What I'm thankful for

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I do have a lot to be thankful for in my life, but we won't go into that. We, as NBA fans, also have a lot to be thankful for in our basketball lives. Here is what I'm thankful for this NBA season.

The Knicks: Finally, one of the most storied franchises in sports is revived. It has been a tough few years for Knicks fans. As we all know, they have made some big moves in the past few years to compete this year and the next, and to set themselves up for the 2010 free agency period. This has to be encouraging for Knicks fans. Finally, some sense behind the moves of the Knicks front office. Good job Donnie Walsh.

The rookie class: This has been an amazing rookie class. Derrick Rose, OJ Mayo, and Michael Beasley are living up to the hype. After that, they have also been pretty solid. Russell Westbrook isn't playing as bad as the Thunder's record would suggest. He has been a steady contributor, and the rookie dubbed as 'most likely to bust' by myself and Greg Johnson, is proving us wrong. Unexpected rookies making an impact right now are DJ Augustin and Jason Thompson. Augustin dropped 25 and 11 assists and 5 rebounds in Jason Richardson's absense. The Kings also have to be happy with Jason Thompson's surprising development by averaging 11.4 pts and 7 rebs. Virtually unknown coming out of Rider, Thompson has potential to be a great player in this league who can be a legitimate 2nd option for a lot of teams, and also to be a very good defender. Golden State also got two great players who were undrafted in DeMarcus Nelson and Anthony Morrow. As a Wake fan, I was obviously bias against Nelson, but he has been a surprise for not even being drafted. I was also bias against the Georgia Tech star, Morrow, but I have always respected his game. Morrow has a very bright future in this league, and the Warriors proved the 'huge upside' phrase that gets thrown around way too much. Rounding out the great rookie class surprises are Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, and Mario Chalmers. All of which are making big impacts for their teams right now. Also, dont forget the Lopez twins who have been contributing some solid numbers recently.

The closing gap between East and West: For the last few years, the West has dominated the NBA landscape. It is great to finally see the gap closing in the league so we can stop the talk about re-doing the conferences and what not. It makes for great basketball, and it makes it fun to be a fan. It reinforces two levels of fanhood. The first is of your team, and the second, is of your conference. A fan can always stick to the side that "my conference has x,y,z teams" which always make for good NBA debates.

The Boston/LA rivalry: We got enough of this during the Finals, but it seems like we will be able to see this historic rivalry relived. As a Laker fan, I'm thankful for my teams success and I acknowledge that both Celtic and Laker fans are outrageously priviledged. Nonetheless, as a young basketball fan, it is great to be a part of such a historic rivlary revived. Many fans only get to read about the historic rivalries related to their franchises, and even fewer fans get to re-live the rivalry again. We could be on the fringes of that rivalry being re-started if both teams can keep this level of play for the next 5 or 6 years even if different players are apart of the rivalry.

The Donaghy scandal being left behind: When the scandal broke, it was a hit to everyone involved in the NBA, including the fans. It is now safe to say that the fallout from the scandal was less than expected. After the Pedowitz report and fast action from the league office, we have been lucky that it did not affect the sport more than it did. We can now rest and be reassured that it was just an isolated incident. We all know that it could have been much worse than it turned out to be. The basketball nation can now start a new chapter in the sport's history, and putting behind one of the darkest moments in sports history behind us.



Al Harrington and Jamal Crawford trade analysis

It has been reported that the Warriors and Knicks have reached a deal in principle that will send the disgruntled Warriors forward Al Harrington to New York in exchange for guard Jamal Crawford.

This deal could not be any better for Al Harrington. He goes from the up-tempo pickup style offense of Don Nelson to the slightly more structured "Run-N-Gun" offense of Mike D'Antoni. Al Harrington will bring a new level of versatility to the Knicks. It is no secret that the Knicks want to trade Zach Randolph, Stephon Marbury, and Eddy Curry. There is serious interest in Zach Randolph by the Clippers and little to no interest in Marbury and Curry. In the mean time, having Harrington and Randolph up front in a speedy offense is D'Antoni's dream come true. Harrington's deadly three point shot will spread the floor and stretch defenses. Harrington does shoot an abysmal 39.2% from the field, but that number could go a bit higher if he starts to play with more passion than he did with the Warriors. Playing in New York will likely be a motivating factor.

Harrington has had 0 blocks this season which shows his lack of defensive effort, but did have a bit above a steal a game in this young season. Watching Harrington's play and body language this season made it clear that he did not want to be a part of the Warriors anymore, and this trade could not have come any sooner. The Knicks will be an excellent fit for him, and sets the Knicks up for the Lebron sweepstakes in 2010 (more on Lebron in a bit). Harrington has a year on his contract after this season so it could be used as another incentive to attract Lebron by having a jumpshooter at the 4 who will lessen congestion in the lane, and if it doesn't work out, Donnie Walsh can always tell Lebron that Harrington's $9.2 million comes off the books in the summer of 2011 and they can look for another wingman.

The problem for the Knicks in this trade will be how D'Antoni shares minutes in the front court. They have already benched Curry, and have no intentions of playing him. They have Zach Randolph, and young prospects, David Lee and Wilson Chandler. With 4 big men fighting for minutes one of them has to go. To be more competitive in the Lebron sweepstakes they need to get rid of Randolph. The Knicks are not looking at this season to make an impact in the league, they are looking to 2010, and getting rid of Zach Randolph's $14.6 million will go a long way in getting Lebron. Trading Randolph might not be as hard as it sounds. It has been reported while this post was being written that Donnie Walsh is ready to give up Randolph to the Clippers, and is just waiting on confirmation from the Clippers. This news should not be a surprise considering the Clippers have been looking to find a replacement for Elton Brand. Randolph's stock is very high at the moment due to his average of 20.5ppg and 12.5 rebs. If all goes as planned and they strike a deal with the Clippers who are willing to give $14.6 million in expiring salaries in exchange for Zach Randolph, the Knicks will be in the position they want to be in. Things are finally looking up in New York.

For the Warriors, Jamal Crawford is immediate help. When Monta Ellis comes back and can be put alongside Jamal Crawford, the Warriors could have a lineup with Biedrins at the 5, Stephen Jackson at the 4, Maggette at the 3, and Crawford and Ellis in the back court with Morrow, Azubuike, and the surprising DeMarcus Nelson backing them up. In the front, they would have a solid young core of Turiaf, Brandon Wright, and Anthony Randolph coming off the bench. Not exactly a dream team, but neither was the 2006 team that upset the #1 Mavericks. Point being, Don Nelson can get it done with a crew that you least expect. Crawford is a player who can hit big shots and create for himself. Both of those talents are very valuable attributes in the perimeter offense of Don Nelson. Crawford brings 19.4ppg and 4.4 assists to the Warriors, and will have no trouble making the transition from D'Antoni's offense to Nelson's offense due to their similarities.

All in all, this was a great trade for both teams. The Warriors have a team that will be able to compete in the West for that 7th and 8th spot in the playoffs, and the Knicks have a chance to make the playoffs while making dramatic moves to cut salary in order to go after Lebron. No one is talking championship for either of these teams, but in the NBA and professional sports in general, we all know that a team is only a few moves away from being contenders, and that is what we could be seeing right now.



Suns-Rockets suspensions

The league handed down suspensions and fines to Matt Barnes (2 games), Rafer Alston (2 games), Nash (1 game), and just fines to Shaq and T-mac.

This is an unfair penalty. If you look at the replay, Shaq pushes 3 people over, and somehow Nash grabs Alston's jersey and gets 1 game. The league stated that Nash "escalated" the situation. I don't think that Nash grabbing a jersey escalated the situation anymore than a 325lb Center in Shaq, pushing over the entire crowd didn't escalate the situation. Clearly, suspending Shaq or Nash would hurt the team, but if Suns fans had to choose, they would definitely choose Nash.

The Rockets weren't hurt that bad by the suspensions. All was fair for the Rockets. T-mac did not get too involved in the situation, and losing Alston is barely a loss. They have a great guard in Aaron Brooks who will be able to take the reigns for the two games Alston is out.

The final note, the Suns have been the subject of many unfair suspensions (See 2007 playoffs). The problem with the league's policy is that the league won't listen to any appeal. Their decision is final. If Kobe is getting suspended for an elbow that comes up when he is fighting for position, and Amare is getting suspended for taking 3 steps up the court, and Nash gets one game for grabbing a jersey, the league needs to reevaluate their suspension policies. At this point, it seems arbitrary. It was also partially the refs fault for not stopping the hard screens being set on Nash earlier, and getting the game under control. It was good hard basketball. It wasnt another Palace Brawl, it was just athletes showing passion for their team and winning. Fans don't mind that. The league suspended a superstar in Nash. The league lives off the marketing of these superstars. Contradition?



It's a little too early to...

Call Greg Oden a bust: Hold on everyone. What is all this Sam Bowie and Bill Walton talk? The Blazers are cursed? Stop it. Yes, the guy had to have arthroscopic knee surgery before he played a single NBA game, and he rolled his ankle. Calm down. I'm not saying he isn't injury prone because he clearly is, but to start these comparisons and shoot him down before he has even really got up? That isn't fair. Let him come back healthy, and then we can talk about what he can do. An injury is one of the most frustrating things for a player to go through. When expectations are high, there is almost no doubt that the player won't meet those expectations. If he comes back and drops 20 and 10 a night, people will just ignore the Bowie and Walton comparisons and pretend like they never happened. Those people who lobbied for Kevin Durant back before the 2007 draft will become silent. There is no better remedy for criticism and negativity around a sports team than success. I'm not saying that Oden doesn't bust, and I'm also not saying that he will be the franchise center Kevin Pritchard thought he would be when he drafted him. All I'm saying is we need to reserve judgment, and get a better perspective on his play. If he continues to get injured for the next year or so, then we can talk.

Call Derrick Rose the Rookie of the Year: He has played fantastic. Incredibly underrated jump shot. The prototype NBA point guard. He has the complete package. With about a week and a half into the season he has put up 17.8 ppg, 4.2 assts, 3.6 rebs, a steal a game, and shooting 45% from the field. Incredible numbers for a point guard. There is no doubt that he is the future of the Bulls, but he only has 5 games under his belt. With those ROY-worthy numbers he still has 3 TOs a game and we haven't seen the full potential of other contenders like Beasley, Jason Thompson, Mario Chalmers, and OJ Mayo. Rose has gotten the most press because he is on a big market team on a historic franchise, but we can't forget about the other big name rookies coming into the draft. Mayo is competing with Rose in virtually every category except for assits. Mayo averages 16.8ppg, 1.6 steals a game, and 4 rebs. Mayo just dropped 28 against Sacramento last night, and had 6 3pointers. Didn't hear about it? Makes sense, it was Sacramento and Memphis. Beasley is averaging 17 ppg, 6.5 rebs, and 1 block a game. You can't count the other 2 top 3 picks out of the ROY race. Thompson was a shock in the draft out of Rider. Thompson is an amazing defender and has averaged 13.6 ppg and 6.8 rebs a game. He also does a lot of stuff that won't show up in the box score. Mario Chalmers has also been another shock, and could be a dark horse candidate for ROY. Miami thought they had no point guard, but Chalmers' solid play has earned him the starting job. Chalmers is averaging 8ppg, 6 assts, and 3.8 steals. He had 9 steals last night against Sacramento! The point is, don't assume anything at this point.
Rose had an incredible opportunity to play against the Redeem Team this summer, and tested his NBA talent. He was NBA ready long ago. He is clearly an amazing player, and will be one of the best point guards in the league in a couple of seasons, but we have to give credit to guys like Beasley, Mayo, and Thompson who have also had much bigger seasons than they were projected to have. Don't forget the other rookies who are having big impacts for their team. We'll talk again in two months.

Talk about a Lakers championship: Anyone who knows me, knows that my heart is Purple and Gold. Even the most prideful fan of the Lakers knows that we have to keep composed. The Lakers are 4-0. Not that impressive yet. Some of the Lakers have told confidants that the Lakers are trying to shoot for 70 wins according to ESPN. You have to love to see your team shoot high, but we have to be real here. The West is incredibly strong this year, and the East has closed that gap significantly. The league is filled with talent, and the level of play is higher than it has been in the past few seasons. Shooting for 70 is a great goal, but not going to happen, especially in the West. Furthermore, to talk championship right now? No chance. Laker fans more than anyone know how dangerous it is to talk championship before anything has even happened (As 2004 told us). The Lakers might be considered to be favorites, but if you ask any of the players, they are focused on home court advantage right now. The words 'championship' and 'Lakers' in the same sentence is a taboo subject in LA. For the rest of the basketball world, they may talk about a Lakers championship, but it will not be an easy road by any means.

Say the Spurs not contenders: Sure they started the season 0-3. They had to struggle last night to beat the Wolves in 2OT, and Tony Parker had to drop 55 and 10 assists to make it happen. We have seen this from the Spurs before. They take the regular season off for a bit, but turn it on when they need to. They are an aging team, and like to conserve energy. I'm not saying that is what they are doing right now, because they are undoubtedly playing with a sense of urgency. At this point, the Spurs are trying to stay around .500 until Ginobli comes back, and that is fine. They will still make the playoffs, and they will still make noise in the playoffs just like every other year. We don't count out a veteran team with that much championship experience 4 games into it, and without one of their Big 3.


Sports Illustrated put up a full copy of the Pedowitz Report. It is the investigation released by the private investigation the NBA hired to look into the Donaghy scandal. It exonerates former friend of Donaghy, Scott Foster, among other things. It is 133 pages, but worth a browse.


Waive Marbury!

Now that Obama is president we can get back to talking about basketball.

The Knicks have once again stated that they have no intention to waive or trade Stephon Marbury. I would like to know why. Here is a guy who is tied with Allen Iverson with the second highest salary in the NBA at $21,937,500. Here is a guy who is sitting on the sideline in street clothes with coach Mike D'Antoni having no intentions of changing that any time soon. Here is a guy who averaged 13.9ppg and 4.7 assts when he suited up last year.

Why is Marbury still on the roster? Why won't Dolan admit Isaiah Thomas' mistake and concede that the best way to go with all of this is to part ways. Every NBA fan, and even sports fan, knows that Stephon Marbury is the worst contract in sports. There is a reason for that. HE IS NOT PLAYING. Even when he was, he wasn't producing anywhere near his salary. The Knicks made a similar mistake with Alan Houston, but didn't learn. The funny thing about this whole thing is that the Knicks are the one franchise who laughs at the luxury tax. They are a franchise that will exceed the salary cap every year. They are due to pay $80 million in salary tax this year, and won't even think twice about it. Why do they care about holding onto Marbury? If they waive him, they have to incur his whole salary, but as I mentioned before, they don't care. It has become a child's game now. The Knicks are saying, "If you don't play for us, you don't play for anyone." Marbury is sitting on the sideline laughing and collecting his enormous paycheck.

Marbury won't accept a buyout of his contract. That is obvious. Would you? If you were the 2nd highest paid person in your profession, would you take significantly less so you could go work for another company for significantly less money? You can't blame Marbury. The only people you can blame are the Knick's front office officials. As fans, we just want to see players play. He is clearly good enough to be on a roster. With that said, at this point, as fans, we just need this whole thing to be cleared up. Fast.


Tim Duncan made his vote public. If you are curious, here is who he voted for.


The Allen Iverson/Chauncey Billups trade

Update: The Nuggets and Pistons have agreed to the trade. Allen Iverson will be traded to Detroit in return for Chauncey Billups, Antonio McDyess, and Cheikh Samb.

(Disclaimer: This post was written about 14 hours prior to the deal actually going through.)

The Nuggets have reportedly offered Allen Iverson to the Pistons in exchange for Chauncey Billups according to ESPN.

Both these clubs toyed with a trade this summer except Denver wanted to get rid of Carmelo Anthony. This time, the deal can't be better for both teams. For Denver, they are getting Chauncey Billups, an area they clearly need help at. Billups is a strong guard who can hang with the best of the Western Conference. He can defend the upper echelon of point guards like Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Baron Davis, and Steve Nash. A lot of people say that he is in the decline in his career, but he can't be anymore in a decline than Iverson is. He will bring defense, another thing the Nuggets lack, and a leader who can control the ball. He would also at minimum, maintain their playoff hopes, and at best increase those hopes. It also seems like a perfect fit for Carmelo. The offense will be able to run through Melo instead of having to share the ball with Iverson. Nuggets fans might be worried about scoring, because Billups has averaged about 6 points less than AI in this very young season. That discrepancy is nothing to worry about since Billups will probably be able to make up for that with defense and keeping the opposing point guard down. Billups does average about an assist more than AI, .5 steals more, 3 more rebs, and 1.3 less turnovers than AI. The averages may move up or down in either direction, but you can almost know that they will give you solid contributions every night. Billups also wouldn't mind going back to his home town of Denver.

If you are Detroit, you get a player like Iverson. Known for being one of the league's most durable players. An MVP, multiple scoring titles, countless All-Star appearances, great marketing capacity, and the coveted expiring contract. AI is due to make $21.9 million this year. The salary cap is set at $58.6 million this year and the Pistons have $67.8 on their payroll this year. That translates into about $18 million in luxury tax. Allowing that $21.9 to come off their books plus Rasheed's $13.6 from free agency this summer, that will mean they will have $35 million coming off their payroll this summer. They would have about $26 million to spend under the salary cap for free agency (assuming they don't re-sign AI and Rasheed, of course). That is big time money. A big time way to get into the free agency market. The Pistons should be salivating at this deal. They would make tons of money off of ticket and merchandise sales because of the star power Iverson brings. They are a proven franchise that can win, which AI will love because of how competitive he is. The Pistons will still be able to compete in the Eastern Conference at the same level, maybe even higher because of everything he brings to the table. AI will also have an incentive to compete because as he enters the twilight of his career, he wants to play at a high level in this contract year so he can secure that last big contract before retirement. It works all the way around for both teams, so far.

The last piece is the matching salaries. AI is due to make $21.9 million and Billups is due to make $11 million. The NBA rules dictate that salaries in a trade must come within 125% of each other. So in this case, the Pistons would need to add another player to the deal. I thought about throwing Kwame Brown into the deal because of his $4million and a draft pick to make it work, but the Nuggets would not bite on that. Detroit may even be reluctant to offer that because apparently the Pistons organization is very fond of the way Kwame has been playing (who knew?). Even if they were willing to part, the Nuggets would most likely be very reluctant to accept Kwame's deal, and also be skeptical about his ability to play against Western Conference centers (they saw what happened with the Lakers). The other choice for the Pistons would be to add Tayshaun Prince into the deal. CLEARLY, this would never happen. The Pistons have every intention to build around Prince for the future, so that would be completely out of the question although that would add up almost exactly to AI's salary. Another option for the Pistons would be to add Antonio McDyess into that, but he makes a bit above $6million and is signed until the summer of 2010, a prospect that probably would not excite the Nuggets for the same reason putting Kwame into the mix. Joe Dumars probably would not do that out of fear of having to start Kwame Brown (they aren't THAT fond of him). So the Pistons are stuck in a tough spot. Who else can they throw into the mix that will make the salaries work? They need to figure out how they can put together a deal that the Nuggets will accept. This is in the best interest for both teams assuming Detroit puts together the right complement alongside of Billups. In a perfect world, a straight AI for Billups swap would leave both teams better off for the future. It can be assured that Joe Dumars and Mark Warkentien will be on the phone a lot in the coming days. Fans of both teams should keep their fingers crossed.