Monthly Archives: October 2012

Opening Night Jottings

CAVALIERS 94, Wizards 84

Kyrie Irving made the All-League Pass Team because of plays like this:

Kyrie

I can’t see too good, is that Kyle Lee Watson?

Cavs fans should feel good about Irving’s big game. (29 points, 6 assists, game-best +23).  They should not feel good about the tie score with the Wizards (missing John Wall and Nene, coached by Randy Wittman) with under 5 minutes to play.

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Opening Night: What to expect

We’ve missed these guys.

[In case you forgot how this is done, a quick how-to, or “what to expect” in tonight’s return of regular season basketball on TNT.]

5:30 CST – Leave work, gym, wherever you are. Go home.

5:45 CST – Check fridge, freezer, ensure that there are ample amounts of necessary supplies.

6:00 CST – Grab laptop, flip on TV to NBA Tip-Off presented by AutoTrader.com, get comfortable.

6:01 CST – See that Shaquille O’Neal is still employed by TNT, feel momentarily upset.

6:02 CST – See that E.J., Kenny and Charles are still employed by TNT, feel less upset.

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NBA Preview: The Awards Ceremony

The National Basketball Association: Cuttin’ that Check to Rasheed Wallace since 1995. (I love this game!)

Okay, folks. With the season about to start and a hurricane about to blow my house down, Andy G and I are doing a rapid-fire INBOX-style NBA Preview wrap-up. We argue about Chris Paul, which teams will rise to the top of each conference, who will win the major awards, and why Rasheed Wallace is currently collecting an NBA paycheck, all below the fold.

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NBA Preseason Stats Musings

I finally took a look at some League-wide preseason stats, trends, and anomalies. Much of the data looks just like we’d expect. But the preseason always produces a few surprises and some good laughs.

A few of the things that stood out to me are below the fold.

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Western Conference Preview: The James Harden Edition

How does James Harden’s departure from Oklahoma City affect the Thunder’s prospects in the West?

So, James Harden. Yep. Gone. OKC is screwed. Or is it? You’ll find out in my Western Conference preview.

But first things first: Why did OKC trade one of its core stars, just before the season starts, and why was it that the Rockets were the ones who outbid the rest for Harden, a pricy commodity in a market that has few quality shooting guards.

The answer to the first is easy: cost. OKC owner Clay Bennett was unwilling to pay it, James Harden was unwilling to take less so he wouldn’t have to, and so a trade had to be made, even if not paying Harden might cost the Thunder an NBA title. This sends a horrible message to fans, and Durant and Westbrook should grab their mates and move the team back to Seattle.

The answer to the second is less clear. But I have a theory. It centers around Kevin McHale, Royce White, the Minnesota Timberwolves, and facial hair.

My theory goes like this: Having drafted point-forward Royce White, and subsequently discovering that Royce won’t be bringing much to the table this season (except increased awareness of the challenges of anxiety disorders), McHale and Daryl Morey concluded that in lieu of on-court competitiveness, they would  rekindle Houston’s rivalry with the up-and-coming Timberwolves.

They would do so by attacking an area of perceived Wolves vulnerability: facial hair.

McHale and Morey figured that after former Wolves beard Brad Miller – a former Rocket – retired, the Wolves’ claim to “Best Team Facial Hair” was up-for-grabs. Why not try to win something this season, and make White useful, all in one go?  By trading for Harden’s beard, and teaming it up with White’s  – White’s nascent beard already could put many Taliban to shame, and they go all-in on beards – in the NBA’s new Beard & Mustache Competition, which will be broadcast live just before the NBA Draft Lottery in the Spring, Houston has begun pursuing that strategy.

But McHale and Morey’s strategy is flawed. It neglects the fact that Kahn has armed the Wolves with a new Secret Weapon – a failsafe - in the form of Louis Amundson’s beard. In fact, RUMINT obtained by punchdrunkwolves.com indicates that Amundson’s beard has never lost in the “Most Pungent” competition in any Beard & Mustache Contest it has participated in.

Facial hair aside, there’s obviously a big story here: when you remove James Harden from the Thunder, it shifts the balance in the West, and also has implications for the Wolves. So what is the fallout? Find the answers to those questions and more in my Western Conference preview, located below the fold.

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Eastern Conference Preview

Joe Johnson took his talents to Brooklyn. How will that affect the Eastern Conference playoff landscape?

8. Milwaukee Bucks: Yeah, I just bounced the 76ers from the playoffs.  I’ve changed my mind on them.  Andrew Bynum just seems off.  He has a grey-haired afro, for one.  His knees hurt again, for another.  Before last season, when Bynum stayed healthy and played 60 out of 66 games, his previous four season totals out of the usual 82 were: 54, 65, 50, 35.  That’s an average of 51 games played and 31 games not played.  With Andre Iguodala in Denver, the Sixers need a production replacement.  Bynum was supposed to be that guy, but he’s out with knee pain and received an injection that was referred to as “routine.”  I’m expecting Bynum to miss at least 30 games of which the Sixers will then lose more than 20.  Doug Collins might get fired, as he tends to do.  Wait a second–I’m supposed to be writing about the Bucks.  The Bucks are what we thought they were: an almost-.500 team that plays beat-em-up halfcourt defense.  I don’t love the Monta trade (why not just let Andrew Bogut get healthy?) but Skiles will at least demand consistent defense from Ellis, which wasn’t happening in Oakland.

Predicted record: 40-42

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“I honestly think he’ll be better than Steve Nash.”

Sports Illustrated runs a cool series called, “Enemy Lines” where they have opposing scouts anonymously assess each NBA team.  In the Timberwolves edition, there was a remark about Ricky Rubio that stood out:

The difference between having Ricky Rubio [who is expected to miss the first two months of the season while recovering from knee surgery] and not having him is huge. Everybody likes Rubio and still I think he’s underrated — he’s that good. I honestly think he’ll be better than Steve Nash.

Obviously, he needs to improve his shooting and some other things, but, man, he can dominate a game and get easy baskets in a way that very few people can. Just dribbling down the floor, if his man is sealed, he makes eye contact with his guy — and if Rubio has any advantage, any angle, he’s able to find the guy and it’s two points. He makes his teammates so much better. You could see it last year, when they were on their way to making the playoffs before he got hurt. If Rubio becomes a good shooter like Nash did, you can forget about it.

Defensively, he’s better than Nash. Even though he gets a lot of steals, it isn’t because he’s gambling. It’s because he’s able to use his length and size and great feet while he’s playing solid defense.

Rubio is one of the few players I would pay to watch play. If he’s able to stay healthy and his shooting improves, [Timberwolves president] David Kahn is going to look like a genius for waiting the two years for him to come over from Europe. We’ve all seen a lot of international guys who were overrated in the draft, but this guy is for real, and in a couple of years they could have a chance to make a deep run in the playoffs because of him and Kevin Love.

Rick Adelman is the right coach for this team and for Rubio in particular. Rick lets his players play and he gives them confidence. He gets them to do it his way and it’s very successful. Maybe Rubio wouldn’t have been as good right away if he’d been in a more structured offense.

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