It's up!

We got the new site up! In a short time, we will have dishingdimes.com be the actual domain name. Please subscribe or visit our new site frequently! We look forward to working on the new site. We will see you there.


Izzy and Phill


We are back!

The 2 month layoff from posting was not because we were lazy. Well...it could have been partially because of that. The most important reason for not posting was due to the fact that Phil and I have been working on a new website. The website will expand our blog from a simple blog to different topics including video debates and possibly podcasts. We are really excited about the expansion of the site. We appreciate all of your support. The site should be up in the coming days. I hope that you all will visit the site. Take care.



Playoff Bullets

Here are my quick thoughts on the playoffs:

  • The Nuggets have been the most surprising team in the playoffs thus far. Melo is making an image comeback. He is showing a lot of heart out there on the court. The Nuggets in general are playing inspired basketball. Nene is a force down in the middle and Kenyon Martin is the closest thing we have seen to "an enforcer" in recent memory. The Nuggets success, and George Karl's job, can all be traced back to Chauncey Billups. He has put this team on his back and showed them how to win. Chris "Birdman" Anderson and J.R Smith have become huge forces off the bench. I'd even go as far to say that the Nuggets have one of the top 3 benches in the league at this point. J.R Smith is an explosive scorer and Anderson is the hustle player you need to make the big block, get the big rebound, dive for the ball, or get the big dunk. What more can you ask for? This team is for real.
  • Dirk Nowitski clearly cannot carry the Mavs alone. The Mavs will lose this series, and no one would be surprised if they got swept. The Mavs need to reload this offseason and go after a player who can play alongside Dirk. Josh Howard is a great player, but another big time scorer or a defender would take the Mavs a long way. Kidd will be a free agent this summer which means two things. 1) 20 million in space and 2) Cuban can stop running stats to prove that the Kidd trade was a good one. It was not. The Mavs need to go big this summer as Cuban is one of the only owners in the league who can afford to spend money. Chris Paul anyone?
  • The Rockets will not go away easily. Everyone counted them out before this series even started. The series is sitting at 1-1 and the physical play shows no signs of tappering off. Blood has been drawn, elbows have been thrown, ejections have been handed out, and we have been treated to a series. This is the edge that Ron Artest brings. He brings a blue collar style of basketball to the Rockets who is ready to do the nitty gritty stuff that is essential to playoff success. I also don't want to hear that the Rockets are better without Tracy McGrady. I can assure you that Rick Adelman would love to see him out there as another offensive threat. Speaking of threats, the biggest threat to the Lakers is Shane Battier's defense. He has solidified that he is the best defender in the league against Kobe. Making Kobe work hard on every possession is as much as Adelman can ask for. Battier putting a hand right in Kobe's face is the most effective defensive strategy in basketball. Hands Down. This series is far from over.
  • The Lakers were exposed in Game 1 against the Rockets. The time off showed how vulnerable the Lakers were to physical play. It also showed how tough the defense was on the interior which kept the Lakers bigs from going off. The perimeter defense was solid in game 1 which caused the Lakers to shoot 2/17. In game 2, the Lakers flipped the script and came out gunning. What is worrisome for the Lakers is they are not playing good enough defense. They seem to just be putting up volume scoring without commiting on the defensive end. Expect PJ to fix that before this series is over. There is a team in Colorado that is much further along on the defensive front than the Lakers have been this playoffs. This is also one series that the Lakers do not have a distinct size advantage. It is a struggle for the Lakers big men down low to check Yao Ming, and the penetration in the lane has not been easy. Lot of work to do here for the Lakers.

  • The Magic will almost undoubtedly lose Alston for the next game. That will be a crushing blow to the Magic for game 3, but they can still win that game. In fact, they should beat the Celtics in the series. I don't see any reason why they lose this series. They outmatch the Celtics in size and if they limit their turnovers, this series should go to Orlando. Dwight Howard has to transform from class clown to proven team leader. This is the big test for the Magic. A series win against the C's will be a gigantic step for the organization. The encouraging thing is that this Magic team is essentially the same team as last year, and the improvement is drastic. I do think this is another series that goes to 7 games, but facing the Cavs in the next round is not something to look forward to. I think the Magic are the only team in the East who can legitimately challenge the Cavs. That series would be a treat for NBA fans. Orlando...please finish this.
  • The Celtics are beat up. Fatigue has clearly played a role in this series, and will become an even bigger factor as the series goes on. Yeah yeah...defending champs. They can overcome anything. No. Please don't kid yourself. The Celtics need KG. That is the end of it. Here is an interesting thought experiment. Lets imagine KG never came to the Celtics. The Celtics now have Pierce, Allen, and Al Jefferson. Jefferson got injured at the end of the season. Would Jefferson have a better chance to come back during the playoffs than KG? Would the Celtics have won the championship last year with Jefferson instead of KG? Give that some serious thought. I think the Celtics would have still won the championship last year, and this year, Jefferson would probably be able to come back, or at the very least, have a better chance to come back than KG. This playoff season has brought the emergence of Rajon Rondo. He has lived up the potential that he has. The success of a healthy Celtics team rests on how well Rondo can play. He has 4 triple-doubles this playoff season, the first player since Jason Kidd. Rondo is for real. Injuries have decided this postseason in the East. A healthy Celtics team on the court means a very different outcome. Next year.
  • The Cavs are playing flawless basketball. I'm wondering whether the Cavs are actually this good or their competition has been this bad. Lebron is the MVP and he is playing like it. There has been no legitimate defense against Lebron, and I don't know if such a thing is possible. The one concern for the Cavs is the lack of challenge for the Cavs. If you buy into the "Must be battle tested before the finals" menality, then no, the Cavs are not ready, and hopefully the Conference Finals will provide that test for the Cavs. If you buy into the "Bring on anything, and we are ready" menality then yes, the Cavs have what it takes to live up to any challenge. Not much else to say about the Cavs. Their play says all that needs to be said.
  • The Hawks? Have fun on your summer vacation next week! This series is over.


Quick Playoff Predictions

Things have been hectic which is why I haven't been able to post in a while. I hope to get back to my normal posting routine now that things have cooled down.

Since the playoffs are upon us, I'm going to give a quick prediction on each series. We all know that the rounds before the Finals are just entertainment before the Cavs and Lakers play.

Eastern Conference

Cavs vs Pistons: The Pistons don't have a chance. Yes, the Pistons have a lot of experience, but experience does not matter when you are a sub-500 team going up against the team with the best record in the league and the player who will undoubtedly be named the MVP. Look for this series to be the only sweep all playoffs. Prediction: 4-0 Cavs

Celtics vs Bulls: This series will be a breeze for the Celtics. Of course, the big drama is losing KG for the playoffs. The Bulls still don't have the personnel to match up to the Celtics firepower. We will get a treat to see a two up-and-coming point guards in Rondo and Rose go up against each other. It will also be interesting to see the KG story unfold. Will he be on the bench as an emotional lift? Will it be too painful for him to be on the bench? Will he focus on rehabbing so he can possibly make a comeback later on in the playoffs? That is why everyone will pay attention to this series. It has more to do with the storyline than it does basketball. Prediction: Celtics 4-1

Magic vs Sixers: Again, not much to see here. The only weakness I see for the Magic is the health of Lewis and Turkoglu holding them back. Even without them healthy, the Magic have a lot more than the Sixers. Who is going to Dwight Howard? I bet Tony DiLeo has been asking that question since these matchups have been set. The Sixers barely edged out a Cavs team on the last night without any of their starters. Look for this series to be over quick. I do think the Magic are a little too inexperienced to effectively close teams out. This is also virtually the same team that gave the Pistons fits last playoffs. I could see the Sixers putting up a fight. Prediction: Magic 4-2

Hawks vs Heat: I really think the Hawks could sneak up on people. They took the Celtics to 7 games and then people started looking their way. The Hawks pretty much have the same roster as last season, and they have had some big wins this season. Just like many players (Robert Horry and James Posey) come out during the playoffs, I think we will see that with the Atlanta Hawks. They won't have it easy though. Dwyane Wade, the MVP candidate, is an overachieving team. Wade is good enough to single handedly win a series. Look for Wade to put this team on his back as he has all season and give the Hawks a lot of trouble. I think Wade will only be able to carry his team to a certain extent. Their inexperience under playoff conditions will cause them to drop 1 game at home. Both teams are horrible on the road (16-25 and 15-26, respectively). I'm giving the series to the home team, the Hawks. Prediction: Hawks 4-2

Western Conference

Lakers vs Jazz: The Jazz played the Lakers hard last year. Although people think the Lakers will waltz through the playoffs, don't expect it to be that easy. The Jazz are going to put up a fight. Deron Williams is the second best point guard in the league. He is a big time player that comes through in clutch situations. If the game is close, I wouldn't be surprised to see Williams drop 11 straight points. The Jazz are a physical team that doesn't have much of a low post presence outside of Boozer. They also play pretty good defense and have bodies to put against the big front line of the Lakers. To counter Deron Williams, the Lakers have #24. We are all aware of what Kobe can do. The Jazz will have to try and limit the rest of the Lakers and let AK47 to the best he can against Kobe. To make matters worse, Pau is the best 2nd option in the NBA. Like Boozer, he is a double-double machine. Boozer will have to play amazing defense against Gasol in order to have a chance in this series. As for Bynum, if he is half as productive has he has been, it is going to be a long night for the Jazz. No surprise here. Prediction: Lakers 4-1

Nuggets vs Hornets: The best point guard in Chris Paul and the third best point guard in Chauncey Billups go at it. The Nuggets have the big names, but their embarassing loss to the Blazers the other night could not have been encouraging for George Karl. Melo is still inconsistent and has a chance to make a name for himself. Billups is a proven leader with championship experience. Nene is a solid big man that can go up against a healthy Chandler and the Nuggets have, in my mind, the 6th man of the year in J.R Smith. Smith is explosive and dangerous. The more you see Smith play, the more you know he is for real. Smith was the only reason the Nuggets didn't get completely embarassed last year against the Lakers in the first round. If the Hornets have a healthy Chandler and Peja can come back to somewhat of what he has been in the past, the Hornets have a chance. In fact, I think a healthy Chandler means the Hornets win. David West and Melo will also be an interesting matchup. The Hornets are only 6 games worse in terms of records compared to the Nuggets. Their seeding is not indicative of their talent. Prediction: Hornets 4-3

Spurs vs Mavericks: Like the Celtics, the talk is about losing Manu. Pop is going to let that distract his team. The Spurs have a lot to lose by going out early in the playoffs. An early loss for the Spurs will have the basketball world talking Tim Duncan retirement. The Spurs have a lot to prove. The Mavs have always been the team that never could. The Spurs have the young gunners and the veteran leaders in Parker and Duncan. The Mavs have veteran gunners like Dirk, Josh Howard, and probably the 6th man of the year in Jason Terry. Most importantly, Jason Kidd is the veteran that needs to step up and lead this team. This is about as good as it gets for NBA fans. A team that has nothing to lose in the Mavs, and a team that has everything to lose in the Spurs. This is going to be a good one. In the end, I don't think the Mavs are durable or patient enough to hang with the steady Spurs. Prediction: Spurs 4-2

Blazers vs Rockets: This could be the year the Rockets finally make it out of the first round. The good news for the Rockets is that they match up to the Blazers well. The bad news is that they are the Rockets. Battier will play Brandon Roy and that is going to help them out a lot. If they can limit Brandon Roy, things might swing Houston's way. The Rockets have a couple of offensive options. Nothing too overwhelming. The Blazers have great offensive players like Aldridge and Outlaw. They also have a good group of young players in Bayless, Fernandez and Rodriguez. The Blazers are undoutedly more talented right now compared to the Rockets. There are rumblings that Yao's foot is hurt and won't be 100% for the playoffs. I think that is where it ends. Another injury-plagued season for the Rockets leads to another tough first round matchup, and leads to an early summer vacation. A lot of people think this series will be close. I would like to see this go to 7, but it will end in Game 6 at the Toyota Center. Prediction: Blazers 4-2



The 3 Most Compelling Stories Going into the Playoffs

So I'm finally back. Some news before I jump into today's post. I've recently become the domain owner of dishingdimes.com. You can now access the site by simply typing dishingdimes.com into your browser. The webmaster is currently working on a few things, and should have everything up and running by the middle of April. With all of that, my boredom with this years' NCAA Tournament (Wake's ousting killed it for me) has brought me to focus my attention on the final stretch of the NBA season. There are 3 big story lines we need to watch before we hit the third week of April and the first round starts.

1) The 8th seed in both conferences- I'm not saying that there will be a repeat of the 2006 #8 Warriors over #1 Dallas, which I still stand by, is the biggest upset in sports history. I am saying that there are a few ways this could play out. Lets start in the East. I don't see Chicago falling out of the 8th spot right now. I think Charlotte can get there next year, but I don't think they are a consistent enough team to challenge Chicago for that spot. If Chicago hangs onto that last spot, I'm going to give the ROY to Derrick Rose. Lets take it a step further. Detroit has a chance to slip to 8th. Chicago is playing 7 games at home and 3 on the road to close the season. Out of their last 10 games, only Miami, Philly, and Detroit are playoff teams. The Bulls beat Miami without Derrick Rose and the road doesn't turn too sharply as they meet Philly, Detroit, and the rest, which are very winnable games. It is also worth noting that the game against Detroit is at Detroit, and could very well determine the 7th and 8th seeds in the East. If the Bulls can go out winning 8 of 10, they will be in great position. The Pistons lost to the Lakers in the game tonight, they have 11 more games, 1 of those games is against the Cavs, and the only other hurdles will be Philly and the big game against Chicago. Remember to watch the Pistons/Bulls game on April 13th because it will have major playoff implications. So lets think about what this actually means for Chicago and Detroit. An 8th seed means you are probably playing the Cavs, and a 7th seed means you are probably playing the Celtics. If I were the Bulls, I would much rather play against the Celtics than the Cavs. The Bulls have no one who can guard Lebron, but the Pistons can throw Tayshaun Prince on Lebron and contain him as much as any defense can. The Pistons probably don't want to play the Celtics in the first round due to their lack of size. They can't body up against KG, Glen Davis, KendrickPerkins, or Leon Powe very well. It will be a struggle for an undersized Detroit team. In short, it would be in the Pistons' best interest to drop to the 8th seed, but it might just be me. It is picking your poison.

In the West we have an interesting race between, really, #2-9. San Antonio could theoretically fall to the 8th spot at this point. Doubtful, but possible. At this point, anything can happen with those spots. The Suns are desperately trying to make the playoffs, and there is a chance they can pull it off. Dallas doesn't have a favorable schedule in the last 10 games of the season. Dallas plays Cleveland on Sunday, and has games against Miami, Phoenix, Utah, New Orleans twice, and Houston to close the season out. All of those games will have major playoff implications and all of those teams are going to be at full strength trying to finalize their playoff spots. Out of the last 10 games the Suns have, only 4 of them are playoff teams, one of those teams being Dallas. I see this playoff race going all the way until the last game. We may not know what happens, and both teams don't want to rely on the other team losing for playoff position. It will make for very interesting basketball. As for the middle of the field in the West, it is almost impossible to predict what will happen. Virtually every matchup in the West could swing either way from the 2 through 7 matchups. Lets even throw the Lakers in there in the 1 vs 8 matchup. The Lakers have a chance to lose if they don't come out at full strength. Seeding is of the utmost importance at this time of the year, and things are tight in the league right now. It will be interesting to see how the last two spots in the East play out and how the West plays out as a whole.

2) The Boston injuries- This could be the determining factor in the East. The Celtics will most likely get a 2 seed, and Doc Rivers assures us that they don't care what seed they get, "As long as we are healthy, we will lace up against anyone." That statement is true, but is contingent on the first clause. Can they get healthy? They are slowly bringing KG back, and they have a multitude of other injuries. KG has been unproductive as of late, but the Celtics have seemed to be playing relatively well without him at full strength. They lost a tough game to Orlando last night, but you can never underestimate what the Celtics can do with that much talent on one team. We saw the Celtics exploited by the very good Orlando team last night. Dwight Howard punishes them down low. There is virtually no one who can guard Dwight Howard. His style of play will revolutionize young centers with hopes of coming to the NBA. Howard's post presence and athleticism is too much for Boston to deal with if KG is not ready. It is also important to note that Ray Allen has had a few nagging injuries, but we can expect him to be fully healthy for the playoffs. The Celtics have been criticized for not playing with the same fire as they did last season, but a healthy Celtics team is just as dangerous as the championship team we saw last June. If KG is fully healthy, expect the Celtics to be in the Finals, but not without a 7 game series against Cleveland. The question will be whether KG's injuries follow him into the playoffs.

3) The Blazers- Does anyone remember them? They haven't made any headlines since the incident between Ariza and Fernandez. I truly believe that they can beat any team in the West. They have two interchangeable bigmen inside, a great young star, a scoring PF, and solid role players. They have upset written all over them. As of now, they would be playing the Rockets. From the history of the Rockets, an upset by the hands of the Blazers is not outrageous. Pay attention to how they play in this critical point in the season. It will be very telling to how they will perform in the playoffs. They are my sleeper pick for the playoffs.




So I'm already expecting to get a lot of controversy from this post, but that's probably why I'm posting it...to get YOU readers looking at things from another perspective.

Tiger Woods yesterday made the comment, that has been all over analysts' minds this season...Dwyane Wade merits MVP talk, but it still only comes down to Kobe and Lebron. Seriously?!!?...that's just cockamamie. For one thing, Woods should be paying more attention to Phil Mickelson climbing closer and closer to take his Number 1 world rank, than trying to be an NBA analyst, but I digress.

Maybe you've noticed that Dwyane Wade is on a MONSTER TEAR right now with his last five games averaging 34.6 points, 8.6 assists, 6.4 rebounds, a whopping, 3.4 steals, and 1.2 blocks, all on 48% shooting. As impressive as these stats were, they included a 50 point near triple double game win against the Utah Jazz. And, two games before that a much publicized 48 point performance which included a steal and buzzer beating 3 all in the final seconds.

Guess what though? You'd probably be surprised to hear that he's been playing at this level ever since the All Star break. Since the break he's averaged 35.7 points, 9.85 assists, 5.78 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, and 2.78 steals. Wade also has his team winning at a slightly better mark of 57% compared to 54% before the break.
Unfortunately, it has taken those huge performances by Dwyane Wade to even get people to look at South Florida's team. This is seriously a travesty, and representative of how centered the NBA is around Kobe and Lebron.

Now I'll admit both the Lakers and Cavs share the best record in the league and that's obviously a huge testament to what both James and Bryant do for their teams. With that said, I think Wade is doing so much more. After last year's knee injury, which made him miss over a third of the season, Wade completely disappeared from the conversation about the "NBA's Elite". Even though we are only 3 years removed from Finals MVP and playoff championship averages of about 28/6/6.

Also in the conversation, it's important to talk about what Wade is doing for his team. Last year without Wade the Heat were the worst team in the NBA with a record of 15-67. In already 66 games this season (not missing a single one) Wade has helped the Heat double their record, giving them the 5th seed in the playoffs. Especially with a roster that has talent far from stellar. Haslem and Beasley are poor undersized PFs, Rookie PG Mario Chalmers is still extremely inexperienced and has Wade handling the ball most of the time, but to top it all off there was not a single legitimate Center until the always-injured and declining Jermaine O'Neal was brought in. Come on, who is Joel Anthony and why has he been starting 28 games? Get the pictures? To top it off, can you name how many other players are averaging over 14 points for the Heat? If you came up with 0, you were correct.

To end this discussion, I could talk about Wade leading the league in points with 29.9ppg with Lebron and Kobe (number 2 and 3 respectively), or how Wade, in his 6 years (rookie and injury year included), in the league has already overtaken Alonzo Mourning's 11 seasons as the Heat's all time leader scorer, however, I need to take it back to the argument of why he would be MVP over Kobe and Lebron. One could immediately argue that the talent surrounding Kobe is the best of the three. Take him away from the team, and I believe you still have a team that could probably compete for a playoff spot. Doing the same for Lebron and Wade would not lead to the same results. Kobe has more talented players around him, no doubt. The critical question is, what about the Cavs versus the Heat? The difference here all comes down to the Cavs experience from recently being in the finals, and their veteran guys who get a significant amount of minutes. The average age of the Cavs is 27.5 versus the Heat's 26.2. Combined, Wade, Cook, Beasley, Chalmers, Haslem, Quinn only have 13 years of NBA experience while Lebron, Williams, West, Varejao, Ilguaskas, Gibson have 30 years of combined experience. Taking away Wade and his leadership would not only drastically hurt the Heat, but leave the rookies and 2nd year players lost on the hardwood.

Now I'm not saying D-Wade should emphatically be named MVP, but there are a long list of legitimate reasons of why that the award should fall his way. Even Wade himself is being too modest by just being happy to be in the discussion. The truth is, even though it's all coming down to how the end of the season goes for all 3 players, if Wade continues the stellar play he has had after the all star break, this NBA season, and even during the Olympics, the award for MVP should rightfully be his.

Now I leave you with video documenting his top 10 plays of the year.

Double L



I'm leaving on a trip tomorrow. It is my spring break vacation, and so I won't be able to post until after March 15th. I will definitely get back into the grind of things when I get back. My trip will probably make me miss some of the ACC tournament, and about 10-14 games of the critical month of March in the race for the playoffs. I will try and keep up with most of the news that I can, but since I am going abroad, I won't have much chance for internet. That is the problem with international traveling, the thing I miss most is basketball. I may go through some withdrawals, but I somehow manage. Take care, and enjoy this exciting part of the NBA season. I guarantee that you all will watch more of these games than I will. Before I take my break, I leave you with the infamous Chuck Hays freethrow shooting video.



Kevin Garnett and David Beckham's new Adidas Commercial

This video will be circulating around the internet over the next few days. This is a new commercial Adidas put out. Beckham and Garnett are obviously two of the biggest athletes in the world, with Beckham being arguably the most famous athlete in the world. This is just genious marketing on Adidas' part in order to show Beckham and KG as personable guys who play backyard games just like the rest of us. A real connection to the consumer, and a great commercial by Adidas at a very low cost. This will generate a lot of buzz I'm sure. Enjoy.



Stephon Marbury to Celtics Analysis

With the help of my friend Ben Fish, I was able to put together this post. Fish is a devout Celtics fan, and was able to give me a taste of what the Celtic faithful think about the Marbury acquisition.

Stephon Marbury is expected to clear waivers on Friday morning and is largely expected to join the Celtics. Marbury and the Knicks reached a buyout agreement earlier this week. Marbury was set to earn $21.9 million this season (the 2nd highest in the NBA). The specifics of the buyout were not made public, but it is largely agreed upon that Marbury lost only about $1.5-$2 million dollars in the deal. Due to Marbury's veteran status, he is set to earn a minimum of $1.5 million on a prorated contract. Marbury's projected loss from the buyout+ his Celtics contract are about $200,000-$500,000. Pocket money,comparatively. The salary caps of both teams go pretty much unaffected. The Knicks sitll own the highest payroll in the league with about $96 million after the Marbury buyout. The Celtics currently have a $78 million payroll and with the acquisition of Marbury, they will, in total, add $3million to that number, which includes the luxury tax penalty.

Boston benefits from the addition of Marbury by adding depth an already depleted bench, and more importantly, to the point guard position. Marbury will provide much needed ball-handling skills to a team that depends on Rajon Rondo to run the point. It will also allow for Eddie House to move to his normal, more natural position at the 2, as he is certainly not a ball-handler. Eddie House is a pure spot-up shooter. Moving him out of his comfort zone was the only choice Doc Rivers had due to the lack of options in the back. The extra playing time for Rondo only helped his game out. We have seen flashes of what Rondo can be, and most likely, will be in the years to come. Marbury hasn't played in an NBA game since January 11, 2008. We can expect that Marbury will be focused and ready to contribute to the Celtics playoff run. Marbury also has an incentive to contribute due to him not having a contract next year. His free agent status at the end of this year will basically mean that he is auditioning for NBA teams to sign him this offseason. Conventional wisdom has always told us nothing produces statistics from a player like a contract year. The NBA will get a very brief, and maybe skewed view of Marbury's ability to play. Rounding off the end of the season isn't going to convince a lot of teams that he still has high calibur productive capability, but I can see teams taking a chance on him for a low amount of money just based on what he has done in the past.

Lets take a look at what Marbury can bring to the Celtics. I have written about how Marbury could be potentially a locker room divider. Garnett has publicly stated that it wouldn't be a problem, as well as other Celtics. Winning will solve all of those problems. I don't think that Marbury will cause any sort of distraction, if for anything, because of his expiring contract. Marbury averaged 19.8ppg and 7.8 assts playing along side Garnett on the T'Wolves. However, don't try to pick up Marbury in your fantasy league just yet. Also, don't expect Marbury to come anywhere close to those numbers just because he is alongside KG again (I don't think any of you did). In fact, expect Marbury to average under 8ppg and about 5 assts with a couple of boards and a steal or two. I expect Marbury to avg about 15-17 minutes a game. From my memory of Marbury, which is fading by now, he is a dynamic player. I don't think that he was putting much effort in during his days in New York. That is one of the main reasons I don't want to cite his statistics from his New York days. I don't think those are indicative of what he brings to the table, and I don't think those are a good baseline comparison to what will go down for him in Boston. Marbury is a scoring point guard. He can create shots for himself, but that isn't what Boston wants him to be. Marbury needs to be a distributor. He needs to give Rondo some rest, and be able to maintain the same level of offensive production as if Rondo was out on the floor. Marbury will be asked to put the ball in the post, and hit shots. He will occassionaly get his number called on a play, and he will have to drive the lane and make shots. Simple as that. If Marbury starts throwing up 30 foot 3pters like he did in New York under Isiah Thomas, Marbury is out. The offensive focus is not on Marbury, and he knows that. He has to play within Doc's system and know that he is a role player. Marbury is extraordinarily quick with the ball, and his size has always been his selling point. He can create his shot by using his size. He can separate himself from defenders as well as drive the lane. His body type is very similar to Jason Kidd. Of course, their games are drastically different, but how many times have we seen Kidd use his size to grab a board or throw up a tough shot in the lane? Marbury is the same type of player. Marbury is incredibly good at attacking the spaces in defense. When defenses cheat too far, Marbury picks up on that and attacks the holes on the defense to create a lane for himself and get to the basket. His size gives him a huge advantage over a lot of NBA point guards, especially in the East. Marbury will be the best backup point guard in the NBA, and that is a valuable asset for the Celtics. His combination of skill and size will never give the other team a break. When the opposing team has to sit its starter, Marbury will be there playing with the ability of a starter.

All of this seems like a dream come true for the Celtics. Don't get too excited. The Celtics have built their team around defense. Marbury is notorious for his lack of defensive effort. He has played this way since his days at Georgia Tech so we can't attribute it to his lack of motivation in New York. If he is motivated, he can be a great on the ball defender. Watch Marbury on defense if you get a chance. He will get into a low defensive stance when he is trying, but straighten his back when he is not trying. He also likes to gamble on passes at the top of the key. Every time I have watched Marbury, he makes up for his lack of defense by gambling on a steal. The one kind of positive is that he keeps ball out of the lane by forcing the defender to the weak side, but when the ball gets swung he shows a low awareness of where the ball is and tends to get beat back door anyway. Those are just some of the highlights of Marbury's defense. I'm sure you all will be able to recall more specific details of Marbury's lack of defense, and also see more of his deficiency on the defensive end when he starts playing. If you think I am just making this stuff up, watch him or go read a scouting report. Plain observation over the course of 2 or 3 games will most likely reveal all of the things I just mentioned in this post.

Overall, I think the move will help the Celtics. I don't think that any other team in the league is as deep as the Celtics at the point guard position at this point. The closest team to matching their depth at the 1 spot is either San Antonio or Denver. No team in the East is even close. The Celtics won't even have to think about Denver, and San Antonio has a chance at the Finals, but the Celtics won't need to look at their footage before the 2nd week of May. This is a low risk in terms of finances and basketball.


Contributions by Ben Fish


The 3 Stories No One is Talking About

This NBA season has been pretty entertaining thus far. I got to thinking about stories that have been largely under reported, and not being talked about that much. Here are the 3 that come to mind.

The 2011 restructuring of the Players Agreement: David Falk beat me to the chase. Yesterday, TrueHoop quoted Falk about the restructuring of the Players Agreement. Here is the quote from the New York Times story by Howard Beck that I took from TrueHoop:

"In his view, the union botched negotiations in 1998, which led to the three-month lockout, the only labor stoppage in league history. The union tried to stave off a luxury tax and maximum player salaries but ultimately had to accept both in order to strike a deal in January 1999 and save the season. 'The players lost 40 percent of their salaries, and they got a worse deal in January,' Falk said. 'So as we approach 2011, my overwhelming feeling is, let's not make the same dumb mistake as in 1998.' The players, he said, must recognize that the owners have the ultimate leverage. Many are billionaires for whom owning an N.B.A. team is merely a pricey hobby. Some of them are losing 'enormous amounts of money' and would rather shut down the league for a year or two than continue with the current system. So Falk is urging the union to take a more cooperative approach. 'And if we don't do that, in my opinion, there's an overwhelming probability that the owners will shut it down,' he said."

I have given this issue some thought before Falk brought it up. Falk obviously got a little more in depth than what I initially thought about, but it is a very dark cloud hanging over the NBA. So the Players Union is going to ask for a lot more flexibility in terms of player contracts and some other things, including the "1-year out rule" and other such things. The reality is, owners don't care. The league administration and players do care. When it comes down to signing specific players and getting players, the player has leverage. When it comes down to decisions that affect everyone, the owners are the ones that matter. That is why the NBA is so careful about who they let own teams. I don't know how many of you have recently tried to buy a team, but the line is long. The league goes through a very extensive screening process in order to get "the right fit". They do that precisely for things like this. The owners have the final say for virtually every major decision when it comes down to it. In all honesty, the owners could almost overturn any decision if they collectively came to an agreement. The owners in any professional sports league have the leverage to do anything. Players want more money. Owners say no. That is the end of it. Well, that means the players don't play. Who does that hurt? The players and fans. The owners will go on about their lives. In the end, the 1999 lockout season could have as much of an impact as an unmade college dorm room bed compared to what the 2011 renegotiation could bring about.

The New Orleans Hornets changing cities: The city of New Orleans has made is clear that their $20+ million that goes towards the investment of their teams (Saints and Hornets) will all go towards the Saints. Initially, the city said that the Hornets needed to meet an attendance quota for the season in order to renew their lease. Well, they have done that, and more. They are actually winning! Of course, they have the best point guard in the league in Chris Paul that drives ticket sales up. They also have a deep playoff contending team to help their revenues. Now, the city has just asserted they won't invest in the Hornets any longer. A team that had to move to Oklahoma City during the Katrina period in New Orleans, and then back to New Orleans, is now faced with another strong possibility of having to move cities. Among the cities, the two most talked about cities are Kansas City and Anaheim. My personal opinion is that LA probably doesn't need a third team, but I'm such a huge basketball fan, I would love it. Kansas City could use the Hornets. Kansas City has shown that they have the market for a pro sports team, as evidenced by the Chiefs, and Kansas City has been the home to professional basketball teams in the past (Kings). They have traditionally been viewed as a college basketball town, but Oklahoma City was the same, and we all know how that has turned out. They also have the Sprint Center that is looking for a team. Despite all of their ability to host a basketball team, the city has stated that they are "uninterested" in acquiring any NBA team. David Stern basically discounted Kansas City as a possible destination for any NBA team in the future, but did say that a European city, such as London, is ready for a team. Keep an eye on this story because it will heat up in the summer for sure. (note: picture is of the inside of the Sprint Center)

Allen Iverson retirement/free agency: This story has been touched on by various sources, but no one has actually taken time to look at this. Iverson is a free agent this year. What is he going to do? AI's numbers tell part of the story, but if you just watch him, he looks slower coming off screens. Remember, this is a guy who has played as much as Kobe Bryant, but has taken a lot of injuries. He has played through pain, and has been a true warrior when playing basketball, but one can't help but wonder how much of a toll that has taken on his body. He is making some serious money, but he might actually be hurting the Pistons more than he is helping them. For Detroit, it is fine because AI's contract is up after this year, but we can't think that a team is going to pay him anywhere near what he is going to ask. AI is making $21.9 million this season. I suspect that whatever team picks him up after this season will pay him about half of that. It may be a serious blow to AI's ego. He still commands a lot of respect, but every so often, you will see AI put up a single digit night in the points category. Bad shooting night? Well, this is a guy who used to put up 30 shots a night on a consistent basis, shoot in the mid 30% range and still get 30+pts. He just is not the same player as he used to be. Maybe he just isn't inspired to play? I hope that is the case. Nonetheless, we may be seeing the final days of Allen Iverson's career. I do think he may retire if he cannot come to terms with a contract that he asks for. If not, I think Allen Iverson may go to a championship contender for a much lower contract. He has made enough money up to this point to set him and his 5 children up for life. I think that the one thing missing from his resume is a ring, and he knows that, and has admitted it. Wouldn't surprise me if he took the paycut for the ring.



Check me out on Drive and Dish

I just wrote an article for the excellent college basketball site, Drive and Dish (featured in the link list on the side). The article was about Wake Forest's basketball team from a student's perspective. If you guys need specifics on voting, overall play, conferences, or just an opinion, this is the site you go to. The guys over there do an excellent job of maintaining the site, and they always offer a level-headed and steady opinion. I would highly recommend adding it to your RSS feed if you are a college basketball or hoops junkie in general. I appreciate the support from Drive and Dish as well as the rest of the readers on this site.


Rafer Alston/Kyle Lowry/Brian Cook Trade Analysis

My keyboard is on fire, but here goes the last analysis of the trade season. The most significant trade before the trade deadline is happening for Orlando. The Magic will receive Houston's Rafer Alston. The Rockets will receive Kyle Lowry. Brian Cook, a first round pick, and some filler will go to Memphis.

This deal works for everyone. Lets take this one step at a time. First, the Grizzlies. They are a team that has the lowest payroll in the league, but they have a tremendous amount of young talent. A first round pick is only going to add to that. With Mike Conley playing extremely well the last few weeks, and OJ Mayo in the long term plans, the Grizzlies got rid of Lowry. Coming into the season, they were wondering what they would do with Javaris Crittendon, Kyle Lowry, and Mike Conley. It was for sure going to be a throw down to see who would win the job. Crittendon lost the battle first, and then Conley proved that he could be the guy bringing up the court. Now Lowry finds himself on a struggling Houston team.

As for Houston, I think that Lowry can help them out back there. He will increase all of his averages of 7.6ppg and 3.6 assts a game. He will see a lot of playing time because I think that Rick Adelman will continue to play Aaron Brooks off the bench in the same capacity Brooks has played all season. Brooks will compete for the starting job next season, but as of now, Lowry will be given the thumbs up. The Rockets will also get Brian Cook. Cook has developed a terrible reputation of being a shooter every time he touches the ball. Problem is, he can't shoot. Cook is only shooting 38.3% on the season. Don't expect that to change anytime soon as he probably won't get in the rotation that often, but his salary made the deal work. Cook's impact on the team will be minimal. Overall, Lowry is about half a step down from Alston, but for next season, after he learns Adelman's unique offense, he will be a much more effective player. Lowry is a steal with his talent and salary. Lowry is due to make $1.1 million this season, and just over $2 million next season with a qualifying offer in none other than, the summer of 2010. From watching Lowry play, he doesn't seem like he commands on the floor. He seems to force the game. Lowry also seems to play off of other players. He waits for a player to make a move, and he reacts to that. It doesn't seem like Lowry creates opportunities for himself outside of his occassional drive to the basket. I think that is something he can work on, and will change when he gets used to the talent around him in Houston, and of course, when the Rockets are healthy (if that ever happens). This is the perfect situation for Lowry to develop himself as a credible guard. The spotlight is on him in Houston, and he will be asked much more next season than this season. Think of the last part of this season as a warmup for Lowry.

So the last point guard that went to Orlando from Houston was a guy named Steve Francis. The guy who came to Houston was Tracy McGrady. We know how that went down. Put aside what you may think about T-Mac right now, and realize that he averages over 29ppg in the playoffs. When healthy, Tracy McGrady is one of the NBA's elite. Steve Francis, not so much, to say the least. When Jameer Nelson went down, Orlando tried to play it like Anthony Johnson could carry the load. After watching the unathletic veteran for a few games, it became very clear that Johnson would not be able to hold the fort down. So here comes Alston. The guy has had some big games the last couple games. Alston is an extremely streaky shooter. I never thought about it, but Alston is a poor man's Jameer Nelson. He is averaging 11.5 ppg, 5.4 assts, and 1.19 steals. Nelson averages 16.7ppg, 5.4 assts, and 1.21 stls. With the exception of points, those are virtually the same numbers. Alston is smaller in size, has the handles, can pass, and score. I can make this comparison because they both played with a dominant center that changes defenses. We should also note that Alston has never had a full arsenal of options available to him. He does have that in Orlando. Expect his numbers to jump a little bit. I think they have some similarities and some differences. The similarity is their shots off of screens. Nelson loves shooting off of screens and giving the pick n'roll pass. Alston likes to shoot off of screens, but the pick n'roll isn't so big in Houston, but Alston had his fair share of assists to Yao. I think Alston will make an immediate impact in Orlando, and that is what they need. Alston was stuck in the limbo land of Houston, and he is now on a championship contending team. If the Magic don't like what Alston is doing, he is making $4.9 million and will make a bit above that next season, but his contract expires in none other than the summer of 2010. Perfect. Alston will undoubtedly thrive off of Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu's shooting ability. He will be able to create shots for himself, and like Jameer Nelson, Alston loves to drive to the basket. We have seen this time and time again, Alston driving to the basket, defenses collapose, and he drops the ball off the Scola or Yao for the easy put away. Well, the same thing is going to happen in Orlando with the exception of dropping off to a PF or SF, he could kick it out to the wings for 3, or give it to Dwight Howard. Either option is going to be a favorable outcome for the Magic. The one concern is when Nelson comes back. Do they just have Alston come off the bench? I think they will let that happen for a while, but they will probably trade him away after they don't need him. Alston is a quick bandaid for the Jameer Nelson loss. After Nelson is back and healthy, Alston's expiring contract and proven play will be good trade bait next season. It is looking good for Orlando. They can now safely start discussing a legitimate playoff run.


Larry Hughes for Tim Thomas/ Jerome James/Anthony Roberson Trade Analysis

Chicago's 2nd trade in 2 days. They send Larry Hughes and get back Tim Thomas, Jerome James, and Anthony Roberson.

Both these teams will come out of the deal financially equal. Hughes makes $12.8 million this year, and will be making about $13.6 million next year which is fine for New York because as long as Hughes is not on the books for 2010, it is all good with them. Hughes is a streaky scorer, and has the ability to put points up when he wants to. He was averaging 12ppg and 3 rebs in his 30 games for the Bulls this season. Don't let those numbers mislead you because Hughes did not want to be in Chicago. He made it clear that he wanted to get traded. That is what happened. Expect Hughes to increase his numbers in a place that he wants to be, and a place that is built solely off of shooting. I think this will keep the Knicks happy until they can flex their muscle in 2010. I do think that Larry Hughes can be a bit of a liability in the locker room, but that factor is a team-to-team thing for Hughes so we can't factor that in right now.

The Bulls get Tim Thomas back and some change. Tim Thomas feuded with former Bulls coach Scott Skiles, and rookie coach Vinny Del Negro has 5 new players on his team in the past 2 days. Tim Thomas is on the books for about $12.5 million over the next two season, and of course, expiring in the summer of 2010. It will undoubtedly be difficult to understand where each player fits into the system. Tim Thomas is a shooting 4 who can play the 3 or 5. I believe the Noah and Gray are going to see cuts in their playing time. I actually think that if Thomas is coupled with Brad Miller, that is an interesting 4 and 5 combo. Both of them like to shoot in the mid-range as opposed to posting up so I think that can stretch the defense. It looks like the Bulls got rid of Nocioni in order to acquire Tim Thomas, a player who is a Nocioni replacement. A very clever move by GM Paxson. Tim Thomas can provide an instant impact to the Bulls if used properly. Thomas averages about 9.6 a game, and occassionally goes off for a 20+ game. I think we can expect that level of production from him in Chicago too.


Sheldon Williams/ Bobby Brown for Rashard McCants/Calvin Booth Trade Analysis

Sheldon Williams and Bobby Brown got sent to Minnesota for Rashard McCants and Calvin Booth.

This trade is pretty minor so we will focus on Sheldon Williams and Rashard McCants.

The trade is a neutral move for both teams. Sheldon Williams was the 5th pick in the draft, and has never lived up to expectations after a standout college career at Duke. Sheldon is limited by his athletic ability, and his lack of post presence. In college, Williams was able to out muscle inferior defenders, and get a lot of clean-up baskets. In the NBA, it is obviously a different story. Williams has not started any games this season, and averaged 10.2 minutes for the the Kings. His stats are minimal this season, and have been throughout his career. Williams is averaging 3.7 ppg and 2.6 rebs. Don't let Kevin McHale fool you. They have articulated that Al Jefferson's injury prompted this trade for Williams, but this is another financial move. Williaims is due about $3.3 million this season and has an option for next season. I don't know if the Timberwolves will pick it up. I suspect that they won't, and will use it to go after another player. It is worth noting that Calvin Booth averages 5.2 ppg and 1.9 assts and only makes the minimum (for his experience) at $442,144. All-in-all, the impact for the Wolves will be virtually nil.

The Kings have been pretty active in the trade market. This is their 3rd trade that they have been involved in throughout this trade season. Again, they have acquired all of these players for financial reasons (with the exception of Andres Nocioni). Rashard McCants, the former TarHeel star, never quite lived up to his expectations. McCants and Booth are both expiring contracts. They will have a combined $3.7 million in expiring contracts (McCants has a qualifying option at $3.4 next season). McCants is averaging 9.1ppg and .9 assts. Outside of some scoring, he is largely ineffective. Like I said in the Nocioni/Miller analysis, Sacramento is cutting costs. These small market team fans must get used to this because the small market teams can't afford to incur the luxury tax penalty like big market teams can. It makes financial sense for the Kings. They have the worst record in the league so I guess at this point acquiring minimal impact players is a good thing. Calvin Booth has played in 1 game this season, and will probably see double that action, at most, for the rest of this season. The Kings are in a good position financially going into the 2009-2010 season.



Brad Miller/John Salmons for Andres Nocioni/Drew Gooden Trade Analysis

I have heard rumblings about Brad Miller being on the trade market for the last two days. Brad Miller and John Salmons get traded for Andres Nocioni, Drew Gooden, Michael Ruffin (sent to Portland), and Cedric Simmons. The Blazers also sent Ike Diogu to Sacramento.

I like this trade for the Bulls. I wrote a while back about how Brad Miller was one of the most underachieving players in the NBA. He is a 2-time All-Star, and actually played for the Bulls from 2000-2002 before moving onto Indiana. He has been plagued by injury for the last couple of seasons, but when he has played this season, he has been putting in a lackluster effort. Miller went through the motions, and just sort of existed on the court. He is capable of playing as one of the most fundamentally sound Centers in the league. He proved that when he was in Indiana, and that is why Sacramento signed him to such a big deal. This puts Chicago in good position for, none other than, the Summer of 2010. Chicago will easily be a major player that summer. No one is really talking about Chicago, but lets not forget that they are the 3rd biggest market after LA and New York. They have Brad Miller's $12.25 million, Larry Hughes' $13.6 (although he may be traded before his contract expires), and potentially 5 other players who will have either a team option or qualifying offer in the summer of 2010. Derrick Rose has a team option for that year that I can safely assume the Bulls will pick up. Brad Miller is more of a high post guy expect Miller to be setting a lot of high screens for Derrick Rose. Pick N'Roll will probably be Vinny Del Negro's go-to play after a while. The most under appreciated part of Miller's game is his passing. He is averaging 3.4 assists this season, which is high for a big man, but don't think that is his limit. I believe that Miller will be up to around 5.5 assists by the end of the season. There are a plethora of shooters that Miller will be able to go to in order to increase those assists. Miller also brings 11.9 ppg and 8 rebs to the table. Not too bad, but expect those averages to go up a bit. We have to take into account his lack of effort, but we can't blame him. How much effort would you put in if you were on the worst team in the league?

So lets look at John Salmons. The Spurs wanted Salmons really badly because of his affordability. Salmons is easily the best deal in the league. He averages 18.3 ppg, 4.2 rebs, 3.7 assts, and 1 steal a game for the discounted price of $5.1 million this year. Salmons is undoubtedly part of the Bulls' long term plans as he is signed through the summer of 2011. Salmons has played solid all year. He shoots about 47% from the field, and has good size. I can imagine that Del Negro will go for a lineup of Miller, Deng/Ty Thomas, Salmons, Gordon, and Rose/Hinrich. That would be a solid lineup for the Bulls, and would put them in position for a strong playoff push towards the end of this season. The Bulls may not have an incredibly strong bench past Hinrich and Thomas wth this lineup, but this would give them a 10-man rotation if you throw in Gray, Noah, and Sefolosha (expect Aaron Gray's playing time to be cut). A good start for a Bulls team that has been criticized since the passing of the Jordan era. General Manager John Paxon has finally made a move that has made both financial sense and basketball sense. I think the Bulls may be able to capture the 8th spot, but that would be the best case scenario. This has put the Bulls in a good situation for the future and for next season. Ben Gordon will be a free agent this summer and it is doubtful that Gordon will re-sign with the Bulls. That will be another $6million free for them to go after a mid level player to complement the core they have right now.

As for Sacramento, I'm not going to go too in depth into the basktball side of this trade because it was made more for financial reasons than anything. The Kings have abandoned this season. Nocioni is the only player the Kings wanted to get for basketball reasons. They acquired Nocioni who still has about $29 million on his contract left with an option of $7.5 million for the 2013 season. That is a long term deal, and the Kings seem to have Nocioni in mind for the long run. Nocioni is a shooter. He is inconsistent, and he will probably always be inconsistent, but he brings little else besides shooting to a team. My thinking is that the Kings want to acquire a big man and hope that Kevin Martin develops into the star they think he will be, and surround Martin and the big man with shooters. As far as Gooden goes, he is actually from Northern California (Oakland, 2 hours southwest of Sacramento), and he is an expiring $7.1 million at the end of the season. Something that will make owners George and Gavin Maloof smile. Gooden is actually posting better numbers than Brad Miller this season. He is putting up 13.1ppg and 8.6rebs. Of course, he is not as good of a passer as Miller, but again, Gooden is a financial acquisition. The Kings are trying to cut costs at this point, and may look to the future. Their small-market mentality makes it hard for them to go over the luxury tax because they are likely to not be able to cover themselves financially if that happens. The Kings were currently at $70 for this season, and this trade allows them to save some money in the long term. Cedric Simmons also adds a bit of financial relief as well for the Maloof brothers. He is due $1.7 million at the end of the season with an option for about $2.6 million for next season. Simmons' basketball impact is minimal as he averages 2.5 ppg and 1.1 assts a game. For Kings fans, it seems like a lifetime ago that they were playing the legendary playoff series' against the Lakers in the early part of this decade. Lets hope that they can come back to relevancy some time soon.



Tyson Chandler and Joe Smith/Chris Wilcox Trade Analysis

The second big trade in the last week happened earlier today. The news came out that the Hornets' Tyson Chandler, and the draft rights to former Cal star, Devon Hardin, had been swapped for the Thunder's Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox.

This was a very interesting move. It had been rumored for a long time that the Hornets were looking to deal Tyson Chandler because of his monster deal. He is due to make about $23 million the next two seasons with an option of $12 million in the 2011/2012 season. This move made a lot of financial sense for the Hornets. The Hornets had a payroll of $67 million this season which is $4.15 million under the salary cap right now. They would have been due to pay $77 million next season, but with this trade, they are able to get the expiring contracts of Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox, which will give them more flexibility. Smith and Wilcox make a combined $11.4 million this season, and that will all come off the books for the Hornets next year. In the short term, the Hornets are pretty much out of the discussion to win the West. Wilcox and Joe Smith just can't handle the Pau Gasols, the Tim Duncans, the Yao Mings, the Nenes and the rest of the tall Western Conference forwards and centers. Although Chandler is still recovering from an injury that has kept him out since January 20th, he should be expected to maintain his current level of production. The Hornets have given up their best shot blocker, and since dominant bigmen are so hard to come by in the NBA, losing the 7'1 Chandler is a big blow to them inside. Chandler was not the most productive offensive player, but he understood how to play as a big man. He averages 8.8 ppg, but he knows his value doesn't come from the offensive end. It won't have to with the rapid development of Durant, Green, and Westbrook. Chandler doesn't have an incredibly threatening post game, but he was an incredible rebounder and one of the best shot blockers in the league averaging 8.4 rebs and 1.4 blks a game. Those numbers are a little low considering his size, but rest assured, players think twice before trying to put a shot up over Chandler. He is a definite asset in the middle. He will help the Thunder develop their team. He will be an excellent complement to Durant, Green, and Westbrook. The Thunder are obviously not a very good defensive team, and Chandler has made a living off of his defense and rebounding. A good fit for them overall. The one x-factor I see here is Chandler meshing with the front court of Nenad Kristic and Nick Collison. The upside is that Chandler is 26, which is great for the Thunder because they wanted to allow their core of young talent grow together, and Chandler will undoubtedly facilitate that growth, and be very much a part of it. Another part of Chandler's game that is often overlooked because he doesn't get that many points is his FG%. He shoots 56.3% from the field. It is further proof that this guy can play around the basket, and is a finisher. Remember, Chandler was playing with the US team for the summers prior to the Beijing games so he has been around the best in the league, and has practiced with the best in the world. His veteran leadership as well as his skill set will be a valuable tool for the Thunder's growth.

As for New Orleans, they get Chris Wilcox and Joe Smith. The Hornets have stated that they think Wilcox is athletic and will fit into their system. I have yet to see it. He is listed at 6'10 and 235. Every time I have seen him play, he has been a lackluster defender, and at times gets lost in the game. He is not a big threat on the offensive or defensive end. He averages 8.4 ppg, and 5.3 rebs. Wilcox is going to have a tough time guarding anyone in the West. Granted, those numbers are from this year, and it is hard to get motivated when you are playing for one of the worst teams in the NBA, but Wilcox is in a contract year. We all know what that does to players. It motivates them. If Wilcox can find that "trade inspiration" as I like to call it (when a player moves from a bad team to a good team), he might be an asset to the Hornets for the latter half of this year. Do I really think he is going to have an amazing end of the season? No, but I'm trying to be as optimistic for the Hornets as possible. Joe Smith is pretty much an older version of Chris Wilcox (Both of them are Maryland products. I had to get that ACC jab in there.). Smith is also 6'10, but is 10lbs lighter than Wilcox at 235lbs. He is basically split minutes with Wilcox down the middle in OKC with both players playing about 19 minutes a game. Smith averages about 6.6 ppg and 4.5 rebs. As you can see, both Wilcox and Smith are not big threats either way. Neither player averages more than a block a game. In fact, the average blocks per game for both Smith and Wilcox is .55 blocks a game. They will be a non-factor inside. It is a crucial loss for the Hornets who thrived on Chandler being able to body-up inside. I do believe that this is Hornets GM Jeff Bower's way of saying, "We will see you next season." He can't be criticized too heavily for that considering how clear cut the race in the West is getting. Bower has learned from the Phoenix Suns case study that having the best point guard in the league, an all-star PF, and some shooters is not going to win you a championship. In fact, it will bring you to the brink of a championship only to realize that the team is not good enough, and completely melt down. Bower is avoiding that. He will updoubtedly sign a Center this summer, and look to next season. Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Drew Gooden, Antonio McDyess, and Rasho Nesterovic are among the big name unrestricted free agents this summer. I don't doubt that the Hornets will go hardcore after one of those players. The Hornets will test their limit in the playoffs. They will play as hard as they can, and see where their deficiency lies. After they figure that out, they will be very active in the offseason. The future looks good for New Orleans.


Shawn Marion and Jermaine O'Neal Trade Analysis

So a blockbuster trade went down today in the NBA. Toronto's Jermaine O'Neal and Jamario Moon (along with some filler) got traded to Miami for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks.

I like this trade for Toronto. They get to get a look at Shawn Marion for free, and they get his defense and athleticism alongside Chris Bosh. It also gave them a chance to get rid of Jermaine O'Neal's awful contract and his injury-prone career. Remember how Marion was in MVP talks when he was playing with the Suns? What did that Suns team have? They had a two-time MVP point guard in Nash, an athletic big man in Amare, and shooters galore. Well, Toronto doesn't have the MVP point guard, but he is pretty darn good. Calderon is the forgotten point guard of the NBA. He is averaging 13.1 ppg, but more importantly, he is averaging 8.5 assists per game. That is what Marion will benefit from the most. Marion will be able to play around the basket, and finish plays. So after Marion gets over the fact that he is leaving the warmth of Miami, and traveling to the less than comfortable weather of Toronto, he will understand that Calderon will revitalize Marion's career. Marion is playing for a contract, and people were skeptical of his talent after watching his production in Miami. Rest assured, Marion will be thanking Calderon for bringing him back to his Phoenix prominence. Bosh is the Amare that Marion thrived on in Phoenix. Bosh will command the most attention, and it will allow Marion to be the roamer he loves to be. Throw in shooters like Jason Kapono, and a developing big man in Andrea Bargnani, and the Raptors might have something here. Granted, Toronto is currently not a playoff team, and Marion may or may not change that. This move, in the larger scheme of things, was Coangelo's move to help the Raptors become a playoff team this season. They have the pieces in place for that playoff run. If it doesn't work out, Marion leaves, and they have a large sum of money to spend in this offseason in hopes of keeping Bosh in 2010. On top of the finances, Jermaine was pretty ineffective this season except his average of 2 blocks a game. Marion will bring more scoring, defense, and toughness to the Raptors. In the end, it is going to help both Marion and the Raptors. Great move on Toronto's part. (Note: notice that Jamario Moon is guardig Marion in the picture above.)

I wish I could say the same for Miami. I'm very unsure of what Pat Riley was trying to accomplish with this move. The second O'Neal to grace Miami's roster is going to be nowhere near as effective as the previous O'Neal was. Jermaine O'Neal is one of the NBA's tragedies. He was the superstar that never was. I remember watching the historic 1996 NBA draft and remembered that some guy named Kobe Bryant was the youngest player ever drafted (13th), but then a guy named Jermaine O'Neal got taken at 17th. Jermaine played marginally at Portland early in his career, but he showed a lot of promise as his career went on. He put up some big numbers when he went to the Pacers, but the injury bug hit, and things went south forJermaine. He never fully recovered to his previous production. So here is a guy making the 4th highest amount of money in the league this year (even above Kobe) at $21.3 million, and is averaging 13.5 ppg, 7 rebs, and 2 blks in 41 games for Toronto. Now, that's a lot more court time than he has seen in his previous seasons with Indiana, but it still is not worthy of how much he is cashing in at the bank. When he was traded to Toronto, O'Neal was rejuvinated. He worked hard, and approached the game with a different attitude. The motivation was back. Well, the product of that motivation was the stats I just mentioned. Very underwhelming. So why did Miami want to take Jermaine O'Neal? I'm not sure. They dumped Marion's $17 million for the season, but still owe O'Neal about $22 million next season. I guess that is the key. The summer of 2010 is what this all comes down to. The Heat may be hoping to clear that cap room in order to lure Wade back, and potentially another big name player. Chris Bosh, anyone? So that part of the deal makes sense. It also gives Beasley a chance to develop at the SF position instead of the PF position. That is a plus. If Beasley improves at that position, the Heat could go after that big name PF like a Chris Bosh or Amare in 2010. It will also do some things for Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony, but those players are so sporadic, the impact of Jermaine O'Neal on their games is sort of unpredictable. I also think that Riley sees something in Jamario Moon. He is an NBA journeyman. A young player with a tremendous amount of talent, and I think that with the right moves, Erik Spoelstra's staff can tap that potential.

So lets think about the Heat's long term plan. If the Heat managed to keep Wade, sign a big name PF, Beasley develops to the player they hope he will be, and Chalmers continues his current path of development, this is a bright future for Miami. Miami fans should be able to live with that. Championship in Miami right now, not a chance. So look to the future. On face, this doesn't make sense for this season, but if you look at the numbers, the math turns out to work in the Heat's favor in the long run. Miami has no problem attracting big name players to the city. Although is is, in size, only the 42nd largest city in the country, it is one of the entertainment hubs of the world. I also don't think the weather and flash of South Beach hurt the case for Miami either.

So for Marion and O'Neal, instead of doing what NBA players do over All-Star Weekend, they will be making travel arrangements to go to their new cities. As for us, we hope this is the warmup to a very active trade season. Again, enjoy the weekend.



Appreciating All-Star Weekend

I don't know if my love of All-Star Weekend has been blinded by my love for it, but I have read more negative opinions of All-Star Weekend this year, than any other year in memory. My earliest memory of the All-Star game was the 97 game at Cleveland's Gund Arena. I was only 9 years old at the time, and had followed basketball as much as a 9 year old could. It was that All-Star game that I understood what the NBA was bringing to the fans. It was about showcasing the best talent in the world, with the best players in the world, and showing the incredibly quality the game could be played at when all the best talent was on one team. It was a weekend-long show that amazed me every second I watched. Now, people have compared the All-Star game to a circus. Critics are calling for defensive incentives to players (awards, bonuses, etc.), removal of the Rookie Game, Slam-Dunk Contest, 3pt contest, etc. I can't believe this is even being circulated as a mainstream opinion. Here are my thoughts on the recent news of the All-Star Weekend.

First of all, I'm still unsure of why the fans voted in Rudy Fernandez. I actually haven't seen any sign him being a better than average dunker. I have seen him catch a few lob passes, and I have seen him finish some dunks on a breakaway, but what NBA player hasn't? I have a feeling it will be similar to Chris Anderson's 2005 run. And, if we are lucky enough, Nate Robinson will have another awkward, seemingly endless run, at about 100 consecutive missed dunks, but still managing to win the contest. I'm glad that J.R Smith go the go-ahead over Rudy Gay because J.R is an athlete. We have seen him finish countless times, and he will be a fun guy to watch. Apparently, he is asking teammate Chris Anderson for tips, but we hope that Smith is just using that as a guide of what not to do.

As far as the Rookie Challenge is concerned, I think it is fine. It is another chance for fans to see raw skills on a stage. Yes, it kind of inflates the young players' perception of themselves, but they are the future of the league. Most fans do not get to see these players play on a regular basis, so it is good for everyone to see these players have some fun. A handful of these guys will be All-Stars in the near future. It can also act as an incentive for these young players to work hard. They get a taste of what All-Star Weekend is all about, and they have something to work for. That has to be worth something.

Ok, I'll concede that the Celebrity game is a bit excessive. C'mon, we know that it is all marketing. There has to be some level of interest in seeing Justin Timberlake throw a lob to TO that he can't finish, but still claim he could have played in the NBA if given a second chance. It is good for the league. I know that my 15 year old cousin that has no interest in the NBA watches the celebrity game because of, well, the celebrities. It gives the NBA some level of exposure to fans that would never think twice about skipping over an NBA game on tv. In that sense, the game can stay, and we can use marketing to a different demographic as our scapegoat.

Lets group the Shooting Stars, Skills, and 3pt contest challenges all together. You have got to be joking if you can't find some level of enjoyment from seeing Moses Malone, Scottie Pippen, Clyde Drexler, etc. coupled with a WNBA player, and a current NBA player launching half court bombs isn't entertaining. The Skills challenge is really entertaining. Watching some of the best players in the league showcase their pinpoint accuracy, handles, and speed is definitely something every hoops fan can appreciate. Of course, the 3pt contest is the same old thing every year, but it is similar to seeing a player in practice. Shooting ball after ball, systematically and rhytmically. Tell me you haven't gone out into your driveway/backyard and done some kind of 3point contest with your friend. The 3pt shootout is another way that we can appreciate shooting skill and stamina.

Yes, I agree that 30 minutes of introduction prior to actually playing the game on Sunday is a bit much, but the players have worked hard to get there, and for some, it may be one of the only times they are showcased. Let them have their spotlight. It is a time for these individual players to represent their team. Although some may think that this feeds into the stereotype of the NBA being a self-centered league, these players have exceled, and in many cases, brought their team to the next level. The game is an honor. It has no implications besides a little bigger paycheck to the winning team. Why can't we sit back and enjoy the game? We are a society that is built on scoring. Isn't that one of the reasons this country has never fallen in love with soccer? Isn't that why this country complains when a football game ends 9-6? A field goal is less exciting than a touchdown. A base hit is less exciting than a home run, and a home run is less exciting than a grand slam. A layup is less exciting than a 3pter. We love to see flash. We love to see the most amazing play. That's what is so enticing and addictive about sports. We admire the ability of an athlete to do something we cannot. We are awed by their physical superiority and skill. So why have we fallen out of love with the All-Star game? It is a time for us to see a glorified pickup game without any losses. There does not need to be an elevated form of defense. Let the players play. Let their creativity amaze us. It is a show, and nothing more. The All-Star game would be much less entertaining if the players were playing for real. So on Sunday, watch the game from a different perspective. Watch the game differently than we normally would. No need to criticize the defense like you would when you are watching your favorite team. Just understand that if a player makes a bad decision, it was to make a play. We should also know that if the game is close, these are professional athletes, which is synonymous with "professional competitor". Their instincts will kick in, and they will try and win the game. We point to the MJ heroics at the Atlanta game in 2003. If we are lucky enough, we will be graced with another highlight to add to one of the greatest players in the league.

So I hope that this positive light on these events has allowed everyone to at least try to take a different perspective when watching the festitivities this weekend. We should appreciate the product for what it is, and not compare it to the playoffs. If none of what I said has struck you, just know that the trade deadline is a few days after this is over, and the season is serious when Monday hits. Enjoy.