Friday, November 5, 2010

The Camby Man Can - How Donald Sterling changed the West.

Who would have thought that one of Donald Sterling’s personal moves would affect the hierarchy in the West? Last year, when the Clippers were looking to trade veteran center Marcus Camby because of the emergence of DeAndre Jordan and Camby's impending free agency, there were two teams in the West that desperately needed a veteran big man: the Portland Trailblazers and Oklahoma City Thunder.

Portland had lost Greg Oden to another season ending injury and needed a better option behind Joel Pryzbilla other than undersized Jeff Pendergraph. The Thunder, who were last year’s biggest surprise in the NBA, needed a shot blocker that could help protect the paint. Nenad Kristic is a soft big man who prefers to play on the perimeter and Serge Ibaka was not ready for big time minutes in clutch time (ex. not blocking out Pau Gasol in game six of the playoffs against the Lakers).

When I heard that Camby was on the block I thought the Thunder, who were well under the salary cap, would swoop him up for a draft pick (they have quite an arsenal of them) and a mid-level player to round out their roster for the playoffs. Camby also could have been a mentor for young big man Serge Ibaka as he did with DeAndre Jordan.

In the end, Blazers' then-GM Kevin Pritchard made a bold move and acquired Camby and extended his contract. Camby is a perfect fit in Portland - he is a savvy veteran who doesn’t need the ball to be effective, is great rebounder, screener, and awesome teammate.

If OKC would have traded for Camby (they had more assets), they would have finished higher in the standings and avoided the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs. This season, the Thunder are considered an elite team and are expected to make a lot of noise in the playoffs -- without ever having won a playoff series. When, or if, Oden comes back, Portland will have three quality bigs to match up with the Lakers size. Oklahoma City won't.

The Blazers and the Thunder are two of the top teams vying for the 2 seed in the West and Camby's presence could be the difference in playing the Lakers in the second round or the conference finals. Meanwhile, Donald Sterling’s Clippers are unlikely to make the playoffs for the 5th consecutive year, but he has dramatically affected the race for the Championship.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Fantasy Notes 11/1

  • Chris Bosh is averaging 13 points on 10 shots and 7 rebounds through 4 games. LeBron is averaging 20 points on 14 shots and Wade is averaging 21 points on 16 shots per game. If the first week is any indication, it appears the "Superfriends" will not put up the gaudy numbers their fantasy draft positions suggest.
  • Wilson Chandler has put up huge numbers in the first 3 games -- 21 and 10 with blocks, steals, and 3's to boot. Danilo Gallinari, on the other hand, is struggling, averaging only 6 points and 3 rebounds in 20 minutes. When Anthony Randolph returns he will bite into Chandler and Gallinari's playing time. Now is the time to buy low on Gallinari and sell high on Chandler, as I would expect them to be averaging 15 points after the next 15 games.
  • D.J. Augustin has no competition for minutes in Charlotte, and should continue to average 15 and 5 with a few 3's.
  • Dorell Wright is benefiting from Golden State's style of play and should be owned in all leagues. He is taking seven 3's a game, and there is no end in sight.
  • Zach Randolph hurt his back. Darrell Arthur is a nice pickup until Z-Bo returns.
  • Gilbert Arenas has yet to play a game for the Wizards, and appears to be a fantasy headache all season. Buy low at your own risk.
  • Blake Griffin has looked really good in his first few games, but with his style of play it looks like an injury is inevitable. Sell high (maybe for Bosh?).
  • Kevin Love is only playing 25 minutes per game but is still averaging a double double. I would expect him to play over 30 minutes eventually and put up huge numbers, especially with reports of Darko Milicic heading to the bench.
  • Antawn Jamison has the potential to be a huge bust. He's coming off the bench and is already injured.
  • Greg Oden and Yao aren't worth owning. Yao isn't going to play back to backs, and even when he does play, won't see many minutes. There is no timetable on Oden's return. Nuff' said. See if Serge Ibaka or Andris Biedrins are available on waivers.

I'm always happy to dish out trade advice. Post in the comments section and I'll get back to you!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fantasy Notes 10/27

  • No one scored over 14 points for the Pistons. With so many established role players, this type of scoring output may continue. The only surefire player I would own is Rodney Stuckey, who is the only legitimate PG on the team.
  • In the same game, Terrence Williams played 32 minutes off the bench for a line of 10-6-4. Expect more of the same.
  • Lou Williams played 32 minutes to Jru Holliday's 21. Something to pay attention to in coming games.
  • LeBron James had 9 TOs tonight after having 8 last night.
  • Danilo Gallinari took only 9 shots. Wilson Chandler took 18.
  • Jarret Jack is the PG to own in Toronto. Jose Calderon played only 17 minutes.
  • Marco Belinelli played 35 minutes to Marcus Thornton's 11. Belinelli is the player to own for the time being.
  • Al Horford only played 18 minutes. Not sure why.
  • O.J. Mayo took only 9 shots. He needs to shoot more to be worth owning.
  • J.J. Hickson was the man in Cleveland, scoring 21 points on only 11 shots. Could be a big year.
  • Kevin Love only played 24 minutes. There is no reason he shouldn't be playing at least 30 every night.
  • Luke Ridnour had a line of 20-6-4. He should be picked up until Johnny Flynn comes back from injury.
  • Derrick Rose took 31 shots tonight. Might be the most he takes all year (I hope).
  • Taj Gibson put up 16-11 in Carlos Boozer's absence. Own him and try to sell high.
  • Serge Ibaka had 8 points, 9 boards, and 4 blocks in 32 minutes. He's worth picking up.

Anthony Randolph to miss 2 weeks

The promising big man will miss two weeks with a sprained ankle. Surely, this isn't the way he wanted to start his tenure in New York. Tough luck if you drafted him high. In his absence, pick up Ronny Turiaf, who will be a fantastic source of blocks.

Turning Up the Heat on D!

After watching The Miami Heat lose their first game on the road in Boston, most critics will only talk about how inept they were on offense. They had trouble in half court sets - often sitting back and watching LeBron go after the Celtics alone, Cav's style. In time the Heat will develop chemistry and their offense will be humming. The Celtics core has been together for years and understand all of their defensive rotations, which is a big reason Miami's offense looked so stagnant. The Heat's offense should look a lot better tonight against Philadelphia.

On the other end of the court, Miami's defense was really good and has the potential to be suffocating. LeBron and Wade are already great in the passing lanes, but when Coach Spoelstra shifts to a lineup featuring Dwyane Wade, LeBron, James Jones, Joel Anthony, and Bosh, the length they have on the floor would have Jay Bilas talking in his crazy draft night superlatives. They are LONG. Coach Spo must design a trapping style defense with this group to allow their speed and length to wreak havoc on an offense. Wade or James are able to stay in front on speedy guards with James Jones harassing shooters and players coming off of screens (ex. Rip Hamilton, Durant, Ray Allen, etc.).

Last night the Celtics showed that the Heat will have a tough time playing post defense against post up centers. Although Joel Anthony is a shot blocker he does much better blocking players when he is off the ball not getting bodied. The Heat will learn how to create more opportunities in the half court in time and will be able to stretch the floor more when Mike Miller comes back from injury. But their defense can and will carry them until that day happens.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Marc Gasol has Sprained Ankle

He underwent an MRI and it was discovered he has a grade 2 sprain. He is considered day-to-day. Gasol was likely drafted in the 4th or 5th round of fantasy drafts. If he misses a substantial amount of time, it might be worth taking a chance on Hasheem Thabeet, who will help with blocks at the very least or Darrel Arthur. Z-Bo will continue to get his 20-10.

Martell Webster Undergoes Back Surgery

Back injuries are never good. He is set to be out between 4 to 6 weeks. In the meantime, expect Wesley Johnson, Corey Brewer and Michael Beasley to get an uptick in minutes. It will be interesting to see how Minnesota's rotation plays out. In the meantime, Kevin Love and Michael Beasley are the only fantasy players worth owning.

Story lines: Pacific Division

L.A. Lakers - Will Kobe's knee hold up to give them a chance at a three peat? He underwent his 3rd surgery on the left knee this summer. What will Andrew Bynum contribute?

Sacramento Kings - Will DeMarcus Cousins make teams regret not taking him? Will he keep his head on straight? Has Tyreke Evans outside shot improved? Will Donta Greene or Omri Casspi ever be consistent enough to be the starting SF?

Golden State - Will new head coach Keith Smart ask more of his players on defense? How will David Lee, Monta Ellis, and Steph Curry work together? Who is their starting SF? Is Brandan Wright good enough to be part of the rotation?

Phoenix - Who is going to rebound for them? They have a zillion SF, who is going to get playing time? Are they going to trade Steve Nash? Surely he wants to play for a contender. Did they know something about Hedo Turkoglu that we didn't?

L.A. Clippers - Can Blake Griffin stay healthy? He looked like a beast in the preseason. Will Baron Davis remain healthy and focused? After looking fantastic with Team U.S.A., is this Eric Gordon's breakout year? What do we make of rookie Al-Farouq Aminu?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Story lines: Northwest Division

Utah Jazz -- Can Al Jefferson replace Carlos Boozer's production and take them to the next level? Will Raja Bell, C.J. Miles, and Gordon Hayward provide enough production on the wing?

Minnesota -- What is GM David Kahn's plan (we might never know the answer to this)? Will Ricky Rubio come over next year, or is Johnny Flynn the man? Who is going to get playing time at the wing positions? How good is Kevin Love -- 20 pts 13 rebounds pg?

Denver -- When will Melo be traded, and to whom? What will they get in return? If they trade Melo, they ought to trade Chauncey Billups as well, right? Very curious to see what this roster looks like at the end of the season.

Oklahoma City -- This should be OKC's breakout season, so just how good will they be? Can Russel Westbrook harness his athleticism and learn to shoot? Can Thabo Sefolosha keep defenders honest and knock down a corner three? Can James Harden be a reliable 6th man?

Portland -- Will Greg Oden ever be healthy? If so, how effective can he be? Is Nicolas Batum ready to take on a larger role with the team? Will Rudy Fernandez stop pouting? LaMarcus Aldridge put on a lot of muscle this summer -- how will that affect his play?

Tomorrow I will list the story lines for the Pacific Division.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Chris Andersen's New Ink

A few months ago, I wrote a post about the NBA's All-Ink Team. Chris Anderson, aka The Birdman, was the hands down winner for the Center position. This fall returned to training camp with his most interesting and colorful tattoo yet -- one that says "Free Bird" on his neck. He continues to be one of the most "colorful" characters in the NBA.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Darko to Breakout? No, but these Guys Might

Every season there are players who come into their own and become key pieces to their team. Sometimes these players breakouts are expected, and sometimes they come out of the blue.

The following is a list of players who I think could "break out" this season. First, we must develop a criteria for a breakout player.
  • Must be under 25 years of age or have played less than 5 years in the league (sorry Darko and Joe Smith).
  • Must have a substantial statistical improvement
  • There must be some element of surprise for the breakout. All-World players like Kevin Durant, LeBron, and Dwight Howard do not qualify.
Here are a few examples of last year's breakout players
  • Joakim Noah (Bulls) - In his 3rd season, Noah showed he is a cornerstone of the Chicago Bulls. So much so that they wouldn't consider trading him for Carmelo Anthony and gave him a 5 year, $60 mil extension. Last season he averaged 10.7 points and 11.0 rebounds, compared with 6.7 points and 7.6 rebounds in 2009
  • Danilo Gallinari (Knicks) - After an injury plagued rookie season that included back surgery, the Italian sharpshooter proved that he was worthy of the 5th overall pick in 2008. He averaged 15 points, 5 boards, and 2.6 3's a game after averaging only 6 points and 2 boards a year prior.
  • George Hill (Spurs) - When he was drafted by the Spurs, most people thought, "who?". Hill proved the doubters wrong last year, averaging 12 points and 3 assists (16 and 4 in January and February!) after averaging only 6 points his rookie season.
This years break out players:

  • Serge Ibaka (Thunder) - The bigman from Zaire averaged 6 points and 5 boards in his rookie season. He is athletic, has a nice mid-range jumper, and a chiseled NBA physique. I don't think 8 points and 10 boards with a few blocks and an eventual starting gig is out of the question this season.
  • Roy Hibbert (Pacers) - Finally, the Pacers have a point guard. Hibbert should benefit from Darren Collison's presence as much as anyone. The 7'2 C out of Georgetown is primed for a big season. He doesn't have much competition for playing time (Tyler Hansbrough, Jeff Foster, and Josh McRoberts), and has shown potential in his first 2 years (5 double doubles in 7 games last November). He is a naturally gifted scorer (12 ppg), but hasn't figure out how to crash the glass (5.7 rpg). Look for him to average 14-7 with 2 blocks this season.
  • Anthony Randolph (Knicks) - He should explode in Mike D'Antoni's uptempo offense. Of course we said the same thing when he played under Don Nelson, but he battled injuries and inconsistent playing time. If he can stay healthy and buy into D'Antoni's system, he should put up big numbers alongside Amare Stoudemire. He averaged 11 ppg and 6.5 rpg last season -- I'm thinking 14 ppg and 8 rpg with 2 blocks.
  • DeMar DeRozan (Raptors) - With Bosh gone, the Raptors are looking to rebuild, which means give DeRozan a lot of burn. The wildly athletic 21 year old averaged 8.6 ppg and 2.9 rpg last season. It will be an ugly season in Toronto, but DeRozan should get plenty of looks. 14 ppg, 4 rpg, 2 apg.
  • Tyrus Thomas (Bobcats) - As a Bulls fan, it pains me to include him. But Larry Brown and co. must have seen something in Tyrus before offering him a $40 mil contract, right? We've been expecting big things from Tyrus for 4 years now, and this is his last chance. 15 ppg, 6 rpg, 2.5 bpg.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Joakim Noah Extended

Joakim Noah has agreed to a 5 year extension with the Bulls worth $60 million. We can now put to rest any chance that he might included in a deal for Carmelo Anthony. Noah, who is the emotional leader and fan favorite for the Bulls, had a breakout season last year, averaging 10.7 points and 11 rebounds while suffering from plantar fasciitis.

At roughly $12 mil a season, the Bulls are getting Noah at a fair price. Tyson Chandler ($12.7 mil), Samuel Dalembert ($13.4 mil), Emeka Okafor ($12.4 mil), and Andris Biedrins ($9 mil) are all defensive, rebounding centers who are paid a similar amount. However, they aren't nearly as effective as JoNo. He has shown drastic improvement in each of his first 3 seasons, and we can expect more of the same this season when he plays besides PF Carlos Boozer. Without a doubt, Boozer and Noah will be the loudest front court in the NBA, as they both have a penchant for playing with vocal passion.

(salaries source: shamsports)

Monday, October 4, 2010

I Tried Sneaking into Bulls Training Camp this Morning

NBA TV has been airing the training camps of various NBA teams, including the Knicks, Lakers, Wizards, and Heat. While watching them, I noticed that at some of the practices there are fans watching. I called the Berto Center, which is the Bulls practice facility, multiple times to see if they allow fans in. There was no answer.

This morning I drove to the Berto Center to check out the scene and see if I could sneak a peak into the Bulls practice. The facility is tucked away in a corporate office neighborhood, across the street from the Walgreen’s headquarters. The only way you would know it is the Bulls practice facility is by a small Bulls logo painted on the asphalt in the parking lot -- and the Bentleys, Range Rovers, and BMWs parked behind a closed gate.

I walked to the entrance of the building to find a note on the door asking me to ring the buzzer to the right. BZZZZZ….

Me: Hello, I’m here to watch the Bulls training camp!

Her: Who are you?

Me: My name is Ned Bothfeld

Her: Are you a member of the media?

Me: No, but I have a blog, Big & Little NBA Transactions. Maybe you’ve heard of it?

Her: No.

Me: Is there a certain time I can watch training camp?

Her: Never. It’s closed to everyone but the media.

Me: What if I slipped you a 20?

Her: No

Me: Can I try out? I have a sweet J…


Determined to get some sort of value out of my journey, I walked over to a door on the side of the building. I held my ear up to it and could hear practice taking place – squeaking sneakers, Joakim Noah calling out screens, and Coach Thibideau barking out instructions. I was so close yet so far from it. If I can hear it why won’t they let me watch it? As a last ditch effort, I walked over to a Fox News reporter who was unloading his camera equipment from his car.

Me: Hello, do you have any extra media passes?

Him: I don’t, I’m sorry.

Me: Can I come in with you and we can say I’m your camera assistant or something?

Him: I can’t, I don’t want to risk my credentials.

Me: Oh come on. It will work.

Him: Get a job in the media and then you can come in.

Me: Shit. That sucks. Thanks for your time.

Thus, my attempt to watch training camp ended. Maybe tomorrow I will return with a keyhole camera and watch practice Erin Andrews style.

Boozer Breaks Fall... and Hand

Carlos Boozer broke the 5th metacarpal in his right hand after tripping over a bag in his home. He will undergo surgery on Tuesday and miss approximately eight weeks. This is not the way Boozer or the Bulls wanted to start their tenure together. Boozer, an eight-year veteran and two-time All-Star, was the Bulls prized acquisition of the summer after he signed a 5 year, $75 million deal.

Although this is a major setback to the beginning of a much-anticipated season, the Bulls should emerge from Boozer's injury in decent shape. Consider the following points:

  • Boozer injured his hand. If he were to break his foot or pull a hamstring, he wouldn’t be able to run. Upon return, he should be in good shape.
  • Taj Gibson is a capable backup. The talented second-year man showed a lot of promise in his rookie season, averaging 9 points and 7.5 rebounds. When playing over 30 minutes a night (which he will do in Boozer’s absence), he averaged 11 points and 9.7 rebounds in 31 games. We can expect further improvement on his play based on his hard work and continued adjustment to the NBA game.
  • Joakim Noah will be around to snag rebounds. He proved he could handle the glass on his own last year, when he averaged 11 rebounds while battling plantar fasciitis for most of the season.
  • Minnesota’s Kevin Love suffered the same injury (4th metacarpal) during training camp last year and had a successful recovery, averaging 14 points and 11 rebounds in 60 games. Love is nowhere near the offensive player Boozer is.
  • Boozer’s injury occurred in the preseason rather than the middle of the season or in the playoffs.
While the Bulls might struggle early in the season, there's no chance they will miss the playoffs. Carlos Boozer is a consummate professional and teammate, and will form a fierce cheering section at the end of the Bulls bench with Brian Scalabrine (who should dye his hair 3 shades brighter to match the Bulls away jerseys to be the ultimate 12th man).

The debut of a Noah-Boozer front court will have to wait, but not for long. Come January, We'll forget Boozer was even injured.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Prediction: Nuggets will be Horrible

The embattled Denver Nuggets have entered training camp with a myriad of questions about who will be with the team. Last weekend, Carmelo Anthony was on the verge of being traded to the Nets in a 4-team megadeal that never came to fruition. Thus, the disgruntled Anthony entered training camp as a Nugget. He has yet to sign a $65 mil extension that the Nuggets have offered and doesn't seem thrilled to be in Denver this fall. At media day he said:

I'm here today. Whatever the future holds, it holds. I'm leaving my options open right now.

He sure sounds ready to make a championship run! Melo isn't the only Nugget disappointed with the front office. Kenyon Martin has said he is disappointed that he wasn't offered an extension this summer while Al Harrington, who plays Martin's position, signed a 5 year, $35 mil deal. Perhaps as payback, Martin said he will not rush back from knee surgery.

Who knows what J.R. Smith's state of mind is. He is entering a contract year and will surly try to put up gaudy numbers with a horrible shot selection and at the expense of a few Ws.

Coach George Karl will try to bring all the Nuggets' egos together and make a run in the playoffs. However, he will likely watch on the sidelines as Melo complains he is fouled after taking an unnecessary shot, Smith takes another contested three, and K-Mart's tattoos continue to be more intriguing than his play.

Time to blow it up.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Nellie Out as Coach of Warriors

Don Nelson, the all time winningest coach in NBA history, will step down as the coach of the Golden State Warriors and retire. This move was inevitable as the Warriors are going through an ownership change. Nelson has coached the Warriors for 6 years and led them to one playoff series win, when as an 8 seed they upset the Dallas Mavericks.

This move will give the Warriors a fresh start. Nellie's run and gun coaching style and inconsistent rotations wore thin on many players -- Stephen Jackson, Al Harrington, Baron Davis, Jamal Crawford, and others. Assistant coach Keith Smart will take over coaching duties. As a Nellie disciple, you can expect a similar uptempo offense with more of an emphasis on defense.

The Warriors have a nice core with Steph Curry, Monta Ellis, David Lee, and Andris Biedrins. With new ownership and (hopefully) stability in the organization, the Warriors are not far off from being a playoff team.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Erick Dampier Waved

In a cost cutting move, the Charlotte Bobcats have waved C Erick Dampier. The Michael Jordan owned Bobcats traded for Dampier in the Tyson Chandler trade earlier this summer. His unguaranteed $13 mil contract was considered and attractive trade piece. However, GM Rod Higgins was unable to find a suitable trade partner. By waving Dampier, the Bobcats will be below the salary cap but have a painfully thin front court.

By being waved, Erick Dampier is now a free agent. The 14 year vet will have no shortage of suitors as he has plenty of playoff experience and can still contribute quality minutes. Dampier enjoyed the best year of his career in 2004 with the Warriors, when he averaged 12 points, 12 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game. It's not surprising that 2004 was a contract year and he didn't put up nearly as good numbers after signing an enormous contract with the Mavericks. Here are some teams that will be interested in Dampier's services.

New Orleans Hornets -- After losing out on the Louis Amundson sweepstakes, the Hornets would love to acquire Dampier. Lacking depth at PF/C, Dampier would be a suitable backup for Emeka Okafor.

Chicago Bulls -- As much as it hurts me to say this, if the Bulls sign Dampier, they could seriously consider including C Joakim Noah in a trade for Carmelo Anthony. Denver might bite on a Deng and Noah for Anthony trade. A lineup of Rose, Brewer/Korver, Melo, Boozer, and Dampier might make the Bulls championship contenders.

Miami Heat -- The Heat will try to sign every experienced vet that comes available to play alongside their big three. The feeling is mutual as most experienced vets want a shot a the title.

Oklahoma City Thunder -- Dampier could start and allow youngsters Cole Aldrich and Serge Ibaka to come off the bench with energy. Regardless, the Thunder are going to be a top four seed in the West this year.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Louis Amundson signs with Golden State

Louis Amundson, who I chronicled in this post, has signed a 2 year $4.7 mil deal with the Golden State Warriors, according to ESPN. Amundson, who will be entering his 5th year, has played the last two seasons for the Phoenix Suns as a scrappy energy guy off the bench. His tenacious defense and hustle make up for his inept offensive game.

The Hornets also had immense interest in Amundson, but couldn't offer as much money without transgressing the luxury tax threshold (Chris Paul can't be happy). Thus, Amundson will fight for minutes off the bench with Ekpe Udoh, Brandan Wright, and Dan Gadzuric to backup David Lee and Andris Biedrins. With Udoh injured, and Wright and Biedrins being injury prone, Amundson should see consistent playing time. This is his first big contract, so congratulations!

Friday, September 10, 2010

What will the Pistons Rotation Look Like?

Ever since Detroit's title run in 2004, Joe Dumars' roster management of the Pistons has been putrid. They have an unbalanced roster of young players who need playing time to develop, former washed up stars, and championship caliber starters. Looking at their roster, it's difficult to know who is going to get playing time this season. Pistons are in a state of limbo. While they aren't good enough to contend in the East, they also aren't bad enough to get a high lottery pick. Let's take a look at the Pistons' depth chart.

PG - The heir apparent and a suitable backup
  • Rodney Stuckey (above)- Chauncey Billups was traded so Stuckey could be the PG of the future. He has shown improvement every year, and averaged a career high 16 points last year. This summer he has been working on his outside shot.
  • Will Bynum- Signed this summer to be Stuckey's backup and will do a fine job. He had a 20 assist game last season!
SG - Here's where things get sticky. The Pistons have 3 SG who all are going to want to play 30 minutes a night/start.
  • Tracy McGrady - Signed this off season, the former All Star and scoring champ is desperate to resurrect his career. Based on his unwillingness to be a role player with the Bulls tells me he expects to play 25-30 minutes a night and be a focal part of the offense.
  • Richard Hamilton - Started on Detroit's 2004 championship team and has been one of the most consistent players in the league for the past decade. He quietly hated coming off the bench behind Allen Iverson. As one of the longest tenured Pistons, he will expect to start and play at least 30 minutes a night. The his huge contract makes him nearly untradeable.
  • Ben Gordon - The former 6th man of the year was Joe Dumars' prized acquisition in 2009, but averaged a career-low 13.8 points last year. While he's used to coming off the bench, it doesn't make much sense to pay someone $12 mil a year to play only 20-25 minutes.
SF - At the 3 Detroit has 2 young players who need burn and a savvy vet who expects to get minutes.
  • Tayshaun Prince - A lifelong Piston, Prince was a starter on the Championship team. He hasn't played less than 32 mpg since his rookie season, and in a contract year needs to put up numbers to be rewarded with another long-term deal. Look for him to be traded at the deadline in order to give the following players minutes.
  • Austin Daye - The 15th overall pick in the 2009 draft is a spitting image of Prince and has a lot of upside. Unfortunately, he only played 13 mpg his rookie year. If he is going to reach his potential, he needs to see the court.
  • DaJuan Summers - The Piston's 2nd round pick in 2009 is a bench player for life. Still, it would be nice to see him play more than 9 mpg and find a niche.
PF - The Pistons have the same situation at PF as they do at SF
  • Charlie Villanueva - CV was signed to a 5 year, $40 mil deal after averaging 16 points with the Bucks in 2009. Last season he struggled and only averaged 11.8 points. CV likes to lurk along the arc and is soft inside. He also has the ability to play SF, but struggles on D. At $8 mil per season, you would think he should be starting and getting a lot of playing time.
  • Greg Monroe - The Georgetown star was the 7th overall pick and has the potential to be a cornerstone of the franchise. With this status, Monroe will definitely get consistent playing time, but whose minutes will be taken away?
  • Jonas Jerebko (right) - In his rookie year, the Swede surprised everyone with his scrappy, determined play. He earned himself a starting gig and played 28 mpg while averaging 9 points and 6 rebounds. With Monroe on board and CV fully healthy, his playing time will most likely go down, which is a shame. However, he might see some time at C.
C - Some of the Pistons PFs will likely play out of position at C because of their l
  • Ben Wallace - He hasn't retired yet? Wallace was the heart and soul of the Pistons when they were making their perennial championship runs. After playing with the Bulls and Cavs for a few seasons, Wallace returned home to Detroit to finish out his career. At 36 years old, he should start but also serve as a defensive tutor for Jerebko and Monroe.
  • Jason Maxiell - Maxiell is undersized but strong and feisty. A career backup, last year's 20 mpg ought to decrease with Monroe in the mix and Jerebko proving to be a legit player.
  • Chris Wilcox - The former Maryland star had all the tools, but had regressed into an ineffective big man.
As you can see, there is a huge jam at the SG and SF positions. Appeasing proven vets with playing time while allowing the Pistons youngsters to develop will prove to be a sticky situation for coach Jon Kuester. GM Joe Dumars has really dug himself into a hole by signing Hamilton, Gordon, and Villanueva to such large contracts. All three are difficult to trade, will not make the Pistons contenders, and hinder the younger players' development.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Who will rebound in Phoenix?

Robin Lopez (right), Earl Clark, Channing Frye, Hakim Warrick, Grant Hill, Hedo Turkoglu. Those are the names of the Suns' front players. The Suns lost last year's leading rebounder (8.9 per), Amare Stoudemire, to free agency and haven't done much to replace him. Sure, they traded for Hedo Turkoglu, but he is an offensive acquisition to allow Steve Nash to play off the ball and isn't known for crashing the boards (career high 5.7 per in 2008).

Thus, Phoenix is going to have A LOT of trouble preventing offensive rebounds by their opponents and getting some themselves. Here are last season's rebounding numbers for their big men.

Grant Hill - 5.5 - With his age, don't expect an improvement

Channing Frye - 5.3 - The sharpshooting big spends a lot of time on the perimeter and is soft when he does play in the paint.

Robin Lopez - 4.9 - The Suns are relying on Robin Lopez to have a breakout year. At 7'0 and only 22 years old, Lopez showed some promise last year (averaged 9.1 boards per 36 minutes). He will see a lot of court time this year, but unless he pulls down 12 a game, the Suns are toast.

Earl Clark - 5.8 per 36 minutes - Young Earl Clark has Lamar Odom like talent but hasn't been able to put it together. He played only 7 ineffective minutes per game last year, and will probably get more burn this year. The Suns have successful in developing Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, and Robin Lopez, so this could be a crucial year for Clark.

Hakim Warrick - 4.1 - Warrick wasn't a good rebounder in Memphis, Chicago, or Milwaukee and won't be one in Phoenix.

Hedo Turkoglu - 4.7 - I still can't believe the Suns traded for Hedo's declining skills and onerous contract.

Without an inside presence, there is no way the Suns make it back to the Western Conference Finals. While they will play an entertaining brand of basketball, I see them as a fringe playoff team. Although he is the face of the franchise, the Suns should look into trading Steve Nash who probably wants to (seriously) compete for a title. Perhaps to the Blazers for Marcus Camby and Rudy Fernandez -- It's hard to gauge Nash's trade value given his age and past accolades.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

New Orleans signs PG Mustafa Shakur

According to ESPN, the New Orleans Hornets have signed PG Mustafa Shakur. A sincere congratulations to Mustafa. The once highly touted draft prospect went undrafted in 2007 after finishing his collegiate career at Arizona. Since then he played in Poland for two seasons where he won the league championship and the NBDL. Last year he was signed by the Thunder to a 10 day contract, but never appeared in a game. He has obviously worked very hard to earn himself a spot on a roster.

He should see 12-15 minutes a game backing up Chris Paul. After New Orleans traded away PG Darren Collison earlier this summer, they were left without a backup for Paul. This is a tremendous opportunity for Shakur to receive consistent playing time and learn from arguably the best PG in the league. With only 12 men on their roster, I would expect New Orleans to sign another veteran PG of the Dan Dickau or Travis Diener variety as insurance.

Rodney Carney signs with Warriors

According to ESPN, the Golden State Warriors have signed SG/SF Rodney Carney to a one year deal. Carney, 26, has played 4 seasons in the NBA for Philadelphia and Minnesota. The former University of Memphis star is known for his athleticism and highlight reel dunks. He was the 16th overall pick in the 2006 draft but has not lived up to his potential.

Signing with Golden State should be Carney's best opportunity yet to show what he can do. With Don Nelson's fast paced offense and inconsistent rotations, the Warriors have developed a reputation for unknown players making a name for themselves (see: Reggie Williams, Anthony Morrow, Anthony Tolliver, Rob Kurz). However, the Warriors are going through an ownership change and it is unclear whether Don Nelson will be on the sidelines come November.

Whether Nelson is there or not, this is a good signing by Golden State. They lacked depth at the wing, and Carney's athleticism, speed, and outside shot should be a perfect fit.

P.S. Do his shoulders look abnormally broad relative to the size of his head?

Sean May released by Nets

Sean May's injury plagued career didn't get any better this week, when he was waived by the New Jersey Nets. May, a 6'9 PF out of North Carolina, has played only 119 games in 5 NBA seasons. He missed the whole 2008 season while recovering from micro-fracture surgery. His recovery has been a failure, however, as he was cut by Larry Brown and the Bobcats after only 24 games in the 2009 season for being overweight and out of shape (see picture). Last season he played for the Sacramento Kings, averaging 3 points and 2 rebounds in only 9 minutes a game.

The 13th overall pick by the Charlotte Bobcats in the 2004 draft, May entered the league with high expectations after winning the National Championship with North Carolina. He enjoyed limited success during December of his second season, averaging 15.6 points and 7 rebounds, including a 32 point game against Dwight Howard and the Magic (even Adam Morrison had a good game, so let's not get ahead of ourselves). This latest injury might be the final death knell of his NBA career as he is unable to stay healthy and in shape. I would imagine he will find himself playing overseas this season. Who would have thought that of the four players drafted out of UNC in 2004 (May, Raymond Felton, Marvin Williams, Rashad McCants), only Raymond Felton has lived up to expectations.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Best of What's Left

The following is a list of the best free agents still available. If your team hasn't already made moves, you might be SOL. It's slim pickings.

Allen Iverson -- It's hard to know who might want AI. He's old, doesn't seem to think that he's a bench player, and played sparingly last year before calling it quits because his child was ill (although reports said he was confronting alcohol and gambling problems). I am scouring my brain for a team that doesn't A) already have a young PG, or B) whose chemistry wouldn't be disrupted if AI were to sign. I can't think of any. I'm sure he wants to sign with the Heat to have a shot at a ring. Unfortunately it's not his choice.

Jerry Stackhouse -- The two-time All-Star is at the end of his career. Last season he signed with the Bucks after getting into basketball shape through the P90X program. He publicly said he wants to play with the Heat on NBATV, where he is an analyst. At this point in his career, he is a chemistry guy. Some team will surely come calling at some point, maybe the Bulls, Thunder, Hawks, or Jazz.

Larry Hughes -- Hughes had a career year in 2005 with Washington when he averaged 22-6-5 and a few steals. He then signed a huge deal with Cleveland and was supposed to be LeBron's sidekick. It didn't work. He has been awful ever since 2005, being unable to shoot over 42% and cementing his reputation as a chucker. I doubt he signs with anyone because of his selfish behavior and inability to put the team first.

Louis Amundson -- Amundson is a poor-mans Anderson Varajao. He brings a lot of energy whenever he steps on the court and should be signed before training camp. Teams interested in him could be : Hawks (should have signed him instead of Jason Collins), Bulls, Jazz, Hornets.

Brian Scalabrine -- He's always a fan favorite, and like Shavlik Randolph, probably serves as dunk fodder in practice for whatever team he's on. He's got a decent outside stroke but is nothing more than a locker room chemistry guy to put at the end of the bench. The Kings, Jazz, Hornets, Nuggets, or Wizards might be interested.

Adam "Ammo" Morrison -- Crash and Burn. The former number 3 pick did just that. He averaged 12 points his rookie season, then destroyed his knee and hasn't done anything since. He was a part of the Lakers Shannon Brown trade 2 seasons ago. He might be worth a shot for the minimum. Remember, he was compared to Larry Bird on draft night. Unfortunately, he might forever be known for crying in the middle of the court as Gonzaga lost to UCLA in the NCAA Tournament.

Joe Alexander -- Crash harder, burn harder. Alexander was a straight up waste of a lottery pick by the bucks (7 overall). He is one of the few players whose rookie contract was not picked up. Perhaps someone will pick him up and give him some playing time in the D-League, if he's even eligible to play there.

Hawks Sign Etan Thomas

The Atlanta Hawks are attempting to bolster their front-court by adding veteran big man Etan Thomas. At 6'10, Thomas figures to see some time at C to allow Al Horford to play more PF, where he is better suited.

Thomas, 32, was drafted 12th overall in the 2000 draft by the Wizards. He spent 7 years there before playing for Oklahoma City last year. He enjoyed his best season in 2004, when he played in 79 games and averaged 8.9 points and 6.9 rebounds. He is also in competition with Dwight Howard and Andre Iguodala for biggest biceps in the league.

Thomas will compete for minutes with Jason Collins (slow, plodding C), Zaza Pachulia (ugliest player in the league), and Josh Powell. The Hawks are widely regarded as a team that has fully reached it's potential and will be ousted in the second round every year. This summer they signed Joe Johnson to an insane 6 year $120 mil deal -- after he averaged 13 points on 29% shooting in the playoffs against Orlando.

However, recently promoted Coach Larry Drew has other plans. He has said they will not play as much isolation offense as they did under Mike Woodson and that they will play more straight up man to man. While the signing of Thomas gives the Hawks depth, it by no means pushes them over the top. Unless Al Horford, Josh Smith, or Jeff Teague make a dramatic improvement, the Hawks look to be a 4 or 5 seed and make a first or second round exit.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Delonte West returns to the Celtics

The troubled Delonte West will sign a non-guaranteed contract with the Boston Celtics, according to the Boston Herald. West was originally drafted by the Celtics and played 3 seasons there before being dealt to the then Seattle Supersonics in the Ray Allen deal. He has spent the last 3 seasons playing alongside LeBron James in Cleveland's failed championship runs.

In Boston, West will come off the bench and compete for minutes with Nate Robinson, rookie Avery Bradley, and Von Wafer. With a non-guaranteed contract, West will be on his best behavior. His checkered past has been well documented -- during the playoffs, there were unconfirmed rumors that he was sleeping with LeBron James' mom, and in September of last year he was pulled over while driving a three wheeled motorcycle and was found to be carrying a pistol, .357 Magnum, and Remington shotgun in a guitar case (I would love to see the cop cam of this). You can also find a video of him stoned in a KFC drive thru free styling ("Raspberry what what? Ice tea!!").

However, all of these incidents didn't scare off the Celtics. With Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Doc Rivers running a tight ship in the locker room, any distractions with Delonte will not be tolerated.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Possible 'Melo Destinations

According to ESPN, Yahoo, and everyone else, the Denver Nuggets relationship with Carmelo Anthony is beyond disrepair and the Nuggets will try to trade Anthony. The following is a list of teams who have the young talent, draft picks, and expiring contracts that the Nuggets will want back in exchange for Melo. Another caveat to any potential deal is that Melo would have to give his new team a guarantee that he will sign an extension with them. It's also important to note that if Denver does trade him, they would probably look into trading Chauncey Billups and go into a full scale rebuilding. In addition to the talent Denver would receive in exchange from Anthony, they would also get players for Billups.

Sacramento Kings: In any deal with the Kings, the Nuggets would most likely request that rookie DeMarcus Cousins is in the deal. Cousins is a highly-touted prospect out of Kentucky, and at only 19, has the makings of a future All-Star. In addition, the Kings have the expiring contract of Sam Dalembert and a number of SF to replace Anthony. A package of Cousins, Dalembert, and either Omri Casspi or Donte Green would likely be enough for the Nuggets to part with their franchise player.

The Kings would have a starting lineup of:

Tyreke Evans, Fransisco Garcia, Carmelo Anthony, Carl Landry, Jason Thompson. While this lineup might not propel them into contender status, Tyreke Evans has the makings of a franchise player and Landry and Thompson would represent a young, solid front court. Don't forget that the Kings also just drafted a high upside center in Hassan Whiteside.

The Nuggets would have a starting lineup of:

Chauncey Billups (likely to be traded to get playing time for Ty Lawson), Arron Afflalo, Omri Casspi/Donte Greene, Cousins, Nene. This version of a Carmelo trade would give the Nuggets a nice young nucleus to build around.

New Jersey Nets: Moving to NYC in 2 years, the Nets would be a very appealing destination for Anthony. That, and they have a lot of young talent to offer in return. A package of Derrick Favors, Terrence Williams, and Troy Murphy could interest the Nuggets. Favors is a young, freakishly athletic big man with a lot of potential (3rd pick in the draft) who would serve as a perfect replacement for Kenyon Martin once his contract expires. Terrence Williams is a wildly athletic SG who showed a lot of promise in his rookie season and looked fantastic in the summer league. Troy Murphy is a solid PF with range. Denver might look to waive or move him in order to give Favors ample playing time to develop.

With this trade, the Nets would have a starting lineup of Devin Harris, Anthony Morrow, Carmelo Anthony, Sean May, and Brook Lopez. They would still have a glaring whole at PF, but with Harris at PG and Brook Lopez at C, the Nets would definitely be in the upper-echelon of the Eastern Conference.

Tune in tomorrow to see what the Hawks, Rockets, and Knicks could offer in exchange for Carmelo.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Where does J.R. Smith end up?

According to multiple sources, the Denver Nuggets are heavily shopping SG J.R. Smith (runner up for the All-Ink Team). Smith, 24, is wildly athletic and has deep range. Last season with the Nuggets he averaged 15.4 points and 1.9 3's per game on 41% shooting. With the emergence of Arron Afflalo as a deep threat and the signing of Al Harrington, who is a 3 point specialist, Smith is no longer a vital piece to the team. That, and he is not the easiest player to coach, often exhibiting an atrocious shot selection. As a proven scorer coming with a $6.7 mil expiring contract, Smith will draw interest from a lot of teams.

In return, the Nuggets are probably interested in a young big man who is still on the rookie salary. With PF Kenyon Martin entering the final year of his deal and C Nene having the option to opt out, the Nuggets could potentially lose their starting front court (not to mention Carmelo Anthony) and be left with Chris Anderson and Renaldo Balkman as their remaining big men. Here are some teams that might be interested in J.R. Smith:

Golden State Warriors -- The Warriors are always looking for high scoring SGs with deep range. This summer, they lost three point specialist Anthony Morrow to the New Jersey Nets and currently have Monta Ellis, Dorrell Wright, Reggie Williams, Charlie Bell and Vlad Radmanovic as their wing players.

One potential trade that works is J.R. Smith for Charlie Bell and Brandan Wright. Acquiring Brandan Wright could a diamond in the rough for the Nuggets. Drafted out of North Carolina after his freshman season, Wright was highly touted and often described by scouts as "oozing with potential". Unfortunately, Wright has been riddled with injuries and received inconsistent playing time from Coach Don Nelson. With the Warriors drafting PF Ekpe Udoh, Wright's future clearly is not with the Warriors. A change of scenery is just what he needs. In Charlie Bell, the Nuggets would receive a quality shooter to backup Arron Aflallo.

New York Knicks -- J.R. Smith would fit in perfectly with Coach Mike D'Antoni's high octane offense. While the Knicks don't have any players that the Nuggets would be interested in (they aren't moving Anthony Randolph), the Sacramento Kings do.

Nuggets Trade: J.R. Smith
Receive: Jason Thompson

Knicks Trade: Eddy Curry, Bill Walker
Receive: J.R. Smith

Kings Trade: Jason Thompson
Receive: Eddy Curry, Bill Walker

The Nuggets get their young big man in Jason Thompson. After trading for Carl Landry and drafting DeMarcus Cousins and Hassan Whiteside, Thompson is expendable. For taking on Eddy Curry's corpse and contract, the Kings would also receive prospect Bill Walker, who before tearing up his knees was a top 5 draft prospect. The Knicks end up with J.R. Smith, who might average 30 points playing alongside Raymond Felton, Anthony Randolph, and Amare Stoudemire in D'Antoni's offense. Not only that, but Smith's expiring contract does not affect the Knick's plans to acquire Carmelo Anthony next summer.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Basketball in China -- Part 3

In Part 1 of Basketball in China, I touched on the booming culture of basketball in China. In Part 2, I discussed the CBA and the foreign players who have made the leap over the Pacific Ocean. Today I will write a little about the lifestyle that some of the foreign players live while playing professionally in China.

As I mentioned in Part 2, I was fortunate enough to get Rodney White's phone number after another one of his fantastic games (he averaged around 30-10-5). We agreed that we would meet at a popular expat bar called 7 Club at midnight for a few drinks. Midnight rolled around, and next thing I know there was a massive, 6'9 former NBA lottery pick sitting next to me buying me drinks. After my fourth gin and tonic, I became frank with him:

Me: Rodney, be honest, who fucks the most bitches in the NBA?

Rodney: I do.

Me: No Rodney, really...

Rodney: Ned, I do. I fuck the most bitches.

Through talking with him, I got the distinct feeling that Rodney thinks his pro career should have been different. Besides his mediocre play, one of the main reasons Rodney plays overseas is because of his arrest. As a 24 year old free agent, he was caught driving through D.C. randomly shooting a gun out of his sunroof with friends. An undercover Secret Service Agent witnessed it and arrested him. When I told him players like Hedo Turkoglu and Anderson Varajao were awarded with $50 million contracts, he nodded his head in disappointment and sighed. When I told him Gilbert Arenas was in trouble for bringing guns into the locker room in D.C. and the remaining $80 million on his contract was in jeopardy, he became visibly upset and almost left the bar. In retrospect, he probably should have stayed in a school for another year to mature. But, at 19 years old and with no money, how could you justify turning down a guaranteed $8 mil as a lottery pick?

Although it's nothing compared to paydays in the NBA, foreign players are well compensated in China. According to the WSJ, max salaries are $60,000 a month. However, Rodney told me that the team paid his American and Chinese taxes. Furthermore, a lot of players are sponsored by Chinese brands. Rodney was sponsored by Anta, and he was disappointed to discover that I was sporting Shane Battier's PEAK brand. $60,000 a month is a ton of money in Chinese standards. It's my understanding that in Hangzhou, China, the average salary for a Chinese worker was $250 a month. Needless to say, Rodney, P.J. Ramos and other foreign players in China aren't pressed for money. This is why when we went to the clubs, Rodney and P.J. paid for everything. On Friday nights after victories we would go to a club called Coco and get a table with bottles of hard alcohol, beer, and fruit platters. I truly felt like I was living it up like an NBA star (maybe not quite like LeBron), except that girls weren't exactly flocking to us.

By American standards, Rodney and P.J. (7'4) are tall. By Chinese standards, they are physical freaks. At 6'1, strangers often came up to me to admire my size. At 7'4, P.J. stuck out like a sore thumb. P.J. and Rodney both came to our expat Thanksgiving feast. My British friend Lizzie, who is only 5'3, walked up to P.J. and said, "What the fuck?", and walked away. At the clubs, P.J.'s height hindered his ability to talk to girls. Chinese girls are really short and had never seen such a large human being. Thus, he stayed seated to feign an average height and asked me to find girls for him to talk to. I felt extraordinarily proud when I found a girl with whom he hit it off with. When I left the club, she was caressing his six-pack abs while dancing.

Although they may not appreciate it like I would, the foreign players in China travel throughout the majority of the country and see aspects of it that Chinese people don't get to see. Cities like Tiayuan (where Marbury plays) and Fuzhou are smoggy and aesthetically unpleasing, but do offer a glimpse into the fascinating factory life of China, which is what is driving China's economy.

Being a pro basketball player overseas is a fantastic way to see the World while getting paid. Rodney has played in Puerto Rico, Spain, Israel, Italy, and China. While some may poke fun at American players who aren't able to make the NBA and are forced to play overseas, it's hard not to respect them for stepping out of their comfort zone in order to do what they love. This is why appreciate players like Trajan Langdon, Josh Childress(above), Stephon Marbury, Paul Pierce (has said he wants to play in Europe), and Nick Calathes. While it is incredibly difficult to live so far from friends and family, the upside is that these players are getting paid to explore foreign countries and cultures, which is a once in a lifetime opportunity. More importantly, they are globalizing the game of basketball.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Kwame Brown to sign with Bobcats

According to ESPN, C Kwame Brown will sign a 1 year deal worth the veteran's minimum with the Charlotte Bobcats. The signing will reunite Brown, the number one overall pick in 2001, with the man who drafted him, Michael Jordan.

Brown is known as one of the biggest draft busts in NBA history. Drafted straight out of high-school by Washington, he entered the league with sky-high expectations. However, his tenure with the Wizards was tumultuous, as he constantly sparred with the coaching staff and star Gilbert Arenas, while being unable to live up to Michael Jordan's expectations and tutelage. Considering how poorly Brown's first stint with MJ was, it's surprising that that they are joining forces again. Brown played for Detroit last season, where he averaged 3.3 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. As his career winds down, he will forever be known as "the guy MJ drafted", and the main piece of the trade that sent Pau Gasol to the Lakers and propelled them to two straight championships (and counting).

There will be minutes available for Brown, as the Bobcats are entering the season with only Boris Diaw (who is terribly overweight), Tyrus Thomas (Stromile Swift clone), and Nazr Mohammad in the front court rotation. Unless Brown finally has a break out season, Charlotte will regress from their franchise high of 44 wins last year and be a borderline playoff team.

Let's look at what Michael Jordan and company has accomplished this offseason:

-Lost starting PG Raymond Felton for nothing
-Traded away starting C Tyson Chandler and former 1st round pick Alexis Ajinca for Erick Dampier's unguaranteed contract
-Resigned draft bust Tyrus Thomas to a deal they will start regretting after the first mid-range jumper he takes this season
-Signed Kwame Brown

This franchise is going nowhere.

Mrs. Byrnes

The Mrs. Byrnes Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure, and Preposterous Words has been in my family for years. Our copy is sordid, dog-eared, and on some pages, ripped. In this treasure chest of definitions you will find little used gems of the English language. All of the words are real, as each is in at least one major dictionary.

In honor of this wonderful book, I will post a new definition on the right side of the page every day. I dare you to try and use them in conversation. A few examples of preposterous (yet practical) words:

groak v.i. to watch people silently while they're eating, hoping they will ask you to join.

genicon n. a sexual partner imagined by one who is dissatisfied with her actual partner.

henhussy n. a sexist term for a man who does housework.

pilgarlic n. a bald head that looks like peeled garlic.

verbicide n. word-murder; mangling or perverting a word.

unasinous adj. equally stupid

Friday, August 20, 2010

Basketball in China - Part 2

Yesterday, I talked about the NBA's influence on basketball in China and playing with the general public. Today, I will discuss the CBA and the foreign players who play over there.

When I went to my first Zhejiang Guangsha Lions game, during the 2009 season, I had no idea how many foreign players had taken their talents to China. In the rafters of Guangsha's small stadium hung a banner for each player on the team. I immediately recognized Rodney White's face and name, this wasn't the case for Guangsha's other foreign player, Nigel Dixon.

Rodney was a former lottery pick of the Detroit Pistons at 9th overall in the 2001 draft. He played 1 season and UNC-Charlotte and was selected by ESPN as freshman of the year. If you research the 2001 draft, also referred to as the Kwame Brown Draft, you will find that there was talk of him going #1 overall. Inconsistent play, lackadaisical defense, and problems with the law ultimately sent him packing overseas after 5 seasons in the league with three different teams.

Nigel Dixon (shattering the backboard) is a product of Western Kentucky, and is a poor mans Michael Sweetney. At 6'11 and 320 lbs, Dixon is a big boy and is consistently dealing with weight issues. He has had a few short stints in the NBA, but has spent the majority of his time playing overseas.

Not that I'm surprised, but these are two typical stories of foreign players in China. I learned that each team is allowed to have two foreign players on the roster. More often than not, these players are from America and are still trying to live the NBA dream. This, however, is beginning to change. Last season, former All-Star Stephon Marbury made a highly publicized move over to the Chinese team Shanxi Zhongyu. Unlike other foreign players in China, Marbury has had a fantastic NBA career, making two trips to the All-Star game and earning over $150 mil in his career. He is not playing in China to win championships (Shanxi is awful), but rather to cash in on the exploding market for basketball in China, which I discussed yesterday.

As a part of his deal with Shanxi, Marbury and the owner of the team will manufacture, promote and distribute Marbury's shoe brand, Starbury. These shoes will be sold to basketball fans all over China for reasonable prices (as low as $14.88). (WSJ)

I was fortunate enough to have front row seats to one of Marbury's first games in China versus Zhejiang Guangsha. I arrived early and greeted Stephon as he got off the bus, saying, "Welcome to China, Stephon!". We made eye contact but he did not reply. While Marbury may have fallen out of favor to fans in America because of bizarre behavior and his inability to lead a team, he is loved in China. At the game I attended, there was more energy in the crowd than there had been all season and he was cheered relentlessly. (Although there was one taunting sign towards Stephon that read, "NY Knicks PG = Chris Duhon"). Even if Marbury's pro career has ended in America, his playing and business career are just beginning in China.

Attending CBA games in China is great fun. Only a 10 minute bike ride from Zhejiang's stadium, I went to every game. Tickets are only $5 and there is no assigned seating. The crowd is always engaged, unlike the NBA, and every fan claps plastic noisemakers after each made basket. After games, players walk out of the locker room and fight their way through hundreds of short, rowdy fans to the exit. I once stayed after to see if I could meet and talk with Rodney White. When he walked out I hip-checked a few smaller Chinese men out of the way to make room and said hello. He was very nice, and seeing as he did not have many English speaking friends in China, we exchanged numbers and met for beers later that night. To Be Continued in Part 3 on Monday...

(P.J. fighting through the crowd)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Earl Boykins joins Bucks

PG Earl Boykins as agreed to a 1 year, $1.3 mil deal with the Milwaukee Bucks, according to ESPN. At 5'5, Boykins is the modern day Mugsy Bogues. During his career he has played for 9 teams in 10 seasons, with 2007 being his best year when he averaged 15 points and 4 assists with the Denver Nuggets (31 games) and Washington Wizards (35 games).

With the Bucks, Boykins will be the 3rd string PG behind "Young Buck" Brandon Jennings and Keyon Dooling. More importantly, at 34 years old, he will be a mentor to Jennings, who the Bucks have pegged as a cornerstone of their team.

Being the second shortest player ever in the league (behind Bogues), Boykins is always a fan favorite. He does have an electric game though, as he is sneaky, quick, and is a long range shooter.

Normally players comment via Twitter when their signed, but as Inside Hoops pointed out, Boykins is not on Twitter because he can't reach the keyboard. I feel bad writing that. Get 'em Earl.

Basketball in China - Part 1

In my book, to be considered a superstar, I needed to see that player's jersey being worn on the streets of China. Thus, Brandon Roy is a superstar.

This past April, I returned from a year and a half of living and teaching English in the Chinese city of Hangzhou (think Shanghai's Milwaukee except with 7,000,000 people). While there, I resurrected my basketball career and became even more fanatical about the NBA.

I would like to see what the basketball culture in China was like before the emergence of Yao Ming. On my 10 minute walk to school, I would pass 12 courts. More often than not, there were pick-up games going on between players of all age and skill levels. I think Yao Ming's stardom and the relative success of the Houston Rockets has had a dramatic effect on basketball's popularity in China. This is evident by the majority of Rockets' players having sponsorships in China. Turn on the TV and you will see Shane Battier throwing it down in a commercial promoting the sporting brand PEAK (pronounced Peakuh). Incidentally, I ended buying a pair of Shane Battier's shoes because after going to a dozen shoe stores they were the only pair to fit my size 13 foot (the Chinese have small feet).

Every Rockets game is televised and because of the time difference, aired at 8 or 9 AM. Since I had most mornings free, I was able to enjoy watching Yao and the crew in bed over a bow of delicious boiled dumplings. Being able to watch these games was an important aspect of my life in China. Although I couldn't watch my beloved Bulls, watching any NBA game allowed me to feel closer to home.

Until this past season, Yao's superstar sidekick was Tracy McGrady. He is idolized in China. I didn't realize he had his own brand until I arrived at the basketball courts to see everyone wearing his shoes, shorts, and shirt. Unfortunately, they also tried mimic his shooting form, and even worse, his shot selection. The result is a bunch fundamentally awful players taking off-balance fade away jumpers from all over the court. Every Monday night I played with a 20 year old kid who had a huge T-Mac logo tattooed on his right pectoral. Of course, he never passed and had a horrible shot selection. Surprisingly, he often made them, but when he missed I made sure to let him know that he needed to pass more and that T-Mac is as washed up as driftwood.

I found a basketball hall that was 10 minute bike ride from my apartment. It was open from 6-10PM and was only 10 yuan (~$1) to play. Four nights a week I would bike over after class and play. Since my Chinese was primitive, I often used a variety of hand gestures, mis-pronounced Chinese words, and facial expressions to ask if I could play. In the whole year and a half I was there, I was only rejected a handful of times. Although I'm not that good -- I like to say I have Matt Bonner or Mehmet Okur's game -- they were thrilled to play with an American, someone who was fundamentally sound, knew the rules, and had witnessed a live NBA game. Sometimes onlookers would clap when I made a basket. It was a dream come true -- I was bigger, better, and stronger than everyone on the court. When the offense stalled, they looked to me to make something happen.


Along with imitating Tracy McGrady's game, the Chinese also imitate the NBA's referees. No one told them that in a pickup game, you don't call touch fouls. There was an instance when a foul was called on me as the player I was defending drove to the hoop. I didn't touch him. I lost it and followed him around the court releasing a tirade that made good use to of the words "fuck", "bitch", "shit", "your mom" and more. Although angry, he was ultimately embarrassed as he hung his head and gave the ball to my team. I am American; I know the rules.

Tune in tomorrow for Part 2 of Basketball in China. I will discuss the CBA and the foreign players in China.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pacers, Hornets, Rockets, Nets trade breakdown

Last week, the Houston Rockets, New Jersey Nets, Indiana Pacers, and New Orleans Hornets agreed on a five-player trade. Here is how I break it down:

New Orleans Hornets:

Traded: Darren Collison, James Posey
Received: Trevor Ariza

Grade: B

This trade is GM Dell Demps first big move with the team. By trading away promising PG prospect and Chris Paul insurance Darren Collison, Demps and the Hornets front office are making a statement that they are serious about building around CP3. In Trevor Ariza, the Hornets will get a young athletic wing player that they haven't had in recent years. Ariza, who last year signed a 5 year, $35 mil deal with the Rockets, averaged 15 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 3.8 assists in his lone year with the Houston. Although effective, his shot selection was often criticized and he ended the year shooting 39% from the field and 33% from 3-point land. Hopefully, with Chris Paul running the show Ariza will get more easy buckets and clean looks.

You would have hoped that the Hornets could have gotten more for PG Darren Collison, who as a rookie averaged 12.4 points and 5.7 assists on the season and 21.6 points and 8.3 assists during the month of February when CP3 was injured. While Ariza is a nice player, he is by no means going to push the Hornets into contender status.

Houston Rockets:

Traded: Trevor Ariza
Received: Courtney Lee

Grade: A

Who would have thought? Another prudent move by Rockets GM Daryl Morey. The Rockets will easily replace Ariza's production at SF with the ageless Shane Battier and the emerging Chase Budinger. In return for Ariza, Houston gets a promising young SG in Courtney Lee, who played a key role in the Orlando Magic's run to the finals 2 seasons ago. He will come off the bench behind Kevin Martin and will see starter's minutes when Martin inevitably gets injured (has played over 70 games only twice in his 6 year career).

With Chase Budinger proving to be a solid rotation player, Trevor Ariza was superfluous on Houston's roster. Also, with Courney Lee playing on his rookie contract for 2 more seasons, the Rockets cut salary and got better at the same time. Their depth chart should look like this:

C: Yao, Brad Miller, Chuck Hayes
PF: Luis Scola, Jordan Hill, Patrick Patterson
SF: Shane Battier, Chase Budinger, Jared Jeffries
SG: Kevin Martin, Courtney Lee, Jermaine Taylor
PG: Aaron Brooks, Kyle Lowry

That ladies and gentlemen, is a deep team. If the Rockets/Yao can manage to stay healthy, they could provide the Lakers with stiff competition for the Western Conference title.

Indiana Pacers

Traded: Troy Murphy
Received: Darren Collison, James Posey

Grade: B+

Finally! The Jamaal Tinsley, T.J. Ford, and Earl Watson era in Indiana is over. The Pacers finally have their PG of the future in Darren Collison, who tore it up in his rookie season with New Orleans. The Pacers also received James Posey onerous contract, which was no doubt a vital part in any trade for Collison. Indiana has over $20 mil in expiring contracts going into this year, thus taking on Posey's contract for 2 more years isn't a death knell. On top of that, Posey has come out and said that he will try to mentor some of the Pacers young players as much as possible (Paul George, Brandon Rush). With the departure of Troy Murphy, the Pacers will hope that Tyler Hansbrough can fully recover from the remnants of last year's concussion and provide productive minutes at PF.

For Indiana, this trade isn't about next year, it's about the future. With so much cap space next summer and Collison, Danny Granger, and Roy Hibbert entrenched as the cornerstones of the franchise, there is a lot to look forward to in Indiana.

New Jersey

Traded: Courtney Lee
Received: Troy Murphy

Grade: B+

With the signing of sharpshooter Anthony Morrow and emergence of Terrence Williams, it seems that Courtney Lee was deemed expendable by New Jersey management. By trading for PF Troy Murphy, the Nets will receive a three point shooting big man who can also crash the glass. Murphy's range will give C Brook Lopez more room to work inside and discourage double teams. This move also indicates that the Nets plan to develop lottery pick Derrick Favors slowly. While I'm not crazy about some of the Nets other moves (signing Travis Outlaw to $35 mil), this appears to be a well thought out trade.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Vakeaton Quamar Wafer inks deal with Celtics

Vakeaton, commonly known as Von, has signed a 1 year deal worth the minimum with Boston. Wafer, who played last season overseas in Greece, will come off the bench behind Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. He will replace the role of Tony Allen, who signed with the Memphis Grizzlies. Although he's not as defensive minded as Allen, he might be just as athletic and is a better scorer. Coming off the bench for the Rockets in 2009 (where he averaged 9 points and shot 39% from 3), Wafer had a knack for throwing down thunderous dunks, hitting 3's, and getting the crowd pumped up.

This signing also means the end of Michael Finley in Boston, who was a defensive liability off the bench and barely saw the court in the playoffs. Remember in the first quarter of game 1 of the Finals when Jordan Farmar, yes Jordan Farmar, blew right by him for a layup? With Paul Pierce and Ray Allen getting older, the Celtics needed a competent scorer off the bench. As of now, their depth chart looks like this:

PG - Rajon Rondo, Nate Robinson
SG - Ray Allen, Von Wafer
SF - Paul Pierce, Marquis Daniels
PF - Kevin Garnett, Glen Davis
C - Jermaine O'Neal, Kendrick Perkins (injured)

With Kendrick Perkins expected to miss the majority of the season after tearing up his knee, the Celtics are also rumored to be after Shaq. If Boston can somehow land Shaq, they will have great front court depth and have a legit shot at getting back to the finals for a second straight year. While Boston's biggest off season move was retaining coach Doc Rivers, one cannot overlook the signing of "The Dutch Cookie".

Wafer via Twitter:

"Thank u god thank u so so so so much ur so good to me yes thank u mr ainge thank u coach rivers thank u thank u thank thank u all

I'm so greatful god has thought me alot and I was payin attention I'm so so so happy rt now I'm so thankful y'all jus don't understand"

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Josh Howard signs with Washington

SF Josh Howard has signed a 1 year, $4 mil deal with the Washington Wizards. Howard played 7 seasons with the Dallas Mavericks before being traded to Washington at the February trade deadline in exchange for Caron Butler. With the Wizards, he was only able to play 4 games before tearing up his knee.

This definitely is not the contract Howard was hoping to get coming into free agency. In 2007, Howard had his best season, averaging 19 points and 7 rebounds and making the All Star Team. The following season he put up good numbers, but "character issues" were manifest. During the playoffs, Howard was extremely honest about his past and current marijuana use to the media, saying that most players in the NBA smoke it and that he does too. In September of 2008 he was the subject of negative news yet again when a video was released of him being disrespectful to the national anthem. He said in the video, "The Star-Spangled Banner is going on, I don't celebrate that shit, I'm Black." Two months later Obama was in office.

These incidents, along with an ankle that's always sprained, unproductive play, and a serious knee injury have left Howard with no choice but to take a one year deal. Seeing as there is a glaring hole at the SF position in Washington, he should have a chance to redeem himself and secure a long-term contract next year.

In terms of Washington, this is a very low-risk signing. Howard will be motivated, and with Mike Miller signing with the Heat, the Wizards needed a scoring option on the wing to help out rookie of the year candidate John Wall.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Heat sign PF/C Shavlik Randolph

According the the AP, the Miami Heat have resigned Shavlik Randolph. This is quite a coup for the Heat, as Randolph will start at C and complement the "Super Friends" as the athletic, shot-blocking, Charles Oakley type body guard they have been looking for. With this signing, the Heat have solidified their status as title favorites.

Just kidding. Randolph will barely see the court this year and will head up the towel-waving at the end of the bench. Known for his excellent work ethic and jovial personality, I suspect Randolph was signed to be a mentor for incoming rookies Dexter Pittman and Jarvis Varnado. With so many stars on the Heat, it is important that these rookies maintain their focus and not get caught-up in the nightlife of South Beach.

Randolph, a Duke product, has (kind of) played 5 years in the league. He enjoyed is best season as a rookie, where he averaged 2.4 points and 2.3 rebounds off the bench for the 76ers. Since 2006, he has only played in a total of 38 games. These statistics, or lack there of, tell me that GM Pat Riley looks at Randolph as a chemistry guy and someone for LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade to dunk on in practice. I can see it now....

LeBron: Dribble, dribble, dribble, dribble, BOOM!

Shavlik: Awww... Mr. James, you kneed me in my pelvic area... Please try to...

Dwyane: Shutup Shavlik, get yo ass back under the hoop!! Yo Bron, Chris, Ima try get my nuts alllll up in his face this time.

Dribble, dribble, dribble, dribble, BOOM!

(Shavlik coughing, D. Wade standing over him)

Dwyane: Yeeeaaahhh Boy! My nuts were all up in yo face!

Chris: OOHHHH shit that was sick... My turn! Shavlik get under the hoop....