources: nbauniverse.com (first), nba.com (second), lakers.topbuzz.com (third), nba.com (fourth), jordanextreme.com (fifth), uk.eurosport.yahoo.com (sixth), espn.com (seventh)