Sunday, 29 January 2012

NBA Questions, v3.0

Last edition was almost three weeks ago. Sorry about the delay folks, been doing some other stuff that's kept me busy.

You can have a look at what I had to say last time around here. The things I've made good calls on have started getting a little repetitive, so I'll let you look back for yourself to see where I've been right and wrong. In the future I'll still highlight the extremes, right or wrong, of things that I've said for the convenience of all.

Moving along, here's what I've absorbed from NBA-land in the last 20 or so days:

  • I know I've mentioned it before, but INJURIES! New additions to the hobbled list include Andrew Bogut, Al Horford (went down not long after my last Questions post), Luol Deng and Andrea Bargnani, who all figure to miss considerable chunks of the season. That's without mentioning the guys with nagging injuries like 'Melo, CP3, Rose and Rondo. Hey NBA, let's not make this condensed season a recurring thing, yeah?
  • On Bogut, will this guy ever catch a break? Poor choice of words, perhaps. Easily in the Top 5 at his position when healthy, maybe even Top 3, Bogut just can't seem to stay on the floor. Hopefully he gets a good run of health before his best years are behind him.
  • Dwight Howard expressed his displeasure with his teammates after losing to the lowly Hornets, telling guys to "stay home" if they weren't going to give 100%. Did Dwight ever stop to think that the pot might be calling the kettle black in criticising players for not being fully committed to their team?
  • Looks like some of this year's rookies are making a lot of fans and media types eat their words. Kyrie Irving, Brandon Knight, MarShon Brooks and Kemba Walker have all shown glimpses of future all-star level production, already showing us that this draft class is more than the "good role players at best" class it's been described as in the past.
  • Speaking of drafts, unfortunate as it is, it would seem that there will be quite a few teams competing for the top pick, with 12 teams sporting a win/loss percentage of less than 39% (teams are, in order: Milwaukee, Cleveland, New York, New Jersey, Phoenix, Golden State, Sacramento, Toronto, New Orleans, Detroit, Washington and Charlotte), with 5 of those at 30% or lower. 
  • On a more positive note, Steve Nash continues to lead the league in assists, despite the talent surrounding him being at an all-time low. Gone are the pick and roll finishers, and so too it would seem the excellent perimeter shooters. How is he doing it? Is Nash the best passer in the history of the game? Definitely worthy of discussion.
That's all I've got this time. Feel free to start a debate about the best passers in NBA history in the comments section. More posts coming soon!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

JaVale McGee... tosser.

And people wonder (do they?) why the Wizards still suck. I actually think this team would somehow be less dysfunctional with Gilbert Arenas still in town. How often do you see a young team in the middle of a rebuilding phase reach the point where it needs to be blown up and started from scratch?

It's teams run like this that convince me I could be an NBA GM and run a better show than half the league.

PS - see what I did with the title? McGee "tossed" himself an alley... tosser... geddit?

Monday, 16 January 2012


I may or may note have written here that I want to study journalism. I don't remember. Anyway, now it's definitely out there. I want to study journalism.

And hey, waddya know? I got my "Confirmation of Enrolment" letter in the mail today. Due to being a full time father at the moment, and not living near any campuses, I decided to make use of Open Universities Australia's online study options to start taking some classes.

I'm excited. Why wouldn't I be? Over the years, I've tried my hand at a lot of different jobs, only to find my heart wasn't in it and EVERY time I found myself being called to writing. Since I first started writing to share in 2007, my peers have told me I could write for a living, but I always doubted myself. I knew I was capable of expressing myself on paper, but I always felt like my writing was kind of... raw.

I only started taking writing seriously around the same time I started paying attention in school, around 2006. By then, I'd missed out on a lot of the fundamentals of writing that I should know. I guess being untrained has given me, to an extent, my own style. I like that, but I'd like to have the ability to turn out professional jobs when the need arises - like, in a job, for example. I think a lot of what I try to say would be better conveyed if my writing wasn't so all over the place, too. Which can only be a good thing.

It feels good, really good to be finally working towards achieving something that I know I want to do. For once, I feel like I'm doing something for all the right reasons. I don't know if 10 years down the line I'll be working as a journalist, or if it'll be a professional writer in some other capacity. I AM sure though, that this is the right place to start.

First up, starting February 27th - Creative and Professional Writing and News and Politics.

Thank you to a certain best friend's mother for planting the seed, and thank you to everyone else that has had a say in this for giving me the confidence to give it a shot - and enabling me to do so.

When I get the chance, I'll get those names published as some of the most important influences in my life for the world to see.

I'm excited, people. Let the learning begin!

Friday, 13 January 2012

Early Season MVP Candidates

Who said this season wasn't going to be fun? Early days yet, but these are my Top 10 candidates (in order) for the MVP.

1. LeBron James, Miami Heat (8-3) - 29ppg, 8.5rpg, 7.5apg, 2.0spg, .570 FG%
Am I the only one noticing just how dominant James has been so far this season? Probably not. Just about every MVP ranking I've seen this season lists LeBron as the #1. I think it's unanimous. Scary thing is, now that he's working more down low, these numbers are realistically sustainable. Yikes.

2. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers (8-4) - 30.3ppg, 5.9rpg, 5.7apg, .459 FG%

I think this guy actually prefers to play injured. Back to back 40 point games to take the early lead in the scoring title, decent percentage for a volume shooter and he's dishing out more assists than he has since the 2004-05 season. According to LA fans, he's also defending and rebounding at a more intense level than he has in recent seasons. To all those folks on twitter who were doubting Kobe, saying he's "no longer Top 5"... SMH.

3. Kevin Durant, OKC Thunder (10-2) - 25.7ppg, 7.2rpg, 3.6apg, 1.2bpg, .491 FG%
Still the best player on the NBA's best team (so far), KD almost gets consideration by default. Never mind that he's sacrificing some of his shots to get his teammates more involved offensively (assists are at a career high) without complaint, you'd have to be seriously nitpicking to find something bad to say about Durant's campaign thus far.

4. Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls (10-2) - 20.7ppg, 3.3rpg, 8.6apg, .450 FG%
Has Rose quietly snuck past Chris Paul and Deron Williams as the league's best point man? The way he's carrying Chicago's offense without scoring 25ppg makes for an interesting debate. There's room for improvement, too - Rose is making just 1.5 three pointers out of 5 attempts per game for a shade under 31%. He'll either make more or take the ball inside for a boost in efficiency or assists. Glad to have him on my fantasy team!

5. Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic (8-3) - 20.5ppg, 15.2rpg, 2.2bpg, 1.6spg, .586 FG%
Thirty-nine free throw attempts in a single game. That's something you might expect to see from two teams combined on an average night, not from an individual. It's an NBA record, and if he shot from the line at an average NBA level (75%) he would've broken the record for made free throws, too. Won't be the last record he breaks in his career, in Orlando or otherwise.

6. LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers (7-3) - 22.2ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.2spg, .489 FG%
Aldridge has made the transition away from Roy/Oden seem effortless and hardly of significance. What is significant is that he's still ballin', proving last season was no fluke. He's quickly moving up the arm chair ranks of best bigs in the game, and Portland's early season form more than justifies it.

7. Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves (3 -7) - 23.6ppg, 14.7rpg, 2.2 3pm, .424 FG%
Figures to jockey with Dwight for the rebounding title all season long, and with that spanish guy in town figures to finish the season shooting at a better clip than 42%. Makes the list for his dominant rebounding and his improved outside shooting (connecting on 2.2 of his 5.4 attempts per game), and will rise/fall with his team's success.

8. Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks (8-4) - 16.8ppg, 8.8rpg, 3.1apg, 1.4spg, 1.6bpg, .506 FG%
After a slow start, Josh Smith has been Atlanta's best player, followed by daylight, then Al Horford. Now it's daylight in third, too with Horford going down with a torn pectoral muscle, meaning Smith's touches are bound to increase, as will his rebounding. He's a 5x5 threat nightly and, dare I say it, if he keeps up this level of play, the Hawks might not be losing all that much with Horford out...

9. Chris Bosh, Miami Heat (8-3) - 19.4ppg, 8.1rpg, 1.7apg, 1.0spg, 1.0bpg, .512 FG%
Tom Ziller, of SB Nation and Sactown Royalty fame observed that Bosh has been the Heat's second best player so far this season, and I find myself agreeing. He's trying to add range to his jumpshot, extending himself out to the arc more this season than he has in his career, which makes sense for Miami as extra spacing to allow LeBron to occupy the block. Often criticised since joining the Heat (myself among the doubters), Bosh is proving a lot of people wrong so far this season.

10. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers (5-3) - 16.1ppg, 2.9rpg, 8.8apg, 2.8spg, .515 FG%
Chris Paul... one gets the feeling he's holding back for something big. Read that again. Then looks at his stats. Then consider what they'll look like Paul decides to hit the next gear. Keep in mind too that he's still getting used to having two athletic bigs in the froncourt and two excellent spot-up shooters on the wings and REALLY let your imagination go wild with the numbers he might put up, especially in the assist department. Getting Paul was a win-now move (I wrote a few weeks ago that Eric Gordon will end up the better player), and when it starts showing in the standings, CP should start hearing more MVP chatter.

Outside looking in: Rajon Rondo, Steve Nash, Carmelo Anthony, Tony Parker, Ray Allen

Monday, 9 January 2012

NBA Week 2.5 - Questions, Answers to Week One

It would seem I'm a little slack with my scheduling. I'd intended to make this a weekly feature, offering up observations on the week's news and play, and answering (where possible) the questions I asked myself from the week prior. So, let's not conform to times and dates and just roll with it, yeah? Sounds good!

So, on the 29th I wrote this after four days of NBA action. These are the things that still hold true from last time 'round:

  • Miami are a good basketball team.
  • Boston and Dallas so far, are not.
  • NY still can't rely on Chandler to be their only center.
  • John Wall will not break out this year.
  • Jrue Holiday will.
  • The Suns picked the better twin. 'Kieff looks good.
I said some other things too, most of which shouldn't really be commented on for a little while longer. Too soon to tell with those ones. Now, for the next bout of things I've noticed/want to mention!

  • Steve Nash has found some form, and strangely enough, so have the Suns. In wins over Portland and Milwaukee, Nash has 27 points (86% shooting), 26 assists to 6 turnovers and is a combined +48. He played 28 and 27 minutes respectively.
  • Markieff Morris will earn All-Rookie First Team honours, if he can keep this pace up.
  • Injuries to key players will be a recurring theme this season, it would seem. Memphis (Randolph, knee), San Antonio (Ginobili, hand), New Jersey (Lopez, foot) and Oklahoma (Maynor, knee) all face the prospect of playing without these guys for most of, if not the entire season. How they deal with it will play a huge part in their postseason aspirations.
  • The Knicks could use a smart, been-there-done-that PG to run the show. Funny how that works.
  • Three of last season's playoff teams are under the .500 mark, all out West... South West, to be precise: Dallas (4-5), Memphis (3-4) and New Orleans (2-6) are on pace to miss the post season.
  • The Clippers (4-2), Jazz (5-3) and Suns (4-4) are the teams taking their spot at this point.
  • Boston is the only team out East not in the top 8 out of last season's playoff teams. Celtics fans shouldn't worry, though - Cleveland took their place. Shouldn't last too long.
  • Speaking of not lasting long... are the Pacers really the 3rd best team in the East? Who saw that one coming?
  • Ricky Rubio had 14 assists today. Expect more of the same as the season goes on.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Phoenix 102, Portland 77

This game is the perfect example of what I had in mind when I said the Suns can be a playoff team. Strong defense, and more importantly strong rebounding led to good looks for Phoenix on the break, and some strong play from Steve Nash (17 pts, 9 ast, 7-7 FG) accounted for all the half court offense the Suns needed.

Markieff Morris had yet another impressive game, boarding strong and shooting well from outside (he even hit a three from about 30' as the shot clock expired), and could well be making a case for Rookie of the Year.

The Blazers were probably tired, having just flown in from a win over LA at home, but it's an impressive W for the Suns none the less.

Team rebounding, team defense and sharing the ball got the win tonight, and I expect to see this type of play throughout. This roster has the potential to achieve a similar chemistry to the '09/10 WCF team, which in a season like this would be HUGE.

Glad to see the Suns get a quality win. Bring on the Bucks!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

A Change or Two

I'm still getting used to what I can do with this website. In a lot of ways, it's still (and will probably always remain) a work in progress. I'm trying to keep the layout relatively simple, and I don't want to clutter the homepage with useless widgets and whatnot.

Anyway, after exploring the gadgets available I've gone with two new additions to the site, both of which can be found on the right hand margin of the homepage: an RSS feed providing the latest basketball related news courtesy of RealGM, probably my favourite source of NBA news; and a collection of links to some of my favourite NBA blogs... the list will grow with time.

Suggestions for blogs to add to the blog roll are welcome. Enjoy!

An Exciting Announcement!

Very rarely is a successful blog a 100% individual effort. Often, websites like this will utilise more than one author or contributor to the site. In some cases, it's to reduce the work load on the blog's creator, and in others the intention is to provide an increase in published content and to give readers some variety, to see the same topic discussed from more than one perspective.

Initially, I had planned to keep this blog as a solo venture until it outgrew me, where I could have people approaching me asking to be a contributor. That might come across as cocky, but trust me, it happens. Instead (and this forms part of The Exciting Announcement), I've reached an agreement with an old friend of mine, somebody I've known since high school.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Run, DMC

News surfaced earlier in the week that DeMarcus Cousins wants out of Sacramento after a feud with Kings coach Paul Westphal.

It's no secret that Cousins has maturity issues - it's the sole reason he fell to #5 behind the likes of Evan Turner, Derrick Favors and Wesley Johnson - but the extent of it has more or less remained behind closed doors. That Westphal has chosen to go public with his feelings points to the fact that this goes a lot deeper than Cousins' poor shot selection and a lack of defensive effort, a revelation that should alarm Kings fans and give cause for a lot of DMC fans to at least rethink their evaluation of the young man.

Over at Sactown Royalty, SB Nation's Kings blog, the fans are split on whether Cousins is truly a head case (a la Ron Artest Metta World Peace) or is just clashing with a historically soft coach and just needs to grow up (presumably, a drill sergeant type coach couldn't hurt). One of the commenters at Sactown Royalty made a brilliant comparison between Cousins and two All-NBA talent big men, who also happened to have mental issues - Eddy Curry (who refused to admit to a heart condition, then went on a crusade to dethrone Shaq as the biggest fat-ass in the league) and Zach Randolph (who was more interested in his own stats [and other off-court... distractions] and exerting himself only when it suited his next contract). Randolph eventually found himself in the right situation with the Grizzlies and led Memphis to one game short of the Western Conference Finals. Curry is currently with the Miami Heat after being out of action for... well, I've never seen him dress for a game, put it that way. This is surely his last chance on an NBA roster, and by this stage he figures to be little more than a backup on a bad team or a 3rd stringer on a good one.

Is DeMarcus Cousins on a similar trajectory? It's hard to say no. He's been described as selfish and childish. Cousins apologists will point to his age and suggest he'll grow out of it, but that's not going to happen without some help. In my opinion, it would take a new coach, a change of scenery or a veteran bitch-slapping some sense into him, maybe even all three. Technically, the Kings could fire/not extend Westphal, move to Kansas City and bring in some strong locker room voices, but that wouldn't really be a win for Sacramento fans, so let's forget that.

In all reality, the Kings' best hopes for getting DeMarcus to grow up is to crack down on any future misconduct from now on and threaten to suspend him for long stretches if his act doesn't improve. They could also use some voices in the locker room with a little more credibility than John Salmons and Chuck Hayes. Someone who hasn't just been in the league, but has been there, done that. The likes of Lamar Odom or Tyson Chandler would be ideal, but obviously unrealistic - the Kings could do worse than make a play for a guy cut from the mold of a Kurt Thomas.

For Cousins to reach his potential, he's going to have to start respecting the coaching staff, his teammates and himself. NBA players are egomaniacs as a rule, but only the truly transcendent talents (LeBron, Kobe) can justify their egos. DeMarcus Cousins, while highly skilled, is not a transcendent talent and the sooner he realises that, the better.

Don't read too much into the trade rumours, because Cousins has no leverage and the Kings could conceivably keep him under contract, through his rookie scale and then restricted free agent status for at least another 4 seasons.

I had every intention of finishing up by offering some fun (if unlikely) trade scenarios via the ESPN Trade Machine. I fidgeted with a few different outcomes, mostly trying to make all parties happy... couldn't do it. Best I could come up with was to ship Cousins to Charlotte (Jordan would surely have his respect... surely) in return for production at the 3 in the way of Corey Maggette. Yeah... I think the Kings could do better. As a Suns fan, I wouldn't mind swapping one hot-headed, glass-door-smashing defensive big man for a hot-headed, near-Pau Gasol-punching offensive big man. But then, I think of Eddy Curry and figure I'd rather hold onto Lopez and have a crack at Cousins in RFA if he's got his shit together.

Anyway, that's enough rambling from me. Don't expect Cousins to get traded any time soon, but don't expect him to grow up either. DMC wants to run, and he'll probably end up offended by the fact nobody actually wants to trade for him. Another chip on the shoulder, just what he needs. This surely won't be the last we hear of DeMarcus Cousins.